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Robin Adams – new album and single

Holy Smoke

New single – ‘Holy Smoke’

The Garden, the fourth studio album from Glaswegian acoustic performer Robin Adams, most certainly has a 19th century aesthetic throughout. Much of the album’s content stems from a huge influence from the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh, Adams’ lyrics really channelling his profound appreciation for the man and his seemingly unflinching dedication to his work, and the sacrifices he made for art’s sake. He notes how Van Gogh’s relationship with both the darkness and the light of existence were so inherently tied to his unique expressive art form, and in order for him to capture these wild energies in his work, he had to first invite them and become them, often to his physical and mental detriment, going on to say;

“He was willing to put himself through that turmoil without question, regardless of a distinct lack of success. That is something that as an individual scares me and as a songwriter and artist I am in awe of. I soon realised that his influence on me was far too substantial to be worked into one song. His effect on me was more deserving of a full body of work and so it unravelled from me very naturally and quickly. Most of creativity is stumbling on the muse and then everything else tends to fall into place.”

Drawing on influences like Bert Jansch, Nick Drake, John Fahey, Vincent Van Gogh, Neutral Milk Hotel and Arthur Rimbaud, the record has a predominant theme throughout. Although two of the ten songs are themed on the tragedy of war and one poem in particular by Arthur Rimbaud, ‘Sleeper in the Valley’, the rest of the songs are based around the character of the archetypal struggling artist; struggling being a state that Adams knows all too well. For in spite of his numerous awards (The Burns Song Award, The Billy Kelly Songwriting Award, Emerging Excellence Award) a chronic illness has held him back from realising any kind of touring schedule. His previous record, Wilt, documented these darker times, selling out its limited run, finding popularity thanks to its claustrophobic and gloomy qualities.

Even the recording process was deeply personal. The entire album was recorded by Adams on his own, in a bedroom over looking a garden.

“I approached every song as I imagined Van Gogh might have went at a painting. There had to be the capturing of a moment, there had to be a rawness and a truth in every performance. If I didn’t transcend in some respect during the song, I knew it wasn’t acceptable.”

The Garden is released on April 13th through Backshop Records.

Artist’s website:

‘Holy Smoke’ – the official video:

“Holy Smoke is a beautiful, insightful piece of music.” – Clash 

**** – Q Magazine

“Strummed ruminations worthy of John Martyn” – The Skinny ****


Red Kites

Have you heard of Red Kites? I hadn’t until a friend of theirs approached me in a rain-swept car park and thrust a hand-made copy of their latest single, ‘Salt Water’, into my hands. Well, thrust is a bit melodramatic – she actually asked very nicely if I’d care to listen to it.

Red Kites got together at college in Guildford about five years ago but as guitarist and singer Moteh Parrott says, “our roots began in the Highlands of Scotland, where many of the songs were written. Inverness remains the band’s second home, and we frequently return north for festivals and to tour venues across Scotland”.

The other members of the band are guitarist Liam Trevor; Jan Cees Samsom who is actually from The Netherlands, not Scotland; drummer Andrew Reeves who comes all the way from Woking and  Craig Ferguson on bass.

Their self-released debut EP Beat in Time was released in April 2012 to critical acclaim, and the follow up New Life Ignites was released in June 2013. After a year spent gigging and writing, the band returned with their strongest single yet, ‘Salt Water’, which was released on December 2nd 2014, reaching no.19 in the iTunes rock charts and gaining them BBC 6 Music radio play. With another EP due this year, 2015 is set to be the band’s biggest yet.

To quote from their own publicity: “Red Kites’ music is epic yet intimate, combining emotive lyrics and sweeping melody delivered with a fierce determination. Balancing pop songwriting with raw Celtic-tinged alt-rock and an unpredictability which is entirely their own, the band’s unrestrained creativity lends a refreshing edge to their take on modern rock music”

That’s a pretty fair summation. They certainly pack a lot into their songs and imagination is never in short supply as their official videos show – check out ‘Threads’ and ‘Hold Fast’ on their website.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘Salt Water’ – the official video:



Down to Believing

The Academy and Grammy Award nominated singer-songwriter Allison Moorer is set to release her Proper Records debut, Down To Believing, on March 16.   Produced by longtime friend and collaborator, guitarist Kenny Greenberg, the album was recorded over two years in Nashville while Moorer commuted back and forth from her home in New York City.  Her eighth studio recording since her 1998 debut Alabama Song, Down To Believing is her most personal collection of songs to date; one in which Rolling Stone has already called “brilliant and extraordinarily candid.”

The 13-song set is in many ways a sequel to Moorer and Greenberg’s second collaboration, the acclaimed 2000 album The Hardest Part.   At the time of its release, Moorer often acknowledged the inspiration her parents’ relationship had on that album.  Fifteen years later, she’s sifting eloquently through her modern day life as the inspiration for Down To Believing’s intensely personal song cycle.

The recording of Down To Believing began in January of 2012, the same month her son John Henry received a formal diagnosis of autism.  The song ‘Mama Let The Wolf In’ is her response to that diagnosis.   Speaking to Rolling Stone, Moorer said of the song:

“As a parent, whatever your children go through I think there’s a certain amount of it that you feel responsible for, even if you know that it has nothing to do with you…When you can’t protect them from going through something that’s hard, you feel responsible for it…Basically the song is channeling that energy and expressing that extreme frustration at not being able to protect him.  It makes me feel very powerless.”

Of the title track, one about the dissolution of her marriage to singer songwriter Steve Earle, Moorer says:

“‘Down To Believing’ is quite possibly one of my best songs, one of the most honest songs about marriage.”  She continues, “Obviously, this is a record about family and relationships.  ‘Blood’ is about my sister (singer songwriter Shelby Lynne).  It’s about loving someone unconditionally and always having your arms open to them no matter what.   Being able to reflect on your own experience and put it in a common language so that people can commune is what the job of a songwriter is.  I’m prouder of these songs than any I’ve ever written.”

Moorer’s 1998 song, ‘A Soft Place To Fall’ was included on the soundtrack to the feature film The Horse Whisperer, which led to an appearance in the film itself, as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.  The opportunity gained her worldwide attention and set the stage for her career.  She has been featured on releases by Joan Baez, Kid Rock, The Chieftains, while her songs have appeared on records by Miranda Lambert, Steve Earle and more.

She starred in the 2008 play Rebel Voices, based on Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove’s best-selling book Voices of a People’s History of The United States and also appeared in the 2009 film The People Speak.  The film was presented by the History Channel and was inspired by Zinn’s A People’s History of The Unites States.   It also featured Bob Dylan, Morgan Freeman, Bruce Springsteen, Danny Glover, Matt Damon, and more.

“In February 2010, when sultry Alabama-born singer Allison Moorer released her last album, Crows, she was married (to fellow musician Steve Earle) and was just two months away from the birth of the couple’s son, John Henry. Now, nearly five years later, as she prepares for the release of her next LP, the brilliant — and extraordinarily candid — Down to Believing, she is separated from Earle and navigating the bewildering diagnosis of John Henry’s autism.” Stephen L Betts, Rolling Stone.

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.

Wish I – Live at Celtic Connections:

THE LOST ART – The Lost Art (own label)

TheLostArtI’m beginning to think that this will be a year when a whole lot of musical rules are going to be broken. Actually The Lost Art was released before Christmas but I’m not one to let facts get in the way of a good theory.

The Lost Art are Gordo Francis and Greg Hooper, two music teachers from Oxford who played as a covers band before deciding to write their own material. What they write is genre-defying to say the least. The album opens with the ethereal harmonies of ‘Equals’, due to be a single. I wasn’t taken at first, particularly when the band joined in with strings and indie drums, but by the third play I was beginning to recognise what a clever song it is. It’s followed by ‘Floating Away’, a hippyish title that disguises a gently jazzy song.

Both Gordo and Greg sing and play guitar and there is nothing on the album package or the duo’s website to identify them and their Facebook page doesn’t go out of its way to help, so: the one with the proper beard, who may be Greg, has a vertiginous vocal range, not unlike Martin Stephenson in some ways, and capable of an extraordinary near-falsetto on ‘Kicking The Habit’ and the one who wears the flat cap (who may be Gordo) has a more conventional tenor but their voices blend exceptionally well. They alternate lead roles; a feature of ‘Equals’ which is essentially a duologue.

They are augmented by violin and viola: Judith Hooper and Aliye Cornish and percussion by Tim Hooper (I’m seeing a pattern here) with Rick Foot on double bass. Together they are capable of switching from rock (topped out with a doo-wop ending) to the doomy piano-based ‘High And Mighty’. The production by Pete Hutchings is excellent as the intensity of the sound ebbs and flows.

Where The Lost Art appear on the genre spectrum, I really wouldn’t like to say, but the final track, ‘Distant Friends’ continues a telling line: “When did nostalgia take over your life?” This feels like new ground for all of us.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘Equals’ – the official video:

AROOJ AFTAB – Bird Under Water (own label)

Bird Under Water“World Ambient Music” is not a label calculated to set the pulse racing and it has been applied – or perhaps misapplied – to this album. There is a mesmeric quality to the rolling guitar patterns of Ali Farka Touré and the solo kora of Toumani Diabaté but I suggest that anyone who labels them “ambient” is betraying a lack of understanding of the cultures from which the music sprang.

Arooj Aftab is a singer from Lahore, now living in New York, who wrote or co-wrote with guitarist Bhrigu Sahni the five tracks on her debut album. While it is rooted in Pakistan’s traditional music, Bird Under Water also displays its western influences. There are drums, electric guitar, accordion and a trumpet and occidental melodies cropping up in such songs as ‘Lullaby’. There is also a sitar and the beautiful sound of a bansuri on the opening ‘Man Kunto Maula’. There are also sudden changes of style within a track so that ‘Aey Na Balam’, for example, allows the sub-continental instruments free rein for a minute before Arooj’s voice and Bhrigu’s acoustic guitar gather the track together.

Arooj’s style is reminiscent of Sheila Chandra but without, on this evidence at least, Sheila’s remarkable vocal power. Bird Under Water is, however, a beautiful record full of musical twists and turns and an imaginative mix of musical cultures.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

This is an old video of a track from Bird Under Water, ‘Aey Na Balam’: