Prosecco Socialist – new band, new Christmas single

Prosecco Socialist

‘This Dog’s Just For Christmas (Not For Life)’ is an attempt to truthfully answer the old John Lennon rhetorical question “and so this is Christmas, and what have we done?”.

The track reflects what David describes as “real Christmas”. It’s an existential Christmas song about living in the moment, where “the moment” is an endless stream of pubs and short-term assignations. Not that pubs or short-term assignations are a bad thing, (of course) they just don’t feature heavily enough in the Christmas repertoire for David Rotheray’s taste.

It’s also the first single from Prosecco Socialist, the new project from ex-Beautiful South’s David Rotheray. Released on December 8th, it precedes the upcoming album Songs From Behind Bars, due for release early next year on Gypsy Chicken Box Records.

Retiring from music four years ago, David didn’t see himself ever picking up a guitar again. However, idleness was not a comfortable state and, in 2016, he opened a pub in Hull (The People’s Republic). The stories and tales shared by the locals proved too rich a mine for such a narrative, observational songwriter to ignore, and so Songs From Behind Bars was born.

David has brought together two of his favourite musicians for this project. Irish singer and songwriter Eleanor McEvoy, a long-term friend and collaborator of David’s, shares vocal duties with a Hull living legend, Mike Greaves. Mike is described by David as “a wonderful singer and writer in the country idiom, loved across Hull for decades but mostly unknown anywhere else. I hope this project might serve, in a small way, to help his voice – both literal and metaphorical – to be more widely heard.”

Eleanor also said of Mike, “This is my first time working with Mike. His voice is wonderfully lived in, it has a gravelly texture to it and is compellingly louche. When we recorded the vocal of ‘This Dog’s Just For Christmas (Not For Life)’, it just had a certain down, but not quite out, earthiness.”

Artists’ website: https://www.facebook.com/proseccosocialist/

‘This Dog’s Just For Christmas (Not For Life) – official video:

The Tin Heart Troubadours announce their debut album

The Tin Heart Troubadours

The Tin Heart Troubadours are Nigel Orme (vocals/guitar), Steve Clark (vocals/Dobro) and Clare Pastorius (vocals/cello) They play American Parlour Folk music and their songs tell tall tales of low-life, long odds, high hopes and big deals… short stories of hot nights and cold lead in Heaven and Hell.

Collected Short Stories is their first album release and features thirteen original songs, including several collaborations with a string quartet, The Heartstrings.

Formed in 2015, the Tin Heart Troubadours have had a wealth of experience working with many other musicians in the past and have come together as old friends with a mutual love of English/Americana folk music

Artist’s website: www.facebook.com/thetinhearttroubadours

‘Wreck Of The Nancy Louise’ – live and acoustic:

JOHNNY CAMPBELL – Avalon (Subversive Folk SF001)

AvalonThere’s a long story behind Johnny Campbell’s second album Avalon. He is much travelled throughout Europe and the United States and although the record’s title suggests some sort of paradise the songs are inspired by the darker side of life, particularly in the Balkans. Here are songs of poverty and hardship drawing from diverse sources and recorded in a deliberately primitive style – it all makes sense when you hear it.

Avalon opens with the traditional ‘Banks Of The Roses’, fast and almost harsh. Johnny isn’t Irish; in fact you could call him “a citizen of the world” although his nominal base is Huddersfield. He follows that with his own song, ‘Wanderlust’, a song straight from the dust-bowl. In it he name checks Woody Guthrie and you might be reminded of the nostalgia of some of Tom Paxton’s early songs – ‘Ramblin’ Boy’ for example – except that ‘Wanderlust’ has harder edge. Welsh singer Efa Supertramp supplies backing vocals here and throughout the record. ‘Leaver’s Avenue’ is a modern political song – I’m sure I don’t need to explain its theme to you – and Johnny pairs it with the traditional ‘O’Keefe’s Slide’, acoustic guitar with support from Bethan Prosser’s strings.

‘Arthur McBride’ is well known and often over-complicated but here it’s pared back to basics and Johnny’s delivery is almost nonchalant as though seeing off a couple of squaddies is an everyday occurrence. ‘Showtime’ is the second of his US travelling songs and I have to confess that I don’t quite get it but it’s eclipsed by the superb ‘Last Year’. You may be surprised to learn that Johnny has recorded an EP of Robert Burns songs but it merely emphasises his understanding of the roots of traditional music. ‘Last Year’ is lifted from a Swedish folk song with Bethan sounding uncannily like a hurdy-gurdy although Tim Holehouse’s ebow may also contribute to the effect.

‘To The Begging I Will Go’ makes a contrasting pair with ‘The Dalesman’s Litany’; the singer of the former being happy with his lot, the latter not so much. The final ‘Tear Stained Letter’, after the delightful ‘Planxty Kateřina’, is not the Richard Thompson song – more Hank Williams, who gets name checked and Johnny evokes an undefined time of “whiskey soaked rivers” – what a great phrase.

Johnny Campbell has pulled together a remarkable number of styles and subjects to create this record and it all works. It’s an album I could keep on repeat.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.johnnycampbell.co.uk

‘Arthur McBride’ – described as spontaneous and shaky:

Orphan Colours announce debut album

Orphan Colours

When UK alt.country outfit ahab went on indefinite hiatus, song-writer Steven Llewellyn decided to form his own band with the help of ahab originator Dave Burn and former bassist Graham Knight. Orphan Colours was born!

Being firmly a part of the London Americana scene made it easy to get involved in collaborations with members of bands like Danny & The Champions of The World, who’s drummer Steve Brookes, already having toured heavily with ahab, quickly became a permanent member of Orphan Colours, along with Fred Abbott, formerly lead guitarist with Noah & the Whale.

After a successful EP release the band focussed on building a live reputation on the festival circuit, playing the likes of Cambridge Folk Festival & Maverick, as well as headlining their own show at London’s iconic The Borderline.

Alongside all of this the band were busy writing and recording their debut album All On Red. Llewellyn explains:

“Most of the songs are about relationships of friends or lovers, breaking down or beginning. I had written my fair share of sensitive songs for ahab – about love and loss and all that, and there’s a few on here but I really wanted to bring a bit of rock n roll into the UK Americana scene and I feel like we’ve achieved a good balance on this record. I want it to excite people most of all.”

“I picked the name [All On Red] because of it’s meaning in gambling, which is essentially what all this music biz career is. At the end of 2013 both ahab and Noah & The Whale had been chewed up and spat out by the music business. We found ourselves out of a job despite both band’s upward trajectories. The toll of touring and hard graft was too much. Speaking for myself, I had a lot more to give and I wasn’t anywhere near done yet. I had a back log of songs that weren’t fit for ahab and I wanted to get them out into the world. So despite having failed with ahab and the financial pressures I was under, I put every penny I had into this project. I had an amazing band, we had a great producer guiding us (Rupert Christie – High Hopes EP) and a very experienced manager that believed in us. The odds, I thought were as good as they could be these days. Three years later here we are with our debut album, a record deal and a full UK tour booked. The bet has so far paid off.”

Artists’ website: https://www.orphancolours.com/

‘Goodnight California’:

Maeve Mackinnon – new album and spring tour

Maeve Mackinnon

Contemporary Gaelic Singer Maeve Mackinnon releases her third studio album in February, 2018. Strì is a collection of songs in Gaelic and English, based on the themes of work, exile and struggle, from a woman’s perspective.

Strì means to strive or struggle in Gaelic. My original idea was to revisit the songs I love, particularly Gaelic Waulking songs. Waulking songs are work songs traditionally sung by women in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. They were hardy, tough women and they sang of battles, tragedies, breakups and romance. I realised midway through recording that nearly all the songs are from a female perspective, and the messages within them are so current today on many levels”.

The album is produced by multiple award-winning producer and bassist Duncan Lyall (producer of Scots Trad Music Awards’ Album of the Year 2015 for Treacherous Orchestra’s Grind along with many others!).

Strì features guest contributions from musical luminaries such as Kathleen MacInnes, Martin O’Neill, Patsy Reid, Ali Hutton, Duncan Lyall, and Jarlath Henderson alongside longtime collaborators Ross Martin and Brian McAlpine.

“The stories, melodies and rhythms convey so much. Whether you speak Gaelic or not, I think people can hear the power of feeling in these songs”.

Strì is launched on Sunday 4 February at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall as part of  Celtic Connections 2018.

Artist’s website: https://www.maevemackinnon.com/

Tour Dates so far:

Sunday 4 February: Strathclyde Suite, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Friday 23 March: Rutherglen Town Hall

Saturday 24 March: Milnathort Town Hall, Kinross

Tuesday 3 April: Aros Centre, Isle of Skye

PURCELL’S POLYPHONIC PARTY – An Invitation To Dance (WetFootMusic WFM170901)

An Invitation To DanceA musician once commented on social media that the word he hated seeing in a review was “interesting”. I was as guilty as anyone and resolved to stop using it but have to say that An Invitation To Dance is a very interesting concept. Purcell’s Polyphonic Party combines the instrumental talents of Vicki Swan, John Dipper and Jonny Dyer and the album comprises twelve tracks mostly drawn from John Playford’s collections. The thing is that the tempos are strict and the repeats are listed for the dancers among us. The tracks run to between four and six minutes although ‘St Margaret’s Hill’ and ‘Softly Good Tummas’ may tax the stamina a bit.

Fans of John Dipper’s other band, Methera, will love this and as a non-dancer I also approached the album as a listener. Dipper restricts himself to the viola d’amore making it the principal melody instrument and as well as her nyckelharpa, Vicki demonstrates her skill on double bass and various aerophones, including bagpipes. Jonny plays harpsichord and piano as well as guitar, bouzouki and citole.

Inevitably strings dominate but the tracks to which Vicki adds flute, pipes or recorder provide sufficient variety for the listener. My favourite tracks are ‘Terpsichore’, taken from Michael Praetorious – I’ve always preferred early music to modern classical – ‘Mount Hills’ with lots of bagpipes and Jonny’s hand in the composition and ‘Kesterne Gardens’ with a remarkably modern sounding introduction on guitar and bass. There are a couple of maggots, which I discovered a couple of weeks ago is what they called earworms in the 18th century because the tunes go round and round.

I will confess that it’s taken me a couple of plays to get into An Invitation To Dance but now I’m there I can safely say that I’m very happy.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.purcelltrio.co.uk

Teaser video: