RED SHOES – It Isn’t Over Yet (Cedarwood CEDAR15)

Red ShoesOkay, first off let me declare that I’ve known Mark and Carolyn Evans, who are the core of Birmingham-based Red Shoes, for some 30 years. This, however, has no bearing on what I think of their music. Even had I not known them, I would still be a massive fan. I would also rate Carolyn as one of my all time top five female vocalists, and I’m not the only one who has compared her to Sandy Denny, admittedly her biggest influence.

Originally formed in 1983, they self-released the All Fall Down EP produced by Clive Gregson and a single on Mooncrest, a version of ‘By The Time It Gets Dark’, as well as a never-released album. However, eight years later they called it a day to focus on raising a family. Some twenty years later, they decided to give it another go.

Fate brought them into contact with Fairport Convention’s Dave Pegg who offered to produce and play on, what would become their debut album, Ring Around The Land. Released in 2009, it was followed in 2012 by All The Good Friends, produced by the late Mick Dolan and again featuring Pegg, alongside Dave Swarbrick and Bev Bevan, and including a slow, deeply sad stunning version of ‘Blackberry Way’.

Now comes their third release, this time a double CD set comprising two acts, one electric and on acoustic, the former featuring the core line up of Mark, Carolyn and guitarist Nigel King alongside drummer Rob Mason and contributions from Pegg and Ric Sanders, while the latter is just the trio. Both discs also feature guest appearances by Joe Brown on Dobro and ukulele, respectively.

As depicted on the artwork, Act One opens with ‘Salters Screen’, one of two rerecorded numbers written as a commission by Worcester County Council for a libraries and communities audio-visual project. An uptempo folk-country chugger featuring Pegg on mandolin and Brown on dobro it was written in response to the memories of Droitwich locals who used to go to Salters Super Cinema which finally closed in the 1960s. A similarly uptempo approach is taken for ‘Dust In The Hallway’, although, carried along on shuffling brushed snare with Sanders on fiddle solo, the lyrics are actually about alcoholism.

Then comes ‘Hostile Place’, a song written several years back during a brief stint under the name of The Lorelei, arranged here by King and, quite frankly, with its line “this home’s a hostile place” one of the greatest songs about a dying relationship ever written. Sung with a vocally quivering heart-wrenching intensity by Carolyn and with Sanders augmenting the emotions on violin, if you’re not a weeping wreck at the end then you have no soul.

Taking its title from the Kevin Spacey TV series, the tumblingly melodic state of the world themed ‘House Of Cards’ was written as a biting response to Donald Trump and American politics and is in turn followed by the title track. Now, long standing fans will know this as a powerful ballad written and sung by Mark, here, however, it’s transformed into one of their jaunty folk numbers in the manner of ‘Swansong’ off the previous album. Both versions are terrific.

‘I Wish It Would Rain’ finds Carolyn in soulful mode for a powerful, slow-paced calling for a cleansing of the country to wash the hate from the shores of its green and pleasant lands. The curtain then falls on the first act with the five-and-half minute ‘Maple Tree Boy’. Sanders’ violin introducing a moving traditional-folk flavoured ballad set to a military slow march inspired by the true story of Arthur Wallace, a navy medic at the Normandy lands, the first casualty he treated being a young Canadian who died in his arms from a bullet that had passed through his helmet. Wallace was haunted by the experience to the end of his days and the fact he was never able to find out the lad’s name. Another one to exercise the tear ducts.

Act Two opens with ‘Floorspot Annie’, a poignant fingerpicked number about a would be folk singer who escapes the 9-5 grind down at the club on a Tuesday night, her hopes of getting spotted never materialising but, despite the fact that “she may not play the finest note or sing the brightest tune” always cheering the audience.

‘Heart of Stourport Town’ is the second of the commissioned songs, a touching slowly strummed, melancholic Dennyesque ballad about friendship and the ‘joyous company’ community that draws on an interviews with two women who grew up in houses attached to the Tontine Hotel, built in 1772 to provide lodgings and premises for the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Company, in the 1950s.

They don’t do many storysongs, but, Mark singing lead, the spare ‘Six Boats’ is a number inspired by Cornish (?) smugglers and sung in the voice of a young father condemned to hang after being betrayed to the Redcoats. Appropriately enough, this is followed by ‘Pirates’, written by Mark and sung by Carolyn, a wistful song of regret and of not putting down roots as she sings “my dreams have faded, faded far away and the sands have covered my footsteps”, Springsteen surely inspiring the line “like a pirate, riding a stolen car.”

Again penned by Mark, their debut single gets a six-minute revisiting with Brown on baritone ukulele, like the title track, has also been reimagined, transforming from its original soaring chorus ballad of desperation sung by Mark to a slower strummed, more world weary reading.

Mark taking lead again, taking its title from the Ayrshire town ‘All The Way To Troon’ is probably the newest number here, a lovely Celtic-hued folk ballad about seeking a lost love, one I can imagine club audiences swaying long to and one which Daniel O’Donnell might want to wrap his ears around.

A passionate member of the anti-fox hunting lobby, the last album featured protest song ‘Red Coat Ride’ and here she’s channeled her love of foxes into an adaptation of the similarly-themed traditional ‘Reynardine’, a stark reading featuring just her electrifying voice underscored by Mason’s rumbling drums.

And, speaking of foxes, she also has another identity as fledgling author C.S.Evans and, accompanied by King, the collection closes with her singing ‘Martha’s Song’, the words taken from her debut novel, Martha – Trinity of the Chosen, a magic-realism murder mystery in which foxes feature prominently, but existing in their own right as a celebration of childhood innocence and nature.

Although, live work will continue, there’s talk that this might be their last album, and, if so, then they are bowing out on a glorious high. However, I live in hope that it isn’t over yet. So should you.

Mike Davies

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 RED SHOES – It Isn’t Over Yet 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]

Artists’ website: www.redshoes-music.com

‘Dust In The Hallway’ – live:

Fairport Convention – 50th anniversary box set

Fairport Convention

July 28th sees the release of this lavish Fairport Convention CD box set, Come All Ye – The First 10 Years. Compiled by Andrew Batt, the curator of the very successful show, The Lady – A Tribute To Sandy Denny, which toured the UK in 2012, this collection celebrates Fairport’s first 10 years, beginning with their eponymous debut for Polydor in 1968, through all of their seminal albums for Island Records and finishing with tracks from their two albums for Vertigo, The Bonny Bunch of Roses and Tipplers Tales.

Of the 121 tracks featured here, fifty-five are previously unreleased. Highlights include key tracks from all of their classic albums, single B-sides, BBC Radio Sessions, five songs from the French TV programme, Pop 2 (December 1970), five songs from the television show, The Man They Couldn’t Hang (1971) and the audio for an entire concert at The Fairfield Halls, Croydon (December 16th 1973) plus two songs recorded live for the Scottish Television programme, Anne Lorne Gillies – The World of Music (1976). The set comes complete with liner notes by respected English writer, Patrick Humphries, author of many highly regarded books including,  ‘Nick Drake – The Biography’ (Bloomsbury 1998 ), ‘Richard Thompson – The Biography’  ( Music Sales Ltd 1997 ) and ‘The Many Lives of Tom Waits’ (Omnibus Press 1989).

Since 1979 the band have been hosting their very own yearly festival, Cropredy, the annual highlight of which is the Saturday night headlining performance by the current incarnation of Fairport Convention plus past members and guests. This year’s festival promises to be very special as it marks the band 50th anniversary.
http://www.efestivals.co.uk/festivals/cropredy/2017/

Formed in London in 1967, Fairport Convention are the hardy perennials of the British Folk scene and are credited with inventing the genre known as folk rock on the release of their influential album Liege And Lief in 1969. Over the years they have enjoyed a shifting line-up, which has helped to launch the successful solo careers of founder members Richard Thompson, Judy Dyble, Ashley Hutchings and Simon Nicol and subsequently the careers of Sandy Denny, Dave Swarbrick and Dave Pegg.

If you would like to order a copy of the “box set” then click on the Fairport Convention – Come All Ye – The First 10 Years 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: http://www.fairportconvention.com/

Not the best quality but a real piece of Fairport Convention history – rehearsing at The Angel and live on stage in 1970:

FAIRPORT CONVENTION – 50:50@50 (Matty Grooves MGCD054)

50:50@50Opportunities for celebration come round with increasing frequency when you’ve been in the business as long as Fairport Convention has. The current line-up has been together for almost twenty years and before that they have a back catalogue so large that they can never hope to play it all. This year sees the band’s fiftieth birthday and the title of 50:50@50 describes its contents: seven new recordings and seven live tracks. Fairport haven’t done anything obvious, though. You’ll look in vain for the old favourites that their audiences demand they play every gig – no ‘Matty Groves’ and no ‘Meet On The Ledge’.

The album opens with the first of Chris Leslie’s new songs, a return to his favourite maritime themes. ‘Eleanor’s Dream’ feels like a sequel to ‘Lord Franklin’ and indeed it mentions Lancaster Sound, part of the fabled Northwest Passage. But Lady Franklin was Jane so Chris has given us a puzzle. The first live track is ‘Ye Mariners All’, originally from Tippler’s Tales, recorded at The Mill in Banbury, venue for the famous Cropredy warm-ups. In fact the band returns to the tradition on this album more than they have done in recent years.

‘Step By Step’ is a pretty but rather slight song and it’s followed by ‘The Naked Highwayman’ also live and a real vocal tour de force by Simon Nicol. So far so not unexpected but don’t sit back and relax just yet. Ric Sanders has re-recorded his ‘Danny Jack’s Reward’ subtitled “expensive version!” with a host of friends, woodwinds and brass and a guest appearance from Joe Broughton. It’s a superb reading of the piece but the surprises aren’t over yet. Next is another live track, ‘Jesus On The Mainline’, with Fairport taking on the role of Robert Plant’s backing group!

I’m not sure if Chris Leslie’s ‘Devil’s Work’ is autobiographical – I can’t see a professional musician doing manual work any more hazardous than fettling a fiddle. That’s another puzzle he’s set us. The next live track, ‘Mercy Bay’, is another of his epic sea songs and that’s followed by ‘Our Bus Rolls On’, a song in praise of the band. It’s a bit twee for my taste but if you can’t blow your own trumpet when you’re fifty when can you? A rewrite of ‘Angel Delight’ would have been great fun – Simon and Peggy remain from the original but I expect that their tastes have matured over the years.

Next is a superb live version of ‘Portmeirion’, possibly the best I’ve heard, and then another surprise. Fairport Convention don’t really do traditional songs like they used to but here is a new addition, ‘The Lady Of Carlisle’, with lead vocal by Jacqui McShee followed by a live version of ‘Lord Marlborough’, originally recorded a mere forty-six years ago. Unexpectedly, PJ Wright contributes ‘Summer By The Cherwell’ – self-referential, of course, but I can see it being a live hit at every Cropredy from now on.

The final live track and the album’s closer is another surprise. Guess what it might be and I bet you won’t say ‘John Condon’. This is a sensitive, thoughtful reading of the song as befits its subject matter with Gerry Conway’s brushes holding the rhythm but not intruding on Ric’s fiddle or Simon’s vocals. One second thoughts, a song of reflection is an appropriate way to send this set. We all have more to look back on than look forward to.

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 FAIRPORT CONVENTION 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.fairportconvention.com

‘Mercy Bay’ – live at The Union Chapel:

Fairport Convention celebrate their golden jubilee

Fairport Convention

Fairport Convention, the legendary band who originated British folk-rock, celebrate their golden anniversary this year. When Fairport takes the stage on Saturday 27 May 2017 for their birthday concert at the Union Chapel in Islington it will be fifty years to the day since their first-ever gig.

Formed by Ashley Hutchings in 1967’s “summer of love”, Fairport Convention is one of the few touring bands with an unbroken history stretching back five decades. They have been performing and recording more or less constantly since their inception.

Fairport Convention has been one of the most influential UK bands in popular music and has nurtured the careers of some great names, among them Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny and Dave Swarbrick.

The band saw many changes of personnel during its early years but Fairport Convention’s current line-up has been together since 1998. Simon Nicol, lead singer and guitarist, is the only founding member still with Fairport; bass player Dave Pegg has been in the band since 1970.

To mark its fiftieth anniversary year, Fairport Convention will be releasing a new album. Titled 50:50@50, half the tracks are studio recordings of brand-new songs and half are live performances from Fairport’s core repertoire. The album features guest vocals from Robert Plant and Jacqui McShee.

Fairport will hit the road in January on a UK-wide tour which starts at the prestigious Celtic Connections music festival in Glasgow. A second tour in early summer will include the birthday concert on 27 May before the band’s year culminates at their own music festival at Cropredy, Oxfordshire, in August. Fairport’s headline set will see past members joining the current line-up on stage for a reunion performance.

“Fifty years after I first heard them the mighty Fairport Convention still sound as good as ever.” Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2

According to the BBC Music website, Fairport Convention is “…undoubtedly one of the most influential folk collectives to have ever existed.”

Fairport’s seminal albums Unhalfbricking and Liege & Lief (both released in 1969) originated a whole new genre of music, British folk-rock, which celebrated English roots by combining traditional folk songs and tunes with amplified rock instruments.

This genre’s influence has percolated down the years touching artists as diverse as Led Zeppelin and Devendra Banhart, Fleet Foxes, Mumford & Sons, Seth Lakeman and Ryley Walker.

Radio 2 listeners voted Liege & Lief  “The Most Influential Folk Album of All Time’”

Mojo magazine listed Liege & Lief at number 58 in its list of “100 Records That Changed the World”.

Fairport’s story has been celebrated with several radio and TV documentaries and the band has won a BBC Lifetime Achievement Award.

Artists’ website: http://www.fairportconvention.com/

The Fairport Convention Interview from St George’s in Beckenham

Fairport at St George’s Festival for Beckenham 2016

It’s funny how some things turn out, when your path takes you somewhere that you were not expecting to go. It all started in the Kensington Village Hall (as Mr. Steve Knightley would call it) at that amazing Ralph McTell Albert Hall concert on the 12th May. I found myself sitting next to Ken Maliphant completely by chance. We got talking, and he told me about the St George’s Festival for Beckenham and mentioned that Fairport were playing on the 4th June and Ralph McTell on the 24th as part of it.

Now, Ken can spin many a “Tipplers Tale” and his story is very much interwoven with Fairport’s and the album of that name. Ken actually worked for the final record label the band was signed to at the end of the Seventies. In fact, as Dave Pegg mentioned last night, the Cropredy festival has a lot to thank Ken for as he was the main driving force behind organising the settlement figure when the label refused to fund another Fairport album. It was that settlement that financially built the first building blocks for the Cropredy festival we so love today.

After receiving the news on Friday about the sad loss of one my of my all time musical heroes Dave Swarbrick, this concert and the journey to it became a personal pilgrimage to celebrate the man and his music.

In my opinion, Swarb was the finest of English folk fiddlers and one of the most colourful characters that you will ever find on the English traditional and folk/rock music scene. He was a major facet to the gem that set me on my folk music journey all those years ago and a true inspiration to all of us at folking.com. Rest in Peace Swarb, you will be greatly missed. Keep those angels feet a dancing and that timeless twinkle of mischief in you eyes.

David Cyril Eric Swarbrick RIP
5th April 1941 – 3rd June 2016

Paul Johnson and I caught up with Gerry Conway, Chris Leslie and Ric Sanders before the concert last night and we recorded the interview below. Click on the play button to listen.

Interview reference links:

A truly wonderful tribute to Swarb from Maart

Darren Beech

TRADarrr – Cautionary Tales (Hedge Of Sound HOS02)

CautionaryTalesI have to say this, just to get it out of the way – TRADarrr is not a great name. Particularly when it’s attached to a great band. There, I’ve done it – you may now heap opprobrium on my head.

TRADarrr are (or arre) Gregg Cave, Marion Fleetwood (of Jigantics and ColvinQuarmby) and Guy Fletcher, Mark Stevens, and PJ Wright (of just about anybody you can think of). The music isn’t all trad. arr. but it’s close enough for folk – when you can list Ralph Vaughan Williams, Oliver Goldsmith and Shirley Collins in your credits nobody is going to be picky.

The album starts with a brilliant idea: ‘English Folk Song Suite Pt 1’ (we can hope that part 2 will emerge later) – folk songs turned into an orchestral piece by RVW and then returned to folk or rather reworked as folk-rock.. Perhaps I should also have said that Cautionary Tales is folk-rock at its very best. Next up is ‘My Lagan Love’, which owes something to Fairport’s arrangement of ‘The Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood’ with Marion taking the lead vocal. Actually Tradarrr boast five vocalists although they also recruit Chris Leslie and Pete Scrowther to take some lead lines with Gregg handling the rest. Other guests include Jerry Donahue, Dave Pegg, Ric Sanders, Marcus Parkinson, Simon Care, Gareth Turner and Kristnaps Fisher with the melodeon trio featuring on ‘Princess Royal’ and ‘Upton Stick Dance’. I’m not sure that they need all these guests, except to have more fun in the studio, and I’m a bit iffy about importing lead vocalists.

The sound that gladdens my heart on this record is that of Mark Stevens’ cornet. It doesn’t have the power of Brass Monkey in their pomp but it brings a contrasting texture to what is essentially a string driven album – brass is such an evocative sound in folk music – and it’s the perfect finishing touch.

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 banner link below 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.

Artists’ website: www.tradarr.com

Tradarrr’s official promo video: