The Mother of All Morris
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Various Artists
The Mother of All Morris
Talking Elephant (www.talkingelephant.co.uk)

First there was Morris On, a legendary electric morris music and dance project from 1972 that was spearheaded by Ashley Hutchings and the cream of the English folk rock scene.

Morris On has since begat a number of progeny: Son of Morris On (1976); Grandson of Morris On (2002); and now, The Mother of All Morris. Prior albums have gleefully depicted the musical guest stars in various costumes, all very English and bordering on the ridiculous. Mother eschews the powdered make-up in favor of historical photographs; the crowd marching towards the viewer on the front cover positively look like they mean business.

The Mother of All Morris covers all time periods of the morris. The album starts in comfortable fashion, with the Morris On Band and the familiar brand of electric morris that has become its own genre. But what makes Mother an interesting listen is the eclectism at between the tracks. Producers Ashley Hutchings and Simon Care have gathered some of their old friends for this outing, such as John Kirkpatrick and Chris Leslie, but a good deal of the album is given over to the new generation of folk stars such as Eliza Carthy, Saul Rose, Jim Moray, Jim Causley, The Gloworms, and Show of Hands. Among the highlights must be included The Gloworms' 'Barham Down/The Yellow Joak/The Go! Of London City' set, which begins with some very nice driving guitar to set up a sprightly round of tunes. Jim Causley's 'The Lollipop Man' is notable for its insanely risqué lyrics, wrapped in the cadence of an innocent children's tune. Chris Leslie's 'Swaggering Gathering' has to be the oddest of the lot, a union of morris dancing with Native American flutes and percussion: the idea could have been a train wreck, and yet somehow, the music is strangely compelling.

Ashley Hutchings and Simon Care even treat us to a field recording made by Paul Tucker of the Sailor's Horse Crew and Musicians celebrating Mayday in 2007. The inclusion of this track is a wonderful gesture, showing that the morris tradition is alive, well, and truly a vital ritual. Hutchings claims that The Mother of All Morris is the last of the 'Morris' series. As a final parting gift to those who have listened down the years, Mother is a wonderful collection…at least until Morris From Another Planet arrives, hundreds of years from now. - Lee Blackstone

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