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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2008 9:22 pm
by garth cartwright
Back in the 80s when I was a teen wanting to hear music from all over the world I bought import albums by Dick Gaughan, Silly Wizard and Ralph McTell. I liked them all but didn't fall in love with them the way I did Nigerian, Mexican, Spanish and other stuff i was picking up at the same time. Since being in the UK I've tried to keep up with several of the artists recommended by fR but none have really rang my bell. Must say that in concert Eliza Carthy, Alastiar Roberts and Charlotte Grieg are all really good. As a teen i also bought a 2nd hand copy of Hangman's Beautiful Daughter. Thought it dreadful and never been near it again. Seeing Joe Boyd discuss his book at Green Man fest in 2006 the audience appeared to be full of String Band fanatics. Joe seemed to think them much underrated too. Funny old world, ay?

Ian: is Nick Drake English folk or English singer-songwriter? I see him refered to as both. Quite like him in small doses.

PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2008 11:13 pm
by Hugh Weldon
Garth wrote:

is Nick Drake English folk or English singer-songwriter? I see him refered to as both. Quite like him in small doses


Interesting point. I'd managed to avoid Nick Drake for years until Joe Boyd told the story of the recording of 'Poor Boy' that time he did the pingpong with Charlie. I was quite taken with it, but when I got round to the album couldn't quite see the fuss - so restrained, introverted, and something I wouldn't even have liked much at the time it came out -when I was fourteen. Chris McGregor's contribution on piano really makes the track what it is.

More generally I suppose the distinction is that 'real' folk either uses traditional material or at least traditional stylings, whereas the singer songwriter thing grew largely out of Dylan, who started out as a folkie and gradually morphed into a singer-songwriter. Other giants of the genre such as Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell had a similar background, though I'm not sure what the other ur-representative James Taylor started as.

I think a lot of the confusion is due to the fact that the folk clubs welcomed singers with acoustic guitars, who were clearly there to sing songs to be listened to rather than provide a beat to dance to, so that the distinction between 'singer-songwriter' and folk became pretty blurred. On the other hand there is a clear pop connection - Cat Stevens starting as a pop singer and becoming more singer-songwriter, Marc Bolan going in the other direction.

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 1:31 am
by Ian A.
garth cartwright wrote:Ian: is Nick Drake English folk or English singer-songwriter? I see him refered to as both. Quite like him in small doses.

Singer songwriter. I'm not aware of him ever singing a traditional song or one very influenced by English traditional music (though I can't say I've studied him in depth). This is not a quality judgement by the way, just how it is.

Dick Gaughan, Silly Wizard - very good, Scottish. Ralph McTell, sometimes very good, singer-songwriter, only obvious traditional influence American. Eliza Carthy, Alasdair Roberts (Scottish) and Charlotte Greig sing traditional songs and write songs clearly influenced by our tradition. Hopefully my drift is becoming clear?

Last night at Cecil Sharp House was a wonderful evening where the Young Coppers launched their CD (the 7th generation of their family known to have sung the songs passed down by them) and guesting were an inspiring cross-section on English performers in their 20s doing their own new versions of Copper Family-associated songs: Jim Moray, Jackie Oates, Jim Causeley, Sam Lee, Lauren McCormick, Emily Portman, John Spiers, Laura Hockenhull and more. No silly "folk" voices any more, high quality of musicianship, relevance of subject matter of these old songs to current world regularly obvious. If only Ted who had asked the original question had been there, or any of you, especially Charlie, I think you'd have got it. Bit of a classic night . . .

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 10:08 am
by Nigel w
Nick Drake did sing traditional folk songs. Check out the album Family Tree which includes seven or eight songs credited as 'trad' (some English , some American) plus other staples of the 1960s folk scene by Jansch and Jackson C Frank (by whom he was obviously heavily influenced as he recorded four of his songs).

But I'm not convinced it really matters whether Nick Drake was a singer-songwriter or a folk singer, any more than it matters which of those descriptions you apply to, say, Richard Thompson. But Ian is certainly right in that the folkies never liked him or regarded him as one of their own. This is what folksinger/singer-songwriter/troubadour Mike Chapman said about an early Drake gig at a Hull folk club circa 1968-69 : "The folkies did not take to him; [they] wanted songs with choruses. They completely missed the point. He didn't say a word the entire evening... I don't know what the audience expected, I mean, they must have known they weren't going to get sea–shanties and sing-alongs at a Nick Drake gig."

On the other hands, his records sound wonderful - the texture, the mood, everything about them. Unlike so many folk records, they were works of studio craft, made to be listened to at home as beautiful records - and obviously assisted by a cast of people who understood how to make great records that included Joe Boyd, John Wood, Robert Kirby's haunting string arrangements, Richard Thompson, Danny Thompson et al.

