Various Artists

Stepping Up

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Think of this as the history of English country (or folk, if you prefer) dance music in one handy volume. Starting with a version of the chestnut "Speed the Plough" performed by the Morris Motors Band (a brass band formed by workers at the Morris Cowley plant in Oxford) in 1933, it traces the course through the folk revival of the 1950s and '60s with Walyer Bulwer, then to Ashley Hutchings, before stopping to dwell on the '80s bands who did so much to bring the music back -- artists like the Oysterband, Old Swan Band, and even Tiger Moth. From there it's actually just a short jump to the modern day, where electric and acoustic traditions continue freely, be it Dr. Faustus or the Eliza Carthy Band playing (mostly) without amplification, or the new electric generation of the wonderfully named Whapweasel. Well annotated, this is a concise and entertaining starting point on a journey that many won't know about, but whose music -- and the focus always happily remains on the music, not the players -- is rich, a joy to hear, and eminently danceable.

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