MICK RYAN & PAUL DOWNES – The Passing Hour (WildGoose WGS417CD)

Passing HourThis is an album by two veterans; one famous as a songwriter, the other well-known as a sidesman and both fine singers. Many of the songs on The Passing Hour are by Mick Ryan, the others have been collected on their extensive travels and together they make up what might be thought of as a typical folk club set of the kind that you might have heard any time in the past fifty years.

The album opens with ‘The Midshipman’s Boast’, written by Kentish songwriter, Helen North. It’s a nice wish-fulfilment song with the sort of refrain that sets the audience up for the rest of the evening.

There are three not terribly well-known traditional songs here. The first, ‘Lady Diamond’, has little to do with Steeleye Span although their version tells the same story. Paul’s take on this Child ballad is suitably mournful and a warning to kitchen boys everywhere not to get above their station. A version of ‘Bartholamew Fair’ was recorded some thirty years ago by Regal Slip as ‘Room For Company’ if memory serves but has rarely been heard since and ‘Song Of Repentance’ hasn’t been heard until it was discovered in a collection of Irish street ballads.

Actually ‘The Parson And The Pig’ was a traditional song but this is Ryan’s rewrite and, along with ‘Oh! Swine!’, is  by far the jolliest song on the record. Mick is well-known for his folk operas and nothing becomes an opera so much as drama and ‘The Sea’ doesn’t disappoint in that regard, ‘Thankful Village’, ‘The Fowler’ and ‘One Day’ don’t come from one of his operas but they wouldn’t be out of place. Of the “collected” songs, Tom Lewis’ ‘All At Sea’ is the best but I have to say that ‘Adieu, Old Friend’ is too maudlin for my taste.

Mick and Paul are joined by Jackie Oates, Kate Riaz and Martyn Bradley who provide tasteful support on an album that will take you back as far as you wish.

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 MICK RYAN & PAUL DOWNES – The Passing Hour 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://www.wildgoose.co.uk/

SINGLES BAR 9

A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Twinnie - SIngles Bar 9TWINNIE follows her two singles, ‘Home’ and ‘Cool’, with an eponymous debut EP which opens and closes with those two songs. Twinnie’s style is described as country-pop but the opening bars of ‘Home’ sound as though it’s looking to be a soul classic. The second track, ‘Lie To Me’ changes tack with solo piano and acoustic guitar but the backing vocals inexorably build to a climax before Twinnie pulls it back again. The third track, ‘Looking Out For You’ goes for vintage appeal with a touch of vinyl crackle before rocking acoustic guitar leads the song off into the distance. Finally, ‘Cool’ is really country-pop and possibly the best song in the set with its tumble of words and a backing that has everything.
http://www.abadgeoffriendship.com/artists/twinnie

Oates_HenwoodWell known and respected in their own right JACKIE OATES and MEGAN HENWOOD have joined forces for Wings, a five track EP of originals, traditional and covers. Although Oates provided harmonies on Henwood’s last album, here the two voices mostly blend beautifully together, as is the case with the opening track, the first of three covers, a melancholic acoustic reading of New Order’s Love Vigilantes. A cover also closes the album, Oates bringing her viola to bear on a faithful take on Lau’s ‘Ghosts’, the pair trading verses and coming together for the chorus. Henwood contributes the only self-penned number, ‘Bettystown’ a song about endings (“clearing out your daddy’s house”) and beginnings (a new relationship, a new home) on which she takes initial lead, the gentle fingerpicking gradually swelling to embrace their combined voices, viola and Pete Thomas’s double bass. The third cover is Brian Bedford’s wistful protest number ‘What’s The Use of Wings?’, the pair again trading verses, which just leaves Oates to take to the piano for her waltzing arrangement of the traditional west country ballad ‘Setting Of The Sun’, a typically upbeat tale (also covered by Seth Lakeman) in which the singer accidentally shoots and kills their true love having mistaken her for a swan. As you do. Given the pair are (along with Thomas) playing live dates, hopefully this promises to have an extended life beyond this release; a full album would be most welcome.
http://www.dharmarecords.co.uk/

Warrior DaughterDevon trio WILDWOOD KIN release a single, ‘Warrior Daughter’, in advance of two autumn tours supporting The Oh Hellos and Seth Lakeman. Seth has already recruited them for his new album on the strength of their exquisite harmonies and those harmonies are very much in evidence but this is a powerful song built on big percussion, strings and guitars. The song is about female empowerment, sung as from a mother to a daughter: “You are warrior, strength and courage lies within your heart” and here Beth, Emillie and Meghann are surely looking ahead to being able to reassure their daughters that the fight may not be so hard. ‘Warrior Daughter’ is scheduled for the trio’s next EP but surely a full-length album can’t be far away.
http://www.wildwoodkin.com/

TeaseroPABLO VASQUEZ is a New Zealand guitar duo comprising Jolyon Mulholland and Elroy Finn and the story of how the album from which this single, ‘Teasero’, is taken came to be recorded would take up most of a review. Even more surprisingly the track will be available as a free download from Welsh label, Cae Gwyn Records at the end of the month. The guys’ thing is nylon strung guitars and they are described as classically-styled but they also say that their music is best enjoyed over dinner. No flying fingers or flamenco footsteps here, just two guitars interweaving a melody.
http://recordiaucaegwyn.com/

MEGAN HENWOOD – Head, Heart, Hand (Dharma Records DHARMACD021)

MEGAN HENWOOD HeadHandHeartMegan Henwood’s debut album, Making Waves, had a deceptively Pre-Raphaelite cover that concealed some muscular songs and it was well received. That was in 2011 and when her profile remained relatively low it seemed that she was yet another talent that burned too fast and too bright. Not so.

It’s taken her a while to complete her second album but, my, it’s good. Megan has co-produced Head, Heart, Hand with Tom Excell, whose background in electronic music adds a few surprising touches to what is essentially an acoustic album. Here and there is what might be considered too much echo or the manipulated sound of an instrument to unsettle the listener just a little.

And then we turn to the songs and they, too, can be unsettling. ‘Our Little Secret’ should send a shudder down the spine of any man who looks at a girl who is too young for him. We suppose that he’s a teacher and, although I can honestly say that I never went there, I can understand how it might happen. ‘No Good No Fun’ is a bitter story of rejection and ‘Lead Balloon’ could be its mirror image. Many songs seem to speak of alienation and death hovers around; explicitly in ‘Grateful Ghost’, more subliminally throughout the record.

Megan and Tom have assembled a small band: bass, drums, keyboards and strings with Jackie Oates as special guest on viola and vocals. There is one unaccompanied traditional song, ‘Rose Red’, featuring Megan, Jackie and Tom, which sounds as though it was recorded in the open air – there are distant voices suggesting a park – for a little more mystery. It’s followed by ‘Garden’, one of the albums biggest numbers, which concerns a character called Daisy who could be anything from a tortoise to an Earth-mother spirit depending which part of the lyric you choose to rely on.

That’s the beauty of Head, Heart, Hand – musically and lyrically varied and imaginative and full of mysteries.

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 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: www.meganhenwood.com

‘Chemicals’ – the official video:

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

NAOMI BEDFORD – A History of Insolence: Songs of Freedom, Dissent & Strife (Dusty Willow)

naomiFor those who are unaware, Bedford is the personal and professional partner of Paul Simmonds from The Men they Couldn’t Hang, so it’s not too surprising to find a similar political vein to her work. Plus, of course, she has a history of political activity, having been, for example, the Artists Liaison for Artists Against The Poll Tax. This is her third album and, as the title suggests, isn’t overflowing with stories of lover’s trysts and break-ups, although nor is it a hectoring collection of unfurled protest banners.

The template’s set with the opening track, ‘Davidson/Wilder Blues’, a traditional Tennessean union song about strikebreaking written by miners in the 30s and learned from Hedy West, one of Bedford’s seminal influences. With Dan Stewart on banjo and Bedford singing in an Appalachian twang, you’d not think she was born in Putney. She remains in traditional territory, but closer to home for ‘Gypsy Davy’, although, having said that, her approach is very much on the other side of the Atlantic, drawing on Jean Ritchie and Woody Guthrie, adding a chorus and inviting Justin Currie along for harmonies. Currie also shares vocal duties and plays piano on his own contribution, ‘We Are Not The People’, a stirring, fiddle accompanied ballad about those in power from the perspective of those who will never have it and don’t want it.

Other than the two traditional arrangements, Bedford only contributes one writing credit, a collaboration with Simmonds on ‘The Wild And Charming Energy’, a nervy folk blues number about machismo with handclaps, itchy percussion and a mariachi feel, other than that the bulk of the material is courtesy of Simmonds: ‘The Spider & The Wolf’’s fable about debt with Bedford again channelling West and Jackie Oates on fiddle, ‘Overseas’, a banjo dappled song about religious intolerance that centres on the Crusades; ‘Raise These Sails’, a clopalong duet between him and Bedford spun around the provisions taken aboard the Mayflower; ‘Junktown’, a loose loping blues duet that sounds like a nod to Johnny and June about corporate culture, market forces and the powerbrokers ghettoising the common herd and featuring the defiant line “a hand up is not a hand out”; ‘Fields Of Clover’, about the rise and fall of the baby boomers and on which she sounds like Baez circa ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’. The last of the Simmonds’ tracks, ‘The Old Abandoned Road’, offers a view of the pointlessness of the English Civil War through the eyes of a soldier in the Quaker army, set to acoustic strum, military drum beat and a Gaelic skirl of fiddle and mandolin.

The final cut returns to the traditional archives for ‘The Watches Of the Night’, the words taken from an optimistic poem about the rise of socialism by Tom Maguire, a British Trade Unionist, sourced and set to music by Alasdair Roberts, who sings and plays guitar, with Bedford on harmony, Ellie Wyatt on violin and Helena Ashworth on psaltery. Naomi’s name may not be as well known as others in the folk field, but, justly championed by the likes of Shirley Collins and Peter Buck, she most certainly deserves your listening attention. It would be impertinent not to.

Mike Davies

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.

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

CENTENARY: WORDS & MUSIC OF THE GREAT WAR

MUSIC PLAYED BY SHOW OF HANDS

POETRY READ BY JIM CARTER AND IMELDA STAUNTON

UK album release June 30th 2014 / ‘Lads In Their Hundreds’ – UK single release July 14 2014 On UMTV

Two of our most popular and distinguished actors, Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton, have teamed up with the celebrated West Country acoustic band Show of Hands to mark the centenary of the First World War.  The conflict lasted for four years, led to the deaths of over sixteen million soldiers and civilians, and transformed Britain and much of the world. But the brutal carnage and the horrors of life in the trenches inspired the War Poetry, an extraordinary artistic movement written by those who fought, and in some cases died, in the fighting.

Unique and powerful, Centenary: Words & Music Of The Great War matches the remarkable poetry of those war years against the music of the era, along with new compositions inspired by the war. This double CD release includes one disc of twenty two poems read by Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton and set to new arrangements of songs from the period. As Show Of Hands’ Steve Knightley explains “we thought of the pieces as brief scenes from a film and treated the songs as half-remembered, distant reveries that with the extraordinary voices of Jim and Imelda just came alive”.
Continue reading CENTENARY: WORDS & MUSIC OF THE GREAT WAR