CHRISTINE KYDD – Shift And Change (Greentrax CDTRAX401)

Shift And ChangeI looked forward to this record, and it didn’t disappoint. The brilliant Christine Kydd has been kept busy of late, with yet another project, this time materialising as a solo album titled Shift And Change: Songs from Scotland. It is as an eclectic a collection as ever, made up of traditional pieces, original writings and takes on the work of contemporary artists.

A rendition of the late Michael Marra’s ‘Just Another Rolling Stone’ begins the album, with Fraser Spiers’ harmonica and Kydd’s vocal guiding this tremendous track. This is followed with another excellent example of Kydd’s ability to interpret contemporary songwriting, this time, it is a powerful protest number by Alistair Hullet, titled ‘Blue Murder’. Set in the Wittenoom Mines of Western Australia, Kydd herself points out (in the album’s liner notes) that “The people in this song find themselves with no choice but to work in conditions which will eventually cause an early death…blue asbestos was the cause and profit was the motive…”. The lyrics are even more to the point and ever more powerful:

Day in day out, every day they drive us harder
Day in day out, they’re getting away with blue murder”.

Even so early into the record, the eclectic flavour of the album is apparent, and from the mines of Australia, we travel to Dundee, with ‘The Back O Reres Hill’, a traditional lament, arranged by Kydd. While this album is a fantastic patchwork of interpretations of songs by Scottish writers, Kydd’s own work must not go overlooked. Firstly, ‘This Is The News’ a scathing social commentary on media bias, inaccuracy and falsehood in reporting. It is extremely applicable to the present day, and as long as there is bullshit in the press, this song will be relevant… and (somewhat unfortunately) I suspect there is a good deal of longevity in this one yet.

‘Comin’ On Strong’; “a positive wee song” as Kydd tells us, is another original about travelling and returning….with a bit of reminiscing in between. Another track worth mentioning is ‘Shift And Change’, both the final song by Kydd and the final song on the album. It is a celebration of the moment and an anthem for embracing change rather than fearing it, punctuated by Kydd’s staccato piano notes and beautiful fiddle and harmonies by Gillian Frame.

Kydd has a tremendous ability to make original, something which is already established, yet she also has the ability to breathe new life into older writings and provide new context to other work, see ‘The Wild Geese/ Norland Wind’ and ‘Halloween’, adaptations of Scottish poems circa 1914 – 1916.

From start to finish, I can’t speak highly enough of this album; its song selections, performances and musicianship are just a few of the more obvious selling points of something which I am glad to say is an absolute joy to listen to.

Christopher James Sheridan

Artist’s website: https://www.christinekydd.com/

There are few videos of Christine but here’s a classic oldie, ‘Seal Woman/Yundah’:

MIKEY KENNEY – The Reverie Road (Penny Fiddle Records PFR1902CD

The Reverie RoadMikey Kenney is an accomplished fiddler and balladeer with wealth of English and Irish folk song in his repertoire. His most recent release, The Reverie Road, brings these traditions (and a few other influences) together.

Beginning with ‘Bacca Pipes’ (the English variant of Greensleeves), it isn’t long before Kenney turns from interpreter to original composer, firstly with a collection of thematically connected reels; ‘The Devil Goat of Keady/ Mr West’s Fiddle/ The Repair Job’, re-telling the tale of a billy goat that broke the treasured instrument of a fellow musician.

While this story is told without lyrics, ‘The Path I Walk Upon’ is crammed with interesting lyrical imagery, telling of a recurring dream of Kenney’s about a white bear which guides him to the edge of an icebound cliff. These images reoccur throughout the album, particularly in ‘Montagna Di Menta (Calitri)’. In some ways this song feels like the connection for the entire album, however, on other levels, it creates a notable shift from English and Irish folk song, to Italian-inspired work, largely brought about through the tremolo-heavy mandolin style.

A series of jigs, (‘Brigid’s Jigs’) bring back the original flavour, while ‘Napoli’, another one from Kenney’s pen continues to effortlessly blend the mix of influences on this album. This ‘Italian sound’ surfaces once more, before the album bows out, this time on a track called ‘Soggy Desert’, a piece about the bleak beauty of the Lune estuary in Lancaster.

While this album is strong from a traditional music standpoint (at times, in some ways, vaguely reminiscent of a Martin Carthy or Dave Swarbrick recording), it is also worthy of praise for its songwriting. It is not just a fiddle album, it is the broader works of a gifted musician, so if the idea of an album made up exclusively of fiddle tunes isn’t quite your thing, this is still worth tracking down.

Christopher James Sheridan

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

‘Montangna Di Menta’:

OLDSEED – Bloom/ Burn (Bekassine Records)

Bloom/BurnOldseed is a name you might not be familiar with, but when it comes to touring and recording, it’s far from being his first rodeo; as he continues to work his way through extensive, underground, DIY tours of mainland Europe – particularly his native Germany. Bloom/Burn is the most recent addition to his discography – a lo-fi little jewel, recorded on 2 track tape.

‘Re/Tire’ (both the longest and heaviest track of the first half) kicks off the album; beginning with stop-starts, it rattles its way into all out rock – where forgivable comparisons to Ryan Adams or Neil Young could be made. This ushers in ‘No/Thing’; a more stripped back and menacing number, which taunts the listener with its lyrics:

“Stop wasting your time, stop wasting your breath/ You ain’t clever, you ain’t cheating death…I am nothing, you are nothing, we are nothing, there is nothing.”

Darkness and all, this is a fine number, but perhaps side one’s stand out tracks are the arguably lighter ‘Star/Bar’ – a county styled number, jam-packed with false endings or the electric and acoustic intermingling of ‘You/Me’.

Side 2, the ‘Burn’ half of the album if you will, kicks off with more of the same Americana, starting things off with the rather morose ‘Means/Ends’, which crawls, drags and eventually flows into ‘Pre/Tend’ which would feel like a continuation of the previous number, were it not for the cymbal flourish or the extended pause between the tracks. Adhering to the blueprint of Side one, these numbers are followed by brighter works, the delicately plucked ‘Take/Away’ and its positive mantra of “Stay strong…be safe”, before ‘Re/Fuse’ concludes this audio balancing act…where darkness and light gracefully coexist.

Christopher James Sheridan

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).

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Artist’s website: https://www.facebook.com/oldseed/

‘Bar/Star’ live:

THE BYRDS – On A Wing: A Compendium Of Historical Performances: Volume 1 (Sound Stage SS8CDBOX48)

On A WingThe Sound Stage label are back with an absolute monster from the vaults, this time in the form of an 8 disc (yes 8 f*uking disc) box set, dedicated to the folk-rock pioneers, The Byrds. Made up of 109 tracks, there is a lot to get through in very little time (and cyber space) so I’ll pick out some of my own highlights and you can decide for yourself what I’ve missed.

Kicking off in 1968, in the wake of the band’s reshuffle, the historically “typical” sound of the Byrds is captured here. For example, renditions of folkie standards like ‘Old Blue’ and the JFK-themed arrangement of ‘He Was A Friend of Mine’ are among the company of the Dylan and Guthrie covers, so often associated with the Byrds. In among these, seep the country elements also associated with the group; of particular note are ‘Nashville West’ and Gram Parsons’ lament, ‘Hickory Wind’.

Parsons features a good deal and particularly on Disc 2, which transports us from November 1968 to June of 1969 and to the Palomino Club, in North Hollywood, where Clarence White joins forces with Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers. At times, the sound really isn’t great, but the excitement of the moment comes across and at times it is hard trying not to get caught up in the concert, even if just as a listener…some near 50 years later.

‘The Train Song’ is an upbeat, energetic and that spur of the moment vibe still spills out through the speakers and jumps from one feeling to another; to that of the wild ‘Dream Baby’ or the laid bare and lonesome ‘She Once Lived Here’ or ‘Black Limousine’…yet the atmosphere reuses to die. Disc 3 continues the same performance and while the inconsistencies in the sound remain the main source of complaint, numbers like ‘Sweet Mental Revenge’, ‘Another Place, Another Time’ and an otherwise brilliant version of Merle Haggard’s ‘Hungry Eyes’ remain among the high points.

The halfway stage of this set takes us to some more intimate gigs, beginning with David Crosby, at the Matrix (December ’70) on Disc 4. On this occasion, he’s joined by members of The Grateful Dead to perform a mixture of freshly penned solo material (‘Cowboy Movie’ and ‘Laughing’ for example) and some interesting takes on standards like ‘Deep Elm Blues’. It is slow, more spacious and guides us in perfectly to Disc 5; a Roger McGuinn set from 1974, after the Byrds had finally parted. This one in particular, is a real treat. Alone on stage, McGuinn stands equipped with a guitar and harmonica, running down his Byrd-loyal set of 60s pop hits, traditional numbers and of course, the odd bit of Dylan. From his own work, ‘Bag Full Of Money’ is particularly good.

Disc 6 is probably the rockiest of all the collection, emanating from Amarillo, Texas and featuring McGuinn, Gene Clark and Chris Hilman, alongside a crew of session players. The familiar formula of Byrds big hitters and contemporary efforts is used here, and ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ turns up, surprisingly, for the first time. Of equal note on this disc, are the messy, audience participation-led version of ‘You Ain’t Going Nowhere’ and ‘Stopping Traffic’.

The final discs take us to Gene Clark and The Fyrebirds, circa 1985. ‘Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies; and ‘Tried So Hard’ stand out on Disc7, while Disc 8 builds slowly, through the likes of ‘Here Without You’, ‘She Don’t Care About Time’ and ‘See Your Face’, into the slightly heavier country-rock tinged ‘Dixie Flower’ and ‘One Hundred Years From Now’ and bidding a fitting adieu on Byrds-shaped classics ‘So You Wanna Be A Rock ’n’ Roll Star’ and ‘Eight Miles High’.

Byrds On A Wing…is something of a journey, but a delightful one. Spanning the 8 hour mark, there is a lot to take in. Naturally, there are a few tracks which repeat from time to time, but they’re not unwelcome and even at that, each of them are done with such a different style and approach, they feel completely different to their predecessors.

Christopher James Sheridan

More information and buy from: http://www.odmcy.com

‘I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better’ – live on TV:

SINEAG MACINTYRE – Lòn Bàn (Greentrax CDTRAX396)

Lòn BànSineag MacIntyre is from Kilphedar in South Uist; a town steeped in Gaelic singing tradition. With this raw material alone, it is not surprising that she inevitably forged her own musical path. Her career began in 2004 with the album Laithen Sgoile on the Lionacleit School’s in – house label, before going on to establish herself on the Scottish folk scene…and picking up her fair share of musical and academic awards on the way. Lòn Bàn is her most recent offering, and her debut on the illustrious Greentrax label. Even as a ‘layperson’ to the Gaelic tongue, this album feels well curated and thoroughly balanced, in an environment in which unaccompanied traditions intermingle with fully backed, and comparatively contemporary writings.

‘O, Thoir a-nall am Botal’ ; a flute-laden drinking song, composed in the wake of a particularly bleak winter which killed hundreds of cattle, kicks off the album, followed by two love songs; one from a male perspective and one from a women’s vantage point. ‘Laoidh ‘Statue’ Ruaidheabhal’ is a hymn praising the protection which the statue of Our Lady of the Isles (located on Rueval Hill) brings to the South Uist community. At times it is haunting and a bit unsettling, an impact made by the drone of the pipes which carry much of the song.

‘Allt an t-Siucair’ comes from the pen of poet Alexander MacDonald, and in many ways, it is another song of praise, this time, however, one which praises the natural beauty of ‘Sugar Brook’; a small stream which ran between MacDonald’s own home and that of a neighbour. This pretty melody is next followed by ‘Cuireamaid Dandaidh/ Puirt-a-Beul’; an initially unaccompanied piece, described as “a song a mother might sing”, before the bodhran ushers in a set of reels, accompanied by fiddle and guitar.

The latter part of the album again manages to go between the polarities of life, encompassing both beauty and sorrow from one song to the next; ‘’S ann Diluain Ro’ La Fheill Micheil’ for example, is an unaccompanied waulking song, told from the female perspective, in which the protagonist laments the drowning of her husband, father and three brothers. This is followed by ‘Sean’s a’ Bhriogais Leathair’; a comedic song, with an upbeat melody, where our male protagonist recalls the romantic conquests of his youth…all thanks to his (presumably irresistible) leather breeches.

With the bonus string of cameos from the Scottish scene, (including Kathleen MacInnes and Luke Daniels) this well-presented recording must be commended as nothing less than a noteworthy milestone , at an important point of an already impressive career.

Christopher James Sheridan

Label website: https://www.greentrax.com/music/product/sineag-macintyre-lon-ban

Sineag MacIntyre and Kathleen MacInnes:

THE FRANK BURKITT BAND – Raconteur (Frank Burkitt Music FWB004)

RaconteurHaving left Edinburgh, Scotland, for Wellington, New Zealand in 2014, The Frank Burkitt Band took shape over the coming months, honing a unique, rootsy sound which lies somewhere between country/ Americana and swing and jazz music. Raconteur is their latest offering, made up of ten original songs, direct from the pen of Mr Burkitt himself.

The album opens with ‘Work So Hard’; a brilliant piece of Americana, accompanied by clarinet licks which float in and around the music, like the smoke of a cigarette, drifting through the song’s bar room setting…slowly leading the listener to the song’s slightly hypnotic lyrical warning “Don’t go chasing shadows”. ‘Simple’ follows this track. There is nothing overstated here. Everything has a place and purpose; from the delicious double bass which follows the vocal, to the gentle shades of the Hammond organ and cello, which ease in and out of the song, doing just enough to compliment the lyric, without overplaying or overstaying their welcome.

The longer the album continues, the more we are offered the opportunity to hear the different dimensions of the The Frank Burkitt Band; the musically lonesome title track (with its ‘night time in the city’ type brass accompaniment); the full on fusion of Americana and big band swing in ‘Paint The Town’, the easy listening vibe of ‘The Gypsy Barber’, the jazzy charm of ‘Walkin’ Right’ and the slower, reflective, folkie, a cappella ‘My Heart Waits’, which concludes a very convincing record.

Christopher James Sheridan

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.

Artists’ website: www.frankburkitt.co.nz

‘Simple’ – the single. Official video: