ROB RICHINGS – Parkas and Boots (Crescent CRE1601CD)

Parkas And BootsIn 2009, Swindon-born Richings, then frontman with indie outfit Sleeping With Giants, was diagnosed with a rare and severe form of colitis which eventually metastasised into cancer. Three live saving operations later, he’s doing well and is expected to live a relatively normal life. Except a normal life has now taken on something of a different meaning, as, while he was recovering, he decided to make the most of the chance he’d been given, jacked in his decorating job and started taking his music seriously. To which end, he released the Half Way Up EP last year and then set about putting together his debut solo album, Parkas And Boots, recording this time not in the New Forest, but in Sydney, with Passenger producer Chris Vallejo at the helm and featuring the Enigma Quartet on strings.

As you’d imagine, the album, a collection of troubadour folk songs, is very much informed by his illness and recovery, opening with the rhythmically shuffling reflective title track, a touch of the Simons perhaps, about childhood dreams and how time moves on and friendships wane. That same idea also informs the simple acoustic slow waltz ‘Glorious’, an older years remembrance of those brief fairy tale moments of a boyhood living in rural Ireland.

Taking a slightly funkier, more soulful turn, the organ-underpinned ‘Ten Seconds’ (reminiscent in places of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’) was written at the height of his illness, using the experience of how the day starts off fine before reality kicks in for a song about optimism. The softly fingerpicked, tinkling keys, slow swaying ‘Halfway Up’ is another number directly relating to the same experience, about adopting a glass half full attitude in the face of hardship and how what goes around comes around. The same notion that things can turn on a dime rings true of the minimal, strings-backed ‘Curse of the Lonely’, where he sings “I live on a fault line and I sleep with the lights on. I’m scared of the shadows and what’s not yet happened.”

Loss and hope go hand in hand. On the hymnal-like community spirit piano ballad ‘Give’, to the accompaniment of yearning violin he talks of hanging on to a miracle and how “maybe if we gave a little more than we did, If we all had trust, love, hope and belief… it’s all we’ve got to do if we want to live.” Likewise, having faith in things getting better is also at the heart of Jenny, a song about a fractured relationship and a woman who’s lost touch with herself, but advising her bruised heart partner to hold on because “when Jenny decides that it’s right, she’ll come back to you.” The healing power of love and connection is there too on the lap steel tinged mid-tempo ‘Mississippi’, another reflection on years passed, distances between and wisdom gained (“it’s a long way back but I’m coming. I’m hoping the years have been kind to you and maybe you still think of me too”), the tug of home and the need to settle down seeping over into the guitar rippling ‘Sunset In Tibet’ (“Been running all my life…it’s time I turned around and run home”), another number that calls Paul Simon to mind.

The remaining number is also one of my favourites; slowly gathering to a swelling finale, ‘Crossbow’ is a song about regrets, but also, drawing on the nature of bird song and the changing seasons, about the hope of redemption and salvation. Rob says he doesn’t want his illness to define what he does and who he is. It doesn’t need to, the heart and honesty of his music speaks for him.

Mike Davies

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Shooglenifty’s Angus R Grant dies aged 49

Angus R Grant

It is with deep sadness that we announce that our brother Shoogle, Angus R Grant, passed away last night after a short illness. We would like to thank his doctors and the team from St Columba’s Hospice who enabled him to die peacefully at home surrounded by family and close friends. Here follows a short appreciation …

Angus first picked up a fiddle at five years old. He was given a quarter sized instrument by his uncle and the family were amazed when in just few days he had three tunes on the go. Perhaps they shouldn’t have been so surprised. As the son of the renowned left-handed fiddle player and teacher from Lochaber – Aonghas Grant – his destiny was to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Not that he saw it quite in the way that Grant Sr intended. In fact, his teenage years were full of filial rebellion, as he gave up the fiddle and took up the electric guitar. It was the time of punk, and a do-it-yourself vibe. Spending hours practising pibroch and puirt tunes seemed less attractive than thrashing away at a guitar. In those days, playing fiddle was decidedly uncool, ironically something Angus did much to change in the next 30 or so years.

It was his school friend Kaela Rowan (now providing vocals for Shooglenifty) who persuaded Angus to dig out his fiddle again and go along to a session. Shortly after, Iain Macfarlane, himself a fine fiddler, persuaded to Grant Jr to join his band Pennycroft with Kaela as third member. The threesome worked their way round the bars of Glenfinnan, Glenuig, and Loch Ailort, not forgetting Fergie’s Bar in Mingarry, a particular favourite.

Angus became a regular visitor to Edinburgh from 1985, following in the wake of his old school friend James Mackintosh, and James’s sister Fiona (both Art College students). Encountering other players in the capital opened his eyes to other musical possibilities, and he persuaded James to take their music to the streets during the Edinburgh Festival in that first summer. As James headed back to college he left with his fiddle for a busking tour of Europe. In that trip he visited Vigo in Spain which inspired one of his most famous tunes ‘Two Fifty to Vigo’. On his return Angus joined James and Fiona’s boyfriend Malcolm Crosbie in experimental punk bluegrass combo Swamptrash. Also in the line up were Orcadian banjo player Garry Finlayson and bassist Conrad Molleson.

Swamptrash fitted the late 1980s Edinburgh music scene. It was a time anything could be thrown into the musical pot and musicians from all disciplines jammed together. By the time Swamptrash split up in 1990 it wasn’t unusual to find jazz musicians forming folk bands, trad musicians discovering improvisation and a young piper called Martyn Bennett hanging out in the city’s clubs.

As Swamptrash ran its course Angus, James and Malcolm were at a loose end and took themselves off to Spain for a spot of busking. By this time Angus had begun to embrace his father’s tradition once more. But now the music of the bagpipes and Gaelic song were peppered with a mixed bag of more modern influences: Captain Beefheart, the Fall, Brian Eno, Talking Heads and Miles Davis among them.

Returning to Edinburgh the embryonic Shooglenifty found a regular table in Christie’s Bar in the West Port. They drew in Finlayson, Molleson and mandolin maestro Iain Macleod, and, as bigger and bigger crowds were drawn to their stirring tunes they moved down the road to a residency at Cowgate club La Belle Angele.

Shooglenifty’s sound was brewed in those early sessions – Iain’s precisely handled mandolin, Malcolm’s pumping guitar, Garry’s wayward banjo, Conrad’s grooving bass line, James’s tight as a drum dance beats. And soaring above was the, by turns, wild and serenading fiddle of Angus R Grant. They were a rock band. With a fiddle player as a front man.

With Venus in Tweeds, Shooglenifty’s first album, the band took the folk world by the scruff of the neck, and they’ve kept on shaking ever since. Through seven studio albums, gigs to a few hundred in small Highland village halls, playing to tens of thousands in festival fields across the globe, and a couple of line-up changes, Angus was there, centre stage. He had never missed a gig until this July when illness forced his hand, but he returned to the stage to complete Shooglenifty’s run of August festival appearances.

In addition to the iconic first album’s title track ‘Venus in Tweeds’ and ‘Two Fifty to Vigo’, Angus wrote some of Shooglenifty’s most memorable tunes including ‘She’s In The Attic’, ‘Nordal Rhumba’, ‘Glenfinnan Dawn’ and ‘Fitzroy Crossing’, the haunting closing track to the band’s most recent release.

Shooglenifty filled most of Angus’s musical life over the past 26 years. He rarely played in other combos, and, latterly, he was happiest playing traditional music in pub sessions in the Highlands and around his adopted home of Edinburgh.

Somewhat bohemian in outlook, Angus was more rigorously unconventional on stage, leading audiences in a merry dance for over 30 years, and influencing a whole generation of musicians. With his rock n roll swagger, he made fiddle playing cool.

The Shoogle front man was a flighty and mercurial figure: he lived on the breeze, loving to disappear on walkabout (or, more often, hitchabout) in the Highlands, to pop up in far flung bars, and drop by for random visits with a legion of much loved friends. He eschewed modern technology, never owning a mobile phone and remained a stranger to social media. He lived without ties and responsibility, but was devoted to his music, his family and his fellow musicians. He was asked recently if he and the other Shoogles were like brothers after so long playing together. He said, “Worse: wives!”

Angus is survived by his father Aonghas, his mother Moira, sisters Deirdre and Fiona, niece Eva, and Shoogle wives Ewan MacPherson, Garry Finlayson, James Mackintosh, Malcolm Crosbie, Quee MacArthur and Kaela Rowan.

Angus Roderick Grant, musician and inspiration, born 14 February 1967; died 9 October 2016.

Ewan MacPherson announces solo album

Ewan MacPherson fetch

“Over the last 20 years I have been lucky enough to play with a wide range of folk musicians from all over the world, but especially Europe. It has been an inspiring journey learning from some of the finest players in a variety of culturally rich countries.

From the Celtic and Anglo Nations across to Scandinavia, my musical travels have led me to write this collection of tunes reflecting those experiences.

I am not from a family of tradition bearers, but my forebears hail from all over the British Isles and music is in my bones. I have a genuine love for it, along with a mongrel’s freedom which allows me to jump headlong into new cultures and get involved, learning many of the nuances in traditional styles from the generous musicians I have met.

Fetch is the culmination of all those experiences, with a few good friends from along the way, each one of them a respected musician in their own right. This is also a way to say thanks and perhaps a chance to give something back. In these uncertain times it feels good to be part of such a vibrant culture so full of bright energy.

This has been a very hands-on project, I wrote 95% of the music on this album, produced and recorded in Scotland and Norway, designed the cover art and booked the tour.”

Ewan MacPherson has been working in the music industry for 20 years. As a multi-instrumentalist he is a recognised figure on the vibrant Scottish music scene and as such was nominated for Instrumentalist of the Year at the 2014 MG Alba Trad Music Awards.

He is a founder member of three acclaimed bands (Fribo, Salt House and RoughCoastAudio) and has taken stages around the world with a wide range of traditional and contemporary folk/roots artists.

Ewan’s music has taken him as far as India, Malaysia, Canada, America, Australia and throughout Europe, in addition to his own projects he is currently a member of renowned acid-croft band Shooglenifty and tours with Patsy Reid. Ewan has also worked with many prominent artists including: Afro-Celt Sound-system, Alan Kelly Gang, Alasdair White, The Battlefield Band, Bella Hardy, Breabach, Bruce MacGregor, Burach, Chloe Matharu, Chris & Thomas, Claire Mann, Daimh, Dannsa, Emily Smith, Ewan Robertson, Fine Friday, Gillie Mackenzie, Gillebride MacMillan, Hannah Read, Inge Thompson, Jeana Leslie & Siobhan Miller, Kongero, Lori Watson, Maeve Mackinnon, Mairi Campbell, Malinky, Nuala Kennedy, Ranarim, Shooglenifty, Salsa Celtica and The Treacherous Orchestra.

A skilled multi instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter and producer Ewan released an album of self-penned songs in 2008 (which included a collaboration with Vashti Bunyan) many of which have been covered by other leading artists including Breabach, Patsy Reid and Siobhan Miller. He produced Gillie Mackenzie’s debut solo album in 2011.

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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‘Brutus The Husky/MacColl’s’ – the opening track from Fetch:


TREVOR CLAWSON – Firecracker Day (own label)

firecracker dayYou know how it is – somebody comes up to you at a festival and hands you a CD and you know you have two chances. Either it will be awful or it will be a delightful surprise. If it was the former you wouldn’t be reading this so you may rest assured that Firecracker Day comes as a pleasant surprise. I’ve learned that Trevor is Irish and that he now lives in West Sussex. He’s been in the business for a while and I can’t help but wonder why he isn’t generally better known. Firecracker Day is just one voice and one or two guitars and the packaging is minimal which, subconsciously at least, is off-putting and I can think of a record label on the south coast that should contact him soonish. But I’m not his agent so let’s get on with the review.

Trevor’s songs are down-to-earth, about real people although there is an element of fantasy about the opening track, ‘The Burning Tide’, which tells of an ill-starred love affair in a fishing town encompassing adultery and tragedy. If it’s all true then Trevor is one unlucky bloke. The title track is about banger racing and ‘Pentonville Road’ is about finding someone new in a new city – it could happen to anybody. ‘If Ever You Should Happen’ is a clever post-love song with a tune that is possibly over-simple but works. ‘A Soldier’s Pay’ is a song that really makes you think while ‘Even Mona Lisa Gets The Blues’ is a reflection on the well-known images that have become icons from La Gioconda to Athena’s tennis player.

Trevor is a fine guitar picker with a clear unaffected voice and great diction. I can honestly say that there isn’t a song on this album that I wouldn’t listen to again.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘The Running Tide’:

TWO’S COMPANY – Go Together (own label TCFCD01)

go togetherGo Together is the first album from Yorkshire-based duo Two’s Company, David Jenkinson and Alice Baillie. Both sing, David plays a variety of stringed instruments, notably guitar and cello-mandolin, while Alice plays flute and writes the original songs that blend with the traditional titles. The album is all acoustic and recorded without studio trickery except briefly on ‘Three Rivers’ – I imagine that this is exactly how they sound live.

The opening track is the traditional ‘Cupid The Ploughboy’, a song from Dorset that I didn’t know, which sets the pastoral feel of the album. Second is an original song, ‘Bobby’, which tells the tale – spoiler alert – of a young piper who loses three fingers in a mill accident and whose dream of playing for the queen is shattered. It’s told with great sympathy but I can’t help feeling that Megson or Nancy Kerr would have injected some passion into the story and berated the mill owner rather more.

David and Alice take ‘All Among The Barley’ at a statelier pace than is usual and, while it isn’t exactly a rafter raising chorus, it needs a bit more welly. There are two instrumental sets. The first, ‘Winterfall’ is a set of two tunes by Michael Raven and here, Two’s Company show that they can rock it out when they want to but the second set, ‘Island Tunes’, tends back towards bucolic gentleness despite some sparkling flute playing..

There is one niggle and I’m afraid I’m going to keep banging on about it. ‘Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?’, or whatever you wish to call it, is not a traditional song and while it is similar to an old Scottish tune it was originally written down by Robert Tannahill before Francis McPeake wrote ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ using a variant of the melody. Are we all clear now?

So, Go Together is nice pastoral album and a good starting point for Two’s Company. Alice has a clever way with a lyric – ‘The Grove’ is particularly good – but for me it needs rather more fire in its belly.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?’ – live:

Jailbox release new album Idea Jar


St Louis three-piece Jailbox are delighted to announce the release of the beautifully introspective Idea Jar, out now via FarmerTanz Records.

Idea Jar displays a unique and ethereal quality to Jailbox’ music; dreamy, sensitive vocals are elegantly lifted by simple, yet effective, guitar pieces, affecting layers of atmospheric percussion add to an already sumptuous song, brought together expertly by beguiling strings.

Exploring themes of loss, letting go and personal reflection, Idea Jar perfectly exhibits Jailbox’ evocative, thought provoking music, which brims with emotion, carefully crafted musicianship and easily relatable lyrical content the likes of Owen, Ry X and Sufjan Stevens would be proud of.

Comprised of Andrew Tanz (vocals, keyboards, guitar, bass, percussion), Joseph Bassa (vocals, guitars, percussion) and Aaron Essner (percussion, drums) Jailbox formed in 2009 as a moniker for their home recordings which was taking place in their home state of Missouri. After going on hiatus for two years, the 2015 writing and recording of Idea Jar marked a welcome return for the band and is the start of a creative period that will see them release two singles and two videos throughout October and November.

Having supported the likes of Vetiver, Devendra Barnhart, Still Corners, Daniel Johnston and Pines as well as playing renowned venue Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown as part of Coachella, Jailbox are aiming to end 2016 on a high with with a video for Idea Jar and release of second single ‘Whole’, which is out in November, to follow.

Artists’ website:

Listen to ‘Idea Jar’: