The day that many thought would never come is now nigh upon us: a brand new album by Shirley Collins. The folksong heroine’s last recording was 38 years ago, and her voice has finely matured in the intervening years. Lodestar gives life to a set of various antique songs that Shirley has assembled, including some from the 16th Century. The deluxe LP and CD versions include sleeve notes by Stewart Lee.
- LP £19.99
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- WIGLP389X / Limited Deluxe Edition LP + CD on Domino. Includes 24-page 12” booklet featuring song notes by Shirley Collins and sleeve notes by Stewart Lee
- Includes download code
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Well I had no idea.
I had no idea that Shirley Collins gave up performing music in 1978 after a messy divorce and a hideous sounding diagnosis of dysphonia which rendered her unable to sing. Yet coaxed back by David Tibet of Current 93, Collins has now recorded her first new work since 1978. Whether as a Collins newcomer I am best positioned to assess this most surprising of comebacks I'm not sure but to these ears this sounds as strong as confident as any album made made by an 82 year old who hasn't sung since 1978. Her voice has a great weathered feel to it and the slight croakiness and the estuary vowels remarkably make it sound like a feminine yin to Robert Wyatt's yang. The similarities are quite astonishing and her intonation gives these folk songs extra gravitas, there's a frailness to the vocals as you might expect but make no mistake. This is a woman in full control of here muse. The pieces are generally stark with simple guitar accompaniment and the odd atmospheric percussive touch. It's not always an easy listen and Collins quickly asks questions of the listener with the four part opening track. The first part of which is an incredible way to begin, lines burst out of the narrative such as "repent, repent sweet England for dreadful days are near". This accompanied by just a flash of accordion is quite magical. The track is then disrupted by some discordant hurdy gurdy just in case you were getting too comfortable.
But elsewhere 'The Banks of Green Willow' and the birdsong accompanied 'Cruel Lincoln' are both beautiful ballads - like shards of old England unearthed from deep in the ground. The production is excellent, Collins is definitely centre stage and any accompaniment is restricted to subtle atmospherics which blend in with her world rather than take charge. There is the odd upbeat jaunty folk song such as 'Old Johnny Buckle' which charms rather than effects but it's the resolutely bleak material which truly disarms. Try 'Sur Le Borde de L'eau' for starters - a delightful acoustic breeze sung entirely in French but still somehow evoking the green valleys of Collins England.
A delightful record and one of this years most inspiring stories.
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