SARAH McQUAID – The Silver Lining (Waterbug)

SARAH McQUAID – The Silver Lining‘The Silver Lining’ is the first single from Sarah’s forthcoming album, Walking Into White, scheduled for release in the UK in February.

The song is given a bright, almost brash, arrangement very much in keeping with the quality of Sarah’s voice. If ever the adjective “bell-like” was appropriate it is here as her voice rings out a song of optimism. The trumpet seems to herald a development but, sadly, no and the song ends too soon.

‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ holds a continuing fascination for singers and is enjoying another renaissance. Sarah’s version benefits from the ringing notes of her guitar – I’m sorry but we’re back to bells again – but she doesn’t do anything terribly different with the song.

Finally we have an instrumental, ‘I Am Grateful For What I Have’, with two guitars and cello. As a taster for Sarah’s new album, the single does its job but it’s more of an amuse bouche – unsatisfying by itself but suggestive of delights to follow.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

Maggie Boyle (1956-2014)

Photograph: Nigel Hillier
Photograph: Nigel Hillier

It is with deep regret we announce that London-Irish singer Maggie Boyle lost her life to cancer on 6th November 2014, aged 57.

Brought up in a vibrant musical family in London during the 1960/70s, Maggie Boyle developed a love and appreciation for traditional music and community. As a youngster, Maggie performed with the local branch of Comhaltas, gaining All-Britain singing titles. In the 1980s she formed a duo with her then husband Steve Tilston, recording several highly acclaimed albums and later, three further solo albums. Over the years, Maggie collaborated with luminaries such as The Chieftains, Incantation, Fairport Convention and Bert Jansch and regularly performed in numerous line-ups, the most significant as a duo with Paul Downes and the all-female trio Grace Notes. Maggie also engaged in cultural works outside the folk scene including the Ballet Rambert’s performance piece Sergeant Early’s Dream and John Renbourn’s Ship of Fools. She also contributed to film soundtracks, notably Patriot Games and Legends of the Fall.

Throughout her musical career, Maggie was dedicated to supporting younger singers and developing the tradition. She was instrumental in establishing artist-run co-operatives Three’s Company and Skinnymalinks through which she helped develop new talent, including The Demon Barbers and The Witches of Elswick. Maggie organised concerts promoting young performers and taught regularly at Breton Hall and Newcastle University. Since 2012 Maggie pioneered a scheme to visit her musical heroes and record intimate exchanges with the support of BBC Radio Leeds. The Kitchen Songs Project gets to the heart of luminaries such as Ralph McTell, and demonstrates Maggie’s innate love, respect and passion for this music and her fellow musicians far beyond the bounds of ‘career’.

Revered for her ability to enchant a room with her ethereal voice, this captivating quality penetrated her very being; Maggie had a pure soul which brought joy and peace to others wherever she went. She was dedicated to her wider family and had a profound impact on many more. After touring the country constantly for the past three decades, Maggie is well known to many throughout the folk scene. Those who met her, even briefly, were greeted with an open warmth and generosity of spirit they haven’t forgotten. Her family are immeasurably grateful for the astounding love, care and generosity shown to Maggie over the past year by countless people in the folk community and beyond.  Maggie leaves behind an exceptional presence; her absence is felt most keenly by her devoted partner, Bill, two children, Molly and Joe, and beloved granddaughter, Betty Sue.

There will be a Memorial Service at 12 noon and a celebration of Maggie’s life and times from 2pm on Monday 17th November, both at Victoria Hall, Keighley. All are welcome, please bring instruments and memories.

Fay Hield

For further details please contact Fay Hield:

Maggie, accompanied by Paul Downes, sings Nick Burbridge’s ‘Old Man’s Retreat’. It seems an appropriate choice.

JACOB DE BERKER – Jacob de Berker (download)

Jacob de BerkerJacob de Berker is a singer-songwriter from the West Country now living on a boat in London, a popular lifestyle choice these days. This five-track EP is his second release, following the single, ‘Ballad Of A One Horse Town’, available as a download from his website.

The opening track is ‘A Drinking Song’, a delightfully warped picture of the weekend in any city. “We spend Friday nights in caves underground” he sings in the first verse and immediately conjures up the images of Bacchanalian dens of entertainment. Drink is also a motif in ‘Move’ for which he switches from guitar to banjo. Jacob has a real down on himself and the rest of humanity here and the bitter lyrics are almost disguised by a delicate tune and a fragile voice. Both ‘Butterfly Nets’ and ‘No Captain’ are about nostalgia, in the sense of it being pain. In the former he’s trying to hold on to something, in the latter it seems that he’s trying leave the past behind. Nostalgia is like that, I guess.

It might be hoped that the final track, ‘Daffodils’, might bring a little levity to the set but no, despite the optimism of the chorus in which, as “the bard of all things unrequited”, he sets out to do something foolish.

At the moment Jacob is very much a one man band with technical assistance from Larry Curr but his songwriting merits a wider audience and maybe backing from the business..

Dai Jeffries

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Jacob’s single , ‘Ballad Of A One Horse Town’, recorded live:

DOMENIC DeCICCO – Seeds Of Evergreen (Twin Arrows Music)

Seeds Of EvergreenI wasn’t in the best frame of mind when I sat down to listen to this album but the first notes cheered me up. No particular reason, they just did and that’s something that doesn’t happen too often. Domenic DeCicco is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist – a serious multi-instrumentalist, may I add – from Somerset and Seeds Of Evergreen is his third solo album.

It’s impossible to pin down Domenic to any one category. He has a chameleon voice, sometimes rough and husky, sometimes sweet and clear. There are fleeting glimpses of Dylan and Paul Simon in his delivery but I think his own voice is the one he uses on ‘Dreamer’; strong and true, capable of passion and drama as well as gentleness. In many ways this is a big album: fifteen tracks, many quite lengthy, including two instrumentals, the second, ‘Sisters’, being a haunting flute piece. Although Domenic plays most of the music he has support from Chris Hurn on cello, Robin Rhind on Hammond organ and Paul Sax on violin, plus other guests on individual tracks.

The songs are about just about anything. The opener, which perked me up you’ll remember, is ‘Big Sky’, a gentle philosophical piece with Domenic’s guitar to the fore as is ‘All In A Life’ but here’s the cello. The title track gets a little grittier as Dom’s voice is firmer but like all his songs it is blessed with a strong melody and words that demand your attention. The programming of the album is excellent too, from quiet to quiet with plenty of up-tempo in the middle and I do think that the overall pace and feel of a record is often given insufficient thought.

So, thanks for this, Domenic. I would have hated to miss it.

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).

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CHARLIE DORE – Milk Roulette (Black Ink Music BICD8)

Milk RouletteAlthough she never really attained the stardom predicted for her when she released ‘Pilot Of The Airwaves’ back in 1979, the Pinner-born singer’s not exactly done too badly for herself, sustaining a successful career over the years as an actress, producer and songwriter, as well as regularly releasing albums and performing live. This, her eighth album, is particularly personal, the title track referring to how, to test whether the milk had turned sour, her father would simply take a swig and approach he, an ever optimistic widower, apparently applied to the women in his life. As the title suggests, family loom large too in ‘Looking Like My Mother, Acting Like My Dad’, a song and arrangement that, especially in Dore’s husky quiver, feels very much of the 30s or 40s (possibly down to its homespun recording), while album closer, ‘Cradle Song’, brings together a transcription of a piano instrumental written by her mother as a young child and an old cassette recording of her father reading his poems.

Although ‘Three A Penny’, a three-part harmony unaccompanied (save for barely discernible keyboard) number about the culture of cheap downloading, and featuring O’Hooley & Tidow, clearly comes from the very heart of a working musician, elsewhere, personal resonances are more open to interpretation. Sketched out on sparse piano notes, opening number, ‘All These Things’, another pre-war sounding track with co-producer Julian Litman on Indian harmonium, is about the hopes and heartbreak of IVF, ‘Born Yesterday’ a love letter from a new mother to her young child and ‘Firewater’, a guitar rippling, viola accompanied song about falling for a handsome man with a brilliant mind who, unfortunately, also happens to be a career drunk.

Perhaps not unsurprisingly, death makes an appearance, conceived as an unwanted salesman peddling his wares to her father and brother on the defiant ‘Stare You Down’ and, equally poignantly, at the core of ‘Please Don’t Let Me Be Promoted’, a strings arrangement in which the euphemism of the title and recalling the passing of her mother when Dore was 15 rejects the idea of being taken to a better place in favour of staying on the shop floor a little longer.

The remaining number, the tumbling, chorus-catchy ‘Best Man For The Job’ featuring harmonium and Dobro with Reg Meuross and Jess Vincent guesting on vocals, recounts the ironically titled tale of a neglected wife warning husbands that if they don’t tend the garden then weeds and discontent may grow and lead others to cultivate it instead.

Often fuzzily warm, sometimes playful, sometimes touching, but always immensely listenable, you really should pour a couple of pints.

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.

Artist website:

I included this video because Guildford Vox is one of our local community choirs. That should be Anna Tabbush conducting but if it isn’t I’m sure she’ll tell me!

The Steeleye Span 45th Anniversary folking Interview

Steeleye Span 45th Anniversary Tour at G-Live

With a career that has taken in an astounding six decades, Steeleye Span is not just a legendary name in British music but also a link to the classic days of rock and folk music. Contemporaries of the likes of Led Zeppelin and Fairport Convention, they have gone on to change the face of folk music forever, taking it from small clubs and festivals into the world of chart topping albums and international tours.

Part of that incredible story has been the individuals that have contributed to the band’s history. Steeleye Span has provided a home for a long list of some of the world’s finest musicians. The current line up of Maddy Prior, Rick Kemp, Liam Genockey, Julian Littman, Pete Zorn and Jessie May Smart along with older names such as Martin Carthy, John Kirkpatrick, Tim Harries, Bob Johnson and most recently Peter Knight have all woven their heraldry into the historical fabric of the folk-rock tapestry.

Paul Johnson and I recently caught up with current band members Maddy Prior, Julian Littman, Peter Zorn and  Jessie May Smart during the 45th Anniversary Tour at G-Live in Guildford to celebrate this 45 year landmark.  Click the play button below to listen to the interview.

The video below celebrates the bands most recent album Wintersmith which was recorded in collaboration with Sir Terry Pratchett at the end of 2013. The album is based on Pratchett’s Wintersmith novel, which subject matter is completely appropriate for Steeleye, in its tales of ancient rituals and secret folk dances that perfectly complement their previous work whilst taking the band off again in a new and exciting prog-rock direction.

Darren Beech –

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.