folking.com – UK folk and Americana latest news

The Roving Crows – Bacchanalia

Dear Roving Crows – Where have you been all my life?

OK, I see you only formed in 2009. Is that even possible? How in the heck do you weave such distinct sounds from jazz, western swing, and blues through your classic Celtic folk foundation when your band is practically in its musical infancy?

Clearly, you’re all incredible musicians. Paul O’Neil’s sparkling guitar playing, Gregory Wilson-Copp’s Dixieland Jazz-spirited trumpet, and Tim Tolhurst’s vibrant percussion are all first-rate. I have to admit, though, that it’s Caitlin Barrett’s fiddle that stole my heart and kept me around for the whole album. Her playing is so masterful, whether it’s leading or highlighting a tune that it tends to steal the spotlight in several songs.

But I digress.

On your new album “Bacchanalia” you dip into all kinds of musical genres starting with “Long Time Dead.” Can we be honest? When I first heard this Dixieland Jazz number, I wasn’t really into it. There’s no doubt it’s a beautifully played song, but it’s a Dixieland Jazz gem. That’s just not my thing. I stuck around, though, because I heard and loved the fiddle on that track.

Of course I realize that the fiddle isn’t everyone’s thing either. And some folks adore Dixieland Jazz. The point I’m making is that by starting the album with two strong Dixieland numbers, it sets up expectations on both sides of the aisle.

As a not-huge-Dixieland-fan-type, failing to listen to the entire album would have been my loss. For those that really prefer Dixieland, stopping the music when heavy-duty Dixieland ends would be a shame, too, for other reasons.

To me, when you toned down the Dixieland influences on subsequent tracks, your music really blossomed. Consider “Roll on Tomorrow.” Sure, there is Dixieland sound aplenty on that track, but it’s mixed with a super-sized dollop of folk by way of fiddles and harmony. To my ear, that makes it a more interesting tune.

It’s when you get to “White Petticoat,” where Barrett and her fiddle are set free, the old-time Dixie-folk infused “That Was Then,” and the jazzy-blues-folk soaked “Woman After My Own Heart” that lightly sprinkles trumpet through the piece that your band really shines. And did I mention that “President Garfield,” is truly a folk triumph thanks to the arrangement that marries fiddle and trumpet and drums as equal partners?

Everybody is entitled to occasionally lean heavily toward one genre or another when they’re dabbling in the incredibly challenging world of musical fusion. Even just working in fusion is cause for celebration because it lures fans of other formats into the party.

Not everyone loves fiddle. Or trumpet. Or Dixieland. Or blues. But when you unite disparate sounds, as you do so beautifully on so many tracks, some of us purists are lured in and want to stay and explore. I sure do!

So nice to meet you, Roving Crows. I look forward to hearing much more from you as we move ahead. NANCY DUNHAM

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: www.rovingcrows.com

LEATHERAT – UPRISING CD LAUNCH

The Mill, Banbury   6 May 2012

The tickets were for 7.30 pm but the festivities began at noon with music in the bar. If there had been jugglers and fire eaters I wouldn’t have been surprised.

First up on the official stage were local indie-rockers Highway Alaska whose bass player, Bailey, was unaccountably dressed as a penguin. Geography is clearly not his strong point. I’ve heard louder bands although rarely in such a confined space but the sound man quickly got on top of them. They could be a name to watch.

Next up were the excellent Something Nasty In The Woodshed, folk-rock with bagpipes and a Viking war horn – well, a plastic funnel and a length of tube. They are huge fun but excellent musicians, too, particularly Pete their funky bass-player and Bazza the piper. These guys deserve to be much better known.

Uprising is Leatherat’s best album to date. Traditional and neo-traditional tunes are fused with passionate, perceptive songs: ‘Whole Town Red’, ‘Call To Arms’, ‘A Better Way’ and the loudest love song ever in the shape of the funky ‘Set My Soul On Fire’ and there are moments of genuine subtlety. Don’t get the idea they’ve gone soft, though – this band still runs on cider!

They have taken to using the album’s opening instrumental track as slow-burning intro music at gigs. The usual routine is that Jeremy Carroll creeps on stage in a cloud of smoke and begins a bass figure then picked up by Jim Bennion’s guitar. Jono Watts appears and the fiddle joins in followed by Pete Bailey on mandolin. Finally Hugh Edwards takes his seat and it all kicks off. They didn’t go for the full drama this time partly because Jez was worried about his hand which he’d cut very badly two days earlier. A blood substitute was on standby but Jeremy bravely soldiered on although Mick Bennion had his moment of glory later in the set, depping on ‘I Like A Smoke’.

There were also the logistics of accommodating the guest musicians beginning with the pipes of Barry Steele from Something Nasty. Everyone who played on the album was here except Chris Leslie who was at a Convention somewhere. I have to give a special mention to Gerry Green who played whistle and held her own which is no mean feat in this company.

The band opted to playing whole album in order and although several of the songs had been aired in previous months parts of the record hadn’t been played live before. They went at it with all guns blazing and if there were any dodgy moments you wouldn’t have spotted them in the noise and excitement. I’ll tell you how much fun it was: I swear I saw Gareth Turner grinning at one point but, oddly, photographic evidence doesn’t bear this out. They finished with their greatest hits: ‘Party Time (In Chavbury)’ of course, ‘Moments Like These’ and ‘Large One’ and how Pete remembers all the words of ‘The Ring’ let alone sings them at the end of a long set beats me. We staggered out at midnight but the party went on until the wee small hours and my hearing was back to normal by the following morning.

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.

Sea Shanty Festival 2012 – A review by Jim Saville

Sea Shanty Festival 2012 - A review by Jim SavilleThe Easter weekend saw the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port hosting not one but two festivals. The regular Easter Boat Gathering and the 2nd annual Maritime Festival organised by Shanty UK

In two years the shanty festival has grown from the brain child of a few keen volunteers into a vibrant international affair that will soon be rivalling the former Lancaster Maritime Festival for the reputation of largest (and best) such gathering in the world.

The musicians and singers were a fine mixture of local, national and international performers with world-wide reputations. The overseas contingent were well represented and the Netherlands based shanty crew Nelson’s Blood gave a virtuoso performance of shanties, ballads songs and banter (mostly in English) that had the audience happily singing along.

Equally talented were a group of Yorkshire lads, Monkeys Fist who gave smooth performances in each of their varied venues and showed why they too are in the premier league of shanty crews. Relative new comers Nine Tenths Below, despite having members from different counties, demonstrated some fine individual leads and tight interweaving of voices that mark them out as future high fliers on the maritime scene. Oxfordshire lads Short Drag Roger impressed audiences not only with their infectious humour but also by incorporating some of the lesser known shanties into their act and still getting people to join in.

Duos were well represented too The female duo from Fleetwood, Scold’s Bridle, who sing many songs from the point of view of the wives and sweethearts rather than of the sailors themselves gave a good performance. Welsh duo Andrew McKay and Carol Etherton treated audiences to some fine songs that they had written and Festival Organisers Trim Rig and a Doxy (Derek and Julia Batters) even managed to get some time away from organisational duties to wow the audience in one of the evening concerts.

Then there were the solo artistes such as Anna Shannon and Andy Kenna; two totally dissimilar acts who both performed to the highest standards and, like everyone else, left their audience wanting more. Space prevents me mentioning every artiste performing but each and everyone managed to add something extra and make the weekend a great success.

Away from the music there were absorbing and informative specials from people such as Chris Roche with talks about his nautical voyages and duo Red Duster who entertained, amused and educated their audiences with tales and songs of the merchant navy and the trawling fleet.

The stand-out performers of the week-end were a group called Males de Mer. Mal-de-mer is French for sea sickness but it would be hard to get sick of this quartet from Luxemburg and Belgium who managed to wow everyone they performed to. Their final performance had people hanging over balconies and stairwells on three floors to see them in the well of the museum’s Rolt lecture block. A fusion between the world of pop and shanty they are the buoy band of the future.

However the musicianship didn’t end on stage. As well as sessions to teach playing skills on various instruments there was a performance area in the bar where anyone who wished to could sing to the customers and many amateur and visiting professional took advantage of the opportunity throughout the weekend.

The biggest star of the whole festival though was the venue. The National Waterways Museum – Ellesmere Port is a splendid location. It may not have the kudos of the tall ships that catch the eye and the imagination at a few special events from time but it does have the narrow boats and a host of other craft that once worked our coastal and inland waters regularly and which can still be seen in this wonderful setting day after day throughout the year against the back drop of even larger vessels passing back and forth just outside the museum boundaries. What’s more at Ellesmere Port the boats are not tied to buoys a hundred yards off shore or floating past, half-way to the horizon. They are moored to the wharves, tow paths and jetties scant inches from the passing feet of the visitor.

Throughout the weekend a steady stream of visitors took advantage of this to examine dozens of craft at close quarters and to go on-board a few and feel the deck beneath their feet. There was also the chance for visitors to discover the fascinating history of the craft and the water ways and all aspects of their design, construction and use both in the past and, hopefully, in the future. Whether it was learning about the engines or the horses who powered these craft or the artefacts and the people on board and the cargoes carried there was plenty to see, hear and do and all presented in an entertaining and eye-catching manner. There was a hands-on opportunity to learn rope-work, preservation skills and much more beside. All of this plus the bonus of the Easter Boat Gathering and the accompanying entertainment that brought for all the family. Face painting – origami – story telling and other craft activities for the younger visitors as well as simple singing, paper folding, first aid; and also a real ale bar for the grown-ups and barbeque for all the family.

All of this was provided by countless unnamed and unpaid workers both from the Shanty UK members and from the museum volunteers and a few paid members of the museum staff.

With more than 40 booked acts, and a total of over 140 scheduled performances in a total of 8 different venues from a concert stage to the below-decks hold of a barge and all within the precincts of the Museum, there was an abundance of music that would have done credit to a six day festival let alone a 3 day Easter weekend Truly this was a family event with family friendly activities and family friendly prices. Each day’s singing, shows and specials were free to enter apart from the normal and very reasonable one-off museum entry fee of £6.50. For the keen concert goers the organisers had also taken advantage of the host of excellent talent already attending over the weekend to put on two extra evening concerts at £10 per ticket giving 4 days of amazing entertainment for less than the cost of an evening at the cinema!

Plans are under way for an equally spectacular Easter week-end next year so pencil it in your diaries to come back and see how much better we can do it next year after this practice run through – and bring your friends they’ll enjoy it! Jim Saville

Changing Horses – The Nashville Sessions

Changing Horses are British Indie-Folk duo Richard Birtill (vocals and guitar) and Francesca Cullen (vocals, violin, mandolin and melodeon). Stylistically taking influence from the psychedelic likes of The Incredible String Band, and the experimental art-punk of The Fall, theirs is a patchwork of off-kilter folk that has drawn in the plaudits from numerous sources. After holing up in a Nashville studio with session musician / producer Chris Donohue (Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris) the track ‘Cut All Strings’ featured on an HBO documentary and went on to pick up multiple plays on both the Steve Lamacq and Bob Harris BBC radio shows. Last year’s festival season also saw the band grace stages at Kendal Calling, Solfest, Brampton, Crawley Folk Festival and SO festival.

It’s on the live circuit the Changing Horses’ reputation has been built. The last few months have seen them perform as main support to the likes of Jeffrey Lewis, Pat Sansone (Wilco), Ade Edmondson and Adam Green. Captured here on The Nashville Sessions however, is a band vying for the unconventional, yet still maintaining core melodies. Flitting between the wistful (Cut All Strings), the fragile (One Million Screaming Angels) and the macabre (‘Till Death), when things do take a more popular twist, Birtill’s wrought vocals still punctuate Cullen’s neat string play. In turn, I Don’t Need It’s discordant opening phrasing soon makes way for a wave of anthemic guitars.

“Truly original and delightful” – Robin Williamson, The Incredible String Band

Deeply personal songwriting, tongue-in-cheek moments, macabre themes and innovative string playing make up Changing Horses’ The Nashville Sessions; a strong debut from a band that lives to draw the listener into their own lovesick universe.

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.

PIG EARTH – 14’x12’

I don’t know what the neighbours must have thought but from the photo on the insert of Pig Earth’s five track EP I’m sure they couldn’t have been too happy with all of the band recording in the living room! Still I suppose (at least to the band) it must have been a bit of a wheeze and judging from the tracks featured here they all had a good time. From an organic point of view this must have all been pretty positive as the recording displays their music for what it is…an energised, good-time cross of country-folk without any frills. For those old enough to remember them this band brings back fond memories of the Big Geraniums and Lick the Tins who had the same attitudes when it came to the time-honoured tradition of “…if it sounds right – then it is”. Between them Pig Earth unleash a barrage of instruments including guitars, piano, melodeon, mandolin, banjo and percussion with vocals provided by Neil Keveren and Emma Steele and I’m sure will wind up being the darlings of the Radcliffe & Maconie generation.

PETE FYFE

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.

ALISTAIR OGILVY – Leaves Sae Green

The evocative piano introduction to “Wars O’Germanie” by rising singer Alistair Ogilvy puts me in mind of a young Sean Keane. No bad thing if you’re just starting out on a road that will hopefully prove fruitful in your endeavours as a performer. Producer and engineer Mattie Foulds brings out the best from Ogilvy and in utilising Aly MacRae (piano/fiddle/pocket trumpet [?]), Steven Polwart (guitars) and Inge Thomson (additional vocals) provides enough broad strokes of the brush to colour the performance in well balanced shades. Taking a hoary old chestnut like “The Bonny Ship The Diamond” and doing something interesting with it must have been a bit of a challenge but then MacRae’s interpretation (I’m assuming he has a background in jazz) with its dramatic, brooding chords and double-tracked vocals propels the song with just the right amount of theatrics without over-egging it. On another track and with a customary nod towards his Scottish heritage, the inclusion of Burn’s “Crowdie” and its jaunty double stopped fiddle delivery works surprisingly well coupled with an unusual, but none the less enjoyable setting of “Wantonness”. Finally, on a personal note I’d like to thank Alistair for including Andy M Stewart’s anguished song of unrequited love “Where Are You Tonight, I Wonder”…it truly is a classic in the art of song-writing.

PETE FYFE

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.