The Sound Cafe
New Release 'The Dust of Rage' Set To Mark 40th Anniversary Of Maggie Holland's Debut Album
By Stevie Connor.
April 2023 marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Maggie Holland's debut album Still Pause on then-new Rogue Records. A new release, the Double A-Side single pairs her lovely version of the traditional song Banks Of The Nile from that LP with her celebrated song A Proper Sort Of Gardener from her 1992 CD Down To The Bone (later famously covered by June Tabor).
During 2022 Maggie recorded a new album called The Dust of Rage set to be released soon. It includes three original songs, but mostly a selection of (stunning) songs by other writers, i.e. Woody Guthrie, the Oysterband, Bruce Cockburn, Leon Rosselson, Chris Smither, Duffy Power, Bob Dylan, Steve Clark, Butch Hancock, Don West/Dave Arthur and Derroll Adams.
Maggie Holland was born and bred in Hampshire (southern England) and first became involved with music through the local folk club scene in the late sixties. Her first professional musical work was as bass guitarist and eventually, singer in the blues/goodtime duo Hot Vultures with Ian A. Anderson. The Vultures toured in Britain, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, covering approximately 30,000 miles per year during 1973-79; Maggie was also the sole driver. The duo expanded into the English Country Blues Band in the late seventies, with Rod Stradling and Sue Harris (later Chris Coe).
By 1980, Maggie had started to work occasionally as a soloist, accompanying her voice on guitar and 5-string banjo on a mixture of modern and traditional British/American songs. It was in 1983 that she recorded her first solo album Still Pause. She worked in an occasional duo with Chris Coe, including a tour of the Far East for the British Council in 1985. In the meantime, ECBB had further evolved into a country dance band called Tiger Moth which was not only quite popular, but also quite LOUD!
In 1985 Maggie was called on at short notice to be the female singer in a three month run of the National Theatre’s production of Tony Harrison’s stunning Mysteries trilogy. Around this time she did some work with Oxford-based melodeon player Dave Parry, and continued to play in The Vacant Lot, a small country dance band based in NE Hampshire, in spite of her move to Oxford in ‘86. In 1987 she started to write some songs herself, initially encouraged/goaded into it by her Tiger Moth colleague Jon Moore, with whom she had recorded the EP A Short Cut. With Moore, and Kevin Mason on keyboards, she formed Maggie’s Farm which was able to develop the arrangements of the songs considerably. Maggie’s Farm did a memorable tour of Bangladesh in 1988. The following year she started playing bass in songwriter Robb Johnson’s occasional band, with fellow old Moth John Maxwell on drums.
By the beginning of the 90’s the various band line-ups had lived out their natural spans for one reason or another, and in 1992 Maggie recorded her second solo album Down to the Bone. It received great acclaim (although inversely proportional sales figures). She emigrated to Scotland in 1993 and now lives in Leith. Since the beginning of 1996, Maggie started to work regularly in Belgium again after a long and regrettable gap since the last Hot Vultures tour in 1978.
In the winter of 98/99 Maggie recorded Getting There, on Irregular Records (IRR 035). Her current repertoire includes songs by Robb Johnson, Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg and Bruce Cockburn alongside her own original songs and some traditional material. Her songs have been recorded by several other artistes, including Martin Carthy and June Tabor. In February 2000 Maggie received the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards “Be st Song of 1999” for her song A Place Called England.
Circle of Light was recorded in the summer of 2003 and released in late autumn. Maggie's own voice and instrumentation were augmented by Wendy Wetherby on cello and Malcolm Ross on guitar. It features songs by Leon Rosselson, Billy Bragg, Dave Evans and Al Stewart, including no less than 5 from Robb Johnson. The two Holland originals, No 4071, Private Bennett and Cold night on Bernard Street have attracted critical acclaim - the latter song was already established in June Tabor's live repertoire.
During 2010 Maggie participated in an ambitious project featuring the music of Derroll Adams, arranged and directed by Wiet Van Der Liest. The ensemble included seven female singers including Maggie (who also played 5-string banjo), a thirteen-piece chamber orchestra, guitarist Roland Van Campenhout and Wiet van de Leest on violin. They performed the programme at the Brosella, Gent and Dranouter festivals in 2010, and at Roma in Antwerp in 2012.
2015 saw the formation of the Broonzies, initially based around Tyneside and including Maggie with Jez Lowe, Chris Parkinson, Rod Clements and Ian Thomson. They played several festivals during the summer but Rod and Ian then left in order to re-join Lindisfarne. The Broonzies are now more geographically dispersed but along with Maggie, Jez and Chris now include Roger Wilson and Hugh Bradley and lots of new material added to the repertoire.