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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MATTHEW ROBB – War Without Witness (own label)

War Without Witness is Matthew Robb’s third album – and it’s as good as the first two. If Robb is a new discovery – and he really should be discovered by more people – think of the sensibility of, say, Guthrie and early Dylan (political, personal, humane, tender … and ...
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JOE DANKS – Seaspeak (own label)

I once tried to explain to a red-haired lady in Dublin that I had no connection with the sea as I was brought up in Derbyshire which is as far from the ocean as it was possible to get. It was to no avail but it was gone midnight and ...
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DANI LARKIN – Notes For A Maiden Warrior (own label)

An emerging star on the folk scene from the Armagh-Monaghan border, Larkin delivers an assured and hugely impressive debut, Notes For A Maiden Warrior, handling guitar, harmonium and banjo with George Sloan on percussion and cello alongside violinist Kate Squires. Drawing on Irish folklore and mythology, it’s conceived as lessons, ...
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SINGLES BAR 67 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

DYLAN LeBLANC was brought up, in part, in Muscle Shoals which is a hell of a place to start your musical education. He has released four solo albums over the last decade or so and now he’s returned with an EP of covers, Pastimes – six classic songs from the ...
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TOM WEST – I’m Livin’ (AntiFragile Music)

Australian singer-songwriter Tom West’s I’m Livin’ is an album of dark sonic colours that hover over very acoustic melodies. These tunes burn from a smokey soul. Now about that elephant in the room (aka truth or dare)—Tom West’s vocals are a dead-ringer for Jake Bugg. It took my friend, Kilda ...
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JAMESTOWN REVIVAL – Fireside With Louis L’Amour (Thirty Tigers)

You might not be familiar with the work of Louis L’Amour, an American writer whose   work centred around Western novels or ‘frontier stories’, but Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance are big fans, their past releases often drawing on his writings. Now they go the whole hog with a collection of ...
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JOHN HINSHELWOOD – Called Back (Littleroots Records LRCD 1006)

I’ve never read the poetry of Emily Dickinson, although she is somewhat revered now. During her lifetime she was regarded as an eccentric – what poet isn’t? – and her fame only came posthumously. John Hinshelwood is a Scottish singer-songwriter who has departed from his usual style to compose music ...
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GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT- A Sleeping Place (own label)

Taking their name from the mythology of King Arthur and the Round Table saga, the tale in question one of death and rebirth, this emerging Brooklyn duo comprise Greek-born singer-guitarist Alexia Antoniou and multi-instrumentalist husband Mike O’Malley, their new six track EP, A Sleeping Place (the title inspired by the ...
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ROD STRADLING -Treacle & Bread (Ghosts From The Basement GFTB 7059)

Treacle & Bread is a blessed glance at the magic of Rod Stradling’s musical transfusion into the very blood pulse of British folk music. This all-instrumental album proves, to almost quote the Killer (aka Jerry Lee Lewis!), “There’s a whole lot of melodeon shakin’ going on”. Not only that, but ...
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AVA – Wildflower (AVVCD001)

Wildflower by AVA was released in early April. I missed it until recently, which is a shame because the album is sheer delight. AVA is Irish singer/songwriter Éabha McMahon (phonetically: Ava McMan), formerly part of Anuna and then Celtic Woman, respectively an internationally renowned Irish choral group and a globally ...
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CHLOE FOY – Where Shall We Begin (Chloe Foy Music)

Where Shall We Begin is an intense and lovely (almost Baroque ornamented) very modern folk album. Quite frankly, it could well be the soundtrack to my backyard butterflies bouncing and flitting in the winged wind - with, of course, my English setter pup Matilda giving determined, yet playful pursuit. Where ...
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MIKE TURNBULL – Two Kingdoms (own label MTM05)

Lakeland singer-songwriter Mike Turnbull is no stranger to these pages. Tracing his ancestry back to the reivers – or perhaps their victims – Mike has a great affinity with his homeland and its myths and stories, both old and new. He’s a multi-instrumentalist and is supported by his live band, ...
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TRÚ – No Fixed Abode (own label)

A trio from Ulster comprising multi-instrumentalist Michael Mormecha, guitarist and singer Zach Trouton and Dónal Kearney, a folk singer brought up in the Irish language tradition, their impressive debut album, No Fixed Abode, recorded over three years, mines a variety of folklore (the trio’s named after named after a band ...
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SINGLES BAR 66 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Norfolk singer-songwriter LUCY GRUBB self-releases her third EP, Waste My Time, a four track set of folksy Americana circling around themes of relationships and getting through hard times. The lyrically upbeat shuffling title track kicks it off, written for a friend struggling with a difficult relationship and about how it’s ...
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PAUL HANDYSIDE – Loveless Town (Malady Music)

If there is such a genre as dark country then Paul Handyside must be its master. His fourth solo album, Loveless Town, is deeply embedded in Americana but there are hints of the guitar sound he employed in his early days with Hurrah! Coming, as he does, from the north-east ...
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MARIA MULDAUR with TUBA SKINNY – Let’s Get Happy Together (Stony Plain SPCD 1429)

On a first casual listening I thought this was a clever pastiche of the music of the 1920s and 30s. When Maria Muldaur first heard Tuba Skinny, sight unseen as it were, she thought she was hearing a band from the period. We were both wrong. Let’s Get Happy Together ...
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THE VILLAGE – Ghosts In The Static (own label)

The Village – or Phil Matthews as they probably call him down the pub – made quite an impression with his previous album, Escape From The Witchwood, a mysterious set of songs drawing (loosely at times) on myth and folklore. Ghosts In The Static brings us closer to the real ...
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LUNATRAKTORS -The Missing Star (own label)

Lunatraktors burst onto the national scene with their debut album followed by a fine EP. This coincided with the start of the current crisis and at a more auspicious time we would have been flocking to see them – something I’m still looking forward to. Carli Jefferson and Clair Le ...
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TOM CLELLAND – Handpicked & Collected (Modestine Modestine002)

While I was not well-acquainted with the work of Tom Clelland, I've always liked songs that tell a story, so I was immediately drawn to his new CD release Handpicked & Collected. The compilation consists of 23 tracks mastered/remastered by Kris Koren and spread over two CDs. Handpicked is a ...
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SARAH-JANE SUMMERS & JUHANI SILVOLA – The Smoky Smirr O’ Rain (Eighth Nerve 8nerve008)

The Scottish/Scandinavian fusion movement continues apace with Scottish fiddler Sarah-Jane Summers and Finnish guitarist and composer Juhani Silvola, now based in Norway, releasing their third album as a duo. The Smoky Smirr O’ Rain mixes traditional tunes from their two native countries with four original compositions. They begin with three ...
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GRAHAM RORIE – The Orcadians Of Hudson Bay (own label RUMS02CD)

It strikes me that quite a few composers working in the broader field of folk music are now writing what might best be described as soundtracks for films or TV programmes as yet unmade. Perhaps the “purest” of these is The Orcadians Of Hudson Bay by Orkney fiddler Graham Rorie, ...
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OLD SEA BRIGADE – Motivational Speaking (Network Records)

Old Sea Brigade’s Motivational Speaking is definitive proof of Robert Frost’s ‘Road Not Taken’. Sure, Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) retreated to my own native Wisconsin, lived in a backwoods cabin and longed For Emma, Forever Ago. But, perhaps, that “road not taken” may have led singer-songwriter introspection to Atlanta, ...
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SINGLES BAR 65 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

STUART SMITH recorded The Sun EP Vol.2 in the world-famous Memphis studios using the time-honoured technique of one voice, one acoustic guitar, one harmonica and even a bit of talkback. (Vol.1 was released in 2019.) Maybe it’s the association with Sun Studio that brings it on but there is a ...
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CRAIG CARDIFF – All This Time Running (True North TND764)

Hailing from Ontario, Cardiff has notched up sixteen solo album, live and studio recordings, but All This Time Running is his first full-length collection of original material in five years and also marks his debut on the prestigious Canadian label. It’s unfortunate then that I can’t be completely effusive as ...
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JIMMY LEE – Broken (own label)

Born in Bristol, played all over the world for the last fifteen years, Jimmy Lee has just released his debut album, Broken, and it’s good. Lee has played pubs, clubs and restaurants and radio, television and Las Vegas Casinos. Broken is the album of a man who has ‘paid his ...
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STARAN – Staran (own label)

Odd: Sometimes age sings with the most youthful voice: Such is the case with Staran’s self-titled album of Scottish folk music that touches the fresh watery current of the Euphrates River on the third day of creation, yet revolves around a newly discovered planet that sings fresh hymns to a ...
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GNOSS – The Light Of The Moon (Blackfly Records BFLY04CD)

The Light Of The Moon is the second album by Gnoss, a quartet founded by two Orcadians, Aidan Moodie and Graham Rorie and expanded by Connor Sinclair and Craig Baxter. Here they are helped out by James Lindsay’s double bass. It may be their time at the Royal Conservatoire of ...
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CHRISTINA ALDEN & ALEX PATTERSON – Hunter (own label)

Christina Alden and Alex Patterson are two-thirds of…well you can work that out. Recently, they have been making a name for themselves as a duo – a tour with Show Of Hands, no less – and Hunter is their first album in this format. I listened to it first while ...
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ALEX ROBERTS – Live At The Vic Inn (own label)

Alex Roberts’ Live At The Vic Inn spins gossamer folk webs that are saturated with his whiskey-stained voice. Not only that, but this live album (recorded just before the pandemic shut down) certainly gives credence to Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ prophetic line, “you don’t know what you’ve got until ...
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NANCY KERR – Tunnellers (Little Dish Records LIDIEP6)

Commissioned by the British Tunnelling Society for their 50th anniversary year Tunnellers comprises four self-penned songs and one instrumental. Nancy Kerr is joined by James Fagan on guitar, bouzouki and mandolin, Tom A Wright on drums and bass and Matt Quinn on concertina, with everyone contributing vocals, for what’s described ...
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BANTER – 3 (Mrs Casey Records MCRCD1202)

3 is, logically enough, Banter’s third album but the first one to come folking’s way. So, to bring us all up to speed: Banter are Nina Zella (keyboards) Tim Walker on brass and percussion and king of the squeezeboxes, Simon Care, augmented by guest appearances from John Spiers and Phil ...
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GREG HANCOCK – Architecture & Archaeology (own label)

A distinctive guitarist and songwriter of wistful depth and sophisticated melancholic design who draws on the experience of the past to build strong foundations for the future, Architecture & Archaeology is the third in a trilogy addressing the unreliability of memory and how personal narrative impacts how we interact in ...
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CIARA McELHOLM – Amergin Fire (Copperplate COPP035)

It seems to me that musicians and composers are doing more and more interesting things at the moment. A year ago, the trend was to go back to basics and make a solo home-recorded album. Well and good but, really, you can only do that once. Ciara McElholm skipped that ...
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SCOTT SEAN WHITE – Call It Even (own label)

Based in the delightfully named Poetry, Texas, after 30 years making music, Call It Even is White’s first full-length release and speaks to his ability to craft songs that are both melodically inviting and emotionally engaging. Many of the songs are autobiographical, and especially based around mothers and fathers, as ...
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SAM DRAISEY – Red vs Blue (own label)

I haven’t heard from Sam Draisey since I reviewed his impressive album, As I Live And Breathe back in 2017. He’s not been idle, though, and one or two things have changed – he’s not the fresh-faced young chap he was back then; a look that belied the intensity of ...
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GERI VAN ESSEN – Cleaned The Windows (Tiny Room Records TR048)

Unlike her 2018 debut, the London-based Dutch singer-songwriter’s second album, Cleaned The Windows, is all original material, and also two tracks longer, van Essen accompanying herself on Spanish guitar and/or piano with various contributors proving additional instrumentation along the way. It opens with the strummed slow waltzing, sad piano ‘Two ...
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AMY SPEACE with THE ORPHAN BRIGADE – There Used To Be Horses Here (Proper PRPCD159)

Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t get a sight of an Amy Speace album so There Used To Be Horses Here is the first one I’ve settled down to listen to. The album was written in 2019 at a very emotional time in Amy’s life and recorded in East Nashville with ...
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BRIAN FINNEGAN – Hunger Of The Skin (own label)

I am somewhat at a loss as to how to summarise Hunger Of The Skin which is a difficult position for a reviewer to be in. Let me try to explain. It’s nominally a solo album and it’s true that Brian Finnegan wrote most of the music and his flutes ...
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BRENDAN ADAMS – Buttons (own label)

Brendan Adams’ Buttons confronts the age-old “I pulled into Nazareth” (sort of) sacred confession of The Band’s ‘The Weight’, which Robbie Robertson once said, “Is about the impossibility of sainthood”. And the question continues. This album may well be a lovely message in a bottle tossed into a careless and ...
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BEAU – The Methadone Of Time (Cherry Red BEAUTMOT1)

Written entirely during the first lockdown, and naturally informed by everything connected with that as well as other notable incidents from the personal and political sphere, The Methadone Of Time finds Beau in particularly fine form, turning his distinctive musical style and sharp lyrical acumen on attitudes and arseholes deserving ...
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RAY COOPER – Land Of Heroes (Westpark Music CD87404)

Recorded in Sweden in summer 2020, ‘Land Of Heroes’ is the fourth solo album from impossibly talented multi-instrumentalist Ray Cooper. Aside from supporting vocals supplied remotely by Rowan Godel, all the music is Cooper’s handiwork. As the album’s title derives from Finnish epic Kalevala, there’s an unsurprising distinctive Nordic influence ...
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SINGLES BAR 64 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Formerly Evan Petruzzi and now just EVVAN, the New York-based singer-songwriter self-releases her Home EP, a five track collection of self-discovery and self-acceptance that kicks off with her defiant perhaps slightly Fleetwood Mac-tinged coming out number ‘I’m Not Done Yet’. The title track is a more restrained affair with ticking ...
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MG BOULTER – Clifftown (Hudson HUD020CD)

Crafted around a fictional faded seaside town (loosely based on Southend-on-Sea), Boulter’s latest, Clifftown, unfolds a series of 50s tinged melancholic narratives to a gentle Americana backdrop with drummer  Pete Flood, bassist Paul Ambrose, fiddle player Helen Bell and Tom Lenthall on synth with Lizzy O’Connor complementing his own guitar, ...
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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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