DARLINGSIDE – Birds Say (Thirty Tigers)

Birds SayNamed as the Folk Alliance Artist of the Year 2016, the Massachussetts-based quartet are likely to make Mumford fans moist with their four-part harmony baroque folk-pop, but you’ll also hear touches of Fleet Foxes, the Byrds, CSN&Y and, especially on ‘My Gal, My Guy’, with Simon and Garfunkel in there too. Comprising bassist Dave Senft, guitarist and banjo player Don Mitchell, classical violinist and folk mandolinist Auyon Mukharji, and cellist and guitarist Harris Paseltiner, they complement their core instrumentation with harmonium, Wurlitzer and grand piano, but no drums.

Full of dreamy melodies that contrast with the often melancholic lyrics, their’s is a clear sky sound, a mix of summer and wintery colours (t was recorded in Boston’s snowiest month in history) that opens with ‘The Ancestors’, a number that, underpinned by pulsing bass, shares a similar sentiment to ‘After The Goldrush’ as, in choral manner, they sing “I will find my way/Out of the dark someday/Into a crimson yellow sun/I’ll follow my baby boy/He’ll be a silver toy/And we’ll count the ages as they’re ending.”

Addressing a theme of nostalgia, the equally melancholic ‘White Horses’ brings in the violin and piano to supplement brushed banjo before they get playful on the skittering, tumblingly sung ‘Harrison Ford’, where lines like “Harrison and I are on a bird he built out of old sedans, balloons, and duct tape. Projected in the cabin, there’s an agent he calls ‘The Wolf’. She never shows her face. Her voice as big as a house, she says,Burn your things and meet me on the roof in an hour.  I think I need to tell my landlord that I’m gonna be late with the rent” evoke an American chamber folk Syd Barrett.

The a capella intro to the 12-string jangling ‘Go Back’, one of several stand-outs, has been likened to CSN&Y, but I’m more put in mind of a cross between The Byrds and early Matthews Southern Comfort not to mention Oxford’s own folk-rock supremos The Dreaming Spires. The brief title track, a musing on communication and yet another song to draw on natural imagery, is another delight with its handclap percussion, wheezing midsection cello and violin and the calypso tumble of the verses, as is the Celtic and Appalachian colours of the gorgeous but more serious ‘The God of Loss’ with its lyric about familial loyalties.

The 35 seconds of ‘Water Rose’ (think this album’s Bookends) give way to another philosophical meditation (“only time will tell if you’re the sea itself or an echoing shell”) with the handclap beat and more complex arrangement of ‘Do You Ever Live?’ that suggests Brian Wilson to be an influence too. A further musical departure from the body of the album comes with the penultimate psychedelia-tinted five minute ‘Volcano Sky’, a sort of meeting of Wilco and The Flaming Lips that opens with a sparse ghostly piano and sythesised sounds conjuring the vastness of the universe at night before strummed guitar sets the slow motion swirl into play, a solitary vocal leading the number to its fuzzed finale.

Rippling banjo returns things to the wide open landscape and dreamy harmonising of the upbeat ‘Good For You’ with its sense of being alone in the vastness of nature but also of feeling ‘a comfort in the darkness’, a line that echoes the spirituality that threads throughout the album. Birds Say is their third album and deserves to be the one that introduces them to a far wider audience. Tweet this.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: http://www.darlingside.com/

‘White Horses’ – official video:

Trail West announce second album

Trail West - Rescattermastered

With all band members hailing from the Hebridean Isles of Tiree and South Uist, the music and culture that they were raised in remains a pure and refreshing trademark in the sound of Trail West. Rescattermastered represents the next step on the journey for this exciting west coast quartet.

With special guests including Runrig’s Malcolm Jones and iconic Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes, this is an album that celebrates everything that is great about traditional music in Scotland and the appreciation that young musicians have for the tradition and culture that has helped to shape their lives.

As with the band’s first release (The One That Got Away, 2013), Rescattermastered demonstrates the incredible musicianship of frontline pair Seonaidh MacIntyre and Ian Smith through high-energy tunes and arrangements, accompanied by the multi-instrumental talents of Andrew Findlater and Alain Campbell. In addition to this, a wide selection of songs now highlight the development and maturity of a band leading the thriving scene of ‘Glasgow Gaels’ ensuring that traditional music in Scotland has a very strong future.

If you would like to download a copy of the album or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: www.trail-west.co.uk

‘Close To Home’ – official video:

HATTIE BRIGGS – Young Runaway (Wise Dog Records WDR003)

Young RunawayIt’s probably true to say that Hattie Briggs has burst onto the scene.  The Gloucestershire based singer/songwriter drew enough confidence from being a BBC2 Young Folk Award nominee to give up reading Russian at Oxford to go full time as a musician.  Her début EP My Shepherd’s Hut was released in 2013, followed by the highly acclaimed début album Red and Gold in 2015 and a trailer EP Here’s To Hoping earlier this year.  Now comes the second full album, Young Runaway.

Produced once again by Peter Waterman this album confirms Hattie Briggs as one of the real rising stars in the modern folk scene.  These are true folk songs, as well.  They aren’t political, nor do they involve the hard life of the working man, but they are about people living their ordinary lives and are told in the most beautiful way. Often in a review the singer will be compared to…but that is not the case here.  Hattie has a distinct voice and as composer (with help on four) of all the songs on the album she is able to write for it to maximum effect.  It’s a beautifully clear voice, too, that can soar and swoop with a clarity that renders a lyric sheet redundant.

The album opens with ‘The Lake’, written on a trip to Lake Como (I think) which in just two simple verses transports the listener to a land of calm water and long, sunlit days. From there the album proceeds through a further 10 tracks, each of which is a quality piece of writing.  Rather than listing them (buy the album and find out for yourself) I’ll pick a few of my personal favourites.

Top of the list is track 3 ‘Here’s to Hoping’. This is a beautiful, probably autobiographical, song about a young woman visiting somewhere, perhaps a former home, and remembering her childhood: “I came back to see you, and your walls, they don’t seem so high to me now that I’m tall.” whilst looking forward to life “Well, maybe I’ll buy you someday and I’ll watch as my children play where I played…” It showcases her voice and range to perfection and conveys that sense of nostalgia and expectation we all feel at times of change in our lives.

That is the theme of this album; spreading your wings and taking off into a future that uncertain but exciting. ‘On Your Way’ (track 4) is exactly that.  Hit the road, live a little, make choices and see what happens. Hattie is also very capable of producing moving ballads that pull at the heartstrings. ‘Castle On the Sand’ (track 8) is such a song.  Accompanying herself on the piano this is a sentimental song regretting lost love and wondering if it could have been different, but knowing it probably won’t be the last time.

This is a very much a singer’s album and the backing, from very accomplished musicians, provides depth to the sound without ever being overpowering.  It’s a lesson that many more acts should take notice of. The sleeve notes promise a third album with a fond wish that Hattie continues to grow as a person and musician.  On this evidence that album will be well worth waiting for but in the meantime listen to, and enjoy, this one from an artist full of confidence in her ability and at the top of her game.

Tony Birch

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com 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: http://www.hattiebriggs.co.uk/

‘Here’s To Hoping’ – official live video:

TANNARA – Trig (Braw Sailin’ Records CD001BSR)

TrigHere is yet another fine young band coming out of Scotland with a song on their lips and a tune in their hearts. We think this album is called Trig – that little symbol on the cover, see. Actually it’s written on the spine but I don’t believe anything I read these days and that little tease seems typical of their approach. Rooted in the tradition but not in thrall to it.

At the heart of the band are the traditional instruments you would expect but it’s the other instruments and how they are used that strikes you first. In ‘Two Birds, No Stones’, for example, there is the juxtaposition of  Becca Skeoch’s harp with a grungy electric guitar from Owen Sinclair who also wrote the tune which is paired here with Andy Cutting’s ‘Archie The Flying Beast’. Owen is also the band’s vocalist and they have put together a strange and haunting version of ‘Three Ravens’, not at text I’ve heard before and one in which the doe is replaced by a lady. The other two songs, ‘When First I Came To Caledonia’ and ‘Queen Jane’ are also given imaginative treatments in which Joseph Peach’s piano and Fender Rhodes feature.

Cameron Ross’ fiddle is the mainstay of the instrumental sound and he contributes one tune ‘Deid Fish’ (yes, there is a story there) but it’s the interplay between the instruments that’s crucial – a tribute to the recording skills of Mattie Foulds and the production of Rachel Newton who, I’m sure, ensured that the harp was never swamped even with everything else that’s going on around it.

I never cease to be astonished by the young talent emerging from Scotland – perhaps I should take it for granted by now – but Trig merely confirms that the process is ongoing. And I always find something new to enjoy.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to download a copy of the album or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Trig

Artists’ website: www.tannaramusic.com

Tannara live in Antwerp – a compilation:

Daniel Meade and The Flying Mules – new album

Daniel Meade_Flying Mules

New album Let Me Off At The Bottom features eleven new Meade originals. It is the first record he has made with The Flying Mules and the hundreds of gigs they have notched up over the last couple of years really comes across in this collection. The Flying Mules are made up of Lloyd Reid on electric guitar, Mark Ferrie on double bass and Thomas Sutherland on the drums. The album was recorded live (for the most part) at the legendary CaVa Studios in Glasgow and mixed by Morgan Jahnig over in Tennessee.

This album looks to both the past and future at once and features songs that draw on a widely varying influence and subject matter. Depression, prescriptions, limerence, and even a shotgun wedding are all here (amongst others), a mixed bag made coherent by The Flying Mules road-honed sound. Following his debut album As Good As Bad Can Be (2013) and 2014’s Keep Right Away 2015 saw Meade and The Mules complete two successful headline UK Tours, a sell out nationwide tour opening for Pokey LaFarge and once again being invited to perform live on the BBC as part of the highly successful BBC at The Quay sessions in Glasgow. Meade also undertook a two week solo stint in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium opening for and backing Diana Jones. As a result, he and long-term guitarist Lloyd Reid were invited back to the EU for a string of their own dates at the end of August, which were a great success and already there are more EU shows confirmed for 2016/17. Daniel and the band finished off the year on a high, supporting Scottish music royalty The Proclaimers.

Having struck a deal with label At The Helm Records to release new album Let Me Off At The Bottom things continue to move in the right direction. With a proactive publisher and ever growing fan base, 2016 promises to be a great year, with slots already booked at Kilkenny Rhythm and Roots Festival, Maverick Festival, Eden Festival and Americana Festival 2016 amongst others, and a solo UK tour in April, once again in support of Diana Jones.

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Let Me Off At The Bottom

Artists’ website: http://www.danielmeademusic.com/

 ‘…the sound of highly skilled musicians having as much fun in the studio as those of us fortunate enough to be on the other side of the speakers’ 4/5 – R2 MAGAZINE

The result is an untrammeled success, with Meade delivering 13 songs that draw deep from the well of traditional American acoustic roots music, with honky-tonk, sad waltzes, string band stomps, and rockabilly all featured. – NO DEPRESSION

‘Please Louise’ – official video:

RALPH MCTELL AND WIZZ JONES – About Time (Leola Music TPGCD37)

About Time 2016Fifty years ago Wizz Jones invited Ralph May down to Cornwall to play at the Folk Cottage. May decided to change his name to McTell and the rest is history…except that they never made an album together. Until now. About Time is a selection of old favourites – you’ll find some tracks on their studio albums – and some that I think they’ve taught each other recently.

This is an album of two old friends making music together. There are two guitars, a banjo and a harmonica and two voices swapping lead and harmony vocals. No egos were bruised in the making of About Time. The set starts with a languid, almost lazy, take of the traditional ‘Honey Baby Blues’. McTell takes the lead vocal and harmonica part and the song rolls along but what immediately grabs the attention is the harmony singing – you’d think they’d been doing it for years.

Jones is up next with ‘Out Of The Snow’, which sounds old but was written by Russell Smith of The Amazing Rhythm Aces and which suits Wizz’s gentle warm voice perfectly. Then another blues, Blind Blake’s ‘You’re Gonna Quit Me Baby’, before we come to ‘Deportees’. This is song that can drag, partly because of the weight of the subject matter but Ralph and Wizz give it the lightest of touches. The waltz time is emphasised and a couple of notes are subtly altered, just enough to make you listen with new ears. It’s brilliant.

The mood lightens for a while; ‘Diamond Joe’ and ‘Old Rattler’s Pup’ are both fun before Townes Van Zandt’s ‘If I Needed You’. There has to a Dylan cover and here is one of my favourites, ‘Abandoned Love’. It’s a new song to Ralph who takes the lead and enthuses over the chord pattern. There is a co-write with Jones’ long-time song provider Alan Tunbridge, Uncle Dave Macon’s ‘Morning Blues’ and, to close, ‘I Never Did Sing You A Love Song’ by David Nichtern who, bizarrely, also wrote the soundtrack for American Pie. Where that one came from is anyone’s guess.

About Time is a rather low-key celebration of Ralph McTell’s fifty years in music – his major retrospective, The Journey, celebrated his fortieth anniversary – and Wizz’s approximately sixty years if you count The Wranglers back in 1957. Perhaps we should push the boat out for him next year. It is, however, entirely appropriate for two guys who haven’t forgotten where their music came from. It’s a bloody good record, too.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

About Time

Artists’ websites: www.ralphmctell.co.uk   http://www.wizzjones.com

Ralph and Wizz in conversation: