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CHRIS STOUT’S BRAZILIAN THEORY – Live In Concert (Chris Stout Music CSMUSCD001)

OK so I might, on listening to the opening strains of this album have been a bit too prepared to write Chris Stout’s Brazilian Theory project off as a technical step too far but on reflection I’ve been totally seduced by the allure of a cultural mix that was just waiting to be exploited by a member of the ‘folk’ community. If memory serves me right I heard the link of Jazz/Brazilian/Celtic some 20 years before performed by the harp player Deborah Henson-Conant but here it’s Stout’s violin that takes the lead aided and abetted by an A-Class team of musicians including amongst others Catriona McKay (harp), Thomas Rohrer (sax) and Carlinhos Antunes on guitars. For me, not everything goes according to plan particularly when the jarring octave leaps of the violin almost rip the ears off those of us with a gentle disposition but all in all this is an innovative experience that will perhaps take root after repeated plays. In a way, much like Davy Spillane & Andy Irvine’s “East Wind” and The Future Trad Collective these excursions might be taking things a tad too far for the ears of Philistines like me but we’ll just have to wait and see how it all pans out with a wider audience.

PETE FYFE

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A Crooked Mile – by Society

Following on from their hugely successful release SONGS FROM THE BRICKHOUSE, Society are back in 2011 with A CROOKED MILE. This stunning new release is guaranteed to bring the trio even more praise from media and audiences alike. For those that don’t know Society are a three piece country rock band from West Sussex who specialise in gorgeous three part harmonies that set them apart from the current crop of Americana or country rock wanabees in the UK. The band comprise guitarist Matt Wise, bassist Ben Lancaster and holding down the beat, F.Scott Kenny on drums. Their recorded and live sound has echoes of C.S.N.Y, The BandThe Heartbreakers, The Jayhawks and the late great Ronnie Lane and Slim Chance. Matt Wise composes most if not all of their material and when all three sing in harmony the result is simply stunning, this shown perfectly at the 2011 Maverick Festival where they had the audience spellbound listening to their live performance.

Since forming in 2004 Society have supported many great artistes including Eve Selis, Deadstring Brothers, Corb Lund, Luke Doucet and The Wailin’ Jennys. Apart from their own UK headline shows, Society have completed two tours of Canada along with a string of dates in the American mid-west gaining a whole new legion of fans in the USA.

This constant touring has honed both their musical and vocal chops and in the summer of 2011 Society returned to the studio to produce A CROOKED MILE, recorded both at the Brickhouse Studios near Brighton and the bands own Downland Studios located near Gatwick. Matt Wise was in the producers’ chair, ably assisted by engineer James Gasson.

The album is once again a collection of eleven original songs from the pen of Matt Wise and arranged by all three band members. Guest musicians featured on the album include Spencer Cullum who is one of the foremost young pedal steel players around today, Ben Davies and James Batchelar on keyboards, Pat Kenneally on melodica/piano and added pedal steel is supplied by Chris Pritchard.

The songs on A CROOKED MILE once again echo their love and passion for all things West Coast USA, Laurel Canyon and the great country rock music produced in the late 1960s/early 70s, yet their sound is brought into the 21st century with a distinctly indie feel. Stand out tracks include 40 Days, a stunning and anthemic crowd pleaser, Blues Flag, reminiscent of The Band at their finest, the bluegrass influenced Davey and the perfect opening track Wheels A’ Turning, country rock at its very best.

2011/2012 will see Society touring the UK to support the release of A CROOKED MILE and already the band are confirmed for several festival appearances in 2012.

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.

PETE SCOTT – Why Sing Goodbye Songs

If considering the proposition that the world would be a very different place if Yuri Gagarin had been allowed to play his banjo in space appeals then this is your sort of album.

There is something of Jake Thackray in Pete’s absurdist take on the detritus of life, the idle thoughts that afflict us all. ‘Pity The Poor Baritone’ describes Pete dissatisfaction with his vocal range while ‘Fantastic Pastie’ tells how he missed a train, and presumably lost his woman, on account of the original packed lunch. He takes a swipe at the fashion for naming children after the place where they were conceived in ‘Kuala Lumpur Clegg’ and another at what we can assume is not his favourite television show in ‘Midsomer Murders’.

There are some serious points among the humour. ‘Thomas William Arthur Tate’ (try it as an acronym) is self-explanatory while ‘Eddie’s Dead’ is about the fate that awaits most of us: live an ordinary, decent life and no-one will give a damn. Big Brother has a lot to answer for.

Why Sing Goodbye Songs isn’t going to revolutionise the folk scene but it deserves to be heard outside Pete’s native north-east where he plays most of his gigs. If a couple of these songs got into wider circulation it would be a good day’s work.

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.

Artist Web Link: www.petescott.co.uk

JAYWALKERS – 16 Miles

The sawing phrase that opens ‘Lonesome Fiddle Blues’ grabs your attention from the moment the disc hits the player and you’re right to suspect that you’re in for a treat. Michael Giverin and Jay Bradberry were BBC Young Folk Award finalists in 2009 but probably too far from the mainstream to actually win.

They play a blend of folk and bluegrass with fiddle, mandolin and guitar as the lead instruments mixing original and traditional material with some judiciously chosen covers. The sound is full but open enough to hear every detail and is supported by Lucy Williams on bass. Jay has possibly the strongest young female voice I’ve heard in years – and I speak as one tired of breathy little-girl voices – and her attacks on ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ and Gillian Welch’s ‘Caleb Meyer’ could blister paint. Superb. Michael’s songs provide a gentle contrast, in style at least, for ‘Delphi Lodge’ tells a harsh tale.

This is a really good debut album, hand-made on the Jaywalkers’ own label, which you can also hear free on Spotify. What are you waiting for?

Dai Jeffries

Artist Web link: www.jaywalkers.co.uk

RETURN OF THE CROPREDY EXILE – By Dai Jeffries

Whisper this, but I hadn’t been to for twenty years. I had felt it was getting too big for my personal comfort – when I first went there was one campsite, now there are seven – but an insistent invitation drew me back this year. In fact what are bigger are the camper vans, the folding chairs and, dare I say, the waistlines. We older and …er…more substantial punters do like our comforts. Some aspects of the festival are more technological and sophisticated. The bar is a marvel of mobile opulence although initially no more efficient than in the days when there was one Wadsworth’s lorry, lots of barrels and one choice of beer. That’s no reflection on the brilliant bar-staff, by the way, but logistics do sometimes let the side down.

An innovation during my absence is the big screen which, in between displaying safety information, “televises” the show. It can be a boon for those at the top of the field although it’s often obscured by a forest of flagpoles. The interesting thing is that even down the hill at the front, unless you’re actually leaning on the pit barrier, you find yourself watching the screen, not the performers. Sure, you get 10 foot high images of John Tams’ face and Graeme Taylor’s plectrum technique but it feels wrong. If they could just pipe it into the cable TV network we wouldn’t actually have to go there. Er…maybe not.

Everything else is pretty much the same. The stewards are unobtrusive, laid-back and helpful and with road closures around the site their help was invaluable. The familiar spirit of the festival remains. Two examples that I heard about: one couple left their car keys in the door when they went to bed and woke to find the car locked and the keys safely guarded and a purse containing credit cards and a good deal of money was lost overnight and returned intact the following day. I’m not sure where else that would happen. T-shirts remain the badges of identification and mutual recognition although in general clothes are less outré – that goes with the Aldi and Tesco carrier bags. There are still more food concessions than can you eat from without the aid of a tapeworm, lots of silly hats to buy and, increasingly important as one gets older, civilised toilets. Don’t laugh, it’s important. And despite promising myself that I wouldn’t visit the CD store, I failed to keep my promise.

The rain loitered with intent on Thursday afternoon but stayed away as Fairport Convention opened the proceedings with a short and none too serious acoustic set followed by Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts and Blair Dunlop. Hearing ‘Walk Awhile’ as the second song really sets you up for the weekend. Bob Harris introduced Home Service as the evening’s compère, John Tams, was too modest to introduce himself. It is so good to have the band back together although it has to be said that their failure to invite Bill Caddick to return raises awkward questions. Their set was familiar material – new boy Paul Archibald had to learn another back catalogue after all – and, in the current climate, it was impossible to listen to ‘Alright Jack’ and ‘Sorrow’ without reflecting on how little things have changed.

Hayseed Dixie might be considered a one trick pony but they perform the trick very well, although I have my reservations about their interpretations of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. A couple of serious moments were hidden in the rockgrass but I’m not sure if anybody noticed. They had a lot of fans at the festival, particularly among those who found Home Service too intellectually challenging to actually bother listening to. UB40 closed the day – slick, professional and, I have to admit, not my thing at all.

Before it actually opens to the public the arena is rather eerie. I watched Seasick Steve sound-checking with his pounding drums reverberating around the empty site. Steve was Friday’s headliner and I still can’t make up my mind whether he’s the great original everyone reckons he is or a charming old fraud. Don’t get me wrong, I love his music, but I don’t buy into his story. If I’m right he’s only following in the tradition of Bob Dylan who, in his early days, fed interviewers the most outrageous lies and watched them lap up everything he said. Listen to Folksinger’s Choice for prima facie evidence.

Moore Moss Rutter provided a suitably relaxed start to Friday, another day when the weather couldn’t make its mind up. The Travelling Band began with a Blind Lemon Jefferson tune which felt like a smart move. They moved on to their own material variously augmented by viola, cello and brass and played an exciting set which was also VERY loud. I rather liked them despite that but the contrast in approach was hard on Steve Tilston who had to follow them. I also like Steve and his partnership with The Durbevilles feels like a very natural match on a song like ‘Jackaranda’. This was a good set and The Oxenhope EP was one of my purchases. Charlie Dore provided yet more country-style music – the theme of the day, it seems. I found her set rather relaxing which was good for the late afternoon slot but I confess that I was waiting for The Dylan Project.

Like his hero, Steve Gibbons is seventy this year. How did that happen? Everything about him is unique from his look to his guitar style and the way he used to make Keith Richards appear the picture of robust good health. They played a tight set with none of Steve’s extemporising as they mixed the downbeat – ‘Dark Eyes’, ‘Sweetheart Like You’ and ‘Cold Irons Bound’ – with the simpler sentiments of ‘Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You’ and ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’. ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ seemed a most appropriate choice given the events of the preceding week.

The Urban Folk Quartet was another band who benefited from my visit to the record stall but they had released a live album at a special Cropredy price and I wasn’t about to pass that up. UFQ are another band who have found a new approach to traditional music. Frank Moon’s oud features heavily, Joe Broughton seems to play more guitar than fiddle but who’s counting, Paloma Trigas is a bundle of energy and Tom Chapman joins a small roster of singing percussionists. If you haven’t heard them yet, you really should.

The Coral: ahead of their time or brilliantly retro? They included ‘Ticket To Ride’ in a spectacular show of their 21st century rock and would have made a better final act. It was unfortunate that there was a delay before Seasick Steve took to the stage. There was none of the redneck southerner schtick you get on TV and he seemed rather low key. I chose to watch him from the top of the field to see how he would work with such a big crowd and sad to say people around me were drifting away into the cold night long before the end of his set. I’d like to see him live in a smaller, more intimate, venue but so meteoric has been his rise to fame that he doesn’t play small gigs any more.

Richard Digance is a fixture as Saturday’s opener. Part comic, part social commentator and all warm-up man he did a superb job, getting the crowd on its feet doing silly things and listening to some serious songs – ‘Jobs’ is absolutely brilliant. It’s a combination that pulled the audience together and pointed it in the right direction. Next up, it was lovely finally to see The Shee on stage: fiddles, flute, mandolin, accordion, harp and voices performing their mixture of Scottish and American music and songs. I like the way they wear their posh frocks on stage, too.

Blockheads without Ian Dury: does it work? Well, the sun came out and England won a test match while they were on stage so I guess it does. The band isn’t exactly the same, inevitably, but in Derek “The Draw” Hussey they have a suitably eccentric lead vocalist who doesn’t attempt to imitate Dury but manages to channel his attitude. Songs like ‘Inbetweenies’ and ‘What A Waste!’ have been part of the band’s DNA for so long that they can’t fail to sound good.

My live experience of Lau suggested that they could be even louder than The Blockheads but the festival sound crew just about kept them in check. Martin Green seems to have more equipment every time I see the band – now he has a keyboard to go with his accordion and pedals adding new textures to Lau’s sound palette. The accordion was frequently used as a bass instrument with Martin playing a melody on the keyboard.

A decade ago Jim Lockhart introduced me to the art of ligging Dublin-style. This involved more pints of stout than I care to remember, being invited to a couple’s engagement party and being told by a lady with the reddest hair I’ve ever seen that my destiny was linked with the sea. As the ferry back from Rosslare didn’t sink I haven’t taken her too seriously. At the time Jim was head of production at RTÉ 2fm but in his previous life he played keyboards and flute with Horslips. Sadly they broke up before I had chance to hear them live which made their performance at Cropredy something of a milestone for me. Yes, Horslips are back, although Johnny Fean’s brother Ray now sits in for drummer Eamonn Carr. The outrageous stage clothes are gone and the band is rather more soberly dressed now but can still play those hits: ‘Dearg Doom’, ‘Trouble With A Capital T’, ‘Charolais’ and ‘Mad Pat’ as well as the soaring instrumentals from The Book Of Invasions.  It was a moment of magic.

I’ve tried listening to Badly Drawn Boy several times and it hasn’t worked. He has one great song, ‘Born In The UK’, but that’s not enough to hold my interest. My opinion was not helped by the fact that Horslips were cut short while Bad milked a smattering of applause for two encores. Look, this is personal recollection and I’ll be as partisan as I like, OK?

A typical Saturday set by Fairport Convention consists of some compulsory songs, explorations of the byways of their back catalogue and a succession of alumni and friends doing their thing. This wasn’t typical. Its centrepiece was a complete “Babbacombe” Lee which occupied a third of the programme and, of course, there’s a new album to promote which doesn’t leave a lot of time. They opened with ‘Walk Awhile’ and closed with ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’, ‘Matty Groves’ and ‘Meet On The Ledge’. ‘Crazy Man Michael’, ‘Honour And Praise’, ‘Mr Lacey’ and ‘The Hiring Fair’ were the other oldies. Ralph McTell dropped in for a couple of songs and PJ Wright and Phil Bond augmented Fairport when lead guitar and keyboards were required but otherwise the band stood up to be counted. I’m glad I heard “Babbacombe” Lee having managed to miss it on the spring tour and the use of films on the big screen added an extra something to the show. ‘Matty Groves’ was illustrated by a video featuring Barbie and Ken and what appeared to be a meerkat in a submarine – it was late, I’d had a beer or two: who knows what I saw?

So, has Cropredy grown too big? Yes, I think it has but I’ll qualify that by saying that the infrastructure is quite capable of coping with the 20,000 people who turn up each year. But on Saturday afternoon it was almost impossible to move around the field without kicking, jostling or stepping on someone and it was impossible to sit quietly and mind one’s own business without being kicked, jostled or stepped on. Thursday has now grown into an official day and the fringe occupies two pubs in the village. It may be time to consider a second stage. I would have been more than happy to see some of the acts play a second set in a smaller venue or some of the fringe artists accommodated there. It would take the pressure off the main area and restore the relaxed atmosphere that existed back in the eighties. I missed that. 

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.

For more information on Fairport Convention visit: http://www.fairportconvention.com/

Dai has also created a Flickr photo set from the festival which you can view by clicking on the following link:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/daijeffries/sets/72157627345454269/

TIM EDEY & BRENDAN POWER – Wriggle And Writhe (Gnatbite Records GB 010)

For those that have not seen them before, Tim and Brendan are two of the nicest blokes on the UK ‘folk’ circuit. They are also without doubt (or at the very least probably) the finest collaborators of reed based instruments anywhere on the planet as can be attested by artists the calibre of Sting, Kate Bush, Capercaillie and Mary Black. I have been a fan of the harmonica since I first heard Larry Adler but my allegiance transferred to Brendan when I saw him performing at the opening ceremony of the 1990 Commonwealth Games. Integrating his extensive knowledge of blues with Celtic melodies this engaging New Zealander (originally from Kenya but now based in Kent) along with the accordion wielding Edey manage to breathe expression into every note of their performance. From the opening track “Celtic Thunder/Kent To Kintail” the energy and exuberance of the duo sweep the listener along on a whirlwind tour of all that’s best about this music that we, the ‘folk’ community selfishly claim as our own. If on the other hand you’re looking for something a little more melancholy check out the arrangement of “The Maids Of Mitchelstown/The Morning Star” or their choice of songs…and yes…I didn’t know they sang either. I’ve had the pleasure of playing in session with both these guys and let me tell you the experience left me (and everyone who was there) truly invigorated therefore I have no reservation in suggesting you purchase a copy of this astonishing tour de force at the earliest opportunity and, why not impress your mates by playing them a couple of tracks to show them instrumental wizardry of the highest order.

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.

Artist Web Link: http://timedey.co.uk/