Luke Jackson – new album

tall-tales-rumours luke jacksonSome young artists arrive on the scene seemingly from nowhere and disappear just as quickly.  Others stay and grow and fine tune their craft. Kent’s Luke Jackson is definitely a keeper. Few would argue that he is one of the most exciting singer songwriters and live performers out there – totally unafraid to stray across genres, always delivering top notch original material and still only 22.

He first started making waves when barely a teenager, hitting the acoustic ground running. Belying his years with his a powerful, distinctive voice and songwriting prowess way beyond his years his debut album More Than Boys was judged outstanding by many critics and triggered a double nomination at the 2013 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (Young Folk Award and Horizon Award for Best Emerging Act).

Just 18 months later he fulfilled all the promise heaped upon him with his second more blues-based album Fumes And Faith, with the accolades coming thick and fast and last year he introduced his trio of Andy Sharps (bass) and Connor Downs (percussion) in the EP This Family Tree (the first release on his own label, First Take Records) – the only criticism coming from those looking for another full length album.

Now he is back with a real ‘coming of age’ album – his fourth release Tall Tales & Rumours –  12 diverse self-penned tracks moving across myriad styles from folk to blues and rock and feeling like “my most complete album yet”.

That natural confidence is immediately evident in the atmospheric scene setter as Jackson delivers an acapella ‘The Man That Never Wants’ – a haunting song he wrote after watching a documentary about country singer Glen Campbell and his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. “He was starting to forget most things but somehow remembered his songs and how to play the guitar – I found that completely fascinating” says Luke.

The song runs straight into the second completely juxtaposed track – the driving rhythms of the tongue in cheek ‘Treat Me Mean, Keep Me Keen’ – a lyric from which gives the album its title.

Luke’s trio have really hit their stride on this album, working tightly together as perhaps only old college band friends can and come into their own on the restless ‘Finding Home’. Written while touring with Grammy winner Amy Wadge at the start of the year it tells of a life in perpetual motion, never quite belonging, and features Ed Sheeran collaborator Wadge on harmony vocals.

First unveiled in Belgium ‘Better Man’ is a beautifully contemplative and stripped back love song while ‘Kansas’, a love song of a different kind, was apparently written in just 20 minutes is a US hotel room. Says Luke:

“I started 2016 in America at Folk Alliance – I was having a wonderful time but when I wrote the song looking at the night time city skyline, I had never felt so far away from home”.

The sentiment of the homesick blues song percolates through a softer, measured vocal and plaintive guitar chords.

Luke steps on the gas for the rockier ‘Anything But Fate ‘while one of his long time live show highlight ‘Lucy And Her Camera’ has finally been recorded here – a snapshot song where the boy succeeds in getting the girl!

‘Lucy And Her Camera’:

His increasingly sophisticated, astutely observed narrative songs venture into “father and son” territory once more (‘Father And Son’ was an acclaimed song on his Fumes And Faith album). The poignant and pensive Leather and Chrome tells of a parent’s unfulfilled dream. After vowing to ‘build this bike and ride to California’ the father comes to realise he will never see New York City or Tennessee or “lay my head on Venice Beach” but hopes his son will fulfil the trip in his stead.

It’s a memorable stand out song but perhaps more moving still is his bold, bleak ‘That’s All Folks’ – the saddest of goodbye notes. Chilling and raw and recorded in one take it’s a subject that not all musicians would want to tackle.

Elsewhere he unveils songs of misfits – the menacing and percussive ‘I Remember’ is a dramatic song about a stalker with a big soundscape while ‘Aunt Sally’ is based on a character from his locality.

“Last year my secondary school closed and there were rumours that squatters had taken residence. I had the odd idea that maybe Aunt Sally was squatting in one of my old English rooms, maybe even reading one of my essays! But beyond that there’s a more serious message about people who are struggling and unable to find real help.”

The album ends on a more uplifting note with the hooky and upbeat ‘On the Road’ –  a number gig goers will recognise as a favourite set closer which Luke says is “the story of the last year really.”

My mind, body and soul is on the road” says the song. As the assured Jackson gets ever more in demand that will surely be the case for many years to come.

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.lukepauljackson.com

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Land Of Hope & Fury (Union Music Store UMS009)

Land Of Hope & FuryLand Of Hope & Fury is a collection of contemporary protest songs – a compilation inspired by the realisation on May 8th 2015 of the enormity of what the British people had done. Not just the greedy and the fascists but also those too pusillanimous to stand up for what they actually believe in. We can thank Stevie and Jamie Freeman for the work that went into putting it together.

The album opens quietly with Luke Jackson’s ‘Forgotten Voices’, the story of an old soldier left on the scrapheap feeling that his voice counts for nothing. It may be better to protest by whispering in someone’s ear than screaming in their face and even Mark Chadwick is quite restrained but I kept having the feeling that what the record needed was one really good rant. Moulettes’ ‘Lullaby’ is a lovely song but it’s somewhat opaque in this context. ‘The Hum’, from O’Hooley & Tidow’s third album takes a positive line, one that’s on the side of working people. OK, it sticks it to the aspirational middle class but that’s almost incidental.

Lucy Ward’s ‘Bigger Than That’ is a real killer track – still quiet but with uncompromising lyrics and ‘Filthy Lucre’ by The Mountain Firework Company does the same to the sound of a hillbilly banjo. There are excellent songs from Phil Jones, Will Varley and Chris T-T and Plumhall’s ‘Never Forget My Name’ serves as a warning to the slavers and taskmasters and Grace Petrie’s ‘If There’s A Fire In Your Heart’ acts as a rallying cry.

So, this is a really good collection of songs for our troubled times but, you know what, it still needs one really good rant.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: https://unionmusicstore.com/label/land-of-hope-and-fury

Plumhall – ‘Never Forget My Name’:

Land Of Hope & Fury – what it’s all about

Land Of Hope & Fury

A message from Jamie & Stevie Freeman:

We woke up on May 8th to election results that left tens of millions of people feeling disenfranchised and without a voice. Rather than wait quietly for another five years before we got to have our say, we decided to return to the proud musical tradition of the protest song. Our votes might have counted for nothing, but we could still make our voices heard.

We contacted our many friends in the roots music world and asked them to contribute something to a compilation of contemporary protest songs, and the results were an incredibly diverse range of musical, emotional and political styles. Land Of Hope & Fury was born. Sixteen artists in total donated songs with nine of them written specifically for the album. This coming together of people, all acting out of simple desire to make the world a better place, has been the single most encouraging aspect of this project, It is the proof that Margaret Thatcher’s suggestion that “there’s no such thing as society” is as wrong today as ever it was.

38 Degrees

We didn’t want to profit financially from the album, so we looked for a suitable beneficiary that was aligned with our frustrations, but not bound to one set of policies. Politics had let us down, so a campaigning group from outside of the political system seemed like a good choice. We felt 38 Degrees’ mix of online petitioning and real-world actions was just right for Land Of Hope And Fury, and they were delighted to take part. We couldn’t be happier to have them alongside us.”

Jamie’s brother Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, The Office, Sherlock) made a video supporting the Labour Party, so his family are no stranger to politics.

Track List

Luke Jackson – Forgotten Voices
Mark Chadwick (Levellers)  –  No Change
Emily Barker – Doing The Best I can
Moulettes – Lullaby
Lucy Ward – Bigger Than That
The Jamie Freeman Agreement – Homes for Heroes
The Self Help Group  – Funeral Drum
The Dreaming Spires – Follow The Money
Mountain Firework Company – Filthy Lucre
Phil Jones (Hatful Of Rain) – New Homes
O’Hooley & Tidow – The Hum
Will Varley  – The Sound Of The Markets Crashing
Chris TT – A-Z
Plumhall – Never Forget My Name
Grace Petrie – If There’s a Fire In Your Heart
Danni Nicholls  – A Little Redemption

Buy it from https://unionmusicstore.com

LUKE JACKSON- This Family Tree (First Take Records FTCD001)

ThisFamilyTreeLuke Jackson opened his account with two superb solo albums and he could be forgiven for sitting back and giving us more of the same. He’s still only twenty, after all, and he has time on his side.

And that is exactly what he hasn’t done. This Family Tree continues the development that led to Fumes And Faith with support from Andy Sharps on bass and Connor Downs on drums. It’s more rock’n’roll than folk but the songs retain the insight that Luke has always shown. These are stories of people, all but one told in the third person, as Luke observes their lives.

The opener, ‘Ain’t No Trouble’, shows a small town Saturday night with all its unpleasantness. Luke stands outside at all – “There ain’t no trouble that’s mine”. One of the song’s characters, Joey by name, appears again in ‘These Winter Winds’ on the day “he watched his daughter go”. Luke fills the song with misdirection – is this a wedding day or a funeral? Even at the end we’re not sure. The first person song is ‘Is It Me? And here Luke is looking back all the way to when he was sixteen and asks the un-named girl to “show me that I’m not a has been”. Are you just trying to make us feel old?

The only problem here is that This Family Tree is a mini-album, just seven tracks, and I think I would have preferred to wait a little longer for a full length product. It is also the debut of a new label and there may be economic considerations or it may be that the full album is no longer de rigeur when a single track can be downloaded and be enough to make someone’s name. Whatever, this is a brilliant piece of work.

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: http://lukepauljackson.com/

Luke and the chaps celebrate his ‘Misspent History’:

DARIA KULESH – Eternal Child (Folkstock)

Eternal ChildShortly after I met Kara a cousin, not noted for her interest in folk music, mentioned that she’d heard them at a village fete and remembered Daria Kulesh vividly. Daria is like that: she is memorable, she’s a personality; and while the band is gearing up to start work on their second album she releases her debut.

Daria has not fallen into the trap of trying to make a Kara album. This is very different – ten original songs that are largely autobiographical, each one dedicated to family members or friends. The opening tracks establish her voice as the key instrument and my initial impression was of unexpected delicacy. Second time round I realised that there was a lot more going on. Producer Ben Walker plays almost everything and it is his guitar and piano that sets the first foundations. There are guest appearances from Kate Rouse, Kaity Rae, Luke Jackson and Lauren Deakin-Davies who also produced ‘Fake Wonderland’ and ‘Cracks’ but Daria and Ben hold centre stage.

The opening track, ‘Fata Morgana’, is for Daria’s fairy godmother and the dual meanings of the title, sorceress or mirage, are entwined in the song. It is here, perhaps, that Daria’s eternal child is rooted. Not that her reminiscences are all sweetness and light. The second song, ‘Letting Go’ (“for my first love”), contains a wicked put-down in its second verse. First love stays with you forever even if you don’t want it to.

There are three songs at the heart of the album which depart from the clear path of autobiography. In ‘At Midnight’, co-written with Igor Devlikamov, she confesses to being a witch which is probably not literally true although I agree that she casts a spell. Then comes ‘Butterflies’ which effortlessly deconstructs the usual metaphors and puts together an alternative view: “brittle butterflies break their wings on ignorance…too soon”. Even if you don’t know about Epidermolysis bullosa and “butterfly children” the metaphor still works on a different level for the eternal child forced to grow up. ‘The Hairdresser’ sounds like a flight of fancy and I hesitate to ask how much truth hides within its soap-opera story.

Daria writes strong melodies to go with her crystal clear voice and I wonder how much the music of her Russian childhood influences them. The result, however, is an album that rewards repeated listening and will be near at hand for quite a while.

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.daria-kulesh.co.uk

Daria performs ‘Butterflies’. Not the best film but it also includes an important introduction to the song:

And here is the official video for ‘Right Here’:

KELLY OLIVER – This Land (Folkstock FSR 14 004)

Kelly OliverReturning from Brazil determined to pursue her ambition of becoming a professional musician, Stevenage-based Oliver has had a busy and fruitful year. Since playing her first folk club gig in June 2013, she’s opened for such acts as The Urban Folk Quartet, Gilmore & Roberts and Dave Swarbrick, played numerous festivals, Cambridge included, released an EP and won a Help Musicians UK Emerging Excellence Award. Now comes her debut album, a simple, uncluttered affair predominantly constructed around her guitar playing and occasional harmonica that bears witness to her traditional influences (she’s been often likened to Annie Briggs) as well as her songwriting prowess on a largely self-penned set, drawn, the blurb says, from her Irish grandparents and “a dose of indignation”.

It’s one of her own that gets the ball rolling with ‘The Witch of Walkern’, an acoustic strummed number that mine the folk tradition of tales about women falsely condemned for witchcraft, though here, as in the titular case of Jane Wenham, a Hertfordshire woman whose 1712 ordeal is claimed to have been the last witch trial in the UK , the accused secures her pardon.

The perversion of justice is also at the heart of the bluesy, harmonica blowing ‘Mr Officer’, a song about witnessing a murder built around a repeated line, as she declares “that boy you have taken in is not the guilty man you seek” while righteous anger burns through ‘Off To The Market’, a familiarly traditional styled tune that addresses the cruel trade in human organs, guns, animal hides and horns, and girls abducted to be sold into prostitution.

She spins engaging stories, though most are haunted by dark shadows; the light, shimmering melody of ‘Grandpa Was A Stoker’, on which Swarbrick contributes fiddle, conceals a lyric about the hardship of life in a ship’s engine room that drove men mad, ‘Playing With Sand’, on which she harmonises with herself, talks of a prejudiced education system that assumed Irish immigrants to be ignorant and in ‘Diamond Girl’, a lovely rippling, descending chords ballad on which Luke Jackson provides harmonies, although the girl could do no wrong in her devoted lover’s eyes, she proves less forgiving of his mistakes. An a capella version is also hidden away at the end of the album.

There are, however, some patches of light. Although in the steady strummed ‘Dear Daughter’, the father refuses to let his daughter follow her lover to America, he does so because he won’t let her waste her life on a banished ne’er do who “shamed the girls and .. stole from all around’ and ‘only wants a wife to keep him from the cells’” And, while the gentle ‘A Gush Of Wind’ documents, rather like some Victorian ballad, how a milling family falls on hard times with the baby dying, being made homeless and the father accused of theft, they retain faith in prayer to deliver then which, in the ambiguous final line, seems to have been finally answered.

The remaining two numbers are non-originals, the first a crystal pure reading of the traditional ballad ‘Mary And The Soldier’ and the second, on which Sunjay Brayne provides guitar accompaniment, a heart-aching stripped down version of Dougie Maclean’s much-covered ‘Caledonia’ that makes me recant my desire never to hear it again.

With a full tour almost completed and featuring on November’s anti-war charities fundraiser cover of Pete Seeger’s ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone’ by folk supergroup Armistice Pals, alongside such leading folk names as Judy Dyble, While & Matthews, Reg Meuross, Dave Swarbrick, Christine Collister, Johnny Coppin, Merry Hell and Edwina Hayes, it’s been a remarkable year for Oliver. On the evidence so far, that’s just the tip of what promises to be a very big iceberg.

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.

‘Diamond Girl’ – the official video featuring Luke Jackson