The other non-traditional song is Bella Hardy’s "Three Black Feathers", a tale of night visiting that gets an expansive arrangement, though one wonders if the refrain ‘for this is only one mans story, Within a tale of many men’ might not have a resonance for Mr Moray way beyond the confines of this fine song.
The traditional and the non-traditional meet head on in, for this critic, the album's highlight, "Lucy Wan", which is the apotheosis of all modern folk music can achieve. This murder ballad’s first publication is dated as 1776 by James Child, and the dark narrative of brotherly incest and death remains pretty much unchanged since then. Mr Moray imparts the stark facts against a distant ominous synth and a nervous tick of percussion, till the drums stutter, and a huge bass line dives through the mix like Red October, as we are introduced to the murderous brother, Bristol rapper Bubbz, who opens the song up like a straight razor. An incest-riven family of 1776 suddenly becomes transported to an urban dystopia in 2008, as Fiona Bradshaw’s English border pipes become a swarm of approaching sirens, the disparate voices railing against the angry mob — both ancient and modern, pipe and drum, then and now.
Okay, listen up: yes, those of you tutting and shaking your head at the back — ‘rap on a folk album, whatever next’. Well fie on you, and all those like you, skulking away, griping on Internet message boards. To those who think folk music should be kept as some untouched musical museum piece, I have to point out the obvious — folk songs are the clay, the raw material, not some ancient vase to be admired from afar. Folk music is and does what it says on the tin, for it is the music of the folk, the people, it tells it like it is, when there was, and indeed still is at times, no other medium for transmitting this particular truth, a truth that endures. The rebellious poachers in "Rufford Park Poachers" fighting for the right to feed their families (based on an actual event) are the same downtrodden folk Joe Strummer was reaching out to when he sang "White Riot" — the Clash were just a folk group with loud guitars.
It is part of the same cultural melting pot that Lethal Bizzle is mixing up the medicine in, with tracks like "Babylon Burning in the Ghetto". To not embrace with outstretched arms this cross-pollination that travels both through time and across cultural boundaries is akin to accepting artistic eugenics, that give forth a debilitating stench of pride and prejudice that so taints those who see some advantage in ring-fencing folk music, driven by a desire for misguided elitist purity. The simple fact that a song first published in 1776 is being remade and remodeled and providing inspiration in 2008 is a testament to the staying power of folk music. As are the varied and vibrant scenes that flourish on record and in the thriving folk festivals that are such an essential part of the English summer. And breathe…