Today, Shirley Collins is the grande dame of the British folk revival, sort of an English equivalent to Joan Baez. Fledg’ling has remastered and reissued her debut disc, originally recorded in 1958 when Collins was a wee 22-year-old lass. She was living in London at the time with the American folklorist Alan Lomax, who produced the album along with English song collector Peter Kennedy. Collins wrote fresh liner notes to this collection of English and Anglo-American songs. She apologizes for her naive approach to the music, but it’s her hauntingly unaffected voice and odd phrasing, which come from her unsophisticated manner, that make this disc so special. There is something dispassionately ardent, as strange as that may sound, about the way Collins vocalizes. She can make a murder ballad such as “Omie Wise” and a silly farm song like “The Lady and the Swine” seem filled with substance and hidden subtext — as if she has a secret knowledge of the world unrelated to her age or experience.
Shirley Collins: Sweet England
FROM THE POPMATTERS ARCHIVES