The long-awaited album from Belfast born singer/songwriter Dan Donnelly is upon us, after a fabulous taster of an EP released a while before his full album to keep his legion of fans happy! Dan has toured extensive with the Levellers, The Oysterband, supported Seth Lakeman on his tours on more than one occasion and has been delighting the British public after moving back here from the States almost 2 years ago.  He has appeared at various Festivals including Beautiful Days, the Big Session and a regular at GlastonburyContinue reading DAN DONNELLY – COUNTRY AND NORTHERN

MERRY HELL – Blink…And You Miss It

Once upon a time a band emerged from Wigan. They were raucous post-punk folk-rockers who named themselves after a make of pram – Tansads. They made some excellent albums, notably Shandyland and Up The Shirkers, but never achieved the success that was their due. Last year someone thought it would be a good idea for the band to reunite for a trio of concerts to celebrate their twentieth anniversary. Continue reading MERRY HELL – Blink…And You Miss It


Shanties seem to be coming back into fashion, which some of us regard as a good thing, and Chris Ricketts’ debut solo album is thus a timely collection of traditional shanties and songs of the sea given modern treatments. He starts out traditionally enough with ‘South Australia’, ‘Hanging Johnny’ and ‘Round The Bay Of Mexico’ which will do nothing to upset the purists. Then he slides into ‘The Mingulay Boat Song’ and things change. Sir Hugh S Roberton’s lyrics have undergone considerable editing over the past eighty years (does that make it old enough to be called traditional now?) and Chris’ text is broadly that of The McPeakes. It is at this point that his band: producer Steve Hampton, Alex Stack and Garry Blakeley begin to make their presence felt. ‘Blood Red Roses’ rocks and ‘Spanish Ladies’ is rich and full-bodied. Continue reading CHRIS RICKETTS – Port Of Escape – ACOUSTIC FUSION RECORDS AF01

JUNE TABOR & OYSTERBAND – Ragged Kingdom (Topic Records TSCD585)

No one could ever accuse the ‘oysters’ of not opening up and here, fitting tighter than a pair of latex gloves on a surgeon’s hands June Tabor and Oysterband come together for a celebratory recording after a 21 year hiatus.  Although they never split up per se the quintet embody everything that is good about folk-rock with plenty of attitude particularly on the opening track “Bonny Bunch Of Roses” where the almost Spaghetti Western arrangement would make Ennio Morricone proud…not yee-ha perhaps but pretty close. Continue reading JUNE TABOR & OYSTERBAND – Ragged Kingdom (Topic Records TSCD585)

HOME SERVICE – Live 1986 (Fledg’ling Records FLED3085)

This recording should be a required purchase by every music consumer who considers themselves tuned in. My formative years of the folk-rock scene in the UK were amazing in that I was lucky enough to witness in their full glory acts such as Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention, the Celtic styled JSD Band and Five Hand Reel and the quintessential English sound of the Albion Dance Band and later The Home Service. Of course, it was pretty selfish of us to feel that the band should be exclusively the preserve of the ‘folk’ world and that we, in a way would smother the band’s very existence by classifying it ‘folk’ music.

Still, we’re lucky enough that from the vaults comes this more than welcome release lovingly restored by the band’s lead guitarist Graeme Taylor and released on David Suff’s excellent Fledg’ling Records. This time I hope that the band are given the air to breath and flourish without the stigma of pigeon-holing. In some ways this octuplet (I’ve always wanted to use that term) come across as a traditional imbued Jools Holland Orchestra with first rate vocals (courtesy of the legendary John Tams) and a wind/brass section to die for. Every song and tune on the CD strike the right note with not one track out of place and (all too rarely) leaves you clamouring for more. This is an album that will make you proud to be British without the feeling the music’s been hijacked by some football team or other for their own nefarious purposes so let’s just wallow in the grandiose performances of “Alright Jack”, “Battle Pavanne/Peat Bog Soldiers” and the mellow “Rose Of Allendale”. Still, enough talking…I’m off for a serious dose of nostalgia and hopefully there’ll be many more who will join me in saluting the return of one of this country’s greatest musical ambassadors.


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Artist Web Link: www.homeserviceband.co.uk

SPAGHETTI WESTERN ORCHESTRA – Classic Ennio Morricone ‘Live’

You just know you have to get a copy of a CD with the title “Classic Ennio Morricone Live” especially if, like me you enjoy film scores as much as I do. OK, so the pastiche is obvious here and perhaps much like the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britainthis may prove a fad that’s the beauty of it. Morricone’s music is an integral part of Spaghetti Westerns and its ‘folk-style’ themes and although a parody might have a limited run even for those who have a penchant for whistling tunes as iconic as “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly” which (more or less) opens proceedings you have to admire the expertise of this engaging quintet in capturing not only the music (with a more than credible homage to their hero) but the true essence of the material they are working with. Continue reading SPAGHETTI WESTERN ORCHESTRA – Classic Ennio Morricone ‘Live’