CORRIE SHELLEY – Forget Me Not (own label CSSSMCD003)

Forget Me NotSince the release of her previous album I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Corrie Shelley although I’ve not yet heard her perform live. Although I don’t claim to know her, I have an inkling of what she’s about and that helps. Forget Me Not sounds rather more uniform than The Leaf And The Cane, perhaps because of the smaller band: Stephen Shelley, Les Hilton and producer John Kettle with Nicki Louise playing bass on one track. That said, the sound is big and rich – indeed ‘My Hands’ is pure folk-rock but Corrie has the voice to handle it.

Some of the inspiration comes from her family but when you read that the opener, ‘I Wish I’d Listened’, comes from what her father said in the car on the way to her first wedding you know that she hasn’t lost any of her bite. ‘The Box’ might be about that same husband but I can’t be sure but ‘Alice’ is a much gentler song concerning her mother in law’s experiences as a war-time evacuee. ‘My Hands’ is for Corrie’s son and ‘Clocks’ for her grandfather while ‘Recognition’ continues a theme from her first album and is about her mother.

‘Culloden’ is one of Corrie’s historical songs which she says was inspired by Outlander and I really like the addition of a snippet of ‘The Skye Boat Song’ at the end. The television show, Nashville, inspired ‘Wine & The Liquor’ but Corrie doesn’t countrify the hell out of it – just a restrained lap-steel break by Les who doesn’t touch his harmonica once. The deaths of major musicians over the last few years gave rise to ‘Hard To Believe’, something we’ve all felt recently. ‘Sit Down Together’ was co-written with Bob Kettle and has something of the style of one of his Merry Hell anthems and ‘Big Man’ is just for fun – at least I hope the Johnny Cash riff wasn’t intended seriously.

Forget Me Not is another really good record and, although she may not want to, I do think that it’s time that Corrie got herself a deal allowing her to do things on a bigger scale. My copy came with a packet of seeds (do they all?) – forget me not, of course.

Dai Jeffries

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

‘Clocks’ – official video:

LE VENT DU NORD – Territoires (Borealis BCD258)

TerriitoiresLe Vent Du Nord are back on tour and with a new album which is always good news. Territoires sees the band expanded to a quintet with André Brunet, poached from La Bottine Souriante, making his presence felt with three compositions.

The band has evolved in subtle ways since their previous studio album, Têtu, some four years ago but at their heart remains the history and old songs of their native Quebec, mixed with their own compositions. Sometimes it’s hard to know where the old ends and new begins particularly when they blend a traditional song with an original tune. The first song, ‘Le Pays De Samuel’, pays tribute to Samuel de Champlain, a figure little known outside Canada who founded New France and the City of Quebec. The song was written by Nicolas Boulerice as was the next, ‘Adieu Du Village’, released as a single last year. The song tells of a man who killed his lover but was spared execution because the hangman’s rope broke. You would have thought that they would just get another. This track is typical of the band’s style – foot percussion, jew’s harp and massed voices on the chorus.

The instrumental set, ‘Cotillon Du Capitaine’ sounds not unlike an American country dance, apart from the percussion and jew’s harp, until Bouderice’s jazzy piano takes over in the second half and you begin to suspect that Le Vent Du Nord are looking towards new horizons. The a capella ‘Louisbourg’ tells of the fall of the first French-Canadian city on Cape Breton. It’s now a museum and there you can learn how the British cheated by hauling their cannons over impassable ground to bombard the city from above. This and the lovely, slow ‘La Mère À L’Échafaud’ which follows suggest a new seriousness about the band.

Several times I gave up trying to write and just let the album play. Territoires is the sort of album that sweeps you along on a wave of pleasure and it may be Le Vent Du Nord’s best work

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: www.leventdunord.com

‘Adieu Du Village’ – official video:

SCOTT LAVENE – Broke (Funnel Music SLFMCD007P)

BrokeScott Lavene releases, Broke, on June 7th. It’s an eclectic collection of nine songs, an album for the twenty-first century in the territory of, say, Ian Dury, Frank Turner, John Otway with song-poems of day-to-day life set to a slightly quirky musical style.

I can’t find a link on YouTube or on Lavene’s website to the opening track ‘My Stereo’ which is a shame because it fulfils all the promise of Lavene’s style. It has the bouncy tune of a man slouchily swaggering his way down the street; it’s got a catchy chorus (mosh-pit-of-a-festival-catchy); and it has some cracking lyrics right from the opening verse – both the serious “These days everybody seems to say everything/but nobody’s really saying anything” and the amusing “ ‘What do you know about stereos?’ ‘ I said well not much but you see I sure know how to turn it on’ ”. The delivery makes these lines partly the story of a guy who likes his music and partly a metaphor for an ostrich-like lack of activism and lack of interest in other people. Both these themes are developed as the song continues.

The next track is ‘Apples And Pears’. I take it someone has – rightly – irritated Lavene with this simplistic management phrase and he turns it into the chorus of a dystopian tune. ‘Superclean’ is rather clever, the rhythms of an early 80’s tune without the crass electronica.

‘Modern World’ changes the mood, quiet contemplative piano to a contrasting lyric “I don’t care for the modern world/Digital invitations to a party full of arseholes/Taking photos of each others pouty faces” while setting up the scene of moving to rural imagined paradise, posting pictures to the world on instagram (“me milking a cow” …plucking chickens in my vintage Levi shirt”) – but inviting friends to come across and bring such city delights as drugs and proper food. Among the gems are the descriptions of milk from their cow. They throw away this milk so they can buy better milk from M&S (“I’m sick of hearing cow bells”). Like the opening track, you get a sense that when Levene gets it right, there’s something really good here.

Have a listen to ‘Methylated Blue’ in the video below and it will give you a sense of Levene’s style – musical, conversational and with the wit that you can hear in the chorus “Girl, you’re really someone I can get used to/ She said ‘Boy you’re really someone I could get used to too’ ”. It’s not Romeo and Juliet – but it captures the couple beautifully. Like the best of, say, Otway or Dury, you’re simultaneously in the song sympathetic to the characters and seeing them from a third person perspective. Rather nice.

Overall, then, there are some great touches, both lyrically and musically, but I find Broke as a whole to be more mixed. The extended title track probably works much better live than it does on repeated listening, for example. I got the album to review on CD but my guess is that if I’d had the vinyl version, I’d keep playing side 1 much more than side 2.

Lavene has a number of gigs coming up between now and mid-June to launch Broke, his debut album. They’re not local to me, but otherwise I’d be keen to go and hear the best songs of what seems to be a distinctive and talented voice.

Mike Wistow

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Artist’s website: https://www.scottlavene.co.uk

‘Methylated Blue’ – official video:

June Tabor and Oysterband on the road again

June Tabor and Oysterband

One of the most exciting collaborations in folk music, June Tabor and Oysterband, resumes this autumn for a major tour.  The 2019 ‘Fire and Fleet’ Tour will take in 15 dates across the UK this Autumn, including shows at the majestic Union Chapel, Islington, Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music, and more.

With separate distinguished careers to pursue, their appearances together are necessarily rare, so this is a must-see opportunity to catch them live. The majesty and control of June’s voice combined with the passion of John Jones’ singing and the dynamic drive of Oysterband to illuminate dark traditional ballads and contemporary classics alike – witness their moving duet version of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, widely regarded as the best-ever reinterpretation of that much-covered track. Songs from their seminal 1990 album ‘Freedom & Rain’ and their multi-award-winning 2011 follow-up ‘Ragged Kingdom’ will, of course, be featured, plus exciting new material.

Ian Telfer of Oysterband said, “We’re delighted to be touring once more with June –  a good friend, a great singer of course, and an extraordinary interpreter of songs. (And we have a few new ones for you!)”. June Tabor herself said, “Strong songs, energy, tension, and a fierce, almost tribal audience response – Oysterband at its finest….and I get to stand at the front. Yes!”.

Rolling Stone magazine described this pairing as, “A marriage made in heaven”, whilst Elvis Costello said, “If you can’t appreciate June Tabor, you should just stop listening to music”.  These live dates are indeed a rare chance for fans to check in with wonderful artists doing what they do best. Don’t miss them.

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‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ – official video:

UK TOUR DATES 2019

THU 24 OCTOBER — NORWICH OPEN
FRI 25 OCTOBER — BRISTOL ST GEORGE’S
SAT 26 OCTOBER — SALISBURY CITY HALL
SUN 27 OCTOBER — LEICESTER DE MONTFORT HALL
WED 30 OCTOBER — CARDIFF TRAMSHED
THU 31 OCTOBER — SOUTHPORT ATKINSON
FRI 01 NOVEMBER — LEEDS TOWN HALL
SAT 02 NOVEMBER — THE GATESHEAD SAGE
SUN 03 NOVEMBER — WARWICK ARTS CENTRE
FRI 08 NOVEMBER — MANCHESTER RNCM
SAT 09 NOVEMBER — CLITHEROE GRAND
TUE 12 NOVEMBER — CHELTENHAM TOWN HALL
WED 13 NOVEMBER — EXETER TOWN HALL
THU 14 NOVEMBER — ISLINGTON UNION CHAPEL
FRI 15 NOVEMBER — SEVENOAKS STAG THEATRE

Tickets for all dates are on sale now and available from https://botw.ticketline.co.uk/oysterband-and-june-tabor

Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach release new album and film

Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach

Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach make music on the piano and fiddle. They are Scottish folk musicians, creating music filled with spontaneity, sensitivity and freedom. Inspiration comes from their past and surroundings, feeding music that’s rooted in tradition, whilst stretching its possibilities through improvisation and imagination.

Following the release of their debut album Waves Rise From Quiet Water, the duo reached the finals of the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award. Notable performances include a live BBC Radio 2 broadcast from the Royal Albert Hall, Cambridge Folk Festival, Celtic Connections, and Festival Interceltique de Lorient, as well as making music for theatre in Findhorn Bay Festival’s original production The Buke Of The Howlat.

Outwith their duo, Charlie and Joe are members of Tannara, The Iona Fyfe Band, Westward the Light.

Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach release Air Iomall (pronounced ‘air im-al’ and Scottish Gaelic for “On the Edge”) on August 9, a suite of new music born from a journey to now uninhabited islands deep in the North Atlantic – some of Scotland’s most remote and remarkable places. The album will be available on all major streaming platforms, CD and vinyl.

Grey and Peach travelled aboard the Dutch tall ship Wylde Swan with filmmaker Hamish MacLeod, who documented the trip for the accompanying Air Iomall film, and wrote music inspired by the histories, people, and landscapes of these mysterious, wild locations.

The film follows the duo on this once in a lifetime experience, providing a visually stunning, sensitive insight into these under-documented and enigmatic landscapes. It culminates with a concert of their new music on St Kilda – the most remote part of the UK, on the 88th anniversary of the evacuation of its native population. That live performance is captured in its entirety on the album.

Pre-orders open on June 11: www.cgjpmusic.bandcamp.com

Film trailer:

Air Iomall Trailer from Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach on Vimeo.

AMY GODDARD – Always A Dreamer (own label AGAAD2019)

Always A DreamerAlways A Dreamer is something of a departure for Amy Goddard being a tribute to her favourite songwriter, John Stewart, who she has name-checked more than once in the past. Sadly, she hasn’t included my favourite Stewart song, ‘Armstrong’, but as she has squeezed seventeen gems onto the album I won’t hold it against her. If I may digress for a moment, Stewart was a singer and songwriter who was a member of The Kingston Trio before he went solo. In a long career he recorded around fifty albums but he was never as big in Britain as he should have been. If you’re not a Stewart fan the only song you’ll recognise is ‘Daydream Believe’ but you’ll also notice that Amy has restored the original lyrics.

The album is topped and tailed by Amy’s ‘Tribute Song’ – just a short excerpt at the beginning leading into ‘Some Lonesome Picker’, the song that gave Stewart his nickname. Amy needed a country-ish band to support her nicely jangling guitar and she found it in Jon Lewis on electric guitar and bass, Todd Kuzma on drums and Brian Kutscher on bass and backing vocals alongside former Stewart sidesman Chuck McDermott. They hit exactly the right vibe without making Amy sound too American so she can sing a line like “she could have gone to Colorado” with guitar and Leo MacKenzie’s cello – not country at all. Really.

There’s a warmth to the performances which suggests that everybody really enjoyed making Always A Dreamer. Amy even hands over the lead vocal on ‘Dreamers On The Rise’ to her father, Alan Whitby, simply because it’s his favourite Stewart song. She also shares the role with him on ‘Hung On The Heart’ and ‘Sing My Heart Away’. There are two more songs I must single out for special mention. ‘If You Don’t Look Around’ was written for The Kingston Trio and two later members of the group, George Grove and Rick Dougherty join Amy on the track. The long centrepiece of the record is ‘Botswana’, an unusually political song from Stewart’s repertoire and still relevant more than thirty years on. Like ‘Armstrong’ it contrasts American affluence with third world poverty.

Always A Dreamer is Amy’s third full-length album – not forgetting her wonderful EP, Down In The Mine – and she has set the bar very high for whatever she may do in the future. Whether you want to curl up by a winter fire or drive the highway with the top down this is the only soundtrack you really need.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: https://www.amygoddardmusic.co.uk/

‘The Last Hurrah’ – official video: