Widely regarded as the 20th century’s most important singer of English traditional song, Shirley Collins is someone who was born to invoke the old songs. Alongside her sister Dolly, she stood at the epicentre of the folk music revival during the 1960s and ‘70s. But in 1980 she developed a disorder of the vocal chords known as dysphonia, which robbed her of her unique singing voice and forced her into early retirement.
The Ballad Of Shirley Collins – which premiered at this year’s London Film Festival – tells this story, though to reduce it to that single aspect does everyone (not least of all Shirley!) something of a disservice. The film proves itself to be a time-travelling Transatlantic road-movie of sorts, utilising an incredibly rich audio archive to recount the tale of her seminal 1959 song-collecting trip around America’s Deep South alongside her then-lover (and legendary ethnomusicologist) Alan Lomax. The soundtrack album reflects this, combining never-before-released recordings from that trip (notably Alabama Sacred Harp Convention, Texas Gladden and Sidney Hemphill-Carter) with more recent offerings, a home recording of Shirley’s sister Dolly Collins, excerpts from the original soundtrack music and two BBC session tracks from 1958, which get their first release, some 60 years after they were recorded.
Shirley Collins spent her life in song. Even during her time without her performing voice, she was telling the stories of others’ music. Not once has she dropped the baton in keeping these songs, these stories, these people alive. The soundtrack to ‘The Ballad Of Shirley Collins’ – through its diversity – showcases a cross-section of the facets that make up an extraordinary career by anyone’s standards.
Released for the first time on limited edition pink vinyl (worldwide) and deluxe DVD bookback (UK only) which will feature a range of extras including deleted scenes, audio commentary, behind the scenes footage and an unreleased short film by the filmmakers along with CD of the soundtrack that will also include bonus tracks.
“Brilliant story of lost folk singer” Guardian
“Something to be cherished” Little White Lies
Alongside the release, there will be a Shirley Collins book preview event featuring a live performance and first readings from her new autobiography ‘All in the Downs: Reflections on Life, Landscape and Song’ (out March 2018) at the British Library on 20th January 2018.
‘The Ballad Of Shirley Collins’ film continues to screen across cinemas in the UK and will be free-to stream on the Lush Player in the UK for 20 days only from January 20th, 2018.
For full film screening schedule and tickets please visit:
To view via the Lush Player later this month please visit:
1. “All I Ever Wanted”
2. Shirley Collins – Cavalry Hill
3. Ishman Williams & The Williams Singers – Got On My Travelling Shoes
4. “Do You Want Me To Start Again, Alan”
5. Texas Gladden – I Never Will Marry
6. Sid Hemphill and Lucius Smith – Come On Boys, Let’s Go To The Ball
7. Horton Barker – A Rich Irish Lady
8. Ian Kearey – The Poor Drowned Sailor
9. Sidney Hemphill Carter – Pharaoh
10.“I Used To Could Sing”
11. Outtake (London, 1959)
1. “There’s Never Been A Merry England”
2. Andy Hemsley and Hastings Jack In The Green – Seeds Of Love
3. N.J Brothers & The United Sacred Harp Musical Association – Cavalry
4. Lucius Smith – Make Lulu Behave Herself
5. Ruby Vass – Single Girl, Married Girl
6. “I Can’t Really Forget Them”
7. George Stoneman – Sally Anne
8. Michael J York & Ossian Brown – The Cloud House / Cyclobe – Sons Of Sons Of Light / George Collins – Dolly
9. Dolly Collins – Missa Humana (excerpt)
10. Shirley Collins – Wondrous Love