Muddler Books – ISBN 978-0-9561361-2-1 – Softback 164 pp

Human CargoHuman trafficking is never far from the news these days, whether it’s young women from eastern Europe being brought to the west and forced into prostitution; immigrants fleeced by people smugglers before being trapped by gang-masters or refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean and dying in the attempt. Behind all the stories is the profit motive but I for one have never linked today’s news to the slave trade, the press gangs and forced emigration of the past. Matthew Crampton’s book makes that link.

The book is divided into two parts. Firstly, Matthew examines slavery, kidnapping into indentured servitude, military recruitment by whatever means and transportation and secondly, he discusses the stories of those emigrants who volunteered to go, often lured by false promises and whose fates were frequently no better than those of the slaves who preceded them.

Initially, I found Matthew’s short punchy chapters and rapidly changing time-frames a little irritating but once I’d got into the pattern and the rhythm of Human Cargo everything fell into place. Although most of the book is taken up with historical accounts, old illustrations and folk song texts, its focus is very much in the present and the modern reports which parallel the historical text show that very little has changed since the 17th century. Modern villains may not be the rich traders in Liverpool or Bristol nor the greedy landowners clearing the Scottish highlands and the west of Ireland for their own purposes; nor yet governments (as far as we know) but the stories are the same.

Human Cargo is well laid out with facsimile broadsides and posters tempting the unwary and is an easy read. It is a primer rather than an academic treatise but the sources of the various narratives are properly documented as are the song texts and Matthew doesn’t restrict himself to English sources which is refreshing. It will prick your conscience and raise your awareness and then point you in the direction of further reading and for that it achieves its purpose admirably.

Dai Jeffries

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Author’s website:

To give you a flavour of the book, you can have a listen to a previous live concert performance by the “The London Lubbers” which used excerpts from “Human Cargo” via the soundcloud link below:

Adam Beattie – new album

Adam Beattie

The Road Not Taken is the new album release from Adam Beattie. Masterful songwriting with influences of jazz and blues create a cinematic feel to this fine collection of nine self-composed tracks and a co-write with Mairearad Green. The slow jazz beat of the opening track ‘The Man I’ve Become’ perfectly displays Adam’s heartfelt delivery and sets the tone for album.

From the blues-tones of ‘The Man Who Loves Too Much’ to the melancholy jazz ballad ‘Catch the Biggest Fish’ and ‘Let it Go’ via Turkish infused 5/4 groove ‘I’m On Your Side’, this really is an album to savour.

Co-produced by highly respected jazz musician Fred Thomas, the album was mostly recorded at his studio. Thomas studied piano and composition at the Royal Academy of Music and is one of London’s most sought after multi-instrumentalists and composer/arranger/producers. He has worked with artists such as Lisa Knapp, Basquiat Strings and the CBSO.

Also appearing on the new album are Brooke Sharkey who supplies backing vocals, Marco Quarantotto drums, violins from Piotr Jordan and Fred Thomas plays all other instruments.

Scottish singer songwriter Adam Beattie’s “folk stews and dirty blues” mixes Celtic folk, American blues, country and early jazz balladry. Emotional but laced with wry humour, gentle but gutsy at the core, Adam’s beautiful melodies combine with inventive lyrics to tackle themes of life, love, death and hope. His exquisite voice and intricate guitar work fuse to create an intoxicating musical experience.

Adam has created a breathtakingly beautiful sound that is all his own, and a show that has earned him support slots with the likes of Bert Jansch and Jolie Holland. His band, The Consultants is a fluid line up of musicians featuring piano, violin, double bass, French horn and drums. He is often joined by long-term collaborator and singer-songwriter Brooke Sharkey.

Adam has been playing and recording since 2003 and has released three studio albums; Songs Of One Hundred Years (2012), We’ll Wave From The Shore (2009) and Abu Bozy (2006).

As well as extensive touring in the UK, Adam has toured in Germany, Ukraine, France, Italy, Cyprus, Holland and Belgium.

Artist’s website:

‘The Man That I’ve Become’ – official video:


ROB LEAR – Motorcycle Heart (Self Released)

Motorcycle HeartOkay, so opening track ‘Grace’ has early REM written all over it, but the biking Welsh singer-songwriter is no slave to influence. His second album, produced by the Grammy nominated Simon Tassano, ranges across the Americana spectrum, ‘Look Me Up’ a catchy chorus folksy sawayalong strum with a hint of accordion, ‘Light Of My Life’ a joyous, uplifting banjo bubbling pop song, while, again featuring Liz Mullens’ accordion, ‘Michael’ is a slow swaying number that puts a Romeo & Juliet spin on ‘Michael, Row The Boat Ashore’.

Lear has clear and sweet tenor vocal with a slight dusty edge coating that (notably on ‘Carry On’) adds a yearning emotional ache, indeed on ‘Strung Out’ you might even detect a touch of Orbison in there, delivering his songs in a relaxed style that’s hard not to warm to, Given his way with easy on the ear melodies and a songwriting versatility that can bring shades of Paul Simon to the jaunty ‘Elfinman’ one moment, set a funky groove to ‘Too Beautiful’ and build a ringing pop punch on the descending chords of ‘Beseeched,’ that, as Bruce might put it, make you want to grab a helmet, put in those leathers and “strap your arms ‘cross his engines” .

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘Light Of My Life’ live under less than ideal circumstances – the electricity had failed. What a trouper:

KATY ROSE BENNETT – Songs of the River Rea (Own Label KRB001)

Songs Of The River ReaBorn in Oxfordshire, part of the prolific musical family that also includes brothers Joe and Robin of the magnificent The Dreaming Spires (Joe also a member of Co-Pilgrim), the former BBC Young Folk Award finalist artist hitherto known as KTB (and erstwhile founder member of Little Sister) has been penning her own songs about “elephants, vegetarianism and unrequited love” since she was 12. These days, she’s based in Birmingham where she works as a musical therapist with children with autism and mental health problems and also leads a variety of community choirs, including One Voice, a project for those who have suffered brain injury, she co-directs with her partner.

In-between all these, she has found time to release three terrific albums, All Calm In Dreamland, Bluebird and Indelible Ink, variously earning comparisons to such names as Dory Previn, k.d.lang, Nick Drake and Kate Rusby. It’s been six years since the last album, but the long wait is finally over with this first release under her own name. Taking its title from the Birmingham river also celebrated in song by Red Shoes, as you might gather there’s a strong autobiographical vein here, most notably so on the jaunty, countrified ‘Driving Home’, a song about coming back from the hospital after her partner gave birth to their son, and again after he was briefly readmitted three weeks later.

There’s a family connection too on the lazingly lovely ‘Soul In The Soil’, a song about her grow-your-own self-sufficient gardening grandmother and her love of the land. It features Robin on flute who joins drummer Mike Monaghan, guitarist Phill Ward, Oxford singer Hannah Rhodes and pedal steel player C J Hillman (not to be confused with pedal steel player Chris Hillman) in lending their musical talents to the album, while Joe produces, play keyboards and adds harmonies.

The album opens with the rippling ‘Cold November Day’, a song of remembrance that references the River Rea and which, from the lines ‘you’re still here in the air around us, still here, in the earth beneath us, the lettuces we grow’ seems to also be about her late grandmother. There’s a playful note to ‘Counting Kettles’ as, backed by humming background vocals and Robin’s flute , she sings about distracting herself from ‘self-destructive reverie’ on a Chiltern Railways journey Marylebone to Moor Street by thinking of what life still has to offer, despite someone listening to “bad trance music” and a father and son loudly discussing football.

From here, she turns her attention outward with ‘Jack & Ivy’, a gentle waltzing song of love, memory and loneliness about former elderly neighbours as Ivy remembers her late husband who used to chauffeur the local postmaster around Birmingham for 25 years. Heavily percussion driven with cowbells and shakers, the buoyant ‘One Day’ perks up the rhythm in a tumbling, chorus catchily ‘Gracelands’-style.. The lyrics mention the army of darkness and, while I’m not sure whether that’s an ‘Evil Dead’ allusion or not, there’s a definite movie reference with ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’, a lazily rippling, summery fingerpicked lighthearted character sketch of herself, which interpolates a guitar line nod to Neighbours when she talks about watching her favourite Australian soap.

While folk, both English and American, is her bedrock, as I say, she’s equally partial to country flavours, evidenced in fine form with ‘Rusted Ring’, a classic up-tempo snare-driven, leg-slapping broken relationship number with lap steel and an infectious chorus that you could imagine getting the crowds going in some Texas honky-tonk. Definitely a highlight among highlights.

On a quieter and more reflective note the alum heads into the final lap with dreamy defiant ode to positivism ‘We’ll Keep Trying’ with its lilting swayalong chorus and ‘One More Time’, a close harmony piano ballad forever love song to her partner, before closing with the strummed, military beat ‘My Friend’, an anthemic song about not wanting to lose a friendship just because a romantic relationship has come to the end of a road that builds to a trumpet break and a capella chorus before the big final flourish.

Despite critical acclaim, Bennett has never quite found the wider audience she deserves. The River Rea could well open the floodgates.

Mike Davies

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 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:

‘Driving Home’ live:

BROOKS WILLIAMS – My Turn Now (Red Guitar Blue Music RGBM-2016)

My Turn NowI first encountered Brooks Williams five or six years ago at a festival. He was sitting outside a pub playing in the sunshine because the venue was locked and nobody could find the key. It was a splendid session and that’s the sort of man Brooks is.

The blues and the delights of resonator guitars are at the heart of Brooks’ music but there’s more to him than that. Take ‘Rosalyn’, one of his own songs, the tale of a doomed love affair. It is deceptively simple with drums by co-producer Chris Pepper and bass by Richard Gates with Brooks playing National and slide guitars. But listen again to that bass line and then pick up on the subtleties of the melody.

My Turn Now is a mixture of styles and there is a sort of narrative thread running through the record. The first two tracks, ‘Crazy Dance’ and ‘My Turn Now’ are brash, up-tempo numbers and it feels as though a few rough edges have been deliberately left in place. Track three, ‘Nine Days’ Wonder’, featuring the first contribution from Sally Barker, is an upbeat, slightly cynical take on modern-day celebrity culture, followed by one of my favourite tracks here, ‘Darkness’.

The covers include a rocking version of Mose Allison’s ‘You’re Mind Is On Vacation’ and a snappy take on ‘Hesitation Blues’. Kris Kristofferson’s ‘Nobody Wins’ is another departure, featuring sharded lead vocals with Barker. I have to say that it’s a bit naughty to label ‘Sitting On Top Of The World’ as traditional. Its authorship is, I believe, beyond question but putting that caveat aside this is a fine album.

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 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:

Brooks plays ‘Darkness’ live:

The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2016 winners are…

Radio 2 Folk Awards 2016

The winners of this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards have been announced at a spectacular event held at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Now in their 17th year, this major event in the specialist music calendar saw accolades presented for Folk Singer of the Year, Best Duo, Best Album, Musician of the Year and many more, as well as Lifetime Achievement Awards for songwriter Joan Armatrading and traditional folk legend Norma Waterson.

Also on the night some of the most exciting acts in the folk music scene took to the stage for magical performances to celebrate the vibrant folk music scene in the UK and beyond.

John McCusker Band

The evening kicked off with an electrifying performance by the John McCusker Band, and throughout the evening the audience were treated to performances by Grammy Award and BRIT Award nominee Joan Armatrading; British singer, songwriter, guitarist, record producer and film score composer, Mark Knopfler; Mercury Award nominated Sam Lee, Dublin folk band Lynched; a special tribute to Sandy Denny by Rufus Wainwright and many more. The evening culminated in a rousing performance by acclaimed Northumbrian group The Unthanks.

Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright performed a special tribute to Sandy Denny who was inducted into the Folk Awards Hall of Fame. For the rendition of Sandy’s classic ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’, Rufus was backed by musicians including some who were members of Fairport Convention alongside Sandy in the 1960s and 1970s.

Awards were presented by a host of famous folk fans, including actors Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, Sherlock, The Office) and Matt Berry (The IT Crowd, House of Fools), musicians Richard Hawley and Graham Coxon from Blur, War Horse author Michael Morpurgo and 1960s star Sandie Shaw.

The night also saw the presentation of the annual BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, which has been finding and championing young folk talent for 18 years. The four nominees in this category also performed live during a special interval programme presented by Radio 2’s Simon Mayo and top folk musician Kathryn Tickell.

Bob Shennan, Controller BBC Radio 2, 6Music and Asian Network and Director BBC Music, said:

“What better way to celebrate the thriving folk music scene than a wonderful night in the impressive surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall. It was a fitting way to recognise the huge wealth of talent and I’d like to congratulate the winners of these prestigious accolades. Here’s to next year!”

The awards will be available to watch on the BBC iPlayer from today and will be broadcast on the BBC Red Button from Saturday 30 April until Thursday 5 May.

The full list of winners:

Rhiannon Giddens

Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman

The Young’uns

Mount The Air – The Unthanks

Sam Kelly

Andy Cutting

‘Mackerel’ by The Rheingans Sisters

‘Lovely Molly’ by Sam Lee

Brighde Chaimbeul

Gift Band 2016

Norma Waterson

Joan Armatrading

John McCusker

Sandy Denny

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 helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Well, if that was not exciting enough, then why not create your own Albert Hall replica out of those discarded food/ electrical cardboard boxes lying around the house, sit on your favourite cushion, grab a glass of something special and re-live it all again here at:

BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards – 2016: Full Show