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.

JIMMY LaFAVE – Peace Town (Music Road Records MRR CD030)

A leading light of the Red Dirt country movement, LaFave succumbed to cancer last year, but not before laying down a 100 or so recordings over a three-day period. Twenty of them form Peace Town,  a double set worth of material. Both covers and three self-penned numbers, all recorded live ...
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TUMBLING SOULS –Between the Dream And The Truth (Wee Studio Records WSTTS01)

The debut album from the country and bluegrass-influenced Hebridean eight-piece fronted by Willie Campbell, Between The Truth And The Dream has a firm emphasis on picking up your feet, getting you out of your seats from the start with the steady stomping mountain music rhythms of ‘Don’t Be Afraid Of ...
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JOHN SMITH – Hummingbird (Commoner COMM01CD)

John Smith is a name I’ve been circling around for some time without actually hearing him so I was delighted when his new album, Hummingbird, his sixth, fell into my lap. I now have some serious catching up to do. If you haven’t encountered him yet you should know that ...
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SOLASTA – A Cure For The Curious (own label SLSTA18)

A Cure For The Curious is the debut album by the newest trio aiming to take folk music in new directions. Solasta are Elizabeth Flett; a multi-instrumentalist originally from Scotland, on fiddle: Jamie Leeming, a guitarist better known among the jazz fraternity and cellist Hannah Thomas, as much recognised in ...
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THE LARK AND THE LOON – Homestead Hands (own label)

She’s the lark and he’s the loon and The Lark And The Loon are multi-instrumental husband and wife duo Jeff Rolfzen and Rocky Steen-Rolfzen. Homestead Hands is a self-penned album, their second, packed with stories from the Black Hills to the Ozarks. Their songs are suffused with western lore and ...
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PHIL DOLEMAN – Skin & Bones

In recent years the ukulele has become increasingly prominent in my life as a music teacher and workshop organiser, so it was with a degree of keen anticipation that I opened Phil Doleman’s first full studio album, Skin & Bones. He may be unknown to many folk fans, but he ...
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MAWKIN – Down Among The Dead Men (Good Form Records MKN005)

I was thinking that it was rather too long since I’d heard anything from Mawkin when David Delarre got in touch to ask if I’d like an advance copy of their new album. It would have been rude to refuse. In the three years since they released The Ties That ...
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Katie Spencer – in praise of live music

Saturday night I find myself in a church in a small village. This settlement is so tiny that to describe it as a small hamlet overstates it. The best part of fifty years ago I came here on an archeological dig to see if there really had been a Roman ...
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IAIN THOMSON AND MARC DUFF – No Borders (own label IAT 003)

Iain Thomson is a singer-songwriter brought up in Dumfries who works regularly as a duo with Marc Duff who plays bouzouki, pipes, piano and whistles here and also produced the album. In his other life Iain has been a sheep farmer on Mull, where he again lives, although we’re told ...
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NATHAN BELL – Loves Bones And Stars, Love’s Bones And Stars (Angry Stick Recording Company)

In case you’re wondering, the title of the album is correct. Loves Bones And Stars, Love’s Bones And Stars is due for release on September 24th and is the fourth album in Nathan Bell’s Family Man series – and it’s rather good. The album is full of songs rather like ...
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RACHEL NEWTON – West (Shadowside SHADOW03)

I had better confess that I’m a bit of a fan of Rachel Newton. The last time I heard her perform live she demonstrated how to play harmonics on the harp and let me tell you that it isn’t easy. West is her fourth solo album, named for her grandfather ...
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RICHARD DURRANT – Stringhenge (Own Label, TheBurningDeck003CD)

JS Bach’s elaborate baroque isn’t necessarily folk’s obvious partner, but for guitarist Richard Durrant they are simply links in a lengthy musical chain. In his new album, Stringhenge, landscape and music are tightly bound, including in his instruments: a guitar made from 5000-year-old bog oak and a tenor guitar decorated ...
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A DIFFERENT THREAD – On A Whim (own label)

Originally a duo comprising Staffordshire’s Robert Jackson and North Yorkshire classical cellist Isaac Collier, last year they were joined by North Carolina songwriter and fiddle player Alicia Best, she and Jackson now the mainstays, although she remains based in the States. Following on from the High Time EP, on which ...
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NORTHERN FLYWAY – Northern Flyway (Hudson Records, HUD013)

This eponymous album from Northern Flyway is a beautiful addition to a rapidly growing body of music prominently featuring birdsong. Northern Flyway is Jenny Sturgeon and Inge Thomson’s new audio-visual project, featuring Magnus Robb’s bird recordings. Subtly drawing parallels with human migration and diversity, it’s also an alarm cry of ...
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SINGLES BAR 33 A round-up of recent EPs and singles

BURNING SALT – Hannah Hull (vocals, guitar), Bobby Williams (electric guitar) and John Parker (double bass) – base their music on Hannah's distinctive voice and sometimes painfully direct songs. Among other things, Hannah is resident artist on Islington Museum’s Echoes of Holloway Prison project, focused on oral histories from Holloway ...
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DUSTER BENNETT – The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions (Floating World FLOATM6367)

Younger readers may need a heads up about Duster Bennett but a title like The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions should pique anyone’s interest. Duster was a star of then late sixties British blues revival, eschewing the electric directions taken by contemporaries such as Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown by performing ...
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TIA McGRAFF – Stubborn In My Blood (Bandana)

Her first full-length release since 2015 (though there was an EP last year), Stubborn In My Blood  is McGraff’s seventh album and again provides ample evidence of why she’s held in such high regard in Americana circles. Working as ever with husband Tommy Parham as co-producer/writer and guitarist, it kicks ...
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DAVID MILTON – Songs From The Bell Man (Story Records Strec1801)

Produced by and featuring Ange Hardy, this is the debut album by an affable chap from her home town of Watchet in Somerset who, in addition to running weekly shanty nights down the pub and being an established stone sculptor also serves as the local football referee and Punch and ...
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CHRIS THOMAS – Bound To The Ocean (own label)

Formerly part of a Pink Floyd tribute show, the soft-voiced Devon-based singer-songwriter has being flying solo since 2013, Bound To The Ocean being his debut album. Drawing on folk, country rock and blues influences, it opens with ‘Whenever I Sing Georgia’, a breezy early Van Morrison-ish tribute to his late step-mother, ...
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GRYPHON – ReInvention (own label GRIFCD01)

It has been a long time. Gryphon broke up in 1977 after recording Treason, which a lot of people seem to like but which I don’t particularly care for. Rumours started to emerge some eleven years ago and the band played a one-off gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in ...
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JIMMY ALDRIDGE & SID GOLDSMITH – Many A Thousand (MATRAI8001)

Rising stars of the UK acoustic scene, Aldridge and Goldsmith are what I guess those outside the fraternity would call finger in the ear folk music. That is to say they often sing unaccompanied with a stylised, emphatic delivery in the manner of the traditional folk singers of yore. But, ...
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RICHARD THOMPSON – 13 Rivers (Proper Records PRPCD150)

Following three excursions into his back catalogue in a solo acoustic format, Richard Thompson is back doing the other thing he does best. Electric guitar in hand and backed by the other two members of his trio, Michael Jerome and Taras Prodaniuk, plus guitarist Bobby Eichorn he returns with 13 ...
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NIAMH VARIAN-BARRY – Wings (own label NVB001)

Sometimes you just want to snuggle down and be wrapped in the voice you’re listening to. Niamh Varian-Barry has one of those voices. Have a listen to ‘Dusty Little Wings’, the opening track on the album Wings, and you don’t want to do anything other than just listen. Wings was ...
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GRACE PETRIE – Queer As Folk (own label)

The only time I saw Grace Petrie on stage, I was bowled over. I bought an EP and was impressed by that. Always her own person and doing things her way, Grace could now be on the verge of a breakthrough. Thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, Queer As Folk is ...
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STONE JUNCTION – Could We Start This All Again? (Eris Records SJCD001)

Stone Junction are a trio based in Sussex: Michael Prochak, Dan Lapins and Will Thomson. Between them they play guitar, banjo, accordion, mandolin and whistle and sing in what appears to be effortless harmony. They have experience – Michael has been performing since the late 60s – immense talent and ...
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SKINNER & T’WITCH – Everybody’s Grotty (own label)

In the course of reviewing Skinner & T’Witch’s debut album, Rise, I mused on nominative determinism and wondered whether if Sandra Twitchett had not acquired the name T’Witch it might not have had the mythological feel that it did. There is no such issue with their third album Everybody’s Grotty, ...
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SMITH AND BREWER – Live 16/12/2017 (Own Label)

Riding high on their success in front of their biggest audience to date at Cropredy, as well as playing a host of other festivals, Americana duo Smith & Brewer are having a good year. For everyone who’s been enjoying their performances, Live 16/12/2017 provides a chance to take the magic ...
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HANNAH RARITY – ‘Neath The Gloaming Star (Own Label, HR085NEA)

Winner of 2018’s BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician award, Hannah Rarity, has just successfully crowdsourced her debut album, and it’s exquisitely lovely. ‘Neath The Gloaming Star' can only – rightly - enhance her growing reputation within Scottish traditional music. Rarity has that crystal clarity often found in female Celtic ...
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BOB COLLUM AND THE WELFARE MOTHERS – Pay Pack And Carry (own label)

Bob Collum hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma but now lives in Essex – actually, we’re beginning to detect a pattern there. His band is Macs Leyton, Matthew Hall and Paul Quarry and there are a number of guests including Martin Belmont formerly of Ducks Deluxe, Graham Parker and Nick Lowe: Peter ...
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DAN WEBSTER – Devil Sky (Paper Plane PPR1801)

Dan Webster is a British singer-songwriter who has been described as the fusion of folk and country. On his fourth album, Devil Sky, much of the country influence comes from his band which includes Joshua Burnell, of whom we have spoken before, Emily Lawler on violin and Polly Bolton on ...
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FAIRYTALE – Autumn’s Crown (Magic Mile Music, MMM41112)

German folk-rockers Fairytale cunningly release their second album, Autumn’s Crown, as the first signs of seasonal change appear. Having already secured the support of some of Ireland’s biggest musical names, this follow-up to 2015’s Forest Of Summer is clearly aiming for wider UK recognition. Singer-songwriter Oliver Oppermann (guitars, mandolins, Irish ...
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DREW MORRISON AND THE DARKWOOD – Electric-Notes Wild (Storm Cloud SCCD002)

Electric-Notes Wild, to be released on September 7th, is the debut album from Drew Morrison And The Darkwood. It follows a well-received EP, Tales of Love, Sadness and Rock’n’Roll, released in 2015. The band have been playing since 2011 and perform regularly (they’ve been called ‘the house band’) at the ...
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JENNIFER BELL AND WILSON WALKER – …And So To Bedlam (own label JBWW01)

It isn’t often that a lutenist will send us a CD but Jennifer Bell did just that. Jennifer is a singer-songwriter and, in addition to lute, she plays 12-string guitar. In partnership with fiddler Wilson Walker and assisted by percussionist Neil Rabjohn she has released her debut album. …And So ...
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THE TANNAHILL WEAVERS – Òrach (Compass Records 7417172)

Few bands get to celebrate fifty years together – and some of those have taken a breather mid-career – so The Tannahill Weavers have joined a pretty exclusive club. Sub-titled The Golden Anniversary Album, their new record, Òrach, draws together music, friends and former colleagues. Joining the current line-up of ...
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THE GLOAMING – Live At The NCH (Real World CD/Vinyl)

It almost goes without saying that Martin Hayes (fiddle) and Dennis Cahill (guitar) have shaped Irish traditional music for the last quarter century and are recognised the world over for their sublime lyrical and melodic interpretation of almost everything they touch. What has kept them fresh and relevant across the ...
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WILL KEATING – Cornwall My Home (Kernow Ow Thre) (Own Label)

As it happens, I'd heard quite a lot of Will Keating's CD Cornwall My Home (Kernow Ow Thre) before a copy came my way, having heard Will on the West Cornwall radio station Coast FM, where Ian Semple has played the seriously catchy title song 'Cornwall My Home' several times ...
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ASSYNT – Road To The North (Garthland Records, GAR001CD)

The trio of musicians who make up Assynt may still only be in their 20s but between them have already amassed a barrowload of nominations and awards. Having worked with many of Scotland’s finest musicians, this year they finally came together as Assynt (named after an area of North-West Scotland) ...
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HILARY SCOTT – Don’t Call Me Angel (Belltown)

Released in the 20th anniversary of her older brother’s death, which saw her take her stage name in his honour, Don’t Call Me Angel  is Washington- born multi-instrumentalist Scott’s 12th studio album , one that veers more to soul and blues than her previous country sound. Indeed, as part of ...
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DUNCAN McCRONE – Land Of Gold (Greentrax CDTRAX398)

A well-established veteran of the Scottish folk scene, Duncan McCrone returns with Land Of Gold, his fourth solo album, and his first on the esteemed Greentrax label. It is a record of new and revisited songs; some recent originals inspired by old stories, a few recordings of older writings and ...
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MARTIN BARRE – Roads Less Travelled (Garage Records GAR0002)

I don't think I've heard Jethro Tull for decades, but one of the highlights of the band's music was, for me and many others, Martin Barre's guitar work, so I jumped at the opportunity to check out his solo album Roads Less Travelled, for release on 31st August 2018. The ...
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NITEWORKS – Air Faìr An Là (Comann Music, CM002)

If the combined words “folk” and “electronica” bring on an attack of the vapours, a lie down with the reviving sal volatile of Niteworks’ second album Air Faìr An Là (At Dawn Of Day) might just help. The four Skye lads of Niteworks clearly love their traditional music but, obviously, ...
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RACHAEL McSHANE & THE CARTOGRAPHERS – When All Is Still (Topic TSCD596)

It’s been nine years since Rachael McShane realised her solo debut, the time since then keeping her busy as cellist, fiddler, viola player and singer with the now defunct Bellowhead, of which she was a founding member back in 2004, and, more recently, her role in the reworking of Peter ...
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MAIREARAD & ANNA – Farran (Shouty Records SHOUTYCD04)

Farran is the Scots word for the starboard side of a boat and is also Mairearad Green and Anna Massie’s fourth album as a duo. It’s a stripped back album recorded by Andrea Gobbi and co-produced by Calum MacCrimmon of Breabach, recorded off the floor with accordion, pipes, fiddle, guitar ...
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NIALL HANNA – Autumn Winds (own label)

I have to say out the outset that this is rather lovely. Two years ago Niall Hanna received a Young Musician’s Platform Award from the Arts Council which gave him the opportunity to collect and record some traditional songs, mostly from Ulster. He threw in a couple of original compositions ...
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DAN JOHNSON – Hemingway (State Fair)

In 1987, when Dan Johnson was just ten, his father, an injured US Air Force veteran, finding his skill set was not transferrable to civilian life, sank into depression and an eventual mental collapse that led to suicide. Thirty years later, his son is releasing Hemingway, a conceptual five-track EP ...
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GREGORY PAGE – A Wild Rose (own label)

His mother lead vocalist London’s first all-girl pop band The Beat-Chics and his uncle Tom Jones’s dummer on ‘What’s New Pussycat’, born in North London of Irish-Armenian heritage (but now based in Southern California), Page describes the music on A Wild Rose, his twenty-seventh album in as many years, as ...
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JACKIE OATES – The Joy Of Living (ECC Records ECC018)

Jackie Oates’ new album, her seventh, is an intensely personal one with songs spanning four generations of her family from her grandfather to her daughter Rosie. The latter can be heard on several tracks notably her “theme tune”, ‘Rosy Apple’. The Joy Of Living reflects on new life and death ...
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THE SHACKLETON TRIO – Fen, Farm And Deadly Water (own label)

The name having slimmed down from The Georgia Shackleton Trio, though still comprising fiddle player, locally accented vocalist and songsmith Georgia alongside guitarist Aaren Bennett and mandolinist Nic Zuppardi, their second album, Fen, Farm And Deadly Water, again draws on British, American and Scandinavian traditions for its songs and influences ...
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SINGLES BAR 32 A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Named for the Virginia city, but based in Nashville, ROANOKE are a rising Folk Americana five-piece led by guitarist Joey Beesley and Taylor Dupuis, alongside fellow band members Zach Nowak on mandolin, acoustic guitarist John Fiorentino and drummer Kyle Breese. Following on from their self-titled 2016 debut, the songs written ...
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TONY WINN – Push And Pull (Freefall FF011D)

Hailing from Essex and while you’ve likely never heard of him, an actor and poet as well as a musician, Winn has sufficient a following to make Push And Pull his seventh album. Given the right exposure, awareness levels could well rise. It’s a highly accessible collection that spans the ...
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LETITIA VANSANT – Gut It To The Studs (own label)

Letitia VanSant is an American activist whose first album, Gut It To The Studs, has a UK release date of August 28th. Gut It To The Studs is Americana rather than folk, but the lyrics focus on modern-day spiritual and political concerns as much as the ‘folk revival’ did in ...
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PHILIP MARINO – Chasing Ghosts (own label)

Philip Marino released his fourth CD, Chasing Ghosts, on July 27th. Marino is an American singer-songwriter who lives in Essex in the UK. In style, perhaps the most appropriate genre would be to describe Chasing Ghosts as Americana. It’s broader than that though and you can hear the influences that ...
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EFDSS NATIONAL YOUTH FOLK ENSEMBLE – Grand Arcade, Cambridge

Serendipity. It’s great isn’t it? I was just leaving John Lewis (other department stores are available -Ed), doing a spot of late-night shopping, when I became aware of a largish, youthful-looking group of musicians setting up to play in Cambridge’s Grand Arcade. Nothing particularly unusual there, except that flyers and ...
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LONESOME GEORGE – Flat As The Earth (own label)

What do you do if you’re essentially an Irish traditional band who also want “to represent an underlying dissatisfaction that we believe to be present in our generation”, as lead vocalist and lyricist Joe Campbell-McArdle puts it?  Lonesome George decided to do both on their debut album, Flat As The ...
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BEINN LEE – Osgarra (own label BL18)

Beinn Lee are a young six-piece band who are deeply rooted in the music of their home in Uist. Osgarra is their debut and I get the feeling that they had enough ideas for three different records but decided to combine them all into one to see what happened. It ...
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JULIE JULY BAND – Who Knows Where The Time Goes (Aurora Folk Records JJB18CD1)

The Julie July Band has built a substantial reputation on reinterpretations of Sandy Denny's songs, so it comes as no surprise that the CD Who Knows Where The Time Goes, released on July 27th, is a collection of 11 songs written by Sandy, plus one song of Richard Farina's that ...
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IRA BERNSTEIN & RILEY BAUGUS – Appalachian Roots (Yodel-Ay-Hee CD-0046)

I’m pretty sure I saw Ira Bernstein demonstrating his Appalachian clogging and flatfooting when he was the sensation of the festival circuit back in the 1980s. I have a vivid picture in my mind of a man impossibly high off the ground given that he was step-dancing and I hope ...
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WE BANJO 3 – Haven (own label WB3CD005)

I know I’ve said this before but there are four members of We Banjo 3: two sets of brothers David and Martin Howley and Fergal and Enda Scahill, and only two play banjo but let’s not get bogged down in details. Haven is their fourth studio album and this time ...
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JACKIE OATES – Lush Studio Soho

I have reported on CD launch events from a number of venues; the BBC Club, The Convent, even Wigan but none as lush as …well, Lush. On the hottest day of the year in London the air-conditioned Lush Studio Soho was an oasis. It’s a rabbit warren of a building ...
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STEPH GEREMIA – Up She Flew (Black Box Music BBM009)

I was beginning to muse about why it is that Irish, and indeed Scottish, musicians have such a deep desire to rework and circulate the music from their native lands and then I read that Steph Geremia is actually from New York. Up She Flew is Steph’s second album, almost ...
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