I'm sure the Young Coppers do was fantastic. So much English folk music is wonderful live. But as I've mentioned in a couple of other posts on this thread, the atmosphere and magic I have often experienced in folk clubs has seldom been adequately captured on record. Perhaps it's simply the mentality of many of the peformers, who see the songs as part of an oral and live performance tradition and don't understand (or are not interested in) the difference between that and making a good record.

Too often in English folk music, you take a great performer and a wonderful song and you get a record that sounds flat and dull. I think I said somewhere before, they don't make me feel phyiscally sick, as Charlie once claimed, accoridng to an earlier post from Ian . But they do sometimes make me wince and I also curse in frustration beause you know the record should sound so much better than it does. Probably heresy to say so, but I've even felt like that at times about some records coming out of the great Carthy/Waterson axis. I remember a double CD Eliza put out called Red Rice. She's a great singer, she's got 'attitude' and the songs were mostly fine. It just sounded a really bad record, though (but I'd add she's also made some that sound great,too). Some of Martin Carthy's albums have also left me underwhelmed , although I would travel a long way to see him live. Oddly, Norma's records don't instill this feeling. But then as noted by others in this thread, perhaps they're not folk records because her material ranges from Grateful Dead songs to show tunes.

Incidentaly, I was personally delighted when she recorded that Dead song Black Muddy River because circa 1970-71 my brother and I used to do floor spots in folk clubs around Bromley/Orpington and we sung several Grateful Dead numbers which we used to introduce as being by "an under-rated American folk singer called Jerry Garcia". In contrast to the cliched image of folk-club closed minds, I have to say nobody ever objected but always congratulated us (heaven knows why because we were terrible!) Funnily enough, we also used to sing Nick Drake's Time Has Told Me...

Sure wish I'd been at Cecil Sharp House last night, though...

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 12:46 pm
by Ian A.
nigel w wrote:But Ian is certainly right in that the folkies never liked him [Nick Drake] or regarded him as one of their own.

I did? Don't remember that. In my case I didn't like or dislike him - he just had no effect, a kind of neutral grey. I know I saw him a few times, but his music just didn't register. Heard the records when they first came out - lots of people were doing that kind of John Martyn/ Jackson Frank/ post-Bert Jansch thing at the time, especially in the Cousins where a.f.a.i.c.r. I saw him. As an example, listen to the first Steve Tilston album (Martha's dad), if not so well produced.

I can't remember him pitching himself at the folk clubs for gigs - that Hull one Mike Chapman remembers must have been very rare (and probably thanks to the Watersons who were very adventurous in their booking policy at the Bluebell, I think it was, or even Mike himself.). So again I'd say that it wasn't a case of the folk crowd disliking him, they'd just have been largely unaware/ oblivious. And if he didn't speak to the audience - which again I don't remember as he had so little effect on me - he'd have died the death regardless of his music. It was the beginning of the era of the folk artist as raconteur: you were expected to have the gift of the gab (this evolved into the awful period where everything was obliterated by the "folk comedians" and the likes of us left for mainland Europe!). Michael Chapman, who didn't do sea shanties and choruses either, held folk club audiences extremely well and had a real cult following because (on top of his great music) he could and did do the verbals.

The records really sank without trace at the time, they didn't seem outstanding in a very crowded field - singer/songwriters beefing up their records with bits of bands, bits of classical were very common (e.g. Al Stewart, Ralph McTell, Michael Chapman). Hindsight's a wonderful thing. I can see now why later discoverers dote on them (leaving aside the tragic legend), but still don't like or dislike them personally. I know I'm not alone.

Well, that's how I remember it anyway.

And no, it doesn't matter if he's a singer/songwriter or singer of English folk songs - there's no quality judgement in either of those statements - it was just that Garth asked.

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 12:50 pm
by Rupert Bear
nigel w wrote:
realistically life is too short for The Incredible String Band


wonderful, magical, mystical music. first saw them at the Festival Hall in '68 when I was 14 and it was life-changing.


...and another great band from that era ill-served in terms of reissues by having been on Warner Bros and their associated labels. You can buy fantastic CD remasters of about every obscure Vertigo heavy band from the early 70s, but 'Hangman's B D' and 'Wee Tam and the Big Huge' really need the full reissue thing.

Perhaps Nigel you can use your influence to bring this about. Then you could do the same for Ry Cooder and Little Feat, two other Warners casualties.

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 1:18 pm
by Nigel w
...and another great band from that era ill-served in terms of reissues by having been on Warner Bros and their associated labels. You can buy fantastic CD remasters of about every obscure Vertigo heavy band from the earlt 70s, but 'Hangman's B D' and 'Big Tam and the Wee Huge' really need the full reissue thing.

Perhaps Nigel you can use your influence to bring this about. Then you could do the same for Ry Cooder and Little Feat, two other Warners casualties.


Totally true, Rupert. Joe Boyd has been talking to Warners for years about ISB remasters, reissues, a box set and all the other things required to do their back catalogue full justice. He seemed to be making progress but when I last discussed this with him (over lunch at the Rajasthan International Folk Festival in October - that's the world music fest to which Mick Jagger turned up, by the way, to which someone made reference in the forum the other day), it all seemed to have ran into the sand again. He told me that Rhino - the arm of Warners in California that oversees back catalogue - has now lost all the original masters. He's hugely frustrated by the whole thing, and notes wryly that the records he made back then which nobody bought (Nick Drake, Vashti Bunyan) are all now sellling very nicely, but the albums he produced that actually charted at the time like the ISB are now totally ignored and/or unavailable. A crazy irony.

Don't know what's happening with the Little Feat back catalogue, but I can tell you exactly what's hapening with Ry Cooder's catalogue - precisely nothing. A ferw years ago Stuart Batsford at Warner Music International started pulling together a four disc Ry Cooder box set, on which I was a "consultant". Stuart came up with a fantastic tracklisting combining Ry's own material and the great sessions he has played on over the years (including Little Feat) and some interesting oddities he would probably rather forget, like several Monkees tracks he played on (along with Neil Young, James Burton and all sorts of other interesting people - perhaps we shoudl dig out those Monkees albums and see what we can hear!)

WMI canvassed the tracklisting and the project around all their European territories and came up with some very impressive projected sales figures. Ry then nixed the whole idea. I was deputed to try to talk him into it as I'd just worked with him on the Buena Vista liner notes and done a couple of epks around the Cuban records with him so we had a good relationship -but he was adamantly set against it. When I pressed him on why, his answer was ''Career retrospectives and box sets are for dead people.'' I respected him for it in a way, because he was turning down something that would have made him good money for no work other than talking to me so I could write the track-by-track notes in the booklet. But it was a real shame.

If I can find the proposed tracklisting, I'll post it here because there's some astonishing stuff that I bet you didn't even know he'd played on - some of it certainly came as a surprise to me....

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 2:18 pm
by Nigel w
Ian wrote re Nick Drake:

I can't remember him pitching himself at the folk clubs for gigs - that Hull one Mike Chapman remembers must have been very rare (and probably thanks to the Watersons who were very adventurous in their booking policy at the Bluebell, I think it was, or even Mike himself.).


The Hull gig was at the Haworth Arms, according to Mike Chapman who describes the place as having ''a real silver tankard and finger-in-the-ear crowd.'' He goes on to say : ''Nick should never have been there...but back then if you played acoustic guitar on your own and played your own songs, folk clubs were the only places you could play.''

If you saw his gigs at Cousins (with Bridget St John, I believe) , count yourself lucky... it's estimated he only ever played two dozen gigs in his entire life.

I think he himself was uncomfortable with the label 'folk singer'' but all of the reviews of his albums in Sounds, NME and Melody Maker at the time called him exactly that, so any confusion between folkies and singer-songwriters has clearly been around for 40 years and more - ever since Dylan, I guess. Mind you, the NME review of his second album Bryter Later also reckoned he was the new Peter Sarstedt!!!

ps : by pure coincidence there arrived in my post this morning a trad folk album called Lark Rise Revisited by the Lark Rise Band - led by Ashley Hutchings, the man who 'discovered'Nick Drake and first recommended him to Joe Boyd. Spooky, eh?

And I guess what I was getting at when I said I wasn't sure whether it mattered whether Drake was a folk singer or an acoustic singer-songwriter was that if people have been describing him as a folk singer for 40 years, perhaps we just have to accept the changing use of language. It's an awful long time to be telling people they've using the wrong word. I used to get quite angry every time I saw R Kelly or Alicia Keys described as r&b. 'That's not r&b'. I'd fulminate. 'Proper r&b is Ruth Brown, early Ray Charles, LaVern Baker etc. These people are imposters, sir!' Hugh Gregory even wrote a book called 'The Real Rhythm & Blues' in an attempt to reclaim the term in its original sense. But we've lost that battle. The language has evolved beyond our control , so we now have to talk about traditional r&b and contemporary r&b...

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 6:13 pm
by Joe Cushley
Here's a folk-ish band I'm helping out. www.myspace.com/moulettes Comments please.

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 7:57 pm
by Charlie
nigel w wrote:I'm currently compiling a three disc box set for a certain record lablel called The Beginners Guide To England

If I were compiling such a record (which it's safe to assume I would never be invited to do), it would include:

How Come, by Ronnie Lane
Maggie May, by Rod Stewart (who pretends to be Scottish, but that doesn't mean he is)
Happy Birthday, Ruthie Baby, by McGuiness Flint
Itchycoo Park, by the Small Faces
Clever Bastards, by Ian Dury & the Blockheads
Fog on the Tyne, by Lindisfarne
Goodbye Girl, by Squeeze
Baggy Trousers, by Madness

Ronnie Lane is involved in at least two of them, as co-writer of Itchycoo Park as well as his own hit. Was he also on Maggie May? I can't remember the line-up except that Rod couldn't remember the name of the accordion player and so the sleeve credit just said 'that bloke from Lindisafarne' or something like that. John Peel famously mimed the accordion on Top of the Pops. I think the twice-missing person was Ray Jackson, but his name never was reinstated on the later CD issues, which always seemed a bit cruel.

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 8:51 pm
by Hugh Weldon
Charlie wrote

I think the twice-missing person was Ray Jackson, but his name never was reinstated on the later CD issues, which always seemed a bit cruel.


Yes it was definitely Ray Jackson, who shared lead vocals for Lindisfarne with Alan Hull, though he played a mandolin solo on 'Maggie May', not an accordion.

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 9:17 pm
by Nigel w
How Come, by Ronnie Lane
Maggie May, by Rod Stewart (who pretends to be Scottish, but that doesn't mean he is)
Happy Birthday, Ruthie Baby, by McGuiness Flint
Itchycoo Park, by the Small Faces
Clever Bastards, by Ian Dury & the Blockheads
Fog on the Tyne, by Lindisfarne
Goodbye Girl, by Squeeze
Baggy Trousers, by Madness


I'd go along with all of those, Charlie, although I confess I can't remember the McGuinness Flint track well enought to sing it.

I'd also add Ghost Town by the Specials, Kirsty McColl's version of A New England, Pulp's Common People, either A Certain Romance or When The Sun Goes Down by the Arctic Monkeys and something by Billy Bragg. You'd probably have to think about tracks by the Smiths and Beautiful South, too. Don't like either band, myself, but they fit the interpretation of the brief you've adopted , I suspect. Dare one mention Chas & Dave? And don't forget, that Martin Carthy, no less, said that Asian Dub Foundation were modern British/English folk music. Oh, and Chumbawamba's Tubthumping, the most enduring 'voice of the poeple' commentary on the entire Britpop/cool Britannia/Blair-vain-and-inglorious era. Alice Nutter, who sang it, had a quite superb play on Radio 4 a couple of months ago. What a very talented and much maligned woman. At least, I think it must have been her, although I haven't seen it commented upon anywhere: the plummy BBC voice announced 'written by Alice Nutter' and there surely can't be two of 'em?

Sadly, however, all are outside the remit as supplied to me by the record company (which hopefully will at least secure a better review in f-Roots!!!)

PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2008 10:53 am
by Ted
Charlie wrote:The Beginners Guide To England


Separate thread for this?

And can I nominate

I Love You - Dizzee Rascal
Saturday Night Beneath The Plastic Palm Trees - The Leyton Buzzards

for it.

PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2008 11:39 am
by Rupert Bear
nigel w wrote:I'd also add Ghost Town by the Specials, Kirsty McColl's version of A New England, Pulp's Common People, either A Certain Romance or When The Sun Goes Down by the Arctic Monkeys and something by Billy Bragg.


Friend of mine recently pointed out that the great first couplet of New England was in fact nicked by B Bragg from Paul Simon's Leaves That Are Green (1965) - disappointing, but then he nicked Scarborough Fair from M Carthy via Trad, so all's fair.

I'd add Robyn Hitchcock's I Often Dream of Trains - if only because the Yanks love its particular kind of Englishness. Probably wouldn't go down well in this arena though.

PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2008 1:51 pm
by garth cartwright
Planxty. That's who I liked best of all the folk sung in English that i bought in the 80s. They were superb. I've occasionally checked out Christy Moore's solo career since but nothing has come near matching what he did there. I used to write for the Irish Post in the early 90s and seem to recall there being a lot of exciting Irish folk music at the time - i visited Ireland in 91 and was impressed by people making music in pubs for the sheer joy of it (not on stage, expecting audience attention etc). Would it be fair to say that with the outbreak of peace in Northern Ireland and the Celtic Tiger Irish folk has faded somewhat? Ian, do you pay a lot of attention to Irish folk or prefer the British version?

As to the thread of folk songs that aint particularly folk sounding: punk was a time of rock bands trying to sing in their own accents (as opposed to adopting American ones) so The Clash - White Man In Hammersmith Palais, The Cockney Rejects - East End, The UK Subs - CID, John Cooper Clarke - Beasley Street. Lots more where they come from!