Day 12:01 am
When I was connecting the dots between all things more leftfield folk music, one particularly informative book was Jeanette Leach’s Seasons They Change, a book which to quote the back cover “tells the story of the birth, death, and resurrection of acid and psychedelic folk.”
…which it does indeed do, dropping a trail of breadcrumbs largely chronologically through that particular story.
There are only really a tiny handful of books on such or interconnected things (the A Year In The Country friendly ones would probably be Seasons They Change, Rob Young’s Electric Eden, Shindig magazines Witches Hats and Painted Chariots and the 1970s The Electric Muse: The Story Of Folk Into Rock). Although a wander through the digital ether can help to inform and make connections, there’s something about a well put together book that codifies and coheres a story…
From what I remember I made a particular trip to buy it from an actual bookshop (a rarity nowadays in the land) and with the sun shining down sat next to a pond to begin quite a journey… which I seem to recall ended with an almost palpitatory experience of sitting with headphones scan-listening to just about every band, record and song that was mentioned as I came across it in the book.
…and it was something of a fine education which did indeed help me to connect up the aforementioned dots between everything from 1960s psychedelic folk to the 2000s arrival of freak folk via Current 93 and…
…well, the world of privately pressed folk music.
In these days when it’s a relatively easy task to record and then put out into the world creative work via everything from music hosting sites to print on demand everything, it’s almost hard to imagine the dedication and commitment that was once required to do such things; the expense, expertise and access to equipment which was required to privately press vinyl records provided a heavy-handed filtering system…
But some made it through and a handful of the results have become rarefied, treasured artifacts, totems and tokens of semi-hidden and once almost lost culture.
In Seasons They Change the chapter Sanctuary Stone is dedicated to such things. Some of those featured I first stumbled across via one of the early touchstones of A Year In The Country: the compilation Early Morning Hush (Notes From The Folk Underground 1969-76) but at the time I never got to read the sleevenotes and I didn’t look up any information on the songs or those who recorded them, possibly I was just enjoying letting my wander amongst this world of a folk music that was a far sweeter and stranger set of concoctions than anything that I had come across under the label of folk before…
So, who are we talking about? Well, on the Early Morning Hush album it would be Midwinter, the connected Stone Angel and Shide And Acorn. Further afield I would probably look to Oberon and Caedmon (whose Sea Song I didn’t consciously know that I had listened to it before but when I first heard it on vinyl it was like discovering a long-lost friend that I thought I never knew).
Most of those mentioned in the paragraph above are covered in Seasons They Change, alongside their privately pressed counterparts from over the seas…
…and some of the songs which were put out into the world through personal endeavour now sound like folk which should have bothered the pop charts at the time, in particular the epic folk-pop of The Sea, Midwinter’s The Skater, Shide And Acorn’s Eleanor’s Song and Oberon’s Nottanum Town.
So, if you should want to wander down the pathways of the undergrowths of folk music and map the crisscrossing strands that you come across, well, look no further than Seasons They Change. Ms Leech, a tip of the hat to you.
Early Morning Hush compiled by author/St Etienne-r/musical archiver Bob Stanley can be perused here. Jeanette Leech can be found ornithologically here, archivally here, Seasons They Change here and a year of book wandering here. The story of Stone Angel here.
Read more about Early Morning Hush and it’s travelling companion from earlier days of A Year In The Country here.
PS Due to their scarcity and rarity, most of the original vinyl versions of the records mentioned above are well beyond the humble purse strings of A Year In The Country… so, this English Garden reissue of Caedmon’s album is the closest to such things that is likely to be visited around these parts.