Blair Dunlop – new album

Blair Dunlop

Blair Dunlop announces the release of his third studio album Gilded on May 6th 2016. An accomplished writer, guitarist and vocalist, Blair will also be heading out on a 16 date UK tour to promote the new record, kicking off April 20th 2016 in Shrewsbury, including a launch show at London’s Lexington on April 25th.

Gilded follows on from Blair’s highly acclaimed 2014 release House Of Jacks and his outstanding debut album Blight and Blossom in 2012, which saw him win the BBC Radio 2 Folk Horizon Award. Blair is a story-teller, known for his cerebral life affirming lyrics and the new record fares no differently – Gilded is a collection of stories and reflections, recorded in live takes at Manchester’s Blue Print Studios. On this record Blair remains true to his folk roots lyrically whilst continuing to push musically into new areas.

Album opener ‘Castello’ sets the tone for the narrative nature of the record with lyrics inspired by the dreams, lineage and experiences of a woman Blair met while staying at a 14th century Italian castle during a European tour. ‘Eternal Optimist’ was born of his frustration and intrigue at the digital world we now live in, “our real-world experiences seem increasingly subservient to the digital facades we are obsessed with maintaining and refining explains Blair.  ‘First World Problem’, which, written with Blair’s old Albion Band mates, also reflects on society and the lack of compassionate, consequence-based thinking in the Western world, he muses “money talks, at the expense of workers’ welfare, quality of produce, culture and the sustainability of the planet.

Some tracks on the album are more personal. ‘She Won’t Cry For Me’ is a reflective song about the intricacies of a relationship and how the attitudes within it change over time. Blair was also lucky to co-write some songs on the album, writing with Dave Burn from the band AHAB and also with Gita Harcourt-Smith, with whom he co-wrote album closer ‘Phoenix’ on which they explore parallels between the mythology of the Phoenix and someone close to Blair’s heart.

Blair’s career goes from strength to strength. He has won awards, toured all over the UK and overseas, collaborated with a variety of writers and musicians, moved to London and set up his own record label (Gilded Wings Records), all of which have informed, and are reflected in, his mature and astute musical musings. The Guardian described him as an increasingly adventurous songwriter, and it rings even truer now. Blair has the confidence and experience to make the music he has always wanted to.

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‘Eternal Optimist’ live:

 

The Armistice Pals

armistice pals header non internetEveryone remembers the charity version of ‘Perfect Day’ with its myriad of voices from the pop and rock world.

Let’s hope everyone will also remember the upcoming answer from the Folk World – ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’ – with a plethora of voices from across the acoustic folk and roots spectrum representing the great and the good, young and the old, seasoned and emerging, all on the same single. The group is called The Armistice Pals and is releasing a fitting tribute to Pete Seeger, who sadly passed away this year as well as marking the 100 years anniversary of the breakout of the First World War. All profits will be distributed between four peacekeeping charities.

However, perhaps it’s not a perfect world after all and the late Pete Seeger’s classic anti war song, ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’, points a finger at the carnage, supposedly ‘ the war to end all wars’ which tragically mislead us to believe it was worth the sacrifice.  The sacrifice, not only of the lives of those who died, but the resultant desolation and struggle of the loved ones who were left behind. Whole swathes of communities were left bereft of their young men-folk who trustingly signed up into ‘Pals Battalions’, many of whom were never to return, with those who did too often spending lives blighted by the experience.

Armistice Pals is the name of the folk community ‘super band’ who are all performing on this single, which is due out on Remembrance Sunday, 9th November 2014. It was the brain child of Damian Liptrot (manager of folk-rock band Merry Hell), who, as the project expanded, has invited Folkstock’s Helen Meissner on board as co-organiser. The project has attracted over 30 names including Chris and Kellie While, Julie Matthews, Judy Dyble, Christine Collister, Dave Swarbrick, Ray Cooper, Sally Barker, Peter Knight, Boo Hewerdine, Gavin Davenport, Blair Dunlop, Lucy Ward, Ken Nicol, Merry Hell, Luke Jackson and Kelly Oliver. A line up so good that, were it to be a festival, it would undoubtedly be the event of the summer.

The single will be released via the usual digital outlets as well as a physical CD and as a nod to the historical element, a limited edition vinyl 45, on new community label, Folkstock Records.

As this is intended to be a community project, we are inviting Folk Clubs across the country to contribute by organising an ‘Armistice Pals Night’ during the week of the release of the single. This can take any form but should include a collective version of ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’ at some point during the evening, followed by a passing round of the hat to support the Armistice Pals charities.

