There's interesting things happening in the British folk music world at present, not least recent work by Waterson:Carthy. And yet it's greatly refreshing to go back to this album. It was one of the definitive recordings of the "folk revival" of the 60s. When I first heard it, as a student and well into the Stones, blues and soul music and jazz,it stopped me in my musical tracks. I'd never heard anything like it - so uncompromising, and utterly different from everything around it, and I include other "revival" groups and singers - Ian Campell, Ewan McColl, whoever. It still sounds entirely unique. It takes fragments and oddments of custom and ritual from a past not so long ago in historical time but now, culturally, light years away, and it makes it something we can make part of our lives. Even the best folkies can sometimes try a bit too hard to be folky. For all his integrity and power, Ewan McColl sometimes seems to me a very mannered performer. He's got designs on you. This recording is utterly sincere, simple and direct. They are taken up entirely by their material, they make it their own, and they pass it on to us. What a great gift. Thanks to them.
So after hearing this, I went to see them live in a pub near Sheffield. I was late, and as I came up the stairs, I could hear a mighty sound sweeping towards me. Gooseflesh time.