Shirley Collins Biography

Shirley Elizabeth Collins, 5 July 1935, Hastings, East Sussex, England. Collins was established as a leading English folk singer following her discovery by a BBC researcher. In 1959, she accompanied archivist Alan Lomax on a tour of southern American states before making her recording debut the same year with Sweet England, issued on Topic Records. In 1964 she completed Folk Roots, New Routes with guitarist Davey Graham, an ambitious album that challenged the then-rigid boundaries of British folk music. The Power Of The True Love Knot was a sumptuous evocation of medieval England. This enthralling collection featured her sister Dolly (b. 6 March 1933, Hastings, East Sussex, England) providing sympathetic arrangements and atmospheric flute organ.

The Collins sisters were then signed to the nascent Harvest Records for whom they recorded two excellent albums that maintained the atmosphere of their earlier collection. The songs ranged from Robert Burns to Robin Williamson, while the presence of David Munrow’s Early Music Consort gave Anthems In Eden an authoritative air. The sisters continued to work together but Shirley was increasingly drawn into the Albion Country Band circle following her marriage to bass player Ashley Hutchings. The group, an offshoot of the Steeleye Span / Young Tradition axis, provided the backing on Shirley’s 1971 recording No Roses and she continued to sing with related projects, the Etchingham Steam Band and the Albion Dance Band. Her divorce from Hutchings precluded further involvement and Collins retired from singing in the early 80s following a third collaboration with her sister. She continues to promote folk music and, in 2004, published America Over The Water, her memoirs of her time with Lomax.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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