In the early Seventies I spent a day of my ill-spent youth in the company of A L Lloyd at a college in the Elephant & Castle, London. I distinctly remember this because I went especially to see ‘Bert’ having been steered in his direction via the music of Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention. Being (at that time) more adventurous and with an inquisitve mind I was intrigued to find the source behind much of the material utilised by bands of the folk-rock genre. He was a jovial racontuer whose often humorous takes on the roots of the British tradition have rarely been captured ‘live’ but on repeated listening to this recording from 1972 you can certainly see why Steeleye and Fairport were similarly inspired with ribald tales such as “The Widow Of Westmorland’s Daughter” or the wishful thinking of Henry Lawson’s “The Shearer’s Dream”. The enjoyment of being in Lloyd’s company is endorsed by an audience that lustily swells the chorus of the shanty “Doodle Let Me Go” but just as easily respects the big ballads including a five minute “Prince Heathen”. Bert was a colourful character that brought to life the songs he sang (often with a wry smile on his face) and much of this is evident on a recording that has been lovingly restored by producer Paul Adams. An inspiration to all of those that have come to enjoy our ‘folk tradition’ this album should be required listening. www.fellside.com PETE FYFE
Sounding not dissimilar to a Klezmer party in full swing courtesy of Hilary Coleman’s clarinet the set of tunes “Fly Cellar/Unity/Heva Cornishe” in fact provide the setting for a Schottishe dance. Both of the two opening tunes are penned by master multi-instrumentalist Neil Davey who along with Bec Applebee (darabuka/crowdy crawn) and Steve Hunt (guitar) make up the rest of this resolutely Cornish band. The second track, “Ann Tremellan” a variant of the more established Barbara Allan is a sumptuous banquet of layered vocals courtesy of Coleman and Applebee interlaced with a gently rolling, hypnotic mandolin/bouzouki riff topped-off by guest Will Coleman’s gaita bagpipes. So, here we have the opening gambit for what proves a real box of delights in both musicality and technique and one that I hope any self-respecting ‘folk’ musician should aspire to. Meanwhile, in another moment of quite reflection the Padstow via America song “Maggie May” (not the rousing Liverpool chant) performed with the subtleness it deserves by Steve Hunt will I’m sure be soaked sponge-like into the folk tradition (much like Roger Bryant’s “Cornish Lads”) and work its way into many sessions throughout the UK. On the other hand if it’s dazzling displays of digital dexterity you’re looking for check out Davey’s tour de force on the triplet frenzied “Bishop’s Jig/No Song No Supper”…astonishing or what? There’s no need for a corny pastiche (sorry, I had to get that in somewhere!) when you can get the ‘real’ thing right here and I just hope that I’ve persuaded you, the great record buying public into dipping into your hard earned savings to purchase a more than worthy recording. www.dalla.co.uk PETE FYFE
I’ve been something of a closet fan of Country/Bluegrass music for quite a few years but it’s only recently that I’ve made an effort to find out more about it. Lilly Drumeva is something of an anomaly in that she is Bulgarian and (for the first 9 tracks) she utilises the services of one of the Czech Republic’s finest bluegrass band’s Monogram. For the last six tracks she is joined by her own not inconsiderable bunch of talented musicians aptly titled Lilly Of The West. As a newcomer I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but on the strength of the fifteen tracks here I know that I would like to see a live performance. Drumeva’s vocals are satin smooth and ideally suited to the music she obviously has an empathy with and when joined in the duets by Monogram’s Jakub Racek the performance brings back memories of Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers without the American burr. Spirited arrangements featuring banjo, mandolin and guitar drive everything along at a cracking pace and the title track along with the beautifully seductive “Tennessee Waltz” are particularly well judged. The eclectic nature of the recording utilising country, bluegrass, swing and even a touch of Bulgarian folk song is like a breath of fresh air to these somewhat jaded ‘folk’ ears of mine and when it’s as superbly crafted as this it has certainly become one of my favourite albums this year. www.lillydrumeva.net PETE FYFE
If you could sell the word ‘enigma’ as a product then this would be the band to display their wares accordingly. The Old Dance School don’t take any prisoners in their pursuit of enjoying themselves whilst liberating that music we tenuously label ‘folk’. As a journalist you get a gut feeling that this is one of those albums that will constantly be on whilst you’re slaving over a hot computer extolling the band’s virtues to anyone who’ll care to listen. Throwing the listener every which way in order to bring a comfortably settled audience out of its complacent slumber Helen Lancaster (violin), Samantha Norman (violin), Robin Beatty (guitar & vocals), Tom Chapman (cajon & vocals), Laura Carter (woodwind & vocals), Aaron Diaz (trumpet) and Adam Jarvis (double bass) succeed spectactularly in their endeavours. From the beautifully crafted opening instrumental track “The Enlli Light” the joy that emits from the speakers is enough to rejuvenate the soul of any tarnished ‘hack’ who’s become jaded with the tried and tested. It’s like the first time I heard a young Capercaillie, you know there’s something special and that, apart from anything else this is a band that deserves to break free from the confines of music pigeon-holing. The music is magic in their hands and the classy way in which the members combine their arrangements under the watchful eye of producer Calum Malcolm shows they have plenty left to offer. Beatty’s way with words and Norman/Lancaster’s nimble compositions are a mighty combination and coupled with the arty photography by John Beatty (Robin’s dad!) this album proves an irresistable package that any self-respecting ‘folk’ enthusiast should be proud to feature in their CD collection. www.theolddanceschool.com PETE FYFE
I was first introduced to Kevin Dempsey many years ago at the Hedgehog Pie festival in Newcastle (possibly 1976!) and I particularly remember his impressive guitar technique crossing jazz with folk. Of course, this was innovative at the time and I’m pleased to say he’s lost none of that technique which works as the perfect foil for his twinning with the teenage Stateside based fiddler/vocalist Rosie Carson. Now this is my kind of album, one that utilises songs I remember from my own ‘folk music’ upbringing. The duo’s repertoire includes classic songs such as the trials and tribulations Gospel tinged “I Am A Poor Wayfaring Stranger”, “Silver Dagger” and Richard Thompson’s “Waltzing’s For Dreamers” respectfully treated with a laid back country feel featuring Kevin on lead vocals. The instrumental sets likewise are from a vintage that I still cherish with enjoyable interpretations of “The Rolling Waves/Morrison’s Jig”, “Paddy Fahey’s/The Butterfly” and “Julia Delaney’s/Larry Redican’s” amongst them. Carson and Dempsey blend well together tonally and although this recording may not be seen by many as wildly innovative there are certainly many high points to raise it above albums of a similar disposition. Here’s looking forward to the next one!
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Don’t you just love it when, from the opening track of a recording you know you are going to experience something really special? Of course it helps if your names are Liz Carroll and John Doyle both of whom (to my knowledge) have neither released a duff album in either their solo or collective careers. Not only prolific tune writers in the traditional style including amongst others “Before The Storm” and “Ricky’s White Face” both Carroll and Doyle have an empathy musically that will stop you dead in your tracks as you wonder at the beauty of it all. Whether your preference is for the driving melodies “The Chandelier/Anne Lacey’s” or the subtler moments of “Lament For Tommy Makem” and “Nearby, Long Ago” the consummate skills of both performers will lift your spirits to a new level of appreciation for all things acoustic. As if that weren’t enough, the listener is treated to John’s honey-toned vocals on a selection of great songs including Ed Pickford’s seemingly timeless anthem “A Pound A Week Rise” and the gentle, funky guitar set-up employed on “The Hare’s Lament”. What else can I say…buy, chill out and enjoy! By the way, I’d like to say congratulations to all at Compass Records on waving the banner for Celtic music. Check out their phenomenal website at www.compassrecords.com PETE FYFE