BARRY NISBET – A Bright Ray Of Sunshine (Own Label, RRIG001)

Bright Ray Of SunshineShetland singer-songwriter (and sailor) Barry Nisbet’s little box of delights, A Bright Ray Of Sunshine finally reaches the top of the unruly stack by the CD player. Although released in March, this absolute treasure chest of ten songs fully deserves to receive the widest recognition.

Some expected themes – a strong sense of place, history, nature, the sea, wanderlust – feature here, but it’s very much contemporary, aware of the modern world. It’s also warm and compassionate, with Nisbet’s gentle burr adding emphasis to his thoughtful lyrics, whether about Australia’s ‘Desert Wind’ or a love letter to his home, ‘Come In The Summer Time’.

Flavours of country/Americana can be heard in Nisbet’s guitar playing, such as the restlessness of ‘Borderland’, and the gentle tumbling guitar of ‘Comfortless Cove’ where it’s meets unmistakeable Scottishness in both melody and wistful whistle.

One of two instrumental tracks, ‘Brydon & Anona’s Wedding Waltz’ is tender, evolving and building with each turn of the phrase. The second is a 2-tune set: tensely twisting fiddle and choppily strummed guitar in ‘Imperial Jig’ bridging into ‘Night Trip To London’. With its folk-rock intro, this tune quickly develops into a jazzy, discordant distillation of relentless bustle, hum and traffic noise – a fierce partner to Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody In Blue’.

Standout track, ‘Train To Anywhere’ might be the antecedent to Lau’s Ghosts in theme and sentiment. It is every bit as movingly powerful, with a melancholy harmonium underscoring the reluctant refugee’s core dilemma, “If I had the choice I would not knock upon your door, but my children are afraid”. A beautiful song, all the sadder for needing to be said at all.

The traditional-style ‘Hunger’s Daughter’, a haunting tale of love and starvation, has Nisbet’s vigorous fiddle playing reveal the frantic desperation left understated by the lyrics. Similarly, telling ‘Da Ballad O Da Jessie’ – the true tragedy of the sinking of the Shetland fishing fleet – in Scots, lends an emotional immediacy and rawness.

Final track, the lovely, ‘Within Sadness’ characterises Nisbet’s expressiveness in a reflective moment, “within sadness, a bright ray of sunshine”. There’s a directness, a truthfulness in this delightful collection that feels very welcome just now. Barry Nisbet will be going straight to the top of the CD pile next time, and no messing.

Su O’Brien

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Artist website: https://www.facebook.com/barrynisbetmusic/

‘Borderland’ – live:

Johnny Coppin – Borderland (Red Sky Records RSKCD120)

BorderlandJohnny Coppin’s latest album, Borderland, is a collection of songs from England, Ireland Wales and the US. Johnny also has an impressive list of guests singing and playing on the album – Karen Tweed, Paul Burgess, Mike Silver, Geoff March, John Neilson, Kevin Harcourt and David Pickering Pick who all have their own successful careers in their own right.

Borderland is a stripped-down acoustic album with a ‘live’ feel.  Shut your eyes and you have him in your living room or as a passenger in your car. The songs are about ‘real’ people and experiences, about war, romance and feelings. Twelve songs for your delectation and all of them are superb.  The three songs in the “war” section are gut-wrenching and bring home the horrors of WW1 and dreaming of home, lying about their age to get to the front and death. I love Johnny’s voice as it is melodic, haunting and just plain fabulous, and he has done a great justice to this album, also playing guitars and piano in his own inimitable graceful style.

The other nine tracks include arrangements of traditional songs.  Self penned numbers include ‘When The Morning’s Here’, ‘Cariad Cyntaf (First Love)’ and the title track tune ‘Borderland’ in collaboration with John Neilson.

This album has not been off my player and is already a favourite in my extensive music collection.  Do buy the album, and better still, go see him live! Borderland was produced by having sponsors who are all mentioned on the album cover, and the cover and booklet illustrations were exquisitely produced by Johnny’s partner Katharine Neilson, with design by John Neilson. Very pleasantly packaged and presented.

Johnny will be taking his album out on a tour in the spring of 2014, and the official release date of the album is April 7th. A regular Festival favourite, Johnny also has his own long running successful Acoustic Music show on Radio Gloucestershire every Saturday at 17.30.

Jean Camp

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Check out his website for live gigs: johnnycoppin.co.uk

New Album from JOHNNY COPPIN – Borderland

BorderlandLabel – Red Sky Records RSKCD120
Release date – 7th April 2014

Borderland is a new collection of songs from England, Ireland, Wales, and the USA. Included are the much requested song ‘Homeward’, ‘Joseph Baker’ (by Pete Coe) and ‘Safe Home’. In this Centenary Year, there are three songs of the 1st World War- ‘John Condon’, ‘Dream of England,’ and ‘Gloucestershire From Abroad’. The album also includes three traditional songs, ‘The Brazier’s Daughter’ with new tune by Johnny, ‘Mary from Dungloe’ – learnt from Christy Moore’s sister Eilish, and the Welsh song ‘Cariad Cyntaf (First Love)’ with new words in English written by Johnny. Also included is the superb ‘Moonlit Apples’ – a setting of a poem by John Drinkwater. Guest musicians include Karen Tweed – ex-Poozies, and ex-Swap on accordion, Paul Burgess – John Kirkpatrick Band and Old Swan Band on violin and recorders, Mike Silver on guitar and backing vocals, Geoff March, ex- Decameron on cello), and John Neilson on accordion and co-writer of the title track.

Johnny is a singer/songwriter and composer who began his career as a founder member of the folk band Decameron. After going solo, he went on to work for many years as a duo with Phil Beer (Show of Hands). He has recorded over twelve albums including The Winding Stair, Forest and Vale and High Blue Hill, Edge of Day (a collaboration with Laurie Lee), and Roll on Dreamer.

“The aim of the new album was to capture a solo performance, and get right to the heart of these songs of borderlands – about people and places, love and war.I had such a great time recording with fine musicians like Karen Tweed – and it’s wonderful that the CD design has artwork by my partner Katharine Neilson “.

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Johnny tours solo and also as a duo with singer/songwriter Mike Silver. Playing guitar and piano, his music is essentially English and always melodic and evocative. Johnny has performed at many festivals and was commissioned to write songs for the 2013 Cheltenham Festival. This year he will be launching the Borderland album on a tour in the Spring, and performing his tribute to Laurie Lee at his Centenary celebrations June 2014 onwards.

He presents an Acoustic Music programme every Saturday at 5.30pm on BBC Radio Gloucestershire. www.bbc.co.uk/gloucestershire listen again for 7 days. TV appearances include his own programme Song of Gloucestershire for the BBC, Stars in a Dark Night for Channel 4, and Between Two Rivers for ITV.

His original music for theatre includes ‘Songs on Lonely Roads’ (the story of composer/poet Ivor Gurney) and ‘Edge of Day – a tribute to Laurie Lee’ (both with David Goodland and Paul Burgess) as well as for all The Festival Players Theatre Company’s open-air productions of Shakespeare plays since 1991. This professional company has a 3 month tour every summer with all the music written and directed by Johnny. Productions of both “The Comedy of Errors” and “Macbeth” will be touring the UK during summer of 2013.

He has edited two poetry anthologies – Forest & Vale & High Blue Hill, and Between the Severn and the Wye, and his book, A Country Christmas, is a collection of prose, poetry, carols, songs and folklore based on his Christmas albums and annual Christmas touring show- All on a Winter’s Night.

“One of our most underrated folk artists”- THE LIVING TRADITION
“Eloquent, evocative and romantic” – BIRMINGHAM POST

Artist’s website: www.johnnycoppin.co.uk