Wednesday 27 June 2012



St George's Church, Kidderminster

The Shropshire folk trio Whalebone will be playing a gig on Saturday June 30 at St George's Church, Radford Avenue, Kidderminster DY10 2ES at 7.30pm.
Whalebone play what they call a high energy acoustic music which incorporates traditional and Celtic music with a bluesy sound and is totally instrumental. 
Whalebone - Charlotte Watson,  Steve Downs
and Sarah Ibberson
Frontman, Steve Downs is promising any going to their concerts a special treat as the group will feature for the first time a very rare baritone eight-string guitar.
He said: “There are only a handful of these in the world, and it’s possible we’re playing the only one in the United Kingdom. The shows will include music we’ve written especially to showcase its beautiful and unusual qualities.”
Tickets for the gig are £8 on 01562 755646.

Friday 8 June 2012


CD Review

Flesh and Blood

There is no denying it, Sandi Thom has a great voice for blues with a blend of Pat Benatar, Chrissie Hynde and with a smattering of Christina Agiluera, add to this the Scottish singer/songwriter's many instrumental talents and her latest album is certainly worth a listen.

Sandi Thom who will be appearing in
Wolverhampton in  November,
picture courtesy of
Thom has a raw quality to her voice which sits perfectly with the harder tracks on this impressive album such as Help Me which comes from the late great blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson.
She can switch easily from this raucous sound to something much more mellow such as I Owe You Zero which is an emotional ballad this sits well along Big Ones Get Away which features Buffy Saint Marie and I See The Devil In You.
Thom funks it up perfectly on Stormy Weather which brings with it shades of Motown. Without doubt one of the highlights of the album is Ride As One which has a fantastic delta blues feel to it with Thom on slide guitar.
There is a slightly bizarre track which sort of slips into the world of weird country music titles.
It's a love song about her relationship with her boyfriend, Love You Like A Lunatic has a real cheesy refrain in "Love you like a lunatic, the kind of love that makes you sick". I suspect she is singing this with her tongue in her cheek ever so slightly, but don't quote me on it.
Flesh and Blood which has been produced by Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes is out on August 27 on Guardian Angel Records. Sandi Thom is also appearing at The Robin2, Bilston, Wolverhampton on November 7. Tickets are £12 in advance or £15 on the door. The box office number is 01902 401211. Doors open 8pm.


Live Review

Town Hall, Birmingham

The grand dame of Irish folk music made a welcome return to Birmingham showing her talent for harmonica playing, which believe it or not is still not that common for women musicians, on the opening number Land of Love.

Mary Black playing the bodhran,
photograph courtesy of
After reaching something of a crossroads in her career Mary Black is back with her latest album Stories from the Steeples and seems to have gained second wind which has given her the impetus to embark on her latest tour.
She told her audience, which had braved the lousy Midlands weather to see her, that she thought she had reached a certain point where she had done all the songs she could but then almost from out of nowhere more songs came to her.
I suspect it's Black being modest as she has had enough talent to keep her going for more than 25 years and hopefully for many to come.
Black gave the her loyal gathering of fans a good mixture of the old and new with songs such as Marguerita and the Gambler, All the Fine Young Men and even throwing in a couple written by her son Danny O’Reilly from The Coronas one of which was the childhood memory-inspired Wizard of Oz and then Faith in Fate, both of which feature on her latest album.
Her fans quickly warmed to Black’s easy and self-deprecating manner as she regaled them with the stories behind some of her songs most poignantly Your Love about her late mother.
She also gave a few more upbeat songs, which Black doesn't really do as a matter of course, but she did crank it up slightly for her version of Flesh and Blood she also showed her country colours with Mountains to the Sea where you almost felt like shouting yahoo and then riding off into the sunset.
Black never looks fully comfortable on stage having that endearing awkward body manner which has kept Bryan Ferry in good stead throughout many years but when she sings and chats easily to her fans you realise what a veteran she is.
The sort of middle of the road Irish country fusion music is not to everyone's taste but Black does what she does very well and there are enough fans who enjoy it to keep her in work.
Her songs are thoughtful and, unlike so much of popular music, they are wrought from experiences whether her own or of those around her and for that alone Black deserves her place in the folk hierarchy.

Wednesday 6 June 2012


Fay Hield

Make a note in your diary to listen to Mike Harding on Radio 2 on Wednesday June 13, 7pm where he will be talking to Fay Hield about her new album Orfeo, and her music. The album is fantastic and Fay is incredibly talented, so should be worth a listen.


Live Review

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Like a fine wine the older The Chieftains get the better they are. They may have been going for 50 years but they can still put on a show to rival any contenders, and their enthusiasm for music and spectacle is showing no signs of diminishing.

The Chieftains at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Paddy Moloney brought his crew of excellent musicians which included Kevin Conneff on vocals and bodhran, and Matt Molloy on flute, but there was the added bonus of Alyth McCormack on vocals and Triona Marshall on keyboard and Irish harp.
The Chieftains know how to put on a show and kept the almost packed Symphony Hall jumping right from the off with Limerick's Lamentation which hit the eager crowd between the ears and from then on they never let up.
Paddy, mischievous as ever, eventually got around to greeting his audience in Irish pretending he had forgotten where he was. He quickly introduced an extra dimension to the night in the form of the energetic Step Crew a Canadian group of talented musicians and seemingly inexhaustible dancers.
Cara Butler brought her lithe and fluid dancing to accentuate the Chieftain's playing along with the raucous and loud stompings of the brothers Jon and Nathan Pilatze, all three were breathtaking in their athletic movements even when sitting down.
The Irish folk band had also brought with them Deanie Richardson a blue grass fiddler and mandolin player who is absolutely incredible both to watch and hear. Her marvelous ability has such life and power it just radiates talent and passion for her music.
Between them they weaved in and out of each others' tunes and although The Chieftains were central to the show they were happy to take a step back to allow the other musicians to shine.
McCormack's Scottish voice is as pure as the single malts her home country produces and she sang a wonderful version of Carrickfergus but really showed her talent and versatility with her puirt a beul which is Gaelic for music of the mouth. It's perhaps best described as an ancient folk ancestor of rap but has to be heard to be really appreciated.
She sang about drinking too much at Christmas and the price of tobacco but the sound was so mesmerising she could have been singing about dog mess and you would have gladly listened to her crystal and machine gun-like voice.
The Step Crew, copyright belongs to Step Crew

In between this fantastic piece of folk variety The Chieftains gave the eager audience renditions of the irreverent Ellen Brown, Cotton Eye Joe, Morning Dew and Shady Grove.
It was a shame invigilators of the Guinness Book of Records weren't there because the band gave what was perhaps the longest rendition of Toss the Feathers ever heard this side of the Shannon. It was perfectly executed with enough interruptions to give all the assembled group a chance to show their solo talents.
Almost without stopping for breath Moloney and his troupe brought music from Galacia switching easily to the Rocky Road to Dublin then Ballyfin and laying out some polkas to for good measure. As if that wasn't enough the band also brought on the cutest young Irish dancers from and just to top off one of the best shows Brum has seen for some time there were also the members of Birmingham Irish Pipes and Drums marching and playing impressively in the matching uniforms of kilts.
Accompanying The Chieftains with the March to Battle they filled the hall with a fantastic Celtic sound that would have stirred the heart of any one with Irish connections.
The band ended the concert with their own version of the conga where they dragged many of the audience around the auditorium and up on to the stage to finish to rapturous applause.
For more information about The Chieftains and their current tour visit

Sunday 3 June 2012


The Midlands

One band worth going to see at  Festival at the Edge is Black Beard's Tea Party, they are are a fluid group of buskers from Yorkshire but have a great sound built around traditional sea shanties and folk music. I saw them supporting The Hut People in York a couple of years ago and then again the next day busking in the street. They are really cool. FatE runs from July 20 to 22 at Stokes Barn, Much Wenlock, Shropshire. TF3 6BD

The Moseley Folk Festival  runs from August 31 to September 2 and headlining are folk legends Steeleye Span there are still more acts to be announced. Look out for Wolverhampton singer/songwriter, whose star is rising, Dan Whitehouse, he is appearing on September 2.

Although it's not in the Midlands Bromyard Folk Festival is hosting Yorkshire duo The Hut People if you fancy seeing something different with two extremely talented guys then it's going to be worth a visit just for them. The festival runs September 7 to 9.

One of folk's legends is making an appearance in Kingswinford. Vin Garbutt will be playing the Woodman Folk Club on June 15. Email or call 01384 831263.