Getting vocal about criminal justice

Pat Webber
Sunday 23 October 2011 08:55

What makes Elvis Costello go weak at the knees? You're wrong. It isn't posing for the picture on the cover of My Aim is True. It's listening to the creamy-rich voice of June Tabor(7.20pm R4). "Anyone who doesn't like June Tabor should stop listeni ng to music," says the punk rocker turned quartetmeister. Few who have heard it would disagree.

I first heard June Tabor on an outing to a tiny pub with a bead-wearing aunt in the 1980s. In those days, she was still singing unaccompanied ballads and her voice caused a sensation. Later she started experimenting with rockers such as Richard Thompson and Costello and has gradually emerged as the premier British exponent of European-style "Art Song" (imagine someone mid-way between Sinead O'Connor and Joni Mitchell). But the passing of the Criminal Justice Bill has freshened up her interest in her folk roots.

Long after the English folk tradition had died out in towns and villages, it was kept alive by communities of gypsies. Now, argues Tabor, even that lifestyle is being effectively outlawed. Perhaps the clampdown on travellers will itself spur a fresh folkrevival. "Deprivation is a great preserver of the oral tradition," Tabor has previously said. "If you're going to have a folk revival, it helps to be an oppressed nation." Elvis Costello, judging by his attempts to rediscover his old gall on his new album, Brutal Youth, would agree.

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