Album of The Week ‘Handful of Earth’ re release by Dick Gaughan 11th May 2019
This weeks Album of the Week is the re release of the ground breaking album by Dick Gaughan ‘Handful of Earth’
Release date 17th May by Topic Records
‘Although originally released in November 1981, time has been good to ‘Handful Of Earth.’ The passage of the years has done little to erode its magisterial strength and potency as a milestone within traditional music – one that quickly established Dick Gaughan as one of the most passionate and fiercely political British folk singers. Greatly inspired by the political turmoil in Scotland following the Conservative Party victory at the 1979 general election, the album was also Gaughan’s first after spending several years largely avoiding playing music while regaining his health following a mental breakdown in 1979.
Instantly recognised as a masterwork straightaway (a Melody Maker magazine album of the year), over the course of the decade, panegyrics and plaudits proliferated – Folk Roots’ (now fRoots) readers and critics voting it the album of the decade in 1989. In terms of influence, Handful Of Earth is up there with the select pantheon of The Watersons’ Frost and Fire, Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick’s Prince Heathen, Nic Jones’ Penguin Eggs and June Tabor & Martin Simpson’s A Cut Above. Amongst its legions of fans, Billy Bragg and comedian/writer Stewart Lee cite it as one of their favourite albums ever.
‘Handful Of Earth’ contains a quiver of traditional and contemporary songs – Robert Burns’ lyrical, ‘Now Westlin Winds,’ the feisty ‘Erin Go Bragh,’ Phil & June Colclough’s evocative, ‘Song For Ireland’ and his own reworking of the traditional ‘Both Sides The Tweed,’ which calls for Scottish independence without sacrificing friendship with the rest of the UK (as topical now as it ever was).
Gaughan’s fifth solo studio LP and his third for Topic, with Mick Campbell’s apposite cover portrait of our man in black against the backdrop of an industrial/agricultural landscape, was clearly a classic from the start. The label’s original press release, written by head honcho, Tony Engle, began :”With his new record, Dick Gaughan has surpassed himself. I’ve always had great respect for Dick, and admired all his records, but Handful of Earth puts him on a new and even higher level. I think it’s the most powerful and inventive record he’s ever made.” Engle goes even further : “This is a record that actually advances music.”
Topic Records have to be congratulated in this their 80th year as the longest running independent Record Station in the world!