Topette!! announce their second album

Topette!!

Following a season of smouldering live shows across the UK and Europe, acclaimed Anglo-French acoustic dance band Topette!! have been back in the studio to record a much-awaited second CD Rhododendron.

Capturing the atmosphere and spirit of those live shows, the new CD resonates with the wild energy of packed dancefloors, firing the five players’ imaginations and galvanising their playing. Rhododendron is a bold and exciting album, infused with good-time feeling, visceral, pulsing drive and joy! Of course it helps that those musicians are some of the finest on the European dance scene…

Andy Cutting – diatonic button accordion & melodeon (Blowzabella, Leveret)

James Delarre – violin (Mawkin, Eliza Carthy and the Wayward Band)

Julien Cartonnet – bagpipes, banjo (Mister Klof / Shelta / Coast to Coast)

Tania Buisse – bodhrán (Shelta / Lost Highway)

Barnaby Stradling – acoustic bass guitar (Blowzabella / Eliza Carthy and the Wayward Band / False Lights)

Rhododendron was recorded at Invada Studios in Bristol, with the band’s favourite producer / sound engineer, Joe Garcia.

Topette!! have been playing together for five years now, but still have the feeling of a box-fresh project. Geography dictates they can only get together a few times each year, but despite the distances involved in rehearsing or gigging, the group have become very close friends. Their celebration of musical and cultural differences and similarities shines through in their music-making; music that is by turns jubilant, rollicking, beautiful, mind-boggling and absolutely unique!

Following on from the success of their first album, C’est le Pompon… (2017) the new album, Rhododendron once again features an eclectic selection of material. Some traditional tunes, some of the musicians’ own compositions, and tunes from friends and heroes of the band. All semi-arranged, semi-improvised in the studio, these tracks are surprisingly varied, and have plenty to capture the ear of the keen listener, as much as the feet of the avid dancer.

This band continues to tear up dance floors across Europe with their intriguing and ever-expanding repertoire…Join in the party!

Artists’ website: http://www.topette.co.uk/

Topette!! live:

MARTIN SIMPSON – Rooted (Topic TXCD598)

RootedDid you know that Ernest Shackleton considered a banjo essential to mental health on his expedition to the South Pole? Neither did I but it’s one of the fascinating facts I gleaned from Martin Simpson’s sleevenotes for his new album Rooted. Mental health is one of the themes of the record and, being a banjo player himself, I reckon that Martin has a head start on some of us. It’s one of the reasons why the album resonates with me.

As you might expect Martin mixes original compositions, traditional songs and covers. Here, Martin’s new songs lean towards the American traditional style so the opener, ‘Trouble Brought Me Here’ sounds like it could be a hundred or so years old. The second track, ‘Kimbie’, is traditional and includes some of those “vagrant stanzas” that he’s fond of. By this time, you’ll be relaxing into the music and the distinction really won’t matter.

Rooted boasts a fine supporting cast including Andy Cutting, Nancy Kerr, John Smith and Ben Nicholls plus five backing vocalists but Andy Bell’s production and engineering ensure that Martin’s voice, guitar and/or banjo ride smoothly on top of the arrangements. I’m not totally convinced by one track and that is ‘Hills Of Shiloh’ which was very popular back in the 80s. It’s not the song but Martin takes it a little too quickly for my taste and the arrangement is rather too involved.

There are some great stories in these songs, though. ‘Ken Small’ tells of a man who laboured to unearth a tank from Start Bay left there after the disastrous Operation Tiger in 1944. ‘Joe Bowers’ came from Hedy West and is a relative of ‘Sweet Betsy From Pike’ and ‘Henry Gray’ is about a piano-player who was a member of Howln’ Wolf’s band and also worked with Elmore James and Jimmy Reed. Martin was invited to play with his band – what can you say? Robb Johnson’s ‘More Than Enough’ was a song that Roy Bailey played and Martin sang it with him in hospital just before he died.

The bonus disc is a set of instrumentals two of which are sung in the substantive set. I get the feeling that Martin let his hair down just a little – playing guitar is no joking matter – and invited the band to do the same. There are a number of songs that I haven’t mentioned; all as good as the ones I have and you’ll find that Rooted is a sublime record.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.martinsimpson.com

‘More Than Enough’ – with a story to tell:

Martin Simpson announces new album

Martin Simpson

Singer, songwriter and guitar virtuoso Martin Simpson releases brand new studio album Rooted on August 30 on Topic Records. Produced by Andy Bell and recorded in Sheffield and Oxfordshire, Rooted will be available on CD, LP and digital with the deluxe 2CD and deluxe digital versions including a bonus disc of instrumentals, Seeded.

Summing up the themes of his new album, Martin says:

“The music and songs embrace nature and travel, mental health, real life stories, loss, politics and history… and the threads that bind all this together can be followed back a long way, to 1965 when I got my first guitar and started to soak up material and ideas at a very rapid rate.”

Rooted features an array of stellar guest musicians, including Nancy Kerr (fiddle and viola), Andy Cutting (melodeon and diatonic accordion), Liz Hanks (cello), John Smith (electric guitar and vocals), Ben Nicholls (string bass and electric bass guitar), Julie Matthews (vocals), Alan Barnes (clarinet), Max Simpson (vocals), Amy Smith (vocals), Chris While (vocals) and Tom A Wright (drums and percussion). Richard Hawley and Dom Flemons contribute backing vocals and bones respectively to first single ‘Neo’ (out 21st June).  As well as vocals, Martin himself plays banjola, 5-string banjo, 6-string fretless banjo, electric bass guitar and electric and resonator guitars!

Hand in hand with his long and storied solo career, Martin has been central to seminal collaborations like The Full English, The Elizabethan Sessions and Simpson Cutting Kerr. He has worked with a dazzling range of artists from across the musical spectrum: Jackson Browne, Martin Taylor, June Tabor, Richard Hawley, Bonnie Raitt, Danny Thompson, David Hidalgo, Danú, Richard Thompson and Dom Flemons, to mention a few. He is consistently named as one of the very finest acoustic, fingerstyle and slide guitar players in the world and is the most nominated musician in the history of the BBC Folk Awards, with a remarkable thirty-one nods. A true master of his art.

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

There is nothing from the new album out there yet (apart from a 41 second teaser) so here’s an old film of guitar mastery:

Plus, as an additional treat, here is a second video (this time, from the folking archive) – Louisiana 1927 from Gosport and Fareham Easter Festival in 2010.

MARTIN SIMPSON – Trails & Tribulations (Topic TSCD593)

Trails & TribulationsMartin Simpson never disappoints, whether live or on record, but rarely does he surprise. Rather he evolves over time and emerges with something new and different as he has here. Trails & Tribulations is his 20th solo album in a career going back to the early seventies. You sort of know what to expect – Martin is equally drawn to the English and American traditions; he will have borrowed a song or two and written a couple more; there will be a variety of guitars plus banjo and ukulele and it will probably all come together with a fine group of musicians supporting him. And, of course, you’ll be absolutely right.

What’s new is a richness to the music which I suspect comes from working with The Full English and Simpson Cutting Kerr. Both Andy Cutting and Nancy Kerr feature here as does percussionist Toby Kearney, guitarist John Smith, Ben Nicholls on bass and Martin’s daughter Molly on vocals. Toby is generally restrained but the percussion is more noticeable than I remember. Take the first track, Jackson C Frank’s ‘Blues Run The Game’. It’s a short song but Martin takes his time over it, warming up his fingers as he does on stage as the introduction emerges. Bass and percussion provide an unobtrusive foundation and Martin tops everything off with Weissenborn decoration. Next is Emily Portman’s ‘Bones And Feathers’, which he has been singing for a year or so now, and which features banjo – not one of Emily’s chosen instruments. Martin owns it now.

From the Americas we have ‘Thomas Drew’, which would appear to be a distant cousin of ‘John Hardy’, ‘East Kentucky’ and ‘St. James Hospital’ but the first two are written by Martin and perfectly match the period feel – he had me fooled. From the English tradition come ‘Rufford Park Poachers’ and ‘Reynardine’. That leaves four others. Charles Causley’s ‘A Ballad For Katherine Of Aragon’ – music by Alex Atterson – has also been in Martin’s live repertoire for a while and it sounds like a song he would have written if someone hadn’t already done so. ‘Maps’, ‘Jasper’s/Dancing Shoes’ and Ridgeway are three more of Martin’s songs, continuing the semi-autobiographical style that began with ‘Never Any Good’.

Trails & Tribulations will be available in multiple formats including a deluxe double CD with six extra tracks including my all-time Simpson favourite, ‘Joshua Gone Barbados’. I’m holding out for that!

Dai Jeffries

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

‘Blues Run The Game’ – live:

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LEVERET – Inventions (Rootbeat RBRCD38)

InventionsAfter two very successful albums and sold out gigs, Leveret bounce back onto the music scene with Inventions, an album of original material which was recorded live at Real Life studios in April 2017.

Leveret comprises of fiddler extraordinaire – Sam Sweeney, who was 2015 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Musician of the Year. Not surprising as his talents have enhanced Bellowhead, also Folk Royalty Eliza Carthy’s Wayward Band, and acclaimed singer/songwriter John Boden’s Remnant Kings, not forgetting his own very successful Made In The Great War project.

Melodeon player extraordinaire – Andy Cutting – has won BBC Radio2 Folk Awards Best Musician three times and has played with Topette, Rock legend Roger Daltrey, Blowzabella and June Tabor.

Concertina genius – Rob Harbron who leads the English Acoustic Collective summer school, collaborated with The Full English also Jon Boden, Fay Hield and many more.

So you would expect, with all this talent and skill for them to produce a CD of tunes that would be amazing to hear, and quite rightly, they have! ten glorious original tunes of varying tempos, ranging from reels, jigs and un-pigeon-holeable tempos, they delight the listener. If I have to be pushed for a favourite, it has to be the lively ‘Two Nights at Chieveley/Henry Blogg’.

I have seen them play live and can see the mutual respect for each other, impeccable timing, genuine love of playing their music and delighting the audience. Music at its best, but appealing to those who just like music!

This is a worthwhile album addition to anyone’s collection. I really enjoyed it and is the in the car taking me away from the hustle and bustle of reality. Keep an eye on their website for live gigs, check them out, pre-order the Inventions album and purchase their previous albums.

Jean Camp

Artists’ website: www.leveretband.com

‘Grenville Morris’ live:

Martin Simpson announces his 20th solo album

Martin Simpson
Photograph by Elly Lucas

World renowned guitarist, singer and songwriter Martin Simpson releases his 20th solo album in 40 years Trails & Tribulations on September 1st 2017 via Topic Records. The brand-new studio album, his first new solo work since 2013’s widely praised Vagrant Stanzas, will be available in standard and deluxe CD, digital download and standard vinyl (the latter through Vinyl 180).


Trails & Tribulations
is a collection of songs about nature, about travels and about real life stories. There are traditional songs, poems and contemporary songs by great writers, and songs that I had to write because nobody else knew what I wanted to say. I travel, I learn songs, I write and try to get better at the skills required for me to do my job. I look at the world as I pass by, on the road, out of the train window, or as I stop and pay close attention to the square foot under my nose. There is so much to see and to hear and to inspire and to try and understand. I had a huge amount of fun playing and recording these songs, using different instruments, different noises, old friends and new ones, all of whom brought so much to the mix. Martin Simpson, April 2017.

Produced and engineered by Andy Bell, Trails & Tribulations features some of Martin’s most inventive playing yet, showcasing his virtuosity on a variety of instruments including acoustic guitars, resonator guitars, Weissenborn lap steel guitar, electric guitars, 5 string banjo, ukulele – and voice.

Guest musicians on the new album are: Ben Nicholls (string bass and electric bass guitars), Toby Kearney (drums and percussion), Nancy Kerr (fiddle and viola), Andy Cutting (diatonic accordion and melodeon), John Smith (electric guitar and backing vocals), Helen Bell (strings), Amy Newhouse-Smith (backing vocals) and his daughter Molly Simpson on vocals.

Martin will tour extensively this year, including a headline set at Cambridge Folk Festival in the summer and London’s Kings Place in autumn, following the release of Trails & Tribulations.

Hand in hand with his long and storied solo career, Martin has been central to seminal collaborations like The Full English, The Elizabethan Sessions and Simpson Cutting Kerr. He has worked with a dazzling array of artists from across the musical spectrum: Jackson Browne, Martin Taylor, June Tabor, Richard Hawley, Bonnie Raitt, Danny Thompson, David Hidalgo, Danú, Richard Thompson and Dom Flemons, to mention a few. He is consistently named as one of the very finest acoustic, fingerstyle and slide guitar players in the world and is the most nominated musician in the history of the BBC Folk Awards, with a remarkable 31 nods. A true master of his art.

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

‘Blues Run The Game’ – audio stream: