BELLA HARDY – Hey Sammy (Noe NOE10)

Hey SammyHer ninth solo outing, this is very much Hardy’s ‘pop’ album, a dramatic change in sound an style resulting from a brief relocation to Nashville and a seven-week residency in Kumming in Southwest China (which itself gave rise to Eternal Spring earlier this year, a live collection of song and poetry with Chinese musicians). Recorded with the backing of Iain Thomson on guitars, Tom Gibbs on keys and clarinet, and the rhythm section of James Lindsay and John Blease, with Hardy on fiddle, harmonium and xylophone and Paul Savage in the producer’s chair, it opens with Chinese colours evident on the chiming notes that introduce and underpin the dreamy ‘Redemption’, a folk song about friendship and kindness to others, enrobed in almost show tune clothes.

Driven by a beating tribal drum rhythm, the poppy ‘Learning To Let Go’ details feelings of displacement and search for self as she sings of being a stranger in California looking for “another way of being known another way of being” but that also “I know the who but I still don’t know what I want to be.”

Co-penned with Thomson, ‘Driving Through Harmony’ gets a touch funky in a West Coast style and is followed by the first of two-writes with Nashville’s Peter Groenwald. First up is the mid-tempo ticking rhythm ‘Queen Of Carter’s Bar’, a country-tinted fading relationship number that, a loose rework of ‘Tam Lin’, again concerns identity (“I’m watching you pretend to be the thing you’re aren’t”), followed by the keyboards balled ‘In My Dreams’, which, with added input from Konnad Snyder, is a suitably hushed and atmospheric weave with a percussive ebb and flow.

A particular standout is the self-penned ‘You Don’t Owe The World Pretty’, a punchy jangling feminist pop song about women taking ownership of their bodies and their lives that comes with a surging chorus rush. It’s followed by the two collaborations with Scottish jazz pianist and composer Tom Gibbs, the first being ‘Busy Head’ (tracing the familiar theme of “so desperate to fit in and so in need of staying apart”) that again, especially in its swelling flourishes, has the air of a Broadway showstopper, as indeed does the gathering swell of piano-led ‘Heartbreaker’, a song about “a neon jazz folk love affair” you might imagine Elaine Paige covering.

Next up comes the title track, its jaunty guitar chug and big burst choruses belying the song’s subject matter concerning the rise of racism in Britain, followed, in turn, by ‘South Lake’, a piano-based, clarinet-shaded number inspired by and referencing Nan Hu, meaning South Lake, a stretch of water in Yunnan province, in its contemplation of being and our connection with the world around us.

The lyrics conjure thoughts of Chinese poetry and, indeed, one such provides the source for the closing shimmering six-minute ‘Stars’. It’s a studio rerecording of the number originally featured on Eternal Spring, a two part lyric that combines words adapted from poem 21, written in praise of Yunnan, in the Shijing, a collection of some three hundred ancient poems sometimes translated as The Book of Songs, with Hardy’s own response, both set to her spirits soaring tune.

The press blurb talk of it as a ‘glorious…grown up’ record, I think a magnificent coming of age might be a better term.

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 HERE 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.

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Artist’s website: www.bellahardy.com

‘Driving Through Harmony’ – official video:

Roddy Hart announces new album

roddy hart

If the Scots slang – which gives Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire’s Swithering its name – suggests any sort of indecisiveness at play, then it’s one that the band whole-heartedly embraced to help push the boundaries of what it felt capable of creating.  From the very beginning, this was a group of players eager to change how they approached making a record.  Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, the band (Scott Clark, Roddy Hart, Andy Lucas, Scott Mackay, John Martin, Geoff Martyn, and Gordon Turner) formed naturally over a number of years as Hart’s own evolution as an artist and songwriter progressed.  Their first studio album-proper, 2013’s Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire, was critically hailed for its distinctively dark and atmospheric sound and led to a nomination on the fiercely contested long list for the Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award.  Notably, the record also caught the attention of prime time US TV host Craig Ferguson who invited the band to perform on The Late Late Show for CBS that same year, leading to a 5-night residency that played out to a combined audience of over 12 million viewers.  A Scottish Variety Award for International Breakthrough Artist of The Year followed, as did a nomination for Best Band at the Spirit of Scotland Awards, and performances at the opening party for the Commonwealth Games and a celebrated show with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra only served to bolster their reputation as a formidable live band; cemented by the huge popularity of their self-curated and much loved “Roaming Roots Revue” for Celtic Connections each year.

And yet the challenge was what to do next.  Whilst 2015 saw a performance at SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas, most of the year was given over to writing and recording what would become Swithering.  There was no rush: only the intention of deepening the musical bond forged between them.  “I started bringing songs in that were at various stages of their life, and just seeing where we could take them”, Hart explains.  “It was uncharted territory for us: in equal parts daunting, tense, exhilarating and rewarding”.  A more collaborative energy developed, with work studiously taking place in the confines of their rehearsal room in Film City, Govan over a number of months.  Admired Scottish producer Paul Savage (Mogwai, Emma Pollock, Admiral Fallow) was then asked to come on board to co-produce and help them realise their vision.  “He was key to adding a sense of perspective – and calm – to it all, allowing the madness of this new working relationship forming between us to unfold in the most creative way possible”.  Hart is convinced the ends justified the means: “We are stronger as a band for it, and we’ve made the best record I’ve ever been involved in”.
The result is an album as musically diverse and eclectic as it is seeking and inventive.  From the gnarly Wilco-esque guitar solo ripping through the middle of ‘Dreamt You Were Mine’, to the Talking Heads-inspired eccentricity of ‘Low Light’ and the shades of War on Drugs, The National, and Midlake found on songs like ‘Sliding’, ‘We’re The Immortals’ and ‘Tiny Miracles’, it’s clear that this is a record full of unexpected twists and turns.  And yet, for all the influences on show, there is no doubt that this is a crafted sound that is entirely their own.  Importantly, a real Scottish sensibility is at play too; Hart continuing and developing the neat lyrical colloquialisms established on the first album and running with them to great effect.

“Paul was instrumental in encouraging me to write and sing in a way that was true to myself”, says Hart, “and that in turn gave the band the courage to mark its own territory with a distinct Scottish identity”.

The new album Swithering is due for release on all formats – including limited edition 180g vinyl – on Middle of Nowhere Recordings.

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 Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire 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.

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Artists’ website: http://rhlf.co.uk/

‘Violet’ – official video:

Nuala Kennedy – new album

Nuala Kennedy - new album and tour

Scottish-based Irish traditional singer and musician Nuala Kennedy celebrates ten years as a solo recording artist this coming January with the launch of Behave The Bravest, her fourth solo album.

Recorded over six months, in three continents, while touring with the Nuala Kennedy Band in Sydney, Australia; Los Angeles, California and in her adopted city of Edinburgh, Scotland. The record was mixed by the much-lauded producer Paul Savage of Chem 19, Glasgow and mastered by Grammy award-winning engineer Adam Berg in L.A. Behave The Bravest features two iterations of Nuala Kennedy Band, one based in Scotland and one in America, reflecting her heavy international touring schedule.

The material on Behave The Bravest harks back to Kennedy’s origins as a player and singer of traditional music in Ireland. Old traditional ballads of loss and immigration, continue to find resonance in the modern world, while two of the songs sung in Irish Gaelic attest to Kennedy’s love of the national and first official language of Ireland.

Kennedy is renowned for her creative reworking and reimagining of traditional songs and the jewel in the record is undoubtably her flowing interpretation of ‘Fair Annie of the Loch Royanne’ one of the great traditional story-ballads and one of several songs on the record with a strong female lead character. Kennedy enjoys researching traditional song and she weds a serious pedigree of traditional musicianship and deep understanding of the history of her native music with a light-hearted musical spontaneity.

Recorded live in studio Behave The Bravest is testament to the superlative performance skills of Kennedy and her fellow musicians. You can watch a video of the opening track ‘Lovely Armoy’ which Kennedy found in the Sam Henry Collection.

Nuala Kennedy is known world – wide as a superlative performer of traditional music and is one of the most in-demand musicians on the global folk scene. She has recently graced the cover of Irish Music Magazine, Sing Out! and regularly appears on the mainstage at festivals around the world. Recognized for her cross-genre collaborations, she has performed and recorded with American songwriter Will Oldham (an album that received 5 stars from MOJO magazine) as well as cutting-edge Canadian composer the late Oliver Schroer (nominated for a 2012 Canadian Folk Award).

If you would like to download a copy of the track or just listen to snippet of it 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. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need via the folking store as every little purchase helps us.

Nuala Kennedy has a fresh, singular take on Scottish/Irish traditional music.

Artist’s website: www.nualakennedy.com

“mellifluous flute playing and delicately ornamented singing” The Scotsman

“frisky, excitingly vital and wonderfully original” ****Songlines

“a flute player and composer of remarkable finesse, fearless of the unknown” The Irish Times

‘Lovely Armoy’: