MOONSHEE – Moonshee (Park Records PRKCD114)

I suppose the mark of any good CD is when you can play it to your mates (even those not remotely interested in ‘folk’) whilst grooving like an ‘acoustic’ version of Bill & Ted in the car and you can play it loud (if you’re so inclined) without offending passers-by. OK, so the mix of Indian and British folk cultures has been attempted before (most recently by Michael McGoldrick) but to get the balance right commercially is like walking a tight-rope. Bearing in mind that fellow Park Records artists Steeleye Span have already proved that through hard work and determination there is plenty of scope to reach the ultimate goal of a commercial recording that has its sights set on capturing the Radio Nation and with a helping hand from the right people… Mike Harding, Aled Jones and Jools Holland etc this group could well succeed.

Utilising the tried and tested “Fair And Tender Maidens”, “The Water Is Wide” and “Concertina Reel” (here titled Cortina Reel Mk II for some reason) the group are no slouches musically speaking and by adding tuneful decoration including Benji Kirkpatrick, John Spiers and Rosie Doonan ‘Moonshee’ will have done themselves no harm in the ‘folk’ communities eyes. One slight criticism is that although all the vocalists are credited, it doesn’t state who the lead singer is on each track. In conclusion, I for one am keeping my fingers crossed that the band does really well commercially and perhaps, with John Dagnell and everyone at Park on board Moonshee have more than a fighting chance. Great debut!

PETE FYFE

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 Web link: www.moonshee.com

TOM MORIARTY – Fire In The Doll’s House – DRIFTWOOD RECORDS DRIFTW00

I wonder how many artists get to record their debut album at Abbey Road these days. Not many, I suspect, which says a lot for Tom Moriarty and his producer Ian Grimble who made it happen. Tom is a musician who was forced to make a “straight” living before turning his back on business and getting down to what he loves and that experience has shaped his songs.

It was his time at the Music Institute of Los Angeles that shaped his voice – John Martyn with better diction – as he worked and played alongside Lemmy and Crosby, Stills And Nash. Tom’s band – Rick Hornby, Chris Borud and Evan Jenkins – is augmented with powerful backing singers and a small horn section enabling the anger of the title track to be followed by a gentle love song, ‘Dance With Me’, and the invitation to ‘Smile If You Wanna Get High’ and all are equally convincing. ‘Don’t Ask Why’ is a picture of a fracturing marriage and ‘Where Are You Now’ could be its sequel.

There’s protest and blues, boogie and soul in these songs as well as the experience of life. Tom Moriarty has made a superb debut.

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.

Artist web link: www.tommoriarty.co.uk

MACMASTER/HAY – Love And Reason (MDM Records MDMC001)

We in the ‘folk’ world are blessed with inventive musicians and although, it must be said that the coupling of vocals, harp and drums (or more correctly percussion and programming) hadn’t occurred to me, it had to MacMaster and Donald Hay. And work very effectively it does too. The reason it works so well is simply that in the hands of two gifted musicians who push the envelope without excess they can create a sound-scape that allows the listener to immerse themselves in a string based aural spa.
For me, the starkness conveyed in Sandy Wright’s song “Mary Cullen” is one that projects an image of bleakness in much the same way the ‘Silkie of Sule Skerry’ always does whenever I hear it. On the following track the harp takes over the role originally played by its composer/piper Fred Morrison and in so doing will make the piece more palatable to the general public who are possibly a little sensitive to the (some might say) domineering skirl of the Highland bagpipes. The juxtaposition of harp and percussion throughout the album may make some ‘folk’ traditionalists baulk at the very thought of allowing something interesting ‘interfere’ with everything they hold dear but if, like me you are willing to let experimentation take its natural course I’m sure you’ll find the recording thoroughly rewarding.

PETE FYFE

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.

STEELEYE SPAN – Now We Are Six Again (Park Records PRKCD113)

Who said you can’t re-live your youth? Well, I certainly have by going back to 1974. Was it really that long ago that Steeleye first released “Now We Are Six” having been rather unceremoniously roughed up by the ‘folk’ police in the process. After all who would have the tenacity (or temerity) to tamper with the tradition by making it more palatable to the general public? By now, Nigel Pegrum was utilising his skills as drummer, flautist and oboe player and, it has to be said that this colourful injection to the band made the album all the more interesting.To the present day and new-ish members Pete Zorn (acoustic guitar, mandolin, sax and flute) and Julian Littman (electric guitars) prove themselves more than capable musicians to carry the baton.

In my eyes it was rather a bold step re-creating the album in its entirety but who could forgive the rest of the cast; Maddy Prior (vocals), Liam Genockey (drums), Rick Kemp (bass) and Peter Knight’s exquisite violin for once again expounding those riff-sodden days. No problem at all I should imagine as the ‘hits’ including “Thomas The Rhymer”, “The Mooncoin Jig” and the delightfully idiosyncratic “Two Magicians” are respectfully recreated and considering this is a ‘live’ recording shows just how good the band are (and were). Co-ordinated by Park Records manager John Dagnell I should think he had his work cut out knowing which tracks to leave off the second disk but with an eye to commerciality…and Christmas round the corner…what Steeleye album would be complete without the customary “All Around My Hat” and “Gaudette”. In all my years reviewing the band’s work there’s hardly been a contrary word said against them…and I’m not about to start now. If this album is your first introduction to the band’s music then welcome on board – if it’s not then you know what to expect – or you should do by now!

PETE FYFE

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 Web link: www.parkrecords.com

Tales from the Barrel House – Seth Lakeman folking album review

Seth Lakeman’s hotly anticipated new album – Tales from the Barrel House has now arrived on the streets and it’s HOT!

All 10 tracks are Seth’s self penned and performed which include layers of his own vocals sandwiched together with various Seth style instrumental arrangements, including a hammer on an anvil and whatever else he could lay his hands on. Seth produced and mixed it too.

The setting of the studio was the cooperage Barrel House workshop in the beautiful surrounds of Morwellham Quay in West Devon which is quite near Seth’s home. He was born and brought up on the surrounds of Dartmoor which has inspired a lot of Lakeman repertoire like the hugely celebrated Kitty Jay from the album of the same name…

The Barrel House tracks are inspired from hard core copper miners most of which started mining from the age of Seven –  toiling for hours on end in the dusty hole for a pittance. More than Money is the first track of the album depicting this and it was recorded down the mine to give it an additional dramatic effect!

Blacksmith’s Prayer is a favourite of mine, axe on anvil for percussion –  ‘an epitaph to a blacksmith’s life and a disappearing craft.’

The Watchmakers Rhyme is a dedication to watchmaker George Routledge and in it Seth weaves the tale in with the mechanics of the song. Hard Road tells of factories/mines having to close and the subsequent hard  road of survival. Sender is about the letters between two lovers which bought a watery eye to this fair maiden!

On to the sea now and Salt from our Veins tells of life and livelihood. Brothers of Penryn has a steady beat we all know and expect from Seth and is about a prodigal son and greed of his family. Apple of His Eye is another tearjerker! Another of Seth’s foot stompers follows – Higher Walls, fast becoming another favourite of mine which is about workers in a chain gang and their sense of entrapment.

The album slips away quietly with the Artisan which is about a woodworker and his trade, reliving his life as he works. Reminds me of my late father and it shook me to the core as wasn’t prepared for the soulful and meaningful words pulling at the heart strings of my memories.

So in summary, an excellent album from Seth, interestingly released too late for this years Radio 2 Folk Awards so I’ll hazard a guess that it will clean up at the following 2013 event. A true work of art… with plenty of fiddle still in there too!

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.

Artist web link: http://www.sethlakeman.co.uk/

Mary Black – Stories From the Steeples (3ú Records / Blix Street Records)

This is the first studio recording from Mary Black in six years, and it’s a collection that demonstrates an artist in full command of her bewitching vocal prowess. Throughout an impressive career, Mary has consistently demonstrated impeccable taste in her choice of material, and the evidence presented here suggests that her ear for seeking out songs of utmost grace and beauty is as keen as ever. With a voice that has only gained in depth and resonance over the years, Mary brings her trademark warmth and sincerity, casting light and shade amongst the lyrics to create her own personal space amongst the words of carefully chosen songwriters. Never one to rest on her laurels, we’re gifted songs from familiar friends such as Shane Howard, Eric Bogle and Julie Matthews, alongside burgeoning writing talents, including Danny O’Reilly and Ricky Lynch.

Sharing the stage with a number of guests, Stories From The Steeples contains three duets: the beguiling “Lighthouse Light” features Janis Ian in a perfectly balanced performance that whets the appetite for further exploration of this winsome partnership; the robust, soulful voice of Imelda May joins Mary on an affirmative song of place and belonging, “Mountains To The Sea”; and the playful “Walking With My Love” finds Mary exchanging lines with the legendary Finbar Furey. All three performances are notable for their palpable sense of modesty and mutual admiration.

Two stand-out tracks come from particularly close to home, being written by Mary’s son, Danny O’Reilly. “Faith In Fate” paints a stark contrast between the sheer despair of a broken relationship with a determined hopefulness to move on and patch things up. Managing to be simultaneously bleak and uplifting with its heady infusion of hurt and devoted affection, it’s a song that plays to all the strengths of Mary’s typically emotion-wrought interpretation. Offering a similar cocktail of emotions, “Wizard of Oz” is a mournful reflection on the search for strength and happiness, underpinned by a dreamy string arrangement over which Mary lays her heartwarming vocals.

Fulfilling the role of storyteller, Mary excels in bringing lifelike colour to the characters of “Marguerite And The Gambler,” a Ricky Lynch song that recounts the familiar tale of many a traditional folk ballad, with its gamblers, true love, misguided familial intervention, heartbreak and devastation. Those purchasing the extended version of the album are handsomely rewarded with an exquisite reading of Chris Woods’ “One In A Million,” a story of true love that takes the mundanities of life and turns it in to utter magic, and proving beyond any doubt that Mary remains a song’s best friend.

Paul Kelly’s “They Thought I Was Asleep” benefits from a tender reading, cloaked in Mary’s trademark warmth, depicting the torment of a child inadvertently witnessing from the back seat of a car, the emotional breakdown of his parents’ relationship. Equally devastating, though of more epic proportions, Eric Bogle’s “All the Fine Young Men” is made all the more disarming, thanks to the sheer reverence with which Mary furnishes this stark, anti-war anthem.

With a little less polish than some of her earlier releases, Stories From The Steeples steps forward as an intimate, unpretentious collection, bathed in a soft but radiant glow of effortlessness and wholehearted integrity. Time will tell, but Stories From The Steeples may well prove to be Mary’s best yet.

Mike Wilson

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 Web Link: https://www.mary-black.net/