Reviews

folking_com new 2016 site logo

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…

All our reviewers give their spare time to bring you this resource and we always looking for new people to get involved who share a similar passion for the genre to help lighten the load. If that sounds like you, then please email us here for more information about joining the folking review team.


All recent review and features posts below (where available) can be ordered below through our UK or US Storefront 

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.

Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link to the US Storehttps://folking.com/folking-us-storefront/


O’HOOLEY & TIDOW – Live At St George’s (No Masters NMCD55)

With immaculate timing Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow recorded this live concert in front of an enthusiastic audience in the former church of St George’s in Bristol just before the first lockdown began. Is it cynical to suggest that they held on to Live At St George’s until we were ...
Read More

LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III – I’d Rather Lead A Band (Thirty Tigers)

I admit that it's been quite a few years – decades, perhaps – since I listened to Loudon Wainwright III, but I suspect that even if I'd been more au fait with his 21st century output, the album I'd Rather Lead A Band, scheduled for release on October 9th 2020, ...
Read More

LUCIA COMNES – Uncaged (own label)

Recorded by Comnes in Liguria, Italy, and Gawain Matthews adding keyboards in San Pablo, California, Uncaged comes at the end of what has clearly been an annus miserablis for her, one that saw the loss of her marriage, the respect of her parents, the support of her family, her visa ...
Read More

SAM BROOKES – Black Feathers (Go Slowly Records)

Now, it’s a given that Joseph had “The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat”; but truly, Bristol-based Sam Brookes, with his album Black Feathers, has produced an “amazing technicolour” record of sublime vocal beauty, fronting a well-produced album of softly exquisite folk songs. Quite frankly, the first song, ‘Ekarma’ (which is a lonely ...
Read More

GRANVILLE AUTOMATIC – Tiny Televisions (Star Swimming)

The seven songs on the follow-up to the typewriter-named Nashville duo’s Radio Hymns, continues its concept theme of of songs inspired by Nashville’s lost history, this time as a companion piece to Vanessa Olivarez and Elizabeth Elkins’s first book, Hidden History Of Music Row. Tiny Televisions opens with the throaty ...
Read More

SINGLES BAR 57 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Nashville’s JARROD DICKENSON pays tribute to five of his Texas heroes on Under A Texas Sky (Continental Records), kicking off with a slightly slower paced interpretation of Roy Orbison’s minor 1959 doo wop hit ‘Uptown’ featuring bluesy organ and Claire Dickenson and Stephanie Jean’s backups, following with a slow and ...
Read More

STEVE TYLER – The Enduring And The Ephemeral (own label Rufus 5)

The strap-line may be considered a touch pretentious but so may the music so that’s probably OK. Steve is a multi-instrumentalist and he throws everything he has into The Enduring And The Ephemeral and then adds Katy Marchant on bagpipes, shawn, recorder and voice, Jane Harbour on violin and voice ...
Read More

KAVEE – Metempsychosis (Rock CD Records)

Italian multi-instrumentalist Valerio Willy Goattin (he of Galaverna and Slap Guru fame!) adds to the shut-in musical cornucopia with his new alias Kavee and a current record, Metempsychosis. He describes the album as “an acoustic escape towards the dreamlike dimension of music, a journey through mysterious and distant landscapes”. In ...
Read More

EMILY BARKER – A Dark Murmuration Of Words (Thirty Tigers)

“Where have the sparrows gone?” ponders the Australian ex-pat on her fourth full-length solo album, A Dark Murmuration Of Words, as the narrator looks out of her window on a post-apocalyptic London devoid of birds, a contemplative rumination of “climate change, racism, sexism, and myths of economic progress through the ...
Read More

LOU KYME – What’s The Worst That Can Happen (Blue Smoke BSCD3503)

A while back, the Southampton-born, London-based former frontwoman (Louise if we’re being precise) with the family country and rockabilly band The Okeh Wranglers (no, me neither) ended up in Austin where she ran into Chuck Prophet, resulting in two years of songwriting collaboration and now this debut album, What’s The ...
Read More

RURA – Live At The Old Fruitmarket (RURACD003)

Rura release Live At The Old Fruitmarket on September 11th. There are a limited number of ways of saying how good this is, so let’s try one I’ve used before: this is good; and one I haven’t: I wasn’t at Celtic Connections this year but there have been a number ...
Read More

BEN BEDFORD – Portraits (Cavalier CR255626)

I first encountered the Illinois-based singer-songwriter back in 2012 with his third album, What We Lost, and immediately set about acquiring its two predecessors, 2009’s Land Of The Shadows and, from the previous year, his debut Lincoln’s Man. Since then he’s released a further two albums, The Pilot And The ...
Read More

FAY HIELD – Wrackline (Topic TSC608)

With her new album, Wrackline, Fay Hield takes a giant step in her exploration of folk music. It’s a record about crossing lines – a wrack line is the high water mark where the debris of the sea collects and it marks a barrier. Fay makes this explicit in ‘Swirling ...
Read More

JAMES LEE BAKER – 100 Summers (own label)

The great transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau proudly proclaimed, “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!” And James Lee Baker, with his 100 Summers album, follows the path to a modern Waldon’s cabin door, and with melodic introspection, sings songs that (to quote Henry David) “live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life”, ...
Read More

WILLIE CAMPBELL – Nothing’s Going To Bring Me Down (Invisible King IK0020)

Willie Campbell is a singer and songwriter from the Isle of Lewis and, as well as being a soloist, he fronts The Open Day Rotation, formed astrid with long-time friend Charlie Clark and was a founding member of The Reindeer Section with Gary Lightbody, not forgetting his other band, Tumbling ...
Read More

ANNIE DRESSNER – Coffee At The Corner Bar (Proper)

A native New Yorker but, for the past nine years, based in Cambridge, Dressner released her debut album back in 2011, immediately indicating that here was an artist whose way with words and melody, couched in Americana but informed with folk and a touch of classic Brill Building pop, was ...
Read More

NATIVE HARROW – Closeness (Loose Music)

Pennsylvania duo Native Harrow’s Closeness is a wondrous folk marriage of lonely lyricism with the hand hold of beautifully warm and melodically earnest (and even hopeful) melodies. This is Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter music that irons on all those patches (a la Neil Young on the cover of After the Goldrush) ...
Read More

DANIEL NESTLERODE – Windrush (Clunk & Rattle Records CRLP021)

Born in Pennsylvania, raised in California and currently based in France after seven years living in Cambridgeshire, Nestlerode was inspired to make the album following the recent Windrush repatriation scandal, intending it as both a celebration of the Windrush Generation and the courage it took to leave their homes for ...
Read More

THE STRUNTS – Too Much Of Everything (own label STRUNT01)

The Dictionary Of The Scots Language tells us that “strunt” is a fit of pique or pettishness, or as we might say in the Home Counties, a bit miffed. The Strunts tell us this on their album, too, but I never take anything on trust these days particularly when, in ...
Read More

ROBB JOHNSON & THE IRREGULARS – Pandemic Songs (Irregular Records IRR114)

I once made the mistake of asking Robb Johnson how many songs he’d written. To protect yourselves from a similar embarrassment I’ll tell you now that he doesn’t know. But it’s not just the quantity of his writing – it’s the quality. Whether you’re considering a major, heartfelt work like ...
Read More

RAKOCZY – Frontrunner (Talking Cat Recordings TCCD2002)

Well, this is a bit different. Fruzsina Zsofia Rakoczy is an Anglo-Hungarian singer, concertina, recorder and bagpipe player, born in Budapest and based in Manchester who got into folk through the local euro dance scenes. As such you might expect either rave culture influences or songs steeped in her Eastern ...
Read More

SINGLES BAR 56 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

The first of LAU’s Live Series EPs opens with the sound of crashing waves and the cries of seabirds before Aidan O’Rourke’s melancholy fiddle leads into his tune ‘Gallowhill’ which he wrote on the Black Isle. The music was recorded in London at the start of a truncated acoustic tour ...
Read More

H.C. McENTIRE – Eno Axis (Merge MRG772)

Eno Axis, the second solo album by the former Mount Moriah singer opens with country gospel keyboard backing and the lines “early rise, start the fire, till the rows, pass the tithes” on ‘Hands For The Harvest’, a celebration of rural simplicity, of sowing, growing, and nurturing, written in woodlands ...
Read More

JAMES EDWYN & THE BORROWED BAND – Before We Go (Dead Records Collective)

Lockdown and the on-going impact of Covid-19 continue to reshape the music industry. In this case, I don’t mind too much. James Edwyn & The Borrowed Band have released a seven-track digital album, Before We Go. The band were formed in 2013 and are one of those that you wonder ...
Read More

JERRY JOSEPH – The Beautiful Madness (Décor DECOR55CD)

The name might not mean much to you, but it does to Patterson Hood and Jason Isbell, the latter recording with his former Drive By Truckers bandmates for the first time since 2007 to provide the album’s backing musicians. Born in LA. and currently resident in Portland, Oregon, while flying ...
Read More

JOSHUA BURNELL – Flowers Where The Horses Sleep (Misted Valley Records)

Joshua Burnell’s Flowers Where The Horses Sleep is a wondrous album of original songs with vivid and very modern folk roots. The first song, ‘Labels’, testifies to the oldest wisdom, “Throw your labels away because love has no use for them”; yet it manages to sing (with nice violin!) from ...
Read More

SOLAS – Shamrock City (THL001)

Solas’ Shamrock City, originally out in 2013 has just been re-released. Solas are currently paused indefinitely while founder Seamus Egan develops The Seamus Egan Project, but there is an unexpected relevance to reviewing this re-release given the current political climate. The album is a “family story of immigration, mining and ...
Read More

DARREN BLACK – Playing With The Truth (own label DBCD006)

If one good thing comes out of this crisis it may be that musicians have come up with new ways to pursue their art. This isn’t quite true of Darren Black who actually met his collaborators Robert Sword and Stewart Prosser back in 2016 so it might be that this ...
Read More

HE MISTOOK HER FOR A SWAN – He Mistook Her For A Swan (own label, digital only)

He Mistook Her For A Swan is a Canadian acoustic guitars/vocal duo comprising Colleen Hodgson and Steve Koch, seasoned musicians both. The duo’s wordy, murder-ballad derived name, we’re assured, is usually abridged to HMHFAS, an unpronounceable acronym that could only ever work written down. But, on to HMHFAS’s debut, self-titled ...
Read More

ARLO McKINLEY – Die Midwestern (Oh Boy Records)

Arlo McKinley’s Die Midwestern is a folk-rock-country album whose songs carve a lifetime of tough conversations into granite tombstones found in any cemetery optimistically named Evergreen. Although there are no characters created, these tunes sing with a Walt Whitman ‘Song Of Myself’ universality that confesses sad truths, with Spoon River ...
Read More

KATE RUSBY – Hand Me Down (Pure PRCD64)

Already planned but given new homemade intimacy through its lockdown recording (aside from some occasional remote contributions, as intended, it’s just her and Damien O’Kane), Hand Me Down sees Rusby interpreting not traditional folk songs but those from a more contemporary era, although, as she says, still doing what folk ...
Read More

SUNJAY – More Than A One Night Stand (digital release)

It wasn’t until I saw him live on stage that I really got Sunjay. I’d enjoyed his records, admired his excellent guitar playing and songwriting but in the flesh he has that rare quality – charisma. He is a natural raconteur and if he ever gets fed up with music ...
Read More

CHRIS LESLIE – Fiddle Back (Paws Records PAWS003)

Chris Leslie really doesn’t need any introduction from me so let’s get straight down to business. Fiddle Back is his contribution to lockdown; thirteen tracks recorded entirely solo at home using a mere dozen instruments and some samples. Chris obviously has an impressive studio set-up at home but uses it ...
Read More

JACK BESSANT – Lucky Mountain (CHEDX Records)

On the one hand Jack Bessant plays bass with the band Reef who aren’t exactly heavy metal but certainly don’t hold back. On the other hand he’s a singer songwriter. The thing is: he looks like a bass player – Jeremy Cunningham immediately springs to mind – and on Lucky ...
Read More

Colin Reid – Tilt

Topic took an interest in Reid’s formidable skill as a guitarist over a year ago and Tilt is the first of what I hope will be many recordings from him on the Topic label. It’s vital that the more successful labels on the folk and acoustic scene invest in the ...
Read More

IAN A ANDERSON – Onwards! Vol.2 (Ghosts From The Basement GFTB 7054)

Subtitled A Crown Of Crows, Onwards! Vol. 2 packs another twenty-one tracks from Ian A’s fifty year career onto a single shiny disc. Many tracks appear on CD for the first time and unless you were around in Bristol in the late 60s you may not have heard some of ...
Read More

SINGLES BAR 55 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Evocative opening title track from MARC BLOCK's Faerie Fire EP, using the traditional tune of an Appalachian hymn, is a song to order from the first Faerie Gathering song auction. Pleasant energy and illustrative lyrics. ‘I've Got It Bad (Elton's Song)’ was discovered via the Brisk And Breezy album crowdfunder, ...
Read More

The Pentangle & PENTANGLE – Sweet Child

A joint outing for two CD re-issues by Pentangle. For some reason, I never fully understood the adulation lorded on the group, as I was far more into the dynamic sounds of Fairport and Steeleye. Sitting listening to these albums now I see how much I've missed out. 1968 must ...
Read More

LAYLA KAYLIF – Lovers Don’t Meet (Canopus)

Born in Dubai, based in London, the British Emirati singer-songwriter nudged the bottom end of the UK top 100 back in 1999 with the single ‘Shakespeare In Love’ but Lovers Don’t Meet is her first album in twelve years. Americana with a pop inclination and folk shadings, recorded in Nashville ...
Read More

CONCHIE – Northumbria (Drawuptapdown Ltd)

Northumbria is only 23 minutes long but I could write pages about this album. Big impact on me then – and I need to pull it into 400 words or so. Let me start by saying how much I’ve enjoyed the album – and then wander into a bit about ...
Read More

DAVID IAN ROBERTS – From The Harbour (Cambrian Records)

Welsh singer-songwriter David Ian Roberts’ From The Harbour is a colourful labyrinth of introspective folk music with an eternal depth. It’s a Persian carpeted melodic pathway that resonates with (the great) Ralph McTell’s comment on his first album, Eight Frames A Second: “Paint the soul. Never mind the legs and ...
Read More

NINA RICCI – Fare Thee Well – A Joan Baez Tribute (own label)

Last year Saska Griffiths-Moore released Baez, Dylan and Me, a collection of Baez songs, either self-penned or written by Dylan, and now, having discovered her through the Forrest Gump soundtrack, Nashville-based Ricci (who shares her name with the iconic fashion house), makes her own contribution, Fare Thee Well, which, as ...
Read More

MARTIN STEPHENSON & THE DAINTEES – Salutation Road 30 (Barbaraville Records)

Following the pattern of recent years Martin Stephenson has re-recorded his third album with The Daintees to celebrate its anniversary. Actually, Salutation Road 30 is so radically different from the original that it’s practically a new album. Gone are the brass and flute parts, the running order is completely different ...
Read More

MIKE ZITO – Quarantine Blues (Gulf Coast Records)

Quarantine Blues is good. To be more precise, this is hit-you-over-the-head good. Generally, when an album comes in for review, I play it two or three times, maybe in the car, maybe while I’m sorting something out, to get a feel and then, after that, I give it several proper ...
Read More

ÉILÍS KENNEDY– So Ends This Day (Copperplate Consultants COPP034)

I'm afraid Éilís Kennedy is a new name to me, but on the strength of her new CD So Ends This Day I will certainly be looking into her previous releases. The songs are generally linked by a maritime theme, some as a result of her research into 19th century ...
Read More

RORY BUTLER – Window Shopping (Vertical Records)

Rory Butler’s Window Shopping is a splendid acoustic folk album that’s infused with a lot of “sweet little mystery”. Just so you know: Sir Edmund Hillary (and his Sherpa Tenzing Norgay) were the first people to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. That took guts! Nikolas “Nik” Wallander was the ...
Read More

SASKIA – Are You Listening? (own label)

Not one to idle the days away, having released two separate albums last year, the former Harley Street specialist (she’s dropped the Griffiths-Moore) returns with the first of a two album deal with America’s Suzanne Marcus Collins Foundation. Other than two new songs, the material, recorded in Cardiff, is an ...
Read More

THE WILDERNESS YET – The Wilderness Yet (own label)

It has been frequently remarked that the future of folk music is safe in the hands of the younger generation, I’ve said so myself. But I find myself puzzled when a trio with the perfect credentials for breathing new life into old songs prefer to concentrate on their own material ...
Read More

THE JAYHAWKS – XOXO (Sham)

The Jayhawks' XOXO is a genuine leather-clad nonsectarian American folk-rock hymnal. The songs stitch together a sampler that harmonises with all the greats: The Byrds, The Beatles, (ex-Byrd) Gene Clark, Big Star, The Kinks, Mason Proffit, Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, The Feelies, and, well, you get the picture. Band members have ...
Read More

MICHAEL CHAPMAN – Plaindealer / The Twisted Road (Mooncrest CRESTCD104)

This double CD set brings together two of Michael Chapman’s later albums: The Twisted Road from 1999 and 2005’s Plaindealer. Oddly, Mooncrest choose to present them in reverse chronological order but, hey, you can listen to them in any way that pleases you. Plaindealer opens with ‘Streamline Train’ written by ...
Read More

SINGLES BAR 54 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Fronted by singer Deidre Murphy and acoustic guitarist Les Ray, Cambridge folk-rock quintet RED VELVET return with the If Hawks Were Doves EP, a self-released companion project to last year’s Darkness & The Angels, here exploring the positive and negative forces, internal and external, that affect our life, but taking ...
Read More

VIRGINIA KETTLE – No Place Like Tomorrow (Merry Hell MHMCD00220)

Two years on from her eponymous EP, No Place Like Tomorrow is finally with us and it is well worth the wait. Virginia is supported by her occasional band The Dreamkeepers: Neil McCartney, Nick Davies and husband John who also produced the record. Virginia writes about romance, relationships and I ...
Read More

DAN PENN – Living On Mercy (The Last Music Company LMCD219PUK)

If you're unfamiliar with the name Dan Penn – as I was – it's probable that you are familiar with some of the hits he's written since his first songwriting hit (Conway Twitty's 1960 recording of 'Is A Bluebird Blue'), such as 'Cry Like A Baby' (The Box Tops), 'Do ...
Read More

DAVE COUSINS – The Boy In The Sailor Suit   (Esoteric ECLEC2723)

Originally released in 2007 The Boy In The Sailor Suit has now been reissued with three bonus live tracks featuring the core of the backing musicians now named The Blue Angel Orchestra: Miller Anderson, Ian Cutler, Chas Cronk and Chris Hunt. Many of these songs are very personal to Dave ...
Read More

MICHAEL CHAPMAN – Growing Pains Volume 1 & 2 (Mooncrest CRESTCD105)

It would appear that this set was released as two separate albums some twenty years ago. I missed them then so they come as a real treat now. Growing Pains brings together a number of “off the record” recordings over two decades from 1966 – 1986. The first four tracks ...
Read More

SKERRYVORE – Live Across Scotland (Tyree Records TYREE10CD)

Skerryvore’s Live Across Scotland exemplifies the Ian Hunter album title, You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic. This record captures the Skerryvore ethos: sizzling big group Scottish electric folk and pulsing arena songs with a nod toward the memorable hooks of (perhaps) Supertramp, with a sometimes (pleasant)) country vibe. But let ...
Read More

MATT HILL – Savage Pilgrims (Quiet Loner QLRCD001)

Originally trading as Quiet Loner, now the name of his label, the politically-driven Nottingham-born singer-songwriter made his album debut in 2004 with Secret Rulers of the World topping the UK Americana charts, Since then,. He’s released a further three albums, played countless gigs, had a year long songwriting residency at ...
Read More

ANDY & JUDY – This Road (own label)

Andy and Judy Daigle are from Bridgewater, Massachusetts. I actually missed the MA in their letterhead at first and I was expecting a duo from Somerset. D’uh! They have been a fixture in their part of New England for more than a decade, writing, performing and recording albums of which ...
Read More

OLD-TIME PHARMACEUTICALS – Roots & Honey (own label)

Old-Time Pharmaceuticals’ Roots & Honey is a really hip audio textbook of folk songwriting. The band cite Pete Seeger, Carter Family, The Clancy Brothers (more about whom later!), and Stan Rogers (he of ‘Forty-Five Years’, ‘Barrett’s Privateers’, ‘Northwest Passage’, and ‘Lies’, fame!) as influences. Sure. This one hits that arched ...
Read More

JOHNNY STEINBERG – Shadowland (own label JS032020)

It may stem from the Highland Clearances but there is an affinity, an empathy between Scotland and the USA. They don’t make a huge fuss about it but remember that Andrew Carnegie came from Cromarty and look what he did for New York. Shadowland is part of that link. It’s ...
Read More