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.

CATHERINE MacLELLAN – If It’s Alright With You: The Songs of Gene MacLellan (True North TND670)

The name might not be familiar, but you should certainly be familiar with the late Gene MacLellan’s songs, if not as a performer himself (though he did make four albums), but as writer whose work has been covered by the likes of Loretta Lynn, Joan Baez and Elvis. One in ...
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OFFA REX – The Queen Of Hearts (Nonesuch)

Born in Florence but raised in Oxford, Olivia Chaney’s 2015 debut album following contributions to assorted collections and albums by Seth Lakeman and Alasdair Roberts earned her extensive praise and many fans. Not least among them being Colin Meloy of Portland indie rock Americana outfit The Decemberists who struck up ...
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REV HAMMER AND NICK HARPER – Live at Unit 23 Live, Totnes

Folk Rock legends, Rev Hammer and Nick Harper wowed the audience at Unit 23 Live in Totnes, South Devon recently. The venue owner Simon has just taken over, and making a huge mark on this quirky venue in the middle of an industrial estate. Ex South Hams Radio presenter – ...
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AULD HAT NEW HEIDS – Volume 1 (Rickety Rackety Records RRR005)

The stated aim of Auld Hat New Heids’ album is to recreate the glory days of folk clubs – you remember; when we could go out for a good sing, have a couple of pints and still go home with change from a quid (yes, I am that old). This ...
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CHRISTINE PRIMROSE – Gràdh Is Gonadh – Guth Ag Aithris (Temple COMCD2109)

That Christine Primrose is one of Scotland’s premier Gaelic singers is a given. The title translates as Love & Loss – A Lone Voice and that tells you pretty much all you need to know. There are eleven newly recorded tracks and three bonus tracks one of which, from a ...
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CORY FLYNN – A Boy Named Hunger (Long Way Home Music LWHM 003)

Cory Flynn, from Brighton, is just 16 years old, but has been performing both as a soloist and in bands for nearly six years. And on the 15th September 2017, his first studio album, A Boy Named Hunger, will be released. His web site tells us that his style is ...
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LEVERET – Inventions (Rootbeat RBRCD38)

After two very successful albums and sold out gigs, Leveret bounce back onto the music scene with Inventions, an album of original material which was recorded live at Real Life studios in April 2017. Leveret comprises of fiddler extraordinaire – Sam Sweeney, who was 2015 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards ...
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VARIOUS – Spiritual Music From The Hebrides (AN LANNTAIR)

Spiritual Music From The Hebrides was recorded at a live event that drew together singers and musicians from the worlds of the Presbyterian church, classical and traditional music. At its heart is the centuries-old tradition of Gaelic psalm singing which is pretty much unique to the Hebrides. Five of the ...
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HANNAH JOHNSON– Shaken (Woodville)

Physically based in Kings Heath, Birmingham but with her spiritual and musical homes shared between Nashville and Austin, Johnson was formerly one–third of Western Swing and bluegrass trio The Toy Hearts. But then, a couple of years back, guitarist and fellow vocalist sister Sophia decide to move to Austin, initially ...
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BENJAMIN FOLKE THOMAS – Acoustic Classics (Louvaio Lou006)

Folking.com has already announced the imminent release of Acoustic Classics by Benjamin Folke Thomas - http://folking.com/benjamin-folke-thomas-returns-with-live-album/ - with the back story to the singer’s life and an explanation that this is a ‘live’ album with a difference: it has been recorded in Folke Thomas’ living room with himself as the ...
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SLAID CLEAVES – Ghost On The Car Radio (Candy House Media CHM 130)

It’s been four years since there was any new material from the Maine-bred, Texas-based Cleaves, but, marking his 25th year in the business, he returns in splendid form with Ghost On The Car Radio, an album that has brings a keen eye and an open heart to the changing times ...
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VARIOUS – Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams (Slate Creek SCR0526172)

Now 78 and still going strong (his most recent album being in 2014), Don Williams is, both in person and on disc, one of the most laid back country artists you could imagine. Initially finding success as part of 60s folk-pop outfit The Pozo Seco Singers, whose hits included ‘I ...
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SINGLES BAR 23

A round-up of recent EPs and singles SAILING STONES is the name by which Irish born, London-based Jenny Lindfors plies her trade, the digital self-produced, self-released ‘Telescopes’ her second release, piano, brass and mellotron coming together for an atmospheric five-minute electro-folk reflective ballad about learning what love is and means ...
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ELLIOTT MORRIS – Lost & Found (Dominoes Club DCRCD001)

An Anglo-Scot, based in Yorkshire, the soft-voiced Elliott Morris plies a mix of folk and blues that highlight his percussive guitar slapping technique on a collection of originals, collaborations and a couple of traditional reworks. He eases listeners into his debut album, Lost And Found, with the pastoral ambience of ‘Lost’, ...
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BLACK*SCARR – Deluded (own label)

Having released the second album with band project The Persecuted just a couple of months ago, East End-based singer-songwriter Johnny Black makes a swift return with Deluded, the fourth album alongside partner and fellow songsmith Emma Scarr. This time round, it’s Scarr taking the vocal spotlight on the majority of ...
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AMY HENDERSON – Soul For A Compass (own label AH2017CD)

These days we need all the cheering up we can get and my first thought was that this record would do the job nicely. Amy Henderson is a graduate of the Plockton school, studying accordion under Blair Douglas, and is as much a teacher in community music projects as she ...
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MARY ANN KENNEDY – An Dàn (Arc Music EUCD2737)

Mary Ann Kennedy describes this album as Gaelic songs for a modern world. An Dàn means…well, dàn means song but it also means destiny, which may be Gaelic humour. Mary Ann is from Skye and is, of course a Campbell. She is well-known as a broadcaster and producer as well ...
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WEST OF EDEN – No Time Like The Past – A Collection (West of Music WOMCDII)

A school trip to Dublin the early 90s was to prove the catalyst for 20 years of music when classmates and subsequently husband wife Martin and Jenny Schaube fell in love with Celtic music. They formed West of Eden in 1995, releasing their debut album two years later. Since then, ...
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THE BROTHERS BRIGGS – The Brothers Briggs (All Made Up Records, AMU0010)

This self-titled album by The Brothers Briggs drops in like the soundtrack to a long-lost folk horror film. There’s that delicious sense of the indefinably off-kilter, a queasy disorientation counterpointed by earthy and sweet vocal harmonies. There’s a real sense of rootedness in the music, yet this selection of traditional ...
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CANNY FETTLE – Still Gannin’ Canny (Canny Fettle Records CANNYCD001)

You know the kind of friendships where you don’t see one another for ages, yet when you next meet up, you just pick up right where you left off, like you’d never been away? Well, that’s the sound of Still Gannin’ Canny, right there. It might be some 30 years ...
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GREG RUSSELL – Inclined To Be Red (Fellside FECD281)

When he isn’t partnering Ciaran Algar or working with Nancy Kerr’s Sweet Visitor Band and half a dozen other projects, Greg Russell follows another path. Inclined To Be Red would seem to be his first completely solo album even though he seems to have been around for ever…and he’s still ...
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TORI REED – The Snug Sessions (own label)

The Snug Sessions opens with ‘Narcissistic Blues’, Tori’s voice over gentle piano, and you think that you’ve got this sussed. Then, with no warning, the band kicks in and you have to shelve any preconceptions. There’s trumpet and saxophone from Jenny Murphey and Ben Tynegate’s wah-wah guitar and a clever, ...
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KEITH JAMES – Tenderness Claws (Hurdy Gurdy HGA2926)

On his web site, Keith James describes his career as esoteric and secretive, but he has actually attracted a good deal of respect for his sensitive interpretations of the songs of Nick Drake, John Martyn and Leonard Cohen, and his musical settings of his own poetry and that of well-loved ...
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VIKKI CLAYTON – Messenger (own label)

I suppose that I first encountered Vikki Clayton one Cropredy when she was fronting Fairport Convention to perform some of Sandy Denny’s songs. I bought a lot of her albums but sort of lost touch with her after Movers And Shakers and that was twenty years ago. There is even ...
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REG MEUROSS – Faraway People (Hatsongs HAT011)

I enjoyed Reg’s previous album, December, and Faraway People is more of the same and even better than its predecessor. Once again Reg has stripped himself back to the basics of voice and guitar – plus a bit of banjo and harmonica - with only engineer Roy Dodds in the ...
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ANNA COOGAN – The Lonely Cry of Space & Time (AC004)

The Lonely Cry Of Space And Time by Anna Coogan was released on April 28th but I’ve only just had a copy to review. Is there a genre for Indie-Goth-Opera (IGO perhaps?) [I’d prefer IGOR – ed.]. There ought to be because I’ve no idea otherwise how to give a ...
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DEMPSEY BROUGHTON – Off By Heart (own label SAECD14)

Kevin Dempsey and Joe Broughton have been in the business for so many years and in so many line-ups that it seems impossible to count. You can mention The Albion Band, the Conservatoire Folk Ensemble, the Urban Folk Quartet, Dando Shaft, Whippersnapper and Lazarus before you have to stop and ...
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COAST – Windmills In The Sky (Ruabhal Records SAM04)

Coast is a folk-rock band, with the emphasis on the rock, formed by Paul Eastham and Chris Barnes back in 2009. Windmills In The Sky is their third album and I hope it will be the one that propels them to greatness. They spent their childhoods on Benbecula in the ...
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SINGLES BAR 22

A round-up of recent EPs and singles Following four independent releases, Ontario siblings THE ABRAMS BROTHERS mark their major label debut with a self-titled EP (Warner Music 237811), a six tracker collection of country tinted pop that kicks off with ‘Champion’, a number that mixes together American Football’s ‘When The ...
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JOE BROUGHTON’S CONSERVATOIRE FOLK ENSEMBLE – Painted (own label SAE16CD)

I’ve seen Joe Broughton’s Conservatoire Folk Ensemble on stage just once and it was an exciting experience. It was a small theatre and I reckon there were more people on stage than there were in the audience – what a sound - and Joe says that they might have turned ...
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THE DRYSTONES – We Happy Few (own label)

The Drystones are two young chaps from Somerset: Alex Garden and Ford Collier; singers and multi-instrumentalists who made their debut album at age 16. Remarkably, this is already their third outing. On the surface, We Happy Few seems typical of albums of our age. Three songs and eight instrumental sets ...
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MARTHA TILSTON – Nomad (Squiggly Records)

This recently released album is a pure joy to listen to. Martha is the daughter of highly acclaimed singer/songwriter – Steve Tilston, but Martha is a fabulous singer/songwriter on her own merit. She has various critically acclaimed albums already under her belt and this latest album looks like being another ...
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SHEILA K CAMERON – Kiss Deep And The Missing Beat (Glalell SKC1706CD)

Kiss Deep is sixth and final volume in the first series of Sheila K Cameron reissues. There are nineteen tracks here encompassing all the styles she has essayed over the years beginning and ending with the old blues sound of ‘Universal Energy’. From there she moves to the rich pop ...
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KATE & RAPHAËL – Les Objets Trouvés (own label DECYOU01)

From the first unsettling notes, it’s clear that Les Objets Trouvés isn’t going to sit down quietly and play nice. Opening with the sort of filmic crescendo that normally accompanies the reveal of the serial killer, ‘Caterpillar’ then swoops coolly along with Kate Young’s aerobatic vocalising over Raphaël Decoster’s sashaying ...
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ANNIE GALLUP – Lucy Remembers Her Father (Gallway Bay Music)

In what is, unquestionably, her finest solo work to date, Annie Gallup, one half of Hat Check Girl, has crafted an intimate, conceptual storytelling album about the past, mortality and the power and value of memory. Her musical and personal partner, Peter Gallway, contributes bass and keys, but otherwise this ...
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THE HAWTHORNES – Cut & Run (own label)

The second album from Cheltenham folk outfit The Hawthornes, Cut & Run, sees them with an expanded line-up, Sussex-born singer Louisa Gaylard, bassist Gordy Partridge and Jesse Benns on cajon, mandolin and soundbox percussionist now joined by Gregg Wilson-Copp, formerly of The Roving Crows, on trumpet. The change in their ...
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LE VENT DU NORD live at South Hill Park, Bracknell

Smoke swirled over the darkened stage as four shadowy figures took their places. The sound began with the drone of a hurdy-gurdy, joined by fiddle, jew’s harp and voice and lastly bouzouki. Finally the lights came up to reveal Le Vent Du Nord in all their splendour. It was an ...
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OH SUSANNA – A Girl in Teen City (Continental Song City CSCCD1142)

Whether or not A Girl In Teen City is wholly autobiographical, Suzie Ungerleider’s concept album about growing up a teenager in the 80s in her hometown of Vancouver perfectly capture that adolescent search for identity, love and rebellion. Or, as she puts it on the album sleeve, “Falling in love, ...
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MALCOLM HOLCOMBE – Pretty Little Troubles (Gypsy Eyes Music )

His voice croakier and gummier than ever, sounding as one review put it, like he’s wearing someone else’s teeth, even so Holcombe continues to deliver the goods when it comes to coal dust coated Appalachian blues. Pretty Little Troubles a quick follow-up to last year’s Another Black Hole. Joined by ...
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ROBBIE BANKES – Foothills (own label)

Robbie Bankes hails from Calgary and is currently studying at the University of Telemark. Foothills is his first album although you can get his demo set, Through February Snow, for whatever you want to pay via his website. His music is a mixture of original songs and pure Americana and ...
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ROSIE HOOD – The Beautiful & The Actual (Rootbeat Records RBRCD36)

Rosie Hood’s debut solo album impresses on so many levels. Firstly, there’s her voice – a model of power and clarity; secondly there is the restraint of the accompaniments, even allowing for the presence of a string trio and Emma Smith’s mighty double bass and, finally, the template for the ...
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DARDEN SMITH – Everything (Compass 746812)

After the release of 2013’s Love Calling, his fourteenth album in thirty years, the Austin-based singer-songwriter considered calling it a day, unsure he had anything left worth saying or that anyone was even listening. Instead, he turned to exploring creative avenues outside of the traditional music business, writing an as ...
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OCCIDENTAL GYPSY – 44070 (own label)

Occidental Gypsy is a band that combines the 'Gypsy Swing' feel of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grapelli with a range of material from other sources, notably the compositions of lead guitarist Brett Lee Feldman. Their CD 44070 (due for release in the UK on July 3rd 2017) includes three songs ...
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MIRANDA LEE RICHARDS – Existential Beast (Invisible Hands IHCD74)

A quick follow-up to last year’s Echoes Of The Dreamtime finds the San Franciscan native and erstwhile Brian Jonestown Massacre member in often dreamy cosmic country mood, opening Existential Beast with the pedal steel laced gentleness of ‘Ashes and Seeds’ before getting a little spikier on the urgently flurrying rhythms ...
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DAVID HERSHAW & SANDIE FORBES – Here Comes Tomorrow (own label DHSF001)

Here Comes Tomorrow is the debut album from young Scottish duo David Hershaw and Sandie Forbes. The majority of their material is self-written and on a first blind listening I thought they might be American; there’s a strong country flavour to the first tracks but gradually the Scottishness develops as ...
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BLIND LEMON PLEDGE AND FRIENDS – Backwoods Glance (Ofeh Records)

Whoever told James Byfield that Blind Lemon Pledge was a great stage name probably didn’t do him any favours. Despite the handicap Lemon, if I may be so familiar, became a feted blues player but with his sixth album, Backwoods Glance, his attention has turned to the wider field of ...
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THE AUGUST LIST – Ramshackle Tabernacle (Ubiquity Project Records)

Sifting through a batch of CDs recently, one stood out from the rest as quite different and unexpected. It turned out to be Ramshackle Tabernacle by The August List. Unfamiliar with The August List, I did my usual online trawl to find out more. Their first album, 2014’s O Hinterland, ...
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THEA GILMORE – The Counterweight (Cooking Vinyl COOKCD668)

Thea Gilmore described herself like this “Some people write me off as some waily folky woman……Other people think I'm rock. In terms of an image, if you want to be cold and corporate about it, it's hard to decide who my target market is. There isn't one. There is no ...
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JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE – Kids In The Street (New West NW6389)

Ten years into his career, now dry, married and an expectant father, Justin Townes Earle is understandably in energised form on Kids In The Street. With producer Mike Mogis behind the desk (and on baritone guitar), he’s drawing on both classic soul and blues influences, case in point coming from ...
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SINGLES BAR 21

A round-up of recent EPs and singles In the wake of his criminally underrated album Rain Machine, RICK FOOT returns with a six-track EP, Songs Of Idiocy & Expedience. It’s pared down even from the minimalism of the album and Rick says that the songs were arranged with an eye ...
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VAIR – A Place In Time (own label 00001)

I wonder if there will ever be a time when I can’t begin a review along the lines of ‘here’s another fine young band from Scotland’. It’s certainly not happening yet because, well, here’s another fine young band from Scotland, or Shetland to be precise. A Place In Time is ...
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THE UNTHANKS – Diversions Volume 4: The Songs And Poems Of Molly Drake / Extras (RabbleRouser Music RRM016/RRM017)

For this, their fourth volume of Diversions, the Unthanks have chosen The Songs And Poems Of Molly Drake. Inspired by hearing the limited release 2012 CD of her works (a set of songs, accompanied by a booklet of poetry) and spurred on by a pre-existing love of her son Nick's ...
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THE UNTHANKS Live at Vicar Street, Dublin (25 May 2017)

The dark stage is bedecked with an array of lamps (of the standard and table varieties), interspersed with rattan chairs. The grand piano and elegantly wrought music stands suggest a more genteel era of afternoon tea dances – if you overlook the modern paraphernalia of cables and microphones. The voice ...
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ROSS COUPER + TOM OAKES – Fiddle + Guitar (Haystack Records HAYCD009)

I get to hear a lot of new music from Scotland these days. There are some nice people there who keep sending me records to listen to and I usually enjoy them all. Sometimes, however, I wonder if I really need another album of fiddle music and don’t ever quite ...
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MOIRAI – Here & Now (WildGoose WGS421CD)

Here & Now must be the first album to open with a song collected from that bastion of the tradition, Facebook™. ‘Dust If You Must’ is an anonymous poem set to music, and while there is nothing wrong with it, per se, I’d rather have it as an encore than ...
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Royal Albert Hall to Haslemere Hall – Phil Beer Band Gig Review

The Phil Beer Band rocking Haslemere Hall on 19th May - photo by Darren Beech Phil arrived hot on the heels of the Show of Hands 5th sellout concert at The Albert Hall and the memory of winning the public vote for 'Best musician' in this years folking awards still fresh in his ...
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JIM CAUSLEY AND FRIENDS – I Am The Song (WildGoose Records WGS420CD)

Young Jim Causley returns once more to the writing of his distinguished relative, Charles. I Am The Song, unlike the serious and sometimes mysterious Cyprus Well, is a collection of poetry written for children. As you might suppose many of the songs are quite short and Jim crams twenty-one of ...
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HARROW FAIR – Call To Arms (Roaring Girl RGO14)

Comprising Miranda Mulholland, violinist with Great Lake Swimmers, and Andrew Penner, Harrow Fair are a Canadian duo who first began working together as part of a Toronto theatre company and who take their name from an Ontario county fair. They both sing, while she plays violin and percussion and he ...
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DONALD BLACK – Bho M’ Chridhe (own label DB05CD)

Scottish Celtic harmonica might seem like something of a niche market and that’s what I thought at first – but wait. Bho M’ Chridhe translates as From My Heart and that is exactly where this music comes from. The tunes come from all over Scotland and even further afield and ...
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JANET DOWD – Home (Blue Cow Records)

Although Janet Dowd writes songs, and there are three of her own compositions on Home, her particular forte is in covering other writers. Her subjects are mostly Irish and an album like this will serve to introduce British audiences to some new songs, but she also encompasses Scotland and Australia ...
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