Thursday 30 January 2014


Coming your Way

As we slowly head into spring, yes it is out there somewhere, so the folk and acoustic artists are waking up and setting out for another year of tours, concerts and festivals.

Suzanne Vega
Suzanne Vega will be promoting her new album Beauty & Crime in the ornate surroundings of the Town Hall, Birmingham on Monday February 3. The show starts at 7.30pm and tickets are £27.50 and £37.50 for gold circle tickets. These are all subject to booking fees except where bought directly from the venue or Symphony Hall in person. Vega will also be playing Nottingham Royal Concert Hall on February 6. Again the show starts at 7.30pm and tickets range from £31.50 to £42.

Supporting Vega on the German and Australian legs of her tour is Seth Lakeman who releases his new album Word of Mouth on Monday February 3. If you can't wait to see him in concert he will be signing copies at Fopp in Nottingham, on Thursday February 6 at 1pm. He will then be playing a launch show later in the day at Lichfield Cathedral at 7.30pm. Tickets range from £13 to £23 although the venue has released some extra seating in the rear of the nave where the choir stalls are. Tickets for these are £16.50 + £1 booking fee. Lakeman will also be playing Shrewsbury Folk Festival on Sunday, August 24.

Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman, who has just celebrated his 40th birthday, are also coming out of hibernation this month with a couple of dates in the Midlands, on Thursday 13 they are playing Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury. Show starts 7.30pm and tickets are £15 plus booking fee. They change venue on Thursday 27 and play Gloucester Cathedral, tickets are £12. The box office number is 0845 652 1823.

Shawn Colvin
There is a star-studded line up coming to Birmingham Symphony Hall on Thursday February 6 with the incredible Transatlantic Sessions. The bill of musicians is of the highest calibre and includes not only founders Aly Bain  and Jerry Douglas but Shawn ColvinTim O’BrienJulie FowlisKris DreverMike McGoldrick and John McCusker to name but a few. Tickets are £27.50 + a transaction fee unless bought in person from the venue. Call the box office on 0121 780 4949.

Seen as the fathers of folk rock, Fairport Convention will be playing Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury on Thursday February 6, the show starts at 7.30pm. Tickets are £21 + £1.50 booking fee.

Later in the month on Wednesday 26 the greatly talented and engaging Martyn Joseph, plays the Walker Theatre at Theatre Severn. The show starts at 8pm and tickets are £15 and MAY be subject to a booking fee except where bought in person or in cash.

If you want your folk for free then pop over to the Symphony Hall, Birmingham which will be hosting another of its Folk for Free shows in partnership with Moseley Folk Festival. On Thursday February 6 Boat to Row will be playing the Cafe Bar from 5.30pm. Boat to Row is a collective of musicians who will be launching their single Tightrope, at the Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham on February 28. They appear with special guest Kitten and Bear and tickets are £10. Doors open at 7.30 and bear in mind, no pun intended, the theatre is a small venue. As part of the Tightrope tour the collective will also be playing the Guitar Bar, Nottingham on Thursday February 13 and Henry Tudor House, Shrewsbury on the 17th.

Also as part of the Folk For Free,  on Thursday 27 Abie's Miracle Tonic take the same spot from 5.30pm. The band offer an eclectic mix of ragtime, blues, jazz, spirituals and novelty songs on guitar, washboard and vocal harmonies.

The trio from Teesside, The Young'uns are coming to Wolverhampton on February 8 when they will be hosted by The Newhampton Folk Club, in the upper room of the Newhampton Pub, Riches Street. The show starts at 8.30pm and tickets are £10 in advance or £12 on the night. The band have a new album on the way called Never Forget which is due out on March 10.

Also from the North, Fiddle player Tom McConville will be heading south to play at the Newhampton Arts Centre, Dunkley Street, Wolverhampton on Saturday February 15. Doors open at 7.30pm and tickets are £12.50.

Luke Jackson is promoting his second album
If you're a Show of Hands fan then you should get yourself off to The Red Lion Folk Club on February 12 where Steve Knightley will be doing a rare gig in an intimate venue. Also coming there on the 26th is Luke Jackson. He is a 19-year-old singer/songwriter who is making some serious ripples in the folk and acoustic world. By the time he does the gig he will have released his second album Fumes and Faith which is excellent. The Red Lion is on Vicarage Road, Kings Heath and is open Wednesdays from 7.15pm for a 7.45pm start. Tickets can be bought on the door.

It may be a small venue but The Kitchen Garden attracts some big acts and on Saturday February 1 they are hosting Hank Wangford who is arguably the foremost name in British Country music. Tickets are £13 in advance or £15 on the door. On Monday February 10 the legend Martin Carthy will play the venue. Tickets are £10 in advance or £12 on the night. For more information use the link above or call 0121 443 4725.

If you have a concert, news or CD release then contact Folkall either through the comments or email Danny Farragher at or I am also on twitter @dannyfarragher.

Tuesday 28 January 2014


CD Review

Various artists

This album gives almost a double dose of everything in Irish music from the past 30 odd years. There are 18 tracks but only 10 artists however, there is no cause to feel short changed in any way as they are some of the most recognisable names in Irish and Irish folk music.

The tracks cover the broad spectrum from the traditional to tunes which have been fused with other and more contemporary styles and spans the three decades Irish label Tara music has been associated with them.
What's more with artists such as Planxty, Christy Moore, Liam O'Flynn and Clannad it's also a good introduction to anyone who wants to catch up on the modern history of Irish music and discover the diverse strands there are in one easy serving.
Moving Hearts, one of the few artists on the album to only have one bite of the cherry, open the listing with The Storm which is built around the traditional sound of the uilleann pipes but is fused with the very 80s sound reminiscent of Miami Vice.
Rita Connolly's first of two offerings is from her '95 album Valparaiso which is another fusion this time of a fast paced, traditional folk song, jazz funk woodwind and an 80s rock guitar solo in the background. Her second Amiens from her earlier eponymous album goes for the big sound. Full of production echo and studio gimmicks it does have a feel of a Fleetwood Mac power ballad.
Planxty open their double act with Smeceno Horo from an album 35 years old. The obvious sound of Andy Irvine on the mandolin is there plain and clear and the instrumental track is like a musical journey setting out from Ireland heading across Europe, through the Spanish mountains and ending up somewhere in Africa or the middle east. The traditional and fast paced world sound gives it that timeless quality which is very easy to listen to and enjoy.
Stockton's Wing with its champions line up keeps it ultra traditional with The Rossclogher Jig.The mixture of tin whistle, fiddle, banjo and bodhran from Maurice Lennon, Paul Roche, Kieran Hanrahan and Tommy Hayes has Ireland written all through it.
all pictures courtesy of Tara Music
Shaun Davey likes to go for the full orchestral/choral song and the opening of Dia Do Bheathasa makes you feel like getting ready to stand up for the national anthem. There is almost everything even remotely Gaelic in the first of his stirring tunes.
His record for work with big productions and soundtracks is well known even over here in the UK. If you have enjoyed Ballykissangel then you have enjoyed Davey's work. His other tune from the same album is the title track May We Never Have to Say Goodbye and has the characteristic big sound although this one is more choral than instrumental but there are still great crashes of cymbals and percussion to keep you upright in this further instalment of rousing music.
Founder member of Planxty Liam O'Flynn shows off his love for, and expertise with the uilleanns with both of his tracks, first in the slow haunting air An Droichead (The Bridge) which features a sound many fans of Dire Straits may find familiar as it includes the distinctive playing of Mark Knopfler. His second Muinera De Poio/Muinera De Ourensa is much faster paced traditional jig executed almost exclusively on the pipes.
Stockton's Wing
The second offering from Planxty is one both Moore and Irvine have done in their solo careers but there is something magic about hearing them playing The Good Ship Kangaroo together. It's the kind of light bouncing sound with the wordplay which suits both Moore's and Irvine's style of having a bit of the craic while on stage.
Davy Spillane brings a real ethereal sound on the pan pipes with Daire's Dream which features Bela Fleck and Jerry Douglas of Transatlantic Sessions fame providing the slide guitar. This and the title track come from his  '80s Atlantic Bridge album. Atlantic Bridge has a much more bluesy feel with steel guitar underpinning the faster, traditional sound of the uilleanns. This is coloured by some background banjo picking and again with Douglas on the slide guitar.
The unmistakeable sound of Donegal outfit Clannad is also on this album first with An Tul which is a light acoustic sound that brings in the voices of the family outfit singing in Gaelic, a tongue which has a magic all of its own.
Their other track is the vocal sound most people, certainly outside of Ireland have come to associate with the group. The haunting sound of their voices singing almost as if from another world. Mhorag's Na Horo Gheallaidh has a spiritual feel to it in the vein of Gregorian chant and is lovely and restful to listen to.
No album from Tara could use a title like this without including Moore who is let loose with The Crack Was Ninety in the Isle of Man which is classic Christy. His motormouth style is captured perfectly in this track from a live album recorded in Dublin in the late 70s. While the Kildare balladeer is great to listen to when he is hammering out his irreverent or political songs he does possess one of the smoothest and sweetest voices which when he sings romantic ballads such as Black is the Colour of My True Love's Hair it's enough to make a grown man cry.
Masters of Their Craft does exactly what it says on the label, it offers a wide and deep venture into the colourful and intricate tapestry of Irish music and showcase those who have championed the sound of Ireland all over the world and Tara records has been keeping a record of it for more than three decades - long may it continue.

Masters of Their Craft is available now from Tara Music see their website for more information.

Monday 27 January 2014


CD Review

Fumes and Faith

He may still be classed as a teenager but there is nothing immature about Luke Jackson's second album Fumes and Faith. The prolific Jackson, who last year was nominated for both the Horizon and the Young Folk awards, has written all 11 tracks on this disc which leads you to believe the guy is dripping in talent.

Luke Jackson who has released his second album
If these two albums are his starting points then his later offerings, as he grows musically and emotionally, are destined to become classics.
Jackson who works out of Cambridge said: "I suppose More Than Boys was my story of growing up, but F&F takes the story on and looks at friends and other people's journeys as well as songs drawn from my own experiences."
F&F doesn't have that grab you by the ears sound to open with but as the first track Sister unfolds, it gradually draws you in until you find yourself coming to a standstill feeling almost compelled to listen.
It has some of those elements of that incredible track of Prince Sign of the Times, where it takes a while for it to dawn that this is a great song.
Jackson builds the layers on this song mixing the feel of both Delta and Chicago blues and often blurring the lines between any distinction.
He slides into a soft ballad, Father and Son, which is full of emotion and will resonate with anyone who has lost or suffered an absent parent. The words express so well the questions which are left behind when relationships break up or are severed. The title track is a wolf in sheep's clothing it has a slightly jaunty almost hypnotic beat to it which makes it sound easy listening. However, once the cadence slides unnoticed into the background the words seems to stand out clearly telling the story of the underbelly of society and how many of us are living our lives.
Answers Have Gone, perhaps more than any on the album, shows what a great voice Jackson has for blues with minimal backing, a simple beat and the occasional strumming of his guitar never get in the way of his singing. He has an unusual quality in that his voice is so smooth with no trace of the gritty growling of many blues singers and yet he is no less effective for that.
He really slows things down with Out Of Time which is a thoughtful and reflective ballad that again uses minimal accompaniment. His singing has that morose quality similar to the haunting sound of Kris Drever.
Buried Dreams seems to have more than a hint or perhaps a homage to Martyn Joseph which wouldn't be that surprising as he is a protege of the highly respected singer/songwriter.
There is almost a theme running through this album with so many tracks referring to relationships with parents but what makes Father's Footsteps stand out above the other tracks is that it sounds like the real Jackson, like he has shrugged off any influences and allowed his raw persona free reign in this Americana offering which seems to have a native American beat underneath.
The versatility of Jackson's singing really shines with Charlie in the Big World Now. He really has gorgeous tones that can make you feel like you are drifting on a slightly choppy sea as you undulate with the lyrics, being drawn along with the narrative which has some really cool threads such as: "He told us his father planted the old conker tree, a hundred years ago today but he is only 53. Well we rolled around laughing, we said he's a liar can't you see?"
Jackson's new album Fumes and Faith
Down to the Sea is one of those songs which has nothing to do with you and yet somehow is so evocative and full of human emotion that it is able to tap into your memories and make you think about growing up and losing touch with those with whom you spent so much time with when younger acting as though the world was never going to change.
It wouldn't really be a blues album if there was a mention somewhere of the legendary crossroads. Ghost at the Crossroads is a footstomper which is obviously a homage both to the musical style and the musicians who made it great.
Jackson has tried to cram every element, every cliche about the blues into this single track but not in a piss taking way, well not entirely anyway, but more than anything a true homage and respect for those who have created a tradition upon which he now rides.
Just as the opening track creeps up on the listener so the final one sneaks out with Jackson leaving a haunting trail which is delicious to listen to.
If Joseph has had much of a hand in moulding this young artist, and it seems he does, then he can be rightly proud. Jackson is a real talent who is starting off from a place many never attain even after many years so what comes next stands a chance of being something pretty special.

Fumes and Faith is on the Pipe Records label and will be released on February 10 and there is a launch gig at Cecil Sharp House on February 12. Tickets are £10 on 020 7485 2205.

You can also catch Luke on February 26 at the Red Lion Folk Club, Kings Heath, Birmingham.

Sunday 26 January 2014


Live Review

Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton

There is a rich and deep seam of folk talent in the Midlands and that's not hyperbole it was proven when Faye Katherine Brookes had the vision to scratch the surface and to set up what can only be hoped is the first of the Folk Lounges in Wolverhampton.

Rob Fellows
from Wolverhampton
The night at the arts centre, Dunkley Street showed not only the quality of the talent out there but also the depth and breadth of sound and song which is right on the doorstep, all you need is to find somewhere to show it and bingo!
When you are on a bill full of artists it can be the poison chalice to be first up, this challenge fell to Wolverhampton singer/songwriter Rob Fellows, who like several of the artists on the night had to contend with sound problems, accompanied by Sandy Dhillon on percussion
Acoustic guitar player and singer Fellows wasn't great, he is obviously well practised and there were only a few flaws with his performance but his simple tunes and chords didn't really stand out and his voice isn't the strongest, there were times when he over reached himself. This wasn't helped by the problems with the sound which blurred some of the performance. So perhaps on a different night with a different set, who knows?

David Fisher
David Fisher, another singer/songwriter and busker was next up and opened well on the gobiron with There's No Reason to be Sad. His distinct voice launched straight into the quick-fire tune and lyrics which had a Western feel to them. With a good rhythm he built the sound nicely in what was a really good arm waving song, the sort that would get festival crowds swaying.
He used his harmonica really well throughout his set including on his next song Zachariah which was a lovely smooth ballad showing off his precise guitar picking and this same style followed through into Wild Mountain
Fisher does also have a talent for song writing shown in his ballad So Long Ago which was a traditional and upbeat tune.
He finished his set with the much covered Galway Girl which, unusually he started pretty slow, but then cranked it up to normal tempo after the first verse. He threw in an impressive harmonica solo and kept ramping up the beat which got the crowd going and he made a big impression.

He gave up the stage to another Wolverhampton singer/songwriter Daniel Kirk who plays a four string guitar to accompany his distinctive and extremely likeable voice, but he does lose brownie points for singing with a faux American accent but this didn't really detract from his performance.
Daniel Kirk also
from Wolverhampton
Again probably down to the sound issues his guitar was a little overpowering but his voice was strong enough to come over the top of it and when he's in full flight he does sound like a male version of Tracy Chapman with a hint of Cat Stevens thrown in.
His voice has a great deal of emotion and his songs show a maturity beyond his years.
Without doubt the highlight of his set was a his rendition of Richard Thompson's Bee's Wing. It's a fantastic song and Kirk did it justice and held it up with some excellent guitar picking.
For some reason, like so many artists, Kirk chooses to sing traditional English folk songs with that faux accent as he did with House Carpenter which he opened A Cappella but then brought in his precise guitar picking which complemented his voice perfectly. Kirk turned the tables for his last song converting a dance tune into a folk song with Avicii's wake Me Up and it has to be said he did a great job.

Jenny Bulcraig
The first of the bands took over from this point with Jenny Went Away from Birmingham. The group is made up of Rhiannon Davies on percussion, ukelele and just about anything else she feels like doing, Jenny Bulcraig on guitar and vocals and Jen Waghorn on fiddle and vocals
They came out with all guns blazing and never really let up for the whole of their set and one of their liveliest was Dancing Tree. They have a great and infectious stage act which is like a more modern and folk infused version of Fascinating Aida.
They give the impression they are there to enjoy the act as much as they hope the audience will while not taking themselves too seriously. Marie Antoinette from their EP is a great song which has myriad elements to it. Waghorn opened with a Yiddish/gypsy style on the fiddle and their voices blended beautifully to produce an eclectic sound which was bordering on a torch song.
Rhiannon Davies
Jen Waghorn
Their voices blended superbly on I Know You Of Old with Waghorn's pizzicato fiddle playing bringing in the song with Bulcraig on main vocals and Davies adding harmonies.They followed this with Cabin In The Woods which was a wonderfully irreverent song which has the feel of a true nursery rhyme which has a sinister undertone and it was performed with real gusto and great fun by the trio.
The band went out with Making Sense which was a really powerful ballad and was full of life. It gave them a chance the fill the studio with a swathe of sound giving Davies a real chance to shine on the Ukelele.

Ellie Chambers
Che Cartwright
The second of the trio of trios was Driftwood Store with Katharine Griffiths on fiddle and vocals, Che Cartwright on guitar, harmonica and lead vocals and Ellie Chambers who has one of the most gorgeous voices.They opened with the traditional and much covered Blacksmith and straight away it was clear they blend together with such harmony and this was also apparent with Darling I'm Cold with Cartwright's voice, harmonica and guitar, Chambers's heavenly tones and Griffiths fiddle playing all clear and strong without overpowering or competing with each other.
It all meshed together to make a glorious combination of sound.
Katharine Griffiths
Chambers' incredibly ethereal voice was given a great showcase with The Sea Captain which was more than matched by the evocative fiddle playing which came so sweet underneath the voices. They went out with Pockets Full of Dust a country/bluegrass sound which again utilised the fiddle talents of Griffiths and once more showed off how well their voices blended.

Adam Heath
The last of the trios was High Horses who, not least because of their mandolin player Adam Heath, have a distinctive look and style. They are a family affair with Simon on acoustic guitar being the younger brother of Adam and Matt Povey on electric guitar being their cousin.
In style they remind of Jethro Tull in the sound they are reminiscent in many ways of McGuinness Flint, now there's one to look up on Google, but they do have their own sound and while it would be easy to dismiss them as folk rock they actually fall somewhere in between. They haven't really integrated the full hard rock sound and haven't left behind the traditional folk sound either.
Matt Povey
The animated and dreadlocked A Heath provided the focal point on stage and while not quiet a contender for Ade Edmondson's self-appointed thrash mandolin title he certainly has an interesting stage presence in between sneaking upstage for another swig of Red Stripe. With tracks like Take the Bait  and Don't Be Scared they produced a really good blend of rock and folk which even the most traditional of the finger in the ear brigade would find acceptable. They even threw in a cover version of Adele's Someone Like You and closed the night with Povey singing the strong ballad 10-Mile Love.
Simon Heath
As a showcase for new Midlands folk talent and as a first effort in organising the event, Faye Brookes should be justly proud but of course now at the very least it should become an annual event and even more that the level of talent must be surpassed no mean feat as the bar has been started pretty high, but there is little doubt the Midlands is up to it.

Friday 24 January 2014


CD Review

All Life Is Here

It seems Kate Rusby may have started a trend for getting cute children to say cute things on recordings. This second offering from Manchester trio Harep and a Monkey intros with one but it's no great surprise because they are the type of musicians who are willing to try most things to see if they sound right or can be utilised for a song or tune.

Simon Jones, Andy Smith and Martin Purdy
Second albums can be notoriously difficult to get right but there's no doubt about it, HAM have cracked it. This a wonderfully traditionally-untraditional collection of songs which have built-in nostalgia and the ability to make you feel like a kid again as you listen to some of them.
It's the mixture of the lyrics and music, the phrasing and eclectic use of sound and instruments which make you think "I remember that..." even when you are not sure what you are remembering or why you are recalling it.
The front of the album features a dog in a bonnet and pinafore carrying a posy reminiscent of Holly Hobbie.
Why? You may ask,well the band provides the answer: "The dog with posy is a picture from a 1920s family photo album. We felt it provided a particularly beguiling mix of the childlike, magical and downright disturbing - essentially everything that we strive to be."
That sums up the trio of Martin Purdy, Simon Jones and Andy Smith, they have kept the traditional very much at the forefront of their songs but have mixed in just about anything and everything they feel might add to the sum of things. It's a bit like an album version of Bagpuss where with each track new things are added just like the arrival's in Emily's shop.
Don't for a second though think this is a childish or naive album, the very first track, Walking in the Footsteps of Giants, deals with the issues of the rights to ramble and Spanish Civil War and the men from the North who signed up to fight and die to beat fascism.
Purdy is somewhere between a singer and a ranter he has the sound which is a more lyrical version of John Cooper Clarke but there is nothing harsh about his singing, even though it has a very unadorned and organic feel to it. Of course there are always brownie points for singing in dialect.
The Manchester Angel is a wonderful narrative about the path of true love, which everyone knows from folk songs never runs smoothly. This song, originally recorded by Ewan McColl, involves, as you would expect, a soldier and a woman of questionable virtue who is essentially seeking someone to love her. It's sung by Purdy to a tune identical to High Barbary of which there is a great version from Yorkshire buskers Blackbeard's Tea Party.
All Life is Here from Harp and a Monkey
It's obvious from how Purdy sings it, it's a love story and is a pretty simple but highly effective offering with his voice accented only by the odd interruption of a musical instrument including his xylophone.
Family life comes under the spotlight with Tupperware and Tinfoil but not in a cynical way. It does have a Watch With Mother, look it up if you are under 40, sound to it yet underneath there is a kind of Eleanor Rigby rift adding a hint of sadness more for the lost childhood times than anything else. If this song doesn't remind you of some aspect of your childhood then chances are you are an alien.
Bolton's Yard is based on a 19th century poem and has the cadence of a nursery rhyme or school playground song. Like all the best fairy stories HAM have this knack of offering a light and pleasant tune but when you get drawn into the lyrics you realise there is a much darker element to the song.
Most of the songs are coloured by Smith and Jones and the eclectic mix of instruments they play and they thread in and out almost like they have sneaked into the studio on their way to somewhere else.
Pay Day is one of those traditional songs which sadly is as relevant today as it was the first time it was written. But there is an element of "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone" and poses the paradox of people who are now unemployed with no chance of work and would be glad of the a day's work in the mills which were such a hotbed of exploitation and militancy.
There really isn't a weak song on this album but if forced to choose one stand-out track it would be Dear Daughter. The lyrics are superb and should be played to every girl and young woman for inspiration. It was written when Purdy's wife was pregnant and you need to buy the album and read the sleeve notes to understand the irony.
The wonderful thing about this album is that there is a an orchestra-wide range of instruments used throughout the songs yet they are employed sparingly, perfectly and never intrude on the words which is what this trio is all about.
If you want poignant then The Gallipoli Oak delivers in buckets. It's reassuring that new generations are willing to acknowledge the sacrifice, rightly or wrongly, of past generations. This is a simple song again with Purdy's clear tones making a tribute to one particularly Rochdale youth who never returned from the killing fields of Turkey.
Molecatcher is a fantastic song, alleged to be a favourite of Vaughan Williams, interpreted by the trio it has that irreverent, dark and sinister feel to it which is added to by the instrumental inserts that are reminiscent of travelling carnivals demonised in Hammer horror films.
Doolally Day Out is a deep song inspired by 1988 Whitbread Award (now the Costa Book Awards), The Comforts of Madness by Paul Sayer and the backing music and sounds do reflect the unstable and the almost surreal as Purdy's northern voice travels along with the words.
The album goes out with another narrative. Folk music and Christianity have always been uncomfortable bedfellows yet the truth is, for good or ill, there would be a lot less folks songs had it not been for our once state religion. This song is a historical journey of one particular pilgrim across the Pennine Moors which was hazardous to say the least. It's an atmospheric ballad again with a wide range of instruments not least of which is the much maligned banjo.
All Life is Here is a perfect title for this album the only thing to be added is that all human emotion is here too. This is one of those albums that anyone who likes folk should be embarrassed about if it's not in their collection.
All Life is Here is released March 24 for more information visit

Monday 20 January 2014


Live Review

Newhampton Folk Club, Wolverhampton

The new season of the Newhampton Folk club got off to a belting start with a fantastic, diverse and traditional set of acts from the Midlands and the North.

Tommy Cooper
The artists, some choosing to play unplugged, brought sounds and poetry from right across the spectrum of folk music and culture.
It kicked off with Graeme Kent who pulled the packed audience in on the act straight away with a fun number, Don't Jump Off the Roof Dad, which many of a certain age will remember from Junior Choice on Radio 1 with Ed "Stewpot" Stewart.The irreverent song was made a hit by, of all people the legendary comedian Tommy Cooper.
Kent wasn’t about to let the audience off the hook too soon and kept them joining in with the much recorded Singing the Blues. He then gave the audience a breather with The Old Pub which he sang A Capella and was a lament of the loss of so many traditional alehouses.
His next ditty was from his home patch up in the North East which was Newcastle & Gateshead and was a light song friendly song littered with local references about the cultures and friendly rivalry of living either side of a river.
Going back to the traditional themes Sandgate Girl's Lament was again sung unaccompanied and told about love going awry.
He was followed by another Newhampton favourite, Mitch Reynolds, who opened with a sea shanty The Dandy Captain which she also sang without instruments and her distinctive smoky tones adding an extra dimension to the song.
She followed this with a lovely haunting air played on the recorder. She went back to singing alone with the Lying Sailor which is a wonderfully bawdy song about ladies of the night full of innuendo and double entendre.
Mitch followed this with a self-penned sea shanty which was a simple tune played on the concertina which surprisingly, she admitted she has only been playing for about a year but you wouldn't have know that by listening to her.
She then moved on to a much-covered traditional tune The Blacksmith and her mildly rough, gravelly and slightly breathless sound gave it a unique quality. She went out with Jack the Lad on recorder which was again a lovely traditional light and jaunty tune.
She gave over the stage to Billy Spake Mon who is one half of Billy & Lozz a local duo who sing and recite poetry in their native Black Country tongue which although often maligned by "sniffy" types added a gorgeous lyrical quality which was honest, organic and a real treat. They were giving national exposure on the Ade in Britain presented by Ade Edmondson where he visited the region in search of local dishes and traditions.
Billy and Lozz with Ade Edmondson
Billy's turn was very personal and sincere, his strong nasal tones coming across for his first song Strong Onds, Warm ‘Art which was a tribute to the people of the Black Country. His voice is not the most tuneful or the strongest but his integrity and emotion more than made up for any lacking in technical musical ability.
A poem about his dad, One Step From the Line which was the first in a two part tribute, had the audience enraptured, except for where the verses elicited laughter you could have heard a pin drop during his recital. The second part was a song Sometimes I Sound Like Me Father which was a gorgeous, soft ballad.
He followed this with probably the most un-PC song you can imagine, Wife For Sale, which is about selling your wife at the local cattle market in lieu of having to go through or pay for a divorce. Billy finished his set with a wonderfully evocative tale about his aunty and how she was forced to move with the times in spite of wanting to remain in the home where she has built a family and created memories, Ar Do Wan It was definitely one of the highlights of the night.
Ian Pittaway
What followed was a real nugget of gold with Ian Pittaway who is a lute player specialising in renaissance music and song. The sound was so unique and so evocative of the medieval era with Beauty Who Holds My Life his breathy voice added a real magic to the fascinating sound he produced on his instruments.
He followed this with a dance tune which was a wonderfully restful and mesmerising sound. And as if the lute doesn’t look difficult enough to play he changed to the baby lute for the Epilogue To Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night because as he explained most people know the costumes, words and settings of the Bard’s great works but few know about the music associated with them.
Chris Stewart took over and decided to go unplugged which turned out to be a mistake because she doesn’t have a strong enough voice to carry across even in the cosy confines of the Newhampton pub's upper room and consequently when the audience joined in her voice was easily lost.
Couple and duo Gren Bartley and Julia Disney took over next and came out with blues and torch singing with Some Time Blues which had a gospel music sound to it with Bartley adding colour on the slide guitar. Disney gave the audience her impressively plaintive sound as a torch singer while her deep fiddle playing gave a whole new dimension to the song.
Bartley picked up the much maligned banjo, the five string, for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which was about the amount of waste we produce and the damage done to the environment
They moved on to Goodbye which had a nice haunting intro and Disney provided a sound which reminded of Joan Baez but she seemed to be hesitant a time to let go and give the song a little more oomph.
After which they went out on a well-known anthem 16 Tons and was a great banjo and fiddle version with Disney showing her pizzicato skills on the fiddle to add that little bit of colour to the tune.
Duo Nicola Morris and Kris Collins who are Elmore Row had the final spot and opened with Wish I Knew You Before which set up the distinct voices with their guitar playing blending beautifully. Morris' voice having overtones of the great Joni Mitchell. The singer showed how soulful her voice could be with Hit the Road Jack which of course got the audience in on the act.
An Amy McDonald song This Is the Life really suited her voice. She also did a much better version of Fields of Gold than the last time they appeared at the Newhampton this time not just paraphrasing Eva Cassidy but letting her own style came through much more. They gave the audience an encore with a country song Kiss From Heaven.
Newhampton Folk Club like everywhere else is feeling the pinch and even though it has been going for more than three decades it is finding it increasingly difficult to survive. But the club is a real gem of Wolverhampton and it put on a full night of quality entertainment and all for a fiver. The venues which could beat that are very few and far between.

