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Various Artists Folk Against Fascism Review

Compilation. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

A formidable and rather heart-warming statement of solidarity and defiance.

Colin Irwin 2010

The revelation that British National Party leader Nick Griffin was actively targeting English folk music as a potential vehicle for his party’s nefarious agenda galvanized the folk world into retaliatory action.

Artists from all sides of folk’s ever-broad umbrella unequivocally responded to the call with appearances at a memorable series of events at London’s South Bank in May 2010, and the contribution of 47 tracks on this handsome double album. Those present range from monolithic figures like Shirley & Dolly Collins, Christy Moore, Roy Bailey and June Tabor to younger guns like Lau, The Unthanks, Ruth Notman, James Yorkston and Jon Boden.

It also includes two apparent Griffin favourites, Eliza Carthy and Kate Rusby (whose High on a Hill is the first time she’s licensed any of her tracks to a label other than her own). Show of Hands contribute their vigorous anthem Roots, which they had to wrestle off the BNP website after the track was wilfully misrepresented as breast-beating jingoism.

Perhaps rightly judging that its audience will be naturally sympathetic to its all-embracing stance, this album’s political messages are largely sparing and subtle, the most overt coming from Chumbawamba’s Dance, Idiot, Dance – a direct, but very funny assault on Griffin – while Billy Bragg’s inspired Imagined Village re-positioning of England Half English to the traditional tune John Barleycorn concisely sums up the Folk Against Fascism ethos.

It might land more wounds to the extreme right wing’s cock-eyed theories with more evidence of the influence of multi-culturalism on modern folk music, but that’s a blight that needs addressing by the wider folk community and doubtless encouraged the BNP in its bid to hijack the music in the first place. As such the glorious collaboration between powerhouse English electric guitarist Justin Adams and Gambian ritti (one-string fiddle) virtuoso Juldeh Camara is the most telling track, though there are further satisfying style fusions in Damien Dempsey’s ferocious Colony, Blowzabella’s dazzling The Origin of the World, Ian King’s reggae-fication of Four Loom Weaver and Lau’s mood masterclass Horizontigo.

It’s not barricade-busting, but it’s a formidable and rather heart-warming statement of solidarity and defiance.

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