If someone had said just a few years ago that 2016 would see a new album from Shirley Collins, with a live performance of the same in 2017 then there would have been few who’d have given the idea, nice as it would have sounded, much credence. Yet with the release of Lodestar and the announcement of a one-off gig at The Barbican this unlikeliest series of events is actually going to happen.
Shirley Collins is a revered figure in the English folk tradition. She travelled in the 1950s with Alan Lomax collecting American song, following on from her own song collecting at home in England – quite literally saving a part of the oral tradition that was on the cusp of failing to be passed on. Alongside her own recordings, and those with sister Dolly, there have been landmark recordings with the Albion Band and with Davey Graham, on Folk Roots, New Routes, laid out a new definition of what folk music meant in the second half of the 20th century. It’s more than ironic then that Shirley Collins was nearly lost to obscurity, when an illness in the 1980s made it impossible for her to sing. Finally encouraged back to sing by David Tibet, her voice is still completely captivating – with the same sense simplicity and sensitivity as on her earlier recordings, but now with a new layer of weight and gravitas. Her recent release, Lodestar, has shown that, at the age of 81, Collins is still pushing the boundaries of what can be done with Folk music.
Tickets are available from The Barbican in the range £17.50-£30.