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.

STEAMCHICKEN – Look Both Ways (Chicken Records STEAM16/3)

Steamchicken began life as a ceilidh band but have expanded their horizons considerably with a brass section and a powerful vocalist in Amy Kakoura. Look Both Ways is something like their fifth album and is possibly the definitive statement of jazz-folk. The album kicks off with the powerful spiritual, ‘Jericho’ ...
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SHORTSTUFF – Big Blue (Blonde On Blonde DCT16BB01)

When I first played this album I assumed that Shortstuff were American and had been playing the blues for years. Big Blue has a confident swing about it that invites you in and settles you down. In fact Dave Thomas and Hugh Gregory met in London and once enjoyed a ...
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VARIOUS – From Here: English Folk Field Recordings (From Here Sitw005)

They may be newcomers to the scene, but Stick In The Wheel are certainly making their mark, not just with their own recordings and associated artifacts, but in their involvement with the folk world in general, and the traditional in particular. Band members Ian Carter and Nicola Kearey serve as ...
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QUILES & CLOUD – Shake Me Now (Compass)

Although conveniently filed under NewGrass, there’s more to San Francisco based duo Maria Quiles and Rory Cloud that bluegrass, Shake Me Now, their third album, produced by label founder Alison Brown, evidencing traces of jazz, classical, blues and folk. With Oscar Westesson on upright bass essentially making them a trio, ...
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BENJAMIN FOLKE THOMAS – Copenhagen (LOUVAIO L00005)

Benjamin Folke Thomas was born on a small island off the coast of Sweden, mainly populated by evangelical Christians, but his third album takes it's title from across the Øresund; Copenhagen. Combining his upbringing with musical influences ranging from Leadbelly to Cohen and Jackson Browne means his work tends, perhaps ...
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DAVE BURLAND AND THE AWKWARD SQUAD – Okkard (Fat Cat FATCD037)

Dave Burland may have recorded one of the definitive folk albums of the seventies but he’s always been a rocker at heart as anyone who has been in the same room as Shagpile will testify. Alongside him in The Awkward Squad are two members of that band, Dave Fisher and ...
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FINTAN McHUGH – Wait Till The Clouds Roll By (own label)

Wait Till The Clouds Roll By is the debut album from young Irish singer Fintan McHugh. It has been available for a while but has only recently come into our possession and we feel compelled to bring it to your attention. Fintan plays guitar and cittern and for his instrumental ...
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MONSTER CEILIDH BAND – Mutation (Haystack Records HAYCD011)

There was a time when I would stand in front of a ceilidh band and when things were going well and you had a hall full of people who were into it it was the most fun you could have with your clothes on. When it comes to recording an ...
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MAD DOG McREA – Live at Cambridge Junction (Cambridge City Roots Festival)

It’s a chilly Wednesday in February, but there’s the heat of a storming party going on from the minute the door opens into the Cambridge Junction. Those delightful friends of blacksmiths, Noble Jacks, opening tonight for Mad Dog Mcrea, are already onstage giving it their all, whipping the audience up ...
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COVEN live at the West End Centre, Aldershot

Coven aren’t so much a group as a collective made up of three elements. On the one hand there is the musical delicacy of Lady Maisery and on the other the homespun Yorkshire charm that O’Hooley & Tidow exploit. In the middle is Grace Petrie, a thorn between two roses, ...
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LORELEY – The Frozen North (own label LRL001)

I specifically asked to review The Frozen North because I was interested in the concept put to me as “a collection of traditional songs by Sheffield based duo Loreley. As a project with the aim of exploring archives of mostly forgotten folk songs in order to breathe new life into ...
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KING’S GAMBIT – From One To Another (own label)

If you take away the rock excesses of folk-rock you’re left with Northampton’s King’s Gambit – a band that rocks acoustically while still capable of musical delicacy. I don’t like to make comparisons but they have something of the style and drive of CC Smugglers. From One To Another is ...
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RODNEY CROWELL – Close Ties (New West Records 6354)

While I've long been aware of Rodney Crowell's talents as a songwriter, going back at least as far as Emmylou Harris's 1975 recording of 'Bluebird Wine', his songs have always reached me as interpreted by other A-listers. So I jumped at the chance to take a closer look at his ...
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OLD BLIND DOGS – Room With A View (own label OBD013)

It has always been my opinion that an album/CD should have a minimum of twelve tracks to offer the purchaser value for money. I equally believe that if you do not have twelve tracks ready to record then you are not yet ready to release an album/CD. Room With A ...
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CHILLI WILLI AND THE RED HOT PEPPERS – Real Sharp (Last LMCD204)

Way back in 1972, Martin Stone and Philip Lithman, reunited as a duo following the former’s stint with blues acts Savoy Brown and Mighty Baby and the latter’s time with The Residents in San Francisco, signed to Revelation Records and recorded Kings Of The Robot Rhythm under their new name ...
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VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Food Of Love Project (Autolycus Records AUTO1CD)

Commissioned to mark the Oxford Shakespeare Jubilee 2016, The Food Of Love Project falls into the weird and wonderful category. All the tracks are or were traditional – give or take Dave Moran and Nic Jones’ involvement in ‘Tom O’ Bedlam’ and Kirsty Law’s adaptation of ‘Go From My Window’ ...
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ATLANTIC UNION – Homeward (Blue Island Records BI201601)

Atlantic Union is a long-established acoustic trio from St. John's, Newfoundland. Their third CD Homeward features a new thematic approach as well as a change of personnel since their last album, 2004's The Whole Dance. With the departure of Andrew Lang and the arrival of Jane Ogilvie, Sally Goddard is ...
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MICK RYAN & PAUL DOWNES – The Passing Hour (WildGoose WGS417CD)

This is an album by two veterans; one famous as a songwriter, the other well-known as a sidesman and both fine singers. Many of the songs on The Passing Hour are by Mick Ryan, the others have been collected on their extensive travels and together they make up what might ...
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DARIA KULESH Live at Cecil Sharp House

February 23rd is a date that should be known in history.  On this day in 1944 the entire population of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, those who weren't away at war fighting for the Soviet Union, were told they were being deported for alleged collaboration with the enemy.  Many ...
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NORRIE McCULLOCH – Bare Along The Branches (Black Dust BDR1603)

Based in Glasgow, Ayrshire singer-songwriter Norrie McCulloch clearly doesn’t like to let the grass grow under his feet. Bare Along The Branches is his third album in as many years, following on from last year’s These Mountain Blues. I was much impressed by that, describing him on these pages as ...
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COVEN – Unholy Choir (own label COVENCD01)

In case you haven’t been paying attention, let me explain. Coven combines the prodigious talents of Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, Lady Maisery (Hazel Askew, Hannah James and Rowan Rheingans) and Grace Petrie. They have worked together, when commitments permit, for about three years having got together for International Women’s ...
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EMILY MAGUIRE – A Bit Of Blue (Shaktu Records, SHK2105)

Emily Maguire's latest album, A Bit Of Blue, pretty much defines the maxim that when you want people to really listen, speak quietly: make them lean in to hear properly. The first time it went on my CD player, I confess I was only half-listening. This is very much the ...
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THE HYDES – Green & Blue (Hyde Music Productions – HYDECD1)

This recently released debut album from Denver sibling duo – Joanna and Iain Hyde – who have mastered the art of Irish music, and entwined it with a dash of Americana and bluegrass, is a fabulous album! They have already won 2 accolades this year – Best New Group 2017 ...
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RATTLE ON THE STOVEPIPE – Poor Ellen Smith (WildGoose Records WGS419CD)

Rattle On The Stovepipe are Dave Arthur, Pete Cooper and Dan Stewart who play American old-timey music with the classic guitar, fiddle and banjo set-up, added harmonica and mandolin and a couple of excursions on melodeon. Poor Ellen Smith is their sixth album for Doug Bailey’s label. Most of the ...
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KATE DIMBLEBY – Songbirds (Folkstock FSR44)

For the past 25 years Kate Dimbleby, the daughter of legendary broadcaster David and opera loving cookery writer Josceline, has been plying her musical trade in live performance, most notably in her one woman shows and albums based around Peggy Lee and Dory Previn. However, Songbirds, her sixth studio album ...
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SALLY BARKER – Ghost Girl (Old Dog Records 017)

The title track is a new recording of the song she wrote for 2015 Poozies album, Into The Well, featuring real rather than electric piano, given a softer feel and with Tom Bull on double bass, Sally Barker’s follow-up to Maid In England, the 2014 album on the back of ...
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SINGLES BAR 18

A round-up of recent EPs and singles Having released their Death and Other Animals album to wide acclaim last year, FAUSTUS return to the well to lift ‘Slaves’ (Westpark Music 87333) to head up their new 5-track EP, their first for the Germany-based label. You should, of course, be familiar ...
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GARY INNES – Era (own label GH101)

Oh boy, do I like this CD? Yes, I do! Era is only the second ‘solo’ album released by Gary Innes who is part of the award-winning group, Mànran and it has such a variety of material that it grasps you from start to finish. All of the tunes and ...
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TOP FLOOR TAIVERS – A Delicate Game (TFT Records TFTR001)

The first thing I had to do was discover the meaning of taiver. Apparently it means a rag and, by extension, low or abject. Top Floor Taivers is a good name for a band but there is nothing abject or low about Claire Hastings, Gráinne Brady, Heather Downie and Tina ...
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AMY WADGE AND LUKE JACKSON live at Cambridge Junction

Cambridge City Roots Festival, 7 February 2017 What comes across so strikingly from an evening with Amy Wadge and Luke Jackson is their natural rapport. Both are hugely talented songwriters, singers and musicians with a constant drive to create new music. They work effortlessly well together and although they like ...
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STEVE PLEDGER live at Dunster Castle Hotel

Friday 9th February 2017 A very chilly evening in Dunster, North Somerset was made glowingly warm by a lovely gig, courtesy of award winning singer songwriter Steve Pledger. I had been looking forward to this event immensely, after attending his album launch at Dunster Castle itself in November, and was ...
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CAMBRIDGE CITY ROOTS FESTIVAL – Various artists and venues, 3-11 February 2017

The 2017 inaugural City Roots Festival is kind of like an expansion pack for the Cambridge Folk Festival: a winter top-up with lots of bonus features. Aiming to expand the relationship between folk/roots music and the city, the Folk Festival organisers lined up a diverse roster of artists over one ...
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POLICE DOG HOGAN – Wild By The Side Of The Road

Formed in 2009 and currently an eight-piece, Wild By The Side Of The Road is Police Dog Hogan’s fourth album and firmly consolidates their growing reputation for infectiously punchy folk rock shaded with elements of country and bluegrass. Fronted by lyricist James Studholme and with banjo and mandolin provided by ...
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THE AMPLIFIED ACOUSTIC BAND – Now. Here. This. (100Promotion 100P038)

I was approached by acclaimed Czech and London based singer songwriter Jamie Marshall to do a review of 'Now. Here. This.' - the debut album by The Amplified Acoustic Band, who have been wowing live audiences in Prague and surrounding areas for some time. I had heard a taster of ...
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CARREG LAFAR – Aur (Sain SCD2754)

Carreg Lafar are a five-piece band from Wales and Aur is their fourth album in a career that has spanned 20 years.  From the front cover picture, with its carefully arranged Victoriana it's clear that this is going to be an album of traditional music and a glance at the ...
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THE HUT PEOPLE – Routes (Fellside FECD280)

The Hut People are an English instrumental duo, Sam Pirt and Gary Hammond. Routes is their fourth studio album on the Fellside label. Both are experienced musicians with and the list of artists they have worked with would grace any music festival - it includes Kathryn Tickell, The Dubliners, Sharon ...
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FAIRPORT CONVENTION – 50:50@50 (Matty Grooves MGCD054)

