History, Politics & Society
After describing the processes of history at work on ordinary people (i.e. Bill’s immediate ancestors) in Glimpses of Far Off Things, the second volume finds Bill settling in at Topic Records and collaborating with Ewan MacColl and Bert Lloyd, the architects of the folk revival. It is set in the period of the Cold War, ‘Ban the Bomb’ and lingering austerity. Yet the small pond of UK folk is about to be stirred by breezes blowing from the USA. The folk revival was more advanced over there, and the influx of US visitors, the craving for diversity generated by the Stateside Hi-Fi craze, the irresistible rise of Lonnie Donegan and skiffle, all cleared the path for the UK folk revival proper.
It becomes clear with Horizons For Some that the author’s mission is to return its cultural inheritance to a nation that has somehow mislaid it, and may indeed be running the other way in hot denial. It also shows how tradition is not set in stone, but infinitely adaptable. The present volume anatomises how the folk demotic was influenced by the so-called special relationship. In his quiet way, Bill was central to these developments. Sounding the Century is rich in character studies of the remarkable people Bill (and the author) encounter, and wonderfully conveys the joy and absurdity of it all.
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