JEREMY TUPLIN – I Dreamt I Was An Astronaut (Folkwit Records f0141)

AstronautJeremy Tuplin released his debut album, I Dreamt I Was An Astronaut, on September 29th and it will be launched at Paper Dress Vintage in London on October 26th. The album has been described as part of a new genre, “space-folk”, because of its “retro-futuristic feel” and blend of “electronic and synthesised sounds with acoustic and organic instruments”. It’s early days (there have been two EP’s but this is a debut album), but there are indications of a talent much better than that kind of narrow-alley-cult description suggests.

You know you’re in a different world when the opening track is called ‘Albert Einstein Song’ and the first verse, which follows the best part of a two minute introduction, is “Here’s to Albert Einstein and the vision he bestowed/To the few things I have learned and all the things I’ll never know/Like why the universe is even here/For what reason is it employed/Or how energy is neither created nor destroyed” The track then goes into an image of David Bowie’s death and a related spiritual musing that we may be part of “something bigger than you, something bigger than me”. On ‘Anybody Else’ Tuplin takes us to a similarly contemplative place while singing an unforced rhyme between hubris and this “I’m just a figment of my ego’s imagination/Must I resign myself to hubris/A twisted sense of self-entitlement and frustration/Mixed with I’ve never known anybody quite like this”.

The melodies are strong so that the lyrics don’t overwhelm them. Tuplin has a clean picking and strumming style. The songs are recorded with electronic instrumentation (the keyboard sound that gives rise to the genre description of space-folk) that moves towards orchestration and drums that give the songs a steady fullness or, in a couple of instances, turn them into something rockier. The video below, ‘Astronaut’, gives you a good feel for Tuplin’s musical locus but have a listen also to ‘Oh Youth’ for the rockier sound.

The voice is unique. There are elements of Nick Cave or Leonard Cohen in it in that Tuplin sings in deep tones, with a calm timbre of serious matters. But then there’s also a faint tinge of Jake Thackray or Viv Stanshall – just to be clear, this is a compliment. In ‘Did We Lose The Fight’, the vocal subtlety allows Tuplin to deliver lines like “A scratch mark’s nothing more than a battle scar…..I down my drink because I can’t stand this any more/Then I drink until I can’t stand any more…….I admit that I still long for those days/We don’t fight like that any more/Can it be that we’ve both got nothing left to say…. I presume we’ll be going our separate ways” and simultaneously capture the passion of a tumultuous relationship, the seriousness of it falling apart, but also a perspective, a sense that there is more to this world and that this is just two people ‘losing the fight’ (with all the complexity inherent in that phrase).

There’s some rawness on the album – given the reprise of vinyl at the moment, I’m not sure whether the crackling sound on one track is deliberate, but I assume the cough on another isn’t; the image of the puppy playing piano (‘Feel Good Hit’) will probably not appeal to many – but I’d rather have it raw than bland and these are small quibbles about a fascinating and well put together CD.

Give it a listen, it is just possible that this is the debut album of someone who is going to be filling halls and festival stages in the coming years.

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 JEREMY TUPLIN – I Dreamt I Was An Astronaut 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.jeremytuplin.com

Following the album launch in London, Tuplin is on tour in Spain and the UK in November.

‘Astronaut’ – official video:

JAMES FREDHOLM – Love Is The Answer (Honeybee Records GmbH)

Love Is The AnswerJames Fredholm releases the singles ‘Oars’ on October 27th. It is taken from his album Love Is The Answer. The album includes not only this single but also Uncaged, a book of Fredholm’s poetry.

Fredholm grew up in Austin, Texas in the 70’s, played in local bands, recorded jingles for local businesses but then went to university and followed a successful business career. He remained interested in the arts, writing songs and poems and painting – and wondering about the road he hadn’t taken. He founded Honeybee Records in 2013 and his focus and lifestyle are now on the artistic life, describing himself as a poet first and then a musician.

And you feel this in the album. Love Is The Answer is intimate and open, acoustic-guitar-gentle. It is Lyric Poetry set to a musical accompaniment which has echoes of late 60’s and 70’s American acoustic music. I find that if I listen to the album in the car, I enjoy the melody and the style. It suits the enclosed cabin of the car in the same way that it would suit the air-conditioned chill out room in a night club. But if I listen at home, I’m much more drawn in by the words and the lines are too short, the rhymes chasing in on one another and pulling attention away from the melody. “I’m not blind/And I don’t mind/ What you do/I’ve got time/To find the answers/With you” – ‘Me And You’; “Innocent child/It was sweet for a while/And I don’t/ Want to part/From her smile/I want to please her” – ‘Anastasia’

If this is your style, both the lyrics and the poetry are available on Fredholm’s website and you can see him on a short tour at the moment until October 25th, concluding with a gig at The Packhorse in Leeds.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website: https://jamesfredholm.com

The single ‘Oars’ – official video:

THE EVERYDAY SINNERS – Shakedown (Coll 051)

ShakedownThe lead singer is called Jack Cade, after the man who led a rebellion to end government corruption in 1450, and it’s no surprise that some of the songs on Shakedown, the new album by The Everyday Sinners, have a strong political message.

The style is vibrant, by turn driving drums, what was recently described to me as the down-and-dirty sound of a dobro, the rhythm guitar of protest songs, almost barroom keyboards and Cade’s vocal – Cash/Kristofferson meets Slipknot. You can’t help but enjoy this music. The video ‘Belly Full A Fire’, the music set against images of protest and rebellion, from the mid-80’s to the current day. The song itself “with a belly full a fire and fistful of truth” does what I’d have thought was impossible by being simultaneously reminiscent of both the Beastie Boys fighting for our right to party and the gospel-ish calling of saints coming marching in. It’s a song to follow on a protest march with the band playing from the back of a truck.

‘16 Tons’ is an obvious cover to follow on from this, the image in your head of modern foodbanks sliding naturally into the Merle Travis line of owing your soul to the company store. My favourite track, though, is ‘You Were The Ammunition’ telling how hate can be whipped up and used by politicians preaching lies and fear “If you were the flames I was the one to fan them…….If I was the gun, you were the ammunition…..If I was the lie, you were the ones who made it true

However, Cade describes the album as “I didn’t want it to end up as an album of protest, more a snapshot of life from the last ten years or so”. Alongside the songs of rebellion are personal ones, including ‘Lovin’ Kind’ about turning your life around after heartbreak “Can you see can you see what your eyes really won’t believe/you got to take the time to walk another line”. The final song, ‘Roll With Them Punches’, is based on something Cade’s grandfather used to tell him “life throws all sorts at you but you have to take it and find your way through” and showcases a gentler style both musically and in Cade’s singing, a calm and thoughtful ending to the album.

There are no tours currently planned and the album is released on vinyl and streaming services only, available from Cade’s website.

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 THE EVERYDAY SINNERS – Shakedown 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.

DOWNLOAD – [CD]

Mike Wistow

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

‘Belly Full A Fire’ – 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]

ORDER – [VINYL]

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

‘Scotland Yet’ live:

TOM RUSSELL – Folk Hotel (Proper PRPCD143P)

Folk HotelTom Russell releases a new studio album Folk Hotel on September 8th. Russell has been described as “The greatest living folk-country songwriter” by John Swenson in Rolling Stone. Folk Hotel is a mix of Americana, Tex-Mex, Cowboy, Folk, Blues, Poetry and Elizabethiana (I may have invented the word but have a listen to ‘The Dram House Down In Gutter Lane’). In the video below Tom Russell introduces the album: the songs, his artwork and the guest musicians. This is, of course, what a review would normally do – but in addition Russell plays snippets from this first-rate album of American songs so you can hear them instead of trying to imagine them from the written word.

So a different kind of review. Folk Hotel hits you with a cornucopia of characters. We see pictures of America: a café where the mountain lion walked in one day thirsty for water, taken down by the cops; drunken Maggie; a rancher refusing to leave his old horses; JFK as ‘Handsome Johnny’; the smell of saffron and chorizo coming through cracks in the floor; Motel rooms on the interstate; broken guitar strings and a pocket full of guitar picks because “that’s my trade sir”; Indians on the edge of this society; a ‘princess’ on the road to Santa Fe; piss-smelling beer parlours.

……and then there’s ‘Harlan Clancy’, a man who throws his TV in the river because of the commercials and bad news shows; a man who we then see sympathetically – a common man with Irish heritage, “a penchant for a drink, it don’t get in my way”, five kids, “three of whom still talk to me”; a wife; a man (“I ain’t no racist”) with a workmate with a Spanish/Mexican name “I didn’t ask to see his papers”- with whom he goes for a beer after work in a bar where they drink with a black man named Jimmy Lee More. The song also has a tremendous description of ringing the breakdown service and getting a voice in the Philippines. Russell gives us detail enough to imagine the characters’ lives behind the lyrics. Just as Dickens gave us everyday protagonists in 19th century London, treated as persons not caricatures, Russell’s songs do this for America; not the New-Adam-Frontier-America with John Ford characters who created the nation state but the modern America of the common man.

We also see Europe. The album takes us to Wales, Ireland, the A1, Copenhagen and the Faroe Isles. We meet Dylan Thomas twice. In ‘The Sparrow of Swansea’ he is found in “Brown’s Hotel/ or The Mermaid, The Three Lamps/The Boar’s Head, The Cross House/Back on around to The Worm’s Head Hotel”. The writing is vivid in its detail. Thomas is “raging with whisky /he lived out his poetry/ He did not go gentle into that good night”. We also meet Thomas as one of the residents in ‘Up in the Old Hotel’ after a record 18 shots of whisky and Caitlin’s imagined voice screaming across the ocean from Wales asking, “Is that bastard of a man dead yet?”. In ‘All On A Belfast Morning’ the characters come similarly alive: Spanish Frankie; the young mother advising her children to beware the badgers in the boggy ditch; the buskers being secretly listened to by the superior shop girls; the old men going to the corner bar; the wives at home wondering where the romance went. Later, we meet ‘Jimmy’ Joyce and ‘Billy’ Yeats as part of the Anglo-Irish literary canon in ‘The Day They Dredged The Liffey’.

Dotted amongst the stories are gems of lines, such as the image of reality and anticipation “Let us not confuse the pint with the pouring’” or this, “The road goes on and on and on/Driven by a dream wrapped in a song”.

On the physical CD there are two bonus tracks – a version of ‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’, which Russell makes his own, and ‘Scars On His Ankles’ an extended blues about Lightnin’ Hopkins, whose scars were caused by chains from the chain gang.

Russell is a remarkable chronicler of modern America. Just as in a Dickens novel or a poem by Charles Bukowski (with whom Russell corresponded), you catch the minor characters in glimpses – black and white maybe but never a cartoon – while major characters like Harlan Clancy are fully formed, treated compassionately, with respect, seen as they would wish to see themselves – and then some.

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 TOM RUSSELL – Folk Hotel 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.tomrussell.com/index.php

Tom Russell talks about Folk Hotel:

PAUL BRADY – Unfinished Business (Proper PRPCD144P)

Unfinished BusinessOn September 8th, Paul Brady releases Unfinished Business. It features nine new compositions and two traditional folk songs. The album is Brady’s fifteenth solo album and covers a range of styles – as well as the traditional folk songs there are elements of jazz, country, Brady’s own unique folk style and, I suspect, a potentially massive hit song if he wants it to be. It sounds as though the album shouldn’t work because of the range of styles, but it does; Brady has the pedigree (a career spanning five decades and the plaudits of international folk and rock stars) and the sheer class that you can play this album many times over and hear something new each time.

The video below is of the title track, a beautifully smooth late-night-piano song which opens the album and then moves easily into the up-tempo ‘I Love You But You Love Him’, two songs which reflect on the discordance of love, the first reflective, the second wryly humorous, both of them songs of experience: “the time I said goodbye to the one who really was the one…it’s some old unfinished business from a long forgotten time” from the first and “I love Chicago blues, you love your hip-hop” one of many images of difference from the second.

‘Something to Change’ and ‘Say You Don’t Mean’ continue with the Brady and his band in up-tempo mood before slowing down a little for ‘Oceans of Time’. I’ve played the album a dozen times and this still strikes me as a potential major hit. ‘Harvest Time’ is quieter, but gives me another song in my collection with harvest in the title which I suspect will have similar longevity to the Neil Young tracks.

Brady recorded the definitive versions of ‘Arthur McBride’ and ‘The Lakes of Pontchartrain’ in the late 70’s. The two traditional songs on Unfinished Business are ‘The Cocks Are Crowing’ and the final track, ‘Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender’, both of them having that under-stated perfection that comes from Brady’s mixture of technical competence and ability to inhabit the song.

Between these two songs are three more where Brady and the band continue the up-tempo style on ‘I Like How You Think’, ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ and ‘Once in a Life Time’. On an album where I could pick any of the eleven tracks as a favourite, ‘Once in a Life Time’ is the track I’ve played most – a lyric to cheer the darkest of days “Sometimes once in a life time makes up for all mistakes….real love waits its moment, real love won’t play games…..you wonder why the bells aren’t ringing/don’t you know real love’s got a whole lot of blues’’ and a chorus you can’t help but join in with.

This is Brady’s first new album for seven years and well worth the wait. It’s the album of a mature artist and songwriter – and his band – who can cover multiple genres but keep the album as a coherent whole. “Being classy isn’t a choice, it’s a lifestyle” – Anon (or so Google tells me).

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 PAUL BRADY – Unfinished Business 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.paulbrady.com

‘Unfinished Business’ live (not the album version):