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Folk Centre: War is over if you want it
Folk and trad news by Greg McAteer.
Greg McAteer, 19 Jun 2007
The ceasefire is over a decade old, the Reverend Doctor Paisley and Martin McGuinness are getting cosy on the couches at Stormont, blowing butterfly kisses in each other’s direction, and the red, white and blue paint on the East Belfast kerbstones has all but faded....so can somebody explain to me why there’s a sudden rash of rebel songs appearing on trad and folk albums?
In the last week, I’ve gotten three albums featuring the kind of rebel Brit-bashing singalongs that droned their way through my youth.
I grew up in Newry in the 1970s, listening to these songs (rarely of choice). They were almost without exception practically devoid of any musical merit, which is why I (and many like me) jumped ship with indecent haste as soon as we’d heard the first couple of bars of ‘Anarchy in the UK’. The folk canon was never enriched by the bulk of rebel material, and it led folk music down a blind alley of chauvinism from which it almost expired.
But get this, people – THE WAR IS OVER! So can we please, please stop playing crap songs out of force of habit? No more do we need to sally boldly forth with an Armalite in one hand and a steel-strung Takamine in the other to liberate our cohorts. Maybe there’s an argument that playing these trainwrecks of songs is catering to an audience demand. If that’s the case, we need musicians to lead from the front. It’s called social responsibility, and it’s one of the cornerstones of the folk movement. There are enough other issues in this country to sing about, God knows. OK. Breathe out. Rant over.
Buoyed up by the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the re-release of her debut album When Two Lovers Meet, Sarah McQuaid [pictured] has taken herself back into the studio. She is once again working with Trevor Hutchinson pushing the faders and Gerry O’Beirne in the producers seat, and the plan is to make an album that has the same open, expansive sound as her debut.
Although the sound may be similar, the choice of material this time round will be very different, drawing mainly on the old-timey songs and tunes that Sarah was familiar with growing up in the US, but also straying into some pretty mainstream corners including the somewhat surprising choice of Bobbie Gentry’s ‘Ode To Billy Joe’. Maybe it’s Gentry’s peripatetic lifestyle that has struck a chord in Sarah (who continues her own wanderings when she decamps to the UK this summer) but the Chickasaw County songstress has now supplanted Ella Fitzgerald as her favourite singer. There will also be a couple of new compositions, and on one track Liam Bradley will be stepping out from behind the drums and shakers to wrangle a vocal mike.