Reviews

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Welcome to the folking.com review section.

The folking review team is a small, dedicated group of people with a passion and a commitment for the folk, acoustic and Americana music scene. They review the latest releases, each in their own inimitable style…

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HONEY AND THE BEAR – Journey Through The Roke (own label)

Lucy and Jon Hart have stayed mostly true to their native Suffolk coast while recording their second album, Journey Through The Roke, basing several of the songs on stories and characters from the area. Roke is a local term for the evening mist that rises from marshes – what a ...
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PETER KNIGHT’S GIGSPANNER – From Poets To Wives (Talking Elephant TECD454)

Twelve years ago Peter Knight’s Gigspanner introduced themselves to the world with Lipreading The Poet. Its launch was relatively low key but just look how they have grown. There are four albums as a trio with Sacha Trochet replacing Vincent Salzfaas after the third. Two very fine percussionists with very ...
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PEGGY SEEGER – First Farewell (Red Grape Music)

Half-sister to Pete Seeger, married to Ewan MacColl from 1977 until his death in 1989 (though she actually married Alex Campbell in 1959 in a  short-lived platonic marriage of convenience in order to gain British citizenship after her US passport was withdrawn),when she struck up a relationship with  Irene Pyper-Scott, ...
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BOB LESLIE – In Praise Of Crows (Big Red Records Big Red 5)

Bob Leslie is a Scottish (half-Orcadian, actually) singer/songwriter with a humorous bent and a growing reputation. In Praise Of Crows is his third album. Bob wraps up some serious points in his songs but the emphasis is on entertainment and, presumably, the hope that those serious points will lodge in ...
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C.O.B – Spirit Of Love (Bread And Wine Records BRINECD5)

C.O.B’s 1970 acid folk and sublimely spiritual Spirit Of Love has been re-released with a CD and vinyl pressing! Now, for the uninitiated, C.O.B was the three-piece band Clive Palmer (hence the name, Clive’s Original Band) formed after leaving The Incredible String Band and did a bit of world trekking ...
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JASON RINGENBERG – Rhinestoned (Courageous Chicken Entertainment CCECD018)

Forty years on from launching Jason and the Scorchers, the Illinois-born Southern-twanged cowpunk singer is as fired up as ever on Rhinestoned, his 21st release and seventh as a solo artist, partly comprising songs that didn’t make the Stand Tall album and partly new material written in response to the ...
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GILLIAN WELCH & DAVID RAWLINGS – All The Good Times (Acony Records)

One of the less harrowing aspects of lockdown is that informal live music is more accessible online than it used to be: at any rate for me, since online sessions don't entail long walks to and from bus stops. So I've derived an unexpected pleasure from hearing songs again that ...
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CHRIS FLEGG – Twenty’s Plenty (FLEGGCD011)

Chris Flegg is a singer, guitarist and songwriter from St Albans but I won’t hold that against him. Twenty’s Plenty is a collection of twenty guitar instrumentals, some of which have appeared before and some of which have had words attached. For the afficionados, Chris plays a Martin OMC-41 in ...
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BOO HEWERDINE – Selected Works (Reveal Records)

Boo Hewerdine’s Selected Works is a best of collection that acoustically lights votive candles to his devoted fans. But to the uninitiated, this is a welcome album of simple songs that touch late night introspection with vintage melodies that are still, and will always be, warm thoughts that gaze into ...
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PAUL HUTCHINSON – Petrichor (own label)

Paradoxically, Paul Hutchinson’s new album, Petrichor, is a much-travelled and international project involving musicians from Sweden, Belgium, the USA and Australia as well as a few Brits – not bad for a lockdown year. Now, I’m not going to explain who Paul is nor what petrichor actually means; you’re intelligent ...
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IAIN MATTHEWS with ANDY ROBERTS – Live At The Bonnington Theatre (Angel Air SJPCD642)

Iain Matthews and Andy Roberts hadn’t seen each other for several years when, so the story goes, they bumped into each other in a Brighton pub. The following night they played a “let’s do the show right here in the barn” style support set and the old magic was reignited ...
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HEADSTICKS – C.O.W. (Chapter 22 C22/21/0005)

Headsticks’ previous studio album, Kept In The Dark, came not so much as a breath of fresh air as a veritable hurricane. C.O.W. - the band’s fourth album - seems slightly restrained by comparison but that’s no bad thing. They may speak a little more softly but they still carry ...
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3HATTRIO – Lost Sessions (Okehdokee Records)

Imagine finishing the recordings for your sixth album, but then your hard drive gets crushed by a falling piano. That’s what happened to American Desert Music band 3hattrio last summer, hence this album’s (ultimately inaccurate, thankfully) title, Lost Sessions. Only occult rituals and incantations by IT wizards summoned the data ...
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JERRY AKEHURST – An Old Man’s Folly (own label JAS2021)

Based in Iona, where the album was recorded, raised on influences as diverse as Buddy Holly, Bert Jansch and JJ Cale, Akehurst’s musical history entails lengthy stints on the Christian music circuit. I have no idea how many albums he’s released in his 50 years as a musician, but apparently ...
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ANNA TAM – Anchoress (Tam Records TAM002)

Anna Tam is a Mediæval Bæbe – classically trained and with a clear voice that so many singers would give their eye teeth for. Add to this her talent with unusual instruments: nyckelharpa, hurdy gurdy, viola da gamba, and you have a combination that should produce musical magic. Anchoress is ...
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HARBOTTLE & JONAS – The Beacon (Brook View Records BVR002)

David and Freya have been busy during lockdown streaming a series of live Facebook performances from home, often of inspired cover versions, variously as a duo or with guests such as Reg Meuross, but they’ve still managed to find time to record The Beacon, their outstanding fifth full-length studio album, ...
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FAELAND – When I Close My Eyes (Faeland GSR.CD.002)

Faeland’s When I Close My Eyes is melodic folk album that bobs melodically on the surface of a lake yet still manages to probe the deep depths of its waters. I suppose Sandy Denny is at work here. She, with an immense traditional folk song resume, decided to “jump the ...
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WREN – Pink Stone: Songs From Moose Lodge (Swimming Rabbits WREN 2101)

Wren being the recording alias of Laura Adrienne Brady, Pink Stone is the third of her place-based albums, the setting here being Washington‘s Methow Valley, a land of wild mountains and rivers and the traditional homeland of the Methow People. Worn down though battling an undiagnosed illness, in 2016 she ...
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ANNABELLE CHVOSTEK – String of Pearls (own label)

Annabelle Chvostek’s String Of Pearls is indeed, a place where, as U2’s Bono once sang, “Then all the colours will bleed into one”. Although Toronto born, Annabelle’s music swings with French cabaret, Uruguayan tango, a 1930’s speak easy vibe, weird jazz, and a deep root that touches the very best ...
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SINGLES BAR 63 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Like so many others, DARIA KULESH has been hit hard financially by lockdown: she has responded positively, though, with the release of her Emergency Covers EP, a collection of songs by other songwriters. While it's always a joy to hear Daria's own compositions, her many admirers will know how convincingly ...
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KALEIDOSCOPE – Sky Children: The Best Of Kaleidoscope and Fairfield Parlour (Beyond Before BB114)

Let me tell you a  story. A couple of years after leaving sixth form, I went back to visit my old English teacher. He showed me a book of poems his class had produced and was particularly impressed by one’s boy’s contribution titled ‘Emily Brought Confetti’.  He was rather less ...
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JOHN BLEK – Digressions #2 Grounded (We Are Rats WARR014)

Digressions #2 Grounded is well described. 2020 was certainly a digression from “normal” life and grounded is what most of us were. Artists reacted differently to the restrictions: some went back to basics and recorded acoustic sets, some released digital tracks and some explored the possibilities of remote recording to ...
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HOTH BROTHERS BAND – Tell Me How You Feel (own label)

Tell Me How You Feel has seventeen songs, one hour and six minutes long. Hoth Brothers Band (HOTH = High On The Hog) have not been lying idly in their beds over the past year but have used well the time recovered from not been able to tour and live ...
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VISION THING – Morning’s Coming (own label VT007CD)

Begun in 2019 and completed in lockdown, produced by Merry Hell’s John Kettle, Morning’s Coming, the second album by the North West quartet stakes an immediate claim to 2021’s ultimate best of list, Cherlene Walmsley effortlessly securing her place among the great and most emotionally expressive British folk rock voices ...
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TRAILHEAD – Into The Mountains (Requa Records REQUA 202103)

Trailhead is the recording name for German Americana singer-songwriter Tobias Panwitz, apparently acquired during his time as part of the trail maintenance crew in Northern California’s Redwood National Park, where each day began a new trailhead. It’s clear he has an affinity with the great outdoors and Into The Mountains, ...
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NED ROBERTS – From The Reels: 2012-2020 (Self-released download)

From The Reels is a collection of hitherto unreleased outtakes from Ned Roberts’ previous three albums and sessions with LA-based producer Luther Russell, released as is without any tweaks or additions, they and their intimate feel serve to further bolster the London-based singer-songwriter’s burgeoning career.  The accompanying blurb offers no ...
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NOTHING CONCRETE – The Haberdasher’s Voyage (Round Flat Records)

There are some albums that, on first hearing, make you exclaim “oh, my” or words to that effect. The Haberdasher’s Voyage is one such – the opening is a real blast! Nothing Concrete are a six-piece international band featuring brass, fiddle, banjo and double-bass who joyfully disregard genres in pursuit ...
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MILTON HIDE – Temperature’s Rising (own label)

The debut album by Wilmington, East Sussex acoustic duo Jim and Josie Tipler, joined (remotely) by an assortment of guests on the likes of fiddle, mandolin, string bass and accordion, Temperature’s Rising impressively builds on their recent singles with songs that span the political and the personal, keeping an ear ...
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LEWIS BARFOOT – Glenaphuca (own label)

Lewis Barfoot’s Glenaphuca is gorgeous album that condenses modern maturity into a melodic simplicity that, somehow, ignites (with crystalline vocals) the vivid colours of her childhood. By the way, “What is Glenaphuca?” would be the correct Final Jeopardy response to that statement, “This is the Electoral Division of Dungourney in ...
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FIELD WORKS – Cedars (Temporary Residence)

Well, this is something different. For the ninth outing in the series, producer Stuart Hyatt has put together a special dual-language release that combines cosmic Americana with Western ambient and Middle Eastern influences  in a devotional song cycle set to Arabic and English poetry that  examines some of Earth's most ...
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NINEBARROW – A Pocket Full of Acorns (Winding Track)

Named for Nine Barrow Down in Dorset’s Purbeck hills, joined by Lee MacKenzie on cello, Nizlopi’s double bassist John Parker and both producer Mark Tucker and Evan Carson on percussion, Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere return with their fourth album, A Pocket Full of Acorns, a collection of primarily original ...
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GORDON DOWNIE – Away Is Mine (Arts & Crafts Productions)

Gord Downie’s Away Is Mine is an album of “rough magic” that “reads the thoughts of birds” while it sings a glorious acoustic harmony to (the great) Phil Ochs’ song, ‘When I’m Gone’. Indeed, as Phil sang a long time ago: “Won’t see the golden of the sun when I’m ...
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MICHAEL JOHNATHON – The Painter (PoetMan Records  PMR70030)

An artist whose teenage comic strip was published in 17 newspapers, holed up in his Kentucky log cabin, Johnathon’s completed 49 oil paintings since the pandemic began and his CV also includes five published books, a play performed in 42 countries, a  traditional opera, a weekly radio and TV broadcast ...
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JOHN RENBOURN GROUP – A Maid In Bremen (MIG MIG02392 CD)

You have to wonder what more historic delights are still hidden away in the vaults of German radio and TV. The punningly titled A Maid In Bremen was recorded there in 1978 and draws together all the influences that came to bear on John Renbourn – English traditional song, blues, ...
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ELENA PIRAS – Where The Wind Blows (own label EP0002 CD)

There are some albums that can be reasonably described as “eclectic” and When The Wind Blows is one such. Any of the threads spun together here: the Gaelic songs, the traditional songs in English and the “contemporary” covers would make for a good album but Elena Piras moves effortlessly between ...
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EAMON O’LEARY – The Silver Sun (Reveal 108CDX)

Recorded in just one afternoon, The Silver Sun is the New York-based Dubliner’s third album on which he’s joined by Benjamin Lazar Davis on keys, bass and electric guitar and Elise Leavy on backing vocals. Wheezing pump organ and swirls of mellotron warmly flow throughout ‘The Living Stream’, an otherwise ...
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SON OF THE VELVET RAT – Solitary Company

Let’s start factually. Son Of The Velvet Rat release Solitary Company on March 19th. George Altziebler - songwriter, vocalist, player of guitar, harmonica, melodica - and his wife Heike Binder - harmonies, player of accordion, organ, theremin, autoharp - left Austria in 2013 to move to California. I guess when ...
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COHEN BRAITHWAITE-KILCOYNE – Rakes & Misfits (Grimdon Records GRICD003)

It’s almost four years since Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne released his debut solo album, Outway Songster. Not that he’s been idle: Granny’s Attic has kept him busy as has his solo performances which have enhanced his reputation. In recent months he’s turned his attention to research and writing and the result is ...
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VARIOUS ARTISTS –  Between Islands (An Lanntair LANCD006)

A bringing together of three projects (song writing, fiddle and folk) involving thirteen artists from Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides and originated by the An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway, this double CD is essentially the result of lockdown. When the live performances were cancelled, it was decided to compile ...
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OKA VANGA – Oka Vanga (Crazy Bird Records)

Oka Vanga’s third (and self-titled) album is a “wild, rich & unique” joyous hybrid of Americana and wind-blown memories of British folk music. Angela Meyer and William Cox - the she and he of the band - blend Angela’s South African roots with Will’s British soul and the send their ...
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LAWRENCE ILLSLEY – Trees (Tiny Tree Records TTRLICD001)

A Cornish poet now based in the Welsh valleys, Illsley makes his singer-songwriter debut with a thematic companion piece to last year’s award-winning collection of poems, A Brief History Of Trees. Recorded in his late mother’s living room in Trewellard, twelve months after, a former nurse, she died of pancreatic ...
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LOVERIDGE – As The Crow Flies (Loveridge Records)

Sea shanties dropped out of my own repertoire quite a few years ago, so I'm probably the only folkie in Cornwall who hasn't heard Fisherman's Friends or seen the movie. So until I saw the PR, I didn't know of Toby Lobb, who is a member of the group. (As ...
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BEULAH’S BONEYARD – Songs For A Watchful World (own label)

Songs For A Watchful World is a collaboration between Oxford-based lyricist Martin Beck and Jon Avison, frontman of The Moonbeams, joined by, among others, the latter’s fellow Yorkshiremen, Ben Avison, Sam Lawrence and Thom Paisley, they take their name from a shared loved of William Blake, Beulah, the Hebrew for ...
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BREWERS DAUGHTER – Jara (own label)

About five years ago I was bowled over by Make Believe, the debut album by Brewers Daughter. It was a fairly homespun affair – the music was great but the rest seemed like garnish. I wanted my local folk club to book her but I didn’t hear anything more of ...
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STRAWBS – Settlement (Esoteric EANTCD1087)

Fifty-seven years since their formation (and fifty-four since they shortened their name to Strawbs), the core of today’s line up dates back to 1973 when founder member Dave Cousins and recent recruit guitarist Dave Lambert were joined by Chas Cronk on bass, this, the band’s 24th studio album, Settlement, sees ...
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JANET SIMPSON – Safe Distance (Cornelius Chapel Records CCR49CD)

Janet Simpson’s Safe Distance is an album for those of us who love country music but didn’t bother to watch the CMA show yet have an enduring love for the genuine music of Lucinda Williams, Kelly Willis, Margo Price, Jenny Lewis, and Shelby Lynne. Amid a really nice rocking chord ...
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IAN DAVID GREEN – Songs Of The Sea (own label)

A reedy-voiced singer-songwriter from Liverpool, armed with an acoustic guitar and harmonica and variously accompanied by accordion, brass, keys, drums, mandolin and strings from members of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Green wrote Songs Of The Sea as a tribute to his late father and, as such, explores such themes as ...
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TV SMITH – Lockdown Holiday (Easy Action EARS149)

TV Smith, or Tim as nobody calls him, was one of the first wave of punks forming The Adverts in 1976 – remember ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’? TV never fell far from that tree as his latest album, Lockdown Holiday, amply demonstrates. Like many artists he saw 2020 wiped out and ...
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BOO SUTCLIFFE – Blink (own label)

Boo Sutcliffe is a Yorkshire singer-songwriter and Blink is his debut album – a remarkably sophisticated one, at that. Boo does nearly everything: writing, singing, playing and producing employing a few friends, mostly on bass and vocals and string arrangements. I struggled to get past the opening track, ‘Meet Me ...
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EDWARD II – Dancing Tunes (E2JAM 1905)

Welcome to the party!  Full on into the swaying of Jamaican dance music! Jamaican music is rooted in the West Indian Mento and Calypso, and this album hits the right spot from the beginning.  Cheers the soul in these strange times. Traditionally this area of music has storytelling lyrics of ...
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CATHERINE BRITT – Home Truths (Beverley Hillbilly Records Bevhillrec001)

Unless you knew, you‘d readily believe Britt was born and bred in the Tennessee foothills, but, while she spent six years in Nashville,  she does, in fact, come from Newcastle near Sydney, to which end, given the sound of her voice and music, you might consider her an Australian Dolly ...
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DAVIE FUREY – Haunted Streets (own label)

Davie Furey is originally from Navan and now lives in County Laois but there isn’t a lot about his background to be found. On his new album, Haunted Streets, I hear hints of Andy White’s Belfast vocal inflections but I don’t know if that is in any way significant. He ...
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SINGLES BAR 62 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Based in the Western isles of Scotland, FELIX SAUNDERS has a throaty, world-weary vocal rasp and earthy accent (think a centuries-old Proclaimers), heard to persuasive effect on his self-released wryly titled I Guess This Is Progress debut EP, a four track affair reflecting on his own mental state soured relationships ...
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JON WILKS – Up The Cut (Grizzly Folk)

Once again, following Midlife, the redoubtable Birmingham folkie has delved into the archives to emerge with Up The Cut, another selection of largely unknown and unheard (some not for 180 years) traditional songs from Birmingham and the Midlands, this time featuring just his voice and guitar. It opens with ‘Pretty ...
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JORDMÅN – Jazz På Nysvenska (Dos)

Peter Bryngelsson’s (more about whom later!) new project Jordmån is an adventurous folk concept piece that fuses traditional tunes, original compositions, and instruments all under the umbrella of Jazz På Nysvenska (aka Jazz For New Sweden). Given Brexit and all of that, it’s still nice for a British folk magazine ...
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BROON – Cosmic Ceilidh (SBECD20)

Cosmic Ceilidh is the debut album from multi-instrumentalist Steve Brown of Arisaig in the Scottish Highlands. A busy professional live musician since the 1993, the lockdown has given him the time to complete this Broon album, recorded in his Rivendell Studio. Cosmic Ceilidh has a grand, sweeping, landscape-of-sound vibe, that ...
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RICK SHEA – Love & Desperation  (Tres Pecadores TPCD12)

A multi-instrumentalist Southern California singer-songwriter who’s played sideman for Katy Moffat, Wanda Jackson and Dave Alvin, with a penchant for Hank Williams influences and old school country, brings us Love & Desperation, his twelfth album. It kicks off with accordions affording  a Doug Sahm Texicali taste to a cover of ...
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DOWALLY – early bird // night owl (own label)

early bird // night owl is the third album from Dowally and it is made up of original contemporary folk interspersed with some traditional folk which their sound is based on.  There are also influences from many musical genres which gives the album a lovely rich and rounded feel. Dowally ...
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PATTERSON DIPPER – Unearthing (own label PD001)

John Dipper’s virtuosity on violin is well known as is his skill as a maker of concertinas. Of late he has turned his attention to the viola d’amore and on Unearthing he plays a fourteen string model made for him by Jonathan Hill. James Patterson was a member of Crows, ...
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TRADArrr – Strange News (Hedge of Sound Records HOS26 2020)

Strange News, TRADArrr’s third album, once again finds the septet’s assembled members taking traditional folk songs by the scruff of the neck and giving them a good shaking.  They kick off with Marion Fleetwood’s arrangement of ‘Rose Of Allendale’, a number sought out that pointedly didn’t include a murder, shipwreck, ...
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