JAKE WILSON – All’s Well (Jake Wilson Music JWM001)

The ironic title will not be lost on anyone who recollects the front cover photo of the ill fated Scott Expedition. On this recording Jake explores the possible thought process that was going on in the minds of Edgar Evans, Lawrence Oates, Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers and Robert Falcon Scott as they are nearing their inevitable deaths. An imaginatively constructed suite of pieces, the bleakness conveyed by the chord structures is suitably chilling but at all times shows the passion and strengths of each character. With consummate skill, Wilson’s impeccable guitar work featuring techniques such as hammer-ons and glissando slides lends strength to the subject matter and buoyed by the fascinating ‘boys own’ style story really makes you listen and care for each character. It is obvious from the painstakingly researched manuscripts that this album is a labour of love and much like Dave Swarbrick (who is also credited as ‘live recorder’ of the project) whose assiduousness in overseeing his own Babbacombe Lee story creates a riveting ‘listen’. This is an achingly artistic (though never starchy) recording that were it a photo of the expedition would rightfully take its place alongside those featured in a major exhibition. This is an interesting and disquietingly unique piece of solo ‘folk-opera’ that I hope finds a target audience. Finally and I don’t know why but Jake’s vocal performance sounds reminiscent of those featured in the film The Wicker Man performed by Paul Giovanni and a very understated performance it is too. This is an album well worth the investment of your time and a few shekels. PETE FYFE

Artist web link: www.jakewilsonmusic.com

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SKERRYVORE – World Of Chances (Tyree Records tYREE03CD)

I was really looking forward to this, Skerryvore’s fourth album. Unfortunately their major selling-point of upfront Highland bagpipes that played a major part of the overall sound on their previous recording has been usurped by the more rustic charms of Daniel Gillespie’s accordion and Craig Espie’s fiddle. OK, so the fiddle and accordion were always part of the make-up but I’m not sure about them playing such a pivotal role. Cast your mind back to a time when The Bluebells and Proclaimers were king of the swingers, Skerryvore would have fit as snugly as a rawlplug round a screw right alongside them. With Barry Caulfield (bass), Fraser West (drums) and Alec Dalglish on vocals, guitars and mandolin and guest producer Alan Scobie on keyboards and percussion in general the sound is pleasant but for me at least rarely reaches the peaks of the band’s previous outing. If, however you’re looking for a ‘festival’ band then songs such as the opening track “Put Your Hands Up”, the Big Country sounding “Magic Numbers” or the goodtime Zydeco styled “The Last Time” could have you swaying hypnotically along with your mates in a sweaty marquee. I’m sorry I couldn’t have given this recording a more positive review but then again, perhaps next time?

PETE FYFE

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Artist web link: www.skerryvore.com

SANDY DENNY – Rendezvous Deluxe Edition

This is a re-release of Sandy Denny’s 1977 album re-packaged in a handsome gatefold sleeve with enclosed booklet and accompanying notes by Patrick Humphries. By the time she recorded “Rendezvous”, Denny had (more or less) deserted her ‘folk’ roots and even though it was produced by husband Trevor Lucas, another ‘folk music’ stalwart, a majority of the tracks are definitely a little heavy handed. At this time I’m sure she was probably under pressure by her record label to produce a commercially viable piece of vinyl but if that was the intended trajectory it failed quite spectacularly in my opinion. OK, so there are some good moments notably her cover of “Candle In The Wind” and on a more positive note for 2012 and in keeping with disks of this nature it’s the unearthed gems on the second CD that pay dividends for the hard-core fan. The bonus tracks (all fifteen of them) featuring interesting takes on some of the original album’s material make for not only a pleasant diversion but ‘must have’ if you are a complete-ist like me. Therefore we have “Full Moon” with its Swarbrick fiddle solo and a disconcerting but somehow hypnotic choral version of “All Our Days” and a paired-down piano arrangement of “Candle In The Wind” so, for me this 2-disk set proved a bit of a Marmite moment but possibly worth purchasing for the booklet and ‘out-takes’ alone.

PETE FYFE

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Mawkin – Crow

Two years after the much fêted Mawkin:Causley collaboration disbanded, Mawkin are back with a new melodeon player, Nick Cooke, and drummer, Lee Richardson. The reinvigorated five-piece stride forth boldly with this latest release, putting together a heady concoction of traditional and contemporary material, that sounds as fresh as the proverbial daisy.

Mawkin play with a flamboyance that at times feels distinctly theatrical, and the lads certainly put in an entertaining performance that is both endearing and captivating. They pack quite a punch, often resembling a pocket-sized Bellowhead, yet possessing an agility that a more bloated ensemble might not attain.

There is a worldly spirit that permeates the album, with influences from across the globe melding joyously to present a wide-ranging palette of rhythm and melody that flits between raucous energy and timeless elegance. There are also moments that sound wonderfully and archetypically English, but for very different reasons: the sprightly politeness of “Gerry The Frog / The Three Firs” contrasts markedly with the rugged vernacular of Ray Davies’ “Harry Rag.”

Tracks like “Diogenes” are brimming with effervescence, hurried along by a racing bass line, whilst “Andro / Lang Stayed Away” sets out at a more leisurely pace, juxtaposing traditional concertina melodies over jazz-soaked electric guitar and ambling bass. “Easter Thursday” contains some alluring, effortless Django-esque guitar riffs, demonstrating perfectly the band’s versatility at traversing genres.

The tone changes on a number of occasions to accommodate some special guest vocalists: Steve Knightley gives a typically uncompromising reading of his song “It’s All Quiet Here,” whilst it turns deliciously camp when Eliza Carthy joins in on the sultry “Bad Girls Lament.” Former collaborator Jim Causley also returns to the fold with a poised delivery of “Bellringers.”

Crow is something of a musical kaleidoscope, and the more you listen to it, the more it reveals its varied and fascinating motifs. 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).

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

PETER NARDINI – Hug (Temple Records COMD2105)

The last time I saw a photo like that depicted on the sleeve of Peter Nardini’s “Hug” CD was one of James Bond (in “Diamonds Are Forever” now you ask) before he was about to kill the character Peter Franks…thought you might be interested in that snippet of trivia. Now, some might find tracks like “Bum” a bit questionable in taste but it’s obvious Nardini couldn’t give a jot and as he proffers his thoughts in scatter-gun style it becomes a blatant case of who gives a toss…take it or leave it. In a way it’s a refreshing philosophy but one that is becoming more prevalent in today’s society and particularly on the ‘acoustic’ scene. Given free reign to spread his wings Battlefield Band’s Mike Katz takes on the role of producer (he also adds guitar, bass, bouzouki, piano, ebow, mandolin, whistles and melodica…please someone stop me before I run out of breath) joined by Ewen Henderson (backing vocals), Ken Donaldson (additional guitar) and the soaring harmonica/percussion of Mike Whellans and fiddler Alasdair White. There, I hope I’ve conjured an image of something to whet your appetite. As you can possibly tell from this scribbling, this is an interesting recording including the drunk’s whispered words of wisdom “A Wish A Wis A Pigeon” with its Lindisfarne styled arrangement and the equally quirky “The Best In Me” with its kind of positive solution to what some (Nardini) would consider awkward questions (a bit like Alistair Campbell on a good day) he seems to at least put the world to rights. This, for those of you wondering is a ‘love song’ of sorts and although a bit skewed is good-time enough to give The Proclaimers a run for their money. An interesting album that won’t be to everyone’s taste but ultimately rewarding if you enjoy a sly look through your own thoughts but didn’t know how to express them [how many times can I use the word ‘interesting’ before it gets boring?].

PETE FYFE

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THE ORIGINAL BUSHWACKERS and BULLOCKIES BUSH BAND – The Shearer’s Dream (Storytellers Guide)

There was a time…the early 1970’s…when the world could be counted as priggish in its approach to British ‘folk’ music. That was until it was taken by the scruff of the neck and unceremoniously given a good whipping by a bunch of lads that appeared to be the Australian equivalent of the Murfia. This band; The Original Bushwackers & Bullockies Bush Band were also the most entertaining and energising I have ever experienced. No time to wonder about ‘niceties’, they were to take the UK by storm and give a good kicking to the folk-rock scene of the time. You only have to put on track one “South Australia” to hear the raw energy that emanated from the disk that made you want to slug back a tin of Fosters and party like there was no tomorrow. And those of us lucky enough to get to know them did. But it wasn’t just the songs it was Jan Wositzky’s and Mick Slocum’s tall-tales including “The Swagless Swaggie” that made them all-round entertainers. As if that wasn’t enough they were also damn fine instrumentalists (fiddle, banjo, guitar, accordion etc) who knew the value of a good tune to boost the audience listening pleasure. Noticeable for the inclusion of Dobe Newton’s ‘lagerphone’ they certainly knew (as Ant & Dec would have it) how to rumble and just the thought of it makes me want to break out the old mandolin. If you really want a good time then here’s your starter for ten and, by the way thanks to Jan the whole of the Bushwackers early history is captured magnificently in the handsomely packaged 24 page booklet. A must buy on CD and download for any self-respecting folk-rock enthusiast. PETE FYFE