Trad & Folk
Artists and Albums
Hello! This page is part of an opinionated overview of Celtic and British folk music, with record reviews by me, Joe Sixpack... This is not meant to be taken as a "definitive" resource, but rather as a record of some of the music which has caught my interest. Basically, I like songs and ballads better than instrumentals (all those jigs, reels and scottiches tend to drive me a little buggy...) While some instrumentalists work wonders for me, nothing gets me going like a good, pretty song. Thus, some of what I am into may be a bit at odds with the trad crowd in general... you may want to keep that in mind when reading my recommendations. I am always looking for more good music to explore, so your comments and suggestions are welcome.
This is the first page covering the letter "A"
The Albion Band, Albion Dance Band, etc. - see artist profile
Altan - see artist profile
Sprightly trad instrumentals interspersed with airy folkie/light rock singer-songwriterish stuff. The vocal material is too sugary for me (and I have a pretty big sweet tooth!) but the band's liveliness and freshness can't be denied... They're playing with their hearts in it, and are trying to win over new ears on this disc... It may drift into muzak-y territory, but at least the band's fully engaged in what they're doing... (PS - the Gaelic vocals are much more engaging than the English-language stuff... Go figure.) Also nice to hear Scottish and Irish artists recording together...
The debut album of a fine Irish band formed by ex-DeDannan bodhran player, Johnny McDonagh, along with accordionist Jackie Daly and vocalist Francis Black. Black has a sort of tremulous, earnest folkie tenor to her vocals; her rendition of the title track is quite moving, but I did find myself distracted on other songs. The inclusion of a version of Stan Rogers' "Field Behind The Plough" is a pleasant surprise, although his version is much more profoundly resonant. Some great instrumentals, though, if you go for that sort of thing.
Frankie Armstrong "The Garden Of Love" (Fellside, 1999)
I know Frankie Armstrong from her rather arresting early work with leftie political satirist Leon Rosselson, and thus was completely inclined to get into this album. Sadly, though, it's pretty rough going. Her voice is, um, not for everyone, and on this particular set, it's mostly kind of hard to take. With the right arrangements, or with an earthy, hearty chorus behind her, Armstrong can really belt it out and sound like she's having a blast. But when she tries to carry a song all by herself, the results can be mixed, and many of the denser trad song forms and occasional socially-conscious lyrics demand quite a lot from her listeners to begin with. All of which is to say I guess I just didn't really enjoy this album that much. The texts seemed buried under the more grating aspects of the music, and the music drew me in only on occasion. Still, for those tracking such things, the accompaniment by John Kirkpatrick and Leon Rosselson may be noteworthy.
Toni & Dave Arthur "Morning Stands On Tiptoe" (World Serpent, 1997)
This husband-wife duo was one of the earlier and -- in their time -- more influential of the English hyper-traditionalists. Partial to unaccompanied a capella vocals and old, super-obscuro folk ballads, these folks were a bit on the arid, the-sparser-the-better end of the spectrum. This CD reissues material from two of their seminal early albums, 1967's Morning Stands On Tiptoe and The Lark In The Morning from 1969 (originally released on Argo and Topic Records, respectively). Listened to from start to finish, this mega-collection may be more than enough for the casual listener, but it's certainly a treasure trove of interesting material. As with the Collins sisters, I find this style to be an acquired taste, and you will probably either be nonplussed or completely consumed by it. But if you dig raw olde English folk music, this is definitely worth checking out.
Steve Ashley "Stroll On - Revisited" (Market Square, 1999)
One of those "lost legendary albums" we keep hearing about, but in this case a genuine folk revival gem that is certainly worth checking out. Ashley was a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who was in the general orbit of the fabled Fairport Convention, and plenty of famous folks play with him on this lovely little album, including Ashley Hutchings, Dave Mattacks, Simon Nicol, Dave Swarbrick, Danny Thompson and others. It's familiar-sounding material, straight out of the shaggy-haired, dancing-with-elves scene, yet Ashley's work definitely has an individual stamp to it, a beguiling mix of traditionalism and the searching, spacy mysticism that marked the work of contempraries like Nick Drake and Richard Thompson. Probably a little hard to find, but worth searching out.
This seventeen song best-of samples the six albums Ashley made from 1974-99, and while I haven't heard the later stuff, I imagine it's all worth checking out... especially if you can't track down the Stroll On reissue.
A very low-key, singer-songwritery album, with a strong stylistic similarity to Bert Jansch's solo work. Like Ashley's older albums, there is a sense of genuine distinctiveness, a feeling that this is indeed a unique, individual voice, an unassuming artistic presence that seems shorn of the professionalism or showmanship of practically any other folk singer you can think of. Features contributions by Brit-folk stalwarts such as Danny Thompson, Simon Nicol, and Robin Williamson... It may be a little too mellow for some listeners, but certainly has its allure. Interesting album, worth checking out.
Gary & Vera Aspey "A Taste Of Hotpot... With Added Flavoring" (Topic, 1976)
A charming live album, recorded mid-decade at a variety of English folk clubs, with enthusiastic singalongs and amused guffawing by the affable audience members. A nice mix of "serious" traditional folk and goofier humorous asides, with Gary Aspey adopting an onstage persona rather similar to that of humorist Les Barker. Also includes a version of Leon Rosselson's "Don't Get Married, Girls," which may have actually been recorded before the "original," and many other fascinating tunes, including several oldies from Cumbria. I'm pretty sure this album remains out of print, but it's worth picking up if you can find a copy.
Gary Aspey "From The North" (?)
More Celtic/Brit Folk Albums -- Letter "B"
Main Celtic/Brit Index
Main World Music Index