Tag Archives: folk

Singer-songwriter: album review – Gary Fulton ‘Blood and Dust’

Blood and Dust is the fifth album from Cheshire-based singer songwriter, Gary Fulton. Branded in the acoustic folk category, comparisons have been made with Nick Harper and Rory McLeod and his music has been championed by the likes of Fatea. To be honest, however, there’s so much zestful energy in his songs I heard everything in there, from George Thorogood to 80s/90s indie a la The Las to 60s flower-power era Status Quo. Fulton’s talent is undoubtedly an ability to combine engaging lyrics with unforgettably catchy melodies.

For one who creates music so appealing and with a comparatively weighty back catalogue Fulton has a fairly low-key presence online and there’s not a huge amount of information about the artist to be found either on his reverb-nation site or in the press release that accompanied the album. However, Fulton is certainly deserving of wider attention and, hopefully, the excellent Blood and Dust will go some way to achieving that.

Released: 8th September 2019

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Live review: Marry Waterson & Emily Barker at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings 16/10/19

Described as English folk royalty meets Australian soul the unlikely musical pairing of Marry Waterson and Emily Barker attracted many favourable reviews when the two released an album together A Window To Other Ways back in March this year. Following a successful tour to promote the album, the partnership is enduring and a second tour kicks off tonight in Hastings’ St Mary in the Castle.

For support, the two are joined by a more enduring (but no less talented) duo: St Leonards on Sea’s very own Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou. Now on to their fifth album together, they recently announced that they would be putting the duo on hold for a while so it was nice to be able to catch them together at least one last time. Delighting the audiences with songs such as ‘Everything You Need’ and ‘We Should’ve Gone Dancing’ from their latest album Fair Lady London, it’s good to hear that they are accompanying Waterson and Barker for the whole UK tour not just for this local gig. That should definitely win them over some new fans – even if expanding their fan-base isn’t particularly going to be their number one priority for the foreseeable future!

Waterson (of renowned Yorkshire folk family the Watersons – daughter of Lal) and Barker (Aussie-born, now UK-based, singer-songwriter) met up via a song-writing retreat and explain tonight how the spark of the ensuing partnership meant they both brought fragments of languishing half-written songs to one another and the album project emerged from there. There’s a lovely contrast between their voices, their delivery and their lyrical style – and they way they deftly draw inspiration from a whole range of musical genres from folk to jazz to country rock to bluesy soul. Having previously enjoyed both artists perform solo it is a privilege to see them work their magic on stage together tonight.

Performing songs mainly from their recent album, like the wonderful ‘Drinks Two and Three’ the two do a remarkable job bringing these songs to life. They are ably aided by two musicians who performed on the album: Lukas Drinkwater on electric and double bass and Rob Pemberton on drums, percussion and sampling.

After enthralling us with the songs they created together, the two give us one song each from their respective solo repertoires. As per a request from a member of the audience, Barker hits us with beautifully melancholic ‘No. 5 Hurricane’ from her last solo album, while Waterson delivers a breathtakingly powerful a cappella version of the traditional ‘Farewell Sailor’.

The evening concludes with the full band giving us a joyous, life-affirming version of ‘Bright Phoebus’ the title track of the ‘lost classic’ iconic folk-rock album by Waterson’s mother, Lal, and uncle, Mike. For all her gorgeous Memphis-tinged soul, Emily Barker it turns out, is a huge long-time fan of the Watersons. Maybe her and Marry might treat us to a performance of the full Bright Phoebus album at some future point?

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http://www.emilybarker.com/

https://www.marrywaterson.com/

Related reviews:

Emily Barker at Record Store Day 2017

Marry Waterson and Eliza Carthy – Hastings 2016

Trevor Moss & Hannah Lou – Hastings 2019

Trevor Moss & Hannah Lou – Fair Lady London

 

News: Scottish folk band Skipinnish celebrate twentieth anniversary

Scottish folk band Skipinnish celebrate their twentieth anniversary this year. The band’s origins may have been modest, gigging in pubs and bars and village halls but their rise in recent years has been phenomenal – with prestigious venues selling out, many millions of streams on Spotify and other platforms and their latest album Steer By The Stars reaching number 4 in the charts. And that was not some obscure specialist folk chart but the actual official UK mainstream charts .

Now the album has been nominated for Album of the Year at the Scottish Trad Music Awards. Fans of the band can vote for the album here: https://projects.handsupfortrad.scot/scotstradmusicawards/voting/

Visiting familiar themes for the band of ocean, island, landscape, love, hope, mortality, friendship and the pull of home the album was officially launched to a packed house at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall back in May this year and has gone on to attract many enthusiastic reviews.

The band’s twentieth anniversary is officially marked with a special performance at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on October 25th and that will be followed by a short tour of Scottish venues in December.

https://www.skipinnish.com/

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Folk: album review – Bird In The Belly ‘Neighbours and Sisters’

Sifting through a stack of new folk CDs that arrived in the post for review over recent weeks, this one immediately stood out.

Bird in the Belly are a Brighton-based traditional four-piece and their debut album The Crowing, which was released in Spring 2018, caused something of a stir – picking up numerous plaudits including the Sunday Express’s album of the year.

Neighbours and Sisters immediately impressed the moment I put it on, putting me in mind of a pre-amped up, early Steeleye Span in some ways. The collective is made up of Ben ‘Jinnwoo’ Webb (vocals), Laura Ward (vocals, flute), Adam Ronchetti (percussion, acoustic guitar, shruti) and multi-instrumentalist Tom Pryor (violin, guitars, organ, banjo, bass, additional vocals). With eight traditional songs and two originals they’ve delved deep into the folk song index and unearthed some wonderful, but not particularly well-known, nineteenth century ballads and applied some breathtakingly good arrangements. Webb’s voice is as gravelly and full of character as Ward’s is pure and enchanting. Together they are a perfect fit. This sounds like an album I’ve been playing for years and fell in love with a long, long time ago – and I’ve only had it on twice so far…

An album of character, presence and purpose combined with superb vocals, effortlessly brilliant instrumentation and excellent song choices, Neighbours & Sisters is set to be one of the stand-out folk albums of 2019.

Released: 18th October 2019 by GF*M Records

https://www.birdinthebelly.com/

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Singer-songwriter: album review – Sheila K Cameron ‘River to Sea’

River To Sea is a collaboration by singer song-writer Sheila K Cameron and Johns Saich and Mags Russell of Wild Biscuit.

The project began life as seven tracks released in 2016 under the title More Like a River Than a Road, inspired by the Tlell River on one of the Haida Gwaii islands off the coast of British Columbia. The collaboration continued and another five tracks were recorded, this time with the inspiration moving to the the Tiree island, off the west coast of Scotland. Together both sets of songs form this album River to Sea.

There’s a depth and a maturity to Cameron’s lyrics and singing and in her biography she describes herself as being at the third stage of her work as a singer and performer. Some gentle and appealing musical accompaniment from Saich and Russell, particularly some beautiful piano playing, serves to make this a very appealing album.

I’ve previously championed the work of another singer-songwriter Marina Florance, another artist who emerged as a singer-songwriter later in life, and in their abilities to deliver heartfelt, passionate, authentic songs borne of lifetime’s experiences there are some obvious parallels. I am more than happy to recommend this album.

Released: 17th June 2019 by Glalell

https://sheilakcameron.com

http://www.wildbiscuit.com/

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Folk: album review – Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer ‘Twelve Months & A Day’

This review was originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of fRoots magazine

Now on to their eighth album as a duo, Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer said they considered a number of possible themes for this, their latest offering but in the end it evolved into a celebration of everything they do. There are folk songs written in traditional style, tune-sets of Swedish polskas, William Morris verse put to contemporary music, a fifteenth-century Christmas carol and two songs from thirteenth-century continental Europe. Adding to that is a whole array of instruments that are set to work on the album including a selection of nyckelharpas, the bouzouki and the harmonium, not to mention ‘early music’ instruments the citrole, the cornu and the carnyx in addition to the more obvious guitar, flute and piano.

This everything-but-the-kitchen-sink could have resulted in an album that was interesting but somewhat erratic and lacking focus. However, such is the distinctive feel and verve that Swan and Dyer bring to their music that rather than getting in the way of building a clear identity, the sheer breadth of influences, material and instruments that make up the album very much help define it.

Normally, an album with such an extensive range of instrumentation would also have an equally extensive ensemble of guest musicians but, save for some additional percussion from Evan Carson guesting on a couple of tracks, it really is all the duo’s own work, an impressive testimony to the duo’s talents as multi-instrumentalists.

From the mad, irresistible, quirkiness of Grandpa Joe to the slow, haunting beauty of Ai Vis Lo Lop the inventive arrangements and superb musicianship, together with the duo’s lovely harmony vocals, serve to make Twelve Months & A Day a compelling album that will continue to cement Swan & Dyer’s reputation.

http://www.swan-dyer.co.uk/

Released: March 2019

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Folk: album review – Na-Mara ‘Sisters & Brothers’

Na-Mara have built a formidable reputation for bringing their translations of songs from the Breton, French and Quebecois traditions to English-speaking audiences, alongside their original and captivating interpretation tunes from the Celtic regions of Spain and France. There’s more to them than that, of course, and their repertoire has always included self-composed material written in the style of the folk tradition.

With Sisters & Brothers Na-Mara’s Rob Garcia and Paul McNamara return with a fine mix of each of these three elements. The self-penned title track gives a nod to the proud history of songs about economic injustices in the past while providing us with a rallying call for the present: “What was done to our fathers and brothers is now being done to our sisters and brothers.” We also have new translations of songs from France and Quebec, such as long-lost soldier/returning sweetheart story The Recompense, and there is an elegant tune-set, including the lovely An Dro from a collection of Breton folk tunes.

Garcia’s mandolin and McNamara’s guitar work and gentle, sincere vocals give the duo their trademark sound and it’s clear throughout the album there is no shortage of inspiration for new material.

Na-Mara continue to make a vital and distinctive contribution to the UK folk scene and Sisters & Brothers is another highly-accomplished offering.

Released: March 2019

http://www.na-mara.com/

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Folk: album review – Odette Michell ‘The Wildest Rose’

While there is never any shortage of debut albums from folk singer songwriters being brought to the attention of fRoots reviewers, for endearing melodies and evocative song-writing in the English folk tradition Odette Michell presents us with a really rather impressive debut here. It helps, of course, that she has one of those beautiful voices that’s just perfect for English folk but with so many releases from emerging artists, being in possession of a beautiful voice, alone, is not necessarily a stand-out quality on the contemporary folk scene these days. Michell is clearly a talented musician and gives us some lovely guitar and bouzouki playing on this album, too. What really sets The Wildest Rose apart from many of the other debut albums that will undoubtedly be released over the course of the year, however, is Michell’s knack for writing songs that could easily have been collected over a hundred years ago. She does seem to have a gift for this and gives us nine original songs plus one interpretation of a traditional number without ever falling into the cliche of twee pastiche.

Lyrically, Michell’s songs cover a range of historical, romantic and pastoral themes from ‘folk fairytale’ The Banks of Analee to Light Up London Town exploring the Gunpowder Plot. Besides Michell herself, the album features Stu Hanna on mandolin, violin, bass and percussion who also does a suitably empathetic job on on production duties. In addition, none other than Show of Hands’ Phil Beer contributes to a handful of tracks as does Toby Shaer who has played with Cara Dillon and Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys.

Beautifully written, beautifully sung, beautifully played and beautifully produced The Wildest Rose deserves acclaim as one of the stand-out debuts of 2019.

Released: April 2019

https://www.odettemichell.com/

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Folk: album review – Thea Gilmore ‘Small World Turning’

This review was originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of fRoots magazine

After several albums exploring a variety of musical pastures, Thea Gilmore returns to her folk roots with Small World Turning – and what an album of brilliant, classy, exceptional contemporary folk she has given us here.

The breath-taking beauty in her vocals combines with equally breath-taking musicianship from the supporting cast. The now twenty, thirty and early forty-somethings who make up latter-day folk royalty, the likes of Cara Dillon, Seth and Sam Lakeman, Ciaran Algar and more, line up to back Gilmore on the album .

Moreover, Gilmore’s writing is as sharply perceptive as her voice is enchanting. While some stabs at modern folk addressing contemporary themes can end up coming across a little jarring and contrived in their execution, Gilmore’s vocals are so perfect and so natural and so unforced that that even when she’s singing about foodbanks or Jägerbombs it’s delivered with the same timeless eloquence as if she were singing about shapeshifting demons or the peasant’s revolt.

Indisputably one of the best folk albums released this year so far, Gilmore holds up a spotlight to the modern world while embracing the storytelling and musical traditions of the past and bottling up that spirit of defiance and resilience that has kept the best folk music alive across many generations.

Released: May 2019 Shameless Records

https://www.theagilmore.net/

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Folk/Americana/Bluegrass: album review – Wood, Wire & Words ‘The Boy With The Smile’

Wood Wire & Words are a three-piece from the south of England formed around 15 years ago. The trio are David Rozzell – songwriter, guitarist and lead vocalist; Clare Rozzell – harmony/lead vocals, double bass and melodeon; and Pat Francis – Dobro, mandolin and guitar. Now on their third album, the band’s sound has been described as a blend of folk, bluegrass and acoustic Americana.

While their previous album (2015’s It’s a Barbecue Day) was a nice slice of home-grown Bluegrass/Americana, with this latest album ‘The Boy With The Smile’ I detect a much broader range of influences coming to the fore. Indeed, they kind of remind me of a Bluegrass-tinged interpretation of the modern-day incarnation of Fairport Convention. David Rozzell’s deep, rich vocal delivery is not unlike Fairport’s Simon Nicol’s, by the way.

Eleven of the twelve songs are Rozzell’s own compositions. He clearly has a fine ear for melody as well as being a forthright lyricist – with themes covering war, love, depression, politics and poverty amongst others. It’s not all sharply-observed social commentary, however. A couple nod to more pastoral themes in the folk tradition. ‘Toast The Harvest’ was written for Ely Cathedral’s harvest service, while ‘The Oak King Rises’ was originally written for a local pagan yule ceremony. The one non-original song is a beautifully mellow cover of Richard Thompson’s ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightening’.

Much as I enjoyed their previous album The Boy With The Smile feels like a significant step forward in the band’s creative journey. Anyone with an interest in folk or Americana will find much to like in this album.

http://www.woodwireandwords.com/

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