Latest folk reviews: Mary Beth Carty, Paul Anderson, John McCusker, Will Pound & Jenn Butterworth, Gillebrìde MacMillan

Mary Beth Carty – Crossing The Causeway

Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Mary Beth Carty, is from Antigonish in Novia Scotia and has been a performer of note on Canada’s traditional music scene for some time now, earning a nomination for Singer of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards back in 2009. The album title takes it name from the causeway that links Antigonish to Cape Breton Island, and helps symbolise the fusion of English, Gaelic and French influences that inspired the album.

Mary Beth Carthy: “Crossing The Causeway is my second solo CD, and it fuses traditional songs, instrumental tunes, and original songs.  The album could be categorized as Canadian Celtic, folk, and world music. I play multiple instruments on the album including accordion, guitar, bass, jaw harp, bones, triangle, shakers, tambourine, feet, cow-bells, and washboard, and the project also features some of Cape Breton’s best Celtic musicians and singers.”

Carty is a strong believer in the therapeutic power of music and from the evidence presented here it is really not hard to see why. A refreshingly joyful, surprisingly varied and hugely entertaining album from an artist I was not previously familiar with, this one is well worth checking out.

Released: 1 March 2023 https://marybethcarty.com/

Paul Anderson – Iona

This album from acclaimed Scottish traditional musician and composer, Paul Anderson, forms part of a multi-media artistic project which celebrates the people, history and landscape of the tiny Scottish island of Iona off the coast of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. The project, In the Footsteps of Colm Cille, features Anderson’s musical compositions alongside work by the painter, John Lowrie Morrison (whose beautiful paintings are incorporated into the album’s artwork), and the poetry of Francy Devine (extracts of which can be heard on the album).

Paul Anderson: “Iona is a special place; few places can rival it for scenic beauty, a sense of the spiritual and for the undeniable weight of Scottish history. Some places just seem to have an intangible feel about them and Iona is certainly one of them.”

With exquisite fiddle-playing from Anderson, a stellar cast of supporting musicians, evocative poetry and beautiful artwork, Iona is a delightful album arising out of a fascinating project.

Released: 9 December 2022 https://www.inthefootstepsofcolmcille.com/

John McCusker – The Best Of

A double-disc CD celebrating the career of celebrated Scottish fiddler, John McCusker, it features thirty stand-out tracks from the past thirty years, including four brand-new tracks, heard here for the first time.

Not only does the album delve deep into McCusker’s own back-catalogue as a solo artist, it also includes work from his many notable collaborations, too, and the album features artists as varied as Billy Connolly, Kris Drever, Graham Coxon and Eddie Reader (below).

John McCusker: “It’s been an incredible three decades making and performing music. I wanted to celebrate this milestone moment by releasing a compilation of the different albums and stages of my career, alongside including recordings from the many fantastic collaborations and wonderful artists I’ve been fortunate enough to work with.”

A cracking album that showcases McCusker’s absolute mastery of the fiddle alongside some of the UK’s most celebrated artists.

Released: 20 January 2023 https://www.johnmccusker.co.uk/

Will Pound & Jenn Butterworth – Volume 1

As a big fan of the harmonica, it’s fair to say that it’s an instrument not heard nearly enough in English folk. Will Pound has been on a mission to change that, of course. After teaming up with acoustic guitarist, Jenn Butterworth, for a series of live shows (after a chance encounter at a 2018 folk session became a viral sensation) the pair have now released their first album as a duo.

There is some great musical interplay between Pound (on melodeon and harmonica) and Butterworth (on guitar) as they work their way through a series of energetic tune-sets that combine traditional material with new compositions in a way that is sure to put a smile on your face. Plus there’s one song two, a beautiful rendering of Peggy Seeger’s anti-nuclear anthem, ‘Better Things’, with Butterworth on vocals.

I really enjoyed Pound’s previous album, A Day Will Come, (which Butterworth also guested on) and we can safely assume from the title of this latest album that the pair are in it for the long haul. They have made a superb start here, for sure.

Released: 24th February 2023 https://willandjenn.bandcamp.com/album/volume-1

Gillebrìde MacMillan – Sèimh: The State of Calm

This is the second album from Gaelic singer-songwriter, Gillebrìde MacMillan. The songs on the album deal with a range of personal, political and social issues as well as songs in praise of nature and community.

Gillebrìde MacMillan: “It is so important to have new Gaelic songs and this album is part of the resurgence of new Gaelic songwriting.”

If Will Pound and Jenn Butterworth take us on an exhilarating ride then Sèimh: The State of Calm does exactly what it says on the tin and immediately transports us to a place of tranquillity.

MacMillan: “In the modern world our lives are filled with speed and rushing from one thing to the next, so for this album I really wanted to give a sense of calm, space and reflection in the songs and in the arrangements.”

The album certainly achieves that. I particularly loved the soothing whistles of guest player, Fraser Fifield, alongside Mhairi Hall’s equally soothing and reflective piano. Joining MacMillan there’s a range of other guest musicians and vocalists and the album is beautifully packaged with extensive sleeve-notes in both English and Gaelic.

Released: 3 February 2023 http://www.gillebride.com/

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2 thoughts on “Latest folk reviews: Mary Beth Carty, Paul Anderson, John McCusker, Will Pound & Jenn Butterworth, Gillebrìde MacMillan

  1. Excellent picks by artists who are all new to new to me. Thanks for keeping us enlightened about new folk releases. Every time I read your posts, it makes me realize how much beautiful folk music is out there and how vibrant the genre remains to this day!

    Liked by 1 person

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