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August 29, 2007

July and August Music

July and August are of course festival season. And with festivals come loads of CD purchases, all inadequately processed by my brain until the long nights of winter. Especially so given that Steven gets incredibly antsy when I suggest that what we need for a long car journey is four hours of source recordings of melodeon players. I have no idea why.

Since July 1 we have been to Crawley Folk Festival (very wet), Ely Folk Festival (quite nice), Cambridge Folk Festival (sunny intervals and heavy showers), Cropredy (really nice but perhaps a bit hot), and Towersey (glorious, glorious, glorious, this is what the late summer bank holiday should be like and so rarely is).

My purchases have been overwhelmingly dominated by decades-worth of English dance music. From Amazon marketplace, very cheap, I bought a Topic compilation called Stepping Up - A History of the New Wave of English Country Dance Music. This is a bit of a mixed bag, but very useful as a pointer to further bands I should check out. I also got Ashley Hutchings' The Compleat Dancing Master featuring lots of famous people. I find the tunes great and the readings tiresome.

It was so wet at The Big Session that the CD stall had a swampy CD sale, and I bought "We're Still Here" by Si Kahn, who I've been meaning to listen to more by. And it was so wet at Crawley I spent ages hanging out by the Talking Elephant stall, and, as usual, they gave me a brilliant discount for buying loads of their own-label stuff. Highlight was surely the Albion Dancing Band double album Dancing Days Are Here Again. One disc is a set of studio recordings (an album and some bonus tracks). But the prize is a live recording from the Royal Festival Hall from 1976. The Talking Elephant chaps were browsing the car boot sale at Cropredy and picked it up from a bootleg stall. They explained that when they heard how good it was, they rang up Ashley Hutchings and sorted out a deal. They make a few bob, Ashley Hutchings makes a few bob, the people with the publising make a few bob... the bootlegger doesn't make anything but he's probably not about to sue, now, is he? Anyway, it's triff. I also got several other likely albums from them -- Simon Care's The Box Set ('I wish he hadn't called it that, confuses all the punters'), Lick the Tins' Blind Man on a Flying Horse, and Ridge Riders In Concert.

My eMusic haul was focused at least in part on people playing at Ely, with Shooglenifty's Troots, Megson's Smoke of Home, and Ezio's Ten Thousand Bars. But I also got a couple of Topic's new releases; Maggie Holland's Bones and Martin Simpson's Prodigal Son. I'd been wanting to buy some Maggie Holland ever since she sang 'A Place Called England' in one of the Folk Britannia concerts; I heard Martin Simpson at the Cambridge Folk Festival and realised that I'd been missing something. And Park Records, Steeleye Span's current label, turned up, allowing me to fill in a few gaps in my Steeleye collection.

Tune books are a funny thing; they sometimes turn up two at once, like buses. Hardcore English is an EFDSS publication of 300 tunes, designed to provide an overview of English dance tunes and elaborated with tons of background information about the tunes, their sources, places you might seek out this stuff on the web, and so on. It comes with a compilation CD of all sorts of acoustic and electric dance bands. Equally comprehensive but much more specific in focus is William Winter's Quantocks Tune Book, a transcription of a large but fairly obscure manuscript from the Halsway Manor library. It comes with a selection of tunes played by Rob Harbron, Miranda Rutter, Nancy Kerr and Tim van Eyken.

The accompanying CD for Hardcore English (careful how you search on that...) sent me off on an interesting diversion. One of the tracks is a selection from a CD of Admiral Parry's Barrel Organ -- that went with said Admiral to the frozen North of Canada in the early nineteenth century in lieu of a fiddler, and has now been fully restored. This is as close as we can get to a recording of how dance tunes were actually played 200 years ago and I instantly went off and bought the whole album.

On eBay, a long-standing search hit a result and I finally got hold of an album by Cliar, often described as a proto-acid-croft band. It's interesting, but I am not sure I'll seek out their others.

Finally, as if that wasn't enough, I have just bought the first six of Free Reed's reissues. I started thinking about just getting some of them -- do I need concertina music? didn't I buy Tale of Ale once already? -- but eventually concluded that the package deal was the thing to get.

Posted by Alison Scott at August 29, 2007 09:21 PM


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