We Built This Village on a Trad. Arr. Tune

The Imagined Village is one of those ideas that sounds so good on paper, you suspect it’ll be a complete failure in practice. The concept: take musicians as diverse as Billy Bragg (good stuff), half of Waterson:Carthy (good stuff), Transglobal Underground (good st… hey, why isn’t Temple Head on YouTube?), Benjamin Zephaniah, and some bloke called Paul Weller. Get the Afro-Celt Sound System to glue them all together. Shake well in a rehearsal studio for a few weeks. Record album. Tour. And you end up with one English folk-rock supergroup. In theory.

So does it work? It shouldn’t, of course. Adding gifted solo artists to existing line-ups often ends in very bad musical collisions. It should be a sludgy, cumbersome mess.

Except, as you’ve probably guessed, it isn’t. As evidence, Cal enjoyed them so much I’m turning green at the gills. And as further evidence, here’s what they’ve managed to do to Hard Times of Old England:

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The Countryside Alliance expects, I suppose,
My support, when they’re marching to bloody Blair’s nose,
But they said not a word when our Post Office closed…

What I really like about their reworking (seriously, have a look at it) of the traditional song is that it’s pretending to be a song about England, when in reality it isn’t just about that country. It’s a song that I’d file in the same category as Capercaillie’s Waiting for the Wheel to Turn, June Tabor’s rendering of Maggie Holland’s A Place Called England, and Steve Eaves’ Afrikaners y Gymru Newydd. It’s a song about a small nation battling against the double-edged sword of globalisation. And it’s all the more powerful for it.

More music tomorrow, probably…

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