Opportunities for celebration come round with increasing frequency when you’ve been in the business as long as Fairport Convention has. The current line-up has been together for almost twenty years and before that they have a back catalogue so large that they can never hope to play it all. This ...
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STEVEN JAMES ADAMS AND THE FRENCH DROPS – live

The Portland Arms (Cambridge City Roots Festival, 3 February 2017) Singer-songwriter Steven James Adams returns to home turf in Cambridge to play the packed, intimate venue at The Portland Arms, with support provided by the intriguingly angular sounds of indie trio Mammoth Penguins. This evening’s gig also kicks off the ...
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BENJAMIN WILLIAM PIKE – A Burdensome Year (Gin House Records)

When I first heard of Benjamin William Pike's latest CD A Burdensome Year (released on January 27th 2017), my interest was piqued by a suggested comparison to Michael Chapman. (That's the folky/bluesy/jazzy singer and guitarist, not the Chinnichap chap who wrote and produced hits for the likes of Sweet, Suzi ...
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SHEILA K CAMERON – Alone On The Road (Glalell SKC1703CD)

It’s a truth universally acknowledged (pace Jane Austen) that to really sing the blues you have to feel the blues, have to live the blues. As amply demonstrated in Alone On The Road, one of a trilogy of reissues, Sheila K Cameron is most definitely the real thing. Somewhat enigmatic, ...
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BRENDAN HENDRY & JONNY TOMAN – Living Roots (own label LR001)

Living Roots is a traditional and modern tunes album that sets the scene from the first track – ‘The Boyne Hunt’. Hornpipe and fiddle at its best! I was already hooked! Track two – ‘The Crosses Of Annagh/Cousin Sally Brown’ is a melodic and haunting track to begin with – then ...
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KEITH JAMES – The Songs Of Leonard Cohen – live at Farnham Maltings

No-one can accuse Keith James of opportunism. He has been touring The Songs Of Leonard Cohen for six years now. The set has changed sometimes and one iteration even included a documentary film but this was the show’s 305th performance. In the immediate aftermath of Cohen’s death one quote emerged ...
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ÉILÍS KENNEDY – Westward (own label)

Éilís Kennedy  comes from and still lives in Dingle in the far west of Ireland. She is half of Lumiere with Pauline Scanlon and Westward is her third solo album. Éilís is a much travelled artist and the album mixes music from both sides of the Atlantic in both English ...
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ELIZA CARTHY & THE WAYWARD BAND – Big Machine (Topic TSCD592P)

From her debut solo album back in 1996, Carthy has never been predictable in her constant determination to both celebrate and reinvent the folk tradition and, while that may not have always endeared her to purists, it has produced a remarkable - and sometimes challenging - back catalogue. Her latest ...
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THE RACHEL HAMER BAND – Hard Ground (own label RHB01)

Hard Ground is the debut album from The Rachel Hamer Band: Rachel, Graeme Armstrong, Grace Smith and Sam Partridge. The Newcastle based quartet are the current recipients of the English Folk Dance And Song Society’s Graeme Miles Bursary which helped to fund the project. Appropriately, then, they open with one ...
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KRIS WOODBIRD – Monsters Of Heart (Mess Productions MESS116)

Known to friends and family as Krister Svensson, Woodbird hails from southern Sweden and is currently based out of Stockholm, arriving at his indie folk singer-songwriter incarnation by way of punk and electronica. His Facebook page talks about him as a mix of Bonnie Prince Billy, Jason Molina and Bon ...
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MIKE GROGAN – Too Many Ghosts (Poacher Records PRCD105 & PRLP106)

Mike Grogan’s musical background spans many genres - rock, punk and indie among them. He became a solo artist in 2011 and released his first album in 2012. Too Many Ghosts is released on 10th February 2017 and will be his third solo release. Mike has written all the songs ...
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ALICE MARRA – Chain Up The Swings (Inner City Sound Records ICS002)

Those of you who are paying attention will have spotted the name and wondered what was going on. Yes, Alice Marra is a Hazey Jane and daughter of the late, totally wonderful Michael Marra and Chain Up The Swings is a tribute to her father featuring twelve of his songs ...
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DÓNAL CLANCY – On The Lonesome Plain (own label DCLPCD16)

Dónal is a scion of the Clancy dynasty and really had no choice but to embrace their musical  heritage but spent his early life in his native Canada and the USA before finally settling in Waterford where he records in his father’s Liam Clancy Studios. He says that On The ...
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SIOBHAN MILLER – Strata (Songprint Records SPR003CD)

Scotland is currently blessed with a crop of superb young female singers and Siobhan Miller is right up there in the top section of that list. Although still a young lady, she has been prominent on the folk scene for many years, appearing at clubs, concerts, festivals and regularly on ...
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THE GRAHAMS – The Grahams and Friends (Live in Studio) (Three Sirens Music Group)

Alyssa and Doug Graham have spent nearly their entire lives exploring music together. Friends since she was seven and he was nine, they became a couple in their teens, then husband and wife. Along the way, they also became The Grahams, a dynamic Americana duo. Their 2013 debut, Riverman's Daughter, ...
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MÀNRAN – An Dà Là – The Two Days (Mànran Records MAN04)

It is now so easy to create your own CD that most artistes of any calibre have at least one to boast of. Regretfully, this does not always produce a product of a suitable quality worthy of review. As such, I was delighted to receive An Dà Là the latest ...
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SINGLES BAR 17

A round-up of recent EPs and singles Having released their latest album, Good Times Will Come Again last year, MEGSON now lift the lead track, ‘Generation Rent’ (EDJ), as a single. A punchy protest against how today’s young generation find it impossible to get on to the property ladder, it ...
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RAYNA GELLERT – Workin’s Too Hard (Storysound 161-019)

Fiddle player with Uncle Earl, Gellert follows up her 2013 solo debut with the seven track Workin’s Too Hard, which, at under 25 minutes, may be a little on the sort side but does further underscore her development as a songwriter in the American folk tradition as well as providing ...
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JUDE JOHNSTONE – A Woman’s Work (BoJack BJR2221960-2)

Although A Woman’s Work is her seventh album, there’s a very good chance you’ve never heard of the piano-playing New England singer-songwriter. It is, however, very likely you’ll have heard one of her songs. She’s and had her songs covered by such superstar names as Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Trisha ...
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RED TAIL RING – Fall Away Blues (Earthwork Music EW8504)

So you’ve seen the title, Fall Away Blues, and noted that Red Tail Ring are a guitar/fiddle/banjo duo so you know what their album sounds like, right? I thought that, too, but we were both wrong. Michael Beauchamp and Laurel Premo are from Michigan but their love of old-time music ...
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FLEETWOOD CAVE – People Like Us (Rhythm Records FCPLU2016))

Marion Fleetwood and Gregg Cave met with the formation of TRADarrr and things went from there. Unlike their parent band, Fleetwood Cave’s debut album, People Like Us, consists of original material plus one cover version. Supporting Marion and Gregg are Tali Trow and Paul Johnston on double bass and drums ...
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JOHN CEE STANNARD & BLUES HORIZON – To The River (Cast Iron CIRCD 028)

It might be blues but it’s happy music. Sometimes my wife’s initial reactions to an album are perfectly insightful and To The River, the latest waxing by John Cee Stannard & Blues Horizon, certainly has more in common with the string bands of the 1930s than the urban howl of ...
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JOHN RENBOURN & WIZZ JONES – Joint Control (Riverboat Records TUGCD1095)

This CD review is something of a special case, in that it actually comes from my own collection, and wasn't bought specifically to review (and has been available since September 2016). However, it includes the last recorded work of John Renbourn, in a rare recorded collaboration with the almost equally ...
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SON OF THE VELVET RAT – Dorado (Fluff and Gravy FnG037/Mint 400)

Dorado is released on February 17th, the sixth album of husband and wife duo Georg Altzeibler and his wife Heiki Binder who left Austria to make their home in Joshua Tree, California in 2013. They had an impressive career with five albums to their credit and the description "best Austrian ...
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