Friday, January 30, 2009

Discourse 2000 #2

NOMINATED BY: TJ Worthington, auteur of Out On Blue Six, part of the Talk About The Passion collective, regular TV Cream contributor and hundreds of other outlets besides

While it may also have given rise to hordes of mental Wicker Man fans jumping over a charred bit of wood singing "we will fix it, we will me-end it", the slow but steadily-building interest in 'acid folk' of recent years - helped in no small part by genre champion Mark Radcliffe's sideways move to Radio 2 - has brought many musical benefits. Not just in the modern day artists it's helped to bring to a wider audience, but also the rediscovery of overlooked gems from the past - often to the surprise of the artists themselves - including the works of Vashti Bunyan, Shelagh McDonald, Simon Finn, and the long-forgotten characters found on this decidedly offbeat compilation.

Fuzzy Felt Folk was a joint venture between Jonny Trunk, the mastermind behind cult reissue label Trunk Records, and Martin Green, the influential DJ whose deleriously obscure archive discoveries have been making up superb compilations since the influential The Sound Gallery back in 1995. Described as music with a "childish, sweet sound but at the same time an old-fashioned, spooky edge", the typically eclectic tracklisting sits genuine hardcore folkies like Orriel Smith alongside session musicians chopping out sprightly ditties for use in schoolroom 'Music And Movement' sessions, and a couple of obscure soundtrack rarities. Some of it, like Barbara Moore's frantically jazzy 'The Elf' and 'Merry Ocarina', the aptly named and much-sought after music from Vision On's surreal interludes with a girl and her tortoise, is upbeat and infectious, but most of it is subdued and haunting, most disconcertingly the three inexplicably chilling readings of traditional songs by a tambourine-backed Christopher Casson.

In his liner notes, Jonny Trunk mused from bitter experience that the album would probably only sell enough "for a round of toast or a bus ride to the seaside"; but for once, the contents of a wilfully uncommercial compilation managed to get through to its intended audience and beyond, selling so well that it eventually ended up on the display racks of several high street music stores. "Fuzzy Felt Folk" can sit as comfortably next to Eliza Carthy and Emmy The Great as it can to those Tudor Lodge and Mellow Candle reissues, and is proof positive that old music can still be 'new' in the right context.

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