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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Introducing Folk Police Recordings…

A new Manchester-based record label, Folk Police Recordings, releases its first offerings in January 2011. The ‘purveyors of folk brut and other rough music’ will be putting out an homage to Peter Bellamy, with Oak, Ash And Thorn, a collection of his songs contributed by some of the most innovative voices associated with the current folk scene, and Lincolnshire-born, Sussex-based folk singer Elle Osborne‘s new EP, Good Grief. Elle’s full-length album, And Slowly Slowly Got She Up, will follow in spring 2011. Though hugely inspired by the traditional music of the British Isles, it is music that blends the traditional with the new that captivates Folk Police Recordings‘ founder, Nigel Spencer: “We chose the name Folk Police because it’s a longstanding term of abuse bandied around the UK folk scene. We though it was about time someone reclaimed it and turned it into a badge of honour. It’s a badge we’re proud to wear. And we like the image it brings to mind: of small, extremely cross men with pointy beards beating offenders over the head with battered copies of the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. “More seriously, the artists we represent tend to know their traditional stuff, but are very much of the 21st century. Folk lovers will recognise some of the names of the artists we put out, but there will also be some new, unfamiliar musicians, too.” Folk Police Recordings has a busy year ahead, seeing releases from storyteller and musician, Bob Pegg, probably best known for his work with Mr. Fox in the 1970s, as well as introductory records from Fleetwood’s foremost dark trad duo, Rapunzel and Sedayne, a collection of traditional songs reinterpreted by some of the best players on the Manchester alt-folk scene with guest vocals from Nancy Wallace, Jackie Oates and a host of other wonderful singer in The Woodbine and Ivy Band, and Kitchen Cynics, Aberdeen psych-folk troubadour Alan Davidson, who will be the subject of an extensive series of download-only reissues. The label will also be looking closer to home with its Northwestern series, a series of short run CDs featuring folk and alt-folk artists and performers primarily from the Northwest of England. Christine Johnson, a folk-inspired songwriter who has more than a touch of Lal Waterson about her lyrical themes, will be the first Northwestern act to make her debut.

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