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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BERNARD WRIGLEY – Every Song Tells A Story (Loofy Records 020)

There was a time (some time ago admittedly) when the words folk and ‘entertainer’ weren’t looked upon in such a derisory way as they are now. Shep Woolley, John Townsend, Jasper and Billy could all be found plying their trade alongside the Bolton ‘Bullfrog’ himself Bernard Wrigley. From his gently ...
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ROSIE DOONAN – Pot Of Gold (Silvertop Records SRCD03)

Moving away from your previous audience comfort zone (in this instance the ‘folk’ music scene) can never be an easy choice for any artist to make but let’s face it, in the dog eat dog world of the music ‘industry’ occasionally these decisions have to be taken…and not lightly. Still, ...
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JIM CAUSLEY – Dumnonia (Wild Goose Records WGS 377 CD)

At least young Causley is thinking outside the box, even if it is by reflecting in song his local county of which he is justifiably proud. Come to think of it let’s have a show of hands for those of you who agree. As he states in his sleeve-notes he’s steered ...
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Pilgrims’ Way – EP (Own Label)

In these days of ever encroaching technology isn’t it pleasing to hear someone getting back to their ‘roots’ and performing on the unassuming, some might say teeth shattering Jews’ harp. I’m pleased to report that the perfectly pretty mouth of Lucy Wright is none the worse for her ordeal and ...
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BARBARA DICKSON – Words Unspoken (Greentrax Records CDTRAX353)

Having travelled musically from her recognised commercial sound back to traditional roots, Barbara Dickson has now become…more or less…a duo working with her collaborator of many years multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley. This album nails its ‘folk’ colours firmly to the mast by starting with “The Magical West” (co-written by the protagonists) ...
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RICHARD WOOD – A Change Of Reasons (GCP 098)

With over two decades behind him as a professional musician fiddle exponent Richard Wood is very much a ‘traditional’ performer. Although he’s Canadian his Scots roots are proudly on display in that clipped strathspey way so beloved of others like J Scott Skinner (a great showman himself) and Alasdair Fraser. As ...
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STEVE KNIGHTLEY – Live In Somerset (Hands On Music HMCD33)

It’s certainly to an artist’s credit when he opens a live performance by singing a traditional unaccompanied ballad “All Things Are Quite Silent” with such confidence that the audience couldn’t be anything other than impressed. But then what else would we expect from an artist the calibre of Steve Knightley? ...
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Doghouse Roses, This Broken Key (Yellowroom Music, 2010)

This Broken Key is the second full album release from the distinctive Glasgow-based duo, Doghouse Roses. Most marked about this follow-up to their 2008 debut, is an increased confidence, evident not just in the performances themselves but by the manner in which the duo boldly traverse genres and styles, whilst ...
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RUA MACMILLAN – Tyro (Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX346)

Now, don’t get me wrong but the opening track of fiddle player Rua MacMillan’s debut solo album featuring his own composition “The Ewie Wi’ The Crooked Horn” could either be seen as a folly or a masterstroke. From a personal point of view I’d say it was in the affirmative ...
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JAMES FINDLAY – Sport And Play (Fellside Recordings FECD238)

Fast becoming the ‘British’ version of America’s Green Linnet record company the astute Paul Adams catches yet another rising ‘folk-star’ for his ever burgeoning roster of excellence. In 2009 James Findlay won the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award and rightly so on the strength of this recording. Let’s not ...
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PETER TWITCHETT – Many Thousand Miles Behind Us (Own Label)

My association with Peter Twitchett goes back some thirty odd years…some of them very odd…and my personal folk music education owes a lot to this sensitive balladeer whom I’m pleased to say that in all this time nothing has changed in his performance or presentation. Very much a positive thing in ...
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EWAN ROBERTSON – Some Kind Of Certainty (Greentrax CDTRAX328)

Ewan Robertson isn’t a name I was aware of but on the strength of this album I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for him in the future. Being immediately drawn to Richard Thompson’s “Vincent Black Lightning” (…a deeply rooted habit of checking out how other established artists are re-interpreted) I ...
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Brendan Hendry, Paul McSherry & Nodlaig Brolly, Stringtones (self-released, 2010)

Stringtones offers a selective trio of distinguished musicians from Northern Ireland, playing slightly more than a trio of instruments: Brendan Hendry on fiddle, Paul McSherry on guitar and bouzouki, and Nodlaig Brolly on Cláirseach (harp), piano and vocals. I'm of the opinion that where music is concerned, trios always work really well, ...
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CIORRAS – Silver Lining (Wispy Cloud Records)

Ciorras were brought together by the legendary (in folk music circles at least) Donal Lunny for a TV series not dissimilar to the X-Factor. There of course the similarity ends as these are ‘real’ musicians and singers and if that sounds snobbish I’m quite happy to be counted as one. Youth is ...
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MICHAEL FLATLEY – On A Different Note (Unicorn Entertainments)

There’s one thing Michael Flatley can never be accused of and that’s shying away from his own self-created public image. More established these days for his dancing prowess many may have forgotten or not even known that he is also a highly talented flute player…in fact…as an ex-all Ireland champion no ...
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UNUSUAL SUSPECTS – Big Like This (Big Bash Records BBRCD017)

Well, if the opening track “Pressed For Time/Hull’s Reel/St Kilda Wedding” doesn’t put a grin on your face the size of the Cheddar Gorge then you must be watching too much X-Factor or I’m A Celebrity and if you are, shame on you…only joking those of you that are! Unlike either ...
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LOREENA McKENNITT – The Wind That Shakes The Barley (Quinlan Records QRCD114)

I’ve followed Loreena McKennitt’s career for over two decades and she has never failed to captivate me with her slightly mannered vocals and well-crafted musical landscapes. I use the term ‘mannered’ as unlike so many of her contemporaries enunciation is primary in her delivery. That’s not to dismiss it as some ...
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EMILY SMITH – Traiveller’s Joy (White Fall Records WFRCD004)

Since 2002 when she won Scotland’s Young Traditional Music Award Emily Smith has garnered many accolades from the folk music press with no less than Mike Harding citing “…As far as I’m concerned she can walk on water!” Possibly a little over the top but certainly heading in the right ...
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CHRIS NEWMAN – Still Getting Away With It (Old Bridge Music OBMCD19)

Chris Newman is not only a really nice bloke but also one of my favourite ‘folk’ guitarists along with Simon Nicol, Frank Simon (ex-Bully Wee), Ken Nicol, Arty McGlynn and Tony McManus now that you ask…so, it goes without saying that I always expect great things and of course, Chris never fails to ...
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EMMA SWEENEY – The Other Crossing (Own Label)

Some things are best left simple and, as if to prove the point comes this first recording by Manchester based fiddle player Emma Sweeney sensitively backed by Paul Callick and Steve Byrnes on guitars and rhythm provided by the bodhrans of Tad Sargent and Sam Proctor. In 2003 she was a finalist of ...
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Adrian Nation FALL OR FLY

A talented, committed musician in his youth, Adrian Nation described his first compositions as "the ramblings of a searching teenager". He may ramble less these days, but his search continues, and he has evolved into one of the most insightful and incisive songwriters of his generation.Influenced at an early age by ...
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Barry Hunt – Living In The Shadows

Midland based Barry Hunt - singer/songwriter, guitar teacher and a master of his craft with a Masters Degree in Song writing - has unleashed an album of his own songs (together with inspiration from Joe Bennett, Bex Cullen and Jan Jay) and this album – Living In The Shadows has been very ...
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Chris & Siobhan Nelson – Early Birds (self-released, 2010)

The independent music scene is a wonderful place, and in particular that element of the scene which is nurtured and supported by our wonderful network of folk clubs. Southport-based Chris & Siobhan Nelson are very much an integral part of that scene, and their latest release is brimming with the ...
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WEST OF EDEN – A Celtic Christmas (Zebra Art Records ZAR852)

Ah, a hearty goodwill to all men (and women)…and spreading the word with this gently evocative offering are Sweden’s Celtic influenced West Of Eden. Now, without wishing to detract from the skills of the band as a whole (they exploit fiddle, guitars, accordion, bouzouki, percussion and piano extremely well) the ...
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FLYING TOADS – In Stitches (Own Label)

What’s in a name…well, quite a lot actually and I don’t know where the Celtic influenced Flying Toads acquired theirs but (to me at least) they haven’t done themselves any favours as the title is neither descriptive nor flattering. Having said that, never judge a book by its cover as looks ...
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CHRIS DE BURGH – Moonfleet & Other Stories (Ferryman Records Ferry444P)

In much the same way that Robert Louis Stevenson captured the imagination with his ‘boys own’ adventures “Treasure Island” and “Kidnapped”, John Meade Faulkner created the 1758 based smugglers tale “Moonfleet”. Indeed this piece of fiction makes as interesting a backdrop as either of Stevenson’s offerings (both of which subsequently ...
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SARAH JAROSZ – Song Up In Her Head (Sugar Hill Records SUG CD 4049)

Sarah Jarosz was a new name to me when I first heard this stunning record played during the interval of a Martin Simpson gig. For those that care about these things, I suppose this is more of a Country album than ‘folk’ (there we go…pigeonholing again) but it still doesn’t detract ...
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ALBION CHRISTMAS BAND –Traditional (Talking Elephant Records TECD152)

I don’t have a problem with re-packaging tracks from previously released albums…I really don’t. Let’s take for instance this aptly timed recording courtesy of the Albion Christmas Band. Firstly it states what it is on the cover both in title and content celebrating everyone’s favourite time of year. Secondly any ...
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RICK WAKEMAN & JON ANDERSON – Fairfield Halls, Croydon (12.10.10)

I thought I’d wandered onto a set from the recent “Sherlock Holmes” movie as rows of candles festooned the stage at the Fairfield Halls concert stage this evening. This was in fact a simple, but effective presentation surrounding the twin keyboards and acoustic guitar of rock legends Rick Wakeman and ...
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SKERRYVORE – Skerryvore (Tyree Records TYREE01CD)

No messing here as Skerryvore kick off with the riff based “Path To Home” featuring a mixture of Jimmy Shand meets the Tannahill Weavers. I’m pleased to say that this is folk-rock that proudly nails its Celtic banner to the mast and leaves the listener with an adrenalin rush that’s hard ...
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RED HOT CHILLI PIPERS – Music For The Kilted Generation (Rel Records RECD572)

Be warned, The Red Hot Chilli Pipers should be labelled with a government health warning for their seriously pleasurable excursions inflicting harm to those of a delicate disposition. They are a band guaranteed to put a smile on the face of any jaded ‘folky’ that doesn’t run a mile from the ...
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EWAN McLENNAN – Rags & Robes (Fellside Recordings FECD235)

You sometimes know from the opening track if an album’s for you and this first release by Ewan McLennan is one such recording. In bringing together a selection of tried and tested standards including “Tramps & Hawkers”, “Jamie Foyers” and “Arthur McBride”, McLennan proves that old material can be refreshed and, given ...
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BELLOWHEAD – Hedonism (Navigator Records Navigator042)

With a sleeve cover (superbly photographed by David Angel) that looks as if it had just leapt off the canvas of a Hogarth painting Bellowhead return with more of the band’s theatrically treated ‘folk’ excursions. Tried and tested favourites such as “New York Girls”, “Hand Weaver And The Factory Maid” and ...
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THE SHEE – Decadence (Shee Records 2)

Opening with a choral harmony that any church would be proud to have leading their congregation The Shee make their mark with the Gospel tinged “Trouble” before gearing up a notch with the pump and push of Amy Thatcher’s accordion and lead vocal provided by Laura-Beth Salter who also adds ...
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PETER DONEGAN & THE LONNIE DONEGAN BAND – Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon (30.09.10)

I didn’t know quite what to expect when I entered the Ashcroft Theatre for this evening’s performance by Lonnie Donegan’s son Peter although perhaps the IKEA showroom wasn’t one of them. Possibly this was due in part to the other country tinged concert by Beth Neilson-Chapman in the main hall…or, ...
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SECRET GARDEN – Inside I’m Singing (Universal Records 602517552746)

Secret Garden produce music that I suppose in any other circumstance could be termed on the fringes of ‘folk’. I first came across Fionnuala Sherry and Rolf Lovland when “Nocturne” became Norway’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest in 1995. Enchanted by the fiddle played by Sherry and Lovland’s dramatic ...
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MABON – Live At The Grand Pavilion (Easy On The Records EOTR01)

No messing here as Welsh band Mabon take the stage for an opening set of driving reels “Hello Poppet/The Hustler” led by Jamie Smith’s accordion. Taking up the reins where Capercaillie once held court, with lively ‘kick ass’ folk-rock arrangements (predominantly all penned by Smith) you can tell why this line-up ...
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ACOUSTIC EARTH – Travelling Man (Own Label AE01)

Andy Findon is one of those musicians who artists turn to whenever anything wind driven is required to complement their studio productions. Joined by Pete Walton on guitars and James Turner on percussion and working together as the trio Acoustic Earth the group bring together a selection of tunes (and one ...
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RALPH McTELL – Somewhere Down The Road (Leola Music TPGCD31)

Ralph is obviously as proud of London as any man can be (with the possible exception of Peter Ackroyd) and in his opening track sums up his love of the city with the light-hearted “London Apprentice” and by adding Chris Parkinson on accordion conjures memories of a bygone era as ...
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SHOW OF HANDS – Arrogance Ignorance And Greed (HMCD 29)

No resting on their laurels for that dynamic duo of ‘folk’, multi-instrumentalists Steve Knightley and Phil Beer bring home the bacon once again with a superbly crafted album that is positively crackling with great material. Now joined at the hip by bass player and vocalist Miranda Sykes, Show Of Hands well ...
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JEZ LOWE & THE BAD PENNIES – WOTCHEOR! (Tantobie Records TTRCD111)

Whatever I’m doing…everything grinds to a halt whenever I receive a disk featuring Jez Lowe. The reason for this is that I know, even before I’ve had a chance to get the shrink-wrap off the CD box I’m in for another musical treat. With an eye to catch the mind ...
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Rory Ellis – Perfectly Damaged

It’s been multiple years now since hearing Australian troubadour Rory Ellis for the first time. I was in a car listening to the latest batch of CD’s through for review when suddenly this tornado of a voice ripped through the stereo speakers and exploded in my face. Since then – ...
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CHRIS RICKETTS & MARK WILLSHIRE – Simple Folk (Hobgoblin HOBCD1012)

The combination of guitar, bass guitar and vocal should be recognisable to anyone old enough to remember the glory days of Bob Fox and Stu Luckley, a void now filled by Portsmouth based duo Chris Ricketts and Mark Willshire. Well, on paper it should work but unfortunately without the addition ...
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THE TRUE AND TERRIBLE HISTORY OF JOHN ‘BABBACOMBE’ LEE by Kevin Burke

I can’t remember where I first heard of this staging of Fairport Convention’s celebrated folk-rock opera but it proved irresistible enough for me to obtain a copy of this trimmed down ‘sampler’ DVD from a 2 hour show to 30 minutes. For those of us that were lucky (and old) ...
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A L LLOYD – An Evening with A L Lloyd (Fellside Recordings FECD220)

In the early Seventies I spent a day of my ill-spent youth in the company of A L Lloyd at a college in the Elephant & Castle, London. I distinctly remember this because I went especially to see ‘Bert’ having been steered in his direction via the music of Steeleye ...
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DALLA – Cribbar (Dalla Records DACD05)

Sounding not dissimilar to a Klezmer party in full swing courtesy of Hilary Coleman’s clarinet the set of tunes “Fly Cellar/Unity/Heva Cornishe” in fact provide the setting for a Schottishe dance. Both of the two opening tunes are penned by master multi-instrumentalist Neil Davey who along with Bec Applebee (darabuka/crowdy ...
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RICHARD DIGANCE – Epsom, Playhouse Theatre 08.07.10

Any man who has the uncanny knack of overcoming every hurdle including nursing a painful left shoulder whilst still maintaining a sense of humour and never once putting a foot wrong the entire evening has my admiration. It says a lot that Richard Digance consummate skill as an entertainer should ...
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LILLY DRUMEVA – Lovin’ You (Music Author Records MK 54604)

I’ve been something of a closet fan of Country/Bluegrass music for quite a few years but it’s only recently that I’ve made an effort to find out more about it. Lilly Drumeva is something of an anomaly in that she is Bulgarian and (for the first 9 tracks) she utilises ...
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THE OLD DANCE SCHOOL – Forecast (Transition Records TRANSCD04)

If you could sell the word ‘enigma’ as a product then this would be the band to display their wares accordingly. The Old Dance School don’t take any prisoners in their pursuit of enjoying themselves whilst liberating that music we tenuously label ‘folk’. As a journalist you get a gut ...
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ROSIE CARSON & KEVIN DEMPSEY – The Salty Diamond (Own Label)

I was first introduced to Kevin Dempsey many years ago at the Hedgehog Pie festival in Newcastle (possibly 1976!) and I particularly remember his impressive guitar technique crossing jazz with folk. Of course, this was innovative at the time and I’m pleased to say he’s lost none of that technique ...
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LIZ CARROLL & JOHN DOYLE – Double Play (Compass Records 7 4502 2)

Don’t you just love it when, from the opening track of a recording you know you are going to experience something really special? Of course it helps if your names are Liz Carroll and John Doyle both of whom (to my knowledge) have neither released a duff album in either ...
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CHRIS WOOD – Handmade Life (Ruf Records RUFCD012)

For many years I was quite dismissive about Chris Wood who, rightly or wrongly possessed an air of arrogance that I felt was at odds with the general humility of the British ‘folk’ scene. Only recently, from a personal point of view that presumption has turned to haunt me as ...
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SOLAS – The Turning Tide (Compass Records 7 4530 2)

Musically speaking I’d say that folk super-group Solas never have an off day and as if proof were needed I’ve been reviewing the band since the release of their first album some fourteen years ago with each recording receiving the obligatory ten out of ten! As ever scintillating performances and ...
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MUMFORD & SONS – Sigh No More (Universal Records 2722538)

Unlike the photograph on the front cover of the CD book there’s nothing to suggest that musically and vocally Mumford & Sons are a bunch of dummies. Comparisons to The Proclaimers and particularly ‘The Pogues’ Steve Lilliwhite produced album “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” may be well ...
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CAROLE KING & JAMES TAYLOR – Live At The Troubadour (Hear Records 0888072320536)

Please, a round of applause for those wonderful folk at BBC 4 TV for, without their skill in picking up documented gems such as Alison Krauss “Live From The Tracking Room” and this Carole King & James Taylor “Live At The Troubadour” recording we in Britain would be missing some ...
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STOCKTON’S WING – COLLECTION & LIAM O’FLYNN – THE PIPER’S CALL form Tara Records

STOCKTON’S WING – COLLECTION (Tara Records TARA CD 4) LIAM O’FLYNN – THE PIPER’S CALL (Tara Records TARA CD 3037) Nothing in life is certain particularly when it comes to your record and CD collection. As I’ve found to my cost many of the albums I used to cherish have ...
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JOHN McSHERRY – SOMA (Compass Records 7 4538 2)

The sheer beauty of the Uilleann pipes and low whistle is bought vividly to life in the hands of John McSherry. No need for flashy statements that leave you thinking I could never play that in a million years. It’s not that I’m sure he couldn’t it’s just that McSherry ...
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KARAN CASEY & JOHN DOYLE – Exiles Return (Compass Records 7 4529 2)

The beaming smile of a reviewer as he casts his eye over certain members of ‘folk’ royalty appearing in his ‘in’ tray is always reason enough to celebrate a new CD release. Therefore, one can assume this is the case with Karan Casey & John Doyle. As the duo, both ...
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Catherine Howe & Vo Fletcher – English Tale

Catherine Howe & Vo Fletcher started working together in 2007, just after the reissue of Catherine’s legendary album ‘What A Beautiful Place’ produced by the late Bobby Scott. Catherine knew Vo as a musician and songwriter and admired his work, and from the very outset there was a musical rapport ...
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Album Review: PERFECTLY DAMAGED – RORY ELLIS

Australian Roots/Acoustic/Blues/Country and Western singer/songwriter Rory Ellis has a new album out – his fifth - and it is a real stunner folks! This new album is a move away from Rory’s usual style and dare I say it – is rather up-tempo! Unusual for the singer/songwriters of today, who ...
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