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LANDMARKS - 30 Years of Fellside Recordings

LANDMARKS - 30 Years of Fellside Recordings
Fellside FECD 203

Think English traditional music and three labels automatically spring to mind: Topic, Fledg'ling and Fellside. Between them these proudly independent record companies have nurtured and incorporated all that is good, great, worthy and true in English folk music. By providing such supportive and enthusiastic platforms for Folk's myriad performers to lay down their rich and mighty musical feasts before us these labels have not only helped the Tradition to flourish whatever the particular musical tastes of the day but have provided huge and enduring enjoyment for thousands and thousands of fans down the years.

Thirty years since its inception it is therefore both timely and hugely welcome that Fellside celebrates its prestigious anniversary with the release of a superb three CD box set, Landmarks. The inspired brainchild of Paul and Linda Adams the set is testament to the couple's hard work, determination, good ears, quality control and musical vision. As a musical journey it's a rich, diverse and - crucially - thoroughly enjoyable trip!

With their laudable objective of always treating the artiste as they would wish to be treated themselves Paul and Linda have gleaned an enviably high standard of performance and product from all their artistes on every Fellside release. It's a commitment that has ensured Fellside has been, and remains, both commercially and artistically successful.

In deciding how best to present the history of their label Paul and Linda have wisely divided this expansive and comprehensive 68-track compilation into three records: CD1 is called 'Signposts' and "delineates the thoughts and desires guiding the label", CD 2, appropriately titled 'Starting Points', details "the evolution and development of the label" while CD 3's 'Wayside Views' brings together an intriguing collection of "oddities, out-takes and curios".

Disc 1's 'Signposts' is a wonderfully rich, superbly sequenced collection that underlines just why Fellside has endured: the quality of the performances never waivers and the choice of material is always bang on the money. Every artists here is top drawer - Martin Carthy, Nic Jones, Maddy Prior, Roy Harris, John Kilpatrick, Peter Bellamy, Bob Fox, Johnny Silvo & Diz Disley - the list just goes on and on, indeed it reads like a veritable who's who of folk (and jazz-blues in the case of the latter!). Every track here is a gem. As a compilation in its own right 'Signposts' is worth the price of admission alone.

Disc 2 and 'Starting Points' is another fine collection highlighting the invention that is a benchmark of Fellside. Here Terry Docherty, Dave Walters and Steve Turner deliver solid performances to get things off to a good start but - despite an early showing from the mightily talented Jez Lowe (with The Bad Pennies on 'No Fun Without Fools') - this collection truly hits its stride with strikingly monikered Scot, Marilyn Middleton-Pollock whose deliciously bluesy 'Nobody Knows You When You Are Down & Out' is a knockout curve ball inclusion in the set. To follow that up with John Wright's beautiful, sublime and moving take on 'Dumbarton's Drum' is a bold but brilliantly struck piece of sequencing. From then on in the set flies as the likes of Dr. Faustus, Spiers & Boden, Maddie Southorn, Nancy Kerr & James Fagan, Lucky Bags and Alistair McCulloch come rolling home in fine and wondrous style.

Last but not least Disc 3's 'Wayside Views' shows that like all great labels buried within their vaults lies real treasure that bizarrely they pass off as 'miscellany' which had 'a once-only significance'. Well two tracks in and you know that's a very modest way to describe/introduce this hugely enjoyable set. Fittingly the pure voice of Linda Adams herself rings out fine and true on a superb version of 'The Witch Of Westmorlands'. Following up come Barry Skinner & Geoff Lakeman (father of those three incredibly talented sons!) with the rousing 'The Cheerful 'Orn'. Suitably roused the collection continues with the Canny Cumberland Set and 'Crookfinger Jack' but it's not all upbeat and the compilation's quieter, reflective moments such as Colin Thompson's 'Bonnie Lass Among The Heather' and Patti Reid's 'Lord Derwentwater'are equally impressive. Elsewhere the appearance of Ken Colyer's Skiffle Group ('KC Moan') and Pete Oakley ('80/90 Blues') and the pan-European vocal group Voice Union ('Nous Coucherons Ensemble') means there is always more to Fellside Recordings Ltd. than meets the ear.

As testament to Paul & Linda Adams' passion for traditional music 'Landmarks' is second to none. Few box sets are so appropriately named. Bravo! Here's to the next thirty!

Colin Hall

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This album was reviewed in Issue 69 of The Living Tradition magazine.