(Yes, they dressed up sometimes...)
A four piece band that played around the Midlands in the eighties, Oakenshield were formed after Steve McKenna placed an advert in the local paper. Three responded: Mike Scott, Rob Taylor and John Booth. Within a month, they had visited Nuneaton Folk Club and done their first spot. It was October 1981. Over the next five years, they did about a hundred gigs in the area around their home town of Hinckley, from Nottingham to Northampton and Corby to Stafford. They even appeared on Folk on Two on the BBC!
Wherever they went, they took a trailer full of instruments: Steve played bazouki, Appalachian dulcimer, bowed Psaltery and bodhran (all made by his own fair hands); Mike played guitar and melodeon; Rob played whistles and recorders as well as mandolin and banjo; John played mandolin, guitar and hammer dulcimer. Mike and John shared most of the vocal duties. An evening with Oakenshield was therefore full of variety. At the start, they did mostly traditional material, dance tunes and airs with a selection of songs from the British tradition. As they developed and became more adventurous, more contemporary and original material crept in, but the essence of the band was folk music from these fair isles.
They released two albums: Across The Narrow Seas in 1983 and Against The Grain in 1985, both on their own Acorn Records label. Both are now collectors items.
Across The Narrow Seas : Reel To Reel; Long Lankin; Planxty Fanny Power; Mouresque/Les Boufons (mp3); Women Of Ireland; Harvest Home; Ge Do Theid Mi Do'M Leabaidh (mp3); Lakes Of Shilin; March Of The King Of Laois; Up Your Kilt.
Against The Grain: Reels On Wheels; Sailor
Boy; A Kantele Tune; Eibhli Ghail Chiuin Ni Chearbhaill; Matt
Hyland; Collier Lass; Spur Of The Moment/Sir Nigel Gresley;
Farewell To Kingsbridge; Hector's Roguery; Song On A Desperate
There is also a rather wobbly bit of video from their farewell concert!
Eibhli Ghail Chiuin Ni Chearbhaill
Where Are They Now?
Mike and Rob went on to form Hand On Heart (and the last I knew, Mike was still involved); Steve and John were part of two short-lived bands - Grass Routes and RedHanded - and could also be seen busking in the area on many an occasion, while John also played the pub circuit with the Jo-Jo Hale Band (sometimes known as "Blind Date").
John has now moved back to the North West and was for some time involved in the running of Northwich Folk Club. The others? Sadly, Steve was lost to cancer a few years ago. The others, still in the East Midlands, I believe, and if I ever find out what they're involved in musically, I shall add it here then.
(These notes compiled by John Booth.)