LIANNE HALL – The Caretaker (Market Square MSMCD182)

CaretakerLianne Hall used to be a punk. She was a member of Witchknot but I rather think that she was punk in the way that The Stranglers were; embracing the ethos but having rather superior musical skills. She’s originally from Peterborough and lived in Brighton before moving to Berlin. After her punk days she was into alt-folk and electronica and The Caretaker is her fourth solo album. I tell you all this because it goes some way to explaining the style and autobiographical nature of this album. It’s not a record that you’re necessarily going to get on first hearing.

The album title and the song ‘The Last Song Of The Caretaker’ stem from Lianne’s last days in Brighton when she was caretaker of the West Hill Hall and occasionally gigged there. It contains some wonderfully matter-of-fact lines about sweeping the floors and locking up before leaving for the last time. She says that she “used to be a pillar of my community”. ‘Amp On Fire’ is another true story – who’d be a musician?

The underlying theme of the record is transition and the courage it takes to change your life. The Caretaker was recorded in Berlin in as few takes as possible with lots of percussion, keyboards and electric guitars; not played in a rock style but echoing, bell-like notes. The recording was strictly analogue except for the CD transfer but it is suggested that the best way to hear it is on vinyl. The other two guitarists are Felix Müller and co-producer Alexander Paulick with drums and percussion courtesy of Sebastian Vogel and Nolan Churn and between them all they produce a wonderfully spacey sound, hypnotic in places that is epitomised in the closing song ‘The Ocean Is Broken’.

From my first hearing of Lianne a few weeks ago, I knew I was going to like her music and I was right.

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 LIANNE HALL – The Caretaker 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.liannehall.com

Teaser video:

GALLEY BEGGAR – Heathen Hymns (Rise Above Records RISECD208)

Heathen HymnsI have opined before that Galley Beggar’s albums, though excellent in themselves, never quite reflect the live feel of the band. The last album Silence And Tears went some way to redressing this imbalance, but their latest offering, Heathen Hymns, is much more in line with their live performances.

The opener ‘Salome’ is seasoned with eastern spice and is taste of the new direction that Galley Beggar is taking. A progressive rock feel with hints of early Pink Floyd in the mix. The mood and drive continues much in the same vein for ‘Four Birds’.

Back to their traditional folk roots for ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me’, though the latter stages of the track has power building as it soars ever skywards before returning to its folk foundation. The middle section of the album is firmly in folk-land. Good tracks all, my favourite being the violin driven ‘Moon And Tide’ and Maria O’Donnell’s pure voice is admirably suited to this style of music.

The penultimate track is my personal pick of the crop. A traditional folk tale given the Galley Beggar prog rock treatment.  Cascading guitar echoing into the stratosphere, inducing flashbacks of psychedelia to this enthralled listener.

The album ends with ‘My Return’ which, in places, has a very similar feel to ‘Salome’. Tasty violin on the bridge of this track and, once again, there is that underpinning of power lurking beneath.

Overall an excellent addition to Galley Beggar’s discography and one I can heartily recommend. If this is your first taste of Galley Beggar, it should leave you wanting more.

Ron D Bowes

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 GALLEY BEGGAR – Heathen Hymns 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]

Artists’ website: http://www.galleybeggar.com/wordpress/

‘Moon And Tide’ – official video:

Martin Simpson announces his 20th solo album

Martin Simpson
Photograph by Elly Lucas

World renowned guitarist, singer and songwriter Martin Simpson releases his 20th solo album in 40 years Trails & Tribulations on September 1st 2017 via Topic Records. The brand-new studio album, his first new solo work since 2013’s widely praised Vagrant Stanzas, will be available in standard and deluxe CD, digital download and standard vinyl (the latter through Vinyl 180).


Trails & Tribulations
is a collection of songs about nature, about travels and about real life stories. There are traditional songs, poems and contemporary songs by great writers, and songs that I had to write because nobody else knew what I wanted to say. I travel, I learn songs, I write and try to get better at the skills required for me to do my job. I look at the world as I pass by, on the road, out of the train window, or as I stop and pay close attention to the square foot under my nose. There is so much to see and to hear and to inspire and to try and understand. I had a huge amount of fun playing and recording these songs, using different instruments, different noises, old friends and new ones, all of whom brought so much to the mix. Martin Simpson, April 2017.

Produced and engineered by Andy Bell, Trails & Tribulations features some of Martin’s most inventive playing yet, showcasing his virtuosity on a variety of instruments including acoustic guitars, resonator guitars, Weissenborn lap steel guitar, electric guitars, 5 string banjo, ukulele – and voice.

Guest musicians on the new album are: Ben Nicholls (string bass and electric bass guitars), Toby Kearney (drums and percussion), Nancy Kerr (fiddle and viola), Andy Cutting (diatonic accordion and melodeon), John Smith (electric guitar and backing vocals), Helen Bell (strings), Amy Newhouse-Smith (backing vocals) and his daughter Molly Simpson on vocals.

Martin will tour extensively this year, including a headline set at Cambridge Folk Festival in the summer and London’s Kings Place in autumn, following the release of Trails & Tribulations.

Hand in hand with his long and storied solo career, Martin has been central to seminal collaborations like The Full English, The Elizabethan Sessions and Simpson Cutting Kerr. He has worked with a dazzling array of artists from across the musical spectrum: Jackson Browne, Martin Taylor, June Tabor, Richard Hawley, Bonnie Raitt, Danny Thompson, David Hidalgo, Danú, Richard Thompson and Dom Flemons, to mention a few. He is consistently named as one of the very finest acoustic, fingerstyle and slide guitar players in the world and is the most nominated musician in the history of the BBC Folk Awards, with a remarkable 31 nods. A true master of his art.

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 Martin Simpson – Trails & Tribulation 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.martinsimpson.com/

‘Blues Run The Game’ – audio stream:

SKIPINNISH – The Seventh Wave (Skippinish Records SKIPCD26)

The Seventh WaveThe Seventh Wave is the seventh album to be released by Skipinnish and it is possibly one of the most enjoyable albums that I have recently been given the opportunity to review. When I agreed to take on the suicidal responsibility of reviewing new releases I was, unbelievably, excited about it. However, I have been disappointed with many of the albums I have been given, but not so this one. I am not sure if Skipinnish have been taking notes from my reviews but they seem to have “taken some of my advice”.

My Concern No 1 – If you only have 9 tracks to record then you are not ready to release an album Skipinnish – No problem. The Seventh Wave has 14 tracks. My Concern No 2 – Vocals are pushed back and over-powered by aggressive instrumentalisation. Skipinnish – No problem. They include twelve vocal tracks and the voice is always at the front supported by excellent musicianship.

My Concern No 3 – Lack of clarity in the vocals. Skipinnish – No problem. You can easily make out every word of every song. Superb clarity. My Concern No 4 – Groups issuing all of their vocal tracks entirely in Gaelic, a language few of their fans can understand. Skipinnish – No problem. The majority of their vocals are in English with the inclusion of their native Gaelic in acceptable levels.

My Concern No 5 – “Traditional” bands thinking that they are rock bands. Skipinnish – No problem. They are undoubtedly targeting an audience beyond the folk audience but with a professional awareness of the roots they came from. My Concern No 6 – Poor quality sleeves with not enough information about the album. Skipinnish – They provide a booklet with all the words of songs.

I will not go through the album track by track because that is the responsibility of the listener. I will tell you that most of them are simply excellent with two or three excelling even themselves. Skipinnish have included several “choral” backings to tracks and they are beautiful, especially on ‘The Iolaire’ and ‘Walking On The Waves’.

No album will be reviewed by me without some criticism and on this album, it relates to tracks 2, 7 and 13. I cannot stand the sound created by the introduction of “screeching” bagpipes played at an excessive speed supported by simplistic, heavy rock drummers. It is great fun for young, festival fans when played live. It gives them a chance to dance. Personally, I would not have included track 2, ‘The Hag’, as it is difficult to identify Skipinnish from any other folk band using the same instruments. Keep it in for live gigs but it is not great on an album. Strangely, on the final track the pipes are very much part of the effect but played sensitively and beautifully.

I am sure everybody who buys this album will love it and it is easy to fast forward track 2. It is unlikely you will fast forward any of the other tracks, maybe track 13. It is a great CD, so nip out and buy it.

Fraser Bruce

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 SKIPINNISH – The Seventh Wave 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]

Artists’ website: www.skipinnish.com

‘The Island’ – official video:

Kaia Kater announces new album Plus Tour Dates

Kaia Kater 2
Photograph by Polina Mourzina

The new album from young African-Canadian roots phenom Kaia Kater couldn’t come at a better time. As a new generation takes the reins, American roots music is needed more than ever to remind us of the troubled pathways of our own history. Born of Afro-Caribbean descent in Québec, Kaia Kater grew up between two worlds: one her family’s deep ties to Canadian folk music in her Toronto home; the other the years she spent learning and studying Appalachian music in West Virginia. Her acclaimed debut album touched on this divide, but her new album, Nine Pin (set for release on September 2nd on Proper Records) delves even further, and casts an unflinching eye at the realities faced by people of colour in North America every day.

Her songs on the new album are fuelled by her rich low tenor vocals, jazz-influenced instrumentation, and beautifully understated banjo, and they’ve got as much in common with Kendrick Lamar right now as they do with Pete Seeger. True to her roots in Appalachia, the title of the album comes from a traditional square dance formation in which a woman stands alone in the middle of a circle of people turning around her. As a double meaning, it’s also one of the pins in bowling that keeps getting knocked down. Surrounded yet alone, constantly in the line of fire, this album speaks beautifully to the seasons of a young woman’s life.

As a new generation of artists like Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla, and Dom Flemons are reclaiming the black roots of North American music, Kaia Kater steps into this dialogue with Nine Pin, bringing a powerful new voice to the conversation.

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 Kaia Kater 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.

KAIA KATER REMAINING MAY UK TOUR DATES:
Saturday 20th May – The Met, Bury
Sunday 21st May – The Greystones, Sheffield
Tuesday 23rd May – Green Note, London

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

‘Saint Elizabeth’ live:

AMY McALLISTER – String On String (own label)

StringI’ll state now that anyone who sings ‘Matt Hyland’ is all right with me, especially when that anyone sings it as gorgeously as Amy McAllister does, even though she does omit the bribery verse. Amy is a singer, songwriter, harpist and fiddle player from Antrim and, after many years of touring, String On String is her debut album.

Amy has written three of the songs here, two tunes are borrowed and the rest are traditional, arranged by Amy and producer/instrumentalist Camille Champarnaud who plays just about everything except harp. Other guests are guitarist Eoghan Scott and Jos Kelly who plays piano on ‘Bonny Blue Eyed Nancy’. Everything is taken at a lively pace with the opener, ‘Over The Mountain’ being followed by a sprightly set of jigs

The first of her original songs, ‘Holy Holy’, is an intriguing blend of traditional sounds and modern lyrics – a line like “Plankton light up the Cartagena sea” doesn’t appear often in Irish songs. ‘It’s Been A Year’ is something of a sequel as the man who left her hasn’t yet come back to her and, in fact, is off with someone else while ‘Mi Amor’ describes or imagines his return.

The borrowed tunes are Catriona McKay’s ‘The Swan LK 243’ and ‘O’Carolan’s Concerto’ which every harpist worth his or her salt must play at some time. It’s a superb tune – the sort you would happily have on a loop – and Amy does it full justice

There is a dreamy feel to String On String which I find pleasantly relaxing. Usually my taste runs to something with more of an edge but I’m really taken with Amy and her 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 AMY McALLISTER – String On String 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: http://www.amymcallister.co.uk/

‘Mi Amor’ – official video: