Oysterband celebrate 40 years together

Oysterband

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 folking.com 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

Full international dates and info: http://www.oysterband.co.uk/

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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Artists’ website: http://www.oysterband.co.uk/

‘Spirit Of Dust’ in the studio:

New OYSTERBAND album: Diamonds On The Water – Navigator Records – February 17th 2014

DiamondsRagged Kingdom, Oysterband’s reunion collaboration, with the English folk legend June Tabor, was fROOTS Critics’ Poll Album of the Year, Mojo Folk Album of the Year, won three BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and saw the group featured on Later… With Jools (BBC2 TV).

After two years touring that project, Oysterband is now very happy to announce a new studio Oysterband album, DIAMONDS ON THE WATER, to be released on 17 February 2014  –  their first new collection of original songs in seven years.

“It was time”, says fiddler Ian Telfer, “to get back to some of the other things we do best  –  make new music and get out there on the road.”  And in fact they will be touring full-on in UK through February and March 2014.

Singer John Jones took time from the studio to talk here about the new album:

“After Ragged Kingdom, which was a kind of re-immersion in traditional song”, he says, “it seemed so important to us to get back to working on our song-writing skills in the light of that.  We’ve loved every bit of the collaborative projects  –  which include the Big Session Festival too, of course  –  but the writing is a vital part of our growth and continuity as a band.  And if we can give a little back to the folk tradition, so much the better”.

These are the first Oysterband recordings since the departure of Ray “Chopper” Cooper to pursue a solo career. Al Scott, the band’s long-time producer, has stepped in on bass and mandolin, and, says John, “with the power and inventiveness of Dil [Davies]’s drumming, our sound has become simpler and punchier, as it was in the early days.  Over a summer of great festivals, including Glastonbury, we stripped the sound down and went for it, with Al and Ian singing more to support guitarist Alan Prosser’s backing vocals.  We all had to dig deep to make something new.  And it has had a great reaction”.

“The song-writing has certainly begun to flow.  We’re searching as usual for uplift in the melodies and insight in the words… and there’s maybe an element of the autobiographical this time round. The writing has had the effect of throwing Alan, Ian and myself back together again as the main creative focus of the group. Not an easy thing when, after so many years, the cushioning and supportive mortar of Chopper and June is taken away from between three sharp‐edged stones! Thankfully there was little sound of grinding – we do understand where each other’s songs come from”.

Oysterband1“As usual we recorded in Brighton, where we can draw on the skills of many friends, quite an impressive bunch actually” – including Adrian Oxaal, “a Brighton mate”, former lead guitarist with the band James, but also a fine cellist.  Adrian will be appearing on the album tours.  Rowan Godel, who often sings on John’s ‘walking tours’, came in and added “an emotional vulnerability” to some songs as well as “an uninhibited quality when she soars”.  Lindsey Oliver played double bass “to give us that warmth and swing at the bottom end”.  Ex-Oysterband drummer Lee Partis even dropped in and added his distinctive high harmonies to a couple of tracks, and Pete Davison (trumpet), Eira Owen (French horn) and Sarah Leeves (euphonium) contributed splashes of brass.

What has emerged with these new recordings is a feeling of warmth, both musical and personal, that makes the songs come alive.  “We had sessions where we all just gathered around two microphones. It has a wonderful sound and this ‘choir’ of varied voices has become an essential part of the album.”

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Artist’s website: www.oysterband.co.uk

Ray Cooper aka Chopper is leaving Oysterband…

We have just had word that Ray Cooper, also known as Chopper, is leaving Oysterband to pursue a career as a solo singer-songwriter.

Ray says; ” After 24 years of constant touring and recording, it is not easy to give up the friends, the fans and the life I have known. We shared a lot of ups and downs and have grown together to be more like a family than a band. However, since the release of my solo album ‘Tales of Love War and Death by Hanging’ a couple of years ago, I knew that a door had been opened for me and another, more challenging path lay waiting. I have to sing”.

His last show with OB will be February 23rd in Treorchy, Wales, which is also the last date of the highly successful Ragged Kingdom tour featuring Oysterband with June Tabor.

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Artist’s website: www.raycooper.org

JUNE TABOR and OYSTERBAND – The Union Chapel London 19th April 2012

Someone once said that a typical June Tabor concert review went thusly: “June Tabor sang some songs and everybody cried”. There is some truth in that but on stage with Oysterband things are different. There is darkness in the songs, yes, but here June was sharp, jokey and making points with a surgical precision before anyone noticed what she was doing.

They opened with ‘Bonny Bunch Of Roses’ and played all of Ragged Kingdom as well as four songs from Freedom And Rain and some Oysterband “solos”. With producer Al Scott on bass and guitar, plus all the extra instruments they have added the men in black and the lady in red have enormous flexibility to play just about anything from the gorgeous unaccompanied harmonies of ‘When I Was No But Sweet Sixteen’ to the acid rock of their second encore, ‘White Rabbit’.

The second set was preceded by the presentation of the fRoots Critics’ Award by Stephen Mangan (it’s probably compulsory to refer to him as TV’s Dirk Gently) – well, we were in Islington. He made a witty and brief speech before June explained how they hold a grudge in Somerset as an introduction to ‘Judas Was A Red-Headed Man’ followed by my favourite track from the album, ‘Son David’.

I must mention the sound engineer. I was not in an advantageous position but the sound was excellent. The Union Chapel acoustic properties are such that you can feel the kick drum vibrating through the pews, adding a sometimes visceral bass immerses you in the music and the acoustic guitar and kantele were sparklingly clear.

Dai Jeffries

Performance: 19th Aril 2012

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JUNE TABOR & OYSTERBAND – Ragged Kingdom (Topic Records TSCD585)

No one could ever accuse the ‘oysters’ of not opening up and here, fitting tighter than a pair of latex gloves on a surgeon’s hands June Tabor and Oysterband come together for a celebratory recording after a 21 year hiatus.  Although they never split up per se the quintet embody everything that is good about folk-rock with plenty of attitude particularly on the opening track “Bonny Bunch Of Roses” where the almost Spaghetti Western arrangement would make Ennio Morricone proud…not yee-ha perhaps but pretty close. Some marriages are made in Heaven and what better juxtaposition than Tabor and John Jones to convey the gory blood-fest that is Child’s ballad no.13 here re-titled “Son David”. The almost jaunty melody provided by Alan Prosser’s guitar, Ray ‘Chopper’ Cooper’s mandolin and Ian Telfer’s fiddle underpinned by Dill Davies somewhat muted drums and producer Al Scott’s bass makes the story a more than palatable experience and one that I’m sure will have the band’s enthusiastic audience joining the refrain. Of course, it’s not only traditional fare that receives the Oyster treatment as their acoustic version of Ian Curtis “Love Will Tear Us Apart” provides (for me at least and with no offence intended) an uncluttered, even cultured experience that was never evident on the original Joy Division recording. So, a little something for everyone whatever your taste in music that could see the band make appearances on stage at Glastonbury or, just as easily Aled Jones radio show. The British ‘folk’ scene owes a debt of gratitude to artists such as these and we should be grateful the band are still bringing home gold…unlike some of our athletes at the moment. 

PETE FYFE

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Artist Web Link: www.oysterband.co.uk