VARIOUS ARTISTS – Vision & Revision (Topic TXCD597)

Vision & RevisionIt can’t have escaped your notice that Topic Records is celebrating its 80th birthday this year. We’ve already had selected deluxe reissues of important albums but how can you really celebrate a catalogue as vast as this? Vision & Revision, subtitled The First 80 Years Of Topic Records, is the solution. Twenty artists, mostly from the younger generation, perform a song that was released on a Topic record some time in the last eight decades. I must congratulate Glen Johnson and Michael Mastrangelo who curated the set but I’m intrigued to know how they set about their task. Did they select twenty songs and parcel them out – surely not? So they must have picked twenty performers and turned them loose on the archives. Each one has a story and you’ll get dizzy following the cross-references.

The first disc opens with one of the old stagers, Martin Simpson, who sings ‘Beaulampkin’ which appeared on his first album. Martin didn’t join Topic until his third record but he learned the song from Hedy West’s Ballads. Of course, Sam Kelly learned ‘Shawnee Town’ from Martin and the baton moves on again. Another veteran is Martin Carthy who cites Sam Larner for ‘Napoleon’s Dream’. Martin heard Sam perform when he was just a teenager and Emily Portman gives Waterson:Carthy as the source of ‘The Bay Of Biscay’ – fifty years separate the two inspirations.

Martin is mentioned again by Chris Wood as the source of ‘Fable Of The Wings’, the Keith Christmas song adapted by Brass Monkey. It’s an unexpected choice and Chris takes it back to something like the guitar original. Anne Briggs is mentioned more than once and Kitty Macfarlane goes as far as singing ‘Go Your Way’ while Olivia Chaney borrows ‘Polly Vaughan’ from Hazards Of Love. Nancy Kerr namechecks June Tabor, Oysterband tackle Nic Jones’ ‘Seven Gypsies’ – an excellent reading of the song – and Peggy Seeger goes to Mike Waterson leaving The Oldham Tinkers to sing ‘Dirty Old Town’.

Another unexpected treat is Richard Thompson’s ‘The Light Bob’s Lassie’, a version of ‘Katie Cruel’ and there are two voices I haven’t heard before. The first is Irish singer Lisa O’Neill who sings ‘As I Roved Out’ with a mighty voice that takes absolutely no prisoners. The second is Lankum – please don’t ask me why I haven’t heard them before – whose lengthy take on ‘The Sea Captain’ closes the second disc.

There’s probably a great pub game to be had from matching twenty singers to twenty songs from the Topic catalogue but this is the official version. Sadly I won’t be around to hear what they select for the second eighty years.

Dai Jeffries

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Martin Simpson – ‘Beaulampkin’ :

Topic Records celebrates its first 80 years

Vision & Revision: The First 80 Years of Topic Records

Vision & Revision: The First 80 Years of Topic Records is a deluxe double CD and double vinyl of the cream of contemporary British folk artists interpreting a song of their choice from Topic’s vast back catalogue (the only stipulation being that the song was at some time released on Topic). It includes newly recorded and never-before-released tracks by Martin Simpson, Richard Thompson, Lankum, Peggy Seeger, John Smith, Sam Lee, Martin Carthy, Olivia Chaney, Lisa O’Neill, Oysterband, Nancy Kerr, Chris Wood, Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker, Lisa Knapp, Kitty Macfarlane, Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys, Emily Portman & Rob Harbron, Rachael McShane & The Cartographers, Eliza Carthy & Olivia Chaney and The Oldham Tinkers. These artists have delved deep into Topic’s treasure chest to pull out all manner and variety of ballads and broadsides and breathed new life into them.

With its origins in the Workers’ Music Association, through the mid-20th century folk revival to the present day, Topic Records has established itself as not only the pre-eminent British folk music label, but one widely respected throughout the world. Topic has survived, grown and flourished – proof, if any were needed, that “grass roots” interest in traditional music, the artists and the label itself, has remained constant and strong. Topic has released some of the most influential folk recordings of modern times by a host of revered artists, from Anne Briggs to Peggy Seeger to June Tabor to Ewan MacColl and many, many more.

For 80 years, Topic Records has been a fervent and consistent champion of “the people’s music”. During that time, it has withstood wars, shortages, austerity, economic disaster, the vagaries of fashion, corporate onslaught and various cataclysmic shifts in the fortunes of the recording industry, to retain its proud and distinctively individual role as a beacon of integrity and true values. This fortitude has resulted in its unquestionable claim for being the oldest, surviving truly independent record label in the world.

“Folk music never goes away. You may not hear it, but it is always there, just over your cultural horizon. It lives in families, in communities, in the villages and towns and cities, and in the hearts of the people. Each generation takes what it needs and gives what it can to the tradition, each wave of newcomers turning another furrow, sowing new seeds. For eighty years, Topic Records has played a major role in this process, ensuring the old voices are still audible and creating a space for those that hear them to make new recordings of their own. Formats come and go, but like the music, Topic endures. Long may it do so.” – Billy Bragg

This 20-track double album comes in CD and vinyl gatefold formats, both housed in a special deluxe, debossed, silver foil-blocked sleeve. The vinyl issue is limited to 1000 copies only. A digital version of the album is also available.

Vision & Revision: The First 80 Years of Topic Records will be released on May 31st 2019.

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Label website: www.topicrecords.co.uk

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Destination (Fellside Recordings FECD282)

Fellside RecordingsThe Fellside Recording label has been a major force in independent folk music recording for 42 years and has over 600 albums to its credit, many by some very big names in the genre. Now, Paul and Linda Adams have decided to slow down, and though the label remains in business, it will have a lower profile and won’t be taking on new artists. The end of an era, but by no means the end of the story. Destination is a mighty collection of tracks – three CDs worth – specially recorded by some of the many fine artists who’ve been associated with the label, plus some archive material.

The material here covers the spectrum from dance tunes to modern songs by treasured artists like Peter Bellamy (two of his Kipling settings are provided here, one sung by Terry Docherty) and Alex Glasgow, to a wide selection of traditional songs (even the occasional Child ballad). Well over half the tracks here have not been released previously. Given the calibre of the musicians here, that alone has to make it worth buying. There are also a handful of unusual jazz performances from Fellside’s sibling label Lake.

Because of the sheer number of tracks provided here (64!), my usual practice of including a full track listing didn’t seem altogether appropriate. Here are just a few more of the performers and writers who are represented in this collection, which may be enough to persuade you to take a closer look: Jez Lowe, Bram Taylor, Steve Turner, Pete Morton, Bobby Eaglesham, Sara Grey, Alistair Anderson, Paul Metsers, Brian Dewhurst, Bob Davenport…

Here are few tracks that stand out for me personally, but there’s such a wide range of artists here that your personal highlights might be quite different

  • Maddy Prior’s unaccompanied ‘Sheepcrook And Black Dog’, proving that Steeleye Span maybe always needed her more than she needed them. (Not that I didn’t like the Steeleye version.)
  • Swan Arcade’s stunning version of Sting’s ‘We Work The Black Seam’.
  • The much-missed Vin Garbutt singing ‘Boulavogue’.
  • Hedy West singing ‘Little Sadie’ – as Pete Seeger said when she sang it on his Rainbow Quest series in the ’60s, “That’s the real thing…
  • Peggy Seeger’s exquisite ‘Single Girl’ – if my ears don’t fail me, from a 1958 recording with Guy Carawan.
  • Diz Disley and friends in full Django/Hot Club mode on ‘Shine’.
  • Marilyn Middleton-Pollock’s version of ‘Melancholy Blues’, recorded long ago by Louis Armstrong and Johnny Dodds.
  • Bob Fox’s version of Alex Glasgow’s ‘Standing At The Door’. A fine performance from someone who’s no mean songwriter himself.
  • Tom Kitching & Gren Bartley with a blistering performance of ‘Whisky Head’.

But there are too many classy tracks here to list all the ones I can imagine myself listening to for a long time yet.

Buy it. You’ll certainly find enough tracks to make it worth your while.

