Paul Brady performs Arthur McBride. Image reproduced from Flickr with kind consent of David Sutherland
MUSIC TO HELP US THROUGH LOCKDOWN
Not even the readers of Salut! Live are wholly on my side. My folk tastes are unusual and I cannot be surprised that few share them. Kate Rusby once told me she was quite pleased this type of music wasn't for everyone (though, logically, it should be).
Now it's time for duos and acoustic bands and I will not, for the purposes of this exercise, restrict my choices to those seen live. I'll add an asterisk to each selection where I have seen them up close and personal, or from row Z in the gods. And I have used a little licence, leaving out some of those mentioned in other categories even though they might fit again.
First duos. And this, 100 per cent, is folk and blues so avert your eyes if not for you...
1 Kate and Anna McGarrigle - sublime sounds from Quebec, rarely better than on this clip. RIP Kate ...
2 * Andy Irvine and Paul Brady - their eponymous album was released in 1976 but remains a classic in the history of folk music
3 * Show of Hands - always a delight to hear on record or see live
4 WAS* Silly Sisters - two essential female voices of English folk, belonging to June Tabor and Maddy Prior
NOW - Sorry but Maddy and June, great artists that they are, must give up their place to Richard and Linda Thompson, inexplicably overlooked
5 * Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick - I once persuaded a good friend, Geoff Carnan, to go with me to see them in a Sunderland folk club even though it meant hitching 30 miles home afterwards and it was his 21st birthday. I vividly remember the joy and the guilt and am pleased Swarb lived long enough to revive the duo in later life.
6 * Graham and Eileen Pratt - classy arrangements and, from Eileen in particular, stunning vocals
7 * Bert Jansch and John Renbourn - both lost to us now but for ever remembered for their outstanding guitar playing
8 * Kate Rusby and Kathryn Roberts - their spell as a duo produced the folk album of the 1990s
9 * Bob Fox and Stu Luckley - Bob has had other excellent collaborators, notably Benny Graham and a former Lindisfarne member, Billy Mitchell. Nowt So Good'll Pass, with Luckley, was a gem of an album of North-eastern music
10 * Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee - I had to find room for my favourite blues duo, whose music I regularly listen to decades after both died
Sadly, the arbitrary limit of 10 meant I had to exclude several other exceptional pairings, including John Spiers/Jon Boden, Maire Ni Chathasaigh/Chris Newman, Nancy Kerr/James Fagan, Tom McConnell/Nancy Cato, Simon Mayor/Hilary James, Jacqui/Bridie and more besides. Apologies to all and plenty of others overlooked.
1 Planxty - the ultimate Irish supergroup (first line-up: Christy Moore, Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny, Liam O'Flynn. Paul Brady was among later members
2 Bothy Band - Irish traditional music as good as it gets
3 * Dervish - tip-top instrumental technique and flair crowned by the mesmerising vocals of Cathy Jordan
4 Was * Bitter Withy - recalled from first encounters with the excellent, versatile Scottish singer Barbara Dickson ....
Stop Press: may need to make way for Therapy, so fondly remembered from folk club days in Darlington and Bishop Auckland and by Bill Taylor in Comments below
5 Bellowhead - gloriously but surely economically challenged English big band. Their clips are made for binge-watching. But still waiting for John Spiers's response to my offer of a gentle plug for his efforts online to stave off poverty
6 * Touchstone - Irish/American fusion dominated by Triona Ni Dhomnhaill (ex-Bothy Band) and Claudine Langille. The short-lived collaboration yielded just two albums, but Jack Haggerty is one of the pieces of music I'd choose for a Desert Island.
7 * Johnstons - Brady again, part of hugely talented Irish quartet, later trio
8 * High Level Ranters - the cream of North-eastern music and the band that did more thany any other to lure me from rock to folk
9 * The Dubliners - when fronted by the late Luke Kelly, the combination of passionate vocals and fiery musicianship was irresistible
10 * Ensembles assembled or headed by Sharon Shannon or Karen Polwart
There you have my preferences - at the time of writing. It's a feast, but a moveable one. Do not be put off by the folk-dominated lists. Just go ahead and nominate your own, any genre.