RURA – Break It Up (Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX364)

I don’t know what it is…maybe it’s the water…Highland Spring naturally (!) that they’re drinking inScotland but the skirl of the pipes is causing many ‘folk’ audiences in the UK to prick up their ears. It will possibly come as no surprise then that the band Rura are creating something of a buzz with this, their first release on the evergreen Greentrax label. Opening with the march/reel “Oran nan Mogaisean (Song Of The Moccasins)” they follow in the footsteps of The Tannahill Weavers and The Battlefield Band where, rather than use a full drum kit they opt for David Foley’s driving bodhran. Of course this draws your attention to the more organic process of ‘acoustic’ music and the excellent combination of Steven Blake (pipes/whistle), Jack Smedley (fiddle/vocals), Adam Holmes (vocals/guitar) and James Lindsay on bass. This is a band that can seriously ‘rock’ when pumping out Murray Attaway’s (Guadalcanal Diary) song “Allegory” or just as easily lull you into a false sense of security with the final track “Lament For Donald Ban” where the plaintive fiddle is supplemented by the inclusion of the pipes in full cry. No messing about, Rura can get down and dirty with the best of them. PETE FYFE

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below 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.

Artist web link: www.ruramusic.com

SARAH McQUAID – The Plum Tree And The Rose (Waterbug Records WBG104)

Much like her heroine Bess Of Hardwick (“Hardwick’s Lofty Towers”) Sarah McQuaid has the intelligence and tenacity to cultivate her lyrics so that the legacy of her song-writing will remain long after she has passed away. If that sounds morose it isn’t meant to be. It’s just that McQuaid’s way with words will draw you in and leave you feeling as if you’ve just stepped from an invigorating shower. She’s the kind of writer who conveys her thoughts brilliantly via the media of music and, take for instance the opening track “Lift You Up And Let You Fly” within a few short verses she is able to let the listener know the pain but understanding in watching a child’s development and eventual release into the world with all the compassion of a mum who (hopefully) doesn’t watch Jeremy Kyle.

It has to be said that from a listener’s point of view this is where the producer and musician Gerry O’Beirne’s skill in utilising Bill Blackmore’s flugelhorn is an astute piece of placement. Think of Christy Moore’s “All For The Roses” if you’re unsure where you’ve heard this thought process before and, whilst on the subject of instrumentation much as I’d like to name every musician who contributed to this beautifully crafted album I’m afraid I can’t as I haven’t got the space. Let’s just say I’m bowled over with the creative input from everyone involved. In truth I could write a whole book on the subject of Sarah McQuaid’s way with words but perhaps that is best left to the lady herself. If you require any further incentive why not check out the gorgeous single “The Sun Goes On Rising” below and, like me I’m sure you will be seduced by Sarah’s alto vocals and perfectly solid performance. In the meantime I suppose I’ll just have to kill time waiting expectantly to hear the next album which if it’s anything like this recording will receive another ten out of ten. Highly recommended…buy it, buy it, buy it! PETE FYFE

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below 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.

Artist web link and current tour dates: www.sarahmcquaid.com

THE ALBION BAND – Vice Of The People (Powered Flight Music POWFCD02)

The stark acapella ‘calling-on song’ “A Quarter Hour Of Fame” takes a knowing pop at the industry known as ‘pop’ for, if Simon Cowell were to take even the slightest interest in a ‘folk’ band I’m sure he wouldn’t know what to do with them. So, in a track that lasts a mere 44 seconds it would appear the new line-up of The Albion Band mean business much like their predecessor. Forthright views conveyed with a passion were always part of the original band’s make-up thanks due in no small part to the lyrics of John Tams and I’m pleased to say Katriona Gilmore (fiddle) and Gavin Davenport (guitar/concertina) continue in that spirit. Of course, an Albion Band wouldn’t be The Albion Band without the inclusion of at least a couple of trad arr: songs/tunes and in this regard they don’t disappoint with re-workings of “Adieu To Old England” and the downright shanty-rock anthem treatment of “One More Day” where the trademark Stratocaster sound (once provided by Sir Simon Nicol) will leave any festival-going audience with a smile a mile wide. The rest of the band; Blair Dunlop (guitars), Benjamin Trott (lead guitar), Tom Wright (drums) and Tim Yates (bass/melodeon) really are a great ‘engine room’ providing rock solid rhythms and I’d say in conclusion that the band’s name and music is in safe hands. In the words of the great David (we are not worthy) Essex ”Rock On”! PETE FYFE

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below 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.

Older Than My Old Man Now – Loudon Wainwright III – New Album Out April 16th on Proper Records

As his new album’s title relates, Loudon Wainwright III is Older Than My Old Man Now — his old man, of course, being the late Loudon Wainwright, Jr., the esteemed Life Magazine columnist and senior editor.

“Singer-songwriter contemporaries of mine have recently taken to writing memoirs and autobiographies,” notes Wainwright. “I decided I would try to tell the story of my swinging life in a three and one-half minute song.”

He’s speaking specifically of the album’s lead track “The Here & the Now,” which features jazz guitar great John Scofield and backing vocals from all four of Wainwright’s children — Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Lucy Wainwright Roche and Lexie Kelly Wainwright — as well as two of the three moms, Suzzy Roche and Ritamarie Kelly. But the album as a whole reflects the stage he’s reached in his life, and as he so wryly puts it, the “death ‘n’ decay” that inevitably accompanies it.

One track which cuts directly to the issue, “The Days That We Die,” remarkably brings together three generations of Wainwright males.

“My Dad wrote the recitation, and I’m singing with No. 1 son Rufus,” says Wainwright. “That’s my grandson Arcangelo Albetta — Martha’s kid — I’m walking with on the beach photo that’s part of the CD artwork. Not only that, but Loudon Wainwright I is referenced in the title track, so in fact there are five generations represented on the album!”

Wainwright’s father, who died in 1988, also wrote the recitation that introduces the album’s title track. “Please believe me when I say that collaborating with my long gone progenitor at this late date felt pretty damn big,” says his son, who also lifted the opening line of “Double Lifetime” from one of the notebooks that his father used to carry around with him to write in.

Another key family member who is no longer living, Wainwright’s ex-wife Kate McGarrigle (the mother of Rufus and Martha), is represented by “Over The Hill” — “the one song we wrote together, way back in 1975.” Martha Wainwright accompanies her father vocally on the track, as does multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Chaim Tannenbaum, his “musical sidekick and sounding board” for over 40 years. Suzzy Roche returns to sing on “10,” and even Wainwright’s lab/pit/chow mix Harry, who’s been featured (in the lyrics) in a number of his songs in the last few years, appears on “Ghost Blues” and the bonus download track for the album “No Tomorrow.”

But Older Than My Old Man Now, which was produced by Dick Connette (producer of Wainwright’s 2009 Grammy-winning High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project), boasts stellar participants other than family.

“One voice singing a lot about death ‘n’ decay can be a bit wearing so Dick and I brought in other singers to help with the heavy lifting,” says Wainwright. “The venerable Chris Smither testifies with me on ‘Somebody Else,’ for which High Wide & Handsome alum Rob Moose wrote the string arrangement. Barry Humphries, a.k.a. Dame Edna Everage, does a duet with me on ‘I Remember Sex.’ He and I were romantically linked in two episodes of Ally McBeal a few years back, and I’ve been besotted ever since. There is no greater living and performing legend than Barry Humphries, for my money. And he’s even older than I am!”

Older than Wainwright, too, was another personal hero who guests on Older Than My Old Man Now — folk music legend and 2 time Grammy winner Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.

“After making pilgrimages to Jack’s shows for half a century now, for me to sing and play with him on an album was nothing short of a dream come true,” he says, referring to “Double Lifetime.” “Recording this song with him — perhaps my foremost musical father figure — was a gas.”

One other old friend is noteworthy: Robin Morton, a founding member of legendary Celtic group the Boys of the Lough.

“We’ve known each other since the early 1970s when we were young hell raising/up-chucking Turks on the folk music scene together,” recalls Wainwright. “It was great fun to begin recording Older Than back in May at Robin’s studio in the tiny Scottish village of Temple — just a wee bit south of Edinburgh.”

And from High Wide & Handsome also came the likes of guitar and banjo player Matt Munisteri, cellist Erik Friedlander, pianist Paul Asaro and bassist Tim Luntzel. Together, the new album’s personnel create song treatments ranging from basic guitar-and-vocal to sophisticated string settings — together with some swinging funk provided by Scofield.

Loudon Wainwright III came to fame when “Dead Skunk” became a Top 20 hit in 1972. Born in Chapel Hill, N.C. in 1946, he had studied acting at Carnegie-Mellon University, but dropped out to partake in the Summer of Love in San Francisco.

He wrote his first song in 1968, “Edgar” (about a lobsterman in Rhode Island) and was soon signed to Atlantic Records by Nesuhi Ertegun. Clive Davis lured him to Columbia Records — which released “Dead Skunk.” His recording career now consists of 25 albums, also including last year’s five-disc retrospective 40 Odd Years and his most recent studio album 10 Songs For The New Depression (2010).

Wainwright’s songs have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Earl Scruggs, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Rufus Wainwright, and Mose Allison, among others. He has collaborated with songwriter/producer Joe Henry on the music for Judd Apatow’s hit movie Knocked Up, written music for the British theatrical adaptation of the Carl Hiaasen novel Lucky You, and composed topical songs for NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered and ABC’s Nightline.

Also an accomplished actor, Wainwright has appeared in films directed by Martin Scorsese, Hal Ashby, Christopher Guest, Tim Burton, Cameron Crowe, and Judd Apatow. He has also starred on TV in M.A.S.H. and Undeclared, and on Broadway in Pump Boys and Dinettes.

Made me howl with laughter one minute and then emotionally take me to places were other CD’s fear to tread… Darren Beech folking.com

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below 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.

RACHAEL McSHANE – No Man’s Fool (Navigator Records NAVIGATOR27)

Better known as the only female member of Bellowhead the cellist and singer Rachael McShane will certainly turn a few heads with this excellent recording. The jury’s still out if the album is folk/jazz or jazz/folk and if you hear the opening track “Captain Ward” you’ll see what I mean. Lyrically speaking the element of traditional folk music runs like a seam of gold throughout the recording but it has to be said that the emphasis in the arrangements most definitely falls in favour of jazz. For those old enough to remember the band Pyewackett (in their early days) and come to think of it June Tabor this will be familiar territory as the use of chords by piano and keyboards maestro James Peacock provides the ‘mood’ and timbre behind the arrangements. With the excellent Jonathan Proud on electric bass and Adam Sinclair on drums and percussion and additional backing from Julien Batten (piano accordion), Tom Oakes (flute), Sam Sweeney (fiddle), Andrew Bickendike (trumpet) and Jamie Toms & Charlotte Jones on saxophones the lady’s done good. From “The Highway Man Outwitted” where the perpetrator suffers the indignation of having the tables turned on him to the dramatic tale of “Miles Weatherhill” where the music as well as the story turns nasty (think Steeleye’s interpretation of Long Lankin as a reference) half way through the narrative this CD really could cause a few ‘tut-tuts’ from the ‘folk’ mafia but personally speaking I say ‘go for it’…after all you’re only young once! PETE FYFE

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below 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.

Much-loved Canadian folk roots combo Po’ Girl

The beauty and mystery of Po’ Girl’s music – a sound that has beguiled fans the world over – springs from the mesmerizing bond shared by its two lead singers and writers – Allison Russell and Awna Teixeira.

Hailing from Montreal and Toronto respectively, both women left untenable home situations at fourteen, found music instead of bad ends, and lived to sing the tales. The interplay between these two stunning performers is truly something to behold. You’ll hear echoes of speakeasy jazz, the western lament, the accordion-strapped ghosts of European folk accompanied by the wail of the clarinet in the music of Po’ Girl, but it’s delivered with a soulful clarity and depth that makes it all their own.

It seems almost silly – and not very interesting – to trot out a long, endlessly hyphenated list of the many influences coursing through Po Girl’s music. Suffice to say it’s 21st Century roots music – North Americana if you will – never derivative, not faithfully aping a beloved tradition. Teixeira and Russell don’t re-hash the old forms, they reshape and reinvigorate them for new ears.

Since Po’ Girl’s birth in Vancouver, BC in 2003, Russell and Teixeira (and an ever revolving cast of stellar musical friends), have averaged over 250 days a year on the road, bringing their inimitable roots revelry to 13 countries and 4 continents and winning over new fans and friends everywhere they go. With 5 internationally critically acclaimed studio albums, a live album, a b-sides album, and a DVD to their credit with Po’ Girl, Alli and Awna have firmly established themselves as two dynamic, compelling songwriter/singer/multi-instrumentalists with true staying power.

2012 sees them both exploring more facets of their artistry with some exciting new projects. Awna is getting ready to record her first solo album for release later this year. She’s also working on a companion volume to her first book – A Brief History and Introduction to the Gutbucket Bass and a new series of Children’s Books, for more information visit www.hazytales.me

Alli has teamed up with Chicago songsmith JT Nero (of JT and the Clouds) and is currently working on their debut duo record Birds of Chicago to be released in this summer/fall for more information visit http://birdsofchicago.com/

She’s also involved in a recording project called Sankofa whose album The Uptown Strut (Kingswood Records) which also features John Sebastian (The Lovin’ Spoonful), Dom Flemons (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Ndidi Onukwulu, Sule Greg Wilson, and Professor Louie (The Band) is released in the US on March 27th.

Po’ Girl will be doing one tour and one tour only in 2012 , March 21st through April 14th in the Netherlands and the UK, joined by Mikey ‘Lightning’ August on drums and Chris Merrill on bass. These are the only scheduled Po’ Girl shows this year, in order for Alli and Awna to have time to record, release, and tour their new albums. They’ll be working on the songs for the next Po’ Girl record and making guest appearances on each other’s new projects too – you can expect a new Po’ Girl album down the line in early 2014.

Genuine gypsies, these two wander and play. They move and move and play and sing. It’s quite simple. Always restless, more often than not bone-tired, they write their flashes of sadness, their loss, their good love, their hope, their dreams of home into songs that matter deeply to them. Like any good art, they are little acts of self-rescue. So you should listen. You aren’t much different from them, and who couldn’t use a little rescuing these days?

If you would like to order a copy of the last album, download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

Artist web link: http://www.pogirl.net/