THE DEMON BARBERS – The Lock-In (Safecracker Pictures DVD SP059)

THE DEMON BARBERS The Lock-InHaving witnessed the ‘Celtic’ hit Riverdance on its opening night in London in 1995 and being absolutely blown-away (as was the sold-out audience) by the effervescent amalgamation of dance techniques I wondered if there might ever be a British ‘folk’ equivalent. Well, for me that long wait has now been answered with The Demon Barbers folk/hip hop theatre production “The Lock-In” formerly known as Time Gentlemen Please. Now, maybe it’s just me but the opening scene with its American Werewolf In London type pub set-piece being visited by three hip-hop dancers (and a particularly flash back-flip by one of them) perhaps seems a bit contrived as does the pantomime-ish rubbing of a pewter tankard in place of the obligatory genie’s lamp but bear with me, enter three clog dancers and the scenario is almost complete. As with Riverdance a battle of dance techniques ensues although this does appear slightly limited to the clash of hip-hop and traditional styles (Sword Dance, Rapper and Morris etc) and before anyone judges me of being ignorant about the other styles of modern dance technique I hold my hands up as accused. The inclusion of Grace Savage’s human beat-box is an interesting twist although I’m not sure about Ben Griffith’s ‘Jasmine’ the pub ‘landlady’…far too camp for my tastes and for those not into the Morris tradition it seems a pretty unusual character to include and a major distraction (for me anyway) from the rest of the performance. The song “Captain Ward” is a nice addition and the band carry this off with aplomb which leaves me somewhat surprised that they didn’t include quite a few more songs for good measure. While we’re on the subject of the musicians I was particularly impressed by Bryony Griffith’s fiddle playing and her understanding of the intricacies of ‘Morris’ tempos…so much more than just 4/4 or 6/8 rhythms! As for the sound engineering by Andy Bell and filming directed by Nigel Horne this is exemplary work and carries over to the excellent interview with Damien Barber and the other extra features. Even if you’re not particularly into dance but just into the mechanics of how a theatrical production evolves I’d suggest you purchase a copy of this DVD.

PETE FYFE

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BULLY WEE BAND – The Madmen of Gotham & The Vintage Years 1975-1980 (Slaughterhouse Productions SLP009CD)

The saying “…born at the right time…” couldn’t be more appropriate in describing this more than welcome trip down memory lane. I remember first meeting members of the band when they turned up unannounced one night at the Cambridge Folk Festival (was it really 1975?) and provided their spell-bound audience with an impromptu set that left us all breathless thinking just how good they were. They also…just by chance…happened to have some freshly pressed vinyl and sold a batch of them including one to yours truly. In their short-lived five year career the band provided the ‘folk’ club scene with some of the most enjoyable Celtic based music and entertainment (at that time not a ‘dirty’ word) it was our pleasure to experience. Captured here is a good cross-section from each of the band’s four recordings showcasing the talents of Frank Simon’s flashy, jazz tinged guitar playing to Jim and John Yardley’s knowledge of traditional songs, Ian Cutler’s demon fiddle, Fergus Feely’s wit and pumping bouzouki and Colin Reece armed with his own self-penned traditional styled songs. “Trooper And The Maid”, “Trumpet Hornpipe”, “Open The Door Softly” and “Madmen Of Gotham”…they’re all here with the trademark Bully Wee sound and personally speaking not a duff track to be found anywhere. Expertly digitally re-mastered by Graham Semark, this is an opportunity for those old enough to remember the band’s glory days to reacquaint themselves with a group that would certainly give any of today’s young pretenders a run for their money.

PETE FYFE

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

Rusty Shackle – WASH AWAY THESE NIGHTS

Rusty Shackle WASH AWAY THESE NIGHTSRusty Shackle formed in early 2010 and their infectious pulse, style and musical genre, whilst potently contemporary, is difficult to pigeon hole and has been described by Plugged In magazine as the “Bombay Badboy of Folk” a reference to the hottest Pot Noodle on the market (folkmaster – What’s your favourite Pot Noddle? was actually one of our interview questions back in 2000!)  .  This said, elements of folk, rock, bluegrass, Celtic rhythms and Delta blues are clearly discernible. Either way, feet tap to whatever the specific nuance.

Stunning, high-energy live performances and boundless enthusiasm make sure you’ll leave exhausted, with their tunes swimming around your head for days after. They are well on the way to ensuring they are everywhere this coming summer.

“…the perfectly named, violin-toting Welsh quintet Rusty Shackle created a proper hootenanny hoedown” The Independent

Rusty Shackle’s debut album WASH AWAY THESE NIGHTS has now hit the streets and has already reached number 22 in the iTunes Singer/Songwriter chart, the singles reaching as high as number 2 after its digital release. As Neil King from Fatea Showcases said, “Genre prostitution is a major feature of “Wash Away These Nights”, rock, pop, gospel, blues, rockabilly, skiffle, are all thrown into the melting pot to produce an album that celebrates the art of having a good time.”

The album thrives on musical diversity, whilst maintaining a cohesive sound to keep it all together. Inspired by artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Seth Lakeman, Johnny Cash and traditional Celtic and bluegrass music the twelve original tracks on WASH AWAY THESE NIGHT are a joy to listen to, or indeed dance to. From the album opener 3AM, described as an ode to insomnia, to the final track Sunrise the listener will hear that all tracks are killer cuts, no fillers here.

Other standout tracks on the album include Cold Hearted Town, one of the first tracks the band ever composed, deals with being stuck in a sleepy town with nothing to do and nowhere to go, an anthem for the 21st century.  Factory is about working in a soul destroying workplace but on the other side of the coin Beating Heart of a Kingdom is a positive song about the choices we make in our lives and how it’s never too late to change. When it comes to the songwriting most of the lyrics were composed by multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Liam Collins and guitarist James McKeon, the music was composed by the band as a whole who comprise Scott McKeon (fiddle, banjo and vocals), Baz Barwick (bass, mandola, vocals),Owen Emmanuel (drums and percussion) along with the above mentioned Liam and James.

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LITHA – Dancing Of The Light (ARCD 3045)

A few years ago I had the pleasure of reviewing the 2Duos outstanding debut CD. Since then they’ve changed their name to Litha but whatever title they choose, this certainly is a 4-piece more than capable of carving out their own unique slice of Celtic ‘folk’ history given half a chance. Diving straight in with a powerful set-up of guitar ‘chops’ and a swooping riff on the fiddle it opens the album with a bang on Tim O’Leary’s song “Blind George”. The vocals are delivered with passion by Aaron Jones but minus the heavy Scottish bur (think Dougie MacLean rather than Dick Gaughan) often associated with a majority of bands of this genre and, in my opinion are all the better for it. The captivating tonal qualities of Germany’s Gudrun Walther provides a wonderful juxtaposition within the band in much the same way that brother and sister Micheal & Triona O’Domhnaill did in the Bothy Band and like ‘The Bothys’ debut album this really is an exciting prospect. As if to cement the deal check out “Rosie’s Reels” where all four members including Claire Mann’s driving fiddle and Jurgen Treyz rhythmical guitar accompaniment really prove their mettle as inspired instrumentalists. The group’s choice of songs by Suzanne Vega and Karine Polwart’s Radio 2 friendly “Waterlily” will be forever immortalised like a stamp through a stick of Brighton rock and all members are to be complimented for their ‘arty’ but consumer friendly approach to their music. By the way trivia fans…for those wondering where they’ve heard the tune ‘New Claret’ at the end of the ‘Flying Dairymaids’ it’s the elusive title of the tune Fairport couldn’t find in their “Flatback Caper” set on the Full House album.

PETE FYFE

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Artist Web link: www.litha-music.com

Celtic Skies featuring Andrea Corr & Damien Dempsey…

Celtic Skies is a collection of popular Irish and Scottish traditional songs recorded in a new, contemporary style. The album features various established Celtic  artists such as Andrea Corr , Damien Dempsey and Moya Brennan , together with young up and coming artists who all bring their unique interpretation to these much-loved classics. The production team behind the album, Jake Jacas and John Reynolds have worked with artists such as Sade and Ali Campbell through to Andrea Corr and Sinead O’Connor.

The album’s appeal spans all age groups and from the timeless beauty of songs such as ‘Black is the Colour’ – through to a passion fuelled rendition of ‘Flower of Scotland’– this album offers a stunning and modern interpretation of these iconic traditional songs.

About some of the featured artists:

When Bono stated recently, “I think she has one of the greatest voices the human ear has ever experienced”, he was heralding what many people know already about The Voice of Clannad, Moya Brennan

Ben Thapa – Opera Magazine said, “beautiful tone and beautiful phrasing

Lumiere – Legendary Irish Record Producer John Reynolds said, “Pauline and Éilís have a rare and unique singing style I had never heard before. From the moment I heard their voices I knew we had to make an album. Discovering these songs through their voices lifted them into a place of real soulful tradition, ethereal but at same time modern. A pure joy.”

Damien Dempsey (The Irish Lion) – Roddy Doyle wrote that “the Irish are the blacks of Europe and Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland and the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin”. Born in Donaghmede on Dublin’s Northside in 1975, Damien Dempsey is the voice of that underclass and the quintessential Irish singer songwriter.

Celtic Skies Album Track Listing:

1. She Moved Through the Fair  – Featuring  Andrea Corr
2. Down by the Salley Gardens – Featuring  Moya Brennan
3. Oh Danny Boy – Featuring Rebecca Watson
4. Black is the Colour – Featuring Joanna Eden
5. The Last Rose of Summer  – Featuring  Lumiere
6. Rare Ould Times – Featuring Damien Dempsey
7. Heart of My Homeland – Featuring Joanna Eden
8. Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond – Featuring Ben Thapa
9. Mountains of Mourne – Instrumental
10. Flower of Scotland – Featuring Rebecca Watson
11.My Ain Folk – Featuring Ben Thapa
12. Water is Wide – Featuring Joanna Eden
13. Foggy Dew – Instrumental
14. Hills of the Dawn – Featuring Joanna Eden
15. Auld Lang Syne – Featuring Rebecca Watson

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Graham Robins – THE SHIPPING NEWS

THE SHIPPING NEWS is the brand new album release on The Global Sessions Label by singer songwriter Graham Robins emphasising his love of soul, blues, country and Gospel music along with the occasional dip into Celtic and Folk; all delivered in his signature rich deep voice. The album takes the listener on a journey into the heart and soul of a singer songwriter who has composed a well crafted collection of songs that underpins an experience and love of roots music in all its many forms.

Stand out cuts include the stunning title track The Shipping News, where Graham’s vocal delivery teases every emotion, guaranteed to move the listener, the pedal steel led Now All Of The Heartache’s Gone, the soulful Snow Blindand emotionally charged Roll Back The Years, but special mention must be made of the stunning Drown In Your Eyes which really shows a songwriter at the top of his game. This is an album of twelve killer songs, no fillers here.

Graham Robins truly is an outstanding singer songwriter and live performer, with two previous albums under his belt, SPIRIT WITHIN and ROLL BACK THE YEARS but with THE SHIPPING NEWS he has taken his recorded output to another level. Graham’s soulful voice and unique guitar style knit together perfectly wrapped around lyrics gathered from a lifetime of experience. Whether performed live or on record, his delivery becomes a passionate embrace of his heartfelt songs, revealing great depth and sincerity.

The album was recorded at the Echo Studios in Buckingham and was produced by Graham himself. Graham, who plays electric and acoustic guitars, harmonica and supplies lead vocals, is joined by guest musicians Stuart Buckle on Dobro and guitar, Dave Baldwin on keyboards (Van Morrison, Chris Farlowe, James Hunter, Larry Garner, The Norman Beaker Band), John Devine who supplies Uillean pipes (Wild Willy Barratt, Sleeping Dogs), Olly Dowlen on upright bass (Don Mescal, writer for Ronan Keating), Mark Burr on drums, Rol Walker on percussion, Cliff Weston gives us pedal steel, Cliff Ward on violin and not forgetting Jade Rhiannon Ward on backing vocals.

Graham Robins has been performing live and recording music since the mid 1960’s and has played at The Edinburgh Festival, The North Devon Music Festival, The Castlebar International Blues Festival and The Westport Arts Festival. He has shared the stage with numerous artists including The Waterboys, Seth Lakeman, Glen Tilbrook, Georgie Fame and Chris Farlowe. He was a 2008 Indie Award Nominee and tours the U.K. and Ireland regularly either solo or with his band and also with virtuoso guitarist and former Van Morrison sideman Ronnie Johnson. At London’s Borderline as part of Shana Morrison’s 2007 UK tour they performed together on Van Morrison’s Sometimes We Cry to great acclaim.

With influences that are vast and eclectic that go way back to the days of tuning into Radio Luxembourg and Radio Caroline, listening to Stax, Motown and Atlantic Records and with a love of artists with cross border musical links, it comes as no surprise that THE SHIPPING NEWS is an album covering many musical genres.

Graham Robins is constantly playing live shows up and down the UK and to support the release of THE SHIPPING NEWS will be touring the UK over the winter of 2011/2012.

Release date – November 7th 2011 on the Global Sessions label…

“Magical rootsy stuff, gloriously uplifting and with atmosphere by the spadefull!”

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