Best male singer of the year…

Fanfare / 19th March, 2014


…NME, 1975*

And the winner is {bodhran roll please} John Goodluck, crown pagan prince of Suffolk song and grand magister of the 1970s Ipswich folk scene.

They don’t make ’em like this anymore. Johns unholy trinity of The Suffolk Miracle (74), Speed the Plough (75) and Monday’s Childe (77, like punk never happened) are faultless folk follies, an oral / aural history of Suffolk in song. Johns albums are rough hewn flints, unpolished and full of urchins, more cough syrup than maple syrup. Songs of murder (of the Red Barn variety), smuggling, ploughing and poaching, they should teach the kids this stuff at school, it’s part of our heritage.

John was like the maypole of the local scene, the centre of the web. A founder of Ipswichs folk high temple the Gardeners Arms and a regular on Radio Orwell, he also appeared in The Great Lockout (74), a film about the struggles of the Agricultural Workers Union. John was asked to source rural songs of strife and unrest for the film, many of which ended up on his opus, Speed the Plough.

From The Crow Boy

When I was but a beardless boy,  Nor more’n six years owd,
I us’d t’goo a keepin’ crows,  In rain an’ wind an’ cowd.
An’ well I du remember now,  Ah, well as it can be,
My little house, a hurdle thatch’d,  In th’ ma’sh agin th’ sea
Car woo! car woo! yew owd black crow, Goo fly awa’ to Sutton;
If yow stop hee’t’ll cost ye dear, I’ll kill yow as dead as mutton.

I revisit these albums time and time again, Johns take on the staples is magical, The Lover’s Ghost, The Battle of Sole Bay, Reynardine, all classics. If you dig other underground fossels like Stone Angel and Dave & Toni Arthur you’ll find a lot to love here. Johns purer take on the songs maybe closer in lineage to the old east coast masters like Fred Whiting and Peter Bellamy but there’s still enough oak soaked witchery here to keep the Wicker Man fraternity up at night.

If you’re lucky you can sometimes find one of his vinyl nuggets in Out of Time Records, or for those more ingrained in this century check out Johns site where you can buy all his classics online. Mr Goodluck seems to have cut short his boat bound retirement and is treading the boards again too, well worth checking out.

* I’m not kidding.

Posted by: Forte