Interesting albums from the history of folk and roots music, selected by Marius Roeting.
On this edition of DiscCover, we focus on a relatively unknown and underappreciated singer-guitarist. Alistair Hulett was born in 1951 in Glasgow, Scotland, and also passed away there in 2010 due to an aggressive form of cancer. But he made his debut and had his biggest success – commercially speaking – in Australia.
17-year-old Alistair and his parents emigrated to New Zealand in 1968, and settled in Australia three years later. It was there that the young Hulett caught the punk virus. In the early 1980s, he formed a five-person band, Roaring Jack, that presented a rough form of punk-folk in the spirit of the Pogues with a mishmash of acoustic folk instruments such as bouzouki, dulcimer, banjo, fiddle accordion etc., supplemented by the electric staples of a rock band.
Their popularity was considerable. Ten years after the formation of the band, Alistair Hulett recorded an album under his own name – with some help from his Roaring Jack bandmates, but strictly acoustic. He immediately established his name as a songwriter. His debut album Dance of the Underclass, including the song He Fades Away, found its way to great British vocalists like Roy Bailey and June Tabor. Follow-up In The Back Streets of Paradise, four years later, was actually meant to be a Roaring Jack album – the band members also collaborated on its creation – but was eventually released as a solo project. Roaring Jack was on its last legs and Hulett performed his new songs with a new formation.
In the meantime, he developed a solid connection with former Fairport Convention fiddler Dave Swarbrick, who had immigrated to Australia and produced some of Hulett’s albums. Eventually they formed a sublime musical duo, blending Scottish and English traditionals as if nothing had ever transpired between the two countries.
Hulett returned to Glasgow where he worked on various musical projects. He expressed his political beliefs in his music and, particularly in his lyrics, he did not mince his words. His songs were sometimes critical, sometimes descriptive and contemplative. He was a staunch socialist and devoted himself to various social organisations.
Roaring Jack – The cat among the Pigeon – Mighty Boy MBCD 7007 1. Lads of the B.L.F. 2:56
Alistair Hulett – Dance of the underclass – Jump Up Productions CD 001
2. Among Proddy Dogs & Papes 3:26
3. Yuppietown 3:17
4. After The Smoke Cleared 4:09
5. Destitution Road 3:22
6. He Fades Away 3:43
7. Suicide Town 4:02
8. No Half Measures 4:23
9. Farewell To Whisky 3:33
10. The Swaggies Have All Waltzed Matilda Away 4:08
11. Plains Of Maralinga 4:02
12. Dictatorship Of Capital 5:04
13. The Internationale 3:25
Alistair Hulett – In the back streets of Paradise – Jump Up Productions CD 002
14. Militant Red 3:17
Alistair Hulett and Dave Swarbrick – Saturday Johnny & Jimmy the rat – Jump Up Productions CD007
15. Behind Barbed Wire 4:30
All tracks: Alistair Hullet, except for track 1 (Roaring Jack), track 9 (Trad), track 13 (Eugene Pottier, Pierre Degeyter)Produced by: