JEZ LOWE – Croydon Folk Club, Croydon, Surrey (09.07.12)

Expectations are high…they always are for a gig at Croydon Folk Club particularly when this week’s guest is the truly stellar (at least in ‘folk’ terms) Northern star Jez Lowe. Even before you enter the club room there is excited talk of what might form the basis of his set-list tonight. With a bit of luck there’ll be a mixture of old and new songs…whatever, we’re all agreed it’s bound to be a ‘good’ night. Starting proceedings, host Les Elvin engages the audience with Bob Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings” and Continue reading JEZ LOWE – Croydon Folk Club, Croydon, Surrey (09.07.12)

Fay Hield & The Hurricane Party – Orfeo

Fay Hield is a singer who seems to have been born knowing how to carry a tune but with the rarer gift of knowing how to go straight to the heart of a song. Her debut solo album Looking Glass‘, was released in September 2010 by prestigious folk label, Topic Records and quickly earned Fay many accolades as well as a nomination for the Horizon Award at the 2010 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Fay’s second album, Orfeo, was released in May 2012, again on Topic Records and has gained rave reviews in the press and plenty of airplay across the UK and beyond. Continue reading Fay Hield & The Hurricane Party – Orfeo

Diversions Vol 2. – The Unthanks with Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band

Diversions Vol 2. constitutes perhaps the most daring and accomplished of musical adventures to date for The Unthanks Their paradoxical marriage of staunch traditionalism and sonic adventure continues in the shape of brand new collaboration with Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, known as the best public subscription band in the world, celebrating their second successive year as National Champions of Great Britain.

The record is the culmination of a project that began as a commission from Brass: Durham International Festival, with Unthanks pianist, composer and producer Adrian McNally writing The Father’s Suite: a four movement piece in celebration of Rachel Unthank and McNally’s first child, born four weeks before the sold-out, premiere in Durham Cathedral.

The record kicks off with the televised performance of King of Rome that was so rapturously received at the BBC Folk Awards earlier this year.

The record also features a heartbreaking rendition of Trimdon Grange Explosion by Rachel Unthank, debut lead vocal performance by Niopha Keegan (Lagan Love) and Chris Price (his tongue in cheek Queen of Hearts, dubbed Croon of Hearts!) and re-workings of previous Unthanks material, including Fareweel Regality, Felton Lonnin, Blue Bleezing Blind Drunk Gan to the Kye and Newcastle Lullaby.

The cover illustration is by Becky Unthank (who sings King of Rome) and depicts the character Charlie from the song.

While all the tracks on this record were recorded live in concert halls, cathedrals and town halls; some in front of an audience and some not; it should not be regarded as a ‘live album’, in the lowly, lesser sense of the term. A live album would normally contain pieces that an artist has recorded more definitive studio versions of previously. That is not the case here. The scale of a brass band and the practicalities of singing with them almost necessitates live performance anyway, so why not in front of an audience? For better or worse, these are the definitive versions!

Diversions Vol 2. follows on from Vol. 1 (The Songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & The Johnsons) released in Dec 2011, and by the Autumn, Vol 3. there will be Vol. 3 – Songs from the Shipyards – a album of songs from the live soundtrack that The Unthanks perform to a new film about our shipbuilding past, touring in October. That will be 3 albums in a year from The Unthanks, or 4 in 18 months, counting their studio album ‘Last’.

Artist web link and tour dates: http://www.the-unthanks.com/tour-dates

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PIPELINE – The Red Line

Many years ago I had the pleasure of working with the Hyde Brothers (then based in Scotland) in the short-lived band Malin Head. In a moment of “…I wonder what happened to them…” I was browsing the internet and came across the name Dermot Hyde working with a chap called Tom Hake as the duo Pipeline and based in Germany. And what a fine duo they are! Using their skills as multi-instrumentalists; Hyde (uilleann pipes/whistles/smallpipes) and Hake (bouzouki/guitar/harp/bass) pack quite a wallop with excellent instrumental set-pieces and vocals to match. Dermot’s flair for traditional tunes is Continue reading PIPELINE – The Red Line

MACMASTER/HAY – Hook

Make no mistake this is a real thinking person’s album. It’s quite obvious from the opening track “Hook” that it feels in many ways like a musical equivalent of being hypnotised by Derren Brown or Paul McKenna. The ponderously mesmerising harp bass hook underpinned by gentle use of percussion and Mary’s vocal washes over you as if you were in some kind of techno ‘spa’. Whether or not it was a good idea to start in this way is a question of taste as it could leave the listener (me included) thinking there was something wrong with the recording as it sounds a bit like a repeated scratch on an old vinyl album but, having said that it’s an incredibly infectious Continue reading MACMASTER/HAY – Hook

BRUCE COCKBURN – Small Source of Comfort

Bruce Cockburn has always been a restless spirit. Over the course of four decades, the celebrated Canadian artist has traveled to the corners of the earth out of humanitarian concerns – often to trouble spots experiencing events that have led to some of his most memorable songs. Going up against chaos, even if it involves grave risks, can be necessary to get closer to the truth.

“My mother once said that I must have a death wish, always going to what she called ‘those awful places,’” laughs Cockburn. “I don’t think of it that way. I make these trips partly because I want to see things for myself and partly out of my own sense of adventure.”

Continue reading BRUCE COCKBURN – Small Source of Comfort