Wednesday 15 January 2014


CD Review

Diamonds On The Water

This is Oysterband's first collection since the acclaimed and multi-award-winning Ragged Kingdom with June Tabor. This time the band is on its own and what they are offering is an album that gives a respectful nod to the traditional but, in essence, is them flexing the breadth and depth of their song writing and music making skills.

As Scottish band member Ian Telfer put it, "It was time to get back to some of the other things we do best."
From its beginnings in the 1980s the band has been through several transitions but the current line up, who have put their time and considerable skills into this album, consists of Gloucestershire lad Dil Davies, Alan Prosser, Telfer, Welshman John Jones and Brighton-based Al Scott. Scott is in fact the band's producer but has turned poacher following the move by Ray "Chopper" Cooper to a solo career. Impressively there is only one track of the 12 which is not an original penned by one of many combinations of the musicians and even that is a new and impressive arrangement by Prosser.
The intro to the opening track, A Clown's Heart, does pay homage to traditional folk but that's about it, if you are looking for "finger in the ear" stuff this is not the album.
What they have produced, however, are rich and complex sounds on every track which if you listen intently enough still has the odd thread of the traditional in there but the band's distinctive sound is what comes through more than anything. The final track Like a Swimmer in the Ocean is probably about as traditional as it gets.
A Clown's Heart opens with the strong male voices of the band but then Jones' clear and slightly edgy tones take over and on the choruses and instrumental inserts you can hear the haunting notes of Rowan Godel. It's a gentle ballad with a healthy but unobtrusive beat to it.
While it's not a grab-you-by-the-ears type of opener which makes you sit up and take notice it will nonetheless make you turn the volume up another notch and allow the warmth and depth of the music wash over you like slowly sinking down into a hot bath.
The sound hardens up for A River Runs which has more of a rock element to it and brings to mind the sounds of Fleetwood Mac and The Levellers there are some great instrumental slots where Telfer's fiddle playing soars, lifting the melody over the voices.
Jones goes pretty much solo for the opening of Spirit of Dust which is a light airy ballad and is a good travelling song; the sort of tune that lends itself to long drives and will have you tapping out the beat on the steering wheel before you even realise it. It's one where the band's voices are given a real outing with a choral sound taking the verse out each time.
The band's new album
It's difficult not to think of Davy Carton of the Saw Doctors when you listen to Lay Your Dreams Down Gently which is a soft ballad that teeters on the country side of things but has Godel singing wonderful harmonies to give the song a genuine silkiness.
Things speed up again for the title track which has that toe-tapping rhythm to it and is built up with complex layers of instruments and voices weaving in and out and rolling over each other to produce a tapestry that is going to sound ever so slightly different each time you listen to it.
The Wilderness keeps the tempo of the previous track but this has a much darker, brooding personality with the cello adding a deep rich and ominous layer which builds the suspense like a Hitchcock film. In Palace of Memory there is more than a hint of Billy Idol, remember him?  He was among Britain's most unappreciated musicians and one of our greatest exports to America.
There is more electric in this track but it's almost as if the band is embarrassed to let it get too loud or intrusive even when Davies' percussion is clearly banging out a rock rhythm.
Another definite nod to the traditional comes with Once I Had a Sweetheart. Prosser has given it a very clear and innovative makeover introducing an undulating and almost psychedelic sound that wouldn't be totally out of place on a Velvet Underground album. Reminiscent of a lot of sixties/prog rock tracks it has that element of keeping you on the edge where you are wondering when it's going to go into the big finish which never really comes.
Jones is pretty much on his own for most of No Ordinary Girl which is an upbeat and light tune which belies its clever and thought-provoking lyrics such as "I heard the talk in the pub that evening, the ugly talk of a beauty rare, the talk of men who went home lonely who dreamt of trying but wouldn't dare."

Call You Friend is one of those tracks you are going to hear a lot of and providing they don't mind it being used far more commercially it could well pop up on soundtracks and adverts. It leads you into a false sense of security with a gentle guitar picking before it kicks in with a jumping beat which gets under your skin straight away. It has a really catchy instrumental interlude after the chorus and underneath is a guitar rift which is straight out of a sixties dance montage.

Steal Away is a great meaty ballad which is slow but never sloppy and has overtones of Pink Floyd with some luscious harmonies from the lead and backing voices which combine to sound like a male equivalent of Enya. The album plays out with Like a Swimmer in the Ocean which includes some wonderfully precise guitar and mandolin picking which holds up the plaintive and almost siren-like singing that has a sound as lush and vulnerable as Joan Armatrading.
Throughout the album you get the feeling Oysterband have been let off the leash and have run riot with everything they have including the kitchen sink. The tracks have been obviously crafted and honed so not a single note or word is superfluous it's a lean, mean music machine of an album.

Diamonds on the Water is released on February 17 through Navigator records.

The band will be playing several gigs in the Midlands starting with The Courtyard, Hereford on February 26 at 7pm and tickets are £18. Call 01432 34055. The following month on March 19 they play The Glee Club, Nottingham. Times are yet to be arranged but tickets are £17 contact 08714 720400 and the next night they are in Wolverhampton at Robin2, Bilston doors open 7pm and tickets are £16 contact 01902 401211.

Other links:

Tuesday 14 January 2014


Coming Your Way

A Wolverhampton folk club is kicking off its 2014 season by staging a singers’ night on Saturday.

Kris Collins and Nicola Morris who
come together as Elmore Row
Newhampton Folk Club, which meets in the upper room of the Newhampton Pub, Riches Street, Whitmore Reans, has been overwhelmed by the response to the showcase event on January 18 which will feature no less than seven acts.
Club organiser Dianne Maher said the response for spots has been so good that she could not accommodate them all this time.
The venue, which has been fully redecorated recently, has provided a platform for folk acts for more than 30 years, some of which have gone on to much bigger things.
Among the singers who will be performing on the night, which starts at 8.30pm, will be Elmore Row, Chris Stewart, Julia Disney, Brian Dakin and Michelle Reynolds. Entry is £5. For more information visit

With 40 years under their belts Scottish folk band Runrig will be hitting the road for a celebration tour and as part of their anniversary concerts they will be playing  Birmingham Symphony Hall on March 29 and staying in the Midlands they will also play the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham on April 1. All tickets are £27.50 and shows start at 7.45pm. There is no support act but the concerts will have an interval. There is a 24hr Ticket hotline: 0844 338 0000 or you can book online through: & credit card bookings subject to booking fee). For the full itinerary visit the band's website.

The Oysterband are not only going on the road this year but on February 17 they will be releasing their new album Diamonds On The Water. The 12-track CD will be released on Navigator Records and is available either through Proper Music Distributors or directly from the band's website.
The band will be coming to The Robin2, Bilston, Wolverhampton on March 20. For full details of the tour venues visit the band's website. The Oysterband will also be talking and performing live on The Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe on BBC Radio 2 at 7pm on Wednesday January 29.

Following the release of her album Word Games, Scottish songstress Lisbee Stainton will be carrying on her tour this year and she will be visiting the Midlands to play Solihull Arts Complex on March 18. Tickets are £15 and the show starts at 7.30pm and runs for approximately two hours. For the full schedule visit her website.

A Wolverhampton musician will be coming back to his roots this year to promote his new album.
Acclaimed singer/songwriter Scott Matthews will be releasing Home Part 1 early this year and will be playing tracks from it during a showcase concert at Newhampton Arts Centre on Friday, February 14.
Matthews who always receives a warm welcome from his home crowd will also be playing songs from his previous three albums at the Dunkley Street venue, Whitmore Reans. The concert starts at 8pm and tickets are £12.50 plus booking fee.
He also has a companion book of his last album What The Night Delivers now available which features lyrics, professional photographs and his own snaps taken on tour, and reviews. One hundred copies have been numbered and signed by Matthews.
For more information visit or

Martin Simpson will be running a residential guitar weekend workshop in April. The dates so far, are April 4-6 at Kenwood Hall Hotel in the Nether Edge district of Sheffield. For more information check out the website Workshop page or get in touch with this link.
Later in the year, September seems the favourite target, Martin will be touring as part of a trio with Andy Cutting and Nancy Kerr.

Miranda Sykes will be touring nationwide as part of a duo with Rex Preston and will be playing a few dates in the Midlands. They will be at Birch Meadow Centre, Broseley on Saturday May 10 call 01952 882 684. The Woodman Folk Club, Kingswinford on Friday May 23 call 01384 560 462 and will be appearing at Shrewsbury Folk Festival  Friday August 22 call 0115 959 7908.

Wolverhampton-born musician  Faye Kathryn Brookes is organising a folk gathering for new and young talent with the first ever Folk Lounge to be held at The Newhampton Arts Centre, Dunkley Street, Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton.
The show is a new platform aiming to give fresh and up and coming folk musicians in the Midlands a chance to get some real experience and for audiences to see what's on offer. The showcase is on January 25 and tickets are £5. So far there are eight acts booked for the night. They include High Horses, Driftwood Store, David Fisher,Daniel Kirk and  Rob Fellows

Following on from his last album, Reaching for a State of Mind, which he released last year, Birmingham-based singer Dan Whitehouse has written some new music in collaboration with German-American accordionist, sing and songwriter Anja McCloskey. The EP is released on the Sotones label on January 20 after which they are heading out for a short tour of Canada with details on their respective websites. The tracks were written and recorded in Dan's flat in Birmingham last October, over three days immediately following the Crescent Theatre album launch show. Although the tracks have been mixed by Neil Kennedy Dan has branched out into studio work and recorded them himself.
Listen here Or buy CD online for £4

If you want to see Dan live then he will be playing his home turf at the Old Joint Stock pub Birmingham, on April 5. The fantastically opulent pub which was a former financial institute is opposite Birmingham Cathedral and has a theatre area above the main bar. However, the capacity is 95. Tickets for this ‘Raw State’ acoustic show are on sale now at £8.

This year Shrewsbury Folk Festival is running from August 22 to 25 and already it has announced some impressive acts. The line up include Bellowhead, Seth Lakeman, Lau, The Dhol Foundation, Steve Knightley’s Wake the Union, The Full English, Martin Simpson, Bella Hardy, Moulettes. Andy Cutting, Rex Preston & Miranda Sykes, Sunjay Brayne and Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar and many more.
Andy Cutting, Cara Luft, Bella Hardy and Bellowhead will be headlining on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday respectively.

Before the festival Bella Hardy will be celebrating her 30th birthday at the Mac Birmingham on Thursday June 12, tickets are £12 or £10 concessions. The show will be part of a birthday tour which will be hitting the road later in 2014.

Birmingham singer/songwriter Robert Lane will be providing the support for multi-talented musician Paul Liddell in his home city. The concert on January 30 is at the Ort Cafe 500-504 Moseley Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham, from 8pm. Tickets are £8 and available from
Liddell is a musician/singer/songwriter/recording artist from the North East of England. His current album, the excellent Milestones and Motorways is a home-made and independent release.

Moseley Folk Festival which this year runs from August 29 to 31 has announced one of its headline bands will be the Waterboys. The full line up is yet to be announced but so far includes Lau.

Wednesday 8 January 2014


CD Review


This latest offering from veteran folk singer Andy Irvine is clearly a very personal collection. It was recorded in Australia, a continent for which he professes a great affection, and includes songs from his homeland as well as from the vast island.

Andy Irvine and Rens van der Zalm 
Reading the blurb both from his website and the album cover you get a sense this could be something akin to Robert Johnson's 1936 recording in a makeshift studio set up in a San Antonio hotel room and which was something special.
However, Parachilna while recorded "in the wild" in Oz during its winter, shows little to indicate this because the tracks have been produced and put through a studio process. (That could be a hint for a live version some day)
This said it still carries something of Martin Simpson's Vagrant Stanzas and his sit around the kitchen table and just play guitar-style.
All these tracks are familiar and comfortable to Irvine and you can feel them rolling easily off his tongue and being as much a part of his fingers as the skin which feels the strings of the instruments he plays so expertly. Refreshingly this is a folk album in the most traditional sense, there is no experimentation or trailblazing or innovation it is simply a man who loves his craft, loves the songs he has chosen and plays them how he wants them to be played.
It opens, almost to ease you in gently, with the softest of ballads, I Wish I Was In Belfast Town, and of course from the very first word Irvine's distinctive and mellow voice reassures the listener this is how folk music was meant to be played.
The late great Dubliner Luke Kelly recorded a classic version of Come To The Bower and if you compare his version and this offering from Irvine, who learned this song from Kelly, then you realise they are opposite ends of the musical graph and both have set benchmarks, and unless something spectacular comes along every other version will have to fit somewhere in between. Kelly's offering was set in the deep roots of the isle it sings about and his roaring voice is the centrepiece of the stirring words. Irvine's version is much cleaner, modern with a more intricate weaving of sounds and, because of his different singing style, so much smoother and refined.
Oz gets it's first musical look in with Billy Far Out which arguably is Irvine at his best. It has that cheeky, irreverent sound that seems to fit Irvine's style and personality like a glove. And with lyrics such as, "Whatever that dog did in the tucker box, it can't compare with the smell of his socks." you can just feel Irvine enjoying himself as he sings.
He gives that sense that every time you caught the rhythm and tapped along he would change it just out of devilment. The opening bars on the fiddle from der Zalm give it that bluegrass country sound and Irvine's voice jumps in and leaps around like a march hare performing its spring ritual.
It is without doubt the most enjoyable song on the album and one to keep handy for those days when you need a real pick me up.
Andy Irvine - pictures Brian Hartigan
Sergeant Small is probably Australia's equivalent of Vigilante Man as it sings about the same events and the brutality meted out to hobos who were riding the rails during the depression of the 1930s.
Again it's perfectly suited to Irvine's style and his admiration for Woody Guthrie. Irvine shows off his skills with the gobiron on this and while the subject matter is quite serious Irvine keeps the beat light and flowing.
No traditional folk album would be complete without a little misery and disaster and Irvine offers a melancholy tune in the requisite style with the Aussie tale of  The Dandenong which was a cargo/passenger steamer that was wrecked in 1876 with the loss of many lives. Irvine's expert picking on his mandola and der Zalm's support on viola tell the sad tale perfectly.
An extract from The Argus (Melbourne) of Friday September 15 1876 reads:

"In the minds of nautical men there remains but little doubt that when the look-out man on board the Albert William lost sight of her lights, between 8 and 9 o'clock, she foundered, and of all those on board not one has been left to tell the sad tale of what took place from the time darkness set in."

Irvine returns to his homeland for Braes of Moneymore, which is a region of Derry. This is the perfect vehicle for Irvine's tones and while not totally unadorned, his soft, rich voice comes across as the gentle instrumental support takes a back seat, just adding the merest hint of colour to his singing.
Considering Australia's history it's no big surprise to find a song about an outlaw and this time it's not Ned Kelly but Scottish migrant Frank Gardiner. Gardiner is certainly the stuff of legend starting off as a horse thief then becoming a butcher dealing in stolen livestock before forming a gang and becoming a notorious bush ranger. After robbing a government stagecoach of a significant amount of gold he went into hiding with a new name and opened a shop. He was eventually exiled to America.
For this ballad Irvine provides crisp and slightly jaunty lyrics but in between the singing he inserts a blues harmonica which, again, has more than a hint of his hero Guthrie about it.
He Fades Away is an extremely poignant song from the perspective of a wife who is watching her miner husband dying from the effects of extracting blue asbestos in Australia and how they were kept ignorant of the dangers they were facing while trying to earn a living. Irvine plays this straight down the line with just his gentle voice, which seems at times to falter with emotion, and his precise bouzouki playing telling the tragic story of many miners through the example of this one.
Sir Douglas Mawson
The penultimate track. Farewell To Kellswater, is again in that great tradition of folk and is about a maiden's suitor who is not approved by her father and who does all he can to keep them apart. This is another gentle storytelling ballad which Irvine carries on his own and to which he brings a sound reminiscent of medieval music. His precise mandola playing is the perfect accompaniment to his voice.
The final track of the album Douglas Mawson is more like a narration set to a musical accompaniment rather than a bona fide song.
Yorkshireman Mawson was an explorer and geologist in early 20th century who made an incredible 160km journey across the Antarctic alone and with virtually no food after his two companions died.
Although Parachilna, which is a tiny town in Southern Australia, comes across as personal collection of songs, what Irvine et al have done with this album is almost set a blueprint for traditional folk collections. There is pretty much every element of the genre in these tracks and newcomers, veterans and would be folk musicians could do a lot worse than use this album as a yardstick.

Parachilna tracklist:

 1. I wish I was in Belfast Town (Trad. arr. Andy Irvine) 5:13
 2. Come to the Bower (Trad. arr. Andy Irvine) 5:06
 3. Billy Far Out (Andy Irvine) 3:34
 4. Sergeant Small (Trad. arr. Andy Irvine) 4:04
 5. The Dandenong (Trad. arr. Kate Burke / Andy Irvine) 4:41
 6. Braes of Moneymore (Trad. arr. Andy Irvine) 4:02
 7. Outlaw Frank Gardiner (Trad. arr. Andy Irvine) 3:28
 8. He Fades Away (Alistair Hulett) 3:58
 9. Farewell to Kellswater (Trad. arr. Andy Irvine) 5:27
10. Douglas Mawson (Andy Irvine) 6:40

I wish I was in Belfast town
You Rambling Boys of Pleasure give ear unto these words I write
I own I am a rover in rambling I take great delight
I cast my mind on a handsome girl and oftentimes she does me slight
My mind is never easy except when my true love is in my sight
Down by yon flowery garden where me and my true love do meet
I took her in my arms and unto her gave kisses sweet
She bade me take love easy just as the leaves fall from the tree
But I being young and foolish with my own true love I did not agree
The second time I met my love I thought her heart was surely mine
But as the season changes my darling girl has changed her mind
Gold is the root of evil although it bears a glittering hue
Causes many’s the lad and the lass to part though their hearts like mine be e’er
so true
And I wish I was in Belfast town and my true love along with me
And money in my pocket to keep us in good company
Liquor to be plenty a flowing glass on every side
Hard fortune would ne’er daunt me for I am young and the world is wide

Come to the Bower 
Will you come to the bower o’er the free boundless ocean
Where the stupendous waves roll in thunder and motion
Where the mermaid is seen and a fierce tempest gathers
To loved Erin the Green the dear land of our fathers
Will you come to the land of O’Neill and O’Donnell
Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone and the immortal Dan O’Connell
Where King Brian drove the Danes and St Patrick the vermin
And whose valleys remain still most beautiful and charming
You can visit Benburb and the storied Blackwater
Where Owen Roe met Munroe and his chieftains did slaughter
Where the lambs sport and play on the mossy all over
From these bright golden views to enchanting Rostrevor
You can visit Dublin City and the fine groves of Blarney
The Bann, Boyne and Liffey and the Lakes of Killarney
You may ride on the tide o’er the broad majestic Shannon
Or sail around Lough Neagh and see storied Dungannon
You can visit New Ross, gallant Wexford and Gorey
Where the green was last seen by proud Saxon and Tory
Where the ground is sanctified by the blood of each freeman
Where they died satisfied their enemies they would not run from
Will you come and awake our lost land from its slumber
And together we will break, links that long have encumbered
And the air will resound with hosannas to meet you
On the shore will be found gallant Irishmen to greet you.

Billy Far Out 
I’ll sing you a song of Billy Far Out,
True story without a shadow of a doubt
He lived in Melbourne in Footscray
But he found himself up Sydney way
He had an old car it was tired and worn
It was built before Noah was born
But Billy and his mates on one fine day
They set out for Footscray without delay
By the time that they arrived in Yass
Fourth gear was a thing of the past
But Billy and his mates they were not bereft
They said we’ve still got three gears left
With Gundegai five miles away
They stopped for a beer and Billy did say
Whatever that dog did in the tucker box
It can’t compare with the smell of me sox
O happy as Larry and sound as a bell
They were dreaming of the beer in the Retreat Hotel
When they came in sight of Albury
Third gear it was history
Says Billy we’ll have to drive from here
All the way to Melbourne in second gear
Well second gear it wasn’t the worst
Forty miles later they were down to first
They entered the city in the finest style
Leading a procession of seventeen miles
When they came to Brunswick the mates got out
See yez all later says Billy Far Out
When Billy got back in the driving seat
He found first gear was dead on it’s feet
But Billy didn’t swear and Billy didn’t curse
He set out for Footscray in reverse
Come one come all from near and far
Come all who drive automatic cars
Like Billy Far Out your final abode
May be living in a banger on the side of the road
Living in an old banger on the side of the road

Sergeant Small
I went broke in western Queensland in Nineteen Thirty One
Nobody would employ me and my swag carrying days begun
I started out through Charleville and all the western towns
I was on me way to Roma destination Darling Downs
Me pants was getting ragged and me boots was a-getting thin
And as I came into Mitchell the goods train shunted in
I could hear her whistle blowing it was mighty plain to see
She was on her way to Roma or so it seemed to me
I wish I was about twenty stone and only seven feet tall
I'd go back to western Queensland and beat up Sergeant Small
Now as I sat and watched her inspiration's seeds were sown
I remembered the Government slogan: ‘Here's a railway that you own’
And as the sun was getting low and the night was coming nigh
I shouldered my belongings and I took her on the fly
And as we came into Roma I kept me head down low
Heard a voice say "Any room mate?" I answered "Plenty ‘Bo"
"Come out of there me little man" ‘twas the voice of Sergeant Small
"I have caught you very nicely - you've been riding for a fall"
I wish I was about twenty stone and only seven feet tall
I'd go back to western Queensland and beat up Sergeant Small
The old judge was very nice to me he gave me thirty days
Saying "Maybe that will help to cure your rattler-jumping ways"
So if you're down and out in the outback boys I'll tell yez what I think
Steer clear of the Queensland railway it’s a short cut to the clink
I wish I was about twenty stone and only seven feet tall
I'd go back to western Queensland and beat up Sergeant Small

The Dandenong 
 Wild and furious blew the blast
 And the sky with anger frowned
 When the Dandenong from Melbourne sailed
 To Newcastle port was bound
 She had eighty-three poor souls on board
 Through the storm she cleaved her way
 And it's sad to relate the terrible fate
 'Twas just off Jervis Bay
 And I long for you, I long for sleep
 I dream of being warm
 But through the night I have to sail
 To brave this raging storm
 While steaming through those angry seas
 Her propelling shaft gave way
 And the waters they came rushing in
 Which filled them with dismay
 All hands on board did all they could
 Till at length all hope was gone
 And they hoisted a signal of distress
 On board of the Dandenong
 It was not long until a barque
 With a brisk and a lively crew
 Came bearing down and the Captain cried
 "We'll see what we can do!"
 Came bearing down with might and main
 In spite of wind and wave
 They did all they could as sailors would
 Those precious lives to save
 And I long for you, I long for sleep
 I dream of being warm
 I pray the sea will let me be
 To brave another dawn
 Well some in boats they tried to reach
 That kind and friendly barque
 And numbers of their lives were saved
 But the night came on pitch dark
 What more could mortal man do then
 When the storm increased so strong
 And the rest now sleep in the briny deep
 Along with the Dandenong

 And I long for you, I long for sleep
 I dream of coming home
 Tonight the sea it buries me
 Beneath this raging foam

Braes of Moneymore 
Farewell to you old Ireland since I must go away
I now shake hands and bid goodbye and can no longer stay
Our big ship lies in deep Lough Foyle bound for the New York shore
And I must go from all I know and lovely Moneymore
That little town encircled round with many’s the grove and hill
Where lads and lassies they do meet for pleasure there’s the rule
Through Springhill Braes and flowery fields where oft I’ve wandered o’er
And by my side was the girl I loved the rose of Moneymore

How lonely is the pigeon’s coo and sad the blackbirds lay
And loud and high the thrushes cry on a long bright summer’s day
And as I sat down to cry me fill sure the tears come trickling down
For in the morning I must leave you my own dear native town
Kind friends I’ll bid you all adieu I can no longer stay
Our big ship sails tomorrow and its time I was away
So fill your glasses to the brim and toast with one loud roar
And we’ll sing in praise of Springhill Braes and lovely Moneymore

Outlaw Frank Gardiner 
 Well Frank Gardiner he is caught at last he lies in Sydney gaol
 For wounding Sergeant Middleton and robbing the Mudgee Mail
 For plundering of the gold escort the Carcoar Mail also
 And it was for gold he made so bold and not so long ago
 His daring deeds surprised them all throughout the Sydney land
 And on his friends he paid a call and he quickly raised a band
 And fortune’s always favoured him until that time of late
 Until Ben Hall and Gilbert met with their dreadful fate
 Young Vane he has surrendered Ben Hall’s got his death wound
 And as for Johnny Gilbert near Binalong was found
 He was there with Dunn they were on the run when the troopers came in sight
 Dunn wounded ran but the other man got slaughtered in the fight
 Farewell, adieu to outlaw Frank, he was the poor man’s friend
 The government has secured him for it’s laws he did offend
 He boldly stood his trial and he answered with a breath
 Do what you will you can but kill, and I have no fear of death
 Day after day they remanded him, escorted from the bar
 Fresh charges brought against him from neighbours near and far
 And now it is all over and the sentence they have passed
 All sought to find a verdict and ‘guilty’ was at last
 When lives you take a warning boys no woman ever trust
 She will turn round I will be bound, Queen’s evidence the first
 He’s doing two and thirty years, he’s doomed to serve the crown
 And well may he say, he rues the day he met with Kitty Brown

 He Fades Away
 There’s a man in my bed I used to love him
 His kisses used to take my breath away
 There’s a man in my bed I hardly know him
 As I wipe his face and hold his hand
 And watch him as he slowly fades away
 He fades away
 Not like leaves that fall in Autumn
 Turning gold against the grey
 He fades away
 Like the blood stains on the pillow case
 That I wash every day
 He fades away
 There’s a man in my bed he’s on a pension
 Although he’s only fifty years of age
 And the lawyers say we might get compensation
 In the course of due procedure
 But they wouldn’t say for certain at this stage
 He’s not the only one
 Who made the trip so many years ago
 To work the Wittenoom mine
 So many young men old before their time
 And dying slow they fade away
 Wheezing bags of bones
 With lungs half clogged and filled with clay,
 They fade away
 There’s a man in my bed nobody told him
 The cost of bringing home his weekly pay
 And when the courts decide how much they owe him
 How will he spend his money
 As he lies in bed and coughs his life away
 There’s a man in my bed I used to love him
 His kisses used to take my breath away
 There’s a man in my bed I hardly know him
 As I wipe his face and hold his hand
 And watch him as he slowly fades away.

Farewell to Kellswater 
 Here’s a health to you bonny Kellswater, where you’ll get all the pleasures of life
 Where you’ll get all the fishing and fouling and a bonny wee lass for your wife
 O it’s down where yon waters run muddy I’m afraid they will never run clear
 And it’s when I begin for to study my mind is on them that’s not here
 For there’s this one and that one may court him but if anyone gets him but me
 It’s early and late I will curse them that parted lovely Willie from me
 O a father he calls on his daughter two choices I’ll give unto thee
 Would you rather see Willie’s ship a-sailing or see him hung like a dog from yon
O father dear father I love him I can no longer hide it from thee
Through an acre of fire I would travel along with lovely Willie to be
O hard was the heart that confined her and took from her her hearts delight
May the chains of old Ireland bind around them and soft be their pillows at night
O Yonder’s a ship on the ocean and she does not know which way to steer
From the east to the west she’s a-blowing she reminds me of the charms of my
O Yonder my Willie will be coming he said he’d be here in the spring
And it’s down by yon green shades I’ll meet him and among yon green bushes we’ll
For a gold ring he placed on my finger saying love bear this in your mind
If ever I sail from old Ireland you’ll mind I’ll not leave you behind
Here’s a health to you bonny Kellswater where you’ll get all the pleasures of life
Where you’ll get all the fishing and fouling and a bonny wee lass for your wife

Douglas Mawson
Once more the cruel Antarctic calls me back
To set my foot where no man yet did go
O memories of nineteen eight of taking chances tempting fate
And the happy days we spent in McMurdo
So we dropped our anchor off Adélie Land
And we built a hut to stand the winter gale
And when the sun returned again the air rang out with sounds of men
And Greenland huskies eager for the trail
 From Aladdin’s cave we started on our way
 Our friends they bid goodbye and turned for home
 Xavier Mertz was there with me and Cherub Ninnis just we three
 Were left to carry on our fate unknown
 The black crevasse claimed Ninnis and his dogs
 It claimed our food our fuel it claimed our tent
 I never heard one single sound, just by chance I turned around
 As Ninnis to his death in silence went
 Defeat and death now stared us in the face
 We had one lightweight tent and that was all
 Just to stay alive we knew we’d have to kill the dogs for food
 How were we to know that they’d be our downfall
 A leaden glare now spread across the land
 And neither shape nor feature reached our eyes
 And nothing left to eat only deadly poison meat
 For my brave friend death has no disguise
 He wears the mask of illness on his face
 He wears the cloak of silence at the trace
 One night he bit his finger through and spat it out in the snow
 His cries of madness caused my blood to freeze
 When I awoke next morning he was dead
 The wreckage of his body stiff and cold
 I have to try and reach firm ground at least my diary must be found
 That someday this sad story may be told
 The soles of my feet became detached
 Teeth, nails, muscles all are gone
 Down icy pits I fell through space till brought up by my harness trace
 Give up give up there’s no point in going on
 Three weeks I staggered on across the ice
 Then a cairn of snow by sheer chance I struck
 A letter there told the tale of searching men that very day
 Even now I can’t believe my luck
 My pulse was racing as I saw the men
 My journey at an end no more to do
 My skeleton was easily raised and gently on the sledge was laid
 My God they cried which one of them are you?
 And later tears were wet upon their cheeks
 And my own eyes fill with the telling of the tale
 And on that bleak and distant shore the blizzard blows for evermore
 For those in icy tombs out on the trail