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PETER FERGUS McCLELLAND – The Turn Of The Tide (Hobgoblin HOBCD1017)

The Turn Of The TidePete McClelland, if I may be so familiar to address him thus, has had a busy year. This is his second solo album of 2017 to sit alongside his contributions to Hobgoblin’s 40th anniversary collection. The Turn Of The Tide began as a stage show performed at Cornwall Folk Festival. It includes several well-known songs with singable choruses and went down well as you’d expect. Now it’s recorded with support from Pete’s friends and colleagues.

The album is divided into four sections but it wouldn’t matter if it were otherwise – I think it was a good excuse to get ‘Johnny Sands’ into the set. He begins with one of my favourite songs, ‘The Island Of  St Helena’, which isn’t heard anywhere near enough these days and follows that with another song from Nic Jones’ catalogue, ‘The Isle Of France’. Pete has a rich voice and isn’t afraid of showing off his impressive range which can be disconcerting when he takes a familiar tune off for a wander. His approach may be described as robust and his supporters follow his lead. That’s fine for a song like ‘Top Alex’ – about the burning of Southend pier – but sometimes it lacks a touch of subtlety.

The second section, Fishing, begins with Stan Rogers’ ‘Make And Break Harbour’ followed by Lennie Gallant’s ‘Peter’s Dream’. This is an inspired pairing mirroring the stoicism and resignation of Rogers’ fisherman with the anger of Gallant’s who finally shoots his boat full of holes. Choruses come with ‘The Herring’s Head’ and Bob Roberts’ ‘Candlelight Fisherman’ and the best song of the Rivers section is undoubtedly the country road-trip of ‘The Appalachian Way’

The album closes with Archie Fisher’s ‘Men Of Worth’. It’s not his best-known song but it wraps the project up rather neatly, exhorting both farmers and fishermen to work on the oil-rigs. It was also considered too controversial for the BBC back in the 1970s. You wouldn’t believe it.

The Turn Of The Tide has a nicely old-fashioned feel – mostly traditional with a thematic link that isn’t overemphasised. On one hand it’s an easy listen and on the other there are songs to make you think about the way the world is. I like it.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: http://www.petemcclelland.com/

THE DARIA KULESH QUARTET talk to Folking

Daria Kulesh Quartet
Photograph by Jason Emberton

For their many fans there is sadness at the news that the latest iteration of Kara has disbanded. With the plan not quite coming together, both Phil Underwood and Pete Morton have had to take their leave to continue with other projects with founding members Daria Kulesh and Kate Rouse enthusiastic to focus on new music. Daria goes back to the beginning of the story.

“I started my musical journey as part of Kara and then, on a whim, decided to release my solo album, Eternal Child, and thought it would just be a little vanity project. Then Long Lost Home was an epic project for me and I really poured all my heart and soul into it and hopefully it’s paid off. The last year has been really incredible on the back of that release and all my adventures and journeys that went with it. Effectively Daria Kulesh has become a thing – I don’t even really know who she is any more – and that has taken over from Kara.

“It was following Kara’s gig at The Troubadour that Pete said it really should be about my leading the band. I was quite excited about working with Pete and sharing the spotlight but what he felt was that I needed to be a mean diva with a mean band backing me.” Pete always had a neat turn of phrase.

The first recruit to the new line-up was pianist Marina Osman. “We’ve known each other for a long time. We were doing some covers…” At this point Daria interrupts to explain that the episode in question was too embarrassing to talk about and then proceeded to explain that they were doing Lady Gaga covers. Marina finally gets a word in again. “It was a great experience but Daria had some much creativeness in her that she could not do just simple covers…and she decided to be a diva.”

Marina starts to explain that they have been working together as a duo on “the Russian project” and Daria leaps in again. “There is just so much serendipity in all of this. Marina and I were, not exactly out of touch, but we hadn’t done anything together for quite a while.” And now it gets complicated – let’s see if I’ve got it. Daria’s song ‘The Moon And The Pilot’ went viral after her appearance on the BBC World Service and her name was out there in Russia and Ingushetia. The presenter also suggested her for an event at Pushkin House, the Russian Cultural Centre, performing music that is virtually unknown in the UK.

“Marina and I learned thirty minutes of material for this event and the director of Pushkin House immediately rebooked us for a full set so we started work on a set of Russian film songs and some Russian folk classics. We kept getting repeat bookings and started mixing it up with some original material and then Marina had a little jam with Kara at The Troubadour. That was when Pete told me she was gold dust and to get her in my band.”

The fourth member of the new band is guitarist Tristan Seume who also works with Jackie Oates and admits to combining classical guitar lessons with busking Levellers’ songs in an underpass. I get the impression that Tristan knows pretty much everybody but how did he end up here?

“I got an email from Kate just over a year ago, asking me if I’d like to try out for a band. I was flattered to get an invitation but at the time I was so committed elsewhere that I left it in my unread folder because I wanted to write a nice, polite, thoughtful response but it just slipped further down my to-do list. Fast forward a year and a change of circumstances and I was going through unread emails and decided to respond to it. Because I was in a silly mood I thought I’d write something just to say ‘for what it’s worth I’ve got some time on my hands’. Within an hour I got a response from Kate.”

Prior to the formal interview, I’d watched the band at work, developing a new arrangement of Daria’s single ‘Vasilisa’ and working on a new song, ‘Pride Of Petravore’, a Percy French piece that had been suggested by Pete. Daria knew the song; Kate knew it in a different key, because Kara had performed it as an instrumental, but neither Tristan nor Marina knew it at all. Within about thirty minutes they had it ready to take into the studio to record a demo. That is the measure of the new band. The interesting thing is that Kate seems to be the one with the ability to sift through all the ideas and pull together the best ones.

“It’s my background”, she says modestly. “I’ve always been arranging my own parts and perhaps hearing things in a slightly different way. I’m the one more familiar with the Kara material but we’ve all learned lessons and become more aware about refining the music in a certain way. Someone needs to say ‘I think it should be this’ and not be shy about it. Plus the dulcimer is a big part of the band and I’m a bit protective about it.

The name of the new line-up was, for a while, a matter for debate. It might have been The Daria Kulesh Band or Daria Kulesh And Friends. I made several suggestions that were, quite rightly, rejected but they have now settled on The Daria Kulesh Quartet. Daria and Marina have recorded some new tracks which may figure on a Vasilisa EP and the new band has spent time in the studio preparing for their first gigs in the new year. It’s all very exciting and I’m looking forward to the finished product.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: http://www.daria-kulesh.co.uk/

‘Pride Of Petravore’:

ROB CORCORAN & THE NECESSARY EVILS – Inverse Alchemy (Sullen Link)

Inverse AlchemyThere is something instantly appealing about Rob Corcoran & The Necessary Evils’ debut album, Inverse Alchemy. Its songs are honest, relatable, lived, and the musicianship is almost without fault, making for a fantastically constructed piece of art. From the fiddle-laden, opener ‘Downtime Waltz’ to closing ballad ‘Pub On The Hill’, we are given something of a masterclass in Americana music…well, Americana with a Dublin accent.

In between these well placed bookends, several finely crafted originals stand out from the album. The sadly optimistic ‘Get To You’, the hobo dustbowl daydream that is ‘Train Song’ and the borderline blasphemous ‘What Did You Do With Joseph, Jesus?’; a number that is so catchy, its been stuck in my head, sending my Catholic guilt into overdrive.

But there are even stronger songs; ‘Black Hearted Man’, which is both an amazingly honest admission of personal shortcomings and a warning; “believing in me is gonna get you burned…” Corcoran revisits this notion of belief in ‘Tuesdays’, which sees our protagonist spending his Tuesday evenings playing to nobody, yet feels the evening to have been salvaged by returning home to a presumed lover, who not only “waited up” but “believed” in our songwriter’s “fading dream”. The record’s centrepiece however, has to be ‘Four In The Morning’ in which Basia Bartz violin and Corcoran’s lyrics intertwine to paint an instantly descriptive scene which unfolds as if it were happening before our very eyes:

It’s four in the morning, its already light,
Birds are singing farewell to the London night
A police siren woke me out of a dream
And I’m lying here in the afterglow
its slipping away, as the new light of day
Meet the murmur of late night radio…”

The subject matter for Inverse Alchemy is at times, dark, and at other times very dark, but in a weird way, it is also a very uplifting record. It is consistently well written, well played and I’m already looking forward to revisiting it again (and again) in the future. Bravo for this one.

Christopher James Sheridan

Artist’s website: www.robcorcoranmusic.com

‘Black Hearted Man’:

DAVID BOTTING – Heart Beat (Haven Records)

Heart BeatHeart Beat is the debut album from singer songwriter David Botting. Hard times in life can be the inspiration for many great songs, as David certainly knows. David has been playing guitar for as long as he can remember, but started writing songs while he became unwell with heart failure after a virus and was awaiting a heart transplant. He has documented his journey through a series of eleven songs, which acted as therapy during his treatment and kept him sane. Songwriter and producer Boo Hewerdine heard David perform, and wanted to collaborate on the album project. David wants to raise public awareness about organ donation and all the proceeds of the album will be donated to the Harefield Hospitals Charity.

The whole album is simply guitar and vocal and I really like the guitar playing. David’s influences are John Martyn and Kelly Joe Phelps. The feeling of the album is mellow and the arrangements are impeccable. It’s percussive and bluesy on some tracks and melodic in others with the sound of alternate tunings.

I particularly like the first track ‘Almenalp’, about a lovely place in Switzerland.
If I said there’s another world, another place above the clouds, would you come there and walk with me?
In sun blessed higher meadows high above the crowd, come there and walk with me.”
And track ten, ‘Camino De Le Luce’.
“We were lost and we were found on the camino, only ringing bells to guide us, only footsteps there beside us.”
Both songs are about real places but everybody has their own camino and place above the clouds so these songs have a universal appeal.

David’s voice is mellow with a breathy tone and a little bit gravely. For me the vocal feels a little bit sparse next to the guitar and I would have liked to hear some female backing vocals on it to bring out the lyrics a little more and balance the intricate guitar arrangements.

Gillian McCoy

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it 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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Artist’s website: https://www.facebook.com/david.botting

‘Taking The Pulse’:

LUKE DANIELS – Singing Ways To Feel More Junior (Gael Records GAEL017)

Singing WaysSinging Ways To Feel More Junior by Luke Daniels, is a wonderfully eclectic collection of a dozen songs, most of which are Daniels’ originals. It goes in many different directions (occasionally at the same time) and presents shades of folk, funk, blues, jazz and Americana, and while some of the tracks have slightly more edge than others, there is a definite sense of sweetness and brightness contained throughout.

The album opens with ‘Penny In The Slot’; it’s catchy, it’s fun and it bizarrely borrows from the 2003 ‘Fast Food Song’; incorporating the less-than-immortal line “McDonalds, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut” into its lyric. Just as bizarrely, however, it works. While This Americana vibe is continued into the album’s second track (‘Only Love I’ll Leave To You’), it is the steady, danceable rhythms of ‘The House That Jack Built’ which introduce us to the album’s funkier elements. These grooves are very enjoyable, and are followed up by the beautifully delivered, (if comparatively melancholic) title track.

Following this number we are once again guided down the well-travelled Americana route through the quirkiness of the uplifting mandolin-led ‘Let’s Not Waste Another Day’ and ‘Strange Power’, before we get to the bluesy Presidential piss-take; ‘Elizabeth Trump And Sons’, one of two topically tinged numbers on the disc; with ‘Better The Devil You Know’ featuring on the album’s last quarter. Indeed, even at this late stage, we continue to hear new approaches and new experiments; the eerie but engaging soundbites which introduce ‘What Becomes Of Gilgamesh’ or the closing number, (Stevie Wonder cover) ‘Don’t You Worry About A Thing’, which boasts another tremendous vocal take, and proves the perfect conclusion to an interesting, enjoyable, if at times off the wall journey through this collection of “new songs for grown-ups.”

Christopher James Sheridan

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it 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 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: www.lukedanielsmusic.com

‘The House That Jack Built’ – official video:

Mary Gauthier – Rifles and Rosary Beads

Mary Gauthier - Rifles and Rosary Beads

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier will release her most important work to date with Rifles & Rosary Beads on January 26th, 2018 via Proper Records. Co-written with U.S. veterans and their families, the eleven deeply personal songs on this album reveal the untold stories, and powerful struggles that these veterans and their spouses deal with abroad and after returning home.

Each year it is estimated that over 7400 current and former members of the United States Armed Services take their own lives. While these songs were written with US Veterans, Soldiers in the UK are dealing with the exact same problems. The songs featured on Rifles & Rosary Beads were all co-written as part of Songwriting With Soldiers, a non-profit programme that facilitates retreats bringing professional songwriters together with wounded veterans and active duty military. Participants have shared that the experience of songwriting was life-changing for them, some even said life-saving.

No stranger to pain or demons herself, Gauthier has used songwriting to work through addiction and childhood abandonment as an orphan. This is the first album where she has focused solely on experiences other than her own. The songs on Rifles & Rosary Beads tackle a variety of viewpoints. “The War After The War” deals with the strain put on a relationship while living with someone who has returned from serving, while “Iraq” depicts the helpless horror of a female military mechanic being dehumanized and sexually harassed by fellow soldiers. The gorgeous album highlight “Bullet Holes In The Sky” is a bittersweet reflection on the mixed emotions of being a veteran.

Mary Gauthier is helping veterans share experiences that only they can understand, in a way that we as listeners can relate to. This process not only has the power to touch others but also to help soldiers take a step towards healing, while at the same time creating beautiful art.

Mary Gauthier has received countless critical accolades over the last decade and a half for her seven studio albums and captivating live performances. Her previous album Trouble & Love was praised by the press, including glowing coverage from outlets including Mojo, Uncut, Financial Times, Sun, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, NPR Music, Huffington Post, American Songwriter and many more.

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it 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 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 Web Link: http://www.marygauthier.com/