THE COGNAC TWINS –The Cognac Twins (Loopmaniac Records LOOP 1)

The Cognac TwinsAfter writing, singing, jamming and performing together for over two decades, Craig Anderson and Paul Connelly, The Cognac Twins, are here with their self-titled debut album. The ridiculously catchy ‘Pretending’ opens the disc, as its combination of mandolin and ukulele runs, handclaps, solid lead vocals and spot-on harmonies set the tone for the rest of the record, creating some distinctly Scottish Americana.

Along with the opener, there are two further gems on side 1; the dark and anthemic ‘Bricks and Mortar’ and ‘Don’t Forget Your Sons’. The latter of these is particularly good and perfectly combines soul, swagger and some wonderfully effective slide guitar. Musically and lyrically there are parts of this song that feel as if they could be a contemporary take on something written in the American south 100 years ago, that is until you hear lyrics like “Climb into the seat of my Escort MK 3…”

Side 2 is every bit as strong, appearing to follow a formula of slow, stripped-back numbers which give way to hand clap-led, up-tempo tracks. The strongest song of the entire collection, the simply titled ‘January’, fits the former category, with its universally relatable reminder that when “January comes…you’re one year older” so “be thankful, be honest, be truthful”…and “be kind…”

While it is a definite lament, it’s not bleak – in fact, it’s actually wonderfully hopeful and incredibly optimistic and every word comes across as very sincere…which, for some reason, inevitably makes the song feel that little bit sadder.

If ‘January’ caused you to shed a wee tear or two, however, the upbeat follow up, ‘Rita’, will square you up in no time. Coming in at under two minutes, it is the shortest song on the album, and that’s my only real gripe with the Cognac Twins’ debut; at well under half an hour, it is just too short. However, two arguments spring to mind: “Quality over quantity” and “Leave ‘em wanting more”…and that’s exactly how I’m feeling. Touché.

Although this wasn’t a duo I was previously aware of prior to hearing this record, the more I listen to this album, the more I like it, and the more I like it, the more excited I get for the Twins’ next release…but, eh… don’t keep us waiting another two decades for it lads!

Christopher James Sheridan

Artists’ website: www.facebook.com/Thecognactwins

‘Lucky Lad’ – official:

KEVIN CRAWFORD – Carrying the Tune (Brooklyn Boy Records BBR 001)

Carrying The TuneCarrying The Tune is the third solo album in the extensive discography of the critically acclaimed flautist Kevin Crawford, and accompanied by bouzouki (Mick Conneely and John Doyle), guitar (Doyle) and bodhrán (Brian Morrissey), it is immersed, as ever, in the sounds of Celtic tradition, displaying Crawford’s virtuosity at every opportunity. Indeed, such prowess makes it a rather difficult task to pinpoint the album’s standouts, without overlooking what else the record has to offer, therefore (particularly for those who are unfamiliar with the work) it may be more useful to provide a brief rundown of the album as a whole.

‘The Clare Connection’ opens the record, (a set of reels fusing ‘McHugh’s/Michael Murphy’s and Humours Of Tullycrine’ together and featuring Crawford on Eb flute) followed by slip jigs (collectively titled ‘2 Days’), before another set of reels are introduced in the form of ‘Autumn Apples/Cormac O’Lunny’s and Paddy Sean Nancy’s’. Phil Cunningham’s beautiful ‘Flatwater Fran’ next kicks off a set of waltzes, which (like track two’s slip jigs) showcase Crawford on flute as well as whistle. The second waltz of the set, ‘Mrs Jean Campbell BSC’, was written by Rory Campbell, giving Crawford’s piece its title, ‘Phil And Rory’s’

From here, boisterous jigs and beautiful reels lead the way to the haunting air, ‘The Dear Irish Boy’, which follows into the steady guitar of John Doyle and the double tracked flute of Crawford, in the selections which make up ‘The Slippery Slope’. An interesting change of pace is brought about through ‘Tanglony’, with Crawford, this time, opting for the D whistle, and Doyle accompanying him on bouzouki. The next pocket of selections are bookended with reels; ‘The Ivy Leaf’ and ‘The Mountain Lark’, with a collection of jigs, titled ‘Chapter 3’, sandwiched in between. Next up, it is an original, titled ‘The Hula Hoop’, that twists, turns and leads us to slow air ‘Travelling Through Blarney’ and ‘Come West Along The Road’ (collectively titled ‘Travelling West’) to bring the album to an atmospheric conclusion.

For fans of the Irish traditional/ Celtic music scene, you will, no doubt, be familiar with Mr Crawford’s output, either through his solo work, or through his recordings with Lúnasa, Cillian Vallely or Moving Cloud, but you may not be so familiar with this album; self-released originally in 2012 on BallyO Records, it has been out of print the last few years, but thanks to Brooklyn Boy Records and Copperplate Distribution, it is released, once again, in all of its glory.

Christopher James Sheridan

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 KEVIN CRAWFORD – Carrying the Tune 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]

Artist’s website: http://www.lunasa.ie

Kevin with Martin Hayes and John Doyle (The Teetotallers) play a set including ‘The Dear Irish Boy’:

BOB LESLIE – Land and Sea (Big Red Records. Big Red 3)

Land And SeaFollowing 2010’s In a Different World and 2011’s Fat Cat, Land and Sea is the third release in the discography of Bob Leslie, and it offers a dozen tales, some from history and others from the heart, but all of which are well informed, well composed and personally felt in their delivery. The record opens with one of its standout tracks, ‘The World Came To Springburn’, a lament to the area’s industrial past, which fuses the echoes of rose-tinted history with modern day reality, in a style which, at times, is on a par with some of the folk canon’s past masters. The record continues with the broadly sung ‘The Seanachai’, the beautifully played ‘Sir Alexander Leslie’ and ‘Bess Millie’, with a strong vocal take which draws in the listener immediately.

The upbeat, ‘Ah Wid Dance Wi Ye Darlin’ is another of Land and Sea’s standouts. Lyrically well written, the piece still allows the accompanying instrumentation (as provided by Avril Cleland, Bernadette Collier, Kate Kramer and Wendy Weatherby) enough room to breathe and really add to the song. It is worth noting however, following this track into the last third of the album, there appears to be less emphasis on the broad Scots pronunciation as used by Leslie in the album’s first two thirds. More of an observation than a criticism, it just feels as though perhaps the order of the track list could have been juggled slightly, in order to avoid such a noticeable shift.

Nonetheless, the album continues and concludes strongly with the (fairly eclectic) last portion of the record, featuring two of Leslie’s more light-hearted compositions, as well as Spanish Civil War ballad, ‘The Church Of San Pedro, El Viejo’ and ‘Me And Kenny’; a simultaneous ode to friendship on the road and an endearingly honest tale of homesickness. Good stuff.

Christopher James Sheridan

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 BOB LESLIE – Land and Sea 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]

Artist’s website: http://www.bobleslie.scot/

‘The World Came To Springburn’ – live:

AMANDA ANNE PLATT & THE HONEYCUTTERS – Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters (Organic Records OR 16902)

HoneycuttersAmanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters (formerly known simply as The Honeycutters) is the fifth Long Player from the group and is available in the UK from August 4th, coinciding nicely with their first ever British tour. While there are folkie and rocky influences within this album, it is most noticeably a radio-friendly country affair, and one which showcases Platt’s immense talent for songwriting as well as the Honeycutter’s musical ability. In her own words Platt notes the album to be “…about life and all that entails” and like life (and like country music) great beauty and great sadness intertwine throughout. There are hellos, goodbyes, birthdays, deaths and many other bittersweet observations, yet it is by no means a gloomy record.

Opener, ‘Birthday Song’, ‘What We’ve Got’ and ‘Rare Thing’ are all thematically linked by a yearning for the past, but are also all written from a surprisingly contented vantage point, while the upbeat ‘The Things We Call Home’ simply celebrates the little joys of everyday life…and what’s wrong with that? However, as noted, this contentment is paired with melancholy, particularly in numbers like ‘Eden’, ‘Brand New Start’ and the poignant lament ‘Learning How to Love Him’, whose protagonist reflects on the challenges, triumphs and regrets of a four decade marriage, concluding that after raising children, raising voices, making mistakes and making choices, “This is what love is”.

However, Platt and co. arguably keep the best for last, departing with ‘The Road’, a simple, yet breathtakingly well-written song of parting and break up; bowing out on the lines “If time and distance make us strangers, Change our hearts and rearrange us, I’ll look forward to the day, my new eyes look upon your face, And recognize the smile of an old friend…I hope the road is good to you, til then”.

With great musicianship and story-telling songs which ring true to real life, it is hard to have any complaints about this album, and it is one of which Platt and her Honeycutters should be very proud.

Christopher James Sheridan

Artist’s website: www.honeycutters.com

 

‘The Road’ – live: