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The Incredible String Band

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Album Review

The debut release from the original Incredible String Band trio — Robin Williamson (violin/whistle/mandolin/guitar/vocals), Clive Palmer (banjo/guitar/vocals), and Mike Heron (guitar/vocals) — was also their most simple. It is this minimalism that allowed the natural radiance of the band's (mostly) original material to be evident in the purist sense, and likewise without many of the somewhat intricate distractions and musical tangents that their future work would incorporate. Immediately striking is the group's remarkable and collective prowess on seemingly all things stringed — hence, their apropos moniker. With an unmistakable blend of distinct instrumentation and harmony vocals, the Incredible String Band take inspiration from traditional music on both sides of the Atlantic. Their impish charm and tongue-in-cheek fairytale mythology also add to their folkie mystique. This first long-player — originally issued in 1966 — contains a bevy of songs that, while steeped in conventional folk music, are completely unique. This likewise holds true for the three traditional pieces, "Schaeffer's Jig," "Whistle Tune," and the rare Clive Palmer instrumental solo, "Niggertown." Palmer, formerly of the highly underrated Famous Jug Band, would exit the Incredible String Band after this record, and thus the perpetually rotating personnel that would guide the group for the remainder of its existence began, perhaps aptly, at the beginning. The original songs range from light and airy love ballads — such as the Williamson solo "Womankind" or the understated mischief of "Dandelion Blues" — to the high and lonesome sound of Mike Heron's mandolin-driven "How Happy I Am." There are likewise darker — yet no less poignant — tunes such as "Empty Pocket Blues" and the haunting "Good As Gone." While this album is a tremendous launch pad for potential enthusiasts, be aware that every Incredible String Band recording is also extremely individual and reflects the current membership of the group.


Formed: 1965 in Scotland

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '90s, '00s

One of the most engaging groups to emerge from the esoteric '60s was the Incredible String Band. Basically the duo of Mike Heron and Robin Williamson, its sound was comprised of haunting Celtic folk melodies augmented by a variety of Middle Eastern and Asian instruments. Heron was a member of several rock bands in England in the early '60s, while Williamson and Clive Palmer played as a bluegrass and Scottish folk duo. Heron was asked to join as rhythm guitarist, and the trio named itself the Incredible...
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The Incredible String Band, The Incredible String Band
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