THE SLAMBOVIAN CIRCUS OF DREAMS – A Box Of Everything (Red River RRECD134)

A Box Of EverythingWith an extensive UK tour just a few weeks away The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams re-issue (or issue) their “greatest hits” collection in the UK. I got my copy direct from the USA two years ago, via Tink Lloyd’s own fair hand – they had sold out when I heard them live in 2014. It’s now been six years since The Grand Slambovians and the band had been taking some time out – that’s purely relative, of course, as a glance at their website will prove.

A Box Of Everything is a best of collection with the addition of three new songs which also marked Eric Puente’s recording debut with the band. As these things do Eric has moved on and Felipe Torres now occupies the drum stool but Sharkey McEwan is still the axeman. The first of the new songs is the title track, a rather tender love song, which is followed immediately by ‘Tink (I Know It’s You)’ – we get it, Joziah. The next is ‘A Very Unusual Head’ which is something of a tribute to Syd Barratt and early Pink Floyd and is rumoured to be the title of the band’s next studio album. Finally among the new songs comes ‘Alligators’, the final encore in 2014, both songs suggesting a new levity in Joziah Longo’s writing.

Fans will have differing opinions as to what constitutes “the best” of the Slambovians and I would have liked ‘Northern Sea’ but it’s not included. Joziah opens the set with his best Dylan voice on ‘Rocket’ and all the essential songs are in place: ‘Talkin’ To The Buddah’, ‘The Trans-Slambovian Bi-Polar Express’, ‘Very Happy Now’ and ‘Sunday In The Rain’ among them. If you’ve not heard The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams before this is a good place to start and if you then want to jump in the deep end grab Flapjacks From The Sky and become a complete Slambovian.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

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Artists’ website: www.slambovia.com

‘A Box Of Everything’ live:

WATER PAGEANT – Outlines (Glide GLD001)

OutlinesNick Tingay and Lizzy McBain are, it says here, an Oxford-based boy/girl electro-dream folk project, Tingay’s songs “often drawing on ideas from Enlightenment-era science as well as meteorological and agricultural themes.” At which point, you may well be about to skip the rest of the review and crank up something by Bellowhead or Martin Carthy. Well, hang on a minute. For a start, Tingay has a decidedly beguiling voice, somewhere between Donovan and Robin Pecknold, Iindeed airy, glockenspiel-shimmering opening number ‘Veils’ has a decided touch of the Fleet Foxes about it, though the atmospheric near six-minute ‘Wave Is Due’ sails closer to Jeff Buckley territory.

As you might suspect, with its soft vocals and dreamy acoustic instrumentation nothing here ventures above a delicate sonic fragility, a suitably liquid feel, yet never one that feels watery or inspid. As well as writing the material, singing and playing most of the instruments (McBain handles keyboard and harmonies), Tingay also produced and arranged. He’s clearly a man who likes you to slowly discover the layers rather than hitting you with everything at one, and many of the numbers here repay repeat listening as they gradually reveal subtle colours with a trumpet here or a cello there.

To get an idea of what I mean, listen to the undercurrent of the tinkling ‘Furniture In The Road’ or the gently jogging lullaby that is ‘Seamstress’. Built around cello and a repeated fingerpicked guitar figure, there’s also spooked clockwork musical box feel to the waltz-time ‘Pollen’, perhaps the number that shades closest to elements of traditional folk while, sporting the hiss of a tambourine, ‘Overlaps’ suggests a bucolic Peter Gabriel hanging out at Bon Iver’s cabin.

Apparently ‘Catchpenny Tides’, with its warm Northern brass trumpet glow, was inspired by both a Seamus Heaney poem and a retro amusement arcade on Southwold pier, that air of nostalgia also informing the fairground feel of ‘Creatures of Your Thoughts’ (on which Nick sings the first verse on French). It’s been accused of being somewhat samey with a habit of drifting off into uninteresting fluffy musical clouds, but if that’s what you thing, you’re clearly not listening properly. On the rippling brushed snare shuffle of ‘Fieldwork’ that brings the album to an end, Tingay sings “we formed our own language that only we could speak.” I suggest you get a dictionary and share.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click 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.

Artists’ website: http://waterpageant.co.uk/

‘Overlaps’ – the official video:

RANT – Reverie (Make Believe Records MBR6CD)

ReverieIf you’re going to make music with a band that consists of just fiddles and violas you have to pretty sure of your ground otherwise it’s going to get rather dull.

Sure, Bethany Reid, Jenna Reid, Sarah-Jane Summers and Lauren McColl stretch the point by importing vocalists for two tracks but they import the best – Julie Fowlis and Ewan McLennan. The opening track, ‘JT’s’, written by Bethany makes a bold statement with almost staccato fiddle phrases leading into a sweeter restatement and then a rocking melody. The mood changes immediately with a set of two traditional tunes, ‘Miss Drummond Of Perth’s Favourite Scotch Measure’ – another great old title – which is given an almost eerie opening and ‘Strathbogie’s Toast’ from Niel Gow’s collection. ‘Dad’s 60th’ is another tune by Bethany, a bright march with echoes of older pieces hidden within it.

The first of the songs is ‘Mary’s Dream’. The words are by the 18th century Galloway poet, John Lowe’ and the tune is traditional – a variant of ‘The Parting Glass’. McLennan’s warm voice is complemented by almost tender fiddle parts. Julie Fowlis sings the other song, ‘Thug Thu Chonnlach As An T-Sabhal’, a strathspey tune with a very different feel. Her vocal dexterity with the Gaelic language is always a delight.

There are two pieces from James Scott Skinner who is always good value, two by Lauren and a couple of covers and the final track is an Icelandic hymn, ‘Fyrir Mig, Jesú, þoldir þú’, brought to the band by Jenna and rearranged by Bethany with an ethereal feel that’s almost chilling, bringing the album to a lovely close.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click 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.

Artists’ website: www.rantfiddles.com

The promotional video:

Firewoodisland – New EP

Firewoodisland

When asked to describe their music Firewoodisland struggle to find a specific genre they feel fits. It is their own atmospheric, melancholic but redemptive take on modern pop and they have their own name for it – Mountain Pop.

What started its life as a solo project for Norwegian student Stian Vedøy – while he was studying for his Masters in Music Production in Cardiff – became a coming together of fellow like-minded musicians. A regional win in Norway’s Bandwagon Battle of the Bands in 2013 saw the project become a full band and their debut EP ILD followed.

Their second EP, Dome, is the next installment of the five piece’s own brand of pop music. The five tracks are a collection of stories from different realms of the imagination, all tied together with cerebral lyrics, tight harmonies, soaring melodies and a Norwegian effortlessness.

The now Bristol-based Firewoodisland are Stian Vedøy (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Abi Eleri (vocals, percussion, samples), Steve Allen (drums), Rowan Blake Talbot (bass) and Dylan Jones (trumpet, keyboards, guitar).

The band will be launching the Dome EP with a series of special gigs across the UK this spring, in London, Bath and Cardiff and Bristol. For details please head to their website.

‘Dome’ – official video:

 

First track from Refugee

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy Refugee

The first track from the Refugee compilation album has surfaced. ‘Most People’ is the contribution from Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy.

Featuring Richard Dawson, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Linda Thompson, Alasdair Roberts, Ricky Ross, BMX Bandits and many more, the Refugee album is a united effort from some of folk’s most esteemed and cult figures, who’ve contributed an original or unreleased song each to the Refugee project.

Refugee (out digitally on June 3rd through Brainfog) is a highly significant collaborative recording project which reflects, through song, the issue of the refugee crisis in its many forms, from Syria and beyond. It’s been curated by Scottish folk artist Robin Adams, who called on his close friends and musical colleagues from around the world to contribute to the project.

Each track is an unreleased original song, with contributions from the likes of the above artists. All proceeds go to the MOAS organisation (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) who have saved more than 13,000 lives since 2013 in the Mediterranean Sea.

Website: www.moas.eu

SANDY DENNY – I’ve Always Kept A Unicorn (Island 536 735-0)

I've Always Kept A UnicornWhat can I say that hasn’t been said a thousand times before? There’s the problem. I have to confess that I’m sometimes uneasy about the way that Sandy Denny’s catalogue has been managed. There are just three tracks among the forty presented here that haven’t been released before and they are demos from The Bunch album. Which means that the barrel has been well and truly scraped clean. There is nothing of any significance left to unearth.

The two CDs are arranged chronologically and present Sandy in acoustic mode – demos, radio sessions and stripped down masters – to offer “the best album Sandy Denny never made”. If you have a taste for Sandy rocking her socks off on ‘Down In The Flood’ you’re out of luck here. The first track is her best known song, ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’, recorded in 1967 with The Strawbs. The notes are vague about its origins but it isn’t the version that appears on the album and I suppose that it was possible to extract it from the three-track master. What it is, however, is the voice that Dave Cousins fell in love with, young, fresh and clear and it can be argued that this is the best version of the song that you will ever hear.

With All Our Own Work failing to get a release, Sandy returned to the folk clubs, recording two albums with Alex Campbell and Johnny Silvo and these are represented by two songs written by her then boyfriend, Jackson C Frank. Then Fairport Convention – two demos and two masters which presumably preceded the band’s involvement. Fotheringay is next with two demos and two radio sessions presenting Sandy solo. ‘The Lowlands Of Holland’, solo and unaccompanied, is particularly lovely.

The next six tracks come from her first solo project – two demos, a radio session and three from the BBC’s In Concert programme and the first disc closes with the three demos from The Bunch – guitar and vocal tracks featuring Linda Peters on ‘When Will I Be Loved’.

The second set continues Sandy’s solo career and adds her second stint with Fairport. It opens with ‘Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood’, which the band tried out but which Sandy eventually took for herself. Here are some of her best known songs including possibly the best ever version of ‘Bushes And Briars’, more up-tempo than we are used to. It comes from a radio session as does an equally superb piano-led ‘Solo’. There is a piano demo of ‘The End’ which flashes past for all its seven and a half minutes.

The Fairport tracks are all demos, including ‘Rising For The Moon’, ‘One More Chance’ and ‘What Is True?’ but, sadly, no ‘Stranger To Himself’. Oh well, you can’t have everything. The next two tracks are live from Marc Time and I still find the idea of Denny and Bolan in the same studio a bit mind-boggling. Quite what his teenage audience made of ‘Blackwaterside’ I can’t imagine. Sadly, Marc’s introductions are not included. The final track is the last that she ever recorded, Bryn Haworth’s ‘Moments’. This is one of three demos made and features Ralph McTell on guitar.

So, how is my unease?  This set has been put together with a specific purpose and that is to present Sandy’s timeline in solo, acoustic performances. The mastering is excellent – a big hand for Paschal Byrne here – Mick Houghton’s sleeve notes are written from an expert perspective, there are some good photos and it’s true that some of Sandy’s best performances here. I guess that’s good enough.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click 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.

Website: http://www.sandydennyofficial.com/

‘Late November’ – live in London, 1971: