The Rough Guide to English Roots Music

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: World Music Network
WORKS: English Roots
PERFORMER: Various artists
CATALOGUE NO: RGNET 1018 CD (distr. World Music Network)

Advertisement

While this looks a Euro-American list, the common factor is Africa. All the world’s a hybrid, even ENGLISH ROOTS MUSIC in the Rough Guide’s version. Hank Dogs bring in electric bass and added-note chords, Eliza Carthy improvises on the fiddle with jazzy freedom, and Edward II dallies with reggae. They are the contemporary front of an album that focuses on creators and extenders of tradition rather than preservers.

Advertisement

Austere originals on voice or pipes, the Watersons’ revivalist flair, Billy Bragg’s updated protest, all share the nonconformist, pioneering spirit. It’s good to see English folk in a travel-oriented series. This is the acceptable face of compilation albums: a point of view and a story to tell. But the genre is rampant. Some labels issue little else. Sometimes listener-friendly, compilations are bad news for artists, who find it ever harder to be signed up for albums of their own.