Shell out to see The Oysterband

The Oysterband, Telfer, second from left
The Oysterband, Telfer, second from left
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Ian Telfer, one of folk music’s most distinctive and revered artists, is considering his musical motivation.

A founding member of The Oysterband, Telfer, has continued to explore ways of bridging England’s musical traditions for the past four decades.

The moment when it all makes sense is when I stand up on stage and play

“The moment when it all makes sense is when I stand up on stage and play, the rest is just window dressing,” says Telfer, the band’s violin and concertina player.

“There was a time in my life when I went somewhere in the world, Canada, America or Italy, and I didn’t want to come back.

“But, eventually, you get tired of airports and motorway cafes, you value your own home and environment.

“Maybe music saved my life because it came along at a moment when I didn’t know what I wanted to do whatsoever.”

Telfer is equally strong as a lyricist, finding words that reflect his love of the English language and poetry.

“I love the lyric, it is such a powerful medium. But we write jointly most of the time and I think that’s why a lot of our songs are so diverse.”

Telfer met his future Oysterband mates, John Jones and Alan Prosser, during hectic pub jam sessions.

“I’d come down from Aberdeenshire to Canterbury University, and I was unbelievably naïve for my age.

“It was an acute culture shock, but when I met Alan and John then everything changed because they introduced me to a new world of sound.”

Telfer was even invited to join their English country-dance group, Fiddler’s Dram, recording novelty hit, Day Trip to Bangor (Didn’t We Have a Lovely Time).

The Oysterband also collaborated with Burnley’s Chumbawamba, appearing on Farewell to the Crown, the flip side of the band’s smash single Tubthumping.

Telfer says: “Chumbawamba were interesting people, and there was a streak of political provocation in what they did, playing gigs in squats and communes.

“It was not my type of politics, but I enjoyed working with them because I loved their vitality and energy.”

The Oysterband’s latest offering, Diamonds on The Water, was their first new collection of original songs for seven years.

“We’re no longer in the flush of youth, so when you’ve done 14 studio albums, and played thousands of gigs then you are entitled to take your time over a few songs I suppose,” Telfer says.

“We were very happy with it, though.”

Their previous album, Ragged Kingdom, was a re-immersion in traditional song, and that has continued, admits singer John Jones: “It seemed so important to us to get back to working on our song-writing skills.

“The writing is a vital part of our growth and continuity as a band.

“And if we can give a little back to the folk tradition, so much the better.”

The Oysterband, Clitheroe Grand Theatre, March 21. 01200 421599. £17.50.

Tony Dewhurst