The Owl Service

TrackAlbum / EP
The Wooden CoatThe Fabric Of Folk EP
The Rolling Of The StonesA Garland Of Song
Katie CruelA Garland Of Song
The Bear GhostGarland Sessions
Drive The Cruel Winter AwayThe Burn Comes Down
When A Man's In LoveThe Burn Comes Down
The Banks Of The NileThe View From A Hill
The Lover's GhostThe View From A Hill
Ladies, Don't Go a-ThievingThe View From A Hill
Cruel MotherThe View From A Hill


Owl Service playlist



Contributor: Merric Davidson

The Owl Service was formed in Essex, UK by Steven Collins in 2006 to explore his love of cult British films and the English folk revival. The debut album, A Garland Of Song (now re-released with extra tracks as Garland Songs), was released on their own label and is an “eclectic selection of traditional material interspersed with mostly instrumental originals fusing folk music with Eastern sensibilities and a doom-laden garage-rock sound”!

The Owl Service collective at that time consisted of Collins, Jo Lepine, Diana Collier and Dom Cooper and included vocal contributions from nu-folk luminaries such as Kate Denny, Rebsie Fairholm and Nancy Wallace who plays concertina and sings on Turpin Hero. Alison O’Donnell, formerly of 70s cult favourites Mellow Candle, also sang on the earlier EP release from The Owl Service, The Fabric Of Folk, and on The Lover’s Ghost on their first full album, The View From A Hill.

The Burn Comes Down mini-album and The View From A Hill are now re-released as The Pattern Beneath The Plough double CD along with 9 extra tracks, some of which were on their limited edition debut EP, Wake The Vaulted Echo, the title a tip of the hat to Peter Bellamy. The Owl Service have released several other limited edition runs over the last few years and perhaps the best place to check these out is at Discogs.

The selection above is taken mostly from their album releases and the majority are on the spotify playlist (see above). To hear the first track on this topper-ten (missing from spotify) click here, it will be worth the trip.

And if you want to take things a wee bit further you’ll need the digital album She Wants To Be Flowers But You Make Her Owls, 130 tracks spanning 10 years, gathering together all the key Owl Service releases from their debut EP in 2006 to their final album in 2016. The compilation’s title refers to the sequence in Alan Garner’s classic novel, “The Owl Service”, from which, of course, the collective takes its name.

The vocalist on The Wooden Coat is Alison O’Donnell; The Rolling Of The Stones is sung by Nancy Wallace; The Banks Of The Nile and Cruel Mother are from Jo Lepine; Diana Collier sings Katie Cruel and Ladies, Don’t Go a-Thieving; Dom Cooper sings The Bear Ghost. The vocal duties on The Burn Comes Down songs in this listing are shared by Diana and Jo.

You’ll find many other beautiful folk songs on Owl Service albums – Willie O’Winsbury, The Bold Poachers, Sorry The Day I Was Married, Lyke Wake Dirge etc. – as well as the psych folk on their limited editions – but you have to draw the line somewhere on toppermost!

At the time of writing it seems that there will be a new release coming soon, so thank you Steven Collins and the Owl Service and all who sail in you for keeping it going, and thanks for some of the best new recordings of songs from the folk tradition.


LATER: That new album, His Pride. No Spear. No Friend., was released in 2016, review here. It is a fine set of songs and the album’s title comes from Alan Garner’s great novel, “The Owl Service”. Check the Bandcamp link below for more music from Steven Collins and the Owl Service.


The Owl Service Bandcamp

Excellent “Goldmine” feature on The Owl Service and interview with Steven Collins (Feb 2014)

Nancy Wallace’s website

Alison O’Donnell’s website

Diana Collier solo album All Mortals At Rest (2013)

Rebsie Fairholm’s website

Wake The Vaulted Echo by The Owl Service on Youtube

The Owl Service play at Rough Trade East (2010)

The Owl Service biography (Wikipedia)

Merric Davidson is a retired publisher. He tweets toppermost @AgeingRaver

TopperPost #389

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