DARDEN SMITH – Everything (Compass 746812)

EverythingAfter the release of 2013’s Love Calling, his fourteenth album in thirty years, the Austin-based singer-songwriter considered calling it a day, unsure he had anything left worth saying or that anyone was even listening. Instead, he turned to exploring creative avenues outside of the traditional music business, writing an as yet unpublished book on artists’ perspectives on work, doing songwriting workshops and helping put together a non-profit group called Song-Writing-With-Soldiers, a program to bring professional songwriters and veterans together to write songs about combat and returning home.

This, in tandem with growing older and getting sick of the cynicism of those in power and feeling the need for compassion for strangers, sent him back to reconsider material he’d written over the past five years, both by himself and in collaboration with the likes of Bruce Robison and Matreca Berg. Narrowing the total down to twelve, he recruited a bunch of his favourite musicians, among them bassist Roscoe Beck, guitarist Charlie Sexton and the legendary David Mansfield and, with Beth Nielsen Chapman among those providing harmonies, went back into the studio, persuaded that, yes, he did have something to say and that hopefully someone out there might need to hear it, even if it only changed one person’s day for the better.

Everything is the result, and the self-reflection that went into its genesis can he heard on the lazing lope of the Radney Foster co-penned ‘Soul Searching’ as he sings about “trying to find where I belong” and “what I want to leave behind me when I’m gone”, that contemplation of legacy also to be found on the Simon-esque title track about making the most of life and “when I’m gone here’s a song I hope the angels sing.”

It’s upbeat tone is reflected in many of the songs, notable cases in point would be the repeated piano riff opener. ‘Blessings’. (“just remember that you make a difference and the world is better off that you are here”) and the celebration of individuality in the acoustic rippling ‘Against The Grain’.

Co-written with Berg, ‘Firefly’ is a love song with a classic Jackson Browne flavour while thoughts of mortality inform ‘I Love You, Goodbye’, another song of the heart, this time informed by a friend’s passing, about remembering to take the time to let people know how you feel while you still can.

A timely song about the need for human kindness, ‘Love Will Win The War’ is, Mansfield on mandolin, a strummed folksy march beat with a crowd friendly chorus of ‘hate may win a battle, love will win the war.”

Elsewhere ‘Carousel’, a gently waltzing reflection on a past relationship co-written with Robison, features Kelly Willis on harmonies, album closer ‘Can You See The Moon’ has a late night blues vibe while, another Foster co-write, ‘Forever’ reps the album’s only glimpse of hopelessness and despair, telling of a woman walking out of an abusive marriage and, quite possibly, walking into the water to drown , though it’s equally possible to see it as a cleansing and rebirth before she starts a new life.

Smith says he set out to make an album that brings people together, an affirmation in the face of a world that seeks to them apart. Everything is a whole lotta love.

Mike Davies

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 DARDEN SMITH – Everything 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.


Artist’s website: www.dardensmith.com

‘Everything’ live:

Cambridge Folk Festival announces more top names

Shirley Collins at Cambridge Folk Festival

The latest names have been announced for Cambridge Folk Festival 2017, including legendary folk singer and respected song collector Shirley Collins, who recently returned to recording and performing after 38 years; a Festival exclusive from multi-platinum selling Indigo Girls, whose celebrated and influential career spans almost four decades and chart-topping, English country twin-sister duo Ward Thomas, all part of a completely female line-up on Main Stages 1 and 2 on the Friday.

International superstar and multiple Grammy Award-winner Olivia Newton-John, originally from Cambridge, Grammy nominee Beth Nielsen Chapman and SOCAN Award-winner Amy Sky bring their unique collaboration ‘Liv On’ exclusively to the Festival on Saturday evening. Acclaimed US singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III, promises another awe-inspiring Festival performance on the Sunday.

LW3 at Cambridge Folk Festival

A line-up that sees a welcome return for Festival favourites plus innovative debuts will feature Irish accordion virtuoso Sharon Shannon; enchanting chanteuse Cara Dillon; Fay Hield and The Hurricane Party, described by Mojo as “One of folk music’s most pre-eminent modern voices”; sonically audacious and lyrically bewitching Admiral Fallow; Coven, featuring three of folk’s most formidable female acts O’Hooley & Tidow, Lady Maisery and Grace Petrie; the Isle of Tiree’s Skerryvore; exhilarating live performers CC Smugglers; folk-jazz pioneer and favourite of Ewan McGregor Blue Rose Code; UK Americana Emerging Artist winners 2017 Wildwood Kin; Jamie Smith’s Mabon, blending world music and Celtic roots; BBC Radio 2 Folk Horizon Award nominees Fara; the aptlynamed Beoga (Gaelic for ‘lively’) and bluesy, indie Americana from William The Conqueror.

Adding to an eclectic bill bringing together the best in folk and roots music are: The Furrow Collective, featuring Rachel Newton, Lucy Farrell, Emily Portman and Alasdair Roberts; singer and harpist Rachel Newton; electronic Celtic fusion from Niteworks; Belshazzar’s Feast merging folk, classical, jazz, pop and music hall; fiddle singers The Rheingans Sisters; hotly tipped Americana band Orphan Colours; Southern gothic singer-songwriter Amythyst Kiah; 2015 BBC Young Folk award winners Talisk; folk noir and gypsy jazz from The Eskies; Brian McNeill, leading the Festival Session; one of Liverpool’s most exciting new groups She Drew The Gun; up and coming folk-country duo Worry Dolls; Mawkin, described as a modern-day Fairport Convention; Roxanne De Bastion, at the forefront of the new singer-songwriter generation; ukulele-playing singer Amelia Coburn, famous for her remarkable cover versions; 12 strong female shanty band She Shanties; The Urban Folk Theory Ceilidh, where superb musicianship meets technology; the only UK performance this year of Chris T.T. Sings A.A. Milne and Anglo-Indian singer-songwriter Alluri.

This year’s prestigious Club Tent Showcases, awarded to artists the Festival sees as stars of the future like previous picks Newton Faulkner, Seth Lakeman and The Staves, go to: Liverpudlian singer-songwriter Robert Vincent; contemporary Scottish folk band Tannara; Australian singer-songwriter Juanita Stein and Canadian troubadour Michael Bernard Fitzgerald.

These new names join previously announced Jake Bugg, headlining Sunday night with an acoustic set, Oysterband (Sunday), Lau, featuring Kris Drever, Martin Green and Aidan O’Rourke (Saturday) and Hayseed Dixie (Sunday).

Guest Curator Jon Boden will perform over the Festival weekend with The Remnant Kings to preview his autumn 2017 album as well as guest curating elements of the line-up. More to be announced.

For further artist information and daily line-ups, please see www.cambridgefolkfestival.co.uk

Tickets are now on sale:  Full Festival ticket: £167 Day tickets: £27.50 (Thu), £59.50 (Fri), £70 (Sun). Saturday Day Tickets Sold Out.

Camping at Cherry Hinton Hall and Coldham’s Common is available. Concession tickets (disabled access and carer, Under 21, Cambridge City Resident) are available. Please see the website for more information and full ticket prices:


Mary Gauthier – Trouble and Love (Proper PRPCD123P)

gauthierGauthier’s seventh studio album, her first in four years, finds her stepping outside of the major label model to take control of the business on her own terms. As such, she declares that taking back and reclaiming her power is an underlying theme to both the album and her life, a significant statement given that it also comes on the back of the collapse of a two year relationship.

To which end, the album opens on an unambiguous note with the swampy blues ‘When A Woman Goes Cold’, a lyric about love’s dying embers with Gauthier drawling out the lines “She’d curse my name like she did before, but she looks through me like I’m not there.” with all the pain that being scorned can inflict. The theme continues on the more countrified weariness of ‘False From True’, a co-write with Beth Nielsen Chapman (who also provides harmonies) where she sings “a stranger showed up in your eyes, hard as steel, cold as ice, I tried and tried but I could not break through.”, a track you could hear Willie Nelson performing.

The album’s six minute title track follows on, a melancholic road song full of “rumble strips, red lights…lonely travellers and cheap motel art”, a blizzard blowing though both the air and her heart, albeit to the sound of a gorgeous guitar break by Guthrie Trapp.
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Nashville Star Suzy Bogguss: New Album – Lucky

Luckyhires_110532Suzy Bogguss didn’t set out to craft a Merle Haggard tribute record. Some might call that serendipity; she just calls it “lucky”.  An accomplished artist and songwriter and a CMA, ACM and Grammy Award winner, Bogguss and her husband/co-producer Doug Crider were combing through songs to consider for her next project. Never one to hew to a particular style, having branched out into jazz, folk and swing sounds alongside traditional and modern country, Bogguss kept coming back to a set of songs that spoke to her…and they just happened to be by Haggard.

“He really is the poet of the common man,” says Bogguss, who kicked off her career with 1989’s Somewhere Between, her debut album named after one of Haggard’s early songs.  “Not every artist has music that is as universal as Merle’s. It’s pretty heavy-duty stuff, and I think that’s why to so many of us who sing and write songs, he’s such a king among us. When I hear his songs, I feel like I’m listening in on someone’s life.” And with Lucky she makes the country rebel’s compositions her own, reinterpreting classics like “The Bottle Let Me Down,” “Silver Wings” and “Today I Started Loving You Again” from a female point of view.

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Beth Nielsen Chapman ‘The Mighty Sky’ A collection of songs about astronomy for children of all ages!

Beth Nielsen Chapman The Mighty SkyWorking with Astronomy enthusiast/songwriter Rocky Alvey and her longtime hit songwriting partner Annie Roboff, Beth Nielsen Chapman releases an adventurous new project; “The Mighty Sky”, a collection of songs about astronomy for children of all ages.

“The Mighty Sky” was featured with live performances at the International Day of Human Space Flight at the United Nations Headquarters in NY on April 12th, 2012. Dignitaries included Continue reading Beth Nielsen Chapman ‘The Mighty Sky’ A collection of songs about astronomy for children of all ages!

St. Agnes Fountain The Twelve Years of Christmas Reviewed!

I’ll just admit it; I’m jealous of those that can celebrate the holiday season with St. Agnes Fountain’s live and newly recorded music “The Twelve Years of Christmas.” In a season filled with holiday albums and tours from artists ranging from Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta to Cee Lo Green, the just-released St. Agnes Fountain album is truly a holiday jewel of re-imagined traditional and more contemporary music. Like most jewels, this one is rare. It’s available Continue reading St. Agnes Fountain The Twelve Years of Christmas Reviewed!