Folking introduces Coyote Grace and the Now Take Flight album…

What blossomed as a sweet relationship between two young people busking on the streets of Seattle has become a powerful trio of roots musicians renowned for their totally engaging live performances and beautiful studio albums. At once both radically progressive and unashamedly nostalgic, Coyote Grace is at the forefront of a growing movement to redefine the meanings of “roots” and “tradition.” Sure they’ve played in bluegrass bands and country revues, but their music and their lives are a process of continual re-invention. They’re not afraid to slip Left Coast politics into a Midwest groove, because the honesty of their message shines through. Whether singing about the complexities of long-term relationships, or the head-spinning fun of barista crushes, they’re singing about each and every one of us, and that’s what makes their music so accessible. They’ve won over crowds across the US touring with The Indigo Girls, and with their newest album, Now Take Flight, they’re sure to win even more friends. Coyote Grace is poised to step into the national spotlight as troubadours of a new folk movement.

Mary Black, The Night Is On Our Side (3ú Records/Blix Street)

The Night Is On Our Side is the latest single to be released from Mary’s recent album, Stories From The Steeples– her first studio recording in six years. In a career spanning over twenty-five years, Mary’s success has been attributable to her discerning taste when it comes to choosing material, and not least her ability to get under the skin of a song and tease out its innermost sentiments; Stories From The Steeples offers reaffirmation that this artistry shows no sign of diminishing.

Ever willing to support burgeoning, Irish song writing talent, this latest single comes from the pen of the young Dublin songwriter, Danny O’Reilly. It’s a carefree, pop-tinged number, with lyrics that tend to lean on the brighter side of life. Lead by a breezy arrangement of guitars and piano, the song is underpinned by a string section that adds warmth and class.

And then there’s Mary’s voice- a precision instrument of beauty that the passing years only seem have furnished with yet more grace and compassion. Mike Wilson

Mary’s record company, have given, folking.com exclusive permission, to stream the latest single as part of this feature below… Click on the play button to listen to the track!

An interview with Andy Letcher from the band Telling the Bees by Charlotte Shirvington

The Beginning of a New Era…

Tucked away in the idyllic setting of one of the oldest towns in the UK is a wonderful band.

That band is Telling the Bees, and we managed to get an interview with the lead singer and songwriter himself, Andy Letcher.

So Andy, when was it that Telling the Bees started up?

A: It would have been a few years back now, around 2006 when the band was first born.

How on earth did you come up with such a wonderful name?

A: I was given a forgotten English calendar a few years ago which featured a different word or phrase every day, and I started collecting some of the most interesting ones. One of these was telling the bees. It’s just an old custom which is only just in living memory now, but bee keepers would have to inform their bees about important family events or they feared that the bees would swarm. So the head of the household would march down the garden and tap three times on the bee hive with an old iron key, and proclaim the news to the bees of what was going on. When the first album came out, we received an email from someone who told us that their Grandma still had the key with which she used to tell the bees any news. It’s just a quirky bit of deeply peculiar folklore.

That’s wonderful! So, you have the new album; An English Arcanum. What was the inspiration behind that one?

A: There wasn’t really any inspiration as such, it just kind of came together. The songs we were working on at the time just became an album. An Arcanum is a mystery or a hidden secret, and one main theme in all my songs is nature having its own secrets. Like when you go to a location like a hill, it has a spirit of place and you cant quite put your finger on what it is. That’s the mystery of it.

The artwork featured on your albums is also superb. Do you do that yourselves?

A: No, that’s done by a fantastic artist called Rima Staines. She’s based near Dartmoor now, and we found her via Myspace and fell in love with her artwork which draws on medieval and eastern European influences. I thought of the idea of having something representing each of the songs on the cover of an English Arcanum, and she came up with a wonderful image of the spirit of old England all knocked about and toothless but still going, and he’s playing some kind of barrel organ which is a cabinet of curiosities. In each compartment is a symbol or image representing each of the songs.

Absolutely wonderful art. Now, you all have side projects such as Duotone and WOD. Does that bring more creativity and inspiration into the band?

A: Hmm…that’s a good question. The songs I write myself and I do that entirely on my own- I always wait for them to come to me, and then I present them to the band. It’s very healthy to have the different projects, as they help bring more influence in. I play in a trio with Jane and Jim from Telling the Bees called WOD, and we play for French and Breton dancers. It’s a much looser structure than with Telling the Bees as everything has to be arranged by necessity but in WOD it’s much freer. Often we’ll be taking a tune which we’ll then play for twenty minutes and therefore you’ll have to find the richness within the tune to keep it interesting for the dancers, so there is a lot more improvisation in that. The aim with Telling the Bees is to be able to get to a point where the music is just flowing through.

So, you’re also a lecturer in Oxford. How do you manage to juggle the time between doing the day job and the music?

A: I lecture part time, which allows me the time to do other things that I want to do. I enjoy lecturing, don’t get me wrong, but song writing is a fickle thing and I’m not one of those people who can just sit down and write a song; I haven’t written a song in 6 months.

I have learned that it’s ok and they’ll come when they come. The only problem I have is not being able to turn off the Bardic part of me; so when I’m lecturing and the students are falling asleep, dropping like flies, I immediately go ‘Come on, what do I have to do to wake you up?!’ I can’t just ignore the fact that there’s a room full of sleeping people. I need every lecture to be a brilliant gig.

You were also involved in the Newbury Bypass protests. What was it like to be there in the middle of the protest?

A: Blimey, it feels slightly like ancient history now, but it fell at a time when I really wanted to do something active. I began life as an Ecologist, and everything was very theoretical and abstract, and I wanted to do something practical. That’s when the whole road protest thing kicked off. I went down to visit Newbury one November evening and I just knew I had to get involved. I have to admit, I am the world’s worst road protester- I get vertigo on a shag-pile carpet! So I’m not much of an eco warrior. I definitely went with a Bardic role, and played an awful lot of music supporting people who were up in the trees. It’s a great way to direct the vibes as inevitably there are moments where it gets heated, but if you throw in the right song, a disaster can be averted. So that was my role, and I feel very privileged to have been there. It is one of the biggest influences in my song writing, and to be able to tell the real stories of the people involved is a great thing. It’s also an art form to be able to make a protest song have the energy it needs without being a three minute rant; by telling the story of past events, you’re telling the world what really happened and allowing them to read into it.

Telling the Bees has been going for quite a while now; where do you see it going?

A: It’s definitely building. We’re going to record another album this year, we have booked dates in the diary for recording and we have an initial release date of Autumn this year. I guess now I’ve said it, it will actually happen! We also have a nice gig roster for the summer including the Moseley Folk Festival in Birmingham and the Weirdlore festival in June near Bristol, which is very exciting. So the gigs are starting to come in and we have an exciting year ahead of us. Very excited about the new album as we have a new line up with five of us now, so the sound should be more robust and energetic. So, all the songs are written, we just have to decide which ones are going into the new album and then arrange them. So all in all an exciting year coming up!

If you want to find out more information about Telling the Bees, do go to www.tellingthebees.co.uk/ where you can find news about upcoming events and news.

Charlotte Shirvington

THE ORIGINAL BUSHWACKERS and BULLOCKIES BUSH BAND – The Shearer’s Dream (Storytellers Guide)

There was a time…the early 1970’s…when the world could be counted as priggish in its approach to British ‘folk’ music. That was until it was taken by the scruff of the neck and unceremoniously given a good whipping by a bunch of lads that appeared to be the Australian equivalent of the Murfia. This band; The Original Bushwackers & Bullockies Bush Band were also the most entertaining and energising I have ever experienced. No time to wonder about ‘niceties’, they were to take the UK by storm and give a good kicking to the folk-rock scene of the time. You only have to put on track one “South Australia” to hear the raw energy that emanated from the disk that made you want to slug back a tin of Fosters and party like there was no tomorrow. And those of us lucky enough to get to know them did. But it wasn’t just the songs it was Jan Wositzky’s and Mick Slocum’s tall-tales including “The Swagless Swaggie” that made them all-round entertainers. As if that wasn’t enough they were also damn fine instrumentalists (fiddle, banjo, guitar, accordion etc) who knew the value of a good tune to boost the audience listening pleasure. Noticeable for the inclusion of Dobe Newton’s ‘lagerphone’ they certainly knew (as Ant & Dec would have it) how to rumble and just the thought of it makes me want to break out the old mandolin. If you really want a good time then here’s your starter for ten and, by the way thanks to Jan the whole of the Bushwackers early history is captured magnificently in the handsomely packaged 24 page booklet. A must buy on CD and download for any self-respecting folk-rock enthusiast. PETE FYFE

Adrian Duffy releases Storm Breaking

Singer-songwriter, Adrian Duffy, delivers super-crafted folk pop songs that combine simple yet infectious melodies with an intimacy and storytelling flavour fondly reminiscent of the early Eagles. These are the kinds of songs you think have been around forever, winning Adrian enthused critics and dedicated fans up and down the country.

As well as a great solo performer, these new songs bring together for the first time a family full of world class musicians all steeped in their west coast of Ireland heritage. Melvin Duffy on slide guitars (Robbie Williams, The Waterboys, Mojave 3), Chris Duffy on drums & percussion (Chima Anya, Tommy Ludgate), Ray & Leo Duffy on mandolin & fiddle (Tammy Wynette, Charlie Pride) weaved and intertwined with Adrian’s vocals and acoustic guitar to produce a stunning, rootsy sound that is refreshingly authentic and sincere.

As brothernature Adrian toured his songwriting around venues as varied as Birmingham Symphony Hall, Liverpool Philharmonic, Whelan’s, Ronnie Scott’s and CBGB’s. The debut album “Looking Down The Road” received glowing press and radio reviews as well as international, national and regional playlists and album of the week picks.

Single of The Week – BBC Radio Wales

Hotly tipped – Janice Long, BBC Radio 2

A staggering collection of acoustic belters – FHM

Super-crafted harmony-suffused acoustic country-pop songs – Hotpress 10/10

A sound comparable to Damien Rice and Neil Finn (Crowded House) – Music Week

Kris Drever with Éamonn Coyne & Megan Henderson (EP, Reveal Records)

This EP serves as a brief reminder of the sheer power of storytelling that is harnessed by Kris Drever’s remarkable and characteristic voice. Bereft of any needless ornamentation, Drever sings with a stark purity that instils a knowing sense of sincerity and urgency in his delivery, effortlessly drawing the listener in to something that is more akin to a conversation than a performance.

There is possibly a limitless array of material from the folk genre that one would wish to hear Drever tackle, and we’re treated to several such standards here. “Parcel Of Rogues” receives a more rumbustious treatment than some of the more usual preachy readings, whilst retaining the tenor of its ardent lyrics, and a breathtaking race through “Shady Grove” gives off some truly exhilarating, frenetic vibes. A more relaxed performance is evident on Sandy Wright’s “Wild Hurricane,” one of those magical moments where the potency of singer and songwriter combine to achieve an exceptional synthesis.

There is an impressive range packed in to this abridged release. The assured driving force of Éamonn Coyne’s banjo sets things off to a rollicking pace on several occasions, accompanied by the sprightly flourish of Megan Henderson’s fiddle, and the commanding, rhythmic authority of Drever’s own guitar on a lively combination of traditional and contemporary tunes, positively brimming with sheer joy and energy. In contrast, Drever’s own delicate composition, “Lament for Glencoe,” offers a blissful, serenity-filled few minutes.

There’s nothing fancy here, and it may only last around fifteen minutes, but you might well struggle to find a more accomplished, more enjoyable fifteen minutes of music on this year’s release schedules. Mike Wilson

Artist’s website: http://krisdrever.com/