This part of the blog is where we have over the years come across hidden gems from a bygone age that beg to be heard and listened to again. Lost and sometimes forgotten songs from legends and unknowns that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to our modern celtic-punk music. There’s also the history behind the recordings and of the performers themselves.These records are usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.
The music on this blog is intended to promote artists and labels and eventually to save the sound for future listening. It is made out of passion, without any commercial purpose. It aims to be a resource and research tool for the exploration of music as a part of cultural and social history, as a form of critique and celebration.
If you like the music, go and try to buy the original if available. Support the artists, go to their concerts or buy their merchandise. If any of the links go down simply leave a comment and we will try our best to re-upload it for you. Similarly if you are aware of any copyright to any of these please leave a comment and we will be happy to either remove or link if you prefer to your site. Any further information on any of these recordings/performers is welcome feel free to comment or correct.
VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘People Take Warning! Murder Ballads And Disaster Songs 1913-1938’ here
Authentic folk and country music from black and white performers from the roots of America’s musical traditions. Seventy beautifully remastered songs from a multitude of artists on a three x CD set with over half on CD for the very first time.
EWAN MacCOLL -‘Bad Lads And Hard Cases: British Ballads Of Crime And Criminals’ (1959) here
The legendary Ewan MacColl charts the penal history of these Isles in song it has stood the test of time as have many of the songs and as criminality and criminals have long been a subject matter for celtic punk bands then this album fully deserves a listen. As is the way many of these songs have lost their true meaning down the years so find out their real history. On this album Ewan is accompanied on the guitar and banjo by his wife Peggy Seeger.
EWAN MacCOLL AND PEGGY SEEGER – ‘The Jacobite Rebellions’ (1962) here
A series of uprisings, rebellions and wars across Scotland, Ireland and England between 1688 and 1746. They ended in failure and the repression that the English rained down on the Scots after their victory would end with untold thousands leaving Scotland to make better lives in the America’s. Ewan was the Manchester-born son of a Gaelic-speaking mother and Lowland father from whom he inherited more than a hundred songs and ballads and was immensely proud of his Scots roots.
VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Don’t Mourn. Organize!- Songs Of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill’ here
Joe Hill’s powerful words have moved countless artists to blend politics and song and this dramatic tribute to the Industrial Workers of the World songwriter and activist Joe Hill, features songs by and about Hill performed by Billy Bragg, Pete Seeger, Earl Robinson, Paul Robeson and others. An absolute treasure for anyone interested in American folk and labour music.
LEADBELLY- ‘Easy Rider’ here
Huddie Ledbetter, known as Leadbelly, was an old-school wrecking ball of folk-singing awesomeness. A truly unique figure in American music of the 20th century. Often mistaken as a blues performer he was a profound influence on the folk stars of the 1940s such as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, who in turn influenced the folk revival and the development of rock music from the 1960s onward. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame early in the Hall’s life, and his music, which became insanely more popular after his death, has been covered by dozens of bands, all of whom cite the hard-drinking, hard-fighting Leadbelly as a major influence on their careers.
VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Little Red Box Of Protest Songs’ here
A three CD box-set full of the finest American folk music from the early 20th century. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the publication of the American protest song book, ‘The Little Red Song Book’ this collection traces the roots of protest song in the US from the first half of the last century up to the Fifties illustrating how the stage was set for the folk protest giants of the Sixties such as Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs. Featuring classic performances by Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Josh White, Leadbelly, The Almanac Singers, The Weavers and many many more.
GIL SCOTT-HERON- ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ here
Known as the ‘Godfather Of Rap’ Gil Scott-Heron was a well respected composer, musician, author and poet he remains best known for writing and performing the spoken-word track ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’. Well it’s also a little known fact that Gil Scott Heron’s old man, Gil Heron was the first black player to play for Celtic. Known as ‘The Black Arrow’ the Jamaican-born Heron played one season in the Hoops during the 1951-52 season
EWAN MacCOLL- ‘Scots Drinking Songs’ (1956) here
2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the legendary Ewan MacColl’s birth and although ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ and ‘Dirty Old Town’ remain his biggest ‘hits’ he also wrote and recorded hundreds of traditional songs baring the experience of the working class. Ewan worked as a garage hand, builder’s labourer, trade union organizer, journalist, radio scriptwriter, actor and dramatist and wrote and broadcast extensively about folk music and frequently took part in radio and TV shows.
VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Protest! American Protest Songs 1928-1953’ here
VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Women Folk- Iconic Women Of American Folk’ here
Published to celebrate ‘International Women’s Day’ this excellent compilation featuring five of the greatest ever folk music artists to have ever lived. Sadly three of the five are no longer with us and only one is still performing but this music represents the pioneers of the folk music movement in America. Odetta, Jean Ritchie, Carolyn Hester, Barbara Dane and Etta Baker set the standard for female artists of their day and went on to influence the likes of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Judy Collins directly as well as all who those who followed in their footsteps.
VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Greatest Songs Of Woody Guthrie’ here
Woody Guthrie was the single most important folk music artist of the 20th century, in part because he turned out to be such a major influence on the popular music of the second half of the 20th century. He performed continually throughout his life with his guitar frequently displaying the slogan ‘This Machine Kills Fascists’. His greatest significance lies in his songwriting. Songs like the standard ‘This Land Is Your Land’ and much-covered works as ‘Deportee’, ‘Do Re Mi’, ‘Hard, Ain’t It Hard’, ‘Hard Travelin’, ‘1913 Massacre’, ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’ are all featured on ‘The Greatest Songs Of Woody Guthrie’ in one way or another.
THE DUBLINERS- ‘A Best Of The Dubliners’ here
Without doubt the best known band in the Celtic music world. Formed in 1962 their first hit single ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ launched them into international stardom. Non stop touring and a stint with The Pogues ensured that the popularity of their music never ebbed. Without them it is highly debatable whether or not celtic-punk would have ever come about as Shane McGowan himself has said. The Dubliners- The first and original celtic-punk band.
JOHNNY CASH- ‘The Christmas Album’ (1963) here
Though he would go on to later make umpteen Christmas themed albums this was Johnny Cash’s first attempt and by far and away his greatest. Released in 1963 The Christmas Spirit features twelve songs of which many were penned either by the great man himself or his family and a handful of Johnny’s unparalleled Christmas standards such as ‘The Little Drummer Boy’, ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Blue Christmas’. When i was a young one it wasn’t Christmas if my Mammy hadn’t played some Johnny Cash!
THE CLANCY BROTHERS AND TOMMY MAKEM- ‘Come Fill Your Glass With Us ‘ (1959) here
The Clancy Brothers were brothers who, along with longtime companion Tommy Makem, are among the most important figures in Irish music history. Still considered as one of the most internationally renowned Irish folk bands and some have even gone so far as to credit them as being among the main inspirations in the American folk revival of the ’50s and ’60s. As you can tell instantly from the album’s title, ‘Come Fill Your Glass with Us’, the album is a virtual soundtrack of Irish pub life. The recording perfectly evokes the hard-drinking, late-night atmosphere of a working man’s Irish pub.
‘Steady As She Goes. Songs And Chanties From The Days of Commercial Sail’ (1976) here
‘THE HANGMAN’S BLUES: Prison Songs In Country Music 1956-1972 (2016) here
This isn’t technically a part of the Steppin’ Stones series but does fit the criteria perfectly. Grim tales of jailbirds, cutthroats, cuckolds, executioners, murderers and escapees. Prison ballads form part of the historic lifeblood of Country Music and saw a resurgence after the 1960 execution of controversial convict Caryl Chessman. Here are some of the very best, seldom heard since their original release. From smooth balladeers of woe to ramshackle and plaintive backyard rockabilly. The tracks here were first issued on long forgotten 45’s and all are incredibly rare and many are reissued here for the first time since release and remastered from the original master tapes.
DICK GAUGHAN- ‘Handful Of Earth’ (1981) here
Long considered one of the greatest folk voices of our time and acknowledged as one of Scotland’s most outstanding musicians. Handful Of Earth is renowned as not only his best album but also as one of the best folk album’s of all time. A brilliant album that features Brian McNeill, Phil Cunningham and Stewart Isbister and is, without doubt, Gaughan’s best blend of traditional and contemporary songs. He may be taking a break through illness but he’s always in our hearts and minds.
FLOYD WESTERMAN- Custer Died For Your Sins (1969) here
Floyd ‘Red Crow’ Westerman was a Dakota Sioux musician, political activist, and actor. After establishing a career as a country music singer he later in his life became the leading actor depicting Native Americans in American films and TV. He worked as a political activist and sadly released only two full-length albums, one of which features here, Custer Died For Your Sins. The album took its title from a popular Native American book of the time. We published this on the 10th anniversary of his sad passing and it was always considered a shame, by people better placed than us, that he never got around to making another. After all his people and their sad and tragic history could certainly supply the material to fill them.
EWAN MacCOLL and DOMINIC BEHAN- ‘Streets of Song. Childhood Memories of City Streets from Glasgow, Salford and Dublin’ (1959) here
Scottish folksinger Ewan MacColl and Irish singer Dominic Behan delve into their childhoods to present the songs and chants of working-class neighborhoods in Dublin, Glasgow, and Salford. Unaccompanied—in keeping with tradition—the 100 songs include rhymes, ditties, counting games, skipping-rope pieces, jibes, taunts, oaths, street ballads, seasonal songs and insults. In between selections, Ewan and Dominic provide context by explaining the circumstances in which the songs were performed. A fascinating piece of working class history performed by two legendary figures. Some listeners may recognize songs from their own childhood and both Dominic and Ewan spent their lives preserving and archiving music from days past and now almost sixty years later we can present this remarkable album to you.
VARIOUS ARTISTS: KICKIN’ HITLER’S BUTT- Vintage Anti-Fascist Songs 1940-1944 here
Yeah the title says it all! Eighteen anti-fascist anthems from WW2 (don’t tell the Americans the War actually started in 1939) including songs from seasoned bluesmen Leadbelly, Josh White and Son House alongside Spike Jones’ madcap ‘Der Fuhrer’s Face’ and the acappella Golden Gate Quartet’s sublime ‘Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’. Now this is an American release so that means the theme tune from Dad’s Army is sadly missing but that is still no reason to not to indulge yourself with a free download of this collection of anti-fascist songs written, performed and released between 1940 and 1944.Eighteen tracks that inspired a generation to leave America’s shores and kill off the biggest menace the modern world has ever seen.
PHIL OCHS- ‘I Ain’t Marching Anymore’ (1965) here
The ultimate 60’s folk singing radical who put protest songs on the map and wrote the most sincere and provocative material of his day. I Ain’t Marching Anymore is Phil Ochs’ second LP and includes the awe inspiring title track that defined a whole generation. There were those who fought and those who fought against the Vietnam War and Phil Ochs was the latter. The release of I Ain’t Marching Anymore became a defining moment during the War and catapulted Phil Ochs into the unofficial leadership of the anti-war movement. Sadly the fame didn’t sit well on Phil’s shoulders and he took his own life in 1976 leaving behind a fine volume of work in his memory.
THE CHIEFTAINS- ‘Celtic Harp’ (1993) here
After 57 remarkable years as the world’s most influential and successful traditional Irish folk band, The Chieftains continue to explore new and unusual passageways for Irish music collaborating with some of modern music’s fastest rising artists, reinterpreting for old and new generations alike, what the music means today while hinting where it might lead tomorrow. Here on Celtic Harp they lead a tribute to the work of Edward Bunting with the Belfast Harp Orchestra. The Celtic Harp is essentially a showcase for the very talented harpist Derek Bell who handled all of the arrangements, as well as contributed harpsichord and tiompan to the proceedings. The Celtic Harp won a Grammy Award for ‘Best Traditional Folk Album’ in 1994.
VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Rebel Voices. Songs Of The Industrial Workers Of The World’ here
The Industrial Workers of the World blazed a path in American history and its influence is still felt widely today. The ‘Wobblies’ and music were interwoven helping to build morale, promote solidarity and lift the bleak spirits of the working-class during the bleakest days of American history. Here are twenty of those songs that can still lift our spirits decades later. Welcoming into the union those that others shunned, the Wobblies from the start were the labour movement’s pioneers and innovators, unionising hundreds of thousands of workers previously regarded as “unorganizable”. The Wobblies, the name given to members of the IWW, at their peak in 1917, numbered near 200,000 but state repression, competition from other unions and the inevitable split led to a decline in membership that has seen this once great organisation become a mere shadow of itself. With their imaginative, colourful and world-famous strikes and free-speech fights, the IWW wrote many of the brightest pages in the annals of working class history. Wobblies also made immense and invaluable contributions to workers’ culture. All but a few of America’s most popular labour songs are Wobbly songs and IWW cartoons have long been recognised as labour’s finest and funniest.
LOUDEST WHISPER- ‘The Children of Lir’ (1974) here
Loudest Whisper were an Irish folk rock/progressive folk group formed in the early 1970’s led by singer/songwriter Brian O’Reilly. Best known for their debut album, The Children Of Lir, a folk opera based on the Irish legend of the same name. The original LP release of the album has become one of the most sought after records in Ireland, and ranks among the most rare and sought after records in the world. A glorious mixture of catchy melodies, soaring harmonies and biting acid guitar.
Also includes the late and great Ronnie Drew of The Dubliners reading the story of The Children Of Lir.
SONGS FOR POLITICAL ACTION- FOLK MUSIC, TOPICAL SONGS AND THE AMERICAN LEFT- Various Artists here
Financially out of reach for those that would most benefit from hearing it (how absolutely typical!) this 10 CD collection of near 300 rare political songs from between 1926-1953 is as perfect a package as could possibly be. Released on the German-based Bear Family label it features songs from folk singers Almanac Singers, Pete Seeger, The Weavers, Woody Guthrie and many others, and also bluesmen like Josh White and Brownie McGhee.
THE HUMBLEBUMS (with Billy Connolly Gerry Rafferty) – ‘Open Up The Door’ (1970) here
Scottish Folk-Rock group The Humblebums were formed in Glasgow in 1965 by Billy Connolly and Tam Harvey but it was the arrival of the soon to be legendary singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty in 1969 that would see the band move in a new direction. Gerry’s sensitive, beautifully written songs and Billy’s anarchic humour combining magnificently. Open Up the Door was their last of the three albums they released before splitting up and going their own separate ways and onto much bigger and more lucrative things. especially here on their last album before they split the following year.
BOB DYLAN – ‘The Ghost Of Woody Guthrie’ (1961) here
Happy birthday Bob! To celebrate the 80th birthday of Bob Dylan here’s a set of live recordings taken from various concerts in 1961, the year before his debut album. Surprisingly Bob Dylan has barely featured on these pages much. He has been name checked along the years but this is the first time we have highlighted some of his actual recordings. The songs here are among Dylan’s earliest known with him beginning his journey towards musical stardom. None are originals and as the name suggests, the legendary radical American singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie’s influence hangs like a spectre over much of the material. Twenty-two songs plus bonus tracks, notes and artwork all included through the links provided for you.
CALLINAN-FLYNN – Freedom’s Lament (1972) here
Freedom’s Lament is an album from the early 1970’s from Callinan-Flynn, a Irish Folk duo that only recorded one album and one single of contemporary Irish Folk that still stands proud today almost fifty years on. Recorded in Chalk Farm on Mushroom Records with a tiny circulation of 200 on vinyl it would soon become a collectors item with original albums going for well over £200. Radical politics were common place in the 70’s and in fact put what passes for radical politics in this day and age to shame. Freedom’s Lament played a very important part in the development of Irish Folk music that would lead later onto the Celtic-Rock scene. One of the best records we have featured.