The Imagined Village

The Imagined Village, 2012

'Englishness is the final frontier of world music.' - Simon Emmerson, head man of The Imagined Village

Every age re-invents the past to its own fancy. When Edwardian song collector Cecil Sharp roamed England, he imagined the country's history as a rural idyll, filled with flower meadows and genial shepherds, even though the songs he found were frequently about poverty, death and fornication with faeries.

Later, when the rock generation embraced the folk tradition, it was precisely these sexual and supernatural elements that appealed to singers and players like Anne Briggs, Fairport Convention and Robert Plant. Albion became, as it was to William Blake, a land of mystery and wonder. Later, in the 1980s, with acts like Billy Bragg, The Levellers and The Pogues, folk became a defiant snub to an authoritarian government.

The resurgence of folk in the new century, a hundred years after Cecil Sharp became riveted by the sight of Morris dancers, remains a work in progress. Already, though, new times are finding fresh resonance within folk's age-old contours. The music's darker strains, its murder ballads and pirate yarns, have been pulled to the fore - witness the recent Rogue's Gallery project - while in an age of corporate governance, the fact that folk is not 'owned' by anybody is cheering.

Folk has also become an inevitable part of the current search for English identity. That's English as opposed to British, for once Wales and Scotland had reclaimed their flags and history - a process accelerated by an Eighties government largely elected by England that rode roughshod across the lands across the border - it was only a matter of time before the St. George's flag superseded the Union Jack.

But what is Englishness? That question has already provoked a swathe of books, mostly by Tory diehards - Roger Scruton's England, An Elegy and Peter Hitchens' The Abolition of Britain for example - though Billy Bragg's The Progressive Patriot has recently joined the fray, arguing, like Orwell before him, that patriotism is not necessarily the refuge of rascals. Bragg's point is that there is a distinctly English tradition that belongs not to royalists and imperialists, but to the people, a tradition that runs from The Diggers to The Clash.

It is in this context that Simon Emmerson's The Imagined Village arrives, its name borrowed from Georgina Boyes' book about the Edwardian folk boom. The project - for once that over-worked term is appropriate - reflects Simon's passions as both musician and cultural activist. Gathering together an array of brilliant and challenging voices, and setting them in a musical framework that honours the past while updating it with breathtaking confidence, The Imagined Village is arguably the most ambitious re-invention of the English folk tradition since Fairport Convention' Liege and Lief.

'It's a record that, in the time-honoured way of folk, is about sex and death,' says Simon,' but it's also about honouring England's own distinctive traditions.'

In part, the album reflects Simon's extraordinary journey as a musician. With his roots in the political, post-punk era, Simon first created the acoustic trio Weekend, with singer Alison Stratton, and then Working Week, whose blend of jazz, soul and Latin helped define an Eighties whose intelligence was at odds with the decade's Duran-style pop. As a mover and shaker in London's clubland he co-produced two albums of 'Acid Jazz' alongside Gilles Peterson before producing world musicians like Baaba Maal and Manu Dibango. After this he founded the Afro Celt Sound System, a daring fusion of musical cultures and an ensemble that remains a festival favourite to this day. Simon has three Grammy nominations to his credit.

Simon's interest in folk goes back to his days as a Camden town squatter, when he and fellow squatters Scritti Politti would go to nearby Cecil Sharp House to see Martin Carthy play. More recently, the African and Asian musicians with whom Simon worked often quizzed him about his musical roots. Re-awakening to the idea of an English tradition - a process fed by relocating from London to Dorset - Simon started assembling The Imagined Village, a record that would open the book of traditional song to honour modern-day England in all its diversity.

'After travelling the world as a producer and musician I thought it was time explore my own roots,' says Simon, 'to look at the earth under my feet, dig the dirt of the homelands.'

