We like June Tabor. I seem to remember the first contact with June was to ask her to do a charity concert at school, which she agreed to do. I can't for the life of me think why we asked - I doubt we had heard her sing and we'd certainly not met her. From little acorns sprang a friendship, much of it built around beer it has to be said. Tuesday night was darts night when a representative selection of Albion Morris Men joined Terry and myself, June, occasionally Maddy Prior and others for a fine cultural exchange in either Ongar or Epping. So enthusiastic were we that we sent a team to Farnham to take on the mighty Jacqui Mcshee team.
Living quite close to each other we very soon established that June was a foodie - a dinner invitation to the Tabor residence was always welcome. No surprise then that she is now a restaurateur. She would now perhaps try to forget that she was on my arm for the Wansted British Legion Dinner and Dance - happy if somewhat odd days !
Born in 1947, her earliest memories are of her parents singing the popular songs of the day and she could hold a tune by the time she was five. Her conversion to folk music began after she saw Martin Carthy singing Queen Of Hearts on the TV show Hallelujah and she became a regular at her local folk club in Leamington Spa, where she made her first public appearances as an unaccompanied singer. She became an obsessive fan of the decorative style of Anne Briggs. She went to Oxford University where, apart from an appearance on University Challenge, she joined the Heritage Society and sang with a group called Mistral.
An appearance at Sidmouth Folk Festival led to folk club bookings and she contributed to various records, including Rosie Hardman's Firebird, Stagfolk Live and The First Folk Review Record. At the time she was singing purely traditional unaccompanied material but in 1976 she collaborated with Maddy Prior on the Silly Sisters album and tour, with a full band that included Nic Jones. It provided the launching pad for her first album in her own right, Airs and Graces, which established her as one of the supreme unaccompanied singers in the land. It also featured the first cover version of Eric Bogle's classic anti-war song And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda. She followed this with an equally amazing version of another Bogle song No Man's Land on her next album Ashes And Diamonds.
Despite her popularity, June resisted offers to go fully professional, keeping her librarian's job. She feared the effect touring would have on her voice. This was still the case after she'd teamed up with young Martin Simpson, with whom she forged a regular partnership, recording the magnificent A Cut Above album.
She continued a glorious solo singing career with two more excellent albums Abyssinians and Aqaba. Her musical approach broadened to include songs by Bill Caddick and Natalie Merchant of 10,000 Maniacs. She released a jazz album Some Other Time (my own personal favourite in case anyone's interested) to a mixed reception and then stretched herself further by joining the Oyster Band for the powerful folk rock album Freedom And Rain. One of her biggest fans was Elvis Costello, who wrote All This Useless Beauty specifically for her. She explored other musical areas for suitable material, while finding time to reunite with Maddy Prior for a second Silly Sisters album.
After a period living in Cumbria, June moved to Wales to continue exploring new areas, teaming up with violinist/arranger Mark Emerson on Angel Tiger and again on the Aleyn. Her live work now included highly sophisticated arrangements, culminating in a memorable series of concerts with the Creative Jazz Orchestra. This eventually resulted in the 1999 album A Quiet Eye, featuring her individual interpretations of big songs like Ewan MacColl's First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Bill Caddick's Writing Of Tipperary and Maggie Holland's A Place Called England, voted song of the year in the 2000 Radio 2 Folk Awards. (available from this site by Maggie herself on Getting There).
June's last two CDs have got the press going, the Guardian called Rosa Mundi 'a subtle masterpiece', and Q magazine described June as ' the greatest folk singer currently working'. Her latest work An Echo of Hooves featuring another great talent of the female persuasion Kathyrn Tickell was Mojo's folk album of the month.
More to come, we hope so. We'll leave a space!