The Cousins Project – Beautiful Blood

Steve Mayone and Kristina Stykos are second cousins, but they didn’t know that until a few years ago. They lived parallel lives: songwriters, producers, independent artists. In 2006 they met by chance when Steve was playing a gig in Vermont (where Kristina lives). Upon hearing Steve’s last name announced from the stage, Kristina introduced herself and they discovered their grandparents were siblings.

Making up for lost time, Steve and Kristina began playing music together, resulting in their new album Beautiful Blood. Recorded in their home studios (Kristina’s Pepperbox Studio and Steve’s Proofbox Studio), Beautiful Blood combines their different styles into one voice: Americana, folk/rock, ballads, blues, all woven into a single tapestry. With years of writing, performing and production experience under their belts, the making of Beautiful Blood was a joyful culmination of professional compatibility and family time.

 Steve Mayone

Hailing from Brooklyn, N.Y., Steve Mayone is a songwriter and performer. As a writer, he’s had his songs and instrumentals placed in independent films and TV shows. Steve’s four solo CDs, Bedroom Rockstar, Unfortunate Son, Understories and Long Play Record have garnered excellent reviews. As a performer, Steve plays up and down the Northeast as a solo performer and accompanist, and has shared the stage with Levon Helm, Donald Fagan and Kate Taylor.

 Kristina Stykos

Kristina Stykos is a songwriter, musician, producer and recording engineer. She runs Pepperbox Studios, specializing in acoustic music, located at the end of a dirt road in Chelsea, Vermont. Kristina has released three solo albums; In The Earth’s Fading Light, Raven and the recently released Wyoming Territory. As a producer, she has created albums for fellow Vermont artists Bow Thayer, Robert Resnick, Wagtail and Erin McDermott, to name a few.

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MARTIN HARLEY – Mojo Fix – 60/20 Records 7 21762 97054 6

MojoFixMartin Harley plays guitar. All sorts of guitar: acoustic, lap slide, Weissenborn, you name it. He also plays harmonica and stylophone but a man’s got to have a hobby, right? Mojo Fix is his fifth album, three of them released as The Martin Harley Band.

It’s also something of a departure. Martin has moved from the Surrey delta to Texas to write and record with producer Bob Parr, his wife Claire and a distinguished cast of musicians. His style of Americana ranges from the blues’n’boogie of the title track to a gentle ballad like ‘Treading Water’. In fact the album switches moods at a bewildering rate. It opens with the title track and distorted vocals reminiscent of Tom Waits’ megaphone style with just drums and bass in support, a style repeated in the closing ‘Mean Old City’. ‘Cardboard King’ is one the record’s production numbers with a string quartet and a decidedly Slambovian feel. ‘Wrecking Ball’ is another rocker with violin and brass and ‘Rum Shack’ has the feel of a thirties’ tune brought into the 21st century and roughed up a bit.

Mojo Fix is an album that I enjoy more and more each time I listen to it. It feels like a square peg in the round hole of the music business and that’s great. Martin is touring extensively in the UK in March and that has to be a good night out. 

Dai Jeffries

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

Darryl Purpose – Next Time Around

darrylPurposeArtDarryl Purpose is clearly the second coming of James Taylor and Tom Rush.

As someone who cut her musical teeth on those and other masters of American folk, I don’t make such statements lightly.

Take a listen to Purpose’s just-released “Next Time Around” and get ready to be bowled over by the beauty of this music. It’s not just the acoustic melodies that move seamlessly from aching to heartfelt or the nearly gritty vocals that set him apart. Like Taylor and Rush, Purpose writes songs filled with the honest ruminations of a life well examined, looking at the positive slant in times of adversity. The instrumentation he chooses – a fiddle here, a mandolin there, sprinkled over flawlessly played acoustic guitar – are as pure as the poetry of his lyrics.

It’s not an overstatement to note that “Next Time Around,” Purpose’s latest release, will touch the heart of old-school folk lovers that yearn for the format’s once pristine charm.

Listen to the first track — “Dreams of Life” – which has just the right amount of percussion to set off the story of wistful loneliness – and you’ll be transported right back to Boston when Taylor and Rush were just breaking out. Yeah, the sound and vivid lyrical imagery– “sun shining like Cuervo Gold” – is that magnificent.

The throbbing percussions and cymbals on “Race the Wind,” another meditative jewel about absorbing positive spirits to strengthen you own, is the perfect feel good tonic.

A true stand out track, which Americana will clearly want to claim as its own, is “The Ghost of Crazy Horse.” Soaring fiddles, Native American drumbeats, western-styled guitar picking – yeah, this is destined for heavy rotation on plenty of playlists.

“Next Time Around” is the gold standard of modern American folk.

Find out more about Purpose and his music on his official website. Written by: Nancy Dunham

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Live Review – Martyn Joseph supported by Luke Jackson, Rugby Roots 3rd November 2012…

A captivating night all round at Martyns 10th visit to Rugby Roots at the Lawrence Sheriff School on his tour to promote his new album Songs For the Coming Home .

This was 3 hours of first class acoustic music from two gifted performers, one sorcerer at the peak of his game (wearing a suit for the occasion, I should add) and one rapidly rising apprentice, and quite honestly, you could scarcely see the join, both were magnificent!

There is always a lovely atmosphere at any Rugby Roots  gig , thanks in no small part to the promoters  Richard and Anna Barnes, who are totally passionate about getting good quality music heard and determined  that everyone has a good night.

The apprentice ;  What can I say about Luke Jackson live? simply, he is a total revelation. I have listened to him on CD and watched videos for 3 years , and knew there was a real talent emerging, but this was the first time I had seen him play live and I have to declare I am struggling to be objective, quite simply he blew me away , I can’t remember the last time that happened. I am sure there were a few sitting there with the opinion that this would be a pleasant half hour which they would listen to politely until Martyn came on, such are the unenviable joys of a support act. However, within a verse of Run and Hide, Lukes opener, he had everyone completely spellbound. His command of the stage and his rapport with the audience belie his age. The belief and confidence in his songs and consummate guitar playing and the thoughtful delivery with sometimes  piercing pure vocals was nothing short of dazzling, and his short set went by way too fast.

Artist’s website: http://www.lukepauljackson.co.uk/

Then came the maestro:

There are few things certain in life, there are the usual ones, death and taxes . However there is one other, and that is a Joseph concert is always an outstanding couple of hours, He has never given any less than 100% passion , honesty, compassion and insight and jaw dropping musicianship and  this night was no exception. Martyn has played at Rugby 9 times before and this, his 10th, was up there with the best of them. There was an air that we were going to be treated to something special , a feeling that has been filtering through from previous dates on this tour.

There were many highlights, new songs and familiar ones from his back catalogue . The new album has been  made three dimensional  on this tour, stripped of the production but  loaded with impact, from the spine tingling Crossing the Line with our added voices  humming away underneath Martyns stark words to the stomping and rocking No time for God . Older favorites not heard for a while have been given an airing , Like the mesmerising All This Time, always a joy to hear and I Will Follow. There were some surprises,  one special one was a breath-taking raw version of Springsteens classic The River upholding Martyns often used tag as Bruces Welsh counterpart, quite rightly so  too.

The biggest highlight for me, and one that many seeing this tour will say in the future “I was there when ..”  and  which , for me was loaded with so much significance, was when Martyn asked Luke back on to duet with him on one of Luke’s own songs Bakers Woods. Forget the age and experience gap ,this was just two exceptional musicians totally in tune with each other. There was a tangible sense of a baton being handed over and there were moments that I really wanted to bottle, it was quite beautiful . In 30 plus years I have been involved in music and witnessing some meaningful events and gigs, this was one of those times that are on that rare list of truly momentous.

If nothing else came from Rugby one glaring thing was apparent and that is acoustic music doesn’t get much finer than this.

All I have left to say is to urge folk to get to one of the dates that are left on this tour…

Trish Roberts

“There are moments on this record that I will always treasure; small nuances of memory and recall that are both painful and joyous. The highlight for me is the song ‘Archive’. On long car journeys touring across Canada last year with poet, guru and friend Stewart Henderson we talked, and talked and went deeper and deeper. He started writing, and at some point on a prairie plain in Alberta he handed me some words on the back of an envelope. Months later in the early hours of the morning I took them to a microphone with no melodic agenda and just played and sang. The result was the first and only take that ended up on the album. Its me with my soul howling. Its what I like to do.” Martyn Joseph

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Martyn Joseph – Songs For The Coming Home – reviewed by Trish Roberts

After 30 plus years of making music you would be forgiven for thinking an artist would plateau at some point, happy to remain within familiar boundaries of the singer/songwriter, the man, voice and guitar. However , that is most assuredly not the case here !. Whatever preconceptions there are of what to expect ignore them, they will be way off the mark; I know mine were.

This is Martyn as people know him, never shy of confronting subjects as only he knows how to. On this creation we have suicide, redemption, grace, soul searching, love, sacrifice, confession and moral ire, all tackled and delivered in such a way that is completely engrossing. This is also Martyn as we have never heard him, dare I say some of this is as personal as any album has been. It is not an album that a 20 year old could have written, this has only been arrived at by a life lived with eyes, heart and soul wide open.

The production by Mason Neely is vast and has well and truly shredded any blueprints, if ever there were any, but with the core of the Martyn Joseph people know still firmly there. It’s vital, exhilarating and subtle, dynamic and serene. If Under Lemonade Skies, the last album, was a look into the box of possibilities of where his music could go, with Songs For The Coming Home that box has been fully delved into. On many tracks he has created amazing sound backdrops with the inclusion of strings, steel guitar, brass, cello and drums while not overwhelming the man and guitar.

Every track is worth its weight right from the opener ‘Crossing the Line’, with the discordant music that weaves the song and matches the confusion and grief behind a suicide and the fall out that results. The song is always on the edge of shuddering into chaos but the slow beautiful guitar and Martyns tender/ tough vocals hold it together, it’s a song that each listen takes you deeper and dares you to ask questions.

The album flows effortlessly along with songs like the uplifting Still a Lot of Love’ ,  with the familiar man, guitar and gorgeous community singing .

My personal highlight is the life affirming  ‘Let Yourself’ an empowering and poignant song, with a cello carrying along Martyns vocals. This carries one of my favourite lines of the album, ‘And you can bring it on world, throw everything, cos in the end love wins big, and there are some of us who will not be lying down“.

Another highlight is the  stark confessional ‘Falling from Grace’ with sublime guitar that harks back to ‘Turn Me Tender’ from the 2004 album Deep Blue. It tells of the pitfalls we all stumble into through life now and again, some fall deeper than others but with the end telling us there is hope  .

The upbeat feel of ‘Feels Like This’ is a Bruce Cockburn like song which screams to be on every radio playlist, don’t be fooled by the bouncy singable rhythm though .

The re-worked Whoever it was … carries a different weight from the version from the 2003 album of the same name and at first glance at the track list I wondered if it had its place on this new album , simple answer is , absolutely. The voice maybe wearier and more measured  and the guitar slower, but the impact is deeper .

The guitar/ drum laden provocative ‘No time For God’  demands to be played loud! , the  rousing chorus will probably have the hackles rising on some followers .This appeals to my anarchic/ punk sensibilities and is a belter, you cannot help yourself sing along , it’s a proper  Saturday night festival rant, and there is  a great Wilco Johnson like harmonica solo screaming in the middle .

The key song that defines the album is the profound ‘Clara’ a classic Joseph storyteller song , you are drawn into this amazing panoramic image that unveils the primal power of music that transcends comprehension …but I will leave that there , it is to be discovered…..’Hope we all have a Clara’

Finally ,the  turbulence returns with the hard hitting, contradictory and courageous  ‘Archive’  Probably one of the finest and piercingly personal songs  he has produced.

I have only scratched the surface , but there are 10 tracks on this album that have to be revealed to each listener without too many preconceptions , it’s a case of headphones on, or a long drive or whatever, and immerse yourself in this track by track.

Buckle up for one heck of a ride.

In short, this is a colossal creation.

Trish Roberts – 5* Review

“There are moments on this record that I will always treasure; small nuances of memory and recall that are both painful and joyous. The highlight for me is the song ‘Archive’. On long car journeys touring across Canada last year with poet, guru and friend Stewart Henderson we talked, and talked and went deeper and deeper. He started writing, and at some point on a prairie plain in Alberta he handed me some words on the back of an envelope. Months later in the early hours of the morning I took them to a microphone with no melodic agenda and just played and sang. The result was the first and only take that ended up on the album. Its me with my soul howling. Its what I like to do.” Martyn Joseph

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Latest tour date details: http://www.martynjoseph.net/category/tourdates/

David McGraw and Mandy Fer – Seed of a Pine

This album encapsulates, everything I love about the Americana music scene, namely, heart, soul, places, travel, song and fine musicianship. I have Darryl Purpose and his “Travelers’ Code album back in 2001 (see http://folking.com/darryl-purpose/ ) to thank for my introduction to it and my subsequent love affair with it.

Human chemistry is indeed a mercurial thing, and adding any artistic endeavour into that mysterious balance can, every so often, create some true magic. For David McGraw and Mandy Fer (pronounced fair), the delicate intertwining of music, life and that always-fine interpersonal equilibrium has born fruit in the shape of a truly one of a kind artistic partnership.

With the release of the song writers first official collaboration, Seed of Pine, the duo’s ability to blend their lush folk and Americana – influenced styles is on full display. McGraw’s consoling, velvety baritone voice, reminiscent of Greg Brown, coupled with Fer’s soaring and subtly powerful vocal approach, likened to that of Patty Griffin, puts a spit-shine polish on the finely crafted body of songs they have generated together.

The  intricate weavings of their vocal harmonies are undeniably exceptional. McGraw’s hard-hating tunes echoed narratives of the culture and landscape of the American West, wherein he thoughtfully spins tales of everyday folks looking for something more in their earthly existence. Fer takes a more dreamy approach, invoking complex and etherial imagery within her sultry and haunting melodies. Her potent electric lead guitar playing, in the vain of jazz-fusion guitarist John Scofield, bravely propels this duo through their uniquely heartfelt and spirited live performances, winning over audiences night after night,

McGraw and Fer have amassed an admirable resume and an ever-expanding fan base during their time playing music together.

Having toured the U.S. from coast to coast, performing in highly esteemed theatres to intimate listening rooms, the pair has honed their skills sharing stages with fellow troubadours including Willy Porter, The Swell Season, Tony Furtado, Jeffrey Foucault and many others.

Seed of Pine itself was recorded in Chicago during the summer of 2011 with renowned producer Zach Goheen and includes contributions from a litany of acclaimed musicians, including Wisconsin singer-songwriter Peter Mulvey, Po’ Girl songstress Allison Russell, and Chicago’s JT Nero (of JT and the Clouds).

Let’s hope that they make it over to the UK at some point in the future. We’ll be straight back to you if we hear their a coming!

Folkmaster

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