Whether you’re comfortable with politics in folk music or not (I am, for the record), inequality and injustice have been constant influences on the genre through the ages: from the perils of war, mining disasters, work conditions to songs that fuel unity in the face of repression in its many forms. Some of these songs have a strange way of bubbling back to the surface to work their magic again making them as poignant now as they were when first performed. Many great folk artists and bands rose to prominence during the tumultuous Thatcherite years but there’s one particular band that hit the heart with some of “John Tams’ most socially aware songs” that would unexpectedly rise again from the ashes 25 years later to become a big hit with festival crowds across the country: Home Service.
The Home Service story is quite remarkable if not a little complicated, formed in the 1980’s out of members of the Albion Band who participated in the album Rise Up Like the Sun (1978), an album that is often cited as one of the essential folk-rock albums. With the usual helmsman Ashley Hutchings heavily involved in Theatre projects John Tams took the lead rein along with Bill Caddick (vocals, guitar, dobro), Graeme Taylor (vocals, guitar), Michael Gregory (drums), Roger Williams (trombone, tuba), Howard Evans (trumpet), Colin Rae (trumpet) and Malcolm Bennett (bass).
They produced three albums in their short existence in the mid-eighties which are still available via Fledg’ling Records. Their most cited album is probably their third, “Alright Jack” –
…as well as featuring some of John Tams’ most socially aware songs, also boasts one of the band’s finest achievements, their reworking of composer Percy Grainger’s “Lincolnshire Posy” orchestral suite. Here, the band reinterpret the work, imagining how Grainger may have presented it decades later, using the instruments, technology and rock rhythm section of a new musical era.
Their unexpected re-birth came about 25 years later in 2011 following the discovery of a live tape recorded at 1986’s Cambridge Folk Festival. The recording caught the band at their very best thanks to their then sound engineer Doug Beveridge who had the foresight to keep the recording. The combination of brass and folk-rock really stood them apart and still does today. After re-forming they created a huge wave in the folk world which led to them winning Best Live Act in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2012.
They are on tour now so try and make every effort to see them if you can (dates below). But before that here is our Song of the Day from one of the greatest Folk-rock bands out there still: Alright Jack
Alright Jack (Live)
Tuesday 27 May – The Stables, Milton Keynes
Wednesday 4 June – Canterbury Theatre Lodge, Canterbury
Saturday 21 June – Beverley Folk Festival
Saturday 5 July – Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury
Sunday 6 July – Public Hall, Budleigh Salterton
Monday 7 July – Nettlebed Folk Club, Oxfordshire
Sunday 27 July – Village Pump Folk Festival, Trowbridge
Friday 26 September – The Met, Bury
Saturday 27 September – Whitworth Centre, Darley Dale, Matlock
Sunday 28 September – Half Moon, Putney
Sunday 26 October – Lichfield Festival of Folk
Saturday 6 December – The Great British Folk Festival, Skegness
The current line-up is:
John Tams – vocals, melodeon, guitar
Graeme Taylor – electric guitar
Jon Davie – bass guitar, vocals
Andy Findon – saxophone, clarinet and flutes
Steve King – keyboards, vocals
Michael Gregory – drums, percussion
Paul Archibald – trumpet, flugelhorn
Roger Williams – trombone, tuba
For more details about the band and their fascinating history visit: