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

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Label website: www.fellside.com/

‘Single Girl’ – Peggy Seeger and Guy Carawan

ALISTAIR ANDERSON & NORTHLANDS – Alistair Anderson & Northlands (White Meadow WMR0031)

NorthlandsNot that he’s been away or anything but Alistair seems to be enjoying something of a renaissance, reinvigorating himself by looking to the next generation. First there was his stunning duo with Dan Walsh and now his new band, Alistair Anderson & Northlands, making their debut with this fine album. With him are Sophy Ball and Ian Stephenson, respectively fiddle player and guitarist with Andy May and flautist and singer Sarah Hayes of Admiral Fallow.

The record in firmly rooted in the north-east but for once there isn’t a single one of Alistair’s compositions but the credits include some of the greats of Northumbrian music: Billy Pigg, Will Atkinson and Willy Taylor amongst them. This is also, as far as I know, the only one of his albums to open with a song, a lovely light and spirited version of Jez Lowe’s ‘Taking On Men’. From there we move to the first instrumental set, a trio of ‘Paddy Whack/Coffee Bridge/Spirit Of Whiskey’, followed by the light and airy ‘Fiesta Waltz’ and my favourite set ‘Iain MacPhail’s Compliments To Chrissie Leatham/Copper Of Stannerton Heugh/One-Horned Sheep’. MaPhail’s tune is a corker, managing to sound old-fashioned in the manner of Scottish dance music while still being modern.

The second song is ‘The Snow It Melts The Soonest’. Sarah does a fine job aided by Iain’s arrangement and just about convinces me that I haven’t heard it far too many times before. The Will Atkinson set, ‘Redeside Hornpipe/Kyloe Burn’, is splendid with Alistair’s concertina honking away underneath the former while the latter gurgles like flowing water. Mike Tickell wrote the words of the semi-autobiographical ‘Last Shift’ with Iain composing the tune. Occasionally the band look further afield to find a tune like ‘Reel De Mattawa’ but mostly they stay close to home for such tunes as ‘Cutty’s Hornpipe’. ‘Geld Him, Lasses, Geld Him’ and ‘Apprentice Lads Of Alnwick’.

The final track is ‘I Drew My Ship Into A Harbour’, originally from the Northumbrian Minstrelsy, closing an album full of delightful moments. I must also mention Iain’s work on the technical side, recording and mastering the record. The balance and stereo separation are faultless rendering each instrument with crystal clarity.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.aanorthlands.com

The ‘Paddy Whack’ set – live: