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Never The Same celebrates the lost years of British folk: the 1970s. As far as mass popularity goes, the folk scene peaked in the 1960s — with Bert Jansch, Anne Briggs, Martin Carthy, Davy Graham and all. By the end of the sixties, according to conventional wisdom, it had morphed into folk rock (Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span) or singer-songwriting (Nick Drake and John Martyn), prior to disappearing into a netherworld of beards and real ale.
But what the pop histories don’t tell you is that the seventies were the real golden years for British folk music. The scene had gone underground, disappeared into the now totally unfashionable world of the folk clubs, but the musicians who’d come up in the heady years of the sixties hadn’t gone away — they were just getting better and better.
The trouble was the major record labels weren’t interested, not even the more folk-friendly indies like Island and Transatlantic. There was one exception, a man called Bill Leader. Leader was the man who had been behind the mixing desk on almost every major British folk record of the sixties, from Anne Briggs’ first EP to Davy Graham’s Anji to Bert Jansch’s bedroom debut. In 1969, seeing a yawning gap in the market, he finally started his own label.
Some of the names he signed up were already familiar on the folk scene — like Lal and Mike Waterson from the legendary singing family The Watersons. Most, however, were new names, emerging stars from the folk club scene. There was Dick Gaughan, a shy Scotsman who had to be talked into making records; and Nic Jones from Essex, who was close to giving up the unequal struggle to make a living from music when Leader signed him up.
Over the next ten years Leader put out a series of albums at a standard unmatched by any other major folk label. Not all of it was straight traditional folk. Leader was always open to experimentation and released albums as varied as the psych folk of Dave and Toni Arthur, the singer-songwriting of Rosie Hardman, and the elaborate arrangements of John Tams’ Muckram Wakes. He also released the song suite Bright Phoebus by Lal and Mike Waterson; and two of the songs here represent this lost classic. But at the heart of the label’s output were very simple virtues: great singers and great instrumentalists playing and singing the traditional music of Britain.
So here, for the first time, is a compilation of the lost wonders of the Leader label, repository of the hidden history of British folk music.
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