Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Recent Obsession

I'm sure I've mentioned my love for Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson and all things Fairport Convention on these pages before. Lately though, I've discovered that my love for British folk, acoustic and electric, goes much further.  As a matter of fact, I'm caught up in what may be called a bit of an obsession.

Some records, that until recently have eluded me but have now become heavy players in my daily musical rotation are the following:

Incredible String Band-The 5000 Spirits Or The Layers Of The Onion
Steeleye Span- Please To See The King
Al Stewart- Love Chronicles (featuring Jimmy Page on lead guitar)
John Martyn- The Tumbler
Bert Jansch-Bert Jansch
Albion Band- Rise Up Like The Sun
Strawbs- Grave New World

As a matter of fact, most all of John Martyn's work has been knocking me out. Same with Al Stewart, at least up to "The Year Of The Cat," which has never been a fave.

The playing by all of the artists on all of these records is exquisite, from the two and three minute acoustic ballads to the seven and ten minute workouts that border prog. These bands have been within my reach for years, but much like Family, needed the right time to make their impression.

I imagine this music is not for everyone, but give a listen to the Albion Band above. It's one of the workouts I just mentioned. See what you think? If you prefer something a bit easier to swallow, I'd stay away from the Incredible String Band for a bit, and give some early Al Stewart and John Martyn a go.


davidwolfsonnc said...

It never fails to hit me hard when I listen to Bert Jansch's "Poison."

tinpot said...

It can be addictive, can't it? Almost an inexhaustable amount of music out there too. There are also regional artists/scenes that are terrific (and still thriving) that hardly ever reach these shores.
Apart from your mentions (all great) I like Bert Jansch's 'Moonshine' ISB's 'Earthspan'
John Wesley Harding's 'Trad Arr Jones'
Any Davey Graham

Kate Rusby, etc

ge said...

for some rare J./Bev Martyn//Nick Drake et al reminiscences, see

A walk in the woods said...

Damn, that is KILLER. I will definitely be seeking out more by The Albion Band... had never heard of them. And that's coming from someone who also has had quite a renaissance of love for "Freak Folk" lately - I just can't get enough of it.

That Albion song, with its strong churchy, almost Gregorian, organ, puts me in the mind of this song by Judee Sill. This is a song I almost hesitate to share because it's so meaningful to me I don't know if other people see its greatness! One of the greatest pieces of music ever, both in the BBC Live version below, and the original multi-layered Gregorian choral version...

BBC Live:

Original studio:

I know Andy Partridge is a Judee Sill fan, which is what got me into her originally.

But anyway, back to your original topic... yes, more folk, please! A mix of your faves would be great.

Anonymous said...

i'd add Cat Stevens' Mona Bone Jakon as a folk/what's that invention of the 70's.

Not sure of the date on it, but Davey Johnstone of Elton John's band had a great album of electric English folk called Smiling Face. most of the songs are on youtube.

ge said...

also like Mona by Cat best, the first of his i unheard bought. If you all don't know Wil Malone's album, check it out, a curious folk-chamber massssterpiece...

Anonymous said...

heron...NOT mike heron of isb!!

1st lp "Heron" and "Twice As Nice & Half The Price"

2 classics from 70-71

Trees-ON THE SHORE- an absolute must...
less so, but worthy their first -THE GARDEN OF JANE DELAWNEY

duncan browne -immediate anthology

al stewart was great till- year of the cat-... saturday night style sax solo gave him a hit, but killed his cool factor..prior to that he was ace...-modern times- is killer

saw him walk off the stage at felt forum..opening for renaissance


Anonymous said...


2 morel killers of that ilk/period

john renbourn
lady & the unicorn

and my fave seasonal holiday recording-tho great absolute classic!

horslips-drive the cold winter away

love this folk..and i include syd!


Sal Nunziato said...

Thanks for all the tips. Any thoughts on the Horslip catalogue, other than "Drive The Cold Winter?"

Anonymous said...

ok, but don't overlook -drive the's really a classic record...a perennial!!

horslips was a strange band..pre u2 irish... equal parts beatles and chieftains..they could really do it all..rock hard, sing well or do some real traditional irish session style stuff...

all their lps hold interest

their -tracks from the vaults- is an appealing mish mash of early beatley influenced stuff

the tain is their "concept "lp

but i guess my fave (besides (drive..) is -the man who built america-.which captures them at their power pop '77 phase..

i saw them around, back then...(bottom line and my fathers place) and they were really a cool band..very flexible and evolving bunch...real musicians

not mentioned nowadays, but definitely worthy of investigation


William Repsher said...

When I was writing more full-on about music, a litmust test to see how well other writers knew their history was to get into the "punk saved rock" theory that so many critics bought hook, line and sinker. (The reality was it didn't even save us from disco.)

Point being, music, especially British music was portrayed as a "dead zone" of sorts in the early-mid 70s with the break-up of the Beatles and other large groups, like The Stones, Who and Kinks, getting more set in their ways/established/not functioning on the exalted levels they had.

This is one of the biggest lies put forth of that time period. The UK was exploding with all sorts of interesting bands and trends. Roxy Music. Sparks. Bowie. T. Rex. The Faces. King Crimson. Yes. Genesis. Never mine U.S. bands like The Stooges and New York Dolls who essentially created 70s punk.

And the trends. Glitter. Prog. Pub Rock. And of course the full flowering and hey day of British Folk. It wasn't cool to acknowledge this music as "cool" at the time, I guess because the musicians were slightly older and actually talented. I've also spent the past decade or so going back and mining Harvest Records, grasping how great solo Sandy Denny was, going full catalog on The Strawbs, realizing Richard Thompson wasn't the only Fairport Convention musician to make his mark, etc.

I don't think punk saved anyone from anything. Granted, a few great artists/band sprung from that scene, but a lot of it was junk that got a free pass because it wasn't disco and the band played the image to the hilt. I can only imagine what enormously talented musicians like John Martyn and Bert Jansch were going through at the time, realizing there was no way possible they could dumb down their talent to anywhere near this level. Obviously, they just ignored it and kept on doing their thing, but it's disturbing how many vital trends and artists were ignored at the time, or made to look "out of touch" ... when they were far more in touch than most punk bands would ever be.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I got turned onto this stuff early. Another answer to what was I listening to instead of other classic albums being discussed.

"Solid Air" by John Martyn is a stone classic.

And don't forget Davey Graham's influential Folk, Blues and Beyond, which includes his original take on “She Moved Through The Fair”.

here: _fair.mp3

buzzbabyjesus said...

William Rephser has made another well wrought point.

Here's an artifact I'm compelled to share by Jan Dukes de Grey. They began as a folk duo, but this cut, the title track from their 1971 album "Mice And Rats In The Loft" is an unhinged masterpiece. Here they are a trio with electric 12 string, drums, and sax, which makes The White Stripes, and The Black Keys sound not so original in their pared down drums and guitar arrangements. It's pretty obscure, and I only found it recently while blog walking. Check it out. It's unbelievable.

Sal Nunziato said...

Just came back from my storage. Found a few Horslips LPs, some John Renbourn and more Steeleye Span. Also, found both Heron LPs thanks to the interweb.

And Buzz...about to dig in to "Mice & Rats."

A walk in the woods said...

Nice comments, William Repsher. To take your points even further, I might ask - why did we need to be saved from disco? I think disco gets a bad rap. I think anything that makes people dance has some inherent goodness in it...

Anonymous said...

June Tabor! Grown Up Backwards is featuring a terrific song by her today.
And for mellow songcraft, you can't beat Ralph McTell. Try 'Easy' or his 'Silver' collection. Much more than Streets of London.
And Martin Carthy! Both Dylan and Paul Simon "borrowed" from him. A giant of the genre.

Sal Nunziato said...


Just listened to Mice & Rats. The whole CD. I don't get it. To my ears it has nothing of what I'm talking about. I don't hear folk music at all. The playing sounds hamfisted. The vocals aren't even really vocals.

It's a completely different animal altogether.

Am I missing something?

buzzbabyjesus said...

I was mixing a bit of what Mr. Repsher commented on concerning British music just prior to punk, and it's diversity, with your post.
Jan Dukes de Grey's previous album sounds pretty much like early Incredible String Band. Maybe what I call unhinged sounds hamfisted to you. I maintain it's an interesting artifact.

Sal Nunziato said...

Fair enough, in that context.


ge said...

Could 'Comus' be far away?
i once rather aptly nailed a description of their album as 'Unplugged Family'
Don't miss McTell's 'Zimmerman's Blues'

Anonymous said...

haha...comus! we're gettin into it!!

tho i always preferred their 2nd lp on virgin..and even that was sketchy at best...and moved away from trad hippie uk folk..ala slapp happy -sort of-

better is mellow candle...and bridget st john if you can deal with her nico inflected timbre

then there's vashti...who does little for me

don't forget the first trees lp tho..thats a great listen...excellent guitar playing ala richard thompson


buzzbabyjesus said...

No Comus is not far away. They are sometimes compared to Family.