WEST OF EDEN – Look To The West (West of Music WOM CD9)

Look To The WestI don’t know which impresses me more, the Swedish sextet’s music or the fact they inhabit their chosen genres so authentically you’d believe they were native born. Led vocally by Martin and Jenny Schaub and featuring accordion, fiddle and guitars, their 2012 Safe Crossing album was a collection of salty shanties and sea faring tales which might easily have persuaded the uninformed that they came from some coastal fishing port in Scotland. The follow-up, Songs From Twisting River was entrenched in the heart of Yorkshire folk (even featuring Kate Rusby), but, for their ninth album, they’ve musically relocated to Ireland, quite possibly Donegal, and drawn on the long tradition of songs about Irish emigration to provide a Celtic template for an ambitious project addressing the emigrants who left Sweden for America at the end of the 19th century, almost a third from the band’s home town of Gothenburg. Not only is this little known outside of Sweden, but there’s been very few songs written about it at home either.

America’s not actually the destination of the opening farewell number, but rather the slightly closer shores of Yorkshire with Jenny taking a lovely Irish-accented lead on the liltingly sung ‘Going To Hull’ gently underscored by acoustic guitar and yearning accordion. Mölnlycke, a small Gothenburg town famous for the Poppel brewery referenced in the song, is the setting for the snare backed ‘Rainy Town’ which, sung by Martin, offers the other side of the picture as a local barfly insists he’d never leave.

The longing of those finding themselves far away is at the heart of the gently swaying ‘Oh, I Miss My Home’, Jenny’s pure voice soaring as the memories tumble through, while the uptempo rockier ‘Wilson Line’, a song titled for the British shipping company that transported many of the emigrants, which recounts the misadventures of one poor lad who not only finds himself relieved of his money by a duplicitous beauty but stuck with a fake ticket.

Incorporating an opening snatch of ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ as the passengers gather on the sea for the leaving, the brass glowing ‘Sweet Old Country’ boasts one of album’s finest choruses before the arrival of the first of the two instrumentals, a pairing of the Irish traditional ‘Paddy Fahey’s’ with ‘Sweel’, a fiddle jig from band member Lars Broman. From here it’s on to moody swayer, ‘The List’, rumbling electric guitar and fiddle providing the spine as Martin checks off everything needed for the voyage to the promised land, ending with a reminder not to forget the words of goodbye.

It’s back to Jenny’s softer tones for another parting song, ‘The Crying Stairs’, as lovers take their leave, the hope of a better life shadowed by a reminder of those who have gone before, “strived for a good life and failed.” The hopes and dreams of fortune beyond the “sickness and despair” of home carry the infectious uptempo shuffling title track duet which, in turn, leads to the traditional sprightly folksiness of ‘Please Mister Agent’, a playful number based on an actual letter to the White Star Company by a young girl keen to leave the country to escape an abusive marriage.

The second instrumental, the Celtic-hued melancholic guitar and accordion ‘Tekla’s Tune’, heralds the last two tracks, bassist Martin Holmlund co-writing with the Schaub’s on ‘The Ticketless Man’, the bittersweet story of Johan Andersson who, in gaining a wife and family to support, had to give up his dreams of building a new life in America. The album ends on the suitably titled ‘The Final Cut’, a lovely, fiddle kissed, starry skies lullaby sung by Jenny bidding farewell to Sweden and sailing West of Eden, the lights of home fading in the distance as, the track swelling to a near orchestral finale, she vows “not a single night will pass when I won’t dream of you”. When it comes to the 2017 Radio 2 Folk Awards nominations for Best Album, it would be good to see the horizons widened to accord this lot the fulsome recognition they deserve.

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.

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

‘Look To The West’ – official video:

ROBERT LANE – Ends And Starts (own label)

Ends And StartsRobert Lane is a singer/songwriter/guitarist from Birmingham. He’s been paying his dues for a while, rubbing shoulders with some big names and now he has released his second album.

Ends And Starts is short, just seven tracks, and has the feeling of a Robert Lane sampler as he sets out his stall. The songs are all originals and mostly solo and acoustic. The album opens with a real bang with ‘My Love’s In Deep’ in which Robert puts together a full rock backing with the aid of producer Matthew Pinfield on drums, bass and keyboards. Here is a catchy tune married to clever words – once upon a time it would have been a hit single. It is a perfect feel-good song crystallised in four incidents at the beginning of a relationship. “Meeting you has been an unqualified success”, he sings looking forward to a happy future which we all hope will work out for him. If the rest of the album was like this it would be brilliant.

Next up is ‘It Feels Like 5000 Miles’, a song of separation. There is a mystery, however: why is the singer separated from his wife and daughter? We can only imagine but it’s not the same tale as the anti-hero of the slightly melodramatic ‘Teardrop Tattoo’. “How long has it been since I’ve been seen” he asks but instead of a measure of time the reply is the title line – a clever twist. Robert finger-picks acoustic guitar with an unobtrusive keyboard in the background and if the rest of the album was like this it would be brilliant.

‘Break My Heart Blues’ is just that – twelve bars and a shuffle beat, nothing complex here but, as always, Robert’s clever words raise the standard. The big band treatment returns for the tear-jerking ‘Alone Now’ with the lead acoustic guitar replaced by a sweet electric and the album rounds out with a simple acoustic instrumental.

If Ends And Starts was twice as long it would still be brilliant. Now, would somebody with the money and infrastructure get behind Robert and ensure that he’s not lost.

Dai Jeffries

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

‘It Feels Like 5000 Miles’:

EDWARD II – Presents Manchester’s Improving Daily (Cadiz Music E2MID1819)

Manchester's Improving DailyStarting life as a series of pop up gigs by the city’s acclaimed folk/roots reggae outfit and other artists constructed round the Manchester Ballads, a collection of thirty five broadside ballads dating from the industrial revolution which, collected by two local folk music enthusiast historians, was published, with backing from Manchester City Council, in the form of facsimile prints of the original penny broadsheets, alongside background to the songs and, as required, a dialect glossary.

Providing a snapshot of Mancunian life in the industrial era, they now form the basis of this new album, the band’s first full length release of new material in 15 years, contemporary arrangements of several of the ballads also featuring Bury-born broadside balladress Jenifer Reid who provides four a capella or spoken excerpts, three taken from her own album, ‘The Langley Linnett’, The album opens with 38 seconds from The Testimony of Patience’, a song about a 17-year-old girl’s life working in the mines also recorded by The Unthanks, before the band, still fronted by the warm tones of Glen Latouche, launch in with the title track, a melodically cascading, melodeon wheezing celebration of the city’s changing fortunes.

Next up, introduced by a gypsy violin flourish, is the rock steady groove of ‘Ragbag’, an 1861 commentary on the exploitation of drinkers by greedy, lying landlords. What follows sees a departure from the core broadsides concept in the band’s jaunty, horns led version of ‘Dirty Old Town’, although, written by Ewan McColl about the harsh living condition in Salford, it gels perfectly with the social and personal histories elsewhere on the album. I’m not persuaded the same argument can be applied to the other more modern cover, a reggaefied take on New Order’s ‘Love Vigilantes’, tenuously justified by the fact Joy Division used to sing their own songs of Mancunian life at a venue in the heart of the historic ballad centre. But, what the hell, it’s a great version.

Returning to the source, opening on a burst of melodeon, ‘Soldier’s Farewell To Manchester’, written around 1800, concerns a soldier looking to bed his girl before going off to war, promising to marry her the next day, she offering to let him do as he will and then join him in disguise. Similarly lighthearted, ‘Victoria Bridge on a Saturday Night’ celebrates a typical weekend goodtime of drinking, market stalls, revelry, “good things and bad” on the bridge over the Irwell which today links the cities of Manchester and Salford. Maybe it’s me, but it sounds almost like a Squeeze song. Then there’s ‘Mr. Sadler’s Balloon’, a musically clumping celebration of the first balloon flight in the country by James Sadler in 1785.

By contrast, several of the ballads are far more serious, addressing politics and troubled times. The five minute ‘The Great Flood’, for example, is a dub-reggae paced account of the 1872 tragedy that overwhelemed central Manchester when the Medlock burst its banks, washing coffins and bodies out of the ground. Others address the civil unrest and uprisings that marked the struggles of workers for improved conditions and the right to vote, the slow, moody ‘Peterloo’ concerning the peaceful gathering of August 16, 1819 that ended in a bloody massacre and the following, jauntier and lengthier titled, ‘A New Song on the Great Demonstration which is to made on Kersal Moor, September 24th, 1838’, referencing the Chartist rally that occurred in its wake.

The exploitation of workers and the fight for better pay continues with the catchy sprightly lurching ‘A Humorous And Interesting Dialogue’ between an employer and employee with its message refrain to masters who keep their wages low to “never keep your workmen down and use them manfully.” The album ends with ‘The Execution of Allen, Gould and Larkin’ which, those up on their 19th century British history will know refers to the so-called Manchester Martyrs, Philip Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O’Brien (referred to as Gould in the press of the time), three members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood who were hung on Sept 18, 1867 for being part of a gang (two others who were acquitted) that attacked a police van transporting two of the movement’s leaders, during which a sergeant was killed. The notice of their execution was published as a pamphlet featuring the ballad recounting their fate, but here it appears as an instrumental, with the Manchester Session Strings, in the style of an Irish air.

Lavishly packaged with a 48 page book in which social archaeologist David Jennings provides an informative commentary on the ballads and the times, it’s a terrific piece of work, both musically and in a historical context, a reminder of what folk music is actually all about.

Mike Davies

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://edwardthesecond.co.uk/

‘The Soldier’s Return To Manchester’:

Underhill Rose announce new album – tour dates to follow

Underhill Rose
Photograph by Sandlin Gaither

Harmonies. Soul-touching lyrics. Underhill Rose has put its talents to work to become synonymous with fresh, beautiful Americana music.

With Eleanor playing her distinctive claw-hammer style on a Deering banjo along with harmonica, Molly Rose on guitar, and Salley plucking the upright bass, the trio has carved out a place in the Americana scene with songs that run the gamut from heart wrenching to sassy and playful to thought-provoking. Eleanor’s salty blues-inspired voice and Molly’s soaring range lead the group in tandem with Salley’s country twang to create three-part harmony music that is real and inspired, and rooted in everything life has thrown at Asheville, North Carolina’s pre-eminent female trinity.

Molly Rose and Eleanor Underhill’s musical partnership is the result of a chance meeting at a makeshift performance of ‘Angel from Montgomery’ between classes at Warren Wilson College. Molly Rose’s beautiful voice resonated with Eleanor, and the two eventually started performing live together. Their affinity for the music they make has kept them together for more than 12 years. Underhill Rose formed in 2009, and the addition of Salley Williamson two years later created the foundation for an internationally-recognized female trio known for blending aspects of Americana, rhythm and blues, country and bluegrass into an authentic sound that is all their own – “Heartfelt Country Soul.”

The successful completion of a crowd-funding campaign kick-started 2013 and the band’s sophomore album, Something Real, debuted in May 2013, quickly climbing the Americana Music Association Airplay Chart. The release would spend 10 weeks in the Top 40 and an additional 12 in the Top 100. By the end of the year, the album was named an AMA Top 100 album of the year. The group’s record also appeared in the Top 25 on the Euro Americana, Freeform Americana Radio (FAR) and The Alternate Root “Roots 66” charts. The band has earned critical-acclaim from No Depression, Music News Nashville, Common Folk Music, The Alternate Root, The Roots Music Report, and numerous other publications throughout the United States and Europe.

After a year of extensive touring, Underhill Rose had plenty of fodder for a third original album. They launched a second successful fan-funding campaign in 2014 that brought in over $25,000 from fans and followed it with a five-week national tour and an appearance on the PBS-syndicated show, The Woodwright’s Shop, with Roy Underhill. Finally, the group settled into the recording studio to create The Great Tomorrow, their most cohesive work to date, with the help of producer Cruz Contreras of the Black Lillies and mixer Danny Kadar (who’s worked with such notable artists as My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses). Released in the US last summer, the album reached the Top 30 of the AMA Charts once again, and remained at #1 on the Roots Music Report’s Progressive Bluegrass Album Chart for over 9 weeks.

Underhill Rose makes music from the heart, drawing inspiration from life-long listening to folk, old country, and rhythm and blues. Armed with a fresh sound and an extraordinary ability to blend a multitude of musical genres, Underhill Rose is an acoustic trio that will touch your soul.

With The Great Tomorrow due out in the UK & Ireland on March 25 2016, just ahead of their first dates here, and a return visit already planned for the autumn, Underhill Rose are poised and ready for yet another groundbreaking year in their musical journey.

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.underhillrose.com/

‘Montana’ – live and acoustic:

PAULA RYAN – Let Me Fly (own label)

Let Me FlyPaula Ryan doesn’t actually defy convention but she resists it quite firmly. It begins with her instruments – she plays guitar, but who doesn’t? Bouzouki, bodhran, djembe and darabuka, too, saxophone, whistle and marimba, which is the first instrument we hear. Then there are the songs; English and Irish, wryly amusing or deadly serious.

The set opens with ‘A Thousand Smiling Faces’, inspired by a visit to Tanzania, a statement of Irish/African fusion and the joyful tone that characterises the record. The title track is a fairly straightforward biography of Amy Johnson, someone else who resisted convention, and none the worse for telling her story without frills and flounces. Next Paula switches to Irish for ‘Suantraí Donnacha’ which reappears in English as a bonus track as ‘Donnacha’s Lullaby’.

Session musicians will appreciate the joke in ‘Honest John’ (I won’t spoil it for you) but that is followed by the only cover on the album, John Faulkner’s ‘Lion In A Cage’ and we’re back under the African sun. The juxtaposition shouldn’t work but somehow it does. Back to Irish for ‘Havin The Craic!’ with full ceilidh band backing. Three songs, ‘Black Swan’, ‘Don’t Cry’ and ‘Castaway’ do change the mood somewhat. The first two exude a sadness and I still haven’t decided if the former is a metaphor for something that Paula keeps hidden. The last of the trio rises above the gloom and oozes optimism – cock-eyed, you might say.

The record wraps up in a happy mood with ‘The Funny Mood’ and ‘Song For Conor’ in which Paula rhymes “wonder” with “fonder” – get over that and it’s a very good song. She almost brings too many ideas together for one album and moods and styles change constantly from bright guitar to doomy percussion and drones. Let Me Fly is a remarkably good album by someone you probably hadn’t heard until now. I know I hadn’t.

Dai Jeffries

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.

Artist’s website: http://paularyan.co/

‘Let Me Fly’ live. Not a great film but …

Bruce Springsteen comes to Britain

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have confirmed UK shows in May and June. The River Tour, which is currently working its way across North American, will reach the UK on 25th May with a show at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium. The tour coincides with the recent release of The Ties That Bind: The River Collection, a comprehensive look at the era of the 1980 The River album.

The original The River Tour began 3rd October 1980, two weeks before the release of Springsteen’s fifth album, and continued through to 14th September 1981. With sets that regularly approached the four-hour range, the 140-date international tour firmly established a reputation for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band as marathon performers.

The Ties That Bind: The River Collection includes 52 tracks on four CDs with a wealth of unreleased material and four hours of never-before-seen video on three DVDs. It contains the original The River double album; the first official release of The River: Single Album; a CD of 1979/80 studio outtakes; a brand-new documentary about The River and a coffee-table book of 200 rare or previously unseen photos and memorabilia, with a new essay by Mikal Gilmore. The set also includes a two-DVD film of never-released, newly edited multi-camera footage from a November 1980 show in Tempe, AZ.

The E Street Band’s members are: Roy Bittan – piano, synthesizer; Nils Lofgren – guitar, vocals; Patti Scialfa – guitar, vocals; Garry Tallent – bass guitar; Stevie Van Zandt – guitar, vocals; and Max Weinberg – drums; with Soozie Tyrell – violin, guitar, vocals; Jake Clemons – saxophone; and Charlie Giordano – keyboards.

If you would like to order a copy of the collection, 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.

‘The River’ back in 1980: