Thursday 31 March 2016




The big event in the folk calendar for this month is of course the BBC Radio2 Folk Awards, which this year is back at the Royal Albert Hall

The ceremony which will be presented by Mark Radcliffe is on April 27 with doors opening at 6.30pm and the event starting at 7.15pm. 
Performing on the night will be Mercury Nominated Sam Lee, veteran singer/songwriters Joan Armatrading, Norma Waterson, both of whom will be receiving lifetime achievement awards, highly acclaimed sisters Rachel and Becky who are The Unthanks, guitar legend Mark KnopflerThe John McCusker Band, husband and wife duo Kathryn Robert & Sean Lakeman and new Irish sensations Lynched.
The legendary Sandy Denny will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The entire ceremony will broadcast live on BBC Radio2 and can also be viewed live on the Radio2 website.

The full list of nominees are:
Folk singer of the year
Eliza CarthyRhiannon Giddens, Sam Lee and Emily Portman
Best duo
Gilmore & RobertsPhillip Henry & Hannah MartinKathryn Roberts & Sean LakemanMarry Waterson & David A. Jaycock
Best group
Leveret, Lynched, Stick In The WheelThe Young’uns
Best Album
Damien O’KaneAreas of High Traffic;  Lynched – Cold Old Fire ; The Unthanks – Mount The AirFalse Lights – Salvor; Show of HandsThe Long Way Home
Horizon Award
Rosie HoodSam Kelly, Lynched, The Rheingans Sisters
Musician of the year
Ross AinslieAndy CuttingRichard ThompsonDan Walsh
Best Original Track
The Rheingans Sisters – Mackerel; Marry Waterson & David A. Jaycock – Sing Me Into Your Tune; Rufus & Martha Wainwright – Sweet Thames, Flow Softly; Spiro – The Vapourer
Best traditional track
Sam Lee – Lovely Molly; Ghazalaw – Moliannwn; Stick In The Wheel – Seven Gypsies; The Furrow Collective – The Unquiet Grave
BBC Radio2 Young Folk Award
Causeway Trio, Brighde Chaimbeul, Jack CooksonBenammi Swift.

Best duo nominees Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman have a full schedule for April starting on the first at The Convent, Gloucester at 8pm. Tickets are £15 plus £1.75 booking fee and there is a minimum age of 14. The next night they play The Civic, Barnsley again at 8pm. Tickets are £14.50 plus £1.50 booking fee and they will be supported by the Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican. On April 3 they move onto Victory Hall, Nr. Leeds and the show starts as above. Tickets are £12.50 and may incur a postage charge. Then on April 6 the duo go on to Ramsbottom Civic Hall, Manchester. Show time is the same. Tickets are £16 and support is from Kitty Macfarlane. The following night they play Square Chapel Arts Centre, Halifax and show time is as above. Tickets are £13 or £11 with concessions including the booking fee. They move onto Blue Sky Cafe, Bangor on April 8. Show time as above and tickets are £16.50 including booking fee. On April 9 they play The Hothouse, Morecambe. The show starts 7.30pm and tickets are available for the reduced rate of £10 (£7 concessions) in advance. On the night, tickets will cost £12 (£9 concessions).
Then on April 15 it's off to Oxford Folk Weekend, Oxford. Show starts 8pm and there are a wide range of ticket options available. Next on April 16 it's The Plough Arts Centre, Great Torrington. Show starts 8pm and tickets are from £11 to £14 and carry a 5% booking fee. The following night they play Exeter Phoenix, Exeter. Show starts 8pm and tickets are £13.50. Next on April 18 is Colchester Arts Centre, Colchester. Doors open 7.45pm and tickets are £12.50 or £10.50 with concessions. They head for the Midlands on April 20 to play the Artrix, Bromsgrove. Show starts 8pm and tickets are £15 plus £1.50 booking fee. Then on April 21 they are off to Opera House, Buxton. Show starts 8pm and tickets range from £7.50 to £15 depending upon status. The following night they are off to Arc, Stockton On Tees. Show starts 8pm and tickets are £12.50, the duo will be supported by Maz O'Connor. On April 23 they play the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool starting at 8pm and this time supported by Kitty Macfarlane. Tickets are £14. They end the month on a high playing The Royal Albert Hall, London for the Folk Awards.

Bella Hardy has a busy start to the month playing at the Cornerstone Arts Centre, Didcot on April 1. the show starts 8pm and tickets are £15 or £13.50 with concessions. Then she will be moving on to The Junction, Cambridge the following night. The show starts 8pm and tickets are £15 in advance. Those who hold memberships to the venue may be eligible for discounts. This is followed by a gig at Salisbury Arts Centre on April 3. The show starts 8pm and tickets are £15 or £13 with concessions members are £14 and £12. She then comes to The Convent in Stroud on April 6. Doors open 8pm and tickets are £22.50 in advance plus booking fee. Minimum age for entry is 14. The following night, April 7, she can be seen at The Greystones, Sheffield then on April 8. Show starts 8pm and tickets are £16. She then moves on to The Grand, Clitheroe. The show starts at 7.45pm and tickets are £14 in advance. This is followed by The Brunton, Musselburgh on April 9. Show starts 7.30pm and tickets are £16.50 or £14.50 with concessions. Tickets booked online will incur a booking fee.

