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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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SINGLES BAR 59 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

JOHN NAPIER follows up his Give Us Some Money EP with the self-released Bandcamp download Things Are Much Worse Than We Had Thought, opening with the jaunty ukulele strummed, bass drum thumping, handclapping title track, a jaunty downbeat singalong to join in with as we all plunge into the abyss ...
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THE OUTSIDE TRACK – Christmas Star (own label)

For their sixth studio album The Outside Track turn their attention to Christmas. But Christmas Star isn’t a jolly carol singalong nor a roll-up-the-carpet-and-party-till-dawn sort of record – although ‘Christmas Eve Party’ might tempt you. Of course, we’re not going to have that sort of Christmas this year and although ...
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NORRIE MACIVER AND THE GLASGOW BARONS – Songs Of Govan Old (Glasgow Barons GLASGOWBARONS01)

Norrie MacIver and the Glasgow Barons, with their brilliant folk album, Songs Of Govan Old, manage to disprove (the great) Thomas Wolfe’s novel title comment, You Can’t Go Home Again. Of course, this is a concept record that conjures the memory of Glasgow’s Govan - once a shipbuilding soul of ...
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HARRIET RILEY & ALEX GARDEN – Sonder (own label HRAG01)

I am always amused by a line just before Hector’s funeral in The History Boys when Frances de la Tour says “I hope he doesn’t say that he loved words”. Of course that is exactly what the vicar says and I’ve been to funerals like that. The point of that ...
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TANYA BRITTAIN – Hireth (TCR Music TCRM75903)

Tanya Brittain is best known as half of The Changing Room with Sam Kelly and a supporter of all things Cornish. Hireth is her first solo album and concentrates on her own songwriting, although there are two traditional songs. Tanya plays piano and organ and her support includes two almost ...
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THE QUIGGS – Wings Of Gold (Lowland LOWLAND021)

The third album from the Scottish/Danish husband and wife partnership of Pernille and former McCalmans member Stephen Quigg, Wings Of Gold combines a heady mix of traditional contemporary covers and five of Pernille’s own songs. One such is the strumalong title track which, veined with nature imagery of the sun ...
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GREGORY PAGE – One Hell Of A Memory (Interrabang Records)

Seasoned songwriter Gregory Page releases One Hell Of A Memory on November 13th. He describes its genesis and creation as, "This album came out of an extremely difficult period in my life, one in which I found myself fighting a very powerful force. Although I understood the risk I was ...
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DAN SUMNER – Ebb And Flow (Naranjo Records)

Dan Sumner’s Ebb And Flow, like the best music of (the very great) John Martyn, touches sublime thoughts and then makes them intensely human. There’s plenty of “grace and danger” in these grooves in which rock, blues, and folk spin in a melodic eddy of circular sound. The first two ...
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MARIO POLETTI – One Man One Mandolin (own label)

I’ve reviewed two albums by the Teres Aoutes String Band – Italian mountain music with a strong sense of fun and some high-class musicianship, led by the sound of Mario Poletti’s mandolin. All of that is also present in One Man One Mandolin, Poletti’s new album. It’s slightly more than ...
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TOM MASON – Under A Mistletoe Sky (Gas Station Music)

Yes, it’s the first Christmas album review, Under A Mistletoe Sky taking a sleigh ride out of Nashville with ten brand new country yuletide tunes that get the seasonal bells ringing with the bluesy calypso groove of ‘Crazy For Christmas’ with its trombone and doo wop backing vocals. The title ...
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JIM WHITE – Misfit’s Jubilee (own label)

Misfit’s Jubilee was released on October 30th, White’s eighth solo album. The picture of the album cover gives a feel for the album, a bit like a trip on a magic swirling ship, an album which is a mix of recent compositions and songs from White’s back catalogue that didn’t ...
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JUDY FAIRBAIRNS – Edge Of The Wild (Wild Biscuit WBM008)

A published writer and artist, Fairbairns now adds singer-songwriter to the CV with this collection of songs exploring her life on the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides and inspired by her 2013 memoir Island Wife : Living On The Edge Of The Wild. Produced by Wild Biscuit and ...
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BARBARA DICKSON – Time Is Going Faster (Chariot Records CTVPCD022)

Barbara Dickson’s twenty-fifth solo album sees her reaching back as if to defy the idea that time is going faster. We find her returning to traditional songs, covering old favourites and turning her hand to songwriting for the first time in thirty years. Supporting her are old friends Nick Holland, ...
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DARRELL SCOTT – Jaroso (Full Light Records 539588)

A member of Robert Plant’s Band of Joy, Scott recorded this no PA live album with two mics, one for vocals and one for the instruments (guitar, banjo, 12 string) in a former Catholic adobe church in Jaroso, the last village in South Central Colorado on the New Mexico border ...
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MERRY HELL – Emergency Lullabies (Merry Hell Music mhm00120)

Following on from the release of its three eco-based singles, the fossil-fuel themed ‘Leave It In The Ground’, Greta Thunberg tribute ‘Sister Atlas’ and climate change alarum ‘Emergency Lullaby (Wasting Time)’, now comes the associated album, Emergency Lullabies, the band’s sixth and one which, after the previous acoustic Anthems To ...
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RACHEL NEWTON – To The Awe (Shadowside SHADOW04)

When this album first arrived I took one look at the cover and wondered what strange beast had come my way. I’ve seen Rachel Newton perform several times but never looking quite like this. I wouldn’t normally do this but I must credit Somhairle MacDonald for the imaginative photographs herein ...
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JEZ LOWE – Crazy Pagan (Tantobie TTRCD 120)

If anyone is equipped to record a solo album at home in these strange times it’s probably Jez Lowe. Crazy Pagan contains new and recent songs and Jez brings all his instrumental prowess to bear – I don’t recall him playing accordion before, but I could be wrong. The songs ...
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MARC BLOCK – Faerie Fire Dances (Glasspool Music Glasspool003)

Block says that his new album largely consists of songs inspired by his connections with the Radical Faeries, which, if you’re wondering, is a worldwide anti-establishment countercultural movement, sometimes seen as a form of modern Paganism, whose purpose is to redefine queer consciousness through secular spirituality. Founded in California during ...
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MY DARLING CLEMENTINE – Country Darkness (Fretsore Records)

My Darling Clementine’s Country Darkness collects together three EPs in which band members Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish pay a detailed and loving tribute to the music of Elvis Costello - that guy formally known as Declan MacManus. It’s just an idea, but the heavenly voices of Michael Weston ...
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MEDICINE HEAD – New Bottles, Old Medicine (Cherry Red)

I can’t remember the venue, but I won’t forget the first time I saw John Fiddler and Peter Hope-Evans play live, blowing me away with the power that just a bass drum, harmonica, Jews harp, guitar and vocals would create. Signed to John Peel’s Dandelion label, New Bottles, Old Medicine ...
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WEST OF EDEN – Cabin Songs (West of Music)

Earlier this year, Sweden’s outstanding folk-rock combo, decamped to a summer house to lay down some more intimate-styled one-take recordings, including singer Jenny Schaub in sterling form on a reflective, Celtic folksy, upright bass-backed reading of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’. The five other Cabin Songs are all originals, starting off with ...
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MARTIN SIMPSON – Home Recordings (Topic TSCD609)

Many artists have produced lockdown albums this year utilising whatever resources they could muster. Martin Simpson, it seems, took a more leisurely approach, at one point returning to the finger-pick banjo style he abandoned many years ago. And he practised as he always has - he once said that every ...
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THE RHEINGANS SISTERS – Receiver (Bendigedig BEND 15)

Receiver, their first release since Bright Field finds Rowan and Anna Rheingans joining forces with visual artist Pierre-Olivier Boulant, whose solarographs (pin-hole camera images) part of the sleeve notes as well as a framework for the artistic process behind the album. Predominantly instrumental, a combination of interwoven storytelling and observation, ...
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BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – Letter To You (Columbia Records)

Springsteen seems to be a roll at the moment with no sign of slowing down. His previous album Western Stars which was released last year has become a firm favourite of mine with its sweeping dusty Western prairie soundscapes and laidback country 60s and early 70s nostalgic pop feel (reviewed here) ...
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SINGLES BAR 58 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

UK duo FERRIS & SYLVESTER are Issy Ferris and Archie Sylvester and I Should Be On A Train (LAB Records) is their new lockdown recorded EP, the title track a wistfully sung, fingerpicked but gradually building in power country blues about a woman planning her escape, but not having the ...
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BEN HEMMING – Broken Road (own label)

Ben Hemming released Broken Road in the summer and it’s just come across my desk. Hemmings is described in various terms – mostly some distance from the folk genre – such as “nu-bluesman” or “alt-rock credentials but still maintains his blues roots”. Musically, I reckon its less delta or Chicago ...
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KATY ROSE BENNETT – Where Does It Hurt? (own label)

Part of Oxford’s illustrious Bennett family of musicians (her brothers being Joe and Robin of variously The Dreaming Spires, Co-Pilgrim and Bennett, Wilson & Poole), formerly trading as KTB, based in Birmingham Katy’s released five solo albums to increasing critical acclaim, but, for those not yet familiar with her work, ...
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KRIS DREVER – Where The World Is Thin (Reveal Records)

Kris Drever’s Where The World Is Thin is a musical glance at the beautiful horizon of very current Scottish folk music. A necessary metaphor: Although Kris (and dad Ivan of solo and Wolfstone fame!) hail from Orkney, the songs on this album conjure my Midwestern American traveller’s memory as our ...
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FELIX HATFIELD – False God (FB:02)

“Songwriting is one of the most mysterious and magical forms of art. It’s like having a blank piece of paper and some crayons. You don’t have to be the best, you just have to be brave enough to explore and bold enough to court the unknown.” Felix Hatfield, who wrote ...
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MARTIN STEPHENSON – Pink Tank (Barbaraville Records BVPTCD)

Having revisited, reworked and rerecorded Salutation Road (a wonderful piece of work), Martin Stephenson turns his attention to another bunch of old songs – let’s face it; there is only so much new say about being in isolation on the Scottish coast. These eleven tracks were originally released in 2004 ...
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BRENT COBB – Keep ‘Em On They Toes (Ol’ Buddy Records)

Cousin of producer Dave Cobb, Keep ‘Em On They Toes is Brent’s fourth album, one on which he says is more about thoughts and feelings than people and places. It’s also got quite a playful tone in places, especially on the title track opener, a co-write with his wife designed ...
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JENNY STURGEON – The Living Mountain (Hudson Records HUD021CD)

I’ve long been an admirer of Jenny Sturgeon’s work, both as a soloist and lately with Salt House, and I suspect that The Living Mountain will soon come to be regarded as a classic. The music and the record’s title are inspired by the poetry of Nan Shepherd who wrote ...
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BEULAH – Hollow (own label)

From Manchester and based in the High Peak, encouraged in songwriting by family friend Gary Barlow, Beulah Garside (as was) released her debut album, Mabel and I, back in 2005, the track ‘Stay’ going on to become a compilations staple and she spending time working in Nashville and LA. The ...
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KRISTOF ROBERT – Nice Place (own label KRISRCD001)

Nice Place is Kristof Robert’s debut album, released in September this year. Robert is based in Carrick-on-Suir towards the south of Ireland but grew up in Orleans (in case you mis-read that, think the Loire, not the Mississippi) and the Guerande Peninsula, and this album is a delightful blend of ...
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JACK HENDERSON – Where’s The Revolution (Fretsore Records FR0014)

Jack Henderson is a veteran Scottish singer-songwriter with a voice that seems capable of anything. At first he put me in mind of Frankie Miller but Jack is much smoother. He’s also a more than capable instrumentalist – there are some lovely sounds on this record, notably the guitar leads ...
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PETER MULVEY & SISTASTRINGS – Live At The Cafe Carpe (Righteous Babe Records)

A digital download, Live At The Cafe Carpe brings the veteran Milwaukee songwriter and activist together with sibling violin and cello duo Monique and Chauntee Ross also adding harmonies for a collection of old, recent and new material along with some choice covers, recorded at the venue where he began ...
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JEFF AND TERESA DAVIDSMEYER – Songs From The Cabin (own label)

Neil Young once sang, ‘Like A Hurricane’. Fair enough! But Jeff and Teresa Davidsmeyer sing from the calm eye of the hurricane. Songs From The Cabin is an absolute moment of acoustic folk song solitude midst tough and turbulent times. It’s a musical balm in the quietude of nature’s folky ...
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THE TEA CUPS – In Which… (Haystack HAYCD014)

In Which... is The Teacups third and as it transpires final album, the Newcastle on Tyne a capella quartet deciding to call it a day after ten years. Alex Cumming, Kate Locksley, Rosie Calvert and Will Finn go out on a high with this rousing collection of seafaring songs and ...
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TOM HOUSTON – Gap In The Fence (IPP333)

Gap In The Fence, the fourth album by Scottish Highlands singer-songwriter Houston, produced by and featuring Neill MacColl, son of Ewan and erstwhile member of The Bible, takes its title to represent both the enticing promise of adventure into realms unknown and the potential threat of what lurks beyond, and ...
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JOSIE BELLO – Have Purpose Live Long  (own label)

Josie Bello released Have Purpose Live Long over the summer, a collection of eight songs and her second album, following the well-played Can’t Go Home. Bello is a singer-songwriter born and raised in New York City and now living on Long Island, where she plays as a solo artist, as ...
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RYAN HAMILTON & THE HARLEQUIN GHOSTS – Nowhere To Go But Everywhere (Wicked Cool)

Among the many videos we received this summer was one to accompany ‘Jesus & John Lennon’, the third song from Nowhere To Go But Everywhere. The film was OK and the song was intriguing but there was always the suspicion that it could just be the best song on the ...
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PADRAIG JACK –Making Sand (Good Deeds)

Born and raised on the Aran islands off the west coast of Ireland, son of Irish songwriter Barry Ronan and nephew of poet Mary O’Malley, Making Sand is his debut album, although, despite writing and singing in both Gaelic and English, it contains only one wholly in the native tongue ...
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DARLINGSIDE – Fish Pond Fish (More Doug Records)

Darlingside’s new Fish Pond Fish is a wondrous tapestry of baroque pop music knitted with the purity of folk needles. Now, just a confession: Too many years ago at my eight-grade graduation party at the local bowling alley, somebody coughed up a coin that spun the juke box into the ...
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SCREAMING ORPHANS – Sunshine And Moss (own label)

Sunshine And Moss, the second album by the Co. Donegal Diver sisters opens with ‘Every Woman Gardens’, a steady-paced strumalong written by Padraig Stevens from The Saw Doctors about the consequence of every action, apparently inspired by an overheard conversation about giving a chainsaw as a present, the girls seeing ...
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KAT RIGGINS – Cry Out (Gulf Coast Records)

Kat Riggins released Cry Out in August but I’ve only just come across it. I don’t know who first said. “You don’t play the blues, you feel the blues” but it came to mind within a few seconds of putting this album on for the first time. An opening burst ...
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DIANA JONES – Song To A Refugee (Proper PRPCD157)

Born in rural Tennessee, Jones has a natural affinity for the dispossessed, her latest work, Song To A Refugee, inspired by both the distressing scenes at the US-Mexican border and a meeting with Emma Thompson and her work as president of the Helen Bamber Foundation, a Human Rights charity supporting ...
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WORDS OF A FIDDLER’S DAUGHTER – Rúnian (own label TCR02)

Should poetry be read or listened to? As a modern person, I tend to the former – I like to pause and reflect on what I’ve read. Time was, though, when people would sit round the hearth and listen to the words of bards and storytellers and learn those words ...
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MARK MANDEVILLE & RAIANNE RICHARDS – Road May Rise (Nobody’s Favorite Records)

Unforgivably, Road May Rise, the latest studio outing by the Massachusetts’ duo disappeared into a black hole in my reviews pile, but has now been excavated for a somewhat overdue and well-deserved review. The follow-up to their Live In Manitoba album, and featuring studio versions of two new numbers included ...
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BELLA WHITE – Just Like Leaving (own label)

Born in Alberta but with Blue Ridge roots, White was reared on a bluegrass diet of Bill Monroe and Doc Watson before heading off to Boston and immersing herself in the local acoustic scene. Now, just twenty and based in Nashville, she makes her debut with Just Like Leaving, an ...
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MICHAEL CHAPMAN – Sweet Powder & Wrytree Drift (Mooncrest CRESTCD107)

Some explanation may be helpful here. Michael Chapman was between record companies when these two albums were recorded: Sweet Powder in 2008 and Wrytree Drift in 2010. Michael made them for his own production company, Rural Retreat Records with producer Alex Warnes in the familiar surroundings of Phoenix Studios and, ...
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KENNETH J NASH – For Sarah (Oh! OHRKJN01020)

Written for his wife, three years in the making, For Sarah is a simple, low key, introspective collection of musical vignettes, recalling the good times shared as a way to help her deal with the grief and loss following a succession of family bereavements. As you’d imagine, while they may ...
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OH SUSANNA – Sleepy Little Sailor (MVKA Records)

Oh Susanna’s 2001 Sleepy Little Sailor gets a deluxe re-issue with four acoustic re-visits and one newly covered tune. But first, for the initiate, Oh Susanna is the nom de plume for Canadian folk singer Suzie Ungerleider. Good choice! Now, I’ve nothing against ungainly names (check my own by line), ...
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O’HOOLEY & TIDOW – Live At St George’s (No Masters NMCD55)

With immaculate timing Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow recorded this live concert in front of an enthusiastic audience in the former church of St George’s in Bristol just before the first lockdown began. Is it cynical to suggest that they held on to Live At St George’s until we were ...
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LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III – I’d Rather Lead A Band (Thirty Tigers)

I admit that it's been quite a few years – decades, perhaps – since I listened to Loudon Wainwright III, but I suspect that even if I'd been more au fait with his 21st century output, the album I'd Rather Lead A Band, scheduled for release on October 9th 2020, ...
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LUCIA COMNES – Uncaged (own label)

Recorded by Comnes in Liguria, Italy, and Gawain Matthews adding keyboards in San Pablo, California, Uncaged comes at the end of what has clearly been an annus miserablis for her, one that saw the loss of her marriage, the respect of her parents, the support of her family, her visa ...
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SAM BROOKES – Black Feathers (Go Slowly Records)

Now, it’s a given that Joseph had “The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat”; but truly, Bristol-based Sam Brookes, with his album Black Feathers, has produced an “amazing technicolour” record of sublime vocal beauty, fronting a well-produced album of softly exquisite folk songs. Quite frankly, the first song, ‘Ekarma’ (which is a lonely ...
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GRANVILLE AUTOMATIC – Tiny Televisions (Star Swimming)

The seven songs on the follow-up to the typewriter-named Nashville duo’s Radio Hymns, continues its concept theme of of songs inspired by Nashville’s lost history, this time as a companion piece to Vanessa Olivarez and Elizabeth Elkins’s first book, Hidden History Of Music Row. Tiny Televisions opens with the throaty ...
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SINGLES BAR 57 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Nashville’s JARROD DICKENSON pays tribute to five of his Texas heroes on Under A Texas Sky (Continental Records), kicking off with a slightly slower paced interpretation of Roy Orbison’s minor 1959 doo wop hit ‘Uptown’ featuring bluesy organ and Claire Dickenson and Stephanie Jean’s backups, following with a slow and ...
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STEVE TYLER – The Enduring And The Ephemeral (own label Rufus 5)

The strap-line may be considered a touch pretentious but so may the music so that’s probably OK. Steve is a multi-instrumentalist and he throws everything he has into The Enduring And The Ephemeral and then adds Katy Marchant on bagpipes, shawn, recorder and voice, Jane Harbour on violin and voice ...
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KAVEE – Metempsychosis (Rock CD Records)

Italian multi-instrumentalist Valerio Willy Goattin (he of Galaverna and Slap Guru fame!) adds to the shut-in musical cornucopia with his new alias Kavee and a current record, Metempsychosis. He describes the album as “an acoustic escape towards the dreamlike dimension of music, a journey through mysterious and distant landscapes”. In ...
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