Michael Raven & Joan Mills is not a duo that many of you will be familiar with but thanks to Sunbeam Records that may change, especially if this little taster persuades you to delve deeper which is one of our purposes here at Folk Radio UK. Their album Death and the Lady was originally released as a run of 250 vinyl copies in 1972 on the Folk Heritage Label (FHR047). There are copies still around which fetch around upwards of £300. Not surprisingly it’s been hard to find. Tracks have appeared over the years but this is the first time it has appeared as a complete album on CD.
Michael Raven’s guitar style ranges from British to Flamenco as he demonstrates so ably on the instrumental Lisa Lan. According to his biography upon leaving college he did a variety of jobs from pipe-line labourer to lorry driver before going to Spain to learn flamenco guitar, I also read that he lived with cave gypsies in Granada, traditionally Spain’s gypsy quarter. Back in 1950 there were more than 3,600 inhabited caves but many were abandoned after a major flood in 1963.
Shortly afterwards he became a professional musician, writer and researcher into the folklore of the West Midlands. He released his first solo guitar LP record for Transatlantic ‘Guitar Magic’ (XTRA 1046) in 1966. Later albums include The Jolly Machine which featured Michael and Joan with the folk group saga in 1974. A book was also released by the same title covering ’23 Songs of Industrial Protest and Social Discontent from the West Midlands’.
Whilst we can talk about ‘Death and the Lady‘ as a lost folk classic between them they have made 54 LP/CD recordings…so plenty to discover. Michael passed away in 2008 at the age of 70.
From the opening title track (also our Song of the Day) the guitar style of Michael Raven and the crystal vocals of Joan Mills make an instant impression. In a strange way it escapes time…I could easily be listening to Stephanie Hladowski and C Joynes (The Wild Wild Berry 2012) or The Owl Service (The View From a Hill 2010).
In fact, after discovering this album I spoke to Steven Collins founder of The Owl Service and Stone Tape Recordings who told me he had two of their albums (Can Y Melinydd and Death & the Lady) round about the time he started The Owl Service. He also added “I got Katie Cruel from them and Ladies Don’t Go a-Thieving, as well as Saraband from the Country Parish Music EP and I’m currently recording a version of The Captain’s Apprentice for the Greanvine album which leans heavily on their version. So yes, I’d say they’ve been a pretty big influence!”
So do yourself a favour, go and buy this album and if you haven’t met their modern-day counterparts then go and seek them out and support them unless you want someone like me to be writing about them 40 years later describing them as a lost folk classic.
1. Death And The Lady
2. The Jolly Highwayman
3. Lisa Lan
4. Ladies Don’t Go A-Thievin’
5. Robin Hood’s Dance
6. Staines Morris / La Folia Saraband /
7. Adson’s Saraband
9. The Lichfield Greenhill Bower Processional
10. The Captain’s Apprentice
11. Can y Melinydd / Troseg y Gareg
12. Sarah Collins
13. The White Gloves
14. La Russe Waltz / Paris Polka
15. The Queen Of The Night
Released Code 7 – Sunbeam 2 Dec 2013
If you like this you’ll love Stone Tape Recordings: http://www.stonetaperecordings.co.uk/