Lovely Recordings Hosted by Simon Goodall

As a UK expat the folk tradition of the British Isles is very close to my heart and while many dismiss much of this music as arch, twee or "finger in the ear" caterwauling it is in fact a very vibrant and dynamic tradition and one with a wealth of beautiful tunes to offer. The selection I’ve made below will hopefully illustrate some of the range and diversity of this genre while also hopefully throwing up one or two new selections for most listeners—enjoy!

Various: The Elizabethan Session (Quercus Records, 2014)
Starting with the most up to date, this is in effect a "supergroup" album in which six young (and not so young) scions of the UK folk scene wrote and performed music inspired by time (the Elizabethan era) and place (Hatfield House, the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth). What is amazing is the quality of the songs and performances that resulted. A good place to start is "Hatfield" in which Bella Hardy remembers her childhood encounter with Hatfield House, the track also serves as a demo of imaging and creation of a sense of space for your system.

Available from Tidal

Heron: Upon Reflection: The Dawn Anthology (Sanctuary, 2006)
Of course the hot bed of British folk and folk rock was the late sixties and early seventies and one of the many groups that emerged from this period, albeit briefly, was Heron. Now insanely collectible, the two albums Heron released are now available in one compilation. Both were recorded using a mobile studio at farm houses in the UK countryside and again are intensely evocative of place—especially the first album with its backing of bird song and the sounds of country life.

Available from Tidal

June Tabor: Airs And Graces (Shanachie Records, 2005)
Later in the seventies we saw new artists emerge and tap into the long history of folk songs. Some also turned to more recent writers in the folk tradition. One of the best at choosing songs is June Tabor. Her first solo album Airs and Graces is renowned for her recording of Eric Bogle’s "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda". Completely exposed, unadorned and stark this is a chilling testament to both the art of singing, and of writing.

Available from Tidal

Ossian: Light On a Distant Shore (Iona Records, 1986)
Up in the North the Scottish folk scene was equally active. One of my favorite groups from Scotland is Ossian, whom in an audiophile footnote provided the material for the Linn record Analog/Digital on which Ivor Tiefenbrun issued a disc with the same tracks on each side, one record on analog tape and the other digitally but without saying which was which! Light On a Distant Shore was Ossian’s sixth album from 1986 and demonstrates the dynamics and drive of hard charging traditional music—it’s a real system test that can (but shouldn’t) sound harsh and strident—try "Jamie Raeburn" and see if your system is up to to the challenge.

Available from iTunes

Davy Spillane: Atlantic Bridge (Tara (Ireland), 1988)
In fact celtic folk music has become a bit of a niche audiophile genre. One of the most well known such albums is Atlantic Bridge by Davy Spillane. This LP has some of the most prodigious bass you could ever look for always combined with the squeak and squirll of Davy’s pipes—again a very challenging but stirring combination!

Available from Tidal

Dick Gaughan & Andy Irvine: Parallel Lines (FolkFreak-Platten, 1982)
I have to give a nod to the record label that gave me my on line audiophile identity (FolkFreak). This was a short lived German label that issued a small selection of great LPs of which one of my favorites is Parallel Lines by Dick Gaughan and Andy Irvine. Start of with "Creggan White Hare" and get immediately sucked in to the story and the aggressive playing.

Available from Tidal

Jethro Tull: A Little Light Music (Live) (Chrysalis Records, 1992)
The folk tradition also informed the work of more mainstream artists such as Jethro Tull. With all the attention being given to the 40th anniversary edition of Songs from the Wood I wanted to highlight what, to my mind, is one of the best recorded Tull albums—their 1992 live album A Little Light Music. This is taken from a live acoustic tour and captures the sound of great musicians and good songs, even when they take on Bach such as on the track "Bouree" which is another great test of the pace and dynamics of any system.

Available from Tidal

Simon Nicol: Before Your Time... (Woodworm, 1998)
It's also great fun to follow the musicians across bands and albums. Two members of the Tull roster on the last disc were Dave Pegg and Dave Mattacks who also appear on Simon Nichol’s 1992 album Before Your Time.... Stand out for me on this one is Linda Thompson version of "I Live Not Where You Love"—a beautiful version of a wonderful song any version of which is worth looking for.

Available from Tidal

for those with a closer interest in tracking who played with whom the classic reference is:

Ketama, Toumani Diabate, José Soto: Songhai, Vol. 2 (Nuevos Medios, 1994)
Finally as well as musicians, the folk scene also brought us some of the best producers out there and I’ll close with a nod to Songhai, Vol. 2 the second musical collaboration between the Spanish flamenco group Ketama, Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté, and English bass player Danny Thompson (who of course was a founding member of Pentagle). The producer in question is Joe Boyd the architect behind much of the best of the Incrredible String Band, Fairport and Sandy Denny’s Fotheringay. Not folk from the British Isles but equally stirring traditional influenced music

Available from Tidal


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COMMENTS
johntoste's picture

I have some of these recordings and intend to run out and buy the others. I can attest to Mr. Goodall's good taste and passion for music. When I was in audio equipment sales at the lamented Sound Images, I had the good fortune to make his acquaintance. Cheers!

Folkfreak's picture

Hmmm, getting to know this system for posting! Anyway great to hear from you and I remember our days down in Westport fondly. I think the only component still in my system from back then is one of the GPA stands -- the system (https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/5707) has come quite a long way but is still giving me a lot of pleasure

I should also note that the recommended media for most of the tracks I listed is of course LP, this new fangled streaming stuff is still beyond some of us

johntoste's picture

on an extraordinary system!
For curiosity's sake, you may wish to hear the new record by Offa Rex. They are The Decemberists (good band in their own right) plus Brit Olivia Chaney. Though they're not Fairport, Pentangle, or Steeleye Span; they give it their best shot.

Folkfreak's picture

But to me it fell squarely in the "twee" end of the spectrum, lacking grit and edge. There's actually so much new stuff released every day by young artists, one way I keep track is because regularly monitoring http://brightyoungfolk.com

Christian Goergen's picture

Publ. 1979 is the source of the pedigree above.

Folkfreak's picture

Yes, he's done many different Fairport ones -- I have a nice framed one that came with the "Fairport Unconventional" set from 2002 (so more up to date than the one I linked too)

For those that want to see more of these try https://www.amazon.com/Pete-Frames-Complete-Family-Trees/dp/0711904650

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