Tom Russell – The Rose Of Roscrae

RofR

Double CD album out 13th April 2015 on Proper Records

Tom Russell’s ambitious new double-album The Rose of Roscrae takes a fascinating look at the history of the American West and traditional cowboy and folk music, through the story of an Irish kid who travels to the United States in the late 1880s to become a cowboy.

Produced by Tom Russell and Barry Walsh, The Rose of Roscrae features a who’s who of legendary Americana icons including: Jimmie Dale Gilmore, David Olney, Johnny Cash, Joe Ely, Augie Meyers, Fats Kaplin, Barry Walsh, Jimmy LaFave, Gretchen Peters, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Walt Whitman, Moses “Clear Rock” Platt, Jack Hardy, David Massengill, A.L. “Bert” Lloyd, Finbar Furey, Sourdough Slim, Blackie Farrell, Tex Ritter, Glen Orhlin, Pat Russell, John Trudell, Henry Real Bird, Thad Beckman, Maura O’Connell, Eliza Gilkyson, The McCrary Sisters, Ian Tyson, Bonnie Dobson, Lead Belly, Guy Clark, Dan Penn, Gurf Morlix, and Pat Manske. The album’s overture is performed by the Norwegian Wind Ensemble, arranged by Mats Hålling, composed by Tom Russell.

For over four decades and 28 album releases Tom Russell has continued to live up to his status as “one of the best singer-songwriters of our time” (Washington Post). His previous two  studio releases, Blood and Candle Smoke (2009) and Mesabi (2011), are considered his strongest composed works yet and were, in part, recorded with the groundbreaking roots band Calexico. In the 1990s, Russell and Dave Alvin were hailed as the architects of what came to be known as “Americana” music after their Merle Haggard tribute, Tulare Dust, initiated the Americana charts in the U.S. and remained number one for a year. Russell’s previous release, Aztec Jazz (2013), moved Americana into a new realm and his acclaimed song catalogue into uncharted territory.

Tom Russell’s songs have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Doug Sahm, Nanci Griffith, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Dave Alvin, Joe Ely, and others. The Rose of Roscrae is his third in a series of acclaimed folk operas, following The Man From God Knows Where (1999) and Hotwalker (2005). Russell has also composed movie scores, including songs for the Monte Hellman movie The Road To Nowhere and published five books, most recently 120 Songs of Tom Russell. An accomplished fine artist, Russell’s paintings are featured in: Blue Horse/Red Desert: The Art of Tom Russell.

Artist’s website: http://www.tomrussell.com/

‘The Rose Of Roscrae’ trailer video:

ALEX HIGHTON UNVEILS NEW VIDEO FOR ‘YOU DON’T OWN THIS LIFE’

Alex Highton – New Album – ‘Nobody Knows Anything’
Out December 8th on Gare Du Nord

It’s not the second album that’s difficult. Melodies, harmonies and words all come embarrassingly easy to a born songwriter like Alex Highton. It’s the life that happens in-between the songwriting and the recording that’s the hard bit. Don’t get this wrong, Alex knows he deserves little pity for leading a wonderful life with his family out there in the “wilds” of Cambridgeshire, it’s just that it’s taken a rather circuitous route to get him there.

As a kid his time was split between his native Liverpool and Florence, Italy. It was there that his musical education began, as he took in everything from Talking Heads & Penguin Cafe Orchestra to The Band & David Ackles. He lost his twenties to bad decisions and train-wreck relationships and it was only after meeting his future wife that he started to take songwriting seriously.  The songs he wrote (part therapy / part love letter his new life)  formed the basis of his debut album Woodditton Wives Club, a record replete with tales of rural S&M, mental, emotional and economic collapse, and ultimately salvation through love and family.

The debut received extensive support from BBC6 Music & BBC Introducing (amongst others) and a US tour followed, taking in New York, Austin (SXSW) and LA, with more dates in Germany, Holland & Belgium, as well as slots at Camp Bestival, Wilderness Festival, No Direction Home, Summer Sundae and more.

Having got the observational stuff off his chest, he now turns on himself. These days his ever-evolving craft as a writer approaches Steely Dan levels of effortless complexity and Paddy McAloon-like supersmart nonchalance (witness ‘It Falls Together’, the bonkers ‘Panic’, htonthe epic ‘Mephisto’ or ‘Sunlight Burns Your Skin’ for sheer unhinged musicality) as well as a newfound taste for sharp-edged lyrical brutality.  Highton himself cites Sufjan Steven, Here We Go Magic and Joni Mitchell as big influences on this record.

“This is me trying to work out the point of it all really, to which the answer is I haven’t got a clue and nobody has.” he says, “That Richard Dawkins advert that they had on the side on the London buses ‘There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.’ is probably were it’s at. I get pissed off with the certainties presented to me by religions and politicians. In fact I did record it with the loose idea that these songs were the thoughts running through someone’s head just before they die. It’s certainly structured in that way.”

What sets Nobody Knows Anything apart from its folky predecessor at the very first listen is the extended cast of players joining Highton in his sometimes almost jazzy, avant-whatever, then sometimes stripped-back arrangements. Next to his long-time cohorts double-bass-player Jonny Bridgwood (Morrissey, Kathryn Williams, The Leisure Society etc.) and drummer Howard Monk (Billy Mahonie, The Clientele etc.), producer David “Bear” Dobson, Laura J Martin, Bonnie Dobson, Jonathan “Tall Tree Six Foot Man” Czerwik, Nancy Wallace (of The Memory Band and The Owl Service), John Howard and Robert Rotifer (of Rotifer) all make appearances, next to “my wife, my kids, the dentist who lives next door and loads of others”. “It’s still the village life, then, but equipped with a magical wardrobe that opens to a wondrous world of sounds and dreams.

“A scouse with a voice, Alex Highton’s distinctive sound is sincere and playful he sings to us like we are all his hunny. BBC6 Music describes him as a “world-class practitioner” and he is just that.”The Guardian

“Restores your faith in the genre” BBC 6 Music

“Fantastic record”Steve Lamacq BBC Radio 2

“laid-back but infectious songcraft…”Time Out

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/