ALAN PROSSER & AL CLARKE – Living In Clover (Rafting Dog Records RD055)

Living In CloverAlan Prosser and Al Clarke have a Canterbury connection: Alan with Oysterband (who took their name from a connection with Whitstable in case you’re confused) and Al who has worked with members of Caravan and Soft Machine over the years. A discussion about the “Canterbury sound”, which was a thing back in the seventies, led to a new bunch of songs and Living In Clover.

Al sings and plays harmonicas and Alan does everything else including making the tea, it seems. That everything encompasses bass, drums, fiddle and programmed brass and strings and with all these tools, and the talent to use them, Alan and Al can make a big sound. The opening track, ‘Dream On’, takes us straight back in time. Alan creates a whole orchestra plus drums and harmony vocals and Al blows a mighty harp. The song itself is about finding a better place to live and ‘Hold Back Time/Time Machine’ follows similar themes and uses a similar sound palette but then drifts into acoustic territory leading into ‘I’ll See You In The Morning’ which feels like a song of reassurance to a child.

‘High Rise’ is an instrumental backing to the title track which consists of an elderly resident of a flat in Battersea extolling the virtues of her home which contrasts with most opinions of the time. That links to a short instrumental, ‘Jack’s Tune’, which has an easy blues feel but sounds very “London”, if you know what I mean. ‘King O’ The Casbah’ and ‘Lazy Boy’ come across as musical portraits of characters that the chaps have met on their travels and I’m still picturing the Great Wen. ‘Save Me’ is a blues-tinged soft-rocker and is a song for everybody who believes that they don’t belong in the world.

Having not heard Al Clarke before, Living In Clover wasn’t quite what I was expecting but, of course, Alan was able to bring the big band sound of Oysterband to a smaller project with great success. There’s a lot of variety here and some fine songs.

Dai Jeffries

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ALAN PROSSER – 5/4AP (Rafting Dog Records RD054)

5/4APWell then… if you listened to our interview with Alan Prosser backstage at Cropredy you will already know that Alan alluded to the fact that he would be sending me a copy of his new solo album 5/4AP where every song and instrumental was going to be in 5/4 time. I’m pleased to report that the man was good to his word, and the little beauty has now arrived in the post so I’ve finally been able to get my lughole’s around it and given it a spin.

I’m sure you all know, that Alan Prosser is a founding member of Oysterband, a really nice all-round bloke, a gigging musician for 45 years who has collaborated with the likes of The Albion Band, June Tabor, Brendan Power, Lucy Randall, Tim Edey, Chumbawamba and a host of other fiendishly good folk folk.

Alan told me that the album is a kind of homage to an EP made by Davy Graham and Alexis Korner called 3/4 AD that inspired him as a lad. He went on to say that he thinks the new records format may be a first, in the fact that no other artist or band have attempted a whole album in 5/4. It’s clever as well, as it does not throw you in at the deep end as the opening track ‘Ridingate’ is an instrumental that gently eases you in to the concept of the album and whispers promises of greatness through its famous Canterbury road gate.

There is a lot going in the second track “Simple Is Never Easy’, think ‘The Jasmine Corridor’ on Ian Anderson’s ‘The Secret Language Of Birds’ shaking hands (or rubbing elbows) with early Jethro Tull ‘Stand Up” era at a 1960’s Psychedelia convention promoting harmony and love for couples. Doctor Prosser then administrates another shot of ‘Ridingate’, a reprise this time to calm us down before having to deal with the fourth track, ‘Suicide Bomber’ with its stunning guitar playing and Keith James-esque ‘Lorca’ vocal work as the piece hurtling towards its fanatical conclusion. The format continues with another instrumental ‘Out Of Kent’, then a skippy-ditty little vocal number called ‘Amy Isn’t Waiting’ which for me, still left the narrative cheerful, even though Amy didn’t turn up. The ‘Stour Water’ instrumental follows and then ‘Mikey’s Song’ written for a previous Oysterband sound engineer which brought to mind the Pentangle influence which was another one of Alan’s inspirations for making this album.

‘Five For You’, a solo gig favourite follows which is a homage to ‘Take Five’ by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. To close, the album troops its colours to the name given to the average soldier in the first word war, Tommy Atkin as it closes with ‘Tommy Atkin’s March’.

The album was mastered by Al Scott (who also produces Oysterband) and it’s a fascinating project with monster playing by Alan and clever arrangements. Who would have thought that a whole album in 5/4 could be so diverse? Top job Mr. Prosser!

Darren Beech

Artist’s website:

We can’t find a video from the new album yet but here’s a taster of Alan’s playing: Cropredy Interviews 2018

Paul Johnson introduces this years interviews…

Dave Pegg – Cropredy 2018

The 2018 Dave Pegg Interview from Cropredy

Chris Leslie – Cropredy 2018

Chris Leslie with Martin Jenkins mandolin. Photo by Darren Beech

The 2018 Chris Leslie Interview from Cropredy

Alan Prosser – Cropredy 2018

Derby Folk Festival

Paul Johnson and Darren Beech catch up with Alan at this years Cropredy Festival as the Oysters celebrate their 40th year.

Oysterband celebrate 40 years together

Sam Kelly – Cropredy 2018

Sam Kelly – Cropredy 2018. Photo by Darren Beech

SAM KELLY & THE LOST BOYS – Pretty Peggy (Navigator NAVIGATOR 102)

Merry Hell – Cropredy Fringe 2018

Merry Hell – Cropredy Fringe 2018. Photo by Darren Beech

The 2018 Merry Hell Interview from Cropredy Fringe

Will Varley – Cropredy 2018

Will Varley

Will Varley talks to ahead of Autumn tour

Midnight Skyracer – Cropredy 2018

Midnight Skyracer at Cropredy 2018. Photo by Darren Beech

MIDNIGHT SKYRACER talk to backstage at Cropredy 2018

Oysterband celebrate 40 years together


Oysterband was born in the summer of 1977 when the sound of punk rock rang loud from the radio, disaffection became the order of the day and riots filled the streets which would ring through the later years of Thatcherite Britain. There were many on the UK folkscene who felt the same urge for similar challenges and change in their own music and lives, and Oysterband’s hard-edged music and performances amply filled those needs. They brought passion, and not a little poetry to folk and roots music, but also a welcome power and energy.

Paul Johnson and Darren Beech from recently caught up with Alan Prosser at this years Cropredy Festival. Click on the play button below to have a listen.

Through the intervening four decades, they have remained at the cutting edge of the folk scene, exploring their songs and tunes in various line-ups that run the gamut from hard rock ambience to a more trad-angled acoustic trio. What they have retained throughout, however, is their own distinctive sound and approach to folk and roots music.

The multi-award-winning outfit is now entering its 40th year, as vital and creative as ever, with some of the finest songs in the modern folk canon to their name: ‘Put Out The Lights’; ‘When I’m Up (I Can’t Get Down)’; ‘Blood Wedding’; ‘Everywhere I Go’; ‘The Oxford Girl’; ‘Granite Years’; ‘Native Son’… plus many others from their vast back catalogue that will be featured in performance during a year of touring and festivals from summer 2017 into 2018. A unique and fiercely independent career celebrated.

On this tour, the band will play two sets each night, one featuring their highly-influential album Holy Bandits in its entirety, the second a selection of older gems from their vast back catalogue of songs such as ‘Hal-an-Tow’, ‘Love Vigilantes’, ‘20th Of April’, ‘Bells Of Rhymney’, ‘Bright Morning Star’ as well as some of the finest new songs in the modern folk repertoire.

Oysterband still play with a spirit of the punk ceilidh band of 1977, the one that roared through people’s lives all those years ago, but the growing depth and sensitivity of their songwriting, coupled with the strength of John Jones’ voice and their remarkable musicianship, have lifted the music into a richer, more acoustic era.

Their occasional collaboration with folk diva June Tabor has produced two cult-classic award-winning albums, Freedom & Rain and Ragged Kingdom. The latter and their hugely influential album Holy Bandits were voted nos. 4 and 5 among the Ten Best Albums of the last 30 years by the public in a poll by fRoots Magazine in 2016. The band is no stranger to TV – they have appeared on Later… With Jools Holland and the BBC Folk Awards shows – but there is no better way to sample the magic of what the band does best, than by catching them live on stage at one of their 2017 tour dates.

Oysterband is:

John Jones – voice, melodeon
Alan Prosser – guitars, voice
Ian Telfer – violin, voice
Al Scott – bass, mandolin, voice
Adrian Oxaal – cello, voice
and the newest member, formerly of Bellowhead, Pete Flood – drums, voice

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A unamplified classic of ‘Put Out The Lights’ form the Southdowns Folk Festival 2016

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Back to Cropredy 2018 Interview Menu

Oysterband announce new ‘Best Of’ collection

Oysterband at Bow Lake

This House Will Stand: The Best of Oysterband 1998 – 2015 is a 2-CD, 29 track collection comprising 15 tracks chosen by the band from their last 6 studio albums (including Ragged Kingdom, their multi-award winning reunion collaboration with June Tabor) and 14 unreleased tracks, rare B-sides, live cuts, demos and alternative versions of other Oysterband songs.

Oysterband has been one of the most consistently creative folk and rock bands of the past 38 years. Since their origins in 1977-1978 as the Oyster Ceilidh Band and their subsequent growth and constant development over the decades (sometimes wearing a more rock music mantle, sometimes a more folk/trad one), their musical vision has always burned bright. Following the critical and commercial success of Ragged Kingdom (2011) and Diamonds On The Water (2014), the band has been working on other projects including John Jones’ Never Stop Moving, story-telling tours by founder members Jones, Ian Telfer (fiddle) and Alan Prosser (guitar) as Oysters3, and the rebirth of their annual Big Session Festival in Buxton. This core membership of the band has been instrumental in the continuity of the Oysterband sound throughout these permutations and changes.

This new collection of recordings is drawn from one of the band’s most creative and successful periods to date and offers not only key recordings but demos and alternative takes that offer a further, and essential, insight into the work of one of the folk scene’s most vital forces.

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‘Spirit Of Dust’ in the studio:

JOHN JONES – Never Stop Moving (Westpark Music 87277)

JOHN JONES Never Stop MovingThe Oysterband’s frontman has been also following a solo career since the release of Rising Road in 2009, although the band’s schedule has meant he hasn’t had chance to put together a follow-up until now. Recorded with his sometime side-band, The Reluctant Ramblers, who include guitarist Al Scott, fiddle player Tim Cotterell, bassist Lindsey Oliver and Rowan Gödel duetting and on harmony with Benji Kirkpatrick and fellow Oysterband members Alan Prosser, drummer Dil Davies and new cellist Adrian Oxaal also providing contributions, it’s a less robustly rocking affair than the past couple of band albums and more inclined to the sort of rustic acoustic folk that reflects the pastoral inspirations and Jones’ walking passion that informs many of the songs.

Which isn’t to say it lacks muscle. Featuring driving background fiddle and Scott on bouzouki, ‘The Wanderer’, which references the Uffington White Horse, is a fairly punchy number while, inspired by the story of a girl waking from a drugs coma, ‘She Wrote Her Name Today’ rides a strident drum beat and fiddle swirl that calls to mind the anthemic work of early Runrig while also suggesting folksy version of Editors.

There’s also a rousing up-tempo energy to ‘Jim Jones’, a shanty-flavoured traditional number lyrically rooted in the convict transportations to Australia and the title track itself, which, much like a shark, sings about the need to be constantly moving (a metaphor for progress, here) in order to survive, is propelled by a suitably restless rolling wheels guitar riff. By contrast, slow-tempo album opener murder ballad ‘Down By The Lake’ is a far more contemplative affair. That was apparent inspired by a local tragedy around the Welsh borders where Jones lives while the story of someone he knows who found a magpie tied up in a plastic bag grew into ‘The Black And White Bird’ wherein the bird becomes a lover’s farewell token to the girl he’s forced to leave behind. Jones’ own background informs the simple, cello-streaked acoustic ‘Ferryman’ which, summoning thoughts of vintage Ralph McTell, casts his mind back to the “diesel river” of his Meltham childhood home.

History and imagination join hands on ‘Pierrepoint’s Farewellwhere, to fiddle, cello, simple circling guitar line and Gödel’s dual vocal, he recounts the events that led Ruth Ellis to the scaffold and muses on the hangman and his wife’s feelings as the moment of execution approaches. If that offers no explicit social comment, it’s certainly to be found on ‘Ghosts Of The Village’, a bouzouki led call to arms against the way England’s country villages have become taken over by wealthy city types and their second homes, absentee residents who have led to a dismantling of traditional communities.

The two remaining numbers are both traditional songs, Gödel sharing lead vocal on the Jones and Kirkpatrick’s tribal rhythm arrangement of the seafaring ‘Banks Of Newfoundland’ and, harking back to Jones’ own rambling soul, the album comes to a gentle close with ‘Young Rambling Boys of Pleasure’, a bittersweet lovelorn hymn to the urge to rove. A hugely impressive album, then, that goes to remind that Jones both talks the talk and walks the walk. Long may his feet carry him on.

Mike Davies

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‘Down By The Lake’ live at Shrewsbury Festival 2014: