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.

JOHN MOSEDALE – We’re Not Packing Parachutes (own label)

Earlier this year we reviewed Twenty Seven, the debut EP by Hereford singer-songwriter John Mosedale. Now he returns with his first full-length album, We’re Not Packing Parachutes. This is an entirely solo project although there are one or two uncredited extras which may come from library tapes – I’m damn ...
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TRACK DOGS – Fire On The Rails (Mondegreen Records)

Track Dogs’ Fire On The Rails is folky and funky with trumpets galore and the occasional violin that soars above the usual musical fray. A flashback: there was a great world music band in the 90’s called 3 Mustaphas, whose motto was “Forward In All Directions”. And this album takes ...
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THE SERVANTS’ BALL – The Servants’ Ball (D.Wink CD13)

The West Sussex Gazette, December 15, 1938 The other evening, I had the good fortune to be assigned by this paper’s editor to attend a performance given at the Whittington Village Hall by an ensemble of performers going by the name of The Servants' Ball. Individually, they comprise banjulele (a ...
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GWEN MÀIRI – Mentro (Erwyd ER004)

Gwen Màiri is of Scottish/Welsh ancestry and, if you wish, you may explore the mysteries of Yr Hen Odledd for yourselves. Gwen is a tutor and author, singer and harpist and has performed with major orchestras as well as musicians in the Welsh tradition. Mentro is her first solo album, ...
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BEANS ON TOAST – The Inevitable Train Wreck (BOT Music)

Every year since 2009, Jay McAllister has released a new album of protest and social comment songs on his birthday, December 1. He’s now 39 and The Inevitable Train Wreck is his eleventh. I have to confess that albums in recent years have done little for me, but this, quite ...
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MATTHEW ROBB – Dead Men Have No Dreams (own label)

It’s no mean feat to release an album which stays in the mind for both its music and its sense of authenticity. Two years ago, Matthew Robb released Spirit In The Form which did just that. On December 5th he releases Dead Men Have No Dreams and I suspect he’s ...
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BENJI KIRKPATRICK AND THE EXCESS – Gold Has Worn Away (Westpark Music LC07535)

Gold Has Worn Away by Benji Kirkpatrick and The Excess is a real grower of an album. Benji Kirkpatrick, Pete Flood and Pete Thomas deliver fifty-seven minutes of dynamic and rhythmic roots music which I’ve had on repeat in the car and absolutely love it. I expect this will come ...
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JUDE JOHNSTONE – Living Room (BoJack BJR2221960-3)

As I noted in my review of her previous album, Johnstone is better known as a songwriter than a performer in her own right, her work having been covered by many of Americana’s great and good. As such, Living Room, often stripped to basics with minimal arrangements (the sleeve is ...
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KIM THOMPSETT – The Hollows (Meniscus Hump)

In case you’re wondering that’s Newgrange on the cover and I had a clever paragraph linking Kim Thompsett’s Irish heritage with her music. Then I discovered that she’s from Bexhill-on-Sea. The Hollows is her second album and her first for ten years. Kim Thompsett’s music has been described as “fairy ...
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YVONNE LYON – Songs For Christmas (own label BC112)

Continuing to add to this year’s musical Christmas tree, Lyon brings her Celtic folk influences to a collection of self-penned seasonal songs and reworked traditional carols, variously accompanied by flugelhorn, fiddle, whistles (Skerryvore’s Scott Wood), accordion and bouzouki. It opens in march beat anthemic mode with her own strumalong ‘Peace ...
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FRANK BIRTWISTLE – Volumes 1-4 (own label)

Frank Birtwistle is a guitarist and composer based in Sheffield who has released a set of four EPs of solo pieces – twenty-eight tracks in all. Volume 1 is played on nylon strings although the opening track ‘Flight’ sounds rather robust. You can forget Pre-Raphaelite young ladies playing delicate little ...
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KATE RUSBY – Holly Head (Pure PRCD57)

Having already released the excellent Philosophers, Poets & Kings, Rusby returns with her second album of the year, the fifth in her ongoing biennial festive series that again, produced by Damien O’Kane, mixes Yorkshire variants of well-known carols with both obscure and her own seasonal songs. Substituting ‘People Awake’ for ...
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ATLANTIC UNION – Indulgence (Blue Island Records CD 20191)

When I reviewed the last CD from Atlantic Union here, I noted that "I’m looking forward to hearing where they take us next." Their new CD Indulgence was indeed worth waiting for, and while it includes a few familiar songs, the band goes further into exploring its own music with ...
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MOIRAI – Framed: The Alice Wheeldon Story (WildGoose WGS433CD)

I’m sometimes amazed at the historical material that musicians succeed in writing about, from Gary Miller’s epic Mad Martins to Amy Goddard’s poignant ‘Remembering Aberfan’. I think that Moirai have outdone them all with Framed. It tells how Alice Wheeldon and members of her family were imprisoned for plotting to ...
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JACK LUKEMAN – Northern Lights (own label)

Released to coincide with his Songs For The Winter Solstice tour, this live recording from the Unitarian Church in Dublin finds the deep voiced Irish baritone dipping into the bag of Christmas chestnuts roasting by the open fire, kicking off appropriately enough with a sedate piano ‘Jingle Bells’ intro to ...
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THE YEHLA COLLECTIVE – Steel Strings And Iron Curtains – Songs that Ignited The Downfall of Communism (Sun King Records)

It's just 30 years on from the Czech Velvet Revolution (more commonly known in Slovakia as the Gentle Revolution) that marked the transition from one-party Communist rule to a parliamentary republic. Plamen Press is an independent press specializing in Central, Eastern and Southeastern European literature, translated into English, and – ...
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CHRISTY MOORE – Magic Nights (Columbia 19075991082)

Magic Nights is the sequel to Christy Moore’s 2017 album, On The Road. Conventional wisdom says that a sequel is never as good as the original but, without making comparisons, that isn’t true here. As before, the twenty-six tracks here are neither a “normal” concert album nor a greatest hits ...
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PAUL MOSLEY AND THE RED MEAT ORCHESTRA – You’re Going To Die!   (Red Crow CROW001)

“You’re going to die and so am I. Why are we sitting here listening to all of these lies?” I rather wish that Paul Mosley had opened his new album with the title track; those first lines are the perfect thought for today. His last full length album that I ...
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RANT – The Portage (Make Believe Records, MBR8CD)

The quartet of superbly talented individual fiddle players – Bethany Reid, Jenna Reid, Lauren MacColl and Anna Massie – who in combination make up Rant, have just released their third album, The Portage. Recorded over four days at Queen’s Cross Church in Glasgow (Charles Rennie Macintosh’s only completed church), the ...
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SMITH & McCLENNAN – Small Town Stories (White Fall Records)

Smith & McClennan’s Small Town Stories is a beautiful folk record of oxymoronic depth. It’s authentic folk music which oozes (heaven forbid!) with commercial appeal. It also blinks cleverly between the Scottish west country and Americana Appalachian roots. Just like Richard Thompson’s ‘Great Valerio’, this album “dances through the air” ...
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VETIVER – Up On High (VJCD251P/LC 29868)

Vetiver is the vehicle for the music of Andy Cabic and the album Up On High was released earlier in November. Up On High is gentle, warm folk/folk-rock. The album opens with ‘The Living End’, Paul-Simon-picking, a voice that has been likened to Nick Drake and to my ear also ...
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SEAMUS EGAN – Early Bright (THL0003)

The Seamus Eagan Project release Early Bright on January 17th. The launch will be at the 2020 Celtic Connections in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in the evening concert (with Breabach). This tells you all you need to know about the regard with which the Seamus Egan Project is held ...
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LORRAINE JORDAN – Send My Soul (Hazelville Music HZ013)

Born in Wales of Irish parents, a purveyor of Celtic soul, this is her fifth studio outing on which, accompanied by a host of backing musicians on the different tracks, she opens in fine fettle with the anthemic acoustic chug of ‘The Secret To Everything’ before, as the notes have ...
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HARP & A MONKEY – The Victorians (own label)

We have waited a long while for Harp & A Monkey’s fourth album but, despite the hints they dropped, this may not be the album some of us were expecting. No matter for the band have gone back to their roots with a collection of songs that were popular during, ...
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FREEBO – If Not Now When (Poppabo PB2005)

A mainstay on the L.A. session scene for over 40 years, most notably spending nine years as bassist to Bonnie Raitt, since 1999 he’s also been making his own music and If Not Now When, his fifth, again self-produced, mixes up recent material with revisits to older songs. Joined by ...
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MAY ERLEWINE – Second Sight (TC0001)

May Erlewine releases Second Sight on December 6th. iTunes describes the genre as Country & Folk – I’d add Rock into those two descriptions. Erlewine describes it thus, “This collection of songs is meant to draw us into what it means to call this place home……How can we fully realise ...
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EMILY JANE WHITE – Immanent Fire (Talitres TAL113CD)

Given its description as about a planet and a species on the brink of extinction, you should not enter Immanent Fire expecting bright sunny melodies and upbeat lyrics. However, in her exploration of ecological apocalypse, anxiety, addiction and depression, California-based White does seek to bring some light to the darkness ...
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CATHRYN CRAIG & BRIAN WILLOUGHBY – The Cooley & Mourne   (Cabritunes CAB010)

I should begin by saying that The Cooley & Mourne is, for me, the best album that Cathryn and Brian have made to date. The blend of Carthryn’s southern US roots and Brian’s Irish heritage gels perfectly into an album that makes for absolutely delightful listening. The couple live in ...
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LEIF VOLLEBEKK – New Ways (Secret City Records)

Ottowa born, Montreal resident Leif Vollebekk returns with his fourth full length album, New Ways, following on from its 2017 Polaris Music Prize nominated predecessor, Twin Solitude. Claiming to be a material shift from the introspection of that album - and also a partner to it in the sense of ...
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PROVINCIALS -The Dark Ages (Itchen)

A Hampshire duo comprising guitarist and author Seb Hunter and singer Polly Perry, formerly of Polly & the Billet Doux, here accompanied by Dan Parkinson on piano and drums, as the title suggests the music and the lyrical content on The Dark Ages, their second album, is steeped in shadowy, ...
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BAND OF BURNS – The Thread (own label)

Two years on from making their debut with the Live from Union Chapel album, the twelve-strong outfit return with their first studio recording, The Thread, again underscoring their mission to interpret the works and philosophies of Robert Burns, the binding thread of the messages that inform them providing its title ...
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ROSU LUP – The Ranger (Majestic Creature Records)

The name is Romanian for ‘red wolf’ (and inspired by Sufjan Stevens’ The Sleeping Red Wolves), the Philadelphia duo comprises Jonathan Stewart and Josh Marsh and, produced by The National drummer James McAlister, their second album, The Ranger, mingles elements of orchestral instrumentation, electronic and ethereal moods with their underling ...
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TIM HOLEHOUSE – Come (Aaahh!!! Real Records)

Tim Holehouse releases Come on November 15th. The album is his eleventh release but is a move to a more folky/country style after earlier incarnations, by all accounts, as a blues and metal musician. The CD is a promo copy and has arrived without any background material, so I don’t ...
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SOFIA TALVIK – Paws Of A Bear (Makaki Music)

Sofia Talvik’s Paws Of A Bear is wonderous backward glance to the singer song-writer halcyon days when melody, sincerity, and simple beauty sang to hushed coffee houses filled with attentive people with whispered attention. Paws Of A Bear sings in the footsteps of fellow folkies like Joni Mitchell, Nanci Griffith, ...
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CUA – In Flight Off The Islands (ANSEOCEOL006)

Cua (pronounced coo-ah) release their new album, In Flight Off The Islands, on November 25th. You’d probably recognise the genre as Irish/Celtic folk music but sometimes the combination of influences and playing on the album push boundaries further than this. Cua is a trio - John Davidson, Shane Booth and ...
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LUKE JACKSON – Journals (First Take Records FTCD004)

He’s still only 25 but Journals is Luke Jackson’s fifth studio album, not forgetting a stunning live set two years ago. I was knocked out by his first record: mature beyond his years may be a cliché but it was more than apt in this case. Luke has evolved both ...
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DAVID CAMBRIDGE – Songtales (own label DC001CD)

David Cambridge’s story is a familiar one. He had a serious, responsible job, ran a folk club as a student, played guitar and sang and, having escaped the nine-to-five, he found that music took over. He also builds guitars, by the way, and Songtales is his debut album. Now, you ...
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TWELFTH DAY – Face To Face (Orange Feather Records OFR005)

Twelfth Day’s Face to Face creates a new element on the folk periodic table. There’s a nice current angle to this music that embraces traditional folk, classical, jazz, and off-kilt(er) Scottish sounds. Years ago, Peter Gabriel’s first album was advertised with the promotion “Expect the unexpected”. Well, that’s the gist ...
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HOPE IN HIGH WATER – Bonfire & Pine (Fish Records FR01)

I haven’t heard Hope In High Water’s debut album, which is a great shame because Bonfire & Pine seems to be its mirror image. It bookends a two year period during which Josh Chandler Morris and Carly Slade quit their jobs and, to use a cliché from the 60s, got ...
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ATLANTÆUM FLOOD – One Day (Schoolkids Records)

Atlantæum Flood’s One Day isn’t really folk music, per se. Rather, it’s a (mostly acoustic) musical journey with wonderous electric guitar that is “the brainchild” of Steve Knott (who wrote the music) and involves none other than Marty Willson- Piper of The Church fame. A bit of history. You see, ...
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SMITH AND BREWER – Another Shade Of Smith And Brewer (Own Label SMBR01)

Since first being introduced to each other by Joan Armatrading in 2015, Ben Smith and Jimmy Brewer have strode ahead boldly. Another Shade Of Smith And Brewer sees our eponymous duo filling out to a full band for their first proper studio album. Many of the songs here feel like ...
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PONS AELIUS – Fire Under The Bridge (own label)

Pons Aelius’ second album picks up pretty much where Captain Glen’s Comfort left off. ‘Fire Under The Bridge’ opens the show with three tunes by Jordan Aiken featuring his Highland bagpipes and Callum Younger’s pounding percussion. However, as this album proves, Pons Aelius are no one-trick ponies. The second track, ...
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THE LILAC TIME – Return To Us (BMG)

The first new music since 2015’s No Sad Songs, Stephen, Claire and Nick Duffy return with their first release for a major label (not that they seem to be doing much to promote it) since 1990, the cover of Return To Us is a pencil sketch reprise of their 1987 ...
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CHRIS FOX – From The Shadows (own label)

Chris Fox sent me a link for the lead single from From The Shadows and I thought it was little gem of songwriting. ‘I’m In Love With You’ doesn’t have the typical backstory of an artist with a leaning towards Americana – very few have to start shopping in Morrison’s ...
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MATT PATERSHUK – If Wishes Were Horses (Black Hen Music)

Matt Patershuk’s If Wishes Were Horses drinks from the fount of pure western Canadian country spring water—with a folky blues chaser. There’s nothing Nashville about this music. It wears the authentic Alberta gear. There’s a full band ignition behind some tunes. ‘The Blues Don’t Bother Me’ is a tough tumble ...
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NICK WYKE & BECKI DRISCOLL – Cold Light (English Fiddle CD04)

I’m sure that Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll won’t mind me saying that they have taken a big step with this album – they all but admit it themselves. Their previous outing was built on rural poetry from their native Devon but Cold Light is as far from that as ...
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FRANC CINELLI – Night Songs (Song Circle Records)

Franc Cinelli released Night Songs in September. Cinelli was born in Rome, grew up in London, has lived in New York, learned to play violin and guitar at an early age and has been surrounded by the range of musical influences that this history suggests – from the American Muddy ...
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LANKUM – The Livelong Day (Rough Trade)

Comprising brothers Ian (Uilleann pipes, concertina) and Daragh (guitar, piano) Lynch, Cormac MacDiarmada (fiddle, viola, banjo, double bass) and Radie Peat (bayan, harp, keyboards), the Dublin quartet’s third album, The Livelong Day, continues to both mine and reinvigorate traditional Irish tunes, breathing new life into songs that might often seem to ...
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BILLY PRICE – Dog Eat Dog (Gulf Coast Records)

Billy Price, inducted as a Pittsburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll Legend, released Dog Eat Dog in September. If you’re looking for folk music (not unreasonably since we are the folking.com website), this isn’t the album for you. However, if you want something rather likeable which captures a great spirit from previous ...
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ALASDAIR ROBERTS – The Fiery Margin (Drag City DC742CD)

Following the path laid out with Pangs, Alasdair Roberts has recorded another album of new songs that sound old. I must say immediately that I really, really like The Fiery Margin but I’m only just getting past “that’s a nice melody/that’s a good lyric”. It’s going to take several more ...
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CATFISH KEITH – Catfish Crawl (Fish Tail Records)

Catfish Keith released Catfish Crawl in September and is currently touring the UK. Catfish Crawl is the eighteenth album by a stunning acoustic blues player. I can put it no better than to say that if you want to explain to someone what the blues is and why it grabbed ...
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WILLIE CAMPBELL & BAND – Dileab: A Legacy (Comhhairle Nan Eilean Siar CNES2019CD)

Recorded live, Dileab sees the Western Isles singer-songwriter join forces with seven equally local musicians Jane Hepburn MacMillan, Andy Yearley, Paul Martin, DC MacMillan, Neil Johnstone, Rhona Johnstone and Graham MacLennan), variously on strings, percussion, guitars and accordion, and members of six school choirs from the islands of Barra, Uist, ...
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KIZZY CRAWFORD – The Way I Dream (Freestyle Records FSRCD128)

Kizzy Crawford has been making music for a while but her début album The Way I Dream is only just on the verge of being released and it's been worth the wait.  When I first saw Kizzy she could have gone in several directions, including folk which she sings very ...
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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Sunshine Of Your Love: A Concert For Jack Bruce (MIG Records MIG02192)

On the 24th October 2015, a year after the death of Jack Bruce – widely acknowledged as one of the best electric bass players of all time – a small galaxy of star (admittedly not very folky) musicians gathered for a tribute concert at the Roundhouse in London. Sunshine Of ...
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HARRI ENDERSBY – Mazes (Ivy Crown Records)

Mazes is the second enchanting album from Durham singer songwriter Harri Endersby. It follows on from her excellent 2017 debut album Homes / Lives, which I was also privileged enough to review. I must confess to having some bias when it comes to Harri’s work, having fallen in love with ...
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JAMES McARTHUR AND THE HEAD GARDENERS – Intergalactic Sailor (Moorland Records)

James McArthur and The Head Gardeners’ new album Intergalactic Sailor is a wonderful folk record that is quiet, dreamy, and very melodic. This album has warmth and folk beauty to burn. ‘Cleaning Up’ begins with a sonic spacey sound, and then it spirals into a psych folk tune that is ...
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GREENMATTHEWS – Roots & Branches (Blast Records BFTP013)

GreenMatthews, who have appeared in these pages before, are Chris Green who plays keyboards and a variety of stringed instruments, and Sophie Matthews who plays all manner of aerophones from English border bagpipes to baroque oboe. Both sing but it’s Sophie’s instrumentation that provide Roots & Branches’ distinctive sound, particularly ...
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JAKE AARON – Fag Ash And Beer (own label)

You should never judge a book by its cover, we're told, and the same is true of album covers.  I took this album for review with a slight sense of trepidation.  As a title Fag Ash And Beer, along with a cover photo of Jake playing a guitar in his ...
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AMY HOPWOOD – All At Sea (own label)

Amy Hopwood hails from the seaside town of Weymouth, in Dorset, so it makes sense that her inspiration would either come from the land or the sea.  As her album All At Sea makes abundantly clear this one comes from the sea. Amy is certainly a folk singer and she ...
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BELLA HARDY – Postcards & Pocketbooks (Noe NOE12CD)

I still tend to think of Bella Hardy as one of the bright young things of folk music but she has already done more than enough to justify Postcards & Pocketbooks, a double-CD retrospective, all the tracks remastered by Ian Carter. Bella is an old-style fiddle-singer, a 21st century songwriter ...
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