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Archives for January 2010

Brilliant new CDs from Ian King and Emily Portman

Mike Harding | 18:35 UK time, Wednesday, 27 January 2010

I've been listening to two new CDs quite a lot over the last week: 'Panic Grass and Fever Few' by Ian King and 'The Glamoury' by Emily Portman.

In a way you couldn't imagine two more different albums.

Ian King has taken a set of mostly classic traditional or broadside songs such as 'Death And The Lady', 'Flash Company' (The Yellow Handkerchief), 'The Isle of France' and 'Four Loom Weaver' amongst them, and has threaded together sympathetic beds of percussion and brass, strings, banjo, mandolin, backing vocals and guitar that complement the songs without swamping them.

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Show of Hands - Haiti Benefit Gig

Mike Harding | 16:50 UK time, Monday, 18 January 2010

I don't need to tell you that Haiti at the moment is as close as any of us are going to get to looking at Hell on Earth.

I can¹t even begin to imagine what it is like trying to live in a country where everything has broken down: and like the rest of us I watch helplessly as the TV news shows me more images of dead and injured human beings, starving children and a population on the edge of anarchy.

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Laurie Lee - As I Walked Out

Mike Harding | 16:21 UK time, Friday, 15 January 2010

I came across an interesting quote in the Laurie Lee book, 'As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning' the other day which reminded me why, in its best and simplest form, folk music will never die.

The title of the book will be familiar to any of you that know English traditional song as the opening line of The Banks Of The Sweet Primroses ­ one of the most beautiful of English songs and, of course, Laurie Lee was no stranger to the English tradition.

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RIP Tim Hart

Mike Harding | 12:48 UK time, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

I heard some very sad news over the holidays, one of the main men of the second wave of the Folk Revival, Tim Hart, died of inoperable cancer on Christmas Eve.

Many of you will know Tim from the work he did around the folk clubs in the early 60s with his then partner Maddy Prior and many more of you will know him from Steeleye Span because Tim and Maddy were amongst the founder members of that most amazing electric folk group.

With Maddy he toured the folk clubs of these islands and produced some cracking albums - Folk Songs of Olde England Vols 1 and 2 and Summer Solstice. With Steeleye he toured the world and made a clutch of albums that actually changed the way many people looked at folk music. As he once pointed out, if the folk musicians of old had Telecasters along with fiddles and concertinas, they would have played them too.

In the late 80s he fell in with cancer for the first time and moved to La Gomera, a small island in the Canaries. He performed rarely in the UK after that. I was lucky enough to spend time with him when he came back to perform with Maddy at the BBC Electric Proms in October 2008. He seemed in great form, and I can still see that wry smile on his well tanned face as he finished one of his songs to a massive applause and it came to him that the crowd were welcoming him back.

I know that he was very touched by his reception that night.

He had a fine voice, a great way with a song and a true love of English traditional song; in those early albums he brought to light songs which are now standards in the folk tradition. If you haven't heard the early albums Tim did with Maddy they are well worth searching out.

There was a family funeral on La Gomera on the 9th of January (which would have been Tim's 62nd birthday) and there will be a memorial service in St Albans later in the year.

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Happy, Snowy New Year!

Mike Harding | 13:14 UK time, Thursday, 7 January 2010

A belated Happy New Year to you all and may I wish you many more of them.

May I also make a confession here and say that in the last few days I have been extremely mean to anybody who has told me that the snow looks beautiful.

I spent 2 hours driving over to Richmond to film the Mummers with their wonderful play a couple of days before Christmas and not only was it cancelled because of the snow, but I had to drive 4 hrs along the A66 with lorries jack-knifing all around me and only just got through before the police closed the road in both directions.

Coming over Stainmore and still mightily dischuffed that I hadn't seen one of the best traditional plays in these islands I peered into the blizzard and remembered that it was close to here that Eric Bloodaxe, King of Orkney and King of Dublin, fought his last battle. It was also close by that Dickens set Dotheboys Hall the terrible school run by Wackford Squeers in Nicholas Nickleby. It was based on a real school at Bowes and caused such a stir that the school closed down.

How mighty was the pen in those days.

The film I've been working on will be out next Christmas and is a celebration of a Yorkshire Christmas. Consequently we have filmed traditional carols in Ecclesfield, South Yourkshire, folk busker Jim Eldon singing A Ploughboy's Christmas in Stonegate, York and (this weekend hopefully) Coope, Boyes and Simpson and the Grenoside Sword Dancers in Wentworth, Yorkshire.

I think it's going to be really good ­ not because I'm in it but because there's so much really
interesting stuff ­ put Yorkshire and Christmas together and you can't go far wrong.

However, I have driven more than a thousand miles through the worse conditions I have ever known in the course of making this film so (at the risk of repeating myself) let me say that the next person to tell me they like the snow runs a risk of hearing the kind of language the BBC don't let me use in the show.

Happy new year!

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