Johnny Cash – The Complete American Recordings

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USM present the Johnny Cash
American Recordings LP box set

Contains all studio albums released between 1994 and 2010 on 180gm vinyl.

Considered to be one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Johnny Cash, the multi-platinum-selling country music legend, redefined the genre and earned a long line of awards and accolades throughout his 40-year career, including seventeen GRAMMY® Awards, a GRAMMY® Lifetime Achievement Award, nine Country Music Association awards, Academy of Country Music and MTV Awards, and he was the only artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

In the 1990s, Johnny Cash entered a professional renaissance after signing with Rick Rubin’s American Recordings where his label debut launched a fertile, decade-long creative period that saw him record a variety of songs that crossed different genres and spanned nearly a century. On 11th May 2015 USM will release Johnny Cash’s complete American Recordings Vinyl Box Set featuring all six of that label’s albums: American Recordings, American Recordings II: Unchained, American Recordings III: Solitary Man, American Recordings IV: The Man Comes Around, American Recordings V: A Hundred Highways and American Recordings VI: Ain’t No Grave.

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.

Johnny Cash – ‘Hurt’:

MIKE REINSTEIN – A Long March Home (Irregular IRR096)

A Long March HomeThere are some record labels that just inspire confidence. Irregular is one such and so I seized hold of this album, Mike’s second, sight unseen. It doesn’t disappoint.

Mike Reinstein is a music teacher and veteran performer with a gift for song-writing, particularly lyrics that make you think and then listen and think again. The first track, ‘Cheap At Twice The Price’, is typical. It begins with pride in a new pair of shoes to the man who made the shoes for “a bowl of rice” and to the man who harvested the cotton for your cheap shirt – and mine, too.

There are some fine musicians supporting Mike, notably Mick O’Connor whose guitar breaks are expertly judged and the trumpet and trombone of Rob Heasman and Tim Wade. Matthew Bright plays flute and Mike’s wife, novelist Reina James, plays keyboards. The songs are at the heart of the record, though, and the band adds atmosphere and texture without intruding.

The second song, ‘America Says’, tells of a soldier coming home from one of the recent conflicts to a hero’s welcome, all the time concealing a nasty secret that is never actually revealed. It’s a very clever piece of writing. It’s paired with ‘Warface’, the story of a British lad who joined the army because there was no work. He comes home mentally scarred, watchful and paranoid. Later, ‘On Cable Street’ uses the famous battle as a warning to the fascists who are still with us and that is matched by ‘Gefehlt Mir Mein Heym (I Love My Home)’ which tells of people who keep a suitcase in the hall, just in case.

It’s not all serious: ‘A Watchman For Your Heart’ is that rare beast, a funny love song, while ‘Advice’ imagines God giving Bush and Blair the benefit of his wisdom in answer to their prayers – all to the backing of lounge-jazz piano. Inspired. This is music with heart, wit and imagination – exactly what I hoped for and expected.

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.

Artist’s website: www.mikereinstein.co.uk

A live version of ‘Advice’ on guitar:

Folking Says Goodbye To One Of Our Own

Pete Fyfe

The passing of Pete Fyfe is a huge loss and a great blow to folk music in general. Pete Fyfe​ was a huge supporter, writer and reviewer of folk music at the grass roots level.

Pete was old pen pal friends with most of the cream of the folk music elite and hugely supportive and complimentary to all the musicians and artists in between. Pete always said it how it was, short, informative and to the point.

This news is especially hard for me personally as Pete was a good mate and a key part of the folking team (joining us a few years after we launched the site in 2000).

Phil Beer​ and Jez Lowe​ will bear testament to Pete’s body of fine review work, a lot of which is still contained within the folking.com archive on the site.

Pete was also a fine musician, performer and artist. Pete played Cropredy in the early days and was a member of the bands Eavesdropper and Collaboration as well as being the other half of the duo ‘Band of Two’ with Gary Blakeley.

The video below is a lovely memory of the day we celebrated Pete’s life where fellow musicians, friends and family came together to say goodbye to the man and his smile.

Pete Fyfe will be very much missed by all of us at folking.com.

Darren Beech – folkmaster@folking.com

STEVE PLEDGER – Striking Matches In The Wind (Story Records STREC1657)

SMITWBorn in Cambridge, raised in St Neots and now based in Somerset, Pledger’s been quietly building a following over the past 20 years, relying on just his voice, guitar and some damn fine songwriting. This is his second album and he describes the song as being concerned with “the power of the apparently powerless to achieve what often feels like an impossible task.” So, contemporary social protest songs basically, occasionally leavened with matters of the heart, Pledger’s fingerpicked and strummed guitar augmented here and there by Lukas Drinkwater on double bass, Tanya Allen on fiddle, and harmonica and accordion from Giles Newman Turner and Andrew Rock, respectively. The luminously talented Ange Hardy also joins him to add harmonies to the chokingly sung, heart-piercing end of a relationship a cappella number ‘There We Are’.

Listening to ‘People Who Care’ and the barbed ‘This Land Is Pound Land’ it’s impossible not to think of Martyn Joseph, one of Pledger’s acknowledged influences, and I’d suspect Martyn himself would be flattered by the comparison, though elsewhere you’ll also hear Don Maclean (the lyrically anthemic ‘take a stand’ ‘Matches In The Wind’), Woody Guthrie (‘The Parable of Intent’, a call to accept the reponsibility we have to the earth and those less fortunate than ourselves) and, on the bluesy mid-tempo harmonica blowing ‘Quit Blubbin’ In The Cheap Seats’ (a song about the real mindset of the austerity brigade), maybe also Billy Bragg, while the bluesy folk guitar playing on ‘Beneath The Sun’ suggests Davey Graham’s in the mix too.

Pledger’s songs have the ability to cut to the emotional quick, as potently evidenced by the strummed, fiddle-accompanied, slow waltz ‘A Heart Filled With Nothing To Do’, inspired by an old lady who, her care service withdrawn, died alone with nobody aware of her situation, and the simple vocal and guitar ‘Friends & Fathers’, a song that relates the impact that the post-traumatic fallout from war can have on a family as the narrator recalls his mother telling him how, before his father left, he used kneel at his bedside, crying and saying how much he loved him. It’s impossible to listen without welling up.

There are brighter moments too, ‘Loving Condescension’ with its account of seeing two lovers taking a selfie while he was driving along the North Devon coast’ and ‘Days Like These’, a fingerpicked love song written for his wife’s birthday, the album balancing the light with the dark, the hope with the anger to kindle a spark and keep the fire burning.

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.

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

‘Friends & Fathers’ from Steve Pledger’s new album:

HEG & THE WOLF CHORUS – Rain (own label)

Rain2While we still wait for their debut album, promised for 2016, the rather wonderful Heg & The Wolf Chorus bring us the third of their “hand-crafted” EPs with matching artwork by Heg Brignall – a future collector’s item if you have the set, I have no doubt.

After the boisterous A Tale Of Sailors these three songs seem rather more considered. The first track, ‘Song For Home’, begins with the sound of a distant storm – synthesised, I think – and the rumbling of Joe Kelly’s double bass. The theme and style are continued with ‘Rain’. In both, we are exposed to the elements, travelling and changing as we go – “nothing will feel the same”. ‘Sail On’ is the perfect place to leave us wanting more as they return explicitly to the maritime theme which runs throughout their music. “I’m stepping into the unknown”, sings Heg, “I’m reaching out” and indeed they are.

The arrangements are as complex and detailed as ever with Heg’s keyboards and Vince Martin’s violin providing the leads over the bass and percussion. There are some glorious harmonies, sometimes churchy, sometimes pastoral, sometimes with the backing voices singing alternate lines with Heg, particularly effective on the title track. Producer Gareth James Bailey deserves praise for his work on all three EPs but particularly on this one which shows off the band’s musical ingenuity to best effect.

And now we wait.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.hegandthewolfchorus.com

There’s nothing from the new EP on video yet but this is gorgeous. From 2013,  the single B-side ‘Maiden’:

BLUEFLINT- Stories From Home (Johnny Rock JOROCK021)

Stories From HomeThis, the third album by Edinburgh banjo-playing singers Deborah Arnott and Clare-Louise Neilson, again draws on influences from both traditional American and English folk, here backed by a core band that predominantly features Danny Hart on fiddle, James Lindsay on double bass, drummer Ali Murray and Davey MacAuley on keyboards, the latter also sharing keyboard duties with producer Paul Savage.

As before, the songs are pretty much about tales of relationships waxing and waning (though, sadly, this time there’s no alcohol brand product placement references), but they have expanded musical horizons, bringing shades of both jazz and Latin to the gently lapping regret-veined ‘I Could Have Done More For You’ while ‘King of My Apple Tree’ shades to the sort of slightly spooked folk parlayed by King Creosote, one of Savage’s other CV credits, and the war dance rhythms of the bluegrassy ‘Hawk and Eagle’ also incorporate treated drum effects.

Generally speaking, however, it’s their Appalachian affections that colour things like the shuffle ‘n’ stomp ‘Seasons Are Changing’, Neilson’s fiddle-backed ode to new motherhood, ‘Little Stranger’, and the simple, banjo-accompanied please don’t go sentiments of ‘Don’t Make A Fool Out Of Me’. It’s also there on waltzing urban love story ‘This Is A Story’, although the thing that strikes most is how both that and the rollicking ‘What If I Don’t Want To’ cast the pair as a female answer to The Proclaimers, the inlay does, after all feature a photo of Leith’s “landscape of grey hardened gold“, as Arnott’s optimistic ‘Patch Of Green’ has it. It’s a comparison they carry well.

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: http://blueflint.org.uk/

Nothing from the new album on video yet so here’s their first single, ‘Take Your Shoes Off’: