Roy Bailey announces first ever live album

Roy Bailey

Six years on from his acclaimed album of children’s songs, Tomorrow, singer and activist Roy Bailey returns with Live At Towersey Festival 2015.

As the title suggests, the 11-track collection was recorded live at the long-running Oxfordshire festival, and will be officially launched at the 2016 event, on Monday 29 August.

Roy’s relationship with Towersey stretches back over 50 years. Friends with the festival founders, he was present at early planning discussions and appeared at the very first festival, in 1965. He’s been a much-loved regular visitor ever since, with his firmly established Monday afternoon concerts drawing capacity crowds.

Live At Towersey 2015 finds Roy interpreting songs by Bob Dylan (‘With God On Our Side’), Tom Waits (‘In The Neighborhood’) and John Tams (‘Rolling Home’), along with three compositions by American singer-songwriter Si Khan. Among them is Si’s ‘What You Do With What You’ve Got’, which opens the album.

“’What You Do With What You’ve Got’, as I understand, was written on behalf of disabled people,” says Roy, who first met Si at a Canadian folk festival during the early 1980’s. “For me it has almost become my signature tune, as I invariably sing it at the beginning of my concerts and have done so since about 1984/85! It has a central theme that applies to us all.”

Joining Roy on several tracks are guitarist Martin Simpson and melodeon player Andy Cutting, plus Marc Block (bodhrán) and Ian Brown (guitar), as well as Roy’s daughter and grand-daughter, Kit Bailey and Molly Simpson.

The 2015 show was recorded in secret by Roy and co-producer/ engineer ‘Ich’ Mowatt, who then edited the 90 minute concert down to 11 tracks. Expertly capturing the intimacy and warmth of a live performance, it’s remarkably Roy’s first live album.

“I wanted to do one … but never go around to it,” says Roy simply.

Roy Bailey is one of the UK folk and acoustic scene’s most admired and accomplished performers. He began his long career performing skiffle in student union bars in the late 1950s before falling in love with traditional songs and the stories they tell. Quickly developing a unique repertoire of songs of dissent and hope, he’s gone on to perform on stages, TV and radio all over the world. En route, he’s been joined by such artists as Leon Rosselson, Martin Carthy, Chumbawamba and MP Tony Benn (a collaboration which won them a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award).

Today, he remains as committed as ever to his life-long principles of Equality, Liberty, Justice and Internationalism.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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Artist’s website:

‘I Thought I Had No Voice’ – live with Martin Simpson:



A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Twinnie - SIngles Bar 9TWINNIE follows her two singles, ‘Home’ and ‘Cool’, with an eponymous debut EP which opens and closes with those two songs. Twinnie’s style is described as country-pop but the opening bars of ‘Home’ sound as though it’s looking to be a soul classic. The second track, ‘Lie To Me’ changes tack with solo piano and acoustic guitar but the backing vocals inexorably build to a climax before Twinnie pulls it back again. The third track, ‘Looking Out For You’ goes for vintage appeal with a touch of vinyl crackle before rocking acoustic guitar leads the song off into the distance. Finally, ‘Cool’ is really country-pop and possibly the best song in the set with its tumble of words and a backing that has everything.

Oates_HenwoodWell known and respected in their own right JACKIE OATES and MEGAN HENWOOD have joined forces for Wings, a five track EP of originals, traditional and covers. Although Oates provided harmonies on Henwood’s last album, here the two voices mostly blend beautifully together, as is the case with the opening track, the first of three covers, a melancholic acoustic reading of New Order’s Love Vigilantes. A cover also closes the album, Oates bringing her viola to bear on a faithful take on Lau’s ‘Ghosts’, the pair trading verses and coming together for the chorus. Henwood contributes the only self-penned number, ‘Bettystown’ a song about endings (“clearing out your daddy’s house”) and beginnings (a new relationship, a new home) on which she takes initial lead, the gentle fingerpicking gradually swelling to embrace their combined voices, viola and Pete Thomas’s double bass. The third cover is Brian Bedford’s wistful protest number ‘What’s The Use of Wings?’, the pair again trading verses, which just leaves Oates to take to the piano for her waltzing arrangement of the traditional west country ballad ‘Setting Of The Sun’, a typically upbeat tale (also covered by Seth Lakeman) in which the singer accidentally shoots and kills their true love having mistaken her for a swan. As you do. Given the pair are (along with Thomas) playing live dates, hopefully this promises to have an extended life beyond this release; a full album would be most welcome.

Warrior DaughterDevon trio WILDWOOD KIN release a single, ‘Warrior Daughter’, in advance of two autumn tours supporting The Oh Hellos and Seth Lakeman. Seth has already recruited them for his new album on the strength of their exquisite harmonies and those harmonies are very much in evidence but this is a powerful song built on big percussion, strings and guitars. The song is about female empowerment, sung as from a mother to a daughter: “You are warrior, strength and courage lies within your heart” and here Beth, Emillie and Meghann are surely looking ahead to being able to reassure their daughters that the fight may not be so hard. ‘Warrior Daughter’ is scheduled for the trio’s next EP but surely a full-length album can’t be far away.

TeaseroPABLO VASQUEZ is a New Zealand guitar duo comprising Jolyon Mulholland and Elroy Finn and the story of how the album from which this single, ‘Teasero’, is taken came to be recorded would take up most of a review. Even more surprisingly the track will be available as a free download from Welsh label, Cae Gwyn Records at the end of the month. The guys’ thing is nylon strung guitars and they are described as classically-styled but they also say that their music is best enjoyed over dinner. No flying fingers or flamenco footsteps here, just two guitars interweaving a melody.

Swedish singer Albert af Ekenstam announces debut album

Albert af Ekenstam 2

Albert af Ekenstam just premiered his beautiful first track ‘The Devil Bird’ off the forthcoming album Ashes. CLASH wrote of the track, “Matching the exquisite detail of Bon Iver to the sonic wash of Explosions In The Sky, his work is powerful, emotionally trenchant. Hugely affecting, the way each cut gently unfurls has a real sense of grace, a true sense of patience.”

Nine months have passed – have fallen like red autumn leaves to the ground –since I first heard Albert af Ekenstam’s melancholic solo material. During this time Albert has, amongst other things, released two singles on Kning Disk (‘Walking’ and ‘Angel Liz’), acted as a warm up act for The Posies and Bear’s Den, moved from Gothenburg to Stockholm and appeared in prestigious Swedish music magazines such as Sonic and HYMN.  Naming his influences as Explosions In The Sky, Bon Iver and Mogwai, it is more than easy to lose yourself over and over in his mournful guitars, grandiose arrangements, heartfelt voice and poignant lyricism.

What days and nights!

On the 14th of October Albert af Ekenstam’s debut album Ashes will meet its expectant audience. Singer/guitarist Sumie Nagano (whose self-titled album on Bella Union is a must for all who love unique voices), drummer/ keyboardist/producer Filip Leyman (who, together with Albert, make up the post-rock constellation Tempel) and trumpeter Max Lindahl (known from a number of jazz bands) have all helped Albert bring it to fruition.

What a record it is!

Like Elliot Smith (rest in peace) and Damien Jurado before him, Albert is a brave and straightforward singer-songwriter. His melodies and lyrics are like uncensored and infinitely beautiful letters – without euphemisms and false chords they let you know what’s on his mind. At the same time, they’re universal – if you’ve loved and lost you can relate to them completely.

And yet it is full of hope!

Albert’s mother died when he was 12 years old and him and his sister had to bring themselves up alone for the most part. Much of the album touches on loneliness and how he had to take responsibility early in his life in order to manage his own future –including his relationships and how he learnt to build a ‘safe point’ from within before relying on others. Songs like ‘The Devil Bird’ tell the tale of fighting to choose the right way you want to live and not living to the standards built up by outsiders.

They also stir the internal movie projector. With Ashes on the stereo and eyes closed, memory fragments, glowing emotions and pure dreams fly and stir through your soul. Filip’s production (which you’ve heard on Anna von Hausswolff’s two latest albums) is both intimate and grand at the same time, making this personal cinematic experience even more sensational.

What more can you ask for?

Artist’s website: 

Listen here:

THE SHEE – Continuum (Shee Records SHEE4)

ContinuumThe concept behind Continuum, supported by Celtic Connections, was to celebrate their tenth anniversary by having each of them commission a musician of their choice to write a piece of music for the album. That’s only half the story, of course, for the band had then to arrange the music for six players and write some pieces to bind the whole thing together.

The opening song is ‘From The Shadows’ by Laura-Beth Salter. It’s a powerful call to arms to … ah, well. It could be a feminist piece, the logical first thought, but it could be a warning to the rich and powerful that the poor and oppressed aren’t going to take it any more. Next come two atmospheric pieces by Kathryn Tickell; one evoking the borders and the other with a Scandinavian feel. The playing, needless to say, is exquisite.

Rachel Newton commissioned Karine Polwart and the result is ‘Song For Mary’. The Mary in question is Mary Brooksbank, composer of ‘The Jute Mill Song’ and an archive recording of one verse forms the introduction. We’re not told that it’s Mary herself but I’d like to think it is. Amy Thatcher naturally turned to a box-player and who better than Andy Cutting? Olivia Ross’ choice was Chris Wood who shares the credit for ‘Cradle Song’ with lyricist Hugh Lupton. The Shee turns what could be a pretty little song into something quite strange so you’re not sure whether this a mother singing to her baby from the safety of a warm fireside or struggling home from the storm outside.

Laura-Beth, Amy and Shona Mooney provide the next two tune sets with Shona responsible for the wonderfully titled ‘The Vampire Rabbit Of Newcastle’. Olivia wrote ‘Precious Tears’, a song for children – possibly the band members’ own – and Brian Finnegan wrote a trio of tunes with Lillias- Kinsman-Blake’s flute and a journey through India in mind. Finally, we have Martin Simpson’s song for his mother. ‘Dance With Me’ might be seen as the companion-piece to ‘Never Any Good’. Laura-Beth sings it and plays mandolin where Martin would use guitar and the band play what is almost an orchestral accompaniment.

