– UK folk and Americana latest news

DAN HARTLAND – Great Novels (own label DH004)

Great NovelsIn many ways Great Novels is a companion piece to the Amit Dattani solo debut, both of them hailing from Birmingham and sharing a love of folk, blues and country, indeed opening number ‘Leaving Sodom’, a song about learning to let go (“If you hang on to what you have or used to be, then the only thing you get is further into debt with history”) echoes the fingerpicked country blues of Dattani’s album, although the instrumentation is more expansive (drums, harmonica) with a slightly jazzier tinge. In their alter egos, they also co-present the fortnightly roots-based 50 Miles of Elbow Room on BrumRadio.

Shading the Americana with homegrown hues, he has a warm, relaxed and slightly reedy warble vocal style, ‘Canton’ with its simple repeated guitar pattern and a lyric about how “we’ve both learned to show only our best sides – people prefer you to glow”, suggesting a melding of Paul Simon and Gerry Colvin, his songs equally literate and thoughtful.

Produced by fellow local musician Chris Tye, the spacious, airy arrangements gently massaged with understated synths, it’s a generally reflective and laid back affair, though, having said that, ‘In The Ranks’ has a more driving, bluesy groove, pushed along by Dan Todd’s cello, Gary Doidge’s viola and handclaps percussion as he sings about a relationship pecking order and how “I’ve got nowhere to be except cooling my feet until you next find you’re free.”

The songs linked by themes of community and communion, it hits a country stride on the brushed drums waltz of doomed relationship number ‘The Usual Mistake’ (“She spent all her time knowing that she wasn’t growing any way but out”) while Todd’s cello again bolsters the strummed and fingerpicked notes and rumbling drums for ‘Loved & Lonely’ , another broken relationship song, which, I’d venture to suggest, has a bit of a Lou Reed influence about it.

The title track, the shortest at just over two minutes, takes on fingerpicked talking country blues as he sings how “Great novels have been written in this way poring over every hour in a single day”, a playfully musing apology to a lover for why he’s never written a love song, concluding that “what fills my every minute doesn’t fill my ever line… so I’ll sing about the absence of one.”

With its nimble fingerpicking and a more falsetto touch to the vocals, ‘Flowers Of Youth’, a reflection on a relationship that meant less in hindsight than it did at the time, grazes in the same musical fields before drummer Becky Davis lights the blue touch paper and it bursts into an urgent flurry of skiffle-like fireworks that just lacks the washboard to add the final touch.

Sandwiched in-between, Marko Miletic providing the upright bass backbone, ‘British Columbia Calls’, a bitter-coated leaving and recriminations song (“You keep on wreaking the same old revenge”) with its reference to Cassandra who, gifted with prophecy, was cursed that no one would believe her, brings the tempo back down to a bluesy slouch, ‘Stray’ (“If asked your destination you say anywhere that ain’t homebound”) sustaining the regret-grained balladeering.

With synthesised brass, the penultimate number, ‘Passing St Mary’s’, a reflection on rose-tinted memories of our past and a blindness to the present, its title a reference to a local hospice, is a lovely rippling guitar melody with Celtic tones which, gathering to head on the back of Joel Stevens drums and swirling guitars, is dedicated to the late Paul Murphy, the Irish-born, Birmingham-based poet, singer and actor who founded the city’s influential Songwriter’s Café and was a founder member of and vocalist with the Destroyers.

It all ends with the slow bluesy sprawl of ‘5/7’, a song about the factory working week and the community of those who work the production line there “with nothing to show but their family and friends. A quality product to profit the men at the top” and how, at the end of it all, while all that’s left is a stone column “inscribed of the ones who didn’t survive”, there’s pride taken in a job well done. Something Hartland is also well justified in feeling.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘Loved&Lonely’ – official video:

No Petticoats Here: Inspirational First World War Women

No Petticoats Here
Photograph by Richard Budd

Critically acclaimed musician and singer Louise Jordan performs No Petticoats Here to tell the stories of remarkable women from the First World War. Based on extensive research and combining original live music with recorded sound, this one-woman performance is a theatre concert like no other; a rich visual and auditory experience that truly connects the audience with the past and the words of these inspirational women.

Following two successful tours Jordan was granted Arts Council England funding to develop the performance working with theatre director Lizzie Crarer (Over The Top, Bronte, we’re here because we’re here) and sound designer Jules Bushell (Platform4, Hoodwink Theatre). Jordan says, “This performance is very different to most concerts: it is enhanced by technology with pre-recorded sound tracks bringing the words of the women and the sounds they experienced to life. This soundscape weaves around the original songs I have written and I also present framed images of the women and perform in costume to help the audience visualise the stories.”

No Petticoats Here tells the real life stories of varied and remarkable women of the Great War and was inspired by the story of Dorothy Lawrence; an orphan whose guardian lived in Salisbury Cathedral Close. Dorothy dressed as a soldier in order to visit the Western Front and pursue her journalistic ambitions. Louise quickly became fascinated by the stories of female ambulance drivers, scientists, footballers and spies.

No Petticoats Here is the culmination of twelve months of research that has taken Louise to the battlefields of France and Belgium including the Somme and Ypres as well as countless museums and historic research centres across the UK and western Europe. Through contact with the relatives and biographers of some of these extraordinary women Louise has been able to add greater depth and detail to their stories bringing to life their courage and compassion.

Now a familiar face on the UK music scene, Louise Jordan has used her classical music background and her seven years’ experience of touring to arts centres, theatres, folk clubs and festivals in the UK and Europe alongside her earlier career as a secondary school history teacher to produce No Petticoats Here.

“The First World War too often remembers women as the mourners of the fallen, as frugal housewives ‘making do’ or angelic nurses caring patiently for the men who returned from the Front Line. Through No Petticoats Here I remember some of the many women whose stories do not fit conveniently into boxes and whose experiences are both astonishing and relatable one hundred years on.”

From the driving, rhythmic piano of ‘Queen of Spies’ which captures the story of the charming and bold Frenchwoman Louise de Bettignies, to the intensely personal ‘Mairi’ about the disintegration of a devoted friendship, this is a performance as musically diverse as the women’s stories it tells. ‘Ripple and Flow’ captures Hertha Ayrton’s patient pursuit of change through her scientific achievements, the elegant interweaving clarinet and piano mirroring the ebb and flow of the water motions she studied. By contrast the resolute march of the army of women workers ‘Toil, Women, Toil’ is accompanied by a single snare drum.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

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A full list of tour dates is available at

Shrewsbury Folk Festival reveals more names

Folk legend Richard Thompson is set to make an electrifying return to this year’s Shrewsbury Folk Festival after organisers announced a rare appearance by the musician with his Electric Trio.

The former Fairport Convention musician, named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top 100 guitarists of all time, will headline the festival’s Bellstone stage on Saturday August 25.

More than half of adult weekend tickets have already been sold with over six months to go to the event that attracts around 7,000 people to the West Mid Showground.

Other names added to the programme include the new duo of Peter Knight (ex Steeleye Span) and John Spiers (Bellowhead) and singer songwriters James Riley and Edwina Hayes.

Already announced are American singer songwriter Gretchen Peters, Steeleye Span, Irish super group Usher’s Island, Show of Hands, Jon Boden and The Remnant Kings, Gigspanner, BBC Folk Award winner Daoirí Farrell and Scottish folk rockers Skerryvore.

Chinese flautist Guo Yue and Japanese drummer Joji Hirota will reunite for the festival with the London Taiko Drummers and Canadian band The Fitzgeralds – one of the hit groups of last year’s festival – will also make a welcome return.

Other performers include Welsh indie roots band Rusty Shackle, State of the Union – the duo of Boo Hewerdine and Brooks Williams, O’Hooley & Tidow, Megson, Blowzabella, Banter, Alden, Patterson & Dashwood, The Rogues Shanty Crew, Emma Morton & The Graces, Midnight Skyracer, FOS Brothers, Inlay, and Foreign Affairs.

Dance bands will be Blowzabella, Bedlam, Committee Band, Vertical Expression, Kirkophany and Out of Hand.

Shrewsbury Folk FestivalThe festival, which will run from August 24 to 27, has four main music stages, a dance tent featuring ceilidhs, workshops and dance shows, children and youth festivals, more than 100 workshops, a craft fair, food village, real ale, prosecco and cocktail bars and on-site camping.

There are also fringe events at town pubs with dance displays in the centre of Shrewsbury and a parade through the streets.

Director Sandra Surtees said: “We are delighted to have secured this rare appearance by the Richard Thompson Electric Trio for Shrewsbury. Richard is a folk legend but he doesn’t often perform in this format so it’ll be a real treat for our audience.

“The line up contains a wide variety of traditional and contemporary folk alongside singer songwriters and north American and Canadian acts so there is something to appeal to all tastes.

“That’s echoed in the strong ticket sales we’re experiencing with many of our visitors coming back year after year as they love the festival so much!”

Weekend and day tickets are now on sale and can be booked at


Photo by Matt Kramer




Tom Waits’ first seven albums, originally released through Elektra Asylum Records in the 1970’s, have been re-mastered and will be re-released via Anti-Records. All titles – many of which have been long out of print – will be re-issued on hi quality 180 gram vinyl throughout 2018. CD versions will be available on 23 March with digital releases slated for 9 March.

Waits’ time-honored and critically acclaimed debut album Closing Time will be available on 180 gram vinyl, digital platforms and streaming services on 9 March. Pre-order Closing Time on CD, LP and digitally.

Closing Time foreshadows the distinctly lyrical storytelling and original blending of jazz, blues and folk styles that would come to be associated with Waits. It is on this debut album that Waits performs enduring classics of his career “Ol’ 55” (famously covered by the Eagles), the heartbreaking “Martha” and the gentle acoustic folk of “I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You”.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Scroll to see full release catalogue.

Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.


Heart of Saturday Night (1974) – Expanding beyond the folk and pop stylings of his first album, Waits’ second studio release Heart of Saturday Night established his reputation as a versatile and distinctly American songwriter. Its bluesy jazz arrangements featured bass, drums, sax and Waits on piano. The title track, a melancholy ode to Saturday night rituals, and the tenderly romantic hymn-like “San Diego Serenade” are enduring classics covered by an array of artists from Diana Krall and Nancy Griffith to folk hero Eric Anderson. The album also features “Diamonds on My Windshield”, the first of what would become a signature for Waits’, the spoken word-poetry song. Waits’ delivers these lyrics as pure beat jazz in the stylings of Kerouac, Langston Hughes and Bob Kaufman.

Nighthawks at the Diner (1975) – Recorded in front of a live audience at the Record Plant recording studio in Los Angeles in 1975, Nighthawks at the Diner debuts some of Waits’ greatest classics like “Warm Beer, Cold Women” and “Eggs and Sausage” with a crack Jazz ensemble backing him up and some of the greatest stage patter ever committed to record.

Small Change (1976) – Small Change is a masterpiece that contains some of Waits’ best early work. Classic jazz, Tin Pan Alley, and Stephen Foster filtered through Tom’s unique worldview and lyrical genius. Heartbreaking, hilarious and always vivid, songs like “Step Right Up”, “Tom Traubert’s Blues”, “I Wish I Was in New Orleans”, “The Piano Has Been Drinking”, and “Invitation to the Blues” are all classics that have influenced generations of songwriters since. Recorded with a live orchestra and featuring jazz legend Shelly Manne on drums, Small Change is a classic and stands as one of Tom Waits most popular recordings.

Foreign Affairs (1977) – 1977’s Foreign Affairs takes the jazz and poetry that Tom Waits explored on his earlier albums in a more cinematic direction, foreshadowing his own breakthrough work in the 80s. Opening with the instrumental “Cinny’s Waltz” and featuring some new standards like “Muriel” and “I Never Talk To Strangers”, his dramatic duet with Bette Midler, this album gets into some of Waits’ most ambitious storytelling ever. Foreign Affairs also features the jazzy, colorful “Jack and Neil” and the sweeping, dramatic “Potters Field” as well as classic Waits ballads “Burma Shave” and “Sight for Sore Eyes”.

Blue Valentine (1978) – Blue Valentine is a big departure from earlier Waits albums. Trading the piano for the guitar, Waits is getting rawer and bluesier and title track is a great example of this. Waits is in transition here, so you also get a stunning orchestrated rendition of Gershwin’s “Somewhere”, and the beautiful piano ballad, “Kentucky Ave.”, but you also get the juke joint swagger of “Romeo Is Bleeding” and “Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard”. This is also the record that contains one of Waits’ most popular songs ever, “Christmas Card from A Hooker in Minneapolis”.

Heartattack & Vine (1980) – Released in 1980, Heartattack and Vine was Waits’ final album on Elektra Asylum and it built on the raw blues approach of Blue Valentine with the incendiary title track, the funky, organ driven “Downtown” and the stomping NOLA blues of “Mr. Siegal”. This album also contains some of Waits most popular ballads, including “Jersey Girl” which was famously a hit for Bruce Springsteen. “On the Nickle” is a moving song about the homeless people who lived on 5th street in downtown LA, and “Ruby’s Arms” is a beautiful song with a lovely Bach-like melody.

LUCIA COMNES – Held In The Arms (Delfina DR386-LC09)

Held In The ArmsHer fifth album and only the second to feature all original material, Held In The Arms, Comnes’ follow-up to 2015’s Love, Hope & Tyranny, again produced in collaboration with multi-instrumentalist and sometime co-writer Gawain Mathews, is another Americana package of folk, blues and country, this time with songs centred around the theme of ‘things that nurture’ – friends, family, nature and women – as emblemised by the embracing arms design of the cover.

‘Winter in the Mountains’ kicks things off in suitably sprightly style, Comnes on fiddle and Rob Hooper providing the brushed drums, evoking Dolly Parton on a song about going home for Christmas, the shuffling rhythm taking a midsection break for a slower semi-spoken passage before the fiddle sparks it off again. Mathews on mandolin and the other number to be propelled by Hooper’s kit, ‘On The Farm’, the lyrics of which provide the album title, is another bouncy bluegrass tinted track, written for a friend who founded the Big Mesa organic vegetable farm in Bolinas, California.

The tempo slows for ‘Grace’, co-writer Robert Mitchell on guitar, a Nashville country celebration of gathering round the kitchen table, building bridges, swapping conversations and linking arms to give blessings. There’s a touch of Grappelli fiddle to go with the Spanish guitar and saloon piano on the portrait sketch of the fantasising enigmatic ‘Lady Tamarind’ and if there’s a hint of ‘Dance Me To The End of Love’ to the melody, Cohen colours are more noticeable (‘Suzanne’ to be specific) on the slow waltzing ‘Matilde’, another character sketch, here of childhood and the passing years.

From children to four legged friends, ‘Good Hands’ in a jaunty, fiddle-driven Appalachian country number about caring for and connections with various horses, taking things down again for another slow waltz in the poignant ‘Side By Side’, a song about sisterhood bonds and the walls that can sometimes come between. One of three written with Mathews, the female friendship-themed ‘Mirabelle’ is more of a rock track, driven by punchy drums and electric guitars with Comnes giving it a descending la la la la refrain.

Although perhaps not entirely politically correct, unless you’re Donald Trump’s sons, with Mathews on Dobro and accordion it’s back to family for the backwoods folksy feel of ‘The Hunter’, the story of an uncle growing from a child hunting rabbits with his father and wild deer to a grown man hunting the plains of Namibia.

Another reaching-out, friendship-themed number, ‘I’m With You’ has an itchy, almost sultry samba flavour, albeit with a couple of folksy fiddle interjections, while the Appalachian rooted ‘Song For Mama’ is a self-explanatory daughter-mother love letter and ‘Morning Star’, which features fiddle, dobro and Kyle Caprista on drums, comes in blended shades of Southern country soul and mountain folk.

It ends with the slow march swaying ‘The Sleeping Lady’s Daughter’, another mother-daughter love song, except here the mother’s bosom is the land of her childhood and the song a celebration of the simple joys of watching the sun rise and fall over the redwood hills and blankets of mist, riding the swell of the tide to the call of the quail. In her bio it says her songs seek to reconnect people with nature and their own roots; let them give you a big hug.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘Grace’ – live:

Michael Chapman tours in April

Michael Chapman

2016 was a landmark year for Michael Chapman. As well as celebrating his 75th birthday it was also 50 years since he first went on the road professionally. We organised some special events to mark this important milestone in his life and career – including a short residency in London, a UK tour with BJ Cole on pedal steel and Sarah Smout on cello, and issues of some new recordings, including collections of guitar instrumentals Fish and Homages. Never one to stand still for long, Chapman continues touring in 2018 with more new projects including his new album 50 on vinyl and some exciting new collaborations are in the pipeline.

New recordings: Chapman’s new album 50 was released in January 2017 on the Paradise Of Bachelors label. Produced by & featuring Steve Gunn it features his first full band sound for some 20 years.

Michael Chapman (born Leeds Yorkshire – 1941) first became known on the London and Cornish folk circuits in 1966. Playing a blend of atmospheric and autobiographical material he established a reputation for intensity and innovation. Signed to EMI’s Harvest label he recorded a quartet of classic albums. LPs like Rainmaker and Wrecked Again defined the melancholic observer role Michael was to make his own, mixing intricate guitar instrumentals with a full band sound.

His influential album Fully Qualified Survivor, featuring the guitar of Mick Ronson (David Bowie) and Rick Kemp’s bass (Steeleye Span), was John Peel’s favourite album of 1970. Survivor featured the Chapman “hit”, ‘Postcards of Scarborough’, a characteristically tenderly sour song recounting the feelings of nostalgia and regret.

Chapman is known as one of the UK’s best finger picking style guitar players. As part of a continuing musical lineage that includes the likes of Ralph McTell, John Martyn, Davey Graham and Bert Jansch, Chapman is still active touring and recording and his playing is on top form. There are regular releases of new recordings, (Fish – 2015) archive recordings (Live at Folk Cottage -2013) and reissues of his classics. Rainmaker, Fully Qualified Survivor, Wrecked Again, Window and Playing The Guitar The Easy Way have been reissued by USA label Light In The Attic on CD and vinyl format as a complete reissue series of his early work on EMI’s Harvest label.

Recent collaborations with Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and the American “primitive school” of guitar players including the late John Fahey and Jack Rose, opened up a whole new audience of US based admirers. Appearing on recordings with Hiss Golden Messenger and Steve Gunn has cemented Chapman’s position as pivotal figure in roots, folk and acoustic guitar playing over the last 50 years.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

Buying through Amazon on 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:

The classic ‘Postcards Of Scarborough’ – live:

Tour for detailed listings.

April 19th- The Platform Morecambe 8pm £14

20th- the Live Room, Caroline Social Club, Shipley 7.30 pm £12

21st- Scarborough Market Hall, Scarborough 7pm £10

22nd The Deaf Institute, Manchester 7.30 pm £16

25th The Lexington, London 7.30 pm £14 + booking fee

26th- Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, 7pm £16 (£17.50 inc booking fee)

27th Greystones, Sheffield, 8 pm £13

28th The Basement, York 8pm £10 advance £12 on the door.