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 below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

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:

‘Forfarshire’ – official video:

Kirsty Merryn to launch debut album at Union Chapel

Kirsty MerrynKirsty Merryn is one of the most arresting new young singer songwriters on the UK folk roots scene, with a style uniquely her own.

London-based and New Forest-born Kirsty will launch her debut album She And I at London’s Union Chapel on November 9 whilst supporting Show of Hands on their UK Cathedrals tour (Oct 4-Nov 31).

Produced by in-demand Gerry Diver, the album focuses on the diverse stories of inspirational women in history – from Emma Hamilton to Annie Edson Taylor – the first person to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel! The sharply observed piano-based narrative songs include the beguiling Forfarshire about lighthouse keeper’s daughter Grace Darling and her heroic rescue of shipwrecked mariners. She is joined on the haunting song by Steve Knightley on guest vocals while BBC Folk Awards double nominee Luke Jackson also guests on the album on the song Delilah and Samson.

Artist’s website:

Teaser trailer ‘Forfarshire’:

Lisa Knapp announces new solo album

Lisa Knapp
Photograph by Teresa Klasener

Lisa Knapp first emerged in 2007 with a remarkable, independently released debut Wild And Undaunted which was followed a full seven years later by the equally striking Hidden Seam. Both albums were met with critical acclaim and saw Lisa established as one of the most creative and distinctive artists around. Her third solo album, Til April Is Dead – A Garland of May Songs is due for release by Ear to the Ground Records on 28th April 2017.

This sparklingly fresh album features eleven startlingly original versions of traditional songs. With a radiant interpretation of traditional folk, Lisa merges fiddle, hammer dulcimer and strings, with birdsong and sonic delights from the technological age. ‘May Garland’, which Lisa found at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, reminds us – “a man a man, his life’sa span, he flourishes like a flower, he’s here today and gone tomorrow, he’s gone all in an hour” – that in the midst of celebration, there are limits on our time. Lisa is joined by another ground-breaking folk singer, Mary Hampton on ‘Bedfordshire May Carol’. Lisa’s version of the title track, ‘Til April Is Dead/Hal-An-Tow’ was inspired by the Mystery Play in Helston, Cornwall. Originally printed as ‘The Maypole Song’ in 1656, ‘Staines Morris’ has a melody with a courtly, theatrical sound and this version features the lively and mischievous vocals of David Tibet. In ‘Searching For Lambs’ – a song Lisa first heard sung by Shirley Collins – she is joined by Graham Coxon. Both Lisa and Graham have performed with Shirley and here he lends his vocals and guitar to this English folksong gem.

Lisa first conceived a May EP to mark a time of year that has long been celebrated in the folklore calendar. Many children growing up in the UK have experienced dancing around a Maypole. The Victorian version, complete with pretty ribbons, was a modern vestige of a much older practice dating back to at least 1400, probably earlier. May songs are sung across Northern Europe, suggesting that even when the language alters, the ideas, beliefs and customs across borders remain similar. With inventive production by respected producer and partner, Gerry Diver, Lisa populates her latest recordings with the sounds of insects and birds, making the connection with landscape and nature emerging, teetering on the edge of eruption. She also makes use of old clocks, bells and barrel organs, considered to have been ‘modern’ musical gadgets in the 18-19ths century when many of the May traditions we’re still familiar with took place.

As well as now being synonymous with International Workers Day on 1st May – the entire month is long been filled with celebration of the cycle of life, of summer coming in; of May garlands, May Queens, chimney sweeps making Jack in the Greens and Milkmaids dressing themselves in silver pots and pans – at odds with the mundane aspect of the everyday, descriptions of these events now seem evocative, raucous and strange.

A South Londoner born and bred, Lisa’s early musical development led her through drum and bass, teenage raves, acid house and an electric guitar bought to learn Jimi Hendrix songs. In her teens, she also came across folk music when she heard a friend’s record collection and she was hooked! In the intervening years, Lisa has established and evolved her own distinctive voice. She’s toured the UK with her own band, but also in the company of James Yorkston, Sam Lee and Leafcutter John and most recently, as a special guest of Shirley Collins on her ‘Lodestar’ live shows.

Lisa regularly appears at UK festivals and alongside a diverse range of artists on the stages of London’s Southbank and Barbican Centres. Lisa has appeared on BBC Radio 2/3/4 & 6Music and has also presented an acclaimed documentary for BBC Radio 4 called Shipping Songs, based on the Shipping Forecast and one of her tracks, described as “one of the most original and astonishing songs of the sea you could wish for” – Folk Radio.

Artist’s website:

‘May Garland’ – Lisa live with Gerry Diver:

Jinnwoo – new single


Following its audio premiere via Folk Radio with the accompanying video debuting on Clash this week, Jinnwoo shares his new Gerry Diver produced single ‘Waiting For P To Have a Vision’.

Jinnwoo makes a unique blend of “confessional gothic folk” (The Guardian Guide). His distinctive fragile vocal and stark, atmospheric arrangements have seen him described as “a true original” (Clash) and a “singular folk talent” (Independent). Talking to Clash, Jinnwoo explains the situation that inspired new single ‘Waiting For P To Have a Vision’

“I was stuck in a very frustrating place with someone, and I realised I had been in that place a million times before with a million different people. Sometimes you find yourself waiting for someone’s approval, or input, or for them to just write to you at least – just some glimmer from them. But all these people ever do is give you just enough to keep you hanging on longer, there is never a conclusion, and they never allow you to pack up and move on. This song is an attack against that.”

Jinnwoo is the work of Brighton-based visual artist and singer-songwriter Ben Webb. In 2014 he released his debut Your Baby EP and a series of singles, including the EP’s title track, as well as ‘Solo Man’, ‘You Should Be Feeling This Elliott’ and ‘I Am, I Am, The World’s Oldest Man’. The releases collectively garnered coverage across The Guardian Guide, The Line of Best Fit, Clash, 405 and For Folk’s Sake among many others all resulting in Jinnwoo being named one of The Independent’s “Faces to Watch 2015”.

The new digital single ‘Waiting For P To Have A Vision’ will be officially released on Friday 20 May via Jinnwoo’s imprint GFM Records.  It will also be available as an instant grat track on all album pre-orders via iTunes from Friday 13 May.

Jinnwoo’s long-awaited debut album is set for release this September.

If you would like to download a copy of the album or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. 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:

‘Waiting For P To Have A Vision’ – official video:

WES FINCH – Awena (Unity Roots Productions)

AwenaI’ve had a copy of this album for some months but was sworn to silence until its release was set. I did as I was asked although it was strain – at the first time of listening I thought it was stunning piece of work – but I put it to one side and didn’t play it again.

Returning to Awena I hear the same songs but subtly differently. The magic of hearing it unfold for the first time is a one-off; the second time it’s possible to delve deeper into the stories. And these songs are real stories, inspired by literature and fable. Gerry Diver’s production and input into the arrangements add a depth and gravity to the songs but even the simpler accompaniments like ‘Red Coat’ have a weight. I say simpler but ‘Red Coat’ breaks out from its slow twin squeeze-box backing into a sprightly tune before closing in orchestral splendour. It tells the story of a soldier in three movements – recruitment, home on leave, as a hero we presume, and finally returning to war for the last time.

‘Jackie’s Stone’ tells of two brothers, both navvies, who hit the town one Saturday night with tragic consequences. Richard Thompson could have written this song and been proud of it. ‘Widow Thomas’ is an odd song that’s actually about the poet and composer Ivor Gurney and I’m still figuring it out. The darkness continues with ‘Smiling Loner’ and ‘Man Of Bones’, Wes’ take on the ‘Death And The Lady Tradition’ with more sweeping strings. The closer, ‘Riverbed’, sees a deserted husband contemplating suicide, and for all that, it’s one the album’s top tracks with its sneaky quote of ‘House Of The Rising Sun’. It begins with unaccompanied voice and ends with out and out rock. It’s only fault is that it is too short.

Musically, there is hell of a lot going on with no two songs backed in the same way. ‘Corinne’, for example, begins with jangly strings before a solo fiddle, Diver I presume, comes in to swell the sound and make room for more. ‘Maurice’ opens with acoustic guitar and minimal piano before the strings underpin the sense of gloom. Later, Wes gives us a cover of ‘Love Me Tender’ which begins on one channel as if recorded on Neil Young’s Voice-O-Graph before expanding into a little old-fashioned schmaltz that becomes buried in strange sounds.

This is a very fine album, packed with excellent songs and brilliant musical ideas. I hope it sells millions.

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 WES FINCH – Awena link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. 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:

‘Jackie’s Stone’ live:

RICH McMAHON – Songs Of Exile, Love & Dissent (Knotted Oak Productions KOAK006)

SOELDThe name of Gerry Diver on an album will always provoke a reaction. I have to say that sometimes it is one of bemusement, other times one of great enthusiasm. There is rarely a middle ground. Gerry produced Songs Of Exile, Love & Dissent and plays everything except Rich’s guitar and harmonica and the cello on ‘Beauty All Around’. At first, you’d say that he hasn’t had a huge impact – this is an album by a singer/songwriter/guitarist first and foremost – but then you realise how wrong you were.

Rich McMahon is English-born but raised in Ireland and is now living back in the UK and much of his writing reflects the dichotomy of his background. Indeed, two of the songs here, ‘The Imagined Nation’ and ‘Beyond Borders’, have been the themes of multi-media shows. ‘Inbetweenland’ reflects on the situation of both immigrants and emigrants – people who are “neither one thing or the other but something in between”. Its tune and the use of the harmonica remind me irresistibly of ‘Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts’. ‘The Pearl’ is a metaphor for the longing we all feel sometimes to be somewhere else only to find that where we are is where we should be.

That isn’t his only preoccupation. ‘The Barman’s Tale’ is a complex song about the decline of the pub trade but also a commentary on modern life while ‘My Beautiful Broken Guitar’ will cause pain in the soul of every player.

Diver’s musical contributions are immense but always supportive, whether it is grumbling piano, grand strings, slide guitar or percussion making this a very rich album. Please excuse the pun.

If you would like to download a copy of the track or just listen to snippet of it then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. 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.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘Beyond Borders’ – the official video: