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The Imagined Village

“Imagined” and produced by World Music protagonist Simon Emmerson, leader of London-centric AFRO CELT SOUND SYSTEM, the ensemble’s introductory Various Artists album was part story, part traditional and neo-folk music a multi-cultural star-studded guest list.
Ambitious, but revered in all the right circles, THE IMAGINED VILLAGE (2007) {*8} harked back to the days of The COPPER FAMILY (ye olde storyteller John Copper – son of Bob – commenced the set via `’Ouses, ‘Ouses’, ‘Ouses’, supported in chant by SHEILA CHANDRA). Once the acquisition of the FAIRPORTs/TRAFFIC(!) and a plethora of folk acts from England and beyond, `John Barleycorn’, this time around drew the talents of ELIZA and pater MARTIN CARTHY, plus a verse or two by PAUL WELLER. The former youngster was prominent on further re-inventions such as her solo `Acres Of Ground’, the BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH rap/poem reprise of `Tam Lyn Retold’, `Cold Haily Rainy Night’ (with her dad, CHRIS WOOD, the Young Coppers and TRANS-GLOBAL UNDERGROUND again!) and `Hard Times Of Old England’ (with BILLY BRAGG, the YCs and dhol drumming by Johnny Kalsi). Post-millennium indie-folktronica outfit TUNNG (aka Sam Genders and Mike Lindsay) had arguably the strangest trad effort here, via `Death And The Maiden Retold’, while CHANDRA and WOOD took on `The Welcome Sailor’. Emmerson’s folk orchestra performed the instrumental `Pilsden Pen’, while the new band The GLOWORMS (akin to a ceilidh Penguin Café) called the listener to dance on `Kit Whites I & II’; IAN A. ANDERSON and his TIGER MOTH crew (featuring ELIZA CARTHY) produced the rousing finale `Sloe On The Uptake’.
Fast forward to early 2010 and album number two, EMPIRE AND LOVE {*7}, a record de-cluttered of celebrity guest spots and now down to the core of Emmerson, WOOD, the CARTHYs and a select mixture of musicians. With Eastern rhythms in the backdrop, Eliza once again shines on the venturesome `Space Girl’, her dad getting mixed results on the atmospherically space-y `Scarborough Fair’ (the SIMON & GARFUNKEL will never sound the same) and the ill-advised SLADE re-vamp of `Cum On Feel The Noize’.
Thinking it would be hard to innovate and improvise further outings, third set BENDING THE DARK (2012) {*8} was indeed a pleasant surprise for lovers of sonic folk and world dub. The formula intact but with other stars on board their good ship, enterprising Emmerson press-ganged ELIZA CARTHY again (and to a lesser degree this time around, her dad), singer JACKIE OATES and percussionist Johnny Kalsi (the latter on the ROY BUDD-meets-Bhangra `Get Kalsi’). Displaying the insular dexterity of a “proper” ensemble, the team discover lands of unchartered water by way of `New York Trader’, the WOBBLE-esque `The Guvna’, the drum ’n’ bass `Sick Old Man’ and the subliminal gypsy-folk of the curtain-closing title track – all 12 minutes of it!
© MC Strong 2011/GFD2 // rev-up MCS Dec2013

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