SHELAGH MCDONALD - ALBUM & STARGAZER TALKING ELEPHANT
Scottish folk singer Shelagh McDonald released two albums before her abrupt and mysterious disappearance in 1971. She apparently retreated from public life after a bad LSD trip left her paranoid and hallucinating, with a ruined voice. Living with her parents and working privately in Edinburgh, she met and married bookseller Gordon Farquhar. They lived a nomadic lifestyle together in Scotland, living on welfare benefits and moving from house to house, and later tent to tent. Happily, McDonald is now back among us, cautiously planning live appearances and hoping to record again, and Talking Elephant has re-released both her albums with may bonus tracks. As cult figures go, few have greater credentials than Shelagh McDonald. A wonderful singer, guitarist and songwriter, beautiful and with a lovely personality, her two LPs shared musicians, arranger and photographer with her friends Sandy Denny and Nick Drake and are among the jewels of the early ‘70s folk rock era. On her debut ALBUM (TECD378), originally released on the Mooncrest label in 1971, she was backed by many famous names from the English folk-rock scene, including Richard Thompson, Dave Mattacks, Danny Thompson, Keith Tippett, Keith Christmas and the Fotheringay rhythm section. Highlights include the beautiful Crusoe, two versions of Ophelia’s Song, the intimate Richmond, traditional classic Let No Man Steal Your Thyme, and the Malvina Reynolds song, Jesus Is Just Right, first made famous by The Byrds. STARGAZER (TECD379), released in 1972, is perhaps the closest anyone has ever come to crossing circa-1970 Joni Mitchell with Sandy Denny, with a hint of early Marianne Faithfull. As well as th 10 original tracks (including the romantic and stunningly arranged title song and the haunting Scottish border ballad Dowie Dens Of Yarrow) there are nine bonus tracks, including several alternative versions and demos.
MARTIN SIMPSON - TRAILS & TRIBULATIONS TOPIC RECORDS TSCD593
Hand in hand with his long solo career, world famous guitarist, singer and songwriter Martin Simpson been involved with collaborations like The Full English, The Elizabethan Sessions and Simpson Cutting Kerr. He has worked with a dazzling array of artists from across the musical spectrum: Jackson Browne, Martin Taylor, June Tabor, Richard Hawley, Bonnie Raitt, Danny Thompson, David Hidalgo, Danú, Richard Thompson and Dom Flemons, to mention a few. He is consistently named as one of the very finest acoustic, fingerstyle and slide guitar players in the world - the most nominated musician in the history of the BBC Folk Awards and a true master of his art. His latest album, Trails & Tribulations, is a collection of songs about nature, about travels and about real life stories. ‘There are traditional songs, poems and contemporary songs by great writers, and songs that I had to write because nobody else knew what I wanted to say. I travel, I learn songs, I write and try to get better at the skills required for me to do my job. I look at the world as I pass by, on the road, out of the train window, or as I stop and pay close attention to the square foot under my nose. There is so much to see and to hear and to inspire and to try and understand. I had a huge amount of fun playing and recording these songs, using different instruments, different noises, old friends and new ones, all of whom brought so much to the mix.’ Produced and engineered by Andy Bell, Trails & Tribulations features some of Martin Simpson’s most inventive playing, showcasing his virtuosity on a variety of instruments including acoustic guitars, resonator guitars, Weissenbown lap steel guitar, electric guitars, 5 string banjo, ukulele – and voice. other great musicians on the album include Ben Nicholls (string bass and electric bass guitars), Toby Kearney (drums and percussion), Nancy Kerr (fiddle and viola), Andy Cutting (diatonic accordion and melodeon), John Smith (electric guitar and backing vocals), Helen Bell (strings), Amy Newhouse-Smith (backing vocals) and daughter Molly Simpson on vocals. Highlights include the wonderful opening track, Blues Run The Game, the world-weary Thomas Drew, a beautiful Ballad For Katherine Of Aragon, St. James Hospital (with exquisite slide guitar), the jauntily rebellious Rufford Park Poachers, and the sensual, mysterious Reynardine. The album is available as a standard and deluxe CD (with six bonus tracks), as a digital download and on vinyl (the latter through Vinyl 180). See also Martin Simpson’s excellent Righteousness & Humidity.
SHIRLEY COLLINS AND THE ALBION COUNTRY BAND - NO ROSES TALKING ELEPHANT TECD349
Shirley Collins began her impressive career as a folk singer in the 1950s, when she worked with Ewan MacColl and American folk collector Alan Lomax, who she assisted on various European projects, and recorded her first two albums, Sweet England and False True Lovers. She went on to become a vital contributor to the English folk song revival of the 1960s and 1970s and still performs today at the age of 81. No Roses was recorded in the summer of 1971 with the Albion Country Band, produced by Sandy Roberton and Ashley Hutchings (Shirley Collins’ husband at the time). An amazing 27 musicians and singers, including John Kirkpatrick and Maddy Prior, were involved as people dropped in during recording sessions and were asked to join in. Many tracks feature musicians from the Fairport Convention line-up of 1969, with Ashley Hutchings appearing on all nine, Simon Nicol and Richard Thompson on eight, and Dave Mattacks on three. The beautiful Claudy Banks includes a duo performance by Alan Cave on bassoon and free jazz saxophonist Lol Coxhill. Hal-An-Tow, an ancient ritual song, features members of the two other acclaimed folk groups - The Watersons and The Young Tradition. The Murder of Maria Marten, a song about the infamous Red Barn Murder, has British folk rock (superb guitar work by Richard Thompson) alternating with the more traditional sounds of Shirley Collins’ golden voice and a hurdy-gurdy drone. Other highlights include a rollicking Little Gypsy Girl, the lovely Van Dieman’s Land, The White Hare (with Lal and Mike Waterson) and the haunting Poor Murdered Woman (a favourite of Collins). Originally released in 1971 on the Pegasus label, this classic blend of folk-rock and sultry vocals remains a spellbinding acheievement and is now available from Talking Elephant. Essential listening.
ASHLEY HUTCHINGS - STREET CRIES TALKING ELEPHANT TECD357
Described by Bob Dylan as ‘the single most important figure in English folk rock’, Ashley Hutchings was a founding member of three of the most important English folk-rock bands: Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and The Albion Band. Originally released in 2001 by Topic Records, Street Cries was described as ‘truly great’ by the late John Peel and Hutchings himself considers this collection of dark traditional songs re-worked for the 21st century to be one of his best albums. Traditional songs are re-interpreted by him to make the stories immediately understandable to a modern day audience, and the cast of performers reads like a who’s who of the folk genre. Famed for his many collaborations Hutchings has carefully chosen specific artists for each track. The jovial jauntiness of Vin Garbutt (Three Jolly Burglars) contrasts with the brooding sombreness of Steve Knightley, Dick Gaughan and June Tabor, the delicate lamenting of Cara Dillon (He’s Young But He’s Growing), and the jazzy ambience of Helen Watson and Pete Zorn (Salford Girls). Other artists include Coope Boyes and Simpson, Pete Morton, Dave Burland (The Shape of a Girl, based on The Foggy Dew), Kathryn Roberts (A Drummer Won My Love, inspired by the perrennial favourite Blacksmith) and Nesreeen Shah. Hutchings’ creative re-telling of the stories, the artists’ individual performances and ‘Banksy’ inspired cover artwork completes the transformation to the modern idiom. The original traditional versions’ lyrics are included in the accompanying booklet.
STEPHEN WADE - ACROSS THE AMERIKEE SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS SFW40223
American folk musician, writer and researcher Stephen Wade grew up in Chicago in the 1950s and ‘60s listening to many of the musicians who had moved north to the city from the Mississippi Delta and the Southern Appalachians. He started playing blues guitar at age eleven and eventually switched to the banjo. Influenced by Fleming Brown at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music and by old-time, Kentucky-born radio singer Doc Hopkins, he immersed himself in the banjo, traditional music and American folklore. By the late ‘70s, he had developed a theatrical show combining storytelling, traditional music and percussive dance, entitled Banjo Dancing. This was followed by another critically acclaimed show, On the Way Home, which received the Joseph Jefferson award for its Chicago run of On the Way Home. On this excellent CD, subtitled ‘Showpieces From Coal Camp To Cattle Trail’, Stephen Wade explores, with banjo and occasional guitar, grassroots music made for music’s sake in the United States. A simple dance tune transforms into a concert masterpiece; a personal plaint becomes emblematic of an era. His selections draw from Southern sources as well as Northern interpreters, centering on lyric folksong and old-time instrumentals transmitted, as one of its older players memorably said, ‘across the Amerikee’. Highlights include spectacular instrumentals such as Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss and Tom Paley’s John Henry, the delicately beautiful Diamond Joe and Goodbye, Old Paint, and the amusing Hard Head Hardy. Stephen Wade is a virtuoso musician who performs with style, skill and a deep understanding of this music.
SEA SONGS & SHANTIES ATMA CLASSIQUE ACD22749
A sea shanty is a type of work song that was once commonly sung, led by the Shantyman, to accompany labour on board large merchant sailing vessels. The term is sometimes expanded to include a wider range of repertoire and characteristics, or to refer to a maritime song in general, including songs to pass the time as well as songs to help with the work. Shanties were often influenced by songs of African Americans, such as those sung whilst manually loading vessels with cotton in ports of the southern United States, and the repertoire borrowed from the contemporary popular music enjoyed by sailors, including minstrel music, popular marches and land-based folk songs, which were adapted to suit musical forms matching the various tasks required to operate a sailing ship, especially coordinated group efforts such as weighing anchor and setting sail. Sea songs were spread by the oral tradition, resulting in many variations, and this excellent collection features 16 fascinating examples sung by Nils Brown, Michiel Schrey, and Clayton Kennedy, joining Seán Dagher and La Nef in performing these songs with a new twist while preserving their specific character and original appeal. This CD features 16 imaginatively arranged and performed songs that vividly bring to life a world of adventure, women, raucous drinking, brutally hard work and poetry. Highly recommended.
CLASSIC ENGLISH AND SCOTTISH BALLADS SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS SFW40218
In 1882 the historian and musicologist Francis James Child published a collection called English and Scottish Popular Ballads that was revered throughout pioneer America as the primary source of traditional music. Eventually known simply as ‘Child’s ballads’, these 305 songs were typically narrative in nature and concerned largely with love affairs and their often tragic ends. Other forms of vocal music, including part-songs known as broadside ballads, supplemented the collection. Although Child feared these ballads would vanish from human memory, they continue to be adored, studied, and actively performed across disciplines and genres. Classic English and Scottish Ballads from Smithsonian Folkways (from The Francis James Child Collection) brings together 21 of these traditional songs from the label’s rich collections at the Smithsonian Institution, and demonstrates the timelessness of their themes - from murder and ghosts to jealousy and unrequited love. Highlights include Mike Seeger’s version of the tragic Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender, Jean Ritchie’s Lord Randall, the great Lead Belly’s Gallis Pole (later made famous by Led Zeppelin), Dorothy Rorick’s The House Carpenter (the oldest song ever recorded by Bob Dylan), and Thomas the Rhymer sung by the brilliant Ewan MacColl. An accompanying 40-page booklet has photographs and extensive notes that give fascinating information about both the songs and the performers.
ELIZA CARTHY - BIG MACHINE TOPIC RECORDS TSCD592
Eliza Carthy, daughter of legendary guitarist Martin Carthy, is one of the most outstanding performers of her generation. Twice nominated for the Mercury Prize and winner of innumerable other accolades over a twenty-six year career, she has performed and recorded with a wide array of artists, such as Paul Weller, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, and Joan Baez. She was recently awarded an MBE, is an Artistic Associate of The Sage in Gateshead and vice president of the English Folk Dance & Song Society. Eliza Carthy and The Wayward Band’s new album, Big Machine, features a wide range of material that includes a trio of contemporary songs, led by Eliza’s own You Know Me, where she addresses the migrant crisis and notions of hospitality, in the company of MC Dizraeli. She also covers Ewan MacColl’s classic radio ballad The Fitter’s Song and reworks Rory MacLeod’s Hug You Like A Mountain, re-imagined as a duet with Teddy Thompson. Several examples of the Broadside ballad collections housed in Chetham’s Library in Manchester are given a new twist, in the wake of Eliza’s programme for BBC Radio 4 about the Manchester Ballads last year. This led to her recording songs about such subjects as domestic abuse in Devil In The Woman and Fade And Fall (Love Not) and the seafaring life in The Sea.The eclectic mix also includes two searing instrumentals, a song about dying from custard poisoning and a heart-breaking traditional ballad, I Wish That The Wars Were All Over, recorded with Irish singer Damien Dempsey.
JON BODEN - PAINTED LADY NAVIGATOR RECORDS
Jon Boden was born in Chicago in 1977 and spent his teenage years in Winchester listening to Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull, before Dave Swarbrick inspired him to take up the fiddle. He found inspiration also from Martin Carthy, Peter Bellamy and Eliza Carthy, developing an unusual and effective singing technique. He steadily established himself as one of the pioneers of new wave traditional English folk music, often working with melodeon player John Spiers and the acclaimed eleven-piece ensemble ‘Bellowhead’, who recently played their final gig. His solo album, Painted Lady, originally released on Soundpost Records in 2006, features a collection of largely self-composed love songs that fuse his acoustic sensibilities with powerful guitar work and an eclectic range of instruments. These include concertina, Indian harmonium, fiddle, cello, double bass, electric piano, glockenspiel and drum machine - creating a highly textured soundscape. This was Jon Boden’s debut recording as a songwriter but the lyrical and melodic style is highly accomplished and his delivery wonderfully assured. Highlights include the Get A Little Something, the plaintive Blue Dress, Drunken Princess, Lemany (updating a tradition of love lyrics that dates back to the 11th century), the beautiful True Love and the final track, Drinking the Night Away (based on a traditional Cajun tune). This welcome 10th anniversary CD re-release (also available on 180gm vinyl and download) includes three previously unavailable bonus tracks: All Hang Down, Old Brown’s Daughter and Whitney Houston classic I Want to Dance with Somebody. These enjoyable and reflective songs remain a revelation and the album, with its suitably moody sleeve photographs, marked step towards greater recognition for one of the most charismatic and talented performers on the modern folk scene.
FAIRPORT CONVENTION – LIVE 1974 RETROWORLD FLOATM 6263
Britain’s best-known folk-rock band, Fairport Convention, was formed in 1967’s ‘summer of love’ and they have been delighting audiences for well over four decades. Hailed as the originators of British folk-rock music, the musicians in Fairport are still as vibrant and inventive as ever. The band were awarded a coveted BBC Lifetime Achievement Award and Radio 2 listeners voted Fairport’s groundbreaking album Liege & Lief ‘The Most Influential Folk Album of All Time’. After nearly fifty years as a working band, Fairport’s annual Winter Tour has become a much-loved institution, with its vast back catalogue allowing the band to present a fresh concert repertoire each year. To celebrate these enduring folk-rock legends, indie label Floating World’s Retroworld reissue specialist has released this eleven track CD, recorded at the venue My Father’s Place, in Roslyn, New York. It features vocal performances from the late Sandy Denny in her latter days in the Fairport line-up, prior to the recording of the album Rising For The Moon, released in 1975. The show is a vocal and instrumental tour-de-force, with the Fairport line-up in particularly fine form. It also contains a version of Like An Old Fashioned Waltz, the title track of her 1974 solo album, as well as a version of John The Gun, which she recorded with the short-lived Fotheringay for their (then) unreleased and uncompleted second album. The recording was originally made for a New York radio station, and is released here with no overdubs or repairs made. The sound quality is good and highlights include the classic Matty Groves, the gorgeous It’ll Take A Long Time, excellent instrumentals Medley, Cherokee Shuffle and Sir B. McKenzie (with Dave Swarbrick in fine form), and favourites such as John The Gun and Down In The Flood. This is an atmospheric live album that captures Fairport Convention at their exhilarating best.
SETH LAKEMAN - BALLADS OF THE BROKEN FEW COOKING VINYL
The singer, songwriter and musician Seth Lakeman comes from Yelverton in Devon and began playing music with his parents and brothers from an early age. The brothers later went on to record and joined Kathryn Roberts and Kate Rusby to form Equation. Since leaving the group in 2001, the multi-talented Lakeman has worked with Cara Dillon and her husband Sam Lakeman and has released several acclaimed solo albums, receiving a Mercury nomination for Kitty Jay. Produced by the legendary Ethan Johns, Seth Lakeman’s eighth studio album, Ballads of the Broken Few, features more of his dynamic songwriting together with the sublime harmony vocals of young female trio Wildwood Kin (sisters Emillie and Beth Key and their cousin Meghann Loney). Between them they have conjured up an epic, soulful album of compelling songs that are stripped back to their essence. Continuing Seth Lakeman’s vision for recording in inspiring locations – previous albums have been recorded in a church and a copper mine - the 11 tracks for Ballads of the Broken Few were cut ‘live’ with an organic, acoustic vibe in the Great Hall of a Jacobean Manor House, and they shine with the atmosphere of that setting. The spiritual-sounding songs have a trance-like quality: they encompass evocative contemporary messages, yet have an ethereal sound as if they have been hanging in the air for centuries. The mood is set from track one. Lakeman’s soaring vocals are perfectly complimented by the harmonies of Wildwood Kin. The album has seven original tracks plus a striking cover of the Laurelyn Dossett song, Anna Lee, and versions of traditional broadsides such as The Stranger and The Willow Tree, as well as Seth Lakeman’s take on a 19th century moralistic song, Pulling Hard Against the Stream.
PETE SEEGER - PETE LIVING MUSIC LMUS 0032
Pete Seeger’s 1996 release, Pete, was the legendary folk American folk pioneer’s first album to win a Grammy. Co-produced by Paul Winter, Pete is regarded by many as the last great album from an American icon who shares a place in history with the likes of Mark Twain, Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost and Woody Guthrie. A fully remastered edition of Pete comes together in this Pete-Pak CD/DVD set along with a DVD featuring three historic videos of Seeger in performance with the Paul Winter Consort, Susan Osborn and the exhilarating Pe De Boi Samba Band. Jazzman Paul Winter persuaded Pete Seeger to return to the recording studio for 1996’s Pete, his first album in 17 years. It seems a little more formal than usual, but the presence of three choirs and Winter adds a delightful texture and undeniable beauty. Songs include Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, The Water Is Wide, Time and Rivers Flowing, and the presence of producer Winter’s saxophone and the choirs invigorates the singer and the songs. ‘What I want to do with this album is give people something that encourages the creative process and gets people out of the boxes they’ve been put in.’ – Pete Seeger. The DVD was recorded at the Living Music Festival in 1982 and features 18 songs, including John Henry, a brilliant version of Wimoweh and the humorous Old Time Religion. Bonus features include a 17 minute ‘Pete-nic’ from 1996, celebrating Pete’s Grammy. A richly detailed booklet shares Winter’s recollections and experiences with Pete Seeger.
BURL IVES - THE WAYFARING STRANGER RETROSPECTIVE RTR4285
Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives was born in 1909 in Illinois. He learned Scottish, English and Irish ballads from his grandmother and later hitchhiked around the USA collecting songs. As well as recording more than 100 albums he was a respected actor on Broadway and in films such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, East of Eden and The Big Country, for which he won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor. He began as an itinerant singer and banjo player then launched his own radio show, The Wayfaring Stranger, which popularised traditional folk-songs. This CD from Retrospective features a comprehensive selection of his folk singing artistry. The Wayfaring Stranger gathers together 32 of his most popular recordings from the 40s and early 50s. There are many folk tunes he made his own, such as Blue Tail Fly (on which he is joined The Andrews Sisters), Big Rock Candy Mountain, I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly, The Foggy, Foggy Dew and Lavender Blue. He also gives fine versions of new songs like Pete Seeger’s On Top Of Old Smoky or Ghost Riders In The Sky. As a bonus 33rd track, the CD ends with his biggest hit, from ten years later, A Little Bitty Tear, his successful crossover into country music. An avuncular, relaxed figure, Burl Ives was one of America’s best-loved of all entertainers, despite his controversial decision to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952. He was an influential figure in the great post-war folk music revival, alongside people such as Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, and did more than anyone else to bring America’s folk song heritage to the people.
BELLOWHEAD LIVE – THE FAREWELL TOUR NAVIGATOR RECORDS 095X
Formed in 2004, the acclaimed eleven-piece English band Bellowhead specialises in playing traditional dance tunes, folk songs and shanties, with unique modern arrangements inspired by a wide range of musical styles and influences. Led by the charismatic Jon Boden and John Spiers, Bellowhead broke through from the folk world with their first full-length album, the exuberant Burlesque, featuring material from the Napoleonic Wars, the American minstrel movement and sea-shanties from Brazil. Bigger, bolder, brassier and more brazen than ever, the band’s exciting album, Broadside took some of the wildest, most joyous and iconic songs in the folk song tradition and turned them gleefully inside out with Bellowhead’s unique sense of drama and theatre, instrumental virtuosity, verve, humour and blind cheek. Bellowhead have changed the face of folk music and brought it to a whole new audience with their lively interpretations of mostly traditional tunes, selling over 250,000 albums, earning two silver discs and winning eight BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Early in 2015, Jon Boden decided to step down from the band and the rest of Bellowhead felt they did not want to continue without him. This deluxe triple disc (2CD + DVD) set includes previously unreleased live audio and film from the first of two farewell tours by Bellowhead, recorded in November 2015. The 52 tracks include favourites such as Roll Alabama, the American minstrel song Jordan, the traditional East Anglian step Sloe Gin, London Town, and the rousing Roll the Woodpile Down. Jon Boden holds it all together brilliantly as always as the band transforms traditional music into something new and exciting. This celebratory release, along with a 24 page booklet, will revive many great moments for the band’s army of devoted fans. watch Bellowhead live.
BELA FLECK & ABIGAIL WASHBURN ROUNDER 613626
If American old-time music is about taking earlier, simpler ways of life and music-making as one’s model, Abigail Washburn has proven herself to be true to that tradition. A singing, songwriting, Illinois-born, Nashville-based clawhammer banjo player, she has played with Uncle Earl (an all-girl collective of Old Time String players), performed as a solo artist and been part of the Sparrow Quartet featuring Béla Fleck. She has travelled extensively in all these guises and has a genuine, rare talent as a female clawhammer banjo player, an extraordinary connection with China and also a writing talent with strong messages. After many years of prominence as banjo players and composers of their own eclectic work, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn released their brilliant eponymous debut album as a duo in 2014. This eceived great critical acclaim and has now won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Folk Album, described as a front porch banjo and vocal album of new music, Appalachian murder ballads, gospel, chamber and blues. It was the culmination of a yearlong tour by the duo in 2013, following the birth of their son, Juno. Béla is an icon and innovator of jazz, classical and world, with more multi-category Grammy wins than any other artist. Abigail is a formidable talent with triumphs in songwriting, theatre and performance. The record reveals their astounding chemistry as collaborators, as the two seamlessly stitch together singular banjo sounds (through an assortment of seven banjos spanning the recording) in service to the stories that their songs tell, with no studio gimmickry needed. Demonstrating seemingly unlimited rhythmic, tonal and melodic capabilities, Fleck and Washburn confirm the banjo’s versatility as the perfect backdrop to the rich lyrical component the duo offer. Highlights include the murder ballad Pretty Polly, the brilliant Shotgun Blues, What’cha Gonna Do (updating the gospel song Sinner Man), the traditional folk song And Am I Born to Die and the beautiful What Are They Doing in Heaven Today? Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck’s banjos become one, and the musicians’ palette has never been more vivid or pure.
SONGS OF SEPARATION NAVIGATOR RECORDS 094
This highly significant collaborative recording project reflects, through song, the issue of ‘separation’ in its many forms. Featuring ten of England and Scotland’s most celebrated female contemporary folk artists, together they explore the similarities and differences in our musical, linguistic and cultural heritage. The ten participants are Eliza Carthy, Karine Polwart, Rowan Rheingans, Mary Macmaster, Hannah Read, Kate Young, Jenn Butterworth, Hazel Askew, Hannah James and Jenny Hill (who conceived the project and co-produced with Andy Bell). Songs of Separation aims to capture a sense of our times, exploring topical social and political issues through powerful music. Highlights include the poignant Echo Mocks the Corncrake (also released as a single), It Was A’ for Our Rightfu’ King (lyrics by Robert Burns), the haunting Sad the Climbing, Eliza Carthy’s gorgeous Cleaning the Stones, the lovely ‘sea-prayer’ Unst Boat Song, an arrangement of the music hall lament London Lights, and the haunting traditional tune Over the Border, with lyrics by Jean Eliot.
SONGS OF THOMAS HARDY’S WESSEX SAYDISC CDSDL410
Of all the great English novelists, Thomas Hardy was probably the most fond of music, especially the tunes he heard played by local people in his Dorset youth. Many of his books made many refrences to these traditional folk songs and tunes that he loved and knew. Under the Greenwood Tree, subtitled The Mellstock Quire, was first published in 1871, though the story is set a generation earlier. One of the novel’s recurring themes is the replacement of the Mellstock church band’s violins and singers in the gallery with an organist. From around 1801 Hardy’s father and grandfather played stringed instruments in the church band at Stinsford (called ‘Mellstock’ in the novels). Recorded in 1995, Songs of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex is a collection of popular English folk songs performed by The Mellstock Band, a unique ensemble that combines singing and music on authentic instruments with interesting arrangements. As well as performing popular themed costume shows, they play for dances, present workshops and provide rural sounds for all kinds of public and private events. Many of the songs on this entertaining CD are from the collector H.E.D Hammond, who collected traditional songs in Dorset in the early 20th century, frequently from from people of Hardy’s generation. Varied in style and texture, they include The Foggy Dew, The Spotted Cow, the jolly Barley Mow, the tragic Prentice Boy, haunting Break o’ the Day, the beautiful Sheepshearing Song, jaunty Tailor’s Breeches, The Downhills of Life, and The Banks of Allan Water.
SEA SONGS AND SHANTIES SAYDISC CDSDL405
This historic recording made in the 1950s features a wonderful selection of sea songs and shanties recorded on tape at various locations by the famous folk song collector and performer Peter Bellemay. His aim was to capture a dying breed of performers before this old traditional style of folk song faded away or was lost (a genuine concern at the time). This compilation of those classic recordings was released by Saydisc records in 1994 and there is a raw but magical edge to both the recordings and the performances. Among the songs featured are the rousing Stormy weather boys, the classic Maggie May, the well known What shall we do with the Drunken Sailor, the irresistible Johnny Todd, and a song called Can’t you dance the Polka? which is also known by its American version, New York Girls. The artists include Bob Roberts, who was experienced in sea life and song from working on barges. Other performers include Cadgwith Fishermen.s Chorus from Cornwall, Bob & Ron Cooper, Harry Cox, Sarah Makem, Fishermen.s Group, Clifford Jenkins, Bill Barber, Bob & Ron Copper, and Tom Brown
GILMORE & ROBERTS - CONFLICT TOURISM GR RECORDS GRR006
Fiddle player Katriona Gilmore and guitarist Jamie Roberts originally met while studying at Leeds College of Music and have been performing a largely self-penned repertoire as a duo since 2006. Twice nominated for the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and with three albums already released, Gilmore & Roberts have toured with folk rock legends Fairport Convention and completed several headline tours in their own right, as well as performing dynamic shows at some of Britain’s largest acoustic festivals. Conflict Tourism is their fourth album following a year of touring in mainland Europe, Canada, and their native Britain, and a common thread runs through this latest collection of original songs. Conflict, whether an internal struggle between positive and negative, or a healthy body and a disease, is an everyday phenomenon captured perfectly by the 11 tracks. Produced by Mark Tucker and featuring Matt Downer, Phil Henry and James ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson, the album packs a considered punch, from the industrial weight of the opening track ‘Cecilia’ and the insistent energy of ‘Peggy Airey’ to the hauntingly hypnotic ‘Jack O Lantern’. ‘Conflict is universal - everyone, everywhere, experiences it every day, in its smallest forms,’ says Katriona. ‘We liked the idea of being tour guides through a minefield of different decisions and drama.’
RICHARD THOMPSON - STILL PROPER RECORDS PRPCD131
The renowned guitarist and songwriter Richard Thompson has released forty albums in his career (including the acclaimed Electric and Acoustic Classics), played on countless other recordings, and written more than 400 songs, some of which have been covered by the likes of R.E.M., Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, Linda Ronstadt, and many others. A recipient of BBC’s Lifetime Achievement Award and Mojo’s Les Paul Award, he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2011 New Year Honours List. The Americana Music Association also recently honoured him with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting. Robert Plant, REM, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt and many others have recorded Thompson’s songs. His album of new music, Still, was recorded in a two-story rehearsal loft in Chicago over the course of just nine days with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy as producer. Featuring several longtime players from both Thompson’s and Tweedy’s bands, the key to Still’s emotional resonance is a set of gripping Thompson compositions rich with his signature mix of trenchant insight, gallows humor, and keen empathy for characters at the brink of being overcome by their emotions, their pasts, or themselves. Taken as a whole, the album is a powerful dispatch from an acknowledged master who remains unafraid to put himself into demanding new environments - its title reflecting that resilience and seemingly endless resourcefulness. ‘Or,’ Thompson adds slyly, ‘it could be read as ‘Is he still performing? I thought he died years ago.’ Highlights include the lovely opening track, She Never Could Resist A Winding Road, the politically aware Beatnik Walking and No Peace No End, a rollicking Long John Silver, the rueful Where’s Your Heart, and Guitar Heroes, with Richard Thompson demonstrating his virtuosic instrumental skills.
ELIZA CARTHY & TIM ERIKSEN - BOTTLE NAVIGATOR RECORDS NAVIGATOR092P
This is the first album together by two of the most highly regarded artists from either side of the Atlantic. Tim Eriksen has transformed American traditional music with his startling interpretations of old ballads, love songs, shape-note gospel and dance tunes from New England and Southern Appalachia. He combines hair-raising vocals with inventive accompaniment on banjo, fiddle, guitar and bajo sexto - a twelve string Mexican acoustic bass - creating a distinctive hardcore Americana sound that ranges across seven solo albums of northern roots American music and he’s appeared on more than 20 others, ranging from hardcore punk to folk rock and bluegrass. Eliza Carthy, daughter of legendary guitarist Martin Carthy, is one of the most outstanding performers of her generation. Twice nominated for the Mercury Prize and winner of innumerable other accolades over a twenty-six year career, she has performed and recorded with a wide array of artists, such as Paul Weller, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, and Joan Baez. She was recently awarded an MBE, is an Artistic Associate of The Sage in Gateshead and vice president of the English Folk Dance & Song Society. Tim Eriksen and Eliza Carthy have now come together and mixed hardcore ‘Americana’ with hardcore ‘Anglicana’ on this inventive and thrilling album brimming with passion and energy. Bottle includes traditional material from both sides of the Atlantic and features fiddle, electric guitar, banjo and bass drum. The 13 tracks include live opener Buffalo, the achingly beautiful Logan’s Lament and Castle By the Sea from America, alongside the Copper Family’s Cats and Dogs, May Song, the irresistible Prodigal Son, Sweet Susan and Whitby Lad (Botany Bay) and the poignant Love Farewell. Gutsy, heartfelt and superbly performed, this outstanding album seamlessly brings together two great musical traditions. Tim Eriksen and Eliza Carthy met in the 1990s when they were teenagers but it was the offer of a duo appearance by a Czech festival (Folkové Prázdniny) and UK tours in 2013 and 2014 that finally provided the opportunity for them to record together. The duo’s next, much-anticipated UK tour starts on 21 May in Edinburgh 2015.
BBC FOLK AWARDS 2015 PROPER RECORDS PROPERFOLK16
Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Nancy Kerr won the singer of the year title at the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in April 2015, and Gavin & Stacey star Ruth Jones presented her with the honour at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff in front of an audience of 1600. The 16th annual ceremony was presented by Mark Radcliffe and featured performances from Scottish Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis (also nominated for Folk Singer Of The Year), modern folk rock band The Rails, Kate Rusby and Welsh band 10 Mewn Bws (10 in a Bus). Other winners included London based Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker (Best Duo), Samhradh Samhradh - The Gloaming (Best Traditional Track), The Rails (Horizon Award), Swim To The Star - Peggy Seeger/Calum MacColl (Best Original Song), Talisk (Young Folk Award), Sam Sweeney (Musician of the Year), Tincian by 9Bach (Best Album) and The Young ‘Uns (Best Group). This 27 track, double disc compilation features the winning performers and nominees, including Cara Dillon, The Will Pound Band, Loudon Wainwright III, Peggy Seeger, Martin & Eliza Carthy and Kathryn Tickell, with bonus tracks by Talisk, Wildwood Kin, Roseanne Reid and Cup O’Joe. Two prestigious lifetime achievement accolades were presented to Yusuf / Cat Stevens and Loudon Wainwright III at the ceremony in Cardiff. The Good Tradition Award, for an outstanding contribution to the upkeep of a musical tradition, was presented posthumously to the late Meredydd Evans. Legendary singer Yusuf / Cat Stevens gained worldwide acclaim for works including Wild World, Father and Son and Morning Has Broken, before largely retiring from the music business following his conversion to the Islamic faith. Loudon Wainwright III had his first big hit, Dead Skunk, in 1968, and his songs have since been recorded by Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Cash, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, and by his son Rufus and daughter Martha. Dr Meredydd Evans, who passed away in February 2015 at the age of 95, received an award for his contributions as a singer, historian, broadcaster and Welsh language campaigner. Other star guests handing out awards included Cerys Matthews and singer songwriter Billy Bragg. The great Ewan MacColl was inducted into the Radio 2 Folk Award Hall of Fame. Highlights of the broadcast are available on BBC iPlayer for 30 days after the event and also on Red Button. For more details see bbc.co.uk/radio2. The UK folk music scene is in fine shape, as can be heard on this richly diverse double-CD collection. Highlights among the 27 tracks include the lovely It Would Not Be A Rose by Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker, Cruinn’s haunting Manus Mo Rùin, Loudon Wainright III’s worldly wise God And Nature, Peggy Seeger’s Swim To The Star, the exquisite Waking Dreams (Awake Awake) by Martin & Eliza Carthy, a spooky I Saw The Dead by Martin Green (with Becky Unthank), young Edinburgh singer-songwriter and future star Roseanne Reid’s timeless What I’ve Done, and a live version of Julie Fowlis’s graceful Gaelic lament for a much lived brother, Do Chalum. Highly recommended.
TWANGIN’ ‘N’ A-TRADDIN’ TALKING ELEPHANT RECORDS TECD282
Born in London in 1945, Ashley Hutchings is an English a bassist, vocalist, songwriter, arranger, band leader, writer and record producer who founded three of the finest English folk-rock bands: Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and The Albion Band. He has also been involved with many other projects ocer the years, including records and live theatre, and has collaborated on film and television projects. As a teenager he had been involved in the skiffle, rock and roll and blues movements and formed several groups, including ‘Dr K’s Blues Band’ with fellow guitarist Simon Nicol. In the 1990s he returned to his musical roots, touring and recording with the Ashley Hutchings Big Beat Combo, which resulted in the album Twangin’ and a Traddin’. This unique album has now been ‘Revisited’ with the addition of three songs that recall the pre-Beatles’ era and the sentiments of the teenage Hutchings simultaneously discovering rock ‘n’ roll and girls. The album pays homage to a long-gone age of pop music and will bring back fond memories to anyone who has ever hovered around a juke box to dig the music and eye up the talent. Twangin’ ‘n’ a-Traddin’ features rock ‘n’ pop instrumentals with traditional playing alongside folk tunes and a handful of Hutchings’ originals given rock ‘n’ roll arrangements and sensibilities. The other musicians include regular sidekicks Richard Thompson, Simon Nicol, Phil Beer and Simon Care as well as legendary session men of the 60s, such as guitarist Colin Green from Georgie Fame’s Blue Flames and drummer Clem Cattini who played on many of Joe Meek’s classic productions. These included the Tornadoes ‘Telstar’ which is includes here in a wonderfully dreamy arrangement. Other highlughts include the Shadows’ ‘F.B.I’, the Ventures’ ‘Walk Don’t Run’ and an irresistible rebel rousing Duane Eddy medley. The Velveteens - three teenage Yorkshire girls who, out of school, dressed, sang and performed just like the vocal groups of the late 50s/early 60s, have recorded two newly written songs - ‘The Boy With The Red Guitar’ and ‘(As I) Walked Out One Morning’. These two recordings, and Hutchings’ moving and evocative ‘Welcome To The World’, a song about ‘first attractions, first fumblings and first love’, now make up the newly re-titled Twangin’ ‘n’ a-Traddin’ Revisited. Highly recommended.
CLASSIC AMERICAN BALLADS SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS SFW CD 40215
In the days before YouTube and Twitter, newsworthy events often ‘went viral’ in the form of topical songs. Certain tragedies and grisly crimes captivated the American imagination, and entrepreneurial ballad writers wrote songs catering to the thirst for details. Born of the British ballad, its American offspring was the blank canvas for all type of tale, the more calamitous or scandalous, the better. Folk songs and ballads were brought to the New World by migrants from England, Scotland and Ireland. Some songs were already centuries old while others were heard being sung on the docks and in taverns the day the emigrant ships departed. Many of them were ballads about eternal themes of love, death, honour and betrayal, and Americans often called them ‘old love songs’. Drawing on the unsurpassed Smithsonian Folkways archives, the 25 fascinating tracks on Classic American Ballads, written between 1836 and 1947, chronicle tragic and significant events such as the sinking of the Titanic, the wreck of the Old 97 train in Danville, Virginia, and the murder of a young girl along the Ohio River. Woody Guthrie’s Billy the Kid narrates the exploits of the notorious 19th-century outlaw, while Pete Seeger’s Young Charlotte tells the tale of the young Maine woman who froze to death on New Year’s Eve, 1840. Lead Belly’s version of the popular folk song Duncan and Brady is based on the notorious story of James Brady, a St. Louis policeman who was fatally shot by bartender Harry Duncan in 1890. One of the most popular American ballads is John Henry, sung here live by ‘piedmont blues’ artist John Jackson. This tells the story of the legendary black railroad worker’s mythic contest with a steam drill, based on a real incident that occurred at the Big Bend Tunnel of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad near Hinton, West Virginia, around 1870, though other locations have been suggested. Other highlights include Texan Buck Ramsey’s heartfelt Cowboy’s Lament (Streets of Laredo), Duncan Rolf Cahn and Eric Von Schmidt’s spirited version of the much-covered Frankie and Johnny, Sis Cunningham’s Jesse James in praise of the notorious killer, the sad ballad of Naomi Wise by Doug Wallin, The Louisville Burglar, based the English ballad called Botany Bay. Compiled, produced, and annotated by Grammy-winning Smithsonian Folkways archivist Jeff Place, Classic American Ballads features over 40 pages of enriching liner notes and an introductory essay, along with many rare historical photographs. Among them is an iconic shot of the RMS Titanic on her maiden voyage across the Atlantic in April 1912. These well-chosen, evocative tracks offer a true alternative history of the USA, providing vivid descriptions of events that caught the public imagination.
NOTHING MORE: THE COLLECTED FOTHERINGAY UNIVERSAL 4718482
The short-lived British folk rock group Fotheringay was formed in 1970 by singer Sandy Denny following her departure from Fairport Convention and before sh embarked on a solo career. The band drew its name from her 1968 song about Fotheringhay Castle, which originally appeared on the 1969 Fairport Convention album, What We Did on Our Holidays. Two former members of Eclection, Trevor Lucas and drummer Gerry Conway, and two former members of Poet and the One Man Band, guitarist Jerry Donahue and Pat Donaldson (bass), completed the line-up responsible for what was long assumed to be the quintet’s only album, Fotheringay. This folk-based set included several Denny originals, notably Winter Winds, Nothing More, The Sea and The Pond and The Stream, as well as the traditional Banks of the Nile and versions of Gordon Lightfoot’s The Way I Feel and Bob Dylan’s Too Much of Nothing. The album was not a great commercial success, peaking at No. 18 in the UK chart, and Fotheringay disbanded in 1971, during sessions for a projected second album. Three months later, Sandy Denny was voted Britain’s Best Female Singer in the prestigious Melody Maker Poll, a feat she repeated the following year. In 1978, Jerry Donahue, Pat Donaldson and Gerry Conway carefully pieced together Fotheringay 2 using tracks assembled from the aborted second album, with two of Sandy Denny’s finest songs, John the Gun and Late November as well as superb arrangements of the traditional Wild Mountain Thyme, Eppie Moray and Australian bush-folk classic Bold Jack Donahue. Both albums have now been gathered together by Universal Music and released as part of this definitive Fotheringay collection, Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay. The four-disc set includes all the group’s recordings as well as a generous selection of demos, rehearsal tapes, alternate takes and mixes, plus previously unreleased live recordings from a festival in Rotterdam and seven tracks recorded in session for BBC radio. The final DVD disc has four songs recorded for the German TV show Beat Club, two of which were never even broadcast at the time. Nothing More comes in hardcover book format complete with rare and previously unseen photographs of the band. Fotheringay’s recordings sound better with every passing year and this definitive release is particularly welcome for including so many rare and crucial recordings from Sandy Denny’s remarkable career that was so tragically cut short at the age of just 31.
BELLA HARDY - WITH THE DAWN NOE RECORDS NOE08
Bella Hardy grew up in Edale in the Peak District but now lives in Edinburgh. Although the Hardy family sang in the local choir, it was a combination of her childhood love for ballad books and visits to local folk festivals that decided her future, and at 13 she began performing at Cambridge and Sidmouth festivals. In 2004 she reached the final of the BBC Young Folk Award, having taught herself to fiddle sing and her debut album, Night Visiting, was eleased in 2007. Since then she has continued to record and perform at a tremendous rate; appearing on numerous BBC radio and TV programmes, singing solo in a sold-out Albert Hall at the Proms, composing the music for a Radio 4 documentary on the Post Office, writing with former Beautiful South founder David Rotheray, forming an all-female fiddle group with folk royalty Eliza Carthy, and winning a Radio 2 Folk Award for her original song, The Herring Girl. Bella Hardy’s seventh solo album, With The Dawn, is her first since being named BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer Of The Year in 2014 and is an account of one year of her life as she turned 30. Where previously she has adapted and explored traditional ballads and fables to tell her contemporary folk tales, the stories that inspired these songs are her own experiences: good and bad, happy or sad. Superbly arranged and produced by ben Seal, With The Dawn is an intimate and reflective album of songs written on the road, full of that sense of displacement, longing and contemplation that all itinerant musicians know. Bella Hardy’s soaring kite-like voice is married to lyrics that poetically question everything she’s seen and done up till now. Highlights include the beautiful First Light of The Morning, The Darkening of The Day, Oh! My God! I Miss You (inspired by Yoshitomo Nara’s artwork of the same name), Gifts with hints of Kate Bush, Time Wanders On (with Cara Luft on banjo), and the brilliant Lullaby For A Grieving Man. ‘A fine, no-nonsense interpreter of traditional music and an excellent songwriter.’ - The Guardian. Bella Hardy’s With The Dawn Spring 2015 UK tour starts on April 21 at Keswick Theatre by the Lake.
FAIRPORT CONVENTION - MYTHS AND HEROES MATTY GROOVES MGCD053
Myths and Heroes is the latest album from Britain’s best-known folk-rock band Fairport Convention. Featuring thirteen new songs and tunes, this eagerly-awaited release is the first new Fairport studio album for four years. The tracks include five compositions by Chris Leslie and two by Ric Sanders (both members of Fairport) and six guest compositions including a new song from renowned songwriter Ralph McTell. Recorded and mastered by John Gale, the album epitomizes Fairport Convention’s consummate musicality and shows British folk-rock’s founding fathers at the top of their game. The veteran folk-rock band launched Myths and Heroes on a 2015 Winter Tour which started at The Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury in January and finished at the Union Chapel, Islington, London. Each concert opened with a guest performance by talented guitar-fiddle duo Kevin Dempsey and Rosie Carson.
SONGS OF THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR, VOLUMES 1 & 2 SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS SFW40188
The Abraham Lincoln Brigade was a group of 2,600 volunteers from the United States who served in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 as soldiers, technicians, medical personnel and aviators, fighting for Spanish Republican forces as part of the International Brigades against the Fascist forces of Francisco Franco and the Spanish Nationalists. The Lincolns suffered heavy losses during the Battle of Jarama in February 1937, when the unit lost two-thirds of its strength, including their commander, Robert Hale Merriman, who was badly wounded. The Brigade became a cause célèbre in some liberal and socialist circles in the United States, where news of their high casualty rate and bravery in battle made them heroic figures to Americans opposing the rise of fascism. During the Second World War the US government considered former members of the brigade to be security risks and veterans were placed on the Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organizations. Songs of the Spanish Civil War rekindles the hymnal of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in songs recorded around the time of the war’s end. Rousing, emotional and often poignant, they still inspire supporters of democratic causes around the world. This intriguing release brings together recordings released by Smithsonian Folkways on two albums in 1961 (to mark the 25th anniversary of the start of the war) and 1962 (including Woody Guthrie’s version of Jarama, sung to the tune of Red River Valley). As well as Guthrie, the singers here are Pete Seeger (including the sharply funny Quartermaster Song), Tom Glazer (whose son Peter wrote the comprehensive sleeve notes), Baldwin ‘Butch’ Hawes and Bess Lomax Hawes, Ernst Busch and Chorus (Six Songs For Democracy, originally recorded in 1938 during an air raid in Barcelona), and Bart van der Schelling, who fought in the battle of Jarama and was later seriously wounded. Schelling, who became the official singer for returning American soldiers, is backed here by the Exiles Chorus directed by Earl Robinson, one of the leading American left wing composers of the era.
THE UNTHANKS - MOUNT THE AIR RABBLEROUSER MUSIC
Rachel and Becky Unthank are sisters, born seven and a half years apart, who grew up in Ryton, Tyne and Wear. Their father, George Unthank, is a well-known local Northumberland folk singer in a group called the Keelers, named after the boatmen who sailed the Tyne. In 2009 they formed the band The Unthanks, having previously been known as Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, and were joined by pianist and producer Adrian McNally (now married to Rachel) and his childhood friend Chris Price. The has an eclectic approach that combines traditional English folk music, particularly from Northumbria, with other musical genres. Their first album as The Unthanks, Here’s the Tender Coming, was the 2009 Folk Album of the Year for The Guardian as well as for MOJO magazine, and this new release is the first studio album since Last came out four years ago. Mount The Air has been two years in the making in their own studio in Northumberland, set up in an old granary building, and is released on their own label. Musically more ambitious than ever, the Mercury nominated Geordies are still grounded tradition and filmic orchestration, but the music is also take influenced by traditions as diverse as Spain, India, Blue Note and Trip Hop. The beautiful opening title track and single has echoes of Miles Davis and Gill Evans in their Sketches of Spain period, and climaxes with a euphoria reminiscent of Arcade Fire or Elbow. Written by Adrian McNally, Mount the Air is based on the themes of a traditional Dorset song found in Cecil Sharp House by Becky Unthank, who co-writes some of the words with McNally. The piece features the playing of the world-class trumpet player, Tom Arthurs. ‘Intimate, epic, overflowing with feeling and musical intelligence.’ - The Independent. Watch the animated video for the single ‘Mount The Air’ here
THE ALBION CHRISTMAS BAND - ONE FOR THE ROAD ROOKSMERE RECORDS RRCD114
Ashley Hutchings initially formed The Albion Band, also known as The Albion Country Band and The Albion Dance Band, in 1971 to accompany his then wife the singer Shirley Collins on her No Roses album. This eclectic electric folk band originally included Dave Mattacks, Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol from Fairport Convention, and over the years it has featured most of the great names in the British folk music scene, such as Lal and Mike Waterson of The Watersons, Maddy Prior, Linda Thompson, Bill Caddick, Martin Carthy, John Kirkpatrick, Brian Protheroe, Martin Simpson and Royston Woods. Hutchings revived The Albion Band in an acoustic format in 2005 and recorded several seasonal albums. The Albion Christmas Band evolved from special seasonal shows by the Albion Band. On a suggestion from Simon Care, a previous Albion band member himself, Ashley ‘The Guv’nor’ Hutchings brought together two other previous Albion Band members to create an autonomous band to present a guided tour through the Christmas customs of Britain. These popular concerts feature a mixture of seasonal carols, spoken word, humorous readings and dance. The show is the antithesis of the ‘Christmas specials’ filling television screens, reminding audiences of the simpler pleasures and values of a traditional Christmas. One for the Road is a live album featuring a performance by the band on their fifteenth anniversary tour last year at London’s prestigious Kings Place, where thy play again on 16 December this year. The selection of songs, tunes and readings from the two hour show capture the atmosphere of the evening’s performance. The Albion Christmas Band includes Simon Nicol on acoustic guitar and vocals, Kellie While (acoustic guitar, vocals and percussion), Simon Care (melodeons), and Ashley Hutchings on bass guitar and vocals.
PEGGY SEEGER - EVERYTHING CHANGES SIGNET MUSIC SMO1
A member of the famous North American musical Seeger family, Peggy Seeger is a singer of traditional Anglo-American songs and a activist songmaker. She plays six instruments: piano, guitar, 5-string banjo, Appalachian dulcimer, autoharp and English concertina and has recorded 23 solo albums as well as participated directly in more than a hundred others. She lived in England for 35 years with the revered singer/songmaker Ewan MacColl and has three children and nine grandchildren. She moved back to the USA in 1994 but returned to England in 2010 and lives in Oxford. Earlier this year, at the age of 79, Peggy Seeger released Everything Changes, which many consider her finest album yet. Remarkably, this is the first time she has worked with co-writers and a band. Highlights include the title track, the lovely Go To Sleep, the unsettling Nero’s Children, the tender We Watch You Slip Away, and Swim To The Star, written to mark the Titanic centenary. Peggy Seeger will embark on two major tours, starting in the US and followed by 15 dates in the UK from June 2015, accompanied on stage by sons Calum and Neill MacColl. On 14th November this year, she will be honoured by the UK music industry with the inaugural ‘Women In Music Award for Creative Inspiration’ at a ceremony in London. This special award, in aid of the Nordoff Robins charity, will be presented to Peggy Seeger by fellow musician and campaigner Billy Bragg. As a songwriter and performer, she has positively relished breaking taboos and going near the knuckle. Songs about life, death, sex, drug addiction and tragedy sit surprisingly comfortably alongside humour and irony. Despite the fact (or perhaps because) she is an older woman in world that doesn’t like its heroines to get old, she continues to innovate and experiment and it is these qualities in particular that make her an especially fitting recipient of the new award. ‘One of the seminal figures of the British folk revival..’- Daily Telegraph.
RICHARD THOMPSON - ACOUSTIC CLASSICS PROPER RECORDS
Declared by Rolling Stone as one of the Top 20 Guitarists Of All Time, Richard Thompson is one of the UK’s most outstanding songwriters, receiving a BBC Lifetime Achievement Award, Mojo’s Les Paul Award, and a Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting by the Americana Music Association. His CD, Electric, released in 2012, marked the fortieth anniversary of his debut solo album, Henry the Human Fly. This latest collection features 14 newly recorded, timeless Richard Thompson songs culled from his 40 plus years in music. The album contains reimagined and refined versions of some of his best work as a songwriter, including I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight, Dimming of the Day, 1952 Vincent Black Lighting and Beeswing. ‘I really wanted to have something that would reflect the acoustic shows,’ he explains, ‘But we didn’t have anything like that. Just some old, slightly scratchy recordings of solo sets that I wasn’t really happy with.’ Richard Thompson’s last proper solo acoustic release was the live Small Town Romance, and that was more than 30 years ago! In the meantime, his acoustic shows have evolved as a full parallel to his band tours and Richard Thompson will be touring the UK solo this summer to display his incomparable guitar playing and great songs performed with undiminished passion.
EMILY SMITH – ECHOES WHITE FALLS RECORDS
Scottish folk singer Emily Smith was born in 1981. She started playing piano aged seven before discovering the accordion and her powerful, clear singing voice. She won BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Music of the Year Award in 2002 and is now one of the leading singers of the contemporary Scottish folk scene. As a songwriter she has been likened to ‘a Scottish Joni Mitchell’. For her fifth solo album, Echoes, Emily Smith returns to her first love of traditional songs, of which she is a passionate collector. Her gift for finding a personal connection in these passed-down, anon-penned words is still at the heart of her craft. But this is a bold new phase in Emily’s music and with it comes what she describes as ‘a new Scottish sound’. Recorded over the space of a year, Echoes expands the core group of musicians with whom she’s previously played by adding a guest list of true greats. Joining multi-instrumentalists Jamie McClennan and Matheu Watson, bassist Ross Hamilton and percussionist Signy Jakobsdottir are Jerry Douglas, Aoife O’Donovan, Kris Drever, Tim Edey, Natalie Haas and Rory Butler. Together they’ve created an album with one foot planted firmly in Emily’s home of Dumfries and Galloway and the other in the unspoiled heartland of Nashville. The music is unshakeably Scottish but with farther, wider horizons. Songs include remembered ballads like the murdery Twa Sisters and the mythical King Orfeo to contemporary as well as less timeless songs such as Bill Caddick’s gorgeous John O’Dreams and beautiful versions of The Final Trawl written by Archie Fisher, one of Scotland's finest singer songwriters, and American veteran Darrell Scott’s The Open Door. Emily Smith’s sweet, lucid voice eases tired ears and lifts the spirits with its simple beauty.
BLAIR DUNLOP - HOUSE OF JACKS ROOKSMERE RECORDS RRCD112P
Actor and musician Blair Dunlop is the son of English folk musician Ashley Hutchings, formerly a member of Fairport Convention and currently of the Rainbow Chasers. Dunlop made his acting debut with an American accent in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), directed by Tim Burton, playing the young Willy Wonka. In 2011 he took over the running of The Albion Band from his father and so far they have released one EP and an album under his leadership. Blair Dunlop’s first full length solo album, Blight and Blossom, was released in 2013 and he won the Horizon Award at that year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Following his debut album’s rapturous reception he played everywhere from major festivals to intimate front rooms...wherever and whenever he found an audience willing to listen. His eagerly awaited second album, House of Jacks, allows him to venture into his wider influences and expand to a more contemporary sound. Still laced with the beautiful crafted songs together with his virtuosic guitar playing the album represents the musical influences that might be expected of a 22 year old digital native. Highlights include the opening anthem for outsiders, Something’s Gonna Give Way, the beautiful Fifty Shades of Blue, the darker, brooding moods of Different Schools and The Ballad of Enzo Laviano, and the exceptional guitar work on Violas Reverie.
MOULETTES - CONSTELLATIONS NAVIGATOR RECORDS NAVIGATOR090PMC
Many Moulettes met and started playing music together when they were in their mid-teens and the band that formed in 2002 in Glastonbury featured Hannah Miller (songwriter, vocals, cello, guitar), Ruth Skipper (vocals, bassoon, auto-harp) and Oliver Austin (drums, guitar, piano, vocals). Current members also now include Ruth Skipper (bassoon, vocals, autoharp, synth), Jim Mortimore (double bass, Guitar, vocals), Eliza Jaye (electric guitar, synth, vocals) and Emma Gatrill (harp, bass clarinet, synth, percussion, vocals). Often incorporating orchestral and progressive elements, their unique style of folk music is original, dynamic and sometimes other-worldly. The band has been on several Best Of The Year lists and won Fatea roots-music Best band of 2012. They have toured extensively and played at many festivals, sharing stages and studios with Seasick Steve, John Paul Jones, The Ting Tings, Mumford and Sons, Band of Skulls, Paul Heaton, The Unthanks, Arthur Brown and many more. This eclectic third studio album was recorded in studios, church buildings, caves and bedrooms in Sussex and Wales, and features guest performances by, among others, the legendary Arthur Brown and Herbie Flowers, as well as contemporaries such as Blaine Harrison, The Unthanks and Emma Richardson. Brighton dub troubadour Faye Houston, dubstep producer Mike Dennis and many of Brighton’s finest players complete a supporting chamber orchestra cast that emphasises the band’s adventurous desire to blend musical styles and experiment with sound. Constellations crosses varied and expansive musical territory over its ten tracks and, as Hannah Miller notes, ‘People can listen to Moulettes and hear Shostakovich, Miles Davis, Pentangle, Pink Floyd, Bjork and Skrillex.’ Highlights include the headrush pop folk of Glorious Year, the pyscho-drama of the title track and the noir trip hop of Lady Vengeance. criss-crossed with stories and imagery, Constellations can accommodate the 20’s belle époque waltz of The Night Is Young, the progressive folk of The Observatory and the death disco dub of album closer Keep It As A Memory whilst remaining a cohesive piece that sparkles with inventiveness and creativity throughout.
CLASSIC CELTIC MUSIC SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS SFW CD 40560
The Celtic music world today includes Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany in France, Asturias and Galicia in Spain, and parts of Atlantic Canada and the United States (as a result of large waves of Scottish, Irish and French immigration to the Americas). This intriguing collection, compiled by music historian, musician, and folklorist Richard Carlin from the rich archives of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The 23 tracks feature early recordings as well as some of the best contemporary interpreters, with styles ranging from Sligo fiddle tunes to Northumbrian piping to sean nós singing. This is an accessible and enjoyable introduction to Celtic music performed with the rich tang of authenticity by artists such as Sligo-born fiddler Kevin Burke, Sarah Makem (mother of Tommy Makem), the wonderful Shirley Collins, Louis Killen and the hugely influential Ewan MacColl. Highlights include the beautiful Border Spirit by piper Billy Pigg, Joe Heaney’s a capella version of the famous Irish ballad Rocks of Bawn, Isla Cameron’s Bushes and Briars (as heard in the film of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd), Lucy Stewart’s Tifty’s Annie (with bird accompaniment), and the irrepressibly jaunty Bonnie Kate / Jenny’s Chickens by French-Canadian fiddler Jean Carignan.
CLASSIC RAILROAD SONGS SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS SFW 40192
Trains are an indelible part of US national culture, inspiring countless stories and featuring in folk songs, blues, jazz, country and gospel music, from The Carrollton March of 1828 (written to commemorate the groundbreaking of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad) to Howlin Wolf’s Smokestack Lightnin’ and Chuck Berry’s Down Bound Train and beyond. In many songs, the train symbolised an American desire for escape. Work songs, ballads and instrumentals have long echoed the once familiar sounds of the steam locomotive, enshrining the railroad in America’s musical memory. The constant movement of people away and towards better or worse situations and the trains that got them there form a large part of this lyrical consciousness. Classic Railroad Songs is a wonderfully evocative CD that opens and closes with live recordings of the powerful sounds of trains in action - on the North Central Railroad in New York and climbing the Cumbres Pass on the Colorado-New Mexico border. The music in between shows how railways influenced the movement, sound and consciousness of musicians from many strands of US folk music. There are 27 tracks by household names like Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, together with songs from lesser known artists such as Annie Watson, L. M. Hilton and the sweet-voiced Rosalie Sorrels. Highlights include Doc Watson’s superb acoustic guitar playing on The Train That Carried My Girl from Town, a delicate version of Kassie Jones by Memphis blues man Furry Lewis, Haywire Mac’s beguiling Jerry, Go Oil That Car, Elizabeth Cotton’s Freight Train, and the joyous Lonesome Train, featuring Sonny Terry, Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston. The accompanying 36-page booklet has an excellent introduction by the collection’s compiler, Jeff Place, as well as photographs and impeccably detailed notes on each track. Highly recommended for all fans of railroads and the rich heritage of American music they inspired.
OYSTERBAND - DIAMONDS ON THE WATER NAVIGATOR RECORDS
British electric folk, folk rock, and folk punk band formed in Canterbury in or around 1976 and with a few changes in lineup along the way has been a vibrant part of the folk scene ever since. The band has made one DVD, 12 studio CDs (not counting compilations, collaborations and live recordings) and played in 35 countries around the world, including concerts in jails, political rallies, festivals and gigs. Ragged Kingdom, Oysterband’s 2011 reunion collaboration with English folk legend June Tabor, was Mojo Folk Album of the Year and won three BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. After two years touring that project, Oysterband has now released a new studio album, Diamonds On The Water - their first collection of original songs in seven years. These are also the first Oysterband recordings since the departure of Ray ‘Chopper’ Cooper to pursue a solo career. The band’s long-time producer, Al Scott, stepped in on bass and mandolin, and, says singer John Jones, ‘with the power and inventiveness of Dil Davies’s drumming, our sound has become simpler and punchier, as it was in the early days.’ Recorded in Brighton, the album features current Oysterband regulars John Jones (melodeon, lead vocals), Alan Prosser (guitars, viola, vocals), Ian Telfer (fiddle, English concertina, vocals) and Dil Davies (drums). Also appearing are Adrian Oxaal, former lead guitarist with the band James and a fine cellist, Rowan Godel, who often sings on John’s ‘walking tours’, Lindsey Oliver on double bass, ex-Oysterband drummer Lee Partis, who added his distinctive high harmonies to a couple of tracks, as well as Pete Davison (trumpet), Eira Owen (French horn) and Sarah Leeves (euphonium). What emerged on these recordings is a feeling of warmth, both musical and personal, that makes the songs come alive. There are superb harmonies, especially on the title track and A Clown’s Heart. Other highlights include Steal Away, the lyrical Lay Down Your Dreams Gently and a modern version of the traditional Once I Had A Sweetheart.
THE APRIL MAZE
Australian alt-folk duo The April Maze release their eponymous debut UK album following a summer of gigs and festivals around the country. With an air of the 70s San Francisco spirit and a cello in tow, the quirky indie darlings - Todd and Sivan - introduced their sweetly endearing folk sound to audiences at festivals including the Purbeck Folk Festival and at venues such as The Troubador. The husband and wife duo joined forces 7 years ago in a shared house in Melbourne then embraced the wandering minstrel natures of their folk forebears, living out of their ‘76 kombi whilst touring throughout Australia and New Zealand and sharing their music. Their musical roamings have seen them play over 850 shows and release three EPs and two albums. The April Maze are distinct from many alt folk bands due to the pure warmth and honesty in their song-writing coupled with distinctive 70s vintage imagery and lack of pretence. Their music touches upon a range of emotions from mellow to upbeat and incorporates both original and cover material, to guide listeners through their unique take on music. Skilfully balanced harmonies gently unfold the narratives, with the soulful richness of Sivan’s voice, reminiscent of Cass Elliot, complemented by Todd’s intense, warm tone. The stripped back acoustic sound of Todd’s guitar and banjo mingles with Sivan’s beautiful cello parts to give the impression of a full orchestral sound while effortlessly creating a relaxed and blissfully happy vibe. This new album features 12 tracks selected from their previous two albums in order to showcase the spirit and talents of a duo who evoke the true essence of folk music. There are two Lennon/McCartney songs and Beatles influence is evident on several other tracks. Winter chronicles the struggles of Todd’s love-lorn brother, and other highlights include the lovely Salt Water and Don’t Let the Bastards Bring You Down, influenced by Sivan’s personal experience of bullying. The April Maze will return to the UK in the spring of 2014 and another new album is set to be released in the summer.
