Little Rock to Leipzig

8 Apr


The main news item today is the death of Baroness Thatcher, former British Prime Minister. Mrs Thatcher inspired adulation and abhorrence in almost equal measure – along with a collection of songs, some of which (like Robert Wyatt’s ‘Shipbuilding’) will last.

While today is not the time for the vituperative personal abuse of some of the others, it seems right to highlight the track ‘Coal Not Dole’ which features on the largely live Oysterband album ‘From Little Rock to Leipzig‘ (1991 on the Cooking Vinyl label, catalogue COOKCD 032)). This track, sung acapella by vocalist John Jones, was written at the time of the 1984/85 miners strike by Kay Sutcliffe, the wife of a striking miner from Kent. It’s a track that appears to be fast-entering the folk tradition, having been covered by a variety of artists. The lines:

“There’ll always be a happy hour
For those with money, jobs and power.
They’ll never realise the hurt,
They do to them they treat like dirt”.

seem to sum up an incredibly divisive and tragic period in recent history.But that’s just one track of a collection which also includes a great version of ‘I Fought The Law’ (try playing before or after the Clash’s version) along with other high energy ‘rock’n’reel’ numbers, including a few traditional English tunes, that show that Cajun and Zydeco music don’t have a monopoly on making a rock band with fiddle and accordion kick ass! If you haven’t encountered the Oysterband (still active), this is a good place to start. I bought this in Leicester when it came out – and the sticker still on the case tells me I paid £7.49 for it – pretty good value for money really as I’ve played it on and off ever since!


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