SERIOUS CHILD – Empty Nest (TCR Music TCRM75099)

Empty NestThe core of Serious Child – or as the CD sleeve has it, SERIOUS CHiLD – consists of Alan Young on guitar and vocals, Carla March on vocals, and Steve Welch on bass. However, a fine selection of well-performed songs by Alan Young is further lifted on the CD Empty Nest by the support of an impressive number of highly-rated musicians. Among the names you may well recognize are Boo Hewerdine (who produced the album, and indeed persuaded Alan to record it in the first place) and Neill MacColl of The Bible, John McCusker, Gustaf Ljunggren, and three members of The Changing Room. The overall feel of the album is nearer to soft rock than folk, but none the worse for that: this is a quality performance.

  1. ‘Blue Is Only A Colour’ is an affecting ballad, particularly well sung. While Alan Young has a style all of his own, I could almost imagine the Walker Brothers singing this rather well.
  2. ‘Paul The Bag’ is a rock-flavoured and somewhat alarming song about an ageing gangster with something to prove: based on a real-life encounter.
  3. ‘Time Keeps Rolling’ is a reminiscent song about comfort through personal ritual and the passing of time, loosely tied to Paul Robeson’s recording of ‘Ol’ Man River’.
  4. ‘Kind Man’s Bluff’ features The Changing Room’s Tanya Brittain on vocals and accordion, on a moving song about a mother’s feelings as her child leaves home. “But no one dies of heartbreak, so let me help you pack…“. This one could be a keeper.
  5. Most of the way through, ‘I Don’t Remember Venice’ sounds like a pleasant piece of poppy nostalgia but features a sharp twist to the lyric towards the end. Clever.
  6. ‘Cinnabar’ seems to reflect a changed relationship filtered through Alan’s childhood obsession with crimson moths. Interesting.
  7. ‘The Last Chance’ is a little more conventional, but catchy, particularly in the chorus.
  8. While most of the tracks here are not particularly folky, ‘Three Hail Marys’ has an instrumental line-up that would fit in with many an Irish folk group, with prominent whistle, bodhran and banjo, and a lyric that wouldn’t disgrace the Pogues at their best.
  9. I guess we’ve all kept checking our phone for a message that someone somehow hasn’t left. ‘No Missed Calls’ seems to recall that hollow ambivalence, and has a nice guitar-dominated arrangement.
  10. ‘Open Skies’ has a slightly country-rock feel.
  11. ‘Speeding’ for some reason reminds me of John Miles. In a good way.
  12. ‘You Wear The Smile’ is a slow ballad that finishes the album in fine style.

Alan Young has long been known as a talented and versatile vocalist, but it turns out that he’s also rather a good, late-flowering songwriter – apparently he’d never written a song until he was 50. Hopefully, now that he’s discovered this extra string to his bow – um, guitar… – we’ll hear more of his songs in the future. Empty Nest is scheduled for release on the 22nd of June.

David Harley

Artist’s website: www.seriouschild.com

‘Time Keeps Rolling’ – live:

Serious Child announce debut album

Serious Child

Empty Nest is the affecting and impressive debut album from Serious Child, a talented trio fronted by singer/songwriter and guitarist Alan Young with Carla March on vocals and Steve Welch on bass. On Empty Nest they are joined by a range of folk and rock musicians, including Boo Hewerdine (the album’s producer) and Bible bandmate Neill MacColl, John McCusker and three members of The Changing Room (Tanya Brittain, Jamie Francis and Evan Carson).

The acclaimed, Ivor Novello Award nominated, English singer-songwriter and producer, Boo Hewerdine played a crucial role in bringing about the creation of Empty Nest. A talented vocalist, Alan Young had never written a song prior to his fiftieth birthday, when his wife bought him a place on a five day workshop in the Scottish Highlands. Following a second workshop, Boo, who recognised his significant skills as a songwriter, persuaded an initially reluctant Alan to record an album that he would produce.

The result is Empty Nest, an album whose theme is formed around a quote from Samuel Beckett’s one act play, Krapp’s Last Tape. The words were printed below a photo of a magnificently craggy Beckett in his 70s, in a shabby office where Alan was a research student. The photo and the quote stayed with him over the years and are to be found in the songs, the album cover and the forthcoming videos.

Most of the songs are stories about transitions between different stages of life and the fire that keeps burning as we move through them. ‘Kind Man’s Bluff’ is about a mother facing up to her child leaving home and ‘Paul The Bag’ is about an ageing gangster who is compelled to prove to strangers that he’s not too old.

Serious Child will be holding a launch event for Empty Nest at Cecil Sharp House in London on Wednesday 20 June. The formal release date for the album will be Friday 22 June. The band will be performing at various festivals over the summer and will be on tour in the autumn in the UK (dates to be announced).

Empty Nest is released by TCR Music, an independent folk label based in Cornwall, which has launched the careers of Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys, The Changing Room and Kitty Macfarlane.

Artists’ website: http://seriouschild.com/

‘Time Keeps Rolling’ – live:

The Ballads Of Child Migration on tour

Child Migration

With award-winning folk artists:

John McCusker, Michael McGoldrick,

Boo Hewerdine, O’Hooley & Tidow,

Chris While, Julie Matthews,

John Doyle, Jez Lowe,

Andy Seward and Andy Cutting

Narrated by Barbara Dickson

In November 2018, a collective of brilliant and respected musicians and singers are taking to the road to tell the moving story of Britain’s forced child migrants.

The concert, presented as a series of songs, narration, slides, audio and film clips, premiered at last year’s Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow, where it was described as “without doubt the most memorable concert of the festival.”

The songs in this concert were recently heard as part of a major BBC Radio 2 dramatisation of Michael Morpurgo’s book Alone On A Wide Wide Sea, which deals with the same subject. The radio drama, including the music, starred Toby Jones and Jason Donovan and reached an estimated audience of 6 million listeners.

“One of the pre-eminent song collections of recent times, poignantly re-telling one of the most important stories to have emerged from these islands” – Mark Radcliffe, BBC Radio 2

Forced child migration is a little known and dark part of the history of Britain. More than 100,000 children from Britain were sent overseas (to places including Australia and Canada) with the promise of finding a better life. Some did find the happy lives they longed for; many others found only hardship, abuse and loneliness.

The Ballads Of Child Migration is a tribute to those children, some of whom were sent abroad as recently as 1970.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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.

After each concert there will be a short Q&A session where members of the audience can ask questions of the performers and other experts about child migration.

* * *

This tour is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and is produced by 7digital – the digital music and radio services company that also produced the BBC Radio version of Alone On A Wide Wide Sea.

Tour Dates – November 2018

Monday 12th – Folk In The Barn, Gulbenkian, Canterbury

Tuesday 13th – Saint James Church, Clerkenwell, London

Wednesday 14th – Corn Exchange, Cambridge

Thursday 15th – The Albert Hall, Nottingham

Friday 16th – Floral Hall, Southport

Tickets available from www.ticketline.co.uk / 0844 888 9991

For Gulbenkian – www.thegulbenkian.co.uk / 01227 831 493

JILL JACKSON – Are We There Yet (own label JJR001CD)

Are We There YetAre We There Yet was released a few days ago on May 18th. The album was produced by Boo Hewerdine and has that classy feel you’d expect from “the wonderful man of magic” as Jill Jackson calls him on the sleeve notes. At the age of 22, Jackson had a pop career signed to a major label, and has paid her youthful dues on tour with the boyband Blue in arenas – whilst hankering for Nashville. So she went there, played at the Bluebird Café and began the musical journey she wanted to have. Are We There Yet is her fifth album.

The opening song ‘1954’ tells the story of Jackson’s grandparents, clearly an inspiration to her throughout her life, a smoochy vocal on the verse turning into a country chorus. The title track is a tale of the family holidays packed into the car, fighting with her sister on the back seat, singing ‘That’ll Be The Day’ and ‘Rave On’ and chanting every child’s summer holiday question “Daddy, are we there yet, there yet, there yet” to a pleasant earworm of a tune matching the child’s question.

There are a couple of tracks, ‘My Baby’ and ‘Needle and Thread’ that capture the feel of thirties music – Jackson describes it as her obsession with Lindy Hop. Musically they’re fun and unsurprisingly they enjoy playing with words. On ‘Needle and Thread’ you have jocularity and sincerity combined, as with pre-war song: “We go together like needle and thread/Like butter and bread, like belt and braces/ We go together like rhythm and blues/ Like socks and shoes, like cars and races” – you need a good vocal to make lines like this work and Jackson has a delightful voice capable of delivering the complex jauntiness of these jazz/swing lyrics just as well as she does the country songs.

‘Worries’, ‘Sweet Lullaby’ and ‘Dynamite’ are musically joyful while lyrically dealing with tough times in Jackson’s life – generally a country feel, but with an up tempo pop-ish edge in the back of the arrangement. It’s an album that’s grown on me.

As for Jackson herself, not only does she have a voice with a great range in her intonation and her mix of styles, she has written all the songs. There’s a consistent quality in the writing, but I’d pick out two, both very personal, which show her depth. ‘Hope And Gasoline’ is a tale of teenage escape, a slow verse building to a rising chorus to capture a seventeen year old’s sense of adult freedom from having a car and “All I need is hope and gasoline….All I see is being 17/ and I wanna know you love me/ and I’m a little more than nothing”. The album closes with ‘Goodbye’, a haunting elegy to Jackson’s gran, gently powerful “How will I spend my time without you by my side/I’m not ready for that goodbye.” Both musically and lyrically, this is a grown up album.

Jill Jackson is on tour from 25th May to June 14th playing a dozen concerts from Scotland to London.

Mike Wistow

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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.

Artist’s website: http://www.jilljackson.co.uk

Video preview:

FINDLAY NAPIER talks to Folking

Findlay Napier

Findlay Napier doesn’t look like his publicity photographs. That is to say, he does but that dour, unsmiling image you see above isn’t him. In person he’s affable, chatty to the point of indiscretion and often very funny but also thoughtful, considering some of his answers carefully. He was born in Glasgow where he again lives but his parents moved to Grantown on Spey when he was very young.

“My parents and my grandparents bought a house there.  I couldn’t have been a month old and they took all safety precautions – wrapped me in a blanket and put me in a wash basin in the passenger foot-well – and drove me up the road. Nowadays you’re not even allowed to leave hospital without a baby seat! I didn’t come back to Glasgow until I was seventeen for college and spent my childhood and teens in Grantown.”

Of the two places I know where I’d prefer to live but, from a musical perspective more was going to happen in Glasgow.

“That was the problem with Strathspey. There was stuff going on but not like there was in Glasgow. I was going to university and went to Glasgow to study traditional music. It was the first year of their traditional music degree course at the RSAMD, which is now the RCS [Royal Conservatoire of Scotland]. I’d love to live in Grantown but I don’t know how it would work. The interesting thing is that my brother, Hamish, has just moved back.”

Clearly, the Napiers are a very musical family. Hamish plays piano and flute and composes music of a rather more pastoral style than Findlay’s songs.

“My mum went to music school in Edinburgh, then to Glasgow University to study music and ended up with Scottish Opera. It was when Scottish Opera first went full time and you probably think of opera with grand sets but they went round in a small bus and would do schools during the day and an opera in a venue about the size of this. It was before Scottish Opera became a huge behemoth – it was like a little folk band that sang opera.”

Findlay’s first band was Back Of The Moon which also had brother Hamish in its ranks.

“That started because I met my wife, Gillian Frame, at the RSAMD. She entered the Young Tradition Award and she, Hamish and Simon McKerrell also entered the Radio 2 Folk Awards and got through to the finals. They didn’t win but we’re not bitter and by that point I had joined Back Of The Moon.”

Gillian’s prize for winning the Young Tradition Musician of the Year competition was to make an album. That was Gillian Frame And Back Of The Moon, the band’s first record.

“The band went on to be pretty successful but, strangely enough, it was successful north of the border, a tiny handful of gigs in England but we were busy in Germany, America and Canada and that was enough to keep us going. We did so little in England, which I was always really disappointed about. We never made it across the border and I’m not sure why – the band was a good folk club band; would have been a good festival band. There were four people singing, and tunes, so we were always very confused about that.

“One of the things we found out at the end was that we were a band that needed a manager. The reason we broke up was because Gillian and I were managing the band on the hoof and, actually, we needed professional help and we didn’t understand that we needed it. Hamish left and instead of replacing him we folded the band. We decided that we couldn’t do it [without Hamish] and couldn’t agree on how to do it. He probably didn’t need to leave but he wanted to study music. We could have worked round it, had we had a manager to give us advice.

“Just before the band broke up I started writing with a guy called Nick Turner of Watercolour Music. I’d written since I was 14 or 15 but I’d hit a dry patch probably because I was so busy trying to manage and be in a band. On the first night together we wrote three songs and another two the next day so I went back to Glasgow with five songs and we kept writing and I realised that was what I needed to do.”

Together, Findlay and Nick were Queen Anne’s Revenge, a name later appropriated by a new England rock band, and released two albums. While Back Of The Moon were a traditional band, Queen Anne’s Revenge was essentially a song-writing vehicle.

“I needed an outlet and Nick, who was in the recording studio, also needed an outlet so we found each other at the perfect time. Nick had the studio and access to a lot of musicians so it worked out really well. We were able to put together the project and it was a lot of fun. We couldn’t get Queen Anne’s Revenge to work as a band but I could get some of the songs to work and that’s why I started The Bar Room Mountaineers.”

The Bar Room Mountaineers
The Bar Room Mountaineers

The Mountaineers saw Findlay performing again with his wife plus Douglas Miller and Euan Burton together with a selection of drummers. “It was grand idea that almost worked. We released the CD, paid a lot of money for publicity and got absolutely nothing. I think I know the reason – we were too folky for the indie/singer-songwriter crowd and too indie/singer-songwriter for the folky crowd and fell smack-bang in the middle. Some people got into it and we had more success with the second album because we were a lot clearer about what it was we were doing.

“The solo thing happened because Simon Thoumire said ‘What are you going to do to follow up File Under Fiction?’ and I put my head in my hands. I hadn’t a clue; I didn’t have any money, I didn’t have anyone who was particularly interested and I was all for packing it in.”

Simon pointed out that Findlay’s situation wasn’t unique and suggested that he should apply for a mentoring grant from Creative Scotland. He was successful and was looking for a singer-songwriter who could also teach. Boo Hewerdine’s name came up.

“We supported him at a gig in Edinburgh once and it was one of the best gigs I’ve been too. We’d arranged to go to the pub for a session after we’d played and decided to stay for one or two songs – the next thing we knew it was the encore. We went up to the merch table and bought everything. It took me a while to settle on Boo as a mentor but there couldn’t have been a better person.

“We wrung every last penny out of the funding and that’s how VIP came about and the new album, Glasgow, came about through working with Boo. He sets constraints and the constraint about VIP is that it’s all songs about real people and we said that we would record them live in the studio. On one song we multi-tracked guitar and vocal but apart from that it’s like a gig. There is one note we had to tune on my voice which is something I’m quite proud of. We used autotune the way it’s supposed to me used and the rest of the album is out of tune!”

Photograph by Dai Jeffries

By now there is more laughter than the sensible answering of questions. “One of my mates called up about Glasgow and said ‘It’s a really great album. A brave album, I would never leave all those out-of-tune notes on it’. I was like ‘what out-of-tune notes?’. ‘Oh, sorry, man.’ I can’t hear them but his pitch is perfect.

“I guess Boo wanted to set my stall out as a guy who can write songs and the idea of Glasgow was ‘this is a guy who can sing and play guitar’. In between times I went out gigging and the purpose of that was going to the wider folk audience – this is a guy who can stand up in front of a group of people and entertain them. We have to decide what we’re going to do with the third album; we haven’t planned that yet although I’ve got lots of songs. I like the idea of themed albums but I’m starting to think that the audience might start to think that it’s wearing a little thin.”

With an album like Glasgow in front of us I had to ask whether, as a song-writer, Findlay feels that location is important. There was a long silence.

“It depends what kind of stuff you’re writing. I don’t really like writing songs about me so most of my songs will probably be rooted in a place because they are stories. They’re not musing on my sad, boring life. There is this whole ‘sense of place’ thing but every time I think I’ve grasped what that means, it’s away. I’m a massive fan of Michael Marra and there’s Dundee in some of his songs but not all of them. There’s definitely Scotland in there but my favourite song of his is ‘Schenectady Calling Peerie Willie Johnson’ and that’s full of Shetland words. So sense of place is important but more important than that is having a clear story to the song.”

With Glasgow, Findlay seems to have encompassed every aspect of the city from the bawdy to the poetic. “There’s a song called ‘More To Building Ships’ and when people write songs about Glasgow shipbuilding is a place that they touch on but it’s not a particularly old industry in Glasgow. There’s a lot more to the city and there’s a lot more than Rangers and Celtic and Billy Connolly and I wanted to make sure it was all in there. That’s why I covered the Blue Nile song, ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’, which I think is just beautiful and conjures up a very specific set of images which Paul Buchanan probably has no connection with at all. There’s a chunk of my life in Glasgow in that song.

“We wanted to do covers and I think that was a very good idea and it was part of Boo’s thing. That was fun because I had to choose them and then I had to work them out and that was a really interesting exercise. I’d run an open mic with Louis Abbott [Admiral Fallow] and I’d been doing lots of covers so I know how to interpret a song and I learned a lot from listening to The Blue Nile.

“It wasn’t until I started doing solo gigs that I got as brave as I am now with being on stage. One of the things I did was an eight-week stand-up comedy course at Strathclyde University because I knew that there must be tricks that I hadn’t learned just by osmosis and that made a massive difference to my confidence It was scary having to stand on stage for five minutes trying to make people laugh – a lot harder than I thought it would be – and it gave me massive respect for anyone who does it.”

Findlay isn’t going to morph into Jasper Carrott any time soon but…insomniacs with access to BBC Alba can see him in a show called Fonn! Fonn! Fonn! which I watch in fascinated disbelief whenever I catch it. I hoped to learn some of the show’s mysteries.

The regular cast of Fonn! Fonn! Fonn!

“One night at the Traditional Music Awards a friend told me he was doing this show and wanted someone to play lots of bits of songs. It was going to be a bit like Never Mind The Buzzcocks, an irreverent Gaelic panel show. I said ‘I’ll do that’ so I did.”

Findlay never says a word during a show and puts on his stern face communicating with the host via shrugs and raised eyebrows. I began to suspect that it was covering the fact that he doesn’t speak Gaelic.

“That’s exactly what it’s doing and that’s why I don’t laugh. I didn’t know what was going on most of the time but it got tricky when we started series two because I started to laugh at the jokes. I was picking up little bits and I also heard them writing the jokes the night before. If someone tells a joke really well you don’t have to know what language it’s in because it has all the rhythmic information to make you laugh.”

For southerners the show is subtitled but I’m convinced that the subtitles don’t tell the whole story and for Gaelic speakers the joke is in trying to translate into Gaelic words that have no business being there.

“I loved it and we wanted a third season. It was Marmite TV – absolutely hated by some people and some absolutely loved it and one group who really loved it were people learning to speak Gaelic because they knew what it was about; they knew about music and modern culture.”

So there you have him. Findlay Napier: singer, songwriter, performer, TV straight man and possibly a future stand-up comic. And he played Katy Morag’s uncle Sven, too, but only in one episode. If he comes to perform anywhere near you I urge you go and hear him. It will be a great night out.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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.

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

‘Young Goths In The Necropolis’ – live:

Wickham Festival Announces 2018 Line Up

Wickham have just announced that The South and Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel are among the latest acts confirmed for this year’s Festival.

Also recently confirmed are singer-songwriters Reg Meuross and Jim Malcolm; Scottish duo Saltfishforty; the wonderful Mary Coughlan from Ireland; and great live bands Police Dog Hogan, The Outcast Band and Merry Hell.

They join a top-class line-up already announced including Squeeze; John Illsley of Dire Straits; The Richard Thompson Trio; Kate Rusby; Show of Hands; Tom Robinson + Band; The Undertones; The Red Hot Chilli Pipers; Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings; The Blues Band; Martyn Joseph; Flook; Drever McCusker Woomble; Tankus The Henge; The Dhol Foundation; Ferocious Dog; Skipinnish; The Pierce Brothers; Mad Dog McCrea; Daori Farrell; Imar; Talisk; Boo Hewerdine; Gaz Brookfield; Roy Bailey; Maggie Bell & Dave Kelly; and many more.

See wickhamfestival.co.uk for full listings plus details of who’s on when.

Artist Summary:

Squeeze
Richard Thompson Trio
Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel
The South
Kate Rusby
Show Of Hands
John Illsley of Dire Straits
The Undertones
Tom Robinson & Band
The Blues Band
The Dhol Foundation
The Red Hot Chilli Pipers
Ferocious Dog
Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings
Mary Coughlan
Martyn Joseph
Flook
Tankus the Henge
Mad Dog Mcrea
Imar
Gaz Brookfield & The Company of Thieves
Pierce Brothers
Merry Hell
Gordie MacKeeman & his Rhythm Boys
The Electric Swing Circus
Skipinnish
Talisk
Daori Farrell
Boo Hewerdine
Drever McCusker Woomble
Maggie Bell & Dave Kelly
The East Pointers
The Gerry Colvin Band
Roy Bailey
The Emily Askew Band
Les Barker
Vishtèn
Fake Thackray
Findlay Napier
More artists T.B.C

Above and below are a couple of special moments captured from last years festival courtesy of the folking video archive: