KIZZY CRAWFORD – The Way I Dream (Freestyle Records FSRCD128)

The Way I DreamKizzy Crawford has been making music for a while but her début album The Way I Dream is only just on the verge of being released and it’s been worth the wait.  When I first saw Kizzy she could have gone in several directions, including folk which she sings very well.  On this album she has taken a very different direction and produced something of quality that stands out from the crowd.  With a combination of soul and funk, even a bit of rap, it has a very strong commercial appeal and could well be the album that is the big breakthrough Kizzy deserves.  That’s why it needs to stand out because it’s a very crowded area, but the electronics and drums have been well mixed and produced so they compliment Kizzy’s voice rather than competing with it.  The lyrics are the most important element in every song on the album and they come through clearly.  Kizzy certainly has a voice that deserves to be heard, being very clear and nicely pitched.  She doesn’t have the biggest range but it’s warm and welcoming, drawing you in to the song.

The album opens with ‘Dive’, which is certainly a dance track and it is hard to listen to without moving.  ‘Real Love’, following it, is more upbeat in tempo and this variety continues through the album. ‘Progression’ is possibly my personal favourite, a song that bounces along and has all that excitement of youth but knowing there’s a lot more to come.  It’s another track you will find yourself moving to, especially during the chorus.

Kizzy has both Welsh and Bajan roots and both of these influence the album.  Two of the songs are in Welsh; ‘Achub Fi’ and ‘Adlewyrchu Arnaf’ but they stay in that modern style and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t.  Any language has to move with the times and find an outlet that will appeal to people as a living thing.  Track 9, ‘Waiting Game’, is in English but has a Welsh rap in it; that may be a first but it certainly catches the attention.

I would recommend this album.  It’s different from what I normally listen to but I’ve played it far more than I needed to for for review purposes because it’s very good and I’ve enjoyed it.  It’s light and well paced and certainly brightens up the daily drive to work.

The Way I Dream is released on the 25th October and I haven’t seen a way of pre-ordering yet but it will be available through all the usual platforms as well as independent websites.

Tony Birch

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

‘Adlewyrchu Arnaf’ – official video:

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Sunshine Of Your Love: A Concert For Jack Bruce (MIG Records MIG02192)

Sunshine Of Your LoveOn the 24th October 2015, a year after the death of Jack Bruce – widely acknowledged as one of the best electric bass players of all time – a small galaxy of star (admittedly not very folky) musicians gathered for a tribute concert at the Roundhouse in London. Sunshine Of Your Love, released on the 25th October 2019, is a DVD and double CD set recorded at that concert. Among the musicians taking part were Ian Anderson (frontman of Jethro Tull), Dave ‘Clem’ Clempson (Bakerloo, Colosseum, Humble Pie, Jack Bruce and Friends), Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music, Quiet Sun), Bernie Marsden (Whitesnake, Paice Ashton Lord), Uli Jon Roth (Scorpions, Electric Sun), Hugh Cornwell (The Stranglers), Mark King  (Level 42), Joss Stone, members of Jack’s own Big Blues Band, and many more. There is also archive footage of Jack Bruce himself, including an energetic ‘Traintime’ and an emotional ‘Music For An Imaginary Western’. And while Cream bandmate Eric Clapton didn’t perform at the concert, the CD does include as a bonus track his pleasantly understated acoustic guitar piece ‘For Jack’.

Ginger Baker, Jack’s bandmate most famously in Cream (but also in Blues Incorporated and BBM – perhaps we shouldn’t mention the Graham Bond Organization in this context), also appears in the film, famously walking off during the performance of ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’, though that isn’t as obvious from this film as from a video widely viewed on YouTube. Sad, but perhaps not an altogether inappropriate footnote – not so much in the light of the notoriously difficult relationship between Bruce and Baker, more in that there is a clear difference in approach between Baker and the other drummer (Frank Tontoh? – he isn’t actually credited in the booklet that accompanies the set), who is way too obtrusive for my taste. In sharp contrast, Baker’s playing behind Aruba on ‘We’re Going Wrong’ is an object lesson, surprisingly sensitive for such a difficult man.

Certainly there was much more to Cream than the internal conflicts, and much more to Jack Bruce than that band, influential and well-remembered though it might be. Still, there are quite a few more songs here most associated with Cream, including ‘I Feel Free’, ‘White Room’, ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ (of course) and ‘Politician’, as well as some Cream songs that Bruce didn’t co-write (the Skip James classic ‘I’m So Glad’ and ‘Badge’, written by Eric Clapton and George Harrison). While some of Bruce’s best-known songs written with Pete Brown were first recorded with Cream, there are many other songs here from their longstanding writing partnership. In general, the Cream songs follow the original arrangements with augmented arrangements, and in the ‘Sunshine…’ finale, a slightly-extended jam. Liam Bailey does a good job of the lead vocal on several songs. Mark King’s vocals are sometimes uneven, but his love for the songs carries him through. Still, on the whole I rather prefer the re-interpretations from the 2005 Cream reunion, even if they don’t always have the energy of the original recordings.

Standout tracks for me: the jazzy interpretation of ‘Milonga’; Ayanna Witter-Johnson’s ‘Rope Ladder To The Moon’, accompanied only by her own cello; ‘Candlelight’, a song written by Bruce and his wife Margrit Bruce Seyffer; Ian Anderson making ‘Tickets To Waterfalls’ sound very much his own; the harmonies between Chloe Fiducia and Julie Iwheta on ‘Ships In The Night’; daughter Aruba Red’s heartfelt ‘Folk Song’; and while I’ve never quite acquired the Joss Stone habit, ‘Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out Of Tune’ suits her perfectly.

Not so good: Hugh Cornwell’s pitchy vocals on ‘Hear Me Calling Your Name’; while Uli Jon Roth does a good job of recalling the old Clapton solos, his use of the whammy bar sometimes seems a little over-enthusiastic on ‘I Feel Free’. A matter of taste, I suppose: I can’t deny his technique.

There’s a lot to enjoy here. Certainly there’s plenty of technique on display here throughout, from a crop of talented musicians who generally do justice to a much-missed musician (yes, by me too). I’m particularly pleased to have been introduced to some songs I haven’t heard before: clearly, I have some catching up to do.

The 2015 concert apparently raised over £35,000 for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH), for which Jack had frequently raised money, and a percentage of the sales from the box set is promised for donation to the same charity.

David Harley

Artist’s website: http://jackbruce.com/

‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ – from the concert:

HARRI ENDERSBY – Mazes (Ivy Crown Records)

MazesMazes is the second enchanting album from Durham singer songwriter Harri Endersby. It follows on from her excellent 2017 debut album Homes / Lives, which I was also privileged enough to review. I must confess to having some bias when it comes to Harri’s work, having fallen in love with the first album the love affair continues with Mazes.

There are nine original songs, many of which will be familiar if you have seen Harri live in the last 18 months or so. Whereas live she performs playing acoustic guitar with her husband Rich Marsh (acoustic guitar and cajoun), on this album she adds electric guitar, piano and mandolin and Rich adds electric & bass guitar and programming.

The album also has the addition of some of the finest young folk talent there is in the shape of Ciaran Algar (fiddle and bouzouki), Toby Shaer (whistles, fiddle, mandolin and harmonium) and Ian Stephenson (harmonium and piano). It was recorded, mixed and mastered by Ian and produced by Harri and Rich themselves.

The opening song ‘Mountainside’ starts the ball rolling nicely in a gentle upbeat fashion. ‘Breathe’ slows things down a little and brings the first bit of fiddle to the album. In ‘Golden Hour’ you can hear the passion in Harri’s voice for the natural world around her. Many of the songs are inspired by the countryside of the North East and also the Isle of Harris, which is one of her favourite places.

The title track ‘Mazes’ is another easy-going track with its gentle percussion and Harri showing her vocal range. ‘Glow’ ups the tempo which is kept up with ‘Small Birds’. ‘Isla’ is started with a field recording of bird song which she did on the Isle of Harris and it brings in the whistles, harmonium and fiddle to great effect.

Having heard many of the songs live, I particularly remember a fine performance of ‘Flight’ at the 2018 Oxford Folk Weekend, so listening to this track took me straight back to that hall. It’s just yet another beautiful and gentle song from Harri, though of course we didn’t have the harmonium and fiddle that day.

I love the way the final track, ‘Close To Home’, is brought in from the outside to the inside (if you listen to it you’ll get what I mean). It also finishes the album in a great upbeat way. I suspect it may be an encore song, but I guess I’ll find out when I see her in Harwell (and possibly London and Bristol) next month.

And so, before you know it, 33 minutes of listening to a beautifully and lovingly crafted album have passed leaving me craving for more. My Sonos is set to repeat so I dive straight back into it.

Harri is touring Mazes around the UK from 25th October to 11th November. I put her on during her first ever tour in 2017 and am thrilled to have her back in Harwell for this one. Go and see her and Rich if you get the chance and you’ll have a really lovely evening full of enchanting music.

Duncan Chappell

Artist’s website: https://www.harriendersby.com

There are no videos from the new album yet, so here’s one from last year. ‘Breathe’:

JAMES McARTHUR AND THE HEAD GARDENERS – Intergalactic Sailor (Moorland Records)

Intergalactic SailorJames McArthur and The Head Gardeners’ new album Intergalactic Sailor is a wonderful folk record that is quiet, dreamy, and very melodic.

This album has warmth and folk beauty to burn. ‘Cleaning Up’ begins with a sonic spacey sound, and then it spirals into a psych folk tune that is framed by a pulsing bass and a persuasive violin. And the vocal (just like everything on the record) is quietly important, while a guitar pumps lifeblood into the song. Then ‘Tourist Town’ is acoustic guitar perfection. This is introspective folk that walks in the footprints of a very British/Scottish 70’s tradition of Nick Drake, John Martyn, and (especially) Ralph McTell.

Now (oh my!), James M and his Gardeners have tapped into the sound of the great band Magna Carta. The vocals (which mirror those of Chris Simpson) tug successfully at the heart, and the melodies plead with time and beauty. For all the Magna Carta fans, just imagine an album filled with tunes that echo the patience of ‘White Snow Dove’, ‘Sunday On The River’, and ‘Parliament Hill’—all from the brilliant record, Songs From Wasties Orchard. Yeah, it strums that same gentle and profound chord.

To be fair, James McArthur is Welsh (and a former drummer for Paul Weller), so it’s a stretch to say the album is a bullseye into a Yorkshire pub dartboard, but with such understated yet superb songwriting, it’s darn close to a double top score at any pub that pumps a traditional ale under the sign of a Black Swan.

That said, ‘Heavy Sleeper’ is a pleasantly weird up-temp song with a guitar that sounds like a koto. By the way, Syd Arthur’s Joel Magill and brother Liam play on this album. And this slightly off-tilter tune evokes a playful Canterbury vibe.

The record continues with folk roots. ‘Plane Sailors’ echoes Medieval delicacy. ‘Drain The River’ is diaphanous with a really nice violin ride. ‘Defending the Fort’ is eerie with a great violin-bass-guitar middle section. ‘Wait For A Letter’ is the fully realized Head Gardeners sound: The dreamy vocals simply mesh with the violin, deep bass, the pedal steel, and the electric guitar. ‘Mountain Rescue’ is tranquil troubadour stuff. This is wonderful folk music that drips with sad tradition and the occasional harmonica drone.

‘Hard Landings’ expands the sound. Once again, the vocals float on a soft cloud, while the bass, violin, and electric guitar get jazzy for a warm while with even more echoes of the great Magna Carta sound that evoke the plaintive beauty of ‘The Sea And The Sand’. And for those who know (and love those Vertigo albums), that’s high praise.

The final song, ‘Intergalactic Sailor’, has a quick pulse and a clever rock heartbeat. It’s a nice brisk ending to a folk album that rides off into a pretty great sunset. I am reminded of The Sutherland Brothers and Quiver (bless them!) in their pop rock heyday of Reach For The Sky.

James M and his Gardeners breathe in harmony with the best of the 70’s folk bands. And it’s a winsome song. It blushes; it pauses; it pulses; and then it sings lovely songs that touch the heartbeat of the very human and very acoustic folk song soul. Magna Carta’s Chris Simpson once sang, “Falling stars don’t mend a sky. Well, that may be true, but the folk songs on Intergalactic Sailor certainly can stitch a comforting quilt in the vast heavens of a cold autumnal and very windy nocturnal sky.

Bill Golembeski

Artists’ website: https://www.jamesmcarthurmusic.co.uk/

The first single from the album – ‘Tourist Town’:

GREENMATTHEWS – Roots & Branches (Blast Records BFTP013)

Roots & BranchesGreenMatthews, who have appeared in these pages before, are Chris Green who plays keyboards and a variety of stringed instruments, and Sophie Matthews who plays all manner of aerophones from English border bagpipes to baroque oboe. Both sing but it’s Sophie’s instrumentation that provide Roots & Branches’ distinctive sound, particularly when tackling a couple of Playford tunes like ‘Childegrove’ and ‘The Indian Queen’. If you associate Playford with the shilling-in-the-bum dancing style this will change your mind.

The majority of the material is traditional, or nearly so, but Chris and Sophie have worked hard to give such songs as ‘High Germany’ and ‘The Blue Cockade’ a new feel without altering them too much. I applaud them for what they have done with these songs and ‘Daddy Fox’ which they have borrowed from Barry Dransfield. The opening track, ‘The Escape Of Old John Webb’, is a variant of the ‘Billy Broke Locks’ story that comes from Massachusetts and was once recorded by The Kingston Trio. John Webb was a coin-maker who wasn’t averse to knocking out a few extra in support of American independence; needless to say that got him into trouble and it sets the album up well.

Now, I begin to have problems. Chris has written a new tune for ‘The Bone Lace Weaver’ and I can’t imagine why. The usual tune, composed in the 1960s though it may be, is perfectly suited to the song and would suit GreenMatthews’ instrumental style equally well. Later he essays a new tune for Ernest Jones’ ‘Song Of The Lower Classes’ – the customary tune is a 19th century hymn paired with the lyrics by Martin Carthy and it’s difficult to improve on. Fortunately, Chris doesn’t try to improve on Vaughan-Williams’ tune for ‘Linden Lea’ (someone else has and I detest it) and I like his arrangement very much although it’s taken a little too fast for my taste.

Oh, dear. It seems that I’ve got a down on GreenMatthews but actually Roots & Branches is a very enjoyable record – although I reserve the right to be critical. I’m old enough and curmudgeonly enough to do so but I admire their approach to the music contained herein.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.greenmathews.co.uk

‘The Blue Cockade’ – live:

JAKE AARON – Fag Ash And Beer (own label)

Fag Ash And BeerYou should never judge a book by its cover, we’re told, and the same is true of album covers.  I took this album for review with a slight sense of trepidation.  As a title Fag Ash And Beer, along with a cover photo of Jake playing a guitar in his kitchen, fag in mouth, had me thinking I’d be listening to the sort of person you see in the corner of a pub playing well known standards.  Fortunately it turned out I was wrong.  Fag Ash And Beer is a well crafted set of eleven self-penned songs performed by Jake and a good backing band.

Opening the album ‘Elvis Has Left The Building’ is an instrumental introducing the band which builds from a bluesy guitar intro into a Hammond led piece of prog rock from Steve Lodder.  This is followed by the title track, a love song of sorts but with any sense of romance stripped away.  There’s neither wine nor roses whilst a cemetery with a broken tombstone becomes the trysting ground.

And the fag ash and beer wasn’t a sacrament

But it was pretty damn close.

This pattern of instrumental pieces is repeated through the album, with the last three tracks being all instrumental, an idea that grew from the original concept.  Initially Jake was recording acoustic material, which he was pretty happy with, but to reach the sound of ‘Give Me Your Horse’, the single from the album, “...I asked the players if they’d come in again to record a couple of live tracks and colour in some of the acoustic takes”.

It works well, giving a bigger sound than he would have had originally whilst retaining the acoustic sound and nu-folk feel, along with Jake’s singing style which is reminiscent of Mark Knopfler.

The instrumental pieces are on the album on merit, varying in style and tempo and showing Jake’s skill as a guitarist.  As a whole Fag Ash And Beer works well as a début album showcase for a writer and performer of high standard.  Checking out the social media there aren’t any live shows listed, either as a individual of for the band, which is a shame.  For now we’ll have to content ourselves with a recording that is available from the website as a CD or limited edition vinyl, or can be downloaded through Amazon and other streaming platforms.

Tony Birch

Artist’s website: https://www.jakeaaron.com/

‘Elvis Has Left The Building’: