Formed at Canterbury University in the mid-80's, much of the Oysterband's quality
comes from its diversity: The band is hard to define as either folk, rock or traditional.
They melt modern influences with music handed down through the tradition,
producing everything from raucous anthems, political rabble rousers, classic
traditional songs and ballads, to cover versions of Lou Reed and Clash songs, ripped
apart and rebuilt in their own inimitable "cut and shunt" style.
The band's music is as diverse as their members, an eclectic array of unlikely musical
geniuses. The Oysterband's line up consists of guitarist Alan Prosser, the charismatic
vocalist John Jones, the Scottish fiddler Ian Telfer, Chopper on bass and Lee on
"Step Outside", the band's debut release in 1986 was a breath of fresh air with it's bold
mix of folk and rock. Nine successful albums followed, cumulating in a 2000 best-of
collection "Oysterband: Granite Years (Best of 1986 to '97)". This release, although a
two disc collection of their most well known songs, serves as an example of the
breadth of talent that pushed the band to its present position as one of the country's
most exciting contemporary folk rock bands.
Even from the first album the range of songs that Oysterband made their own was
astounding - their treatment of the traditional standard "Hal-an-Tow" was a keynote
track, a venomous statement of intent for a brave new dawn that clearly involved
grabbing folk song by the scruff of the neck and shaking it furiously.
Their second album "Wide Blue Yonder" , included the classic "Oxford Girl" and an
electrifying cover of Billy Bragg's "Between The Wars", whereas the next album
"Ride" included an intriguing version of New Order's "Love Vigilantes".
They then changed tack somewhat, recording "Freedom & Rain" with folk diva June
Tabor. They toured with Tabor too - a tense, fascinating amalgam between two highly
independent and sharply contrasting spirits and styles which merged into an uneasy
dream ticket for English music - "Imagine if Aerosmith and Madonna announced they
were to tour together!" said Rolling Stone magazine.
After their brief flirtation with Tabor, "The Shouting End Of Life" was released in
1995, and probably stands as the most aggressive and political album of their career. It
was an album of acute extremes, from the trailblazing title track to their raging
treatment of Leon Rosselson's socialist national anthem "The World Turned Upside
Always willing to push the boundaries, the band have also produced an interesting
remix of one of their songs "Ways Of Holding On" , featuring Swedish ice-princess
Emma Hardelin from the band Garmarna.
Bands like The Levellers had been building a fervent following with an alternative indie
approach that embraced many of the values pioneered by The Oysterband, who
suddenly found themselves talked of as godfathers of a new English style of roots
The Oysterband confound, fascinate and expose every emotion during their live
performances. Wednesday night's performance at the Festival will be one to miss at