If you would like to know more about the project, all the artists, the charities and the inspiration can be found at http://www.armisticepals.com or contact us direct via armisticepals@hotmail.co.uk

We hope that you will feel able to enlist and offer your support.

Helen and Damian
for The Armistice Pals

THE ARMISTICE PALS: A FULL LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS

Attila The Stockbroker (poet/musician and sheer force of nature, whose father survived the Somme).

Billy Mitchell (one time Jack the Lad, ex-Lindisfarne and much else besides).

Blair Dunlop (One of our brightest, youngest singer-songwriters, currently telling tales from the ‘House Of Jacks’, he also found time for a stint in The Albion Band..).

Bob Pegg (Storyteller, singer-songwriter and member of the legendary Mr Fox).

Boo Hewerdine (one time Bible basher, all time songwriting phenomenon).

Chris While and Julie Matthews (singers, songwriters, multi-instrumentalists, award winners in their own right and members of more prestige bands and projects than you can shake a stick at).

Christine Collister (one time She Devil, ex-Daphne’s Flight, much sought collaborator and loved by Q magazine).

Dave Mather & Peter Robinson (singer/songwriters (one of them has written an opera you know), ex-Houghton Weavers, stand up comedy and currently presenters of Salford City radio’s first folk show).

Dave Swarbrick (simply a living legend. As it says on the flyers, ‘needs no introduction’).

Edwina Hayes (multi-million You Tubed singer-songwriter with the ‘sweetest voice in England’).

Eric Bazilian: (Hooter, hitmaking songwriter worldwide for self and others, now he’s One Of Us!).

Flossie Malavialle (multinational singer et chanteuse aussi, gig travelling traffic reporter).

Gavin Davenport (much vaunted solo singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, award winning, ex-Albion band member).

Gren Bartley (the spine tinglingly beautiful guitarist, banjo playing poet).

Helen Watson (Singer/Songwriter, multi genre artist, producer and erstwhile member of Daphne’s Flight, Carmel and Sons of Arqa, as well as taking a great photo).

Johnny Coppin (broadcasting singer-songwriter, ex-Decameron and now sufficiently multi-faceted to be considered a true diamond).

Judy Dyble (singer/songwriter, ex-Fairport, nearly King Crimson and Facebook dog blogger).

Kellie While (singer-songwriter considered to have one of the outstanding voices of her generation, ex-member of The Albion Band and so much else, her arrival makes The Pals a family affair as her mother and sometime singing partner Chris is also involved).

Kelly Oliver (singer/songwriter, guitarist and harmonicist who has taken Boots Of Spanish Leather to places most of us can only dream of).

Ken Nicol: (globetrotting, guitar endorsing, ex-Albion Band and Steeleye Span virtuoso).

Kevin Brennan MP (an accomplished musician, fan of folk music and passionate supporter of live music).

Lavinia Blackwall (the vocalist who is both a Trembling Bell and a Crying Lion).

Linda Simpson (singer/songwriter, ex-Prog/Folk/Rock legends Magna Carta and supplier of some ideas that are so good that I’d like to present them as my own).

Lucy Ward (singer/song writer and possibly the current heart of British Folk Music as she gets played on virtually every folk show I listen to regardless of the other tastes of the presenters!).

Luke Jackson (bright young purveyer of Fumes and Faith).

Merry Hell (8 piece folk-rocking explosion of melody and joy).

Ninebarrow (award-winning, Dorsetshire folk duo).

Patsy Matheson (singer/songwriter, spent time Waking The Witch, now The Domino Girl).

Peter Knight (singer/fiddle player, Gigspanner, Feast of Fiddles, Steeleye and holder of the world record for continuously playing the violin whilst travelling up and down the lift in the Empire State Building).

Phil ‘Swill’ Odgers (30 Year veteran of punk-folk luminaries, The Men They Couldn’t Hang).

Ray Cooper (singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, ex-Oysterband and now a pearl in his own right).

Richard Ryall (singer/songwriter, member of the band Litmuss and he comes from a land Down Under).

Robb Johnson (Irregular singer/songwriter and social conscience).

Said The Maiden (3 rising doyennes with harmonies the envy of angels).

Sally Barker (folk singer and by popular acclaim, the true winner of The Voice).

Sian James (Singer, writer, harpist, composer, conductor and actress from Wales, a big Armistice pals ‘Creoso’ to her).

In addition, there is also The Pals Chorus, made up of friends and members of several folk clubs who will be recorded together to help swell the voices and to represent the fact that this is a true community project.

BLAIR DUNLOP – House of Jacks (Rooksmere Records, RRCD112P)

Blair_Dunlop_-House_of_Jacks_Son of Ashley Hutchings he may be, but ‘Something’s Gonna Give Way’, the riff driven opening track on his sophomore album, firmly suggests the influences of Seth Lakeman and, more pointedly, especially in the third person narrative murder ballad lyrics about school bullying revenge, Richard Thompson.

In tender musical contrast, the fiddle-soothed ‘Fifty Shades Of Blue’ is a slow waltzing meditation on denial that (soaring vocal intro recalling Chris De Burgh) gives way to a title track anchored to the heart and its sometime inability to articulate the depth of its feelings. Clearly not a songwriter to settle for simplistic clichés and the mundane, ‘Chain By Design’ is a simple acoustic slow march exploration of determinism and free will, the more progressive folk rock sonorous, organ underpinned ‘Different Schools’ addressing the need for and barriers to communication and, inspired by Robert Hasting’s poem and, set to a scurrying fingerpicked rhythm, ‘The Station’ muses on life’s journey to its final destination and appreciating the scenery along the way.

Even football serves as a philosophical springboard as nimble fingerpicked guitar instrumental Viola’s Reverie paves the way for The Ballad of Enzo Laviano, the tale of a young Italian footballer (Dunlop a supporter of Spurs and ACF Fiorentina) from a small Sardinian club about to transfer to Naples, a story of difficult choices and decisions (complete with a Godfather reference) etched to Morricone-moody Thompsonesque slow burn bluesy guitar notes.

Perhaps not quite so intellectually weighty, two numbers share the title 45s, a brace of songs about the same fictional Soho nightclub; the first (c69), a bustling snapshot of the 60s London folk scene that namechecks The Kinks, Dylan and (in a somewhat scornful reference) Jackson C Frank, with the music, the pills and a prince and pauper equality where no one cared “if you were loaded or you’re broke”. The second, (c14), brings it up to date with a memorable melody, catchy chorus, Knopfleresque guitar line and a rather more cynical portrait of a sticky floor, self-serving egos, VIP fast tracking, vacuous songs and a clientele of 16 year olds that ensures “a small guy like me sets themselves for a fall”.

Produced by Mark Hutchinson who also contributes guitar alongside such musicians as Guy Fletcher, Tim Harries and Larkin Poe’s Rebecca Lovell, the album ends with the only non-original, the simple voice and guitar ‘Song Of Two Bridges’, a cover of a track penned by his father and erstwhile Albion Band colleague Ken Nicol, a touching acknowledgement of his roots on an album that firmly points to his future.

Mike Davies

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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Folk Awards 2013 (Proper Music Properfolk14)

Folk Awards 2013Glorious…there’s no other word to describe it. Opening with every folk fans favourite band of ragamuffins Bellowhead and “Roll The Woodpile Down” this 3 CD compilation of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards positively blasts forth heralding the achievements of all concerned. We in the folk world have a lot to be grateful for and the inclusion of (amongst others) Hannah James & Sam Sweeney, Gilmore & Roberts and Kathryn Tickell show how they can ‘acoustically’ kick butt along with ‘rock’ music’s finest. It brings a beaming smile to my face to feel privileged as I do that my enjoyment of this much maligned genre really can give every other form of music a run for its money and that recording’s like this will hopefully inspire the next generation to pick up the baton and run with it. Mind you…before I sign off (heartily recommending that you purchase a copy of the album) I’d like to credit Smooth Operations Jon Lewis on whose shoulders rest the unenviable task of selecting this compilation as it must have been an agonising decision choosing only one track from each of the featured artists plus the bonus ten track CD of the Young Folk Award contenders. Finally, Proper Music and the production team led by the legendary Brian Ledgard have to be congratulated for their support each year in allowing ‘our’ music such a fantastic shop window (and not a hint of Mary Portas in sight) in which to showcase such astonishing talent.

PETE FYFE

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Larkin Poe and Thom Hell – THE SOUND OF THE OCEAN SOUND

Larkin Poe & Thom Hell (300dpi)Having toured internationally as The Lovell Sisters between 2005 and 2010, including performances at the Grand Ole Opry, Telluride and numerous other top venues and festivals, Rebecca and Megan relaunched themselves as Larkin Poe in January 2010, following the departure of eldest sister Jessica.

Still only in their early twenties, in just a little over two years as Larkin Poe, Rebecca and Megan have released five EPs and a live DVD and have performed with such luminaries as Elvis Costello, Fairport Convention and The Indigo Girls. During 2012 alone they have played headline shows at festivals across Europe including Beautiful Days, Celtic Connections, the Hebridean Celtic Festival and Fairport’s Cropredy Convention where they broke the festival record for CD sales.

During a particularly productive and rewarding year in 2012, they have also made guest appearances on new albums by Blair Dunlop and Gilmore & Roberts, rising stars of the UK folk scene, who were both recently nominated for prestigious BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, which take place on the 30th of January 2013.

Now Rebecca & Megan present a first full-length album, The Sound Of The Ocean Sound, a collaboration with multiple Norwegian ‘Spellemann’ (Grammy) winner Thom Hell, and special guest Sola Akingbola (Jamiroquai). Luck brought them together when Thom attended one of the band’s concerts, and two visits to the studio later the 10 songs of The Sound Of The Ocean Sound were complete. The album was recorded in two periods over the last two years at Ocean Sound Recordings studio in Giske, Norway, where Travis recently completed their forthcoming album.

Sola Akingbola, long-standing percussionist with Jamiroquai heard a rough mix of the record after playing at the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Norway, and was so eager to play on the album he spent his only 2 days off during a 2 month long Jamiroquai tour, to lay down some exemplary percussion work.

The distinctive voices and harmonies of Larkin Poe and Thom Hell, combined with Rebecca and Megan’s signature mandolin and dobro sound, result in ten masterpieces of roots-inflected pop.

Larkin Poe & Thom Hell - 'The Sound Of The Ocean Sound' - cover (300dpi)The album also features Daniel Kimbro on bass, Chad Melton on drums and Mike Seal on guitar, all musicians who’ve played with Larkin Poe until recently. Norwegian producer Audun Borrmann recorded and produced the album in close collaboration with Larkin Poe and Thom Hell.

It will be available on CD, Vinyl and Digital download at the folking store below (RELEASE DATE MARCH 4 2013). The Sound Of The Ocean Sound features 10 tracks, six written by Rebecca & Megan Lovell, three by Thom Hell, and one co-written by Rebecca Lovell and Thom Hell in the studio.

“Though never quite abandoning the duo’s bluegrass roots the mandolin/dobro combination has clearly been harnessed to newly ambitious songwriting that’s taken a joyful, ultra-confident left-field swerve.” Acoustic

“Every exposure to Larkin Poe brings increasing evidence of emerging greatness.” The Herald

“. . . the 20-year-old sisters’ dynamic story-songs open up new realms of cream-fresh Americana” The Independent

“. . . rootsy, melodic, and reflective, not to mention highly irresistible.” Maverick

“With the Dixie Chicks on sabbatical, this could be Larkin Poe’s season in the sun.” The Observer

“What makes it all special is the pair’s ability to push the envelope, especially in the use of vocal arrangements . . . just when you think you know where you are, you’re taken someplace further. That’s a genuine gift.” R2

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THE ALBION BAND – Vice Of The People (Powered Flight Music POWFCD02)

The stark acapella ‘calling-on song’ “A Quarter Hour Of Fame” takes a knowing pop at the industry known as ‘pop’ for, if Simon Cowell were to take even the slightest interest in a ‘folk’ band I’m sure he wouldn’t know what to do with them. So, in a track that lasts a mere 44 seconds it would appear the new line-up of The Albion Band mean business much like their predecessor. Forthright views conveyed with a passion were always part of the original band’s make-up thanks due in no small part to the lyrics of John Tams and I’m pleased to say Katriona Gilmore (fiddle) and Gavin Davenport (guitar/concertina) continue in that spirit. Of course, an Albion Band wouldn’t be The Albion Band without the inclusion of at least a couple of trad arr: songs/tunes and in this regard they don’t disappoint with re-workings of “Adieu To Old England” and the downright shanty-rock anthem treatment of “One More Day” where the trademark Stratocaster sound (once provided by Sir Simon Nicol) will leave any festival-going audience with a smile a mile wide. The rest of the band; Blair Dunlop (guitars), Benjamin Trott (lead guitar), Tom Wright (drums) and Tim Yates (bass/melodeon) really are a great ‘engine room’ providing rock solid rhythms and I’d say in conclusion that the band’s name and music is in safe hands. In the words of the great David (we are not worthy) Essex ”Rock On”!

PETE FYFE

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