Looking for British Folk Music
September 20, 2008 10:37 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find old recordings of British folk music?

Is there a British Isles equivalent to the Smithsonian Folkways series of recordings? I'm interested in hearing real folk music--maybe from the 1900s to 1930s--not Fairport Convention-type bands that were influenced by old folk music. I'd love it if this music were freely downloadable online, but any suggestions for albums to buy would be appreciated, too. I'm hoping that there's something like this online, but for English music. Thanks!
posted by interrobang to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Not exactly what you're looking for, but CBC Radio recently aired a 5 part series on Canadian Folk Music entitled The People's Music. The first part, Birth of a Genre leans heavily on Scottish and British Folk music from the 1910s to 1949 when Newfoundland (then a British colony) joined Canada.
posted by furtive at 10:51 AM on September 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Topic label is your friend: The Iron Muse and the "Voice of the People" series, for starters.
posted by Bigfoot Mandala at 11:07 AM on September 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This site may help you.
I know that the English Folksong and Dance society have an extensive library and archive at Cecil Sharp House in London. Their website is here.
There were recently issued a 3 CD collection of acoustic folk music from the sixties. Not only with the Fairport Convention- type groups but all the traditional singers then still alive. I downloaded them from a bit-torrent site - but thats not legal. Not aware of an Smithsonian equivalent in England. Let me know if you locate one.
posted by jan murray at 11:10 AM on September 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: What's this 3 CD collection called, jan murray?
posted by interrobang at 11:43 AM on September 20, 2008

Best answer: Doesn't the Smithsonian's collection include the British Isles?
posted by steef at 11:58 AM on September 20, 2008

Response by poster: Some of that looks pretty good, steef, thanks! I'm still looking for more, though. More specifically, I've been listening to a lot of old-time American music lately, and you can hear that a lot of it evolved out of older stuff than that. I'm looking for that older stuff.
posted by interrobang at 12:17 PM on September 20, 2008

Best answer: This recording of Irish singers is perhaps later than you want (1955ish) but seems to have come along just as the British folk revival was a twinkle in its creators' eyes, so it certainly doesn't sound like Fairport Convention. I bought it in a three-disk set in high school with some other Clancy Brothers stuff and it was like getting a window into another world. Memail me if you want some samples; I don't think I've ripped the whole box set to my hd, but I could definitely be persuaded to send you a few full-length tracks as enticement.
posted by crinklebat at 12:29 PM on September 20, 2008

Best answer: I don't know if there would even be recordings of the older stuff, though. It was all pretty local until Ewan MacColl and Bert Lloyd went around collecting it. Voice of the People is basically the British version of this. If you just want old songs, you could do worse than to start with the Child Ballads. Smithsonian Folkways has a three-disc set of MacColl's versions. A lot of the Folkways and Topic stuff is on eMusic, as well.
posted by Bigfoot Mandala at 12:50 PM on September 20, 2008

Best answer: Do you want only British Folk Music? Alan Lomax did some recordings in England, Ireland and Scotland that are all great. This looks cool.

I had this CD of the Copper Family, not my taste exactly but interesting.

I know you don't want modern groups, but I highly suggest you get anything by Waterson Carthy, but particularly their first album. Martin Carthy was in Fairport Convention, but his solo recordings and the recordings he did with his family are really on the mark, tradition wise, and you'll learn a lot about the music in the process of reading his (brief but excellent) liner notes.

Oh yeah and check out the Watersons too. They are a contemporary group but sound about as authentic as anything you could imagine. (Martin Carthy is married to Norma Waterson).
posted by sully75 at 1:09 PM on September 20, 2008

Best answer: The Veteran label has plenty that should interest you and their links page has the sites of several archives (e.g.).
One important early collector in Scotland was my hero Hamish Henderson (Tocher is a magazine of folk culture published by the School of Scottish Studies he helped found). He frequently accompanied an American,Alan Lomax, on collecting trips. The latter left an extensive archive of folk-song from around the world, including Britain. On preview I see sully mentions Lomax too.
posted by Abiezer at 1:26 PM on September 20, 2008

Best answer: English folk and traditional music on the Internet


Madrigal recordings.

Old English Madrigals & Folk Songs

Olde English Madrigals And Folk Songs At Ely Cathedral CD samples, more.

Renaissance Period Music

The High Renaissance (16th Century)


English Folk Songs

A-Roving; At the Foot of a Willow; British Grenadiers; The Cheshire Man; Country Gardens; Cupid’s Courtesy; The Death of Parcy Reed; The Derby Ram; Dover Pier; For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow; Green Grow the Rushes, Oh!; Greensleeves and Yellow Lace; Highland Mary; Kemp’s Jig; Ladies of London; Paisible’s Hornpipe; Parsons’s Farewell; Shepherd’s Hey; Shepton Hornpipe; Such a Wife as Willie Had; The Sprig of Thyme

Folk Music of England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, more.
posted by nickyskye at 1:54 PM on September 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! These are all great leads, and I'm very grateful.
posted by interrobang at 2:12 PM on September 20, 2008

Best answer: Go to the British Library's Collect Britain site, and search on 'EFDSS'. This will take you to the English Folk Dance and Song Society's collection of early folk song recordings, including 'Tarry Trousers' (1904), 'All Among the New Mown Hay' (1907) and 'The Rambling Sailor' (1907; not to be confused with Rambling Syd Rumpo), which you can download and listen to for free.

There are also some good CDs of traditional British sea shanties. My favourite is this collection of Sailors' Songs and Sea Shanties, which includes Ewan MacColl's superb rendition of 'The Flying Cloud'.
posted by verstegan at 2:22 PM on September 20, 2008

Best answer: The Contemplator website is another very good resource for English folk music, if you don't mind the embedded midi files. The collection of sea songs is particularly good (of course sea songs are especially important if you are looking for songs that crossed the Atlantic from England to America); I love the sad ones, like Lord Franklin, Toll for the Brave (surprisingly difficult to find this on CD; I haven't yet found a good recording of it), and Van Diemen's Land (which provides the answer to an AskMeFi question from 2005 -- nobody spotted it at the time, though kirkaracha's answer comes close).
posted by verstegan at 2:42 PM on September 20, 2008

« Older Upscaling DVD player that's region-hackable?   |   Talk like a Pirate Day: More holidays, more fun! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.