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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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WORDS OF A FIDDLER’S DAUGHTER – Ironstone Tales (Under The Eaves UTE 005)

Words Of A Fiddler’s Daughter are The Ciderhouse Rebellion – Adam Summerhayes and Murray Grainger – and Jessie Summerhayes, she who provides and speaks the words. This is not a conventional band and Ironstone Tales is not a conventional record. It is part of a bigger project encompassing short films, ...
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KEITH JAMES – Scatterland (self-published)

We don’t often get books to review. However, there was a certain inevitability that Scatterland should come my way given that the earliest verses were written a scant few miles from where I sit when Keith James was successfully plying his trade in this area way back in the 1980s ...
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MICHAEL McDERMOTT – St Paul’s Boulevard (Pauper Sky)

If Bruce Springsteen didn’t exist, you’d have to invent him. In which case, he’d be called Michael McDermott. Hailing from Chicago, he made his critically acclaimed debut, 620 W. Surf, in 1991 and has subsequently released a further fourteen equally acclaimed albums alongside two with wife Heather Horton as The ...
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LEWIS WOOD – Footwork (Grimdon Records GRIDC006)

I don’t usually open a CD expecting to be educated, but Footwork - the debut solo album from Granny’s Attic violinist Lewis Wood - provided an unexpected learning experience. Then again, this is not an ordinary album - Footwork is an exploration of English step dancing, and its distinct regional ...
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LUTHRIE LOCKDOWN – Stronger Than Before (LL22001CD)

This is just great. Luthrie Lockdown released Stronger Than Before on June 6th.  The title is from the song ‘Stronger’: “I may be broken in a thousand ways But I will heal Hear me say I may be broken in a thousand ways I’ll mend Stronger than before” The band ...
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AMY HOPWOOD – Into The Woods (own label)

It won’t surprise you to learn that there are a lot of trees on this album. Trees, wood, forests and their inhabitants, both real and mythological abound. Into The Woods is Amy’s third album, mostly original songs with two traditional titles but the original songs have the timeless appeal of ...
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DAMIEN O’KANE & RON BLOCK – Banjophonics (Pure Records PRCD56)

Banjophobics look away now lest your delicate sensibilities be offended. Me, I like the sound of the banjo as much as the next man but I’m used to hearing it in certain contexts: bluegrass, complex Irish tunes, Appalachian songs and the diffuse genre of country/blues/folk/rock. With Banjophonics Damien O’Kane and ...
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TINA JORDAN REES – Beatha (own label TJR005CD)

Beatha is the debut solo album by flautist, pianist and whistle player Tina Jordan Rees who is originally from Lancashire but studied in both Limerick and Glasgow and is much travelled. All the music here is composed by Tina and she is accompanied by guitarist Seán Gray, Lea Larsen on ...
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SINGLES BAR 79 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Last year, M G BOULTER released Clifftown, a melancholic concept album about a fictional faded seaside town inspired by his hometown of Southend-on-Sea, Now, accompanied by Helen Bellon on violin, cellist Harriet Bradshaw on cello and John Bramwell on piano, comes a digital EP A Shadow Falls Over New Brighton ...
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CUA – Oh Sun Shine Down (own label)

Cua’s Oh Sun Shine Down is (to quote the great band Horslips!) “a warm sweet breath” of modern Irish folk music. And it conjures the very same magic as Clannad’s second album, purchased “by chance it was”, which was my first foray into Irish folk music. Horslips followed; then Planxty, ...
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TAMSIN ELLIOTT – Frey (Penny Fiddle Records PFR2206CD)

Tamsin Elliott is a talented multi-instrumentalist, composer and film-maker based in Bristol. She is a member of the quintet, Solana, alongside her brother Rowan who is one of her supporters here. Also present are Sid Goldsmith, Rowan Rheingans, Rowan Elliott, percussionist Ricardo de Noronha and Soufian Saihi on oud. Frey, ...
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BROOKS WILLIAMS & AARON CATLOW – Ready For The Times (Red Guitar Blue Music RGBM-2201C)

There are many reasons for recording an album: to make a point about the state of the world; to tell a story; to celebrate the beauty of music or just for the fun of it. Ostensibly, Ready For The Times, the second album by Brooks Williams and Aaron Catlow falls ...
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THE BLACK FEATHERS – Angel Dust & Cyanide (own label)

It’s been six years in waiting for a second Black Feathers Angel Dust & Cyanide album. Now, to get all biblical (as this music often has an American gospel vibe), that’s almost as long as Jacob had to labour to eventually marry the fair Rachel. And to continue the biblical ...
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CHRIS DOVER – It’s A Difficult World (own label)

An Americana singer/songwriter based in Bradford, accompanied by Anneka Latta on harmonies, bassist Joel Smith and the perhaps not really named Tsar Nicholas III on drums, Dover makes his solo album debut with this impressive set of largely slow-paced songs that nod to his assorted influences. It starts, though, with ...
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EMMA WILSON – Wish Her Well (own label EWMCD01)

Emma Wilson is a north-east based blues singer who has been making waves over the last couple of years - which takes some doing if you think about the last couple of years for live music. Wish Her Well is her debut studio album (two EPs were released in 2020) ...
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STACY ANTONEL – Always The Outsider (own label)

Always The Outsider, the debut album from the San Diego-born, Nashville-based retro Americana singer-songwriter and classically trained pianist explores metaphysical and supernatural concepts (you know, the usual stuff, alien-earthling romance, past-life trauma) as well as everyday narratives of isolation, disconnectedness, sexual desire and, having described herself as “a foreign exchange ...
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ANNA TAM – Hatching Hares (TAM Records TAM003)

You can see from the cover illustration what a multi-instrumentalist Anna Tam is. The instrument second from the right is a viola da gamba and the piano was too big to bring down to the water. Hatching Hares is Anna’s second solo album (she was formerly a Mediaeval Baebe); the ...
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SASKIA GRIFFITHS-MOORE AND CHANDRA CHAKRABORTY  – Live at Royal Albert Hall, South Kensington

Photograph by Tony Birch Together In Love And Separation Album Launch When two performers, who are well respected in their own fields, come together to try something new it deserves to be supported so that's how I found myself at the Royal Albert Hall, certainly not my usual haunt.  It ...
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TÉADA – Coiscéim Coiligh – As The Days Brighten (CEFCD218)

Téada have been together for twenty-one years and have recently released their sixth studio album Coiscéim Coiligh - As The Days Brighten. Amongst its claims to fame, the album includes the Irish-American actor (Oscar and Tony Award nominee), producer and musician John C Reilly joining regular vocalist Séamus Begley on ...
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THE SLAMBOVIAN CIRCUS OF DREAMS – A Very Unusual Head (Talking Elephant TECD474)

This is an album we’ve waited a long time for. I first heard of A Very Unusual Head a couple of tours ago – in fact, the Slambovians played the title track and, I think, ‘Solve It All Dãlí’ on that trip. It was suggested that the record would appear ...
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KEVIN McSHERRY – A Place To Stay (own label KMCD02)

Born in London but, for the past four decades, based in Clapham in the Yorkshire Dales, McSherry is a singer, songwriter, former teacher, fell runner and, along with two of his sons, furniture maker. A Place To Stay is his second album and, while his slightly reedy, gummy voice may ...
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HANNAH RARITY – To Have You Near (own label HR085HYN)

Three years after her debut – it’s taken everyone time to get back into the way of things – Hannah Rarity releases her second album, To Have You Near, a collection of original songs and covers. I say this a lot but it’s true – Hannah is supported by the ...
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BEFORE BREAKFAST – I Could Be Asleep If It Weren’t For You (After Dinner)

Well, The Moody Blues went In Search Of The Lost Chord, but Sheffield based Before Breakfast (cunningly on After Dinner Records!) is definitely in search of receptive and eclectic ears. I Could Be Asleep If It Weren't For You is an album of rare butterfly beauty. Gina Walters’ voice conjures ...
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CAROL FIELDHOUSE – Continuum (own label CAROLFIELDHOUSE03)

The opening notes of Continuum are enough to make you sit up and take notice. This is Carol Fieldhouse’s second album and her long experience as a performer and songwriter shines through every note and the musicians supporting her: Boo Hewerdine, Neill McColl, John McCusker and Chris Pepper and Mohammadreza ...
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HEIDI TALBOT – Sing It For A Lifetime (own label)

Heidi Talbot’s new album Sing It For A Lifetime bleeds folk beauty, which strays beyond her Irish origin, her Edinburgh home and her long ago contribution to the great band Cherish The Ladies. And this music pulses with the universal O-type blood because it courses the veins of human heartbreak ...
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LEE ROGERS – Gameblood (Zenith Café/Membran)

Based in Carrickfergus, Gameblood is Rogers’ second album, one that comes sixteen years after his debut, having pursued a  career as an award-winning tattoo artist in the interim. Produced and featuring guitar and keys by Gareth Dunlop with Rogers on guitar accompanied by bass, drums and pedal steel, it draws ...
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BOSUN HIGGS – A Most Particular Vintage (WildGoose WGS439CD)

I’m afraid that I’m long out of touch with the barn dance scene. The pandemic brought it to a shuddering halt but I don’t know how much things have recovered so it may be that Bosun Higgs – great name, by the way – are ahead of the curve in ...
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CORNER HOUSE – How Beautiful It’s Been (own label)

A transatlantic quartet comprising Orkney-born fiddler Louise Bichan and Americans Ethan Setiawan on mandolin, cellist and banjo player Casey Murray and frontman guitarist Ethan Hawkins who formed while studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston, they draw on traditional Irish, Scottish, Appalachian and bluegrass influences. How Beautiful It’s Been ...
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CHANDRA CHAKRABORTY   SASKIA GRIFFITHS-MOORE -Together In Love And Separation (own label)

If you look at Together In Love And Separation and expect the sort of collaboration in which the two elements hardly interact, I can tell you now that you’d be very wrong. Saskia Griffiths-Moore is well-known to our readers but Chandra Chakraborty perhaps needs some introduction. She is a classical ...
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JAMES EDWYN AND THE BORROWED BAND – Highlights Of The Low Nights (Last Night From Glasgow)

Sometimes you see a little glimmer of a light in the distance. Sometimes, like a glow-worm, it fades if you look too closely or shine a light on it; sometimes, like the sun reflecting for a period on an open window, it gleams from a long way off but then, ...
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JULIE JULY BAND – Wonderland (Aurora Folk Records JJB22CD1)

Wonderland is the third CD from the Julie July Band, and the second to feature all-original material. It also features a relatively new, expanded line-up. Apart from Julie herself on vocals, and longstanding sideman Steve Rezillo on electric guitars and vocals, this line-up includes Caley Groves on acoustic guitar and ...
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SEONAID AITKEN ENSEMBLE – Chasing Sakura (own label SMA03)

There is a story behind Chasing Sakura which I will do my best to summarise. Sakura (cherry blossom) is, in Japan, a symbol of spring and rebirth and is celebrated in hanami, experienced by Seonaid when she lived in Tokyo. Some years ago she suffered a serious riding accident and ...
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BOO HEWERDINE – Understudy (Reveal 186 CDX)

“Age is just a number” is the opening line of ‘Magnets’, a sentiment that Boo Hewerdine seems to contradict with the rest of the song. It gave me the impression that he’s walking a very particular tightrope. Understudy is the rather self-deprecating title of his new album, a record that, ...
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ROB LEAR – Strange Days (own label)

A singer-songwriter from the Welsh valleys, Strange Days is Lear’s third album, the follow-up to 2016’s Motorcycle Heart and again produced by Simon Tassano, albeit with Rob sharing the credits, here adding djembe and trumpet to the mix. As before, it mingles American and folk to melodically infectious effect, the ...
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FELLOW PYNINS – Lady Mondegreen (own label)

Fellow Pynins’ Lady Mondegreen is an endlessly intriguing and very acoustically melodic Rorschach Ink Blot Test that resurrects and interprets the waters of ancient folk song magic. But, as the Greek guy Heraclitus once said, “You cannot step into the same river twice”. So, this record sings an old song; ...
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RORY MATHESON & GRAHAM RORIE – We Have Won The Land (own label RUMSO3CD)

I doubt the English language has any writing that better describes listening to wordless music than that in EM Forster’s fifth chapter of Howard’s End. “How interesting that row of people was! What diverse influences had gone to the making! Here Beethoven, after humming and hawing with great sweetness, said ...
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PAUL WALKER & KAREN PFEIFFER – Auf Wiedersehen, Me Duck (Crazy Moose Records CM04)

Based in Stoke–on-Trent, in some ways Walker and Pfeiffer are an Anglo-German version of Skinner and T’witch, mixing playfulness with serious social comment. Both sharing vocals, he on guitar and she on recorder, Irish flute and Tibetan cymbals, Auf Wiedersehen, Me Duck, their fourth album, also features contributions from Ciaran ...
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THE AMERICANS – Stand True (Loose Music)

Put simply: America is defined by its endless and very musical frontier. And The Americans’ new album, Stand True, plugs into that wide-open and always windy sagebrush soul with wonderful tunes, genuine passion, and clever arrangements that push beyond any pre-fab notion of roots Americana. This is throttle-open big screen ...
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VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Wonderful World Of Depressing Country Music (Righteous/Cherry Red PSALM23110)

How can you resist. As anyone with a passing interest in folk music knows, there are certain gloomy staples in the tradition, primarily maidens being misled - and usually murdered – by feckless nobles/sailors/soldiers, dispossession, and death (drowning, disease, war), but it’s positively happy clappy compared to country music where ...
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KATE RUSBY – 30 Happy Returns (PURE PRCO73)

To mark her 30th anniversary in the music business, as she did with 20, Rusby has revisited songs from her past albums, all but three featuring special guests kicking off doing a Paul Simon with Ladysmith Black Mambazo bringing their distinctive joyous township vibe to ‘We Will Sing’ from Ghosts, ...
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MICHAEL JOHNATHON – AfterBurn (PoetMan Records PMR70032)

Does the man never sleep? Subtitled Folk at Arena Level, AfterBurn, his nineteenth album is the second this year and ranges from a chugging strum to a 61-piece symphony orchestra. Dubbed songs of war, peace and power, it opens with ‘Techno-Folk’, a one take live recording with long neck banjo ...
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THE SHACKLETON TRIO – Mousehold (own label)

Comprising Georgia Shackleton (fiddle, vocals), Aaren Bennett (guitar) and Nic Zuppardi (mandolin and banjo), the East Anglian trio pay tribute to the titular  area of heathland and woodland which lies to the north-east of Norwich, the perky opening fiddle and mandolin-led track noting there’s ‘No Road Across Mousehold’ (though there ...
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FRAYA THOMSEN – Release (own label 002)

Fraya Thomsen is a Scottish harper, composer, singer and teacher who draws her musical inspirations from far and wide without ever allowing herself to be pigeonholed. Release began life as a commission for Celtic Connections and was recorded in this form in isolation during 2020. Fraya is as well known ...
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BOB FREY – Ghost (own label)

Midwest singer-songwriter Bob Frey’s new Ghost album is a sincerely whittled selection of whiskey-soaked and quite wonderful songs that bleed with Gothic folk campfire prayers. Bob has the emotional tightrope vocal delivery of the sadly late Bill Morrissey. That’s a huge idiosyncratic complement! And not only that, but to sort ...
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JILL JACKSON – Yours Aye (JJR002CD)

Jill Jackson releases Yours Aye on May 6th. Jackson has a twenty year career in the music industry – UK singles charts, performing on Top of the Pops, playing the likes of T in the Park and Glastonbury etc. Yours Aye is her sixth solo record. Her previous album, 2018’s ...
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NATALIE D-NAPOLEON – You Wanted To Be The Shore But Instead You Were The Sea (own label)

To give her her full name, Natalie Damjanovich-Napoleon is a self-described torch and twang singer-songwriter and poet from Fremantle in Western Australia and was one of the leading lights in the emergence of the country’s alternative country music scene.  Recorded in Santa Barbara three years ago with a single microphone ...
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KINNARIS QUINTET– This Too (own label KO002CD)

This Too is Kinnaris Quintet’s second album, and it feels like a bright, comforting smile in tough times. That’s not surprising, as the title comes from those timeless words of comfort – this too will pass. Kinnaris Quintet consists of five bright stars of Scottish music. Laura Wilkie, Aileen Reid, ...
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PAUL BOLGER – Hard Truth (Pillar Stone Productions PPCD002)

Hailing from Waterford in south-east Ireland, Hard Truth is animator, graphic novelist, songwriter and musician Bolger’s second album under his own name (he debuted as The Moss House in 1995) , four songs from which are remixed and remastered versions from 2018’s The Start Of It limited edition EP with ...
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WOLF & CLOVER – Twelvemonth & A Day (own label)

Wolf & Clover are a six-piece band based in Columbus, Georgia. In fact they are all associated with Columbus University and its music schools – these guys are serious musicians. Their main influence is Celtic, particularly Irish, and multi-instrumentalist Matthew McCabe admits that they are a “weird bunch” probably because ...
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HÒ-RÒ – New Moon (own label)

Hò-rò New Moon is a really nice sip of Moray’s finest Windswept Wolf Scottish ale, and it also colours (perhaps because of the melodic alcohol content!) the Robert Burns image on the old five-pound Scottish note in deeper and more vibrant hues. And it’s always nice to say that the ...
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WILLIAM WILLIAM RODGERS – William William Rodgers Sings The Yellow Pages (own label)

His stage name lifted from a line in John Cale’s ‘Paris 1919’ and at times reminiscent of Robert Wyatt, the  refreshingly eccentric singer-songwriter from Birmingham with a keen ear for despondent whimsy and melody makes his album debut with, William William Rodgers Sings The Yellow Pages, a delightful collection of ...
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PAUL BRADY – Maybe So (Proper Records PRPCD162)

I may as well confess that the nearest thing I’ve heard previously to a complete Paul Brady album was probably actually by The Johnstons. Well, The Johnstons did, from time to time, step quite a long way beyond their traditional roots (I rather liked their version of Brel’s ‘Port Of ...
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NICK HART – Sings Ten English Folk Songs (Roebuck Records RRCD003)

Following a logical mathematical progression from eight and nine, recorded during the first 2020 lockdown, Hart used the enforced isolation to explore different approaches to traditional song, expanding his usual stripped down arrangements to introduce harmonium, lyre, viols percussion and woodwinds to the canvas as he Sings Ten English Folk ...
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KESTON COBBLERS CLUB – Alchemy (own label)

Two years on from Siren, the Bromley indie-folk band four-piece formed by siblings Matthew and Julia Lowe and close friend Tom Sweet return, alongside Harry Stasinopoulos on drums with Rachel Lansky on viola in typically high-spirited form with Alchemy, an album based around folklore from their home town.  The scene is ...
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SARAH MARKEY – Leaving Lurgangreen (own label SMM001)

If I don’t give a CD its first spin in the car chances are that I’ll do so while doing some routine jobs and so it was with Leaving Lurgangreen. It passed the test with flying colours, repeatedly distracting me from what I was supposed to be doing to check ...
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EDWINA HAYES – Ruby Rose (own label TWIRL03CD)

Released last Christmas, this is something of a belated review but, given the ten years between albums (though she was part of The Miles Roses 2017 album), it seems a rather negligible delay and, besides which, coverage of Ruby Rose has been criminally sparse. Born in Ireland, raised in Preston ...
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PETE GOW – Leo (CLUBHOUSE Clubhousecruk0061CD)

While his debut solo album, Here There's No Sirens, didn’t stray too far from the  alt-country path of  Case Hardin, Leo sees a real musical swerve as he embraces his inner Meatloaf/Jim Steinman, especially in his enunciation and delivery, overlaid with The Dreaming Spires’ Memphis soul influences of producer Joe ...
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THE HAAR- Where Old Ghosts Meet (Under The Eaves UTE006)

The old ghosts that are meeting here are the songs. All traditional songs are old by definition but fashions change and most of these enjoyed their heyday in the 60s. The majority have stood the test of time but one or two have been consigned to the attic, although, as ...
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BEAU – Al Killem’s Final Show (Cherry Red AKFS1)

It’s been said before but it bears repeating that Trevor Midgley is a sociopolitical satirist cut from the same cloth and of the same mettle as Jonathan Swift and Jake Thakray and Al Killem’s Final Show, his thirteenth album for Cherry Red and the second born during the pandemic, is ...
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JOE BROUGHTON’S CONSERVATOIRE FOLK ENSEMBLE – Not Leaving Quietly (own label SAECD19)

If you haven’t heard Joe Broughton’s Conservatoire Folk Ensemble live you’ve missed one of the great spectacles that folk music has to offer. The fifty musicians are drawn from various courses at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and tours every year in the long vac so the musicians and the musical ...
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