SHOUTING ABOUT SPECIALIST MUSIC
ISSUE 20 JULY/AUG.2011
Hearts of folk...
E E FR ne o pick day up to
Dave Stewart • Lucy Ward • Martin Carthy • Amy LaVere Jennifer Crook • Elle Osborne • The Transports • JuJu • Dub Colossus The Impossible Gentlemen • Home Service • Megan Henwood T - Music • ECM new releases • Reviews, reviews, reviews Also in this issue
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RHYTHM FESTIVAL 2011 The Mansion house, old Warden Park, BigglesWade, sg18 9dX
FRIDAY 26 TO SUnDAY 28 AUgUST Friday
niCk lowe 16.1
ChiCago BLUES LEgEND
EDDiE C CampBELL
J Steve J
JACk BruCe Cropper & the AnimAlS & the normAn BeAker BAnd
haZel o’coNNoR OYSTERBAND ‘Breaking Glass’ lIVe! SAndi thom
THE BURNS UNIT MARK STEEL Pretty Things mUD mORGANFIELD The Men They Couldn’t Hang FROM THE JAM
& THE DIRTY ACES CURVED AIR 9 BELOW ZERO 4 BONZOS & A PIANO Slim ChAnCe SAINT JUDE BBC INTRODUCING STAGE
mAROON TOWN/ ROADHOUSE/ SEAN TAYLOR THE BRAYS/ CC SmUGGLERS/ mETATRONS HOWLIN HOOTIN OWLS/ COCONI/ more…
LIVE mUSIC & COmEDY ON 5 STAGES DJS All Weekend include: DJ WHEELIE-BAG/ DAVE EDWARDS + LATE NIGHT SILENT DISCO/ HEmLOCK mORRIS
TRACIE HUNTER BAND BOOTHILL FOOT TAPPERS/ BLUBBERRY HELLBELLIES/ BOBBY VALENTINO & THE mUSICIANS/ mISSING ANDY/ SURFING LUNGS mIDNIGHT TRAIN/ GARY DELANEY SIDEWALK DOCTORS/ FASTLANE ROOGALATOR/ mILTON FARROW SKIFFLE BAND/ RAYmOND & mR TImKINS REVUE KILLER B’S/ WASHINGTON IRVING NAOmI BEDFORD/ mIRANDA VS THE CROK mICK mCmANUS: “NOT THE EARS”
HOBO JONES & THE JUNKYARD DOGS SHERmAN ROBERTSON/ OLI BROWN/ APART FROm ROD/ mACAVITY’S CAT/ DOGAN & THE DEERHUNTERS/ NICK REVEL/ CHRIS LYNAm/ JEFF INNOCENT/ mACAVITY’S CAT/ SKUFFLE/ RAINY BOY SLEEP/ STONE FOUNDATION/ PEARL HANDLED REVOLVER JUAN ZELADA/ STRING FELLOWS/ THE EXPLORERS COLLECTIVE/ THE ZEDS/ THE STANDARDS/ PARKER & THE FLOWING WOW AWAY WITH THE FAERIES/ HATTIE HATSTAR
3 days of great entertainment on 5 stages plus “fringe” events. real ales and ciders from local brewers at local pub prices. A wide choice of superior food plus ice cream from norfolk Farm. Comedy. Funfair. Children’s entertainment. Junior olympics. organised football. panic Circus. punch & Judy. Solar-powered Cinema. digital Funfair. General Store. Craft & trade markets. Supervised campsites. Showers. Free Car parking. weekend tiCketS: Adult £110.00 includes one child/ youth (5-16) free. extra kids £50 each. CAmpinG: from £30 per tent. Adult dAy tiCketS (only 500 per day): Friday £45, Saturday/ Sunday £49 each day, includes one child (5-16) free, extra children £15 each. under 5’s are always free.
www.rhythmfestival.com Book online or by phone: 01767 626262 Credit Card hotline operates during office hours. 5% Booking Fee will be added to all telephone orders.
CONTENTS Page 2 Lucy Ward Martin Carthy 3 Steve Tilston Megan Henwood 5 Spiers & Boden 10 Elle Osborne 11 Jennifer Crook Home Service 13 Dave Stewart Amy LaVere 14 The Transports
HELLO Welcome to the summer festival issue of Properganda, packed as always with great music. There’s little question that our cover stars Spiers & Boden are at the heart of the English folk scene. Their excellent Works album, gives them the chance to revisit some of their recordings so far and cherry picking the best tracks, re-record them with a fantastic roll-call of guests. Anyone who was present at the Shepherd’s Bush birthday show (surely one of the gigs of the year) will already have an idea of how well this works. As they reveal to Julian May, the chance to revisit some classics was welcomed, simply because they are better musicians, with the benefit of experience and greater insight into the material. As I write, Bellowhead, their other day job have just braved the mud of Glastonbury and continue to gain support, including the odd play on Radio 2 that propelled them back into the album charts. Bellowhead are still an outside bet for The Mercury Prize nominations as well but whether that comes to pass or not, the band have come on leaps and bounds and the superb Hedonism continues to win them new fans and broaden their appeal outside the folk fraternity. Another personal triumph for Jon Boden was the completion of the year long marathon that was A Folk Song A Day. Jon delivered a new song into the world wide web every day for a year, with the help of a very select few, mostly just singing solo or accompanying himself on concertina, fiddle and guitar. He was joined by a few guests to add extra vocal clout, especially with the run of carols in the lead up to Christmas. The whole project is being made available to stream from www.afolksongaday.com again, so if you missed out you should tune in without delay. All of the songs are also available to buy digitally, with 12 monthly albums, or individual tracks available to down load. The project was drawn to a close with a great concert at Cecil Sharp House, with Jon joined by The Remnant Kings and with Peta Webb, Fay Hield and the resident Community Choir all singing from the year’s repertoire. It was an emotional night for yours truly as the host of the project over the year and I seemed to have something in my eye on a couple of occasions. Anyway, there’s lots of other great music in this issue and the prospect of a bumper autumn harvest to come. You’ll get a quick preview on page 26. In the meantime you’ll find some great music written about in this issue, so happy shopping and happy listening as always.
16 Competition 17 ECM 19 The Impossible Gentlemen 20 JuJu Dub Colossus 21 T Music 23 Folk Reviews 25 Country Americana Reviews 28 Blues Reviews 30 Jazz Reviews 32 World Reviews Contributors Andy Robson, Bev Slattery, Brian Showell, Chris Nickson, Chris Tomsett, Cliff White, Clive Pownceby, Colin Irwin, David Kidman, Garth Cartwright, Helen M Jerome, Howard Male, Jon Lusk, Julian May, Ken Smith, Nigel Schoﬁeld, Peter Bacon, Sid Cowans, Simon Holland, Stuart Nicholson Photography All photographs provided by artists and their labels. Editor Simon Holland Design & Artwork Don Ward at Triple Eight Graphics Ltd. (contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
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home run. Brimming over with melody, it’s a true Victorian story of a Derbyshire girl trying to stay out of the workhouse with the kindness of strangers. A beautiful piece, it’s one that other singers will certainly covet. There must be something in the water in Derbyshire. First it gave the folk world the mighty John Tams, and more recently the hugely talented Bella Hardy. And now, in short order, comes yet another singer and songwriter, Lucy Ward. Still only 20, she’s already been a BBC Young Folk Award finalist, and on the evidence of her debut album, has a long and glittering career ahead. There’s no hesitation in this disc; instead she approaches everything with the assurance of a very seasoned performer. Although she can be lighthearted, as on the sly roar of Maids When You’re Young, she seems far more comfortable with darker material, whether she’s drawing from the tradition (as in The Unfortunate Lass, the aching tale of a girl given a sexually transmitted disease then abandoned) or from her own pen, like the enigmatic Julia, which seems to percolate with secrets, or F For Love, about the fine line between pleasure and pain in love.
There’s an easy warmth to her delivery of the song – and of others – that’s reminiscent of the intimacy Kate Rusby can generate. It’s a rare talent, one that draws in the listener. That’s bolstered by the production work of Megson’s Stu Hanna, who also contributes several instruments. The arrangements are kept small so that the focus remains squarely on Ward’s endearing voice. There’s nothing pure about it, but her artlessness is beautiful and completely natural. Lucy Ward is someone who has everything going for her. She’s started very strongly with this album, and if she can maintain the momentum, she’s going to become a household folk name in a very short time. Chris Nickson
Her choice of old songs veers away from the standard repertoire, with the exception of a very raw cover of The Two Sisters. Instead she sets a verse attributed to Anne Boleyn to music for Death (Rock Me To Sleep) and finds the obscure tale of The Fairy Boy. A Stitch In Time becomes an ideal feminist anthem, a revenge song to stir the stoutest spirit. She’s an excellent interpreter, but the real revelation comes in her own work, which shows a deep compassion, as well as a very mature ear for melody. Bricks And Love is death and heartbreak, but without ever becoming maudlin, Adelphi buzzes with an ideal of perfection, but it’s on the curiouslytitled Alice In The Bacon Box that she strikes an out of the park
Lucy Ward Adelphi Has to Fly
Martin Carthy has never been one for fuss. He abhors the celebrity culture and gets very uneasy when people start telling him how brilliant he is and what big fans they are; but as he reached the momentous milestone of his 70th birthday there was no stopping the shower of accolades heaped on him from various corners of the globe…
Few can deliver a big ballad as compellingly as Carthy, whose Famous Flower Of Serving Men – whichever of the two versions he’s recorded you go for – remains a solid gold classic in anybody’s book. Factor in, too, his virtuoso guitar performance on Siege Of Delhi or the guts of his own formidable protest song The Dominion Of The Sword, one of his few attempts at songwriting. And then, of course, there’s Lord Franklin, adopted and adapted by Bob Dylan for Bob Dylan’s Dream and Scarborough Fair, which Dylan turned into Girl From The North Country and which Simon & Garfunkel turned into a career.
“I have been tremendously lucky and privileged to have been able to play music and meet and work with the people I have done and I am immensely grateful for it all,” he says with characteristic self-effacement while - with typical humility - he offered much of the spotlight to daughter Eliza Carthy, long-time compadre Dave Swarbrick and special guest Tom Robinson at the birthday show in his honour at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. Yet, as much as he wants to deflect all the plaudits there’s no escaping the incredible influence he has wielded over folk music during the last 50 years. A roll call of the bands he’s played in would not only exhaust most of the page, it includes some of the seminal outfits in the genre, most famously the great singing family The Watersons, folk-rock pioneers Steeleye Span and Albion Country Band, the adventurous Brass Monkey and the band who’ve put English folk music into a new multicultural idiom, The Imagined Village. All this before you even start analysing those early days when he first started blending his distinctive, percussive guitar style with the explosive fiddle of Dave Swarbrick on innovative arrangements of tracks like Sovay and Byker Hill. When Carthy and Swarb improvised a dazzling introduction that eventually settled into the classic Byker Hill, the QEH erupted and the two mature chaps on stage could have been a couple of incorrigible young gunslingers ripping up the rule book once again. 2
Navigator NAVIGATOR047 www.lucywardsings.com
Topic mark Martin Carthy’s 70th birthday with the 34-track compilation Essential. Inevitably it can’t tell the whole of Carthy’s story but it tells quite a big chunk of it…and in what has been a long, glorious and eventful career, one hearty chunk of Carthy is considerably greater than several box sets of most other artists. Colin Irwin
Martin Carthy - Essential Topic Records TSCD770D www.watersoncarthy.com/id22.htm
rĕkˈə-nĭng (n) – a numerical summary; a calling to account; a personal evaluation; considered understanding; (arch) relearned wisdom
Steve Tilston Every new Steve Tilston album takes us on a journey: here we travel from the moorlands of Yorkshire to Spain’s El Chorro Pass, to the American South, to the Indian Ganges’ side, and to the traditional Nottamun Town precisely re-imagined as London in Spring 2011. Steve has been making albums for forty years and, unlike many artists with such an extensive track record, his powers have increased: you’re never tempted to return to those “older, stronger albums”. Instead, each album is eagerly anticipated, bringing with it advances, surprises and songs & performances that rival greatest hits like Reaching Out, The Naked Highwayman and Slipjigs And Reels. The Reckoning¸ Steve’s latest CD, is a mature album, a veritable taking stock: observations of 21st century Britain, evocations of musical heroes, personal recollections. Musically, too, the CD sees Steve using a pallet of evocative international colours. This runs through the album right to the closing track, Ijna (Davy Ji): a musical joke on several levels, an evocation of the aureate spirit of creativity and a tribute to the guitarist without whom… etc, a Golden Graham, indeed. [Davy that is – Ed.] A reckoning can be an account, a judgement, an opinion or a logical analysis; it has precision and depth. This album more than lives up to each of those definitions of its title. Within its twelve tracks are social satire, oblique tributes to musical influences, acute awareness of mythic locations and highly individual views of the power of nature, the presence of the past and the potential of the future.
Henley-on-Thames-born singer-songwriter Megan is already noted for making waves; after winning the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award at age 20 in 2009 (along with her saxophonist brother Joe), and performing at some prestigious festivals (Cambridge, Cropredy, Glastonbury) during summer 2010, her debut single What Elliott Said gained key radio playlist exposure last autumn. The followon album, now released to herald a further string of festival appearances this summer, confirms Megan’s stature as a writer who’s careful to consider the implications of her thoughts when crafting them into song. Megan’s performing and songwriting CV was launched at the age of nine, but her more recent work has been informed by subsequent life experiences including busking in various foreign lands and performing with Nepalese musicians, then, back in the UK, regularly contributing to music therapy sessions for people with learning difficulties. Megan’s innate skill in communicating with people is evident in the openhearted and readily accessible language in which her songs are couched; they may cover familiar s/s territory, sure, but their assured simplicity and directness is hard to resist. Megan’s zest for life survives despite the many challenges and difficulties she faces; her lyrics suggest that we can always derive strength from embracing an attitude of optimism which will serve to keep life in balance. Her songs typically begin with a reminder of life’s darker side, which is then countered by drawing a thoughtfully upbeat conclusion: Hope On The Horizon is a good example of this, as is Free And Focused, which examines the dilemma of personal perception (contrasting one’s own with other folks’ impressions). On Counting The Birds Megan takes a frank look at the career path she’s chosen, examining self-doubt and its
The lyrics here are some of the finest Steve has ever penned; they are supported by playing which shows why he is one of the country’s most respected guitarists. Steve is backed by probably the most empathetic band ever to record with him: they create soundscapes and musical contexts that can best be described as panoramic. Incidentally, the only guitar you hear throughout is Steve’s played live without overdubs – next time we meet I really must count his fingers! At the heart of the album is the epic Memory Lane: even more than the album’s title track, this is the song that addresses The Reckoning, a past tense encountered not with sentimental nostalgia but with a startled recognition. The song celebrates the strangeness of the familiar, the mystery of the wellknown. The past has not changed, but we have. Incisive and insightful, detailed and wide-ranging, universal and utterly English, from its tender aubade of optimism to its concluding nocturne for a lost hero, this is quintessential Tilston. Nigel Schofield
Steve Tilston The Reckoning Hubris HUB006 www.stevetilston.com
emotional rollercoaster through an affirmation of strength of character, while White Lies is a desperately tender expression of wounded heartbreak. With voice-and-guitar intimacy, The Honest Song questions what may or may not be unrequited love with painful, apprehensive but heartfelt candour. Megan invests the gentle sensory overload of Shape And Colour with an appealing freshness, while her contribution to political commentary is the title track’s defiant call-to-arms against apathy-disguised-as-freedom. Musical settings are textured yet light and airy, quite fulsome at times yet blessed with a knowing clarity that gives Megan’s supple voice plenty of room to breathe her innermost feelings out through and above the elegant instrumentation (cannily, Megan’s surrounded herself with a host of fine musicians including Steeleye violinist Peter Knight and Tull drummer Barrie Barlow). This is an impressive debut: the album of a youthful singer-songwriter who’s already come a long way but recognises there’s still some way to go yet on life’s learning curve. David Kidman
Megan Henwood Making Waves Dharma Records DHARMACD11 www.meganhenwood.com Properganda 20
the old dance school
“TRULY EXCITING, AWE INSPIRING MUSIC" ★★★★★ – SonglineS
“THE MUSIC IS MAGIC IN THEIR HANDS” ★★★★★ – MAVERICK
“ABUNDANTLY CREATIVE, ENERGETIC, FRESH AND SUPREMELY INNOVATIVE ” ★★★★★ – THE LIVING TRADITION
“CLASSICAL QUALITY, JAZZ IMAGINATION, FOLK SENSIBILITY, ROCK/ROOTS ENERGY... MASTERFUL" ★★★★ – SCOTSMAN
“TIMELESS” – BRIGHT YOUNG FOLK
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Spiers & Boden, John and Jon, are a melodeon, fiddle and singing phenomenon. They’ve been bow-scraping and bellow-blasting new life into English traditional music, first as a duo, next in the Ratcatchers, Eliza Carthy’s Band, then at the heart of their burlesque big-band Bellowhead. This magnificent 11 piece, with brass and string sections and eccentric percussion, has brought big ballads, shanties and morris dance tunes to Glastonbury, the main-stage at Womad and top of the bill at the South Bank Centre - even the Albert Hall for the Proms. As if this weren’t enough, there’s Jon Boden’s Folk Song A Day project - every day for the past year he has been posting a new performance of a folk song on the internet for anyone to listen to and download. This creative busyness springs from their rare and precious musical partnership, and through all this they have maintained their identity as Spiers & Boden, the duo. They simply play, sing and stomp, to the delight of audiences all over the country. Amazingly, it’s ten years since they started. Other bands might be content to capitalise on the anniversary of their formation by trawling through their back catalogue and quickly knocking out a ‘best of’ album. Not Spiers & Boden - with The Works they’re marking their first decade together much more creatively.
“I don’t enjoy listening back to recordings I’ve made,” Jon Boden, the fiddler with a lean and hungry look, confides. “I don’t find it a pleasurable experience at all. That’s because the first thing I want to do when I hear something is do it better. So it’s been great to have another bash at them.” By ‘them’ he means the eleven tracks that make up The Works. These include their signature anthem The PrickleEye Bush in which, after several verses of anguished disappointment, true love (with some gold and silver) at the last moment frustrates the hangman. Gooseberry Bush and Laudanum Bunches is a beautifully arranged pair of morris tunes. There’s the shanty Haul Away, which they value for its rousing chorus. “There’s space for people to join in,” Boden explains. “We like to create music the audience can be a part of.” Tom Padget is a song that puts an unusually positive perspective on begging, while Bold Sir Rylas and The Birth Of Robin Hood are fine ballads that through their narratives draw the listener into a different world. And they couldn’t omit the Rochdale Coconut Dance, a highpoint of their set, greeted with rapture by their audiences over the years. “They’re representative of what we still play today; things that have lasted through ten years of playing together,” John Properganda 20
the annual gathering of traditional musicians with tuition, classes and, crucially, sessions. “It was the first time I’d seen a real Irish session.” Boden still speaks of it with awe. “Thirty people in a pub, all playing away. All brilliant. It was mindblowing. What I wanted to do was just join in with that. But I was nowhere near the point of being able to join in with sessions of that calibre.” John Spiers went to Kings College, Cambridge, to study genetics and, because he’d been learning the piano but couldn’t afford one, acquired a piano accordion. “It immediately reminded me of all the morris tunes I’d known years before. I was dragging them from distant memories, on an instrument I was familiar with half of!” This spurred Spiers to make his first visit to a folk club; he played a few tunes, and was put in touch with a morris side - with the suggestion he get a melodeon. These are not cheap, but Cambridge Colleges are awash with bizarre bursaries and Spiers got one, “because I played the squeezebox, was halfway through a degree going nowhere, and needed an outlet. So I bought a melodeon.” Spiers, explains. The cuddly-looking melodeon maestro was once a scientist and retains a rationalist approach. “We wanted it also to reflect the whole period of time of our playing together, so we have material from all of the albums that we’ve done. Those were the two criteria.” So, for The Works, Spiers & Boden have revisited their core repertoire, taking a couple from each of their previous five albums, performing and recording each song and tune anew. “We’re much better now,” Boden muses, and it’s more than a matter of the technical expertise accrued in a decade on the job. Some of the songs Spiers & Boden play are centuries old. “We’ve got to know the stories, and what the stories mean, as well as their tunes,” says Spiers. “We know what they could sound like now. And as our careers have developed we’ve got to know lots of people who we can ask to join in.” Indeed. The list of musicians who appear reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ not only of the current folk world – Eliza Carthy, James Fagan and Nancy Kerr, Andy Cutting – but that of a generation or two ago – Pete Coe, Martin Simpson, Maddy Prior and Martin Carthy. The appearance of such luminaries demonstrates the regard in which Spiers & Boden are held, and they appreciate this. “There is something about working with people whose music and voices you grew up with,” Boden says, delightedly. “There’s a magic to this. I do get goose-bumps listening to Horn Fair with Maddy Prior singing.” Martin Simpson’s guitar and slide guitar have that effect, too. Spiers & Boden very deliberately play English tunes and sing English songs. But they have not had much to do with folk clubs. Rather, it is that less formal but more vibrant musical milieu – the pub session – that nurtured them. “I didn’t know what a folk club was until I was about 19,” protests Spiers, “and I never went to festivals.” He is, though, the son of a morris dancer, which gave him, “a somewhat narrow view of folk music-making in the British Isles.” He chuckles, as he often does. But this fired his abiding fascination with squeezeboxes. “Just the look of them. And the wonder at how they made all that noise.” Jon Boden learned classical guitar as a boy, was immersed in the music of Led Zeppelin as an adolescent, then someone gave him a Martin Carthy bootleg. He loved the singing, but it was Irish music that attracted him and he took up the uilleann pipes. The significant event of his teenage years was when, at 16, he took himself off to Ireland, on his own with a tent, for the Willie Clancy Summer School,
Jon Boden went to university in Durham to read Medieval History and Literature. He was educated, too, at the Coalpit Hotel where there was a singing session on Thursday nights. “It was fantastic. Unaccompanied, mostly big ballads, chorus songs. That’s when I got into English music seriously. I got a lift home with someone who was a big Peter Bellamy fan. He gave me tapes and that’s when I got into him.” Boden’s singing style, and his musical outlook, owe a good deal to Peter Bellamy. An extraordinary singer – his voice described as a ‘strangulated bleat’ - and concertina player from Norfolk, Bellamy appreciated the possibilities of English traditional song and created The Transports, a folk opera. Years before academics and poets such as Craig Raine cottoned on, Bellamy strived to rehabilitate Rudyard Kipling’s work and reputation. Misunderstood and neglected, Bellamy eventually took his own life. After a shaky start John Spiers’s relationship with the King’s College Bursary Melodeon grew intense. “I got an obsessive compulsion thing, quite common among people who play an unusual instrument. A job in genetics, all day at a computer doing maths for some big pharmaceutical company...didn’t appeal.” So after university Spiers went home to Oxford, busking for four hours a day, practising at home for a couple of hours then going to sessions in the evening. He ended up co-managing a shop selling squeezeboxes. Did he never tire of them? “No, I didn’t. It was brilliant.” Jon Boden went on to a course in composing for the theatre, and got a lot of work (but little money) writing and performing music for plays. In Oxford, doing a production of The White Devil, he had an evening off and, hearing there was a good session at the Elm Tree, went along. John Spiers was there: “Jon sang some songs with his fiddle and everyone went, ‘Hang on. He’s quite good. I’ve never heard anything like that.’ He’s an incredibly engaging, direct performer. I wasn’t going to but everyone said, ‘You should phone him; you should do something together.’”
Jon Boden remembers that night, too. “John came in about 10 o’clock. You can always tell when someone good walks into a session. There’s a little frisson. I thought, ‘that’s an amazing, totally individual sound: a very English feel to it’. At that time I thought Irish tunes were the biz, but thar proved English songs were the biz too. But something about John’s playing began to turn me round.” What Boden heard in the way Spiers played was, as well as the music itself, potential, scope for development. “Here was a music that hadn’t already been nailed to the wall.” The two did exchange numbers and, after about six months, began to play together. There was a divide between them: Spiers had to mould Boden into the fiddle player he needed for English tunes, and Spiers had to learn to accompany Boden’s singing. Because neither had preconceptions about the other’s field, this worked. After a couple of years of serious application, countless energetic pub sessions, and a total of four gigs, they sent off a demo to Fellside Records, where Paul Adams liked what he heard. “It was a vital moment, getting that letter,” Boden recalls. “I went down to John’s shop with it and on the way bought a bottle of champagne which we drank among the accordions. Paul said, ‘Come up here, we’ll record the album and I’ll do everything else.’ Fantastic. Because we didn’t have the savvy to go further, to get beyond those four folk club gigs.” Through And Through came out in 2001 and Spiers & Boden were nominated for Best Newcomer at the BBC Folk Awards. It must be about the only one they haven’t won. “Of all the awards it was the one we didn’t get, the Best Newcomer, that was the most important,” Boden says. “It was huge. When the second album (Bellow, 2003) came out we went from playing about 20 gigs a year to more than 100. We were very lucky: helped by the fact that we were very cheap, because we still didn’t think of making a living out of this.” It wasn’t until Eliza Carthy asked them to join the Ratcatchers that Spiers gave up the
squeezebox shop and Boden his teaching in a theatre school. Spiers & Boden bring the energy of the pub session into their set which they perform with a virtuosity won through dedication. They make a wonderful, surprisingly big sound. They are fun, exciting – and serious. “There was a time in English folk music when it seemed OK to be a bit amateurish,” Spiers observes, “which is OK if you don’t mind being seen as a bit amateurish. But you shouldn’t then complain that no one’s playing your music on the radio.” Bellowhead grew out of the ambition this implies. “Not many duos get to play last,” Boden remarks, savvily. “We wanted to headline festivals, to have that experience. Nancy Kerr and James Fagan played with us, but doubling the people didn’t double the sound. So we thought, ‘let’s add lots of people’. The effect of this was extraordinary. “I was absolutely euphoric with the music going on around,” John Spiers remembers Bellowhead playing the Rochdale Coconut Dance. “I was on stage with this incredibly noisy, incredibly brash funky band, fitting around us and the arrangement Jon had written, that we’d been playing for ages. I realised that was a good place to be!” Such daring and brio distinguishes Spiers & Boden. But The Works has a depth, a tone that, I contend, springs from their backgrounds from beyond music. “I like folk in the way I like good pop music,” Spiers says. “Good folk songs are incredibly catchy, but in a way that sounds natural rather than forced, as you sometimes get in pop music. That’s because they’ve gone through a process of evolution, with bits added or taken away by different generations. Only the ones that have made it through the process of being sung by several generations and mucked about with until they are comfortable to sing take on a proper folk element that I will recognise.” Spiers, then, takes a Darwinian view. This, I suggest, is the Theory Of The Evolution of Folk Music by the Means of Natural Selection. “I know I’ve learned lines and misremembered them. There’s no difference between that and a genetic mutation, really.” Spiers goes on. “You take that through several instances, and end up with quite a different sounding song.” He explains how
morris tunes of the same title vary considerably from village to village in Oxfordshire, and he can see how they went round a geographical loop, and which way round they went. There is plenty in English traditional music to engage the geneticist. Polly Vaughan is an English traditional song in which the poor girl gets shot by her true love who mistakes her for a swan. (Who says folk music is ‘irrelevant’?) Boden, the literary historian, draws parallels between this and the swan motif in Old Norse verse. Before his career as a performer distracted him, Boden had ambitions to be a theatre director and there is a theatricality to his singing. “I do a bit of acting with different voices for characters. But you want to be looking at the story of the song from the perspective of the audience. You’re organising everything so it’s like directing a play.” Spiers & Boden share deep learning and intellectual curiosity and bring this to their work as musicians. I doubt John Spiers has much truck with nominal determinism, but their names are illuminating. “Spiers rhymes with pliers,” he tells me. “It really means ‘spyer’, someone on the lookout.” He certainly is when it comes to tunes; he has more than 1,200 in his head. “More than I know the names of.” Boden is Germanic, meaning floor or ground. Jon Boden is grounded, creating from the floor (his stomping is a vital element of their sound). Spiers & Boden is, then, the perfect partnership of air and earth, of wind, breath, horse-hair and cat-gut that has lasted for 10 years and 1,000 gigs. John Spiers’ explanation of their success, and their plan for the future, is simpler. “It works and it’s fun,” he laughs, “and we don’t plan on stopping it any time soon.” Julian May
Spiers & Boden The Works Navigator Records NAVIGATOR046 www.spiersandboden.com
“We’re always rooting around,” Sedayne explains, “and exploring the tangled roots of the old songs and finding something still very potent and exciting. What we do is of the present, but informed by the continuity of the past. The album is folk music as folk art; it has a homespun simplicity reflecting what we feel is the essence of the tradition. On one hand it’s chunky, homemade, rough and ready, but the essence of the thing is won through long hours of dedication to our craft.”
Folk Police Recordings is a Manchester based record label with an abiding love for the more idiosyncratic reaches of the folk firmament. Earlier this year, they released the critically acclaimed Peter Bellamy tribute album, Oak, Ash, Thorn, featuring, amongst others, The Unthanks, Jon Boden, Trembling Bells and Emily Portman. Two tracks frequently picked by critics as amongst the best on the album were those by Elle Osborne and Rapunzel and Sedayne, both of whom have new albums out on Folk Police this summer. On Elle’s new album, So Slowly Slowly Got She Up, she is supported by a cast that includes Alasdair Roberts, Cath and Phil Tyler and Trembling Bells’ Alex Neilson. From haunting unaccompanied ballads to full blown electric folk, the album blends the traditional and the exploratory around the central core of Elle’s heartfelt, emotionally charged vocals. “Basically, I think of myself as a song and dance man,” Elle deadpans. She’s more effusive when describing the album: “Alex Neilson plays the best he’s ever played on anything. And I play a guitar in public for the first time.”
He adds, “We record everything live, in real time which we hope brings an improvised immediacy to an idiom which is too often over-produced and over-rehearsed. We love the spontaneity of sessions and singarounds. With us, nothing ever comes out the same way twice. This is something we find when listening to the old traditional singers, whose approach was similarly spontaneous. And the music is very much part of our domestic routine: music is as much part of our lives as baking bread - and just as traditional!”
So tell us why the world needs your music? “I don’t know how to answer that question. The world doesn’t especially need anybody’s music - the birds in the trees are song enough – yet humans will make sound. Perhaps our music needs the world rather than the other way around.”
So, two very different albums, but both made by artists who share the Folk Police ethos of mining that very rich seam of all that is wild and untamed in folk music, and truly living up to the Folk Police objective of promoting folk-brut and other rough music. Rapunzel and Sedayne’s Songs From The Barley Temple is released late summer 2011. www.folkpolicerecordings.com Bev Slattery
Meanwhile, Rapunzel and Sedaynes Song’s From The Barley Temple features traditional folk songs from both sides of the Atlantic alongside a smattering of their own compositions. Anagram freaks might notice that the album title slyly references one of their musical heroes. The duo, who are husband and wife, met through music, and found themselves singing together before they’d actually spoken to each other.
Elle Osborne So Slowly Slowly Got She Up Folk Police FPR005
THURSDAY 4TH AUGUST 2011
Doors 7.30pm Starts 8.00pm Tickets £10
KAN FEATURING BRIAN FINNEGAN & AIDAN O’ROURKE THURSDAY 8TH SEPTEMBER 2011 Doors 7.00pm Starts 8.00pm Tickets £14
FRIDAY 23RD SEPTEMBER 2011
Doors 7.30pm Starts 8.00pm Tickets £6
WEDNESDAY 28TH SEPTEMBER 2011
Doors 7.30pm Starts 8.00pm Tickets £6
ELIZA CARTHY BAND
WEDNESDAY 12TH OCTOBER 2011
Doors 7.00pm Starts 8.00pm Tickets Seated £17 Standing £15
THE OLD DANCE SCHOOL
FOLK BY THE SEA
SATURDAY 22ND OCTOBER 2011
Doors 7.00pm Starts 8.00pm Tickets £12
FRIDAY 28TH OCTOBER 2011 Doors 7.00pm Starts 8.00pm Tickets £14
Ropetackle Arts Centre
SPIERS AND BODEN
THURSDAY 3RD NOVEMBER 2011
Doors 7.00pm Starts 8.00pm Tickets £14
Properganda Ad.indd 1 PropergandaRopetackle 20
Little High Street, Shoreham-by-Sea, BN43 5EG
Box office 01273 464440 www.ropetacklecentre.co.uk
JENNIFER CROOK “I know that name” I thought when the Editor steered this one to your reviewer. “I’ve seen her featured on flyers for the Green Note in Camden, and hang on – there’s that duo album you’ve liked for ages.” Since reaching the finals of the Radio 2 Young Folk Award a few years back and that CD (Chasing The Dawn with Henry Sears) Ms Crook – initially acclaimed as an outstanding lever harp player and vocalist – has surely elevated as a soloist into “a talent with a white light future” as Musician magazine asserted. Her own-right debut, 2008’s A Few Small Things drew good notices and highlighted the quality of her songwriting skills, – rich and reflective tales of musings, memories and aspirations. Having been involved in a fair few bands and collaborations – from dance/fusion, and traditional through to soft folky pop, she’d wanted to be regarded primarily as a singer/writer and the harp now has equal billing with a Gibson guitar as the accompaniment of choice.
Jennifer Crook Merry-Go-Round Transatlantic Roots TRJC007 www.jennifercrook.com
The game plan has worked! Catching Butterflies, is the opener in this set - well, the chrysalis stage is way behind her, she’s “destined to fly” as the song has it. The once-Jenny became Jennifer and these days she wears red, paraphrasing another of her song titles, or perhaps a chic orange satin number with cocktail gloves, judging by the photo shoot for this second release. This visual makeover suggests a new sassy, sophisticated image for the Bath-based artist. The record’s potential crossover selling points, quite apart from the irresistible,
We’re so conditioned to comebacks, reissues and reunions that it’s easy to be cynical as bands who were in their heyday three decades ago line up to try and re-live their youth with one more bite of the cherry. Occasionally, though, our cynicism is knocked for six by a reunion that’s as exciting as it’s unexpected and there’ll be few more pleasant surprises this year than the news that Home Service are back in business. “It’s a big surprise to all of us,” laughs Graeme Taylor, the band’s guitarist through their glory years pioneering brass in folk-rock in the 1980s. “It only happened because I bumped into our old sound engineer (Doug Beveridge) and he mentioned he’d come across some old cassettes of us in the back of his cupboard. They turned out to be recordings he’d made from the mixing desk at Cambridge Festival in 1986, which he passed on to us. Nobody wanted to listen because we thought we’d sound embarrassing…but everyone was bowled over by them.” The upshot is the very welcome release of Home Service – Live 1986, capturing the band in full pomp at the height of their career. Fronted by the magnificent John Tams, the line-up features Steve King (keyboards), Jonathan Davie (bass) and Michael Gregory (drums), with Andy Findon, Roger Williams and the late, great trumpeter Howard Evans providing the formidable brass barrage. The recordings have scrubbed up remarkably well, admirably showcasing the band’s glorious blend of traditional material like Babylon Is Fallen and the ingenuity of matching Battle Pavanne with Peatbog Soldiers, alongside fiery political songs such as Alright Jack and Walk My Way written in the bitter political climate of Thatcher’s Britain
superior songs and engaging vocal style are the involvement of Boo Hewerdine as producer, musician and co-writer on two cuts (“I’d known Boo for some years and he suggested I record at Mark Freegard’s studio in Glasgow”) plus Eddi Reader as back-up vocalist on three tracks. The recording benefits from the contributions of Crook’s other musicians, who include Bethany Porter on cello from the previous album and the incomparable Darrell Scott from Kentucky on mandolin and dobro who opines “I see the depth in Jennifer’s songwriting – hope and experience, (she’s) very strong in both.” Darrell’s judgement can’t be faulted – here are literate, thoroughly fresh takes on meditative regret – “I’m kicking through the leaves on Lovers Lane alone” from Come September or the exhilaration of a hopedfor encounter “It might be the one you’ve been holding for years that suddenly comes into sight.” (Coming Down The Road) Elsewhere are tuneful ruminations on the vagaries of fate and speculations on love and loss allied to supple persuasive melodies. With no studio trickery in sight, Boo’s trademark tight-but-loose production values display a shrewd restraint. Even in these days of Jessie J and Rihanna, there IS a market for erudite, beautiful music like this and Jennifer makes a handsome case for it with this adroit offering. My world seems a better place today! Clive Pownceby
in the aftermath of the mining strike. Originally an offshoot from Ashley Hutchings’ Albion Band when Bill Caddick shared vocal duties with John Tams, Home Service were rampaging pioneers of brass with electric folk in a forthright and distinctive style that hasn’t really been replicated since. “I don’t think even we realized what an important and unique job we were doing at the time,” says Taylor. “There was so much strength in the band. We played two sets at Cambridge that weekend and I remember it was incredibly windy and the manuscripts kept blowing off the music stands.” They’re so fired up by it all that Home Service are now launching a fully-fledged comeback, with Paul Archibald replacing trumpeter Howard Evans, who died in 2006. They make an emotional return to Cambridge this year and are ablaze with plans to release a brand new album of fresh material in 2012. “We couldn’t afford to keep it on the road before, but it feels the time is right now,” says Taylor. “We’ve got so many new ideas...” Colin Irwin
Home Service Live 1986 Fledg’ling FLED3085 www.homeserviceband.co.uk Properganda20 20 Properganda
Dave Stewart Organic, rootsy and collaborative, this smells like a classic album from Dave Stewart. He has the pop chops from leading the Eurythmics. The rock credibility from working with the likes of Mick Jagger and Tom Petty. An impressive contacts list ranging from Ringo Starr to Joss Stone. Yet Dave Stewart has always adored the pure, roots music that flows from the southern states and heartland America. And now he’s recorded precisely the kind of bluesy, country-fried album he’s always loved listening to. Conceived when Stewart was grounded by 2010’s ash cloud, fuelled by a meeting of minds with Nashville nobility, Martina and John McBride, and recorded in a burst of energy over five days and nights, The Blackbird Diaries feels like a genuine landmark in a lifetime of overachievement. In many ways this is a glorious kick up the posterior for those who thought Stewart’s golden days of creativity were behind him. From the terrific opening number, So Long Ago, with its chunky rhythms, immense guitar work from Dan Dugmore, and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink celebratory feel, right through to the uptempo fun of the pop-country closing track, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, as the instruments ping, spin and mesh together, this is Stewart and friends having a good time. And it has Nashville running right through it like a stick of rock. The baker’s dozen of songs also boast some rather wonderful friends joining in. Bob Dylan co-wrote Worth The Waiting For, a wistful, yet optimistic number about the future, with gospelly backing vocals and Stewart sounding like Tom Petty in Memphis. Stevie Nicks duets with Stewart on Cheaper Than Free, their voices hugging intimately and unhurriedly. Fast-
rising country-folk duo The Secret Sisters bring their heavenly harmonies to the party twice: on the dreamy One Way Ticket To The Moon, with its atmospheric accordion, and on Country Wine, where Stewart chills out against a bed of classic steel guitar. And on the yearning, regretful Bulletproof Vest, Colbie Caillat and Stewart sing of resisting love across punchy drums and Edge-like guitar chords. The swirling Hammond organ of Mike Rojas and country fiddle of Ann Marie Calhoun combine beautifully in Magic In The Blues, while Beast Called Fame is powered by Rojas on honky tonk piano. The Well is a nod to Dylan in his country period, building moodily, and The Gypsy Girl And Me really swings as it jokily evokes the France of Chocolat and the Impressionists. But the undoubted highlight is, appropriately, Stewart’s duet with the severely underrated (in Britain at least) Martina McBride, on All Messed Up. Recorded, like the rest of the album, in the Blackbird Studios owned by McBride and husband John (who also coDave Stewart produces), this epic ballad is The Blackbird slowed right down, their sweet and Diaries weathered vocals complementing Proper Records each other, even as they tentatively PRPCE086 lament lost love.
davestewart.com And listening to it will surely make surfdog.com you smile… Helen M Jerome theblackbirddiaries.com
You may know Amy LaVere from her cameo as rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line (2005). Or perhaps her role in Black Snake Moan the following year. But when she’s not dabbling as an actress, this Lousiana-born singer, songwriter and upright bass player is busy ploughing her own unique musical furrow. After a peripatetic childhood, LaVere’s family settled in Detroit, where she played drums in a punk rock band called Last Minute. On graduating, she drifted south again, settling in Nashville, where she formed a group called the Gabe & Amy Show with her then husband Gabe Kudela. Their marriage broke down in 2003, after which she started her solo career, exploring leftfield country, blues and southern soul with a touch of jazz, and a penchant for the kind of ‘creepy ballads’ her mother had loved.
Amy LaVere Stranger Me Archer Records ARR 31936 www.amylavere.com
LaVere’s debut album This World Is Not My Home was released in 2006 to widespread acclaim and followed up swiftly by Anchors & Anvils, with production by the legendary Jim Dickinson (The Rolling Stones, Ry Cooder, Aretha Franklin...). However, the breakdown of her relationship with her partner, drummer and occasional songwriter Paul Taylor, and the death of Dickinson have delayed the arrival of her third album Stranger Me. It’s her most adventurous record to date and
despite its accessibility, there are dark lyrical undercurrents and dissonant elements in the arrangements. Her sleepy, husky drawl sounds more confident than ever, there are more original songs and the backing musicians are all new apart from violinist Bobby Furgo and Taylor, who was called back to contribute after the recording had started without him. As LaVere explains: “You can’t replace the magic that comes from all those years of playing together.” The swampy, blues-tinged Red Banks is a gothic, ambiguous murder ballad cut from a cloth quite similar to Killing Him on her last album. Great Divide has a skipping, jazzy vibe to it and Often Happens features some tasty but restrained guitar work by David Cousar, who also really shines on Tricky Heart. There’s also a playfully skewed take on Captain Beefheart’s oddball love song Candle Mambo. Throughout, there are atmospheric contributions by Rick Steff on an array of unconventional instruments, including theremin, toy piano and Buddha box – an ambient sound device. Flautist/ saxophonist Clint Maedgen of New Orleans’ renowned Preservation Hall Band supplies intriguing horn arrangements. And it seems as though producer Craig Silvey (who engineered Arcade Fire’s Grammy-winning album The Suburbs) is a fitting successor to Dickinson. Jon Lusk Properganda 20
At Sidmouth Folk Festival this year a selection of leading performers – among them Martin and Eliza Carthy, Damien Barber, Jim Moray, Jackie Oates, Jim Causley, Jez Lowe and James Fagan – gather together to stage one of the most momentous works of the British folk revival, Peter Bellamy’s The Transports. The classic ballad opera originated as a landmark album in 1977 on the Free Reed label, after Bellamy had painstakingly constructed the agonising story of Henry Cabell and Susannah Holmes, East Anglian teenagers driven to petty crime by extreme poverty who found themselves among the first fleet of convicts transported to Australia in 1787. The events and the characters are all real and, after devoting much intensive research into their backgrounds, Bellamy set it all to music and then assembled the cream of the folk artists of the day to bring it all to life. With Bellamy himself playing the role of narrator, Norma Waterson, June Tabor, Cyril Tawney, A.L. Lloyd, Nic Jones and Dave Swarbrick were among the stellar cast on the original album, while there was a re-make in 2004 as part of Free Reed’s Silver Edition that involved Fairport Convention, Witches Of Elswick and Cockersdale. It was Bellamy’s most ambitious project and in many ways his crowning glory. He was an extrovert singer and, for some, a controversial personality, but nearly 35 years on from its initial release The Transports maintains all its emotional depth and Bellamy’s achievement seems all the more incredible. The expense and practical
problems of staging such an expansive musical requiring a large cast meant it has been rarely performed, yet The Transports remains one of the folk revival’s keynote works, even if it wasn’t fully appreciated at the time, with songs like Black & Bitter Night and Us Poor Fellows passing into common usage. In 1991 - at his lowest ebb when his flamboyant, eccentric style was widely considered passé and mannered and gigs were scarce - Peter Bellamy took his own life. If only he could have weathered the storm he’d have witnessed a new generation emerging to venerate his work with several talented young artists – most obviously Jon Boden and Damien Barber – not only clearly influenced by him but publicly acknowledging their debt to a richly talented and highly individual man of extraordinary vision. Not just for The Transports, but for his many other formidable albums, including a magnificent series setting Kipling’s poetry to music. You’d like to think that somehow, somewhere Bellamy will be proudly looking on as The Transports sets sail again at Sidmouth…while a new generation can share its wonders as that trailblazing original album surfaces once more. Colin Irwin
Various The Transports Free Reed - FRDCD2122 www.thetransports.com
Confessions Of A Nice Girl Katie Armiger
the brand new album from the wonderful Katie Armiger. Featuring the US hit singles Kiss Me Now, Leaving Home and Best Song Ever.
T D 14 July CCA Glasgow
16 July Civic eatre Bedford 17 July Greystones Sheﬃeld 18 July St Bonaventure's Bristol 19 July Norwich Arts Centre
Yeovil, Octagon Theatre
Swindon, Wyvern Theatre
Crawley, The Hawth Theatre 01293 553636
Reading Concert Hall
10th Sept Malvern, Forum Theatre
23-24 July Summertyne Festival Gateshead
follow me down
e new album from the Grammy nominated bluegrass prodigy is out now
16th Sept Shrewsbury, Theatre Severn 01743 281281 17th Sept Aberystwyth Arts Centre
18th Sept Llandudno, Venue Cymru
21st Sept Stoke on Trent, Victoria Hall
0844 871 7649
22nd Sept Aylesbury Waterside Theatre 0844 871 7607 23rd Sept York Barbican Centre
0844 854 2757
24th Sept Burnley Mechanics
25th Sept Ulverston, Coronation Hall
october 2011 21st Oct
20 July Bush Hall London 22 July e Glee Club Nottingham
0118 960 60 60
The Lighthouse Theatre 22nd Oct
Cliffs Pavilion 23rd Oct
0844 871 7651
The Marlowe Theatre 27th Oct
Assembly Hall Theatre
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Marcin Wasilewski Trio - Faithful 275 9105 Each of pianist Marcin Wasilewski’s three albums for ECM has marked a step closer to the kind of artistic maturity and creativity that is the preserve of the truly great jazz musicians, both past and present. Even as a member of Tomasz Stanko’s quartet, destiny seemed to be beckoning, vindicated by his subsequent growth as an artist and diligent refinement of his technique that has produced a precisely focused lyricism of such depth that makes this album length statement a profound experience. Lee Konitz/Brad Mehldau/Charlie Haden/Paul Motian - Live at Birdland 273 6987 Konitz, now 83 years of age, has long since given up such irksome tasks as rehearsing, even when thrown together in ad hoc ensembles for the purposes of recording. This album was no exception, a series of on-the-edge jams on numbers such as Lover Man, Lullaby Of Birdland, Solar, I Fall In Love Too Easily, You Stepped Out Of A Dream and Oleo. All familiar enough fare, but with a group of musicians whose combined CVs make a pretty good overview of contemporary jazz, then the results are truly inspired. Craig Taborn - Avenging Angel 276 3637 For those familiar with pianist Craig Taborn’s albums on New York’s Thirsty Ear label, this all-acoustic solo album will come as a surprise. Although he has previously appeared on the ECM label as a sideman on albums by Roscoe Mitchell, Michael Formanek, Evan Parker and David Torn, this is his first for the label under his own name. Produced by Manfred Eicher, this spontaneously conceived series of musical vignettes is a careful exposition of the solo pianist’s art where clarity of musical ideas and transparency of texture allow a brief glimpse of the inner man. Marilyn Mazur - Celestial Circle 276 8056 The presence of percussionist/drummer Marilyn Mazur has always been a breath of fresh air in jazz, whether with her own groups or those of others (most notably with Miles Davis in the 1980s and Jan Garbarek with whom she collaborated for fourteen years from 1991). This album is the recording debut of her Celestial Circle group, which began life in 2008 and has toured on and off since then. Here is music of beauty, charm and elegance – but then, how could it be otherwise with John Taylor on piano, Anders Jormin on bass and the highly regarded Swedish (Danish-based) vocalist Josefine Cronholm? Ricardo Villalobos/Max Loderbauer - Re: ECM 275 8681 Here is a glimpse into the future, a daring sonic collaboration between two DJs (there ought to be a better term for what has become the highly sophisticated art of manipulating sound) interacting with ECM recordings by the likes of Christian Wallumrød, Alexander Knaifel, John Abercrombie, Miroslav Vitous, Louis Sclavis, Arvo Pärt and more. Spread over two CDs, this music bears eloquent testimony to the fact there is no “final mix,” just an infinite number of possibilities as Villalobos and Loderbauer select and reorder the flow of audio data, colouring it with their own electronic expressionism. Magic. Wolfert Brederode Quartet - Post Scriptum 276 4500 This is the second album by the Dutch pianist Wolfert Brederode, in essence a captivating collaboration with the Swiss clarinettist Claudio Puntin with Samuel Rohrer on drums and the distinguished young Norwegian bassist Mats Eilertsen. It is music of great poise and almost classical elegance that seeks to make its effect discursively, music that leads you through quiet rural by-ways rather than congested urban highways and speaks softly in pastoral outdoor moods.
Amina Alaoui - Arco Iris 276 3758 Vocalist Amina Alaoui’s debut as a leader on the ECM label (she previously appeared on Jon Balke’s Siwan) marks the arrival of an important talent who combines the spontaneity of jazz with lyrical Mediterranean idioms of fado, flamenco and Al Andalusi. Rooted in the Iberian peninsular yet embracing the Arabic influences from across the water in Morocco, Alaoui is shaped by musical tradition yet brilliantly abstracts them into her own sound world of the present. It is music that speaks with the depth of ages yet resonates in the present, gently compelling music of unexpected depth. Stuart Nicholson Properganda 20
FLED 3085 ON CD & DL
the greatest rock-folk ensemble of all back where they belong
FLED 3014 ON CD & DL
FLED 3015 ON CD & DL
UK distribution by those nice chaps at Proper if you want to find out more Freephone HEAVEN 284 or visit: www.thebeesknees.com www.homeserviceband.co.uk
SPIERS & BODEN The Works
LUCY WARD Adelphi Has To Fly
“Everything here comes up fresh, lively, natural and full-bodied” fROOTS “The coolest of the current folk crop” ★★★★ EVENING STANDARD “Songs of life affirming exuberance” ★★★★ SONGLINES “The brilliant British duo” INDEPENDENT
BELLA HARDY Songs Lost & Stolen “One of Britain’s most expressive young singers” ★★★★ MOJO “An impressive set” ★★★★ GUARDIAN “Bella’s first all-originals album is a winner” ★★★★ SONGLINES “Marvellously assured” ★★★★ FINANCIAL TIMES
“One of Brit folk’s most vibrant and forthright new young talents” MOJO “There’s so much to like and admire here” fROOTS “Confirms the promise that made her a BBC Young Folk Award contender” UNCUT
NAVIGATOR RECORDS 2011 Sampler Tracks from all our current releases are available on this special low price sampler. Other artists featured include Bellowhead, Heidi Talbot, Alasdair Roberts, Megson, Nancy Kerr & James Fagan, Inge Thomson and Jon Boden
Photo David Forman
The Impossible Gentlemen So, the story goes that Mike Walker, from Salford, Greater Manchester, played with Adam Nussbaum, of Norwalk, Connecticut, in a project called Ropes at the Manchester Jazz Festival in 2009, and they wanted to play together again. “Hey, let’s form a band.” Those words, said in that post-gig euphoria, can be the start of a long and tortuous road before the inevitable slushy slide into a dark, muddy ditch. But, on this occasion, Nussbaum’s thoughts turned to a player he had often worked with, the man with the all-wooden electric bass and that unmistakeable elastic sound: Steve Swallow, of Fair Lawn, New Jersey. And Walker’s thoughts turned to a young pianist who, although he had passed through Manchester, studying classical music at Chetham’s College, Walker had never played with: Gwilym Simcock, from Bangor, Gwynedd. And the result has been a succession of ever more bracing twists and turns upward to the exhilarating high roads and breathtaking views. They started, these peaks of delight, to be explored back in the spring of 2010, and those of us who heard them on that tour knew before the first tune had ended: this was one of the most invigorating and satisfying collaborations for a very, very long time. And one destined for greatness. Walker has always been a favourite of mine, with elements of both Pat Metheny and John Scofield in his playing, but over the years – and he has been active on the UK scene since the late 80s – he has developed a wonderfully rounded and personal voice – or should that be voices, since he is a master of a whole range of sounds from delicately jazzy to powerfully rocking. Simcock is a much more recent arrival on the scene, and has quickly and justifiably risen to be considered one of the most complete pianists in the business. He thrives in this company and there is clearly a magical musical connection with Walker as the two Brits spark off each other. And what of the Americans? Well, Steve Swallow has the most unmistakeable bass sound in jazz and it gives every band he plays in – from the Carla Bley Big Band to his own modest-sized combos – a lithe grounding and a springy rhythm. Adam
Nussbaum is a drummer of the incorrigible kind, a hugely talented player with an expansive style, and the ability to move from a whisper to a depth-charge thump with perfect logic. The music on this disc will be in large part familiar from that 2010 tour – Walker’s lovely Clockmaker and Wallenda’s Last Stand, Simcock’s You Won’t Be Around To See It and Gwil’s Song – and the performances have benefited from some live development before being caught in digits in the studio. Their ebb and flow, the slow builds to intensity, the gentle settling from emotion to resolution – all are brilliantly realised. The opener, Laugh Lines, really grabs the listener by the scruff of the neck, the head a knotty tune negotiated by Walker and Simcock in perfect unison, with Swallow and Nussbaum setting a blistering pace. Another real triumph is yet another Mike Walker song, When You Hold Her. It opens with a delicately controlled solo piano intro, almost tentative at first but quickly growing in romantic confidence - Simcock’s classical training to the fore, here - before the heart-achingly lovely tune is first stated by Swallow high up on the bass, and then by Walker on acoustic-sounding guitar, Nussbaum brushing up the beat behind. This would all be plenty of pleasure for one track, but then the whole thing begins to build into a stately anthem of sorts, Walker turning in a sustain-heavy electric solo that has the hairs on the back of the neck standing within the first few bars, and then builds and builds from there. And just listen to how Simcock, Swallow and Nussbaum support the solo so perfectly, aiding the restatement of the theme and the denouement with equal tenderness and understated artistry. The band originally toured as the Gwilym Simcock Quartet, presumably to take advantage of the pianist’s higher present profile. The Impossible Gentlemen is a more accurate reflection of this four-way band of equals, equals who clearly get such a buzz from playing together. The particular joy in hearing Mike Walker finally getting some of the attention and acclaim he so thoroughly deserves, both as player and composer, is the final clincher. My dream is that one day they’ll play the Village Vanguard - and that I’ll be there in the ecstatic audience. In the meantime there is this easy contender for album of the year. Peter Bacon
The Impossible Gentlemen The Impossible Gentlemen Basho Records SRCD362 www.impossiblegentlemen.com Properganda 20
The ‘Anglo-African blues’ partnership between guitarist Justin Adams and Gambian ritti (one-stringed fiddle) player and singer Juldeh Camara is one of the more unlikely success stories of what used to be called ‘world fusion.’ Adams made a name for himself with his solo debut Desert Road (2000) and has also produced two albums by Tinariwen, as well as working extensively with Robert Plant, Jah Wobble, Natacha Atlas and Lo’Jo. When Camara heard Adams’ disc, he got in touch and eventually the two met, discovering a musical chemistry based on their common interest in the roots of the blues. While Camara is steeped in Gambia’s griot tradition, having inherited the profession of music from his father (a marabout or spiritual healer), Adams is equally influenced by the sounds of the Mississippi delta and the ‘desert blues’ of the Sahel. They meet half way at a fiery musical crossroads, creating an original fusion that seems to have reached a new level of alchemy on their third album together. Perhaps reflecting that, they’ve joined their first names together and are now billed as JuJu, a term also referring to West African witchcraft or ‘black magic’. “We just came together, plugged in and played,” says Adams of the one-take live-inthe studio sessions at Real World Studios that became In Trance. While their previous two albums seemed to jump about stylistically, with influences such as Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters and Ali Farka Touré all easily and
discretely identifiable, this sounds more like a band that has really found its own voice. The pieces are also significantly longer, with three nudging the quarter-hour mark. Two of these - Mariama Trance and Deep Sahara were released last year on the EP The Trance Sessions, and feature former Shriekback ‘rhythmatist’ Martyn Barker on clouting drums and cahon. Elsewhere, the explosive percussionist/drummer Dave Smith joins forces with bassist Billy Fuller while Adams’ effectsladen guitar and Camara’s howling ritti and desert-dry vocals ride above them. Setting the tone for this largely upbeat record, Nightwalk is a propulsive intro with more than a whiff of Led Zeppelin about it. There’s respite from the insistent grooves on Waide Nayde, a sparser piece brilliantly anchored by the rhythm section, and the slinky lope of Jombajo. But the epic Djanfa Moja is a sustained and brutal rhythmic assault, marrying Morrocan trance and dub effects to intensely kinetic effect. Jon Lusk
Juju - Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara In Trance Real World CDRW185 www.realworldrecords.com /artists/justin-adams/
Jamiroquai drummer Mykaell Riley could produce some solid but organic beats, and the Horns of Negus brass section could add further width and grandeur to the already cinematically expansive picture.
When Francis Falceto’s Ethiopiques compilation CDs first started to grab the attention of everyone from Brian Eno to Elvis Costello, I wondered how long it would be before a new band came along who would reshape this eerie, distinct take on jazz and funk into a contemporary sound. Well, it wasn’t too long before Dub Colossus made their presence felt with their debut album A Town Called Addis in 2008. Deftly integrating dub and rock elements with distinctive Ethiopian grooves, this collective of British and Ethiopian musicians made it perfectly clear that you don’t have to be a tribute band to pay homage to the music of another time and place. The best way to do that is to put your own spin on what has inspired you, and try to make the end result have a relevance in relation to the music of today. And now here’s their second album, Addis Through The Looking Glass. If anything, it’s an even more accomplished and refined achievement. Once again the band’s founding member, Nick Page, went to Addis Ababa to do much of the recording with local musicians. Then it was back to London with the recordings so that the likes of sometime Steel Pulse and 20
Another addition to the line up was pianist Samuel Yirga whose bold, unpredictable playing occasionally reminds me of Mike Garson’s work on David Bowie’s classic Aladdin Sane album. But perhaps the most remarkable achievement here is that, with so many first-class musicians all bringing their particular style to the table, the end result is both dizzyingly diverse and wholly cohesive. Even a sprightly but respectful cover of the Althea & Donna reggae/pop classic Uptown Top Ranking sits comfortably amongst the more experimental tracks, like the belle of the ball, elegantly confident that it retains the strutting spirit of the original while also having enough Addis Ababa flavour to fit right in. But it’s the punchy up-tempo Guagigna with its dramatic spymovie piano motif, and sensuous yet assertive lead vocal from Sintayehun “Mimi” Zenebe, which is the stand-out track for me. It’s strongly influenced by Ethiopian legend Mahmoud Ahmed yet doesn’t for one second sound retrogressive. This is a richly coloured, constantly changing, elaborate tapestry of an album which gets better with every play.
Addis Through The Looking Glass Real World Records CDRW183 www.dubcolossus.org
World Music Network The Rough Guide To The Best Music You’ve Never Heard Ever got a free t-shirt with an album? Well, here’s a new twist on an old marketing ploy. ‘T-music’ is World Music Network’s novel and colourful way of drawing attention to its impressive back catalogue. Choose from one of seven eye-catching t-shirt designs (trumpet, kora, acoustic guitar, piano, bongos, sitar and banjo) by Spanish artist Xavier Salvador and you’ll also receive a download code that accesses this cracking 30-track MP3 compilation. Just in time for ... err, next year’s WOMAD festival.
a strong Latin feel, as you might expect from Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony. From there, the groove migrates north to The Horn Of Africa, with the title track of Somali-Italian Saba Anglana’s debut album making for an unexpectedly inspired stepping stone into Europe; the swinging Hungarian Gypsy music of Bela Lakatos is next. We move on to the more stripped back Russian Gypsy vibe of Kolpakov Duo, and then a lovely waltz by Parisian manouche/musette quartet Beltuner. You simply don’t have any reason to reach for the skip button with programming this good.
The Best Music You’ve Never Heard is a globetrotting résumé of World Music Network releases since they began their Rough Guide series in 1994. Happily, it also draws on their subsequently established Introducing and Riverboat labels, which took them beyond licensing, into a significant A&R role. There are few corners of the world this selection doesn’t cover, and what distinguishes it from many similar releases (apart from the t-shirt) is the close attention paid to the flow of musical themes in the sequencing – crucial to any good compilation. This makes it more than the sum of its parts, and has the added effect of making you want to go back to (or seek out) many of the original albums you might have overlooked.
Asian artists are a routinely under-represented side of world music, but happily there’s room here for the ‘new wave Bhangra’ of Achanak and the Mongolian grasslands ambience of Hanggai. From India, there’s Debashish Bhattacharya’s gorgeous slide guitar experiments and the understated, folky charm of Paban Das Baul, which sounds just right next to the Afghan Sufi singer and harmonium player Ahmad Sham. His work is very similar to qawwali from neighbouring Pakistan – a reminder that music knows no borders. Jon Lusk
Take, for example, the way the astonishingly authentic salsa dura of Yoko La Japonesa’s La Pastillita proves the perfect introduction to Colombiafrica’s inspired champeta fusion of Colombian and Congolese sounds on Jaloux Jaloux. This in turn leads to Mabulu – an African band with
Various Artists The Rough Guide To The Best Music You’ve Never Heard Rough Guide, - RGNET908 www.worldmusic.net
World Music Network presents
T-Shirt includes 30-Track MP3 album
World Music Network is proud to launch a unique range of musical instrument T-Shirts. Each of the four beautiful images has been designed by the renowned Catalan artist Xavier Salvador, and captures the true essence of each instrument.
Acoustic Guitar: Light Blue
Piano: Olive Green
All t-shirts are available in small, medium, large and extra large sizes Sitar, Bongos and Banjo T-Shirts also available
World Music Network, 6 Abbeville Mews, 88 Clapham Park Road, London, SW4 7BX T. +44 (0)20 7498 5252 F +44 (0)20 7498 5353 E. firstname.lastname@example.org W www.worldmusic.net Properganda 20
0121 780 3333
FOLK, WORLD, ROOTS SepTembeR – DecembeR 2011 Friday 2 September, 7.30pm
Ron Sexsmith £20*
Thursday 3 November, 8pm
Adrian edmondson & The bad Shepherds £18.50*
Thursday 6 October, 8pm
crosby & Nash £45, £55*
Sunday 13 November, 7.30pm
An evening with Janis Ian £22.50*
Sunday 9 October, 7.30pm
Ralph mcTell Somewhere Down The Road... continues £18.50*
Sunday 16 October, 8pm
cara Dillon £18*
search ‘Town Hall Symphony Hall’ Supported by 22
Town Hall renovation also funded by
Wednesday 30 November, 7.30pm
port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends £19.50*
Monday 5 December, 7.30pm
Tommy emmanuel £20*
@THSHBirmingham *£2 fee per transaction will be charged on all bookings except purchases made in person at Town Hall or Symphony Hall Box Office.
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Steve Knightley Live In Somerset
Blazin’ Fiddles Thursday Night In The Caley
Hands On Music - HMCD33
Blazin Records - BRCD2011
As half of Show of Hands, Steve Knightley has achieved some major folk success. But solo work brings out the more thoughtful aspects of his personality and allows him to indulge in some covers (Dick Gaughan, Springsteen and a gloriously impressionistic take on Dylan’s The Girl From The North Country).
What’s not to enjoy in a bunch of manic Scots fiddlers powering through tunes traditional and modern? The lineup might have changed a little but the spirit remains very much intact, here celebrating sessions at the Caledonian Hotel in Beauly.
But the bulk of the album is dedicated to his own admirable songwriting and the strength of Coming Home and the now-classic Country Life. Years of touring have made him into a powerful performer, especially in front of this almost-hometown crowd, and he’s wise enough not to clutter what he does so well with too many accompanists, just sparing dobro, harmonica and fiddle that add colour and texture to a few pieces. The focus remains firmly on Knightley and he’s perfectly comfortable with it, not a star massaging his ego but a singer and songwriter so obviously enjoying what he does best. He’s still very much a man of the people – just listen to his persuasive lyrics – and that’s not going to change.
Oak Ash Thorn Various Artists
Folk Police Recordings - FPR003
Given their frequent pedal to the metal approach it’s easy to forget that they’re capable of great delicacy, as on Sliabh and their intricate interplay and arrangement skills, which they show on Strolkas, reimagining Strathspeys and Irish polkas. Kudos must also go to Andy Thorburn on piano and Anna Massie on guitar who provide the foundation on which the fiddle fire can really take hold. But it’s the fiddles that catch their ear, whether sounding off in unison or playing off each other to create a mighty storm of sound, enough to leave anyone breathless just from listening. It’s majestic, beautiful, and sweeps everything before it. When these Scots are coming, the dancing can’t be far behind. It’s ceilidh music, Jim, but not as we know it.
Mike Reinstein More To Be Revealed
Robb Johnson Some Recent Protest Songs
Irregular Records - IRR079
Irregular - IRR080
Few artists get to make their recording debut in their fifties, but there will be plenty hearing this who’ll be wondering where Mike Reinstein has been all their lives. The answer is mostly in teaching, but the sharpness of his songwriting and the reliable assurance of his finger picking guitar style surely make him a prime candidate to fill a glaring void in British music.
Protest songs, rallying against the hypocrisies of the day, have always formed an important part of folk tradition; they’ve also been central to Robb’s songwriting from the very start, and this latest offering assembles his most recent contributions to the genre, recorded to directly counter the “many who write in the media bleating about the absence of protest songs at the moment” …
There aren’t many singer-songwriters around with such a keen eye for so tellingly observing the absurdities of society and turning them into witty and often barbed ditties. Whether the cautionary tale of hopeless gambler Olga Wolonofsky, the reggae charge of Tungsten Not Lead, the irreverent swing of Hitler’s Little Pinkie or the galling Good Morning God, he has plenty to say and a warmly distinctive way of saying it. Fleshed out by some inventive Lee Humber percussion and additional guitar by Mick O’Connor, he’s an enlightened mix of Robb Johnson, Jake Thackray, Leon Rosselson and Jeremy Taylor.
It’s painful to recall that Peter Bellamy could barely get a gig when he took his own life in 1991. If only he’d weathered the storm, he’d have been feted as one of the most revered and influential figures of the British folk revival. Many of the new generation of Brit folk acts now playing a key role in turning Bellamy into a cult figure are involved in this remarkable 16-track album re-interpreting material from two Bellamy albums of the early 1970s - Oak, Ash & Thorn and Merlin’s Isle Of Gramarye - setting Rudyard Kipling’s poetry to music. Far from a straightforward tribute, the disciples - varying from The Unthanks and Emily Portman to Jackie Oates and Trembling Bells - are big on reinvention. Bellamist-in-chief Jon Boden delivers a weirdly wonderful Frankie’s Trade duetting with a wax cylinder recording; Tim Eriksen’s dulcimer arrangement of Poor Honest Men climaxes in a torrent of feedback; and Sam Lee samples Bob Copper and birdsong for Puck’s Song. Clever, touching and inspirational.
Pilgrims’ Way Wayside Courtesies
Even when the targets include the inevitable ones (politics, monarchy), Robb’s typically literate, quirkily individual songs genuinely entertain while appealing to the right-minded listener, whether simply punching a fist in the air at The Cream Of The Nation’s “thick, rich, white” political leadership, railing against the futility of warfare (The NorthWest Frontier) or inviting an altogether deeper and more considered response at all things desperately (Inexcusable). The chilling reflection On Maiden Castle is set into relief by the mildly scurrilous acappella glee The Man Who Poked Camilla, while Deep Down Underground posits a fate worse than death for those mismanaging bankers. There’s something here for every persuasion of protester, straight from the man whose life-motto could easily be “protest and survive”.
Fellside - FECD239 “Refreshingly different, reassuringly traditional” is the tagline this Stockportbased 3-piece uses, and that about nails the distinctive identity that Lucy Wright, Tom Kitching and Edwin Beasant have forged for themselves. This, their first full album, offers familiar songs Tarry Trousers, Adieu Lovely Nancy reinterpreted in new and affectionate ways, allied to items such as the Rudyard Kipling poem/ Peter Bellamy setting, from which the band takes its name and some more modern tune sets. They weave something quite exciting too, out of such an eclectic musical cloth – the sound of sparkiness mingled with a brisk efficiency. Lucy, handling the main vocals, sings with lyrical ease, and an authority which belies her years, Tom’s fiddle playing boasts a lightness of touch, accented on Alfaz Del Pi whilst I’d venture that there aren’t many instruments that Edwin can’t play! The quality control level here is set high, much of their appeal stemming from a youthful enthusiasm, and a delight in the material which translates to the freshness of the delivery. It’s comforting to reflect that bands such as these derive such inspiration from traditional music and song and with an average age of ooh, earlytwenty-something, time is assuredly on their side - they’re here for the long haul.
www.pilgrims-way.net Properganda 20
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Southern Tenant Folk Union Pencaitland
Charlie Dore Cheapskate Lullabyes
Johnny Rock Records - JOROCK013
Black Ink - BICD6
Borrowing their name from a multi-racial union of American sharecroppers and non-landowning tenant farmers from the 1930s, Southern Tenant Folk Union have steadily established themselves as one of the UK’s most reliable and rewarding roots outfits.
It’s hard to know quite how to categorise Charlie Dore, but once signed and feted as the UK’s Emmylou, the subsequent record company push and pull would have confused Charlie herself, let alone anyone else. Of course it’s not greatly important, except where section headings are involved and the simple truth is she’s a singer songwriter and a very good one at that, with clever, cultivated songs that slip stylistic tethers and take a wryly curious path, finding new angles to tackle common subjects and emotions.
Built around Belfast banjo man Pat McGarvey, they draw on many diverse elements of blues, old time string band music and bluegrass, with plenty of emphasis on Scottish folk to construct unusual songs of real conviction and depth, like the Radiohead-esque I Dream Of Burning Buildings, The Rights And Interests Of the Laboring Man and An Irish Airman Forsees His Death (based on a Yeats poem). McGarvey may be the driving force but songwriting credits and lead vocals are shared by five different band members, with all the variety that implies. Carrie Thomas’ The Tide is particularly appealing. Melodic, charming, considered and markedly more subtle than its predecessor The New Farming Scene, it carries seductive bite.
Avie - AV2205 This appealing “crossover” disc creatively straddles the folk and early music camps, presenting (much in the manner of the C17th) historically informed performances of traditional songs and tunes played on authentic instruments of the period. The musical kaleidoscope shifts from Elizabethan ballads that took roots in Appalachia through to boisterous barn-dance tunes deriving from rural bluegrass and Irish sources, taking in along the way shapenote hymnody, spirituals and lullabies. Like a kind of cross between the Carnival Band and the City Waites perhaps, the Apollo’s Fire ensemble conveys the unshakable spirit of the music with all due vigour, enthusiasm and bravura, if at times exhibiting a more “cultured” demeanour reflecting their technical accomplishment – an impression accentuated when the singing mixes trained and untrained voices and also whenever a cello-and-harpsichord continuo is (intermittently) utilised to underpin the instrumental complement of hammered dulcimer, fiddle, banjo, historical guitar, wooden flutes and penny whistle. More traditional folk purists may bemoan an inevitable lack of rough edges, but these attractive and spiritful performances display bags of commitment with hearts unquestionably in the right place.
www.apollosfire.org Properganda 20
The musicianship is exemplary and songwriting partner Julian Littman plays a big part in making this a very special CD. It sounds great too and whatever category you choose for it, the only one that matters is that it’s superb. One to buy, keep and treasure.
Apollo’s Fire Come To The River: An Early American Gathering
There’s the battle of wills of Milk Teeth, the drinker’s lament of A Man Walks Into A Bar, the dreams and frustrations of the Big Boned Girl, the heartbreak of Cleaning Out My House and the desire of Liontamer. Most affecting of all is Australia and the suggestion of loss that is so brilliantly framed and beautifully realised.
Dave Swarbrick & Lars Kjaedegaard Accompanying Dave Swarbrick (CD & DVD) Gonzo Media Group - HST080DVD Danish novelist and musician Lars Kjaedegaard is in a unique position to narrate this documentary portrait of the master fiddle player, since he’s accompanied Swarb on many tours of Denmark over the last thirty years. The interest of this DVD’s intimate chronicle of Swarb’s 50-year-long career is boosted by the inclusion of a whole hour’s worth of honestly-presented original concert footage of the duo on tour in Denmark in 2008, together with a companion audio CD featuring a further 53 minutes of recordings culled from the same tour. Swarb’s skill in communicating both genuine erudition and total commitment to the music is shown in his fascinating and (invariably) wry introductions, which add considerably to the charm of the brilliantly musical playing of this legendary fiddler who has survived bouts of severe illness to emerge an even stronger and more characterful performer. While Kjaedegaard himself, though never claiming to match the élan or virtuosity of Martin Carthy (Swarb’s usual collaborator as guitarist partner), nevertheless proves a sufficiently competent and welcomely undemonstrative foil for Swarb’s continually magnificent flights of invention.
David Gibb There Are Birds In My Garden
Hairpin Records - HAIRPIN001
Genticorum Nagez Rameurs
At the forefont of the new breed of gunslinging young Brit folksters, David Gibb (who’s nothing to do with the Bee Gees) is a thoroughly modern sounding 20-year-old singer/writer/multiinstrumentalist from Derbyshire who was a finalist in this year’s BBC Young Folk Awards. With the lively Pony Club band behind him - including the excellent Elly Lucas on fiddle and vocals - this second album darts fetchingly between buoyant interpretations of traditional material like Green Grow The Laurel and A Begging I Will Go, the invigorating nonsense fun of Two Dead Boys, a deeper venture into old England with Summer Is A Cumen In and weightier material of his own like Jack McGee and I’ll Fall. Lucy Ward adds guest vocals on Gospel Of The Sun, one of several tracks blessed with an irresistible chorus, and the whole album carries such refreshing zeal, energy and ebullience it’s impossible not to feel charmed and empowered by it.
Roues et Archets - RA015 For their fourth album the Québecois trio continue to refine their sound, drawing very heavily on the French-Canadian tradition that’s served them so well. There’s a small core of bands working this area, and Genticorum stand out among the best, playing and singing not only with huge skill but also plenty of good humour and with a wonderfully open spirit. On this disc all the song lyrics come from the tradition but most of the tunes are newly-forged – although you’d be hard pressed to know it. All three share lead vocals, but instrumentally it’s Pascal Gemme who’s the linchpin, not only on violin but also for his foot percussion, an integral part of the band’s (and the region’s) sound. The vitality and openness of the playing on pieces like Galope Doux Bedon is a masterclass in making folk music accessible and even the French lyrics shouldn’t deter; this is music that joyously leaps linguistic boundaries. They move from strength to strength, building on the past to create a new Québecois tradition.
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The Webb Sisters Savages
Tara Nevins Wood And Stone
Diana Jones High Atmosphere
Proper Records - PRPCD079
Sugar Hill - SHCD4064
Proper Records - PRPCD070
Charley and Hattie Webb are, yes, sisters. Born into a musical family in rural Kent, the siblings grew up singing together while learning to master a number of musical instruments. Soon they were playing guitar and harmonica, drums and bass – who needs to form a band when you and your sister can do everything?
Certain readers may already be well aware of US folk roots singer Tara Nevins from her 21-year tenure with Donna The Buffalo or her time with all-female Cajun band The Heartbeats. On Wood And Stone she steps out solo (members of The Heartbeats do join her on two tracks here), playing fiddle, guitar and accordion and singing beautifully.
Taking influences from British and American pop as well as the folk traditions they’ve made quite a name for themselves on both sides of the Atlantic. Leonard Cohen is a big fan and invited the sisters to join him as backing vocalists on his last world tour.
Produced by Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm), Wood And Stone has a sparse acoustic beauty that suggests comparisons with the likes of Diana Jones and Gillian Welch while emphasising Nevins’ unique talent in her own right. The feel is old-timey with fiddles and washboards accompanying Nevins’ strong vocal yet the original songs cover very modern themes.
Resident in Austin, Texas, Diana Jones is well placed to draw on a deep well of Americana. With this confident third album, she has cemented her reputation as one of the genre’s leading exponents, with a leftfield ‘outsider’ approach that reflects her own story of having had to reclaim her ancestry. Raised by a foster family in New York State, she eventually traced her birth family to Eastern Tennessee – a process that moulded her into the artist she is today.
Savages is a wonderful album that finds Charley and Hattie singing twelve original songs and one cover – If It Be Your Will, written by their former employer, Leonard Cohen who also guests here. Songs such as Baroque Thoughts and Dark Sky suggest a growing maturity as songwriters who understand how to build musical atmosphere. The Webb Sisters’ quiet, cultured style is developing very quickly into something utterly compelling.
Sarah Jarosz Follow Me Down Sugar Hill - SHCD4062 Having been nominated for a Grammy, released her second album and made her UK debut before turning twenty, this Texan multi-instrumentalist really seems to have arrived. Mentored by contemporary newgrass star Chris Thile among others, Jarosz has assembled a truly stellar cast of supporting musicians on Follow Me Down, including Vince Gill (backing vocals) Béla Fleck (banjo), John Leventhal (electric guitar) and Union Station virtuoso multiinstrumentalist Jerry Douglas. Her respectful covers of Bob Dylan’s Ring Them Bells on one hand and Radiohead’s The Tourist on the other offer a neat overview of her catholic tastes, and the original song writing shows a sure touch. Annabelle Lee is a dramatic bluegrass adaptation of a poem by 19th century Romantic writer Edgar Allan Poe, while Come Around could almost be a Nickel Creek song. Jarosz’s voice hovers somewhere between early Joni Mitchell and Shawn Colvin – who contributes harmony vocals on the dreamy, yearning opener Run Away – and any fears she might be outgunned by all those hired hands are laid to rest on the snappy instrumental Old Smitty.
You’ve Got It All and You’re Still Driving That Truck offer droll observations of relationships while Snowbird (a duet with Jim Lauderdale) is a sad song of loss. Tennessee River is another song that could be called “anti-love” as it explores how one person’s obsession can become a claustrophobic weight. A strong solo performer with a voice of her own, Tara Nevins is able to call on her musical past and cast it in a whole new light.
Ricky Skaggs Country Hits In A Bluegrass Style
Eilen Jewell Queen Of The Minor Key
Skaggs Family - 6989010112
Signature Sounds - SIG2039 Following swiftly on from last year’s Butcher Holler, the album where Bostonbased Eilen paid tribute to Loretta Lynn, 2011 ushers in a fresh clutch of original self-penned material, in the shape of a dozen new dark and often haunted tales. To a heady but tight soundtrack of surf guitar and upright bass alternating with yearning pedal steel atmospherics, Eilen and her crack three-piece touring band (Jerry Miller, Jason Beek and Johnny Sciascia) intersperse hard-edged garage rockabilly numbers like the title song with achingly lonesome country (Santa Fe, Over Again) and eerie Americana (That’s Where I’m Going). Eilen traces a smouldering way through a sequence of pained, typically wistful (and sometimes unexpectedly witty) lyrics that tend to exhibit more than a trace of Dylanesque irony. Eilen’s is a distinctive singing voice too, although she can’t escape that ol’ Loretta influence at times (Long Road) – and hell, on Only One, she comes across like a modern-day Billie Holiday! And a handful of special guests (organ, honking saxes and fiddle) impart a great retro feel to several tracks including the cheeky little bookending instrumentals.
High Atmosphere reunites Jones with several regular collaborators, of whom multiinstrumentalist Ketch Secor is now the most prominent, and credited as her co-producer. He’s responsible for the bulk of the slightly rustic string arrangements that adorn the likes of I Don’t Know and Little Lamb – both gorgeous, old fashioned waltzes. She’s joined by country/bluegrass stalwart Jim Lauderdale on backing vocals for two tracks, and performs the deeply autobiographical Funeral Singer as a duet with him. Tellingly, the only cover is Motherless Children, which echoes her own life history (“Orphan children see a hard time in this world.”)
Multi-award-winning country stalwart Ricky follows his recent “spiritual” album Mosaic with a sparkling new straight-ahead collection of covers. Well, covers in the sense of a bunch of Ricky’s own old country hits that he’s now revisited, reinvented and given a fresh coat of paint with a lively band featuring the likes of Cody Kilby, Andy Leftwich, Larry Eagle, Paul Brewster and Mark Fain. Flavours of various kinds of bluegrass styling replace the songs’ earlier, more mainstreamcountry backdrop, with the rootsier elements now generally much to the forefront. Heartbroke And Honey (Open That Door) have a swinging honky-tonk vibe, You’ve Got A Lover is gentle country-rock, and there’s a touch of hot-club-cumwestern-swing about Highway 40 Blues, while a purer mountain-bluegrass ambience pervades the sweet ’n’ lonesome Crying My Heart Out Over You and the old-timey romp Uncle Pen. Ricky’s on excellent form throughout, both vocally and instrumentally, and his command of a variety of authentic bluegrass idioms is both masterly and unrivalled; as a result, the whole album flows like a dream, providing a consistent and satisfyingly repeatable experience.
www.rickyskaggs.com Properganda 20
COUNTRY AMERICANA reviews Adriana Spina Never Coming Home
Signature Sounds - SIG2037
Ragged Road - RR001
The arid regions of the title seem to shimmer over this record like a heat haze as Foucault’s voice smears across it like a desert sunrise. Everything is parched, thirsty, needing – a mouthful of rain, an eye full of tears – as the bleached bones of the songs stand out like beacons and ghostly mirages swirl in the periphery.
Scotland and the US have long been musical bedfellows, the European immigrants first shaped the folk music of the New World, whilst in latter C20th and beyond, the gaze across the Atlantic turned the other way, in the thrall of rock ‘n’ roll, soul and country. It’s a tug that Adriana clearly feels, although she still has some of the careful enunciation and lingering brogue that clearly mark her home turf.
But make no mistake, this is five star material and Eric Heywood’s guitars and pedal steel with Kris Delmhorst’s cello are the hi-fidelity on a stunning set of songs that if you give them half-a-dozen plays will fit you like sweat on a blistering day and burn into your mind forever. A gem, blow the dust off and take a ride.
The Long Ryders Native Sons (Deluxe Reissue) Of all of the bands to emerge from the so-called paisley underground coming out of America in the early 80s, The Long Ryders cut a most distinct pathway back through history, reimagining Gram Parsons’ ‘cosmic American music,’ with a healthy dose of punk intent. Whilst others around them wistfully psychedelicised or quite literally murmured, Sid Griffin’s troupe mixed bold, in-yer-face country-rock with the intense love of 60’s styling and an equal case for reclaiming it as something new and vital. This sumptuous repackage really is the business. It includes the whole of the 10-5-60 mini-album, a bit of a vinyl rarity, for starters, but the original Native Sons still sounds wonderfully exciting and enticing and is enough on its own to make this essential. There’s the Byrdsian jangle of I Had A Dream and Ivory Tower and the pedal-to-the-floor Run Dusty Run and Mel Tillis’ (Sweet) Mental Revenge. It’s breathless stuff. The cover too, careful homage on the front and collected vintage instruments on the back, signified a bolt hole from the silly haircuts, make up and tizzy-synths that had hoovered up the soul of the British music scene. Alt-country before it knew it had an alt and still vital today.
www.sidgriffin.com/long-ryders Properganda 20
Either way she’s a canny songwriter with a gift for chasing a tune round an interesting corner or two and has a gilt edged voice that infuses these soft-rockers with their power. Guitarist John Grant is a capable foil, injecting an extra urgency into Way Down, providing the scenesetting-twang on the opener A Thousand Lives and riffing hard on Fallen. Adriana takes each track on its own terms, with an equal store of grace and power on demand and just enough of that Gaelic twinkle to mist the eyes when she needs it. The surging passions of Aisha and Fire In Me and the tender closer, Let You Fall, suggest that if she finds the deserved audience she’ll keep it rapt for years to come.
We have such a bumper harvest of autumn goodies due we thought a quick preview of the next issue would whet your appetite. You can expect the next issue to land sometime in September and include new albums from The Waterboys – An Appointment With Mr.Yeats, Mike Scott’s first new recordings in four years. Nick Lowe – The Old Magic, again it’s been four years since At My Age although the reissues of the classics Jesus Of Cool and Labour Of Lust have plugged that gap nicely.
Little Feat – 40 Feat, A 3CD set that includes loads of rare material including unheard recordings from the Lowell George era. Tom Russell – Mesabi, the brand new studio album, from the Tex/Mex border desert dwelling criminologist with Calexico and Lucinda Williams.
Hedy West Ballads And Songs Of The Appalachians
Prima - SID024
Jeffrey Foucault Horse Latitudes
Drink deep of the title track or Heart Of The Husk, where letters burn and “words become fire” and it seems Jeffrey is no longer the young lover in corduroy kissing in the street. But the autobiography is secondary. It’s his ability to make it all sound so convincing, although the stories are opaque, cast in couplets conjuring feelings, moods and mental pictures as remote as last night’s dreams. Even the just-voice-andguitar-intimacy of Tea And Tobacco is laden with suggestions, not revelations.
Fellside - FECD241 These three albums recorded by Hedy West originally released on Topic in the 1960s are a priceless collection of traditional American folk songs. Hedy West was not a virtuosic player on either banjo or guitar and her singing is far from fancy. Yet she is a brilliant deliverer of story songs and a great accompanist. The sound of her voice, her timing and phrasing are massively persuasive. Her choice of material is wonderful too with much of it coming straight down the family line from her grandmother’s recollections of childhood and the songs she learnt when growing up. Fans of Americana will surely find these re-releases a treasure house. Anyone, with an interest in traditional music, should really own this collection for the richness of the repertoire and the charm of the performances. I have been learning from these recordings for over forty years and will continue to keep them close for years to come.
Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham – Moments Now in a special 3 Disc set with DVD and an extra concert. Ahab – John Leckie has been working with this young band at Abbey Road for an EP of tight harmonies and Byrdsian jangle. Iarla O’Lionaird – Foxlight, new album from Afro-Celts Sound System vocalist Martin Simpson – Purpose & Grace, building on the success of Prodigal Son and Kind Letters. June Tabor & The Oyster Band – Ragged Kingdom, two of the greats of the folk scene in another breath taking collaboration, which follows June’s acclaimed Ashore album from the start of the year. Jackie Oates – Saturnine, new album. Empirical – Elements Of Truth new album and also in jazz new albums from Charles Lloyd Quartet with Greek singer Maria Farantouri and Sokratis Sinopoulos (lyra). The third in the series of live Weather Report concerts from Cologne 83 is also due in both CD and DVD formats. Fans of piano Jazz can also look out for a new solo album from Keith Jarrett and a duo album from Chick Corea and Stefano Bollani, which is the former’s first for the label in 25 years.
BELLOWHEAD SJM CON CERTS BY ARRANGEMENT WITH DMF PRESENTS
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“ONE OF THE COUNTRY’S GREATEST LIVE OUTFITS” – DAILY MIRROR Properganda 20
BLUES reviews Jimmie Vaughan Plays More Blues, Ballads & Favorites
Tab Benoit Medicine
Eric Bibb with Staffan Astner Troubadour Live
Telarc - TEL3282302
Telarc - TEL3276002
Proper - PRPCD 083
This Cajun bluesman deserves maximum respect and not just for turning out another very fine record with the able assistance of Anders Osborne. Tab is also a pilot, who has flown over the Gulf State for years, initially with his father. From the cockpit he’s observed the changes to the landscape beneath his wings and the huge environmental disasters that have beset the Mississippi Delta and surrounding area now finding a public platform through his Voice Of The Wetlands organization.
For fourteen years, Eric Bibb has been putting out highly acclaimed studio and live CDs building up a phenomenal fan base with his easy rolling mix of blues, gospel and folk. Troubadour Live is packed with his trademark note-perfect bluesy guitar and thoughtful, well constructed songs that include three from his studio album Bukka’s Guitar, a couple of blues numbers and a trio of gospelbased songs with the vocal group Psalm 4.
The sharp eyed & eared among you will immediately recognise that this is a second serving from the fleet-fingered Texan guitarist and husky singer re-polishing gems from his 50’s R&B (and li’l bit country) record collection. In fact 15 of the 16 tracks sound like they stem from the same sessions that gave birth to the first volume (PRPCD062). As such, this selection hasn’t got quite as much wow factor as the previous release, but neither is it just a bunch of leftovers. Quality and integrity remain intact. Jimmie is a man who cares about what he is reinterpreting along with his equally solid backup crew and partnering vocalist, Lou Ann Barton. Together they remind us of (or introduce you younger tykes to) the era of Jimmy Liggins, Amos Milburn, Bobby Charles, Cookie & The Cupcakes, Lloyd Price, Jimmy Reed and others who deserve to be remembered. The closing track, a live performance of Shake A Hand by Lou Ann with the ensemble, is a rousing climax. First a hit for Faye Adams in 1953, it still resonates strongly today, which is perhaps the whole point of Mr Vaughan’s mission.
Lightnin’ Fingers Records - SWCDS1103 I was intrigued by the note on the CD booklet offering “thanks to the various focus groups who endured multiple pre-master listenings.” As daft as that sounds it’s a technique I wish a few others would employ, as the results in this particular case seem to have worked a treat, as one thing is immediately apparent about the CD, it sounds great! OK! It helps if you like your blues on the rockin’ side with lashings of big-fat lead guitar, but the dynamics at play, the subtle keyboard frills, the seismic prowl of the classic Precision bass and supple back beats, just click into place in a way that most of the competition can surely only marvel at. The song writing is pretty good too, if a little stuck in rock’s back pages, but What Have You Done To Me must be the only blues song ever to reference Radio 4 and Misspent Youth sounds from the hip. There’s no denying the star of the show is Bob ‘Mad Dog’ Moore, some of whose slowhand style had me dreaming of a collision of Kossoff, Trower and Santana, although he also does quick and slippery and in either mode is inventive enough to keep the air guitarists dreaming.
www.stormwarning.co.uk Properganda 20
His concerns and pride in his native Louisiana work their way into A Whole Lotta Soul, Long Lonely Bayou and In It To Win It, along with the more typical blues trinity of woes with women, money and drink. Tab and Anders trade stinging guitar licks over a high quality rhythm combo of Corey Duplechin’s bass and Brady Blade’s thunderous backbeat with Michael Doucet’s fiddle and Ivan Neville on the B3 keys adding to the riches on offer. But it’s Tab’s show and whatever he’s singing about, his soulful voice pushes this into the premier league and the opening duo of the title track and Sunrise should be all it takes to convince you of that.
Pokey Lafarge And The South City Three Middle Of Everywhere
Storm Warning Strategy
Continental Song City - CSCCD 1075 Probably destined to get filed under blues, this album is more a celebration of early Americana, a joyous melange of roots blues, country, jazz and vaudeville. An acoustic homage to the past by a quartet of St Louisbased white guys (plus guest players on cornet, trombone and drums). And very jolly it is, too, in its quirky way. Pokey, who looks the part – hat neatly askew, wrote and sings the 15 songs, which he and his colleagues (nimble musicians, all) perform with an interplay and syncopation that is mostly upbeat, often exhilarating and grin inducing infectious, with just a couple of reflective slowies along the way. I’m reminded of the UK skiffle and US jug band revivalists in the 50s & 60s, although, with original material, Pokey and gang cut a more innovative rug. Whether it fits into your kitchen in 2011 will depend on your predilection for a splash of anachronistic pzazz.
Bibb insists on class musicians so who better than Staffan Astner whose energetic electric bite on the bluesy stuff like the BB King tribute song Tell Riley and restraint on the softer, melodic tunes like Troubadour and Shavin’ Talk, are memorable. Guitar fans will love the interplay between the two - especially on the Bibb originals New Home and Walkin’ Blues Again but if you like Eric’s vocal style, you’ll love the gospel standout World Comin’ Through which sounds like it was written with Mavis Staples in mind!
Paddy Milner The Curious Case Of… Paddy Milner Music - PMM001 Paddy Milner is a young English pianist who started playing with US legends and the best of British blues musicians from 13 and developed a global reputation, even coming to Dave Brubeck’s appreciative attention. Yet despite his obvious first love, Paddy is determined to be seen as more than ‘just a blues pianist’ and The Curious Case Of finds him happy to give his offbeat, wry nature unlimited expression with obvious confidence in the outcome. On some tracks - As She Walked Away and Robert Johnson’s Come On In My Kitchen - Paddy displays his blues-roots yet on others he chases more idiosyncratic-pop oriented style that recall Neil Finn, Squeeze, or Jarvis Cocker with extra lush harmony vocals a la Beatles or Beach Boys. The instrumentation is curious too and Things Behind The Sun has a minor key, almost classical piano intro figure that creates an atmospheric backdrop built by a soaring, melancholy cello. It’s one of several reflective songs but others are pumped up, driven along by a sousaphone or tuba at the bass end, bouncing brass and big striding piano lines, which put New Orleans back in the mix. Curious indeed. Startling even, but only through its sheer brilliance.
Big Daddy Wilson Thumb A Ride
Blind Boys Of Alabama Take The High Road
Ruf Records - RUF 1172
Proper Records - PRPCD080
Occasionally a clueless reviewer has to resort to www, where I learn that Big Daddy was a poor boy from rural North Carolina who, via military service, eventually settled in Germany with a happy marriage to a local girl, a belated appreciation of his blues heritage and an urge to sing.
The Blind Boys have given us premier gospel music for over 70 years and now they’ve invited country music stars to join them in the studio. Willie Nelson contributes his Family Bible, Hank Williams Junior rasps out I Saw The Light, The Oak Ridge Boys steam into Take The High Road, Lee Ann Womack shines on I Was A Burden and Vince Gill pleads Can You Give Me A Drink? Who wouldn’t respond to the Blind Boys’ deep vocal harmonies and rung out emotional hollering?
Wilson is a romantic with a warm, rich voice, recorded in an intimate close-to-the-mic setting, accompanied by his regular acoustic soul mates, Jochen Bens and Michael Van Merwyk. The trio share credit for all 13 songs and are here joined by Andreas Muller (upright bass) and Martin Esser (percussion). This is blues in a ‘life can be rough but is generally rewarded by God’s good grace’ kinda way. So maybe it isn’t blues after all. It is, however, a beguiling set. Take special note of It Don’t Get No Better and the closing track, If You Were Mine, Big Daddy taking a slow reflective stroll accompanied solely by Muller’s sensitive bass playing.
Take The High Road is a joy; from the divine vocals on Lead Me Home, I Know A Place and Stand By Me to the stupendous guitar from session legend Reggie Young, the inspired drumming of Chad Cromwell and the chiming dobro from Randy Kohrs. The whole CD has that loose, live in the studio atmosphere reminiscent of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will The Circle Be Unbroken and will be just as unforgettable.
Various Artists Tommy Castro Presents The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue - Live! Alligator - ALCD 4943 Recorded at various US venues between April 2010 and February 2011, this 12-tracker showcases Mr Castro (vcl/gtr) and his ballsy 5-piece band, who also accompany seven of the eight on-the-bus guest acts, barnstorming in the spirit of R&B revues and blues cruises of yesteryear. For me a couple of the ladies steal the show: Debbie Davies (vcl/gtr) with a biting slow blues “(I was looking for a good man), All I Found (was you)” - and vocalist Janiva Magness attacking the 5 Royales’ 50’s classic Think with the grit of James Brown’s 70s funk version. That’s not to disparage fine performances by Monica Parker, Michael Burks, Joe Louis Walker, Rick Estrin, Trampled Under Foot, Theodis Ealey (in struttin’ Stax mode) and three corkers by the host. An essential souvenir for those who attended any of the gigs. A persuasive invitation to the next party for the rest of us.
with John-Joe Kelly and Gerard Thompson
18th Springhill Bar Causeway Street,Portrush. 02870823361 19th Cavan County Museum Ballyjamesduff,Cavan 20th Kellys Bar, Galway, 00353(0)91563804 22nd Seamus Ennis Cultural Centre Naul, Co Dublin. 00353(0)18020898 31st Cambridge Festival www.cambridgefolkfestival.co.uk
Sidmouth Folk Week www.sidmouthfolkweek.co.uk
Wickham Festival www.wickhamfestival.co.uk
Released on the 1st of August Damien O’Kane and David Kosky are releasing their debut album ‘The Mystery Inch’, banjos and guitars and other plinky plonky bangy things - Irish music with a twist!
www.damienokane.co.uk - www.purerecords.net Properganda 20
Sonny Clark Sonny’s Conception
Various Artists Jazz For Japan
Serge Chaloff Boss Baritone
Proper Records - PROPERBOX161
Specific Jazz - SPEC015
Proper Records - PROPERBOX158
Just how much music can you squeeze from such a short life? There’s a temptation to pitch Clark as one of life’s sweet losers, a pianist who failed to realise his potential, sacrificing his talents to the twin devils of the bottle and the needle. But that too familiar story tells us nothing of the music, the sheer joy of Clarke the soloist, composer and accompanist to jazz’s greats such as Donald Byrd, Jackie McLean and John Coltrane.
It is no secret that the jazz economy in the USA is too small to support its musicians, and for over fifty years, Japan has been a major market for US jazz. Such is the power of the music, that in 1953, Norman Granz’s Jazz At The Philharmonic was welcomed in Tokyo by a tickertape parade – this just eight years after WWII. So it is perhaps no surprise that American jazz musicians felt they should do something for a country that has enthusiastically embraced them following the devastating earthquakes and tsunami that wrecked the country in March this year.
It’s not given to many artists to be the creator of a whole new sound, but Chaloff deserves his title of Genius Of The Baritone Sax. For an all too brief period Chaloff was the sound of the Bop Baritone, notably in his time with Woody Herman’s second Herd which featured him as one of the famed Four Brothers. His sonorous sound, control of dynamics and sense of time belied the gruff toughness usually associated with his chosen instrument.
This comprehensive 4 CD box set is all the introduction you need to this melodic pianist who rather short-sightedly gets packaged as a ‘hard bopper’. That moniker suggests a fast, complex, virtuosic but often cold-hearted attack. Instead, Clark’s first virtue was soul, and this compilation wisely opens on Clark’s blues-rich improvisations that set the key note of his style: humorous, elegant, flowing single note lines, and a quietly but adroitly probing left hand. Even on the timeless tracks culled from the classic bop of Cool Struttin’, with Clark kept buoyant by Miles’ dream rhythm section of Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, he is swing personified. Each note and chord is a joy, be it on the title track (was ever a title more appropriate!) or on his masterpiece, Blue Minor, with its long song of a solo. Yes, Clark went too soon, but what he left behind was enough to grace any lifetime.
Jacqui Dankworth It Happens Quietly Specific Jazz - SPEC014 Jacqui Dankworth emerged long ago from the imposing shadow of her sensational mother. You can still trace the influence, for a start she sings in English not American, you understand, and she has also inherited something else from her parents, sheer class. There is nothing strained or forced on this album, simply a gorgeous voice in the service of some of the greatest songs ever written. The wondrous arrangements are some of the last works from John Dankworth. Sir John contributed two originals and there are ten sumptuous standards such as A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square, In The Still Of The Night and At Last. Sensitive piano is provided by Malcolm Edmonstone and fine soloists include Tim Garland, Karen Sharp and John Dankworth. I was particularly entranced by Ben Davis’s cello on Dave Grusin’s A Love Like Ours. But, if I could only take one track to that mythic desert island it would be The Folks Who Live On The Hill with just Jacqui and guitarist Chris Allard. You could almost hear Peggy Lee applauding.
An enviable line up including Tom Scott, Kenny G, George Duke, Christian McBride, Marcus Miller and Alphonso Johnson, David T Walker, Lee Ritenour, Steve Gadd and Peter Erskine turn their attention to the standards so beloved by the Japanese with profits to go to victims’ funds. Modern classics such as So What, Work Song and Cantaloupe Island rub sholders with Sophisticated Lady and What A Wonderful World for a modern take on staples of the jazz repertoire that’s fresh, exciting and should deservedly sell both inside and outside Japan. A fitting response to what is a most deserving cause.
SN The New Gary Burton Quartet Common Ground
Down To The Bone The Main Ingredients Dome Records - DOMECD309
Mack Avenue - MAC1061 Had Gary Burton not pursued a career in academe since the 1970s, only managing to tour and record during college vacations, his reputation as jazz’s foremost vibist would have correspondingly been enhanced. The fact remains that Burton is a stunning virtuoso, who in live performance can be breathtaking. Thus any recording by him is not without interest, such is the command and authority of his playing. Common Ground presents his New Quartet, formed to feature the talents of his latest young protégé, guitarist Julian Lage. Since the 60s, and his quartet with Larry Coryell, Burton has loved the combination of vibes and guitar and subsequent editions of the quartet have featured such emerging youngsters like Pat Metheny and John Scofield. Lage shows he is a worthy successor to such distinguished company, with an easy virtuosity that does not overwhelm the listener, but rather beguiles with lithe, lyrical lines, nowhere more so than on his feature piece My Funny Valentine. He perfectly complements Burton, who may be an old master, but succeeds in sounding fresh, young and vital on pieces such as Late Night Sunrise, Was It So Long Ago? and the tricky melodic line of Banksy.
But it’s not the history but the experience of Chaloff that matters. On eccentric explorations like The Fable Of Mabel he’s as light-footed as an alto man, but he could rip it up with the best as on the live, exuberant The Goof And I. And there’s ample culled from his classic Blue Serge which all music collections, let alone jazz ones, should include. For a while, these recordings were hard to lay hands on but this 79 track, 4 CD box, replete with Joop Visser’s wise book of notes, will be played over and again for the sheer energy and joie de vivre Chaloff brings to what is meant to be an instrument with two left feet.
Most definitely in the soul-jazz camp and paying homage to heroes like Ramsey Lewis, Lonnie Liston Smith and Roy Ayers by playing a style that aims for the feet as much as the head, this locks into a groove from Uptown Hustle and stays there. Keys and guitar take the lead, with the bass never far behind, bumping the drums and assorted percussion through twists and turns, while the horns stab and float across the funk. The result is lithe if you have the moves. Its floor-filler credentials should have the jazz-dance-club scene alive with jiving, writhing bodies working up a serious sweat. Founder, writer, arranger and producer Stuart Wade has a pedigree working in UK soul, but having learnt his skills, he tired of the pop end of the market. Over eight albums, both his own skills and the pool of musicians he can call on have grown to the point that the sound now matches his ambitions. With three cuts featuring Imaani on vocals (Closer is the standout), the rest are groove based instrumentals of the highest order. Even if you’re not throwing shapes, heads will nod and toes tap as you settle into the blissful vibes of some seriously slinky music. Check out A Universal Vibe into South Side Overdrive for some serious beats and Cut And Run for a fittingly funky finale.
reviews Hiromi Voice
Humphrey Lyttelton featuring Cab Kaye High Class In the copious and fascinating notes accompanying this album, label owner Paul Adams, who knows a thing or two about this music, states that Cab Kaye was a jazz singer and quite unlike jazz shouter Jimmy Rushing. However, along with the obvious Nat King Cole influence I can hear occasional echoes of Mr Five-By-Five, and his singing is none the worse for that. There are several tracks without vocals, giving a great chance to hear Humph front and centre in a quartet setting, showcasing his mastery of mutes alongside his glorious open playing, while on the many tracks featuring Cab, Humph responds with some superb solos. The small group sessions are complemented by nine rare tracks of the full band including Creole Love Call, featuring the now world-famous Joe Temperley and one with Cab. Cab Kaye had a full life, shipwrecked, torpedoed, and injured in a plane crash, but one of the highlights must have been this encounter with Humphrey Lyttelton as these 25 tracks, recorded 1959/60, with a generous playing time of over 76 minutes testify!
The Mosaic Project Concord Jazz - CJA3301602
Telarc - TEL3281902
Lake - LACD298
Hiromi’s renown as a prodigiously talented, technically gifted pianist has seen her recently working at the behest of Stanley Clarke. She has the range both for fusion and acoustic styles, as here, largely maintaining a straight piano trio with just occasional flourishes of synth. Bassist Anthony Jackson has worked with Hiromi before but never over a whole album and drummer Simon Phillips probably carries greater fame in the rock arenas as the choice of some of that genre’s A list. He certainly brings some of that dynamic with him, but equally shows both versatility and polyrhythmic virtuosity. Technical excellence is a mainstay of jazz, but not an end in itself, so Hiromi plays up the emotional context of her music and the voice that she aims to reveal is the one without words. Believing that people’s true voice come through the expression of their feelings, she creates a shifting soundscape that stimulates a full range of sensations and responses with tracks like Flashback, all helterskelter agitation as if fragmented memories remain elusive, while the bold theme of Now Or Never suggests action. Finally she turns to Beethoven with Piano Sonata No.8, Pathetique, for a reflective and soothing conclusion.
The drummer has worked with everyone from Herbie Hancock to Al Jarreau, as well as leading her own bands. She is now also a professor at her old alma mater, Berklee School of Music. She sees this project as a celebration of women in jazz and in the world, but, having long been a woman in a predominantly man’s world, she is adamant she doesn’t want it to be seen as some kind of indulgence, but to stand strongly on its own terms. There is inevitably a fine showing of singers, from veteran Nancy Wilson, to rising star Gretchen Parlato, and taking in Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves and Nona Hendryx. Esperanza Spalding is on bass, Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, and Geri Allen and Patrice Rushen on keyboards. It does have a remarkable coherence, due not only to Carrington’s great drumming throughout, but also her sympathetic compositions and arrangements of songs which include Lennon/ McCartney’s Michelle and Al Green’s Simply Beautiful, a title which could apply to The Mosaic Project as a whole.
Terri Lyne Carrington
Frank Yamma Countryman
17 Hippies Phantom Songs
Wantok Music - W0001
Hipster Records - HIP014
Frank Yamma is an Australian Aboriginal singer and songwriter. Back home he has been performing for many years yet Countryman is his first international release: one surely spurred on by the huge success of blind Aboriginal singer-songwriter Gurrumul.
Did Berlin’s 17 Hippies decide to calm things down a little because there’s now too much competition in the rowdy Balkan fusion market? Whatever the incentive, it was a wise decision. Not because they weren’t one of the first and the best at doing boozy high-energy accordion and brassled dance music, but because this new smoky nourish style fits them just as well and makes for a refreshing change.
Frank Yamma, like Gurrumul, plays acoustic guitar and sings original material but there the similarity ends: Gurrumul makes very soft, meditative music and sings in a high tenor while Yamma is gruff voiced and musically closer to the likes of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, his weary songs reflecting on the injustices his people have endured and the suffering they continue to experience. Tunes like She Cried, Down The River, Coolibah and I Didn’t Know Who You Were That Day suggest a singer who has lived through plenty of hard times and managed to turn his blues into lyrical songs. Yamma sings in both Pitjantjara and English - closing track Pitjantjara is a tribute to his tribe. While Frank Yamma will never be as commercial as Gurrumul, Countryman has a brooding power that should appeal to many.
1st Battalion Scots Guards Pipes And Drums From Helmand To Horse Guards
Still utilizing different lead vocalists (Kiki Sauer is particularly in her element almost talking her way through the spooky chanson-influenced Ton Etrangere) singing in English, French and German – and still embracing a whole range of different musical styles – this is a consistently diverting listen. There’s even a pleasing orchestrated cover of Captain Beefheart’s Give Me Dat Harp Boy which functions as a nice tribute to the old iconoclast. One of the best albums this hardworking troupe have made in their 16-year career.
ARC - EUCD2338 It has been a dramatic year for the 1st Battalion Scots Guards. In 2010 the regiment was stationed in Helmand province, Afghanistan, where they held a mentoring role advising the Afghan police, attempting to bring civility back to a nation in the midst of war. Some members of the battalion never returned, and this album is dedicated to their memory. This album takes us From Helmand To Horse Guards, where the 1st Battalion Scots also take pride of place at the Queen’s birthday parade ceremony, featuring a broad variety of pipe music, from traditional marches, reels and hornpipes, through Ceilidh to Celtic rock. Kate Rusby and Isla St Clair both appear; Kate reprising one of her own songs Fare Thee Well with pipes and drums accompaniment, and Isla on the haunting We Will Remember Them. The regiment’s own Platoon Sgt. John Norwood lends his vocals to two of the tracks, including Frankie Miller’s Caledonia, an unexpected delight. Another highlight is a stirring rendition of The Gael, the epic theme tune from The Last Of The Mohicans. The pipes and drums add an element of splendour to this already majestic piece of music.
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Big Audio Dynamite Saturday 23 July
Formed by Mick Jones of The Clash, Big Audio Dynamite’s explosive mix of punk, reggae and rock was one of the defining sounds of the ’80s. Royal Festival Halll
Pentangle Monday 1 August
The folk-jazz legends return to Royal Festival Hall where they recorded the live disc of Sweet Child over 40 years ago. Royal Festival Hall
John Grant with Midlake
Performing Songs from The Queen of Denmark Wednesday 7 September Royal Festival Hall
oysterband & june tabor
Mike Scott of The Waterboys
Yeats to Music / Poetry to Song Thursday 15 September Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Reimagines Gershwin Friday 16 – Sunday 18 September
Beach Boys co-founder performs his latest LP and greatest hits. Royal Festival Hall
john waters Monday 5 December
Twenty-one years after recording Freedom and Rain together, Oysterband and June Tabor reunite with a new album and this special show.
Like a wayward Santa for the Christmas obsessed, John Waters cruises into town with his sleigh full of sticks and stones this December spreading yuletide cheer and lunacy with his critically acclaimed one-man show.
Queen Elizabeth Hall
Royal Festival Hall
Wednesday 14 September
Part of Southbank Centre’s celebration of the 60th anniversary of Festival of Britain with MasterCard
Tickets 0844 847 9910 southbankcentre.co.uk
September Thursday 8th Friday 9th Saturday 10th Sunday 11th Tuesday 13th Wednesday 14th Friday 23rd Wednesday 28th
Royal and Derngate, Northampton Bromyard Folk Festival Swanage Folk Festival Brussels Folk Club St Ives September Festival Rye Arts Festival Bishopsgate Institute, London Red Lion Folk Club, Birmingham
www.royalandderngate.co.uk www.bromyard-folk-festival.org.uk www.swanagefolkfestival.co.uk www.theblackdoor.be www.stivesseptemberfestival.co.uk www.ryefestival.co.uk www.vortexjazz.co.uk www.redlionfolkclub.com
October Saturday 1st Monday 3rd Tuesday 4th Saturday 8th Sunday 9th Wednesday 12th Friday 21st Saturday 22nd Saturday 29th
Ingleton Folk Weekend Colchester Folk Club Winchester Folk Club The David Hall, South Peverton Devoran Village Hall, Devoran Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury Bristol Folk House, Bristol Chapel Arts Centre, Bath The Rose Theatre, Edge Hill
www.ingletonfolk.co.uk www.colchesterartscentre.com www.winchesterfolk.co.uk www.thedavidhall.org.uk www.hallforcornwall.co.uk www.theatresevern.co.uk www.ashkeysmusic.com www.chapelarts.org www.edgehill.ac.uk/rosetheatre
November Friday 4th Sunday 6th Wednesday 9th Tuesday 15th
Pacific Road Arts Centre, Birkenhead The Lowry, Salford The Works, Sowerby Montrose Folk Club
www.pacificroad.co.uk www.thelowry.com www.theworkssowerbybridge.co.uk www.linkshotelmusic.com
September Wednesday 14th
Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
October Thursday 27th Friday 28th Saturday 29th Sunday 30th
St Georges Church, Brighton The Apex, Bury St Edmunds Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton The Glee Club, Nottingham
www.zazamusic.co.uk www.theapex.co.uk www.wolvescivic.co.uk www.glee.co.uk/nottingham-music
November Tuesday 1st Wednesday 2nd Thursday 3rd Friday 4th Sunday 6th Sunday 13th Tuesday 15th Wednesday 16th Thursday 17th Saturday 19th Sunday 20th Monday 21st Tuesday 22nd Friday 25th
St Georges, Bristol City Hall, Salisbury The Capstone Theatre, Liverpool The Stag Theatre, Sevenoaks The Memorial Hall, Sheffield Exeter Corn Exchange Wilde Theatre, Bracknell The Stables, Milton Keynes De Montfort Hall, Leicester The Arc, Stockton Waterside Arts Centre, Sale Leeds City Varieties The Assembly Hall, Leamington Spa The Sage Gateshead
www.stgeorgesbristol.co.uk www.cityhallsalisbury.co.uk www.thecapstonetheatre.com www.stagsevenoaks.co.uk www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk www.exeter.gov.uk/cornexchange www.southhillpark.org.uk www.stables.org www.demontforthall.co.uk www.arconline.co.uk www.watersideartscentre.co.uk www.cityvarieties.co.uk www.leamingtonassembly.com www.thesagegateshead.org
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