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CHRISTINE KYDD – Shift And Change (Greentrax CDTRAX401)

Shift And ChangeI looked forward to this record, and it didn’t disappoint. The brilliant Christine Kydd has been kept busy of late, with yet another project, this time materialising as a solo album titled Shift And Change: Songs from Scotland. It is as an eclectic a collection as ever, made up of traditional pieces, original writings and takes on the work of contemporary artists.

A rendition of the late Michael Marra’s ‘Just Another Rolling Stone’ begins the album, with Fraser Spiers’ harmonica and Kydd’s vocal guiding this tremendous track. This is followed with another excellent example of Kydd’s ability to interpret contemporary songwriting, this time, it is a powerful protest number by Alistair Hullet, titled ‘Blue Murder’. Set in the Wittenoom Mines of Western Australia, Kydd herself points out (in the album’s liner notes) that “The people in this song find themselves with no choice but to work in conditions which will eventually cause an early death…blue asbestos was the cause and profit was the motive…”. The lyrics are even more to the point and ever more powerful:

Day in day out, every day they drive us harder
Day in day out, they’re getting away with blue murder”.

Even so early into the record, the eclectic flavour of the album is apparent, and from the mines of Australia, we travel to Dundee, with ‘The Back O Reres Hill’, a traditional lament, arranged by Kydd. While this album is a fantastic patchwork of interpretations of songs by Scottish writers, Kydd’s own work must not go overlooked. Firstly, ‘This Is The News’ a scathing social commentary on media bias, inaccuracy and falsehood in reporting. It is extremely applicable to the present day, and as long as there is bullshit in the press, this song will be relevant… and (somewhat unfortunately) I suspect there is a good deal of longevity in this one yet.

‘Comin’ On Strong’; “a positive wee song” as Kydd tells us, is another original about travelling and returning….with a bit of reminiscing in between. Another track worth mentioning is ‘Shift And Change’, both the final song by Kydd and the final song on the album. It is a celebration of the moment and an anthem for embracing change rather than fearing it, punctuated by Kydd’s staccato piano notes and beautiful fiddle and harmonies by Gillian Frame.

Kydd has a tremendous ability to make original, something which is already established, yet she also has the ability to breathe new life into older writings and provide new context to other work, see ‘The Wild Geese/ Norland Wind’ and ‘Halloween’, adaptations of Scottish poems circa 1914 – 1916.

From start to finish, I can’t speak highly enough of this album; its song selections, performances and musicianship are just a few of the more obvious selling points of something which I am glad to say is an absolute joy to listen to.

Christopher James Sheridan

Artist’s website: https://www.christinekydd.com/

There are few videos of Christine but here’s a classic oldie, ‘Seal Woman/Yundah’:

MIKEY KENNEY – The Reverie Road (Penny Fiddle Records PFR1902CD

The Reverie RoadMikey Kenney is an accomplished fiddler and balladeer with wealth of English and Irish folk song in his repertoire. His most recent release, The Reverie Road, brings these traditions (and a few other influences) together.

Beginning with ‘Bacca Pipes’ (the English variant of Greensleeves), it isn’t long before Kenney turns from interpreter to original composer, firstly with a collection of thematically connected reels; ‘The Devil Goat of Keady/ Mr West’s Fiddle/ The Repair Job’, re-telling the tale of a billy goat that broke the treasured instrument of a fellow musician.

While this story is told without lyrics, ‘The Path I Walk Upon’ is crammed with interesting lyrical imagery, telling of a recurring dream of Kenney’s about a white bear which guides him to the edge of an icebound cliff. These images reoccur throughout the album, particularly in ‘Montagna Di Menta (Calitri)’. In some ways this song feels like the connection for the entire album, however, on other levels, it creates a notable shift from English and Irish folk song, to Italian-inspired work, largely brought about through the tremolo-heavy mandolin style.

A series of jigs, (‘Brigid’s Jigs’) bring back the original flavour, while ‘Napoli’, another one from Kenney’s pen continues to effortlessly blend the mix of influences on this album. This ‘Italian sound’ surfaces once more, before the album bows out, this time on a track called ‘Soggy Desert’, a piece about the bleak beauty of the Lune estuary in Lancaster.

While this album is strong from a traditional music standpoint (at times, in some ways, vaguely reminiscent of a Martin Carthy or Dave Swarbrick recording), it is also worthy of praise for its songwriting. It is not just a fiddle album, it is the broader works of a gifted musician, so if the idea of an album made up exclusively of fiddle tunes isn’t quite your thing, this is still worth tracking down.

Christopher James Sheridan

Artist’s website: http://www.mikeykenney.co.uk/

‘Montangna Di Menta’:

Tom Hughes posthumously inducted into traditional music Hall of Fame

Tom Hughes

Tom Hughes, traditional fiddle player of Jedburgh, has been posthumously inducted into the Performers section of the Hands Up For Trad Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame 2018.

Tom Hughes was the greatest keeper of his generation of the distinctive Borders style of fiddle playing. A self-taught master who, like his father and grandfather before him, spent his entire working life as a ploughman on farms in the countryside around Jedburgh, in his time away from the plough Tom dedicated himself to the fiddle, playing for dances and in sessions and preserving tunes learned from family tradition for generations to follow.

Tom was born on a farm near St Boswells on 10th October 1907. His father, Thomas, played the fiddle, pipes, melodeon and tin whistle and his grandfather, Henry Hughes, played the fiddle. Two uncles, Bob and Henry, also played the fiddle and occasionally tambourine. Tom’s grandfather, who could fashion anything ranging from a wheelbarrow to a fishing rod from whatever wood came to hand, made tambourines and fiddles and Tom remembered, as a seven year old, watching his grandfather making a fiddle in his workshop that turned out to be Tom’s Christmas present that year.

Listening to his father and grandfather playing tunes together at home, Tom tried to copy what they were doing and gradually, by lifting his fingers off the strings when he didn’t need them, he learned to play his first tune, The High Road to Linton. It was through his DIY approach that Tom learned to double stop – or play two notes at once – which is a characteristic of the Borders fiddle tradition and became an integral feature of Tom’s signature style.

By the time he left school, aged fourteen, in 1921, Tom was playing fiddle with his father at rural events. They cycled to village halls, weddings, kirns (or harvest celebrations) and hiring fair dances in the local area and after moving, in 1925, to a farm near Lilliesleaf, between Selkirk and Melrose, they joined Adam Irvine’s band. At one time, with the steward on the farm where they worked near Morebattle, Jim Kerse and another local musician, Tom and his father formed a band that consisted of three fiddles and piano but the standard line up in those days was two or three fiddles and tambourine.

After Tom married he moved to Chatto and formed his own band, the Kalewater Band, and later, while working as farm steward at Ruletownhead after the war, he led the Rulewater Band. Tom continued to play locally through the 1950s and 1960s and when folk festivals such as Newcastleton began to spring up in the early 1970s he could be found in sessions, sharing tunes with fellow fiddlers.

When the folklorist, song collector and founding member of the Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland, Pete Shepheard heard Tom playing tunes such as ‘Kelso Hiring Fair’, which Tom picked up from an old street fiddler in Kelso in 1928, and a Scottish Borders version of ‘The Morepeth Rant’ at Newcastleton in 1978, he immediately decided to capture the by now seventy years old Tom’s playing for posterity.

An LP, Tom Hughes And His Border Fiddle, was released on Shepheard’s Springthyme label, giving an insight into a traditional, fiddle style stretching back deep into the 1800s. A tune book subsequently added to Tom’s legacy and after Tom died in 1986 his music was carried on by his grandson, Jimmy Nagle. In 2015 the annual Scots Fiddle Festival in Edinburgh honoured Tom with an illustrated talk on Tom’s music and through the players who have progressed through the Borders Young Fiddlers group, Tom’s music is being passed on to succeeding generations.

www.projects.handsupfortrad.scot/hall-of-fame/tom-hughes/

Springthyme is celebrating the award by making the complete book of Tom Hughes Music available as a FREE DOWNLOAD PDF from
www.springthyme.co.uk/tom-hughes-book/

There is also a link on the Springthyme page to Sound Cloud files of his music.
www.springthyme.co.uk/1044/

‘Braes O Mar’ and more:

TRAPPER SCHOEPP – Primetime Illusion (XtraMile)

Primetime IllusionBased in Wisconsin, Schoepp’s third album, Primetime Illusion, produced by Wilco’s Pat Sansone, boasts a co-write with Dylan in celebration of his hometown. Well, sort of. Closing the album, the waltztime ‘On, Wisconsin’ has its origins in news that, back in 1961, Dylan had written but never recorded a song about a homesick traveller pining for his home state. A former roommate unearthed the handwritten lyric and put it up for auction. Schoepp didn’t stump up the $30,000 asking price but he did see a photo of the words and set them to music, sending his arrangement to Dylan’s management, eventually getting consent to publish as a co-write.

It also served as a catalyst to start writing his own material again after going through a series of downers that included the end of a lengthy relationship being forced out of his home, suffering the recurrence of a hernia in his back and, worst of all, the election of Trump. All of which fed into the songs on this break-up album, both on a traditional level and also with his country.

It opens with the tribal drum thump of ‘Shakedown’, 12-string guitar ringing track that suggests Tom Petty constitutes a healthy percentage of his music collection. If that has a buoyant optimistic feel, he quickly sets that to lyrical rights with the fingersnapping rhythm and cascading chords melody of the infectious 60s-inflected ‘It’s Over’ (12-string again making is presence felt) and the piano-accompanied mid-tempo ballad ‘Drive-Thru Divorce’ where those Petty influences hold hands with Billy Joel.

Indeed, this is very much a pop album, jammed with catchy melodies, punchy riffs and hooks, taking a tougher, bluesier groove on ‘Freight Train’, wailing harmonica on the bopping Nicole Atkins collaboration ‘What You Do To Her’ and nodding to Free’s ‘All Right Now’ on the opening of the strutting ‘If All My Nines Were X’s’.

The soulfully sung ‘Sleight Of Hand’ shows the softer side musically, keys, harmonica, bass and tambourine providing the backdrop while spaghetti western twang chews on a cigar for ‘TV Shows’. At just over five minutes, introduced by a chugging guitar riff, ‘My Comrade’ is the longest cut, another big production nod to the sort of classic American rock’n’roll celebrated by bands like The Replacements, The Feelies and Soul Asylum. Sure, the Dylan connection may be news and attract the curious, but, actually it’s the least interesting number here on an album that ably demonstrates Schoepp has no need to ride anyone’s coattails.

Mike Davies

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’s website: www.trapperschoepp.com

It has to be ‘On, Wisconsin’ – live in the studio:

Glen Hansard – new album and European tour dates

Glen Hansard
Photograph by Stephan Vanfleteren

Those who have followed Glen Hansard’s career since his Academy Award winning turn in the film Once will have witnessed one artistic arc: the journey of a Dublin busker who cut his teeth on the greats – Dylan, Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen – and followed the path of the troubadour to great effect. But there is another thread running through Hansard’s musicianship; in his decades as lead singer of Irish stalwarts The Frames, rock and folk ambitions coexisted with moments of strangeness, intimacy, and stillness.

Today, Hansard announces This Wild Willing, his fourth full-length album and a collection of songs that follows this second path, where he marries the sonic inventiveness of the best of his work in The Frames with the discipline he’s found as a songwriter and lyricist in his solo career.

Lead track ‘I’ll Be You, Be Me’ finds Hansard weighing the risks of such vulnerability, his restrained vocal masking the fury of the underlying instrumental’s building storm, and to which Hansard advises “on first listen, please turn it up loud in your head phones!”

“I’ll be you, be me and I’ll be you/I’ll take your truth, your lies, your secrets,” he sings, negotiating the consuming potential of desire. There is danger here, but it is without rancor or ill-will – the danger of a hare with its belly exposed. There is also a duality in the invitation: the audience is drawn in just as surely as the song’s object to the immersive world conjured by the album.

This Wild Willing was conceived in Paris and recorded at the French Black Box studios with producer David Odlum and a core group of musicians that includes classically-trained Iranian musicians the Khoshravesh brothers, long-time Hansard associates Joe Doyle (bass) and ROMY (piano, vocals, string arrangements), and Dublin electronic musicians Deasy and Dunk Murphy (Sunken Foal). The album is grounded in a spirit of openness to invention and experimentation.

“This collection of songs is mainly made up of those that came through while improvising and following the melodic lines and threads. Sometimes when you take a small musical fragment and you care for it, follow it and build it up slowly, it can become a thing of wonder.” – Glen Hansard, 2019

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’s website: http://glenhansard.com/

‘I’ll Be You, Be Me’:

Tour Dates

7th March – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Koninklijk Theater Carré SOLD OUT
8th March – Hamburg, Germany – Elbphilharmonie Hamburg SOLD OUT
9th April – Dublin, Ireland – Vicar Street
10th April – Dublin, Ireland – Vicar Street
12th April – Derry, United Kingdom – St. Columb’s Hall
13th April – Derry, United Kingdom – St. Columb’s Hall SOLD OUT
15th April – London, United Kingdom – Barbican Centre
16th April – London, United Kingdom – Barbican Centre
27th April – Paris, France – Casino de Paris
29th April – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Koninklijk Theater Carré
30th April – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Koninklijk Theater Carré
2nd May – Copenhagen, Denmark – Amager Bio / BETA
4th May – Stockholm, Sweden – Skandiascenen
6th May – Brussels, Belgium – Cirque Royal
8th May – Cologne, Germany – Kőlner Philharmonie
9th May – Frankfurt Am Main, Germany – Alte Oper
11th May – Brno-žabovřesky, Czech Republic – 5th Anniversary of SONO Centrum
13th May – Warszawa, Poland – Palladium
14th May – Warszawa, Poland – Palladium
16th May – Berlin, Germany – Admiralspalast
17th May – Berlin, Germany – Admiralspalast
19th May – Berlin, Germany – Admiralspalast

LAU – Midnight And Closedown (Reveal REVEAL078CD)

Midnight And ClosedownFollowing their tenth anniversary retrospective Kris Drever, Aidan O’Rourke and Martin Green return with an album of new music and Midnight And Closedown is certainly new.

It opens with a stunning song, ‘I Don’t Want To Die Here’. Drever says that the album is about islands and the listener is left imagining some God-forsaken lump of rock out in the ocean or wondering whether “here” refers to a state of mind or circumstances. Paul Simon wrote ‘I Am A Rock’ about just such a man and that theme is at the forefront of Midnight And Closedown. A long fiddle intro resolves into another song, ‘She Put On Her Headphones’ – the modern method of isolation – and that is followed by ‘Toy Tigers’ which I’m still deciphering. That’s three songs in succession: what’s going on?

‘Echolalia’ is the nearest we get to a “traditional” Lau instrumental track but even here Drever adds some la-la-la vocals and the beginning and the end. ‘Itshardtoseemokwhenyourenot’ seems to link an old and a new Lau. Martin Green’s electronic percussion pounds and Aidan O’Rourke’s fiddle pulses and dances as the track briefly breaks into something resembling rock’n’roll in the middle. It really is a terrific song and is only bettered by ‘Dark Secret’. The slightly sinister lyrics seem to be about therapy, at least in part, and drinking and I can’t believe that it is in any way autobiographical. Drever sings of being “born on the Isle Of Horses” which could refer to Shetland but I don’t want to follow that trail any further.

‘Return To Portland’ is the album’s second big instrumental piece with Green and O’Rourke trading lead lines and Green doing very much what Brian Eno did back in the day. There is noticeably less accordion here than we’re used to. Finally we have the acoustic ‘Riad’, written by O’Rourke although all three share writing credits, harking back to the band’s early days.

Midnight And Closedown is as brilliant as it is unexpected. Decade was full of the power and sheer volume that characterised Lau’s earlier work but this seems like a whole new direction.

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.

Artists’ website: http://www.lau-music.co.uk/

‘Echolalia’ – live: