Folk Psych – a tasting menu.


An intro of all-sorts

The bouquet it hit me like a tonne of bricks, a tonne of sweet-smelling hay and straw bricks, made of Summer daze, lazy riverside ramblings with sylph like cheesecloth bedecked Timotei maidens; it hit me like thick hashish smoke; I envisioned the whispering of caterpillars, of heat laden grass, the shifting cool of shaded lambs under neatly tooth trimmed trees and the quiet beckoning of a hidden mystical hand, a tune came drifting amongst the tree faeries and water sprites and alighted upon mine ears… . and it was good,… and it was UK Folk Psych. I asked for the menu and it was given of freely in little pieces and I complained and was told, ‘no mate it’s only the tasting Menu’. ‘Well bring me something HEAVY’ says I, and so it came to pass, and so it was that it was done.

Psychotic to like UK Folk Psych?

Dust on The Nettles - 4CD 1967-72 Box
Girlfriend’s gift consigns me to new collecting addictions. See above.

It’s mad, I collect Reggae and Jamaican music, what the hell am I listening to ‘Psychedelic’ Folk music of the late 60s and early 70s for? Nope.. not a clue? Me either; though it may have been that while I rambled musically I started separating out a sound, a style, and began to distinguish the genre as distinct, of itself, not of this earth. Then my ever musical girlfriend bought me a decent introductory Cd compilation, ‘Dust On The Nettles’, and down the slippery slope to more record collecting I flew. I’d been searching for a female vocalist that I could actually say I really liked all my life and this too led me in the direction of this sub genre of a sub genre of a sub genre of a sub genre of a fractal like musical sub genre disappearing into the abyss of my fractured mind,…  and this too led me in the direction of this sub genre of a sub genre of a sub genre of a sub genre of a fractal like musical sub genre disappearing into the abyss of my fractured mind,…  and this too led me in the direction of this sub genre of a sub genre of a sub genre of a sub genre of a fractal like musical sub genre disappearing into the abyss of my fractured mind,…  and this too led me in the direction of this sub genre of a sub genre of a sub genre of a sub genre of a fractal like musical sub genre disappearing into the abyss of my fractured mind,…  to a place where Sandy Denny appeared each night, where Bridget St John still spoke French like a native, where Anne Briggs lived in a hole on a beach in Ireland amongst the Gorse and the Furze and cared not for ‘our’ world and wrote songs that would put us on a spaceship to the place we should have been born unto, to another planet, another beach, another life in and on a parallel dimension.

I’d always wanted to explore the Incredible Stringband’s music and they are probably the starting point most oft launch padded upon for those entering these sacred fields of discovery; and so I shall launch this little ship of fools off the cosmic slipway and onto a sea of meanderings via the ISB (as you will see below), where I outline my listening pleasures and give you, perhaps, a starting point at which to remove your denims and dive headlong into the this little mill-pond of music. Thing is the ISB weren’t really Psychedelic Folk, actually, scrub that, de-gausse that. Thing is the ISB were really Psychedelic Folk, but they aren’t representative of the genre wholly, they are too much ‘the other’, too strongly, of their own ilk, too different, too original. HOWEVER… phew! They are the starting point (and perhaps ending point) I shall start (and end?) with.

Their first Lp – ‘The Incredible String Band’

Recorded around one Mic, in a day, it’s a very good Lp, just not star on the dressing room door good, but damn, dang good, worth every penny, but, still… hmm… out of focus.

And so they recorded their first Lp, the result of happenstance meetings and gigs and a club they ran in Scotland, connections made, decisions decided upon, quickly… and then one buggered off to North Africa with his share of the proceeds (Robin Williamson), one kept on gigging (Mike Heron) and one was left by the wayside, probably because he didn’t take enough Acid to ‘fit in’, ‘tune in’ or ,.. oh no, actually.. he did ‘drop out’, or slide out, or ooze on down the line, whatever…, or he just fancied carrying on playing Parlour Banjo tunes, and frankly, that ain’t got legs mate, not for late 60s UK ‘projects’. Like all first Lps, the ideas were there, it was all in place, but they hadn’t realised it yet, when they did, all shit would break loose, crap would happen, faeces would smack the fan up. When Robin Williamson returned from North Africa clutching his fucking Gimbri he and Mike Heron hooked up, (Mike had been gigging more traditionally around the folk clubs of Greater Britain during Robin’s absence (and no I can’t even be bothered to mention the other bloke, no that would be rude, right.. Clive Palmer, Mr Victorian Banjo Gt Britain 1966) they recorded the scene changing, prop wobbling record you will see below. See it??

5000 whatnots on the layers of Huh?

R-1345732-1256851696.jpegThe 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion, actually.

A veritable deep space 9 of tunes. Just look at that COVER! Overall this is my personal favourite Lp by them, though everyone goes on about Hangman’s, there are of course stand out songs on all others, but this just hangs in totality to my taste man. Like the other Lps that originally came out on Elektra, tizz goodly, tizz very goodly.

Look I can’t be bothered with this anymore, I’m not going to go through each Lp, critiquing them, these are just suggestions for listening. So go get copies and listen, make your own mind up, just like Bucks Fizz did. Then the next Lp, The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, and the next  Wee Tam & The Big Huge and, and and and… until they petered out signed to Island and nailed by the musical virus ‘differences of a musical and or artistic nature’. And this brings us neatly to other shit of a Psych Folk vein to check out…

other shit of a Psych Folk vein to check out…

I spent a long time thinking that this stuff was childish, fay, thinnish, and was Hippie music; that as such it was something that I should grow out of, move away from, and I did in my early 20s, only to realise recently in my late 40s, in part to the revolutionary nature of John Peel’s Dandelion label, that this music was as out there as the German feedback and noise bands Peely played on his show in the 1980s. So I became baited and hooked again. And now I’m up to my bollocks in new music, casting my fly, bobbing for apples, spearing for melodic and well-odd’ic fishes once again.

Currently Marc Brierly, Bridget St John and the less Psychedelic but equally as ‘Folk’ Anne Briggs all interest me in particular. Alongside these the more ‘Folk Rock’ John Martyn, Steelye Span and Fairport Convention all beckon, and I’ve got one more Incredible String Band Lp to get to complete the set.

There is loads out there to find, and I expect to be exploring for a while. Come with me on my trip.

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Bridget St John – Two Lps and A short introduction


Dandelion Days

It’s been over two years since I posted anything on this blog, shame on me!
More importantly it should be of some indication as to the esteem in which I hold this lady to get back to posting and to write something about her and her music.

So for a good long time I’ve been trying to find my female voice, my female singer. As a collector of records I have over the years realised that my collection is highly male centric, and it’s been a difficulty finding a female voice I really like. I’ve dabbled with Grace Jones, Marianne Faithful, Nico and those that just happened to come along; but just recently I stopped for a second to realise that it’s the English female folk voice I hold highest and went off to search further. Subsequently checking out Anne Briggs, Maddy Prior, June Tabor, Sandy Denny and more before alighting on Bridget St John.

Bridget initially appeared playing at Sheffield University, disappeared off to France for a bit, reappeared and hooked up with John Martyn; Martyn introduced her to John Peel and Dandelion Records the now famous (and highly collectable) Peel funded and often Peel produced label was formed initially to release her material. It released three Lps. She later did one more for Crysalis records, critical acclaim.. shorthand for didn’t make enough money for the label.

Later she gave it up or at least that’s how it reads to those that didn’t live a life, her life, she moved to Greenwich Village, and now happily gigs infrequently in the US and UK. Potted history. She does wonderful things like speak beautiful French to the French crowd that come to see and hear her play at the filmed gig I watched months ago on Youtube.

Sounds?

Like a deeper Nico, a velveteen female Nick Drake. A serious contender, passionate, mature, connected to nature, bound by cosmic debris, wistful, romantic, poetic, mystical, wonder-full, original, a one off, a superstar that didn’t superstar like Joni and thank goodness.

Lps?

Her Lps are not cheap to get in their original form, frankly you’ll probably have to spend over £100 for the first two and a little less on the third for the Dandelion Lps. For you will want to get them in decent and listenable condition. Worth doing as with quieter acoustic passages, you really don’t want too much snap crackle and pop. It detracts.

The first Lp – Ask Me No Questions

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So.. fairly standard fare as far as arrangements and instrumentation, but beautifully written songs with more than one featuring John Martyn too. The title track, I will admit made me uncontrollably boo my little manly eyes out, such was it’s love connectedness.

I love it and as with other Bridget St John Lps don’t expect to gain entry to it straight away, you get value for money with her output, it takes at least two listens, two concentrated listens where you aren’t distracted by the ironing or cooking something to feed your growling belly to get into it.. This is one of the things I do like about her, yes the original Vinyl may set you back (there are lots of reissues) but you get your money’s worth! Her guitar playing is subtle and understated, nothing is too ornamented, everything is there for good reason. It’s very much a debut Lp, feet finding, slightly bigger than baby steps for sure, but you get the feeling throughout that there’s something very grown up going to arrive in later career, and there is… the next Lp, which is one giant leap for mankind and a pretty giant leap for Bridget St John and popular music in general.

The second Lp – Songs For The Gentle Man

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This is the one I think, Ron Geesin takes the production credit and arranged much of the strings, Ron is the Dad of a friend of mine, I know Ron, he’s a bit of a genius, mad genius, but genius all the same and now I want to talk to him about making this Lp.

It’s actually a bit beyond description, there aren’t easy to pluck reference points to throw at you, happy little musical links with other people’s output, it’s too original for that, too special.
It’s going to perplex you a little, widen your ears a little, ask you to engage a little more than most, you may have to work a bit to absorb fully this Lp, but it’s worth it. It also has one of the most beautiful labels ever created, anywhere, ever, or at least one side of the record does. I’ll put it somewhere below for you to enjoy.

 

Dandelion Three

Bridget St John actually recorded three Lps for Dandelion, but look I’ll be honest here, I haven’t got the third Lp yet, sure I’ve heard bits and it sounds damn good, but I was so excited about the first two, I had to write this blog, while I’m saving up.. again.

Get all three!

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