SHOUTING ABOUT SPECIALIST MUSIC
ISSUE 12 MAY/JUNE 2009
We drop in on Britainâ€™s finest songsmith - exclusive interview inside.
E E FR ne o pick day up to
Enter our competition to win all of the CDs featured in this issue. Also in this issue:
Mawkin:Causley Uiscedwr Nettwerk Records ECM Records Paul Jones, Oli Brown, Joanne Shaw Taylor & Danny Bryant Sara Tavares Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara and more.
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Mawkin:Causley 5 Uiscedwr - Peatbog Faeries 6 Last Shop Standing 7 - 10 COVER FEATURE: Nick Lowe 12 - 13 Nettwerk Records 14 Angel Brothers 15 Lakeside Records 16 - 17 ECM Records 18 Justin Adams & Judleh Camara - Mamer 19 Sara Tavares 21 Fairport Convention 22 - 23 Talking Elephant Records 24 - 25 BLUES SPECIAL: Paul Jones, Oli Brown, Joanne Shaw Taylor & Danny Bryant 26 JSP Records 37 Jo Hamilton
elcome to the second Properganda of 2009 and our biggest issue to date. As usual it’s packed with features, reviews and lots of great music. Some of you will doubtless be relieved to see that we’ve stopped the double ended stuff, which we’ve concluded, though well intentioned, isn’t the most user friendly format. It may work for those oddly pointless, arty fashion supplements, but it’s not for us. This time round we are keeping both covers for artists that we want to profile, but instead of an upside down section (or push-me-pull-you-edition as we’ve come to call it) we’ve decided to call the back cover The Back Line, a suitably music oriented reference.
So this month sees our main feature on Nick Lowe, with noted author Paul Gorman giving us the exclusive on Nick’s recent career and the excellent new Best Of collection, on the shelves of record stores now. The dapper gentleman discusses his late flowering quiet period and the new CD and DVD set that does justice to his whole career. Later in the issue Pat Howe, a devout fan as well as long serving music retailer, offers a personal appraisal. The back cover is given over to another Properganda exclusive, as we called a blues summit. Original British blues star Paul Jones who started his career in the early 60s with Alexis Korner and then the Manfreds and is now a broadcaster and tireless champion of the blues hooks up with Oli Brown and Joanne Shaw Taylor, two of the rising guitar stars on the current scene. Danny Bryant couldn’t make the get together, but phones in from the road. He’s been in Germany, Austria and The Czech republic and is heartened by the audience he’s finding there. As always we hope you find some music you like in these pages and are maybe inspired to try something. A special reference must be made to the Last Shop Standing feature of page 6 and the call to arms therein. Happy reading, happy shopping, happy listening. The Properganda Team
Reviews 27 – 28 Folk 29 – 31 Americana 32 – 33 World 34 Blues 35 – 36 Jazz 38 – 39 Review Round-up
Regulars 41 Competition: Win Every CD in this magazine!
HMV’s Pat Howe on Nick Lowe
Contributors Andrew Geddes, Andy Robson, Brian Showell, Cliff White, Colin Irwin, David Kidman, Garth Cartwright, Howard Male, Jane Cornwell, Jim Soars, Jon Lusk, Ken Smith, Pat Howe, Cliffy, Paul Feenstra, Paul Gorman, Peter Bacon, Sid Cowens, Simon Holland, Simon Jones, Stuart Nicholson, Tony Morley Photo Credits All photos provided by the artists and their labels. Editor Simon Holland For advertising enquiries contact Jon Roffey (020 8676 5106, email@example.com) On-line wizardry Andy Kiang Design and artwork Don Ward at Triple Eight Graphics contact firstname.lastname@example.org Printed by The Marstan Press. Princes Street, Bexleyheath, Kent DA7 4BJ. 020 8301 5900
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 Properganda 12
hey don’t look like Brit folk’s hottest new band, they certainly don’t behave like it and, with a formidable repertoire of traditional songs based around daunting themes of war and conflict, maybe they don’t even sound like it. Yet, bouncing among us in an irrepressible high energy mix of wisecracks, imaginative arrangements and musical brilliance, Mawkin:Causley have already won the hearts and minds of UK festival audiences and are now ready to make the big leap forwards to become one of the country’s top bands with their ebullient debut album The Awkward Recruit. It was quite a surprise when Devon singer Jim Causley first got together with Essex instrumental band Mawkin after a chance meeting at a festival in the south west. Steeped in folk song with two fine solo albums and another with close harmony trio The Devil’s Interval under his belt, along with several tours with folk legends Waterson:Carthy, Causley had fully earned his reputation as one of the finest traditional song interpreters of his generation. Mawkin – a close-knit unit of brothers Dave and Jamie Delarre (guitar and fiddle respectively) with boyhood mates Alex Goldsmith (melodeon) and Danny Crump (bass) had also won acclaim for their fiery album The Fair Essex, but having started life as an Iron Maiden tribute act (true fact!) with a solid grounding in rock, funk and jazz, but little apparently in folk, they seemed miles apart from Causley, culturally as well as geographically.
And yet…Causley may have been a product of the traditional music degree course in Newcastle but he’d also studied jazz, adores Christina Aguilera and loves disco. In truth, while he has a deep understanding of the English tradition, Jim is a long way from the purist of popular perception and was more than receptive to the idea of a saucy young band letting off fireworks behind him. And Mawkin themselves aren’t quite as folk-phobic as they’d have us believe, the Delarre brothers having first gone on stage with their parents’ ceilidh band while Alex Goldsmith first learned to play from his grandfather and has long worshipped folk melodeon maestro, Andy Cutting. Nobody stomped out when they first dipped their toe in the water with a short set together at Sidmouth Festival and they were on their way. There were initial teething troubles, mainly because while
they may primarily be acoustic, Mawkin have the mindset of a rock band and tended to drown out the subtleties of Causley’s singing. Yet when they tried to tone it down, they lost much of the bite which made them so exciting in the first place, resolving as a result to play larger venues with proper PA systems. “We’re thinking much more about the meaning of the material now,” says Dave Delarre. “You can’t go in playing 300mph if there’s a sad bit. Jim would say ‘Oi, why are you making it sound so cheerful when this bloke has just died?’ But he’s actually very open-minded to the ideas we come up with. Much more than we thought he would be.” As for Causley, he’s revelling in the challenge of fronting such a boisterous band and is undoubtedly singing better than he’s ever done. “It has made me think a lot more, enunciating and making sure people understand the words. I hate it when you see these bands and haven’t a clue what they’re singing about.” They’ve certainly gone out of their way to unearth unusual material to ensure their first album makes a mark. Googling the word ‘mawkin’ (Essex vernacular for an unkempt person) James Delarre discovered the one song that featured the word. They worked up that song The Awkward Recruit, a war ballad that not only wound up as the title track of the album, but set a theme for the entire album, produced by Stu Hanna of Megson. Other notable tracks include a medieval song L’homme Armés; Keeper Of The Game, a Causley original based on one of the oldest books still in existence, the 10th Century Anglo-Saxon Exeter Book of Riddles; a complex, jazzy arrangement of the seriously weird Cutty Wren; and an adaptation of I Am The Song, a poem by Jim’s ancestor Charles Causley. “We don’t want to be just another band,” says Dave Delarre. “We really wanted to go for it with this album and I think we have. Stu Hanna pushed us all the way but also made it a lot of fun.” Colin Irwin
The Awkward Recruit NAVIGATOR19
ife threatening illness, personnel upheavals and a madwoman chasing them out of their recording studio… just a few of the hazards that have confronted Uiscedwr over the last couple of years. With an amazing fortitude and humour that must surely rank as a major triumph for the human spirit, the highly unusual Anglo-Welsh-Irish band have overcome them all, returning with a vengeance with a barnstorming third album Fish Cat Door (considerately designed to help for those struggling to pronounce their name – just delete the first letter of the first word and the last of the second and you’re there!) Uiscedwr’s heartbeat is essentially the rock solid intuitive partnership between the extraordinary fiddle player/singer Anna Esslemont and Cormac Byrne, one of Ireland’s greatest bodhran players/percussionists, who even walked away from the glittering spotlight of Seth Lakeman’s rise to mainstream success to reassert his commitment to Anna and Uiscedwr in their darkest hour. They met at The Royal Northern College Of Music in Manchester though, frustrated by the constraints of classical music and inspired by the creative torrent that enveloped them both whenever she and Cormac sat down to play some tunes together,
he Isle Of Skye’s most renowned folk-fusion exponents have twice scooped the Live Act Of The Year title at the Scottish Traditional Music Awards (in 2005 and 2008) – and no wonder, for on the evidence of the heavily exciting performances culled from two different locations on their 2008 tour for this, their first actual live album, it’s really easy to hear why. Their sheer bravado, presence and energy, twinned with absolutely brilliant musicianship, fair blow their audience away.
The aforementioned 2008 tour capitalised on the success of the Faeries’ fifth studio album, the previous year’s What Men Deserve To Lose, which introduced a three-piece brass section (which I hereby dub The Average Black Cuillin Band!) into the outfit’s already seriously cutting-edge mix of traditional Celtic folk dance with jazz, funk, salsa and trance beats; here the whole ensemble provides an unforgettable and tremendously immediate “complete rave experience”. Inevitably perhaps, for much of the time it’s now less tranceled and more dance-led, with the jazz-funk element more prominent, while there’s also more scope for wild improvisational soloing, especially from the fiddle area for instance! The set opens with an archetypal Peatbogs workout, The Anthropologist, whereby recognisably traditional melodies and tune-shapes on whistles and fiddle are transmogrified through boldly rocking, syncopated riffing into a true rave extravaganza that breaks down all possible barriers of age and genre. The quintessential Peatbogs spacey heavy-bagpipe skirling and reeling of Wacko King Hako is given a funky new
Anna quit to mastermind Uiscedwr’s fast and dramatic rise as the most exciting young band on the British folk scene. Award nominations, an acclaimed debut album and a rip-roaring stage set confirmed they could do no wrong. Could they? Well, they didn’t, but events conspired against them. Most devastatingly the rare auto immune disease Aplastic Anaemia, which first struck Anna in 2005 and eventually led to a bone marrow transplant at the end of 2006. Further health issues followed, but Anna and Cormac were determined to hold the band together at all costs, channelling their traumatic experiences into a vigorous positive energy that manifests itself on Fish Cat Door. Indeed, one of Anna’s songs, Prescription Junkie, confronts her rage at her illness head-on, while another Tip Tap Baby is her forthright revenge on an egotistical Irish dancer she had the misfortune to work with. With her health problems finally resolved, new guitarist James Hickman in place and legendary accordion player Karen Tweed expanding their sound on the album, Uiscedwr are at last fully equipped to resume their role as one of the most thrilling bands in the land. “I’m so excited about it all and very happy with the album,” says Anna. “Some of the topics on the album are quite heavy, yet the music is very upbeat. We’re a very energetic live band and we wanted to get that on record and I think we have. At times I felt cursed but we’re now very positive about everything.” Colin Irwin
Fish Cat Door YRCD04
makeover, and the generously hectic vibe of Kevin O’Neill Of Rutherglen and Folk Police both audibly whip the crowd into a footloose frenzy. The jazzy swagger of The Invergarry Blues, the blowsy funk of Friend Of Crazy Joe, the motoring disco mood of The Locks N Rocks Reel: all these are an integral part of the Peatbogs patchwork and invigorating to the very last beat. There are moments of chillout repose too of course, here represented by Decisions, Decisions and Caberdrone (the latter containing some especially fine sax playing). And in between, just past the midway point, there’s the epic neareighteen-minute Dancing Feet Set, which despite containing its lion’s share of solos, is euphoria personified and near brings everything in the house down! On this eminently truthfulsounding live album, we get over 70 glorious minutes of prime “rock-the-hoose” experience, every strand captured unerringly in a brilliantly well-balanced recording. Unmissable David Kidman
Peatbog Faeries LIVE Peatbog Records CDBOG005 Properganda 12 Properganda 12
ast Shop Standing has L undoubtedly struck a nerve. The book has been
Last Shop Standing
launched amidst a flurry of media activity with Stuart Maconie, Mark Radcliffe and Sid Griffin devoting 40 minutes of Radio 2 time to it, appearances on Breakfast TV and Radio 4’s Front Row by the author, more radio coverage from Steve Lamacq and Suzi Quatro (BBC Radio 6 & 2 respectively) and copious press coverage including partial serialisation in The Independent. We’ve all seen the high streets dwindle and the out of town superstores flourish, while the small individual retailers of all stripes shut up shop. We’ve all seen it and muttered into our cappuccinos: but we’ve also all been a part of it. And there’s the rub. Against this backdrop Graham Jones shines a light into the dark days of decline of the record shop and having called on more than most, is perfectly placed to tell their tale. Starting with Graham’s efforts to make it in the ‘music biz’, you get an hilarious, addictive, yet harrowing account written by a man who has been there, sold that and has the promotional T-Shirt. It‘s a book that will bring more than a wry smile to the face of anyone who has ever bought music or been a gig goer. Along with copious anecdotes and many laugh out loud moments, he also illuminates the cavalier practices of the record industry. For those who have never been part of it, there are some genuinely scary facts. But he also tells the stories of the heroes and mavericks, the shrewd, the insanely
here is a recent New Yorker cartoon: A chap and his wife are driving down a street. He says to her, “Keep your eyes open for one of those little stores that don’t exist anymore”. It is very funny because we all know, for all the reasons recounted in Last Shop Standing, that it is, sadly, true.
knowledgeable and the chancers who have made selling music their life, or fallen in the attempt.. Discover • The hilarity of the UK’s worst record shop • The most dysfunctional family in pop music • How Take That were conned out of the Christmas number 1 • Why Mr Blobby has a special place in the heart of record shop owners • The hysterical tale of the band that faked a murder • The most hyped records ever and how they cheated their way into the charts • The rock star who’s hobby is touring the UK record shops being horrible to staff • The shop that sold £45,000 worth of records for a fiver Its pleasing to note that Graham’s torch finally pierces the gloom and as the title suggests there are some brave souls who have decided to tough it out. We asked a local independent book shop (another rarity), who is selling this tome for some comments… harder. We have suffered at the mercy of the big suppliers as they pay us lip service whilst concentrating much of their efforts to supplying supermarkets and other giants on absurdly generous terms.
Apparently our businesses share a common recent trajectory. Independent record shops, like independent bookstores are owned and run by people with a passion for the things they sell. That is first and foremost. We do it because we enjoy it, and like the people within the pages of Last Shop Standing, want to pass on our enthusiasm for the music or the books and the artists and writers we love to a wider public, because we know that you are going to really like our suggestions.
Last Shop Standing, however, ends on a note of hope that is not misplaced. The good independent shops have the ability to be constantly adaptable without the need for a head office focus group. But, they also need to provide good reasons for their customers to continue visiting them, it is not enough to just fill a shop with books or records and then wait expectantly for your customers to arrive. Passion, knowledge and exemplary customer service are essential, but they also need to explore what makes them unique and, in turn, an asset to their community. And then when they have found it, they will need to hammer the hell out of it.
In recent times, however, this task has become so much
Jonathan Main Partner The Bookseller Crow on the Hill.
... So take action. If you have a local record store or an independent book seller get up from your repose, sally forth and damn well buy something from them. Ask for a recommendation; pick something from these pages (this book!). Repeat weekly until you feel better. Just tell them Properganda sent you. Simon Holland
ick Lowe is full of the joys of spring. And he has a perfect right to be: Properganda is paying a visit to Britain’s finest songsmith on the first truly warm day of the year. Just over a month after the country has been ravaged by the heaviest snowfall in 20 years, the sun shines from a bright blue sky. Brentford is decorated with trees bearing fresh blossoms and the west London suburb’s most notable resident is beaming from ear-to-ear. “It’s great isn’t it?” smiles the dapper Lowe in the
doorway of his smart terraced house, clad in V-neck sweater, pressed shirt and black slim-cuffed trousers which emphasise that familiar lanky frame. Lowe has enthusiastically taken to relatively recent fatherhood; 60 this year, a son was born to him and his long-term partner five years ago, though he confesses the concomitant early rising duties were beginning to grate during the winter so recently disappeared. “It seemed like those dark mornings were never going to end,” he grins. “But hey-ho, that’s all behind us now.”
Properganda Properganda12 12
Behind Lowe, in the small front room, lie the tools of his trade: a bass guitar in it’s opened case on a table and an acoustic nestling in an armchair, signifiers of a forthcoming burst of activity heralded by the March release of the superb career overview Quiet Please…The New Best Of Nick Lowe (which includes a limited edition DVD featuring nine promo videos and a live show filmed in Belgium in 2007). Assembled by Lowe’s friend Gregg Geller (who signed Lowe and Elvis Costello to Columbia Records in the US back in 1978), the 49 tracks on Quiet Please… bear unassailable testimony to the considerable achievements this songwriter and recording artist has notched up over more than four decades. And the title conveniently kills two birds with one stone, serving notice on the clutch of previous Lowe compilations – most recently 1999’s The Doings – and underscoring the presence for the first time of a full complement of tracks from Lowe’s late-flowering “quiet period” inaugurated by 1994’s The Impossible Bird and developed on the increasingly impressive albums Dig My Mood (1998), The Convincer (2001) and At My Age (2007).By including such mordant and often misanthropic blinders as The Beast In Me, Lately I’ve Let Things Slide and I Trained Her To Love Me, Quiet Please… puts all previous Lowe compilations in the shade. It also cements the unique position Lowe now occupies in British pop. A seasoned record producer in his own right (Graham Parker, Dr Feelgood, Elvis Costello, Dave Edmunds - his partner in Rockpile - and The Pretenders all benefited from his touch), Lowe has spent the last decade-and-a-half nurturing an atmospheric sound packed with nuance to underpin the confessional, unsettling tone of the songs. Lowe says that the change of direction was predicated on his insistence on recording live. “It sounds simple but, especially back then, it was extremely difficult to get it exactly right,” he says. “I wanted to ‘perform’ straight onto the record as opposed to putting together the backing track and adding the vocal. “The process is akin to making a jazz record, where everyone plays quietly and, even though the framework is simple, there is room for complex little accidents to happen. That adds to the mystery and, I hope, gives the records a timeless quality. You can do saucier stuff if you play quietly. “I also knew I had to be patient and that people wouldn’t get it straight away. I was training on the job, so to speak. Spending time in the doldrums was fine because I was able to find a new way of recording without a big spotlight shining on me. Now I feel as though I’m getting there.” This direction has rightly earned Lowe fresh waves of fans. “A lot of the people who liked me from the Stiff/Rockpile days fell away when I stopped playing loud rock music,” says Lowe. “But they were replaced by another more fragrant and attractive audience, including a lot more women and younger people.” The presence of the more recent tracks throws into relief Lowe’s mastery of the form, from the
early 70s pub rock of Brinsley Schwarz’s (What’s So Funny About) Peace, Love & Understanding? through the fervent new-wave snapshots So It Goes, I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass and Cruel To Be Kind to such 80s highlights as Half A Boy And Half A Man and All Men Are Liars. The fact that many of the songs on Quiet Please… have been covered by major artists speaks to their substance. Lowe’s former fatherin-law Johnny Cash recorded breathtaking versions of The Beast In Me and Without Love while Rod Stewart lent his larynx to Shelley My Love from The Impossible Bird. It was to be expected that MoR singer Curtis Stigers (who famously earned Lowe a handsome royalty cheque when his version of Peace, Love & Understanding was included on The Bodyguard soundtrack) would later champion You Inspire Me from Dig My Mood, but this spring’s release of a version of So It Goes by Norman Cook in his new guise as Brighton Port Authority has taken even Lowe aback. “I was extremely surprised that he wanted to do it in the first place,” says Lowe. “But I was also extremely pleased because it gives me a different perspective on the song. It may be important in the scheme of things because it was the single which launched Stiff Records but I’d got used to thinking: ‘That’s the one that sounds like Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back In Town. Now I can listen to it afresh in the light of the impact it evidently had on people like Norman.” Does he feel trepidatious when it comes to career reviews such as compilations? “It’s always hard to get a perspective on your own work and, of course, there are things that, when you look back you feel a little embarrassed about them,” he says. “That happens to everybody. But then something clicks and you realise it’s not that big a deal, that there’s no harm done.” Over the next few months British and Continental audiences will be able to judge for themselves when Lowe – never one to take the obvious route - undertakes two contrasting but complimentary tours. In May he embarks on his first set of dates around the UK in many years, taking in shows in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Holmfirth and Liverpool with the ensemble he has assembled as the bedrock of recent albums: Johnny Scott (guitar), Geraint Watkins (keyboards), Matt Radford (bass) and Bobby Irwin (drums). A matter of weeks after the final gig of that excursion (at Gateshead The Sage on May 25), Lowe teams up with none-less than Americana’s founding father Ry Cooder for an exciting new collaboration which squares the circle initiated by their one-off 1992 group Little Village. For that venture (which resulted in an album of the same name), Lowe and Cooder were joined by American solo artist John Hiatt and superstar session drummer Jim Keltner. This time out, under the simple title of Ry Cooder & Nick Lowe, they are augmented by Cooder’s accordion-playing compadre Flaco Jimenez and his percussionist son Joaquin. The tour stems from two performances by Lowe, Cooder and Keltner at the Great American Music Hall in San
Francisco last October. These were in aid of the Richard de Lone Special Housing Project, named after the son of Lowe’s pal from pub-rock days Austin de Lone (who arguably kick-started the musical movement as part of Eggs Over Easy). Richard de Lone has the rare condition Prader-Willi Syndrome, a birth defect which afflicts one in 25,000 babies. The project offers residential care to sufferers. “We did some of my songs, some of Ry’s and some covers,” explains Lowe. “At the end of the second show, just before the backstage doors opened, I said: ‘If you want to do this again don’t hesitate to give me a call. I thought I wouldn’t hear anything more about it but a week later Ry was on the phone, saying that he’d been thinking of doing some shows with Joaquin on drums. It just developed from there. I don’t really play bass any more so that’s been interesting.” Joining Lowe and Cooder on vocals will be Joaquin’s wife Juliette Commagere; the couple’s own group will provide the support on the shows which move from London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Dublin to Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Bilbao. “We’ll be doing our own songs as well as some covers; Ry likes to come up with numbers not many people have heard before, as do I, but we’ve also been working on things like Jim Reeves’ He’ll Have To Go (from Cooder’s 1976 album Chicken Skin Music),” says Lowe. “As you might imagine he is really good,” says Lowe, before adding a characteristically selfdeprecating aside. “Personally, I think Ry has a touching faith in my ability to play his stuff. He doesn’t seem to believe it’s difficult but I think actually it is. “But Ry likes the way I play, so here we go.” Quiet Please…The New Best Of Nick Lowe is available now from Proper Records. Nick Lowe’s summer tour opens at Birmingham Symphony Hall on May 14. Ry Cooder & Nick Lowe’s tour commences with three nights at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre on June 10-12.‘
Quiet Please... The New Best Of Nick Lowe PRPCD036 10
Rhythm FestivaL 2009 Friday 21, saturday 22, and sunday 23 august twinwood arena, Clapham, Bedford, mK41 6aB Friday
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JaMes Hunter • GaNdaLF MUrPHy & The Slambovian Circus of dreams aLViN yOUNGBLOOd HarT aCOustiC strawBs • Martin turner’s wisHBOne asH JOHn COOPer ClarKe • eriC Bell Band • iMPerial leisure sKaville uK • Jet BrOnx & tHe new FOrBidden • arCHie BrOwn & tHe yOung BuCKs • duKes Jetty • silver BraZilians Line-up subject to change
three days of great entertainment on three stages plus ‘fringe’ events. three bars @ Bedfordshire pub prices. Real ales and ciders from local brewers, including Wells & young’s and Potbelly. a wide choice of superior food plus farmhouse ice creams. Children’s entertainment. Junior Olympics. the Panic Circus. therapy Zone. General store. Workshops. Craft & trade markets. supervised campsites. showers. Free car-parking. WeeKeND tiCKets: adults (17+) £90 + one child (5-16) free. extra kids £30 each. Under 5’s go free. CamPiNG: from £25 per tent, £30 per campervan. aDULt Day tiCKets: Friday £35; saturday/ sunday £39 each day: includes one child free, extra children £10 each per day. Under 5’s go free.
Book online or by phone: 020 7734 8932 (stargreen) 0870 264 3333 (24 hour: seetickets)
*booking fees apply to telephone orders via ticket agencies
n the last Properganda we described Miranda Lee Richards as, “shimmering-folk-country-psychedelia with shades of Mazzy Star’s ethereal bliss and 10,000 Maniacs’ emotional pull”, but as you will see in this feature she is just one of an exciting crop of talent releasing new albums on the Nettwerk Productions label. Here is a selection of the current highlights….
Maria Taylor Whilst the obvious headline is the co-write with Michael Stipe and his vocal contribution to the same song, it is significant that Cartoons And Forever Plans is the last track on Maria’s new album. She is both prepared to keep you waiting and justifiably confident in the strength of her material to pull it off. Multi-instrumentalist Taylor clearly also possesses a sharp pen. This is highly poetic stuff, evocative and just slightly elusive, with a sense of hope rising to the surface in a sea of emotional turmoil. Each song is cleverly arranged; there is orchestral swell, subtle guitar figures tug and pull and her own drumming adds dramatic propulsion to songs such as It’s Time and Green Butterfly. Over it all vocals are layered seeking the ecstasy of release from the tensions brewing beneath. And Cartoons..? Well, that cleverly echoes early REM via Francoise Hardy or maybe Nancy Sinatra in which Maria assures us that despite any heartache, she’s “Not as fragile as I thought “and her “Love will never die.” A fitting conclusion to a very, very fine CD.
Ladyluck - Nettwerk 308422
Great lake Swimmers Built around the layered vocals of chief Swimmer Tony Dekker, there seems a deliberately unhurried air to Lost Channels. The largely acoustic instrumental accompaniment seems to chime around Dekker’s wistful imagery and if the overall impression is melancholic, then this is not despondency, but more wonder and awe in a world of fates and immovable forces. Pulling On A Line suggests connections and directions are pre-ordained even if unknown, and in Still, Dekker is searching as he sings “I am still tuning myself to the great key.” It is all quite beautifully realised as the melodies carry their weight with grace and poise and the arrangements are sublime. Dekker’s poetic vision is obviously key, but his voice becomes more compelling with each listen. There are additional harmonies too from Julie Fader and Serena Ryder. People of a certain disposition will also love the fact that this release comes on gatefold vinyl. Two sides of reverie to file between Fleet Foxes and Midlake.
Lost Channels - Nettwerk 308302
Lay Low Icelandic songstress Lay Low is in London at the behest of her embassy’s cultural attaché. Properganda’s Andrew Geddes is on hand to sample the occasion. The Icelandic ambassador is spoiling us. He has already wined and dined his guests from all walks of the UK music industry quite regally, but now, eschewing tradition and opting to leave the Ferrero Rocher on the embassy sideboard, Mr Gunnlaugsson offers us a post-lunch confection of a wholly different nature: an acoustic set by the country’s latest musical export, Lovisa Elisabet Sigrunardottir, aka Lay Low. This is a real pleasure for all present, because Farewell Good Night’s Sleep, Lay Low’s UK debut, is without doubt already one of the creative highlights of 2009. Produced by Liam Watson, and taking its inspiration from some of country music’s greatest songwriters and performers, it is nevertheless a wonderfully contemporary collection of songs, full of melody, sincerity and warmth. Some may have arrived expecting something from Bjork’s world of weird, while others may have anticipated an hour of Sigur Ros-like shoegazing. But nobody is disappointed. As Lay Low confidently showcases two of the album‘s great songs, Little
By Little and By And By, it is clear that the room is enthralled by yet another consummate, innovative artist from Europe’s northernmost climes. The only question on various minds seems to be quite how the spirits of Hank Williams, Gram Parsons and Peggy Lee have come to be vying for the soul of the unassuming young woman stood before us, with each appearing to be claiming the victory. The closest parallel I can think of - which I offer as high praise is kd lang’s Shadowlands. Though Lay Low sounds nothing like kd lang vocally, both Shadowlands and Farewell Good Night’s Sleep are projects that take modern production techniques to refract light dazzlingly on songs from all across the country music spectrum. Yet, while Shadowlands is a collection of well-known standards; Lay Low’s genius lies in writing original songs that all just sound like standards – which is not the same as saying Farewell Good Night’s Sleep ploughs safe or known furrows. Think Tricky producing Julie London and you are someway there. In any case, the ambassador’s guests all think she is much better than Ferrero Rocher. You will, too. Farewell Good Night’s Sleep - Nettwerk 308452 Andrew Geddes
Griffin House Steeped in classic Americana (Wilco, Ryan Adams and John Mellencamp in particular, but also picking up favourable comparisons to Jackson Browne), House is still enough of a music fan to be awed by the house band assembled by producer Jeff Trott. Being a huge admirer of Tom Petty, the chance to work with Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell was “a dream come true.” Significantly, however, Griffin is really starting to find his own voice as an artist of equal stature to his influences. These are intimate and personal sounding songs, although he still has a tendency to rock out on the likes of Live To Be Free and The Lonely One. The flipside of this is the gorgeous Dylanesque ballad The Guy Who Says Goodbye To You Is Out Of His Mind which really demonstrates the richness of his voice. Lyrically he stretches out as well, with Hangin’ On (Tom’s Song) dealing with death and I Remember (It’s Happening Again) comparing the experience of war to different generations.
Flying Upside Down - Nettwerk 307612 Sara Lov Fans of Simon Raymonde’s Bella Union label will perhaps already know Devics, which combined the talents of Lov with Dustin O’Halloran. This joint project is currently on hold, although Dustin gets three co-write credits here. The duo seem kindred spirits, with a nomadic past: in Lov’s case an enforced spell in Israel having been kidnapped by her brilliant but somewhat wayward father. But the cross between California and Europe seems the most telling here as the pop culture of both continents seems wrapped up in this CD and there’s something almost filmic (Morricone meets Noel Harrison), with just a hint of post-rock cool about the sound. Great tunes abound; for example, A Thousand Bees is broodingly epic, while the quirky duet of Animals, in which Sara needs “to know what are you made of,” is a biological and emotional craving that very cleverly documents the uncertainty of our relationships. A cover of Paul Simon’s Old Friends sits very naturally amidst the originals, given a subtle, vaguely wonky, discordant feel of the city its lyrics suggest.
Seasoned Eyes Were Beaming - Nettwerk 308312 Hanne Hukkelberg In part the story of Blood From A Stone is told by three key aspects of its making. Firstly, the whole album was recorded without a proper drum kit although there is plenty of percussive sound (generated using field recordings and improvised instruments). Secondly, Hanne chose to locate herself in a tiny Norwegian coastal village for the album writing process, a decision that she claims forced her to write louder music. And thirdly, all the instruments were tuned by ear, with digital tuners banned form the studio. All are decisions that are totally right for this music. There is something of the angularity of Siouxsie Sioux at her Banshee best and there are classic art rock roots, with Einstuerzende Neubauten, Sonic Youth and Polly Harvey as the most knowable touchstones. Some of this is disquieting and ominous, dramatic and thrilling by turns, like some kind of Lynchian vision of pop music. Nothing is allowed to settle into formula and that is ultimately the thing that will bring you back to this again and again.
Blood From A Stone - Nettwerk 308462 Miranda Lee Richards Encouraged by her radical parents (luminaries of the underground comic scene) to be artistic, on the basis that if you do something you want then the rest will follow, Richards finally settled on music while at high school. Being taught a few songs by Kirk Hammett (!!) helped open up the world of music making and, on the evidence of Light Of X, it is something that she has immersed herself in completely – following that muse if you will. Starting with guitar, she has also picked up keyboards and is clearly confident enough to start writing string arrangements, which she feels literally “tug at your heartstrings.” But then that is the beauty of having complete artistic control and working with the sympathetic production skills of Rick Parker. The opener Breathless sets the tone over its piano intro, building its melody steadily through the verses. Life Boat shimmers and bubbles with a gently psychedelic wash of echoed vocals. Each track seems to open like a flower, bright, beautiful and yet fragile, right through to Last Days Of Summer with its offbeat, spoken word coda. If you want to know what ‘stir gently’ actually means, then this is the CD for you. You will be stirred..
Light Of X - Nettwerk 30802
Simon Holland Properganda 12
ave and Keith Angel have over the past few years established themselves as one of the most innovative acts on the world music/roots circuit, now consolidating that hardwon reputation with an unpretentiously eponymous new CD that was directly inspired by the recent death of their father Ivor, a real lover of life and a constant source of encouragement. The brothers’ unique sound marries their love of composers Lalo Schifrin, Ennio Morricone and David Axelrod with Latin, Indian and African percussion, acoustic and electric guitars, Hammond organ, piano and English folk fiddle: quite a mix! Fittingly, they themselves describe their latest aural feast as “a soundtrack to a film of your imagination”, and certainly its cinematic propensities, inclinations and ambience are both immediately apparent and expressively ear-catching. The brothers’ now-trademark adventurous globally-influenced crossover-roots grooves are also much in evidence, but the difference this time is an increased prominence given to soulful vocal-based textures on much of the material, these involving either Bombay-born female vocalist Sandhya Sanjana or the brothers’ long-time associate Mick Humphrey. These contributions add a constantly delightful new dimension to the brothers’ good-naturedly cosmopolitan musical adventures, whether on the chillout cine-pop of Ghosts, the easy-lounge vibe of Shifting Sands or the more overt exoticism of Django’s Caravan. Dave and Keith augment their own consummate instrumental and arranging skills, guitars and percussion with funky and intelligent bass lines from Jim Lockey and Andy Seward and a return cameo from celebrated Magazine keyboardist Dave Formula. The brothers also call on English fiddlers Becki Driscoll and Nick Wyke, who turn in some fine solo passagework on the thigh-slapping Butlin’s Lederhosen Fancy and the genially folky-funk Empty Chair as well as being responsible for some commanding string arrangements, notably on the opener Tongues Of Fire (which shape-shifts most persuasively over the course of its seven-minute span from a gentle Latin lilt into a deliciously syncopated, relaxed reggae reel) and the more animated Goldbricking. Every track brings fresh surprises to captivate the ear: perhaps most intriguing of all is the slinky Stepping On Shadows, where a compulsive fandango meets twang guitar with Eastern promise, while the spirit of Classical Gas meets 70s film scores on Same Sky, Different Planet. The whole record should be listened to on good-quality headphones in order to experience the full multiplex sonic effect, for it glistens with accomplishment and captivates Angel Brothers with its appealing and thoroughly Angel Brothers natural eclecticism. Navigator 18 David Kidman 14
Paul Adams at the controls.
British jazz label and the word ‘success’ are often mutually exclusive but not so the Lake label which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. This is all the more remarkable considering the current increasingly hostile environment, as evidenced this year by the decision of the BBC to cancel their BBC Jazz Awards. A dire situation which brings to mind the old chestnut that in order to make your million out of jazz you need to start with two million.
GO JUMP IN THE LAKE Based in beautiful Cumbria, hence the label name, the UK’s leading label for traditional and mainstream jazz, Lake was established in 1984, following the success of the folk label Fellside, also solely run by Paul and Linda Adams. Lake concentrates mainly on traditional and mainstream styles. Many of the albums are classic reissues but the label also features current working bands and even ventures into the choppy waters of more modern persuasion. For example, the sensational recording that featured Acker Bilk playing his socks off with the magnificent arrangements and virtuosity of the Stan Tracey Big Band on Blue Acker, which I am enjoying whilst I write this. If you thought Acker Bilk was just cider and a waistcoat ‘n’ bowler, try this and be amazed. There is a common suspicion that the music business is peopled largely by thieves and vagabonds but in my experience this is seldom the case in the world of British jazz labels, which are largely run by dedicated, genuine enthusiasts. None more so than Paul Adams. Lake has received six awards for excellence, having issued more than 270 mouth-watering albums by the likes of Humphrey Lyttelton, George Melly, Alex Welsh, Chris Barber, Ken Colyer, Sandy Brown, Terry Lightfoot and Acker Bilk. Not bad from a label comprising just two dedicated people, Paul and Linda Adams. The flow of outstanding releases continues with some glorious new releases that should be on the shelves by the time you’re reading this, including Humphrey Lyttelton 1957-58. The 38 tracks on this great value 2-for-theprice-of-1 album start with the haunting Baby Doll with some superbly Hodges-inspired alto playing from the inimitable Bruce Turner, and goes on to plot the gradual transition from the earlier traditional style to the mainstream jazz that was to occupy Humph for the rest of his life, and introduce world class musicians Jimmy Skidmore, Kathy Stobart, Tony Coe
Humphrey Lyttelton 1957-58 LACD269
Lake Records All-Star Jazz Band The Rosehill Concert LACD270
John Hallam Jeff Barnhart Alone Together LACD272
and Joe Temperley to his various line-ups during this period, a period before a certain Mrs Trellis of North Wales entered his life. It is easy to forget what a sensational band this was but you now have no excuse with this collection, following on from the label’s previous Humph albums. All in all it’s the definitive archive of the late, great Humph’s music and clearly demonstrates that whatever his other talents and distractions he was one hell of a player. Also in 2-for-the-price-of-one mode is The Lake Records All-Star Jazz Band Rosehill Concert. To those of us not fortunate enough to have been in the audience at the Rosehill Theatre in Cumbria on 12 May 2008, we can now wallow in this great example of good time jazz. Good time in that everybody had a good time, the spirited band led by the world’s most reluctant bandleader, Paul Adams (yes, the same), the capacity audience, and theatre staff, the recording engineer, passing seagulls: everybody - and now you. The final new release is Alone Together by John Hallam and Jeff Barnhart. There is a connection with the aforementioned All Star album as John and Jeff are featured artists on that as well. This is the third Lake outing for these two consummate artists, previously heard on Mr Gentle And Mr Hot and Mr Fine And Mr Dandy. It takes special musicians to carry off a reeds and piano duet over the 78 minutes that comprise this release and, my God, are these two special. They breathe life into some familiar material, with the sympathetic reading of Ellington’s Black Butterfly an absolute highlight. So let’s get the party started, with congratulations to Paul and Linda and all associated with the joyous Lake label on their silver anniversary. With almost 200 CDs currently on catalogue, do yourself a favour, go jump in the Lake, I think you will find the water’s fine. Brian Showell Properganda 12
oday, ECM – an acronym for Edition of Contemporary Music – has a catalogue in excess of 1000 albums and has been in business longer than any other independent label in the history of jazz. It began as a tiny operation in Munich run by Manfred Eicher, who had studied double bass at the Berlin Academy of Music and had begun to make a name for himself as recording assistant with the classical label Deutsche Grammophon. After borrowing 16,000 deutschmarks to get the label started, he released his first album Free At Last by pianist Mal Waldron in 1969 to modest sales and favourable reviews. Since then, the range of music Eicher recorded has been astonishingly broad, with more than 900 titles made under his personal direction. They range from American jazz in tune with the restless rhythms of New York City, to European jazz in all its diversity, to music beyond convenient categories and to contemporary classical music. He has won American Grammy awards, recording industry awards, Gold and Platinum discs, citations and plaques and even an automobile in recognition of his achievements. Over the years, ECM recordings have acquired the cache of excellence, not only because the albums exude top-of-the-range quality with their eye catching cover photographs and immaculate sans serif typography, but because each recording represents a benchmark of recorded sound. For many, ECM represents a musical genre of its own − for example, many record stores have their own ECM section devoted exclusively to ECM artists. Today, ECM’s legion of fans eagerly await each batch of new releases convinced the label is the most adventurous, fascinating and absorbing label in jazz and contemporary classical music today. The current crop includes… Enrico Rava - New York Days 177 2715 (CD), 179 7340 (2-LP) The master Italian trumpet player returns to New York with his long time associate, pianist Stefano Bollani for a session with three Americans, saxophonist Mark Turner, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Paul Motian. Rava is the eternal story-teller and he provides his American friends with a series of elegant vignettes that evoke the kind of bitter-sweet feelings you get when gazing out of the window on a wet Sunday afternoon. Keith Jarrett - Yesterdays 177 4447 (CD), 179 4205 (2-LP) Jarrett’s trio has been together since the 1980s, and the secret of their longevity is revealed in this charming album of standards recorded live in Japan in 2001. It is simply that Jarrett, Gary Peacock on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums simply love playing together. You only have to listen to tracks such as Horace Silver’s Strollin’, the title track and Stella By Starlight to hear their empathy and warm understanding shining through on this exemplary album of piano trio jazz. Andy Sheppard - Movements in Colour 179 5042 For years it has seemed the British saxophonist Andy Sheppard was a natural for the ECM label, and he finally gets his chance with Movements In Colour, which is also his first album in six years. With a band that reflects the current state of his art he draws on Indo-jazz – Kuljit Bhamra on tabla – and Euro-jazz influences - Norwegians Eivind Aarset on guitar and Arild Andersen on bass – and together with UK guitarist John Parricelli creates an album of subtly shifting moods and strong melodies that add up to a memorable musical experience. Jon Hassell - Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street 179 2636 Thinker, arch-conceptualist and trumpeter Jon Hassell makes a welcome return to the ECM label after a 25 year hiatus with an album that thoughtfully harnesses subtle electronic sounds and colours with his own liquid and seemingly weightless trumpet improvisations. Artfully conceived and masterfully executed, Jan Bang emerges as a key collaborator, his electronic sampling in real time helping shape the music in subtle and mysterious ways. Fly - Sky & Country 179 5041 Fly have been around for a decade, but Sky & Country, their ECM debut, is only their second album. Comprising Mark Turner on saxophones, Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard drums, their intricate, closely knit arrangements produce a new slant on the saxophone-bass-and-drums combination. There is complexity here but also strong rhythmic grooves, while Turner extends the range of the tenor saxophone ever upwards in an album that gets better on every hearing. Stuart Nicholson
Also released this March, the new album from Arvo Pärt underlines ECM New Series‘ continuing commitment to contemporary composers 25 years after it introduced the Estonian’s music to the West with Tabula Rasa. Michael Quinn offers an appreciation.
o other living composer blends avant-garde techniques with devout religious feeling to such individual and intense emotional effect as Arvo Pärt.
No surprise, then, that when he fled Soviet repression in his native Estonia in 1980, he arrived in the West with a distinctly curious but rather fierce reputation as a “holy minimalist”. Now 73, Pärt writes with all the wisdom of experience and age, but his music also communicates with all the passion and intensity of youth and aspiration. And as this startling new collection of recent works demonstrates, he is a composer who still has the capacity to surprise. In Principio is his eleventh album in 25 years from the ever-enterprising ECM label and its four world premiere recordings and re-workings of two older works points to compelling new directions for Pärt. The title track, which sets the Biblical text “In the beginning was the word…” for mixed choir and orchestra, is a Hollywood epic with heart and soul in which exultant voices, muscular percussion, soaring strings and brass fanfares pierce silence and darkness to dramatic effect. Where La Sindone depicts the journey of the Holy Shroud to its resting place in Turin with a hushed beauty and touching simplicity that can’t fail to move even the hardest heart, the portrait of Cecilia, patron saint of music, is sublime, hypnotic and otherworldly in equal measure. Für Lennart In Memoriam, the last new work here, is quintessential Pärt, its heart-stopping stillness framed with an austere beauty that no other composer could match or mimic. Of the two revisited works, Da Pacem Domine, written two days after the Madrid train bombings in 2004, stretches back into antiquity to conjure gravityfree vocal harmonies that slowly melt and evaporate away into history. Mein Weg weaves the separate threads of 14 strings and full orchestra together into a multi-coloured, multi-faceted, endlessly fascinating whole. Longtime Pärt champion Tõnu Kaljuste conducts the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonic Chamber Choir in performances of steel and stature worthy of a composer very much of and for his time. Michael Quinn
ARVO PÄRT In Principio ECM 476 6990
A one day festival of award winning contemporary folk artists in the enchanting grounds of Hatfield House.
The Official Wine of Folk by the Oak
Registered charity no. 1106746
www.folkbytheoak.com or call the Box Office on 01432 355 416
eter Gabriel’s Real World Records continues to issue groundbreaking new music from across the globe and the label’s latest releases both push the envelope in terms of developing a cross-cultural musical dialogue
Photography: York Tillyer ©2009 Real World REcords Ltd.
Justin Adams has long been celebrated internationally as a guitarist of great skill and imagination: amongst his many achievements are helping Jah Wobble develop his concept of ethno-dub, joining Robert Plant’s band and pushing the ex-Zep vocalist into creating his freshest music of his solo career, producing desert blues outfit Tinariwen’s three albums (so helping them win a huge Western following) and teaming up with Juldeh Camara. Juldeh Camara may not be as famous as any of the forementioned musicians yet the Gambian musician is a master of the riti (or nyanyeru), a one-string violin that originates with the Fulani people and is played across West Africa.
Camara grew up learning riti from his blind father, Serif. As an adult he has worked with musicians across West Africa, the US and Europe. Adams had released a solo album, Desert Road, in 2000, demonstrating his fascination with West African guitar styles. Desert Road’s critics praised Adams guitar playing while suggesting his vocals wern’t his strength. It’s appropriate then that when considering a second solo album he chose a musical partner from West Africa who could sing. Fortuitously, Juldeh had a cassette of Desert Road that he would regularly play along with. Adams’ experience of making music with Tinariwen gave him a real appreciation for the dynamic textures of Juldeh’s playing. Their debut album, Soul Science, demonstrated brilliantly how an English rock guitarist and a Gambian riti player could come together and create an elemental sound, both contemporary yet ancient. Listening to them play off one another, you hear cultures sharing and forging a tough, edgy sound: blues rock mating with West Africa’s elemental, ancient string groove. Sophomore album Tell No Lies is a tougher, wilder proposition, the duo obviously more confident and aware of their possibilities. On tracks like Sahara Adams fires off ferocious layers of electric guitar while Camara drives the rhythm along with furious riti and a snarling vocal. Imagine a stoneage Stooges and you are close to comprehending how loose and exciting this album is! Beautifully recorded – lots of acoustic space surrounds the instruments – the sonic textures developed by Adams and Camara create a music almost psychedelic in its rich, trance like textures...
Justin Adams & Judeh Camara
Tell No Lies Real World Records CDRW170
...Where Justin Adams is something of a legend amongst British musicians the Chinese musician Mamer is celebrated in China as a hugely influential and innovative musician. Drawing inspiration from the songs and poetry of the grasslands where he grew up, Mamer has developed a sound that draws on folk traditions while being firmly rooted in contemporary music making. Mamer was born in Qitai County in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province. Some 2000 miles from Beijing, he grew up in the furthest flung corner of Chinese central Aia, near China’s border with Russia and Kazakhstan. One of ten children, Mamer learnt the songs and instruments of the grasslands from his father and grandfather. As a musician he has pushed the boundaries of Chinese music making – his band IZ are credited with kick-starting the Chinese alt-country scene! On Eagle he returns to his roots, singing in the deep rumble that throat singers of the region employ. Yet Eagle is no pure folk document - produced by Robin Haller and Matteo Scumaci in Beijing and Urmumqi, Mamer is immersed in a subtle web of electronic instruments so developing a rich, layered sound. Mamer plays a variety of instruments, both Western (acoustic and electric guitar) and Eastern (domba) and surrounds himself with a small band, who contribute throat singing and a variety of stringed instruments and percussion. Robin and Matteo add guitars, bass and programming and drafted into legendary US banjo player Bela Fleck to play with Mamer on Celebration. For album closer Mountain Wind they got French producer Hector Zazou to build a lush, ambient mix. On these new Real World albums both Mamer and Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara make music of immense power and beauty. Be prepared for a musical banquet where Asia and Africa meet the West on equal terms. Garth Cartwright 18
Eagle Real World Records CDRW165
ara Tavares is one of the most successful Cape Verdean singers about. She is also a deep thinker. Her swinging, guitar-led music might sound light and breezy but her lyrics – delivered in everything from Portuguese and Angolan slang to the English/French/Portuguese metisse of Cape Verde’s crioulo – deal with the stuff many of us shy away from: feelings. And Xinti (Feel It), the much-anticipated follow up to 2006’s acclaimed Balancê, insists we do exactly that. “Be in good company,” she sings in her supple, melodious way. “Smile in your heart. Have faith. Let the soul go with the swing. Feel.” Tavares is no longer the shy teenage singer-songwriter who burst onto the Lusaphone scene in 1994, winning the Portuguese Television Contest with a cover of, um, Whitney Houston’s One Moment In Time and went on to represent Portugal in the Eurovision Song Contest. And though she shone brightly on her Lokua Kanza-produced, Afropoppy 1999 debut Mi Ma Bô, and won an army of admirers for Balancê, it’s on Xinti that she really comes into her own. The influences – Cape Verdean, Portuguese, Brazilian – are all there. But so is a newfound confidence. International touring and adulation have added a buoyancy to a woman whose Cape Verdean parents left her to be raised by a stranger in Lisbon. These are songs written on the road, sparked by long drives along the coasts of the US and honed and polished in her home studio. Backed by a fresh group of musicians on guitar, drums, bass and Indian flute, Tavares gets intense and brooding on songs including the playful and vocally complex Caminhanti; the achingly beautiful Exala (Exhale), which she’s said is about “listening to what isn’t spoken”; and Ponto di Luz (Point of Light), a gorgeous, floating, bossa-style ode to “chasing a point of light on the horizon, a god.” Deep? The Atlantic – the ocean that surrounds her parents’ West African archipelago – has nothing on Tavares. Here are experiments with R&B and reggae; Cape Verdean and broader African styles. There are sparkling, soukous-like guitar passages. Dreamy variations on Cape Verde’s usually frenetic rural funaná dance, complete with a ukulele/guitar duet. Whatever the influence or language, this is music that encourages emotion, reflection, clarity. Xinti, then, is music with feeling. Jane Cornwall
NEW RELEASES WORLD CONNECTION
O U T: 1 8 M AY
O UT: 20 APRIL
Xinti World Connection WC43082
OUT: 4 MAY
CANÇÃO AO LADO
Sara Tavares’ new album ‘Xinti’ (Feel it) is an album full of ‘sunshine soul’, Sara Tavares’ trademark.
