Changing Horses – The Nashville Sessions

Changing Horses are British Indie-Folk duo Richard Birtill (vocals and guitar) and Francesca Cullen (vocals, violin, mandolin and melodeon). Stylistically taking influence from the psychedelic likes of The Incredible String Band, and the experimental art-punk of The Fall, theirs is a patchwork of off-kilter folk that has drawn in the plaudits from numerous sources. After holing up in a Nashville studio with session musician / producer Chris Donohue (Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris) the track ‘Cut All Strings’ featured on an HBO documentary and went on to pick up multiple plays on both the Steve Lamacq and Bob Harris BBC radio shows. Last year’s festival season also saw the band grace stages at Kendal Calling, Solfest, Brampton, Crawley Folk Festival and SO festival.

It’s on the live circuit the Changing Horses’ reputation has been built. The last few months have seen them perform as main support to the likes of Jeffrey Lewis, Pat Sansone (Wilco), Ade Edmondson and Adam Green. Captured here on The Nashville Sessions however, is a band vying for the unconventional, yet still maintaining core melodies. Flitting between the wistful (Cut All Strings), the fragile (One Million Screaming Angels) and the macabre (‘Till Death), when things do take a more popular twist, Birtill’s wrought vocals still punctuate Cullen’s neat string play. In turn, I Don’t Need It’s discordant opening phrasing soon makes way for a wave of anthemic guitars.

“Truly original and delightful” – Robin Williamson, The Incredible String Band

Deeply personal songwriting, tongue-in-cheek moments, macabre themes and innovative string playing make up Changing Horses’ The Nashville Sessions; a strong debut from a band that lives to draw the listener into their own lovesick universe.

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TIM EDEY – The Best Of Tim Edey (Gnatbite Records)

Kaleidoscope may not be the coolest word to use at the moment thanks to John Bercow, Speaker Of The House Of Commons but it happens to be the way I view Tim Edey’s colourful rise to fame within the ‘folk’ community. Having recently been the recipient of the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for 2012 as musician of the year no less Tim’s prowess as a multi-instrumentalist has long been admired by those of us fortunate to have shared his company at sessions or performing on stage. Edey’s unbelievably technical flawless musicianship is displayed on this ten year retrospective proving just how comfortable he is in his own company or with that of his equally talented associates including Michael McGoldrick, Seamus Begley and Brendan Power. Opening with the almost ‘harp’ sounding “Out On The Ocean” thanks to his intricate nylon strung guitar playing this leads nicely into the jazz-styled “Independence Hornpipe” with an astonishing display of digital dexterity on melodeon. As if being a fantastic musician wasn’t enough he also displays a talent for tune writing with his own wistful melody “Little Bird” where he’s accompanied by Sharon Shannon. Anyhow, enough of the name-dropping and on with the jaw-dropping…if it’s digital dexterity that floats your boat (by the way, Tim’s based in the sea-side town of Broadstairs…and proud of it) then I can thoroughly recommend this CD.

PETE FYFE

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Artist’s website: www.timedey.co.uk

DUNCAN McCRONE – Colourblind (Circular Records CR1039)

This CD had remained on my ‘to do’ list for quite a while so I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to Duncan for the lateness in the review’s eventual arrival…and also to PR man Bob Buchan for reminding me to check it out. Opening with the bright and breezy “Days Like Today” with its Bluebells “Young At Heart” country ‘feel’ (particularly thanks to the swooping fiddle of Chris Stout’s fiddle) it’s obvious that McCrone has a happy, optimistic outlook on life. Surely this track alone should be worth National Radio play (is anyone at BBC Radio 2 listening?) although knowing the industry’s foibles it will more than likely fall through the cracks. Judging by the songs included on the album he has taken the time to craft each track with the help of some fine musicians including the afore-mentioned Stout, his songwriting partner Cy Jack (bass), Stevie Lawrence (most things stringed), Finlay MacDonald (highland pipes) and Lindisfarne’s drummer Ray Laidlaw. For soft Southerner’s like me, you might be interested that Mr McCrone has included the song “Baltic Street” by Carol Prior of Carol & Alan Prior fame and obviously shows discerning choice as he also includes the wistful “Ae Fond Kiss” by Robert Burns for good measure. This is the kind of album that you will put on and think why haven’t I heard more of this fine singer? Established I presume in his native Scotland, Duncan really should be more widely acknowledged as a performer of great merit by a discerning audience (which I know you are) and I suggest you buy this recording as proof. You won’t be disappointed.

PETE FYFE

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Artist’s website: www.duncanmccrone.com