Thursday, 22 October 2015

VARIOUS ARTISTS

CD Review

Downtown

Downtown is the latest offering from the Folkstock label which like the indie labels of the 80s and 90s is finding a niche by giving up-and-coming and semi-established artists a great deal of welcome exposure. 

Marina Florance
It is the brainchild of, and very much driven by the enthusiasm of Helen Meissner and what's even more impressive is she has chosen to concentrate on the folk genre, which tells you she is not in it for the money.
The album is a celebration of some of Folkstock's artists being commissioned as part of two prestigious music events in the Capital - Time Out's Rising Stars of Folk on October 27 and The London Folk & Roots Festival which runs from October 30 until November 12 encompassing the Islington Emerging Talent Nights on November 4 and 11 which will feature performers from the label.
Opening the album is one of the labels earliest acquisitions, Kelly Oliver. She is still referred to as an emerging talent which is slightly disingenuous because she has emerged. She may not have the longevity of artists such Kate Rusby, Kathryn Roberts or Bella Hardy or any number of highly talented female artists but what she clearly has now is her own musical identity.
She has developed pretty quickly moving from being a talented singer who carried the styles of other artists to one who now has a distinctive and clear musical persona which is hers.
It's no great surprise she has come up with a song about Ireland, Miles To Tralee. She was introduced to Irish music by her family while quite young however, she was in her 20s before her first visit to Eire and it had a profound affect on her.
Oliver has an unmistakable voice and when you listen to her singing this track and the more commercially sounding Rio you get that feel of confidence and a sense she is going to be around for some time. Oliver will soon be on tour supporting Thea Gilmore and you can catch her at Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton on November 18. The show starts 8pm and tickets are £25.50 including booking fee.
Back on the album, Shut Up and Dance from Cambridge outfit Fred's House makes you think, hang on is this folk? and begs the question is Folkstock looking to find a foothold in mainstream music as well? It is definitely more pop than anything and does have a manufactured sound about it.
However, getting back to the folk, Minnie Birch has a gorgeous voice which is both childlike and confidently mature and is another of the label's gems.
Dustbowl is quite cheeky in that by the title you think it's going to be some bluegrass-style ballad when in fact she produces this enticingly light song which gives you the chance to enjoy her luscious singing. Birch gets her second bite of the cherry with Nashville which again brings that girlish quality she has to the slow ballad which builds up to the big finish. Marina Florance is an incredible talent, there are times, and this is one of them, when she sounds like a female Leonard Cohen and she also has a hint of the rawness of Marianne Faithful.
She is without doubt one of the coolest and under-recognised talents around today, something Folkstock is laudably seeking to redress. If you want the perfect example then Little Black Cloud is it. She is just deadly. Zoe Wren has such a mature voice with a great deal of depth and clarity.
As she performs Nothing To See she does have the sound of a young Judy Collins, who is also on tour at the moment, with a lower register similar to Pat Benatar. Kaity Rae also has a beautiful voice and When You Go is a simple ballad executed perfectly with nothing to adorn it other than the understated guitar.
The latest Folkstock collection
The Moon and The Pilot is sung by a singer with one of the most haunting, refined and enjoyable voices around, Daria Kulesh. She has single-handedly almost created a sub genre which could be opera folk.
The gentle song is about a pretty dark subject yet the way Kulesh sings it you never sink into melancholy and her vocals create a light at the end of the tunnel atmosphere. The only solo male on the album, Ben Smith, comes in as smooth as the topcoat of varnish on a new yacht. His soft and slick voice on Let Me Down Easy sashays along the thin line between blues and jazz and is as cool as the walls of the Ice Hotel, Sweden.
As in previous collections, with Downtown, Folkstock has showcasd its impressive pool of talent. Meissner and the team have a definite nose for digging out and giving a platform to some of the most enjoyable singers who are on the edges of the folk radar and could, otherwise, easily be overlooked and that would be an awful loss.

Downtown is out on November 12 and can be pre-ordered from November 1. Everyone sending proof of ticket purchase to Folkstock@hotmail.co.uk in advance of the gigs will get a free download of the album as a thank you.