EDDI READER – Cavalier (Reveal 077CDX)

CavalierForty years into her career, Reader’s 11th solo studio album, Cavalier, continues the recent trend of mixing original and traditional material with, naturally, something from Robert Burns.

Recorded in Glasgow and co-produced with husband John Douglas, and featuring a plethora of musicians, Boo Hewardine, John McCusker, Siobhan Miller, Phil Cunningham and Michael McGoldrick among then, it opens on a traditional note with the gently waltzing Irish tune ‘Maiden’s Lament (An Charraig Donn)’, with whistles, Martin Kershaw’s clarinet and Miller and Annie Grace on backing. The first of the original numbers comes with the poppy Douglas co-penned ‘Wonderful’, a song about learning to let go of trying to control your children’s lives as they transition to adults, the collaboration (along with Simon Dine) also providing the hushed slow waltzer ‘My Favourite Dress’, a nostalgic song reminding how short life is, written for his aunt Mary, in care and suffering from dementia.

It’s Douglas who provides the equally poppy, R&B brass-embellished uptempo title track about sharing the load, his other credits including the slower sway of ‘Fishing’, a number about learning that troubles always pass, even rainy evening, and the following ‘Maid O’The Loch’, a number written as a fundraiser to refurbish the titular boat that takes tourists around Loch Lomond. He also shares a co-write with Phil Cunningham on the gradually swelling ‘A Sailor’s Farewell To The Sea’, the latter putting words to the latter’s Christmassy instrumental and featuring both brass ensemble and accordion.

Hewardine provides two numbers, the first being the 50s-like jazzy shimmering, brushed drums, clarinet and brass-kissed ‘Starlight’ (to which Reader added a final verse), given a Mills Brothers-styled arrangement. The other, ‘Old Song’, takes on a very Scottish waltzing feel courtesy of Alan Kelly’s accordion, a romantic hymn to how music can touch memories and lift hearts.

Turning to Reader’s solo material, coloured by whistles and accordion, ‘There’s A Whole In The Desert Dear Darling’ is a swaylong waltzing lullaby of sorts written in memory of Milou Bedssa, a close friend from her teens who had recently passed away. The other is the album’s penultimate track, the lovely, ukulele-accompanied, percussion rippling ‘Go Wisely’, another song for the kids, both a benediction as they embark on their own lives and a reminder that phone calls don’t cost a lot.

Which just leaves the other traditional numbers. Given a rolling and tumbling Celtic rhythm, ‘Meg O’The Glen’ takes its lyrics from two 18th century poems by Paisley’s Robert Tannahill telling the tale of a lass of low fortune being forced to marry a rich old man she didn’t want, song seguing into an instrumental coda of Jerry Holland’s ‘Brenda Stubbert’s Reel’.

Found among songbooks during a late relative’s house clearance, picked out on the harmonium inherited at the same time, ‘Deirdre’s Farewell To Scotland’ is based on the Celtic myth ‘Deirdra Of The Sorrows’, about a pregnant Irish girl forced to seek sanctuary and the fate of her daughter, the story resonating with the contemporary refugee crisis.

Learned from a version by American jazz singer Kurt Elling, ‘The Loch Tay Boat Song’ is familiar number of love and leaving in the Scottish tradition, here given a laid back late night jazz arrangement for Steve Hamilton’s piano and dedicated to Davy Steele. It’s followed in lively fiddle-laced and wheezing accordion style by ‘Pangur Bán And The Primrose Lass’, a cocktail of an Irish poem about a cat hunting mike (the title translates as White Cat) that rolls into the instrumental interlude, a tune that apparently appeared on an early 70s Steeleye Span album as ‘The Primrose Lassie’, originally collected by Douglas’s great uncle, Irish song archivist Colm Keane. It features Monica Queen on harmonies, prompting thoughts that’s she’s long overdue an album of her own.

And so, Douglas on piano and McCusker on fiddle and whistle, it ends with another nod to her favourite Scottish songwriter, a four verse version of Burns’ classic ‘A Man’s A Man For A’ That’. She says she chose the album title to reflect how she’s feeling. The thesaurus defines it as offhand, high-handed or careless, but also, as a Caballero or a Quixotic figure. Long may she tilt at windmills.

Mike Davies

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.

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

‘Wonderful’ – official video:

JOHN SMITH – Hummingbird (Commoner COMM01CD)

HummingbirdJohn Smith is a name I’ve been circling around for some time without actually hearing him so I was delighted when his new album, Hummingbird, his sixth, fell into my lap. I now have some serious catching up to do. If you haven’t encountered him yet you should know that John is a fine fingerpicking guitarist and songwriter with a very individual take on traditional songs.

John names his influences as John Renbourn and Richard Thompson. The former is obvious from his guitar style and the latter becomes so with the opening song in this set. ‘Hummingbird’ is a beautiful song of love yearned for, gained and lost and also a middle class homage to ‘Beeswing’. If you’re not immediately grabbed by it you should be listening to some other music. The second original song here is the fiery ‘Boudica’, the story of Iceni queen bolstered by strings and the third is the long modern murder ballad, ‘Axe Mountain (Revisited)’, which comes straight after the traditional ‘Willy Moore’. Whether this is actually a murder ballad is hard to say, although the set-up of the first three verses suggests it, but it feels more like a story of thwarted love and suicide.

It’s John’s approach to traditional songs that really engaged me, though. He approaches them as though they were modern with a changed note here and there and a contemporary inflection in his voice. ‘Hares On The Mountain’ has more recorded versions than you can shake a stick at but he makes you listen to it afresh as he does with ‘Lord Franklin’, a favourite of mine, I must admit.

The odd man out is Anne Briggs’ ‘The Time Has Come’ performed in the style of a sixties guitar player which is entirely appropriate given that John learned it via Renbourn. His band is used sparingly; there is lovely bass from Ben Nicholls and fiddle and whistle from John McCusker with Cara Dillon adding vocals to the closing ‘Unquiet Grave’. Sam Lakeman’s production is perfectly restrained and perfectly judged even when a song like ‘Axe Mountain’ is a temptation to pile on the drama.

Dai Jeffries

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.

Artist’s website: www.johnsmithjohnsmith.com

‘Hummingbird’:

John Smith unveils debut single from new album

John Smith

John Smith had just announced the release of his new album Hummingbird.  It features appearances from Cara Dillon, John McCusker and Ben Nicholls, and will be released on October 5th on his own Commoner Records (via Thirty Tigers worldwide).  He had also announced a huge UK headline tour (29 dates throughout October & November), and made the track ‘Willy Moore’, taken from Hummingbird, available to stream now.

An independent musician who has toured the world for almost fifteen years with his guitar and suitcase, he has independently released five albums, supported the likes of Ben Howard and Damien Rice, won critical acclaim in the UK and abroad, and performed a session guitarist and singer for the likes of Joan Baez, Lisa Hannigan and Martin Simpson.

Following his performance last weekend at the Cambridge Folk Festival, and having been played for the first time last night by Mark Radcliffe on the BBC Radio 2 Folk Show, John Smith can today reveal ‘Willy Moore’, the first song from his soon to be announced new album.

Recorded at Sam Lakeman’s Somerset studio in March, John explains how the track came into his life.

“Collected in Harry Smith’s Anthology Of American Folk Music, no-one knows who wrote it, but it’s probably from the early 20th century.  I first heard this performed by the gentleman genius Wizz Jones. It’s a heart-breaking account of two young lovers’ tragedy.”

Listen to ‘Willy Moore’ here:

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.

Artist’s website: https://www.johnsmithjohnsmith.com/

Live Dates

04 October Aberdeen The Lemon Tree
05 October Ullapool Guitar Festival
10 October Cork  IE Coughlan’s
11 October Cork IE Coughlan’s
12 October Limerick IE Dolan’s
13 October Dublin IE Unitarian Church
14 October Bangor NI Studio Theatre
17 October Chipping Norton The Theatre
20 October Whitby Musicport Festival
21 October Liverpool St George’s Hall
22 October Gateshead Sage Gateshead
24 October Leeds The Wardrobe
25 October Sheffield Picture House Social
26 October Thames Ditton The Ram Club
30 October Newbury Arlington Arts Centre

01 November Bury The Met Arts Centre
02 November Scunthorpe Cafe Indiependent
03 November Halifax Square Chapel
04 November York The Crescent
07 November Middlesbrough Town Hall
09 November Bristol Rough Trade
10 November Plymouth Barbican Theatre
11 November Dartmouth The Flavel
12 November Exeter Phoenix
14 November Southampton The Brook
15 November London St Pancras NEW Church (Bloomsbury)
16 November Brighton Unitarian Church
17 November Guildford St Mary’s Church

SERIOUS CHILD – Empty Nest (TCR Music TCRM75099)

Empty NestThe core of Serious Child – or as the CD sleeve has it, SERIOUS CHiLD – consists of Alan Young on guitar and vocals, Carla March on vocals, and Steve Welch on bass. However, a fine selection of well-performed songs by Alan Young is further lifted on the CD Empty Nest by the support of an impressive number of highly-rated musicians. Among the names you may well recognize are Boo Hewerdine (who produced the album, and indeed persuaded Alan to record it in the first place) and Neill MacColl of The Bible, John McCusker, Gustaf Ljunggren, and three members of The Changing Room. The overall feel of the album is nearer to soft rock than folk, but none the worse for that: this is a quality performance.

  1. ‘Blue Is Only A Colour’ is an affecting ballad, particularly well sung. While Alan Young has a style all of his own, I could almost imagine the Walker Brothers singing this rather well.
  2. ‘Paul The Bag’ is a rock-flavoured and somewhat alarming song about an ageing gangster with something to prove: based on a real-life encounter.
  3. ‘Time Keeps Rolling’ is a reminiscent song about comfort through personal ritual and the passing of time, loosely tied to Paul Robeson’s recording of ‘Ol’ Man River’.
  4. ‘Kind Man’s Bluff’ features The Changing Room’s Tanya Brittain on vocals and accordion, on a moving song about a mother’s feelings as her child leaves home. “But no one dies of heartbreak, so let me help you pack…“. This one could be a keeper.
  5. Most of the way through, ‘I Don’t Remember Venice’ sounds like a pleasant piece of poppy nostalgia but features a sharp twist to the lyric towards the end. Clever.
  6. ‘Cinnabar’ seems to reflect a changed relationship filtered through Alan’s childhood obsession with crimson moths. Interesting.
  7. ‘The Last Chance’ is a little more conventional, but catchy, particularly in the chorus.
  8. While most of the tracks here are not particularly folky, ‘Three Hail Marys’ has an instrumental line-up that would fit in with many an Irish folk group, with prominent whistle, bodhran and banjo, and a lyric that wouldn’t disgrace the Pogues at their best.
  9. I guess we’ve all kept checking our phone for a message that someone somehow hasn’t left. ‘No Missed Calls’ seems to recall that hollow ambivalence, and has a nice guitar-dominated arrangement.
  10. ‘Open Skies’ has a slightly country-rock feel.
  11. ‘Speeding’ for some reason reminds me of John Miles. In a good way.
  12. ‘You Wear The Smile’ is a slow ballad that finishes the album in fine style.

Alan Young has long been known as a talented and versatile vocalist, but it turns out that he’s also rather a good, late-flowering songwriter – apparently he’d never written a song until he was 50. Hopefully, now that he’s discovered this extra string to his bow – um, guitar… – we’ll hear more of his songs in the future. Empty Nest is scheduled for release on the 22nd of June.

David Harley

Artist’s website: www.seriouschild.com

‘Time Keeps Rolling’ – live:

Serious Child announce debut album

Serious Child

Empty Nest is the affecting and impressive debut album from Serious Child, a talented trio fronted by singer/songwriter and guitarist Alan Young with Carla March on vocals and Steve Welch on bass. On Empty Nest they are joined by a range of folk and rock musicians, including Boo Hewerdine (the album’s producer) and Bible bandmate Neill MacColl, John McCusker and three members of The Changing Room (Tanya Brittain, Jamie Francis and Evan Carson).

The acclaimed, Ivor Novello Award nominated, English singer-songwriter and producer, Boo Hewerdine played a crucial role in bringing about the creation of Empty Nest. A talented vocalist, Alan Young had never written a song prior to his fiftieth birthday, when his wife bought him a place on a five day workshop in the Scottish Highlands. Following a second workshop, Boo, who recognised his significant skills as a songwriter, persuaded an initially reluctant Alan to record an album that he would produce.

The result is Empty Nest, an album whose theme is formed around a quote from Samuel Beckett’s one act play, Krapp’s Last Tape. The words were printed below a photo of a magnificently craggy Beckett in his 70s, in a shabby office where Alan was a research student. The photo and the quote stayed with him over the years and are to be found in the songs, the album cover and the forthcoming videos.

Most of the songs are stories about transitions between different stages of life and the fire that keeps burning as we move through them. ‘Kind Man’s Bluff’ is about a mother facing up to her child leaving home and ‘Paul The Bag’ is about an ageing gangster who is compelled to prove to strangers that he’s not too old.

Serious Child will be holding a launch event for Empty Nest at Cecil Sharp House in London on Wednesday 20 June. The formal release date for the album will be Friday 22 June. The band will be performing at various festivals over the summer and will be on tour in the autumn in the UK (dates to be announced).

Empty Nest is released by TCR Music, an independent folk label based in Cornwall, which has launched the careers of Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys, The Changing Room and Kitty Macfarlane.

Artists’ website: http://seriouschild.com/

‘Time Keeps Rolling’ – live:

The Ballads Of Child Migration on tour

Child Migration

With award-winning folk artists:

John McCusker, Michael McGoldrick,

Boo Hewerdine, O’Hooley & Tidow,

Chris While, Julie Matthews,

John Doyle, Jez Lowe,

Andy Seward and Andy Cutting

Narrated by Barbara Dickson

In November 2018, a collective of brilliant and respected musicians and singers are taking to the road to tell the moving story of Britain’s forced child migrants.

The concert, presented as a series of songs, narration, slides, audio and film clips, premiered at last year’s Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow, where it was described as “without doubt the most memorable concert of the festival.”

The songs in this concert were recently heard as part of a major BBC Radio 2 dramatisation of Michael Morpurgo’s book Alone On A Wide Wide Sea, which deals with the same subject. The radio drama, including the music, starred Toby Jones and Jason Donovan and reached an estimated audience of 6 million listeners.

“One of the pre-eminent song collections of recent times, poignantly re-telling one of the most important stories to have emerged from these islands” – Mark Radcliffe, BBC Radio 2

Forced child migration is a little known and dark part of the history of Britain. More than 100,000 children from Britain were sent overseas (to places including Australia and Canada) with the promise of finding a better life. Some did find the happy lives they longed for; many others found only hardship, abuse and loneliness.

The Ballads Of Child Migration is a tribute to those children, some of whom were sent abroad as recently as 1970.

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.

After each concert there will be a short Q&A session where members of the audience can ask questions of the performers and other experts about child migration.

* * *

This tour is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and is produced by 7digital – the digital music and radio services company that also produced the BBC Radio version of Alone On A Wide Wide Sea.

Tour Dates – November 2018

Monday 12th – Folk In The Barn, Gulbenkian, Canterbury

Tuesday 13th – Saint James Church, Clerkenwell, London

Wednesday 14th – Corn Exchange, Cambridge

Thursday 15th – The Albert Hall, Nottingham

Friday 16th – Floral Hall, Southport

Tickets available from www.ticketline.co.uk / 0844 888 9991

For Gulbenkian – www.thegulbenkian.co.uk / 01227 831 493