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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LORRAINE JORDAN – Send My Soul (Hazelville Music HZ013)

Born in Wales of Irish parents, a purveyor of Celtic soul, this is her fifth studio outing on which, accompanied by a host of backing musicians on the different tracks, she opens in fine fettle with the anthemic acoustic chug of ‘The Secret To Everything’ before, as the notes have ...
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HARP & A MONKEY – The Victorians (own label)

We have waited a long while for Harp & A Monkey’s fourth album but, despite the hints they dropped, this may not be the album some of us were expecting. No matter for the band have gone back to their roots with a collection of songs that were popular during, ...
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FREEBO – If Not Now When (Poppabo PB2005)

A mainstay on the L.A. session scene for over 40 years, most notably spending nine years as bassist to Bonnie Raitt, since 1999 he’s also been making his own music and If Not Now When, his fifth, again self-produced, mixes up recent material with revisits to older songs. Joined by ...
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MAY ERLEWINE – Second Sight (TC0001)

May Erlewine releases Second Sight on December 6th. iTunes describes the genre as Country & Folk – I’d add Rock into those two descriptions. Erlewine describes it thus, “This collection of songs is meant to draw us into what it means to call this place home……How can we fully realise ...
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EMILY JANE WHITE – Immanent Fire (Talitres TAL113CD)

Given its description as about a planet and a species on the brink of extinction, you should not enter Immanent Fire expecting bright sunny melodies and upbeat lyrics. However, in her exploration of ecological apocalypse, anxiety, addiction and depression, California-based White does seek to bring some light to the darkness ...
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CATHRYN CRAIG & BRIAN WILLOUGHBY – The Cooley & Mourne   (Cabritunes CAB010)

I should begin by saying that The Cooley & Mourne is, for me, the best album that Cathryn and Brian have made to date. The blend of Carthryn’s southern US roots and Brian’s Irish heritage gels perfectly into an album that makes for absolutely delightful listening. The couple live in ...
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LEIF VOLLEBEKK – New Ways (Secret City Records)

Ottowa born, Montreal resident Leif Vollebekk returns with his fourth full length album, New Ways, following on from its 2017 Polaris Music Prize nominated predecessor, Twin Solitude. Claiming to be a material shift from the introspection of that album - and also a partner to it in the sense of ...
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PROVINCIALS -The Dark Ages (Itchen)

A Hampshire duo comprising guitarist and author Seb Hunter and singer Polly Perry, formerly of Polly & the Billet Doux, here accompanied by Dan Parkinson on piano and drums, as the title suggests the music and the lyrical content on The Dark Ages, their second album, is steeped in shadowy, ...
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BAND OF BURNS – The Thread (own label)

Two years on from making their debut with the Live from Union Chapel album, the twelve-strong outfit return with their first studio recording, The Thread, again underscoring their mission to interpret the works and philosophies of Robert Burns, the binding thread of the messages that inform them providing its title ...
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ROSU LUP – The Ranger (Majestic Creature Records)

The name is Romanian for ‘red wolf’ (and inspired by Sufjan Stevens’ The Sleeping Red Wolves), the Philadelphia duo comprises Jonathan Stewart and Josh Marsh and, produced by The National drummer James McAlister, their second album, The Ranger, mingles elements of orchestral instrumentation, electronic and ethereal moods with their underling ...
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TIM HOLEHOUSE – Come (Aaahh!!! Real Records)

Tim Holehouse releases Come on November 15th. The album is his eleventh release but is a move to a more folky/country style after earlier incarnations, by all accounts, as a blues and metal musician. The CD is a promo copy and has arrived without any background material, so I don’t ...
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SOFIA TALVIK – Paws Of A Bear (Makaki Music)

Sofia Talvik’s Paws Of A Bear is wonderous backward glance to the singer song-writer halcyon days when melody, sincerity, and simple beauty sang to hushed coffee houses filled with attentive people with whispered attention. Paws Of A Bear sings in the footsteps of fellow folkies like Joni Mitchell, Nanci Griffith, ...
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CUA – In Flight Off The Islands (ANSEOCEOL006)

Cua (pronounced coo-ah) release their new album, In Flight Off The Islands, on November 25th. You’d probably recognise the genre as Irish/Celtic folk music but sometimes the combination of influences and playing on the album push boundaries further than this. Cua is a trio - John Davidson, Shane Booth and ...
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LUKE JACKSON – Journals (First Take Records FTCD004)

He’s still only 25 but Journals is Luke Jackson’s fifth studio album, not forgetting a stunning live set two years ago. I was knocked out by his first record: mature beyond his years may be a cliché but it was more than apt in this case. Luke has evolved both ...
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DAVID CAMBRIDGE – Songtales (own label DC001CD)

David Cambridge’s story is a familiar one. He had a serious, responsible job, ran a folk club as a student, played guitar and sang and, having escaped the nine-to-five, he found that music took over. He also builds guitars, by the way, and Songtales is his debut album. Now, you ...
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TWELFTH DAY – Face To Face (Orange Feather Records OFR005)

Twelfth Day’s Face to Face creates a new element on the folk periodic table. There’s a nice current angle to this music that embraces traditional folk, classical, jazz, and off-kilt(er) Scottish sounds. Years ago, Peter Gabriel’s first album was advertised with the promotion “Expect the unexpected”. Well, that’s the gist ...
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HOPE IN HIGH WATER – Bonfire & Pine (Fish Records FR01)

I haven’t heard Hope In High Water’s debut album, which is a great shame because Bonfire & Pine seems to be its mirror image. It bookends a two year period during which Josh Chandler Morris and Carly Slade quit their jobs and, to use a cliché from the 60s, got ...
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ATLANTÆUM FLOOD – One Day (Schoolkids Records)

Atlantæum Flood’s One Day isn’t really folk music, per se. Rather, it’s a (mostly acoustic) musical journey with wonderous electric guitar that is “the brainchild” of Steve Knott (who wrote the music) and involves none other than Marty Willson- Piper of The Church fame. A bit of history. You see, ...
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SMITH AND BREWER – Another Shade Of Smith And Brewer (Own Label SMBR01)

Since first being introduced to each other by Joan Armatrading in 2015, Ben Smith and Jimmy Brewer have strode ahead boldly. Another Shade Of Smith And Brewer sees our eponymous duo filling out to a full band for their first proper studio album. Many of the songs here feel like ...
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PONS AELIUS – Fire Under The Bridge (own label)

Pons Aelius’ second album picks up pretty much where Captain Glen’s Comfort left off. ‘Fire Under The Bridge’ opens the show with three tunes by Jordan Aiken featuring his Highland bagpipes and Callum Younger’s pounding percussion. However, as this album proves, Pons Aelius are no one-trick ponies. The second track, ...
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THE LILAC TIME – Return To Us (BMG)

The first new music since 2015’s No Sad Songs, Stephen, Claire and Nick Duffy return with their first release for a major label (not that they seem to be doing much to promote it) since 1990, the cover of Return To Us is a pencil sketch reprise of their 1987 ...
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CHRIS FOX – From The Shadows (own label)

Chris Fox sent me a link for the lead single from From The Shadows and I thought it was little gem of songwriting. ‘I’m In Love With You’ doesn’t have the typical backstory of an artist with a leaning towards Americana – very few have to start shopping in Morrison’s ...
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MATT PATERSHUK – If Wishes Were Horses (Black Hen Music)

Matt Patershuk’s If Wishes Were Horses drinks from the fount of pure western Canadian country spring water—with a folky blues chaser. There’s nothing Nashville about this music. It wears the authentic Alberta gear. There’s a full band ignition behind some tunes. ‘The Blues Don’t Bother Me’ is a tough tumble ...
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NICK WYKE & BECKI DRISCOLL – Cold Light (English Fiddle CD04)

I’m sure that Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll won’t mind me saying that they have taken a big step with this album – they all but admit it themselves. Their previous outing was built on rural poetry from their native Devon but Cold Light is as far from that as ...
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FRANC CINELLI – Night Songs (Song Circle Records)

Franc Cinelli released Night Songs in September. Cinelli was born in Rome, grew up in London, has lived in New York, learned to play violin and guitar at an early age and has been surrounded by the range of musical influences that this history suggests – from the American Muddy ...
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LANKUM – The Livelong Day (Rough Trade)

Comprising brothers Ian (Uilleann pipes, concertina) and Daragh (guitar, piano) Lynch, Cormac MacDiarmada (fiddle, viola, banjo, double bass) and Radie Peat (bayan, harp, keyboards), the Dublin quartet’s third album, The Livelong Day, continues to both mine and reinvigorate traditional Irish tunes, breathing new life into songs that might often seem to ...
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BILLY PRICE – Dog Eat Dog (Gulf Coast Records)

Billy Price, inducted as a Pittsburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll Legend, released Dog Eat Dog in September. If you’re looking for folk music (not unreasonably since we are the folking.com website), this isn’t the album for you. However, if you want something rather likeable which captures a great spirit from previous ...
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ALASDAIR ROBERTS – The Fiery Margin (Drag City DC742CD)

Following the path laid out with Pangs, Alasdair Roberts has recorded another album of new songs that sound old. I must say immediately that I really, really like The Fiery Margin but I’m only just getting past “that’s a nice melody/that’s a good lyric”. It’s going to take several more ...
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CATFISH KEITH – Catfish Crawl (Fish Tail Records)

Catfish Keith released Catfish Crawl in September and is currently touring the UK. Catfish Crawl is the eighteenth album by a stunning acoustic blues player. I can put it no better than to say that if you want to explain to someone what the blues is and why it grabbed ...
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WILLIE CAMPBELL & BAND – Dileab: A Legacy (Comhhairle Nan Eilean Siar CNES2019CD)

Recorded live, Dileab sees the Western Isles singer-songwriter join forces with seven equally local musicians Jane Hepburn MacMillan, Andy Yearley, Paul Martin, DC MacMillan, Neil Johnstone, Rhona Johnstone and Graham MacLennan), variously on strings, percussion, guitars and accordion, and members of six school choirs from the islands of Barra, Uist, ...
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KIZZY CRAWFORD – The Way I Dream (Freestyle Records FSRCD128)

Kizzy Crawford has been making music for a while but her début album The Way I Dream is only just on the verge of being released and it's been worth the wait.  When I first saw Kizzy she could have gone in several directions, including folk which she sings very ...
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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Sunshine Of Your Love: A Concert For Jack Bruce (MIG Records MIG02192)

On the 24th October 2015, a year after the death of Jack Bruce – widely acknowledged as one of the best electric bass players of all time – a small galaxy of star (admittedly not very folky) musicians gathered for a tribute concert at the Roundhouse in London. Sunshine Of ...
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HARRI ENDERSBY – Mazes (Ivy Crown Records)

Mazes is the second enchanting album from Durham singer songwriter Harri Endersby. It follows on from her excellent 2017 debut album Homes / Lives, which I was also privileged enough to review. I must confess to having some bias when it comes to Harri’s work, having fallen in love with ...
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JAMES McARTHUR AND THE HEAD GARDENERS – Intergalactic Sailor (Moorland Records)

James McArthur and The Head Gardeners’ new album Intergalactic Sailor is a wonderful folk record that is quiet, dreamy, and very melodic. This album has warmth and folk beauty to burn. ‘Cleaning Up’ begins with a sonic spacey sound, and then it spirals into a psych folk tune that is ...
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GREENMATTHEWS – Roots & Branches (Blast Records BFTP013)

GreenMatthews, who have appeared in these pages before, are Chris Green who plays keyboards and a variety of stringed instruments, and Sophie Matthews who plays all manner of aerophones from English border bagpipes to baroque oboe. Both sing but it’s Sophie’s instrumentation that provide Roots & Branches’ distinctive sound, particularly ...
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JAKE AARON – Fag Ash And Beer (own label)

You should never judge a book by its cover, we're told, and the same is true of album covers.  I took this album for review with a slight sense of trepidation.  As a title Fag Ash And Beer, along with a cover photo of Jake playing a guitar in his ...
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AMY HOPWOOD – All At Sea (own label)

Amy Hopwood hails from the seaside town of Weymouth, in Dorset, so it makes sense that her inspiration would either come from the land or the sea.  As her album All At Sea makes abundantly clear this one comes from the sea. Amy is certainly a folk singer and she ...
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BELLA HARDY – Postcards & Pocketbooks (Noe NOE12CD)

I still tend to think of Bella Hardy as one of the bright young things of folk music but she has already done more than enough to justify Postcards & Pocketbooks, a double-CD retrospective, all the tracks remastered by Ian Carter. Bella is an old-style fiddle-singer, a 21st century songwriter ...
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LEONARD BARRY  DECLAN FOLAN  SHANE McGOWAN – Hurry The Jug   (own label)

As soon as I started to play Hurry The Jug I was struck by an indefinable warmth in the music that immediately made me feel at home. The trio are based in Sligo where Declan Folan and Shane McGowan grew up – Leonard Barry is from Kerry, which is the ...
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DOGHOUSE ROSES – We Are Made Of Light (Doghouse Roses)

Glasgow’s Doghouse Roses’ album We Are Made Of Light oozes Americana, but it still lingers with the taste of a great Old Chub Scottish ale. ‘All My Days’ rides on a simple guitar as Iona Macdonald’s voice echoes the beauty and swaddling cloth comfort of Linda Thompson and Natalie Merchant ...
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JOHN RICHARDS – Bring Back The Spring (Working Joe Music WJMCD2019)

John Richards is credited on his new CD Bring Back The Spring as "John Richards, Songwriter". And it is indeed quite possible that you have never heard John himself or the many bands with which he has been associated. But there is a good chance you know songs of his ...
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BIRD IN THE BELLY – Neighbours And Sisters (GF*M Records GFM011)

“Delightfully dark” is how I’d describe Neighbours And Sisters, the second album by Brighton collective, Bird In The Belly. I haven’t yet heard their debut, The Crowing, but I expect to rectify that very soon. The group comprises Laura Ward and Adam Ronchetti, aka Hickory Signals, multi-instrumentalist Tom Pryor who ...
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FELICITY BUIRSKI – Committed To The Fire (Tree of Life FJB2019CD3)

Committed To The Fire was actually released earlier this year, but somehow slipped under the radar; however, albums of such quality should not be allowed to pass undiscovered. A former Page 3 model and actress, despite a musical family background Orpington-born Buirski (and appearing on Top Of The Pops as ...
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NATALIE MACMASTER – Sketches (Linus)

Natalie MacMaster’s Sketches bows new life into the great fiddle tradition. And please, forget for a moment that she’s immensely popular (with a Christmas album to boot!), and enjoy an album of Cape Breton music that bleeds with beauty. ‘Three Reels’ flints up the kindling. The first part, ‘Father John ...
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NIALL KELLY – Promenade (Glovebox Records, GL103)

Promenade is Niall Kelly’s third album release, and a Kickstarter project, as is ever more commonplace these days. A dozen or so years spent deeply immersed in the London blues scene gave Derry-born Kelly a thorough grounding in the business, ready for when he branched out with his own band ...
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AWKWARD FAMILY PORTRAITS – Everything We’ve Done Up Until Now Except What We’ve Done Since (Holy Smokes Records)

Awkward Family Portraits (that’s the band name) recently released Everything We’ve Done Up Until Now Except What We’ve Done Since (that’s the album name). The style is an assortment of jump jive, rockabilly, western swing et al. You get the gist – it’s a fifties and earlier feel with plenty ...
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JIM MORAY – The Outlander (Managed Decline MD001)

For The Outlander, his seventh solo album, Moray dispenses with any original material to focus on a set of ten traditional numbers, some familiar, some obscure, and gives them his own personalised interpretation. He’s also adopted a more direct, live performance-based approach making extensive use of his purchase of a ...
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CARL HESSION, FRANCIS CUNNINGHAM AND EIMEAR COUGHLAN – Úrnua   (own label URN001)

Carl Hession is held to be one of the finest accompanists, arrangers and composers in Irish music; a veteran of Moving Cloud and a number of bands with Frankie Gavin. Concertina player Francis Cunningham and harpist Eimear Coughlan are both making their recording debuts on Úrnua in this distinguished company ...
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DREW HOLCOMB & THE NEIGHBORS – Dragons (Thirty Tigers 41767CD)

Dragons, the tenth album by the Memphis-born, Nashville-based Holcomb finds him in jubilant form, even if many of the songs touch on mortality, with his most collaborative work yet, six of the ten songs being co-writes and five featuring guest vocalists. It kicks off on upbeat infectious manner with ‘Family’, ...
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KIRSTY McGEE & THE HOBOPOP COLLECTIVE – The Deafening Sound Of Stars (HoboPop HPCD0012)

Kirsty McGee is something of a veteran now but she has operated under many people’s radar including, sad to say, mine over the last few years. The Deafening Sound Of Stars is only her eighth album in almost twenty years, so as the owner of five of them maybe I’m ...
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THE WHISKEY TREATY ROAD SHOW – Band Together (own label)

Band Together is an album that came to me out of the blue. First impressions – with a name like The Whiskey Treaty Road Show they’ve got to be an up-tempo American band, probably Americana/Country genre; my guess was the South but actually they’re from Western Massachusetts. You can hear ...
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FINN PAUL – Wind & Stone (Independent Release IWCD001)

Scottish singer-songwriter Finn Paul says, accurately enough, that his music "… is about fantastical nonsense; pirates, dreamworlds and mystical islands. But more than that it's about the methods we use to escape in a society that's becoming ever more disconnected from reality". That said, to my ear, the lyrics on ...
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CHRIS CLEVERLEY – We Sat Back And Watched It Unfold (Opiate Records OPI001)

I loved Chris Cleverley’s first album, Apparitions, which appeared in 2015. That was four years ago so he hasn’t rushed into recording his follow-up. In that time he’s written and performed, formed a trio with Kim Lowings and Kathy Pilkinton and made lots more friends, several of whom appear here ...
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PIERRE SCHRYER & ADAM DOBRES – Mandorla (SDP-56169)

In early September Pierre Schryer and Adam Dobres released Mandorla, an album which features tunes from across the world. Schryer is one of Canada’s leading traditional fiddle players with a wealth of awards to his name; Dobres is a guitar player with a similarly broad international background and an easy ...
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TIM GRIMM – Heart Land Again (Cavalier CR255624)

Twenty years on from the release of his debut album, the Indiana-based Americana singer-songwriter revisits Heart Land with a re-recorded version alongside two new numbers and, this time round, with his then young sons Jackson (guitars, banjo, mandolin, harmonium) and Connor (bass) joining him and his harmonica-blowing wife Jan. Alongside Dan ...
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Burning Salt Live In London

Burning Salt have a knack when it comes to finding interesting venues. The last time I saw them was at Shrewsbury Unitarian Church, an impressive venue associated historically with Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Charles Darwin. And on 28th September I had the privilege of seeing them at a 'secret gig' ...
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MEGSON – Little Bird (EDJ EDJ024)

As well as their adult material, Stu and Debbie Hanna also regularly play shows for young audiences, introducing them to child friendly traditional folk songs. Now, seven years on from When I Was A Lad, they have come up with a second collection, Little Bird, with an insert guide (illustrated ...
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SINGLES BAR 45- A round-up of recent EPs and singles

SARAH YEO is British but she is more deeply steeped in the sounds of America than some Americans. Safe is a five track EP of original songs featuring Sarah Jory on pedal steel and Dobro with drums by Matt Butlin. The opener, ‘I’m On My Way’, was actually written in ...
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MEAN MARY – Cold (Woodrock)

That’ll be Alabama-born. Florida-raised and Nashville-based singer-songwriter Mary James, an early musical prodigy from a musical family (guitarist brother Frank and co-writer author mother Jean) who was writing songs at five, playing banjo, guitar and violin at seven and releasing her first recording, Mean Mary From Alaba, at age six ...
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ALAN PROSSER & AL CLARKE – Living In Clover (Rafting Dog Records RD055)

Alan Prosser and Al Clarke have a Canterbury connection: Alan with Oysterband (who took their name from a connection with Whitstable in case you’re confused) and Al who has worked with members of Caravan and Soft Machine over the years. A discussion about the “Canterbury sound”, which was a thing ...
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