Sumer Is Icumen In: The Pagan Sound Of British & Irish Folk 1966-1975
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Released in 2015, Grapefruit’s 3-CD multi-artist British underground folk compilation Dust On The Nettles was widely praised, with a five-star review in The Times hailing it as “a delight from beginning to end”. A long-overdue follow up to that set, Sumer Is Icumen In tightens the mesh by focusing on the point when traditional folksong and the burgeoning late Sixties counterculture collided, largely courtesy of seminal acts like the Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention and Pentangle. As Steeleye Span’s Martin Carthy commented at the time, the scene had a strong pagan feel, dark and elemental, and progressive folk bands like Dr. Strangely Strange, Comus and Third Ear Band (who performed with the druids in dawn solstice ceremonies at Glastonbury Tor) were active at the same time as folklorists like Mr. Fox pair Bob & Carole Pegg and fellow husband-and-wife team Dave & Toni Arthur, whose commitment to the cause saw them dancing naked at a coven led by ‘King of the Witches’, the notorious Alex Sanders. Showcasing all of the above names as well as a supporting cast that ranges from Mike Oldfield and Marc Bolan to unsigned bands who recorded demos in a barn, Sumer Is Icumen In features four hours of Albion hymns ancient and modern, including three previously unreleased cuts. “Housed in a stylish clamshell box, it includes a 40-page booklet with track-by-track annotation, numerous band quotes and some very rare photos. The result is a secret glade in a darkly pagan woodland that’s peppered with invocations of corn gods, wicker men, bright Phoebus and other non-Christian deities; magickal tales of daemons, sorcerers, false knights and faerie queens; the medieval England myths, legends and traditions of the May Queen, John Barleycorn and the Green Man; paeans to the natural world and the rhythm of the passing seasons; fables of sanctuary stones, scarecrows and buried villages alongside dread stories of purgatory, sacrifice, rape, bestiality and murder.