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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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BROON – Cosmic Ceilidh (SBECD20)

Cosmic Ceilidh is the debut album from multi-instrumentalist Steve Brown of Arisaig in the Scottish Highlands. A busy professional live musician since the 1993, the lockdown has given him the time to complete this Broon album, recorded in his Rivendell Studio. Cosmic Ceilidh has a grand, sweeping, landscape-of-sound vibe, that ...
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RICK SHEA – Love & Desperation  (Tres Pecadores TPCD12)

A multi-instrumentalist Southern California singer-songwriter who’s played sideman for Katy Moffat, Wanda Jackson and Dave Alvin, with a penchant for Hank Williams influences and old school country, brings us Love & Desperation, his twelfth album. It kicks off with accordions affording  a Doug Sahm Texicali taste to a cover of ...
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DOWALLY – early bird // night owl (own label)

early bird // night owl is the third album from Dowally and it is made up of original contemporary folk interspersed with some traditional folk which their sound is based on.  There are also influences from many musical genres which gives the album a lovely rich and rounded feel. Dowally ...
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PATTERSON DIPPER – Unearthing (own label PD001)

John Dipper’s virtuosity on violin is well known as is his skill as a maker of concertinas. Of late he has turned his attention to the viola d’amore and on Unearthing he plays a fourteen string model made for him by Jonathan Hill. James Patterson was a member of Crows, ...
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TRADArrr – Strange News (Hedge of Sound Records HOS26 2020)

Strange News, TRADArrr’s third album, once again finds the septet’s assembled members taking traditional folk songs by the scruff of the neck and giving them a good shaking.  They kick off with Marion Fleetwood’s arrangement of ‘Rose Of Allendale’, a number sought out that pointedly didn’t include a murder, shipwreck, ...
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DAVID A HARLEY – Tears Of Morning (Wheal Alice Music)

David A Harley’s Tears Of Morning is a wonderful WABAC Machine that, in true Rocky and Bullwinkle Mr. Peabody (and Sherman!) fame, travels back in time to a welcome venue when acoustic guitar singing musicians plied the world with passion, melodies, introspective grace, and (thank you, John Martyn) acoustic danger ...
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LUKE CONCANNON – Ecstatic Bird In The Burning (The Movement TMCD001)

With Leamington’s Nizlopi now on an indefinite hiatus, frontman Concannon, who’s relocated to Vermont, returns to his solo career with Ecstatic Bird In The Burning, a second full-length album that sees him flitting around the genres, taking in folk, blues and jazz with the collaborative assistance of wife  Stephanie Hollenberg ...
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KEEPING IT LIVE IN LOCKDOWN – Winter Wilson Live From The Lounge

I was thinking of writing this review in seven weeks’ time – which is both unusually precise and about five weeks ahead of any planning I normally do for Reviews.  Why so precise? In eight weeks’ time Winter Wilson will be on Week 52 of Live From The Lounge – ...
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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Roy Bailey Remembered (Towersey Festival TF202001)

Roy Bailey was always a favourite of Towersey Festival. He was the festival’s patron and, in fact, his last album was a live set recorded at the festival in 2015. It was also his first and only live album and was apparently recorded without Roy’s knowledge and I can imagine ...
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THE MECHANICALS BAND – The Righteous Jazz (Rushmoor Records)

Having tackled Shakespeare and assorted poets on their last two releases, the Leamington Spa quintet comprising Wes Finch on guitars and vocals, drummer Ben Haines, Nizlopi’s John Parkes on upright bass and Katrin Gilbert and  Jools Street on viola and violin, respectively,  now turn their attention to the work of  ...
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KAREN MATHESON – Still Time (Compass Records)

Capercaillie vocalist Karen Matheson’s new album, Still Time, is a wondrous album that blends folk, slight jazz, and everything else “that’s sweetly play’d in tune”. It contemplates the surging waves of Loch Lomond - and then whispers the ancient secrets of its dark and watery depths. The first song, ‘Cassiopeia ...
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LUCERO – When You Found Me (Liberty & Lament)

Twelve albums in and several line-up changes along the way, but still fronted by Ben Nichols, the Memphis-based quintet (with added sax)  build on the music from his formative years for When You Found Me, a decidedly rock-driven collection of alt-country, kicking off with the chugging riff and pulsing rhythm ...
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IAIN MATTHEWS & THE SALMON SMOKERS – Fake Tan (Talking Elephant TECD465)

As his contribution to making us all feel better in these difficult times Iain Matthews has turned his attention to some old favourite songs plus a brand new one. Fake Tan (I wonder what that could refer to) was recorded in Norway with a quartet of musicians: Eivind Kløverød, Finn ...
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SINGLES BAR 61 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

LUKE JACKSON issues a seven-track digital EP, Of The Time, this month. The opening track, ‘I Am Not OK With This’, looks our present situation squarely in the face and, over a sweet and gentle acoustic arrangement, points several fingers at several targets. The rockier ‘Keep It Down’ turns its ...
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JIMMY LEE MORRIS – Truth Is The Talisman (AutomixRecords)

Both a  retrospective of previously unrecorded songs and new material, this double album from the Devon-based singer-songwriter, formerly half of The Hat Band, totals a massive 22 songs about love, break ups and growing older, spanning forty years of songwriting from the formative moody circling bluesy acoustic guitar ‘Moon Over ...
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ISOBEL CAMPBELL – Milkwhite Sheets (Cooking Vinyl)

One question: Where have you gone Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel? More about them later, but Isobel Campbell’s Milkwhite Sheets has been re-issued by Cooking Vinyl and is a soft, gentle, and nicely weird acoustic record that is dedicated to Shirley Collins, Jean Ritchie, and Anne Briggs. And it carves ...
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SEAN TAYLOR – Lockdown (own label STCD115)

Recorded, as the title suggests, during lockdown in London with overdubs by Mark Hallman done remotely in Austin, this is, for seven of the ten tracks, molten invective against corrupt government and organisations balanced with calls to support and defend the rights of minorities against establishment oppression. It’s hard not ...
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JIM GHEDI- In the Furrows Of Common Place (Basin Rock)

A starker sound and more personal focus characterise In the Furrows Of Common Place, the riveting third album from the Sheffield-born folk musician, one that puts greater focus on his singing than the previous, more instrumental material and embraces social-political observations rather than what he calls landscape sketches, drawing on ...
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JON BICKLEY AND THE INVISIBLE FOLK CLUB BAND – Under The Same Sky (Invisible Folk CD001)

Most of the music on Under The Same Sky has been written for a film project for The Higgins Museum. Jon Bickley is known as a lot of things - songwriter, folksinger, poet - but he and the Invisible Folk Club podcast producer Steve Yarwood, formed a partnership with the ...
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PETE McCLELLAND – The Way Back To You (Hobgoblin Records HOBCD1019)

Up to now, I was more aware of Pete McClelland as co-founder of Hobgoblin Music – a company that has provided me with several very decent instruments in recent years – than as a recording artist, but I was happy to get the opportunity to hear his latest CD The ...
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FRANKIE ARMSTRONG AND FRIENDS – Cats Of Coven Lawn (own label)

It may be just a coincidence that Frankie Armstrong celebrates her 80th birthday with this new album but I don’t believe in coincidences. The friends supporting Frankie on Cats Of Coven Lawn are guitarists Martin Simpson, Adam Ronchetti and Tom Pryor (who also plays violin and engineered the project); flautists ...
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GIULIA MILLANTA – Tomorrow Is A Bird (Ugly Cat Music)

Giulia Millanta’s new album, Tomorrow Is A Bird, blows with a deep fresh breeze of a folk-rock record that just happens to have really nice pop instincts. A vague reference point to the GM initiate (her Conversation With A Ghost is also very fine!) swivels the folk singer’s weathered vane ...
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SCOTT McKAY – Stupid Cupid  (own label)

Backed by his regular rhythm section of Josh and Sam Langille, alongside guitarist Grant Siemens and Burke Carroll on pedal steel, the Charlottetown singer’s third album dives deep into old school country waters, kicking off with ‘Stupid Cupid’, not a cover of the Connie Francis hit but a self-penned (as ...
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JIM CAUSLEY – Devonshire Roses (Hrõc Music HROC05)

Jim Causley returns to his roots for his Lockdown-2 album. Devonshire Roses follows Dumnonia – recorded ten years ago – by collecting together twenty songs from Devon, mostly traditional but with one of two surprises. He begins with ‘The Bell Ringing’. It is usually sung rather solemnly with the chorus ...
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THE QUESTIONNAIRES – Atlantic Ridge (Boom Chang Records BCCD018)

The Questionnaires are a ten-piece duo from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. What I mean to say is that at their core is the songwriting duo of Jane Wade and Steve Hall supported by eight more musicians. Their style, as exhibited on their second album, Atlantic Ridge, is Anglo-Americana mixed with AOR-inflected pop. It’s ...
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RICHARD HASWELL – With The Changing Light (Rhubarb Music)

Richard Haswell’s With The Changing Light is a great rock record (with electronica and jazzy subtitles) that holds a winning poker hand of classic sounds, yet successfully discards three of any kind, just to try something new. This Scottish album just cuts weird new blood. It’s the mythical music of ...
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TERRY CLARKE – Walk Like A King (Terrapin Records TRP 1920)

Many years ago Andy Roberts released an album called Urban Cowboy and although the two albums are very dissimilar it sprang to mind the first time I played Walk Like A King. I had an image of Robert Mitchum sauntering down a dusty street in some western town - even ...
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ELLES BAILEY – Ain’t Nothing But (Outlaw Music)

Speaking as a fellow artist, I have so much admiration for those who have managed to produce new music during this pandemic. A year in which we’ve seen gigs cancelled and venues on the brink, that music will out, regardless, shows its best side. It’s strength. Ain’t Nothing But by ...
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SINGLES BAR 60 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Following closely on the version by Larkin Poe comes another cover of ‘Nights In White Satin’, this from RED SKY JULY, the trio comprising Ally McErlaine, Shelly Poole and Haley Glennie-Smith. Closer to the original, it’s part of their acoustic covers EP, Favourite Things (Shadowbirds), a warm-up for next year’s ...
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DOLLY PARTON – A Holly Dolly Christmas (Butterfly Records190296823435)

Dolly saves Christmas. That’s what this album SHOULD be called. Instead it’s a cheeky re-work of the familiar Christmas song ‘Holly Jolly Christmas’, and indeed this is the opening track, with the exact amount of Dolly sass you’d expect. More good news, there’s a lyrics book to accompany the CD ...
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CONSTANTINE – In Memory Of A Summer Day (Guerssen Records)

Chicago’s Constantine’s new acid-psych folk album In Memory Of A Summer Day flows with both “cadence and cascade”. Yeah, they were apparently “ladies of the road” mentioned in a Pete Sinfield lyric for King Crimson’s In The Wake Of Poseidon album. But that’s beside the point. Cadence is just a ...
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HANZ ARAKI & KATHRYN CLAIRE – The Emigrant’s Song/The Laborer’s Lament (The Celtic Conspiracy CELCON003)

And so we come to the end of my reviews of the four CDs that comprise a seasonal set by the American duo Hanz Araki and Kathryn Claire. The Emigrant's Song/The Laborer's Lament has a theme that is less obviously tied to the summer, whereas the others have a clear ...
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RON JAPPY – Vincular (Bow Fiddle Records BWFDR001)

We often receive emails asking if we’d like to review such-and-such a CD and it seems churlish to refuse, even though it’s impossible to promise that anything will actually make it to print. Sometimes what we receive turns out to be a surprise and a delight and so it is ...
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MATTIAS LIES – Highs & Lows (Valley Music/Dalapop)

Swedish folky Mattias Lies’ album Highs & Lows shines a tintype dark lacquered light to Neil Young’s song ‘Don’t Let It Bring You Down’ with its cinematic words, “Dead man lying/By the side of the road/With the daylight in his eyes”. Odd: The first three songs float like a really ...
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TOBIAS BEN JACOB – Refuge (own label)

One half of Jacob and Drinkwater, produced by John Elliot Refuge is very much a solo affair and a departure from their sound as a duo with what he describes as “electronica-tinged story-songs inspired by people at the heart of the global refugee crisis”, variously given life from his song ...
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JOHNNY COPPIN – Midwinter – Live In Concert (Red Sky Records RSKCD 123)

Due to this unprecedented year of few live gigs, well known and well-respected singer/songwriter Johnny Coppin has brought out this delightful live album of his last All In A Winters Night Christmas gig of 2019 at the 500 seater Bacon Theatre in Cheltenham to keep us from missing his annual ...
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FIREFALL – Comet (Sunset Blvd. Records)

Firefall’s Comet, their first record in twenty plus years, spins with the same pop-country sound that graced the radio so many years ago. And quite frankly, what with the covid lockdown and general chaos everywhere in America, this is certainly an album for a lot of us who really don’t ...
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HANZ ARAKI & KATHRYN CLAIRE – As I Roved Out: Songs Of Spring (The Celtic Conspiracy CELCON002)

While my reviewing of this series of four CDs has been unavoidably eccentric so far, starting with the last in the series and moving on to the first, I'm now on track(-ish) with the second CD in the series, As I Roved Out: Songs Of Spring. Once again the songs ...
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MOSSY CHRISTIAN – Come Nobles And Heroes (One Row Records ORRCD002)

Sometimes only some old-fashioned traditional music will do and Come Nobles And Heroes serves that up in great style. It is the debut album by Mossy Christian, a young (very young) singer and musician from Northern climes who plays fiddle, Anglo concertina and one-row melodeon. The album opens with a ...
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CATFISH KEITH – Blues At Midnight (Fish Tail Records FTRCD018)

Catfish Keith releases his new album Blues At Midnight on December 15th. If you’ve even a passing interest in the Blues, you’ve probably come across his playing. The new release is Catfish Keith’s nineteenth album, with thirteen songs, all originals written at various points over his long career. That’s probably ...
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LONG TALL JEFFERSON – Cloud Folk (Red Brick Chapel Records)

Swiss-born Long Tall Jefferson (aka Simon Borer) says of his Cloud Folk record: it’s “an album for the now with elements of trap, cloud rap, chillwave”, as well as “bass-paddled melancholy, polished longing, minnesong and folk song and singer-songwriter traits translated into a new century”. I don’t know: all of ...
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HANZ ARAKI & KATHRYN CLAIRE – A Winter Solstice Celebration (The Celtic Conspiracy CELCON001)

Having recently reviewed (and very much enjoyed) the last in a series of CDs of largely traditional music from Hanz Araki and Kathryn Claire, I'm delighted to have received copies of the other three CDs in the series for review. I'm beginning with A Winter Solstice Celebration, not only because ...
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GRYPHON – Get Out Of My Father’s Car! (own label GRIFCD02)

There have been a couple of changes in the Gryphon line-up since their last outing. First there is a new bass-player in the shape of Rob Levy and second…the unprecedented presence of a woman. Clare Taylor (no relation but she has worked with Graeme in The Green House Band) plays ...
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CHILLY GONZALES – A Very Chilly Christmas (GENTLE022CD)

A Very Chilly Christmas is just lovely! I want to put on a cocktail dress and sip on something seasonal while I let this gorgeous Chilly festive collection wash over me. This is my first Chilly encounter, although how I do not know, he is so up my street and ...
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KIRIKI CLUB – Kiriki Club (own label Kiriki 001)

Drawing on backgrounds as various as clowning, dance, theatre and live art, the Birmingham-based sextet, Kiriki Club (the name inspired by Les Kiriki, a film from early 20th century, by the experimental film-maker Segundo de Chomón) , embrace a wealth of exotic world music influences on their self-titled debut. Featuring ...
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VARIOUS ARTISTS – A Gulf Coast Christmas (Gulf Coast GCRX9028)

I was delighted to review this album, A Gulf Coast Christmas for you. I love a Christmas album. I’m putting that out there right now. This release, full of bluesy guitar sprinkled with festive magic and sleigh bells, gets the party started perfectly with Mike Zito’s ‘All I Got For ...
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THE LOST NOTES – Lowlifes & High Times (own label)

Lowlifes & High Times, the much anticipated second album from Birmingham’s acoustic quintet, finds them dispensing with the debut’s playful socio-political numbers such as ‘Bankers Blues’ and ‘Green Grass’ for, as they put it, songs that celebrate the ups and downs of journeymen, despots, sleazeballs, fools, the planet and the ...
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KACY & CLAYTON AND MARLON WILLIAMS – Plastic Bouquet (New West Records)

Canadians Kacy & Clayton join forces with New Zealand singer-songwriter Marlon Williams for their wonderful new folk album Plastic Bouquet. They play sublime music that touches, as their website says, “Western Country, folk, and the troubadour tradition”. By the way, Plastic Bouquet echoes the kindred Canadian spirit of Ian & ...
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EDGELARKS – Henry Martin (Dragonfly Roots DRCD008)

It was only a matter of time before Phillip and Hannah called an album Henry Martin. If ever there was a title crying out for a home this is it. The pandemic has offered Edgelarks the opportunity to take a side-step from the path they have been following and record ...
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THE BILLS – ‘Til The Blues Have Gone (Wheeling RecordsWRCS 2O2OO1)

Norway-based American bluesmen, Bill Booth and Bill Troiani have played together in various permutations over the years, but ‘Til The Blues Have Gone marks their first recordings, a shared songwriting mix of deep blues, swing, and country, their combination of bass, guitar, fiddle and banjo fleshed out by Alexander Pettersen ...
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BEANS ON TOAST – The Unforeseeable Future (Botmusic)

The second album released to celebrate Jay’s 40th birthday is a reversion to his familiar DIY style. The Unforeseeable Future provides a commentary on what he calls “the 2020 shitshow” seen from a very personal, from-the-streets point of view. His heart is worn on his sleeve but unlike some writers ...
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BEANS ON TOAST – Knee Deep In Nostalgia (Botmusic)

The first of the two simultaneously released albums to mark his 40th birthday produced by Frank Turner and also featuring keyboardist Tensheds, Matt Hensley from Flogging Molly, Matt Nasir from Sleeping Souls, Turner’s wife Guise and Red Clay member Anna Jenkins, Knee Deep In Nostalgia finds Jay McAllister reflecting on ...
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B.J. COLE WITH DAVE EASTOE – Daydream Smile (Cow Pie COWFOURcd)

Invented in Hawaii by Joseph Kekuku around 1889 (although the first electric lap steel, invented by George Beaucham, preceded it in 1931), the steel guitar and its slack key style transformed American music, with 78 rpm records featuring its lilting sound outselling every other genre of music in the United ...
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THIS IS THE KIT – Off Off On (Rough Trade Records)

This Is The Kit’ s Off Off On is a dense tapestry of banjo fueled folk music that is enveloped in gossamer jazz tones and conjures the 70’s sound of Vashti Bunyan and Bridget St. John, or to cite the more modern singer, Karine Polwart. Now, while Kate Stables is ...
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THE NORDIC FIDDLERS BLOC – Bonfrost (own label NFB004CD)

Bonfrost is the third album of music spanning the North Sea from power fiddle trio, The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc. Anders Hall is from Sweden and plays viola and octave fiddle as well as the regular sort; Norwegian Olav Luksengård Mjelva plays octave and Hardanger and Kevin Henderson from Shetland just ...
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STEPHEN CLARK – The Lady Aurora (LAR01)

The Lady Aurora is the first solo album by Stephen Clark. The album is predominantly acoustic guitar instrumentals. Hmmm, how to give, in words, a flavour of how enjoyable The Lady Aurora is? I could talk about some of the tracks ‘Muddlin’ Through Boogaloo’ would be a great introduction to ...
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LARKIN POE – Kindred Spirits (Tricki-Woo Records)

Their second album of the year sees Rebecca and Megan Lovell turn to their record collection for an album of covers, recorded raw and live in response to fan requests during their lockdown streams. And a fascinating and eclectic set of choices Kindred Spirits is too. Opening with a 43-second ...
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ZOË WREN – RECKLESS RIVER (own label)

“Only Joni knows how blue I’m feeling now”, sings Zoë Wren on ‘Smoky Sunrise’, the opening track of Reckless River, giving a pretty good indication of one of her major influences, Mitchell’s early albums clearly echoing in the melody, the guitar tunings and vocals of a song that’s basically a ...
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HANZ ARAKI & KATHRYN CLAIRE – Songs Of Love & Murder (The Celtic Conspiracy CELCON004)

It's a long time since I reviewed an album consisting entirely of more-or-less traditional songs and tunes, but given the recent barrage of releases from Hans Araki and Kathryn Claire – four CDs in a year! – and the irresistible title, I had to give Songs Of Love & Murder ...
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MICHAEL CHAPMAN – Pleasures Of The Street (Mooncrest CRESTCD106)

Michael Chapman fans are having a field day at the moment as Secret Records continue with their program of album reissues. Pleasures Of The Street was recorded and released in 1975 with a band comprising Achim Reichel on lead guitar, bassist Steffi Stephen and drummer Keef Hartley. Two gigs were ...
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