An Audience with the Shepherds: Live Recordings of Willie Taylor, Will Atkinson, and Joe Hutton

By Tickell, Kathryn | Folk Music Journal, Annual 2016 | Go to article overview

An Audience with the Shepherds: Live Recordings of Willie Taylor, Will Atkinson, and Joe Hutton


Tickell, Kathryn, Folk Music Journal


An Audience with the Shepherds: Live Recordings of Willie Taylor, Will Atkinson, and Joe Hutton Traditional music played on Smallpipes, Fiddle, and Mouthorgan from Northumberland and the Borders. CD. Veteran VT156CB, 2015.

When Northumbrian fiddler Willie Taylor died in 2000 it felt like the end of an era. He was the last surviving member of 'The Shepherds', who delighted audiences with their wonderfully rhythmic, tight playing, born of decades of playing together and an encyclopedic knowledge of the particular and specific requirements of playing for dances in North Northumberland.

Northumbrian piper Joe Hutton, 'moothie' (mouth-organ) player Will Atkinson, and Willie Taylor all worked as shepherds in Northumberland and had strong family as well as musical and work connections. In retirement, they joined together and during the late 1980s and early 1990s they travelled all over England and beyond, playing at concerts, clubs, and festivals, led initially by concertina player Alistair Anderson. Under the collective appellation 'The Shepherds' they soon gained an enthusiastic and loyal following who appreciated not only the music but the warmth, comradeship, and humour of the musicians themselves.

There have been other recordings of Atkinson, Hutton, and Taylor but the title 'An Audience with The Shepherds' gives a clue to the fact that by the end of the final track of this CD you feel that you have been back at one of their performances, listening to their music and enjoying their company. Joe Hutton's succinct, spoken introductions contribute to this live concert atmosphere, as does the audience response and Willie Taylor and Will Atkinson's occasional cryptic comments!

The tracks were recorded live, mainly in Derby in 1988 and at Whitby Folk Week in 1990, although there are single tracks recorded at Will's Barn, Denby Dale, and Chestnuts Folk Festival, London. Despite the fact that the recordings are from different venues and different years, the tracks flow very naturally in a concert format. The tracks and ordering have been carefully chosen to promote this sense of one single complete performance. The CD has a generous sixteen tracks, usually consisting of sets of two or three tunes. Eight of the tracks are of all three musicians playing together, while the other eight feature solos and duet performances.

I listened to this CD in my car while travelling from Cambridge to Northumberland and was struck by how clearly I could hear all three instruments, including the (characteristically rock-steady) drones of Joe's pipes. …

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