David Harley

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Label website: www.fellside.com/

‘Single Girl’ – Peggy Seeger and Guy Carawan

The Winners of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2015 Announced

At this years 2015 Radio 2 Folk Awards, Lifetime Achievements went to the legendary “Peace Trained” musician Yusuf / Cat Stevens and Grammy Award-winning “double lifetime” artist Loudon Wainwright III.

BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2015 Lifetime Achievement winner YUSUF / CAT STEVENS with David Gray who presented the awarded earlier that night at the Cardiff Millenium Centre. Photo courtesy of the BBC.
BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2015 Lifetime Achievement winner YUSUF / CAT STEVENS with David Gray who presented the awarded earlier that night at the Cardiff Millennium Centre. Photo courtesy of the BBC.
Tom Robinson presents BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2015 Lifetime Achievement to LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff. Photo courtesy of the BBC.
Tom Robinson presents BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2015 Lifetime Achievement to LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff. Photo courtesy of the BBC.
BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2015 Lifetime Achievement winner "Mr Moonshadow" Yusuf / Cat Stevens performing at the Cardiff Millennium Centre on the 22/04/15. Photo courtesy of the BBC.
BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2015 Lifetime Achievement winner “Mr Moonshadow” Yusuf / Cat Stevens performing at the Cardiff Millennium Centre on the 22/04/15. Photo courtesy of the BBC.
BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2015 Lifetime Achievement winner LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III performing on the night. Photo courtesy of the BBC.
BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2015 Lifetime Achievement winner LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III performing on the night. Photo courtesy of the BBC.

Ewan MacColl was inducted into the Radio 2 Folk Awards Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame exists to recognise the special contribution of an individual to the world of folk music; someone whose impact and influence has had a lasting impression.

Meredydd Evans is the 2015 recipient of The Good Tradition Award. The award is given to a person, group or organisation for their contribution to the preservation, dissemination and continuance/progression of traditional music over a number of years.

BEST DUO WINNERSJosienne Clarke & Ben Walker
Nominations:
Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker
O’Hooley & Tidow
Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar
Chris While & Julie Matthews

Congratulations to BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2015 Best Duo Winners Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker. Photo courtesy of the BBC.
Congratulations to BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2015 Best Duo Winners Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker. Photo courtesy of the BBC.

BEST TRADITIONAL TRACK WINNERSamhradh Samhradh – The Gloaming
Nominations:
Bedlam – Stick In The Wheel
Handsome Molly – The Furrow Collective
Manus Mo Rùin – Cruinn
Samhradh Samhradh – The Gloaming

Congratulations to Iarla Ó Lionáird & THE GLOAMING on winning the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2015 "Best Traditional Track" for their composition "Samhradh Samhradh".
Congratulations to Iarla Ó Lionáird & THE GLOAMING on winning the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2015 “Best Traditional Track” for their composition “Samhradh Samhradh”.

HORIZON AWARD WINNERSThe Rails
Nominations:
Ange Hardy
Maz O’Connor
Stick In The Wheel
The Rails

Charlie Dale presenting R2 Horizon Award to James Walbourne & Kami Thompson from THE RAILS. Photo courtesy of the BBC.
Charlie Dale presenting R2 Horizon Award to James Walbourne & Kami Thompson from THE RAILS. Photo courtesy of the BBC.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG WINNERSSwim To The Star – Peggy Seeger/Calum MacColl (performed by Peggy Seeger)
Nominations:
Swim To The Star – Peggy Seeger/Calum MacColl (performed by Peggy Seeger)
The Necklace Of Wrens – Michael Hartnett (performed by The Gloaming)
The Pitmen Poets – Jez Lowe
The Spider And The Wolf – Paul Simmonds (performed by Naomi Bedford)

BBC RADIO 2 YOUNG FOLK AWARD WINNERSTalisk
Nominations:
Cup O’Joe
Roseanne Reid
Talisk
Wildwood Kin

BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award winners TALISK with Nancy Kerr. Photo courtesy of the BBC.
BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award winners TALISK with Nancy Kerr. Photo courtesy of the BBC.

MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR WINNERSam Sweeney
Nominations:
Martin Green
Will Pound
Sam Sweeney
Kathryn Tickell

A huge folking well done to BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2015 Musician Of The Year winner, SAM SWEENEY. The boy wonder has done good! Photo courtesy of the BBC.
A huge folking well done to BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2015 Musician Of The Year winner, SAM SWEENEY. The boy wonder has done good! Photo courtesy of the BBC.

BEST ALBUM WINNERTincian by 9Bach
Nominations:
Fair Warning – The Rails
Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour – Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker
Sweet Visitor – Nancy Kerr
The Moral Of The Elephant – Martin & Eliza Carthy
Tincian – 9Bach

BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2015 Best Album winners 9Bach performing with the Penrhyn Male Voice Choir. Photo courtesy of the BBC.
BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2015 Best Album winners 9Bach performing with the Penrhyn Male Voice Choir. Photo courtesy of the BBC.

BEST GROUP WINNERSThe Young ‘Uns
Nominations:
Bellowhead
The Furrow Collective
The Gloaming
The Young ‘Uns

THE YOUNG'UNS, winners of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2015 - Best Group with Tim Dowling of The Guardian. Photo courtesy of the BBC.
THE YOUNG’UNS, winners of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2015 – Best Group with Tim Dowling of The Guardian. Photo courtesy of the BBC.

FOLK SINGER OF THE YEAR WINNERNancy Kerr
Nominations:
Cara Dillon
Julie Fowlis
Nancy Kerr
Jez Lowe

Ruth "Nessa Jenkins" Jones parachutes in from Barry Island to present Folk Singer Of The Year award, to winner Nancy Kerr. Photo courtesy of the BBC.
Ruth “Nessa Jenkins” Jones parachutes in from Barry Island to present Folk Singer Of The Year award, to winner Nancy Kerr. Photo courtesy of the BBC.

Live footage of the night is available from http://bbc.in/1DgKsI9

It’s also on tonight from 7pm via http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p02p7539/bbc-radio-2-folk-awards-2015-folk-awards-2015-highlights then highlights on in May.

Folkstock Records – Peggy Seeger announced as patron

peggy-seeger

We are thrilled that Peggy Seeger has joined us as a Patron. Now we are supported by two of the most inspirational musicians of our times. Dave Swarbrick has been very generous with his time and commitment and we have loved working with Peggy on a number of projects in the last year.

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

“Folkstock is a label to hang your hat on. Helmed by Helen Meissner, they approach everything with a DIY ethos that is admirable and, also, successful. More importantly, Helen has a great ear for music and an obvious passion which comes out in everything they do. This is as much a showcase for them as it is for the acts featured. A well conceived, beautifully produced and vitally important record that couldn’t be coming out at a better time”. Spiral Earth reviewing The F Spot Femmes Fatales, which was released on 8th March”. Harry Harris, Spiral Earth.

“ a label that is nurturing some of our most promising folk talent” Clive Davis Sunday Times

The F Spot Femmes Fatales

Femmes

Strong, sensuous, fascinating and feminine, this compilation of ten compelling self penned songs from women is being released on Folkstock Records on International Womens’ Day on March 8th. Performed by some of the talented female singers we have had the pleasure of working with in the past year and spanning four generations, this distinctive selection hopes to enlighten and inspire with its diversity and be distinguishable from other compilations by its raw honesty and emotion. We thank all the singers for laying bare their soul in this stripped back showcase of their undeniable talent.
This is not just any album full to the brim with female singer songwriting talent.

The F Spot Femmes Fatales has been lovingly conceived, curated and produced to show many different aspects of the feminine psyche.

Lose yourself in the songs and let this album challenge your assumptions about women, whether as musicians, producers of music or consumers of music.

Have you considered how sultry a singer in her 80th year can sound ? track one on this stunning selection will make your jaw drop. Delivered with panache and humour this track was the one which stood out for us on Peggy Seeger’s recent album Everything Changes, and it was our mission to entice Peggy to let us use it to open this compilation ! so you can imagine how thrilled we are to have ‘You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are’ as the first track on the album. Lyrics such as “I am not just any woman, looking for any man, and I don’t intend to change me to fit into your plans. I’m a hell of an angel and you’d better give a damn, you don’t know how lucky you are

Have you ever heard the story of the Mississippi woman ? this strong and wryly observed alternative creation story by Maz O’Connor is the penultimate track on the album and delivered with purity which belies the message, Maz’s beautiful voice captures your heart and lyrics such as these capture your mind.

“She made clothes from the rushes and a bed down by the willow
And when darkness came the riverbank made for her a pillow
Then the angel of the lord came down and said “now you are free”
And she said “lord, make a man out of me, lord, make a man out of me”.

WHO IS ON THE ALBUM ?

Here are the contributors in order. With the information which is presented in the 4 page booklet of the jewel cased CD.

Peggy Seeger – A free thinking pioneer, Peggy Seeger has paved the way for generations of female singer songwriters the world over. Peggy was awarded ‘Most Inspirational Female’ by Music Week in 2014 and we are honoured to have permission to release a song from her recent much acclaimed album Everything Changes thanks to Red Grape Music Ltd.

Roxanne de Bastion tours throughout the UK, Europe and the US, all on trains and busses. The young troubadour self-released her debut album in 2013 and has since then been championed by Tom Robinson on BBC6, John Kennedy on XFM, Ruth Barnes on Amazing Radio. Roxanne’s compositions are routed in the 1960’s, but the tone of voice is very much her own.

Zoe Wren is studying music at Cambridge University and having released her debut EP Pandora’s Box with us in the middle of last year is now working on her debut album. Picked to perform on Stage  2 at Cambridge Folk Festival last year, Zoe is certainly attracting attention and we hope you enjoy this track which is also available on her EP, which can be found on Folkstock Records bandcamp.

Marina Florance is a prolific and revered singer songwriter based in Norfolk. A darling of the East Anglian BBC Stations, Marina has also had her music chosen by Soundcloud as Track of the Day ! Coming to performance of her own material later in life than most, Marina’s sultry ‘chocolate’ voice wins hearts the world over and captivates from the first note.

Minnie Birch  has been played on BBC Radio 1 and has caught the eye of that legend that is Joan Armatrading, supporting her on four gigs over the last two years. Her debut album is due for release this year and will no doubt build on the success of her beautiful EP Settled and consolidate her reputation and take her career to the next level.

Kaity Rae is our youngest contributor and is studying songwriting at The Institute in N. London. Recently awarded ‘Student of the year’, Kaity is on the prestigious resident artist RoundHouse programme, was a finalist in the GIGS: Big Busk song awards, won her category of Love Folk Live & has released her debut EP Spark Nov 2014. This is an acoustic version of one of her EP tracks.

Kelly Oliver  gained a 4* review from The Telegraph for her debut album This Land, which was funded by an Emerging Excellence Award from Help Musicians UK. It also won best female album from FolkWords and was shortlisted by FATEA. With BBC Radio 2 airplay and a video session with Whispering Bob Harris helping to sell out headline gigs, the future is looking bright.

Daria Kulesh’s cut glass vocals conjure an exotic elegance which is prevalent in her songs. Aided by her Russian heritage and ruthless lyrics, her dramatic delivery excites and entices you to carry on listening. This track is from her debut album Eternal Child which is gaining exultant reviews and looks set to provide her with the showcase needed to establish her musical career on a firm footing.

Maz O’Connor is one of Folk’s rising stars and attracted a BBC Radio2 Folk Award nomination as well as a Creative Fellowship from the BBC Performing Arts Fund. 2014 brought a rapturous reception for her acclaimed second album This Willowed Light and we are thrilled that Wild Sound Recordings kindly gave permission for us to re-record a stripped back version of this stunning ‘alternative creation’ story.

Fay Brotherhood  is an enigmatic artist in many senses of the word. Her creative outpourings are at their most visceral in her live performance and her distinctive voice and almost paganistic delivery has attracted much interest and acclaim. Her music transports to the heady, trippy days of the 60’s and brings you bang up to date with a modern twist in the tale.

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