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Johnny Campbell Johnny Campbell
Album: Avalon
Label: Subversive Folk
Tracks: 10

Avalon was recorded on location in the highlands of Scotland with just a few microphones, a few musicians and an engineer. The album features a variety of traditions, from traditional English folk through Irish anti-war songs, some Scandinavian inspired songs to American folk in the style of Woody Guthrie. The recurring theme of forced migration, caused by war or by needing work runs through the album. This enhances the recording which has a real feel of the field recordings made by collectors of early folk song.

The first song 'The Banks of the Roses is a traditional song which has been sung by many people from the Dubliners to June Tabor. The song has many versions but all centre around the girls desire to settle with her love and his desire to prove that he will stay with her.

The next song is sung in the style of an American folk song, 'Wanderlust'. It could easily be Dylan or Guthrie song. 'Leavers Avenue' tackles the subject of Brexit and has a more contemporary style. 'Arthur McBride' is another traditional song which has been recorded by a variety of artists from Bob Dylan to Planxty to Paul Brady. This version in a American travelling song style leads onto Campbell's own song 'Showtime'.

Then we are back to Yorkshire with the traditional song 'The Dalesman's Litany' about having to travel to the industrial towns for work. 'Last Year' is a song looking back to life before travel and how much better the old life was. The instrumental 'Planxty Katerina' invokes thought of the Appalachian tunes. The mournful song 'Tear Stained Letter' concludes the album and leaves us looking back at a life of regrets and loneliness.

I should also mention the excellent art work on the album sleeve, by Rebekah Findlay. The Raven and Rose motif gives hints of the songs about travel, hardship and loss contained in this excellent CD.

David Hiney