It is very unusual to have 27 musicians and singers on an album of traditional folk songs. It happened because people simply dropped in during recording sessions and were asked to join in. "The Murder of Maria Marten", a lengthy song about the Red Barn Murder, is broken into segments, with parts of British folk rock alternating with more traditional parts featuring Shirley Collins' voice and a hurdy-gurdy drone. Shirley Collins had used a similar technique on "One Night As I Lay on My Bed" on "Adieu to Old England".
Some songs, for instance Poor Murdered Woman and Murder of the Maria Marten, feature big parts of the Fairport Convention line-up of late 1969 (Liege and Lief). In fact, Fairport Convention member Ashley Hutchings appears on all, Simon Nicol and Richard Thompson on eight, and Dave Mattacks on three of the nine songs on this album.
Claudy Banks includes a composed duo performance by Alan Cave on bassoon and British free jazz saxophonist Lol Coxhill – his only performance ever in the context of British folk music. Hal-An-Tow features members of the two acclaimed folk vocal groups The Watersons (Lal and Mike Waterson) and The Young Tradition (Royston Wood). Both drummer Roger Powell and pianist Ian Whiteman previously played together in the band Mighty Baby.
Shirley Collins – lead vocals; Nic Jones – backing vocals and fiddle; Ashley Hutchings – bass guitar; Richard Thompson – electric guitar; Simon Nicol – electric guitar; Tim Renwick – electric guitar; Dave Mattacks – drums; Barry Dransfield – fiddle; Francis Baines – hurdy gurdy
Van Dieman's Land (4:59)
Shirley Collins – lead vocals; Ashley Hutchings – bass guitar; Ian Whiteman – piano; Simon Nicol – acoustic guitar; Richard Thompson – electric guitar; Roger Powell – drums; Dave Bland – concertina; Colin Ross – Northumbrian smallpipes; Alan Lumsden – ophicleide
Just as the Tide Was A-Flowing (2:13)
Shirley Collins – lead vocals; Maddy Prior – backing vocals; Ashley Hutchings – bass guitar; Richard Thompson - electric guitar; Roger Powell – drums; Simon Nicol – acoustic guitar; Dave Bland – concertina
The White Hare (2:43)
Shirley Collins – lead vocals; Ashley Hutchings – bass guitar, percussion; Roger Powell – drums; Tim Renwick – acoustic 12-string guitar; Richard Thompson – electric guitar; Royston Wood – backing vocals; Lal and Mike Waterson – backing vocals; Steve Midgen – French horn