JEFF WARNER – Roam The Country Through (WildGoose WGS425CD)

Roam The Country ThroughIf you haven’t yet heard Jeff Warner live, you have a rare treat in store. Jeff is the son of two of America’s foremost song collectors, Frank and Anne Warner and, as such, his knowledge is unparalleled. On stage he is relaxed and genial swapping between concertina, banjo and guitar – and sometimes jig-doll – and rarely have I so devoutly wished that a gig would never end. I do love Americana and Roam The Country Through is what I mean by that. This is the real thing.

All these songs are traditional except when they’re not and I probably should explain what I mean by that. Take the opening track, ‘Jordan Is A Hard Road To Travel’. Most of us would consider it to be traditional but Jeff’s version owes much to Uncle Dave Macon who adapted a minstrel song written in 1853 by Dan Emmett who probably pinched an earlier song. OK, let’s call it traditional.

The seventeen tracks here mix traditional songs, some collected by the Warners and others by Cecil Sharp, twentieth century poetry, music-hall tunes and even a bit of gospel. The journeys that some of these songs have undertaken are quite remarkable. ‘Lass Of Glenshee’ is as Scottish as they come and was probably written in the late 18th century in Perth and the Warners collected it from an old logger in the Adirondacks in the 1940s. You can only imagine how it got there. From the same source came ‘Jamie Judge’, a real logging camp song. In complete contrast is ‘It’s My Lazy Day’ by Smiley Burnette who appeared in movies as Gene Autry’s sidekick.

So, we have a selection of songs than span more than 150 years, most with a well-documented provenance but as with ‘Lass Of Glenshee’ we can speculate on how ‘Gypsum Davy’ arrived in Tennessee. Jeff doesn’t need much support but he’s aided by Alice Jones on vocals, keyboards and whistle and the fiddle of Ben Paley and, all in all, this is a damn fine record.

Dai Jeffries

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

‘Days Of ’49’ – live (an old recording of a song on this album):

THE BEVVY SISTERS – This Moment (Interrupto IM007)

This MomentThe Bevvy Sisters first came to our ears in 2009 with an album of mostly old songs sung in the close harmony style of the 40s and 50s edged with jazz and blues. Five years later, their follow-up, Plan B, continued in the same vein, although perhaps a little more seriously. Now comes their third album, This Moment, and while the style remains broadly similar, the substance is rather more sophisticated – there is a distinct lack of banjo. There have been changes in line-up and Gina Rae and Louise Murphy complete the band with founding members Heather Macleod and “token male” David Donnelly.

All the songs except Melody Gardot’s ‘Love Me Like A River’ are written by band members. The opener, ‘Timing’, is an observation on the pace of modern life complete with fake station announcements, sung in the Bevvys’ classic style. ‘Get Go’ is a funky workout with Vini Bonnar guesting on drums and Macleod’s ‘Home’ presents a moody slice of lounge jazz with brief solos and fills which I guess are treated guitar by Donnelly.

‘Heal This Heart’ is a gently bluesy song by Murphy which begins softly with their other guest drummer, Tom Bancroft, being joined by Donnelly’s acoustic guitar. Inevitably it ends with rich harmonies from the three principals. A cover of a song by Melody Gardot is a real no-brainer in the context of this album, built on Andy Thorburn’s piano and Alistair Brown’s cello it’s smooth and lush.

There’s a change of pace towards the end with the rolling, country-tinged ‘Waterline’, possibly my favourite track of the set and the gentle ‘This Moment’ – sadly not the old Mike Heron song but addressing the same idea from a far less optimistic viewpoint.

This Moment is a smooth and sophisticated piece of work and I applaud The Bevvy Sisters for moving forward but I miss the sense of fun they used to bring to their music.

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.

Artists’ website: https://www.bevvysisters.co.uk/

‘Get One Life’ – live:

RAB NOAKES – Welcome To Anniversaryville (Neon Records NEONCD021)

AnniversaryvilleI was delighted to receive a review copy of the new Rab Noakes CD Welcome To Anniversaryville – scheduled for release on the 13th July 2018 – especially as I had previously reviewed and enjoyed his EP The Treatment Tapes. I mention the earlier EP because it was released in the wake of his recovery from tonsillar cancer. It’s good to hear him again sounding so comfortable with his own voice performing an outstanding collection of songs, in the company of a fine assortment of players and singers. The recording session followed his 70/50 in 2017 concert in Glasgow, using the songs and the band from that concert as the jumping-off point for the album.

  1. Rab’s ‘Let The Show Begin’, with its line “there’s no stoppin’ now“, is described as “a remnant reference” to the previous CD: I have to agree that it makes a perfect start to the CD.
  2. ‘It All Joins Up (In The End)’ is appropriately described in the booklet as “a celebration of a ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll lifespan’“, despite having its origins in that slightly dizzying moment when you realize that you’re older than your father was when he died. (Yes, I know that one…) A fine example of Rab’s ability to generate a positive experience from what in other hands might be steeped in sadness.
  3. This new recording of ‘Together Forever’ may bring back happy memories of Lindisfarne, champions of Rab’s songs in the 70s. But if you don’t remember the song from that era, you have a treat in store.
  4. ‘Gently Does It’ is Rab’s song from 1985, a tribute to Alex Campbell, by then a “shadow of his former, formidable self“, urging him to slow down. (Sadly, Alex died a couple of years later.)
  5. ‘Oh Me, Oh My’ recalls (perhaps deliberately) the folk/country crossover feel of later Rick Nelson.
  6. Though a prolific and talented songwriter in his own right, Rab has never been reluctant to cast his nets wider than his own work. In the first few tracks, we see this in the references to ‘We Can Work It Out’ in the second track or to Alex Campbell’s ‘Been On The Road’ in the fourth track, but there are also a few cover versions in this set. ‘Just One Look’ was a 60s hit for co-writer and well-known session singer Doris Troy, though UK readers may remember it better as a hit for the Hollies, among others. Nice backup harmonies here.
  7. ‘TCB (Working Man And Working Woman’ takes a sideswipe at class-ridden British society, recalling the theme of the last verse of his 1970s song ‘Turn A Deaf Ear’ (not included here): “Every peg into its own hole was what he seemed to say/And that no one should go looking for a better place to stay“.
  8. ‘The Handwash Feein’ Market’ also essays a little social content, inspired by the resemblance of the hiring process at his local carwash to the agricultural feeing markets of yesteryear.
  9. ‘Long Black Veil’ is the country ballad first recorded by Lefty Frizzell in the 50s and subsequently recorded by Joan Baez, Johnny Cash and many others.
  10. ‘The Twa Corbies/An Dà Fheammaog’ is a fascinating meld of an ancient and chilling Scots ballad – with Rab singing lead – and a version translated into Scots Gaelic by Seonaidh MacIlleathain, sung by Kathleen MacInnes.
  11. ‘Tramps And Immigrants’ is also performed as a medley of ‘Tramps And Hawkers’ and Dylan’s melodically very similar ‘I Pity The Poor Immigrant’. It works rather well.
  12. ‘Still In Town’ is a classic country song recorded at least twice by Johnny Cash.
  13. ‘A Voice Over My Shoulder’ is another of Rab’s own songs, apparently in remembrance of long-time musical associate Robin McKidd.
  14. ‘Jackson Greyhound’ is a bluesy reminiscence of a 2013 road-trip in the US.
  15. Rab’s song ‘London Town’ rings quite a few bells with me, having lived in and enjoyed a love/hate relationship with the city for some 25 years. However, for me it’s better revisited in song than in person at this point…
  16. ‘Anniversary Song’ is the song by Al Jolson and Saul Chaplin you may know better from its first line, “Oh how we danced on the night we were wed“.
  17. Kathleen MacInnes takes lead vocals on the country classic ‘Tennessee Waltz’: this was the encore at the concert, and is, as Rab notes, “the ideal way to close this album.

While his vocals here are not as strong as I remember from the 70s, this is an excellent album. After all, any album that includes Rab Noakes songs is fine by me, and the covers have their usual idiosyncratic charm. And the band is very good indeed: not in terms of show-stopping ‘look-at-me’ solos, but exactly the right vocal and instrumental support for a fine and varied selection of songs.

David Harley

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.rabnoakes.com

‘Together Forever’ – live but not too long ago:

FOLKY MACFOLK FACE – When Night Falls (own label)

When Night FallsCan we just accept that this is the worst band name since Sconce The Ogives and move on? When Night Falls is the debut album from Folky McFolk Face, a Scots/Irish quartet based in Scotland – Irish fiddler Eabhnat Ni Laighin is the one who has been transplanted. Dougie Torrance, Jackie Mullen and Nick Watson have interesting musical backgrounds but have been drawn together by folk music and their experience shows in the sound they make and the professional production of Dougie in his own studio.

With four vocalists, guitar, fiddle, accordion, mandolin and ukulele, Folky… make a really full sound. All their songs, except the traditional ‘Seallaibh Curaigh Eòghainn’, are written by the band and, although their lyrics aren’t included with the album, they are available on their website. What isn’t provided is the background to the songs and some of them sound as if they have real stories behind them. Without the real explanations it’s down to our imagination, which can be just as rewarding.

The opener, ‘Tarskavaig’ has one of those typically Scottish tunes that demand you sing along and is a story of love found and lost. ‘Port Arthur’ is cast in the same mould but this is, if I read it right, about indentured servitude and its chorus is a real earworm. I did research ‘Iolaire’ which is built around the tragic sinking of HMY Iolaire in the Minch in 1919. More than 200 people were killed, many of them soldiers returning to Lewis after the Great War. I knew nothing of the story and this is a fine song that deserves to enter the tradition but it should be flagged up in sleeve notes.

‘Rescue Me’ is an anthemic piece and yes, I’ll say it, very Runrig. It’s another festival song and like ‘An Honest Man’ and ‘Little Heart’, is about a broken relationship. ‘The Road To Cutter Creek’ is set in the gold rush while ‘The Sands Of Skalpsie Bay’ is a tale of smuggling – I think that this one is made up but I could be wrong. There must be story behind ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ but I don’t know it.

When Night Falls is a very enjoyable debut album, perfect for singing along with, and I imagine that Folky MacFolk Face are a wow at festivals. I suppose it’s too late to change the name?

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.

Artists’ website: https://www.folkymacfolkface.com/

‘Tarskavaig’ – live on the Isle Of Skye:

DOWALLY – Somewhere (own label, DW002)

SomewhereAre we there yet? Today’s destination is highland hamlet Dowally – or rather, the immensely talented Scottish trio of that name, who decided to call their second album Somewhere. Alongside their first album, Welcome To Scotland, it does suggest the musician’s itinerant life, that standing wave of maps, road signs and satnavs. Somewhere also suits the geographically fluid nature of the band’s music which weaves elements of traditional, jazz, Klezmer and classical into a luscious, glowing soundcloth.

Dowally was invited to record its first album by cellist and creative wizard Graham Coe (The Jellyman’s Daughter, Sam Kelly band). A fairly off-the-cuff affair, it led to a more planned approach for Somewhere, with Dan Abrahams (guitar/double bass) and Rachel Walker (fiddle/whistle) writing most of the material. Phil Alexander (accordion/piano) completes the Dowally triumvirate, and Coe’s cello makes a welcome return appearance on three tracks.

Opening with ‘Sunday Brunch’, as laid-back as its title indicates, the music displays inventive turns of rhythm and fluid changes of pace. As is typical for this album, instruments riff around the melody, dancing away and back again. It’s a playful approach that can only be rendered well by seriously good musicianship.

A surprising cover of Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ is mashed up with fiddle tune ‘The Banshee’. It’s intriguing and striking, especially in the final section where two differently paced vocal lines plus fiddle gather together to a shuddering, implosive halt. Dominic Blaikie’s strong, flexible vocals feature here and on a cover of Lennon/McCartney’s ‘And I Love Her’. This is a most extraordinary, dark rendition, as the vocals dip and soar, almost menacingly, across Alexander’s improvised reel fill and a poignant fiddle.

This album is simply packed with inspired, original moments as the band sweeps the listener along with logical yet unexpected musical progressions. Tunes writhe and twist from one mood to another, musical genres flicker and move on. A slow dance between guitar and accordion gets interrupted by an urgent, insistent fiddle in ‘Veruda’; ‘Be Mine Or One’ courses jazzy peaks and valleys, and the Klezmer of ‘Castellation’ invokes something moodier and darker.

A brusque accordion punctuates fiddle and guitar on ‘St Vincent’s’, developing into a into lush piano, as the whole bends up to its finale. ‘Chris And Emily’s’ loose, bluesy guitar intro to is picked up with superbly curling, intricate banjo, courtesy of Dallahan’s Ciaran Ryan.

Culminating in ‘Port Inn Hornpipe’, a fine display of how this band creates an auditory feast, a jaunty air gets lightly dusted with chilled out jazz until it’s abruptly interrupted by frenetic banjo, dashing piano and accordion. Returning briefly to the central theme, now embellished with bar room piano and vocalising, a last banjo flourish whisks it away for good. Unlikely on the page, perhaps, but fantastically good on the ears.

Produced with a confident, airy lightness that allows each instrument – and the spaces in between – the space to speak clearly and be heard, this album is a true listening pleasure.

So, are we there yet? Yup. Wherever Somewhere is, it’s pretty impressive. Definitely worth sticking around for a while to see where Dowally heads to next.

Su O’Brien

Artists’ website: www.dowally.com

‘Fluorescent Banshee’ – official video:

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Destination (Fellside Recordings FECD282)

Fellside RecordingsThe Fellside Recording label has been a major force in independent folk music recording for 42 years and has over 600 albums to its credit, many by some very big names in the genre. Now, Paul and Linda Adams have decided to slow down, and though the label remains in business, it will have a lower profile and won’t be taking on new artists. The end of an era, but by no means the end of the story. Destination is a mighty collection of tracks – three CDs worth – specially recorded by some of the many fine artists who’ve been associated with the label, plus some archive material.

The material here covers the spectrum from dance tunes to modern songs by treasured artists like Peter Bellamy (two of his Kipling settings are provided here, one sung by Terry Docherty) and Alex Glasgow, to a wide selection of traditional songs (even the occasional Child ballad). Well over half the tracks here have not been released previously. Given the calibre of the musicians here, that alone has to make it worth buying. There are also a handful of unusual jazz performances from Fellside’s sibling label Lake.

Because of the sheer number of tracks provided here (64!), my usual practice of including a full track listing didn’t seem altogether appropriate. Here are just a few more of the performers and writers who are represented in this collection, which may be enough to persuade you to take a closer look: Jez Lowe, Bram Taylor, Steve Turner, Pete Morton, Bobby Eaglesham, Sara Grey, Alistair Anderson, Paul Metsers, Brian Dewhurst, Bob Davenport…

Here are few tracks that stand out for me personally, but there’s such a wide range of artists here that your personal highlights might be quite different

  • Maddy Prior’s unaccompanied ‘Sheepcrook And Black Dog’, proving that Steeleye Span maybe always needed her more than she needed them. (Not that I didn’t like the Steeleye version.)
  • Swan Arcade’s stunning version of Sting’s ‘We Work The Black Seam’.
  • The much-missed Vin Garbutt singing ‘Boulavogue’.
  • Hedy West singing ‘Little Sadie’ – as Pete Seeger said when she sang it on his Rainbow Quest series in the ’60s, “That’s the real thing…
  • Peggy Seeger’s exquisite ‘Single Girl’ – if my ears don’t fail me, from a 1958 recording with Guy Carawan.
  • Diz Disley and friends in full Django/Hot Club mode on ‘Shine’.
  • Marilyn Middleton-Pollock’s version of ‘Melancholy Blues’, recorded long ago by Louis Armstrong and Johnny Dodds.
  • Bob Fox’s version of Alex Glasgow’s ‘Standing At The Door’. A fine performance from someone who’s no mean songwriter himself.
  • Tom Kitching & Gren Bartley with a blistering performance of ‘Whisky Head’.

But there are too many classy tracks here to list all the ones I can imagine myself listening to for a long time yet.

Buy it. You’ll certainly find enough tracks to make it worth your while.

David Harley

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.

Label website: www.fellside.com/

‘Single Girl’ – Peggy Seeger and Guy Carawan