Dust on the Nettles
A Journey through the British underground folk scene 1967-1972
(Grapefruit/Cherry Red -3 CD Set)
Y’know, I like me a bit of folk. I’m a Canadian who grew up living without cable TV in the 60’s and 70’s. If any of you out there have any real clue as to what that was like on a Saturday night out here in the middle of the country then please send in your cards and letters c/o Eyeplug. Tommy Hunter (with many folk guests), Irish Rovers TV show, Don Messer and etc. And not forgetting the truly dreadful “Pig and Whistle” show with the excruciating “Pig and Whistle Dancers.”
Please kill me.
Our “Irish” folk groups hit the charts. Country and western flavoured folk classics from charming couples in sateen were commonplace. Folk singers were tripping over themselves for freedom to make it big and experiment with their “sound” maaan. And, and that is no small AND by them way, we had indigenous roots music that stimulated, galvanized and revolutionized the world. So yeah I like me a bit of folk but just watch where the wobbly quavers go.
This new set from Grapefruit/Cherry Red of the exploding and expanding UK folk and folk-rock scene circa ’67-’72 is about pushing the musical boundaries of traditional forms and sometimes embracing the envelope of drug influenced vision quests. Fair enough I suppose. All manner of unorthodox behaviours were upon us. Religions, drugs, political boundaries trounced. Wild, strange and tense times they were. If you were a kid back then you will know that very well indeed.
There is a lot of material here. This is a triple disc labour of love with sixty-three tracks, beautifully packaged and including a 35-page booklet detailing the artists and recordings, as expertly selected by David Wells. And I mean detailing. You’ll need your specs for sure but it is so much more than you would hope for. David (Wells) manages to get the story told in the briefest amount of characters. Amazing actually and I’m not just being smart. It is very difficult to do and yet he manages to squeeze and deliver the very true essence in every short bio. Thank you David. (Special mention to Andy Morton of Pepperbox for the package design and layout.)
The heavies, or at least some of the most well known (in folk/rock circles etc) include the Pentangle, Joan Armatrading, Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention and Dando Shaft. We also get Bolan and Steve Took as the acoustic duo Tyrannosaurus Rex back in ’67. The academically trained are here too. Duncan Browne’s Immediate label era “Gabilan” is not very much a roaring guitar piece but a whole lot more “damsels and ladies” if you catch my drift.
Please pardon my ignorance of the most obscure and incredible included amongst the recordings compiled here but that is why good people at labels like Grapefruit/Cherry Red do collections like this; so that those poor mis- or un-informed record buyers such as I can learn a thing or two. I am now far more learned and enlightened for having spent time with this wee thing of beauty. Thank you good record label folks. (3 CD Box. 63 tracks and booklet.) BUY HERE!
Audience & Friend’s, Friend’s, Friend
(Esoteric Recordings/Cherry Red)
These are the single disc first and second album reissues with bonus tracks. Esoteric’s Mark Powell has done a great job sorting out these recordings and Sid Smith’s liner notes tie it together nicely.
These albums are true gems. Their unique blend of Howard Werth’s nylon string guitar and the woodwind and sax accompaniment complement each other previously unimagined. I came to Audience late and while House on the Hill was massive on radio and in collections in my part of the world they somehow passed me by. So it goes. But I am firmly in the camp now and must admit my savage 60s rock’n’roll tastes lay just ever so slightly more with Audience s/t than Friend’s.
Thematically the band’s work visits elements of spirituality, mysticism, traditional folk tales (robbery, murder, enslavement) and styles – is in jazz – and, surprisingly enough the odd good ol’ western (Ireland?) hoedown.
Again, admittedly I am late. My measly “nice one!” review is hardly gonna tie in to the band’s legendary status that has preceded my recent discovery by decades.