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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JOHN CEE STANNARD – Folk Roots Revisited (blaublaurecords)

John Cee Stannard’s Folk Roots Revisited is a wonderful flashback to the land of British singer-songwriter, circa 1970. But, oddly enough, it also nests nicely with the current (Bon Iver inspired!) love of authentic heartfelt acoustic music. It’s just like (the great) Richard Thompson wrote so long ago, “If you ...
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NAVARO – Diamond Skies & Desert Roads (Leading Horses Records LHREC05)

With their debut album, Under Diamond Skies, no longer obtainable Navaro have decided to make a selection from it available on-line and I must admit it’s been a pleasure to hear these first tracks again. You don’t get much time to listen just for fun in this game. There are ...
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THE PINE HEARTS – Back To Sustain (own label)

The Pine Hearts are a string-band trio from Washington state: Joey Capoccia, who plays guitar and writes the band’s original material, Derek McSwain playing mandolin and Dean Shakked on upright bass. Back To Sustain, their 5th album is a stripped back affair comprising previously recorded songs; just three voices and ...
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PETE MORTON – A Golden Thread (Further003)

Five years on from The Land of Time, the Leicester-born folkie returns with his fourteenth studio album, A Golden Thread: eight new self-penned songs, a brace of traditionals and the Pete Seeger title cover, with musical assistance from Sarah Matthews on strings, Matt Quinn providing mandolin, banjo and concertina, double ...
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ROBERT SEVERIN – Postcard From Budapest (RSM001)

Robert Severin is a British-Hungarian, Glasgow-based, singer songwriter who has just released his debut album, Postcard From Budapest. The album is a very personal response to events from Severin’s family history, events which are also landmarks in European history: the impact of World War II on Hungarians (several songs touching ...
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KUSH K – Lotophagi (blaublaurecords)

Kush K’s Lotophagi (aka Lotus Eaters) is a wonderful folk-rock-psych album filled with simpatico playing from Catia, Pascal, Nicola, and Paul. E. Cummings once wrote, “listen: there’s a hell of a good universe next door; let’s go”. And that’s what Lotophagi does: it opens an interesting door. So, cut to ...
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PAVEY ARK – Close Your Eyes And Think Of Nothing (own label)

Pavey Ark are a seven-piece band from Hull although their name is taken from a Cumbrian Fell.. Close Your Eyes And Think Of Nothing is their debut album, firmly in the alt-folk style and all their songs are written by Neil Thomas and need to time to take hold of ...
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JUDY DYBLE – Weavings Of A Silver Magic (Cromerzone CZ00022)

The original female voice of Fairport Convention and subsequently part of Giles, Giles and Fripp and Trader Horne, Dyble retired from the music business in 1973. However, following a handful of live festival appearances, she returned to recording with a double A-side single in March 2008, followed by her solo ...
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KIT HAWES & AARON CATLOW – Pill Pilots (BBCRD007)

Pill Pilots was released at the end of February. “This is good”, I was told. Kit Hawes and Aaron Catlow are new to me (I’m slightly ashamed to say this given their obvious talent and the range of people they’ve worked with), but the thing I would reiterate to anyone ...
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PETER KNIGHT’S GIGSPANNER BIG BAND – Natural Invention (Gigspanner GSCD007)

It is, let’s be honest, something of a mouthful as names go, but, the line-up now comprising of Knight and core band members Roger Flack and Sacha Trochet alongside ‘recent’ recruits Hannah Martin and Phillip Henry plus new addition John Spiers, it’s one worth getting your tongue around. Their first ...
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SIOBHAN MILLER – All Is Not Forgotten (Songprint Recordings SPR004CD)

I have to say, and with a heavy heart, that I really didn’t like Siobhan Miller’s previous album and I’m pleased to say that to my ears All Is Not Forgotten is a considerable improvement on Mercury. Siobhan has returned to the mix of traditional and modern songs that made ...
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REVEREND SHAWN AMOS & THE BROTHERHOOD – Blue Sky (Put Together)

Reverend Shawn Amos & the Brotherhood with their new album, Blue Sky, tell us all to “Keep the faith. Have some fun. Spread a little joy to everyone”; and in doing so, they ignite these grooves with folky electric blues that blow harmonica salvation to the street corners of America’s ...
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CORMAC O CAOIMH – Swim Crawl Walk Run (own label)

Cormac O Caoimh is a singer/songwriter from Cork and Swim Crawl Walk Run is his fifth album, although the first to come our way. He’s been compared favourably to the more introspective folk-pop artists like Badly Drawn Boy and Paul Simon and I can see that but after my first ...
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CARUS THOMPSON – Shakespeare Avenue (Mind’s Eye Records 8687)

Forming Carus and the True Believers in Perth back in 1995, after three albums Thompson went solo in 2008 and has since himself released three studio albums and a live collection., Shakespeare Avenue is his fourth and, reflecting its folk edge, finds him in illustrious company. Having opened on four ...
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JEZ LOWE – The Fellside Collection (Fellside FECD286)

This is 40 years’ worth of Jez Lowe from his first album The Old Durham Road, through the Bad Penny group days and down to his present solo endeavours. Five albums in a box! It’s not just a collection, it’s a biography. Forty years ago he was the very first ...
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PHIL ‘SWILL’ ODGERS – Uke Town (own label)

For reasons you can discover by following the link below Phil ‘Swill’ Odgers has been obliged to release Uke Town, a double album of demos some of which, in the fullness of time, will be released as a full album. Don’t be put off by the word “demos” – these ...
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ANNA RENAE – Skin (own label)

At the risk of vilification from all sides I have to say that there are very few female singer/songwriters that really float my boat: a list topped by Joni Mitchell and Suzanne Vega. However, when I first heard Anna Renae I knew that here was someone special. Anna is an ...
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HENDERSON:HOOPER – Pete’s Trees (own label)

Sometimes you just need a little breathing space to indulge yourself in the enchanting continuum between musical genres. Having played with Judith Henderson in the past I confess to being predisposed towards her, but without bias I declare that her playing is a total delight throughout, a textbook demonstration of ...
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ALDEN PATTERSON AND DASHWOOD – Waterbound (own label)

One of the most delightful and breezily refreshing acts current treading the folk circuit, the Norwich trio, guitarist Christina Alden, fiddler Alex Patterson and dobro player Noel Dashwood, return with their third album, a combination of eight new numbers, both self-penned and traditionally-based, and an extended rework of an instrumental ...
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SALT HOUSE – Live at the West End Centre, Aldershot

Very nobly, I refrained from swapping my ticket for Salt House for one for the burlesque show taking place in the main venue. I’m glad I did. Between the coronavirus and the strippers it was a small but enthusiastic audience that welcomed the band on stage. They opened with ‘Turn ...
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CHRIS TITCHNER – Already Gone (Bridgefolk Records BFR 3002)

Raised in Vermont and now living in Raleigh, North Carolina, having released his debut, Moving Day, in 2005, it’s taken 15 years to get round to a second. However, it’s been time well spent. Things open with ‘I’ll Come Back Around’, a lightly scampering rhythm and a hint of early ...
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ELIS MACFADYEN – Dreamers And Journeys (own label EM2019CD)

A familiar figure on the folk scene around Inverness, there is, to say the least, very little info on Macfadyen out there in internet land, but, while Dreamers And Journeys  is only his second album, I’d suspect he’s been doing the rounds for a few years. Predominantly self-penned, the songs ...
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SIAN – Sian (Sian Music SIAN001)

Sian’s self-titled debut album gives credence to Shakespeare’s words, “If music be the food of love, play on”. This is gossamer Gaelic music spun by Eilidh Cormack, Ceitlin Lilidh, and Ellen MacDonald, sublime singers all, as they celebrate songs by “Scottish female bards”. A first impression: Donald Shaw produces the ...
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SINGLES BAR 49 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

MIKE TURNBULL writes about the places he lives and has lived and the history he enjoys – sometimes simultaneously. With his band THE SAFE KINGS he has recorded a five-track EP, Courageous Tree, that is full of his customary warmth. The title track concerns an ash tree near Coniston Water ...
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RORY ELLIS – Inner Outlaw (own label)

The “Big Man” is back with his new album Inner Outlaw, this time in the guise of a Buck ‘Ned Kelly’ Rogers in the 21st century proving that Rory Ellis can, with one hand, bring out a bang up to date country outlaw album but still keep one foot in ...
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MUIREANN NIC AMHLAOIBH—Thar Toinn/ Seaborne (Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh)

Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh’s Thar Toinn (aka Seaborne) is a crystal brook twenty-one-minute “capsule project” of wonderful Irish folk music. The first song, ‘Faoiseamh Faoistine’, is an acoustic featherbed with MNA’s vocals dancing with melodic steps. Lyrics are by Domhnall Mac Sithigh, and the music is by Gerry O’ Beirne (of ...
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HAMISH NAPIER – The Woods (Strathspey Records SRCD004)

The Woods is the third album in Hamish Napier’s Strathspey Pentalogy and it’s nothing less than a musical journey through the woodlands around Grantown-on-Spey where Hamish lives and along the valley of the river. Literally so in some cases as co-producer Andrea Gobbi has woven into the music field recordings: ...
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VICKI SWAN & JONNY DYER – Sleep Deprivation (WetFootMusic WFM200201)

Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer wrote Sleep Deprivation as an aid for touring musicians trying to stay awake while driving home from a gig. From their description of the difficulties experienced I can assure them that we punters suffer in exactly the same way. Whether it works or not I ...
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THE HACKLES – A Dobritch Did As A Dobritch Should (Jealous Butcher JB178-CD)

You may well ask. Rather than something out of Harry Potter, the title refers to a famous Bulgarian circus dynasty, the patriarch, Lazaro Dobrich founding the first circus in Sofia with his brother Aleksandr and going on to become director of the Bulgarian State Circus in 1956. His brother’s children ...
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SALT HOUSE – Huam (Hudson Records HUD018)

Salt House’s Huam (the call of an owl) is an album of temporal beauty that touches the eternal. The poet Emily Dickenson (more about whom later) did the very same thing. ‘First Light’ is a stunning song. Jenny Sturgeon sings with a cautionary voice, a voice that recalls (the great) ...
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CHRIS ELLIOTT AND CAITLIN JONES – Carry Me Home (own label)

Amongst the many charms of Carry Me Home, the fine debut album by Staffordshire duo, Chris Elliott (guitar, bouzouki, fiddle, vocals) and Caitlin Jones (harmonium, whistles) is the endearing cover photograph. The pair are pictured perched upon a vintage luggage trolley at a railway platform. It could almost be a ...
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IAN CARR & THE VARIOUS ARTISTS – I Like Your Taste In Music (Reveal Records REVEAL087CDX)

It has been five years since Ian Carr took time out from being a go-to session guitarist to release his first “solo” album, Who He?. Now he’s back with more of the same so if you liked that you’ll like I Like Your Taste In Music. The Various Artists are ...
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WILLIAM K.z. – After A Long Time (Digital Download Only)

The title of William K.z.’s debut solo album, After A Long Time, derives from the period and nature of its gestation. After relocating to study at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), he wrote songs documenting his feelings of dislocation. Manchester does that to people. William K.z. (extra hipster ...
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ANTOINE & OWENA – Something Out Of Nothing (own label)

Something Out Of Nothing is the second album by Antoine Architeuthis and Owena Archer and I enjoyed their debut, Hands, Hearts & Hangings, very much. The mix of original and traditional material is as before but the outcome is rather different. The traditional songs benefit from a more thoughtful delivery ...
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GRANT PEEPLES – Bad Wife (Rootball Records)

Grant Peeples’ Bad Wife is a very current, interesting, and important folk record. It’s an album of songs all written by women performed by Grant (no slouch of a songwriter himself), that is meant to call attention to the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave ...
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BRONWYNNE BRENT – Undercover (own label)

Bronwynne Brent’s new album Undercover was released on February 28th. Her previous two albums received critical acclaim and led, amongst other live media appearances, to a studio session for Bob Harris on Radio 2. Undercover doesn’t disappoint. Brent was born in the Mississippi delta, near to where Big Bill Broonzy ...
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KATHRYN ROBERTS & SEAN LAKEMAN – On Reflection (Iscream Music ISCD17)

Not exactly a best of, but, to mark their 25th anniversary, the Dartmoor-based husband and wife duo have turned over their back pages and rerecorded a selection of material from their earlier days, including four from their time as part of folk supergroup Equation which featured all three Lakeman brothers ...
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THREE CANE WHALE – 303 (Field Notes Records FN3)

303, released in November 2019 opens with the sound of footsteps on a path and three creaks of a gate opening and closing, presumably as each of the trio walk through it, before moving into a short mandolin track. This is clearly a different world from the music I usually ...
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DAVID KEENAN – A Beginner’s Guide To Bravery (Rubyworks RWXCD372)

David Keenan released his debut album, A Beginner’s Guide To Bravery, in January. That rather bald statement doesn’t really give a sense of what’s in store when you play the album. Let me quote Keenan, “I've always understood that music, language, prose and poetry transcend modernity or any kind of ...
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THE ROTUNDAS – Simple Songs From Simple Men (own label)

Their feet planted firmly in the same local folk soil as Jon Wilks, Nick Comley on guitar and vocals and lead singer Ian Grafton are a couple of Brummies with Black Country roots who play industrial and social songs from the West Midlands and neighbouring areas. They’ve recorded a full ...
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THREEPENNY BIT – King Ahtu (Little Folk Records LFR104)

Hampshire’s celebrated eight-piece ceilidh band returns with their fourth album of music that you don’t have to dance to…but you can if you wish. In the past I‘ve been critical of Threepenny Bit for taking things rather too speedily but with King Ahtu they have found the soft pedal which ...
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DAVE ARTHUR – Someone To Love You (WildGoose Records WGS435CD)

Dave Arthur thought it would be a good idea to collect some of his favourite songs from the Rattle On The Stovepipe catalogue as a Christmas present for his family and friends. When it was finished the collective wisdom was that it should be released to the wide world – ...
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MATTHEWS SOUTHERN COMFORT – The New Mine (MIG)

The New Mine is the second wonderful blast from the re-constituted Matthews Southern Comfort. A little history: I had lost track of Iain Matthews. But Like A Radio was a seismic surprise. And this new The New Mine is a very welcome and melodic aftershock. Both albums groove with carefully ...
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STEPHANIE HATFIELD – Out This Fell (own label)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kirsty Almeida is a writer and singer whose musical and personal journey has taken her around the world.  Born in Scotland, her father's work has taken her to his home country of Gibraltar as well as the USA, Far East and South America.  She also joined orchestras and has studied ...
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