Ashley Hutchings

The Guv'nor, Vol. 1

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The first trawl through the back pages of Ashley Hutchings, the linchpin of English folk-rock, is a very productive one. The man who helped found Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, and the Albion Band (among others) has a very full scrapbook, and this takes him all the way through it, from the very early -- and not particularly sparky -- Ethnic Shuffle Orchestra of 1966, through the glory days of folk-rock, and into the Etchingham Steam Band, an acoustic folk outfit led by Hutchings and his then-wife, Shirley Collins, before plowing deeper into Albion Band history. So what makes this different from any artist compilation? The fact that in most cases, these are previously unreleased tracks. Sometimes that's for a reason, but at other times, as on Steeleye Span's glorious a capella "Lay Down Your Weary Tune," perhaps it's only because it didn't fit in with any album release. Maybe the crowning glory is "Four Hand Reel/St. Anne's Reel," a track from the Albion Country Band, an outfit who only made one record, although No Roses was the creative zenith of English folk-rock. Here, although just instrumental, they show all the fire and creativity of that disc. More than anything, this collection picks the minor gems of Hutchings' work. The result is not only to realize what an underrated musician he is (unless flashy bass players rarely get any credit), but also how much he's done and the years he's spent at the cutting edge of folk music.