“... they rediscover the inspiration and energy that made them such a thrilling outﬁt in the ﬁrst place. ... the songwriting is remarkably consistent and the sound quality magniﬁcent“ *fRoots* “... a reminder that they are still an exceptional band in their own right. This new set involves some of their best-ever vocal work and unexpected instrumentation ...“ *Guardian*
Steve Skaith – the voice of Latin Quarter – back in England with a new album:
A M E E T I N G O F B R I T I S H F O L K- R O C K W I T H D I F F E R E N T WO R L D M U S I C F E E L S A N D I N F L U E N C E S , A S M U C H A F R I CA N A S L AT I N A M E R I C A N .
“Genuinely thrilling stuff ... with an opulent sound quality to match“ *Netrhythms* “[songs] suddenly asserting themselves as powerhouses packed with interesting, intelligent uses of instruments, from harmonica to the human voice. Brilliant, angry phrases leapt from the lyrics and John Jones‘s reassuring lead vocals imposed authority ... Normal (that is to say outstanding) Oyster service has been preserved.“ *Daily Telegraph*
OYSTERBAND MEET YOU THERE
and ESTONIAN NATIONAL MALE CHOIR
“CURSE UPON IRON”
Award-winning Zulya is the leading proponent of Tatar music as well as one of the most versatile and accomplished vocalists on the world music scene today.
Artist of the Year 2001
(Australian World Music Awards)
World Music Artist of the Year 2002 (Australian LIVE Music Awards)
Album of the Year 2000 for “Aloukie” (Australian World Music Awards)
World Music Album of the Year 2003
nomination for “elusive” (Australian Record Industry Awards, ARIA)
Best Album 2005 for “The Waltz of Emptiness” (National Film and Sound Archive Award)
“I’m not sure if an Australian band has ever been nominated for the BBC’s Awards for World Music, but on the strength of this, it’s about time.“
Shamanic chants, rhymes borrowed from Kalevala, the primeval power of runo-singing. Add some increasingly popular Estonian ethno-rockers, guitar riffs that are interlaced with medivial sounds of bagpipes and kanteles, and add the 54 trained voices of the Grammy Awarded only full-time professional male choir in the world. One summer night in 2006, history was made in Estonia, and with this CD and DVD you can enjoy it all again.
Songlines (The Waltz of Emptiness)
Languages: TATAR, RUSSIAN, ENGLISH
CONTENTS FEATURES Page 4
ORIGINAL SPIN New This is a new regular feature where we will introduce a new act that we particularly recommend. They may not be household names, but if justice is done… This month Megson.
Pages 7 – 10
RICHARD THOMPSON With his first electric album in years (and what a corker!) Colin Irwin plugs into Richard Thompson.
JOHN PRINE Linking up with Mac Wiseman, a veteran of country and bluegrass, Prine delivers some plain old fashioned tunes.
ALISON KRAUSS The queen of newgrass puts roots music into the top 40.
THE BBC JAZZ AWARDS The annual event gets us into the blue notes. We have some expert guidance on hand and a cracking CD of the nominees from Specific Jazz.
FRAUD AND LED BIB Enfants terrible? Punk? Award winning author and Jazzwise regular, Stuart Nicholson thinks there might be more than meets the eye.
FOLK RISING They’re under 30, immensely talented and they play folk music. The new breed will have their day.
Welcome. Here we are with episode six
FREE REED RECORDS 30 years of commercial suicide explained.
JEZ LOWE Linking with Show Of Hands Steve Knightley for the new album is nerve wracking, but ultimately rewarding. Colin Irwin realises the wisdom of it all.
NICK LOWE Senior service for slightly older now people.
LIZANNE KNOTT Bob Harris is a big fan and we know why.
BLACK HEN RECORDS A new addition to the Rounder stable of labels this Canadian roots imprint in lovingly tendered by Steve Dawson.
REVIEWS Pages 5 & 6
FOLK Some things old, some things new, some things borrowed, no late fines apply.
Pages 11 & 13
COUNTRY / AMERICANA I’m a little bit Memphis and Nashville, with a little bit of Motown in my soul.
Pages 15 & 18
JAZZ The kings and queens of the swingers.
BLUES The killing floor
Pages 29 & 30
REVUE ROUNDUP The ones that nearly got away.
So what’s new. Well to start with a few of you though we’d gone into background overdrive in the last issue. Not wishing to overload your retina and cause unnecessary trips to the opticians, we’ve taken head and pegged them back a noggin or two. We do listen you see. Musically we once again delight in lifting the lid on Pandora’s box of specialist music. There’s our cover star, the supremely talented Richard Thompson, whose latest album offers an object lesson in the taste/dexterity balance of guitar playing and great new songs. It’s just one facet of multi-headed hydra that might be labelled folk, or in Richard’s case folk-rock might seem more appropriate. But then where do you draw the lines? It’s also the point that we try to tackle with our Jazz features this month. Definitions create as many problems as solutions. There are after all no precise measures, just opinions and those are both up for discussion and should be open for change. We like to think that we are at least offering you something different. We don’t pretend to be comprehensive, but then this is an invitation into our world and we hope you take it and are prepared to explore on your own terms, with just a few hints and suggestions form us. (Well 32 pages worth to be precise!) So enjoy and get the bloke in the black hat a pint of Landlord.
Don’t forget the competition on page 26. Win more CDs than ever! We have 5 winners to date and they all love us. It could be yoooooo… Contributors: 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), Andy Farquarson (AF), Stuart Nicholson (SN), Nigel Schofield (NS), Jon Roffey (JTR) and Tom Druker (TD). 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
roperganda introduces this exceptional folk duo Megson. I can almost guarantee that anyone who sees Megson live will end the evening with a haunting, bitter-sweet ache. Such is their chemistry: two voices intertwined in a single helix and Stu’s guitar or mandola picked and strummed with such precision that the very fabric of time seems trapped within the notes. Bar chatter is hushed and attention is rapt, with emotional antennae tuned to the stage alone. Relaxed and assured, they also engage easily with audiences between songs. Their banter is built on many years of partnership in all senses and they seem totally at ease with each other, but more importantly the audience. It’s no surprise that they have attracted the attention of the likes of Bob Harris, for whom a session is due to be recorded as I write, Seth Lakeman who has said “For my money Megson are amongst the most exciting trailblazers of British contemporary folk”, (brother Sean is involved in the recording of the new album) and Show Of Hands with whom they have formed a strong bond, particularly on the live circuit.
Lambkin meanwhile reworks a traditional folk tale of revenge as a mason who, after not getting paid for his work, kills his client’s wife. Sammy’s Ghost is an old Suffolk story about a young boy who dies in a fire but finds that his soul is trapped on earth. Just as the Tide is a traditional courting song, whilst Durham Gaol is taken from a poem written by Durham pitman Tommy Armstrong. Fell to the Breeze, Flood Water, I Lied and Humanlands, all original songs, are slightly more introspective, elusive and questioning. Follow it On is a highpoint of both the live set and album. A highly charged song about finding hope in death and taking the love that you had from that loss to rebuild your life, the delivery will bring a lump to your throat and a tear to your eye. Powerful stuff indeed. The good news for anyone who can’t identify with the opening sentence of this piece, is that they have another flurry of live shows booked over the summer and they are gigging regularly. Both the shows and the new CD come with unqualified recommendation. SH
Smoke Of Home is their second full length album, due out on July 2nd, it’s the culmination of 3 years of hard work that has secured their growing reputation since leaving their native Middlesborough for London’s bright lights. Whilst the debut caused ripples within the media and has sold very well at gigs, if there is any justice at all this album should create major waves. Aided by Ian Goodall on drums and cajon and Ben Nicholls on bass, the album represents a significant move on from 2005’s debut. The blueprint that works so well live is at the core, but there’s more instrumental colour here as Stu adds Mandolin, fiddle, layered guitars and vocals to build depth and leave hooks dotted throughout. Additional production and input from Sean Lakeman and Pete Woodroffe work further subtle nuances, but there is nothing that sounds self consciously modern or contrived and a timeless quality suggests this album will still sound great 10 years from now.
“For my money Megson are amongst the most exciting trailblazers of British contemporary folk.” Seth Lakeman
The 12 tracks mix folk works with new compositions, three are traditional, and three of the nine original songs are based on folklore. As much as the skill of the playing and the canny arrangements impress, like the title track’s funky fast strummed intro, echoed again in Fell to The Breeze, or the cunning riff of Durham Gaol, it’s the voices and their exceptional harmonies that really push the buttons. Deb’s voice is pure and affecting, as befits her classical training. Both of them betray their Teesside roots and accents, with a pride in their ‘Smoggy’ heritage also reflected in the album’s title. Many of the songs work around a strong narrative thread like the wanderlust and eventual homesickness of the title track.
Smoke Of Home EDJ EDJ013
OUT July 2nd
FOLK reviews Kate Bramley Little Canaan Tantobie Records TTRCD108
At a time when all the fine new young talent on the UK folk scene is striving hard to gain as much “across the board” experience as possible, Kate Bramley is one of the busiest. A full-time touring singer and musician with one of this country’s most popular and hard working bands, Jez Lowe’s Bad Pennies, she has found time to release her second solo project, Little Canaan, to great acclaim and healthy, round-the world sales.
The album finds Kate’s talents on full display, showcasing her dexterity on fiddle, cittern and guitar behind her rich and sensuous vocals. The album weighs in with six originals, including Carter’s Fair and Tahunanui Bay, that have proved popular with several UK singers, plus an enviable selection of covers by the likes of Peter Bond, Jacqui Hanham and album producer Jez Lowe. Kate has also chosen to delve deep into the North American tradition for a pair of lesserknown songs that have proved highlights of her solo concert set. AL “A persuasive solo artist with much to offer” fROOTS
The Watersons Frost And Fire / Sound, Sound Your Instruments Of Joy Topic Records TSCD563 TSCD564 JOHN KIRKPATRICK
ANDY ROBERTS AND THE GREAT STAMPEDE
Re-released to coincide with A Mighty River Of Song, this year’s grand retrospective show at the Royal Albert Hall, this double-whammy of albums from key points in the Waterson’s career serve to remind us what an important contribution they have made to English music. Now rightly regarded as the premiere family of British folk, back in the 60s their arrival was nothing short of a revolution both in folk and rock circles. Their 1965 debut Frost And Fire is a collection of hauntingly beautiful traditional folk songs, delivered with such passion and grace that it is easy to forget that the singers are unaccompanied, aside from the sparse drumming on Hal-an-Tow. In more grand terms it can be seen, along with Martin Carthy’s debut of the same year, as one of the great stones thrown into the pool of modern folk, who’s ripples are still felt today. Songs such as the tragic John Barleycorn or Seven Virgins Or The Leaves Of Life and The Holly Bears A Berry which both transcend their obvious religious connotations, remain un-tempered by time. In 1977, with Martin Carthy now firmly on board they presented Sound, Sound Your Instruments Of Joy. Its main intent was to remind people of traditional religious music before funereal Victorian hymns imposed themselves on the British musical landscape. The selection is wide
and varied, gleaned from between the 1600s and 1930s, from wassail songs to Appalachian hymns. The group work is powerful, driving, emotive and surprising. The dark Windham for example, contrasts sharply with the buoyant Christian’s Hope. Once again, the vocal harmonies are so full and intricate; when accompaniment is introduced on Emmanuel, in the form of Gabriel’s Horns, the effect is stunning. These releases, beautifully packaged and re-mastered in such stunning clarity will blow away any complacency that familiarity may have bred and will serve as a reminder of what groundbreaking albums they were upon release and remain today. TD “Two solid gold classics.” / Mojo “Sound, Sound …(is) an album of such passionate intensity you feel strangely wobbly after listening to it” fROOTS
John Kirkpatrick Make No Bones
and Spitting Image, there is little he hasn’t done. On this, his 1973 album he delivers a collection of songs that is no less accomplished or surprising than you would expect from a man of his calibre and credentials. Speed Well rocks proceedings into action, sounding like one of the best cuts from any of the rock supergroups of the era. The Floyd influence can certainly be heard on the intro to the grand space rock of Lord Of The Groves, which wrong foots the listener by suddenly jumping into a frankly natty bit of reggae and back again. From country to boogie-woogie, soul and folk, from gentle to comedic, Roberts delivers every song in an entertaining manner free of cliché. On the bonus tracks you even get a lovely version of Lost Highway and a reggae cover of Sam Cooke’s Having A Party for your money. Sadly lost in the maelstrom that was the Geffen takeover of Elektra Records and denied a proper release, this classic album finally gets the treatment it richly deserves. TD
After nearly forty years at the forefront of the British folk scene, one would perhaps be forgiven for thinking that this eminent accordionist may be flagging somewhat. Not so, as proven by this double album of new material, which attempts to emulate an evening’s performance and triumphantly succeeds in its intent, barring of course the between-song banter and your favourite tipple. No special guest stars (although there could have been many should he have so wished), no session musicians - just one man and his squeezebox. On The Wild, Wild Berry he even forgoes the accordion to sing unaccompanied. The opening track Saint George sets the mood of a full-hearted and nonaggressive national pride that continues throughout both discs. Whether on more obvious tracks like Nelson’s Death or the more subtle Here’s to Coalport China, this pride is the same. Coupled with humorously odd songs such as The Nutcrackers And The Sugartongs, Uncle Jeremy’s Winking Rabbit or Freda Chucked A Sock/Scraping The Mould Off The Marmalade, this double album shows how well Kirkpatrick still holds his own both live and on record. TD “Can there by anyone who dislikes John Kirkpatrick either on a human or musical level?” Living Tradition
Andy Roberts and the Great Stampede Andy Roberts And The Great Stampede Fledg’ling FLED3064
Andy Roberts has one of the most versatile CVs a musician could want. Including Roy Harper, Richard Thompson, Roger McGough, Billy Connoly, Pink Floyd
“An irresistible package for 70s soft rock fans” Record Collector
Jenny McCormick English Country Garden Square Peg SPRCD03
This debut from a bright and rising talent in the British contemporary folk scene is as bold and promising as it is gentle and representative of her influences. Hailing from Manchester McCormick is unimposing but unashamed of her regionalism. It is very clear that a sense of home and family is of great importance: She sings in her natural accent and recorded at home, utilising the talents of family members Kevin on double bass, additional guitar and mandolin and Anni on cover photography. With almost as many re-workings of traditional songs as originals, she has integrated the interpretations, such as Go From My Window, House Carpenter and a stunning take on Blackwater Side, into the album well, weaving her own sound around them. Though her gentle voice may initially strike some as fragile, it contains a sorrowful, almost mournful quality investing even upbeat numbers such as A Sailing Song with a beautiful melancholy. Drawing comparisons with Kathryn Williams Kate Rusby, Kristen Hersh and the gentler aspects of Lucinda Williams this is a fantastic debut from a talent that will continue to grow. TD “More a breathy gem that glistens with emotion, it shimmers and shines its way through the eleven songs with the gentle power of a summer breeze” BBC Manchester
FOLK reviews Sharon Shannon With The Big Band Live At Dolans The Daisy Label DLCD018
One of Ireland’s favourite daughters, Sharon Shannon joins forces with the Big Band and special guests on this spectacular double CD live set. Recorded at Dolans intimate but boisterous club, Sharon and her band are joined by a stellar list of guests, including Damien Dempsey, Declan O’Rourke, Dessie O’Halloran, Jon Kenny, Mundy and Roesy. Alongside the band (featuring Robbie Casserly, Paul Moore, James Delaney, Jim Murray, Jack Maher, Richie Buckley), the result is the ultimate session. Sharon, the band, the guests and the audience combine to create a party atmosphere where everyone is thoroughly enjoying themselves and the two-hour twenty show just flies by! Sharon’s blend of world music, roots reggae, bluegrass, country, blues soul and gospel with a unique high-energy approach will appeal to all. Her skills as a song writer and musician are well known and much admired, but with the release of Live At Dolans (which is also available on DVD) Sharon demonstrates that she is also a talented producer. MG “a scintillating and highly individual world music of entirely her own creation” fROOTS
The Durbervilles Alternative Route To All Destinations
Steve Knightley Cruel River
Peatbog Faeries What Men Deserve To Lose
Hands On Music HMCD26
Peatbog Records CDBOG003
As one half of crusading folk heroes Show Of Hands, Steve Knightley has made a name for himself as a tireless musical ambassador for rural English life. Cruel River, his first solo album since 1999s Track Of Words, sees him continue his talent for creating tales from the past and present which remain pertinent to the political and personal arenas of modern England.
Formed in the Isle of Skye in 1994, the Peatbog Faeries have spent the last decade melding seemingly disparate genres such as jazz, rock and electronica with folk music into a cohesive whole and blazing a trail that many would follow. Although touring the world, from Australia to Namibia is a testament to their success and has definitely informed their eclectic sound, they have always stayed true to their Celtic roots. This is evident on their new album.
With his signature raw vocal style and a sparse instrumentation in contrast to SOHs recent work, Knightley presents a selection of twelve new and updated songs covering a broad range of themes and issues. Tall Ship Story updates an old legend of the ‘Ancient Mariner’ variety, while the only remembrance on Poppy Day is of the lives ruined by drugs in the modern world rather than wars of the past. The bleak grittiness is tempered with Knightley’s wry sense of humour - much to the fore on Raining Again and sheeprustling ballad Transported – which lends the album a sense of hope and humanity, and the live applause following the surprising choice of Dire Straits cover Romeo & Juliet closes the album on a beautifully warm note. JTR “Steve Knightley’s songs have developed such an edge that it’s hard to deny them any longer - this is a big album” MOJO
Opening track The Lock & Rocks Reel jumps through a number of genres in just its first few seconds. Prog-rock guitars give way to soul-like horns and an almost house-like, four-on-the-floor build-up before a distinctly Celtic lead blasts over the top. Far from just being random fusion, this is Celtic music embellished with different styles. This is made abundantly clear as The Invargarry Blues drops in, its distorted guitar playing Celtic licks and modes in a blues style. From then on funk guitars and jazz horns meet progressive trance rhythms and keyboard squelches to form some of the most forward-thinking but respectful folk music of this century. TD
The Alternative Routes of the album title take in elements of traditional folk, footstompin’ rock ‘n’ roll and in Rain Upon The Road and The Last One, at least two potential festival power-anthems. And a fun journey it is too; the band seems to have captured on record the energy of their live performance and the knockabout tomfoolery of their regular BBC Radio Leeds broadcasts (Sundays, 8pm, 92.4 & 95.3 FM). Regular favourites on the Yorkshire club circuit, hopefully alternative routes eventually will lead them to ALL destinations! JTR “..cheeky riffs, catchy hooks and never ending harmonies” Maverick
Hobgoblin Records HOBCD1004
Being described as ‘celtic boy-band’ may go someway to describe their image, but musically speaking, it’s nothing but a great disservice to them. On Wish Hill, their debut release, they show a musical maturity that belies their tender years. Funk and Jazz, informed by an upbeat pop sensibility and filtered through Celtic folk all seamlessly blends into a sound that is at once familiar yet unique. Backed by a rhythm section that is both supportive and solidly in the forefront, Philippe Barnes’ flute and Benjamin Lee’s Violin weave alternately tender and driving melodies around Tom Phelan’s beautiful piano playing. On Broken Mirror: Part 2 they highlight the piano/flute/violin combination to the fullest with a sad melody, preluding a gentle but dance-y rhythm, which follows the dark bass line of Part 1, underpinning some frantic jazz-fusion Violin work. It Is veers at points close to a post-rock sound before breaking into their now familiar and pleasing Celtic-funk, featuring a slap-bass solo that would put Flea to shame. Don’t be fooled by the ‘boy-band’ tags – from jazz-fusion to Celtic funk, these boys show that nothing could be further from the truth. TD “A promising debut album” Songlines
Chris & Kellie While Too Few Songs Fat Cat FATCD018
All Jigged Out Wish Hill
“The highlight of Glastonbury. Mere earth words can’t do the Faeries justice...” NME
“Direct from the Batley Delta!” The Durbervilles self-released third album sees their highly infectious meld of folkrock, roots and alt-country joined by Fairport’s Ric Sanders on violin and Chumbawumba’s Jude Abbott on vocals. Together they have produced an explosion of songs that defy you to sit down.
SHARON SHANNON OUT 18TH JUNE
Both are renowned artists in their own right: Chris is famed for her collaboration with Julie Matthews and Kellie for work with e2K. Both have sung with the Albion Band and as a mother and daughter team, they’ve performed together since Kellie was 14, return here with a second recorded outing. It’s no surprise to find an affinity far above and beyond any standard collaboration, with voices that meld into each other, supporting, complimenting and interweaving in an almost ethereal fashion. Much like their self-titled first album, Too Few Songs is a carefully selected collection of material, immaculately performed with the minimum of additional instrumentation. Despite the simplicity it is still a lush and enveloping affair that balances their history with a fresh, unforced delivery that is only possible because of their consummate skill and unique bond. Their choice of covers, includes songs by Ron Sexsmith, Richard Thompson, and late period Dylan. It’s no wonder that Ralph McTell has commented “They have a synchronicity of vocal expression that could not have been learned.” The proof of that is most definitely in the hearing. TD “Simply Stunning” Mike Harding - Radio 2
ALL JIGGED OUT
PEATBOG FAERIES OUT 16TH JULY
CHRIS & KELLIE WHILE
As Richard Thompson picks up the electric guitar again Colin Irwin plugs in…
. . . ? e r i t “Re W
hy would anyone doing this want to retire?...” It’s not like working in a bank or doing boring office jobs where you’re dying to be old. I’m looking forward to getting to 65, though. That’s when you become a living legend and your fee quadruples. Fantastic…” Not a living legend yet then (for the record he’s 57) but Richard Thompson is a true British icon. After all, he’s worked with Elvis Costello and Bonnie Raitt, he’s covered a Britney Spears song (Oops I Did It Again), is officially an alltime guitar great (Rolling Stone magazine poll), has a BBC Lifetime Achievement Award, coached Arnold Schwarzenegger’s son at soccer AND he’s met the Queen (“I was disappointed she didn’t ask me about working with Nick Drake…”)
He does now have a box set in his honour (RT: The Life And Music Of Richard Thompson, released by Free Reed) and he’s been part of the musical furniture for nearly four decades. So it’s a measure of his enduring charisma, power and thirst for battle that the prospect of a new album still excites rare outbursts of celebration and anticipation from his devoted legions of admirers. It’s well justified, too. For the new album Sweet Warrior – his first proper electric album for four years – sounds thrillingly like classic RT. Choppily savage guitar runs, melodies that sneak into your head and dance on your brain in elegant shapes and lyrics of such vivid imagery you feel like you’ve wandered into the middle of a movie populated by colourful but worryingly deranged characters. There are no pipe and slippers on the horizon here as Richard approaches his seventh decade with the same ravenous spirit of adventure that first made him such a thrilling talent all those years ago in the hazy, crazy early days of Fairport Convention and have characterised his journey as one of the creative godfathers of folk rock and many places beyond ever since.
Sweet Warrior – his first proper electric album for four years – sounds thrillingly like classic RT.
On Sweet Warrior he’s pushing the envelope again. An RT coproduction (with Simon Tassano) it features, among other things, collaborations with double bass genius Danny Thompson and Nickel Creek violinist Sara Watkins, a ska/rock steady track (Francesca) and his first proper string arrangement (She Sang Angels To Rest). The track already getting people hot under the collar, though, is the one that might also constitute something he’s never really tackled before in all his years as a master songwriter - a full-on protest song. “Mmmm protest…I suppose that is one of the things that’s in there,” muses RT when you mention the song in question, Dad’s Gonna Kill Me, which relates the feelings of a terrified soldier trying to keep the peace in Iraq. “To me it’s not the first thing on the agenda,” continues Thompson. “I was interested in soldiers’ jargon, especially the language used in the current conflict in the Gulf. Dad’s Gonna Kill Me is one of the expressions they use. Initially I wrote the song mostly just using their jargon but that became impenetrable so I adapted it.” But it’s an anti-war song, right? “Yes, by verse three it becomes obvious it’s an anti-war song and my sympathy is with the troops. They’re the ones getting it in the neck.”
Unsurprisingly the tone has caused some consternation in certain quarters, and he’s accused of undermining the troops. He’s gratified, however, that these are more than matched by the messages of thanks from serving soldiers and their families, pleased to find a popular songwriter sensitively articulating their fears. “Subtle works better than slogans if you have time for it,” he says. “In the traditional canon there are some great traditional songs that are quite subtle and they’re the ones we’re still singing. Sometimes you do have to come right out and say it’s time for political action but those songs aren’t going to hang around for long. I always think metaphors work better.” So I ask Richard Thompson if he’s happy with his new album, as you do. “Good God NO!” he says rather shockingly. “I’ve never been happy with any of my albums yet. There’s always things I’m unsure about. I think the songs are good then I spend forever tinkering and I end up driving myself crazy.” The return to an electric, rockier approach isn’t so much a policy decision as a pragmatic reaction to Richard’s songwriting process. “I don’t tend to write in terms of albums. My last project was acoustic because when I looked at the available songs piling up in front of me they were mainly unplugged. This time they happened to be mainly electric.” The album bulges with the deliciously cinematic songs which represent the hallmark of Richard’s songwriting career. Johnny’s Far Away, for example, opens with the line “Johnny’s joined a ceilidh band, they’re known quite well throughout the land, The
Drones” and proceeds to paint a colourful picture of life on the road – or in this case, a cruise ship. “Just a bit of fun about what musicians get up to on the road – and their spouses get up to at home,” says Thompson, giggling. His unexpected plunge into a string section on She Sang Angels To Rest reflects less a burning desire to go orchestral and more an instinctive feel for the needs of the song in question. “I just felt the track needed a small string section so I got a trio to play it. It’s the first time I’ve written out arrangements like this so I was a bit nervous – string players are very fussy, you know! They try to winkle out your naivety by asking impossibly difficult questions, but I think I got away with it. Now I’d like to write for brass quartets!” Yes, he says, of course he hopes the album sells in enormous quantities. “It’s human nature to want people to like what you do and you always wonder if the music will communicate itself. But I have faith in the songs so I’m hopeful. I had low expectations of the last record (Front Parlour Ballads) because it was too introverted. In the UK it was very popular but it totally bamboozled people in the US.
Maybe this one will do better in America because they understand straight rock’n’roll and jigs and reels, which are close enough to American forms. But they don’t understand 46 verses of Tam Lin, which is their loss…” At this stage, of course, it’s impossible to know which songs will sprout wings and take off to be covered by a trillion other artists (like Beeswing and Galway To Graceland), which ones will become firm live favourites (like 1952 Vincent Black Lightning and Cooksferry Queen) and which will become millstones round his neck (like Meet On The Ledge). “It is a bit strange to write a song in your adolescence at 18 and find you’re still singing it at 50,” he muses on Meet On The Ledge. It’s vague enough in that classic ‘60s way for people to still get meaning out of it. I should thank Fairport for keeping it alive. It’s so closely associated with Fairport it’s beyond my control, though I do still drag it out from time to time. “One of the strangest things for a singer songwriter is to be revisiting the past on a nightly basis. But I always try to write songs that I hope will hang around for a while. You never know how people will react to a song. If the audience responds timidly to what you think is your greatest work it’s no good if it doesn’t connect with people. That does happen occasionally.” His energy, consistency and durability is startling. From the early years with Fairport, the productive partnership with his ex-wife Properganda 6
Linda Thompson and a rich catalogue of solo albums dating back to Henry The Human Fly in 1972, you wonder how RT has managed to sustain such excellence over such a long period and still come up with a new album like Sweet Warrior that has a vigour, ambition and sense of adventure to shame artists half his age. “I dunno…” says Richard, laughing, in that selfdeprecating way of his. “I do get barren periods when I get writing blocks like everyone else but I do have a drive to keep doing it. If I haven’t written a song for a few weeks or if I haven’t played a gig for a while I do start getting very twitchy. Writing for me is a pleasure. It’s indoor work without heavy lifting, as Terry Pratchett says.” This summer also finds him retracing his steps with an emotional return to the annual Cropredy Festival in Oxfordshire where, 40 years on, he’ll be rejoining his old Fairport comrades to recreate the epic Liege & Lief, still likely to top any Most Influential Folk Album Of All Time poll going.
Henry The Human Fly Fledg’ling FLED3045
RT: The Life And Music Of Richard Thompson Free Reed FRQCD55
“I think it’s the most important folk-rock album because it was the beginning of that whole British folk rock movement. It reconnected the tradition with contemporary music. I do still play Matty Groves occasionally but I haven’t played the rest of that stuff since 1970 so yeah, I’m looking forward to it. I’m happy to play Liege & Lief every 40 years, why not?” CI
10 Properganda 6
SWEET WARRIOR Proper PRPCD032
“Like some old geyser that erupts spectacularly...great” ‘ Pop CD of the week’ SUNDAY TIMES “...packed with his usual assortment of spiky, sparky narrative songs and bittersweet laments” DAILY TELEGRAPH “...the playing throughout is fabulous” INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY “Immaculate accompaniments and Thompson’s skittering guitar balance his tendency to mournfulness and make for an impressive if not always comfortable album” THE OBSERVER “Intense, precise, impervious to fashion” UNCUT “still in rousing, bitter form. He hasn’t brought out his electric guitar to work with a band on an album of new songs in four years now, but it has been well worth the wait.” ROBIN DENSELOW, THE GUARDIAN “...one of his best...an album that is intelligent, entertaining and impeccably realised, and Thompson’s best this century.” ANDY GILL, THE INDEPENDENT “Possibly Britain’s greatest ever guitar player, as a singer-songwriter the North London-bred former Fairport Convention man just gets better” THE DAILY MIRROR
ADRIENNE YOUNG OUT 18TH JUNE
TWO DOLLAR BASH
Elizabeth Cook Balls
Two Dollar Bash Two Dollar Bash
31 Tigers TOT3101
Cannery Row Records CRR0704
Taking it’s title from the standout track Sometimes It Takes Balls to be a Woman, which pretty much sums up Cook’s attitude, this is fearless country music with a wicked sense of humour. From the bouncing jaws harp and cheekily barbed lyrics on Times Are Tough In Rock ‘n’ Roll to the gentle lullaby Always Tomorrow, Cook’s intelligence pours out alongside her heart in one of the twang-iest Deep South accents around.
Fresh from their riotous and rapturously received appearances as this year’s South By South West (Austin) and North By North West (Toronto) festivals, this three parts Scottish to one part French quartet are ready and raring to continue their plan to take the roots/Americana world by storm.
After tours with Diana Krall, Ryan Adams, and Alison Krauss and Union Station, this ‘multitalented democratic collective’, having already grabbed the attention of the great T Bone Burnett, have subsequently gained many famed fans including Bob Dylan Band veteran and producer Larry Campbell.
Their blend of folk, country and blues combined gorgeous three and four part harmonies has won them critical acclaim as well as several prestigious awards. The band’s constant touring has honed their craft and the songs featured on this album are ample proof that their time in the transit van has been justifiably spent. The gigging doesn’t show any sign of letting up just yet and the band will be in the UK for some summer festivals, including the Wychwood festival.
To understand quite how they gained such a prestigious following so quickly, all one has to do is listen to this stunning record. Opening with the rapturous gospel of Before This Time, song after song flows into one another. The beautifully minimal slide of Soul Of A Man segues into the deep soul of Elijah Rock into the country-soul of Jesus On The Mainline. Every song references some beloved genre without ever allowing a sense of coy or tongue in cheek post-modernity to creep in. This is true, even when genres are consciously mixed; such as the mean slide meets funk clavinet of Get Back Temptation.
A blazing hoedown of fiddles and banjos, the rocking country-bluegrass energy and electric vibe of the album was captured live in the studio. Producer Rodney Cowell and tour-mate Nanci Griffith, who both appear on the track Down Girl, have likened Cook to Loretta Lynn, and her brash, feisty outlook caused No Depression magazine to hail her as “reminiscent of Dolly Parton or a more burnished Julie Miller”. Whether she’s reworking Velvet Underground classic Sunday Morning or belting through her nine self-written tunes, Cook’s bold wit, unique voice and authentic grass-roots mark her out as a true star in the rising. JTR “In an era of fabricated fame, Elizabeth is the real deal," Rodney Crowell
Adrienne Young Room To Grow Addiebelle ABE003
There are many highlights but cuts like the Johnny Cash imbued The Devil And The Angel, opener Waiting For The Sunshine, Old Man Train and the oft covered, Townes Van Zandt penned White Freight Liner Blues burn brightest. MG “It’s the same kind of original folk creativity that Bob Dylan had when he started.” Bob Everhart, Tradition
Joe Ely Happy Songs From Rattlesnake Gulch
Her self-described “pop-inflected old time music” is awash with banjos, fiddles and acoustic guitars backed by a rocking rhythm section. The whole album is alive with crackling energy and a production as rich as the soil of the New World from which she derives her inspiration. RON BLOCK OUT 16TH JULY
With the emphasis on well-crafted melodies and great, sing-along choruses, this bluegrass infused album will cement her reputation as a renaissance woman of remarkable talent.Working with cowriters Will Kimbrough and Mike D Sanders, Young has self-produced a beautiful collection of instantly accessible American songs. JTR “… a quite wonderful and unique voice that stands out from all the Nashville Soundalikes” Maverick
“They sing great and they play great, and they are wonderful people.” T-Bone Burnett
Rack Em Records RERCD001
Inspired by Ben Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues and stories from an older and wiser America, Adrienne Young’s music and politics have always gone hand in hand. Performing uplifting songs that could sit easily in the charts, her efforts to draw support and raise funds for various agricultural awareness programmes form a crucial part of her artistic output. As an organic farmer and environmentalist, land and nature form the emotional backdrop to many of her songs, with pilgrims and settlers featuring heavily in the conceptual imagery.
Of course the band themselves are no strangers to famed affiliation, containing one Amy Helm, daughter of Levon. But let it not be thought that they are trading on a name. Everything they have, and will achieve is not just deserving but selfmade. TD
Perhaps the antonym of the Nashville ‘hat’ country scene, the amazingly prolific Joe Ely returns with his 26th album. Opening with the snarling and sardonic comment on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina Baby Needs a New Pair Of Shoes he shows that he’s lost none of the grit he could well have picked up from his famed friendship with The Clash all those years ago. Inspired by his many years on the road, and accompanied by his new book of road journals Bonfire Of Roadmaps Ely delivers song after song of wry, cutting, mournful tales filled with lovelorn and desperate characters. In Ms Bonnie and Mr Clyde, he allows himself plenty of artistic licence; painting himself into that tragic love story in a fine example of one of his outlaw ballads. In So You Want To Be Rich he veers towards brass-led funk/R&B (with a country twang). Whether stomping country, slow blues or the Cajun love ballad of Little Blossom, he retains his own distinct voice throughout. TD “It’s good to know there are a few men whose idea of music, rhythm and poetry precludes the spearmint clichés that have become country music’s soul.” Rolling Stone
Ron Block Doorway Rounder ROUCD587
Block has spent well over a decade as a lynchpin of Alison Krauss And Union Station, contributing outstanding multiinstrumental work and many great songs. Having also had his songs recorded by Rhonda Vincent, Randy Travis he has finally turned his hand to a second solo album. Although assistance comes from Tyminski, bassist Barry Bales and Alison Krauss herself, this is not just a AKUS album by any other name. Singing in a sweet and unpretentious voice he displays more than just the ‘newgrass’ style with which he is synonymous, as shown on Along The Way and Be Assured. The title track has a dark quality that stands at odds with his voice but sounds all the better for it and the slow but driving Flame shows yet another side to this versatile songwriter. Though he makes no attempts to disguise his strong Christian beliefs, whether consciously or not he make you re-evaluate your idea of Christian music. Certainly a must for all Krauss fans, but an album steeped in faith for nonChristians as well. TD “Through his unmatched musical talent, this album gives us a window into who Ron Block really is.” Alison Krauss
Two venerable veterans of country unite and Colin Irwin raises the flag.
ne thing always guaranteed to make the heart flutter is the sound of two gnarled old legends getting their teeth into a crackling bunch of bruised old country songs. Think Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Merle Haggard and George Jones. Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson. In fact, Willie Nelson with anyone…
Prine is one of the true greats, a godfather of Americana who has written a long series of colourful, edgy classics… So the arrival of Standard Songs For Average People, a duo album involving John Prine and Mac Wiseman is indeed cause for celebration. Prine is one of the true greats, a godfather of Americana who has written a long series of colourful, edgy classics dating all the way back to the early 1970s and the likes of Hello In There (a harrowing song about getting old), Dear Abby (the perils of an agony aunt) and Sam Stone (the heartbreaking descent of a Vietnam vet into drug addiction). Epic story songs all, full of humour, tragedy and everyday life in all its gritty reality, but Prine’s work has also always been imbued with a natural empathy for the roots of country music (his grandfather had played with Merle Travis and Prine had been playing country songs himself from the age of 14). In 1998 we nearly lost him. Diagnosed with throat cancer, he was faced with a grim fight for life and even if he won the battle, the chances of him singing again looked slim. Yet Prine confounded everyone, not only by beating cancer but coming back in 1997 with an album of country covers In Spite Of Ourselves featuring duets with the likes of Iris DeMent and Lucinda Williams. The new gravelly inflections in his voice, which sound as if it is being massaged with sandpaper, have added immeasurably to the character of his music and the notion of an old gunslinger steeped in country tradition carrying his scars and bruises like a badge of honour.
Because, the Johnny Cash/Elvis chestnut I Forgot To Remember To Forget (once even covered by The Beatles), Kris Kristofferson’s Just The Other Side Of Nowhere and the old Bing Crosby standard Where The Blue Of The Night, not to mention material by Nashville legends Ernest Tubbs and Bob Wills – it carries echoes of Johnny Cash’s twilight American Recordings albums where the weight of his worldweary experiences effectively reinvented a series of old songs of almost hackneyed familiarity. The inclusion of Nashville studio greats Jack Clement on guitar/dobro and Lloyd Green on pedal steel adds to the warmth and credibility of what must be regarded as an extraordinary project. The album came out of casual conversations between the charismatic pair of old friends – Prine is 60 so their combined age is 142 – when they both wrote a list of the songs they’d like to sing irrespective of genre. After comparing the lists, Prine suggested they make an album together using some of those choices and the magical results are there for all to hear on Standard Songs For Average People, surely destined to become one of the
“This was one of the most pleasurable things I’ve ever done in a studio.” jewels in the crown of John Prine’s Oh-Boy label. Both say they had a grand old time making the album. Prine says it was an honour and a privilege to record with the still sprightly Wiseman, who says: “I’ve recorded over 600 songs and I’ve been in a lot of studios but this is a landmark. This was one of the most pleasurable things I’ve ever done in a studio.” CI
PHOTO: TAKEN FROM OFFICIAL WEBSITE - PHOTOGRAPHER NOT NOTED.
Team him up with Mac Wiseman, one of the grand old men of folk and bluegrass, and you really do have a duo to make you sit up and doff your caps. Wiseman is 82 now, but when that still surprisingly rich voice blends with Prine’s more rugged tones, you feel you want to stand to attention and salute. Here is a guy whose career began singing with Virginia guitarist Buddy Starcher and who spent most of the 1940s cutting his teeth with bluegrass legends Molly O’Day, Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs. He subsequently formed his own band and was widely adored for his melodic, tenor voice and his natural interpretations of a wide variety of country classics, though he only ever achieved one hit single – the entertainingly titled novelty track If I Had Johnny’s Cash and Charley’s Pride. He must have thought his singing days were over until Prine coaxed him out of retirement to duet with him on Standard Songs For Average People. On a shrewd mix of songs that have long been part of the American country psyche – Old Rugged Cross, the old Jim Reeves hit I Love You
Standard Songs For Average People Oh Boy OBR038
COUNTRY/AMERICANA reviews Reed Foehl Stoned Beautiful Red Parlour Entertainment RPRF0704
ANCHORED IN LOVE OUT 2ND JULY
A prolific songwriter, Foehl penned much of the material on the Acoustic Junction Fool’s Progress albums while still finding time to compose many songs not intended for the “band” repertoire. In 2001 Acoustic Junction split and Foehl launched into a full time solo career. The charismatic performer soon found a devoted audience turning out for his appearances at wellheeled venues in Boulder, Denver and Los Angeles. He has opened for a number of today’s noteworthy recording artists including Patty Griffin, Dave Matthews and most recently on several shows with Ray LaMontagne. Stoned Beautiful is composed of 11 stunning original songs, which are straight from the artist’s heart. As Reed himself states, “ I think it’s the first record that I’ve recorded that comes the closest to a true representation of my music and where I come from. There was a great vibe happening on these sessions. Although it’s a studio recording all the songs were basically live takes… there is no fancy cover up just the raw, real truth.” MG “He sings like he feels every note... Each song tells a story, all of which he relates astonishingly well.” The Boston Globe
David Olney One Tough Town Red Parlour Entertainment RPRD00705
SARAH BORGES OUT 18TH JUNE
CHRIS KNIGHT OUT 18TH JUNE
The prolific David Olney infuses his live performances with an intensity that converts many new listeners into diehard fans. Mr. Olney’s intelligent compositions radiate that same intensity and have earned him a place as one of the most respected singer-songwriters in the world today. On One Tough Town, Olney is at his acerbic best; he’s gnarly and edgy and yet there are songs that wouldn’t be out of place on a soundtrack. On repeated plays One Tough Town yields much more than a collection of great songs. The more you dig into this record the more rewarding it feels. This is easily one of the strongest Olney releases of recent times, if not in his career. David’s celebrity fan base is enormous. Some of the names to have recorded his songs include Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Del McCoury, Slaid Cleaves, Keiran Kane/Kevin Welch/Fats Kaplin among others. He has released 18 albums over four decades, including five live recordings, and continues to perform worldwide. MG “Townes Van Zandt, was once asked to name his favourite composers. He listed Mozart, Bob Dylan, Lightnin’ Hopkins and David Olney.” New York Times
Various Artists Anchored In Love – A Tribute To June Carter Cash Dualtone 80302012422
Compiled & produced by John Carter Cash in tribute to his mother’s rich musical legacy and timed to coincide with the biography of the same name, Anchored In Love is a star-studded celebration of country music’s much-loved wildwood flower.Featuring legends from the country constellation including Ralph Stanley, Loretta Lynn and Emmylou Harris, through to some familiar voices from the pop world such as Elvis Costello, this album provides a respectful memorial. From Sheryl Crow and Willie Nelson’s powerful, upbeat version of If I Were A Carpenter, to actor Billy Bob Thornton’s reading of Road To Kaintuck, the songs mainly stay faithful to the source although each artist invests a little of their own magic into the proceedings. The family is of course represented, as Carlene Carter joins Ronnie Dunn for a rousing run through Jackson while Roseanne Cash contributes a beautiful take on Wings Of Angels. A talented songwriter as well as interpreter, half of the 12 tracks here are June’s original compositions. Anchored In Love is an essential addition to any country aficionado’s collection, as well as a great introduction for newcomers. JTR “Anchored in Love captures the warmth and charm of June Carter Cash and is a fine tribute to a much loved artist.” CMP
Sarah Borges And The Broken Singles Diamonds In The Dark Sugar Hill SHCD4028
Sarah Borges’ debut for Sugar Hill, again backed by her band The Broken Singles, hits the ground running with the fiery The Day We Met. For this album the Paul Q Kolderie fills the producers chair, famed for working with everyone from the Pixies, Radiohead and Morphine to Warren Zevon and Boston, who not only helped create the beautifully thick sound throughout, but contributed percussion, clavinet and mellotron. Fusing hard rock and roll with country and confessional style vocals recalling the great female 60s singers of yore (the girl-group stomp of Stop And Think It Over), she mixes sweet melodies with solid and driving rhythm. Though there are obvious jumps in style, the Parton-famed country of False Eyelashes being one such example, while the minimalist backing of Belle Of The Bar , the changes just give an opportunity to showcase that voice. One of the highlights is a cover of X’s Come Back To Me who she sights as her favourite band, showing there is far more to her than the average country-rocking gal. SC “This is one performer nobody should miss — she’s the goods.” MSNBC
Chris Knight The Trailer Tapes Drifter’s Church DC0010
Constantly compared to Steve Earle and John Prine, Chris Knight has won a fanatical following over a relatively short career. So popular in Texas that they have claimed this Kentuckian as one of their own, he’s also lauded by the mainstream press for his educated and intelligent take on the form. Recorded back to the beginning in the summer of 1996, literally in a trailer and just before his debut on Decca, this album is Starker than any of his later work. Full of the anger, heartbreak, bitterness, sorrow, regret and murderous rage of a struggling, hungry and youthful talent, every song is powerful. Stripped down, Chris’ guitar drives and his vocals command attention for every syllable. He holds the audience fixed from Backwater Blues to the sadly ironic Move On all the way to My Only Prayer. These songs set the template for how he would carve out his uncompromising and extraordinary career. As Chris recalls “People talked about these tapes ever since I recorded them. To me they were rough and stark and I never thought they’d see the light of day. It took a while, but I’m proud of this record.” SC “Knight displays his keen ability to tell stories, creating imagery that makes it seem like he is living the song.” CMT
Oh Susanna Short Stories Continental Song City CSCCD1044
Coming a decade after her recorded debut, this new set weaves inspiration from the Susanna’s extended family with 20th Century American literature, matching universal themes of love and destiny. Common threads perhaps, but with her assured, emotive delivery and the excellent accompaniment of noted Canadian compatriots there is enough here to warrant a detailed, further exploration. There are lush moments and soul-laidbare intimacy. The string swell of Miss Liberty has a quiet epic quality that has soundtrack written right though it, while Pretty Penny is simply staged with banjo and guitar. Elsewhere there are echoes of The Band in Greyhound Bus. Given the literate and slightly elusive quality of her songs, it’s no surprise to find Dylan listed among many influences and she does an excellent job of Billy 4, a well chosen cover from the Pat Garrett… album that finds an echo in her own Three Shots. It’s produced by Susanna’s, husband and drummer Cam Giroux and Blue Rodeo bassist Bazil Donovan and each song is set to a deliberate musical framework, distinct and self contained, but then I guess the clue to this is in the title. SC “... she sounds like the missing link between Dolly Parton and Sinead O’Connor” Mojo
alison krauss With a new career spanning compilation Properganda lends an ear to Alison Krauss.
t is a truism that royalty do not earn their positions of authority but are given them. Perhaps the exception to prove the rule is A Hundred Miles Or More, a collection of duets, collaborations, rarities and unreleased tracks spanning the career of the queen of ‘newgrass’, Alison Krauss. It’s her fastest selling album in the UK so far, notching Rounder’s first Top 40 album chart placing, an achievement that puts ‘specialist’ music in the mainstream. If your knowledge of Alison Krauss and the resurgence of bluegrass and American roots music extends as far as the O Brother Where Art Thou?, then you better get yerself ready for some schoolin’. Over the last two decades, Alison Krauss has quietly become one of the biggest stars on the American music scene. She’s stayed true to her roots and never been one for the glitz of Nashville’s Rhinestone Row. It’s a philosophy that has paid dividends, netting 20 Grammy awards for her work as a singer, fiddle player, film and TV soundtrack writer and, increasingly, as a producer. Her career already spans two decades from her recording debut at the tender age of 14. In her own sweet way, she has kept the traditions alive while introducing just a little modern sophistication, bringing old sounds to new country listeners.
“I loved that feeling of loss. It means there was something huge to lose when there’s that sadness.”
PHOTO: RANDEE ST.NICHOLAS
Alison is quick to acknowledge her influences, citing the second generation of bluegrass as her jumping off point, “That is what I grew up with, you know Ricky Skaggs and I’d listen to a lot of Del McCoury and Tony Rice.” But she’s found her way back to the old timers and is particularly in awe of Charlie Louvin, “He’s written three of my favourite songs ever, songs that really kill me.” But these days she is widely credited with being at the forefront of her own bluegrass resurgence, teaching Nashville a few licks and tricks along the way.
A Hundred Miles Or More is a gorgeous collection of songs she has released outside of her usual collaboration with Union Station with 5 new songs added. Although the U.S. members are dotted throughout the credits, here the focus is different and more about Alison. Some of the songs are specific commissions, a challenge that she really enjoys. As she explains, “You complete something different that kind of stands on its own.” The challenge with this project comes in compiling a coherent album, for which Alison relies on her feelings, “I guess it’s more of a mood. So what’s the mood? When do I stop having a feeling of familiarity when I go through these tracks?” Showcasing her vocal collaborations over the past years, such as her guest spot on The Chieftains Molly Bán, there are tracks familiar and unfamiliar alike. All demonstrate her ability to invoke deep and powerful emotional responses in the listener. Alison recalls recording with the Chieftains as a challenge “It was a stretch, the melody of that tune has an interesting scale that I had never sung before. Paddy stood there singing me the melody. It’s second nature to him and I’m like ‘wait a minute will you sing that again, I have to learn that.’ It’s such a tragic tale. I loved that. I loved that feeling of loss. It means there was something huge to lose when there’s that sadness.” From the opening You’re Just A Country Boy, the first of two Don Williams covers, the songs collected on this album are connected by an overarching feeling of sorrow and melancholy, of mourning and remembrance. At the same time there is catharsis and redemption, although much seems hard won against the cruel hands of fate. The previously unreleased Jacobs Dream is a perfect example of how her beautiful voice weaves a tragic tale about missing children and the discovery of their bodies in the woods, due to the titular Jacob’s dream. It’s only Sawing On The Strings, recorded live at the CMT video music awards that bucks the trend, delivering Krauss’ high speed bluegrass fiddle and featuring Tony Rice in a high octane romp. Another instantly recognisable example of the power of her voice is Down To The River To Pray from the aforementioned O Brother… soundtrack. Supported by Gillian Welch and the First Baptist Church Choir of White House, Tennessee her voice shimmers with presence and perfection, it is never anything less than her song. Her other famed soundtrack work is also included here, with two tracks from Cold Mountain. On You Will Be My Ain True Love she duets with Sting, who wrote the track and the haunting The Scarlet Tide she delivers Elvis Costello and T-Bone Burnett’s bittersweet melody with tender grace.
A Hundred Miles Or More: A Collection Rounder ROUCD555
Alison is simply a wonderfully skilled interpreter of song, bluegrass or not and whatever its provenance. Labels are so limited in the face of the power of her voice. It is perhaps her greatest gift to be able to take you through emotional depths. Emerging, gulping at the lump in you throat you realise at once the truth of what you have and what you hold. Hail to the queen! SH
ROBIN MCKELLE OUT 2ND JULY
Mina Agossi Who Wants Love?
Robin McKelle Introducing
This recording was recently made at New York’s prestigious venue, The Jazz Standard. These two nights were part of Mina’s last US tour which saw her performing in Boston, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and of course New York. Like Mina’s previous Candid recordings Zaboum! and Well You Needn’t, this follows a similar format with its sparse instrumental bed.
Newcomer Robin McKelle’s debut album, is already a best seller in the USA and Europe. Produced by Willie Murillo (Brian Setzer Orchestra, Aimee Mann, LeAnn Rimes) lntroducing announces the arrival of the latest songbook interpreter. She possesses a remarkable voice; a soulinfused alto tinged with haunting echoes of the postwar jazz greats and when backed by a 19 piece big band, the results are naturally impressive.
“Working with bass (Eric Jacot) and drums (Ichiro Onoe) gives me the freedom to improvise as I wish, not bound by the chords on the piano”, Mina explains and it’s this freedom that allows her to display the entirely fresh and original style for which she is now widely known. Mina also had two guest New Yorkers, trumpet player Rob Henke and percussionist Daoud David Williams on stage with her at Jazz Standard. The greatest introduction to the Mina Agossi experience is to witness her perform live. Mina’s music has always been suited and to some extent, created for the live environment. Who Wants Love? beautifully captures the atmosphere and intimacy of Mina’s pioneering live performance. BS “a mesmeric talent” The Daily Telegraph “one of the most startlingly original voices in jazz today” Metro
Having shared stages with revered artists such as Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Terence Blanchard, and others, McKelle now assumes centre stage with a debut solo album that exuberantly broadens the boundaries of retro-swing. The CD successfully evokes the jazzy spirit of 40’s America, while retaining a contemporary edge that speaks of a new wartime. Working from a songbook that’s over 70 years old, McKelle and producer Murillo worked to invest the recordings with an “up-to-date relevance”. “As a younger jazz singer, I don’t feel like I could relate to the lyrics as much,” the singer says. “There’s so much going on in a song like For All We Know. You have to have loved and gone through those storms to be able to sing that song in a way that people will be touched by it.” Here in the UK McKelle has already won
the affection of legendary broadcaster Michael Parkinson who has been regularly showcasing tracks from the record on his increasingly popular BBC Radio 2 programme. TM “she’s got quite a set of pipes on her” David Bowie
Stacey Kent Collection II Candid CCD79997
The amazing success of artists like Diana Krall and Norah Jones, who interpret songs in straightforward styles bereft of vibrato and pomposity, is now being achieved with the same understated feeling of interplay between lyric and melody by Stacey Kent. The award winning ex-pat American is rapidly becoming the definitive voice of a genre. Importantly what Stacey doesn’t do to a song is almost as vital as what she does. By placing the art of singing in a perfect balance with the genius of the 11 writers whose songs she performs, Stacey has positioned herself at the forefront of a small group of singers who have caught the attention of mainstream media and to whom listeners are flocking in droves. Truly a stunning ascension of intuitive, intimate singing in a voice as singular as there is. BS “A voice as hard and bright as a diamond in sunlight” New York Times
THE EXCEPTIONAL CANDID VOCAL LIBRARY STACEY KENT: CCD79737 Close Your Eyes CCD79751 The Tender Trap CCD79764 Let Yourself Go CCD79775 Dreamsville CCD79786 In Love Again CCD79797 The Boy Next Door CCD79999 Collection I MONICA VASCONCELOS: CCD79791 Oferenda with NOIS 4: CCD79779 Born Dia CCD79784 Gente MISHKA ADAMS: CCD79799 God Bless The Child JACQUI DANKWORTH: CCD79788 As the Sun Shines Down On Me CCD79796 Detour Ahead JAMIE CULLUM: CCD79782 Pointless Nostalgic
CLARE TEAL: CCD79767 That’s The Way It Is CCD79783 Orsino’s Songs CCD79794 The Road Less Travelled MINA AGOSSI: CCD79800 Zaboum! CCD79841 Well You Needn’t CCD79855 Who Wants Love? ROBIN McKELLE: CCD79996 Introducing LEEE JOHN: CCD79787 Feel My Soul CORMAC KENEVEY: CCD79846 This is Living CATHERINE TUTTLE: ZOCD78505 What They Will Find?
The BBC’s annual event gives cause to celebrate the state of jazz…
As you cast your eye over these pages, the final list of nominations for this year’s BBC Jazz Awards will have been made public at the launch event in Soho, the epicentre of the Capital’s jazz scene. As always, some will feel vindicated, even elated and some will neglected or unjustly overlooked. After all awards are rarely perfect and as much as anything give pause for reflection and thought. It seems unfair to name an album or a player superior, even when comparing like with like and the truth of jazz is that like and like are rarely there for comparison. Take for example two contenders for the public vote, the Neil Cowley Trio’s Displaced and Tom Cawley’s Hidden. Both are albums made by piano trios, but the listening experience couldn’t be more different. So before the gongs are duly dished and the champers finally fogs the celebrations, we thought a little delving beneath the surface was warranted. Firstly there’s the excellent, official compilation of the runners and riders on Specific Jazz (SPEC007). The double disc once again highlights the wealth of talent coming under the critical gaze of peers and public and it’s both cracking good value and a great overview of jazz in its own right. While last year’s set divided neatly into a disc of vocal and a disc of instrumental jazz, that simply isn’t possible this time around, demonstrating what a moveable feast jazz is. Indeed, last year we explored the state of jazz, as other commentators also lined up to praise the variety of approaches loosely associated under its umbrella. The lack of one clear path or overriding style may seem confusing, but there is enough bright young talent making the journey, whichever route they chose to follow.
We suspect that if anything, the scene is even more diffuse, so we sought some expert opinion. When it comes to awards, Jazzwise magazine are recent winners in both the Ronnie Scott’s and Parliamentary jazz awards ‘best magazine’ categories. At the same time, Properganda contributor, Jazzwise regular and noted author Stuart Nicholson was also individually lauded as journalist of the year at the Paliamentary awards. You can read his latest piece for us on Led Bib and Fraud on page 19. “Currently the new jazz scene in the UK and Europe is the hottest it’s been in decades” Talking to Jon Newey who has helmed Jazzwise over its 10 year rise to the top of UK monthly jazz coverage, it’s clear he’s excited by what is going on. “Currently the new jazz scene in the UK and Europe is the hottest it’s been in decades and is leading the way in innovation, imagination and excitement. Breakthrough groups such as Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear have opened the door for newcomers such as Fraud and Led Bib who in turn are inspiring other new groups to come forward”. Jon further cites a groundswell of new blood choosing jazz, “There are more young people turning on to jazz, studying jazz and playing jazz than ever before with a huge increase in the number of jazz courses available at universities and colleges.” It’s a theme that Stuart Nicholson has expanded on in his sixth book, Is Jazz Dead? Or Has It Moved To A New Address. The thesis at the heart of the book goes some way to putting the British jazz resurgence in a global context, as Stuart explains, “These are exciting times for jazz. Not only is there a buzz of excitement across the UK scene but also across Europe, where a belief is widely held among European jazz musicians, promoters and audiences that the evolutionary zeal that had carried American jazz forward for almost a century had now burnt itself out, and that task of carrying the music forward has crossed the Atlantic to Europe.” “... that task of carrying the music forward has crossed the Atlantic to Europe.” He compares this to the birthplace of jazz and concludes, “The main area of American jazz has become conservative because of a growing realisation there is much to conserve. But with this preoccupation with its wonderful jazz legacy has come a failure to acknowledge the music had become so big it had finally outgrown its country of birth and that its stewardship is no longer an exclusive American preserve. During the last decade the hitherto unimagined possibility of the vanguard of jazz, its cutting edge, no longer resting in its country of origin but moving to Europe has become a reality. The UK is very much a part of these exciting developments as a new era of jazz history opens.”
OUT 9TH JULY
So, here we stand on the threshold. Even a cursory sample of the award nominees reveals music that can be exhilarating, tranquil, epic, intimate, angular, beautiful, cinematic, reverential, but in all cases challenging. If that sounds a little scary, then the stiffest challenge that you actually face is putting aside your preconceptions and simultaneously opening your ears. The least we can do is offer a couple of signposts to get you on your way.
Neil Cowley Cowley is quite open about his influences and the journey that has brought him to the jazz piano trio outing of Displaced. But this is a tale of journeys end: the masterful piano and the chemistry that cooks with bass and drums. There are huge chording trance, skittish pauses, drama and tunes. Yes tunes too, and plenty of them! No wonder the critics frothed and foamed.
Finn Peters Most instantly recognisable as a classic instrumental quintet, Finn Peter’s Finn-tet deliver Su-Ling. But this is no hard-bop retread. Finn, who is equally at ease playing anything from hip-hop, dance, classical or jazz, has become one of the finest flautists and alto sax players in the UK today. He’s circled back to his first love of jazz, and returns to his roots with this stylish, largely acoustic jazz debut that has Gilles Peterson hot under the collar.
Fraud Critics have referred to Fraud as “exotic”, “thrilling” and “intrepid”. “Sounds like Frank Zappa meets Joe Zawinul... It’s what the phrase cutting edge was invented for, and a very impressive debut.” The Guardian. For a fuller appreciation, read Stuart Nicholson’s piece on page 19.
Tom Arthurs Tom Arthurs’ Centripede are part of London’s F-ire collective, and the eponymous CD is influenced by the dance rhythms of global music: from Africa to Eastern Europe, contemporary classical and electronica. Tom has also recently released the contrasting Mesmer, with pianist Richard Fairhurst on which, the duo conjure some reflective, cinematic music, shimmering with intellect and restraint, but paradoxically free and naturally flowing.
Abram Wilson Abram Wilson throws a narrative thread, populated with distinct voices in a work that echoes label mate Soweto Kinch. “Wilson handles his narrative and melodic themes with huge confidence and generous musical heart.” The Guardian. Both find a distinct approach. Wilson’s album gets a fuller critique on page 18.
Soweto Kinch Kinch is already a multi award winning talent recognised on both sides of the Atlantic. The ...B19... album is dense, brooding and complex and builds on his collision of ‘proper’ jazz and hiphop. The album brings the two genres closer than ever into a meaningful third art form and showcases Kinch not only as a cutting edge jazz player but also as a leading narrative rap artist. Label mate Wilson is one of the guests to augment Soweto’s stellar quartet.
Partisans Julian Siegel (sax) is another nominee. For an example of his prowess, look no further than the excellent Partisans’ album Max, where the power quartet is driven into frenzy with Jim Watson’s Hammond. This band’s ferociously energetic performances live and on record have become the stuff of legend, the music effortlessly bridging the gaps between New York swing, rock and the US jam/groove band scene.
Liam Noble Liam’s last album, Romance Among The Fishes, is another keyboard led instrumental feast. Oxford graduate Noble is very highly regarded and he has proved adept at both free improvisation and accompaniment, sitting in with the likes of Anita Wardell. …Fishes… pairs him with guitarist Phil Robson and the two oftendouble up playing the same lines, as Noble explains he likes “the shimmering wobbliness of the sound.”
Gwilym Simcock One to watch out for, the debut album is due out on Basho in the autumn. Gwilym is already gathering rave notices as an exceptional keyboard player and composer, treading the lines between classical and jazz and drawing comparisons with Keith Jarrett. He’s already picked up ‘Jazz Musician Of The Year’ at the Parliamentary awards and been chosen by Radio 3 as their first ever ‘New Generations’ jazz artist. SH
JAZZ reviews Abram Wilson Ride! Ferris Wheel To The Modern Day Delta Dune DUNECD016
Arkansas-born, New Orleans-trained and currently London-based, Abram Wilson’s musical pedigree spans a multitude of styles other jazz artists have dabbled in but none have woven together with the verve and coherence of Ride! only his second album and follow up to 2004’s award-winning debut Jazz Warrior. Wilson’s dextrous trumpet solos and ambitious vocal stylings – part rapping, part singing while skipping between different characters - are well to the fore here, but this is no vanity project. He’s only ever guilty of hogging the limelight in his capacity as composer and arranger for his exuberant 10-piece ensemble. Based around the story of Albert, a hungry young musician desperate to escape a life running his family’s jazz club business, Wilson’s narrative uses a wide stylistic palette to evoke the different ages of music and cultural baggage of the story’s central characters. An old-school ragtime guitar romp accompanies Albert’s grandfather’s voice of delta experience in Life Ain’t So Bad, while the temptation of a heady life on the road with a modern group is heralded at points by a clipped, funky brass approximation of hip-hop style cut-and-paste textures. Often the music takes over the storytelling completely as on Blow To The Head, where violent horns punch out without warning. Gonna Be Alright is a wicked cocktail of saucy burlesque and Princestyle lewdness, where the instrumentation alone leaves little to the imagination! Inevitably it all goes pear-shaped, although Wilson’s cautionary tale is not quite a modern moral parable. More, it’s his acknowledgement of the priority of family, music and heritage when weighed against the alluring façade and cut-throat world of celebrity, and the fleeting rewards of personal gain. Although it’s not directly referenced on the record, the effect of hurricane Katrina can’t be ignored on an album by an ex-New Orleans resident, and its tidemark is ever present. Finale After The Storm musically ties together a host of aspects of the Crescent City’s musical legacy, starting with a lamenting blues riff, taking in dixieland, funky R&B and building to a determined, positive climax. This is a stirring, optimistic tribute and a forward-thinking, imaginative piece of work. JTR “keeping jazz young and reaching out to a new audience” Jazzwise “Truly astonishing… a definite hot ticket” The Independent
Billy Bang Quintet Featuring Frank Lowe Above & Beyond: An Evening In The Grand Rapids
Keith Nichols’ Jazz Artists & Northern Sinfonia Tribute To Paul Whiteman Lake LACD245
Justin Time JUST208
The life of violinist Billy Bang has been nothing short of incredible, from playing with school friend Arlo Guthrie to radicalisation through surviving the Vietnam war, then returning to pick up the pieces of jazz shattered by greats such as Coltrane and Coleman. Continuing the genre’s evolution towards the abstract through his work with Sun Ra, Don Cherry and his own Survival Ensemble, Bang eventually became one of the genre’s leading lights. But, as heavy a presence as he has here, this record belongs to Frank Lowe. Released as a promise to the saxophonist on his deathbed, this album was recorded on an earlier tour. Amazingly, losing a lung doesn’t seem to have tempered Lowe’s famed fire even slightly. On Silent Observation, the albums 18minute opening track, he produces unnatural tones and notes ghosted by Billy Bang’s violin before disappearing into an ether of atmospheric string noise and exploding again into its opening refrain. Supported by drummer Tatsya Nakatani (laying down breakbeats at one point), this album is an enduring legacy to a talented musician and a great partnership. TM www.myspace.com/billybangartist www.justin-time.com
Jeri Brown New Wonderland: The Best Of Jeri Brown Justin Time JUST223
Jeri Brown’s track record is something of wonderment. On top of being an internationally renowned jazz vocalist and improviser, composer, label owner and leader of her own inventive classical/ Folk/Jazz collective, she has almost as many ‘extra curricular’ achievements to her name. She’s a civil rights activist, holds degrees in Counselling, Education and English and has set up her own nonprofit artist collective organisation… She musically puts her mark on all of these 13 songs, collected from 16 years of solo albums. Whether covers like the Nat King Cole classic Orange Colored Sky or her own songs such as New Wonderland and the acid-jazz like Fresh Start she displays the improvisational style for which she is famed. Her voice slips around the soft piano work, jumping from sultry to histrionic, words to noises in seconds. A great introduction to a fantastic talent who has received acclaim from everyone from Rufus Reid to the late Jimmy Rowles, who’s Old Orleans is featured here. TM “Brown’s voice is a true marvel, seemingly boundless in its range, resourcefulness and daring” Washington Post
Recorded live at a sold out concert at The Sage Gateshead in the summer of 2006, with over 20 musicians on stage dedicated to re-crating the magic of Paul Whiteman, this album captures that evening perfectly.
Paul Whiteman was dedicated to combining the classical and jazz worlds and featured such great jazz and popular artists as Bing Crosby, Bunny Berigan, Tommy Dorsey, Jack Teagarden and, most of all, the incomparable Bix Beiderbeck. On this recording Andy Woon takes the role of Bix and his solos throughout are a perfect reflection of the bell-like tone and mellifluous phrasing of his idol. To hear all these musicians actually playing Whiteman’s lush complex arrangements in a concert hall with such outstanding acoustics as The Sage is an experience for which no vintage recording can prepare you. There have been previous tributes to Paul Whiteman but it is generally believed, by those lucky enough to have been present, that this is the most successful. You can now join those privileged fans. BS
BILLY BANG QUINTET
“One of the foremost authorities on classic jazz piano styles” Bill Oddie at the 2004 BBC Jazz Awards.
Chris Laurence Quartet New View Basho SRCD182
This first recording under his own name has been a long time coming but is well worth the wait. Chris, now 58, has played with just about everybody from Sarah Vaughan, Joe Williams and Johnny Mathis, to John Surman, Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor, and was for years principal double bass with the Academy of St Martins in the Fields. This glorious album, which is sometimes reminiscent of the wondrous Gary Burton, features a band to die for. Apart from the sonorous woody sound of Chris’s double bass you can wallow in the almost telepathic interplay of Frank Ricotti’s vibes and John Parricelli’s guitar, supported by the dynamic and sensitive drumming of Martin France. There is also the not inconsiderable bonus of two tracks with vocals by the peerless Norma Winstone, still showing wannabe jazz singers how it’s done. This, then, is an album of great beauty and sensitivity but with a steely spine that can only be supplied by great jazz players at the top of their game. BS “A genuine delight” Jazzwise
CHRIS LAURENCE QUARTET
fraud and led bib Author and award winning Jazzwise regular Stuart Nicholson gets to the heart of the new wave of jazz, but is it punk?
hank goodness there’re bands still out there making the world safe for dangerous music. Fraud and Led Bib are two London based groups who are connecting with young audiences who don’t like their music to come plainly labelled or in neat packages. There’s a buzz about them that’s not gone unnoticed in the mainstream press who rave about their “punk-jazz” style (Time Out) that’s “deliciously uncivil” (Observer Music Monthly) and “non-conformist” (Metro).
In fact, references to punk-jazz crop up quite frequently in reviews, but given how, well, sophisticated some of their music can be, does invoking the Spirit of 77 – The Clash, the Sex Pistols and all that – really describe what these bands are about? “No,” says James Allsopp, co-leader with Tim Giles of Fraud. “I feel it’s a loaded description.”
PHOTO: LED BIB - MATT CROSSICK, FRAUD - SUPPLIED BY SEB & FIONA
Equally, Mark Holub, the American ex-pat drummer/ composer and leader of Led Bib feels much the same, “I’d hardly say that you’d listen to a Led Bib or a Fraud record and say, ‘That sounds like the Sex Pistols.’ Nothing against the Sex Pistols but I surely wouldn’t say they are an influence, so the term ‘punk’ is limiting. People are hearing one thing – because we play loud we’re not jazz, we’re ‘punk jazz’!”
Fraud are fascinated by evolving, shifting textures and moods through which they weave sinuous and sometimes powerful improvisations. The track Linctus on their new album is good example, “It’s a piece that ended up turning into a weird blues because I had a scale that I could make lots of strange disconnected blues phrases from,” says Allsopp. Equally, Led Bib’s intriguing instrumental interplay and catchy but effective melody lines, use conventional means to arrive at unconventional ends on their new album Sizewell Tea. Check out Stinging Nettle, Spring and Chocky for a taster of how powerful, but diverse, their supercharged concerts can be. “Everyone comes from a different musical background,” explains Holub. “Something I tried to do as a group was get all that to come to the fore. For me, that is what modern jazz is about, bringing together different influences under one banner that is the band.” It’s an ethos that is echoes by Fraud, “We’re happy to be called jazz,” says Allsopp. “Provided it’s jazz in the tradition of being something that takes elements of things that you like and tries to make something different out of them.”
Certainly there’s no shortage of energy, with Led Bib powered by Holub’s hyper-kinetic drumming and Fraud boasting two drummers in Tim Giles and Ben Reynolds. But there’s much more to their music than powerful rhythms. “Our new album is called Fraud and on it we show the quiet parts and those things are just as important as the loud bits,” says James Allsopp.
Totally different but united by a fresh excitement that is blowing through the UK jazz scene following the success of bands like Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear, Fraud and Led Bib are products of their time. It’s music that’s finding new young audiences who are not much interested in jazz but are nevertheless musically curious and want something new and fresh.
As if to underline the point, they insist they’re also fans of film music and the atmospheric moods they can evoke. “‘Glasses is a very quiet piece,” Allsopp says of one track on their new album. “We started with Tim making samples for his electronic drum pad of wine glasses with different amounts of water in them, and they fitted into a little scale then I made a melody to go with that and the whole piece is just this kind of incredibly eerie texture.”
“We’re getting into some venues that are not specifically jazz venues,” says Allsopp. “The music seems to go down well with people who just want to listen to some interesting music. The number of people who have come up after gigs who were brought by someone else and come up and say, ‘I don’t like jazz but I really enjoyed that’ is quite amazing!” As Mark Holub says, “A lot of people today want music that’s a bit different and we’re certainly that! It’s just the beginning.” SN
OUT 2ND JULY
“A lot of people today want music that’s a bit different and we’re certainly that! It’s just the beginning.” Properganda 6
Folk rising A timeley repost to those that think folk music is a dying art... the under 30s have their say.
lways one of best parts of the annual BBC Folk Awards is the Horizon category – a sort of politically correct way of naming a best newcomer. And its had an impressive strike rate: Previous winners Julie Fowlis, Karine Polwart, Jim Moray, Spiers & Boden and Cara Dillon were joined this year by undoubted future star Kris Drever. As you’d expect with this sort of lineup, other artists who made the nominees but failed to take the prize are also quite good: This year’s multi winner Seth Lakeman for one. So welcome to Folk Rising. A fairly unoriginal title yes, but the theory is that it goes beyond the four nominees for the Horizon award and showcases the best talent who meet the criteria of being a) under 30 and b) basically of the folk tradition. Balancing normal folk sensibilities it also draws from all corners of these Isles, from the far South West to Shetland via Ireland, Wales, Essex, Teeside and many more. Compiled by the same people that bring you the Folk Awards compilation CD each year, it’s a perfect reposte to those who continue to think this music is a dying art. Some names you’ll know: Tim van Eyken and Devil’s Interval have already adorned the front covers of magazines. Others you may know by association: Jackie Oates, Ella Edmondson and Jenna for example. Teada along with duos Kipling & O’Kane and Megson are already carving out a profile, John Smith too in his recent support slots for John Martyn. But known or otherwise, across all 14 tracks this is a winning concept that has produced a delightful and surprising album. Move on up. Your cut out & keep guide to the future runs like this: Studying Economy The tradition gets a kick along. Nominated for this years Horizon award, but this is the best recommendation: “Three musicians utterly committed to singing the traditional songs of these islands with an obvious enjoyment of the music and a pride in their own abilities as musicians.” - Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy
Tim van Eyken Gypsy Maid One of the better known young folk artists but one whose debut solo Stiffs Lovers Holymen Thieves would surely have won a hatful at this years Folk Awards if it wasn’t for Mr. Lakeman. Fishing With Calum Multi-talented duo whose second album Box On was enough to get them onto the Horizon nominations this year alongside the Devil’s Interval.
Shona Kipling & Damien O’Kane
Banks of Dee No Horizon nomination yet but then member David Delarre did reach the final of the Young Folk Awards. Stylish and contemporary but they didn’t rush into making their first album Fair Essex and it’s been worth the wait.
Dod Dy Law From the Llyn peninsula in north-west Wales, Gwenan is at the forefront of the emerging Welsh folk scene, mixing Eisteddford class celtic harp playing with traditional tunes. Could do for Wales what native language singers have recently done in Scotland and Ireland.
Lavender’s Blue Simple but breathtaking take on the famous song. The self titled debut album, produced by Phil Beer was one of Mojo magazine’s top 10 folk albums of last year.
Marie’s Tune Another harp tune this time on the classic clarsach traditional instrument. Her album Hubcaps And Potholes is a trip through the Gaelic music landscape.
Breathe Gorgeous original acoustic song from the Dartmoor based Edmondson. And with production and vocal assistance from John McCusker and Kate Rusby who’s surprised?
Polcai / Ta Dha Ghabhairin Bhui Agam A quintet from Ireland, Teada have already established themselves as one of the busiest touring acts in the traditional music scene. The tunes may be traditional but the playing is contemporary.
Graham’s Delight A previous Young Folk Award winner, this is stunning fiddle playing, spellbinding and starkly beautiful.
Hangin’ Around At only 18, Jenna has a wealth of experience including collaborations with Show of Hands and Seth Lakeman which results in a remarkably mature style & performance. One to watch…
Bold Young Folk Award finalists. Midlands based quartet of whom fellow Rising artist Tim Van Eyken accurately says: “The tradition is safe in their hands; but not too safe!”
Axe Mountain Awesome performer who has already appeared alongside John Renbourn, John Martyn, Martin Simpson, Jools Holland and Cara Dillon. His fast paced original guitar playing has enchanted them all. Even the NME loves him! SK
Follow It On Stu Hanna & Debbie Palmer hail originally from Teeside – their new album Smoke Of Home is featured elsewhere this issue. A beautiful original song.
Folk Rising Proper PROPERFOLK04
OUT 16th July
free reed records “I think it looks like Wayne” Neil Wayne that is, the man with a mission. Nigel Schofield explores 30 yearsREED: of Free“IReed. FREE think it looks like Wayne”
ree Reed Records…”the little in the red record label”…. has been around, off and on, for three and a half decades. In that time, it has released records ranging from the specialist to the exceedingly popular, from the deeply traditional to the radically groundbreaking, from folk’s biggest names to the tradition’s great unknowns. The label has heard the term ‘commercial suicide’ applied to its projects so often that it sometimes seemed like a positioning statement! Yet, boldly going ahead where others were reaching for the proverbial bargepole has resulted in a catalogue containing some of folk’s most significant releases, culminating in the Revival Masters series of massive box-sets, of which the head of one major company has said “redefined the benchmarks in the art of the box set.” The Music Industry has a long history of record labels based on the vision of one man: Ralph Peer’s work for Victor, Sam Phillips at Sun, Berry Gordy and Motown. In the case of Free Reed, that man is Neil Wayne. A concertina enthusiast from his days at university, in 1973 he embarked on two major collecting projects in collaboration with Bill Leader and Topic Records respectively: these resulted in the now-legendary Clare Concertina collections, now being released on CD for the first time as The Clare Set, due to demand from devotees of traditional playing. For the increasing company of fans of Irish traditional playing, these albums represent the root and source of the current revival.
Free Reed has always believed in quality over commercialism and talent over fame. This was another string to the bow (or should that be button to the concertina?) of a man who had pioneered remarkable innovations in the sale of folk music in Britain; mail order, complete catalogue stock, regular newsletters free of label bias or influence, independent buyer’s guides to releases in particular genres etc.
poet Les Barker were among those who made their vinyl debut on the label.) It reflected what was happening on the live music with releases by the likes of Flowers and Frolics, the wonderful Michael Hebbert, and Tufty Swift. It captured (genuinely ‘before it was too late’) great names of historic concertina-playing and traditional song like Tommy Williams, Micho Russell and Gordon Cutty. The vinyl catalogue of Free Reed provides a totally representative cross-section of the best of what was happening on the English folk music scene in the late seventies. Those hugely prized and important albums, now reissued in extended and enhanced digitally-remastered versions on CD, would be sufficient laurels on which to rest. But new technologies bring new challenges and Free Reed was the first label to see that the box set format was just as suited to folk music as it was to other more commercial genres. Enter Nigel Schofield, ex-Head of Music and folk presenter at Pennine Radio in Bradford. Responding to Nigel’s offer of some unreleased Peter Bellamy recordings, Neil made an instant decision to invite him to collaborate on future projects. This led to the breath-taking series of criticallyacclaimed and award winning box sets, tracing the careers of artists like Martin Carthy, Richard Thompson, Fairport Convention and Dave Swarbrick. This June’s release of the Steve Tilston Box-set carries on the great work. Free Reed has always believed in quality over commercialism and talent over fame. Many of the label’s releases would never have seen the light of day with other companies, yet even some of the companies who refused them were glad that someone had had the courage of their convictions and put out albums whose importance went beyond money-making. To borrow a phrase from John F Kennedy: Free Reed did not look at an ambitious project or an unknown performer and say “Why?”; it looked at a challenge and said “Why not?” NS
Always one to learn from experience, Neil transformed what he had learned through the production of that series of Clare concertina albums to expand his record sales business and take independent control of his own releases, launching with a whopping block release of eight albums! Yet again the doom-sayers wheeled out the ‘commercial suicide’ cliché. In the three years that Free Reed were producing vinyl albums, the label included releases by established names (Bellamy, Kirkpatrick, The Dransfields) and those new performers that it felt were important (The Old Swan Band, Tony Hall and folk
WORLD reviews Pablo Ziegler- Quique Sinesi with Walter Castro Buenos Aires Report Saphrane S62601
After the death of the Astor Piazzola 15 years ago Pablo Zeigler has taken his position as the rightful successor to the “El Gran Ástor” and the leading exponent of Nuevo Tango. The album starts with Buenos Aires Report, which lurches into sudden, angular action, lead by Ziegler’s famed cold and metallic piano work. Sounding like a tango written for a chase scene in a shocking art house movie, this is not the sort of music you take dance lessons in a community hall for. Midway through Quique Sinesi emerges from the background and tears into his guitar like an unleashed demon, showing exactly why he gets equal billing on this recording. Pájaro Ángel is a more sober and sensitive affair, instruments dance giving each other space. So the stage is set for rest of the album, which jumps between beautiful and menacing. Ending on a gorgeous Piazzola tune Libertango, paying tribute to their spiritual father, the trio finish as strongly as they started on this alternately sublime and sinister album. TM
Bole 2 Harlem Volume 1
Chingon Mexican Spaghetti Western
World Connection WC43063
Continental Song City CSCCD1043
Bole is the entry point to Ethiopia, Harlem the entry point for contemporary African culture in the US and this funky new project aims to build a musical bridge between the two. Maki Siraj (vocals) and multi-instrumentalist David “Ashagre” Schommer, have fashioned a many layered sound with beats, vocal chants, raps, percussion and imaginative instrumentation weaving around each other.
Best known as the maverick director of action films Desperado, From Dusk ‘Til Dawn & Once Upon A Time In Mexico, Robert Rodriguez is also a talented composer, scoring the soundtracks to his own films as well as those of others’, including Quentin Tarantino.
Traditional Ethiopian melodies and rhythms are a jumping off point for a sound they call ‘World Flow’, taking in hip-hop, reggae, jazz, Latin American and African flavours. One minute they’re exploring the connection between the musics of East Africa and Brazil and the next there’s a Senegalese kora harp and tama drums rippling across the familiar shoulder-shaking Ethiopian grooves and sweet, soulful vocals. However esoteric the sound gets, there’s a hard rhythmic pulse at the heart of each track. Rest assured, there’s never any danger of vapid New Age-iness spoiling this dance-floor friendly, boundary-busting gem! JR
“These guys know how to fan the flames. The heat they generated was intense. And what they created was pure delight.” NY Jazz Report
“The exuberant title track is a slyly confident masterpiece— Bole 2 Harlem… put a tight, funky new uptown spin on Ethiopian modalities.” Sing Out!
Transglobal Underground Moonshout
Quadro Nuevo Tango Bitter Sweet
Even lesser known is his talent as a guitarist and songwriter, but that’s all set to change with this, the first album from his storming mariachi/rock band Chingon, a group with all the sweep and drama of an Ennio Morricone score mixed with the power and punch of a stadium encore.Featuring mostly original film compositions, re-worked for an electric line-up, and with guest appearances from Austin legends Del Castillo and actress Salma Hayek, this is an album that truly merits the term ‘widescreen’. An artist with a wild imagination and a passion for cultural cross-fertilization, Rodriguez employs dynamic vocals, astonishing flamenco/rock guitar fretwork and an over-the-top grandeur to conjure up the Mexican landscape and broadreaching appeal of his film world. JTR
A Moving Sound AMS2CD
17 years and 7 albums into their career and TGU, the original global dancefloor fusionists, are as fresh and sweaty as ever. If their ethno-techno mix doesn’t sound as original as it did back in the early 90s, that’s only because they’ve spawned a whole army of imitators.
“Our songs- are they sad or bright? Sometimes they’re both… Sometimes they conform to the mood of the moment”And so Quadro Nuevo sum up their bittersweet sound. Clearly informed by Piazzola and the wave of Nuevo Tango that came in his wake, they take a more traditional approach, they promote tango as an international and timeless music. Although the core line up is sax/clarinet, accordion, guitar and stand up bass, having an arsenal of instruments, from Vibrandoneons to bass clarinets adds great colour.
Shen Don, or A Moving Sound is a Taiwanese-based musical collective and performance company who specialise in a fusion of Chinese and Taiwanese music played on both traditional and western instruments. Lead by singer/dancer/poet Mia Hsieh and multi-instrumentalist/ songwriter/producer Scott Prairie, they show why they should be considered a company rather than a band. Like a score to a play, Market Song explodes with frenetic action, creating a sonic picture that encapsulates the hustle and bustle of an Asian market place. Halfway though there is even an argument between singer and chorus, highlighting their theatrical influence.
Guitars bubble happily in a minor key, maintaining that tinge of sadness in their exuberance; pianos flit between soft and menacing; accordions lurch and slide.. One of the standout tracks amongst these originals, covers, rearrangements and reinterpretations is Gloomy Sunday, which adds an atmosphere of menace to this already beautifully tragic song. Not for nothing is this also known as The Hungarian Suicide song. As they point out- the tango is a sad thought that can be danced away. TM
Western influences run throughout, with acoustic guitars playing an unmistakably blues rock riff on Interplanetary Heart. Classical Indian drones underpin Ganesh, widening the influences into a seamless whole. Ku-Chin is sublime, sounding like a Taiwanese Arab Strap, with Mia singing an ancient poem over a minimalist backing that promises to draw a shiver from even the most reluctant of spines. In short, this is an outstanding album that delivers interesting, inventive and exciting world music. TM
“Quadro Nuevo plays with the intensity and fullness of a group twice its size.” jazzreview.com
“One of the most original outfits working in world music today” Tom Pryor, NationalGeographic.com
“... finds them on inventive form.” The Guardian
BOLE 2 HARLEM OUT 18TH JUNE
A Moving Sound Songs Beyond Words
Justin Time JTR8530
Original Transglobal vocalist Natacha Atlas returns to lend her distinctive Middle Eastern wail to Awal, the criminally underrated Doreen Thobekile adds Zulu soul to Cape Thunder and the beautiful Spice Garden features traditional Bulgarian singer Yanka Rupkina, whilst a trio of closing tracks marry mutant rock ‘n’ roll/Bo Diddley beats to the sounds of Bollywood and beyond. Who else would try such an audacious mix and make it work so well? JR
Mule Satellite MUL04
Recorded in London, Paris, Sofia, Prague, Budapest and Lisbon, it features the core of Tim Whelan (guitar/keyboards), drummer Hamid Mantu, vocalist TUUP, Sheema Mukhergee (sitar/bass), plus percussionists Gurjit Sirha and Ravinder Neiyyar. Together they create a kaleidoscope effect as their sound moves through dirty London dancehall to blissed-out Bombay beats, via Balkan melodies and South African funk.
PABLO ZIEGLER QUIQUE SINESI WITH WALTER CASTRO
CHINGON OUT 2ND JULT
A MOVING SOUND
Jez Lowe Jez Lowe talks us through the writing and recording process, Colin Irwin makes notes.
t was a hell of an experience. It was tough. I had sleepless nights and everything…” Jez Lowe isn’t the sort of character who you’d imagine having sleepless nights about ANYTHING, but it’s strange what music can do…especially when you let someone else get their hands on your songs.
In what now astonishingly clocks in at a 27-year career involving 14 albums, the affable Jez Lowe found that even his famously laid-back feathers were ruffled during the recording of his new album Jack Common’s Anthem at Phil Beer’s Riverside Studio in Exeter. Jez had met Steve Knightley of Show Of Hands at the previous year’s BBC Folk Awards and, long into the night when both parties were feeling no pain, Jez asked Steve to produce his next album. When their paths crossed again at Canada’s Edmonton Folk Festival later they sealed the deal.
Add in an outlaw ballad (Will Of The People), a tribute to poet Seamus Heaney (Heaney’s Finger) and a call for social unity (A Few Frontiers) and you have a deeply impressive album. Lowe’s songs are shrouded in such irresistible melodies that they are prime fodder for cover versions – Taking On Men has already been recorded by Bob Fox – but not all covers are as satisfying, however. Jez has particularly uncomfortable memories of one of his more left wing songs Old Bones being radically adapted by an American singer, who changed the lyrics to turn it into a breast-beating pro-George Bush rallying call. “The only lyric he didn’t change was the chorus. He gave me a CDR of it when I played in North Carolina and I didn’t listen to it until I got home. I called him straight away and managed to stop him in time. He was really upset that I didn’t want him to release it!
Knightley insisted on complete control in the studio and Jez, who’d always produced his own records, found himself suddenly protective of his new material. “I suppose it’s a bit like Bob Dylan letting Daniel Lanois produce his album and put his own sound on it,” says Jez, laughing as he realises how pompous that must sound. “Steve and I never fell out, though we did have a few head to heads. He’d say ‘do it in a different key, change the tempo, drop the chorus’ and things like that and I did find that difficult. But he really got into the songs, which is a great compliment coming from another songwriter… Steve did a great job and I love the album. I think it harks back to my older style but with the Show of Hands touch so it’s got that sparkle to it. It’s like the North East meets the South West!” The son of a Durham miner from Easington – a community devastated by the local pit closure in 1993 – Jez has consistently written material inspired by his beloved North East. On Jack Common’s Anthem he’s done it again. A drinking companion of George Orwell, Jack Common was a spectacularly unsuccessful left wing writer, polemicist and cult hero from Newcastle, who died in 1968. Lowe loves his writing and decided such a champion of the North East deserved his own song. Once he’d written Jack’s anthem the rest of the album fell into place.
PHOTO: MARTIN WOODHEAD
“My songs are all about the communities,” says Jez, “that’s the key to my songwriting. I don’t write political material in the way people like Robb Johnson, Leon Rosselson and Billy Bragg do, but my songs are about the communities who mostly come from a working class Labour background.” The new album also includes three songs Jez wrote for the updated Radio Ballads – the 2006 version of the legendary Ewan MacColl/Peggy Seeger BBC series from the 1950s/60s, which had such a profound impact on the early UK folk revival. Two songs – Taking On Men and Black Trade address the shipbuilding industry. The third, The Miami – which featured in the show about the troubles in Northern Ireland – is the most painful, recalling the harrowing tragedy of the Miami Showband, caught up in a terrorist attack in 1973.
“I suppose it’s a bit like Bob Dylan letting Daniel Lanois produce his album and put his own sound on it,” says Jez, laughing”
“Half the time people do my songs without even knowing I wrote them. Once I was in the audience and a guy got up and announced he’d do a song written by Fairport Convention and he sang one of my songs. He didn’t believe me when I said I wrote it! The Dubliners have also covered a couple of my songs so they’ve passed into the Irish tradition…”
Jack Common’s Anthem Tantobie TTRCD109
Jack Common’s Anthem is billed as a solo album, though it does feature his regular band The Bad Pennies, albeit in a more back seat role than usual. They’re a young band, with Kate Bramley on violin/vocals, Andy May on piano/tin whistle and David de la Haye on bass – “some of my songs are older than David,” says Jez wryly – and he’s immensely proud of them. “They’re a great band and playing live is really what I enjoy most,” he says. “Making albums can be a bit of a chore but this was something different and I’m very proud of it. But I think the next one may be a live album…” CI
BLUES reviews Otis Grand Hipster Blues
Hans Theessink Slow Train
Chris Whitley & Jeff Lang Dislocation Blues
Bliss Street BSRCD02
Blue Groove BG1620
“I wonder how many teardrops are going to fall tonight…” is just about as good a start to a blues record as you can get. Torn from the larynx of Reuben Richards and given a sound going over by the massed Oh Gee Horns, while further heartache is meted out through Grand’s spiky lead lines that have a little of the BB about them, it sets the party in motion.
Like many others of his generation, Hans Theessink was entranced with the blues in the early 60s - a revelation that would change his life. Through his 20-plus albums he has preserved this earnest love affair, something that is most apparent on Slow Train.
Upon their first meeting in 1993 Australian slide Virtuoso Jeff Lang and Chris Whitley, once described ‘as much Sonic Youth as Robert Johnson’, decided to record together. It took well over a decade and a specifically planned tour of Australia for the collaboration to happen, but it was certainly worth the wait. Tragically, this would prove to be Chris Whitley’s final recording, cutting short an under-appreciated career.
The Hipsters here populate a mythical swinging blues and jazz club where suits are sharp, hips are hugged and rugs are cut as the DJ lays a set of stone wall killers one after another. Naturally they’re all imports and some of the seven-inch discs are worth a week’s wages. The neon outside buzzes, but not as much as the crowd, as the sweat and smoke fogs the scene. Grand’s vision is just that, grand. The retro styling is conscious but not contrived and this is as fine a set of party blues as you could wish for. From the opener Three Time Loser, through Freddy King’s Overdrive to the epic, minor breakdown Satan’s Blues, with it’s Jimmy Page-like runs, the guitar playing is superb, the Hammond grooves and the band is cooking with gas. SH “Otis Grand is back on the scene and firing on all thrusters, with his most diverse CD in years.” Blues & Rhythm
The location, a vineyard in Styria, was selected for it’s natural reverberation and a studio was painstakingly built from scratch around its eerie presence. It is an idea that has certainly paid off. The title track opens the album and couldn’t be more aptly named, moving beautifully at its own pace. Katrina fuses his own original composition, mourning his spiritual home with Lil’ Liza Jane. Fusing roots and gospel with a biting political commentary on subjects ranging from the current war on terror to Mugabe’s regime, showing that he is unafraid to use his music for more than just entertainment. Beautifully embellished by backing singers throughout, this is a sober and powerful album. TM “Hans Theessink is the most creative musician working in the blues idiom in Europe” Blues & Rhythm
The result is the aptly titled Dislocation Blues. Recorded mid tour in a country so far away from the birthplace of blues but lending itself so well to it, its yet another example of how nationless this music can be. The slow burning opening take on the classic Stagger Lee floats like thick bar smoke, setting the mood for the rest of the album. The inclusion of loops gives some indication of their mindset towards the blues - they are not out to preserve any tradition, nor give it a ‘modern’ make over. They’re just a couple of old ‘road dogs’ playing together with whatever comes to hand- electric, acoustic, covers, originals. None of that seems to matter, aside from the blues itself. TM
CHRIS WHITLEY & JEFF LANG
“his eerie, bluesy voice and American gothic tunes frequently draw attention from the fact that he picks like a pissed off Doc Watson jacked through a Marshall stack” Rolling Stone
joan armatrading Joan Armatrading. An album she’s been waiting to make for some years. The time is right.
By her own admittance, Into The Blues is an album she has been waiting a long time to write and also ranks among her best work. On the surface, certainly, this is a blues album. Guitars wail, harmonicas screech and there are blue notes-aplenty. But this is a Joan Armatrading blues album - written, performed (save the drums), recorded and produced alone. She clearly has no interest in perfect and methodical recreations of bygone sounds: she’s just interested in writing blues songs as she writes them.
Joan Armatrading Into The Blues Hypertension HYP7255
This isn’t to suggest that it’s just another Joan Armatrading album with a few blues licks slapped on top, it’s more the mood that she’s after. So opener Woman In Love, Play The Blues and Into The Blues, though sultry, are more odes to the blues than blues songs themselves. It’s only when she gets to Liza that she jumps to full on blues mode. “I see you lookin’ at me,” she snarls with an arrogance that could put Muddy Waters to shame, before a heavily tremolo-ed guitar drops in over a solid 12-bar backbeat. Halfway through she completely jumps rhythm to a half speed stomp, before jumping back again.
On a song like There Aint A Girl Alive Joan certainly demonstrates undeniable blues chops - burning a hole through its fiery rock ‘n’ roll sound with equally furious licks. Having said that, she constantly manages a powerful level of restraint and has a good understanding of the fact that just because you CAN find space to squeeze in a few more bends and hammer-ons, it doesn’t mean you HAVE to. Sometimes silence in between notes can be as important as the notes themselves: a lesson that is sorely lost on the world of modern blues-rock. The best example of this would be the closing track Something’s Gotta Blow. The chorus boldly just contains two guitars and one sustained keyboard chord, allowing her voice to carry the passion she builds up to from the sparse verses, mostly just Joan singing over a drum beat with occasional, haunting keyboard work. For a song that is far and away the longest on the album, it doesn’t drag at all, as it might in the hands of a less skilled songwriter. This is testament to her beautiful voice and its powerful subject, the weariness of modern existence. “The up escalator broken down/The clothes on my back/Look like they were taken out of the laundry basket” she sings. Truly a modern blues classic, but done Joan’s way. TD
“Whether she’s singing with the imperious growl of Muddy Waters or playing the guitar squalls of Buddy Guy, she sounds impressively close to the source.” The Word
PHOTO: JUDY TOTTEN
With a career spanning 35 years, one only needs to look at the elements of her output to realise not only Joan Armatrading’s influence but also how relevant she remains today. From prolific song writing, astoundingly accomplished from the get-go and cemented on her self titled breakthrough, to paving the way for countless singer/songwriters such as Tracy Chapman and Tasmin Archer, it is clear she is loved and respected by many. You don’t just sell out the Royal Albert Hall without at least a few fans, after all.
nick lowe Another of the 50-something generation still at the top of their craft. Properganda catches the senior service
hatever Nick Lowe does, his place in the rock ‘n’ roll pantheon is assured. He has the kind of history that reads like an alternative Rock Dreams and has enough been-there-done-that-Tshirts to fill a veritable wardrobe of achievement. These days, he’s well into his sixth decade and in keeping with his silver haired, senior status delights in the sobriquet of ‘the headmaster of rock’. So, when a new album comes along we quite rightly join the class and suggest you pay attention at the back. First on our timetable is a little history. As the 60s evaporated into the 70s and rock got serious, Nick started to display a wilful streak as bassist and vocalist of Brinsley Schwarz. If they never quite hit the heights imagined by their somewhat over ambitious manager (more of him later), their middle ground between The Beatles and The Band set a template for pub rock. Nick also penned the anthemic What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love And Understanding? for the Brinsleys, which although it failed to chart at the time, has repaid the author handsomely since and is arguably pub rock’s most enduring legacy.
PHOTO: DAN BURN-FORTI
It was the Brinsley’s implosion that unleashed the alter-ego ‘Basher’ as a founding figure, artist in residence (the first 45) and in-house producer at Dave Robinson’s (that manager again) Stiff Records. The nickname stuck after he claimed his production technique consisted of “bashing it down and tarting it up later.” Such technique saw him at the birth of UK punk rock with the Damned and integral to new wave with the likes of Elvis Costello (the first five albums) and The Pretenders. Artistically he also flourished, working in a semiofficial-on-off partnership with Dave Edmonds. He even cracked the UK Top 10 with The Sound Of Breaking Glass. As the eighties kicked in and the production work flowed, Nick’s status had risen on both sides of the Atlantic and The Band finally overcame The Beatles as he started to work with the likes of Ry Cooder and John Hiatt. He even married into the first family of country when Carlene Carter (Johnny Cash’s stepdaughter and daughter of June) said “Yes.” His family integration even survived the inevitable divorce and he famously contributed The Beast In Me for Johnny Cash, who described it as the essence of
his lauded American recordings. So, having not released an album for some six years makes At My Age eagerly anticipated. And it was worth waiting for. Building and improving on the sound of 2001’s The Convincer, horns and organ permeate its 12 tracks and he has retained the services of his steady band including drummer Bobby Irwin, keyboardist Geraint Watkins, and guitarist Steve Donnelly. Also along for the ride are old friends Chrissie Hynde and Bill Kirchen (of Commander Cody… fame).
People Change, backed with Hynde’s cheery vocals is a more hopeful and accepting take on the subject. Hope For Us All sees Nick going all Al Green on us, complete with soft, breaking vocal trills, again beautifully embellished by the horns in full soul mode. Love’s Got A Lot To Answer For could be a follow up to The Beast In Me as sorrow, self-pity and self-hatred over a hundred won and lost arguments are invoked. On album finale, Faron Young’s Feel Again, Lowe dips into big band swing territory, or as he describes it “a bit like a Dean Martin country record” on this sweet love song.
Much like those American recordings, Though this album is short, almost all this is a thing of melancholic beauty and songs clocking in at under the threedeceptive languor. A Better Man, minute mark, it proves that Lowe has resplendent with atmospheric organ, lost none of his self-deprecation, wit or lilting piano and horns sounds like an ear for a beautiful melody. Neither has unreleased find by his former father-inhe lost his feel for writing “pure pop for law. The brass spills over onto the next now people”, it’s just that the ‘now’ track Long Limbed Girl, a more upbeat people are a little older. number that has something of the SH Memphis Horns to it. I Trained Her To A Better Man, resplendent with atmospheric organ, lilting piano and Love Me is an ironic and bitter horns sounds like an unreleased find by his former father-in-law affair, Lowe clearly trying to excise some demons. He plays the role of an unrepentant misogynist and is perhaps one of his most revealing songs. It displays an amount of self-disgust that few songwriters dare approach for the ‘break up song’, tending to head towards the ‘you broke my heart’ end of things instead. According to Lowe this song is about being “a complete twat,” adding, “Who I frankly have been in the past, as have other men”. Whether up or down beat, the end of relationships is the reoccurring theme on this album - The Club conjuring up images of a group of miserable, broken hearted men, rather than an overpriced drinking and dancing establishment.
At My Age Proper PRPCD030
Lizanne knott Championed by Bob Harris, “We’ve rarely had as big a reaction to any artist in recent years…”
The depth of the album is its main strength, as Lizanne’s song writing takes in many influences. At times it’s uplifting, at others her songs could be the soundtrack for heartbreak. Whether it’s the plaintive title track, the Patty Griffin-esque Shadow In This Town or the western swing of Crazy People, on which Lizanne comes across like Sheryl Crow. Elsewhere A Thousand Words is a pulsating groove with Daniel Lanois-style slide guitar flourishes and a guest vocal performance by Lizanne’s touring partner Antje Duvekot. This Always Will Be is a gorgeous duet with Phil Roy (whose vocals bring to mind Dr John) and features a delightfully chilled saxophone solo courtesy of Steve Marcus (Buddy Rich Big Band).
Lizanne Knott Under The Burning Sky LKR LK58174
OUT NOW 26
Her take on Paul Simon’s Punky’s Dilemma is faithful and she’s seems to have fun singing Simon’s lyrics about cornflakes and English muffins! Lizanne is also brave
enough to embrace hip-hop with the addition of Kuf Knotz on Seven Stars. There are so many great moments across the album, but everything great about Lizanne Knott’s music is encapsulated in the stunning Angels. On this cut Lizanne’s vocals are exquisite, echoing Rosie Thomas at her most melancholic, yet with an overriding sense of hope when she delivers, “ I don’t know why we get so angry and say the things we say, or if it’s my own demons that make me walk away, or why drinking seems so easy yet compassion comes so hard, why we don’t feel good enough until it’s gone too far, but I know that tears like a rainstorm eventually run dry, I know if there are angels they forgive us”. With each repeated play, the melodies resonate that much louder, the hooks nestle within the brain that much deeper and Lizanne’s insightful, passionate and emotional lyrics connect that much stronger. As self-confessed fan and celebrated Radio 2 broadcaster Bob Harris has said, “[This is] absolutely gorgeous music. We’ve rarely had as big a reaction to any artist in recent years that we’ve had for Lizanne Knott!” and he is rarely wrong about these things, as his many listeners will testify. MG
“Absolutely gorgeous music.” Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2
PHOTO: TAKEN FROM WEBSITE
Lizanne Knott is one of an increasing number of singersongwriters that deserve to be household names. A longstanding member of the open mic scene in Philadelphia, Lizanne has been captivating audiences throughout the Northeast and increasingly, coming to the attention of radio listeners across the globe. Well-known locally for her serene vocals and lyrical juxtapositions, her apparent depth and transcending warmth make for an inviting mix of music, which moves easily from dark poetic ballads to soulful jazz and folk-driven rock. Under The Burning Sky is awash with quality songs.
“James is one of the best voices, and best kept secrets in British R&B and Soul. Check him out.” VAN MORRISON “It’s the album that many R&B legends never get round to making…” MOJO, (#8 Albums Of Year) “Hunter sounds cool, heartfelt and sexy as Sam Cooke.” THE TELEGRAPH “It’s a classy, confident and strangely timeless sounding set.” THE GUARDIAN “Split between hip shakers and the slow and soulful ...Like Richard Hawley, he somehow channels a lost era of American music into the here and now.” Q “Remarkably convincing…” UNCUT “Word is beginning to spread far and wide that the silkytongued James Hunter is the real deal”. THE SUN “One of the most congenial records of the year…” WORD “Timeless yet fresh” ROLLING STONE “Hunter has taken his influences and crafted something new and devilishly attractive. The sound throughout is fresh and has a real bite” BLUES & SOUL
HUNTER as seen on Later With Jools
“The British blues and soul singer now emerged as a US megastar in the making… it could make him a star over here as well.” THE TIMES “English singer with the slithery soul groove of American Rhythm and Blues” NEW YORK TIMES “A collection of classic and classy singles…People Gonna Talk? Most likely they are spreading the word about how great this set is…” 10/10 BLUES IN BRITAIN “This album is a masterpiece of subtlety, taste and understatement…a true gem” BLUES MATTERS “James Hunter is one of those all too rare jewels that moulds, crafts and interprets the true feeling of the songs…” MAVERICK “Smooth and sublime, Hunter is the soul singer par excellence…” Top 5 Records Of The Year, MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS “One of the best blue-eyed soul singers to emerge in the late 20th century…” AMG “A sizzling take on blue-eyed soul” BOSTON GLOBE
SEE JAMES HUNTER LIVE th
July 27 July 28th July 29th August 2nd
Woburn Abbey with Van Morrison Maryport Blues Festival Cambridge Folk Festival London – Jazz Cafe
Grammy-Nominated People Gonna Talk (ROUCD2187) ALBUM OUT NOW…
“This guy can flat-out sing… back to when vintage soul singers testified and tantalized” BOSTON GLOBE
black hen music Multi award winning roots label from Canada joins the Rounder fold.
lack Hen Music was founded by Steve Dawson in Vancouver in 96, and is dedicated to producing and promoting the best in roots, folk and jazz that Canada has to offer. To date the label has released over 25 albums and continues to release CDs that are acoustic by nature but are also unique, original and not afraid to be sonically adventurous. Accolades for the label include a whole host of nominations and awards in Canada and although such things may lose a little in translation over here, there are enough signposts to alert you to good things to come. The proof as always is in the listening and here are a few recommendations to get you started.
Steve Dawson We Belong To The Gold Coast BHMCD917 Dawson has evolved into a musical chameleon, whether solo or appearing in other guises as musical partner or hired hand. He’s somewhere on all of these records except Cara Luft’s – well it is his label! On his own We Belong To The Gold Coast we catch glimpses of acoustic blues, early Hawaiian jazz and pop music, mixed with modern sounds and textures. The moods slip and slide with ease and maintains a consistent quality with his exemplary slide playing as a particular highlight.
John Wort Hannam
Jim Byrnes House Of Refuge BHMCD932 Growing up on the north of St. Louis, Byrnes was surrounded by the likes of Chuck Berry, Johnny Johnson and Ike and Tina Turner. Over the years he has had the good fortune to appear with a virtual ‘who’s who’ of blues history, from Furry Lewis and Henry Townsend to Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and so many others. House Of Refuge was recorded live in the studio and fuses gravelly blues with apocalyptic and redemptive gospel, jazz, swampy country, bluegrass and folk while the ghosts of the ancestors look on.
Cara Luft The Light Fantastic BHMCD954 A possible star of this first batch, Cara cofounded The Wailin’ Jennys, touring and recording two albums including the Juno-Award winning 40 Days. A very talented guitarist and vocalist, Cara’s music is given sympathetic production by Neil Osborne. From the opening salvo of There’s A Train with its frenzied finale through the very English folk-rock of Lord Roslyn’s Daughter, Cara finds strong themes and delivers one powerful performance after another. Fans of the aforementioned Jennys will not be disappointed. SH
Two Bit Suit BHMCD957 Hailing from Fort Macleod, Alberta, John Wort Hannam is know for his blue collar roots music: songs that champion the way things used to be, small towns, the working class and the sanctity of the land and those who work it. Here his rich voice is offset by a tight band featuring Dawson again, adding great guitar lines to these tales of hardship, thrift-store living and smiles in the face of adversity.
Linda McRae Carve It To The Heart BHMCD952 She first came to our attention as bassist, accordionist and vocalist of Celtic roots rockers Spirits Of The West, with whom she toured and recorded until 97. But this is Linda’s sophomore Black Hen release, and showcases the more intimate, acoustic sound which she continues to develop through collaboration with other songwriters. There’s a classic old-timey porch song feel with hints of myth, mists and gothic fatefulness lurking in the detail.
Jenny Whiteley Dear BHMCD940 The eagerly awaited second album updates her natural folk/roots style and instrumentation with contemporary production. Jenny’s clear and classic voice takes centre stage in this beautiful repertoire of strong songs that have hints of Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris, alternating with curios like Banjo Girl and the wry duet with label mate Jim Byrnes, Other Side Of Life.
ALL CDS OUT 2ND JULY
REVIEW ROUNDUP reviews
IN HER OWN WORDS
Colin Hay Are You Lookin’ At Me?
Various In Her Own Words
The Heptones Sweet Talking
Angelic Music ANGCD003
From his teenage emigration from Scotland to Australia, fronting 80s pop stars Men At Work at the dawn of the MTV age, through to his 90s re-emergence as a charismatic solo performer, Colin Hay has long been a gifted storyteller with a remarkable story to tell. On this, his ninth album, Hay relaxes into his cult-status role as a good-humoured, avuncular singer/songwriter, weaving his conversational vocal style around lean, bobbing musical arrangements.
What started as a competition to highlight up-and-coming female singer/songwriters has ended as something of a phenomenon, with national press coverage including The Metro and a double page feature in The Guardian. Launched by Janis Haves, owner of the Angelic label, the ‘In Her Own Words’ project was one of many steps to foster up-and-coming female talent.
Of all of the groups that passed through Coxone’s Studio 1 the Heptones were arguably the finest - although this would necessarily exclude the Wailers) They certainly held star status in Jamaica and their sweet harmonies survived the transition from the rock-steady era through to the more socially conscious, 70’s, roots boom.
Competition winner Rosie Oddie is the one getting all the press, being as she’s the daughter of TV comedian/ ornithologist Bill, and is being touted as ‘The Next Lilly Allen’. This is a little unfair as her influences seem to be more leftfield and wider reaching, rather than just into the Trojan back catalogue, as Genni’s Song goes to show.
The trio came together over a typically Jamaican street corner sing off challenge: Earl Morgan and Barry Llewelyn were in one band and Leroy Sibbles another. Morgan and Llewelyn prevailed, but were impressed by Sibbles lead vocals and the trio bonded over a shared love of American groups like the Drifters, Impressions and Platters, whose tight harmony singing became their template.
With a strong emphasis on maturity and the passage of time, Are You Lookin’ At Me? deals with themes of love, death and sobriety in songs that manage to cover weighty subjects in a wry, observational, uplifting way that prevents the album from plunging into melancholy. Building a brand new, younger audience as a result of his appearances on American sitcom Scrubs as well as the acclaimed movie Garden State, Hay’s profile looks set for another un-expected shift and true to form, he’ll probably take it in his stride and find a way of working the change of pace into his next album. JTR “Hay’s singularly soulful voice... intoxicating stuff.” Mojo
Elsewhere on the album, familiar names such as Janis Ian, Never The Bride and Katie Melua sit along side competition winners Abbie Lathe and Maggie pierce and E.J. as well as Liz Simcock whose beautiful The Sand That Makes The Pearl is a personal highlight on the album. This is a wonderful overview and introduction to so many singer-songwriters and also to Angelic Music. TD
This superb compilation concentrates on the years 68-71, when the trio were clearly at the top of their game. Throwing in rare and unreleased versions and extended plays, the 17 tracks showcase the sweet vocals, with typically excellent backing from the Skatalites and other assorted Studio 1 hired hands. The summer is here (allegedly) and this is one of the reggae releases of the year. Top Rankin’! JTR
www.angelicmusic.co.uk “[The Heptones] cut some of the label’s defining hits…” Mojo
Gilbert o’sullivan Gilbert O’Sullivan. He’s always done it his way. The follow on to the Top 20 best of from 2004. Gilbert O’Sullivan has had a career spanning some 40 years that is packed with surprises. You may know him for his lilting piano ballads and wry tales, for the pastel knits all emblazoned with a big G and for any one of a number of huge hits. The older amongst you may even remember the flat cap and shorts version. With his first CD of new material for some years finally set for UK release, it’s worth a recap.
PHOTO: JON STEWART
Born in Waterford, Ireland raised in England, O’Sullivan signed to CBS Records in 1967 but found success elusive, although he gained an unlikely champion in John Peel, which almost led to a breakthrough with a song called Mr. Moody’s Garden. It was with Tom Jones’ manager Gordon Mills’ MAM records that the dominoes of success tumbled, as he finally reached the top ten in 1970 with Nothing Rhymed. The following 10 years yielded fifteen hit singles and five top ten albums. Of all these it was Alone Again (Naturally) that struck the greatest chord, spending six weeks at no. 1 in the US. Some Properganda readers may know the song as a staple of Michael Weston King’s set and recent CD. The follow up Clair was only kept off no.1 by Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain. So far, so pop star, but then… The 80’s and to some extent the early 90’s brought more time in the courts than it did the recording studio, as O’Sullivan, albeit reluctantly, brought action first against his manager and former record label and then in the States, rapper Biz Markie, who had sampled him without
his permission. Both cases were found in the singer’s favour and set legal precedents for the record business. Since then, O’Sullivan has kept his own counsel. He has continued to make music, releasing a series of albums on his own terms, while touring regularly. He’s also been adopted by Japan where in the mid 90s hit no. 1 single with the song Tomorrow Today. Now it seems as though the rest of the world is catching up. His music has sound tracked films and television shows from Stuart Little 2, The Simpsons, to Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides. Most recently Alone Again (Naturally) featured in the hit BBC series Life On Mars. In 2004 his latest best of compilation (Berry Vest Of) saw him return to the top twenty. The music scene has rediscovered the 70s, while Ben Folds in particular has been producing the kind of lyrically clever, eloquent pop that O’Sullivan made his own. So to the new album. Recorded largely in his home studio in Jersey, A Scruff At Heart, it’s title a typical dose of wry self depreciation, is also typically a chin-out artistic statement. The focus is firmly on O’Sullivan, with piano and vocals recoded live and loud. Strings and woodwind offer a striking counterpoint and these too were recorded live in a church in Surrey. The lyrics are classic O’Sullivan, as comfortable tackling issues such as war and school bullying as the condition of the human heart, all coupled with that unique humour. SH
“an oddly under-celebrated talent” Uncut
Gilbert O’Sullivan A Scruff At Heart Bygum Records BGR115 RELEASED 18TH JUNE
REVIEW ROUNDUP reviews Crooked Still Hop High
Maria Muldaur Naughty, Bawdy & Blue
Simon Scardanelli That Dangerous Sparkle
Signature Sounds SIG2004
Stony Plain SPCD1319
Resonator Records RESO107
With an unusual, low-end-heavy core group of musicians (double-bass, cello & banjo) and with youth on their side, Crooked Still have been taking the bluegrass world by storm. Combining rock energy with old-time mountain soul and creaking, rustic string riffs and singer Aoife’s pure, Krauss-y tone, Hop High is a perfect fusion of old-time music buoyed by a shot of new blood. As the band themselves put it, they are “on a mission to bend the boundaries of traditional music”, while remaining respectful to their (pre-dominantly) traditional repertoire.
In the extensive notes for this CD, Maria describes leaving home and ending up looking after two young girls in exchange for room and board. The significance is the extensive record collection that her host family owned, that gave the 17 year old her first taste of the blues in general and Bessie Smith in particular. It clearly had a profound effect and at the dawn of the 60s, with the radio awash with sanitised, saccharine pop singers so it should have done.
Conceived on an epic scale this CD proves a real surprise. Once a hit maker as half of pop-rockers Big Bam Boo, Scardanelli has been emersed in serious music study over the past decade, following a period of living in New York composing installation works for art events and scores for experimental films.
Offering fresh takes on old favourites like Lonesome Road and Shady Grove, the band are not afraid to deviate from the standards, and the energy of their vigorous re-workings leap out at every turn. Although there has been much talk of their “hip, hard-hitting beats” and their modern approach to the music, everything here is played acoustically with a no-nonsense production. This is an album that will appeal to purists, while its accessible groove and the band’s youthful outlook should be a great magnet for newcomers. TM “Absolutely wonderful! Not a weak track on the whole album… I’ve played it over and over again” Mike Harding Radio 2
For Maria it launched a passionate, headlong dive into performing the blues and other roots music, that saw her fronting the Even Dozen Jug Band and coming under the direct tutelage of one of blues music’s original grande dames Victoria Spivey. Fast forward over 40 years and this salacious collection (all from the woman’s point of view) are prowling, predatory and purring, not to mention highly entertaining. The old ‘Orleans style combo is immaculate through renditions of Up The Country Blues (do I need to spell it out for you?), Handy Man Blues, One Hour Mama and other coded gems dripping with innuendo. TM “Maria Muldaur spices her music with passion and a voice that’s scintillating, brazen, and lightly burnished.” Blues Revue
He has definitely brought some of that experimental flair with him into this new CD,although here it’s used to add texture to what can mostly be described as conventional song structures. The albums opener, The Valentines, starts with the sound of waves before the acoustic guitar and piano kick the song into life. Simon’d vocals have something of the David McComb about them and The Triffids are a good reference point.There’s also a touch of Scott Walker as the first half of the album gives up a series of epic ballads.
In the middle of She Comes the tune suddenly gives way to clattering percussion and soprano sax drenched in reverb and the ground has shifted. Surpise twists follow, with Risky Business and the folowing It’s Only Life taking serious left turns. This is ambitious stuff that demands serious attention. SC
Ken hensley A who’s who of classic rock sign up for this keyboard wizards life story opus. Ken Hensley has enjoyed a multi-platinum career, mainly during his stint with veteran UK rockers Uriah Heep in the seventies. With Hensley’s help, Heep took the world by storm with albums such as Look At Yourself, Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble, Demons & Wizards and The Magician’s Birthday as well as the seminal singles Stealin’, Free Me and Easy Livin’.
Hensley’s on-going connection with John Lawton continues with the former Uriah Heep front man adding his powerful voice to proceedings. Ken himself sings three cuts and former Boy George singer Eve Gallagher takes the mic for Think Twice. However, the bulk of the vocals are handled spectacularly by relative newcomer Jorn Lande.
Upon leaving Heep in 1980, Ken put together his own group and hit the road across America, before getting the call to join legendary Southern rockers Blackfoot. He stayed to record two acclaimed studio albums and one live record before returning to the UK to continue work on his solo career.
The Norwegian singer has in fact been kicking around the rock scene since the early nineties when he fronted Vagabond (a band formed from the ashes of the then defunct TNT). The two albums he recorded with them propelled Jorn onto the world stage and since then his ‘Paul Rodgers meets David Coverdale’ tones have been utilised by a whole host of bands through out the world.
Now, at the age of 61, Ken has put together Blood On The Highway, the definitive story of his life and times put to music. He started with a wish list of singers and musicians he wanted to use on the project and such is his standing within the rock community they all agreed to give their time to the venture.
Ken Hensley Blood On The Highway Politur/Membran 231688
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Ken’s long time friendship with Glenn Hughes led to the former Trapeze/Deep Purple/Black Sabbath vocalist being only too happy to lend his rich vocals to the tracks What Ya Gonna Do and The Last Dance, both of which ably demonstrate just why Hughes is held in such high regard within rock circles.
“Jorn’s voice oozes blues and rock” Hensley is quoted as saying, and on the evidence here, there’s little to contradict that statement. To Hensley, Blood On The Highway is a look back at his own life, a kind of retrospective of an era when music was still exciting, when musicians had long hair, bell-bottoms and garish shirts. It’s not a summary of time lost rather a celebration of a truly incredible period in Ken’s life. To quote Ken, ‘There’s no moral here, this is about a time when every musician followed their dream and they did it the way they felt was right.’ MG
“Ken Hensley wrote the rule book for heavy metal keyboards as far as I’m concerned.” Blackie Lawless (WASP)
PHOTO: TAKEN FROM CD ARTWORK
In between albums Ken has featured on a variety of band’s work album as a guest musician (including a stint with W.A.S.P. on their Headless Children record) and put together a band with another Heep alumni John Lawton.
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