Singing Out

A Folk Narrative Of Maddy Prior, June Tabor & Linda Thompson

Author: David Burke
Publisher: Soundcheck Books

Whilst there have been individual biographies of three of folk's most iconic figures and all three have been included in each other's stories, particularly Maddy & June, who actually came together in the same band, The Silly Sisters, this is the first tome that gives all three equal billing and weaves their stories around each other.

It creates some really good perspectives and provides a great context for events that stretched across the lives of all three singers, though on balance, Linda, who arguably had the most rock and roll lifestyle of the three feels more out on her own because there isn't such a close relationship with the other two singers, would I change the way that's presented? Probably not, mainly because the alternative would be the need to section the book off more than it already is.

Instinctively with biographies, I'll go for the photographs, if they have them, and all three artists are well represented here, including shots from their personal collections. Whilst pictures don't tell the story, I feel it gives a good direction and sense of what is to come.

Running the stories is parallel gives the reader ample opportunities to understand how the artists came into music and how the different paths all lead to folk and folk rock, albeit as a writer and/or interpreter. I particularly found the section on June Tabor's accompanists to be really interesting as it both raised and answered questions on what some believe to be a truly arcane art.

Burke has given the book a strong narrative, heavily reinforced with interviews with the three main subjects, as well as family members and friends. It's not warts and all, but neither does the book gloss over some of the darker aspects that impacted all three stars and serves as a great introduction to both artist and the events that shaped their lives and ultimately their music.

This sense of introduction includes a suggested listening guide, as well as discographies, both tucked at the back of the book to serve as appendices and I'm never really sure how well these sit in biographies, I think it's a different audience.

Leaving that aside, I enjoyed Singing Out, but ultimately it feels like a sketch book, rather than a full blown portrait gallery, but it left me wanting to know more and as a fan of all three artists, I came away feeling I knew them better, job done.

Neil King

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