Shirley Collins is living history. A pioneer who has been exploring the possibilities of folk music right from its second surging UK revival in the 1950’s. Along the way she was a key player in Davy Graham’s mid 60’s jazz folk fusions and then with her sister Dolly, injected authenticity and traditional flavours into the burgeoning 70’s underground scene via two classic albums on Harvest (Anthems in Eden and Love, Death and the Lady)
So although she was already beginning to distance herself from the music world by the late 70’s her total withdrawal enforced by the complete loss of her singing voice was tragic. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the gaping silence was suddenly broken in 2016 with the release of ‘Lodestar’, an LP which showed that at the age of 81 she had lost none of the feel for folk’s inner soul.
And now comes news of her second ‘come back’ album ‘Heart’s Ease’ to be released via Domino on 24th July. Collin’s reveals that the motivation to express herself is very much back on the agenda “I’m still learning songs and just want to keep learning them. I thought ‘somebody has got to sing these songs, so it might as well be me!”. Always modest but passionately committed ‘Heart’s Ease’ promises to mark the return of an artist confidently returning to the peak of her powers.
You can hear that assurance on ‘Wondrous Love’ the first song to shared as a preview to the main event. Inevitably the song has historical and personal resonance (she first heard the song on her field recording trip to the deep south America states with Alan Lomax in 1959) but it captures a sense of foreboding that is very much here and now. Sparsely arranged with a tense slide guitar that underpins her resonant vocal, now deeper than yesteryear but still clear and touched by the old song’s emotion. So welcome back once again Shirley Collins, a real national treasure and part of our landscape.