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.

TOM PETTY AND BOB DYLAN – New York 1986 (Rox Vox RV2CD2128)

In the mid-80s and in the midst of his own musical wasteland, Bob Dylan went down a number of different angles in a bid to rejuvenate his career. While some of these efforts were more successful than others, one of the more favourable endeavours from this time was his work ...
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KITTY MACFARLANE – Namer Of Clouds (Navigator Records, NAVIGATOR104)

Given the praise heaped on Kitty Macfarlane’s 2016 EP, Tide & Time, expectations are understandably high for her first full-length album release, Namer Of Clouds. Macfarlane’s light soprano, paired with an equally light-fingered plucky guitar, nonetheless contains a filament of controlled determination. Softness and steel are never far apart, even ...
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GREGORY ALAN ISAKOV – Evening Machines (Dualtone Records)

Evening Machines was released on October 5th, Isakov’s fifth album. Isakov is a full time farmer in Colorado, who tends to his music career in the winter (he has his studio in a barn on his farm). He has been described as an indie-folk artist. This feels like a full ...
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PETE SEEGER BIG BILL BROONZY – Cahn Auditorium, Northwestern University (Echoes ECHO2CD2077)

Another recording from the vaults is Pete Seeger and Big Bill Broonzy from the Cahn Auditorium at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois, 1956 – a time in which McCarthyism was rife and the blacklist meant that performances in college and university campuses were Seeger’s main outlet. The performance is unscripted ...
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LONGSTAY – Calling Me Home (Goldrush Records, GOLDCD017)

Calling Me Home is the debut album from Longstay, a precocious Perth quintet, still with an average age of only 17 - and with four years’ experience already behind them. These super-confident players are firmly rooted in Country and Americana, with more than a hint of the ‘70s thrown in ...
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ANNE MARIE ALMEDAL – Lightshadow (VMP 18/012 CD)

Anne Marie Almedal is a Norwegian singer and composer whose album, Lightshadow, is now on release. Almedal, was the lead singer of the band Velvet Belly from 1989 – 2003 and has released a number of solo albums since then, a little more folk oriented than those I’ve listened to ...
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BOB DYLAN AND THE BAND – 1974 Tour Live (Rox Vox RV3CD2137)

1974 Tour Live is a pretty self-explanatory title, but if you’re still curious for anything else other than the obvious, it is a three disc set, covering two shows from January ’74 (Boston and New York) from Bob Dylan and The Band, recorded during their mid-70s comeback tour. The first ...
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LUKA BLOOM – Sometimes I Fly… (MIG MIG 02102 CD)

This album was recorded by Radio Bremen in 2001. Luka Bloom is big in Germany; he’s big in Ireland naturally but for some unfathomable reason he isn’t really big in the UK. Sometimes I Fly... is his second live album and was probably recorded about the same time as the ...
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THE SALTS – Brave (Braccan Records BRCD9001)

The Salts perform shanties but not quite in the way you might expect. They are five seasoned musicians with a remarkable list of credits to their names from Pete Best via Thunderclap Newman to Ben E King. Now based in the leafy suburbs of Surrey and Berkshire, Brave is their ...
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MALCOLM HOLCOMBE – Come Hell Or High Water (Gypsy Eyes Music)

If you feel that ‘Southern folk golem’ Holcombe’s croaky roll-up rasp suggests he’s been shovelling coal dust of his cereals and makes Tom Waits sound like Perry Como, then you’ll be pleased to hear that on his latest album, Come Hell Or High Water, his third in as many years, ...
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Derbyshire stars at Derby Folk Festival

Derbyshire is famous for many things to those in the know, but for the casual mainstream music fan the county that gave the world Rolls-Royce has added little to history’s record collection, aside from one hit wonders White Town and Candy Flip. In folk circles, however, it is a different ...
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J.P. HARRIS – Sometimes Dogs Bark At Nothing (Free Dirt DIRT-CD-0090)

You might be wondering if J.P. Harris looks anything like the cover picture. Well, I can’t speak for all the tattoos but, yes, that’s pretty much him! J.P. is from Alabama and his lifestyle follows that of Cisco Houston, travelling for work and describing himself as “a carpenter who writes ...
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SINGLES BAR 34 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Tablelands is the third of the trilogy of EPs by INDIA ELECTRIC CO. that began in the city with EC1M and ends somewhere hot, red and swampy. The format is much the same as before: Cole Stacey on vocals and percussion and Joseph O’Keefe on everything else. The difference is ...
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ETHAN HANNA – Welcome To The Batlands (Tin Man Heart)

Ethan Hanna is from Lisburn, Northern Ireland. He’s been around for while, paying his dues as a soloist and in bands, but Welcome To The Batlands is his debut solo album. ‘Perfect’, the first single lifted from it and the second track here, is a gem of a song – ...
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RIBBON ROAD – Paper Dolls (Shipyard RRD011)

The follow-up to Our Streets Are Numbered, one of my favourite albums of 2016, the Heslop family, songwriter Brenda, husband Geoff and daughter Jill, here joined by their other daughter Anna on piano. Just as past albums have addressed the 80s Miner’s Strike and social housing in former mining communities, ...
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TOWN MOUNTAIN – New Freedom Blues (own label)

Based in Asheville, North Carolina, New Freedom Blues is the quintet’s sixth studio album which, while their feet are still firmly planted in the bluegrass pastures, extends its horizons to more modern forms of farming. As such, it’s a kick drum that underpins the title track opener, straddling traditional banjo and ...
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THE BETTERDAYS – Backlash (NTB Records CD 1004)

I realise that this isn’t our usual fare but it’s such a gem that we couldn’t resist. The cover shows The Betterdays from Plymouth in their mid-sixties heyday when these tracks were recorded. They released a single in 1965 which failed to chart and disagreed with their record company about ...
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ANTOINE & OWENA – Hands, Hearts & Hangings (own label)

We receive a lot of unsolicited albums, often debuts from new artists. Some we may gloss over; others we play more than once. So it is with Hands, Hearts & Hangings, the first album from Wiltshire duo Antoine Architeuthis and Owena Archer. Both are experienced musicians and are beginning to ...
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CHRIS CLEVERLEY TRIO – Red Lion Folk Club, Kings Heath, Birmingham

Already well-established as a charismatic performer on the folk circuit and a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter as well as hugely accomplished guitarist, this hometown gig, the first of the award-winning club’s new season, served to launch his new trio format comprising himself, Kim Lowings and Said The Maiden’s Kathy Pilkington, who ...
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GILMORE & ROBERTS – A Problem Of Our Kind (GR! GRR08)

Gilmore & Roberts are Katriona Gilmore (vocals, fiddle, viola, B3 organ and mandolin) and Jamie Roberts (vocals, guitar, percussion). Their album A Problem Of Our Kind, due for release on 12th October 2018, benefits from additional instrumental support from Fred Claridge (drums and percussion), Matt Downer (double bass), Sarah Smout ...
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DOLPHIN BOY – The Highland Swing (Skye Records SCRCX005)

There is story behind this album although I’m not sure I fully understand it. Once upon a time DJ Andy Dolphin, aka Dolphin Boy, was producing what he called “sample-heavy, bootleg-style music”. Late last year he and former Peatbog Faerie Iain Copeland, drummer with techno-folk fusion band Sketch, discussed the ...
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YOUNG WATERS – Young Waters (own label YW1)

Now trading under a rather more attractive moniker (borrowed from a Scottish Child Ballad) than their previous appellation as Snufkin, guitarist Theo Passingham and percussionist Kerry Ann Jangle sharing lead, Liam O’Connell on double bass and harmonies, violinist Calum Smith and Rowen Elliot on viola, made their recording debut with ...
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EDDI READER – Cavalier (Reveal 077CDX)

Forty years into her career, Reader’s 11th solo studio album, Cavalier, continues the recent trend of mixing original and traditional material with, naturally, something from Robert Burns. Recorded in Glasgow and co-produced with husband John Douglas, and featuring a plethora of musicians, Boo Hewardine, John McCusker, Siobhan Miller, Phil Cunningham ...
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SLOW MOVING CLOUDS – Starfall (own label SMC003)

Dublin based trio Slow Moving Clouds blend Irish and Nordic traditions with modern techniques and influences to make music that might be described as “ambient” except for the fact that it’s too interesting. SMC comprises cellist Kevin Murphy who doubles on bass and Marxophone; Danny Diamond on fiddle and Aki ...
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ANNIE DRESSNER – Broken Into Pieces

Like Kurt Russell in 'Escape from New York', Annie Dressner has legged it as well and made it over here to fair Albion even without the aid of an eye patch! Dressner been busy in Blighty, clocking up airplay on both BBC Radio Two and Six and earning herself festival ...
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JIMMY LaFAVE – Peace Town (Music Road Records MRR CD030)

A leading light of the Red Dirt country movement, LaFave succumbed to cancer last year, but not before laying down a 100 or so recordings over a three-day period. Twenty of them form Peace Town,  a double set worth of material. Both covers and three self-penned numbers, all recorded live ...
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TUMBLING SOULS –Between the Dream And The Truth (Wee Studio Records WSTTS01)

The debut album from the country and bluegrass-influenced Hebridean eight-piece fronted by Willie Campbell, Between The Truth And The Dream has a firm emphasis on picking up your feet, getting you out of your seats from the start with the steady stomping mountain music rhythms of ‘Don’t Be Afraid Of ...
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JOHN SMITH – Hummingbird (Commoner COMM01CD)

John Smith is a name I’ve been circling around for some time without actually hearing him so I was delighted when his new album, Hummingbird, his sixth, fell into my lap. I now have some serious catching up to do. If you haven’t encountered him yet you should know that ...
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SOLASTA – A Cure For The Curious (own label SLSTA18)

A Cure For The Curious is the debut album by the newest trio aiming to take folk music in new directions. Solasta are Elizabeth Flett; a multi-instrumentalist originally from Scotland, on fiddle: Jamie Leeming, a guitarist better known among the jazz fraternity and cellist Hannah Thomas, as much recognised in ...
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THE LARK AND THE LOON – Homestead Hands (own label)

She’s the lark and he’s the loon and The Lark And The Loon are multi-instrumental husband and wife duo Jeff Rolfzen and Rocky Steen-Rolfzen. Homestead Hands is a self-penned album, their second, packed with stories from the Black Hills to the Ozarks. Their songs are suffused with western lore and ...
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PHIL DOLEMAN – Skin & Bones

In recent years the ukulele has become increasingly prominent in my life as a music teacher and workshop organiser, so it was with a degree of keen anticipation that I opened Phil Doleman’s first full studio album, Skin & Bones. He may be unknown to many folk fans, but he ...
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MAWKIN – Down Among The Dead Men (Good Form Records MKN005)

I was thinking that it was rather too long since I’d heard anything from Mawkin when David Delarre got in touch to ask if I’d like an advance copy of their new album. It would have been rude to refuse. In the three years since they released The Ties That ...
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Katie Spencer – in praise of live music

Saturday night I find myself in a church in a small village. This settlement is so tiny that to describe it as a small hamlet overstates it. The best part of fifty years ago I came here on an archeological dig to see if there really had been a Roman ...
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IAIN THOMSON AND MARC DUFF – No Borders (own label IAT 003)

Iain Thomson is a singer-songwriter brought up in Dumfries who works regularly as a duo with Marc Duff who plays bouzouki, pipes, piano and whistles here and also produced the album. In his other life Iain has been a sheep farmer on Mull, where he again lives, although we’re told ...
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NATHAN BELL – Loves Bones And Stars, Love’s Bones And Stars (Angry Stick Recording Company)

In case you’re wondering, the title of the album is correct. Loves Bones And Stars, Love’s Bones And Stars is due for release on September 24th and is the fourth album in Nathan Bell’s Family Man series – and it’s rather good. The album is full of songs rather like ...
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RACHEL NEWTON – West (Shadowside SHADOW03)

I had better confess that I’m a bit of a fan of Rachel Newton. The last time I heard her perform live she demonstrated how to play harmonics on the harp and let me tell you that it isn’t easy. West is her fourth solo album, named for her grandfather ...
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RICHARD DURRANT – Stringhenge (Own Label, TheBurningDeck003CD)

JS Bach’s elaborate baroque isn’t necessarily folk’s obvious partner, but for guitarist Richard Durrant they are simply links in a lengthy musical chain. In his new album, Stringhenge, landscape and music are tightly bound, including in his instruments: a guitar made from 5000-year-old bog oak and a tenor guitar decorated ...
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A DIFFERENT THREAD – On A Whim (own label)

Originally a duo comprising Staffordshire’s Robert Jackson and North Yorkshire classical cellist Isaac Collier, last year they were joined by North Carolina songwriter and fiddle player Alicia Best, she and Jackson now the mainstays, although she remains based in the States. Following on from the High Time EP, on which ...
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NORTHERN FLYWAY – Northern Flyway (Hudson Records, HUD013)

This eponymous album from Northern Flyway is a beautiful addition to a rapidly growing body of music prominently featuring birdsong. Northern Flyway is Jenny Sturgeon and Inge Thomson’s new audio-visual project, featuring Magnus Robb’s bird recordings. Subtly drawing parallels with human migration and diversity, it’s also an alarm cry of ...
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SINGLES BAR 33 A round-up of recent EPs and singles

BURNING SALT – Hannah Hull (vocals, guitar), Bobby Williams (electric guitar) and John Parker (double bass) – base their music on Hannah's distinctive voice and sometimes painfully direct songs. Among other things, Hannah is resident artist on Islington Museum’s Echoes of Holloway Prison project, focused on oral histories from Holloway ...
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DUSTER BENNETT – The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions (Floating World FLOATM6367)

Younger readers may need a heads up about Duster Bennett but a title like The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions should pique anyone’s interest. Duster was a star of then late sixties British blues revival, eschewing the electric directions taken by contemporaries such as Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown by performing ...
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TIA McGRAFF – Stubborn In My Blood (Bandana)

Her first full-length release since 2015 (though there was an EP last year), Stubborn In My Blood  is McGraff’s seventh album and again provides ample evidence of why she’s held in such high regard in Americana circles. Working as ever with husband Tommy Parham as co-producer/writer and guitarist, it kicks ...
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DAVID MILTON – Songs From The Bell Man (Story Records Strec1801)

Produced by and featuring Ange Hardy, this is the debut album by an affable chap from her home town of Watchet in Somerset who, in addition to running weekly shanty nights down the pub and being an established stone sculptor also serves as the local football referee and Punch and ...
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CHRIS THOMAS – Bound To The Ocean (own label)

Formerly part of a Pink Floyd tribute show, the soft-voiced Devon-based singer-songwriter has being flying solo since 2013, Bound To The Ocean being his debut album. Drawing on folk, country rock and blues influences, it opens with ‘Whenever I Sing Georgia’, a breezy early Van Morrison-ish tribute to his late step-mother, ...
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GRYPHON – ReInvention (own label GRIFCD01)

It has been a long time. Gryphon broke up in 1977 after recording Treason, which a lot of people seem to like but which I don’t particularly care for. Rumours started to emerge some eleven years ago and the band played a one-off gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in ...
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JIMMY ALDRIDGE & SID GOLDSMITH – Many A Thousand (MATRAI8001)

Rising stars of the UK acoustic scene, Aldridge and Goldsmith are what I guess those outside the fraternity would call finger in the ear folk music. That is to say they often sing unaccompanied with a stylised, emphatic delivery in the manner of the traditional folk singers of yore. But, ...
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RICHARD THOMPSON – 13 Rivers (Proper Records PRPCD150)

Following three excursions into his back catalogue in a solo acoustic format, Richard Thompson is back doing the other thing he does best. Electric guitar in hand and backed by the other two members of his trio, Michael Jerome and Taras Prodaniuk, plus guitarist Bobby Eichorn he returns with 13 ...
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NIAMH VARIAN-BARRY – Wings (own label NVB001)

Sometimes you just want to snuggle down and be wrapped in the voice you’re listening to. Niamh Varian-Barry has one of those voices. Have a listen to ‘Dusty Little Wings’, the opening track on the album Wings, and you don’t want to do anything other than just listen. Wings was ...
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GRACE PETRIE – Queer As Folk (own label)

The only time I saw Grace Petrie on stage, I was bowled over. I bought an EP and was impressed by that. Always her own person and doing things her way, Grace could now be on the verge of a breakthrough. Thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, Queer As Folk is ...
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STONE JUNCTION – Could We Start This All Again? (Eris Records SJCD001)

Stone Junction are a trio based in Sussex: Michael Prochak, Dan Lapins and Will Thomson. Between them they play guitar, banjo, accordion, mandolin and whistle and sing in what appears to be effortless harmony. They have experience – Michael has been performing since the late 60s – immense talent and ...
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SKINNER & T’WITCH – Everybody’s Grotty (own label)

In the course of reviewing Skinner & T’Witch’s debut album, Rise, I mused on nominative determinism and wondered whether if Sandra Twitchett had not acquired the name T’Witch it might not have had the mythological feel that it did. There is no such issue with their third album Everybody’s Grotty, ...
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SMITH AND BREWER – Live 16/12/2017 (Own Label)

Riding high on their success in front of their biggest audience to date at Cropredy, as well as playing a host of other festivals, Americana duo Smith & Brewer are having a good year. For everyone who’s been enjoying their performances, Live 16/12/2017 provides a chance to take the magic ...
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HANNAH RARITY – ‘Neath The Gloaming Star (Own Label, HR085NEA)

Winner of 2018’s BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician award, Hannah Rarity, has just successfully crowdsourced her debut album, and it’s exquisitely lovely. ‘Neath The Gloaming Star' can only – rightly - enhance her growing reputation within Scottish traditional music. Rarity has that crystal clarity often found in female Celtic ...
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BOB COLLUM AND THE WELFARE MOTHERS – Pay Pack And Carry (own label)

Bob Collum hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma but now lives in Essex – actually, we’re beginning to detect a pattern there. His band is Macs Leyton, Matthew Hall and Paul Quarry and there are a number of guests including Martin Belmont formerly of Ducks Deluxe, Graham Parker and Nick Lowe: Peter ...
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DAN WEBSTER – Devil Sky (Paper Plane PPR1801)

Dan Webster is a British singer-songwriter who has been described as the fusion of folk and country. On his fourth album, Devil Sky, much of the country influence comes from his band which includes Joshua Burnell, of whom we have spoken before, Emily Lawler on violin and Polly Bolton on ...
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FAIRYTALE – Autumn’s Crown (Magic Mile Music, MMM41112)

German folk-rockers Fairytale cunningly release their second album, Autumn’s Crown, as the first signs of seasonal change appear. Having already secured the support of some of Ireland’s biggest musical names, this follow-up to 2015’s Forest Of Summer is clearly aiming for wider UK recognition. Singer-songwriter Oliver Oppermann (guitars, mandolins, Irish ...
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DREW MORRISON AND THE DARKWOOD – Electric-Notes Wild (Storm Cloud SCCD002)

Electric-Notes Wild, to be released on September 7th, is the debut album from Drew Morrison And The Darkwood. It follows a well-received EP, Tales of Love, Sadness and Rock’n’Roll, released in 2015. The band have been playing since 2011 and perform regularly (they’ve been called ‘the house band’) at the ...
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JENNIFER BELL AND WILSON WALKER – …And So To Bedlam (own label JBWW01)

It isn’t often that a lutenist will send us a CD but Jennifer Bell did just that. Jennifer is a singer-songwriter and, in addition to lute, she plays 12-string guitar. In partnership with fiddler Wilson Walker and assisted by percussionist Neil Rabjohn she has released her debut album. …And So ...
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THE TANNAHILL WEAVERS – Òrach (Compass Records 7417172)

Few bands get to celebrate fifty years together – and some of those have taken a breather mid-career – so The Tannahill Weavers have joined a pretty exclusive club. Sub-titled The Golden Anniversary Album, their new record, Òrach, draws together music, friends and former colleagues. Joining the current line-up of ...
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THE GLOAMING – Live At The NCH (Real World CD/Vinyl)

It almost goes without saying that Martin Hayes (fiddle) and Dennis Cahill (guitar) have shaped Irish traditional music for the last quarter century and are recognised the world over for their sublime lyrical and melodic interpretation of almost everything they touch. What has kept them fresh and relevant across the ...
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