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VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Rough Guide To English Folk

VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Rough Guide To English Folk
Rough Guides  RGNET1261CD

One of the most exciting things about this album is the diversity it displays. The brash brassy sound of Bellowhead’s Yarmouth Town gives way to the intricate harmonies of Emily Portman’s self-penned but traditional-sounding Tongue-Tied. The electric guitar on drystone waller Ian King’s Adieu To Old England sits quite happily between Emily’s haunting string arrangement and the virtuoso Northumbrian pipes of Kathryn Tickell. Then there’s a bit of old school from Pete Coe with a slight reworking of Byker Hill.

Some multicultural experimentation by The Imagined Village gives pause for thought and leads straight into Bob and Ron Copper singing The Sweet Primroses. Magnificent. And there are still 10 tracks to go, not to mention a 53-minute bonus CD of Coope, Boyes & Simpson!!! CD1 is worth buying for Chris Wood’s version of Lord Bateman alone. It is stunning. But then so is Bella Hardy’s The Herring Girl - another contemporary song written very much in the tradition.

In these disturbing times we need all the help we can get. Anything to remind us that England is a place of beauty, joy, love, inspiration and hope. This CD has all of these. It is effectively an update of the Rough Guide to English Roots Music, produced in 1998, when only our Celtic neighbours unashamedly produced ‘folk’ music. That album recognised a new pride in the English tradition. The informative liner notes for the new collection, compiled by Ian Anderson, see this as a golden age for English folk. On the evidence of the album I think that’s just about right.

Graham Gurrin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 90 of The Living Tradition magazine.