The new soulful voice of Africa. Cameroonean singer song writer recorded his debut album in Bamako & Paris with producers Jean Lamoot & Jean-Louis Solans (Salif Keita).
‘Fado with a twist’
Sara never sounded more sparkling. LIVE :
24 April - Barbican, London Sara Tavares + Oumou Sangare TICKETS : www.barbican.org.uk www. saratavares.com www.myspace.com/saratavares
check out live video footage of Blick Bassy at Amsterdam World on: www.worldconnection.nl/blickbassy www.myspace.com/ blick bassy2
4 June - ICA, London TICKETS: www.ica.org.uk LIVE:
b l ic k b a s s y
lé m a n
F O R B O O K I N G S C O N TA C T:
t u r i d @ w o r l d c o n n e c t i o n a g e n c y. n l
WWW.WORLDCONNECTION.NL Properganda 12
towersey village fe s t i v a l
“Magical Towersey - another lovelier world for a few days”
The Imagined Village
The Waterson Family Karine Polwart Band Edward II
Shooglenifty Devon Sproule
Jim Moray Chris Smither
The Demon Barbers Mawkin:Causley
Heidi Talbot with John McCusker & Boo Hewerdine and many more
27200 31aug u 9
The very best value for your pound on a holiday where you become part of a unique Festival community. Something very special happens below the huge blue-skied days and stunning starlit nights. An amazingly laid back and yet exciting place to be for four days and five nights of festival magic.
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Save money by booking online! Book Early Bird* tickets online Full Weekend Season ticket - Adult £88 | Youth (12-17) £58 | Child (5-11) £44 Five Nights of Camping just £17 per person (under 11s FREE) *Early Bird tickets available until 29 May inc. Telephone and postal admin fee - £4 per booking
for more information, artist updates and to book tickets please visit the website or call 01629
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hings seldom stand still for Fairport Convention. In fact, the founding fathers of folk rock are busier now than at any point in their four-decade career. This year started with the band’s twenty-fifth consecutive Winter Tour, thirty-odd dates back-to-back which took the road-hardened five-piece from Cornwall to Dundee, from Kent to Cumbria. The tour was followed by a headline appearance in the Royal Albert Hall as part of the annual concert series to raise funds for Teenage Cancer Trust. The band members are also busy organising Fairport’s Cropredy Convention, their annual threeday music festival which takes place on 13, 14 and 15 August. As if these live commitments weren’t enough, Fairport Convention has also found time to release two new albums. The first of these is Live at Cropredy ‘08 which documents Fairport’s extended set at last year’s Cropredy festival. Recorded by Paul Smith and mastered by John Gale, the CD features sixteen tracks - 80 minutes of music - and includes rarely-performed songs from Fairport’s folkrock opera Babbacombe Lee. There is also a five-song musical tribute to songwriter Sandy Denny, the former Fairport singer who died in 1978. Sandy’s songs are sung by guest vocalists including Chris While, Kellie While, and Vikki Clayton. As a bonus, Robert Plant and Kristina Donahue perform Battle of Evermore, the Plant-Denny duet which was first recorded on Led Zeppelin IV.
Beyond The Forest
New album out 4 May In March 2008 Martin Cradick set up a studio deep in the Cameroon rainforest to record the powerful night-time ritual singing of the Baka Pygmy women. By replacing some vocals with bass and guitar, leaving rhythms unchanged, he has produced a new music, familiar yet other-worldly and strangely reminiscent of reggae. Hidden in the multi-layered vocals he found beautiful melodies that he has brought out and sensitively mixed to produced a remarkable album, “Baka Beyond the Forest“. The original singing, unadorned, is being released on a companion album, “Baka in the Forest“.
Baka Beyond the Forest MAHA CD28
Released May 4th
Baka in the Forest MAHA CD29
Released May 18th
Royalties go to the Baka through the charity Global Music Exchange www.1heart.org
...it swings like crazy and deserves to be top of the World charts.”
“There have been many live Fairport recordings down the years,” says Fairport founder-member Simon Nicol, the band’s lead singer and guitarist. “However, none has given us as much pleasure as this one. It really catches what Fairport Convention and Cropredy are all about and we’re really grateful to John Gale who has done a great job on the remix and the mastering. If you were at Cropredy last August, this album will take you back to a great night; if you weren’t, now is your chance to hear what you missed.” “Fairport is not the sort of outfit that rests on its laurels between tours and recording sessions,” Simon continues. “None of us are happy to just sit around so we all have various projects to keep us busy.” One of the most impressive of these side projects is visionary Breton composer Alan Simon’s Excalibur. Fairport Convention has, jointly and severally, contributed to Excalibur since 1996 and now the pick of the recordings have been collated Fairport Convention and released as Fame And Glory, Fame And Glory the second of Fairport’s 2009 MGCD049 albums. The fifteen-track album presents a unique collection of songs and tunes which are a wonderful evocation of Arthurian legend, Celtic mythology and Breton folklore. The words and music are by Alan Simon with contributions by Fairport’s Chris Leslie and Ric Sanders. The music on Fame And Glory is performed by Fairport Convention with guest appearances by Jacqui McShee, Martin Barre, Dave Mattacks, Dan Ar Braz, John Helliwell, James Wood and Flook. Sid Cowens
Fairport Convention Live At Cropredy ‘08 MGCD048
Special guest Molara original voice of Zion Train
April Fri 17th Assembly Rooms*, Glastonbury 01458 834677 May Thu 7th The Junction, Cambridge 01223 511511 Fri 8th ALBUM LAUNCH PARTY Bush Hall, London 08700 600 100 Sat 9th Folk on the Pier, Cromer 01263 512495 Fri 15th Juju Club, The Red Room, Sheffield 0114 275 2027 Sat 16th Bongo Club, Edinburgh 0131 558 7604 Wed 20th Thekla*, Bristol 0117 929 3301 Thu 21st Mind Body Spirit Festival (acoustic trio 2pm, Baka singing workshop 4-8pm) 0207 371 91 91 Fri 22nd Wombwell Festival, Barnsley 01226 752901 Sat 23rd Princess Pavillion, Falmouth 01326 211 222 Sun 24th Acoustic Festival of Britain, Catton Hall Park, Derbyshire 08444 771000 Wed 27th The Spiegel Tent*, Bath Fringe Festival Thu 28th The Globe*, Hay-on-Wye 01497 821762 Fri 29th Queen’s Hall*, Narberth 01834 861212 Sun 31st Sunrise Celebration*, Somerset www.sunrisecelebration.com * Baka Beyond Quintet listen to & buy CDs online and full tour listings at
March Hare Music
hat is a record label? An organisation that cares for its audience, artists and the quality of the music. That’s what you’d expect isn’t it? Sadly in these days of multi headed hydra run on a global level by faceless officials, hype and dollar signs in their eyes, individualism and character are traits that are hard to find. Step forward Talking Elephant, bizarrely named but a model of independence and personality that has an old fashioned ethos and a roster of artists with whom they have strong ties and solid trust.
The Lark Rise Band Lark Rise Revisited TECD124
“I think they’re splendid, I couldn’t be happier than to have landed at their door,” offers Ashley Hutchings, founder of roots rock bands, Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and The Albion Band, a long term resident. Another is Magna Carta whose leader Chris Simpson reckons, “Talking Elephant is an island of sanity in a sea of chaos.” Of course the fact that they operate out of a small space in Bexleyheath, does perhaps lead you to the conclusion that they may not exactly be challenging EMI or Universal this time next week, but ambition never hurt anyone and the happy characters at Talking Elephant never understood the word impossible anyway. I well recall the day they phoned to inform me they’d taken a wayward tilt at issuing the latest Stephen Stills album – and won! By being honest, straight forward and maintaining a hands on approach to the game, Malcolm Holmes and Barry Riddington have gained more than a considerable degree of respect from both musicians and punters. Besides Stills, they maintain a healthy catalogue of rock, roots, folk and random objects, some reissues – always done with due attention and concern – and a healthy percentage of new material. “The market is full of labels that get a licence and issue albums but they disappear overnight. Talking Elephant go through each stage with a tooth comb, the devil is in the detail,” Ashley Hutchings considers. So count amongst their diverse friends, the afore mentioned Stills, Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Albion Band, Magna Carta as well as rockers Wishbone Ash, Caravan, The Enid, The Groundhogs and progressive experimentalists Tir Na Nog, Amazing Blondel and Gryphon. All very 1970s. Barry laughs, “We have been called, the home of AOG Ageing Old Git music, that’s generally bands from the 1968-1975 period plus some folk, but we cater for,” he pauses ,” the more… ahem…mature artist. I don’t mind, that’s fine, the music’s valid. Talking Elephant values the relationship it has with the musicians on the label, but we’re not just about representing past work as I think bands like Astralasia prove.” Astralasia do somewhat flip the coin for the Elephant, being a dance, dub, techno unit. Equally off the wall is a box set of reminiscences and music from legendary compare cum road manger, Johnny Jones, as well as the debut offering 20 years in the making, from the mysterious Sister Mary Elephant. Well known individual musicians such as Tony McPhee, Ric Sanders, Pete Bardens and Dave Pegg all have product in house. How did they begin? “We started from the ashes of HTD Records in 2002. HTD is still the name of our mail order arm, we already had a lot of contacts and groups in mind but our first release was with Wishbone Ash, an album called Illuminations. In fact Wishbone Ash have a new set coming out which is Argus in concert, it was recorded by XFM in the States. They have been with us since 1995 and are due to do a huge show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire during May to celebrate their 40th anniversary.” 22
Chris Simpson When All Is Said And Done TECD134
The Countryside Collection Various TECD136
The Albion Band Captured TECD137
Chas Hodges TECD138
About the label’s name, distinctive, for sure, but where did Talking Elephant come from? “Malcolm came up with Elephant Records, (slow and plodding but gets there,) I thought that was a bit straight forward so added talking. It’s a good for adverts because you can say things like ‘What’s the elephant got to say this month?’
Moulton Morris Men Where The Pavement Ends TECD139
Amazing Blondel Inspiration TECD140
With such an assorted stable of releases, what have been the Elephant’s best sellers? “It’d have to be Stephen Stills. We got to know a man called Allen Jacobi of Pyramid Records in America over many Midems. (Music industry conference/get together, at which much business is actually done.) When he wanted to release Man Alive he didn’t trust any of the majors and ended up giving it to Talking Elephant. We got a high profile through that album, weekend papers and the rock press. There has been some after effect with people remembering our name and checking out later recordings. ” You’ve a high profile amongst the Fairport faithful too. “We’ve been working with the Convention for about thirteen years and have done reissues of their later material as well as albums by spin offs and ex members. Ric Sanders let us do a sampler of his jazz/ folk, fiddle material called Still Waters, we’ve done CDs by Chris Leslie and of course a whole raft of music, new, archive, in concert, by Ashley Hutchings either as himself or as the Albion Band. Though his new Lark Rise To Candleford group is doing well, I suppose the tie in with the television series helps, but Ashley was working on the plays at the National Theatre two decades before the BBC.” With eyes to the future, the release schedule never lets up. Up front is a new set from Chas Hodges half of Cokney rock duo Chas and Dave, thirteen tracks of pure East End knees up, there’s a procession of Amazing Blondel items that have been out of catalogue for eons. Expect the likes of Mulgrave Street, and Inspiration, to be out once more and maybe with bonus material, meantime that particular version of Blondel – Eddie Baird and Terry Wincott – haven’t been shy to see the potential such a campaign would deliver and are cutting a new set to present in the autumn. “And we’re also picking up Little Johnny England,” Barry casually remarks as our conversation draws to a close. Hailed as the new face of folk rock about five years back it was assumed they’d run out of steam, but the lads at T.E. have breathed on them anew with a compilation of earlier material and a new studio release in the works.
Amazing Blondel Mugrave Street TECD141
Happy time ahead for all then, the casual listener or the connoisseur. Barry raises his eyebrows and delivers his final piece of philosophy. “ It’s a roller coaster but hey… what a job. I wouldn’t swap it even if I could.” Whilst you dear reader, remember, listen to the Elephant if you know what’s good for you! Simon Jones
Amazing Blondel Bad Dreams TECD145
OLI BROWN... PAUL JONES... JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR...
ete Feenstra asks original blues boomer Paul Jones and ‘baby blues boomers’, guitarists Joanne Shaw Taylor and Oli Brown is history repeating itself with another British Blues boom? With Paul promoting his first blues/gospel solo album for 37 years, Starting All Over Again on CRS and Joanne and Oli both touring behind their respective White Sugar and Open Road albums on Ruf, all three are at the heart of the contemporary blues scene. So Paul, how did the original British Blues Boom start and is what’s happening now a boom or swell? PJ: “It started with Alexis Korner in 1962 and The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Yardbirds, Manfred Mann. The 67 /68 Boom with Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack, John Mayall was the second blues boom. And yes, I really think this is a boom and an exciting time for the blues.” So how do Joanne and Oli view things? JST: “I was talking to Oli about this, there does appear to be mini boom going on in the UK at the moment. There certainly seems to be more young guitarists now - possibly far more so than in the last 20 years.” 24
But are we identifying just the players or a potential audience as well? JST: “Well, I’ve been playing in the UK now for about 10 years and I’ve noticed a difference in both the age and size of the audience. There seems to be a lot more people my age coming to the gigs now”. PJ: “What I can say is my radio programme has much bigger listening figures than it has in over 20 years. And I think the youth of these two musicians here is part of the boom. For a long time blues was considered to be the music of people who were first music fans in the 60s and early 70s. They probably latched onto that first British Beat Boom and the bands that followed in the family tree. But what we see now is a younger audience developing”. Oli B: “Well I haven’t been doing it for that long but I guess my name got around when the album was released. But I have been trying to get younger audiences into the music by playing in high schools in our local area just to see what would happen. We did a gig at the beginning of the tour and the amount of 13/14 year old kids that came to that gig was just incredible. Radio One doesn’t play blues or anything like that and it’s not readily commercially available, but when young
e covered France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria and Czech Republic during a 5-week period.
We had a truly fantastic time, many members of the audiences in these European countries are much younger, in Berlin for example, a class of 17 year old students on a music trip from Denmark had pre-booked tickets for our show, and it is really great to see that young people are embracing this style of music, and they mixed in very well with the older fans too. I was really happy to look out from the stage and see such a mix of ages on every night of the tour, because I firmly believe that blues/rock does appeal to everyone, and so that to us was validation.
kids hear it they want to embrace it”. PJ: “Oli’s thing is very important and Joe Bonamassa has done it too. It’s great young people are building for the next generation”. But didn’t we have a blues boom with the Hoax in the early 90’s and it didn’t last? PJ: “It’s mysterious why things don’t grab the public ear. The Hoax is the greatest mystery I can think of in the last 30 years. When they put out 4/5 hugely acclaimed albums they were still playing small German clubs and sleeping in the attic of the club that they were playing in. They should have been doing massive festivals and staying in 5 stars hotel”. JST: “I think part of the problem is prejudice. If I mention blues
Starting All Over Again CBHCD2015
Danny Bryant’s Redeyeband Black And White CBHCD2014
...reports in from the road:
On the third week of the tour we arrived in the Czech Republic for only the third show of my career in this country, this was a great example of what promotion needs to be done in order to make a break through in a new country, the promoters had worked hard and managed to get a short clip of the band on TV (an almost impossible task for a Blues band in the UK) the result was an amazing show in an 750 seat theatre and a great start to our assault on another new territory. We played many memorable shows and finished Saturday closing the night at a Blues festival in Germany. Now we are back home in the UK I am busy writing songs for my next album, my tour schedule is making it very difficult to book any studio time yet, and I am longing to get into the recording studios again! Danny Bryant
to my friends, there is a massive misconception of what it is. When I was 14 I took some school friends to see the Hoax. With Robin Davey jumping up and down on stage they thought it was better than Oasis” So is this another Blues Boom? PJ: “There definitely is. The thing is booms tend to be defined by the media rather than the musicians and fans. They couldn’t really care either way whether it’s a boom or not. They are just interested in seeing a band they like. As someone who is old enough to be a grandfather of these two here, I’m delighted the blues is as strong as it is now. And I think we can finally say it really is here forever or for as long as there is going to be music”. Pete Feenstra www.feenstra.co.uk
Open Road RUF1139
Joanne Shaw Taylor White Sugar RUF1147
Pete Feenstra regularly promotes gigs at Zoom@The Moon, The Half Moon, 10 Half Moon Lane, Herne Hill, London SE24 and Boom Boom Club@Sutton United, Borough Sports Ground, Gander Green Lane, Sutton SM1 Upcoming shows include... 8th May Skinny Molly (with Mike Estes – Lynyrd Skynyrd) Boom Boom Club
22nd May Carvin Jones Band (from the USA) Boom Boom Club
9th May Carvin Jones Band (from the USA) Zoom@The Moon
29th May The Nimmo Brothers Boom Boom Club
10th May Steve Boyce Band Boom Boom Club 15th May Strawbs (full electric band) Boom Boom Club 16th May Jay Tamkin Band Zoom@The Moon
23rd May Never The Bride Boom Boom Club 5th June Larry Miller Band Boom Boom Club 26th June The Hamsters 2009 Boom Boom Club
ounded in 1978 by blues promoter John Stedman, JSP Records is one of the longest surviving specialist music labels in the UK, with a current catalogue of some 200 titles. As you might expect, the backbone is a panoply of US blues/ R&B, past and present - John continues to commission and produce new recordings (see blues reviews for latest). Around this core is a substantial body of exemplary, criticallyacclaimed reissues of jazz legends, Old Timey / hillbilly / country music, Cajun & Zydeco, Hawaiian (aloha - aloha), Rembetika (all Greek to me) and even classic British music hall (if you don’t like it your granny will - oy!) The finest examples are JSP’s CD doubles and 4&5-disc box sets, each compiled and annotated by experts in their genre, remastered from best possible sources (often previously unearthed or unissued on CD), TLC by award-winning engineers, and priced for the average pocket, no bank loan required. For the jazz-inclined JSP offers authoritative retrospectives of such maestros as Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Count Basie, Django Reinhardt and crossover characters Cab Calloway and Louis Jordan, the latter as important in the evolution of R&B and rock ’n’ roll as he was a star of stage and screen in his ’40s heyday. The roots of modern country are represented by a wide range of various artists’ compilations revealing relatively obscure mountain and bluegrass pioneers along with individual portraits of seminal stylists such as Charlie Poole, Bill Monroe, Ernest Tubb, Roy Acuff, The Delmore Brothers and Chet Atkins. When it comes to the blues, please no crass jokes about the visually impaired. Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie McTell, Blind Boy Fuller and Blind Blake are righteously honoured. Also other greats such as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Charley Patton and a wealth of subsequent blues stars - Sonny Boy Williamson #1, Lightnin’ Hopkins, John Lee Hooker, et al - who built the bridge between the earliest recorded pioneers and today’s rock-blues mamma jammers.
The Later Years JSPCD4207
Clifton Chenier with Clarence Garlow Louisiana Stomp JSPCD4212
Live At The Checkerboard Lounge JSPCD8808
Just a skim through a library of essential roots music, with new volumes added regulary. Soon come are sets of Champion Jack Dupree ( Blues/R&B), Paramount Jazz, Clifton Chenier/Clarence Garlow (Zydeco) and Virginia Rockabilly. Personally I most treasure JSP’s recording of New Orleans legend Professor Longhair live in London in 1978. But then I was in the audience at the historic gig. Biased? Big Chief, you bet I am. CW 26
reviews Brass Monkey
Head Of Steam
3 Side Island
Fellside Recordings FECD223
Beside The Waves Of Time
Brass Monkey, formed in the early 80s by Martin Carthy, John Kirkpatrick and Martin Brinsford with brass musicians Howard Evans and Roger Williams, notably involved brass instruments in accompanying traditional English folk music. The excitement this unique blend generated continues on into Head Of Steam (their first recording since Howard’s death), which introduces new trumpeter Paul Archibald.
Hailing from the Wirral Elbow Jane are an acoustic five piece rising steadily through the ranks. While & Matthews are fans, personally inviting them to their Party On The Lawn and now Fellside Recordings have snapped them up. Also it seems Mike Harding’s ears have been pricked.
The musical menu is expectedly well proportioned, a vibrant assortment of polkas, quicksteps and morris tunes punctuating the carefully researched songs. The band’s felicitous approach to scoring is as unfailingly intelligent as their creative treatment of the vocal items. The abundantly lively ensemble work is always more than the sum of its parts (Mr K’s sprightly squeezery; Mr C’s exemplary, careful guitar traceries; the bold, bright brass, blazing or mellow; and all genially driven along by Mr B’s drumkit, fabulously fleet of foot and far removed from flabby folk-rockism). Another grand feast of finely-tuned rumbustiousness.
Steve Knightley Track of Words – Retraced Hands On Music HMCD30
CI While Show of Hands go from strength to strength, Steve Knightley has maintained a parallel career as a singer songwriter, that would surely have hit great heights had he had more time to devote to it. In 1999 he released his first solo album Track of Words in what he now admits was a futile and ill-advised attempt to be radio-friendly and the album sank without trace. Yet, while the delivery left something to be desired, the songs stood up and, 10 years on, he’s decided to revisit them. It’s a good decision. Some of the material – Cold Heart of England, Faith In You, Track of Words and the excellent bonus track – a Seth Lakeman collaboration Rock You To Sleep - are compelling and evocative, meriting comparison with his best works. He plays most of the instruments himself, though Dave Wood contributes gorgeous slide guitar and Jenna Witt adds piano and vocals. More energised re-birth than nostalgic social visit.
The vocals form Kev Byrne, Richard Woods and Joe Topping are first rate, the harmonies are tight and whoever takes lead, there’s confidence oozing through every song. Woods and Byrne are the principal writers but Topping also contributes the emotive One Beat Away, documenting couples forced apart by modern life’s demands and the quirky, mandolin based Catch Him If You Can/The Fox’s Jig, one that definitely gets away. Out Of Control and Sole Survivor bring politics into the frame taking swipes at Bush and the monarchy, although the latter seems to have a wider target in light of recent events. There are also several moving ballads of equal worth. The recording as well is excellent and the acoustic instrumental bed serves the songs very well. Their gig schedule includes a number of the summer’s festivals. Catch them if you can.
Crescent Moon Records CMOON032009
DK There’s both a welcome familiarity and a brightand-breezy sense of discovery about Beside The Waves Of Time, which is Australia-born, Findhorn-raised Iona’s second album release. Iona draws on a variety of traditional sources, and the album contains her attractively fresh-sounding (and often quite ingenious) reworkings of The Selkie, If I Were A Blackbird and The Water Is Wide alongside persuasive takes on Shady Grove (Peaches In The Summertime), the less-known Scots ballad Brown Haired Maiden and the courting song Blow The Candle Out. The disc also includes Iona’s own wide-eyed, meditative, eastern-inflected paean to Trees. Iona’s accompaniments, featuring a fine array of Scottish and Irish musicians, are in the main gentle and clear-sighted, quite full-textured and often with a soft folk-rock backbeat. Listeners who like their Celtic-styled folk without washes of synths are sure to derive much pleasure from Iona’s pure voice and her serene and thoughtful musical vision.
Jack The Lad
The Armchair Orienteer
Jackpot! Market Square MSMCD149
DK Jack The Lad, the first Lindisfarne spin-off band, variously comprised Rod Clements, Si Cowe, Ray Laidlaw and Billy Mitchell with (later) ex-Hedgehog Pie men Ian Fairbairn and Phil Murray. The unit recorded three studio albums for Charisma between 1973 and 1975 before finally signing off in 1976 with Jackpot, their swansong (on United Artists), which is here reissued for the first time on CD, topped up with seven bonus tracks (some great pre-album demos and subsequent live material) and full and entertainingly informative booklet notes. Jackpot, in all its wayward diversity, conveys a happy sense of fun and spontaneous abandon, with the band’s abundant verve and professionalism enabling good-time pop (You, You, You and Eight Ton Crazy), infectious folkrock jiggery (The Tender, Steamboat Whistle Blues, Walter’s Drop), AWB-inflected disco (We’ll Give You The Roll) and vintage exotic flavourings (Trinidad). A veritable jackpot indeed, thus an ample return on your investment.
Park Records PRKCD103
CI Formerly with Bellowhead and also a member of Maddy Prior’s backing group of choice, the Carnival Band, fiddle maestro Giles Lewin unleashes a debut solo album that finds him spreading his playing over a mesmerising assortment of instrumental styles. Supported by his own formidable string wall of sound, Lewin guides us through tunes with roots variously in different aspects of the English tradition, Italian string bands, Jewish klezmer, Arabic, Celtic, Slavic and Viennese music. Antioch Café, written for a theatre production of Ben Hur and two Arabic songs Fog Il Nakhl and Il Bulbul, arranged around the oud, are particularly evocative, not only underlining his utter mastery of these styles but maintaining the album’s striking sense of space and freedom. Some of the tunes are simple and direct, others are awe-inspiringly complex, but the result is the same – a lavish, entrancing soundscape that holds the attention and makes you doff your cap in wonder.
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FOLK reviews Catriona McKay & Olov Johansson
Take A Look at The Sea
Olov Johansson Music OJM009
Copperplate Indie MCMCD002
Folkwit Records F0015
The pairing of Catriona McKay (fresh from receiving accolades for her last release Starfish) and Olov Johansson (a member of traditional Swedish folk group Vasen) first collaborated at the 2007 Celtic Connections, toured together in 2008 and decided to mark their creative union with an album. Foogy is the result and the thirteen instrumental tracks are a collection of original and traditional arrangements of both Scottish and Swedish reels and polskas. Olov plays a three rowed chromatic Nyckelharpa and Catriona the Glencoe harp.
The golden-voiced Maranna, who lives in Derry (Dungiven), is already a veteran fleadh singing champion and recipient of the www.LiveIreland. com Vocal Album Of The Year Award.
If Wen is certainly a mystery, and like that other enigma Dr Who, a bit of time travel has done his reputation no end of good. In 2007 his debut album was met with the sound of silence in the UK. But it travelled well getting airplay from folk DJs in the USA and Canada (making the world top 50 for Folk Radio airplay) and then reviewers back home started using phrases such as “genuis”, “breathtaking” and “sublime”.
Opening track 1st Class To Glasgow relays the tale of a train journey that saw Catriona and Olov elevated to a 1st class carriage after the ticket inspector had heard their playing and on Hook, a traditional Swedish tune that dates back to the 17th century we hear two players of traditional instruments at the height of their truly international game. A must have for fans of both contemporary and traditional instrumental folk music.
Her latest album marks a new development in her career by showcasing four of her own compositions: these are mostly inspired by her personal observations of life, ancient legends and her own spiritual beliefs, yet they’re expressed in an accessible and non-exclusive language and musically eminently radio-friendly as a bonus. These originals sit well alongside Maranna’s lithe, appealingly contoured treatments of traditional songs, which not only fully reflect the singer’s effervescent personality but also accord ideally with the musical settings. Formed out of genial acoustic-based arrangements and centred around Brian Baynes’ crisp yet full-toned production, with his own guitar and mandolin and Eric Rigler’s uilleann pipes and whistles well to the fore, they set the seal on a decidedly attractive set.
This is heartbreaking British nu-folk at its very best. Think fingerpicked guitar, breathy vocals, and beautiful melodies all recorded in a Cornish barn for no budget (you can even hear the sea). If Wen’s music has also been picked up by MTV. The “If” is a nickname and the “Wen” is from old Cornish. It’s been a long journey for this elusive folkie, but we’re glad the Tardis has landed.
Tom Kitching & Gren Bartley Boundary Fellside FECD222
Almost two years on from young Tom and Gren’s impressively mature debut, Boundary now consolidates their individual and collective performing strengths, retaining all Rushes’ youthful energy and fresh, edgy eclecticism.
The yellow-haired young laddie, many times award-winner for his skill on the Northumbrian pipes - and now also a member of Jez Lowe’s Bad Pennies and Baltic Crossing - is for his second solo album joined by two members of 422 (guitarist Ian Stephenson and fiddler Sophy Ball) and Julien Batten (accordion).
Bailey’s energy and relevance seems to have intensified since he prematurely announced his recording retirement a couple of albums ago and, singing with more warmth and depth than ever, he keeps unearthing challenging songs that ask awkward questions and rail against the establishment.
The record brings a joyous sequence of traditional and composed tunes (some self-penned), played impeccably but with a real sparkle in the eye too. Though Andy’s articulation is formidable, it never gets in the way of his musicality. He’s blessed with a keen feel for the internal pulse of the music, impressing equally on the niftier, fast-paced hornpipes and reels (the James Hill Set and All Night Long), a luscious Breton valse, (the more stately Arethusa), on piano on the lyrical lament Ellington, and on a stirring duet with fellowpiper Andrew Davison.
This powerful set probes accepted norms, confronts darker truths and tells uncomfortable stories, including four telling Jim Page songs, Anna Mae and Collateral Damage, a poignant update of When Johnny Comes Marching Home and – most controversially – Palestine. There are also memorable interpretations of Ian Campbell’s classic Old Man’s Tale and Tom Paxton’s How Beautiful Upon the Mountain plus a beautiful couple of trad songs, while a topnotch band built around John Kirkpatrick and Andy Cutting on accordions, Martin Simpson on guitar and Angus Grant on fiddle confirm this as one of the very best albums in Bailey’s long, illustrious career.
Happy Hours is cannily named, to be sure!
Moving fluently between different folk stylings through an unashamed juxtaposition of ideas and idioms, the duo touch all the right bases, from the traditional Green Beds through to a sprinkling of classy instrumentals. There’s also Gren’s own thoughtful and appealing self-penned songs, which exhibit an engaging combination of simple observation and gentle compassion, fondly wistful (Different Rooms) or whimsical (Grateful For A Home). Tom and Gren also demonstrate almost incidentally their deep affinity with the American old-time idiom (as on their mischievous backwoods-style arrangement of a Playford tune). Gren’s accomplished fingerstyle playing remains refreshingly unflashy, perfectly complementing Tom’s lively fiddle work, and there’s occasional augmentation from guests (backing vocals, melodeon). You’ll find Boundary a very satisfying disc, I’d wager.
Win every CD featured in this issue enter our competition at www.properdistribution.com Sign up for the Properganda newsletter for regular updates between issues. 28
ruce Cockburn – pronounced “Co-burn”, thank you – stands alongside Joni Mitchell and Neil Young as one of Canada’s greatest singer-songwriters. Admittedly, he may not have sold the huge quantities of albums those feted Californian residents have but he, in turn, has retained an artistic quality control neither Young nor Mitchell can hope to emulate. Here, on Slice O Life: Live Solo, he releases something Cockburn fans have deisred for decades – a double live CD of his acoustic performances. Cockburn has previously released three live albums – 1977’s Circles In The Stream, 1990’s Bruce Cockburn Live and 1997’s You Pay Your Money And You Take Your Chance – yet all of them were recorded with his touring band. Here you get two-hours plus of Bruce’s voice and guitar. And what a voice and what a guitarist! Cockburn has never shied away from tackling subjects that would be considered “difficult” and “non-commercial” by the Simon Cowell’s of the world (his Christian beliefs, US imperialism in Latin America, ecological problems and such); to do so and hold a wide audience rather than those who simply agree with your beliefs means you must be a remarkable talent and Cockburn certainly is. He achieves this by skilfully building song narratives that never lecture the listener, instead his lyrics compel you to follow where the song is going and how it builds and unfolds. And he accompanies this with acoustic guitar playing that is both dynamic and eloquent, creating shimmering pools of sound as he delivers line after line. Cockburn’s intelligence and strong sense of narrative means his songs take on the form of journalistic reports – or even short stories – as he weaves in and out, describing an incident with the police or a friend who tried to tempt the teenage Bruce to join him in gun smuggling with grim good humour. On Tibetan Side Of Town he builds a picture of Kathmandu streets, crowded with cattle and people (“beggar with a wooden leg sits on a skateboard” is a striking line) and smoke and mess, where he finds himself amongst the Tibetan refugees who have had to flee China’s brutal imperialism. This is musical reportage in the very best sense, never stooping to simple sloganeering or relying on cliché or sentimental (or radical) posturing.
Slice O Life: Live Solo True North TND 520
The most surprising track here is a very effective interpretation of the gospel blues tune Soul Of A Man (originally cut in the 1920s by Blind Willie Johnson). Cockburn retains the intensity of the song’s quest while giving it a greater sense of space than Blind Willie could possibly imagine. Superb. Cockburn is a unique talent, one who has developed his supremely individual music across the decades, and Slice O Life: Live Solo provides a perfect career overview for both newcomers and longtime fans. Garth Cartwright
reviews The Greencards Fascination
Dale Watson and his Lone Stars
Sugar Hill Records SHCD4052
The Truckin’ Sessions Volume 2
Me & My Americana MMACD1039
And you may ask yourself: why would an American group call themselves The Greencards? Because even though they’re based in Nashville and are clearly deeply inspired by American roots music, none of this trio are ‘natives’. Like their mandolin/bouzouki/ xylophone player Kym Warner, lead singer Carol Young is actually an Australian, while violinist/ violist Eamon McLoughlin hails from the UK. It was their love of bluegrass in particular that drew them to settle in Austin, Texas, where they began performing together five years ago. Now resident in Nashville, they’ve already picked up an Americana Music Award plus a Grammy nomination, and completed tours with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. Fascination is their fourth album, and confidently seesaws between country and folk, vocal and instrumental music. Nickel Creek fronted by the missing link between Karen Carpenter and Tanya Donnelly? Not quite, but they seem to have earned their right to work in the USA, with bells on.
CW A man with a rich, drawlin’ voice like molasses on cornbread. A group resembling a bunch of mutha-truckers who each drink a pint of JD for breakfast, chew road grit around noon and skin racoon for supper. Except that Dale’s Silver Fox haircut, smartly tailored togs and decorated guitar suggest otherwise. Whatever, without hearing Volume One I thoroughly enjoyed this follow-up. A limited subject range - yes, these really are all songs about rigs, truck stops, interstate highways, 10-4 communication, oh, and one hairy Truckin’ Queen. Nonetheless, sparkling production, virile singing, toe-tapping toons and fluid guitar picking, either by Dale or his sidekick Redd Volkeart shifting through the gears. Don’t let this put you off but I suspect it’ll be an instant smash with line dancers. For the rest of us there’s no need to form up in convoy, but Dale has the road map to country heaven and it’s pedal to the metal from here on in.
Amanda Shires West Cross Timbers Little Lambs Eat Ivy 84501044172
JHS At the tender age of just ten years old Texas born Amanda Shires first picked up and learned to play the fiddle and by the age of sixteen was performing with Tommy Allsup and the legendary Texas Playboys. Known in the UK for her collaborations with Rod Picott, who co-produced and handles guitar duties on West Cross Timbers, her second solo album that is this collection of eleven self penned compositions. These range from the upbeat Western Swing of Upon Hearing Violins to the dark murder ballad of I Kept Watch Like Doves, a song of betrayal and payback. Amanda’s Texan twang strains at the leash and is the perfect foil for the atmospheric pedal steel of Steve Byam and this is shown perfectly on the track Put Me To Bed. Drawing from traditional country music but with a strong Americana feel, this is an album that showcases a true songwriter, an excellent musician and a voice to remember.
www.dalewatson.com Properganda 12
COUNTRY AMERICANA reviews Jeffrey Foucault Shoot The Moon Right Between The Eyes A Collection Of Songs By John Prine Continental Song City CSCCD1053
CW It’s probably fair to say that Mr Foucault is a relatively unknown quantity internationally compared to John Prine. So is it the height of folly, albeit a sincere homage, for the younger singer/songwriter to reinterpret 13 songs from the Prine canon? It’s not necessary to be an expert on either man to recognize the sincerity of undertaking, or the merits in a personal trawl through the back pages of one of America’s finest songwriters by someone of Foucault’s sensitivities. This is not an album to bring out the happyclapper in you. The overwhelming mood is one of melancholy and despair about the human condition, albeit laced with a mordant wit, in which Prine excels. The only upbeat track is Daddy’s Little Pumpkin and even that is essentially a put-down in the spirit of Shake, Rattle & Roll.
Blackie & The Rodeo Kings
Swinging From the Chains of Love
Six Shooter SIX49
CI Once memorably described as a female Tom Waits, Canada-based Melissa McClelland follows her highly-rated previous two albums Stranded In Suburbia and Thumbelina’s One Night Stand by giving the Americana/alt.country goalposts a hefty shove. This is an elusive collection, mixing sublime tenderness with hard-bitten rock, funky horns, chunky guitars and quirky stories. She seems to have one foot rooted in an innocent country world but with another foot firmly planted in a rip-roaring all-singing all-dancing beer joint; and in the midst of it Melissa swiftly transforms herself from the sweet girl next door to the raunchy hell-raiser who drinks the boys under the table. When you can deliver what sounds like classic Patti Page on Cry On My Shoulder, lush strings and all, and follow it with the growly, seedy When The Lights Go Off In Hogtown and then duet with the inestimable Ron Sexsmith on the darkly beautiful Seasoned Lovers, that’s a powerful cocktail.
That said, the sound of the album is warmly intimate, almost cosy (which lends an extra layer of pathos to of some of the songs) and Foucault’s singing has a compelling quality. There is just enough humanity to suggest redemption for at least some of the characters that Prine typically choses from the back alleys, bars and gutters to populate his exacting tales of weakness and corruption. Even love has its losers and loners.
Husband Luke Doucet has done a mighty job knitting all the disparate strands into a cohesive whole and make no mistake, Ms McClelland fits no easy pigeonhole. On the string-laden Segovia, heavy with symbolism and backing choir, she’s come up with one of the most yearningly lovely songs you’ll hear all year; while God Loves Me is an alternative gospel song of the streets that suddenly explodes in a sinister welter of electric guitar.
When he’s not performing solo with acoustic guitar, his accompanying friends each add a touch of grace to the proceedings - Mark Erelli, Eric Haywood and Peter Mulvey.
That sort of darkness is always prevalent in her songs and even when it seems at its fluffiest and most wide-eyed, the album is still likely to whip you off into some murky back street populated by unseemly characters. The scenarios depicted on Glenrio and the two tracks titled Victoria Day – the first rockabilly, the second classic early pop – complete the image of a movie scenario built around the changing seasons in a backwater town with the songwriter as colourful chameleon.
Apparently Foucault recorded intermittently when the mood took him between October 2007 and April 2008 in a wood-panelled room that was once the office of a banking president. That’s one up for the New World Order. The end result blends into something like an impromptu recital by a wandering minstrel who’s unexpectedly turned up in your home hoping that supper’s on the table. Whether that was where John Prine was coming from originally is possibly a different pan of grits ‘n’ gravy, but Jeffrey Foucault is welcome round my gaff anytime.
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True North Records TND515
CI There’s a delicious wickedness about the dirty bluesy sound of Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, the rootsy three-piece with a big, big sound. Logical inheritors of the legacy of The Band, Tom Wilson (ex-Junkhouse), Stephen Fearing and Colin Linden swagger in on a strutting backdrop of mean guitar, strident hooks and gritty, colourful songs and don’t leave until you’re a grinning, quivering, foot-tapping mess splattered against the wall. Few would even entertain taking on Folsom Prison Blues, but they slow it down and attack it with all the grubby despair they can muster (which is plenty) and almost make you forget Mr Cash got there first. They take no prisoners and every track on this 14-song compilation of their five albums since 1996 sounds like a classic. Why, they even survived the indignity of being discovered on George W. Bush’s iPod. We can only conjecture what HE made of them! If you haven’t encountered them before, don’t miss this.
Matt Flinner Trio Music Du Jour Compass COM45032
SH Here’s a challenge. You’re a bluegrass trio on the road in the mountains of America and you’ve just decided you are going to write a completely new piece of music to perform in that night’s show. Not just today, but for each night you are playing. Cue frantic scribbling, hasty rehearsals and even hastier meals as you try and cram in teaching and learning the new pieces. After three such tours and with some 60 compositions to pick from the Matt Flinner Trio decided to record the best of them. Bassist, Eric Thorin, mandolin player, Matt, and guitarist, Ross Martin, get equal shares of the 12 tracks selected and recorded over just three days at the Compass studios in Nashville. Anyone who loves the sound of acoustic instruments working in perfect harmony will find this a delight. There are groovers like Thorin’s Stomp Hat, gorgeous, pastoral, dreamers like Martin’s Cobalt and intricacies like Flinner’s Half Moondog, to pick three contrasting consecutive tracks at random. But there isn’t a dull moment. It’s beautifully recorded too, with the timbre of each instrument working perfectly as part of the whole. It just goes to show what you can do if you push yourself.
Of Cowtown. The guys compiled the selection themselves so you can be assured it’s their prime steaks from Phase One. Now, with a brand new album on Proper Records, they set off into Phase Two. As ever, it’s Elana James (violin, or fiddle to you), Whit Smith (guitar) with Jake Erwin (standup bass), each of them virtuoso musicians and singers, although the prominent vocalists are James & Smith, who are also the writers of the trio.
ort Worth, Texas has been traditionally known as Cow Town (by its swankier neighbour, Dallas) but these guys - one sassy woman and two hip dudes - record down the highway in Austin, the state’s capital and music city. Hot Club de France was the famous 30s base of jazz legends Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelli. And the two founders of Hot Club Of Cowtown, Elana James & Whit Smith, first got together in the mid ’90s in the East Village sector of New York City. Altogether it’s a recipe for something a little bit different - Old Timey Western Swing rejuvenated by younger bloods and taken into wider orbit by the expanding catalogue of their own compositions. Hot Club Of Cowtown recorded five critically-acclaimed and increasingly successful albums for US roots music label HighTone before a 2005-2007 hiatus from the pressure of constant touring. Ironically, the following year HighTone shut up shop just as the trio were getting back together to boogie forth again. Later in 2008 Shout! Factory bought HighTone and released the 20-track, cunningly titled The Best Of The Hot Club
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper You Don’t Have To Like Them Both CoraZong Records 255116
GC Eric Brace is the leader of Washington DC-based roots rock band Last Train Home while Peter Cooper is a noted East Nashville-based singersongwriter. Obviously good friends with a love of country and folk song at its most unadorned they have come together to cut the drolly titled You Don’t Have To Like Them Both album. Here they offer up 12 songs of which only four are originals. The rest are gems by the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Todd Snider, David Olney and some lesser known talents (and a lovely traditional sailor’s song called Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still). The playing is subtle and nuanced, serving both songs and the duo’s excellent harmonies. Upright bass, pedal steel guitar, keyboards, drums and accordion help fill out the sound. Outstanding tunes include Just The Other Side Of Nowhere and I Know Better Now. For fans of contemporary country and Americana this is a most pleasurable listen.
This 14-tracker kicks off in lively fashion with their fresh take on an old Bob Wills’ swinger, Can’t Go On This Way. The signoff might have been in similar high-stepping mood with their arrangement of Columbus Stockade Blues but this is followed by an unexpectedly, seductive, lullaby-style coda: Elana purring George & Ira Gershwin’s Someone To Watch Over Me like Marilyn Monroe at bedtime. There are two other ‘covers’: Whit relaxing into a slow shuffle rendition of Georgia On My Mind and Elana leading a version of Tom Waits’ The Long Way Home one of several highlights. Elsewhere two Elena-driven instrumentals intersperse a variety of differently-slanted originals from fast and upbeat (What You Meant To Me) to slow acoustic warmth (Carry Me Close). One Step Closer, is another highlight and their nearest performance to a modern pop record to date. Duffy could hit with this one. Hot Club Of Cowtown are back with vigorous intent. Catch them live in the UK in May.
Hot Club Of Cowtown
Dusty Road To Beulah Land
Doors And Windows
DK Michigan-born Drew gets straight to the real human stories of his characters and tells them with a soft-spoken urgency that demands, and gets, your rapt attention. To an immaculately judged acoustic backdrop (guitars, pedal steel, dobro, mandolin, banjo, accordion, piano, organ, gently brushed snare), Drew intimately observes and relays everyday midwestern life with an astonishing clarity of focus that enables his characters’ setbacks to be turned into opportunities with a dominant sense of hope. The resultant songs are very special creations indeed: Dusty Road… presents a sequence of gorgeously close-knit experiences for which Drew’s opening road-trip down Highway 2 sets the scene for what’s to follow. Drew’s husky, warm-toned, distinctively dust-flecked voice sounds midway between Josh Ritter and early John Martyn with a dash of Knopfler. With his songs couched in the most sympathetic musical settings imaginable (courtesy of producer Michael Crittenden), Drew just can’t fail to engage you.
Wishful Thinking Proper Records PRPCD047
SH Just two years after forming to promote the music camp that they worked at as counselors, the Alaska-based Bearfoot earned one of roots music’s most prestigious awards-Telluride Bluegrass Band Champions - an honor they share with artists like the Dixie Chicks and Nickel Creek. Lofty company indeed. Doors And Windows is ample demonstration that they are worthy of the accolades and more. In Odessa Jorgensen they have a most distinctive voice; her breathy tones sit as a great contrast to some of the more high octane playing. When she delivers lines like “Love is the earth set in motion, love is the space between time”, however, your heart soars and your eyes mist. The utterly gorgeous Heaven is just one of the superb songs on offer here. They do dark, very dark, as well. Doors And Windows is a withering state of the world address and Caroline a murder ballad, but the lyricism and subtle playing are astonishing in both cases. Bluegrass maybe, but also just about the finest Americana, or anything else for that matter, you’re likely to hear this year. Astonishingly good.
www.bearfootbluegrass.com Properganda 12
WORLD reviews Staff Benda Bilili
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Tres Tres Fort Crammed Discs CRAW51
Ladysmith Black Mambazo Live!
Heads Up Records HUDV7149
Believe me when I say you have never heard or seen a CD like this before! Staff Benda Bilili are a group of paraplegic street musicians who live around the grounds of the zoo in Kinshasa – one of the world’s wildest cities – in the wartorn Democratic Republic Of Congo (formerly Zaire). With no social welfare these men have managed to eek out a living playing music – and what amazing music it is! Four senior guitarists/singers all on makeshift, Mad Maxstyle wheelchairs, supported by a young, acoustic rhythm section and a 17-year old prodigy who plays a one-string electric lute (built from tin cans), create a lovely, rumba flavoured African soul music. Beautifully packaged with four video clips, this is a striking album, rich in texture, imagination and sound. Staff Benda Bilili demonstrate how the human spirit, even when challenged physically and socially, aspires to create music of great beauty.
JL It’s easy to take South Africa’s hardest working group for granted. They’ve been an institution on the world stage for so long and what they do (nine men singing four-part harmony Zulu songs a cappella) seems so simple. What’s striking about this DVD, which includes a full live set and an engrossing interview with founder member Joseph Shabalala (plus short clips with all other members) is just how fresh they have kept their isicathamiya music over nearly five decades in the business. The live show features well known favourites like Ran Rain Beautiful Rain, Homeless and Shabalala’s first ever composition Nomathemba. But there are less familiar and more recent compositions such as Makoti, which has the most thrilling and edgy example of Ladysmith’s wonderful choreography. When the rhythms start to roll and Joseph’s white sand shoes begin flying above his head, you’ll be transfixed all over again.
Joyce, Nana Vasconcelos, Mauricio Maestro
Visions of Dawnx
Beyond The Forest
Far Out Recordings FARO138CD
March Hare Music MAHACD28
Incredibly one of her most sensuous albums is finally getting a release 30 years after Joyce and her partner Mauricio Maestro arrived in Paris to record alongside Nana Vasconcelos. Joyce describes it as an album of ‘three heads’ yet her presence dominates not just through her fantastic vocals but also through the genuine feminine and maternal nature of much of the music.
Baka Beyond’s latest begins with the haunting lone voice of a Baka pygmy’s discombobulating yodelling set against the ambient cacophony of forest birds and insects. Gradually percussion and other voices enter, and what at first seemed intimidatingly alien begins to work its magic.
This ‘lost Brazilian acid folk album’ registers an important moment in her career serving as a prototype to the breakthrough success she was shortly to enjoy in 1980 when Clareana, a lullaby dedicated to her daughters, and Nacional Kid became big hits in Brazil. These more accessible tracks sit alongside the freeflowing psychedelic compositions that invoke the Minas Gerais sound to which all three had been exposed whilst working alongside Milton Nascimento on Clube da Esquina. Visions of Dawn is a must for all Joyce fans as it offers a unique insight into the career of one of Brazil’s most enduring singer songwriters.
Martin Cradick, the man behind Baka Beyond, has been making field recordings and then toying with them in the studio for more than a decade now, but this simple 8-track recording is one of his most restrained efforts to date. There is only the occasional, tactful introduction of the man’s bass and acoustic guitar which effectively makes the basic raw recordings more palatable to our unacclimatised ears. Some people, including Cradick himself, have said they can hear a distant echo of reggae in this haunting rainforest music, and I certainly wouldn’t dispute the connection. So enjoy the myriad sounds of the Cameroon rainforest without the mosquitoes and the prohibitive airfare.
www.joycemoreno.com Win every CD featured in this issue enter our competition at www.properdistribution.com Sign up for the Properganda newsletter for regular updates between issues. 32
The Rough Guide To Afrobeat Revival Various Artists
World Music Net RGNET1218CD
HM Afrobeat revival? Has it ever been away? This excellent compilation gets straight into its brassy, strutting stride with a track from the genre’s co-founder, Fela Kuti’s drummer, Tony Allen, and then doesn’t let up for a whole, generous 74 minutes. And if that’s not generous enough, in celebration of 15 years of Rough Guides those lovely World Music Network people have included a bonus CD of one of the artists featured on the compilation. So in this instance you get the New York-based Kokolo’s 2004 release More Consideration to guarantee Afrobeat overkill. But back to the main dish. There are also solid tunes from established names such as Antibalas, Seun Kuti and Fela’s Egypt 80, and the Chicago Afrobeat Project, as well as less known acts such as the all-female, Femm Nameless. This is African music at its most tense, vital and socio/politically driven. No revival necessary!
Nicola Conte Presents Viagem 2 Various Artists Far Out Records FARO140CD
C Buoyed by the success of volume one released last year to coincide with 50 years of bossa nova, Far Out invited Nicola Conte to compile a follow-up which allows him to dig even deeper inside the inspirational swinging Sixties sound. Once again he sidesteps the clichés with a firing selection of bossa and samba jazz, balancing a mix of instrumental and sung bossas. Expertly sequenced, hooking you from start to finish, Conte cleverly uses obscure covers of bossa standards, familiar without being obvious. It’s peppered with absolute gems that simply blow you away, as with As Meninas rendition of Redondo Sambão – a playful samba-bossa with a hypnotic percussive groove and enchanting vocals, or Cesar Roldão Vieira with a storming protest song depicting the plight of the pure working class guy. Protests songs were a belated attempt to put bossa nova back in touch with real Brazilian life as the dictatorship took a grip of the country in 1964, yet ultimately they caused the whole genre to implode. It is only now with the aid of such wonderful compilations as this that the true beauty of the genre can be fully appreciated.
WORLD reviews Ashley MacIsaac
The Best of Ashley McIsaac
Friends Of Bamboute
Hipster Records HIP013
Is the UK finally catching on to the indefinable charms of this energetic and versatile Berlin band? They’ve been doing their thing now for 14 years, but their thing – as is often the case with music that ends up under the frustratingly non-descriptive label ‘world music’ – is hard to pin down. One moment, as on the whirling dervish of a song that is Uz they are kicking up a punky Balkan storm. The next, on, say, Adieu, the mood is languid and acoustic, almost reminiscent of the Velvet’s Sunday Morning.
The music of this veteran collective of Egyptian musicians seamlessly moves between the raucously celebratory and the austerely spiritual in a way that is hypnotically involving. There are sublimely quiet moments when all you hear is a single male voice proclaiming his love for his girl or his god. And then the next moment he’ll be joined by a whole choir of male voices.
Linus Entertainment 270101
CI Ashley MacIsaac certainly divides opinion. He’s one of Canada’s supreme fiddle players and inheritors of the Cape Breton traditional heritage, widely considered to be the purest living form of Scottish folk music. There are tracks on here that certainly reflect that and few would argue that MacIsaac is one of the greatest musicians on the planet, but his larger than life personality and assorted adventures taking the music into the realms of hard rock, hip-hop and dance remain controversial. The result is that this collection – from the soaring Celtic majesty of To America We Go featuring singer Mary Jane Lamond to the raucous Sophie’s Pipes, the earthy Lay Me Down (he’s not a bad singer) and Devil In The Kitchen, which is pretty much heavy metal Celtic – is, whatever else, never dull. He steamrollers musical boundaries all over the place, but he will leave you breathless and his virtuosity is never in doubt.
And it probably goes without saying that the 17 Hippies aren’t seventeen hippies. In fact on this their third studio album, they are just thirteen extremely gifted musicians without a hippy in sight. So if you like Devotchka, Think of One, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, or even Calexico, you’ll find much in this varied and self-assured album that will appeal.
As each song gradually picks up tempo, a zealously strummed tambura (Egyptian lute) enters the fray, followed by the steady pulse of a bass hand drum which seems to represent the very beating heart of the Egyptian people. But if my description makes this music all sound a bit too worthy, fear not: El Tanbura rock, as anyone who has ever seen them live will testify. Their infectious energy always gets their audience dancing, so do try to catch them during their 20th anniversary tour this summer.
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N8 JDun!e E K E E 26-2 CHawW I S Crawley U h t M The LIVE tival
lk Fes o F y e l Craw
5 STAGES OVER 3 DAYS INCLUDING:
OYSTERBAND STEVE KNIGHTLEY ELIZA CARTHY BAND GROANBOX BOYS MARTIN CARTHY & DAVE SWARBRICK CHUCK FARLEY & special guests ADRIAN EDMONDSON & THE BAD SHEPHERDS
dance stage . real ale tent . free parking . food stands free workshops . early bird ticket discounts craft stalls . camping . storytelling tent
box office 01293 553636
www.hawth.co.uk www.myspace.com/crawleyfolkfestival Properganda 12
BLUES reviews Louisiana Red & Little Victor’s Juke Joint
Colin Linden The Columbia Years
Back To The Bayou
True North Records TND521
Ruf Records RUF1149
KS Here’s Louisiana Red with his best album yet! The cracking band features the galvanising guitar and down-home harmonica of Little Victor - and with Kim Wilson and Bob Corritore among the guest musicians, how could it fail? Together, they’ve made a full blooded blues album and recorded it in the old-fashioned way at Norway’s old-school analogue Juke Joint Studios on vintage equipment that includes the actual sixties mixing console from the Stax studios in Memphis! No wonder it sounds so good. Louisiana Red is in blistering form dishing out solid slide, booming tremolo runs and deft, agile licks right out of Chicago on loads of new songs as well as remakes of his old hits completed with vocals bawled out in a great lived-in blues voice.
This is a box-set of Colin Linden’s four Columbia releases from the late ‘80s to the late ‘90s. The earliest, When The Spirit Comes is enriched by Rick Danko and Garth Hudson who add a blend of genius to Linden’s heartfelt songs. South At Eight North At Nine is the most bluesy with stacks of vintage numbers like Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning and I Want To Be Loved alongside salty originals Richard Lee and Positively The One. On Through The Storm Through The Night, his new-found gospel influence manifests itself, especially on No Rest For The Wicked thanks to the power of The Fairfield Four and evocative slide guitar from Linden himself.
His recent CDs seemed to have more sizzle than steak but on this one, he’s hit a rich new groove and it’s hot!
Raised By Wolves is a nod to Howlin’ Wolf but can’t be described as a blues album. It’s a set of well tempered songs with nice vocal arrangements supplied by Bruce Cockburn and Colin James.
All great stuff!
Omar Kent Dykes
Big Town Playboy
Ruf Records RUF1142
Flutter And Wow
KS This CD is stuffed with big names. They include Jimmie Vaughan, Derek O’Brien, Lazy Lester, James Cotton and Lou Ann Barton while the material comes direct from Omar’s personal jukebox and features classic tunes from Slim Harpo, Jimmy Reed, Eddie Taylor, Smokey Smothers and GL Crockett. The two hotshot guitar pickers, Derek and Jimmie, allow Omar to concentrate on the vocals, unleashing those leather lungs of his to bellow out songs as diverse as the rollicking Big Town Playboy, the intense slow blues Dream Girl and the all-out rocker Man Down There. If you’ve never heard his voice, it has the same timbre of Howlin’ Wolf and Captain Beefheart – just perfect for grinding out hell-raising blues like Smokey Smother’s Can’t Judge Nobody or the raunchy version of Rosco Gordon’s No More Doggin’. There’s no denying it’s a big tough five star voice for a big tough five star album.
Archer Records ARR31930
TM It always pays to read the track listing before pressing the play button, or then again… The surprise of recognition of Paul Simon’s American Tune that opens this disc was startling, deeply affecting and a herald of the strangely successful schism of this CD. Most definitely from the school of Mose Allison and Ray Charles, he has considerable piano and B3 chops, sufficient to tour extensively with Albert King, that’s not to mention sonorous pipes. Charlie has delivered an album out of the blues. Mixing carefully selected covers of songs by Rhymin’ Simon, Elvis Costello, Ron Sexsmith, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits with seven originals (that happily mingle without social embarrassment), Wood somehow manages to slip through the styles and come out intact the other end. He swaggers, croons, swings and even adds a nice touch of Jimmy Smith’s percussive Hammond ripples. With Johnsburg, Illinois, he also delivers a Tom Waits song you can play to your mum. No bad thing, believe me.
Tamara & Lucky Peterson Darling Forever JSP Records JSPCD8814
CW In which a bluesman with a substantial CV (first charting in 1971 at the age of six!) finally gets the opportunity to introduce his wife: ‘OK girl, you go for the main vocals and I’ll put the beef in the backup’. It’s a solid partnership. Tamara is a feisty singer and Lucky plays some of the best, no mess blues guitar licks I’ve heard in many a moon, also contributing keyboards to several of the 10 tracks. The pair also duet to great effect on stand outs like Lost The Right. The songs hold no surprises but it’s all ballsy modern blues with soul sauce (the smouldering Free), sustained by the leading duo and tightly accompanied by a punchy crew. For the seasoned palate it’s a much tastier dish than the diet of rock-rooted ‘blues’ that is normally on the menu these days. Expect to see them strutting their stuff on international stages in the coming months.
Shemekia Copeland Never Coming Back Telarc Jazz & Blues CD83692
CI One of the finest singers of her generation – not for nothing has she been dubbed by some the new queen of the blues – Copeland’s mind was concentrated by a tour of Iraq and Kuwait, adding particular poignancy to the gospelly Broken World, perhaps the most arresting track on a formidable album. “Find some peace and compassion, bring love back into fashion,” she sings urgently Aretha style, while John Madeski covers the spaces with wailing Hammond organ. Shemekia can do howling blues as good as anyone – and proves it to good effect on Dirty Water - but has found another gear here, even tackling a Joni Mitchell song Black Crow, sounding both sensuous and intimate over Chris Wood’s smoky jazz bass. Produced by Oliver Wood with a superb army of supporting musicians, it occasionally goes for the throat but is equally effective when pared down to allow the full range of Shemekia’s talent to shine.
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reviews Jose Roberto Bertrami And His Modern Sound
Global Mix GM2CD03
Far Out Recordings FAR0139CD
Saxophonist Tim Garland’s canvas has expanded during his career from his own small combo and the folk-jazz Lammas, through work with Chick Corea, his little big band, the Dean Street Orchestra, to wide-screen, jazzclassical crossover compositions involving string ensembles and orchestras.
This is thrill down your spine stuff. It’s partly the instrumentation: Oren Marshall’s tuba and electronics lay down a beefy bass but can suddenly take off into a brassy lead of their own. It’s partly the American-Brit trade off – Myra Melford has that free piano imagination (Cecil Taylor and Carla Bley inform her own vision), while Jim Black has that propulsion unique somehow to NY. Mainly, it’s the sheer thrill that these guys get from making music in the moment.
PB Bertrami is the keyboardist of samba-funk masters Azymuth, and there are, inevitably, strong influences of that band in this solo project. He manages to imbue the Fender Rhodes with a highly personal sound, and his arrangements blend it in with electric guitar so that they sound almost like two arms of the same instrument. His knack with an infectious groove is irrepressible. What separates this from a regular Azymuth release is the timbral range of the music, especially when he adds the Rio Strings as luxuriant tropical backdrop. It also frees him geographically, to take in influences from jazz and from film music. The British-based Far Out label brought a new lease of life to the Brazilian musicians who had been big in the 70s, rightly assessing that their music was timelessly hip – this richly rewarding and varied disc is continuing proof of that.
This two-CD package sets the small - his Lighthouse Trio with pianist Gwilym Simcock and percussionist Asaf Sirkis - in high relief against the large - the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra augmented by a jazz wind section. The centrepiece is Frontiers, a strongly composed, four-movement suite with the trio acting as soloists within the orchestra, but around it are smaller, jazzier tracks. CD two has the trio playing live and shows just how tight and united it can sound while being spontaneous. All three players have developed extraordinary technique, but they dedicate it to sophistication of musical expression, never just to show off.
Packed with surprise - within the limits of broadly brushed melodic strokes (these guys know how to write a good tune, listen to that sweet theme in the midst of the swirling electronica of Song For The Garlic Seller) - they just rip it up, with the magical entwining of Steve Buckley and Chris Batchelor, mates since school days, at the music’s heart. Airlock is positively funky, but this music escapes easy tags and labels: it’s as free as you want, tight as you want, fun as you want: Big Air is big music. Buy it.
with guest Dave Edmunds
Rokia Traoré Music from The Penguin Café Edward II Rich Hall aka Otis Lee Crenshaw Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain Kanda Bongo Man Etran Finatawa Martin Stephenson Jason Ringenberg
Richard Thompson The Imagined Village Shantel & Bucovina Club Orkestar Jim Moray Dreadzone
Peatbog Faeries Transglobal Underground Oi Va Voi Hot Club of Cowtown Megson Mawkin:Causley The Shee ...plus many more
...the best kept secret. 80 bands, 6 stages, 150 free workshops, lush Victorian gardens, Wiltshire/Dorset border.
15th-19th July Tickets 023 8071 1820 Info 01725 552300 www.larmertreefestival.co.uk
JAZZ reviews Lynne Arriale
Transition In Tradition
Live In Concert
In + Out Records IORCD770892
A gifted artist Arriale can appeal to the ‘coffee table’ end of the jazz market with her accessible, heartfelt piano skills, yet has a technical facility and intelligence that keeps her fascinating to those who like their jazz a little meatier. Breaking out of her long association with her own trio and adding Randy Brecker’s bop-styled horn, the results here surprise and delight: the opening rendition of Sting’s Wrapped Around My Finger starts gently enough in the land of easy listening. Yet it all breaks down in a slew of broken and suspended chords, Anthony Pinciotti drums up a mild storm and Brecker bends and cracks his notes with vehemence. Likewise Monk’s I Mean You has its quirky humour, but Arriale again twists the material to her own confident swing (though having George Mraz on bass always helps in that respect). So whatever your taste, be it dinner jazz or vigorous bop, Nuance has it all, plus a twist of something its own.
Transition in Tradition is Pine’s most unified and enjoyable album and not simply because he has a theme to draw the whole project together. Yes, it helps that he’s dedicated the album to the spirit (not simply the music) of Sydney Bechet, and the historical perspective he brings to the Afro-Caribbean roots of jazz lend undoubted weight to the music. But what makes the album work is that at heart it’s just out and out joyous jazz, whatever ‘reading’ you wish to bring to it. So New Orleans has the drive and loose-limbed energy the title suggests and its pounding, ever changing rhythms never veer into pastiche. Likewise there’s the easeful beauty of Le Matin Est Noire that Pine has rarely been relaxed enough to capture before. It helps, of course, to have the likes of Omar Puente’s violin on board (one of the few instrumentalists who can go mano a mano with Pine), while Alex Wilson delivers some smiling keyboard solos and a subversive wit. This could be the start of a rich vein for Mr Pine to mine.
Tel Arc CD83689
Sean Jones The Search Within
AR This is Desare’s third album and one which cunningly puts him in that retro crooner slot by conceiving the whole album as a ‘50s style radio show, replete with cheesy link man (there’s plenty of ‘spinning stacks o’ wax’ type comments) - but fortunately there’s no soap ads. It’s an endearing notion that gives the album a valuable lift. Desare plays easy-on-the-ear piano and has an articulate delivery that keeps the songs simple and the emotions clear. This is supper club listening immaculately played and produced. And in this context, Jane Monheit is the perfect guest, and the pair bossa through Bizarre Love Triangle with some aplomb. And there are surprises too - yup, that is Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changin’ and Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode alongside the more likely Arlen and Koehler or Ray Charles songs, while Desare is no slouch in the writing department himself with A Stranger’s Eyes. So pour that cocktail, dim the lights and relaaaaaaaaaaaaax.
Mack Avenue MAC1044
PB Lead trumpet in the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra is a position that demands the full instrumental arsenal – speed, accuracy, depth, a sense of history, showmanship, to deal with both the serious stuff and the good humour. Sean Jones has the lot. On his fifth album for Mack Avenue, he brings that jazz orchestra background to bear on a smaller band by writing developing arrangements, not mere head-and-solo affairs. His band includes two saxophones plus rhythm section, and he also adds a flautist, a vocalist and the harmonica virtuoso Gregoire Maret on some tracks. Summer’s Spring is a particular highlight, and the title theme is used to link and develop the disc’s narrative line. Some trumpet fans favour the Blue Note masters of the 60s, some the more schooled contemporary players – Sean Jones should bring a smile to all their faces.
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Tel Arc DVD73698
Hiromi’s Sonic Bloom Live In Concert Tel Arc DVD73699
Hiromi is one of the few jazz artists whom it’s all the better to watch on DVD. The sheer relish with which she plays the piano, the smile that’s never far from the lips, the pixie posing and that big hank of hair you expect to blow up at any moment make the music a sheer joy to watch, let alone listen to. Not since Russ Conway has a pianist looked toward an audience with such a winning smile. Live In Concert is Hiromi in acoustic mode, with most of the songs coming from her Spiral album. The emotional heart is Music For Three Piece Orchestra, which is itself a fair description of the multiple range and styles available to this virtuosic trio. Like her mentor Chick Corea, Hiromi abhors a musical vacuum and runs, trills and thumping bass figures are unrelentingly present. That said, Hiromi fans will savour this, especially as a taster for the forthcoming Stanley Clarke/Lenny White collaboration. Sonicbloom finds Hiromi in cahoots with long time musical pal Dave ‘The Fuse’ Fiucynski, and the pair are ideally matched in terms of virtuosity and sheer energy: they are a formidable pairing. Their coupling drives Hiromi’s already eclectic roots toward not so much a jazz or even fusion voicing but a good old fashioned prog rock attack. Most of the tracks are drawn from Hiromi’s Time Control album, although it closes with the crowd favourite Return Of The Kung-Fu World Champion. But wherever the band kick off from, you can be assured of high energy pyrotechnics on their elongated improvisations: even the reborn Return To Forever (and Corea’s influence underwrites much of this music) can seem staid in comparison to the cascading arrays of notes and ideas that Sonicbloom pour forth. If Liszt (a huge influence on Hiromi, plus a little Bach for shape and counterpoint) was around today, then this is the band he’d lead.
bearman_efdss_APRILO9d.pdf 01/04/2009 15:25:31
Jo Hamilton J
o Hamilton arrives at Gown via an uncommon personal history that is at the heart of this exotic and enchanting music. Born into a semi-nomadic family, with roots in Jamaica and Kenya, but spending her youth globe trotting from a remote base in northern Scotland has undoubtedly cast a free spirited, enquiring mind. She appears alive to every possibility, but also paradoxically on an inward journey, perhaps retreating from a constantly unfamiliar environment. At times her voice is powerful and confidently expressive and at times a hushed whisper, imparting some secret that might be an invitation into her private world. It’s a light and shade that constantly shifts through the course of these 11 songs. In the shadows there are dappled glimpses and in the brightness, the flares of ideas haze and you are left blinking, pulling the musical horizon into focus. Right from the get go Exist (Beyond My Wildest Dreams) opens with urgent ripples, the squall of treated guitar feedback, but as the drums pound to herald a female chorus that sounds almost mystical, the whole thing just drops away to Jo’s whisper, “Never beyond my wildest dreams, because they don’t exist.” The choruses rise and fall with almost dervish intensity and the instrumental bed maintains a logic entirely of its own. It’s a thrilling set up, although the coda is almost submarine as it fades and shifts into Pick Me Up, a track that hints at Kate Bush via Roisin Murphy or Alison Goldfrapp, but is like everything else here, entirely its own entity.
The comparisons are only ever signposts and meant as complementary, but it’s actually, very hard to nail any direct similarity with anyone else. Jo’s voice seems to offer surprise after surprise. There It Is starts off all Nordicjazz-cool, but the chorus soars, strong and pushing at the stratospheric. How Beautiful also follows a similar trajectory before Deeper (Glorious) returns us to the introspective, finally breaking free of its tether with its sonorous refrain. Knowing that the album has been some time in the making, it’s easy to see great care has been lavished, fitting this most intricate of sonic jigsaws together. Vocal and instrumental nuances have clearly been worked through, but the real skill has been in knowing when to leave things alone, or maybe even when to leave things out. It’s Jo’s voice after all, with its range, its strength, its vulnerability, that will keep you coming back. As surely you must. The devil is known for inhabiting the Jo Hamilton details, but there are some Gown glimpses of heaven here. Poseidon Records PSDN001 Simon Holland Properganda 12
ROUNDUP reviews Sarah Borges And The Broken Singles The Stars Are Out Sugar Hill Records SHCD4046
JL Now onto her third album, this Massachusettsraised singer, song writer and guitarist continues to walk a fine line between punk and country, balancing mostly snappy originals and a tellingly diverse choice of covers. Borges has stated her intention of forging a more ‘straightforward rock ‘n’ roll sound’ than on previous work and that’s certainly the case on It Comes To Me Naturally, by (former NRBQ) roots rocker Al Anderson. With a voice that falls somewhere between Maria McKee and Katrina Leskanitch (of ’80s pop-rockers Katrina and the Waves), Borges shows her smoochy side with a faithful take on Smokey Robinson’s Being With You as well as the lush, swooning finale Symphony. Stephen Merritt’s gloom-fest No One Will Ever Love You has moody retro-synth textures, while Evan Dando’s Ride With Me is a countrified ballad. But true to her word it’s the rockers that seem like Borges’ default-setting, as the catchy opener Do It For Free underlines.
Michelle Shocked Soul of My Soul Mighty Sound Music MS11
CI She’s certainly come a long way since the impromptu late night performance captured for posterity on The Texas Camp Fire Tapes which launched her recording career 23 years ago, but Shocked is no less provocative…or fascinating. This 13th recorded episode finds her swirling between love and fury as she confronts both the state of the nation and her own romantic attachments, reflecting that both appear to have taken a sharp upturn. She delivers a brilliant, impassioned version of Steve Earle’s Ballad Of The Battle Of The Ballot And The Bullet, bids a bitter farewell to President Bush on Other People and sounds like a teenage punk rocker on Giantkiller, but her damnation of modern politics, Pompei, comes with a jaunty tropical beat and the album ends in truly touching manner with the open love letter, True Story. With a full-blooded band that clearly mean business, Shocked returns to form with a thump.
Catherine MacLellan Water In The Ground True North Records TND528
Rising Tide of Conformity
Vanguard Records VCD79900
A plethora of influences abound on this latest release from Canadian singer songwriter Catherine MacLellan. Jazz, country and a hint of good old rock n’ roll all showcasing Catherine’s soft and pure vocal. Opening cut Take A Break is a jaunty rockabilly ballad with just a touch of jazz thrown in, the song highlighting the comparisons others have made to Emmylou Harris and Joni Mitchell in her vocal delivery. The twelve original tracks flow nicely through tempo and style, from the smooth jazz of Hotel Stairs to the sad lament of final track Flowers On Your Grave, a song that will bring a lump to the throat, so personal is the lyrical content. With an impressive list of guest appearances including Justin Rutledge and Treasa Levasseur this is an album of light and dark, with lyrics that will engage the listener and stay in your thoughts long after it has ended.
Sam Lewis Everything You Are Rusk Records RR1CD
SH You don’t get to be KT Tunstall’s guitarist without being a serious player, but in stepping out of the sidelines to front and centre, Sam Lewis proves he has much more to offer. Composed in the downtime on the day job, Everything You Are is a thing of fragile beauty in the tradition of great break-up albums, as the separation of thousands of miles and a disintegrating relationship haunt these achingly tender tunes. The production (Sam with engineer Chris Morphitis) adds greatly to the effect as the songs seem to creak and sigh under their own emotional weight. The sense is of something unravelling so completely, but the sorrow here is as sweet as the melodies, from the opening JJ Cale-ish blues shuffle of Ups And Downs through the Americana and folk-ish flavours that follow. The beguiling Mara Carlyle is on hand to add vocal support with the gorgeous Cursed Love, Hard To Find and Leonard. KT appears too on Another Lifetime. A magical 40 minutes – repeat at will.
Keep Your Soul – A tribute To Doug Sahm
JL Texan music lost an icon when the mercurial Doug Sahm passed away prematurely in 1999. Lauded by Bob Dylan for his services to American music with 1960s rockers the Sir Douglas Quintet, and the 1990s ‘supergroup’ Texas Tornadoes, Sahm was a seminal figure in the evolution of both Tex-Mex and Americana. His impassioned, rough-hewn songs spanned country, blues, rock, soul, Tex-Mex and more. That suits the multi-artist tribute format down to the ground, especially since the contributors are so closely connected with his history. It’s quality all the way, as Chicano legend Little Willie G tears into the 12-bar blues boogie of She’s About A Mover with great gusto, and Ry Cooder’s filthy guitar backing. Other highlights include the bruised and bittersweet country ennui of Greg Dulli’s take on You Was For Real, Jimmy Vaughan’s doo-wop flavoured reading of Why Why Why and Doug’s son Shawn on the closing Mendocino.
Peyoti for President Rising Tide of Conformity Sordid Soup Records SSOUP003A
HM One thing which lifts this hyper-eclectic London band above so many other world fusion acts is Pietro DiMascio’s mercurial vocals. One moment he’s the velvet-smooth old-fashioned crooner, the next, the swaggering proto-rap artist. Meanwhile his band of merry antiestablishment musicians have turned rebellion into damned good fun, rather than the po-faced proselytising we are accustomed to hearing from our lank-haired protest singers. Every song here struts along with punchy flamenco bravado or samba sensuality, but filtered through an in-your-face punk rock attitude. The end of the world is nigh – so let’s party! Who can argue with that? But the most important thing about this debut CD is that it’s the perfect advert for the fact that you must see this band live. Don’t just take my word for it; Manu Chao chose the then virtually unknown Peyoti to be his London support act last summer. Need I say more?
ROUNDUP reviews Dr Strangely Strange Kip Of The Serenes Hux Records HUX104
SH One suspects that the Strangelies will be known in passing, by people of a certain age, chiefly for their inclusion on the budget priced Island Records vinyl sampler Nice Enough To Eat. The whimsical oddity that is Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal might have been confined to the end of side two, but in doing so left a lingering taste of something arcane, faintly exotic and archly lysergic. Kip Of The Serenes’ current vinyl rarity and collectors status, however, is surely testament that not many were tempted beyond this sample to the band’s the full debut LP. It just didn’t sell. Now thanks to the ever excellent Hux, you no longer have to shell out a king’s ransom for a pucker copy. With proper attention to mastering and sonic enhancement, this CD version, replete with copious extras, revels in the original stereo oddness of their singular vision. Whether you get there via folk musical curiosity of through a trust of Joe Boyd’s ear for the late 60s (Pink Floyd, Fairport, etc), this a beguiling, although somewhat creaky, box full of folk, rock, blues, poetry, performance art and child-like wonder at the world. Oddly, very good indeed.
Half Seas Over
Hide Go Seek
Furry Records FURRY002
Still little known outside of Australia this astonishing guitarist arrives with the praises of John Butler heralding his arrival, which should clue a few more of you in. Suffice to say, whether acoustic, electric, slide, lap, dobro, banjo or chumbush(?!!), if it has strings and plays a tune, Jeff is its master.
Since the late 70s, Chappo has enjoyed a remarkable career in a parallel universe (Germany), where they are bit more loyal to those that make an impact on planet rock. That impact in UK terms may be clearly defined by Family and the Streetwalkers (67-77), but the musical range of those two combos is extraordinarily diverse and gives an indication of what this double disc set delivers.
Another distinguishing asset is his song writing. With it’s fair share of Australian references, it still has a universal reach, taking in America (blues especially) and with a couple of traditional songs as well that hark via the US right back to Britain. But he’s an able wordsmith in his own right and there are some fairly dark vignettes here laced with “the crow black wings of morphine”, (Five Letters), or otherwise finding a tortured soul waking from “that horrible dream to a close humid hotel room”, (Ghosting On My Mind). Able support from Grant Cummerford on all things bass is mostly all that’s needed to underpin the flights of fantasy league guitar playing and Jeff’s voice, weaving its dark magic clean and true.
For those that have lost touch, this is an invaluable collection of off-cuts from the last 20 or so years that proves those tonsils are still in fine shape and his distinctive warbling rasp (Peter Gabriel in a vibro-massage chair!?) is still as powerful. Much of this set majors on the funky-rock style that the Streetwalkers specialised in with prominent clavinet, bass, drums and clipped guitars. But tracks like Naked Hearts/The Movie are more reminiscent of the more pastoral, psyche-tinged Family moments. With the likes of Mick Moody, Laurie Wisefield, Alvin Lee and Steve Simpson (Ry Cooder, Ronnie Lane, etc) adding their guitar skills, this is a great chance for a classic rockin’ catch up. Roger, it’s been a while. Come on in, it’s nice to see you.
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Sign up at www.properdistribution.co.uk for your chance to win Wowee! THANK YOU very much Lost for words Thank you What can I say? Thank you Ian P.S. Thank you Ta muchly - Ian Drummond (Won every CD in last issue’s magazine). Blimey, it’s going to take me ages to listen to them all! - Sue Lemmon (Won 50 Americana CDs). Received the box of goodies today - a great selection, with an extraordinarily low “thanks, but no thanks” quotient. That’s sorted my listening for the next few months! - Lee Wellbrook (Won 50 randomly selected CDs from our shelves). I’ve recently bought your Best Of 2008 sampler which has led me to purchase the Sonny Landreth, Tim O’Brien & Mary Gauthier CD’s. God knows how much the Folk Award CD’s are going to end up costing me! Chris Barker (Won a complete set of Folk Awards CDs). Properganda 12
N I C K
L O W E
at Howe has year’s of experience in the music industry and is currently Head Of Music for HMV Ireland. He counts himself as Nick Lowe’s No.1 fan. Here’s a personal appraisal of what Nick and his music mean to Pat. I was thirteen years old in 1979, and along with the frantic onrush of puberty, the other obsession for me that year was to be found in listening to the radio. It wasn’t just the late night sounds of John Peel, even daytime airplay was giving way to an amazing array of post-punk pop classics from the likes of The Jam, Blondie, Elvis Costello, the Boomtown Rats, Ian Dury, The Pretenders and dozens of others. Energised and informed by punk, this Power Pop or New Wave, as it became known seemed incredibly exciting at the time. Two singles stood out for me that summer, Cracking Up and Cruel To Be Kind by Nick Lowe. I had no idea of his background in Kippington Lodge and Brinsley Schwartz, and was only vaguely aware of his production credits for Elvis Costello and The Damned; I just knew that these songs were up there with the best. There was a beery authenticity underlying his records which spoke to me in a way few others have ever managed. I was a big fan of pre-Beatles British rock and roll, and somehow Nick Lowe songs seemed like a smokier sequel to the works of Billy Fury or Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, with a hint of Patrick Hamilton in the lyrics and Charlie Rich in the tunes. The illusion I carried away of a world weary troubadour, smoking a last fag over a fry-up in a bus station cafe, probably does no favours to the wit and class of the man himself, but nevertheless endeared me to his work. A small confession - I once followed him round a supermarket in Chiswick, trying desperately to pluck up the courage to tell him how much his work meant to me. The bitter disappointment when he purchased a pineapple, rather than something a bit more rock ‘n’ roll, remains with me to this day.
It’s always a hard job to try to compress thirty-odd years of great music into one album, even a double, but this collection does a pretty good job. In a parallel, and some would say, better world, the tracks making up Disc One would represent a string of Number Ones in a celestial hit parade. From the anthemic grandeur of Peace, Love and Understanding; the punk-pop nuggets of So It Goes and Heart Of The City, through to the country-soul genius of When I Write The Book and Rose Of England, this is all fabulous stuff. The quality of his more recent material, and long overdue critical acclaim, should not be allowed to overshadow the fact that his earlier records are nothing less than an unadulterated joy. And then, it gets better. His mid 90’s renaissance is well documented, but for a long-term fan to be rewarded with a succession of such absolute masterpieces was a period of vindication. People I’d preached to for decades were suddenly convinced when they heard The Beast In Me and Faithless Lover. Mix tapes of my favourite Nick Lowe numbers had to be quickly revised. As a mid-career artistic triumph, I would seriously rank the albums from The Impossible Bird through to At My Age, alongside the Rick Rubin/Johnny Cash albums from the same period; the Frank Sinatra/Nelson Riddle recordings for Capitol in the ‘50’s; and the ‘68 Comeback Special for Elvis Presley. They’re that good. And the best thing about this collection, is that it’s just an introduction. Take this to your heart, stick it onto your ipod, bore your friends with it, and then go out and find the rest. Brinsley Scwartz’s Silver Pistol is a lost country-soul classic; Jesus Of Cool, a pop triumph; The Impossible Bird and The Convincer, timeless classics both. Go and see him live if you can, as the DVD extras show, he’s a consummate performer. I urge you to buy two copies of this record - one for yourself, and one for the person you love most in all the world, because it’s that good. Pat Howe
Brampton Live 2009 July 17 18 19 William Howard Centre Brampton Carlisle
the deepest roots in the North
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Barbara Dickson Drever/McCusker/Woomble (with Heidi Talbot & Boo Hewerdine) Andy Fairweather Low Peatbog Faeries Oysterband Mary Gauthier Spooky Menâ€™s Chorale Oojami Eliza Gilkyson Black Umfolosi 5 King Creosote Chris While & Julie Matthews Annabelle Chvostek Nancy Kerr & James Fagan Chris Sherburn & Denny Bartley Emily Smith Band Mabon Elbow Jane Jez Lowe & The Bad Pennies Max Pashm The Lancashire Hotpots Heidi Talbot Trio Keith Donnelly Ars Poetica II - Jude Simpson, Scott Tyrrell, Kate Fox Tom Kitching & Gren Bartley Mr. & Mrs. Poppets Puppets Thrice Brewed Forcenra Niamh Boadle Jonny Kearney Elaine Davidson & Danny Hart
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With a new album of his own, original British Blues Boomer Paul Jones is also very excited about the new wave of young guitar starsâ€Ś page 24-25 calls a blues summit and promoter Pete Feenstra takes notes.
Danny Bryant Czechs in... on page 25
Joanne Shaw Taylor