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MARTIN BARRE – Roads Less Travelled (Garage Records GAR0002)

Roads Less TravelledI don’t think I’ve heard Jethro Tull for decades, but one of the highlights of the band’s music was, for me and many others, Martin Barre’s guitar work, so I jumped at the opportunity to check out his solo album Roads Less Travelled, for release on 31st August 2018. The CD features ten excellent songs plus an instrumental, all composed by Martin. As well as Martin’s guitars, banjo, mandolin and mandola, these tracks also feature regular members of the Martin Barre Band Dan Crisp (lead vocals on most tracks), Alan Thomson (bass/fretless bass) and Darby Todd (drums), augmented by Alex Hart and Becca Langsford (lead and backing vocals), Josiah J (percussion and Hammond organ), Aaron Graham (drums) and Buster Cottam (double bass).

If some of the tracks here make me think of 60s/70s West Coast and/or fusion music, that’s by no means a criticism, and it shouldn’t be taken as implying a dated approach. Partly, I think, it’s because Dan Crisp’s versatile vocals sometimes remind me of specific individuals from that era; partly because of the effective use of harmonizing lead guitars; partly because of the super-accurate way the guitars, bass and organ track each other’s lines.

Here’s the track listing.

  1. ‘Lone Wolf’, with the addition of Martin’s mandolin, mandola and banjo, borders on country-rock. And a splendid example it is. Slightly reminiscent of the Eagles or even Buffalo Springfield.
  2. ‘Out Of Time’ alternates some nifty electric riffing and athletic drumming with some gentler acoustic work.
  3. ‘I’m On My Way’ also benefits from Martin’s mandolin and mandola, as well as some tasty electric guitar.
  4. ‘Roads Less Travelled’ features some very nice lead guitar harmonies, and lots more.
  5. Becca Langsford takes over the vocals on ‘Badcore Blues’, a moody song supported by acoustic guitars, drums and bass guitar. A long way from country blues, but captures some of that desperation despite its sophistication.
  6. The nostalgic ‘Seattle’ balances acoustic and electric guitars with spot-on vocal and instrumental harmonies.
  7. ‘For No Man’ features breath-taking interplay between the guitars, fretless bass and organ over sophisticated changes.
  8. ‘(This Is) My Driving Song’ leans towards riff-driven 70s rock. Works for me…
  9. The jazzy ballad ‘You Are An Angel’ features Alex Hart on vocals, backed by Martin’s acoustic guitars and Buster Cottam’s double bass. Very classy.
  10. ‘Trinity’ is the CD’s only instrumental, with Martin playing all instruments. A tour de force, drawing on a wide range of musical influences.
  11. ‘And The Band Played Only For Me’ features Becca Langsford on lead vocals, ably augmented with Alex Hart’s backing vocals. Somewhere on the borderline between jazz and city blues, with lovely guitar and organ. If ‘Trinity’ is my favourite track, this is my favourite vocal track, though ‘You Are An Angel’ isn’t far behind it.

Excellent songs sympathetically sung, a master of the guitar (and no slouch on several other instruments), accompanied by a set of accomplished musicians and singers, and flawlessly produced: this is an album that’s going to stay on my iPod…

David Harley

Artist’s website: https://martinbarre.com/

The Martin Barre Band at The Citadel, Wigan:

Dolina Maclennan celebrates her 80th birthday at Blas

Dolina Maclennan

Gaelic writer, singer, actress, broadcaster and political campaigner, Dolina Maclennan will celebrate her 80th birthday with musical friends at a concert during Blas Festival on 15th September.

Brought up in Marvig, Lewis, Dolina was introduced to drama and the great Gaelic bards at Nicolson Institute and the rest, they say, is history! Dolina’s career and musical life has so far spanned an incredible array of accomplishments; herself and Robin Gray were the first folk singers in the Waverley Bar which is still going strong today as the hub of folk music in Edinburgh.

Dolina sang for Scottish Ballet in the Gaelic production, An Clo Mòr, which opened in the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow before touring mainland theatres as well as venues throughout the Highlands and Islands in 1970. She was also the first Gaelic speaker to present 12 Noon, a Scottish network lunchtime programme.

Her first TV work was Beagan Gàidhlig, the first ever Gaelic teaching series and her first major writing role was for the radio soap, Na Moireasdanaich – The Morrisons. She appeared in STV soap, Machair, which ran from 1992 – 1998 and has had many more film, stage and TV appearances over the years, including the hit comedy series, Still Game.

However, what Dolina is known for most is her role in the ground-breaking 7:84 Scotland production, The Cheviot, The Stag And The Black, Black Oil which changed the face of Scottish theatre and politics and toured Scotland and beyond in 1973-1974.

Dolina, who is currently celebrating her 60th year performing at the Edinburgh Festival, commented: “As my birthday falls on January 1st, it is always hard to distinguish it from the usual Hogmanay celebrations; this year was no different.

 “I always have a dinner party with my best friends at 9 O’clock on Hogmanay, never more than eight very close friends. Then we wait, with everything clean and in its place and a bit of silence before the New Year and the welcoming of first footers.”

“This year, being special, my daughter Jane and my friend Christine Grant Ross produced a cake with an 80 thingy on it. That’s as far as it went for celebrations apart from family cards and gifts; I didn’t feel like a big party because of the death, a few months before, of a beloved nephew. I feel like the Queen, having two birthdays.”

“So, this is the very first time in all of my 80 years that I have been rewarded with what I always wished – that my birthday was on a normal day like 15th September! I am hugely honoured by the generosity of the Blas Festival and look forward hearing my favorite singers and musicians and meeting old and new friends.”

Helping Dolina celebrate her milestone birthday will be Pàdruig Morrison, Christine Primrose, Allan MacDonald, Seasaidh Lexy and others to be announced.

Blas, which means ‘taste’ or ‘sample’, is organised by Fèisean nan Gàidheal in partnership with The Highland Council and will take place from 7-15th September.  It aims to celebrate Gaelic culture and the thriving Scottish traditional music scene over nine days of concerts, cèilidhs and larger events in venues across the Highlands and Islands.

Other headline acts at this year’s Blas, which takes place at venues from Bernera to Applecross and Portree to Portmahomack, include Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, two previous winners of BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards, Mischa Macpherson and Brìghde Chaimbeul, Celtic rock group Wolfstone, who will perform at Blas for the first time, award-winning folk band Breabach, young electronic Celtic fusion group, Niteworks and the highly-acclaimed RURA.

Dolina @ 80 takes places at 7.30pm on Saturday 15th September at the Woodlands Centre in Stornoway. The full programme of events can be found at www.blas-festival.com along with details of how to purchase tickets, including special prices for Young Scot cardholders.

Swedish Celtic punks Sir Reg announce new album

Sir Reg

Sir Reg is an energetic six piece from Sweden fronted by Irishman Brendan Sheehy on vocals, who left his home-town of Dublin to come to Sweden to fulfil his dream – to put together the most amazing band possible. With songs about everything from the issues of modern day society to finding the right bar on a Saturday night, combined with strong melodies and explosive live shows, Sir Reg have made a name for themselves in the Celtic punk and rock scene. Since the birth of the band in 2009 they have released four critically acclaimed albums and have performed on many of Europe’s biggest stages alongside bands like The Mahones, The Misfits, Thin Lizzy and The Real McKenzies.

The Underdogs, the band’s latest album, captures the raw essence of the Sir Reg raucous live show. From the chaotic first single ‘F.O.O.L (Fight Of Our Lives)’, through the infectious title track and onto their tribute to UFC legend ‘Conor McGregor’, Sir Reg embrace traditional Irish folk music, unforgettable melodies, propelled by an driving, energetic punk rock backing.

The band will touring the UK in October 2018 and will be playing a very special, exclusive showcase gig in London on August 22nd.

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://sirregband.com/

‘F O O L (Fight Of Our Lives)’ – official video:

Gryphon announce new album – forty-one years on

Gryphon

Would you believe it? Gryphon are releasing an all-new studio album of especially written, previously unheard material – and this comes all of 41 years after their fifth album, way back in 1977. Release date is set for 17th August. Now they really are the oldest and the newest thing – a legendary British band that’s as exhilarating, energetic, unpredictable and addictive now as it ever was.

No-one could ever pigeonhole Gryphon. When the first album came out, the band appeared on BBC Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4, all in the same week. They appeared with Yes at Madison Square Garden and Houston Astrodome, played prog rock festivals, folk clubs and cathedrals. They wrote and played the music for Sir Peter Hall’s National Theatre production of The Tempest at the Old Vic and found a unique place in the hearts of folkies, proggers, Early Music aficionados and anyone with an ear for something creative, fresh and different.

When they split, the members furthered their experience appearing alongside everyone from Kate Bush to Van Morrison, Cher to McCartney, John Williams to Long John Baldry, but after a one-off sell-out show in 2009 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London the band reformed in 2016 as a six-piece with three new members and since then have been back on the road wowing audiences all over again and rapidly gaining a new fanbase.

ReInvention returns in part to their early connection with Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, in which they found their name. Guitarist Graeme Taylor has set the White Knight’s song ‘A-Sitting on a Gate’ into an epic eleven minute extravaganza which takes us on a musical journey from a reflective Brittenesque bassoon, clarinet and violin trio introduction, into a prog-rocky dialogue between the White Knight (Brian Gulland) and an ‘aged, aged man’ (Dave Oberlé), through a heavy-metal riff with a suddenly distorted and harmonised bassoon, and thence to a plaintively tragi-comic conclusion to bring us home with a rousing military march. Something for all the family!

Brian Gulland, as usual, entirely off the wall, provides four new compositions, displaying his wide influences from 20s English humour, through harrowingly massive church organ chordal sequences, and haunting New Age recorder, acoustic guitar and vocal moments, through the gamut to some strident and stirring full-on electric rock riffs.

Relatively new member (of a mere 9 years’ service!) Graham Preskett also contributes four new compositions, very much in a mid-70s Gryphon style, though adding for the first time some Celtic influence, and demonstrating his experience in writing filmic music. Graham is not only invaluable for his writing, but is also a brilliant multi-instrumentalist and employs his talents on violin, mandolin, harmonica and keyboards to great effect.

So what is Gryphon’s music? It’s just as it always was – imaginative, quirky, dazzling yet full of humour. It’s mainly acoustic, featuring a kaleidoscope of instruments. Every gig and album utilises at least 40 instruments, so the textures can be pretty varied and unfamiliar.

Singer Dave Oberlé provides creative percussion, whilst alongside founder member, Brian Gulland on bassoon and bass crumhorn, the extraordinarily virtuosic Andy Findon shines on clarinets, saxes and flutes. Rory McFarlane supports all this with his solid, sensitive bass, and also donates his original composition, ‘Bathsheba’.

Gryphon, as ever, is the antidote to genres. Whatever you expect, you’ll get something different, surprising, and exciting. Whatever you get, it’ll make you wonder why it took these guys so long to crank up the engines and get back in the studio again. But, as ReInvention proves, it will certainly be worth the wait.

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.thegryphonpages.com/

‘Midnight Mushrumps – 3rd Movement’ – live:

Karine Polwart announces new album and tour dates

Karine Polwart
Photograph by Sandy Butler

Multi-award winning songwriter and musician, theatre maker and published writer Karine Polwart – six-time winner at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, including 2018 Folk Singer of The Year – will release a new album, Laws Of Motion, on October 19, 2018 via Hudson Records. Polwart’s seventh release, Laws Of Motion is the follow-up to 2017’s much-praised A Pocket Of Wind Resistance, which earned Karine & co-writer Pippa Murphy a New Music Scotland Award, alongside nominations for the 2018 Scottish Album Of The Year & Radio 2 Folk Album Of The Year. Laws Of Motion – recorded alongside long-term collaborators Inge Thomson (accordion, percussion, synths & vocals) and brother Steven Polwart (guitars & vocals) – will arrive amidst a 13 date UK tour, including London’s Cadogan Hall on October 17, 2018.

Karine is trailing the announcement with the first track to emerge from Laws Of Motion – delicate,  finger-picked album opener ‘Ophelia’. Polwart wrote it having witnessed the portentous, far-reaching after-effects of 2017’s Hurricane Ophelia from her Midlothian home. Says Karine; “When the easternmost Atlantic hurricane ever hit The British Isles, it brought with it Saharan sand and an uncanny light. Meantime, deadly wildfires ravaged Galicia and Portugal, causing black ash to fall as far north as Tallinn in Estonia. Isn’t it time we started acting as if we’re actually sharing the same earth, the same air?”.

A Pocket Of Wind Resistance used the migratory habits of geese to crack open universally human societal & ecological issues. Across Laws of Motion Polwart continues to coalesce the familial and the familiar alongside the unsettling and the unknown, driven as ever by her gift for empathy and accessibility. Subject matter as disparate as Trump, WW2 & holocaust survivors are drawn together by the laws of the album’s title alongside the experiences of migrants and allegorical folk & children’s stories. Speaking about the broad focus of the album (which includes co-writes with Lau’s Martin Green), Polwart says; “I didn’t set out to write songs on a unified theme – they’ve just landed that way. Perhaps that’s no surprise, given the times we’re in.”

Laws Of Motion is the latest in an evolving series of collaborative projects across which Polwart has combined music & storytelling with politics & environmental-societal issues. Karine wrote A Pocket Of Wind Resistance (a Songlines & BBC Radio 3 Late Junction Album Of The Year) as a musical companion to her acclaimed theatre debut Wind Resistance, now published via Faber & Faber and selected by Robert McFarlane as a Guardian Book of 2017. The production, which debuted at the Edinburgh International Festival with a residency at The Royal Lyceum Theatre, was written, musically directed and performed by Polwart, winning her the Best Music and Sound Award at the 2017 CATS. Alongside three other nominations, it also placed Polwart on the shortlist for the Best Actor ‘Scottish Oscar’ in the Sunday Herald Culture Awards.

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.

‘Ophelia’:

UK Tour Dates

17 October LONDON Cadogan Hall

18 October PORTSMOUTH Wedgewood Rooms

19 October PONTARDAWE Arts Centre

20 October MANCHESTER Royal Northern College Of Music

21 October EXETER Phoenix

22 October BRIGHTON Komedia

23 October CAMBRIDGE Junction

24 October LEEDS City Varieties

31 October SHREWSBURY Walker Theatre

1 November BRISTOL St Georges

2 November BIRMINGHAM Town Hall

3 November KENDALL Brewery Arts Centre

4 November GATESHEAD Sage

Tickets via https://myticket.co.uk/ and karinepolwart.com

NITEWORKS – Air Faìr An Là (Comann Music, CM002)

Air Faìr An LàIf the combined words “folk” and “electronica” bring on an attack of the vapours, a lie down with the reviving sal volatile of Niteworks’ second album Air Faìr An Là (At Dawn Of Day) might just help. The four Skye lads of Niteworks clearly love their traditional music but, obviously, generations born into techno and its offspring want to reflect contemporary sounds, too. If Martyn Bennett was a pioneer in this field, Niteworks are most ably picking up the reins and forging forward on their own account.

This time around, they’ve engaged top techno producer Alex Menzies (aka Alex Smoke), who overcame his own initial reluctance about the project and has helped to create a vital, full-throttle album that’s subtler than it might at first appear (try the constantly mutating rhythmic pattern punctuating the 1968 spoken-word recording of Skye man, ‘Calum Ruadh MacNeacail’), and definitely stands on its own merits.

Opening with ‘Dookin’’, spacey sonics lope along until first a vibrant fiddle and then pipes drop in, hoisting the melody line across a thumping drumbeat. Kinnaris Quintet’s Fiona MacAskill and her two colleagues provide excellent fiddle parts throughout.

Other guests include Julie Fowlis, whose coolly sparkling vocal soars over ever-intensifying beats in ‘Òran Fir Ghriminis’, and Lewis musician Iain Morrison who brings a slow, atmospheric version of his own song, ‘Like Wolves In The Night’.

SIAN, a trio featuring Ellen MacDonald (recently with Daìmh), deliver crisp vocals on the title track, a waulking song, and also the album’s lead single, reviewed here in a recent Singles Bar. The rapid vocal repetitions are weirdly well-complemented by an ‘80s Kraftwerk-ish bubbling undercurrent. MacDonald’s warm tones also take up ‘Do Dhà Shùil’ (‘Your Two Beady Little Eyes’), a St Kilda lullaby with a soundscape that conjures blowing sand, rattling boat masts and the sea’s sighing fall-rise.

Dragged from the very earth itself is ‘Cumhachd’ (‘Power’ or ‘Energy’): a primal incantation where Allan MacDonald’s hypnotic vocals are slowly subsumed as he picks up the tune on his pipes. More pipes feature on ‘Iain McGee’s’, this time steadily bubbling up through a trance-ish rendering of the tune, before erupting wildly out. In contrast, the increasingly dark, insistent ‘Lùths (Gabh Greim)’ wibbles along, unsteady as an old cassette tape, and closing tune ‘Highlander’s Farewell’ somehow works a traditional strathspey up into what could be an action film car chase soundtrack.

Updating traditional music can be risky, but clearly Niteworks have found their contemporary groove and, right now, they are riding it expertly.

Su O’Brien

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 website: www.niteworksband.com/

Live at Celtic Connections feat. Julie Fowlis: