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

Desert Island Discs – Shirley Collins, folk singer – BBC Sounds


Shirley Collins, folk singer, shares the soundtrack of her life with Lauren Laverne.

Shirley Collins first enjoyed success as one of the leading figures in the British folk revival of the 1960s. She initially performed with her sister, Dolly Collins, and also collaborated with other folk luminaries to create some of the era’s most beloved albums.

In the past decade she has made an acclaimed return to the concert stage and the recording studio. Shirley was born in Sussex in 1935. She can still recall how her grandfather used to sing folk songs to comfort her while they were sheltering during German air raids in the early 1940s.

Alongside her career as a singer, in the 1950s she travelled to the American South with Alan Lomax, where they made field recordings of blues and folk musicians, helping to create a significant archive.

Later in her performing career, Shirley found that she could no longer sing, following a distressing betrayal in her private life. She stepped away from music and was silent for many years, taking on other work, including a stint in a job centre Then, in her 80s, she found her voice again.

In 2016 she released her first new album after a gap of almost four decades, and she has since released two more albums. Shirley lives in Sussex, not far from her childhood home. Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Sarah Taylor

LISTEN at  Desert Island Discs – Shirley Collins, folk singer – BBC Sounds

Richard Thompson’s famous fans choose their favourite songs

Admirers from Robert Plant to Rachel Unthank pick the tracks from the master songwriter that mean most to them

Robert Plant

How Will I Ever Be Simple Again?
Daring Adventures (1986)
“Richard’s frenetic, beautiful guitar style freed British music in the 60s from the slog of the blues. He melded his influences so impressively to history. This song speaks to me about my life, surveying myself from above and below. Richard, if you’re reading, we’ll have to stop not meeting like this.”

Shirley Collins

A Heart Needs a Home
Hokey Pokey (1975)
“Richard’s still extraordinary, such a bold and muscular presence on stage, and his voice is still gorgeous. I played this again and again when Ashley [Hutchings] and I broke up. It helped me heal.”

Hugh Cornwell

Meet on the Ledge
What We Did On Our Holidays (1969)
“The ledge was a limb of a tree on Hampstead Heath. I remember hearing this on the radio for the first time, that special meaning came through.”

Carrie Brownstein

Hokey Pokey
Hokey Pokey (1975)
“I love the double entendre in the lyrics, the hint of darkness in the words contrasting with the music-hall feel of the tune. A good songwriter leaves you neither here nor there but someplace new, searching for more.”

David Byrne

The Calvary Cross (live)
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight (1974)
“Brian Eno recommended this, which led me down a rabbit hole. It’s ominous, full of dark portents. [On playing live with Richard in 1992] I remember trying to glean anything I could from a master writer and craftsman.”

Rachel Unthank

Has He Got a Friend for Me
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight (1974)
“A song about a girl desperate to meet someone, anyone. It’s not straightforward. It’s uncomfortable. Richard’s brilliant at capturing a moment and its emotion.”

Mark Ronson

I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight (1974)
“It’s just a perfect song. It starts with this drumbeat that just makes you want to get up. The vocals are really bratty, on the verge of punk-rock and folk. It’s been my wistful dance around the kitchen in lockdown on a Friday night, so I wanted to pay tribute to it.”

Linda Thompson

How I Wanted To
Hand of Kindness (1983)
[Its chorus runs: “Oh how I wanted to/ Oh how I wanted to/ To say I loved you”] “I chose this because it’s about me. Ha ha. Also, I love it.”

Source: Richard Thompson’s famous fans choose their favourite songs