It’s hard to believe that John Spiers and Jon Boden have been together now for ten years. To celebrate this waypoint in their careers they have released The Works, a re-working of some of their favourite songs and tunes and called upon a plethora of folk royalty to join in the feast including: Eliza Carthy, Maddy Prior, Andy Cutting, Ian Giles, Fay Hield, Pete Coe and Martin Simpson.
They met many moons ago in the Elm Tree pub in Oxford during an evening session. John Spiers, the son of a morris dancer, was already well versed in tunes and had just finished a masters degree in genetics at Cambridge University. He was, as he recalls in their album notes, living the life: working in a music shop during the day and playing sessions in the evening. Jon (the taller of the two) was actually born in Chicago and raised in the South of England. He had a degree in mediaeval studies from Durham university. He had also studied theatre composition and taught children singing at theatre school. Although he’d barely tasted the experience of a festival or folk club he had developed a passion for scraping bow across string. He had been working on music for a play and followed the musicians on a night off to the Elm Tree pub. The whole story is beginning to sound like an unfolding of Holmes and Watson’s first meeting, but they thankfully had aspirations of the muscial kind rather than solving crimes. It would be easy to say the rest is history but they are both still making it!
Their intuitive musical playing gradually developed which found them being, as Spiers recalls, “session monkeys”, playing ceilidhs and the occasional costume themed event at Warwick Castle. The gigs then began to happen with appearances at Cambridge Folk Club, Oxford Folk Club…their youthful and exhilarating playing combined with their theatrical stage presence began to capture attention.
A demo tape sent to Fellside Recordings resulted in the release of their fist album in 2001 titled Through and Through. This was followed by three more releases before a shift to Navigator records and the release of Vagabond which is also home to this latest release, The Works. Their steady growth in popularity has escalated in recent years to that of trailblazers on the English Folk circuit, not least bacause of all for their many side-projects.
The two are lucky to have a weekend free these days with over a 1000 gigs down the road they are relentless in the pursuit of great music. Their side-projects which have included Jon Boden’s exhausting Folk Song a Day to the groundbreaking 11-piece big band Bellowhead have brought great critical acclaim as well as a Glastonbury stage!
The Works is a worthy & timely celebration of this great duo. Re-visiting songs and tunes is a natural part of the folk world but this one is special. Followers will know the songs and tunes from their signature Rochdale Coconut Dance to the anthemic Prickle-Eye Bush. With the inclusion of some of best musicians out there you can only expect a great album, they deliver in style!
Long may they continue!
Not on the album but a great video: Eliza Carthy with Spiers and Boden – Worcester City
Spiers & Boden – Three Tunes – Cleckheaton Folk Festival
Spiers & Boden – The Birth of Robin Hood – Cleckheaton Folk Festival
Amazon UK: The Works