Various Artists, The Iron Muse – A Panorama of Industrial Folk Music

Steve Hochman

By Steve Hochman

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Folk songs for industrial serfs.

Without toil and the exploitation of the working class, there'd be a lot fewer British folk songs. Be they feudal serfs, indentured servants or the cannon fodder of the industrial revolution, their travails have been exposed, celebrated and championed in song for centuries. This anthology focuses on the industrial age, as a new class of miners, mill workers and factory drones were churned out by the very machine they fueled. There's not a lot of joy in these songs, with such tragic turns as "The Trimdon Grange Explosion" (performed here by Louis Killen) and "The Auchengeich Disaster" (Dick Gaughan). But there's an overflow of spirit and pride, along with resolute belief that together the workers can prevail, as in the forceful account of "The Durham Lockout" (Maureen Craik and Colin Ross) and the more-or-less triumphant "I'm Glad the Strike's Done" (the High Level Ranters). These are the songs true to Topic's founding mission.