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DOWALLY – Somewhere (own label, DW002)

SomewhereAre we there yet? Today’s destination is highland hamlet Dowally – or rather, the immensely talented Scottish trio of that name, who decided to call their second album Somewhere. Alongside their first album, Welcome To Scotland, it does suggest the musician’s itinerant life, that standing wave of maps, road signs and satnavs. Somewhere also suits the geographically fluid nature of the band’s music which weaves elements of traditional, jazz, Klezmer and classical into a luscious, glowing soundcloth.

Dowally was invited to record its first album by cellist and creative wizard Graham Coe (The Jellyman’s Daughter, Sam Kelly band). A fairly off-the-cuff affair, it led to a more planned approach for Somewhere, with Dan Abrahams (guitar/double bass) and Rachel Walker (fiddle/whistle) writing most of the material. Phil Alexander (accordion/piano) completes the Dowally triumvirate, and Coe’s cello makes a welcome return appearance on three tracks.

Opening with ‘Sunday Brunch’, as laid-back as its title indicates, the music displays inventive turns of rhythm and fluid changes of pace. As is typical for this album, instruments riff around the melody, dancing away and back again. It’s a playful approach that can only be rendered well by seriously good musicianship.

A surprising cover of Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ is mashed up with fiddle tune ‘The Banshee’. It’s intriguing and striking, especially in the final section where two differently paced vocal lines plus fiddle gather together to a shuddering, implosive halt. Dominic Blaikie’s strong, flexible vocals feature here and on a cover of Lennon/McCartney’s ‘And I Love Her’. This is a most extraordinary, dark rendition, as the vocals dip and soar, almost menacingly, across Alexander’s improvised reel fill and a poignant fiddle.

This album is simply packed with inspired, original moments as the band sweeps the listener along with logical yet unexpected musical progressions. Tunes writhe and twist from one mood to another, musical genres flicker and move on. A slow dance between guitar and accordion gets interrupted by an urgent, insistent fiddle in ‘Veruda’; ‘Be Mine Or One’ courses jazzy peaks and valleys, and the Klezmer of ‘Castellation’ invokes something moodier and darker.

A brusque accordion punctuates fiddle and guitar on ‘St Vincent’s’, developing into a into lush piano, as the whole bends up to its finale. ‘Chris And Emily’s’ loose, bluesy guitar intro to is picked up with superbly curling, intricate banjo, courtesy of Dallahan’s Ciaran Ryan.

Culminating in ‘Port Inn Hornpipe’, a fine display of how this band creates an auditory feast, a jaunty air gets lightly dusted with chilled out jazz until it’s abruptly interrupted by frenetic banjo, dashing piano and accordion. Returning briefly to the central theme, now embellished with bar room piano and vocalising, a last banjo flourish whisks it away for good. Unlikely on the page, perhaps, but fantastically good on the ears.

Produced with a confident, airy lightness that allows each instrument – and the spaces in between – the space to speak clearly and be heard, this album is a true listening pleasure.

So, are we there yet? Yup. Wherever Somewhere is, it’s pretty impressive. Definitely worth sticking around for a while to see where Dowally heads to next.

Su O’Brien

Artists’ website: www.dowally.com

‘Fluorescent Banshee’ – official video:

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Destination (Fellside Recordings FECD282)

Fellside RecordingsThe Fellside Recording label has been a major force in independent folk music recording for 42 years and has over 600 albums to its credit, many by some very big names in the genre. Now, Paul and Linda Adams have decided to slow down, and though the label remains in business, it will have a lower profile and won’t be taking on new artists. The end of an era, but by no means the end of the story. Destination is a mighty collection of tracks – three CDs worth – specially recorded by some of the many fine artists who’ve been associated with the label, plus some archive material.

The material here covers the spectrum from dance tunes to modern songs by treasured artists like Peter Bellamy (two of his Kipling settings are provided here, one sung by Terry Docherty) and Alex Glasgow, to a wide selection of traditional songs (even the occasional Child ballad). Well over half the tracks here have not been released previously. Given the calibre of the musicians here, that alone has to make it worth buying. There are also a handful of unusual jazz performances from Fellside’s sibling label Lake.

Because of the sheer number of tracks provided here (64!), my usual practice of including a full track listing didn’t seem altogether appropriate. Here are just a few more of the performers and writers who are represented in this collection, which may be enough to persuade you to take a closer look: Jez Lowe, Bram Taylor, Steve Turner, Pete Morton, Bobby Eaglesham, Sara Grey, Alistair Anderson, Paul Metsers, Brian Dewhurst, Bob Davenport…

Here are few tracks that stand out for me personally, but there’s such a wide range of artists here that your personal highlights might be quite different

  • Maddy Prior’s unaccompanied ‘Sheepcrook And Black Dog’, proving that Steeleye Span maybe always needed her more than she needed them. (Not that I didn’t like the Steeleye version.)
  • Swan Arcade’s stunning version of Sting’s ‘We Work The Black Seam’.
  • The much-missed Vin Garbutt singing ‘Boulavogue’.
  • Hedy West singing ‘Little Sadie’ – as Pete Seeger said when she sang it on his Rainbow Quest series in the ’60s, “That’s the real thing…
  • Peggy Seeger’s exquisite ‘Single Girl’ – if my ears don’t fail me, from a 1958 recording with Guy Carawan.
  • Diz Disley and friends in full Django/Hot Club mode on ‘Shine’.
  • Marilyn Middleton-Pollock’s version of ‘Melancholy Blues’, recorded long ago by Louis Armstrong and Johnny Dodds.
  • Bob Fox’s version of Alex Glasgow’s ‘Standing At The Door’. A fine performance from someone who’s no mean songwriter himself.
  • Tom Kitching & Gren Bartley with a blistering performance of ‘Whisky Head’.

But there are too many classy tracks here to list all the ones I can imagine myself listening to for a long time yet.

Buy it. You’ll certainly find enough tracks to make it worth your while.

David Harley

Label website: www.fellside.com/

‘Single Girl’ – Peggy Seeger and Guy Carawan

Jackie Oates: new album and tour dates

Jackie Oates
Photograph courtesy of The Oxford Times

We are proud to announce the release of the seventh studio album, The Joy Of Living, by Jackie Oates. It’s a record that covers an intensely personal period of her life, in which she celebrated the birth of her daughter Rosie and bid an emotional and loving farewell to her beloved father.

The Joy Of Living features songs made famous by folk greats including Ewan McColl, Lal Waterson and Davey Steele, as well as carefully picked songs from contemporary artists such as John Lennon and Darwin Deez – all interpreted in Jackie’s inimitable style.

Recorded at home in Jackie’s kitchen (with baby Rosie in attendance) she collaborated with fellow Imagined Village alumni and producer Simon Richmond to create this intimate, touching and uplifting collection. The album also features performances by friends from the world of folk including Mike Cosgrave, Barney Morse Brown, John Parker and Jack Rutter.

Born and raised on folk music, Jackie Oates started her career as a finalist in the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards in 2003. Since then she has been nominated for twelve BBC Folk awards; at the 2009 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards she scooped Best Newcomer and Best Traditional Track on the same night.

Jackie will be performing at festivals throughout the summer and is on tour in November 2018 and February 2019

Album pre-order: https://www.eccrecords.co.uk/product/the-joy-of-living-pre-order/

‘The Joy Of Living’ – live:

2018 Tour Dates

30th June 2018: Folk On The Quay, Poole

7th July 2018: Kimpton Folk Festival

23rd July 2018: Chichester Folk Song Club

7th August 2018: Sidmouth Folk Week

12th August 2018: Dartmoor Folk Festival

25th August 2018: Oxford Storytelling Festival

15th November 2018: Kitchen Garden Cafe, Birmingham

16th November 2018: Pound Arts Centre, Fordham

17th November 2018: Tuppenny Barn, Emsworth

21st November 2018: The Greystones, Sheffield

24th November 2018: Shelley Theatre, Bournemouth

Rab Noakes announces new album

Welcome to Anniversaryville released on Friday 13th July 2018

Rab Noakes
Photograph by Brian Aris

In February of 2017 Rab Noakes performed a well-attended, highly-acclaimed concert, with his ‘70/50 in 2017’ band of musicians at Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket, as part of that year’s Celtic Connections festival. That concert, its songs and its players form the backbone of this record. The songs are mostly by Rab and span nearly 50 years of songwriting from ‘Together Forever’ [1969] to ‘It All Joins Up (In The End)’ [2017]. They form a sequence which contains interpretations of songs from a diverse range of sources from Scots traditional to Scots Gaelic to Al Jolson to Doris Troy to Pee Wee King to Marijohn Wilkins.

The band members are a rich mixture of people, some of whom Rab has worked with before and some he hadn’t. Some of them had played together before and some hadn’t. They are Stuart Brown – drums; Christine Hanson – cello; Jill Jackson – guitar, singing; Kathleen MacInness – singing; Una McGlone – double-bass; Lisbee Stainton – 8-string guitar, banjo, singing; Innes Watson – fiddle, guitar, singing. A broad range of songs was chosen, and rehearsed, for the concert. It was an easy decision to reach to arrange to visit the recording studio on the weekend immediately following it. Over those three days, the backbone of this record was laid. Some of the songs were performed live in the studio.

Some were laid as backing tracks. New tunes, awaiting lyrics, were laid and Welcome To Anniversaryville  was well underway. In no hurry, so not using up a large amount of days, John Cavanagh, Stephy Pordage and I were in John’s upstairs room, in Muirend, with musicians coming to complete this work. Sometimes they were alone, at other times there were two, even three, of them at a time. Guest musicians appeared such as Davie Craig – fiddle, singing; Alex Gascoine – violin; Sue McKenzie – baritone plus soprano sax and Emily Tse – bass trombone. In time the seventeen tracks were worked on to a satisfactory conclusion.

Rab says, “It’s all too easy for artists to believe their latest is their best work. It’s seldom true and, in any case, it takes time for that to be proved. In this case though, for me, it may well be true. The quality of the contributions from all involved, the attitude and sound achieved alongside the subject matters of the songs and their provenance does seem to add up to something. I always strive to make a record only I can make. I leave it to you to put that to the test”.

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://rabnoakes.com/

‘Jackson Greyhound’ – live with Jill Jackson:

THE KIMBERLEYS – The Kimberleys (Popla OB7)

The KimberleysIt can be difficult to take a well-known traditional song and attempt to do something new with it. Those of us with long memories will recall that once upon a time you could be run out of town just for thinking about it. The Kimberleys do it seven times over – I’m counting ‘The Whitsun Dance’ as quasi-traditional here – and make a fine fist of it. Although veterans in the business, this is actually their debut album, and if I tell you that they have toured with the reformed Comus you may get the idea that they are not entirely mainstream.

They open the album with ‘Elsie Marley’ and I found it odd that Isobel Kimberley was singing “honey” when I was expecting “hinny”. I checked and Northumbrian Minstrelsy has “honey” so what do I know? The Kimberleys also sing seven of the eight verses, with a few amendments and the song is typical of their style. Isobel imposes her own meter on the tune over Jim Kimberley’s rolling guitar part with each line separated by four instrumental bars and meanwhile the chorus gets bigger and bigger. The verse they alter most is the one co-opted by ‘Byker Hill’.

‘Sally Gardens’ is sung by Jim over a shruti drone decorated by Isobel’s harp while ‘The Doffin Mistress/Broom Bezzums’ is only one step away from folk-rock. They use a lot of musical effects and found sounds, particularly on this track. ‘The Smart Schoolboy’ is a variant of ‘The False Knight On The Road’ as collected, I think, by John Jacob Niles and ‘Pleasant And Delightful’ and ‘Tam Lin’ are taken relatively straight over a rolling guitar building up to a big finish. I’m less taken with ‘The Whitsun Dance’. Isobel’s vocals are excellent, as they are throughout the album, and the harp and autoharp decorations add a sparkle but I find Jim’s guitar rather ponderous, which is odd because he’s capable of much more imaginative accompaniments than this. With that caveat, this is an intriguing debut.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.thekimberleys.org

‘Tam Lin’ – official video:

ALDEN PATTERSON AND DASHWOOD – By The Night (own label)

By The NightArriving in a hand printed card sleeve, By The Night is the second album from the Norwich-based trio of Christina Alden, Alex Patterson and Noel Dashwood following 2016’s well-received Call Me Home self-funded and recorded at home with Patterson producing. Alden singing lead, there’s no significant deviation from that homespun folksiness that weaves together British and American influences on both traditional numbers and self-penned material, often inspired by books. Cases in point as regards the latter come with opening number ‘The Time Song’, an airy love song built upon a simple pattern of descending guitar and vocal notes inspired by The Time Traveler’s Wife, Patterson’s fiddle adding subtle colour. It’s followed by the second literary inspiration, an intricately picked ‘title track, Dashwood’s dobro bringing pine-scented echoes of American backwoods folk, written after reading Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus while on a trip to India.

Two American traditionals follow, the trio providing new music for the rustic-hued leaving song ‘Bonnie Blue Eyes’ with fiddle to the fore. It ends with a burst of close harmony a capella, an approach they extend to the entirety of ‘Red Rocking Chair’, even though their version was inspired by recordings by fiddlers Bruce Molsky and Brittany Haas.

A couple of numbers further down the line, inspired by a version by bluegrass outfit Crooked Still, ‘Railroad’ is another drawn from the same musical well, dobro evoking the wheels rolling on the tracks while Patterson provides some frisky fiddle.

Back on this side of the ocean, the lively strummed ‘Blow The Wind’ with its percolating fiddle stems from a Tyneside air, albeit with the trio writing new music and second verse, a remodelling they also adopt to good effect on the familiar ‘Ten Thousand Miles’, considerably changing the melody and rearranging the lyrics to make it very much their own.

The three remaining numbers are all self-penned, one of which, ‘The Nerves’, is a coaxingly gentle dobro and fiddle instrumental by Dashwood, apparently written to combat stage nerves and playing a fretless instrument. Based on real events, the sprightly, breezy playing of ‘The Cobbler’s Daughter’ is somewhat at odds with the fact that it’s based on the story of a couple who went missing in the Swiss Alps in 1942 while tending their cattle, their bodies not discovered until 2017 with the melting of the glacier, bringing their daughter’s ceaseless search to an end aged 79.

Finally, there’s ‘Kingfish’, a gently rippling number written after watching a David Attenborough documentary, the lyrics detailing how they swim upstream and circle around in the same spot, the musical arrangement with its guitar and pulsing fiddle mirroring their actions.

Their debut was greeted as a breath of fresh air, and this is another you’ll want to inhale deeply.

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.aldenpattersonanddashwood.com

‘The Time Song’ – live: