2 Jan


My first post of 2014 celebrates Maggie Holland – a wonderfully expressive hidden treasure (ie criminally unknown) of British music.

The one time I that I can be sure I saw her live was at the Big Jug Folk Club (a pub on Claypath in Durham) in 1980. She was singing and playing bass as half of a duo called Hot Vultures.

Since then, she’s wandered across my musical landscape in a fairly random way but enriched it at every point – to the extent that if she ever tours within 30 miles of me, I want to hear her again! I may have heard her live since then but there are some gigs (especially benefits) where the cause sticks in the mind more than the artists.

At various points Ms Holland  was part of the Albion Band ensemble which had a residency at the National Theatre in the early eighties (from which Look Up, Look Up on this collection comes); she was a quarter of The English Country Blues Band  (I know their recorded repertoire really well  but can’t recall where or when I saw them live)(Damn you alcohol and dancing!), Tiger Moth,  and, around the end of the eighties/early nineties  she was part of  the radical singer songwriter Robb Johnson’s backing band (contributing a distinctive backing vocal to Mr Johnson’s 1992 song (‘Undefeated’) about an largely heroic but futile miners’ strike in the UK).

She next cropped up in my sonic landscape through the cover CDs issued by the UK Magazine Folk Roots/Froots which featured two five star songs: These were June Tabor‘s cover of ‘A Proper Sort of Gardener’ and Maggies’ version of  her own ‘A Place Called England’ from 2004.  ‘A Place Called England’ is quite simply one of my all-time favourite songs in it’s expression of why I  love the land into which I was born. Do watch  – and then go and buy it.

Bones collects more of Ms Holland’s work and my other favourite track is her take of the wonderful traditional song ‘Banks of the Nile’. While the version recorded by Sandy Denny and Fotheringay remains my all-time recording  of this song, Maggie Holland runs it close!

Ms Holland now lives around Edinburgh and appears relatively inactive (at least in the Midlands) – but she is an awesome singer, fine composer and can play bass, banjo and guitar with style. If you get the opportunity to see her live, jump at the chance (and tell me if it’s ever near Northampton).


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