DON McLEAN – Botanical Gardens (BMG538329932)

Botanical GardensForty-seven years and 19 albums on, McLean’s name is still preceded in reviews by “American Pie singer” and for most people, he’s still probably associated with that and ‘Vincent’. Now 72, Botanical Gardens, his first (and rumouredly last studio recording) in eight years, the first for a major label since 1995 isn’t going to change that.

His voice, as you’d imagine, is more seasoned these days, at times a little on the wobbly side, but he still has the ability to gather you up while the music, a mixed brew of folk, country, blues, rock and a dash of vaudeville, offers a relaxed, melodic listen in the classic manner. The title track, a rolling country blues and gospel number, was apparently inspired by a visit to gardens near the Sydney Opera House and sets the theme of being rejuvenated by love (undoubtedly sparked by the current relationship with his 24-year-old girlfriend) that bubbles through the majority of the songs. Indeed, the title of the twangy Marty Robbins-styled country ‘The Lucky Guy’ pretty much speaks for itself while on the goodtime soft shoe shuffle ‘Ain’t She A Honey’ (slap a big band on it and it could have come from the 40s) his baby’s hot, “a ripper with a buckle and a zipper.. a looker and a steam pressure-cooker. ”

Elsewhere, the giddiness of romance – and the feeling of not quite believing his luck – is also to be found on the similarly retro jazzy swing of ‘You’ve Got Such Beautiful Eyes’, a number you could hear Willie Nelson covering, and ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Your Baby’ which is, well more rocking especially on those 50s sounding guitar solos. Led by piano, there’s a laid back jazzy swing too on ‘I’ve Cried All The Tears That I Have’ with its sentiment about how “it’s better to love and to lose than decide you don’t want to live.”

But it’s not all positive and upbeat. Enrobed with swelling strings, ‘The King Of Fools’, another Willie contender, reflects on screwing up a past relationship as he sings “castles and mansions lie ruined in the sand…I lost your love, my crown and jewels”, while the musically dramatic ‘A Total Eclipse Of The Sun’ looks back to a brief encounter that left him metaphorically bleeding in the dust. The lyrics refer to meeting this heartbreaker back in a hot July and the same month is at the heart of ‘When July Comes’, a stark piano ballad with McLean in terrific voice on a lyric that brushes up against mortality. It calls to mind Brel, Aznavour and, especially, Sinatra, the latter’s influence making itself further felt in the album’s only cover, a piano and strings arrangement of Arlen and Harburg’s ‘Last Night When We Were Young’ which the Guv’nor recorded on In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning.

Nor is it exclusively about matters of the heart. Another early 50s-styled piano ballad, on the surface ‘You’re All I Ever Had’ would seem to be about a constant lover, but dig a little deeper and it’s more likely about his lifetime’s love affair with music. Of a topical persuasion, while it may have been written in 2015, set to a saloon bar piano, the country swaying gospel ‘Grief and Hope’, a song about healing and looking to a better tomorrow, seems particularly pertinent in a divided Trump America. And, striking a similarly optimistic note, the other, the most country sounding number, with its echoes of Cash and Haggard, is ‘The Waving Man’, which dates back further to 2014, and is actually about one of McLean’s neighbours in Camden, Maine, wheelchair-bound veteran Kert Ingraham who, told he wasn’t allowed to smoke in his care home, took to sitting in the street outside, waving to folk as they passed by, the lyrics musing “does he wave goodbye to the life he led or does he wave hello to the life ahead?” If this really does prove McLean’s recording swansong, Botanical Gardens sees him bow out in full bloom.

Mike Davies

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 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.

Artist’s website: https://don-mclean.com

Don McLean – new album

Don McLean

With over 40 gold and platinum records worldwide, Don McLean is one of America’s most beloved country artists. Botanical Gardens, his 19th studio album and first in eight years, is arguably one of Don’s most reflective to date, as he puts it,

“The inspiration for the project started years ago when I would walk in the beautiful gardens in Sydney, Australia near the Opera House. I would dream young dreams and it was a comfort and an inspiration. I was always young inside, like we all are, and I felt it again there.”

Further reflecting on the record, Don says, “the whole album really revolves around the title song. Later on I realized that the gardens are really a metaphorical heaven, and there’s a kind of death and rebirth.”

Intimacy can be found at the heart of this record, with Don penning personal numbers looking back on a life well lived, as well as his observations on youth and love. Recording at Watershed Studios in Nashville also allowed a different kind of intimacy for Don and his band, as they were made to “play close and feel the music”, resulting in a raw, yet tight sound throughout.

Don proves his prowess at writing timeless sounding songs once again, as the album weaves country, Americana, folk, and boot stomping rock in this release. In nearly 50 years on the scene, Don’s songs have become a staple in Americana music. His music has been performed by artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, Madonna, Fred Astaire, Chet Atkins, Weird Al Yankovick, George Michael, Josh Groban, Coolio and Ed Sheeran and his biggest hit ‘American Pie’ was recognised with high honours by being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003.

Don famously only uses Martin guitars. He has more than 40 Martin guitars and in the year 2000, the Martin Guitar Company honoured Don McLean with his own limited edition signature guitar, the D40DM.

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 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.

Artist’s website: https://don-mclean.com/

There’s nothing from the new album yet but here’s a live version of the classic ‘American Pie’:

BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2012 Winners Announced

Lifetime Achievement Awards for Don McLean and The Dubliners

Four Awards for June Tabor & Oysterband

Good Tradition Awards for Ian Campbell and Bill Leader

Broadcast from The Lowry in Salford for the first time

The influential careers of singer-songwriter Don McLean and Irish folk legends The Dubliners were celebrated last night(Wednesday 8th February) at the 13th BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.  Presented by Radio 2 Folk Show host Mike Harding and singer Julie Fowlis, this was the first year the awards were held outside London. The event was broadcast live on BBC Radio 2, online and on BBC Red Button from the Lowry in Salford.

Bob Shennan, Controller, Radio 2 and 6 Music said:

“Folk music is enjoying a fantastic resurgence in popularity in the UK with a vibrant and varied scene. Tonight’s event proves once again how important it is for Radio 2 to schedule our annual Folk Awards as well as our weekly folk show, and I’d like to congratulate all of the winners.”

Broadcaster Paul Gambaccini presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Don McLean who commented:

“I thank the BBC for thinking of me and honouring me with this award. The UK audience has been among the most loyal for over 40 years and without them certainly I wouldn’t be considered for this honour, so I thank the BBC and I thank the British public”.

The Dubliners, who celebrate their 50th year of being together this year, had their achievements recognised when they received their Lifetime Achievement accolade from singer-songwriter Ralph McTell.

The night in part belonged to June Tabor and Oysterband who picked up four awards for each of the categories they were nominated in. Folk singer June was reunited with roots rebels Oysterband after 21 years and their much acclaimed reunion led them to receiving the prestigious Best Album Award for Ragged Kingdom, Best Traditional Track for Bonny Bunch of Roses and Best Group, while June was crowned Folk Singer of the Year.

The evening was also a successful one for Tim Edey who picked up two awards – Musician of the Year and with Brendan Power the gong for Best Duo.

For the first time the Best Original Song prize was given to two winners, with Bella Hardy’s The Herring Girl and Steve Tilston’s The Reckoning sharing the honours. 21 year-old Lucy Ward was a Young Folk Award Finalist in 2009 and now found herself picking up the Horizon Award, which recognises the achievements of newcomers, for her blend of modern and traditional folk.

The Home Service, whose Live 1986 album was released in 2011 following the discovery of a 25-year old tape, were named as Best Live Act. Special recognition went to Ian Campbell and Bill Leader who were honoured with the Good Tradition Award which pays tribute to those who keep traditional folk music alive. Malcolm Taylor OBE, Director of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society was recognised for his 30 years of service as the recipient of the Roots Award.

Ioscaid (pronounced iss-kidge), a six piece band from Northern Ireland picked up the accolade for Young Folk Award. The group, who are aged between 18 and 20, are made up of Dermot and Fintan Mulholland from Derry, Declan Magee and Niall McCrickard from Down, Niall Murphy from Armagh and Ciaran Hanna from Tyrone.

Celebrities who were on presenting duty on the night included singer-songwriter Ralph McTell, Billy Elliot playwright Lee Hall, Coronation Street’s Kate Ford (Tracy Barlow), comedians Ed Byrne and Jeremy Hardy and BBC broadcasters Stuart Maconie and Paul Gambaccini. Highlights of the Radio 2 Folk Awards will be available on the BBC Red Button for seven days after the award ceremony.

BBC RADIO 2 FOLK AWARDS 2012 – WINNERS

FOLK SINGER OF THE YEAR

June Tabor

 

BEST DUO

Tim Edey & Brendan Power

 

BEST GROUP

June Tabor & Oysterband

 

BEST ALBUM

Ragged Kingdom – June Tabor & Oysterband

 

BEST ORIGINAL SONG (JOINT WINNERS)

The Herring Girl – Bella Hardy

The Reckoning – Steve Tilston

 

BEST TRADITIONAL TRACK

Bonny Bunch of Roses – June Tabor & Oysterband

 

HORIZON AWARD

Lucy Ward

 

MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR

Tim Edey

 

BEST LIVE ACT

The Home Service

 

BBC RADIO 2 YOUNG FOLK AWARD

Ioscaid

 

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

The Dubliners

 

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Don McLean

 

GOOD TRADITION AWARD

Ian Campbell

 

GOOD TRADITION AWARD

Bill Leader

 

ROOTS AWARD

Malcolm Taylor

 

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 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.

Radio 2 Folk Awards 2012 give Lifetime Achievement Awards to…

Folk legends Don McLean and The Dubliners will both be given Lifetime Achievement Awards at BBC Radio 2’s Folk Awards 2012, to be broadcast live on BBC Radio 2 on Wednesday 8th February.

Presenter Mike Harding announced the recipients of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Awards on the Radio 2 Folk Show on Wednesday 18 January (7-8pm).

Jeff Smith, Head of Music for Radio 2 and 6 Music said:

“Radio 2 is committed to featuring folk music as part of our specialist music output, so we’re delighted to be holding the Radio 2 Folk Awards in Salford this year, and that listeners will be able to also watch the ceremony. Both The Dubliners and Don McLean are much loved by the Radio 2 audience, and I’d like to congratulate them on their well-deserved awards.”

Mike Harding said:

On The Dubliners – ‘When The Dubliners virtually invented the Dublin pub music scene 50 years ago, they changed the face of Irish music forever. They were exciting and different, with a real whiff of danger about them. In Luke Kelly and Ronnie Drew, they possessed two truly charismatic singers of a rare quality. Barney McKenna and John Sheahan, who remain with the group to this day, are indisputably world class musicians. Hugely influential and deeply loved at home and abroad, The Dubliners are responsible for countless definitive recordings and I’m delighted that Radio 2 is honouring their immense contribution to folk music.’

On Don McLean – ‘The truly great songwriters, who create works of such quality that they become standards across genres, are owed a debt of gratitude by the music world and I think it’s fantastic that we’re presenting Don McLean with this award.’

Don McLean is one of America’s most enduring singer-songwriters and is forever associated with his classic hits American Pie and Vincent (Starry Starry Night). Since first hitting the charts in 1971, Don has amassed over 40 gold and platinum records world-wide and, in 2004, was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.

Don McLean said:

“I thank the BBC for thinking of me and honouring me with this award. The UK audience has been among the most loyal for over 40 years and without them certainly I wouldn’t be considered for this honour, so I thank the BBC and I thank the British public”

The Dubliners changed the face of Irish traditional music when they formed in Dublin in 1962. Half a century later, they continue to be one of the best-loved and most recognisable of Ireland’s folk groups, responsible for definitive versions of Ireland’s greatest ballads – Whiskey In The Jar, The Wild Rover and The Rocky Road To Dublin. For a lot of people around the world, The Dubliners are Irish music, and Irish music is The Dubliners.

This is the 13th year of the awards, which were created to celebrate the UK’s folk scene, and the first year the Radio 2 Folk Awards will be broadcast from the Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays. In addition to being broadcast live on BBC Radio 2, the awards will also be available for fans to watch live on BBC Red Button.

The awards, which are produced by production company Smooth Operations, will be hosted by BBC Radio 2 Folk presenter Mike Harding, alongside singer Julie Fowlis. Lifetime Achievement Award winners The Dubliners and Don McLean will be playing at the event. Other artists who will be performing on the night are Christy Moore, The Unthanks with the Brighouse and Rastrick Band, Martin Simpson, Seth Lakeman, Tim Edey & Brendan Power and June Tabor & Oysterband.

One of the other prestigious awards of the night – the Roots Award, awarded in recognition of an outstanding contribution to Folk Music from a Grass Roots level upwards – will be presented to Malcolm Taylor OBE. Malcolm is the Director of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society. He’s receiving the Roots Award for his outstanding contribution for over 30 years of service.

Malcolm Taylor said:

“I am surprised and honoured to be receiving this award. The real star of the show is the Ralph Vaughan Williams Library itself. I am absolutely delighted to be accepting the award on behalf of the library and archive collections.”

Among this year’s nominees are June Tabor & Oysterband who have picked up four nominations for Best Group, Best Album for the album ‘Ragged Kingdom‘, Best Traditional Track, for ‘Bonny Bunch of Roses‘ and June Tabor has been nominated for Folk Singer of the Year. Sisters The Unthanks have also received four nominations for Best Group, Best Live Act, Best Album and Best Original Song. Other short-listed artists include Martin Simpson who has three nominations for Best Album, Best Traditional Track and Musician of the Year.

The Folk Awards ceremony will once again be combined with The BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, which is given to the most promising young folk artist in the UK.

Simon Mayo will be bringing his Drivetime show live from The Lowry Theatre in Salford ahead of the Radio 2 Folk Awards. He’s joined by his very special guest Don McLean who will be performing live on the show ahead of the event. In an extended programme, Simon also showcases live music from some of the other nominees and brings a flavour of what the night has in store.

Listeners can watch the Radio 2 Folk Awards live by using the BBC interactive Red Button service and pressing the red button from any BBC TV or Radio Channel. Or by going online to http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/

Highlights of The Radio 2 Folk Awards will remain on BBC Red Button and the BBC Radio 2 website for viewers to enjoy for seven days after the event.

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 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.