CHRISTY MOORE – On The Road (Sony Music/Frontline)

On The RoadNeither a greatest hits collection nor a conventional concert album, On The Road sits somewhere between the two. Here are two dozen of Christy best and most popular songs recorded at seventeen venues in Ireland and the UK over the past three years.

The double-CD set opens with a mighty ‘Ordinary Man’ recorded at the Glasgow Barrowlands with an audience determined to sing it their way. As Christy notes, he felt it best to follow them. Christy’s audiences always know all the words. The band appearing pretty much throughout the album is Declan Sinnott on guitars, percussionist and producer Jim Higgins and Cathal Hayden with contributions from Máirtín O Connor, Seamie O’Dowd, Vickie Keating and Christy’s eldest son, Andy.

Initially the sequencing alternates moods so the second cut is ‘Ride On’ followed by the World Cup saga ‘Joxer Goes To Stuttgart. Is it an Irish thing: the ability to move from ribald comedy from sentimentality? ‘Black Is The Colour’ is followed by an updated ‘Don’t Forget Your Shovel’ filled with political comment and Irish in-jokes and ‘Delirium Tremens’ follows ‘The Voyage’. The fact that these are recent live recordings adds a twist to familiar songs with Christy working the audiences like the master he is. Just don’t expect anything to sound like it does on the studio album – he actually cracks up on ‘Weekend In Amsterdam’. The first set closes with a song that is rarely out of the set: ‘Viva La Quinte Brigada’ and even if you don’t know it you’ll be singing along before the end

The second half starts out in a less rowdy fashion; more what you’d expect from a Christy Moore gig. He opens with his brother’s ‘City Of Chicago’ followed by Ewan MacColl’s ‘Go Move Shift’ and a gorgeous take on ‘Nancy Spain’. Of course, the restraint doesn’t last forever as ‘Lingo Politico’ proves and ‘St. Brendan’s Voyage’ isn’t terribly reverential.

It is possible that you haven’t heard Christy Moore live and these days you’ll probably have to go to Dublin to do so but On The Road will do well enough until you get there. Hear this album and you’ll be booking your tickets.

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 CHRISTY MOORE – On The Road 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: https://www.christymoore.com/

‘Ordinary Man’ – live:

SAOIRSE MHÓR – Ghosts Of Tomorrow (own label)

Ghosts Of TomorrowSaoirse Mhór is an Irish singer-songwriter living and working in Germany. British and Irish folk is big there but Saoirse is barely known in England except as the frontman of Fleadh. Ghosts Of Tomorrow is his third solo studio album and he is supported by, among others, Andy Horn and Andrew Cadie of Germany’s top British folk-rock band Broom Bezzums and their regular guest vocalist Katie Doherty.

There is a vein of melancholy running through Saoirse’s songs together with a feeling for lyrics that it typically Celtic. The opener, ‘Tree Of Oak’ is a simple song laden with the despair of a man fully aware of his own failure but it’s offset in part by ‘Fanore’, a village in County Clare where our man finds refuge from his life but leaves a part of himself there. ‘The Thief’ and ‘White Birds’ make for an interesting pairing. In the first, the writer is escaping from a damaged relationship but in the second he waits for the end of winter to be reunited with his love – two very fine songs.

The author of ‘Sleeping And Working’ is at rock bottom and the song ends bitterly with “Remember…if you work harder then love and good fortune will soon come your way”. Yeah, right. The bankers figure in that song and also in ‘Hill Of Plenty’ which begins optimistically until reality intrudes on what seems to be an ideal life.

Ghosts Of Tomorrow is big on sweeping strings and backing vocals with the fiddles of Andrew Cadie and Marcus Eichenlaub often taking the lead in melodic decoration with Michael Busch’s guitar sitting alongside Saoirse’s. He may live in Germany but Saoirse hasn’t really left Ireland far behind and there is a thread of a simple rural life running through the songs. ‘The Cleggan Bay Disaster’ takes us right back there and the final track, ‘Good Friday’, is an account of that day – a reflection of Saoirse’s Catholicism, perhaps.

His albums are available as downloads from the usual sources but for a physical copy you’ll need to visit his website. It’s worth going to the trouble.

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 SAOIRSE MHÓR – Ghosts Of Tomorrow 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.

DOWNLOAD – [CD]

Artist’s website: https://www.saoirsemhor.com/

Promo video:

MELROSE QUARTET – Dominion (own label MQCD03)

DominionDominion is the long-awaited second album from Melrose Quartet: Nancy Kerr and James Fagan, Jess and Richard Arrowsmith. If you haven’t heard them you should remedy that oversight as soon as possible: four voices and four instrumentalists, equally gifted with unaccompanied harmony and instrumental dexterity. And that’s before we begin to discuss songwriting.

The album is a delightfully eclectic mix of material, you know, the way people used to make albums back in the 70s. It begins, unexpectedly, with a southern Appalachian song, ‘Mariah’s Gone’ originally from Jean Ritchie. Unaccompanied, it makes an arresting statement from the outset – you are going to listen to this record. It is followed by the title track, ‘Dominion Of The Sword’, further adapted from Martin Carthy’s version with a new verse by James. You must expect some politics from the quartet but this is as heavy handed as it gets and the tunes that follow, ‘A Generous Man/Carthy’s March’ are as bright and joyful as you could wish for.

The ebb and flow continues throughout the record. Nancy Kerr’s ‘Hand Me Down’ is about the unifying effect of music and ‘’Ware Out Mother’ is a huge joke. It started out in the tradition but was probably written in its present form by Charley Yarwood and Tom Brown. Jess Arrowsmith’s ‘Anthem Of A Working Mum’ is a song that should be adopted by the tradition. Like the best writing it says a lot in a few words and leaves you to colour in the picture while Nancy’s ‘Rise No More’ is a lament for the lost steel industry told in complex metaphor. Around these we have ‘The Seeds Of Love’, Paul Davenport’s ‘Davy Cross’ and Paul Metser’s lovely ‘Good Intentions’.

Melrose Quartet could play Dominion from start to finish in a folk club and you’d go home knowing that you’d had a good night out. I don’t think that you could ask for much more than that.

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 MELROSE QUARTET – Dominion 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: www.melrosequartet.co.uk

Melrose Quartet live at Chester Folk Festival:

PETER KNIGHT’S GIGSPANNER – Live at Farnham Maltings

Gigspanner
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

I’ve heard Peter Knight’s Gigspanner three times this year and it never gets old. Admittedly the first occasion was with Gary Hammond on percussion and the second was the Big Band but this was the turbo-charged F1 trio and they flew.

They began, as Peter explained: “Roger and I will play a few notes and then we’ll go into the first piece of music”. Those few notes eventually turned in ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ which, in turn, moved away into something else before returning to the main theme. It set the bar pretty high for the rest of the evening.

For a band supposedly launching their new album, The Wife Of Urban Law, they were remarkably reticent about mentioning it although with such a dedicated audience as this the hard sell wasn’t really needed. Peter mentioned the title once while explaining ‘Urban’s Reel’ and can I just say how lovely Roger Flack’s guitar intro is? The second song was ‘Seagull’, on the new record as ‘Penny The Hero’ for reasons unknown, and they have been playing it for while now anyway. That was followed by ‘Penny And The Soldier’ and the flow of new material was interrupted only by ‘The Bows Of London’. The first half closed with ‘The Blackbird’ which Peter learned sitting down so that’s how he plays it.

Part two began with ‘Hard Times Of Old England’ which is typical of a Gigspanner number. It began almost diffidently with Peter voicing wordlessly off-mic and then built up gradually before taking off into the blue only to return to the gentle mood for the final verse. More favourites then: ‘Spencer The Rover’, ‘The Butterfly’, with Peter and Roger circling each other waiting for the tune to emerge and dry its wings, and ‘Bonnie Birdie’ before one more new track ‘Bold Riley’.

At the Big Band show I was disappointed that Sacha Trochet didn’t get to do an awful lot but he’s made up for it since. With a synth kick-drum his percussion is big in the bass and the shallow tom-tom to his left didn’t get that much use. He has a hi-hat which sometimes carries other bits of hand percussion but less is more as far as that goes. ‘Bold Riley’ is a fine example of what else is different – he maintained a steady beat, both hands together, solid throughout, that both held the song together and drove it on. I fancy they have speeded it up a bit but still you probably couldn’t work halyards to it, although I suspect that the song was an invention of Bert Lloyd so that wouldn’t matter.

I still don’t tire of ‘Louisiana Flack’ – the pleasure coming from watching Peter’s eyes rather than his fingers – and the trio closed with ‘Sharp Goes Walkabout’ with Sacha given free reign to create a percussive soundscape introducing the tune. They didn’t really leave the stage before being called back to encore with ‘The King Of The Fairies’ – there was no point in false modesty.

The wonderful thing about Gigspanner is that it’s never the same twice and that, as Roger said, “is why I like it”. I’ve heard every title in the set previously but they played some music that I hadn’t heard before and probably won’t be able to hear again but that doesn’t matter for there will be new delights next time. I’m prepared to say that this was the best gig I’ve ever heard them play but I’m supposed to be a critic so here’s the criticism. My dear lady wife would like to hear a little more of Roger. Thank you.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.gigspanner.com

OK. We know it’s an old film and not the current line-up but if you haven’t seen ‘Louisiana Flack’ live just enjoy this:

MARTIN STEPHENSON & THE DAINTEES – Bayswater Road (Barbaraville Records)

Bayswater RoadBelieve it or not, Bayswater Road is Martin Stephenson’s 35th album in as many years. He emerged as one of the rising stars of the eighties with the album Boat To Bolivia. The Daintees broke up in 1993 and Martin continued as a soloist but later reformed the band. The only Daintee remaining from the original line-up is guitarist John Steel – but enough of history.

It’s difficult to know where Martin fits into today’s world of compartmentalised music. Bayswater Road is a mixture of rockabilly, 50s pop and alt country but all done with the sensibilities of the singer-songwriter that Martin always was. There are many serious songs here – don’t go away with the idea that it’s all fun – but we’re kept waiting a while for them.

The opener, ‘The Whisky’ is an all-out rocker with a serious message about the dangers of drink wrapped up in it – a sure-fire radio hit. The title track sounds a collection of memories from the fast-living days and you can have fun identifying the characters on the cover. Jon Trier’s keyboards are an important part of the sound, his breaks often defining the period. ‘Secret Crush’ starts out with a burst of surf guitar from Steel and is decorated with doo-wop backing vocals and it’s only with ‘High Sierra Snow’ that Martin dispenses with the tricks and gives us a song that isn’t played, at least in part, for a laugh.

‘Lord Lead Us’, one of three songs co-written with Anna Lavigne, is a big song with a gospel feel and soulful backing vocals by Susanna Wolfe, Nuala Keller and Anna herself and ‘Every Kind Of Heaven’ is Martin’s ecological plea. The two sit well together as the album gets serious and ‘Thorn For A Rose’ and the solo acoustic ‘Elaine’ are both lovely songs. ‘She Rides Horses’ is a gorgeous production number to bring everything to a close.

I’ve enjoyed listening to Bayswater Road. It’s different, sometimes quirky and always clever. I guess that’s what Martin Stephenson is all about.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: http://www.daintees.co.uk/

‘Elaine’ – live:

KIRSTY MERRYN – She & I (own label)

She & IKirsty Merryn hails originally from the New Forest but is now, inevitably, based in London where the action is. She & I is her debut album; an ambitious work but also accomplished and confident.

The songs are about or dedicated to influential women except the opener, ‘The Pit And Pugilist’. It’s about Kirsty’s great-great-grandfather and isn’t as macabre as the title suggests – Tommy Mitchell was a miner and boxing champion from Derbyshire and his story roots the album somehow. Listening for the first time without paying too much attention to the lyric the song had Sandy Denny written all over it. There is something about the structure, Kirsty’s enunciation, her piano accompaniment and the opening line “Bitter the winter and petrified ground”. I was tempted to ask “what else have you got?”.

What she had was ‘Bring Up The Bodies’ and then I paid attention. The song is dedicated to Nancy Mitford, author of The Loved One, and Henrietta Lacks, who was still known by the pseudonym Helen Lane when I was at school. Look up her fascinating story for a full explanation. The song is a bluesy shuffle built around the rhythms of Tom Grashion’s drums and the multi-instrumental and production skills of Gerry Diver.

The other influential women include Lady Hamilton portrayed as ‘The Fair Tea Maker Of Edgware Row’ and Grace Darling, heroine of the ‘Forfarshire’, with Steve Knightley singing the role of her father, William. The next two are less well known. Georgina Houghton was a Victorian spiritualist and Annie Edson Taylor was the ‘Queen Of The Mist’, the first woman to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. The story of ‘Delilah And Samson’ is familiar enough – Luke Jackson sings the male part – and ‘The Birds Are Drunk’ is a murder ballad observed by an anonymous protagonist who may well be the victim’s ghost.

Diver’s production is commendably restrained but always atmospheric, leaving Kirsty’s words front and centre. She frequently takes an alternative view of a story so ‘Forfarshire’ isn’t an heroic ballad but more of a ghost story and we are left to decide whether these are the ghosts of those who perished or of Grace herself, who died a few short years later. In fact every song has lines that demand your attention – I particularly like the idea of Emma Hamilton considering a drink of the brandy that her lover was brought home in.

She & I is a remarkable debut album, packed with imaginative ideas and superb songwriting.

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 KIRSTY MERRYN 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.

DOWNLOAD – [CD]

Artist’s website: www.kirstymerryn.com

‘Forfarshire’ – official video: