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on 28 May 2013
I would consider myself to be a folk fan although my music taste is very eclectic. I seem to have been born at the wrong time as my large music collection seems to be predominantly made up of 60's and 70's music from Zeppelin to Zappa and a large chunk of both my vinyl and cd collection would come under the heading of "folk". Folk music is often wrongly categorised online and the genre subsequently seems to encompass singer songwriters, mellow acoustic and all manner of artists. Tesco are especially annoying in regards to this, having the audacity to place Daniel O'Donnell in their folk section. Traditionalists would reject anything that was not a recording of a song from the 18th century. For me folk music encompasses both tradition and modernity, after all the great Louis Armstrong once famously said " All music is folk music. I ain't never heard a horse sing a song". Quite right too.

English Folk music has a long and colourful history that has been handed down through the generations. Being "The people's music" it has been used to highlight political issues, tell stories, myths and legends. The older songs are windows to life in another time, but with issues and struggles that we can usually relate to today. This box set showcases three generations of folk musicians and bands from the 1950's up to present day.


Disc one could be said to explore the "roots" of folk music in the UK, Davy Graham, June Tabor, John Renbourne and Bert Jansch amongst others get an airing here. Discs two and three showcase the 1960's onwards highlighting some of the "new" folk artists who played their part on what has been called "the folk revival". There is a tracklist at the very end of this review.

I am generally not keen on compilations, especially in regards to folk music as the choice of tracks can sometimes be a bit suspect but in the case of this compilation it really is a good introduction to English folk music if you have no real knowledge of the genre. It features a wealth of talent from established and revered greats such as The Watersons and Bert Jansch (I challenge anybody to listen to him playing "Anji" and not be astounded as his skill), as well as some of the "new" wave of folk artists such as the brilliantly colourful Eliza Carthy (daughter of Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson - a pair with a long folk history spanning decades), and Jon Boden (he of the "Ratcatchers" with Eliza and the massive Bellowhead).

It is fair to say that I did know most of the tracks when I bought this but I grabbed it for the price and convenience, this is a THREE disc box set for a fiver. The selection of tracks is well chosen and features some lovely quirky inclusions such as "The Humblebums" who were a cracking 60's folkie outfit featuring no other than a Mr Billy Connolly.


This is an introduction to folk music in a box set which is enclosed in a card casing and has three slim card sleeves tucked inside it. Released on the Nascente label, a lot of thought has gone into balancing both the old and new, the traditional and modern. There are 45 individual tracks, 15 on each disc. The packaging is attractive, the front cover comprising several of the artists within the cd and some nice vintage nature pics laid out in a patchwork fashion.

If you have never really given folk music so much as a sniff then this is a good introduction to the genre although you may be surprised to hear that some of the more "twee" songs are actually hotbeds of death, heartbreak, sexual promiscuity and darkness. Take "Once I had a sweetheart", featured on this compilation and recorded by the wonderful Pentangle with Jacqui McShee. This song is a tragic tale of loss and false love and yet is sung in a sweet and crystal clear voice, it almost lulls you into a false sense of security and pleasant floaty fluff.

A lot of folk music is like this, a common theme in the older songs and "child ballads" is usually a dark and somewhat twisted one. "Child ballads" if you are new to them are the collected works of Francis James Child, a man who gathered together some 305 traditional ballads from England and Scotland (with some American inclusions) in the late nineteenth century. Many of today's folk artists record from the Child ballads and rework them to give them a new edge. The beauty of folk music is that it truly is the "music of the people" and therefore it can evolve and digress as time moves on. As I have noted, this does not make some traditionalists happy but if folk music is to be known to a new generation AND live on then it needs to be reinterpreted and recorded in different ways by different people. Eliza Carthy is somebody very known for doing just this.

So as a sampler this is good as an introduction to the individual artists. The down side of this of course is that it is very hard to sum up an artist with one track and if you do not care for it you may dismiss a wealth of amazing recordings based on the hearing of just one song. I would advise this collection as a starter but encourage you to branch out and check out the artists on Youtube to get a proper idea of their talents.


I am not going to list them all but on this great little set you will find seminal folkies such as Davy Graham, Ann Briggs, the incredible Mr Martin Carthy and of course Dave Swarbrick, a genius on the fiddle if ever there was one. Nic Jones is here too as well as Eliza Carthy's family -The Watersons. No folk compliation would be complete without Pentangle and Fairport Convention, the latter song "Matty Groves" is one of their most famous songs, an upbeat and rousing traditional number that has appeared in many guises and with a few different names and details.


Taking "Matty" as an example of a typical folk song which ticks all of the right boxes- you have a Child ballad, adultery, a lovers tryst, murder, fighting for a Lady, a name change (it was known as "Little Musgrave and and Lady Barnard"), and antiquity in one. This song dates back to the 17th century.
You have the wife of a nobleman who has a romp with a servant, whose husband then returns home and finds the pair together. He challenges the servant "Matty" to a duel which Matty then loses. His wife then spurns the nobleman so he kills her too by stabbing her through the heart.

" A Grave a grave Lord Donald cried, to put these lovers in, but bury my lady at the top for she was of noble kin".....

Not a cheery ditty lyrically but in reality the recorded version by Fairport is a jaunty and Jiggy song with fantastic fiddle playing and a deep bouncy bassline. And indeed every August a crowd of some 20'000 folkies of all ages bounce around to this at Fairport's Cropredy Convention in Oxfordshire.

The humour, darkness and history is the paradox of folk music and one of the reasons that I love it.


If you are a Traditionalist then this collection will probably make your toes curl. But then if you are traditionalist then you probably already have most of the earlier artists featured in this set. This is a fine release to give a tiny taste of a genre of music which is vast and diverse. The set has snippets of info about each featured performer and is packaged tidily. It is cheap as chips for just a fiver and this is probably as good a way as any to get a taste of the huge spectrum of UK folk music without spending a fortune.
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There are three discs in this generous compilation album that is also such a budget price. The whole project is excellent. Each disc has fifteen tracks and each disc is in a slim line CD case. All three discs are contained within a cardboard sleeve.
This album is an excellent way to get an idea of the sort of music that each artist creates. And therefore the title "a beginners guide to" is a fitting one. If you are new to English folk music and want to explore the diverse sounds of English Folk music then this album is a good budget way to explore a wealth of material.
It is good as a sampler of the wealth of recordings and musicians that are, or have been popular on the folk scene.
Without a doubt this is an impressive collection of recordings.
There are too many artists to mention all of them, but with great tracks by the likes of Ann Briggs, Martin Carthy, Davy Graham, Nic Jones, The Watersons, Ewan MacColl, kate Rusby, Eliza Carthy, Pentangle, Fairport Convention, John Tams, and the Young Tradition you cannot go wrong. Between them they span decades of English Folk music performers from the Folk revival of the 1950s to the present day.
There is a wide and broad diversity in interpretational styles represented here which not only showcases the richness of our cultural heritage but also the wealth of quality musicians and the variety of ways that English Folk music can be presented. The music ranges from the very traditional to the more contempory folk song writers and styles.
English Folk music is rich with its long history and repertoire that has been handed down by generations of people. It is the "People's music". The Traditional elements should never be forgotten and should continue to be handed down, and the contempory elements should be embraced and respected as part of England's cultural identity. Here on this compilation we get that cross section of all elements old and new, and it makes a fabulous and original release that is a celebration of English Folk music.
If you are a pure Traditionalist then this album may not be your thing. If you are only interested in modern folk music, or you like both forms of Folk, then this is a treat.
I think it is a good compilation with a strong diversity of styles. It is well presented with good pictures and basic information about each performer. It is a celebration of some very successful English performers and stands testament to the originality that is English Folk Music.
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on 30 March 2010
Sometimes these compilations can be a hit or miss affair with some great stuff balanced with some dross but this 3CD set is excellent and great value for money. I also like the packaging with each CD in a slimline case and all three inside a card sleeve. If you like the genre it is a good set to listen to.
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on 26 November 2012
By no stretch of the imagination would I describe myself as a folkie, early Fairport I'm sad to say is the only folk I have listened to. Bought this out of curiosity after all it has to be good does'nt it, A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO ENGLISH FOLK. Well I am not disappointed in fact ths 3cd collection is absolutely brilliant.I have had it for about three weeks now and its fair to say I have'nt stopped playing it since. Well done to the complier Colin Irwin. My eyes and ears have been well and truly opened. Never did I realise what fantastic singers and musicians we have in these islands. Theres what I would call traditional folk and yes there's some very groovy dare I say it funky combos out there.
Needless to say I have now purchased several other folk cd's and I suppose thats the purpose of this collection, showcase the talent and the buying public will buy, just like me.
Just buy it, you'll regret it if you dont.
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on 12 November 2012
Usually a 3 disc compilation has a fair amount of dross. Not this set! Nearly every track is of interest to the true folk enthusiast or a good introduction to an aspect of folk music for the novice.The only problem is that there are so many jumping off point that require further investigation. Could be spending a small fortune in more specialist stores unless Amazon beefs up it's selection of folk CDs.
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on 5 March 2013
Love this album!! PLayed it on my ipod while stripping out the loft (12 hours graft), which saw the 3 discs play several times each. Classic folk songs ('Good Ale'), modern classics ('Yarmouth Town', 'Keys of Canterbury'), interspersed with parochial tunes ('Pace-Egging') and some folk re-workings of other genres; particularly enjoyed 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' and 'Anarchy in the UK' (seriously - it works). BUY IT NOW!!
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on 9 October 2013
What a varied collection of modern and old English folk.3 Cds and over 3 hours of pure joy. My family thinks I am going mad but in time they will drawn into to the haunting melodies and stories no doubt, if not now but in years to come. I would recommend this to anyone wanting a taste of folk be it English or whatever. Very good value for money.
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on 4 September 2009
This is a good compilation of both old and new English folk music. From the Fairports through to Katie Rusby, one of my favourite newer artists. I enjoyed this album thoroughly.
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on 1 March 2015
Bought this as a replacement for a previous set that had been left without covers to rattle around in a glove compartment and got damaged. (Thank you husband!) The tracks are mixed depending on what style you like but there are some real gems to be found especially on disc 2.
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on 17 September 2014
A very good selection (3 CDs) of mainly fairly recent English folk music. I was surprised how up to date the music was not as many old tracks as I expected. However it is a good introduction to what is good in current folk music.
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