Before illness stole her voice in the early 1970s, Shirley Collins was the queen of the English folk revival. Recent years have seen her records rediscovered by a new generation, while she has become a writer and lecturer (and MBE). Her return to singing at 81 comes as both a surprise and a delight. The larkish voice of youth is gone, but Collins, who distrusts singers getting in the way of a song, brings gravitas and gentility to a dozen traditional airs (and the Louisiana song Sur le borde de l’eau). The mood is austere, studded by encounters with mortality, but the accompaniments from Oysterband’s Ian Kearey are full of subtlety and surprise, with delicate guitars and blasts of squeezebox. A late-flowering triumph.
Neil Spencer is a writer and an astrologer for The Observer