Janice Burns & Jon Doran – No More The Green Hills
A duo formed in 2017 while the pair were still at university in Newcastle, Janice Burns is originally from Glasgow while Jon Doran comes from Gloucestershire. Their first full-length album, No More Green Hills follows a well-received self-titled EP which came out in 2020.
With the pair sharing lead vocals, Janice Burns plays mandolin, guitar, harmonium and piano while Jon Doran can be heard on guitar, bouzouki, harmonium and fiddle. All of the songs on the album are traditional and tracks like ‘She Moved Through The Fair’, ‘As I Roved Out’ and ‘The Greenmore Hare’ will be familiar to even the most casual of folk fans. However, with the duo’s vocals perfectly complimenting the elegant simplicity of the musical accompaniment, all eleven songs are delivered with such warmth that you would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by this wonderful debut.
Released: 28 October 2022 https://www.janandjon.com/
Ian Bruce, Pete Clark, Ian Lowthian & Bruce MacGregor – The Land We Love
A small charity set up in 2011 with the aim of preserving the culture heritage and history of the Scottish Borders, Well Road Productions commissioned four musicians to create a new body of music celebrating the work of Borders poet, Will H. Ogilvie. Long-convinced that some of Ogilvie’s poems would make for fine songs, the organisation brought together Ian Bruce (guitar/vocals), Pete Clark (fiddle), Ian Lowthian (accordion) and Bruce McGregor (fiddle).
Born at Holefield, near Kelso in the Scottish Borders in 1869, Will H. Ogilvie spent time in Australia as a young man, becoming a notable ‘Bush poet’ there before returning to Scotland. It his work from this latter stage that is the focus for this album. The musicians, and particularly vocalist Ian Bruce, do such a fine job interpreting his work that it is hard to imagine that the words here were not originally conceived as songs. The Land We Love is a fascinating insight into Borders life, lovingly curated.
Released: October 2022 https://www.wellroadproductions.org.uk/
Breabach – Fàs
Breabach’s seventh studio album, and their first for four years, Fàs introduces new member Donal McDonagh on pipes and whistles, joining established members Megan Henderson, James Lindsay, Callum MacCrimmon and Ewan Robertson.
Callum MacCrimmon: “Fàs is much more song based than our previous albums and is deeply rooted in nature. It features original instrumental compositions from each band member, inspired by global climate-action youth movements, seed-vaults, figures close to the band and places close to our heart.”
While it the key ingredients of a typical Breabach album, the band have not shied away from experimenting in recent years and with Fàs they introduce progressive and avant-garde elements alongside the Breabach signature sound. The album features guests, Keir Long on synthesiser and Inge Thompson on programming, percussion and kalimba. The ecological theme, too, is especially welcome. It’s so easy to feel an overwhelming sense of despair about the state of our world and with our collective failure to tackle the climate crisis. Fàs injects a note of hope.
Released: 14 October 2022 https://www.breabach.com/
Sam Sweeney – Escape That
Celebrated as fiddle maestro extraordinaire with Bellowhead and for any number of collaborations with contemporary folk royalty, Sam Sweeney has also been pursuing a parallel solo career in recent years. Escape That is Sweeney’s third solo album.
The only instrumental album in this current round-up, the musical journey Sweeney takes us on is more of a gentle meander than a Bellowhead-style romp but is no less enjoyable for that. Infectious melodies (which draw as much from modern pop as traditional folk) showcase Sweeney’s exceptional playing which is backed up by a stellar cast of supporting musicians comprising Jack Rutter, Ben Nicholls, Louis Campell and Dave Mackay.
Sam Sweeney: “Escape That is the most ‘me’ music I can imagine making. It ties together my love for traditional dance tunes with my obsession with pop music hooks and textures.”
“It’s not trying to be anything. It’s as close as I’ve ever got to sharing the sound of the inside of my head.”
Released: 21 October 2022 https://www.samsweeneymusic.com/
Lady Maisery – Tender
When Tender dropped through my letterbox, I thought to myself that I haven’t seen a new album from the excellent female vocal trio, Lady Maisery, for quite a few years. On checking, I discovered that Tender is actually their first new album since 2016’s Cycle.
Hazel Askew, Hannah James and Rowan Rheingans bounce back with a highly inventive album comprising new original songs as well as their own unique interpretations of work by Björk, Tracy Chapman and Lal Waterson.
On the tour to promote the album late last year the indomitable Rowan Rheingans hilariously revealed on Twitter that one overbearingly entitled male audience member sent them a lengthy email setting them “homework” to do before their next tour. There’ll certainly be no homework from me. It’s a beautiful album. Gorgeous harmonies, compelling storytelling and musically adventurous. A deserved success.
Released: 11 November 2022 https://www.ladymaisery.com/
2 thoughts on “Latest folk reviews: Janice Burns & Jon Doran, The Land We Love, Breabach, Sam Sweeney, Lady Maisery”
Based on my initial impression, all of these albums sound lovely. I’m particularly intrigued by the outstanding vocals of Janice Burns & Jon Doran, Breabach and Lady Maisery. The trio in particular have angelic voices.
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Yes LM are well worth checking out. I hadn’t heard of JB&JD before but have become big fan based on this debut album.
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