ELLE OSBORNE – It’s Not Your Gold Shall Me Entice (9th House 9thCD2)

ELLE OSBORNE It’s Not Your Gold Shall Me EnticeAlthough this is her third album, until now my only aural encounter with the Sussex-based folkie was her collaboration with James Yorkston, playing fiddle on a very brief a capella ‘My Doffing Mistress’ on the 2012 Daily Worker benefit album We’re All In It Together. However, my extended introduction fortuitously coincides with a new stage in her career. Working with such luminaries as Yorkston, Alasdair Roberts and, from Trembling Bells, Mike Hastings and Alex Neilson, the latter of whom has likened her voice to a cross between Lal Waterson and Nico, the album marks the first time she’s recorded her own rather than traditional material. Indeed, not only did she write it, she arranged and produced it too.

There is one traditional number here, a spare, plucked fiddle version of ‘Come Write Me Down’, taken from the Copper family songbook and from whence comes the album’s title. However, if you weren’t already aware, there’s several tracks that (were it not for some of the lyrics) you could be persuaded had been knocking round the folk archives for a century or so, particularly the fiddle-led relationships-themed ‘And Everything’, that almost imperceptibly gathers pace as it proceeds and the band join in, and the a capella ‘The Hired Hand’ (where she harmonises with herself under the name Dusty Springsteen).

Raised on the North Sea coast of Lincolnshire (which explains the accent), she’s perhaps inevitably drawn to songs of ships and the sea. Bearing a lilting melody reminiscent of Dylan’s ‘To Ramona’, featuring sax and melodeon, ‘This Ship Is On A List’ wittily uses a disintegrating ship as a metaphor for a collapsing relationship, launching into a full on trad-sounding shanty mid-way (though perhaps the line “Now the focsle is fucked”, isn’t perhaps one Fisherman’s Friends might include). Featuring Hastings on Jews harp, ‘Salt’, one of the albums many standout numbers, addresses the dangerous allure of fishing fleets, delivering a chorus of “In like a lion out like a lamb. Set sail a boy, came home a man” that fires up thoughts of classic Richard and Linda Thompson.

Again Jews harp and featuring Dan Quinn on melodeon, the same is true of ‘Toast (The Ballad Of Michael ‘Mini’ Cooper), a luminous fiddle waltzing number that tells the story of the titular 1970s child arsonist, a bright but troubled young 10-year-old from Co. Durham who set fire to his parents house, allegedly knowing his abusive father was asleep upstairs. The subject of two BBC documentaries, in 1974 (directed by Franc Roddam) and a decade later, after spending most of those years in psychiatric care at a series of high security special schools, he was sentenced to life in 1990 after setting fire to a bottling plant, Osborne cuts to the heart of his morally ambiguous story (the full details of which, including Cooper’s shattered dreams of a film and being a playwright, make powerful reading), seeing him as a victim as she sings “when you’re silenced with violence and you’re given no chance and no choice. And when you’re brilliant and bored and you’re beaten, fire is your vengeance and voice.” If this isn’t among next year’s Radio 2 Folk Awards Song of the Year nominees, then there’s no justice.

The album comes to a close with the traditional lyric styled ‘Undone’ (“Cut off my long yellow hair, dress in mans’ array, make myself unbeautiful, no more will I stay”), set to a backing of fiddle drone and Neilson’s unconventional percussion and drums with Osborne humming the playout coda, and, finally, ‘All One’, featuring just her and Hastings’ plangent acoustic guitar, which, her delivery of the ‘One small space and a letter between all one and alone’ refrain, putting me in mind of Sandy Denny.

However, perhaps because of the time of year and the fact that the cascading tubular bells recall Jethro Tull’s festive ‘Ring Out, Solstice Bells’, I have to say that my personal favourite is the album opener, ‘I Don’t Like Sundays’, a song that sets the theme of survivors and survival with the protagonist encouraging a friend to fight against their depression ( “I saw the cloud come like a shroud, stealing all your joy”) and reminding that “Sometimes all you can do is put one foot before the other and heed the conversation tween the future and the past.”

The album cover is a 1960’s picture of Osborne’s grandmother, Katharine Compton, in a Sidmouth Festival drinking competition. Having given The Watersons and Peter Bellamy their first club gigs, Compton is something of a legend in folk circles; with this album her granddaughter should become one too.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: https://www.facebook.com/elleosbornemusic/

‘Come Write Me Down’ – official video:

Marry Waterson – new album and tour

Marry Waterson - new album and tour

Marry Waterson returns with a brand new album made in collaboration with David A. Jaycock on 20th November. Entitled Two Wolves, it was recorded in May of this year and produced by guitarist Neill MacColl and multi-instrumentalist & arranger Kate St. John.

The seeds for the union were sown in 2013 when David was asked – via mutual friend and collaborator, James Yorkston – to rearrange ‘Yolk Yellow Legged’, a co-write with Yorkston taken from Marry and brother Oliver Knight’s 2011 debut The Days That Shaped Me. David had been struck by the character and warmth of Marry’s singing when he saw her performing with Yorkston in 2009. “It was earthy, dreamlike, warm, powerful and jagged. It had the capacity to be both melancholic and joyful, and it could tell a story – of course Marry Waterson could tell a story!”

When Oliver elected to take a break from music last year, Marry found herself without a musical foil (“I don’t play an instrument, my tunes are sung into existence.”) So she was intrigued when David – described by Yorkston as a “Cornish hermit and underground psychedelic freak-ball” (!) – renewed contact to see if she would be interested in working together.

Hearing David’s music was to prove revelatory.

“I felt like I had entered through a door hanging askew on one twisted hinge into a surreal world of cobwebs, all layered guitars and synths,” recalls Marry. “Sometimes it’s scary in there, but mostly it’s beguiling.” All the more so as Marry discovered that “I could sing anything into David’s tunes, the words just wrapped themselves easily around the melodies, though I had to be quite inventive sometimes to accommodate certain structures – and that gave me a different voice.”

Starting with what became ‘Sing Me Into Your Tune’ – completed in a matter of hours – Marry and David entered into an eager musical correspondence by email and by phone.

“What was coming back from Marry convinced me that we were on the right path. I felt a more tonal, but still dreamlike, surreal and at times dark sound was emerging. It was fascinating and exciting sending ideas and waiting to hear what came back. I could still experiment and be playful but always had an ear on keeping to a more traditional structure. Marry was interpreting the pieces beautifully. The lyrics were complete.  I felt we were working almost telepathically at times. Modern technology making it all possible.”

The match made, Marry went about assembling a team of musicians around her to best service the material. Having previously worked with Neill MacColl and Kate St. John on several projects including Hal Willner’s Rogue’s Gallery at Sydney Opera House, the Bright Phoebus tour and on the forthcoming Ewan MacColl tribute album Joy of Living (contributing ‘The Exile Song’), the pair were the obvious choice to produce the record, in turn enlisting the help of outstanding musicians Kami Thompson (The Rails), Michael Tanner (Plinth), Alison Cotton (The Left Outsides), Simon Edwards (Fairground Attraction) and Emma Black (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra).

“Neill is another brilliant musician who really listens and gives you space,” enthuses Marry. “His contributions are so tasteful yet subtle, his playing is awesome, he’s rock solid and I feel safe with him. Kate’s arrangements are so compelling and definitive, vividly bringing these stories to life. They are both inventive and intuitive players.”

The songs themselves cover a wide range of subject material from laments about disappearing village communities (‘Hoping To Be Saved’) to the title track’s reflection on the duality of human nature. Two songs explicitly acknowledge the Waterson legacy: The words to ‘The Honey and the Seaweed’ are fashioned from an original Lal Waterson lyric, written out of love for her friend and co-writer Christine Collins and set down in the late 60’s in a book containing early Bright Phoebus songs. ‘Velvet Yeller’ meanwhile utilizes Mike Waterson’s recording of ‘Tam Lin’ to startling effect. “I got to ‘sing’ with him one more time by weaving him into this tribute, which he read before he died,” says Marry of the song.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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Artist’s website: http://marrywaterson.com/

Tour Dates

25th November          York                            The Basement

26th November          London                       The Green Note 

29th November          Stroud                        The Convent  

30th November          Brighton                     The Greys 

01st December           Birmingham               Kitchen Garden Cafe 

02nd December          Sheffield                     The Greystones 

03rd December          Halifax                        Arden Road Social Club

New Video from Lisa Knapp + BBC Folk Awards

Lisa Knapp Hidden Seam

Lisa Knapp first emerged in 2007 with a remarkable debut album, ‘Wild And Undaunted’ and quickly established herself as a highly distinctive, creative artist, merging a radiant style of traditional folk and self-penned song with vocal, fiddle, hammer dulcimer, strings, banjo and contemporary production.

It was a long wait but evidently worth it – the South Londoner’s much anticipated 2nd full length album, Hidden Seam, is finally available from Navigator Records.

Far from idle, Lisa has spent the years between albums exploring her increasing fascination with the elements and our fragile, volatile environment.  Though greatly inspired by husband/musical partner Gerry Diver’s own creative journey with his 2011 ‘Speech Project’ album (music based on the speech patterns of Irish traditional singers), Lisa was equally motivated by a love of language – partly through a meeting with Seamus Heaney but also a healthy obsession with the old English text of Beowulf.

Shipping Song, the album’s opening track, arises from Lisa’s fascination with the Met Office’s somnambulant, poetic late night shipping forecast ; its strange and far-away sounding place names, Utsire, Viking, Fastnet and Lundy. A recording of American Marine sound testing from the 1950s was seamlessly sewn into the track, alongside the sounds of sea creatures and spinning motors.

Black Horse is a song by the great, late English singer/songwriter, Lal Waterson, which Lisa was originally invited to perform on tour with Scottish singer and guitarist James Yorkston. Not only does James guest on this recording but Lisa was also thrilled to be joined by Lal’s daughter, Marry Waterson.  Lisa plucked up courage to invite Martin Carthy, one of her musical heroes, to accompany her on Two Ravens, a touching song about Alzheimers disease. Seagiver is a visceral song of death and the elements. The penultimate track on Hidden Seam, Hunt the Hare Pt 1, features acclaimed Scottish folk musician, Alasdair Roberts and  was originally based on the well known Irish song Rocky Road to Dublin. It evolved into a song about the month of May. On Hushabye, a lullaby style song which she regularly sang to her daughter, Lisa is accompanied by celebrated singer/songwriter, Kathryn Williams.

Hidden Seam is a substantial sonic tapestry. It will swiftly re-establish Lisa Knapp as not only one of the most compelling voices of her generation in British folk music but one of the most innovative.  Her roots may be embedded in the great folk revival of the 50’s and 60’s but with this new album, she is setting sail for unchartered horizons.

Lisa has also been nominated in 3 categories for the upcoming BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards: Folk Singer Of The Year, Best Album and Best Non-Traditional Track for Two Ravens (which Martin Carthy played on).

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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.

Review of Martin Carthy, Dave Swarbrick, James Yorkston and The Carrivick Sisters concert in aid of charity for musicians

AN EVENING WITH MARTIN CARTHY AND DAVE SWARBRICK, JAMES YORKSTON AND THE CARRIVICK SISTERS AT THE CECIL SHARPE HOUSE  REGENT’S PARK LONDON ON 18th DECEMBER 2012

At the outset let it be known that folk gatherings have never been top of my list in Winter, however,  I was very pleased to have had the good sense to attend this superb concert at the ‘Mecca’ of British Folk and to patronise such a worthy cause.   This concert was sponsored by the Musicians’  Benevolent Fund, was most ably hosted by the one and only “Whisperin’ Bob Harris” OBE, and portrayed the musical talent of Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick, John Yorkston and The Carrivick Sisters.

Bob opened the concert and, in his usual warm and relaxed professional manner, he extolled the virtues of The Musicians’ Benevolent Fund and stressed its significance to musicians.   In essence, the fund was set up to “provide help and support to musicians and their dependants, and those in related occupations, when illness, accident or old age bring stress or financial burdens to bear.” During the evening the mellifluous Bob declared that tonight’s audience was the largest ever held in this venue and I sincerely hoped that The Musicians’ Benevolent Fund would benefit admirably from their generosity

This concert was, in my opinion, a concert of contrasts:  contrasts of music types from Bluegrass to Baroque, rhythms and time signatures, styles and origin. Contrasts in instruments (albeit all of the stringed variety) ranging from the banjo to the fiddle.  And contrasts in artists ranging from the young twenty somethings to the young seventy somethings!  There was, however, one issue in common with each of the headline artists…. they had, at some time in their career, sought and received the help of the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund.

First on were …. The  Carrivick Sisters …… twins Laura and Charlotte seemed totally at home on such an occasion and they performed a series of their original songs and instrumentals using a variety of stringed instruments, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, Dobro, and banjo along with a several carefully chosen “covers”.  I particularly enjoyed listening to Laura’s compositions involving the Dobro which reminded me so much of Iris DeMent and marvelled at Charlotte’s nimble finger picking. In my opinion their overall stage presence, interaction with the audience and musical prowess belied their tender age (compared to Bob anyway!!).  During their set they made reference to financial support proffered by The Musicians’ Benevolent Fund to fund their latest album release.

Next we listened to James Yorkston who hails from Fife…..James  started out as bassist for a punk band  and then, as some would put it, “saw the light” to become one of Scotland’s most renowned singer- songwriters.  James opened his set by conveying to the audience his sadness for Douglas Paul who, as his bass player, had been with him since 2001 and had recently passed away.  James related also his past memories of this magnificent concert hall.  To me (and others) it seemed that most of his hour’s performance was a lament for “Doogie”.  Nevertheless despite the poignant occasion, James’ emotional music and lyrics were fascinating to listen to, more so when embellished by his two guest singers  Belfast-born, Chicago-raised Jill O’Sullivan from the group Sparrow and the Workshop and Mayo man singer-songwriter Seamus Fogarty.  James’s expounded and commended the vital work of The Musicians’ Benevolent Fund and how it had helped him financially when one of his children became seriously ill…..

And finally after more stirring and passionate words in support of The Musicians’ Benevolent  Fund by Bob, the highlight of many peoples’ evening…..the high priests of British folk music and top of the bill, Martin Cathay and Dave Swarbrick both looking so relaxed and at home on stage in front of a very eager audience.  “I played here 54 years ago” quipped Dave……I noted that the majority of the audience weren’t even thought of then!

And then it began…..over an hour of remarkable and awe-inspiring music played by the Grand Masters.  It was incredible to listen to and a total contrast to anything before.  Their choice was significantly of the Baroque era but not in that style as we know it.  There were songs and instrumentals encompassing various compound time signatures and no hint of bar counting!!  It was wonderful to watch and hear the stirring fiddle playing by Dave neatly intertwined with  Martin’s guitar and his well-celebrated vocals….Dave’s “I left my Heart in New South Wales” was my favourite of the evening…..

Seemingly, in next to no time the concert came to a close despite the audience clamouring for more encores from Messrs. Martin and Dave. Finally, to each and every musician gracing that stage and beguiling a very enthusiastic audience we thank you for such a memorable evening.

Peter Burch – 25th December 2012

Speaking about his involvement, Bob Harris OBE said “I am delighted to be part of this wonderful event and hope that it raises the profile for the Musicians Benevolent Fund which is a vital lifeline for so many musicians, without which they would face a very uncertain future.”

Further information about The Musicians’ Benevolent Fund is available here: https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/

This event was made possible by everyone involved donating their time and The English Folk Dance and Song Society generously allowing free hire of Cecil Sharp House.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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.