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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Folk Awards 2011

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Folk Awards 2011

Few other things in this musical world of ours engender the Marmite effect as successfully as the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, yet competition is nothing new in traditional music. Let’s not forget the 1905 North Lincolnshire Music Festival where Joseph Taylor won “best song” for Creeping Jane in the folksong section. This fairly pivotal event gained Mr Taylor a recording deal with the Gramophone Company (though I’ll bet they weren’t called deals then!) yet no-one appears to have been in any way captious about the moral rights and wrongs of such a celebration of one-upmanship!

Over a century later, here’s this year’s model.

This double CD features artists nominated for the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards staged back in February allied to those for the related young Folk Awards and similar albums have been released by Proper on an annual basis for some years now. As portfolios of what’s erm, “happening”, they’re good value and invaluable as an overview. The Guardian recently remarked on “Folk music’s move into the mainstream” citing Laura Marling’s and Mumford & Sons’ awards at the Brits, though the Folk Awards/Smooth Operations input towards a popularising of “the very best in folk, roots and acoustic music” has been in full swing long before the current voguish status.

Bellowhead get proceedings off to a buoyant start with New York Girls – they really have been media darlings this last year, as indeed have ahem, Fisherman’s Friends here with South Australia – not for these ears but as being representative of the broad spectrum of human allsorts sheltered under the Folk umbrella, well bring ‘em on - it would be a bland soul who liked everything they’ll hear on this release.

Amongst the 27 tracks it’s invidious to single out any for especial praise though eventual Best Duo winners, James Fagan & Nancy Kerr’s Queen Of Waters is driftingly elegant, whilst Emily Portman with the stuff of nightmare that is Stick Stock is suitably gothic. Fiddlers’ Bid are just plain joyous!

Engaging then, and as good a collection of “Various” as you used to find on Island label samplers. As such, it does exactly what you’d expect – there are no unrecognised items in this bagging area!

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 89 of The Living Tradition magazine.