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…

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.

REG MEUROSS – 12 Silk Handkerchiefs (Hatsongs HAT013)

This is not your typical Reg Meuross album. Not that it doesn’t have his consummate songwriting with its finely crafted melodies and emotive resonance and not that it isn’t beautifully sung; it’s just that, while he features on backing, Reg only sings two tracks. It is, in fact, a concept ...
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SIMON TODD – Half Empty/Half Full (Ginger Tom Music GTM002)

Simon Todd’s new release Half Empty/Half Full is his second CD, following from Contracts For The Sale of Land in 2009. It’s nearly ten years, but it’s worth the wait. Half Empty/Half Full has ten strong songs, Todd has an appealing voice, which has a good range and makes well ...
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BRIAN McALPINE – Mutual Imagination Society Vol 1 (own label CD001)

When did classical and traditional music become so intertwined? I suppose we must go back to the 15th century to find where it started but the definition of classical music didn’t appear until the early 1800s. In England, we can probably pin the blame on Ralph Vaughn Williams for nicking ...
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DANKO & BUTTERFIELD – Live At The Golden Bear (Floating World FLOATM6375)

This is the earliest of three new archive albums featuring Rick Danko. When The Band was in down-time Rick would regularly tour small clubs, sometimes solo, sometimes with friends and in the late 70s, Paul Butterfield was a regular partner. Live At The Golden Bear is one of the first ...
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THE OUTSIDE TRACK – Rise Up (Lorimer Records LORRCD07)

When Rise Up hit my doormat I realised that it was a long time since I’d heard anything from The Outside Track. In fact it has been six years since Flash Company but an international band based in Scotland is always going to be very busy. There has been a ...
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WILLARD GRANT CONSPIRACY – Untethered (Loose)

Robert Fisher, the band’s founder, singer and guiding force, passed away as a result of cancer in February 2017, but not before he’d laid down the tracks that now form this 10th and final album. Dusted down and hewn into shape by long-time viola player David Michael Curry, with contributions ...
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SINGLES BAR 36 A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Following her debut album, Away From My Window, Aberdeenshire singer IONA FYFE looks across the Atlantic for her EP, Dark Turn Of Mind. Aside from Gillian Welch’s title track and Gregory Alan Isakov’s ‘If I Go, I’m Goin’, all the songs are traditional and have roots in the Ozarks and ...
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CÚIG – The Theory Of Chaos (Copperplate COPP032)

Irish traditional music with added chutzpah is probably the best description of Cúig’s second album, The Theory Of Chaos. Actually there are only two  traditional tunes here: ‘Eamon Coyne’s’ and an untitled jig, which sounds like a distant relative of ‘Rocky Road To Dublin’, plus one tune by John McAskill ...
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SASCHA OSBORN – Looking Out And After (THS002)

Looking Out And After is the debut album from Sascha Osborn and it’s rather lovely. Take a look at the cover photo – soft focus greenery and a photo of the artist which is as far from power dressing as you could get. It’s a perfect visual for this album ...
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MARTIN STEPHENSON & THE DAINTEES – live Under The Bridge, London

Martin Stephenson & The Daintees arrived in Chelsea in the middle of a long tour. The reason is, of course, the revamped Gladsome, Humour & Blue, an album I’ve very much enjoyed reacquainting myself with over the last few weeks. The core Daintees are lead guitarist John Steel, Kate Stephenson ...
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CUNNING FOLK – Constant Companion (Dharma)

Unlike last year’s Ritual Land, Uncommon Ground, the latest from George Nigel Hoyle is predominantly comprised of traditional material from the British repertoire, the constant companions of the title, and, since the accompanying blurb makes no reference, presumably a wholly solo affair with just him and an acoustic guitar. It ...
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BEANS ON TOAST – A Bird In The Hand (Beans On Toast Music BOT10CD)

Every year on the same date, December 1st, Beans On Toast (or Jay as his mum calls him) releases a new album and has done so for the last decade. A Bird In The Hand is his latest. Beans has a lot in common with Robb Johnson – and I ...
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THE WILLOWS – Through The Wild (Elk Elk014)

A sort of folk supergroup that sees singer Jade Rhiannon Ward and multi-instrumentalist husband Cliff joined by Ben Savage on Dobro, percussionist Evan Carson from Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys and, new to the line-up, Katriona Gilmore on fiddle and mandolin and double bass player John Parker, this belated ...
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GIFFORD LIND, ALEX BLACK AND GUY BURGESS – Weave Trust With Truth (Mactoots Recordings MTS053)

It can be embarrassing. You accept a commission to record some music for an historical exhibition only to find that traditional sources throw up just one song and one poem. Weave Trust With Truth is the story of the weaving industry in Dunfermline, a fairly narrow subject, so songwriters Gifford ...
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MIKE SPONZA – Made In The Sixties (EPOPS Music EPPS 1804)

Mike Sponza is a bluesman with a sense of adventure, some impressive collaborators and a great feel for his work. Made in the Sixties was released in the UK on November 23rd and is bold, if not audacious, in what it does. The album has ten songs, one for each ...
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TREVOR MOSS & HANNAH LOU – Fair Lady London (Maiden Voyage)

Fair Lady London sees a reunion of sorts with Trevor and Hannah-Lou's former Danny And The Champions Of The World bandmate Danny George Wilson in that they’re now signed to his and Del Day’s label, following the full studio heft of 2015’s Ethan Johns-produced Expatriot, the husband and wife duo ...
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DELTA LADIES – Hillbilly Trance (own label)

Hillbilly Trance was originally released as a limited edition earlier this year but, due to difficult circumstances, it was essentially unfinished. Now the “missing” tracks have been added and the whole album remixed for general release. I suppose that I was expecting a stomping hootenanny of an album but it’s ...
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SHERBURN – BARTLEY – SANDERS – be.guile (own label SBS001)

If like me, you tend to dig out the old Last Night’s Fun CD’s and wonder what would have happened if Nick Scott had been woven into a Fairy Queen folk tale, whilst being held in the arms of Chris Sherburn and turned three times into a snake, a lion ...
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HICKORY SIGNALS – Turn To Fray (GF*M GFM10)

In a week in which we lost two great stalwarts of the folk scene it’s comforting to hear a young duo making such fine music as this. Hickory Signals are husband and wife duo Adam Ronchetti and Laura Ward from Brighton, assisted by Tom Pryor, who produced Turn To Fray, ...
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SINGLES BAR 35 A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Released to commemorate the 100th anniversary on the end of WWI, ‘Letters From Walter’ is a poignantly movie number from Cambridge folk crew RED VELVET released on Clunk and Rattle in aid of the Riders Branch, Royal British Legion. Written and sung by Les Ray, who plays guitar and banjo, ...
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BREABACH – Frenzy Of The Meeting (Breabach Records, BRE005CD)

Having toured the world, won awards and created an immensely successful album, Astar, zinging with creative fusion, what would Breabach do next? Judging by their latest album, Frenzy Of The Meeting, released in late October, the answer seems to be to find a revitalised inspiration in the traditional music of ...
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GARETH OWEN – I’m Out Of This Place (own label)

Six months or so after the release of his Rolling By CD, Gareth Owen's new album I'm Out Of This Place is released on November 23rd 2018. Again, it's a collection of story songs, all written by Gareth, very much in the Americana/country idiom. Gareth takes lead vocals, ably supported ...
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MARTIN STEPHENSON – Gladsome, Humour And Blue 30 (Barbaraville Records)

I might have begun by remarking on how long it must be since I listened to the original Gladsome, Humour & Blue but having played the new version once I had to dig out my old vinyl and give it another spin. It’s still a great record and ‘There Comes ...
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SIOBHAN MILLER – Mercury (Songprint Recordings SPR002CD)

To be brutally honest, if this were Siobhan Miller’s first album and I was listening cold I probably wouldn’t have got past the first three tracks. I loved Strata – it was the perfect blend of new and old, of traditional songs and covers – but Mercury is pop music, ...
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DARIA KULESH and JONNY DYER live at Cecil Sharp House

This wasn’t a launch event, more a pre-launch preview event for Daria’s forthcoming album, Earthly Delights, and a unique opportunity for fans to pre-order the record for delivery before Christmas. The rest of the world will just have to contain its impatience. Performing as a duo these weren’t the album ...
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BETH WOOD – The Long Road (own label)

Hailing from Lubbock, The Long Road is Wood’s 11th album, and her maturity, experience and assured confidence are in evidence throughout this collection of short stories in song that conjures Americana thoughts of Nanci Griffith, the Indigo Girls and Dolly Parton as well as the sophisticated folk of a Dory Previn ...
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CIARAN O’KANE – Round & Round (own label)

Ciaran O’Kane describes his debut album, Round & Round, as “a collection of the songs I like to sing” which is the best reason for singing them and also a very Irish way of looking at things. Like his countrymen since time immemorial he has picked up music on his ...
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KÍLA – Pota Óir (Kíla Records, KRDVD003)

Kíla, a band with a mutable line-up around the core of the Ó Snodaigh family has been around since the late 80s, with a prodigious output of band and offshoot projects over that time. Last year, the band released a live album, Beo/Alive to include some of their less-performed tracks ...
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MARK HARRISON – The Panoramic View (own label)

I really like Mark Harrison’s previous album, Turpentine, so I was delighted when he sent me The Panoramic View. Mark plays 12-string and National guitars and his core band is double bass and drums courtesy of Charles Benfield and Ben Welburn. His music is the blues but with the lightest ...
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MERRY HELL – Anthems To The Wind (Merry Hell Music MHMCD218)

Here’s a conundrum. When you see them playing the folk circuit, Merry Hell comprise Virginia Kettle and her borther-in-law Andrew on vocals, his brothers John on guitar and Bob on banjo, mandolin and bouzouki, bassist Nick Davies and fiddle player Neil McCartney. Officially, however, they’re now an eight-piece with Lee ...
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NICK ELLIS – Speaker’s Corner (Mellowtone)

His fourth album in three years, the Liverpool singer-songwriter’s music has been described as streetscape narrative-noir, which I guess is a fancy way of saying he specialises in dark storytelling, delivered primarily with just picked acoustic guitar, coloured here and there with Mark Percy’s percussion and Edgar Jones on double ...
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SETH LAKEMAN – The Well Worn Path (Cooking Vinyl COOKCD709)

Seth Lakeman’s new album has appeared with surprisingly little fanfare. The Well Worn Path was recorded at the beginning of the year during a break in the Robert Plant/Shape Shifters tour with old comrades and relations Ben Nicholls, Kathryn Roberts and brother Sean and new friends Kit Hawes, who brings ...
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JON WILKS – Midlife (own label)

When someone gathers together traditional folk songs from a particular region, it generally tends to be the case that these are from Up North, Down South or to the West Country. The Midlands tend to be less well-served, despite a rich seam there to be mined. Indeed, a search of ...
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ROBB JOHNSON – Ordinary Giants (Irregular IRR223)

At first glance Ordinary Giants seems like a sequel to Robb Johnson’s wonderful Gentle Men but it isn’t. It’s more of a companion piece; there is no formal spoken narrative – Robb won’t spoon-feed us, although he helps us along here and there – and the album encompasses the last ...
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MERRY HELL ACOUSTIC and THE RABBLE CHORUS live at Snape Maltings

Merry Hell don’t often get to play at places where the bouncers, sorry ushers, wear DJs but they’d never played Snape Maltings before. This is a classical concert hall with spectacular acoustics in which Virginia Kettle absolutely revelled – singing scales between songs just for the joy of hearing her ...
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CASHAVELLY MORRISON – Hunger (own label)

Born Melissa Diane Meredith Bickey in West Virginia, her stage name a combination of the maiden names of paternal grandmother and mother, respectively, and working in collaboration with husband, guitarist and co-writer Ryan MacLeod, Hunger is her second album and, again, tackles themes of racism, the abuse of power and female ...
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THE TRIALS OF CATO – Hide And Hair (own label)

The eponymous debut EP by The Trials Of Cato came out of nowhere and smacked everyone between the eyes. Live, they are full of energy and their first full-length album,  Hide And Hair, maintains their energy levels but also showcases just what great writers they are as well.  For anyone ...
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ALAN PROSSER – 5/4AP (Rafting Dog Records RD054)

Well then… if you listened to our interview with Alan Prosser backstage at Cropredy you will already know that Alan alluded to the fact that he would be sending me a copy of his new solo album 5/4AP where every song and instrumental was going to be in 5/4 time ...
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DAVID OLNEY – This Side Or The Other (Black Hen Music BHCD0089)

Based in Nashville since 1973, Olney has clocked up a fair few musical miles with 21 previous studio albums, released at a rate of one every one or two years since 1991. While his songs have been covered by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Steve Earle, he’s ...
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BERT JANSCH – Just A Simple Soul (BMG BMGCAT227CD)

Bernard Butler spent more than a decade working with Bert Jansch and it fell to him to curate a definitive best of collection. It can’t have been easy. Like most singers of his generation he moved between labels and publishers while his copyrights changed hands as new repackages of his ...
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STEWART HENDERSON, YVONNE LYON and CAROL HENDERSON – Vesper Sky (own label SL045)

Well now, this is something different. Scottish singer-songwriter Yvonne Lyon has joined forces with Liverpool poet Stewart Henderson (who, as a songwriter, has provided the lyrics to several Martyn Joseph numbers, including ‘Working Mother’ and ‘Proud Valley Boy’) and his storyteller wife Carol for Vesper Sky, an album of songs ...
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ASHLEY HUTCHINGS – Paradise And Thorns (Talking Elephant TECD410)

Divided into two discs, Gloucester Docks Revisited and Other Tales Of Love, Paradise And Thorns finds “the single most important figure in English folk rock” (© Bob Dylan) revisiting his seminal autobiographically- based 1987 solo work (already the subject of a live version and revised re-issue) in the wake of ...
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GERRY O’CONNOR – Last Night’s Joy (Lugnasa LUGCD966)

Gerry O’Connor is a fiddle player from Dundalk, not to be confused with Gerry O’Connor, the banjo player, who also appears on Last Night’s Joy, Gerry’s second solo album, notably on ‘Stereo Connor’. Google™, of course, does confuse them which makes life hard for us poor reviewers. There is a ...
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GYPSYFINGERS – Stranger Things (own label)

Although they perform live as a quartet and the album features various musical collaborators, Gypsyfingers are essentially classically trained and dance music loving songwriter Victoria Coghlan on piano, French horn and acoustic guitar and her husband, Mike Oldfield’s producer son Luke, who plays bass, guitars, percussion and mellotron. This is ...
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THE FRANK BURKITT BAND – Raconteur (Frank Burkitt Music FWB004)

Having left Edinburgh, Scotland, for Wellington, New Zealand in 2014, The Frank Burkitt Band took shape over the coming months, honing a unique, rootsy sound which lies somewhere between country/ Americana and swing and jazz music. Raconteur is their latest offering, made up of ten original songs, direct from the ...
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VIVE LA ROSE – For She Who Hangs The Moon (Gestation Records, GEST01)

London-based Scot David Luximon-Herbert has been making music in various guises over many years, finally emerging as Vive La Rose in 2014 with the EP, Don’t Move, Don’t Speak. For Vive La Rose’s debut album, For She Who Hangs The Moon, he has crafted a lush, piano-driven Americana-washed soundscape about ...
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THE MAGIC LANTERN – To The Islands (Hectic Eclectic Records)

Reading the PR notes there were several references to jazz, and as I’m not a jazz aficionado I didn’t think I would enjoy this CD, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Jamie Doe (aka The Magic Lantern) has a wonderfully mellow voice with a great range and sings with superb ...
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HECTOR CHRISTIE & CHRIS EDWARDS – Ghaists In The Air (own label)

Violet Jacob was a poet and novelist born of what would have been called a noble family back then. She died in 1946 aged eighty-three, her life spanning the turn of a century and two world wars. A number of musicians have adapted her poetry over the years but recently ...
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KARINE POLWART – Laws Of Motion (Hudson Records HUD014)

Karine Polwart's latest CD – Laws Of Motion, released on 19th October 2018 – is her seventh release. It is co-produced by Karine with Inge Thomson (who, along with Karine's brother Steven Polwart, seems to have provided most of the additional instrumentation for the album) and Stuart Hamilton, and it's ...
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DAN FRECHETTE & LAUREL THOMSEN – Driving By Candlelight (own label)

A duo variously based in California’s Santa Cruz mountains (her) and Winnipeg (him), Driving By Candlelight is their fourth collection of self-penned Americana, she on violin and viola and he on pretty much anything else with strings, with Jimmy Norris on drums and Stan Poplin, whose CV includes stints with Dave ...
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ROOT & BRANCH – A Breath Against The Calm (own label RABR02)

Root & Branch are an Anglo-American quintet whose repertoire spans Britain, Ireland and the Appalachians. A Breath Against The Calm is their first full-length album following their 2015 EP, Overground. Their arsenal of instruments is fairly genre-standard although Jess Whelligan’s cello adds different and sometimes unexpected textures. The album kicks ...
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VISION THING – When We Were Astronauts And Other Stories (own label)

The follow-up to last year’s Trysting Tree EP (the tracks of which all appear here), the sleeve echoing the title of David Niven’s autobiography, The Moon’s A Balloon, this is the album from the north-west quartet which, hopefully, will provide lift-off to getting the far wider acclaim they deserve. Vocally ...
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BELLE PLAINE – Malice, Mercy, Grief And Wrath (own label)

Sharing her name with the Minnesota city that translates as ‘beautiful prairie’. raised in a remote Saskatchewan town of just 45 people, it’s understandable that Plaine’s horizons look beyond such confines of such an existence, her new album, Malice, Mercy, Grief And Wrath, full of questioning, of the past, present ...
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STEVIE DUNNE – Live At The Crosskeys Inn (own label SDB003)

Ireland is full of fine musicians who, unlike prophets, are honoured in their own country but not so much elsewhere. Stevie Dunne is one such. With two studio albums and an American Irish Music Award to his credit he chose a rather more low-key venue to record his third. The ...
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MICHELLE LEWIS – All That’s Left (own label)

Based in L.A., Lewis explores the softer edges of folk-pop Americana, her songs suffused with sadness and melancholy, dealing with loss and longing, delivered in her tender, plaintive tones. All That’s Left, her third album, is described as a transformative journey from regret to compassion, her words and music gently ...
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TOM PETTY AND BOB DYLAN – New York 1986 (Rox Vox RV2CD2128)

In the mid-80s and in the midst of his own musical wasteland, Bob Dylan went down a number of different angles in a bid to rejuvenate his career. While some of these efforts were more successful than others, one of the more favourable endeavours from this time was his work ...
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KITTY MACFARLANE – Namer Of Clouds (Navigator Records, NAVIGATOR104)

Given the praise heaped on Kitty Macfarlane’s 2016 EP, Tide & Time, expectations are understandably high for her first full-length album release, Namer Of Clouds. Macfarlane’s light soprano, paired with an equally light-fingered plucky guitar, nonetheless contains a filament of controlled determination. Softness and steel are never far apart, even ...
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GREGORY ALAN ISAKOV – Evening Machines (Dualtone Records)

Evening Machines was released on October 5th, Isakov’s fifth album. Isakov is a full time farmer in Colorado, who tends to his music career in the winter (he has his studio in a barn on his farm). He has been described as an indie-folk artist. This feels like a full ...
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PETE SEEGER BIG BILL BROONZY – Cahn Auditorium, Northwestern University (Echoes ECHO2CD2077)

Another recording from the vaults is Pete Seeger and Big Bill Broonzy from the Cahn Auditorium at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois, 1956 – a time in which McCarthyism was rife and the blacklist meant that performances in college and university campuses were Seeger’s main outlet. The performance is unscripted ...
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LONGSTAY – Calling Me Home (Goldrush Records, GOLDCD017)

Calling Me Home is the debut album from Longstay, a precocious Perth quintet, still with an average age of only 17 - and with four years’ experience already behind them. These super-confident players are firmly rooted in Country and Americana, with more than a hint of the ‘70s thrown in ...
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