Thursday, 8 December 2011

"The Great Folk Discography Volume 2 – The Next Generation" by MARTIN C STRONG. A Review Of The 2011 Polygon Music Reference Book (Vol.2 of 3).

"…Just Remember Darling…All The While…You Belong To Me…”

The latest in a long run of "Great" Discography books (Rock, Metal, Alternative & Indie) - this SECOND Volume of THREE by Martin C. Strong on 'Folk' is as superlative as its predecessor. Volume 1 came out in June 2010 and covered the old school of Folk in "Pioneers And Early Legends" and ran to a whopping 620 pages (see separate detailed review). This 2nd instalment concentrates entirely on 'NEW' artists – roughly covering 1977 to 2011. Volume 3 will arrive in 2012 or 2013…

Published by Polygon Books in October 2011, "The Great Folk Discography Volume 2 – The New Generation" has 346 large-sized pages and a 'Foreword' by the acclaimed Scottish Folk guitarist and singer ALASDAIR ROBERTS.

Like Volume 1 (with its 3 distinct sections) - Strong has given his 2nd tome 2 divides:
1. Britain And Beyond (Pages 1 to 188) [UK, Irish, Scottish, Welsh and European Artists]
2. North America (Pages 189 to 346) [US and Canadian Artists]

The overall layout is the same as his other books - a hugely detailed and fact-heavy Biog heads up the artist section (with albums mentioned and rated) followed by an ascending Year-by-Year discography. You then get Date Of Release, Format (7", 12" and LPs included), Title, Catalogue numbers, track list for the original vinyl followed by details of subsequent vinyl reissues, followed by CD reissues (noting bonus tracks where applicable) - even providing line-up changes in-between the entries. It's a huge amount of genuine information and makes for fascinating reading.

As you can imagine the net that encompasses 'Folk' is wide – so Strong has included Folk/Rock, Pop, Blues (some) and even Country crossover artists like KT Tunstall, Shawn Colvin, Nancy Griffith, Seasick Steve, The Proclaimers, Indigo Girls, The Men They Couldn’t Hang, The Levellers, Tanita Tikaram, Swan Arcade, The Waterboys, The Lilac Time, The Pogues, Sufjan Stevens, 10,000 Maniacs, Steve Forbert, Iron & Wine, Josh Ritter, Mumford & Sons, Phranc and The Saw Doctors. Going deeper it’s amazing to see lists for Butch Hancock, The Kitchen Cynics even Sonja Kristina (vocalist with Curved Air).

While you would expect discographies on famous 'new' Folk artists like Eddi Reader, Martyn Joseph, Billy Bragg, Eliza Carthy, Lucinda Williams, Boo Hewerdine (of The Bible), Cara Dillon, Seth Lakeman, Beth Orton, Jackie Leven, The Oyster Band, Kate Rusby, The Unthanks, Clive Gregson, Bon Iver and Joanna Newsome – there’s so many 'unheard of' artists in here. Who the Hell are Cosmothek, Nyah Fearties or the wonderfully named Woodenbox With A Fistful Of Fivers?

And I never thought I’d see a Discography in print for Irishman Barry Moore (Christy Moore’s brother) who then took the Rock/Folk pseudonym of LUKA BLOOM (James Joyce reference) and has been a cult artist ever since. I saw him in his 20’s at the first Lisdoonvarna Folk Festival in 1978 in Western Ireland where I bought his debut album "Treaty Stone" on Mulligan Records on site. He sang a cover of "Black Is The Colour" which literally moved me to tears. I swear it touched my very soul. His lovely version of Presley's "Can't Help Falling In Love" from his 1992 CD "The Acoustic Motorbike" wowed radio listeners in the UK and has been featured on compilations that sooth our hectic and stressed lives. And this of course is where a book like "The Great Folk Discography" scores – introducing you to artists and music that deserve your attention.

To sum up - like Country – Folk is all about the tunes – and too often it’s associated with bearded Lefties swilling on real ale and rebel-rousing nitwits - which sees the public miss out on some truly gorgeous and touching music. Take Kate Rusby – a Yorkshire lass who now has an illustrious recording career that few outside of certain circles know anything about. She has the voice of an angel and her version of Pee Wee King’s 1940's classic "You Belong To Me" (covered by Jo Stafford and many others since) on her "The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly" CD from 2005 is about as beautiful and haunting as a song can get. If this book brings people to that musical and spiritual beauty – then it’s a job well done (lyrics from it title this review).

Like it's predecessor – this is a fabulous piece of work – a labour of love that took thousands of dedicated hours to compile and annotate properly. Amazing stuff.

I’m off now to listen to the Uilleann Pipes of The Bothy Band and get all 'Celtic' on the hard rock butts of my International workmates…

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