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June Tabor


Country of origin:

England

Type of music generally:

Contemporary folk, traditional folk, and pop (with one jazz collection)

Status:

Most recent release, Ashore (2011)

See also:

The official June Tabor site

Wikipedia's entry on June Tabor

The Ectophiles' Guide entries for Silly Sisters (her work with Maddy Prior), and her work with The Oyster Band and with Savourna Stevenson and Danny Thompson

Comparisons:

Maddy Prior's solo work

Covers/own material:

Covers of traditional and contemporary folk and contemporary pop songs

General comments:

I have been a June Tabor fan since first hearing the Silly Sisters, and have heard her live several times. She has a stunning, deep, expressive voice. I prefer her traditional and more traditional-soundings songs to her contemporary pop-ish stuff, but will listen even to songs that aren't really to my taste for the wonder of her voice—she is a masterful interpreter of all kinds of songs. She might be an acquired taste because she's not for the easily depressed—her material is usually deep, soulful, painful, though she does some wonderful, lively, funny traditional material, too. She has a rich, evocative voice and knows how to use it. Her presentation is powerful and distinctive. She has ranged greatly in style over the years, from the early albums which are more purely traditional folk and are livelier, to her folk/rock work with The Oyster Band, to her jazz album, to the work she is doing now, which is mostly rich, slow compositions by contemporary folk writers, though she also does similar treatments of traditional songs. The upbeat songs are now fewer and further between but they do still appear. Her version of Lal Waterson's "The Scarecrow" is one of the most haunting songs I have heard in my life. (Neile)

June Tabor—Wow! Where have I been? (jjhanson@att.net)

In the early 1980s a British newspaper—the Guardian, I think—talked about "The June Tabor Test" when buying new equipment. June is a leading light on the UK folk scene, although these days she does covers of most writers from Dylan to Elvis Costello to Richard Thompson, and has a truly amazing voice. At the time there were only three of her albums available—Airs &Graces, Ashes and Diamond and A Cut Above—and her voice was considered to be extremely difficult for any but the best equipment to reproduce accurately. (psclark@dircon.co.uk)

Comments about live performance:

I've seen June Tabor live four or five times, and only once have I felt at all disappointed (maybe because I knew another concert I also wanted to go to was on at the same time, or maybe I just wasn't in the right mood, or maybe it was that on that particular concert she did fewer of her traditional songs and more of her pop/jazz interpretations—my less favourite side of her repertoire), but whatever—the other times I've seen her have been a delight.
     She has such a rich, deep, lovely voice and is such a wonderful interpreter of songs that it's well worth hearing her live. She always does a couple of songs or variations of songs that she hasn't recorded. My only caveats would be that she is a low-key performer, and sometimes her accompaniment can be just a little cheezy. She has a sly wit and she sometimes lets go with a zinger or two between songs. (9/97, Neile)

I've seen her a couple of times, and would definitely recommend that you go. June doesn't put on much of a "show" and is quite a low-key performer, but her concerts tend to draw you in to her music and leave you feeling very satisfied. She tends to be quite informal between songs, and some of her asides while talking to the audience are very sharp.
     In short, go! :-) (9/97, nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

I was completely blown away. June was accompanied by two other musicians (Huw Warren & Mark Emerson) on a variety of instruments. I've got a handful of her albums, including a Silly Sisters album with Maddy Prior, so I had a fair idea of what she'd sound like. Every song was new to me though, as they all came from her new album, aleyn. On previous albums, it's always been clear that June has a great voice, but I still was unprepared for the depth and richness of it live. It may be one of the clearest, most expressive voices I've ever heard.
     She played a wide range of songs, from traditional British tunes old, older and really old (say, 17th century or thereabouts), as well as some current tunes. She imbued all the songs with such passion and depth, with a few being dramatically moving. Notably powerful were:

  • di nacht: A song sung in Yiddish about the Jewish immigrant experience in the US in the '30s, which apparently gained a life of its own, spreading around decimated communities in Europe in the '40s.
  • Shallow Brown: A very simple and heartrending song about a slave being sold away from his family.
  • a proper sort of gardner: A tribute to the pure "proper" sort of love of a child for a good family friend.
  • Johnny o'Bredislee: The most dramatic change of pace tune of the evening. I was stunned as June turned this Old English story song into a hint of what a traditional album would sound like if Patti Smith decided to make one.
Her voice has always been clear and beautiful, but I had no idea it would be so poignant and emotional live. (10/97, neal)

I was impressed by the power of the songs, but somehow overall the concert didn't reach me—I felt a great deal of respect for someone who was very good at what she does and puts a lot of passion into it, but who lives in a different universe from me. (I guess also this was in part a bit because based on what someone had told me, I was expecting "folk rock," whereas this music all falls into the category I'd call "traditional"; no rock there to speak of as far as I could tell.) (psfblair@ix.netcom.com)

Recommended first album:

For solo stuff Airs and Graces, Abyssinians, or the Aspects or Anthology compilations; her Silly Sisters albums are great, and if you want to hear how she can rock out, get June Tabor and the Oyster Band's Freedom and Rain. For her more recent work you might want to try Aleyn. (Neile)

Recordings:


Airs & Graces

Release info:

c. 1976; rereleased 1991—Shanachie Records—Shanachie 79055

Availability:

Wide in the U.S.

Ecto priority:

Essential for fans of traditional music

Group members:

June Tabor—vocals

Produced by:

Paul Brown

Comments:

What a stunning debut recording! Every song here, each rendition of every song here, is a knockout. June Tabor's voice shows its power and delicacy, and the collection goes from strength to strength. I've loved this disc for years and love it now. Powerful & a couple of just fun songs, like "While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping". A wonderful version of Eric Bogle's "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda". (Neile)

Ashes and Diamonds

Release info:

1977; rereleased 1989—Topic Records—TSCD360

Availability:

Wide in the U.S. and U.K.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of traditional folk

Group members:

June Tabor—vocals

Guest artists:

Tony Hall—melodeon
Nic Jones—fiddle, guitar
Jon Gillaspie—piano, synthesizer, recorder
Rick Kemp—bass
Nigel Pegrum—drums
Doug Morter—electric guitar

Produced by:

Paul Brown

Comments:

This is a collection of quite simply, clearly presented traditional songs both lively songs and earnest ballads. Several are a cappella, others have simple accompaniment, all showcase June Tabor's lovely, versatile voice. A really lovely collection. From the beginning I don't like her more contemporary covers (like "Now I'm Easy") though this is probably my own prejudice, but when I listen to how she can carry a long a cappella rendition of a song like "Clerk Saunders" and be captivating through its entire six-minute length, I think it has a lot to do with the strength of the material. (Neile)

A Cut Above

(with Martin Simpson)

Release info:

1980—Green Linnet Records—GLCD 3072

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of traditional folk

Group members:

June Tabor—vocals
Martin Simpson—guitar

Guest artists:

Ric Saunders—violin
Dave Bristow—piano, synthesizer
Jon Davie—bass
The Prunettes (on 1 track): Louisa Livingstone, Dik Cadbury, Martin, Dave, John, Ric, Paul

Produced by:

Paul Brown

Comments:

Quite a lovely collection of songs, with wonderful, minimal instrumentation. A great showcase for June Tabor's talents. (Neile)

Abyssinians

Release info:

Re-released 1991—Shanachie Records—79038

Availability:

Wide in the U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for folk lovers

Group members:

June Tabor—vocals

Produced by:

Andrew Cronshaw

Comments:

This is a wonderful collection of powerful songs, especially her version of Lal Waterson's "The Scarecrow". Wonderful use of June Tabor's voice in these songs—this is one of her best albums. (Neile)

Aqaba

Release info:

1989—Shanachie Records—79070

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for folk and June Tabor fans

Group members:

June Tabor—vocals

Guest artists:

Huw Warren—piano Ric Sanders-violins
Martin Simpson—guitar, baritone guitar, mandola
Dave Bristow—synthesizer
Ian Blake—bass clarinet

Produced by:

Andrew Cronshaw

Comments:

This is a good, but very dark collection of material, even if it does have a happy ending in the story of "The King of Rome". Fascinating, depressing version of Natalie Merchant's "Verdi Cries". This collection never fails to affect my mood—strong stuff. (Neile)

Some Other Time

Release info:

1989—Hannibal—HNCD 1347

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended only for jazz standard or June Tabor fans

Group members:

June Tabor—vocals

Guest artists:

Huw Warren—arrangements, piano, cello
Mark Lockheart—saxophones
Danny Thompson—bass
Bosco de Oliveira—percussion

Produced by:

Joe Boyd

Comments:

This is a collection of June Tabor's takes on jazz standards. Her typical vocal restraint and her smoky voice seem a natural for these takes on such standards as "Night and Day" and "I've Got You under My Skin" by Cole Porter, "The Man I Love" by George and Ira Gershwin as well as "Pork Pie Hat" by Charles Mingus and "Round Midnight" by Thelonius Monk. It would best be listened to in a dark smoky bar. (Neile)

great voice singing some great classic songs—was actually looking for her new release but they were out of it—this one is pretty good though. (jjhanson@att.net)


Aspects

Release info:

1990—Request Contemporary Series—CDRR 501

Availability:

U.S. and U.K.

Ecto priority:

Recommended for anyone who wants a taste of June Tabor's early work

Group members:

June Tabor—vocals

Comments:

A good, representative compilation of her work including tastes of her work with Martin Simpson, as Silly Sisters (with Maddy Prior) and with The Oyster Band. (Neile)

Angel Tiger

Release info:

1992—Cooking Vinyl (U.K.)/Shanachie Records—COOKCD 049

Availability:

Wide in U.S. and U.K.

Ecto priority:

Recommended for June Tabor fans or lovers of contemporary folk

Group members:

June Tabor—vocals

Guest artists:

Huw Warren—piano, cello, accordion
Mark Emerson—violin, viola, accordion, piano
Mark Lockheart—clarinet, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Dudley Phillips—double bass
Bosco de Oliveira—percussion

Produced by:

John Ravenhall

Comments:

This is a collection mostly of neo-traditional folk songs. There are some lovely moments here, and June Tabor is in fine vocal form. Many of the songs are somewhat didactic, but June Tabor's voice can make even those songs come alive. (Neile)

Against The Streams

Release info:

1994—Cooking Vinyl (U.K.)—COOK CD 071

Availability:

Wide in the U.S. and U.K.

Ecto priority:

Recommended for June Tabor fans

Group members:

June Tabor—vocals

Guest artists:

Huw Warren—piano, cello
Mark Emerson—viola, violin, piano accordion
Andy Cutting—diatonic accordion
Mark Lockheart—clarinet, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Dudley Phillips—double bass

Produced by:

John Ravenhall

Comments:

This is another collection that is a mix of contemporary folk and pop songs with a few traditional songs. My favourites are always the traditional songs, though she does a stunning version of Richard Thompson's neo-traditional "Pavanne" here. June Tabor's voice is always gorgeous and her interpretations emotional. (Neile)

Perhaps the most accessible collection of songs June has recorded since the late seventies. With the vocals and major instruments recorded simultaneously live in the studio, each song is a true performance and they are all little gems. The balance of songs remains firmly weighted towards the work of contemporary songwriters rather than the traditional material with which she first made her name. Her voice retains its extraordinary ability to evoke powerful images. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)


Aleyn

Release info:

1997—Green Linnet Records—GLCD 3119

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

June Tabor—vocals

Guest artists:

Andy Cutting—diatonic accordion
Mark Emerson—violin, viola
Mark Lockheart—clarinet, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Dudley Phillips—double bass
Huw Warren—piano, piano accordion

Produced by:

John Ravenhall

Comments:

I love June Tabor's voice—it's deep and expressive and is shown off well in this collection of songs. I still like her versions of traditional songs and contemporary ballads best—and have some problems with some of the cheesy backup of the pop songs. Ah well, she does a great version of Richard Thompson's "The Great Valerio" and of "Bentley and Craig" (a ballad about the two kids whose story was the basis for the movie Let Him Have It). The best of her recent recordings in my opinion. (Neile)

It's almost as stunning as the show. It blows away my recollections of the other discs of hers that I own (though I'll have to pull them out and give them a spin to be sure). The only complaint I have about the disc, which is a pretty minor complaint, is that it doesn't capture the depth and emotion of the live performances. It's still wonderful and highly, highly recommended. It also includes the obligatory Richard Thompson cover (surprisingly, no RT covers were performed at the show), this one of "The Great Valerio". I think the songs on Aleyn are both the best selections and performances on any of her albums I've heard, and only suffer in comparison to how incredible they were live. (neal)


On Air

Release info:

1998—Strange Fruit (BBC, UK)—SFRSCD074

Availability:

U.K.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for June Tabor fans

Group members:

June Tabor—vocals

Guest artists:

Martin Simpson—guitar, banjo on 1 track
John Gillaspie—piano, synthesizer, recorder, organ on 1 track
Huw Warren—piano, synthesiser on 3 tracks
The Oyster Band (3 tracks):
     Lee—drums, tambourine
     Chopper—bass, cello
     John jones—melodeonOn Air
     Ian telfer—fiddle, concertina
     Alan Prosser—guitar, backing vocals

Produced by:

Tony Wilson 2 tracks), Pete Ritzema (2 tracks) Malcolm Brown (2 tracks), Dale Griffin (3 tracks), Mike Robinson (3 tracks)

Comments:

This is a collection of tracks produced by the BBC from 1976 through 1990. It is mostly traditional, which is my favourite music to hear June Tabor interpret. It also includes three tracks where she rocks out with The Oyster Band (see our entry for her work with The Oyster Band), covering Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit", Bob Dylan's "This Wheel's on Fire" and his "All Along the Watchtower". There's also one cover of an Ewan MacColl song, and the remainder of the tracks are all traditional. A wholly enjoyable collection. (Neile)

A Quiet Eye

Release info:

2000—Green Linnet Records—GLCD 3129

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for June Tabor fans

Group members:

June Tabor—vocals

Guest artists:

Huw Warren—piano
Mark Bassey—trombone
Liam Kirkman—trombone
Richard Iles—trumpet
Jim Rattigan—French horn
Richard Bolton—cello
Richard Fox—tuba
Dudley Philips—double bass
Andy Schofield—clarinet, alto saxophone
Iain Dixon—bass clarinet, clarinet
Mark Emerson—percussion
Mark Lockheart—clarinet, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone

Comments:

While I love June Tabor's take on traditional material, her contemporary folk and jazzy things just leave me cold. In other words, I like part of this disc a lot, and the rest of it doesn't do much for me. Sigh. Only recommended for June Tabor fans, or someone like me who likes part of it enough to ignore the other part. (Neile)

Rosa Mundi

Release info:

2001—Topic Records—TSCD532 in the UK; Green Linnet—GLCD3139 in the US

Availability:

Wide in UK and US

Ecto priority:

Recommended for folk/pop fans

Group members:

June Tabor—vocals

Guest artists:

Huw Warren—piano
Mark Emerson—violin, viola
Richard Bolton—cello

Produced by:

John Ravenhall

Comments:

June Tabor's celebration of the rose, a mix of traditional and contemporary folk tunes. My favourites on this are: "Belle Rose" a livelier tune in French, "Deep in Love" a passionate tune. I've realized that a lot of what puts me off June Tabor's recent work is Huw Warren's piano, which almost always sounds the same, no matter the tone of the song—he has an overly ornate prettified style which has an easy-listening overtone that gets on my nerves and sometimes undercuts the power of June Tabor's voice and interpretations of songs. (Neile)

An Echo of Hooves

Release info:

2003—Topic Records—TSCD543

Availability:

Wide in UK and US

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

June Tabor—vocals

Guest artists:

Huw Warren—piano, cello, piano accordion
Mark Emerson—viola, violin, piano
Tim Harries—double bass
Martin Simpson—guitar on 2 tracks
Katrhyn Tickell—Northumbrian pipes on 2 tracks

Comments:

To my tastes, this is June Tabor's best album in years. She's back to doing entirely traditional material—material she has such a wonderful, evocative way of presenting with her strong, deep voice. The accompaniment avoids the trite pop sound that has haunted her more recent recordings and is wonderful support to her powerful vocals. A delightful, haunting album, and a good choice of songs. I'm so happy that she has returned to this material! (Neile)

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Entry last updated 2012-05-20 14:44:59.
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