Ewan MacColl, The Real MacColl

Steve Hochman

By Steve Hochman

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A founding father of modern English folk.

Along with Lloyd (with whom he collaborated on the landmark "radio ballad" folk-theater productions in the ’50s), Scotland's Ewan MacColl (1915-1989) stands as a founding father of modern English folk — as well as having earned unlikely pop immortality as the writer of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," penned for wife Peggy Seeger. MacColl was among the first to bridge the gap between preserving traditional songs and adding new compositions to the repertoire. This assemblage of ’50s and ’60s recordings covers both, with old ballads such as the emigrant saga "Van Diemen's Land" (his version inspired later renditions by Shirley Collins and U2) and his own soot-coated lament "Dirty Old Town" (eventually revived in fine fashion by the Pogues) clearly showing the undeniable force of his voice and words.