STEVE LOGAN – Backstreets Of Eden (Moondragon Records SLOG 025)

Backstreets Of EdenSteve Logan is a welsh songwriter and musician now living in and working from Cambridge, UK, who is, as his website puts it, “working across the borderline between acoustic folk and hard-edged, high-octane rock. A song-poet, he focuses on the point where music and poetry meet”. His new album, Backstreets Of Eden, is to be released on March 24th.

The album does something quite special. You know that moment when you’re playing music with others and almost from nowhere ‘it works’. You can be strumming so your ten year old can play percussion and they suddenly get the rhythm or you can be in front of the band and it all clicks? Suddenly you feel this is what music is all about. Unusually for a recording, this album has much of that quality. Like a gig when it all comes together, Backstreets Of Eden rocks.

Logan’s band consists of Phil Bryant (drums), Andy Cross (bass guitar) and Rhys Wilson (electric and acoustic guitars) and they play a mixture of songs influenced by rock (‘Spotlight’, ‘Lucky Dollar’, ‘Skylark’), electric blues (‘Lead In My Pencil’) and the more acoustic (‘Backstreets of Eden’, ‘Paperboy’, ‘Pontymister’, ‘Faker’ and ‘Hyacinth Girl’).

Although there are a greater number of acoustic songs on the album, the electric music drives the feel of Backstreets Of Eden in a way I’ve not found in the back catalogue of Logan’s own music (he also plays in a Free/Bad Company tribute band). The historians amongst you will know there was a point where Crosby Stills & Nash added Neil Young; by bringing the electric guitar and the band more to the fore Backstreets Of Eden similarly adds depth and edge to Logan’s songs.

The lyrics are lengthy but not wordy, describing the modern world in bright colour and with a moral/spiritual slant, for example, “The cop show sprinkles stardust in the city/Modern cowboys cruise the backstreets like they never/Knew the hours between each wrong decision” or “Had a beautiful dream/Of a house on a slope/You were there in the garden/A vision of hope/But the house came to nothing/Like snow on a stream/the bricks are all dust/But I can still feel the dream” – interesting as these lyrics are on the page, like the word-pictures of, say, mid-70’s Al Stewart or Greetings From Asbury Park the words are much better in song.

At the heart of the album are two tracks ‘Yesterday’s Hero Part 1’ and ‘Yesterday’s Hero Part 2’ which together last over 15 minutes. The imagery and the story are rich and it would take a chapter to describe it fully. There are references to the modern rolex-materialistic world at Christmas, contrasts with John and Yoko with their flowers, Father Mackenzie being told religion’s a virus, young men trying to be cool, cars swirling round Hyde Park corner. Part 1 concludes that some of us feel something’s wrong. Part 1 is acoustic; the fuzzy Neil Young guitar in Part 2 is darker and the lyrics take us even deeper into the modern world. There is love, philosophy, family and religion before finishing where Part 1 started – watching the man with the Rolex, this time reflecting on the temporary nature of material success and concluding “And whatever survives us/Like the wings of the dove/Needs the breath to sustain it/Of the spirit of love”.

Definitely: song-poet on the edges between rock and acoustic folk.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website: https://www.stevelogan.co.uk

‘While Eagles Fly’:

Boldwood: second album available soon

Boldwood

Glory Of The West is Boldwood’s second full length album, coming a decade after their debut album, Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now, which was released in 2007 to great acclaim, and also included many previously unrecorded tunes. The band was awarded Fatea magazine’s Tradition Award in 2008. This long awaited release contains 12 more gems gleaned from the rich past of English dance music by Becky Price.  Members past and present appear in the current BBC television adaptation of Poldark. Boldwood’s music was also heard in episode two.

Boldwood was born in 2003, when accordionist Becky Price visited the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library in Cecil Sharp House, London. She was drawn to an elegant, locked bookcase containing mysterious leather-bound volumes. Wearing the regulation white gloves, she leafed through the fragile, often handwritten manuscripts and discovered a treasury of forgotten English dance music. Copying out her favourites she gradually realised what these tunes really needed…… a new band!

