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.

BLAIR DUNLOP – Notes From An Island (Gilded Wings GWR005)

No artist is going to say their latest album isn’t as good as their previous ones, but when Dunlop says he thinks Notes From An Island is his best to date, he’s not just spouting press release clichés. Again produced by Ed Harcourt, who also contributes bass, and featuring long-standing ...
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CHRIS TAVENER – Is He Joking? (own label)

Recorded live over two sold-out nights in Manchester’s Three Minute Theatre, Is He Joking?, the debut album by satirical singer-songwriter, Chris Tavener is available now on CD and DVD. Cleverly, the show begins with an internal monologue (which the live audience are privy to) as Tavener tries to get himself ...
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Ó CONAILL FAMILY AND FRIENDS – Let’s Have Another Gan Ainm (Digital release)

I'm not sure I should be writing this review: while I've played guitar in many ceilidh bands over the years, I don't claim any in-depth knowledge of the tradition from which Let's Have Another Gan Ainm – due for digital-only release on July 1st 2018 – springs. Yet it's such ...
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GRETCHEN PETERS – Dancing With The Beast (Scarlet Letter/Proper PRPCD148P)

Having enjoyed her biggest success to date with the Ben Glover co-penned southern gothic ‘Blackbirds’, it is, perhaps, not too surprising to find echoes in Dancing With The Beast. In terms of narrative, the slightly swampy ‘Wichita’, which Glover also co-wrote and which features Jerry Douglas on Dobro, is another ...
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SINGLES BAR 29 – a round-up of recent EPs and singles

VIRGINIA KETTLE is one of Merry Hell’s front line as songwriter and singer and formerly a successful soloist around the clubs. This eponymous EP with The Dreamcatchers (who are not named but who look suspiciously familiar) is, we’re told, the precursor to a solo album. Her songs tend to be ...
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CATH & PHIL TYLER – The Ox And The Ax (Ferric Mordant Records Fe10)

Cath and Phil are based in the north-east – Phil is from Newcastle upon Tyne – but you wouldn’t know it from their music. Their greatest influence comes via Cath who was a member of Cordelia’s Dad back in the 1990s and has absorbed their take on traditional music from ...
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THE JELLYMAN’S DAUGHTER – Dead Reckoning (own label)

A gentle beginning with cello, voice and mandolin and then the strings flow into the musicscape. ‘Quiet Movie’ is a fine opener to the new album Dead Reckoning by that marvellous duo The Jellyman’s Daughter. This new outing is chock-full of bitter sweet ballads, laments, lullabies and dancing tunes such ...
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HATFUL OF RAIN – Songs Of The Lost and Found (Long Way Home Music 004)

Hatful Of Rain were formed in 2011, have been played by Mike Harding and have performed live on the Bob Harris show. Their music crosses the borders of folk and country and Songs Of The Lost And Found is their fourth release, following two albums and an EP. I found ...
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WILL FINN & ROSIE CALVERT – Beneath This Place (Haystack HAYCD012)

It’s not often that you hear British traditional music played on steel pans but that’s what you’ll find here. Will and Rosie are half of The Teacups, known for their unaccompanied harmony but on Beneath This Place, their debut album as a duo, they expand their musical palette The opening ...
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JOE SOLO – Not On Our Watch (own label)

Having issued the equivalent of nearly one recording per year since 2004, Not on Our Watch is the most recent release by the prolific folk-punk troubadour, Joe Solo. It’s a bigger sound than one of Joe’s live shows with the usual guitar, harmonica and percussion set-up being accompanied by fiddle, ...
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THE POOZIES – Punch (Schmooz SCHMOOZCD003)

I was amused by the quote from Eilidh Shaw (fiddle, vocals) who says that the Poozies are probably fortunate that the charge of witchcraft has gone out of fashion; otherwise they’d be in trouble. In Punch there’s certainly a mischievous mix of musical mayhem, spellbinding showcase instrumentals and probably some ...
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JOE WILKES – Japanese Elvis (Frontline FLR009)

Born in Coventry and now based out of East London, Wilkes first caught my ear back in 2006 with his debut album Spotlight. This was followed two years later by Here On This Frontline and, in 2012, Looking For The Grave of Garcia Lorca. However, the following year an injury ...
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ROBBIE SHERRATT – Provenance (own label)

Robbie Sherratt comes from north Staffordshire, as his repertoire readily testifies. In fact, the music of his home region is part of the rationale of this record. He has studied at the Sibelius Academy and is just completing his final year at university. He first encountered folk music in the ...
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FRANK TURNER – Be More Kind (XtraMile Recordings/Polydor 6738173)

The globe-circling gigging machine and humanist that is Frank Turner might surprise some with his seventh solo studio album, Be More Kind. Fearlessly true to himself, as always, he embraces an ambitious new musical palette, while his smart, sharp lyrics display maturity in the face of an uncertain world. The ...
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JOSHUA BURNELL – Songs From The Seasons (Misted Valley Records MVR18a)

In late December 2015, quite possibly infused by a degree of festive spirits, the York folk musician (his voice not unlike Gerry Colvin) set himself the task of recording his arrangement of a different traditional folk song every week for the next twelve months reflecting the passing of the seasons ...
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RAY COOPER – Between The Golden Age & The Promised Land (Westpark 87368)

They say you only get one chance – this time I’m very grateful that I’ve had two. A couple of months ago a friend put Ray Cooper on about ten miles away from me and I couldn’t get to the gig because of a family event. Last week I got ...
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MERRY HELL ACOUSTIC – live at The Old Courts, Wigan – 29th April 2018

The previous evening, the electric Merry Hell had rocked the packed courtroom supported by The Trials Of Cato and Derek Martin. I’d like to tell you how good they were but that must wait for another monograph. Tonight was about the launch of their acoustic album, Anthems To The Wind, ...
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STEPHEN HARRISON – It Starts With The Soul (Word Poem Records, WP018)

Stephen Harrison is a something of a music industry veteran. From his early days as a teen, playing in Edinburgh’s post-punk scene and the electronic experimentation that followed, through rock and out the other side, he’s arrived back at the simple pleasures of one man and his acoustic guitar. It ...
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SCOTT MATTHEWS – The Great Untold (Shedio Records)

For a man so frequently brushed with greatness, singer-songwriter Scott Matthews does not quite yet seem to be a household name. Perhaps his sixth album, The Great Untold, will change that – it certainly has a broad, genre-defying appeal. Matthews’ CV is impressive: a 2007 Ivor Novello award-winner for his ...
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WILL POUND – Through The Seasons (Lulubug LULUBUG004)

The cover tells you most of what you need to know about this album. Will Pound, here devoting more of his energies to melodeon than harmonica, was brought up in the Morris tradition and is a long-time member of Chinewrde Morris. Through The Seasons is a project he has long ...
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LUKE JACKSON – Solo Duo Trio (First Take Records FTCD003)

Wow! Luke Jackson stepped on stage at Bramley’s Cocktail Bar in Canterbury and roared his way through a new blues-based song, ‘Fun Of It’ – it took my breath away even at this distance. Solo Duo Trio is Luke’s first live album featuring Andy Sharps as half the duo on ...
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MOONRAKERS – Tides (own label)

First of all, I’d like to make it clear that we’re not reviewing Tides because one of the key members of Moonrakers is also a member of our writing team. No, we’re reviewing it because they are one of the very few bands to acknowledge Francis McPeake’s claim to ‘Wild ...
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MILTON HIDE – Little Fish (Howdy Records HOWDY 3)

Eastbourne husband and wife duo Jim Tipler and Josie Tipler began their musical lives busking in the town centre, he on piano accordion, she on clarinet. Marriage and family, ruled her out of the equation for some years until, the kids having left home, the acoustic duo reformed, taking their ...
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THE CINELLI BROTHERS – Babe Please Set Your Alarm (own label)

Marco Cinelli (guitarist, singer, composer) and his brother Alessandro Cinelli (drummer, singer) were born in Italy and have played in several European countries but are now based in London. Babe Please Set Your Alarm is their debut album, released in the UK on May 18th. The brothers have a passion for ...
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ANNA & ELIZABETH – The Invisible Comes To Us (Smithsonian Folkways SFW40229)

When you see the terms avant-garde and experimentation, you may tend to fear the worst. Good news then that, for their new label debut, Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle are beguiling rather than baffling, the album a collection of mostly obscure ancient folk ballads they uncovered in the archives in ...
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SMITH AND BREWER – Mumford Theatre, Cambridge (21st April 2018)

It’s surprisingly hard to recall, on this bright sunny Spring day, that a little over a month ago, snow and gales stopped play. Back then, I should have been reviewing Ben Smith and Jimmy Brewer as part of the Cambridge Roots Festival. This afternoon comes my chance to make amends, ...
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MA POLAINE’S GREAT DECLINE – The Outsider (OMH Records MPGD05)

I don’t usually get to review this kind of record, mostly because I’m not sure what kind of record this is. Ma Polaine’s Great Decline are a duo, Beth Packer and Clinton Hough, and The Outsider is their second album. Apart from Pete Flood’s drums on four tracks, Beth and ...
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GLYMJACK – Light The Evening Fire (Storm Lantern GLYMJACKCD001)

To describe Glymjack simply as contemporary English folk would be rather inadequate. It is acoustic roots, lyric-driven with a nod to soft rock, peppered with a little Americana, and anchored here by two traditional English songs to establish the home ground. Thus Glymjack arrives all guns blazing with a finely ...
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DARLINGSIDE – Extralife (More Doug Records MDR003)

Someone who knows rather a lot about these things has been saying for two years that I should go and see Darlingside. I haven’t seen them, but I jumped at the chance to review the CD. I really should have listened to his advice earlier – Extralife is rather classy, ...
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BEAU – Rattle The Asylum Bars (Cherry Red BEAURTAB1)

Released almost forty-nine years to the day since his first-ever John Peel recording sessions, approaching 72, his latest release and his tenth studio album, Rattle The Asylum Bars, finds Christopher John Trevor Midgley at his politically sharpest on a collection of thirteen songs that underline why he’s been referred to ...
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AURI – Auri (Nuclear Blast 27361 42120)

I really didn’t know what to expect from this album. I know Troy Donockley, of course – at least his work with everyone from Maddy Prior to The Bad Shepherds and I know he can play like a demon. Tuomas Holopainen, I learn, is the founder of Nightwish and a ...
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BROWNBEAR – What is Home? (Assai Recordings)

Almost since the very start, the musical collective led by Matt Hickman, known as ‘brownbear’, have caused something of a stir, not just on the Scottish music scene, but further afield. April 20th 2018 will surely see them only add to this popularity, with the release of What is Home? ...
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ROSS & ALI – Symbiosis II (Symbiosis Records, SYMCD001)

It was only in December that Ross Ainslie’s fantastic solo album, Sanctuary, was released, and he is back again already, this time with Ali Hutton in a very welcome second celebration of their long-standing partnership. Symbiosis II (despite sounding like the title of a particularly difficult contemporary art piece) is ...
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DARLING WEST – While I Was Asleep (JANSEN 097CD)

Darling West released their third album, While I Was Asleep, in February. The band are from Norway and have been played on that country’s mainstream radio channels and at its biggest festivals. Their previous album won a ‘Norwegian Grammy’ (a Spellemann Award). While I Was Asleep (sung in English) sits ...
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OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW – Volunteer (Columbia Nashville)

From the opening notes of their latest album, Volunteer, the first to feature electric guitar in 14 years, you know the Grammy award-winning outfit have a good time in store for you, even if the song lyrics aren’t necessarily always as upbeat as the tunes. That said, the footstomping, handclapping ...
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ROBERT LANE – Only A Flight Away (own label RGL 03)

Following his excellent EP/mini-album, Ends And Starts, Robert Lane has been touring and writing and is back with a full length album with a startling cover design. Made on a crowd-funded shoestring with producer Matthew Pinfield again supporting on drums, bass and piano, Only A Flight Away adds one new ...
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PATRICK SWEANY – Ancient Noise (Nine Mile Records NMR0091)

Patrick Sweany has seven critically acclaimed albums to his credit. His latest album Ancient Noise will be released in the UK on July 6th. Sweany began as an acoustic musician, having absorbed his father’s collection of 60’s folk, vintage country, soul and blues – but then moved on from an ...
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FISHERMAN’S FRIENDS – Sole Mates (The Orchard)

Fisherman – Sole. See what they did there. After avoiding groan-inducing puns for five albums, I suppose the Cornish collective can be excused for finally indulging, especially given yet another fine and rousing assemblage of sea shanties. Currently an eight-piece line-up, the most recent addition being veritable youngster Toby Lobb, ...
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ROGER PUGH – A Colourful Journey (Oblong Records, OBLCD079)

It’s a rarity to come across an artist who describes himself as “jester, minstrel, singer, songwriter, entertainer”. Step forward Leicestershire’s Roger Pugh, serving up a deeply personal memoir in his fourth solo album, A Colourful Journey. It’s an album that feels both celebratory and poignant, as he reflects on his ...
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GARETH OWEN – Rolling By (own label)

When I first moved to South Shropshire a few years ago, I found myself living just a couple of doors away from writer and broadcaster Gareth Owen. And then I realized that I was also living by country legend-in-his-own-mind Virg Clenthills, Gareth's country-singing alter ego. I even played guitar for ...
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HANNAH SANDERS & BEN SAVAGE – Awake (Sungrazing Records SGR003)

Before The Sun, Hannah and Ben’s debut album as a duo, caused a few ripples in folk circles. I predict that Awake will cause a real splash; from its remarkable cover design to the mix of songs it takes everything that its predecessor had and doubles it. Hannah’s background as ...
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PHIL COOPER – Thoughts & Observations (own label PHILCOOPER13)

Phil Cooper’s singer-songwriting style is firmly in the pop-folk arena: ringing guitar, tight bass and drums and clever use of backing vocals. He turned pro two years ago and Thoughts & Observations is his third studio album. This is an album that I liked more as it went on. There ...
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PHIL HARE – A Stranger I Came (March Hare Productions MHPCD002)

Don’t ask me how many albums Phil Hare has made but it’s a lot and A Stranger I Came is his latest. It’s simply recorded off the floor with a couple of minimal overdubs of banjo and Dobro and is big on Phil’s fingerpicked guitar. The songs and tunes are ...
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MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER – Sometimes Just The Sky (Lambent Light LLR002)

Revisiting is the new Best Of. In recent years, several artists have either gone to their back catalogue and reworked old songs in next contexts or released albums of songs they’d written for others but never recorded themselves. Carpenter takes the former route here with a collection of twelve of ...
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NINEBARROW – The Waters & The Wild (own label)

If music be the food of love, then prepare for indigestion … was the title of a 1967 album by a band I’m not prepared to mention here. It’s not quite appropriate in this case for although The Waters & The Wild serves up some rich fare it is very ...
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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Johnny Cash Forever Words (Legacy Recordings)

Johnny Cash: Forever Words (or, according to the physical CD, Johnny Cash The Music Forever Words) is a collaborative album consisting of 16 songs based on Johnny Cash's unpublished poetry, lyrics, and letters. Some of them are drawn directly from Forever Words: The Unknown Poems, described as "a volume of ...
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GREG RUSSELL & CIARAN ALGAR – Utopia And Wasteland (Rootbeat RBRCD40)

The ink is barely dry on Greg and Ciaran’s previous album and they are back with Utopia And Wasteland. The mix is pretty much as before; original songs, judiciously chosen covers and three tune sets. The title isn’t just a randomly chosen three words: it is at the heart of ...
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OPEN THE DOOR FOR THREE – The Joyful Hour (own label OPTD003)

The Joyful Hour is the third album by Irish-American trio Open The Door For Three. They are fiddler Liz Knowles, already known to us a member of String Sisters; American-born piper, flautist and whistle-player Kieran O’Hare and singer/bouzouki player Pat Broaders who is Irish but now lives in Chicago. All ...
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FINBAR FUREY – Don’t Stop This Now (BMG)

Finbar Furey’s new album, Don’t Stop This Now, is a repackaging of Paddy Dear with new songs and the addition of a DVD recorded at Vicar Street, Dublin. Finbar is 71 now. Initially known as a champion piper he performed as a backing musician with The Clancy Brothers, later forming ...
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3HATTRIO – Lord Of The Desert (own label)

Close the windows, turn off background sound, put headphones on if you want, and just lose yourself in this album. Lord Of The Desert by 3hattrio was released in the UK on March 1st. Good music changes what you feel or do and hearing this album has had me researching ...
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SINGLES BAR 28 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Leviathan! by BLACKBEARD'S TEA PARTY is an energetic and accomplished recording by these York-based folk-rockers that did strike some nostalgic (power) chords, with electric guitar, bass and two drummers driving the folkier fiddle and melodeon. There are versions of two traditional songs – 'The Bonny Ship The Diamond' and 'The ...
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MASON LIVELY – Stronger Ties (own label)

Born in smalltown Texas, Lively wrote his first song at fifteen and, co-produced by Lloyd Maines, cut his first EP a year later. Now, four years on, comes his debut album, Stronger Ties, a genre-ranging collection rooted in different shades of Texas country, opening up in the bluesy alt country ...
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ADY JOHNSON – London Songs (own label)

Ady Johnson released his second album London Songs on February 23rd. Johnson has a degree in classical guitar performance, gave up a career as an antique furniture restorer to become a full time musician and first made his name busking outside BBC6 Music’s 6Fest – where he was so impressive ...
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BEN HARPER AND CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE – No Mercy In This Land (Anti 7561-2)

An overdue follow-up to 2013’s Grammy Award-winning Get Up! sees Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite reunite, this time resulting in No Mercy In This Land. With nearly 50 albums between them, the collective credentials of this duo are really quite considerable; Ben Harper’s talents as a prolific singer-songwriter and gifted ...
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THE RHEINGANS SISTERS – Bright Field (Rootbeat RBRCD39)

When I first heard the Rheingans Sisters I hoped that they might bring something new to the folk music of Derbyshire where they grew up. Instead, they have fixed their attention on composition and songwriting and the result is their third album, Bright Field. The sisters are much travelled. Anna ...
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TREMBLING BELLS – Dungeness (Tin Angel)

Drummer and singer Alex Neilson declared that, for ‘Big Nothing’, the 62-second opening track on Dungeness, the band’s seventh album, he wanted the plangent chords “to sound gigantic and degraded, like a building collapsing in slow motion” as well as capturing the parched, flat end of the earth landscapes of the ...
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PORT CITIES – Port Cities (Turtlemusik)

According to the press blurb, a port city is where cultures and histories collide and goods and ideas are imported. Well, this Nova Scotia trio of Carleton Stone, Dylan Guthro and Breagh MacKinnon have certainly taken that to heart, their debut, Port Cities, frequently calling to mind other acts or songs ...
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HARP & A MONKEY – Live at Grayshott Folk Club

Although they have a new album on the way – pause for cheering – Harp & A Monkey had resolved not to play anything from it. Martin Purdy explained that when they had tried to preview new songs, audiences had been disappointed that they couldn’t buy them there and then ...
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LEVELLERS – We The Collective (On The Fiddle Recordings, OTFCD029P)

To celebrate their 30th anniversary, We The Collective finds the Levellers’ reaffirming their mission statement, renewing their vows. Recorded at Abbey Road, with renowned producer John Leckie, the album re-imagines eight of their classic songs – from a vast back catalogue - including some singles, plus two new tracks. Played ...
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JOSIENNE CLARKE & BEN WALKER – Seedlings All (Rough Trade RTRADCD898)

It’s long been the case that you don’t come to Clarke and Walker for background music or cheeriness. Their music is sparse but intricate and you have to work at it. It is also almost inevitably suffused with melancholia, delivered at a pace and tempo to suit the mood. But ...
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