VARIOUS ARTISTS – Destination (Fellside Recordings FECD282)

Fellside RecordingsThe Fellside Recording label has been a major force in independent folk music recording for 42 years and has over 600 albums to its credit, many by some very big names in the genre. Now, Paul and Linda Adams have decided to slow down, and though the label remains in business, it will have a lower profile and won’t be taking on new artists. The end of an era, but by no means the end of the story. Destination is a mighty collection of tracks – three CDs worth – specially recorded by some of the many fine artists who’ve been associated with the label, plus some archive material.

The material here covers the spectrum from dance tunes to modern songs by treasured artists like Peter Bellamy (two of his Kipling settings are provided here, one sung by Terry Docherty) and Alex Glasgow, to a wide selection of traditional songs (even the occasional Child ballad). Well over half the tracks here have not been released previously. Given the calibre of the musicians here, that alone has to make it worth buying. There are also a handful of unusual jazz performances from Fellside’s sibling label Lake.

Because of the sheer number of tracks provided here (64!), my usual practice of including a full track listing didn’t seem altogether appropriate. Here are just a few more of the performers and writers who are represented in this collection, which may be enough to persuade you to take a closer look: Jez Lowe, Bram Taylor, Steve Turner, Pete Morton, Bobby Eaglesham, Sara Grey, Alistair Anderson, Paul Metsers, Brian Dewhurst, Bob Davenport…

Here are few tracks that stand out for me personally, but there’s such a wide range of artists here that your personal highlights might be quite different

  • Maddy Prior’s unaccompanied ‘Sheepcrook And Black Dog’, proving that Steeleye Span maybe always needed her more than she needed them. (Not that I didn’t like the Steeleye version.)
  • Swan Arcade’s stunning version of Sting’s ‘We Work The Black Seam’.
  • The much-missed Vin Garbutt singing ‘Boulavogue’.
  • Hedy West singing ‘Little Sadie’ – as Pete Seeger said when she sang it on his Rainbow Quest series in the ’60s, “That’s the real thing…
  • Peggy Seeger’s exquisite ‘Single Girl’ – if my ears don’t fail me, from a 1958 recording with Guy Carawan.
  • Diz Disley and friends in full Django/Hot Club mode on ‘Shine’.
  • Marilyn Middleton-Pollock’s version of ‘Melancholy Blues’, recorded long ago by Louis Armstrong and Johnny Dodds.
  • Bob Fox’s version of Alex Glasgow’s ‘Standing At The Door’. A fine performance from someone who’s no mean songwriter himself.
  • Tom Kitching & Gren Bartley with a blistering performance of ‘Whisky Head’.

But there are too many classy tracks here to list all the ones I can imagine myself listening to for a long time yet.

Buy it. You’ll certainly find enough tracks to make it worth your while.

David Harley

Label website: www.fellside.com/

‘Single Girl’ – Peggy Seeger and Guy Carawan

Fairport Convention: Folk Heroes will be broadcast this month

Folk Heroes

Sky Arts is to broadcast a major television documentary to mark the fiftieth anniversary of legendary folk rock band Fairport Convention. Titled Fairport Convention: Folk Heroes, the 70-minute film will be transmitted at 9pm on Saturday 25 November 2017.

The film tells how five young musicians in North London formed Fairport Convention during 1967’s ‘summer of love’. The band went on to shake English folk music to its roots by fusing it with rock, an approach which outraged some purists but delighted a new and devoted audience.

In the subsequent five decades, Fairport Convention has attracted widespread critical acclaim, won a coveted BBC Lifetime Achievement Award, and Radio 2 listeners voted Fairport’s groundbreaking album Liege & Lief ‘The Most Influential Folk Album of All Time’.

The documentary has been made by London-based independent producer Special Treats Productions. The company’s previous television music documentaries include XTC: This Is Pop, I’m Not In Love: The Story Of 10cc and the award-winning film UB40: Promises And Lies.

The film features rare archive interviews and footage as well as newly-filmed interviews with the current Fairport members and, among others, Ashley Hutchings, Richard Thompson, Iain Matthews, Judy Dyble, Joe Boyd, Ralph McTell, Maddy Prior, Bob Harris, Suggs, Rick Wakeman, Steve Winwood, and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull.

Through these interviews, the film examines Fairport’s first five years in detail, including the tragic motorway crash which killed drummer Martin Lamble. It goes on to explain Fairport’s pivotal role in the evolution of British folk-rock; how the band fostered major talents such as Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick and spawned other notable bands including Matthews Southern Comfort, Steeleye Span, and Fotheringay.

The story is brought up to date with contemporary material filmed at Fairport’s annual ‘own brand’ music festival held at Cropredy in Oxfordshire. The closing sequence features the band’s 2017 festival performance when virtually all the surviving former members joined the current line-up on stage.

Producer/Director Charlie Thomas has been working closely with Fairport for over a year. He says: “Our aim is to explain how important Fairport’s influence has been and continues to be – in other words, why the band matters.

“We have not set out to make a comprehensive, year-by-year history of Fairport; that has been done before. The film concentrates on two periods – the first five years and the band today. The result is a celebration of a very British institution and an assertion of Fairport’s continuing relevance.”

Artists’ website: www.fairportconvention.com

Steeleye Span and some real Dodgy Bastards

steeleye span 2016

In an age when it is not uncommon for an artist to take five years to follow up a successful album, the creativity that Steeleye Span displayed in their early years is still astonishing. In the decade between their debut and 1980’s Sails Of Silver, they released twelve records alongside touring the world and enjoying a string of hits. Now with their 50th anniversary fast approaching, the band have come close to matching that work rate – readying themselves for the release of Dodgy Bastards, their eighth album in twelve years.

Such inspiration has come both from the individuals involved (Steeleye mainstays Maddy Prior, Rick Kemp and Liam Genockey alongside Jessie May Smart, Andrew Sinclair and Julian Littman in the current line-up) and the source material. Having set the writings of the late Terry Pratchett to music on the successful Wintersmith album and revisited their own past on 2015’s Catch Up, this latest outing finds them returning to the folk tales and characters that have always been at the heart of the Steeleye sound.

Dodgy Bastards draws on the work of 19th century American scholar Francis James Child and his collection of English and Scottish Ballads. The album is appropriately titled, containing stories of murder, religion, incest, skulls, honour killings and tormented spirits – the perfect subject material for Steeleye Span’s dark take on the music of the British Isles.

Such epic tales require a suitable musical backdrop and the record is firmly in the band’s classic musical mould. ‘Brown Robyn’s Confession’ sets the tone but with a new twist, violinist Jessie May Smart taking the lead vocal before the distinct tones of Maddy Prior join her on the striking chorus. Elsewhere each member plays their part, allowing the music to explore a variety of different paths as the songs ebb and flow in keeping with their characters and events – with Prior and Littman even adding a spoken word / rap element to long time band favourite ‘Boys Of Bedlam’.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: http://steeleyespan.org.uk/

The Dodgy Bastards trailer:

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MICHAEL CHAPMAN – Deal Gone Down (SECRET SECCD120)

DealGoneDownWell, I think I stayed a little too long and had too much to drink” are the first words you hear on Deal Gone Down and coupled with the 4.00 am cover photo that gives something of the feeling of the album. It’s Chapman at his most basic with only Rick Kemp and Nigel Pegrum on bass and drums and Maddy Prior and Bridget St. John providing background vocals. Apparently Chapman didn’t really like the production…and he produced it.

The best songs on the album (‘Goodbye Sunny Sky’ and ‘Journeyman’) are first rate but the initial impression is of too many throwaway tracks. The opener ‘The Rock’n’Roll Jigley’ sounds brilliant but just when it should be developing into a monster song it ends at less than two minutes. The first of six bonus tracks, ‘Dumplings’, the B-side of ‘The Banjo Song’, is even shorter. But let’s accentuate the positives. ‘Party Pieces’, from which the quoted line comes, is a gem as is ‘Used To Be’. The title track is a slice of bluesy guitar picking topped off with sizzle cymbal and an electric solo and Michael continues the electric lead into ‘The Banjo Song’.

I really like Michael Chapman and although this isn’t his best album there’s enough to enjoy in this deluxe reissue.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).


Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Label website: www.secretrecordslimited.com

‘Deal Gone Down’ on The Old Grey Whistle Test:

The Steeleye Span 45th Anniversary folking Interview

Steeleye Span 45th Anniversary Tour at G-Live

With a career that has taken in an astounding six decades, Steeleye Span is not just a legendary name in British music but also a link to the classic days of rock and folk music. Contemporaries of the likes of Led Zeppelin and Fairport Convention, they have gone on to change the face of folk music forever, taking it from small clubs and festivals into the world of chart topping albums and international tours.

Part of that incredible story has been the individuals that have contributed to the band’s history. Steeleye Span has provided a home for a long list of some of the world’s finest musicians. The current line up of Maddy Prior, Rick Kemp, Liam Genockey, Julian Littman, Pete Zorn and Jessie May Smart along with older names such as Martin Carthy, John Kirkpatrick, Tim Harries, Bob Johnson and most recently Peter Knight have all woven their heraldry into the historical fabric of the folk-rock tapestry.

Paul Johnson and I recently caught up with current band members Maddy Prior, Julian Littman, Peter Zorn and  Jessie May Smart during the 45th Anniversary Tour at G-Live in Guildford to celebrate this 45 year landmark.  Click the play button below to listen to the interview.

The video below celebrates the bands most recent album Wintersmith which was recorded in collaboration with Sir Terry Pratchett at the end of 2013. The album is based on Pratchett’s Wintersmith novel, which subject matter is completely appropriate for Steeleye, in its tales of ancient rituals and secret folk dances that perfectly complement their previous work whilst taking the band off again in a new and exciting prog-rock direction.

Darren Beech – folkmaster@folking.com

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

MADDY PRIOR and THE CARNIVAL BAND – A Christmas Caper PARK RECORDS PRKCD124

MADDY PRIOR & THE CARNIVAL BAND A Christmas CaperNicely in time for Christmas comes this best of set spanning fifteen years and seven albums in the career of Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band. The combination of the band’s early music style and Maddy’s pure vocals was a perfect match from the off with A Tapestry Of Carols and so it remains.

The collection is, for the most part, suitably jolly – perfect for the old Christmas tradition of sitting round the CD player for a good old sing song. ‘While Shepherds Watched’ comes in at number two and ‘Angels From The Realms Of Glory’ rejoices in the most glorious arrangement you’ll ever hear. ‘Poor Little Jesus’ is a bit of a downer and the two cradle songs are also rather downbeat but in contrast we get ‘The Boar’s Head’ and ‘Bring Us In Good Ale’. The selection is largely sacred but occasionally ventures into the ale-house and it generally avoids the Carnival Band’s modern songs that have largely left me unimpressed. Two songs by Giles Lewin, ‘Bright Evening Star’ and ‘The Quiet Way Home’, make it through but the weak humour of songs like ‘Stuff’ is avoided.

If you don’t have any of the originals then this CD will take you through Christmas in the appropriately festive spirit.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.