Amelia Hogan – Taking Flight
Amelia Hogan is a San Francisco-based Celtic folk singer who performs both traditional and contemporary folk. She sings in the Irish music tradition of Sean-Nós, or “old style” as well as accompanied. Amelia also plays bodhran and a small 22-string Welsh lap harp, and has toured internationally to popular acclaim. Her latest album Taking Flight features sixteen tracks of which the title track is an original composition and the remainder are a mixture of traditional numbers and Hogan’s own interpretations of songs by contemporary songwriters.
Amelia Hogan: “Birds are featured in a number of songs on the album. Often seen as a symbol of loss and sorrow, birds also represent healing and the ability to find healing in the midst of hardship. The intent of this work is to take the listener on a journey through grief and out the other side, as a bird taking flight might.”
Some well-chosen songs from a diverse range of sources and Hogan’s distinctive vocal style along with some beautiful musical accompaniment and a fine cast of supporting musicians all serve to make Taking Flight an extremely cohesive album, and a deeply immersive experience for the listener. Highly recommended.
Released: 1 March 2023 https://ameliahogan.com/
RURA – Dusk Moon
The Scottish instrumental folk band RURA (Jack Smedley, Steven Blake, Adam Brown, and David Foley) celebrated their tenth anniversary back in 2020 with a live album – Live At The Old Fruit Market. Now they are back with a new full-length studio album – Dusk Moon. While the previous album fizzed with energy from a barnstorming live performance, Dusk Moon sees the foursome in a mellower and more contemplative mode.
Jack Smedley: “Much of the music has been inspired by a deep sense of reflection, hope and the people and places we’ve been so fortunate to meet and experience over the years. We’ve tried to focus on what we enjoyed most about our last studio album In Praise of Home and build on that sound.”
The nine-track album sees RURA come up with a stunning set of new compositions and there is some wonderful interplay between the foursome as they deliver their trademark sound of pipes, guitar, bodhran, flute and fiddle. All four members have contributed compositions and while they may have slowed down the tempo, there is no sign yet of RURA slowing down on the creative front. Another fine album.
Released: 17 March 2023 https://www.rura.co.uk/
Milton Hide – The Holloway
Following their ecologically-themed debut album, Temperature’s Rising, two years ago, husband-and-wife acoustic duo Milton Hide are back with a follow-up. While their debut was something of a departure for the duo with its host of guest musicians and extensive, multi-layered production, the follow-up captures more of the essence of what Milton Hide are all about on stage: stripped-back acoustic playing, engaging melodies and thought-provoking, observational songwriting.
There’s a couple of beautifully poignant instrumentals on the album, too, including the title track.
Jim Tipler: “We got the idea for the album name, The Holloway, from a beautiful place we walk the dog. The path has got lower and lower over the centuries and the trees have grown overhead to form a kind of tunnel. You can’t help but imagine the thousands of feet that have trodden it. We didn’t have a title track, so I said Josie should write a tune on the clarinet to finish the album. It’s one of my favourite bits.”
All in all, a very fine album from this charmingly inventive East Sussex folk duo.
Released: 31 March 2023 https://www.miltonhide.com/
Joy Dunlop – Caoir
Caoir (pronounced Koor and meaning a blaze of fire) is the third solo album from Scottish traditional singer and Gaelic language champion, Joy Dunlop. It’s appropriately named, the infectious beats and catchy melodies definitely make for a fiery combination and a very contemporary take on Gaelic folk.
Joy Dunlop: “I’ve always loved music that pushed the boundaries of what was considered ‘trad’, without losing the soul of the songs. As a Gaelic singer, I’m always trying to make my music accessible to those who don’t speak the language. With this recording I wanted to capture the sentiment of the songs, whether the listener understands Gaelic or not, while adding new engaging elements to the music.”
With Caoir, Dunlop certainly pulls off what she set out to achieve. The vibrant instrumentation of Ron Jappy, Mhairi Marwick, Gus Stirrat, Ifedade Thomas and Euan Malloch provides the perfect backdrop for Dunlop’s beautiful vocals makes for a captivating album from start to finish.
Released: 24 March 2023 https://www.joydunlop.com/
Megson – What Are We Trying To Say?
Husband-and-wife duo, Stu and Debbie Hanna, have been a fixture on the folk scene for almost twenty years now. What Are We Trying To Say? is the duo’s thirteenth album and their first studio album in four years. Featuring eight original songs, one traditional number (Cannie Old Blind Willie’) and the words of another (‘The Barbers News’) set to newly-composed music. The central theme of the album is about how we, the public, absorb news and information in the modern age.
Debbie Hanna: “We spent so much time during the pandemic watching the news and endlessly scrolling – social media became a vital source if information but it also became clear there were so many different takes on what was happening it became hard to figure out the real truth. We began to think about the different ways news can be used – to inform, entertain us or even control us and these are the themes we have touched on in songs on the album.”
Don’t worry though – the album not a conspiracy theorist’s charter and the duo’s song ‘The Conspiracy Trap’ tackles that unfortunate modern-day obsession head on. What the album does do, however, is offer intelligent writing, sharp social commentary and heartfelt lyrics, all delivered in those rich Teeside voices and the trademark Megson sound, with captivating melodies and stacks of beautiful fiddle and mandolin.
Released: 24 March 2023 https://www.megsonmusic.co.uk/
2 thoughts on “Latest folk reviews: Amelia Hogan, RURA, Milton Hide, Joy Dunlop and Megson”
Another nice collection of new folk albums. I’m really impressed how vibrant this genre is.
And, frankly, I didn’t know instrumental folk was a thing – of course, why shouldn’t it be? But I wasn’t aware of it!
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Oh yes – quite a big thing!
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