Close Panel




Contemporary English Folk Music Part 1

By Greg Lewis. Posted in Folk | 1 Comment »

An on-going musical interest of mine is contemporary English Folk Music. I first became interested over 40 years ago in the late 1960s when I was a student. The late 1960s was a period of renaissance for folk music in the UK. My college had a Folk Club with another club weekly in a local pub. It was whilst he was on his way to play for us that Paul Simon wrote Homeward Bound when he was sitting on the Widnes station platform.  There has been another renaissance in recent years led by a number of bands and solo artists playing in a more contemporary approach while bringing in music from other genres. This is the first of a monthly series of articles to introduce the key artists and albums of the current English folk music scene.
For this month I am going to look at the growing number of folk bands, many with members well known in their own right. I’ll start with probably the leading folk band at the moment: Bellowhead. Their most recent release is

My favourite track from this album is New York Girls – to hear this go here.

In folk music terms Bellowhead are a large band, with up to 11 members, led by John Spiers and Jon Boden. They play a range of folk styles and include a brass section. Their other albums are


Many of the members of Bellowhead are leading artists in their own right, particularly Boden and Spiers. I’ll follow them up in another monthly feature with some of their solo and joint recordings.
Another band I like are Imagined Village, founded by Simon Emerson of the Afro Celt Sound System. Their rationale is to produce contemporary folk music reflecting the multicultural nature of modern Britain.

Their first album, Imagined Village, is really more a collection of individual songs by the main artists backed at times by other band members. The band members included such illuminii of the English folk music scene as Mike Waterson, Martin Carthy and his daughter Eliza as well as Billy Bragg and poet Benjamin Zephaniah, amongst others. Carthy and Waterson make the link back to the original English folk revival of the late 1960s. Samples of this album can be heard at = Village[/url].

Their most recent album is

Go to this and this to see them playing.
By this album they were much more of a consolidated band, with some changes in personnel, but retaining the two Carthys and Simon Emmerson amongst others.

A couple more contemporary English folk bands I enjoy are

Despite their name, Stornoway, this is an English band, based in Oxford. They are very much at the folk – indie crossover point
Hear them play here and here.

More folk orientated are Spiro

As the Guardian has written

the experimental acoustic folk-influenced scene – is becoming increasingly sophisticated and adventurous, and Spiro are leading exponents of this new genre.

This is a four piece band playing great folk music. You can hear them here.

Next month I’ll look at some of the leading female English folk music artists.

Greg Lewis has been listening to music from virtually the day he was born in 1950. His father played saxophone in a swing band, continuing to play both alto and tenor sax now into his 90s. Greg has been through the Beatles, folk music revivals in the UK twice, blues revivals, punk, Bruce Springsteen, and the growth of indie music. More recently his interest in jazz has developed way beyond Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck and John Coltrane, but deep deep down he prefers Bruce Springsteen above any other music.
All posts by | Subscribe to Entries (RSS)


One Response to “Contemporary English Folk Music Part 1”

  1. 1
    kez Says:

    Really enjoying this new series! I look forward to gleaning more pearls from next month’s post.


Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>