Reviews Column 58: Progressive Folk

So frequent are their outpourings of late, we at Prog are in high-level talks about whether to change the name of this column to ‘Fairport & Friends Gazette’.

The new arrivals in the Fairport family are also returning offspring: the CD and DVD package Access AllAreas (Edsel), and their former member and co-founder Ashley Hutchings’ Big Beat Combo, with Twangin’ ’n’ a-Traddin’ Revisited (Talking Elephant).

The latter is a retooled version of their 1994 knees-up, for which the cover line “twangy rock meets foot-tapping folk” smartly summarises the contents of the tin. Recorded in a village hall in Cheshire with a team of all the talents, including current and former Fairports Simon Nicol and Richard Thompson, alongside other such notables as Phil Beer and Clem Cattini, here they relived their early rock’n’roll influences, but translated for their distinctive instrumentation. Three unreleased tracks are added to the reappearance of a rip-roaring jamboree, to which the price of admission would be justified alone by an utterly inspired amble through Telstar, essentially the Tornados gone folk at half-speed. The cover of the Fairport CD and DVD combo advertises that it was recorded after the Nicol-Pegg-Mattacks-Sanders- Allcock line-up had made Red & Gold and “The Four Seasons.” As any fule kno’ who was following them at the time, though, the latter 1990 album was actually called The Five Seasons. What we see and hear is a no-frills hour of their Birmingham Town Hall concert that year. The band are already on stage when the film begins, and the credits are rolling during the valedictory Meet On The Ledge, but what happens in between is irresistibly endearing.

Away from the Fairport family, two newer names complete this month’s sonic meandering. Kate Doubleday’s Anglo-Irish background and wider-world travels inform the pretty, delicate folk classicism of Flutter (Copper), complete with string quartet The Froe.

Then there’s GentleFolk, led by the self-styled Nigel of Bermondsey. They have only been gigging for a year or so but make an engagingly idiosyncratic arrival on album with Into The Greenwood (Cunning Folk), an aural excursion into the woodlands of southern England.