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 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 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

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:

ANDY MAY TRIO About Time (Ash Wood Records ASH 002)

ANDY MAY TRIO About Time (Ash Wood Records ASH 002)The members of the Andy May Trio have been friends for years and played music together for all that time and it sounds like it. Their debut, About Time, really is an ensemble piece in the best sense of the word. Andy is a well-known exponent of the Northumbrian Smallpipes and keyboards and he is joined here by guitarist Ian Stephenson who also plays melodeon and bass and fiddler Sophy Ball of Folk Award winners 422. In truth, they could have tossed a coin for the honour of naming the group. Andy probably won because he composed five of the tunes.

Andy has a very light touch on the Smallpipes and the music really skips and dances. The lead lines are shared generously with Sophy while he switches to piano or lets the pipes play a drone continuo before breaking through to take over the melody. ‘Norwegian Gent’ by Stephenson is one track on which they all take the lead although I have to say that I would have liked to hear more of the guitar but it is perhaps typical of the way they work.

The music is rooted in the north-east, of course, with some of the traditional tunes coming from John Peacock’s Favourite Collection Of Tunes With Variations Adapted For The Northumberland Smallpipes, Violin Or Flute, a title which is worth writing out once. One piece, ‘Marche 150’, is originally Belgian, one is borrowed from Charlie Lennon and the original compositions are, in the time honoured fashion, written for or about births, birthdays, friends, friends’ children … well you get the idea. It’s very close-knit and the closeness is apparent in the music. Favourite tracks? ‘Cuckold Come Out Of The Amrey’ is another piece from Peacock in which Andy and Sophy duel for mastery of the melody in what sounds like a race to the finish., and ‘The Sailor’s Wife/Quick And Merry’ are two splendid tunes from the tradition but, in truth, there isn’t flat spot throughout the album.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of the album, 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.

Artists’ website: www.andymaytrio.com

‘Cuckold Come Out The Amrey’ – live performance:

Songs For The Voiceless – Album release

SFTV_logo

Some of the UK’s finest folk artists formed a collective to release this autumn album marking the WW1 centenary and unlocking myriad muted voices of that time. Songs For The Voiceless (released October 13), will also be toured as a live show in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday. It brings together some of the brightest British roots talents, BBC award winners and nominees, including Bellowhead frontman Jon Boden and 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Folk Singer of the Year, Bella Hardy.

The brainchild of Sheffield musician Michael J Tinker, of the Bright Season trio, it also features 2013 Folk Awards Best Duo nominees Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts, elegant songstress Josienne Clarke, Ian Stephenson (KAN, 422, Baltic Crossing), Tom Oakes (Ross Couper and Tom Oakes) and Hartlepool’s popular The Young ‘uns (Sean Cooney, David Eagle, Michael Hughes.)

SFTVartists

Says Michael: “There are so many First World War stories to tell and with the passing of time more and more will be lost. Our aim was to use song to bring some of these stories to a wider public. We wanted to tell the tales of real people, whatever their opinions of the war, with all the passions and emotions they might have felt.”

In the skilled hands of top folk music producer Andy Bell, the end result is nine poignant original narrative songs and a bonus track, from the perspective of both soldiers and civilians, set in locations from English villages to the trenches. Inspired by poems, diaries, memoirs and books, the songs give a voice to the unheard – “everyman” stories from a period of history that impacted the lives of so many and left us mourning a lost generation of husbands, fathers and sons. Some of the tracks were inspired by the artists’ ancestors.

SFTVThe album release will be supported by a five day tour starting at Bury Met on Wednesday, November 5 followed by a London date at Kings Place, shows in two cathedral cities (Winchester and Salisbury) and Chatham’s Brook Theatre in Kent. The tour finale at the Salisbury Arts Centre will be on Remembrance Sunday.

Due to other commitments, the touring band will see BBC award-winning fiddle singer Jackie Oates replace Josienne Clarke while Matt Downer (bassist with Jamie Smith’s Mabon) will step in for Ian Stephenson at some gigs.

With many songs dedicated to individuals and all proceeds going to The Poppy Appeal the album is released on the Haystack Records label and distributed by Proper Music.

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.

Project website: www.songsforthevoiceless.co.uk

Kan, Sleeper (Kan Music, 2012)

Kan are a folk quartet boasting an enviable line-up of stellar musicians who already command prominent reputations, both within the folk scene and beyond: Scotsman Aidan O’Rourke on fiddle, who has attracted much praise as part of folk wonder-trio Lau and Blazin’ Fiddles; Brian Finnegan, hailing from Armagh, on flute and whistles, formerly of Flook; Yorkshireman and multi-instrumentalist, Ian Stephenson on guitar, bass, mandolin, piano, and harmonium, a former BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award winner; whilst drums and percussion come courtesy of Jim Goodwin.

From the outset the stakes are pretty high, and Kan rise to the challenge superbly with this eclectic, energetic set. Variety abounds throughout, with moments of hushed subtlety building to frenzied, celebratory episodes, and whilst the musical flavours are predominantly those of the English, Irish and Scottish traditions, there is a worldly feel throughout the album. One or more of the quartet are involved in the writing of each of the eight album tracks, and coupled with arrangements that fuse the very best that each musician has to offer, they manage to create a sound that is assuredly distinct.

Opening track “One Two Three” sets the tone immediately with the percussion and guitar providing a fresh, avant-garde moodscape over which fiddle and whistles weave their sumptuous, traditional-influenced melodies; it’s a recipe that works well. Even the frequently surfacing Celtic flavours of the album are peppered with perfectly measured percussive underpinnings that feed off the natural energy of the melodies rather than overwhelm them. It maybe comes as no surprise to note that the masterful Calum Malcolm is responsible for the mixing of this album, and no doubt the well measured balance of this recording owes much to his involvement.

Sleeper is an album that is positively effervescent, treading a path of fusion that others frequently get so wrong. Seducing with its expansive, understated moments, and arousing with its explosive energy, it’s an album that will appeal to both the discerning individual listener as well as the massed carousal of a festival audience.

Mike Wilson

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.