BELLA HARDY – Hey Sammy (Noe NOE10)

Hey SammyHer ninth solo outing, this is very much Hardy’s ‘pop’ album, a dramatic change in sound an style resulting from a brief relocation to Nashville and a seven-week residency in Kumming in Southwest China (which itself gave rise to Eternal Spring earlier this year, a live collection of song and poetry with Chinese musicians). Recorded with the backing of Iain Thomson on guitars, Tom Gibbs on keys and clarinet, and the rhythm section of James Lindsay and John Blease, with Hardy on fiddle, harmonium and xylophone and Paul Savage in the producer’s chair, it opens with Chinese colours evident on the chiming notes that introduce and underpin the dreamy ‘Redemption’, a folk song about friendship and kindness to others, enrobed in almost show tune clothes.

Driven by a beating tribal drum rhythm, the poppy ‘Learning To Let Go’ details feelings of displacement and search for self as she sings of being a stranger in California looking for “another way of being known another way of being” but that also “I know the who but I still don’t know what I want to be.”

Co-penned with Thomson, ‘Driving Through Harmony’ gets a touch funky in a West Coast style and is followed by the first of two-writes with Nashville’s Peter Groenwald. First up is the mid-tempo ticking rhythm ‘Queen Of Carter’s Bar’, a country-tinted fading relationship number that, a loose rework of ‘Tam Lin’, again concerns identity (“I’m watching you pretend to be the thing you’re aren’t”), followed by the keyboards balled ‘In My Dreams’, which, with added input from Konnad Snyder, is a suitably hushed and atmospheric weave with a percussive ebb and flow.

A particular standout is the self-penned ‘You Don’t Owe The World Pretty’, a punchy jangling feminist pop song about women taking ownership of their bodies and their lives that comes with a surging chorus rush. It’s followed by the two collaborations with Scottish jazz pianist and composer Tom Gibbs, the first being ‘Busy Head’ (tracing the familiar theme of “so desperate to fit in and so in need of staying apart”) that again, especially in its swelling flourishes, has the air of a Broadway showstopper, as indeed does the gathering swell of piano-led ‘Heartbreaker’, a song about “a neon jazz folk love affair” you might imagine Elaine Paige covering.

Next up comes the title track, its jaunty guitar chug and big burst choruses belying the song’s subject matter concerning the rise of racism in Britain, followed, in turn, by ‘South Lake’, a piano-based, clarinet-shaded number inspired by and referencing Nan Hu, meaning South Lake, a stretch of water in Yunnan province, in its contemplation of being and our connection with the world around us.

The lyrics conjure thoughts of Chinese poetry and, indeed, one such provides the source for the closing shimmering six-minute ‘Stars’. It’s a studio rerecording of the number originally featured on Eternal Spring, a two part lyric that combines words adapted from poem 21, written in praise of Yunnan, in the Shijing, a collection of some three hundred ancient poems sometimes translated as The Book of Songs, with Hardy’s own response, both set to her spirits soaring tune.

The press blurb talk of it as a ‘glorious…grown up’ record, I think a magnificent coming of age might be a better term.

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 HERE 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.bellahardy.com

‘Driving Through Harmony’ – official video:

BLUE ROSE CODE – The Water Of Leith (Navigator NAVIGATOR103)

Water Of LeithBlue Rose Code, aka Ross Wilson, has a deservedly growing reputation, with luminaries as diverse as Edith Bowman, Ewan McGregor and Ian Rankin among his fans. Time Out described the music as “Imagine John Martyn meeting a young Van Morrison and being shipwrecked with bundle of Chet Baker records.” The Water Of Leith, the new album, is released on October 27th.

Sometimes in the clatter and busyness of modern life we miss out on more sophisticated gems which don’t leap out and hit us in the face. I’ve just spent a week in rural France, mostly surrounded by stillness but also with CDs to review. And with time and quietude to really hear, I discovered The Water Of Leith to be one of those sophisticated gems.

Wilson has said, “I’m passionate about that fusion of folk and jazz and where it intersects with songwriting”. He has returned to his roots in Scotland and the album has award winning singers (Julie Fowlis, Kathleen MacInnes) and jazz musicians (Konrad Wisznewski, Seonaid Aitken, John Lowrie, Colin Steele and James Lindsay) creating the sound. The Water Of Leith strolls easily across those borders and intersections, melding Scottish music and jazz as stunningly as Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill have been finding new power and beauty in Irish music by similarly combining different traditions.

The first three tracks are more broadly accessible and likely to get the greater radio play on non-specialist programmes. The remaining nine tracks, though, take you somewhere different, somewhere unique, those borders and intersections between jazz and folk – like that world you capture occasionally in the very early morning where the dawn mixes with the rising mist and you see and hear with a clarity that will be gone in twenty minutes. There are songs where the interplay of vocal and instrument create the mood (‘Passing Places’, ‘Sandaig’) and there are others where the interplay is between instruments (notably the two extended tracks ‘The Water’ and ‘To The Shore’ – the two tracks combining into seventeen minutes of sheer delight if you can find a quiet place to listen).

Blue Rose Code are touring in November to coincide with the release of the new album, dates to be found on their website (see below). In the meantime have a listen, a proper listen, to ‘Scotland Yet’ which was recorded earlier this year in Glasgow – and feel the hairs tingle on your neck.

Mike Wistow

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 BLUE ROSE CODE – The Water Of Leith 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]

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Artist’s website: https://bluerosecode.com / https://bluerosecode.com/live

‘Scotland Yet’ live:

Blue Rose Code (Ross Wilson) announces new album

Blue Rose Code

Blue Rose Code, aka acclaimed singer-songwriter Ross Wilson, releases The Water Of Leith, his first album for Navigator Records on October 27 on CD, download and album stream.

A nomad both geographically and musically, Ross writes from the heart eschewing any specific genre and the twelve new songs on The Water Of Leith, addressing themes of love, loss, travel, home, accepting the past and embracing the future, are painted with colours of folk, jazz, soul and pop; an eclecticism that has become a hallmark of Blue Rose Code and has seen him compared to John Martyn, Van Morrison and Tom Waits.

Underlining the sense of movement and place in Ross’s work and The Water Of Leith is rooted in his return to his Scottish homeland. There, he reconnected with the stellar musicians who were to become an integral part of the new album’s sound: multi award-winning singer Julie Fowlis, celebrated Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes, BBC Folk Award Winner, Ross Ainslie, 2017’s Scottish Jazz Awards’ instrumentalist of the year Konrad Wiszniewski, leading violinist Seonaid Aitken and three of Scotland’s finest jazz musicians; John Lowrie, Colin Steele and James Lindsay, to name just some of the contributors. Grammy-winning American singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman features on the opening track. Ross co-produced the album with Angus Lyon.

Blue Rose Code will tour extensively around the release of The Water Of Leith, including concerts at Edinburgh Queen’s Hall on November 3, London Bush Hall on November 14, Perth Concert Hall on November 20 and two nights at Harbour Arts in Irvine on November 24 and 25.

In the space of a few short years and the release of well-received albums North Ten, The Ballads Of Peckham Rye, and And Lo The Bird Is On The Wing, Blue Rose Code has built a growing reputation as a powerful writer and performer, gaining extensive radio play and the praise of key broadcasters including Edith Bowman, Mary Ann Kennedy, Bob Harris and also actor Ewan McGregor who made a cameo appearance on And Lo The Bird Is On The Wing after commenting: “My uncle Denis Lawson (star of Local Hero) gave me a copy of The Ballads Of Peckham Rye, it’s beautiful and I can’t stop listening to it.” Author Ian Rankin is also a fan and has written insightful sleeve notes for the new album.  The Water Of Leith marks another step forward for Ross: his first record in recovery following a personal history overcoming alcoholism and addiction.

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 Blue Rose Code – The Water Of Leith 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]

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

‘Grateful’ – live at RTE:

Paul McKenna Band – new album

Paul McKenna Band

2016 will see The Paul McKenna Band celebrate their 10th anniversary. To celebrate this milestone they are releasing their fourth, highly anticipated, studio album, Paths That Wind, produced by the legendary John McCusker.

The new album features guests in the form of some of Scotland’s greatest musicians – John McCusker, Rod Paterson, Mike Vass and James Lindsay

With a contemporary approach to songs, although not straying too far from their roots, their arrangements are both fresh and innovative. The exciting sound of The Paul McKenna Band is created through outstanding vocals, driving guitar and bouzouki, intense fiddle playing, a warm pairing of flute and whistles and dynamic bodhrán and percussion.

2016 started off with a bang with a three week tour of Australia which included playing in the new year to a crowd of 30,000 at Woodford Folk Festival. The band have a hectic year ahead with tours in America, Canada, Europe and the UK.

Artists’ website: www.paulmckennaband.com

‘Long Days’ – official video:

IAIN MACFARLANE – Gallop To Callop (Old Laundry Productions OLP005)

Gallop To CallopIain MacFarlane is a former member of Blazin’ Fiddles and he’s recruited a few old friends to play on Gallop To Callop, his debut solo album. There’s Ewen Henderson, formerly of Battlefield Band, former Altan melodeon player Dermot Byrne, Breabach’s Megan Henderson, Ewan Robertson and James Lindsay, pianist/flautist Hamish Napier and Iain MacDonald who has played with just about everybody including Ossian and Wolfstone. This is a band with a real pedigree.

You should have a fair idea of what to expect and you won’t be far wrong. There are quite a lot of original compositions and some drawn from the tradition and the standard piping repertoire. The beauty of MacFarlane’s writing is that you are hard-pressed to tell the new from the old. The up-tempo numbers are played in, dare I say, the old-fashioned style with a piano continuo and if you’ve heard Violet Tulloch you’ll know what that is. Some of the piano is undoubtedly by Napier but some is by Iain’s wife Ingrid Henderson who is perhaps better known as a clarsach player and it is that instrument that leads some of the gentler pieces such as the lovely ‘Isobel’s Tune’.

It’s hard to pick favourites as the album whirls past. ‘Tatties On The Manifold’ with MacDonald’s whistle is a particularly fine bouncy tune and that is followed by the breakneck set of ‘Stoddie’s Reels’ and I can’t resist a tune like ‘The Head, The Heart And The Tail’ which describes the process of whisky distillation.

This is the perfect album from lovers of Scottish traditional music. Iain MacFarlane writes and plays with a love and respect for the tradition and you can’t ask for much more than that.

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.oldlaundryproductions.com

Iain MacFarlane and Ingrid Henderson. No title (or could it be called ‘Hello’?)

Breabach’s new album is on the way

Breabach's new album is on the way

Release Date Friday, 11th March, 2016

Voted ‘Best Live Act 2013’ & ’Best Folk Band 2012‘ at the Scots Trad Music Awards and twice nominated ‘Best Band’ at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards; Scottish five-piece Breabach deliver a thrilling and unique brand of contemporary folk music that has earned them international recognition on the world and roots music scene as one of the UK’s most dynamic and exciting bands.

After a whirlwind five years traversing the globe, touring Australia, New Zealand, Asia, North America, Scandinavia and the middle East, Breabach are delighted to announce their fifth studio album Astar (translating from Scottish Gaelic as distance or journey). The music on the album takes inspiration from the beauty of both the places and people the band have visited and the wonderful musicians and cultures encountered along the way. Working with producer Greg Lawson (Moishes Bagel, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, GRIT Orchestra) the band have taken melodic, rhythmic and harmonic ideas from each of the countries they have visited. Some of this is woven into the arrangement, some of this is achieved through self-penned works. Through it all however, it’s their Scottish roots that remain at the core of the recording with work from Burns, Dick Gaughan and Donald Macleod finding it’s way into the mix. Augmenting the album will be some special guests including Yidaki player Mark Atkins (AUS), extraordinary Aborigine artist Yirrmal of Black Arm Band (AUS) Maori tradition bearer Scott Morrison (NZ), Quebecois violinist Olivier Demers of Le Vent Du Nord (Quebec) and Hardanger virtuoso Olav Luksengård Mjelva of Nordic Fiddlers Bloc (NO).

Breabach unite the talent of Calum MacCrimmon (pipes/whistles/bouzouki/vocals), Ewan Robertson (guitar/ vocals), James Mackenzie (pipes/flute/whistles), Megan Henderson (fiddle/vocals/stepdance) and James Lindsay (double bass). Since launching their career as winners of the Open Stage Award at Celtic Connections in 2005 the band have steadily moved from strength to strength, picking up accolades and performing at esteemed events along the way. The 2016 release of Astar sees them reaching new levels of their musical ambition and maturity.

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.

Artists’ website: www.breabach.com