John McCusker – new album

John McCusker

In celebration of his 25th Anniversary as a professional musician, John McCusker will release Hello, Goodbye on April 29th 2016 and tour the UK in April and May. A wonderfully evocative set of compositions, Hello, Goodbye is John’s first solo album in thirteen years, the first on his new record label Under One Sky Records and the first recorded in his state of the art studio, built over the last 2 years in a bothy dating from 1779, which neighbours his Scottish Borders home. Designed by legendary record producer and studio designer Calum Malcolm, the new studio is a winning combination of the traditional and the new, much like John’s music itself!

Hello, Goodbye was composed while John was on a world tour with Mark Knopfler. The core musical group for the album is an all-star cast of handpicked musicians with whom John has been fortunate to work over the past 25 years: James Mackintosh, Drums/Percussion (Shooglenifty, The Blue Nile, James); Ewen Vernal, Bass (Deacon Blue, Capercaille); Ian Carr, Guitar (Eddi Reader, Julie Fowlis, Swap); Michael McGoldrick, Whistle (Mark Knopfler, Capercaille, Sharon Shannon); Andy Cutting, Melodeon  (The Who, June Tabor); Tim O’Brien (Grammy Award Winning US bluegrass star); Phil Cunningham MBE, Accordion (Bonnie Raitt, Nicola Benedetti) and acclaimed Irish singer Heidi Talbot. Continue reading John McCusker – new album


Who HeIan Carr is, as I’m sure you know, the guitarist who has been heard mostly on other people’s records; such names as Kathryn Tickell, Kate Rusby, Kris Drever and Eddi Reader. He’s taken top billing in several duos including an association with Simon Thoumire and a number of fairly obscure bands but he’s taken quite a while to produce this solo project from his home in Sweden.

Of course he’s not really solo. His band, The Various Artists, are a multi-national, multi-instrumental line-up that reads rather like a premier league team sheet with omnichord, kora and violino grande among the featured sounds. The opening track, ‘I’ll Call You’, is fairly conventional apart from the almost obscured vocals with Ian initially playing something like a rag-time melody with the whole ensemble pitching in and Ian switching to trumpet in the middle. Some of what Ian writes has the repetitive, hypnotic quality of the music that Simon Jeffes wrote for The Penguin Café Orchestra although he isn’t constrained by Jeffes adherence to strict mathematical patterns. The title track and ‘The Beans War’ employ this technique to particular effect. There are two actual songs sung by Maria Jonsson and Carina Normansson in English and, I presume, Swedish. There is one oddity, ‘Talking Frances’, which features Frances Carr impersonating Alan Bennett but whether it’s a true story or not (or even supposed to be Bennett) I wouldn’t like to say.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this album. There is certainly no pointless noodling nor screaming electric from a man who has been professionally restricted to the acoustic instrument. There is excellent playing and innovative ideas – enough to make Who He? a bit special.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s website:

Ian Carr & The Various Artists – ‘Road Drill’:

Karen Tweed – Essentially Invisible to the Eye

ESSENTIALLY INVISIBLE TO THE EYE is Karen Tweed’s latest recording and, in being entirely solo, is a departure from her extensive collaborative work which has dominated her career since the early 1990s.

Born in London in 1963 to an Irish mother and English father, Karen took up the accordion at the age of eleven. Since turning professional in the late 1980s, she has appeared on over thirty albums from her early days with The Kathryn Tickell Band to being a founding member of the pioneering all female Poozies, through the Anglo-Swedish ensemble SWAP, American collaboration Undertoe with Stuart Kenney, Marko Packard and Rodney Miller, to The Two Duos Quartet with Andy Cutting, Chris Wood and Ian Carr. Karen’s duo work with Ian Carr, Andy Cutting and also Roger Wilson and John Dipper has left many an audience mesmerised at her breathtaking musicianship, while her trios with Hannah James and Becky Price in Hell Said The Duchess and with Carolyn Robson and Kevin Dempsey are more examples of her diversity and creativity. Continue reading Karen Tweed – Essentially Invisible to the Eye