John Jones Interview + June Tabor & Oysterband Oct/ Nov Tour Dates

John Jones

Paul Johnson and Darren Beech catch up with John Jones after Oysterband closed the Saturday night of New Forest Folk Festival 2019.

We talk about the closing set on the Saturday night, the wonderful crowd singing and how they embraced the show, setting a festival record with the most people standing and making ‘one’ audience.

We discuss the anthem songs like a ‘A River Runs, Everywhere I Go, We Could Leave Right Now’, what effect they have on people and how the audience has come to create the refrain.

John discusses the recent Danish Folk Prize Award and we chat about how the band has been embraced by Europe over the years.

We talk about the June Tabor and Oysterband – ‘Fire and Fleet’ 15 date tour in October and November and John also hints of a new Oysterband song that is due to be released soon based to an Ian Telfer Lyric.

The interview should start playing automatically, if not click on the play button below to listen.

Artist’s website:

UK TOUR DATES 2019 – June Tabor and Oysterband.
















JUNE TABOR – Airs And Graces (Topic TTSC004)

Airs And GracesAs you must know by now, to celebrate their 80th birthday Topic are re-releasing a series of classic albums in deluxe editions. Airs And Graces is among the first tranche and is arguably one of the most important. When June Tabor first appeared on the scene I’d just moved into the area and was still finding out where the folk clubs were – it was word of mouth in those days – thus I read about her long before I’d seen her on stage or heard her on record. I’ve made up for it since but coming back to a remastered issue of this debut is a real delight.

From this vantage point in time most of the songs are familiar enough but I’m certain that June introduced the world to ‘The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ and it was several years before we could get our hands on Eric Bogle’s first album. Airs And Graces opens with the dancing sound of ‘While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping’ – that’s Nic Jones on guitar. He was one of the few guitarists who could have matched the liberties June, who was brought up singing unaccompanied, was wont to take with the rhythm of a song. This is still my favourite version of the song. Nic appears again on ‘Bonny May’ which is also decorated by Jon Gillaspie’s sopranino recorder and I must admit that I’d forgotten Jon’s atmospheric accompaniment to ‘Young Waters’ – probably the only use of a roxichord in traditional music.

Next is ‘Plains Of Waterloo’ and June follows Shirley and Dolly Collins in recording it. It’s gobsmacking to think that this was only the third freely available recording of the song. ‘Bonny May’ is a relative of ‘The Broom Of The Cowdenowes’, which I didn’t know until now but I think everyone knew ‘Reynardine’ by then. In fact, June had a remarkable ability to find a song, then find a variant of it and then make it popular. ‘Young Waters’, ‘Waly Waly’ and ‘The Merchant’s Son’ are familiar stories in folk-song but when did we hear them first, I wonder.

There are four bonus tracks, all predating the recording of this album and essentially field recordings. ‘The Fair Maid Of Wallington’ includes the words “silly sisters”, which were to become famous later and ‘The Royal Oak’ was recorded at the venue of one of those folk clubs that I didn’t know about. Sadly, it wasn’t released on the LP that Stagfolk issued. Two others did and good luck with finding them.

We are used to hearing a rather more sombre June Tabor these days but even forty years ago she couldn’t be called a flibbertigibbet. That voice was magnificent and could deliver a song like few others.

Dai Jeffries

Label website:

There weren’t many videos in 1976 but this may suffice:

VARIOUS ARTISTS – From Here – English Folk Field Recordings Volume 2 (From Here Records SITW011CD)

From Here Volume 2Curated by Ian Carter and Nicola Kearey of Stick In The Wheel, the second volume of From Here is every bit as intriguing and entertaining as its predecessor. Recorded wherever the artists were with just two microphones, these performances are sometimes raw and earthy and sometimes delicate and beautiful. Some of the artists are well known, others less so and same is true of the music.

There is a sort of chronology about the album. It begins with what Nancy Kerr calls a mediaeval song, ‘Gan Tae The Kye’, which she pairs with a popular north-eastern tune ‘Peacock Followed The Hen’. From the same geographical area comes ‘The Sandgate Dandling Song’ sung by Rachel Unthank and I must admit that I’ve never really listened to it properly. It’s a lullaby, yes, but with a very hard story wrapped up in it and Rachel’s matter-of-fact delivery emphasises the hardship. The first instrumental set is the delightful ‘Cottenham Medley’ by C Joynes, about whom I know almost nothing.other than the fact that he lives in Cambridgeshire. The other two sets are from the north-east: Kathryn Tickell’s dazzling ‘Bonnie Pit Laddie/ Lads Of Alnwick’ and ‘Nancy Clough’ by Sandra and Nancy Kerr, who thus gets to open and close the set.

The chronology begins to break down now. Richard Dawson’s ‘The Almsgiver’ sounds old but which Richard wrote recently and is perfectly in keeping with the feeling of the project. You may think you know ‘Barbera Allen’ but this version by Mary Hymphreys & Anahata will be new to most listeners. Coincidentally (or not) it also comes from Cottingham. June Tabor revisits ‘The Kng Of Rome’ and rising star Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne tackles ‘Two Lovely Black Eyes’. There are two distinct versions of this song, both by Charles Coborn, and Cohen goes for the political one. Both this and ‘The King Of Rome’ are set around the turn of the 20th century even though the latter was written much more recently. Appropriately, they are followed by Grace Petrie’s ‘A Young Woman’s Tale’, her updating of a song that began with the words “At the turning of the century…”, a clever juxtapositioning. Politics – although with a small “p” – return with Chris Wood’s ‘So Much To Defend’ which would appear to be made up of true stories.

Other, but not lesser, artists are Cath & Phil Tyler, Laura Smyth & Ted Kemp and Belinda Kempster, who is the mother of SITW’s Fran Foote and a very fine singer, now working as a duo with her daughter. That sort of emphasises the idea that we’re listening to a continuing tradition that has been caught in a moment of time.

Dai Jeffries

Label website:

Nancy Kerr – ‘Gan Tae The Kye/Peacock Followed The Hen’ – the video of the recording:

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.

Artists’ website:

‘Spirit Of Dust’ in the studio:

The Oysterband Offers ‘Diamonds on the Water’

Oysterband 1 by Judith BurrowsThe Oysterband is the coolest 40-something around. Any doubters need only listen to Diamonds on the Water, due to be released Feb. 17. It’d be easy and understandable if four decades left the Oysters a bit stale. But John Jones, Alan Prosser, Ian Telfer, Dil Davies and Al Scott (now on bass and mandolin) show they still have artistry to create songs that range from wistful (“A Clown’s Song” “Lay Your Dreams Down Gently”)  to downright rocking (“No Ordinary Girl”) and beyond.

John Jones took some time out of the band’s ever-growing tour schedule to talk about the how the band regrouped after Ray “Chopper” Cooper’s departure, when they might again collaborate with June Tabor, and how the Canadian Rockies inspired one of the band’s best new songs.

Diamonds on the Water is full of your own songs, of course. When you began to write, was there a theme in mind or did one emerge as you wrote and recorded?

There was no specific theme but we had a strong sense of finding our own identity again through the songs. In time we had the feeling that our own autobiography would play a part and a sense of time and place. I can’t tell you just how important this creative journey has been for us.

Where was the album recorded and how much did the atmosphere of the studio impact the songs?

We started writing in a small coastguard’s cottage in Portland overlooking Chesil Beach and did much of the early demoing in my village hall on the Welsh Border, finishing the album in Metway Studios, Brighton. We don’t have just one home any more but we have to be inspired wherever we go. And the tea, biscuits and beer have to be good.

Choose any song from the new album and tell us the story behind it. Where did the genus of it develop? What journey did it take to formation?

“The Wilderness” was inspired by a wild walk in the Canadian Rockies, when the whole band and crew trekked up to Stanley Glacier on a day off from Canmore Folk Music Festival. I had walked in the area before but to get all of us up there was amazing and caused great consternation amongst our hosts. It really is wilderness and there are bears, wolves, mountain lions. They were worried about losing the odd guest artiste, but armed with little bells and rattles, and with the words of an experienced friend in our ears  (”Remember guys, you are not the masters here!”), we set out. It was an epic effort and that night the beer flowed and the sense of achievement grew. Ian must have stored that phrase and when he came with the lyric it brought everything back. Together with Alan we had the melody and the song together in 2 hours in a hotel room.

There was great excitement over Ragged Kingdom and your band teaming with June Tabor. Were you tempted to try to expand that collaboration further with more traditional songs?

 Working with June was great and it will remain part of what we do, but it is best kept “for special.” Traditional songs are close to our hearts but…..think of it as sculpture: you can’t keep re-shaping and re-fashioning the same ancient piece of rock indefinitely, especially when you find beauty often lies in simplicity. Writing and building music is our lifeblood, and because it is the most challenging thing we do, the rewards are so much more. It was time to become ourselves again, but I hope we carried some of that narrative, story-telling element into Diamonds.

Do you have any plans to work with June in the near future?

 We’re playing Rudolstadt Festival in Germany with June on July 6th this year…..but I’m sure there will be other shows in the future.

When fans listen to Diamonds, what do you hope the take away from the experience?

A sense of a band at ease with itself and its music. A band that has a strong sense of time and place, even beauty, and that is now able to say through its music what it loves about living here as well as what it finds socially or politically amiss.

Did you use any new instrumentation in this album that perhaps you didn’t use or only used minimally before?

What grew out of the stripped-down band that remained after “Chopper” (left for a solo career) was a tight unit, with Al Scott coming in on bass, and a very powerful one. The playing, like the singing and the songwriting, just had to re-focus and be ‘on it.’ As we grew in confidence during last summer’s festivals, vocal contributions strengthened and harmonies evolved. When we started to invent instrumental lines and arrangements for the new songs, we realised a cello really was an important part of our sound, so we brought Adrian Oxaal in. Rowan has sung with us before, of course, she’s very intuitive and musically sympathetic in the studio. And there are splashes of brass on the album for colour –– trumpet/French horn/euphonium rather than trumpet/trombone/sax. If a song needs a certain sound, we will find it.

What is it that has kept the Oysterband together and creating new music, that is so well received? Not many other bands of your vintage can claim that, certainly.

Luck, chemistry, writing songs that interest us, trying not to repeat ourselves, playing live, love of travel, the tolerance of others, anger, a supportive network around us. And sheer bloody-mindedness…

Find out more about the band and the upcoming tour via the band’s website.

— By Nancy Dunham @NancyDWrites

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.”

Artist’s website: