The record that has taken up residence on my turntable recently (and, yes, I use the terms ‘record’ and ‘turntable’ advisedly) is a superb album from Canadian-Haitian singer Melissa Laveaux. I’m playing it so frequently that I began to wonder why. It must be the weather, I thought. It must have a summer vibe. At the point of writing this the sun is cracking the paving flags and hosepipe bans are looming large in our consciousness (and on our conscience). Somehow the slinky Caribbean-African rhythms of Radyo Siwel fit the weather perfectly, even if I can’t understand a word of it.

Reggae is, of course, the ideal summer music and Hollie Cook’s third album, Vessel of Love, is an exquisite slice of sun-drenched lovers’ rock – the perfect soundtrack for heatwave Britain. Being duped by the weather can also lead the best of us into some unwise purchases. Hands up: how many of us, under the influence of the hot sun (and perhaps an alcoholic beverage or two), have bought the afrobeat/grime fusion album by the band we’ve just been grooving to in a sweaty festival tent somewhere? Very much caveat emptor.

Folk and roots music is no stranger to the seasonal album, of course. Indeed, one of the best albums of recent times is Lisa Knapp’s vivid reimagining of a variety of traditional songs. Subtitled ‘A Garland of May’, Till April is Dead takes the likes of ‘Lark in the Morning’ and ‘Padstow May Song’ and creates radical new interpretations by merging fiddle, hammer dulcimer and strings with birdsong and a range of electronic trickery. It’s not just songs of the May though. There are wassailing songs. ‘Here we come a-wassailing/Among the leaves so green’ anybody? Indeed, no self-respecting folky worth his or her salt has failed to put a Christmas album out. And if I had a fiver for every song that begins with the protagonist walking out on a midsummer morning, I really would live in Shire Folk Towers.

Of course, by the time you read this, chances are the weather will have broken, the cagoules will be out, and that bright orange disc in the sky will be but a distant memory. Still, there’s always something distinctly autumnal, like Ana Silvera’s Oracles (reviewed in Shire Folk No 156), to see us through the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Not to mention the Christmas albums on the horizon. As Emily Portman put it, ‘here I sway as the hinge of the year swings around’. Happy wassailing!

Jonathan Roscoe


Shire Folk is a free, A5, bimonthly magazine covering folk, roots and acoustic music. It has been produced for over 40 years on a not-for-profit basis, paid for by advertising revenue. Each issue includes news items, both local and national, artist interviews, festival and gig reviews, as well as reviews of about 30 new CDs.

From our base in Oxford, we distribute 1800–2000 copies through an intricate network of folk clubs, record shops, libraries, music venues, pubs, morris dancing teams, festivals and individuals. Click here to see a list of places that receive bulk copies of Shire Folk. We think you can safely assume that well over 4000 people read each issue.

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Graham Hobbs & Jonathan Roscoe
Co-Editors, Shire Folk



Shire Folk Album of 2017

Martin Simpson
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