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CLANNAD – Turas 1980 (Made In Germany Music, MIG02092)

TurasOn the heels of their 1979 US tour – the longest by any Irish band back then – a five-piece Clannad fetched up in Germany having their live show recorded by Radio Bremen. Previously unbroadcast, the recently resurfaced recordings are now available as Turas 1980 (“an turas” meaning “a journey”), a twenty-track double album. Drawing on the band’s early output, the album also features some otherwise unrecorded tracks. It’s a collector’s dream.

It also represents a fascinating point in the band’s evolution. After ten years together, this Donegal family group was on the cusp of achieving unimaginable mainstream global success. Yet here they are, unaware of what’s yet to come, just happy playing to their strong German fanbase.

The live radio recording was a first for the band and Máire Brennan recalls how nervous they all were, although it doesn’t show. This is intensely powerful, rooted and earthy music with a curious timelessness. In tunes like opener ‘Turas Carolan’, the beguiling air of ‘Paddy’s Rambles Through The Fields’ or ‘The Old Couple’, there’s almost a sense of a timeslip: a sidelong glimpse revealing something ancient, raw and deep from the land.

The tracks here also lack much of the misty ethereality characteristic of some of Clannad’s later output, although the roots of it can clearly be heard in songs like ‘Siúil a Rún’ and the bell-like ‘Dúlamán’. The band’s legendary tight harmonies and Moya Brennan’s cool flowing water vocals are beautifully represented, particularly on ‘Valparaiso’ and ‘Máire Bhruinneall’.

The musical tightness and versatility of the band is evident, too. A standard like ‘Down By The Salley Gardens’ may be taken at a respectful, stately pace, but an entirely different mood emerges from the looser, jazzy bass interludes of ‘Níl Sé’n Lá’ that closes the album.

As to sound quality, the music is excellent with all the band parts crisply audible and a pure clean sound. During the often drily witty between-song chat, there is some quality loss and distracting ambient noise, but it’s a small price to pay for an otherwise excellent live recording. It does repay quality audio replay, as the lossy formats don’t really do it justice.

Surviving members of Clannad were involved in bringing this album to fruition and it stands proudly both as an historical memento and a bittersweet memorial to absent friends: to founder Pádraig Duggan, as well as “father of the band” Leo Brennan. It’s a glorious and appropriate tribute.

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: https://www.facebook.com/ClannadMusic/

A selection of Clannad songs recorded in 1978:

Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith announce new album

immy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith

The release of their critically acclaimed second album Night Hours in 2016 cemented Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith’s reputation as two of the most exciting musicians and social commentators on the British folk scene. Songs have always taken centre stage with Jimmy and Sid and on Many A Thousand we see the duo flexing not only their vocal and instrumentation skills, but also their talent as composers. Part of what makes this compelling duo tick is a love of traditional folksong and a mutual passion for the history that is carried in the music. On Many A Thousand the past and present sit side by side, with original songs more than comfortably holding their own next to the traditional. Another crucial element to this partnership is a shared world-view – sustainability, traditional crafts and living in tune with the land – all elements that deeply inform their music.

The shared world-view that is so integral to Jimmy and Sid’s ethos was arrived at from two very different starting points. Although the two grew up five miles apart in Norfolk, they didn’t actually meet until eight years ago. Prior to becoming a professional musician Sid worked for many years in traditional forestry and as a grower on an organic farm on the edge of Bristol. Jimmy did a PhD in Politics and Energy and then worked for several years as an environmental policy advisor at a think tank in Westminster. Both were stalwarts of the Bristol session scene and kept bumping into each other. They’d share the odd tune but it was only when they found themselves in the same ceilidh band (performing at big barn dances across the UK), that they started playing songs together, eventually deciding to form as a duo. They may have come from different ends of the spectrum of environmental work, but they were driven by the same purpose, one that converges in their music and which ultimately drives them to select the songs they sing.

Despite moving away, both are still active on the Bristol scene and involved with the huge barndances around the city, and further afield. These are raucous events with 3-400 young people letting loose to traditional music – not something that you hear about every day. Such a young and vibrant scene, however, needs nurturing and to this end, they are heavily involved in tune sessions and singarounds with the aim of gathering people together and cultivating new singers. Another impetus to create these new nights is that many of the long running folk clubs are starting to close down. This is something that Jimmy and Sid feel passionately about – that the history and community that exists within our folk clubs continues.

The eleven tracks that make up Many A Thousand include traditional songs such as ‘Working Chap’, a bothy ballad from Scotland, which timelessly depicts the struggles of poverty and working to make ends meet, with an additional verse written by Martin Carthy who first recorded the song in 1990. There’s ‘Poacher’s Fate’, a song Jimmy and Sid learnt from one of their all-time favourite Norfolk singers, Harry Cox, who was recorded singing it in 1970 (the act of poaching in traditional songs seen by the duo as an illustration of the age-old battle against land and power lying in the hands of the rich). Then there’s ‘The Reedcutter’s Daughter’, a traditional song about a traveller who falls in love with a girl from Hoveton – a village very close to where the two grew up and which features the organ from St Mary’s, the village church. ‘Hawk’s Call’ is Jimmy and Sid’s re-write of the slave spiritual ‘No More Auction Block’ – their version imagining a world without military conflict. Then we have the original songs – ‘Turning Of The Year’, about the power of the elements to blow away our troubles; ‘The Tide’, written for an event celebrating the history of Rotherhithe on the South bank of the Thames, reflecting on the relentless rhythm of the tide of both river and people in and out of London every day; ‘A Monument To The Times’, a song about Shirebrook in Derbyshire, which for years was the home of a unionised colliery and which now houses several giant warehouses employing people on zero-hours contracts and paying less than minimum wage. And then there’s ‘Hope And Glory’, more pertinent than ever, a defiant song in response to the rise of nationalism in England and the use of a whitewashed image of what the country once was in order to stoke fear of change.

Whatever your political views, these are beautiful and eloquently executed songs, combining outstanding vocal work and sensitive instrumentation. With a powerful sense of social conscience, the common thread of political struggle, resistance and justice runs through their music and their live shows. Call it a kind of quiet, calm activism, if you will, but there’s an integrity that shines through their work that is both invigorating and compelling.

Alongside Jimmy on vocals, banjo and guitar, Sid on vocals, guitar, concertina and double bass, the album also features Tom Moore on violin and viola, Twm Dylan on double bass and Fred Harper on drums and pandeiro.

Many A Thousand will be released on 7th September and launched at Kings Place in London on 6th September. This is followed by a full UK tour including dates at All Hallows Church, Leeds (16th Sept) and Bristol Folk House (30th Sept).

If you would like to order a copy of the first 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://www.jimmyandsidduo.com/

‘Moved On’ – official video:

I SEE HAWKS IN LA – Live And Never Learn (Western Seeds WSRCD-013)

Live And Never LearnHaving released a solo covers collection in 2016, lead singer Robert Waller returns to the band nest for their first album in five years. The good news is that it’s like they’ve never been away, that familiar country rock sound with its Telecaster reverb and Waller’s vocal drawl picking up seamlessly from where they left off. On the downside, there’s one or two numbers here that may have listeners pushing the skip button on subsequent plays.

However, it takes flight in fine style with album opener ‘Ballad For The Trees’, a tribal drum beat and rhythm anchoring one of their upbeat eco-themed numbers as Waller sings “Here’s a song for the Acacia/Here’s a song for honey bees/Here’s a song just for everyone writing down their dreams.” The title track’s up next, a train time chugging country rhythm driving a song about never quite managing to do the right thing (“I try so hard to do what’s right/But that won’t get me through Friday night”), good intentions shot down by barroom shortcomings, while friends turn a blind eye.

They stay on a roll with the bluesier ‘White Cross’, one of two numbers co-penned by Waller, Paul Lacques and Peter Davies from the Good Intentions, following a similar screwing up theme with lines like “Good times didn’t suit me/I had to taste the pain” and “I know the angels love me/Even though I did them wrong.”

However, then comes ‘Stoned With Melissa’, a rocking number about getting high that put me in mind of the boogie side of early Dr. Hook, singing about smoking weed and watching Trading Places on a black and white TV. Lyrically, it takes a darker swerve towards death as it slows towards the end with a more Creedence ballad musical shape and psychedelic shades, but it doesn’t really stand up to repeat plays. The same holds true for ‘King Of The Rosemead Boogie’, a ZZ Top-like track that probably burns live but doesn’t hold the attention on disc. To this list I’d also add the simply country chug ‘Stop Me’, another number that harks to self-destructive tendencies, a decent enough filler but not strong enough to leave a lasting impression as the album closer, and also ‘Spinning,’ a gossamer-fey psych-folk number about fitful dreams written and sung by drummer Victoria Jacobs but lacking in any substantial colour.

She redeems herself, however, with the playful ‘My Parka Saved Me’, a Shangri La’s pastiche recounting the true teenage years events of how, stoned after breaking up with her boyfriend, she drove out to Lake Michigan and was involved in a head-on collision with a drunk driver, saved from potentially fatal lacerations because she was wearing her brother’s parka. Backed by Danny McGough on organ, Jacobs speaks the narrative, her words then echoed in barroom twang fashion by the band along with the chorus. It’s a playful ditty that goes on to tell how, as the guy had no insurance but owned a liquor store, they sued him and she and her friends got to drink for free, at which point her and Waller’s account of things differ. It’s an amusing number but, ultimately, still a novelty track with a short-term listening lifespan.

The remaining numbers, however, all stand up: ‘Poour Me’ a country honky tonk lament about an overfondness for drink soaked in Dave Zirbel’s pedal steel; the conservation and loss themed gentle roll of ‘Planet Earth’; ‘The Last Man In Tujunga’ a country rocker with hints of CCR, the Rolling Stones (a snatch of ‘Satisfaction’) and Mike Nesmith that recounts breaking up over a mobile phone while a California wildfire flames blaze ever closer.

Two of the stronger numbers, both featuring Dave Markowitz on fiddle and accordionist Richie Lawrence, are loaded towards the end, the mid-tempo strum ‘Tearing Me In Two’ and, the other, sung and penned by producer and guitarist Paul Lacques, the ecological-rotted and Gaelic-infused shades of the slow waltzing ‘The Isolation Mountains’.

Ultimately, it’s not as consistently strong an album as the preceding Mystery Drug, but there’s still ample here to keep the ornithological fanbase happy

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).

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: www.iseehawks.com

‘Ballad For The Trees’:

Trail West announce new album

Trail West

From The Sea To The City is the latest album from Trail West, a band leading the thriving scene of Gaels in the city of Glasgow.

Having started out as a four-piece line-up with strong links to the Hebridean Isles of Tiree and South Uist, they have now enhanced their line-up with Jonathan Gillespie from Glasgow on keyboard and vocals along with Allan J Nairn from Ardnamurchan on electric guitar.

From The Sea To The City refers to the journey that many Gaels have to take at some point in their life, moving from their homes by the sea to the city, to pursue further educational and working opportunities. The album is a broad mix from various genres, representing the numerous influences that Trail West have had from both their rural and city upbringings.

The album follows on from their last release, which highlighted a key development in the band’s outlook, with a wide selection of songs becoming an integral part of the band’s repertoire alongside the recognisable accordion and whistle combination of Seonaidh Maclntyre and Ian Smith.

Now with the added talent of Jonathan Gillespie leading three of the songs alongside Seonaidh Maclntyre’s familiar vocals in both English and Gaelic, this album delivers a polished quality to the band’s sound yet with total appreciation for the tradition they are inspired from.

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: www.trail-west.com

A taste of Trail West live:

Hamish Napier announces new album, The Railway

Hamish Napier

The Railway is the much-anticipated new album from Scottish musician Hamish Napier. The follow-up to Hamish Napier’s critically-acclaimed debut solo album The River, Hamish’s newest album will be released on Friday 3rd August.

Returning to his hometown of Grantown-on-Spey, Napier’s collection of new compositions and songs were specially commissioned by the new Grantown East: Highland Heritage & Cultural Centre – the formerly derelict Grantown East railway station that is been lovingly restored as a cultural centre and is set to open on 2nd November 2018.

In 2016, the new owners approached Hamish, as one of Scotland’s finest traditional wooden flute players, to capture the sounds, atmosphere and culture surrounding the old Speyside Line.

In the course of his research for the new album, Hamish conducted interviews with railwaymen closely connected with the Great North of Scotland Railway, including Jimmy Gray (93, a driver from Aviemore), Jocky Hay (94, a driver from Inverness) and James Telfer (94, the last signalman at Grantown-on-Spey East Station). Many of the tunes and songs on The Railway have been inspired by the great stories these men have to tell about their working lives.

The album showcases a stellar line-up of Scottish musicians including Ross Ainslie, Patsy Reid, Ewan Robertson, James Lindsay and Fraser Stone. The Railway also features two songs written for the project by Hamish’s brother Findlay Napier, and cameos from the Strathspey Railway’s whistles, wheels and brakes.

A few words from Hamish on his new album:

“When I performed my debut album in Grantown during the summer of 2016, the new owners of the Grantown East: Highland Heritage and Cultural Centre approached me and asked if I would compose a soundtrack for this fantastic new venture – I was so honoured to be asked!

“‘The Old Railway Station’ as I called it when I was wee, was just over the river from my house. It was haunted and as a dare my brothers, pals and I – including Fraser Stone, the drummer on this album – would sometimes sneak into the forbidden derelict buildings. Over two decades later, with the ruin carefully restored as an important local monument and centre, the ghosts of the railway people are given a platform to tell the world their story.

“This album is dedicated to the railwaymen and women who I spoke to during my research – the inspiration for so much of the material on this album has come from them and the stories they shared with me about their working lives.

“I am so honoured and proud to be given the opportunity to help bring new life to the heritage of my local area with this album. I hope that the listener feels that the music, lyrics, titles and tales capture the atmosphere and sounds of the lost railways of the North and the people that were closely connected with them.”

Hamish Napier is originally from Strathspey in the Scottish Highlands. For over a decade he has been an integral part of Glasgow’s vibrant folk music scene, whilst also touring in Europe and North America.

Hamish’s Celtic Connections’ New Voices commission The River received 4 and 5-star reviews in four national publications, and was released as a highly-regarded debut solo album, named ‘Album of the Week’ on four BBC folk radio shows in Scotland, Shetland, Lancashire and Ulster.

Hamish and his band will present a live performance of The Railway as part of Piping Live Festival in Glasgow on August 17th & 18th, they will also do be performing a live set for BBC Radio Scotland’s Travelling Folk special from the Edinburgh Festival on Sunday 5th August before going on to open the new Grantown East: Highland Heritage & Cultural Centre on Friday 2nd November.

Napier is part of the bold traditional duo Nae Plans with fiddler Adam Sutherland and also performs regularly with Duncan Chisholm, The Jarlath Henderson Band and Ross Ainslie.

He has recorded on over forty folk albums to date, recording with leading Scottish musicians such as Karen Matheson, Donald Shaw, Mike Vass and Eddi Reader.

Over the last decade Hamish has been shortlisted for twelve MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards, including Composer of the Year, Album of the Year and Tutor of the Year.

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: www.hamishnapier.com

‘1000 Horsepower’ – may contain language:

Read Dai Jeffries’ review of Hamish’s debut solo album here: https://folking.com/hamish-napier-the-river-strathspey-records-srcd001/

DAMIEN O’KANE & RON BLOCK – Banjophony (Pure Records PRCD48)

BanjophonyIf you’re not a fan of the five-string egg-slicer you might be thinking of moving on but hold hard there, stranger. This is no ‘Duelling Banjos’, last one to the end gets the beers in mayhem-fest. The object of the exercise was to pair the 5-string banjo of the American tradition with the Irish style of tenor banjo playing but Banjophony does more than that. Most of the music here is contemporary, mostly written by O’Kane and Block with two each by Michael Mooney and David  Kosky and a traditional tune that crept in when no-one was watching.

Have a look at the cast list and you’ll realise that this is something rather special. There’s Stephen Byrnes on guitar, Duncan Lyall and Barry Bales on double bass, Michael McGoldrick on whistle and Stuart Duncan on fiddle just for starters. Indeed, we’re half a minute into the first set, ‘Miller’s Gin/Potato Anxiety’ before we actually hear a banjo courtesy of a lovely guitar intro from Byrnes.

Some tunes sound traditional – Block’s ‘Battersea Skillet Liquor’ is classic southern banjo picking topped of with fiddle – but more sound like new music written with the banjo in mind. O’Kane’s ‘Ode To Aunty Frances’ is a beautiful piece that could be arranged for any instrument(s) you fancy and still sound good. ‘Crafty Colette’ is another tune that approaches the banjo lead slowly and that lead, when it arrives, can best be described as “thoughtful”.

The band are very tight and Byrnes has contributed to the arrangements as has Kosky and all the music was recorded live apart from two double bass parts which came from Tennessee. You can almost feel the rapport between the musicians particularly when a tune doesn’t quite behave as expected. The title track is like that and is well-named.

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’ websites: www.damianokane.co.uk / www.ronblock.com

This short teaser video is all we can find: