Wednesday 27 July 2016


CD Review

Locks and Bolts

There is an offshoot of mainstream folk music, an oxymoron if ever there was one, which is an eclectic sounding type of folk sometimes described as electrofolk or altfolk, within this strand are bands such as Harp & A Monkey, Nizlopi and Solarference fit somewhere between those two.

Nick Janaway and Sarah Owen who are Solarference
Nick Janaway and Sarah Owen are a duo who are attempting to put something of a new face on traditional folk tunes. This they do on their new album recorded live at the Cube Cinema, Bristol by using a variety of vocal techniques and the addition of any and every sound they can get their hands on. It has to be said some of the inclusions work better than others but you have to take your hat off to their willingness to innovate.
The album opens with I Wish That The Wars Were All Over which straight away showcases Owen's gentle yet powerful and distinctive voice. Much of the backing music is either produced electronically or with a beat box style rhythm from Janaway. The tune does have an experimental feel about it but the two elements don't quite gel. This gives way to I'll Make My Love A Garland/Sylvie which really shows you how well the duo's voices blend and complement each other, however again the mixture of sounds in the background are hit and miss. There is an element which sounds like someone stroking the teeth of a hair comb which adds nothing to the whole, but the ethereal electronica added underneath their singing does add to the atmosphere.
The second part of the offering is much more meshed together and the odd sounds as harmonies do bring something to the table. The beat box on One More Day brings a definite original feel to the song but then there seem to be too many elements added and the lyrics do get somewhat lost in a slightly confused sound. The voices of the duo and the beat box are good enough, it really didn't need anything adding to it.
Jute Mill Song again has the experimental feel about it although the inclusion of a bicycle bell-style sound is questionable and in fact as the tune goes on becomes somewhat irritating. There is no getting away from it,  the duo's voices are the strength of the track but there is this element of oil and water where the tune never quite mixes properly with the singing. The song seems to settle down a little in the second half and find more cohesion.
The sound of paper tearing opens 'Twas Through Moorfields I Rambled and you have to ask why? The electronic mixing and echoing of Owen's voice as the track gets going does give it an eerie and sinister feel and the electronic accompaniment gives it a sense of brooding. The duo get the recipe for experiment and traditional mixed much better on this song.
Like the previous track, Farewell He starts with Janaway mooching around with tin lids which adds nothing to the song. Fortunately the listener knows the enjoyable singing of the duo is coming along so any indiscretion is soon forgiven in the quality of their duet.
Lucy Wan gets the opening sound right with a Tibetan singing bowl which adds atmosphere straight away as Owen's strong tones come over the top, this should really have been enough but again there is the random input of what sounds like sellotape being pulled off the roll along with other noises which are more of an interruption than an addition.
The song starts off promising but then descends in parts to a confused cacophony. It's only Owen's clear and emotive voice which saves the day.
One of the better and more cohesive tracks on the album is Come To My Window/The Complaining Maid. Here they take another traditional track and give it a genuinely new feel rather than that of a song which has had some random elements bolted on to it.
The new album
With Dives and Lazarus the duo show that some of the previous tracks were gilding the lily. Their voices are excellent, with strength, depth and clarity and they harmonise wonderfully, anyone with an ear for top-notch singing would gladly listen to an album full of their voices alone.
The final track She Rode On The Railway is one of the better examples where their experimental styles blend a little better with their singing however, even in this slow ballad, with its ominous piano chords, you can see a lot of the joins.
It has to be said the electronica and beat box elements of their songs works much better than the random sounds they put in. At the risk of sounding too harsh these elements often sound like they have been included because they could be rather than because they should be.
There has to be room in music genres for people to innovate, experiment and try to push the boundaries and for that Solarference should be applauded.

Locks & Bolts is available now from the band's website and through bandcamp, iTunes and amazon

Friday 22 July 2016


CD Review

Alone With History

This fourth album from Alastair Savage, who is an absolute master of the fiddle, is his first of fiddle solos and he straddles and blurs the lines between what could be considered classical music and folk, but do you know what? the quality of the playing is so high there comes a point where you don't care.

Alastair Savage. Pic Simon Butterworth
Savage, from Ayrshire, opens with the suite Scenes From Gow (Seven pictures for solo fiddle) the first part of which is The Publishers' Tea/Nathaniel's Birthday. The Gow's were a family who started publishing music in the 19th century and it's because of them we can enjoy Savage's work on this album.
The Scottish musician's playing has a feel of the Lark Ascending to begin with but then develops a more highland and jaunty feel to it. It slides into The Plaid Weaver's Son/The Duke of Atholl's Catch/Sunday By The Tay. The first part of the trilogy has a more sombre feeling than the previous track but the precision of Savage's playing is evident. He cranks it up a couple of gears for the middle section before bringing it back down for the slightly lesser-paced final act which he still keeps light even as his fiddle growls out the notes.
The final part of the suite is From Ayrshire to Perthshire/Chasin' The Lassies. The first part is a slow, thoughtful air which moves on to a more playful tune, as the title would suggest, which is dedicated to Robert (Rabbie) Burns. Once again the precision of Savage's playing comes through as he interchanges between the strong louder notes and the gentler softer notes with such grace.
The next suite, Dear Poet, starts with Ae Fond Kiss which Savage has arranged from a traditional tune and is simply exquisite in the way he rolls and pitches the sound to give the piece real character and emotion.
Savage follows this with another of his incredible adaptations, this time of the tune most associated with Burns' famous song My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose. The traditional tune is just recognisable within the fiddler's gorgeous notes.
James Scott Skinner
Savage moves on to the third suite of tunes, which is dedicated to James Scott Skinner,  with The Strathspey King, Tribute to James Scott Skinner. The Queen's Welcome to Invercauld/The Glenlivet/Spey In Spate opens with a definite Gaelic pedigree as Savage makes the tune dance before it gives way to the more fractured sound of the second movement and ending with a light and definite dance tune.
The Bonnie Lass O'Bon Accord is a very lilting and thoughtful piece which has both a classical edge and yet you can still imagine the ordinary folk dancing en masse to the wafting sound as it soars up into the sky.
One of the most beautiful pieces on the album is The Cradle Song as you can imagine it's a very gentle, tender piece of music which would calm any troubled child.
The tune is made all the sweeter through Savage's expert execution. It fades into the more traditionally Scottish sounding The Iron Man. Dedicated to an engineer it has steel in its notes which gives it a strength character, this eventually gives way to the reel, Sandy Grant. Savage makes the notes dance as much as the lassies following the tune would do.
The penultimate suite is The Gow Family Tree which begins with Niel Gow's Lament for The Death of His 2nd Wife. Savage captures the mournful tune perfectly and if you listen carefully there is more than a hint of Will Ye Go Lassie Go sprinkled among the notes. The second movement is another triplet starting with Major Graham of Inchbrakie which is a slow air with beautifully languid strokes of the bow from Savage.
This gives way to the quicker pace of Duke of Gordon with undulating notes feeling almost like they are being blown into a dance like a leaf in the wind.
The new album
The triplet ends with the toe-tapping General McDonald's Reel which is far too short for such a light piece of enjoyable playing. The Countess of Selkirk's Favourite is the sophisticated first part of the next triplet which soon gives way to the lovely light and traditional sound of Largo's Fairy Dance, you can almost see the sprites having a ball in the depths of some woods far away from prying mortal eyes. Savage picks up the tempo for Major Molle the shortest of the three pieces.
The final suite is Three Reflections which begins with the solemn sounding Hymn For The Masters, the shortest piece on the album. The title track follows and is another quiet and thoughtful piece dedicated to the composers who have given Scotland so much music.
The gentle high notes do carry a reverence as they leave Savage's fiddle to bow before those who have gone before. Your Light Will Shine On is the final track and is again far too short for such an enjoyable and pensive piece of music which slowly wafts over you like the scented mist from an incense stick.
Savage is an undoubted master of his instrument and this album of pure fiddle music is a brave move but when you have the talent in your fingers as he does then anything seems possible.
If you love good fiddle music; you have an ear for the classical and you enjoy traditional folk with a real touch of class then this album will tick all the boxes.
The album is available now through Birnam CD as well as Savage's website and the usual download sites.

You can catch Savage live on Sunday, August 14 at Alastair Savage and Friends, Scots Fiddle Old And New at Canongate Kirk, 153 Canongate, Edinburgh, EH8 8BN. Doors open 7.30pm and the show starts 8pm. Tickets range from £10 to £24 for a family ticket.
Then on Monday, August 15, 2016 you can see him with Tom Rathbone, Scotland And Beyond at St. Cuthbert's Church, 5 Lothian Road, Edinburgh, EH1 2EP, Times and ticket prices are as above.
Then on Thursday, August 18/19/20/25 he is at the Arthur Conan Doyle Centre with Alone With History the venue is at 25 Palmerston Place, Edinburgh, EH12 5AP. The show starts 7.30pm and tickets range from £8 to £20 for family ticket.

Tuesday 19 July 2016


CD Review

War Stories

Harp & A Monkey's new album, War Stories, is inspired by the anniversary of the start of the First World War. However, using Martin Purdy's expertise on WWI, the band - Simon Jones and Andy Smith - explore the wider picture and have produced not so much an album but a musical social documentary which has taken the lesser walked path when bringing together the stories of that tragic war. 

Martin Purdy. Picture Danny Farragher
Rather than concentrate on the dreadful figures and statistics of what was a mass slaughter of young soldiers which has, rightly, been well covered by the mainstream media the trio have come at it from a more homoeopathic angle.
Musically they have been piecing together a picture of the different aspects of life experienced by the Tommys and their families other than the mud, death, shells and gassings, as Purdy explained.
"When we were first asked about doing a World War One themed project we were a bit wary of it because in the centenary 2014 everyone is going to be doing stuff and, although I'm a First World War historian, I wanted to distance myself a little bit from some of that stuff. 
"We thought we'll do something but we want to do something different and instead of focusing on the glorious dead and the fallen and poppies, which is how most people tend to remember and think of the First World War. It's really easy to forget the fact that for every 10 British servicemen who served, nine of them came home, and the forgotten men are really the men who came home and who were lost in this narrative of the fallen. So we said we going to make this record and talk a lot and focus a lot on the men who came home." *
You can't help but notice the amount of background work the trio have put into this collection.
Opener The Banks of the Green Willow focuses on the those who made it home who were called the "forgotten  men". As much as they can in a single song they try to address the complexities of feelings felt by those who survived. The wonderful thing about HaM is that they can get away with a lighter tune while tackling a fairly hefty subject using that distinctive and eclectic sound which has become synonymous with them.
The gentle song tells of those who came back, some whole, others maimed or mentally scarred for life carrying the injuries which affected them, their wives and families and were often forgotten in all the remembrance.
Scattered among the songs are archive recordings of soldiers and people who were directly affected by the war which add an extra poignancy.
Soldier Soldier is a story in the true sense of the folk tradition. The gentle and tinkling tune tells the story of tragedy and exploitation where a lover looks for news of her soldier to be met by a comrade who treats her sympathetically but has an ulterior motive and ultimately tries to take the place of her lost love.
The lyrics of HaM's songs cut to the chase and are quite acerbic and, while they may not carry the shock value to the slightly jaded modern listeners, in times of war - right up until the Falklands Conflict - there is a good chance this album would have been banned from national airplay.
Broken Men carries on the story from the opening track with the lyrics concentrating on the men who were crippled or disfigured and the adjustment and sometimes rejection they faced from their spouses and lovers as they tried to get back some semblance of normality.
