Thursday, June 13, 2024
HomeNewsOff the Beaten Tracks: Faith, Hope and Homing Pigeons

Off the Beaten Tracks: Faith, Hope and Homing Pigeons


Many thanks to those who responded to my first musical post. I was especially pleased to see your own recommendations (Audre Myers suggesting John Prine; A R Devine praising Terry Callier to name but two) and hope you will continue to chip in. The point of this blog is, I hope, not to show how much an old bloke knows about his record collection, but to encourage us to celebrate the treasures of our musical tradition before they are submerged in a tide of drivel.

I am sorry some of you have a low opinion of Loudon Wainwright III as a person – all I would say is that he is pretty aware of his own selfishness, as articulated in the song One Man Guy.

And he’s funny.

Moving on, this week’s artist is the English folk singer, June Tabor. Her first TV appearance was as a contestant on University Challenge in 1968, when she captained the unsuccessful St Hugh’s College, Oxford team (got to be a pub quiz answer there.)

Tabor’s vocal talents emerged publicly in 1976 on the album Silly Sisters – a superb collaboration with Maddy Prior – which included the goosebumps-inducing harmonies of The Grey Funnel Line, about sailors longing for home.

The following years produced a succession of excellent solo LPs, which I much prefer to her current efforts even though her voice continues to improve with age.

Essential from that early era are the hugely powerful and moving anti-war songs And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, and No Man’s Land/Flowers Of The Forest.

My favourite Tabor track, however, remains The King of Rome, from the 1988 album Aqaba. It is about a pigeon race in 1913. And if you think that sounds less than inspiring, prepare to have your socks blown off. Fresh supply of hankies, please:

See you next week, pop pickers.

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Alan Ashworth
Alan Ashworth
Alan Ashworth is a former national newspaper journalist now retreated to the Ribble Valley, where he grows cacti and tramps the fells. He and his wife Margaret run a website, A-M Records , which includes their collected TCW columns plus extra features including Tracks of the Day. Requests, queries and comments can be sent to

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