CLASSIC BANJO SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS SFW40209
The banjo is mostly associated with country, folk, Irish traditional and bluegrass music. Simpler forms of the instrument were made by Africans in Colonial America, adapted from African instruments of similar design, such as the kora. The banjo occupied a central place in African American traditional music and became popular in the minstrel shows of the 19th century. Slaves were both influenced by and influenced the early development of the music which would become country and bluegrass and the banjo, with the fiddle, is a mainstay of American old-time music. Beneath the veneer of this ‘bigger than life’ instrument, symbol of deep southern American heritage, is a story of enormous creativity and adaptation to many musical traditions around the world - from Africa, to the Caribbean, to North America, to Europe, and beyond. For Classic Banjo, the latest in the essential Smithsonian Folkways Classic Series, banjo connoisseurs Greg Adams and Jeff Place selected 30 gems of banjo artistry from more than 300 albums in the Folkways collections, offering a gateway into the deep and varied veins of banjo history. Famous names like Pete and Mike Seeger, Doc Watson, Doc Boggs (Bright Sunny South) and Roscoe Holcombe (Black Eye Susie) appear along with less well known artists such as Dink Roberts, Rufus Crisp and Snuffy Jenkins. The excellent accompanying booklet features extensive notes and photos.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOSES ASCH
December 2, 2013, would have been the 108th birthday of Folkways Records founder Moses ‘Moe’ Asch (1905–1986) and to celebrate a quarter century of Smithsonian Folkways you can listen to this glorious year-by-year playlist - one song each from 1988 to 2013 - from the collection of more than 3,000 albums (and growing!). Starting with the first Smithsonian Folkways release, ‘Musics of the Soviet Union’ in 1988, followed by a Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly collection a year later, Smithsonian Folkways has furthered Asch’s mission of presenting ‘the people’s music’ from around the world.
THE FALLOWS - LIONS & KINGS REAL RECORDS
This new album by Coventry based indie-folk band The Fallows blends Celtic folk, rock and pop, and with the gravelly quality of Ross Darby’s voice recounting tales of life, love and folk traditions set to a background of impressive instrumentalism. Formed in 2010 as a duo of Darby, on vocals and guitar, and Pete Rutherford, on keys and guitar, the band soon recruited Sam Stokes on bass and Neal Pointon on fiddle, recently completing their line-up with Ciaran Corkerry on drums to give a renewed energy to the music. The opening title track on Liars & Kings showcases Pointon’s fiddle skills and Corkerry’s drumming in a mix of style that sets a new direction for The Fallows sound. Lead single Run Like A Dog is one of the softer tracks, with delicate guitar work alongside the dynamic banjo breakdown, driving drums and Pete Rutherford’s rich vocal. Darby draws on his family’s roots in Cast The First Stone with it’s classic celtic rock sound and I’ll Let You Know is much more reminiscent of the band’s early sound with the rolling guitar and skiffle sound flanking big choruses and the driving melodic bass line. The Fallows have gained a growing reputation across the UK and Ireland for their invigorating performances at festivals and venues up and down the country, including headline slots at the Godiva festival in their hometown of Coventry. This new album energetic music combined with a romantic sensibility and respect for traditional folk forms is sure to win the band more fans.
EMERALD RAE - IF ONLY I COULD FLY
This is the debut album by young Boston roots musician and virtuoso fiddler Emerald Rae. Growing up with parents in a country-rock band, the young Rae was greatly influenced by the hard-driving rhythms of Cape Breton and Scottish traditions. At 18, she was awarded the grand prize at the US Scottish Fiddle Championships then studied musicology in Glasgow and the Berklee College of Music. As well as collaborating with fellow fiddlers Flynn Cohen, Liz Simmons and Mariel Vandersteel in the popular folk group Annalivia, she toured with the Cathie Ryan Band and made a name for herself as a solo fiddler. All these influences can be heard on If Only I Could Fly, including the deep buzzing drones of the ancient medieval Welsh fiddle the crwth (pronounced ‘krooth’), an unusual instrument played by only a small number of people today. Another new sound on the album Emerald Rae’s blending of new world Americana with old word Celtic influences, bringing her music back to America’s Southern mountains, as the Scots-Irish brought their music to Appalachia in the first place. If Only I Could Fly also introduces the talented Rae as a singer/songwriter, with original songs like the rough-and-tumble Sweet Arrest, the percussive, fiddle-driven Summer Time Will Come. This is adventurous, eclectic music with brilliant instrumentals like Fire Fly together and intimate songs such as her beautiful version of the traditional Truly Understand. Highly recommended.
CARA LUFT - DARLINGFORD BLUE CASE TUNES BCTCD349
Canadian singer-songwriter Cara Luft, one of the founding members of the Wailin’ Jennys, was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, before moving to Winnipeg, Manitoba to pursue her music career. She started playing dulcimer and singing at the age of four and began her guitar self-studies aged 11. She now has a developed understanding of alternate tunings, numerous finger and flat-picking techniques including claw hammer banjo. Her writing and playing styles are influenced by Led Zeppelin and 80’s pop music, as well as church and folk music. Her second solo album, following the acclaimed ‘The Light Fantastic’, was recorded on location in a chapel in the Foothills of Alberta, in several old churches on the Canadian Prairies, and in living rooms, hotel rooms and studios across Canada, the United Kingdom and the USA. It features Cara Luft’s unique guitar style with the help of an impressive cast of 20 guest musicians such as Andrew Downing, Mark Mariash, Andrew Collins, Liverpudlian guitarist and pedal steel player Scott Poley, Damon Mitchell and Tim O’Brien. Continuous touring has helped build Cara Luft a dedicated and ever growing following, especially in UK, and this new album is sure to please her fans. Among the highly personal love songs are the devastating Only Love Can Save Me, House On Fire and Off My Mind. Traditional songs include The Ploughboy And The Cockney, originally dating from the 17th Century, and a unique arrangement of He Moved Through The Fair featuring the tones of a hurdy-gurdy. Other highlights include the funky Idaho and a live bonus track, Charged!, performed before a rowdy audience. Mike Scott’s Leonard Cohen-esque Bring ’Em All In is a beautiful meditation and Portland Town a simple yet powerful powerful Korean War protest song by Derroll Adams. Highly recommended.
STEPH CASEY - WHISPER & HOLLER RHYTHMETHOD SC001
Steph Casey is a singer/songwriter from Wellington, New Zealand, who picked up a guitar at age eleven and started writing songs. Her music is influenced by where she lives, overlooking the sea and the mountains, and her songs are described as honest and accessible, lingering in your head long after listening. Her affecting, soulful voice is accompanied by acoustic guitar peppered with catchy riffs. On her debut album, Whisper & Holler, Steph Casey sings, plays acoustic and electric guitars, joined by a n excellent band of musicians - Tom Callwood on bass, Craig Terris on drums and Stewart Pedley on mandolin, lap steel, banjo and a bevy of other stringed instruments. Some tracks also feature Janet Holboro (cello), Sharon Callaghan (viola), and Ryan Prebble and James Coyle (percussion & key). Kapiti musician and songwriter Ryan Edwards, whose voice is a perfect match with Casey’s, contributes backing vocals on an album awash with sumptuous harmonies. But Casey casts her net wider than her home shores and the album features collaborations with American singer-songwriter Gary Sunshine, formerly guitarist and songwriter for NYC hard rock band Circus of Power. The interplay of the rough and the smooth creates something special on their two tracks together - My Lovely Letterbox and A Love to Stay in For. Other highlights, often inspired by the ups and downs of falling in love, include the brilliant title track, a charmingly reflective Nice To Almost Know You (plus an alternative version to round off the album), Streets Round My Home (the world needs more whistling), and Kapiti - as warm and summery as a day at the beach.
BBC FOLK AWARDS 2013 PROPER RECORDS PROPERFOLK14
The BBC’s Radio 2 Folk Awards have become a much anticipated annual event in the folk world, with previous years seeing great performances by performers such as James Taylor, Nanci Griffith, The Dubliners, Oysterband and June Tabor, Martin Simpson and many more. This new 3-CD compilation features nominees for these awards in 2013. They include Bellowhead and The Unthanks (Best Group), Karine Polwart and Nic Jones (Folk Singer of the Year), Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman (Best Duo), ‘Broadside’ by Bellowhead and ‘Traces’ by Karine Polwart (Best Album), and Ross Ainslie and Kathryn Tickell (Musician of the Year). A bonus disc features the 10 semi-finalists in the BBC Young Folk Awards, including Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar, Luke Jackson and The Crosstown Trio, making this release the most comprehensive collection of the current favourite, rising and, as yet, unsung stars of the folk world. This year, for the first time, the Folk Awards took place in Glasgow during the Celtic Connections festival. The event was broadcast live on BBC Radio 2 and streamed via the BBC Red Button service on 30 January 2013 and performances and highlights will be available for 30 days at bbc.co.uk/radio2 and at selected times for 7 days by pressing the Red Button from any BBC TV channel.
HEIDI TALBOT - ANGELS WITHOUT WINGS NAVIGATOR RECORDS
Irish folk singer Heidi Talbot was born in rural County Kildare. When she was 18, she moved to New York, where she spent two years working in bars and clubs before being invited to join Irish-American supergroup Cherish the Ladies in 2002. In between the band’s touring schedule, she developed her solo work, releasing the albums Distant Future and In Love and Light to rave reviews, which coincided with her decision to leave Cherish the Ladies at the end of 2007. After the launch of In Love and Light at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival in 2008, she featured as a guest on albums by Radiohead drummer Philip Selway and the new trio collaboration of Scottish folk musician John McCusker, Kris Drever and Roddy Woomble. She lives in Edinburgh with John McCusker, now her husband, and tours as a trio with him and Boo Hewerdine. Heidi’s new CD, Angels Without Wings, features original songs inspired by the world of traditional folk music, with guest contributions from artists as diverse as Mark Knopfler, Jerry Douglas, King Creosote, Julie Fowlis, Karine Polwart and Tim O’Brien. Subtlety is Talbot’s magic ingredient, from her gossamer voice to the delicate re-working of traditional and contemporary material, as she slips effortlessly between musical worlds but retains a personal modesty rooted in traditional folk. ‘A voice that’s both awestruck and tender.’ - New York Times. Listen to the forthcoming single ‘Will I Ever Get To Sleep?’ (out March 18th).
GET MOVING WITH ELLA JENKINS SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS SFW45073
Folk singer Ella Jenkins was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1924 and grew up in the south side of Chicago, where she learned children’s rhythms, rhymes and games and listened to blues and gospel music. She became interested in the music of other cultures through her Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican friends and after graduating from San Francisco State University she began writing songs for children. In 1956 she became a full-time children’s musician, touring school assemblies in the United States and sometimes encountering racial discrimination. Moses Asch, founder of Folkways Records, recorded her first album in 1957 and Ella Jenkins has since made 30 more albums, travelling extensively to perform her songs on all seven continents (even Antarctica). In 2004 she was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and has been dubbed ‘The First Lady of the Children’s Folk Song’ by the Wisconsin State Journal. This latest album showcases the best of her recordings that incorporate movement and play, demonstrating this legendary performer’s genius as both a music educator and a superb children’s entertainer.
RICHARD THOMPSON - ELECTRIC PROPER RECORDS
This album was recorded in 2012 to mark the fortieth anniversary of Richard Thompson’s debut solo album, Henry the Human Fly. Thompson turned to Buddy Miller to produce, recording at Miller’s home studio in Nashville, Tennessee. Miller, himself renowned for his guitar skills, recently told Rolling Stone: ‘I played along on the record, playing rhythm guitar for him, and I got a two-week guitar lesson while he camped out in my house.’ The album was recorded with Thompson, drummer Michael Jerome and bassist Taras Prodaniuk, who both sing background vocals. Guests include the legendary Alison Krauss who accompanies on The Snow Goose, English singer-songwriter Siobhan Maher Kennedy, and fiddle great Stuart Duncan - one of America’s leading bluegrass musicians. With direct lyrics and superb guitar work, these songs of experience reflect Thompson’s country, folk and rock influences. Highlights include the heartfelt Salford Sunday, an assertive Stuck on the Treadmill, the brilliant Another Small Thing In her Favour, and Saving The Good Stuff For You. This Electric Trio will be taking to the road for a major UK tour from Wednesday February 20th and will tour the USA starting in March. Listen to the single, ‘Good Things Happen To Bad People’.
MARY DILLON - NORTH BLACK LANE RECORDS BLANECD003
Acclaimed folk singer Mary Dillon from Derry in Ireland was formerly lead singer in the well-known 90s folk band Déanta. Her sweet, beguiling voice could be heard on the original 2003 demo recording of the song ‘John Condon’ and this touching account of a fourteen-year-old boy’s role in the First World War subsequently became a modern folk classic. The song was released on November 11th last year to coincide with Remembrance Sunday and is also included on her debut album North, which arrives after a 15 year break for her from the music scene. As well as Mary, this acoustic collection of Irish folk songs old and new features contributions from an array of talented traditional musicians, including her sister Cara Dillon, composer Neil Martin, and Eamon McElholm (Solas). As well as ancient traditional songs, the album includes recent compositions, such as her own accomplished song, The Boatman. ‘Like many other songwriters I like to write about what really matters to me: life experiences, people, places. Some emotions are best expressed through song, and so it can be a cathartic process.’ Other highlights include When A Man’s In Love, Ballyronan Maid, The Banks of Claudy, the lovely Edward On Lough Erne Shore, Bleacher Boy, the heartache of Knocknashee, The Month of January and the haunting a capella Ard Ti Chuain. Listen to ‘John Condon’. ‘Ard Tí Chuain had a captivating melody. The melody is an ancient Irish air, and the lyrics were written by Gaeilic poet Séan Mac Ambrois in the 19th Century. If ever a song had soul, it is this one.’ - Mary Dillon.
From January 2013, the venerable and redoubtable Topic Records (now 74 years old) will be making available another of its ‘gifts to the nation’, in the form of The Great Big Digital Archive Project. Thereafter, a programme of between six and ten additional titles will be released every month throughout the year -one of the largest digital projects of its kind undertaken by an independent record company anywhere in the world. Topic has always had the underlying philosophy of making traditional based music as widely available as possible. The ambition of the label is now to make as much of its vast historical catalogue available using the current format – digital. What makes this project distinctive is that at the moment, digital delivery all too often divorces the audio recording from all artwork, documentation and sleeve-notes. The plan at Topic is to restore and include all of the information that accompanied the original releases of the past. In January 2013, 84 of these albums will be available to download complete with digital booklets, available from the Topic website as well as iTunes. There will also be a short YouTube film explaining the project in detail and the content of specific digital booklets. The first tranche of digital releases will include albums originally released on vinyl LP in the late 1950s, the 60s, 70s and 80s. Many have been out of print for twenty years or more and include titles championed by John Peel and other influential broadcasters.
ELIZABETH MITCHELL - BLUE CLOUDS SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS SFW45065
In the land of Blue Clouds, anything can happen. The pure, beautiful voice of children’s music favourite Elizabeth Mitchell weaves lovely musical landscapes that embrace the listener with sound in a celebration of family, imagination and love. Her extended family band, You Are My Flower, includes daughter Storey and husband Daniel Littleton, and together on Blue Clouds they bring clarity and beauty to a surprising range of songs, including covers of the Allman Brothers, David Bowie (Kooks), Jimi Hendrix, Ella Jenkins, Van Morrison (Everyone) and Bill Withers. Acoustic guitars, harmoniums, banjos, pianos, fiddles, glockenspiels, gentle drums and bass help create a unique sound and highlights include the charming Arm in Arm, traditional songs such Froggie Went A’Courtin’ (watch video), Hendrix’s delicate May This Be Love (with fine guitar work by Daniel Littleton) and the dreamy lullaby that is the title track. These are delightful performances of music that takes the listener to longed-for happier place. The 32 page booklet features notes feature beautiful illustrations by the late Remy Charlip as well as an introductory essay by author Brian Selznick. Highly recommended. New York born Elizabeth Mitchell has been recording and performing music for children since 1998 and was the first new children’s music artist signed to Smithsonian Folkways Recordings in the 21st century. Her seven albums also include SUNNY DAY (Smithsonian Folkways SFW45064), another family affair featuring performances with Mitchell’s husband and musical partnerLittle Seed, Daniel Littleton, their nine-year-old daughter Storey and Storey’s cousins and friends. Guest performers include Levon Helm, Dan Zanes, Jon Langford (Mekons), and the Children of Agape Choir of South Africa, playing a wide range of music from traditional American folk songs, to Japanese and Korean nursery songs, as well as fresh arrangements of popular songs such as Chuck Berry’s School Days and Bill Withers’ Lovely Day. Sunny music indeed. LITTLE SEED (Smithsonian Folkways SFW45072) features music by the great Woody Guthrie. He wrote these simple yet profound songs for his young children and they remind us of how the loving bonds between parent and child endure and are strengthened through music. Elizabeth Mitchell and family perform imaginative versions of Guthrie classics such as Riding In My Car, This Land Is Your Land, Little Sugar and the album’s gorgeous title track. Little Seed: Songs For Children By Woody Guthrie, has been nominated for Best Children’s Album at the 55th GRAMMY Awards! Smithsonian Folkways has received five nominations in all (full details here) and the winners will be announced on February 10, 2013.
MARTIN SIMPSON - RIGHTEOUSNESS & HUMIDITY TOPIC TSCD540
This latest album by guitar virtuoso Martin Simpson was mostly recorded in New Orleans and uniquely combines British folk music with blues and ballads from the American South. As well as acoustic guitar, Simpson plays ukulele, electric guitar, lap-steel, percussion, 5-string banjo and stunning slide guitar. He also sings with sensitivity and writes great tunes, many of which can be heard here along with his arrangements of traditional songs. Highlights include a moving version of Blind Willie Johnson’s I Can’t Keep from Crying (singing with his wife, Jessica Simpson), John Hardy, the traditional ballad Georgie, the delicate instrumental Horn Island, a rousing Rollin’ and Tumblin’ and Wild Bill Jones (with its spooky thunderstorm conclusion). Among the fine accompanying musicians are Steeleye Span’s Rick Kemp (electric bass, percussion), Carl Budo (drums), Amassa Miller (organ), Dave Malone (electric guitar) and Mike Skinkus (percussion). The songs have all clearly been chosen with love and care and are superbly recorded, making this a worthy follow-up to Simpson’s award-winning Bramble Briar. ‘The nearest thing this country has to Ry Cooder’ - The Big Issue.
KATHRYN ROBERTS & SEAN LAKEMAN - HIDDEN PEOPLE NAVIGATOR RECORDS 072
‘Hidden People’ is an apt title for the long-anticipated debut CD from husband-and-wife duo Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman. They have been lynchpins of the UK’s burgeoning folk-acoustic revival over the last two decades working with other artists, but are now winning critical praise in their own right. This bold and superbly-crafted album includes eight self-penned songs, one traditional arrangement (the bawdy tale of the Cuckoo’s nest) and a poignant cover version of Don McGlashan’s Jackie's song. Other highlights include the touching Ballad of Andy Jacobs, Kathryn’s reflection on the miners strike of her childhood, a chilling Hang the Rowan, and the mysterious Money or Jewels. With Kathryn Roberts’ sublime voice and effortless delivery, Sean’s superb guitar arrangements and the seductive sonic quality of the production, this CD is one the most eagerly awaited modern folk albums of the year. The esteem in which they are held is reflected in the list of artists who queued up to make a contribution: Sean’s famous brother Seth Lakeman; the award-winning Irish singer Cara Dillon (married to another brother, musician and producer Sam Lakeman); Levellers’ lead singer Mark Chadwick; veteran folk troubadour Dave Burland, singer-songwriter Jim Moray, Megson’s Stu Hanna, Caroline Herring from the USA and Greta Bondesson from Sweden’s sister trio Baskery. Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman are on tour throughout the UK in November, including Wolverhampton’s Newhampton Arts Centre on November 10th.
MARY BLACK - STORIES FROM THE STEEPLES BLIX STREET RECORDS
Singer Mary Black was born in 1955 in Dublin into a musical family - her father was a fiddler, her mother a singer, and her brothers had their own musical group called The Black Brothers. Her younger sister Frances would achieve great success as a singer in the 90s and Mary began singing traditional Irish songs at the age of eight, later performing with her brothers in small clubs around Dublin and joining a folk band called General Humbert. She developed a professional relationship with musician/producer Declan Sinnott and recorded her first solo album, Mary Black in the 1980s, following this with a series of hugely successful recordings that took her in a more contemporary musical direction, including the ground-breaking No Frontiers. She also recorded with Joan Baez (Ring Them Bells) and Steve Martin (The Crow). Stories From The Steeples is Mary Black’s first studio album for six years and features the single Marguerite And The Gambler along with three duets with Imelda May (the gorgeous ‘Mountains to the Sea’), Finbar Furey and Janis Ian. Black is known for her commitment to original material by Irish songwriters and this latest release is no exception as it features three songs by Danny O’Reilly. Mary Black’s pure, ethereal voice has been a dominant presence in Irish music, both at home and abroad, for more than 25 years, and Stories From The Steeples is sure to be welcomed by her many fans. Mary Black's new single, ‘The Night Is on Our Side’, taken from this album, is due for release on 2nd July 2012. Her first UK tour in six years begins at London’s Union Chapel on June 6th then travels to Birmingham and Gateshead before the final show at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester on June 9th. www.mary-black.net
CATHY JORDAN - ALL THE WAY HOME BLIX STREET RECORDS
Cathy Jordan, long time member of award winning traditional Irish band Dervish, launched her debut solo album at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections Festival with her first ever performance as a solo artist. All The Way Home, some twenty years in the making, features many of the most notable names in the folk world, both at home in Ireland and abroad. Produced in Sweden by long time collaborator Roger Tallroth, the tracks include traditional ballads she would have performed with family and friends when growing up in Scramoge, County Roscommom, as the youngest of seven children. Jordan reintroduces songs such as The Banks of the Foyle, Ould Ballymoe, the gorgeous River Field Waltz, tender Eileen McMahon, The Bold Fenian Men and The Lark in the Clear Air to a new generation with vibrant and contemporary arrangements that retain traditional methods of performance. To achieve this she worked with excellent musicians such as Roger Tallroth (guitars), Gustaf Ljunggren (lap steel/banjo/piano) and Lars Andreas Haug (tuba), Ireland’s Andy Irvine and singer song-writer Eddi Reader with whom she duets on Eileen McMahon. Others featured include Michael McGoldrick on uileann pipes, Rick Epping on concertina and harmonica, Seamie O’Dowd on fiddle and Liam Kelly on flute. All The Way Home also has four of Cathy Jordan’s own songs, including The Road I Go. Co-written with Brendan Graham, this tells the story of the restlessness of youth, of a young person bored with the familiar surroundings and experiences of home and longing to see the world. The title track tells the opposite story, of finally realizing that ‘home’ is where the heart belongs. All The Way Home – by turns mellow and exuberant - is an assured album by arguably Ireland’s finest female traditional singer.
BELLOWHEAD – BURLESQUE WEST PARK MUSIC CD 87132
Burlesque is the long-awaited debut CD from Bellowhead, an exciting 11-piece band who won the BBC Radio 2 folk award for Best Live Act in 2005. The band’s first gig at the first Oxford festival in April 2004 was a great success and the band has continued to acquire an enthusiastic following with their dynamic live performances around the country. Their music is traditional but arranged an played in a unique way with a classy lineup that includes John Spiers, Jon Boden, Benji Kirkpatrick, Paul Sartin, Rachael McShane and Giles Lewin, together with the percussion of Pete Flood and the brass quartet of Andy Mellon, Gideon Juckes, Justin Thurgur and Brendan Kelly. Burlesque features 13 songs and tunes, with highlights that include Rigs Of The Time (dating from the time of Napoleonic Wars), the American minstrel song Jordan, stirring sea-shanties such as Across The Line and Fire Marengo, the irresistible Hopkinson’s Favourite and and Frog’s Legs & Dragon’s Teeth, and the traditional East Anglian step Sloe Gin. Charismatic lead singer, Jon Boden, holds it all together brilliantly as the band moves effortlessly between rousing instrumental virtuosity and slower songs such as Courting Too Slow. Traditional music is transformed into something new by arrangements that are decidedly adventurous. Occasionally, as with Flash Company, the performance verges on the eccentric but overall this is an album that will add to the band’s growing army of fans.
HEDY WEST - BALLADS & SONGS FROM THE APPALACHIANS FELLSIDE FECD241
Hedy West, along with others such as Joan Baez and Judy Collins, was part of the influential American folk music revival of the 1960s. She was born in the mountains of northern Georgia in 1938 and her father was a coal mine union organizer in the 1930s who also ran the Appalachian South Folklife Center in Pipestem, West Virginia. Many of Hedy’s songs, including the famous 500 Miles, came from her paternal grandmother, Lily West, who passed on the songs she had learned as a child. She played both the guitar and the banjo clawhammer style with a unique three finger picking style and her working-class mountain roots were evident in her voice and ran through everything she sang, giving life and meaning to her laments for beaten-down factory girls and knocked-up servant girls. Hedy West lived in England for a few years, establishing herself of the European scene and recording three LPs for the Topic label. All three are contained here on this invaluable double CD. Accompanied by her 5-string banjo she sings classic ‘big’ ballads like ‘Little Matty Groves’ as well as charming lightweight ditties, displaying the consummate skill that have earned her a cult following. The Fellside label is to be congratulated for promoting this much loved but neglected artist, described by A L Lloyd as ‘far and away the best of American girl singers in the folk revival’.
A L LLOYD - BRAMBLE BRIARS AND BEAMS OF THE SUN FELLSIDE FECD240
Born in London in 1908, folk singer and collector of folk songs Albert Lancaster (Bert) Lloyd was a key figure in the folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s. Orphaned at an early age, he spent his early years working on sheep stations in Australia and on Antartic whaling ships. Both these occupations stirred his interest in folk-song, and although he had no formal training he built up a formidable personal knowledge of the folk-songs in the British Isles and eastern Europe. He combined a career in journalism, teaching and broadcasting with life as a folk performer and also published several definitive books on English folk singing. His spirited performances of traditional songs were captured on over 100 albums recorded in Australia, America and England. A handsomely packaged double CD for the price of one collection of traditional ballads sung by one of the leading exponents of the genre. Along with Ewan MacColl, Bert Lloyd was one of the architects of the UK Folk Revival in the 1950s, inpiring musicians including Martin Carthy, The Watersons, Frankie Armstrong, Roy Harris and many others. In the early 1950s Lloyd set about recording English versions of the great Folk Ballads to be found in Francis J Child’s five volume monumental work ‘English & Scottish Popular Ballads’. The result was a multi-LP set which was never released in the UK. Now the complete set of recordings features on this handsomely packaged double CD collection with an extended booklet written by Dr Vic Gammon which gives a fascinating insight to the ballads and Lloyd’s singing of them. Despite its seemingly scholarly approach Lloyd’s obvious enjoyment and the relish with which he sings these songs make it a highly listenable set.
ELIZA CARTHY - NEPTUNE HEMHEM RECORDS HHR001CDP
Eliza Carthy was born in 1975 into English folk music royalty as the daughter of singer/guitarist Martin Carthy and singer Norma Waterson. At the age of thirteen Eliza formed the Waterdaughters with her mother, aunt (Lal Waterson) and cousin Maria Knight, and sh has subsequently worked with Nancy Kerr, with her parents as Waterson:Carthy and as part of the ‘supergroup’ Blue Murder, in addition to her own solo work. Twice nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, she swept the board at the 2003 Radio 2 Folk Awards, winning Folk Singer of the Year, Best Album (for Anglicana) and Best Traditional Track (for Worcester City). She was also the first traditional English musician to be nominated for a BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music in the same year. She co-produced her latest album, Neptune, in Edinburgh with Dave Wah and it’s the first record to be released through her own label, HemHem Records. Displaying Carthy’s trademark eclectic flair, lush vocals and consummate musicianship, Neptune is not exclusively about personal experience but, in the manner of many of the finest quintessentially English songwriters, also brims with poignant and quirky observations on British life. Highlights include the stomping opening track Blood On My Boots, the beautiful Write a Letter, the suytry Romeo, the spitited Britain is a Car Park (featuring The Oak and the Ash), the refelective Revolution, and the tender ballad Thursday. Eliza Carthy has moved some way from her folk roots with this collection of songs, many of them Kurt Weill influenced, but the album shows her to be a commendably adventurous artist as well as a gifted songwriter, with a sexy, assured voice that suggests late nights and the wisdom of experience.
KILA - SOISIN KILA RECORDS KRCD014
Soisín is the ninth studio album from traditional/fusion band Kíla. Portraying a softer side to the band, the album is entirely instrumental and features violin, saw, guitar, mandolin, flute, uilleann pipes, double bass and percussion. The music is slow and restful, sometimes melancholy, making it quite a change for a group better known for their up tempo live performances. Following the release of Luna Park in 2003, Kíla wanted to record a yin and yang of albums. Gamblers’ Ballet released in 2007, which was the yang the dancing music, and this is its matching counterpart, the yin, and the spiritual. Soisín shows both the exceptional musicianship of each of the band members and that Kila are very much connected to the invisible thread that ties generations of Irish musicians together. Soisín is named after, and dedicated to a young Irish woman, Máire ‘Soishin’ O’Halloran, who travelled to Japan to join a Zen Buddhist monastery and in three short years came to be regarded as a Buddhist Bodhisattva or a saint of compassion. She lost her life in a bus accident in Thailand on her way back home. While touring in Japan, Kíla flautist, Colm Ó Snodaigh heard and was inspired by her story. He wrote the tune Soisín, which, in turn became the name for this album of relaxing, soulful and reflective music.
SIGNE TOLLEFSEN CORAZONG CRZ 255120
Signe Tollefsen’s grew up in Utrecht in the Netherlands as the child of an American father and a Dutch mother. She started to sing at the age of seven and composed her first songs on guitar at fourteen, inspired by artists such as Janis Joplin, Ani DiFranco and Paul Simon. At fifteen, she moved to the UK to finish high school and studied classical singing at the Royal Northern College of Music before going on to study philosophy at the University of Hull, when she started singing her own songs in public. After returning the Netherlands, she took classes at the Amsterdam Conservatory with René van Barneveld and played with former Pavement member Stephen Malkmus in Italy and Germany. She also toured the UK and won the audience prize and the prize for best musician at the Grolsch Grote Prijs van Nederland, Holland’s most prestigious new talent competition for alternative music, in the category singer/songwriter. Her voice has an amazing range and richness and the unique, self-penned songs on this highly promising debut album combine classical, folk and rock music influences to create what has been called ‘Folk Noir’. Fellow musicians here include René van Barneveld, playing beautiful pedal steel guitar on It Smells of You, violinists Joseph King and Jerry Goodman, and producer Erik Spanjers on drums.
THREE SCORE & TEN TOPIC RECORDS
In 2009, Topic Records celebrates its 70th anniversary, making it the oldest, truly independent record company in the world. Topic’s illustrious history is splendidly celebrated with this sumptuous seven CD set complete with a 108 page book, charting seven decades of recording and social history. The label started as an off-shoot of the Workers Music Association in 1939 and since then has released a unique and important array of recordings: from Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger, Vanessa Redgrave and Ewan McColl, to Nic Jones, Shirley Collins, Dick Gaughan, Martin Carthy, The Watersons, June Tabor, John Tams and Martin Simpson, to the current generation, including the multi award-winning Eliza Carthy. Topic has also been responsible for releasing acclaimed field recordings from around the globe, most significantly in the UK, where the ground-breaking 20 CD ‘Voice of the People’ set received critical and popular acclaim when released the label’s 60th birthday. Curated, researched, written and produced by David Suff, Three Score & Ten - A Voice to the People features 144 tracks covering all aspects of Topic’s recording history, in a large hardback book with a narrative portrait of Topic Records from it’s inception to the present day. The many illustrations are a revelation in themselves, anchoring the whole project with photos of the artists, album sleeves, advertising leaflets, snapshots and memorabilia in full colour. Also included is a complete discography listing every release in those 70 years. Three Score & Ten comprehensively chronicles the story a dynamic, creative and idiosyncratic label that has become synonymous with the rebirth of folk and it’s growth as a musical and social movement in Britain.
BLUE BOY - RON SEXSMITH COOKING VINYL COOKCD 214.
The songs of acclaimed Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith have been covered by artists ranging from Rod Stewart to the opera singer Anne Sophie Van Otter. He conjures up more intriguing images and characters on this his latest CD, produced by Steve Earle in Nashville, Tennessee. It feature a rockier, more upbeat sound sound than usual, especially on tracks such as 'Not Too Big', 'Don't Ask Why' and 'Keep It In Mind'. Other outstanding songs include the reggae-influenced 'Never Been Done', the dark 'Parable', a hymn-like ‘Thirsty Love' and the bluesy 'Not Too Big'. Blue Boy has the sort of fine writing and outstanding melodies expected from Ron Sexsmith and its live ambience reveals another side of this much-admired singer.
ENGLAND, HALF ENGLISH - BILLY BRAGG COOKING VINYL COOKCD 222.
Billy Bragg, as ever, stays true to himself with this fine collection of brave, reflective songs performed by himself and The Blokes (who include Ben Mandelson, Lu Edmonds, Martyn barker, Simon Edwards and the excellent Ian Mclagan on keyboards). The music ranges from gritty folk-protest (NPWA, Take Down the Union Jack), through more upbeat songs (such as the title track, England, Half-English) to introspective and soulful compositions (Some Days I See The Point). The lyrics are full of wit and intelligence, and the performances throughout are assured and powerful. This is a CD that rewards repeated listening.
LOU BROWN - WHAT ARE YOU SINGING ABOUT?
Dorset-based singer-songwriter Lou Brown is making an increasing impact on the national acoustic scene. Having first picked up a guitar at age nine, she has now been playing and creating original material for over 20 years. Her use of multiple capo placings (partial and regular) create unique altered tunings that give her songs an original and quirky quality. This combined with a wonderfully husky yet clear vocal range make her music a force to be reckoned with. In 2003 Lou Brown was awarded the Southwest’s Young Achiever of the Year Award and subsequently won a £5000 grant from the Prince’s Trust to fund her first major album project. ‘What are you singing about?’ features eleven self-crafted songs and the music is a winning fusion of acoustic, folk and pop. Lou Brown sings and plays rhythm guitar, accompanied by Bob Burke (guitar, bass, mandolin, keyboards, vocals, production), Andy Stone (guitar, production), Lee Drayson (bass), Gav Jones (drums, percussion) and Aimee Newsome Stone (harmony vocals). Highlights include the excellent opening track, Morning Light, as well as the beautiful harmonies of A Scenic View, the charming Isn’t She amazing and the album’s catchy title song. Website: www.loubrownmusic.com
CLANNAD - BEGINNINGS MUSIC CLUB DELUXE MCDLX095
The music of Clannad (Moya, Pól, and Ciarán Brennan and their twin uncles Noel and Padraig Duggan) brings together folk with folk rock, Irish and New Age sounds. The group first made its mark in the Irish traditional folk scene of the 1970s and went on to bridge the gap between Celtic and pop music in the 1980s and 90s with albums such as Macalla and Anam, performing in English as well as Latin, Gàidhlig, Mohican and their native Irish, selling more than 15 million albums. Before signing for RCA and finding success with TV-related projects for Harry’s Game and Robin Of Sherwood, Clannad built up a solid reputation with a series of Irish folk albums, from which the 31 recordings on this mid-price double-CD set are taken. The emphasis is on traditional songs performed in Gaelic and there are six tracks from the album which introduced the world to their young sister and future solo star Enya, namely Mhorag’s Na Horo Gheallaidh, Bruach Na Carraige Báine, Na Buachailli A’lainn, Buaireadh An Phósta, An túll and The Green Fields Of Gaothdobhar. Enya went on to become Ireland’s second biggest musical export (after U2) and has now sold in excess of 70 million albums. This is a fine collection to enjoy while waiting for Clannad to reunite - the original members last played together in public at the 2007 Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow.
TOSS THE FEATHERS TESS RECORDS TR0901
Toss the Feathers is a popular traditional Irish folk tune that has usually been played with a tin whistle and fiddle and has existed in several variations, each in a different key. The tune has appeared in over 200 modern compilations, including versions by The Chieftains and The Corrs. It also opens this collection of arrangements of traditional Irish music, together with a few self-composed pieces. The album is the culmination of a long-standing partnership between the violinist Dermot Crehan and the composer/arranger Paul Honey. After working together for many years, performing and producing music for other people, they embarked on this project to create music that is contemporary yet true to the original melodies and the period in which they were created. The result are pieces that move away from the bland sentimentality of so many arrangements of Irish music and instead explore the darker, more melancholic and profound nature of the music. All the pieces are scored for strings, three horns, harp and piano and encompass a broad range of themes from religious persecution to death, from sex to forgiveness and reconciliation. Crehan and Honey are joined by four highly respected exponents of Irish music; the vocalist Mick Sands, accordionist Luke Daniels, flautist Fiona Kelly, and Jean Kelly playing harp. The RTE Concert Orchestra is conducted by Gearoid Grant. The premiere performance of the music at the Church of St Martin In The Fields in 2007 received a standing ovation and the CD was launched there at this year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Highlights include the title track, Craith Na Cleita (Toss The Feathers), the lovely Tabhair Domh Do Laimh (Give Me Your Hand), The Wild Geese, The Rose In The Heather/The Pipe On The Hob, and the plaintive Death Of Staker Wallace.
JON BODEN - SONGS FROM THE FLOODPLAIN NAVIGATOR 21
Acclaimed for his work with the traditional Spiers & Boden duo and as founder of the wonderful Bellowhead, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jon Boden has now released his most ambitious album yet. He was born in Chicago in 1977, grew up in Winchester, graduated in Mediaeval Studies from Durham University and since becoming a parent, has since settled in the South Yorkshire dales. He has toured internationally with Bellowhead, who were recently appointed Band in Residence at London’s South Bank Centre, and has composed several theatre scores, including for The Merchant of Venice at the RSC and Hamlet at The Globe. As with his 2006 debut, Painted Lady, Songs From The Floodplain is another return to the singer’s rock roots. It follows in a long tradition of post-apocalyptic literature, from The Last Man by Mary Shelley to The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and although the album doesn’t tell a complete story there are strong thematic links between all the songs. The ambiguous character of ‘The Preacher’ looms large in the darker numbers (Penny For The Preacher, Dancing in the Factory) whilst the character of The Gypsy’s Daughter dominates the middle of the album as a mocking onlooker to an archaic folk custom in Beating the Bounds and then later, as an object of adoration in The Pilgrim’s Way and April Queen. The notion of rain and flood is never far away giving Songs from the Floodplain’s vivid narrative epic proportions. The final track, Has-been Cavalry, brings all the themes together with a defiant hymn-like quality. These brave, tender and poetic songs are enough to give the concept album a good name. Beautifully produced, with a booklet containing the lyrics and many evocative photographs by David Angel.
ELLA EDMONDSON - HOLD YOUR HORSES MONSOON
This excellent debut album from Ella Edmondson features music that defies categorisation. Guest appearances by leading folk musicians such as fiddle-player and multi instrumentalist John McCusker, Kate Rusby, Andy Cutting and Jim Causley give the album a folky sound but her songs are idiosyncratic and often highly personal. Based on Dartmoor in Devon, Ella Edmondson has been plying her trade around the UK for a few years, honing her performing and song writing skills. Influences come from far and wide and she grew up listening, like many others, to music at home. Her father, comedian Adrian Edmondson, introduced her to heavy metal and punk from an early age, whilst her mother, Jennifer Saunders, preferred country music by people like Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton. Ella played piano as a child, recording her first song at the age of twelve, and was given a guitar by her father when she was fourteen. After working as a snowboarding instructor in Canada, a barmaid and a painter and decorator, she wisely decided to concentrate on music full time. Her first gig was at the age of 16 and further experiences on the road have included sharing the stage with Martin Carthy and Jaqui McShee’s Pentangle as well as opening for Julie Fowlis, Eliza Carthy and Rachel Unthank. This album of tuneful, intelligent and thoughtful songs shows why she has received such great reviews on the road. Outstanding tracks include the rousing title number, the reflective Sing For You, Breathe (originally recorded for the BBC and featured in ‘Jam and Jerusalem’), the lovely Moonglow, and Hunger, about the anguish of jealousy. Ella Edmondson’s voice is by turns strong, wistful and vulnerable, and she looks as good as she sounds, which won’t do her career any harm. Highly recommended.
DERRIN NAUENDORF - SKIN OF THE EARTH RUF RECORDS RUF1145
Derrin Nauendorf (pronounced No-en-dorf) is a young Australian singer and guitarist who played in rock and blues bands before going on to explore roots and acoustica in a more sophisticated way. His music is a melting pot of influences that has produced a unique and powerful sound. Nauendorf has performed at a thousand shows in the UK and Europe, gaining a strong following of hardcore supporters, and has become a favourite stage act at festivals in Europe and his native Australia. Brilliant guitar technique, sometimes using creative feedback, is combined with sharp lyrics and distinctively powerful singing. Nauendorf has now signed to Ruf Records and has now released his second album, Skin Of The Earth. Following huge critical acclaim for his debut The Rattling Wheel (whose lyrics were complimented by Cambridge University), Skin Of The Earth looks set to be an even bigger success. The songs are more compex, his voice has more depth and soul, and his repertoire has expanded to include ballads, mid-tempo songs and upbeat numbers. Highlights include the gutsy title track, the soulful Pride Before A Fall, the brilliant Everyone’s got a plan, and a cover of one of Bob Dylan’s finest songs, Most of the Time.
STRAWS IN THE WIND - CARTHY & SWARBRICK TOPIC TSCD556
This new album reunites two giants of the English folk music scene. After playing fiddle in the Ian Campbell Folk Group, Dave Swarbrick teamed up with Martin Carthy in the 1960s, when the duo had a significant influence in the contemporary folk music scene. Swarbrick went on to even wider fame as a member of the folk-rock group Fairport Convention and later formed Whippersnapper, before leaving in 1989 to concentrate on solo work and revive his partnership with Martin Carthy. After a period of serious ill health he has recently begun touring again with ex-Fairporter Maartin Allcock and Kevin Dempsey as Swarb’s Lazarus, appearing at this year’s Cropredy Festival. Singer and guitarist Martin Carthy is one of the most influential figures in British traditional music, inspiring contemporaries such as Bob Dylan and Paul Simon as well as later artists such as Richard Thompson. After training as an actor he sang in London coffee bars and became a resident at the famous Troubador folk club in Earls Court in the late 1950s. His debut album, released in 1965, featured an uncredited Dave Swarbrick playing on several tracks. Martin Carthy has sung with The Watersons since 1972, was an early member of the Steeleye Span, and was part of the innovative Brass Monkey ensemble, which mixed a range of brass instruments with Carthy’s guitar and mandolin and John Kirkpatrick’s accordion, melodeon and concertina. More recently, he has formed a successful musical partnership with Norma Waterson and their daughter Eliza Carthy. Straws in the Wind celebrates one of the great and enduring partnerships in music, with twelve ageless traditional songs arranged by the performers, together with a lyrical tune written by Swarb about the beautiful Blue Mountains of New South Wales in Australia, where he lived during the 1990s. Other highlights include Death of Queen Jane, Whale Catchers, Bride’s March From Unst, the rousing Royal Oak, Jacky Tar and Mermaid. Swarbrick and Carthy play with all the fervour and conviction of their early days and plan to follow up this exciting album with live performances together. Not to be missed.
FRANKIE ARMSTRONG - ENCOURAGEMENT FELLSIDE FECD208
Cumbrian born singer and voice teacher Frankie Armstrong moved to Hertfordshire as a young child and began singing in a group with her brother, performing Elvis Presley and Little Richard numbers. In 1963 she began working with Louis Killen and performing solo, then in 1964 she joined The Critics Group under Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. She has been singing professionally ever since, initially alongside working as a social worker, and has also pioneered voice workshops based on ethnic vocal styles and songs, teaching in most European countries, the USA, Canada, India and Australia. This is the singer’s fourth CD for Fellside and as usual the material is both eclectic and challenging, ranging from John Pole’s classic song of homelessness, The Anti Carol, through a setting of William Blake’s Holy Thursday by Mike Westbrook, to a definitive version of the magical and touching ballad, Tarn Lin. Frankie Armstrong is joined by Bob Evans (crwth - an archaic stringed instrument associated particularly with Welsh music), Anthony Ingle (piano, accordion and vocals) and Sarah Hartman (vocals). These are defiant, thought provoking and passionate recordings from one of the most distinctive and influential figures in traditional British music.
THE DUBLINERS – ESSENTIAL SONGS METRO METRDCD621
The pioneering Dubliners Irish folk band, initially known as ‘The Ronnie Drew Group’, formed in 1962 and made a reputation for themselves playing in O’Donoghue’s Pub in Dublin. The founding members were Ronnie Drew, Ciarán Bourke, Barney McKenna and Luke Kelly (the change of name coincided with a time when Kelly was reading James Joyce’s Dubliners). Drew accompanied his songs on a Spanish guitar and usually had a mischievous glint in his eyes. His instantly recognisable voice has variously been compared to a cement mixer or the sound of coke being crushed under a door. Luke Kelly was more of a balladeer and played the five-string banjo, singing such traditional songs as The Black Velvet Band and Whiskey in the Jar. Ciarán Bourke was a singer, and also played the guitar, tin whistle and harmonica. Barney McKenna is a talented tenor banjo and mandolin player, often singing sea shanties and love songs to minimal instrumental accompaniment. John Sheahan and Bobby Lynch joined the band in 1964. They had been playing during the interval at concerts, and usually stayed on for the second half of the show. When Luke Kelly moved to England in 1964, Lynch was taken on as his temporary replacement. The Dubliners fame soon spread beyond Ireland to Europe and the United States, especially after their 1967 recordings of Seven Drunken Nights and The Black Velvet Band brought them to a wider public beyond the folk scene. The Dubliners made a strong impression at 1963’s Edinburgh Festival, prompting the hugely influential independent label Transatlantic to sign them up for three albums. The best of that period is presented on this double album, with their earthy enthusiasm for traditional Irish music shining through. Highlights among the 40 tracks are The Wild Rover, the poignant Roisin Dubh and Boulavogue, Banks Of The Roses, the rollicking Mrs. McGrath, a heartfelt Love Is Pleasing, Dominic Behan’s McAlpine’s Fusiliers, The Patriot Game (inspiration for Bob Dylan’s With God on Our Side), the breakneck stomp of The Mason’s Apron, The Leaving Of Liverpool, and The Foggy Dew. This is an irresistible collection of music by a band that has influenced the many musicians and singers, including Van Morrison, Sinead O’Connor and the Pogues.
PETER BELLAMY - FAIR ENGLAND’S SHORE FELLSIDE FECD216
Peter Bellamy had a long solo career, recording many albums and touring folk clubs and concert halls, and since his tragic early death in 1991 he has achieved cult status on the folk scene. He grew up in North Norfolk in the village of Wighton and studied at the Royal College of Art under Peter Blake. After dropping out of college in 1965, he became a founder member of The Young Tradition with Royston Wood and Heather Wood, recording mainly traditional songs in close harmony and usually without accompaniment. The trio split up in 1969 as Bellamy wanted to concentrate on traditional English music whilst the others were by then more interested in mediaeval music. Peter Bellamy’s first solo album, Mainly Norfolk, promoted the folk music of his native county and drew on the repertoire of Harry Cox, the most famous traditional singer of Norfolk songs at the time. Two more solo albums soon followed: Fair England’s Shore and The Fox Jumps Over the Parson’s Gate, and he went on to make about fifteen in all. This double CD - for the price of one - includes the music from all three of those first albums, dating from 1968 and 1969. Even at that early stage Bellamy was revealing a highly distinctive vocal style, which has had an enormous influence on a younger generation of singers such as Damien Barber and John Boden. This collection serves as an excellent introduction to English traditional songs, since Peter Bellamy had a varied repertoire which contained many classic songs in interesting versions. This is a welcome re-release of music made by a perfectionist who was one of the most creative people ever involved in folk singing. ‘The most individual and prolific voice of the second generation of folk revivalists who followed in the pioneer footsteps of Ewan MacColl and A.L. Lloyd’ - The Independent.
VASHTI BUNYAN – LOOKAFTERING FATCAT RECORDS
Directly descended from The Pilgrim’s Progress author John Bunyan, singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan was born in London in 1945. At 18 she travelled to New York, heard Bob Dylan’s Freewheelin’ album, and decided to become a full-time musician. Returning to London she was discovered by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham and in June 1965, she released her debut single, the Jagger and Richards song ‘Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind’. Her 1970 debut LP, Just Another Diamond Day, was recorded with assistance from Simon Nicol and Dave Swarbrick of Fairport Convention, Robin Williamson of The Incredible String Band and string arranger Robert Kirby, best known for his work with Nick Drake. The album received good reviews but struggled to find an audience. Disappointed, she left from the music industry and was scarcely heard from again until interest in her music was revived in the early 2000s. A full 35 years on from her first CD, the singer returned with this breathtakingly beautiful album in 2005. Lookaftering’s title is a personalised word that describes the role of ‘taking care of someone - human or animal - or even something that needs to be done, that needs lookaftering.’ Produced by fellow Edinburgh resident Max Richter, the music is meticulously arranged, with Vashti Bunyan’s intimate voice backed by acoustic guitar and piano as well as string quartet, oboe, harp, French horn, recorder, flute, hammer dulcimer, glasses and harmonium, with contributions from Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart, Adem, Adam Pierce, Robert Kirby, Otto Hauser and Kevin Barker. Timeless music from an artist who has influenced a whole generation of singer-songwriters.
VASHTI BUNYAN – SOME THINGS JUST STICK IN YOUR MIND FATCAT RECORDS
This welcome release is a comprehensive collection of early recordings from the period prior to Vashti Bunyan’s classic Just Another Diamond Day album. Titled after the debut single which opens the double-album, Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind attempts to both draw a line under the past and also to set the record straight regarding the disparity between how Bunyan viewed (and still views) herself and the way the public views her as an artist. While she is widely regarded as folk singer these recordings instead reveal Bunyan as a pop singer, however ‘fragile’ and unique. This complete collection of Bunyan’s 25 existing early recordings is a young London girl’s series of beautiful love songs that resonate profoundly via an almost brutal efficiency and honesty. The melodies seem timelessly sweet and addictive, the vision at once delicate but somehow tough as granite. The first disc gathers together the early singles (two of which were unreleased) and a set of taped demos recorded between 1965 and 1967; the second comprises the contents of a long-forgotten tape discovered at the last minute before mastering, containing a set of raw, pure, intimate recordings with charming spoken introductions. Highlights include two versions of the delicately beautiful Girl’s Song In Winter, 17 Pink Sugar Elephants, Leave Me, Coldest Night of the Year, Don't Believe and Go Before The Dawn.
JACKIE OATES HANDS ON MUSIC HMCD25
Jackie Oates originates from a musical family in Cheshire and moved to Devon in 2001, where she now lives. Deriving her inspiration from early exposure to Bromyard and Sidmouth folk festivals, she fiddle sings mainly traditional English folk song, in both a solo capacity, as a member of Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, and with brand new trio Wistman’s Wood. She also occasionally plays as part of a string trio with the ubiquitous Show of Hands. She was a finalist in the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award in 2003 and has now released her eponymous first album. Highlights include Banks Of Green Willow, Cruel Ship Carpenter, Streams Of Lovely Nancy, a wonderfully affecting version of Mormond Braes, I Wish It Was Last September/Ickbod, Lord Abore And Mary Flynn, Flower Of Northumberland, the beautiful Lavenders Blue/Mazurka, Staffordshire Maid, Mistletoe Bough, Rambleaway, Broken Town, and the bonus track 14th November. This is timeless music, firmly rooted in English tradition, and Jackie Oates’s pure voice is accompanied by her own excellent playing and that of such accomplished musicians as Ed Rennie, Phil Beer and Jonathan Shoreland.
ENCHANTED LADY - LONDON LASSES & PETE QUINN LO LA RECORDS LO LA 004
Since the release of their debut album in 2000, this acclaimed Irish six-piece have appeared at some of the world’s most prestigious festivals and concert halls (Cambridge Folk Festival, Glastonbury, Philadelphia Irish Festival). Widely regarded as one of the finest acts on the traditional Irish/folk scene, the group plays a mostly traditional repertoire that is reflected in this new album. Enchanted Lady features a host of lively reels, bursting with life, along with intricately arranged jigs and captivating songs. Highlights include Cailín Rua (beautifully sung by Kathleen O’Sullivan), the plaintive Green Fields Of Canada, the irresistible Hornpipe And Reels (Lad O’beirne’s Hornpipe; Joe Madden’s; Mick O’connor’s Choice), and the wistful Slow Air: Rocking The Cradle (featuring Maureen Linane). The London Lasses are five London-based women of Irish heritage: Karen Ryan (fiddle, whistle, mandola, banjo), Elaine Conwell (fiddle), Dee Havlin (flute, whistle), Maureen Linane (accordion), Kathleen O’Sullivan (vocal). Together with pianist Pete Quinn they bring fresh life and assured musicianship to the immortal Irish tradition. Look out too for the group’s previous albums: LONDON LASSES & PETE QUINN (LL001) and TRACK ACROSS THE DEEP (LL002).
BELLOWHEAD – BURLESQUE WEST PARK MUSIC CD 87132
Burlesque is the long-awaited debut CD from Bellowhead, an exciting 11-piece band who won the BBC Radio 2 folk award for Best Live Act in 2005. The band’s first gig at the first Oxford festival in April 2004 was a great success and the band has continued to acquire an enthusiastic following with their dynamic live performances around the country. Their music is traditional but arranged an played in a unique way with a classy lineup that includes John Spiers, Jon Boden, Benji Kirkpatrick, Paul Sartin, Rachael McShane and Giles Lewin, together with the percussion of Pete Flood and the brass quartet of Andy Mellon, Gideon Juckes, Justin Thurgur and Brendan Kelly. Burlesque features 13 songs and tunes, with highlights that include Rigs Of The Time (dating from the time of Napoleonic Wars), the American minstrel song Jordan, stirring sea-shanties such as Across The Line and Fire Marengo, the irresistible Hopkinson’s Favourite and and Frog’s Legs & Dragon’s Teeth, and the traditional East Anglian step Sloe Gin. Charismatic lead singer, Jon Boden, holds it all together brilliantly as the band moves effortlessly between rousing instrumental virtuosity and slower songs such as Courting Too Slow. Traditional music is transformed into something new by arrangements that are decidedly adventurous. Occasionally, as with Flash Company, the performance verges on the eccentric but overall this is an album that will add to the band’s growing army of fans.
DERRIN NAUENDORF - THE RATTLING WHEEL RISING RECORDS DN06
Derrin Nauendorf performs here with a band that includes Jamie O’Keefe (drums), Arnie Cottrell (mandolin, electric guitar, slide guitar), Rick Foot (double bass) and Ron Singh (harmonium). With additional imaginative backing vocals, the result is a more relaxed, smoother sound than usual, although Nauendorf’s expressively passionate voice and brilliant guitar work still predominate. All but two of the eleven songs have been heard on previous albums but have been subtly re-invented for the new release. Highlights include three of his best-known songs - Queensland, the reflective Deliver Me An Angel and the beautiful Shatter Like Stars - together with the two new ones, the catchy opener, Universe Demands, and the rousing My Hurricane. This Australian troubador’s music defies categorisation, featuring elements of blues and folk, Paul Weller and Richard Thompson, but his unique sound and intelligent lyrics could easily cross over into the mainstream with this stylish, accessible album.
THE QUEENSBERRY RULES - THE BLACK DOG & OTHER STORIES FELLSIDE FECD201
The up-and-coming Queensberry Rules trio consists of Phil Hulse (vocals, guitar, bouzouki, harmonica), Duncan Wilcox (vocals, fiddle, double bass, mandolin) and Gary Wilcox (vocals, percussion). Since coming together in 2001 they have released three albums before this one, played many folk clubs and festivals, and supported artists such as Jez Lowe, Christine Collister and Chris & Kellie While. Their mostly self-penned songs reflect folk, bluegrass, country, blues and skiffle influences, all combined with wry lyrics, catchy choruses and splendid tunes. The group’s enthusiasm and commitment are apparent in their live performances and this new CD (which also features a video of The Black Dog) covers a wide range of themes, from contemporary issues to reflections on Perkin Warbeck and a fine interpretation of a traditional song, Rounding The Horn. Other highlights include The Herring Girl (a wistful number that could have been written by Billy Bragg), Can't Comprehend (a reaction to the devastating Asian tsunami of 2004), touching a cappella harmonies on A Mother’s Love, and Architects Of The Fall (a heartfelt plea for genuine free trade). The defiant opening track, Sinking Town, also features on Fellside’s excellent LANDMARKS compilation. Highly recommended.
THE RECKONING - JOHN TAMS TOPIC TSCD 551
John Tams is a versatile musician and singer who performs traditional material as well as songs he has written himself, such as Harry Stone and the lyrical Hugh Stenson & Molly Green. On this highly accomplished new album he reworks several traditional songs and unveils more of his own original compositions. Highlights include tenderly sung performances of Amelia and A Man Of Constant Sorrow, the extraordinary Bitter Withy, a sequence titled The Sea (Pretty Nancy, A Sailor's Life, One More Day and As I Looked East, As I Looked West) and the jazz/blues inflected Including Love. As well as John Tams (vocals, acoustic guitar, button accordion, bass guitar, five string banjo) the album features Barry Coope (vocals, keyboards, harmonium, percussion, drums), Graeme Taylor (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, five string banjo, dobro, ukelele), Keith Angel (drums, percussion), Andy Seward (string bass, bouzouki, five string banjo), Steve Dawson (trumpet, cornet, flugel horn) and Roger Wilson (acoustic guitar, fiddles). ‘An absolutely fantastic album’ - Linda Thompson.
KRISTINA OLSEN - THE TRUTH OF A WOMAN TAKE A BREAK TAB 2008
Born in San Francisco and raised in Haight-Asbury during the 1960s, Kristina Olsen is one of the most entertaining and compelling performers on the international folk circuit. A superb instrumentalist (acoustic guitar, steel-body slide guitar, saxophone, concertina and piano) as well as a fine songwriter and singer, her songs are in the troubadour tradition. As well as Kristina Olsen (guitar, steelbody slide guitar, hammered dulcimer, concertina, vocals and pizza box!), The Truth of a Woman features Peter Grayling (cello, mandocello, mandolin & harmony vocals). Highlights include the soulful Spend the Whole Night With You, The Truth of a Woman, The Yellow Piper, Phoebe’s Iceberg (a touching slide-guitar instrumental), Headlights on the Highway, the wonderfully plaintive If I Stayed and an outrageous live track finale, Big O. These are great songs performed by an artist who has clearly experienced and felt much on her travels. Kristina Olsen’s unique and appealing personality is further revealed in her many highly enjoyable concert performances. You can get a good idea of these on All Over Down Under (TAB 2009), an atmospheric live album recorded in Australia with Peter Grayling and accordionist George Butrumlis. Also check out Kristina Olsen’s most recent release, the late night music of In Your Darkened Room (TAB 2010).
FREEDOM FIELDS - SETH LAKEMAN I-SCREAM ISCD007
Singer, songwriter and musician Seth Lakeman’s CD, recorded on a modest budget in the kitchen studios of his brother’s cottage on the edge of Dartmoor, is released on his own label and features Seth’s regular band members, plus lilting vocals from Kathryn Roberts. ‘Freedom Fields’ takes its name from a skirmish which took place on 3rd December 1643. After vicious fighting, the Roundhead Garrison of Plymouth made their final rally and routed the King’s army (the Cavaliers) in an uprising that changed the course of English history. The album contains a compelling array of songs inspired by the West Country, exploring the turmoil of conflict, war and freedom. Several songs relate to the area’s naval traditions, while King & Country, along with the title track, examine the factions created by the English Civil War. The world above and below ground is recorded in The Colliers, taking its theme from the oppression of the tin and copper miners. Seth Lakeman sings and plays with real passion and this intriguing album will further add to his reputation as one of the most original talents on the British folk scene.
THERE IS NO EYE: MUSIC FOR PHOTOGRAPHS SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS SFW CD 40091.
In Music For Photographs, photographer, film maker, folklorist and musician John Cohen (of the New Lost City Ramblers) presents some of the finest American roots recordings ever made. These songs are authentic and captivating and accompany a book of photographs, There is No Eye, showcasing the musicians featured here as well as many others. Experienced together, the music and photographs create a fresh understanding. The CD includes unreleased music from Rev. Gary Davis and Bob Dylan (the brilliant, previously unreleased Roll On, John), as well as classic tracks from Woody Guthrie, Roscoe Holcomb, Bill Monroe, Carter Stanley, Muddy Waters, and others. The 32-page booklet has fascinating photographs and extensive notes.
LANDMARKS FELLSIDE RECORDS FECD203
This great value box set celebrates 30 years of one of this country’s leading folk music labels. Fellside Records, founded by husband and wife team Paul and Linda Adams in 1976, has helped launch the careers of many new artists and has recorded some of the leading players on the folk scene, such as Martin Carthy, Dick Gaughan, Maddy Prior, Martin Simpson and Swan Arcade. The first CD in this collection, titled Signposts, shows the range of music released on more than 200 albums over the years. Highlights include Dave Goulder’s wistful version of Cyril Tawney’s In The Sidings Now, Maddy Prior singing The Blacksmith, Peter Bellamy's The London Waterman, and John Blunt, engagingly performed by the Frankie Armstrong and John Kirkpatrick. The second CD, Starting Points, features some of the many talented performers given their first recording opportunities with Fellside. Among these are Terry Docherty, Jez Lowe, Nancy Kerr and the brilliant Spiers & Boden. The final CD, Wayside Views, brings together various ‘oddities, out-takes and curios’ that have a sentimental appeal for Paul Adams, who writes about them affectionately in his revealing sleeve notes. A love of folk music, both traditional and ‘new wave’, is apparent throughout and all these recordings have a wonderfully ‘live’ sound that is warm yet full of detail. This is a fascinating and fitting tribute to thirty years of sterling work.
SWEENEY’S DREAM - KEVIN BURKE SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS SFW CD 40485.
Kevin Burke is a master of the highly ornamented Sligo style of Irish fiddling and this 1972 recording perfectly captures the stunning artistry of his earliest years in the United States. Instrumentation ranges from solo fiddle to group pieces that include guitar, mandolin, banjo, autoharp and bodhran. Rousing tunes include Murphy’s Hornpipe, Toss the Feathers and The Kid on the Mountain.
BRANDON SEYFERTH - HOT HEELS RECORDS
This is the first EP under the pseudo-band-name Hot Heels Records by Brandon Seyferth (pronounced ‘cypher’), a folk musician with blues roots and a commendably rebellious attitude. He became interested in folk music after arriving in Chicago late in 2004 following years spent wandering the U.S. East coast in a carnival and hitchhiking penniless through China. As a child, he used to scribble on paper before he could write. He was confined to an oxygen tent a lot because of asthma problems and used to read voraciously. His acknowledged musical influences include Nico, Howlin’ Wolf, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Band, Bob Dylan, Kyuss, Count Basie, Dinah Washington, Stephen Foster and Woody Guthrie. His eclectic sound incorporates all of these together with his own highly indiviualistic take on the world and a flair for great tunes. Standout tracks among the seven featured here are Little Sister, Home and the plaintive These Days. Best of all is Hands, a great song with Brandon Seyferth’s passionate vocals complemented by excellent guitar and Dylanesque harmonica work. This is a terrific debut by an artist with a poetic sensibility and real promise for the future. Website: Hot Heels Records
THE DANCE AT THE PHOENIX - MELLSTOCK BAND BEAUTIFUL JO BEJOCD-28
Mellstock was the fictional Wessex name that the poet and novelist Thomas Hardy gave to his home parish of Stinsford in Dorset. Hardy was a musician himself and the Mellstock Band was originally formed to play the music he would have known, played using authentic instruments. Their debut album, released in 1986, was Under the Greenwood Tree, in which Hardy’s vigorous and detailed portrayals of song and dance - as well as music from his family's collection of manuscript books - provided inspiration for the band. Their repertoire has since expanded to include a variety of west gallery and village band music, the interpretations of which are based on the manuscript books of village musicians and the singing and instrumental traditions of rural England. In live performance, the Mellstock Band illuminate their music with period costume and spoken word, and have performed at many festivals as well as for productions at the National Theatre and Chichester Festival Theatre. The Dance at the Phoenix captures the dramatic character of the band’s live shows, as the album also includes brief readings of verse written by Thomas Hardy and the Dorset dialect poet he so much admired, William Barnes. The album shows the variety and excitement of the traditions of music-making in small ad hoc bands and ensembles, documented by Thomas Hardy and surviving in musicians’ manuscript music books and a few rare recordings. Highlights include The Ruined Maid, Hardy’s humorous and cynical poem on the themes of poverty and purity, and the writer’s favourite tune, Enrico, which his father often played to him on the fiddle. ‘The band’s combination of concertina, serpent, clarinet, oboe and fiddle is out there on its own and works perfectly’ - Folk Roots.
ENGLISH SONGS OF LOVE BEAUTIFUL JO RECORDS BEJOCD-19
English Songs of Love features the voices of Julie Murphy, Lynne Denman and Joanne Acty and 14 traditional songs, including Searching for Lambs, The Cuckoo, A Blacksmith Courted Me, The Dark-Eyed Sailor and a superb interpretation of The Lowlands of Holland. These are some of the finest songs in the English folk tradition and all are wonderfully performed here in sensitive arrangements played by the accompanying musicians: Stacy Bythe (accordion, harpsichord, cello), Ceri Matthews (clarinet, guitar, cittern, pipes), Dan Morris, Bernard Kilbride and Mat Green (fiddle), Peter Acty (guitar, mandola), Di Whitehead (cello, recorder) and Andy Turner (concertina). Fernhill’s Julie Murphy is one of the foremost singers of her generation and often performs in partnership with Lynne Denman, from the band Ffynnon. Their vocal harmonies can be heard on a stunning version of The Banks of the Sweet Primroses. Joanne Acty sings with the Oxfordshire band Magpie Lane. Exquisite singing and sensitive arrangements make this an album that should appeal to all folk aficionados and make converts of any who doubt the beauty and depth of the English tradition. CELTIC SONGS OF LOVE, also from Beautiful Jo Records (BEJOCD-16), is an equally rewarding exploration of a great tradition, featuring Julie Murphy again, together with Emma Christian, Moira Craig and Michael Henry, with songs from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Brittany, Cornwall and the Isle of Man. The album has 23 tracks, including four that are previously unreleased (How Can Ye Gang, Lassie?, Merched, Red Top Knots, and Deus Ganin Me D’Am Bro). Emma Christian is a leading light of the Manx Celtic revival and Scotland’s Moira Craig is co-host of the ballad sessions at Sidmouth International Folk Festival. All the tracks are a delight and Moira Craig, in particular, sings with great purity and tenderness, especially on the ravishing Will Ye Go, Love. The musicians include Peter Acty, Ceri Rhys Matthews, Anne-Marie Boisard and fiddler Chris Leslie from Fairport Convention.
MAGPIE LANE - SIX FOR GOLD BEAUTIFUL JO RECORDS BEJOCD-42
Magpie Lane is a six-piece band from the Oxford area, originally formed as a one-off recording project in the winter of 1992-93 to record an album called The Oxford Ramble, a collection of songs and tunes from Oxfordshire. The lineup has changed over the years but the founder members still in the band are Ian Giles (vocals, hurdy-gurdy, side drum and bodhran), Mat Green (fiddle and vocals), and Andy Turner (vocals, and anglo-concertinas). They are joined on this their sixth album by newcomers Marguerite Hutchinson (vocals, whistles and flute), Sophie Polhill (vocals and cello) and Benji Kirkpatrick (vocals, bouzouki and guitar). The songs on Six of Gold are varied but all are unmistakably English, although sung with little trace of regional accent. All are traditional tunes, except for ‘Stotty Cake Polka’ (Andy Turner) and ‘Ganivelle’ (Fredric Paris). Highlights include ‘Juniper Gentle and Rosemary’, ‘The Constant Lovers’ (a haunting song learnt from the Copper family), Ralph Vaughan Williams’ ‘John Reilly’, the Oxfordshire shepherd Shadrack Hayden’s ‘Once I Was a Shepherd Boy’ (collected by Cecil Sharp in 1909) and ‘The Foggy Dew’, a song well known in Thomas Hardy’s Dorset. Magpie Lane are one of the best traditional English music groups, and even when the tunes are familiar they are performed with a freshness and vitality that make this an infectiously enjoyable album.
THISTLEDOWN - FLOSSIE MALAVIALLE MAMBO MUSIC CDMAMBO 68
Flossie Malavialle is a French singer who became involved in the British folk scene while working as a teacher in the North East of England. Having previously taught English in France and been singing there for years, it was natural to turn up at the Darlington folk club one night to meet the locals and sing a song. After returning to France for a while she missed life in England and decided to come back to focus on her singing, recording the first of her four albums, Thistledown, in 2002. Flossie’s warm, clear voice is heard here to great effect on a wide range of songs, including ‘More hills to Climb’, Beth Nielsen Chapman’s ‘Sand and Water’ and Kate McGarrigle’s beautiful ‘Mendocino’, together with several atmospheric French and Spanish ones. As well as her impressive voice, the singer also backs herself with exquisite vocals and some fine guitar work. Her blossoming talent can also be heard on subsequent albums such as ‘Mistral - Let's do it!’ (CDMambo681), the self-explanatory ‘Flossie Sings Piaf’, with such favourites as ‘La Vie en Rose’ and ‘Je ne Regrette Rien’ (CDMambo682), and her latest, ‘Making up the Miles’ (CDMambo683).
SWAN-UPMANSHIP - THE OLD SWAN BAND WILDGOOSE STUDIOS WGS 320 CD
The Old Swan Band started life in 1974, when they were known as ‘The Cotswold Liberation Front’, and played a major part in the movement for English music as oppose to the Celtic trend. Old Swan’s band style was deliberately slow to encourage dancers to dance and the band was criticised greatly by less tolerant members of the English Folk Dance and Song Society for ‘playing the wrong tunes for the dances, playing too slow, changing tunes, using melodeons instead of proper instruments like accordions and worst sin of all, using brass instruments’. After Rod and Danny Stradling left in 1982, the band became an all fiddle line-up with founder member Fi Fraser joined by Paul Burgess and Flos Headford. They were soon augmented by Jo Freya (jaunty tenor sax and penny whistle), John Adams (trombone and fiddle), pianist Heather Horsley and Neil Gledhill (bass saxophone). Together they make a unique sound that is well captured on this CD. The fifteen tracks (not counting the ‘false start’) include many reels and hornpipes as well as the lovely laziness of Wenlock Edge/Summer Waltz. The tunes on this album are almost exclusively English, although a Basque tune forms the basis of ‘Basquet of Oysters’ and ‘Schottis fran Havero’ is a wonderfully lively Swedish jig. The joyous, foot-tapping music on this album should encourage even the most reluctant on to the dance floor.
NEW HISTORY - DERRIN NAUENDORF ONLY BLUES MUSIC
Derrin Nauendorf (pronounced No-en-dorf) is a young Australian singer and guitarist who played in rock and blues bands before going on to explore roots and acoustica in a more sophisticated way. His music is melting pot of roots influences that has produced a unique and powerful sound. He has performed almost a thousand shows in the UK and Europe, gaining a strong following of hardcore supporters, and has also become a main stage act at festivals in Europe, the UK and his native Australia. Brilliant guitar technique, sometimes using of feedback creatively, combines with sharp lyrics and powerful singing to win over his many fans and critics alike. He is also one of the hardest working musicians on the world circuit, playing 250 shows a year, and is also self managed. This honest, hardworking approach is reflected in his exhilarating new album - the only one so far that features a completely solo Derrin Nauendorf performance showcasing his remarkable guitar work, evocative voice, and often moving songwriting. This is about as close as you can get to a live show without actually being there, making it perfect introduction to his music. Outstanding tracks include Queensland, Careless Hands, the stunning Let It Go, Shipwrecked, the soulful Shatter Like Stars and a driving finale, Get Behind The Mule.
NATIVE SOIL - DANA AND SUSAN ROBINSON OFFSPRING RECORDS TM 0048
Dana and Susan Robinson Dana are based in Asheville, North Carolina, although Dana was raised in California and Susan in America’s Northeast. Together they make music that convincingly blends tradition with contemporary songwriting in a style of which the great Woody Guthrie might approve. Dana is a fine singer, songwriter and instrumentalist (guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo) and Susan contributes rich harmonies as well as an effective clawhammer-style banjo to the mix. This excellent album shows how the music of Scots, Irish, African and native Americans has been continually reinterpreted and recycled through generations to become something uniquely American. Outstanding tracks include traditional songs such as The Cuckoo, Lost Girl (an irresistible instrumental with some great fiddle-playing), the touching When First Unto This Country, East Virginia Blues, Cider’s Dream (Chasing Squirrels), Waterbound, Ain’t No Cane, and the jaunty Goin’ To Cary. As well as Dana (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, fiddle and mandolin) and Susan (vocals, banjo, guitar), Native Soil features John Herrmann (banjo), Meredith McIntosh (acoustic bass, vocals), Mike Alexander (acoustic bass), Pat Madsen (drums) and River Guerguerian (percussion).
MARTIN CARTHY - WAITING FOR ANGELS TOPIC TSCD527
Martin Carthy has been one of the most versatile and influential figures in English folk music for more than 30 years. His first solo album for six years, Waiting for Angels was produced by his daughter, Eliza Carthy, together with Ben Ivitsky. It shows the distinctive singer/guitarist at the peak of his creativity on four tracks that feature him solo and seven more on which he is backed by talented musicians such as Martin Simpson (slide guitar), Ben Ivitsky (percussion, viola, trombone), Toby Shippey (trumpet) and Eliza Carthy (fiddle, melodeon and harmonium). The title track is a rare Carthy original composition, inspired by the Scottish poet Hamish Henderson. There’s also a definitive 10-minute version of the remarkable Famous Flower of Serving Men, a classic first recorded by Martin Carthy at the beginning of his professional career. Other songs here include The Foggy Dew, Young Morgan, The Royal Lament, Bold General Wolfe and a quirkily effective performance of The Harry Lime Theme, taken from the wonderful 1940s Carol Reed/Orson Welles film.
THE CELTIC ROSE - MARITA BRAKE MK81
This album is a mystical jorney through all things Celtic. All the tracks are original compositions by Marita Brake and her collaborator/producer, Kent Thompson. Brake’s wistful lyrics blend perfectly with Thompson’s ethereal arrangements and can be heard to great effect on the title track This is a mythical tale about Joseph of Arimathea fleeing the Holy Land with a piece of the cross, planting it outside Glastonbury Chapel in England, where it blooms into a sweet-smelling, blood red, rose. Other standout songs include the opening instrumental track (The Celtic Spirit, reprised later), Heart in Hand, the exquisite Standing Stones, On Me Mother’s Grave and the delightful By The River (written about a ‘meander along the Mackinaw River’ which flows through Marita Brake’s native Midwest). Although she has never visited Ireland, her music is heavily influenced by the ancient ballad tradition that travelled to America with Scottish and the Irish immigration. The singer’s pure, expressive voice is well complemented by the accompaniment of her fellow musicians Kent Thompson (keyboards), Christine Bock (viola and violin), Orrin Star, Gil Moore, Regan Thompson, Danny Green and Tim Delaney.
THE COMPLETE SONGS OF ROBERT BURNS LINN CKD 213
Robert Burns, author of Auld Lang Syne and My Luve’s Like a Red, Red, Rose, remains Scotland’s most celebrated writer. Born the son of a gardener at Alloway, near Ayr, in 1759, he worked at a succession of labouring jobs and was inspired by his first love, Nelly Kirkpatrick, to begin writing poetry. He later moved to Edinburgh and worked on editing a collection of Scottish folk songs. Called ‘The Scots Musical Museum’, it was published in 5 volumes over sixteen years and Burns himself contributed over 150 songs, including Auld Lang Syne, a reworking of an earlier folk song. This superbly produced box set of 12 CDs is the culmination of seven years of ambitious artistic endeavour by Linn Records and a wide range of outstanding Scottish performers, bringing these timeless songs to life for a new audience. The first complete, definitive archive of its kind, this collection comprises over 360 songs recorded by some of Scotland’s finest traditional musicians, including members of Battlefield Band, The Cast, The Corries, Deaf Shepherd, MacAlias, Malinky and Old Blind Dogs. This is an essential series of recordings that will delight any admirer of the ‘ploughman poet’ and his work.
STEPPING UP TOPIC TSCD752
Compiled and annotated by lan Anderson, the editor of fRoots magazine, Stepping Up is a rousing anthology of the distinctive English folk musical movement from its beginnings to the present day. The album is a greatly expanded version of a vinyl LP first assembled by fRoots magazine in 1988 under the title Tap Roots. The entertaining repertoire features polkas, jigs, hornpipes, step dance tunes and waltzes, and the varied instrumentation includes melodeons, hammered dulcimers, concertinas and tambourines. There are 44 tunes drawn from the English tradition, performed by 23 English roots dance bands, including the Morris Motors Band, Walter & Daisy Bulwer, Oak, The Leeds Band, Webb’s Wonders, The Old Swan Band, Flowers & Frolics, Ashley Hutchings, The New Victory Band, Umps and Dumps, The English Country Blues Band, Oysterband (Kentish Cricketers), The Cock and Bull Band, Gas Mark 5, Tiger Moth, The Old Hat Dance Band, The Geckoes, The Posh Band (Duke of Cornwall’s Reel), Mark Bazeley & Jason Rice, Dr Faustus, Grand Union, Eliza Carthy Band (No Man’s Jig/Three Jolly Sheepskins) and Whapweasel. ‘Energy, commitment and imagination’ - fRoots magazine.
THE TRUE LOVER’S FAREWELL - CUSTER LARUE DORIAN DOR-90213
Custer LaRue was born in the Allegheny Highlands of Virginia and, though best known for her her early music performances as a member of the Baltimore Consort, she maintains an active interest in traditional song. Her unique style is heard to great effect here as she and the Baltimore Consort perform a selection of Appalachian folk ballads, mostly taken from those collected by Cecil Sharp in his English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians. Outstanding among the 16 tracks are the solidly rhythmic Soldier Boy for Me, Lord Bateman, an irresistibly feisty Berayna, The Outlandish Knight, Johnny Home from the Sea, a lilting version of The Nightingale, The Rebel Soldier and the well-known True Lover’s Farewell. This outstanding disc brings these wonderfully evocative songs to life in a series of sensitive and beguiling arrangements.
CARA DILLON - SWEET LIBERTY ROUGH TRADE RTRADECD123
Ever since her eponymous debut album (see below), Cara Dillon has been acclaimed as one of the outstanding new voices in folk music. As well as winning two BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (for Horizon and Best Traditional Track) she also won the Best Traditional Album at the Hot Press Awards and was voted ninth in the HMV Choice Magazine Critic’s Poll. The mostly traditional music featured here is impressive and lyrical, with tracks that include The Winding River Roe, The Gem Of The Roe (a traditional song from County Derry), Erin The Green, Standing On The Shore (made famous by Anne Briggs) and The Emigrant’s Farewell (which gives the album its title). Cara Dillon’s voice is enthralling and the excellent band lineup consists of Sam Lakeman (keyboards), Ben Nicholls (double bass), Calum MacColl (guitar), James O’Grady (Uilian pipes) and Liam Bradley (drums). ‘...amongst the very finest to be heard today’ - Folk Roots Magazine.
CARA DILLON - CARA DILLON ROUGH TRADE RECORDS RTRADECD019
The debut solo album of Co. Derry-born Cara Dillon, formerly of Equation, features mostly traditional music subtly arranged by the charismatic singer and Sam Lakeman, who also here plays piano, harmonium and organ. Dillon’s beautiful, dreamy voice explores the songs with great poignancy and she is backed by a fine band of musicians who include Justin Adams (electric guitar), Seth Lakeman (violin, viola, tenor guitar, mandolin) and Mary Dillon (harmony vocals). Among the most outstanding tracks are Craigie Hill, Lark In The Clear Air, a melancholic Maid Of Culmore and the touching Green Grows The Laurel. This is an irresistible album that should appeal to folk purists as well as a much wider audience.
COLIN REID - SWIM TOPIC TSCD541
Colin Reid’s new album features 12 self-penned tracks of music that include a number of ensemble pieces on which he is joined by Liam Bradley (kit), Brian Connor (piano, Wurlitzer, Hammond organ), Becky Joslin and Neil Martin (cellos), Buffy North (violin) and Alan Shields (double bass). Colin Reid is a virtuoso guitarist, acclaimed as such by no less than Bert Jansch, and on these recordings he shows that as composer he can folk, jazz and blues into a unique blend of music that defies classification. Standout tracks include Samson And Delilah, Small Steps, Tilt, The Secretive Agent, The Fool's Bridge, This Broken Rapture, Say Goodbye To The Riverbed, Chase Tea and New England House. ‘Both as a performer and composer he is a huge talent’ - The Independent.
IF NOT NOW - e2K TOPIC TSCD538
One of the most exciting bands on the UK folk scene, e2K has an enviable reputation as a live act and festival favourite, having re-invented itself from its previous incarnation as EII and the Red Hot Polkas. The original band was primarily a dance outfit but the addition of Kellie While on vocals has produced a unique fusion of folk, world, jazz and dance influences. As well as Kellie, the band’s line up consists of Neil Yates (trumpet, bodhran, whistles, etc.), Kwame Yeboah (keyboards, guitars), Neil Fairclough (bass), Paul Francis (drums), Andy Morel (saxes), Gareth Warren (melodion), and Jon Moore (guitars, mandolin). Special gusts include Mike McGoldrick (uilian pipes) and John McCusker (fiddle). ‘Superb instrumentalists performing in multi-layered tapestry are complemented by the beautiful voice of Kellie While’ - www.rootsreview.co.uk.
THE LEGENDARY STORY OF SUN RECORDS UNION SQUARE METRO METRDCD501
Sam Phillips opened his Memphis Recording Service at 706 Union Avenue in 1950 and this double CD gathers together a cleverly chosen selection of the marvellous music recorded there in the following ten or twelve years. Phillips had an uncanny knack for finding talent and this album features electric bluesmen such as Howlin’ Wolf, B.B.King, Little Junior Parker and Ike Turner, plus the artists who helped change the face of the twentieth century by inventing rock’n’roll. These include Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and the underrated Charlie Rich, heard here to great effect on three outstanding tracks. Among the lesser-known but highly enjoyable performers featured are The Miller Sisters, Charlie Feathers, Harold Jenkins (later Conway Twitty), Barbara Pittman and the splendidly named Narvel Felts. This generous 60-track collection makes a fine tribute to one of the greatest record labels ever.
EDDI READER - THE SONGS OF ROBERT BURNS ROUGH TRADE RTRADECD097
Eddi Reader Sings the Songs of Robert Burns finds the former Fairground Attraction vocalist in beguiling folk music mode with sensitive performances of Jacobite rebel songs, romantic tragedies and tender love songs, including a wonderfully touching version of My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose. Reader’s voice admirably interprets the lively and often bawdy songs of Robert Burns, Scotland’s great 18th Century ‘ploughman poet’. The singer is joined by some prestigious names in the contemporary British folk world - John McCusker, Colin Reid, Boo Hewerdine and Kate Rusby, who duets memorably on Wild Mountainside. Kevin McCrae's string arrangements with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra also serve to make this is an album that impresses with its musicality and charm.
COME WRITE ME DOWN - THE COPPER FAMILY TOPIC TSCD534
The inspirational Copper Family of Rottingdean in Sussex has roots in traditional song that are at least two hundred years old, and their style of southern English harmony singing has influenced many groups such as The Watersons and The Young Tradition.. The classic recordings in this outstanding collection date from from the 1950s and early '60s, when Bob and Ron Copper came to prominence during the early part of the folk revival. As well as newly remastered recordings, the CD also features earlier recordings involving Bob and Ron's fathers, Jim and John, which are available for the first time. The generously packaged album includes fascinating historic photographs, a 60-page booklet of history, biography and social context as well as a 36-page booklet of song texts. ‘Educational and inspirational - Time Out.
ANGLICANA - ELIZA CARTHY TOPIC TSCD539.
Eliza Carthy's brilliant new album, Anglicana, is an expression of Englishness as felt by her - ‘with people who were around at the time, no border checkpoints, nobody pushed out, just what it is’. The music remains true to its traditional sources yet features performances in fine contemporary style. Highlights include excellent arrangemants of Worcester City, Pretty Plowboy and Bold Privateer, as well as Dr MCMBE (written for father Martin Carthy’s 60th birthday and featuring him on guitar). The musicians are Eliza Carthy (fiddle, singing, one-row accordion, keyboards), Martin Green (piano accordion, keyboards), Barnaby Stradling (electric & acoustic bass, percussion, Moog), Sam Thomas (drums, percussion, Moog), Ed Boyd (acoustic guitar), Olly Knight (electric guitar), Lucy Adams (backing vocals), Rory McLeod (harmonica) and Andy Thorburn (guest keyboards). ‘faultless’ - Amazon.co.uk.
NOTES FROM A HEBRIDEAN ISLAND LINN AKD 197
Brilliant multi-instrumentalist William Jackson and the wonderfully pure voices of the Mackenzie sisters (Eilidh, Gillian and Fiona) from Lewis perform evocative Scottish and Gaelic singing and instrumental music. Jackson plays harp, whistles, laud and piano, and the album also features guest musicians James Macintosh (percussion), Iain MacInnes (pipes), Tony McManus (guitar), Aidan O'Rourke (fiddle) Ian Lowthian (accordion) and the recording’s producer Calum Malcolm (bass and keyboards). Among the spellbinding Gaelic songs is a stunning interpretation of Ba Mo Leanabh (O My Baby) which is a Canadian version of Griogal Cridhe. The instrumental tracks are played with assured musicianship rather than reckless speed, much to the advantage of the melodies. ‘The crystal clear voices ... steal the show’ - The Observer.
RETURN TO ME - EQUATION ROUGH TRADE RECORDS RTRADECD083
Equation's long-lost debut recording was shelved by the original record company (Warner) in the mid-1990s, but is now thankfully released on Rough Trade. Cara Dillon’s wonderful voice is heard on standout tracks such as He Loves Me, Song Of The Well and No Goodbyes, as well as the traditional Golden Bird and Cloths Of Heaven (words by W B Yeats, no less). The other outstanding musicians featured are Cara Dillon (vocals, low whistle), Sam Lakeman (piano, keyboards), Sean Lakeman (guitars), Seth Lakeman (violins, vocals), Kathryn Roberts (vocals) and Darren Edwards (bass).
I’M ON MY JOURNEY HOME NEW WORLD RECORDS 80223-2
This rewarding album is from the admirable New World Records label, which specialises in documenting American music mostly ignored by commercial recording companies. I'm On My Journey Home: Vocal Styles and Resources in Folk Music is a loosely structured survey of different types of vocal styles and resources found in rural Anglo-American lower- and middle-class communities. Some of the modes of performance, such as hollering and solo ballad singing, have almost died out. Others, such as Sacred Harp singing, formal duet singing and square-dance calling, continue to flourish. This well chosen and sequenced collection demonstrates once again the extraordinarily rich musical legacy of the ‘old, weird America.’ Highlights include Hollerin’ (Leonard Emanuel); Whooping (“Red” Buck Estes); Tobacco Auctioneering (Two unknown auctioneers); Bold McCarthy, or The City of Baltimore (Bill Cramp); The Black Sheep (Darby and Tarlton) and I’m On My Journey Home (The Denson Quartet). Essential listening for lovers of American folk music.
OPEN - COWBOY JUNKIES COOKING VINYL COOKCD 216.
The expressive voice of Margo Timmins again leads Cowboy Junkies on their 11th CD, together with the other core members, including Michael and Margo’s brother Peter Timmins on drums and Alan Anton on bass. This album is their heaviest recording so far, adding dark, brooding guitar sounds to the band’s usual hypnotic/reflective/quiet character. Open is about growing old: and all that this entails death, birth, faith, betrayal, love and, hopefully, revelation. Outstanding tracks include the lamenting ‘Thousand Year Prayer’, ‘I'm so Open’ and the lovely, mournful ‘Bread & Wine’.
HOME - JOHN TAMS TOPIC TSCD533.
John Tams’ follow up to his award winning ‘Unity’ again shows him to be one of the finest writers of English songs on the contemporary folk scene. His performances are always intelligent and his voice expressive on these outstanding new songs. The band is the same one assembled for the previous album are now even more assured in performance. As well as John Tams (acoustic & electric guitar, keyboard, melodeon, vocal) the album features Graeme Taylor (acoustic & electric guitar, mandolin, lap steel), Barry Coope (keyboards, string synth, crematorium organ, harmonium, vocal), Andy Seward (electric bass), Alan Dunn (hammond organ, piano accordion, keyboards, whistle, anglo concertina), Keith Angel (drums, marimba, mbira, surdo, congas, djembi, tambourine, percussion) and Rosie Tams (backing vocals). ‘one of the best UK folk albums of the last decade’ - MOJO.
INTO THE LIGHT - CHRISTINE COLLISTER TOPIC TSCD1002.
Christine Collister’s second solo album for Topic finds her great voice as this fine recording captures the live quality and personality of an outstanding singer. Its style is more acoustic than her previous release, An Equal Love, but it again it features her songwriting skills alongside a selection of excellent covers of classic contemporary songs. Christine Collister (vocals and acoustic guitar) is joined by Steve Lima (acoustic guitar, bass, drums, percussion, piano, organ), Misha Nikolic (guitars, bass), Dave Armstrong (bass, keyboards, percussion), Roger Leece (drums), George Hughs (electric guitar), Anglin Buttimore (organ, piano) and Charles Guard (celtic harp). ‘Collister's effect is transfixing’ - fROOTS.
OLD & IN THE GRAY ACOUSTIC DISC ACD-51.
This vibrant CD reunites Peter Rowan, David Grisman and Vassar Clements from the original bluegrass boundary-breakers, Old & In The Way. These three outstanding musicians have combined with veteran banjo player and vocalist Herb Pedersen, who takes over the slot left by the late Jerry Garcia. Brynn Bright plays an inspired upright bass, replacing the late John Kahn. Together the group produces joyful bluegrass music that includes great versions of Bill Monroe’s On the Old Kentucky Shore, Flatt and Scruggs’ Let Those Brown Eyes Smile at Me, John Hartford’s Good Old Boys, and a masterly Pancho & Lefty, written by the legendary Townes Van Zandt.
HOME - JAMES KEELAGHAN APPLESEED APR CD 1059.
The outstanding Canadian singer songwriter James Keelaghan returns to his undisguised folk roots, using spare instrumentation on ten compelling songs which show that his idea of ‘Home’ covers his own state of mind as well as the lives and situations of other people, today and in the past. The subject matter ranges from the plight of a British convict sent to Tasmania in the 1820s (the traditional Henry's Downfall) to the reconstruction of Canada's Parliament buildings in the late 1900s (Stonecutter) and separatist terrorism in Quebec (October 70), plus tributes to nature (David Francey's Red-Winged Blackbird, The Flower of Magherally), love (You Know Me) and longing (Sing My Heart Home, Woodsmoke and Oranges). Keelaghan's intimate renderings of these diverse stories are accompanied mostly by his own guitar and by multi-instrumentalists Oliver Schroer and Hugh McMillan. ‘He displays a genius for finding his way deep inside big stories, building them outward from palpably intimate moments’- The Boston Globe.
FASHIONABLY LATE - LINDA THOMPSON TOPIC TSCD821.
Although Linda Thompson hasn't made a recording for seventeen years, the pure, fragile beauty of her voice remains intact and time has increased the emotional quality of her performance. This marvellous comeback album features nine songs written or co-written by Linda Thompson, plus one by Lal Waterson. Among the dazzling array of performers are Teddy Thompson, Van Dyke Parks, Kate Rusby, Kathryn Tickell, Eliza Carthy, Rufus Wainwright, Kamila Thompson, Richard Thompson, Danny Thompson and Martin Carthy. ‘Linda Thompson may be rock's best woman singer’ - Time Magazine.
SILVERY MOON - AOIFE CLANCY APPLESEED APR CD 1065.
Aoife (pronounced ‘Ee-fa’) Clancy, daughter of Bobby Clancy (a member of the Brothers for the last quarter century) resumes a solo career after five years as lead vocalist with the NewYork-based Cherish the Ladies. On this immaculate new CD she explores the world of Irish, Scottish, English, Appalachian and contemporary folk music in a most assured and beguiling manner. There are traditional ballads (Banks of Sweet Primroses, Across the Blue Mountains, Silvery Moon) and apt arrangements of poetry (Are You Sleepin', Maggie, The Sliprails and the Spur) as well as modern compositions by modern folk musicians such as Mark Simos. Among the fine musicians here are Donal and Bobby Clancy, percussionist Liam Bradley, bassist James Blennerhassett, fiddler/solo artist Lissa Schneckenburger and flutist Larry Nugent.
OJO DE TIBURON - MICHELE GREENE APPLESEED APR CD 1064.
Michele Greene, the actress best known as Abby Perkins in the television drama, L A Law, has made a stunning CD that travels across styles, languages and cultures. Ojo de Tiburón (‘Eye of the Shark’) was produced by the brilliant Peruvian guitarist Ciro Hurtado and reflects the singer’s Mexican/Nicaraguan roots with six of the nine songs sung in Spanish, accompanied by a rich, fluid fusion of traditional and contemporary Latin sounds and North American folk influences. Most of the songs, all co-written by Michele Greene, are delicately sung reflections on the joys and sorrows of love (Siempre Volvemos, Somos Iguales, Destino), interspersed with understated social comment about poverty (Ojo de Tiburon) and cultural dislocation (La Tierra del Alma, The Ballad of Robert Martin). With intimate instrumental backing by Hurtado and a group of Mexican, Peruvian and American musicians, Greene achieves an entrancing mix of folk and pop, Español and Ingles. ‘She has the voice of an angel’ - Don Was.
THE ACOUSTIC FOLK BOX TOPIC TSFCD4001
This exciting CD box set is a journey through four decades of the folk revival in Britain. A rich acoustic tradition is explored through the work of dozens of fine artists, from Lonnie Donegan and Ewan MacColl, via Richard Thompson and Emmylou Harris, to modern icons such as Kate Rusby and Eliza Carthy. The 85 tracks, many of which have not been heard on CD before, are in chronological order and come with a 56 page booklet containing photographs, illustrations and notes. The producer, David Suff, describes the music and puts it all in context. An unmissable treat for folk music fans and sure to bring back warm memories. ‘Definitive stuff’ - The Observer Review.
A DARK LIGHT - WATERSON:CARTHY TOPIC TSCD536.
England's finest folk group return with the trio of Martin Carthy, Norma Waterson and Eliza Carthy joined by new member Tim van Eyken on vocals and melodeons. Also featured are Martin Simpson (guitar), Ben Ivitsky (fiddle) and Barnaby Stradling (acoustic bass guitar). This spellbinding album reflects the influence on the group of some of our greatest traditional singers and includes songs from The Copper Family, Packie Byrne, Seamus Ennis and Sam Larner. Among the highlights are the sombre ballad Death and the Lady, Crystal Spring (a love song that includes a vocal duet between Norma and her daughter Eliza) and the jaunty old Morris dance tune, Balancy Straw.
FAIRPORT CONVENTION - ENCORE ENCORE FOLKPRINT FP001CD.
After 12 years recording and playing, Fairport Convention split up in 1979 after virtuoso fiddle player Dave Swarbrick was told to ‘give up playing live or go deaf’. The rest of the band played a farewell tour in 1979 and this release was the final souvenir (originally released on vinyl by Woodworm Records). Now remastered and re-issued with three previously unreleased bonus tracks, it includes such standout tracks as Matty Groves, Orange Blossom Special, Sir Patrick Spens and Meet on the Ledge.
SHINING BRIGHT - THE SONGS OF LAL & MIKE WATERSON TOPIC TSCD 519.
In 1972, Mike and Lal Waterson released an amazing album of original songs, Bright Phoebus, on the Leader Records label. Tribute is paid to that classic collection of quintessentially English songs on this fine new recording, Shining Bright, which features songs recorded for Bright Phoebus as well as others written at the same time but not previously recorded. The making of this album was prompted by the untimely death of Lal Waterson and it is a worthy homage to some of the greatest songs to emerge from the British folk revival. The outstanding performers include Maddy Prior (Winifer Odd), Norma Waterson (Song for Thirza), Dayteller, Richard Thompson (Red Wine Promises), Eliza Carthy, Blue Murder, Dick Gaughan, Linda & Teddy Thompson, Helen Watson, Billy Bragg (Danny Rose), Martin Carthy (Never the Same), Christy Moore, Jody Stecher & Kate Brislin, Christine Collister and Oliver Knight.
THE SONG MAKERS PROJECT, VOL. 1 NESTA RECORDS NC1001.
The Song Makers Project is a collection of songs from outstanding, unsung artists as well as some more familiar performers such as Billy Bragg, Eric Bibb, Bert Jansch and Ted Hawkins. The album spans the fields of folk, roots and acoustic music performed by, among others, Emily Slade, Jezz Hall and Sam Genders (voted the class of 2001 by the excellent Folk Roots magazine). The music is melodic and soulful, especially the inspired tracks by Maureen Monroe (the seductive Damned Understanding), Ted Hawkins (a great version of Please come to Boston) and Buick 6 (Get Real). 10% of the profits from this album will be donated to the Charity Shelter. ‘A tasty compilation of some of the best singer songwriters currently on the scene’ - Get Rhythm.
LOOKING FOR THE MOON - TOM PAXTON APPLESEED APR CD 1069.
This is the first solo studio album from the great singer-songwriter Tom Paxton since 1994 but the wait has been well worthwhile. The thirteen original songs on this CD emphasise personal themes and reflect on modern day life, often concerned with the inevitable march of progress and aging and their effects on the average citizen. Tom Paxton may be in the fifth decade of his illustrious career but his voice is as fine and expressive as always, heard here to wonderful effect on songs with evocative, personal lyrics and titles such as ‘Looking for the Moon’, ‘My Pony Knows the Way’ and ‘Homebound Train’. ‘Tom Paxton embodies the spirit of folk music...He’s the coolest’ - Ani DiFranco.
SKIRTING THE RIVER ROAD - ROBIN WILLIAMSON ECM 016 372-2.
Subtitled ‘Songs and Settings of Whitman, Blake and Vaughan’, the legendary Scottish singer/songwriter Robin Williamson’s latest album brings together sung poetry, jazz, improvisation and aspects of world folklore. The result is a highly original, idiosyncratic form of chamber music in which his unmistakable voice is supported by the American viola player Mat Maneri, Swedish multi-instrumentalist Ale Möller, and two English jazzmen: Paul Dunmall (reeds and bagpipes) and Mick Hutton (double-bass). Highlights include settings of Walt Whiman’s ‘Dalliance of Eagles’ and ‘Crossing Brooklyn Ferry’, and ‘The Four points Are Thus beheld’ (inspired by William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’. Those who recall Williamson's avant-folk group, the Incredible String Band, will find references here as well as evidence of further inspired experimentation.
ROSA MUNDI - JUNE TABOR TOPIC TSCD532.
Rosa Mundi is June Tabor's tender celebration of the rose - an eclectic programme of material material that ranges from Tchaikovsky (The Crown of Roses) to Robert Burns (O My Luve’s Like a Red Red Rose), and from the 15th Century to the present. All the music relates to the rose; whether sacred, secular or as a symbol of love. June Tabor's graceful singing brings a unique purity and transcendent beauty to these delightful and often moving songs. ‘A subtle masterpiece’ - The Guardian.
MYSTERIOUS DAY - OLIVER KNIGHT TOPIC TSCD528.
The brilliant guitarist Oliver Knight has recorded an outstanding debut solo album that features mostly his own excellent compositions. His fine array of vocalists include Christine Collister (Mysterious Day), Eliza Carthy (From My Window), Norma Waterson (Once In A Blue Moon), John Tams (Hush), Barry Cope (Summer Lightning) and Maria Gilhooley (My Sweet Lullaby). Oliver Knight plays acoustic, electric and bass guitars as well as mandolin, and does a fine job on the production and recording side.
COME WRITE ME DOWN - THE COPPER FAMILY TOPIC TSCD534.
The Copper Family of Rottingdean in Sussex has roots in traditional song that are at least two hundred years old. These outstanding classic performances are from the 1950s and early '60s, when Bob and Ron Copper became a vital part of the folk revival scene. These newly remastered recordings are included in their entirety, together with earlier recordings involving Bob and Ron's fathers - Jim and John - available for the first time. The excellent accompanying booklet provides extensive history, biography and social context as well as the song texts and historic photographs. ‘Resonates with a weird primitivism’ - Sunday Times.
ABELARD AND HELOISE - THIRD EAR BAND BLUEPRINT BP310
This recording from 1970 is the soundtrack for a film made for German Television, retelling Alexander Pope’s tragic medieval love story about the French philosopher Abelard (1079 - 1142) and the niece of Canon Fulbert, Heloise. Third Ear Band were formed in 1969 and were a regular feature of the free concerts in Hyde Park during the late sixties and early seventies, and this is the first time that this recording has been available on compact disc. The hypnotic drone like quality of their songs, in this context can best be described as medieval chamber music.
THE STARBOARD LIST ADELPHI GCD 1025/27.
The rousing songs on this CD are those of the sailors who served on merchants ships over the last few hundred years, and include working shanties, songs of bravery and sentimental ballads. Wherever there is hard work and hard times there are song to lighten the labor, coordinate the muscles of dozens of men and often give working men their only opportunity to express their feelings about the hard masters they served. The performers’ style is in sympathy with the traditional origins of the music and shows a considerable experience and the love of the sea. Starboard List members are Charles O'Hegarty, David Jones and Peter Marston, assisted by friends Brian Brooks, Dan Milner, John Townley, Christine Townley, Jerry Epstein, Tom Cerone, Sylven Seid and John Kilgore.
A CHESAPEAKE SAILOR’S COMPANION ADELPHI GCD 1032.
European exploration of and expansion into North America was made possible by three important elements: beef bouillon, sauerkraut and melody. The latter has been lovingly recreated on this fine recording by the Press Gang with a selection from ‘Four Centuries of Maritime Music on the Chesapeake Bay’. The music ranges from traditional songs dating back to the reigns of Elizabeth and James I to Tin Pan Alley numbers of the early 20th Century. The Sailor’s Companion charts the history of a fascinating musical journey that has been meticulously researched by John Townley, who leads the Press Gang - a group of friends and fellow musicians ‘shanghaied’ into a recording studio for these sessions. Among them are the cellist Anne Waple, pianist Blanton Bradley and brilliant Scots fiddler John Turner. The CD comes complete with informative liner notes and evocative vintage maritime illustrations.
SOFIA KARLSSON - FOLK SONGS AMIGO MUSIK AMCD 748.
On this entrancing CD the gloriously pure voice of Stockholm-born Sofia Karlsson brings a sensitive beauty to a selection of traditional Swedish folk songs, religious hymns and chorales. Unobtrusive accompaniment by a fine group of musicians ensures the music’s integrity is maintained throughout. The other performers include Esbjorn Hazelius (citern, violin and voice), Leo Svensson (cello), Harald Haugaard (viola, violin) and special guest Johan Hedin (tenor kee fiddle).
SWAP - MOSQUITO HUNTER AMIGO MUSIK AMCD 750.
The brilliant Swap’s music successfully blends Celtic and Swedish traditional influences with their own compositions to produce a highly individual sound. This lively, energetic music has become increasingly popular around the world, including England, the USA, Germany and Japan. The group consists of Ola Backstrom (violin), Ian Carr (guitar), Carina Normansson (violin and voice) and Kren Tweed (accordion). Highly recommended.
JOURNEY OF THE CELTS CHACRA CHACD 056.
Will Millar, together with fellow musician Paul Horn, perform a blend of music in Celtic tradition, a fusion of music and history that draws on memories of Ireland, old family tales and historical records telling of the devastation and mass emigration that lay in the wake of the Irish Potato Famine of the mid 1800's. Spirited jigs, reels and melancholy ballads recall a time when the boats left Ireland behind for a chance at a better life in Canada, America, Australia and New Zealand. Instruments on this evocative recording include flutes, tin whistles, goatskin bodhran drums, lute, banjo, guitar, mandolin, keyboards, Irish harp, fiddle, coronet, fluegel horn, hammered dulcimer, conga drums, accordion and Uillean pipes.
GOING & STAYING - BRASS MONKEY TOPIC TSCD531.
This latest recording from Brass Monkey features folk standards together with 14th century compositions and the poetry of Thomas Hardy and William Blake. The unique instrumentation incorporates trumpet and trombone as well as squeezeboxes, mouth organ, percussion and guitar, giving the band an instantly recognisable sound. The fine musicians involved are Martin Carthy, John Kirkpatrick, Howard Evans, Richard Cheetham and Martin Brinsford. ‘...a vitality about the whole thing ... lending majesty and a refreshingly different landscape on which to place these songs’ - fRoots Magazine.
JUNE BABIES - REBECCA HOLLWEG EMU RECORDS EMU 02.
Rebecca Hollweg is a British singer and songwriter among whose influences are James Taylor, Alannis Morissette and, inevitably, Joni Mitchell. There are also touches of Suzanne Vega on her more intimate songs and the music is a winning blend of melodic pop, jazz and folk. The ten self-penned songs on June Babies are all perceptive and well observed and Rebecca Hollweg is at her best on the most intimate of them, such as Sorry and Is It Me You’re Looking For? The album features an excellent band, some fine string arrangements and a guest appearance by Jeb Loy Nichols. ‘...exquisite vocals’ - The Guardian.