CENTENARY: WORDS & MUSIC OF THE GREAT WAR

MUSIC PLAYED BY SHOW OF HANDS

POETRY READ BY JIM CARTER AND IMELDA STAUNTON

UK album release June 30th 2014 / ‘Lads In Their Hundreds’ – UK single release July 14 2014 On UMTV

Two of our most popular and distinguished actors, Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton, have teamed up with the celebrated West Country acoustic band Show of Hands to mark the centenary of the First World War.  The conflict lasted for four years, led to the deaths of over sixteen million soldiers and civilians, and transformed Britain and much of the world. But the brutal carnage and the horrors of life in the trenches inspired the War Poetry, an extraordinary artistic movement written by those who fought, and in some cases died, in the fighting.

Unique and powerful, Centenary: Words & Music Of The Great War matches the remarkable poetry of those war years against the music of the era, along with new compositions inspired by the war. This double CD release includes one disc of twenty two poems read by Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton and set to new arrangements of songs from the period. As Show Of Hands’ Steve Knightley explains “we thought of the pieces as brief scenes from a film and treated the songs as half-remembered, distant reveries that with the extraordinary voices of Jim and Imelda just came alive”.

Jim Carter (Downton Abbey, Shakespeare In Love, The Madness Of King George) and his wife Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter, Vera Drake, Gypsy) became involved after being approached by Jim’s friend and former flat-mate Steve (Knightley).  “I have known Jim since the Eighties”, said Steve. “We used to share a house together in Maida Vale, London.  He was in the basement and I lived upstairs. I was on the rock band scene and he was at the National Theatre”.  Jim Carter later provided narration for the 1990 Show of Hands project, Tall Ships. Although he and Imelda have been married for over thirty years, Jim says this was “a very rare opportunity for us to work together”.

On the second disc Show of Hands perform distinctive versions of period favourites plus new songs from Knightley including ‘The Gamekeeper’, and his setting for AE Housman’s foreboding ‘The Lads In Their Hundreds’ which, although from a slightly earlier era, fits perfectly into this selection. Show of Hands (Knightley, Phil Beer and Miranda Sykes) are joined by distinguished friends from the folk scene including Jackie Oates, Jim Causley, Phillip Henry, Geoffrey Lakeman and Andy Cutting.

The horrors of the First World War have inspired a series of powerful films, plays, novels and musical works. This project is one of the finest.

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.

Artists’ website: www.showofhands.co.uk

PETE COE AND ALICE JONES – The Search For Five Finger Frank (Backshift BASH CD 61)

5FingerFrankIf you haven’t seen Pete Coe on stage recently (why not?) the title may require some explanation. “Frank” refers to Frank Kidson, something of a 19th century renaissance man from Leeds: publisher, artist, historian, antiquary and collector of folk songs and tunes. His first volume of songs was published in 1890, a full ten years before Cecil Sharp had even heard a folk song. Kidson was a founder member of The Folk Song Society but now he’s thought of as the “lost” collector with only one of his books remaining in print. As for “five finger”, that was how he described himself – he had many talents but pianist was not among them.

Having got the history lesson out of the way let’s get down to the business in hand. This splendid double CD set brings together twenty-seven Kidson songs and tunes. Alice Jones is every bit as much a multi-instrumentalist as Pete Coe, specialising in keyboards and reeds with a fine, natural voice that complements Pete’s unmannered style. The approach is essentially simple with minimal additions – there is a brass trio on two tracks, some fiddle, mouth organ and hammered dulcimer here and there – but the songs are what’s important.

Lest you think that this album is hard work, think again. These are often earthy songs and are treated as such – Pete even sets ‘Turpin Hero’ over the ‘Teenage Kicks’ chord progression and swears he hasn’t changed a word or a note of the melody. Many of the titles will be familiar and many others conceal familiar songs. ‘The Swan Swims So Bonny’, for example, is a nicely involved version of ‘The Two Sisters’. In contrast, disc 2 opens with a down-to-earth version of ‘Hares In The Old Plantation’ that’s half chorus. I hadn’t heard it before. ‘All On Spurn Point’, another new song to me, is the fascinating story of a shipwreck tainted by pecuniary considerations. Very modern. Kidson’s version of ‘Bonny Light Horseman’ is very different from the familiar one but this album is full of such delights.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: backshift.demon.co.uk/

‘Penny For The Ploughboy’ is still a fixture in Pete’s live set:

folkmaster edit – I also couldn’t resist giving this gem another airing from a past folking live show we ran back in 2006 – It’s one of my Pete Coe favourites and really sums up the man…

WINTER WILSON – Cutting Free (Self Released)

winter wilsonWell known on the folk circuit, but never having crossed over into the mainstream contemporary acoustic scene, Kip Winter and Dave Wilson have been working together since the 90s, initially as half of folk rock outfit Ragtrade. This is the sixth album, but the first as a full time, professional duo, though it remains very much the sort of thing you’d expect to hear down the local weekly club, complete with encouragement for the audience to join in the choruses. Other than two numbers, all the material’s written by Wilson, generally recognised as one of the finest songwriters on the English acoustic scene. and, although there’s a couple of exceptions, as a rule of thumb, he sings the social comment ones while she looks after the relationships. Save for Wilson taking lead on the a capella ‘Common Form’, with verses by him and Rudyard Kipling’s anti-war poem as its chorus, Winter also handles the traditional styled material with their drawn out vocal notes, bluesy murder ballad ‘Avons Bank’ and ‘The Field Behind Our House’, an a capella remembrance of her mother’s family croft in WW2 written by the late Nick Keir.

Wilson kicks things off with ‘Still Life In The Old Dog Yet’, a defiant tale of redundancy, retraining and trying to get a job after a certain age, one that places him very much in the same tradition as Harvey Andrews. On the other hand, the title track’s ode to shedding your chains and valuing the journey rather than the arrival, calls to mind the likes of Ralph McTell, Vin Garbutt and Duncan Browne.

Sticking to the social commentary, Wilson takes the lead on ‘A Door That Never Opens’, a poignant portrait of weekend fathers that could well serve as an anthem for Fathers4Justice, and the simple guitar and vocal ‘Cold Blow December Winds’, which counts the cost of having to work away from home in an attempt to make a living, while Winter steps up to the microphone for the fairly self-explanatory ‘I’ve Got The Consultation Bullshit Blues’, a ragtime lament for that endangered species, the public sector worker.

Her keen and slightly tremulous voice is well suited to squeezing the emotion out of the album’s melancholic snapshots of bruised relationships, the close harmony self-admonitory ‘We Still Get Along’ and the heart-aching weariness of ‘What Does It Take To Face The Morning?’. Mind you, Wilson does a pretty good job of wistful reflection too on the if only love story of the open tuned acoustic ‘It Was Never In My Hands’.

Not everything fits neatly into the pigeonholes I might have suggested. Written and played on banjo, ‘Been A Long Day’ is Wilson’s lovely backwoods-coloured, almost gospel tinged, reflection on the miles travelled as the path nears its end while Winter is upfront for ‘I’ll Not Sing Auld Lang Syne’, a jangly guitar strummed, shantyish account of the wreck of HMS Iolaire, 20 yards from shore, in 1919, with the loss of 205 lives, and the infectious guitar picking, country-blues ‘I Got A One-Way Ticket (But A Return State Of Mind)’ that also sees her strap on her accordion for a quick burst of Cajun swing.

Whether the decision to finally turn professional pays off commercially remains to be seen, but this album should present neither them nor you with any cause for regret.

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 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.

