Category Archives: Album reviews

Folk/country singer-songwriter: album review – Tom Clelland ‘Handpicked & Collected’

Tom Clelland is a Scottish folk singer-songwriter. He’s released several albums to date and Handpicked & Collected is something of a career retrospective. A double CD compilation comprising 23 tracks it brings together favourites from his previous albums along with live recordings.

His approach takes something from the Scottish folk tradition, something from American country and with Clelland’s compelling story-telling at the heart.

The first disc (the “Handpicked” part) features eight songs penned by Clelland based on historical events and myths. Themes range from war – including ‘Carion Craw’ commemorating the Battle of Harlaw in 1411 and ‘The Wind She Changed’ written at the time of the second Gulf War – to the supernatural such as ‘The Ghost With The Squeaky Wheel’ and ‘The Devil and the Hangman’.

With the second disc (the “Collected” part) we get a whopping fifteen songs and the themes are more eclectic here. There’s a much more personal feel to some of the song-writing here. Opening track ‘Slow Down’ is a delicious slice of infectious olde-time country while another country-flavoured track ‘Country Music Once Again’ takes a wry look at Clelland’s musical influences over the decades. There’s more of Clelland’s historical-based storytelling as well as the one track that’s not wholly original is ‘How Far To Babylon’, with lyrics adapted from a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson.

While Clelland’s vocals and guitar are at the core of all twenty-three tracks various musical guests provide additional accompaniment at various points, bringing added authenticity to the diverse range of musical influences explored on the album whether that’s Scottish folk or American country – from Mairearad Green on pipes to Willie Gamble on pedal steel.

Handpicked & Collected is a delightful retrospective from a talented singer-songwriter with a foot in both the folk and country camps.

Released: 10th May 2021

http://www.tomclelland.co.uk/

Late Bloomer: interview with US singer-songwriter L.A. Moore – new solo album out

L.A. Moore is a US-based singer-songwriter. Alongside two albums he’s recorded with folk rock influenced band Not Broken Yet, Late Bloomer is Moore’s first solo release.

Originally transferred to Florida from Canada for a job in corporate marketing, he found himself out of work in the economic collapse of 2008 and started attending open mic evenings in the Tampa/ St. Petersburg area.  Over time L.A. hooked up with two other local musicians, John Stone and Paul Cataldo forming the folk rock band Not Broken Yet.

“When COVID came along the band slowed down its live schedule but I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit in with The Joe Milligan Project and John Alan Carmack, both great songwriters in their own right”. “Of course the big challenge was to go out and play on my own. At that point you question whether you or the songs are good enough, but I thought, this is something I really want to do and I’m not getting any younger.”

I caught up with him recently to talk to him how he first got into performing, his inspirations and his musical influences, as well, of course, as his new album. Late Bloomer is an album of pithy, engaging, thoughtful original songs and some deft acoustic guitar-playing. I was keen to find out more.

Firstly, tell me a bit more about your musical background.

I was largely a” hobby” player, up until 2008. Guitar had always been a serious hobby and I did get out to play when I was living in Canada, but it was not until I was out of work in 2008 in Florida, that I really started to go out and perform. There is a significant and emerging music scene in the Tampa St. Petersburg area and there are wonderful opportunities to both play and interact with other local musicians. I ended up in a “Folk Rock” trio, Not Broken Yet, which has produced two original CD’s. (Not Broken Yet 2, being released as we speak). Sonically we are often compared to CSN and the Eagles.

And your main musical influences?

Being a child of the mid-sixties music scene, I was fortunate to be influenced by the great music of the time, Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, Cream, Hendrix, with sprinklings of the other Brit Invasion bands. The first “album” I ever bought was the Butterfield Blues band, which of course lead me to The Blues Breakers, Mayall, Yardbirds etc. Motown was big too, so there is all of that.

‘Folk Music’ was still in its evolutionary phase coming out of the late 50’s, but as an acoustic guitar player I was influenced by Dylan, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and local hero Bruce Cockburn who often played at the college I attended.

As my tastes and interests matured, I discovered Pentangle, Jansch and Renbourn, and later, John Martyn and Nick Drake. As I looked to improve my acoustic chops I discovered Geoff Muldaur, who had a very strong influence on my current style. Geoff also influenced the type of guitar I play, that being 12 fret models, once I discovered the unique qualities of acoustic 12 frets, I started to play them exclusively.

What were the key inspirations for the songs on the album, and your song-writing generally?

Well, “Late Bloomer” is pretty self-explanatory. I got out of the gate pretty late with performing and songwriting, but now I am making up for lost time with an enthusiasm and confidence I did not have in my youth.

When I first started going out to play in the local Florida music scene, there was a great emphasis on original song writing. Several of the venues, which did not have ASCAP licenses at the time, did not allow cover songs, so you had to write. The first of those songs was Little Miss Hurricane, influenced by my first weekend in Florida sitting in an empty house, waiting for my furniture to arrive and watching Hurricane Jean, rip the screen lanai off the back of my newly purchased home! Welcome to Florida!!

Naturally other songs followed and the themes ranged from suicide of a friend (‘Reach Out’) to ‘Home’ – which begs the question, where is home?  Where you are from? Where you live? Or somewhere in the mind?

‘Rum Punch’ is also clearly influenced by the southern lifestyle. I was never a fan of Jimmy Buffet, but he is a HUGE influence in Florida and my not-so-secret wish is to one day have a crowd of sun worshippers singing ‘Rum Punch’.

As I moved forward with the songwriting I went back to some of those early acoustic influences and started to explore the great sonic opportunities of open tunings. Several of the songs on Late Bloomer are played in open D tuning.

And tell us a bit about the accompanying musicians you assembled?

Late Bloomer has a small “who’s who” of local talent. Largely produced and engineered by Stephen Paul Connolly at his Zen Studios here in St. Petersburg Florida, Stephen is a local guitar hero who toured as the lead guitar player for Roger McGuinn, when he pursued his solo career. “Steve” is highly respected for his production skills and draws the best local songwriters to his recording studio. He plays guitar, pedal steel and keys on several of the tracks.

Douglas Lichterman is a local guitar teacher and member of the Joe Milligan Project band. I have had the pleasure of playing with Douglas on several occasions and was honoured to have him play on Late Bloomer. TJ Weger is a local legend, playing guitar, mandolin, pedal steel, dobro etc. TJ was fundamental in bringing the “Americana” vibe to many of the songs. Sam Farmer is a very talented local drummer and solo musician. John Stone plays bass with me in Not Broken Yet and John Alan Carmack who sings backup on ‘Rum Punch’ is the hardest working musician in Tampa/St. Petersburg with his own exceptional CD Kentucky Motel.

Late Bloomer can be obtained via lamooremusic.com on CD and most digital platforms

Released: 14th April 2021

News: After Comes The Dark: eagerly anticipated new album from Green Diesel promises folk in glorious technicolor

Released: 16th July 2021 on Talking Elephant

After Comes The Dark – the long-awaited fourth album from Kent-based folk rock band Green Diesel is set for release on 16th July. The album was recorded during 2020 at Squarehead Studios in Sittingbourne and is the first to feature the band’s new five-person line-up. The album also marks the debut of drummer, Paul Dadswell, from Kentish acid-folk band Galley Beggar.

The current formulation of the band has enabled Green Diesel to explore new sounds and new directions. A noteworthy feature, and a distinct departure from previous albums, is that every single band member has written at least one song on the album. The result is an album of stunning folk rock with an inventive twist and innovative use of their studio surroundings.

Guitarist, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Greg Ireland, comments:

“After Comes The Dark is a kind of ‘folk in technicolor’. We used the studio to experiment with different sound textures and extra layers of vocal harmonies and you can hear that we’ve been inspired by more psychedelic sounds, too. There are plenty of prog rock and ‘Canterbury Sound’ bands influences in there.”

“The record is still very definitely a ‘folk’ album though. The major themes we explore are cycles, rebirth, the natural world and folklore. As each of us in the band grow older, the concept of the passing of time is apparent through many of the songs.”

As the band were preparing and arranging the songs, bands like Caravan and Genesis proved major influences – allowing Green Diesel to take a more experimental approach compared to past albums, exploring different time signatures and different musical structures. The twelve-string guitar features prominently on the album with suitably breath-taking results. The band were able to make full use of the fantastic array of keyboards available to them at Squarehead Studios.

After Comes The Dark was produced by Rob Wilkes whose previous work has included Smoke Fairies (as producer), along with Foals and Lianne La Havas (as engineer).

Green Diesel are:

Ellen Care – lead vocals, violin

Paul Dadswell – drums, vocals

Matt Dear – lead guitar, vocals

Ben Holliday – bass

Greg Ireland – guitar, bouzouki, dulcimer, mandolin, keyboards, percussion, vocals

Hailing from Faversham in Kent, Green Diesel first emerged back in 2009, taking their inspiration from the depths of English folk lore and legend, and the classic folk-rock sound of their predecessors: Fairport Convention and The Albion Band. Blending violin, mandolin and dulcimer with electric guitars and drums, Green Diesel’s sound is born from a love of traditional English music and a desire to bring it to a modern audience. Green Diesel’s three previous albums: Now Is The Time (2012), Wayfarers All (2014) and The Hangman’s Fee (2016) have all won praise from critics and fans alike for the quality of song-writing and musicianship and the band have been a popular draw at festivals, from Broadstairs Folk Week to Beverley Folk Festival.

After Comes The Dark – track by track

  1. ‘Follow The River’ has been a Green Diesel live favourite for some time now and showcases the band’s rich vocal harmonies. Written by Greg while on a retreat to the Isle of Skye, the song was inspired by the power of water and the idea of simply surrendering to the current and being swept out to sea and to freedom.  It also invokes childhood memories for Greg: “I have a vivid memory of staring at the water at Lydia Bridge in Devon for hours while on walks with my parents.”
  2. ‘Northern Frisk’, written by Ellen, is a song built around a tune, rather than a tune fitted into a song. Ellen: “I learnt the tune from the Pete Cooper book when I was looking for English 3/2 hornpipes. I knew from the start I wanted it to be about dancing and liveliness (frisk meaning to skip or leap playfully). The undead spirits emerged from the slightly darker undertones of the tune. I really like the layered crescendo as the tune builds up and imagine more and more dancers joining a whirring frenzy.”
  3. ‘Dusty Fairies’ is the band’s customary instrumental on the album. It comprises three tunes – ‘King of The Fairies’ and a couple of 3/2 hornpipes learnt from Pete Cooper’s English Fiddle Tunes book, namely ‘Dusty Miller’ and ‘Rusty Gulley’. Ellen’s dad, Chris, guests on concertina and helps create a mood that is in equal parts homage to a folk festival main-stage and tunes in the back garden with a glass of (homemade) cider.
  4. ‘Sea Song’ sees Greg returning to one of his favourite subject matters – the sea. Lyrically it plays with traditional folk ballad forms around heartbreak and loneliness. Musically, it has some medieval touches in places. Beautifully sung by Ellen, it is one of several slower songs on the album which sees the band broadening their musical palette with a contrasting array of styles.
  5. ‘I Wish My Love’ is a traditional song sung by Greg, based on Lisa Knapp’s reading of ‘The Pitman’s Love Song’. “Lots of time signatures on this one!” says Greg. “And an electric guitar solo that may not have been what A.L. Lloyd had in mind when he wrote about the song…”
  6. ‘The White Hart’ is bass-player Ben Holliday’s writing debut for the band. Ben plays guitar on this track and Greg plays bass. It is one of the more psychedelic tracks on the album, with an outro inspired by the likes of Espers and Mellow Candle. Ben: “The White Hart is a song inspired by a good friend of mine, who sadly lost her battle with a serious illness. It tells the story of resilience and grace when facing inconceivable adversity.”
  7. ‘Underworld’ was released in May as a single.  Written by new drummer, Paul Dadswell: “The music was originally inspired by Philip Glass’s celebrated soundtrack to the 1982 experimental film Koyaanisqatsi, which got me playing about with an arpeggiator. I already had some lyrics about a moment of limbo when you have to choose between fantasy and reality, being born, or growing up, or moving past addiction. The moment of choice between living in the past and embracing the future.  Feeling endlessly suspended between the familiar and the unknown. Or just getting out of bed in the morning…”
  8. ‘Katy Cruel’ is a traditional song, learnt from vocal trio Lady Maisery. Ellen: “There are various versions of this song, some that emphasise the plight of Katy but we wanted to make our version one that emphasises her defiance.  She’ll take her own path!” The instrumental section is a 3/2 tune often known as ‘The Key To The Cellar’ and perhaps best known to folk rock fans as the tune for Steeleye Span’s ‘Cam Ye O’er Fae France’
  9. ‘Never Reach The Dawn’ is another song written by Greg, a dream-like song where the narrator is visited by the ghost of someone from the past.  Lyrically, it was inspired by the canon of night visitor songs. Greg: “This is one of the tracks that helps define what the band aim to do – the inspiration and ‘launchpad’ is very traditional but we take that and bring in musical influences from outside the genre to create something completely new.”
  10. ‘Storm’ is written and sung by Matt in his customary enigmatic style! Matt: ‘Storm is an allegory for despair when met with insurmountable odds.  A lament against scapegoating, denial and historic recurrence, but also a celebration of resilience and hedonism in the face of adversity.”
  11. ‘After Comes The Dark’ the album’s title track and closing song is another written by Greg.  It uses the studio to create an unsettling texture – rural psychedelia meets folk horror. The song sums up the album’s themes of death, rebirth and the power of the natural world. Greg: “It doesn’t matter how many jewels and trophies you accrue – we all end up in the same place.”

Green Diesel – what they say:

“Green Diesel has skyrocketed into my top few bands” – FATEA

“Folk-rock in the grand manner” – R2 Magazine

“A band with roots deep in the native soil, playing their own electric interpretations of ancient English music” – Shindig!

“An established band simply getting better” – FolkWords

 http://greendieselfolk.com/

Related posts:

Green Diesel at The Albion, Hastings 2017

Green Diesel album review – Wayfarers All

Green Diesel at Lewisham 2016

Singer-songwriter: album review – Ronan Gallagher ‘Time Waits For No One’

Ronan Gallagher has the sort of rich, seasoned, easy-going vocal delivery that makes it sound like’s he’s been performing around the pubs and bars of Ireland for decades. Married to some irresistibly catchy melodies, some thoughtful every-man style lyrics and a great cast of supporting musicians who deliver a fine blend of Celtic-infused Americana, it’s a sure-fire winner. Incredibly, however, Gallagher did not begin singing or learning to play the guitar until just over five years ago.

Clearly a natural, Time Waits For No One is Gallagher’s second album, a follow-up his debut Always Broke Never Broken released back in 2019.

Describing his songs “as gritty, passionate, raucous, lyrical, and at times political” they mostly tell stories of everyday life.

There are ten such gems on this album. They range from the title track, a jaunty number about living life to the full whatever your age, to the imposing ‘The World Is Burning’ a soul-infused, bluesy flavoured epic on the theme of environmental destruction. ‘Miss You’ meanwhile is a slow, sentimental country track with bags of character and bags of steel guitar. There’s no shortage of humour either with a US televangelist-style hellfire preacher making an appearance on one track.

There’s nothing about this album I don’t like. I just absolutely love it – incredible work and deserving of a much wider audience. Check it out!

Released: 16th Mat 2021

https://ronangallaghermusic.com/

Celtic/electronica: album review – Whyte ‘MAIM’

Electronica duo Whyte have been compared to a Gaelic version of Sigur Rós, their brooding, shimmering arrangements forming a dramatic yet pleasing fusion of tradition and modernity.

Formed back in 2016, the duo are Alasdair C. Whyte (vocals) and Ross Whyte (electronics).  Whyte were awarded the Scottish Gaelic Arts and Culture Award in 2019 and in 2017 won the Hands Up For Trad/Creative Scotland Nòs Ùr Songwriting Award for their original Gaelic song ‘Cionran’.

True to their experimental roots, the duo’s latest and third album MAIM is a collaboration with contemporary Gaelic theatre company Theatre Gu Leòr.

MAIM developed out of a partnership with Theatre Gu Leòr and a successful theatre production of the same name. The original theatre production, directed by Muireann Kelly, premiered in March 2020 and saw a run of sold-out shows at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow prior to advent of lockdown last Spring. MAIM, meaning panic in Gàidhlig, is a call to action, giving voice to the frustrations of the next generation who care deeply about the crisis facing their land and language, is how the show defined itself – and attracted a slew of favourable reviews.

Both the production and the new album explore responses to the panic and horror we feel when time is running out,“ say the duo. “When faced with all we stand to lose – if we don’t make a stand against language and climate extinction.”

The album’s extensive sleeve-notes, curated by Ross Whyte, give the background to the duo’s collaboration and the creative process that inspired each of the ten tracks. A limited-edition book is also set for publication later this summer.

MAIM was recorded at GloWorm Recording with Gordon Maclean and Keir Long. Additional musical contributions come from Seonaid Aitken, Megan Henderson, Patsy Reid, Alice Allen and Màrtainn Skene (strings) and Elspeth Turner, Evie Wadddell, Cian McCarthy and Ruairidh Murray (additional vocals and guitar).

Experimental yet accessible and contemporary yet timeless this album will appeal to many fans of both traditional Celtic folk and modern electronica.

Released: 9th April 2021

Available from: Bandcamp | Amazon (CD, Download, Stream) | Spotify | iTunes | Apple Music | Youtube Music | birnamcdshop.com

https://www.whytenoise.co.uk/

Folk: album review – Gnoss ‘The Light of the Moon’

Following a hugely well-received debut album in 2019, Scottish folk four-piece Gnoss are back with a follow-up. The Light Of The Moon reveals Gnoss to be in fine form once again and they will not be short of plaudits for this release. Featuring seven instrumentals and four songs, whether it’s the infectiously upbeat pieces or the more poignant ones The Light Of The Moon simply oozes with life and joy.

Built around the same quartet of Aidan Moodie (vocals, acoustic guitar), Graham Rorie (fiddle, mandolin, electric tenor guitar), Connor Sinclair (flute, whistles) and Craig Baxter (Bodhran, percussion) as on the previous Drawn From Deep Water album, this one also boasts Braebach’s James Lindsey on double bass.

Moodie: “The creative process spanned the strangest period in our lives. Most of the writing was done in isolation, with us finally coming together to arrange and carve the album’s sound in the autumn. We set out to create  a record that was distinctly Gnoss not only by writing all-original material but looking more closely at blending the sonic textures of our instruments.”

“The album was recorded at the end of a year that should have been filled with career highlights and instead became quite the opposite – and I think all the emotion connected with that was channelled into the creative process of the release and we pushed ourselves into new spaces musically.”

Vibrant, inventive and joyful The Light Of The Moon promises to be one of the real stand-out contemporary folk albums of the year. A most excellent and not-at-all-difficult second album.

Released: 7th May 2021 by Blackfly Records

https://gnossmusic.com/

Forty years ago this week: how a birthday gift of Slade’s eighties comeback album kick-started a life-long obsession

This week I celebrated my 55th birthday which means it’s exactly forty years since a rather significant album first arrived in my record collection. For my fifteenth birthday I had asked for a couple of albums: Status Quo’s latest release ‘Never Too Late’ from my mum and stepdad and Slade’s We’ll Bring The House Down from my dad and stepmum. I was actually away on a school geography trip to Wales for the day of my actual birthday and didn’t arrive back home until the following day but by the time I got home both gifts were waiting for me.

I vaguely remember Slade from my early childhood the previous decade but they had certainly not been on my radar for a long time. Not until I saw Noddy, Holder, Dave Hill, Jim Lea and Don Powell appearing on Top Of The Pops a couple of months earlier. After years of flops the ‘We’ll Bring The House Down’ single had taken Slade back into the Top Ten.

The song immediately grabbed my attention and I was now a firm fan. Asking for this album for my birthday was the obvious choice. Quo’s Never Too Late was very much the poor relation as far as birthday gifts went that day. The Slade album, though, I positively devoured, lapping up the likes of ‘Wheels Ain’t Coming Down’ and ‘When I’m Dancing I Ain’t Fighting’ and the rest.

Before long I was making numerous trips to our local second-hand record store in Preston to seek out Slade’s 70s back catalogue. This was 1981. Everyone else was into heavy metal, punk and new wave or the about-to-be-massive new romantic scene. But I was developing this obsession with 1970s glam rock. And it wasn’t just Slade. During the course of year I’d bought up much of Sweet’s back catalogue, too, not to mention albums by T. Rex and Mott The Hoople.

But the best was yet to happen. In August of that year, I tagged along with my dad and stepmum to see AC/DC headline at Donington. AC/DC were superb, of course, but even more of a revelation were Slade. This was my first attendance at a live rock gig ever but is undoubtedly the finest live concert I’ve ever attended. The Slade component in particular remains the most entertaining sixty minutes of my life.

And so, 1981 was the year that kicked off my Slade obsession and my love for all things glam. Glam was never really my era but musically it will always be my first love.

Related posts:

Slade at No. 8 in the UK albums chart – their highest position since 1974!

Veteran drummer Don Powell out of Slade

Slade legend Jim Lea releases video footage in bid to locate recently stolen guitar

EP review – Jim Lea ‘Lost In Space’

Interview with former Slade legend Jim Lea

Jim Lea at the Robin 2, Bilston 2017

Before glam: the debut 60s singles of Bowie, Bolan, Slade, Mud and Sweet

Slade, strikes and the three-day week: the story of the greatest Christmas record ever made

Slade at Donnington 1981

Slade at White Rock Theatre, Hastings 2015

Giants of Rock, Minehead 26-29 January 2018

Slade at Brighton 2019

Folk: album review – Christina Alden & Alex Patterson ‘Hunter’

Folk singer-songwriters and multi-instrumentalists, Christina Alden and Alex Patterson are a duo from Norwich who have been performing together about seven years now. Hunter is their debut album as a duo.

Once they got over the initial shock of an enforced hiatus from live performance, like many other artists the duo have been able to use their enforced downtime creatively, and this album Hunter is the result.

“Before the pandemic hit we had a full year of concerts booked throughout the UK and Europe. And like many other artists we saw those all fall away in a matter of weeks. This came as a big shock and was initially very hard to come to turns with; losing our work and our sense of identity. We wanted to channel our energy into something positive and so decided to record our debut duo album. We used our new found time and space to be creative; to write compose and develop music.”

“This album was made during the lockdowns of 2020/21 at home in The Folk Cellar on King Street, Norwich. Our house is in the middle of the city centre but the normally busy streets were quiet and so we were able to record everything at home. We have really enjoyed creating this album together; working on composition, returning to old instruments that had not been played for a while and revisiting fragments of song ideas written in old notebooks.”

Hunter is an impressive debut. With nine original songs and one arrangement of a traditional song (‘My Flower, My Companion and Me’) the duo demonstrate an instinctive ear for melody that’s both memorable and heart-warming, providing the perfect setting for Alden’s beautifully clear yet equally heart-warming vocals.

When I first began to play the opening song and title track ‘Hunter’ I did initially have a nagging feeling that it would be from that canon of traditional songs that are oh so beautifully written and sung but dwell on man’s strange obsession for chasing small furry animals for fun – but no! ‘Hunter’ is actually a lovely story of two normally solitary animals – the grey wolf and the brown bear – forming a magical and unlikely friendship. Many of the songs on this album celebrate the couple’s love of the natural world and their concern for its future – using that age old-gift of folk story-telling to convey a narrative that’s both charming and thought-provoking in equal measure.

Joining Alden (guitar, vocals, banjo) and Patterson (fiddle, vocals, viola, cello, tenor guitar and shruti box) is Calum McKennie on double bass. Patterson himself produces and Alden provides all the artwork.

Beautifully packaged with a hand-printed sleeve and illustrated booklet where the duo share information about the background and inspiration for the songs, Hunter really is a delightful album and well worth a punt.

Released: 7th May 2021

https://christinaaldenandalexpatterson.com/

This week’s featured artist: Matt Steady – new album ‘New Buryin’ Ground’ released 27th April

Matt Steady is a singer-songwriter from Leicester. His music is most closely identified with blues and folk but he pulls in a wide range of influences. Even within the confines of those two genres, however, he traverses a refreshingly broad spectrum: on the blues front going from the blistering electric variety to the mournful acoustic type and on the folk side there’s everything from contemporary singer-songwriter to Celtic soundscapes to traditional balladry. Classically-trained, Matt Steady is a highly talented and naturally expressive player, whether that’s guitar or violin, and he’s an evocative lyricist, too.

Steady has a brand new album out New Buryin’ Ground on 27th April. Prior to that though, he released a compilation album featuring highlights from his previous six albums which he launched with a very generous and fairly unique offer. If you fancy the album, you can order it online and he’ll send out the CD to you direct to your door absolutely free of charge.

The Echoes Remain is a very fine compendium of Matt Steady’s work – eleven tracks in all – and something I’m very pleased to now have in my CD collection.

What on earth possessed him to make it completely free of charge, though, I asked him:

MS: “I’m all about the win/win. This compilation album is a win for listeners and a win for me too! Firstly, as an independent artist, the main challenge I have is getting people to listen to my music. Our attention spans on social media are so short that posting up songs, no matter how good they are, is not a strategy that works particularly well. People are unlikely to stop scrolling to listen to a whole song from someone they’ve never heard of for sure! However the people who enjoy my eclectic style of music often still have CDs player, and often love listening to music in their cars or while working. It costs me very little to have CDs made these days, and with the postage paid for I’m not generally out of pocket on them. And actually any shortfall is made up by some generous folks who either leave a tip or buy an extra CD with it. So the win for the listener is obvious – a free CD delivered to their door; a menu of tracks from my other albums to introduce them to my music. And the win for me is that more people are listening to my music, more people are messaging me and having conversations with me, more people are discovering my other albums and enjoying those too. It’s a win/win for everyone!”

“And for those evolved people who don’t have CDs … it’s available as a free download as well. I don’t want to stop anyone from listening from lack of a piece of equipment. And for streamers, this compilation isn’t up on Spotify etc., but all my albums that the tracks come from are, so that’s a way of listening too.”

You can order your free CD here

Photo credit: Frank Roper Photography

I also asked Matt to tell us a little more about the new album that’s due to be released next week:

MS: “My new album is called New Buryin’ Ground, and this time rather than releasing it under my own name, it’s being released under the band name “The Grace Machine”. Alongside my vocals and guitar work, I am frankly astounded to have playing with me two very sought-after musicians – Terl Bryant on percussion and Matt Weeks on bass. I’ve been listening to their work since I was a teen (ahem that’s quite a long time ago now), and I’m still in shock that they wanted to form this band! The music itself is rocky gospel blues. Many of the tracks are interpreting old spirituals and slave songs, bringing them up to date for a modern audience. We owe so much of our musical lives and heritage to black music, crafted under such dire circumstances, and this album is a homage to those often unknown musicians. The album is full of joy and angst in equal measure, and I can only hope that we’ve done the songs justice.”

New Buryin’ Ground available from Matt Steady’s website here

Released 27th April 2021

Folk: album review – Honey and The Bear ‘Journey Through The Roke’

Honey and The Bear are folk duo and singer-songwriters Lucy and Jon Hart. The Suffolk-based couple originally met at a song-writing event, began writing and performing together and spent several years touring the folk circuit before releasing their debut album Made in Aker, back in 2019.

Journey Though the Roke is the follow-up, ‘Roke being an old East Anglian word for the evening mist that rises from the region’s marshes and water meadows. As with so many other musicians these past twelve months, many of the songs on the album were conceived during lockdown. We are presented with eleven original songs as well as the duo’s adaptation of a traditional Irish ballad.

Of the former, the beauty of their Suffolk coastal landscape and richness of its history is at the core of many of the songs, from the jaunty ‘Freddie Cooper’ celebrating the heroics of the Aldeburgh lifeboat crew to the utterly haunting ‘The Hungry Sea’ that tells the story of Violet Jessop who incredibly survived the Olympic, Titanic and Britannic maritime disasters, before eventually dying in Great Ashfield, aged 83.

Of the latter, the one non-original song on the album is a tender version of ‘My Lagan Love’. It’s a song that has been performed by numerous artists from The Chieftains to Kate Bush but fans of Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention will also immediately recognise the tune given it was repurposed for Denny’s cover of Richard Farina’s ‘The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood. ‘My Lagan Love’ makes for a lovely addition to the album, laying down some deep folk roots amongst the new compositions.

The duo meld together a range of folk, Americana and pop influences to produce a sound that’s both original and creative and very easy on the ear. Lucy Hart has a clear, distinctive voice that’s perfectly suited to such a fusion of musical influences and husband Jon’s harmony vocals are also equally suited. Unusually for a duo, both play guitar, bazouki and double-bass and there’s quite a bit of toing and froing between the two of them across the dozen tracks as they swap instruments and show us what talented multi-instrumentalists each of them are.

As well as the duo themselves, Evan Carson, Archie Churchill-Moss, Graham Coe and Toby Shaer from Sam Kelly and The Lost Boys provide additional musical backing that’s every bit as captivating as their playing with The Lost Boys.

A beautiful and highly listenable album and a wonderful celebration of the East Anglian landscape and history from an extremely talented duo, Journey Through The Roke is highly recommended.

Released 23rd April 2021

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