CANNY FETTLE – Still Gannin’ Canny (Canny Fettle Records CANNYCD001)

Still Gannin' CannyYou know the kind of friendships where you don’t see one another for ages, yet when you next meet up, you just pick up right where you left off, like you’d never been away? Well, that’s the sound of Still Gannin’ Canny, right there.

It might be some 30 years since Canny Fettle last released an album, but it could just as well have been a week ago. There’s such an easy meshing of the musical talents, a comfortable way of playing together that simply shines through. The trio of Bobs Morton and Diehl, plus Gerry Murphy produce a rich, warm yet roomy sound that producer, Ian Stephenson, has captured superbly, ensuring each element has enough room to breathe and be heard clearly.

There’s a deliberate absence of technical whizz-bangs and gizmos, just an attempt to set down the tracks with honesty, care and respect. Accompaniments by Jane Diehl, Grace Smith, George Unthank, Peter Wood and Ian Stephenson add meaningful, subtle embellishments, including clogging, to the songs and tune sets.

And yet, there is something distinctly redolent of yesteryear here – and it’s not just the cover art’s very pleasing shade of 1970s mustard. There’s a certain quality to the band’s delivery of songs like ‘Old Miner’, ‘Happy Sam’ and the woozy fairground waltz of ‘Ashton Mashers’, that unleash something very Proustian, to these ears at least, taking me back to various dialect songs that fringed my Lancashire childhood.

The informative, extensive liner notes explain much more about the song choices, so I’m not going to regurgitate them here, only to say that they are very well worth the read.

This fine collection of music from Scotland, the North East and North West sounds as if it’s always been there, perhaps in a corner of our collective memories, just waiting for us to return and listen again. That it’s all a brand-new work somehow makes it even more remarkable. Still Gannin’ Canny has a timeless quality that fully deserves “instant classic” status.

Su O’Brien

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the CANNY FETTLE – Still Gannin’ Canny 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.cannyfettle.com

Canny Fettle release their first album in thirty years

Canny Fettle

This year sees the release of Still Gannin’ Canny, the first album in over 30 years from veteran folk band Canny Fettle. Their debut album Varry Canny, released in 1975 on the Tradition Records label was highly regarded at the time and has been out of print for decades, their second album Trip To Harrogate followed in 1977, a collection of repertoire from the then newly-discovered Joshua Jackson Manuscript, after which the group effectively disbanded to pursue their individual careers in industrial chemistry and the aeronautics industry, only to reform in 2016 with the idea of a new recording.

The new album is a tribute to those classic albums of the 1970s, recorded in a vintage style – all musicians together in one room, captured honestly with a natural blend. Producer Ian Stephenson remarks on the process:

“It was a total pleasure to work with Canny Fettle on this new recording – With no disrespect to the lads, it was a bit like going back in time, like finding an old album nobody knew existed! My part in the production involved capturing the brilliant performances in a totally honest, real-time way, offering general encouragement, as well as trying to use a style of production in keeping with their previous albums. Everything from the cover design through microphone choice and musical decisions was decided with this in mind. One surprising thing for me was how much unique repertoire they brought to the recording sessions – the early mixes and pre-release copies of the album have been doing the rounds on Tyneside and many seasoned folk performer has remarked on how these recordings sound like classics, but ones which have never been heard before.”

The material featured shows their usual North-East bias, along with some melodies from further afield. There are old melodies from William Vicker’s Manuscript (1770) and Joshua Jackson’s (1798) all mixed up with both traditional songs and music hall songs from Tyneside and Lancashire. One advantage of releasing on CD or digital over vinyl, is the inclusion of extensive, well-researched liner notes giving historical context to the music, placing the music in a visceral context and giving it the gravitas it deserves.

Canny Fettle had its origins in the Manchester area in the late 60s when fellow students Bob Diehl, Gerry Murphy, and Anthony Robb joined with Royton singer John Williamson to form a group. They were influenced at this time locally by Harry Boardman and from further afield by Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick and of course the High Level Ranters.

The line-up featured on Still Gannin’ Canny is Bob Diehl – fiddle, Gerry Murphy – English concertina, Northumbrian pipes, Bob Morton – guitar, voice, with special guests: Jane Diehl (accordion), Grace Smith (vocals, clog), Ian Stephenson (piano), George Unthank and Pete Wood (chorus singing).

News of the band’s resurgence has been spreading and has also resulted in Fellside Records re-releasing digital versions of both Varry Canny (1975) and Trip To Harrogate (1977), whilst Still Gannin’ Canny (2017) is available from the band’s own website where both digital and CD versions include full liner notes.

The intention behind the album can be best presented as in the notes:

“To record a selection of new and old songs as a tribute to the many people who influenced them throughout the years and endowed them with the joy of music. This is above all what they collectively hope to pass on “

Artist’s website: www.cannyfettle.com

MONSTER CEILIDH BAND – Mutation (Haystack Records HAYCD011)

MutationThere was a time when I would stand in front of a ceilidh band and when things were going well and you had a hall full of people who were into it it was the most fun you could have with your clothes on. When it comes to recording an album a ceilidh band has two choices: play the music four-square for dancing and teaching or spice it up a bit. The first option must be deadly for the band so, with Mutation, Monster Ceilidh Band have opted for the latter, recording this set live off the floor at Castle Sound under the watchful eye of Stuart Hamilton.

The band can boast four writers who are responsible for 80% of the record. There’s Amy Thatcher, purveyor of accordion to The Shee and Kathryn Tickell, fiddlers Shona Mooney (The Shee) and Grace Smith (The Rachel Hamer Band) and multi-instrumentalist Kieran Szifris, who restricts himself to octave mandolin on this album. Add a couple of traditional tunes and a borrow from Adam Sutherland and there you have it. Monster Ceilidh Band don’t go in for monster medleys only pairing tunes.

The opening set, ‘Venus’, is one such pairing, mating ‘Proximo B’ by Shona with ‘Venus’ by Amy. The others are ‘Mutated Beeswing’ pairing the essentially fiddle solo of ‘The Beeswing Hornpipe’ with Shona’s title track. It’s not clear who the soloist given but as Amy joins in after a couple of minutes I’m guessing it’s Shona. ‘Mutation’ is mutated by Joseph Truswell’s electronics which are a feature of the album. Here, there is something that could be accordion but could equally be distorted wordless vocals.

The band move seamless from that to the relatively conventional ‘All The Swingle Ladies’ by Keiran, half of which you could dance to if you could keep up the pace. Great titles include ‘Trouser Worrier’, ‘Octopus’ and ‘Disgrace’, the latter coming from the quill of Grace Smith as if you had to ask. Even past the record’s half-way mark we hear something new as ‘Never Will’ is introduced by snarling, distorted…what? Bass, I suppose as David de la Haye takes a brief solo.

No, you’re not going to dance (in any formal sense) to ‘Mutation’, although Joseph’s drums are rock solid throughout, but you will enjoy some musical invention.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the MONSTER CEILIDH BAND – Mutation 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: http://monsterceilidhband.co.uk/

‘Disgrace’:

Monster Ceilidh Band announce new album

Monster Ceilidh Band

Mutation: a new line-up unleashed; a greater, deeper exploration of Monster Ceilidh Band’s signature melding of traditional music and powerful, electronic beats. For the first time, Monster Ceilidh Band have tackled their new album live, showcasing the band in full frenetic flow. Mutation indicates why the band has been in such demand for festivals, club nights and ceilidhs, across the UK and Europe.

The musicianship is masterful but fans will be unsurprised at their virtuosity; after all, it’s only such careful, sensitive arrangement and instrumentation that enables their music to work – and the energy to remain consistently high.

Mutation shows off how great the band is at evolving tunes: building up, breaking down, and taking the listener – and dancer – to somewhere entirely new. Many of the tunes begin acoustically, with the fiddle or accordion leading the way, leaving the listener wondering how, where and when the inevitable beats will begin – like in lead single and album opener, ‘Venus’, where curious strings introduce a seemingly disparate beat before its becomes wholly more rounded and self-assured. Or there’s ‘Mutated Beeswing’, where an impossibly delicate, skipping fiddle slides into a new dimension with accordion, before beats and sample fly it to somewhere else altogether.

‘Never Will’ sees the gravitas and swagger of the rhythm section give way to a Chic-like breakdown, cheered on by an audience, while the fluid fiddle hands the baton to the accordion in ‘Reasoning’, before a pulsating ostinato brings home the main message. A thumping heartbeat ogles the acoustic instrument as they flirt by in ‘Lusty’, but the weighty octave mandolin and insistent drums keep the track in check.

Monster Ceilidh Band make much of their new recruits, fiddlers Shona Mooney and Grace Smith, with both contributing compositions and lead parts, including the powerful album closer, ‘Disgrace’, where pleading fiddle is chastened by sombre mandolin and accordion. Relentless drums retain the energy and keep the feet moving.

Mutation is another notch on Monster Ceilidh Band’s own brand of dance music: intelligent, hypnotic, wild.

Artists’ website: http://monsterceilidhband.co.uk/

‘Twisted Bridge’ – live in the studio:

THE RACHEL HAMER BAND – Hard Ground (own label RHB01)

Hard GroundHard Ground is the debut album from The Rachel Hamer Band: Rachel, Graeme Armstrong, Grace Smith and Sam Partridge. The Newcastle based quartet are the current recipients of the English Folk Dance And Song Society’s Graeme Miles Bursary which helped to fund the project. Appropriately, then, they open with one of Graeme’s songs, ‘Blue Sunset’.

The hand ground of the title is the ground of industry although ‘What A Voice’ is rather more metaphorical. Graeme’s song celebrates, if that’s the right word, the effects that industrial pollution can have. The fumes from the factory chimneys turns the sunsets blue in summer, the Tees is amber-brown and reflects the skies in violet and orange. Hardship and death are common themes of the album and next up is Jean Ritchie’s ‘West Virginia’ an oddly matter-of-fact account of a woman’s response to a mine disaster.

‘The Digging Song’ is the first hint that there might be a lighter side to the band. It’s an old joke that you’ll quickly recognise. Later, Ewan MacColl’s ‘School Days Over’, lauding the nobility of labour contrasts with Alan Bell’s ‘Alice White’ which concerns the suffering and degradation of the women. Between then sits Rachel’s composite version of ‘Gypsie Laddie’, another few moments of lightness unless you happen to be the deserted lord, of course.

The chief melody instruments are Grace’s fiddle and Sam’s flute and whistles. Graeme’s guitar provides the rhythmic foundation with support from producer Ian Stephenson on double bass and cello and Richard Hammond’s percussion although the most notable percussive sound is that of Grace’s clogs! Throw in Sam’s harmonium and the band can produce a really solid sound to back Rachel strong, distinctive voice and can break out into decorative passages without missing a beat.

Hard Ground is an exceptional debut album by anybody’s standards and I predict a great future for The Rachel Hamer Band.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.therachelhamerband.com

The Rachel Hamer Band live at Todmorden Festival:

Rachel Hamer Band record debut album

Rachel Hamer Band record debut album EFDSS Grace Smith Graeme Armstrong Graeme Miles Martyn Wyndham-Read Mike Nicholson Rachel Hamer Rachel Hamer Band Robin Dale Sam Partridge The Keelers The Unthanks The Wilsons The Young'uns

A Newcastle folk band with strong links to Teesside is set to record its first album, thanks to a bursary in memory of one of the North East’s most acclaimed songwriters.

The Rachel Hamer Band has been named as the latest recipient of the award made by the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) and the award winning band The Unthanks in memory of Middlesbrough songwriter Graeme Miles who died in 2013.

This is the second memorial bursary, worth £1,200, to be given. The scheme is administered by EFDSS and supported by The Unthanks through fundraising concerts.
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