JONES – Carver’s Law (MEME CDMM20)

Carver's LawThe title a reference to a maxim held by the writer Raymond Carver to give everything he had each day trusting that the well would be full again the next, Carver’s Law is Trevor Jones’ fifth solo album, one which features writing collaborations with Boo Hewerdine and David Bridie and musical input from multi-instrumentalist Gustaf Ljunggren and pedal steel maestro BJ Cole alongside long-standing musical partner and co-producer Marcus Cliffe.

As ever, it’s a reflective, meditative affair, the melodies usually anchored by piano, Jones vocals couched in his distinctive dreamily musing delivery, evocative rather than declarative, the album opening with the brief, sparse piano and violin-accompanied ‘Drinking Alone’, one of four Bridie co-writes, pondering whether solitude is better than the dangers fraught in sharing your feelings. The arrangement blossoms on ‘Coleman’s’ (which repeats the image of a rope), steel keening across the lush keyboard framework as, on a lyric exploring forgiveness, he asks “if you lit a candle/Whose name would you mumble?”. Should you be wondering, the title is another Carver reference, inspired by an account by his second wife, fellow writer Tess Gallagher, of an Irish restaurant she wanted to take him too but how he kept being distracted by a Wendy’s or a McDonald’s. They finally got there and the name became a synonym for whether their new poems or stories achieved what they out to do.

‘Have A Sunset On Me’, again complemented by pedal steel with Ljunggren texturing on sax, clarinet and flute, plays a similar thematic note, veined with closure and acceptance of a relationship run its course opening with the line “For want of something better/We went for something worse” and moving to “Seems the dreams that you discover/Were always there to see”.

French for the act of returning, ‘La Rentrée’ moves into waltztime territory on brushed snares for a song about memories, of “the debris of years washed up at my door” and of not being weighed down by the past, but to “try to forget to remember” and to take part in “the dance of the day”.

Featuring Bridie on piano and synth, ‘Gentle Down’ serves as a 56 second lullaby bridge into ‘Morning Pockets’, a song co-written with Hewerdine that has Jones paying tribute to the late British writer and critic AA Gill, acknowledging the influence (“a hounder, a helper, a crutch”) of his mastery of words as he sings “Another man’s pockets is where I belong”.

Indeed, Jones’ love of the poetry of words and their evocative power is manifested in the spoken’ Every Dream A Shadow’ which, contradictory to sentiments elsewhere, values the treasure of memories, of “the faces that have loved you” and of how “what you get is what you give”.

Opening with the sounds of ships’ bells, ‘Blackshore’ continues the thought with a simple fingerpicked number about inspiration, of drawing on experience, of “the beauty of it all” and “the blessings of the ‘in between’” in order to “turn your back to the shore” and move on to uncharted seas and create your own waves.

Another lullaby-flavoured number comes with ‘And The Moon Led Me Home. in which he acknowledges that “You’ve got to be lost to be found”, a reverie of home and hearth that references Rupert Brooke’s 1912 poem, The Old Vicarage, Grantchester, in its line about there being honey still for tea.

Opening with clarinet, at just over five minutes ‘What’ll I Do’ is the longest and most musically muscular track, Jones’ dramatic Meatloaf moment, an end of a relationship number that glories in going out in style (“If that was our goodbye then girl/It’s as good a goodbye as can be”) and how we only tend to see things clearly when it’s too late.

Bridie on piano, it’s back to the sounds of water with the words-tumbling ‘Le Mercury’, an observation of two lovers in a moment of emotional crisis (“She is pale, he is tanned/Seems nothing is going as planned”) and the resolution to go with the figurative dance (another recurring image), giving away to another piano-backed spoken number, ‘Dust In My Throat’, that again addresses the theme of memory and the ghosts that he can never let rest in peace, “a box of dead crows he can never release”. Once again, the resolution here delivered in an almost Shakespearean declaration, is to learn from the lessons life teaches and that “Nothing is settled/ If nothing is lost”.

Two short pieces, Cliffe’s piano instrumental ‘Hook and Tumble’ and the closing piano, cello and violin epiphany ‘Woebegone’, which returns to the conclusion of the opening track, sandwich the country-tinged, steel yearning, hymnal waltzing ‘Folderol’, a bittersweet song of “all the hurt that kindness brings”, of lovers grown apart (“I’m for whiskey, you’re for wine”) and of holding on when you should be letting go, not of parting in anger but a goodbye “light as a sparrow”.

Tender, compassionate, sad and veined with hope for better tomorrows, it’s yet another album from an artist who remains frustratingly little known and underappreciated. Here he’s poured out the best of what he has, but we can rest assured that the spring will replenish because, as he says, “I have a song/That will keep singing/Until the darkness has gone”.

Mike Davies

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Artist’s website: www.jones16.bandcamp.com/ / www.miraclemile.co.uk/

‘Every Dream A Shadow’ – official video:

CURSE OF LONO – 4am And Counting (Submarine Cat SUBCD022)

4am And CountingOriginally released as a limited edition red vinyl album for Record Store Day, this 11-track set, recorded live at Toe Rag Studios is now available on CD. The idea of 4am And Counting was to take some of the more mellow, rootsier tracks off their Severed debut and last year’s As I Fell (not that either of them ever actually let slip the lead and rock out) and present them in a more stripped back setting rather than their more familiar widescreen approach.

As such, the five piece enlisted BJ Cole to provide pedal steel on four numbers, the first, which, as with many tracks, comes with a count in intro, being album opener ‘Tell Me About Your Love’, a Felix Bechtolsheimer song about preparing for death, giving a suitably early hours feel to reflect the album title.

They’re a little funkier for ‘I’d Start A War For You’ on which, here free of synths, Charis Anderson’s bass line provides the backbone, turning to more lazy loping country blues for Welcome Home’ featuring Alabama 3’s Nick Reynolds on harmonica. Anderson again underpins the walking rhythm ‘Blackout’ with a Velvets-like riff, still conjuring thoughts of ‘For What It’s Worth’ but slightly cut back from the original’s running time.

There’s one number here they’ve never previously recorded, a funky rumbling bluesy cover of Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan’s ‘Goin’ Out West’, returning to moodier desert climes on the sparse and edgy feel of The Affair gradually gathering in instrumentation as it progresses in intensity before falling back to just drums and pensive electric guitar.

Two live favourites arrive back to back, organ and bass laying down the slow groove for the mesmeric chug of ‘Valentine’ and (presumably inspired by the name of Welsh metal outfit Bullet For My Valentine) its lyric about destructive jealousy with its bluesy guitar solo followed by ‘Way To Mars’ with Reynolds back on harp for a number that nods to Bechtolsheimer’s withdrawal experiences as, again showcasing guitar, it mixes country and gospel influences.

The last three cuts all come from Severed and all feature Cole, first up being the bluesy organ groove of ‘London Rain followed by the more acoustic country of ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ and finally, again in closing position, as befits the opening line of “it’s all over”, the lonesome resignation of the slow waltz ‘Don’t Look Down echoed in Cole’s weeping steel, one final bluesy guitar solo seeing it out for good measure.

4am And Counting is one for the fans rather than an enticement for new audiences, nevertheless it serves a solid reminder of what a great live band they are and Bechtolsheimer’s ability top pen catchy hook, strong melodies and complex lyrics, delivering them in his distinctive drawl.

Mike Davies

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Artists’ website: https://curseoflonoband.com/

The single, ‘I’d Start A War For You’:

KATY CARR Polonia (Deluce MDL513)

KATY CARR PoloniaCarr has clearly found herself a successful niche market. coming from a Polish-Anglo-Scottish heritage, since her third album, Coquette, she’s been focusing her songwriting on stories related to Poland. Her last album, Paszport, was based around Poland during World War II with the inspiration for the material partly derived from Polish Home Army and resistance veteran Kazimierz Piechowski. It earned her a Best Artist nomination for the Songlines Music Awards 2013, won Best Concept Album in the 13th Independent Music Awards and saw her awarded honorary membership of The Polish 1st Armoured Division.

For the follow-up, she’s again returned to Poland, the album and celebratory and not a little Kate Bush-like title track bearing the Latin name for the country (it’s also the title Elgar used 100 years ago for his composition to benefit the Polish Victims Relief Fund) and again the focus is mostly around wartime and its immediate aftermath. Indeed, the punchy, brass-fuelled ‘Snow Is Falling’, a song about the end of a love affair, has its roots in the Yalta Conference of 1945 which ceded Poland to Soviet influence.

That said, the second track is ‘When Charlie Met Pola’, her voice operatically swooping and soaring over saloon piano, accordion and clip clopping spoons in a tale about Charlie Chaplin’s meeting with Polish actress Pola Negri, enticing her to become a Hollywood star and his fiancée (they never married and she became Valentino’s lover). Love also informs the following two numbers, soured on the train rolling rhythms of ‘Got A Little Bit Of Love’ and reborn on the rocky ‘We Can Go Dancing’. As the liner notes explain, these too have deeper meanings, the former a nod to the women of the resistance and the latter concerning the country’s dedication to the concepts of freedom and nationhood.

With its lurching reggae beat, horns, electronics and Herbaliser’s Oliver Parfitt on vintage keyboards, ‘Bomba’ pays homage to the Polish mathematicians who devised a machine (allegedly but unlikely named after the ice-cream dessert) to break the German’s Enigma codes (two years before Alan Turing’s breakthrough), its designers, Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rozycki and Henryk Zygalski, also the background subjects of the wheezing rhythm ‘The Mathematician’, the story of romance blossoming at Bletchley Park, although none of them actually ever worked there.

On the female front, ‘Jumping With Zoe’, which features electronic effects by Steve Beresford and a snatch of ‘Hejnal’, a Polish national musical motif played on bugle, commemorates General Elzbieta Zawacka, the only woman to jump with elite Polish parachute regiment, the Cichociemni, while, Carr’s vocals spiraling down the scales, the piano-trilling ‘Christine The Great’ concerns another Polish heroine, Krystyna Skarbek, a former Miss Poland who became the first female agent for the Special Operations Executive and Churchill’s favourite spy, as well as the inspiration for James Bond’s Vesper Lynd.

Elsewhere, the jaunty, brass flushed and reggae rhythmed ‘My Beloved General’ nods to Stanislaw Maczek, one of the leading Allied commanders who, when the war ended, was stripped of his citizenship by the new Communist regime, refused a military pension by the British government and ended up working as a barman in Edinbugh, the lurching ‘Mr. Trebus’ refers to the Polish veteran who, remaining in Britain, became a compulsive hoarder and was featured on the A Life of Grime TV documentary, while, accompanied by clavinet, the displacement-themed ‘Quo Vadis’ takes its inspiration from the book by Nobel Prize for Literature winner Henryk Sienkiewicz.

Displacement and exile also inform the folksy ‘Poland Calling Polonia Home’, itself inspired by the mother and daughter Greek myth of Diameter and Persephone, and, rather obviously, ‘Exiles’, a piano waltzing instrumental homage to those who have kept the flame and spirit of Poland alive over the centuries, a notion that also lies at the heart of ‘Hands Of Time’.

Featuring BJ Cole on pedal steel and electronic insect noises by Beresford, the album ends with another instrumental, ‘Red Wine’, inspired by a Polish TV series about a woman in post WWII Warsaw who has turned to drink in grief over her lover, killed in the Uprising of 1944.

The history of wartime Poland and the contribution of its people to defeating the Nazis remains a largely untold story (the Poles were the only nation not celebrated in the 1946 Victory Parade), but, thanks to Carr, it is no longer going unsung.

Mike Davies

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

‘Polonia’ – the official video:

Dan Whitehouse – new album

Dan WhitehouseNew album, Raw State, released 1 December 2014

Singer-songwriter DAN WHITEHOUSE continues his upward climb with the release of his third album, Raw State.

Released on 1 December 2014, Raw State was recorded during a period of unprecedented creativity that came in the wake of second album, Reaching For A State Of Mind.

Following a string of UK and North American dates in late 2013/ early 2014 which saw the songwriter slowly rework the album’s songs for new situations, Dan returned to the studio keen to recapture the passion and energy of his new live sound.

Produced in collaboration with Danny George Wilson and Chris Clarke of British Americana / country soul act Danny And The Champions Of The World, Raw State embraces the power of change and new directions.

Aided by pedal steel and dobro legend BJ Cole (who has worked with such greats as Elvis Costello, Jimmy Webb, Elton John, Emmylou Harris, REM, Scott Walker, Beck, Bjork, Brian Eno, kd Lang and Dolly Parton), Dan revisited and re-imagined previously recorded material, with sparse, brave arrangements that expose the songs in their Raw State.

Much in demand, Dan has shared stages with such artists as Willy Mason, Joseph Arthur, Caitlin Rose and Josh Ritter, plus blues guitar legend Peter Green, chart-topper Maria McKee, folk star Jim Moray, ex-Teardrop Explodes Julian Cope and the Grammy winning World Party. He’s also performed sell-out headline shows throughout the UK.

The recent months have seen the West Midlands-based songwriter embark on two UK tours with Simone Felice, and close the Lunar Stage at Moseley Folk Festival (performing between The Felice Brothers and Richard Thompson).

Raw State (Heantun Recording Co) is available on CD and download via all major platforms on Monday 1 December 2014.

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Artist’s website: www.dan-whitehouse.com

Official album trailer video:

“Really, really gorgeous songs… ” – Janice Long, BBC Radio 2
“Lyrics which involuntarily swerve your gaze to the sky”- Music Week
“Sensational!” – Tom Robinson, BBC Radio 6 Music

Bonnie Dobson & Her Boys – new album: Take Me For A Walk In The Morning Dew

BONNIE-DOBSON-2-low-res-LAURIE-copy-spattered-205x300Hornbeam Recordings: June 2014

Record Store Day 7 inch Single, April 18th featuring ‘Come Dancing’/’Dancing Version’

Bonnie Dobson is one of the great voices of folk music and a veteran of the Greenwich Village scene in the early 60s. She was born in November 1940 in Toronto, Canada where she was raised. Her mother was Scottish and her father’s family was Irish. Folk music soon became an important part of Bonnie’s life inspired by witnessing Paul Robeson perform at Toronto’s Massey Hall as well as seeing the black-listed Pete Seeger play at summer camps. In the early 60’s she moved to New York and was one of a number of talented female singers to emerge in the folk revival. Time Magazine bracketed her, Joan Baez and Judy Collins as the three top female folk singers in America among others on the scene such as Maria D’Amato (later Muldaur), Hedy West, Karen Dalton and Judy Roderick who Bonnie shared an apartment with in St Marks Place.

Most of the girls began as interpreters of either traditional material or the work of contemporary songwriters but in 1961, Bonnie announced herself as a writer when she penned the song for which she’s most renowned, ‘Morning Dew’, making its debut on Live at Folk City in 1962. Inspired by seeing Stanley Kramer’s 1959 film of Nevil Shute’s novel On The Beach, ‘Morning Dew’ was immediately recognised as an anti-war classic; it graced the cover of Broadside #7 under the title ‘Take Me For A Walk’. ‘Morning Dew’ has since become as much a rock as a folk standard, covered by a host of artists including The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, Fred Neil, Tim Rose, Rod Stewart, The Jeff Beck Group and Robert Plant.  Artists as diverse as Lulu, Clannad, Devo and Einstürzende Neubauten have recorded it. When Bonnie appeared with Robert Plant at the recent tribute to Bert Jansch at the Royal Festival Hall, the two of them sang ‘Morning Dew’ together.

Its ongoing popularity and a certain controversy surrounding ‘Morning Dew’ has resulted in it overshadowing most of Bonnie’s other compositions over the years. It was covered by Fred Neil on his 1964 Elektra album with Vince Martin, Tear Down The Walls, where Neil amended the lyric slightly. This was the version then recorded by Tim Rose in 1967. It became his signature song but he also claimed an unwarranted co-writing credit with Bonnie Dobson into the bargain. As she has pointed out, it’s entirely her song although if anybody else deserved a credit it would be Fred Neil, not Tim Rose.

Bonnie dropped out of college at the end of the 50’s and began touring the growing circuit of folk clubs in America and Canada in 1960 – her first tour was with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee no less.  She frequently played Gerdes Folk City where Dylan was impressed by her version of the traditional ‘The Ballad of Peter Amberley’, and used the tune and spirit of the Canadian folk song for his own topical song about Seattle convict Donald White; ‘The Ballad of Donald White’ also appeared in Broadside in 1962. ‘Peter Amberley’ is one of a number of traditional songs – alongside ‘Dink’s Song’, popularised by Dave Van Ronk, and Judy Roderick’s arrangement of ‘Born in the Country’ which Bonnie has re-recorded for her new album. There are two further traditional songs which she has never recorded before, French/Canadian folk song  ‘V’la L’bon Vent’ and the rousing old time band instrumental ‘Sandy Boys’.

Bonnie Dobson began recording in the early 60s, releasing four albums for Prestige, including an album of children’s songs – A Merry Go Round of Children’s Songs – also recording albums for Mercury, RCA, Argo and Polydor during the 60s and 70s as well as collaborating in 1968 with the New Lost City Ramblers on the soundtrack of the film Moving On for the United Transportation Union. Bonnie has always mixed her own songs with traditional material, and often the work of fellow Canadians such as Gordon Lightfoot and Ian and Sylvia but her compositions have often been overlooked. She revisits some of her finest songs on her new Hornbeam album; ‘I Got Stung’, ‘Rainy Windows’, ‘Winter’s Going’, ‘Come On Dancing’, as well as ‘Morning Dew’, plus a slew of originals recorded for the first time. These include stirring country rocker ‘Southern Bound’, the powerful ‘Who Are These Men?’, a breezy tale of our times ‘Living On Plastic’, and the simple, heart-rending ‘JB’s Song’.

Ambivalent about some of her earlier recordings where the production was given too much of a pop sheen and overly embellished with strings, these recent recordings may be the definitive versions – they certainly sounder fresher and completely modern in the present context, recorded in London with a full band (also her regular live outfit). Her boys include Ben Paley, fiddle, BJ Cole, pedal steel, Ben Phillipson, guitar, Felix Holt, harmonica, Jonny Bridgwood, double bass, Dave Morgan, drums, plus Ruth Tidmarsh, vocals.

It was back in 1969 that Bonnie made her British debut at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and that same year she moved from Toronto where she’d been living since 1965, to settle permanently in London.  She continued to tour throughout Europe but recorded only intermittently after 1976. Then in 1989, Bonnie played what she thought was to be her final concert in Chicago. She enrolled that year at London University’s Birkbeck College to study Politics, Philosophy and History, going on to become the Head Administrator of the Philosophy Department at Birkbeck. She was coaxed out of retirement for Jarvis Cocker’s Meltdown festival in 2007 and these days plays regular live shows with ‘her boys’, her sweet soprano voice sounding warmer, perhaps richer than ever before. “She is still an impressively original lady,” commented Robin Denselow in The Guardian.

For more news about Bonnie and Hornbeam Recordings  visit http://www.hornbeamrecordings.com/

The new debut album from Dan Raza

Dan has already established a considerable reputation on the UK singer songwriter and folk roots scene. His distinctive approach has won him many fans and led to his supporting Joan Armatrading on a recent European tour, as well as opening for artists such as Mary Gauthier, Badly Drawn Boy, Cara Dillon, Chris Farlowe and Slaid Cleaves at concerts throughout the UK and USA. He also had a song, Every Little Dog endorsed by Neil Young when Shakey chose it for his ‘Living with War’ website.

His live performances are noted for their strong emotional impact and his songs are informed by literary influences such as Ben Okri and also the influence of painters like Marc Chagall. Indeed, Dan’s songs receive colourful treatment on this his first album. From the enigmatic longing of 40 Miles to the vibrant energy of Cool Dark Night and No-One Shed A Tear, the intense originality of his writing is balanced by strong and varied musical texture.

Dan is of mixed Indian and British origin. Many of his songs draw on images from his turbulent childhood and reflect on a search for belonging that remains elusive. There is a wistfulness and yearning at the heart of his writing which reveals itself strongly in songs like Home, Again. The lyrics of this track look back on his journey since moving away from his native Bedfordshire as a teenager and see him trying to make peace with his roots. In a similar vein is Rivertown which follows one man’s restless spirit as he travels through the rubble of the past trying to make sense of where he’s been so he can see where he’s going. The song has an almost supernatural quality and lyrics that fuse otherworldly images with an undertone of loss: ‘help me sweep the ashes from the floor/help me see the way I did before.’ The record concludes with the beautiful closing track, Can’t Go Back, which features the West African Griot musician, Mosi Conde, on kora. Written in Texas while on tour, it was inspired by the themes of displacement he heard in so many country songs while there and the personal experience of leaving behind all he knew, to follow someone, only to see it come apart.

A chance meeting at a gig in South London led Dan to record his debut album with Charlie Hart, who has worked previously with Ronnie Lane, Ian Dury, Eric Clapton and Mose Allison. It features a stellar array of guest appearances from Geraint Watkins (Van Morrison, Paul McCartney), BJ Cole (Dolly Parton, Martin Simpson) Steve Simpson (Eric Bibb, Ronnie Lane), Frank Mead (Albert King, Eric Clapton) and Mosi Conde (Mory Kante, Salif Keita).

Dan Raza has waited a long time to make his first full album after earning plaudits from some of the most notable songwriters on both sides of the Atlantic. There is no doubt he has a lot of promise. This is the first clue to what he might do with it.

 “One of the best support acts I’ve seen in two or three years…an artist that makes you take note and listen to the songs.” Slaid Cleaves

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Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us. Can’t find what you are looking for? Search Amazon Store below.

Artist Web link: www.danraza.com