English folk music hits different | WSAU News/Talk 550AM 99.9FM


We continue our return to the music of 50 years ago…..

Henry the Human Fly - Wikipedia

There’s just something different about English folk music for those American ears. We were weaned with Pete Seeger & Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan & John Prine, Joan Baez and Phil Ochs. So when you put someone like Richard Thompson on the turntable, you get an almost alien sound.

Thompson had just left Fairport Convention, this great British folk-rock band, to start his own business. In 1972, he released his first solo album “Henry The Human Fly”.

From the first chords of “Roll Over Vaughn Williams”, Thompson gives you a lesson in the long history of English ballad singing with the added bonus of his tasty guitar playing.

You’ll need the lyrics to keep up with his British-Scottish brogue, but the LP gets you some polished tunes. My favorites include the aforementioned “Roll Over Vaughn Williams”. Willams was a famous British classical composer and I have no idea what the song is about…but it sounds great.

The songs are loaded with characters from the shadows of society. From the dreary door-to-door life of “That Old Changing Way” to the working girls of “Painted Ladies” to the dreams of the poor fool in “The Poor Ditching Boy.” Other standouts include “The Angels Took My Racehorse Away” and “The New St. George” (which shows you politicians have fucked us for generations).

He has a good range of musicians to join him, including friends from Fairport, Ashley Hutchings and Sandy Denny. Unfortunately at the time, it was very sluggish even if some liked “songs tinged with perversity and populated by eccentrics”. The album was re-examined after Thompson’s later success and some looked at it with better vision. Not all songs were available for sharing, but it gives you a good overview of the disc.

It won’t be for everyone…but make yourself a cup of tea and spend some time in the English countryside. Not a bad place to be when Richard Thompson is playing his guitar.


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