Watch the video for Lodestar's latest track 'Pretty Polly'

Watch the video for Lodestar's latest track 'Pretty Polly'

As the release of Lodestar  - Shirley Collins’ first album in 38 years - draws closer, Shirley is pleased to share a third track, ‘Pretty Polly’, from the forthcoming record. 

The song ‘Pretty Polly’ comes from the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, Shirley says of the song: “I recorded this myself from the singing of Mrs Ollie Gilbert in 1959, on the field trip with Alan Lomax”.

Directed by Layla Atkinson, the video was given one stipulation by Shirley, to incorporate a very special kind of puppet, a jig doll. These puppets come to life when jigged on a vibrating board and have been popular street entertainment for hundreds of years. Inspired by ‘Pretty Polly’ and these jig dolls, Atkinson decided to handcraft all the scenes in the video from cardboard and timber and shot it on 16MM on the hottest September day of the last 100 years. 

Lodestar – to be released on November 4th through Domino Records - is a collection of English, American and Cajun songs dating from the 16th Century to the 1950s, recorded at Shirley’s home in Lewes by Stephen Thrower and Ossian Brown of Cyclobe and produced and musically directed by Ian Kearey.

Collins previously shared ‘Cruel Lincoln’ and ‘Death and the Lady’ from the album and you can watch a track by track description of both songs by Shirley here.

Additionally, Shirley Collins will be performing at two record shops next month to launch the album – Rough Trade East in London alongside a Q&A with Pete Paphides and Union Music Store, Lewes where she will be joined by Brighton Morris Men.

Born in Hastings in 1935, Shirley was fascinated by folk songs as she was growing up, songs she heard on the radio or sung by her grandparents in Anderson shelters. She left home for London to immerse herself in the burgeoning folk scene; at a party held by Ewan MacColl she met Alan Lomax, and in 1959 she joined him in the USA on the renowned field trip ‘Southern Journey’, recording American folk songs and blues, a formative journey for her personally and professionally.

On her return to England, Shirley cemented her role at the forefront of the Folk Revival,  recording over a dozen albums including the influential Folk Roots, New Routes with avant-garde guitarist Davy Graham, and No Roses, from which The Albion Country Band was formed. However, in the 1980s, Shirley lost her singing voice – later diagnosed as a form of dysphonia - and withdrew from performing live. It was only in 2014, after coaxing from David Tibet (Current 93), that Shirley sang in public for the first time since 1982. 

Though Shirley Collins (MBE) has been absent from the music scene for many years, her impact has not diminished, the likes of Graham Coxon, Jonny Greenwood, Stewart Lee and Angel Olsen laud her and a documentary The Ballad of Shirley Collins is currently in progress. Additionally, she was given the ‘Good Tradition’ award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2008, elected President of the English Folk Dance & Song Society in the same year and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Music from Sussex University this year. Shirley released her first memoir, America Over the Water, in 2004 and is currently working on her second book. 

Now Shirley Collins has sung once more (with a mischievous delight in defeating expectation), the accepted canon of her great recordings will have to be comprehensively recalibrated, yet again. 

“Shirley is a time traveller, a conduit for essential human aches, one of the greatest artists who ever lived, and yet utterly humble” Stewart Lee

Friday 4th November

Shirley Collins @ Union Music Store, Lewes

For more information, click here.

Monday 7th November

Shirley Collins in conversation with Pete Paphides + live performance @ Rough Trade East, London

For more information, click here.

Lodestar will be available on limited edition deluxe vinyl with a 24 page 12” booklet featuring song notes by Shirley Collins and sleeve notes by Stewart Lee and a signed print (signed print is available exclusively via Dom Mart), limited edition deluxe CD with 28 page booklet and standard vinyl. For more details visit Dom Mart.


1.     Awake Awake – The Split Ash Tree - May Carol - Southover

2.     The Banks of Green Willow

3.     Cruel Lincoln

4.     Washed Ashore

5.     Death And the Lady

6.     Pretty Polly

7.     Old Johnny Buckle

8.     Sur le Borde de l’Eau

9.     The Rich Irish Lady/Jeff Sturgeon

10.  The Silver Swan