SHEILA K CAMERON – Kiss Deep And The Missing Beat (Glalell SKC1706CD)

Kiss DeepKiss Deep is sixth and final volume in the first series of Sheila K Cameron reissues. There are nineteen tracks here encompassing all the styles she has essayed over the years beginning and ending with the old blues sound of ‘Universal Energy’. From there she moves to the rich pop of ‘On The Road To Haida Gwaii’ (her home off the coast of western Canada) and the slightly quirky ‘Another Dream’, a clever, almost spoken lyric over a rolling piano backing. It’s a frustration dream, the like of which we’ve all had, of being unable to get to where we want to be.

‘Did I Do Something Wrong Again’ is piano driven country, a style continued in ‘So You Said’, a song that reminds me of Eleanor McEvoy at her most acerbic. The thing about Sheila is that you never know what to expect so after these band numbers we have the solo acoustic ‘You Tell Me Nothing’ with its undertones of Weimar cabaret. ‘Let’s Put Love In The Back Seat – For A While’ is a spoken word piece incanted over a percussion accompaniment; yet another Cameron style.

Kiss Deep is probably the most complete of the reissues. It has a sense of continuity that some of the others lack and the benefit of being completed songs with the likes of Brian McNeill and Fraser Spiers mentioned in the credits. If you’re unfamiliar with SKC’s work – and I was before these reissues appeared – this is probably the place to start. Follow it with Alone On The Road before venturing any deeper – it’s not an easy journey but you’ll find it very rewarding.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.sheilakcameron.com

BATTLEFIELD BAND – The Producer’s Choice (Temple COMD2108)

Producer's ChoiceIn late 2016 Battlefield Band was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall Of Fame which gave their long-time producer Robin Morton the excuse, if excuse were needed, to celebrate. Hence The Producer’s Choice, nineteen tracks featuring nineteen members of the band plus guest percussionists Donald Hay and Morton himself. Actually I count twenty but I don’t know what Jim Barnes had to do to be excluded from the official count.

The big names who passed through the band’s ranks are legends: Brian McNeill, Alan Reid, John McCusker, Davy Steele, Karine Polwart and, latterly, Ewan Henderson. All are featured but it’s probably the more obscure tracks that excite the most interest. The oldest tracks are ‘The Shipyard Apprentice’ and ‘Silver Spear/The Humours Of Tulla’ from 1977 featuring Reid, McNeill, John Gahagan and Jamie McMenemy followed by ‘Seven Braw Gowns’ from 1979 and featuring the band’s first female vocalist, Jenny Clark. Archie Fisher’s song is one of my favourite tracks in the set alongside McNeill’s ‘Lads O’ The Fair’ and ‘Rantin’ Rovin’ Robin’ featuring one of Scotland’s most underrated singers, Sylvia Barnes. ‘Leaving Friday Harbor’ is one of John McCusker’s finest tunes and I love the way that ‘The Canongate Twitch’ opens with the ‘Pinball Wizard’ riff.

The Producer’s Choice may be an important lesson for bands: let your producer sequence your album. Morton has done a superb job in mixing light and shade, songs and instrumentals, allowing the mood to go one way for a while before switching direction without any sense of dislocation. So Alan Reid’s wonderful song, ‘The Road Of Tears’, is followed by Ged Foley’s ‘Blackhall Rocks’ – stirring yet mournful – and then we’re into the melodic but rousing ‘Rantin’ Rovin’ Robin’.

For those who prefer Battlefield Band in stomping mood the album closes with the live ‘After Hours’ set and I was surprised to find that they have made only three live albums in over forty years – back in the 80s they were one of the hottest festival bands on the scene. Funny how things turn out.

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 BATTLEFIELD BAND – The Producer’s Choice 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.battlefieldband.co.uk

‘The Road Of Tears’ from the film Battlefield Band In Concert available from Temple Records.

SHEILA K CAMERON – Alone On The Road (Glalell SKC1703CD)

Alone On The RoadIt’s a truth universally acknowledged (pace Jane Austen) that to really sing the blues you have to feel the blues, have to live the blues. As amply demonstrated in Alone On The Road, one of a trilogy of reissues, Sheila K Cameron is most definitely the real thing. Somewhat enigmatic, she’s an artist, a lyricist, a singer – her creative force spilling out in all directions. There’s a relentless, restless outpouring of experience, that one art form simply can’t contain.

Hers is a voice that speaks of maturity and a life lived defiantly, if not always easily. It has a natural, unforced sound with occasional displays of unexpected depth that pack a powerful emotional punch.

Comparisons have been made with Leonard Cohen and there are certainly elements of his style of speak-singing in the flattened out melancholy and resonance of her voice. On ‘When I Say You Owe Me Nothing’ her urgently barked delivery has more than a dash of Nick Cave.

Lyrically, there are so many glimpses of a real original talent on this album. Some standard blues tropes get rehashed, for sure, but always with a unique verbal twist in her original material.

Francis Speirs’ (although credited as Spiers on the album cover) harmonica provides a blistering introduction to the album and then never lets up. In fact, the spot-on accompaniments by Speirs, Geoff Allan, Brian McNeill and Brian Young are what really lift this set of songs into another class altogether, providing a versatile mood-board from the slight country tinge of ‘Mr Moon: I’m Working Against Time’ to the Doors-y fuzz of title-track “Alone On The Road’.

Vocal effects have been used to create an old-school blues atmosphere, as on the loping roll of ‘I Looked Alright This Morning’ and the slightly tinny, compressed ‘Bluebird Outside My Window’ as heard through an old horn gramophone. (This song also contains the divinely blunt put-down “she’s a selfish, self-concerned tart”). In total contrast, ‘Baby How Long’ sounds like she’s right up in your ear, so intimate is the vocal.

Sheila K Cameron is a unique artist whose work deserves a wider audience. Her songs cry out to be heard and will no doubt be reinterpreted by singers of the future. This album is a little treasure trove for lovers of the quirky, the downbeat, the blues.
Su O’Brien

Artist website: http://www.sheilakcameron.com

Sadly Sheila K Cameron’s videos are not available to us in the UK – presumably for copyright reasons. Unless you know differently.

Feast Of Fiddles – new studio album

Feast Of Fiddles

Feast Of Fiddles was formed in 1994 as a one-off concert ensemble as Hugh Crabtree thought it would be a good idea and Mike Sanderson of Nettlebed Folk Club thought so too!

Their first live recording Live 01 was released in 2002 – quite a long wait for the increasing number of fans of the band. However it was only another two years before the next CD appeared – Nicely Wrong. Three more years before yet another live recording Still Live and then after another three years the first studio album Walk Before You Fly. You guessed it, another three years for the second studio album Rise Above It and with a slight break with tradition it’s taken four years to get to studio album number three. Fast forward and in 2017 their sixth album entitled Sleight Of Elbow will be released.

Feast Of Fiddles embarks on its 24th annual spring tour in 2017 to coincide with the release of their new album.  The band that has been variously likened to a “group of geography teachers” or “Bellowhead with bus passes!” doesn’t seem to be slowing down any.  A band of musical friends that puts on a show of huge dynamic range performed with passion, joy and a liberal dose of fun. It all started at a folk club but has become a folk-rock institution with seven CDs to their name, several festival appearances and sell out shows up and down the UK. Typically, fiddlers Peter Knight (Steeleye Span), Chris Leslie (Fairport Convention), Phil Beer (Show of Hands), Brian McNeill (Battlefield Band), Ian Cutler (Bully Wee), Tom Leary (Lindisfarne) and Garry Blakeley (Band of Two) add their extensive range of fiddle playing styles to the rock back-line of guitars, keyboards, sax and accordion – all held together by legendary drummer Dave Mattacks. A live music entertainment like no other which is guaranteed to be enjoyed by even the most doubting of friends dragged along! Continue reading Feast Of Fiddles – new studio album