Inside the new Uncut CD, Deep Roots: A Celebration Of Topic Records

Shirley Collins, Richard Thompson and a previously unreleased Anne Briggs recording!

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Topic turns 85 this year, which makes it one of the – if not the – oldest independent record label in the world. A good reason to celebrate, then, by putting together this compilation of some of the finest moments in the label’s history. We’ve concentrated on their folk side (they have an incredible set of world music and field recordings that deserve their own CDs), including tracks from the dawn of the ’60s folk revival right up to brand new material expected this year. Perhaps most excitingly, there’s an entirely unheard Anne Briggs recording, due as a bonus track this year
on the upcoming deluxe reissue of her self-titled album.

Spellbinding stuff, though the other 14 tracks here are just as magical, from Richard Thompson’s “The Light-Bob’s Lassie” to Lal Waterson & Oliver Knight’s “So Strange Is Man”.


1 Martin Carthy
“And A-Begging I Will Go”
We begin with a track from a bona fide national treasure, the closer on his masterful 1965 debut album, reissued in February by Topic. Head to page 84 for a wide-ranging, characterful chat with Carthy, hosting Uncut in his windswept North Yorkshire home.

2 Jim Ghedi & Toby Hay
“Bright Edge Deep”
Two of folk-rock’s greatest modern names, these guitarists conjured up the spirit of Bert & John on their instrumental self-titled album, released last year. Their tunes, as here, are sprightly and deeply British, their instruments skilfully intertwined.

3 Anne Briggs
“The Cruel Mother”
Discovered on a reel-to-reel along with three other recordings, here’s a previously unheard Briggs track. A take on the dark traditional tune, with Briggs accompanying herself on gently picked guitar, it’s a marvellous, transcendent find. The four tracks will be included on the deluxe reissue of 1971’s Anne Briggs this year.


4 June Tabor
“While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping”
Taken from Tabor’s 1976 debut LP, Airs And Graces, this delightfully demonstrates why the Warwickshire singer is one of English folk’s finest voices. Initially inspired by Anne Briggs, she crafted her own distinctive style, here accompanied on guitar by Nic Jones.

5 Angeline Morrison
“Black John” 
The Sorrow Songs (Folk Songs Of Black British Experience), released in 2022 and produced by Eliza Carthy, is one of the 21st century’s most impactful folk albums – not only in the pioneering, important stories that Morrison tells, but in the sympathetic arrangements and her sombre, versatile voice.

6 Nic Jones
“The Little Pot Stove”
The final release before a terrible car accident cut short his career, 1980’s Penguin Eggs is a truly legendary and essential record. Martin Carthy’s powerful, percussive guitar style is taken even further by Jones on tracks like this and the opening “Canadee-I-O”, which surely inspired Bob Dylan’s version in the early ’90s.

7 Lal Waterson & Oliver Knight
“So Strange Is Man”
All who have heard Bright Phoebus know of the youngest Waterson’s way with an eerie, unique song, and this cut – taken from 1996’s Once In A Blue Moon, the final album released in her lifetime – is just as wild and wonderful.

This CD comes free with the February 2024 issue of Uncut, in shops now or available to buy direct from us by clicking here

8 Eliza Carthy
Recorded at her home in Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire, Restitute – released by Topic in 2019 after a limited earlier distribution – is one of Carthy’s finest efforts. Although it’s mostly solo,
a few guests pop up here and there, including Martin Carthy on “The Leaves In The Woodland”.

9 Dave & Toni Arthur
“The Lark In The Morning”
Before Play School, Toni Arthur and her then husband Dave made earthy, bewitching folk records. Here, on the title track of their 1969 LP, they’re
joined on fiddle by Barry Dransfield, but their interwoven, roaring voices are the focus.

10 Norma Waterson
“The Chaps Of Cockaigny”
Here’s the opening track of Waterson’s 2001 album Bright Shiny Morning, showcasing the talents of this remarkable family: produced by her daughter Eliza Carthy, it also features Martin Carthy on guitar alongside Eliza’s tenor guitar and multi-tracked violin. Norma’s unmistakable vocals are the star, though. 

11 Fay Hield
“Hare Spell”
An actual professor of folk (well, professor in Ethnomusicology at the University of Sheffield), Hield also brings passion to her academic rigour. Opening 2020’s Wrackline, “Hare Spell” is a pounding, ritualistic piece of minor-key folk distinguished by its soaring fiddle.

12 Shirley Collins
“All Things Are Quite Silent”
Just as psychedelia flourished in British music, Collins released The Sweet Primeroses, one of her finest albums and a lesson in austerity and restraint. As on this opening track, the portable pipe organ of her sister Dolly is the perfect accompaniment to Collins’ unadorned voice.

13 Martin Simpson
Enjoy a preview of the title track of Simpson’s forthcoming album, a song that arose after nature presenter and activist Chris Packham asked the guitarist and singer to write a piece about hen harriers. The result is as swift and graceful as any avian performer.

14 Richard Thompson
“The Light Bob’s Lassie”
To celebrate the first 80 years of Topic, selected musicians recorded tribute tracks for the 2019 compilation Vision & Revision. Here’s Thompson’s contribution, just a couple of instruments and a single voice weaving a spell as heady and moving as any of his lusher recordings.

15 The Watersons
“Here We Come A-Wassailing”
We end with an enchanted track to bring in 2024 with luck and cheer. Just a minute and a half long, it’s The Watersons at their finest, and a highlight of 1965’s Frost And Fire: A Calendar Of Ritual And Magical Songs.

This CD comes free with the February 2024 issue of Uncut, in shops now or available to buy direct from us by clicking here


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