Oak, Ash And Thorn – Various Artists 24-01-2011 Folk Police Recordings

John Peel was a fan of Peter Bellamy’s album of Kipling songs Oak, Ash And Thorn. ‘I hope Oak, Ash and Thorn will not be the sole venture of this kind you undertake and I look forward to featuring more of Kipling’s poetry and your music on the radio,’ he was supposed to have said. Of course, he wasn’t the only fan of this curious record, which first came out forty years ago on the Argo label, followed by a sister album, the equally strange and beguiling Merlin’s Isle of Gramarye. It is fitting that the first contributor to this present-day homage is none other than Jon Boden: a leading light on the current scene and a musician and singer who has always been eager to cite his admiration for Bellamy. The other fifteen tracks have been put forward by a range of different musicians, emphasising Bellamy’s influence on a whole new generation.  From traditional singers, (Fay Hield, Sam Lee), to alt.folk innovators, (Trembling Bells, The Owl Service), this celebration of Bellamy’s Puck settings will undoubtedly cast a new light on his classic interpretations. There are names from the current young British folk scene that you will undoubtedly recognise – from The Unthanks to Emily Portman to the award winning Jackie Oates – to newer artists you may well not, like Rapunzel and Sedayne, Elle Osborne and Olivia Chaney. Peter Bellamy was a maverick, a musician that refused to follow fashion. Though famously referring to himself as a ‘boring, bleating old traddy’, he was as happy listening to the latest offering from Frank Zappa as he was extolling the virtues of traditional singers such as Walter Pardon. In tribute, there are artists here that perhaps wouldn’t always be neatly slotted into genre pigeonholes. And their take on these now-canonical songs will need room to breathe and grow before they intrigue and enchant, just like Bellamy did all those years ago.

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