At a recent Open Mic at a local pub I played a version of Mississippi Fred Mcdowell’s song ‘You got to move’ and I was talking to other musicians after and explained that we could thank Shirley Collins for the discovery of Fred Mcdowell,I don’t think they all believed me! Although Shirley is one of our most famous folk singers lots of people don’t realise she and Alan Lomax discovered Fred and lots of other musicians on a field trip in the late fifties.It is really good to hear that Shirley has a new album out in early November,she has’nt been singing for over thirty years so many of us are really looking forward to it. I first saw Shirley and her sister Dolly at a Folk music sort of workshop at Chailey around 1960 and recognized quite a few of their songs from my parents.A few years ago Shirley published a book called ‘America over the water’which was about her field trip with Alan Lomax which to me was fascinating and a couple of months later she did a small tour talking about it with film and original audio tracks of the trip,even more fascinating especially to me the Fred Mcdowell tracks with his wife contributing as well. Shirley of course has a great recorded history, with her sister Dolly,The Albion Band and other collabarations,also the wonderful album with Davey Graham,Folk Roots New Routes which on paper many people did’nt think would work but work it did and must be one of the most influential records ever produced,there was nothing like it any where at that time. I listened to it recently and it is still staggering.So it will be really interesting to hear the new album in November ,to hear her sing again will be nothing short of lovely. Anyway I would like to thank Shirley for educating me about Fred Mcdowell and of other wonderful musicians
and even more so for her singing and knowledge of folk music and especially local Sussex songs.