I’ve followed Loreena McKennitt’s career for over two decades and she has never failed to captivate me with her slightly mannered vocals and well-crafted musical landscapes. I use the term ‘mannered’ as unlike so many of her contemporaries enunciation is primary in her delivery. That’s not to dismiss it as some half-hearted attempt at snobbery it’s just that (for a change) you can understand every word…and I do mean every word. McKennitt has not immersed herself so fully in the tradition since her debut album ‘Elemntal’ in 1985 but the passage of time merges seamlessly and following on from her more extravagant encounters with the folk-rock genre with full band backing she has chosen a more or less acoustic path with this recording. Securing the services of thirteen musicians including long-time associates Brian Hughes (guitars and bouzouki) and Hugh Marsh (violin) along with established exponents Tony McManus (guitar) and Caroline Lavelle (cello) the songs including “As I Roved Out” and “Death Of Queen Jane” along with a sparse arrangement of the instrumental “Brian Boru’s March” are sparingly approached without being boring. Finally, and don’t get me wrong but with a credits list that reads like a Hollywood blockbuster it is the audio delight issuing from that little silver platter that makes for a more than rewarding listen and a welcome addition to anyone who enjoys their music with a penchant for all things traditional. http://www.quinlanroad.com/ PETE FYFE
Since 2002 when she won Scotland’s Young Traditional Music Award Emily Smith has garnered many accolades from the folk music press with no less than Mike Harding citing “…As far as I’m concerned she can walk on water!” Possibly a little over the top but certainly heading in the right direction this young lady is a fair old chanter and in company with her musicians including James Fagan, Stuart Duncan and long-time collaborator Jamie McClennan makes a more than pleasurable sound. With a traditional background it’s unsurprising to find the likes of “Gypsy Davy”, and “Lord Donald” in her repertoire along with Richard Thompson’s “Waltzing’s For Dreamers” and her own self composed tracks nestling comfortably within a set that showcases her not inconsiderable talents as both musician and songwriter. Possibly my favourite track on the album is the gently sweeping acoustic funk of “Sweet Lover Of Mine” a setting of one of many traditional puzzle songs although I have to say that the rather abrupt ending isn’t quite so much to my taste. Perhaps it could have been rounded off by a tune…but, a minor quibble on what is a well-produced recording and a further feather to Smith’s burgeoning career. PETE FYFE
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 on the banner link 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.emilysmith.org/
Chris Newman is not only a really nice bloke but also one of my favourite ‘folk’ guitarists along with Simon Nicol, Frank Simon (ex-Bully Wee), Ken Nicol, Arty McGlynn and Tony McManus now that you ask…so, it goes without saying that I always expect great things and of course, Chris never fails to deliver. Forty years? Is that really how long he’s been plying his trade? Well, it would appear so from the information gleaned from the press notes and getting down to the nitty-gritty from the exquisite delicacy of the self-composed opening track “Pear Drops And Fourteen Pounds” (written to celebrate his earliest paid gigs) you can feel comfortable in the knowledge that here is a master-craftsman at the peak of his abilities. Surrounding himself with an equally talented bunch of musicians including partner Maire Ni Chathasaigh (harp), his brother Mark on guitar, Nollaig Casey (violin), Arty McGlynn (guitars) and Simon Mayor on mandolin the music presented is nothing short of astonishing! Virtuosity abounds from the fingers of Newman and as you go through the album you will be left breathless by the beauty of it all. With ten of his own compositions running alongside traditional numbers including “The Humours Of Kiltyclogher/Gusty’s Frolics” and the often utilised “Silver Spire” leading into the major/minor American country tune “The Cattle In The Cane” the quality of Newman’s digital dexterity are never in question. For those budding guitarists amongst you I couldn’t recommend an album more highly. Sit down (you’ll need to) listen and above all enjoy. http://www.oldbridgemusic.com/ PETE FYFE
Some things are best left simple and, as if to prove the point comes this first recording by Manchester based fiddle player Emma Sweeney sensitively backed by Paul Callick and Steve Byrnes on guitars and rhythm provided by the bodhrans of Tad Sargent and Sam Proctor. In 2003 she was a finalist of the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Musician of the year and on the strength of this recording (even though it has been sometime coming and rather short at only five tracks) you can see why. Fully in control of her main instrument (she also plays whistle) with a display of subtle showmanship on the self-composed slow reels “Endless Thoughts/The Last Straw” or the more up-tempo “Mucky Fingers/The Mountain Top/Brid Harper’s” Emma adds drama with a skilful delivery that is high-lighted by Michael McGoldrick’s excellent production. An impressive debut from an impressive performer and hopefully it won’t be too long before a full album is available.
Artist web link: https://www.facebook.com/emmasweeneymusic/
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“If you want to hear great vocals and songs accompanied by blistering guitar then go and see Adrian Nation live” Chris While
Midland based Barry Hunt – singer/songwriter, guitar teacher and a master of his craft with a Masters Degree in Song writing – has unleashed an album of his own songs (together with inspiration from Joe Bennett, Bex Cullen and Jan Jay) and this album – Living In The Shadows has been very well received by all who hear it. The album carries a mirage of genre and opens up with an full bodied up-tempo number – Left it Too Long – which gives a rocky uplifting start, the second track which is the title track couldn’t be any different and Chris Rea would have believed it was himself singing! Bluesy guitar and Barry sings in a gravel voice enviable of Chris himself. Piano with superb backing vocals from Barry’s daughter Chloe is a beautiful rhythmic number entitled There’s Nothing Here to See. (Plenty to hear though!) Our Final Day is quite a mournful number, but a track that really stands out to me, as does The Road that Leads to You. Blues, country, acoustic, rnr, contemporary, its all there. 12 delicious tracks and not a duff one amongst them! Now that’s rare!
Barry has worked hard on this album, he has some songs left over and there will be another album out in the early part of 2011 which we are already looking forward to. An album that really is a must in anyone’s collection as it has so many different types of music on it, that you can leave it on your player all day and not get tired of it! Give it a try! Go and see Barry live at a venue near you by keeping an eye on his website http://www.barryhunt.co.uk/ where you can also purchase the album. Jean Camp