Shirley Collins & The Albion Country Band – No Roses (1971)

LPFrontCover1No Roses is an album by Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band. It was recorded at Sound Techniques, and Air Studios in London, in the summer of 1971. It was produced by Sandy Roberton and Ashley Hutchings (Shirley Collins’ husband at the time). It was released in October 1971 on the Pegasus label.

It is very unusual to have 27 musicians and singers on an album of traditional folk songs. It happened because people simply dropped in during recording sessions and were asked to join in. “The Murder of Maria Marten”, a lengthy song about the Red Barn Murder, is broken into segments, with parts of British folk rock alternating with more traditional parts featuring Shirley Collins’ voice and a hurdy-gurdy drone. Shirley Collins had used a similar technique on “One Night As I Lay on My Bed” on “Adieu to Old England”.

Some songs, for instance Poor Murdered Woman and Murder of Maria Marten, feature large parts of the Fairport Convention line-up of late 1969 (Liege and Lief). In fact, Fairport Convention member Ashley Hutchings appears on all, Simon Nicol and Richard Thompson on eight, and Dave Mattacks on three of the nine songs on this album.


Claudy Banks includes a composed duo performance by Alan Cave on bassoon and British free jazz saxophonist Lol Coxhill – his only performance ever in the context of British folk music. Hal-An-Tow features members of the two acclaimed folk vocal groups The Watersons (Lal and Mike Waterson) and The Young Tradition (Royston Wood). Both drummer Roger Powell and pianist Ian Whiteman previously played together in the band Mighty Baby.

The album title No Roses are the last words of the first verse of the folk song The False Bride (I went down to the forest to gather fine flowers, but the forest won’t yield me no roses.), which Shirley Collins sang on her EP Heroes in Love in 1963. (by wikipedia)


The labels from the Mooncrest edition

Shirley Collins’ collaboration with the Albion Country Band for No Roses is considered a major event in the history of British folk and British folk-rock. For it was the first time that Collins, roundly acknowledged as one of the best British traditional folk singers, sang with electric accompaniment, and indeed one of the first times that a British traditional folk musician had “gone electric” in the wake of Dave Swarbrick joining Fairport Convention and Martin Carthy joining Steeleye Span. The album itself doesn’t sound too radical, however. At times it sounds something like Fairport Convention with Shirley Collins on lead vocals, which is unsurprising given the presence of Ashley Hutchings on all cuts but one, and Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol on most of the selections (Dave Mattacks plays drums on a few tracks for good measure). The nine songs are almost wholly traditional tunes with Collins’ arrangements, with perhaps a jauntier and folkier mood than that heard in early-’70s Fairport, though not much. It’s more impressive for Collins’ always tasteful smoky vocals than for the imagination of the material, which consolidates the sound of the more traditional wing of early-’70s British folk-rock. (by Richie Unterberger)


Shirley Collins (vocals)
Francis Baines (hurdy gurdy)
Dave Bland (concertin, hammer dulcimer)
Ashley Hutchings (bass)
Tim Renwick (guitar)
Gregg Butler (brass)
Alan Cave (bassoon)
Dolly Collins (piano)
Lol Coxhill (saxophone)
Trevor Crozier (jew´s harp)
Barry Dransfield (fiddle)
Tony Hall (melodeon)
Nic Jones (vocals, fiddle)
John Kirkpatrick (accordion)
Alan Lumsden (bugle)
Dave Mattacks (drums, percussion)
Steve Migden (french horn)
Simon Nicol (guitar, bass, background vocals)
Roger Powell (drums)
Colin Ross (bagpipes)
Richard Thompson (guitar, background vocals)
Ian Whiteman (piano)
background vocals:
Lal Waterson – Mike Waterson – Royston Wood – Maddy Prior – Barry Dransfield – Royston Wood


01. Claudy Banks (B. Copper/R. Copper) 4.37
02. The Little Gypsy Girl (Traditional) 2.16
03. Banks Of The Bann (Traditional) 3.39
04. Murder Of Maria Marten (Traditional) 7.24
05. Van Dieman’s Land (Traditional) 4.59
06. Just As The Tide Was A ‘Flowing (Traditional) 2.13
07. The White Hare (Traditional) 2.43
08. Hal-An-Tow (Traditional) 2.53
09. Poor Murdered Woman (Traditional) 4.26