That wasn’t the way things were supposed to go, but as different faces appeared at the studio door, it probably seemed a pity to let what they had to offer go to waste. Apart from that core group, the album included vocal contributions from Maddy Prior, Royston Wood, Lal and Mike Waterson, and Nic Jones, who also played fiddle (as did Barry Dransfield). 

Additional instrumental tones were added by Dolly Collins and Ian Whiteman (piano), Dave Mattacks (sticks and drums), John Kirkpatrick (accordion), Tim Renwick (acoustic and electric guitar), Lol Coxhill (alto sax), Alan Cave (bassoon) and Steve Migden (French horn) with more esoteric notes added by Northumbrian small pipes (Colin Ross), melodeon (Tony Hall), hurdy-gurdy  (Francis Baines), ophicleide (a brass keyed-bugle that seems to have been an antecedent of the saxophone, played by Alan Lumsden) and the more prosaic jaw harp (Trevor Crozier).

But it’s all about the music, and having worked through Anthems in Eden and Love, Death and the Lady what’s on offer here has a more contemporary feel, sounding like (as someone put it) like Shirley Collins backed by Fairport Convention, which is close to the money, but not quite on it. 

Collins’ vocals are as Albion as they were on the preceding recordings, the instrumental work has a recognizably Fairport orientation, but the more exotic sonic contributions take it a step away from the early seventies folk rock scene but not as far as the pseudo-medieval early music present on Anthems in Eden.

As far as the material itself is concerned, we’ve got the returning sailor the faithful girlfriend fails to recognise (much the same territory as John Riley) on Claudy Banks (from Sussex’s Copper family), Romany fortune tellers who end up with the well-born squire (Little Gipsy Girl, from Louise Holms of Hereford), rejected suitors deemed unsuitable by wealthy parents (Banks of The Bann, from Bert Lloyd), notorious killings such as the Murder of Maria Marten (from Joseph Taylor of Lincolnshire), cautionary tales for would-be poachers in Van Dieman's Land (collated by Ashley Hutchings), returning lovers (Just As The Tide Was A'Flowing, from Aunt Grace Winborn, Hastings), cross-country hunting (The White Hare from Joseph Taylor of Lincolnshire), historical and mythical themes in Cornish mystery plays and spring rituals i.e. Hal-An-Tow (part of the May ritual in Helston, Cornwall) and the discovery and burial of unknown women (Poor Murdered Woman from Mr. Foster of Surrey)

All in all, the product of musicians with a deep love and understanding of the English music heritage and a desire to set the tradition in a more contemporary setting that works well provided you’re not put off by the breathy, slightly unearthly Collins vocal character, which may be a tad on the trad folkie finger in the ear style for some listeners.

Still, placing No Roses alongside the likes of Fairport Convention’s Liege & Lief and Full House or the early Steeleye Span it’s an interesting variation on emerging themes. More obviously traditional than Fairport, not quite as rocky as Steeleye....

Having delved back this far, I’m looking towards the albums that followed, or those that are available through iTunes (The Albion Dance Band’s The Prospect Before Us, Shirley and Dolly Collins For As Many As Will being prime candidates).

© Ian Hughes 2012