HECTOR GILCHRIST – Gleanings (WildGoose WGS426CD)

GleaningsHector Gilchrist, as you will quickly discover, comes from Ayrshire but is much travelled. To misuse a common phrase, however: you can take the man out of Scotland but you can’t take Scotland out of the man. There is someone like Hector in just about every folk club: always welcome, able to produce a set at a moment’s notice. They may not be stars but some can elevate themselves above their apparently humble status. Gleanings is a collection of traditional and contemporary songs that might seem typical except for Hector’s skill in finding a previously unconsidered piece.

He begins with the lovely ‘Baltic Street’. It’s a tale of love and self-sacrifice with words by Violet Jacob and a melody by Carole Prior and I guess it’s unique to Hector. It slips easily into ‘How Many Rivers’, Robert Burns’ ‘A Rosebud By My Early Walk’ and Steve Knightly’s ‘Exile’. By now, the album is feeling rather downbeat and I’m hoping for something rather more lively. Although a guitarist himself, Hector only plays on one track, ‘Sir Patrick Spens’, and leaves most of the work to Bob Wood. Also supporting him are Carol Anderson on fiddle and the myriad talents of Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer. Moira Craig takes the second vocal lines – I’m not going to belittle her contribution by referring to “backing vocals”. You’ll note that all of them are regular visitors to WildGoose studios.

The liveliness begins with ‘A Waukrife Minnie’ – a night visiting song of the sexual encounter not the supernatural sort – with Carol throwing in a fiddle tune at the end. ‘My Ain Countrie’ is a wistful song of exile and then comes the first of those unconsidered pieces. ‘The Stag’ was written by Angelo Brandaurdie, an Italian composer, songwriter and Renaissance music specialist. It’s an oddly philosophical piece in which the titular beast urges the writer, a hunter, to use every part of his body instead of just taking a trophy. Whether the hunter actually kills the animal is not recorded. After ‘Sir Patrick Spens’ things cheer up again with ‘The Gallowa’ Hills’ and then comes the second unexpected gem. Janis Ian’s ‘When Angel Cry’ is a real downer, written at the height of the AIDS crisis. Vicki and Jonny provide the accompaniment with all the delicacy you’d expect.

Gleanings is an album reminiscent of a time when singers didn’t overthink things. It’s a collection of songs that Hector likes and enjoys performing which is where we all came in. That’s not a veiled criticism; I’d not heard ten of these sixteen songs before proving that there is always something new to discover.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com 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: http://hectorgilchrist.co.uk/

‘Baltic Street’:

OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW – Volunteer (Columbia Nashville)

VolunteerFrom the opening notes of their latest album, Volunteer, the first to feature electric guitar in 14 years, you know the Grammy award-winning outfit have a good time in store for you, even if the song lyrics aren’t necessarily always as upbeat as the tunes. That said, the footstomping, handclapping ‘Flicker & Shine’ is a fast and furious anthem to unity as they sing how “All together we fall together we ride together we’re wild together All together we fall together every little light will flicker and shine” the song, almost impossibly getting even faster towards the close.

There’s not much community spirit going down though in ‘A World Away’, its jaunty harmonica chugging melody couching a refugee-tinged lyric about being the perpetual one on the other side of the door trying to get in, be it at the party or the pearly gates.

Taking a bluesier turn and again featuring Ketch Secor’s harmonica chops, the choogling midtempo ‘Child of the Mississippi’ pretty much speaks for itself and its lyric about “a barefoot boy born in Dixieland” growing up on and missing the muddy banks. It’s followed by another celebration of being raised and living and loving in the south, Rockingham County to be precise, twangy guitar and Morgan Jahnig’s upright bass underpinning the honky tonk line-dancing flavoured, whistling along ‘Dixie Avenue’ with its call to “rattle our bones before they lay us to rest.”

Secor’s love of the South is also to the fore on the slower, more meditative ‘Look Away’, echoes of The Band in evidence as he sings how “this is the land where salvation ain’t a dirty word” while fiddle, 12 string guitar and pedal steel colour its sweet and sad lyrics and, yes, the title refrain does evoke Dixie’s unofficial national anthem.

It’s back to a handclapping, foot stomping, holler out hoe down with the fiddle blazing ‘Shout Mountain Music’ as Critter Fuqua takes on lead vocals for its party on call to boogaloo your blues, cut a rug and swing your partners until the sun comes up. It stays in a party mood but shifts towards Western Swing with Kevin Haynes singing lead on his own ‘The Good Stuff’, another number that sums itself up in the title as Cory Youts tinkles the saloon ivories.

There’s only two story songs here, the first up being ‘Old Hickory’, again evoking The Band (notably ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’) in its tale of Virgil Lee, a flatwoods boy who could play guitar and channel the pain of the blues like an Opry star but “mistook the devil for a dear friend” and “ultimately got too big for (his) britches” and now “nobody remembers his name.”

Written by Secor, ‘Homecoming Party’ is a sort of negative zone ‘Gentle On My Mind’, to which the melody has a presumably intentional resemblance, reversing the sentiments of John Hartford’s lyrics for a song about a travelling musician coming home “weary and wasted”, taking a sleeping pill so he won’t hear the kids calling him and wary of waking the wife (“when our bodies touch I’ll pull away and not disturb her/Even though I long for love so much it hurts”), and hoping that “Maybe we won’t argue in the morning.”

The traditional ‘Elzick’s Farewell’ provides a fiery instrumental featuring fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitjo before things close up on the second narrative, the pedal steel streaked gently rolling along ‘Whirlwind’, Chance McCoy on electric guitar, conjuring the folk-country musical spirit of Steve Goodman and Gordon Lightfoot in a love song about surviving the hardships and celebrating the joys of twirling twister of life (“There were babies died and babies born, flood and drought and world war…and every town another chance To try and build a winning hand, even when the cards were stacked against”) defying the storms to go “racing home down rainy streets.” Enlist now.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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

Artists’ website: www.crowmedicine.com

‘Flicker & Shine’:

Ad Vanderveen – Denver Nevada

Denver Nevada is a place that is not real, it’s made up. But it is real in the sense that it’s an anagram for Ad Vanderveen. As for Still Life; all meanings of the term can apply in this case.

Desolation, serenity; scenes like in a David Lynch movie or an Edward Hopper painting come to mind when listening to the singer-songwriter’s new album. Existential themes such as solitude, longing and resignation are expressed throughout the lyrics. But the album is also about the inexplicable and unstoppable drive and necessity to keep writing and creating.

Vanderveen can be counted among the most prolific songwriters in the new folk and roots genre, with over 30 albums to his name since the early 90s. As a person and a musicians, musician Ad is mostly geared towards growth and development and he tends to keep away from matters not involving music or spirituality. Dealing with  issues like name, fame and big sales numbers have never been one of his priorities. Among music lovers and critics, colleagues and peers however, he is highly regarded as a songwriter and musician; none other than Van Morrison, after hearing Ad’s album Worlds Within, personally invited him as his opening act in July 2017.

Another one of Vanderveen’s long-time favorites, John Gorka, joins him on the albums lead track to duet on “Another Song”. Denver Nevada strikes a certain melancholy atmosphere and mood that underscore the poems and lyrics at the core of the songs. The style can best be described as contemporary folk with influences of rock, jazz and classical. The songs and instrumentation are based around acoustic guitar and vocal; accompanied by piano, electric guitar, bass, percussion/drums, harmony vocals and augmented by strings and horns.

Ad’s previous album Worlds Within was hailed as a ‘classic’ by roots-americana critics and considered to be one of his best works. Fortunately the well has not run dry yet and folking.com agrees that the sequel Denver Nevada could top the former one, journeying further and deeper into new territory and changing soundscapes. Ad Vanderveen keeps challenging both himself and his roots music audience.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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

Tracklisting:
01. Another Song
02. Big Old Lonely Feeling
03. Backroads of Hope
04. Castles
05. Denver Nevada
06. Ruminations
07. Wooden Shoes, Wooden Heart ,Wouldn’t Listen
08. Blackbird Singing a Blue Note
09. In The Name Of Rock ‘n’ Roll
10. My Sweet Crushed Angel
11. Afterthought – Groveling Grandeur

Artist Web Link: https://advanderveen.com/

The Grahams – New limited 7 inch

Photo by David Johnson.

Vibrant Nashville-based Americana duo The Grahams (pronounced Grams) announce extensive February-March 2018 UK tour previewing material from two eagerly anticipated projects due later this year – their new studio album produced by Richard Swift (Black Keys, Arcs, Shins), and continuing their adventurous exploration of the USA – this time around on two wheels – the soundtrack to their new feature length documentary Love & Distortion.

In the Fall of 2016, while the country reels from a seemingly unstoppable vortex of disorientation, musicians & lifelong soulmates The Grahams, set out on a spectacular motorcycle expedition across America’s time warped Route 66. Amidst the neon, the romance, the heat, the music and the sheer power of nostalgia, The Grahams explore the concept of “real” America with the eccentric and notorious characters who live and work in the strange and mysterious world that is Route 66.

Featuring a surreal soundtrack with contributions from Nashville’s finest; Elizabeth Cook, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Dylan LeBlanc, Chuck Mead, Lilly Hiatt, The Grahams and many more, Love & Distortion is not a travel guide or a musical biopic. This feature length documentary, which follows The Grahams down the Mother Road, is an unconventional narrative weaving in and out of moments and realities that can be found in the various sub-cultures of America’s Main Street.

On the first taster from the soundtrack, which will only be available as a limited edition 7” single at UK shows, until the full soundtrack’s official release later this year, The Grahams interpret The Pretenders’ ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’, a Top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 1986, and Mazzy Star’s 1994 cult classic ‘Fade Into You’.

Artist Web Links:
www.thegrahamsmusic.net
www.facebook.com/TheGrahamsMusic
www.twitter.com/TheGrahamsMusic

MAEVE MACKINNON – Strì (Own Label, MM003)

Launched this weekend as part of Celtic Connections 2018, comes Maeve Mackinnon’s third studio album, Strì (meaning “strive”). After a couple of years of touring with Stepcrew and others, Mackinnon returns to home turf with an album of songs with a distinctly female perspective.

Inspired by Mackinnon’s love of waulking songs, this collection bears all the hallmark strong rhythms of work songs, like opener ‘Iomaraibh Eutrom’ (“Row Lightly”) with its hypnotic rowing pace. There’s also an evident relish in playing with assonance and alliteration in the language.

The lyrics (in translation) form a brutal poetry. Often these little hunks of plain-spoken, stark phrases hang together with a dark twist involving betrayal, or a loss of love or life. But it’s as repeated, sung phrases that they come alive with their own musicality.

Knowing Gaelic may help comprehension, but it’s certainly not essential to appreciating the vocal skill and dexterity in pieces like ‘Puirt-a-Beul’ (“Mouth Music”) – a “hidden” track that runs on from ‘Moch An-Diugh A Rinn Mi Eirigh’ (“Early Today I Rose”). Then there’s the not-quite-rapping, tongue-twisting ‘Bodachan a’Ghàrraidh’ (“Little Old Man In The Garden”) with its loose, funky guitar undercarriage. (And this song even fades out, like some contemporary radio playlister).

What the Scots generally do seem to have is a sound grasp of how to respect and refresh their traditions with judicious use of the studio toolbox, and Strì is no exception. So, occasional processed vocals, industrial metallic sounds, scratchy electronics and even an almost club-like rhythmic regularity on can be found here, all of which help to keep these songs feeling right up to date.

Producer/arranger Duncan Lyall successfully marshalls an array of top musicians including Jarlath Henderson, Ali Hutton, Martin O’Neill, Patsy Reid and Kathleen MacInnes, amongst others, whilst keeping a firm hold on the balance of instrumentation and sympathetically fleshing out Mackinnon’s warm tones.

Most of the songs here may be from the Gaelic tradition, but Mackinnon does include one of her own compositions. Following a crackly announcement in Spanish, it’s quite startling to hear English lyrics again. ‘We’re Not Staying’ is a complex tale of flight and persecution, nicely told with an emphasis on the disruption of migration and the wistful sense of temporariness.

In short, Maeve Mackinnon has made, in Strì, an album that is a real pleasure to listen to, relishing in all its rhythmic twists and turns. She has taken traditional forms and given them a contemporary edge, and the women’s stories that she sings are just as relevant as they ever have been.

Su O’Brien

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com 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: www.maevemackinnon.com

‘Iomaraibh Eutrom’:

MIKE TURNBULL – Circlet Of Gold (own label)

Circlet Of GoldI started to listen to Circlet Of Gold and got so wrapped up in the opening track that I had do some research and by the time I’d done that I had to start listening again. No bad thing, actually. Mike Turnbull is a singer-songwriter from the Lake District whose main instruments are tenor guitar, octave mandola and tenor ukulele. Their sound coupled with the sources of his songs suggests Seth Lakeman and, in truth, that isn’t a bad comparison. He certainly has the same drive and energy.

That opening track is ‘The King Of Dunmail Raise’ and if you’re local you’ll know that Dunmail was the last king of Cumberland, killed by the English and buried under a cairn above Grasmere. There is also a shopping mall named after him in Workington but we’ll let that pass. Mike weaves into his song the legend of the warrior spirits who offer Dunmail the crown every year only to be rebuffed.

There is nothing parochial about Mike’s songwriting although you could find a link to ‘Fields Of Heavy Dew’ in any community. The song is set at the end of the Great War with soldiers looking forward to returning home. ‘Heart Of The Sea’ is about the whaling trade while ‘The Mountaineers’ recounts the tale of Mallory and Irving, lost on Everest in 1924 and ‘Ghost Of The Brown Lady’ is a ghost story from Norfolk.

‘Drowning Valley’ comes closer to home with story of the drowning of Mardale Green to clear the valley for Haweswater reservoir but the most fascinating song is ‘Will I Save The King’ in which Mike explains the origin of his surname which dates back to the 14th century. I think that every songwriter should be required to carry out the same exercise.

I believe that Circlet Of Gold is Mike’s debut album and if that’s so I hope it does really well for him.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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

‘The King Of Dunmail Raise’: