All in the Downs review – a memorable Shirley Collins celebration

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

An emotional star-studded tribute to a folk legend, with a rare appearance by the singer herself

This emotional concert featured a remarkable array of celebrities and one folk legend, who was celebrating her 80th birthday in style. Shirley Collins spent most of the evening in the audience, and finally arrived on stage before the encore, to be greeted with a spontaneous Happy Birthday to You. She has suffered from dysphonia, and rarely sung in public since the early 1980s, but now she joined in the sing-along finale of Thousands Or More, the cheerful Copper Family song about not needing riches to be happy.

Shirley Collins has had an extraordinary career, as song-collector, writer and a singer who revived long-forgotten songs with her pure, haunting voice, and who was always willing to experiment. Her best-known recordings were made in the 60s and 70s, but her continuing influence was shown by the cast here. The show opened with eight artists performing songs (mostly) from her repertoire, with Blur’s Graham Coxon adding impressive folk baroque guitar to his sturdy acoustic treatment of Cruel Mother, Alasdair Roberts providing a powerful unaccompanied rendition of Lord Gregory, and Olivia Chaney at the piano for a cool reworking of All Things Are Quite Silent.

Then came a revival of the No Roses album, which Collins recorded in 1971 with the Albion Country Band, which then included Richard Thompson and John Kirkpatrick. The new version again featured Kirkpatrick, singing well, and playing rousing accordion alongside the house band, the boisterous Trembling Bells. The exquisite Just As the Tide Was Turning now featured Chaney singing alongside Lisa Knapp and Lavinia Blackwell, and ended with morris dancers invading the stage. Murder of Maria Marten was even better, with Sam Lee’s vocals backed by an edgy wash of sound then full-tilt folk-rock, and ending with six-part harmonies. A memorable celebration – but the best songs of the night were Collin’s originals, played over the PA.


Robin Denselow

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Graham Coxon, Olivia Chaney, Alasdair Roberts and others: Shirley Inspired review – starry Shirley Collins tribute
Released in part to raise funds for a film about folk star Shirley Collins, this triple-album tribute features a remarkable cast of players

Robin Denselow

16, Apr, 2015 @5:45 PM

Article image
Graham Coxon: Cruel Mother – hear his musical tribute to Shirley Collins
The Blur guitarist is one of the contributors to an album of songs associated with the great English folk singer to be released for Record Store Day. Have a listen and let us know what you think

Guardian music

13, Mar, 2015 @2:37 PM

Shirley Collins: Sweet England – review
This remastered version of Shirley Collins's first album is a fascinating and remarkably fresh-sounding historical record, writes Robin Denselow

Robin Denselow

21, Oct, 2010 @8:47 PM

Article image
All in the Downs by Shirley Collins review – the English Folk Revivalist’s revival
A memoir from the singer who lost her voice that celebrates her roots and is unsparing about the London scene’s leading lights

Laura Snapes

18, Apr, 2018 @8:59 AM

Article image
Shirley Collins: Heart's Ease review – unerring brilliance
The veteran singer’s comeback really takes wing with this impeccably judged set

Neil Spencer

25, Jul, 2020 @3:00 PM

Article image
Shirley Collins/Alasdair Roberts/Trembling Bells – review
Shirley Collins hasn't sung live for 30 years and is tonight's star turn in this celebration of folk songs old and new, writes Jude Rogers

Jude Rogers

01, Nov, 2010 @10:31 PM

Article image
Shirley Collins: Lodestar review – a late-flowering triumph

Neil Spencer

23, Oct, 2016 @7:00 AM

Article image
Shirley Collins: five of her best songs
One of England’s greatest folk singers has performed live for the first time in over three decades. To mark her return, here are some of her finest moments

Jude Rogers

11, Feb, 2014 @10:13 AM

Article image
Shirley Collins: Lodestar review – austere, foreboding music from long-silent singer
She hasn’t released an album of new material since 1978 and hardly sang for 30 years – but now Shirley Collins is back with songs full of the stark strangeness that made her early work so powerful

Alexis Petridis

27, Oct, 2016 @2:30 PM

Article image
Shirley Collins: Heart's Ease review | Jude Rogers's folk album of the month
The folk veteran’s past, present and future come together on this full-hearted record

Jude Rogers

17, Jul, 2020 @8:00 AM