June Tabor life and biography

June Tabor picture, image, poster

June Tabor biography

Date of birth : 1947-12-31
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Warwick, England
Nationality : English
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2012-02-17
Credited as : Folk Singer, Airs & Graces album, Also recorded jazz music

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June Tabor is an English folk singer. Her's deep, resonant voice and commitment to British folk music has made her one of the most critically acclaimed singers of her generation. "Tabor is probably the finest female traditional British folk singer of the late 20th century," noted Richie Unterberger in All Music Guide, "if not the best British folk singer of her time, period."

Despite praise and attention, Tabor resisted becoming a full-time performer for 15 years and recorded her early albums while working as a librarian and restaurateur. She has also resisted categorization. "She has moved from traditional folk to modern folk to covering pop standards," noted Philip van Vleck of Dirty Linen, "always expanding her range and building a repertoire that reflects her depth and breadth as an interpreter of songs." Her dedication, resounding alto, and eclectic choice of material have established her as an uncompromising artist.

Even as a child in Warwick, England, Tabor loved to sing. "Luckily, I was able to pretty much carry a tune," she told Vleck. "That must have been a relief for those who were forced to listen to me." She idolized Cliff Richard and learned his songs until she came under the spell of Martin Carthy and Anne Briggs. Tabor also sang with a girls' choir at school, though the registry of her voice, both high and low, made it difficult for her to sing in the correct key. She later developed the lower range into an emotional alto that became her trademark. "Deep, resonate, and capable of producing fluid and melodious higher harmonies," wrote Lahri Bond of Green Man Review, "her instrument has at times been compared with the rich and sometimes melancholy tone produced by a finely crafted cello." Tabor made her official debut at age 15 at a "singer's night," performing "Kumbaya" and "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore." "When I look back on that night," Tabor told Vleck, "I think, 'Oh God! Why did I have to start with those two songs!'"

In 1976 Tabor recorded her first solo album, Airs & Graces, which was received with wide critical acclaim. "Tabor's first solo record is an understated triumph full of good songs," wrote John Dougan of All Music Guide. She established a precedent of working with a small number of musicians to create an intimate setting that was referred to as chamber folk. Tabor also joined Maddy Prior of Steeleye Span, and together, they dubbed themselves the Silly Sisters. This association, along with their self-titled debut, brought Tabor even wider recognition. "Silly Sisters became an instant classic," wrote Bond, "and is still considered to be an essential album among Celtic music fans."

In the early 1980s Tabor quit her library job, married, and with her husband became a restaurateur in the Lake District. For the next five years she performed infrequently and recorded only one album, Abyssinians. In 1987, however, the restaurant was sold and Tabor decided to devote all of her time to music. "In a way, I'm glad I waited," Tabor told J. Mikel Ellcessor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "because the me that is the performer now is ... much like the ancient mariner--sadder and wiser--but a much more sympathetic person to the songs and what they have to give than I could ever have been 20 years ago."

In 1988 she recorded Aqaba and then re-teamed with Prior for No More to the Dance, beginning the most productive period of her career. During the late 1980s Tabor also began to collaborate with pianist/arranger Huw Warren. "He's a pianist of consummate skill," she told Vleck, "and someone with a grounding in modern jazz and modern classical music." Backed by Warren's arrangements, Tabor recorded a number of jazz standards on Some Other Time in 1989. "The purists were shocked she'd embraced jazz so wholeheartedly," wrote Colin Irwin in an essay posted on Tabor's website. Tabor continued to experiment when she joined the folk-rock Oyster Band, in 1990. Speaking of one performance, Steve Pond wrote in Rolling Stone: "Theirs was a tremendous, joyous, remarkable rock & roll show that was folk only in the way that folk music is a grass-roots musical language and a way for the common man to raise his voice against oppression and exploitation." The Oyster Band's one studio album, Freedom & Rain, along with a 1991 tour sampler, includes remarkable song selections such as the Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties" and Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit."

"From her early days in the folk clubs singing a cappella ballads to her current work as an interpreter of contemporary songs," wrote Tim Walters of MusicHound Folk, "her style has remained immediately recognizable, and her mastery of dramatic understatement unrivaled." During the 1990s Tabor continued to expand her repertoire by recording the songs of contemporary writers like Richard Thompson, Elvis Costello, and Billy Bragg on a series of much-admired albums including Angel Tiger in 1992, Against the Streams in 1994, and Aleyn in 1997.

In 2000 Tabor recorded A Quiet Eye with the Creative Jazz Orchestra, covering popular standards like "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." "It is the synthesis of all her myriad influences into one cohesive whole," wrote Bond, "along with her innovative use of the brass heavy Creative Jazz Orchestra that makes this an outstanding album." In 2001 she recorded Rosa Mundi, a concept album revolving around her love of roses. "All I can say," Tabor told Ernesto Lechner of Pulse, "is that I make the albums that I feel are right for me, and I don't make them with a specifically commercial end in view." Her commitment to the art of song, willingness to collaborate with others, and perhaps most of all, her distinctive vocals, have assured Tabor an exalted place among contemporary singers. "Such is the emotional carnage wreaked by her extraordinary voice," wrote Irwin, "that some of us have even been moved to shout ... that she's the finest singer you'll find in all these islands."

Over the years she has worked in various genres including jazz and art song, but generally with a sparse and sombre tone to it. Her 2003 album An Echo of Hooves marked a return to the traditional ballad form after concentrating on other styles for several years, and was highly acclaimed. Allmusic said of this album "A stunning jewel in a remarkable career, and one of the best things Tabor’s ever released." Always (2005) is a boxed set of four CDs, spanning her whole career and containing rare recordings.

Solo albums:
-Airs and Graces (1976) (including And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda)
-Ashes and Diamonds (1977)
-A Cut Above (1980)
-Abyssinians (1983)
-The Peel Sessions (1986) - recorded January 1977
-Aqaba (1988)
-Some Other Time (1989)
-Angel Tiger (1992)
-Against the Streams (1994)
-Singing the Storm (1996) - with Savourna Stevenson and Danny Thompson
-Aleyn (1997)
-On Air (1998)
-Reflections (1999) 3-CD box set. Contains June's first three solo albums: Airs & Graces, Ashes & -Diamonds, A Cut Above
-A Quiet Eye (1999)
-Rosa Mundi (2001)
-An Echo of Hooves (2003)
-At the Wood's Heart (2005)
-Apples (2007)
-Ashore (2011)

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