A Tribute to Ewan MacColl -Various Artists – Out Now on Cooking Vinyl
A remarkable double cd featuring new interpretations of MacColl’s songs by : Damien Dempsey, Martin Carthy, The Unthanks, Seth Lakeman, Marry Waterson, Dick Gaughan, Billy Bragg, ChaimTannenbaum, Steve Earle, Eliza Carthy, Jarvis Cocker, Paul Buchanan, Paul Brady, Norma Waterson, Martin Simpson, Christy Moore, Karine Polwart, Kathryn Williams, Jack Steadman & Jamie MacColl (Bombay Bicycle Club), Rufus & Martha Wainwright & David Gray.
MacColl left school at 14, was a political activist at 15, had founded a theatre troupe at 16, was on MI5’s files at 17 and godfather of the first British folk revival at 35. However, he’s probably still best known for writing classic songs including The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Dirty Old Town, The Shoals of Herring and The Joy of Living many of which feature on this stunning album.
Released to mark the centenary year of Ewan MacColl’s birthday, ‘Joy of Living’ is produced by MacColl’s sons Calum and Neill and features a host of artists from across the worlds of pop, rock and folk. Rather than trying to be a definitive collection, it provides a testament to the range and influence of this remarkable singer and song-writer.
Steve Earle presents a new take on Dirty Old Town, a song that describes MacColl’s early experience of the slums of 1920s Salford. Norma Waterson provides us with a peerless rendition of the plight of the Travellers in ‘The Moving On Song’. Paul Buchanan (Blue Nile) serenades with ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,’ the song MacColl wrote for Peggy Seeger, made into an international hit in 1972 by Roberta Flack. Bombay Bicycle Club includes one of MacColl’s grandchildren, Jamie, and together they contribute a moving version of The Young Birds, a song written to commemorate the tragic 1961 plane crash that killed 34 London schoolboys (several of whom were known to MacColl’s oldest son, Hamish)
Other ‘folk families’ contribute to the album with ‘Sweet Thames Flow Softly’ by Rufus & Martha Wainwright, The Unthank sisters performing ‘Cannily, Cannily’ and several individual contributions by the Waterson-Carthy family.
Neill and Calum will be producing and playing on a Ewan MacColl Tribute tour later this year, along with other family members and folk alumni (see dates below)
Born James Henry Miller in Salford, Lancashire, on January 25 1915, MacColl’s parents were active left-wing socialists and from his earliest days, MacColl was familiar with the cut-and-thrust of political discussion and argument. Equally important in the life of the household were the songs and stories his parents brought from Scotland.
Married three times – to the theatre director Joan Littlewood (with whom he ran a radical theatre company in the 1930s and 40s), to the choreographer Jean Newlove and to the American folk singer Peggy Seeger – MacColl saw three of his five children follow him into music. Kirsty MacColl (daughter of Jean), an effervescent writer and performer, was tragically killed in a swimming accident in 2000, but Neill and Calum MacColl (sons of Peggy) remain active, gifted musicians, songwriters and producers. Four of MacColl’s grandchildren are also musicians, with two of them appearing on this double album.
MacColl’s contribution to the musical legacy cannot be underestimated. His establishment of the Ballads and Blues club in Soho in 1953 gave birth to a folk revival that remains in vigorous health today, while the ancient and industrial ballads he rediscovered and championed are still being explored.
Joy of Living: A Tribute to Ewan MacColl pays homage to this fearless, uncompromising character whose influence is still felt not only within but far beyond the folk world.
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