Oysterband PhotoOysterband (or the Oyster Band, as it used to be) are one of the few outfits still burning with the fire of punk, but managing to combine it with the ideals and knowledge of English folk music - a balancing act they've made into a fine art over the years. And they have deep roots in the U.K. folk scene, emerging from both the Whitstable Oyster Co. Ceilidh Band, which formed in 1975, and Fiddler's Dram, a group put together in 1973 by Dave Arbus, whose fiddle work had graced releases by East of Eden and the Who. Prosser, Telfer, and Taylor were also in Fiddler's Dram, whose moment of fame arrived in 1979 with the British hit single "Day Trip to Bangor" - released after they'd split up. They reconvened for a last album when Kearey joined them. He also became part of the band's alter ego, the roots-oriented Oyster Ceilidh Band, as they'd now become. With Fiddler's Dram no longer extant, the members put their energies in the newly renamed Oyster Band in 1981, playing gigs around England and self-releasing albums on their own Pukka label. It wasn't until 1986 that their first "commercial" release, Step Outside (produced by Clive Gregson), with its rocking treatment of the maypole song "Hal-An-Tow" and what's now become an Oysters classic, "Another Quiet Night in England."

It established them as a force on a fairly moribund English roots scene and they capitalized on it as they continued to release albums, mixing folk tunes, original material, and a curious taste in covers, ranging from an incendiary version of New Order's "Love Vigilantes" (which put it into the folkier context it deserved) to Bruck Cockburn's "Lovers in a Dangerous Time." More than anything, however, the band grew in stature as writers, railing again the politics of Maragaret Thatcher and then her successor, building during the '90s, helped by a relatively stable lineup. Perhaps their highest profile came in 1990, when they collaborated with folk singer June Tabor on Freedom and Rain, very much a rock album covering songs by Billy Bragg, Richard Thompson, and others. From there, though, they've become a critically acclaimed force in English roots music, even if they've never managed to break through to a wide audience. 1995's The Shouting End of Life saw them at their most political, while the long-awaited Here I Stand in 1999 reasserted their supremacy in their particular field, as songwriters, instrumentalists, and singers. The band returned in 2003 after the longest recording layoff of its career with Rise Above, which included eight originals and two English traditional numbers, and featured the work of Irish piper James O'Grady throughout. it was yet another sign that old punks never die - they just continue refusing to compromise. ~ Chris Nickson, All Music Guide