Watch Lankum performing ‘Go Dig My Grave’ (Mercury Prize 2023)

Lankum did us all proud with their performance of ‘Go Dig My Grave’ at last night’s Mercury Prize for which their fourth album, False Lankum, was nominated.

by Alex Gallacher

I know many of you were all rooting for Lankum to win last night’s Mercury Prize, who were hotly tipped to win by many. The crown went to London’s Ezra Collective with Where I’m Meant to Be. They are the first jazz artist to pick up the award since its inception in 1992, and their infectious jazz, funk, and Afrobeat has played no small part in helping to put London’s jazz scene on the map, which is currently in incredibly rude health. A huge congrats to them.

Lankum were nominated for their fourth release, False Lankum, released in March 2023. In his review of the album, Thomas Blake described it as challenging, raw, brutally honest and always rewarding, and that’s exactly how it felt last night watching them perform ‘Go Dig My Grave’. We knew they hadn’t won when the announcer used the words ‘uplifting’ to describe the winner before reaching into her envelope, not a phrase you’d use to describe a song that centres around the “emotion of grief – all-consuming, unbearable and absolute.” There’s nothing wrong with that – in the world of folk music, we love it…especially drone-folk.

While folk music has come a long way since I first started Folk Radio, no other band sounds quite like Lankum, and it was an exciting moment to see them up there on stage, knowing this would be the first time many may have heard them. It was an incredible live performance – seriously out there – Well done Lankum, you did us all proud!

The song ‘Go Dig My Grave’ was discovered by Lankum’s Radie Peat, who learned the particular version on the album from the singing of Jean Ritchie, who recorded it in 1963 on the album Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson at Folk City. It is a member of a family of songs which seem to be largely made up of what are known as ‘floating verses’, originally composed as stanzas of various ballads, some of which date back to the 17th century.

“Our interpretation of the traditional song Go Dig My Grave is one that centres around the emotion of grief – all-consuming, unbearable and absolute. A visceral physical reaction to something that the body and mind are almost incapable of processing. The second part of the song is inspired by the Irish tradition of keening (from the Irish caoineadh) – a traditional form of lament for the deceased. Regarded by some as opening up ‘perilous channels of communication with the dead’, the practice came under severe censure from the catholic church in Ireland from the 17th century on.”

Here’s the performance for those of you who may have missed it:

Source: Watch Lankum performing ‘Go Dig My Grave’ (Mercury Prize 2023)

Keeping traditional music alive: Shirley Collins and Radie Peat on “Talkhouse”

On this week’s Talkhouse Podcast we’ve got a couple of singers who’ve devoted themselves, in slightly different ways, to keeping traditional music alive: Shirley Collins and Radie Peat.

Collins is 88, and she’s had a pretty strange and incredible career. She started performing traditional songs in the mid-1950s, and she notably left England in 1959 to travel the United States with Alan Lomax, recording songs and singers in Appalachia and elsewhere that may otherwise have been lost to history. She recorded some incredibly influential records in the ’60s and ’70s with Davy Graham and, separately, with her sister Dolly Collins. And then Shirley left music entirely. It wasn’t until the 2000s that unlikely underground musicians would coax her back to performing: British apocalyptic-folk-industrial band Current 93 were the first, strangely. It wasn’t until 2014—38 years after her last album—that Collins made a new one, and it was gorgeous and well received. She’s since released a couple more, all for the hip Domino label, fitting for someone who’s been so quietly influential. Her latest is Archangel Hill; check out “Hares on the Mountain” 

Radie Peat, singer for Lankum, is one of the many musicians who’ve been deeply influenced by Collins—and by the traditional songs that Collins helped to keep alive. But while Lankum is definitely part of the folk tradition, they modernize the sound in wildly interesting ways. Their fourth and latest album is called False Lankum, and I love this quote about it from Mojo Magazine: “If modern folk music needs its own OK Computer, its own The Dark Side of the Moon, or indeed its own F♯A♯∞, this may well be it.” (That last album referenced, in case you didn’t recognize it, is the debut from Godspeed You Black Emperor.) If that all sounds intriguing, you’ll probably love it. Oh, and the album was recently shortlisted for the prestigious Mercury Prize. [ . . . ]

Peat describes this conversation as “fangirling,” though I’m not sure that’s entirely fair. There’s definitely some mutual admiration happening here—Collins still keeps up with music, and she loves Lankum as well. They talk about Collins’ adventures in America with Alan Lomax, about other singers they admire, and how they share a pretty strong hatred for jazz. Enjoy.

Thanks for listening to the Talkhouse Podcast, and thanks to Shirley Collins and Radie Peat for chatting. If you liked what you heard, please follow Talkhouse on your favorite podcasting platform, and check out all the goodness at This episode was produced by Myron Kaplan, and the Talkhouse theme is composed and performed by the Range. See you next time!

Listen to “The Monday Morning Brew” #14

Listen to the Monday Morning Brew ft John Renbourn, Allysen Callery, Rachel Sermanni, Clara Mann, Sweet Baboo, Ivan Moult, Katy J Pearson & more.

The Monday Morning Brew is a weekly Folk Radio Playlist available on SpotifyApple Music and other streaming services (see links below).

Featuring John Renbourn, Allysen Callery (ft. Bob Kendall – Folk Radio UK Session), Langkamer & Fenne Lily, Iona Zajac, Brigid Mae Power, Aoife Nessa Frances, Junior Brother, Rachel Sermanni, Clara Mann, Scott William Urquhart & Constant Follower, Cinder Well & Jim Ghedi, Lisa O’Neill, Shirley Collins, Brighde Chaimbeul, The Deadlians, Sweet Baboo, Emma Tricca, Alasdair Roberts, Samana, Flyte & Laura Marling, Ivan Moult, Lankum, Katy J Pearson & Broadside Hacks, The Gentle Good, Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin, LYR, Landless, Anna & Elizabeth, Lisa Hannigan, Skipper’s Alley, Salt House, Anne Briggs, Olivia Chaney, Karine Polwart & Dave Milligan.

Source: The Monday Morning Brew #14

Lankum review – eerie, overwhelming radical Irish folk already feels centuries old

The Mercury-nominated four-piece play every song as if they’re fighting with it, gasping for air before verses

By Katie Hawthorne

A menacing rumble fills the Queen’s Hall. Four empty chairs line the front of the stage, crowded by instruments: fiddles, guitars, hand organs, pipes, pedals, a harmonium. Slowly, the rumble builds into a fidgety clatter, as if a ghostly orchestra is preparing to play, and Lankum walk on stage, their first notes bleeding into the din.

Such eerie theatre is a fitting introduction to the Dublin folk band, who turn traditional songs into fresh horrors and write stormy, gothic elegies to modern life which already feel centuries old. Their latest album, the Mercury prize-nominated False Lankum, is bound together by similarly haunted atmospherics, and yet it still feels a surprise when the band – Radie Peat, Cormac Mac Diarmada and brothers Ian and Daragh Lynch – pull their first song proper out of this mist.

They have a ferocious physicality to their musicianship, and although Daragh describes new (old) song The New York Trader as a “workout, every time”, just moments later he is hunched over his guitar with a violin bow, sawing as if cutting a thick rope. The Rocky Road to Dublin is sung with such intensity that the band collectively gasps for air before each verse, both meditative and ominous. The weather worsens further for The Pride of Petravore: pipes roar and Mac Diarmada’s fiddle turns into a horrifying groan.

Then, as if the evening has been breezy entertainment until now, Peat offers a blunt warning: “We wrote this one during level-five lockdown. Probably why it’s so intense.” Go Dig My Grave is the showstopper of False Lankum, a bone-crunchingly heavy ballad about love and death. Peat’s astonishing voice cuts through the dark, and the song builds around her: four-piece harmonies, guitar strummed like a funeral march, and a doom-laden siren with the circular swing of a lighthouse’s beam.

“We always sing, even when we’re losing,” goes their first single Cold Old Fire. This mix of grief and joy is why some songs live so long, and to close the night Lankum offers the latter: a rowdy version of Bear Creek has the audience whooping and stamping in cleansing release.

Source: Lankum review – eerie, overwhelming radical Irish folk already feels centuries old