KÍLA – Pota Óir (Kíla Records, KRDVD003)

Pota ÓirKíla, a band with a mutable line-up around the core of the Ó Snodaigh family has been around since the late 80s, with a prodigious output of band and offshoot projects over that time. Last year, the band released a live album, Beo/Alive to include some of their less-performed tracks and Pota Óir (Pot of Gold) is its accompanying DVD. Shot in atmospheric black and white by director Anthony White (a stylist in the mould of the great Anton Corbijn), it intercuts band talking heads with live and backstage footage.

Mercifully, that’s about where any relationship to a bog-standard music DVD ends. A faintly sinister opening section with a droning musical track over choppy edits of band members, like an outtake from a ‘found footage’ horror film, invites the bold viewer in. Kílaland is then gradually revealed as a curious, liminal place of tall tales and shifting perspectives, where even the band’s name is open to conjecture.

Right from the first track, ‘Matatu’, Rónán Ó Snodaigh seizes the eye with his intense physicality, ferociously pacing the stage with his bodhrán. Standing like a flamingo in ‘Pota Óir’ or brooding on his knees in the beautiful ‘Babymouse’ (Dee Armstrong’s stunning melody paired with Colm Ó Snodaigh’s tender lyrics), he’s a truly elemental presence.

There’s no real conscious ‘showmanship’ here, just a breathtaking intensity of performance between musicians working it out in real time. Guest vocalist, Polish singer Kayah, adds a rich throatiness to the intricate ‘Seo Mo Leaba /Am Reel’ as different parts and musical lines cross and intersect in a constant dynamic flowing stream. The band’s influences are prolific: there’s a jazz looseness, there’s funk in the bassline, soul and rap in the vocals, there are world influences from Africa to the Middle East – everything gets caught up in the Kíla tornado.

The film really captures the idea of music being a living entity, from its origins and gestation into a working piece, to feeding off the audience in order to attain spontaneity and transcendence in performance.

‘Raise The Road’, a rare song in English and a guide to growing up, features the line “don’t be afraid, be courageous and shine”. Sung largely a cappella, it’s a goose-bumpy moment but it also seems to sum up the band’s philosophy. There’s a casual bravery in their risk-taking, their willingness for things to be imperfect or under-rehearsed, as long as they create an energy. Kíla, then, is not so much a band, more an unstoppable force, cheerfully straddling chaos in order to craft magic.

Su O’Brien

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Artists’ website: www.kila.ie

‘The Derry Tune’:

Strawbs celebrate 50 years

Strawbs

Monday 26th November: London,
Under The Bridge
Doors 7pm £26.40 (inc fee)

http://underthebridge.co.uk/events/electric-strawbs/

Although forming in the mid 60s, coming out of the exciting British Folk Movement alongside Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Al Stewart and Roy Harper, this tour will mark the 50th Anniversary of their first major recording, being the first UK band to be signed by the famous Hollywood label A&M, under the guidance of Herb Albert and Jerry Moss.

Major chart success followed with classic albums Dragonfly, Bursting At The Seams, Ghosts, Grave New World and Hero & Heroine earning the band 2 Gold Discs and over 30 weeks in Billboard Charts with seven consecutive albums charting.

Massive coast to coast tours of America swiftly followed, sharing the stage with The Eagles, Santana and Frank Zappa.

From the days of Sandy Denny in the band (pre Fairport Convention) and Sonja Kristina (pre Curved Air), Strawbs have always enjoyed the finest soloists in their ranks. Rick Wakeman and then his son Oliver moving on to join Yes as well as Rick’s other son going on to Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath. Blue Weaver to join the Bee Gees and Don Airey to Deep Purple. The keyboard stool is now being filled by virtuoso Dave Bainbridge of Iona, whose blend of Folk, Rock and Celtic music has endeared them to audiences for over 25 years.

A big influence on bands such as Pink Floyd, Genesis and Yes, the band are constantly producing some of the best and most respected albums since the 70’s.

The new album

received rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic and saw them back in the album charts for the first time in over 30 years. A recent sold out tour of Canada, producing spectacular reviews of the live show has resulted in two major tours of North America for 2019.

The Strawbs of the 21st Century are the constant guiding force, originator and front man Dave Cousins, described by Rolling Stone Magazine, “as the finest Dylan influenced songwriter to come out of the UK”. Long-time Strawbs cohorts since the 70’s, Dave Lambert on guitar, Chas Cronk, bass, driven on by the powerhouse drumming of Tony Fernandez, (regularly with Rick Wakeman’s band), and the aforementioned Dave Bainbridge on keyboards.

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://www.strawbsweb.co.uk/

‘The Nails From The Hands Of Christ’:

MARK HARRISON – The Panoramic View (own label)

The Panoramic ViewI really like Mark Harrison’s previous album, Turpentine, so I was delighted when he sent me The Panoramic View. Mark plays 12-string and National guitars and his core band is double bass and drums courtesy of Charles Benfield and Ben Welburn. His music is the blues but with the lightest of touches and an edge of country with piano by Paddy Milner taking us into a saloon somewhere and Paul Tkachenko’s brass taking us somewhere sleazier. On top of that he’s a very inventive song-writer.

The opening track, ‘One Small Suitcase’ is about escape and a line in the first verse suggests that our protagonists are slaves planning to run away. Without that line the song could be about a young couple eloping but perhaps both interpretations are true. You never know what Mark is going to write and so, perhaps with that in mind, he’s engaged Scottish television presenter Gail Porter to read introductions to the songs which otherwise would be printed in the booklet, going as far as to explain that the instrumental ‘Pool Meadow Strut’ is about a Coventry bus station.

Actually, Gail’s introductions are important as Mark bases several songs on old bluesmen and only a real aficionado would know that ‘Don’t Die Till You’re Dead’ was a favourite phrase of Mississippi John Hurt or that Eddie “Guitar” Burns gave up playing music and worked multiple jobs to raise the kids from two marriages as told in ‘House Full Of Children’. Although Burns’ name isn’t well-known to most people he is highly rated among Detroit bluesmen – just the sort of guy that Mark would know about.

‘What Son House Said’ is a possible interpretation of an alcoholic ramble, in fact nearly all the songs are hedged around with “might bes” or “could haves” and when the subjects under discussion are living under the Jim Crow laws in the 50s and 60s or the life of a Chinese track-layer in the 19th century perhaps all you need is empathy for other people’s lives. Mark has that.

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.

Artist’s website: www.markharrisonrootsmusic.com

‘Ain’t No Justice’ – live

News of George Butterworth documentary film

George Butterworth

After more than three years of careful work and the kind participation of a host of contributors, the first ever George Butterworth documentary film is now complete.

This ninety-five minute feature documentary about the English composer, folk song collector and folk dancer is a fitting account of a great lost talent, full of brilliant music from folk songs and morris dance tunes, solo male voice and piano to full orchestras.  The filmmakers like to think that after seeing the documentary, you will never hear George Butterworth’s music in quite the same way again.

After such a long build up and all the support and encouragement the makers have received, they cannot wait to start showing this film and see George’s story connecting with audiences UK-wide.  However in order to do this the film requires certain essential technical post production work.

The film makers are therefore inviting contributions through a crowdfunding campaign via IndieGoGo to cover these costs and take the film over the finish line and into cinemas around the UK.

The campaign was live for October and indications are that the financial target has been achieved. The site is still open and support need not necessarily be financial – although every pound will help us towards the goal.  Mentioning the campaign on your website or sharing the link for this important and timely film with anyone you think may like to see it will be a massive boost.

Please see full details of the campaign on the film’s IndieGoGo page and check out the rewards for supporters – George Butterworth Portrait Documentary Film

Film trailer: ALL MY LIFE’S BURIED HERE – The Story of George Butterworth

MERRY HELL – Anthems To The Wind (Merry Hell Music MHMCD218)

Anthems To The WindHere’s a conundrum. When you see them playing the folk circuit, Merry Hell comprise Virginia Kettle and her borther-in-law Andrew on vocals, his brothers John on guitar and Bob on banjo, mandolin and bouzouki, bassist Nick Davies and fiddle player Neil McCartney. Officially, however, they’re now an eight-piece with Lee Goulding on keyboards and Andy Jones providing percussion. For such practical reasons as most club stages being too small to accommodate that many musicians, the latter two remain studio-bound.

So, while a live album might be representative of the band on any given night, it wouldn’t be representative of the band as such. So, what you have here is a collection of numbers from the repertoire featuring all eight members, recorded (mostly) live at three venues, just not with an audience, but with the arrangements stripped back to the way they would be heard in their primarily acoustic setting of a folk club.

Ok, that’s the logistics out of the way, so what about the music? It kicks off in fine fettle with the slower live styling of ‘Drunken Serenade’ the opening track from their debut album, these days, of course, showcasing McCartney with an interpolation of traditional instrumental ‘The Banshee Reel’.

Introduced by Virginia as “a message to mothers everywhere”, ‘My Finest Hour’ is the reworking of off Head Full of Magic, Shoes Full of Rain, spinning the perspective with, here, Virginia rather than Andrew recounting how mom puts a damper on the couple’s amorous intentions.

Again, it’s Virginia rather than Andrew who sings lead on a slightly longer version of the slow waltzing ‘No Place Like Tomorrow’ from 2015’s There’s A Ghost in Our House…, fiddle replacing the already pared back original’s guitar solo.

It’s back to Blink…And You Miss It for anthemic swayalong ‘Over The Border’, fairly akin to the studio recording but, again, slightly longer. The debut also yields three further songs, Bob’s mandolin now being joined by some rousing fiddle from Neil on ‘This Time’, the playful unlikely love story of ‘The Butcher And The Vegan’, sung as before by Virginia, benefiting from a fuller arrangement to its slow march tempo. Andy’s percussion underpinning the prolusion, the division-themed call for tolerance and social anger management ‘The War Between Ourselves’ is one of two instances where the live album brushes up against rock’n’folk, Neil’s fiddle again in the spotlight.

The third is one of the band’s undisputed live showstoppers, ‘Lean On Me, Love’ transformed totally from the studio version with Andrew opening in sonorous a capella form and the slower, almost hymnal arrangement raising its uplifting and inspirational message to the heavens.

Likewise, another live favourite, ‘Loving The Skin You’re In’ takes on a more full-bloodied stomp feel to the recorded incarnation on Head…and, I venture to suggest, is all the better for it. So too is Andrew and Virginia’s haunting duet of loss and longing on ‘Leave A Light On’ off Ghost…, stripping away the drums and supplanting the guitars with melodeon to bring the song’s swelling emotions into greater relief.

There are, conspicuously, no songs from the most recent album, Bloodlines, you do, however, get two numbers new to Merry Hell but brought in from the Tansads’ back catlogue. The call to personal action and taking risks of ‘Fear Of Falling’ is the second ‘rock-out’ with its strummed guitars, driving fiddle, whoops and handclaps, the album ending with Andrew on lead and the melancholic fiddle notes of the similarly themed slow waltzing ‘Satisfied’, with its refrain singalong image of “millions of people lost in the world”, settling for and accepting the life they’ve been handed rather than, it’s implied, making one for themselves.

They did, of course, win Best Live Act in this year’s Folking Awards; however, not being a live album per se, there’s no crowd applauding or calling for more. You’ll doubtless want to do that part yourselves.

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.

Artists’ website: www.merryhell.co.uk

‘Lean On Me, Love’ – live:

Martyn Joseph announces January release of new album

Martyn Joseph

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph returns with new album Here Come The Young released January 25th 2019 via Pipe Records. Produced by Gerry Diver (Tom Robinson, Lisa Knapp, Sam Lee), Martyn was encouraged outside his comfort zone and the result is a career defining record.

Martyn says of his new album, “The songs are exploring uncertainty to varying degrees through different subject matter both in the personal and political. I hope for those who listen it will be the sort of record that takes you on a journey and leaves you buoyed and hopeful at the end, despite the fact that we go to a few tough places.”

Born in Penarth near Cardiff, Martyn is gifted with the rare ability to speak to the soul with his expressive and poignant lyrics and has enjoyed a career spanning 35 years to date, over a half a million record sales and thousands of live performances. He has created his own style and reputation as a stellar songwriter, jaw-dropping guitar player and mesmerising performer, and social justice is an essential part of his music, which has been recognised with various humanitarian awards and plaudits. In 2014, he launched Let Yourself Trust, a not-for-profit organisation which aims to challenge injustice wherever it’s found, educating via advocacy, campaigning for human rights, and raising issues that have been forgotten or ignored, via fundraising initiatives. To date they have raised over a quarter of a million pounds. He’s also Patron of Advantage Africa and Festival Spirit in the UK and Project Somos in Canada/Guatemala.

On Here Come The Young, his songs are imbued with an optimism at a time when it is not easily found. Running throughout the album is a sense of hope and belief in the good of the majority, and that this will overcome the loud, cynical noise that pervades. For Joseph, songs are photographs of moments and visions be they good or bad, his lyrics encourage people to fight fear, cynicism and negativity and the rhetoric of those who hold power.

The title track ‘Here Come The Young’ suggests the young don’t have the same baggage of past generations and are more open and inclusive On ‘Loves Majority’, a protest song of sorts, the greater collective good will always outweigh the bad. There is a heart-breaking tribute to those who work for the betterment of others on ‘This Glass’. Self-doubt is the subject in ‘Oh My Soul’, encouraging belief in one’s journey. Six years ago, Martyn visited the West Bank in Palestine to play a festival and this became a catalyst to him forming a non-profit organisation to work with grassroots projects across the world. It was his experience in Gaza that lead him to write ‘Take Back The Sky’, where young kids fly kites as a symbol of freedom “the wrist that holds the string of dreams for one brief moment takes back the sky”.

Martyn has previously toured with the likes of Art Garfunkel, Jools Holland, Ani DiFranco, Suzanne Vega, Mike and The Mechanics, Joan Armatrading, Celine Dion and Shirley Bassey.  In 2016, in addition to playing over 170 shows worldwide, he was asked by the EFDSS and British Parliament to write and perform as part of Sweet Liberties with Nancy Kerr, Sam Carter and Maz O’Connor to mark 800 years of British democracy. One of his songs from this, “Nye” celebrating Nye Bevan, the author of the NHS, has been enthusiastically received by audiences everywhere, as well as having BBC national airplay on Mark Radcliffe’s Folk Show and Tom Robinson’s 6 Music show.

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: www.martynjoseph.net

‘Nye’ from Sweet Liberties – official video: