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No one can tell you what traditional English music is without tying themselves in handkerchief knots, but you know it when you hear it. The Lords Of Thyme are traditionally English in the same way that Pentangle or Fotheringay were traditionally English, but also in the same way that Julian Cope undoubtedly is. A hazy, blissed out, ancient and modern country of the strangest imaginations.
Joe Woolley, Tali Trow and Pat Kenneally first played together as part of Michael Tyack’s compellingly odd ensemble Circulus before forming The Lords Of Thyme with Michelle Griffiths of the progressive Morris dance side The Belles Of London City. The band’s debut 7” single, which paired the Scottish ballad Proud Maisre with an original song of Joe’s called If I Was A Bird was mixed by the legendary John Wood, best known for recording the likes of Nick Drake, John Martyn and The Incredible String Band. That first release impressed fRoots magazine enough to include them in a cover feature on outsider folk artists that also launched the careers of Stick In The Wheel and Lynched.
Furthering their connection to old wyrd England, The Lords Of Thyme were invited to contribute to the Shirley Collins Inspired tribute album - recording a version of Hares On The Mountain with 60s folk legend Bonnie Dobson (writer of the classic Morning Dew) on a record that also featured Graham Coxon, Bonnie Prince Billy and Stewart Lee. Yes that Stewart Lee.
The group’s leader Joe was introduced to folk music by the iconic guitar innovator Davey Graham’s sister Jill Doyle, with whom he once shared a flat. Jill added to his obsession with blues and jazz by playing him classic recordings by Jeannie Robertson and Bert Lloyd. While Michelle developed her love of unaccompanied singing by sneaking into sessions at Cecil Sharp House after Morris practice.
The Lords Of Thyme’s latest release “a fried odyssey” called Pellets combines Michelle’s dreamlike takes on trad with the soft psyche of Joe’s own compositions, transported to a far-out realm by Tali and Pat’s intoxicatingly woozy rhythm section.
When you hear The Lords Of Thyme you know exactly where they’re coming from. Even if you couldn’t point to it on a map.
1. Bruton Town
2. George Collins
3. The Bird It Sang
4. Morning Game
5. Coming Down
6. Fine Falling Rain
7. Freight Train To Rainham
8. Keep On Travelling