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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PHIL ODGERS – Sunday Morning Coming Down – Vinyl Stac Records VSREP001

Phil Odgers, better known to his friends as Swill, has developed an interesting solo career alongside The Men They Couldn’t Hang. With Paul Simmonds there was Baby Fishlips and the long-lost Liberty Cage album before the formation of The Swaggerband. Here he’s completely solo with help from Mick Glossop on ...
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Cheyenne Brown – Parallel Latitudes

Alaskan harpist Cheyenne Brown’s beautifully packaged new album “Parallel Latitudes” is a project which aims to highlight connections between music of her homeland, her adopted home of Scotland and sources further a field. Jigs, reels and tunes are presented with an eclectic mix of accompanying instruments ranging from dobra to ...
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LORCÁN MAC MATHÚNA – Northern Lights – Darkness And Light – Own Label LMMO11001

Lorcán Mac Mathúna is best known in Ireland as a Sean-Nós singer. He’s also a man of great imagination and Darkness And Light (Dubh Agus Geal to give it its Irish title) is the first result of his Northern Lights project, exploring the links between the music of Ireland and ...
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DAMIEN BARBER & MIKE WILSON – The Old Songs – DBS Records DBS004

The Old Songs is the second album from Damien and Mike and follows the pattern of their debut, Under The Influence, drawing material from, in the main, two distinguished singers – in this case Peter Bellamy and Mike Waterson. None of the songs are really obscure although ‘The Charlady’s Son’ ...
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ROY HARPER – Songs Of Love And Loss – SALVO SALVOCDC222

Roy Harper is seventy and living in semi-retirement as far as making new music is concerned. He has, however, been preparing to make his complete catalogue available as digital downloads for the first time beginning with this double set which is also released on CD. These are, as the title ...
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DAN DONNELLY – COUNTRY AND NORTHERN

The long-awaited album from Belfast born singer/songwriter Dan Donnelly is upon us, after a fabulous taster of an EP released a while before his full album to keep his legion of fans happy! Dan has toured extensive with the Levellers, The Oysterband, supported Seth Lakeman on his tours on more than ...
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MERRY HELL – Blink…And You Miss It

Once upon a time a band emerged from Wigan. They were raucous post-punk folk-rockers who named themselves after a make of pram – Tansads. They made some excellent albums, notably Shandyland and Up The Shirkers, but never achieved the success that was their due. Last year someone thought it would ...
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CHRIS RICKETTS – Port Of Escape – ACOUSTIC FUSION RECORDS AF01

Shanties seem to be coming back into fashion, which some of us regard as a good thing, and Chris Ricketts’ debut solo album is thus a timely collection of traditional shanties and songs of the sea given modern treatments. He starts out traditionally enough with ‘South Australia’, ‘Hanging Johnny’ and ‘Round ...
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PETER KNIGHT’S GIGSPANNER – The Electric Theatre, Guildford – 15 September 2011

Gigspanner are a band for whom improvisation is as important as composition. In theory, no two performances will be the same even with the same set list. I’d love to hear them on two successive nights in different venues but I’ve had to content myself with hearing them twice this ...
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JUNE TABOR & OYSTERBAND – Ragged Kingdom (Topic Records TSCD585)

No one could ever accuse the ‘oysters’ of not opening up and here, fitting tighter than a pair of latex gloves on a surgeon’s hands June Tabor and Oysterband come together for a celebratory recording after a 21 year hiatus.  Although they never split up per se the quintet embody everything ...
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HOME SERVICE – Live 1986 (Fledg’ling Records FLED3085)

This recording should be a required purchase by every music consumer who considers themselves tuned in. My formative years of the folk-rock scene in the UK were amazing in that I was lucky enough to witness in their full glory acts such as Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention, the Celtic styled JSD ...
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SPAGHETTI WESTERN ORCHESTRA – Classic Ennio Morricone ‘Live’

You just know you have to get a copy of a CD with the title “Classic Ennio Morricone Live” especially if, like me you enjoy film scores as much as I do. OK, so the pastiche is obvious here and perhaps much like the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britainthis may ...
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GEORGE WILSON – Who’s The Fool Now (Own Label)

I’ve been privileged to know many fine singers and musicians and some have become good mates. One of these happens to be George Wilson whose presence on board “HMS Warrior” in Portsmouth always brings a smile to anyone with a sense of humour. To everyone who comes into contact with this ...
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VIN GARBUTT – Teesside Troubadour (Pancrack TV PAN4DVD)

For those not in the know, Vin Garbutt is the kind of bloke that you would like as your best mate. He could talk the hind legs off a donkey (in the nicest possible way) and his entertaining banter covers the sublime to the ridiculous. OK with introductions and clichés ...
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CHRIS STOUT’S BRAZILIAN THEORY – Live In Concert (Chris Stout Music CSMUSCD001)

OK so I might, on listening to the opening strains of this album have been a bit too prepared to write Chris Stout’s Brazilian Theory project off as a technical step too far but on reflection I’ve been totally seduced by the allure of a cultural mix that was just ...
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PETE SCOTT – Why Sing Goodbye Songs

If considering the proposition that the world would be a very different place if Yuri Gagarin had been allowed to play his banjo in space appeals then this is your sort of album. There is something of Jake Thackray in Pete’s absurdist take on the detritus of life, the idle ...
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JAYWALKERS – 16 Miles

The sawing phrase that opens ‘Lonesome Fiddle Blues’ grabs your attention from the moment the disc hits the player and you’re right to suspect that you’re in for a treat. Michael Giverin and Jay Bradberry were BBC Young Folk Award finalists in 2009 but probably too far from the mainstream ...
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RETURN OF THE CROPREDY EXILE – By Dai Jeffries

Whisper this, but I hadn’t been to for twenty years. I had felt it was getting too big for my personal comfort – when I first went there was one campsite, now there are seven - but an insistent invitation drew me back this year. In fact what are bigger ...
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TIM EDEY & BRENDAN POWER – Wriggle And Writhe (Gnatbite Records GB 010)

For those that have not seen them before, Tim and Brendan are two of the nicest blokes on the UK ‘folk’ circuit. They are also without doubt (or at the very least probably) the finest collaborators of reed based instruments anywhere on the planet as can be attested by artists the ...
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REG MEUROSS – The Dreamed And The Drowned (Own Label)

I must have been in a stupor (not drunk…just a stupor) for not having been more aware of Reg Meuross most of my ‘folk’ music life. Here a collection of unreleased material between 2006-2011 illustrates just how vivid a picture he can create with the aid of a pen. If ...
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LUCY PRINGLE & CHRIS WRIGHT – The Speaking Heart (Mondegreen Music MONDCD01)

An album that beguiles from the moment go with “Rose Song” utilising Chris Wright’s finger-picked twelve-string guitar tuned to open C acting as a perfect balance under the delicately beautiful vocals of Lucy Pringle. Although the strength of the song lies in the telling, producer Steve Byrne (of Malinky) should ...
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STRAWBS – Acoustic Gold (Witchwood Media WMCD 2052)

As the blurb says, The Strawbs have created a unique niche for their progressive folk-rock sound but, stripped bare it is the ‘acoustic’ element that shows how strong these basic concepts were. Therefore, trawling their impressive back catalogue is by no means an indulgence but a necessity and as I ...
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GEORGE STEVENS – 3 Tunes

Three tunes, two camels and a bouzouki are just some the ingredients of George Stevens’ debut EP. His featured instruments are bouzouki and border pipes to which he adds bass and various exotic percussion items and enlists the aid of guitarist Mick Mepham. George is a primarily a luthier – ...
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JACKIE OATES – Saturnine (ECC Records ECC 004)

In these times of austerity, to make your way in the world, even if it is just the ‘folk’ world you have to diversify and Jackie Oates it must be acknowledged is a prime example of ‘diversification’ being not only a fine musician/vocalist but also promoting her own range of ...
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Whalebone – Three Fires – TWO WILD WOMEN RECORDS TWW278

If you’re looking for something new and different, how about an acoustic trio from Shropshire who cover Guns’N’Roses and Led Zeppelin? whalebone have evolved over the years into a trio of two guitars – Steve Downs and Charlotte Watson – and a fiddle – Sarah Ibberson. Three Fires is actually ...
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SEAN SIEGFRIED – Backwoods

Sean’s debut album contains six solo acoustic guitar compositions in a very English style. The opener, ‘Sam’s Brewery’, is satisfyingly chunky as is ‘Compelled’. Both employ strong bass lines with occasional forays onto the thin strings. Even though ‘Passionate Rag’ opens with two exploratory descending runs it too settles into ...
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Martyn Joseph Solo Show – Hitchin Folk Club – 12 June 2011 – Review

How do I articulate adequately the magnificence that was Martyn Joseph at Hitchin,well in a nutshell, it was a vintage show to top them all ! ( until the next one that is ) and I keep asking myself how does he keep raising the bar every tour. I have seen Martyn goodness knows ...
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BOB FOX – Dorking Folk Club, Dorking (08.06.11)

The nice thing about arriving at Dorking Folk Club is that you are automatically made welcome by host and organiser Neil McRitchie and the friendly regulars. The new setting (a slightly smaller room due to the old one becoming too expensive) suits the club and the convivial surroundings lend well ...
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IARLA O’ LIONAIRD – Foxlight (Real World Records)

Ignorant peasant that I am, I hold my hands up and declare that I have never understood the Gaelic language or, more than likely never will do. Still, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying it as an aural texture and in fact find it quite soothing in many of my ...
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HILARY JAMES – English Sketches – Acoustics Records CDACS 059

“Pastoral” is the word that first comes to mind when discussing Hilary James’ new album. In fact, ‘A Song & Jig For Good Measure’ which appears in three versions, could provide the soundtrack for a Shakespeare play were the RSC not currently using Elvis hits. The fact that Hilary and ...
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RICHARD DIGANCE – Letter From Afghanistan (Own Label)

Along with John Foreman and Dave Sealey, Richard Digance is one of the folk music scenes few masters in the art of the Music Hall tradition. His interpretations of this style of music have kept me buoyed over many hours slaving over a hot computer and personally I can’t get ...
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BATTLEFIELD BAND – Line-Up (Temple Records COMD2104)

The drama of an opening chord sequence to grab the listener’s attention was never an issue with the Battlefield Band. Starting with the driving rhythm of double stopped fiddle the momentum of the opening track “Raigmore” is regulated by the introduction of Highland Pipes painting a picture of say a ...
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PAUL LIDDELL – MILESTONES AND MOTORWAYS

Paul Liddell is a tireless working musician/singer/songwriter/recording artist hailing from North East of England. He tours continually around the UK and I was reminded of his brilliance recently when he headlined one of our series of folking live concerts in Bracknell, Berkshire, UK. Liddell’s forthcoming album ‘Milestones  And Motorways’, (due ...
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Are there any women here? Bearded Theory 2011 review

In the quest to experience something new every year, it was the turn of The Bearded Theory to fulfil this self-indulgence. Situated in the picturesque grounds of Kedleston Hall, in my home county of Derbyshire, the Bearded Theory Festival took place from 13 -15th May this year.  An eclectic mix of music, ...
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CORNCROW – SWEET NIGHTINGALE

Cornish duo Steve Hunt and Kim Guy together with their guests - celebrated award winner Jackie Oates, Jason Steel and Gareth Young have put together this lovely traditional album which is already turning heads!  Steve is already a stalwart of the Cornish music scene and Corncrow are the resident act ...
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FAIRPORT ACOUSTIC CONVENTION – Fairfield Halls, Croydon (11.05.11)

Taking their seats for this performance at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls the legendary Fairport Convention (Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg, Chris Leslie, Ric Sanders and Gerry Conway) delved into their extensive catalogue of songs/tunes starting with a spirited version of “Walk Awhile”. Following on with Leslie’s take on Lord Franklin’s ill fated ...
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I love: Tom T. Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow

In 1974 Tom T. Hall, American country balladeer, released an album called “Songs of Fox Hollow”. The songs had evolved from a summer spent with youngsters on his farm in Fox Hollow, Tennessee. Little stories and rhymes chronicling some of the mysteries and peculiarities of life as seen through a ...
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TICKLED PINK – Ceilidh (Rooksmere Records RRCD101)

The term Ceilidh, meaning “…an informal social gathering at which there is Celtic dancing, singing and storytelling” is now regularly being adopted by many English ‘folk-dance’ bands in preference to the term ‘barn dance’. Something of a throwback to the influential days of the Albion Dance Band and Ashley Hutching’s ...
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STEELEYE SPAN – Fairfield Halls, Croydon (05.04.11)

It’s always a pleasure popping down the road to recapture the ‘folk music’ of my youth and the Fairfield Halls in Croydon has certainly provided many such excursions over the years. I first saw Steeleye here in 1973 and again in 1974 when they released “Now We Are Six”. That recording, ...
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TOM McCONVILLE – Tommy On The Road (Tomcat Music TCCD08)

As one of the acoustic music scene’s genuinely nice blokes, Tom McConville has endeared himself to the circuit with a Northern charm and wit that other artists could only ever hope to emulate. To me, Tom will always be the ultimate ‘everyman’ performer in that his choice of material whether it’s traditional ...
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GUIDEWIRES – II (Own Label GWMCD002)

Now I don’t know what it is about Guidewires…possibly, from my perspective it’s their approach to the opening bars of some of their set pieces. Take for instance the first track on this, the band’s second CD. The track “Cailean’s” starts off promisingly enough with rhythmic chops from guitar, bouzouki ...
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DAVID GARRETT – ROCK SYMPHONIES (Decca Records 4782686)

In my youth I was switched-on to Bach by the producer Waldo De Los Rios and his album Symphonies Of The Seventies. Here in the 00’s it’s the flamboyant posturing of poster-boy violinist David Garrett that will hopefully enthuse a younger, more street-cred audience. Strutting his stuff recently on the ...
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STAN ROGERS – The Very Best Of (Fogartys Cove FCM 013)

It can be a hard and cruel life at sea but you’d never guess that from the way Stan Rogers occasionally portrays his subject matter as on the opening track “Fogarty’s Cove” from an album that really says what it is on the cover “The Very Best Of”. Trawling…if you’ll ...
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Gareth Davies-Jones, Chasing Light (Heading West Music, 2011)

Gareth Davies-Jones wastes no time with this follow up to 2008's thoroughly captivating "Water & Light". In many respects, it's business as usual here; but when your usual business is this good you're unlikely to rock the boat. Borrowing from the folk vernacular, married with great skill to soaring pop-laden hooks, ...
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THE BURNS UNIT – Side Show (Own Label TBU 001)

Bitter recrimination is the order of the day particularly on the opening track “Since We’ve Fallen Out” on this, The Burns Unit’s (Emma Pollock, Future Pilot A.K.A and MC Soom T [What’s that all about???], Karine Polwart, Kim Edgar, King Creosote, Mattie Foulds and Michael Johnston) debut recording. The lyrics expunge ...
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BLAZIN’ FIDDLES – Thursday Night In The Caley (Blazin’ Records BRCD2011)

The unrestrained passion bursts forth from the string driven sound that is Blazin’ Fiddles and from the very first track “Fashion O’ The Lassies/Sound Of Mull/Janine’s Reel/The Storm” the enjoyment conveyed by each member contagiously transmits its way to the listener. In these times of notable recession it’s nice to ...
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HOLLY KIRBY – A Woman You Don’t Know (Tinkers Lane Records TLCD010220)

A new name to the folk music scene but surely one to watch out for and I’d definitely suggest you get a copy of Holly Kirby’s debut CD “A Woman You Don’t Know”. Dido immediately sprung to mind when I put on the first track “Tea Leaves & Old Memories” ...
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GUIDEWIRES – Guidewires Live (Guidewires Music GWMCD001)

Since 1973 when Planxty challenged everyone’s stereotypical preconceptions of how ‘Irish-Celtic’ music should be perceived outside the comfortable existence of The Dubliners and Clancy Brothers the gauntlet has been thrown down and numerous bands have been drawn to the battlefield including The Bothy Band and Nomos etc. Skip forward to ...
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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Transatlantic Sessions 4 (Whirlie Records DVD03)

You can tell from the photo on the sleeve of “Transatlantic Sessions 4” that this DVD is going to be something special. It depicts Aly Bain and Jerry Douglas broadly grinning at each other as if they were the cats that had got the cream and who could blame them? In ...
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BILL EVANS & MEGAN LYNCH – Let’s Do Something (Native & Fine Records)

It’s interesting listening to an artist and seeing how, from formulative years they can flourish over the passage of time. From her early career as an ‘old time’ fiddle recording artist to the flowering contemporary cross-over that now cements her musical change in direction, Megan Lynch has made the transformation, ...
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MADDY PRIOR BAND – Hooked On Glory (Park Records PRKCD 110)

For those that can cast their minds back far enough to remember the early 80’s you may be lucky enough to remember the Maddy Prior Band. Now, this was a time when Maddy had vacated her position as lead singer with Steeleye so that she could develop her own (and ...
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SHAUN DAVEY – Voices From The Merry Cemetery (Tara Records TARACD 4023)

Three modern orchestral composers from Ireland who immediately spring to mind are Phil Coulter, Bill Whelan and Shaun Davey. Each have a background with traditional ‘folk’ links and it is possibly Davey who stands out for grand gestures when it comes to orchestration. For his latest project he has travelled ...
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STEAM RADIO – The Twilight Shift (Own Label SRAD 01)

Some years ago I had the pleasure of performing alongside multi-instrumentalist Martin Matthews (ex-Champion Sting Band) on a tour in France along with the Clann Na Gael Irish Dancers. The only reason I mention this is that Martin must have been strongly influenced by the indigenous music that now plays a ...
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STEVIE PALMER – Heartprint Shadow (Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX 347)

I don’t know about you but I’m getting tired of watching ‘music’ award ceremonies where pristine trophies are thrust in the direction of the likes of Tinie Tempah or Patrick Chukwuemeka Okogwu as he’s known to his mates. Far better for them to be awarded to thought provoking singer-songwriter’s the calibre of Stevie Palmer who ...
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GILBERT O’SULLIVAN – Gilbertville (Hypertension HYP 11275)

I don’t know why but I suppose you could call me a Sunday afternoon kind of person. Perhaps it’s due to my nature of relaxing listening to the likes of Aled Jones, Steve Wright or Terry Wogan on the radio. Those of a certain age will I’m sure know that same ...
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JIM MALCOLM – Sparkling Flash (Beltane Records BELCD107)

Somebody pass me the smelling salts or better still the latest recording by Jim Malcolm. I’d just had the pleasure (?) of reviewing an album by a certain ‘thrash folk’ band when this antidote landed on my doorstep. Call me old fashioned (and I know there’s plenty would) you can feel ...
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SHAMUS O’BLIVION – The Devil Made Me Do It (Own Label)

Over thirty years ago, being a callow youth, I entered the ‘folk’ music scene naive to the mechanics of it all and in rushing headlong missed any subtleties inherent in the music itself. Of course, missing the point entirely, the beauty of the music didn’t reveal itself to me until ...
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GILBERT O’SULLIVAN – Fairfield Halls, Croydon 23.02.11

To quote the man himself “In a little while from now, if I'm not feeling any less sour I promised myself to treat myself and visit a nearby tower” - or in this case the Fairfield Halls, Croydon for a bit of cheering up. And boy, I couldn’t have chosen ...
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SHOW OF HANDS with MIRANDA SYKES – Covers 2 (Hands On HMCD32)

Ah, a three-piece suite always looks and feels better with a new set of covers and a new set of covers is exactly what you get here. Any musician will (usually) tell you that as part of the requisite for any performer it is the enjoyment you feel at having ...
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ALAN REID – Recollection (Temple Records COMD2103)

This CD represents a nostalgic look-back over many years of creative input from Battlefield Band’s longest serving member Alan Reid. Now, I’ve been following the band since I first saw them at The Half Moon in Putney humping (and you don’t hear that term used in the way it was ...
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