Fantastic folk-jazz fusion

I’ve been continuing to use the last.fm radio facilities for a fairly high proportion of my listening recently and it continues to turn up occasional gems.

This morning I was listening to The Be Good Tanyas artist radio, which plays music from artists deemed to be similar to this band.  I’m not sure how they go about determining similarity, but in this case the stuff that’s being played seemed to fit quite well together (unlike some artist radios I’ve tried, which come up with very random mixes of supposedly similar artists).

Anyway, one of the tracks that the radio played this morning was “Mad Tom of Bedlam” by Jolie Holland.  She was, I gather, one of the founding members of the Tanyas and continues to appear as a guest with them on a fairly regular basis.  This particular track is an old English folk ballad (though not an Old English one!) that I first heard on a Steeleye Span album in what sounds like a fairly traditional rendition (as far as I can remember it had a different name, though it was definitely the same song).  Jolie Holland has given the song a jazz twist, treating the tune quite freely and giving it a swing rhythm with drum kit accompaniment.   To my ear, this is an excellent fusion of folk and jazz.

The track is from her first studio album,  Escondida (which sounds a bit like a medical condition, although it’s actually Spanish for “hidden”).  I had previously listened to most of the album, which is available on Spotify, but I couldn’t remember it particularly well so I had another listen to it this morning.  The whole album is slightly jazz-tinged, although “Mad Tom” appears to be the most jazzy arrangement on there.  It’s definitely worth a listen if you get the chance.

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