Continuum is a monument to musical collaboration and the exchange of ideas but more than that, it is a tribute to six exceptionally talented musicians.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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‘Ower Late For The Lasses/Sheepolska’ and more with Kathryn Tickell live at Celtic Connections 2016:

DANA AND SUSAN ROBINSON – The Angel’s Share (Threshold Music TM1116)

Angel's ShareBased back in Susan’s home state of Vermont (in an historic schoolhouse), after 12 years living in North Carolina, the husband and wife duo’s new album, The Angel’s Share, is perhaps understandably suffused with themes of home and belonging, while the music threads together traditional folk, Celtic, Appalachian and country blues.

Dana’s responsible for the bulk of the material and, indeed, also the lion’s share of the vocals, kicking off with ‘Going North’, a country blues number written (in Scotland) just before their relocation which muses on the geographic connection between Vermont and Great Britain. Something that immediately strikes is that it, like the rest of the album, has no rhythm section, the percussion provided by tapping the guitar box.

Nature and the environment are also the concerns of ‘River Flows On’ and ‘John Muir’s Walking Blues’, the former a banjo and fiddle accompanied reflection on the need to change from fossil fuels to solar energy while the latter, its title a reference to the Scottish-American naturalist, and environmental philosopher, is an acoustic blues inspired by the water crisis in California on which Robinson reminds me slightly of Stan Rogers.

Following traditional banjo and fiddle instrumental ‘Five Miles From Town’, the album’s other traditional number sees Susan, accompanying herself on banjo, makes her first vocal appearance, an Appalachian-coloured reading of ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ inspired by the version by Juanita Moore and her husband Lee, recorded in 1947 for a radio show, but never released until 1999.

Again on banjo, she only takes lead one other number, ‘The Sky’, written and recorded back in 1972 by the late Derroll Adams, an Oregon-born folk musician, banjo player and early collaborator with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Their version is slower, drawing out the melancholy of the lyrics, and, rather inevitably, considerably less raspy. There’s one other non-original here, another fiddle instrumental, ‘Allene’s Waltz’, written by Karen Simon for the wife of West Virginian fiddle maestro Sherman Hammons.

The three remaining numbers are all by Dana. The simple fingerpicked and fiddle backed ‘The Emigrant’ concerns, not the movement of people, but rather future water migrations in North America with the droughts that may ensue, while ‘Loose The Ties’ is a dappled, harmonica-accompanied song about connections to the land and place. And finally, again written in Scotland, the percussive guitar title track itself, Susan harmonising on a celebration of community and shared pleasures that, heading into a sort of restrained fiddle reel, takes its title and lyric from the term given to the percentage of spirit (usually whisky or brandy) that evaporates while being aged in oak barrels. The number also gets a slightly slower banjo and guitar instrumental reprise as the final track.

The inner sleeve features a photo of the road from Glenshee to Braemar, winding through miles of open, unspoiled Scottish hills and countryside. The music perfectly captures that sense of space and natural beauty.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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Here’s an oldie from Dana And Susan – ‘Round My Door’:

HEIDI TALBOT – Here We Go 1,2,3 (Navigator Records)

Here We Go 1, 2, 3Heidi Talbot has been musically quiet of late, with her last album Angels Without Wings released in 2013 and only a Christmas single ‘Christmas in September’ in 2015.  However, that does not mean life has been uneventful and from those experiences comes a new album Here We Go 1,2,3 due for release on 23rd September and available to pre-order now.  The title track reflects a sense of things to come; a deep breath before a step into the unknown.

The central theme of the album is time, the way it can both move forward into the unknown and back in a loop to the familiar. Talbot has experienced both the joy of motherhood and the loss of her own mother in recent years and several of the songs have this ambiguous quality of both a mother and daughter being there for somebody else.  ‘Time To Rest’ could be a lullaby for a baby or a song of comfort for somebody at the other end of their life. ‘Mother Land’ also doesn’t specify who the songs is about. “Mother Land, Cradle me, Close me eyes, Lullaby me to sleep, Keep me safe, Lie with me, Stay beside me, Don’t go.

With 8 of the 10 tracks on the album either written or co-written by Talbot this is a very personal collection of songs that make the most of her delicate voice which has just that hint of vulnerability.  ‘Tell Me What You Think Of Me’ is a heartbreaking ode to unrequited love.  “I can’t be the only who loves him from afar, Every thought I have is him and every sunrise starts with him.  Tell me, do you ever think of me?

Despite this the album is not a collection of maudlin songs, instead it shows the comfort music can bring at times of change.  Whilst not upbeat it has a quiet, restorative calm and gives the listener a chance to step back from the here and now and take stock.  It’s a beautifully crafted work that draws the listener in and leaves them comforted that all will be well in the end.

Although the key sound is the voice the carefully selected musicians, including John McCusker, Innnes White and Michael McGoldrick amongst many others, ensure quality in every note.  There will also be a nationwide tour in the autumn to accompanying the release and details are available on the website.

Tony Birch

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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:

There are no videos from the new album yet but here’s a one-off. ‘The Blackest Crow’ as a duet with Kris Drever: