The Full English

fullenglish1Master Stroke for Bygone Folk

Listening Post 31. The English Folk Dance and Song Society commissioned the singer-scholar Fay Hield to gather an ensemble of musicians to explore the society’s newly launched web archive in 2013 and produce a concert of some of the collection’s songs. From the thousands items—broadside ballads and music hall songs, dance tunes and sea chanteys—emerged one of the great folk albums of all time. The songs are traditional (mostly early 20th century) but Hield’s team was free to provide a new lyric or chorus where needed or supply new tunes where only lyrics could be found. The group dazzles with seven-voice harmonies, fiddles, guitar, double bass and occasional bowed harp. For exuberance and pure whimsy, the album’s high point (video 1) is Man in the Moon; it’s oddly incisive as well: “The Man in the Moon a new light on us throws/He’s a man we all talk of but nobody knows.” And though the collection is instrument rich, the strings go silent for the a cappella Awake, Awake, a love ballad as stunning as it is fun (video 2). In keeping with the notion of folk as a living movement, the 12-track record also includes Fol the Day-o, a new composition by Nancy Kerr. The artists of The Full English have separate careers, but here’s a modest proposal: Make reunion albums a tradition. (Topic Records Ltd.)

 


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