Thursday 19 July 2012


This Is Proper Folk Too!

I have come across a great CD sampler which features some of the biggest names in contemporary folk including Seth Lakeman, Bellowhead, Fay Hield and the Hurricane Party, The Imagined Village and June Tabor & Oysterband.

There are some great tracks on this sampler and the best thing is it's only £2. I got mine from HMV but I am sure they are available from other outlets.
Here is just a flavour of the 10 tracks: Blacksmith's Prayer, Bonny Bunch of Roses, The Weaver's Daughter and Sweet Thames Flow Softly.
For more information visit

Friday 13 July 2012


The Staves

Debut Album

Following the release of their two EPs Mexico and Motherlode the trio of sisters have announced their long-awaited debut album will be released on October 22.

Sisters Emily, Jessica, and Camilla Staveley-Taylor are releasing Dead And Born And Grown through Atlantic Records.
They will embark on a 12 gig European tour with Bon Iver starting in Lisbon on October 26 and finishing in Dublin on November 12 for full details click the link to their website where you can also listen to tracks from their first two EPs.
The tour will take in Wembley Arena on November 8 and Manchester, MEN Arena the following night before moving further north to Glasgow, SECC for the penultimate gig on November 10.

Thursday 12 July 2012


CD Review


There is a great word from the Brazilians which is suadade which simply put is a longing for things past, a yearning for nostalgia and missing things which have now passed and, strangely enough, 4Play can induce that effect.

Fairport Convention have earned their place
 in folk music history
If you are of the generation which reached your teens in the 1970s and The Old Grey Whistle Test with "Whispering" Bob Harris was your musical bible then you will understand what I am saying when you listen to this collection of live recordings of Fairport Convention.
Considering this is an album thrown together from cassettes, for the ipod generation those are tape recordings, which have been thrown around in a "tatty box" and carted half way across the world, this third offering from the box of bits is absolutely incredible.
Fairport Convention have been going for 45 years, they have survived death, destruction, disasters and numerous line up reshuffles and yet through all of it you cannot really talk about folk music in this country with either the band or at least one of its members cropping up, such is the group's pervasive influence.
So it's a great treat for folk fans everywhere to be able to get their hands on this album put together by one of Fairport's most famous contributors Dave Swarbrick.
This collection of songs showcase some of FC's live shows over a three-year period and if you want any confirmation that it's from the 1970s then you only have to look at the Bonny Bunch of Roses, on the first of the double CD offerings, and see the track lasts more than 15 minutes.
To say FC pushed, the sometimes indefinable, boundaries of folk music is an understatement, throughout all the tracks the clear roots and traditions of folk music are there but leaking out of the seams and constantly raising its head are the sounds of prog rock, borne out of the 60s and maturing in the 70s.
The tracks as a whole on these CDs are good enough and stand the test of time but as an added bonus there are solos and musical strands in each of the tracks which are just outstanding.
A perfect example is Dirty Linen which is introduced as being inspired by Dave Swarbrick's Y fronts, delve into that one as much as you dare, but on it Swarb himself shows why he is one of the most respected fiddle players on the folk or any circuit for that matter.
The fact these tracks are live, recorded in Australia, Europe and England gives them a rawness which the passing of more than 30 years has not diminished.
Even though there is a great deal of electric prog-rock-style sounds on this, the real folk stuff is still there in bagfuls but when they do intertwine the electric with the acoustic then the greatness which marked FC out from the crowd surfaces on tracks such as James O'Donnell's Jig.
Perhaps one of the best tracks on these CDs is the shoulder swinging, foot-tapping General Taylor which has overtones that would not be out of place on the soundtrack of A Clockwork Orange, but as the assembled crowd join in you do get the sense of people swaying back and forth, with pints of real ale in their hands, to the rhythm of the tune.
There are some fantastic tracks on this such as the Royal Seleccion No5 which starts of like a rant but which then goes in to a lively mix of electric and folk which could easily be one of Bellowheads such is the energy and fun it conveys.
Of course there are more traditional folk songs such as Eynsham Poacher and Flower of the Forest, but even these are seasoned with the flavour of electric, and they even jazz things up with The Hens March to the Midden.
This is one of those albums that all folk fans will end up having in their collection.
4Play is out July 16 on the Shirty3 label and if you want grab a little folk history then it's definitely one to get your hands on.
For more information and to order the CD then visit |Dave Swarbrick's site.

Sunday 8 July 2012


Derby Folk Festival, which runs from Friday October 5 until Sunday 7, has a fantastic line up with Seth Lakeman, Martin Simpson, Bob Fox, and Fay Hield & The Hurricane Party. For more information visit

Seth Lakeman is a fantastically talented singer, songwriter and musician if you have never seen him live then go and give yourselves a treat his playing is so passionate and you can tell he cares about what he plays and stories he tells many of which focus on the dying traditional trades. The new CD compilation which will be out later this month.
Martin Simpson is a master guitarist and has recently made a guest appearance on Fay Hield's latest album Orfeo which I thoroughly recommend.
He and Fay are also on the bill at Sidmouth Folk Week which runs from August 3-10.
Also appearing is the legend Dave Swarbrick who is just about to release a two CD compilation of Fairport Convention live which covers the band from 1976-79, he will also be appearing at Bath Folk Festival & Traditional Music Summer School which runs from August 13 to 19.
Another group to look out for is Blackbeard's Tea Party from York. If you can't wait until then you can catch them at the Bromsgrove Folk Club on Friday July 13.

Friday 6 July 2012


Live Review

Robin2, Bilston, Wolverhampton

Meaning no disrespect, but on first sight the San Diego duo Berkley Hart look like a parody of a folk group. They have the appearance of couple of characters from a sketch show but, don't be fooled, they are extremely entertaining and serious musicians, which just proves the old adage of never judging a book by its cover.

Jeff Berkley and Calman Hart
Supporting Eve Selis at the Bilston venue on American Independence Day, they kicked off their set with the all time great Little Boxes written in the 1960s and made a hit by legend Pete Seeger. This warmed them to the crowd straight away and laid the marker down that they were damn good.
The two Californians, Jeff Berkley and Calman Hart, have been around for more than a decade but still have a rawness about them which you usually only find with bands new to the circuit, but they turn this to their advantage having a stage presence that is laid back and almost lazy.
Their repertoire includes songs which uphold the great folk tradition of focusing on the human condition, poignantly picking out stages in life and putting them down in song where they connect with their audience's own experiences.
No better example of this was My Name Is Sam which was a clever musical montage which saw the same two minutes through the eyes of several connected people.
It was very much in the Cat's in the Cradle vein and, given a little booze, is the sort of song that would reduce grown men to tears.
I Still Dream in California was a yearning for home song which was inspired by a conversation Jeff had with one of his friends who had moved to Louisiana. Showing their versatility they then produced a love song, a rasping kind of ballad called She's So Beautiful from their album Las Vegas.
During the set Berkley hammered his guitar, making it ring like a heavy metal Fender while he sang and partner Hart, singing a lot of the time with his hands buried deep in his jeans pockets, also provided guitar and harmonica.
They evoked memories of Canned Heat with another track from Las Vegas, Misery and finished off their set, before coming back on later with Selis for her encore, with the jaunty High School Town which is on their Wreck and Sow album.
Berkley Hart's new album Crow is available now click on to the link to their website for more information.


Live Review

Robin2 , Bilston, Wolverhampton

Award-winning American blues/rock singer Eve Selis clearly enjoys being in front of a crowd and her enthusiasm for performing was at a high level from start to encore before the small but appreciative crowd at the Robin2.
Eve Selis at the Robin2, Bilston with Calman Hart
The Californian doesn’t have the most powerful of voices but she does make the most of her clear vocals which were sometimes lost among the harder rock sounds made by her assembled group of highly talented musicians. 
Certainly worthy of mention are the guitar playing skills of Marc “Twang” Intravaia, who has co-written many of the songs with Selis and “Cactus” Jim Soldi who knows how to make an axe talk.
Selis did show her versatility switching easily from rock to blues to more blue grass sounds such as The Ballad of Kate Morgan with a little bit of country thrown in along the way.
She certainly gave her latest album Family Tree a run for its money with no less than nine of the 13 tracks used in the set including the title song which was written by Calman Hart who was one half of the impressive support act Berkley Hart, from San Diego.
Selis threw in a couple of cover versions one of which was a banging version of the great Johnny Cash’s Fulsom Prison Blues, which was hammered out with real guts and the other was the done-to-death Hallelujah from Leonard Cohen. While Selis and co tried to put a fresh spin on it, it doesn’t really work.
It’s OK for the ballad part using the group’s harmonised voices but the jazzed up interludes which she injects makes it sound a little amateurish.
Among the rest of her set was a Fleetwood Mac-sounding When Is Everything Enough and Water Off a Duck’s Back which was a heavier blues sound that had hints of Amy Winehouse creeping into Selis’ voice.

Thursday 5 July 2012


Live Review

NewhamptonArts Centre, Wolverhampton 

Dublin balladeer Andy Irvine has a folk pedigree as good as anyone’s and to his session at the arts centre in Whitmore Reans, he brought his wealth of experience, with groups such as Planxty and Sweeney’s Men, along with the tradition of uncluttered folk music.

Andy Irvine, picture courtesy of  Brian Hartigan
Even if you didn’t know he was one of Irvine’s heroes his earthy similarity and musical observation would immediately remind you of the great Woody Guthrie.
His skill with the range of guitars he brings with him is incredible to watch and wonderful to listen to. 
The singer’s subtle banter both about and between the songs enthralled the audience most notably with the Spirit of Mother Jones, about a union activist and thorn in the side of American industrialists.
The traditional themes were there of love, betrayal and rakes in the track Reynardine, and adventures on the sea. 
One in particular Close Shave had the audience in fits of laughter at the misfortune of a sailor particularly fond of the drink.
Notwithstanding the fact he needs to label the many harmonicas, he brings with him his musical playfulness in songs such as Monaghans which recount his days in Dublin rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ronnie Drew and Barney McKenna of The Dubliners. Irvine was a child actor and one of his first appearances and his mother’s last was at the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton which he recalled fondly in between the songs.
As you would expect he played some of the tracks from his new album Abocurragh including Empty Handed and Oslo/Norwegian Mazurka which allowed him to really give his fingers a work out and impress the audience with his playing skills.
Andy is teaming up with Billy Bragg for a centenary celebration of the legendary Woody Guthrie in Vicar Street, 58 Thomas Street, Dublin 2 on Monday September 17 from 8 pm, see his website for the link.

Tuesday 3 July 2012


Eve Selis

Robin2, Bilston, Wolverhampton

Blue and folk singer Eve Selis
Blues/folk singer Eve Selis is appearing at the Robin2, Bilston, Wolverhampton tomorrow night (July 4). Tickets are £12.50 in advance or £15 on the door. Eve will be supported by duo Berkley Hart from 7.30pm. Look out for my review of the gig on here. For tickets or more details call 01902 401211.