Named after a seventeenth century English dance tune, Blowzabella played a mix of English, French and Balkan tunes with characteristic gusto and relish on instruments like the hurdy-gurdy and the bagpipes, instruments that in England at least had been largely forgotten. Though never fully embraced by the English folk establishment their influence has been immense.
For instance, they took a major role in reviving those instruments in the UK. Founder member Jon Swayne went on to become an internationally acclaimed pipe-maker, known especially for his English Border pipes (or English Half-Longs).
Many of the band's compositions became session standards, played in Britain, Germany, Holland, France and America: tunes like The Man in a Brown Hat, the Motorway Mazurka, the Rose of Raby and so on.
Their popularity abroad is such that when in 2003 they played a three-hour, headline set at Saint Chartier in France, the crowd was so large the organisers had to pull up the dance floor to make room. By the end of the gig there was so much dust in the air you could barely see the band.
But most importantly, I think, they helped reignite interest not only in traditional dance-music but also in drone-music more generally. In 1987 Jon Swayne wrote presciently that:
'a reassessment is taking place, whether conscious or unconscious, of the values symbolised by the forces of Dionysus/Bacchus representing irrationality, chaos, the power of the inner feminine; these are rising against the values of Apollo, the upward-striving play of reason and intellect, masculine control, the cool music of the spheres, which have help sway for two thousand years.'
That reassessment is still underway.
The extraordinary thing is that after thirty-five years on the margins of British folk, in which they've suffered the usual trials and tribulations of any long-lived and independent band, they're still going strong, still playing to sell-out audiences, still knocking out the killer tunes.
I certainly owe them a lot for I wouldn't be a musician or a piper without them. Much of my repertoire comes from their albums. My pipes were made by Jon and, indeed, I studied technique with him for a couple of years when I lived in Bristol. It was therefore a great honour and privilege to be asked to play a tune with them in Exeter on their recent tour. Thanks guys.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, surely now it's time for their lifetime achievement award?