Nobody buys CDs anymore. Anyone still running a record label would be better off giving up the ghost rather than throwing good money after bad.
Or at least so goes the accepted logic. True or not, one label showing that this is definitely not a uniform trend is Fellside Recordings, who have just celebrated their 40th anniversary.
To mark the occasion, the Cumbria-based stalwarts present The Journey Continues: Fellside At 40. Following on from 30th anniversary compilation Landmarks, this three-disc set is an overview of Fellside releases in the decade since then, along with choice selections from the archives.
Probably Fellside’s most commendable policy over the years has been backing young talent. And foremost among these in the period covered here have been Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar, with the breezy Away From The Pits featured here.
Perhaps Algar learned the knack of writing songs about his native Stoke-on-Trent from fellow Potteries and Fellside band The Queensberry Rules. Despite the latter having now disbanded, Your Own Roads is a tale of homesickness told in reverse that is as affecting as it is tuneful and humorous.
Also featured is Polkas, from the frustratingly short-lived Last Orders, which contains enough youthful verve and swagger to turn Camptown Races into a rip-roaring folk tune. Similarly sprightly is Only A Soldier from Pilgrim’s Way.
Not that the old stagers don’t get a look in. The compilation includes slices of vintage Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick and John Kirkpatrick, as well as a potent unaccompanied rendition of The Demon Lover from Nick Caffrey of The Wassailers.
Veteran American singer Sara Grey also features with Lonesome Roving Wolves, on which vocal harmonies are elegant and full-bodied but never saccharine. Meanwhile Bob Fox and Stu Luckley’s performance of Two Magicians carries a stomp as insistent as the blacksmith in the song’s lyrics.
As well as giving a valuable platform to new music, Fellside have also built up a catalogue of tasteful reissues. Whilst the label has put out several discs of A.L. Lloyd, here a previously unreleased recording of The Rambling Sailor sees light of day.
Also featured is Peter Bellamy with Mandalay. Whilst perhaps one of the more ordinary tracks from the many superlative albums of his, it does highlight the worthy duty performed by Fellside in keeping them in production and available for new generations of singers to take inspiration from.
No label is immune from the occasional misstep, as The Journeyman shows, a polemic against railway privatisation that, lyrically, is somewhat heavy handed. That’s probably an inevitable byproduct, however, of not being afraid to release material likely to divide opinion, such as Jungle Queen by The Maerlock Big Band, a jazz-funk-fiddle reel mashup that is perversely enjoyable.
Whether to prove that the recording industry remains a worthwhile pursuit or simply to celebrate some fine releases, Fellside have produced a compilation diverse enough to have something for all tastes. Roll on the 50th anniversary.Nick Brook
Released February 2016 on Fellside Recordings
Disc One: The Long And Winding Road
1. The Valley of Strathmore - Bram Taylor Band
2. Polkas - Last Orders
3. Madeleine - Frankie Armstrong
4. Your Own Roads - The Queensberry Rules
5. The Gardener - Grace Notes
6. Collier Lad / Highland Mary - Crucible
7. The Northern Road - Jack McNeill & Charlie Hayes
8. Jungle Queen - The Maerlock Big Band
9. Bonnie Lassie - Rachael Newton & Lillias Kinsman-Blake
10. The Auld Fisher’s Farewell to the Coquet - Graham & Sam Pirt
11. Rambling Sailor - A.L. Lloyd
12. The Settle & Carlisle - Dave Goulder
13. Train on the Island - Sara Grey
14. Dressed to Roll - Tom Kitching & Gren Bartley
15. Roll on by - Elbow Jane
16. All Night Long - Andy May
17. England Loves a Poor Boy - Lizzie Nunnery
18. One for Lily - The Hut People
19. Wars O’ Germanie - Wendy Weatherby
20. All Coming Back To Me Now - Joe Topping
Disc Two: The Journey Continues
1. A Beggar - Ewan McClennan
2. Rock of Gelt / Walls - Ruth Notman, Julie Matthews & Elvis McGonnagal
3. York Rant - 422
4. Foggy Dew - James Findlay
5 . Mandalay - Peter Bellamy
6. Only a Soldier - Pilgrims Way
7. Drunkard’s Lament - Hedy West
8. Caught Us Doing It - The Jake Leg Jug Band
9. The Sheepstealer - Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick
10. Are We There Yet - Hadrian’s Union
11. The Railway Children - Joe Tilston
12. Ned’s Reel / Hunt the Spider - Fiona Cuthill & Stevie Lawrence
13. The Sailor’s Way - Hughie Jones
14. The Hand on the Plough - Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith
15. The Baffled Knight - Lucy Ward with Brian Peters, Bella Hardy & James Findlay
16. The Journeyman - Pete Morton
17. If You Can’t Land Her - Hot Fingers
18. Away from the Pits - Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar
19. Where Ravens Feed - Linda Adams
Disc Three: A Bit Of A Detour
1. These Coal Town Days - Jez Lowe & The Bad Pennies
2. The Dowie Dens of Yarrow - Janet Russell
3. The Female Soldier Bold - John Kirkpatrick
4. Lonesome Roving Wolves - Sara Gray & Ellie Ellis
5. Helen of Kirkconnell - Bobby Eaglesham
6. Devilish Mary - Barry Skinner
7. Dwelling in Beulahland - Swan Arcade
8. Peace and Love and Understanding - Marilyn Middleton-Pollock
9. When This Old Hat Was New - John Wright
10. Yellow Handkerchief - Linda Adams
11. The Demon Lover - Nick Caffrey
12. Green Bushes - Benji Kirkpatrick
13. Where The Brumbles Come To Water - Gerry Hallom
14. Two Magicians - Bob Fox & Stu Luckley
15. John of Hazelgreen - Colin Thompson
16. The Jolly Boys’ Song - Preston Isle Metal Band
17. The Bailiffs Daughter - John Rennard
18. Shenandoah - Jolly Jack