Tag Archives: album review

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/

Singer-songwriter: album review – A Choir of Ghosts ‘An Ounce of Gold’

A Choir of Ghosts is the alter-ego of Swedish singer-songwriter James Auger and An Ounce of Ghosts is his debut album. Written over a three -year period this highly personal album is influenced by both the thick forests of the Scandinavian landscape and the experiences and feelings he went through over that time.

Right from your first listen of the album a number of things become immediately apparent. First, Auger has a fantastic voice – with that slight Americana vibe that makes for perfect singer-songwriter territory. Secondly, he’s really got a good ear for catchy memorable melodies – even after an initial couple of plays this album feels like it’s been a much-loved part of your collection. And finally, this is a really well-constructed, beautifully-produced debut album – from the epic orchestral soundscapes that dominate tracks like the grandly-titled ‘Sinner In Rapture’ (also released as a single) to the warm, introspective feel of stripped-back acoustic numbers like ‘Driving Home’.

Beautiful melodies, thought-provoking lyrics and gorgeous production An Ounce of Gold is an extremely impressive debut album and one well worth seeking out.

Released: Greywood Records 3/4/20

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Available from: https://greywoodrecords.bigcartel.com/product/a-choir-of-ghosts-an-ounce-of-gold-cd

http://www.achoirofghosts.com/

Folk: album review – Siobhan Miller ‘All Is Not Forgotten’

All Is Not Forgotten is the fourth solo album from Scottish folk singer Siobhan Miller, three times winner of MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards and a 2018 BBC Folk Awards recipient. Featuring a mixture of new arrangements of traditional songs and newly-composed original material, Miller has drawn together a stellar team of supporting musicians from across the Scottish folk scene. Lau’s Kris Drever plays guitar, Miller’s husband and musician/producer Euan Burton plays bass (both of whom also collaborate in the song-writing), while Braebach’s Megan Henderson plays fiddle, Innes White plays acoustic guitar, John Lowrie plays piano and Kim Carnie contributes backing vocals.

A more stripped-back slightly less commercial affair than her 2018 album, Miller reflects:

“After releasing Mercury I really wanted to create something reflective of our live shows, mixing original songs with new arrangements of traditional songs I’ve learned and making it as raw and as honest as possible.”

A beautifully pure voice that is just made for Scottish folk along with some exquisitely lovely musical arrangements and some instantly appealing songwriting ‘All Is Not Forgotten’ commends itself to you as a stand-out album as soon as you put it on.

Among the album’s nine tracks highlights include ‘Selkie’ a lovely arrangement of the traditional song immortalising the Scottish legend of those beasts that are seals in water but human on land. The gentle beauty of ‘While The World Weeps’, co-written by Euan Burton with Findlay Napier, is another real highlight, while a complete contrast comes in the shape of the music hall feel of the wittily tongue-in-cheek ‘Cholesterol’ that closes the album.

A string of tour dates were announced to promote All Is Not Forgotten, sadly and inevitably now all cancelled. So if you want to support Siobhan Miller while at the same time adding some thoughtful songwriting and creative arrangements of traditional Scottish folk to your collection then do visit her website and purchase a copy of this beautiful album.

Released: 3 April 2020 by Songprint Recordings via Proper Music

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https://www.siobhanmiller.com/

Folk: album review – Peter Knight’s Gigspanner Big Band ‘Natural Invention’

Initially starting out as a side project from his work with Steeleye Span, Peter Knight’s Gigspanner rapidly began establishing itself as the folk rock fiddle maestro’s main creative outlet. Steeleye Span were consequently left to find a new fiddle player and Gigspanner’s reputation grew with a string of albums and an almost permanent touring presence around the country’s arts centres, village halls, churches, pubs and theatres. It’s not only reputations that have grown, however, but the size of the band, too. Forming first as a violin-guitar-percussion trio creating a wonderful fusion of traditional English folk and a beguiling blend of international influences, the duo of Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin subsequently joined for occasional tours and a live album under the delightful Gigspanner Big Band moniker. Now, the big band has got even bigger – with former Bellowhead legend John Spiers joining.

Natural Invention is the first studio album of this six-piece collaboration. Of course you’re going to have exquisitely good musicianship with such a line-up. One niggling question for fans who have grown to love the vastly varied yet utterly unique sounds of the trio format, with its perfect interaction between violin, percussion and guitar, is whether having six musicians in the studio starts to over-complicate the unmistakable Gigspanner formula. It absolutely 100% doesn’t. This new album is pure Gigspanner through and through. Spiers’ melodeon, Henry’s slide guitars and Martin banjo and vocals all sound like they were forever destined to be part of the Gigspanner sound. Moreover, with beautifully creative arrangements of ten traditional songs (from the Child ballad ‘Betsy Bell and Mary Grey through to ‘Daddy Fox’ whose origins go back as far as the fifteenth century) the six have produced something absolutely magical.

Obviously, during the unfolding crisis of the pandemic musicians have been finding every gig and every forthcoming tour cancelled and their income rapidly disappearing. Bands will be reliant on album sales now more than ever before and, obviously, if you’re stuck in the house for weeks on end you’ll maybe want some new stuff to listen to. So buy buy buy buy. But don’t just buy to be charitable Natural Invention is a stunningly good album. Even if you’re stingy enough to only buy one folk album this year make sure it’s this one.

Released: 10th April 2020

https://www.gigspanner.com/gigspanner-big-band

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Previous reviews:

Gigspanner at Hastings 2017
Gigspanner Big Band at Hastings 2016
Gigspanner ‘Layers of Ages’ album
Steeleye Span in London 2015
Gigspanner at Hastings 2015
Gigspanner at Whitstable 2014

Folk: album review – Atlantic Union ‘Indulgence’

Not the bank but rather a folk trio from Newfoundland, Indulgence is the fourth album from this long-running Canadian enterprise. Formed in 1997 Atlantic Union has seen various line-up changes along the way but Sally Goddard, originally from England, has been at the heart of the trio since its inception and she brings with her one of those classic English pure folk voices that immediately make you sit up and listen.

Joining Goddard (vocals, guitar, bass, bodhran and concertina) are Dan Rubin (violin, viola, mandolin, octave mandolin, bouzouki, dulcimer, guitar and bass) and Jane Ogilvie (Celtic harp, piano and accordion). More than two years in the making Indulgence comprises nine original tracks and five covers, the latter ranging from the traditional ‘Star of the County Down’ to Bob Dylan’s ‘The Hour That The Ship Comes In’. The rich, Celtic-inspired instrumentation and lovely blend of instruments used across the album provides a fine setting for Goddard’s (and on some tracks Rubin’s) vocals.

The trio guide as through the album as follows:

“The opening track is a gentle reminder that we are not alone. The songs that follow reflect on unrequited love, loss of a loved one and memory loss. We emerge from this with a song for a beloved granddaughter, then move through pieces that share an oceanic setting: songs about transcending racism, surviving war and sailing out of St. John’s harbour on a fully rigged ship. After a piece written by Lord Byron and a nostalgic visit to Mallorca we come to a tribute to the loggers of New Brunswick who supplied masts for the British navy and a rather strange song about kayaking in the Queen Charlotte Islands. The collection concludes with a sonata inspired by Scottish themes and a Caribbean sing-along about the joys of living more simply.”

A pleasing album with some enjoyable songwriting, beautiful vocals and fine melodies, Indulgence will hopefully serve to help Atlantic Union become better known among folk listeners here in the UK. It would be well deserved.

Released: November 2019

http://atlanticunion.ca/

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Folk: album review – Seth Lakeman ‘A Pilgrim’s Tale’

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

The latest album from folk singer Seth Lakeman marks the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower setting sail from Plymouth for north America. While A Pilgrim’s Tale showcases his distinctive vocal style and delivery precisely as his fans have come to love and expect, this is more than simply another Seth Lakeman album though. Comprising twelve songs that seek to tell the story of the Mayflower, the album is narrated by Dr Who actor, Paul McGann, and features a stellar cast of some of the leading lights in the contemporary folk world: Cara Dillon, Benji Kirkpatrick, Ben Nicholls et al.

“I didn’t have to go far for inspiration,” contends the Devon-based folk singer. “The Mayflower’s steps on Plymouth’s cobbled streets are twenty minutes away from me.”

Lyrically, Lakeman paints some vivid pictures for the listener and the songs come from a variety of perspectives. It doesn’t attempt to gloss over the brutality of this early adventure in colonialism. It deals with death, brutality and tragedy experienced by both sides but also examines the religious motivations of the pilgrims and their initial sense of optimism as they set sail as well as their trials and tribulations en route. As well as seeking to explore the perspectives of the pilgrims, however, Lakeman also attempts to look at things from the point of view of the indigenous Wampanoag tribespeople. Indeed, Lakeman visited Massachusetts to gain insights from the Wampanoag descendants who still live in the area.

A highly controversial chapter in both British and American history, Lakeman handles it with both sensitivity and creativity and the result is a fascinating and highly listenable album.

Released by BMG 7/2/20

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https://www.sethlakeman.co.uk/

Previous reviews:

Seth Lakeman at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 2019

Seth Lakeman at Folk by the Oak 2014

 

Singer-songwriter: album review – Lorraine Jordan ‘Send My Soul’

Send My Soul is the fifth studio album from singer song-writer Lorraine Jordan. Memorably described as ‘Celtic soul’ her music builds on her family’s Irish roots while also embracing more contemporary influences.

It’s a combination that works fantastically well and from the moment you put it on the album oozes soulful sophistication and captivating musicality. Indeed, such is the powerfully understated beauty of the title track that I had to double-check that this was a brand new song and not a modern interpretation of a long lost gospel soul classic.

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Not only is Jordan is a talented songwriter with a passionate soulful voice she’s succeeded in assembling a suitably talented line-up of musicians for the album. Jordan’s own guitar and bouzouki playing is complimented by a sensitive yet wondrous accompaniment of mandolin, piano, strings, whistle and percussion that help give these songs such a unique Celtic-inspired flavour.

If Celtic soul is truly a thing then ‘Send My Soul’ is surely a classic of the genre. Jordan has delivered an exquisitely appealing album here.

Released: October 2019 by Hazellville Music

https://www.lorrainejordan.net/

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Hard rock: album review – Burnt Out Wreck ‘This Is Hell’

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

After an extremely well-received 2017 debut ‘Swallow’, some barnstorming festival appearances and support slots for the likes of Anvil, Burnt Out Wreck – the band created by former Heavy Pettin’ drummer Gary Moat – ratchet up their impact with a second album.

While Heavy Pettin’ in the 80s (who had their back catalogue re-released recently) took their musical cues from the more polished classic rock albums of the previous decade, Burnt Out Wreck channel the down-n-dirty spirit of Bon Scott and early AC/DC.

As Moat says when I interviewed him for GRTR recently, “At 15/16 AC/DC were just the best thing in the world and Bon Scott was amazing. And so that’s why I sing like that, not because I wanted to copy what he was doing but just because that’s the way that my voice developed.”

As well as Moat on lead vocals the band are: Alex Carmichael on bass, Paul Gray on drums, Adrian Dunn on lead guitar and backing vocals, and Miles Goodman on rhythm Guitar and backing vocals. Moat’s vocal style developed in Mother’s Ruin, the band he put together in the early 90s following the demise of Heavy Pettin’. However, around five years ago he put Mother’s Ruin to bed in order to concentrate on songwriting. A number of songs that had lain half-written were finally completed for this album.

From the faux-dramatic introduction and killer riff on ‘Positive’ to the relentless boogie and tongue-in-cheek lyrics of ‘Paddywack’ to the seen-it-all-done-it-all-tales of rock ‘n’ roll life in ‘Guitars Electrified’ it blasts out the speakers like some long lost AC/DC album circa 1976. But the guys deliver with passion and conviction, Moat proves himself a very able songwriter and vocalist and Burnt Out Wreck easily demonstrate that they are far more than a poor man’s pastiche.

This Is Hell is a perfect album of sleazy, hard-hitting, in-your-face bluesy hard rock. Sure, it sounds like AC/DC but even if Angus and co. do release another album it’s not going to sound like this. Buy it!

https://www.burntoutwreck.com/

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Related posts:

Interview with Gary Moat

Heavy Pettin Reissues

Anvil / Burnt Out Wreck / VOiD at The Underworld, Camden 2018

Burnt Out Wreck at Classic Rock Weekender 2018

Burnt Out Wreck at Classic Rock All Dayer 2018

 

Heavy metal: album review – Quiet Riot ‘Hollywood Cowboys’

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

“After nearly ten years since the loss of his friend and co-founding member and bandmate Kevin DuBrow, and with careful consideration, soul searching and with the blessings and support of Kevin DuBrow’s family, Frankie has moved forward with the band to bring the fans a new record!” announce Quiet Riot as they release their latest album Hollywood Cowboys.

Always best known for their 1983 smash album Metal Health which included the hit cover of ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ a song that finally brought the delights of Slade to an American audience, the band is now led by drummer and long-term member Frankie Banali who was part of the Metal Health line-up and has played on every subsequent Quiet Riot release since. Banali is joined by bassist, Chuck Wright, who’s been part of the band, on and off, since the early 80s and guitarist, Alex Grossi, who has been with Quiet Riot since 2004. Vocals are, once again, handled by James Durbin, who also sang on the band’s last studio album (2017′s Road Rage).

With a smoother and more melodic feel than the raunch of DuBrow’s vocals, Durbin a former American Idol frontrunner, has himself now left the band it’s been reported. There are some decent songs on this album and some powerful but hummable fast-paced hard rock. It includes one or two surprises as well. The slower, smouldering, bluesy feel of ‘Roll On’ is actually one of the real treats on the album.

Former lead singer Kevin DuBrow was such an essential component of Quiet Riot that debate will always be a matter of debate among classic-era fans as to whether, without him, it’s really Quiet Riot or not. Nevertheless, this latest release to bear the band’s imprint is an album of likeable, if somewhat generic, 80s-influenced heavy metal.

Released: Frontiers 8th November 2019

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https://quietriot.band/

Folk: album review – TMSA ‘Young Trad Tour 2018’

A simple, slightly quirky but effective idea, every year the Traditional Music & Song Association of Scotland (TMSA) run the Young Trad Tour project where they offer young musicians the opportunity to record an album with their contemporaries and tour their home towns. TMSA launched the project back in 2004 when the six finalists from BBC Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician Of The Year awards were brought together to tour and make an album and its been repeated each year since.

This year’s CD features the six finalists of the 2018 competition along with the winner of the 2017 competition and the full lone-up is as follows: Hannah Rarity (vocals and 2018 winner), Charlie Stewart (fiddle and 2017 winner), Ali Levack (whistles/pipes), Rory Matheson (piano), Luc MacNally (guitar/vocals), Amy Papiransky (vocals) and David Shedden (bagpipes).

The album contains a nice mix of original material and arrangements of traditional tunes. There’s a real maturity to both the playing and the writing but one of the undoubted highlights of the album is the wonderful voice of 2018 competition winner Hannah Rarity. Rarity’s talent had already come to my notice when I reviewed her debut release for the sadly now-defunct fRoots magazine back in 2017. It’s certainly encouraging to see her getting the recognition she deserves, not that the CD is merely a showcase for the winner. There’s some fine fiddle playing and bagpipes on this album and it is impressive to see this ad-hoc ensemble coming together with something as cohesive as this.

A wonderfully creative project and one that has delivered a fine album.

Released: 6th August 2019 by TMSA

https://www.tmsa.scot/

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Related review:

EP review – Hannah Rarity – Beginings