EMILY MAE WINTERS – Siren Serenade (own label EMW 02)

Siren SerenadeCo-produced by Josienne Clarke’s musical other half, Ben Walker, and Laura Marling knob-twiddler Lauren Deakin-Davies, following on from her Foreign Waters EP (which Walker also produced and which earned her a Folking Awards Rising Star nomination), Siren Serenade is the debut album from Cambridge-based singer-songwriter, poetry enthusiast and sometime theatre critic Emily Mae Winters.

Featuring musical contributions from, among others, Lukas Drinkwater on double bass, Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage as well as both producers, the twelve tracks highlight both her slightly vibrato vocals and the influences in her music, Gillian Welch, Kate Rusby, The Unthanks, Alison Krauss and Sarah Jarosz among them.

There’s a couple of folk chestnuts here, Jenny Lee Ridley’s flute introing a crowd swayalong version of John Connolly’s fisherman’s farewell shanty ‘Fiddler’s Green’ featuring Jack Pout on bodhran, a strummed guitar and fiddle providing the instrumental playout. The second nods to her love of poetry with a haunting drone setting of WB Yeats’ ‘Down By The Salley Gardens’.

The album opens with the ripplingly lovely self-penned reflective ballad ‘Blackberry Lane’ featuring Savage on dobro and nodding to the rootsy Americana in her musical DNA. Maya McCourt who played cello on the EP reprises duties on the gently circling acoustic guitar melody of Anchor, while Winters takes to the piano for ‘As If You Read My Mind’, a soaring vocal pop tinged ballad that, coloured by strings, draws on the classic 60s sound of Carole King but also suggests hints of Joan Baez.

If all these have been relatively sedate, ‘Hook, Line And Sinker’ ups the tempo for, with Savage again on dobro, a catchy slice of strummed rootsy pop, an equally live paced being set on the scurrying Irish-tinted, whistle backed story-song ‘The Ghost Of The Pirate Queen’ showing a more muscular side to her voice.

Mostly though, the mood is quietly bucolic, beautifully rendered on the lullaby-like ‘Miles To Go’ (which, like ‘Anchor’, appeared on the EP) and moody piano and cello ballad ‘The Star’, the former a nod to the poet Robert Frost, the latter to John Keats.

Although her vocals are mesmerising throughout, the remaining two numbers really see them come into the glory. ‘Reprise’, the album closer, is a piano accompanied almost chorale-like stentorian duet with Sanders. And, accompanied only by clicking fingers and hummed vocals, she sings a capella, the title track itself, for me the album stand out, which echoes the Appalachian revivalist feel of ‘Down To The River To Pray’ and ‘Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby’ from Oh Brother Where Art Thou. In Greek mythology, sirens lured sailors on to the rocks with their singing; Winters can wreck me any time.

Mike Davies

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 EMILY MAE WINTERS – Siren Serenade 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.

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Artist’s website: www.emilymaewinters.com

‘Blackberry Lane’ – the Oak Sessions video:

JESS MORGAN – Edison Gloriette (Drabant Music)

Edison GlorietteTwo years and one EP on from Langa Langa, released through the Norwegian label, the breathy-voiced Norwich-based singer-songwriter returns with Edison Gloriette her fourth and finest album to date, a relaxed and assured collection of eleven unfussily arranged, thematically-linked acoustic tracks that again speak to her English and Americana influences.

As with her debut, it was recorded in Bergen, in a cabin studio with returning producer HP Gunderson (who also contributes guitar, pedal steel and organ) and engineer Daniel Birkeland (also on bass, Hammond and guitar) with Steve Maclachlan adding percussion, Hannah Sanders backing vocals and Noel Dashwood providing dobro on two numbers back in the UK.

Her storytelling is as fine tuned as ever, opening with ‘The Longest Arm’, a beautifully observed, Edward Hopper-inspired vignette about a brief encounter between a man (“skin pulled tight in the wind”) and a waitress in the café of the album title (it’s actually a combination of two cinema names) with its pictures of “dead actors and Italian stars”, a spark passing between them as she “ leans in closer, her hair soft on his face. She wipes his lip clean with a napkin and smells like pancakes.”

Next up comes the Latin-tinged swaying rhythms of the Superman-referencing ‘Don’t Meet Your Heroes’, a cautionary message about not being blinded by appearances and awe in matters of the heart as “sweet ideas stink like Kryptonite that slaps away the hands that made all tomorrow’s plans” and you may well end up spending the night alone “sewing spangles on his clothes” because “suddenly there’s phone boxes everywhere you look.”

Featuring Dashwood, the achingly lovely ‘Still In Fashion’ is a pessimistic song about the inevitably of crushed love (“my hopes go down with the blinds. We know heartbreak is still the fashion. Long may it never show up on time”) while, Morgan on harmonica and Sanders on harmonies, ‘Hymn In The Morning’ conjures similar fears as she sings “will there be no one but me, will there be nobody else?” and, likewise on ‘Tell Me What The Trouble Is’, the protagonist can sense the relationship falling apart “with waning grace” because of a reluctance to talk things out (“there’s quiet in everything you do and you think it’s just a little balling yourself up, but you’re bringing the whole thing down with you. We never used to be silent”).

