FolkWorld Issue 40 11/2009; Texts from the Topic Website

Topic Records

Three Score & Ten
Topic Records at 70

2009 is a landmark year for many independent record labels. It sees the anniversaries of Motown and Island (both 50), Rough Trade (30) and Real World (20). But it is Topic Records that celebrates its 70th anniversary. This makes it the oldest, truly independent record company in the world. To mark this achievement Topic is proud to publish 'Three Score and Ten,' a 7 CD set charting seven decades of recording and social history.

The story of the world’s oldest truly independent record label begins with the early aspirations of the Workers’ Music Association. The WMA was founded in 1936 as an educational offshoot of the British Marxist Party, when five London Socialist choirs met to perform together. During the 1930s, against the rise of fascism and totalitarianism, there was an upsurge of interest in socialism and internationalism amongst British intellectuals. The formation of the Workers’ Music Association was in the same year as the new Left Book Club was founded to ‘help in the struggle for world peace and against fascism’. On 31st January 1936, George Orwell had set out by public transport and on foot for Wigan, where he spent February researching how people lived; taking systematic notes of housing conditions and wages earned, visiting a coal mine, and spending days at the local public library consulting public health records and reports on working conditions in mines. The Road to Wigan Pier was published by the New Left Book Club the following year.

Against this backdrop the Workers’ Music Association sought to promote the composition and performance of music which expresses the ideals and aims of mankind towards the improved organisation of society; music which exerts an influence against the social injustices of our present society. Within three years the WMA established the Topic imprint to release “gramophone records of historical and social interest”. The first record to be released, in September 1939, on the Topic imprint was a 10″ 78rpm disc – The Man That Waters The Workers’ Beer performed by Paddy Ryan backed by an arrangement of The Internationale performed by the Topic Singers and Band led by Will Sahnow.

Today, Topic has an unequalled reputation as the foremost publisher of British traditional music . Topic's impressive catalogue includes some of the classic albums of traditional and contemporary folk music, from English, Scottish & Irish folk singers & musicians.

Topic Records A-Z

"Road Movies" Energy, Experience, Youth, Tradition - The Albion Band is the foremost contemporary folk group in England with a glorious history stretching back over twenty years. The current line-up follows the tradition of including some of the most talented and creative musicians in Britain today. The band remains true to its roots in the English tradition and true to its reputation for classic contemporary Folk Rock.

Steve Ashley @ FolkWorld:
FW#10, #11
Steve Ashley has been one of the best kept secrets on the folk scene since the early 1970s. One of the original members of the first Albion Country Band, Steve went solo soon after and his albums have grown in stature over the years. Mojo recently featured his first album, "Stroll On", calling it "…a masterpiece…". With "EVERYDAY LIVES", Steve has created a extraordinary album of contemporary songs which are informed, but never overwhelmed, by the tradition.

Tom Anderson & Peerie Willie Johnson

Tom Anderson @ FolkWorld: FW#34, #35, #35

Aly Bain @ FolkWorld: FW#3,#23,#23,#24,#30,#37

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Tom Anderson MBE, fiddler, composer, folklorist and teacher, was a profoundly influential figure in Shetland music. He and Aly Bain, with Trevor Hunter and Davie Tulloch, spanning three generations of music-making in the islands, play fiddle duets and quartets in the distinctive Shetland idiom.

Margaret Barry @ FolkWorld:

With her flamboyant delivery and idiosyncratic banjo-playing Margaret Barry brought the art of the street-singer into the pubs and clubs of Irish London in the 1950s and '60s, frequently accompanied by the fiddler Michael Gorman. 'To be confronted with a past so recent, so arrestingly singular and so irrecoverable catches alike the heart and the imagination.'- Mojo

Battlefield Band @ FolkWorld: FW#5, #6,
#12, #19, #23, #27, #28, #32, #35, #37, #40
The Battlefield Band has been a leading progressive group on the Scots folk scene for more than 20 years. Opening Moves was compiled from their early albums for Topic (1977-79), when the band included such musicians as Brian McNeill, Jamie McMenemy and Pat Kilbride.

"Almost A Gentleman": Years before Monty Python, a red-nosed comedian in disreputable tails and an improbable moustache created a world all his own. With his spoofs of well-loved poems, raucous street-corner singing and surreal narratives of life in the saveloy-and-gin class, Billy Bennett brought a spirit of daring and rebellion to English music hall and variety stages in the 1920s and '30s. Billy Bennett can now be seen as a street-wise surrealist and his remarkable humour shines as bright today as it did then. The CD is remastered to the highest standard from the best condition original 78-rpm discs.

"No One Stands Alone": The seven piece group Blue Murder, made up of Waterson:Carthy, Coope, Boyes and Simpson and Mike Waterson, has been described as "Harmony Heaven" and one listen is enough to explain why - seven of the greatest English folk voices performing together with passion and spirit. The repertoire ranges between great traditional standards, selected compositions and original songs by some of the band members. Whilst much of the album is the full glory of the seven voices, about half of the tracks have the added benefit of Martin Carthy's understated but impeccable guitar work.

Brass Monkey @ FolkWorld:

The Complete Brass Monkey: A ground-breaking five-piece band incorporating trumpet and trombone as well as squeezeboxes, mouth organ, percussion and guitar, Brass Monkey had a short but glittering career in the mid-'80s. A decade later the almost-original lineup of Martin Carthy, John Kirkpatrick, Howard Evans, Richard Cheetham and Martin Brinsford reunited to make Sound & Rumour. The greatest recording yet from this unique powerhouse band is "Going and Staying", which features the band's Deep English sound. Unique instrumentation and their approach to folk music give Brass Monkey an instantly recognisable sound and presence. For many of the tracks, the lineup expands to a six-piece featuring an extended brass section.

Eliza Carthy

Eliza Carthy @ FolkWorld:
FW#1" #4, #26, #35, #37

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Martin Carthy @ FolkWorld:
FW#17, #18, #20, #23, #35, #36

Icon Sound Famous Flower of Serving Men
Anne Briggs, a free spirit of the '60s, was also one of the most distinctive and influential singers on the folk music scene. 'If I hadn't heard her,' says June Tabor, 'I'd have probably done something entirely different.' 'She was,' writes Colin Harper in his accompanying biographical essay, 'as the best of the music itself was, sexy, wild, mysterious, otherworldly and vulnerable all at the same time.'

King Of The Highland Pipers: Connoisseurs recognise what amateurs feel instinctively, that John Burgess is the finest living exponent of the Scots bagpipes, equally impressive whether playing marches, airs, jigs, strathspeys or the majestic repertory of the pibroch, the classical music of the Highlands.

Eliza Carthy, daughter of Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson, is the most impressive and engaging performer of her generation. Not only an inventive, innovative singer and fiddle-player, she is a musical conceptualist who treats the bequest of the folk tradition with respect and knowledge - and, sometimes, with refreshing irreverence. "An international star of English Folk in the 21st century" The Times. Albums available: "Anglicana", "Red", "Rice", "The Kings Of Calicutt", "Heat, Light And Sound".

For more than 30 years Martin Carthy has been the most visible, versatile and, at times, controversial figure in English folk music. Whether in the folk club, on the concert stage or in a TV studio, there are few roles he has not played, from ballad singer to folk-rock guitarist. While his settings of traditional songs with guitar have influenced a generation of performers, he is also an authoritative interpreter of newly composed material.

Shirley Collins's sweet, self-effacing singing keeps her closer to the core of traditional folk song than many a more histrionic singer. Yet her work has been extraordinarily diverse: she has collaborated with the guitarist Davy Graham, the Incredible String Band, the Albion Country Band and her sister Dolly. "Sweet England", her very first album, originally released in 1959, is a mixture of English and American traditional songs with banjo and guitar accompaniments. The Sweet Primeroses: these limpid versions of Southern English songs established Shirley Collins as a unique and influential voice on the folk scene.

Christine Collister @ FolkWorld:
"Into The Light", Christine Collister’s second solo album for Topic finds her great voice in even better form, if that is possible. Into the Light is the closest thing yet to capturing the live quality and personality of this outstanding singer. Its style is more acoustic than "An Equal Love" and again, it features her unique songwriting skills alongside a selection of specially chosen covers of classic contemporary song.

