TWAS NOW – Flesh And Bone (own label)

Flesh And BoneHailing from Kitchener, Ontario, and taking their name from enigmatic graffiti adorning a prominent railroad bridge, Mike and Diana Erb have their feet firmly planted in traditional country roots. Indeed, their aptly titled debut album, Old Fashioned Way, featured songs by such legends as the Carter Family, the Louvin Brothers and Hank Williams. Flesh And Bone however, while drawing on those influences (although ‘She’s With Me’ leans to Paul Simon), is almost entirely all their own work.

It opens in fine form with ‘Next To You’, on old time country sounding song of domestic happiness marred by a legal misunderstanding, twangsome guitar paving the way into the steady chug love song ‘Show You Mine’ about how actions speak louder than words, or as they put it, “it’s not about how deep it runs, but how the current flows”.

Musically, ‘Two Step’ lives up to its title as Diana sings of finding love on the dancefloor before more serious concerns rear their head on the waltzing blues-tinged shuffle of ‘Black Coffee’, echoing personal experiences of infertility and miscarriage. Similarly, Mike on sensitive lead, the weeping steel and dobro-backed acoustic ballad ‘Part Of Me’ was inspired by the courage of friends to come out, even when married, changing the structure of their families in the process, while, a rousing fiddle-led hoedown, ‘Poor Orphan Child’, Mike echoing Diana on the chorus lines, addresses family from another perspective.

The song is, of course, a cover of the Carter Family classic and one of two non-originals on the album, the other being a more uptempo bluegrassy pedal steel-backed version of the ‘This World Is Not My Home’, originally sung by Jim Reeves and written by his wife, Mary.

Staying with the swing tempo and pedal steel, Diana takes lead on the brushed drums jaunty ‘Confessin’ Profession Blues’, a playful look at how the other man’s grass always seems greener before returning to the kinfolk theme with another slow waltz, ‘Family Roots’. They close up with Mike taking lead on the soulful, organ-backed slow waltz ‘Rudy’s Song’, written for his late brother but essentially about always being there to provide support for a friend in need and, even when things don’t turn out as hoped, serve as a reminder that those that cared did what they could and they were never alone.

Albums that arrive out of the blue like this are one of the reasons why we as music critics do what we do. Flesh And Bone is a terrific find.

Mike Davies

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Artists’ website: www.twasnowmusic.com

‘Family Roots’ – official video:

DYLAN LEBLANC – Renegade (ATO Records)

RenegadeDylan LeBlanc’s fourth album, Renegade, was released on June 7th – and it’s rather good.

LeBlanc’s publicity gives details of a pretty impressive back story – his first two albums included: acclaim as “the new Neil Young”; Emmylou Harris guesting on his first album; touring/ opening for Lucinda Williams and Laura Marling amongst others. All of which came early in life and led to “a blur of booze and self-doubt. Exhausted and damaged at just 23-years-old, Dylan came home to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to write a new life for himself”.

Renegade was recorded in Nashville. This is all a pretty rock’n’roll background. What makes this a better than average rock’n’roll tale is that the “blur of booze and self-doubt” doesn’t finish the tale but has led to a new discipline. The new album is just as worthy of the high praise as the early albums.

Renegade opens with the title track and you’re drawn instantly into LeBlanc’s world of great melodies supported by a rocking band – the signature highlights being Leblanc’s captivating higher range vocal and a slightly fuzzy lead guitar (hence the Neil Young references). ‘Born Again’ and ‘Bang Bang Bang’ keep you in this musical world and lead you into ‘Domino’ which is gentler, a picked acoustic guitar and LeBlanc’s vocal taking the lead above a quieter mix for the band.

‘I See It In Your Eyes’ and ‘Damned’ return to the rockier style of the initial tracks before the album closes with another four more acoustic songs.

Have a listen to the song ‘Renegade’ in the YouTube link below and you’ll get a good feel for the album. Gentler than the Neil Young tag that LeBlanc has been given and a guitar lead that’s not-quite-scuzzy, but it’s a damned good track.

The album is less than 40 minutes long but it keeps you listening all through and it’s got that kind of feel which is simultaneously both loud and intimate that I’d imagine works just as well on big stadium stages and in smaller clubs.

LeBlanc is touring in the USA and Europe for the next three months, including four gigs in the UK (London, Leeds, Manchester and Guildford) in the first week of September.

Mike Wistow

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

‘Renegade’ – live:

STEELEYE SPAN – EST’D 1969 (Park Records PRKCD154)

Est'd 1969There are bands who seem to have always been there and have established a reputation that even allows them to break out into the mainstream on occasions.  Steeleye Span are one such band and this year they celebrate their 50th Anniversary with a brand new record Est’d 1969.  Perhaps you would expect some kind of retrospective and you might reasonably expect ‘All Around My Hat’ to appear at some stage.  However as lead vocalist Maddy Prior said in a recent radio interview, with Brian Player on Wey Valley Radio, “We’ve done a couple of “Best of..” type albums and I think we’ve covered that, and I thought for our 50th we should do something new.” They certainly have produced something new, and very good, being familiar enough for people who have followed them from the start to feel at home with whilst being fresh enough to appeal to new ears.

The album is a mixture of new songs, along with the traditional, but it has that distinctive sound of Steeleye Span to it.  The album opens with ‘Harvest’ and I’m sure that a lot of people, without knowing in advance who the band are, would recognise them within ten seconds.  If they didn’t get it from that then after twenty seconds there would be no doubt at all in their minds.  A close harmony opening, very reminiscent of ‘Gaudete’, gives way to a rollicking folk song that is going to go down a storm at festivals and live shows with a chorus you can’t help but sing along to “And we’ll roar out, roar out, roar out our harvest home.

Of the nine track on the album it’s difficult to pick which ones to talk about because there’s such a range across it.  Dave Goulder’s ‘The January Man’ is dominated by Maddy Prior’s voice, deeper than it was but still beautiful, and with a surprisingly detailed backing that doesn’t detract from the words.

Of the traditional songs ‘The Boy And The Mantle’ (Child Ballad 29) is an saga lasting over six minutes and demonstrates the best of prog rock folk, with a harpsichord and electric guitars adding to the effect.

Although the track listing is nine there are actually ten tracks as ‘Domestic’ has two songs in it, the second of which gratifyingly starts with “As I walked out one May morning” to show without doubt folk is the heart of Steeleye Span’s music.  This also harks back to The Silly Sisters, being a song Maddy used to sing with June Tabor.  The men don’t particularly come out well on either track.

Est’d 1969 has a huge range, different styles and tempos and new band members bringing their own influences but retaining the core sound in an evolution rather than rebellion.  Over fifty years cycles begin to appear so Benji Kirkpatrick is now part of the band, following in father John’s footsteps.   Given all the changes how is that sound maintained?  Maddy Prior again “It’s very interesting having new people, young people, who don’t know a lot about traditional music…they think they know what it is before they join us and then they discover it’s much more complex than that”.

There are a couple of chances to see Steeleye Span play at festivals over the summer but then also a major tour in November and December; full details are on the website.  If you can’t wait until then to get Est’d 1969, and you shouldn’t, it’s released on 28th June and is available from Park Records

Happy Birthday, Steeleye Span, 50 years young and still making a huge contribution to the folk scene.  Long may it continue.

Tony Birch

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 Artist’s website: http://steeleyespan.org.uk/

‘Harvest’ – live:

MT. JOY EUROPEAN TOUR INCLUDING LONDON BUSH HALL DATE

Photo credit Mac Kotas

After having released their self-titled, debut album last year, LA indie rock five-piece band Mt. Joy is returning to Europe next week. The tour includes a headline London show at Bush Hall on Tuesday 25th June, the first following last year’s sold-out gig at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen.

Their debut album ‘Mt. Joy’, released last year in the UK via Dualtone/Entertainment One, has received great critical acclaim in the U.S and Europe, reaching over 86 million Spotify plays.

Mt. Joy’s debut, produced by Jon Gilbert (The Kills), is a startlingly open document, wracked with the anxieties and fears that come just as life seems to start working out. It’s a natural reaction from a wary band like Mt. Joy – the result of a sort of professional vertigo, as they’ve gone from virtual unknowns to hot young commodity in little over a year.

There’s a sense of hope underlying everything, girded by the fact that the Mt. Joy album is an impressive, honest portrayal of a young band facing that moment where dreams become reality, and finding beauty in the exhilarating uncertainty of it all.

THE BAND PERFORMING SILVER LINING

“Your new folk-rock heroes…” Rolling Stone

“Well-crafted songs that drip with nostalgia.” NPR Music / WXPN

“A powerful statement against all that is wrong with current-day America.” Ones To Watch

“An intense blast of Americana beauty” KCRW

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EURO TOUR DATES:

Saturday 22 June – Azkena Rock Festival – Vitoria-gasteiz, Spain – TICKETS

Tuesday 25 June – Bush Hall – London, United Kingdom – TICKETS

Saturday 29 June – Lollapalooza Stockholm – Stockholm, Sweden – TICKETS

Sunday 30 June – Metropolis Festival – Rotterdam, Netherlands – INFO

Artist’s website: https://www.facebook.com/mtjoyband

Elliott Morris announces his second album

Elliott Morris

The Way Is Clear is the new album from singer/songwriter and guitarist Elliott Morris. It showcases Elliott’s expert percussive acoustic guitar playing, swooping and soulful electric solos, heartfelt lyrics and strong, honest vocals.

And he’s put together an all-star ensemble. Playing alongside are Paul Carrack (Ace, Squeeze, Mike + The Mechanics, Eric Clapton) on Hammond organ, Paul’s son Jack Carrack on drums, Innes Watson (Treacherous Orchestra) and Mike Vass (PRS Scots Trad Composer of the Year, SAY Award Nominee) on fiddles/strings, Laura-Beth Salter (The Shee) on mandolin and vocals, Rosie Hood (Dovetail Trio) on vocals, Stu Hanna (Megson) on mandolin and guitar, David Milligan (Larry Carlton, Mark Knopfler, Karine Polwart) on piano, Simon Bates (Jamie Cullam, Elvis Costello) on tenor saxophone, Alan Thomson (The John Martyn Band) on fretless bass and Elliott’s brother Bevan Morris (Dallahan, Pons Aelius) on double and electric bass. The album also features two other members of Pons Aelius, Jordan Aikin on Great Highland bagpipes, whistle and Alasdair Paul on bouzouki.

Music blog WriteWyattUK proclaimed that Elliott Morris “redefines folk…with a little John Martyn influence delivered in Seth Lakeman style” and BBC 6Music’s Tom Robinson described him as “absurdly talented”.

With hundreds of gigs behind him – and a coveted Danny Kyle Award from Celtic Connections – Elliott Morris has a formidable reputation as one of the hardest-working and most sought-after artists on the acoustic scene.

The singer-songwriter, featured in Acoustic magazine as “The Next Big Thing”, has a unique guitar style. Favouring open tunings, his extended techniques include percussive hits, string tapping, and occasionally slide.

Half English, half Scottish and raised in Wales and Lincolnshire, Elliott has continued this journey by honing his craft on the road. He has played all across the British Isles, from Orkney to Plymouth, Boston to Llangrannog, Belfast to Clonakilty. And further afield, he’s headlined shows in Germany, Holland, Ireland, Canada. Other key dates have included Upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, as well as major events such as Cambridge Folk Festival, The Great British Folk Festival, Hop Farm, Towersey Festival, The London Acoustic Guitar Show and the Ullapool Guitar Festival.

He scooped a prestigious Danny Kyle Award at Celtic Connections in Glasgow, BBC Alba broadcast a duo performance with Dougie Maclean at Perthshire Amber and in 2019 Elliott is a Drake Yolanda Award grant recipient.

Elliott Morris twice toured the UK opening for Paul Carrack taking in over fifty major venues including a show at The London Palladium.

He has supported a seemingly endless list of other respected acts, among them Frank Turner, Andy McKee, Seth Lakeman, Lau, Big Country, The Levellers, Ed Sheeran, Cara Dillon and Eddi Reader.

But now Elliott moves centre stage, the spotlight focused on him. June 2019 sees him release his second album The Way Is Clear, with a launch show at Cecil Sharp House.

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‘One More Day’ – official video: