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Shirley Collins - The Ballad Of Shirley Collins DVD review

Folk music’s national treasure examined through a lens

The Ballad Of Shirley Collins DVD artwork

“There are some great female voices around now – but I’m not one of them and I wish I was,” says Shirley Collins early on in this documentary of her life. It’s not self pity speaking. Feted in the 50s, 60s and 70s on the British folk revival circuit, Collins and her portative organ-playing sister Dolly were spellbinding stars of the scene. But then Collins suffered an emotional trauma that muted her talent for nearly 38 years. This film looks back on Collins’ extraordinary life, from the demure schoolteacher who, in 1959, fell for archivist Alan Lomax and journeyed with him to the US to collect an important body of folk song field recordings, to artistic acclaim, lost love and lost confidence and, eventually, aged 80, a rebirth with this year’s Lodestar album. Black and white reconstructions are a cute way to embellish her backstory, but there’s plenty of wit, warmth and wisdom in the now as Collins joins the bonfire parade in the streets of current home Lewes, or swaps tales with the decorated tribes celebrating the yearly pagan knees-up, Jack-In-The- Green, in her birthplace Hastings. Hats off to long-time friend, Current 93’s David Tibet – chatting with Collins at a kitchen table, shared treasures strewn – who constantly urged her to sing again. The results, recorded in her living room, are a triumph in the face of torment.

Jo Kendall
Jo Kendall

Jo is a journalist, podcaster, event host and music industry lecturer with 23 years in music magazines since joining Kerrang! as office manager in 1999. But before that Jo had 10 years as a London-based gig promoter and DJ, also working in various vintage record shops and for the UK arm of the Sub Pop label as a warehouse and press assistant. Jo's had tea with Robert Fripp, touched Ian Anderson's favourite flute (!), asked Suzi Quatro what one wears under a leather catsuit, and invented several ridiculous editorial ideas such as the regular celebrity cooking column for Prog, Supper's Ready. After being Deputy Editor for Prog for five years and Managing Editor of Classic Rock for three, Jo is now Associate Editor of Prog, where she's been since its inception in 2009, and a regular contributor to Classic Rock. She continues to spread the experimental and psychedelic music-based word amid unsuspecting students at BIMM Institute London, hoping to inspire the next gen of rock, metal, prog and indie creators and appreciators.