THE DRYSTONES- Apparitions (Shedbuilt Records TDSR003)

ApparitionsI quite liked The Drystones previous album, We Happy Few, although I wished for more songs and I was not as prepared as some critics to go overboard about them. I was disappointed when I saw them live although, by their own admission, they weren’t at their best but I was determined to approach Apparitions with an open mind.

Four of the tracks have traditional elements but, for the most part, the album is self-penned and again I would have liked more songs particularly along the lines of ‘Jack Crook’, which you might take for traditional if you weren’t told otherwise. There is a good deal of experimentation going on here from Alex Garden’s sawing fiddle that opens ‘Oscar’s Ghost’ to the mocked up radio announcements and field recordings and the way that the tracks sometimes meld into one another. Alex and Ford Collier are both multi-instrumentalists and seem to have assembled a whole studio full of conventional and unconventional instruments. With both of the playing synths it can be hard to tell what’s natural and what is synthetic at times.

Speaking of which, ‘The Story’ is a fine song about fake news and manipulation in the media – another reason why I wish they would write more songs. There are lighter moments such as ‘Nonesuch’, the Playford dance tune reimagined as a dance track in the 21st century meaning of the word. The last five tracks, beginning with the delightful ‘Daydream’ topped out with Ford’s whistle, are all instrumental and the boys really give themselves a workout. It all gets a bit heady as The Drystones rattle through eleven mostly self-composed tunes – something to break it up would have been nice.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: www.thedrystones.co.uk

‘Poltern’ – live:

CHRIS CLEVERLEY Apparitions (Chris Cleverley Music CLEV001)

CHRIS CLEVERLEY ApparitionsThe debut album from singer-songwriter Chris Cleverley really doesn’t fit a pattern and that’s great. It’s so refreshing to hear someone who doesn’t obey the rules – every time you think you have a handle on this record he dances away to something new.

Apparitions opens with a short solo instrumental, ‘Transience’ and Chris makes the point that he’s a fine guitarist. Then we move to possibly the album’s best track, ‘The Dawn Before The Day’, a love song with a delightfully natural vocal, almost conversational, decorated by Marion Morgan’s violin. ‘Lesson’ follows in the same vein; confessional with Amit Dattani’s slide guitar laying a strong foundation. ‘I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground’ sees Chris switch to banjo. It’s an old American traditional song and includes the warning that railroad men will “drink up all your blood like wine” – where have I heard that before?

‘Acetylene’ feels like a random title although I suppose it means something to Chris and the track features some haunting backwards guitar. Then comes ‘O Shenandoah’, taken must faster than the usual dirge-like pace and with some really good finger-picking. You get the impression that Chris could do anything his fancy turned to from his apparently chosen path as a singer-songwriter to a career as a skilled interpreter of traditional songs. Whatever he does he’s going places, that’s for sure.

Dai Jeffries

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‘The Dawn Before The Day’ – official video:

Chris Cleverley releases debut album

Chris Cleverley releases debut album
Photograph by Rich Spencer Photography

“I never did believe in ghosts until I saw out a six month contract in a haunted house.”And so it was in this setting that Chris Cleverley’s forthcoming album Apparitions was conceived. “An album as much about hauntings as it is about memory, and the fine line that can separate the two.”

For some time now, whispers have been spreading far and wide around the new British Folk Scene about Chris Cleverley and his haunting tales of ghost women, lonesome clock towers, lovelorn mariners and hospital beds.

November 2015 will see the release of Cleverley’s eagerly awaited debut full length album, which captures perfectly the roots of his singer/songwriter approach for which he has been well known in the Midlands for a number of years. The songs themselves –through the recording process – have developed however into something new altogether, appearing as full band arrangements, featuring the musicians who regularly appear in his live band, including contributions from renowned singer/songwriters Dan Whitehouse and Kim Lowings, as well as string arrangements by Marion Fleetwood of Meet On The Ledge and the Jigantics.

Chris says of the album, which features both original songs and arrangements of traditional tunes,

“The record is very much grounded in the British and American folk traditions on which I was raised. The complexity of the fingerstyle guitar techniques of the folk revival players – Nic Jones, John Renbourn, Martin Simpson – have shaped my playing immeasurably and it was essential this influence came across throughout. It’s remarkable though the direction a record can take from start to finish; such a huge variety of influences creep in, almost unnoticed. I’ve always been fascinated by harmony, big arrangements, dramatic crescendos, and the guidance of contemporary artists like Elliott Smith and Bon Iver certainly led the way with my musical experiments when making the album.”

Lyrically, the album is an exploration of ideas of the self. It is an album conceived from images of the past – of ghosts both real and imagined – and explores how these images of common experiences can be interpreted to explain and even vindicate our own feelings of detachment, discomfort and uncertainty.

“The songs themselves are as much personal reflections as they are stories, timepieces of specific events that have reoccurred and manifested over centuries of human experience in identical forms. Much like the ghosts that wandered the corridors and bedchambers of that house in which I wrote the record.”

Chris’ Spring and Autumn 2015 tours have taken these songs around the UK and further afield onto the Continent too, all the while showcasing his trademark solo live sound; A sound at times likened to the magnitude of a full orchestra only to moments later pull audiences to the very edge of their seats to soak in the delicate spider-like touch of his fingerstyle guitar playing.

Chris has gone from strength to strength since winning Bristol Folk Festival’s 2014 ‘Isambard Folk Award’, joining the ranks of previous winners such as BBC folk award nominees Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker, followed up by a memorable performance at 2014’s Stroud Folk Festival.

From touring the UK festivals to sharing the bill with such notable folk artists as Martin Simpson, Spiers & Boden, Martha Tilston and Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman, Chris has stirred up a formidable word-of-mouth reputation and a buzzing anticipation for his forthcoming record, to be released November 2015.

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Artist’s website: www.chriscleverley.com

‘The Dawn Before The Day’ – live