DEMPSEY BROUGHTON – Off By Heart (own label SAECD14)

Off By HeartKevin Dempsey and Joe Broughton have been in the business for so many years and in so many line-ups that it seems impossible to count. You can mention The Albion Band, the Conservatoire Folk Ensemble, the Urban Folk Quartet, Dando Shaft, Whippersnapper and Lazarus before you have to stop and think. Kevin and Joe have worked together for almost two decades and Off By Heart is their fourth album as a duo.

The record opens in a rather unexpected way. You might have thought that two such celebrated instrumentalists would kick off with something to get the feet moving but instead they begin with Kevin singing ‘Resurrection Jack’, an anti-racist poem by Evangeline Paterson which Kevin has set to a simple and deliberately un-sensational tune. The story itself is a moving one but also told in very unemotional terms. That is followed by ‘Wheels Of The World’, a traditional Irish song explaining why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Who says folk music isn’t relevant?

Of course there are instrumental fireworks and they begin with ‘The Post Truth Reel’ a tune that Joe describes as having “some slightly bits, some positive bits and a bit of reflection”. Next are two linked tunes. ‘Just Before The News’ and ‘De Pascale’ were written around the death of their friend, renaissance man Ernesto De Pascale’ and into them is poured all the emotion they can find. Fittingly, they sit at the heart of the album.

The album closes with two more instrumentals and two traditional songs. ‘Wicked Polly’ comes from the Ozarks and Paloma Trigás adds massed violins and ‘Two Constant Lovers’ is from Sussex with all sorts of things going on behind Kevin’s voice. ‘La Moreau’ is a two-part tune, or rather one tune played in two very different ways, and the final tune is ‘The Recovery Shuffle’ – a bluesy guitar riff over which Joe has written a jig. There is a great deal to enjoy here.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: https://www.joebroughton.com/dempsey-broughton

‘Wicked Polly’ live – an old video but none the worse for that:

 

Urban Folk Quartet – new album

Urban Folk Quartet Live III

Reflecting their reputation as a forceful and electric live act, The Urban Folk Quartet return with an extended tour and new live album.

As the title suggests, The Urban Folk Quartet: Live III is The UFQ’s third live album, and follows the previously released Live (2011) and Live II (2013).

Recorded in concert during their spring 2015/ 2016 tour – at venues in Chester (Alexander’s), Maldon (Town Hall), Stafford (Gatehouse Theatre), and Bristol (Folk House) – the nine tracks see the quartet revisiting material from 2014 studio album, The Escape, and road-testing new tunes.

A perfect showcase for the four-piece’s breath-taking musicianship, Live III embraces their full scope, from the full-on ‘Upward Spiral’, to quieter ‘Resiste’ and ‘The Language Barrier’.

New tracks (pencilled in for their 2018 studio album) underline the quartet’s quizzical restlessness and globe-spanning sense of adventure: inspired by a trip to India. ‘Whiplash Reel’ transports a classical Indian scale into a Celtic setting, while the grooving ‘Long Time Traveller’ presents a distinctly UFQ take on a song adapted from famed American 19th century tunebook, The Sacred Harp.

In the concert environment, tunes familiar from ‘The Escape’ (which featured in several prominent ‘best of 2015’ lists) take on a newfound power and direction, as The UFQ feed off the crowds’ enthusiasm and energy, extending and transforming their growing catalogue.

“The pieces are arranged to deliberately get the audience going, with improvised passages that respond to the audience’s reaction, the vibe,” explains fiddle-player Joe Broughton. “That’s the whole reason we like to do live albums. In ‘Control Zed’, Tom does a phenomenal percussion solo – it’s those special moments of interaction where we use the energy from the crowd …”

While other bands may use the live album format to fulfil contractual obligations or as a filler, the prolific UFQ see their in-concert releases as an integral part of their creative process – hence their plan to follow each studio album with a live counterpart (something which their growing international fan-base have now come to expect).

The UFQ’s sixth album over-all, Live III, however, takes a different approach to its predecessors, I and II.

“Our previous live albums have very much been presented as one night”, says percussionist Tom Chapman. “Even though Live II was recorded at two gigs, when you listen to it it’s easy to hear it as one gig. Live III is very definitely an album collected over months, with varied rooms and audiences giving the album its unique dynamic drive.”

The release arrives at a time of increased UFQ activity. 2016 saw the band perform a series of jaw-dropping sets at various UK and international festivals, including Green Man, Towersey, Cropready, Shrewsbury, Ringsted in Denmark, and Lakeland Festival, in Erlach, Switzerland. They were also personally invited by singer Joss Stone to appear at children’s charity Barnardo’s 150th anniversary concert at London’s The Roundhouse.

The Urban Folk Quartet have been dazzling audiences with their brand of ‘electrifying acoustic music’ since 2009. Galician fiddle player Paloma Trigás has shared stages and recorded with the likes of The Chieftains, Sharon Shannon and Altan, and toured the stadiums of the world with Spain’s biggest folk star, Carlos Nuñez. Long established on the folk scene as a fiery English fiddler and showman, Joe Broughton (Albion Band), is also an exceptional guitarist and mandolin player. Dan Walsh is regarded as one of the finest banjo players in the country, as well as being a gifted singer and guitarist, while percussionist Tom Chapman is widely considered to be the most accomplished and innovative cajón player the UK has to offer.

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

‘The Language Barrier’ live:

RETURN OF THE CROPREDY EXILE – By Dai Jeffries

Whisper this, but I hadn’t been to for twenty years. I had felt it was getting too big for my personal comfort – when I first went there was one campsite, now there are seven – but an insistent invitation drew me back this year. In fact what are bigger are the camper vans, the folding chairs and, dare I say, the waistlines. We older and …er…more substantial punters do like our comforts. Some aspects of the festival are more technological and sophisticated. The bar is a marvel of mobile opulence although initially no more efficient than in the days when there was one Wadsworth’s lorry, lots of barrels and one choice of beer. That’s no reflection on the brilliant bar-staff, by the way, but logistics do sometimes let the side down. Continue reading RETURN OF THE CROPREDY EXILE – By Dai Jeffries