New album from Swedish/Norwegian duo Rydvall Mjelva – Vårdroppar

Erik Rydvall: Keyed harp fiddle

Olav Luksengård Mjelva: hardanger-fiddle

Vårdroppar

Swedish keyed fiddle player Erik Rydvall and Hardanger fiddle player Olav Luksengård Mjelva, from Røros in Norway, are both counted among the foremost folk musicians of their generation. Their debut album as a duo, Isbrytaren (Heilo), was released in 2013 to glowing reviews, and that same year Olav Mjelva was named folk musician of the year at the Folkelarm festival. Isbrytaren also won an award at Folkelarm, and was nominated for a Spellemannspris (Norwegian Grammy) in the category “Folk Music and Traditional Music”.

At the Manifestgalan, Sweden’s independent music industry awards, the album was nominated in the category “Folk”, and at the Folk and World Music Gala it was named the release of the year.

Rydvall and Mjelva are inquisitive musicians, with strong roots in the traditions of their places of origin. A duo collaboration featuring Hardanger fiddle and keyed fiddle has rarely been presented before. The repertoire and playing styles of the two instruments are basically very different, but the two musicians manage to make the combination sound natural and intriguing.

Like the duo’s debut album, Vårdroppar was recorded at Ål Church in Hallingdal with technician Tor Magne Hallibakken, and also like the previous album the repertoire consists of traditional music from Norway and Sweden along with a few of the players’ own compositions. As musician Arve Henriksen writes in the accompanying brochure, “They’re full of life and energy, and give me a real lift; they carry within themselves the same radiance and colour that sparkle outside my window.” It is an even more well-integrated duo, with tremendous musical dynamism, that we hear on this album.

Erik Rydvall comes from Västerbotten, and studied keyed fiddle at the Eric Sahlström Institute in Tobo and the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. In the past few years he has earned a reputation as one of the leading young keyed fiddle players, and he is known for his energy and virtuosity. He plays with the prize-winning folk music trio Nordic among others.

Olav Luksengård Mjelva, from Røros, is one of Norway’s most active fiddlers. He was a founder and remains a member of both the Norwegian Swedish group SVER and the Nordic Fiddlers Bloc. He also plays with Frikar, Copper City Ramblers and several other projects. In 2010 he was awarded a Spellemanspris for his first solo album. In 2011 he received another as a member of the Unni Bokasp Ensemble. Olav is in high demand as a studio musician, and has played on at least 30 releases. He also holds popular courses and is very much in demand as a dance musician both in Norway and abroad.

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.

Artists’ website: http://www.rydvallmjelva.com/

Akademipolska’ from Vårdroppar:

4SQUARE – Fuel (Transition Records TRANSCD12)

FuelIt’s always tempting when hearing a band for the first time to try to put them into a stylistic box but you’ll try that with 4Square at your peril. Fuel is actually their fourth album but their first as fully-fledged professionals and, although they may be well-known in the Manchester area and at festivals, sad to say their fame has not made a great impression this far south. That said, I did enjoy their second album, ChronicLes.

Their sound is built around three instruments. Firstly, there is the piano of principal writer Jim Molyneux; secondly there is the fiddle of Nicola Lyons and finally the mandolin of Michael Giverin. The fourth member of the band, Dan Day, plays ukulele but he is mainly engaged with a variety of percussion. Most of their material is original although there is an excellent cover of James Taylor’s ‘Enough To Be On Your Way’

4Square manage to combine a lightness of touch with a full sound and playing that can turn on a sixpence. There’s no instrument swapping pyrotechnics and most of the bottom end comes from Molyneux’s left hand – guest bass player Nick Ereaut appears on one track – but with multiple lead instruments and four voices there is no shortage of variety. Several of the songs have tunes attached so the tracks tend to flow into one another. ‘The Digging Song’ is based on a well-known urban myth/shaggy dog story and, in contrast, ‘Brave’ is a story from the Great War, not of great heroism but of determination and survival. Day’s ‘Message From Cloud Nine’ is deliberately ambiguous so I’ll leave you to decide what it’s really about.

Fuel is another good album from 4Square and it should springboard them to the next level of their career.

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.

‘Ignition’, the opening track of Fuel:

Sticks & Stones – new single from Matty James

Sticks & Stones

‘Sticks & Stones’ is the uplifting lead single taken from Northern Irish troubadour Matty James’ forthcoming second album; The Road To No Town. This infectious country rock anthem will be released as a digital single through iTunes on Friday 18th March. Those who pre-order now will also receive an exclusive B-side track entitled ‘Growing Up The Long Way’ that isn’t available anywhere else. The new LP is set for release April 2016 on Pirate Heart Records / Cargo Records.

 “To pen an album’s worth of strong songs is no mean feat but Matty James makes it look simple.” – Uber Rock

The Road To No Town was funded by fans through a highly successful PledgeMusic campaign, reaching it’s target in just 4 days and finishing on a staggering 218% of it’s goal. The project featured many exclusives including a limited edition bonus acoustic record. To celebrate, Matty hit the road across the UK in December with full backing band The Irregulars for the first time. After relentless touring over the last two years with only a guitar for company, the electrifying show made quite a stir with more to come in 2016.  We may also expect solo acoustic tours of the UK and Europe around the album’s release.

Artist’s website:  www.mattyjames.net 

‘Sticks & Stones’ – official video:

Mister Keith releases single and video

Mister Keith

Filmed in a Victorian house in Kenilworth the new video to accompany the single ‘Love is Strong’ by local artist Mister Keith will be released next week.

Officially it’s the first single from the album Record of Wrongs released last year, which has been receiving excellent reviews and earned Mister Keith ‘Artist of the Month’ on BBC Introducing and play on BBC Radio 1. The song features both Warwick University Brass and Eastbourne Salvation Army Band who both recorded parts for the track.

The video, shot in a local house by Manchester filmmaker Mark Tuson of Northern Spark Films also features Kenilworth girl Sarah Murphy who acted as the ‘ghost’ in the film’s enigmatic storyline of love and loss.

“It’s an emotionally claustrophobic song and setting this in a domestic situation of a house mirrors the lyrics. We filmed it in an afternoon and Sarah was excellent at being directed in her first film.”

On the same day of its release, Mister Keith plays with acclaimed songwriter Boo Hewerdine from 90’s band ‘The Bible’ at Coventry’s Big Comfy Books (Thursday 10th March). The event is almost sold out and promises an intimate insight in to both songwriter’s catalogues with a very small audience. The alias of songwriter Keith Ayling,

Mister Keith is a new project of what has been a thirty year career in songwriting crossing four decades of musical styles, most notably with Britpop band Kato.

The vintage feel continues when Mister Keith’s orchestra of six musicians visits the Edwardian Village Hall of Quatt in Shropshire two days later (March 12th) for a Parlour Concert, sponsored by Broker’s gin.

“I approached Quatt because I felt the heritage of the hall and the village perfectly matched what Mister Keith shows are all about. They agreed! My Parlour Concerts are immersive events, with participation even down to tea tasting and gin tasting in the interval.”

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

If you would like to download a copy of the track or just listen to snippet of it 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. 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.

‘Love Is Strong’ – official video:

AMY GODDARD – Secret Garden (own label AGSG42016)

Secret GardenAmy Goddard has been feeding me singles from Secret Garden for a couple of months now so I’m familiar with three of these songs, although it is true that they sound different in the context of a complete album.

The record begins in Amy’s typical style: optimistic songs accompanied by the bright tone of her steel strung acoustic guitar. The opener, ‘Words Of Sweet Music’ even features her bass playing while Jonathan Lewis provides lead guitar – Amy could almost certainly play that part herself but it’s nice to have someone to lean on sometimes. ‘Alright Again’ is the first of those single tracks – a song about depression, or rather reaching out beyond it – and that is followed by the title track, a piece of pastoral wimsy.

‘Gladdie’ was the first single. It is the story of Amy’s great-grandmother whose intended was lost in France and is the sort of song that Amy should concentrate on – a simple, poignant story beautifully told but with a real edge. She essays the same feeling on ‘Miner’s Lullaby’ but it isn’t her song, it’s Utah Phillips’, and the difference is clear. I have no problem with her performance of a great song but I bet she could find an equally harrowing story to write about from closer to home. She found a good story in Perthshire to turn into ‘The Maiden’s Leap’, an interesting twist on the usual night visiting story.

