VARIOUS ARTISTS Downtown Compilation (Folkstock FSR 22)

VARIOUS ARTISTS Downtown Compilation (Folkstock FSR 22)Downtown is a compilation released to coincide with two concerts curated by Folkstock Records at the London Folk & Blues Festival. It’s a limited edition with several tracks recorded specifically for the project so you may want to make your purchase with due alacrity.

The set opens with ‘Miles To Tralee’, about to be a single for Kelly Oliver and slated for her second album. It was produced by Stu Hanna and just exudes style and confidence. Kelly has come a long way in a very short time and deservedly so. Next come Fred’s House and their digital single ‘Shut Up And Dance’. On first hearing I thought that they’d discovered it on some obscure album of Americana but, no, it’s all their own work and a thumping good track. Minnie Birch’s ‘Dustbowl’ is taken from her debut album and ‘Little Black Cloud’ is a taster for Marina Florence’s forthcoming album and is already receiving radio plays. Mariana has a smoky, sultry voice that demands your attention, possibly on pain of a cane across the knuckles.

There is something of middle-period Joan Baez about Zoe Wren’s singing and ‘Nothing To See’ is a particularly powerful performance and one of the collection’s unique tracks as is Kaity Rae’s ‘When You Go’. ‘The Moon And The Pilot’ can only be by Daria Kulesh. Kate Rouse’s hammered dulcimer is an obvious clue and the allegorical lyrics and a hint of the 1940s about the vocal delivery remove any doubt – the mention of Stalin seals it. This is another original recording for this compilation.

‘Nashville’ is the second selection from Minnie Birch’s debut album, Floundering, and then comes Ben Smith with ‘Let Me Down Easy’. Ben is a superb guitarist and the song has the feel of the sixties troubadours with a laid-back band and little electric fills that build up as the track progresses. Finally, we return to Kelly Oliver and ‘Rio’, a song co-written with Nigel Stonier and her most recent single. It’s a happy, uplifting song with which to end an excellent set. “Thanks for having me” indeed.

Dai Jeffries

Label website:

Fred’s House – ‘Shut Up And Dance’:

The F Spot Femmes Fatales


Strong, sensuous, fascinating and feminine, this compilation of ten compelling self penned songs from women is being released on Folkstock Records on International Womens’ Day on March 8th. Performed by some of the talented female singers we have had the pleasure of working with in the past year and spanning four generations, this distinctive selection hopes to enlighten and inspire with its diversity and be distinguishable from other compilations by its raw honesty and emotion. We thank all the singers for laying bare their soul in this stripped back showcase of their undeniable talent.
This is not just any album full to the brim with female singer songwriting talent.

The F Spot Femmes Fatales has been lovingly conceived, curated and produced to show many different aspects of the feminine psyche.

Lose yourself in the songs and let this album challenge your assumptions about women, whether as musicians, producers of music or consumers of music.

Have you considered how sultry a singer in her 80th year can sound ? track one on this stunning selection will make your jaw drop. Delivered with panache and humour this track was the one which stood out for us on Peggy Seeger’s recent album Everything Changes, and it was our mission to entice Peggy to let us use it to open this compilation ! so you can imagine how thrilled we are to have ‘You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are’ as the first track on the album. Lyrics such as “I am not just any woman, looking for any man, and I don’t intend to change me to fit into your plans. I’m a hell of an angel and you’d better give a damn, you don’t know how lucky you are

Have you ever heard the story of the Mississippi woman ? this strong and wryly observed alternative creation story by Maz O’Connor is the penultimate track on the album and delivered with purity which belies the message, Maz’s beautiful voice captures your heart and lyrics such as these capture your mind.

“She made clothes from the rushes and a bed down by the willow
And when darkness came the riverbank made for her a pillow
Then the angel of the lord came down and said “now you are free”
And she said “lord, make a man out of me, lord, make a man out of me”.


Here are the contributors in order. With the information which is presented in the 4 page booklet of the jewel cased CD.

Peggy Seeger – A free thinking pioneer, Peggy Seeger has paved the way for generations of female singer songwriters the world over. Peggy was awarded ‘Most Inspirational Female’ by Music Week in 2014 and we are honoured to have permission to release a song from her recent much acclaimed album Everything Changes thanks to Red Grape Music Ltd.

Roxanne de Bastion tours throughout the UK, Europe and the US, all on trains and busses. The young troubadour self-released her debut album in 2013 and has since then been championed by Tom Robinson on BBC6, John Kennedy on XFM, Ruth Barnes on Amazing Radio. Roxanne’s compositions are routed in the 1960’s, but the tone of voice is very much her own.

Zoe Wren is studying music at Cambridge University and having released her debut EP Pandora’s Box with us in the middle of last year is now working on her debut album. Picked to perform on Stage  2 at Cambridge Folk Festival last year, Zoe is certainly attracting attention and we hope you enjoy this track which is also available on her EP, which can be found on Folkstock Records bandcamp.

Marina Florance is a prolific and revered singer songwriter based in Norfolk. A darling of the East Anglian BBC Stations, Marina has also had her music chosen by Soundcloud as Track of the Day ! Coming to performance of her own material later in life than most, Marina’s sultry ‘chocolate’ voice wins hearts the world over and captivates from the first note.

Minnie Birch  has been played on BBC Radio 1 and has caught the eye of that legend that is Joan Armatrading, supporting her on four gigs over the last two years. Her debut album is due for release this year and will no doubt build on the success of her beautiful EP Settled and consolidate her reputation and take her career to the next level.

Kaity Rae is our youngest contributor and is studying songwriting at The Institute in N. London. Recently awarded ‘Student of the year’, Kaity is on the prestigious resident artist RoundHouse programme, was a finalist in the GIGS: Big Busk song awards, won her category of Love Folk Live & has released her debut EP Spark Nov 2014. This is an acoustic version of one of her EP tracks.

Kelly Oliver  gained a 4* review from The Telegraph for her debut album This Land, which was funded by an Emerging Excellence Award from Help Musicians UK. It also won best female album from FolkWords and was shortlisted by FATEA. With BBC Radio 2 airplay and a video session with Whispering Bob Harris helping to sell out headline gigs, the future is looking bright.

Daria Kulesh’s cut glass vocals conjure an exotic elegance which is prevalent in her songs. Aided by her Russian heritage and ruthless lyrics, her dramatic delivery excites and entices you to carry on listening. This track is from her debut album Eternal Child which is gaining exultant reviews and looks set to provide her with the showcase needed to establish her musical career on a firm footing.

Maz O’Connor is one of Folk’s rising stars and attracted a BBC Radio2 Folk Award nomination as well as a Creative Fellowship from the BBC Performing Arts Fund. 2014 brought a rapturous reception for her acclaimed second album This Willowed Light and we are thrilled that Wild Sound Recordings kindly gave permission for us to re-record a stripped back version of this stunning ‘alternative creation’ story.

Fay Brotherhood  is an enigmatic artist in many senses of the word. Her creative outpourings are at their most visceral in her live performance and her distinctive voice and almost paganistic delivery has attracted much interest and acclaim. Her music transports to the heady, trippy days of the 60’s and brings you bang up to date with a modern twist in the tale.

Label website:

DARIA KULESH – Eternal Child (Folkstock)

Eternal ChildShortly after I met Kara a cousin, not noted for her interest in folk music, mentioned that she’d heard them at a village fete and remembered Daria Kulesh vividly. Daria is like that: she is memorable, she’s a personality; and while the band is gearing up to start work on their second album she releases her debut.

Daria has not fallen into the trap of trying to make a Kara album. This is very different – ten original songs that are largely autobiographical, each one dedicated to family members or friends. The opening tracks establish her voice as the key instrument and my initial impression was of unexpected delicacy. Second time round I realised that there was a lot more going on. Producer Ben Walker plays almost everything and it is his guitar and piano that sets the first foundations. There are guest appearances from Kate Rouse, Kaity Rae, Luke Jackson and Lauren Deakin-Davies who also produced ‘Fake Wonderland’ and ‘Cracks’ but Daria and Ben hold centre stage.

The opening track, ‘Fata Morgana’, is for Daria’s fairy godmother and the dual meanings of the title, sorceress or mirage, are entwined in the song. It is here, perhaps, that Daria’s eternal child is rooted. Not that her reminiscences are all sweetness and light. The second song, ‘Letting Go’ (“for my first love”), contains a wicked put-down in its second verse. First love stays with you forever even if you don’t want it to.

There are three songs at the heart of the album which depart from the clear path of autobiography. In ‘At Midnight’, co-written with Igor Devlikamov, she confesses to being a witch which is probably not literally true although I agree that she casts a spell. Then comes ‘Butterflies’ which effortlessly deconstructs the usual metaphors and puts together an alternative view: “brittle butterflies break their wings on ignorance…too soon”. Even if you don’t know about Epidermolysis bullosa and “butterfly children” the metaphor still works on a different level for the eternal child forced to grow up. ‘The Hairdresser’ sounds like a flight of fancy and I hesitate to ask how much truth hides within its soap-opera story.

Daria writes strong melodies to go with her crystal clear voice and I wonder how much the music of her Russian childhood influences them. The result, however, is an album that rewards repeated listening and will be near at hand for quite a while.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on 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:

Daria performs ‘Butterflies’. Not the best film but it also includes an important introduction to the song:

And here is the official video for ‘Right Here’:

KARA – Waters So Deep (own label)

Kara1I’m prepared to wager that very few albums begin with a lyric by Alexander Pushkin, particularly one that serves as a warning about what not to do when confronted by a naked young lady emerging from a lake. Particularly if you’re a monk. ‘Rusalka’ fulfils that very role and Kara return to a similar theme with ‘Mermaid’s Lullaby’, this by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, but you knew that.

By now you may be thinking that there’s something not quite run-of-the mill about Kara and you’d be right. Although based in Hertfordshire they sound decidedly pan-European – their instrumentation of guitar, accordion and hammered dulcimer gives them a chameleon-like ability. There are two writers in the band. Guitarist Ben Honey writes what might be termed the “western” material: ‘Hunter’s Moon’ is positively bucolic in a late sixties way and ‘Union Street’ finds an urban metaphor for a relationship. Lead vocalist Daria Kulesh brings exotic ideas rooted in Russian folklore – she provides the music for Pushkin’s words – and wrote the odd but compelling ‘In Lille’. With Gary Holbrook’s accordion taking on a Gallic lilt, it’s the story of a sixteen year old girl resisting the blandishments of a middle-aged married man. It’s a disturbing but magnificent piece of writing and she even makes the word Peugeot sound sexy.

Lots of tunes decorate the songs and there are two instrumental sets. The first is a real mashup, mixing Simon Jeffes’ ‘Music For A Found Harmonium’ with a tune from Irish band Kíla and Pachelbel’s ‘Canon In D’ while the second is a more English session set with tunes by Andy Cutting, the late Undine Hornby and Martin Ellison.

Kara reminds me a little of Dando Shaft, not so much for the way they sound – they are very different in that respect – but for the way they feel: that pan-European aesthetic. There is an air of mystery about both bands accentuated here by Kate Rouse’s dulcimer weaving through Daria’s vocals. I rather hope that Daria insists on conducting interviews in Russian with the aid of an interpreter but I’m sure she’s far too sensible. Shame. This is a brilliant debut album.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on 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: