English folk singer Shirley, met Alan Lomax in 1954 when he was living in London. They became romantically involved and also performed together in a ‘skiffle group’ with Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger. Five years later, Shirley travelled to The States with Alan to make some field recordings as part of his work for the Library of Congress, and while recording some ‘fife & drum’ music in the hills near Como MS they ‘discovered’ Mississippi Fred McDowell. She went on to publish an account of their work in prisons, rural communities and church gatherings in her book ‘America over the Water’. When their relationship ended in the mid-60s, Shirley returned to England to resume her career as a performer.
As well as playing guitar and banjo, and singing with her sister Dolly, Shirley recorded an influential jazz/folk album ‘Folk Roots, New Routes’ with the superb jazz guitarist Davy Graham. Her seminal ‘Anthems in Eden’ album in 1969, introduced ancient instruments into English Folk music in a suite of songs about the devastation of English rural life when a generation of young men went off to be slaughtered in WWI. Further albums followed and when she married Ashley Hutchings of Steeleye Span, they went on to form The Etchingham Steam Band and play with The Albion Band. After a final album with her sister Dolly in 1978, Shirley retired from performing, but often can be heard on radio and at lectures as an authority on English traditional music.
Shirley plays the banjo!