BUNCH OF FIVES: Chris Riley | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Taken from his forthcoming second album Echoes In The Gloaming, Durham-based singer-songwriter Chris Riley releases his new single, Making Waves. Here, he reveals some of his favourite, but perhaps lesser-known, folk acts…

Shirley Collins and Davy Graham – Hares on the Mountain

From the wondrous Folk Roots, New Routes album of 1964 is this take on a very old and mysterious English folk song, referenced in Robert Graves’ White Goddess no less. Shirley’s vocal so pure, but wistful. Davy, the maestro, playful and inventive, picking loosely over chords behind the vocal, the erratic notes almost mirroring hares gamboling on the hillside. Hares, if you’re reading this, please gambol irresponsibly!

The Incredible String Band – Loverman

A demo from before the release of their second, full-on psychedelic 5,000 Spirits album. This is a delightful pop song, really. Courted by Joe Boyd at the same time as he did the Pink Floyd, you can hear the same Barretty irreverence in the funny lyrics, over some really cool riffs. Loverman wasn’t released by the ISB for thirty years, although Al Stewart did a lively rendition on his first album way back in the 1960s.

The Famous Jug Band – Black is the Colour

The not at all commercially minded Clive Palmer left the Incredible String Band after their first album and before too long ended up recording one beautiful album, Sunshine Possibilities, with this Cornish folk group. I believe this is a Norwegian folk song that became a standard. I’ve not heard a finer version than this, sung by Jillian Johnson who was courted by Roger Taylor around this time before fame came calling for him. I’m not sure if his hair was black then, though.

Hamish Imlach – Pretty Little Horses

I’m flying the flag for Hamish here, a very entertaining Scottish folk singer who released numerous albums in the 1960s and 70s. None of these are on streaming platforms, although there is an extensive compilation album on there which includes this song. Hamish’s Ballads of Booze is one of the very best drinking albums, as is the follow up Old Rarity from which this gorgeous version of a traditional American lullaby is taken. There is some lovely accompaniment from Tam Harvey on slide guitar here on this one and you can here the folk singing miileage in Hamish’s picking and singing, too – a peach of a tune! 

Spirogyra – Love Is A Funny Thing

From the Canterbury band’s 1971 debut is this little gem sung perfectly by Barbara Gaskin. What a mood a guitar, a voice and a couple of treble recorders can conjure! It makes you want to cry in joy at the wonder of it all if you’re not careful.


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