Ross Ainslie announces new album

Ross Ainslie announces new album

Ross Ainslie is one of Scotland’s finest traditional musicians and composers, playing pipes, whistles and cittern.

He is renowned for his highly acclaimed solo material, and as a skilled performer and prolific collaborator, performing regularly with bands such as Treacherous Orchestra –of which he is a founding member – Salsa Celtica, Dougie Maclean, Charlie Mckerron, India Alba, and as a duo with Jarlath Henderson.!

He has also received industry recognition, for his talents, with nominations for Musician of the Year at BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2013 and again, as Best Duo (with Jarlath Henderson), in 2014. He was also nominated for Best Instrumentalist at the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2010 and 2012 and again for Album of the Year for his debut solo album Wide Open in 2013, as well as nominations in Best Live Act category with Jarlath Henderson in 2008, and with Treacherous Orchestra in 2009 and 2010.

Remembering features five songs and three tune sets. The album opens with the song ‘Change’ which reflects on Ross’s drinking days and his decision to “go sober”. Remembering is a very open, honest piece of music!

The album was recorded live, with some wonderful musicians, at TPot studios, Path of Condie, Dunning.

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

This video gives some insights into the recording of the album:

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Land Of Hope & Fury (Union Music Store UMS009)

Land Of Hope & FuryLand Of Hope & Fury is a collection of contemporary protest songs – a compilation inspired by the realisation on May 8th 2015 of the enormity of what the British people had done. Not just the greedy and the fascists but also those too pusillanimous to stand up for what they actually believe in. We can thank Stevie and Jamie Freeman for the work that went into putting it together.

The album opens quietly with Luke Jackson’s ‘Forgotten Voices’, the story of an old soldier left on the scrapheap feeling that his voice counts for nothing. It may be better to protest by whispering in someone’s ear than screaming in their face and even Mark Chadwick is quite restrained but I kept having the feeling that what the record needed was one really good rant. Moulettes’ ‘Lullaby’ is a lovely song but it’s somewhat opaque in this context. ‘The Hum’, from O’Hooley & Tidow’s third album takes a positive line, one that’s on the side of working people. OK, it sticks it to the aspirational middle class but that’s almost incidental.

Lucy Ward’s ‘Bigger Than That’ is a real killer track – still quiet but with uncompromising lyrics and ‘Filthy Lucre’ by The Mountain Firework Company does the same to the sound of a hillbilly banjo. There are excellent songs from Phil Jones, Will Varley and Chris T-T and Plumhall’s ‘Never Forget My Name’ serves as a warning to the slavers and taskmasters and Grace Petrie’s ‘If There’s A Fire In Your Heart’ acts as a rallying cry.

So, this is a really good collection of songs for our troubled times but, you know what, it still needs one really good rant.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: https://unionmusicstore.com/label/land-of-hope-and-fury

Plumhall – ‘Never Forget My Name’:

THE PORTRAITS – Lions And Butterflies (Sensorypulse Records SPCD006)

THE PORTRAITS Lions And ButterfliesWhat you might not know about music critics’ jobs is that the work can be boring, if not down right disheartening. Go ahead and roll your eyes now and grumble about first-world problems. Yes, critics have posh jobs.

Still it’s tiresome to hear artists’ sermonize about “organic” processes that lead them to give voice to the downtrodden, while many offerings – especially from U.S. artists but, as an American, I’m biased – sound as if they rolled off an assembly line sporting all the individuality of Henry Ford’s original Model T.

It’s difficult not to become jaded.

Then you happen across alluring British folk-classical-New Age fusion – in this case The Portraits’ newest album Lions And Butterflies – and you experience a burst of joy similar to the ones you experienced as a kid when you first discovered artists whose music spoke directly to your heart.

What sets Lions And Butterflies – which will be released on October 2nd – apart is not just the delicate blend of folk, jazz and classical sounds or the rhapsodic melding of the voices of husband-and-wife duo Jeremy and Lorraine Millington.

The Portraits’ music is powerful because it springs from deeply, reflective individual musings on a wide spectrum of conditions. One look at the artists’ extensive song commentary proves the point.

Songs take shape around such divergent topics as work by novelist David Nicholls, reflections on the underlying meanings possible in the South African nightscape, and the overwhelming sorrow that likely consumed Bob Geldof when his daughter Peaches died.

Powerful stuff.

Perhaps the duo’s meticulous examination and presentation of their ruminations on life’s condition isn’t surprising when you consider the passion they brought to recording the single ‘The Rest of Time,’ which spotlights the tragedy of deaths due to blood cancers. Rather than call on celebrities for a poppy, ‘We Are the World’-reminiscent project, the duo recorded voices of 2,000 people across the U.K., and released a song so catchy that it charted on iTunes.

What makes The Portrait’s music stand out, though, is that it shape shifts (with apologies to Robert Plant) into whatever state the listener chooses.

Yes, ‘Walls of Silence,’ the Nicholls-inspired piece, is about the seeming futility of succeeding in London and other creative mega cities, but it’s also a soothing mid-tempo rollick. And while ‘Exile’ may be written as commentary on the state of Russia during the past few decades, it’s easy to close your eyes and drift into the delicate harmonies that soar over the violin and soft percussion.

You can focus on the smart discussion about class commentary on ‘Small but Strong,’ as a fervent call-to-arms but it’s also a soulful, mid-tempo mix of classical and folk.

Whether you choose to absorb The Portraits’ musical messages or simply let the elegant but accessible tapestry of guitar, violin, cello, upright bass, and other instrumentation mix with silky vocals that envelope you is your choice.

But Lions And Butterflies, proves that music is not dead, as Sinead O’Connor and others lament. It just needs to be championed.

Nancy Dunham

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Artists’ website: http://www.theportraitsmusic.com

‘Fairy Lights’. The Portraits live at Glastonbury 2014:

FUNKE AND THE TWO TONE BABY- Balance (Self Released FKE004)

FUNKE AND THE TWO TONE BABY BalanceIf you’ve not encountered him before, the name might expect some sort of Bootsy Collins style psychedelic funk, but those in the know will be well aware that FATTTB is Rochester’s self-styled one-man mechanical alt-blues band, Dan Turnbull, a dynamic storm of acoustic guitar, harmonica, pedals, beatboxing, stompbox and bass lines that hits you like a nuclear assault, both on disc and in his almost exhaustingly energetic live shows.

Following on from 2013’s debut Battles and last year’s The Last Thing We’ll See Is The Sea EP, he returns with his sophomore album, its title reflecting the way in which he plays various styles off against one another to create a rich and satisfyingly diverse collection that nods to influences ranging from Led Zep and Muddy Waters to Beefheart and Roy Harper yet emerges as his own, uniquely individual sound.

A dirty bass riff introduces album opener ‘Not Enough Bonobo’, a wailing, rowdy indie blues stomp about the tendency to let our primate instincts rule that crams in a bagful of monkey references, including the line “ not enough Bonobo mate, too much chimpanzee”, shouted out in a broad Medway accent. ‘Not Looking For It Anymore’ delivers a more loose–limbed basic blues riff combined with beatboxing on a song about finding love, but then things swerve into the urgent strummed acoustic folk of ‘The Boatman And The Thief’, the pedals taking a rest while harmonica wails across its tale of bloody deeds.

There’s more folksiness to be found on the equally perky autobiographical ‘Tales Of The Place I Live’, his gravelly voice taking on a softer, sandier tone as he sings about life on the Medway, from the cathedral to bodies that rise on the tide at Chatham docks, and ‘I Should’ve Stayed In Bed’, its simple but deft fingerpicking firm evidence that his use of effects isn’t to disguise any shortfalls in instrumental talent.

As you might expect from someone who spent last year travelling over 20,000 miles and playing 130 shows and festivals, there’s a number relating to life on the road, ‘Anchor’ an acoustic blues with a percussive itch and throbbing bass line about having a place to return to and a reason to do so that you could imagine Robert Plant sinking his teeth into. But, if that speaks of a sense of security and comfort, with its suitably feverish and queasy intro, ‘I’m Not Well’ is a lyrically unsettling number about mental exhaustion built upon a nervy riff and a raw electric guitar solo evocative of something out of ‘Shakin’ All Over’ or ‘Baby, Please Don’t Go’.

As with his debut, Turnbull shades his blues-folk foundations with a variety of musical colours, the busking strum of ‘If You’re Nice To Me’ built upon a cocktail of jazz and percussive reggae lurch with a splash of whoa ho ho shanty midway while ‘Anarchy’, an observation on contemporary politics, is a mash up of wheezing blues, Jack White stomp and echoey psychedelics with a face-off between harmonica wail and burbling fat jazz trombone, courtesy of Graham Mann.

Welding together throaty fingerboard thump, scratchy loop, circling bass riff, electric guitar harmonica and skittish percussion break, the elated ‘Medicine For The Soul’ closes up shop with a driving, whisky-fumed, perspiration leaking one man jam that many a full blues band would be hard pressed to match.   Weigh to go.

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).

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Artist’s website: http://www.funkeandthetwotonebaby.co.uk/

‘I’m Not Well’:

STEVE TILSTON – Truth To Tell (Hubris Records HUB008)

STEVE TILSTON – Truth To TellAlthough he’s just turned 65, has been making music for 44 years and released over 20 albums, the Liverpool-born folk singer-songwriter, now based in Hebden Bridge, has never had quite as high a public profile as this year. The release (and disappointingly quick disappearance) of Danny Collins, an Al Pacino starrer inspired by a letter written to Tilston by John Lennon in 1971, but not received for a further forty years, has seen Steve featured in several major newspapers as well promoting radio interviews looking back across his lengthy career.

A propitious time, then, for the release of his latest album, a reflective affair that opens on an appropriately autobiographical note with ‘Grass Days’, a lively song tracing his early days as a wet-behind-the-ears folkie getting a foothold in the London folk scene of the 70s, referencing the likes of McTell and Wizz Jones who offered him a helping hand and ending with his move to Bristol and his signing to Village Thing records.

Coming up to date, a very personal note is also struck on ‘The Way It Was’ which, featuring David Crickmore on melodeon and Hugh Bradley on double bass, is a touching tribute to his late friend, violinist Stuart Gordon, formerly of The Korgis and, most recently, one third of the Steve Tilston Trio.

The other songs don’t have quite the same personal connections, although the piano-backed late night jazz-blues ballad ‘Bygone Lands’ reflects his interest in history and archaeology in its contemplation of past civilisations while the fingerpicked ‘All Around This World’, a   celebration of the travelling musician, clearly has resonances with his own chosen career.

Likewise, Tilston’s concerns with time and place, the march of history and the impact of sociopolitics are firmly in evidence. Etched on 10 string acoustic, the waltzing ‘Cup And Lip’ concerns the way closed minds, religion in particular, seek to limit the progress of science and reason, while, referencing Nick Drake’s song, the jazzy-folk ‘The Riverman Has Gone’ uses the devastating floods of a few years back to comment on climate change deniers and the effect of government’s cutbacks and, Crickmore on pedal steel, the slinky, bluesy ‘Running Out Of Road’ (which shows the Wizz Jones influences are still strong) extends the theme to talk about how, blinded by greed, mankind’s blindly heading for global destruction. Wrapping things up, the album ends with the personal and universal notes of ‘Ways Of A Man’, a piano-backed hope-tinted reflection on things passed come and new beginnings.

Elsewhere, ‘Died For Love’ is a major key arrangement of the traditional downbeat ballad, ‘Yo Me Voy’ is a leaving song, the Spanish guitar elements underscoring the language of the title (which translates as “I Am Going”), ‘Lasting Love’ is a straightforward number that still retains a rhythmic flavour of its original African-like instrumental origins while, showcasing his guitar virtuosity, ‘Pecket’s Well’ is an intricate baroque instrumental designed to evoke running streams

Worth special mention, not least since the sleeve credits forgot to list Belinda O’Hooley’s piano contribution, is ‘Pick Up Your Heart’, a rhythmically shuffling encouragement to get back up on your feet should what’s been lost exceed what’s been gained that I could almost hear being rocked up into something Richard Thompson.

Truth to tell, even with the Danny Collins exposure, this isn’t going to suddenly make Tilston a household name, but his devotees will certainly welcome it as another jewel in an illustrious discography while curious newcomers may well find themselves keen to further explore that back catalogue.

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).

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

‘Some Times’ live – The Steve Tilston Trio:

MAÍRÍ MACINNES – Gràs (Puffin Recordings PUFFIN01CD)

MAÍRÍ MACINNESI’m fortunate in that I get to hear albums of Gaelic song that I wouldn’t otherwise know about – it’s not a major topic of conversation here in Hampshire – but rarely one as splendidly varied as Gràs, or Grace to render its title into Béarla.

This is an album that has everything from puirt à beul with silly titles like ‘Big Wellies On My Little Feet’ through love songs, a waulking song and a very old Runrig cover (‘Tillidh Mi’) to the beautiful setting of an old Gaelic prayer that is the title track. Maírí is joined on vocals by Karen Matheson and Paul McCallum and the trio of Hamish Napier, Aaron Jones and James Mackintosh. The traditional is mostly unaccompanied and the band does enough to update it without overwhelming the essential spirit. A very special track is ‘Meórachadh’ which begins with an archive recording of Maírí’s great uncle, Angus John MacMillan, before Maírí and the band join in to swell and enhance the sound. I find it hard to think of 1972 as “archive” but it is over forty years old!

Gràs is a beautiful, spiritual album leavened with fun songs like ‘Fealla Dhà’ to ensure you don’t drift off completely into a contented reverie. It really is splendid.

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 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.

A taster of the album launch at Celtic Connections 2015: