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LOREENA McKENNITT – The Wind That Shakes The Barley (Quinlan Records QRCD114)

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. PETE FYFE

EMILY SMITH – Traiveller’s Joy (White Fall Records WFRCD004)

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

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CHRIS NEWMAN – Still Getting Away With It (Old Bridge Music OBMCD19)

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. PETE FYFE

EMMA SWEENEY – The Other Crossing (Own Label)

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.


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Adrian Nation FALL OR FLY

A talented, committed musician in his youth, Adrian Nation described his first compositions as “the ramblings of a searching teenager”. He may ramble less these days, but his search continues, and he has evolved into one of the most insightful and incisive songwriters of his generation.
Influenced at an early age by the genius of Bob Dylan and the melodic fluidity of Mark Knopfler’s haunting guitar, Adrian’s teenage eyes and ears were truly opened when the late Isaac Guillory “played the guitar like I had never seen.” Reflecting on this experience Adrian says, “Suddenly the acoustic guitar was a much bigger instrument than I ever thought it could be. My mind was set.” 
In 2003 Adrian released his first solo work, the critically acclaimed SOWING SEEDS, a collection of ten self-composed songs packaged with beautiful artwork. Would Adrian fall prey to the ‘difficult second album syndrome’ certainly not, an ambitious work by any standards, Adrian has enlisted Chris West to produce the follow-up FALL OR FLY.
Chris’s recent credits include Richard Ashcroft’s platinum-selling KEYS TO THE WORLD. Referring to the project Chris West said, “It’s not often you discover an artist that has the three S’s for success: Songs, Singing and Serious Musicianship. Once you let yourself be charmed by his music, you are hooked.”
The sheer quality of the contributors speaks volumes: Gerry Conway on drums (Jethro Tull, Cat Stevens and Fairport Convention), bassist Brad Lang (Ray Charles, Robbie Williams, Elkie Brooks, Barbara Dickson amongst many), guitarist Colin Linden (celebrated producer of Bruce Cockburn, in-demand Nashville based session player) and Troy Donockley who supplies low whistles & Uillean Pipes (internationally renowned player with Midge Ure, Barbara Dickson and Status Quo).
Amongst those fortunate enough to hear the album during production, Mike Paxman (Judie Tzuke’s writing partner and Status Quo producer) exudes “As soon as you hear the first few bars of ‘Don’t Turn Away’ you are aware that you are in the company of a great songwriter.” and when speaking of Song To Maria Mike Paxman goes further to point out: “For me, the beautiful and evocative ‘Song To Maria’ is one of the best songs I’ve heard in years.” The Other Side Of The Night (Song To Maria) is a true highlight on the album and along with Brightest Star are two of the most emotional songs I have heard in a long, long time, highlighting the true art of the songwriter to perfectly capture the moment. Pivotal to all of this however, is the sublime guitar and voice of Adrian Nation. He is the central pillar around which these performances sit, and the songs are the very foundations upon which the superb FALL OR FLY stands.
Adrian Nation is constantly on the road performing his heartfelt songs at clubs and festivals the length and breadth of the British Isles as well as the rest of Europe, in fact he has just returned from playing the second of two 2010 tours of Greece.

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.

For the latest information and tour news please visit the websites , 

“If you want to hear great vocals and songs accompanied by blistering guitar then go and see Adrian Nation live” Chris While

Barry Hunt – Living In The Shadows

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  where you can also purchase the album. Jean Camp