SINGLES BAR 16

A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 16We’re a bit late with this one but we can’t let the year turn without a mention of ANGE HARDY’s Christmas single. There are two tracks, both original compositions and both sung acapella. ‘The Quantock Carol’ should immediately go into every seasonal repertoire – it’s a plea for peace now and in the future, a simple and beautiful song. ‘Mary’s Robin’ is based on the Gaelic legend about how the robin got its red breast and should be snapped up by unaccompanied groups and community choirs everywhere.
http://www.angehardy.com/

CRAIG FINN has a new album, We All Want the Same Things, out in March preceded by a single ‘Preludes’. Finn grew up in Edina, Minneapolis and describes ‘Preludes’ as “this was what I remember 1994 being like, coming back to the Twin Cities after being away for college.” ‘Preludes’ gives us snapshot of this time in life: “I came back to St Paul’s and things had progressed and got strange”; images of his friends who have moved away to Seattle while he is back in the hometown hitting the bars; of a guy who jumped out at him with a pistol (“I considered my options and decided to do what he said”); and, above all, “I got stuck in a snowbank, I was too drunk to drive to a diner/ Right there was proof of my faith that God watches us”, leading to the refrain which permeates and ends the song “God watches us”. It sounds heavy, but it’s not. The musical feel is reminiscent of the driving energy of the Counting Crows and it’s a fun song capturing that time of life in your early twenties when you return home after time away and re-evaluate your relationship with your home town and family.
http://www.craigfinn.net/

Don’t look for JAKE ISLAND on a map – you won’t find it. Jake is a he: a singer/songwriter/ producer from County Meath. He’s rather modest about what he does on his EP Kindest Of Our Days, listing musicians including featured vocalists Rowan and Driver 66. The four songs here are a sort of Irish-Americana with banjo, fiddle, flute and whistles as well as the standard guitar-bass-drums trinity. There’s an odd melancholy about the music. ‘Last Drunk In Town’ and ‘Lose The Love’ should be sung in a late-night bar and ‘Horizon Blues’ is the story of an old musician reminiscing and perhaps thinking about a comeback tour. The title track, which opens the set, is the most upbeat of the collection but even here there is nostalgia in the strictest sense: a pain and regret for what is past. There are four great songs here.
www.jakeisland.co.uk

‘Alive’ is a download only single from Scottish band SKIPINNISH. It opens as a gentle piano-based meditation on the blessing of being alive complete with angelic backing vocals, something of a reaction to 2016 you might think. At the minute mark it takes off with drums, fiddle and electric guitar before almost settling into a meditative mood – fooled you, they were just gearing up for a big finish. “You’re alive, you’re alive and the stars are on your side” is a good thought to begin the year with.
http://www.skipinnish.com/

ANGE HARDY & LUKAS DRINKWATER – Findings (Story Records STREC1662)

FindingsI can’t decide if I’m more impressed by the quantity or the quality of Ange Hardy’s work. The ink is barely dry on Esteesee, her 2015 exploration of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and she’s back with her fourth album formalising her work in partnership with Lukas Drinkwater. Findings is a term for the linking pieces in jewellery that join the settings and stones together – Ange knows about this stuff – and provides the theme of this album. And I do find it refreshing to find a themed album that sticks to its central idea all the way through without forcing it down your throat. For that alone Findings is a wonderful record.

In the opening track, ‘The Call/Daughters Of Watchet/Caturn’s Night’, the link is the railway that linked Watchet to the mines of the Brendon Hills but it is also four love stories. The final track, ‘Fall Away’ returns to Watchet and the four daughters of the town now that the mines and the railway and the fishing are gone. Findings mixes original and traditional material, often in one song. So ‘The Pleading Sister’ builds a song around the single verse of ‘Little Boy Blue’ and ‘Bonny Lighter-Boy’ sets a new tune to a traditional set of words.

The (more or less) traditional pieces are ‘The Trees They Do Grow High’, ‘The Berkshire Tragedy’ and ‘The Parting Lullaby’ and I can tell that you’re working out the findings each of these songs. The original songs cover a multitude of relationships but I will single out ‘Invisible Child’ as a masterful example of Ange and Lukas’ songwriting – simple and direct but powerful and moving.

Sometimes Ange and Lukas perform alone but there is a small band of Archie Churchill-Moss, Ciaran Algar and Evan Carson with additional vocals from Nancy Kerr, Kathryn Roberts and Steve Pledger. Even so, the accompaniments are restrained and the songs are out front where they should be. Not to belittle its predecessors but Findings could be Ange’s best album.

Dai Jeffries

Some copies of Findings carry a sticker which can be matched with another to win a (possibly) fabulous prize. Mine reads PHMOI. If you have the matching half, please let me know and we can split the loot.

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 ANGE HARDY & LUKAS DRINKWATER – Findings 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.angehardy.com

Welcome To The Folkies

With Oscar fever rising to a climax it’s time to say “Welcome To The Folkies” – the 2016 Folking Awards. We’ve sifted through the albums and performances of 2015 – always a long and difficult task punctuated by bouts of thumb-wrestling to settle disputes. Adopting the pattern followed by everyone else, here, in no order of precedence, are our nominations. With the exception of one category we have restricted our choices to British acts.

All nominations are 2016 Folking Awards winners.

Welcome To The Folkies

Soloist Of The Year

Steve Tilston
Sam Carter
Kathryn Roberts
Steve Knightley
Ange Hardy

Best Duo

Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin
India Electric Co.
Show Of Hands
Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman
Clype

Best Band

Blackbeard’s Tea Party
Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band
Tradarrr
False Lights
Merry Hell

Best Live Act

The Demon Barbers XL
Blackbeard’s Tea Party
Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band
Tradarr
CC Smugglers

Best Album

Layers Of Ages – Peter Knight’s Gigspanner
Head Heart Hand – Megan Henwood
The Girl I Left Behind Me – India Electric Co.
It’s Not Your Gold Shall Me Entice – Elle Osborne
Disco At The Tavern – The Demon Barbers

Best Musician

Dan Walsh
Peter Knight
P.J. Wright
Chris Leslie
Kris Drever

Folking’s Rising Star

Will Varley
Sam Kelly
Wes Finch
India Electric Co.
Chris Cleverley

Best International Artist

Gretchen Peters
Tom Russell
Gandalf Murphy And The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams
Justin Townes Earle
Los Lobos

To give the awards a further edge, we opened the vote to our visitors and run a public poll in all of the 8 categories (as listed above).

The Public Vote closed Sunday 28 February at 20.00 hours and “The Folking Winners” have now been announced here at: http://folking.com/the-folking-winners/


If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl) of any of the artists featured here, download an album or track or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then type what you are looking for in the search bar above to be taken to that relevant page via 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.

SINGLES BAR

A round-up of recent EPs and singles that have come our way

SINGLES BAR 15 Dec 2015 ANGE HARDY releases a seasonal single, ‘When Christmas Day Is Near’, all multi-tracked a cappella full of joyous optimism which is something we all need plenty of these days. The tune insistently reminded of something I couldn’t quite identify but which I eventually pinned down as ‘Three Jolly Rogues’. It’s coupled with ‘William Frend’ from her album Esteesee leading neatly into a short plea for ‘Solidarity’ written in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.
http://www.angehardy.com/

SINGLES BAR 15 Dec 2015 ROSA REBECKA is a Swedish-American singer who came to Devon to study and stayed to work for Wren Music. Home is her first recording for Folkstock records although far from her first outing. The opening title track has a beautiful melody. That’s followed by the traditional Swedish ‘Det Står Ett Träd’ which is a complete contrast. The top is probably ‘Jonah’s Song’ in which Rosa is reminiscent of a young Joni Mitchell as her voice soars into the stratosphere. The final track is the traditional Jewish ‘Sh’Ma’, as Rosa pulls the threads of her heritage together. For collectors, Home is also available as a guitar shaped USB stick with bonus tracks from her debut album.
http://www.rosarebecka.com/

SINGLES BAR 15 Dec 2015 CHRIS WHILE & JULIE MATTHEWS take a hard-hitting approach with their single ‘Are We Human?’. Written by Matthews it’s an attack on our collective inhumanity in the face of the refugees fleeing conflicts in the Middle East. It features Neil Marshall, Ken Nicol, Liz Frencham and Christine Collister and all the proceeds will go to Migrant Offshore Aid Station. The song put me in mind of ‘Jewel In The Crown’ which she wrote more than twenty years ago and similarly attacks the political mind-set of this country.
http://www.whileandmatthews.co.uk/

SINGLES BAR 15 Dec 2015 ‘Lampedusa’ is a download single from EWAN McLENNAN – another not very festive seasonal offering – but its proceeds will go to Médecins Sans Frontières. Lampedusa is also an island roughly midway between Sicily and the North African coast and a place where many refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean find themselves. With songs of migration a major feature of Scottish song this is a natural subject for Ewan and although the title is very specific the theme and sentiments are universal. Finger-picked guitar is backed by slide and fiddle – ‘Lampedusa’ is a fine song, a serious subject and a worthy cause.
http://www.ewanmclennan.co.uk/

ANGE HARDY – Esteesee (Story Records STREC1659)

ANGE HARDY – Esteesee (Story Records STREC1659)“Why Esteesee” asks Ange Hardy in her notes and it was a question I had asked myself in anticipation. The explanation is actually very simple. Esteesee or S.T.C. is Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the subject of Ange’s fourth album.

That Coleridge was what we might now call “a character” quickly becomes apparent as Ange picks out incidents from his life. ‘William Frend’ tells of Coleridge applauding during the trial of one of his college tutors who published a pamphlet condemning the Church liturgy. STC got away with it by blaming a one-armed man standing near him! His friendship with William and Dorothy Wordsworth is recounted in ‘Friends Of Three’; his relationship with his brother is explored in ‘George’ and a failed attempt to found a better life in America is examined in ‘Pantisocracy’.

Of course, Coleridge’s own writing plays a large part. The opening song, ‘The Foster-Mother’s Tale’, comes from a play and then we’re into The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner with two songs. The first, ‘My Captain’, is based on one of the few happy bits of the poem and will be claimed as traditional before long. It’s a song full of optimism and enthusiasm – complete with spoons by Jo May – and is in stark contrast to ‘The Curse Of A Dead Man’s Eye’. This is clever programming; the poem would be the elephant in room otherwise as would ‘Kubla Khan’ which is read by Tamsin Rosewell with accompaniment by Ange on guitar and whistle and Kate Rouse’s hammered dulcimer.

Other musical support comes from Steve Knightley, who takes lead vocals on ‘Mother You Will Rue Me’, Patsy Reid, Archie Churchill-Moss (of Moore Moss Rutter), Lukas Drinkwater (of Three Daft Monkeys), Jonny Dyer, Andrew Pearce and Steve Pledger. In her music Ange cleverly employs the rhythms and cadences of English traditional music, particularly apparent in ‘Along The Coleridge Way’ and the final ‘Elegy For Coleridge’. The packaging is equally good with excerpts from STC’s writing alongside Ange’s words. I’m not sure that every copy goes out with a greetings card, bookmark and “quill” pen but there have to be some perks in this job.

This is an excellent album. It’s rare that I’ll play a CD twice through without a break even for the purposes of a review. Esteesee is an exception.

Dai Jeffries

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’s website: www.angehardy.com

STEVE PLEDGER – Striking Matches In The Wind (Story Records STREC1657)

SMITWBorn in Cambridge, raised in St Neots and now based in Somerset, Pledger’s been quietly building a following over the past 20 years, relying on just his voice, guitar and some damn fine songwriting. This is his second album and he describes the song as being concerned with “the power of the apparently powerless to achieve what often feels like an impossible task.” So, contemporary social protest songs basically, occasionally leavened with matters of the heart, Pledger’s fingerpicked and strummed guitar augmented here and there by Lukas Drinkwater on double bass, Tanya Allen on fiddle, and harmonica and accordion from Giles Newman Turner and Andrew Rock, respectively. The luminously talented Ange Hardy also joins him to add harmonies to the chokingly sung, heart-piercing end of a relationship a cappella number ‘There We Are’.

Listening to ‘People Who Care’ and the barbed ‘This Land Is Pound Land’ it’s impossible not to think of Martyn Joseph, one of Pledger’s acknowledged influences, and I’d suspect Martyn himself would be flattered by the comparison, though elsewhere you’ll also hear Don Maclean (the lyrically anthemic ‘take a stand’ ‘Matches In The Wind’), Woody Guthrie (‘The Parable of Intent’, a call to accept the reponsibility we have to the earth and those less fortunate than ourselves) and, on the bluesy mid-tempo harmonica blowing ‘Quit Blubbin’ In The Cheap Seats’ (a song about the real mindset of the austerity brigade), maybe also Billy Bragg, while the bluesy folk guitar playing on ‘Beneath The Sun’ suggests Davey Graham’s in the mix too.

Pledger’s songs have the ability to cut to the emotional quick, as potently evidenced by the strummed, fiddle-accompanied, slow waltz ‘A Heart Filled With Nothing To Do’, inspired by an old lady who, her care service withdrawn, died alone with nobody aware of her situation, and the simple vocal and guitar ‘Friends & Fathers’, a song that relates the impact that the post-traumatic fallout from war can have on a family as the narrator recalls his mother telling him how, before his father left, he used kneel at his bedside, crying and saying how much he loved him. It’s impossible to listen without welling up.

There are brighter moments too, ‘Loving Condescension’ with its account of seeing two lovers taking a selfie while he was driving along the North Devon coast’ and ‘Days Like These’, a fingerpicked love song written for his wife’s birthday, the album balancing the light with the dark, the hope with the anger to kindle a spark and keep the fire burning.

Mike Davies

If you would like to download a copy of the track or just listen to snippet of it 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’s website: http://www.stevepledger.co.uk/

‘Friends & Fathers’ from Steve Pledger’s new album: