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.

GLYMJACK – Light The Evening Fire (Storm Lantern GLYMJACKCD001)

To describe Glymjack simply as contemporary English folk would be rather inadequate. It is acoustic roots, lyric-driven with a nod to soft rock, peppered with a little Americana, and anchored here by two traditional English songs to establish the home ground. Thus Glymjack arrives all guns blazing with a finely ...
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DARLINGSIDE – Extralife (More Doug Records MDR003)

Someone who knows rather a lot about these things has been saying for two years that I should go and see Darlingside. I haven’t seen them, but I jumped at the chance to review the CD. I really should have listened to his advice earlier – Extralife is rather classy, ...
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BEAU – Rattle The Asylum Bars (Cherry Red BEAURTAB1)

Released almost forty-nine years to the day since his first-ever John Peel recording sessions, approaching 72, his latest release and his tenth studio album, Rattle The Asylum Bars, finds Christopher John Trevor Midgley at his politically sharpest on a collection of thirteen songs that underline why he’s been referred to ...
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AURI – Auri (Nuclear Blast 27361 42120)

I really didn’t know what to expect from this album. I know Troy Donockley, of course – at least his work with everyone from Maddy Prior to The Bad Shepherds and I know he can play like a demon. Tuomas Holopainen, I learn, is the founder of Nightwish and a ...
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BROWNBEAR – What is Home? (Assai Recordings)

Almost since the very start, the musical collective led by Matt Hickman, known as ‘brownbear’, have caused something of a stir, not just on the Scottish music scene, but further afield. April 20th 2018 will surely see them only add to this popularity, with the release of What is Home? ...
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ROSS & ALI – Symbiosis II (Symbiosis Records, SYMCD001)

It was only in December that Ross Ainslie’s fantastic solo album, Sanctuary, was released, and he is back again already, this time with Ali Hutton in a very welcome second celebration of their long-standing partnership. Symbiosis II (despite sounding like the title of a particularly difficult contemporary art piece) is ...
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DARLING WEST – While I Was Asleep (JANSEN 097CD)

Darling West released their third album, While I Was Asleep, in February. The band are from Norway and have been played on that country’s mainstream radio channels and at its biggest festivals. Their previous album won a ‘Norwegian Grammy’ (a Spellemann Award). While I Was Asleep (sung in English) sits ...
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OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW – Volunteer (Columbia Nashville)

From the opening notes of their latest album, Volunteer, the first to feature electric guitar in 14 years, you know the Grammy award-winning outfit have a good time in store for you, even if the song lyrics aren’t necessarily always as upbeat as the tunes. That said, the footstomping, handclapping ...
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ROBERT LANE – Only A Flight Away (own label RGL 03)

Following his excellent EP/mini-album, Ends And Starts, Robert Lane has been touring and writing and is back with a full length album with a startling cover design. Made on a crowd-funded shoestring with producer Matthew Pinfield again supporting on drums, bass and piano, Only A Flight Away adds one new ...
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PATRICK SWEANY – Ancient Noise (Nine Mile Records NMR0091)

Patrick Sweany has seven critically acclaimed albums to his credit. His latest album Ancient Noise will be released in the UK on July 6th. Sweany began as an acoustic musician, having absorbed his father’s collection of 60’s folk, vintage country, soul and blues – but then moved on from an ...
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FISHERMAN’S FRIENDS – Sole Mates (The Orchard)

Fisherman – Sole. See what they did there. After avoiding groan-inducing puns for five albums, I suppose the Cornish collective can be excused for finally indulging, especially given yet another fine and rousing assemblage of sea shanties. Currently an eight-piece line-up, the most recent addition being veritable youngster Toby Lobb, ...
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ROGER PUGH – A Colourful Journey (Oblong Records, OBLCD079)

It’s a rarity to come across an artist who describes himself as “jester, minstrel, singer, songwriter, entertainer”. Step forward Leicestershire’s Roger Pugh, serving up a deeply personal memoir in his fourth solo album, A Colourful Journey. It’s an album that feels both celebratory and poignant, as he reflects on his ...
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GARETH OWEN – Rolling By (own label)

When I first moved to South Shropshire a few years ago, I found myself living just a couple of doors away from writer and broadcaster Gareth Owen. And then I realized that I was also living by country legend-in-his-own-mind Virg Clenthills, Gareth's country-singing alter ego. I even played guitar for ...
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HANNAH SANDERS & BEN SAVAGE – Awake (Sungrazing Records SGR003)

Before The Sun, Hannah and Ben’s debut album as a duo, caused a few ripples in folk circles. I predict that Awake will cause a real splash; from its remarkable cover design to the mix of songs it takes everything that its predecessor had and doubles it. Hannah’s background as ...
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PHIL COOPER – Thoughts & Observations (own label PHILCOOPER13)

Phil Cooper’s singer-songwriting style is firmly in the pop-folk arena: ringing guitar, tight bass and drums and clever use of backing vocals. He turned pro two years ago and Thoughts & Observations is his third studio album. This is an album that I liked more as it went on. There ...
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PHIL HARE – A Stranger I Came (March Hare Productions MHPCD002)

Don’t ask me how many albums Phil Hare has made but it’s a lot and A Stranger I Came is his latest. It’s simply recorded off the floor with a couple of minimal overdubs of banjo and Dobro and is big on Phil’s fingerpicked guitar. The songs and tunes are ...
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MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER – Sometimes Just The Sky (Lambent Light LLR002)

Revisiting is the new Best Of. In recent years, several artists have either gone to their back catalogue and reworked old songs in next contexts or released albums of songs they’d written for others but never recorded themselves. Carpenter takes the former route here with a collection of twelve of ...
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NINEBARROW – The Waters & The Wild (own label)

If music be the food of love, then prepare for indigestion … was the title of a 1967 album by a band I’m not prepared to mention here. It’s not quite appropriate in this case for although The Waters & The Wild serves up some rich fare it is very ...
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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Johnny Cash Forever Words (Legacy Recordings)

Johnny Cash: Forever Words (or, according to the physical CD, Johnny Cash The Music Forever Words) is a collaborative album consisting of 16 songs based on Johnny Cash's unpublished poetry, lyrics, and letters. Some of them are drawn directly from Forever Words: The Unknown Poems, described as "a volume of ...
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GREG RUSSELL & CIARAN ALGAR – Utopia And Wasteland (Rootbeat RBRCD40)

The ink is barely dry on Greg and Ciaran’s previous album and they are back with Utopia And Wasteland. The mix is pretty much as before; original songs, judiciously chosen covers and three tune sets. The title isn’t just a randomly chosen three words: it is at the heart of ...
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OPEN THE DOOR FOR THREE – The Joyful Hour (own label OPTD003)

The Joyful Hour is the third album by Irish-American trio Open The Door For Three. They are fiddler Liz Knowles, already known to us a member of String Sisters; American-born piper, flautist and whistle-player Kieran O’Hare and singer/bouzouki player Pat Broaders who is Irish but now lives in Chicago. All ...
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FINBAR FUREY – Don’t Stop This Now (BMG)

Finbar Furey’s new album, Don’t Stop This Now, is a repackaging of Paddy Dear with new songs and the addition of a DVD recorded at Vicar Street, Dublin. Finbar is 71 now. Initially known as a champion piper he performed as a backing musician with The Clancy Brothers, later forming ...
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3HATTRIO – Lord Of The Desert (own label)

Close the windows, turn off background sound, put headphones on if you want, and just lose yourself in this album. Lord Of The Desert by 3hattrio was released in the UK on March 1st. Good music changes what you feel or do and hearing this album has had me researching ...
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SINGLES BAR 28 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Leviathan! by BLACKBEARD'S TEA PARTY is an energetic and accomplished recording by these York-based folk-rockers that did strike some nostalgic (power) chords, with electric guitar, bass and two drummers driving the folkier fiddle and melodeon. There are versions of two traditional songs – 'The Bonny Ship The Diamond' and 'The ...
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MASON LIVELY – Stronger Ties (own label)

Born in smalltown Texas, Lively wrote his first song at fifteen and, co-produced by Lloyd Maines, cut his first EP a year later. Now, four years on, comes his debut album, Stronger Ties, a genre-ranging collection rooted in different shades of Texas country, opening up in the bluesy alt country ...
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ADY JOHNSON – London Songs (own label)

Ady Johnson released his second album London Songs on February 23rd. Johnson has a degree in classical guitar performance, gave up a career as an antique furniture restorer to become a full time musician and first made his name busking outside BBC6 Music’s 6Fest – where he was so impressive ...
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BEN HARPER AND CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE – No Mercy In This Land (Anti 7561-2)

An overdue follow-up to 2013’s Grammy Award-winning Get Up! sees Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite reunite, this time resulting in No Mercy In This Land. With nearly 50 albums between them, the collective credentials of this duo are really quite considerable; Ben Harper’s talents as a prolific singer-songwriter and gifted ...
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THE RHEINGANS SISTERS – Bright Field (Rootbeat RBRCD39)

When I first heard the Rheingans Sisters I hoped that they might bring something new to the folk music of Derbyshire where they grew up. Instead, they have fixed their attention on composition and songwriting and the result is their third album, Bright Field. The sisters are much travelled. Anna ...
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TREMBLING BELLS – Dungeness (Tin Angel)

Drummer and singer Alex Neilson declared that, for ‘Big Nothing’, the 62-second opening track on Dungeness, the band’s seventh album, he wanted the plangent chords “to sound gigantic and degraded, like a building collapsing in slow motion” as well as capturing the parched, flat end of the earth landscapes of the ...
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PORT CITIES – Port Cities (Turtlemusik)

According to the press blurb, a port city is where cultures and histories collide and goods and ideas are imported. Well, this Nova Scotia trio of Carleton Stone, Dylan Guthro and Breagh MacKinnon have certainly taken that to heart, their debut, Port Cities, frequently calling to mind other acts or songs ...
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HARP & A MONKEY – Live at Grayshott Folk Club

Although they have a new album on the way – pause for cheering – Harp & A Monkey had resolved not to play anything from it. Martin Purdy explained that when they had tried to preview new songs, audiences had been disappointed that they couldn’t buy them there and then ...
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LEVELLERS – We The Collective (On The Fiddle Recordings, OTFCD029P)

To celebrate their 30th anniversary, We The Collective finds the Levellers’ reaffirming their mission statement, renewing their vows. Recorded at Abbey Road, with renowned producer John Leckie, the album re-imagines eight of their classic songs – from a vast back catalogue - including some singles, plus two new tracks. Played ...
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JOSIENNE CLARKE & BEN WALKER – Seedlings All (Rough Trade RTRADCD898)

It’s long been the case that you don’t come to Clarke and Walker for background music or cheeriness. Their music is sparse but intricate and you have to work at it. It is also almost inevitably suffused with melancholia, delivered at a pace and tempo to suit the mood. But ...
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BOLDWOOD – Glory Of The West (Hobgoblin HOBCD 1018)

Boldwood released their first album ten years ago. Glory Of The West is their second so there have been a few changes in between. The group has slimmed down to a quartet with Matthew Coatsworth joining Becky Price, Daniel Wolverson and Kate Moran. The essence of the line-up is still ...
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DON McLEAN – Botanical Gardens (BMG538329932)

Forty-seven years and 19 albums on, McLean’s name is still preceded in reviews by “American Pie singer” and for most people, he’s still probably associated with that and ‘Vincent’. Now 72, Botanical Gardens, his first (and rumouredly last studio recording) in eight years, the first for a major label since ...
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YOU ARE WOLF – Keld (Firecrest Records, FC001P)

Diving down from the avian themes of You Are Wolf’s first album, Hawk To The Hunting Gone, Keld is a set of songs of water, specifically the mysticism of freshwater inland waterways. The word “keld” means “the deep, still, smooth part of a river” – somewhere to swim, to chant ...
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CONNLA – The Next Chapter (Connla)

When you read of the “hottest new band on the scene” you tend to roll your eyes and translate the accolade into “over-egged, fly-by-night, bratpack”. But how wrong I was about this one. The creative storm that is Connla demands attention. Young, vibrant, energised, yes – but more than that, ...
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PATRICIA VONNE – Top Of The Mountain (MIG 20182 CD)

Patricia Vonne releases Top Of The Mountain, her seventh album on March 23rd. It’s got a variety of styles, which is both its strength and weakness. At times, it’s a little way from the kind of music that is at the core of folking.com but I’ve enjoyed playing the album, ...
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THE MELLOWSHIP – You Belong With Me … (own label)

Born, raised and still based in the West Country, when she was 23 aspiring singer-songwriter Mo Dewdney had a motorbike accident that left her paraplegic. For some years, music was no longer part of her life, but, then, after the birth of her son, she found herself playing out words ...
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JESS VINCENT- Lions Den (Kostenurka Records)

There have been a few changes in Jess Vincent’s life since the release of Shine back in 2015. She’s become vegan for a start. However, the most significant is the fact that she and her partner, Jozeph Chowles, have moved from Wiltshire to Bulgaria where, indeed, the bulk of the ...
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GARY MILLER – Mad Martins (Whippet WPTCDB24)

I shouldn’t need to explain about Gary Miller but for our younger readers: Gary was lead songwriter with The Whisky Priests, a very fine (and rather tough looking) post-punk folk-rock band from the north-east. After a while away from the front line he returned in 2010 with the excellent album, ...
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WILLOW SPRINGS – Urban Ghosts (S’quare Records SQR1)

Based in Belfast, Willow Springs is essentially a vehicle for singer-songwriter Mark Crockard, Urban Ghosts supported by an assortment of fellow Irish musicians, being his debut album. An emerald-coloured Americana cocktail that shakes together Tex-Mex, Western swing and country, it’s an easy on the ear, fairly middle-of-the road affair, but ...
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CAMBRIDGE CITY ROOTS FESTIVAL – Various artists/venues, 22 February – 6 March 2018

The City Roots Festival shakes open its umbrella (and hauls on its snow boots) for a second year of folk and roots events. As before, a loose collection of venues and artists are brought under the festival banner, from the already-scheduled to the specially commissioned. New this year is an ...
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IVAN MOULT – Longest Shadow (Bubblewrap Collective – BWR040CD)

Longest Shadow is the heartbreakingly beautiful new offering of original tunes from Cardiff-based songsmith, Ivan Moult. In the ilk of Damien Rice for example, it is laden with gorgeous string and choral ensembles, while in the vein of Nick Drake, it is filled with much sparser and simpler guitar parts…which ...
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IAN SIEGAL – All the Rage (Nugene Records 1801)

Ian Siegal releases All The Rage on March 16th, his eleventh album. Folking.com has already announced the new album so what follows is much more of a personal reflection. It’s a long time ago, but if memory serves me right, I first saw Ian Siegal about twenty years back in ...
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KEITH JAMES – Captured: The Best Of Keith James (Hurdy Gurdy HGA2927)

It's hard to encapsulate a long, varied and distinguished career in two CDs. After all, Keith James is not only an excellent musician and producer, poet and songwriter in his own right. He also has a remarkable ability to set the verse of other poets – represented here by settings ...
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KATHRYN ROBERTS & SEAN LAKEMAN – Personae (Iscream Music ISCD16)

I enjoyed Kathryn and Sean’s previous album mostly on an intellectual level. Whatever they have been doing since has had an energising effect – perhaps Kathryn’s experience with Fotheringay has something to do with it – but Personae absolutely bubbles with energy and a sense of fun in the choice ...
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ALASDAIR ROBERTS, AMBLE SKUSE & DAVID McGUINESS – What News (Drag City)

“This is proper folk music”, said my wife on first hearing What News. And it is: big songs full of blood, sex, betrayal and murder. I thought I understood Alasdair Roberts’ working pattern. There would be a traditional album, then a couple of sets of his original songs – very ...
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RAGING TWILIGHT – Raging Twilight (aRTee Records)

Raging Twilight release their first album, Raging Twilight, on April 16th. It only takes you about 30 seconds of listening to the first track with an electric lead grabbing the attention and the steady drive of the whole band on the song ‘Don’t Want A Lover’ to realize this is ...
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PETER KNIGHT AND JOHN SPIERS – Cambridge Junction, City Roots Festival, 6 March 2018

Same venue, different day. In the space of a week, three entirely different acts have made their distinct impressions in this same room. Tonight it’s Peter Knight And John Spiers, an inspired pairing first conceived of in 2016 and now touring Well Met, their first album together, recorded in January ...
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SAM KELLY & THE LOST BOYS – Live at Cambridge Junction, City Roots Festival, 5 March 2018

Battling snow and ice on tour for the past week has clearly taken a toll on this group of musicians (amongst many others no doubt), but that won’t stop them putting on a storming show this evening. Support act, Honey And The Bear (aka Jon Hart & Lucy Sampson) deliver ...
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ED ROMANOFF – The Orphan King (Pinerock Records)

Ed Romanoff released his second album The Orphan King on February 23rd. The style is Americana; the musicians on the album (having worked with Springsteen, Sinatra and Paul Simon to name just the S’s) have CVs that mean the playing is a delight; and the producer is Simone Felice of ...
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CARA DILLON – Live at Kings Place, Kings Cross, 22 February 2018

The venue was stunning. Clean wooden floors, a delicate bar, someone selling programmes (for Barry Cryer in Hall One), what I can only call an ‘older audience’. There’s a civilised aspect to folk in a place like this that I’m simply not used to. This was a Christmas present. A ...
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WILDWOOD JACK – Liberty Ship (Ramsgate)

Not to be confused with Wildwood Kin, this is Adam Piggott and Jayne Freeman, a Kent-based husband and wife troubadour twosome whose music, an amalgam of folk, world and Americana and augmented on Liberty Ship by renowned drummer Liam Genockey, draws on their travels. Although they draw on traditional influences, ...
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McGOLDRICK, McCUSKER & DOYLE– City Roots Festival, The Junction, Cambridge (27 February 2018)

Even on this icy night, the venue is full, the crowd enthusiastic - a significant portion seemingly also having attended the recent Transatlantic Sessions. It’s the second visit to Cambridge in very short order for this trio of musicians and they are most warmly welcomed back. (As a side note, ...
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SADIE JEMMETT – These Days: Live At The Green Note (Mama’s Music Recordings)

Her career effectively launched when famed theatre director Irina Brook used one of her songs as theme for her award-winning show Resonances and the track received extensive airplay on National French Radio. Jemmett went on to compose original music for several other stage productions, most notably Brooks’ Shakespeare’s Sister ou ...
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JAMES DUNCAN MACKENZIE – Sròmos (own label JMMCD002)

James Duncan Mackenzie is, as you know, piper and flautist with Breabach, one of the finest of the young Scottish bands. James is from the Isle of Lewis and there is a big story behind Sròmos, his second solo album: the history of the island over the last two centuries, ...
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HEATHER DOWNIE – Nae Sweets For Shy Bairns (HBoss HBRCD01)

Scottish musicians seem particularly adept at finding new ways of presenting their music but few are quite as charming as Nae Sweets For Shy Bairns, the debut album from harpist Heather Downie. From first listening I was captivated by her sound and I’m still impressed by the range of her ...
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Damien O’Kane live at Chapel Arts Centre, Bath. Friday 23rd February 2017

On taking to the stage at Bath’s Chapel Arts Centre Damien O’Kane immediately established himself as a genial and engaging presence. The Northern Irish singer and musician spoke warmly of the venerable Roman city while diplomatically avoiding any suggestion that he was less enamoured of Basingstoke, where he had appeared ...
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DAVY LEES – One Of Those Days (Tapflerr Music TF001)

Scottish folkie Davy Lees has returned with a new album titled One of Those Days. This recording encompasses a wide range of selections, placing contemporary (and at times lesser known) works alongside the folk canon’s universally sung standards…with a few Lees originals along the way. Indeed it is an original ...
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