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Bridging the gap...
on 21 October 2007
Don't let the huge number of artists involved with this record fool you... it isn't a dodgy "compilation" album. It's a stellar folk project that features a diverstiy of talent combined to make a beautiful, unified whole. From John Copper's heartfelt narration that kicks off the proceedings, to Benjamin Zephaniah's radical contemporization of the Scottish ballad "Tam Lyn" (over a bed of dubby and clubby beats courtesy of TransGlobal Underground and Simon Emmerson), the collection is top-notch througout.
For me the whole concept really gels with the final four tracks, beginning with Simon Emmerson's original composition "Pilsden Pen," a rolicking instrumental featuring acoustic guitar and bouzouki against accordion and a string ensemble (this song seems particularly suited to a live concert setting, and I hope it turns up in the setlist for next month's Imagined Village Tour.) This is followed by a cool re-working of "Hard Times of Old England," to which Billy Bragg has added new lyrics, and the production team has added an electronic bed of synths and programmed drums. Eliza Carthy provides some finessed fiddling, and the chorus sounds exactly like something you'd hear being sung by the patrons in a rural pub. The album concludes with the one-two punch of the "Worms and Moths" English Ceilidh Medley, comprised of Kit Whites I and II by the Gloworms and Sloe on the Uptake by TigerMoth. You will be AMAZED at the way these two bands combine several tunes into one extended jam, to close the album on a jubilant and triumphant note. There is hand-clapping, foot-stomping, yelping, fiddling, shouting, electric bass, drum programming, and just about everything but the kitchen sink strung across these two tracks. But it doesn't sound like a dodgy "world fusion" experiment. Rather, it contains all of the grit and authenticity of the original songs.
Indeed, the same could be said for the entire Imagined Village album. You need to hear it for yourself, and if possible, listen to it several times all the way through from start to finish. It will grow on you with each listen. The Imagined Village might well be the album that finally bridges the gap between the folk music purists and the advocates of 21st-century innovation. It brings both worlds together with greater harmony and grace than any other album of its kind.