Ewan MacColl’s legacy as godfather of British folk remains compromised by his dogmatic, Marxist approach to the music (and finger-in-ear posturing), but this 21-track centenary tribute underscores what a fine songwriter he was. Produced by sons Calum and Neill, it embraces established interpreters of his canon (Dick Gaughan, Martin Carthy, Christy Moore) and adds less likely names such as David Gray and Rufus and Martha Wainwright (with a languid take on Sweet Thames Flow Softly). Honour is done to MacColl’s pungent political writing – oft-covered Dirty Old Town gets a gruff, bluegrass makeover from Steve Earle – but also to personal pieces such as My Old Man (sung straight by Chaim Tannenbaum) and the lullaby Cannily, Cannily, enchantingly delivered by the Unthanks. An engrossing portrait.
Neil Spencer is a writer and an astrologer for The Observer