Chris Wood - Albion – An Anthology

Chris Wood - Albion – An Anthology

The term “national treasure” is much over-used in our celebrity-obsessed times. Scratch the surface and we often see a shallow picture of a shooting star whose time fleetingly comes and goes.

In Chris Wood we have the real thing. Master fiddler/guitarist, singer, composer/arranger/interpreter – and add to those – poet, teacher (with the English Acoustic Collective) and social historian.

In this double CD are 21 tracks spanning 1990 to 2008, containing early material with Andy Cutting plus collaborations with Ian Carr, Karen Tweed, Roger Wilson, Martin Carthy and others - showing just how versatile his talents are. There is European material here (Norway and France), alongside his cross-cultural work with The Imagined Village. It is however arguably in his own English heritage that Chris Wood truly excels.

Heroes from the past are present here (John Clare and John Ball). In his later material which he describes in the sleeve notes as “quite grown up compared to some of the early stuff” he finds a voice in stories from today's England. Some of these are autobiographical, e.g. “Albion” and “Summerfield Avenue”, both from his latest two albums which contain many more present day narratives.

This seems an excellent moment to release an anthology with so many more people becoming aware of his music over the past 3 years following the huge success in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Two hours and ten minutes of beautiful tunes and songs – no fillers – with every track providing an opportunity to hear an artist of integrity at work.

While many anthologies are chronologically based, gradually working through the subject’s development, Albion darts back and forth through the time span. This allows for constant surprises but yet it all seems to fit together as a coherent whole.

The music – from the solo albums and group work – also contains one previously unreleased track “The Farmer”, a typically inventive reworking (by Carr, Cutting, Tweed and Wood) of an anonymously composed traditional song.

Excellent sleeve notes give context to each track – with some insightful quotes from fellow artists showing how respected Chris Wood has become amongst his peers, e.g. “he is now one of the greats” (Ian Anderson), “the minute he starts singing, he has a way of drawing people in” (Verity Sharp), “a brilliant musician and arranger” (Karen Tweed) and “an intuitive explorer” (Martin Carthy).

If you buy just one album this summer, make it a double – and just keep playing it. You will never be bored. A national treasure? Definitely.

George Dow

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 84 of The Living Tradition magazine.