The Copper Family of Rottingdean in Sussex has roots in traditional song that are at least two hundred years old. Their rare southern English harmony is presented at its most outstanding in these classic performances from the 1950s and early '60s. Bob and Ron Copper came to prominence outside their immediate local environment when recordings of the duo were released during the early part of the folk revival.
Bob Copper

Bob Copper @ FolkWorld: FW#28

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These newly remastered recordings are included here in their entirety. In addition, earlier recordings involving Bob and Ron's fathers - Jim and John - are available for the first time. There are three songs which feature the full quartet. The influence of the English Southern Harmony style of singing of The Copper Family is inestimable. Certainly groups like The Watersons and The Young Tradition are deeply in their debt, but the harmony singing of many English folk groups can be traced back to these roots.

The Bonny Labouring Boy: Harry Cox is, simply, the most important and the finest among the great English traditional singers. This release brings together 54 tracks from recordings made between 1945 and 1970 to produce a 2 CD set. Combined with a 60 page booklet containing a detailed biography, extensive notes and song texts, the result is over 2 hours of previously unissued recordings. "The quality of the repertoire and the standard of the singing are quite breathtaking. Even amongst the high standards that Topic have been setting in their recent releases of traditional music, this is outstanding" - FRoots Magazine

Renowned on both sides of the Atlantic for his uncompromising, gritty talent, Bob Davenport’s recording history goes back over four decades and has produced raw, idiosyncratic nuggets. His unique poetic realism has been a profound influence on such disparate artists as Richard Thompson and Ray Davies. Never one to court fashion, Bob has remained true to the living tradition while being on the cutting edge of revivalism. When word got round that Bob Davenport was recording a new album, the cream of the current folk scene queued for a chance to participate. The final list includes appearances by Richard Thompson, Chumbawamba Acoustic, Martin Carthy, Linda Thompson, Mike and Norma Waterson, John Tams, Coope, Boyes and Simpson and Fi Fraser. The resulting album is raw, real and original.

"Ramblin' Jack" Elliott: Woody Guthrie's most famous sidekick (and an early influence on Bob Dylan) celebrates his old friend in poignant versions of his most celebrated songs, then joins singer and banjoist Derroll Adams in a session of classic old-time country songs.

Dick Gaughan

Dick Gaughan @ FolkWorld:
FW#9, #23, #25, #32, #36, #36

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"Shift". e2K made its name as one of the most exciting bands on the UK folk scene, with a formidable reputation as a live act and festival favourite, having re-invented itself from its previous incarnation as EII and the Red Hot Polkas. The original band was primarily known as a dance band but the addition of Kellie While on vocals has produced a great fusion of folk, world, jazz and dance influences. Kellie is without question one of the rising stars of the British folk movement.

Bob Fox @ FolkWorld:
Described by Ralph McTell as “one of England’s best voices”, Bob Fox makes his first recording for Topic, and we’re delighted for him to be here. He is one of the hardest working performers in the country, playing more dates than almost anyone else. His exceptional voice and inspired guitar have a lightness of touch and a sureness of purpose that go straight to the heart of the song, be it traditional or contemporary.

Restlessly imaginative, passionate in his beliefs, guitarist Dick Gaughan is a commanding presence on the Scots folk music scene. His subtle singing and intricate guitar playing create a fabric of arresting beauty and colour. Traditional and contemporary songs sung with grace and feeling are interspersed with bagpipe jigs and fiddle reels transposed to guitar in the multifaceted collection "Gaughan". Handful Of Earth, a mixture of love songs, odes of parting and political commentaries such as Worker's Song and World Turned Upside Down, is Gaughan's most complex and emotionally penetrating album, and has come to be recognised as a masterwork. Album of the Decade.' - Folk Roots

The Fiddle Music of County Sligo. A Musical Biography of Michael Gorman (1895-1970) by Reg Hall. Michael Gorman, a close associate of Michael Coleman before the latter emigrated to America, was a key figure in the great Irish folk music tradition of southern Sligo. His music, together with that of his nephew Michael (flute), his brother Martin (voice) and neighbours Tom Gannon (fiddle) and Gerry Whimsy (tin whistle), typifies that tradition's classic period of creativity and definition. His later major contribution to Irish music-making in London is reflected in recordings with Mick Flynn (flute), Margaret Barry (voice & banjo), Jimmy Power (fiddle), Paddy Breen (flageolet), Tommy Maguire (accordeon) and Patsy Goulding (piano).

Davy Graham

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One of the most influential guitarists to emerge from the London club scene of the early '60s, Davy Graham was a model for Bert Jansch and Eric Clapton. A musician of restless and enquiring mind, he experimented with ideas drawn from jazz, blues, traditional British song and Middle Eastern music. "Fire In The Soul" is compiled from four late-'60s albums, with the addition of his famous Angi, a test-piece for the aspiring folk guitarist, this album serves as the perfect compilation / introduction to this innovative artist. On "Folk, Blues & Beyond", Graham's first album (1964), he seized the opportunity to bring in an uncredited bass and drums to augment his inspired guitar work and singing. Drawing on blues, modern jazz, Indian or Arabic forms he adds these influences to a basis of traditional folk music to produce the hybrid accurately described in the album's title.

Joe Heaney: The Road From Connemara. One of the world's greatest ever traditional folk singers. Double CD of previously unissued material recorded by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in 1964, when Joe Heaney was at the height of his powers. 39 tracks and a 60 page booklet, which includes a full transcript as well as detailed notes on the man, his songs and his tradition.

High Level Ranters: This Northumbrian quartet has been one of the most enduring and popular groups in British folk music. Each of its members is an artist of the first rank. Versatility is the keynote of "Northumberland Forever" as the Ranters display their range of skills on a vivacious collection of characteristic Northeastern songs and tunes. "The Bonnie Pit Laddie" subtitled 'A Miner's Life in Music & Song', is a pageant of songs illustrating a history of hard times and high times, oppression and stubborn pride. The Ranters are joined in this treasury of industrial folksong by Dick Gaughan and the Lancashire singer Harry Boardman.

Nic Jones

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Street Cries: A collection of dark traditional songs reset in the present day by Ashley Hutchings. Sung by Coope, Boyes & Simpson, Steve Knightley, Cara Dillon, Dick Gaughan, Helen Watson, Vin Garbutt, Judy Dunlop, Dave Burland, Kathryn Roberts with Equation, John Tams, June Tabor, Pete Morton, Nasreen Shah. An outstanding new album conceived and produced by one of the most significant creators in the folk music field. Traditional music has always changed and adapted to fit and respond to the society that it reflects. Ashley Hutchings has re-written a dozen traditional songs and set them in the present day - don't be alarmed, the experiment has worked beautifully and the results may well pass into tradition themselves.

Nic Jones Penguin Eggs: This mature work of a brilliant song-interpreter and guitarist, packed with fresh songs and novel settings, is rendered all the more valuable by the scarcity of his recordings. When Bob Dylan appropriated his arrangement of Canadee-I-O, it was just one sign of Jones' status among musicians as well as lay listeners. It may be the best British acoustic folk album ever made Stuart Maconie, BBC Radio 2

Plain Capers: The music of the Morris dance is one of the deep underlying rhythms of English country life. John Kirkpatrick captures both its formal beauty and verve in a selection of tunes from Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and neighbouring areas, played on Anglo concertina and a variety of accordions, with support by Martin Carthy, Sue Harris, Fi Fraser and Martin Brinsford. A Short History Of John Kirkpatrick: Drawn from eight original albums of the '70s and '80s, this 19-track survey finds Kirkpatrick singing and playing a hugely varied repertory of English songs and tunes, some solo, some with Sue Harris (hammered dulcimer) and others in the bands Umps & Dumps and Brass Monkey.

Oliver Knight is probably best known as collaborator with his mother, Lal Waterson, on their landmark albums Once in a Blue Moon (TSCD478) and A Bed of Roses (TSCD505). He has also had a long and illustrious career as a composer, musician, arranger and record producer / engineer.

Sam Larner was born in 1878 in the village of Winterton in Norfolk. For most of his life he was a fisherman and developed his repertoire and style from the locality and his workmates. "Now Is The Time For Fishing": Originally recorded on location in 1958, '59 & '60 by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger and released in 1961, this record has come to be regarded as one of the most important recordings of an English traditional folk singer ever made. Alongside classic traditional repertoire, the CD features songs associated with the fishing industry as well as sea-lore and rhymes.

A.L. Lloyd @ FolkWorld:
FW#6, #6, #38

"English Drinking Songs" and "Leviathan!". A.L. 'Bert' Lloyd occupied a unique position in the folksong revival of the 1950s and '60s. He was a musicologist with an international reputation, who wrote on the social history of British folk music and broadcast many series on traditional musics of the world. A learned and kindly mentor to younger singers, he was himself a performer of great charm, who united in his performances a scholar's respect for text and a singer's instinct for expression.

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger

Ewan MacColl @ FolkWorld: FW#6, #35, #37

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Ewan MacColl was one of the architects of the folksong revival. Whether as an interpreter of ancient ballads or as a writer of new songs, he influenced almost everyone involved in folk music in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. He brought the same skill and understanding to songs of Britain's industrial cities, ballads of Scots history and lyrics from the English countryside. His own compositions, many of which have passed into the common currency of folk music, are featured both on his own albums on Topic (The Real MacColl, Chorus From The Gallows, Solo Fight) and on The Radio-Ballads.

Walter Pardon was one of England's great traditional singers. He lived all his life in the cottage where he was born in 1914 in the village of Knapton, Norfolk and spent all his working life as a carpenter. In 1974, a tape of his singing was received by the singer Peter Bellamy and this led to him being recognised as an outstanding singer of remarkable style and repertory. He was subsequently recorded extensively for a number of LPs on the Leader, Topic and Home Made Music labels and appeared in folk-clubs and festivals including the one held at the Smithsonian Institute of Folklife in Washington, DC in 1976. He appears in the series The Voice Of The People but "A World Without Horses" is the first full length CD to be made available and features classic traditional repertoire from one of the true masters of the craft.

Colin Reid burst upon the scene with his 1998 debut album of solo guitar music and was acclaimed as the new guitar hero. He is, however, much more than an exceptional guitarist - he is an exceptional musician and, as this new album proves, an exceptional composer. The best description of TILT comes from Colin Harper's review on MOJO - "this set triumphs in its technicolor daring, where the guitar is an engine beneath the arrangements that drives forward the notion of quirky yet often moving compositions for small group and strings, from precisely where the Penguin Cafe Orchestra left off - an exceptional collection" The album works wonderfully as a kind of radio programme, moving from solo guitar to funky string quartet with guitar and on to vocals by Eddi Reader and Boo Hewerdine.

Leo Rowsome

Leo Rowsome @ FolkWorld: FW#21,#26

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Classics Of Irish Piping: Leo Rowsome was one of the great stylemakers of Irish pipe music. 'Everywhere he went,' writes his friend Sean Reid in the notes, 'he added glamour to a unique, expressive and truly native instrument, a living link with the historic Irish nation.' This collection, accurately remastered from recordings spanning 1926-48, exhibits his highly personal approach in a programme of tunes both familiar and rare.

Silly Sisters: The inspired collaboration of Maddy Prior and June Tabor, two of the most individual singers in folk music, is enhanced by musicians such as the Breton guitarist Dan Ar Braz, ex-Steeleye Span bass guitarist Rick Kemp and producer Andrew Cronshaw.

Martin Simpson @ FolkWorld:
FW#34, 40

Whether playing American old-time music, blues, a Dylan song or his own material, Martin Simpson is unpredictable, individual and a guitarist of immense subtlety. Arguably the finest finger style acoustic guitarist on the planet, Martin Simpson returns to Topic Records after a break of almost fifteen years. Surprisingly, this is his first recording of exclusively English material - predominately traditional, completely English and totally outstanding. Martin Simpson's guitar and vocals have never sounded better and classic traditional material is delivered in subtle and innovative ways. Best Album of the Year & Instrumentalist of the Year - BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2002. Included in the Mojo Magazine "Top 10 Folk Albums of 2001" "a musical genius at the height of his powers" folk buzz" Simpson is a master of acoustic guitar styles.

Sheila Stewart @ FolkWorld:

His supreme musicianship raises this CD of predominantly traditional and exclusively English songs to new heights." Daily Telegraph

Sheila Stewart From The Heart Of The Tradition: In her own words, probably the last in the line of a rich oral tradition of song, story and Scots Traveller culture. She is also one of the greatest singers of traditional song.

Dave Swarbrick @ FolkWorld:
FW#26, #29, #36
Dave Swarbrick Topic Records is proud to present a lost classic, now found and restored. Rags, Reels & Airs was first released in 1967 and was immediately recognised as being a recording landmark. It soon went out of print and has been a highly coveted collector's item for over 25 years now. Rags, Reels & Airs was produced by Joe Boyd, who introduced Dave Swarbrick to Fairport Convention - the result of which was Liege & Lief and a whole new era for folk and rock music. Joe Boyd's sleeve notes included this comment: 'This record should provide ample evidence of the fact that Dave Swarbrick is doing perhaps the finest job of reconciling traditional instrumental styles with modern ideas and technique'.

June Tabor

June Tabor @ FolkWorld:
FW#1, #17, #20, #31, #34, #35

Icon Sound The Banks of the Sweet Primroses

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June Tabor sings the songs of Richard Thompson, George Gershwin, Shane MacGowan, Cole Porter, Ewan MacColl and Velvet Underground. Elvis Costello famously said of her ‘if you don’t like listening to June Tabor, you should stop listening to music’. She is regularly described as 'a new diva' and 'a national treasure’. Such is the emotional impact of her extraordinary voice that many believe her to be one the very finest singers Britain has produced in the modern era, irrespective of genre.

John Tams @ FolkWorld:
FW#17, #25, #38
His contribution to the idiom is unique. John Tams' ongoing projects do much to illuminate an increasingly vibrant tradition. Without his endeavours, the light of political song would not burn nearly so bright. In addition to folk music projects, John has worked extensively in theatre, film and television. He played Daniel Hagman in ITV's Sharpe series with Sean Bean. He also co-wrote the music and produced the album that accompanied the series. He was associate director of The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and is a regular producer for Radio 4's drama output. John was most recently reunited with the Royal National Theatre for the award-winning Mysteries.

Tarras @ FolkWorld:

Tarras is a young band from the Scots/English Borders. Their love of their region's traditional music is matched by their awareness of other contemporary forms, from blues to '90s dance music.'Consummately respectful of the history which has spawned their music, they nevertheless put different spins on it at every turn. An absurdly fine debut album.' - Folk Roots. Available albums: "Walking Down mainstreet" and "Rising".

Time Magazine has said "Linda Thompson may be rock's best woman singer", and anybody with an interest in contemporary music would expect that description to be expanded to include folk music. Collaborators include Teddy Thompson guitars & vocals, Richard Greene fiddle, Van Dyke Parks accordion & Hammond B-3 organ, Kate Rusby acoustic guitar & vocals, Kathryn Tickell Northumbrian pipes, Eliza Carthy fiddle & vocals, Chris Cutler drums, Rufus Wainwright vocals, Kamila Thompson vocals, Richard Thompson electric guitar and vocals, John Doyle acoustic guitar, Danny Thompson double bass, Martin Carthy acoustic guitar, Jerry Donohue electric guitar, Geraint Watkins Hammond B-3 organ, Dave Mattacks drums

Tim Van Eyken @ FolkWorld:
FW#10, #21, #22
Tim Van Eyken is one of the most outstanding members of the new folk generation who have taken the folk tradition as inspiration and brought it bang up to date. Collecting together a band of like-minded musicians in Nancy Kerr, Oliver Knight, Pete Flood and Colin Fletcher, Tim has produced an astonishingly impressive debut album from the band – Van Eyken. It is a “band album” in the best sense, with remarkable, imaginative and contemporary arrangements of electric and acoustic guitars, fiddles, accordion, bass and drums that still maintain the essential integrity and gritty reality of the traditional songs and tunes, pacing it firmly in the future, firmly from the past and ... firmly of today. Those who saw Tim Van Eyken win the 1998 BBC Young Folk Award knew there was likely to be a glittering career ahead of this engaging young musician with a passion for English music, and indeed, he was soon snapped up by English traditional music’s best loved band, Waterson:Carthy. This is the first Topic album by this exceptionally assured singer and musician. The production by Tim and Oliver Knight sets new standards for the presentation of contemporary/traditional folk music in England.

The original Watersons were Mike and his sisters Norma and Lal, with their second cousin John Harrison. That is the lineup heard on Early Days and most of Frost and Fire, classic recordings from the 1960s. After a period off the scene, the group re-emerged in 1973 with Harrison's place filled by Martin Carthy; these are the Watersons of For Pence & Spicy Ale and Green Fields.

The Watersons

The Watersons @ FolkWorld:
FW#6 #17 #17, #23, #36

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In their power and rich texture the Watersons' harmonies are unmatched in English folksinging. In 2004 Topic Records "Mighty River Of Song", a comprehensive box set covering 4 decades comprising 4 CDs plusa DVD and a 52 page booklet.

Lal Waterson, an original member of The Watersons, and her son, guitarist Oliver Knight, have written some of the most captivating new songs to have been heard on the folk scene in many years. Other members of the Waterson clan often joined them on their records. "Once In A Blue Moon" - An entirely original collection of songs inspired by love, landscape, family and questing imagination. 'Up with Nick Drake and Richard Thompson in the very front rank of English songwriters.' - MOJO 'The most innovative English folk-related album of recent years' - THE INDEPENDENT. "A Bed Of Roses" was Lal Waterson's last recording before her death in 1998.

The Watersons, the most influential and best loved English vocal group of its day, disbanded in the late 1960s only to reform again in 1973. In 1975, they released their finest recorded work, For Pence And Spicy Ale (TSCD462). Fired up and full of music, Mike Waterson stepped out of the shadows of The Watersons to record his only solo album. Upon its release in 1977, Melody Maker, which was the most popular music paper of the time, wrote of the album, "Almost every track emerges as an song defeats him...a monumental work". Regarded as one of the best singers to emerge from the English folk song revival, Mike Waterson's voice is known to all those who are familiar with The Watersons. Here, however, the focus is on Mike alone and he brings depths to his material not possible on group projects. This reissue includes two extra tracks from the 1966 Watersons album, A Yorkshire Garland.

Norma Waterson, a doyenne of British Folk Music, described in Mojo magazine as "possibly the finest English singer alive today". "Bright Shiny Morning" is produced by her daughter, rising star Eliza Carthy, "Bright Shiny Morning" is a solo project which not only highlights Norma's passion for traditional material, but proves her to be one of this country's finest exponents. Norma continues to breathe life into material often centuries old. Aside from her wonderful, rich and distinctive voice, Norma Waterson's particular skill is in her choice of songs and how she makes each one relevant to a modern audience. Norma's career, which began in the early 60s with folk supergroup The Watersons, has continued to blossom and grow and today she commands considerable respect amongst a wide and devoted following.

Waterson:Carthy was created from the dynamic fusion of two generations, Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy and their daughter Eliza Carthy: living proof of the tenacity - and vivacity - of the oral tradition. "A Dark Light": England's leading folk group return with their latest outstanding collection. The core trio of Martin Carthy, Norma Waterson & Eliza Carthy are joined by new member Tim van Eyken on vocals and melodeons. Also contributing to the album are Martin Simpson on guitar, Ben Ivitsky on fiddle and Barnaby Stradling on acoustic bass guitar. A Dark Light reflects the influence on the group of some of the great singers from the tradition, and therefore features a selection including songs from The Copper Family, Packie Byrne, Seamus Ennis and Sam Larner.

Franke Harte

Frank Harte @ FolkWorld:
FW#7, #30, #31, #34

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"Broken Ground": The great family tradition returns to record this time as a four piece, with Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy and Liza Carthy joined by Saul Rose on melodeons and voice. The extended line-up results in a jewel of an album. Stand out tracks are Raggle Taggle Gipsies featuring Liza, The Bay of Biscay featuring Norma, the staggering instrumentals and Martin's Bald Headed End of the Broom with New Orleans marching band added for good measure. Also available: "Common Tongue" and "Waterson:Carthy"

Jazz Series: BLACK BRITISH SWING tells the story of the most exciting jazz musicians in 1930s and '40s England - how they came to Britain and took the popular music scene by storm. It is all too easily forgotten that Britain had its own hot jazz scene in the '30s and '40s when the American Kings of Swing seemed to take centre stage. The music was so popular in Britain that it lured the West Indian Jazz musicians here to record and tour to wildly enthusiastic British audiences. These audiences were stunned to find that these musicians were not pale imitations of American musicians, but great artists in their own right, able to match anything, anywhere in their day.

Voice Of The People: This series makes available nearly 500 recordings of English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh traditional music drawn from the archives of Topic Records and from private collections. Compiled as thematic anthologies, each volume stands on its own, but the series as a whole presents an extensive and varied picture of traditional singing, instrumental music-making and dancing throughout the course of the 20th century. Many of the singers and musicians and their recorded performances presented here are classic, but the inclusion of some less well-known performers and genres broadens the horizon by offering glimpses at some little-known nooks and crannies of traditional music-making.

World Series: The Music In the World Of Islam series is drawn from field-recordings by the ethnomusicologists Jean Jenkins and Poul Rovsing Olsen. They illustrate Islamic musical traditions across a vast landscape: 'Bedouins and nomads, farmers on the banks of the Nile, or in the Hindukush Mountains of Afghanistan or the High Atlas of Morocco or the fertile valleys of Pakistan and India, Turkish fishermen on the Black Sea coast and Malay and Javanese along the East China Sea or pearl divers on the gulf which divides Arabia from Iran, as well as the inhabitants of the great and ancient cities of Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo, Fez and Istanbul'.This release in the Topic World Series has been produced in conjunction with the International Music Collection of the British Library National Sound Archive. Started in 1955, The British Library National Sound Archive is one of the largest in the world and now holds over a million discs, 175,000 tapes and many other sound and video recordings. The International Music Collection of the NSA holds recordings of traditional, folk and world music. Its aim is to collect, preserve and make accessible a comprehensive collection of music from all over the world. It covers thousands of styles and genres, both traditional and modern, from hundreds of countries.

Acoustic Folk Box: Four decades of the very best acoustic folk music from the British Isles, compiled, researched and produced by David Suff for Deep Sea. The Acoustic Folk Box is an exciting four CD journey through the inspiring and provocative first four decades of the folk revival in Britain. There have been other anthologies but this is the first one devoted to the acoustic thread and features the leading artists of the genre.

V/A "Three Score & Ten: Topic Records at 70"
Label: Topic Records; TOPIC70; 2009

To celebrate this significant moment in Topic’s illustrious history, the label is proud to publish Three Score & Ten, a sumptuous 7 CD set complete with a hardback 108 page book, charting seven decades of recording and social history. Three Score & Ten is featuring tracks from Martin Carthy, The Watersons, Dave Swarbrick, June Tabor, John Tams, Dick Gaughan, Nic Jones, Anne Briggs, Brass Monkey, Martin Simpson, Eliza Carthy, The Copper Family, Linda Thompson, Shirley Collins, Frank Harte, Ewan MacColl, A.L. Lloyd, Davy Graham, Peter Bellamy, and many more.

Photo Credits: (1) Topic logo, (13) Three Score & Ten (by Topic Records); (2) Tom Anderson & Peerie Willie Johnson, (3) Eliza Carthy, (10) June Tabor, (11) Waterson:Carthy, (12) Frank Harte (unknown); (4) Bob Copper (by The Copper Family), (5) Dick Gaughan, (7) Nic Jones (from artist website); (6) Davy Graham (from Harper/Hodgett, Irish Folk, Trad & Blues - A Secret History); (8) Ewan MacColl (from Harker, Class Act - The Cultural and Political Life of Ewan MacColl); (9) Leo Rowsome (from Kevin Rowsome website).

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