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The Rough Guide to English Roots Music
(World Music Network, 1998)

This is truly the best of the best in English folk music, collected together on one CD, to create the most comprehensive overview of the roots of English folk available to date. The all-star cast of this collection are well-chosen, showing the compiler had a depth of understanding of the grassroots efforts and innovations made by these artists on the folk world. Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy, Billy Pigg, John Kirkpatrick, Louise Fuller: these are the people who have kept the folk traditions alive and well in England, and brought new growth to the sound. These people are responsible for the rise of English folk music in the world today.

The collection suits the title, being a mish-mash of tunes that gives the listener a montage of what's available, rather than leading them by the hand through a predictable path. The tunes are not chosen for their panache or polish, but rather for their sincerity and depth. This gives the new listener a much better picture of what English folk is all about, and shows the wide kaleidoscope of music available for the choosing.

A must-have for those just sampling the possibilities and those with great love and knowledge of English folk music, this collection will rapidly become a favorite. From the early-rock style of Billy Bragg's "A New England" to the a capella vocals of Harry Cox on "Bold Fisherman," from the earthy style of Barely Works harmonies on "Byker Hill" to the the lush modern harmonies of the Hank Dogs on "Lucky Break," this represents the wide scope of vocal music in English folk.

Equally well-represented is the instrumental component, with the modern style of Eliza Carthy on fiddle (complete with electric bass, drums and synth effects), a polka set which features Walter Bulwer, Billy Cooper, Reg Hall, Daisy Bulwer, Mervyn Plunkett and Russel Wortley, displaying an off-the-cuff modern/traditional fusion of sound, and a set of unforgettable tunes played by Billy Pigg on Northumbrian pipes.

Music lovers will undoubtedly be led to other sources from this CD, including the vast array of source recordings for the various tracks, as well as information on the musicians themselves.

[ by Jo Morrison ]
(with technical assistance from bagpiper Wayne Morrison)

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