Navigator / Rough Trade
"a tremendous, joyous, remarkable rock & roll show that was folk....in the way that folk music is grassroots musical language" - Rolling Stone (reviewing a show in Los Angeles)
Oysterband have been doing this for a long time, so they should be good at it by now. They started life as a radical ceilidh band in the late 70s, refugees from punk and a dead folk scene, and looking for a way to take their brand of political folk dance music on to a wider stage. They were always attracted to the darker side of British tradition - it was never enough to sing about a rose-coloured past and become part of the heritage industry. It was important to play those acoustic instruments in a powerful way, and to write songs that engaged with the real Britain.
By 1985 they had become a 5-piece band and joined pioneer roots-music label Cooking Vinyl, for whom they went on to make 10 albums. Their first real experience of Germany came with the Political Song Festival in the DDR in 1989, when they played with Billy Bragg and Michelle Shocked in both what were then East and West Berlin. The contrasts and contradictions involved made a deep impression on the band, as did the events of 1990, some of which they experienced first-hand.
After heavy touring in Europe, North America and Asia (Japan, India, and even Sri Lanka and Indonesia) original drummer Russ Lax and bass-player Ian Kearey left at the end of the 80s, but the addition of Chopper on bass/cello and Lee Partis on drums strengthened the band and released new creativity.
In 1990 they made a landmark album Freedom & Rain with the great English folk diva June Tabor. Mojo magazine chose it as one of the 10 best folk albums of the 90s. The same year they took part in New Model Army's "Impurity" tour, which brought them to the attention of a wider audience in Germany, and in 1992 they made a big impact on tour with The Pogues. With Deserters (1990), the very successful Holy Bandits (1993) and the full-on Shouting End Of Life (1995) the 90's were a prolific period. Oysterband played many German festivals, including Hurricane, Lorelei, Bizarre, Zillo and SWF.
Since 2000, they have been working on a second project called "The Big Session" - a collaboration with other, mostly younger performers which takes the atmosphere and style of an informal, spontaneous after-hours music session and puts it on the big stage. Through it the band met Irish piper James O'Grady, who featured on Rise Above (2002). There have been 3 tours of Britain, a live album (The Big Session Vol. 1) and a festival.
In 2007 Oysterband released Meet You There, widely regarded as their best album up until then - strong, fresh songs from an unusual angle.........”a gift to the disillusioned in a crazy world”. (Available via Westpark Music in Germany.)
2011 saw a reunion (after 21years!) with June Tabor, the wildly successful Ragged Kingdom, which kept everyone busy for two years, mostly in UK. Meanwhile Lee Partis and Ray “Chopper” Cooper left the band to pursue other careers, and the three founder members, John Jones, Alan Prosser and Ian Telfer, were joined by producer Al Scott on bass guitar / mandolin / voice and Dil Davies on drums.
With Diamonds On The Water (2014,) Oysterband song-writing may be said to have entered a new phase. “We haven’t changed our politics - we’re still drawn to the left, the sceptical and the green - but currently we’re enjoying writing about what we love in this world as well as what we dislike!”
A Clown's Heart
A River Runs
Spirit Of Dust
Lay Your Dreams Down Gently
Diamonds On The Water
Palace Of Memory
Once I Had A Sweetheart
No Ordinary Girl
Call You Friend
Like A Swimmer In The Ocean
John Jones - voice, accordion
Alan Prosser - guitars, voice
Dil Davies - drums
Al Scott - bass guitar, mandolin, voice
Ian Telfer - fiddle, concertina, keyboards, voice