Music

Photo: Elly Lucas

Here’s the “official biog”. Every musician has to have one of those, apparently, and we all pretend that we didn’t write it ourselves!

Veteran old time trad English deathfolk blues, psych-folk and world guitarist / singer Ian A Anderson has returned to solo gigs, mixing a wide variety of songs from his 50+ year career with fascinating anecdotery. Celebrating this, he’s now released two 21-track, 50 year spanning compilations titled Onwards! and Onwards Vol.2 – A Crown Of Crows.

First inspired by ancient folk blues records, Ian A Anderson (no, not that one!) was caught up in the late 1960s blues boom, mentored by Alexis Korner and supported by radio DJs like John Peel.

Following a series of indie-label EPs his first proper album Stereo Death Breakdown came out on Liberty/UA in 1969 to coincide with a national tour on which Ian Anderson’s Country Blues Band supported US blues legend Mississippi Fred McDowell.

But then, performing regularly in key venues of the day like London’s celebrated Les Cousins and the Bristol Troubadour, he took a sideways swerve into what now gets called ‘psych folk’. He released 4 solo albums of original songs and tunes, 3 of them on Bristol’s legendary Village Thing label and appeared at the very first Glastonbury festival.

By the mid-’70s he’d returned to folk, blues & roots material, but with his own English accent. His duo Hot Vultures with Maggie Holland (3 albums) toured extensively internationally as well as on the UK college circuit and at early folk festivals such as Cambridge. People from the emerging punk scene like a pre-Clash Joe Strummer could be found alongside folk fans in their audiences. They were among the few ’70s UK folk artists to have an LP released in the USA.

Entering the 1980s, he teamed up with some notable English traditional folk musicians in The English Country Blues Band (2 albums), noisy dance band Tiger Moth (2 albums) and its world music influenced big-band recording offshoot Orchestre Super Moth.

Then, for most of the ’90s, he took a long break from live performances while he concentrated on broadcasting, producing records by world music artists, and other music-related activities.

Everything changed again in the 21st century. From 2004-2006, Tiger Moth re-formed for festivals like WOMAD, Sidmouth and The Big Chill.

Then, following a command performance for folk legend Shirley Collins – who had helped uncover the fact that Ian’s great grandmother had been a source for songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1904! – Blue Blokes 3, an impromptu trio with PiL’s Lu Edmonds and 3 Mustaphas 3’s Ben Mandelson, were invited to make an album and tour nationally.

After this he and Mandelson continued recording and live dates as the duo The False Beards, and in 2016 Hot Vultures re-united for a successful summer tour, shining at folk festivals including Sidmouth, Priddy and Shrewsbury.

Re-enthused, in 2017 Ian decided to try a few solo gigs again for the first time in 45 years, “to scare myself.” They actually turned out rather well, so he’s continued, including returning to first principles with the entirely solo acoustic release Deathfolk Blues Revisited.

2019’s Onwards!, the first ever compilation to range across his entire musical career, highlighted his startlingly varied recorded output, which surprised both newcomers and those who only knew a part of it. It was also published bound into a deluxe limited edition photo book, which quickly sold out.

 

Also in 2019, Ian began an informal double-header gigging partnership with noted Northumbrian traditional musician Alistair Anderson under the banner Not The Anderson Twins – an anecdote filled set each and a few things together. This perhaps unlikely combination proved very successful and toured in March 2020, finishing just before the pandemic lockdown started

Ian’s latest CD release in July 2020 is Onwards! Vol 2 – A Crown Of Crows. It’s a second career-spanning volume since the first was so surprisingly well received – another 21 tracks, from 1968 to one recorded in the 2020 lockdown. 15 tracks are new to CD, of which 7 are previously unreleased.

If/when live gigging ever resumes, dates will be announced on Facebook.

“A vitally important figure in the history of folk, roots, acoustic and world music, it is surely time for a full and appropriate recognition of his pivotal contribution.” (Folk Radio UK)

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