VULCAN’S HAMMER – True Hearts And Sound Bottoms

Vulcan’s Hammer are that rare thing - a truly traditional folk group that are not derided as ‘finger in the ear folkies’. The mainstays of the band had been together since 1965, but became Vulcan’s Hammer in 1970, and recorded this album in 1971. This was also the year that fiddle-player Dick Fewtrell left the group, but not before adding his contribution to these songs, which appeared in album form two years later. The music is mostly traditional folk, mixing well known songs like ‘John Barleycorn’ and ‘Lord Of The Dance’ with lesser known pieces like ‘Poverty Knocks’, the blacksmiths chant of the title track, and the excellent ‘The Keys Of Canterbury’. ‘Hen’s March To The Midden’ is a showcase for the fiddle, and is a rollicking jig, while for ‘The Holmfirth Anthem’ the group put down their instruments and treat us to some fine three part harmony vocals. The group also write their own material, and ‘The Greenhopper’ or ‘The Grey Havens’ don’t sound a bit out of place. Their version of Steve Ashley’s ‘Fire And Wine’ closes the album with an evocative song of winter. The original issue of this album was limited to just 250 copies, and sold at the local folk club, but its reputation has spread so much over the years that Kissing Spell have now re-issued it, and as I do not have that many traditional folk albums it is a welcome addition. You have to appreciate the gene to get anything out of this album, as rock or pop fans will denigrate it as boring, but at the time it was keeping English folk music alive, and for that alone it is well worth a listen.