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.

WOOD, WIRE AND WORDS – The Boy With The Smile (own label)

Wood, Wire And Words are a trio from Portsmouth: lead singer and guitarist David Rozzell, who writes most of the band’s songs; Clare Rozzell, vocalist and double-bass player and Pat Francis who does most of everything else. The Boy With The Smile is their third album. David says that the ...
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GALLERY 47 – Chaos Ensued (Bad Production Records)

Gallery 47 used to be a six-piece band from Loughborough but it/he is now just Jack Peachey working solo under the name with Chaos Ensued as possibly the completion of a trilogy. Or possibly not. The album came to me out of the cloud, as many do, and will be ...
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JESSE DAYTON – Mixtape Volume 1 (blu-elan Records BER1175)

Jesse Dayton wanted “to do cool versions of the songs that I thought the original writers would dig”. His new album Mixtape Volume 1 is released on August 30th. After vinyl, and alongside it, came the cassette tape. For the first time you could take control of your music by ...
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PHIL LANGRAN – Skywriting (Longshore Drift LODR001)

Praised by Kathryn Williams and produced by Boo Hewerdine, who also contributes guitar, harmonium and dulcitone to Skywriting, veteran Nottingham singer-songwriter Langram comes from the old school of troubadours, his keenly observed songs gentle, wistful and poetic, his voice seasoned with the years. The bucolic ‘Bright Autumn Sky’ with its ...
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MARTIN SIMPSON – Rooted (Topic TXCD598)

Did you know that Ernest Shackleton considered a banjo essential to mental health on his expedition to the South Pole? Neither did I but it’s one of the fascinating facts I gleaned from Martin Simpson’s sleevenotes for his new album Rooted. Mental health is one of the themes of the ...
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THE LOST WORDS – Spell Songs (Folk By The Oak QRCD004)

Having held the unofficial job title "wordsmith" in various contexts for several decades, I was not going to miss the opportunity of hearing and reviewing an album with the title The Lost Words: Spell Songs. Especially as one of the highly-talented musicians involved in the project is Karine Polwart, whose ...
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WE BANJO 3 – Roots To Rise Live (own label WB3CD006)

We’ve been through this before but… We Banjo 3 are two pairs of brothers, the Howleys and the Seahills who play a sort of Irish-Americana. They mix traditional songs and tunes with original compositions which they rely on more heavily these days. Roots To Rise Live was recorded in front ...
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AIDAN O’ROURKE & KIT DOWNES – 365 Volume 2 (Reveal Records Reveal018CDX)

Having been privileged to see Aidan O’Rourke and Kit Downes performing their 365 Volume 1 in 2018, the release of 365 Volume 2 was extremely high on my “most anticipated” list. And rightly so. This two-disc album presents a further 25 compositions inspired by (and fully the equal of) author ...
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THE ASHEN – Slowdive (Kosi Records KOSI001)

The name of Andi Lee, recording here under the name The Ashen, may be familiar to you from his time with the metal band My Silent Wake or his more recent, more experimental collaboration with Hilliat Fields, The Flower Of All Good. His new CD Slowdive, though some of its ...
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HAYLEY ROSS – The Weight Of Hope (Barracuda Recordings – CUDA006)

After 2 previous EPs, Barracuda EP (2016) and Fierce Love EP (2015), this debut album from Hayley Ross has been four years in the making and has been well worth the wait. Hayley co-produced and co-engineered The Weight Of Hope with Martyn Baker, who also played drums and percussion and ...
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Keeping It Live – Dan Jones @ Varaignes Chateau

There are gigs – and then there are gigs to remember when others have been forgotten - maybe it’s the music, the interaction with the audience, the setting, the day you met someone, the venue, the holiday you were on, the sound quality, the weather etc. Sometimes many things combine ...
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ALISTAIR BROWN – When Fishes Fly (Prospect Records PC005)

When, in the post-Brexit dystopia, you can no longer afford a trip to your local folk club When Fishes Fly is one of the records you can play and remember how things were. Alistair Brown is a veteran Scottish singer and concertina player (now living in Cornwall) and he’s supported ...
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YOKO PWNO – Artefacts (SRCDX006)

Yoko Pwno (not a typo) released Artefacts earlier this year. The album is an enjoyable crossover between folk and modern electronic styles (also not a typo). To quote from their publicity material “Fronted by the twin fiddles of whisky-fuelled folk maestro Lewis Williamson and classically trained RCS graduate Lissa Robertson, ...
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SHEILA K CAMERON – River To Sea (Glalell SKC1709CD)

Sheila K Cameron has systematically reissued some of her early recordings over the last few years. She is a Scottish songwriter and singer who has lived for much of her life on the island of Haida Gwaii off the coast of British Columbia. Her style is a mixture of folk, ...
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CHARLIE GREY AND JOSEPH PEACH – Air Iomall (Braw Sailin’ Records CD007BSR)

Last August Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach set sail on the tall ship Wylde Swan to visit five uninhabited islands off the west coast of Scotland: the Shiant Isles, North Rona, the Flannan Isles, Sula Sgeir and St Kilda. The journey was filmed by Hamish Macleod, the result to be ...
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DICK GAUGHAN – The “Harvard” Tapes: Definitive Concert from 1982 (Greentrax CDTRAX406)

When I first began ‘discovering’ the folk genre, my main go-to artefacts were a small collection of CDs and tapes that belonged to my brother. Names like Woody Guthrie, Christy Moore, Luke Kelly, Ronnie Drew and Dick Gaughan soon became very familiar and they became the gatekeepers to this exotic ...
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VELVET & STONE – Velvet & Stone (own label LVID03)

Following three EPs, Devon duo singer and songwriter Lara Snowdon and violinist Kathryn Tremlett finally release their eponymous debut album, Velvet & Stone one which more than lives up to expectations. Accompanied by Kev Jackson on guitar, producer Josiah Manning on keys and rhythm section Paddy Blight and Garry Kroll, ...
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FINN COLLINSON – Call To Mind (Old School Music OSMCD01)

We’ve all played a recorder sometime in the dim and distant past, whether we wanted to or not, but we never played like Finn Collinson. These days we usually hear recorders played in baroque ensembles or slightly fey folk groups but they don’t play like Finn Collinson either. Finn is ...
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NORTH SEA GAS – Hearth & Homeland (Scotdisc CDTV888)

Do you remember when a band would go into a studio with a bunch of songs and make an album relying on nothing more than their own talent and a sensitive engineer?  North Sea Gas do. The multi-instrumental trio of Dave Gilfillan, Ronnie MacDonald and Grant Simpson have been in ...
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HENRY PARKER – Silent Spring (own label BFD-CD001HMP)

Guitarist-singer-songwriter Henry Parker comes from Keighley which is something of a hotbed for musicians as far as we can gather. After a spell playing in a metal band, Henry succumbed to the lure of folk music and set about recording his debut solo album, Silent Spring. Initially, I played it ...
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BALDRICK’S PLAN – Counting The Tides (Grandplan Records GPR1902)

Though Baldrick's Plan is a well-known name around my part of Cornwall, until recently my acquaintance with them was restricted to hearing isolated tracks on local radio. However, when I saw the list of tracks and songwriters, I was pretty sure I was going to have to buy and perhaps ...
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ROB HARBRON – Meanders (own label ROBRECD003)

I sometimes wonder if the playing of the concertina should, like practicing the bagpipes, be a regulated solo activity. Bob Copper famously taught himself to play with the beast under his jacket and his arms down the sleeves the wrong way so as not to be heard. That said, Alistair ...
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SINGLES BAR 43 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Formed in response to an RSC songwriting competition, Coventry-based THE MECHANICALS BAND are fronted by Wes Finch and feature Nizlopi double bassist John Parker, drummer Ban Haines and Jools Street and Katrin Gilbert on violin and viola, respectively. Following on from their Shakespare-themed debut, Exit, Pursued by Bear they broaden ...
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THE CLUTHA – Live From Harvard (own label CLUTHA2019CD)

The Clutha were a big deal in Scottish traditional music in the 1970s although not as well known down here in the south as such bands as Silly Wizard and The Boys Of The Lough who were following similar paths. Live From Harvard was recorded in 1981 with the band ...
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THEA GILMORE – Small World Turning (Shameless Records, SHAME19001)

If you’ve ever wondered what the sound of a Small World Turning is, Thea Gilmore’s first album in two years has the answer. It’s furious, witty and socially astute. It’s maternally fierce, compassionate and tender. It’s a state of the nation address. It’s a call to arms. A sense of ...
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THE SCHMOOZENBERGS – Awaken (Schmusic Records SCHCD01)

The Schmoozenbergs are essentially a Gypsy Jazz band who have recently released their second album Awaken - and it’s a gently lovely listen. The video below is the opening track on the album, ‘Cortisol Swing’. If you click through you’ll hear a track with various tune and tempo changes embellishing ...
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CARLY DOW – Comet (own label CDOW-002)

Having made a name for herself in her native Canada, the banjo-playing environmental scientist turned singer-songwriter’s second album, Comet, the follow-up to her impressive Ingrained debut, should further enhance her international profile. She sets the sound and tone with the opening ‘Brightest Time Of The Year’, a steady slow walk ...
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MIKE VASS – The Four Pillars (Unroofed Records UR005CD)

The four pillars of traditional Scottish music are, as you know, the air, the march, the strathspey and the reel. With this in mind, Mike Vass wrote the suite of music that became The Four Pillars for the 2018 Scots Fiddle Festival. He’s not greedy, though, and the album features ...
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ALICE HOWE – Visions (own label AH002)

It’s just three years since the Boston-based Howe decided to make music a full-time career, the catalyst being meeting Bonnie Raitt’s legendary bassist, Freebo, at a folk music conference. He invited her to Bakersfield, offering to produce her debut album as well as co-writing several of the songs, channelling such ...
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JONES – Carver’s Law (MEME CDMM20)

The title a reference to a maxim held by the writer Raymond Carver to give everything he had each day trusting that the well would be full again the next, Carver's Law is Trevor Jones’ fifth solo album, one which features writing collaborations with Boo Hewerdine and David Bridie and ...
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BELINDA KEMPSTER & FRAN FOOTE – On Clay Hill (From Here Records SITW013CD)

Any recording that comes out of the Stick In The Wheel stable is worth listening to and if you’re familiar with their From Here collections On Clay Hill will delight you. If you aren’t acquainted with them, go and rectify that immediately. Fran Foote is SITW’s harmony singer and Belinda ...
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MARK SOMERS – Restless Poetry (own label)

To your list of famous Belgians add the name of Mark Somers because if you don’t know about him now you will soon. Mark is a singer and songwriter who plays guitar and bass and seems to place no limitations on his musical imagination. Restless Poetry is his second album ...
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ELEPHANT SESSIONS – What Makes You (Elephant Sessions)

Since the release of their last album, 2017’s All We Have Is Now, the five young Highlanders who are Elephant Sessions have toured around the world, garnering numerous awards and journalistic plaudits, and even had a pale ale named after them by Belhaven Brewery. So it’s a wonder they’ve managed ...
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ALAN CATTON – Tales From The North Sea Strand (own label)

Tales From The North Sea Strand is Alan Catton’s second album of 2019. You may remember that Alan lives in Hull and plays guitar with Beggars Bridge but his sideline is in solo guitar instrumentals. That’s solo in the sense that he’s the only performer but by and large the ...
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KAREN MARSHALSAY – The Road to Kennacraig (Cramasie Records CRCD001)

Karen Marshalsay's CD of harp music The Road To Kennacraig – due for release on 15th July 2019 – shows her to be a fine harpist specialising in traditional music and compositions of her own in that same tradition, with a particular interest in transferring pipe music to the harp ...
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HONEY AND THE BEAR – Made In The Aker (own label)

Based on a ridiculously small sample, I’m beginning to detect a trend for small groups of players making big music overlaid with powerful vocals. If I’m right then Made In The Aker, the debut album by Honey And The Bear, is right on the money. Honey And The Bear are ...
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ANNIE SUMI – In The Unknown (own label)

Sometimes the music you didn’t know you needed to hear will find you anyway, as a rare and serendipitous encounter with Canadian singer/songwriter Annie Sumi recently demonstrated. Performing in an overly-warm pub room at a community fundraiser with musical partner, local cellist Jessica Burrows, Sumi quickly captured and entranced the ...
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Keep It Live – Dodo Street Band at Worksop College

A few months ago I reviewed the Dodo Street Band CD, Natural Selection, and thought it was pretty good (read Mike's review here). They didn’t have many gigs planned, but one was fairly near to me so booked the date in my diary. People talk about going out for the ...
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CURSE OF LONO – 4am And Counting (Submarine Cat SUBCD022)

Originally released as a limited edition red vinyl album for Record Store Day, this 11-track set, recorded live at Toe Rag Studios is now available on CD. The idea of 4am And Counting was to take some of the more mellow, rootsier tracks off their Severed debut and last year's ...
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EMILY MAE WINTERS – High Romance (own label EMW 03)

With her second album, High Romance, Emily Mae Winters has taken a big step towards the mainstream. Both ‘Wildfire’ and ‘Gin Tingles & Whiskey Shivers’ would make hit singles even in these strange days. Her backing band makes a big sound which is remarkable given that there are only three ...
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DERMOT BYRNE  ÉAMONN COYNE  JOHN DOYLE – Liag (own label ARCOF1902CD)

Liag is an album of music from South-West Donegal that has been gestating for about thirty years. It concentrates on the more obscure corners of the repertoire and, indeed, there are only two I’m certain I’ve heard before. Dermot Byrne (button accordion and melodeon) is the Donegal man of the ...
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DAN KORN & JOE SHARP – Polaris (own label – DK002CD)

Dan and Joe have worked together since 2010 on Dan’s first EP Dustbowl, a second EP Into The Warm and debut LP Of The Sea. Polaris is their first release as a duo and is an enjoyable listen with the title track setting the bar for the rest of the ...
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BEN WALKER – Echo (Folk Room FRR1902)

Ben Walker is known as a guitarist, composer, arranger and producer but he is neither a lyricist nor a singer. For his debut solo album it would have been easy to re-run his first EP by recording a set of instrumentals and, to judge from the examples included here, it ...
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MALINKY – Handsel (Greentrax CDTRAX402)

Here’s the second Scottish band celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. While some might go for a big statement Malinky, who concentrate on song more than instrumentals, are rather more subtle. They boast two of the finest interpreters of Scottish song in Steve Byrne and Fiona Hunter with Mark Dunlop ...
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KETE BOWERS – Paper Ships (Current Records)

I first encountered the now Essex-based Liverpudlian singer-songwriter with the release of his single, ‘Northern Town’ and ‘A Town With No Cheer’, two spare tales of the region’s industrial decline and its effect on those that live there. They both now appear on Paper Ships, his second album (only available ...
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TWAS NOW – Flesh And Bone (own label)

Hailing from Kitchener, Ontario, and taking their name from enigmatic graffiti adorning a prominent railroad bridge, Mike and Diana Erb have their feet firmly planted in traditional country roots. Indeed, their aptly titled debut album, Old Fashioned Way, featured songs by such legends as the Carter Family, the Louvin Brothers ...
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EAMON FRIEL – Atlantic Light (Thran Records THR 1013)

Atlantic Light is Eamon Friel’s eighth and final album. The Londonderry broadcaster, performer and songwriter died unexpectedly at a remarkably youthful sixty-nine over the weekend. He was immensely popular in and around Belfast and will be sorely missed. The album fits smoothly into Eamon’s oeuvre. It’s gentle and understated with ...
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DYLAN LEBLANC – Renegade (ATO Records)

Dylan LeBlanc’s fourth album, Renegade, was released on June 7th - and it’s rather good. LeBlanc’s publicity gives details of a pretty impressive back story – his first two albums included: acclaim as “the new Neil Young”; Emmylou Harris guesting on his first album; touring/ opening for Lucinda Williams and ...
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EVAN CARSON – Ocipinski (Evan Carson Music – ECMCD001)

Ocipinski is percussionist Evan Carson's first solo album inspired by Jerzy Ocipinski and the Polish Resistance Movements of the Second World War. Why this subject matter you ask? It just so happens that Jerzy Ocipinski was Evan’s grandfather. The album has taken somewhat longer to complete that originally planned, but ...
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STEELEYE SPAN – EST’D 1969 (Park Records PRKCD154)

There are bands who seem to have always been there and have established a reputation that even allows them to break out into the mainstream on occasions.  Steeleye Span are one such band and this year they celebrate their 50th Anniversary with a brand new record Est'd 1969.  Perhaps you ...
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SINGLES BAR 42 – The meaning of life, the universe and everything

A round-up of recent EPs and singles Echoes is the first solo work from Sheffield’s NICOLA BEAZLEY. Nicola plays five-string fiddle which she blends with her brass band background into an intriguing EP of tunes. The opening track, ‘Cutting The Rushes’, is jig but with a slow mournful start. It ...
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COE, PETERS & SMYTH – The Road To Peterloo (Backshift Music BASHCD 65)

In spite of the establishment’s attempts to cover up the story of the massacre for nigh on two hundred years, it’s now common knowledge to anyone who cares to listen. Mike Leigh’s film has done a great service and now we have a musical history of the event compiled by ...
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LAURA VICTORIA – Today’s Another Day (own label LVLGA02)

The Northumberland- born, cello-playing, blues-influenced folk singer-songwriter Laura Victoria follows up her acclaimed 2015 debut Head Above Water with Today's Another Day, an album exploring the different facets of love and relationships, from heartbreak to empowerment. It would be fair to say that her little girl adenoidal warble is something ...
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SUNJAY – Devil Came Calling (own label SLCD201901)

Sunjay has now released five albums and really should be a star but the blues is “genre” music and that’s unlikely to happen yet awhile. After the side-step of Sunjay Sings Buddy he has returned to the roots of his music with Devil Came Calling and if that title suggests ...
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GAVIN LIVINGSTONE – Fire In The Snow (own label GAVCD01)

Formerly a member of Scottish outfit The Skerries and 70s folktronica duo Tonight At Noon, Fire In The Snow is the Glaswegian-based singer-songwriter’s first completely solo album, all bar one of the songs, sung in an unabashed accent, being self-penned. Again, it melds traditional and technology, opening with the circling ...
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DARIA KULESH & MARINA OSMAN – Firebirds (own label)

Firebirds was recorded by Daria and Marina for sale at gigs – although you can also buy it from their website. The fifteen tracks were recorded in single takes to get as close to their live sound as possible and they left the occasional giggle in. Most of the tracks ...
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OLD MAN LUEDECKE – Easy Money (True North Records TND731)

The Canadian folk artist Old Man Luedecke released his sixth album Easy Money on June 7th. Luedecke is a previous winner of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Juno awards and I suspect might get one or more nominations from this album.  He has written ten of the ...
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Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars (Columbia)

Released today, Western Stars is Bruce Springsteen’s 19th studio album. A beautiful sweeping soundscape, which for me musically, conjures up the image of a rancher looking out over a large expanse of a Western dusty land. Stallions gently whicker to the sound of a transistor radio, playing sweeping Southern California ...
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SKIPINNISH – Steer By The Stars (Skipinnish Records SKIPCD28)

Skipinnish have had a spectacular couple of years since the release of The Seventh Wave and now, as they celebrate their twentieth anniversary, they find themselves at the top of the tree in contemporary/ traditional Scottish music. Now an octet with Angus Tikka being replaced by Charlotte Printer on bass ...
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JON WILKS – live in Birmingham

Kitchen Garden Café, Birmingham. June 9, 2019 Now based near Winchester, but making a welcome return to his hometown of Birmingham, opening with his reading of the Incredible String Band’s ‘October Song’, Jon Wilks made an all too rare live outing in support of his album, Midlife. It’s a collection ...
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