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.

TARA BEIER – California 1970 (Red Raven)

The title, California 1970, pretty much tells you where this is coming from musically and lyrically, as the Canadian singer-songwriter and classically trained pianist (not to mention documentary filmmaker and actress) casts an eye over L.A. life through the prism of soft folk-pop filtered through Wurlitzer, pedal steel, guitars and piano ...
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STEVE TILSTON – Distant Days (Riverboat Records TUGCD1117)

Steve Tilston has enjoyed a long career as a singer, composer and guitarist both solo and in partnerships. It seems to me that his popularity and the esteem in which he is held increases year on year which is great for a man who has worked continually at his craft ...
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PAUL COWLEY – [Just What I Know] (Lou B Music LBM 005 2018)

In the notes that arrived with Paul Cowley's third solo CD [Just What I Know], he explains the album's title by quoting the Reverend Gary Davis as say "…play just what you know…" It turns out that what Paul Cowley knows is country blues, and he really does know his ...
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SINGLES BAR 31 A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Special Commissions is just that, a set of songs written or recorded by JIM CAUSLEY, for one-off projects and left in search of a home. ‘City Of  Trees’ is about Exeter and initially sounds very folky but Jim cleverly quotes other bits of music as he writes about wassailing and ...
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CLANNAD – Turas 1980 (Made In Germany Music, MIG02092)

On the heels of their 1979 US tour - the longest by any Irish band back then - a five-piece Clannad fetched up in Germany having their live show recorded by Radio Bremen. Previously unbroadcast, the recently resurfaced recordings are now available as Turas 1980 (“an turas” meaning “a journey”), ...
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I SEE HAWKS IN LA – Live And Never Learn (Western Seeds WSRCD-013)

Having released a solo covers collection in 2016, lead singer Robert Waller returns to the band nest for their first album in five years. The good news is that it’s like they’ve never been away, that familiar country rock sound with its Telecaster reverb and Waller’s vocal drawl picking up ...
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DAMIEN O’KANE & RON BLOCK – Banjophony (Pure Records PRCD48)

If you’re not a fan of the five-string egg-slicer you might be thinking of moving on but hold hard there, stranger. This is no ‘Duelling Banjos’, last one to the end gets the beers in mayhem-fest. The object of the exercise was to pair the 5-string banjo of the American ...
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CHRIS RONALD – Fragments (Borealis Records BCD 248)

With a solid body of work since 2004’s Pacific Time, the English-born/Canadian-based singer-songwriter, Chris Ronald has just issued album number four, titled Fragments. On this album there are traces of 1960s styled folk revivalists, 1970s singer-songwriters, contemporary writers, country and bluegrass music, bound together with Ronald’s contemporary songwriting and John ...
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COWBOY JUNKIES – All That Reckoning (Proper PRPCD149)

It has been six years since the Cowboy Junkies last released an album. The Nomad Series may have been something of a diversion for the band although it included some of their best work, particularly on Renmin Park, but with All That Reckoning they are back in their mainstream. I ...
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BOB & GILL BERRY – Echoes Of Alfred (WildGoose WGS427CD)

This takes me back. I knew Bob Berry’s parents back in the day when albums were still issued on cassettes. Len was a genial gentleman of the old school and when Fairport Convention covered Barbara’s setting of ‘I Wandered By A Brookside’ her fame was assured. Which brings us very ...
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MICHAEL McDERMOTT – Out From Under (Pauper Sky Records 2018)

I’ve been bewitched by the music of Michael McDermott for a few years now, I’m late to the party I know, as the Chicago based singer-songwriter has been a shining musical light over us for over 25 years now and is in fact celebrating his Eleventh Solo album with the ...
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BEN SURES – Poema Poematis (BS11CD)

Ben Sures is a Canadian singer songwriter whose latest album, Poema Poematis, was released worldwide on June 17th. His website tells you, “We are holding off on the Jupiter and Mars releases til we see how the album does on this planet”. That kinda tells you the first thing you ...
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REG MEUROSS – Reg Meuross (Stockfisch SFR 357.40922)

I don’t often get to review a Reg Meuross album, usually because someone else gets to them first but this time that someone else wrote the sleeve notes which rather disqualifies him. This pleases me greatly because Reg Meuross is quite probably the best album I’ve heard this year. There ...
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ALISTAIR McCULLOCH TRIO – Off The Hook (Rostral Records RTRLCD015)

The Alistair McCulloch Trio summer tour has become a well-established Scottish fixture over many years now, yet this busy bunch has only just got around to recording an album. Thankfully, they have now whittled down their extensive live repertoire to the ten excellent tracks featured on Off The Hook. Alongside ...
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THE FRETLESS – Live From The Art Farm (own label TFCD004)

The Fretless is a string quartet – two fiddles, viola and cello although Karrnnel Sawitsky and Ben Plotnick double up on viola and fiddle so they don’t play strictly by the rules. Their latest album, Live From The Art Farm, was actually recorded in Sean Boyd’s studio but live from ...
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FEAR OF DRINKING – Live In Zurich (own label)

There was an Englishman, a New Zealander and several Canadians who met in Vancouver and formed a band. While I don’t altogether approve of their name, Fear Of Drinking were a pretty good band in the mould of The Pogues. They officially stopped live appearances in 2000 and Live In ...
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BRACKENBURY & NEILSON – Crossings (Monoline MLRC1)

Crossings is an album that falls into a category generally known as “music”. Faith Brackenbury and John Neilson have worked together for some time and bring together experience of classical music, folk, jazz and busking round Europe. This is their debut as a duo. Most of the material is self-composed ...
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THE ANDREW COLLINS TRIO – Tongue / Groove (own label, ACT003/ACT004)

Finally, there’s an album paying long-overdue homage to practical, yet rustic bathroom panelling. What’s that? It’s not? Fortunately, Tongue / Groove is a paired album set from phenomenally talented, multi-award-winning Canadians, The Andrew Collins Trio. Their hard-to-pigeonhole fusion sound is sometimes referred to as ‘chambergrass’ but absorbs such a broad ...
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JEFF WARNER – Roam The Country Through (WildGoose WGS425CD)

If you haven’t yet heard Jeff Warner live, you have a rare treat in store. Jeff is the son of two of America’s foremost song collectors, Frank and Anne Warner and, as such, his knowledge is unparalleled. On stage he is relaxed and genial swapping between concertina, banjo and guitar ...
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THE BEVVY SISTERS – This Moment (Interrupto IM007)

The Bevvy Sisters first came to our ears in 2009 with an album of mostly old songs sung in the close harmony style of the 40s and 50s edged with jazz and blues. Five years later, their follow-up, Plan B, continued in the same vein, although perhaps a little more ...
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RAB NOAKES – Welcome To Anniversaryville (Neon Records NEONCD021)

I was delighted to receive a review copy of the new Rab Noakes CD Welcome To Anniversaryville – scheduled for release on the 13th July 2018 – especially as I had previously reviewed and enjoyed his EP The Treatment Tapes. I mention the earlier EP because it was released in ...
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FOLKY MACFOLK FACE – When Night Falls (own label)

Can we just accept that this is the worst band name since Sconce The Ogives and move on? When Night Falls is the debut album from Folky McFolk Face, a Scots/Irish quartet based in Scotland – Irish fiddler Eabhnat Ni Laighin is the one who has been transplanted. Dougie Torrance, ...
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DOWALLY – Somewhere (own label, DW002)

Are we there yet? Today’s destination is highland hamlet Dowally – or rather, the immensely talented Scottish trio of that name, who decided to call their second album Somewhere. Alongside their first album, Welcome To Scotland, it does suggest the musician’s itinerant life, that standing wave of maps, road signs ...
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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Destination (Fellside Recordings FECD282)

The Fellside Recording label has been a major force in independent folk music recording for 42 years and has over 600 albums to its credit, many by some very big names in the genre. Now, Paul and Linda Adams have decided to slow down, and though the label remains in ...
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THE KIMBERLEYS – The Kimberleys (Popla OB7)

It can be difficult to take a well-known traditional song and attempt to do something new with it. Those of us with long memories will recall that once upon a time you could be run out of town just for thinking about it. The Kimberleys do it seven times over ...
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ALDEN PATTERSON AND DASHWOOD – By The Night (own label)

Arriving in a hand printed card sleeve, By The Night is the second album from the Norwich-based trio of Christina Alden, Alex Patterson and Noel Dashwood following 2016’s well-received Call Me Home self-funded and recorded at home with Patterson producing. Alden singing lead, there’s no significant deviation from that homespun ...
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TONY ROSE – Medicine Tunes (Cannery Row Records. CRR 1824/ CRR 1825)

Recorded in just one session in the spring of 2017, Medicine Tunes is the debut solo album by Tony Rose. Moving away from his more frequented folk-rock sound, this album is about as country as country gets, musically and lyrically, and often dealing with subject matter such as loss and ...
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JAMIE MACDONALD & CHRISTIAN GAMAUF – The Pipe Slang (own label JMCG01)

Jamie and Christian met on the Isle Of Uist and, having participated in a cultural exchange in Asturias and paid their dues at small gigs, eventually making it to Celtic Connections, they started work on their debut album, The Pipe Slang. The title tune is an old reel but be ...
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LUCY WARD – Pretty Warnings (Betty Beetroot BETTY03)

Having been finally converted to Ward with her last album, I Dreamt I Was A Bird, I was unsure whether that was a one-off or if her follow-up would keep me on the path. Well, feathered friends again in evidence, with the opening, ‘Silver Morning’, Helga Ragnarsdottir on electric piano, ...
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SERIOUS CHILD – Empty Nest (TCR Music TCRM75099)

The core of Serious Child – or as the CD sleeve has it, SERIOUS CHiLD – consists of Alan Young on guitar and vocals, Carla March on vocals, and Steve Welch on bass. However, a fine selection of well-performed songs by Alan Young is further lifted on the CD Empty ...
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PARKER MILLSAP – Other Arrangements (OkraHoma OKRA004CD)

Three albums in, two of which have topped the US Americana charts, the Oklahoma singer-songwriter is expanding his musical horizons and looking to broaden his audience. As such, while there’s still country at the core, his latest outing, Other Arrangements, is a rockier and poppier affair. It’s also his first to ...
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THE MOONBEAMS – This Land (Moonbeam Records MBR003)

The Moonbeams band forms the core of The Moonbeam Collective, a multi-platform arts community based in the Yorkshire Dales. This Land, the band’s third album, is once again rooted in that landscape, linking up past and present, rural and industrial. Apart from the closing song - a jaunty lunge at ...
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HECTOR GILCHRIST – Gleanings (WildGoose WGS426CD)

Hector Gilchrist, as you will quickly discover, comes from Ayrshire but is much travelled. To misuse a common phrase, however: you can take the man out of Scotland but you can’t take Scotland out of the man. There is someone like Hector in just about every folk club: always welcome, ...
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CARDBOARD FOX – Topspin (own label, CARRIVICKSCD09)

Featuring the shared lead vocals of sisters Charlotte and Laura Carrivick (who also perform as a duo), with backing provided by Joe Tozer and John Breese, Topspin is the Bath quartet’s third release and second album, a meld of English traditional folk and American bluegrass influences built around the core ...
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HÒ-RÒ – Hex (own label)

Since their eponymous debut album two years ago, Hò-Rò have expanded to a six-piece with Paul Martin and DC Macmillan joining Calum MacPhail, Lucy Doogan, Sean Cousins and Crisdean MacDonald. Thus we have the cunningly titled Hex. The band talk about the melding of six musical styles but really it’s ...
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SKERRYVORE – Evo (Tyree09CD)

Skerryvore release Evo, their sixth studio album, on June 11th. You get an album to review and it’s a bit like sitting in the marquee at a festival – you’re sitting around or stretching your legs and waiting for the next band to come on stage, wondering what will turn ...
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SINGLES BAR 30 – a round-up of recent EPs and singles

Following on from 2016’s Trick Star, accompanied by Steve Mayone on mandolin and nylon string guitar, pedal steel player Chris Tarrow, Jason Mercer on upright bass and Alex Hargreaves providing fiddle, ANNIE KEATING’s latest is a five-track collection of road songs originated from last year’s European tour. It opens with ...
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FAIRPORT CONVENTION – What We Did On Our Saturday (Matty Grooves MG2CD055)

If you’ve ever been to a Cropredy Festival you’ll know exactly what they do on Saturday. They gather together a bunch of former band-mates and old friends and play a mammoth set long into the darkness (subject to health and safety restrictions, of course). These days, Fairport Convention don’t need ...
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VINNY PECULIAR – Return Of The Native (Shadrack & Duxbury SADCD013)

An album celebrating his return to his roots after years living in Manchester, with its heady dose of nostalgia and memories, borrowing the title from Thomas Hardy (and with a cover that sees him fork in hand to dig up old ground), Bromsgrove-born Alan Wilkes’ thirteenth album (fourteenth if you ...
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MISCHIEF AFOOT – Mischief Afoot (WildGoose WGS424CD)

Mischief Afoot are a trio of English musicians based in the Cotswolds and I think it’s fair to say that John Davis, Becky Dellow and Jeff Gillett are best known for the musicians they have worked with over the years. Their repertoire is largely traditional or tunes that have a ...
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VARIOUS ARTISTS – 1989 Newport Folk Festival (Air Cuts AC3CD8060)

Hats off to the Air Cuts label for this box-set of the Ben & Jerry’s 1989 Newport Folk Festival – a near 30 year old recording, made to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the original 1959 event. While in many ways, this release harks back to the boxed editions of ...
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JENNIFER WARNES – Another Time, Another Place (BMG 538358052)

I first encountered Warnes back in 1977 with the release of her eponymously titled Arista debut fourth album, prompting me to immediately seek out its 1972 predecessor, Jennifer, (her first two albums remain impossible to find), eventually interviewing her in Birmingham when she toured with Leonard Cohen in 1979. Aside ...
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JAKE WALTON – Silver Muse (CM0001)

Folk music, as opposed to singer-songwriting or the many facets of acoustic music, has a sense of place and history. It is defined by social context. Nevertheless, one small niche within the folk traditional defies the here and now and fosters the notion of a spiritual ‘otherworld’, a dreamy predilection ...
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MISHAPED PEARLS – Shivelight (own label MISSHAP04)

Four years on from Thamesis, the London septet return with an album that take its title from Gerard Manley-Hopkins’ invented word for the lances of sunlight that pierce a woodland canopy. Fronted as ever by German-born mezzosoprano Manuella Schuette with co-founded and producer Ged Flood providing the bulk of the ...
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MATTHEW BYRNE – Horizon Lines (own label MB060417)

Hailing from Newfoundland, the deep-voiced Byrne stands in the classic tradition of Canadian folk singers such as Stan Rogers, Gordon Lightfoot and Ian Tyson, his third album sure to spread his name far beyond his native shores. Unlike those mentioned, Byrne is predominantly an interpreter of traditional song, opening here ...
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RURA – In Praise Of Home (Rura Music RURACD003)

Almost the first sound you hear is the voice of Steven Blake’s grandfather, James Russell, reflecting on his home in Montrose. Or rather the feeling of home, that sensation sailors used to call the channels, and that idea is really what In Praise Of Home is about. Later, we hear ...
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BOB DYLAN – Live NYC 1963 (Rox Vox. RVCD2130)

In early 1963, Bob Dylan was at the threshold of a career that would skyrocket him to previously unimaginable heights, in part, aided by his Freewheelin’ LP, released in May ’63. Although an implied ‘live’ recording, Live NYC 1963, is actually, more accurately, part of a radio broadcast from WBAI’s ...
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DANIEL & EMMA REID – Life Continuum (own label EMR04)

Saxophone and fiddle isn’t a combination you hear very often, no more than flute and Hardanger fiddle but here they are, together with accordion, piano and viola. Life Continuum is the third album from a duo who are, as they say, big in Sweden. Actually Emma is fairly big in ...
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MISNER & SMITH – headwaters (own label)

The actor-turned-muso duo of Sam Misner and Megan Smith return with their fifth album, headwaters, due for release on June 25th, although it has been available in the States since October 2017. It is a little bit different from previous offerings such as Seven Hour Storm or Poor Player, and ...
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JON BUDWORTH – We All Share The Same Sky (Flying Folkie FF001CD)

Jon Budworth is a man of contradictions: a son of Lancashire who now lives in Yorkshire; a former rock’n’roller who discovered the joys of the acoustic guitar via Richard Thompson and became a singer-songwriter. The first impression of his debut full-length album, We All Share The Same Sky, is that ...
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BARRY NISBET – A Bright Ray Of Sunshine (Own Label, RRIG001)

Shetland singer-songwriter (and sailor) Barry Nisbet’s little box of delights, A Bright Ray Of Sunshine finally reaches the top of the unruly stack by the CD player. Although released in March, this absolute treasure chest of ten songs fully deserves to receive the widest recognition. Some expected themes - a ...
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TRACY GRAMMER – Low Tide (own label TGM180119)

Although Grammer released six albums with the late Dave Carter and a previous solo outing in 2006, this is the first on which she’s both singer and songwriter. Working with longtime guitar accompanist Jim Henry (who co-produced), drummer Lorne Entess, Paul Kochanski on bass and Chris Haynes providing keys and ...
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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Resound (Shrewsbury Folk Festival)

Curated by Hannah James and released by Shrewsbury Folk Festival, Resound is a multi-tasking album. Firstly, it’s a tribute to Alan Surtees, founder and organiser of the festival and secondly, it’s a fundraiser for the Alan Surtees Trust which aims to give grants to young musicians and new musical projects ...
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SHARON LAZIBYRD – Half Shame And Half Glory (Trampoline TRL002)

Sharon Lazibyrd first came to my attention in 2013, disappeared for a while and returned with her single, ‘Opium Of The Masses’. It felt at first like a rail against consumerism but the more you listen, the deeper it seems to go. Like many of her songs it makes you ...
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JACK CARTY AND GUS GARDINER – Hospital Hill (It’s Dinner Recordings/ MGM GLWCD07)

Australian musicians Jack Carty and Gus Gardiner collaborate to co-write Hospital Hill, which will be released on June 1st. While by and large, I would consider this a somewhat stripped back type of album, for the entirety of the record, Carty’s acoustic guitar and vocal takes are backed by a ...
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DÓNAL CLANCY – On The Lonesome Plain (Proper/Copperplate DCLPCD16)

Dónal Clancy is the son of Liam Clancy, and comes highly recommended by the likes of Archie Fisher and Martin Simpson. His forthcoming album On The Lonesome Plain has already garnered praise from such publications as fROOTS both for his singing and for his Celtic-styled guitar. Deservedly so. His singing ...
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WINTER WILSON – Far Off On The Horizon (The Launch Event)

If you go to a Winter Wilson gig you can expect great songs well-played, but also humour in their introductions. I saw them play at a small festival last summer and they stopped their set for five minutes so we could watch the Spitfire fly past. This is a duo ...
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PHIL MADEIRA – Providence (Mercyland Records. ML006)

Providence is the brand new release from one of Nashville’s most seasoned veterans, Phil Madeira. It’s jazzy, it’s bluesy and as you’d expect from a man with Madeira’s credentials, the musicianship on the record, is second to none. In April 2018, it entered Billboard’s Traditional Jazz Chart at number 12 ...
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PHANTOM VOICES – Peace By Peace (Wyre Records WR006)

Phantom Voices are a six-piece band from Lancashire, Peace By Peace being their second album. With five vocalists and eleven instruments to choose from their style doesn’t lend itself to easy categorisation. The opening ‘Lovely Joan’ is classic folk-rock with a country edge and an all-too-brief electric guitar break from ...
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JILL JACKSON – Are We There Yet (own label JJR001CD)

Are We There Yet was released a few days ago on May 18th. The album was produced by Boo Hewerdine and has that classy feel you’d expect from “the wonderful man of magic” as Jill Jackson calls him on the sleeve notes. At the age of 22, Jackson had a ...
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