Artists, website: www.winterwilson.com

 

Fate The Juggler – One Eye Open (Red Admiral)

1eyeopenOne Eye Open begins with what sounds like a reed organ but could be a flute and some electronics. It’s very sixties but as the song, ‘Blasphemy’, begins it’s suddenly bang up to date and it’s in that tension that part of the appeal of the album lies

This is the Kentish* band’s second album; their first, The Ghost Of Beauty Lost, appeared in late 2010 and I’m struggling to find a meaningful comparison with anyone else. The basic feel is rather pastoral but there is fuzzy guitar from Dan Masters – particularly effective on ‘The Time – The Place’ – playful banjo from Chris Lea and lead singer and songwriter Robert Spiers and dark clarinet from Linze Maesterosa. There’s jazz-influenced acoustic guitar on ‘How Can It Be’ and all manner of percussion from Kirsteen Bristow.

For convenience Fate The Juggler have been labelled folk-rock but they are only folk in the sense that they have an acoustic guitar and only rock because they have an electric, too. Spiers’ songs could slot into any genre from country to reggae and the band has avoided the strait-jacket of folk-rock conventions. They do allow themselves the indulgence of long(ish) instrumental passages and I can imagine ‘The Crown’ stretching out to fifteen minutes in the summer sunshine of a festival. There is also a non-album single, ‘Her Auburn Hair’ and I might even forgive them the dreaded hidden track for such a delightful album.

Dai Jeffries

*Before anyone writes in, I know that Fate The Juggler are from east of the Medway and therefore Men and Maids Of Kent but it’s a bit of a mouthful.

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.

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

Hear the single, ‘Her Auburn Hair’, and look at some pretty pictures:

 

Ryley Walker’s debut album ‘All Kinds Of You’

Ryley Walker“With the charming swagger of jazz-folk troubadour Tim Buckley and the resonant, full picking style of Bert Jansch, ‘The West Wind’ comes from Walker’s first widely available release, a three-song 12″. With acoustic guitar in hand and a voice like browned butter, Walker swings and sways in a lush string-and-piano arrangement right out of Buckley’s ‘Starsailor’; it slowly picks up to a swirling gallop without bucking the rhythm.”  – NPR Music

The debut album, All Kinds Of You, will be released worldwide via Tompkins Square on April 15th, 2014. If you would like to order a copy of the album, download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

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.

OLLIE VEE – Lonesome Girl (Dang Snapit)

Ollie VeeTaking their name from the Buddy Holly song should point you in the general direction of this Southern Ontario rockabilly trio’s unashamedly retro sound. Add in a dash of the Dwight Yoakam cowboy look and an album sleeve that positively screams Chris Isaak, and you almost don’t even need to put it in the CD player to know what’s coming. Still, if you happen to be a fan of twangy country guitars, upright bass and vocals schooled in the Elvis, Buddy and Orbison (‘Hip Shakin’ Baby’ might have come from Ooby Dooby Sun sessions) textbooks, not to mention tunes that seem to have been plucked from a Southern 60s jukebox, then you’ll be glad you did.

‘Ruby Red’ starts them off on a deceptively slow shuffling two step, singer Jesse Adamson crooning into some starlight desert night before Howard Linscott’s chugging Johnny Cash bassline kicks in on ‘Looking For A Fast Time’, almost certain to attract the attention of any  passing, stray Mavericks fans. There’s a shot of  bootleg tequila to the urgently itchy ‘Party Fools’ with Johnny Vassos’s scurrying reverb guitar notes before ‘Underneath The Sparks’ takes things back to 50s’ rock n roll’s bobby soxer days.

Recorded live from the floor, usually in just one take, the mixture’s pretty much the same for the rest of the album, only one number approaching anything near three and a half minutes, and while my attention somewhat wandered during the ‘New Boots’ instrumental,  personal favourites among the later tracks lining up as the warbling Presley-esque high schooler across the tracks ballad ‘Right Out Of The Picture’, the waltzing title cut and the slow bluesy ‘Bruised’ with its wicked game mood and greasy, honking late night back alley sax. Clearly sharing a great affection for the period, they sound like they’re having a great time, and, whether it happen to be your particular quiff or not, the vibe is definitely catching, daddio.

Mike Davies

If you would like to download the album or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.