Ray Cooper aka Chopper is leaving Oysterband…

We have just had word that Ray Cooper, also known as Chopper, is leaving Oysterband to pursue a career as a solo singer-songwriter.

Ray says; ” After 24 years of constant touring and recording, it is not easy to give up the friends, the fans and the life I have known. We shared a lot of ups and downs and have grown together to be more like a family than a band. However, since the release of my solo album ‘Tales of Love War and Death by Hanging’ a couple of years ago, I knew that a door had been opened for me and another, more challenging path lay waiting. I have to sing”.

His last show with OB will be February 23rd in Treorchy, Wales, which is also the last date of the highly successful Ragged Kingdom tour featuring Oysterband with June Tabor.

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Artist web link: www.raycooper.org

RÉALTA – Open The Door For Three (Réalta Music ADC 001)

It’s rare to find an album of traditional Irish music opening with a disturbingly modern sounding guitar figure before sliding into the first tune but quite a few things about Réalta are unusual.

Conor Lamb and Aaron O’Hagan both play uilleann pipes and whistles while Deirdre Galway handles the rhythm duties on guitar and bouzouki as well as being the band’s vocalist. That’s a reversal of the usual order of things but it means the band can be as delicate as you please as is the case with the opening title track while the combination of two sets of pipes is pretty powerful. They use it to great effect on the closing ‘La Volta/Drops Of Brandy’ and particularly on ‘Sliabh Geal gCua’. This is the air of an expatriate song; a song of longing for home. It could be taken gently and wistfully but the twin pipes wring every drop of pain out of the melody; not so much a sea breeze as an ocean gale.

Two of the songs sound rather jolly. They’re sung in Irish but Réalta helpfully provide synopses of the stories. The third, ‘Gathering Mushrooms’, is in English and seems to be about sex as so many traditional songs are, or am I finding a double entendre where none is intended?

This is a distinguished debut album from a band who, although young, already have a great deal of experience between them. Sadly, there don’t appear to be any plans for them to play in England in the near future although they will be at Celtic Connections in January.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist web link: http://www.realtamusic.com/

Live Review – Martyn Joseph supported by Luke Jackson, Rugby Roots 3rd November 2012…

A captivating night all round at Martyns 10th visit to Rugby Roots at the Lawrence Sheriff School on his tour to promote his new album Songs For the Coming Home .

This was 3 hours of first class acoustic music from two gifted performers, one sorcerer at the peak of his game (wearing a suit for the occasion, I should add) and one rapidly rising apprentice, and quite honestly, you could scarcely see the join, both were magnificent!

There is always a lovely atmosphere at any Rugby Roots  gig , thanks in no small part to the promoters  Richard and Anna Barnes, who are totally passionate about getting good quality music heard and determined  that everyone has a good night.

The apprentice ;  What can I say about Luke Jackson live? simply, he is a total revelation. I have listened to him on CD and watched videos for 3 years , and knew there was a real talent emerging, but this was the first time I had seen him play live and I have to declare I am struggling to be objective, quite simply he blew me away , I can’t remember the last time that happened. I am sure there were a few sitting there with the opinion that this would be a pleasant half hour which they would listen to politely until Martyn came on, such are the unenviable joys of a support act. However, within a verse of Run and Hide, Lukes opener, he had everyone completely spellbound. His command of the stage and his rapport with the audience belie his age. The belief and confidence in his songs and consummate guitar playing and the thoughtful delivery with sometimes  piercing pure vocals was nothing short of dazzling, and his short set went by way too fast.

Artist web link: http://www.lukepauljackson.co.uk/

Then came the maestro:

There are few things certain in life, there are the usual ones, death and taxes . However there is one other, and that is a Joseph concert is always an outstanding couple of hours, He has never given any less than 100% passion , honesty, compassion and insight and jaw dropping musicianship and  this night was no exception. Martyn has played at Rugby 9 times before and this, his 10th, was up there with the best of them. There was an air that we were going to be treated to something special , a feeling that has been filtering through from previous dates on this tour.

There were many highlights, new songs and familiar ones from his back catalogue . The new album has been  made three dimensional  on this tour, stripped of the production but  loaded with impact, from the spine tingling Crossing the Line with our added voices  humming away underneath Martyns stark words to the stomping and rocking No time for God . Older favorites not heard for a while have been given an airing , Like the mesmerising All This Time, always a joy to hear and I Will Follow. There were some surprises,  one special one was a breath-taking raw version of Springsteens classic The River upholding Martyns often used tag as Bruces Welsh counterpart, quite rightly so  too.

The biggest highlight for me, and one that many seeing this tour will say in the future “I was there when ..”  and  which , for me was loaded with so much significance, was when Martyn asked Luke back on to duet with him on one of Luke’s own songs Bakers Woods. Forget the age and experience gap ,this was just two exceptional musicians totally in tune with each other. There was a tangible sense of a baton being handed over and there were moments that I really wanted to bottle, it was quite beautiful . In 30 plus years I have been involved in music and witnessing some meaningful events and gigs, this was one of those times that are on that rare list of truly momentous.

If nothing else came from Rugby one glaring thing was apparent and that is acoustic music doesn’t get much finer than this.

All I have left to say is to urge folk to get to one of the dates that are left on this tour…

Trish Roberts

“There are moments on this record that I will always treasure; small nuances of memory and recall that are both painful and joyous. The highlight for me is the song ‘Archive’. On long car journeys touring across Canada last year with poet, guru and friend Stewart Henderson we talked, and talked and went deeper and deeper. He started writing, and at some point on a prairie plain in Alberta he handed me some words on the back of an envelope. Months later in the early hours of the morning I took them to a microphone with no melodic agenda and just played and sang. The result was the first and only take that ended up on the album. Its me with my soul howling. Its what I like to do.” Martyn Joseph

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JIM MORAY – folking live concert review…

JIM MORAY, Black Peak: 
Folking Live at Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park, Bracknell – October 24th 2012.

Reviewed by Colin Bailey.

It was the first time a Folking Live event had taken place in the august surroundings of the Wilde Theatre at South Hill Park, and expectations were high. We even applauded promoter Phil Daniels as he came on stage to introduce the evening. For this auspicious occasion the support act were the planned Cellar Bar headliners for January 2013, Black Peak. Darren Black and Deborah Peake, masterfully accompanied by Chris Gatland on bass and percussion, played a fair number of the tracks from their first full-length CD In Times Back When, and were well received. Darren’s delicately modulated vocals and accomplished guitar work along with Deborah’s strong yet restrained fiddle playing perfectly suited their pastorally tinged songs of social conscience.

Jim Moray is a walking folk encyclopedia and gave us fulsome background information to each carefully chosen song he played. After opening with the plaintive “night visiting song” ‘Three Black Feathers’, he moved into the only “happy ever after song” he claimed to know, ‘Jenny Of The Moor’. ‘Hind Etin’ from this year’s acclaimed Skulk was the first Child Ballad of the night, and ‘The Captain’s Apprentice’ from the same album took us even further along the path of morose though brilliantly executed songs. While he remained at the piano, the mood was somewhat lifted through a shift from older trad material to the lyrically more contemporary ‘Poverty Knock’. A slightly up-tempo rendition of his Skulk version of ‘Horkstow Grange’ was delivered complete with synthesised 4 part harmony (à la Percy Grainger wax cylinder recording).

Introduced as a happy song from his home county of Staffordshire, ‘The Golden Glove’ was performed on bouzar (or was it a gazouki?) One curiosity was an early song of his own, ‘Adam Ant Alone In His Padded Cell’, played as a country song as he thought that’s how Adam would like it! Given the sad news that Dundonian singer-songwriter Michael Marra had died the day previously, we listened with mixed emotions to Marra’s noted anti-war song ‘Happed In Mist’. Showcasing his voice to excellent effect, the high spot of the evening was ‘If It’s True’ from Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown folk opera (in which Jim had played the part of Orpheus). ‘Lord Douglas’ was another vocal highlight, featuring lovely accompaniment. As we moved towards the end, Jim engaged the crowd to join in with the chorus of Bruce Molsky’s ‘Peg And Awl’. The last song of the set, sung for his hero Nic Jones, was ‘Billy Don’t You Weep For Me’ and was a tour-de-force. We ended the evening altogether on a light note with the song he’d written for his sister, Jackie Oates, ‘Wishfulness Waltz’. Not only a leading innovator in today’s folk world, this was an accomplished performer, still scaling the peaks. The evening was a fine showcase for the potential of high-quality events of this genre on the Wilde Theatre stage.

“One of the great album releases of 2012!” folking.com

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Artist Web link: http://jimmoray.co.uk/

SKILDA – Skyewalker (Celluloid 006628)

Now Luke here (sorry about that…couldn’t resist it), with the title Skyewalker used for their latest CD release you’d expect something a bit new-age-ish from the band Skilda and indeed, in some respects they are. But the cross-fertilisation of electronica and folk music is a thing of beauty in the band’s ever creative hands and now, three albums in they really have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. For those who have an aversion (as they see it) to tampering with ‘folk music’ they should seriously take another look and re-evaluate how modern ‘pop’ music can be influenced and yet not overshadow the (in this case) Breton and Scottish Celtic roots. Much like Vaughan Williams and Cecil Sharpe collecting source material band leader Kenny Brendan does a similar job but with aural sounds, not songs. These are th en utilised in the recording process and overdubbed with the ethereal vocals of Kohann and the full-on instrumental sounds of the band with special guest John A Helliwell (Supertramp) on saxophone and guitarist Gaetan Grandjean on the track “Willow’s Song”. Talking of “Willow’s Song”, this is an imaginative re-working of “The Wickerman” movie scene where Edward Woodward has a fitful night dreaming of Britt Ekland banging on the adjacent bedroom wall…I’ll leave the rest to you. This really is an album that you need to put aside any prejudices and allow yourself to be carried on a wave of euphoric sound-scapes and I can’t help but recommend it highly enough.

PETE FYFE

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HARVEY ANDREWS – Writer Of Songs (HASKA:CD:003)

The nice thing about writing reviews in 2012 is that time is irrelevant. By that I mean I can write a review of an album recorded years ago and it will still appear as fresh today as it was then to a new set of enthusiastic internet savvy readers. Such is the case with Harvey Andrews debut album and it still remains as glorious now as it did in 1972. From the opening track “Hey! Sandy” projecting the point of view of oppressed students (much as they are now) and the charmless sentiment conveyed in the bruising lyrics of his classic but never more relevant “Soldier”…yes, we have much to thank Andrews for in not holding back when it came to a war of words and these two songs on there own are worth purchasing the album for. A quick name check of some of the guest musicians (a veritable who’s who of the ‘folk’ mafia at the time) should also wet the appetite including as it does Ralph McTell, Danny Thompson, Dave Pegg, Dave Mattacks and Rick Wakeman. Talking of Mr Wakeman, it’s his beautifully restrained introduction before succumbing to the cheeky-chappie ‘pub piano’ approach on the track “Boothferry Bridge” that makes sure the listener is engaged throughout the song…clever but unexpected. And that’s only three of the numbers. This recording is a ‘true’ classic and definitely a must-have for the shelf of anyone who claims to be a follower of ‘folk’ music.

PETE FYFE

Artist web link: www.harveyandrews.com

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