Reviews

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Welcome to the folking.com review section.

The folking review team is a small, dedicated group of people with a passion and a commitment for the folk, acoustic and Americana music scene. They review the latest releases, each in their own inimitable style…

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MAREKVIST – Marekvist (Come Alive Records)

Marekvist’s self-titled first album of “Norwegian folk music, guitar driven hard rock and ambient experimentation” certainly lives the advertisement adage for Peter Gabriel’s first album that simply read, “Expect the Unexpected”. Just so you know, in the 60’s America, there was a weird show called Outer Limits, which began each ...
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MARK HARRISON – The Road To Liberty (own label)

Mark Harrison is bluesman but that says very little about him. He’s also a fine songwriter and a player with the lightest touch with songs that never outstay their welcome. The Road To Liberty is a double album and if you want to know what it’s all about then the ...
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CHRIS CLEVERLEY – Live From The Glass Isle (own label)

Chris Cleverley’s 2019 album We Sat Back And Watched It Unfold was, in my view, nothing short of a masterpiece. I challenge you name a better second album by anyone – except perhaps Disraeli Gears. It should have catapulted him to the top of the heap, but… In the middle ...
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DAVID CROSBY – For Free (BMG)

Singer/songwriter David Crosby has always been a magnetic character within the scope of popular music. His very first solo album, 1971's If I Could Only Remember My Name boasted a host of big-name contributors with everyone from Jerry Garcia to Neil Young getting their hands dirty during the studio sessions ...
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New Forest Folk Festival – 2021 Review by Paul Johnson

To be honest, those of you who know me will know...I’m an audio man, a radio man, a broadcaster. My job for the last 30 years has been talking to people in one way or another. Being that in one of my bands, live radio, live radio road shows, pod ...
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GEORGIA ENGLISH – Pain & Power (own label)   

Now, here’s an interesting one. Described as an illustrated album Pain & Power is released as both a full-length album and an accompanying physical book containing colour-pencil illustrations and lyrics of each song. Accompanied by co-producer Josh Preston who played all the instruments, it documents the Nashville-based singer songwriter’s journey ...
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STEVE ASHLEY – Steve Ashley’s Family Album Revisited (Talking Elephant TECD465)

Steve Ashley had a long career before his time in the spotlight came with Stroll On and its follow-up Speedy Return. In the preceding decade he had worked with so many musicians and played at so many places but he seemed to be dogged by bad luck that continued even ...
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LANGAN, FROST & WANE – Langan, Frost & Wane  (Goldstar)

A Philadelphian coming together of  Brian Langan from the indie scene, doom rock guitarist RJ Gilligan (Frost)  and acid folk musician Nam Wayne, their debut album  offers up  21st century  psychedelic folk rock  but drawing deeply on such formative 60s UK roots as The Incredible String Band, Comus, Tyrannosaurus Rex, ...
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THE LITTLE UNSAID – Lick The Future’s Lips (Reveal Records, Reveal162DDX/CDX)

In response to an uncertain, overwhelming world shrunken by pandemic isolation, The Little Unsaid grasp firmly at the straws of positivity for this, their seventh album, Lick The Future’s Lips. The seductive, provocative title is something of a manifesto: a refusal to withdraw, a determination to dance on and tweak ...
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MAARTIN ALLCOCK – OX15 (Talking Elephant TECD460)

OX15 was the late Maartin Allcock’s second solo album, originally released in 1999 and now reissued with a sparkling new remix. OX15 is also an Oxfordshire postcode area in the middle of what was called the folk-rock belt and encompassing such cultural landmarks as Barford St Michael, Bloxham, Hook Norton ...
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THE AUGUST LIST – Wax Cat (All Will Be Well Records)

Wax Cat is the third album from Oxfordshire band The August List who are married couple Martin and Kerraleigh Child.  Having seen them live once at Ace Space in Newbury a few years back I’m glad to get the chance to review their latest offering. The album is certainly an ...
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ADELINE – Adeline (OWL 001)

It seems that the idea was to take five well-known old-timey musicians and stick them in a cabin in the Canadian wilderness in the middle of winter where the only way to keep warm was to play their instruments very fast. Actually, I’m probably making it sound much worse than ...
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CHRIS NEWMAN – Breaking Bach (Old Bridge Music OBMCD23)

We’re accustomed these days to guitar settings of classical music being performed on fingerpicked nylon or gut-strung instruments, probably with some clever tunings. For his new album, Breaking Bach, veteran guitarist Chris Newman does away with all that and here we have excerpts from five works by Johann Sebastian Bach ...
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POSSIL MÓR – Tales From The Garscube Road (own label PM01)

Both Possil Mór and their album Tales From The Garscube Road take their names from the area of Glasgow from which they hail. The band is essentially a duo of guitarist Bill Alexander who writes most of the music and vocalist Edith Casey but they have a lot of friends ...
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KATHRYN LOCKE WITH CHODOMPA MUSIC – LA (own label CHODOMPA1)

If you need a cellist in Scotland to work on your album, you’ll ask Su-a Lee; in England you’ll go in search of Kathryn Locke. Kathryn is a maverick of the cello world, self-taught and experimental, rejecting the classical route. Kathryn has been away from the scene for a while ...
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BRIAN PEARSON – Here’s To Song (own label)

Brian Pearson’s Here’s To Song is a potent (and quite magical) musical journey into the heart of British folk singing, circa every folk club of the early 70’s. Now, no one can ever emulate the performance of (the great!) Vin Garbutt, yet this album touches the very same folk root ...
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SINGLES BAR 68 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Based in Fordingbridge in the New Forest, BECOMING BRANCHES are a folk-country trio comprising lead vocalist Jaz, keyboardist Hannah and guitarist/drummer Rob, who also writes the songs, their self-released, self-titled debut EP marking them out as very promising newcomers indeed.  Underpinned with a steady guitar chug, the catchy opening ‘Take You Home’ ...
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FLO PERLIN – Characters (own label)

Based in London with Iraqi and Belarusian heritage, ordained as a Buddhist nun and with a strong interest in (self-)psychoanalysis, Perlin learnt cello when she was five, discovered fingerpicking guitar via bossa nova, taught herself piano and started singing at the age of ten. Exploring themes that include family roots, ...
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CARBONHOBO – Memoirs From the Crooked Road (Merry Hell Music MHMCD00221)

Memoirs From The Crooked Road is brought to you by Carbobhobo, aka Neil McCartney, who some will recognise as the fiddle player in Merry Hell and for those who remember the 90’s, as one of the founding members of The Big Geraniums. This album is a collection of songs and ...
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WILD EARP AND THE FREE FOR ALLS – Dyin’ For Easy Livin’ (Western Myth Records)

If there is any way in which you’re feeling a bit down, just play this album. There is a joie de vivre? joie de humanity? perhaps just sheer joy? to Dyin’ For Easy Livin’ which means that every time I’ve played the album, quite simply, I feel better and the ...
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VARIOUS ARTISTS – I Am Of Ireland – Yeats In Song (Merrow – digital only release)

I Am Of Ireland is a collection of twenty-four poems by William Butler Yeats newly set to music by Raymond Driver and featuring more than thirty musicians of a generally Celtic persuasion. I’m a bit of a fan of Yeats – yes, I’ve been to Sligo and seen the Lake ...
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TONY COX – The World Went Quiet (own label)

“What a strange, strange year we have all had.”  So begin the sleeve notes for Tony Cox’s new album The World Went Quiet. Cox was born in Zimbabwe, has won multiple South African Music Awards, was unknown to me until I came to this album – and is an absolutely ...
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BmB – Ge Vindt Wel Een Taal (Own Label)

Ge Vindt Wel Een Taal (‘You Will Find A Language’) is the debut album from Netherlands balfolk trio, BmB. With its emphasis on danceable tunes (the dominant aspect of Netherlands balfolk, specifically), it’s nevertheless still rich with narrative songs. Here is music old and new, sometimes like an ancient echo ...
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JEZ HELLARD & THE DJUKELLA ORCHESTRA – The Fruitful Fells (Djukella JDHCD004)

Some artists wrap hard-hitting words up in pretty tunes but Jez Hellard has gone one further and wrapped up a set of serious songs in pretty pictures and left his listeners to figure it out for themselves. Clever. As is my habit, I stuck the CD in the player when ...
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GABRIELE MUSCOLINO – Gabriele Muscolino (Visage Music Sas)

Gabriele Muscolino’s self-titled album is a warm acoustic recording from Italian singer-songwriter, who while singing in his native language, which, given a belief in Jungian collective unconscious archetypes, sings to the musical soul of folk lovers across the globe. A couple of ideas: I don’t speak a word of Italian, ...
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HAV – Haar (own label digital release)

A trio comprising singer Alex Ross, fellow multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Bidgood and bass player Ian Paterson, their name is taken from the Danish word for sea and Haar from the meteorological phenomenon of a coastal fog that appears as cold air from the North Sea meets warmer air at the edge ...
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GERRY COLVIN – Fully Functioning Wind Up Mechanism (own label GC004)

As well as being the living definition of a consummate live performer (with sold out signs a regular occurrence), with songs that variously offer sharp social and political commentary or touch the heart of what it means to be human, Colvin is unquestionably one of this country’s finest – if ...
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MICHAEL McGOVERN – Highfield Suite (Cauldron Music CMCD004)

A high-voiced 25-year-old singer-songwriter from Glasgow, McGovern cites Springsteen, Dylan and Paul Simon among his influences, the latter clearly to be heard on the infectious title track of this impressive debut album with its echoes of ‘Homeward Bound’. Recorded with a single microphone in a wooden cabin in Ireland and ...
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MURRAY McLAUGHLAN – Hourglass (True North Records TND777)

Put simply: Hourglass is yet another brilliant and quietly assertive Murray McLauchlan album. That’s saying a lot, what with countless records, a track record that dates back to the 70’s, and twelve Juno Awards to his name. He’s a contemporary of Bruce Cockburn, Gordon Lightfoot, and Joni Mitchell. And he ...
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DUNCAN LYALL – Milestone (Red Deer Records RDRCD2101)

Duncan Lyall has been accustomed to making his living playing bass but his talents reach much further than that (no offence to bass players intended). Since parting company with Treacherous Orchestra he has concentrated on his own new music using synths – but he still plays bass. Milestone represents the ...
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WOUTER EN DE DRAAK – Zonnewachter (Sena)

My fluency in Dutch is measured in negative numbers but I do know that draak means dragon. Wouter En De Draak are Wouter Kuyper who plays accordion and bagpipes and guitarist Joris Alblas, who must be the dragon although anyone who looks less draconian you couldn’t hope to meet. They ...
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KATHERINE PRIDDY – The Eternal Rocks Beneath (Navigator NAVIGATOR106)

Making her recording debut back in 2018 with her well-received Wolf EP, Birmingham-based Priddy has wisely taken her time in working up to a full album, notching up some heavyweight support slots with the likes of Richard Thompson,  limited edition vinyl single ‘Letters From A Travelling Man’ and a Nick ...
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LILLEBJØRN NILSEN   ANDY IRVINE – Live In Telemark (Heilo HCD7366)

I don’t think that Andy Irvine needs any introduction - Lillebjørn Nilsen probably does. He’s a Norwegian singer, multi-instrumentalist and song-writer and the much travelled pair have known each other for many years, often talking about working together but never doing anything about it. That ended at the Telemark Festival ...
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MATTHEW ROBB – War Without Witness (own label)

War Without Witness is Matthew Robb’s third album – and it’s as good as the first two. If Robb is a new discovery – and he really should be discovered by more people – think of the sensibility of, say, Guthrie and early Dylan (political, personal, humane, tender … and ...
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JOE DANKS – Seaspeak (own label)

I once tried to explain to a red-haired lady in Dublin that I had no connection with the sea as I was brought up in Derbyshire which is as far from the ocean as it was possible to get. It was to no avail but it was gone midnight and ...
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DANI LARKIN – Notes For A Maiden Warrior (own label)

An emerging star on the folk scene from the Armagh-Monaghan border, Larkin delivers an assured and hugely impressive debut, Notes For A Maiden Warrior, handling guitar, harmonium and banjo with George Sloan on percussion and cello alongside violinist Kate Squires. Drawing on Irish folklore and mythology, it’s conceived as lessons, ...
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SINGLES BAR 67 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

DYLAN LeBLANC was brought up, in part, in Muscle Shoals which is a hell of a place to start your musical education. He has released four solo albums over the last decade or so and now he’s returned with an EP of covers, Pastimes – six classic songs from the ...
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TOM WEST – I’m Livin’ (AntiFragile Music)

Australian singer-songwriter Tom West’s I’m Livin’ is an album of dark sonic colours that hover over very acoustic melodies. These tunes burn from a smokey soul. Now about that elephant in the room (aka truth or dare)—Tom West’s vocals are a dead-ringer for Jake Bugg. It took my friend, Kilda ...
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JAMESTOWN REVIVAL – Fireside With Louis L’Amour (Thirty Tigers)

You might not be familiar with the work of Louis L’Amour, an American writer whose   work centred around Western novels or ‘frontier stories’, but Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance are big fans, their past releases often drawing on his writings. Now they go the whole hog with a collection of ...
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JOHN HINSHELWOOD – Called Back (Littleroots Records LRCD 1006)

I’ve never read the poetry of Emily Dickinson, although she is somewhat revered now. During her lifetime she was regarded as an eccentric – what poet isn’t? – and her fame only came posthumously. John Hinshelwood is a Scottish singer-songwriter who has departed from his usual style to compose music ...
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GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT- A Sleeping Place (own label)

Taking their name from the mythology of King Arthur and the Round Table saga, the tale in question one of death and rebirth, this emerging Brooklyn duo comprise Greek-born singer-guitarist Alexia Antoniou and multi-instrumentalist husband Mike O’Malley, their new six track EP, A Sleeping Place (the title inspired by the ...
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ROD STRADLING -Treacle & Bread (Ghosts From The Basement GFTB 7059)

Treacle & Bread is a blessed glance at the magic of Rod Stradling’s musical transfusion into the very blood pulse of British folk music. This all-instrumental album proves, to almost quote the Killer (aka Jerry Lee Lewis!), “There’s a whole lot of melodeon shakin’ going on”. Not only that, but ...
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AVA – Wildflower (AVVCD001)

Wildflower by AVA was released in early April. I missed it until recently, which is a shame because the album is sheer delight. AVA is Irish singer/songwriter Éabha McMahon (phonetically: Ava McMan), formerly part of Anuna and then Celtic Woman, respectively an internationally renowned Irish choral group and a globally ...
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CHLOE FOY – Where Shall We Begin (Chloe Foy Music)

Where Shall We Begin is an intense and lovely (almost Baroque ornamented) very modern folk album. Quite frankly, it could well be the soundtrack to my backyard butterflies bouncing and flitting in the winged wind - with, of course, my English setter pup Matilda giving determined, yet playful pursuit. Where ...
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MIKE TURNBULL – Two Kingdoms (own label MTM05)

Lakeland singer-songwriter Mike Turnbull is no stranger to these pages. Tracing his ancestry back to the reivers – or perhaps their victims – Mike has a great affinity with his homeland and its myths and stories, both old and new. He’s a multi-instrumentalist and is supported by his live band, ...
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TRÚ – No Fixed Abode (own label)

A trio from Ulster comprising multi-instrumentalist Michael Mormecha, guitarist and singer Zach Trouton and Dónal Kearney, a folk singer brought up in the Irish language tradition, their impressive debut album, No Fixed Abode, recorded over three years, mines a variety of folklore (the trio’s named after named after a band ...
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SINGLES BAR 66 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Norfolk singer-songwriter LUCY GRUBB self-releases her third EP, Waste My Time, a four track set of folksy Americana circling around themes of relationships and getting through hard times. The lyrically upbeat shuffling title track kicks it off, written for a friend struggling with a difficult relationship and about how it’s ...
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PAUL HANDYSIDE – Loveless Town (Malady Music)

If there is such a genre as dark country then Paul Handyside must be its master. His fourth solo album, Loveless Town, is deeply embedded in Americana but there are hints of the guitar sound he employed in his early days with Hurrah! Coming, as he does, from the north-east ...
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MARIA MULDAUR with TUBA SKINNY – Let’s Get Happy Together (Stony Plain SPCD 1429)

On a first casual listening I thought this was a clever pastiche of the music of the 1920s and 30s. When Maria Muldaur first heard Tuba Skinny, sight unseen as it were, she thought she was hearing a band from the period. We were both wrong. Let’s Get Happy Together ...
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THE VILLAGE – Ghosts In The Static (own label)

The Village – or Phil Matthews as they probably call him down the pub – made quite an impression with his previous album, Escape From The Witchwood, a mysterious set of songs drawing (loosely at times) on myth and folklore. Ghosts In The Static brings us closer to the real ...
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LUNATRAKTORS -The Missing Star (own label)

Lunatraktors burst onto the national scene with their debut album followed by a fine EP. This coincided with the start of the current crisis and at a more auspicious time we would have been flocking to see them – something I’m still looking forward to. Carli Jefferson and Clair Le ...
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TOM CLELLAND – Handpicked & Collected (Modestine Modestine002)

While I was not well-acquainted with the work of Tom Clelland, I've always liked songs that tell a story, so I was immediately drawn to his new CD release Handpicked & Collected. The compilation consists of 23 tracks mastered/remastered by Kris Koren and spread over two CDs. Handpicked is a ...
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SARAH-JANE SUMMERS & JUHANI SILVOLA – The Smoky Smirr O’ Rain (Eighth Nerve 8nerve008)

The Scottish/Scandinavian fusion movement continues apace with Scottish fiddler Sarah-Jane Summers and Finnish guitarist and composer Juhani Silvola, now based in Norway, releasing their third album as a duo. The Smoky Smirr O’ Rain mixes traditional tunes from their two native countries with four original compositions. They begin with three ...
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GRAHAM RORIE – The Orcadians Of Hudson Bay (own label RUMS02CD)

It strikes me that quite a few composers working in the broader field of folk music are now writing what might best be described as soundtracks for films or TV programmes as yet unmade. Perhaps the “purest” of these is The Orcadians Of Hudson Bay by Orkney fiddler Graham Rorie, ...
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OLD SEA BRIGADE – Motivational Speaking (Network Records)

Old Sea Brigade’s Motivational Speaking is definitive proof of Robert Frost’s ‘Road Not Taken’. Sure, Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) retreated to my own native Wisconsin, lived in a backwoods cabin and longed For Emma, Forever Ago. But, perhaps, that “road not taken” may have led singer-songwriter introspection to Atlanta, ...
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SINGLES BAR 65 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

STUART SMITH recorded The Sun EP Vol.2 in the world-famous Memphis studios using the time-honoured technique of one voice, one acoustic guitar, one harmonica and even a bit of talkback. (Vol.1 was released in 2019.) Maybe it’s the association with Sun Studio that brings it on but there is a ...
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CRAIG CARDIFF – All This Time Running (True North TND764)

Hailing from Ontario, Cardiff has notched up sixteen solo album, live and studio recordings, but All This Time Running is his first full-length collection of original material in five years and also marks his debut on the prestigious Canadian label. It’s unfortunate then that I can’t be completely effusive as ...
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JIMMY LEE – Broken (own label)

Born in Bristol, played all over the world for the last fifteen years, Jimmy Lee has just released his debut album, Broken, and it’s good. Lee has played pubs, clubs and restaurants and radio, television and Las Vegas Casinos. Broken is the album of a man who has ‘paid his ...
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STARAN – Staran (own label)

Odd: Sometimes age sings with the most youthful voice: Such is the case with Staran’s self-titled album of Scottish folk music that touches the fresh watery current of the Euphrates River on the third day of creation, yet revolves around a newly discovered planet that sings fresh hymns to a ...
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GNOSS – The Light Of The Moon (Blackfly Records BFLY04CD)

The Light Of The Moon is the second album by Gnoss, a quartet founded by two Orcadians, Aidan Moodie and Graham Rorie and expanded by Connor Sinclair and Craig Baxter. Here they are helped out by James Lindsay’s double bass. It may be their time at the Royal Conservatoire of ...
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