I particularly like ‘Rhythm Of The Road’ which really shows off Amy’s guitar work. It’s a song that she says has been a work in progress for several years and it has a different vibe from the songs she’s currently writing. Her setting of Alfred Noyes’ ‘The Highwayman’ is nicely creepy – it really is a nasty tale – and the second cover, Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark, is transferred from the streets of Jersey and given a very English style.

Amy has made another fine album with Secret Garden but for me it lacks something of the intensity that made Burn & Glow such an excellent debut.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.amygoddardmusic.co.uk

A selection from the album preview concert:

KELLY OLIVER – Bedlam (Folkstock FSR25)

BedlamReleasing her debut album, This Land, at the tail end of 2014, barely a year after making her first appearance on the folk circuit, the distinctively pure, trebly-voiced North Hertfordshire based singer-songwriter clearly doesn’t believe in letting the grass grow under her feet. She returns now with an even more striking, even more ambitious sophomore release that sees her working with three different producers, some of whom have been involved on co-writes.

Stu Hanna from Megson is behind the desk for four numbers, first up being the co-penned title track opener on which he also contributes fiddle, percussion and guitar. It’s a dynamic start to proceedings, a jaunty, tumbling drums folk tune on which Oliver multitracks her own harmonies as she sings “They strap you down and gag your mouth until you cannot shout  at all” in the voice of a young woman who, having a child out of wedlock, is judged to be mentally incompetent and bundled off to the notorious Bethlem Royal Hospital, a lunatic asylum dubbed Bedlam, where, from the late 16th century to 1770, visitors, mostly the wealthy, went to be entertained by and mock the inmates.

The second of the Hanna productions (this time playing fiddle, mandolin and piano) follows with ‘Lay Our Heavy Heads’, an equally bouncy, scratchy guitar number with syncopated percussion wherein the protagonist, a young chap, professes his undying love. Also sprightly of gait, ‘Miles To Tralee’ recalls her Irish heritage as banjo and fiddle (and a dash of shruti box) guide the young colleen as she professes how she’d walk all the way from London back to Ireland to return to the home where she was born. The last of the four Hanna numbers comes with ‘Same World’ (with an extended intro not feature on the radio play single) on which both he and wife Debbie provide backing vocals, a softer ballad that, backed by mandola, addresses gender differences and concludes that “we’re just little boys and girls telling stories of the same world.”

The second producer is Nigel Stonier, making the first of his two more commercially inclined appearances and co-writes with ‘Jericho’, accordion, harmonica, fiddle and dulcimer colouring an arms-linked swayalong in which the singer declares she’ll fight any girl in town and bring down the city walks to bring home her prize. Their second collaboration is the album’s final track, ‘Rio’, a fiddle-flourished, beat and bouncy folk-pop number in celebration of the Brazilian capital that sounds not unlike something Thea Gilmore (with whom Oliver toured last year) might have recorded. No surprise then to learn she also sings harmonies on it.

The remaining four numbers are co-produced by Lauren Deakin Davies who, not yet out of her teens, has enlisted double bassist Luke Drinkwater and brought the same rootsy feel she did to the debut. The first of her tracks is ‘In The City’, a song of urban alienation with fingerpicked acoustic guitar and muted harmonica, followed by the vocally cascading, pared back ‘The Other Woman’ which, as the title might suggest, is about getting involved with someone who’s already spoken for. Double bass counterpointing the fingerpicked guitar and harmonica, ‘Ghosts At Night’ is a gently sad song that may address the plight of refugees, but certainly concerns those who, caught up in things they can’t control, have lost their sense of being rooted as she sings “You’ve lost the feeling in your wings, you’ve lost the sight of land below.” The sense of confusion and displacement filters thematically into the remaining number (and arguably the most striking after the title track), the impassioned, gradually building swayalong ‘Die This Way’, a song about today’s world with its extremism, a “wretched frontier” with “planes falling through the sky, shot down by the enemy side” sung from a frightened child’s perspective, strummed in Dylanesque protest fashion and featuring a similarly influenced harmonica break. It’s a hugely impressive and confident step forward that underscores Oliver as one of the new torchbearers of contemporary British folk and one which, I suspect, will give her the craft and experience to produce album number three herself.

Mike Davies

If you would like to download a copy of the track or just listen to snippet of it 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. 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.

‘Miles To Tralee’ – official video: