In 1958, years before she established her reputation as one of the finest and most inventive English traditional singers of the folk revival, 22-year-old Shirley Collins was living in London with the legendary American folklorist Alan Lomax, whom she later accompanied on his field recording trips across the southern states of America. Together with the English song-collector Peter Kennedy, Lomax produced her first solo album, which has now been remastered. Collins told me she was "apologetic" about the "young and naive" vocals here, but she's being too modest. This is a fascinating and remarkably fresh-sounding historical record. Inevitably, there's a transatlantic feeling to this set of English and Anglo-American songs, with backing provided by guitars and five-string banjo work from Collins herself and John Hasted (best known as a physics professor). Nearly half the songs were rerecorded later in her career, but her cool, thoughtful treatment of Blackbirds and Thrushes, Hares on the Mountain, The Cherry Tree Carol and The Cuckoo are all reminders that she was a fine and distinctive singer even in the 50s.
Robin Denselow is a journalist and broadcaster who specialises in music and politics. He is the author of When The Music's Over, a history of political pop