SHERBURN – BARTLEY – SANDERS – be.guile (own label SBS001)

be.guileIf like me, you tend to dig out the old Last Night’s Fun CD’s and wonder what would have happened if Nick Scott had been woven into a Fairy Queen folk tale, whilst being held in the arms of Chris Sherburn and turned three times into a snake, a lion and finally a suitably clothed, rather attractive and talented female fiddle playing singer in black leggings and floral dress, then you are in for a treat!

LNF always gave you a great night out, got you lost in those beautiful meandering tales such as ‘The Tinkerman’s Daughter’ and played raucous sets at the speed of a stream train. You always looked forward to Chris introducing the songs which would usually involve something Nick Scott related. From a scrapheap challenge reference as Nick assembled his pipes before a tune to Chris inviting the ladies in the audience to take Nick out on a date. In fact, the way Sherburn held the audience with his unique blend of impromptu observational banter made them much loved by festival audiences far and wide.

After the band split, Chris Sherburn and Denny Bartley did a few festival and gig appearances as a duo and recorded a CD but it always left me wondering if another trio project was ever going to be on the cards again and if so, who it was going to be with.

Well even a pair of rough old diamonds like Chris and Denny sometimes need smoothing out and polishing up a little and what better way of buffing them up than introducing the lovely and talented Emily Sanders on vocals, fiddle and viola to the fold.

It’s really thanks to Terry Oliver that this project ever came together at all. It happened back in 2016 when the new trio played a Thursday afternoon concert at the Whitby Folk Festival and it was Terry’s suggestion that they record a CD.

be.guile is a fine record, it keeps that tried and tested Sherburn – Bartley formula of vocal, guitar and Wheatsone concertina and marries it together with Emily’s lead/ vocal harmonies and fiddle. The album also has some great guests, Andy Seward, Martin Simpson and Chris Miley together with Phil Beer in control of mastering.

The track selection and placing also works really well and is listed as follows:

  1. William Taylor (feat. Andy Seward on Double Bass).
  2. Next Market Day.
  3. Sammy’s Bar.
  4. Seven Curses (Feat. Martin Simpson on Slide Guitar).
  5. Adieu Lovely Nancy.
  6. New Railroad (Feat. Martin Simpson on Slide Guitar and Andy Seward on Double Bass).
  7. The Tinkerman’s Daughter/ The Holly Bush (Andy Seward on Double Bass).
  8. Bright Blue Rose.
  9. Bantry Girtls Lament/ Bulgarian Red/The Fisherman’s Lilt (feat. Chris Miley on Snare Drum).

Like the definition, the album sets out to charm and enchant, it may deceive you in to thinking about Last Night’s Fun but its actually a new day, spent in pleasant company.

Darren Beech

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Here is a performance from 2017 of Emily singing ‘Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy’ from the Downend Folk Club

ALAN PROSSER – 5/4AP (Rafting Dog Records RD054)

5/4APWell then… if you listened to our interview with Alan Prosser backstage at Cropredy you will already know that Alan alluded to the fact that he would be sending me a copy of his new solo album 5/4AP where every song and instrumental was going to be in 5/4 time. I’m pleased to report that the man was good to his word, and the little beauty has now arrived in the post so I’ve finally been able to get my lughole’s around it and given it a spin.

I’m sure you all know, that Alan Prosser is a founding member of Oysterband, a really nice all-round bloke, a gigging musician for 45 years who has collaborated with the likes of The Albion Band, June Tabor, Brendan Power, Lucy Randall, Tim Edey, Chumbawamba and a host of other fiendishly good folk folk.

Alan told me that the album is a kind of homage to an EP made by Davy Graham and Alexis Korner called 3/4 AD that inspired him as a lad. He went on to say that he thinks the new records format may be a first, in the fact that no other artist or band have attempted a whole album in 5/4. It’s clever as well, as it does not throw you in at the deep end as the opening track ‘Ridingate’ is an instrumental that gently eases you in to the concept of the album and whispers promises of greatness through its famous Canterbury road gate.

There is a lot going in the second track “Simple Is Never Easy’, think ‘The Jasmine Corridor’ on Ian Anderson’s ‘The Secret Language Of Birds’ shaking hands (or rubbing elbows) with early Jethro Tull ‘Stand Up” era at a 1960’s Psychedelia convention promoting harmony and love for couples. Doctor Prosser then administrates another shot of ‘Ridingate’, a reprise this time to calm us down before having to deal with the fourth track, ‘Suicide Bomber’ with its stunning guitar playing and Keith James-esque ‘Lorca’ vocal work as the piece hurtling towards its fanatical conclusion. The format continues with another instrumental ‘Out Of Kent’, then a skippy-ditty little vocal number called ‘Amy Isn’t Waiting’ which for me, still left the narrative cheerful, even though Amy didn’t turn up. The ‘Stour Water’ instrumental follows and then ‘Mikey’s Song’ written for a previous Oysterband sound engineer which brought to mind the Pentangle influence which was another one of Alan’s inspirations for making this album.

‘Five For You’, a solo gig favourite follows which is a homage to ‘Take Five’ by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. To close, the album troops its colours to the name given to the average soldier in the first word war, Tommy Atkin as it closes with ‘Tommy Atkin’s March’.

The album was mastered by Al Scott (who also produces Oysterband) and it’s a fascinating project with monster playing by Alan and clever arrangements. Who would have thought that a whole album in 5/4 could be so diverse? Top job Mr. Prosser!

Darren Beech

Artist’s website:

We can’t find a video from the new album yet but here’s a taster of Alan’s playing:

ANNIE DRESSNER – Broken Into Pieces

Like Kurt Russell in ‘Escape from New York‘, Annie Dressner has legged it as well and made it over here to fair Albion even without the aid of an eye patch! Dressner been busy in Blighty, clocking up airplay on both BBC Radio Two and Six and earning herself festival appearances at Green Man and Cambridge to name just a few. Its no surprise then, that she now has a brand new spanking album, ‘Broken Into Pieces’ in the can and a huge heart and desire to share it with everyone.

Mates abound, with contributions from Polly Palusama and Che Bereford from Capercaille. Dressner’s husband Paul Goodwin also chips in on BV’s along with Dan Wilde and Jade Rhiannon Ward from the Willows. Matthew Caws from Nada Surf is also part of the project together with ‘Broken Into Pieces’ album producer Nigel Stonier (Thea Gilmore, Fairport Convention, Martha Wainwright, Waterboys and Abbie Ozard).

The album looks at the little fragile fragments of everyday life and its relationships. The melodies are folk/pop tinged, complemented by vocals pitched in a tone, slightly higher in a golden, “crisp Manhattan morning air”. It starts with ‘Fades Away’, which gently pulls the listener out of its opening hypnotic circular guitar and soft lullaby chrysalis, into a relationship butterfly of tinkering piano and meandering cello. ‘Don’t Go’, folk-pop-rocks it along with its little cheery whistling intro as it steams off into ‘sticky plaster’ patching up relationship territory, with one foot out the door whilst the head is jerked back around as its being persuaded to stay. ‘Heartbreaker’ has a great swinging pop-country homespun roll to it and looks back to what could have been. ‘This was how it was to be my love when you were my love‘, maybe all those gold flakes in the vodka bankrupted the poor fella!

‘Kentucky’, which you can watch in video below was the first track that jumped out and grabbed me. There is something very fragile about it, you feel like you are holding the heart of it and if you don’t hold on to it carefully enough, you may drop and smash it.

The more and more I listen to ‘Broken Into Pieces’, the more I find something new in it. Its a beautiful thing and its definitely a keeper.

Darren Beech

Artist’s website:

‘Kentucky’ – official video:

The album is available to order/download from the Bandcamp link below. ‘Fades Away’, ‘Kentucky’ and ‘Get Out’ are there to stream as well. Cropredy Interviews 2018

Paul Johnson introduces this years interviews…

Dave Pegg – Cropredy 2018

The 2018 Dave Pegg Interview from Cropredy

Chris Leslie – Cropredy 2018

Chris Leslie with Martin Jenkins mandolin. Photo by Darren Beech

The 2018 Chris Leslie Interview from Cropredy

Alan Prosser – Cropredy 2018

Derby Folk Festival

Paul Johnson and Darren Beech catch up with Alan at this years Cropredy Festival as the Oysters celebrate their 40th year.

Oysterband celebrate 40 years together

Sam Kelly – Cropredy 2018

Sam Kelly – Cropredy 2018. Photo by Darren Beech

SAM KELLY & THE LOST BOYS – Pretty Peggy (Navigator NAVIGATOR 102)

Merry Hell – Cropredy Fringe 2018

Merry Hell – Cropredy Fringe 2018. Photo by Darren Beech

The 2018 Merry Hell Interview from Cropredy Fringe

Will Varley – Cropredy 2018

Will Varley

Will Varley talks to ahead of Autumn tour

Midnight Skyracer – Cropredy 2018

Midnight Skyracer at Cropredy 2018. Photo by Darren Beech

MIDNIGHT SKYRACER talk to backstage at Cropredy 2018

MIDNIGHT SKYRACER talk to backstage at Cropredy 2018

Midnight Skyracer at Cropredy 2018. Photo by Darren Beech

Paul Johnson and Darren Beech catch up with Midnight Skyracer backstage at this years Fairport’s Cropredy Convention. The interview took place on the Friday afternoon after their fantastic set earlier in the day.

The girls have been nominated for an IBMA award by the International Bluegrass Music Association which is not surprising, as they are all monster players. Congratulations from all of us at We are all keeping everything crossed for you!

We would just like to point out (before you think we have gone completely folking mad in the interview) that potatoes and the bands love of them, did feature a fair bit during the bands banter between their songs in the set.

Click on the play button below to have a listen.

For those of you not in the know, Midnight Skyracer are a new, all-female Anglo-Irish bluegrass 5-piece band playing hard-driving traditional and original songs. Singer/mandolin player Leanne Thorose and virtuoso banjo player Tabitha Agnew are joined by sisters Charlotte (guitar) and Laura (fiddle/dobro) Carrivick (of The Carrivick Sisters fame) and bassist Eleanor Wilkie. Formed in early 2017, they were playing their first shows in May and June of that year, before landing a slot at the 2017 Cambridge Folk Festival and stealing the show with a storming, full-to-capacity set.  The Midnight Skyracer machine has led everyone a merry ‘Maris Pied Piper‘ dance since, right through ‘UK festival heartland‘. It gathers more and more followers with every new performance as it steamrollers over festivals, which so far have included; Priddy, Abbotsbury, Folk by the Oak, Underneath the Stars, Cropredy and Shrewsbury to name just a few.

Midnight Skyracer – BBC Radio Oxford Cropredy set. Photo by Darren Beech

Their latest album ‘Fire‘ contains 7 originals including songs by all 5 band members, plus some carefully chosen nods to some of their favourite influences. The album was mixed and mastered by Josh Clark of Kate Rusby’s ‘Life in a Paper Boat’ fame which gives it that ‘top draw’ production seal of approval.

Artists’ website:

Back to Cropredy 2018 Interview Menu

The 2018 Merry Hell Interview from Cropredy Fringe

Merry Hell

Paul Johnson and Darren Beech create Merry Hell as they attempt to break the world record for ‘how many folk-rock musicians you can fit round a table in a pub in Cropredy. Yes you guessed it, the interview took place in the Brasenose, as part of the Cropredy fringe on the first day of the festival.

In the interview, Merry Hell talk about their delight in winning Best Live Act and Best Group in this year’s folking awards and discuss the process behind their song writing and how the material is selected for each album.

Other subjects covered include; the new acoustic album, Dai Jeffries trip to Wigan to review the acoustic band gig and being piled with ‘Uncle Joe’s’ mint balls (read it here if you missed it).

Upcoming tour and festival dates are also covered, from the excellent Southdowns Folk Festival in Bognor Regis on the south coast to Mike Harding’s fab festival in Settle ‘Up North’. Note the additional Kentish f  that was specially added for Virginia free of charge!

Click on the play button below to have a listen.

Artists’ website:

Back to Cropredy 2018 Interview Menu