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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, July 13, 2003
    The sound of the ground
     
    I've just completed my orbit of the M25 via Iain Sinclair's breathtaking book London Orbital, and I'd like to share the music which has accompanied me en-route on Sinclair's psychogeographical tour around London's outer rim. This week I have been mostly listening to Jim Moray, who, with Eliza, Kate and others, is a young and exciting voice in English folk. These young people's acceptance into the mainstream signals the confidence and crossover-potential of the current English folk 'scene'. Radio Three devoted a whole evening to English folk a short time ago (hear it here), grappling with awkward questions about why English folk music is so marginalised, and playing lots of tunes old and new to celebrate its vitality and relevance.

    "Yes, Chuck Berry was great. Yes, Bo Diddley was great. Yes, Harry Cox was just as great," said Tony Engle, head of Topic Records. Jim Moray's Raggle Taggle Gipsy was perfect accompaniment for Sinclair's encounters with the strange and oddly wonderful on the byways of Essex, Kent, Surrey. Encounters which enriched my understandings about what Englishness is. A thing far more complex, multi-layered, dark and mysterious than generally assumed, a thing which embraces the Beckhams and Bill Griffiths, the Afro-Celts and Ron and Reggie Kray.

    Great that Greenbelt are showcasing some good English folkies this year; the festival may be onto something ripe, a rising awareness of something which may just help, in these times of confusion around national identity, to positively redefine what Englishness is. Barking bard Bill Bragg is engaged in this search for "a new England". Another man's journey worth joining in with.