I enjoyed Reg’s previous album, December, and Faraway People is more of the same and even better than its predecessor. Once again Reg has stripped himself back to the basics of voice and guitar – plus a bit of banjo and harmonica – with only engineer Roy Dodds in the studio for company. And for all its soft reflectiveness it hits as hard as anything you’ll hear this year.
The opening title track attacks government cruelty through the stories of its victims, driven to despair and suicide and ‘Angel In A Blue Dress’ takes a specific case of a nurse in the resource-starved NHS. ‘The Lonesome Death Of Michael Brown’ contains several nods to Bob Dylan in both its title and lyrics and ‘Cicero’ is oddly reminiscent of ‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’. The former tells the story of the Afro-American boy shot by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri which gave rise to a wave of protests but I’m uncertain about the link to the Roman senator in the latter, unless it is his life-long struggle against corruption. The song has a modern setting with some righteous finger-pointing at the rich, and particularly bankers and lawyers, but more empathy for the ordinary people.
There is tenderness here, too. ‘New Brighton Girl’ and ‘In Your Arms’ are both love songs and ‘Refugee’ sees the western world through the story of one such, trying to settle into a new life. Its anger is buried in regret and a sense of helplessness but it’s there. Reg is not without humour, either. ‘Leavin’ Alabama’ tells of an imagined meeting between Hank Williams and Dylan Thomas – in a bar, of course – and ‘Phil Ochs & Elvis Eating Lunch In Morrison’s Café’ is pure Michael Marra. Note the apostrophe, this café is in the south-eastern USA although Reg also places it, somewhat confusingly, just off the M18 and it imagines two of his heroes together with him trying to eavesdrop.
Faraway People is destined to be one of the albums of the year. It will be released on July 28th but you really should be queuing up already.
The Lonely Cry Of Space And Time by Anna Coogan was released on April 28th but I’ve only just had a copy to review. Is there a genre for Indie-Goth-Opera (IGO perhaps?) [I’d prefer IGOR – ed.]. There ought to be because I’ve no idea otherwise how to give a feel in words for the sound-experience of listening to this album. My only other option was to take you back to 1978 and first listening to The Kick Inside, that sense that no-one else is doing music like this and making it work.
Coogan is American but her music reflects the classical opera training she had at the Mozarteum University of Salzburg before she returned to America. This is her fifth ‘solo’ release – solo in inverted commas as her previous work has been collaborative and The Lonely Cry Of Space And Time is a two person effort featuring Willie B (Brian Wilson) on drums and moog bass alongside Coogan’s electric guitar and three-octave soprano vocals. Below you can listen to ‘Wishing Well’ played live where the haunting quality of Coogan’s voice against the gentle playing behind her are ‘shiver-down-the spine’ good. But then keep listening until the end for the operatic violence of ‘By Morning’ which follows, as it does on the album.
It’s an album where I’ve listened to the sound rather than the lyrics, but when you do spend time to take in the words you discover imagery and metaphors which transcend the immediacy of the song they are in: “Keep on swimming until you find the shore”, “Let the oceans rise/To the shining skies/I will burn for you”, “My eyes are wide open/But my vision is hazy”.
Coogan has a European Tour coming up in October but if you want to see her in the UK you have only three dates to choose from The Sound Lounge in South London (19th), Bovey Tracey in Devon, and Farndale in North Yorkshire – all appropriately off the beaten track and at least two of them in areas of mercurial beauty. Like this album.
Teesside trio The Young’uns have always had the human touch. In the space of little more than a decade – and just three years after giving up their day jobs – they have become one of UK folk music’s hottest properties and best-loved acts.
Stockton Folk Club’s star graduates clinched the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards ‘Best Group’ title two years running (2015 and 2016) and last year saw them spreading the net, taking their unique act and instant audience rapport to Canada, America and Australia.
With their strong songs, spellbinding harmonies and rapid fire humour, they have achieved one of the trickiest balancing acts – an ability to truly ‘make them laugh and make them cry’, while cutting straight to the heart of some of our most topical issues.
On September 29 they will unveil their fourth studio album Strangers – playing their strongest suit to date. Bold, profound and resonant it showcases the growing talents of Sean Cooney, fast becoming one of folk’s finest songwriters.
Together with Michael Hughes and David Eagle, Cooney has come up with a collection of folk songs for our time, all sensitively arranged by the 30-something trio – looking back at wartime heroes here, offering a news report for the 21st century there, turning the spotlight on injustice and ultimately celebrating the indomitable human spirit.
Setting the scene with a cover of Maggie Holland’s ‘A Place Called England’ (Best Song at 2000 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards) , the remaining songs on the 10-track album all come from the prolific pen of Cooney who manages to combine unflinching, sharply observed but compassionate, heartfelt lyrics.
With its ocean blue cover, Strangers looks at the stories of those that have crossed the seas to British shores and soldiers that have voyaged from here to the warfields of Europe. Paeans for the underdog have been inspired by the courage of Syrian refugees, have-a-go heroes and Gay Rights campaigners which sit seamlessly alongside narrative songs of First World War soldiers, Caribbean and Jewish immigrants, including the founder of one of our best known British High Street stores.
Not forgetting their native North East heroes, The Young’uns inspiration also comes from further afield – the banks of Spain’s River Ebro (Bob Cooney’s ‘Miracle’) and the Thalys train terrorist attack in France. (‘Carriage 12’). There are constant changes of tempo and mood, from the jaunty sing-a-long ‘Ghafoor’s Bus’, celebrating their fellow Teessider who reached out to refugees across Europe to the slow, soaring beauty of ‘Lapwings’ (as performed on BBC-TV’s Springwatch), inspired by a First World War diary entry from a soldier homesick for English fields and skies and the sublime, poetic ‘Dark Water’ where they are backed by Aldeburgh Young Musicians and Radio 3’s Mary Ann Kennedy on harp.
Stand-out song ‘Be The Man’ was inspired by the incredibly moving story of Matthew Ogston and his fiancé Nazim Mahmood – its poignancy elevated by ex Bellowhead musician Rachael McShane on cello and fiddle and Chumbawamba’s Jude Abbott on melancholic flugelhorn. Matthew reacted to Sean’s lyrics saying: “I do not have the right words to even begin to explain how your words have touched my soul and heart”.
Sean’s songs have reached some of the people who inspired them including Syrian refugee Hesham Modamani, now living in Germany and Paris-based American-Frenchman Mark Moogalian, injured in the Thalys train attack, who heard Carriage 12 and wrote to say: “Many thanks for this wonderful song – the only thing that has ever brought tears to my eyes regarding what happened that day.”
These are powerful songs prompted by remarkable stories – making for an ultimately upbeat album full of hope, echoing the lyric from ‘Ghafoor’s Bus’: “There’s a friendly face, a better place and a future for us all”
Striking a chord wherever they go, the emphatic Strangers marks a milestone chapter in The Young’uns brilliant story.
Recorded at The Chairworks in Castleford and Loft Studios in Newcastle, Strangers is produced by Neil Ferguson, released on Hereteu Records label and distributed by Proper Music.
Strangers will be showcased on an extensive UK tour (October 4-27) including a debut at London’s Union Chapel and dates at Sage Gateshead (Hall 1), Glasgow’s Oran Mor and The Sugar Club in Dublin – their first headline gig in Ireland. Support for most dates comes from The Hut People, with singer songwriter Greg Russell opening for the trio in Nottingham and Lincoln.
Les Barker writes strange poems and comes originally from Manchester, but he’s now Welsh. He was an accountant before he became a professional idiot. A well known style icon Les always cuts a dash in the world of fashion where he is much respected as a leading exponent of the cardigan.
On the poetry front and in spite of the poetry police his most famous works include The Shipping Forecast, Jason and the Arguments, Cosmo the Fairly Accurate Knife Thrower, Captain Indecisive, Spot of the Antarctic, An Infinite Number of Occasional Tables, Cardi and Bloke, Up the Creek Without a Poodle, Have You Any News of the Iceberg, The Lemmings Reunion, The Missing Persian’s File and The Lost Elephants of Denbigh especially Dr Rowan Williams version. Listeners to BBC Radio4 will be familiar with the work of Les Barker through his recent appearances on Wondermentalist Cabaret and Word of Mouth
Kevin Dempsey and Joe Broughton have been in the business for so many years and in so many line-ups that it seems impossible to count. You can mention The Albion Band, the Conservatoire Folk Ensemble, the Urban Folk Quartet, Dando Shaft, Whippersnapper and Lazarus before you have to stop and think. Kevin and Joe have worked together for almost two decades and Off By Heart is their fourth album as a duo.
The record opens in a rather unexpected way. You might have thought that two such celebrated instrumentalists would kick off with something to get the feet moving but instead they begin with Kevin singing ‘Resurrection Jack’, an anti-racist poem by Evangeline Paterson which Kevin has set to a simple and deliberately un-sensational tune. The story itself is a moving one but also told in very unemotional terms. That is followed by ‘Wheels Of The World’, a traditional Irish song explaining why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Who says folk music isn’t relevant?
Of course there are instrumental fireworks and they begin with ‘The Post Truth Reel’ a tune that Joe describes as having “some slightly bits, some positive bits and a bit of reflection”. Next are two linked tunes. ‘Just Before The News’ and ‘De Pascale’ were written around the death of their friend, renaissance man Ernesto De Pascale’ and into them is poured all the emotion they can find. Fittingly, they sit at the heart of the album.
The album closes with two more instrumentals and two traditional songs. ‘Wicked Polly’ comes from the Ozarks and Paloma Trigás adds massed violins and ‘Two Constant Lovers’ is from Sussex with all sorts of things going on behind Kevin’s voice. ‘La Moreau’ is a two-part tune, or rather one tune played in two very different ways, and the final tune is ‘The Recovery Shuffle’ – a bluesy guitar riff over which Joe has written a jig. There is a great deal to enjoy here.
If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the DEMPSEY BROUGHTON – Off By Heart link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. 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.
Internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter Carla Bruni has released a new song and captivating video directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino (Madonna, Bjork, Sting, Vanessa Paradis) for her cover of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Miss You’, the latest release from her forthcoming fifth studio album French Touch, which is available for pre-order now.
Produced by legendary musician, producer and composer David Foster, French Touch will be released on October 6th by Decca. ‘Miss You’ is available now via all digital and streaming services, along with the album’s first single, an intimate stripped-down rendition of Depeche Mode’s ‘Enjoy the Silence’.
French Touch brings together a delightful trove of sentimental pop favourites; all reimagined in Carla’s intimate and moving acoustic style and chosen for their personal significance – in her own words, songs that inspire the French term for love at first sight – “a coup de foudre.” Coup de foudre more or less also describes what happened when Bruni met Grammy award winning producer, composer, and musician David Foster after an L.A. performance in 2014. Foster volunteered to produce Carla’s next record on the spot, and the two began a transatlantic sharing of songs, which was then shaped during twin recording sessions in Paris and L.A.
French Touch is warm and familiar, and inimitably Carla. Richly melodic, warm yet minimal, and often slyly playful – all the arrangements in this collection have been given that “French Touch”, and still have all the universal appeal as their originals, albeit with a sultry flavour all their own.
Carla Bruni has been writing and performing music since 1997, with her first album, Quelqu’un m’a dit (Someone Told Me), being released in 2002. Since then she has had three more critically acclaimed releases, selling over three million albums worldwide, including 2007’s, No Promises, which set English poems to music, 2008’s Comme si de rien n’était (As If Nothing Happened), and 2013’s Little French Songs.
If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the Carla Bruni – French Touch link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. 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.