RASTKO – Love, Hate And Twists Of Fate (Vacilando ’68)

RastkoThe mood in Medway was forlorn in 2013 when local favourites the Singing Loins disbanded. Other projects were pursued and yearnings sated but that nagging unfinished business feeling remained to the point that most of the Loins are now back together as Rastko with their first album, Love, Hate And Twists Of Fate.

Thank heavens they saw sense, this is a very good debut album. The band is led by Chris ‘Arfur’ Allen’s guitar and vocals and the multi instrumental and vocal talent of Rob Shepherd. Between them they deliver a set of songs with vocals and lyrics that span the spectrum of indignant anger to Beatlesque harmony across the album.

Song writing is shared between Allen and Shepherd, the original acoustic, folk, punk nucleus of what has become a highly accomplished four piece with another Loin John Forrester on bass and the well-travelled Steve Moore on drums and percussion.

‘Scars and Souvenirs‘, written by Allen, opens the album in a nicely commercial tone with some fine riffs countering some anger tinged lyrics bemoaning the passing of time. ‘Tiger’ written by Shepherd then follows and all sense of commerciality disappears with a dynamic song that seems to start half way through “And then the windows crashed…” being the opening line followed by a great chorus of startling simplicity.

Allen and Shepherd alternate their songs throughout the album sparring with each other, rising to greater heights and treating the listener to new gems at every turn whilst maintaining a beautifully balanced recording.

Some lovely contrasts; the bleak lyrics of ‘Don’t Be Going Gently’ are delivered with a light dusting of mandolin held together by Forrester’s bass whilst ‘The Road To Fort Luton’ has hints of Lennon/McCartney harmony that builds to a simple chorus message intertwined around a lovely bit of Shepherd accordion.

Coming together after a period of hiatus has re-energised the creative spirit in the Rastko troupe, long may they continue and I shall make it my quest to seek them out live.

Simon Goodale

Artists’ website: http://www.rastkomusic.com/about.html

‘Tiger’ – live session

HOME SERVICE – A New Ground (Dotted Line DLCD002)

a new groundAfter quite a hiatus in band history Home Service march on with their terrific new album A New Ground. Losing three band members in a short space of time might have meant calling time on their 25 year history but no, Home Service are back, refreshed and folk rocking like never before.

It has taken a while to fit the band jigsaw back together but the result was worth waiting for with a vibrant set of songs fronted by the well-travelled John Kirkpatrick whose precise delivery of lyrics resonates with feeling throughout the album.

Home Service recognises the writing of A New Ground as a team effort. Such collaborations can result in disaster by committee but not here; each track is as strong as the next and each has the individual characteristics of a bunch of highly talented experienced writers challenging each other.

‘Kellingley’ opens the album with hints of a medieval riff, a philosophical tribute to miner’s strength and bravery but recognising the need for a cleaner planet; a familiar eco-ode but delivered with the passion only folk folk can do. Another familiar theme shines through in the moving ‘The Last Tommy’ written by a lady of many talents, Issy Emeney. Many a song and complete works have questioned the futility of war but this is something different, simple and powerful. “Three million young men marched away to war, a generation later, three million more”. Why? “I’m Free” is the refrain.

After such a thought provoking start the album moves on in a lighter tone with a great version of ‘Papa Joe’s Polka’ that allows the band to flex themselves; this is followed by a more traditional tone set with ‘Arthur McBride’.

We then turn to 1683 with the album’s title track ‘A New Ground’ being based upon Henry Purcell’s ‘Here The Deities Approve’, a simple arrangement of keys and tenor saxophone hold the track together behind Fitzpatrick’s great delivery. John’s son Benji, freshly released from his own Bellowhead big band duties has penned ‘Wallbreaker’ expertly arranged by the Home Service team.

Our band of writers draw inspiration from diverse sources; ‘Dirt, Dust, Lorries and Noise’ was written by John Kirkpatrick for the 1990 anti-British Coal protest play The Dirty Hill which is followed by ‘The Kings Hunt’ a rousing 17th Century work given the full Home Service treatment with the band displaying their individual talents as the track builds; this will sit well with a festival crowd.

On it goes, each song a gem sitting beautifully in this wonderfully constructed album. Things mellow a little with ‘Melting’ which could have been picked from many a West End play but was actually written by Derek Pearce for his solo album Paradox. A fine piece follows with an uplifting arrangement by John Kirkpatrick of ‘Ten Pound Lass’ that seamlessly flows into ‘The Skies Turned Grey’; more cracking lyrics from Issy Emeney handled with tender care and affection by the Home Service arrangement.

The album exits on another high with ‘Cheeky Capers’; hints of Ska and early Specials – surely not! But this is what you get with A New Ground; it really is a delight at every turn.

Simon Goodale

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the HOME SERVICE – A New Ground 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]

Artists’ website: www.homeserviceband.co.uk

‘Arthur McBride/Chaconne’ – no new videos yet:

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JOHN FORRESTER – The Former Me (IRR103)

The Former MeJohn Forrester is a man with a plan and The Former Me represents a stepping stone, the bridge between the excellent 2014 album Outsider and a body of new work due for release in 2017. Despite a long song writing career, this is the first album Forrester has recorded completely solo and you sense something cathartic happening during the process. This album is kept simple; no backing vocals, bass or other instruments just the songs in their raw state reflecting a solo performance.

The Former Me is a re-recording of songs previously released by Forrester updated to the style in which he now presents them live. At one stage during this retrospective period he took himself off to Cornwall and evidently found himself as the inspiration of such a location shines through.

The album opens with the heartfelt ‘Dive In’ followed by the slight chords of ‘Pure’ a contrast that amply illustrates the breadth of song writing flair and sets the tone of the album. Forrester’s songs have a strong sense of location & motion reflected in a mood of resolution and regret, touched with the odd spot of poison & wonder; the result is a bare album enabling appreciation of lyrics and song structure together with his distinctive guitar style.

The earnest delivery of tracks such as ‘Number Twenty Six’ and ‘Don’t Sleep Easy’ illustrate a man closing a chapter on his musical journey and the inclusion of a couple of carefully chosen expertly delivered covers, ‘Stop Talking’ originally written by Mark Burgess of the Chameleons and ‘Allelujah’ by Mark Nevin is another step passed you feel.

The album concludes with the excellent ‘Say Goodbye’; thankfully it is more au revoir as we await the opening of the next John Forrester chapter that is currently being recorded and is due for release next year.

Simon Goodale

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the JOHN FORRESTER – The Former Me 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://forrester.uk.com/

‘Into Another Life’ – live in February 2016:

FATE THE JUGGLER – Colour of Change (FTJEP0001)

colour of changeEverything about Fate The Juggler is epitomised in the excellent five track mini album Colour of Change freshly released under their new FTJ Records label.

Those familiar with the Kent based outfit will know you’re never quite sure what is coming next but that it fits together just fine and will be presented with huge professionalism. In these five tracks the band amply demonstrates their diversity of styles all delivered highly polished by exceptional musicians.

This is a band at ease in itself with writing duties shared around to provide the variation that makes them so endearing. Driving force Rob Spiers pens the opening title track that energetically bowls along with catchy hooks supplied by the flute of Linze Maesterosa.

Guitar virtuoso Dan Masters stripped back ‘Fake Smile’ is up next; a song of simple beauty with Master’s wonderful playing sitting perfectly behind hushed harmonies. Then follows ‘Rose & Thyme’ written and sung by Maesterosa, a classically structured song that leans towards the folk end of the folk/rock spectrum to which this unique band have been pigeon holed.

Rob Spiers’ creative range is amply show cased in the final two songs with the haunting blues touched ‘My Broken Heart’, complete with sublime saxophone from Maesterosa, then leading into ‘Letting Go’ which ends this excellent set of songs on an energetic high.

Fate The Juggler are a band that deserve wider recognition with their strength of writing and song craft transferring seamlessly to the live environment where the band is underpinned by a fine backline of Nick Cursley on bass and the drums of Kirsteen Bristow.

Their recent uplifting performance at South Downs Folk Festival, where they set a high bar for the following Oysterband, was a wonderful set where these new songs sat comfortably alongside Juggler fan favourites. The die-hards left happy and many a new fan was made.

Colour of Change will satisfy seasoned Fate The Juggler followers and represents a perfect introduction to those new to the band. A new album is due in the first half of 2017 and from just the few snippets heard it is clear that this will continue to raise their stature.

Simon Goodale

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

‘Colour Of Change’ – official video: