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Ian Anderson

The Editor's Box

Ian Anderson's comment column

The prevailing sound after the last issue was published was of self-kicking – firstly by yours truly who had failed to notice until it was on the presses that the download code for our fRoots 56 compilation hadn’t been over-written on the notes pages, resulting in the one for the previous set appearing instead. But then by the quite remarkable number of people who phoned or emailed to complain, having similarly failed to notice the very large red apology on the page they’d been directed to in error which gave them the correct onward link. Sometimes we just can’t see what’s right in front of our faces! Anyway, apologies to print readers for any confusion (at least we caught it in time to get it right on the digital editions!)

However, it was all made rather better by the very positive feedback we got to the more distinctive look, paper quality (and even smell, as some of you also remarked) of our new style covers. It’s one of the less attractive British traits that when you do something people like in the media, you rarely get compliments or thanks, but they are quick off the mark to complain if they dislike or disagree. So thanks to all of you who took the trouble.

Having never made any secret of the fact that I’m completely self-taught in nearly everything I do, I occasionally get asked things like “what motivates you?” and “what’s the secret of your success?” (Hah! If only they knew the reality!). I usually reply that it’s a combination of wanting to do something properly or not at all, and the mortal fear of fucking up in public. Looks like the former helped cancel out the latter last month!

As I’ve often mentioned before, some issues acquire unintentional sub-themes and this one seems to have picked up one on veteran Irish musicians. You possibly ought to read the features in a different order: first the one on Seamus Ennis who became an influence on the next generation like cover-featured Andy Irvine, who in turn helped create the modern mould for Irish traditional bands like Altan. Hopefully all this sets up some background for the new audience being brought in by the likes of Lynched.

And talking of background stories, recent conversations with Jon Dudley of the Copper Family pointed out the fact that it was 80 years ago that a 78 of Sleepy John Estes’ Drop Down Mama and Married Woman Blues came out in the UK – joining other local releases by country blues-influenced artists from the Memphis Jug Band to Jimmie Rodgers. Bob Copper bought that Estes 78 as a 20-year-old in Brighton, and he always said it changed his life. Not so different to me discovering Muddy Waters in Weston-super-Mare nearly 30 years later!

The thing I often wonder is this: wisdom and written history has it that English people playing country blues only started out in the 1950s with musicians like my mentor Alexis Korner. But I can’t believe that there weren’t people similarly inspired back in the mid ’30s if records like this were becoming known and causing excitement. Is it too late to find out now, after all this time?

Ian Anderson

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