The Original Album Credits

1 'Ouses, 'Ouses, 'Ouses
John Copper and Sheila Chandra with Simon Emmerson
Written by John Copper, Simon Emmerson, Sheila Chandra and Steve Coe
Tune: The Suburban Sprawl
Vocals: John Copper and Sheila Chandra; Guitars: Simon Emmerson; Violin: Phil Beer; Cello: Barney M Brown; Bass: Richard Evans; Northumbrian Pipes: Carole Robb; Nickel Harp, String Drones and Keyboards: Martin Russell; Drum Programming by Mass; Programming by Martin Russell
Main recording by Martin Russell at Sonic Innovation 2, London; Bass recorded by Richard Evans at The Labour Exchange, Bath; Fiddle recorded by Phil Beer at Riverside Studio, Exeter; Pipes recorded by Ally Lee at Mill Studios; Mixed by Richard Evans at The Labour Exchange

2    John Barleycorn
Paul Weller, Martin Carthy and Eliza Carthy
Traditional arranged by Martin Carthy, Eliza Carthy, Simon Emmerson and Mass
Vocals: Martin Carthy, Eliza Carthy and Paul Weller; Acoustic Guitar: Martin Carthy; Electric Guitar: Paul Weller; Fiddle: Eliza Carthy; Cittern: Simon Emmerson; Hurdy Gurdy: Nigel Eaton; Synth, Drum and Bass Programming by Mass; Additional Programming by Martin Russell
Recorded and mixed at Sonic Innovation 2 by Mass

3    Tam Lyn Retold
Benjamin Zephaniah and Eliza Carthy with Trans-Global Underground and Simon Emmerson
Written by Benjamin Zephaniah, Eliza Carthy, Trans-Global Underground, Simon Emmerson
Tune: The Fly
Vocals: Benjamin Zephaniah, Eliza Carthy; Fiddle: Eliza Carthy; Guitars and Bouzouki: Simon Emmerson; Sitar: Sheema Mukherjee; Programming: Hamid Mantu; Programming and organ: Tim Whelan; Programmed by Trans-Global Underground at Mantu Mansions, London
Recorded by Martin Russell and Mass; Mixed by Mass at Sonic Innovation 2

4    Death And The Maiden Retold
Written by Mike Lindsay and Sam Genders

5    Cold Haily Rainy Night
Chris Wood, Eliza Carthy, Martin Carthy and The Young Coppers with Trans-Global Underground
Traditional arranged by Eliza Carthy, Tim Whelan, Martin Carthy, Chris Wood
Vocals: Chris Wood, Eliza Carthy, The Young Coppers; Fiddle: Eliza Carthy; Guitar: Martin Carthy; Sitar: Sheema Mukherjee; Dhol Drum: Johnny Kalsi; Kit Drum: Jim Chase; Programming and Sintir: Tim Whelan
Recorded by Martin Russell and Mass; Mixed by Mass at Sonic Innovation 2

6    The Welcome Sailor
Sheila Chandra and Chris Wood
Traditional arranged by Sheila Chandra and Chris Wood
Vocals: Sheila Chandra; Fiddle and Viola: Chris Wood; Cello: Barney M Brown; Drones: Martin Russell; Guitar: Simon Emmerson
Recorded and mixed by Martin Russell at Sonic Innovation 2; Strings recorded by Chris Wood at English Acoustic Collective, Faversham, Kent

7    Acres Of Ground
Eliza Carthy
Written by Eliza Carthy
Vocals and Fiddle: Eliza Carthy; Acoustic Guitar and Viola: Ben Ivitsky; Double Bass: Ali Friend; Cello: Barney M Brown; Tabla, Dhol Drum and Shaker: Johnny Kalsi; Top Line Electric Guitar: Tom Salter; Skank and Twang Electric Guitar: Simon Emmerson
Recorded by Ben Ivitsky at Bamboo Studios; Cello and percussion recorded by Martin Russell at Sonic Innovation 1; Double bass and Simon's electric recorded by Mass at Sonic Innovation 2; Mixed by Mass at MP Studios, London

8    Pilsdon Pen
The Village Band
Written by Simon Emmerson
The Village Band: Cittern, Guitar and Tenor Cittern: Simon Emmerson; Fiddle: Lucy Roberts; Cello: Barney M Brown; Anglo Concertina: Andy Poore; Harmonium and Vocals: Kate Garrett; Double Bass: Jim Barr; Orchestral string arrangement and programming by Mass
Recorded by Jim Barr at J and J Studios, Bristol; Richard Evans at The Labour Exchange; Mass at MP Studios; Skylark recorded on Pilsden Pen by Simon Emmerson; Mixed by Richard Evans at The Labour Exchange

9    Hard Times Of Old England Retold
Billy Bragg and The Young Coppers with Eliza Carthy and Simon Emmerson
Lyrics traditional/Billy Bragg
Music traditional arranged by Eliza Carthy and Simon Emmerson
Original tunes: Hard Times Reel and Hard Times Jig
Vocals: Billy Bragg and The Young Coppers; Fiddle: Eliza Carthy; Cello: Barney M Brown; Guitars: Simon Emmerson; Additional Guitar and various other guitar type instruments: Ben Mandelson; Anglo Concertina: Andy Poore; Drum, Bass and Keyboard programming: Mass
Recorded by Martin Russell and Mass; Mixed by Mass at Sonic Innovation 2

Worms Meet Moths (English Ceilidh Medley)

10 Kit Whites I & II (The Gloworms)
The Gloworms
Traditional, arranged by The Gloworms
The Gloworms: Accordion: Jon Brenner; Banjo and Stompbox: Colin Cotter; Fiddle: Laurel Swift
Recorded and mixed by Richard Evans at The Labour Exchange

11 Sloe On The Uptake (Tiger Moth)
Tiger Moth
Traditional arranged by Ian Anderson, Ben Mandelson, Rod Stradling, Simon Emmerson, Eliza Carthy
Fiddle: Eliza Carthy; Melodeon: Rod Stradling; Harmonica and Jaws Harp: Chris Turner; Guitar: Ben Mandelson; Slide Guitar: Ian Anderson; Cittern and Spoons: Simon Emmerson; Bass: Richard Evans; Synths, drum and percussion programming by Mass
Original track 'Sloe Benga' recorded at Ideal Sound, London, engineered by David Kenny, produced by Jon Moore and Ben Mandelson; Pre-production, programming and additional recording done by Mass at Sonic Innovation 2; Bass recorded by Richard Evans at The Labour Exchange; Mixed by Richard Evans at The Labour Exchange

All tracks produced by Simon Emmerson except 3 co-produced by Simon Emmerson and Trans-Global Underground; 4 by Mike Lindsay and Sam Genders, Executive Producer Simon Emmerson; 5 by Trans-Global Underground with additional production by Simon Emmerson; 7 by Simon Emmerson and Ben Ivitsky

Mastered by Ian Cooper at Metropolis

Billy Bragg appears courtesy of Cooking Vinyl
Chris Wood appears courtesy of R.U.F Records
Paul Weller appears courtesy of V2 Records
Tunng appear courtesy of Full Time Hobby Records
Eliza Carthy appears courtesy of Topic Records
Martin Carthy appears courtesy of Topic Records
Johnny Kalsi appears courtesy of TDF Records c/o Long Tale Recordings

Track 1 published by copyright Coppersongs /Real World Music Ltd/Moonsung Music; 2 published by Topic Records Ltd/Real World Music Ltd; 3 published by Red Dread Music/Topic Records Ltd /copyright control/Real World Music Ltd; 4 published by Domino; 5 published by Topic Records Ltd/copyright control/MCPS; 6 published by Moonsung Music/MCPS; 7 published by Topic Records Ltd; 8 published by Real World Music Ltd; 9 published by BMG/Topic Records Ltd/Real World Music Ltd; 10 published by The Gloworms; 11 published by Rogue Music/Real World Music Ltd/Topic Records Ltd?

Thanks to Paul Fordham at MBM, South West Screen, Ian Anderson at fRoots, Alan James, Peter Gabriel and all at Real World Records, Real World Music and Real World Multimedia and to Georgina Boyes, the author of the book 'The Imagined Village: Culture, Ideology and the English Folk Revival'.


  • Glasto was a real blasto THE IMAGINED VILLAGE - aka Martin Carthy, Billy Bragg and their band of multinational musical chums - seemed to get to the heart of Glastonbury. Shimmering violin sounds wafted over the burger bars as Billy bounced on to the Jazz World Stage to knock out England Half English Meets John Barleycorn. It may have been the refreshing Gaymer's cider but it looked like he was wearing a Marmite T-shirt. The Sun (UK)
  • Top-Notch ...a top-notch list of collaborators...It's an album that grows on you given a chance and the highlights include versions of John Barleycorn and Death And The Maiden The Sun (UK)
  • The exotic music of.... England! Real World finally turn their attention to the exotic music of.... England!.... Notable of several stand-out tracks are Benjamin Zephaniah's dub'n'bass re-telling of Tam Lyn, and Chris Wood and Eliza Carthy's sitar drenched duet on Cold Haily Rainy Night, but the jewel in the crown is Sheila Chandra's extraordinary version of Welcome Sailor, accompanied by the moody - and very English - fiddle soundscapes of Chris Wood.... One of the most important albums of 2007? Probably... One of the most interesting? Definitely! Taplas (UK)
  • Diverse This album certainly won't please traditionalists - it is not merely a light reworking of the traditional folk elements. In many instances, it completely transforms them into entirely new entities. However, The Imaginary Village will find favour with fans of fusion, who will be drawn to the interesting sounds of many of the tracks. Irish Post (Ireland)
  • Fast forward to the seventeeth century A fine cast that includes Martin Carthy and Paul Weller give suave performances of sensibly chosen, sometimes epic songs of joy, defiance and anguish settled very gently into tentatively illuminated post-modern soundscapes. Tunng's deft 'Death and the Maiden' is the most focused sample of how and why folk is moving more and more out of the shadows. It's mischievous and tender, wry and wise, sad and surreal, but a folk that could only have been made in the 21st century. Observer Music Magazine (UK)
  • Impressive An impressive cross-generational multicultural rota of performers who, in various combinations, put a modern twist on the tradition and just about pull it off. There are moments when everything gels perfectly, such as John Copper's opening ''Ouses, 'Ouses, 'Ouses', a spoken-word lament for the rural idyll that develops into a powerfully evocative instrumental. Rock'n'Reel (UK)
  • This Album Is A Tour De Force A daring give English folk music a fresh new voice...The album is a tour de force. York Press (UK)
  • Excellent album... The re-imagined Willow Pattern with tower blocks on the cover suggests what this excellent album is all about - re-inventing English folk music for the 21st century. Many stars of the folk scene are here - Martin and Eliza Carthy and the Copper Family, but joined by Paul Weller, Sheila Chandra and the Dhol Foundation. Producer Simon Emmerson says that after years of traveling as a musician he wanted to explore his own roots. In Hard Times of Old England Retold, Billy Bragg laments the economic decline of the countryside and perhaps most memorably, in Tam Lyn Retold, Benjamin Zephaniah tells explicit details of an unplanned pregnancy with an "alien". There's great instrumental playing and a real engagement with what these songs are about. London Evening Standard (UK)
  • Hugely Ambitious Undertaking It's never a bad idea to give folk song a good shake-up and Simon Emmerson has astutely assembled the people to do it with both love and a sense of mischief....bringing to the party, beats, bhangra and other weapons of global Britain and, stripped of all the theories, back stories and undercurrents of social history, it's still mostly a cracking album. fRoots (UK)
  • An English folk-rock landmark It's a brilliant idea - to reinterpret traditional English folk song for a multicultural 21st century society... Almost everything on this bold and ambitious album works... (A) breathtakingly imaginative record that is sure to become an English folk-rock landmark... The Imagined Village finally offers English roots music a meaningful new destination. Songlines (UK)
  • It works surprisingly well! The highlight of the CD however has to be the contemporary retelling of the magical ballad 'Tam Lyn' by the Rastafarian writer and poet Benjamin Zephaniah over a reggae bassline. Amazing, truly amazing. Folk London (UK)
  • A star-studded musical collaboration is bringing English folk into the 21st century Phil Meadley goes behind the scenes at the first rehearsal of The Imagined Village band. Read more at New Statesman (UK)
  • Bold and ambitious new direction for English folk It's now 38 years since Fairport Convention took English folk-rock to its high-water mark with the astonishing 'Liege & Leaf'... Now finally comes The Imagined Village to reinvent English roots music for a pluralist 21st-century society and offer folk-rock an ambitious and meaningful new destination.... The results are dazzling on an album that is surely destined to become a major landmark in the history of English folk music. HMV Choice (UK)
  • Bold The CD opens with John Copper's touching spoken reminiscences of the rural Sussex life which inspired the songs that passed through his family for so many generations. It sets the emotional context for the roll call of widely varying artists, from Transglobal Underground to acid folkies Tunng to dance outfit Gloworms, all providing their own stylistic stamp. John Barleycorn, one of the oldest and most covered traditional songs, stirs gloriously again with its tale of beer and regeneration in a mighty collaboration between Paul Weller and Martin Carthy... authenticity and invention on a bold, worthy enterprise. Record Collector (UK)
  • An impressive line-up has been assembled for a folk CD and tour The concert starts with the recorded voice of John Copper reminiscing about his grandfather Jimmy's love of the Sussex Downs and how (in 1951) the view had become filled with "'ouses, 'ouses, 'ouses". Then the beat kicks in and Eliza Carthy plays sweeping violin lines, as English as Vaughan Williams... Chandra sings "Welcome Sailor" while Eliza Carthy performs "Acres of Ground", a recasting of an old counting song. A heavily acoustic front end (sitar, violins, cittern, cello) sits atop thundering drums and bass. Kalsi comes forward to belabour a dhol, a double-skinned Punjabi drum, with curved sticks while his band mates insert earplugs. The most unconventional reading is "Tam Lyn", an old ballad about a faery knight rescued by his human lover. Here the story takes on skittering dub reggae rhythms, with the poet Benjamin Zephania toasting over the top... Eliza Carthy sings along, jigging on one leg, her long hair and violin both flying. Financial Times (UK)
  • The beats change. The context changes. The story stays the same As well as acting as a short who's who of English folk The Imagined Village sees another superb collection of English folk songs given a modern twist an interpreted by some of the strongest voices in folk... The consistent quality Emmerson achieves (makes) this feel like an album held together by a producer with a plan and a vision for folk music. Zephania retelling the otherworldly tale of 'Tam Lyn' with an industrial modern setting is followed by Tunng's distinctive folktronica and Emmerson's Afro-Celt influences are evident in the dubby reworking of 'John Barleycorn' and more subtly in other numbers. Listening over the tracks things haven't moved on much since these tales were written down: the stories are still about sex and death and they are still strong enough to be told and retold. The beats change. The context changes. The story stays the same Fly - Global Music Culture (UK)
  • Artistically Thrilling Simon Emmerson's tour de force, as producer and musician, injects the ethnic variety of modern society into the British folk tradition. The line-up tells its own story: Martin and Eliza Carthy, but also Billy Bragg and Paul Weller, Sheila Chandra, Benjamin Zephaniah and Trans-Global Underground. The results are as heartwarming as they are artistically thrilling. The Telegraph online (UK)
  • The birth of something new and exciting Live Review: WOMAD, Charlton Park 2007 Britain and Asia met again in the Imagined Village, an attempt to reinterpret English folk song in the light of what Britain now is, with veteran folkie Martin Carthy joined by Billy Bragg and various British Asian musicians... There was a sense of being in on the birth of something new and exciting. The Telegraph (UK)
  • Righteous Fire... A swirling, English ceilidh, stitched together by electric guitar and Indian drums and angry lyrics about current rural life, has righteous fire. The Independent (Live review: WOMAD, Charlton Park 2007) (UK)