JIMMY ALDRIDGE & SID GOLDSMITH – Night Hours (Fellside FECD278)

night hoursNight Hours is the second album from Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith and I must confess that I have been shockingly remiss in catching up with them. This is a remarkably powerful record, solid in the sense of being unmoving in the face of opposition which, sadly, is something that the protagonists in some of these songs were unable to do. The mix of material is the sort that we used to take for granted: some traditional, some covers, some original songs which still manages to address modern concerns whatever the vintage of the material.

The record opens with a few seconds of field recording made at night in Bristol which leads into the title track, a meditation on the thousands of night workers who keep our world working but remain unseen and anonymous. From there Jimmy and Sid move on to the dispossessed and the migrants with Boo Hewerdine’s ‘Harvest Gypsies’, a song about the farm workers who fled from the dustbowls in 1930’s America, their exodus forced by the loss of their land after years of monoculture.

‘The Ballad Of Yorkley Court’ updates the story of the Diggers. In this case the people who wanted to establish sustainable farming on derelict land were harassed, bullied and finally defeated by the law which is in the hands of “them” not “us”. Banjo Paterson’s ‘Along The Castlereagh’ proves that the story is by no means a new one. ‘Moved On’ transfers a similar battle to an urban environment where the fight is for social housing. Lest you think that Jimmy and Sid are rebels for every cause, Sid’s updating of ‘The Grazier Tribe’ points out the danger of permitting nothing to change.

The basic instrumentation is banjo, fiddle, guitar and concertina but “basic” is too crude a word. Dominic Henderson’s uilleann pipes and whistles provide some stunning contrasts, particularly on ‘Bonny Bunch Of Roses’. Jimmy and Sid don’t rush anything – there seems to be a feeling about that audiences can’t cope with long ballads any more – and give both the stories and their musical development all the time they need.

Night Hours has to be one of the best albums of the year – I hope it will be fresh in the mind when the awards come around.

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 JIMMY ALDRIDGE & SID GOLDSMITH – Night Hours link 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.

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

‘Night Hours’ – official video:

Jethro Tull – The String Quartets

jethro tull the string quartetsA massive treat for Jethro Tull fans and classical aficionados alike, Jethro Tull The String Quartets is an album of classic Jethro Tull repertoire, imaginatively arranged for classical string quartet with the flute, guitar and vocals of songwriter and producer Ian Anderson, it will be released on 24th March 2017 through BMG.

‘Pass The Bottle (A Christmas Song)’ – the first track from the album – was out yesterday – 5th December – it will be an instant grat track with album pre-orders.

The String Quartets was recorded in the crypt of Worcester Cathedral and in St Kenelm’s Church, Sapperton, Gloucestershire.

Listen to the single:

For some time, Ian (Jethro Tull frontman and virtuoso flautist) and John O’Hara (keyboard player with Tull and Anderson) had discussed the prospect of a specially conceived album of classic Jethro Tull repertoire orchestrated for a string quartet.  Ian & John first saw the Carducci Quartet at the London Symphony Orchestra’s LSO St Luke’s and, mesmerised by the group’s symbiotic relationship which results in their playing as one single musical organism, Ian invited them to take part in the recording.  The Carducci Quartet are:

Matthew Denton         Violin
Michelle Fleming        Violin
Eoin Schmidt-Martin   Viola
Emma Denton            Cello

Two violins, a viola and a cello make up that perfect combination of instruments that is the string quartet. Composers such as Beethoven, Bartók and Britten have written for it, and Anderson’s music is reborn in this format.  With judicious additions of flute, acoustic guitar and mandolin along with a few vocal sections, this album offers Tull fans the opportunity to enjoy familiar melodies and songs within the styling and traditions of Classical Music.

Ian, who is no stranger to working with orchestras, says: “John and I have worked on various orchestrations and performed many orchestral concerts over the last fifteen years. So, a couple of years ago, I came up with the idea of recording a dedicated string quartet album in a contemporary but “classical” setting with brief appearances from myself. I felt that there were some songs rather special to me which featured the string quartet such as A Christmas Song, Reasons For Waiting and Wond’ring Aloud. These were my first experiences of working with a quartet. John came up with a few suggestions of his own which presented challenges.  All had an intimacy and presence which I looked forward to recapturing in the cosy and very personal space of my office desk where I did the overdubs.”

About his approach to the orchestration, John explains, “There seemed little point in transcribing the band parts and distributing them to the players. I felt a responsibility to delve deeper and offer a new imagining of each piece. An orchestrator’s job is to arrange and compose a new version of an existing work. However, I also felt a responsibility to the Jethro Tull listeners who cherish this material and may not welcome a radical rendition of a beloved song. My ambition was to create a thought-provoking album that remains true to Ian’s compositions.”

Ian concludes, “It has really been a lot of fun to work on this project. The Carducci Quartet provided a spirited and committed performance, without which all would have been futile. And, I only had to pay for lunch once as they brought sandwiches. Bless.”

Available on CD and Vinyl (Gatefold) as well as Mp3/M4A and uncompressed hi-definition 24/96 WAV files.

Ian Anderson talks about the project:

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 Jethro Tull – The String Quartets link 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.

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EDDIE AND LUC – Tirade (Brig Records EDLUC2CD)

tiradeTirade comes out the speakers at you like a cavalry charge as Eddie Seaman winds up his Highland bagpipes and Iain Copeland hits the drums. The tune is ‘Angry Piper’s Tirade’ by Hazen Metro and it is described as pushing the boundaries – I really don’t think bagpipes were ever designed to do this.

Eddie is originally from Edinburgh and is a member of Barluath, a six-piece band with a twin pipes front row. Luc McNally comes from County Durham, a fact which quickly becomes obvious. He’s a member of both Dosca and Sketch and a former member of Kathryn Tickell’s Folkestra Youth ensemble. The title track is not entirely typical of the album but Eddie and Luc have proved how hard they can be and now can relax a bit.

‘On A Boat’ is a particularly fine set with Eddie doubling on whistle and pipes while allowing Luc to solo the first ninety seconds or so and it’s only when Eddie comes in that you realise that’s what was happening. Copeland plays darabuka which gives a different texture to the set. ‘Not Enough Triplets’ consists of a pair of Irish tunes that belie the set’s title. What we used to call a finger-breaking workshop. ‘MSR’ is a rather more stately set of a march, a strathspey and a reel in the traditional manner while ‘Infinite Space’ is another contrast being a gentle guitar and whistle tune married to a composition by Madeleine Stewart who joins the duo on violin.

There are four songs, all sung by Luc. The first is ‘Harry Brewer’, an old and very powerful song by Nick Burbridge. Luc’s voice is rather light but the arrangements support him well. There’s a nice twist as Eddie opens ‘Here’s The Tender Coming’ on the Highland pipes where we are more used to hear the Northumbrian variety. Third is ‘Byker Hill’, one of the tracks on which Eddie plays bouzouki, and finally comes ‘Elsie Marley’ paired with one of Eddie’s tunes. ‘James Bruce Of Wick’.

A glance at the cover might suggest that Tirade might be a rather austere album but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s one I’ve very much enjoyed.

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).

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://eddieseaman.com/projects/eddie-and-luc

‘Elsie Marley’ – official video:

ANDREW JOHN & LISSA – Aren’t We Lucky (Last Resort Records LRCD011)

aren't we luckyAren’t We Lucky is the second set by Andrew John & Lissa to come my way this year. Whereas At Home was very much an (almost literally) home-brewed production with just a little help from a couple of musical friends on a few tracks, Aren’t We Lucky was recorded in Nashville with support from a wide range of musicians. Don’t expect a country-and-western album, though, despite the reference to Bill Anderson below. Most of the songs here are Andrew’s, and while he’s been living in Denmark for many years, there’s something very English about his story-songs and the way they’re arranged instrumentally.

  • ‘Happiness’ (K.Jönsson/C.V. Meincke/Andrew John) owes nothing to Ken Dodd/Bill Anderson. On the contrary, it’s about lost happiness, and suits Lissa’s vocal very well. There is a slightly ’60s feel about the song, though, with Eastern European-ish strings harmonizing here and there around a minor tune, though the pedal steel behind the bridge brings us back to Nashville. If you remember “Those Were The Days” (or even Leonard Cohen’s take on Lorca with “Take This Waltz“) with affection, you’ll probably take to this.
  • Andrew’s song ‘The Little Light’ refers to “that little light that’s at the bottom of the bottle”, and although it sounds like a classic country theme, Andrew’s typically idiosyncratic lyrics and chord changes are very English: his dramatic vocals perhaps less so.
  • ‘Butcher Boy’ is a traditional song in the “Died For Love” vein. Though this version sets the scene in Dublin, the lead-in from violin and pedal steel reminds us that we’re in Tennessee. Apart from the additional instruments, the arrangement is actually very similar to the piano and voice version on the At Home album I reviewed here earlier in the year. In fact, Lissa sounds more comfortable with the song in this version, and the harmonies on the last two verses are far stronger here.
  • ‘Sensible Shoes’ has a sax intro over a deceptively familiar chord sequence which soon goes off into some of the modulations so typical of an Andrew John song. A very pop-ish arrangement that suits his voice very well and goes out with some stratospheric sax.
  • Andrew’s ‘Diminished Boogie’ includes some agile banjo and harmony vocals that may well remind you of the Andrews Sisters, wrapped around a sequence of diminished chords that may enthral or infuriate you. Kind of clever, though.
  • ‘Twenty Years’ also makes much use of tenor sax and some nice electric guitar. It’s another sharp Andrew lyric with a rock-y arrangement that makes the best of his vocals.
  • There’s also a version of Andrew’s ‘Fiji’ on the At Home album, which gets much of its atmosphere by being dominated by ukulele. The augmented instrumentation on this version, however, benefits from some very upfront, very Hawaiian steel guitar. Either way, it’s a very catchy song with appealing vocals from Lissa.
  • ‘Unattached Love Song’ features Andrew’s vocals and frames his writing skills in a somewhat pre-war tinged arrangement. It’s an interesting song (as all his songs are), but it stretches his voice uncomfortably in the upper registers.
  • ‘All On My Own’ is yet another of Andrew’s songs, with Lissa taking the lead vocals. The arrangement is kind of old-fashioned, but in a pleasing way.
  • Andrew’s ‘Vin’ was co-written with Allen Olsen. Not, as you might think, a paean to French vin rouge, but a story song about “one of those losers that only God can really love” with a look back to some much-missed 60s musical icons.
  • Andrew’s ‘Goodbye To An Old Friend’ is an attractive tune with a lyric that sounds rather personal, though it’s always dangerous to make that assumption, and I couldn’t make out all the words on the second verse. Lissa’s delicate lead vocals work well and are complemented by pleasant chorus harmonies.
  • ‘The Stories I Could Tell’ is a song by Paul Millns – now there’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time, though when I lived in London I came across him from time to time in very good company. It’s an excellent song, and Andrew makes the best of his vocal abilities by varying between a semi-spoken delivery (I could imagine Mark Knopfler singing this) and hard-hitting double-tracking. Some atmospheric oboe, too.

Fans of Andrew’s writing and the vocal pairing of this engaging duo will not be disappointed.

David Harley

Artist’s website: http://www.anyon.co/

Album medley:

ROSIE HODGSON – Rise Aurora (own label)

rise auroraI’ll get straight to the point.  Rosie Hodgson’s Rise Aurora is an absolute gem of an album and I will probably not be the first reviewer to say you will want to listen to it over and over again.  It’s full of beautiful music with seven of the twelve tracks being written by Rosie herself and the rest being either traditional folk songs or works by Burns and Kipling.

Rosie Hodgson released an EP Somewhere North in 2012 and was a finalist in the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award in 2013 but is probably best know as the lead singer with Crossharbour who are a London based Irish band, even though she comes from West Sussex and is a Morris dancer. On this album she teams up with Rowan Piggott, an Irish fiddle player who is also classically trained and a chorister.  From that you can assume that quality is going to be core to the music and you would not be mistaken.

Rosie’s songs revolve around ordinary individuals, which is what folk music is about, and two of them relate to her own family.  The title track ‘Aurora Rising’ is based around her Grandfather’s home town of Cromer in Norfolk.  Fishing was the main industry with all the hardships and dangers that brings, not least for the families left ashore hoping the men will come back again.

On an album this good it’s difficult to pick the stand out tracks but ‘Hetty’s Waltz’ deserves mention.  This is a song for Rosie’s Grandma and Grandfather who fell in love on a bus and enjoyed dancing all their lives.  It’s beautiful and showcases both Rosie’s crystal clear voice and Rowan’s delicate accompaniment.  Both artists have good voices and are more than capable of singing a capella, as they show on a excellent arrangement  of Robbie Burn’s ‘Westlin Winds’.

The album is well produced and Rosie’s precise enunciation means there is no need for the lyrics to be written down.  Instead the background to each song is given, again following that folk tradition of explaining why a song exists.

Final mention must go to the last song, ‘Liverpool Lullaby’, written by Rosie when she was just fourteen.  What’s remarkable about that, apart from it being another beautiful song, is that is now ten years old.  Rosie is only twenty-four!  There is a very long and bright future dawning.

The album was released on December 1st and is available through the artist’s website as either a CD or download.

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 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.rosiehodgson.com/

‘Rise Aurora’ – live:

SINGLES BAR 15 – Merry Christmas Everybody

A round-up of festive EPs and singles

Singles Bar 15It’s been a busy few months for THE CHANGING ROOM, aka Cornish duo Sam Kelly and Tanya Brittain. Having released both their Names On A Wall EP for Armistice Day and the Picking Up The Pieces album, featuring mandolin and accordion, they now return for Christmas special, The Magic Of Christmas. Two of the three tracks are sung in Cornish by Kelly, opening with a lovely snowflake waltzing version of The Pretenders’ 1994 festive hit, ‘2000 Miles’ and closing with a chiming frosty air arrangement of the traditional carol ‘Silent Night’. There’s also a snatch of its melody on ‘There’s Magic In Christmas Eve’, which, sandwiched in-between, is penned by Brittain, who, singing in English, accompanies herself on piano as the song swells midway on drums and strings before a gentle fade.
www.thechangingroommusic.com

its-christmas-timeIf you’re more a “Bah Humbug” sort of person JOHN CEE STANNARD’s EP, It’s Christmas Time, should be just up your street. Of course, Christmas can be a sad and lonely time for a lot of people and we shouldn’t take that lightly but the blues does seem to lend itself to the season. Black Ace’s ‘Beggin’ Santa Claus’, first recorded in 1937, is the perfect example of how low things can get while Shifty Henry’s ‘Let Me Go Home – It’s Christmas’ is a plea to whiskey to allow a barfly to get home while he still can. The other three songs are by Stannard and, starting with the title track, they get progressively happier and the closing ‘Winter Love’ is almost soppy. We reckon John’s an old softie really.
www.johnceestannard.co.uk

god-rest‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ is a more traditional Christmas single from JOSHUA BURNELL. That said, we’re told that it’s a 15th century protest song – the protest being against the Latin dirges of the church. Joshua gives it an appropriate folk-rock vibe – he usually performs in a trio or a seven-piece band in which Hammond organ features heavily. The second track is ‘The Official Brawle’, a 16th century French dance tune taken at a tasty lick. The tune was, as you all know, co-opted by the church as ‘Ding-Dong Merrily On High’ but Joshua returns it to its original form. Good stuff.
www.joshuaburnell.co.uk

marys-boy-child‘Mary’s Boy Child’ was originally written as a calypso so ANDREW JOHN & LISSA decided to record the backing tracks in Trinidad, adding the vocals back home in Denmark while Jime Hoke recorded his flute part in Nashville. It’s very pretty but I can’t help but I do think that an opportunity to do something really original has been missed. Turn up the steel drums and add a Caribbean choir and think on what it could be.
www.anyon.co

the-starEMILY MAE WINTERS’ single ‘The Star’ was inspired by lines from John Keats and having a star named after her as a birthday present. It doesn’t actually mention Christmas but it has a nicely seasonal feel. It’s a big, piano-driven song awash with strings. It is available only as a digital download at the moment but it will appear on Emily Mae’s debut album next spring.
www.emilymaewinters.com/