Saturday, 23 December 2017

Topic Records - The Real Sound of Folk Music, album review

That's All Folk

Topic Records – The Real Sound of Folk Music is such a fine collection of songs, many/most classics of this genre by classic artists. Listening tonight on the back of my recent same to current interpreters like Ange Hardy and Chris Woods, it has confirmed my deep love of the more plaintive and lamenting side of the music, whether about human emotion in its own essence or also how it is caused by the external conditions in which it has been, usually, adversely affected. One such on this album is the [have to use again, ‘classic’] song written and performed by Ewan MacColl, Dirty Old Town, and as with the Declan O’Rourke I reviewed here, this relates to a specific time and place yet continues to reverberate aptly and painfully today,

I found my love where the gaslight falls
Dreamed a dream by the old canal
Kissed my girl by the factory wall
Dirty old town, dirty old town

Clouds are drifting across the moon
Cats are prowling on their beat
Springs a girl in the streets at night
Dirty old town, dirty old town

I heard her sigh from the decks
Saw a train set the night on fire
Smelled the spring on the smoky wind
Dirty old town, dirty old town

I'm going to take a good sharp ax
Shining steel tempered in the fire
We'll chop you down like an old dead tree
Dirty old town, dirty old town

I’m less inclined to the jig and jaunt of much folk, unless in a receptive, inebriated mood, though in these general cases I am impressed by the musicianship – but here I’ll highlight the prettier if maudlin and/or saddening selection.

Opener Dick Gaughan’s Both Sides the Tweed is made even more potent in its righteous protest by the memorable warble of his vocal delivery, while second, Harry Upton’s 2012 take on Canadee-I-O, is another kind of beautiful. There’s the premier guitar tutorial of Davy Graham’s Angi, and then Martin Simpson displays the results of such tutelage on his Never Any Good. New to me, Andrew Cronshaw’s Wasps in the Woodpile is a jaunt of an instrumental that I do like, even without drink: whistle and slide guitar merging brilliantly; and the rest of the brass and sax.

There’s a live Pentangle on The Time Has Come, and Anne Briggs’ 1971 Blackwater Side matches this folk royalty collected on the album. I hadn’t heard Martin Carthy feat. Dave Swarbrick’s Scarborough Fair before, but pleased I have now and to say it holds its own against the obvious other one. Eliza Carthy’s fiddle-drawn Worcester City bathes us in the dark water of its poisoned despair, hauntingly and gorgeously.

I wasn’t a Joy Division fan [just not my focus at their time] but June Tabor’s 2011 version of Love Will Tear Us Apart makes clear what a powerful song this is. Mike Waterson sings unaccompanied and therefore classically for eleven minutes of an exquisite Tamlyn.

These are my instant favourites, some known and some new to me. There are 24 tracks in all, and not a dud in that. And that’s that, folk.

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