Tag Archives: album review

Folk/world: album review – Reely Jiggered ‘Tricky Terrain’

Kate Bush with a Bhangra band and a Celtic fiddle player – if you asked me to give my first impressions of Tricky Terrain, the new album from Reely Jiggered, that’s pretty much what sprang to mind when I put it into the CD player .

Actually, as first impressions go that’s not too far out. With the soaring vocals and frenetic fiddle-playing of Royal Conservatoire of Scotland trained Alison McNeill and the band’s output inspired by both Scottish folk and World beats, they have managed to create a unique and irresistible fusion of folk, funk, rock, pop and jazz

Now releasing their third album they have headlined a number of festivals, both in Scotland and internationally, and are past winners of the Soundwave music competition. Joining Alison McNeill on vocals and fiddle are Fiona McNeill (guitar, bodhran, backing vocals) and Scott McLean (drums), with guest musicians Stuart Taylor (keys) and Gregor McPhie (bass).

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The rocking rhythms, furious fiddling and exquisite vocals aligned with those diverse beats make for an absolutely cracking album. The songs are great, too – whether it’s Alison McNeil’s own compositions exploring politics, mental health and international issues as well as the Scottish landscape and past history – or whether it’s the band’s modern take on ‘Auld Lang Syne’ which closes the album.

Fresh, vibrant and unique I’m immediately won over to ‘Reely Jiggered’ and Tricky Terrain is a superb album.

Released 1st May 2020

https://www.reelyjiggered.co.uk/

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Pop/orchestral/singer-songwriter: album review: Mike Batt ‘The Penultimate Collection’

Forever destined to be most closely associated with the Wombles and ‘Bright Eyes’, the Watership Down theme sung by Art Garfunkle, Mike Batt has an illustrious CV as a performer, arranger and composer and this 36-track, 2-disc album is an expansive career retrospective.

Not only does it include selections from his original solo material, it also includes Batt’s own recordings of hits he wrote for other artists. Along with his version of the aforementioned ‘Bright Eyes’ there’s also his own versions of ‘A Winters Tale’ (a 1983 hit for David Essex) and (I Feel Like Buddy Holly’ (a 1984 hit for Alvin Stardust) –  an ideal fit for Batt’s unmistakable vocal just as much as those who originally had hits with them.

‘Summertime City’, a hit for Batt under his own name and the theme to the BBC’s Seaside Special TV series in the seventies, also gets an airing – with Batt musing: “For many years, despite its success I looked back on it with embarrassment but now I am proud of it as a good, strong pop record. I insisted that Sony ‘delete it forever’ and the rights to the song reverted to me. So this is the first time (apart from the MB Music Cube) that it has been released since 1975.”

Batt’s Wombles days are not neglected either. ‘The Wombling Song’ an a couple of others are included but not, sadly, ‘Remember You’re A Womble’ – certainly one of my favourite hits of 1974 as an 8 year-old and surely the most splendid glam rock/folk rock mash-up of all time.

The rockier more upbeat side of Batt’s career, however, is represented by tracks like ‘Imbecile’ which features Family’s Roger Chapman on vocals as well as a beautifully unmissable solo from Rory Gallagher. Chapman also contributes vocals on another track, as does the Zombies’ Colin Blunstone whose trademark vocal graces ‘Tiger In The Night’.

An instinctive ear for a pop melody, a prolific orchestral composer and an instantly recognisable voice in his own right, Mike Batt has made a major contribution to British music over the past four decades and The Penultimate Collection is a worthy retrospective. Just why oh why was ‘Remember You’re a Womble’ missed off?

Released digitally on 8th May 2020 and in physical album format on 6th June 2020

mike batt lp

https://www.mikebatt.com/

Folk: album review – Will Pound ‘A Day Will Come’

Whereas the European referendum result prompted Remain-voting fiddler, Tom Kitching to embark on a busking-journey across England which resulted in both an album (reviewed here) and a book, for similarly Remain-voting melodeon and harmonica player, Will Pound, the referendum helped inspire a quite different project.

An album dedicated “to all Europeans wherever you come from and whatever you believe in” the release features tunes from across the now twenty seven member states that make up the EU. Named after a famous speech by nineteenth-century writer, Victor Hugo, in pursuit of the dream of European co-operation and unity, this is not an album that shies away from wearing its heart on its sleeve, right down to the burgundy passport-coloured cover.

Comprising fourteen tracks, the twenty-seven countries featured are mostly paired up – so a Dutch sailing song, for example, forms a tune-set with a Spanish dance tune. It means we are taken on a breathlessly whirlwind tour of the continent with a huge array of tempos, styles and traditions – but the quality of playing and the inventiveness of the selections never lets up.

An Arts Council-backed project Pound is joined by some highly-acclaimed figures from the folk and wider music world. Those contributing include percussionist superstar Dame Evelyn Glennie, Scots Trad Music Awards winner Jenn Butterworth, Pilgrim’s Way’s Jude Rees (who also accompanies Kitching on his recently-released album) and German fiddler Guthrun Waither. There’s even some performance poetry in the shape of contributions from Birmingham-based, Polish slam poet Bohdan Piasecki.

Celebrating political and economic unity in the shape of cultural and historical diversity this is a lovely project with a fine message and some beautiful tunes. It makes for a nice companion piece to Tom Kitching’s recent Seasons of Change release.

Released: 8th May 2020

https://willpound.com/

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Singer-songwriter: album review – Tom Fairnie ‘Lightning in the Dark’

An Edinburgh-based singer-songwriter whose writing cuts across a number of styles, encompassing Americana, folk, country and blues – Tom Fairnie and has built up a considerable reputation on the Scottish folk circuit.

Over in Austin, Texas, Grammy-nominated producer, Merel Bregante, came across Fairnie’s music, was inspired by his songs and invited him over to Austin to record. Friends, family and fans rallied round to make that happen, courtesy of a crowdfunding campaign and a series of benefit gigs and Fairnie pitched up in Texas. In the studio he worked with a stellar cast of musicians who had previously played alongside the likes of Doc Watson, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Jackson Browne. Lightning in the Dark is the result, an album of breathtaking Americana with Celtic influences shining through. It’s a delicious fusion of styles. Dobros and banjos nestle with whistles and pipes to create something both beautiful and extraordinary – Celticana as Bregante dubbed it.

The sound is special but so, too, are the songs. Fairnie’s gift as a songwriter and easy-going but thought-provoking lyrics, many of them composed with songwriting partner and fellow poet Bob Shields, make this a standout-out album.

An absolute gem of an album. If you love Americana seek out Tom Fairnie’s Lightning In The Dark. You will not be disappointed.

Released: 1st May 2020

https://tomfairnie.com/home-news

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Folk: album review – Tom Kitching ‘Seasons of Change’

Two years ago fiddle-player Tom Kitching, known for his work with Gren Bartley and for being part of Pilgrims’ Way, started a blog and announced he was going on a journey.

“The sense of not knowing my own country was brought home to me by the referendum result. Virtually all my friends voted to remain, but England as a whole had other ideas. Clearly, the English are a much more complex and varied group than the people around me,” he states in his very first post back in April 2018, adding that he was aiming to travel across England, busking in towns, villages, and cities each day.

Kitching’s travels continued for well over a year and the blog eventually morphed into a book. The busking, meanwhile, ended up turning into an album – which is precisely what we are reviewing here. Recorded as live in Danebridge Methodist Chapel, Staffordshire in December 2019, some eighteen months after his journey began, Seasons of Change brings together eleven tunes mixing traditional tunes with Kitching’s own material. Essentially, a mixture of tunes from his busking repertoire along with new compositions inspired by his round-England trip.

Past collaborator Marit Fält accompanies Kitching on Nordic mandola and cittern and Pilgrim’s Way bandmate Jude Rees also joins him on English border bagpipes.
With morris tunes, reels, jigs, polkas and hornpipes it’s a wonderfully varied set of tunes in terms of tempo and pace, not to mention geographical origin. The album takes us on a journey starting with ‘Old Molly Oxford’ right up to ‘Old Age and Young’ from John Offord’s ‘Bonny Cumberland’ tunebook. There’s even a peek over the channel with the final track. The old French tune ‘La Fanatique’ is paired with Kitching’s own ‘Infinite Espresso’ inspired by an incident in a dockers’ cafe in Harwich, which Kitching assures us in the sleeve-notes we need to buy the book if we want to find out the full story.

Beautifully played and absolutely fascinating in equal measure Tom Kitching has created a real delight with his Seasons of Change album. Now all I need to do is order the book…

Released: 17th April 2020

Book, blog and album all available via http://www.tomkitching.co.uk/

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Related reviews:

Book review: ‘Seasons of Change – Busking England’ by Tom Kitching

Pilgrims’ Way – Stand and Deliver 

Gavin Davenport & Tom Kitching at Warwick Folk Festival

 

Gothic rock – album review – The Birthday Massacre ‘Diamonds’

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

Diamonds is the eighth studio album from Canadian gothic rock outfit The Birthday Massacre. That genre embraces a whole range of musical styles, of course, and the influences here lean heavily towards the electro-pop end of the goth spectrum. Indeed, listening to the album immediately transported me back to some of the alternative club nights I went to as a sixth former in the 80s when I was occasionally allowed to hang out with the much cooler kids.

Their first since 2017′s Under Your Spell, Diamonds offers up nine brand new songs from the Toronto-based six-piece. Personally, I’d have preferred them to have upped the rock quotient with a bit more guitar and a bit less synth.

The former is not entirely absent though and there’s some nice moodily atmospheric riffs from guitarist Rainbow and some appealing solos from lead guitarist Falcore but they do tend to get drowned out in the mix somewhat.

Of what there can be no complaints about at all, however, is lead singer Chibi’s vocals as she delivers that trademark sweetness with a slightly dark undercurrent that works so perfectly for this genre.

Engaging vocals, catchy melodies, evocative atmospherics and enigmatic lyrics Diamonds is a strong product from The Birthday Massacre. Whether you completely fall in love with it or merely appreciate the depths of creativity and emotion that have gone into producing it will really depend, as a rock fan, on just how much you love electro-pop.

Released by Metropolis Records 27th March 2020

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http://www.thebirthdaymassacre.com/home.html

 

Singer-songwriter: album review – Thomas Charlie Pederson ‘Daylight Saving Hours’

Daylight Saving Hours is the second solo album from Thomas Charlie Pederson, lead singer and guitarist with Danish alt-rockers Vinyl Floor. Unlike the guitar-driven indie rock of Vinyl Floor, however, Pederson’s solo offering takes a mellow acoustic minimalistic approach, continuing in the vein of his first solo album Second Hand War released in 2016.

Recorded at the apartment of his brother (and Vinyl Floor’s drummer) Daniel, who also produced and mixed the album, Pederson states, “The project started out as demo recordings but I’ve decided to release these songs because I want to present them as raw as possible and because I want to preserve the feel of how they were written.”

The 14 songs on the album are centred mainly around Pederson’s vocals and either his piano playing or his acoustic guitar. For all it’s stripped back intimacy, however, the album does not lack polish, with Pederson’s brother providing some lovely atmospheric flourishes with additional string and organ arrangements. The result is an instinctively sympathetic backdrop to Pederson’s contemplative lyrics and melancholic delivery.

“Unlike the first album – which was quite introvert and personal – the new album sees me writing mostly about other people with a strong emphasis on the lyrics and melody and a few lyrical wordplays thrown in for good measure,” Pederson adds. “ I write about the commitments of love, illusionists, other worldly interference, melancholia, women in trouble and the different aspects of getting older.

Given my own music tastes I very much empathise with those musicians who enjoy exploring both their rock side and their acoustic side. An album of intimate lyrics and appealing melodies Thomas Charlie Pederson more than proves his worth as a singer-songwriter with Daylight Saving Hours.

Released by Karmanian Records 7th February 2020

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https://www.facebook.com/thomascharliepedersenmusic/

Folk: album review – Adam Amos & Noel Rocks ‘Back Up To Zero’

Back Up To Zero is the third album from acoustic singer-songwriter duo Adam Amos & Noel Rocks. It comes after quite some gap since the first two though. Adam Amos and Noel Rocks recorded two albums together in the 1980s and toured around the UK and Europe. Their endeavours as a duo came to a premature end, however, when Amos relocated abroad. Two sell-out reunion shows at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015 evidently encouraged them to rekindle their working partnership as a permanent set-up once more and they began working on Back Up To Zero in 2019, on Amos’s return to live in Scotland.

The album comprises eight original songs along with one traditional number and one cover. The duo (Amos guitar/vocals and Rocks guitar/banjo/vocals) say the songs are mainly drawn from their personal observations, with influences from Scotland, Ireland and North America.

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They are joined by a number of guest musicians: renowned Korean born Su-a Lee (Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Mr McFall’s Chamber, La Banda Europa) on cello, David Paton (Pilot, Elton John, Albert Hammond) on bass and Kenny Hutchison on accordion and piano, who was also the album’s producer.

Both Amos and Rocks are each accomplished song-writers and their reflective, thoughtful but easy-on-the-ear lyrics align nicely with some gentle, catchy melodies. The Americana as well as the Celtic influences shine through and it makes for a very pleasing mix. An engaging and likeable album from this duo let’s hope there’s a good few more gigs and a few more albums in them yet.

Released: 17th March 2020

https://www.amosandrocks.com/

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Folk: album review – Kirsty Merryn ‘Our Bright Night’

After making quite an impact and scooping up tons of praise with her debut She & I, an album which paid tribute to inspirational women in history, Kirsty Merryn is back with a follow-up. In her own words Our Bright Night is about “tales of the supernatural, the dying of the light and the land.”

“It’s a reflection of the world we live in, both real and imagined, and the way in which ignorance to social issues can result in devastating results,” says Merryn.”After She & I I wanted yo strip everything back and make this album a more intimate affair.”

The result is a cool, classy album of contemporary folk with Merryn’s crystal clear vocals and gently captivating piano taking centre stage. There are guest appearances from Phil Beer who contributes violin on opening track ‘Twilight/Banks of Sweet Primroses’ and Sam Kelly whose vocals also grace a track ‘Shanklin Chine’.

The eleven tracks are mostly original material written in a folk vein but there are a couple of Merryn’s interpretations of traditional standards, too. Captivating vocals combined with intimate delivery and enigmatic songwriting makes Our Bright Night a worthy follow-up to Merryn’s well-received debut.

Released: 24th April 2020

https://www.kirstymerryn.com/

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Folk / singer-songwriter: album review – Kevin Hunt ‘Devil’s Daughter’

In spite of being something of a regular fixture on the UK folk circuit, over two decades of writing songs ever since his teenage years and a long-term collaboration with violinist Ian Pearson, Irish-born singer-songwriter Kevin Hunt has waited until now before releasing his debut album. Devil’s Daughter comprises ten tracks of self-composed. In addition to Hunt (vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica) and Pearson (violin) it includes an impressive line-up of session musicians: double bassist John Parker (better known as one half of the acoustic duo Nizlopi), Dan Wilde on guitars, piano and organ, Jamie Welsted on drums and singer-songwriter Anna Hester providing backing vocals.

It’s apparent that the years Hunt has spent honing his craft as a songwriter have not been wasted and he delivers an impressive debut here.

“One of the first songs I wrote was about the troubles in Northern Ireland and I discovered I could more effectively express how I felt about complex subjects in song than I could any other way so I guess that’s when song-writing started for me, “ he notes.

​”I’ve realised that the meaning of songs is in who hears them and over time those songs change and what the listener takes from them will change too. As long as they are written from a genuine place – good, bad or ugly – then they will carry in some shape or form. What a song might be about is not really up to me to define even if I’ve written it. That’s for someone else to decide for themselves. That’s what makes music pretty special as an art form. Songs are just moments, that’s all. Not definitions or dogmas.”

A gift for lyrical storytelling combines with a warmly satisfying voice and some deft musical interplay between the assembled musicians to make this an album that you get more and more from with each repeated listen. No-one could ever accuse Hunt of rushing himself in bringing his songs to the recording studio but it has certainly been worth the wait. Devil’s Daughter is a very welcome debut. Like many musicians the world over any gigs that Hunt had lined up in support of this album will now be completely up in the air. However, whether you have seen him live previously or just looking for something new as you contemplate what is likely to be many weeks without any gigs to out to this album is well worth seeking out.

Released: 5th June 2020

kevin hunt

https://www.kevinhuntband.com/