GALLERY 47 – Adversity Breeds (Bad Production Records)

Adversity BreedsGallery 47 might sound like a high street card shop, but is the working name adopted by prolific singer-songwriter, Jack Peachey. Originally Nottingham-based, he relocated to London, has already released three well-received albums and toured with the likes of Paul Weller and Ian McCulloch (to name but two). Adversity Breeds is his fourth album to date.

Adversity Breeds forms the second part of a trilogy. A comparison with Clean – the album that starts the trilogy off – only highlights the optimism and romance described therein. Adversity Breeds is a different beast: spikier, more politicised, the moody offspring of a cross-generational family argument.

From the outset, this is an assured set of songs. Lyrically, they tumble over themselves with densely packed, often oblique, references. Conversational tone is jumbled up with a poetic sensibility. Witty lines squat down unselfconsciously alongside tart polemic.

‘In Odessa’ is a pointed, relevant state-of-the-world commentary set to a beautifully dark piano. Lines like “they loved the sound of his rhetoric, it blinded them to the things he did” are entirely pertinent in these fake news times, as is “And everybody’s got guns, how do you think you’ll stop the firing?”

‘Mr Baudelaire’, a much older song from his repertoire, documents his coming to terms with the random cruelty of the music industry. The vocal, over a gently plucked guitar, shifts from trying to please and getting nowhere, to bitterness at the casual dismissal of his talents, to a final reconciliation with the lottery of success.

‘Copyright Final’ takes a blithe sideswipe at the money-obsessed self-made type who drives “a Porsche Carrera, he lives in the London suburbs, he buys all original vinyl”, but is “just so busy, he can’t see his kids”, all set to a chugging, rolling blues and mouth harp.

Musically, Peachey’s Americana influences are obvious, especially on tracks like ‘Cold Fire’ and the shuffling ‘Your Time’ (this latter also featuring electronic blips and unsettling backing vocals). ‘Emigrate’ is the hard-bitten, harmonica-laden porch blues of a much older man.

The opening song, ‘Sanity Is Not Statistical’, has echoes of the Flaming Lips’ wonky psychedelia. Peachey’s high register vocals also call to mind Wayne Coyne’s vibrato, as well as Elliott Smith’s breathy intimacy.

Peachey shows a keen ear for arrangement, with a delicate interplay of instruments and subtle use of effects. Vocals are often multi-tracked, layered to provide a complex, reverby vocal line or built up into dense harmonies. The overall sound is at once intimate, fragile and slightly ethereal.

It’s a tricky stage, releasing the middle part of a trilogy. It must stand alone, of course – as this album does – but its full context is still incomplete and out of view. It’s a bit like having two slices of bread and some cheese; each is nice enough on their own, but waiting until it makes the full sandwich might be even better.
Su O’Brien

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the GALLERY 47 – Adversity Breeds link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

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Artist website: www.facebook.com/gallery47

‘Analytical & Open’:

ANNA COOGAN OCTOBER UK TOUR DATES

US singer-songwriter and former fisheries biologist, Anna Coogan, is excited to announce her return to the UK this October, following the release of her well received new record ‘The Lonely Cry of Space & Time’ in April. The live dates include a show at London’s Sound Lounge on Thursday October 19th.

The album, a virtual two-person effort which features Willie B (Brian Wilson) on drums and Moog bass, combines Coogan’s three-octave soprano vocals, electric guitar soundscapes and pointed social commentary into a fierce cohesive piece which combines the personal and the political, in a musical hybrid of rock, country, pop and classical opera into a unique whole. Her new direction was born from her series of performances in her adopted hometown of Ithaca, NY, in which Anna and Willie B created live musical accompaniments for vintage silent films.

Influenced by her classical opera training and her father’s protest albums by Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan, The Lonely Cry Of Space & Time is a stylistic breakthrough for Anna. Call it operatic rock, a genre previously explored by the likes of Kate Bush, Jane Siberry, LeneLovich, Yoko Ono and Freddie Mercury, among others; there have been many attempts at rock opera in the past, but The Lonely Cry of Space & Time is something different.

A distinct stylistic change from her previous solo work (The Nocturnal Among Us, 2010; The Wasted Ocean, 2012; and Birth of the Stars, 2014); Coogan explains her shift from the acoustic Americana of her past to the jangly, electronic buzz of the new album could be described as her “Judas moment.” As a guitarist, think of her rubbery, pneumatic, wah-wah sound like a combination of PJ Harvey, Courtney Barnett and her personal favourites, Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot.

A true independent, Anna releases her own albums and books her own tours, which have taken her all over the world, including international festivals like the Blue Ball in Lucerne, Switzerland, Maverick in Suffolk, UK, as well as the Glasgow Americana Festival and Celtic Connections in Scotland. She has also played extensively in Germany and the Netherlands, and toured as a member of the Johnny Dowd Band.

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the ANNA COOGAN link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

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ANNA COOGAN OCTOBER UK TOUR

Wednesday 18th October
Loves Cafe, Weston-Super-Mare
www.lovesweston.co.uk

Thursday 19th October
The Sound Lounge, London
www.thesoundlounge.org.uk

Friday 20th October
Edgemoor Hotel, Bovey Tracey
www.southdevonmusic.co.uk

Saturday 21st October
The Band Room, Farndale
www.thebandroom.co.uk

Sunday 22nd October
Tape Community Arts Center, Colwyn Bay
www.tapemusicandfilm.co.uk

Artist Web Link: www.annacoogan.com

DAVID RAWLINGS – Poor David’s Almanack (Acony)

AlmanackThe material is all new, but, in part because several are based on traditional stories and songs, the feel is ageless as David Rawlings evokes a sense of a vanished rural America in a similar gothic folk manner to his longtime musical partner, Gillian Welch who, as ever, joins him here.

She brings effective harmonies on the album’s leaving-themed train song opener, ‘Midnight Train’, Rawlings ably demonstrating his acclaimed acoustic fingerpicking. Next up, opening and underpinned with her handclap and foot percussion and featuring Willie Watson on banjo, ‘Money Is The Meat In The Coconut’ is one of several playful numbers, this derived from African roots but with a hoe-down feel, albeit the lyrics carrying an underlying anti-capitalist message about subsistence living.

Watson also lends his vocals to the brooding Appalachian drama of the Rawlings-Welch duet ‘Cumberland Gap’, the former’s restyling of a traditional number previously assayed by the likes of Guthrie, Seeger and Donegan, here filtered through the musical lens of CSN&Y’s ‘Ohio’ with its fierce electric guitars and ominous atmosphere.

‘Airplane’ shifts the mood to a yearning reflective ballad that, bolstered by Brittany has on dreamy fiddle, conjures passing thoughts of Guy Clarke as Rawlings passionately sings how “ life’s a bitch cause you don’t want me” and about having wings to escape from heartache. At five minutes the album’s longest track, ‘Lindsay Button’ is another minor key number. Featuring in his live sets last year, it’s a slow spiritual hymnal telling of the “pretty young girl” who “come’ down the mountain long time ago” and “carved two names in a white oak sapling” that essentially about the role of of folk music to preserve history.

Another steeped in old-time music, Kathy Secor on fiddle, ‘Come On Over My House’ is another upbeat good time track, the title pretty much speaking to the narrator’s intentions in inviting his honey to drop by. Things shift again for the electric guitar driven, nasally sung slow-paced southern country rock ‘Guitar Man’, not a Presley or Bread cover but with echoes of The Band clearly sounding as Welch provides the steady drum beat.

Two further playful numbers are set back to back, first up being the lurching rhythm ‘Yup’, Rawlings on scratch, Welch on bongos and Austin Hoke on saw on a tale about the devil visiting a farm to take away the scolding wife only to find she’s more than he bargained for, each line ending with Welch and Rawlings adding the titular interjection. The second also nods to biblical references with ‘Good God A Woman’, a jaunty jamboree spiritual romp about the “big man” needing to create woman from a rib bone to complete creation, saving the best until last.

Not a variation on Ry Cooder’s ‘Tamp ‘em Up Solid’, the album ends with ‘Put ‘em Up Solid’,  Rawlings on harmonium and Haas on fiddle for a simple acoustic folk hymnal about building a firm foundation, whether that’s for a building or a life. A fine companion piece to Nashville Obsolete, and, were it needed, a reminder that neither Rawlings nor Welch play second fiddle to the other.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the DAVID RAWLINGS – Poor David’s Almanack link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

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Artist’s website: www.davidrawlingsmusic.com

‘Midnight Train’:

MEGAN HENWOOD – River (Dharma Records DHARMACD30)

RiverThe third album by singer-songwriter Megan Henwood, River, is due for release on 27th October 2017. And it demonstrates the evolving talent and maturity of a singer who had already made considerable impression in 2009, when she and her brother Joe won Radio 2’s Young Folk Award, and a writer whose storytelling is supported by fine melodies and solid musicianship. This doesn’t strike me as a particularly folky album (which isn’t a criticism), however.

The songs are all written by Megan, who also plays acoustic and electric guitars here, while cellist Matthew Forbes and bassist Pete Thomas, long associated with her work, are once more strongly featured on this album. The early promotional copy I have doesn’t include details of these or other personnel, though the press release tells me that the CD was produced by Tom Excell, and the unexpected but very effective trumpet on ‘Fresh Water’ is by Jonny Enser. There’s no lyric sheet at this point, either, which always strikes me as being a shame when the words are as good as this. It also means that when I cite lyrics in this review, I may be inaccurate, so I apologise in advance for any accidental mondegreens, but her wordsmithing is too good not to try to quote.

Here’s a track-by-track listing:

  1. ‘Join The Dots’ uses a classic ballad structure, moving between a gentle verse to a dramatic chorus that reminded me a little too much melodically of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ (sorry!).
  2. ‘Fresh Water’ lies a little closer to a fuzzy line between alt-folk and modern country with its acoustic fingerpicking. A very pretty love story –”I’ve got a thirsty heart and your love is like fresh water … to me” – with some perfectly judged double-tracking on the chorus.
  3. Megan’s song about Oxford, ‘The Dolly’, has the barest touch of Joni Mitchell-ish head register in the first verse, but also makes good use of her distinctive lower register. Great lyric, and the chorus has a nice bass line running in parallel to the vocal.
  4. The lyrics to ‘Seventh’ are a little more diffuse: the story is more difficult to follow, but the impact of the song is undeniable. Some nice touches of organ, too. As in one or two other places, the percussion seems a little too far forward here and there, though the suggestion of a ticking clock – I guess that’s a wood block – does suit the theme of the song. And perhaps it’s just an artefact of my elderly stereo.
  5. The wordless middle section to ‘Apples’ is a little overextended for my taste, but I like the combination of lyric and melody very much.
  6. ‘House On The Hill’ is a song about the scariness of romantic involvement – “I’m not afraid of the dark/but I’m afraid of you leaving“. The combination of the underlying electric guitar and strings is particularly atmospheric.
  7. The multi-tracking on parts of ‘Rainbows’ is a little denser, almost reminiscent in places of the Carpenters.
  8. ‘Peace Be The Alien’ includes some of my favourite lines: “From my follicles/down to my fingertips” and “Turn it down/headful of decibels“. Yes, “life’s too loud” but this song is definitely worth turning up the volume a bit.
  9. ‘Oh Brother’ explores the complexities of a sibling relationship. Autobiographical, perhaps, if it matters. A fine song, anyway.
  10. ‘Used To Be So Kind’ seems to pick up the theme of unkindness and being the firstborn child from the previous song. Some nice, slightly jazzy chord changes later in the song.
  11. ‘The Craftsman’ is probably my favourite Henwood song at the moment, and perhaps the folkiest. Just voice and acoustic guitar. Lovely.
  12. ‘L’Appel Du Vide’ is a French expression meaning “the call of the void”, similar to what Poe called ‘The Imp of the Perverse’: the sudden urge to do something harmful to oneself or to others. The song begins with an acapella section building into close harmonies, then develops the theme with some slightly eerie instrumental backing to match the disquieting lyric – “L’Appel du Vide I believe you’ve been haunting me/gather up all of my sins/siren won’t leave, she just sits here and sings to me/when will the finish begin?” Its understated drama makes for an unforgettable end to the album.

I tend to feel uneasy when I invoke the names of other artists in a review: all I’ll say on this occasion is that while Megan Henwood doesn’t sound too much like Mary Chapin Carpenter or Janis Ian – for a start, there’s something very English (in a very non-chauvinist way) about her use of language – but if you like the work of either of those artists (or maybe of Stevie Nicks), I’m pretty sure you’ll like Megan’s. It’s lyrically rich storytelling, melodically varied, imaginatively scored and sung with an unassuming, unforced range and fluidity. It’s certainly an album I’ll be listening to again, and I’ll be taking a look at her earlier recordings. Does that make me officially a fan?

David Harley

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the MEGAN HENWOOD – River link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

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Artist’s website: www.meganhenwood.com

‘The Dolly’ live:

Joan Osborne sings Songs Of Bob Dylan

Joan Osborne

The multi-platinum and seven-time Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Joan Osborne has announced the release of her ninth studio album Songs Of Bob Dylan for September 1st through Thirty Tigers. With Songs Of Bob Dylan, Osborne dictates her own interpretation of Dylan’s catalogue from his 60s and 70s standards through to his later releases; fresh understandings that she spent time crafting as part of the Joan Osborne Sings The Songs Of Bob Dylan residencies – two critically acclaimed two-week stints at New York’s Café Carlyle in March 2016 and 2017, which were described as “magic” by the Huffington Post and delivering “No-nonsense Dylan” by the New York Times. After a long period away from the UK, Osborne showcased the album at a sold-out Union Chapel in April – earning a standing ovation in the process. Inline with the album’s announcement, Osborne is releasing ‘High Water’.

Making Songs Of Bob Dylan sprung from an idea Osborne had been toying with for some years: to record a series of Songbook albums, akin to Ella Fitzgerald’s eight-album series where the jazz singer interpreted the songs of Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, and others classic American Songbook writers. “I always thought it would be really interesting to update that idea and do something similar myself,” Osborne says. So when she received the call from Café Carlyle, an intimate Upper East Side institution known for headlining performances by legendary interpretive singers like Judy Collins and the late Bobby Short, Osborne thought it might be the perfect venue to test it out. “I chose to start with Bob Dylan because of his stature as a writer,” she says. “And also because he has so many incredible songs. I’d never run out of ideas for different tunes to try.”

Enabled by the virtuosity of Osborne’s collaborators, guitarist Jack Petruzzelli (Patti Smith, The Fab Faux) and keyboardist Keith Cotton (Idina Menzel, Chris Cornell), who performed with her at Café Carlyle, and with whom she co-produced the album, Dylan’s songs take on varied new shapes. His rollicking, bluesy classic ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ gets a propulsive, radical makeover inspired by the song’s biblical imagery. The raucous, brass-band driven ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’ (featuring the famous line “Everybody must get stoned”) is reinvented with a smoky, slinky late-night jazz-club feel that puts an entirely fresh spin on the song. “It allowed me to take a lyric that I think has been interpreted as very jokey and about just getting wasted and reframe it in a way where it has a bit of a different meaning,” she says. ‘Quinn the Eskimo (Mighty Quinn)’, a song popularized by Manfred Mann, is subtly rearranged to bring out the gospel flavour, endowing it with a celebratory air that fully suits the song. “We’ve been opening our show with it and it’s just a wonderful ‘joyful noise’ sort of moment,” Osborne says.

On ‘Ring Them Bells’, Osborne retains the spiritual overtones of the original, though the song takes on new resonance given today’s political climate. “Oh Mercy is such a touchstone album for me,” she says. “I sang ‘Ring Them Bells’ at a couple of benefits for firefighters’ families right after 9/11 and, in that context, it was apparent how a song like that has the power to grab people’s emotions when we’re facing huge challenges. We’re living in a moment like that now, where there’s a lot of uncertainty and fear about what’s happening in the world. So it feels like the time to bring out a song like this. I’d say the same thing about ‘Masters of War.’ We need to hear the most powerful, political songs. We need to hear our great writers and poets talking about these times.”

Osborne is no stranger to interpreting songs in a wide variety of genres. In addition to releasing a string of studio albums featuring her frank, expressive original songwriting (the triple-platinum, six-time Grammy-nominated Relish, Righteous Love, Pretty Little Stranger, Little Wild One, and Love And Hate), Osborne has also made three albums of soul, R&B, and blues covers (How Sweet It Is, Breakfast In Bed, which also features originals, and the Grammy-nominated Bring It On Home). In 2003, Osborne joined the surviving members of The Grateful Dead and had the chance to sing with Dylan, their co-headliner on ‘Tears of Rage’, a song Dylan co-wrote with Richard Manuel. AllMusic has called her “the most gifted vocalist of her generation and a singer who understands the nuance of phrase, time, and elocution.”

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the Joan Osborne – Songs Of Bob Dylan link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

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Artist’s website: http://www.joanosborne.com/

‘High Water (For Charley Patton)’:

BLAKE’S FORTUNE – Hello World (own label)

Hello WorldBlake’s Fortune is the nom de plume of a young singer-songwriter from Dublin. His real name is John Lennon which, you have to admit, is something of a hostage to fortune for a man in his position. He’s been around a while, previously working as a member of Pina Kollars’ band but Hello World is his solo debut. In the modern fashion it is primarily released as a download but there is a limited edition of a hundred physical copies.

“The modern fashion” is something that struck me as I first listened to this record for it’s the first time I’ve really noticed neologisms in someone’s writing. The refrain of ‘Molly’, for example, ends with the phrase “take me with” and ‘Going Slow’ mentions texting where a few decades ago the talk would have been about telephone calls. As John says in ‘Disconnected’ “It ain’t real until it’s posted”. It’s funny what you pick up on.

Hello World is inspired by a road trip around the US north-west although the only specific reference is in ‘Point Reyes’ – that’s it on the cover. The album is thoughtful and reflective and it has something of a laid-back Americana vibe but nothing like the west coast acoustic rock sound you might have expected. John plays guitars including slide, synthesisers and percussion and it is the synths that provide the foundation for the songs. He’s supported on bass by Dave Buttner and Damien Walsh, who lends a hand on other instruments, and with occasional fiddle from Eileen O’Driscoll, clarinet from Sarah Gallagher and banjo from Lily Gems but it’s all very restrained. A couple of times John gets behind the drum kit and rocks it up a bit – ‘Going Slow’ and ‘Heart’s Roulette’ are good examples – but not enough to disturb the flow and that’s a good thing because the instrumental style is what really makes Hello World what it is. And what it is a very fine debut album.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the BLAKE’S FORTUNE – Hello World link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

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Artist’s website: http://www.blakesfortune.com/

‘Hiatus’ – the opening track: