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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STEPHANIE HATFIELD – Out This Fell (own label)

Always a question to wonder about – what should you do for Valentine’s Day that isn’t cheesy, superfluous or slushily romantic? How about listening to Stephanie Hatfield’s new album? Out This Fell is Hatfield’s fourth album, released in the UK on February 14th, is none of those things. Hatfield is ...
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FAIRPORT CONVENTION – Shuffle And Go (Matty Grooves Records MGCD056)

Fairport Convention’s Shuffle And Go is a “green and pleasant” lovely folk album that winks and waves at the past, and (to almost quote Procol Harum) it “trips the light fandango” and indeed, still “turns cartwheels ‘cross the floor”. This is wise and warm music. Now, in his book Meet ...
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THE LOST BROTHERS – After The Fire After The Rain (Bird Dog Recordings BDR007)

Hailing from Tyrone and Meath, respectively, Northern Irish duo Mark McCausland (a cousin of Lonnie Donegan, apparently) and Osin Leech have made a point of recording their albums in different cities. For After The Fire After The Rain, their sixth, they went to Brooklyn where they recruited Daniel Schlett and ...
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AL LEWIS – Te Yn Y Grug (Al Lewis Music ALM023)

There is a story behind this album and it’s somewhat involved so settle down at the back, please. Te Yn Y Grug (Tea In The Heather) is a novel, or perhaps a collection of short stories, written by Kate Roberts and published in 1959. It tells the story of three ...
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THE CRAVATS – Hoorahland (Overground Records)

The Cravats’ Hoorahland whirls complex rock, punk, and jazz into a narcotic hurly-burly of melodic musical defiance. But is it folk? Well, I have a “born in the U.S.A.” friend who is 1/32 Puerto Rican (on his mother’s side), and that qualifies him for that country’s Olympic wrestling team. It’s ...
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RATTLE ON THE STOVEPIPE – Through The Woods (WildGoose Records WGS432CD)

Who would have thought that Rattle On The Stovepipe had recorded their seventh album with Through The Woods. Founder members Dave Arthur and Pete Cooper were joined by guitarist/banjo picker Dan Stewart some thirteen years ago and the trio have been playing music from the Appalachians ever since. Occasionally they ...
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RIBBON ROAD – Love On The Losing Side (Shipyard RRD012)

Bizarrely, just a few days after I was wondering when a new album might be in the offing, along came Love On The Losing Side, the twelfth album (albeit It’s A Silk Cut World was released under the Mission Statement line up with Rod Clements) from Geoff and Brenda Heslop ...
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KARIN GRANDAL-PARK – Lives On The Line (Stories In Stone)

Karin Grandal-Park’s short album, Lives On The Line, is part of a series of community projects based in west Yorkshire. Karin concentrates on the history of three landmarks on the Settle & Carlisle line; the Shanty Batty Green, Blea Moor Tunnel and the famous Ribble Head viaduct. Six of the ...
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CHRISTOPHER PAUL STELLING – Best of Luck (Anti)

Produced by Ben Harper and featuring both him and Dixie Chicks drummer Jimmy Paxson and bassist Mike Valerio, Best Of Luck is Florida-born, Asheville-based Stelling’s fourth album, his first with a producer and a fully collaborative creative and recording process, one that, following his decision to quit drinking, seeks to ...
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RY CAVANAUGH – Time For This (Cav Productions)

Ry Cavanaugh’s album Time For This could well be the soundtrack from a History Channel search for the grave of Henry David Thoreau. That sort of thing still gives us hope, just like a really good John Prine tune that has “broken the speed of the sound of loneliness” and ...
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JOHN BLEK – The Embers (K&F Records K&F046)

The fifth album from the fingerpicking Cork singer-songwriter, conceived as the third in a series of four thematically-based releases that began with Catharsis Vol 1, The Embers comes steeped in reflections on the aftermath of the fires that no longer burn, change in both political and personal senses. It opens ...
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ANDREW J NEWALL – Janus (own label AJN2019CD)

Andrew J Newall describes this album as being composed of the songs he’s known for when performing live. Some of them have been souped up a bit by a fine band but Janus is the sort of Scottish album I usually welcome. There are original compositions, covers and traditional songs ...
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NED ROBERTS – Dream Sweetheart (Aveline AVREC007CD)

Originally from York and now based in London, Ned Roberts’ big break came soon after he started writing and was discovered by producer Luther Russell, who invited him to L.A. to record his debut. With Russell behind the desk and also playing keys, percussion, guitars, bass and banjo, the partnership ...
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SETH LAKEMAN – A Pilgrim’s Tale (BMG)

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the departure of The Mayflower from Plymouth, setting voyage to take its cargo of 102 persecuted Puritans, some of whom had returned from Holland where they had taken refuge, to forge a new life in America in what would become known as the ...
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THE ROWAN TREE – Kolar’s Gold (own label)

I’m not suggesting a trend, you understand, but there is some exciting music coming out of the west of England at the moment, not least this album. The Rowan Tree are a Cornish quintet: Tom Fosten, Neal Jolly, Richard Tretheway, Laura Garcia and Richard Morgan, Actually there are more than ...
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KATHLEEN HEALY – Embracing The Journey (own label)

A singer-songwriter from Cape Cod, following a gap of some five years, Embracing The Journey is her second album and, as the title suggests, is very much about dealing with life and all that comes your way along the path. She has a slightly warbly, slightly twangy folksy voice that ...
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KIRSTY ALMEIDA – Moon Bird (All Made Up)

Kirsty Almeida is a writer and singer whose musical and personal journey has taken her around the world.  Born in Scotland, her father's work has taken her to his home country of Gibraltar as well as the USA, Far East and South America.  She also joined orchestras and has studied ...
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GLENN JONES – Ready For The Good Times (own label)

Based in North Carolina and bassist for the Peter Holsapple Combo, Jones also has his own career, Ready For The Good Times being his third album, a 12 song collection of old school country folk produced by Jerry Brown and featuring Mandolin Orange’s Andrew Marlin on mandolin and guitar with ...
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DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS – The Unraveling (ATO – 0882388515)

Released on the 31st January, The Unraveling is Drive-By Truckers first new album in three and a half years. The delay possibly caused by the engine room writing team of Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood reaching a piston breaking writers block, much like gears coming of the cogs of the ...
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SINGLES BAR 48 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Yet another British-Asian who’s been drawn to British and American folk style, variously based in Oxford (where he heads a Beatles covers band) and Exeter, the smooth, treble-voiced RIAZ AHMAD makes his debut with the All At Sea EP, self-released towards the end of February but preceded by the lead ...
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BROOKS WILLIAMS – Work My Claim (Red Guitar Blue Music RGBM – 2020)

Brooks Williams releases Work My Claim in February. It’s an album which celebrates thirty years as a touring musician and 30 years since his first album - and he still plays over 200 shows a year. Work My Claim has twelve tracks from Williams’ back catalogue recorded with a mixture ...
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ELLINOR & LEONOR – Årsringar (Kakafon Records, KAKACD036)

Årsringar may only be the second album in five years from Swedish/Belgian duo Ellinor Fritz (fiddle) and Leonor Palazzo (5-string cello), but music of this quality is well worth the wait. The duo’s uncommon take on the “two fiddle” tradition brings added depth and richness to traditional, mostly dance, tunes ...
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MATT McGINN – Lessons Of War (own label)

Initially, moved by seeing the image of a young refugee washed up on the shore, the County Down singer-songwriter set out to write a single song about the futility of war and, over the course of three years and reaching out to musicians from war zones, that turned into an ...
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LETITIA VANSANT – Circadian (own label)

Letitia VanSant’s debut album Gut It To The Studs was released eighteen months ago and had several memorable tracks on it which suggested that her decision to move from secure employment to the uncertainties of a music career wasn’t that bad an idea. She releases Circadian in February. Very delicately, ...
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CAVE FLOWERS – Cave Flowers (Hard Bark Records)

Cave Flowers’ self-titled album burns its own brand into the worn leather of alt-country rock ‘n’ roll. And that’s a difficult thing to do. The Eagles commercial sound didn’t help the genuine genre. Many years ago, about the time with ‘Lyin’ Eyes’ or ‘Take It To The Limit’ ruled radio ...
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GILL LANDRY – Skeleton At The Banquet (Banquet Records)

Gill Landry releases his fifth album, Skeleton At The Banquet, this week with a couple of launch gigs in London on January 28th and 29th. His previous solo albums have been well-received but he is probably better known as a member of the Old Crow Medicine Show from 2004 to ...
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ANDY WHITE – Time Is A Buffalo In The Art Of War (Floating World FW046)

The first time I saw Andy White he still looked like Bob Dylan circa 1966 - I think I admired his nerve. I’ve tried to keep up with him since then and there are a couple of passages in his autobiography that I still like to quote. Time Is A ...
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FIERCE FLOWERS – Mirador (Celebration Days Records)

Fierce Flowers’ Mirador is a delightful French album of folk music that travels from Paris to Americana backwoods with sepia tinged vocals, guitar, banjo, viola, and double bass. This one takes a lot of Appalachian twists and hexagonal turns. France has a wonderous history of folk music with albums from ...
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SAM LEE – Old Wow (Cooking Vinyl COOKCD743)

It’s hard to credit that Old Wow is only Sam Lee’s third album. It seems that he’s been around forever, done so much and already had such an impact on the British folk scene. The album is inspired by Sam’s other consuming passion, the natural world, and there are plenty ...
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DEL SCOTT MILLER – Lantern (own label)

Del Scott Miller is from Barnsley and Lantern is his second solo album as a singer-songwriter. He’s also singer, writer and guitarist with Mynas and, if he’s to be believed, plays covers when he needs the money. He describes his style as alt-acoustic but that hardly covers it. This is ...
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GRAHAM LINDSEY – TradHead (Wavelength Media)

Quite frankly, Canadian Graham Lindsey’s acoustic Celtic TradHead, should have been called Never A Dull Moment, if one-time Faces member, ‘Maggie Mae’ solo star, (from what I have heard) decent footballer, and now old-age crooner and maker of Christmas albums, Rod Stewart, had not already copped the title for himself ...
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ROBB JOHNSON & THE IRREGULARS – Eurotopia (Irregular IRR113)

As if to prove that not only does Robb Johnson have his finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist but that he’s actually ahead of the beat, this album arrived just before the election. There is politics in Eurotopia but not in the way you might expect. This isn’t a ...
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JON PALMER ACOUSTIC BAND – One Fine Day (Splid Records SPLIDCD 26)

Jon Palmer is a fine songwriter and a good bloke to have a pint with – both of which endear him to me. One Fine Day is the third studio album from his band, now an octet, which belies its name by having Baz Warne of the The Stranglers playing ...
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THE SMOKE FAIRIES – Darkness Brings The Wonders Home (Year Seven Records)

The Smoke Fairies new album, Darkness Brings The Wonders Home, is music that coughs up a bluesy and very British folk rock beauty. You know, the brilliant bottleneck player Mississippi Fred McDowell said, “I do not play no rock ‘n’ roll”, but these women certainly do - with British silky ...
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GEMMA MAE ANDERSON – Life (own label GMAZE2CD)

Like many musicians, I'm all too well aware of the risks and consequences of joint damage and pain, especially in my own age group (let's just say the wrong side of retirement age…) I find it difficult to imagine, though, what it's like for Gemma Mae Anderson, though, being diagnosed ...
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THE OLD SWAN BAND – Fortyfived (Wild Goose WGS434CD)

The Old Swan Band, rightly lauded for its longstanding championing of English dance music, broke a 20-year recording hiatus in 2014 to mark its 40-year anniversary. Fortyfived, the band’s latest album, celebrates this continued survival across four and a half decades. Much like the dwarf’s axe, some of the band’s ...
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BLACKBIRD & CROW – Ailm (MIG MIG 01652)

I don’t believe that anyone has coined a term for the music that Blackbird & Crow play. I’d like to suggest “gothic folk-rock”. Other artists have ventured down this road but I’d also like to suggest that Maighréad Ní Ghrásta and Stephen John Doohan do it best. Ailm is their ...
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JULIE ABBÉ – Numberless Dreams (Anisogoma Records ANIS001)

She doesn’t sound it but Julie Abbé is French and grew up in Poitou-Charentes, south of Roquefort and North of Bordeaux, which sounds like a good combination to me. She grew up with the Bal tradition but expanded her repertoire into swing, Latin jazz, blues and the English and Irish ...
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DEBORAH ROSE –The Shining Pathway (own label)

Originally from Newport in South Wales but now based in Worcester, the pure-voiced Rose comes impressively endorsed by no less than Mary Gauthier and Judy Collins. Recorded variously in Nashville and Ludlow, The Shining Pathway  is her third album, a collection of songs about love, loss and transformation, much inspired ...
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MIKE ZITO – Live From The Top (Gulf Coast Records)

Mike Zito, Blues Music Award winner whose 2018 album First Class Life entered the Billboard Top Blues Albums chart at number one, has re-released Live From The Top. The re-release whets the appetite for a three-part tour of America, Europe (Germany, Holland, Belgium and France) and the UK from January ...
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THE AERIALISTS – Dear Sienna (Fiddlehead Records)

Although The Aerialists’ Dear Sienna spins in a distant orbit around any Irish Pub’s dartboard hub, it’s a wondrous Canadian album filled with acoustic magic. ‘The Rope Is The World (Intro)’ opens with Mairi Chaimbeul’s harp, which preludes ‘An Gille Dubh Ciar Dubh’, with a Gaelic vocal, Elise Boeur’s fiddle ...
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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Sounds From The Great Garden: A Lismore Gathering (Clincart Music CLINC770190010)

A double CD ‘concept’ album, the title refers to the historic description of the Scottish island of Lismore, the music within it, all recorded at Davy Clincart’s studios on the Hebridean isle, conceived to reflect the rich diversity of song, story and music from the community of local artists involved ...
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DÀIBHIDH STIÙBHARD – An Sionnach Dubh (Wildtune Records)

Dàibhidh Stiùbhard’s An Sionnach Dubh (aka The Black Fox) is an album that touches deep Irish roots and is graced with immense subtlety. Dàibhidh’s vocals glance with the pathos of heavy wisdom, and are framed with sympathetic violin, guitar, and button accordion. A ghostly harmonium hums to welcome the tune ...
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DAVEY DODDS – Toadstool Soup (Coalshed Music CSM031119)

Davey Dodds, rather belatedly it must be said, has had fame thrust upon him all because of a song he wrote back in the 1970s. The Unthanks recorded ‘The Magpie’ which was then used in The Detectorists and that resulted in a namecheck by Sam Lee from the stage of ...
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FRUITION – Broken At The Break Of Day (Fruition LCC FLC012)

A promising roots-rock five-piece from Portland, Oregon, Broken At The Break Of Day is their second mini-album in three months, a seven-track collection of catchy melodies and hooks that kicks off with the strummed shuffling ‘Dawn’ with its lead vocals traded between guitarists Jay Cobb Anderson and Mimi Naja with ...
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THE EPSTEIN – Burn The Branches (Zawinul Records ZWRO102)

Having followed The Epstein for many years, I’m constantly reminded of how difficult it is for a top quality band to find the break they deserve to take them to the next level. With fierce competition in the UK, the answer may lie more in luck than skill, despite the ...
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MARTYN JOSEPH – Days Of Decision (Pipe Records PRCD029)

What do we know about Phil Ochs? He was a member of the 50s/60s protest movement and a prolific songwriter admired by his contemporaries. He never really had a hit in any conventional sense and died far too soon by his own hand. Yet, he is still remembered although, sadly, ...
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THUNDER AND RAIN – Passing In The Night (own label)

Thunder And Rain are a four-piece band from Colorado who play Americana-esque music that is influenced by a mix of styles from classic country to old time, bluegrass, pop, and folk. Passing In The Night is their third album, to be released on January 31st and supported by gigs in ...
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RAGTOP DOWN – Contents May Settle (own label)

They took their name from an old Little Feat song which should give you a clue about where they’re coming from. Except that Ben Tunningley, Gaby Szabo and Lyle Zimmerman are from London and their brand of Americana has an unmistakably English edge. There’s a feel to the songwriting on ...
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TOMMY SANDS – Fair Play To You All (Spring SCD 1066)

The picture on the cover of Tommy Sands recent album is a literal illustration of an old Irish saying which, in England, is only uttered by football club managers. It has a number of meanings and interpretations. Superficially Fair Play To You All would seem to be a simple album ...
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JIM AND SUSIE MALCOLM – The Berries (Beltane Records Belcd113)

Jim and Susie Malcolm’s The Berries is an exquisite album of Scottish folk music. This is a record of harmony, in which Jim’s Scottish porridge-pure vocals blend effortlessly with Susie’s ability (much like the great Linda Thompson) to touch the pathos in the minor moments of any tune. Just a ...
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ARFUR DOO & THE TOERAGS – Till Death Us Doo Part (own label)

Unless you live in the Essex area some explanation may be required. Arfur Doo & The Toerags have been together for twenty years but have maintained what you might call a low profile. In fact, Till Death Us Doo Part is only their second album and if it will bring ...
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SAM WEBER – Everything Comes True (Sonic Unyon Records)

Sam Weber’s Everything Comes True is a warm walk in favorite forest. It’s a record of commercial appeal that still contains the wooded feel of tree bark, fallen leaves, and distant sounds of broken branches that crack in the autumnal air. This is a really nice listen that recalls the ...
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WAYWARD JANE – Old Train (own label WJ002)

Wayward Jane are a quartet from Edinburgh who play old-timey and Americana as though they were born to it. In fact, Michael Starkey has lived and worked in the Appalachians and it is his distinctive banjo style that gives the music a real authenticity. The second lead instrument is Rachel ...
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ANNE LISTER – Astrolabe (own label)

I’ve known Anne Lister for so long that I can’t remember when and where we first met. There was a certain festival and a certain band....no, that’s another story. Anne is best known for he song ‘Icarus’ but, unlike her tragic hero she has stayed mostly under the radar. Recent ...
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KATIE BLOUNT – Dark Water (own label)

There are pure and acoustic “diamonds” in Katie Blount’s new album, Dark Water. It’s a lovely listen. Now (the great) Sandy Denny altered the opening line to her song, ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’. In the original version she sang, “Across the purple sky all the birds are leaving” ...
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STEVE WINCHESTER – Magik (own label)

You may suspect from the title of Steve Winchester’s album, Magik, that it might be a touch fey. True, he strays that way a little but he comes from north Cornwall and it sort of goes with the territory. This is very much a one-man project with Steve singing and ...
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KELLY STEWARD – Tales And Tributes Of The Deserving And Not So (Glass Wing)

While I don’t find her voice as distinctive as Linda Ronstadt, to whom she’s often likened, the Illinois singer-songwriter’s sound is firmly rooted in the guitar twang Americana of 70s Laurel Canyon. Tales And Tributes Of The Deserving And Not So is her debut album after two EPs, the last ...
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JOE HENRY—The Gospel According To Water (Earmusic)

Joe Henry’s The Gospel According To Water is an acoustic, melodic, and eclectic warm root that wraps its deep soul around very vital American folk music. Let’s face it: Ray Davies summarized modern existence when he wrote in ‘Lola’, “It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world”. And let’s ...
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THE MANIACS – The Maniacs (own label)

If there is a band more miss-named than The Maniacs then I’ve yet to discover them, although those who know him will testify that Paul Hutchinson can be quite eccentric. Paul has spent many years working with old tunes from all over the country and this album may be the ...
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