Peter Stenshoel reviews The Young Tradition

The Young Tradition self titled record

For an outfit virtually unknown within the United States, The Young Tradition, in their 4-year span, had a major impact on one corner of popular music in the last 3 decades of the 20th Century, and arguably today. A vocal trio with no instruments, they nevertheless appeared in London's trendy rock clubs and belted out old folk songs, newly-composed sea shanties, and the ancient and subtly hair-raising "Lyke Wake Dirge," heard here.

The American group, The Byrds, are credited with starting "folk rock" as a category in 1964. The Young Tradition took "rock" out of the equation, but still made their performances dramatic and compelling enough to be on stage with rockers.

Peter Bellamy, Royston Wood, and Heather Wood (no relation) founded the group in 1965. They subsequently moved into the now legendary Somali Road residence shared by John Renbourn and Bert Jansch. Renbourn and Jansch, in 1967, were co- founders of the highly influential folk/jazz/blues phenomenon, Pentangle. With house concerts the folk cognoscenti coming and going, it's certain that The Young Tradition were part and parcel of the musically potent cross-influences happening at the Somali Road house. Another resident, folk singer Anne Briggs, is credited with inspiring such rock luminaries as Jimmy Page and Richard Thompson, and folk-rockers Maddy Prior and Sandy Denny.

Musical differences split The Young Tradition in 1969, but the three worked many more years, separately and in duo. Peter Bellamy released several LPs and was successful in producing the staged performance of his "ballad opera" called The Transports in 1977. He baffled the folk world with his suicide in 1991. Royston Wood died 1990 in a car accident. Heather Wood survives to this day.

A tip of the Australian bush hat to the late Maury Bernstein for playing The Young Tradition on his radio show in the mid-sixties, which is how I first heard "Lyke Wake Dirge" on a dark, dark night.

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