Back in 18th century England, the worlds of folk and classical music happily co-existed and inspired each other to produce rich and fascinating instrumental music. This glorious period in our musical history provides Boldwood with the core of its repertoire. Much of Boldwood’s material is taken from little-known publications and hand-written manuscripts, all of which could end up sounding rather dry and academic. Boldwood, however, is anything but, being described by Blast from the Pastas ‘the most exciting band playing English music at the moment’.

All the members of Boldwood are classically trained, with an additional grounding in traditional music and, since much of this material was originally intended for dancing, they bring these neglected musical gems to life with a tremendous energy and drive.

A book of tunes collected by Becky and Matthew –The Boldwood Dancing Master -was published in 2014. In 2016, The Second Boldwood Dancing Master was published by Blast Books.

BECKY PRICE (piano accordion) studied classical piano with David Earl in Cambridge, played in Finality Jack for 7 years and has recorded with Blowzabella members Dave Shepherd (Ashburnham) and Jon Swayne (Love And A Bottle).

KATE MORAN (violin, viola) recently completed a Masters in Violin Performance at the RNCM in Manchester. She has played English traditional music since her childhood, was a member of the Britten-Pears Orchestra for several years, and currently divides her time between Boldwood, teaching and freelance classical playing, most recently with Longborough Opera.

DANIEL WOLVERSON (violin, viola) plays fiddle in Pach Pi, Infamous Grouse and Finnegan’s Wok, and hurdy-gurdy in French dance band Cyser. He also plays nyckelharpa (Scandinavian keyed fiddle,) and played soprano violin in a performance by Carleen Hutchins’ New Violin Family in 2005 (dir. Roddy Skeaping)

MATTHEW COATSWORTH  (fiddle, viola, English concertina)

Artists’ website: http://www.boldwood.org/

KYLE CAREY – The Art Of Forgetting (Riverboat Records TUG 1109)

The Art Of ForgettingThe Art Of Forgetting is Kyle Carey’s third album. Carey describes her style as ‘Gaelic Americana’. ‘Gaelic Americana’ is a fusion of Celtic and Appalachian musical traditions – and if that sounds odd, it’s worth understanding the depth of Carey’s musical knowledge: a Fulbright Fellowship to begin her study of Gaelic language and its music; a two-year stay on Skye and tutoring from one of Scotland’s most revered traditional singers; a knowledge of bluegrass, gospel, jazz and Appalachian ballads and fiddle tunes. It works. It more than works, the result is a luxurious sound, luxurious in the sense that you put the CD on, sit back and luxuriate in the music washing over you.

The video below is the title track of the album. Musically you can hear the distinctive mix of influences that have led to the name Gaelic Americana – a swirling fiddle, a gentle acoustic guitar, and a voice with phrasing as delicate as traditional Gaelic singers. Lyrically it’s a song of love lost – the autumn imagery contrasting with memory of summer “Summer sang in me once/it’s quiet this fall”. It moves from colour to black and white both metaphorically and descriptively “Colours all round me these days/Magpies painting the ground/I stopped seeing the reds and the golds/When you stopped coming around” – the imagery of Romantic Poetry turned into lyrics.

The album glides on, through a jazzy take on the traditional ‘Siubhail A Ruin’ and a Cajun waltz, ‘Come Back To Me’. The fourth track, ‘Opal Grey’, is just delightful – the most luxurious track on the album, so much so that I’ve had to force myself to listen to the lyrics rather than just be absorbed in the feel of the song. It’s another tale of love lost, but it’s also a tale of how the whole person has become lost “Every time I think the rain has stopped/the skies return to Opal Grey/And I am lost again in my own storm/without a star to guide the way”. We’ve probably all known those times.

‘Tell Me Love’ is a positive tale of love, with banjo and mandolin driving a gentle song full of nature imagery. In the middle of the album are a couple of songs of passion – ‘Sweet Damnation’, a cheery tune for a tale of passion “that would make a rosebud blush” and ‘Tillie Sage’ a re-telling of the Miss Havisham story of passion thwarted but not decayed. This is probably my favourite song on the album with old-style American finger picking, a fiddle haunting the vocals, and a gentle (really) banjo. A beautiful song.

I couldn’t place the tune I recognised behind ‘Sios Dahn An Abhainn’ until the sleeve notes pointed out that it’s “a Louisiana flavoured, soulful interpretation of the classic American psalm ‘Down to the River’ translated into Scottish Gaelic and flavoured with the Bayou” – another gently lovely song, and those notes reinforce how this album combines the American and Gaelic traditions into something distinctive. It then moves seamlessly to the gospel-inspired ‘For Your Journey’, duetting with Rhiannon Giddens. By now you have a sense of ‘Gaelic Americana’ and the album finishes with three more songs that unite the two traditions, including a fine version of Nancy Griffiths’ ‘Trouble In The Fields’ slightly held back and decorated with fiddle, percussion, piano and backing vocals of the full band.

As a whole, the album is gem of luxurious sounds, songs of love in many of its forms, natural imagery (reflected in the greenness of the cover above) and it stands on a highly trained knowledge of both Celtic and American traditions that allows Carey to create something unforced (The Art Of Forgetting is for listening to, not an academic exercise) and rather lovely.

Kyle Carey is on tour in the UK in late May/early June, predominantly in Scotland, with one gig in Wales and one in England.

Mike Wistow

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click 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.

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

‘The Art Of Forgetting’ – official video:

CORRIE SHELLEY – The Leaf And The Cane (Own Label CSSSMCD002)

The Leaf And The CaneYou know how it is, you spend 30 years busy doing other life stuff away from music, then seemingly effortlessly drop two self-composed albums within the space of a year. Corrie Shelley certainly knows how that goes, since her second album The Leaf And The Cane hit the shops late last year.

Much like her debut, Painted Memories, this latest work skips nimbly among the folk/rock borderlands. Although only the final two tracks – both collaborative compositions and performances – definitively stray into rockier territory. Both ‘Storm Coming’ and ‘Pale Maiden II’ break with the more intimate mood of the preceding songs whilst showing Shelley perfectly at home in a larger band setting. ‘Pale Maiden II’, for instance, commemorates those who fought in the Falklands War, as seen from the viewpoint of the islands’ national flower.

These tracks aside, the instrumentation generally tends towards subtly enhancing her vocal delivery. There’s some lovely harmonica over the shuffling ‘Sweet Revenge’, particularly the final shimmer. ‘Wild Wind’ which works surprisingly well delivered way down in Corrie’s vocal range, is suffused with a militaristic percussion and Jon Brindley’s melancholy fiddle.

If revisiting a teenage exam piece (‘Love Is Blind’) could seem like a risky move, Corrie’s reworking means that it does manage to deliver, whilst also suggesting that it must have been a fairly mature song originally.

Her voice is warm, rounded and touched with her Lancashire accent. There’s a strong focus on narrative and storytelling, as well as a delightful way with melody. Her a capella song, ‘Jonny’ about the devastation to one family of a mining disaster, is particularly good. To this displaced Lancastrian, there’s something rather comforting and homely about her sound, a Proustian connection with folk music from childhood days.

A nice touch was the little envelope of teabag and sugar sachet – representing the titular ‘leaf’ and ‘cane’, symbols both of global exploration and imperial domination and simple daily comforts – that came with the review copy. The drink that fuelled the writing of these songs (as well as this review) also forms the common thread between them. It’s easy to picture Corrie, warm mug in hand as her inspiration roves from tales of 17th century piracy on ‘Whydah’ via historical fiction (‘Sir William And The Father’) to more modern themes and viewpoints.

So, go on, join in. Put the kettle on, make a brew and settle in for a jolly good listen to this very accessible album.

Su O’Brien

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click 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.

Artist website: http://www.corrieshelley.com

‘Whydah’ – live:

DAN HARTLAND – Great Novels (own label DH004)

Great NovelsIn many ways Great Novels is a companion piece to the Amit Dattani solo debut, both of them hailing from Birmingham and sharing a love of folk, blues and country, indeed opening number ‘Leaving Sodom’, a song about learning to let go (“If you hang on to what you have or used to be, then the only thing you get is further into debt with history”) echoes the fingerpicked country blues of Dattani’s album, although the instrumentation is more expansive (drums, harmonica) with a slightly jazzier tinge. In their alter egos, they also co-present the fortnightly roots-based 50 Miles of Elbow Room on BrumRadio.

Shading the Americana with homegrown hues, he has a warm, relaxed and slightly reedy warble vocal style, ‘Canton’ with its simple repeated guitar pattern and a lyric about how “we’ve both learned to show only our best sides – people prefer you to glow”, suggesting a melding of Paul Simon and Gerry Colvin, his songs equally literate and thoughtful.

Produced by fellow local musician Chris Tye, the spacious, airy arrangements gently massaged with understated synths, it’s a generally reflective and laid back affair, though, having said that, ‘In The Ranks’ has a more driving, bluesy groove, pushed along by Dan Todd’s cello, Gary Doidge’s viola and handclaps percussion as he sings about a relationship pecking order and how “I’ve got nowhere to be except cooling my feet until you next find you’re free.”

The songs linked by themes of community and communion, it hits a country stride on the brushed drums waltz of doomed relationship number ‘The Usual Mistake’ (“She spent all her time knowing that she wasn’t growing any way but out”) while Todd’s cello again bolsters the strummed and fingerpicked notes and rumbling drums for ‘Loved & Lonely’ , another broken relationship song, which, I’d venture to suggest, has a bit of a Lou Reed influence about it.

The title track, the shortest at just over two minutes, takes on fingerpicked talking country blues as he sings how “Great novels have been written in this way poring over every hour in a single day”, a playfully musing apology to a lover for why he’s never written a love song, concluding that “what fills my every minute doesn’t fill my ever line… so I’ll sing about the absence of one.”

With its nimble fingerpicking and a more falsetto touch to the vocals, ‘Flowers Of Youth’, a reflection on a relationship that meant less in hindsight than it did at the time, grazes in the same musical fields before drummer Becky Davis lights the blue touch paper and it bursts into an urgent flurry of skiffle-like fireworks that just lacks the washboard to add the final touch.

Sandwiched in-between, Marko Miletic providing the upright bass backbone, ‘British Columbia Calls’, a bitter-coated leaving and recriminations song (“You keep on wreaking the same old revenge”) with its reference to Cassandra who, gifted with prophecy, was cursed that no one would believe her, brings the tempo back down to a bluesy slouch, ‘Stray’ (“If asked your destination you say anywhere that ain’t homebound”) sustaining the regret-grained balladeering.

With synthesised brass, the penultimate number, ‘Passing St Mary’s’, a reflection on rose-tinted memories of our past and a blindness to the present, its title a reference to a local hospice, is a lovely rippling guitar melody with Celtic tones which, gathering to head on the back of Joel Stevens drums and swirling guitars, is dedicated to the late Paul Murphy, the Irish-born, Birmingham-based poet, singer and actor who founded the city’s influential Songwriter’s Café and was a founder member of and vocalist with the Destroyers.

It all ends with the slow bluesy sprawl of ‘5/7’, a song about the factory working week and the community of those who work the production line there “with nothing to show but their family and friends. A quality product to profit the men at the top” and how, at the end of it all, while all that’s left is a stone column “inscribed of the ones who didn’t survive”, there’s pride taken in a job well done. Something Hartland is also well justified in feeling.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: www.danhartland.com

‘Loved&Lonely’ – official video:

ANTI RECORDS TO RE-RELEASE TOM WAITS’ ENTIRE 1970s ELEKTRA ASYLUM CATALOGUE

Photo by Matt Kramer

HISTORIC DEBUT ALBUM ‘CLOSING TIME’ TO BE RELEASED ON 9 MARCH

ALSO ON 9 MARCH, ‘HEART OF SATURDAY NIGHT’, ‘NIGHTHAWKS AT THE DINER’, ‘SMALL CHANGE’, ‘FOREIGN AFFAIRS’, ‘BLUE VALENTINE’ AND ‘HEARTATTACK AND VINE’ AVAILABLE ON STREAMING SERVICES AND DIGITAL PLATFORMS. VINYL VERSIONS WILL BE RELEASED THROUGHOUT 2018

CD VERSIONS OF ALL ALBUMS WILL BE AVAILABLE ON 23 MARCH

Tom Waits’ first seven albums, originally released through Elektra Asylum Records in the 1970’s, have been re-mastered and will be re-released via Anti-Records. All titles – many of which have been long out of print – will be re-issued on hi quality 180 gram vinyl throughout 2018. CD versions will be available on 23 March with digital releases slated for 9 March.

Waits’ time-honored and critically acclaimed debut album Closing Time will be available on 180 gram vinyl, digital platforms and streaming services on 9 March. Pre-order Closing Time on CD, LP and digitally.

Closing Time foreshadows the distinctly lyrical storytelling and original blending of jazz, blues and folk styles that would come to be associated with Waits. It is on this debut album that Waits performs enduring classics of his career “Ol’ 55” (famously covered by the Eagles), the heartbreaking “Martha” and the gentle acoustic folk of “I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You”.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Scroll to see full release catalogue.

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.

RE-RELEASE SUMMARY

Heart of Saturday Night (1974) – Expanding beyond the folk and pop stylings of his first album, Waits’ second studio release Heart of Saturday Night established his reputation as a versatile and distinctly American songwriter. Its bluesy jazz arrangements featured bass, drums, sax and Waits on piano. The title track, a melancholy ode to Saturday night rituals, and the tenderly romantic hymn-like “San Diego Serenade” are enduring classics covered by an array of artists from Diana Krall and Nancy Griffith to folk hero Eric Anderson. The album also features “Diamonds on My Windshield”, the first of what would become a signature for Waits’, the spoken word-poetry song. Waits’ delivers these lyrics as pure beat jazz in the stylings of Kerouac, Langston Hughes and Bob Kaufman.

Nighthawks at the Diner (1975) – Recorded in front of a live audience at the Record Plant recording studio in Los Angeles in 1975, Nighthawks at the Diner debuts some of Waits’ greatest classics like “Warm Beer, Cold Women” and “Eggs and Sausage” with a crack Jazz ensemble backing him up and some of the greatest stage patter ever committed to record.

Small Change (1976) – Small Change is a masterpiece that contains some of Waits’ best early work. Classic jazz, Tin Pan Alley, and Stephen Foster filtered through Tom’s unique worldview and lyrical genius. Heartbreaking, hilarious and always vivid, songs like “Step Right Up”, “Tom Traubert’s Blues”, “I Wish I Was in New Orleans”, “The Piano Has Been Drinking”, and “Invitation to the Blues” are all classics that have influenced generations of songwriters since. Recorded with a live orchestra and featuring jazz legend Shelly Manne on drums, Small Change is a classic and stands as one of Tom Waits most popular recordings.

Foreign Affairs (1977) – 1977’s Foreign Affairs takes the jazz and poetry that Tom Waits explored on his earlier albums in a more cinematic direction, foreshadowing his own breakthrough work in the 80s. Opening with the instrumental “Cinny’s Waltz” and featuring some new standards like “Muriel” and “I Never Talk To Strangers”, his dramatic duet with Bette Midler, this album gets into some of Waits’ most ambitious storytelling ever. Foreign Affairs also features the jazzy, colorful “Jack and Neil” and the sweeping, dramatic “Potters Field” as well as classic Waits ballads “Burma Shave” and “Sight for Sore Eyes”.

Blue Valentine (1978) – Blue Valentine is a big departure from earlier Waits albums. Trading the piano for the guitar, Waits is getting rawer and bluesier and title track is a great example of this. Waits is in transition here, so you also get a stunning orchestrated rendition of Gershwin’s “Somewhere”, and the beautiful piano ballad, “Kentucky Ave.”, but you also get the juke joint swagger of “Romeo Is Bleeding” and “Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard”. This is also the record that contains one of Waits’ most popular songs ever, “Christmas Card from A Hooker in Minneapolis”.

Heartattack & Vine (1980) – Released in 1980, Heartattack and Vine was Waits’ final album on Elektra Asylum and it built on the raw blues approach of Blue Valentine with the incendiary title track, the funky, organ driven “Downtown” and the stomping NOLA blues of “Mr. Siegal”. This album also contains some of Waits most popular ballads, including “Jersey Girl” which was famously a hit for Bruce Springsteen. “On the Nickle” is a moving song about the homeless people who lived on 5th street in downtown LA, and “Ruby’s Arms” is a beautiful song with a lovely Bach-like melody.

http://www.tomwaits.com/