Category Archives: Album reviews

Latest folk reviews: Siobhan Miller, Arthur Coates, Elizabeth Davidson-Blythe & Daniel Quayle, Pauline Vallance and The Magpies

Siobhan Miller – Bloom

Back in 2020 I reviewed Siobhan Miller’s fourth solo album, All Is Not Forgotten, praising the pure voice that is “just made for Scottish folk”. Now Miller is back with a fifth album, Bloom, that reunites the all-star line-up from her celebrated second album, Strata, which was released back in 2017.

Siobhan Miller: “I wanted to capture the energy of performing with these incredible musicians – the energy that happens when you’re in a room together making music and feeding off each other.”

Kris Drever, Eddie Reader, Louis Abbot and Ian Carr are all back, along with other leading musicians, to deliver an album that celebrates traditional songs and much-loved classics of the Scottish folk scene.

Joining ‘I’m A Rover’ which was released as a single back in the summer are the likes of ‘Queen of Argyle’, Cold Blows The Night’ and ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’, serving to make this a truly joyful album from one of Scotland’s most talented folk singers.

Released 16 September 2022 https://www.siobhanmiller.com/

Arthur Coates – Trapdoor To Hell

Whenever I’ve been at folk festivals I’ve always found acts like Le Vent du Nord from the Québécois folk scene to be an exhilarating ride. 20-year-old Arthur Coates takes some of that energy, blends that with the influences of the Scottish folk scene he’s been steeped in since early childhood, throws in a Lancashire folk song, some Irish tunes and a bit of blues and comes up with the rather splendid Trapdoor To Hell, his second  album.

Arthur Coates: “The trapdoor to hell is a funny expression my dad uses for the plank of wood we use in Quebec music for the feet-tapping, and it felt like a fitting name that matches the tone of the album.”

Joining Coates on fiddle, vocals, foot-tapping, guitar, bass, synthesiser and percussion is a talented line-up of supporting musicians, including his musical collaborator, Kerran Cottterell and Québécois folk luminaries, Eric Beaudry and Pierre-Luc Dupuis. An album just ramp-packed full of energy and verve.

Released 6 October 2022 https://www.arthurcoates.com/

Elizabeth Davidson-Blythe & Daniel Quayle – The Coast Road

No sooner had I written that I hadn’t heard much from the Manx folk scene before (while reviewing the recent album from Ruth Keggin & Rachel Hair) when another one turned up in the post. The Coast Road is the debut album from Elizabeth Davidson-Blythe & Daniel Quayle. Now both based in Douglas, the island’s capital, fiddle-player Davidson-Blythe is originally from Boston while multi-instrumentalist Quayle (bouzouki, guitar, piano, samples, synths) is Manx born and bred. The album’s nine instrumental tracks bring together a mixture of contemporary and traditional tunes, some originating from the Isle of Man itself while others come from Ireland, Scotland and Estonia.

The duo are hugely talented, the quality of the playing is simply exhilarating and the choice of tunes inspired. This is an instrumental album well worth checking out.

Released 30 September 2022 https://elizabethdavidsonblythe.com/

Pauline Vallance – The World’s A Gift

Pauline Vallance is a singer-songwriter and clarsach harp player from Ayrshire in Scotland and The World’s A Gift is her fourth album. A lovely album with gentle yet captivating story-telling, it explores the theme of legacy.

Explaining in the sleeve-notes, Vallance writes: “The idea came after losing my parents within a year of each other and going through all the material ‘stuff’ left behind. I quickly came to the realisation that the important legacy people leave is that of ideas, of principles, of arts and culture and not of material possessions.”  

Ten of the eleven tracks are self-composed, including the title track which gives a flavour, both of the album and of Vallance’s gorgeous harp-playing.

Joining her on the album are James Grant, who also produces, (guitar, harmony vocals); Maya Burman-Roy (cello); Signy Jakobsdottir (percussion); and Ursula Grant and Niahmh McElhill (harmony vocals).

Released 30 September 2022 https://www.paulinevallance.co.uk

The Magpies – Undertow

The Magpies are a folk trio comprising Bella Gaffney (guitar, banjo, double bass, vocals); Holly Brandon (fiddle, vocals); and new addition, Kate Griffin (banjo, vocals). The Magpies burst on to the folk scene with their debut, Tidings, back in 2020. They now follow that up with Undertow.

Holly Brandon: “Undertow was written following two years of lockdowns at a difficult moment in the arts. It features themes of reflection and the passing of time, but with a forward-looking optimism that we hope resonates with listeners.”

As well as a handful of traditional songs that are elegantly arranged by the trio, along with the self-penned material that makes up the bulk of the album, there is also a surprise cover of the Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’.

Somewhat quieter and more contemplative than the other albums reviewed here, it is no less enjoyable for that. The Magpies deliver a beautifully poignant album which expertly soaks up traditional influences from both sides of the Atlantic .

Released 14 October 2022 https://www.themagpiesmusic.com/

Singer-songwriter: album review – Greg Harper ‘Vignettes’

Based in Worthing on the West Sussex coast, Greg Harper is a singer-songwriter whose most recent album, Vignettes, came out in September.

While the songs were mainly written during lockdown they were initially recorded as ‘bare bones’ demos comprising just Harper’s vocals and acoustic guitar. However, Harper then worked with producer and multi-instrumentalist, Paul Linale to flesh them out more fully into an album, with the latter contributing piano, guitars, bass drums and percussion.

Harper’s songwriting has long explored a variety of ecological themes, from fracking to the decline of the bee population to the loss of ancient Woodland, and this latest album is no exception.

Although it is ostensibly a song that looks back to the 1953 North Sea Floods, the impending threat of devastating climate change in the modern age is really the overarching theme. Climate Change is the key theme of ‘Gathering Storm’ on reference, Taking The Time, meanwhile, is an intimate celebration of the sounds of the natural world.

Another track, ‘The Old Boneyard’, is a tribute to the occupants of Worthing’s Broadwater Cemetery, both those who were laid to rest there as well as the flora and fauna who have made it their home. “Once lovingly maintained by James Stoner, its sexton for 27 years. Now a haven for nature, contemplation, memories and imagination,” notes Harper.

That element of local history and sense of place is another thread running through the album, too. ‘Twenty Miles From Shore’, is a song about his own uncle’s experiences aboard the HMS Wren which was sunk off the coast of Aldeburgh in Suffolk during World War Two; whereas ‘The Fire Inside’ is a celebration of the joys of heritage stream railways.

Vignettes is a thoughtful, thought-provoking album that’s been lovingly put together by Greg Harper and his musical collaborator, Paul Linale.

Released: 16th September 2022 https://gregharpermusic.com/

Latest folk reviews: Barry Nisbet, Katie Grace Harris, Alastair Savage, FARA and Jackie Oates

Barry Nisbet – The Springbank Voyage

Springbank Voyage, the new album from Shetland folk musician Barry Nisbet tells the story of the Springbank and the ship’s perilous voyage around Cape Horn as it made its way from Europe to Mexico. The ship’s crew included several Shetlanders and Orcadians.

Nisbet: “The story of the Springbank has fascinated me since I first heard it from storyteller Lawrence Tulloch in Shetland as a child; my retelling for this album is inspired by many of my own experiences sailing square rig ships in the Pacific between 2000-2008.”

A skilled guitarist and fiddler, Nisbet’s musicianship and gift for storytelling are both on display here. The album features a strong cast of supporting musicians as well as some spoken interludes that provide some fascinating historical insights into the dramatic and often traumatic story of the Springbank.

Released: 12 August 2022 https://barrynisbet.com/home

Katie Grace Harris – The Toledo Sessions

Described herself on her website as a “multi-tasking,  foot tapping, piano and accordion playing singer and story-weaver”, the debut album from Katie Grace Harris was released in August. The Toledo Sessions shows huge promise, both in terms of Harris as musician and songwriter but also in her ability to pull in some of the big names among folk royalty. ’ The album includes two songs developed in collaboration with Reg Meuross as well as featuring musical contributions from Phil Beer, Odette Michell and Lukas Drinkwater.

Harris traces her folk roots to singing along with her dad on family car journeys as a child. The car in question was a Triumph Toledo, hence the title of her debut album. Harris: “We would sing songs from Joni Mitchell, The Spinners, Ralph McTell and James Taylor.”

Clearly, those car journey left their mark and listening to her album we witness both some fine original songwriting as well as some entertaining but gently enigmatic arrangements of more familiar traditional songs, too.

Released: 27 August 2022 https://www.katiegraceharris.com/

Alastair Savage – Tunes From The River

Alastair Savage has established an impressive CV across the worlds of classical, popular and folk music. A member of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra since 1997, he has also worked with many leading artists including Belle and Sebastian, Karen Matheson, Justin Currie, Ricky Ross and legendary Scottish band The Whistlebinkies. As a renowned fiddler and solo artist, he’s put out numerous albums. Tunes From The River, released in August 2022, is his sixth album, to date.

It features music composed by Savage over the past decade, presented in a mixture of studio and live and studio recordings. This collection of tunes is the final piece of a planned trilogy of albums following the unaccompanied fiddle album Alone With History (2016) and When Barley Reaches Shore (2018) which features long-term collaborators Euan Drysdale (piano and guitar) and Iain Crawford (double bass).

This final release in the trilogy again features Crawford and Drysdale alongside an impressive line-up of musicians on the Scottish folk scene. These include flautist Eddie McGuire, piper Rab Wallace, woodwind virtuoso Ewan Robertson and fiddler Pete Clark, alongside two celebrated Finish musicians, Vilma Timonen on kantele and Timo Alakotila on piano.

The title track, ‘Tunes From The River’, is dedicated to those lost in the Clutha Bar helicopter disaster in Glasgow in 2013; whilst ‘The Rocks Of Kilchoman’ is a tribute to those who lost their lives in the HMS Otranto shipping disaster off the coast of Islay towards the end of the First World War.

Other tunes on the album have been inspired by the Scottish islands of Skye, Harris and Lewis as well as Savage’s Ayrshire homeland. If you like your fiddle playing haunting, evocative and exceptionally beautiful then do check out the tunes on this album.

Released: 11 August 2022 https://www.alastairsavage.co.uk/

FARA – Energy Islands

Now onto their third album, FARA are the Orkney folk musicians, Kristan Harvey, Jeana Leslie and Catriona Price who each play fiddle, along with newer member, Rory Matheson, on piano.

As someone who is passionate about both Scottish folk and tackling the climate crisis there’s lots to love about this album which has been inspired by Orkney’s embrace of renewable energy. 100 per cent of the islands’ electricity needs are now regularly met through local renewable sources (predominantly wind power but also solar and heat pumps) and it has meant that Orkney now produces more energy than the National Grid can actually take. Catriona Price: “Having been born and raised among the breath-taking natural beauty of Orkney, we wanted to highlight its role in raising awareness and curbing the climate crisis.”

Featuring a mix of songs and tunes, the result is a rather stunning album with a very important message at its heart. There have been quite a few folk albums with an ecological message, of course, but this is something innovative and unique. Fantastic melodies, rich harmonies, great storytelling and wonderful interactions between the four talented musician, Energy Islands is well worth a listen.

Released: 26 August 2022 https://faramusic.co.uk/

Jackie Oates – Gracious Wings

Kicking off a career in folk back in 2006, Jackie Oates has been an industrious presence on the traditional music scene ever since, this latest release being her eighth studio album. With a guest artist list that includes John Spiers, Mike Cosgave, John Parker, Megan Henwood and Jon Wilks who each complement Oates’ pure, delicate vocals and beautifully warm viola-playing, Gracious Wings is her first solo album in four years.

Oates describes the eleven-piece album as a mixture of “traditional English folk songs, self-penned material and the odd unexpected cover version.” Of the latter, the album includes a cover of ‘Time Time Time’ by Tom Waits as well as a rendition of the song ‘On and On’ by British indie-rockers, The Longpigs.

Traditional material includes songs like ‘The Ship In Distress’ which Oates discovered while researching for material for a project with Kathyrn Roberts, which celebrated the work of Cecil Sharp, as well as a rendition of the Basque folk song, ‘Iruten Ari Nuzu’ (I Am Making Wool)’. Self-penned material includes ‘Robin Tells Of Winter’, written during lockdown in the winter of 2021. Oates: We were all longing for signs of summer and an end to the perpetual ‘frozen in time’ feeling.

From a consummate musician, engaging singer and thoughtful songwriter and interpreter of others’ material, Gracious Wings is a welcome addition to Jackie Oates’ illustrious catalogue.

Released: 2 September 2022 https://www.jackieoates.co.uk/

Synth-rock: album review – The Cathodes ‘So Clear’

The Cathodes are a Greater Manchester-based synth-rock band and their debut album, So Clear, came out this summer. The band describe themselves as “influenced by the melodies and sounds from the ‘80s with a small dash of the ‘60s thrown in.”

The three-piece are Dave Forward (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Paul Cargill (bass, backing vocals) and Barbara Verrall (keyboards, backing vocals). Although relatively new all three are experienced musicians with an extensive track record playing in local bands. Classically-trained, Barbara Verrall teamed up with Dave Forward after meeting at a local church. The duo then came across Paul Cargill at an open mic night in the Derbyshire village of Charlesworth on the outskirts of Greater Manchester. The Cathodes was born, the trio finally coming up with the name just two days before the UK went into lockdown back in 2020.

Although I must confess to often finding a lot of the music of the ‘80s a little synthetic and over-produced and it wasn’t particularly my thing at the time (even though it’s the backdrop to my youth!), So Clear is a tasteful and intelligent album with great melodies and thoughtful lyrics. Songs like ‘North Of England’ (written by Forward’s then musical collaborator, Jon Dean, and originally recorded by the duo back in the 1980s) perfectly captures a mood and immediately takes me back to my own teenage years in Preston around that time.

‘In From The Cold’, meanwhile, is the band’s latest single and, like the majority of tracks on the album, is written by Forward. Written back in 1990 and inspired by Forward’s many late-night freezing walks as a student, it was finally recorded in 2021 and features some superb lead guitar from guest guitarist, Dave Townson, but also includes some classic analogue sounds from the 1980s giving the track a real ‘80s feel.

The album was voted number one in the Chart Of Gold over nine consecutive weeks and for any lovers of ‘80s synth-rock is well worth seeking out.

Released: July 2022 by Creative Dreams & Music Network

https://www.thecathodes.com/

Latest folk reviews: Fritillaries, Dan Whitehouse, Jamestown Brothers, Bush Gothic and Owen Moore

Fritillaries – Fritillaries

Fritillaries are Hannah Pawson and Gabriel Wynne, a Bristol-based folk and Americana duo who have been playing together since childhood. They’ve been gigging extensively around both the UK and Australia over the past five years and released their eponymously-titled debut album back in July.

It’s a stunning debut that’s been picking up plenty of favourable reviews. Pawson’s crystal clear vocals have an English folk sensibility while the instrumentation (mainly acoustic guitars, banjo and mandolin) gives their music a strong Americana feel; and their song-writing has echoes of that golden era of American singer-songwriters, with nods towards Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.

It’s a captivating package and the music and the lyrical themes (“about people missed, places found, and things unearthed from the spaces the light doesn’t reach,” say the duo) lead us through an equally captivating range of moods and emotions.

Released: 15 July 2022 https://fritillaries.uk/

Voices From The Cones: Songs inspired by stories from the glassworks in Stourbridge

Voices From the Cones is a fascinating double disc album that arose out of a collaboration between singer-songwriter, Dan Whitehouse, and the Ruskin Mill Trust. With support from the Arts Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund it’s a project celebrating the rich 400-year history of the glass-making industry in Stourbridge, West Midlands.

Musically, the album is as varied as the vast array of artefacts on display in the museum’s Stourbridge Glass Collection, which features pieces dating back over the past 400 years.

Across the twelve tracks on the first disc we skip between folk, Americana, dance, music hall, sensitive singer-songwriter and shiny pop. Some of these genres appeal to me more than others but there’s some superb musicianship on offer here from a stellar line-up than includes Lukas Drinkwater, Chris Cleverley, John Elliot, Kim Lowings, Gustaf Ljunggren and Nicole Justice.

The second disc, meanwhile, is a narrated oral history featuring fascinating first-hand insights, integrated with music from the project – including a reprise of the beautiful ‘Voices From The Cones’, the opening track on the first disc. Wonderful stuff!  

The album will be launched live at a special launch night at The Glassworks Arts Centre, Stourbridge on Friday October 21st . Tickets available here 

Released: 30 September 2022 https://www.dan-whitehouse.com/

The Jamestown Brothers – Just Is

The Jamestown Brothers are a nine-piece band from Somerset. On their website they sum up their approach as playing “original songs influenced by folk, country and blues, with lyrics that mine the rich history and social tapestry of Great Britain and Ireland.”

All the songs on the six-track EP, Just Is, are written by the band’s vocalist/guitarist, Colin Batchelor, and their rowdy, raucous and irreverent brand of indie folk-punk puts me in mind of bands like Ferocious Dog and Hastings’ own Matilda’s Scoundrels. The nine-man line-up encompasses guitars, banjo, piano, bass, drums, fiddle, recorder, trumpet and trombone.

It’s never less than entertaining and I can see them going down brilliantly at festivals but there’s a serious side behind the fun though, with songs about homelessness, togetherness and vicious, old-time, football sectarianism. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for these guys playing live but, meanwhile, do check out their excellent EP.

Released: 12 August 2022 https://thejamestownbrothers.co.uk/

Bush Gothic – Beyond The Pale

The intriguingly-named Bush Gothic are exactly what it says on the tin: a trio of Aussie musicians who delve into the rich tapestry of traditional Australian songs and apply their own unique brand of folk noir. Or, as they put it themselves: “A post-modern, counterculture bush band who like old tales and new ideas.”

Bush Gothic are Jenny M. Thomas (vocals, fiddle), Dan Witton (bass) and Chris Lewis (drums), the three having previously played together in the band, Circus Oz. Beyond The Pale is the trio’s third album and they’ve built up a solid record for live performance and spectacular collaborations in both Britain and Australia.

Delving into old transportation ballads; that Aussie favourite, ‘The Pub With No Beer’; along with tales recounting homesickness, heartache and rural agricultural life – including a song about the 1891 sheep shearer’s strike (co-written by Witton’s own grandmother) it’s a fascinating insight into Australian settler culture and history that’s beautifully performed by the trio. Dark, brooding, haunting but utterly enthralling, Beyond The Pale brings something unique and genuinely creative to these traditional numbers.

Released: 29 July 2022 https://www.bushgothic.com/

Owen Moore – Blue Sky Songs

The Irish-born, Dorset-based singer-songwriter’s prodigious work-rate shows no sign of abating. His eleventh album of original songs, Blue Sky Songs, came out in July. Here we have ten new songs served up, once again, with Owen Moore’s characteristic brand of folk-infused acoustic Americana, relaxed vocal delivery and instinctive ear for a catchy melody. The Byrds-meets-rockabilly vibe of ‘Fireglo’ is a particular favourite of mine, Moore’s own tribute to the delights of the Rickenbacker.

Blue Sky Songs, along with all of Moore’s self-produced albums are available from his website. A good starting point, however, is the recent compilation album, Sixteen Easy Songs For Voice & Guitar, which features highlights drawn from across each of the ten previous albums and spanning the period 2011-2021.

Released: 29 July 2022 http://www.owenmooremusic.com/

Folk: album review – Ruth Keggin & Rachel Hair ‘Lossan’

While there continues to be a rich stream of new folk releases celebrating Scottish and Irish Gaelic, Manx Gaelic, in comparison, doesn’t often get much of a look in.

Manx Gaelic singer, Ruth Keggin, has teamed up with Scottish harpist, Rachel Hair, to deliver an exquisitely beautiful album celebrating the revival of the Manx language from its virtual extinction in the post-war period, as well as drawing together the cultural and linguistic connections between the Isle of Man and Scotland, whose traditional languages both share the same Goidelic roots within the wider family of Celtic languages.

The album’s title, Lossan, comes from a Manx Gaelic word meaning light, glimmer, sheen or flame.

The duo’s vocalist, Ruth Keggin, explains: “The word ‘lossan’ has such a rich meaning and we love the idea of the word being associated with tiny particles of light in the darkness – it felt very fitting to title the album this way. The word also has connections to the sea and sky and it’s these things that connect us both and are so important to our homelands.”

On collaborating with harpist, Rachel Hair, Keggin adds: “I have long loved Rachel’s music and the way she approaches playing Gaelic songs with such sensitivity, so it felt like the most natural thing to work together.”

Rachel Hair adds: “For years now I have been inspired by the culture on the Isle of Man, and its music song and language. I’m so grateful to those involved in the cultural scene on the island for welcoming me – this acceptance has been a real inspiration, giving me the freedom to play the island’s music and help fly its flag around the world.”

The result is an album that combines the pair’s interpretations of traditional Manx songs and tunes with more recently composed material by several songwriters from the Isle of Man, including several by noted Manx poet and musician, Annie Kissack.

Keggin’s crisp, clear vocals and Hair’s delicate, intricate playing compliment one another perfectly and the album represents a moving and rather lovely celebration of both the Manx language and its rich musical traditions.

Released: 8 July 2022

https://ruthandrachel.bandcamp.com/album/lossan

This week’s featured artists: Americana singer-songwriter duo, Tom Faia & Kate Miller

New album: Stay Away From The Flame

Now on to their third album as a duo, Tom Faia & Kate Miller have been building up a reputation for their live shows along California’s Central Coast for some four years.

Originally from the Monterey Bay Area, Tom Faia has an illustrious musical CV which, early in his career, included work with the much-celebrated rock and roll sideman, James Burton, along with the Wrecking Crew. After leaving LA, where he was signed to A&M Records as a solo artist, Faia then headed down to Nashville to hone his skills as a songwriter. As a Nashville-based songsmith, his songs were recorded by the likes of Barbara Mandrell and Dobie Gray, prior to heading back to Monterey where he continued to write. After spending several years performing solo, he teamed up with Kate Miller in 2018.

Kate Miller, herself, is a veteran of several local bands in the Monterey area and as the Monterey Herald put it: “When Kate Miller joined Tom Faia to make music things got a lot more interesting, not only in live performance but on the new album, Stay Away From The Flame.

One of Tom Faia’s songs, ‘Whole Lotta Trouble’, was used in award-winning film, A Girl, Two Guys and a Gun, seen here performed live with Kate Miller.

Released in July, the new album, Stay Away From The Flame, showcases Faia’s talents as a songwriter and his ear for a laid-back but instantly-memorable melody. With a sound based around acoustic guitar and harmony vocals, the interplay between Faia’s seasoned drawl and Miller’s warm, emotive voice is a delight, as is Faia’s harmonica-playing. Jese Diaz on bass and Vince Sanchez on percussion complete the line-up.

With musical influences that span the early rock and roll years of the ’50s and the classic era of the great singer-songwriter albums of the early ’70s, there’s a richness to this album which should find fans across the folk/Americana/singer-songwriter genres.

Released: 11th July 2022

https://www.facebook.com/FaiaMillerMusic/

Folk/bluegrass: album review – Damien O’Kane & Ron Block ‘Banjophonics’

I know the groans that the mention of the word banjo elicits in both folk circles and the wider music world have long been a bit of a cliché. But as a Brit, I must confess that my first thought at mention of the word is usually visions of Jim Royle whipping out his banjo and rattling off some tired old music hall song in episodes of the Royle Family.

It’s not like that elsewhere, of course, and four years ago, Irish musician Damien O’Kane and California-based Ron Block pulled off the seemingly impossible, with their debut album Banjophony attracting rave reviews and suddenly making the banjo cool – even in Britain.

Now the pair have done it again with a brand-new, thirteen-track album, Banjophonics, and I must say I love it!

Damien O’Kane: The title reflects the sound we think we make – it’s a definition of our music. It’s a joyous, life-affirming joust, barely pausing for breath – fast, frenetic fireworks punctuated by more reflective melodies.”

What the collaboration does so successfully, of course, is fuse two distinct banjo traditions into one joyful, transatlantic, musical melting pot: courtesy of the four-string Irish tenor banjo and the five-string American bluegrass banjo.

A celebrated performer on the Irish music scene, O’Kane has two successful solo albums behind him and is a much in-demand musician while Block is rightly celebrated for his role as part of Alison Krauss & Union Station.

Comprising eleven tunes and two songs, Banjophonics is an exhilarating mix that spans a whole range of tempos, influences and moods. There’s a great line-up of guests on the album, too, including Siera Hull, Barry Bales, Jay Bellerose from the US, along with Steven Byrnes, Duncan Lyall, Josh Clark, Michael McGoldrick and David Kosky from this side of the Atlantic. Kate Rusby provides stunning backing vocals on one track, ‘Woman Of No Place’, a tribute to Irish traveller and banjo player, Margaret Barry.

Whether you come at it as a lover of the Irish folk tradition or the American bluegrass tradition or a bit of both, you will find plenty to love in this album.

Released: 1st July 2022

https://damienokane.co.uk/band/

Blues-rock: EP review – Big River ‘Beautiful Trauma’

Kent-based blues rock band, Big River, have been picking up airplay left, right and centre along with a slew of glowing reviews for their latest EP. Deservedly so, Beautiful Trauma is a very classy release. As the band acknowledge, they’ve been on something of a journey since their debut album, Redemption, was released back in 2019.

Bass-player, Ant Wellman, departed recently to be replaced by Simon Gardiner but the biggest change has been the acquisition of front-man, Adam Barron, who replaced original vocalist, Adam Bartholomew, back in 2021. Barron had already made an impact as a contestant on TV’s The Voice, and was snapped up by Mick Ralphs for his own solo band, the Mick Ralphs Blues Band, prior to Ralphs’ debilitating stroke putting an end to that. I’d witnessed Baron in action with Mick Ralphs a couple of times previously, and once with another ex-Bad Company alumni, Dave Bucket Colwell. And I’ve been following the career of Big River with interest ever since they first formed so when the two joined forces it seemed like a match made in heaven to me. And this EP is definite proof of that!

As drummer, Joe Martin, says: “These songs have been performed live and have gone down a storm with all audiences. Through the changes Big River have maintained their thunderous live sound, but it’s that bit sweeter. The future is bright.”

‘Don’t Hold Out’, with its upbeat acoustic passages (courtesy of Barron on ukulele), a blinding guitar solo from Damo Fawsett and its summery vibe opens the four-track EP nicely, showcasing Adam’s Barron’s soulful, bluesy vocals to perfection.

The band then come in hard and heavy for the next track ‘The Long Way’, a great slice of meaty, classic rock which is then followed by another rocker, ‘Slow Burn’, with its striking, jaggedy riff, superb bass and powerful energy. The band then take things down a notch for the final track and the EP’s title rack. With shades of Free and early Whitesnake, ‘Beautiful Trauma’ is everything you could ask for from a classic blues rock song: soulful, emotive, anthemic, with some gorgeous guitar and vocals to die for, not to mention meaningful, relatable lyrics.

Now at a pivotal point in their career trajectory, Big River have delivered an EP of pure class. Anyone with any love of classic-era blues rock is urged to buy Beautiful Trauma right now. You will not be disappointed!

Released: 19th August 2022

https://bigriver1.bandcamp.com

Related posts:

Live review – Big River at The Carlisle, Hastings 2021

Single review – Big River – Don’t Hold Out

Album review – Big River – Redemption

Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Giants of Rock 2016

Dave “Bucket” Colwell at Leo’s Red Lion, Gravesend 2016

This week’s featured artist: Gaelic multi-instrumentalist Tina Jordan Rees

Originally from Lancashire but having spent time living in both Ireland and Scotland, Tina Jordan Rees is extremely well-versed in the musical traditions of each. A multi-instrumentalist, she plays flute, whistle and piano as well as being a qualified Irish dance teacher. Having released several albums of Irish dance music, Beatha represents her first album of flute and whistle.

Tina Jordan Rees: “In 2018, having not long turned 30, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Thankfully, it was found early and I had an operation which cured it. My outlook on life has changed somewhat since then. I want to enjoy like more, take in the small moments and breathe.”

“It was important to me to be creative once again after the majority of music had stopped during the pandemic. Making music brings me so much happiness and makes me feel alive. I have enjoyed pouring my heart and soul into this album and playing with the fantastic musicians who joined me for it.”

“I decided to name the album Beatha as a nod to this journey we are all on. As ‘beatha’ means life in both Scottish and Irish Gaelic, I feel it reflects my time spent in Ireland and Scotland where I now call home.”

The result is a beautiful, life-affirming album featuring ten tracks of self-composed Gaelic-inspired tunes. Tina Jordan Rees plays flute, whistles and piano, and is joined by guest musicians, Séan Gray (guitar), Lea Larsen (Bodhran) and James Lindsay (double bass).

From sweet and poignant to dramatic and fast-paced, Jordan Rees’ thoughtful compositions and inspired playing takes us on a journey that invokes a fulsome range of emotions. Beatha is an album that followers of Gaelic folk would do well to seek out, whether they are familiar with her previous work or not.

Beatha was released on June 24th and is available on CD and all the major musical platforms.

Photo credits: Elly Lucas

https://tinajordanrees.com/