Category Archives: Music news

‘Voice on Shellac’ – the stunning new live show from Laughing With The Raindrops – 10th June

Led by songwriter and performer Virginie Lacour-Puiboube , Laughing With The Raindrops bring the highly-acclaimed new album, Voice On Shellac, to a live setting with two dates announced for a stunning multi-media show: Impact Community Arts, Perivale, Ealing – Friday 10th June

“Modern jazz that crackles with the vintage vinyl tones of and vivid vintage imagery summoned in the sepia tones of the soulful story of Virginie Lacour-Puiboube.”Yack Magazine

“Laughing with the Raindrops’ music never ceases to amaze me.  What I noticed about their latest work is that it is very cerebral, yet vulnerable and relatable. If you are in London (UK) area, make sure to catch Laughing with the Raindrops at one, or all, of these upcoming live dates:”- Lakisha Skinner, Klef Notes

“And what a fine storyteller Virginie Lacour-Puiboube is.” – Jane Mann – London Jazz News

The Voice on Shellac show is a live performance of the album’s songs, synchronised to a black and white silent movie: Faded Prints. Inspired by Virginie Lacour-Puiboube’s family photo album, the songs evoke the lives and true stories of those displayed in the album.  With the film’s cast made up entirely of children, the show can be enjoyed by people of all ages and makes for captivating family entertainment.

YouTube trailer:

The silent movie’s narrative develops in tandem with the songs: Two young girls discover memorabilia in their attic. They rummage through suitcases and play games related to their findings. Starting with a “peculiar” camera that “captures memories in colour”, the girls investigate the song characters’ past, through photos, letters and a record collection that contains a recording of Virginie’s grandmother’s voice on a shellac disc.

The girls also ponder about how they will use a large sum of money they have discovered in one of the suitcases. This fortune takes them on a long journey in search of the girl in the black and white dress, from the photo album. The storyline takes the audience back and forth in time, as the girls refer to the time when they first found the memorabilia two years earlier, and to how their new, now more mature understanding sheds light on the song characters’ past through decades of love, betrayal, divorce, war, travel, life…

Live show:

Friday 10th June 2022, 7.15 pm: Impact Community Arts Centre, Perivale UB6 8GP. This show forms part of an evening of eclectic live music performances featuring women songwriter-storytellers. Ticket link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/original-eclectic-an-evening-with-women-songwriter-storytellers-tickets-292480526127

Support:

Support comes from Lutfia, a 21-year-old BIMM student and her all-girl band promoting their recently-released EP, So Much For Summer. The EP which has been described as a ‘sophisticated collection of pop songs’ incorporates a variety of different styles, including alternative pop, pop-rock, funk and dance. Each song is unique and different from the rest but her powerful mezzo-soprano voice and deeply personal lyrics make the project seamlessly cohesive. Lutfia tells stories of teenage love, mental health struggles and nostalgia, each song recounting an impactful emotion, person or place in her life.

The evening also features Little Lore, a London based, Indie-Americana singer-storyteller whose songs are both charmingly accessible and yet beguilingly challenging. In her songs Little Lore brings together an affection for the heart and heritage of Americana music, with an intelligence and maturity of storytelling that can sweep you away into new and unexpected emotional worlds. Following acclaimed work with her previous dup, Little Lore’s debut solo EP was released in 2021 to glowing reviews

About Virginie Lacour-Puiboube:

Virginie founded Laughing with The Raindrops in 2013, and their eponymous debut album was released in 2016. More recently, as she studied for an MMus in Music performance at London College of Music, Virginie focussed on the creation of narratives in song and explored the use of visual art as a combined story-telling device. Voice On Shellac was the resulting album (released on vinyl this year) and live show.

Hailing from Paris, Virginie has contributed to music projects in the UK since the late 1980s, from playing guitar in all-girl Reggae band Just Desserts and a Serge Gainsbourg tribute trio to being active on the London Jazz scene in the 90s, alongside bassist Alexander Keen and pianist Gabriel Keen, co-leading 13-piece experimental Jazz group Piano Di Lavoro, performing in London venues such as the Barbican Foyer, The Bull’s Head (Barnes), former jazz club The Bass Clef. In the mid-90s, Virginie also founded Baton Rouge, a vocal-led septet showcasing her song writing.

Laughing with The Raindrops have played at Toulouse Lautrec Jazz bar (Kennington), Map Cafe (Kentish Town), Kentish Town Arts Club, Babel Art House (Stoke Newington), London festivals, and recently premiered the show at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden.

Laughing With The Raindrops – the musicians:

Drums – David Ingamells

Bass – Alexander Keen

Piano/Keyboards – Gabriel Keen

Trumpet/Flugel – Paul Higgs

Tenor Saxophone – Theo Travis

Lead Vocal – Virginie Lacour-Puiboube

Guitar – Neil McBennett

Website: https://laughingwiththeraindrops.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laughingwiththeraindrops

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/LaughRaindrops

Shallow: the new single from UK Americana singer-storyteller, Little Lore

Released: 29 April 2022

“I was thinking about how so many men in power can let us down, whether that be politicians, princes, CEOs or the men that we trust and love”

London-based Americana singer-storyteller, Little Lore, won many, many plaudits, bags of airplay and glowing reviews for her debut EP as a solo artist last December.

“It is clear every word and every note is well thought out. The pedal steel swoons beneath Duffy’s vocals” – Maverick magazine on the Little Lore EP

The eponymously-titled Little Lore EP followed two well-received releases as part of her previous musical outfit – the duo, Duffy & Bird.

Now, Little Lore, (aka Tricia Duffy) returns with a brand-new single. ‘Shallow’ channels the spirit of Kurt Cobain, throws in some classic Neil Young influences and marries them up with Little Lore’s trademark vocals and thought-provoking lyrics to produce an exhilarating slice of Americana that really swings. 

Little Lore: “I wrote this song during that big news week when it was all coming out about how Boris had attended parties at Downing Street while people were dying alone, and also that Prince Andrew was trying to avoid his day in court with Virginia Giuffre. I was thinking about how so many men in power can let us down, whether that be politicians, princes, CEOs or the men that we trust and love. So I decided to juxtapose the idea of being let down by people in power with heartbreak and this song is the result. It is probably a bit on the opaque side from a political point of view… but there are a few lines that give us some clues. When I talk about eating lies with dinner, I’m really thinking about the Six O’Clock news when so many people sit down to watch the headlines over their evening meal – we ate Bojo’s lies with our dinner. “There’s no truth, no-one remembers who said what to the man on the yacht” – we know that only a very small subsection of society can afford even a day on a yacht so that was directly inspired by Andrew (formerly known as Prince).”

“Finally, I had been reading a lot of Jeanette Winterson. In Sexing The Cherry she wrote about the impact it has on society when the King is executed. In her story, Charles II is beheaded and she describes how the entire country goes into freefall. Everything they could predict and understand is derailed in one instant – life becomes very unpredictable. The same thing has been happening in this country for a while now, with Brexit, the pandemic, the uncertainty of political power, it is impossible to predict so many things, to see the future clearly. I write: “The King is dead, and with his head futures altered, wounds are salted.” The whole song is designed to make use of a subtext style with the use of triplets where the last line is the realisation comment.”

Once again, Little Lore’s emotive vocals and compelling storytelling is complemented by stunning production and beautiful instrumentation from producer and multi-instrumentalist, Oli Deakin.

Little Lore: “Musically, I had a swing vibe in my head when I came to record the guide track for Oli to work with. He really enjoyed that idea and built on it. I hadn’t realised it at the time, but the song has no minor chords in it at all, so we discussed allowing ourselves to be influenced by Kurt Cobain as he famously rarely used any minor chords in his writing. Couple that grit with my Americana style and a bit of Neil Young influence thrown in, too, and I think we have a driving, swinging song that tells a story of the shallow coward that let everyone down.”

Released on 29 April, the single is available in all the main digital formats via from https://littlelore.uk or https://littlelore.bandcamp.com 

About Little Lore:

Little Lore is a London based, Indie-Americana singer-storyteller whose songs are both charmingly accessible and yet beguilingly challenging. You’ll want to listen twice. When you combine British wit and wordplay with cherished Americana roots, musical magic starts to happen.

Based in Chiswick, west London and originally hailing from Portsmouth, Tricia Duffy started her singing career in a live covers band performing popular rock classics. Over time, however, a strong desire emerged to begin writing and performing her own material and she formed an acoustic Americana duo with fellow musician, Al Bird. Duffy & Bird released a well-received album ‘5 Lines’ in 2017 and a follow-up EP ‘Spirit Level’ in 2019. While Al subsequently decided to take a back seat from recording and performing, Tricia was keen to take things a step further. Little Lore was born. Her debut solo EP, Little Lore, was released in 2021 to glowing reviews. In her songs Little Lore brings together an affection for the heart and heritage of Americana music, with an intelligence and maturity of storytelling that can sweep you away into new and unexpected emotional worlds.

Release information:

Produced by Oli Deakin (Lowpines), vocals recorded in his home studio in Ealing London. Artwork created by Afiya Paice a West London-based artist and designer.

Website: https://littlelore.uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/littleloremusic

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/littleloremusic

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/littleloremusic/

Related post:

Little Lore: the magical new project from UK Americana singer-storyteller Tricia Duffy

New single from Graham Bonnet out now ahead of new studio album in May

Former Rainbow, MSG and Alkatrazz lead vocalist, Graham Bonnet, has announced his forthcoming studio album will be released on 13th May. Ahead of the album, a new single and video, ‘Imposter’, is out today (8th March).

On the album, entitled Day Out In Nowhere, Bonnet is joined by his regular bandmates Beth-Ami Heavenstone (bass) and Conrado Pesinato (guitar) along with keyboardist Alessandro Bertoni and drummer Shane Gaalaas.

Bonnet: “In a similar way to the first two [GBB] albums, this new record reflects different eras of my career, but with a contemporary twist,” states Bonnet. “I’m also delighted to be playing with original band members Beth-Ami Heavenstone, who has been my constant partner on and off stage since we met in 2012, plus Conrado Pesinato, whose innate musical style elicits some of my best songwriting. They were also both involved in the album production, which helped make the whole process seamless.”

The album also features guest contributions and co-writing credits from the likes of Jeff Loomis (Arch Enemy, Nevermore), John Tempesta (The Cult, White Zombie), Mike Tempesta (Powerman 5000), Roy Z (Halford, Bruce Dickinson).

One particularly significant guest is current Deep Purple keyboard player, Don Airey, who, of course, played alongside Bonnet on the classic 1979 Rainbow album, Down To Earth.

Bonnet: ” I’m very excited to be playing on an album again with Don. Aside from being my long-time friend and former bandmate, he is one of the most incredible musicians I have ever had the pleasure to play with, he’s a ‘real’ keyboard player and a classically trained pianist.

The album follows his three recent critically-acclaimed albums: The Book in 2016 and Meanwhile, Back in the Garage in 2018, plus a  2020 reunion album with Graham Bonnet’s Alcatrazz entitled Born Innocent.

DAY OUT IN NOWHERE
TRACKLISTING

1  Imposter
2  12 Steps to Heaven
3  Brave New World feat Roy Z
4  Uncle John
5  Day Out In Nowhere
6  The Sky is Alive
7  David’s Mom
8  When We’re Asleep feat Mike Tempesta & John Tempesta
9  It’s Just a Frickin’ Song feat Don Airey
10  Jester feat Jeff Loomis, Kyle Hughes
11  Suzy

Released by Frontiers on 13th May 2022

https://www.facebook.com/grahambonnetmusic

Related posts:

Michael Schenker Fest at Shepherds Bush Empire 2017

Graham Bonnet Band at Giants of Rock, Minehead 2016

Graham Bonnet Band at The Garage, Islington 2014

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow at Birmingham Genting Arena 2017

Deep Purple at the O2, London 2015

Loud, proud and still going: new album from Nazareth due out on 15th April

Veteran Scottish hard-rock band, Nazareth, have released a new single, ‘Strange Days’, ahead of a brand-new studio album out on 15th April.

Surviving The Law is the band’s twenty-fourth album since Nazareth formed in 1968 in Dunfermline. After the departure of founding vocalist, Dan McCafferty, in 2013 – for health reasons, there were some questions about the band’s future viability with new vocalist, Linton Osborne, joining and then rapidly leaving after less than a year. However, with the arrival of new lead singer, Carl Sentance, the band found a new lease of life. Sentence has brought a real energy to the band and Nazareth continues to be a popular live draw and their 2018 album, Tattooed On My Brain, picked up dozens of favourable reviews.

The band today are founding member, Pete Agnew (bass), Carl Sentance (vocals), Jimmy Murrison (guitar) and Lee Agnew (drums). All four members have contributed their share of song-writing and, like the previous album, this latest one has been produced by Yann Rouiller at Sub Station in the band’s home town of Dunfermline, Scotland.

Surviving The Law – tracklisting:

1  Strange Days

2  You Gotta Pass It Around

3  Runaway

4  Better Leave It Out

5  Mind Bomb

6  Sweet Kiss

7  Falling In Love

8  Waiting For The World To End

9  Let The Whisky Flow

10  Sinner

11  Ciggies And Booze

12  Psycho Skies

13  Love Breaks

14  You Made Me

Released by Frontiers: 15th April 2022

http://nazarethdirect.co.uk/

New book: ‘Suzi Quatro In The 1970s’ by Darren Johnson coming in July 2022

Following my biography on The Sweet last year, I’m absolutely thrilled to have been given the opportunity to write a second book for the Decades series published by Sonicbond.

Suzi Quatro In The 1970s will be published at the end of July and is available for pre-order on Amazon here. It will also be available from other retailers and via the publisher’s own online shop in due course.

The synopsis on Amazon hopefully gives you a flavour of what’s in store:

‘If you talk about the ‘70s, I was a hardworking artist. I did nothing but tour – recording, touring, TV, you know. I had constant jetlag. Constant black shadows under my eyes but, oh, what a ride! What a wonderful ride. And I’m still doing it now.’ Suzi Quatro

With a succession of hit singles, including eight UK top twenty hits and two number ones, sell-out tours and six studio albums, Suzi Quatro was an enduring presence throughout the 1970s, the decade that saw her move away from being part of an all-girl band in Detroit and relocate to England for a solo career that challenged old stereotypes and helped redefine the image of the female rock icon.

Taking each year in turn this book takes a detailed look at Suzi Quatro’s career throughout the decade where she enjoyed her greatest successes, including a comprehensive overview of each album and single released during that period, her touring schedule and her frequent media appearances, including that famous guest role in Happy Days. As well as making extensive use of press archives from the era, Suzi Quatro In The 1970s also includes personal reflections from an exclusive interview with Suzi herself.

Related post:

Book: The Sweet in the 1970s

21st Century Exposé: New EP from Tim Izzard celebrates fifty years of Glam Rock

A year on from the release of his well-received debut album last year, Sussex-based singer-songwriter/musician, Tim Izzard, has a brand-new EP out. 21st Century Exposé builds on the themes explored in Izzard’s debut album, Starlight Rendezvous, an album of original songs inspired by David Bowie in at the height of his Ziggy period. 21st Century Exposé is a full-on celebration of the glam era in all its glory and the sparkling, luminous trail it has left across music of many different genres over the past fifty years.

Tim Izzard: “Starlight Rendezvous had its origins very much rooted in Glam-era Bowie. The follow-up EP, 21st Century Exposé further celebrates the man and the old and current glam scene, mixing up old school new wave, power-pop, glam, neo-glam, futuristic ballads and a slice of cabaret to muse on twenty-first century living.”

The lead song on the new EP is the wonderful ‘Glam Rock Star’, a tribute to glam rock’s first half-century – a genre that is still influencing music today.

Izzard: “Whilst it is recognised that T. Rex’s 1971 No.1 Hot Love gave birth to UK glam rock it was in 1972 that it escaped into the playground with Bowie, Roxy, Alice Cooper, Mott, Slade and many others pushing the musical and make-up boundaries! I still remember vividly watching an alien Bowie perform Starman on TOTP and later on the futuristic , 50’s throw-back of Virginia Plain by Roxy Music. Fifty years on and there are still many bands and artists producing new glam and neo-glam music such as the UK’s The Voltz, Sweden’s SilverGlam and, in the US, Creem Circus and Gyasi. Like the influence of Bowie on my music you can hear Bolan’s vocal, Mick Ronson’s guitar or the wall of sound of Slade and much more in the ‘New’ Glam sound.”

Released 24th January 2022

21st Century Exposé can be found on Bandcamp at: https://timizzard.bandcamp.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TimIzzardMusic/

Related post:

Tim Izzard and the new glammed-up Ziggy-esque album ‘Starlight Rendezvous’

Big River return with new single: ‘The Long Way’ released 28th January

Kent-based heavy blues band Big River come back with another new single towards the end of January.

‘The Long Way‘ is the second song to be released from Big River’s forthcoming EP and follows the excellent ‘Don’t Hold Out’ released last Autumn. ‘Beautiful Trauma’ the band’s eagerly-anticipated five-track EP is scheduled for release in the Spring.

I’ve long been a fan of Big River’s riff-heavy classic blues rock and forthcoming single ‘The Long Way’ is testimony as to why I’m predicting a bright future for the band in the months ahead. Their decision to team up with Adam Barron last year (ex Mick Ralphs Band and former Voice contestant) has seen the band go from strength to strength, both as performers and as song-writers. Certainly I look forward to hearing the full EP but check out the new single here.

“There’s many more where this came from,” Big River assure us.

Guitarist, Damo Fawsett: “We’ve played this song a few times in the later gigs of 2021 & it’s an ‘All out’ Rocker, from the moment the opening riff kicks in you can see on people’s faces they’re going to like what’s coming, and it just keeps on building.”

Big River are: Adam Barron (vocals), Damo Fawsett (guitar), Ant Wellman (bass), Joe Martin (drums / backing vocals). They will be touring the UK from March 2022 onwards with dates throughout the year.

‘The Long Way’ single released on all digital platforms 28th January 2022

https://www.facebook.com/bigriverblues

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

2021 in Darren’s music blog – the ten most popular posts of the year

My special thanks go to all those who have visited (and hopefully enjoyed) Darren’s music blog during 2021. The blog has been the usual mad mix of hard rock, metal, folk, Americana, glam rock, britpop, and more – basically anything I enjoy listening to! Here, however, are the ten most popular blog posts from 2021.

1. Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water: so who actually was the “stupid with a flare gun”?

Fifty years after the events that inspired the recording of Deep Purple’s most famous song and the world’s most famous heavy rock riff, I take a look at the history behind ‘Smoke On The Water’. In December 1971 the band were planning to record their forthcoming album Machine Head at the Montreux Casino in Switzerland. As we know at the Frank Zappa concert on 4th December someone burnt the place to the ground. Who was ‘the stupid with a flare gun’? This post went viral after being shared by a certain Ian Gillan and easily became my most popular post of the year.

Read full post here

2. Tribute to John Rossall: Glitter Band founder passes away peacefully following cancer battle

This is my tribute to Glitter Band founder member sadly passed away on Saturday 2nd October following a cancer diagnosis earlier in the year. John Rossall played on all the early Glitter Band hits before leaving to pursue a solo career. A popular figure at festivals and gigs on the 70s live music circuit for many years, he stunned both fans and critics alike with a hugely well-received comeback album The Last Glam in Town released in Autumn 2020.

Read full post here

3. Interview with guitarist/singer/song-writer and Grand Funk Railroad founding legend Mark Farner

I was luck enough to interview a number of music legends this year. My most popular of 2021 was with Mark Farner one of the founders of Grand Funk Railroad. In this interview we look back at Mark’s career: forming Grand Funk, performing at the Atlanta Pop Festival in 1969 and London’s Hyde Park in 1971 as well as discussing the inspirations behind his songs, his collaborations with the likes of Ringo Starr and Alice Cooper not to mention his brand new DVD.

Read full post here

4. July Morning – a fifty-year-old British rock song and an annual celebration of summer in Bulgaria

Another post about another iconic fifty-year-old British hard rock song. July Morning is a 1971 song by Uriah Heep. Written by the band’s keyboard player, Ken Hensley, and vocalist David Byron with its distinctive organ sounds it has remained a significant highlight of the band’s live set. In most places the song is taken at face value for what it is – a classic slice of early 70s hard rock with lyrics celebrating the beauty of an early morning sunrise. In Bulgaria, however, the song has taken on a significance all of its own.

Read full post here

5. Dirkschneider & The Old Gang: former Accept vocalist re-unites old colleagues for new project

In the Autumn of 2020 former Accept lead vocalist, Udo Dirkschneider, began putting together a new project that brought together some familiar faces. Going by the moniker Dirkschneider & The Old Gang, the name is pretty self-explanatory. Along with Dirkschneider and his son, Sven, two former Accept members (bassist Peter Baltes and guitarist Stefan Kaufmann) have also been brought in, along with singer Manuela Bibert.

Read full post here

6. A quick tour around my CD collection

I obviously talk a great deal about my love of music but I thought it might be an idea to give readers a quick tour of my actual CD collection. Although I was a keen purchaser of vinyl in my mid to late teens during the first part of the 1980s, frequent house moves in my late teens and early 20s meant that the format was becoming a bit cumbersome. By the time the 1990s came along I was glad to embrace the CD and gradually began building up a collection. From just a handful of CDs thirty years ago it’s now grown to what it is today.

Read full post here

7. Book news: ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ by Darren Johnson – published 30th July 2021

Followers of this blog will be aware that my love of 1970s glam icons The Sweet is pretty well documented. They’ve featured heavily on Darren’s Music Blog over the seven years of the blog’s existence. This was the post announcing the impending publication of my first book – ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ which came out as part of the Decades series published by Sonicbond.

Read full post here

Former Rainbow vocalist, Graham Bonnet, has announced that his forthcoming album will feature ex-bandmate Don Airey. The two who performed together on the classic Down To Earth album back in 1979 will appear on a new album Graham Bonnet solo album. Bonnet is currently recording with bandmates Beth-Ami Heavenstone (bass), Conrad Pesinato (guitar) and Mark Zonder (drums).

Read full post here

9. Peter Donegan: interview with Americana singer-songwriter and son of skiffle legend, Lonnie Donegan

Another of the interviews I enjoyed doing during 2021. In the week of the sixty-seventh anniversary of the recording of Lonnie Donegan’s ‘Rock Island Line’ I talked to Peter Donegan about his father’s legacy, about his viral TV duet with Tom Jones on The Voice and about his forthcoming album.

Read full post here

10. Let there be drums! interview with Slade legend Don Powell

One of my all-time musical heroes I catch up with founding member of Slade and drumming legend, Don Powell. Via Zoom in Don’s home in Denmark we talk about his single ‘Let There Be Drums’ raising money for crew, engineers and technicians hit by the pandemic, about the old Slade days, about working with Suzi Quatro and Andy Scott, about recovering from a stroke and much, much more besides.

Read full post here

2020 in Darren’s music blog

2019 in Darren’s music blog

Merry Xmas Everybody from Darren’s music blog

Apart from my traditional end of year round-up this will be my final post of the year. This is just to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and thank everyone who has visited the site over the past year and hopefully enjoyed some of the reviews, features and interviews I’ve done. Thanks to artists like Grand Funk Railroad legend Mark Farner and Slade legend Don Powell who were kind enough to find time to talk to me along with numerous others.

And thanks to everyone who bought my book ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ when it came out this year and gave such positive feedback.

On the PR side it’s also been a pleasure to work for some wonderful artists over the past year: Milton Hide, Green Diesel, Maniac Squat, Across The Sea, Little Lore and Roly Witherow – all of whom released some excellent music this year I was proud to promote.

I’ll leave you with the Christmas video of the learning disability charity I work for – Stay Up Late. As well as campaigning to transform social care so that no-one with a learning disability is prevented from accessing the support they need to go out to gigs, have an active social life and stay up late, we also run the successful Gig Buddies project. This year we decided to do our own tribute to Slade’s Christmas classic and I found myself donning my gold jacket and becoming impromptu choir master. Enjoy!

You can find out more about Stay Up Late and Gig Buddies here

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Douze Noëls – Twelve traditional Basque tunes for the Christmas season by Gwen Màiri

Douze Noëls is the latest album from harpist Gwen Màiri – twelve traditional Basque tunes for the Christmas season arranged and performed on lever harp by Gwen Màiri. The collection was published in 1897 as Douze Noëls populaires Basques en dialecte Souletin (Twelve popular Basque carols in the Zuberoan dialect). It formed part of the Archive de la tradition Basque, the result of musicologist Charles Bordes’s many years of documenting traditional songs and tunes in the Basque Country, Euskal Herria.

Gwen Màiri was brought up in a Welsh-speaking household in north-east Fife. Both her parents were keen folk singers – her father in Scots and her mother in Welsh – and Gwen grew up singing the songs of both traditions. Her Stirling-born father had learnt Welsh but Scots was often used with his side of the family (and in the playground, of course), while long holidays grandparents in Lampeter, Ceredigion kept a very strong sense of belonging on the Welsh side.

Gwen Màiri is a graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), BA(Hons) PGDipMus, where she studied pedal harp with Karen Vaughan (co-principal harp, LSO) and clàrsach (traditional Scottish lever harp) with Karen Marshalsay. Her career has been very varied, including work with professional orchestras (Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Bangkok Symphony Orchestra and the orchestra and education department of Scottish Opera), chamber music, teaching, publishing music for the lever harp and her main passion; researching, arranging and performing the music of Wales and Scotland in a traditionally informed contemporary style.

Gwen brings her traditional and classical influences together in her arrangement of these beautiful and unique Christmas tunes from Zuberoa. This album was recorded at home in Glasgow and is supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland.  The stunning artwork and animation is by Léa Sautin.

Douze Noëls is now streaming on all the usual platforms and the CD is available to buy from Birnam

http://www.gwenmairi.co.uk/