RYAN YOUNG – Ryan Young (Ryan Young Music RYM01CD)

Ryan YoungRyan Young has already begun garnering what are doubtless only the first of many awards and accolades for his superb fiddle-playing. His self-titled debut album simply brims over with originality and talent: a little sonic jewel. That his fans went out and secured the talents of Grammy-winning Jesse Lewis to produce the album is another huge clue that there is something very special about Young.

Seeking to showcase some of his native Scotland’s less well-known tunes, Young has compiled an album of traditional tune sets in a way that honours them whilst also giving them a complete reworking. There is no slavish homage to tradition here, rather a fearless reshaping of the melody into new stories, where the tunes merely serve as jumping-off points. In this sense, it’s an almost jazz-like approach, circling the melody whilst riffing off exploring new possibilities and opening the sound out in unexpected directions.

Some interesting combinations of tunes are melded seamlessly together by boldness and careful artistry. There’s a key lowered here, a rhythm slowed there, there’s a sidelong glide up to the melody before dancing away again in a birl of slurred notes There’s also a distinct fondness for minor keys – and moody majors – meaning that more than a touch of melancholy sweeps over the album.

On rather better-known tunes such as ‘The Highland Laddie’ it becomes clear quite how distinct Young’s vision is. His interpretation alters the listener’s emotional response to the tune. Somehow it feels intuitive and natural whilst, at the same time, he skilfully manipulates the melodic variations, pushing at boundaries.

While Young’s playing may owe much to the Irish County Clare tradition – the fluid bowing, smudgy grace notes and the lyrical, often slower-paced renditions – it’s also proudly Scottish with its snaps and even an occasionally almost syncopated rhythm (especially as underscored by Leo Forde’s brightly swishing guitar in the second part of the first track). Both Forde and James Ross, on piano, provide restrained, sympathetic and elegant accompaniments throughout, perfectly enhancing the tunesets.

Two of the tracks featured here are Young’s own compositions. They showcase yet another side to his talent, one which will hopefully be featured more in future as his body of work grows. Despite his extensive study and achievement in his field already, a sense of modest self-deprecation comes across in the highly informative set of additional notes that he’s written for the album, and which are available on his website. However, there’s no doubt that he is the real deal and someone very interesting to watch as his career matures.

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 RYAN YOUNG – Ryan Young 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 website: http://www.ryanyoung.scot/

Ryan with Jenn Butterworth at Celtic Connections 2017:

Fraser Shaw – posthumous tune book and CD

Fraser Shaw
The Islay Sessioners

Fraser Shaw was a wonderful piper, whistle player and composer from Glasgow who resided on the Isle of Islay. After his passing in May 2015, a group of friends and family started a Trust in his honour. The foremost aim of the Fraser Shaw Trust is to raise money for the relief of multiple sclerosis, particularly in Argyll, Scotland, through a series of projects and events celebrating Fraser and his music.

A few years before Fraser’s passing, he had it in mind to release a book of his own compositions, the proceeds of which would go towards the MS Care Centre in Lochilphead, Scotland. Unfortunately, due to his illness, this never came to fruition.

Over the last year and a half, the Trust have been working hard to bring this idea to life and release this much anticipated book, along with an album comprised of Fraser’s tunes. In November 2015 a group of musicians gathered on Islay, to play a special memorial concert at Fraser’s festival, The Islay Sessions, thus laying the groundwork for this album. In January 2016 at Celtic Connections this same group of musicians, “The Islay Sessioners”, as they called themselves, performed this music as part of Islay Night, a concert that both celebrated the music and culture of Islay, and the music of Fraser Shaw.

In September 2016, recording began for the album in Castlesound and Carrier Waves Studios. Many of the arrangements heard at Islay Night have been recorded, along with a few additional tracks. Playing on the album are; Adam Sutherland, Eilidh Shaw, Gráinne Brady, Lori Watson, Innes Watson, Angus MacKenzie, Calum MacCrimmon, Kevin O’Neill, John Somerville, Laura-Beth Salter, Jenn Butterworth, Ross Martin, Tina Jordan Rees, Duncan Lyall, with very special guests; Kathleen Graham, Mhairi Hall and Ross Couper.

The Fraser Shaw Trust is delighted to announce the release of the book and CD on Tuesday June 27th 2017, with a big launch on the Isle of Islay to mark the occasion. The event will take plce in Bruichladdich Hall, with a concert featuring the musicians on the album. A second launch in Glasgow is set for Monday August 7th in St Luke’s Church as part of Piping Live!

Hard copies of Fraser’s CD will be available exclusively at the pre-launch party which will take place in The Sparkle Horse, Glasgow on Tuesday May 16th. Tickets for launch concerts and pre-orders will be for sale online from May 16th through the website – www.FraserShawTrust.com.

Proceeds of the tunebook will go directly towards the MS Care Centre in Lochilphead. Proceeds of the album and further donations will be used for the advancement of education, arts and culture and for the relief of those living with multiple sclerosis in Scotland, particularly on the Isle of Islay.

JENN & LAURA-BETH – Bound (JBLB Records JBLB01)

BoundJenn Butterworth and Laura-Beth Salter have worked as a duo for eight years but Bound is their first album as a duo. The reason for this is simple; they have been far too busy. Jenn has worked with Anna Massie and the Rachel Hair Trio and most recently as a member of the collective that produced Songs Of Separation. Laura-Beth is a founding member of The Shee and has played alongside Frigg and Shooglenifty.

Bound is a mixture of Jenn’s Scottish roots and Laura-Beth’s fondness for Americana. With just two voices, guitar and mandolin, the album was recorded as live and the dynamism of their playing leaps off the plastic.  I don’t believe that ‘If I Had A Lover’ sounds anything like the way Bert Jansch envisaged it now it’s mixed with Jenn’s tune ‘The Belle Of The Ball’ but it’s great. Boo Hewerdine’s ‘Wings On My Heels’ was taken up by Eddi Reader and it wasn’t one of my favourites. Jenn and Laura-Beth make it much more country with their harmonies and I feel rather better about this reading of it. ‘The Great Divide’ by the late Kate Wolf is a lovely song by a relatively unknown writer.

Laura-Beth’s song, ‘The Braver One’, should be widely heard. Its theme is that it takes a brave person to go against the tide of popular opinion and not join the rabble even though you might sort-of agree with their viewpoint. It’s a complex idea and Laura-Beth expresses it so much better than I could. Then we have the instrumental sets. Their pairing of two originals, ‘1,2,3,4’ and ‘Joseph Salter’s’ sees them trade lead and accompaniment between guitar and mandolin, a trick they use quite often although ‘Apple At The Crossroads/Elzwick’s Farewell’ is really Laura-Beth’s chance to show off.

As a debut, Bound has been a long time coming; let’s hope we don’t have to wait so long for the follow-up.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: http://www.jennandlb.com/

‘The Great Divide’ live:

Jenn & Laura-Beth announce debut album, Bound

Jenn & Laura-Beth

Jenn Butterworth (guitar and voice) and Laura-Beth Salter (mandolin and voice) have each been a presence on the UK folk scene for a number of years. They were brought together by the close-knit and progressive Glasgow folk music community, spending lots of their time jamming an eclectic mix of folk music from across the globe, particularly the UK, Scandinavia and America. The years of playing together brought a deep affinity between the two artists; their rhythms lock tightly, their voices blend so closely that it’s often hard to tell them apart. They have developed a natural telepathy: two musicians bound together.

Their debut release Bound is a celebration of the last eight years of the duo. It contains some old favourites, such as ‘Come To Jesus’ and ‘Elzwick’s’, and newer arrangements created for the album such as ‘The Braver One’ and ‘Let the Sun Shine Down On Me’. Arranged entirely by the duo, the album contains some self-penned work, some re-invention of older tunes and songs, and some more recent covers, such as Boo Hewerdine’s ‘Wings On My Heels’. When Jenn and Laura-Beth set out to record this album, they felt it was important to keep things simple. They wanted capture the raw energy of their live gigs and wanted the recording to feel natural. The way they play on the album is the way they play live; for the most part the tracks were recorded either live in the same room, or facing each other through a glass door. The album was recorded at Carrier Waves Studios in Glasgow, engineered by Keir Long and mastered at Castlesound Studios in Pencaitland.

“Our brand new debut album, Bound, is a representation of the last eight fantastic years of playing together. A snapshot of where we have come from and where we are now. We hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we have enjoyed playing and recording it.” Jenn & Laura-Beth

Laura-Beth is a founding member of renowned folk band, The Shee, and has also toured extensively with bands such as Frigg, Shooglenifty and Dougie MacLean’s The MacLean Project. In 2013 she was nominated for the MG Alba Scots Trad Awards Composer of the Year award after the success of her Celtic Connections commission and debut album, Breathe.

Jenn Butterworth is one of the UK’s foremost folk guitarists. She began her career touring worldwide with award winning Anna Massie Band, and has gone on to perform with well regarded acts such as Fiddlers’ Bid, Phil Cunningham and the highly acclaimed Songs of Separation.

‘The Scottish Situation’:

Claire Hastings announces debut album

Claire Hastings

Since winning the BBC Young Traditional Musician of theYear title in 2015, folk singer Claire Hastings’ debut album Between River And Railway has been hotly anticipated. The album features exciting arrangements of traditional folk songs alongside Claire’s self-penned material, including the stunning ‘The House at Rosehill’. This song features the album title in the lyrics, and is a reference to Claire’s childhood home near Dumfries. Songs are brought to life with band members Jenn Butterworth (guitar & vocals), Laura Wilkie (fiddle) and Andrew Waite (accordion) as well as guests Martin O’Neill (percussion) and Duncan Lyall (bass).

Recorded at Carrier Waves Studio (Glasgow) and produced by Ali Hutton (Treacherous Orchestra, Old Blind Dogs) one of Scotland’s foremost multi-instrumentalists, the album showcases Claire’s beautifully clear voice in the Scots and English languages.

The album includes Claire’s alternative melody to Robert Burns’ ‘The Posie’, which has been controversially deemed superior to the original. A lively rendition of ‘Let Ramensky Go’ also features, which Claire has performed twice with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at Proms in the Park and at BBC Music Day, where she also sang alongside Lulu, Jamie Cullum and Deacon Blue. ‘The Gretna Girls’ was written after a visit to the Devil’s Porridge Museum near Gretna, once the site of what during the First World War was the UK’s largest munitions factory.

Claire will be touring the album with her band in May and June this year following a solo tour of New Zealand in April.

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

‘The Posie’:

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Songs of Separation (Navigator NAVIGATOR094P)

Songs of SeparationAn ambitious project, this is the brainchild of double-bassist Jenny Hill who, in the period running up to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, found herself frequently on the road away from her Scottish home. As such, and being English, she was struck by the different messages being directed at and from the two nations and decided to address the notion of separation through a musical project. Recruiting Eliza Carthy, Hannah James, Hannah Read, Hazel Askew, Jenn Butterworth, Karine Polwart, Kate Young, Mary Macmaster and Rowan Rheingans, a posse of female folkies from both Scotland and England, they holed up on Isle of Eigg last June to write, rehearse and record (in just six days) what would eventually become this album, its theme of separation embracing the personal, political, social and cultural as well as touching on matters of family, gender, communication, supernatural, home, work, identity and the land.

Polwart taking the lead vocal, it opens with a reading of the traditional number, ‘Echo Mocks The Corncrake’, an appropriate choice given that Eigg is one of this migratory bird’s remaining habitats, its distinctive call introducing the track and echoed in the percussive beats, the lyrics about the separation of two lovers serving as a metaphor for the rural depopulation of the Highlands during the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s a robust treatment involving harp, scraping strings bass, double bass and a rousing wordless vocal refrain.

The album continues in traditional mode with Read’s bluegrass-tinged arrangement of Burns’ ‘It Was A’ For Our Rightfu’ King’, a gently yearning melody picked out her acoustic guitar and completed by harp and banjo, followed by the equality and love themed ‘The Poor Man’s Lamentation’ with its urgent rhythm, swirling violins and a capella ending. Further birdsong and the sound of a storm heralds the wholly massed a capella lament ‘Sad The Climbing’ (or, since it’s sung in Gaelic, ‘Trom An Direadh’), recorded live, like the album’s other a capella number, ‘Unst Boat Song’, in Eigg’s acoustically striking Cathedral Cave, itself not far from the site of a 1577 massacre of the MacDonald population by the MacLeods of Harris upon which the lyrics treat.

Driven by choppy percussive arrangement and gathering to a chanted climax, things remain in Scottish Gaelic for the near six-minute ‘Muladach Mi ‘s Mi Air M’aineoil’ (‘Sad Am I And In A Strange Place’), a call-and-response waulking song about a woman and her two daughters being separated from their people and their home.

In contrast to the bulk of the album, ‘Cleaning The Stones’ is an original number (a fish’s love song) penned by Eliza Carthy. Opening with a chamber folk arrangement, it waltzes dreamily on wings of plucked strings and harp arpeggios like something from the music halls. A little more birdsong, and it’s a journey way back in time and to the far reaches of the Shetlands for ‘Unst Boat Song’, a prayer for the safe return of fisherman sung on the original Norn with Polwart taking lead.

Sung by Hazel Askew with the others providing harmonies, the lullabying music hall tune of ‘London Lights’ may be more familiar as ‘Just Before The Battle Mother’, an American Civil War song written by George Root, the lyrics here about the destitution fate of abandoned single mothers. Heading into the final stretch, the harp shimmering ballad ‘Sea King’ is a handclap backed intricate setting by Kate Young of a poem by 19th century Danish poet Adam Oehlenschläger, a variation on the selkie myth about a woman who, years after being transformed into a mermaid, returns to shore, human again, only to find she has now has no home on either land and the sea.

Lady Maisery’s Rowan Rheingans steps up for another original, the strings-swathed ‘Soil And Soul’, a song inspired by both the hills known as The Old Woman of the Moors on the Isle of Lewis and the translation of the Gaelic for Eigg, The Island of the Big Women (a reference to the 7th century female Pict warriors sent to rid the island of Christianity-peddling monks), while the title (and the theme) stems from a book by Scottish environmental campaigner Alastair McIntosh.

Concerned with separation and loss as a result of conflict, personal or otherwise, ‘Over The Border’ weaves together a number of traditional tunes and a collective original, among them ‘The Flowers of Knaresborough Forest’, ‘Blue Bonnets Over the Border’ and pipe lament ‘The Floo’ers of The Forest’, plucked harp and Indian harmonium drone giving way to shared vocals by Polwart and Carthy before the ensemble joins in and violins, guitars and percussion lift the tempo for a rousing dance reel and the optimistic refrain of ‘the gates and the borders will all fade away’.

Finally, Robert Frost’s classic poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ provides the inspiration for’ Rheingans’ ‘Road Less Travelled’, her vocals joined by Polwart and Young (who also lent a lyric hand) on an suitably banjo-dappled accompaniment behind which, recorded in the open air, birds trill and the wind blows as they exhort “lay your cares and troubles down” and “sing your own way home”.

There’s no better way to end this than by quoting Hill’s words in the booklet:

Songs of Separation is an ‘SoS’, reminding us that this connection between people, and between people and place, is the key to overcoming the challenges we face, both in our communities and in this fragile world of which we are temporary custodians.” Come together, right now.

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 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.

Website: http://www.songsofseparation.co.uk/

Cathedral Cove: