BOO HEWERDINE – Swimming in Mercury (REVEAL072CDX)

Swimming In MercuryBoo Hewerdine’s new album Swimming In Mercury will be released on April 28th and the single ‘Satellite Town’ on April 21st. He has a pedigree which stretches back more than thirty years and is acclaimed as one of the UK’s best songwriters: ‘Patience Of Angels’ was nominated for an Ivor Novello Award in 1995; his musical partnerships include Eddi Reader, Brooks Williams (in State of the Union), Chris Difford, Kris Drever; he is in demand as a producer; and he has written music for film and television.

Swimming in Mercury is an album of stories from his younger days, beautifully smooth in its production. On ‘The Year That I Was Born’, he takes us back to 1961 not just with a reminder of historical events (an American in space, building the Berlin Wall, the Beatles in the Cavern) but also with a language that you don’t hear nowadays “you had to count each penny” and ending with “another mouth to feed/…….that was me”.

‘A Letter to my Younger Self’ is classic Hewerdine – a lyric which captures the idea (impossible to achieve and something we’ve probably all wished for) of letting his younger self know what he’s learned as an older person. It has catchy rising lines in the verse and imagery like “On Battersea bridge with a mindful of rain” topped off in a chorus with brass and bop bop bop ba da ba driving the conclusion “After all I’ve been through and I’m still just the same”’ and the hard learned truth “Let somebody love you”.

The title track was written about David Bowie: “You were the ultra violet on our new colour TV” and “So many mothers and fathers said is it a he or a she” – if you saw the performance of ‘Starman’ on Top of the Pops in 1972 you’ll know how well this takes you back to that evening.

‘The Boy Who Never Cried Wolf’ is another gem. ‘The Voice Behind The Curtain’ is about those who “never got to shine” and could only have been written by a man whose greatest hits is self-effacingly called My Name In The Brackets. ‘American TV’ references California and has Beach Boy harmonies played delicately in the background. ‘My First Band’ sings of “broken strings and cheap guitars” and “on old cassettes I find/ from time to time/ my first band”. These are all songs that recreate that period in the sixties and seventies when, for those of us who weren’t Twiggy or John Lennon et al, our lives were much harder than the backdrop of glamour we saw on the TV.

Swimming In Mercury is an album that repays more, and closer, listening. To give two examples: ‘My First Band’ has a line about the old band meeting up and “we slip into the old routine” – to no more than three seconds of crashing drums and loud lead guitar; ‘Gemini’ didn’t strike me as a stand out track as I listened to the album as a whole but when I had new music on shuffle in the car it came on and blew away the tracks that had been playing previously. It is an album crafted by, as Ian Cripps says on Hewerdine’s website, “a unique talent”.

We may not be able, knowing what we know now, to write that letter to our younger self but this album recreates Hewerdine’s youth with all the skill of his older age. His own summary of Swimming In Mercury is “Time is precious and this is the music that I needed to make”.

Mike Wistow

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: http://boohewerdine.net

‘The Year That I Was Born’:

ELEPHANT SESSIONS – All We Have Is Now (Elephant Sessions CDTES02)

All We Have Is NowThis CD, All We Have Is Now, recently released by Elephant Sessions has nine exceptional tracks. Each one is a masterpiece of arrangements and instrumental skills. Many of the tracks are over five minutes long and should be described as ‘productions’. However, I find it difficult to place their music. I don’t know if you need to, but I am afraid music does fall into categories. I am aware that Elephant Sessions play at folk festivals but the heavy drum accompaniment and jazz like arrangements do not fit into the folk world I love. Some of the tracks could be described as ‘drummer’ with musical accompaniment.

When I first listened to All We Have Is Now, I had lost interest by the time I had reached the fourth track. I then listened to the CD many times but only a few tracks at a time. The production of each track varies considerably from any others on the CD and as I said earlier, is brilliant. I love each track but I will never listen to the full CD in one hit.

I am struggling to fairly assess the album because it is obviously very good but it is a bit overpowering. The cover is, in my opinion, very poor. It gives us absolutely no information about the reasoning or the origins of each track. It is in black and white with a collage of photographs of very little interest to anybody.

Elephant Sessions fans will love this. The heavy drumming will delight young festival goers but out and out folkies will struggle with it. Still, it is a top-quality production and will, I am sure, do very well.

Fraser Bruce

Artists’ website: http://elephantsessions.com/

‘Wet Field Day’ – official video:

Madison Violet – new album

Madison Violet

For those who don’t know Madison Violet, it all began in 1999 when Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac met over coffee and omelettes, in a Toronto restaurant called The Green Room. It was a chance meeting, 1900 km away from the small town where both Lisa and Brenley’s fathers were born. That was nearly eighteen years ago, and the pair have been writing and creating beautiful music together ever since.

When you hear them, the first thing you’ll notice is that their voices blend together, symbiotically, like family: Born to sing the same songs. And over the past decade, the pair have taken to genre-bending, moving effortlessly from folk to pop to electronic to Americana. In a word, they are musical chameleons.

Over their last two extensive tours of Europe, Madison Violet was overwhelmed by the incredibly warm reception that came from the fans, when they introduced their newer, bolder sound; one that came from their 2014 album Year Of The Horse. But Madison Violet knew that those songs had even more potential. And they felt an even bigger challenge would be to let the songs speak for themselves, recreating them in a more acoustic form. Their purest form.

And with that, came The Knight Sessions, which is both a reimagining of previously recorded songs and a creation of brand new songs, inspired by their deep-seeded love of the modern acoustic sound and the human experiences shaping their world today.

With that in mind, Brenley and Lisa decided to start their new adventure by visiting several pawn shops in Toronto, in a quest to find discarded items that they could use to make natural sounds in the studio. They sifted through an island of misfit toys and out of date electronics, and eventually found several instruments and percussive toys. From children’s wooden blocks to ukuleles with missing strings, one by one, Brenley and Lisa gave these gems a home, and started working on their new album. These unique items are what gave The Knight Sessions a more organic feel. The textures of the wood. The plucking of the old strings. The stories that were already in these ‘toys’, came out through the songs.

So, as the tour nears, Brenley and Lisa will be packing their suitcases a little lighter. They will not only be returning to the UK and Europe for dozens of shows, but they will be arriving in their most organic form. The way most Madison Violet fans discovered them. As a duo. No backing band. No big light show. No rock star after-show dance parties. This will enable Brenley and Lisa to showcase The Knight Sessions as it was meant to be heard. Raw but refined. Stripped down but still packing a punch. And it will also find them, as they were in 1999, ‘Back To The Roots’.

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: https://www.madisonviolet.com/

Tim Grimm and the Family Band – new album

Tim Grimm

A Stranger In This Time ranges from Tim Grimm’s signature reverence for the people and the land where he grew up, to sharply crafted and damning indictments of the times in which we live; from deep, poetic ballads of bittersweet love to edgy, groove-driven social commentary.

The opening track, ‘These Rollin’ Hills’ invites us in with love of Grimm’s home ground and a subtle foreboding about the upcoming winter, both actual and metaphorical. The songs ‘Gonna Be Great’ and ‘Black Snake’ give a nod to both Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan in their gritty production and social-political protest vibe; both full of stunning guitar riffs, electric and acoustic, as well as compelling bass and drum beats. There are songs of lush soundscape and potent images with the mesmerizing urgency of ‘Over The Waves’, and ‘Finding Home’, which evokes deep yearning. ‘Thirteen Years’ is pure, classic Tim Grimm; a song about the tree that fell on his grandfather’s farm and that many years later became the wood for the guitar on which he recorded the album.

Tim was supported, both in the writing and production of the songs, by his sons Jackson Grimm (guitars, banjo, octave mandolin, vocals) and Connor Grimm (bass), as well as his wife, Jan Lucas (harmonica, vocals) and it was a truly collaborative effort. Both sons have played and toured with Tim on and off for several years, and his wife Jan has been touring with him since 2004, but this is the first time they have collaborated as writers, musicians, and producers in such a focused way. The result honours the folk tradition from which Tim comes, and pushes the boundaries of that tradition with drums and percussion by guest Hannah Linn. Diederik van Wassenaer is the guest fiddler on two songs, bringing a heady energy to ‘So Strong’ and an old-time feel to the traditional song ‘Darling Cory’, which was arranged by Jackson Grimm. The album was recorded in the rolling hills of Monroe County, Indiana at Airtime Studios under the watchful eye and ear of long-time collaborator Dave Weber.

Tim Grimm, singer-songwriter and actor, has toured and recorded with his friend, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, appeared with Harrison Ford in the film Clear And Present Danger, and has shared the stage with writer and poet Wendell Berry. His recent recording, The Turning Point, produced the #1 song on Folk radio in 2014: ‘King of the Folksingers’, a tribute to his friend and musical icon, Ramblin’ Jack.

Grimm released the single only ‘Woody’s Landlord’ in October 2016, the song tracks Woody Guthrie’s connection with Donald Trump, Tim’s strange connection with Mike Pence (they were on the same high school debate team), and the hope for a better world. ‘Woody’s Landlord’ was the #1 song on US Folk Radio in 2016 and was written before the election. On the new CD, ‘Gonna Be Great’ was written post-election and has none of the whimsy that the first song has; it is deep and dark and there’s no escaping Grimm’s intent.

Grimm lives with his wife on 80 acres in southern Indiana, and has been called “The Poet Laureate of the rural Midwest.” Grimm’s song ‘The Lake’ was in the soundtrack for A Walk In The Woods, starring Robert Redford, and the director, Ken Kwapis, calls Grimm “Indiana’s Renaissance man”. As an actor, he has appeared in numerous feature films and for two years co-starred in NBC’s Reasonable Doubts. Tim Grimm is also the man behind the successful theatre program and concept CD Wilderness Plots that besides Tim features several of the Midwest’s finest songwriters – Krista Detor, Carrie Newcomer, Tom Roznowski, and Michael White. Both TV specials about this show – the documentary on the story and song and the second, a full Wilderness Plots In Concert, were nominated for Emmy Awards. Tim Grimm also wrote all music for and performed in Finding Home – Indiana at 200, the 2016 theatre show that celebrated the state of Indiana’s bicentennial.

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.timgrimm.com/

‘Woody’s Landlord’ – official video:

JON PALMER ACOUSTIC BAND – The Silences In Between (own label)

SilencesWill someone please explain why Otley’s finest folk-rock band are not huge stars. The Silences In Between is their third studio album – there’s also a rocking live set – and is as good as anything they’ve done.

There’s plenty to enjoy here. ‘I Don’t Know’ is about love as in “I don’t know much about love …but I’m gonna to find out” – there’s a Richard Thompson song that would follow it perfectly – and ‘Haul Away’ sounds like a rollicking old shanty. I love ‘Barleycorn Boy’ which is plainly not a folk song because “nobody dies and nobody drowns and no-one gets lost at the fair”, a typically witty Jon Palmer lyric adding a modern twist to an old idea. Two songs have appeared before on the live album: the title track and the traditional ‘Pay Me My Money Down’. The former is a love song with all the drive that the band can muster and could be a single if such things still mattered and the latter gets a more considered treatment than it does as a live show closer.

The line-up remains determinedly acoustic with guitars, double bass and Jon’s son Tom on cajon as the only percussion. Instrumental breaks come from Wendy Ross on fiddle and Matt Nelson’s mandolin, whistle and saxophone. My first impression was that there is more poetry than politics in The Silences In Between. The one obviously protest song is ‘There’s A Cold Wind Blowing (Over This Land)’ which sort of updates Billy Bragg’s ‘Between The Wars’ and that’s no bad thing since nothing much has changed since Bill wrote it.

There’s also a measure of unrequited love. ‘Hour Glass’, featuring the only guest appearance from singer Rachel Goodwin, is one such. Like several of Jon’s songs, it’s deceptively simple, but there is something oddly post-apocalyptic about it and the line “Burn the cathedrals” is the one that sticks in the mind. After one or two plays I think I understand why Jon didn’t include the lyrics with the record – the feel of a song is more important than detailed textual analysis – and there is little profit in trying to unpick his words.

The bottom line is that this is a superb album of 21st century folk-rock. Go out and buy it in thousands and make the Jon Palmer Acoustic Band rich and famous.

Dai Jeffries

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

‘The Silences In Between’ live:

Lianne Hall (one of the great English voices) releases new solo album

Lianne Hall

UK singer and songwriter Lianne Hall releases her fourth solo studio album on Market Square Records (UK) via Lowswing Records (Berlin).  Lianne is “one of the great English voices” according to the late great John Peel and The Caretaker proves this again with another astonishing twist in an experimental and adventurous career. While her sound may be largely country-esque and folk-inspired, her soul is built on a punk rock foundation.

The Caretaker was recorded live and direct to tape over a period of five days at the Lowswing Studio in Berlin during the summer of 2015. Lianne teamed up with Alexander Paulick, of the band Kreidler, to shape a collection of demos into a new album. In a short space of time Alex recruited a stellar cast of Berlin musicians for the sessions and enlisted Guy Sternberg of Lowswing studio to record and co-produce. In three days the entire album was recorded directly to analogue tape. Each song was played live, without unnecessary clutter and with plenty of atmosphere. The result is a spine-tinglingly intimate record with unfussy yet sophisticated production values. Lianne’s voice and affecting lyrics have great presence which, along with outstanding musicianship, gives The Caretaker a timeless and deeply personal feel. The sessions were based on gut feeling and very few takes.

The album itself speaks of broken lives and a broken world but without getting dragged into the mess. There’s too much light in Lianne’s voice and space in the music to feel lost in the darkness. The Caretaker is a tonic for our times.

In the summer of 2015 UK singer-songwriter Lianne Hall teamed up with Alexander Paulick, of the band Kreidler, to shape a collection of demos into a new album. In a short space of time Alex recruited a stellar cast of Berlin musicians for the sessions and enlisted Guy Sternberg of Lowswing studio to record and co-produce. In three days the entire album was recorded directly to analogue tape. Each song was played live, without unnecessary clutter and with plenty of atmosphere. The result is a spine-tinglingly intimate record with unfussy yet sophisticated production values. Lianne’s voice and affecting lyrics have great presence which, along with outstanding musicianship, gives The Caretaker a timeless and deeply personal feel.

Lianne Hall is a singer-songwriter from Peterborough, with a voice and style which sounds immediately familiar in its gentle warmth, yet conveys a unique emotional depth and integrity in its range and beauty. While her sound may be largely country-esque and folk-inspired, her soul is definitely built on a punk rock foundation. Lianne started writing songs as a teenager, and joined her first band, Witchknot, when she became involved with the ‘Riot grrrl’ movement in 1993.

She lived in a bus for five years, making acoustic folk pop with Bela Emerson under the name Hiphuggers and electronica as Pico with bedroom producer Andy Wills. Whilst living there she met her hero John Peel when he was filming his Channel 4 programme Sounds of the Suburbs, and since that memorable meeting she went on to record five Peel sessions with a variety of line-ups. In 2000 she left her bus and moved Pico to Brighton, where she formed The Broken Heart Club with Matt Eaton, Alice Eldridge and Susanne Lambert. Lianne has also collaborated with lots of different artists including d_rradio (deathrowradio), Paul Hartnoll (Orbital), FITH and DJ Marcelle. In John Peel’s own words, Lianne is “one of the great English voices”.

Lianne has toured extensively in the UK, mainland Europe and Canada and the U.S. Her discography includes four solo studio albums and two collaboration albums. The latest collaboration with Paul Hartnoll as Haunted House is a beautifully produced collection of dark, electronic pop songs  entitled  ‘Brave the Woods’ released on Woodland Recordings.

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: https://liannehall.bandcamp.com/

We’re not sure where this comes from but we like it. ‘A Tree Is For Life’: