The Owl Service (band)
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|The Owl Service|
|Associated acts||Country Parish Music, Greanvine, The Trysting Tree|
|Past members||Dom Cooper
The Owl Service was originally intended to be a studio-based solo vehicle for Steven Collins, but while working on the first release (the Wake the Vaulted Echo EP from 2006) he felt the need to enlist some help with vocal duties. This resulted in collaborations with Rebsie Fairholm (who sang on the debut EP, but then made only one more fleeting appearance with the band on the Bitter Night EP in 2008) and Dom Cooper of The Straw Bear Band, who remained involved with The Owl Service until March 2012; singing, writing songs and co-ordinating the band's graphic design. The Wake EP was warmly received and this lead to Collins being asked to contribute a track to the 2007 compilation album John Barleycorn Reborn on the Cold Spring label (for which he also wrote sleeve notes). For the JBR album, Steven recorded the traditional song The North Country Maid with session singer Rachel Davies. While recording the debut Owl Service album later that year, two permanent female singers joined the band; Jo Lepine from Rochester, and Diana Collier from Leigh-on-Sea (also Collins' home town).
The debut album, A Garland of Song, was released on the Collins' own Hobby-Horse label in July 2007, and soon after the band were invited to support English folk singer Lisa Knapp at a concert in London. Up to that point The Owl Service had never played in public, but following the invitation to perform Collins opted to expand the line-up to enable them to function as a live group. It was at this time that Nancy Wallace (formerly of The Memory Band) became a permanent member of the band, and by the end of 2007 they had signed to UK independent label Southern Records.
Southern reissued A Garland of Song in June 2008 on CD and LP, and this was followed a month later by a new EP, recorded with ex-Mellow Candle singer Alison O'Donnell entitled The Fabric of Folk (released by the Birmingham-based Static Caravan label). By this time, the band had a core line-up of 7, with the addition of guitarist Jason Steel, and experimental musician Katie English (aka Isnaj Dui) providing flute and melodica. The Owl Service parted company with Southern Records at the end of 2009. Their second album, The View From a Hill, was released by Rif Mountain on May 1, 2010, and featured guest appearances from Joolie Wood of Current 93 and Alison O'Donnell among others.
In December 2011 the band released the song The Red Barn as a 7" vinyl single, a traditional ballad based on the Red Barn Murder. This was followed in 2012 by another 7" EP entitled There Used to be a Crown, featuring cover versions of four songs by Tom Rapp/Pearls Before Swine.
At the start of 2012 Steven Collins left the Rif Mountain collective and put The Owl Service on an indefinite hiatus. Collins immediately began working on two new projects; Greanvine, a duo with fellow ex-Owl Service collaborator Diana Collier who play a mix of traditional songs and covers in stark, electric arrangements, and Country Parish Music (a project closer to the sound of The Owl Service) on which he chiefly works with Welsh singer/acrtress Rosemary Lippard. He also formed a new label, Stone Tape Recordings, named after the Nigel Kneale television play from 1972. In October 2012 Stone Tape Recordings released the Owl Service album Garland Sessions, which includes all 13 songs from the debut album re-mixed and partially re-recorded, along with 6 additional tracks.
In October 2013 Collins publically hinted that a new Owl Service record is in production under the working title A Parliament of Owls, and in addition to this they made a return to the live stage in December 2013 for the first time in over 18 months. The live band consisted of Collins with original members Diana Collier, Jo Lepine and Nancy Wallace, along with Adam Rees and Amanda McManus (of Crafting For Foes), M G Boulter (of The Lucky Strikes) and Emma Reed (of Lost Harbours).
- Diana Collier; vocals, percussion
- Steven Collins; electric, acoustic and bass guitars, banjo, sitar, vocals, piano, organ, drones, glockenpsiel, percussion
- Jo Lepine; vocals, percussion
- Nancy Wallace; acoustic guitar, concertina, vocals
- Wake the Vaulted Echo (2006) (Hobby-Horse)
- Cine (2006) (Hobby-Horse)
- Cine (The Director's Cut) (2007) (Static Caravan)
- The Fabric of Folk (CD) (2008) (Static Caravan)
- The Bitter Night EP (2008) (Hobby-Horse)
- The Fabric of Folk (12") (2009) (Midwich)
- The Burn Comes Down (2010) (Rif Mountain)
- All Things Being Silent (2011) (Rif Mountain)
- There Used to be a Crown (2012) (Hobby-Horse)
- Bare Ghosts (2013) (Stone Tape)
- A Garland of Song (original) (2007) (Hobby-Horse)
- A Garland of Song (reissue) (2008) (Southern Records)
- The View From a Hill (2010) (Rif Mountain)
- Garland Sessions (2012) (Stone Tape Recordings)
- The Petrifying Well (2008) (Midwich)
- The Pattern Beneath The Plough Parts 1 + 2 (2011) (Rif Mountain) - 2 CDs; CD 1 = The Burn Comes Down plus 7 bonus tracks; CD2 = The View From A Hill plus 2 bonus tracks
- She Wants to be Flowers But You Make Her Owls. (2012) (Stone Tape Recordings) - data DVD containing every Owl Service release
- "The Owl Service: All Things Being Silent". normanrecords.com. Retrieved 21 February 2012.