SAM KELLY & THE LOST BOYS – Pretty Peggy (Navigator NAVIGATOR 102)

Pretty PeggyBased in Bristol, but born in Norfolk, Kelly stakes a claim for a Best Album nomination in next year’s Radio 2 Folk Awards to add to this year’s Horizon win. Backed by his six-piece live band, comprising Jamie Francis on banjo, fiddler/guitarist Ciaran Algar, percussionist Evan Carson, Graham Coe on cello with Toby Shaer and Archie Churchill-Moss providing woodwind and melodeon, respectively, Pretty Peggy their first album together, also features contributions from folk stalwarts Cara Dillon, Damien O’Kane, Mike McGoldrick and Geoff Lakeman.

Save for three numbers, all the material is traditional, refashioned and refurbished, opening with a rousing haul away tempo take of the whaling shanty ‘Greenland Whale’ that can’t help but bring Seth Lakeman to mind. Dillon and McGoldrick’s Uillean pipes complement ‘Bonnie Lass Of Fyvie’, the pretty Peggy-o of the title, a jaunty Celtic-hued version that successfully avoids sounding like any of the many previous recordings.

A tale of lost childhood love regret, the equally lively, thigh-slapping, fiddle-driven ‘Angeline The Baker’ has Appalachian roots and then comes the first of the original numbers, ‘When The Rievers Call’, a Jamie Francis song about the raids on the Scottish borders during the middle ages featuring, unsurprisingly, some fiery banjo work and again recalling that Seth Lakeman sound.

Returning to the traditional repertoire and featuring O’Kane on electric tenor guitar with a melodeon solo, ‘If I Were A Blackbird’ is a lovely, lilting and gently ripping take on the Irish love song, reversing the lyric’s genders and set to a tune based around Chris Wood’s ‘Ville De Quebec’. This is followed by the darkly menacing ‘The Shining Ship’, a suitably spooked and nervy six minute tale, sung in low, at times whispery tones with swirling sonics, of a woman lured aboard a ghost ship by her long lost lover and based on the 17th century Scottish ballad ‘Demon Lover’.

Featuring himself on piano and Shaer on fiddle, the only Kelly original is ‘Chasing Shadows’, another lively tune about understanding that “the deepest dark comes just before the dawn”, and one of the more contemporary sounding tracks. Then comes the comic relief, ‘The Close Shave’ being New Zealand singer Bob Bickerton’s variation of the traditional romp, ‘Barrack Street’, about a gold miner relieved of his treasure by a man posing as a woman.

The obligatory instrumental track comes with ‘Shy Guy’s Serve’, a jaunty fiddle medley of Shaer’s ‘Josh’s Slip’ and Algar’s ‘Rookery Lane’, before they dig into the more obscure pages of the Dylan songbook and turn up the volume for ‘Crash On The Levee’, a punchy and driving version of ‘Down In The Flood’ off The Basement Tapes. The penultimate number is another traditional English folk song, drums, fiddles and flutes pumping along sexually euphemistic ‘The Keeper’ with its call and response derry derry down chorus, the album ending with the intitially subdued but gradually gatheringly strident strains of The Rose, Kelly’s translation of the French song ‘Le Beau Rosier’, originally by Belgian outfit Naragonia with whom he played mandolin last year.

Having practised his art as a youngster singing to the family’s cows, in 2012 Kelly was a finalist for Britain’s Got Talent (the one won by Pudsey), at which time he said “I don’t want to make a mediocre album of covers just to sell as many as possible on the back of BGT…musical integrity is really important to me.” He’s clearly lived up to his words.

Mike Davies

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 SAM KELLY & THE LOST BOYS – Pretty Peggy 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.

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Artists’ website: www.samkelly.org

‘Angeline The Baker’:

English Folk Dance and Song Society awards funding for new music

Creative Bursary

Seven projects will create new music rooted in the English folk tradition following the latest round of funding awards by England’s national development agency for the folk arts.

The English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) has made four awards under its 2017 Creative Bursary scheme and three through its Creative Seed Funding programme.

Both initiatives are funded through the PRS for Music Foundation Talent Development Partner scheme. They come under the umbrella of EFDSS’ Artists’ Development Programme, which provides professional development support, both creative and business, to artists at all levels of their career.

Katy Spicer, EFDSS Chief Executive and Artistic Director, said: “All the successful applications are rooted in the folk arts but will bring a fresh take on their subject matter.

“By its very nature, folk music has always evolved and reflected the issues of its generation and these awards will help to develop some very innovative and relevant proposals. We look forward to supporting and working with the artists as their ideas take shape.

“Our bursary and funding schemes are designed to kickstart projects, giving the recipients time to bring their ideas to life. A great example is Sam Sweeney’s Made in the Great War music and storytelling project which began thanks to an EFDSS Creative Bursary.”

The Creative Bursary scheme invited applications from more established artists for an award of up to £2,000 to support creative research and development, together with use of rehearsal space at Cecil Sharp House and access to the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. They have been made to:

·       Alex Vann (Spiro) to create an instrumental concert trio using traditional English tunes as the basis for improvisation where each performance is one piece of improvised music using traditional tunes as the cornerstones

·       Tom Moore and Archie Churchill-Moss (Moore Moss Rutter) to develop and produce an album of new art-music based compositions and devised improvisations with their roots in local English folk tune traditions

·       Alma (John Dipper, Emily Askew & Adrian Lever) and Nick Hennessey to devise a new multi media experience including lighting, data projectors and other technology to enhance the performance and build bridges between inherited traditions and modern media experiences

·       Fiddler Rowan Piggott to explore traditional and contemporary folk songs highlighting the decline and environmental threats to our native honeybee and bumblebees.

The Creative Seed Funding Programme was open to emerging artists and involves a £750 bursary to research and develop new work linked to the English folk arts. The awards have been made to:

·       Emily Mae Winters to research, record and tour new songs dealing with modern socio-political issues including the movement of people, feminism, fake news, global warming, war and social media

·       Heg Brignall (Heg & The Wolf Chorus) to research new material based on modern day myths or myths and legends that have found their way back into our culture, leading to a single/EP release and finished studio album in 2018

·       India Electric Company to research, write, record and release the second in a series of releases for 2017 with the theme of country and the city on a six track EP/album.

More information: https://www.efdss.org

GREG RUSSELL – Inclined To Be Red (Fellside FECD281)

Inclined To Be RedWhen he isn’t partnering Ciaran Algar or working with Nancy Kerr’s Sweet Visitor Band and half a dozen other projects, Greg Russell follows another path. Inclined To Be Red would seem to be his first completely solo album even though he seems to have been around for ever…and he’s still only 24. The album’s title has a double meaning, I think. The line comes from ‘Joe Bowers’, a song that dates back to the California gold rush, but many of the songs concern the lives of the working classes suggesting a certain political leaning. Of course it could just be that Greg is of the ginger persuasion.

Greg has written four of the songs here, adapted four more from traditional roots and shrewdly borrowed four others. The opener is one of his own songs, ‘E.G.A’, written for the Shake The Chains project. Its subject is Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and her fight to become a doctor, the first woman in the country to do so. It’s a masterful piece of writing encompassing Anderson’s life and struggle in under three minutes. ‘Road To Dorchester’ is Graham Moore and Mick Ryan’s song about the Tolpuddle Martyrs and one of the best tracks on the album. Greg returns again to the plight of the working man with Dominic Behan’s ‘Crooked Jack’, a song that I hadn’t encountered before, and Keith Marsden’s ‘Willy-Ole Lad’. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that someone is covering Keith’s songs and Greg’s voice suits this one perfectly.

Three songs concern the life of the itinerant musician. The first, ‘Travelling Onwards’ is autobiographical and Greg suggests that the second, Christine Lavin’s ‘Tomorrow You’re Gone’, is the perfect answer to people who ask him what he does. Her description of a life lived in hotels one night at a time is perfectly judged. The final track, ‘Storylines’, is about the songs that people perform and the attitudes behind them.

Greg is supported, sparingly, by Archie Churchill-Moss on accordion and Tim Yates’ double bass and although they both add colour and shade to the songs I think I prefer Greg’s solo performances. Some of these songs are quite hard-hitting but he doesn’t hit you with them – he just suggests that you might care to listen.

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 GREG RUSSELL – Inclined To Be Red 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.

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Artist’s website: http://www.gregrussellfolk.co.uk/

‘Crooked Jack’ – live:

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

Moore Moss Rutter – new album out now

Moore Moss Rutter 2

A series of remarkable, intimate preview gigs has heightened the sense of anticipation around the reunion of Jack Rutter (Seth Lakeman Band), Tom Moore (False Lights) and Archie Churchill-Moss (Beyond the Marches) in the trio that won them the 2011 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award. The intervening years have seen them play with some of the biggest and best acts in English folk music, and in 2015 they reconvene to release the follow-up to their acclaimed, eponymous debut album.

Widely regarded as three of the best players of traditional folk amongst a precociously gifted generation, their finely-crafted arrangements wield a rare potency. II is the culmination of everything they have been striving for, a documentation of their music-making. The result of four solid years of graft, of touring, of performing, and most importantly, of growing in the tradition. It features ancient traditional material from Britain as well as newly composed tunes and songs. II focuses on their own movements from the countryside to large cities, and the contrasts that come into play, liberally sprinkled with the sound of modern electroacoustic grit. This album has as much to do with contemporary music as it does with folk or baroque. Produced by Andy Bell, the record was made in Sheffield in December 2014.

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.

Artists’ website: http://www.mooremossrutter.co.uk/mmr/Home.html