Simon And The Astronauts release debut album

Simon And The Astronauts

Simon And The Astronauts really is a fascinating project. Simon Wells is a writer who had attended several of Boo Hewerdine’s song-writing workshops. Over the course of a year together Simon and Boo have made this superb album. Enlisting such talents as Karine Polwart, Darden Smith, Findlay Napier, Ben Hewerdine and Chris Pepper they worked in a very unusual way. Simon would bring a lyrical concept to the studio and together with these musicians would spontaneously write and record each track. Simon himself is a fine performance poet and also leads three of the tracks. There is spontaneity to this album that means you hear new music at the moment of its creation. Stylistically it moves between dream-pop, indie-electronica, delicate acoustics and edgy poetry. It was a chance for these musicians to work outside their comfort zones. Simon’s vision makes it all hang together in a deeply cohesive way.

When looking at tracks on the album, the album opener ‘Astronauts’ was the first track Simon and Boo recorded, at the end of the day, playing back this track that was both eccentric and accessible, they knew they were onto something special. ‘Grantchester Meadows’ follows, co-written with Ben Hewerdine, Boo’s son, who is also a very talented songwriter who has had songs recorded by, among others, Eddi Reader and Dan Whitehouse. Ben took Simon’s lyrics and made this sweetly unsettling recording. ‘Zinc’, which talks about the war in Afghanistan, is augmented by archive recordings of Leon Therimin playing his new invention. The song ‘Bridge’ was also written on day one and is the true story of a bridge in Sheffield, sung by Boo, this was the last track to be finished. Airmail is another Boo song, where he and Simon were remembering those ultra-thin letters people used to send abroad, this recording using a high strung guitar. ‘Love Is’, features Karine Polwart, a joyous take on Simon’s words, recorded with Findlay Napier and other attendees at a workshop. A personal favourite for me, ‘I’m Just A Cat’ is a blissful song, sung by Boo, about, well, being a cat. “Without Simon I would never have a written a song like this” says Boo. Chris Pepper’s production work is just fantastic on this track. ‘Oscar’ is a track where Darden Smith took Simon’s lyric about Oscar Wilde and made this beautiful piano ballad. Tight Metal Jackets features fiery poetry by Simon set against Darden’s rootsy Americana. ‘Trampoline’ is Ben’s jerky indie take on Simon’s concept and ‘Box Of Tears’ which is basically where Simon’s wonderful lyric led Boo to write this tender ballad, the track recorded as soon as it was written. The album closes with ‘Patti’, a simple yet heartfelt tribute to Patti Smith.

Artists’ website:


Skinny Lister – new single, album and tour

Skinny Lister

With the release of their adventurous new album The Story Is… now imminent, Skinny Lister today unearth the latest track to be found amongst its many riches: ‘Rattle & Roar’.

Following the explosive punk of ‘38 Minutes’, the ambient title-track ‘The Story Is…’, and the New Wave fizz of ‘My Distraction’, ‘Rattle & Roar’ arrives as another sonic curveball to any listener trying to guess how this Story will end when the upcoming album drops on 1st March 2019 (via Xtra Mile Recordings).

Harking back to the band’s earnest beginnings as intrepid folk-roots revivalists, ‘Rattle & Roar’, is a rum-slugging, foot-stomping, good-time tune. A souped-up shanty that wouldn’t sound amiss if sung from lungs of any crew heartily navigating the seven-seas, Skinny Lister it seems found inspiration for their latest track in the most fitting of situations. As Daniel Heptinstall of the band explains:

“From ‘John Kanaka’, via ‘Raise A Wreck’ and ‘Beat It From The Chest’, we’ve always been keen to include a shanty element on our albums. Singing sea shanties in our local folk club is a big part of the band’s early history. ‘Rattle & Roar’ though, was actually written while on board Flogging Molly’s Salty Dog Cruise last year – a great punk rock festival on a boat that sails around the Bahamas. I like to feel this has infused the track with some extra saltiness!”

As with the rest of the upcoming fourth studio release: ‘The Story Is…’, ‘Rattle & Roar’ was recorded, produced and mixed with the producer extraordinaire Barny Barnicott (Arctic Monkeys, The Enemy, The Temper Trap).

A loosely-based concept album, ‘The Story Is…’ anthologises a series of personal vignettes inspired by a chaotic few years for the band and binds them into 14 tracks of unmistakably Skinny-sounding rock’n’roll. Gather-in close and lend your ears as Skinny Lister rifle through ‘The Story Is…’ and pull out: scorched stories of aggravated arsonists (‘Artist Arsonist’), rib-tickling tales of regretful re-fuellings (‘Diesel Vehicle’), and even polemic pleas inspired by some of life’s hardest lessons (‘Stop & Breathe’).

With one of the most reputable live shows in the business (hailed as “a deafening and visceral experience” – The Independent, 5/5), Skinny Lister will also be touring The Story Is… with a series of their tenacious live shows across the UK & Europe in 2019.

Don’t miss your chance to become part of their latest adventures as the band embark on a two-leg UK tour, plus fix dates in Germany, Czech Republic, Switzerland, France, Holland and Belgium throughout the Spring.

Artists’ website:

‘Rattle & Roar’:




28th – Brighton Concorde 2


1st – Norwich Arts Centre
2nd – Southampton 1865
6th – Bristol Fleece
7th – Glasgow King Tuts
8th – Leeds Key Club
9th – Leicester Academy


13th – Berlin SO36
14th – Kiel Orange Club
15th – Erfurt Kalif Storch
16th – Prague Futurum
17th – Nurnberg Der Hirsch
19th – Frankfurt Batschkapp
20th – Wien Arena
21st – Munich Strom
22nd – Bern Bierhubeli
23rd – Zurich Dynamo
26th – Paris La Maroquinerie
27th – Rouen Le 106
28th – Amsterdam Paradiso Noord
29th – Cologne Stollwerk
30th – Antwerp Kavka


3rd – Edinburgh The Mash House
4th – Newcastle Riverside
5th – Nottingham Rescue Rooms
6th – Manchester Club Academy 2
10th – Cambridge Junction 1
11th – London Electric Ballroom

Tickets for all dates are on sale now from:


MIKE TURNBULL – …In So Small A Compass (own label MTM03)

In So Small A CompassMike Turnbull’s debut, Circlet Of Gold, was a delightful vignette that began with the landscape of his native Lake District and told stories from here, there and everywhere. He sang and played every note but it was inevitable that he would stretch his metaphorical wings. …In So Small A Compass is produced by Lukas Drinkwater who also plays bass, guitar, banjo and percussion with Ciaran Algar on fiddle and Ewan Carson on bodhran.

On the first play I just gathered impressions. Mike hasn’t strayed far from the landscape – and seascape, for that matter – and birds feature heavily as a motif. Indeed, the sound of chattering birds leads into the opening ‘Seek Thy Brother’ which takes as its starting point the children’s magpie rhyme and maybe the old adage that if you see a lot of crows together, they’re rooks. Of course, it’s all a metaphor. ‘Boat Thief Song’ seems to stem from a memory of youthful mischief and is decorated by country tinged fiddle from Ciaran. Memories and birds appear again in ‘Heart Shaped Wood’, somewhere Mike probably knows well just like the landscapes he’s walking in ‘Between Breaths’ and ‘Sycamore Gap’, a song about the building of Hadrian’s Wall.

Mike is a fine story-teller, as his debut proved, so ‘Louisa’ isn’t about a lady but the famous overland launch of the Lynmouth lifeboat to Porlock in the teeth of a gale back in 1899. I’ve compared Mike to Seth Lakeman before (although I’m not sure he agrees with me) but this is just the sort of song that Seth would write. Sorry Mike. …In So Small A Compass is rather more poetic than I was expecting so ‘Edge Of The Map’ could be a tale of mediaeval sailors or, more likely, a metaphor for striking out in a new direction. There is nostalgia in ‘Lakeland Heart’ and romance in ‘Seabirds’ Call’ but also a sense of practicality – the couple are on the sea in a small boat travelling “once around the island” so there is no time to be soppy.

This is clearly a big step forward from Circlet Of Gold – much as I liked that record – but what is most impressive is the fact that Mike’s songwriting has maintained its quality. …In So Small A Compass is all meat and no filler.

Dai Jeffries

We have set up a new UK & U.S Storefront for brand new CD/Vinyl/Download releases recently featured together with a search facility for older stuff. The link for the folking store is:

Click to order featured CD/ Vinyl/Download/Book/DVD

Buying through Amazon helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website:

‘Lakeland Heart’:

THE BROTHERS GILLESPIE – The Fell (own label TBGCD002)

The FellThe Tradition is alive. It passes in a straight line to the distance, capturing mediaeval songs of the common people, handed down through the oral tradition because of the illiteracy of the majority. Scholars trying to capture its history can only see the songs disappearing in the swirls of time, perhaps to the origins of Celtic instruments in the Middle East – but no-one really knows where the instruments of the common people were first created, no-one is really sure where the rhythms of traditional English and Celtic music started.

Over the past 200 years the picture is clearer, the mists of the oral tradition pinned, first on paper and then on recordings. Along the way, the swirls of the tradition have captured the songs of sailors, farm workers, murderers, victims, lovers wronged, lovers united, defenders, of the rights of the common man against the state or the powerful individual, mystics, fairy land and the world on the edge of our senses. These have been captured in a distinct musical style best played acoustically so the songs can be transmitted to future generations, the music made from instruments with strings or reed which would be recognisable to the earliest traditional players.

And some time over the past few years, the Tradition has swirled to the North-East of England, to the village of Wall near Hexham and the border with Scotland. The Brothers Gillespie have tapped into the Tradition and brought it right into the world of social media, at the same time both fresh and old. Have a look at their Facebook page and you can see the two brothers talking about The Fell, their new album. They see it as being a creation of the musical calling they want to pursue ever more deeply. The songs, nine of them, all come back to the Fell above the village of Wall where they grew up – a hill that is a benevolent presence for them, a place where spirits live and they can tap into the old language.

The album itself? I thought I was listening to well played traditional songs until I looked at the text on the CD cover. There is one traditional song on the album (‘The Road To Dundee’), one by Michelle Shocked (‘Blackberry Blossom’), and one song (“Northumberland’) with lyrics by the Northumbrian Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, one of the Georgian poets who also called on the English tradition rather than the path towards Imagism, taken by Pound and Eliot et al.

The remainder of the songs have been written by the Brothers Gillespie – and I‘ve actually been listening to well-played new songs tapping into an older, deeper sound. Listen to ‘Golden One’ in the video below and you will hear how the Tradition flows through their work, musically, lyrically and in spirit – but in a way so thoroughly modern that the fourth track on the album, ‘Tina’s Song’, concerns the court case of Tina Rothery and her refusal to pay the £55,000 legal fees of Cuadrilla in the recent anti-fracking court case.

The Fell taps into themes and tunes that I feel I have known all my life (but haven’t because they’ve only just been written) and, like all updates to the tradition, are simultaneously part of the music of past centuries and also entirely new and relevant. Details of upcoming gigs may be found on the band’s website.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website:

‘Golden One’:

IAN GEORGE – Kingdom Of My Youth (own label)

Kingdom Of My YouthKingdom Of My Youth arrived unheralded, as CDs often do. It sat on my desk, almost got buried under the clutter and was rescued at precisely the right moment. I tell you this, not to explain how things sometimes “work” here but to put off the moment when I have to write something intelligent about this album. Let’s start with the facts and the story. Ian George Van Ornum (as the Eugene police referred to him) is from Minnesota. He’s worked with the band Patchy Sanders and in the duo Fellow Pynins, who will be appearing in the UK this summer, but this is his first solo album.

Ian went back-packing in Europe where he met French rock star Mathieu Chedid, generally known as M, who invited him to record at his Paris studio called – you’ll love this – Labo M. Ian put a band together and work started. The album opens with ‘Gitche Gumee’, a song about Lake Superior, the actual kingdom of Ian’s youth. It took me a while to get into it because it felt too big. Superior is a big lake so I suppose it makes sense but it took three or four plays for it to settle in. Next is ‘The Wild & The Untamed’ based on a bass and minimal drum riff. The lyrics feel like a cut-up exercise and I really don’t get what it’s about but it sounds good.

‘Kandinsky’ is made up of quotes from the Russian painter. Ian has taken his prose and turned it into poetry with seemingly little effort and set it against a multi-guitar backing – it’s rather lovely. ‘Son’ is a bit creepy – I think it’s about the obligations that parents place upon their children – and I kept getting flashes of The Shining. ‘Better With A Buddy’ is a much jollier recounting of Ian’s European sojourn and it’s probably my favourite track. It’s followed by a mandolin and fiddle instrumental, ‘L’Étang-La-Ville’, to keep the spirits up and ‘The Jolly Road’, my other favourite track, oddly reminiscent of Matthews Southern Comfort.

The final track is the odd one out. Recorded solo at home in the mid-west ‘Shenandoah’ is a link to Ian’s previous incarnation as a folk singer, developing from simple voice, drone and guitar and building up to what he is becoming now. It’s impossible to pigeon-hole Kingdom Of My Youth but I do like it and now I want to hear the music Ian came from.

Dai Jeffries

We have set up a new UK & U.S Storefront for brand new CD/Vinyl/Download releases recently featured together with a search facility for older stuff. The link for the folking store is:

Click to order featured CD/ Vinyl/Download/Book/DVD

Buying through Amazon helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website:


Ferris & Sylvester – new single and tour dates

Ferris & Sylvester

Ferris & Sylvester have released their brand new single ‘Sickness’. The blues/folk epic has launched with great support across the board.

After the release and sudden success of their kitchen recorded and self-produced EP Made In Streatham last year, the duo have expanded their sound and songwriting into deeper and darker places with ‘Sickness’ alongside producer Michael Rendall (Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney, Echo & The Bunnymen).

The song builds from a quiet, self-destructive thought as though Issy Ferris is whispering in your ear, and becomes an outcry of both suffering and delight, led by Archie Sylvester’s powerful scorching guitar. With their combination of roots and blues, the duo deliver a sound which sits somewhere between Jack White and First Aid Kit.

Regarding the single Ferris & Sylvester say “Sickness was one of the first songs we wrote together. It came quickly and felt powerful almost instantly. It’s about human relationships – the power and the frustration – and the desire to throw it all away.

“We recorded the track on our last day in the studio with Michael and continued into the early hours; it felt important to keep it raw and let the song speak for itself. Everything you hear was tracked live and a lot of it was recorded in one take, the guitar solo and vocals for instance. It’s our proudest piece of work to date.”

‘Sickness’ follows the release of the duo’s last single ‘Burning River’, which was also recorded with Michael Rendall and clocked up well over half a million plays in its first two months on Spotify. The songs were written during the pair’s writing trips to Iceland and find the band at their most raw and powerful yet.

Ferris & Sylvester received strong support from BBC Music throughout last year, with radio plays coming from 6Music and Radio 2, while they also performed a number of shows in association with BBC Introducing who have now named the band in their ‘Best Of’ lists for both 2017 & 2018.

The great BBC Introducing support continues for Ferris & Sylvester in 2019. The band will be performing a live session at Maida Vale aired on Cerys Matthews’ Radio 2 Blues Show on Jan 28th. Ferris & Sylvester will also be joining Huw Stephens and Steve Lamacq in Austin, Texas as they perform their debut BBC Music showcase at SXSW Festival on March 15th.

Last year Ferris & Sylvester won hearts and praise across the country as they played to thousands of people at huge shows with the likes of Eric Clapton, Robert Plant, George Ezra and Jade Bird, while also performing at major festivals including playing the main stage at Wilderness Festival and at BST in Hyde Park.

The band played their first live show of 2019 at Eurosonic Festival, ahead of the duo embarking on their first ever headline tour next month. It will see Ferris & Sylvester play nine-dates across the UK and Ireland, with a London headline show at The Lexington on February 11th, and Manchester already sold out.

Artists’ website:



4th – Leeds, Oporto
5th – Glasgow, Poetry Club
6th – Manchester, Eagle Inn **SOLD OUT**
7th – Birmingham, Cuban Embassy
9th – Exeter, Cavern
11th – London, The Lexington
12th – Brighton, The Prince Albert
13th – Southampton, The Joiners
14th – Dublin, Sound House