Describing themselves as “vaguely acoustic music for the vaguely thinking person” The Sunny Smiles Three are a new alt-folk trio composed of John Parkes, Alaric Lewis and Simon Smith. All three have spent a good few decades as stalwarts of the UK’s indie music scene. Frontman, John Parkes, has been in the likes of the Greenhouse, Fuzzbird and the Sinister Cleaners. Alaric Lewis has played bass with Breaking the Illusion, Cyanide Pills and Suzi Blu as well as being an in-demand guitar tech for some of rock/pop’s royalty. Drummer, Simon Smith, meanwhile was in the Wedding Present, the Ukranians and Cha Cha Cohen.
Fireman Spaceman Mermaid is the trio’s debut album but also includes bonus songs from a recent EP, giving you a whopping sixteen tracks of delightful indie alt-folk-rock.
Named after the retro ‘Sunny Smiles’ charity booklets back in the 1950s and 60s, the three do a nice line in slightly quirky-but-beautifully-crafted acoustic songs with bitter-sweet lyrics and catchy melodies. Parkes is a gifted singer-songwriter, able to conjure up lyrics that so perfectly capture slices of everyday life – like a Ray Davies for the modern era. And with their impeccable indie pedigrees the three have enough musical clout between them to ensure Fireman Spaceman Mermaid is nothing less than a cracking debut.
Released: The Orchard / FR Records 16th November 2020
Following a reissue of the band’s three 1980s albums a year ago, a fourteen-track Best Of Heavy Pettin compilation is set to be released on 27th November.
The compilation features tracks taken from the Scottish hard rockers’ three studio albums: Lettin Loose, Rock Ain’t Dead and The Big Bang, including the hit singles ‘Love Times Love’, ‘In and Out of Love’ and ‘Rock Me’.
The cover is a previously unseen photo by David Plastik taken at The Louder Sound festival in France in 1984. Ross Muir provides liner notes on the band’s history.
The group dissolved in 1988 with the final album, The Big Bang, being released the following year. Heavy Pettin reformed in 2017. The new version of the band, featuring original members Gordon Bonnar and Hamie, recently recorded a 4-track EP, the first batch of new material bearing the band’s name in over 30 years.
Original Heavy Pettin drummer, Gary Moat, meanwhile, now fronts his own band, Burnt Out Wreck, who have released two well-received albums: Swallow in 2017 and This Is Hell in 2019.
Delivering punchy yet polished hard rock Heavy Pettin were often regarded as a cut above many of their contemporaries in the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. It is good to see their legacy given the treatment it deserves, with this new compilation now joining the reissues of their original three studio albums.
Best Of Heavy Pettin – Track List:
IN AND OUT OF LOVE
BORN TO BURN
LOVE TIMES LOVE
DEVIL IN HER EYES
10.DON’T CALL IT LOVE
THROW A PARTY
ROCK AIN’T DEAD
HELL IS BEAUTIFUL
Best of Heavy Pettin released 27th November 2020 by Burnt Out Wreckords/Cherry Red
Karrakan are a progressive rock outfit who come from a small town called Ostrołęka in the North-East of Poland. The band recorded their first EP in 2016, more a basic hard rock approach that incorporate blues scales and heavy metal riffs. However, the addition of a saxophone into the mix even back then signalled a likely future direction into more proggy territory.
Their second release EP #2, released in 2019 continued down such a path with more complex compositions and more evident prog approach.
Karrakan are now onto their third release, the imaginatively-titled EP #3 – no-one can accuse these guys of lacking consistency when it comes to nomenclature!
“EP #3 contains ‘only’ 3 songs,” say the band, “but they are loaded with variety of musical assets. Thick distorted guitars, odd rhythmic divisions, vocal harmonies, acoustic interludes and… saxophone, which works surprisingly well with all the heavy sound.”
Incorporating blues, jazz, classical and metal influences the band are developing something of a unique approach: tastefully-executed guitar solos and that infamous saxophone interplay with some much harder-edged riffing and there’s also sprinklings of more gentle, folky acoustic guitar here and there, too.
The first track ‘The Shape of Infinity’ incorporates growled pseudo death metal vocals which I’m not convinced entirely work, while the final track ‘Allocation of Beauty’ has a far more conventional melodic rock-style vocal which is considerably better suited to the nature of the material in my view. The middle track ‘Panto Dance’ meanwhile is entirely instrumental and the most obviously proggy composition on the three-track EP.
Piotr Sierzputowski – guitar/vocals
Jan Sierzputowski – saxophone
Domink Górski – drums
Kamil Badeja – bass
As well as promoting this current EP the band are also busy writing material for their debut full-length album. It will be interesting to watch how Karrakan develop and I wish the guys luck.
“The Living Mountain was written by Aberdonian Nan Shepherd, in the last years of the Second World War and it sat in her desk drawer until it was published in 1977,” writes Jenny Sturgeon in the album sleeve-notes.
Inspired by Shepherd’s memoir, once described by the Guardian as “the finest book ever written on nature and landscape in Britain,” Sturgeon’s album of the same name celebrates Shepherd’s nature writing and the Cairngorms mountain range in the eastern Highlands. Each of the twelve songs on the album take their titles from the chapter headings in Shepherd’s celebrated volume.
From the gentle birdsong and low mournful dulcimer hum of the opening track ‘The Plateau’ to the hypnotic piano and slowly pounding percussion of the final song ‘Being’, Sturgeon uncannily captures a sense of the beauty, bleakness and wonder that this very special landscape instils. Ten of the twelve songs are inspired directly by Shepherd’s writing while the remaining two are Shepherd’s own poems, set to music.
Joining Sturgeon who plays piano, harmonium , dulcimer, whistle and guitar are Mairi Campbell (viola and vocals), Su-a Lee (cello), Grant Anderson (bass and vocals) with additional field recordings from Jez Riley-French and Magnus Robb.
Beautifully sung and exquisitely played The Living Mountain is a captivating celebration of the natural world and timeless and inspirational nature writing.
Simply Whistle pretty much does what it says on the tin. For the past five decades Pat Walsh has been part of the north-west traditional music scene and across each of its nineteen tracks this album puts Walsh’s tin whistle and her beautiful jigs, reels and flings centre-stage.
Walsh was born to an Irish family in Manchester in the mid 1950s. This beautifully-packaged CD with its informative twelve-page booklet details not only the background to the tunes, both the traditional numbers and original compositions, but also Walsh’s own life story and her abiding love of traditional music.
“I have tried to describe the really important part that Irish traditional music has played in my life,” she says in the sleeve-notes. “And my enduring passion for playing and listening to it. I have often wished that my great grandfather John Ryder, the fiddle player from Longford had done something similar for later generations to read. If my grandchildren or their children get the bug for trad music, I hope they find that this memoir and the tunes fill in the back story, or maybe even it will pique their interest. Either way, this is for them.”
Produced by Mike McGoldrick, who has played alongside Walsh and also features on the album, the production retains a clean and simple feel which works so well. Within seconds of putting the album on Walsh’s evocative playing has immediately transported you to another time and place.
From trad folk to prog rock to avant-garde pop there are many influences at play on Flowers Where The Horses Sleep, the latest album from singer-songwriter, Joshua Burnell.
Following his well-received folk-rock interpretations of traditional song on his two previous albums, Burnell returns to original compositions.
“Having dedicated the past three years to rearranging traditional material, I wanted to build on that experience to produce an album of folk songs for a modern audience,” says Burnell. “The songs were all inspired by people past and present and explore humankind’s remarkable ability to find beauty, even in the hardest of times.”
Nicely packaged with beautiful cover art, the album takes its title from the recollections of a Japanese-American woman who was interned during World War II and spoke of the prisoners growing flowers in the stables they were obliged to take residence in, bringing beauty to the ugliness surrounding them.
Burnell himself is a talented multi-instrumentalist and his impressive musicianship is as much in evidence on this album as his gentle but beguiling vocals. Guests on the album include Frances Sladen on lead and backing vocals, Nathan Greaves on electric guitar and Katriona Gilmore on fiddle and mandarin.
Flowers Where The Horses Sleep takes us on quite a musical journey from the gentle acoustic strumming of opener ‘Labels’ to the lush grand piano of closing track ‘Two Stars’ with many detours along the way. It’s testimony both to Burnell’s creativity and his love of traditional material, however, that for all the quirky left-field musical influences, these freshly-composed songs still manage to retain a strong folk sensibility.
Canadian singer-songwriter Garnett Betts‘ work springs from a folk/roots sensibility but there is no shortage of other influences, too, from jazz to blues to country to easy listening. With Highfield, his latest album, the result is some compelling story-telling in the best singer-songwriter tradition mixed in with some cool, laid-back jazz-tinged piano.
Featuring Betts on vocals, guitar and penny whistle, the album also includes Rick May on bass, Karel Roessingh on piano and keys and Alex Campbell on hand percussion.
“I definitely think that an up beat and more energetic feel runs through this album than my past work,” says Betts.
Betts’ story-telling really comes to the fore on ‘Smart Guys Don’t Fade Away’ described as a tale of unsolicited advice from youth through to maturity and one of the stand-out tracks on the album.
‘Farther On’ one of the two instrumentals on the album takes on a more overt folky feel with some atmospheric penny whistle giving the track something of a Celtic touch.
The more upbeat ‘Rendezvous’ meanwhile, with its catchy melody and slightly bluesy feel, immediately puts me in mind of one of those classic, mid 70s albums with that sun-kissed, west coast vibe and is another stand-out track.
A singer-songwriter with plenty to say and a diverse set of musical influences distilled into an interesting and coherent album. Check it out.
Recorded live at a home-town gig in the month before lock-down commenced, Glasgow’s folk instrumentalists Rura celebrate their tenth anniversary with this brand new live album. Live At The Old Fruitmarket documents Rura’s performance for a 1,200-strong crowd on the final day of the Celtic Connections festival back in February.
The foursome – Steven Blake (pipes and keys), Jack Smedley (fiddle), David Foley (flute and bodhran) and Adam Brown (guitar) are joined by former, past collaborators and long-time musical friends to celebrate the band’s decade of music-making. The concert includes guest slots for the band’s former singer and songwriter Adam Holmes, who contributes two songs, and guitarist Chris Waite in addition to other musicians, including Ali Hutton (Treacherous Orchestra) and James Lindsay (Braebach).
Fiddler, Jack Smedley, reflects: “Over the past ten years we have made incredible friends, made ridiculous memories and played a few tunes along the way! We want to thank everyone who joined us on stage that night at The Old Fruitmarket as well as every single person who has come to see us. We had a blast!”
Capturing some of the magic and atmosphere of what was clearly a very special night, the band and their guests are fizzing with energy as they revisit highlights from their back catalogue.
From fast and furious to melancholy and mournful anyone with a love of Scottish pipes and fiddle is going to love this album. And for anyone who was lucky enough to experience this as one of their last gigs before lock-down they are almost certainly going to want to purchase it as a memento of that evening.
This review was originally published by Bright Young folk here
From traditional horse fairs, to the wooden ’obby ’oss, to the racehorse, to more mystical creatures, the horse has been an enduring fixture in traditional folk song. Racokzy brings such songs together in an inspired and ambitious approach for her debut album.
Rakoczy, full name Fruzsina Zsofia Rakoczy, was born in Budapest but has lived most of her life in Manchester. Coming to folk music via the Euro dance scene and local sessions, she sings and plays recorder, concertina and bagpipes, all of which can be heard on the album.
The album draws together traditional favourites like Skewbald, Poor Old Horse and Creeping Jane along with covers from the likes of US singer-songwriter Tucker Zimmerman and pastoral prog rockers Jethro Tull, in addition to a couple of originals.
In her biography Rakoczy cites influences as diverse as British and European traditional song, early music, classic rock, gothic and steampunk and draws inspiration from artists like Tom Waits, Marilyn Manson, Lady Gaga, David Bowie and Joan Jett. With a versatile vocal delivery and excellent musical accompaniment, the spectrum of emotions, moods and influences the artist and her backing band take us on over the course of this album is an exhilarating ride.
From the powerful bagpipe and drumming arrangements which lend atmosphere to opening track Hooden Horse, a Kentish calling-on song celebrating the parade of the wooden hobby horse through the streets of Broadstairs, to the sparse and mournful guitar and vocal arrangement on Little Dun Dee collected from septuagenarian Gypsy traveller Mary Anne Haynes in the 1970s, there is plenty for the traditional folk enthusiast to fall in love with on this album.
For their cover of Zimmerman’s Taoist Tale meanwhile, Rakoczy and her band, the Horror Show, channel the spirit of Mancunian indie favourites The Stone Roses. The album ends with a little bit of folk rock – not the late 60s variety but a blast of 1950s rock and roll as the traditional song Dead Horse is repurposed as a vintage electric guitar romp, a glorious and fitting tribute to our equine friends everywhere.
Quirky, inspired and creative Frontrunner is a superb debut and Rakoczy will most definitely be a name to watch out for.
From heavy metal to country, rock and roll to folk The Isolation Sessions is a newly-released digital download album aimed at raising money for The National Emergencies Trust Covid Appeal. Assembled by Danny Stoakes, the album features imaginative reworkings of ten of Stoakes’ favourite songs in collaboration with a host of different artists. These include Romeo’s Daughter’s Craig Joiner, Voodoo Six’s Matt Pearce and Tygers of Pan Tang’s Craig Ellis.
Tracks recorded include covers of Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’, AC/DC’s ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ and The Stones’ ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’.
Sicilian guitarist Antonello Giliberto and Tygers drummer Craig Ellis feature on ‘Diamonds and Rust’, a track which is a cross between the Joan Baez original and Judas Priest’s own reworked acoustic version.
Support has come from founding member of Judas Priest and KK’s Priest guitarist, KK Downing, who says:
“I would like to say congratulations and a big thank you to Danny Stoakes and all of the talented musicians for this collaboration. The Isolation Sessions is a collection of many well-known and loved songs that have been interpreted in a unique way during these past difficult months, and all in the name of a most worthy and appropriate charity, The National Emergencies Trust Covid Appeal.
“As I listen to the songs it is difficult to find favourites, but I admit I do warm to Diamonds and Rust – a song I have played with Priest so many times. I would strongly urge everyone to get on board and check out The Isolation Sessions, not only for its much needed cause, but for the undoubtable enjoyment you will have from listening to it. Again, much respect to all involved in this creation and my sincere thanks to you all for your support.”
Check out Diamonds and Rust here:
The Isolation Sessions also features Kyle Lamley of THEIA, Hoss Thompson of Thirteen Stars, The Big Dirty Axeman, C. Diddy, Liberty Lies drummer Adam Stevens, Burnt Out Wreck’s Gary Moat, Ian Sanderson and Michael Armstrong. The album has been mastered by Benedict Harris Hayes, of Oceanica and Massive Dynamic, who also features on the opening track, a cover of Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’.
Stoakes himself adds:
“I’d like to say a huge thank you to all the artists who have got involved and got behind this project. They have all done this for nothing ensuring that 100% of the money goes to the charity. Covid 19 is still very much out there and I really hope that we are able to help and support those who most need it. Thank you again to you all.”
The National Emergencies Trust collaborates with charities and other bodies to raise and distribute money and support victims during times of a domestic disaster.