REV HAMMER AND NICK HARPER – Live at Unit 23 Live, Totnes

Rev Hammer
Photographs by Jean Camp

Folk Rock legends, Rev Hammer and Nick Harper wowed the audience at Unit 23 Live in Totnes, South Devon recently. The venue owner Simon has just taken over, and making a huge mark on this quirky venue in the middle of an industrial estate. Ex South Hams Radio presenter – Rob Wheeler, who has known Rev for years, put this gig on, so thank you Rob for doing this!

Ably assisted support by young up and coming Sam Ryan and Connor Walsh, the evening was a mixture of pure brilliance!

Connor Walsh kicked off the evening, although I had not seen or heard of him before, he was soon into getting audience reaction. Blue paint was drawn across his eyes like a mask, and I wondered what an earth we were going to hear! War paint?? He kicked off with a drinking song, and off we went! Very lively and we all sat up to listen to this talented young man. Shortly after we had an audience participation song, which went down very well! Connor’s mixtures of songs showed he has an awesome talent and will go far. I loved his set!

Next up came Sam Ryan, son of Rev Hammer, showing his Dad’s talent. Sam was as awesome as Connor but with his own style (not his father’s) kicking off with a lively number, ‘Men’ was just brilliant, and an audience participation song ‘Vikings’ had everyone shouting in unison with gusto when required! Self-penned songs and we will see more of Sam in his own right I’m sure. Sam wrote the title track ‘Skald’ on the new Rev Hammer album and performed on it.

Nick Harper
Nick Harper

Rev and Nick came on stage together and did numbers mostly individually. As Nick produced Rev’s new album he knew the guitar work as had played on it. Nick is an outstanding singer/songwriter, who just blew me away with his guitar playing. Rev joked he had Billy Bragg at his side! Two legends with attitude!

Nick passionately sang some cracking numbers including ‘Bloodsong’, a very bluesy, gritty number and his facial expressions told us he was away with the music. ‘Incredible Skies’ was just awesome, and we were all blown away by the tune and words, ‘I Will Carry You Always’ – a song about baggage, ‘Juicy Fruit Girl’ – which was kind of humorous, another bluesy track. ‘I Need You Now,’ ‘Peace, Love and Happiness’, ‘Real Life’ and Aeroplane was a great song to finish the evening. This got everyone off their seats more or less. Awesome!

Rev Hammer
Rev Hammer

Rev and Nick alternated to perform and when I asked Rev for a set list to do the review, I found out it was going to be random! He gave us ‘Punch Drunk’ to open his turn, love it and so many others did too, as linked to Rev’s association with The Levellers. A favourite Rev song of mine was on the list – ‘No One Or Nothing’, Rev also did a leg pull of Ralph McTell, which I hadn’t heard before, but as I like Ralph McTell, I won’t comment! ‘Garden of Gethsemane’ and ‘I’m Ready And I’m Waiting’ off Skald, ‘Drunkards Waltz’, which the Oysterband covered, and another of my favourites – ‘Every Woman’s Pain’, from his very successful folk opera Freeborn John and which he dedicated to his daughters!

An absolutely fabulous evening and look forward to hearing them all again soon. Check them out and buy Rev Hammer’s Skald album following the link from his website.

Jean Camp

Artists’ websites: /  /

‘Apple’ – Nick and Sam are heard but not seen:

AULD HAT NEW HEIDS – Volume 1 (Rickety Rackety Records RRR005)

Auld HatThe stated aim of Auld Hat New Heids’ album is to recreate the glory days of folk clubs – you remember; when we could go out for a good sing, have a couple of pints and still go home with change from a quid (yes, I am that old). This they do with considerable aplomb and even though these are Scottish folk clubs many of these songs were sung up and down the country night after night. Everyone knew ‘Shoals Of Herrin’’ and versions of ‘The Diamond Ship’ and ‘Twa Recruitin’ Sergeants’ and probably ‘Jock O’Hazeldean’ and ‘The Jute Mill Song’ too.

Auld Hat New Heids are Ian Bruce, probably the more famous of the Bruce brothers until Fraser’s appearance on Eggheads, fiddler Pete Clark (founder of the Neil Gow Festival) and Gregor Lowrey on accordion. What these four guys do seems simple enough – it was simple back then – but there are lots of clever twists to remind you what fine musicians they are.

The opening ‘Prelude’, written by Fraser and Ian, is a bit contrived but it has to set up the last line, making the point that here we have new heads playing what is considered old hat by many. There are songs by many of Scotland’s most famous. I can’t remember when I first heard Alex Campbell’s ‘Been On The Road So Long’ – I’d like to think it was from the man itself sometime back in the late 60s, but I won’t swear to it – but Archie Fisher’s ‘Fairfield Crane’ only came to my attention recently and I’d never heard Matt McGinn’s ‘Three Nights And A Sunday Double Time’ until today. That’s the beauty of folk music, there is always something new around the corner.

Six of the fourteen tracks were recorded live and the rest in the studio and inevitably the album represents a step forward from could have been achieved back then, both musically and technologically. The feeling is right, though, and that’s more important. All that remains is for the band to publish a key to the cover picture – I recognise Robert Burns, Ewan MacColl (even though he came from Salford), The Humblebums, Barbara Dickson and the blessed Michael Marra and is that Hamish Imlach looking over Gregor’s shoulder? I know who should be there – just not where they are. So please do that, chaps, while we wait for Volume Two.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

CHRISTINE PRIMROSE – Gràdh Is Gonadh – Guth Ag Aithris (Temple COMCD2109)

Christine PrimroseThat Christine Primrose is one of Scotland’s premier Gaelic singers is a given. The title translates as Love & Loss – A Lone Voice and that tells you pretty much all you need to know. There are eleven newly recorded tracks and three bonus tracks one of which, from a 1987 album, serves to reunite the two poems of William Campbell dedicated to his late wife and set to music by Christine at his request.

There is a lot of love here; some unrequited, some forbidden, some lasting beyond death and some dedicated to land and home. Many, like Campbell’s ‘Gràdh Maireannach’ and ‘Gad Ionndrainn’ come from (relatively) modern poets while six are traditional and few will be known outside the Gaelic community. In fact, ‘An Gille Donn’ (The Brown-haired Lad) is the only one I recognise with any certainty. It’s a lament, of course, and a couple of tracks later comes an elegy – things are not getting any happier. Thinking of ‘An Gille Donn’ I was struck by how often the object of affection is referred to obliquely. So here we have (and forgive me if I stay with the English titles) ‘The Curly-haired Young Man’, ‘I Gave My Promise To The Islander’, ‘The Black-Haired Lad I’ll Not Forsake’ and ‘My Love Is The Fair-haired One’. Does it stem from living in small communities where everyone knows everyone else’s business? If so, I’m not sure that it would have worked.

My one criticism is that the subject matter makes the album rather homogenous. There are no up-tempo songs and no humour. Even the spoken word interjections are rather dour. The lyrics, in both Gaelic and English, are available to download from Christine’s website and I found that following the Gaelic, which I don’t speak incidentally, helped to put the beautiful tunes into context.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the CHRISTINE PRIMROSE – Gràdh Is Gonadh link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.


Artist’s website:

‘Mo Cheist Am Fear Bàn’ – official video:

CORY FLYNN – A Boy Named Hunger (Long Way Home Music LWHM 003)

A Boy Named HungerCory Flynn, from Brighton, is just 16 years old, but has been performing both as a soloist and in bands for nearly six years. And on the 15th September 2017, his first studio album, A Boy Named Hunger, will be released. His web site tells us that his style is heavily influenced by Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams, and another source is quoted as claiming that he “Writes like Dylan, sings like Cash, looks like Beckham“.

I can’t really hear Cash in his vocals – in fact, at times he sounds a bit like Phil Ochs but with less vibrato. If you need a 21st century reference point, I guess you might cite Jake Bugg: not that you’d mistake one for the other, but both have distinctive vocal deliveries that focus on the internal rhythms of the song rather than on ‘fine’ singing. However, the influence of Dylan (and perhaps others of the same 60s ilk) is certainly noticeable: not only in much of his songwriting, but also in his rhythmic flatpicking and, at times, his vocal delivery. However, it would be simplistic to see him as (to quote ‘Raiders of the Sun’) “a copy of a copy of a copy“. While his lyrics sometimes have a pile-up of somewhat surreal imagery reminiscent of late 60s Dylan, they have a satiric bite of their own that bodes well for his future work. It’s a pity there isn’t a lyric sheet included.

I generally try to avoid leaning too hard on comparing one artist to another in a review, but this is a ‘young’ collection of songs from a young artist who is still finding his own voice, and it’s not really possible to avoid mentioning his borrowings from earlier music. Nevertheless, there is much here to like.

The instrumentation here is minimal: except for ‘Raiders Of The Sun’, where he plays piano, there’s just Cory’s acoustic guitar, augmented on ‘Night At The Opera’ by Chris Clarke on bass.

  1. ‘The Firing Squad’ is the most obvious example of a performer who wears his influences on his sleeve: the structure of the song is a little too close to ‘It’s All Right Ma’ for comfort, though the lyric is not so remorselessly depressive: indeed, the last line of the first verse had me laughing out loud, though I certainly wouldn’t describe it as a comic song.
  2. The guitar and vocals of ‘The Hobbyist’ remind me a little of Alan Hull/Lindisfarne. The guitar intro has an unexpected delicacy, morphing into a driving accompaniment. Some sparing double-tracking on the vocals (the only instance of double-tracking on the CD, that I noticed) gives the chorus added punch.
  3. ‘Open The Gates’ has another Dylanesque intro: for a second I thought I was going to hear ‘The Ballad of Hollis Brown’, though the body of the song goes in quite a different direction. On the other hand, since Dylan’s tune and accompaniment themselves borrow from Appalachian tradition, why not? The vocal delivery is also Dylan-ish, though plenty of singers have successfully gone the same route.
  4. ‘Raiders Of The Sun’, from which the album title is taken, substitutes piano for guitar. Despite the occasional lapse into Dylanesque vocal delivery, the song benefits from less mannered vocals. While there’s a harshness to his voice that will probably not be to anyone’s taste, it does show a range and a lower register I didn’t expect from the previous tracks. I’m getting rather fond of the couplet “To end her suffering/she must suffer her ending…
  5. The guitar and, in places, the vocal on ‘Gospel of Khan’ are kind of reminiscent of Phil Ochs, but the wordplay seems very much Cory’s own. Very interesting.
  6. ‘Clean Dirt’ has a very slightly flamenco feel to the guitar, though the vocal delivery is somewhere between Dylan and Al Stewart, or maybe a rougher-hewn Jeff Buckley. A little too rough-hewn for my taste, but the lyric is interesting. Well, all his lyrics are interesting.
  7. The lyrics to ‘A Night At The Opera’ comprise a story that would not have felt out of place on Highway 61 Revisited.
  8. ‘Rachael’ is a long (nearly 11 minutes) story song/allegory. Against the odds, it held my attention all the way through.
  9. ‘Foreign Storm’ harks back to the more straightforward social messages of early Dylan or Phil Ochs, with a very apposite message for those who think that saying how awful things are is the same as being socially responsible. It just about avoids being one of the diluted messages about ‘plastic people’ subsequently associated with the ‘pop protest’ songs of the late 60s. It’s also being promoted as a single.

My first reaction to this album, when I checked out the videos on Cory’s web site, was ‘raw but interesting’. Having lived with the album itself for a few days, I find it a little easier to see past the obvious Dylan influences and perhaps appreciate that he has a wider range of musical and poetic influences and interests to work from, as he finds a voice that is more his own. Even in the songs where the Dylanisms verge on parody – and let’s not forget that even good parody requires a gift for inventive wordplay – there are frequent glimpses of a different viewpoint and intelligence at work. This is a promising beginning to his career in the studio.

David Harley

Artist’s website:

‘Raiders Of The Sun’ – official video:

Cambridge and Newport announce historic twinning of two legendary Folk Festivals

Newport Cambridge

Two of the oldest and most prestigious Folk Festivals in the world will form a partnership that will herald the start of a unique new transatlantic artistic relationship.

Cambridge Folk Festival Managing Director Steve Bagnall commented:

‘Cambridge Folk Festival has always tested the boundaries of Folk with its programme and we are excited to be working with and learning from a Festival that has the artistic heritage and ambition of Newport. Twinning with Newport will allow both Festivals to explore unique and extraordinary artistic opportunities that will excite audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.’

Since 1959, the Newport Folk Festival® has held a unique place in America’s musical and cultural history. A hub for the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and the site of Bob Dylan’s famous switch to electric guitar in 1965, the Festival also hosted the first major appearances of Joan Baez, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Arlo Guthrie, and sparked the revival of gospel, Cajun and blues. Today the Festival’s unique alchemy between past and present still serves fans who crave innovation but appreciate tradition. Newport has also played an essential role in the forming of the Cambridge Folk Festival. Inspired by the seminal documentary, Jazz On A Summer’s Day, about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, Ken Woollard went on to set up Cambridge Folk Festival in 1965.

Jay Sweet, Newport Folk Festival Executive Producer commented:

‘We are excited that from next year Newport Folk Festival will be twinning with Cambridge Folk Festival. This move will allow us to share ideas, experiences and some artists from two festivals that have grown up together and in their own way played a role in shaping the folk music landscape on both sides of the Atlantic. This partnership will allow us to bring a little bit of Newport to Cambridge and vice versa.’

Since 1965 Cambridge has become renowned for pushing the boundaries and definition of what might be considered folk by combining the best traditional folk artists from the UK and Ireland with cutting edge contemporary acts, the finest American country, blues and roots artists, and acclaimed singer songwriters. The line-up has reflected the many changes in the music scene from the 60’s to the present and is always a hotbed mix of the old and new. The Festival has hosted legends such as Paul Simon, Shirley Collins and Christy Moore early in their careers and this year sees Jake Bugg headlining six years after making his debut on the Festival’s famed development stage The Den.

Full details of the twinning will be confirmed after the 2017 festivals.

Keith James tours The Songs Of Nick Drake

Nick Drake songs

A haunting and immaculately crafted concert

This concert begins with an introductory set of timeless songs by brilliant songwriters – all contemporary with Nick DrakeRichard Thompson, Roy Harper, Sandy Denny, Al Stewart, Vashti Bunyan, John Martyn, Bridget St John and Bert Jansch.

Also featured are two poems by William Blake which Keith has set to guitar arrangements based on Nick’s unique style.

Nick Drake is the most revered and loved of all this country’s singer/songwriters. He recorded three cherished Albums between 1969 and 1972 but was almost entirely unknown in his day. After his tragic death in 1974, aged only 26, his music almost disappeared into obscurity. Now, thanks to a massive resurgence of interest and a worldwide re-evaluation of his genius, Nick Drake has become a National treasure. An important book, Remembered For A While has been recently released, written by his elder sister Gabrielle Drake. This volume throws light on almost everything attributed to Nick’s brief career as a songwriter and recording artist as well as on many corners of mystery and supposition.

A number of years have now passed since singer/guitarist Keith James paralysed the whole country with his stunningly beautiful series of concerts entitled The Songs Of Nick Drake. At the beginning of the project in 2001 he was the first artist ever to bring this fragile and intriguing music to theatres across the UK in its pure live concert form. The end result was over a decade of highly acclaimed concerts amounting to over 1500 shows in venues in the UK, Ireland, Holland, France, Italy and Spain including all of Nick’s Schools and Colleges – even Glastonbury Festival.

‘Some of the most atmospheric and emotive music you will ever hear’  The Independent

‘a sensitive and pleasingly understated delivery, all the better that the songs might speak for themselves’  Acoustic Magazine

Artist’s website:

Nick Drake

‘Place To Be’ live:

Tour Dates