PETE SEEGER BIG BILL BROONZY – Cahn Auditorium, Northwestern University (Echoes ECHO2CD2077)

Cahn AuditoriumAnother recording from the vaults is Pete Seeger and Big Bill Broonzy from the Cahn Auditorium at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois, 1956 – a time in which McCarthyism was rife and the blacklist meant that performances in college and university campuses were Seeger’s main outlet. The performance is unscripted and unplanned, but in its own way, quite formal; with Seeger and Broonzy taking turns at listening to and performing for each other – occasionally performing together.

Seeger’s repertoire is vast, and draws from student songs, children’s songs, hits recorded by The Weavers (‘Kisses Sweeter Than Wine’) as well as his own compositions like ‘The Goofing Off Suite’. Of course, traditional, folkie standards are an important part of the set too; ‘Mrs McGrath’ and ‘This Train Is Bound For Glory’, for instance, which inspired the Bruce Springsteen Seeger Sessions LP and subsequent tour just over a decade ago. Alongside these, are folk songs from other corners of the globe; the Seeger staple, ‘Wimoweh’ from South Africa; songs in the Spanish language like ‘Que Bonita Bandera’, (a patriotic Puerto Rican anthem) and a devotional Hindu song, widely popularised by Mahatma Gandhi, titled ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’.

As always, Big Bill Broonzy’s performances are exceptional and his accompanying guitar work is stunning; ‘Glory of True Love’ and ‘Willie Mae’ on disc 1 are good examples of this, as is, a well picked rendition of ‘John Henry’ on disc 2, which really enables Broonzy to thoroughly demonstrate his talents.

This is a recording of two legendary artists on top form and in their prime. Their songs and performances don’t need my endorsement, and more than speak for themselves, making for a mighty fine double album with a great collection of songs, which are a pleasure to listen to whether you are just discovering or merely re-discovering the music of Pete Seeger and Big Bill Broonzy.

Christopher James Sheridan

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Again, there is no relevant web-site but the album is available from the usual websites.

‘Midnight Special’ live at Cahn Auditorium:

GREG RUSSELL – Inclined To Be Red (Fellside FECD281)

Inclined To Be RedWhen he isn’t partnering Ciaran Algar or working with Nancy Kerr’s Sweet Visitor Band and half a dozen other projects, Greg Russell follows another path. Inclined To Be Red would seem to be his first completely solo album even though he seems to have been around for ever…and he’s still only 24. The album’s title has a double meaning, I think. The line comes from ‘Joe Bowers’, a song that dates back to the California gold rush, but many of the songs concern the lives of the working classes suggesting a certain political leaning. Of course it could just be that Greg is of the ginger persuasion.

Greg has written four of the songs here, adapted four more from traditional roots and shrewdly borrowed four others. The opener is one of his own songs, ‘E.G.A’, written for the Shake The Chains project. Its subject is Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and her fight to become a doctor, the first woman in the country to do so. It’s a masterful piece of writing encompassing Anderson’s life and struggle in under three minutes. ‘Road To Dorchester’ is Graham Moore and Mick Ryan’s song about the Tolpuddle Martyrs and one of the best tracks on the album. Greg returns again to the plight of the working man with Dominic Behan’s ‘Crooked Jack’, a song that I hadn’t encountered before, and Keith Marsden’s ‘Willy-Ole Lad’. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that someone is covering Keith’s songs and Greg’s voice suits this one perfectly.

Three songs concern the life of the itinerant musician. The first, ‘Travelling Onwards’ is autobiographical and Greg suggests that the second, Christine Lavin’s ‘Tomorrow You’re Gone’, is the perfect answer to people who ask him what he does. Her description of a life lived in hotels one night at a time is perfectly judged. The final track, ‘Storylines’, is about the songs that people perform and the attitudes behind them.

Greg is supported, sparingly, by Archie Churchill-Moss on accordion and Tim Yates’ double bass and although they both add colour and shade to the songs I think I prefer Greg’s solo performances. Some of these songs are quite hard-hitting but he doesn’t hit you with them – he just suggests that you might care to listen.

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).

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Artist’s website: http://www.gregrussellfolk.co.uk/

ANGE HARDY & LUKAS DRINKWATER – Findings (Story Records STREC1662)

FindingsI can’t decide if I’m more impressed by the quantity or the quality of Ange Hardy’s work. The ink is barely dry on Esteesee, her 2015 exploration of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and she’s back with her fourth album formalising her work in partnership with Lukas Drinkwater. Findings is a term for the linking pieces in jewellery that join the settings and stones together – Ange knows about this stuff – and provides the theme of this album. And I do find it refreshing to find a themed album that sticks to its central idea all the way through without forcing it down your throat. For that alone Findings is a wonderful record.

In the opening track, ‘The Call/Daughters Of Watchet/Caturn’s Night’, the link is the railway that linked Watchet to the mines of the Brendon Hills but it is also four love stories. The final track, ‘Fall Away’ returns to Watchet and the four daughters of the town now that the mines and the railway and the fishing are gone. Findings mixes original and traditional material, often in one song. So ‘The Pleading Sister’ builds a song around the single verse of ‘Little Boy Blue’ and ‘Bonny Lighter-Boy’ sets a new tune to a traditional set of words.

The (more or less) traditional pieces are ‘The Trees They Do Grow High’, ‘The Berkshire Tragedy’ and ‘The Parting Lullaby’ and I can tell that you’re working out the findings each of these songs. The original songs cover a multitude of relationships but I will single out ‘Invisible Child’ as a masterful example of Ange and Lukas’ songwriting – simple and direct but powerful and moving.

Sometimes Ange and Lukas perform alone but there is a small band of Archie Churchill-Moss, Ciaran Algar and Evan Carson with additional vocals from Nancy Kerr, Kathryn Roberts and Steve Pledger. Even so, the accompaniments are restrained and the songs are out front where they should be. Not to belittle its predecessors but Findings could be Ange’s best album.

Dai Jeffries

Some copies of Findings carry a sticker which can be matched with another to win a (possibly) fabulous prize. Mine reads PHMOI. If you have the matching half, please let me know and we can split the loot.

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.angehardy.com

Tom Napper & Tom Bliss – The Kelping

Tom Napper & Tom Bliss The Kelping

I had the utter delight of seeing this duo play at the Ho at Anchor, in Leigh-on-Sea and they wove magic for me that night. The magic was in the stories that they told before and during playing. It made me listen harder and instilled a greater understanding of the legends they were creating.

At the time I bought “The Silverlode” and played it non-stop and still refer back to it regularly. Because every time I listen to it I’m reminded of the enchantment that’s still there, created in my mind and reinforced in the music.

So (you knew we’d get round to eventually – right?) The Kelping! Wow! Suddenly I remember loads more of the songs they’d played that January night in Essex. Instantly captivated not just by their amazing talent on the mandolin/mandola/guitar/banjo, which in itself is stuff made of legends.

There are some really haunting tracks on this album and a bit of a sea-theme running throughout and as with The Silverlode they have interspersed the selection with rearranged traditional tunes and Bliss’s conjuring song writing.

You really need to listen to God Speed (the snow goose), a song by Tom based on Paul Galico’s book, The Snowgoose (in itself a beautiful book). I heard it in February first and it still moves me in the way only well told and good yarns do.

In fact do more… go visit the Amazon link below and get a copy.

Original Posting date – 26-May-2005
Reviewers Name – Lins

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).

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Celtus Live 2000 (Evangeline GEL4020)

Celtus Live 2000The fourth album from Celtus featuring all live tracks with 2 Bonus Tracks. A must have. Starting with Navigator at full belt in front of an audience. Into The Pilgrim slow, soulful and the audience quiet and listening intently. We have Wide Awake next to make sure “we are not sleeping”. The Awakening, an instrumental from John, performed beautifully live, The fifth track is Believe, again you can imagine the audience listening to the words and watching John, Pat and Dan pour their heart and soul into their music. Portrait next, a true favourite leading into the enigmatic Cathedral, the live version bringing John into a new ending with his bass guitar. Stunning. The crowd love it! A true favourite from now on. Purple Diadem ends the Live tracks section and we then have the two bonus tracks. Don’t be Fooled, made me cry the first time I heard it, finishing off last but certainly not least Pat playing Dear Irish Boy. Wonderful. A traditional Instrumental perfect for the extraordinary talent of Pat on his grandfather’s violin. A wealth of talent shown in this album. A must have for any Celtus Collection.

Original Posting date – 2nd November 2001
Reviewers Name – Jean Camp

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.

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Celtus Rooted (Shamrock Records 001)

Celtus Rooted (Shamrock Records 001)A traditional album, again different, but stunning in its own right. Irish Folk/Celtus at its best in a traditional form. Rooted brings out whistles, bouzoukis, reels and jigs in abundance. First track is Heart and Hand, slow then into an up-tempo classic foot-tapper. Next we have Voyage, an Instrumental with a beat and led by John on his whistle. Following this we have the melodic Time League. A strange somewhat eerie irregular instrumental, which gives me images of Medieval Festivities and Dancing in a Great Hall! John’s whistle prominent and Pats Fiddle Playing. Next we have Voice Cries Out, a song sung from the heart and bringing in the harmonies of these extremely talented musicians. Whisper is a gentle instrumental lead by John’s Whistle taking us into Wasteland. Back to traditional reels and jigs Celtus style! A get up and dance type of track. Navigator keeps us dancing; low beat leading into total ecstasy! We stay dancing with Purple Diadem led by Pats outstanding fiddle playing. You can tell by listening he enjoys playing this one. Unbound is a reasonably strong beat and flowing, which brings in John and Pat humming and singing gently in the background traditionally. We then have Two Worlds, Moonchild, and Bubble all live and recorded at Sheffield City Hall with full audience participation. Dan Axtell joins Celtus as keyboard extraordinaire. Another talented musician.

Original Posting date – 2nd November 2001
Reviewers Name – Jean Camp

You can obtain a copy of Rooted from the Professors website at http://www.patmcmanus.co.uk/celtus.htm

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