The Eskies – have a new single

The Eskies

The Eskies: having been cast out, blacklisted, rejected and ejected from gentlemen’s clubs far and wide, five dejected cast-asides joined forces in what was to be their own celebration of commonality.

Purveyors of music that meanders from sea soaked waltz to Italian tarantella, from brassy funeral march-esque lament to weep along klezmer knees up, from chain gang holler to rag time finger snap. Skipping through the dark side of anything that makes you want to dance, steeped in melodrama and usually with not a small amount of tongue in cheek.

The Eskies have brought this unique brand of folk noir/gypsy jazz/sea shanty and swaggering stage spectacle to ballrooms and booze houses the length and breadth of Ireland, and some shady corners of Europe and are about to embark on their first full UK tour. Sullying soirées and lowering inhibitions of get-togethers and social occasions wherever they have ventured.

The plucky quintet are set to release their new single ‘Jesus Don’t Save Me’ on February 19 and will be celebrating with a nationwide tour in anticipation of their debut album After The Sherry Went Round, due for release in August 2016 with more UK dates to follow!

Artists’ Website: 

‘Jesus Don’t Save Me’ – official video:


“a fascinating blend of fun-fuelled folk.” Irish Independent

“enough inherent energy to charge a power plant. Electricity providers take note.” The Irish Times

David Berkeley – new album and novella

David Berkeley

Singer-songwriter-author David Berkeley will release his new album Cardboard Boat in the UK on Feb 19, 2016. The hauntingly powerful album accompanies his new novella of ten interwoven stories titled, The Free Brontosaurus (Rare Bird), released on the same day.

Cardboard Boat begins with an ominous bowed bass and ends with the ethereal tinkling of metals. In between, we get Berkeley’s carefully fingerpicked guitar, ban-jos, trumpets, organ, soaring string sections, nylon and electric guitars alongside a whole array of drums and percussion sounds. Always front and center, though, is Berkeley’s signature vocals and lyrics, supported on five of the ten tracks by the silver throated Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek. Each song is a story in itself, a layered landscape of sounds and textures.

“I’ve always been drawn to blending the organic with the electronic, finding that tense balance where one morphs into the other.” David Berkeley.

Complex issues unfold, brought to life by Berkeley’s insight drawn from literature, poetry and his own experiences. There are references to Moby Dick in ‘Setting Sail’, Norse mythology in ‘The Wishing Well’, and perhaps the most beautiful song on the album, ‘To the Sea’, is an elegy for an estranged father sung by a prodigal daughter. It’s a prayer for second chances, and with all the troubles in the world, it’s a needed call for redemption.

Cardboard Boat

The accompanying book The Free Brontosaurus has a hint of Olive Kitteridge, if re-imagined with the dark, whimsical humor of Miranda July. The songs on the album are sung from the perspective of each story’s main character, giving a reader/listener a unique insight into the characters’ worlds. The album stands out on its own, but when combined with the stories in the book, a profoundly emotional world emerges. It’s quite an ambitious combination, but with a degree in literature from Harvard, over a decade of touring under his belt and a stage show that melds profound songs and hilarious anecdotes, Berkeley pulls it off.

This actually isn’t the first time Berkeley has paired songs with stories. In 2010, upon returning from a year on the island of Corsica, Berkeley released his initial book/album combination: 140 Goats And A Guitar. That book comprises thirteen stories, each of which sets up a song on his fourth album, Some Kind of Cure. “With Goats,” Berkeley explains, “I told the stories that led to the writing of that album’s songs. The book is a lot about becoming a new father and the craft of songwriting. My new project, though, feels like the proper way to weave stories and songs.”

Berkeley has amassed a dedicated and widespread following that fully funded the creation of this new album and book. He’s been a guest on This American Life, Mountain Stage, World Café, CNN, XM Radio’s Loft Sessions, WFUV, NPR’s Acoustic Café and many more. He recently won the 2015 Kerrville New Folk competition and ASCAP’s Johnny Mercer Songwriting Award. Called “a musical poet” by the San Francisco Chronicle, “sensational” by the Philadelphia Inquirer, “spellbinding” by Blurt, and The Daily Telegraph tipped Berkeley’s previous album Fire In My Head as “one of the best country albums of 2014”.

The central musicians on Cardboard Boat include guitarist Bill Titus (Dan Bern, Brother Ali), trumpet and banjo player Jordan Katz (De La Soul, The Indigo Girls), bassist/keyboard player Will Robertson (Shawn Mullins) and drummer Mathias Kunzli (Regina Spektor).

A hardback version of The Free Brontosaurus will be released with a download code for the album.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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Artist’s website:

‘Wishing Well’ – official video:

MIRANDA SYKES & REX PRESTON – The Watchmaker’s Wife (Hands On Music HMCD40)

The Watchmaker's WifeWhen I last heard Show Of Hands I couldn’t help but note Miranda Sykes’ contribution to their sound. Not just her double bass playing but particularly her voice and I felt that she should be better known in her own right. The Watchmaker’s Wife is her third album with Rex Preston and the duo is as delicately balanced as a fine watch with each supporting and reinforcing the other.

The title track, written by Miranda and Rex with Chris Difford is a perfect exemplar of what the album is about. How much is drawn from Sonia Taitz’s book, The Watchmaker’s Daughter isn’t spelled out but there are distinct parallels in the dichotomy of the man whose marriage seems loveless leaving his wife to ask “how can he make such beautiful things?”.

Miranda steps into the spotlight again with ‘Bonny Light Horseman’, a beautifully natural reading of the song in which she is the calm at the heart of the storm of Rex’s musical flourishes. Rex tones it down a bit for ‘Going To The West’ which immediately follows it and, for the first time, gives us two of his own songs, ‘Rosie’, a slightly quirky not-love song, and ‘Leaving Song’ which needs no further explanation.

There are two instrumental sets: ‘Swedish’, from Blazin’ Fiddles and Rex’s brilliantly titled ‘(Insert Name)’s Waltz’ and finally Miranda takes the lead on John Doyle’s ‘Exile’s Return’ with just enough Irish in her voice so that, once again, her singing sounds perfectly natural. The Watchmaker’s Wife is a fine album but one which requires thought and attention from the listener.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website:

‘The Watchmaker’s Wife’ live:

PHIL HARE – The Twilight Tone (March Hare Productions MHPCD01)

Twilight ToneThe Twilight Tone is something like Phil’s ninth album although many of his early recordings are now lost in the mists of antiquity. This record is entirely solo with no overdubs and according to Phil ought to played late at night. Actually, I’d like to think it was recorded then, probably in the company of a bottle of Bushmills.

I wasn’t taken with the opening track, ‘The Pound Man’, probably because I’d just come off reviewing two albums of blues. Phil uses the blues structure for a song about pound shops or the new breed of door-to-door sellers but for me it doesn’t work. There’s a point to be made in song here but not this song.

Phil is at his best with a more reflective style. ‘Catherine Conway’ is a beautiful song with a hint of Irish ballad about its tune and ‘Lady London’, a hymn to the capital, has more than a touch of Ralph McTell about it. It’s odd, though, given that Phil is from The Wirral but I guess that Greasby and Birkenhead don’t have the cachet that a songwriter is looking for. ‘The Day Thatcher Passed Away’ sounds remarkably even-handed at first listening and Phil is right in that it was a day that divided the country along partisan lines. ‘Benefit Street’, set to the tune of ‘Here’s The Tender Coming’, should be broadcast hourly on all channels. It won’t happen, of course.

Phil is a fine guitarist with a mastery of styles. The slide of the title track leads into the finger-picking of ‘Red-Headed Boy’ echoed in his own composition, ‘Planxty Byrne’ and, later, ‘Si Bheg Si Mor/Planxty Davis’. He even adapts the jazz piano of Horace Silver’s ‘The Preacher’ and the melodic pop of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’.

If you try to analyze it, The Twilight Tone is a bit of mixed bag but I listened to it first while driving at night and Phil is right – that’s when it works best.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘The Pound Man’ live:

PAUL McCLURE – Songs For Anyone (Clubhouse CRUK0035CD)

Songs For AnyoneLess than two years on from the release of Smiling From The Floor Up, the warm-voiced Rutland troubadour (formerly frontman for The Hi and Lo) returns with an album he freely admits is not the one he set out to make. By this he means that he handed over the reins to Joe Bennett of The Dreaming Spires who both produces and contributes keyboards, lap steel, bass, violin, banjo, trumpet and vocals.

The result is much more of a band affair, albeit a band limited to Joe, drummer Mike Monaghan and himself on guitars, mandolin, ukulele and harmonica. Not to forget Hannah Elton-Wall from The Redlands Palomino Company on vocals (her hubbie Alex and Lola-Rose McClure also adding their voices to the mix). It’s also a more directly roots-country album, opening up with the brisk and breezy, pedal steel underpinned ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ setting the blueprint for songs “about love, trying to get it, trying to keep it, trying to understand it, and just getting on with it.”

Harmonica wails its way into ‘Unremarkable Me’, an up-tempo stomp that conjures thoughts of Guy Clark (and mentions doing the shopping) while, sounding like it was improvised in the studio, especially its line about Joe on banjo, ‘I Could Be A Happy Man’ (one of three songs revisited in slightly different shapes from the Hi and Lo album) as a drunken sway walking rhythm that reminded me of a slower ‘Battleship Chains’. A melancholic, fingerpicked acoustic ‘Don’t Take Me Under’ is the first ballad, designed for a honky tonk with the beers lined up in a row, the mood carried over into the raggedly reflective ‘Everyday Is Mine To Spend’, Hannah’s harmonies adding an extra layer of hurt.

Harmonica picks the pace up for the shuffling break up number ‘Holding A Ten Ton Load’, then it’s into waltz time for more goodbyes with Hannah duetting on ‘So Long’, following by the Dylanesque bustling ‘My Big Head Hat Of Dreams’ with its mariachi trumpets and a (unfortunately radio unfriendly) lyric about building walls against those who’d bring you down.

It’s finger-picking ballad time again with the vulnerable, catch me when I fall ‘Yesterday’s Lies’, the album hitting the final stretch with ‘My Little Ray Of Sunshine’ that surely tips the hat to the jug band side of The Lovin’ Spoonful and the slow, organ-backed six-minute ‘A Song For Anyone’ hymn to the power of song to bring friendship, comfort and healing, the melody of which, unlikely as it may seem, actually recalls Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’. I did say this was more roots-country, but, as with ‘Lola-Rose’ on ‘Smiling’, for the last track he drops in a whimsical vaudeville-esque ukulele retro pop number, tip-toeing through the tulips with Lady Flossington. McClure says these are songs for anyone, go ahead and help yourself.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

‘Holding A Ten Ton Load’ – live:

Robert Lane – new album

Robert Lane
Photograph by David Jones

Robert Lane is a guitarist, songwriter and singer based in Birmingham. His new album, Ends And Starts is released very soon.

Robert was chosen by the LG Arena to perform in the Forum Live area of the arena before concerts by Eric Clapton, Dire Straits front man Mark Knopfler, BBC Sound of 2010 winner Ellie Goulding and international superstar singer/songwriter John Mayer. In July 2015 he once again performed at the newly re-branded Genting Arena before a concert by Fleetwood Mac.

In August 2013 he was selected to attend a song writing retreat/course with Kinks front man Ray Davies.

He has supported a wide range of performers including Nell Bryden, O’Hooley and Tidow, Steve Tilston, Polly Paulusma, Caddy Cooper, Gary Nock, Lotte Mullan, Paul Liddell, Alice Gold, Cattle and Cane, Jazz Morley, Edwina Hayes, Dan Wilde, Jess Morgan, Steve Gibbons, Jay Leighton, Dan Whitehouse and Steve Ajao.

Robert has appeared at Beverley Folk Festival, Cornwall Folk Festival, The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Fishguard Folk Festival, Birmingham Artsfest and The Tenby Blues Festival as well as venues including Birmingham’s Glee Club and Jools Holland’s famous venue The Jam House. He has performed at Folk and acoustic Clubs across the UK including Leith Folk Club, Edinburgh Folk Club, Royston Folk Club, Ely Folk Club, Lymington Folk Club, Downed Folk Club, Doncaster Roots and Folking Live in Bracknell.

Artist’s website:

‘You Want It Both Ways’ – official video: