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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JINNWOO – Dreamcreatures (Square Leg Records)

Ben “Jinnwoo” Webb has been building a reputation over recent years both as a soloist and as a member of Bird In The Belly and Green Ribbons. Lockdown didn’t help and robbed me of the opportunity to hear the latter group on stage. Dreamcreatures is Jinwoo’s second solo album. The ...
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FRANK RICHARD – Rough Enough (own label)

Rough Enough is Frank Richard’s first album. That’s a pretty unusual statement when you discover that Richard's learnt guitar in his teenage years - taught by Tim Hardin for his first lesson - just outside Woodstock, where he’d travelled because Dylan and a bunch of other musicians were there. The ...
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ROSENBLUME – Rosenblume (Rosenblume Records)

Rosenblume’s self-titled album is a well-produced (with full backing band) collection of songs that glance with melodic memories at the American folk-rock sound of the 70’s. ‘Enough To Burn’ stakes a soulful gospel testimony with passionate vocals and a paintbrush of soft organ and harmonica. That is, until the tune ...
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KATY ROSE BENNETT- Alone On A Hill (Little House On The Hill Records, LHHCD01)

Written and recorded in her hillside home office/hallway studio while living in isolation on the rural fringes of Birmingham, Alone On A Hill (the title of which surely partially alludes to that line in that Beatles song) is quite simply just Bennett’s voice (and some body percussion), eleven songs variously ...
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DUIR – Drome (own label)

How to review a band that are unique? Perhaps two-in-one? One to try and capture the spirit of Duir; one which takes you through the new album, Drome? ----------------- To understand the world, we can travel widely, see different sights, undergo different experiences [the ‘Explorer’] …..or we can stay in ...
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SINGLES BAR 70 – a roundup of recent singles and EPs

Based outside L.A., AIR COOL JENNY are multi-instrumentalist Americana duo Helen Rose and Kramer Sanguinetti, the self-released First Flight being their debut EP, The Lost Bayou Ramblers drummer and producer Kirkland Middleton, bassist Bryan Webre and Brenden Moore on organ bringing Cajun-influenced rhythms to the party. Inspired by an old ...
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ASHA McCARTHY – Epitaph (own label)

Performing Western classical, North Indian classical and folk music, Asha McCarthy plays a cello specially adapted for Hindustani music, Epitaph being her debut album, a collection of inspired by life-threatening complications following the traumatic birth of her daughter and subsequent experiences of postnatal mental health challenges. Written for her daughter ...
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SERIOUS SAM BARRETT – The Seeds Of Love (Ya Dig? Records YD008)

Taking its title (and several tracks) from an anthology of folk songs from the British Isles gifted to him by his wife, the nasally-voiced, clawhammer banjo-playing Yorkshireman’s eighth album, The Seeds Of Love, is another fine collection of homegrown Appalachian-influenced tunes generally centred around love lost unrequited, tragic and true ...
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THE COUNTY AFFAIR – Off The Grid (Sonnet)

Back in the 70s, Nottingham teenage best friends Tony Regan and Kevin Brennan formed themselves a country band. Then in their 20s, after going to different universities, they found themselves in the States and blagged themselves a residency at a bar in Houston, then began touring cross the country. But ...
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SAM KELLY & THE LOST BOYS – The Wishing Tree (Pure PRCD71)

The Wishing Tree is a very fine work and if you’re honest you wouldn’t expect anything else. It also has the feel of a band that is in transition, pushing boundaries, peering over the next horizon. The opening track, ‘Bluebird’, driven by Jamie Francis’ banjo is a memorial to Donald ...
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WATERTOWN CARPS – Mermaids (Rose Parade Records)

You may remember the name Yo Zushi, a British-Japanese singer-songwriter who was a leading light of the UK freak folk scene, releasing two albums between 2005 and 2007, and a third in 2015. Since which time, while still a contributing writer to the New Statesman, he’s been off the musical ...
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SCOTT MURRAY – There Was A Love (own label)

Scott Murray’s There Was A Love is a lovely record of folk melodies that slow dance amid a piano-graced exquisite band that’s coloured with harp, brass, sax, (occasional) accordion, drums, and bass. My friend, Kilda Defnut, said, “This record manages, somehow, to soften time - just like a John Keats ...
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CRAIG EDMONDS – Craig Edmonds (own label)

Craig Edmonds makes his recording debut with a very impressive piece of work made more so by the fact that he’s done it all himself: writing, performing, producing and designing the packaging. I should say that the limited edition CD comes wrapped in a translucent (probably recycled) plastic outer sleeve ...
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SEAN DEVINE – Here For It All (own label)

With Here For It All, his first album in six years, the trebly-voiced Montana songsmith delivers a solid and instantly accessible set of country songs that lean to old school influences but have a sufficient edge to find favour with contemporary Americana audiences who like a little retro in their ...
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THE FRANK BURKITT BAND – Silvereye (own label FW8007)

Based in Manchester, despite their name this is actually a duo, Frank and Kara Filbey, although Silvereye has them accompanied by double bassist James Geluk, fiddle player Becka Wolfe and Louis Thompson-Munn on organ, recording their parts remotely variously in New Zealand and Greece. Taking its title from a bird ...
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BROOKS WILLIAMS & AARON CATLOW – Ghost Owl (Red Guitar Blue Music 2102C)

I’ve been a fan of Brooks Williams since I first encountered him at a festival running a session from a table outside a pub because the key for the hall had been misplaced. His down-to-earth attitude and freewheeling choice of songs made for a wonderful afternoon in the sun. Aaron ...
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SERIOUS CHILD & ANDY RUDDY – Talk About The Weather (Four Left Feet FLFR21021)

Talk About The Weather is a fascinating album, written and recorded by two singer-songwriters separated by age and distance. Serious Child, (aka Alan Young) the elder statesman, lives in Sussex and escaped the rat race a couple of years ago to concentrate on his music while Andy Ruddy lives in ...
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MEL BIGGS – From Darkness Comes Light (Talking Cat Records – TCCD2103)

I’m no expert in this genre, but Mel Bigg’s debut album From Darkness Comes Light is rather lovely - and I suspect, since Mel is a Morris Dancer herself, the perfect soundtrack for a jig or two. One of the UK’s leading diatonic players, Mel says of the album:  "From ...
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DAMIAN CLARKE – Covered 4 Cancer (Vox Pop VOX031)

Damian Clarke isn’t known for covering other people’s music (unless it’s someone like Turlough O’Carolan) but you know what lockdown did for musicians. I should say at the outset that proceeds from Covered 4 Cancer will go to cancer and stroke charities. The album is also a companion piece to ...
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JUSTIN BERNASCONI – Sleeping Like A Maniac (Mountain King Music JAB3)

Melbourne based songwriter and guitarist Justin Bernasconi's latest collection of tunes, Sleeping Like A Maniac, follows 2017's Barefoot Wonderland in the exploration of Americana influences and painstaking self-reflection. Sleeping Like a Maniac is clearly the work of a man who is no stranger to darkness. What Bernasconi offers here is ...
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BARD EDRINGTON V – Two Days In Terlingua (own label)

It starts with a whisper, doesn’t it? - a whisper, a faint sound, before it becomes a scene, a movement, a Thing. Bard Edrington V’s new album Two Days In Terlingua is the latest album in a number of hugely listenable albums I’ve reviewed that tap into something of the ...
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THE MEADOWS – Dreamless Days (Pokey Cupboard Records POKEYCD3)

The Meadows’ Dreamless Days is a rare bird of an album that flutters with butterfly beauty, grace, and deep melodic magic; and with their self-penned tunes, they manage to dive deeply into mystic Welsh lore, yet they cleverly avoid any new age shallow serenity. Dreamless Day balances on a gentle ...
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ROBIN LAING – Up In The Dram Room (Frisky Whisky FW003CD)

It’s not every CD that is accompanied by a special bottling of malt whisky so Up In The Dram Room is almost certainly unique. The whisky in question is Bruichladdich, one of Islay’s less phenolic children and, in my experience, a place where it is possible to get totally spannered ...
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RB MORRIS – Going Back To The Sky (Singular Recordings)

RB Morris’s Going Back To The Sky is the music playing at a nameless Esso gas station/Chubby Chicken Restaurant smack dab in the middle of Nowhere, U.S.A. And to quote the poet, Walt Whitman, “I hear America singing” in these lonesome grooves that spin like threadbare Goodyear tires down a ...
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SINGLES BAR 69 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Making the most of lockdown, PAUL McCLURE recorded the self-released Ardvaark mini-album, playing all the instruments except for on one track.  It opens with the chugging strum of ‘Isolation Blues #1’, which started out questioning whether you’re still a musician if you can’t get out there and play but amusingly ...
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ANDREW HOWIE – Pale White Branches (Autoclave CLAVE035)

Based out of Stirling, Pale White Branches, Andrew Howie’s first album since 2010 (adding to the lengthy tally of releases under both his own name and as Calamateur), is also a rare collaborative work involving both a five-piece band and co-writes. One of three songs that grew out of his ...
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RÓNÁN O’ SNODAIGH – Tá Go Maith (Arbutus Yarns Recording Company)

Rónán O’ Snodaigh and Indistinct Chatter keyboard guy, Myles O’Reilly’s new album, Tá Go Maith, proves that mysticism can dance (with joy!) in the introspective grooves of a fresh and very organic Irish folk singer-songwriter album. Just so you know: Rónán is the vocalist and multi-faceted percussionist in the Irish ...
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DAMIAN CLARKE – Busking Business (Kindle edition)

I first met Damian Clarke twenty-four years ago when his band, Pressgang, played a gig a couple of nights before they were off to play Cropredy Festival. I was also introduced to his nine-string Shergold guitar which gets a mention later in the book. Damian had had a long and ...
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MALCOLM HOLCOMBE – Tricks Of The Trade (Need To Know Music)

Twenty-five years on from his debut album, Holcombe remains one of the most distinctive voices, both literally and figuratively, in what we now called Americana. Tricks Of The Trade is his 15th solo outing and, accompanied by long time accomplices Dave Roe and Jared Tyler, the latter here taking up ...
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THEM COULEE BOYS – Namesake (Some Fun Records)

Them Coulee Boys’ Namesake is definitive proof that (the great) Porter Wagner was sincerely correct when he sang, “It’s good to touch the green green grass of home”. And, yes, this is a wonderful dream of a record that breaks free from “the four grey walls that surround me” and ...
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HEISK – Heisk (own label HEISK01)

Bands spring up in Scotland like new barley in a freshly sown field but we’d best not carry the analogy too far because a good many of them seem to be cut down before their time. Heisk have been together for a while but this is their debut album. The ...
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MARK GERMINO – Midnight Carnival (Red Parlor)

I first encountered North Carolina native Germino with the release of his impressive first two RCA albums, London Moon And Barnyard Remedies and Caught In The Act of Being Ourselves, in 86 and 87, respectively, although he’d already made a name for himself as a songwriter, co-penning ‘Lean on Jesus ...
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THE LANDWORKERS’ ALLIANCE – Stand Up Now (Many A Thousand Records MATR21001)

The Landworkers' Alliance is a union of small-scale and ecological farms drawn from all corners of the British Isles, and, like many unions, traditional song forms a strong part of their identity. As such, these farmer-musicians have banded together folk community stalwarts Ewan McLennan, Nick Hart, Sid Goldsmith and Jimmy ...
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PHIL ODGERS – Ghosts Of Rock N Roll (Vinyl Star Records VSRCD012)

Last year – although it seems much longer - Phil Odgers released Uke Town, a double CD of demos in preparation for a “proper” album. If you haven’t heard them I recommend that album but some of those songs appear now on Ghosts Of Rock N Roll alongside two new ...
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WICKHAM FESTIVAL – Thursday 5th August

In a non-pandemic year and given a sunny August weekend, Wickham would be an idyllic festival. It boasts a natural amphitheatre that any festival would give its eye teeth for with camping and other facilities encircling it. Sadly, circumstances conspired against it this year and the opening on Thursday was ...
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MAREKVIST – Marekvist (Come Alive Records)

Marekvist’s self-titled first album of “Norwegian folk music, guitar driven hard rock and ambient experimentation” certainly lives the advertisement adage for Peter Gabriel’s first album that simply read, “Expect the Unexpected”. Just so you know, in the 60’s America, there was a weird show called Outer Limits, which began each ...
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MARK HARRISON – The Road To Liberty (own label)

Mark Harrison is bluesman but that says very little about him. He’s also a fine songwriter and a player with the lightest touch with songs that never outstay their welcome. The Road To Liberty is a double album and if you want to know what it’s all about then the ...
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CHRIS CLEVERLEY – Live From The Glass Isle (own label)

Chris Cleverley’s 2019 album We Sat Back And Watched It Unfold was, in my view, nothing short of a masterpiece. I challenge you name a better second album by anyone – except perhaps Disraeli Gears. It should have catapulted him to the top of the heap, but… In the middle ...
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DAVID CROSBY – For Free (BMG)

Singer/songwriter David Crosby has always been a magnetic character within the scope of popular music. His very first solo album, 1971's If I Could Only Remember My Name boasted a host of big-name contributors with everyone from Jerry Garcia to Neil Young getting their hands dirty during the studio sessions ...
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New Forest Folk Festival – 2021 Review by Paul Johnson

To be honest, those of you who know me will know...I’m an audio man, a radio man, a broadcaster. My job for the last 30 years has been talking to people in one way or another. Being that in one of my bands, live radio, live radio road shows, pod ...
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GEORGIA ENGLISH – Pain & Power (own label)   

Now, here’s an interesting one. Described as an illustrated album Pain & Power is released as both a full-length album and an accompanying physical book containing colour-pencil illustrations and lyrics of each song. Accompanied by co-producer Josh Preston who played all the instruments, it documents the Nashville-based singer songwriter’s journey ...
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STEVE ASHLEY – Steve Ashley’s Family Album Revisited (Talking Elephant TECD465)

Steve Ashley had a long career before his time in the spotlight came with Stroll On and its follow-up Speedy Return. In the preceding decade he had worked with so many musicians and played at so many places but he seemed to be dogged by bad luck that continued even ...
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LANGAN, FROST & WANE – Langan, Frost & Wane  (Goldstar)

A Philadelphian coming together of  Brian Langan from the indie scene, doom rock guitarist RJ Gilligan (Frost)  and acid folk musician Nam Wayne, their debut album  offers up  21st century  psychedelic folk rock  but drawing deeply on such formative 60s UK roots as The Incredible String Band, Comus, Tyrannosaurus Rex, ...
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THE LITTLE UNSAID – Lick The Future’s Lips (Reveal Records, Reveal162DDX/CDX)

In response to an uncertain, overwhelming world shrunken by pandemic isolation, The Little Unsaid grasp firmly at the straws of positivity for this, their seventh album, Lick The Future’s Lips. The seductive, provocative title is something of a manifesto: a refusal to withdraw, a determination to dance on and tweak ...
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MAARTIN ALLCOCK – OX15 (Talking Elephant TECD460)

OX15 was the late Maartin Allcock’s second solo album, originally released in 1999 and now reissued with a sparkling new remix. OX15 is also an Oxfordshire postcode area in the middle of what was called the folk-rock belt and encompassing such cultural landmarks as Barford St Michael, Bloxham, Hook Norton ...
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THE AUGUST LIST – Wax Cat (All Will Be Well Records)

Wax Cat is the third album from Oxfordshire band The August List who are married couple Martin and Kerraleigh Child.  Having seen them live once at Ace Space in Newbury a few years back I’m glad to get the chance to review their latest offering. The album is certainly an ...
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ADELINE – Adeline (OWL 001)

It seems that the idea was to take five well-known old-timey musicians and stick them in a cabin in the Canadian wilderness in the middle of winter where the only way to keep warm was to play their instruments very fast. Actually, I’m probably making it sound much worse than ...
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CHRIS NEWMAN – Breaking Bach (Old Bridge Music OBMCD23)

We’re accustomed these days to guitar settings of classical music being performed on fingerpicked nylon or gut-strung instruments, probably with some clever tunings. For his new album, Breaking Bach, veteran guitarist Chris Newman does away with all that and here we have excerpts from five works by Johann Sebastian Bach ...
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POSSIL MÓR – Tales From The Garscube Road (own label PM01)

Both Possil Mór and their album Tales From The Garscube Road take their names from the area of Glasgow from which they hail. The band is essentially a duo of guitarist Bill Alexander who writes most of the music and vocalist Edith Casey but they have a lot of friends ...
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KATHRYN LOCKE WITH CHODOMPA MUSIC – LA (own label CHODOMPA1)

If you need a cellist in Scotland to work on your album, you’ll ask Su-a Lee; in England you’ll go in search of Kathryn Locke. Kathryn is a maverick of the cello world, self-taught and experimental, rejecting the classical route. Kathryn has been away from the scene for a while ...
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BRIAN PEARSON – Here’s To Song (own label)

Brian Pearson’s Here’s To Song is a potent (and quite magical) musical journey into the heart of British folk singing, circa every folk club of the early 70’s. Now, no one can ever emulate the performance of (the great!) Vin Garbutt, yet this album touches the very same folk root ...
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SINGLES BAR 68 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Based in Fordingbridge in the New Forest, BECOMING BRANCHES are a folk-country trio comprising lead vocalist Jaz, keyboardist Hannah and guitarist/drummer Rob, who also writes the songs, their self-released, self-titled debut EP marking them out as very promising newcomers indeed.  Underpinned with a steady guitar chug, the catchy opening ‘Take You Home’ ...
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FLO PERLIN – Characters (own label)

Based in London with Iraqi and Belarusian heritage, ordained as a Buddhist nun and with a strong interest in (self-)psychoanalysis, Perlin learnt cello when she was five, discovered fingerpicking guitar via bossa nova, taught herself piano and started singing at the age of ten. Exploring themes that include family roots, ...
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CARBONHOBO – Memoirs From the Crooked Road (Merry Hell Music MHMCD00221)

Memoirs From The Crooked Road is brought to you by Carbobhobo, aka Neil McCartney, who some will recognise as the fiddle player in Merry Hell and for those who remember the 90’s, as one of the founding members of The Big Geraniums. This album is a collection of songs and ...
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WILD EARP AND THE FREE FOR ALLS – Dyin’ For Easy Livin’ (Western Myth Records)

If there is any way in which you’re feeling a bit down, just play this album. There is a joie de vivre? joie de humanity? perhaps just sheer joy? to Dyin’ For Easy Livin’ which means that every time I’ve played the album, quite simply, I feel better and the ...
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VARIOUS ARTISTS – I Am Of Ireland – Yeats In Song (Merrow – digital only release)

I Am Of Ireland is a collection of twenty-four poems by William Butler Yeats newly set to music by Raymond Driver and featuring more than thirty musicians of a generally Celtic persuasion. I’m a bit of a fan of Yeats – yes, I’ve been to Sligo and seen the Lake ...
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TONY COX – The World Went Quiet (own label)

“What a strange, strange year we have all had.”  So begin the sleeve notes for Tony Cox’s new album The World Went Quiet. Cox was born in Zimbabwe, has won multiple South African Music Awards, was unknown to me until I came to this album – and is an absolutely ...
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BmB – Ge Vindt Wel Een Taal (Own Label)

Ge Vindt Wel Een Taal (‘You Will Find A Language’) is the debut album from Netherlands balfolk trio, BmB. With its emphasis on danceable tunes (the dominant aspect of Netherlands balfolk, specifically), it’s nevertheless still rich with narrative songs. Here is music old and new, sometimes like an ancient echo ...
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JEZ HELLARD & THE DJUKELLA ORCHESTRA – The Fruitful Fells (Djukella JDHCD004)

Some artists wrap hard-hitting words up in pretty tunes but Jez Hellard has gone one further and wrapped up a set of serious songs in pretty pictures and left his listeners to figure it out for themselves. Clever. As is my habit, I stuck the CD in the player when ...
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GABRIELE MUSCOLINO – Gabriele Muscolino (Visage Music Sas)

Gabriele Muscolino’s self-titled album is a warm acoustic recording from Italian singer-songwriter, who while singing in his native language, which, given a belief in Jungian collective unconscious archetypes, sings to the musical soul of folk lovers across the globe. A couple of ideas: I don’t speak a word of Italian, ...
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