DAVY GRAHAM – Large As Life And Twice As Natural (Bread And Wine BRINECD-2)

NaturalIf you want to know why Davy Graham was such a unique and influential artist just listen to the first track on Large As Life And Twice As Natural, his third studio album. Actually, listen to the whole record but the first track will tell you all you need to know.

That track is ‘Both Sides Now’, yes, the Joni Mitchell song, although initially you wouldn’t recognise it.  In 1968 it was known from the Judy Collins cover; Joni wouldn’t release it for another year. For Davy it must have seemed like a blank canvas. He begins with a bass drone, then introducing a guitar instrumental with wordless vocals which is reminiscent of ‘She Moves Through The Fair’ or possibly ‘Blackwaterside’. Only after two minutes or so does he burst into a high energy version of the song with his band in full cry.

I should tell you that the “band” consists of four of the go-to sides-men of the time: Danny Thompson, Jon Hiseman, Harold McNair and Dick Heckstall-Smith, all capable of playing anything that was asked of them be it folk, blues, jazz or whatever and, on this record, Graham asks a lot. He follows it up with the traditional ‘Bad Boy Blues’, a musical form that he was irresistibly drawn to. Here you’ll find four blues songs and a couple more that come close but Graham is musically restless so the third track is ‘Tristano’, a solo guitar composition.

There are two of Graham’s famous ragas, both different in character and using his original tunings. The first is the appropriately named ‘Sunshine Raga’, which starts slowly as though coming up with the dawn waking up the bass and drums as it rises while a very western melody emerges. The second, which closes the album, is ‘Blue Raga’ with its beautiful echoey opening phrase and Hiseman’s percussion running alongside the guitar.

As if these delights are not enough, there is the Moroccan-inspired ‘Jenra’ and a solemn version of the traditional ‘Bruton Town’. You come away with the impression that these musicians could do just about anything and you can see why Large As Life And Twice As Natural is held to be one of Graham’s finest works.

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 DAVY GRAHAM – Large As Life And Twice As Natural 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.

ORDER – [CD]

ORDER – [VINYL]

You can hear more of Davy Graham at https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/84b35dee-b1d6-4bf6-8748-8bb9918bebaf

and there is a nice feature at http://www.folkblues.co.uk/artistsgraham.html

No film as such but listen to ‘Blue Raga’ anyway:

;

JEREMY TUPLIN – I Dreamt I Was An Astronaut (Folkwit Records f0141)

AstronautJeremy Tuplin released his debut album, I Dreamt I Was An Astronaut, on September 29th and it will be launched at Paper Dress Vintage in London on October 26th. The album has been described as part of a new genre, “space-folk”, because of its “retro-futuristic feel” and blend of “electronic and synthesised sounds with acoustic and organic instruments”. It’s early days (there have been two EP’s but this is a debut album), but there are indications of a talent much better than that kind of narrow-alley-cult description suggests.

You know you’re in a different world when the opening track is called ‘Albert Einstein Song’ and the first verse, which follows the best part of a two minute introduction, is “Here’s to Albert Einstein and the vision he bestowed/To the few things I have learned and all the things I’ll never know/Like why the universe is even here/For what reason is it employed/Or how energy is neither created nor destroyed” The track then goes into an image of David Bowie’s death and a related spiritual musing that we may be part of “something bigger than you, something bigger than me”. On ‘Anybody Else’ Tuplin takes us to a similarly contemplative place while singing an unforced rhyme between hubris and this “I’m just a figment of my ego’s imagination/Must I resign myself to hubris/A twisted sense of self-entitlement and frustration/Mixed with I’ve never known anybody quite like this”.

The melodies are strong so that the lyrics don’t overwhelm them. Tuplin has a clean picking and strumming style. The songs are recorded with electronic instrumentation (the keyboard sound that gives rise to the genre description of space-folk) that moves towards orchestration and drums that give the songs a steady fullness or, in a couple of instances, turn them into something rockier. The video below, ‘Astronaut’, gives you a good feel for Tuplin’s musical locus but have a listen also to ‘Oh Youth’ for the rockier sound.

The voice is unique. There are elements of Nick Cave or Leonard Cohen in it in that Tuplin sings in deep tones, with a calm timbre of serious matters. But then there’s also a faint tinge of Jake Thackray or Viv Stanshall – just to be clear, this is a compliment. In ‘Did We Lose The Fight’, the vocal subtlety allows Tuplin to deliver lines like “A scratch mark’s nothing more than a battle scar…..I down my drink because I can’t stand this any more/Then I drink until I can’t stand any more…….I admit that I still long for those days/We don’t fight like that any more/Can it be that we’ve both got nothing left to say…. I presume we’ll be going our separate ways” and simultaneously capture the passion of a tumultuous relationship, the seriousness of it falling apart, but also a perspective, a sense that there is more to this world and that this is just two people ‘losing the fight’ (with all the complexity inherent in that phrase).

There’s some rawness on the album – given the reprise of vinyl at the moment, I’m not sure whether the crackling sound on one track is deliberate, but I assume the cough on another isn’t; the image of the puppy playing piano (‘Feel Good Hit’) will probably not appeal to many – but I’d rather have it raw than bland and these are small quibbles about a fascinating and well put together CD.

Give it a listen, it is just possible that this is the debut album of someone who is going to be filling halls and festival stages in the coming years.

Mike Wistow

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 JEREMY TUPLIN – I Dreamt I Was An Astronaut 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.

ORDER – [CD]

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

Following the album launch in London, Tuplin is on tour in Spain and the UK in November.

‘Astronaut’ – official video:

ADRIAN NATION – Anarchy And Love (Laburnum Ridge LABAN040)

AnarchyAdrian’s fourth solo album (one of them is live), Anarchy And Love, began with the death of his father some four years ago. In a brief sleeve note he says that his father left many things behind and on the record are “some of the songs he left in me”. Happily for all of us this is not an album filled with grief but one that radiates optimism. Sure, the road isn’t always an easy one. The title track comes from Adrian’s time in Athens during the protests in 2012. Amongst the chaos he saw a small, but encouraging, seed of hope. You can call it a protest song, but its targets are not necessarily the obvious ones and the protest continues with ‘Dying Of Democracy’.

If Adrian wanted an uplifting start for the album he couldn’t have chosen better than ‘Rocket To The Moon’ in which the Scottish exodus to the New World “made this nation great”. It’s impossible to imagine the feelings of despair felt by the people setting out into the unknown but they did OK. Of course, the Macdonald brothers hadn’t heard of Donald Trump back then. The final song is another cover, Robert Burns’ ‘A Man’s A Man’, which encapsulates the same idea on a personal level – “The honest man though oh so poor is king of men for all that”.

Adrian is lauded as an acoustic guitar master and there are three solo instrumentals here but he’s now expanded his repertoire to include electric guitar. In the modern fashion, Anarchy And Love was recorded with musicians in several locations, notably Sardinia, Scotland and Canada where he’s developed quite a following in recent years and something has rubbed off on him. It took four or five tracks for me to work out what I was hearing in the back of my mind. It shouldn’t have taken so long since Adrian has cited Bruce Cockburn as one of his inspirations but sometimes he really channels the man.

Adrian is, to quote Burns, a “man of independent mind” and, while there is a bit of Bruce in ‘The Benderloch Stone’ for example, the ideas and the words are definitely Adrian’s. This is another excellent album from a writer and performer who really should be much better known.

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 ADRIAN NATION – Anarchy And Love 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.

DOWNLOAD – [CD]

Artist’s website: www.adriannation.com

‘The Benderloch Stone’ – live:

Seth Lakeman – album reissue with bonus tracks and tour dates

Seth

Seth Lakeman has re-released his Top 20 album Ballads Of The Broken Few, with five added bonus tracks via Cooking Vinyl. Recorded during the original album sessions, with producer Ethan Johns, the previously unreleased bonus tracks are: ‘Gambling Man’, ‘Everything’, ‘Days Are Longer’, ‘Wake Up’ and ‘Bury Me Deep’. The new album will be available on CD and digital.

This November, Seth will tour the UK as special guest with Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters, where he will play as part of Robert’s band and also open the shows with his own set.

Looking forward to the dates, Seth commented: “‘I’m honoured to be touring and performing with such a fantastic band and one of the world’s greatest music legends.”

Widely-praised on its release last year, Ballads Of The Broken Few showcases Seth’s dynamic song writing and playing; his soaring vocals perfectly matched by the sublime harmonies of Wildwood Kin. An epic, soulful album of compelling songs, stripped back to their essence.

Since the Mercury Prize nominated Kitty Jay (recorded in his kitchen for £300), the follow-up gold selling Freedom Fields and his last, highly acclaimed offering, Word Of Mouth, a deft collection of mini musical biographies of colourful West Country characters, Seth Lakeman has relentlessly pushed his musical boundaries and those of folk and roots music. His innovative approach, ground-breaking albums and powerful live performances have put him at the forefront of the re-emergence of British folk and successfully steered it into the mainstream. With Ballads Of The Broken Few Seth demonstrated yet again that, far from being complacent, he is constantly exploring new and bold musical paths.

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 Seth Lakeman – Ballads Of The Broken Few 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.

ORDER – [CD]

‘Meet Me In The Twilight’:

Seth tours with Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters in November and December:

Thursday 16 Nov       PLYMOUTH  Pavilions

Friday 17 Nov           BRISTOL  Colston Hall

Monday 20 Nov       WOLVERHAMPTON  Civic Hall

Wednesday 22 Nov       LLANDUDNO  Venue Cymru

Friday 24 Nov            NEWCASTLE  City Hall

Saturday 25 Nov          LIVERPOOL  Olympia

Monday 27 Nov       GLASGOW  SEC Armadillo

Tuesday 28 Nov       PERTH  Concert Hall

Thursday 30 Nov       MANCHESTER  02 Apollo

Wednesday 06 Dec        SHEFFIELD  City Hall

Friday 08 Dec            LONDON  Royal Albert Hall

Monday 11 Dec        PORTSMOUTH  Guildhall

Tuesday 12 Dec        BIRMINGHAM  Symphony Hall

Tickets: http://gigst.rs/RP

MARK T. – From Blues To Rembetika (Circle Of Sound COS330CD)

From Blues To RembetikaFrom Blues To Rembetika neatly encapsulates the two strands of Mark T’s music and his love for both the resonator guitar and the bouzouki although there is rather more of the former than the latter here. Rembetika is an urban music from Greece and Turkey which spawned the bouzouki music of the early 20th century. Mark finds a parallel between the two musics; both coming as they do from the poor communities with their own language and conventions.

The album is topped and tailed by ‘An Old Road’, a short solo instrumental, and immediately dives into the old blues with ‘Worried Life’, co-written by Mississippi Fred McDowell and Mike Cooper, who Mark credits as a big influence on his music. That’s followed by a Mark T original, ‘Going Down The Road’ again in the blues form.

Finally Mark turns to rembetika with two original compositions, ‘Taxim/Shirts Of The Earth’, recorded live at The Troubadour last year. The two tunes employ the opposite ends of the bouzouki’s range to good effect. A taxim is a solo instrumental improvisation, a musical form that Mark has used several times on previous albums.

Four more tracks were recorded live at the Troubadour: Son House’s ‘Death Letter’, Woody Guthrie’s ‘Dust Pneumonia Blues’, ‘Ain’t Going Down The Well No More’ – another original – and Robert Johnson’s ‘Ramblin’’. After the latter Mark returns to rembetika with a long set of original tunes, ‘Erinaki’, featuring Charles Spicer on cor anglaise which really adds a richness to the music. It’s probably my favourite track on the album and just flashes by.

Although the album is generally quite sparse, there are three percussionists helping to drive it along: Iqbal Pathan on tables, Mysterious Bob playing bongos and congas and Fran Wood who also provides backing vocals. Mark’s approach to the blues is pretty authentic – that’s an all-wooden National Triolian on the cover – but I’m not expert enough to judge his rembetika. I just know I enjoy it.

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 MARK T. – From Blues To Rembetika 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.

ORDER – [CD]

Artist’s website: www.circleofsound.co.uk

‘Going Down The Road’ – live:

CARA DILLON – Wanderer (Charcoal CHARCD009)

WandererFollowing last year’s release of her first Christmas album, Upon A Winter’s Night, Dillon returns to secular form with a predominantly traditional collection, again produced by and featuring husband Sam Lakeman.

Pivoting around an underlying theme of transition and departure, whether that be through emigration or the search for love, it keeps the instrumentation spare and intimate, predominantly built around Lakeman’s piano and/or acoustic guitar, but also with occasional contributions from Ben Nicholls on double bass, Niall Murphy on fiddle and both John Smith and Justin Adams on acoustic and electric guitar, respectively.

There are two original numbers, the first up being the piano-accompanied ‘The Leaving Song’, inspired by “living wakes” held for those about to emigrate in pre-war Co.Derry with its lyric about a mother bidding farewell to a son seeking his fortunes in some other land, with a reminder that he can always find his way home. The other, the penultimate track, the simply styled metaphorical ‘Lakeside Swans’ touches a similar note, here concerning migrants and refugees and the decision to leave their homes.

There’s also a cover, the album’s final track being their dreamily lovely piano-led arrangement of ‘Dubhdara’, the slow-swaying sailing out Celtic anthem written by Shaun Davey for his 1985 album Granuaile.

The remaining seven numbers are all traditional, some familiar, others less so, case in point being the opening Ulster thoughts of home folk song ‘The Tern And The Swallow’ with its references to Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in Northern Ireland, and Slieve Gallion, the mountain in Co. Londonderry. Also with their roots in Derry and nostalgia for home, ‘The Banks Of The Foyle’ concerns a girl forced to leave her true love by cruel misfortune but then learning he’s remained constant in her absence, while, featuring just Dillon and Lakeman’s guitar, ‘The Faughan Side’ conjures memories of an emigrant to America of happy days spent by the bridge of Drumahoe over the titular river.

A fine, yearningly crestfallen reading of the much recorded ‘Blackwater Side’ leads the charge for the better known songs, with its tale of a young lad lying his way into a maiden’s bed with false promises. This is complemented by ‘Both Sides Of The Tweed’, a traditional number given a makeover by Dick Gaughan, here presented in simple style with Dillon’s pure vocals and Lakeman’s piano. She’s joined by Kris Drever who duets and plays guitar for ‘Sailor Boy’, the album’s obligatory death song (you know the plot, maiden dies from grief when her sailor lover drowns) with Murphy on wheezing fiddle. Which just leaves a haunted interpretation of ‘The Banks Of The Bann’, which, combining emigration and thwarted love and arranged for piano and fiddle, is fittingly set to the tune of ‘Lord Of All Hopefulness’.

Her most reflective and most musically introspective album to date, the spare arrangements putting the spotlight on her warm, crystal clear vocals, it is arguably also the best of her career.

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 CARA DILLON – Wanderer 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.

ORDER – [CD]

Artist’s website: www.caradillon.co.uk

Promo video: