Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ashley Hutchings "Rattlebone & Ploughjack" 1976

Ashley Hutchings is a pivotal figure in the re-emergence of British traditional music placed into it's original country based context. He was a founder member of Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span but had left both and formed the Albion Country Band originally to back his wife Shirley Collins on her 'No Roses' album but then it became his vehicle to realise British traditional music in a dynamic, electric setting. This became his life's musical work evolving into the Etchingham Steam Band, Albion Dance Band and then the enduring Albion Band. Although it is tempting to think of the bulk of his work as 'solo' this is not correct as artists such as John Kirkpatrick played a vital role themselves in these ventures. The most direct presentation of a purely English traditional music was his first solo album and archival work "Rattlebone and Ploughjack".

This album weaves together two long tapestries of traditional music moving from spoken word to music and back. It presents the original sounds of British festivals, revels and customs. These include various specified Morris Dancers, Hobby Horses, Plough Monday, Hornpipe dances, gypsies, reels and Tudor step dances. The tracks are field recordings from many decades, there is speculation that some are recreations but if this is the case the joins do not show. It's a definitive work, a library of such traditions preserved and more importantly alive for the listener.

Listening to the music here there are no traces of folk-rock for which Hutchings was known. This is a work that sought to capture an English musical heritage before it was lost, the original English folk music. The music is often simple, minimal and stark, often just a few acoustic instruments such as accordion, fiddle, percussion. The vocals are not professional and are not produced, this is music from the country as it was made, crude, direct, archaic and sometimes chaotic. Listening to the album is genuinely like stepping back hundreds of years, it is a composite peek into another era. Not only is it a wonderful if unique work, it is a treasure of British archival recording. When you listen to this now strange music and are transported back to the curious customs and festivals, traces of pagan origins seeping through we connect the modern and ancient, magic and work of the ordinary person in a vibrant way.

Sample pic: Click


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for all these great albums.Can you post the very first Brenda Khan album(before "Epiphany In Brooklyn)?Thanks.Sonicstef.

05 December, 2006 07:15  
Blogger Mr Snookles said...

I'd forgotten all about this album, I've never heard it but I like most of Ashley Hutching's 70's output.
thanks for putting this up.

05 December, 2006 13:35  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow ANOTHER disc I've been after hearing for ages! Thanks again. I'm Frightend I'm gonna wake up and it's all been a dream!!!!!

15 May, 2007 01:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two of the hardest things to put together are entertainment and education. This album does a great job doing both. It certainly sweetened my turntable in the late 1970's. It is a masterpiece.

08 September, 2007 22:31  

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