Midlands outfit, The Urban Folk Quartet will be heading back to home turf at the MAC Birmingham on April 8 as part of their 2016 Spring Tour.
The line up will include Staffordshire banjo player Dan Walsh has been nominated for a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2016 for Best Musician. The band is taking part in the Joss Stone & Friends gig for children's charity Barnados at London's Roundhouse on May 15. The show starts 7pm and tickets start from £50 plus booking fees. The show at the MAC will be recorded for quartet's sixth album, provisionally titled Live III which is likely to be released towards the end of the year.
The concert at the MAC begins 8pm and tickets are £14 or £10 with concessions.  Tel: 0121 446 3232
They will also play Civic Arts Centre, Oswaldtwistle, 155 Union Road BB5 3HZ on April 2 with the show starting at 7.30pm. Tickets are £10 and £8 plus booking fee. The will also play The Folk House40a Park Street BS1 5JGBristol on April 9. Tickets £12.50 on the door or £9.50 in advance. Then Maldon Town Hall, Market Hill, CM9 4PZ on April 15. The show starts 8pm and tickets are £17.50. The Moreton Millennium Community Centre then welcomes the band on April 16. Doors open 7pm and the show starts 7.30pm. Tickets are £12. Finally on April 21 you can see them at Alexander's, Rufus Court, Chester on April 21. Show starts 8pm  and tickets are £6 in advance or £8 on the door, there is also £26 ticket which includes a pre-Show Dinner.

Steve Tilston also has a busy April ahead when during his tour he will be teaming up with Jez Lowe in sunny Spain.
Unfortunately for those who want tickets to his show on Friday 1 at Bingham Folk Club is sold out.
On Sunday April 3 his special guest will be harmonica player Keith Warmington at Chapel Arts Centre,where the show starts at 7.30pm and tickets are £12.
Then on April 12 he plays Green Man Folk & Acoustic Club, Green Man pub, Church Road, Long Itchington. Contact 01926 812208
Following this Tilston plays Folk in the Cellar, Unison Club, Beaumont Fee, Lincoln LN1 1EZ on April 23 where tickets are £9.50.
He is off to sunnier climes on April 26 and 27 where he plays Costa del Folk Festival, BH Hotel, Magaluf, Mallorca. The first one being solo and the second with Lowe. Prices and flights information are available from the festival website.
Then on April 29  he plays Wessex Acoustic, Royal British Legion, Church Lane, Blandford Forum DT11 7AD. The show starts at 7.45pm and tickets are £12 or £10 in advance but if booked through tickets are website are subject to a booking fee.
To finish the month on April 30 he will play South Pool Hall, South Pool, nr Kingsbridge, Devon TQ7 2RP with Warmington again being his special guest.

New band August Wells finished 2015 on a high note, supporting Glen Hansard at a sold out show at New York’s Beacon Theatre. August Wells are Dubliner Ken Griffin (ex-Rollerskate Skinny, Favourite Sons) and New York pianist John Rauchenberger. Their new single Here in the Wild, out in the UK on April 22nd on FIFA Records is a thoughtful, piano and string track. The band come to the UK in July for shows and are available for sessions.

Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou will be playing Kino Teatr, St Leonards on Sea on April 22. Show starts at 7.30pm and tickets are £5.

Scottish singer Eddi Reader is well under way with her tour and on April 1 plays  Upper Mill Civic Hall, Saddleworth, Oldham at time of posting no ticket information was available from the venue website. The following night April 2 she plays Atkinson Arts Centre, Southport. The show starts 8pm and tickets are £22.50 plus a £1 booking fee, credit card payments over the counter will incur a 2% card fee. She comes to the West Midlands on April 3 playing The Glee Club, Birmingham. She will be supported by local singer songwriter Dan Whitehouse. Tickets are £22.50. Doors open 7pm, last entry is 7.40pm and the show starts 7.45pm. There is a minimum age 16 for the show. Reader then moves on the Maltings, Ely on April 5 but unfortunately if you don't already have your ticket the show is sold out. On April 7 she moves on to the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendall. The show starts at 7.30pm and tickets are £22.50 in advance, £24.50 standard and £26.50 on the night. There is also a £1.50 booking fee.  Again she will be supported by Dan Whitehouse.

Some of the old guard of Planxty and The Bothy Band, including Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny, are teaming up as Usher's Island to play the Róisín Dubh on April 7 at 7.30pm. Tickets are 20 euros.
Usher's Island are Irvine, Lunny, one of Ireland's leading trad fiddlers, Paddy Glackin, Mike McGoldrick of Lunasa and Capercaillie and Slas' John Doyle.
Tickets are available at, the Ticket Desk at OMG Zhivago, Shop Street, and The Róisín Dubh.

Cecil Sharp House in London has a full programme of events and concerts for the month. The Sharp Folk Club is held throughout the month with dates on April 5, 12, 19, 26 and all starting at 8pm. Entrance is £3.50 or £3 if you are performing.
On Wednesday April 6 the venue plays host to a double header of young duo Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar and acclaimed singer/songwriter Luke Jackson. The show starts at 7pm and tickets are £12.
The venue welcomes Moore Moss Rutter, who are Tom Moore, Archie Churchill-Moss and Jack Rutter on April 13. Times and ticket prices are as above. Lucy Ward graces the venue on April 20 with the show starting at 7.30pm and tickets are £12. John McCusker brings his 25th Anniversary Tour to Cecil Sharp's on April 28 where the show starts at 7pm and tickets are £16.50. There are also a wide range of workshops and classes available for full details visit the venue's website.


New releases this month include The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc whose album Deliverance comes out on April 1 through NFB Records. NFB are Norwegian Olav Luksengard Mjelva, Scot Kevin Henderson and Swede Anders Hall. The album will be available from the band's website and through Proper Records. You can see them live at  Kingskerswell Parish Church, Newton Abbot on April 26; Heath Street Baptist Church, London on April 27; Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham on April 28; Denholm Church, Denholm, Scottish Borders on April 29 and Kilbarchan Arts Centre, Scotland on April 30.

Will Pound & Eddy Jay release their debut album Ignite on April 8. The album features some of the most incredible, intriguing and eclectic music from two masters of the harmonica and accordion. There will be two album launch events first as a live streamed gig from The Convent, Stroud on April 14 and then on April 18 they will do the London launch at The Green Note. You can also catch them at the Costa del Folk from April 24 to 25. The Big Session Festival, Buxton on April 30.

The Paul McKenna Band release Paths That Wind on April 8. You can catch them this month at The Davy Lamp Folk Club, Tyne & Wear on April 2.  Edinburgh Folk Club on April 13. Plockton High School on April 14.  Bishopton Folk Night, Bishopton Community Centre, Gledstane Rd, Bishopton, Renfrewshire, Scotland. PA7 5AU on April 22. Biggar Corn Exchange on April 29 and Girvan Folk Festival on April 30.

Scottish outfit Dallahan's second album Matter of Time is released on Dallahan Music on April 11. They can be seen at Eastgate Theatre, Peebles on April 1, The Folk Club at the Admiral's Bar, Glasgow on April 2, Aros Theatre, Isle of Skye on April 6, Arisaig Hotel, Arisaig on the 7th, Eigg Community Hall, Isle of Eigg on April 8, Inverie Hall, Knoydaft on April 9, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh on April 11. The following night they play The Fish Pond, Matlock, Bath, then on April 13  you can catch them at Clayhidon Parish Hall, Cullompton, Devon. On April 15 they Evershot Village Hall, West Dorset, this is followed by a gig at Black Dog Village Hall, Crediton, Devon on April 16. Then on April 17  the are at the EMN Hall, West Somerset, followed by a gig at The Green Note, London on April 19 and then Hatton Castle, Aberdeenshire on April 23.

Award-winning folk artist Claire Hastings releases her debut album Between River and Railway on April 29 through Highlander Music. Winner of the BBC Young Traditional Musician of the Year Award in 2015, Hastings recorded her first album in Glasgow and it was produced by Treacherous Orchestra's Ali Hutton.

Monday 28 March 2016


CD Review

Factor 3

If ever a band came out of "left field" then it's Friday Frolics. To be more precise they come from Barcelona in Spain and, similar to Broom Bezzums who are bringing traditional folk music to Germany, so FF is running rampant in a sunnier part of Europe with a Celtic sound.

Javier, Marta and Albert who are Friday Frolics
Factor 3 is their second album and sees the trio of Marta, Albert and Javier, it doesn't look they give out their surnames, bring their take on Celtic folk music which is tinged with more than a hint of the Medieval and dabbles with the unusual when it comes track titles.
For example the opening triplet is The Return to Galifrey and comprises Return to Milltown/The Dr Who Theme and Good Morning To Your Nightcap. It opens with a rapid Medieval style created by their impressive skills with the bouzouki, mandolin and fiddle before morphing into the well-known theme of the timelord. This is the strangest of fusions since Ray Barron of Two Time Polka pulled out his Dark Side of Macroom, a pun on Pink Floyd's seminal track, on his mandolin.
This is followed by another triplet Assembly Point which consists of Vankarin Polska/Julie Delaney's and Refuxio. The don't quite leave the Medieval style behind as Albert and Javier, on bouzouki and mandolin respectively, along with Marta on the fiddle keep the pace quickened for this trio of tunes.
They certainly don't give the listener a chance to catch their breath until track three with Cricket's Lullaby.
The lone mandolin opening the tune is followed quickly by the stroking of the fiddle, lowering the tempo slightly as the thoughtful tune spreads out before the listener. Towards the tail end, the bouzouki make its presence felt adding to the rich sound of the track. This is followed by the wonderfully named Trimming An Elephant Foot and once again the trio is back to their fast-paced style. All three weave in and out of their fellow band members' sounds to make what is a really pleasant tune which is easy and light on the ear.
The intro to Shirashi brings gentle reminders of The Beatles Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.  On this track Marta's subtle fiddle playing comes to the fore before the lads give it a harder edge picking up the pace in the second half.
They keep the Celtic feel to their playing but it's more than that, their added lightness of touch give the tracks a sunnier disposition.
On Lusitania Marta gets to open the track with her rasping style of fiddle playing creating a slightly ominous almost action thriller film feel to the track. The lads on their strings carry on the theme and thoughtfully to tell the rest of the story as the tune unfolds.
They are back to the triplets for the last two tracks starting with The Morning After The Day Before which is Bachelor Party/Hangover and Wedding Reel. This track come at you like a train with almost a Doppler effect bringing it in with shades of Santana's Jingo Lo Bla. This is much more of a rock offering from the trio who are aided and abetted by Jen Majura on electric guitar.  This segues into a Pink Floydesque intro for the second part which gives way to a died-in-the-wool Celtic sound created by Marta and picked up by the mandolin beautifully. This continues as they play out the final part, each of the instruments giving a light skip to the reel that finishes on a sixpence.
The new album
The final track is a triplet of polkas which are just a delight to listen to as they are executed with a speedy precision, the higher pitch of the mandolin being complemented perfectly by the lower sound of the bouzouki.
 The tune is given a clacking highlight with Robin White on the spoons before Marta finally gets her voice in the act for the ethnic style singing. The track takes the album out on a high with a real toetapper.
Friday's Frolics have created an enjoyable and eminently listenable album with Factor 3.
It is light without being overly frivolous, traditional without being stodgy and really well put together by a trio who obviously enjoy what they do and, even more so, playing together.

Factor 3 is available now from the band's website and via download at 

Thursday 24 March 2016


CD Review

Red Diesel

If you have ever seen Pilgrims' Way live then you will know they do not travel light. When you see what they bring with them you expect an orchestra and not the four piece band who are about as multi-talented and versatile as you can get.

Pilgrims' Way
copyright Danny Farragher
Fronted by the wonderfully rich and atmosphere slicing voice of Lucy Wright the band is made up of Tom Kitching, Edwin Beasant and Jon Loomes.
They each use instruments like a gourmet chef uses knives and kitchen utensils to create something special.
Just like the versatility of the fellow band members the elven-like Wright can bend and blend her voice to suit whatever style is needed.
The first album since Wayside Courtesies five years ago opens with Rout of the Blues which introduces you to Wright's distinctive voice and sets out the stall that there is going to be a lot of traditional music from this highly talented band.
Her punchy style of singing, on this track at least, sees her almost spitting out the lyrics over the top of the fiddle.
The throbbing beat which brings in Howden Town and carries the tune right through to the end is matched by Wright giving her singing a harder edge. There is a lovely structure to this with the understated bass giving it a slightly sinister beat.  This is a wonderfully constructed arrangement of the traditional song The White Hare and is one of those songs which is hard to get past, instead of moving onto the next track you want to hear it again.
Maybe Then I'll Be A Rose takes things right down with an arrangement by Les Barker where Wright sings almost A Capella but for the understated use of the guitar and fiddle underneath her slightly more nasal tones which give it that real folkie ballad feel. It really is an incredibly restful and thoughtful piece and a perfect demonstration of how musical minimalism can be so effective. In terms of vocals Magic Christmas Tree could be the sister song to the previous offering.
The only noticeable difference  is Wright introduces a tremble that's a cross between Dolly Parton and Edith Piaf. Again the understated backing of the band adds a real depth and strands of colour to the song, bringing a seasonal feel to it without going over the top.
This is followed by a two-parter starting with the instrumental Mount Hills which gives the band a chance to build a tapestry of sound which weaves in and out with instruments such as the fiddle and mandola adding little gems along the way.
Ride In The Creel is about as traditional as it gets, even containing lyrics such as "too rye ahh, folly diddle dah". This story of illicit sex is a great piece of storytelling both from Wright and her fellow band members, you lose track of the amount of sounds you can hear and as it builds up to the climax, it's just like an enthralling book you are reluctant to get to the end.
The band is back
Beasant's bellows keeps things moving for The Light Dragoon with Wright's voice lightly dancing over the notes like someone skipping over stepping stones to cross a river. As a group they pack so much into their performances you sneakily suspect there are more of them they keep in a closet somewhere.
Being off the scene for so long has done nothing to dull their talent or enthusiasm for traditional music filtered through their own style of playing and arranging. True Lover John is as good an example as any of them on the album.
Wright's slightly shrill style of singing has a rich warmth to it and you get a feel for the enjoyment she displays when performing live.
One thing which also helps Wright standout is she employs perhaps one of the most underused instruments in a folk band's arsenal, the Jews' harp. It can be a very playful and a very evocative instrument and in her hands, while they perform Six Dukes, it adds a real character to what is an almost spiritual song and Loomes' precise banjo playing is the perfect accompaniment. Once more you find your ears racing around the track trying to pick out each of  the warehouse full of sounds they introduce.                                  
When Paul Simon brought out Graceland it had a massive impact on the music world, not only did it introduce a wider world to the fantastic sound of African veteran musicians Ladysmith Black Mambazo but it also showed what a fantastic range of ethnic music had been mostly hidden from wider shores.
This said it's was a brave step for them create an arrangement of Boy In The Bubble. It takes some getting used to, they have made it so different that it needs a couple of bars to recognise the song, but Wright's voice again is just luscious and she cranks up the warble to 11 to great affect.
Just when you thought it couldn't get any better they go out on a real belter with Boston City.  It's a real toe tapper which is crammed with sounds that just engulf you in the fantastic, traditional beat.
The new album
This album is not so much Red Diesel as rocket fuel which should launch Pilgrims' Way back to centre stage where they belong. This album is so crammed full of music you wonder they didn't use a spell like Hermione Granger's undetectable extension charm to get it all in. It was worth waiting five years for but please don't make everyone wait that long for the next album also available.

Red Diesel is out now available from the band's website and Proper Distribution. There is a limited edition run of vinyl copies of the album.

Other links:

Tuesday 22 March 2016


CD Review


Globetrotting band Breabach touched base long enough to capture their journeys, along with the traditions and musical styles they encountered and put them down on an album. Astar is the acclaimed band's fifth studio offering and is as eclectic as it is rich in sound.

The five piece band of Calum MacCrimmon, Ewan Robertson, James Mackenzie, Megan Henderson and James Lindsay combine their strong Scottish traditions with the cultures and music of far flung lands. So much that Astar is akin to a musical atlas.
Astar opens with a track from MacKenzie inspired by his time in Norway when he ran a marathon in land of The Midnight Sun. The track opens with anticipation and gently picks up using the fiddle, whistles and the strumming guitar keeping the rhythm of this smooth and complex instrumental.
Muriwai comes in with a much lighter feel and with a sound not a million miles away from a reggae beat before letting the pipes carry the tune along. The track, inspired by the people and place of New Zealand, is a trilogy and even comes with a specially compose "haka" from Scott Morrison. The melodies have an urgency about them at times emulating the rhythm of a train. The subtle use of the bagpipes, for those of you who thought that was not possible, adds real depth to the melodies.
Robertson gets a chance to stretch his vocal cords on another three part tune in Outlaws and Dreamers, composed by fellow Scot the great Dick Gaughan, accompanied, again very subtly, by Henderson in backing mode. The tunes move on at a sleepy but thoughtful pace giving the listener time to absorb and enjoy every note.
Henderson gets a chance to show her composing skills with Farsund, inspired by the Norwegian town of the same name. Another multi-layered offering, it is light and more shrill than the previous offering and the sound they weave is as complex as the threads of the tartan images the understated bagpipes conjure.
Mo Thruaighe Leir Thu 'Ille Bhuidhe is a traditional song about whisky smuggling with the band coming up with their own arrangement.
Henderson's vocals dance along with the precision of the toes of highland dancers. Her traditional style of singing is spot on and you get a real chance to enjoy the clarity with which she expresses herself.
The Ramparts is a double helping of music and at first it's easy to think it's composed entirely of bagpipe and guitar music. But listen a little closer and you soon realise it's in the type of complex composition which Breabach make sound so easy in their execution.
Breabach in full flight
This is followed by the White Sands of Jervis bay and straight away with the haunting vocals of Yirmal Marika you are transported to Australia, the inspiration for another multi-layered offering. The ethnic singing gives way to some luscious whistle and fiddle playing. It's a perfect example of how the band produce some really convoluted music which just cannot be fathomed by a single hearing they are such masters of producing intricate tunes that every time something new will catch the listeners ear. At more than seven minutes duration it's the longest track on the album and yet never loses your interest right down the vocal fade out.
Les Pieds Joyeux, which can be easily worked out by anyone with a rudimentary understanding of French, introduces the art of foot tapping courtesy of Olivier Demers. The effect however is rather lost in the sound of the pipes and whistles it would have been more enjoyable had the tapping been brought to the fore a little more or even given at least an unaccompanied section. Nevertheless it is the sort of track that almost dares you to keep your feet still.
Probably the most traditionally Celtic track on the album is The Striking Clock opening with a jig and closing with a slip jig. The tune brings the band right back to their roots which, among all the globetrotting and cultural digestion, is never forgotten. Admittedly they do sneak the didgeridoo in but when the music is as enjoyable as this is, you can forgive them that.
Henderson's Gaelic tones are called upon again for Coisich A' Rùin a song which narrows their expression of their roots to Barra. The wild and lonely island so often favoured by John Laurie as Pvt Frazer in Dad's Army. However, Henderson's tones paint a much more warm and inviting place with her singing.
Robertson sings on his own composition Ribbon of Fire inspired while in Australia and NZ and his style on this track reminds of fellow Scot Kris Drever. The strong ballad tells of now matter where you go in the world you will find elements of the human condition which will unite us.
The new album
The album ends with the rather appropriately titled The Last March. This is a tribute to composer the late John Morris Rankin. Once again Breabach's skill in weaving together layers of instruments and sounds is evident. It sounds like a fairly simple air but the more you listen to it the more you understand the depth of sound the combinations provide.
Breabach fill every corner of their songs and tunes with diverse sounds and layers which in the hands of lesser skilled musicians would sound clunky and disparate. But they have the knack of layering complex harmonies and melodies in such a way that they sound almost organic and, like building up the sheen on a fine piece of furniture, it's only after many attempts do you get to really appreciate the depth of the reflections.

Astar is out now on Breabach Records and available from the band's website, Proper Music and Highlander Distribution.

You can catch them live at Bishopton Folk Night, Renfrewshire on March 25, doors open 7pm and tickets are £10 and £8; The Grand, Clitheroe on March 31, doors open at 7pm for a 7.45pm start and tickets are £13.50 in advance or £6 for under 18s; Pontio, Bangor on April 1 starting 8pm and tickets are £14 or £12 concessions and finally Drygate, Glasgow on April 2, show starts 7.30pm and tickets are £15.

Saturday 19 March 2016


CD Review

The Watchmaker's Wife

When it comes to folk musicians Miranda Sykes is among the most respected female performers, a position she has earned by hard work, an abundance of talent and, seemingly, being almost everywhere. 

Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston
This of course is not to take anything away from her music partner Rex Preston who is part of her other life outside of Show of Hands where she is the indispensable third party alongside Phil Beer and Steve Knightley.
Preston holds his own grandeur as being among the most highly rated mandolin players around and together they are a formidable force of folk.
Even though they have only been a duo for six years it seems much longer and The Watchmaker's Wife is their third studio album together.
It has to be noted that it's not the most likely of pairings with the double bass and the mandolin but such is the talent of Sykes and Preston, they make it work. What's more remarkable is the album was recorded in her sitting room.
The title and opening track straight away introduces us to Sykes' silky tones which is brought in on top of Preston's mandolin. It's Preston who provides the harmonies as well as the definite backing with his distinctive strings. Not only does Sykes provide the lyrics but also the growling bass which takes the song out. It's Preston's turn to open proceedings as they switch roles with S.A.D from Boo Hewerdine. Preston's voice adds a nice contrast and it has a harder edge than Sykes. The interval gives you a chance to really appreciate how they blend the deep resonance of the double bass with the light, in comparison, almost tinny sound of the mandolin. Preston's songwriting talents are on display with Rosie which is dotted with effects and has a very contemporary feel to it. It could easily be passed off as a track from The Levellers.
Miranda and her signature double bass
He keeps the pace going fairly sharply in what is pretty close to a solo performance.This gives way to his arrangement of Good Natured Man which gives you a real earful of just how he can make the notes dance on the strings of his mandolin with what, in places, is close to a hornpipe. Once again during the instrumental break, where Preston adds a slight jazz feel to his picking, you get Sykes sneaking in to show how well the two instruments can be harmonised when in the hands of a couple of class musicians.
They borrow the next track Swedish from Blazin Fiddles and the gentle instrumental has both the light of Preston's playing and depth of Sykes'. It's a beautifully executed piece and one of the real treats on an album of fascinating tracks.
Sykes' creamy tones come back for the traditional song of lost love in Bonnie Light Horseman. She has such a precision in her singing which gives the lament a real depth of emotion. Going to the West is remarkably close to Annie Lennox's Into The West which was used for one of the soundtracks on the Lord of the Rings. It's obviously a different song but the style Sykes' adopts gives the song a real familiarity and the stripped down ballad works extremely well.
Leaving Song sort of creeps up on you with Preston showing his laid back style for his composition. This laconic ballad is a very thoughtful song and the way Preston sings it, he makes it sound very personal.
The new album
Preston turns his voice up a notch in the following track, Waste of the Moon. This starts off quite slowly but between them they turn it into a full bodied ballad. He pulls another instrumental out of his musical bag for the penultimate track. (Insert Name) Waltz is a perfect forum to show off his skills on the mandolin and he goes for it in what does remind a little of Classical Gas with Sykes adding the colour again and bringing in that depth with rumble of her strings.
Sykes takes out the album with Exile's Return and more than any other track you get to hear just how incredibly her voice is, it is so smooth and she weaves up and down the scale with such ease making every syllable count.
This album is Sykes and Preston and very little else and such is their respective talents that nothing or anyone else is needed. They have taken just their voices and their instruments, got together in a sitting room and produced an album that is complex without being inaccessible, thoughtful without being pretentious and enjoyable throughout.

The Watchmaker's Wife is out now released through Hands On Music.

Wednesday 16 March 2016


CD Review

Wasted and Wounded

Charlie Harrigan has been around since the early 1970s and recorded his first solo album in the seventh year of that decade. If he is not familiar to you then you could be forgiven as this new album is, to put it mildly, a comeback.

Back in the saddle Charlie Harrigan
Between 1998 and 2015 Scot Harrigan led "a quite life and discovered boats" and it would be easy to claim the call of the gig and the mic finally brought him back on the music scene, but not as much as surviving a quadruple heart bypass.
"I promised myself that if I got well I was going back to making music... ," says Harrigan, and this album is it.
He opens what is a pretty raw album with I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You. It has the feel of just a man sitting down in a club and singing. So much so the album feels like it's hardly been produced at all.
The singing and playing on the ballad is fairly basic and feels like he is just sitting around playing for friends or trying out new tracks. However, there is an honesty and down-to-earthness about the way he sings and plays.
The Glow of the Kerosene Light has an almost amateurish quality to the Wince Coles ballad but the images Harrigan conjures with his words are all the more evocative for that.
With The Lady Came From Baltimore there is that quality you associate with the sounds of Dylan's early offerings. Harrigan doesn't have the most powerful or indeed a particularly lyrical voice but he does make the most of what he has and doesn't pretend to be anything else.
He follows this with John Denver's Whiskey Basin Blues and it's almost a cliche of a country song you are never too sure whether you are supposed to take this track too seriously.
Sporting Life Blues is the first of Harrigan's own arrangements and as a blues singer he seems more comfortable, the clipped verses he uses in this track fit his style of singing more easily.
His arrangement of the American Civil War song When Johnny Comes Marching, using this time to the alternative words of Johnny I Hardly Knew ye, will be familiar territory to most people. Harrigan's unadorned approach is again very effective his straightforward strumming and voice is all that's required.
He does a similar arrangement to The Poachers using the tune of Bantry Bay. It's delivered with more confidence and certainly more gusto than the previous track.
Lyle Lovett's If I Had a Boat comes in with a soundtrack of radio channels which really goes on too long and it's not clear why it's there anyway. Harrigan is having some fun with this track and it's certainly enjoyable to listen to the simple ballad.
Harrigan's guitar playing becomes more thoughtful for Writing On The Wall and his Scottish accent comes through more strongly than on previous tracks, perhaps because it's a story of the decline of shipbuilding in the North and people being thrown on the scrapheap.
Shiver Me Timbers sees Harrigan go back to his country persona where the song seems as though it's a parody of C&W songs but you are never sure whether this is the case.
This is followed by Sea of Heartbreak where Harrigan feels as if he is pushing the limits of his vocal range and unfortunately, on occasion, does have the feel of the pub singer about it. His penultimate song Waiting For A Train is another country song where his yodeling insert goes a little astray and comes across as half-hearted.
The new album
Harrigan ends the album with My Old Gibson Guitar which like most of the tracks is a simple folk ballad performed quite well and will more than likely sound exactly the same when performed live, which according to the artist was the point of the album.
When it comes to guitar playing Harrigan is no Martin Simpson and his singing isn't in the same strata as someone such as Dick Gaughan but he uses the talent he has as well as either of them, and his basic, no frills approach is really what grass roots folk music is all about. What's more, anyone who is out of the fray for 17 years and then comes back after massive and major heart surgery, take a close look at the album artwork, deserves to be listened to.

Wasted and Wounded is available to buy from the artist's website, online, for downloads and through Highlander Distribution.

Tuesday 15 March 2016


CD Review


Amy Duncan has an incredibly soothing style of singing which has a remarkably calming effect as you listen and the opener The Good Life, is a perfect example.

Scottish singer/songwriter Amy Duncan
There is almost a childlike simplicity and innocence to her style which is close to ethereal. This is not to say it's in anyway naive or immature. Scot Duncan has a full range to her singing and carries a real depth of emotion in how she executes her creations as you can see from the message of taking risks in life in her first track.
Fragile From The Storm is another gentle ballad where at time she could easily be mistaken for Sinead O'Connor as she reaches up to hit the high notes before dipping down again for the deeper thoughtful strands. The following track keeps the same pace as the previous two and that is perhaps the only downside to this album is its lack of variety in pace and style. Duncan does what she does very well but there are no real thumping ones, fast tracks or lighter toe-tapping tracks. With No Harvest there is a rock style insert but it is never really given any space.
With Different Dimensions there is a slightly stronger beat for what is a more commercially sounding track which sounds like something reminiscent of Delores O'Riordan. There is without doubt an eclectic mix of sounds on this track which gives it a slightly chaotic feeling.
Complicated Human does give you a perfect example of just how smooth and flowing Duncan's style of singing is. It's a nice easy tune which is carried along by a pleasing but gentle beat.
There is almost a retro feel about Lights In The House which has a touch of the Polyphonic Spree about it. You have to give it to Duncan with the combination of her striking voice and the musicians she has surrounded herself with,  which includes Fiona Rutherford, Liam Bradley, Sijie Chen and Jane Atkins, she does create a depth of sound and atmosphere which is almost tangible.
This is followed by a further ballad, All The Love, which gives the feel it is building up to something bigger but never quite delivers but once again it's Duncan's precise vocals which carry things along.
My Silver Net is a lovely haunting song in which you can tell Duncan invests a great deal of emotion and thoughtfulness. It does have overtones of Enya, having that otherworldly quality to it which makes it a real pleasure to listen to. This is followed by The Truth Never Changes which is another eclectic collection of sounds built around Duncan's gentle but definite singing. She seems to enjoy creating compositions which include a great many elements. The difficulty is always making sure they fit together as a whole and, it has to be said, Duncan has it down to pat and is more than ably abetted by producer Calum Malcolm.
Another gentle opening brings in Constant Without Me which again, like a snowball, rolls along collecting sounds and getting bigger until it reaches a point where she shakes them off and starts over.
The last track but one, To The Shadow, sees Duncan exercising her voice in the upper end of her range for what sounds more like a poem set to a tune rather than a bona fide song, but it's nonetheless enjoyable for that.
This is followed by the final and title track and is close to being the sister song to the opener. The song and rhythm does have a slightly disturbed pattern which matches the lyrics to take the album out.
Undercurrents is almost therapeutic and is one of those albums which is likely to touch the listener on a deeper level than first expected. The only criticism would be for Duncan to pick the pace up occasionally or vary the style to include a wider range of titles in her repertoire.

Undercurrents is available now through Duncan's own label Filly Records.

You can catch her live at the Bongo Club, Edinburgh on March 18. Doors open 7.30pm and tickets are £6 on the night and £5 in advance.

Wednesday 9 March 2016


CD Review

First of all I would like to apologise to everyone for the gap in posts and delay in writing reviews. I have been in the convoluted process not just of moving house but moving country. I am now working from Williamstown, Galway, Eire. Over the last few months I have been dealing with solicitors, moving firms, estate agents and banks on both side of the Irish sea, some of which moved more quickly than others. On top of this I have been living out of boxes and trying to keep two cats, stressed out by house hopping between very kind and understanding family members and long journeys in their carriers, from going stir crazy. 
However, now I am fortunate enough to be looking out over green Irish fields in a blissfully peaceful area as I write this. So thank you to all of Folkall's followers, readers and visitors for your patience and loyalty. I will of course be keeping the reviews and news going from now on but will be expanding my coverage beyond the West Midlands for obvious reasons.
I hope you enjoy my blog in the coming weeks and months and will continue to read, enjoy my efforts and spread the word.
Also keep your messages and comments coming. I can be reached on, or I am also on facebook and Folkall has it's own facebook page and you can contact me on twitter @dannyfarragher.


Roseanna Ball makes an understated start to what turns out to be an incredibly laudable and extremely personal follow up to her Geography album.

Roseanna Ball
The simple pizzicato sound which brings in her voice gives the feeling of the Time of the title track ticking along.
Straight away Ball shows the range she can carry with her singing. The beat deepens and her voice becomes strong and more emotive to build an impressive opening track and set the bar quite high for the rest of the album.
This album is a very personal journey for Ball, the title coming from the singer realising it was Time to slay some of her demons and lay herself open in song and music. There is no two ways about it you can feel the emotion as a tangible force in many of the tracks.
With Thatcher the strong thrumming rhythm of the guitar is matched by Ball's bluesy style singing which has more than a hint of Tracy Chapman about it.
Pompeii Lovers sets the rhythm with the mandolin which continues underneath Ball's voice but somehow it never really sounds comfortable however, that seems to add to the effect. There is a rawness to her singing on this track which perfectly conveys the emotion she is trying to express.
The following track, Down In The Depths, is inspired by the Thatcher years, specifically The Miners' Strike and, more personally, the knock-on effect which hit Ball's family.
Chords are kept simple on this song with Ball almost spitting out the lyrics which are what make this song notable. The words are very powerful and once again you can feel the passion she fires into every word.
In great contrast, you have the gentle keyboard opening of Too Soon. Here Ball shows a completely different side to her singing and exposes herself with this song about losing her father. She produces that clear and breathy singing which is very similar to Daria Kulesh, it would be something to hear them duet.
Ball in concert
There is something incredibly nostalgic about the sound of By The Clan. The gentle plucking of the guitar contrasts with the sharp tones of Ball as she builds up the verse to each chorus. This does have the sound of something Ange Hardy would produce but with a sharper edge.
Bullseye is another song which has come right from the heart for Ball. It's very simple but effective as a ballad and executed with her usual precision so not a single note or word is wasted.
The following track comes across as something of a contradiction between the lyrics and the tune. The tune is quite fast paced and almost dancing light, yet the words are about betrayal, infidelity and Ball being in the awkward position in middle with her knowledge of the tryst. There is almost an impatience as she sends out the message of "tell her what she needs to hear tonight".
Remarkably, Hold Tight was scribbled in the dark on a ship, with Ball setting herself the unenviable task of deciphering the lyrics about slavery after her channel crossing. There isn't really a coherence between the singing and the banjo playing underneath her voice, both of which are extremely good, but it does have the feel of two separate entities pushed together. It is one of those songs which Ball could have song A Capella and it would have been just as enjoyable.
The new album
The penultimate track Laid Down is a simple ballad which has an almost lazy pace to it but which fits perfectly with Ball's singing style. This time is not a million miles away from Kathryn Roberts.
Time ends rather appropriately with Out which is a seriously strong ballad which exemplifies Ball's real skill of being able to take the simplest of elements and turn them into something special and distinctive.
You always get the feeling there is plenty in reserve with Ball, and while this may be a very personal venture which may be closing some painful doors it's pretty certain there's a lot more to come.
Perhaps she is reserving it for her next album which can't come soon enough.

Time is available now from the artist's website and through download from iTunes, googleplay and Amazon.

You can catch her on Friday April 1 at the Woodman Folk Club,  Kingswinford, West Midlands, then on April 3 at Springfest 2016, Loch Lomond Shores, Balloch, on  April 6 she is supporting Brac N File at Edinburgh Folk Club, Edinburgh and then on  April 10 she is at The Convent,  Stroud, Gloucestershire.