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English Folk Music

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 12:18 pm
by Ted
Look I know this is a painful subject for some of you so just tune out, go and do something else if you're not interested.

But I was talking to someone about English Folk Music last night. We both agreed that after repeated failed attempts to engage with it we'd give it another try.

So where do I start? I find Fairport Convention generally unlistenable. And I know that "field recording" stuff is never the best way into anything.
Suggestions please. Old, new whatever. And yes I do know the froots forum exists.

tw

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 12:51 pm
by Chris P
Eliza Carthy - Rough Music

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 1:00 pm
by uiwangmike
I'm afraid I'm out of sympathy with most current perfomers, both solo and ensembles. You could try Penguin Eggs by Nic Jones, or if you can find it, anything by the late Tony Rose. If you don't like it, just move on - there's lots of other stuff to enjoy. I've even met people who don't like either country or western.

Re: English Folk Music

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 1:20 pm
by Ian A.
Ted wrote:So where do I start? I find Fairport Convention generally unlistenable. And I know that "field recording" stuff is never the best way into anything.
Suggestions please. Old, new whatever.

Among those which have found favour with audiences and critics alike in the past few years are both Chris Woods' albums The Lark Descending and the recent Trespasser; Eliza Carthy's Anglicana and Rough Music (though you may struggle with the slightly lower production values of the latter); Tim Van Eyken's Stiffs Lovers Holymen Thieves; Bellowhead's Burlesque; the matching pair Songs and Tunes by John Spiers & Jon Boden; Rachel Unthank & The Winterset's The Bairns; Alasdair Roberts' No Earthly Man* and the debuts by Bella Hardy (Night Visiting) and Lisa Knapp (Wild & Undaunted), the latter somewhat Irish inflected. There are plenty more, some by established names like June Tabor or Kate Rusby, others more esoteric and perhaps a taste you will acquire. And then there's the whole English dance music area. But that's probably enough of the centre & quality field to be going on with.

Yes, Fairport have lacked a decent singer for many decades and most folk/rock is based on a rock that sounds extremely dated to people brought up on more recent music, I suspect. There are lots of re-issues - starting with the Shirley Collins back catalogue for example - but the general feeling on the incredibly buoyant folk scene is that what's being produced now really is the best for many, many years and far less datedly mannered, especially vocally, than some of the older records now sound if you weren't there at the time. The generation of English musicians stretching from their late teens to early 30s is doing extraordinary stuff.

You might also watch the Channel 5 series My Music which starts on April 6th at 11am Sunday mornings and includes hour-long documentaries on Seth Lakeman, Kate Rusby and Eliza Carthy, all of whom have been Mercury nominated in recent years. The Eliza one (April 27th) is particularly good. We've got a preview piece at http://tinyurl.com/3ab84b


*Whoops: edit! Alasdair Roberts is of course Scottish. Good though!

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 1:57 pm
by uiwangmike
I could have added the Copper Family and the Watersons. Both can be seen on Youtube, though maybe not to the best effect.
Looking at Ian's list, I feel some of these new guys are maybe not so bad. Tim Van Eyken was pretty wonderful at the Cambridge Festival (2006, I think), wheras the Imagined Village didn't seem to do much for the songs they performed at last year's Womad. I like Kate Rusby, but I still think her best album is the first one she made, with Kathryn Roberts. Anyway, I hope I can see the programs recommended by Ian sometime in the next year or two.

Re: English Folk Music

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 2:00 pm
by Charlie
Ted wrote:So where do I start?

Squeeze and the Beatles, then Blur. They wrote the songs that are in our heads, which is as good a definition of folk music as we need.

When I turned on the car radio on Wednesday evening, it was tuned to Radio 2 and I caught the end of Mike Harding's Folk programme. Enjoying the words of an English folk song that I didn't recognise, I was thinking, maybe I've been unfairly maligning current English folk all these years. When it finished, Mike identified the performers as Boden and Spiers and the song as 'Run For Your Life' by Lennon and McCartney.

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 2:23 pm
by Chris P
Ok, but if we assume Ted mean't English Roots Music does your point still hold Charlie ?

Re: English Folk Music

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 2:34 pm
by Ian A.
Charlie wrote:Squeeze and the Beatles, then Blur. They wrote the songs that are in our heads, which is as good a definition of folk music as we need.

Is that the royal "we"? ;-) I suspect you will find many who don't associate those bands with the subject under reasonably serious discussion, or indeed have their songs in their heads! :roll: (bloody broken ironicons again!) Anyway, it would be a shame if this got quickly diverted from a public service information exchange into another pointless "what is folk" discussion, singing horses and all.

H.M. Charlie also wrote:I was thinking, maybe I've been unfairly maligning current English folk all these years. When it finished, Mike identified the performers as Boden and Spiers and the song as 'Run For Your Life' by Lennon and McCartney.

but
Ted wrote:Look I know this is a painful subject for some of you so just tune out, go and do something else if you're not interested.

I think everybody should remember that Charlie is on record as saying that English folk music makes him feel physically sick and although this is his board, he's not therefore perhaps the most objective person to enter this debate! Don't want to second guess Ted, but maybe that's what he meant . . . On the other hand, if Charlie simply doesn't want the core music of this subject discussed here, he's well within his rights to zap the topic any way he wants!

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 4:26 pm
by Tonie
Before the topic gets zapped: I like Kate Rusby's voice. Otherwise I've enjoyed Irish folk bands such as the Dubliners (went to a few Irish folk gigs in Irish pubs in Oslo which were great, especially with a pint of Kilkenny to go along). Irish folk is definitely more known in Norway (where I'm from) than [British] EDIT: English folk. But I imagine it must be quite similar in style?

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 4:54 pm
by will vine
As someone who wouldn't normally have crossed the street to find english folk music, I don't know what sent me off to buy "Rogues Gallery" a 2cd set of pirate ballads, and sea songs, featuring a host of big name artists, but I'm glad I did.
It's stunning entertainment. Start here.

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 4:58 pm
by Philip Ryalls
I think Cambridge Folk Festival is the best place to start. Perhaps just one day in the middle - either Saturday or Sunday. It sells out very quickly at the beginning of May and being a small location is crowded. But they have some very good performances every year. There is also a sequence of very tempting concerts on the South Bank this week including Martin Simpson and Chris Wood, Lisa Knapp and various events with Shirley Collins.

English folk CD's that I have bought and enjoyed include:

Lisa Knapp -Wild and Undaunted
Rachel Unthank & The Winterset - Bairns and Cruel Sister
Tin Van Eyken - Stiffs Lovers Holymen Thieves
Martin Simpson - Prodigal Son

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 5:22 pm
by Ian A.
Tonie wrote:Irish folk is definitely more known in Norway (where I'm from) than English folk. But I imagine it must be quite similar in style?

Quite different: there are naturally songs and tunes in common but the performance style, delivery and rhythmic pulse of English roots music has a character all of its own. Certainly nothing like the Dubliners!
will vine wrote:As someone who wouldn't normally have crossed the street to find english folk music, I don't know what sent me off to buy "Rogues Gallery" a 2cd set of pirate ballads, and sea songs, featuring a host of big name artists, but I'm glad I did..

Sorry to be pedantic: it's a great record and I love it and would recommend it to anybody, and it's in English. But in this context, apart from the odd track featuring Eliza Carthy it's much more American than English traditional in style and delivery.
Philip Ryalls wrote:I think Cambridge Folk Festival is the best place to start. Perhaps just one day in the middle - either Saturday or Sunday.

Again, Cambridge is very good but it's not very typical of English folk music with a bill that tends to be dominated by Americans, singer/songwriters and mainstream acts doing their acoustic set. If you want to try a relaxed, low-key, unpretentious (but extremely well run) festival within easy reach of London and where the younger folk crowd now go in droves, I'd recommend Towersey over August Bank Holiday weekend. This year's bill includes Bellowhead, Martin Simpson & Andy Cutting, Chris Wood, Blowzabella, Kathryn Tickell Band, Whapweasel (one of the best English dance bands), Mawkin:Causeley, Faustus, Jackie Oates and loads more English music, plus Ireland's Lunasa, Scotland's Salsa Celtica and Poozies and more. www.towerseyfestival.com

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 5:49 pm
by will vine
Ian A wrote:Sorry to be pedantic: it's a great record and I love it and would recommend it to anybody, and it's in English. But in this context, apart from the odd track featuring Eliza Carthy it's much more American than English traditional in style and delivery.

Don't think your confounded pedantry will drive me from this forum Ian. I am made of sterner stuff. Actually your comments are quite correct.........I expect.

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 7:58 pm
by dan myers
I have to say Ted, try some Incredible String Band for some weirdy folk or try and get hold of some tapes by Robin Williamson telling tales for slightly more sane folk.
Although, they are Scottish......
hmmm

But I enjoy

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 8:17 pm
by That Was Jonathan E. Then
Based on favorable and intriguing reviews in fRoots some years ago, I bought Eliza Carthy's Anglicana and Readymades from Chumbawamba. They now comprise my entire English folk section, apart from some ancient Pentangle and Steeleye Span releases that came into the house with my wife. So, I am so laughably far from being an expert, or even a regular listener, that you probably shouldn't pay too much attention to the fact that I quite like both albums, although I don't suppose either is traditional in their sound in any way. I guess part of the evolving understanding is that there is no traditional sound to folk despite preconceptions. I also have a CD of English Village Christmas Carols from the Smithsonian Folkways series, which is kind of a hoot and gets played once a year and only once a year — and may or may not be considered folk. But I notice that the Chumbawamba CD sleeve includes a quote from Louis Armstrong:
All music is folk music. I ain't never heard no horse sing a song.
That quote probably came from a time before the singing of whales was recorded and recognized!