EDDI READER – The Best Of Eddi Reader (Reveal REVEAL059CDX)

The Best Of Eddi ReaderThe Best Of Eddi Reader is quite a tall order given the span of time and styles it must encompass – from bright late-80s pop through the soulful solo albums and the Robert Burns collection to her role as an elder statesperson of Scottish music who can take any direction that pleases her. Even thirty tracks doesn’t seem enough. The set isn’t organised in a strict chronological order although it does begin with Fairground Attraction’s two hit singles, ‘Find My Love’ and ‘Perfect’, both written by Mark E Nevin. Compiler Tom Rose has put together the album to engender a sense of “I wonder what’s coming next” while maintaining a coherent feel.

Eddi is a song-writer as well as a performer but she is more than adept at selecting songs to sing and collaborating with other writers. The first of her own songs we hear is ‘Whispers’, also from Fairground Attraction, and with the benefit of hindsight it says a lot about her future. ‘Leezie Lindsay’ is a modernish re-interpretation of Burns’ lyric which comes from the same era as the brilliant ‘Muddy Water’ which Eddi wrote with John McCusker and Boo Hewerdine, a name that crops up many times throughout her career. Sadly Hewerdine’s country waltz, ‘Wings On My Heels’, doesn’t count among my favourite tracks and neither does Eddi’s take on Si Khan’s ‘What You Do With What You’ve Got’ – drama is good but it seems overdone to my ear.

The second disc seems to concentrate on less obvious material, opening with Eddi’s fragile reading of Steve Earle’s ‘My Old Friend The Blues’ and a long, dramatic version of Fred Neil’s ‘Dolphins’. In the midst of all this the traditional ‘Willie Stewart’ springs up to get the party going. As a bonus the second set includes a cover of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Love Is A Losing Game’ and the classic ‘Moon River’.

The Best Of Eddi Reader is an excellent set. If you have one two of her albums it will make you think about the ones you’re missing.

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.

Artist’s website: www.eddireader.com

‘Patience Of Angels’ – live on Later:

The Folking Winners – Public Vote 2016

First of all, a big thank you to the thousands who voted in our inaugural Folkies awards. Congratulations to the winners and commiserations to the runners-up, although all our nominees are winners to the team who enjoyed their music, either live or on record, over the last year and placed them on the short list. Here are the folking public vote winners and now, may I have the first envelope please…

Soloist Of The Year – Steve Knightley

The Folking Winners - Steve Knightley


Best Duo – Show Of Hands

The Folking Winners - Show Of Hands
Photograph by Dai Jeffries


Best Band – Blackbeard’s Tea Party

Best Live Act – Blackbeard’s Tea Party

The Folking Winners - Blackbeard's Tea Party


Best Album – Disco At The Tavern – The Demon Barbers

The Folking Winners - Disco At The Tavern


Best Musician – Peter Knight

The Folking Winners - Peter Knight


Rising Star – Will Varley

The Folking Winners - Will Varley


Best International Artist – Gretchen Peters

The Folking Winners - Gretchen Peters
Photograph by Gina Binkley


If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl) of any of the artists featured here, download an album or track or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then type what you are looking for in the search bar above to be taken to that relevant page via 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.

Gretchen Peters – bio

Gretchen Peters - bio

“I remember going on my first radio tour for my debut album and the guys at the radio stations would say, ‘So you’re a songwriter, and now you want to be an artist?’” remembers Gretchen Peters.

In hindsight, it’s a laughable distinction. Over the last three decades, Peters has proven to posses one of the most indelible voices in country and roots music in addition to wielding one the genres’ most enduring pens. But in 1996, as she crossed the invisible Music City barrier between writer and performer, few could have predicted what lay ahead.

Peters first arrived in Nashville in 1987 and quickly established herself as a songwriting force to be reckoned with, with tracks recorded by some of the biggest names in country music. She landed her first #1 with George Strait’s rendition of her “Chill Of An Early Fall,” garnered her first GRAMMY Nomination and CMA Song of the Year win with Martina McBride’s recording of “Independence Day,” and penned hits for Patty Loveless, Shania Twain, Bryan Adams, Trisha Yearwood, Jimmy LaFave, and Etta James among others. “If Peters never delivers another tune as achingly beautiful as ‘On A Bus To St. Cloud,’” People Magazine wrote, “she has already earned herself a spot among country’s upper echelon of contemporary composers.”

Riding the momentum from her remarkable success, Peters signed her first recording contract in 1996 with an independent label and released her debut album, The Secret Of Life. While it fared well critically, Peters fell between the cracks of an industry hungry for easy-to-categorise products to feed the machine. Marketing a nuanced, mature storyteller – one who penned songs like the album’s bittersweet title track and the stirring ‘When You Are Old’ – to mainstream country radio proved to be fruitless, and when the label later folded, Peters bought back the master recordings and vowed to maintain control for the rest of her days in the business, becoming an early adopter of the now-common process of self-releasing albums through licensing and distribution partnerships.

Despite the early commercial stumble in the US, though, Peters found a different appreciation for her songs in the UK, where she earned the admiration of early champions in radio and press, like the legendary BBC host Bob Harris.

“The first time I went over, I played four little gigs with no more than 40 or 50 people at any of them, maybe less,” she remembers. “But I immediately felt completely comfortable in my skin. I felt like those audiences didn’t expect or want me to be anything other than who I was. Everything that wasn’t working here in the States was working really well over there. It was like stepping through the looking glass.”

Over the next twenty years, Peters would self-release seven more studio albums on both sides of the pond and see her profile in the UK reach a new peak with 2015’s ‘Blackbirds,’ which debuted at number 1 on UK Official Country Artists Albums Chart. Uncut hailed her as one of Nashville’s greatest talents of the past two decades,” while The Sun called the album “an Americana tour de force.” The record led to a sold-out UK tour, as well as spots on massive European festival stages from Glastonbury to Roskilde.

All the while, the US was catching up to what they’d been missing out on in their own backyard. NPR called her 2012 release Hello Cruel World “the album of her career,” while Rolling Stone dubbed ‘Blackbirds’ “one of the most affecting murder ballads since Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska,’” and in 2014, she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Gretchen Peters is a songwriter and an artist. Both sides are essential to her identity, and one listen to this collection makes it clear that her extraordinary body of work is indeed essential listening for the rest of us.

Artist’s website: http://www.gretchenpeters.com/

Will Varley – bio

Will Varley - bio

Last year Will Varley walked out on stage at the Royal Albert Hall, shortly after signing a record deal with independent music champions Xtra Mile Recordings. His new album Postcards From Ursa Minor was released on October 30th and received extensive national airplay, with The Independent describing it as “A gem of a record”.

For the 28 year old folk-singer however, the road to The Albert Hall began in the early 2000’s whilst aimlessly busking around London with a fake id, writing hundreds of songs and playing two or three open mics a week. Varley was a regular at numerous acoustic nights and folk clubs throughout South London from an early age, and spent most of his teens travelling around the capital looking for places that would let him play a few songs.

In his early 20’s Varley moved to Deal, Kent enticed by cheap rent and great pubs. There along with a number of musicians he helped set up Smugglers Records, a collective of like minded independent musicians who help each other release their own music. Since it’s inception the collective has been instrumental in starting the careers of numerous artists as well as putting on their own sell out music festival deep in the Kent countryside, not far from the sea.

In 2011 Varley recorded his debut album Advert Soundtracks with Smugglers, and then set out on the road and walked a hundred and thirty miles with a guitar and tent on his back. Starting the walking tour at London Bridge he headed south east, strolling through the rolling hills of the Kent weald and singing songs to whoever would listen. He slept in barns, camped at the side of canals and played gigs in the corner of crowded pubs. By the time he strolled back to deal, despite the blisters and the aching muscles, word of his album had begun to spread and he had many a story to tell.

Varley’s live performances have become more and more anarchic over the years. Audience interaction, surreal improvised comedy between songs and chaotic stunts like playing two songs at the same time are now more often than not included in his shows, though he will just as quickly deliver a melancholic and heartbreaking ballad or a fiery protest song as he will a shaggy dog story or an amusing talking blues.

After self-publishing his first novel Sketch of A Last Day (Reaching No.1 in Kindle’s Political Fiction category) and almost two years of relentless gigging, including shows at the Occupy London protests & The Bank of Ideas, with the help of David Hatton Jnr. (of the band Cocos Lovers), eleven new songs were recorded in the basement of an old smugglers cottage in Deal. Outside the coastal wind rattled the doors and windows, fresh off the English Channel. In between sips of Glen Moray and glasses of red wine the pair drafted in a number of musicians to help record an album that was written partly on the road and partly in the smoking areas of Deal’s countless public houses.

Though still littered with his trademark humour, As The Crow Flies was a darker, more mature album which saw Varley’s poetry take centre stage, from the brutal honesty of the album’s title track, to the swaying cynicism of ‘Weddings and Wars’ in which he attempts a history of the world in under four minutes.

A second walking tour followed the release of As The Crow Flies, which saw Varley travelling 500 miles along England’s south coast, with a guitar on his back, entirely on foot. After the tour Varley played a sold out show at London’s Bush Hall. A couple of extensive tours with Beans On Toast helped to introduce his music to a whole new audience whilst gigs in Ireland, Belgium and Switzerland also saw Will take his first steps outside of the UK.

On March 29th, the troubador stepped out on stage at The Royal Albert Hall. About an hour before this he’d signed a deal with Xtra Mile Recordings, who are behind the success of acts like Frank Turner, Beans On Toast and To Kill A King. Less than a month later a digital only EP was released which Varley recorded live at one of his favourite music venues. The resulting EP Will Varley: Live At The Lighthouse peaked at number 14 in the iTunes Singer Songwriter charts.

The summer of 2015 saw Will supporting The Proclaimers on tour across the UK as well as performing at a long list of UK festivals including Secret Garden Party, Bestival and Green Man. He also spent much of this summer recording his third studio album with Tristan Ivemy producing. The album was released on October 30th to much critical acclaim and radio play. Soon after the release Will set off on a huge tour opening for Frank Turner, culminating in show at London’s Alexandra Palace.

Artist’s website: http://www.willvarley.com/

Peter Knight – bio

Peter Knight - bio

Although his name is synonymous with the seminal Folk-Rock Band Steeleye Span, Peter Knight has avoided being categorised purely as a Folk Musician due to the diversity of musical genres that he chooses to apply to his music making, and to the musicians he has chosen to work with. Peter has that rare gift of being able to seamlessly embrace a number of musical styles with consummate skill and effortless grace. Author Terry Pratchett had a nutshell moment when he wrote “Peter Knight can spin the World on his Bow”.

His prodigious talent was recognised at an early age when in true Billy Elliot style his life changed by winning a place at The Royal Academy of Music in London, an experience that has indelibly left its mark on Peter’s style of playing.

Resisting the lure of an extension to continue his studies as a classical soloist, Peter left the Royal Academy at 16 and was drawn to the copious presence of Irish Music that was flourishing in London during the 1960’s. Inspired initially by the legendary Fiddle players Michael Coleman and Michael Gorman, Peter totally immersed himself into the playing of traditional music and began performing in Folk Clubs with guitarist Bob Johnson. Being invited by Ashley Hutchings to join the fledgling Steeleye Span secured his place within the annals of British Folk Music. The Band has gone on to become one of the most successful folk-rock band in Britain, securing a string of gold albums and top ten hits, and remains influential after more than 40 years.

However, an encounter with globally renowned saxophonist Trevor Watts marked a very significant turning point in Peter’s musical journey when he was introduced to the area of free improvisation.

Peter counts his playing with Trevor and his bands Moiré Music and The Drum Orchestra as one of his most deeply influential and formative experiences, and has continued to use both improvisation and free improvisation as means of accessing a rich seam of emotion and depth of feeling, something that is particularly in evidence with his trio Gigspanner.

Peter has had a long and diverse life in music, and he continues to seek and embrace new challenges. In 2012 he was appointed Patron of the Fiddle Festival of Britain, and in 2013, he has had the honour of being commissioned by The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to compose and record music for a very special project in relation to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage.

When the demands of the touring life are not upon him, Peter is to be found at his holiday home in the Limousin, France where he spends much time working in his recording studio, a building which in its former life housed the communal Bread Oven!

Artist’s website: http://www.peterknight.net/index.html

Disco At The Tavern – review

Disco At The Tavern - review

Modesty forbids us from naming the member of the Folking team who penned this 5* review. The Demon Barbers XL were only narrowly beaten into second place in the Best Band category, too.

I’ve heard some bloody good records this year and here’s another one. There is a show behind Disco At The Tavern toured by the XL version of the band but here is the slimline six-piece group. Of course, when you have a DJ, a beatboxer, clog dancers and The Wilson Family as guests, that isn’t strictly relevant. The Demon Barbers’ theatricality comes through in the music alone.

The mix is as before: mostly traditional with some original tunes and a handful of “classic” written songs. It’s what the band does with it all that matters. The opening track is ‘Prince Of Cabourg’s Hornpipe’, deceptively conventional for a minute before crashing into a rocking version of ‘The Wild Goose Shanty’ and that’s the pattern. Tunes are woven through songs; lines are turned into choruses but never is the song subservient to the accompaniment. Actually, no. ‘Swimming Song’ is really an excuse for a good time with ‘Love & Opportunity’. There is a quieter patch in the middle with ‘Sir Lionel & The Boar’ and ‘Two Brothers’ but it quickly picks up speed again.

This really is a mind-blowing album with so much good stuff. It has to be an award-winner this time next year.

He was right.

Artists’ website: http://www.thedemonbarbers.co.uk/