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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‘Single Girl’ – Peggy Seeger and Guy Carawan

Fellside Recordings announce their final history triple-CD set

Fellside Recordings

After 42 years of the business and with the release of over 600 albums managing directors Paul and Linda Adams are now wanting to take life a bit easier, move into semi-retirement and transfer some of the work. It is important to stress that the business is not closing nor is it being sold. It will continue in a much more low key way. In celebration, 29th June 2018 will see the release of Destination, an album consisting mainly of tracks specially recorded by artists who have been associated with the label (plus some archive material). Artists include Jez Lowe, Pete Morton, Brian Peters, Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar, Sara Grey, Spiers & Boden, James Findlay, Spats Langham & Jeff Barnhart, Bobby Eaglesham, Diz Disley, Steve Turner, Rick Kemp, Elbow Jane, Chris Barber, Martyn Wyndham-Read, Nancy Kerr & James Fagan, Bob Fox, Aldridge & Goldsmith…and a host more. It’s a jam packed triple album and a worthy addition to anyone’s collection.

The profile and achievements of Fellside Recordings is remarkable when you realise Paul and Linda have run the company virtually single-handed since its inception in 1976. There has been occasional non-fulltime help from a number of students over the years, but the only other help has come from the designer, Mary Blood (“Fellside’s ram’s-horn logo is a design classic. An essential element of the iconography of Albion” Stirrings magazine). The Fellside label is the second biggest independent specialist Folk music label in England and the Lake label is the biggest label for its genre of Jazz in the UK. This is an outstanding achievement for just two people – is there another UK specialist label that has achieved anything similar? Between them the labels have won: twelve Awards for Excellence from the Music Retailers Association; five British Jazz Awards (4 for albums, one for ‘Services To British Jazz’); 1 Scottish New Music Award. Paul was given an Honorary Award from the University of Cumbria for services to the Music Industry and Education (Paul: “There aren’t many awards for record producers or recording engineers so I don’t expect anything. This came out of nowhere and was a very touching and special surprise”).

Fellside has launched the careers of leading performers such as Jez Lowe, Brian Peters, Steve Turner, Bram Taylor, John Wright, Sara Grey, Nancy Kerr & James Fagan, Spiers & Boden, Gren Bartley, Tom Kitching, Elbow Jane, James Findlay, The Hut People, Ewan McLennan, Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith and Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar. Fellside has also revived the recording careers of Swan Arcade, Frankie Armstrong, Martyn Wyndham-Read, Bob Fox, Pete Morton as well as launching the solo career of ex-Spinner Hughie Jones. Projects have included albums from both Penguin books of English Folk Songs, Song Links and Child Ballads amongst others.

The label also has had an extensive reissue programme of recordings by Peter Bellamy and leading Folk Music revival founding father, A. L. Lloyd. The vast majority of the albums were recorded by Paul. Apart from a handful, all the CDs on both labels were mastered by Paul who trained in CD mastering in 1992.

Lake has had a more reissue bias and has produced acclaimed series such as The Great Revival Series, The Record Supervision Series and the highly regarded Potted History Of British Traditional Jazz (which inspired the Trad Jazz Britannia programme on BBC4) and its accompanying At A Tangent volumes. There has been an extensive reissue programme of the recordings by British Jazz legends Chris Barber, Ken Colyer, Alex Welsh, Acker Bilk, Humphrey Lyttelton. Recordings were made of working bands such as Phil Mason’s New Orleans All-Stars, Sonny Morris & The Delta Jazz Band, The Charleston Chasers, The Fryer-Barnhart International All Star Jazz Band, The Savannah Jazz Band, Spats Langham’s Hot Combination and Hot Fingers groups, The Jake Leg Jug Band, Jeff Barnhart & John Hallam; involvement in this led to 20 years of Paul’s own Lake Records Jazz Band and an interest in vintage recording techniques led to the Vintage Recording Project series.

Fellside Recordings acquired the rights to the Traditional Sound Recordings, Brewhouse Music labels plus parts of the 77 Records/Folklore labels. Work in in progress to get as much material as possible available for download. Smallfolk was created for a CD of the music from the children’s TV programme Bagpuss; the Midge Bitten label was created as an Indie/Rock label for the band Hayabusa. Fellsongs Publishing is the publishing side of Fellside and associated labels.

What about the future? For a start there are still some albums to do and new ones will appear, but not with the frequency they have been. Fellside will not be taking on any new artists and existing artists may well drift away to other labels. Fellside may undertake the occasional project. Two triple albums have appeared charting the history of Fellside, Landmarks (FECD203) and The Journey Continues (FECD272) and now a third, Destination (FECD282), is to be released on 29th June. This new one, also a triple for the price of one, is both a reflection and a celebration marking the end of an era.

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