STEVE PLEDGER live at Dunster Castle Hotel

Steve Pledger live

Friday 9th February 2017

A very chilly evening in Dunster, North Somerset was made glowingly warm by a lovely gig, courtesy of award winning singer songwriter Steve Pledger.

I had been looking forward to this event immensely, after attending his album launch at Dunster Castle itself in November, and was not disappointed. The room at the Dunster Castle Hotel had been set out bistro style with candles, and there was a very pleasant ambience about it. Very cosy and intimate.

Since our last meeting, Steve has won Folkwords Album of the Year by a male artist for Somewhere Between, and FATEA awarded Steve Best Album of the Year 2016 for the same album. Not bad for a rising star!

There were other avid fans in the audience who had come from far and wide. I saw a lady buy three albums which was great to see. As Steve had picked tracks to sing from all three albums, she didn’t want to miss anything!

Steve kicked off the gig with ‘If You Fall’, which is an unusual number for him to start with, but he had the audience hooked from the start. An introduction into the songs as he was about to sing them, told us how they came about, which was interesting. Very early on we had an audience participation tune – ‘This Land Is Poundland’ from his second album – Striking Matches In The Wind, Doing Well gave us a political swipe at Government v Benefits, ‘Quit Blubbin’ In The Cheap Seats’, again from Striking Matches, got us all singing again and before long it was time for the interval. More CDs flying out ensued in the break.

He returned with ‘I Spat Fire’ from his new album followed by Eva Cassidy’s fabulous track – ‘People Get Ready’. Further tunes were off all three albums and all were sung in the way they were written, the tune regarding depression – ‘Me And The Silence’ is particularly moving as is ‘Other’ which is about people expressing themselves whatever it may be.

And so it came to the end of the concert – much too soon. An encore was granted and ‘Hallelujah’ was giving the Pledger treatment. Goosebumps filled my entire spine and I might have had something in my eye. Just so love how he sings this amazing song.

The audience had thoroughly enjoyed it if the applause was to be believed, and afterwards Steve chatted to his public, signed albums sold by his very supportive and proud wife Becky, and was in no rush to get away. Steve is quietly political in his own way which shows in some of his lyrics, but also a very kind, generous, tremendously gifted soul, who deserves to soar up the ladder of success.

See you soon at another gig soon Steve!

Jean Camp

Go to www.stevepledger.co.uk to purchase his music and to see where he is playing near you.

CAMBRIDGE CITY ROOTS FESTIVAL – Various artists and venues, 3-11 February 2017

City Roots Festival
Photographs by Su O’Brien

The 2017 inaugural City Roots Festival is kind of like an expansion pack for the Cambridge Folk Festival: a winter top-up with lots of bonus features. Aiming to expand the relationship between folk/roots music and the city, the Folk Festival organisers lined up a diverse roster of artists over one week at assorted venues across the city.

Home-grown talent Steven James Adams opened the week with his new band The French Drops, providing witty and lively songs with a conscience. Then there was a choice between Mary Chapin Carpenter (with Edale’s finest, Bella Hardy, in support) with her classic country-infused songs or the edgier sounds of Jim Moray.

A day of workshops on working in the music industry, hosted by Anglia Ruskin University’s music department, was considered, by one attendee at least, to have been very useful. The evening could be rounded off in the evening by some folk club sessions in the Cambridge University Union Bar, or at The Transatlantic Sessions, a melting pot of Celtic and Americana sounds. Or, like me, you might choose to take in an entertaining evening in the company of singer-songwriters Amy Wadge and Luke Jackson.

Replicating the Folk Festival’s “up & coming” stage, The Den, at local venue CB2, was a two-night showcase including Janet Devlin, SJ Mortimer, Honey and the Bear, Mortal Tides, Ben Smith and Jimmy Brewer, and Kerry Devine.

The riotous Mad Dog McCrea returned as headliners, following their support slot for New Model Army just a few months ago. Noble Jacks, their support act, look like being a band worth watching, too. On a completely different tack, skilful guitar playing with a twist was provided by Paolo Angelli & Derek Gripper.

On the final day, the bitter sleet was braved by a staunch group of great musicians who’d rashly agreed to busk around the city, including five-piece band Morganway, Pat Crilly & Greg Camburn, Ben Smith & Jimmy Brewer (whose delicious harmonies almost made it feel like summertime: almost) and guitarist Matt Hammond. And these were just the ones I managed to see, so my apologies to those I missed out. Luckily, there was a warm welcome from the folk clubs inside the Union Bar, a place to retreat and thaw out red-raw fingers to play some fine indoor sets, too.

Sadly, the headliner for the closing night, Salif Keita cancelled due to illness, but Sona Jobarteh stepped up, with Muntu Valdo in support.

There is no question about the quality and diversity of the artists taking part, and Cambridge has the range of venue sizes to manage internationally renowned stars and breakthrough acts. Just a bit of housekeeping needs attention, if – as the organisers hope – this is to become an annual event. Several gigs had no visible City Roots branding at all, leaving a lack of any feeling of cohesion that an umbrella, multi-venue festival like this really needs. In established Cambridge tradition, laminated posters were cable-tied to railings around town and local press published articles, but details of updates to the schedule were often only sketchily available online, like the re-organisation of some of the final day activities. Attention to small details like these would make big improvements to the overall experience, but there’s no doubt that City Roots will be a welcome addition to the festival calendar.

Su O’Brien

Festival website: https://www.cambridgelivetrust.co.uk

POLICE DOG HOGAN – Wild By The Side Of The Road

Wild By The Side Of The RoadFormed in 2009 and currently an eight-piece, Wild By The Side Of The Road is Police Dog Hogan’s fourth album and firmly consolidates their growing reputation for infectiously punchy folk rock shaded with elements of country and bluegrass.

Fronted by lyricist James Studholme and with banjo and mandolin provided by Tim Dowling and Tim Jepson, they have established themselves as festival regulars, guaranteed to get the crowd jumping with their rollicking, bouncy melodies. And they’re much in evidence here, kicking off with ‘Tyburn Jig’, clattering rim percussion driving a bouncy song about being hung and swiftly followed by the jaunty countrified and brassed up ‘Dixie’, about a doomed romance with a country fan in Birmingham, the saloon piano and fiddle driven clopalong ‘In The Country, a paean to the rural Devonshire life, and the rousing bluesy stomp ‘Black Road’ with its lively accordion, trumpet-heavy and what sounds a like touch of Jew’s harp.

Of course, this is only one side of the band, they’re equally adept at quieter, more thoughtful and reflective balladry. ‘Devon Brigade’ is a case in point, a first person narrative about a young lad fighting in the Great War as part of the Devonshire Regiment, its melancholic underscored by the cooking horal backing and strings. The same holds true for ‘Tomorrow’s Boys’, a more uptempo foot-tapping strum about how yesterday’s dreams never materialised, the trumpet-haunted disillusionment of ‘All You Know About Love’ and, swathed in violins and cello, the moodily atmospheric traditional flavours of the lyrically dark ‘Our Lady Of The Snows’.

Their bluegrass inclinations can be heard on the wryly retrospective, banjo-led ‘The One On The Left’ (its percussion intro reminding me of the start to ‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town’) while, with its lap steel, Hammond, trumpet and circling percussive rhythm ‘Let My Spirit Rise’, is bathes in the waters of Southern soul gospel.

The album closes with two numbers that deftly lay out their main two approaches, the romping bluegrass musician’s perspective hoedown ‘East Nashville Back Porch Fix’ and, built around a circling drum pattern and fiddle, the five-minute ‘Fare You Well’, Studholme’s Celtic-tinted anthemic adieu to Cornwall, complete with a namecheck for the Pier House Hotel overlooking Charlestown harbor, and its brief instrumental coda.

They’re out on the road from February 22 until the end of April, I suggest you scour the hedgerows to find a gig blooming near you.

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).

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.

Band website: www.policedoghogan.com

While we wait for a video from the new album, here’s an old favourite, ‘Thunderheads’:

THE AMPLIFIED ACOUSTIC BAND – Now. Here. This. (100Promotion 100P038)

I was approached by acclaimed Czech and London based singer songwriter Jamie Marshall to do a review of ‘Now. Here. This.’ – the debut album by The Amplified Acoustic Band, who have been wowing live audiences in Prague and surrounding areas for some time.

I had heard a taster of what I now know to be a fine album, and was looking forward to receiving it, as had been really impressed by what I had heard. The album sleeve is fabulous and classy, it includes the lyrics and lots of information on the band members.

The first track was penned by Jamie Marshall, who has a catalogue of notaries he has performed alongside, such as Don ‘Mr American Pie’ McLean, Glen Tilbrook, Paul Young and many more. ‘Trust Me’ is a great foot tapper – about lies and revenge. Something a good many of us can relate to.

The second rather jazzy bluesy track is sung by double bass player Svatka Štěpánkova (who is married to the guitar player – Radek) and she has an amazing voice and does justice to it entitled ‘Chocolate Jesus’, a Tom Waits number. ‘I’m Falling Apart’ is the sad time when a relationship ends, duet comprising of Jamie and Svatka, band number with drums and great guitar! Collaboration between Jamie and acclaimed singer songwriter Clive Gregson produced ‘Yes I Do’, a sad tale of a broken heart missing someone. A lovely melodic haunting track.

‘One Day Soon’ gives a great riff of electric guitar in the right places, a foot tapper to cheers us up, of hope and dreams to be fulfilled in the future. Dedi Madden wrote ‘Home’ which is a poignant track about loneliness and the subject of the track wanting to put down roots I think. A place where a few could relate to I’m sure. Superb sax on this track too. ‘This Time’ is about things working out at last! ‘Until I Hear It From You’ is the opposite! Both are written by Jamie Marshall.

‘Trouble’ is a very dark track written by Carlos Henderson and Lizz Wright, very ably sung by Svatka, had goose pimples listening to this! ‘Good News From The World Outside’ is a knock at what’s happening in the world today. ‘Just Enough of a Moon’ is a simple tango and a story of acting impulsively! ‘Love to Learn is a mournful slow jazzy blues track featuring Svatka on vocals, alongside a mournful fiddle and acoustic guitar. The last track ‘Word Up’ is a funky r&b lets dance and sing number. Dance your cobwebs away and enjoy!

I enjoyed all thirteen tracks, a refreshing change to some albums, as they were all different. The album was sponsored by supporters, and the band should be rightly proud of what they have achieved. Love it!!

Jean Camp

Artists’ website: www.amplifiedacousticband.com

‘Word Up!’ – official video:

Old Blind Dogs announce new album

 

Old Blind Dogs

Old Blind Dogs are back  with a new record and a new line up.

Original member, Jonny Hardie (Fiddle / Vocals) is joined by long term partners Aaron Jones (Bouzouki / Vocals), Ali Hutton (Pipes / Whistles) and new percussion powerhouse Donald Hay.

In their twenty five year history this is The Dogs’ thirteenth release and their first in six years. Back to their best with a recording capturing the infectious energy of their live show, Room With A View has excitement, beauty and their trademark powerful vocals.

A Scottish band that takes their historical ties seriously, Old Blind Dogs’ new recording captures parts of a tradition that goes back a long way. Great story telling and timeless tunes made for the ups and downs of life … and dancing!

The Dogs have spent a lot of time touring in America and opening track ‘Bunker Hill’ is a perfect example of tunes travelling from one country to another, adapting to their surroundings as they go.

Music by brilliant current tune writers sits seamlessly with tunes from days gone by, from ‘Ali’s Cairo Day’ and Alasdair White’s brand new ‘An Iuchair’ to Breton gavottes and old Scottish pipe reels. Aaron was interested in singing songs from where he lives so there are two from Lionel McLelland, a great poet from Moffat in Dumfries and Galloway, the enchanting ‘Earl O March’s Daughter’ and the dark tale of ‘Sawney Bean’.

Jonny was fascinated with the Orcadian history of The Maid of Norway, so ‘A Ring On Her Hand’ by Saltfishforty’s Brian Cromarty has been given the Old Blind Dogs pounding groove treatment.

Recorded and mixed at Carrier Waves Studio in Glasgow by Andrea Gobbi. This was a genuinely collaborative and enjoyable process for everyone involved. We’re looking forward to the next chapter in this influential band’s long history.

Old Blind Dogs will be touring the UK in April / May 2017, the USA in September / October 2017 and Germany in November 2017.

Artists’ website: www.oldblinddogs.co.uk

Old Blind Dogs live at this year’s Celtic Connections:

Monster Ceilidh Band announce new album

Monster Ceilidh Band

Mutation: a new line-up unleashed; a greater, deeper exploration of Monster Ceilidh Band’s signature melding of traditional music and powerful, electronic beats. For the first time, Monster Ceilidh Band have tackled their new album live, showcasing the band in full frenetic flow. Mutation indicates why the band has been in such demand for festivals, club nights and ceilidhs, across the UK and Europe.

The musicianship is masterful but fans will be unsurprised at their virtuosity; after all, it’s only such careful, sensitive arrangement and instrumentation that enables their music to work – and the energy to remain consistently high.

Mutation shows off how great the band is at evolving tunes: building up, breaking down, and taking the listener – and dancer – to somewhere entirely new. Many of the tunes begin acoustically, with the fiddle or accordion leading the way, leaving the listener wondering how, where and when the inevitable beats will begin – like in lead single and album opener, ‘Venus’, where curious strings introduce a seemingly disparate beat before its becomes wholly more rounded and self-assured. Or there’s ‘Mutated Beeswing’, where an impossibly delicate, skipping fiddle slides into a new dimension with accordion, before beats and sample fly it to somewhere else altogether.

‘Never Will’ sees the gravitas and swagger of the rhythm section give way to a Chic-like breakdown, cheered on by an audience, while the fluid fiddle hands the baton to the accordion in ‘Reasoning’, before a pulsating ostinato brings home the main message. A thumping heartbeat ogles the acoustic instrument as they flirt by in ‘Lusty’, but the weighty octave mandolin and insistent drums keep the track in check.

Monster Ceilidh Band make much of their new recruits, fiddlers Shona Mooney and Grace Smith, with both contributing compositions and lead parts, including the powerful album closer, ‘Disgrace’, where pleading fiddle is chastened by sombre mandolin and accordion. Relentless drums retain the energy and keep the feet moving.

Mutation is another notch on Monster Ceilidh Band’s own brand of dance music: intelligent, hypnotic, wild.

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

‘Twisted Bridge’ – live in the studio: