ZOE SCHWARZ BLUE COMMOTION – Exposed (33 Records 33WM150)

ZoeSchwarzThe opener, ‘Angel of Mercy’, starts with the gentle tick-tock of a drumbeat, descending fingerpicked chords and soft vocals, lulling you into thinking this is a gentle ballad…, but then the crashing rock chords and powerful chorus breaks in and the mood is instantly changed. A strong track to introduce this collection of blues/rock songs.

Miss Schwarz has a powerful voice, edged with a huskiness that is ideal for this genre of music, and it is her voice that is the focal point of the album. The musicianship is of a high standard, as exemplified in ‘Let Me Sing The Blues’. A rockabilly beat with some nice blues harp and an excellent lead solo from Rob Koral. The tempo drops for ‘You Knock Me Out’; a more traditional slow burner of a blues ballad. Again, Zoe Schwarz’s voice the driving force.

The album drifts between differing styles of blues, sometimes Santana-like in sound, and there is a distinct 60s feel with the organ melodies, harmonica and guitar. It’s hard to pick out the cream from an album full of worthy songs , but the stand-out track for me, was the funky ‘I’m Glad’, complete with a wonderful brassy rhythm section.

Although not noted on the sleeve notes as such, the last track, ‘Broken Heart Blues’, is a live recording, that demonstrates that the band can produce the goods on stage.

This is a consummate collection of blues tunes ranging from boogie to funk, jazz to rock. If blues is your bag, then give Zoe and the boys a spin.

Ron D Bowes

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.bluecommotion.com/

Here’s a rather good promotional film for ‘Exposed’. Great jeans.

JOSIENNE CLARKE AND BEN WALKER – Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour (Folk Room)

ClarkeWalker_HourHailing from Sussex and Evesham respectively, the pair are steeped in the folk traditions of English songwriting with influences drawn from, among others, Sandy Denny, Richard and Linda Thompson, June Tabor, Nick Drake and Bert Jansch. Their joint debut, Seas Are Deep, was a collection of well-known traditional numbers, while the follow up, Fire & Fortune, mixed traditional and self-penned material to sublime effect.

Taking its title from Wordsworth’s Intimations of Mortality, with the sort of pensive and melancholic mood that implies, the same applies here, Clarke writing the words and music and providing recorder, sax and flute with Walker handling the orchestration arrangements and playing guitars, mandolin, banjo and keys, joined by John Parker on double bass, Ruairi Glasheen on percussion and Jim Moray on piano as well as an array of backing musicians on strings and brass.

Of the three traditional numbers, it’s fair to say that the best known will be ‘Let No Man Steal Your Thyme’, Clarke’s fairly familiar forlorn interpretation offset by a bold arrangement that weaves its way from keyboard drone through medieval coloured flute to puttering drum rhythm, Spanish guitar and parping sax. Introduced by willowy recorder and flute, it’s preceded by the courtly textures of ‘The Queen of Hearts’, cello and acoustic guitar crafting a stately pavane setting, while the third offering is a more traditional folk reading of ‘I Wonder What Is Keeping My True Love Tonight’ accompanied simply by fingerpicked guitar.

With its pizzicato violin and lush strings, self-penned, dreamy ballad opener, ‘Silverline’, is an early taster of the new richness and delicacy in Walker’s classical inspired arrangements, a development reinforced by the short, cello and violin accompanied ‘A Simple Refrain’ on which Clarke’s joined on vocals by Sam Brookes for a tender love song swathed in pastoral clouds.

Things heat up a little rhythmically on ‘It Would Not Be A Rose’, strings circling around acoustic guitar and hand percussion as Samantha Whates’ backing vocals blend with Clarke’s pure, leafy tones. ‘The Tangled Tree’ is another number steeped in natural imagery that addresses its theme of caged spirits and the cruel passing of time with a slow sonic gathering built upon ghostly multi-tracked backing vocals, somber piano and backwards guitar.

Things take a diversion for both ‘I Never Learned French’, a reverie of regret in a retro 30s frame, dawn breaking over the Paris skyline to the strains of a muted, melancholic trumpet, and, a personal favourite, ‘Moving Speeches’, a sprightly snare beat and banjo-accompanied skip through American folk backroads, Clarke sometimes sounding spookily like Denny. It comes as something of a shock, then, to slip into ‘Mainland’, a four minute experimental number that opens to the desolate sound of a sparse cello drone, siren call and breaking waves before the arrival of Clarke’s quivering, emotionally numbed vocals against an electronic backdrop as the number gradually swells over scuffed drums and treated guitars in a manner that suggests a darkside version of Clannad.

There’s similar experimentation at work on ‘Earth And Ash And Dust’, ushered in on a pulse of backwards treated guitar giving way to a scattering of sombre Spanish guitar notes as Clarke’s vocals eventually merge with the wordless backing to become the choir of some Renaissance cathedral frozen in time.

Things are more restrained for ‘Now You Know’, a slow, measured ballad with Walker’s simple repeated guitar pattern adorned by sweeping strings and French horn, with the album ending its journey in the early hours at some dimly-lit cellar bar blues club with a sleepy-eyed jazz trio and strings section for ‘Water To Wine’, Clarke evoking vintage Janis Ian with a resigned reflection on a self-denying uncertain future as she resolves to “do something good with my life” but must “accept that whatever I find it won’t be mine.” Whatever the future holds, it will be the more bearable for their music.

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.josienneclarke.co.uk

‘Silverline’ – the official video:

Kate In The Kettle: new album

KateInTheKettleKate in the Kettle – Swimmings Of The Head

 Kate Young Joins Forces With Marit Fält On Tour To Accompany The Release Of Beautiful New Album

Kate in the Kettle embraces old customs with new ideas, merging sounds from different places and weaving them into their own tune. Whilst drawing upon past folk music traditions, the songs written by Scottish singer and instrumentalist Kate Young are driven by her passion to cultivate public awareness connected to many environmental issues.  After their latest single ‘Green and Gold’ was released in May this year, Kate now turns her attention to releasing a new album called Swimmings Of The Head, on the 10th of October this year. The album title comes from a quote from the 16th century British herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper.

Kate Young combines her voice with her fiddle to make tapestries; music woven from different folk traditions with a base in Scottish fiddle playing and a strong environmental viewpoint that reflects a creative fire within this captivating and inspiring artist. Growing up near Edinburgh, her passion for her music has taken her to tour Europe and Australia as part of world music group ‘Ethno in Transit’; to performing alongside Mercury Award-nominee Eliza Carthy in the all-female fiddle-singers band Carthy, Hardy, Farrell and Young. She is now also a member of eclectic Brighton-based band, Moulettes.

Originally from Sweden/Norway, Marit Fält will join Kate on tour this October playing the beautiful låt-mandola (a specially Swedish designed bass mandola). Marit is also known from her playing in Vamm (Catriona MacDonald, Patsy Reid) and duo Marit & Rona. Kate and Marit met whilst studying together in Newcastle University’s Folk Music degree and are excited to release Swimmings of the Head, which was produced by Andy Bell and features musicians from Spain, Estonia and Italy. Kate in the Kettle is eternally grateful for the huge support they received for touring this album through their Indiegogo campaign.

‘Grow Down’ – official video

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.

Roxanne de Bastion: the new EP – Seeing You

Roxanne-de-BastionThe EP contains 4 new tracks of cutting and clever lyrics, delivered with what BBC6 producer Tom Whalley said to be “one of the most perfect voices [he’s] ever heard”.

Roxanne de Bastion was born in Berlin and grew up both in England and Germany until she set out on her own, leaving Berlin for London, equipped only with her guitar and a one-way ticket. The young troubadour tours throughout the UK, mainland Europe and the United States, all on trains and busses. She self-released her debut album The Real Thing, produced by Gordon Raphael (The Strokes / Regina Spektor) in 2013 and has since then been invited to speak at music industry panels on the subjects of DIY music, copyright and the future of music, along side Fran Healy (Travis) and Ed O’Brien (Radiohead). She has already been championed by Tom Robinson on BBC6, John Kennedy on XFM, Ruth Barnes on Amazing Radio, as well as MTV and Radio Eins in Germany. With Seeing You, Roxanne de Bastion continues to forge her own style and a unique approach to a classic musical genre.

Watch the official video:

Musically, Roxanne’s compositions are routed in the music of the 1960’s, but the tone of voice is very much her own and the stories told are expressed in a way that could only be now. Her lyrics range from introspective journeys in Seeing You and Same Moon, through to observations on instant gratification and repetition (Rerun) and the tearing down of the East Side Gallery in Berlin, Roxanne’s town of birth (Wasteland).

Seeing You was produced in London by Ben Walker.

Artist’s website:  www.facebook.com/Roxannedebastion

“recalls moments of Martha Wainwright , Joni Mitchell and, more contemporarily, Laura Marling”Artrocker

“If you ever get a chance to go see her live – definitely do!”BBC Introducing

Hattie Briggs: new album and single

Hattie Briggs Sept 2014, smallOld Eyes

Taken from her upcoming album Red And Gold

Hattie’s impressive and unorthodox journey through the folk and acoustic music scene began with her decision in January to drop out of a Russian degree at Oxford University and return to her Gloucestershire home to focus on songwriting. Since then it’s been full steam ahead for the 21year-old, with debut EP My Shepherd’s Hut under her belt and the single ‘Pull Me Down’ reaching number 19 in the iTunes singer songwriter chart. Recognition of the strength of her musical ability resulted in a nomination in this year’s prestigious BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards. TV and radio exposure followed; with key live performances on the BBC Introducing stage at Wychwood Festival and support to Seth Lakeman at Monmouth Festival, plus a featured artist in a recent emerging talent documentary by BBC Introducing In The West.

With a relentless creative fire inside, inspired by Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Katie Melua, Hattie has been busy recording her debut album at Monnow Valley Studios, produced by Peter Waterman and Dan Cassidy, brother of the late Eva Cassidy. Her new single ‘Old Eyes’ features jazz musician, Alec Dankworth and will be released on 22nd September. The song has reached the semi-finals of the UK Songwriting Contest and the release will be associated with a full touring schedule.

“It’s refreshing to hear songs and performances that don’t adhere to fashion or hype, but move you because of conviction and purity” – Alex Huskisson Severn FM

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

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.

Eddi Reader: new EP

Back The DogsEddi Reader releases a new five song EP Back The Dogs on November 3rd. Featuring four well chosen covers alongside Back The Dogs from her highly acclaimed 2014 album Vagabond (Reveal Records).

Recorded by Mark Freegard in Glasgow, Juxtaposed With U (Super Furry Animals) and Love Is A Losing Game (Amy Winehouse) feature Eddi singing and producing accompanied by Scottish songwriter (and husband) John Douglas of Trashcan Sinatras.

“One of the great voices in British music” Acoustic magazine

Also included on the new release are emotive versions of the Evans/Livingston standard Mona Lisa and Moon River (the latter produced by Boo Hewerdine and featuring Eddi with full orchestra). Moon River has played a central part in her concerts over the last couple of years. It recently became a huge hit with audiences attending this years Vagabond concerts when Eddi extended the piece to include stories of her musical childhood experiences at family parties in Glasgow tenement flats.

Eddi Reader will take to the road in October for the final shows of her 2014 Vagabond tour (see dates below) joined by her incredible band which includes Irish accordionist Alan Kelly, John Douglas (guitar and vocals), Kevin McGuire (bass) and English songwriter / guitarist Boo Hewerdine.

2014 has been another successful year for Eddi Reader with many high profile concerts and appearances for national radio and television including Jools Holland, Cambridge Folk Festival 50th Anniversary, Question Time, Terry Wogan and Andrew Marr Shows. Her music was also used in the closing credits for this summers Glasgow Commonwealth Games. An interview by Neil McCormick for the Vintage TV channel airs in September online.

MOJO **** R2 ***** Record Collector ****  The Herald ****

Irish Times Album of the Week **** Folk Radio UK Album of the Month

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.eddireader.com