RY CAVANAUGH – Time For This (Cav Productions)

Time For ThisRy Cavanaugh’s album Time For This could well be the soundtrack from a History Channel search for the grave of Henry David Thoreau. That sort of thing still gives us hope, just like a really good John Prine tune that has “broken the speed of the sound of loneliness” and always manages to crack a tough alkali Alamo smile. This record plays the music of our patchwork sampler Constitution, which against a lot of odds, always hopes for the best.

And it’s important to mention that Ry is a member of the odd-duck (and roots wonderful) “folk band in a whiskey bottle”, Sessions Americana. Now, this is Ry’s first solo album in twenty years. Not only that, but these are songs written by his late father George, so this music is a return, with deep admiration, to a folk singing dad and wonderful days of childhood.

That said, America is a gambling casino that always throws its dice. And this album throws a lot of acoustical American dice. ‘Carillon’ rings a clarion call that evokes slow danced railway American travel, with a simple but deeply passionate guitar, and a desire to find the train “to carry me back home”. ‘Cold Wind’ ups the tension with a sturdy pulse. Ry Cavanaugh’s soothing “old rugged cross” voice is accompanied with acoustic guitar (aided by Duke Levine) and Jennifer Kimball’s lovely backing vocals. So, this is simple stuff. But the tune dances with Mr. Bojangles’ depth. And ‘Too Tired For Drinking’ is a waltz timed confession that really touches a somber early Dylan root.

Ah, ‘Lost Woman Song’, spins tradition into a very modern up-beat testament for mutual respect. It’s a nice tune. And always remember The Band’s enduring question from their song ‘Across The Great Divide’: “Now tell me, hon, what ya done with the gun?”.

The title song, ‘Time For This’, travels down to Bleeker Street, with a soft melody that floats like a really nice dream of unwritten Fred Neil songs.

‘Trinity’ gets (sort of) religious, as American literature does from time to time, and a “phone call from God” is always (sort of, again) something of importance to mention in a folk song.

A pause for an unsolicited plug: Lovers of earthy Americana folk should check out Bob Martin’s 1972 album, Midwest Farm Disaster on RCA and more recently on Riversong Records. It’s a lost masterpiece!

But to get back on track, this album is filled with acoustic tunes that, with repeated plays, get etched into the music memory. ‘Sink Or Swim’ just begs for that hum. What a wonderful chorus! And the song simply sags like a nice and slow pony ride. ‘Help Me Doctor’ gets bluesy, but sings with a familiar Mississippi River pulse.

It’s just an idea, but it’s important to remember the Apollo 11 astronauts, at the last minute, switched off the computer auto-pilot and landed on the moon with human hands on the controls. Ry Cavanaugh, likewise, cuts through all the auto-tuning everything technology, and has made a record that is simple, direct, and is tempered with an acoustic soul.

Then, ‘Gypsy Dad’ says, “magic is going to make you strong”. True. But it also sings about a runaway “gypsy dad” who will “live my life in my own true way”. Lots of pathos. Freedom often leaves yet another “trail of tears”. And “a bird takes flight”. This is a brilliant song that catches the curve ball of reality’s grip on a tough slider. There are no answers. There’s just the stuff that happens every day. This is (sort of again, again!) deeply psychological with a very American ethos always singing, like the before-mentioned John Prine song, that we travel with ‘The Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness’ because “You’re out there just to be on the run”.

Let’s just say, this record, like any true American music, will always sing (with the simplest of tunes) the Bruce Springsteen declaration of independence that proclaims, “Tramps like us, baby we were born to run”.

Bill Golembeski

Artist’s website: http://www.rycavanaugh.com/

‘Carillion’:

Frazey Ford – new album and summer UK tour

Frazey Ford

Vancouver-based soul-Americana artist Frazey Ford announces her third album U Kin B The Sun due out February 7, 2020 on Arts & Crafts. At turns ecstatic and heavy-hearted, gloriously shambolic and deeply purifying, the new album is the outcome of a certain personal transformation that Ford has experienced in recent years. With its graceful collision of soul and psychedelia and sometimes ’70s funk, it’s a body of work that invites both self-reflection and wildly joyful movement, and ultimately sparks a quiet transcendence.

To expand that sense of presence, Ford made a point of preserving many of the lightning-in-a-bottle moments captured during those first sessions for U kin B the Sun. As a result, the album embodies the same untamed and ineffable energy that guided its creation. “There’s certain songs that just appear and there’s no art to it,” says Ford. “To me those songs have some kind of spiritual quality—sometimes I feel like they’re these different voices that you’re able to channel. There really was something magical about the improvisational aspect and how that shaped the album, and such a joy in the experience of really revelling in what we were all creating together.”

Lead album single ‘Azad‘ reveals the rich emotional texture of U kin B the Sun, embedding Ford’s lyrical storytelling with sharply rendered memories of early childhood (a time she spent living on a commune in Canada as the daughter of American draft dodgers). With its brightly shuffling beats and soaring vocal work, ‘Azad’ offers a poignant message of courage.

“There’s something to that song that’s about survival, and about the love that my siblings and I have for each other in coming through an intense situation together”, says Ford.

Throughout the stirring new collection, Ford seamlessly inhabits an entire world of shapeshifting rhythm, elevating every beat and groove with the subtle magnetism of her mesmerizing voice as she examines pain and loss telegraphed through a prism of unfettered joy. To that end, ‘U and Me’ takes the unlikely form of a tenderly enchanted breakup song, while ‘Holdin’ It Down’ brings a confident determination to its expression of weary perseverance. And on the anthemic, recently released single ‘The Kids Are Having None Of It’. Ford responds to the toxic political climate with irrefutably bold sense of assurance.

Recorded at John Raham’s Afterlife Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia, featuring her Vancouver musicians, Darren Parris, Leon Power, Craig McCaul and Caroline Ballhorn along with Phil Cook on keys, U Kin B The Sun follows Ford’s 2014 release Indian Ocean, an album made with members of legendary Memphis soul band The Hi Rhythm Section. U kin B the Sun partly draws inspiration from several instances of serendipity that transpired during her international touring in support of Indian Ocean—including playing separate rooms in the same venue as D’Angelo one night in Holland, which eventually prompted her 2017 cover of the iconic neo-soul singer’s ‘When We Get By‘.

 Revered for her singular voice, immersive lyrical storytelling and captivating live show, Frazey Ford will support U kin B the Sun with a full UK tour in June.

Artist’s website: https://frazeyford.com/

‘Azad’:

Tour Dates

June 01 – London – Union Chapel TICKETS

June 02 – Coventry – Warwick Arts Centre TICKETS

June 04 – Nottingham – The Glee TICKETS

June 05 – Newcastle – Gosforth Civic Hall TICKETS

June 06 – Edinburgh – La Belle Angele TICKETS

June 07 – Leeds – Brudenell Social Club TICKETS

June 09 – Milton Keynes – Stables TICKETS

June 10 – Bristol – Fiddlers TICKETS

CAVE FLOWERS – Cave Flowers (Hard Bark Records)

Cave FlowersCave Flowers’ self-titled album burns its own brand into the worn leather of alt-country rock ‘n’ roll.

And that’s a difficult thing to do.

The Eagles commercial sound didn’t help the genuine genre. Many years ago, about the time with ‘Lyin’ Eyes’ or ‘Take It To The Limit’ ruled radio air waves, I saw (the great) Neil Innes of Bonzo Dog fame, in some London pub. He played a song with perfect 4/4 time and an irresistible melody. As an American, I felt right at home. But then the tune went on and on, and quite frankly, couldn’t find its way out of Hotel California. At the ten-minute mark, I got the sarcasm. By the way, the song was called ‘Boring’.

I mean, alt country is sort of Americana’s reggae: The form has strict rules, a certain expected sound, a cowboy hat or two, and a pledge of allegiance to Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s brilliant album, Everyone Knows This Is No Where. Let’s face it: those songs like ‘Cowgirl In The Sand’ and ‘Down By The River’ are sonic pictographs graffitied on the Cavern’s rock ‘n’ roll walls.

That’s a tough act to follow.

But Cave Flowers pump blood life into the EKG of all things Americana. ‘Best Lonesome Friend’ has the big and glorious gas tank full-overdrive eyes-open road map-fast food fueled sound, like Son Volt, The Rave-Ups, Cowboy, Translator, Uncle Tupelo, and our unsung hero (and American treasure) Alejandro Escovedo. This is throttle open Jack Kerouac prose. Andy McAllister’s vocals hang on the hope for no more dust storms and vibrate like the wind against a prairie sod house.

‘Renter’s Life’ is a prayer to better times, with guitar sonics that touch the heavens. And the vocals sing a low solemn ode to old time music. This is Crazy Horse ‘Danger Bird’ stuff.

But the album has the alt country (without the rock) vibe. ‘Country Fan’ dances with lovable percussion and a barrelhouse piano. The Band’s ‘Rag Mama Rag’ comes to mind. Andy McAllister sings “My gut has a hole where all the drinking songs go”. Yeah, it’s that kind of record. ‘Midnight Movie’ has a great lyric worthy of Ray Davies’ Misfit ethos. This is such a fluid song, with whiskey vocals that anchor the song into the backstreets of sincere late-night flickered fantasy. ‘Hideaways’ is strummed with a rebellious Phil Ochs’certainty. This is dramatic country rock, with the tough beauty, perhaps, of a Lewis and Clark campfire sing-a-long. ‘Upperhand’ almost strangles in its dense folk-rock confession. But then, Henry Derek Elis’s guitar sings the song into a sublime collective ‘Mr. Soul’ bluesy orbit.

There is more music that escapes Neil Innes’ sarcasm. ‘Trick Tears’ is slow dance country purity. ‘Friendly Reminders’ answers with a quick pulse and an emotive vocal. ‘The Stranger’ continues with the equally quick folky pace and a deep memory of an electric guitar solo.

Ouch! ‘Greatest Hits’ rocks with the folky guitar spit that doesn’t want to play obvious songs to people who want to hear obvious songs.

In his own way, Neil Innes, with his satirical song, did the very same thing.

And then ‘Little Worries’ stretches passion about getting old, and well, “getting stuck” in all sorts of situations. The song is a quiet resolution to the complexities of life. Sure, it’s a tough illusion “to join me on this island”, but at least it’s an idea, an idea with the comfort of country alt rock that touches a beautiful tradition.

This album is old, and it is new; then it is old and new all over again. It rocks; then, it doesn’t rock. That’s the gist of a really nice record, a record that sings Jack Kerouac, and then manages a soft, but very melodic folk-rock alt country landing.

But, ultimately, this is an album of Cave Flowers, those oddly beautiful growths that vibrate, like brand new sonic pictographs, that will always be painted—with all the other great graffiti–on any Caverns’ forever rock ‘n’ roll wall.

Bill Golembeski

Artists’ website: https://www.facebook.com/caveflowers/

‘Best Lonesome Friend’:

GRAHAM LINDSEY – TradHead (Wavelength Media)

TradHeadQuite frankly, Canadian Graham Lindsey’s acoustic Celtic TradHead, should have been called Never A Dull Moment, if one-time Faces member, ‘Maggie Mae’ solo star, (from what I have heard) decent footballer, and now old-age crooner and maker of Christmas albums, Rod Stewart, had not already copped the title for himself.

And that’s the deal here: TradHead is a vibrant collection of (mostly) self-penned instrumentals (plus one really nice vocal tune) that pulls the old stuff into an ever-expanding folk universe and orbits in close proximity to Scotland’s Shooglenifty’s brilliant Live At Selwyn Hall, Box album, which begins with the very simple words, “This is dance music.

TradHead is dance music that scuffs the floor; it’s dance music that gazes at the stars; it’s dance music that holds a pensive moment; it’s dance music that jumps the broom; and it’s dance music that lassoes the talents of fiddle player Kristan Couture (and many others, including Ten Strings And A Goat Skin!) who colour outside the lines of GL’s own prowess on mandolin, banjo, and flute.

The first tune, ‘Leaving Goderich’, starts with (really nice) killed percussive strings and continues into a drifting suite of melodies that skates quickly over Canadian ice and dances like a really great Bruce Cockburn instrumental. ‘Skylarking’ from his Joy Will Find A Way album comes to mind. But then it pauses with a slow folky violin strut that is an interlude to a cosmic bit, which then gives way to a stately Celtic farewell. This music touches all three known dimensions, and then sends postcards home from several more.

The same is true for so many other tunes. ‘Cook’s In The Kitchen Again’ is a slow-paced and earnest promenade that recalls the very best of the acoustic (and wonderous Irish band) Horslips, circa The Tain or Drive The Cold Winter Away. ‘Vet’s Set’ is a dance step contest pairing a mandolin and fiddle against a flute and accordion. The result is a melodic and sweaty photo finish tie.

In a way, this album plucks its way into eternity. And credit should be given to Graham Lindsey, who has written modern tunes that can easily wear the “traditional, arranged by” tag. ‘From Away’ (which is the name of GL’s band!) floats like a nice Chieftains’ air, with a melody that scours the bones of the past. Ditto for the slow waltz of ‘Ollie’s Tune’. Ahh, ‘East West’ has a gorgeous teardrop violin that drips with pathos, while the mandolin smiles with an uplifting melody, and a cello raises a deep eyebrow to the juxtaposition that produces an (almost) classical profundity. ‘The Expedition’ is mandolin precise as it drops notes into a quiet reflective pool. ‘Two Hours/Tune For Daisy’ is textbook Celtic charm, with a banjo accent and (sort of) sounds like the traditional chestnut ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’, made famous by The Dubliners, The Chieftains with Van Morrison, and The Rankins.

Now, ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ is the sole vocal song. It’s a lovely after thought and stands with strong lyrical beauty among all the instrumental prowess.

But ‘Folk At Heart’ is the quintessential performance. Again, the violin dominates as the tune flows through several themes, but a guitar strums at the 3:25 minute mark for a bit, until that percussive knock (perhaps the goatskin from GL’s friends Ten Strings and a Goat Skin?) propels the tune into Celtic folk overdrive. And from there the music swirls like the endless knotted riddled design on any page of The Book of Kells.

There are three more tunes: ‘Grit’s Jig’ is slow paced (for a while) with mandolin and fiddle reflecting into each other’s mirrors during the odd country music night at the local Celtic bar. And Severn Head Set’, is again, really nice “dance music”. This one really goes the way of Anglo England’s very early The Prospect Before Us Albion Band. And ‘Whiskey Soup’ simply expands the Celtic universe, and then deflates all the beauty into several final notes, like a Celtic design, that just drops into an ever-circulating riddle of my beloved Irish setter Dara, and her beloved Irish setter’s eyes.

It’s said that Galileo, when forced to recant his obvious scientific knowledge by (the dreaded) Inquisition, was heard to mutter, “Pero si muove”, which translates into “Still it moves”, which in turn, (sort of) translates into those words of Shooglenifty’s live album that simply said, “This is dance music”. And TradHead, like Galileo’s words, weaves ever spinning melodies into a very beautiful and very Celtic universe. And, by the way, there’s Never A Dull Moment to be found in the grooves of this very fine folk record.

Bill Golembeski

Artist’s website: https://grahamlindsey.com/

‘Leaving Goderich’:

Charles Foskett announces his long-awaited debut album

Charles Foskett

Late Bloomer started with the composition of only one song, ‘Pull On The Rope’ – it was an exercise of healing and distraction – mainly to see if Foskett could still actually string a cohesive sentence together after chemotherapy and radiation – this was before undergoing massively invasive 12 hour surgeries to rid him of his life threatening tumours – he also lost several body parts into the bargain – Chemo Brain (cancer-related cognitive impairment) can last up to five years and longer.

This was between 2010 and 2015 – fast forward five years – Foskett is still breathing and a happy boy, now in his 70’s – he is on a mission with one heck of an uplifting and motivational back story to tell – not only to those who have been through and are going through similar circumstances, but to everyone out there who cares about their own health and well-being.

OK – Let’s talk about the sexy part – The Music! Folk Songs and Roots Music appealed to Foskett for one simple reason, the possibility of storytelling within it’s lyrical content – Foskett’s own particular brand of home-made folk songs started with many regressive trips from his hospital bed back to his early post World War 2 beginnings on Tyneside.

OK, you may think this is not something out of the ordinary, but Foskett having a great sense of humour and being a true visualist, has always been able to recall not only bygone images but has a gift to be able to replay movies of his long gone past, sometimes even with the audio attached – in other words, he can still hear the voices and the sounds of those halcyon days of old.

This explains such amazing story lines to songs like Jimmy Gray’s Granny’s Eye’where he accidentally got a missing glass eye (which belonged to a friend’s ancient grandmother) lodged up his backside.

Mahoney’s Bridge’ – Another 1950’s story based upon a childhood friend whose mother was a prostitute and the daughter eventually followed in her footsteps.

Wild Wild Things’ – A duet he wrote for Julie Felix and himself, about how two old people in their twilight years might reflect upon today’s young, expending all their precious energy on useless pass times (We’ve all been there and done it!).

Foskett, a natural musical arranger, has produced here a number of hugely infectious, sometimes dark, sometimes uplifting but always heartfelt songs – Apart from the self penned songs there are some that have been specifically written for him by the likes of Grammy, Emmy, Bafta awarded John Cameron (Orchestral Arranger and Orchestral Conductor of Les Miserables).

Foskett is currently working on his follow up album which will be a duets record co-written with some of his duet partners – The duets list so far are Judie Tzuke (‘Stay With Me Till Dawn’) – BBC’s Nicky Campbell OBE – Ralph McTell  – Steve Knightley (Show Of Hands) – Paul Jones (The Manfreds) – Janis Ian (At Seventeen) – Foskett is also writing with the legendary songwriter, winner of five Ivor Novello Awards and writing partner of the late Michel Legrand – Barry Mason – This project promises a whole host of other musical luminaries as his guests.

Artist’s website: www.charlesfoskett.com

‘Hole In The Clouds’:

TOMMY SANDS – Fair Play To You All (Spring SCD 1066)

Fair Play To You AllThe picture on the cover of Tommy Sands recent album is a literal illustration of an old Irish saying which, in England, is only uttered by football club managers. It has a number of meanings and interpretations. Superficially Fair Play To You All would seem to be a simple album but it’s far from that. Sands blends politics, history and nostalgia with a lacing of humour and some fine singers and musicians in support.

The first track, ‘The Answer Is Not Blowing In The Wind’, isn’t a rewriting of Bob Dylan’s song although it borrows some of the questions and adds new ones. Sands’ argument is that Dylan’s simplistic answer won’t do any longer and presents a better one. It really is an attention-grabbing opener. The album’s title comes from ‘Clanrye Side’, set on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. I believe it’s now called Newry River and the song is set in a pub frequented by drinkers from both sides with a tolerant landlady and a young girl who had those words as a tattoo. Whether or not there is poetic license in the song I can’t say but it sets the tone of the record.

‘Ballyholland’ picks up on the nostalgia but also remembers thirty emigrants to America who promised to return but never managed it. ‘Refugees’ and ‘What’s Going On In Jerusalem’ follow the theme of displacement. The latter relates the story of a Jewish family who escaped from the Nazis only to be driven from the US by McCarthyism to settle in Israel. The youngest son returned to America in protest over what he was asked to do in the Israeli army.

Sands is a bit cheeky sometimes. In ‘Refugees’ he appropriates part of the refrain of ‘A Pair Of Brown Eyes’ but I‘m sure Shane won’t mind and he sets ‘Ode To Europe’ to a well known bit of Beethoven. ‘American Dreams’ and ‘Who Killed JFK?’ both take a swipe at the USA and then Sands switches to rather more distant history with ‘Caoineadh Mhacha’, which is also a feminist clarion call. If I understand correctly, Sands wrote the song in English and employed Pádraigin Ní Uallacháin to translate it into Irish.

Humour comes with ‘Paddy And The Judge’ alongside politics and class warfare and finally Sands goes to the family and clan with ‘Every County On The Island’ and ‘Gathering Of The Clans’ bringing to a fitting end an album that has Irishness running all through it. Fair Play To You All boasts eight backing vocalists, perhaps better described as a choir, with Uilleann pipes, fiddles, bodhran, whistles and Sands’ banjo, not to mention an entire pipe band. This isn’t theme pub Irishness, though, this is the real thing.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.tommysands.com

‘American Dreams’: