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.

Label website: http://www.fellside.com/

VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Journey Continues (Fellside FECD272)

VARIOUS ARTISTS The Journey ContinuesPaul Adams’ Fellside Recordings has been doing its thing for forty years now. That includes giving young artists an early break, reissuing long-deleted albums and putting together collaborations like Song Links. The label celebrates with this triple-CD compilation – at a very attractive price given the number of rarities and lost gems it contains. As Paul explains in his notes, this set follows on from the 30th anniversary set, Landmarks, and concentrates, although not exclusively, on the last ten years.

Fittingly, the set opens with an unreleased track from the label’s longest serving member, Bram Taylor, one that is particularly affecting given the recent death of its writer, Andy M Stewart. ‘The Valley Of Strathmore’ is the sort of music that Fellside built its reputation on – good folk music, sung well with no messing about. Later tracks will suggest that some messing about now goes on but that’s the way times change.

The first disc features more of the same: A.L.Lloyd’s ‘Rambling Sailor’, Wendy Weatherbury’s uncompromisingly Scottish ‘Wars O’Germanie’, ‘The Gardener’ from Grace Notes and Rachel Newton & Lillian Kinsman-Blake’s ‘Bonnie Lassie’. In contrast there is the stomping ‘Jungle Queen’ from The Maerlock Big Band, folk-rock from The Queensberry Rules and Elbow Jane and the mischievous ‘Madeleine’ by Frankie Armstrong. That covers the first twenty tracks.

The second disc concentrates on new artists who have joined the label over the last decade intermixed with some old faces who have dropped in or returned to the fold – the sequencing seems a bit arbitrary at times. The first track is ‘A Beggar’ by Ewan McLennan, one of the best new voices on the scene. Other new arrivals featured include 422, Pilgrims’ Way, James Findlay and Joe Tilston with Hughie Jones, Hedy West, Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick and Peter Bellamy amongst the oldies. For variety there are also two tracks from albums released on the jazz label, Lake, by The Jake Leg Jug Band and Hot Fingers – both come from the folk/jazz interface and are great fun.

Finally we have “A bit of a detour” – tracks that predate the decade under consideration. This is a real nostalgia-fest as many of the source albums are long deleted and there are voices that we won’t hear again in this world: John Rennard, Bobby Eaglesham, Barry Skinner and Dave Brady. The absolute highlight is a magnificent version of ‘The Dowie Dens Of Yarrow’ by Janet Russell but there are delights at every turn.

For your (not very much) money you get fifty-seven varied tracks, copious notes by Paul Adams and a complete list of the Fellside recordings – when you’ve collected them all let me know.

Dai Jeffries

Label website: www.fellside.com

Fellside at 40

The Quality puts most other small companies to shame’ Music Week

 Fellside at 40

Fellside Recordings was set up by husband and wife, Paul and Linda Adams, in 1976. Paul and Linda were a singing duo who had made two albums by this time. Paul had some interest in recording and was working freelance for BBC local radio when they decided to set up their own recording facility. With help from other label owners Bernard Whitty (Folksound), Brian Horsfall (Traditional Sound Recordings), Alan Green (Folk Heritage), Joe Stead (Sweet Folk & Country) and the legendary Bill Leader, the label was born.

Although not setting out as a Folk Music label Fellside became one quite quickly. For some time the business was only part-time: Linda looked after the administration and the day-to-day running of Fellside alongside looking after their two young children while Paul had what he calls a “proper job” as a Pastoral Head and Head of Business Studies in a local school.

Notable debut albums by young artists such as Dave Walters, Colin Thompson, Gerry Hallom, Steve Turner and, most notably, Jez Lowe, and Paul’s skill as a recording engineer helped build Fellside’s reputation for quality. Having established artists such as Roy Harris and Martyn Wyndham-Read join the label helped consolidate that reputation. Paul’s background also involved Jazz and he was anxious to start a Jazz label, which came about in 1986 with the formation of the Lake label specialising in British Traditional and Mainstream Jazz. With deals, first with Decca and then with Universal to reissue the Record Supervision catalogue (artists such as Chris Barber, Acker Bilk, Humphrey Lyttelton, Alex Welsh, etc), Lake hit the ground running.

By now the company was developing rapidly and the continuing upward trajectory meant that something had to give and so in 1996 Paul and Linda took the plunge and went into Fellside full time. This enabled the company to develop even more rapidly and its labels become two of the leading independent, specialist labels in the UK with an admirable reputation for quality. Distribution via Proper Music Distribution ensured a network of availability to rival any major label.

Between them the two main labels have received 12 Awards For Excellence from the Music Retailers Association, four British Jazz Awards, one Scottish New Music Award; Fellside artists are regularly nominated for, and have won, BBC Folk Awards; four sets of Fellside artists won BBC Young Folk Awards; Paul was nominated for a BBC Jazz Award and this year was awarded the ‘Services To British Jazz’ in the British Jazz Awards. Also this year Paul was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the University of Cumbria for services to education and the music business.

Other developments: the Smallfolk label was created to release music from the television series, Bagpuss; the Midge Bitten label was created for the Indie/Rock band, Hyabusa; Fellside has acquired the rights to the Traditional Sound Recordings and Brewhouse Music labels. Fellside also has its own publishing business, Fellsongs Publishing.

Statistics and personnel: To date, Fellside has released 280 albums and Lake 350; just over 50% of those albums have been recorded by Paul Adams; Fellside is still run solely by Paul and Linda Adams; the other person most closely associated with the company, Mary Blood, has been the artwork designer on a freelance basis since day one; in 2015 Paul and Linda’s children, Richard Adams and Susan Reid, became directors of the business; other people have helped on a casual basis over the years most notably Richard Adams, Bob Hallard and, currently, George Hunter-Brown.

Fellside still has a policy of encouraging new young talent and, over time, this has resulted in a number of artists gaining national recognition notably the aforementioned Jez Lowe (6 albums with Fellside), Sara Grey, Nancy Kerr & James Fagan, Benji Kirkpatrick, Spats Langham (four albums on Lake), Dr. Faustus and, of course, Spiers & Boden (four albums with Fellside). Alongside nurturing new talent Fellside, over the years, has revitalized the recording careers of several already established artists including Bobby Eaglesham, Swan Arcade, Bob Fox, Hughie Jones, Martyn Wyndham- Read, Clive Gregson and, more recently, Pete Morton.

As well as initiating its own recordings Fellside has been keen to get recordings by A.L. Lloyd and Peter Bellamy back in circulation. Over the last few years a new crop of artists is gaining national recognition: Joe Topping, Jack McNeil & Charlie Heys, The Jake Leg Jug Band (Lake), Hot Fingers (Lake), Gren Bartley, Tom Kitching, Ewan McLennan, The Hut People, Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith, James Findlay and, of course, the award winning Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar.

PETE MORTON – The Frappin’ And Ramblin’ Pete Morton (Fellside FECD261)

FandRPeteMortonWe don’t hear anywhere near enough of Pete Morton here in the south. It’s as though Yorkshire knows when it has a good thing and won’t let him escape although if this set is any guide he’ll be the last man to be seduced by the bright lights and the good life.

The record opens with ‘Farmer’s Boy Frap’. I thought at first that “frap” might be a cross between rap and frappuccino® as the subject is mainly milk and how farmers are exploited by supermarkets and big business in general – a contrast between those who can do and those who can only sell. Actually frap = folk rap: a tumble of contemporary words linked to a traditional, or semi-traditional, theme and chorus. Possibly the best is ‘The Manchester Rambler Frap’, hence my careful distinction.

This is very much a political album. Pete sets out his manifesto in ‘The Journeyman’ – his description of himself – beginning with the re-nationalisation of the railways and he surveys the heroes of the underdogs in ‘Rambling Through Old England’ name-checking Wat Tyler, George Fox and Titus Salt. ‘Corporatocracy’ predicts Sonmi-451’s world in Cloud Atlas and that isn’t so far away. For light relief we have ‘The Love Of You’ and ‘Bedside Song’ – Pete has always had a romantic streak – but it’s the other songs that matter here. Or is it? Without humanity the corporatocracy will become all-powerful.

Pete is accompanied by Maggie Boyle, Chris Parkinson, Jon Brindley and James Budden with Linda Adams adding chorus vocals. Fine musicians all, doing exactly what is needed to carry the songs and their complex lyrics while Pete himself balances on a torrent of words. This is an excellent record.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.petemorton.com