Taking this collections’ title at face value, these songs serve as merely starting points for contemporary artists to inject themselves, paying homage while making them wholly their own. While artist-specific tribute collections are often scattershot and full of clear high points and others that miss the mark. Approaching Shirley Inspired as just that, a collection of Shirley Collins compositions rendered in a variety styles, from the traditional to more abstract, its three discs present a challenging listen that finds its subject’s material twisted and reshaped in a whole manner of contemporary idioms, each of which takes Collins’ traditional folk balladry as its source material and furthers it well beyond where she could have perhaps ever imagined.
The Upshot: UK folksinger and cult heroine Shirley Collins get the tribute treatment to fine effect. When I was a kid my parents would play Pete Seeger records in the house. It kept open in my young brain a sensitive nostalgic spot for folk music. It wasn’t until many years later that I finally heard British folk music like Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention.
There's more to England than maypoles, chivalry and John Bull. Not all of its darling buds of May get to blossom. Its tales are bloody and nasty, set in a world of rampant misogyny and grizzly murders. These are the stories that were passed from generation to generation, whether through the spoken word, the written word or song.