HaM manage to keep a feel for the black trench humour juxtaposing the gentle, almost playful style of music using instruments such as the xylophone and Jew's harp with the seriousness and gravity of the subject.
Harp & A Monkey. Picture Danny Farragher
Charlie Chaplin is a well travelled tune which HaM have adapted and overlayed their own soundtrack and lyrics about life in and around the trenches. It does have a slightly anti-jingoistic style to it and wouldn't be out of place in the satirical Oh! What A Lovely War.
What follows is perhaps the most unusual angle on the war and that is how many men were put out of action by sexually transmitted diseases. Not a side of the war which is often brought to the public attention. The tune and some of the lyrics will be more than familiar to many folkies and what the song does is open up the view of the war which has been somewhat narrowed to the atrocious figures.
Another familiar tune comes with Raise A Glass To Danny which is the story of Daniel Laidlaw who won the Victoria Cross but was ultimately buried in an unmarked grave in the 1950s. Remarkably HaM have included a recording of the Piper of Loos himself. This is another ballad where Purdy's matter-of-fact way of singing lets the story take precedence over the eclectic style of music.
The Long Long Trail is a tragic tale of two brothers who were separated by procedure never to be reunited because of the war. Once again HaM have got hold of a recording of one of the relatives who brings authenticity to the story. Connie Noble recalls the words of her father who said: "For a bit of red tape I couldn't see our Bob for the last time."
Once again with The Postman's Song the trio come up with a side story which wouldn't occur to most people but the awful job of the local postie who had to deliver all the death notices to families, sometimes many in one village. The postman would be greeted like the angel of death bringing the worst news possible and was witness to many outpourings of grief from stricken mothers and wives.
There is an ominous opening to the song and the musicians even throw in a reggae beat to this story of a thankless job.
Ghosts Around The Table, strangely enough, has a much stronger beat and there is a harshness to Purdy's voice as he relates the tale of the bond between men who faced the horrors in the trenches together. One such group met for an annual dinner until there were too few left to sustain the ritual but such was the bond that those who were left still claimed to feel their comrades presence. There is an urgency about this song more than other on the album.
The new album
The final track Flanders' Shore is an emotive song giving one father's version of why he went to war and while many were swept up in a wave of jingoism there were many who genuinely believed they were doing the right thing and were protecting all they held precious.
Once again the strength is in the storytelling made all the more poignant by the fact it's about real lives.
War Stories is a very thoughtful and thought provoking album, it's very clever and in it's own way widens the vision and perception of the First World War. It also adds flesh to the bones of so many men, women and families who could easily get lost in the horrific statistics of World War One. What HaM have done is grounded this historically significant event back among the ordinary people with a very insightful and well thought out piece of work.

War Stories is out now and available from the band's website. You can catch the trio live on July 23-24 at Village Pump Folk Festival, Trowbridge, Wiltshire. Tickets

* Taken from an interview with Mark Radcliffe on the BBC Radio 2 Folk Show broadcast July 13 2016

Saturday 9 July 2016


CD Review

Some Other Shore

The cut glass crystal voice of Daria Kulesh is back in action with the band Kara for what is a wonderfully eclectic mix of Russian influenced music and folk tunes. Kulesh last tickled our tone buds with her solo album Eternal Child and now she is back surrounded by the talented band which is made up of Phil Underwood, Ben Honey and Kate Rouse.

Phil Underwood, Ben Honey, Kate Rouse and Daria Kulesh
who are Kara. Photograph John Maw
This album carries on with the distinctive sound and story telling they brought us with Waters So Deep.
Put together by Kulesh and Honey her almost operatic singing opens the album with Tamara's Wedding which is coloured in and given that gypsy feel through Underwood on the melodeon and Rouse on the dulcimer. The song is a dark tale of a bride-to-be lured into a darker world and if you think parts of the melody sound familiar then the devil is in the detail.
In contrast, Seaview is about memories, remembered places and how perspectives can be kept alive in the hearts and minds of those who were fortunate to enjoy it. Kulesh's singing takes on a folkier sound and is much softer than her previous offering as she paints a picture of the landscapes she is recalling.
Lover's Tasks/Black Tea Waltz is a wonderfully traditional arrangement of Scarborough Fair which has its roots firmly in the past but comes with modern clothing. Rouse's gorgeous dulcimer introduction and musical strand throughout gives it a real historic atmosphere and the quality of her playing cannot be overstated. Kulesh's voice is as crystal clear and hypnotic as ever.
Another of Kulesh's creations, Goodbye and Forgive Me, is a bread-and-butter folk murder ballad which tells the story of a wife trapped in her marriage and looking for solace in the arms of another who, of course, has to be a scoundrel.
The music box opening, reminiscent of Hedwig's Theme from the Harry Potter films, let's you know Kulesh is drawing the listener into another stage in the worlds she creates so vividly with her singing. The simply accompaniment underneath her voice, as she almost narrates the tale with real drama in her lyrics, give it a poignant and slightly sinister edge.
Adrienne was put together by Honey and is brought in by Underwood's bellows. As you listen to this song you really get a chance to appreciate the subtleties and pinpoint nuances Kulesh can create with her vocals. This is a gentle, ethereal tale of a music fairy and the way it's executed you can imagine an audience enthralled by the tune and singing as they sit on the edge of their seats to take in every word and note.
Daria Kulesh
What follows are two traditional sounding tunes the first of which Hollingbourne has a definite Gallic feel to it and the second Broadhurst Gardens leans more towards the Morris side of dance music. But both are incredibly light pieces that would keep people dancing in the warmth of summer until the wee hours.
The opening of Misery and Vodka could easily be the theme tune to a spy thriller set in a far of land which danger lurks around every corner of numerous exotic locations. It's mood is lifted by Kulesh going native and treating the listener to her cheery and slightly cheeky singing, where you can almost hear the clink of vodka glasses being knocked together in time to the tune.
As a four piece band Kara create atmosphere by the bucketload and with Kulesh' vocal skills emotion comes pouring out of the speakers to give real substance to the people and places she sings about. Carousel Waltz is a perfect example, the subtlety of Underwood's melodeon blends beautifully with the breathy almost sensuous singing of Kulesh.
Stormteller is a great narrative with Kulesh obviously enjoying telling it. It's almost as if she in a race with Honey on guitar as she builds up the atmospherics of nature's energy.
You can almost smell the salt air as Underwood brings in Leigh Fishermen and siren-like Kulesh tells the tale of the trials, hardship and danger fishermen face to fill our plates. The song, dedicated to The Fishermen's Mission, is a cautionary tale to never take for granted where our food comes from.
Honey comes up with a cutting and incisive song about the rich and powerful making decisions behind closed doors which manipulate and in many cases destroy the lives of those to whom they pay little concern,
The new album
It's hard to think of anyone other than Kulesh doing justice to Devilry Dance, you can almost see her strutting around the cigar smoke clad tables of the men in suits with the millions, singing of her contempt for what they do without them even realising it.
For the final track Kulesh again goes native to the background sound of Rouse's dulcimer which sets the atmosphere perfectly. Ataman comes from the proud Cossack tradition and is a ballad arranged by Kulesh. It's a gentle ballad considering the dark content of the lyrics.
Kara are without doubt one of the most creative bands around at the moment, you could almost throw their songs onto a canvas and the artistic creation would gradually appear before your eyes. With Kulesh's lush and emotive singing they create atmospheric scenes to rival any special effects team from Hollywood. They have come from deep waters to land on some other shore and filled the landscape with their incredibly personal sound.

Some Other Shore is out now on the band's own label and available from their website and through download sites.

Wednesday 6 July 2016


CD Review

Poor Strange Girl

Just as the prospectors of old filled with excitement when finding that one nugget of solid gold so comes the shining debut album of super-talented, Yorkshire songstress Alice Jones.

Alice Jones
Earning brownie points straight away by singing in her regional accent, Jones joins those who proud to keep their work grounded in their backgrounds such as Kate Rusby, Fay Hield and The Unthanks, to name but a few.
Jones is joined, on this impressive showcase of her singing, songwriting and musical talents, by Tom Kitching - from the wonderful Pilgrims' Way - and Hugh Bradley from The Whisky Priests.
The opening and title track has a folk pedigree that is as impressive as its execution. You know from the style it's Americana but Jones puts her northern stamp on the dark tale.
This is followed by arguably the best track on the album. Woody Knows Nothing is a gentle ballad about love which has nothing but Jones' lovely soft tones which she highlights with wonderfully minimalist piano playing. This is one of those songs you can play over and over and never get tired of hearing it.
The Larkman/The Herron Tree (sic) are the first of the instrumental tunes on the album and have a real history, almost Medieval feel to them even though they were created by Jones. Her talent for the whistle comes to the fore on the first tune skipping the notes along at a fair old pace, and Kitching keeps step on the fiddle. They crank things up a notch for the second part almost as if racing each other.
Jones then brings her version of The Cruel Mother to the table. Her voice is more storyteller than singer and is suitably dour for this ballad about child killings with her harmonium adding a brooding and sinister edge to this well-travelled tale.
The haunting sound of her piano playing brings in her arrangement of Green Bushes a good solid folk tale of philandering. Jones' singing is subtle, serene and superb as she performs it almost as a hymn. Her singing is accented again by her gentle keyboard skills with Kitching coming in with a lovely lilting harmony on the strings. Jones' voice comes with a real clarity that pushes out every syllable as though exhibiting them as separate entities.
Frank Kidson
The second of her instrumental offerings is Wedding Masurkas, two tunes she wrote as wedding presents. The tunes are beautifully light whistle playing carried along by the droning harmonium almost as though to stop proceedings getting too frivolous.
She does know how to wring every drop out of notes she plays on the keyboard. Nothing is wasted and her arrangement of Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still is put together and executed with laser precision to create a song which borders on the spiritual.
It's one of the longest tracks on the album and she has that gentleness of word you associate with Ange Hardy.
Frank Kidson's collection is plundered for When I Am Far Away. Jones' singing style lends itself perfectly to this broadside and you realise just how uncluttered her tunes are. Kitching's rasping sound on the fiddle and the resonance of the harmonium are enough to carry the clarity of her singing.
Jones' goes back to her whistle playing for the third of the instrumentals, Digerpolskan/The Duhk Street Reel. The first part has the feel of a lonely shepherd playing for his own amusement as he watches the flock grazing. The second part picks up the pace up with the whistle turning over a tune which has a strong ethnic feel to it.
Adieu To Old England is a tale of recession and how lives are affected with ordinary things in life standing as metaphors for how people struggle with even the basics of everyday existence. Jones uses a very matter of fact style of singing which seems to echo the bleakness of the narrative for what is the longest track on the album.
Jones goes back to her storytelling style for her arrangement of The Castle By the Sea which is another died-the-wool folk tale of intrigue, treachery and death. She slows down the narrative to the point where she is almost orating the tale from a book. There seems to be a disparity between her singing and the fiddle accompaniment so the instrumental is always noticeable but somehow it works.
The debut album
The final track Long, Long Trail A-Winding is another arrangement from the singer/dancer. It does have the feel of a music hall song until it switches to something which isn't a million miles away from It's A Long Way To Tipperary and suddenly the realisation that this is about WWI dawns. Her use of the harmonium gives it the feel of the church-like rallies they used to have to whip up fervour for the troops while at the same time having the sadness of a dirge.
This may be a debut album but Jones already has an impressive track record of festivals and sessions work behind her as well as a deep interest in folk music, all of which has culminated in a first album which is a shining example of just how good British folk can be.

Poor Strange Girl is out now on the Splid label and distributed by Proper Music.
You can catch Jones live from August 5 to 7 at The Dartmoor Folk Festival.

Sunday 3 July 2016


CD Review

Songs From The Boarwood

Scot Euan Drysdale opens his follow up to his debut album, Parcel of Rogues, with a lively song which has that easy beat reminiscent of Paul Heaton of The Beautiful South and The Housemartins, but also has the energy of a Saw Doctors offering. This is an album of original tunes from the Bathgate-born singer.

Euan Drysdale
Drysdale has a real versatility and can easily switch styles, a trait obvious on this album but he also has an under-produced rawness to his way of singing and playing which is quite refreshing.
Dancing Bears has that toe tapping quality; a light song which lifts the spirits and the sort of music which should be played in an open topped car driving under the summer sun.
Drysdale is joined on the album by incredible fiddler Alastair Savage, who has his own album out Alone With History, and former Capercaille percussionist Wilf Taylor.
The album is about Drysdale's persona and what has conspired to make him the person and musician he is today while giving the listener the opportunity to tap into their own memories of people and places, past and present.
Dark Moon is a gentle but brooding ballad about loss. Drysdale's voice softens for the song and has a melancholic shade to it. It's also where Drysdale gets to show you another of the many strings to his bow - accompanying himself on the piano.
The gentle guitar opening of Stone by Stone is matched by the softness of Drysdale's singing and is a restful ballad alluding to one of the journeys in the artist's life. Savage's subtle fiddle accompaniment adds to the thoughtfulness of the song.
Drysdale hardens things up for Steelyard Blues bringing a gravelly voice and heavier sound as the guitar strings provide the thumping rhythm. The electric strand brings a rock element to the proceedings where the singer juxtaposes a softer tone switching back and forth between the two forms, almost as if he is trying to pack as many musical styles into one song as possible.
Alistair Savage
The lighter sound of The Ballad Of Billy Blue brings a country blues sound to the cryptic lyrics with once again Savage adding colour with a mountain fiddle strand.
Drysdale again show his many talents pitching his singing somewhere between the gritty style of the previous blues song and the softer sound of  Dark Moon.
With an unaccompanied opening verse Have Not Loved Enough takes you a little by surprise as it stands out for the emotion Drysdale invests in it.  What sounds like a strong lament is made even more emotive by the introduction of his piano playing as the lone accompaniment.
The late great Gerry Rafferty's Get It Right comes to mind as soon as the blues rift which opener of Something To Do fires up. Drysdale's even tones seem to be a stabilising strand throughout the heavy beat of the strong blues number. There are times when he is close to orating the song rather than singing it. Almost as a cheeky aside, Drysdale who started off as a trumpet player, introduces a mock horn sound.
Another Sky has a retro folk sound to it and does evoke images of the summer of love, Woodstock and Simon & Garfunkel as Drysdale lets his folky side off the leash. The strong ballad does however had a slightly sinister undertone which stops you from getting too comfortable with the tune.
Drysdale reaches the end of his musical and personal retrospective with The Last Grey of the Evening which is a big ballad sung to his lone piano playing.
It gives you the image of the nightclub singer in a single spotlight of a smoky nightclub as the last customers trickle out. It's a really thoughtful song and you get a feeling Drysdale is singing for his own cathartic reasons, his soft tones seem to teeter on the edge of losing control of his emotions.
It's a complete contrast from the opening track and is a slick way to end the album and bring it to a definite close.
Drysdale has a versatility and a lightness of touch which belies his stern looking demeanour. His style has a rawness which gives him a distinctive sound and which would have been lost had the album been overproduced.
Songs From The Boarwood is a solid album from a solid musician and is a good example of how to give an insight into the tapestry of life through music and song.

Songs From The Boarwood is on Firdon Records and available now from the artist's website, itunes, Amazon, Google Play and Birnam Online.