SHOUTING ABOUT SPECIALIST MUSIC
ISSUE 19 APR/MAY 2011
J U N E TA B O R Answers the call of the sea… Ashore
E E FR ne o k c i p ay d o t up
Also in this issue
Courtney Pine Fairport Convention Bruce Cockburn The Wailin’ Jennys The Songlines’ Music Awards 2011 Bella Hardy Emily Smith Joan Baez The Cowboy Junkies Nick Lowe ECM Girls With Guitars And much, much more
Enter our competition to win all of the CDs featured in this issue
CONTENTS Page 2 Bella Hardy Pete Morton 3 Emily Smith 5 - 8 June Tabor
10 Rooksmere Studios
11 Fairport Convention
12 Folk Awards 2011
13 The Radio Ballads 14 Mike Denver 15 Joan Baez
17 The Cowboy Junkies Nick Lowe
elcome to the first Properganda of 2011. We are off to an unusually late start, but it gives us the chance to be even more brimful of wonderful new music. Our cover star, June Tabor, has released what could well be the most successful album of a long and illustrious career. Ashore has been warmly received by critics and the public alike and she proves an engaging subject as our correspondent Philip Ward discovered. She brings a typically adventurous selection of songs about our island relationship with the sea, from the romantic to the positively deadly, under her spell, proving once again why she is regarded as one of this nation’s finest singers. Courtney Pine has delivered an album based on a 40 year study of the continent of Europe and his place within it. It’s an astonishing work and features Pine taking on the notoriously difficult bass clarinet as his principal instrument for the record. Mark Mondesir, Alec Dankworth and Zoe Rahman form the core of his band for the album with Omar Puente’s violin and Amanda Drummond’s viola broadening the soundscape. The result is hugely ambitious and richly satisfying. Fairport Convention continue to set standards and reinvent themselves, never content to rest on their laurels as one of the folk world’s institutions. The new album Festival Bell sees them refreshed and also marking the casting of a bell for the Cropredy church that will bear their name, carrying it on for future generations long after the band have taken their final bow. Speaking of milestones, Songlines reach their 75th issue at the same time as the nominees for the Songlines Music Awards 2011 are announced. We’re able to round up both, with a nod back to the Folk Awards 2011 as well and an evening that despite a couple of erratic moments adds more fuel to the idea that great music is being made. Whatever your preference, folk, blues, jazz, world music or country / Americana or all of the above, there are some great things to be discovered within these pages. As always, happy listening.
18 Bruce Cockburn
19 The Wailin’ Jennys 20 - 21 Courtney Pine 23 ECM
24 Girls With Guitars Dana Fuchs
25 Mor Karbasi
26 Songlines at 75
27 Songlines Music aawrds 28 Aurelio Waifs
31 Properboxes 33 Folk Reviews
34 - 35 Country / Americana Reviews 36 Jazz Reviews
37 Blues Reviews
38 World / Reggae Reviews 39 Round Up Reviews 40 Round Up Reviews Contributors Chris Nickson, Cliff White, Clive Pownceby, Colin Irwin, Colin Somerville, David Kidman, Garth Cartwright, Howard Male, Jon Lusk, Ken Smith, Peter Bacon, Philip Ward, Sid Cowans, Simon Holland, Stuart Nicholson Photography All photographs provided by artists and their labels. Editor Simon Holland Design & Artwork D on Ward at Triple Eight Graphics Ltd. (contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.propergandaonline.com Properganda 19
erbyshire’s Bella Hardy has travelled a long way over the course of three albums. Her debut, 2007’s Night Visiting, saw her very much as a traditional singer with an D exquisite voice and a mean fiddle player. An appearance at the Folk Proms brought her massive exposure and a curious thing happened. Three Black Feathers, one of two Hardy originals on the disc, garnered a Best Original Song Award and several cover versions (most notably by Jim Moray).
Small surprise, then, that her second release, In The Shadow Of The Mountains, two years ago, should feature more of her own work, which nestled perfectly comfortably alongside the tradition. With Songs Lost & Stolen, though, she’s completed the recording transformation to singer-songwriter – all 12 songs here come from her own pen. “It felt like a natural progression,” she explains. “I had the confidence, I’d found a song publisher and that faith made we want to do a full album of my material.” It’s a very impressive collection, too, still influenced by folk music, as the exquisite neoballad The Herring Girl –one of the disc’s standouts – shows, but with toes gingerly in the water of acoustic pop and even country. It’s quite a range, but that’s a good thing and “it’s just what came out of my head,” she says. Opening herself up in this way is a good decision, as is using Mattie Foulds (Karine Polwart) as producer; he gives everything a more percussive edge and a touch more polish. So the opener Labyrinth builds on a delicious slow burn while Full Moon Over Amsterdam has all the glistening, fresh joy a love song should possess. Hardy’s at her best on the slower, sensitive materials, such as Flowers Of May and the closer Broken Mirror, where emotions can run deep. Yet she can deliver a convincing new Nashville kick to Walk It With You and give a sense of sprightliness to Jenny Wren, turning in the kind of sweet, gutsy folk-pop that’s been gaining traction in the last couple of years. That Hardy’s developing into a major songwriting talent is beyond question with this disc, and it’s understandable that she’d want to flex her compositional muscles over a whole album. But she won’t let her traditional side lapse in favour of the singer-songwriter. “I just tell people I’m a folk singer,” Hardy says. “I have no qualms about it, as it encompasses the whole bag of tricks. Traditional songs are timeless, I’m just trying to write songs that can stand next to them.” On the evidence here, she surely can. Chris Nickson
Bella Hardy Songs Lost & Stolen Navigator Records NAVIGATOR 044 www.bellahardy.com
n Britain we’re not so blessed by songwriters with the wit and wherewithal to write intelligently about the vagaries of the modern world that we can afford to overlook the impassioned, Ipertinent, droll and inherently musical musings of Mr Pete Morton. Economy - Morton’s first album of original songs for over three years - is full of insightful gems like The Sock On The Line, Disobedience, Bigger Than Life and The Nightmare Of The Sons, instantly elevating him right back to the top table of social commentators. He can still rant with the best of them, belting his machine gun clatter of accusations about bankers and economists on The Sock On The Line, but Morton is a measured finger-pointer too, as adept with a crafted melody as an accusatory guitar riff. Listening to Economy, you can well imagine audiences linking arms to sway and sing along with the anthemic chorus of When We Sing Together while India has a similarly beautiful melody to offset its sharply observational theme about modern day mores...”People keep texting me to take out a loan, I don’t know where they get my number from/But they’ve got no name and they’ve got no manners...” he sings on India, striking a note with which we can all identify. The Cafe Song is a brilliantly observed montage of whiling away time while everything around you is a mad rush that could be the opening scene to a racy spy movie; the dramatic wartime images evoked in The Nightmare Of The Sons are given added piquancy by Morton’s whispery rap delivery; and he keeps us guessing further with the faintly surreal nine and a half-minute talking blues In The Days When Time Was Different, a hugely entertaining “sentence salad” about the idiosyncracies of a changing world, with stream of consciousness musing on everything from text messaging, security cameras and steam trains to call centres, Diana Ross, Afghanistan and the Welsh language.
Pete Morton Economy Annson Records ANSCD100 www.petemorton.com 2
He’s assembled quite a supporting cast, too, with particularly notable contributions from Roger Wilson (fiddle), Paddy Hodgkinson (mandolin), Caroline O’Donnell (accordion) and Lisa Banks (flute, melodeon and vocal harmonies). It’s quite a landmark in a career that’s constantly found him staunchly resisting both convention and fashion. Originally from Leicester, he was drawn to folk when everybody else his age was hooked on punk and then, when they all danced to fey new romantic bands, Morton was a rare force for meaningful songwriting. Nobody took much notice early on, but now he’s got 11 albums under his belt - most recently Casa Abierta, sung in 10 different languages - and as Economy comprehensively proves, he’s getting better all the time. Song craftsman, impassioned performer and general good egg, Pete Morton may have just made the best album of his life. Colin Irwin
mily Smith is one of Britain’s brightest musical hopes, with E her new album Traiveller’s Joy
representing her love of traditional values with a modern twist.
Winning the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Of The Year Award almost a decade ago has proved both a help and a hindrance. “Winning that title was absolutely fantastic, but it did rather put me in a box before I’d really got started never mind established! Obviously I was really happy because it is a fantastic title to win, but it does encourage people to have certain expectations.” Having been exposed to music not in the folk clubs, but growing up in and around her mother’s dance school, Emily understood it was all part of a bigger picture. “Clearly I was raised with a love of traditional music, and learned a lot from playing in dance and ceilidh bands. My mum being a dance teacher meant I was stepping into that traditional music world rather than being steeped in it. What I really loved about folk is that whole oral tradition, where songs have to be passed on and reinterpreted.” Traiveller’s Joy blends original compositions such as Dreams And Lullabies with Sweet Lover Of Mine’s most familiar flourish, reflecting the evolution in Emily’s sound since her debut in 2002 A Day Like Today. Compared in some quarters to legendary Canadian singer songwriter Joni Mitchell, she confesses to being “pretty chuffed, but it’s not like I am copying her or anything” at the reference, but don’t expect it to go to her very level head. When asked if like Joni she would like new singers to be looking at her songs in 50 odd years time and being inspired, Emily laughs. “I am too busy living in the moment and concerned with the here and now. With each album of mine I think there has been a development from the purely traditional perspective to the point where it is harder to slot me into one particular category.
good way to as wide an audience as possible, which for Emily means steering clear of the genre’s traditional political bent and not trying to force her point of view down anyone’s throat. Her hope is for people to enjoy a cheery night out, and for that reason she says she is not drawn to dark ballads.
“This time I wanted to make an album that is optimistic and have a good mix of my songs and the traditional, because I am just aspiring to make high quality recordings.” Aiding her in this quest is New Zealand born multi instrumentalist Jamie McClennan, who plays guitar in her live band as well as taking on production and arranging duties in the studio.
Emily has enjoyed considerable success at a young age, yet seems to have taken the praise and any setbacks, although there can’t have been many, in her stride. At the same time Emily clearly has a great passion for what she does. She turns 30 this year and feels like this is just the beginning. Where she goes from here is anyone’s guess but Traiveller’s Joy suggests the pleasure for us all will be the journey.
Having just completed her biggest tour of England to date, her crossover into the mainstream is gathering pace, but very much on her own terms. None of that rock and roll tour bus nonsense for our Emily “It has all been very civilized, with three well behaved men in a car,” she says. On stage she believes the paying audience expects to see musicians who have made an effort. “When you are performing, if people have paid to come and see you present yourself, to me that means putting on a nice dress and looking my best. At home is the place to bum around in jeans and a jumper.” She declares her mission is to present folk music in a
Having said that, Emily still gets steamed up over what she perceives as an overwhelming apathy in her home town. “Dumfries needs to pull its socks up. It really should be on the map but the heart has gone out of it. If I go to watch live music, I have to travel out of the area.”
Emily Smith Traiveller’s Joy White Fall Records WFRCD004 www.emilysmith.org Properganda 19
J U N E TA B O R might be under a bush or making marmalade,” says “I the voice at the other end, explaining why she doesn’t always hear the telephone. Luckily, June Tabor,
gardener, marmalade-maker – and one of the greatest living interpreters of English song – is engaged in neither activity when I call to ask about her new album, Ashore. The album, her thirteenth as a solo artist, has its origins in the seventieth birthday celebrations for Topic Records, the label that June has been with throughout her career. Tony Engle of Topic invited her to do a concert at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall and gave her a free hand in the programme. “I like when putting together a concert to bring together songs that tell a story, trace some kind of storyline, songs that are connected in some way, possibly by subject matter, irrespective of where they might come from,” June explains. She’d long been thinking about a concert in themed sections on the relationship between the British people and the sea. “That doesn’t mean, as some people seem to think, sea shanties. That’s just a very small part of it. There’s a huge breadth of material which has the sea as its subject matter or its inspiration, both in the tradition and in the hands of modern writers. And if you juxtapose things that haven’t previously been put together but which still have this connecting thread, and in this particular case the sea, it’s amazing what pictures and images, what passions you can stir up amongst us all, performers and audience.”
After the concert, once she’d got over the “abject terror of doing a whole lot of new stuff in one go”, she realised she had the makings of a complete album. Ashore is the happy outcome. On the new release she takes the opportunity to revisit a couple of songs she has recorded before. It opens with Finisterre, a number that appeared on her 1989 collaboration with the Oysterband. The voice is close and intimate, the arrangement spacious. The track establishes a mood for what’s to follow. These are broad soundscapes opening onto long vistas, like a view of the open sea. Also up for reappraisal is Cyril Tawney’s Grey Funnel Line, which she first recorded with Maddy Prior in 1976 and has been singing on and off ever since. June still loves the duet version with Maddy but admits her own approach to the song has changed over the years: “It’s got a bit more space. It has room to breathe. The images, I think, stand out very clearly.” With time, particularly if she hasn’t sung a song for a while and comes back to it, the meaning of the words changes: “That’s the beauty of a good song, that however well you think you know it, you discover something in it that you didn’t see before. Certainly, Grey Funnel Line is a song that speaks so clearly – and I don’t know that I even thought about it when I first
recorded it – of that need for anyone who has spent most of their life on the sea to turn their back on it. I’ve been told this by people who served for a long time in the Navy, that if you want a life of your own then you’ve got to leave the sea. And the more I sang it and thought about it, the clearer that became to me. That’s exactly what Cyril was writing about.” One highlight of the London concert was a suite of songs about cannibalism at sea. This is a surprisingly virile genre, from the starkly lyric poetry of The Ship In Distress to a comic treatment by Thackeray where the cabin boy’s on the menu until he’s rescued in the nick of time by the arrival of the fleet. On Ashore we hear a French song, Le Petit Navire, where the child is not so lucky. He ends up being eaten, with appropriate garnish. “I laughed so much when I found the words of that,” says June. “How French! They’d run out of anything to eat but they still managed to cook up white sauce and a nice salad! So I can only assume that ‘something to eat’ has got to mean meat!” The incidence of enforced cannibalism must be as old as seafaring, but, intriguingly, the songs about it only surface in the eighteenth century as broadsheets. The modern equivalent would be disaster movies about aircrash survivors. It all stems from our eternal love of horror, June suggests, lapsing into mock-Brummie: “As we say in the Midlands where I come from, ‘we loiks a bit of bad!’” Le Petit Navire is one of two French songs on the new album collected in the Channel Islands. These were still being sung in the mid-twentieth century – the Islands remained French-speaking until the Second World War – and June is drawn to the way they combine a very English sensibility and loyalty to the English crown with their origins in the French tradition: “I love that – and also it gives me an excuse to sing in French!” Like its predecessors, the album has a distinct aural texture. “We often get described as chamber folk. That’s a very good way of expressing that it isn’t quite folk music and it’s not classical and it’s a few other things as well.” June works with a regular group of co-musicians drawn from a variety of backgrounds. Huw Warren is a pianist and composer whose jazz-inflected style perfectly complements June’s vocals. “The piano is such a glorious instrument. It’s an orchestra in itself.” The multi-tasking Mark Emerson on violin and viola unites a classical training with a grounding in traditional and dance music. “Extraordinary player of an extraordinary instrument” is June’s comment on Andy Cutting: “Andy does things with the diatonic accordion that just aren’t possible to most other musicians.” The line-up is completed by Tim Harries on double bass, who, I’m told, has “two brains”. How are the arrangements arrived at? “I come up with the songs and I have an idea of the direction I want them to go in and, quite possibly, an idea of what the main instrument should be as the basis of the arrangement. I learn the songs and I sing them to the musicians and we sit round and the arrangement evolves. It’s very much input from all of us as to how the finished arrangement ends up. Very seldom is anything written down. It’s carried in everybody’s heads. As far as I’m concerned the songs tell me what they need and I’m just trying to convey everything that I get from a song to a listener in the best way I can.” As an example, she quotes the last track on the album, Across The Wide Ocean, an epic 12-minute setting of a Les Barker poem about the Highland Clearances. “The grounding of that song is piano and what Huw is playing. The musicians are improvising. They know roughly when each instrument should come in but they’re responding to the words and I just sing when I feel like it. It is a long
track, it’s just the way we felt that the song deserved to be sung and played to give it that incredible breadth, so that it is a very visual arrangement. Through the music you see the sea, the people being driven from their homes, the dereliction of the island and the burning houses and the ships setting off for America. It’s all there in what the musicians are playing just as it is in the words. It’s one of those film songs – I like those.” Despite her enviable technique, June insists she has no musical training. She seems apologetic that she can’t read music: “You’d think at my age I would have learned by now.” I point out that Paul McCartney has the same “disability” but has managed to do quite well for himself nonetheless – which seems to reassure her. Martin Carthy always says that the worst thing you can do to folksong is not to sing it, and June agrees with him wholeheartedly. Does that mean she’s a curator? “I’m a teller of stories,” she responds. “I don’t like that word curator. It is part of what traditional music is about but it just seems to me the wrong word. I’m someone who is keeping great music alive. I’m a life-support machine rather than a curator.” She first discovered folk music as a teenager. She recalls a couple of religious programmes on TV on a Sunday afternoon where folk artists like Martin Carthy were featured. When a schoolfriend took her to a folk club, she found a “social aspect, a way of life”. It was the start of her own involvement in singing, but the breakthrough moment was a chance purchase of Anne Briggs’s EP The Hazards Of Love. Properganda 19
“I went to visit my sister in London and she took me to Dobell’s, where they had jazz and folk sections in the basement, and I found that EP. I thought, this looks interesting. So I took it home and I put it on my funny little Dansette record player and I thought, God, this is amazing. Here’s a woman singing on her own, it’s just the voice. I want to do that. So I played it over and over again, I broke it down, slowed it down, cut it up into little pieces and learned how to do each little tiny bit, drove my mother mad, shut myself in the loo – there was a good acoustic in there! – and just taught myself how to sing like that. I was fascinated by the decorated style, the material.” A late starter, she didn’t release her first album until 1976 and attributes the impetus to her old friend Maddy Prior. Steeleye Span were at the peak of their stadium-filling power in the mid-70s and their record company, Chrysalis, allowed each member to make a solo album. Maddy announced she would do hers with June, as a duo, The Silly Sisters. “So I actually stepped into a recording study. Oh God, how terrifying!” When she’d recovered from the fright, June got down to making the solo disc of her own that Topic had been pressing for, Airs And Graces. Since then she’s put out a string of accomplished releases, most of them bearing titles beginning with the letter ‘A’ (“It gives you somewhere to start when you’re looking for a title, which is not an easy thing to do.”) Her background is somewhat different from many in the folk world. Oxford-educated, she captained her college team on University Challenge in 1968. They lost (narrowly) to Essex, despite “thumping” Bangor in the warm-up round. What sticks in the memory about that experience? “How nice Bamber Gascoigne was. And the other thing I remember, apart from not winning, is that we walked through the set of Coronation Street to get to the University Challenge studio. I got onto Coronation Street, albeit briefly!” Outside music, she’s served time as a librarian and even ran a restaurant in the Lake District for a while. She is a remarkably versatile performer who can switch from trad folk to jazz by way of modern singer-songwriters. An earlier album, At The Wood’s Heart, brought a cool reading of Duke Ellington’s Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me. On the new album she tackles Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding, already covered memorably by Robert Wyatt. Whatever the material, her singing has the naturalness of speech. Where lesser singers merely skate the surface, June is always deep inside the song. She ducks when asked if she has any comments on the current folk scene. At first she admits she “hasn’t a clue”, then she speaks in praise of newcomer Emily Portman for “making new songs of old and working folktale and storytelling into songs” – which is, of course, exactly what June Tabor herself has been doing triumphantly for the last forty years.
Photography: Judith Burrows
June Tabor Ashore Topic Records TSCD577 Properganda 19
FAIRPORT ACOUSTIC CONVENTION MAY 2011
Sunday 01 DIDCOT, Oxon Cornerstone Arts Centre 01235 515144 www.cornerstone-arts.org
Tuesday 03 LONDON Bloomsbury Theatre
0207 388 8822 www.thebloomsbury.com
Wednesday 04 CANTERBURY Cathedral Lodge
01227 831493 www.folkinthebarn.co.uk
Friday 06 POOLE Upton Community Centre
01202 732239 www.wimbourne-acoustic.co.uk
Saturday 07 HAILSHAM The Pavilion
01323 841414 www.hailshampavilion.co.uk
Sunday 08 HOLMFIRTH The Picturedrome www.picturedrome.net
Monday 09 NETTLEBED Village Club
01628 636620 www.nettlebedfolkclub.co.uk
Wednesday 11 CROYDON Fairfield Halls
0208 688 9291 www.fairfield.co.uk
Thursday 12 LEEK The Swan
01538 385260 www.cnfc.info
Friday 13 BURY St EDMUNDS Apex Theatre 01284 758000 www.theapex.co.uk
Saturday 14 DARTFORD The Mick Jagger Centre
D BRANIO STUD NEWLBUM A
01322 291100 www.themickjaggercentre.com
Monday 16 NORTH BOARHUNT Forest Folk 01329 833625 www.forestfolk.co.uk
Tuesday 17 REETH, Richmond The Buck Hotel 01748 884210 www.buckhotel.co.uk
Wednesday 18 BIRKENHEAD Pacific Road Arts Centre 0151 666 0000 www.pacificroad.co.uk
Thursday 19 BURY The Met
0161 761 2216 themet.biz
Friday 20 MIDDLEWICH Royal British Legion
07790 082523/01606 834969 www.inanyevent.org.uk
Saturday 21 YEOVIL The Octagon
01935 422884 www.octagon-theatre.co.uk
Sunday 22 UTTOXETER Acoustic Festival of Great Britain 0333 9000 919 www.acousticfestival.co.uk
Monday 23 BANBURY St. Mary’s Church
01295 812161 www.livearts-at-stmarys.co.uk
Tuesday 24 IPSWICH The Corn Exchange
01473 433100 www.ipswichregent.com
FESTIVAL BELL The first Fairport studio album since 2007’s Sense of Occasion: fourteen tracks written by Ralph McTell, Richard Shindell, Chris While, Sandy Denny and Red Shoes plus our very own Chris Leslie, Dave Pegg and Ric Sanders. MGCD050
In the shops from 11 April
Wednesday 25 KETTERING The Lighthouse Theatre
01536 414141 www.lighthousetheatre.co.uk
Thursday 26 BRISTOL The Colston Hall
0117 922 3686 www.colstonhall.org
Friday 27 LEICESTER The Y Theatre
0116 255 7066 www.leicesterymca.co.uk
Saturday 28 BOSTON Blackfrairs Theatre
01205 363108 www.blackfriarsartscentre.co.uk
Sunday 29 CHIPPING NORTON The Theatre
01608 642350 www.chippingnortontheatre.co.uk
Thu11/Fri 12/Sat 13
AUGUST 2011 Come join us at Britain’s friendliest music festival. Acts booked so far include
UB40, Badly Drawn Boy, Hayseed Dixie & the newlyreformed Home Service.
Many more names to follow, so keep an eye on the website:
hese may be uncertain times in which to launch a new label, T but singer/ guitarist/ producer/ engineer Mark Hutchinson is convinced he’s on a winner with the first release on his Rooksmere label.
Having launched the Rooksmere studios in the Northamptonshire village of Overstone in 2003, he makes an even bolder leap with the release of Walsh & Pound, the debut album by the unusual and exciting duo of Will Pound (harmonica) and Dan Walsh (banjo, vocals). With guest appearances by Martin Simpson (guitar), Christi Andropolis (vocals) and Bernhard Schimpelsberger (udo, cajon, tabla, konnakol), it’s an invigorating mix of traditional and self-written tunes and songs from two young musicians who’ve made a big impact in the last year or so. A member of the Martin Simpson Band, Pound is even featured on the BBC2 TV series Goldie’s Band – By Royal Appointment, showing Goldie with the likes of Ms Dynamite and Cerys Matthews unearthing new young talent for a concert at Buckingham Palace. “There’s a lot of talk about Will at present, partly due to his involvement with Goldie and I think this is a much anticipated album,” says Hutchinson. “Despite their relative youth, they are both clearly virtuoso musicians and there’s a real buzz about them. It’s jaw-dropping stuff. As a first release I think I’ve landed on my feet.” The second in Rooksmere’s initial release schedule is Ceilidh, the third album by Tickled Pink, the maverick dance band now celebrating 21 years together, in which Hutchinson plays guitar and Walsh & Pound manager Simon Care stars on melodeon. A faithful mirror of the all-action style we can expect from a Tickled Pink dance evening, it’s described by Hutchinson as the album the band’s fans have been crying out for, firmly reflecting his philosophy of creating a studio sound that captures the spirit of stage shows. “There’s so much energy in the live performances of someone like Pound and Walsh so it stands to reason to capture that - it’s something I always try to do in the studio,” says Hutchinson, whose previous studio work at Rooksmere includes the Spiers & Boden album Vagabond. “With acoustic music you don’t want to hear auto tune and gizmos. There’s something about seeing the whites of the musicians’ eyes when you hear them play.” For Hutchinson, a former member of Ashley Hutchings’ Rainbow Chasers, he’s hoping this could be the start of something big. “I definitely want to take on more projects like Walsh & Pound and I do have a couple of people in mind,” he says. “It’s all about production and the record company has evolved from that. It’s a very steep learning curve, but I’m enjoying it.” Colin Irwin
Tickled Pink Ceilidh
Walsh & Pound Walsh & Pound
Properganda 18 19
airport are one of those bands that thwart the proverbial blindfold test. From cold within five seconds when Simon Nicol F starts singing the first line of Mercy Bay you just know that Festival
Bell could only be Fairport. That is a hallmark of the band. They could only be Fairport and with Festival Bell they have bottled their very essence again and anew. Festival Bell is their first studio album since Sense Of Occasion in 2007. It is grounded metaphorically and musically in the Oxfordshire village of Cropredy – the seat of what is now known as Fairport’s Cropredy Convention, the festival anointed at the TPi Awards this February with Total Production International’s Editor’s Award. Awards are fine and dandy but, with Festival Bell the album, they tap into something of greater longevity. At its heart is the Fairport Convention Festival Bell, one of two new bells consecrated in 2007 in the Cropredy parish church of Saint Mary’s. “Receiving an award for music or running a successful festival is one thing,” Fairport’s rhythmist Gerry Conway downplays, “but the casting of the Fairport Cropredy Bell has surely earned the group a page in British history. It will be there for future generations to enjoy.” Fairport’s bassist Dave Pegg continues, “I lived in Cropredy a couple of hundred yards from the church for several years and waking to the peal on Sunday mornings whilst usually nursing a hangover became a regular occupation! There were times when I cursed them. Not now. It is a great honour to have that bell there with Fairport’s name on it and there for a lot longer than we will be around. The peal will start our festival off at 4 pm on Thursday, August 11th – and we will be up on stage singing The Festival Bell. When Christine and I started organising Cropredy over 30 years ago as a fundraiser for the village hall fund we never imagined that the band would someday get a ‘gong’ that big and in such a high place. Cropredy means an awful lot to so many people and the village benefits from Fairport and vice versa. Ring out them bells!” You can tell what makes Fairport ‘Fairport’ by both the bigger picture and by the brushstrokes. The inventiveness of Dave Pegg’s free-flowing bass line and the way Gerry Conway shadows the bass during violinist Ric Sanders’ instrumental Danny Jack’s Reward is a marvel. While the Pegg/Sanders instrumental
Albert & Ted celebrates their fathers, who put them on their paths and kismet brought together to work in the same Birmingham school. (Nepotism? Sanders: “Guilty as charged.” Pegg: “[Albert Pegg] bought me my first guitar – a Rosetti Lucky 7 – and encouraged me to play music and quit my ‘Proper’ job and have a go at doing something I really wanted to do.”) Then you have the story-telling and, quite apart from revisiting Sandy Denny’s Rising For The Moon, the history of the tales. Then comes the quality of the songs they’re exporting. “Being in Fairport,” says Chris Leslie, who shoulders the main in-house song writing weight, “I am very aware of the wonderful song writing that has gone before from Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, and Dave Swarbrick. Over the fourteen years I’ve been in the band, I enjoy writing more and more, even though it is sporadic. I feel my songs on Festival Bell are the strongest I’ve written to date. My aim is to continue that momentum of always earning and hopefully raising the bar.” And importing. Such as Chris While’s Darkside Wood and Ralph McTell’s London Apprentice. Both, incidentally, contain references to bells. Simon Nicol, Fairport Convention’s cofounder in 1967, gets the last words. What does it all mean to him? “More than I can say. Fairport was the house I was born in and will be the band that I die in. I was in school when I began playing with the foetal version of the group which has carried me to my bus pass and beyond. The award/gift of a piece of permanence, something which will be the history of the far future and will ring out over the village in hundreds of years’ time is descriptiondefyingly sublime.” Ladies and gentlemen, the quidditative, bell-ringing Fairport… Ken Hunt
Fairport Convention Festival Bell Matty Grooves MGCD050 www.fairportconvention.com
BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2011
Folk Awards 2011 Various PMD PROPERFOLK11
ornish male choir Fisherman’s Friends belting out South Australia... big band Bellowhead blazing their way through C New York Girls... Chris Wood unfolding the tragic story of the death of Jean Charles de Menezes on the devastating Hollow Point... The Levellers bouncing on to transform the more excitable guests into dancing dervishes...oh and yes, Donovan too.
If anyone was still in any doubt about the buoyant current state of British folk music, then the splendid annual hoopla at the Brewery in London that is the BBC Folk Awards should have booted them firmly into touch. There were some heartfelt speeches from a queue of celebrity presenters (Tim Van Eyken giving Moore, Moss & Rutter the Young Folk Award, Joan Armatrading presenting a remarkably humble Chris Wood with the Folk Singer Of The Year gong, Roger Daltrey chummily anointing Andy Cutting as Musician Of The Year) and some baffling ones too (novelist Joanna Trollope rambled on for so long it’s difficult to recall who or what she was there to present). However, the overall conclusion at the end of a breathless evening - covered live by Radio 2 throughout - is that British folk is blessed with more talent and greater recognition than at any other point in the last 50 years. The elegiac, new, nu-folk, media darling Laura Marling was there winning a lot of friends but no awards (her Rambling Man failed to beat Wood’s Hollow Point as song of the year), though the biggest applause went to someone who wasn’t actually there. The great Norma Waterson - one of the bestloved and most important singers since the early days of the folk revival in the 1960s - was in hospital nearly 200 miles away in Yorkshire after being taken seriously ill at the end of a tour with her daughter Eliza Carthy. Norma was in everyone’s thoughts and it was fitting that her and Eliza’s fresh treatment of the classic Poor Wayfaring Stranger won Best Traditional Track while the duo also beat some tough opposition (Chris Wood’s Handmade Life, Bellowhead’s Hedonism and Coope, Boyes & Simpson’s As If...) to win the coveted Album Of The Year prize for the sublime Gift. Eleven years after they won the Horizon Award for Best New Artist at the very first BBC Folk Awards in 2000, Anglo-Oz duo Nancy Kerr & James Fagan won Best Duo for the second time in the wake of their outstanding Twice Reflected Sun album 12
(beating 2009 winners Chris While & Julie Matthews, Megson and Carthy/Waterson) though Queen Of Waters - Nancy’s song of farewell to canals - was another also-ran in the Chris Wood Hollow Point Best Original Song landslide. Nominated for five awards (if you include front man Jon Boden’s vain bid to be the first artist to retain the Folk Singer Of The Year title), Bellowhead had to settle for two, winning the Best Live Act gong (beating Fiddlers’ Bid, Demon Barbers and The Unthanks) and Best Group Award (ahead of Breabach, Coope, Boys & Simpson and Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends). They also got the awards off to an explosive start playing New York Girls at the start of the night. A lifetime achievement award for Donovan, a Good Tradition Award for Fisherman’s Friends (whose only previous appearance at the Awards had been as a warm-up act singing in the foyer greeting guests) and a Roots Award for The Levellers paid honourable homage to the music’s past - and it was also good to see The Demon Lover by Irish deity Andy Irvine (from his album Abocurragh) nominated for Best Traditional Track. Yet it’s the avalanche of younger acts who make the music so exciting at present. That’s why the Horizon Award is so significant...and probably the hardest category to call with four strong contenders. Johnny Kearney & Lucy Farrell impressed everyone on tour with The Unthanks, while Fay Hield and Emily Portman have both won many accolades for their debut solo albums Looking Glass and The Glamoury respectively. Stick Stock, Portman’s gruesome fairytale about wicked stepmothers, was also nominated for Best Original Song. Few, however, can dispute the claims of young Scotsman Ewan McLennan, a worthy Horizon Award winner and no mean songwriter himself who’s also found a refreshingly individual way of reinvigorating old standards on his beautiful debut album Rags & Robes. Full of vitality and originality, Brit folk music is roaring at present... as the two-disc Folk Awards 2011 CD - including pretty much all the artists mentioned above and quite a few more - comprehensively proves. Colin Irwin
n 2006 BBC Folk Award winner John Tams and radio IRadio producer John Leonard revived an excellent idea, the Ballads. Created in the 1950s by Charles Parker and
the legendary Ewan MacColl, they were something quite revolutionary for the time, a mix of interviews with ordinary people and song on different topics, ranging from boxing to the decline of the fishing industry. Released on CD the year they were broadcast, the Tams/Leonard Ballads have now been reissued and they make vital, compelling listening. They’re as broad ranging as their predecessors, the six programmes covering topics from the end of the steel industry in South Yorkshire to the Northern Irish conflict, from hunting to AIDS, and the falling away of shipbuilding to the life of the fairground people. Thankfully, the pair have done little to change a perfectly serviceable old template, other than pulling in a wider range of songwriters and performers, drawing on a stellar cast of talent like Kate Rubsy, Karine Polwart, Tommy Sands, Jez Lowe and, of course, Tams himself. Their names might draw people in, but the real meat and potatoes here are the vox pop interviews. These are with folk who were there, the workers who saw their whole histories fade, HIV sufferers and those who survived them, the hunters
The Radio Ballads - Various Artists - Delphonic
The Song Of Steel DELPH001
The Enemy That Lives Within DELPH002
The Horn Of The Hunter DELPH003
and saboteurs - the only one to fall outside this pattern is Thirty Years Of Conflict, where both words and music focus on musicians from both sides of the Northern Irish problem. It’s sociology, after a fashion, but it’s also storytelling, a glimpse into lives that have changed beyond comprehension, the interviews handled with a wonderful sensitivity (kudos to Sarah Parker, daughter of Charles). Although much of the music appears here in snippets, winding itself around and between the speakers, it’s an essential element, a powerful counterpoint to the speech, and some of the songs stand with the best the artists have ever written. Polwart’s Fire Thief, for example, is a heartbreaking lament, and one that’s since appeared in full on one of her own albums, while both Steelos and Vulcan And Lucifer have become firm favourites in John Tams’ live sets. Most moving of all, however, is Carry On by Tommy Sands, a song he performed outside Stormont as the politicians wrestled with the Good Friday Agreement. A plea for peace, it’s a perfect summation of the very human qualities that makes the Radio Ballads so remarkable. Throughout, both in song and speech, they’re about people, brimming with compassion and warmth. These CDs are a reminder that the Ballads have a power that lasts long beyond the ephemeral exposure of radio. Chris Nickson
Swings And Roundabouts DELPH004
Thirty Years Of Conflict DELPH005
The Ballads Of The Big Ships DELPH006
The Ian McMillan Orchestra Homing In
The Ian McMillan Orchestra Homing In 'He hits the nail on the head’ Rachel Unthank ‘British music at its most ingenious’ The Guardian
April’11 1 PENISTONE Paramount 6 SHEFFIELD The Greystones CD launch 7 ALNWICK Playhouse 8 BURY The Met 29 WENLOCK Poetry Festival June’11 23 TEWKESBURY Roses Theatre 24 RIBCHESTER Festival 25 HOLMFIRTH Festival 26 NOTTINGHAM Theatre Royal
Ian McMillan: Voice Luke Carver Goss: Accordion Dylan Fowler: Guitar Clare Salaman: Nyckelharpa Nathan Riki Thomson: Double bass
Oliver Wilson-Dickson: Violin
www.theianmcmillanorchestra.com UK Touring 01684 540366
Homing In (TRCD00012) www.taithrecords.co.uk Properganda 19
he place of the Irish émigrés in the heart of American country music is without doubt. Their T tunes, their stories and their instruments travelled with
them and merged with other European cultures to make a new music. Tugged, twisted and shaped through the C20th, the golden age of radio and even into the MTV generation, it has an equal claim with blues to be the folk music of America. Country naturally finds a ready audience across Europe, back where it all started. Ireland seems to have a particular affinity with country music. As it went one way across the Atlantic, passed from mouthto-mouth and player to player, so it has been beamed back across the airwaves, or made its way from port to port. It’s perhaps easy to see how the lyrical ballad qualities, the naked emotions, often intertwined and tales of hardship plug straight into the homespun music scene. Country also adds the sparkle of the glamour and mystery of distant shores and unfamiliar places to sprinkle a touch of daydream exoticism. All it takes to seal the deal is a rich, baritone voice. Enter Mike Denver and Tradition. Mike is clearly a young man in the spell of Nashville and demonstrates here that he could easily cut it in the self
Properganda 18 19
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appointed ‘music city.’ He’s also aware of his native musical heritage and thus Tradition calls on both styles. Rather than have them meet in a headlong rush, it’s a subtle, nuanced get together that calls on the skills of the players to make the most of their parts and give Mike the framework to drape his velvet voice. The initial sequence has Still Feelin’ Blue, No More Phone Calls and Gentle On My Mind all flying the Star Spangled Banner, whilst Boston Rose and Paddy make the obvious case for the home connection. Katie Daley too tells the tale of an Irish settler with a talent with the poitín who ends up on the wrong end of a gun, but obviously not before passing his skills onto his daughter. It has a classic good-time, drinking-song feel to it and you can imagine many a session belting out the chorus. The playing is good across the board with a special note for Richard Nelson on pedal steel and also Ger Fahy who adds the pipes and whistles. In truth the mix of accordions, banjos and guitars that make up the rest all easily change accent to bring elements of one side of the Atlantic or the other to the fore. This doesn’t have the risk of the edgier Transatlantic Sessions, but Mike clearly knows his audience and from Boston to Baltimore to Dublin to Derry, they’ll lap this up. Sid Cowans
Mike Denver Tradition Sharpe Music SHARPECD322 www.themikedenverband.com
his most welcome reissue makes one of Joan Baez’s T finest albums available again
while giving fans an entire CD of bonus material - this consisting of demos Joan cut for Play Me Backwards. But what demos - not one of the songs on CD2 appears on CD1 suggesting Joan demoed a lot of material for the album and these songs were those that did not make the cut Play Me Backwards came out in 1992 and saw Joan signed to Virgin Records and back recording in Nashville for the first time in many years. This album marked the first time she worked with producers Wally Wilson and Kenny Greenberg and Joan was obviously happy with the results as she would work with the duo on several other albums. As might be expected with an album for Virgin, Joan has gone for a radio friendly sound - not, I should note, to her detriment. Instead, surrounded by a group of top Nashville pickers (including Jerry Douglas, Richard Bennett, Chad Cromwell) and a fine selection of songs by some of America’s best songwriters (John Hiatt, John Stewart, Janis Ian, Mary Chapin Carpenter) Joan sounds both contemporary and confident.
control). Tracks such as I’m With You - an uplifting anthem with a pulsing bass line that recalls Bonnie Raitt at her commercial peak - and Through Your Hands - with its rising synthesiser lines and swirling chorus - should have been hits on American adult oriented radio. If such songs sound unlike the JB you know and love, don’t worry, Play Me Backwards also includes some lovely folk flavoured material. Strange Rivers, a John Stewart song notable for its fine acoustic picking and twirling steel guitar, recall Baez at her 1960s-zenith, a reflective folkie who breathes beautiful life into a poetic lyric. CD 2 The Play Me Backwards Demos finds Joan handling ten songs with a relaxed, intuitive style all her own. Here for the first time are songs by the late Mark Heard (Rise From The Ruins, Lonely Moon), John Hadley (The Last Day) and Gary Nicholson (Trouble With The Truth); and one song (Medicine Wheel) whose writer is not known at all. There are additional songs from Janis Ian (We Endure) and Ron Davies (Dark Eyed Man) and one Joan wrote with Ashley Cleveland (In My Day). Fans will be immediately drawn to Joan’s version of Bob Dylan’s Seven Curses. As Play Me Backwards is now regarded as one of Joan’s finest albums – albeit one that was overlooked upon release - to find it reissued with an album of previously unreleased material is an absolute treat. Enjoy! Garth Cartwright
Joan Baez Play Me Backwards – Collectors Edition Proper Records PRPCD078 www.joanbaez.com
Baez certainly sounds like she is enjoying herself here, writing several of the songs and in fine voice (with her vibrato under
March: 25th Co. Dublin – Séamus Ennis Cultural Centre 26th Omagh – Strule Arts Centre 27th Belfast – Black Box April: 1st Taunton – Brewhouse 2nd Salisbury Arts Centre 3rd Haverhill Arts Centre 4th Colchester Arts Centre 6th Farnham – Maltings 7th Worcester – Huntingdon Hall 8th Cardigan – Theatr Mwldan 9th Kendal – Brewery Arts Centre 10th Gateshead – The Sage 11th York – National Centre For Early Music 13th Birmingham – Red Lion Folk Club 14th Shrewsbury – Theatre Severn 15th Exeter – Phoenix Arts Centre 16th Oxford Folk Festival May: 10th Cambridge – Junction
11th London Shepherd’s Bush TOUR Empire 10th ANNIVERSARY THE LONDON BIRTHDAY PARTY 10th Birthday Gig 12th Sevenoaks – Stag Arts Centre 13th May Bury – Met 14th May Leeds – Opera North 28th May Nottingham – Bonington Theatre www.spiersandboden.com www.propergandaonline.com
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COWBOY JUNKIES owboy Junkies once attempted to C record West Of Rome, a song by Georgia-based maverick Vic Chesnutt.
Canada’s foremost Americana band wanted to include the cover on their 1996 album Lay It Down, but abandoned the idea after failing to do it justice. Even so, they did ask Chesnutt to join them on tour, thus getting up close and personal with his twisted narratives and somewhat misanthropic worldview, spiked with unexpected humour and tenderness. A decade later, Chesnutt contributed to Trinity Revisited, which returned Cowboy Junkies to the church where they’d recorded their 1988 breakthrough album The Trinity Session. It was then that they hatched a plan to make an album of Chesnutt’s songs with him. Again, it was not to be, but this time the reason was far more serious; Chesnutt died from an overdose in December, 2009.
Cowboy Junkies Demons. The Nomad Series Volume 2 Proper Records PRPCD076 www.cowboyjunkies.com
So it was that Demons, the second instalment in Cowboy Junkies’ currently unfolding four-album project The Nomad Series, had its lengthy gestation. While volume 1 (Renmin Park) took the experience of chief songwriter Michael Timmins’ recent three-month sojourn in China as its inspiration, volume 2 is the band’s heartfelt tribute to their former colleague. Demons consists of eleven
Nick Lowe ick Lowe is one of Britain’s best loved N musicians. He may never
have sold millions of records but as a singer, songwriter, producer and raconteur he has proved himself a hugely entertaining and capable individual. 1979 album Labour Of Lust was Lowe’s commercial high water mark with single Cruel To Be Kind reaching No 12 on both the UK and US singles chart while the album received great reviews and sold solidly.
At the same time Lowe was also a member of Rockpile, the group he formed with Dave Edmunds, who played a glorious mix of punchy pub rock and twangy rockabilly. Rockpile back Lowe on Labour Of Lust and as the informative sleeve notes with this excellently packaged CD explain, the band came off the road and went straight into Eden Studios in Chiswick, West London. So adrenalised (and amphetaminised) were the band that they recorded both Lowe’s album and a Dave Edmunds album at the same time. Lowe, infamous as a producer who liked to “bash” recordings out so capturing the music’s excitement as opposed to its finesse, keeps things fluid here. Rockpile were regularly touring the US at the time and many of Lowe’s songs reflect life on the road - Cracking Up and American Squirm suggesting how exhausting it can
interpretations of Chesnutt’s work, including West Of Rome. Just as Chesnutt’s diverse and prolific output ranged from acoustic alt. country and folk to leftfield indie rock, the arrangements and song choices on Demons are similarly varied, kicking off in comparatively raucous fashion with a rough-hewn, reverb-heavy take on Wrong Piano. Like several tracks, it features the extravagantly whirring Wurlitzer of ‘musical guest’ Joby Baker, who was also a key presence on Renmin Park. Flirted With You All My Life is one of several songs in which Chesnutt hinted at his suicidal tendencies, and though Cowboy Junkies give it a fuller sound than the original, Margo Timmins’ trademark husky vocals are pointedly clear. Square Room is another example (‘Last night I nearly killed myself’) and features mesmerising strings. The closemicked guitar on Supernatural offers a faithful echo of Chesnutt’s version, but on We Hovered With Short Wings, Henry Kucharzyk makes novel use of a mournful woodwind arrangement to shadow the singer like a ghost. As Michael explains: “We let happy accidents happen and tried to invest his songs with the same spirit in which they were written, but at the same time adding our own Northern spin.” Jon Lusk
get moving from city to city while Skin Deep and Dose Of You are both about the willing female company available to passing musicians and the less than savoury aspects of these relationships (perhaps lending to the album’s Labour Of Lust title). Songs such as Switchboard Susan are top-draw pub rock while Endless Grey Ribbon is a country flavoured song hinting at Lowe’s later immersion in US roots music: indeed, one song here, Without Love, would later be recorded by Lowe’s then father-in-law, Johnny Cash. Labour Of Lust is a strong, varied collection that reflects not only Lowe’s broad musical vision but hints at how steeped in Americana British music used to be – although marketed as “new wave” nothing here recalls the new wave of XTC, Public Image, Magazine and other more self-consciously European sounding bands. This exemplary reissue comes with many things for the Lowe fan: an essay by Will Birch (author of definitive pub rock tome No Sleep Till Canvey Island), notes by Gregg Geller (the US A&R man who signed Lowe and insisted he rerecord Cruel To Be Kind – first recorded with Lowe’s previous band, the unsuccessful Brinsley Schwartz), photos, posters, promo materials and the song Basing Street which only ever before appeared as a 45 B-side. The original cover was designed by Barney Bubbles, the foremost graphic designer of the London new wave, and still looks great. More importantly, it sounds just fine. Garth Cartwright
Nick Lowe - Labour of Lust Proper Records - PRPCD077 www.nicklowe.net Properganda 19
songs – and indeed whole albums – can be defined by great lines, then Canadian legend Bruce Cockburn has come Iupfopening with a killer on Call Me Rose on his new album. “My name was
carried off. The day after I got back from that trip I wrote Each One Lost pretty much in one burst.”
Cockburn himself remains somewhat bemused how such an entertainingly bizarre notion could have presented itself to him. “It came out of my sleep,” he says, in some wonder. “I woke up one morning and the song was almost wholly written in my head. It’s happened once or twice before in the 45 years I’ve been doing this, but it’s so not me! Most of my songs are first person and suddenly here I am with the voice of this other person once removed and I thought ‘where the hell did that come from?’”
It also involves a couple of rare songwriting collaborations with Montreal musician Annabelle Chvostek - formerly with the Wailin’ Jennies – who also sings with him on Drivin’ Away and the ebullient Boundless; and violinist Jenny Scheinman, who plays a big role on the stirring instrumentals Lois On The Autobahn and Comets Of Kandahar.
Richard Nixon only now I’m a girl/You wouldn’t know it but I used to be king of the world” he sings, embarking on a surreal fantasy about the reincarnation of Tricky Dicky as a penniless single mother with two kids living on a housing project.
Examining his own psyche further, he decides it may have been his sub-conscious response to the second Bush administration’s short-lived attempt to reconstruct the reputation of former president Nixon, who resigned in disgrace in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. “It was very intense for a while. They were trying to say how misunderstood he was, but reassuringly the American public didn’t buy it and the campaign suddenly stopped. That idea of the rehabilitation of Richard Nixon must have somehow worked its way into my head.” Call Me Rose is one of the stand-out tracks on Small Source Of Comfort, his 31st album but undoubtedly one of his best as he characteristically draws on a varied assortment of musical styles to tackle topics as colourfully diverse as road trips, the cosmos, unreturned phone calls and the death of two soldiers in Afghanistan. The latter song, Each One Lost, resulted from one of his occasional forays into war zones. In this case he was in Camp Mirage in Dubai awaiting a plane to Afghanistan to spend a week with Canadian forces in Kandahar when he found himself in the middle of a chilling ceremony as two bodies were unloaded off an incoming plane. “The personnel of Camp Mirage were assembled on the tarmac and there were prayers and bagpipes. It was a very sombre, very moving experience and I was standing next to the ramp as the coffins were 18
Cockburn’s original intention had been to make a noisy, electric album but Small Source Of Comfort had a mind of its own and took a very different shape. “I’ve always liked loud, improvisational music so I thought it would be fun to make some but, instead of being subsumed into this wall of noise, the songs I wrote found their way into the world with an acoustic guitar.”
“I like what she brings to my stuff and I knew I wanted her on the album from the start,” he says of Jenny Scheinman. “Annabelle brings her own particular flavour too, especially when we duet together. I played in rock bands in the sixties but this was different and it was fun sharing the focus of those songs with another singer. Writing with her was very enjoyable too. It becomes much more deliberate when you write with someone else, it’s not how I normally work. I usually wait for an idea and wrestle it around. This was a whole different creative process.” There’s also a surprise inclusion of Gifts, a song he’d regularly close his show with in his younger days but which he never got around to recording before. “It was a candidate for my first album but when (manager) Bernie Finkelstein suggested we put it on I said ‘No, I’m saving that for my last album.’ I stopped playing it but it never went entirely off the radar for me and I just thought it was time to do it. When Bernie heard it he said ‘Is there anything I should know?!?’ No, it’s not a statement that this is my last album, but I thought it was time, you know, just in case...” Colin Irwin
Bruce Cockburn Small Source Of Comfort True North Records TND536 www.brucecockburn.com
his Canadian folk-pop trio came together as a result of a ‘happy accident’ in 2002, when they gave what was intended T to be a one-off performance in a Winnipeg guitar shop. Their three-part harmony vocals (soprano Ruth Moody, mezzo Nicky Mehta and alto Cara Luft) impressed the clientele so much that they soon became The Wailin’ Jennys, a name suggested by the shop owner in sly reference to country icon Waylon Jennings.
By 2005, their first full-length album 40 Days had won Canada’s coveted Juno Award for Roots and Traditional Album Of The Year. Since then, personnel changes, active solo careers and, most recently, motherhood for Nicky has meant that Bright Morning Stars is only their third studio album. After their 2006 album Firecracker, Lara Cruft’s replacement Annabelle Chvostek was in turn replaced by new alto Heather Masse. But otherwise, the Wailin’ Jennys’ winning formula is much the same. If it ain’t broke, they’re not gonna fix it! Just as on Firecracker, there are thirteen songs, made up of four penned by each singer, with one ‘traditional arrangement’ as the centrepiece. In this case, it’s a gorgeous, purely a cappella version of the title track, which may be familiar to fans of Emmylou Harris. The Wailin’ Jennys make it their own by using it as the perfect showcase for their three-part harmony vocals, with each singer joining in one by one. They’ve also managed to once again bring together several long-term colleagues as accompanists, including Kevin Breit (guitars), Christian Dugas (drums and percussion) and their former producer David Travers-Smith on occasional, but very welcome trumpet and flugel horn. The group contacted new producer Mark Howard after admiring work he had done with the likes of Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams and Emmylou. He’s given them a slightly more stripped down, austere sound, but this is no radical departure from previous work. It’s unusual for a band to have such equally distributed songwriting talents, but the consistency and variety of the material seems to justify their democratic approach. And, as ‘new girl’ Heather found when she began the sessions for the album at a lakeside country cottage in Ontario during the autumn of 2009, it also makes for instant constructive feedback during the creative process: “I was a little bit worried going in. I wasn’t sure how we were gonna approach it all. But it’s been really fun... and scary and hard too, especially when
it’s your song it’s really hard to have perspective. It’s really nice to have the other two members be there and, like, keep you in check and ask you ‘is that really what you want?’ But it’s been really fun to see how they’ve come alive.” Ruth Moody is a true multi-instrumentalist, and on this record turns her hand to banjo, acoustic guitar and accordion. On the gospel-tinged Storm Comin’ she revisits her penchant for convincingly churchy music (most obvious previously on Glory Bound from Firecracker). Asleep At Last is a delicate, spectral piece that seems to be influenced by the late ’60s work of Joni Mitchell. In contrast, You Are Here could easily have slipped out of the Alison Krauss songbook. The same could be said about Nicky Mehta’s brooding What Has been Done, which has a nagging melody that makes it one of the album’s most instantly memorable pieces. Mehta also shines on the lullaby-like Away But Never Gone, which finds her wistfully picking a ukulele. And the anthemic opener Swing Low Sail High, which features one of the best examples of Breit’s guitar atmospherics, is another of her compositions. Heather Masse makes her strongest impression on the bluegrass-inflected Bird Song, rearranged from her recent solo album. This version features a lovely fiddle solo by Jeremy Penner, who is sometimes part of the Wailin’ Jennys touring band, and used to be in a band with Ruth called Scruj MacDuhk. Across The Sea, which Masse begins unaccompanied, has a subtle Celtic feel. Perhaps surprisingly, she actually trained as a jazz singer at the New England Conservatory of Music, and that’s apparent on the retro stylings of Cherry Blossom Love, where The Wailin’ Jennys come across like an updated incarnation of close harmony group The Andrews Sisters. Jon Lusk
The Wailin’ Jennys Bright Morning Stars True North Records TND543 www.wailinjennys.com
uropa may be Courtney Pine’s fifteenth album in a career spanning more than a quarter of a century, but it is probably his finest work to date. It’s an album that makes its impression at two levels - in its execution and its conception. Musically, Pine has brought together a core rhythm section of Zoe Rahman on piano, Alec Dankworth on bass and Mark Mondesir on drums and on various tracks he introduces a series of special guests, clarinettist Shabaka Hutchings, guitarist Dominic Grant, viola player Amanda Drummond, mandolist Cameron Pierre, violinist Omar Puente and drummer Robert Fordjour. Conceptually he projected European myths, legends and stories through the prism of black consciousness and come up with a highly personal vision of what Europe was, is and can be. “With this record I am trying to get to a European audience,” he explains. “By performing melodies and rhythms that are derivative of each culture I’m hoping that you can pick up this record as a traveller and identify bits of Europe, so you can almost see a composite of all these cultural backgrounds, an overview basically. That’s what I am hoping.” Each of the album’s thirteen original compositions were inspired by an event in European mythology, legend and history, and the stories behind each track form a fascinating 20
counterpoint to the music. The first composition he came up with for the album was The First Flower Of Spring (February 1856) For Mary Seacole. It followed a gig he played in Koktobel, now part of the Ukraine but 150 years ago was in an area known as Crimea. “It took us six hours to get there, and we played to about 7,000 people, it was to me an amazing event, this audience didn’t know my music, and we did a really nice show. But this is where Mary Seacole, the Jamaican nurse, was tending to the soldiers at one of the battles [in the Crimean War].” In his liner notes, Pine talks about Seacole’s astonishing story, a black nurse who made her way at her own initiative and expense on the perilous journey to Crimea to tend to wounded British soldiers fighting in the famous battle of Balaclava. “Her efforts to ease the suffering of the soldiers was not acknowledged by the British hierarchy,” says Pine in the liner notes. “She risked everything and in the years to come her efforts were almost written out of the history books. During these modern times, we are trying to erect a memorial statue at St. Thomas hospital in London in recognition of her valiant efforts.” Being at the scene of Mary Seacole’s quiet heroism some 150 years earlier was a moving experience for Pine. “It made
me think there could be a project here, some sort of European jazz project, so I wrote that track The First Flower Of Spring (February 1856), which was for the end of the Crimean War and dedicated it to Mary Seacole, and everything else fell into place. The whole idea of someone like me with my background travelling across Europe, and I’ve been doing this since 1981, seeing the effects music has and seeing the cross fertilization of cultures, food, all these elements, handshakes, all these elements which you would see across Europe. And you realise that there is more in common than there is not in common, so that’s what set me off.” Prior to release date he had performed the album live twice, once in Scotland and once at the London Jazz Festival, and was amazed how similar the audience’s response was to certain tunes, such as Druid’s Lyre, “When I play that melody people clap when I finish playing the melody,” he says. “It’s three jigs mixed up and it sounds like a country dance, a May dance, it’s an intense piece but it still grooves in its own way. I was really happy with the way that turned out, and I have got a Cuban guy playing violin [Omar Puente] and you’ve got him come and do a solo in his Cuban way, it’s kind of like the past and future, it’s like the UK now, but playing some folk stuff from - I don’t know - 1540.” And he discovered at the meet-and-greet sessions after the concerts, the audiences wanted to talk about They Came From The North. “They always come and talk about that track, they really seem to like it. I wanted to create the sound of Vikings coming, the sound of the oars in the water, the crashes, and this culture going to another culture and forcing their culture onto the folks - the Monks at Lindisfarne, actually - but it’s a really simple melody and the sound of the viola, played by Amanda Drummond, is important to me.”
Pine’s main instrument throughout the album is bass clarinet, and perhaps surprisingly there are very few album length statements using the instrument in jazz (although he also plays Kaval, a flute-like instrument on the title track and the Futujara, a tube-like instrument with three holes which makes use of the overtone series). However, he quickly found out why there are so few bass clarinet albums out there, “I spoke to David Murray - we did a festival together and he had done one ballads album for a Japanese label, and I said ‘When are you going to do another one?’ And he was like, never again! He had such a hard time recording that album he wouldn’t do it again. For some reason the bass clarinet is one of those instruments that’s hard to do.” Following the release of Europa in March, Pine will tour the project extensively throughout the United Kingdom and Europe. Already the album has received rave advance reviews from the likes of Mojo, BBC Music Magazine and Jazzwise and the portents look good for this ambitious project. “I’ve always told my story from my cultural background, so this once again is that,” says Pine. “I think it’s asking questions from what I know, from what my background is, my folk stories, from what my cultural background is. This is my story, so I am trying to incorporate all of that into a musical story.”
EUROPA COURTNEY PINE Featuring Alec Dankworth, Mark Mondesir, Omar Puente, Cameron Pierre Zoe Rahman, Robert Fordjour, Amanda Drummond, Shabaka Hutchins, Dominic Grant. Summon Bonum
Courtney Pine Europa Destin-E Records 777C007007 www.courtneypine.co.uk Properganda 19
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Spring 2011 releases
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Mathias Eick - Skala 274 3228 It was clear on Eick’s first ECM disc, The Door, and on his subsequent 2009 British tour that the trumpeter was destined for greatness – he has the kind of broad appeal that Pat Metheny showed in his early ECM days. The band has expanded, with two drummers for many of the tracks and a tonal palette of harp, saxophone and keyboards in addition to the electric bass and piano. The title track has Tore Brunborg’s saxophone breathily shadowing Eick on the melody over a moving sea of keyboards, drums and piano. It also has the hook of a pop song, ensuring it will stay in your mind all day long. Ketil Bjornstad/Svante Henryson - Night Song 270 9579 Ketil Bjornstad relates how the roots of this album are to be found in a school gym where as a 14-year-old he would play Schubert in the dark. It is also founded on his desire to play again with cellist Svante Henryson (they had performed as a duo at the Bath Festival a couple of years back). At ECM boss Manfred Eicher’s request, the two sat close together in the studio without headphones or glass partitions, and that intimacy can be heard in these reflective pieces. Music for the moonlit hours, starting with an evening version of the title tune and ending with a morning version, which, although not dissimilar in mood, feel very different: songs of innocence and experience, respectively. Paolo Fresu - Mistico Mediterraneo 274 5621 On the island of Corsica an all-male group called A Filetta has been developing an ancient vocal music with both respect for the tradition and a new vitality. Add the Sardinian trumpet of Fresu and the bandoneon of Daniele de Bonaventura and you have one of the most original discs you are likely to hear this year. Mistico Mediterraneo is a song cycle developed by the choir and the musicians and intersperses the sometimes strident, sometimes lush vocal septet with rich and gracious trumpet, plus a wide range of sounds from the bandoneon. Fresu is strongly influenced by Gil Evans-era Miles, but with that unmistakeable Italian flair. Cyminology - Saburi 275 3891 Cymin Samawatie says she never wanted this to be a political band “but I am Iranian and affected by what’s happening”. So lyrics like “My hands can’t play what my ears are hearing/ Nor words describe what my eyes see” have an added resonance when we bear television witness to strife on the streets of Tehran. The band – Benedikt Jahnel (piano), Ralf Schwarz (double bass) and Ketan Bhatti (drums, percussion) with Cymin the lyricist and vocalist – may be based in Germany but the mainly Persian lyrics and the images they conjure up bring a hotter, dustier atmosphere out in the instruments. Iro Haarla Quintet - Vespers 274 3616 Ivo Haarla, who made her name as arranger for the late Edward Vesala, finds her natural home in tempo rubato (stolen time) where the rhythm is not regular but speeds and slows as befits the emotional and melodic content of the music. It creates a mesmerising, spacey feel to her music and depends on highly sensitive musicians in a communally attuned band. She has just that in the same group that made her Northbound album back in 2005: Mathias Eick (trumpet), Trygve Seim (saxophone), Ulf Krokfors (double bass) and Jon Christensen (drums), with Haarla on piano and harp. Christensen is a genius in this environment, his cymbals acting like punctuation between saxophone or trumpet statements. Julia Hülsmann Trio - Imprint 274 4262 Against a regular pedal point, pianist Hülsmann draws in sharp relief the melody line of Rond Point, while drummer Heinrich Köbberling pushes with brushes, and double bassist Marc Muellbauer adds another forefront melody; Grand Canyon has an E.S.T. pop immediacy with both beat and tune; Lulu’s Paradise picks its way through offbeat accents. All show off the equilateral thing that started on the Trio’s The End Of A Summer disc in 2008 and is consolidated here. Imprint might have a slightly darker hue – it was recorded in Oslo in March last year, when spring had not quite arrived – but the tart freshness of the writing is warmed by the delight the three musicians show in playing it. François Couturier - Tarkovsky Quartet 274 2526 The French pianist completes his trilogy dedicated to filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky as he started it, with a quartet of piano, cello (Anja Lechner), soprano saxophone (Jean-Marc Larché) and accordion (JeanLouis Matinier). The three chord instruments give him great scope for harmonic richness, and the subtle range of timbres make this heart-stoppingly beautiful music. In among the original writing, familiar themes from Bach, Pergolesi and Shostakovich creep seamlessly in just as they did on the earlier CD. Each instrument occasionally calls out over the top of the group but for much of the time they stay in a four-stranded arrangement. Peter Bacon Properganda 19
song writer who can sing the blues and big soulful ballads with equal ease. Samantha Fish learned from the records of the Chess giants and is now considered a blues prodigy in her home town of Kansas City. Her guitar playing has an intense tone and subtle stab that is matched only by Susan Tedeschi and it’s a style that is admired by fellow blues artists Tab Benoit, Cedric Burnside and Watermelon Slim who have all worked with her.
uf Records has always had an eye out for hot new talent and they’ve hit pay-dirt with three of the most inspired R female guitar players around. Dani Wilde is well respected on the British blues scene thanks to her live appearances and recordings. Her CD Shine was produced by the legendary record man Mike Vernon and recent international dates have seen her performing with the likes of Robben Ford, Koko Taylor and other blues bigshots. Cassie Taylor is the daughter of bluesman Otis Taylor and you’ll have heard her sing and play on his albums but she first came to notice on Gary Moore’s 2008 release Bad For You Baby. On Girls With Guitars, Cassie demonstrates that she is a passionate
Apart from drummer Jamie Little and producer/ guitarist Mike Zito who plays on two tracks, the three of them take turns to play lead, rhythm and bass guitar, singing lead and providing backing vocals on each other’s songs. With the exception of Steve Miller’s Jet Plane and Jagger/Richard’s Bitch, they wrote all the tunes and they all hit the mark especially Cassie Taylor’s relentless choogling Satisfy My Soul, Dani Wilde’s soul-filled ballad Are You Ready and Samantha Fish’s atmospheric blues wrangler Leaving Chicago which uses a classic guitar line lifted directly from Dylan’s It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry. Buy this album and then go out and catch the girls on Ruf’s Blues Caravan Tour when they hit Britain in May.
orn in rural Florida, the teenage Dana Fuchs was fascinated by the family’s record collection sucking in the B sounds of Ray Charles, Hank Williams and her brother’s 70s
rock albums. She knew she was born to sing and soon found herself hollering at the local First Baptist Church as well as fronting a local bar band at the Holiday Inn in Wildwood. That town wasn’t big enough so, aged nineteen, she moved up to New York determined to make her mark. It was here at a jam session that she met and teamed up with guitarist Jon Diamond who had just come off months of touring with Joan Osborne and blues rocker Debbie Davis Together they formed the Dana Fuchs Band and hit the blues scene sharing the stage with luminaries such as Taj Mahal and James Cotton. Bursting with ambition, she began writing her own material and, after a brief period of playing Janis Joplin in the Broadway hit musical Love, Janis, she made her debut album Lonely For A Lifetime, which was inspired by the music of her heroes Otis Redding, Etta James and Mavis Staples. Now, Dana is back with this new CD that, apart from a respectful performance of Otis’s soul scorcher I’ve Been Loving You Too Long, is made up of Fuchs original material that combines Southern country soul gems like Keep On Rollin’ with the rollicking rocker Drive and the thundering bruiser Pretty Girl which contains some of Jon Diamond’s most ferocious guitar work. Diamond is Dana’s secret weapon; just listen to the way he fleshes out the country rock boogie of Nothing’s What I Cry For and the almost psychedelic moves he makes on Golden
Samantha Fish, Cassie Taylor & Dani Wilde Girls With Guitars RUF RUF1166 www.bluescaravan.de 24
Eyes. Dana’s vocals are the main attraction though and she has all the right moves - from the warm huskiness of the sweet young thing who sings Keepsake, to the high octane holler of the woman who tears her way through Pretty Girl. And then there’s her hoarse laid back drawl on Set It On Fire with its contagious melody chorus that you just can’t get out of your mind. Jon Diamond sums it up best when he says “Dana is blessed with an incredibly warm, powerful and textured voice. Her lyrics are direct and real. And while she has really studied the great rock, soul and blues singers, she has synthesized those influences into her own unique sound and style”. Ken Smith
Dana Fuchs Love To Beg RUF RUF1167 www.danafuchs.com
you think that a CD cover that looks like a perfume or shampoo (“you know you’re worth it!”) might not bode well, you’d Ibefadvertisement wrong in this instance. Although, having said that, the Jerusalem-born singer’s great swathe of artfully wind-blown hair does make for a handy metaphor for the light yet lush production on this, her second album.
The title track opener La Hija de la Primavera (Daughter Of The Spring) shimmers with deftly strummed acoustic guitar, tinkling piano and the unusual, smooth timbre of the Bansuri flute. Delicately played percussion and Mor Karbasi’s sensuous yet perfectly poised voice complete the picture of what is in the end like a fine piece of antique lace; delicate, detailed and precious. Things heat up a little with Un Beso De Vida (A Kiss Of Life) with the introduction of electric guitar, drums and lush orchestration, as well as a much more impassioned vocal, and we begin to get more of a sense of how Mor’s mixed Persian/Moroccan/Jewish heritage has influenced her music. In particular, the singer credits her mother with introducing her to the healing, comforting power of music when she sang to her in the cradle. And then we are off in a completely different direction on the traditional number Ay Ke Buena (Oh How Joyful) which, for my money, is over far too quickly, as the trance-like power of its complex percussion arrangement juxtaposed to Mor’s insistent, gutsy vocal, is one of the most compelling moments of the album. By complete contrast Morenika Sos (Dark You Are) floats off on an ambient cloud of atmospheric sound over which Mor mournfully sings of her longing for a mysterious lover who is “dark like a pepper” (and so presumably pretty hot). When Mor’s songs aren’t romantic metaphor-rich reflections on passionate love or longing, they offer an intimate, nostalgic picture of a childhood in which her family, friends and teachers all helped make her the confident woman she is today. But what always comes through in this varied collection of mostly selfpenned songs is a sense of longing which imbues the material with a spirit at times not unlike that of the Portuguese style of Fado (Mor occasionally sounds a little like Mariza, particularly on the flamencotinged Cuando Vuelvas (When You Return). The album closes with the elegiac Arvoles (Trees Cry For Rain). A simple grand piano arrangement makes this song sound particularly affecting, and it’s a perfect number to go out on. Howard Male
Mor Karbasi Daughter Of The Spring Alama Records ALAMA002 www.morkarbasi.com
o celebrate the 75th issue of Songlines, the magazine looks back over the 12 years since its launch and highlights 75 landmark albums. You can read the full T feature in the magazine and might fancy trying the subscription offer below. Here’s a small globe spanning selection of what you can expect with profiles by Simon Broughton, Alex Robinson, Philip Sweeney, Jane Cornwell & Mark Hudson.
Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba - Segu Blue - Out Here Records, 2007 Overshadowed by the tingling cadences of the kora and balafon, the scratchy plucking of the ngoni lute was the least regarded element in Malian music until Bassekou Kouyaté, the instrument’s greatest exponent, showcased it in this hard-thrumming masterpiece. Employing four variously-toned lutes, all played by his close relatives, Bassekou created a kind of ngoni supergroup – the Ngoni Ba, ‘Big Ngoni’ of the title – fronted by his plinking pyrotechnics and husky-voiced wife, Ami Sacko. This is fabulously resonant, hypnotic music, the sparse lute patterns interlocking over deep-pulsing bass notes drawing out the bluesiness in Bassekou’s Bamana tradition and giving credence to the idea of the ngoni as ancestor of the banjo. With cameos from griot Kassé Mady Diabaté and fiddle player Zoumana Tereta, the album’s earthily elastic rhythms scooped up awards, making it one of the reasons Mali dominated world music in the noughties.
Andy Palacio And The Garifuna Collective - Wátina - Cumbancha, 2007 What a tragedy that this triumphant, wonderful album would be the last from Belize’s greatest Garifuna singer-songwriter. Before Wátina the world barely knew of Palacio’s Garinagu people – African escapees from slavery, forced from another home on St Vincent in the 19th century by the British and nowadays dispersed along the coast of Central America. Wátina is a lament for, and a celebration of, their story, sung in the Garifuna language, based firmly in Garinagu rhythms and ritual, and sounding closer to Africa than anything played outside that continent. It is deeply moving, poignant and haunting. May Palacio’s legacy long continue.
Boris Kovac - The Last Balkan Tango - Piranha, 2001 This album is an unrecognised masterpiece. A dark but satirical look at the brutal break-up of Yugoslavia in the spirit of Kusturica’s film Underground. The cover clearly references the paintings of George Grosz and Max Beckmann and the disreputable days of the Weimar Republic. The music also references tango and popular cabaret with sax, clarinet, accordion and violin. ‘Just imagine there is only one starry night left till the end of this world. What would we do?’ intones Kovač, like a crazed MC over sweet sax melodies. It’s like someone forcing you to drink glass after glass of plum brandy. ‘La Danza Apocalyptica Balkanika!’
Staff Benda Bilili - Très Très Fort - Crammed, 2009 ‘We’re all handicapped people, aren’t we?’ runs the MySpace byline for the paraplegic Congolese street musicians, whose debut album mixed soukous, rumba and funk with can-do fervour and became an instant classic.
Ska Cubano ¡Ay Caramba! Casino Sounds, 2005 The second album by the London cross-breeders of Cuban horns and voices, ska and cumbia rhythms, and wacky showbiz vitality. Even better than the first, confirming that if Ska Cubano didn’t exist, it would be imperative to invent them.
For the full list of 75 albums check out the 75th edition of Songlines (April/May) on sale at all good record shops until April 28 or at www.songlines.co.uk To subscribe to Songlines and receive the Folk Awards 2011 double CD for FREE, visit www.songlines. co.uk/folkawards2011 or call 020 7371 2777 quoting ‘Properganda’ 26
here’s a certain urge to find some kind of overall theme or T trend emerging whenever some best-of-the-year world music list or compilation appears. And although the Songlines Music
Awards are only in their third year, such discussions are probably already taking place: why nothing from Brazil? Why no Balkan beats? But if your particular favourite flavour of non-Western music isn’t represented maybe it’s partly your fault, because the voting was open to the general public, not just Songlines’ readers. With Charlie Gillett sadly no longer around to give us his take on the year’s global releases with his Sound Of The World series, this compilation has some big shoes to fill. But some might argue that what we have here is a more comprehensive reflection of what’s going on world music-wise than one man’s unavoidably subjective choices could ever have been, however open and adventurous Mr Gillett’s ears were. So what have we ended up with? Well, I’m not going to even pretend to see any pattern in the rainbow array of 16 diverse talents intelligently sequenced here, apart from to point out one factor which never goes away: the relatively large number of African artists included. In fact the CD begins with the double hitter of Nigeria’s Femi (son of Fela) Kuti’s brassy Afrobeat track Dem Bobo followed by the desert blues (although more loping rock to my ears) of Tamikrest’s Outamachek. The young Tuareg musicians who produced the latter tune clearly have ambitions to be the next Tinariwen, and who can blame them given the unprecedented global success of that Saharan band. Also on the African team are two of Senegal’s greatest exports, Youssou N’Dour and Cheikh Lô, both of whom produced new albums in 2010. Youssou is represented by the heavily reggaefied Leteuma and Cheikh with the more driving Conia from his return-to-form album Jamm. Then there are two half-African collaborations, both of which were nominated in the best cross-cultural collaboration section: Malian kora master, Ballake Sissoko gelled perfectly with French cellist Vincent Segal on the mostly instrumental Chamber Music represented here by the ethereal yet complex Halinkata Djoubé. The duo’s sound bears comparison to some of the material that Toumani Diabate recorded with the late, great Ali Farka Toure. Then there’s the Cuban/Malian supergroup AfroCubism, who do exactly what the label says by combining sinuous, dynamic grooves from both traditions and making the end result sound wholly contemporary. But moving on from Africa, the greatest pleasure with compilations such as this is coming across music the like of which you’ve not heard before. Two favourites here were Syriana’s haunting Gharibb and The Creole Choir Of Cuba’s sublime Peze Café. The latter is just a welcome reminder that it’s never wise to dismiss a whole form of music. Choirs have never done much for me, but this extraordinary outfit create a high wall of vocal and percussive sound that has a grandeur and power that is almost frightening at times. They are certainly an act to catch live. Syriana I’ve not seen live yet. They are the latest project put together by Dub Colossus founding member, Nick Page. No one tune is representative of their debut album’s sprawling epic sound, but Gharibb is like a Middle-Eastern shot at a Bond movie theme. Languid and exotic it’s like nothing else here. Which in some ways sums up what compilations like this are all about: no track should be like any other track - otherwise it’s not done a good job of giving a panoramic view of what’s out there.
Songlines Music Awards 2011 Various SPL SPL004 www.songlines.co.uk/musicawards
Near the beginning of this piece I mentioned intelligent sequencing, and somehow the very last song here seems to best represent this, at least in an amusing way. Having gone on a global journey that has taken in the colour, spectacle and joyous polyrhythms of many far-flung lands from Cuba to China, from Lisbon to Lagos, we are suddenly in a dank seaside tavern with an insatiable buxom maiden who has her eye on a sailor - well, all the sailors actually - with Bellowhead’s spirited take on the bawdy English folk song Yarmouth Town. It’s a funny old world. Howard Male Properganda 19
Latin and Caribbean rhythms that explores the African roots of Garifuna music. In the wake of Palacio’s tragically early death in January 2008, Martinez has emerged as a key figure in continuing Andy’s legacy of promoting Garifuna culture and Laru Beya shows Palacio’s influence remains undiminished.
Produced by Belizean musician and Stonetree Records founder Ivan Duran, Laru Beya fuses lyrical guitar with popular local rhythms and the uplifting voices of the Garifuna women singers. At the same time, Aurelio collaborates with leading West African musicians including Youssou N’Dour and members of Super Etoile de Dakar, Orchestra Baobab and local rappers and singers plucked from the streets of Dakar, to re-examine the close musical links between Africa and the Caribbean, incorporating African instruments such as the kora, balafon, xalam and sabar drum into his music. Lubara Wanwa (Waiting For The Arrival Of A Son), sung in the Garifuna language, surrounds the listener in warm, reggaeinfused rhythms although the music is tinged with a sadness that manifests itself in the tale of a sailor returning to shore for the birth of a child he fears is not his own. Youssou N’Dour’s surprise English vocal is all the more effective for its stark simplicity. There is a palpable spirit that shines out of Aurelio’s music even when tackling the bleakest subject matter. Yange conveys his own personal suffering at the loss of his brother and yet you
feel the sense of hope in this song and Maria Martinez and Sofia Blanco’s harmonies touch the listener in a way that only the human voice can. In Mayahuaba (Don’t Cry), Aurelio sings passionately about a child who loses his parents to AIDS, yet the lilting guitar lines and the comforting voices of Sofia Blanco, Neta Fernandez, Idalia Valerio and Nelsi Flores soften the pain. Title track Laru Beya (By The Beach) talks of romance on the beach and helps lift the mood. The French vocals of singers Rudy Gomis and Balla Sidibe of Orchestra Baobab gel nicely with the massed voices of the Garifuna women singers. Aurelio’s involvement in Honduran politics brings yet another dimension to his songwriting. In Weibayuwa he criticises politicians, comparing them to “bloodthirsty sharks” and uses the urgency of Senegalese rappers Sen Kumpe to highlight the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Edou Manga’s kora magically weaves its way through the rhythmic delivery gently enhancing the intensity of the material. Ultimately, though, it’s the emotional tie to preserving the future of the Garifuna people that knits this album together and makes it so appealing. Fittingly the song Wamada (Our Mutual Friend), traditionally sung at sacred Dügü ceremonies becomes a tribute to Aurelio’s friend and inspiration, Andy Palacio. The notion of “Andy’s hammock swinging in the afterlife” as he relaxes among the “honoured ancestors” is a beautiful thought. Sofi Mogensen
Aurelio Laru Beya Real World Records CDRW180 www.realworldrecords.com/catalogue/laru-beya/ his Australianborn, AmericanT based trio have
come a long way in their 19 years together. The band was founded as an acoustic folk-pop busking duo by sisters Vikki and Donna Simpson, who at that stage were calling themselves Colours. On a Kombi van tour of Western Australia they bumped into Josh Cunningham, who soon became the group¹s third member, and within a year they’d changed their name to The Waifs. For much of their early career, Josh and Vikki were an item, but the end of their relationship didn’t prevent them from working together. However, during the mid noughties the band took an extended break from music to pursue family lives. All three are now settled with partners, and scattered over three American states - California (Josh), Utah (Vikki) and Minnesota (Donna). Given this, and the amount of time they¹d spent on the road in the US, it was hardly surprising that The Waifs’ last studio album Sun Dirt Water (2007) found them sounding more like an Americana outfit than an Australian one. Temptation continues in that vein, but with a more unplugged sensibility, and sterling support from drummer David Ross McDonald and Ben Franz on double bass.
This time around, there¹s a more equal contribution from each songwriter, and in terms of new directions it’s Josh (now pointedly calling himself Joshua) whose writing has changed the most, having embraced religion. Two of his three songs are over seven minutes’ long, epic by The Waifs’ previous standards. The bluesy Moses And The Lamb finds him declaiming biblical imagery over a churchy pump organ and banjo, before Vikki tears into a fiery harmonica solo. And on the slow burn gospel-flavoured title track, he declares: “Jesus said Get behind me Satan!” Vikki¹s five songs showcase an increasingly Americanised drawl, as on the cinematic and mysterious imagery of Buffalo, although her roots still show through on the ditty Daydreamer. The woozy, semi-acoustic R&B of Beautiful Night is her most instantly appealing piece, and features a brilliantly suggestive guitar solo by Joshua. Donna¹s catchy Falling is the most obvious choice for a single, and boasts a brief New Orleans-style flourish of brass. Her opening I Learn The Hard Way is another very bluesy track, and on the country waltz of Goodbye Darlin’ (“Your smiles and your smell/The stories you tell”) she almost sounds like she’s channelling Lucinda Williams. Jon Lusk
The Waifs Temptation
Jarrah WAIFSCD012 www.thewaifs.com
Photography: Sarah Wheeden
urelio Martinez – the Garifuna musician from Honduras with the big smile and a close friend of the late musical A pioneer Andy Palacio – releases a gorgeous album of laid-back
SATURDAY 25 JUNE 2:00-3.00pm Hall Two
Bulgarian Voice Workshop
To celebrate the joys of midsummer, Songlines magazine launches the Songlines Encounters Festival at London’s Kings Place in June For those that haven’t discovered it yet, Kings Place is a concert venue which opened in 2008 in London’s Kings Cross, with a main hall that looks and sounds exquisite. In partnership with Ikon Arts Management, Songlines has programmed eight concerts featuring rising artists, who deserve to be better known, from one end of Europe to the other. “Kings Place is a great venue for acoustic world music and has a cool vibe. It’s a wonderful opportunity to give people a taste of artists they probably won’t have discovered yet,” says editor-in-chief Simon Broughton. “Great voices, great instruments and great musicians.”
THURSDAY 23 JUNE
FRIDAY 24 JUNE
MARIZA: CARLOS MENDES PEREIRA; ARUN GHOSH: SAMSCAM.CO.UK; ALEX WILSON: MICHAEL VALENTINE; SONDORGO: BACSI ROBERT
Eastern European Instrumental and Percussion Workshop Led by Merlin Shepherd (clarinet) and Vasilis Sarikis (percussion) this workshop focuses on music from across the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Bring your instruments!
Mariza & the Story of Fado (Film)
Another chance to see the documentary film shown on Friday (see left)
6:30pm St Pancras Room 7:45pm Hall Two
(Crete, Spain & Iran)
Mariza & the Story of Fado (Film)
The perfect introduction to Portugal’s most distinctive music. This BBC film interweaves a portrait of fado’s current star, Mariza, with the history of the music itself from its origins in 19th century Lisbon.
Winner of the Horizon Award for best newcomer in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2011, Scottish folk singer and guitarist Ewan McLennan is joined by special guest Jackie Oates.
The Trio Petrakis-LópezChemirani brings together three young musicians forging their local traditions of Crete, Spain and Iran into something poetic and exciting.
3:45-4:45pm Hall Two
5:00pm St Pancras Room
7:00pm Hall One
An interactive session where Dessislava Stefanova, the leader of the London Bulgarian Choir, will introduce basic Bulgarian voice technique and special vocal effects. No experience necessary.
With vocalist Çiğdem Aslan and instrumentalists who’ve learned from masters in Eastern Europe, She’koyokh are the UK’s best group playing infectious klezmer and Balkan music.
9:00pm Hall One
7:45pm Hall One Carminho (Portugal) Just 25 years old, Carminho is the new voice of Portuguese fado and a performer the aficionados are all talking about.
An Evening with Alex Wilson (UK) A very special one-off concert by highly acclaimed Latin jazz pianist Alex Wilson, a solo set followed by Alex’s new jazz trio and a surprise guest artist.
8:00pm St Pancras Room
The Söndörgo˝ Story (Talk)
Simon Broughton talks to bandleader Áron Eredics about Söndörgő’s music and the South Slav tradition in Hungary.
FREE but tickets required, call box office
Ewan McLennan (UK) LONDON DEBUT
6:30pm Hall One Sväng (Finland) Sväng may be the first Finnish harmonica quartet you’ve ever seen, but you won’t forget them in a hurry with their brilliant compositions and ferocious virtuosity. f
8:30pm Hall One She’koyokh (UK)
7:45pm Hall Two
Circle of Sound featuring Soumik Datta, Arun Ghosh & Taalis (UK) Three virtuoso stars of contemporary British Asian music meet in Circle of Sound – an explosive audio-visual concert with Soumik Datta on sarod, Arun Ghosh on clarinet and Taalis on drums.
9:00pm Hall One Söndörgo˝ (Hungary)
From Hungary, Söndörgő are one of the musical discoveries of the year with gorgeous vocals and intricate music strummed on nimble, mandolin-like tamburas.
FOR TICKETS, CONTACT
www.kingsplace.co.uk 020 7520 1490
SONGLINES MAGAZINE SUBSCRIBERS’ TICKET OFFER Full Festival Pass £75 (10% off)* +25% discount on single tickets† f
Terms and Conditions: Subject to availability. Deadline for booking June 23. *Telephone orders only. † Excluding premium and saver seats.
Wren Music in association with SingSong Inc presents
Shore To Shore From the West Country to the New Founde Lande
400 years of folk song and music
“One man, one guitar and a voice sent express mail from heaven.” TIME OUT MAGAZINE
KIERAN GOSS LIVE AND SOLO U K T O U R SP RING / S U MME R 20 1 1 TUE 26 APR WED 27 APR FRI 29 APR SAT 30 APR SUN 01 MAY THUR 05 MAY FRI 06 MAY SAT 07 MAY SUN 08 MAY TUE 10 MAY WED 11 MAY THUR 12 MAY SAT 14 MAY WED 18 MAY THUR 19 MAY FRI 20 MAY SAT 21 MAY WED 01 JUN SAT 04 JUN SUN 05 JUN THUR 09 JUN FRI 10 JUN SAT 11 JUN SAT 18 JUN
ISLE OF MULL, TOBERMORY AN TOBAR BENDERLOCH THE VICTORY HALL PEEBLES EASTGATE THEATRE BIRNAM THE BIRNAM INSTITUTE DURHAM GALA THEATRE BERWICK-UPON-TWEED THE MALTINGS LICHFIELD LICHFIELD ARTS IREBY THE GLOBE HALL DERBY ASSEMBLY ROOMS MILTON KEYNES THE STABLES BIDDULPH THE BIDDULPH ARMS ELLESMERE PORT HUNGRY HORSE CLUB KINGSTON KINGSTON BARN CRAWLEY THE HAWTH THEATRE OTTERTON OTTERTON MILL FARNHAM FARNHAM MALTINGS BATH CHAPEL ARTS CENTRE EDINBURGH THE PLEASANCE ISLE OF LEWIS, STORNOWAY AN LANNTAIR INVERNESS NORTHERN ROOTS FESTIVAL NORWICH NORWICH ARTS CENTRE MALTBY THE WESLEY CENTRE ISLE OF BUTE ROTHESAY JOINT CAMPUS LINCOLN LINCOLN DRILL HALL
Shore To Shore brings together leading singers and musicians from Newfoundland and Devon in a project that charts the development of folk song on both sides of the Atlantic from the early 1600s to the present day. Jim Payne, Fergus O’Byrne, Gerry Strong and Daniel Payne are widely recognised as Newfoundland’s finest traditional artists. They are joined from Devon by internationally-acclaimed vocal duo Marilyn Tucker & Paul Wilson, Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll from the new generation of folk fiddlers, and the awardwinning Border piper David Faulkner. Saturday 2nd April - Exeter Northcott Theatre www.exeternorthcott.co.uk 01392 493493 Wednesday 6th April - Poole Lighthouse www.lighthousepoole.co.uk 0844 406 8666 Thursday 7th April - London Cecil Sharp House www.efdss.org 0207 485 2206 Friday 8th April - Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre www.thesagegateshead.org 01429 890000 Saturday 9th April - Hartlepool Maritime Experience Song workshop 11am - 1pm, music workshop 2 - 4pm www.thesagegateshead.org 0191 443 4661 Sunday 10th April - Birmingham MAC Music workshop 1 - 4pm, concert 7.30pm www.macarts.co.uk 0121 446 3232 Tuesday 12th April - Bristol Colston Hall Song workshop 1 - 4pm, concert on Sat 16th www.colstonhall.org 0117 922 3686 Thursday 14th April - Bideford St Mary’s Church Tickets at Bideford Tourist Information 01237 477676 Saturday 16th April - Bristol Colston Hall www.colstonhall.org 0117 922 3686 Sunday 17th April - South Petherton David Hall www.thedavidhall.org.uk 01460 240340 Find out more at www.wrenmusic.co.uk
Shore To Shore Wren CD017 release date 1st April 2011 £12 from www.wrenmusic.co.uk
a world where every voice is heard
PROPERBOXES fter a modest hiatus to allow Properbox A aficionados a bit of a breather
and time to replenish their glasses, the award-winning series of 4CD box sets with authoritatively annotated, illustrated booklets (a distinctive feature) resumes its mission to thrill with new retrospectives of jumpin’ jive gigolo Louis Prima and the innovative alto sax maestro Cannonball Adderley. The term aficionado has some degree of relevance because there are music lovers out there who have bought the entire Properbox series to date, including one enthusiast who had a cabinet built especially to house his growing collection and was somewhat peeved when the releases changed dimensions from chunky format to slimline design. Whether Proper sent round a carpenter to fix the problem is not recorded.
Launched in 1998 with The Gene Krupa Story, the Properbox series has been fundamentally jazz orientated, acknowledged by countless rave reviews in the jazz press. HOW-EV-ER, along the way there have been many equally lauded musical documentations of the greats of Western Swing and country music, blues and R&B, rock ’n’ roll and rockabilly, folk, gospel, Jamaican ska and other lively diversions. The majority are still in catalogue but some releases have now been deleted so you are advised to check Proper’s website before constructing your cabinet. I’m tempted to add that David Cameron should have consulted Proper before.. oh, never mind. While the full listing of available Properboxes is at your command in cyberspace, a brief mention of just a few of critically acclaimed and still best selling sets will illustrate the series’ potent diversity. Larkin’s Jazz. English poet Philip Larkin (1922-1985) - best known to philistines for observing “They fuck you up, your mum and dad” - was a devotee of jazz music and wrote about it passionately. Here, annotated in his own words, are four CDs of the recordings he respected rather more than he did his parents. Little Red Box Of Protest Songs (3 CDs+DVD). A selfexplanatory titled celebration of the recordings of black and white Americans who would not lie down and shut up in years when it was unfashionable and dangerous to be so outspoken, when southern lynchings were as common as plantation luncheons.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Original Soul Sister. A contemporary of Mahalia Jackson (also celebrated by a Properbox), Sister Rosetta was not only a feisty singer who took gospel spirit into nightclubs and concert halls, she was one of the earliest performers to play electric guitar in a manner that inspired bluesmen and rock ’n’ rollers to plug in and boogie.
Hank Williams: Hillbilly Hero. Not the great granddaddy of American country music but arguably the most influential progenitor of where it headed during his short lifetime and after his death. The songs Hank recorded, his and others’, the majority reflecting his personal twists of fate, have ricocheted down the years to the present day. Les Paul & Mary Ford: In Perfect Harmony. A dexterous guitar player, always jazz rooted but determinedly popular in appeal, Les Paul was also a technical whiz in his day, using multi-tracking and vari-speed to give his recordings (with and without his wife) unique ambience. It’s not everybody who’s got a famous guitar brand named after him, played by millions. Classic Rockabilly. Young white rural America’s 50s outburst. Brash, corn-fed, all adrenalin and bravado with no Tin Pan Alley smothering. OK, I’m biased, I love it. As I’ve said before somewhere, Malcolm McLaren needn’t have flounced his ounce with punk in the 70s, there was already a Rockabilly Revival in Britain by then. Hot dog, there still is. I’ll certainly be going for the new Louis Prima set. A larger than life all-rounder, singer, songwriter, trumpeter, bandleader with a jive mind of great humour, Prima’s recordings ranged from swing and jump blues to hipster ballin’ in the cabaret mainstream; many of the tracks prominently featuring his hot tenor sax man Sam Butera rock ’n’ roll in all but name. Inevitably destined to be highly regarded by the jazz cognoscenti, the Cannonball set is out of my area of knowledge - which probably means I should get it immediately. Properboxes never fail to educate, placing important music of any stripe into historical perspective for less cost than a supper home delivery. Check the prices on the website and wonder how it’s all achieved. Better still, enjoy the remarkable panoply of music. Cliff White Properganda 19
African Soul Rebels Special
Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 + Donso
Wednesday 13 April Son of the legendary Fela Kuti, the new king of afrobeat Seun Kuti performs work from his incredible new album. Royal Festival Hall
Comicoperando: The Music of Robert Wyatt Thursday 12 May
Queen Elizabeth Hall
Loudon Wainwright III + Lucy Wainwright Roche Friday 20 May
Royal Festival Hall
James Vincent McMorrow Tuesday 31 May
Queen Elizabeth Hall
Part of Southbank Centreâ€™s celebration of the 60th anniversary of Festival of Britain with MasterCard.
Tickets 0844 847 9910 southbankcentre.co.uk
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Duck Soup Open On Sundays
Coope Boyes & Simpson As If…
Gareth Davies-Jones Chasing Light
Hebe Music - HEBECD006
No Masters - NMCD35
Heading West Music - HWM008
Master melodeonist Dan Quinn and his trusty band (Ian Kearey, Adam Bushell) hereby unveil their sprightly new collection of tunes and songs. Their choice of enterprisingly unorthodox material is ideally matched by its delightful quirkiness of presentation, with enticingly unusual instrumental colourings like dobro, marimba, saw and phonofiddle richly (yet not excessively) complementing the usual doughty ceilidh band elements. Sometimes recalling the pioneering work of the English Country Blues Band in an intelligent blending of Anglicana and Americana, at other times the madcap worlds of cheerfully obscure 78s and Looney Tunes cartoon soundtracks (and that’s just the instrumental sets and dance tunes!), while the songs bring English trad into the jaunty world of vaudeville, yet with a believable respectfulness of intent. Open On Sundays brightly extends our ear-shopping hours, its irresistible feelgood funsome frolics turned up to above Gas Mark 5 and scoring bullseyes with its scintillating display of musical marksmanship.
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rebe. cleveland/hebeweb.htm/Home_Page.html DK
Jim Causley Dumnonia WildGoose WGS377CD Jim Causley’s reputation as the finest singer of the younger folk generation, fostered by two previous solo albums and his work with the groups Devil’s Interval and Mawkin:Causley, is further enhanced by this warm, accessible album of mostly traditional songs from his beloved Devon. The spirit of joie de vivre at the heart of the album is further lifted by lively accompaniments from the Dartmoor Pixie Band, themselves steeped in local history, to emphasise its proud heritage, though Causley goes out of his way to avoid obvious Devonian anthems and has dug out some unusual material. There are drinking songs like Old Uncle Whiteway, playful ditties like The Tythe Pig, a rare ballad The Earl Of Totnes and even well-known titles The Game Of Cards and She Moved Through The Fair are delivered in unfamiliar versions. With two classic Cyril Tawney songs and the great collector Baring Gould well represented, the freedom of Exeter surely awaits Causley
Freya Abbott Ferguson Get Well Soon No Masters - NMCD37 Two trios, one label, one ethos. The Northern co-operative No Masters always releases interesting discs with a trademark of musical quality, rooted in the folk ethos, but which wear their hearts and politics on their sleeves. These are no exception. Coope Boyes & Simpson are the perfect example of what the label does so well. They have the rich, glorious harmonies that have grown in depth over the last 18 years (here filled out with rhythms on some tracks) to create a sound that’s almost choral in its majesty. They also have the songs, ranging from Spring 1919, which continues their fascination with the First World War to their own compositions, all most definitely on the side of the underdog, all the way to the lovely and unusual Belgian Float In Dreams. There’s the deep gospel of Jean Ritchie’s Now Is The Cool Of The Day, which opens proceedings and Simpson’s own We Got Fooled Again, a more experienced riposte to Pete Townshend, that forms the other bookend here. It’s a testament to their singing that they can stir the soul in one moment and tear it apart the next. Freya Abbott Ferguson don’t try and cover the same territory. Instead, as befits veterans of Chumbawamba and Blowzabella, their touch is lighter and more sardonic – though no less heartfelt. The voices have a velvet sweetness that hides the spiky lyrics (as in Cornwall a rail against holiday homes or Betsy Walton, an updating of the abandoned pregnant girl song, with a sting in the tail), and the backing forms a good, spare cushion, flowering into its own on the instrumentals, where saxophone and trumpet work well together. Although the album showcases Freya’s impressive writing, there’s a nod at the folk tradition with Two Sisters and some carefully chosen covers, most notably XTC’s Dear God. Its mix of wit, melody and questioning fits perfectly with the other material here. As a debut Get Well Soon bodes well for the future; FAF are very much a work in progress, still finding their sound and honing their style. Quite where they’ll take it remains to be seen, but it’ll certainly wear a sly musical smile.
Originally from the seaside town of Bangor in Northern Ireland, Gareth Davies-Jones’ gently honed and intricately crafted style belies an elusive selection of songs that touch many bases without fitting into any easy box. At times he sounds like one of the classic singer-songwriters of old, reflecting wryly on his own destiny in Troubadour, yet elsewhere paying homage to the traditional music of his Celtic background, notably when Calum Stewart cuts loose on pipes on the lively tale of Reilly. It’s certainly an engaging and slightly deceptive collection, Davies-Jones’ relaxed, lyrical voice switching easily between strong narratives (Sweet Portaferry), tongue-in-cheek social commentaries (Headlines) and love songs (Character) as it moves seamlessly from the sentimental to the stimulating. The dramatic PQ17, a gripping account of a World War II naval conflict even sounds like a song Seth Lakeman might have wished he’d written while a couple of beautiful guitar instrumentals complete an album of many moods and attractive tones.
Chris Newman Still Getting Away With It Old Bridge Music - OBMCD19 To celebrate his 40-year career, Chris Newman, ultra-skilled guitarist (and mandolinist, composer and arranger) proudly presents his latest solo album, which contains 18 satisfying (mostly guitarled) excursions across and within a bewildering number of musical boundaries. Chris’s lightly-worn but intense virtuosity is mirrored in the quietly dazzling playing of the fellow-musicians he’s invited to the sessions; these include brother Mark, Simon Mayor, Paul Buckley, Nollaig Casey, Arty McGlynn and Máire Ní Chathasaigh. This eclectic and inventive CD takes us from the darkly extravagant Pear Drops And Fourteen Pounds and a breakneck Hot-Club dash (Not Likely!) to the delicately haunting Air On A Shoestring and the tenderly reflective Closing Time via individual takes on barndances, Irish slip-jigs and Québecois reels and classily combining oldtime with ragtime, blues and jazz. To balance the virtuosity, there’s a spellbinding warmth in Chris’s immaculate playing, a lyricism that never compromises the onward momentum. Chris’s eager and easy engagement with every musical genre under the sun makes him seem virtually a one-man Transatlantic Session on this scintillating, irresistible disc.
www.stillgettingawaywithit.com Properganda 19
COUNTRY AMERICANA reviews
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Jason Isbell Here We Rest
Todd Snider Live – The Storyteller
Various Artists Proyecto De Amor
Lightening Rod - LRR24652
Aimless Records - 7061174
Music Agents - MAS510
Half way through We’ve Met there’s a burst of guitar that pings me straight to David Lindley on Jackson Browne’s Late For The Sky, my eyes mist and I fall head over heels in love with music all over again. The well spring of emotion is tapped as the lines “We’ve met, I can tell you don’t remember, I can see it in your face, should never have left this place” are rendered all the more tragic by “Do you know how long I’ve waited for you.” The bitter regrets of the one left behind.
Oregon-born Snider’s debut album came out in 1994, with a style best termed ‘country when it rocks’ to quote from one of his lyrics. This double CD offers in-concert versions of songs spanning much of his career together with the idiosyncratic stories which have become so much a feature of his live work.
Decades before Barack Obama declared “Yes, we can”, the Mexican American activist César Estrada Chávez coined a very similar expression in Spanish: “Si, se puede”, meaning ‘Yes, it is possible.’ His objective was to inspire migrant Hispanic agricultural workers in the US to organise themselves and defend their rights.
It’s high craft to mine such emotional territory as you’ll find on this CD and Jason was unusually (he’s routinely touring) more rooted in his Alabama homeland for its creation. The people he depicts have their problems and their pride, their wounds and their hopes and he has a poet’s gift for a cut to the quick. He also has a great band and calls on the legacy of Muscle Shoals to deliver a classic, roots-country-rock-and-soul sound that still finds room for a surprise or two. Hell I’ve only played this a couple of times, but I suspect come year end this will be in the reckoning for my Top 10. Brilliant.
Backed by a taut 5 piece band, the atmosphere is one of intense, noisy connection-with-audience. Snider is utterly true to himself, more unpolished and blue collar than present day Springsteen. This is not the sound of a technician fine-tuning with Pro Tools although hard work is needed to sound this loose. “Just spent the last 60 bucks we had on bad dope” he rasps on East Nashville Skyline and high times and hard knocks are leitmotifs throughout. With robust vocals, ragged, brawny but joyful music has rarely been as much fun.
www.fundacionhermesmusic.org/sitio/sitio-en glish/ JL
Betty Soo Heat Sin Water Skin Self-released - 26126913
Malcolm Holcombe To Drink The Rain Music Road Records - MRRCD 010 Malcolm, described by Lucinda Williams as a modern-day blues poet, sings with a gentler version of the Tom Waits gravelly gargle. To Drink The Rain, Malcolm’s first for Music Road, charts his rehabilitation through moving back to the North Carolina hills of his birth. It ain’t exactly blues, but nor is it really any other genre; it addictively melds many rootsy styles yet belies the depth of feeling within. Malcolm’s honest, laid-bare, grizzled-troubadour music journeys from the wistful, lazy dustbowl feel of Mountains Of Home and the Prine-like gait of Down In The Woods through to a lusty, throaty swamp-Beefheart groove on the title song contrasting with the semi-spoken Comes The Blues. The latter probably best encapsulates Malcolm’s spirit – sanguine, if at times a touch melancholy – by so persuasively conveying his sympathy for humankind and his tolerance for whatever life throws his way. Yeah, by the time you reach the closer, One Man Singin’, you feel it’s been a privilege to have shared Malcolm’s life-experiences.
A typically idiosyncratic Gurf Morlix production cocoons the fourth release (and third full-length album) from the petite Asian-American (secondgeneration Korean) singer-songwriter. Betty Soo’s delicately big-toned voice lends unexpected gravitas to her moving and compelling original compositions, which, like this album’s title, hang heavy with acute sensory experiences. These are served up in a home-produced musical brew that’s nestled snugly (yet not complacently) somewhere between the poles of folk, gospel, twang and indie. Just Another Lover belies its almost pretty air of mournful heartbreak by dint of the itchy passion in the lyric, while intimate confidences are tenderly shared on Whisper My Name and What We’ve Got, while Forever comes in the form of an uneasy lullaby. Betty Soo’s songs enjoy ingeniously crafted backings that mostly involve Gurf himself, along with Todd Wilson, Gene Elders and Dave Terry. It’s a classy record, if at times just a touch odd; and it’s one which should see Betty Soo’s name emerge more fully into the limelight as a distinctive and must-hear exponent of contemporary singersongwriting.
Projecto De Amor is a charity album with similar aims. The key track is Claro Que Se Puede, which gets five rousing renditions. These include a crosscultural version featuring the inimitable Latin rock guitar slinging of Carlos Santana, an accordionfuelled norteño take and a ‘rock en Espanol’ cover by Mexican rocker Alex Lora. Other highlights include Willie Nelson and Del Castillo’s bilingual new reading of I Never Cared For You (from Nelson’s classic Teatro album), Argentinian crooner Alberto Cortez on the ballad Son Niños Nuestros and Mexico’s Gloria Estefan soundalike Dulce Maria Gonzalez flirting with ‘salsa romantica’ on La Vida Es Un Sueño.
Israel Nash Gripka Barn Doors & Concrete Floors Continental Song City - CSCCD When you make big commitments and honour them, the rewards can far exceed expectations and so it must seem to Israel Nash Gripka on what is only his second album. The decision to record in a barn in some backwoods part of the Catskills posed significant logistical problems and a fair degree of favour calling, but the appropriately titled Barn Doors And Concrete Floors is the terrific outcome. It isn’t simply the act of creating the studio from scratch, but also the sense of location, communal living, clock-free hours and building the right creative environment that have gone into this, permeating the sound to telling effect. It sounds liberated and unconstrained as Israel’s poignant songs take flight. It sits somewhere between Steve Earl, The Stones, the country end of Little Feat and prime Neil Young with washes of pedal steel and Hammond underlaying the urgent guitars and soaring harmonies. Tracks like Four Winds and Louisiana, the fiddle laden Drown and the banjo propelled Red Dress all have the hallmarks that you can’t help but feel you’ve unearthed some long lost classic, but this was never lost, it just needed its place to become one.
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The Avery Set Returning To Steam
Gurf Morlix Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream
Ted Russell Kamp Get Back To The Land
Own label - 501258005
Rootball Records - 26131641
Dualtone - POMO07011
Gurf Morlix is a legendary producer of Americana artists – he launched Lucinda Williams with her eponymous 1989 album – while also carving out a respectable solo career as singer, songwriter and guitarist. Here he focuses on recording an entire album of compositions by his friend, the late Texan singer-songwriter Blaze Foley.
Ted Russell Kamp is a native New Yorker who’s spent much of his professional life in California, but seems to have a yearning for the south – in particular Texas; he sounds a little like a grizzled Rodney Crowell. Having been Shooter Jennings’ bass player since 2003, the multiinstrumentalist singer/songwriter began his solo career in 2006, with what Maverick magazine has dubbed ‘Americana with plenty of heart and guts.’
There’s an excited hubbub around right now centring on this hip young 4-piece hailing from Nashville via Michigan. Think Wilco meeting up with Ryan Adams for a jam at the Red Dog saloon and you won’t go far wrong! This is though, no mere recycling job of nineties country rock mores, there’s an admirable farreaching diversity here - the 4/4 snare shuffle of Salt Mines contrasting with the spare, cellowashed opener Wandering Shoes and the material (band’s own) is solid throughout. Singer Chris Zehnder veers between meditative and impassioned, by turns comforting and invigorating, avoiding any rock bluster whilst Brandon Harris is a subtle lead guitarist who knows when to ease back on the arpeggios! Quite a find and this debut is a strong offering, with the promise of greater things ahead. Like the weighing equipment that bears their name, they’re assuredly well-balanced!
The songs are laconic, sad, funny, reflective and quite lovely while Morlix’s deep, mournful voice conveys them with an intensity both droll and despairing. The best known song here is If I Could Only Fly – now something of an alt. country standard – but every tune has a lyricism that’s winning. For either fans of Blaze and Gurf or newcomers, 113th Wet Dream is a gem of an album – here one Austin country music giant celebrates another. Superb.
Rachel Harrington Celilo Falls Skinny Dennis Records - CSCCD1071 After two immensely self-assured previous CDs, Seattle-based, Oregon-born Rachel now mixes the personal with the mythical on her third recording, which draws on her own life experiences as well as her by-now-signature character-driven tales. Several of Rachel’s latest batch of songs have that could’ve-known-’em-for-years feel about them, and many of them encompass reflections on loss and especially mortality amongst their mythical status. Most delicious perhaps are Goodbye Amsterdam, the intense, very touching Bury Me Close (Rachel’s tribute to her grandmother, blessed with an attractive, understated string arrangement), the abundantly lonesome Where Are You, the tender Let Me Sleep In Your Arms Tonight and the classic-sounding He Started Building My Mansion In Heaven Today. Rachel also turns in an inspirational acappella version of Pretty Saro along the way. Evan Brubaker, in the producer’s chair, has surrounded Rachel’s special rootsy essence with ace musicians (Ronnie McCoury, Colby Sander, Dan Salini, Jon Hamar, Rod Clements and Doug Wintch). A heavenly combination.
Foley was close friends with Townes Van Zandt and something of a legend on the Austin music scene, both for his songs and unconventional lifestyle. Tragically, Foley was shot dead when intervening in a domestic argument. Morlix here celebrates his friend by recording 15 of his songs.
John Fullbright Live at the Blue Door Continental Song City - CSCCD1069
Robyn Ludwick Out Of These Blues Late Show Records - CSCCD 1068 I’m new to Robyn Ludwick which means listening to Out Of These Blues is an unexpected pleasure, the Texan singer-songwriter possessing a throaty voice and fine way with a lyric. A bit of research shows that Out Of These Blues is Ludwick’s third album and in Texas she is considered a rising talent. Out Of These Blues is produced by Gurf Morlix, the gifted producer of so many of Austin’s most talented artists. Gurf launched Lucinda Williams’ career and in Ludwick he seems to have found a talent reminiscent of Williams – Robyn drawls when she sings, expresses naked emotion and appears capable of fusing country and rock without sounding clichéd. Amongst the many memorable songs here are For You Baby – sung about her new baby son! – New Orleans, Can’t Hold Back and Fight Song. On Steady the lovely organ of Ian McLagan (Small Faces, The Faces) builds and anchors the song. Out Of These Blues is a strong, distinctive album and anyone with a taste for unvarnished Texan country music should check it out.
Get Back To The Land is his fourth album, and the title track hints at his own story by quoting the Woody Guthrie classic Do Re Mi before detailing his disillusionment with city life. California Wildflower’s jangling 12-string recalls The Byrds’ early psychedelia, but elsewhere Kamp’s penchant for keyboards and brass brings him closer to southern soul. The influence of Doug Sahm’s Tejano style is apparent on If I Had A Dollar while God’s Little Acre explores heavier southern rock territory, with lashings of bluesy guitar.
At 21, Oklahoma native Fullbright might be a young pup, but on disc he comes across like a seasoned veteran, an accomplished songwriter with a voice and style that’s pitched midway between Dylan and Steve Earle. Not bad role models, you’ll agree. He doesn’t shy away from the big issues, such as on the epic Justice, but he’s also rooted enough to pay homage to hometown heroes (his grandfather and Woody Guthrie) on Tombstone. Hearing him live and intense is the best introduction to his work; as this disc shows, he’s a confident, assured performer with a strong picking style that serves his down home singing well. There’s real maturity in his compositions, an old head on youthful shoulders. Fullbright also shows he’s a skilled interpreter, taking Leonard Cohen’s overworked Hallelujah and fitting it out with a fresh set of emotions to end this CD. Whether he can be another Woody remains to be seen, but he’s made a good start down the road.
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The 1930s Jazz Recording Project The 1930s Jazz Recording Project
Kit Downes Trio Quiet Tiger
Julian Siegel Quartet Urban Theme Park
Lake - LACD289
Basho - SRCD 342
Basho - SRCD352
Anyone who has been at a Kit Downes gig over the past months will find some familiar material here: the Keith Jarrettinspired Tambourine, the Monkish Frizzi Pazzi, the pull-and-push delicacy of In Brixen, and the New Orleans-tinged Americana of Skip James.
Incubated in London and some years in the coming Urban Theme Park sees Seigel once again hooked into quartet mode with inspirational pianist and long term friend Liam Noble, bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer Gene Calderazzo. In that respect it follows 02’s Close Up, an album at the time heralded as a breakthrough. Naturally there’s been little downtime for Julian since then, but other projects have kept us waiting for him to build on that promise.
Here’s a minor marvel of a project that seems so unassuming at first glance, yet has such attention to detail it’s actually something of a revelation. It’s taken a team of some knowledge and skill to deliver it, avoiding any sense of sterile academia, vanity or quaint nostalgia, to deliver a simple joyous celebration of music being made and played as it should be. The 1930s were actually the dawn of the modern recording era with developments in microphones and playback giving the first glimpse of reasonable fidelity. That the techniques of recording a small format jazz combo, using a contemporary single classic ribbon mic and valve pre-amp still works, perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise, but that the results are this good comes from genuine passion. The band work through Ellington, Hodges, Meyers, Beiderbecke, Carmichael, Goodman and more on the stage of The Players Theatre in Workington and the results have golden-years written all over them. For fans of the era it’s a dream come true and for anyone else, a brilliant starting point for what could become a lasting love affair.
All these pieces now have that settled, worn-in feel that makes the improvisations deeper reaching and more integrated into the particular tune. On all but three tracks the trio of Downes on piano, Calum Gourlay on bass and James Maddren on drums is underpinned by sonorous backdrops supplied by James Allsopp, doubled on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, and by Adrien Dennefeld on cello. The trio’s debut disc, Golden, fully deserved its Mercury Prize nomination, but this is even better – a step forward in both composition and playing. Kit Downes is the real deal with a long and international future ahead of him.
There’s no disappointment either and this is packed with an energetic flurry of ideas and some fiery playing. Noble seems to be the perfect foil, pushing Julian into fleet-fingered, soloing on tenor, soprano, clarinet and bass clarinet. Eight long tracks and an exceptional central suite, Game Of Cards, at over 12 minutes gives everyone the room to stretch out and take the themes into brooding spirals of sound. Even when the pace slows on Lifeline and the start of Drone Job, the intensity doesn’t let up and a woozy claustrophobia descends. The two tracks between Interlude and Fantasy In D, seem brimful of hard-bop vigour. A heavyweight statement and well worth the wait.
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Harry Manx Isle Of Manx
Marcia Ball Roadside Attractions
Roadhouse Dark Angel
Dog My Cat - DMCR00633
Alligator - ALCD4942
Blues Matters - CB2
Feted with numerous awards back home, this Canadian émigré has created an extraordinary Indo-blues fusion which, as unlikely as the concept may sound works brilliantly. Such a thing is no accident, but the result of Manx immersing himself within both cultures, first working the blues clubs of Toronto and then spending five years studying with a master musician in India.
Recorded in Austin, TX, and Nashville, TN, this fifth Alligator release by the piano-pumping, gutsy vocalist is nonetheless still steamily redolent of New Orleans and the bayou musical heritage that has permeated most of Marcia Ball’s 30-or-so year recording career. Professor Longhair is up there somewhere, smiling broadly.
Roadhouse began twenty years ago as a big bad barroom blues band but it’s now eased into a swampy, voodoo vein with Gary Boner, the brains behind the outfit, writing or cowriting most of the songs.
This collection collated from six of his previous albums is stunning stuff and the subtitle of Desert Island Discs seems richly deserved, as every track is a winner. He has a great voice and from the opening slide guitar of JJ Cale’s Tijuana any worries about an awkward collision melt away. The Great Unknown has a gospel feel while True To Myself draws on Indian vocal styling, but both work equally well. Throughout, his guitar and lap-steel playing is from the top drawer, the arrangements and band are absolutely spot on and he’s no slouch with the lyrics either as his punning CD titles, Dog My Cat and Wise And Otherwise signal. This could well be your single biggest discovery this year, make it so!
With 12 original songs that range from jump blues and easy rollin’ romps to reflective ballads, Marcia has a mood of changes that occasionally sound like they come out of the 1930s & 40s (Sugar Boogie, Mule Headed Man), elsewhere spiced with more contemporary flavours. Particularly striking are the full tilt We Fell Hard and the poignant This Used To Be Paradise - the latter not overtly about the Katrina catastrophe but perhaps inspired by it; the old fishermen scuppered by the oil industry. Production by Gary Nicholson and solid accompaniment sparkle throughout. As Marcia joyfully proclaims on the closing rocker, The Party’s Still Going On.
Black Hen BHMCD67
Alligator - ALCD4941 Roomful Of Blues is a driving, thriving R&B based band at the top of its game despite the fiftyodd changes of personnel it’s seen over its fortyodd year existence. Great names like Duke Robillard, Ronnie Earl, Preston Hubbard and passed through and have been replaced by musicians who gladly took over and continued with Roomful’s mission to keep the sound of 40s and 50s R&B alive and kicking. On this CD, latest addition Phil Pemberton has the necessary energy and flamboyance to fit right in with this consummate swinging machine, hell bent on breathing new life into a dozen killers ranging from Gatemouth Brown’s full blooded bopper She Walks Right In and Amos Milburn’s boozy blues Juice, Juice, Juice to Floyd Dixon’s laid-back heartbreaker Time Brings About A Change and Don And Dewey’s lung-busting Kill Me. This may be Roomful Of Blues’ best yet!
Jim Byrnes, with his producer/guitarist Steve Dawson, has assembled a cracking CD full of well executed songs performed by a small group of musicians that can handle anything from big fat guitar driven city blues to string band swing that sizzles with fiddles, banjos, mandolins and trumpets. As well as self-penned tunes, Byrnes’ deep brown vocals cover material from Memphis Slim, Dave Van Ronk and the Mississippi Sheiks as well as rejigged classics like, for example, Robert Johnson’s From Four Til Late which gets the second-line treatment with trumpets and saxes battling to be heard over buzzing chainsaw guitar. In fact it’s Jim Byrnes’ adventurous arrangements that make the whole album irresistible from beginning to end. Almost as inventive, is his take on Bobby Bland’s Yield Not To Temptation, which bomps along with the help of a Wurlitzer organ, banjo and a marxophone (whatever that is) adding a warm gurgle to the mix
There are just two blues based numbers here; T-Bone Walker’s Stormy Monday and Boner’s own Working Class Gospel Drinking Blues. The rest are straight ahead rock numbers like Too Tired To Pray, epic gothic ballads like Dark Angel and the nervy southern funk tune Swamp Girl which contains some swirling psychedelic guitar runs that heighten the songs dark feel. This CD should be the one that propels Roadhouse into the big time.
Shemekia Copeland Deluxe Edition Alligator - ALCD 5614
Jim Byrnes Everywhere West
Roomful Of Blues Hook, Line And Sinker
On this CD his soulfully precise lead guitar and rasping, leathery whispered vocals are to the fore: alongside three girl singers who feature strongly on songs like the chugging Telling Lies and So Over You, which has more than a hint of Stevie Nicks about it.
Alligator’s Deluxe Edition series always turns up trumps and here’s no exception: 16 remastered ‘best of’ tracks from Ms. Copeland’s relatively recent back pages. She has 13 years of recording (far more of performing) under her belt, during which time she has proved herself to be the sassiest blues singer of the modern age in direct descent from her father’s and his contemporaries’ soulful blues power. No room for the full track listing but if I mention Turn The Heat Up, Ghetto Child, Salt In My Wound and Who Stole My Radio? they might buzz your box. Along with Shemekia’s essentially dominant vocals there is impressive accompaniment to be savoured, including the good Dr John on keyboards/production and guitarist/producer Steve Cropper. Oh, go on then, also a doff of the cap to company boss Bruce Iglauer for doing the do. If you have so far missed the plot, make amends with this celebration. Modern blues with traditional values doesn’t come much better.
WORLD reviews Various Artists Nicola Conte Presents Viagem 3
Raf Vilar Studies In Bossa
Ladysmith Black Mambazo Songs From A Zulu Farm
Far Out - FARO 156CD
Far Out - FARO155CD
Proper Records - PASS007
Italian DJ, producer and jazzer Nicola Conte digs ever deeper into Brazilian record company vaults for the third volume of his critically lauded Viagem (‘journey’ or perhaps more appropriately, ‘trip’) series. But just because even hardcore Brazilophiles will have trouble finding any familiar names here doesn’t mean he’s scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel.
The laidback bossa nova style can be too easy on the ear for its own good, but this young Brazilian’s debut album avoids all the sun-kissed clichés with effortless aplomb. You still get the almost whispered, gentle vocal, the jazzinflected strummed guitar, and the unobtrusive percussion. But the production and arrangements by Raf and co-producer August Jakobsen are delightful rough-edged and minimal, making the songs seem more like just loose sketches rather than the polished finished product which can sometimes be so distancing.
Today LBM continue to fill international concert halls. And they continue to record and release fine new albums. Songs From A Zulu Farm is an extremely personal effort that finds the choir’s older members leading with songs they learnt as children whose parents were either subsistence farmers or worked on plantations. Some date back to the 1950s and 40s and before and contain lessons and sentiments that have stayed with them on an extraordinary journey in life and music.
Finely balanced between instrumental and vocal bossa and jazz samba from the’60s, this superbly sequenced selection is, as usual, littered with forgotten gems, underlining what a golden era it was for Brazilian music. The generally light, breezy ambience belies the fact that much of it was written in covert protest at the country’s dictatorship. Both Wan Trio and Bossa Trio offer effortlessly economic masterclasses in what can be done with a piano, bass and drums. Of the singers, standouts include Jorge Ben sound-alike Carlos Sodré and the sultry Eliana Pittman, backed by a brassy big band.
Chezidek Judgement Time Heartbeat HBECD20661
Apple Gabriel Teach Them Right Heartbeat HBECD20662
Various Artists Cultural Vibes Volume 1 Heartbeat HBECD20663
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Take for example Bossa Me (is that a deliberately punning title?) with its clipped guitar riff and gently flirtatious sax. It’s as if we are hearing the very soul, the very essence of these sometimes coolly reflective, sometimes bouncily euphoric songs. This is the best bossa nova album I’ve heard in a while, and it seems to reveal something different with each play.
The choir conjure up a variety of sound effects to help illustrate what they are singing about. Opening tune Ntuiube translates as Away, You River Snakes and comes with a lovely rush that conjures up the pleasure of swimming in the river to escape the heat. Leliyafu translates as Clouds, Move Away and is a farmer’s lament for the sun. Wemfana translates as Bad Donkey and the amusing translation says it is a warning song to stop children straying (as they might get chased and bitten on the bottom by a bad donkey!).
olland is better known for its ganja than its reggae, but maybe that will start to change with these releases getting wider distribution. JahSolidRock is an H Amsterdam based label and part of the excellent Heartbeat stable, its affiliated
production crew Not Easy At All play most of the instruments (and yes, they are real instruments) on these three discs, all of which ‘consciously’ hark back to the roots reggae style of the late ’70s. Albert ‘Apple Gabriel’ Craig will be best known as a founding member of the influential harmony vocal trio Israel Vibration, who made their first recordings in the very same period. His quavering vocal mannerisms will draw obvious comparisons with Horace Andy, but it’s his lyrics that mark him out. The Burning Spear-flavoured In The Jungle seems to reference his own recent experience of homelessness (“You never sleep on the sidewalk…”), and on Gifted Ones he praises soul music icons such as Al Green, Smokey Robinson and Wilson Pickett. But the real applecart upsetter comes on what is effectively the title track, Give Them Love, in which he bravely sticks his neck out into the prevailing wind of prejudice that still blows pretty fiercely in Jamaica: “Don’t you fight the gays and lesbians …condemning the people is sin”. Desbert Johnson, a.k.a. Chezidek didn’t start making music till the early noughties, first with producer Phillip “Fatis” Burrell and later Sly & Robbie. He makes his love of ‘collie herb’ abundantly clear on the opening Ganja Tree, but soon turns his attention to more serious matters on Live And Learn (“Oh what a hypocrite world/ Leaders, they are lying/Everything is not okay/ If the rivers they are drying) He has a rather thin tenor voice, which contrasts markedly with Benaïssa’s gruffer tones on Jahsolidrock, and On The Move features a lengthy solo by Jamaican sax veteran Dean Frazer. As with the Apple Gabriel album, most numbers segue straight into old school style dub versions, with plenty of echo, delay and other effects. The label showcase Cultural Vibes Volume 1 features cuts from both albums alongside ones by nine other artists based in the Netherlands, the UK and Jamaica, grouped according to which of four ‘riddims’ they use. Of the older generation, Junior Murvin (of Police And Thieves fame) and Earl 16 will be the most familiar, while there’s plenty of young blood in the form of Benaïssa, Wild Life, Joggo and others. Jon Lusk
Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo Almanac
Quiet Rebellion Still Talking Scribble
Gilbert O’Sullivan Gilbertville
Everyone Sang - ES2011CD
Local Nobody Records - LNR00511
Hypertension - HYP11275
Gorgeous. If one word pith was all it took then that would be it for this review, but the need to add a little persuasive detail demands expansion. Those who have Sunday-nighted on Kenneth Branagh’s superior, sad-eyed Wallander may have been taken by the theme song, Emily’s Nostalgia. The new CD is proof that her elevation to a prime time media moment is richly deserved.
Quiet Rebellion, the brainchild of songwriter Shaun T. Hunter, was last heard of on 2009’s Thinnest Hopes Magnified, but on this year’s model, Still Talking Scribble, Shaun has lost his band members and now proudly makes best use of available resources by playing everything himself.
Hard to believe, but it’s 40 years since the Irishborn singer-songwriter Raymond Edward O’Sullivan released his first album. He sold millions of records in the early 1970s, enjoying worldwide hits such as Alone Again (Naturally), Claire and Get Down. Legal shenanigans over unpaid royalties then put a damper on his career, but he’s still playing piano, writing songs and singing in that unmistakably mellifluous voice.
The 11 tracks just get better, both through repeated play and arguably over the 40 minutes of the CD that saves its best for last. That said, the opening salvo of Billowing Sea and Reckless set the tone. The Red Clay Halo, dress these songs in silky arrangements that swaddle you with sumptuous sounds. The flute, fiddle and cello add tones to transcend time, worm-holing to 1971, while Emily’s delicate guitar figures and slightly tremulous voice are buoyed by dreamy harmonies. As for the best of it, well we’ve only just had The Folk Awards, but if the panel is taking note Witch Of Pittenween is a first contender for 2012’s Best Original Song, but then so is Little Deaths and so is Bones and so on. Like I said, gorgeous.
The album was recorded in a haunted mill, and has an eerie ambience as though Shaun’s surrounded by ghosts of himself. The lyric writing in this dreamesque spectral song collection is spiritually searching, taking the listener deep into the mind and soul. The sparse sound and production is mesmeric, complementing the beautiful instrumentation of guitars with gentle loop pedal enhancements, layered textures and keyboards, over whose subtle patterns rises Shaun’s sonorous voice, one that genuinely inhabits its own theatrical space. To experience Shaun’s unique, extraordinarily expressive vocal powers, first check out Beneath The Wings Of A Dragon and then his intriguing take on Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark.
O’Sullivan has never strayed far from the middle of the road, but that doesn’t preclude flashes of eccentricity, nor some surprisingly dark lyrical preoccupations. The opening sentimental songs, Can I Leave The Rest Up To You and Missing You Already, are conventional enough – the latter a textbook example of his McCartneyesque lilt. But All I Wanted To Say is a love song with a twist, and imagines the last words of those doomed 9/11 airline passengers. There are also two songs about drinking – not counting the throwaway ditty Where Would We Be [Without Tea]. And Talking Of Murder is frankly bizarre, but in a good way.
chris barber memories of my trip
2 CD SET
Trombonist, bandleader and sometime bassist Chris Barber has been at the centre of British musical life for sixty years. In celebration of his 80th birthday, this 2CD anthology shows just why he has been such an influential figure, giving just a taste of his breadth of interest, and of his involvement in jazz, blues, skiffle and beyond. Just some of the luminaries performing with Chris Barber over the years and present here are: Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Van Morrison, Rory Gallagher, Muddy Waters, Lonnie Donegan, Keith Emerson, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and many more.
AVAILABLE ON APRIL 11th AS A 2 CD SET, AND DIGITALLY Properganda 19
ROUNDUP reviews The Grand Slambovians The Grand Slambovians
Or, The Whale Or, The Whale
Max Gilkes Walk In This Direction
Slambovian Records - SR0013
Seany Records - SR1227
Scarlet Records - SR024
I’m all for a bit of selfmythologising even if a degree of obfuscation results. Once Gandalf Murphy And The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams, now simply (thankfully) The Grand Slambovians, this New York State combo are an intriguing prospect and a case in point. Luckily the detail is relatively easy to sort out and the band includes four family members, Joziah Longo, Tink Lloyd and their twin sons Chen and Orien with Sharky McEwen on guitars and things and Tony Zuzolo on drums. Most importantly they make a mighty fine noise.
The eponymous second album from this San Francisco-based sevenpiece stretches their approved alt-countryrock out into even more beguiling territory. Lead vocalist and guitarist Alex Robins benefits from the contributions of fellow-vocalists Lindsay Garfield and Julie Ann Thomasson, who ensure variety in numbers and tone through the disc’s eleven tracks.
A brief exploration of a new name reveals a man who’s clearly used to the studio from both sides of the mixing desk and it shows through in Walk In This Direction. In a good way that is, as this CD simply sounds superb. as Great care has been taken in putting it together.
Cult status with a fearsomely loyal circus following seems entirely fitting and back home is assured. They are relative newcomers to these shores, however, but anyone who thinks The Decemberists are cool should form a queue to sign up to their growing fan-base immediately. This is an exceptional record and from the open slide guitar driven opus of The Trans-Slambovian BiPolar Express it’s clear there are some mighty musical minds at work and play. However nuts their given tag of “punk-hillbilly-classical-folkrock-Pink Floyd” might sound, I can do no better. They’re brilliant, where do I sign?
GREENTRAX RECORDINGS LTD
It’s a strong set, bedecked with powerful melodies that at times recall the glory days of Neil Young, Crazy Horse, Eagles etc (Terrible Pain, No Love Blues, Datura), but also throwing out on the sonar distinct echoes of other classic west-coast styles, heavy-duty Airplane with a touch of soul (Black Rabbit) and Rumours-era Mac (Never Coming Out). There’s also hints of Led-Zepp-with-pedalsteel on Keep Me Up and the grinding backbeat of Giving Up Time, while the rootsier side of things is taken care of with No Death and the sparser, largely acoustic Shasta. At times like these it’s hard to imagine the size of the band, so persuasively intimate can the musicmaking be in creating space for the songs and instrumentation to breathe.
Happily amongst the things that sound great is Max’s voice and he demonstrates he’s capable of a surprising soulfulness on the People Get Ready inflected There Is A Light, a standout acoustic track and Always Be With You. He’s also a capable rocker, putting the band through their paces on the opening brace of To Be and RSVP both of which have a bluesy feel to them, but especially on hard riffing, funky Where Angels Fear To Tread. Throughout there’s a fine combination of the tough and the tender and Max also takes a co-credit on string arrangements that add another subtle colour. Whether studio commitments (and there are some pop A-listers amongst them) ever allow for the time to invest fully in a solo career remains to be seen, but this is surely a promising start.
Cockenzie Business Centre Edinburgh Road / Cockenzie East Lothian EH32 0XL / Scotland tel : 01875 814155 / fax : 01875 813545 e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
CDTRAX353 The multi-million selling artist signs for Greentrax! A mix of traditional and contemporary songs in Barbara’s clear, warm voice.
‘STEELE THE SHOW’ CDTRAX358 A tribute to Davy Steele with contributions from Kate Rusby, Karine Polwart, Sally Barker, Siobhan Miller, Dick Gaughan, Ian McCalman & more.
Available from Proper Distribution Specialising in traditional, contemporary and Gaelic music from Scotland and beyond. Free catalogue available on request. Properganda 19
BARBARA DICKSON "Words Unspoken"
‘Soldier’ wields a potent external truth. This is music of intelligent dissidence. - Mojo A harrowing and viscerally powerful statement, a magnificent achievement. - Americana - UK An engaging, pointed set of protest songs. Kings songs hold up admirably next to covers of Dylan, Ochs, and more. - UnCut Protest music for a new generation but as heart-felt as anything you will ever hear. - Maverick 4/5 King’s album is well-nigh indispensable for fans of protest songs. - Penguin Eggs (Canada)
Fri Sun Mon Sat Tue Thu Sat Sun Sun
1st 3rd 4th 9th 12th 14th 16th 17th (1pm) 17th (8pm)
ULLAPOOL DUNNET HEAD STRATHPEFFER PEEBLES MANCHESTER POOLE BEDFORD BATH LONDON
Ceilidh Place Lighthouse Coffee Shop Eastgate Theatre Band on the Wall Mr Kyps Civic Theatre BCEX The Bell Slaughtered Lamb
Philharmonic Hall The Greystones
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All shows with Alan Cook (pedal steel guitar) and featuring a film presentation
Festival ** Towersey l means so Oxfordshire’s 47th
25-29 August 2011
a v i t s e F e r e Wh
much mor e
* Billy Bragg
and) ra Dillon (Ireltrali Home Service • CaMe a) n’s Chorale (Aus
The Burns Unit • The Spooky Spiers & Boden • Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick • Lau 17 Hippies
• Karine Polwart • The Demon Barbers
man Saltfishforty • Coope, Boyes & Simpson • Emily Port
ed Pink (See website for full line-up)
Kawa Indian Circus • Jonny Kearney & Lucy Farrell • Tickl
al) Plus... magnificent Children’s Festival • Shooting Roots (Youth Festiv
ops Street Theatre • Poetry & Literature • Hands-on Worksh Art a proper Real Ale Festival • Sculpture & Site corner Craft & Music Fairs • Exotic Food and surprises around every
“It’s like coming home after a year away” “It gets into your bloodstream and won’t let go” Save money...book early and book online!
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Full Weekend SeaSon ticket (£112 from 1 June) £98 Adult (until 31 May inc.) £89 Concession (£80 from 1 June) £69 Youth (12-17) (£56 from 1 June) £49 Child (5-11)
Five nightS camping £20 per perSon (under 11S Free) Booking online is free • Telephone and postal booking fee - £4 per booking.
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Courtney Pine’s stunning new album Europa available now. “A sublime jazz suite of the highest order.” Tim Cumming The Independent “The playing is quite brilliant. This project marks a new stage in his evolving talent.” Dave Gelly The Observer “Splendid 13th album from the CBE decorated doyen of British jazz.” Charles Waring ★★★★ MOJO
“Pine takes the listener on a thrilling musical and intellectual journey. As ever it’s inspirational stuff.” Robert Shore Metro “Pine produces music that is vivid, rooted and totally absorbing.” Garry Booth Music
March Tour Dates 23rd - Portsmouth New Theatre 26th - Norwich - Playhouse 27th - Haverhill - Arts Centre 29th - Bradford-on-Avon Wiltshire Music Centre 30th - York - Theatre Royal 31st - Hull - Truck Centre