I can’t remember who suggested I check out The Re-Entrants. Still, it wasn’t a bad idea as my tastes in music spread far wider than what a majority of people who read my reviews perceive to be my ‘folk’ roots. So, hand on mouse I clicked on my computer to chase the lads down. When I did, I caught a brief video of them at (what looked like to me) a packed gig with everyone just up for a great night out. I can’t remember what the song was but Phil Dolman and Ian Emmerson were performing what appeared to be outrageous alcohol induced ukulele arrangements of ‘covers’ by established artists. With this little silver disk in my hands, I can assure you that ‘is’ exactly what they do. There are no smart-arse arrangements a la Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain no, this is more akin to Adrian Edmondson’s Bad Shepherds. That’s not to say it’s a bad recording, more that it has the attitude of “we like it so we’ll do it!” The ‘covers’ include Labi Siffre’s “It Must Be Love” and “Ghost Town” as originally performed by Madness, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day” and an outstanding version of McCartney’s “Live And Let Die”. Taking no prisoners (is no one safe?) The Re-Entrants prove you can play a diverse array of music keeping a respectful but humorous approach that should appeal to anyone who wants to have a laugh whilst enjoying some excellent musical interpretations. Keep up the good work fellers and hopefully we’ll see them on the festival circuit soon.
OK, I know nepotism isn’t a nice thing but when the artist I am reviewing just happens to be my best mate in a professional and personal sense and a damn fine fiddle player to boot then I think I should be forgiven this one transgression. As well as part of our established duo Band Of Two, Gaz has many other strings to his bow and has recently completed a project he has been working on for some time called The Ceremony Of May. In collaboration with his wife Rose (who wrote the lyrics and poems), Jane Downes (the narrator), Edd Blakeley (Garry’s son) plus Hugh Crabtree (melodeon) and Tom Leary (additional fiddle) from Feast Of Fiddles, he has created a gem that only the ‘folk’ world could produce much like Ashley Hutching’s “The Complete Dancing Master” before it. The disk is festooned with great melodies each of which I could see at home as ‘session’ tunes particularly the opening track “Dawn Awakening” and the distinctly traditional Morris-sounding medley “Sunrise/A New Day Begins”. For those who enjoy their folk-rock with a bit of bite there are the dramatic “The Green Man” and “Bogies-of-the-Green” both of which possess fine anthem like qualities in the tradition of rallying calls for England and St George. Balancing the light and shade of the music there’s a more acoustic approach taken on the evocative song “Farewell To Winter” which I’m sure will prove a winner with those who enjoy their music Radio 2 friendly and the narrative carried throughout by the animated tones of Jane Downes (also established as ‘the caller’ for The Catsfield Steamers) is a delight that will appeal to anyone who listens to Radio 4. This is the kind of album that is hard to pigeon-hole as it crosses categories of the ‘arts’ scene but you can rest assured if you’re looking for something challenging but ultimately fulfilling this will definitely be the album for you. PETE FYFE
Artist web link: http://www.garryblakeley.co.uk/music.shtml
I didn’t know that Elmer Bernstein was a closet ‘folkie’ and that he’d contributed to a canon of ‘folk’ tunes that grace this great little silver disk. Then again, I’m not sure either what he would have thought of having his ‘Magnificent 7 Theme’ being both crusts to a jig sandwich with “Victor’s Return” & “Tar Road To Sligo” as the filling. Somehow though I think he’d have a wry smile on his face rather like that of this reviewer. As an opening hand this could be quite a gamble but for those that have seen this band of merry men on their annual foray around the UK will already know that as well as exceedingly fine musicians they also enjoy a bit of a laugh with their audience. The line-up reads like a who’s who of the scene including Phil Beer, Ian Cutler, Peter Knight, Tom Leary, Chris Leslie, Brian McNeill and Garry Blakeley and that’s just the fiddlers! In the engine room we have Dave Mattacks (drums), Hugh Crabtree (melodeon), John Underwood & Martin Vincent (guitars) and Dave Harding (bass). Perhaps not so cool these days but personally I’m pleased to see a return to the time-honoured riffs and guitar solos as utilised on Crabtree’s “Ivor The Knight” that were so much a part of the make-up of folk-rock bands in the 70’s/80’s also listening to “Dave Robert’s French Waltz” brings a sentimental longing for days that have long since past. As you’d expect, the album features many fine traditional (and traditional sounding) tunes but it’s the band’s cheeky doffing of the cap (although still respectful) tribute to Aerosmith and Deep Purple that will get tongues wagging. More please fellas! http://www.feastoffiddles.com Pete Fyfe
By hook or by crook here is a CD just waiting to be reviewed. The Bad Shepherds consist of Adrian Edmondson, Troy Donockley, Maartin Allcock and Andy Dinan with additional percussion from Mark Woolley (no jokes please) who obviously just want to have a good time along with their audience and in the process create a bit of acoustic anarchy. And what better way than to open proceedings than with the anthem “I Fought The Law”. The sleeve notes state that Edmondson performs ‘thrash’ mandolin and who would we be to criticise his judgement when that’s exactly what he does. Of course, the clever stuff is left to Donockley, Allcock and Dinan that shines through in the band’s sparkling arrangements where, take for instance, the change gearing up the rhythm half-way through the Jam’s “Down In The Tube Station At Midnight” works brilliantly. Surprisingly (for this reviewer anyway) Ade maintains a serious edge to his vocal prowess without outlandishly over emphasising the lyrics by forcing them punk-like from rasping tonsils and for those of a ‘folk’ persuasion that might be frightened off by the mere thought of a badly judged performance just sit back and enjoy. By the way, check out Troy’s plaintive Uillean Pipes on “The Model”…it certainly beats the original arrangement. Now, before I fence myself in by saying how much I enjoyed this album let’s start counting down together… www.thebadshepherds.com PETE FYFE
Starting with the Gaelic song “Donald’s Sporran” immediately puts me in mind of when I first heard the arrangement of “Brose & Butter” by Ossian in the late 70’s. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact, more power to Daimh’s collective elbow for allowing the creative juices to flow from guest producer Donald Shaw on an album that is studded with gems. Although there may be a perceived (from the listener’s point of view) obstacle of propelling the Gaelic language as the language of choice instead of English you get the feeling that this was never a problem for Shaw as he’s been breaking these barriers for many years with his own band Capercaillie. So, with the mission clearly stated in making the Gaelic vocals of Calum Alex MacMillan, Angus MacKenzie (pipes & whistles), Colm O’Rua (banjo & mandola), Gabe McVarish (fiddle), James Bremner (bodhran) and the guitar of Ross Martin more accessible to the general public you can relax and enjoy an exquisite slice of Scottish culture. Not unlike the afore mentioned Ossian and the Tannahill Weavers before them Daimh show commendable restraint in some of the driving fiddle/pipes set pieces such as “White Houses” and “Lock And Load” and it is apparent that here is an ensemble totally at ease with their choice of artistic endeavours. PETE FYFE
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Artist web link: http://www.daimh.net/
Well, what a week this has turned out to be for Hampshire. Firstly there was the Gosport & Fareham Easter Festival followed swiftly by a return to the wonderful Willows Folk Club in Arundel and a chance to catch up with The Tannahill Weavers who once again have found time to fit in a short tour of the UK in their tight International touring schedule. I arrived at the club early…along with a majority of the sold out audience and manned my newly purchased camcorder (what a disappointment that turned out to be losing all of the footage!) Still, what a great night and hosted by the effervescent Chris Davis a lot of club organisers could learn a thing or two about the art of hospitality. Greeting the crowd as if he knew everyone personally Chris’s wit and charm warmed everyone up in no time and after several floor-singers it was time for the main act. Opening with a scurl of pipes and “The Arnish Light” this soon established the band’s passionate trademark ‘take no prisoners’ approach keeping up the pace for the whole hour and a half. Now paired down to a four-piece fronted by the charismatic (and comedic) Roy Gullane on lead vocal and guitar this sparse though driving rhythmic force was buoyed by the fiery instrumental artillery of Phil Smillie (flute & whistle), John Martin (fiddle) and Colin Melville on Highland/Small pipes and whistle. Moving onto the stirring “The Final Trawl” the Tannies soon had the audience joining in with the chorus setting the pattern for the evening’s performance. Now, I know that many of the younger generation of ‘folk’ musicians would be pretenders to the crown but when watching a master-class in the art of how to introduce a song/tune you could do no better than observe Mr Gullane in full flow. With a glint in his eye and a sincerity that could see him become Prime Minister we discover that the band were due to provide the soundtrack for a Scottish version of the film “Silence Of The Lambs” titled “Shut Up Ewes”…now how’s that for a punch-line? All too soon it was the end of the evening and with an inspired set of tunes lead by the glorious pipe tune “Pipe Major George Allan” and an unusual setting of “Auld Lang Syne” the audience left the club disappointed that it had all come to end but with a huge smile on each of their faces! www.tannahillweavers.com PETE FYFE