CONTENTS FEATURES Page 4
June Tabor A June Tabor album is always a precious thing. Colin Irwin explores some of the myths that surround her extraordinary dedication to folk music and reveals the album’s treasures.
Pages 7 - 10
Show Of Hands If there’s a better song about Englishness than Roots, we’ve yet to hear it. On the eve of their third RAH gig Show Of Hands tell all to Chris Owen.
Brett Dennen Six foot four and flame haired with the voice of an angel and some great songs too.
Beth Nielsen Chapman This DVD is a meditation on the quest for peace. Its combination of choir and live, St.Paul’s Cathedral setting is spine tingling.
The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards And the winners are…
Bassekou Kouyate The N’goni virtuoso steps into the current spotlight on the music of Mali with a stunning debut.
Jackie Oates A former Young Folk Musician Of The Year and rising star records her solo debut with Phil Beer in the producer’s chair.
Athena This is an issue full of stunning debuts and this is a stunning debut. Colin Irwin is lucky enough to get the inside story.
Blurb Your editor jumps on the hobby horse. It’ll take several pints to calm him down. And another thing…
Bob Harris presents… He is legend. We owe him so much and when he presents, we should listen.
Fairport Convention Still going strong and still passing milestone after milestone.
REVIEWS Pages 5 & 6
Folk Music of the folk, by the folk for you folk. That’s all folks!
Pages 11 & 13
Country Americana I’m a little bit country, I’m a little bit rock ‘n’ roll…
Blues, Rhythm and Soul Born under a bad sign…
World We’ll have Bassekou, you can have Robbie. Fair Trade..?
Rock ‘n’ Roll Stars of yesteryear…The big bang as seen through the hubble-bubble telescope.
Pages 28 & 29
Jazz A here’s who of who’s hot.
Review Roundup We wouldn’t want you to miss anything.
Don’t forget the competition on page 26. Win more CDs than ever! We have 4 winners to date and they all love us. It could be yoooooo… Contributors for this issue: Tony Morly (TM); Sid Cowens (SC); Lewis Robinson (LR); Alan Levermore (AL); Mik Gaffney (MG); Brian Showell (BS); Cliff White (CW); Colin Irwin (CI); Simon Holland (SH); Esther Tewksbury (ET); Chris Owen (CO); Jamie Renton (JR); Alan Price (AP); Michael J Channon (MJC) and Andy Farquarson (AF). Photographs: Show Of Hands - All Jeff Cottenden except middle spread photo - Andy Greene/Devon Today. June Tabor - John Haxby. Bassekou Kouyate and N’goni ba - Thonias Dorn. Fairport Convention - Courtesy of Fairport Convention. Brett Dennen - Gabriel Judet-Weinshel. Jackie Oates - Taken from press area of website. Beth Neilson Chapman - Traci Goudie. Athena - Bob Rose. Bob Harris - Judy Totton.
HELLO Welcome. We always start with a welcome and it’s heartfelt. Frankly anyone who’s gone to the trouble of picking up a copy of our humble magazine is alright by us. There are a few too many of you these days to promise a pint, but the other thing we always do in the intro is mention the Dog and Duck. It’s on Frith Street in London’s Soho and serves as a staging post for various gigs (that’s our most obvious plug yet fellas). Perhaps I should ask them to stock the magazine? Perhaps I should get free beer for life? Anyway I digress. Welcome to our world of music. This time we’ll take you as far as Mali, where the supremely talented Bassekou Kouyate proves himself ready and able to move into the current spotlight on the country’s music. A recent pilgrimage led by Damon Albarn had the likes of Fatboy Slim and Zane Lowe muttering about life changing experiences. For anyone who has even cast a glance in the direction of Ali Farka Toure, we cannot recommend this strongly enough. This issue is blessed with a very fine selection of female singers and song writers, all of whom are quite unique. June Tabor, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Joan Baez and Athena have each delivered works that are as different as you can get, but each in their own way stunning. Not that the girls get all the credit this month. Show Of Hands deserve their cover star status as the most articulate of commentators on being British in the 21st century. They have the small matter of their third appearance at Kensington Village Hall to negotiate (read the feature, you’ll understand!). We raise a glass in advance and hope for a celebratory one after the show. Then there’s the legend that is Bob Harris and Brett Dennen who will be legend if his stateside success is repeated elsewhere. Our final mention must go to the Fairport phenomenon that still rolls on and can still make fresh sounding music. So that’s a nice diverse shopping bag for you and with all these drink references, in the words of Winey Amehouse, rehab for us.
Editor: Simon Holland Artwork: Sarah-May Stanley-Gustar Proper Music Distribution The New Powerhouse Gateway Business Park, Kangley Bridge Road SE26 5AN England Tel Int ++44 (0) 20 8676 5100 Fax ++44 (0) 20 8676 5169 www.properdistribution.com www.myspace.com/propermusic
June Tabor - Apples
ny new June Tabor album is greeted with the reverence of a royal visit.
Not just because she’s one of the most consummate singers ever produced by the folk revival who’s been at the top of her game for over 30 years. Nor that her imperious vocal style is totally individual and instantly recognisable. Not even because in all that time she’s never once offered the faintest suggestion of a compromise, resolutely and defiantly following her own unique path without a thought for commercial considerations or the mainstream opportunities that undoubtedly have been dangled in front of her through the years. No, the enduring strength and fascination of June Tabor is that she keeps you guessing. One of the truly great interpreters of song, Tabor will cross (serenely, of course) many ditches in pursuit of the song that will move her enough to want to get under its skin and deliver one of those epic performances for which she’s become so justly famous. Back in the day those songs were almost always traditional – and right at the start she’d sing them unaccompanied. Often that still happens, but so widely has she spread her wings in the exploration of meaningful material in the last 15 years, you never quite know where it will take her. Duetting with John Jones of the Oysterband on Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart? Singing with Maddy Prior as one half of the Silly Sisters? Immersing herself in jazz in concerts and an album (A Quiet Eye) with the Creative Jazz Orchestra? Singing a song All This Useless Beauty – purportedly about Lady Diana – specially written for her by Elvis Costello? Singing in Yiddish on Aleyn, one of the darkest, most chilling albums ever released? Or in German and French on Rosa Mundi? Or taking on weary old standards like Somewhere Over The Rainbow? Or an unaccompanied version of The Beatles’ In My Life? June has done all these things and it’s perhaps inaccurate to even classify her as a folk singer any more, even though she’s one of the best there’s ever been and she still sings her fair share of folk songs. Her appeal has certainly stretched across many musical divides and she retains an irresistible sense of mystery and intrigue even for those of us who’ve followed her career and adored her almost since day one. The simmering passion with which, with apparent haughtiness, she delivers a ballad about love, death and revenge. Her odd little quirks like titling most of her albums with single words beginning with the letter A. The relish with which she repeatedly takes on ‘difficult’ material and makes no apology for the hoops she makes her fans jump through (“Nobody said music should be EASY…” she says.) The fact is that you never know what she’s going to do next.
What she has done next is make another album beginning with the letter A – Apples – which is surprising again because it’s so, well, accessible. Not easy as such, but alongside godlike melodeon genius Andy Cutting at the at the heart of the action with pianist Mark Emerson, it’s a lively affair and much more upbeat than we’ve come to anticipate from the singer whose calling card has often been heartbreak and disaster. She’s never written a song in her life (at least not one she’s ever dared to share in public) but hers is the great lost art of interpretation and one of her less appreciated talents is in bringing little-known songs to public attention…or demanding a radical reassessment of songs that are already there. On the new album we hear her diving from Robbie Burns, Speak Easy, to the great traditional Scots ballad The Rigs Of Rye to a song from the French tradition, Ce Fu En Mai, to a heart-melting song of remembrance and nostalgia written by Andy Shanks and Jim Russell, The Dancing, to an anti-war song Standing In Line, written by Lester Simpson (of Coope, Boyes & Simpson) of such profundity, it bears comparison with two of her previous momentous anti-war epics The Band Played Waltzing Matilda and No Man’s Land (both written by Eric Bogle). June Tabor has spent her whole career (which during her early years she spent juggling with her day job as a librarian) pulling different sorts of cats out of unlikely bags. But the one thing that’s been constant throughout it all is the depth and purity of her singing, which can stir and move people like no other. She remains peerless. CI
FOLK reviews and news Ron Kavana IRISH WAYS – THE STORY OF IRELAND IN SONG, MUSIC AND POETRY Proper Records PRDP4001
The words of the people in the songs of the Irish nation represent a unique, vivid and accessible insight into the story of Ireland, giving voice to the views of a people often denied all other means of expression and dissent. Painstakingly researched, creatively written and recorded, more than six years in the making, Irish Ways is the first audio release of its kind that tells the story of the Irish people through the songs and poetry of Ireland. This unique collection is written and performed by internationally acclaimed Irish performer Ron Kavana. This 4CD digi-book style set contains 5 hours of songs, poetry and narration and a 46,000-word illustrated book with chronology. It includes guest appearances by Paddy Keenan, Niamh Parsons and Brian McNeill among others. Songwriter/composer/musician Ron Kavana has been at the cutting edge of the international folk scene for three decades. He has released ten multiaward winning albums to universal acclaim – his Home Fire album was the most highly recommended Irish folk album in MOJO’s 1,000 Essential CDs. He won the Folk Roots award for Best Live Act for three consecutive years. His compositions are covered by a virtual Who’s Who of contemporary folk including Dick Gaughan, The Pogues, Waterson:Carthy, Eileen Ivers, Cherish The Ladies, etc. He has collaborated with such artists as Alexis Korner, members of the Rolling Stones, the Pogues, Paddy Moloney, Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry, Elvis Costello and Doug Sahm & Augie Meyers. In 1995 he returned to university and graduated with first-class honours in Irish Studies and Film Studies. He now divides his time between research, writing, recording and film making. AP
Shoogle Records SHOOGLE06005 RACHEL HAIR
EAMONN COYNE & KRIS DREVER
Described by the Guardian as ‘acid crofters’ and by themselves as ‘folk futurists’, this Scottish combo delight with a succession of rousing tunes that twist and play with traditions, forging something brand new and historically rooted at the same instant. Their instinctive playing initially honed in bars and sessions has been given a jam band edge with a constant stream of touring. It’s a nifty looking CD as well with its saucy fishing-belle image and ‘original and best, superior quality’ label. It’s no surprise to find that the band use custom made instruments and with Garry Finlayson’s banjax (a modified banjo) seem to have something of their own invention.
For those with no previous Shoogling experience, this is mostly instrumental with a couple of vocal interventions. The pace is lively toe tapping, or for the more adventurous even danceable. Percussion, electric guitar and bass and the odd bit of programming weave around the traditional fiddle, banjo, and mandolin axis and succeed in enhancing rather than distracting. The lasting impression is music with a smile on its face. Well nifty! SH
Swarb’s Lazarus LIVE AND KICKING
Squiggle Records SQUIGGLECD2
Recorded at four special shows in March and April 2006, this CD marks Swarb’s triumphant return to the stage after seven years and a life-threatening illness. Swarb’s involvement in some of the hinge-factor moments of British folk and folk rock is beyond doubt. The fact that his renown eclipses his two fellow Lazerites reflects this history, as both Kevin Dempsey and Maartin Allcock can readily match Swarb’s musical chops. As with the Swarbrick Carthy album from the tail end of last year, this CD finds our hero in fine fiddling fettle. A third of the tracks are vocal, with Dempsey taking the lion’s share, but it’s the instrumental class that really shines. It would be fair to say the sound is live and frill free, warts and all (not that there are many warts), with seat of the pants intricacy to test the player’s mettle. There’s a vibrancy to the interweaving lines that affirms a deeprooted passion for this music and the entertaining sleeve notes give a blow-byblow provenance. Highly infectious in a good way. SC
Athena BREATHE WITH ME
Embraceable Records EMRCD279
About half way through the opening cut on this CD, To Be With You, I was struck by the simple perfection of Athena’s voice over the spare acoustic instrumentation and simultaneously sucker-punched by the emotional weight of the refrain. The words “I am not your vision, I am not your drug your high, I am not a shelter to keep you dry”, hit their target with exquisite timing. Total K-O. But there was to be no let up, as song after song continued to hit the mark displaying an emotional clout that marks this a hugely impressive recording debut. The sweet pain of Inside Out and Shades of Grey, the yearning of All I See Is You, the poetry of Eden and Wooden Horse all reverberate long after the CD has finished. Athena’s pure voice is delicately poised above her own piano and the three players in a road-tested quartet, that understand restraint as integral to the platform they create. It’s little wonder that her shows are sold out and critical excitement is smouldering. Back in the
day when such things actually meant something, Green Eyes would have made a cracking single. SC
Rachel Hair HUBCAPS & POTHOLES March Hair Records MHRCD001
Rachel is another of the younger academy of excellent musicians of folk music to have emerged over the last year or so. At just 23 years old she has a command of her chosen instrument, the Clarsach (A smaller Scottish harp) that is quite staggering. Not surprising then that she also has a first class degree in music. Any suggestion that the album is a dry academic workout is dispensed from the opening track. Here we have a musician also steeped in the ‘feel’ of the music she plays, coming from the north-west Scottish Highlands, with a Scottish father and an Irish mother she has obviously absorbed the true essence of both musical inheritances. She plays solo on seven of the eleven tracks, on three she is joined by pianist Douglas Miller and on one set, by flautist Peter Webster. The sets are a mix of traditional and selfcomposed pieces and one of the strengths of the album is the way she seems to always get exactly the right blend of dynamics for each of the sets. As a CD by a seasoned performer this would be special, as a debut album it nothing less than astounding. AL “A highly accomplished album. A pleasure to listen to, and warmly recommended to those who enjoy hearing the harp beautifully played” Debbie Koritas The Living Tradition.
Eamonn Coyne & Kris Drever HONK TOOT SUITE Compass Records COM44482
Renowned tenor banjo player Eamonn Coyne has long been acknowledged as specialist of the instrument. The deft, clear picking producing a very individual tone. Here he joined by guitarist/singer Kris Drever, already a recipient of the prodigious BBC Radio 2 2007 Horizon Award for best newcomer. Both come from a traditional Celtic music background and this is the essence of the track selection, there are some new original pieces as well as a version of The Viking’s Bride written by Kris’ dad Ivan Drever The way the two musicians take turn to lead the duets is a real delight and the complimentary nature of the playing has, at times, an almost telepathic quality.
FOLK reviews and news Kris is also able to display his expressive singing ability on three of the tracks and the duo work is augmented on several tracks by John Joe Kelly (Bodhran), Erik Laughton (Bodhran and snare), Manitoba McGillicuddy Barbershop Three (vocals) and Koos Koos McAfferty (button accordion) AL “The result is an unusually enjoyable and satisfying album of modern traditional Irish music. Highly recommended.” Rick Anderson, All Music Guide
Jackie Oates JACKIE OATES
Hands On Music HMCD255
Jackie Oates will already be a familiar name to some of you as part of Rachel Unthank And The Winterset, who she joined in 2004. The previous year she was a finalist in BBC Radio 2’s Young Folk Awards and Rachel clearly spotted a kindred spirit. The two of them both come from musical families and spent formative years on the folk club and festival circuit. Jackie’s early schooling in traditional music was sharpened when she moved to Exeter from the family home in Cheshire to study English. From there has sprung a love of the ballad that fuels the strong narrative thread to the songs on her fine debut album.
The move south has also brought her under the sphere of influence of Show Of Hands, with whom she gigs from time to time. Phil Beer sits in on production and shrewdly concentrates on Jackie’s excellent voice and fiddle, with the various guests, and Phil himself, restrained in their contributions. A brooding air of melancholy hangs over these dark tales of murder, false promises and lost loves. Perversely, it’s this quality that makes them life affirming and this CD an undoubted gem, as today we dance for tomorrow, who knows what fate holds. SH
in content but elicit the gravitas of the traditional ballad. Whether addressing love and loss; When You Fall Out Of love political protest The Ballad Of Verity Childe or the oft documented futility of The Great War Jeffrey And Robert And I, the songs have a resonance that remains long after sliding the CD back into its case. AL “The lyrics are razor sharp…absolute proof, if proof were needed that The Simon Hopper Band is a band you should not miss” Tim Carroll. FolkWords
The Simon Hopper Band A LAND FOR THE MANY Control-Shift Music CSMCD02
This trio from the Kent heartland led by Simon Hopper have been knocking on the door marked success for a few years now. Having received glowing references from the likes of Clive Gregson and Iain Matthews, it would seem from the release of A Land For The Many that Simon Hopper has at last made it through the portal. These songs are all from Simon’s pen and his grounding in the folk music firmament, playing alongside Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Wizz Jones et al, has taught him how to convey a narrative. These songs are certainly contemporary
THE SIMON HOPPER BAND
NEWS Coming soon… The Oysterband: Meet You There Richard Thompson: Sweet Warrior. Both sound the absolute business.
Joan Baez RING THEM BELLS – COLLECTORS EDITION Proper Records PRPCD031
More than a decade has now passed since April 1995, when Joan Baez and her guests – Mary Black, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Mimi Fariña, Tish Hinojosa, Janis Ian, Indigo Girls, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, and Dar Williams – took over the Bottom Line cabaret in the heart of New York’s Greenwich Village for the recording of Ring Them Bells, a watershed event in post-modern folk music, and her first live album recorded in the U.S. since 1975. That said, there are some good news and some bad news. Sadly, the Bottom Line is no more, closed shortly before its 30th anniversary (in early 2004) by dear landlord New York University, another story for another time. Guardian Records is also no more, the original label that released Ring Them Bells in 1995, but that too is another story for another time. Most regrettable of all, however, was the passing of Joan’s sister Margarita Mimi Baez Fariña in July 2001. The duet with Joan on Mimi’s late husband Richard Fariña’s “Swallow Song” is the last known (released) recording by her. Mimi’s death left a giant hole in the heart and soul of American folk music.
The good news actually begins with this expanded edition double-CD available now: 90 minutes vs. the original single CD’s 64 minutes. The latter’s 15 tracks have now been upped to 21 tracks – the additional six of which are previously unreleased – more
accurately reflecting the sequence of the recording over the course of two nights, with two sets each night. Added in are three additional performances by Joan (Love Song to a Stranger, Geordie, You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere), a second duet with Tish Hinojosa (Gracias a la Vida), a second duet with Indigo Girls (The Water Is Wide), and a second duet with Mary Chapin Carpenter (Stones in the Road). Whilst we’re at it, credit should of course go to Joan’s great rhythm section here – guitar virtuoso Paul Pesco, bassist extraordinaire Fernando Saunders, and percussionist par excellence Carol Steele – all of whom remain very active in 2007. The two nights of live recording at the Bottom Line were conceived by Joan’s manager Mark Spector as a long overdue celebration of her position at the very top of the folk music hierarchy as it had re-established itself in the years leading up to 1995. Of course Joan’s career continues apace with her touring extensively each year, 2007 sees her gigging in the U.S and throughout Europe. The start of 2007 has also seen Joan pick up a Lifetime Achievement Grammy and in keeping with her powerful legacy of political activism, she also delivered one of the most unusual thank you’s of the night. “I’d like to thank President Bush for being the best publicity agent I’ve ever had,” she said. “Wherever I go to perform these days, every progressive within 200 miles turns up.” AP
leven years ago, Steve Knightley and Phil Beer were waiting backstage for a gig, as they had a thousand times before.
Inside the buzzing auditorium stage lights picked out an amazing array of hand made instruments, aptly demonstrating the band name Show of Hands. But this time something was different. When the guys left the dressing room and stepped on stage the applause was deafening. This wasn’t just another village or town hall – it was the Royal Albert! And, against all the odds, they had sold it out. The temerity of two little known Devon acoustic musicians taking on the challenge of filling one of the best known concert venues in the world had made tabloid headlines. To the London press they were the “pub duo”, the jokers in the pack who had risked all for one crazy night in the spotlight and who days earlier had ironically been playing the lowly Albert pub in Bristol. But they had the last laugh. It was a defining moment – and a complete leap of faith. Since then prolific singer songwriter Steve and multi instrumentalist Phil have become a tour de force in the acoustic music world – “one of the finest folk duos ever to grace the scene” according to BBC Radio 2’s Mike Harding – and with a fan base that is the envy of many. Not that everyone would agree they fit the folk genre. In reality they have one foot in the folk camp and another seriously scuffing the edge of mainstream, with traces of their rock roots never far away.
Topsham – playing to pocket sized audiences in the town’s pubs, cafes and rugby club. Not surprisingly the gigs sold out before the ink had barely dried on the posters.
They reprised their Albert Hall “moment” in 2001 and on Easter Sunday (April 8) they are poised for a hat trick – an unprecedented feat for a band of their ilk. Such is their high profile these days that this time it sold out months in advance and the venue decided to release standing tickets. It will see them celebrating a unique 15-year partnership. Says Steve: “This time around it will be more relaxed and really a thank you to our fans.” Ten years ago it was a different story. Steve says: “We’d built up a good following in towns and villages around the country but it was difficult for what was perceived as a West Country pub duo to get booked in London. ‘We were literally driving by the Albert Hall and thought ‘why not?’ We phoned up and found it was £12,500 to hire the place so we thought we’d take the chance. “We were amazed - we sold all our allocated tickets and had a phenomenal night. The Albert Hall was top of the food chain of venues and we certainly weren’t top of the chain of bands. “The media of course emphasised the no-hopers chancing their arm, but it was a huge career boost. Now wherever we go we are seen as the guys who sold out the Royal Albert Hall and it looks as though we’re about to do it for the third time.” But no one should underestimate that it’s a huge logistical exercise for the duo who will appear with a posse of musical collaborators, past and present. Steve says: “Hiring somewhere as high profile as the Albert Hall is obviously not something you undertake lightly, but it’s a challenge we relish. We’re lucky enough to have a fan base of about 17,000 people, not only in the UK but also in France, Holland, Germany and beyond and luckily it seems a lot of them want to help us celebrate this milestone.” For all their success – not least recently being named Greatest Devonians in a public vote in which they beat Sir Francis Drake and mainstream music icons Chris Martin, Muse and Joss Stone (!) – they have never sold out on the West Country. So it’s fitting that before they tackle Albert’s place again they embarked on an almost whimsical tour of their riverside home town of
The ‘world tour of Topsham’ could be seen as something of a two-fingered, salute to former culture minister Kim Howells. His 2001 comment in a House of Commons debate that his idea of hell was “ three Somerset folk singers in the local pub” led to a furious backlash from the folk and acoustic world. But it sowed a seed in Knightley’s mind and from it sprouted Roots - the standout track on Show of Hands latest, highly acclaimed album Witness. It laments the lack of pride the English have in their identity and musical heritage - as opposed to the Scots, Irish and Welsh who fiercely champion their rich culture at every opportunity. Now it’s being used as an anthem to mark the undeniable resurgence of English roots music. One fan said:” There has been a huge debate as to what Englishness is all about and these guys get it in one.” It has taken on a life of its own – people wanting it for marches or to help fly the flag at St George’s Day events or play down the rugby club – some even calling for it to replace God Save the Queen as the national anthem! It’s a thought that amuses Steve but he says: “ I must admit, the reaction to Roots has been greater than we could have imagined.” Arguably his finest moment as a songwriter it was released as a download single on February 5, the day they were nominated in the Best Duo and Best Original Song (for Roots) categories at the 2007 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards - reaching number one in the HMV folk download chart. But to the amazement of many the eight times nominees left empty handed. Beer, the “sultan of strings” whose wizardry from fiddle to mandolin and virtually all instruments in between, has enabled him to forge a hugely-respected reputation in the industry (one that should surely be recognised in a Musician of the Year nomination), said: “The days around the Folk Awards were actually an unqualified success. We played live on Radios 2, 4 and 5 in the space of four days. We also hit a couple of London area stations and possibly made history by being the first band to perform live in the morning on Five Live! “All that meant we played live to between six and seven million folks in one go. I reckon that’s a bit of a result. We’ll live without the gong. “ Not that their hard work over the past 15 years had gone completely unrewarded. They have undoubtedly become something of a “people’s band” and, in 2004,
they won the Best Live Act title at the Folk Awards - the only category voted for by the public. That came on the back of their insightful album Country Life - a piece of work devoted largely to highlighting a sector of society rarely thrust into the limelight - the rural poor. It’s a theme revisited regularly by Knightley on the 12track Witness. On their Hands On label, their 13th album was hailed as “ a career best” by the Telegraph while Songlines called it “A beautiful portrait of modern rural Britain – intensely compassionate and filled with carefully contained rage.” Meanwhile MOJO commented “Steve Knightley’s songs have developed such an edge it’s hard to deny them any longer – this is a big album”, making it one of their top 10 folk albums of 2006. More than a year in the making the disc is a result of the inspired collaboration between Grammy-nominated producer Simon Emmerson and Mass (Simon Massey) of Afro Celts fame.
In March, Proper will distribute Show of Hands’ double live album As You Were, giving a true taste of why they were voted Best Live Act. After the Albert Hall Knightley and Beer embark on solo tours before joining forces again with double bass player and vocalist Miranda Sykes for UK summer festivals including Glastonbury, Sidmouth, Cambridge, Larmer Tree and Cropredy and an autumn two-part tour – the first emulating their early days with a retro trawl through their vast back catalogue and the second with special guests at larger town theatres around the UK, including Bristol’s Colston Hall. But first there’s the small matter of that big gig…. CO www.showofhands.co.uk
All the Show of Hands trademarks are there - intelligent lyrics, startling melodies, a plethora of instruments and impeccable presentation. But Witness marks a confident new direction for the band - more melodically adventurous, edgier, assured. Emmerson says: “Our aim was to bring out the depth of emotion and energy in the band’s performance. Show of Hands have an uncanny ability of creating fresh, contemporary music that is also deeply rooted in the traditional music of England and the West Country - and Steve is without doubt one of England’s finest songwriters.” Steve describes it as “a series of scenes from a cinematic style journey of the West Country”. The theatrical title song was inspired by the alternative lifestyle of members of a Devon commune. West Country life is again illustrated in the sonar-echoing The Dive - a true story from the east Devon shoreline whereas Undertow highlights the bleak, out-of-season life in a small seaside resort. The poignant Union Street tells of the last letters exchanged between a Plymouth-based Royal Marine, serving in perhaps Afghanistan or Iraq, and his wife - a serviceman who would have been trained at Lympstone - just a stone’s throw from the guys’ Topsham base.
SHOW OF HANDS back catalogue
Witness - HMCD23 - CD
24 March 1996 Live At The Royal Albert Hall - HMCD01 - CD Lie Of The Land HMCD02 - CD Dark Fields - HMCD03 – CD Backlog 1987-1991 - HMCD06 - CD Live - HMCD07 - CD Beat About The Bush - HMCD08 – CD Covers - HMCD12 – CD Cold Frontier - HMCD13 – CD Cold Cuts - HMCD17 - CD The Path: An Instrumental Journey Around The West Country - HMCD18 - CD Country Life HMCD19 - CD2 Rhythm Methodist - HMCD21 - CD2B As You Were - HMCD22 CD2B Witness - HMCD23 - CD On Film: The Video Collection - HMDVD01 - DVD
COUNTRY/AMERICANA reviews and news Endrick Brothers ATTRACTION VERSUS LOVE Hypertension HYP7252
For anyone who had an ear for Murmur and Reckoning era REM and the subsequent paisley underground (that being the print pattern rather than the Scottish town, although, er…) the brothers Endrick will click certain synapses into circuit for sure. For those of you who haven’t a clue what I’m on about try Google, or alternatively don’t worry and trust me, you need this record. Building on the promise of the first release Built To Last here they deliver tune after tune of classic, chiming American roots rock via Scotland. Jesse Malin and Ryan Adams are both confirmed fans and indeed the latter guests and earns a co-write credit on the opening track Thorns On Every Rose, a straight out of the traps stormer. Niall Holmes is in fine voice and the guitar work throughout is punchy and fluid. The songs offer a gamut of emotional resonance from the plangent ballads, such as Dear Jane and Beautiful Rejection, the yearning of Star Of The Silver Screen, the Swagger of So Last Night and the haunting beauty of The Loser’s Excuse, which brings the CD to an epic conclusion. SH
Bill Kirchen HAMMER OF THE HONKYTONK GODS Proper American PRPACD005
Grammy nominated guitarist, singer and songwriter Bill Kirchen is one of the fortunate few who can step on any stage, play those trademark licks which drove the seminal Commander Cody classic Hot Rod Lincoln into the Top Ten in the U.S., and elicit instant recognition for a career that’s spanned over 30 years and includes performances with names like Nick Lowe, Emmylou Harris, Doug Sahm, Elvis Costello and Danny Gatton. Named ‘A titan of the Telecaster’ by Guitar Player Magazine, he celebrates an American musical tradition where country music draws upon its origins in blues and bluegrass, and in the Western swing of Texas and California honky tonks. An apt description of Bill’s singing, song writing and guitar playing skill is provided in this quote from Nick Lowe: “He’s like a devastating culmination of the elegant and funky... a really sensational musician, with enormous depth.” Kirchen is joined by the aforementioned Mr. Lowe along with the rest of The Impossible Birds, Geraint Watkins, Robert Trehern and Austin De Lone who serve up prime slices of roots driven country/rock with a big ol’ slab of burning love. AP
Hal Ketchum ONE MORE MIDNIGHT Curb CURCD225
Hal Ketchum’s ninth release, stays pretty true to his heart and soul. Adding a little Americana grit to his more traditional country sound, the lyrics, as usual, are a rich and meticulous overview of a character’s life composed in three and a half minute songs. Of course there is always an exception to the standard rules, and on One More Midnight that is Poor Lila’s Ghost. The stand-out track of the album, it chimes it at nearly fifteen minutes and is a journey in itself. A journey that follows a man as he tries to shed the memory of Lila and features hauntingly spoken words by special guest Tony Joe White. The recent single, Just This Side of Heaven, is a feel-good tune, with Hal’s comparing the love between a man and woman to a religious experience. He also dabbles with some blues-influenced numbers with Travelin’ Teardrop Blues and Little Red Dress. Whether it be the romantic love ballads, the blues-infused tracks, or the folkinspired epic journeys, One More Midnight is an assured and expertly put together album. MG
Mary Chapin Carpenter THE CALLING Zoe ZOE1111
They don’t come any better than Mary Chapin Carpenter. Disagree with me if you dare, but I hold in my hand the empirical proof. It’s The Calling, her ninth studio album in a 20 year career that has hit lofty heights and paddled still backwaters of fame. But, whatever the commercial merits of this record, the measures of chart position and radio play frankly pale into insignificance. If you connect with this album, then you will love it like I do and that is what this masterpiece deserves. The opening, title track signposts a journey: it’s not linear, nor is there a single destination, but stages, forks and options along the way. Maps and compasses, departures and arrivals litter the thirteen tracks. Sometimes all we can do is blow with the wind and succumb to nature’s intent; sometimes the very reason for starting out becomes lost; sometimes it is only our belief that better lies ahead that will keep us moving. The Calling is about our destiny and it’s not always ours to choose. As Mary sings “ I don’t remember a voice on this dark lonely road, when I started this journey so long ago, I was only just trying to outrun the noise, there was never a question of having a choice.” As if to answer it straight away track two is We’re All Right, where she offers “No roadmaps, no signposts, no North Star, no lifeboats, no cavalry coming in sight, but we’re alright...” before asking “Have we ever woken up this free?” Two tracks in and freewill itself is under the microscope, but there will be no easy answers, even when it gets personal (and it does).
On And On It Goes finds Mary contemplating “Every night the TV shows one more bad days news a world away from what I know and what I do, but I could save a strangers life if I had a clue.” So, it’s not just the spiritual, but the political that concerns us and two songs in particular pick at thorny issues. Houston follows refugees out of New Orleans waiting for the buses to who know what. Mary’s sympathies run to those who “Have never been to Texas” and are wondering “Never seen the president, wonder if he’ll meet us there?” It’s a deeply affecting tune, simply delivered and of course, we all know the answer to that question. On With The Song is dedicated to the Dixie Chicks and lines up the jingoistic, narrow minded America making it clear that “This isn’t for the ones who would gladly swallow everything their leader would have them know, bowing and kissing while the truth goes missing...” Instead it is for “the ones who stand their ground”, and for Mary herself, who needs to “be true to myself and to you...” Why Shouldn’t We evokes our gods and our hearts with the simple but telling “We believe in things we cannot see, why shouldn’t we...” Why indeed? You will find your own moments, questions and highlights in the lyrics, the voice or the tunes and the playing. Now go and tell someone else. SH
Brett Dennen - So Much More Reading some of the press and coverage that has come out of the US in advance of the UK release of So Much More, you would be forgiven for thinking that Brett Dennen had beamed down from some far flung galaxy, fully formed at the age of 27, bringing a guaranteed formula for world peace. Oh how we critics love to froth when we think we’ve found a good thing. The truth is less dramatic and in life-the-universe-and-everything-terms a ripple rather than a wave. Not that we’re here to pour scorn, you understand, but nor saddle him with expectations that are liable to ping back and snare a nascent musical career of considerable promise. In somewhat more prosaic terms, Brett Dennen is a tall, flame haired singer songwriter whose second album has been released on Dualtone, with unexpected commercial and critical success in the States. Such things, of course, don’t happen without some reason and Dennen simply doesn’t sound like anything else around. First there’s the voice. He’s been compared to Billie Holiday and there’s a certain fluidity to the phrasing, but that seems to be in keeping with his own guitar style and the laid back ethos of the record, rather than any attempt to be a jazz singer. Musically, a relaxed vibe permeates and the drums and bass give support rather than propel Brett’s guitar. Other instruments add subtle colour washes, but there are no big epic sounds on offer. To the layman’s ears, however, it seems to be reasonably complex fare with Dennen’s syncopated style, shifting rhythms and odd time signatures adding unexpected, mercurial twists. The whole thing breezes along with a confidence and cohesion that is quietly compelling.
But influences are of course only part of the story, as Dylan sounded like Woody Guthrie and so forth and as stated above, Dennen sounds like nothing else around. Whatever the particular make up of tracks, there is a whole heap of just Brett Dennen in there. My understanding is that he is largely self-taught as a musician. A quick flick onto myspace.com/brettdennen will give you the insight that I can’t give you in words. Those of you who regularly trawl that community looking for music will note some pretty impressive stats attached to the tracks there. It seems there are several hundred thousand people who have already checked him out. In part this will be down to the critical fever that has greeted this new release, but he also has a champion in John Mayer. Having seen Dennen play, John Mayer invited him out on tour and has been quoted in Rolling Stone singing his praises. Michael Franti also seems to have picked up on Dennen’s questioning and is quick to note the political commentary that is implicit. So Much More seems to be just that. Certainly when compared to the more anaemic offerings of the acoustic brigade, this stands out a mile. It is just possible that this will go down in history as an album to equal the stature of Astral Weeks, but that will depend on whether any one is still playing it in 20 or 30 years time. For the here and now, however, tracks such as She’s Mine and Ain’t No Reason (which you can check out on myspace), the potent and probing I Asked When and the exceptional Because You Are A Woman (for which you’ll need the CD or appropriate download), should have a place in your life. It’s a record that gets better with each listen, as the lyrics take shape and reveal the narrative threads. Who knows where he might go next. There is considerable potential, let’s hope he’s allowed the time and means to realise it. SC
By his own admission, Dennen is a big Paul Simon fan and Graceland in particular featured large in his early years. Apparently his parents played it non stop. That influence is most keenly felt on tracks like Darlin’ Do Not Fear with its Township style guitar licks, but interviews with Brett have revealed his interest in African music extends beyond Paul Simon. If Simon is an influence on his
writing, which he clearly is, he also cites the Bobs, Dylan and Marley as important in the makeup. The former is evident in his clever poetic verse, the way images trip one after another from his tongue. Melodically, She’s Mine also echoes I Want You and perhaps more obviously, I Asked When is a rewrite of A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall, although as the title suggests, this is more questioning than apocalyptic. Mind you, it’s the questions that he’s asking. Marley is less obvious, but I do note odd lines where the phrasing could easily transfer and there are perhaps melodies too, that echo the Wailers.
COUNTRY/AMERICANA reviews and news Uncle Earl WATERLOO, TENNESSEE
Lefty Frizzell GIVE ME MORE, MORE, MORE
Minton Sparks THIS DRESS
Parallel to, or maybe in tandem with the current UK folk revival, the US old-timey boom is underway. Of course, it’s all a definitions thing and the folk music that permeates bluegrass and informs so much more of the musical spectrum, has never really gone away. By the same token, however, never has it been more visible, audible and accessible. Nickel Creek have been amongst the highest profile exponents to reach the UK, with a series of sell out shows and quietly successful records. Although they are on an extended sabbatical, Chris Thile was honoured at this year’s BBC Folk Awards for his exceptional musicianship.
Frizzell was born into the Texan oil boom of the late 20s and although the region suffered less from the depression than much of the US, his family still found themselves at the wrong end of the economic miracle. Lefty found escape in the sounds of Jimmie Rodgers and at a young age found he was able to command respect and attention with his singing. Naturally enough, musical ambitions almost fell to the need to just get a job, but with the help of a $2 guitar from his uncle, he persevered.
Having recently recorded a session for the Bob Harris show on Radio 2 Minton Sparks has got people wondering…is this music?... is this poetry?…hmmm and who the hell is Minton Sparks anyway. Well Jill Webb-Hill, psychology graduate and professor, began teaching poetry in 1998 in Tennessee, in 2001 she released her first album Middlin’ Sisters on Dualtone, which featured Waylon Jennings.
Enter Uncle Earl, a female four piece. Not just any female four piece either. These four g’Earls (as they would have it) have gathered from different corners of the USA, where each has had a blossoming musical career of their own. As the website makes clear, however, their remote lives make the getting together all the more special and evidence of that abounds on Waterloo, Tennessee, their second album for Rounder. KC, Abigail, Kristin and Rayna clearly connect and their chemistry is something special. Rounder is probably the most important label for American roots music ever and Uncle Earl are right at home. Pairing the g’Earls with John Paul Jones (Led Zep) as a producer proves to be an inspired choice. His affinity with bluegrass, going all the way back to touring the States with the rock behemoths, has been rekindled by the rising tide of fresh young talent. JPJ actually got to know the g’Earls a couple of years ago and professed himself “surprised” to be asked to helm these sessions. Shrewd enough, however, to realise that this music is all about performance, he went for intensive preproduction sessions and then made the studio as relaxed, but as focused and free from interruption as possible. The result is instantly likeable and infectious, however you might want to categorise this string driven thing that is Uncle Earl. There is no dogma or doctrine attached to the music and the emphasis is on the sheer joy of the playing and singing. Individually they are all very capable, but it’s when it all comes together that the sun seems to shine. Seeing them live adds to this as they physically move around the stage, taking turn to lead, trading licks and combining voices in sweet harmony. The way that their originals fit seamlessly with the traditional tunes also shows how they mould tradition. It’s a give and take thing that makes this music as relevant today as anything. With BBC4 concert footage and a Bob Harris session wrapped up in March, there’ll be plenty of opportunity to let that sunshine into your life. YEEE-HAAA! SH
Proper PROPERBOX119 (4CDs)
A good job too. Lefty’s distinctive voice hit the mark with Don Law at Columbia, who signed him in 1950 and released If You’ve Got The Money Honey, in July that year. In 1951, Lefty owned the charts with the release of I Want To Be With You Always (#7), Always Late (With Your Kisses) (#1), Mom And Dad’s Waltz (#2), and Travelin’ Blues (#8). Frizzell held the number one spot for 26 weeks. Although his career continued through the 50s, the advent of Rock ‘n’ Roll drew a line in the sand and Lefty rarely hit such heights again. The full story is told in the 48 page book and the best of Lefty is on the 4 CDs compiled with the love that we have come to associate with this exceptional series. SC
Pontus Snibb ADMIRAL STREET RECORDINGS
Rural Records 8252797008
Her stage name is drawn from the surnames of Minton’s maternal grandparents, and there’s certainly many a tall, sad, funny tale about characters falling out of the ‘family tree’. Uniquely performed these are word pictures, which merge two great Southern traditions- literature and country music. This Dress featuring Keb Mo and Maura O’Connell is Sparks’ second album recorded in 2002 and now available for the first time in the UK. Stories of one legged war veterans, moonshine, Mississippi moons- Bird In A Cage, the intensity of I Thought I Might Kill Her insisted I pay attention to the here and now and listen up. Magical! ET “Minton Sparks is a great storyteller. Humanity with humidity all told humorously with humility…just what the doctor ordered” John Prine
Patty Griffin CHILDREN RUNNING THOUGH ATO Records ATOR362
Rootsy Records ROOTSY007
Swedish Americana? How does that work then? Enter the young firebrand, Pontus Snibb! The opening track nails his credentials firmly to the mast as none other than cult icon Jason Ringenberg joins him on ‘So The Story Goes’ Our hero certainly knows his chosen trade; he works through the whole gamut of Hardcore Country, Americana, Blues and unbridled classic rock riffs. The whole enterprise has a slightly novel twist in that Pontus recorded 20 tracks, and then circulated these amongst fans and friends for their consensus on the final 14. The eclectic mix of styles and originals reflects not only the varied tastes of a target group of listeners, but also the artist’s ability to perform them successfully. After 5 albums with his bands, Mescaleros and Snibb, this is his first solo outing and it is evident that this experience in the studio plus outings with the likes of Eric Bibb, Charlie Musselwhite, Kevin Welch and Buddy Miller, not to mention legends Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, has not been lost on him. Crazy name, Crazy guy!
By rights this is another huge record in a month where female singer songwriters seem to rule the roost. Encouraging reports from the US suggest that Griffin fans have taken to it quicker and in greater numbers than ever before. Maybe it’s the Dave Matthews patronage, whose ATO records this is released on. He may not mean as much over here, but we can thank him for giving Patty the freedom to stretch out with the minimum of interference. This is a surprising record that isn’t afraid to take risks. At its core are a dozen very fine songs that give it the strongest platform to launch from. Griffin is also in very fine voice, sometimes melancholic and vulnerable and sometimes defiant and proud, but always soulful. It’s the arrangements that push this record into exceptional category as they typically pitch from the opening You Remember, with its minimal bass and brushed drums to Stay On The Ride with its bold brassy strokes. Up On The Mountain, dedicated to Martin Luther King, suggests that she might be a little closer to her stated ambition of sounding like Aretha than she knows. SH
If Love Could Say God’s Name
here are those of a certain age that will remember a single by Free from 1971 called Little Bit Of Love. Paul Rodgers doing his best soul/rock crossover thing implores “I believe, if you give, a little bit of love to those you live with, a little bit of love has got to come your way.” A year later, they were back in the charts with Wishing Well with it’s middle eight breakdown of “I know what you’re wishing for, time in a peaceful world...” Such sentiments were of course nothing new and the hangover of the flower power generation is evident, although the inspiration of the lyrics is less clear cut. The point here is the universality of the quest for peace and even in these most secular settings passions are roused. Fast forward some 35 years to the DVD age, for Beth Nielsen Chapman’s If Love Could Say God’s Name, recorded in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London with the Oriana Choir. The credits describe it as “A meditation for peace in words and music by Beth Nielsen Chapman.” It’s the result of a quest that Beth has undertaken over recent years and a set of happy coincidences. The inspirations are deeply rooted. Beth was born into a military family that travelled around, moving six times before she hit her teen years. In this time she absorbed many different musical ideas and started playing guitar and piano at an early age. When the family finally settled in Alabama, Beth became part of the local music scene. Taking particular inspiration from the singer-song writer generation (Joni, James Taylor, et al), she developed her own distinct style. After getting married, she first performed out of need to earn money, but developed sufficient acclaim and confidence to turn professional and move her young family to Nashville. Through the nineties, her writing and recording career blossomed, but personal tragedy hit and left her widowed. Her husband died of cancer and she herself has also subsequently overcome the disease. These events have had a profound effect on her song writing. More significantly, she also revisited the catholic upbringing of her childhood to record an album of hymns sung in Latin, which was a significant staging post on the journey to this DVD. Whilst the musical inspiration was directly Catholic, her spiritual inspiration was much less dogmatic. As she explains, “ When I searched for a collection of my own favourite Latin hymns I couldn’t find one anywhere. That’s when I decided
to go into the roots of my own spiritual beginnings as part of the journey of recording all these other hymns from around the world.” She continues, “My belief has always been that God is light and humanity is like a diamond. Imagine each spiritual perspective, or path of faith, as an angle cut into that diamond. The light shines through and reflects off all these angles in so many directions. If you were standing on one face of the diamond it might seem like the light was only shining on you.” Which brings us to this DVD. Beth discussed her concepts with fellow songwriter John Peppard while in England, explaining her vision of singing with a choir. As it happens John’s wife sings in a choir and fruitful discussions where soon under way. Beth had also previously met Cannon Edmund Newell and once her concept had been explained to him, he opened the possibilities of using the sacred space of St. Paul’s as an environment of acceptance of Beth’s vision of encompassing all paths of faith. It was also his suggestion to intersperse the songs with extracts from Nobel Peace laureates. The proceedings still have much of the trappings of a church service, but start with a new song from Beth, seated at the piano, singing Prayers Of An Atheist. Christian hymns, spirituals and songs sung in Zulu and Hebrew follow, mostly it’s just Beth and the choir with no instruments. The results will make your hair stand on end, as St. Paul’s world famous nine second reverb comes into its own. The spoken interludes offer different perspectives on peace, from defiance to acceptance and appeals not to consider other people’s differences, but our commonality. The prayers and solemnity of church sit comfortably within the context of the whole, there is no applause and the lighting of candles is genuinely moving. Whatever your religious outlook acceptance and tolerance is the order of the day. The sense that people from all walks of life must wish for something better is delivered with spine tingling certainty. Inspirational stuff and that’s the point. Even if Beth’s generation haven’t all succeeded in finding it, there are the children for whom there may yet be “Time in a peaceful world.” SH
Beth Nielsen Chapman -
BLUES, RHYTHM AND SOUL reviews and news JJ Grey & Mofro COUNTRY GHETTO
Aynsley Lister UPSIDE DOWN
Frankie Lee Sims WALKING WITH FRANKIE
The title of this excellent country-soul set refers to the rural poverty that has afflicted generations from the North Florida environs of Jacksonville, leaving their indelible marks on JJ Grey. Dollar poverty is one thing, but this guy has clearly grown rich on a cultural diet that draws on the story telling traditions of his own family and an open musical mindset.
It has actually been three years since Aynsley’s last solo record, but the time has been far from wasted. As part of the Ruf Records’ Blues Caravan, Aynsley recorded an album down in the Delta with label mates Ian Parker and Erja Lyytinen in September 05 and then most of last year on the road touring it. The whole experience informs the new album right to the core. Firstly the US sessions proved to be an eye opener, with the regions noted musicality and easy, laid back studio vibes giving Lister cause to pause. Secondly the constant succession of live dates that followed gave him a taste for the chemistry of the immediacy of performance. The impact was threefold with the decision to produce the sessions himself, the choice of studio being dictated by the live room and the subsequent adoption of the single take recording mentality.
This is the first official release of this rare and sought after session only previously available as a bootleg. A Texas bluesman and cousin of Lightnin Hopkins, Sims had his first hit in 1953 with Lucy Mae Blues, recorded for the Specialty label.
JJ GREY & MOFRO
THE HOLMES BROTHERS
Calling on the spirits of Howlin’ Wolf, George Jones and James Brown in equal measure and fired by the evangelistic fervour of street preachers and old school radio DJs, the result is a complex stew, further flavoured with horns and Hammond and seasoned impeccably by Grey’s passion and Daryl Hance’s spare, but telling, guitar. Grey draws on the history of his home life and the exploiters of the local population, through timber barons to the company store. All good solid blues fare of course, but he also finds room to celebrate and on Mississippi and The Sun Is Shining Down, he is more in awe than pain. The title track is also tellingly belligerent and proud. There’s more to life than a dollar from the man! TM
The Holmes Brothers STATE OF GRACE Alligator ALCD4912
FRANKIE LEE SIMS
The Holmes Brothers’ sound is steeped in a lifelong appreciation of the sheer joy of making music and in particular, singing. Be it praise or pain, wonder or wandering, pity or putdown, fear or fervour, Wendell (all gravel soul shouter) and Sherman Holmes (gospel baritone), along with Popsy Dixon (falsetto) have an intuitive grasp of singing and a song for every occasion. They’re also a fairly tidy guitar, bass and drums trio. As befits men of their generation the church and family sparked the musical inspiration. Equally fitting is the jumping off point, where the sacred and secular collide head on and the ecstatic, heavenward gaze gets grit in the eye. It’s their straightforward musicality that has endeared the trio so much to the likes of Joan Osborne (a long time champion and collaborator), who guests here as do Rosanne Cash and Levom Helm. Songs from Lyle Lovett, George Jones, Hank Williams Sr. and John Fogerty rub shoulders with Holmes originals, but It’s Nick Lowes What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding that is the albums high spot. TM
The result kicks like a mule with Aynsley building on his blue roots to deliver a, highly energised charge though 10 hard rockin’ tracks and a couple of equally fizzing acoustic numbers. It’s the sort of stuff the Humbucker and volume 11 were invented for. TM
Ian Parker WHERE I BELONG
Moving to Ace in 57, he had further success with Walking With Frankie and She Likes To Boogie Real Low. His lack of interest in touring, however, restricted his career although his influence was felt by a range of musicians, including a young King Curtis who Frankie mentored as the sax player turned pro. The favour was almost repaid as Curtis was the instigator of these sessions. In 1960 Curtis was a success and encouraged his label boss at Fire/ Enjoy, Bobby Robinson, to record Frankie in New York. The results are presented here and rework some of his classics from the ‘50s with some new material. The result is raw and passionate, if occasionally erratic, but steeped in the real blues. Frankie certainly lived it like he sang and played it and when these sessions were shelved, his life took several wrong turns. He died unrecognised in 1970 at the age of 53. TM CD of the Month Blues & Rhythm (Feb ’07)
It’s not that this is any radical departure, but just that there seems a confidence and purpose, that shows a man squaring up to the history of the Blues and staking his pitch within it. This is definitely blues in a classic rock mode, but that said it has a timeless immediacy that is surprising and more to the point, Ian sounds like, well, er, Ian... There are certain retro stylings, which reflect the analogue techniques used to capture the sounds: this was recorded the old fashioned way, onto tape. The CD is black both back and front to look like your old money LP. A brass section that could have walked straight from in from many notable 70s’ sessions and judicious use of backing singers also push the retro buttons. Parker’s emotive vocal mixes some of Cray’s soulful hurt with a snarl and swagger that is definitely British blues rock. He’s in fine form on the opener Where I Belong a fine up tempo tune with a driving guitar line. The soulful Your Love Is Home is next up and gives the flip to the stinging attack of the opener. The same passions flare on Coming Home, a song that has me searching my memory tips for an elusive or illusory classic from my teenage years. Personal favourite (although that may change), has to be Love So Cold with it’s moody tempo and Peter Green-esque opening salvo. Retro or not...Frankly I care not. This is just pure quality. SH
Steven Seagal’s MOJO PRIEST
Almost inevitably there is a high degree of novelty, not to mention scepticism attached to this release. When you are as famous as Seagal, you don’t get to make this kind of career lurch to the musical spotlight, without a whole heap of baggage coming with you. So whilst the cynics line up to take potshots, Steven has assembled a line-up that includes blues luminaries of the Muddy Waters Band, Ruth Brown, James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins, Bob Margolin, Robert Lockwood Jr, Hubert Sumlin and the one and only Bo Diddley. With a UK tour to support the release playing to packed houses it seems that public interest has been piqued at least. The truth is he sure as hell can play. On Dark Angel he intones “We’ve all got to die someday”, with an authentic smokey drawl before wrapping his fingers round some speedy trills. Elsewhere Dust My Broom is authentic high octane stuff, Red Rooster smoulders and Shake, the Diddly co-write, is great fun. If at times he’s guilty of a few too many notes, there are plenty of others with longer careers who have made worse mistakes. My understanding is that he takes this as seriously as his martial arts. So I for one will not be arguing, I’ve seen the films! TM
While you’re at it, here’s a quick selective guide to some of the winners…
Folk Awards 2007
The BBC folk awards has been running since 2000. Each year, a panel of some 120 experts and music business figures convene to acknowledge special achievement in the folk world over the previous 12 months. As with all such celebrations, special awards are also given to others who have made long standing and consistent contributions, or, as with Nic Jones this year, created special and influential records.
BEST DUO For the past three years, Proper Distribution has created a special CD set that collates tracks from all of the nominees. This year the set is expanded to three discs to include special, exclusive live highlights from the Young Folk Awards as well. It’s as good a summary of the excellent health of the folk music circuit as you could hope for. Current stars, such as Seth Lakeman, who of course started with Proper and has recently been awarded a silver disc (60,000 sales), is ample proof of the growing folk audience. His recent tour was a sell out. Martha Tilston too has been feted, with the Observer newspaper underlining her talent as one to watch this year. She has also been busy on the live circuit playing to growing crowds, although her enjoyable whimsy, intimate romantic ballads and gorgeous, hushed tremor of a voice couldn’t contrast more with Seth’s rumbustious fiddling frenzy. The Bellowhead phenomenon is also gathering more column inches of press coverage than many of the rock and pop darlings that make up your average Brits night. Glastonbury beckons for them over the summer in sharp contrast to a recent performance at London’s Opera House that had government ministers in the audience. Spiers and Boden, the collective’s leading lights, were also nominated in their own right in the duo category It’s not all bright and new, however, as special mention for some of the old guard is also due. Dave Swarbrick appears twice, both with his own Lazarus and also in tandem with Martin Carthy. He was also part of the classic Fairport line up that featured Sandy Denny, whose Who Knows Where The Time Goes won the audience vote as favourite track and although he didn’t play on the Fairport recording, he will doubtless have played it live a few times. Carthy too notched up a brace of nominations, with his dynastic Waterson:Carthy never far from the awards lists. Inevitably, not everyone can win and there are some who are left empty handed. Like everyone else who gets involved, we have our own favourites and wish lists from the nominees not all of whom came up trumps. But, such issues are for the Dog And Duck rather than these pages. This piece, after all, is about the celebration of this most vital of British music forms. Whether it’s the history of the tradition, or the freshness of the increasing numbers of articulate, contemporary singer song writers, or even somewhere in between, there’s something here for everyone. The Folk Awards three disc set is an essential purchase.
MARTIN CARTHY & DAVE SWARBRICK They Say… Famously the subject of a premature obituary in the Daily Telegraph in 1999, Dave Swarbrick was too ill to claim his Lifetime Achievement award in 2004. Now recovered due to a successful double lung transplant, he has recently released two albums, one with new band Lazarus and one with old compadre Martin Carthy. We Say… See the folk reviews for our appraisal of Swarb’s Lazarus. The Carthy:Swarbrick release is everything you’d expect from these doyens of folk music.
BEST GROUP BEST LIVE ACT They Say… Formed by the duo John Spiers & Jon Boden, the eleven-strong big band made their debut at the 2004 Oxford Folk Festival and were named Best Live Act at the Folk Awards in 2005. Their spectacular multi-genre arrangements of traditional song are truly unique. The line-up includes acclaimed individuals like Benji Kirkpatrick (guitar, banjo, bouzouki, mandolin), Paul Sartin (fiddle, oboe), Pete Flood (percussion), Rachael McShane (cello, fiddle), Giles Lewin (fiddle, bagpipes) and Gideon Juckes (sousaphone, tuba). We Say… Burlesque united the critics in praise and made many end of year best of lists. The E.P.Onymous EP that predates it is also worth checking out.
BEST TRADITIONAL TRACK VAN
They Say… The sole American on this year’s nominations list, 25-year-old Chris Thile (pronounced Thee-lee) is now regarded as the greatest mandolin player in the world. He started playing the instrument at the age of five and recorded his first album when he was 13, but came to international attention in the progressive bluegrass band Nickel Creek. The band subsequently announced their split and Thile launched his solo career with his trailblazing album How To Grow A Woman From The Ground. We Say… He coaxes music from mandolins that scarcely seems possible.
GOOD TRADITION AWARD NIC JONES
MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR
They Say… Best known as a member of Waterson:Carthy and Dr Faustus, the Dorset singer/melodeon player shone in 2006 with his own band and the stunning album Stiffs Lovers Holymen Thieves, bringing startling freshness and new ideas to the English tradition. The 20-something Van Eyken (the name is from Belgian ancestors who settled in Wells) won the BBC’s Young Folk Award in 1998 and has just announced he’s leaving Waterson:Carthy to concentrate on his own band, which includes fiddler-singer Nancy Kerr and renowned guitarist/producer Olly Knight. We Say… One of our previous features and someone who’s career we intend to follow closely, his outstanding debut is dark and brooding (in the best possible way of course).
They Say… A giant of the 1970s British folk scene, Nic Jones has been unable to play since the appalling car crash that ended his career 25 years ago. Yet his distinctive voice, inventive guitar playing and ambitious arrangements of traditional song have had an impact on everyone from Bob Dylan to Kate Rusby and his Penguin Eggs album is frequently name checked as one of the most important folk albums of all time. We Say… If you don’t own Penguin Eggs, be very ashamed
FOLK CLUB AWARD THE RAM, CLAYGATE
They Say… The relaxed and intimate atmosphere of The Ram Folk Club makes it a firm favourite with both artists and audience. Since 1983 the club has welcomed top folk, roots and acoustic acts from the UK and beyond in the garden room of the Foley Arms in Claygate, Surrey. We Say… And they have Properganda too!
AUDIENCE VOTE –
FAVOURITE FOLK TRACK
WHO KNOWS WHERE THE TIME GOES: SANDY DENNY/FAIRPORT CONVENTION They Say… Although only with the band for 18 months, Sandy Denny remains for many the abiding voice of Fairport Convention. Who Knows Where The Time Goes was her second composition, written in 1967. She first recorded it during a brief stint with The Strawbs in 1968 and Judy Collins popularised the song later that year, but it’s Sandy’s own recording with Fairport, underpinned by Richard Thompson’s glorious guitar, which remains the definitive version. We Say… Also in the every-home-should-have-one category is A Boxful Of Treasures giving a comprehensive overview of Sandy’s career, with loads of unreleased material and the orignal Strawbs’ version of Who Knows…
WORLD reviews and news Clara Moreno MEU SAMBA TORTO Far Out FARO115CD
Clara Moreno’s new release features a stellar line-up of Brazilian musicians including Clara’s mother, the legendary Brazilian singer and songwriter Joyce, and the celebrated songwriter and guitarist Celso Fonseca. Meu Samba Torto features two new compositions written especially for Clara by her peers. Joyce contributes Sabe Quem, and Celso Fonseca has penned Litorânea. There are also interpretations of classic bossa nova tracks such as Moça Flor, originally recorded by the Tamba Trio, Vem Morena Vem, from Jorge Ben’s debut album, and Morena Boca de Ouro, made famous by João Gilberto. Surprises are delivered in a version of Mon Manege a Moi, originally recorded by the French singer Edith Piaf, and a beautiful cover of the American jazz standard Tenderly. Songlines have been quick to join in the praise. “Moreno and her cohorts craft a warm, intimate vibe that nods to that cornerstone of Brazilian music - 60s bossa nova - but which has a contemporary and occasionally experimental feel to boot.” We think it transports us to beach bars, where the cocktails are cheap and the sun shines all day. Sigh! LR
Moishe’s Bagel SALT
Eachday Music EDMB02
Moishe’s Bagel are the “Eastern European” musical phenomenon from North of the border, the UK one that is! Formed in Edinburgh in 2003 and boasting some of the best instrumentalists that Scotland has to offer (Salsa Celtica, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Celtic Feet, Scottish National Jazz Orchestra) these guys got together to make some authentic and not-soauthentic Klezmer and Balkan tunes. On their latest studio album Phil Alexander, Greg Lawson, Pete Garnett, Mario Caribe and Guy Nicholson bring passion, soul and irresistible energy to a heady mix of of Eastern European dance music and Middle Eastern rhythms, they have penned some great original compositions and successfully crossed musical borders with flair and improvisational style to boot! Incidentally bagels were originally a superstitiously “lucky” delicacy dating back to seventeenth century Eastern Europe and their shape was taken to symbolize the great circle of life. Well one thing’s for sure the musical melee of Moishe’s Bagel sure is invigorating and life affirming stuff and also very good. ET
Seckou Keita Quartet AFRO-MANDINKA SOUL: TAMA-SILO Arc EUCD2028
Born in Senegal and now based in the UK Kora maestro and percussionist Seckou Keita comes from a long line of griots (a performer who perpetuates the oral traditions of a family/village by singing histories and tales). Having worked with the global fusion group Baka Beyond and toured with folk guitarists Martin Simpson and Tony McManus, Keita is now firmly on the musical map with his latest offering. The Seckou Keita Quartet brings together the best of Afro-Mandinka Soul music, some African Blues, soulful grooves and rich melodies reflecting the many stages of Seckou’s musical paths. Some great musicians join him too, with a finely tuned ensemble combining European and African instruments and influences. Beautiful rhythms blend seamlessly with the gorgeous cascading sound of the kora (West African harp) alongside the sounds of the Egyptian violin, Gambian drums, double bass and the single stringed riti fiddle. Mellow, uplifting and fine musicianship. ET “…an album that reveals it’s charms slowly and without fuss…it’s a beautiful and rewarding experience.” fRoots
Tito Paris ACUSTICO
World Connections WC43064
Welcomed by an enraptured audience at the outstanding Mariza concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London in November 2006, Tito Paris (pronounced Parish) shared some of his new (and old) songs and made some friends and fans along the way. Relitavely unknown to a UK audience, the multi talented singer and composer who also plays guitar and bass, has worked alongside Cape Verdean greats, such as, Maria De Barros, Bana and Cesaria Evora, and Tito shares not only his musical roots with the ”Barefoot Diva” but also his birthplace, the town of Mindelo on the island of Sao Vicente. Regarded by many as ”the prince of Cape Verdean music” he sings in Portugese based creole, and is accompanied by a wonderful string orchestra. Its actually billed as a ”greatest hits live”. Although you may not know them, it quickly becomes apparent that Tito has the range and skill to successfully blend the joyful and melancholy elan of his Cape Verdean roots with the contemporary sounds of his current home Lisbon. This album includes the Cape Verdean classic Sodade and also several of Tito’s earlier hits, Morna PPV, Estrela Linda and Febre di Funaná. Even Charlie Gillett felt it necessary to note “Tito Paris first song was one of the highlights of the night.” in his review of that Mariza gig. ET
Soweto Gospel Choir AFRICAN SPIRIT Shanachie SHANCD66040
In the short time since their first CD release, Soweto Gospel Choir has become one of the most celebrated world music groups performing today. Their releases have hit the Top Ten of the Billboard World Music Charts and their coast-to-coast tours have electrified audiences across the USA as well as around the world, with regular visits to Britain always amonst the critics nust see recommendations. Regardless of your religious persuasions, there is something intensely moving about the sound of voices joined in such rapt praise and this, the choir’s third CD, is their most accessible project yet. With it’s irresistible mix of their versions of internationally-known inspirational songs and distinctive South African gospel, it includes some of their most audience friendly live favourites. World renowned superstar Bono of U2 is a special guest vocalist on the choir’s scintillating version of Bob Marley’s One Love. Other highlights of the album are the choir’s powerful versions of such hits as Many Rivers To Cross, Bob Dylan’s Forever Young, Jimmy Cliff’s Sitting In Limbo and Nina Simone’s Balm Of Gilead. This CD can lay claim to debunking the myth that the devil has all the best tunes. TM
SECKOU KEITA QUARTET
Various HANGVETO 2006-2007 Hangveto HV03
Great value for money. This superb, intriguing and eclectic budget sampler is a great introduction to the world of Hungarian music capturing flavours from the traditional, jazz, pop, electronic, folk and contemporary scenes. Compiled by musician and label founder Andras Lelkes it contains tracks from top Hungarian labels, such as FolkEuropa, Etnofon, XProdukcio as well as several independent releases all coming via the Hangveto team. There’s musical mayhem from the urban gypsy wedding band Besh o droM, beautiful vocals from female folk singer Beáta Palya and many wonderful instrumental solos. From the contemporary it features Kerekes band whose album Pimasz was a Songlines Top of the World album in 2006 and Womad favourites Mitsoura who recently played to a full house at the Linbury Theatre at the Royal Opera House. This collection will open your eyes and ears to the diversity of music currently on offer from Hungary and neighbouring influences and countries such as Transylvania and Romania. Thoroughly entertaining and great value for money this diverse cocktail from the Hangveto catalogue truly is the best of Magyar music-making! ET
SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR
VARIOUS HANGVETO 2006-2007
Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni ba warriors and witchcraft from the Bamana Empire, here sung by Andra Kouyate, with a catchy “ah-ha, ah-ha, ah-ha” refrain. Jura Nani is also based on a traditional song learnt from Bassekou’s grandfather. A stately piece enlivened by the ache and firepower of Kasse Mady’s voice.
hances are you haven’t heard of Bassekou Kouyate, although if you’ve got even a passing interest in African music, you’ve probably heard him. The Malian master of the n’goni (the ancient traditional lute which is played throughout West Africa) featured prominently on Savane (World Circuit), last year’s TV advertised CD from the late West African bluesman Ali Farka Toure and more recently on the acclaimed self-titled debut from Ali’s son Vieux. He’s performed with numerous artists over the years, everyone from US bluesman Taj Mahal to Spanish flamenco group Ketama. But like the simple instrument that he plays, it appeared as though Bassekou was destined to always provide a supporting role on other’s projects. Segu Blue, his first recording as a leader, looks certain to change all that. This beautiful new album released by the German Out Here label (previously best known for compilations of African dancehall and hip-hop) finds Bassekou returning to his rural roots, to the village of Garana on the banks of the Niger River and the music of the Bamana people who have inhabited the region for centuries. More than any other African style, Bamana music sounds like the direct antecedent of the blues.
Recorded live in a studio in Mali by renowned British producer, writer and broadcaster Lucy Duran and mixed in London by Jerry Boys (best known for his work with the Buena Vista Social Club) the album features Bassekou’s groundbreaking group N’goni Ba, a quartet made up entirely of n’goni players, with guest musicians and singers adding to the mix. These include Bassekou’s wife Amy Sackou, known as the “Tina Turner of Mali”, for her wild hair and all-stops-out performance style, the raw, bluesy singer and guitarist Lobi Traore (who featured on Daman Albarn’s Mali Music project) and the extraordinary Kasse Mady Diabate, blessed with one of the most powerful voices in all of Africa. It’s a concept album, celebrating the music and culture of the Bamana Empire, which ruled throughout West Africa in the 18th and early 19th Centuries. You want to hear the roots of blues, funk, soul, rock and just about every other contemporary musical form you can think of? It’s all here. The album opens with Tabali Te, Bassekou’s lone n’goni ushering in a plaintive chorus. Things really kick into gear with the second track Bassekou, which has Amy Sackou singing soulfully in praise of her husband over a twisting web of n’gonis, all powered along by the crack of Moussa Sissoko’s percussion. Jonkolomi is based on a tune which Bassekou learnt from his grandfather, a renowned n’goni player (he comes from a long line of musicians). It’s a ripe old tale of
The bluesy Mbowdi features the raw vocals and soku (one string violin) of Zoumana Tereta, whilst the instrumental River Tune is a haunting piece Bassekou believes was taught to one of his ancestors by a djinn (water spirit). Andra’s Song is dedicated to Bassekou’s bass n’goni playing brother “Play the n’goni Bassekou” proclaim the lyrics, “Play the n’goni Andra. before we regret it”. The urgent N’goni Fola is both a plea for tolerance in modern Malian society and a celebration of the healing power of the n’goni. “If you can’t express something with words, you use the n’goni,” Bassekou told me. “It is the instrument that best solves any potential arguments or battles. As soon as the n’goni plays, people calm down.” Malian blues man Lobi Traore brings the only electrical element to this otherwise acoustic recording, adding biting guitar licks to Bamani. Bala sings the praises of a Bamana warrior who won many battles and shared the spoils with the griots (musicians), a sure fire way to get a song written in celebration of you! Segu Tonjon puts the spotlight back on singer Amy Sacko, building from a hypnotic introduction to a pulsing finale. Kasse Mady returns to sing the praises of a Bamana ruler on Sinsani. The suitably mournful (and very affecting) Lament for Ali Farka is Bassekou’s tribute to his fellow Malian blues playing friend. The closing title track is an adaptation of Poyi a tune played to warriors before they went into battle, here it’s full of taut blues improvisation. In fact, the blues is never far away on one of those rare albums that can be listened to in its entirety, without any recourse to the ‘skip’ button. JR A comp rehens ive pie Bassek ce ou Kou yate by on will fea Jamie R ture in enton the Ma fRoots y issue magaz of ine (www.f rootsm ag.com ).
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL reviews and news Buddy Holly HOLLYBILLY 1956: THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS EI Toro 2CD ETCDIOI2
From Lubbock, Texas, Buddy Holly found recognition in September 1957 with That'll Be The Day, an international No.1. Several hits later he died in a plane crash in February 1959. During that brief year and a half Holly proved to be an instantly recognisable singer and an enduringly influential songwriter and guitarist. It isn't so widely recognised that Charles Hardin Holley had been trying his luck and honing his skills for sometime before his international breakthrough. This 41 track double CD of all known Buddy Holly recordings during 1956 - a combination of professional studio cuts in Nashville, including the original of That'll Be The Day, and private demos - is a bravura roundup of him juggling all the elements that would coalesce into making him a legend. There is nothing here that is quite so polished as his hits but that's the delight: the professional studios cuts are ragged but right on rockabilly, the unadorned demos show him to be having a ball cracking into 50s rock n roll and R&B favourites. All with that distinctive vocal delivery and impressive guitar playing and so neatly collated into one double pack CD. A rumbunctious ear-opener for anyone
who thought Buddy Holly came fresh out the box in 1957. CW
Various CLASSIC ROCKABILLY
Proper PROPERBOX122 (4 CD set)
As a companion piece to PROPERBOX100 that traced the roots of rock ‘n’ roll this is a fascinating Cadillac ride through a souped up selection of hot rod classics. Unlike the questing r ‘n’ r collection that offered various routes to the origins, this collection is more definite in lining up its chickens and its eggs. First prize for kick starting the whole rockabilly genre must go to Elvis Presley, whose legendary Sun sessions distilled the nascent rumbles and twangs into a fully formed style. It’s That’s Alright/Blue Moon of Kentucky (SUN209) that this set has as the first rockabilly record, which along with Elvis’ incendiary live shows lit the fires under this most southern of Stateside musical phenomena. So amongst the familiar names are a host of more obscure cuts and for every hit maker there are host of canny imitators and genre hoppers. There are far too many to name check here, but for fans and the merely curious, it offers a great overview of a style that realistically was out of fashion by the end of the decade it started. As always the booklet tells in 68(!) pages a story that I can only hint at here. TM
Bill Haley FROM WESTERN SWING TO ROCK Proper PROPERBOX118
Rock Around The Clock has sold a total of over 25 million copies and is almost certainly instantly recognisable to everyone who will read this. What you probably don’t know is that Bill Haley was a married man of 30, with a recording career stretching back over a decade when that righteous racket first set the collective teenage pulse of America racing. As with all Properboxes, this 4 CD set goes a long way to putting that stellar moment in context, both with the music that documents Bill’s recordings over 10 years from 1946, and with the fascinating essay in the expansive booklet that captures this extraordinary and pivotal period in detail. I used the word righteous above and of course, Rock Around The Clock was regarded as anything but. Bill had to ride a crusade of moral indignation and pure racial bigotry that threatened violence at every turn and for the record, he was a lifelong friend of Big Joe Turner, so they didn’t win.
It came about when the rhythm section of the band started playing a novelty interlude within the principal bands set. The spotlight shone on the bass, drums and guitar who ran through renditions of American blues, country and gospel songs. This breakdown took on a life of its own as audiences came first to expect it and later demand it. It soon became clear that the younger members of the audience in fact appreciated it a good deal more than all that jazz. Times were of course very different culturally to the later punk rock boom, but as Britain still lingered in the gloom of post war austerity in some ways the social climate was similar.
When Bill arrived in the UK in 57, a hero’s welcome greeted him. Back home, however, the arrival of one Elvis Aaron Presley was to eclipse Bill’s star. TM
JUST ABOUT AS GOOD AS IT GETS! GREAT BRITISH SKIFFLE 1948-1956 - SCCD1122 GREAT BRITISH ROCK ‘N’ ROLL 1948 –1956 - SCCD1124 GREAT ROCKABILLY 1955-1956 - SCCD 1125 Lonnie Donegan - THE ORIGINAL SKIFFLE RECORDINGS 1953-1956 - SCCD1123 Skiffle is a curious but essential part of musical history that has another of those trans Atlantic migrations at its heart. All of the purveyors of this purely British phenomenon, were jazz men, who earned their corn in the Dixie and traditional style bands that toured the circuit in the 40s and 50s.
The seventies after all had their miners strikes and three day weeks and skiffle certainly had some of the characteristics of that new broom revolution. Musically too it was a short sharp snap when compared to extended improvisations of jazz. All of the important records of the genre are here, although it was also fairly short lived as rock ‘n’ roll was on the horizon. Which brings us to the British rock ‘n’ roll collection. Some would argue that we Brit’s didn’t do rock ‘n’ roll terribly well, until a couple of years later than the conclusion of this set, when Cliff Richard charted Move It. To some extent they may well have a case as the jazz and pop stars of their day struggled to adapt to the real revolution that threatened to simply sweep them away. This set at least does a very thorough job of collating the wind of change that clearly had some of the jazzmen nervously watching the younger members of their crowd jumping ship in droves. It’s curious and probably to be filed under nostalgia. But as well as those for whom this
music will hold some immediate memory, this is historically fascinating. You get tracks from the Deep River Boys, who were actually American but recorded over here, alongside the classically trained Winifred Atwell, who had her other piano tuned to boogie-woogie and Tommy Steele who probably can lay claim to be the first British rock ‘n’ roll star. The rockabilly set is more instantly enjoyable and offers two CDs of classics nicely sequenced. You are at very least much more sure of what you are getting and names like Elvis Presley, Johnny Carroll, Carl Perkins and Gene Vincent will be instantly familiar. There are also plenty of more obscure gems to keep you guessing. You also get plenty of twang and slap for your buck with 64 tracks in all. Finally there’s the great Lonnie Donegan set that brings all of his skiffle recordings together and stops short of his decline into more mediocre middle of the road fare. It obviously links with the skiffle set above, but Donegan was the obvious star of the genre and thus warrants this collection on his own. His importance cannot be overestimated, as he cut a swathe through the 50s, sparking the Quarrymen into action, as well of a host of other imitators. The Quarrymen were of course just a name and line up change away from becoming the biggest band on the planet. TM
Jackie Oates The final of the Young Folk Awards has become a MUST in the calendar for anyone remotely interested in the future of folk music. Apart from anything else, it’s a cracking night that always ends with a bunch of wise old sages propping up the bar, looking deep into their diminishing pints with watery eyes saying things like ‘Aye lad, the future’s in great hands…’ They may be ratted, but they’re right. If you ever needed reassuring that Brit folk is an exciting, vibrant scene full of fine young artists who play music for the right reasons, are technically light years ahead of earlier generations at the same age, and heads brimming with inventive new ideas how to take the music forward, then go visit the Young Folk Awards. Recent winners have included Tim Van Eyken, now firmly established as one of the scene’s top talents in the wake of his wonderful Stiffs Lovers Holymen Thieves album last year; Bodega, whose debut album and various festival appearances was received with great acclaim in 2006; and Uiscedwr, who’ve gone on to make a couple of fine albums and become a major live force. And then there are the finalists who DIDN’T win, most notably Jim Moray, controversially beaten in 2001 by young Scottish sisters Give Way. Oh, and Jim Moray’s younger sister Jackie Oates, who lost out to the graceful Scots fiddler Lauren MacColl in 2005. Much like her brother, Jackie hasn’t looked back since. That day she played fiddle – beautifully – but few realised at the time she was also an outstanding singer. Perhaps we should have done. She had, after all, a childhood drenched in folk culture, going from one festival, session or morris dance gathering to another. Her dad danced and played melodeon, her mother sang and by the age of seven Jackie was playing piano and violin. Studying English at Exeter University (she’s from Staffs via Cheshire originally) she became immersed in the local session scene and evolved the distinctive fiddle-singing style now winning her so many admirers. As entrenched in traditional music and folklore as she is, there are even resonances in her vocals of the earthiness of traditional singers of old and glimpses of the very English rural country style of Shirley Collins. Phil Beer, producer of her debut album, certainly thinks so. “I feel Jackie is carrying on where Shirley left off,” he says.
the best young bands in the land, the still underrated Rachel Unthank & The Winterset (whose debut album Cruel Sister is a beauty, with a second album due soon, hopefully) blending easily into the laid-back jollity of the all female song and dance act. Jackie’s solo slots with the band were always a highlight. She’s also played on both of her brother Jim Moray’s two albums, as well as Laurel Swift’s Beam and Show Of Hands’ Witness, but the various facets of her work and background have all come together in style on her own self-titled album debut. “The album is a collection of mostly English traditional ballads and songs of a bleak nature” is how Jackie herself describes it. Well, it is full of dark ballads like Banks Of Green Willow (infanticide and treachery on the high seas); The Cruel Ship’s Carpenter (treachery and murder on dry land); The Flower Of Northumberland (treachery and seduction by a Scotsman); The Mistletoe Bough (death by hide and seek) and Lord Abore and Mary Flynn (mother murders her 14-year-old son and his teenage lover)…you get the picture. A throwback to old school folk it may be, but Jackie Oates is the real deal and tells the stories with such honest, beguiling conviction and enlightened accompaniments they sound fresh and new. Suddenly out of the shadows taking centre stage and is revelling in the challenge. There’s been such a positive reaction to her album both from the grass roots scene and beyond (it was one of Mojo mag’s 10 top folk albums of the year) that she’s had to step down as a Rachel Unthank & The Winterset bandit to fit in all her own work. She may not have won the BBC Young Folk Award a couple of years ago, but the smart money’s on Jackie Oates going one better in the next year’s main awards… MJC
Shortly after her Young Folk Award appearance, Jackie represented England in a trio at the European Traditional Music Festival and started to nail down her own style. Her reputation was enhanced further when she joined one of
Athena - Breathe With Me – and, recognising the extraordinary rapport she was making with audiences, major labels came sniffing.
or anyone designated the dreaded job of categorising CDs into the different compartments shelved in stores, Athena is their worst nightmare. For a start, is she Greek or English? Do you file under folk? Jazz? World? Soul? Is she a roots artist? Contemporary singer songwriter? Torch singer? Traditional performer? Questions, always there are questions. The warm, engaging Athena would like to know the answers to some of them herself because all and none of the above are true. She was born in London, raised in Greece and – give or take a short spell in the US – has spent half her young life in both countries. So she feels very much a part of the two cultures and her musical journey has drawn heavily on both in an attempt to make sense of it. It makes for unique music – and a marketing dilemma. But you can’t worry about that when you’re following your heart and if there’s one thing Athena has always done, it’s follow her heart. “I’ve been through various stages trying to find my musical identity, exploring traditional roots and everything else,” she says, “but lately I’ve been more drawn to my English roots and writing more and more in English. The Greekness is there in the melodies and some of the rhythms but it’s subtle and blended into the whole thing.” The Andreadis family was always musical and Athena grew up listening to her mother singing traditional Greek songs. But she also listened to Pink Floyd, classical music, western musicals, anything she could lay her hands on. And, always bilingual, she was obsessed by T.S. Eliot. She moved to England to study commerce at Bath University with a view to taking over the family business, but a Juilliard School of Music tutor heard her singing while she was on a work placement in New York and insisted music was the path she must take. Back in London she got a place at Trinity College of Music studying different vocal techniques ranging from opera to jazz and that’s when she first started performing her own music.
Since then things have moved fast. A lot of jaws hit the floor last year when she went on the road with one EP (Snapshot) and a majestic range of eclectic, emotional songs which she performed in intense, passionate manner with a low-key but highly adept jazz-inflected acoustic trio. There were traditional Greek songs then, too – not to mention a gobsmacking exhibition of Tuvan throat singing
It didn’t get them far. Determined and fiercely individual, Athena decided to release her debut album Breathe With Me under her own steam. She did, though, have weighty support, recording the album in Athens with production shared by famed Greek composer/producer George Andreou and Joe Boyd, legendary producer of albums by the likes of Nick Drake, Pink Floyd and Fairport Convention. “It made such a difference having someone of his experience, attitude and aura contributing,” says Athena of Boyd. “I asked him if he could give me some advice about making the record so we met for dinner and I played him my songs and he listened and said ‘I’d like to get involved!’ That felt amazing.” Touring the album with a trio (Norwegian guitarist Werner Kristiansen, Tom Mason on double bass and Ben Bryant on percussion) her gigs invariably end with queues of tearyeyed souls telling her she’s spent the evening mirroring their innermost thoughts. “There are usually layers in my songs so they’re open to interpretation and people do interpret them in many different ways. But there are universal truths that people relate to and if you’re honest to yourself they can identify with that. Lyrics are very important to me. I’ll write and re-write them again and again – sometimes just one word until I get it right. When I go ‘Ouch!’ or it cuts me, then I know it’s right.” Indeed, there’s a sense of deep-rooted tragedy in her voice as she wrenches every last drop of emotion from her lyrics and when she sings the heartbreaking ‘All I See Is You’ on the new album you wonder if the loss is her own… “It’s a blend of my own and other people’s experiences,” she says. “It’s drawn from several situations, part fiction, part reality. What’s important thing is that it’s an honest emotion and when I sing I think of that emotion. My voice is a vehicle to serve the song and yes, I do feel moved when I sing these things.” CI
B l u r b
So, is the first decade of the new millennium going to go down as the decade when nostalgia officially ceased to exist? Will it also be the decade that the entire entertainment industry, built to such conspicuous heights in the preceding century took mortal blows? Will it be the decade that finally puts paid to our plans of retirement and the notions that science dared to propagate of infinite leisure time? Will any of it matter as the very Mother Earth chokes and gasps a dying rattle? Is there any end to this apocalyptic post modern navel gazing? Not while there are column inches to fill. And that last one’s a banker. I’ve read serious polemic on all of this in the last week without having to look for it. OK. So we shouldn’t get trivial and flippant, but the number of commentators who are lining up to point out our doom surely flags up a lot of what we’re doing wrong. Stick with me on this one. It’s that most post modern of jokes, “How many (fill in occupation of your choice here) does it take to change a light bulb?” Now all you have to do is come up with the witty punch line that indicates how useless and impractical your target profession is. The truth in the humour is there are not enough of us changing light bulbs anymore, or doing anything else practical for that matter. We can all sit and nod sagely at each damning article telling us the barbarians are at the gates (and seem to be on the guest list, as they claim). But what are any of us doing other than surrendering to media diktats that will change with the wind, in an effort to bolster our own moral foundations? Surely there are two slightly more fundamental questions that we should all be asking. What have we got out there that’s worthwhile and how do we hang on to it? No, we’re not about to give you the solution to save the planet. None of us here have a PHD in planet saving (although as individuals, perhaps we will all try a bit harder). We’re a record distribution company, right. The record industry is in crisis, so what are we doing about it? Well, is it? In truth, yes it is and we are in no place to be complacent about it. So, what exactly is the crisis all about? Falling sales, the unstoppable rise of the download, the spectre of Tesco targeting music, the downward pressure on prices and the growth of a generation who see no more value in music than the fast food cartons they discard in our streets. You will have read the same articles as we have. But is it all bad? People haven’t stopped making great music and our busiest month ever came towards the end of last year. If things go to plan, we have a strong chance
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of eclipsing that in the very near future. So it’s not all bad news. Certainly not. But as I have indicated, complacency is out. We still believe in the music being made and still believe we can do a good job of putting it in places where you will find it. If that is achievable, then there is every chance that you will like it too and want to buy it , or some of it at least. But we do have to be on our mettle and striving to get better at fulfilling our part of this unwritten pact. It’s not going to get easier for us. Record shops are closing quicker than even we imagined in our gloomiest predictions. You may have recently lost a cherished record outlet, or wondered, or even sneered at the closure of a store that has been trading for 30 plus years. Maybe you thought they were snotty, elitist or even grubby, but they are not there now and will soon be replaced by a shoe shop, hair salon or Tesco Metro store. Even the so called big record shops are hurting as major retail chains are posting huge losses. What’s happened to MVC and Music Zone? (Note: steer clear of M if you’re christening a record shop anytime soon!) We keep trying. For example you hold in your hands one of our efforts to reach out and tell you there’s still good stuff being made that we like. Getting a few friendly journalists to contribute and doing some damn hard work ourselves is worth it. Afterall there are precious few other ways you’ll get to hear about the CDs in here. We can also make some suggestions about how you can get involved too. We’d love you to buy some of these CDs. You might like them a lot. You might not and if the latter applies, tell us and we’ll try and swap them for something you like better (and you’ll be genuinely surprised at what we have). Try and buy music from specialist record stores, the walk up the high street or down the back streets will also have health benefits. Don’t burn a copy of a disc for a mate, buy them one instead. They will appreciate it all the more and might even buy you one back. If you are ever tempted to download stuff for free ask yourself, “What have I done to deserve this person or group’s hard work for nothing?” Take them or leave them. They are just ways to engage with the light bulb. We make no presumptions about your personal economic situation, but remember financial hardship is one thing, poverty of the human spirit is another. Now there are some real issues that maybe we’ll discuss later. Over a pint naturally.
Bob Harris Presents... February 2nd 2007 saw the official launch for the first instalment in the new Bob Harris Presents… series. The launch included three of the acts appearing on the album, namely “roadhouse rock queen” Eve Selis (who despite being six months pregnant still tore the place down with her performance), Canadian newcomer Alana Levandoski and fresh from the Alabama mountains Grayson Capps (who turned in a show stopping performance) and was a sell out! Bob himself was bowled over by the ground swell of support for the show and the album, and is keen to get working on the second release in the series. Bob, as you’ll be aware, is a legendary TV (who can forget the musical depth and breadth of the seminal Old Grey Whistle Test) and radio broadcaster (hailed by many as the “John Peel of country music”) and has for decades been a huge supporter of country music and its rockier off shoot, Americana. It was fitting then that the debut release in this new range of Bob Harris branded CDs is an overview of some of the finest Americana acts working today.
As was previously stated this is the first of what is an on going series, each one will be a themed release, with plans this year for a bluegrass special (it doesn’t begin and end with O Brother… you know), new-folk (featuring some of the most exciting new singer/songwriters around today) and a death metal overview. (OK we lied about the death metal one…). The past few years have seen a steady rise in musicians and songwriters eschewing the traditional major labels in favour of a more organic, d.i.y. approach, Bob is one of the few presenters around today that actively seeks out new music and throughout the upcoming releases in Bob Harris Presents… range he’ll be introducing plenty of new faces and re-acquainting you will some of the more familiar ones along the way. MG
The album contains seventeen tracks all of which were personally picked by Bob and all have featured heavily on his acclaimed Radio 2 shows (which were recently confirmed as having the biggest listener figures of any specialist show ever on the BBC!). Each act has developed a healthy fan base in the UK and it’s through Bob’s continued support of these acts that artists such as Slaid Cleaves, Sarah Harmer, Chris Knight and Alecia Nugent are instantly recognisable by many music fans outside of their native countries. Mixing established Nashville names such as Alison Krauss (winner of more Grammy awards than any other artist), the unmistakeable John Prine and the stalwart Billy Joe Shaver with mavericks such as James McMurtry, Todd Snider and Grayson Capps who in turn rub shoulders with some of the finest female voices you’ll ever hear including Eve Selis, Patty Griffin and Tracy Bonham and not forgetting the future stars of the genre in Alana Levandoski, Hayes Carll and Kathleen Edwards. Bob Harris Presents… Americana collects together seventeen of Bob’s personal favourites with the sole intention of taking the music to a wider audience. In a time when big named country artists won’t leave their air-conditioned, all mod-cons homes to come and visit the UK and its many country music fans, it’s a refreshing change that every artist featured on this compilation have appeared in concert in the UK within the past couple of years. Testimony, once again, to the fact that through Bob’s dedication to the cause, the fans will buy the albums and will come out to support the live scene.
Fairport Convention - Who knows where time goes?
hen aspiring teenage guitarist Simon Nicol rehearsed with friends in his family's north London home in 1967 he little imagined that the nascent group would still be performing and recording forty years later. But from that house, a villa named 'Fairport', emerged a group that would change the face of folk forever – Fairport Convention. The legendary band is celebrating its ruby anniversary in grand style. Under the banner 'Forty Glorious Years', Fairport has started 2007 with a gruelling 35-date UK tour and a brand new CD. Fittingly titled Sense of Occasion, the album features a generous sixteen tracks and proves the band is still at the top of its game. But it's been a long journey and Fairport has seen more than its fair share of ups and downs, triumphs and tragedy. Within a few months of their first public gig in May 1967, Fairport had been snapped up by Island records and the band's first LP was in the shops. By the time the second LP was released, lead vocalist Judy Dyble had been replaced by folk singer Sandy Denny. Fairport was getting plenty of radio airplay and had rapidly become a favourite on the live circuit. Things were looking rosy when disaster struck. Fairport's van crashed on the M1 on the way home from a gig. Guitarist Richard Thompson's girlfriend and drummer Martin Lamble were killed: the rest of the band suffered injuries of varying severity.
Fairport nearly decided to call it a day. But once recovered, the band went back into the studio with Dave Mattacks on drums. The new line-up recorded Liege And Lief, a classic LP which established British folkrock as a distinct genre. The album's impact has proved long-lasting: in 2006 BBC Radio 2 listeners voted it 'Most Influential Folk Album of all Time' and it was later awarded a Gold Disc. Tragedy touched the group again in 1978 when Sandy Denny died after a fall: she was just 31 years old. She had left the band after Liege And Lief to pursue her solo career but rejoined for a couple of years in the mid-70s with her husband, Trevor Lucas. After a hiatus in the early 1980s, Fairport reconvened with a line-up that, apart from a couple of changes ten years ago, has endured to this day. Simon Nicol (guitar and vocals) is the founding member and Dave Pegg (bass) has been in the band since 1970. Ric Sanders (violin) joined in 1985, Chris Leslie (mandolin and vocals) in 1997 and Gerry Conway (drums and percussion) in 1998. Fairport is, above all, a live band. However, their forays into the studio have produced a steady stream of great albums and Sense of Occasion is a worthy addition to that canon. The nerw CD includes five new songs from Chris Leslie, three instrumentals by Ric Sanders and covers of originals by XTC’s Andy Partridge, ex-Squeeze member Glenn Tilbrook, and PJ
Wright, Pete Scrowther and Steve Ashley. To acknowledge the band's past, there are also two 'trad arr' classics from Fairport’s vast back catalogue. Variety is the spice of life, they say, and Sense of Occasion’s mix of moods and textures is a reminder of Fairport’s longestablished eclecticism. From its very first album, the band has always tackled a wide range of material. But however glorious its past achievements, Fairport Convention always looks ahead and Sense of Occasion proves that is still true. The album has a vibrant freshness which belies the band’s longevity and the new writing and arrangements are characterised by a bright pop sensibility and radio-friendliness. After forty years, Fairport Convention goes from strength to strength and the group is probably more popular now than at any time in its long history. Fairport and its offshoots tour extensively in the UK, Europe and America and their festival at Cropredy attracts up to 20,000 music fans who enjoy three days of top acts in the Oxfordshire countryside each August. The future looks bright and the accolades continue: at this month's BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Who Knows Where The Time Goes, written by Sandy Denny and performed by her with Fairport, was awarded 'Best Folk Track' in a poll of Radio 2 listeners. As Simon Nicol says: "Well, that's the first forty years out of the way. Now onwards and upwards!" AF
Visit Fairport Convention at www.fairportconvention.com
JAZZ reviews and news David Rees-Williams Trio THINKING ALLOWED DePaeaN DPNCD003
The punning title gives a big clue as to the musical philosophy at work here. The stated objective of the trio is to represent music from history in a fresh and invigorating way, releasing it from times and places that many people would not think to venture. Rees-Williams is a piano and Hammond player with great touch who, along with Neil Francis on bass and the drums of Phil Laslett, has created a compelling fusion. Like Jacques Lucier and others who have approached classical music from a jazz viewpoint, this is an attempt to get behind the notes and staves of compositions. Pieces by Bach, Ravel, Mozart, Franck, Scarletti, Grieg, Vivaldi and Debussy reveal underlying harmony that offers surprising jazz textures, whilst the easy flow of the piano and keyboard lines skit around, as if taking the melody for a relaxing stroll around a favourite place. Of course the major difference from the originals is the statement of the rhythm, but even this is supple and well matched to melody. It’s an hour of simply beautiful music and to these ears, objective achieved. SH
Wolfgang Muthspiel & Brian Blade FRIENDLY TRAVELLERS
gives him an intuitive feel for where Muthspiel wants to go with the music. SH
Material Records MRE0172
On paper, a guitar and drums duo may raise a few concerns of nag worrying cacophony. Fear not. American Blade and Austrian Muthspiel seem to know each other’s game well enough to produce a surprisingly coherent performance that is very listenable. They have worked together in various formats before. It’s also worth noting that Wolfgang has been lauded as European jazz musician of the year. If anything it’s the lack of big chording from either brass or keys that gives this music the freedom to range where it will. To Muthspiel’s great credit, he has sufficient melodic integrity to mean that the air between the instruments acts as a kind of glue: albeit a flexible kind that stretches out in strands, but also snaps back under tension. Drummer Blade is clearly capable of playing ever evolving patterns, with no need to cover the same ground twice. This creates a thoughtful air and Muthspiel uses the tension and Blades series of explosive surges as dots to join towards melodic climax. Blade also doubles up on guitar and perhaps it his ability to actually play the instrument that
STUNT RECORDS catalogue is now available exclusively in the UK through Proper. The acclaimed Danish label recently hosted an extremely successful week at London’s famous Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean St. These four selected titles are all making their debut in the UK and give a flavour of what’s to come.
Jazz Kamikaze TRAVELLING AT THE SPEED OF SOUND Stunt STUCD07042
Recorded in New York last year, here is the young Scandinavian quintet’s second offering for Stunt Records. The band chose the ‘city that never sleeps’ to record this set because they wanted to absorb some fresh influences and as such they enlisted the help of acclaimed trumpeter Matt Shulman and Ultramagnetic MC’s rapper Big D. The band’s exciting and eclectic approach hasn’t been dampened though, and on cuts such as Airborne and the fantastic Oberst Eger & Oberst Sponz they are unstoppable.
Malene Mortensen MALENE Stunt STUCD06172
The 24 year-old Danish singer has been steadily building her career through extensive touring and the effect of all this live work comes to the fore on this, her third album. Never
Humphrey Lyttelton BAD PENNY BLUES: 1955-56 Lake LACD238
Humph (if he’ll forgive the familiar) had been an established jazz band leader since 1949 when, in 1956 he had a single Bad Penny Blues enter the charts, a feat that brought his name to even greater prominence. This double CD for the price of one traces a significant period on the band’s history when it evolved from being a classic New Orleans band into a full fledged Mainstream one. Legends of British Jazz abound here: Bruce Turner, Wally Fawkes, John Picard, Johnny Parker, Stan Greig. The original recording of Bad Penny Blues, engineered by the legendary (or infamous!) Joe Meek, is included in this set as are five previously unissued tracks. Meek of course went on to become a pop record producer of some notoriety and this cut bears his hallmark. Some of you may also spot that a bunch of moptop urchins from Liverpool purloined the tune wholesale for one of their own ditties. BS
DAVID REES-WILLIAMS TRIO
WOLFGANG MUTHSPIEL & BRIAN BLADE
one to rest on her laurels, Malene, with the help of luminaries such as Mike Stern, Chris Minh Doky and Chris Potter, has created an album that mixes her own compositions with some select (and unusual) cover versions (her take on John Mayer’s City Life is exquisite) including The Eagles Desperado and Branford Marsalis’ Another Day. Once again Malene will be heading out on the road in support of this record, if you get a chance to see her, grab it with both hands!
Inger Marie Gundersen MAKE THIS MOMENT Stunt STUCD06032
Yet another stunner that features a mix of new songs, standards and classic pop/rock offerings. Let It Be Me popularized by the Everly Brothers gives Gundersen the chance to caress the lovely melody with her smoky voice. She also offers a tender version of the perennial Always On My Mind. Gundersen’s band offers sympathetic, yet unobtrusive support, the solo are kept to a minimum. This is an encouraging debut solo recording by a promising talent. Gundersen and her band treat their material with the utmost respect and delicacy. A refreshingly tasteful affair.
Ibrahim ELECTRIC ABSINTHE Stunt STUCD06152
Taking the energy of bands like Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear and adding a dash of rare groove and even some Deep Purple-esque Hammond B3, Absinthe is a rollicking, organ heavy set that should see the Danish trio break out of their European stronghold. From the Middle Eastern textured Arabian Boogaloo through the guitar riddled Splash onto the Farfisa organ propelled opener ‘Blue Balls’, the album has more twists and turns than an Olympic downhill ski run! Absinthe, much like the drink it’s named after, will alter your mind! MG
JAZZ reviews and news Tubby Hayes THE LITTLE GIANT Proper PROPERBOX117
CHRIS MCGREGOR’S BROTHERHOOD OF BREATH
CHRIS MCGREGOR’S BROTHERHOOD OF BREATH
Tubby Hayes, “the little giant”, is one of the most charismatic and accomplished players to emerge in the history of British jazz. In a career that has the all too familiar premature death at its end, Hayes demonstrated he was every bit the equal of the more celebrated American players. Born in 35, to musical parents, he was given his first saxophone at the age of 12 and within 24 hours was already playing along with the radio. As he says “I think my ear was good.” Despite the best of intentions, his education came to a premature end at 15 and incredibly, it was the pressure of gigging that drove the final nail into his academic coffin as he overslept and missed a crucial exam. This set concentrates on his rise from teen prodigy to the spotlight of bandleader and featured player of choice across the Brit jazz scene. The first disc starts with the Victor Lewis Orchestra cuts recorded just before Tubby turned 19. Disc four concludes just short of three years later and shows how quickly he had adapted his style to the hard bop coming out of the States. The 48 page booklet gives a detailed account of this incredible surge of creativity. SH
Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath CHRIS MCGREGOR’S BROTHERHOOD OF BREATH O’DONEL LEVY
Fledgling FLED 3062
wonderful soprano solo, to the long rambling Night Poem a Mingusian extravaganza fuelled by the drums of Louis Moholo.
The result is this 1973 recording showcases Levy’s funky, fluid lines, backed by a 12 piece, brass heavy band that also features Steve Gadd on drums.
It’s hard to believe that this music is 35 years old. If you heard this band for the first time this week, you would be telling all and sundry that you had just discovered one of the most exciting big bands in the world. I guarantee that however long you live you won’t hear a more life-affirming, exultant, big band, than The Brotherhood of Breath.
The album was well received on release and with the follow up Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky briefly established Levy as major player. In truth it’s the latter’s title cut that really fills the dance floor, but Simba is more than a make-weight and has a cinematic quality that plays very well today. SH
Pour yourself an indulgent drink, pull the curtains, make sure that the neighbours are out, turn up the volume, and turn on!
The second of their releases was recorded a year later in 72. The exultant music on this album is like an amalgam of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Sun Ra, but however far out it becomes there are always the drums of Louis Moholo to bring back the pulse. Although this is joyous music it is tinged with sadness as Chris McGregor and some of these gifted musicians died young or, in the case of Mike Osborne, had a career cut short by illness. For now we can rejoice that these wonderful players got together to leave us this testament.
Never released outside of Brazil Azymuth’s Azimuth contains some of their most incendiary tracks and is quite simply a milestone album in Brazilian music. CD1 takes us right back to the beginning of the Azymuth story with possibly their finest album ever with its combination of jazz/funk/rock/samba, whilst the bonus CD2 brings us smack bang into the present with a collection of 11 all new remixes and re-edits from some of the biggest producers out there.
The highlights are many and varied, from the heartfelt alto solo of Pakwana on Nick Tete, the percussive Chris McGregor piano on Joyful Noises, the searing Mike Osborne on Think of Something, and the way the theme of Do It emerges from the initial mêlée – bringing Mike Westbrook to mind. But, best of all, is that African feel that is all pervading in the compositions.
Far Out Recordings FARO117CD
Azymuth were Jose Roberto Bertrami (keyboards and synths), Ivan Conti (aka Mamão on drums and timbales), Alex Malheiros (bass) and Ariovaldo Contesini (percussion) and formed in the late 60s just as Os Mutantes released their debut record. Whilst Mutantes were honing a psychedelic ‘Amazonian’ version of western pop music Azymuth were creating a futuristic, electric interpretation of US Jazz, also driven by the same rootsy Brazilian ‘swing’ that Mutantes had harnessed.
Fledgling FLED 3063
The band was formed in 1970, Chris McGregor having come to the UK to escape the pressures of apartheid South Africa. Chris could only appear with the black musicians if he wore a hood or played from behind a curtain. Together with fellow expatriates including Dudu Pakwana, Mongezi Feza and Louis Moholo, he formed alliances with leading London-based UK jazz musicians amongst whom were John Surman, Mike Osborne, Harry Beckett, Alan Skidmore, Malcolm Griffiths and Harry Miller to form one of the most thrilling big bands of the 20th century. The first CD opens with 5 minutes of sheer joy MRA, a glorious piece, worth the price of the album on its own. It ends with the short Union Special, also a structured fun run which makes you laugh out loud with its exuberance. Between these pieces are four more delights ranging from Davashe’s Dream featuring solos from Mongezi Feza on pocket trumpet and the passionate alto of Dudu Pakwana, Andromeda an infectious African theme featuring Dudu and Nick Evans, the swirling African rhythms of The Bride with John Surman’s
I find it easy to believe that there is not a red blooded contemporary jazz lover who would not exchange his grandmother to acquire this wild, anarchic, joyous music. As Richard Williams says in the liner notes “Remember, it’s what touches your heart that counts”. BS
O’Donel Levy SIMBA Aim AIM1609CD
Regarded by many as a minor classic of the soul jazz era , Levy was already a well regarded player when he recorded this. He replaced George Benson in Jack McDuff’s combo and then transferred into Jimmy McGriff’s band. McGriff mentored Levy through the start of the 1970s, giving him his recording debut on the Blue Note album Black Pearl. He was also instrumental in Levy signing to Sonny Lester’s Groove Merchant records. Regarded as one of the up and coming jazz guitarists, Levy was paired with writer and arranger Manny Albam (Sonny Lester’s musical director since 64 who could also claim Count Basie, Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie on an impressive CV).
Bertrami was the drive behind Azymuth’s sound - a control freak and musical genius obsessed with the latest technology who wanted to use it to push the boundaries of music in a way that no one else in Brazil had done. His use of keyboards has drawn comparisons between Azymuth’s work and Herbie Hancock’s early 70s output, yet with it’s Brazilian swing Azymuth’s electric jazz sound is unmistakeably their own. Azymuth went on to become one of the best selling jazz artists of the 80s with their future albums for Milestone, unquestionably the biggest jazz label of that decade. Azimuth is the album that kickstarted it all for them, the record that was the blue print and definition of their ‘samba doido / crazy samba’ sound. The second discs remixes come from the likes of 4 Hero, Peanut Butter Wolf, Harmonic 313, DJ Venom and Mr. Beatnick creating a fascinating and club friendly update. But back to back these remakes also demonstrate the power of the original music. LR
REVIEW ROUNDUP reviews and news The Rhythm Sisters TELL ME HOW LONG THE BOAT’S BEEN GONE
Dave Pegg & PJ Wright GALILEO’S APOLOGY
The Damnwells AIR STEREO
You crawl out of bed to find the coffee jar delivers one solitary bean; you march to the station in torrential rain to find your train has been cancelled. This is just the right time to play Galileo’s Apology on your personal music system. Stalwarts of the folk and folk/rock cognoscenti, Dave Pegg & PJ Wright deliver an album that just exudes the sheer joy they obviously had whilst making it.
For those of you who picked up issue four of Properganda , you already know that we think the Damnwells rock. There are big guitars, killer tunes, impassioned vocals, tub-thumping drums and plenty of fist punching, riff crunching moments to hit the power-pop-toaster-competitionnewker-meltdown-button. (Or something like that!) The world is there for the taking. But Wait...The Damnwells have damn well done it the hard way in America, where contrary to the logic of these things, the Brooklyn quartet have had to work hard for every inch of recognition, the opening slot for Cheap Trick aside. They’ve toured their asses off across the States and it would be great if they could come and do that here, but it seems we’ll have to wait for a little while at least.
Matty Grooves MGCD045
Radio Geronimo RAGCD001
Debi and Mandi Laek, singing and songwriting siblings from Leeds, are back under their performing moniker – The Rhythm Sisters. Way back in the 80s the sisters took the pop world by storm with the release of their debut album The Road To Roundhay Pier. Comparisons were made referencing the likes of The Kinks, The Jam, and even the late Syd Barrett Theirs is a wholly British approach to songwriting, idiosyncratic tales from their West Yorkshire landscape with backing from, amongst others, punk peers Steve Jones and Bruce Foxton, not to mention honorary Rhythm Sister, Bill Byford. Staying close to their original ideas, this album builds on the roots established by the first. The vocal themes have matured and the instrumentation has evolved from acoustic to semi-acoustic, but that quirky freshness remains. A neat trick to pull off after such a long ‘rest’ period.
Three new songs from PJ, two agilitytesting instrumentals and the heartrending tribute Song For Sandy from Peggy plus seven covers of material from friends and heroes, this is just a delight from start to finish. PJ touches upon cheap imitations, grouchy old man, and the politics of religion but all with his tongue located firmly in cheek. Both are also at the top of their game when arranging and interpreting from as diverse sources as Sandy Denny and Paul Anka, Steve Ashley and Robbie Robertson. Apology accepted! AL
Domenic Decicco STILL LIVES & DREAMERS
Aidan Jolly SYSTEM FAULT
Twin Arrows Music TWIN 113
Well Red Productions WR001
Italian-Canadian brothers Domenic and Vincent Decicco established themselves on the London music scene during the 90s playing as a duo and also as the driving force behind eclectic multi-fusion ensemble Praying For The Rain. This is Domenic’s solo debut and is a reflective collection of songs, a personal musical diary in effect, about his development as a musician, a writer and a man.
Eclectic and tricky to pigeonhole, this is one of those albums that grows with each listening. The debut of Manchesterbased performer Aidan Jolly, it’s by turns cinematic and gritty, with some songs intense and atmospheric (Landfall and Fire), while others have a raw live feel (Dennis The Menace, Sea To The Sky).
The opening and title track comes across as an overview or introduction to the subject matter of the album, with each following song specifically addressing one of the reference points. The arrangements and multi-layered production is coaxed along by some splendid picked acoustic guitar accompaniment, but the real ‘instrument’ here is Domenic’s voice. He has that singular talent of making the listener feel he/she is a personal friend, specially chosen to be party to his innermost thoughts. The songs cover the familiar themes of love, found and nurtured, lost and remembered. As an exile there are also many travel references and the challenges of making a life as a musician, writer and producer in a foreign land. A very rewarding listen. AL
Ably assisted by some excellent guest musicians, it has a transparent quality in its production that frames a vocal style with rootsy immediacy, focusing on the song more than the singer. What really sets it apart, though, are the lyrics, which range through the personal and political combining wit, poetry and passion. The style of writing belongs to the long English tradition of song writing, while the arrangements are extremely varied, reflecting a range of influences. A powerful and absorbing set of songs. As Maverick pointed out in their review, “Everything that is good about “SYSTEM FAULT” derives from its spirit. When you sit & absorb what it is he’s trying to say, then the deep emotions & power wash over you.“ AL
THE RHYTHM SISTERS
In the meantime content yourself with Air Stereo as it lurches into life with I’ve Got You, sounding like ELO put through Paul Westerberg’s mincer. Accidental Man, which follows, also has just a hint of the Replacements careering take on pop music as it comes to a juddering finale drenched in distortion and feedback. It’s not all devil may care, however, there are some pure pop moments: Golden Days and Louisville return to the ELO or almost Beatles feel and the latter, in particular, prompts a more tender vocal performance finishing under a subtle wash of strings. There are some fairly epic moments throughout the record, but they are kept in check and prevented from becoming overblown by some keen production that succeeds in changing the point of interest at regular intervals. (Think Big Star.) Most of all it’s Alex Dezen’s voice that keeps things rooted: at times it’s a velvet gloved caress, but the gloved hand can also pack a punch. Lyrically as well, the whole thing offers intrigue. It has a poet heart with enough lines thrown out suitably baited to reel you in.
DAVE PEGG & PJ WRIGHT
There’s a trio of tracks from nine to eleven starting with the smartly titled and impeccably arranged Kung Fu Grip Kiss, through the New York drive of I Am A Leaver, to the stand out Graceless that rewards playing this through in one sitting. The climax is fitting as well, with Keep A Little Organ offering the most obviously Lennon/ McCartney/ Lynne moments, with the positively freaked God Bless America nailing the final twist as a 10 minute proggie opus. Fans of Wilco, Westerberg, The Shins, et al should take note and damn well buy this record. SH
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