By contrast, the piano-accompanied ‘Come To The Opera With Me, Loretta’ is about the narrator seeking to persuade Loretta to save her faltering relationship with the volatile Ronnie (“I’ll make you my case for staying together”) and, while introducing the new character of Debbie, is actually Morgan’s reworking of a scene from the Oscar-winning romcom Moonstruck.

Again featuring Sanders and harmonica, the catchy rootsy strummed pop ‘Skate While You’re Skinny’ has the air of early Joni Mitchell in its advice to “always keep your lover in mind”, “stay out of the corner where you don’t belong” and “ if the wind is blowing, put your fists up. Come out when you’re bloody, whether won or lost.”

Featuring soulful dobro, the puttering bluesy ‘Red Rubies’ was apparently inspired by the true story of a bird eating man (the title referring to drops of blood), recast as a metaphor for not crippling another’s spirit (“I would not crush your feathers,. those gentle wings, for to fly”), followed, in turn, by the reflective ‘In Your Life’, sparse guitar accompanying lyrics about not letting the moment to express your feelings pass by and remain a remembered regret.

The slow waltzing ‘A Hundred Years Old’ returns to the relationships theme touched on with Heroes, but on a more positive note about keeping love constant even when your partner finds public expressions of affection awkward (“I’m holding your coats never holding your hand”) as the character sings “oh tangle me up in the mess that you make. I’ve already rolled up my sleeves” and “when you strike up the band with your red jacket on I wait for the beat of the drum.”

Nodding to living there in 2015, the album ends with ‘In Brooklyn’, a shuffling, steel-streaked reminiscence of a time in the character’s life when “so many things we took for granted”, a time “when we didn’t need the F-train or anyone, we’d take our blessings and we decorate up the second floor” before the “tears that were spilled on the Brooklyn Quilt, packing the apartment up into boxes.” Although such lines lead you to presume things were happier then than they are now, the song closes on an warm upbeat note of reverie (“now you can tell it back to me, beginning with Brooklyn, when we were living in Brooklyn”), a poignantly affecting end to a poignantly affecting album.

Mike Davies

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 JESS MORGAN – Edison Gloriette 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.

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Artist’s website: www.jessmorgan.co.uk

‘In Brooklyn’ live:

HANNAH SANDERS & BEN SAVAGE – Before The Sun (Sungrazing Records SGR002)

Before The SunHannah Sanders first solo album, Charms Against Sorrow, was produced by Willows guitarist Ben Savage who also played on the record and shared in the arrangements. With Before The Sun their partnership has been formalised but little else has changed except that the duo went to Toronto to record with David Travers-Smith.

To the mix of traditional songs and covers is now added some originals and the first ‘The Fall (Hang)’ opens the set. I’m still puzzling over this track – it could be a reinterpretation of a murder ballad or a macabre accident like Bob Pegg’s ‘The Hanged Man’. I think I lean towards the former. Next is the first traditional song, ‘Come All Ye Fair & Tender Maids’, a mid-Atlantic version finished with a playground round. ‘What’s It Tonight My Love?’, another original, sees Ben take the first lead vocal. Its description of night in the city puts me in mind of ‘Chimes Of Freedom’ even though there is no resemblance between the two songs, other than the feeling that it leaves you with.

Next come three traditional songs. The first is ‘Lady Margaret’, an English song with variants in the United States. ‘Clayton Boone’ is definitely American and gives Ben another lead vocal and the chance to play Dobro. It is, of course, a variant of ‘Gypsy Davy’. Finally in this section we have the haunting ‘Deep Blue Sea’, a version that doesn’t quite match any set of lyrics that I can find. Hannah and Ben’s version is rather more gentle than the standard text and rather lovely.

Hannah and Ben play guitars, dulcimer and autoharp and are joined by Kevin Breit and Katriona Gilmore on melody instruments with Evan Carson and Jon Thorne on percussion and double bass. For the most part they are used sparingly but they do get to have a blow on Richie Stearns’ ‘Ribbons And Bows’. Joining them on vocals are Jim Causley, Robin Gillan and Jade Rhiannon.

The final track is ‘Boots Of Spanish Leather’ sung as a duet as it is written. They slow it down a bit and the singing is sad and wistful where Dylan managed a blend of bitterness and resignation. He knew the back-story, of course, and it all happened fifty years ago but I’d advise anyone tackling the song to read the relevant section of a biography. It’s beautifully performed, as is the whole of the album, but to an old curmudgeon like me it misses something.

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 HANNAH SANDERS & BEN SAVAGE – Before The Sun 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.

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

‘Come All Ye Fair And Tender Maids’ – official video:

MARK GAMON WITH THE THURSDAY BAND – Deck (Clunk & Rattle CRLP 009)

MARK GAMON WITH THE THURSDAY BAND DeckHere’s another album that doesn’t sound the way it looks. The sleeve suggests that Mark Gamon should be rasping the blues in a seedy bar in Arizona but he’s not like that at all.

Mark is something of a renaissance man: scriptwriter, songwriter, photographer singer and musician who uses whatever musical style seems appropriate. There’s a nod towards Americana in the opening track, ‘Canada’, and again in ‘Molasses’, an historic look at slavery told by escapees who had to leave one of their number behind. It has the feel of a true story and some of the songs here are certainly true.

‘Annalies’ is Anne Frank but the story is told by Peter van Pels who was arrested with her and died less than year later in Mauthausen concentration camp. The approach Mark has taken to these two songs is a measure of his skill as a songwriter. It’s as though he takes a couple of steps to the side of his subject and writes what he sees from there. ‘Gatton And Buchanan’ takes less unravelling. It’s a song in praise of Danny Gatton and Roy Buchanan “the Kings of the Telecaster” – Mark should have a word with Jerry Donahue about that.

Elsewhere the songs are about the little people: ‘Immigrant Heart’ is obvious, ‘I Painted A Ship’ is about a pavement artist in London, ‘Kirsty’s Bench’ is an evocative portrait of Soho Square and ‘Cowrie Beach’ tells of a longing for the sea, specifically around Padstow.

The Thursday Band is big on strings and bass: fiddle, viola, cello and bass with Nick Blishen taking the lead guitar role. The acoustic line-up makes a deep rich sound with several harmony vocalists, notably Lizzie J Taylor, Lucinda Fudge and Hannah Sanders playing an important part.

Deck came my way quite by chance but I’m very glad it did.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: http://www.markgamon.com/

‘I Painted A Ship’ live with Nick Blishen at Woodfest in 2013:

HANNAH SANDERS – Charms Against Sorrow (Sungrazing Records SGR001)

CharmsAgainstSorrowHailing from Norwich, Sanders came to folk early, singing with her a capella family group, The Dunns, as a teenager before briefly putting music to one side to travel to America and develop a career as a cultural anthropologist, the album title bearing witness to her study of contemporary witchcraft. Returning to the UK in 2013, she’s resumed her relationship with folk music, releasing an EP last year and now following on with this full-length debut. Accompanied by musicians that include Ben Savage, Evan Carson and Jade Rhiannon from The Willows, bassist Jon Thorne and Anna Scott on cello, not surprisingly, it reflects both British and American influences in what is a predominantly traditional and simply arranged affair recorded in ‘grass roots’ settings that range from an old mill to a Lake District kitchen in order, capturing the intimate atmosphere, not to mention the sounds of fires crackling and birds singing

Sanders has a clear, pure vocal, a slight breathy husk alternating with soaring high notes and, listening to ‘Joshuay’, a sprightly variation on the song variously known as ‘The Prickly Bush’ and ‘Gallows Pole’, it’s hard not to sometimes find yourself thinking of the early Joni Mitchell. She certainly favours Mitchell jazz-folk stylings, both on that and on the ensuing versions of Michael Hurley’s psych-folk number ‘The Werewolf ‘(where her voice also suggests Janis Ian) and Annie Briggs’ ‘Go Your Way’. Elsewhere, the clear air of the Appalachians can be felt on ‘I Gave My Love A Cherry’ and in the Dobro colours of the otherwise softly sung English pastoral ‘I’ll Weave My Love A Garland’ while, in arrangements and vocal, both ‘Bonnie Bunch Of Roses’ (which segues into intricate guitar instrumental ‘Mayflower Stranger’) and ‘Lord Franklin’ are haunted by the ghost of Sandy Denny.

Harking back to her family heritage, there’s an unaccompanied reading of ‘A Sailor’s Life’ (aka ‘Sweet William’) and, her native accent heard in the pronunciations, a wearied, melancholic, cello-hued take on ‘Geordie’. Joined by sister Ruth on backing vocals, she’s slightly sprightlier on folk evergreen ‘Pleasant And Delightful’ (also known as ‘Dawning Of The Day’), though more restrained and tender than the rousing approach usually to be found in folk clubs while the album’s remaining track draws on the inspiration of Nic Jones (and, again, Scott’s cello) for a jazzy blues inflected interpretation of broadside ballad ‘Miles Weatherhill And Sarah Bell’.

It’s early days yet, but, with an extensive tour coming up to promote the album, Sanders could soon find herself numbered among the ranks of today’s contemporary masters of traditional folk.

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 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.

Artist’s website: hhttp://www.hannahsandersfolk.com

Hannah sings ‘Lord Franklin’:

Hannah Sanders – debut album

CharmsAgainstSorrow

Charms Against Sorrow is the brand new début album from singer Hannah Sanders. A charismatic and distinctive vocalist, Hannah has already begun attracting critical attention. Reviewing her 2014 EP Fate, FATEA magazine stated “There are shades of Sandy Denny in Hannah’s expert vocal delivery at times… I hear as much akin to early Joni Mitchell, in terms of melodic manipulation and vocal compass (diagnostic features like confident leaps in register), moulding of phrasing and basic style of guitar accompaniment”. Ben Savage (of The Willows) produced the album and it is he who also plays the acutely sympathetic dobro and guitar in support. Continue reading Hannah Sanders – debut album