Reviews

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Welcome to the folking.com review section.

The folking review team is a small, dedicated group of people with a passion and a commitment for the folk, acoustic and Americana music scene. They review the latest releases, each in their own inimitable style…

All our reviewers give their spare time to bring you this resource and we always looking for new people to get involved who share a similar passion for the genre to help lighten the load. If that sounds like you, then please email us here for more information about joining the folking review team.

BREABACH – Frenzy Of The Meeting (Breabach Records, BRE005CD)

Having toured the world, won awards and created an immensely successful album, Astar, zinging with creative fusion, what would Breabach do next? Judging by their latest album, Frenzy Of The Meeting, released in late October, the answer seems to be to find a revitalised inspiration in the traditional music of ...
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GARETH OWEN – I’m Out Of This Place (own label)

Six months or so after the release of his Rolling By CD, Gareth Owen's new album I'm Out Of This Place is released on November 23rd 2018. Again, it's a collection of story songs, all written by Gareth, very much in the Americana/country idiom. Gareth takes lead vocals, ably supported ...
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MARTIN STEPHENSON – Gladsome, Humour And Blue 30 (Barbaraville Records)

I might have begun by remarking on how long it must be since I listened to the original Gladsome, Humour & Blue but having played the new version once I had to dig out my old vinyl and give it another spin. It’s still a great record and ‘There Comes ...
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SIOBHAN MILLER – Mercury (Songprint Recordings SPR002CD)

To be brutally honest, if this were Siobhan Miller’s first album and I was listening cold I probably wouldn’t have got past the first three tracks. I loved Strata – it was the perfect blend of new and old, of traditional songs and covers – but Mercury is pop music, ...
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DARIA KULESH and JONNY DYER live at Cecil Sharp House

This wasn’t a launch event, more a pre-launch preview event for Daria’s forthcoming album, Earthly Delights, and a unique opportunity for fans to pre-order the record for delivery before Christmas. The rest of the world will just have to contain its impatience. Performing as a duo these weren’t the album ...
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BETH WOOD – The Long Road (own label)

Hailing from Lubbock, The Long Road is Wood’s 11th album, and her maturity, experience and assured confidence are in evidence throughout this collection of short stories in song that conjures Americana thoughts of Nanci Griffith, the Indigo Girls and Dolly Parton as well as the sophisticated folk of a Dory Previn ...
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CIARAN O’KANE – Round & Round (own label)

Ciaran O’Kane describes his debut album, Round & Round, as “a collection of the songs I like to sing” which is the best reason for singing them and also a very Irish way of looking at things. Like his countrymen since time immemorial he has picked up music on his ...
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KÍLA – Pota Óir (Kíla Records, KRDVD003)

Kíla, a band with a mutable line-up around the core of the Ó Snodaigh family has been around since the late 80s, with a prodigious output of band and offshoot projects over that time. Last year, the band released a live album, Beo/Alive to include some of their less-performed tracks ...
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MARK HARRISON – The Panoramic View (own label)

I really like Mark Harrison’s previous album, Turpentine, so I was delighted when he sent me The Panoramic View. Mark plays 12-string and National guitars and his core band is double bass and drums courtesy of Charles Benfield and Ben Welburn. His music is the blues but with the lightest ...
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MERRY HELL – Anthems To The Wind (Merry Hell Music MHMCD218)

Here’s a conundrum. When you see them playing the folk circuit, Merry Hell comprise Virginia Kettle and her borther-in-law Andrew on vocals, his brothers John on guitar and Bob on banjo, mandolin and bouzouki, bassist Nick Davies and fiddle player Neil McCartney. Officially, however, they’re now an eight-piece with Lee ...
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NICK ELLIS – Speaker’s Corner (Mellowtone)

His fourth album in three years, the Liverpool singer-songwriter’s music has been described as streetscape narrative-noir, which I guess is a fancy way of saying he specialises in dark storytelling, delivered primarily with just picked acoustic guitar, coloured here and there with Mark Percy’s percussion and Edgar Jones on double ...
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SETH LAKEMAN – The Well Worn Path (Cooking Vinyl COOKCD709)

Seth Lakeman’s new album has appeared with surprisingly little fanfare. The Well Worn Path was recorded at the beginning of the year during a break in the Robert Plant/Shape Shifters tour with old comrades and relations Ben Nicholls, Kathryn Roberts and brother Sean and new friends Kit Hawes, who brings ...
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JON WILKS – Midlife (own label)

When someone gathers together traditional folk songs from a particular region, it generally tends to be the case that these are from Up North, Down South or to the West Country. The Midlands tend to be less well-served, despite a rich seam there to be mined. Indeed, a search of ...
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ROBB JOHNSON – Ordinary Giants (Irregular IRR223)

At first glance Ordinary Giants seems like a sequel to Robb Johnson’s wonderful Gentle Men but it isn’t. It’s more of a companion piece; there is no formal spoken narrative – Robb won’t spoon-feed us, although he helps us along here and there – and the album encompasses the last ...
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MERRY HELL ACOUSTIC and THE RABBLE CHORUS live at Snape Maltings

Merry Hell don’t often get to play at places where the bouncers, sorry ushers, wear DJs but they’d never played Snape Maltings before. This is a classical concert hall with spectacular acoustics in which Virginia Kettle absolutely revelled – singing scales between songs just for the joy of hearing her ...
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CASHAVELLY MORRISON – Hunger (own label)

Born Melissa Diane Meredith Bickey in West Virginia, her stage name a combination of the maiden names of paternal grandmother and mother, respectively, and working in collaboration with husband, guitarist and co-writer Ryan MacLeod, Hunger is her second album and, again, tackles themes of racism, the abuse of power and female ...
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THE TRIALS OF CATO – Hide And Hair (own label)

The eponymous debut EP by The Trials Of Cato came out of nowhere and smacked everyone between the eyes. Live, they are full of energy and their first full-length album,  Hide And Hair, maintains their energy levels but also showcases just what great writers they are as well.  For anyone ...
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ALAN PROSSER – 5/4AP (Rafting Dog Records RD054)

Well then… if you listened to our interview with Alan Prosser backstage at Cropredy you will already know that Alan alluded to the fact that he would be sending me a copy of his new solo album 5/4AP where every song and instrumental was going to be in 5/4 time ...
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DAVID OLNEY – This Side Or The Other (Black Hen Music BHCD0089)

Based in Nashville since 1973, Olney has clocked up a fair few musical miles with 21 previous studio albums, released at a rate of one every one or two years since 1991. While his songs have been covered by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Steve Earle, he’s ...
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BERT JANSCH – Just A Simple Soul (BMG BMGCAT227CD)

Bernard Butler spent more than a decade working with Bert Jansch and it fell to him to curate a definitive best of collection. It can’t have been easy. Like most singers of his generation he moved between labels and publishers while his copyrights changed hands as new repackages of his ...
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STEWART HENDERSON, YVONNE LYON and CAROL HENDERSON – Vesper Sky (own label SL045)

Well now, this is something different. Scottish singer-songwriter Yvonne Lyon has joined forces with Liverpool poet Stewart Henderson (who, as a songwriter, has provided the lyrics to several Martyn Joseph numbers, including ‘Working Mother’ and ‘Proud Valley Boy’) and his storyteller wife Carol for Vesper Sky, an album of songs ...
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ASHLEY HUTCHINGS – Paradise And Thorns (Talking Elephant TECD410)

Divided into two discs, Gloucester Docks Revisited and Other Tales Of Love, Paradise And Thorns finds “the single most important figure in English folk rock” (© Bob Dylan) revisiting his seminal autobiographically- based 1987 solo work (already the subject of a live version and revised re-issue) in the wake of ...
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GERRY O’CONNOR – Last Night’s Joy (Lugnasa LUGCD966)

Gerry O’Connor is a fiddle player from Dundalk, not to be confused with Gerry O’Connor, the banjo player, who also appears on Last Night’s Joy, Gerry’s second solo album, notably on ‘Stereo Connor’. Google™, of course, does confuse them which makes life hard for us poor reviewers. There is a ...
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GYPSYFINGERS – Stranger Things (own label)

Although they perform live as a quartet and the album features various musical collaborators, Gypsyfingers are essentially classically trained and dance music loving songwriter Victoria Coghlan on piano, French horn and acoustic guitar and her husband, Mike Oldfield’s producer son Luke, who plays bass, guitars, percussion and mellotron. This is ...
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THE FRANK BURKITT BAND – Raconteur (Frank Burkitt Music FWB004)

Having left Edinburgh, Scotland, for Wellington, New Zealand in 2014, The Frank Burkitt Band took shape over the coming months, honing a unique, rootsy sound which lies somewhere between country/ Americana and swing and jazz music. Raconteur is their latest offering, made up of ten original songs, direct from the ...
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VIVE LA ROSE – For She Who Hangs The Moon (Gestation Records, GEST01)

London-based Scot David Luximon-Herbert has been making music in various guises over many years, finally emerging as Vive La Rose in 2014 with the EP, Don’t Move, Don’t Speak. For Vive La Rose’s debut album, For She Who Hangs The Moon, he has crafted a lush, piano-driven Americana-washed soundscape about ...
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THE MAGIC LANTERN – To The Islands (Hectic Eclectic Records)

Reading the PR notes there were several references to jazz, and as I’m not a jazz aficionado I didn’t think I would enjoy this CD, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Jamie Doe (aka The Magic Lantern) has a wonderfully mellow voice with a great range and sings with superb ...
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HECTOR CHRISTIE & CHRIS EDWARDS – Ghaists In The Air (own label)

Violet Jacob was a poet and novelist born of what would have been called a noble family back then. She died in 1946 aged eighty-three, her life spanning the turn of a century and two world wars. A number of musicians have adapted her poetry over the years but recently ...
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KARINE POLWART – Laws Of Motion (Hudson Records HUD014)

Karine Polwart's latest CD – Laws Of Motion, released on 19th October 2018 – is her seventh release. It is co-produced by Karine with Inge Thomson (who, along with Karine's brother Steven Polwart, seems to have provided most of the additional instrumentation for the album) and Stuart Hamilton, and it's ...
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DAN FRECHETTE & LAUREL THOMSEN – Driving By Candlelight (own label)

A duo variously based in California’s Santa Cruz mountains (her) and Winnipeg (him), Driving By Candlelight is their fourth collection of self-penned Americana, she on violin and viola and he on pretty much anything else with strings, with Jimmy Norris on drums and Stan Poplin, whose CV includes stints with Dave ...
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ROOT & BRANCH – A Breath Against The Calm (own label RABR02)

Root & Branch are an Anglo-American quintet whose repertoire spans Britain, Ireland and the Appalachians. A Breath Against The Calm is their first full-length album following their 2015 EP, Overground. Their arsenal of instruments is fairly genre-standard although Jess Whelligan’s cello adds different and sometimes unexpected textures. The album kicks ...
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VISION THING – When We Were Astronauts And Other Stories (own label)

The follow-up to last year’s Trysting Tree EP (the tracks of which all appear here), the sleeve echoing the title of David Niven’s autobiography, The Moon’s A Balloon, this is the album from the north-west quartet which, hopefully, will provide lift-off to getting the far wider acclaim they deserve. Vocally ...
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BELLE PLAINE – Malice, Mercy, Grief And Wrath (own label)

Sharing her name with the Minnesota city that translates as ‘beautiful prairie’. raised in a remote Saskatchewan town of just 45 people, it’s understandable that Plaine’s horizons look beyond such confines of such an existence, her new album, Malice, Mercy, Grief And Wrath, full of questioning, of the past, present ...
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STEVIE DUNNE – Live At The Crosskeys Inn (own label SDB003)

Ireland is full of fine musicians who, unlike prophets, are honoured in their own country but not so much elsewhere. Stevie Dunne is one such. With two studio albums and an American Irish Music Award to his credit he chose a rather more low-key venue to record his third. The ...
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MICHELLE LEWIS – All That’s Left (own label)

Based in L.A., Lewis explores the softer edges of folk-pop Americana, her songs suffused with sadness and melancholy, dealing with loss and longing, delivered in her tender, plaintive tones. All That’s Left, her third album, is described as a transformative journey from regret to compassion, her words and music gently ...
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TOM PETTY AND BOB DYLAN – New York 1986 (Rox Vox RV2CD2128)

In the mid-80s and in the midst of his own musical wasteland, Bob Dylan went down a number of different angles in a bid to rejuvenate his career. While some of these efforts were more successful than others, one of the more favourable endeavours from this time was his work ...
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KITTY MACFARLANE – Namer Of Clouds (Navigator Records, NAVIGATOR104)

Given the praise heaped on Kitty Macfarlane’s 2016 EP, Tide & Time, expectations are understandably high for her first full-length album release, Namer Of Clouds. Macfarlane’s light soprano, paired with an equally light-fingered plucky guitar, nonetheless contains a filament of controlled determination. Softness and steel are never far apart, even ...
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GREGORY ALAN ISAKOV – Evening Machines (Dualtone Records)

Evening Machines was released on October 5th, Isakov’s fifth album. Isakov is a full time farmer in Colorado, who tends to his music career in the winter (he has his studio in a barn on his farm). He has been described as an indie-folk artist. This feels like a full ...
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PETE SEEGER BIG BILL BROONZY – Cahn Auditorium, Northwestern University (Echoes ECHO2CD2077)

Another recording from the vaults is Pete Seeger and Big Bill Broonzy from the Cahn Auditorium at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois, 1956 – a time in which McCarthyism was rife and the blacklist meant that performances in college and university campuses were Seeger’s main outlet. The performance is unscripted ...
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LONGSTAY – Calling Me Home (Goldrush Records, GOLDCD017)

Calling Me Home is the debut album from Longstay, a precocious Perth quintet, still with an average age of only 17 - and with four years’ experience already behind them. These super-confident players are firmly rooted in Country and Americana, with more than a hint of the ‘70s thrown in ...
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ANNE MARIE ALMEDAL – Lightshadow (VMP 18/012 CD)

Anne Marie Almedal is a Norwegian singer and composer whose album, Lightshadow, is now on release. Almedal, was the lead singer of the band Velvet Belly from 1989 – 2003 and has released a number of solo albums since then, a little more folk oriented than those I’ve listened to ...
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BOB DYLAN AND THE BAND – 1974 Tour Live (Rox Vox RV3CD2137)

1974 Tour Live is a pretty self-explanatory title, but if you’re still curious for anything else other than the obvious, it is a three disc set, covering two shows from January ’74 (Boston and New York) from Bob Dylan and The Band, recorded during their mid-70s comeback tour. The first ...
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LUKA BLOOM – Sometimes I Fly… (MIG MIG 02102 CD)

This album was recorded by Radio Bremen in 2001. Luka Bloom is big in Germany; he’s big in Ireland naturally but for some unfathomable reason he isn’t really big in the UK. Sometimes I Fly... is his second live album and was probably recorded about the same time as the ...
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THE SALTS – Brave (Braccan Records BRCD9001)

The Salts perform shanties but not quite in the way you might expect. They are five seasoned musicians with a remarkable list of credits to their names from Pete Best via Thunderclap Newman to Ben E King. Now based in the leafy suburbs of Surrey and Berkshire, Brave is their ...
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MALCOLM HOLCOMBE – Come Hell Or High Water (Gypsy Eyes Music)

If you feel that ‘Southern folk golem’ Holcombe’s croaky roll-up rasp suggests he’s been shovelling coal dust of his cereals and makes Tom Waits sound like Perry Como, then you’ll be pleased to hear that on his latest album, Come Hell Or High Water, his third in as many years, ...
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Derbyshire stars at Derby Folk Festival

Derbyshire is famous for many things to those in the know, but for the casual mainstream music fan the county that gave the world Rolls-Royce has added little to history’s record collection, aside from one hit wonders White Town and Candy Flip. In folk circles, however, it is a different ...
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J.P. HARRIS – Sometimes Dogs Bark At Nothing (Free Dirt DIRT-CD-0090)

You might be wondering if J.P. Harris looks anything like the cover picture. Well, I can’t speak for all the tattoos but, yes, that’s pretty much him! J.P. is from Alabama and his lifestyle follows that of Cisco Houston, travelling for work and describing himself as “a carpenter who writes ...
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SINGLES BAR 34 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Tablelands is the third of the trilogy of EPs by INDIA ELECTRIC CO. that began in the city with EC1M and ends somewhere hot, red and swampy. The format is much the same as before: Cole Stacey on vocals and percussion and Joseph O’Keefe on everything else. The difference is ...
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ETHAN HANNA – Welcome To The Batlands (Tin Man Heart)

Ethan Hanna is from Lisburn, Northern Ireland. He’s been around for while, paying his dues as a soloist and in bands, but Welcome To The Batlands is his debut solo album. ‘Perfect’, the first single lifted from it and the second track here, is a gem of a song – ...
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RIBBON ROAD – Paper Dolls (Shipyard RRD011)

The follow-up to Our Streets Are Numbered, one of my favourite albums of 2016, the Heslop family, songwriter Brenda, husband Geoff and daughter Jill, here joined by their other daughter Anna on piano. Just as past albums have addressed the 80s Miner’s Strike and social housing in former mining communities, ...
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TOWN MOUNTAIN – New Freedom Blues (own label)

Based in Asheville, North Carolina, New Freedom Blues is the quintet’s sixth studio album which, while their feet are still firmly planted in the bluegrass pastures, extends its horizons to more modern forms of farming. As such, it’s a kick drum that underpins the title track opener, straddling traditional banjo and ...
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THE BETTERDAYS – Backlash (NTB Records CD 1004)

I realise that this isn’t our usual fare but it’s such a gem that we couldn’t resist. The cover shows The Betterdays from Plymouth in their mid-sixties heyday when these tracks were recorded. They released a single in 1965 which failed to chart and disagreed with their record company about ...
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ANTOINE & OWENA – Hands, Hearts & Hangings (own label)

We receive a lot of unsolicited albums, often debuts from new artists. Some we may gloss over; others we play more than once. So it is with Hands, Hearts & Hangings, the first album from Wiltshire duo Antoine Architeuthis and Owena Archer. Both are experienced musicians and are beginning to ...
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CHRIS CLEVERLEY TRIO – Red Lion Folk Club, Kings Heath, Birmingham

Already well-established as a charismatic performer on the folk circuit and a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter as well as hugely accomplished guitarist, this hometown gig, the first of the award-winning club’s new season, served to launch his new trio format comprising himself, Kim Lowings and Said The Maiden’s Kathy Pilkington, who ...
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GILMORE & ROBERTS – A Problem Of Our Kind (GR! GRR08)

Gilmore & Roberts are Katriona Gilmore (vocals, fiddle, viola, B3 organ and mandolin) and Jamie Roberts (vocals, guitar, percussion). Their album A Problem Of Our Kind, due for release on 12th October 2018, benefits from additional instrumental support from Fred Claridge (drums and percussion), Matt Downer (double bass), Sarah Smout ...
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DOLPHIN BOY – The Highland Swing (Skye Records SCRCX005)

There is story behind this album although I’m not sure I fully understand it. Once upon a time DJ Andy Dolphin, aka Dolphin Boy, was producing what he called “sample-heavy, bootleg-style music”. Late last year he and former Peatbog Faerie Iain Copeland, drummer with techno-folk fusion band Sketch, discussed the ...
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YOUNG WATERS – Young Waters (own label YW1)

Now trading under a rather more attractive moniker (borrowed from a Scottish Child Ballad) than their previous appellation as Snufkin, guitarist Theo Passingham and percussionist Kerry Ann Jangle sharing lead, Liam O’Connell on double bass and harmonies, violinist Calum Smith and Rowen Elliot on viola, made their recording debut with ...
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EDDI READER – Cavalier (Reveal 077CDX)

Forty years into her career, Reader’s 11th solo studio album, Cavalier, continues the recent trend of mixing original and traditional material with, naturally, something from Robert Burns. Recorded in Glasgow and co-produced with husband John Douglas, and featuring a plethora of musicians, Boo Hewardine, John McCusker, Siobhan Miller, Phil Cunningham ...
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SLOW MOVING CLOUDS – Starfall (own label SMC003)

Dublin based trio Slow Moving Clouds blend Irish and Nordic traditions with modern techniques and influences to make music that might be described as “ambient” except for the fact that it’s too interesting. SMC comprises cellist Kevin Murphy who doubles on bass and Marxophone; Danny Diamond on fiddle and Aki ...
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ANNIE DRESSNER – Broken Into Pieces

Like Kurt Russell in 'Escape from New York', Annie Dressner has legged it as well and made it over here to fair Albion even without the aid of an eye patch! Dressner been busy in Blighty, clocking up airplay on both BBC Radio Two and Six and earning herself festival ...
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