VARIOUS ARTISTS – Sunshine Of Your Love: A Concert For Jack Bruce (MIG Records MIG02192)

Sunshine Of Your LoveOn the 24th October 2015, a year after the death of Jack Bruce – widely acknowledged as one of the best electric bass players of all time – a small galaxy of star (admittedly not very folky) musicians gathered for a tribute concert at the Roundhouse in London. Sunshine Of Your Love, released on the 25th October 2019, is a DVD and double CD set recorded at that concert. Among the musicians taking part were Ian Anderson (frontman of Jethro Tull), Dave ‘Clem’ Clempson (Bakerloo, Colosseum, Humble Pie, Jack Bruce and Friends), Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music, Quiet Sun), Bernie Marsden (Whitesnake, Paice Ashton Lord), Uli Jon Roth (Scorpions, Electric Sun), Hugh Cornwell (The Stranglers), Mark King  (Level 42), Joss Stone, members of Jack’s own Big Blues Band, and many more. There is also archive footage of Jack Bruce himself, including an energetic ‘Traintime’ and an emotional ‘Music For An Imaginary Western’. And while Cream bandmate Eric Clapton didn’t perform at the concert, the CD does include as a bonus track his pleasantly understated acoustic guitar piece ‘For Jack’.

Ginger Baker, Jack’s bandmate most famously in Cream (but also in Blues Incorporated and BBM – perhaps we shouldn’t mention the Graham Bond Organization in this context), also appears in the film, famously walking off during the performance of ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’, though that isn’t as obvious from this film as from a video widely viewed on YouTube. Sad, but perhaps not an altogether inappropriate footnote – not so much in the light of the notoriously difficult relationship between Bruce and Baker, more in that there is a clear difference in approach between Baker and the other drummer (Frank Tontoh? – he isn’t actually credited in the booklet that accompanies the set), who is way too obtrusive for my taste. In sharp contrast, Baker’s playing behind Aruba on ‘We’re Going Wrong’ is an object lesson, surprisingly sensitive for such a difficult man.

Certainly there was much more to Cream than the internal conflicts, and much more to Jack Bruce than that band, influential and well-remembered though it might be. Still, there are quite a few more songs here most associated with Cream, including ‘I Feel Free’, ‘White Room’, ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ (of course) and ‘Politician’, as well as some Cream songs that Bruce didn’t co-write (the Skip James classic ‘I’m So Glad’ and ‘Badge’, written by Eric Clapton and George Harrison). While some of Bruce’s best-known songs written with Pete Brown were first recorded with Cream, there are many other songs here from their longstanding writing partnership. In general, the Cream songs follow the original arrangements with augmented arrangements, and in the ‘Sunshine…’ finale, a slightly-extended jam. Liam Bailey does a good job of the lead vocal on several songs. Mark King’s vocals are sometimes uneven, but his love for the songs carries him through. Still, on the whole I rather prefer the re-interpretations from the 2005 Cream reunion, even if they don’t always have the energy of the original recordings.

Standout tracks for me: the jazzy interpretation of ‘Milonga’; Ayanna Witter-Johnson’s ‘Rope Ladder To The Moon’, accompanied only by her own cello; ‘Candlelight’, a song written by Bruce and his wife Margrit Bruce Seyffer; Ian Anderson making ‘Tickets To Waterfalls’ sound very much his own; the harmonies between Chloe Fiducia and Julie Iwheta on ‘Ships In The Night’; daughter Aruba Red’s heartfelt ‘Folk Song’; and while I’ve never quite acquired the Joss Stone habit, ‘Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out Of Tune’ suits her perfectly.

Not so good: Hugh Cornwell’s pitchy vocals on ‘Hear Me Calling Your Name’; while Uli Jon Roth does a good job of recalling the old Clapton solos, his use of the whammy bar sometimes seems a little over-enthusiastic on ‘I Feel Free’. A matter of taste, I suppose: I can’t deny his technique.

There’s a lot to enjoy here. Certainly there’s plenty of technique on display here throughout, from a crop of talented musicians who generally do justice to a much-missed musician (yes, by me too). I’m particularly pleased to have been introduced to some songs I haven’t heard before: clearly, I have some catching up to do.

The 2015 concert apparently raised over £35,000 for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH), for which Jack had frequently raised money, and a percentage of the sales from the box set is promised for donation to the same charity.

David Harley

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link to the US Storehttps://folking.com/folking-us-storefront/


Artist’s website: http://jackbruce.com/

‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ – from the concert:

JOHN RICHARDS – Bring Back The Spring (Working Joe Music WJMCD2019)

Bring Back The SpringJohn Richards is credited on his new CD Bring Back The Spring as “John Richards, Songwriter”. And it is indeed quite possible that you have never heard John himself or the many bands with which he has been associated. But there is a good chance you know songs of his through versions recorded by Robin Dransfield, Downes and Beer, Mike Silver, Fairport Convention and other luminaries. Nevertheless, he seems to work tirelessly around the West Midlands despite his intention, announced some years ago, to concentrate on songwriting rather than continuing to gig with the full John Richards Band. Bring Back The Spring reflects his intention to leave behind as few uncompleted songs as possible, and a good thing too. His own vocals, guitar and bouzouki are augmented by a galaxy of fine musicians and singers, including daughter Emma Jones, Mike Silver, Phil Beer, and Paul Downes, and other longstanding collaborators such as Jim Sutton.

Here’s the track list:

  1. ‘Tutchen The Jed’ (touching the dead) is a bizarre murder ballad based on superstitions of murderers who were identified by a corpse that bled in their presence (cruentation).
  2. ‘Hallsands’ tells the story of a Devon village virtually destroyed by excessive dredging in order to provide sand and gravel for the naval dockyard at Keyham. Very effectively sung by Emma Jones.
  3. ‘Look In Their Eyes’ was co-written with Mike Silver, and is an excellent song about immigration and false promises. “They came when invited to make a new start / and find a new life for their children.
  4. ‘Yellows & Blues’ includes the line that gives the CD its title: it’s a contemplative song with a typically singworthy chorus.
  5. ‘Young Thomas’ is an absorbing story song about an instance of therianthropy – people who can change into animals (or vice versa). Phil Beer’s fiddle solo towards the end of the song is particularly effective.
  6. ‘Never Trouble Trouble’ is a rather classy number with a blues feel.
  7. ‘Threadbare Coats’ was also co-written with Mike Silver and contemplates chilling issues of trial by the media and exploitation of the victim.
  8. ‘No Blacks, No Irish & No Dogs’ is the final song in this collection co-written with Mike Silver, and addresses the issue of ongoing prejudice with individual stories. I imagine the man from Arkansas in the first verse was Bill Broonzy.
  9. ‘Mary Stone’s Waltz’ / ‘The Marigolds’ Waltz’. The waltz that follows this story song was written by Jim Sutton.
  10. ‘Cats Eyes & Stars’ is a story song with a distinctive acoustic rock and roll feel.
  11. Despite its funereal subject ‘The Ballad Of An Ordinary Man’ actually has a rather uplifting chorus. I like it a lot.
  12. ‘Mrs. Allcock’s Millionaire’ has an attractive melody and makes a good point about not being a “would-be millionaire“.
  13. The lengthy ‘The Unknown Soldier’ / ‘Cedars Of Lebanon’ strays into Eric Bogle/Bill Caddick country with its reflections on the Great War, and is a creditable addition to that body of work.
  14. It doesn’t seem to be John’s way to name names, but ‘A Bitter Thing’ is clearly about Alan Turing and “the prejudice of fools“. A very effective song.
  15. ‘Billy Shaw’ makes a trenchant political point about war and how people with good intentions are exploited for military purposes – “we went to war on a lie” – and makes a fine end to the album.

Bill Caddick regarded John Richards as “One of our finest writers and singers.” The vocals here by John and Emma are never less than pleasant, and there is indeed quality song-writing here, in some ways reminiscent of Caddick himself, with stories old and new. I can only hope that John has enough songs in him not yet written to lure him back into the studio at some point. But if not, Bring Back The Spring  is still a creditable end to his recording career. Certainly I’m glad to have finally become acquainted with his music.

David Harley

Artist’s website: www.thejrbs.co.uk

‘Yellows & Blues’ – live:

FINN PAUL – Wind & Stone (Independent Release IWCD001)

Wind & StoneScottish singer-songwriter Finn Paul says, accurately enough, that his music “… is about fantastical nonsense; pirates, dreamworlds and mystical islands. But more than that it’s about the methods we use to escape in a society that’s becoming ever more disconnected from reality“. That said, to my ear, the lyrics on his new CD Wind & Stone are not as far out or surreal as that might suggest. In fact, they often hint at an understated but close affinity with the Highlands and islands of the North, though without the explicit political commitment of a Dick Gaughan or Karine Polwart. Regardless, these are very good songs indeed, and suit his distinctive vocals perfectly.

Those vocals, plus Finn’s own guitars and mandolin, are augmented by producer Angus Lyon (keys and accordion), Briona Mannion (violin), Finn Mannion (cello and cajon), Daisy Tempest (drums and backing vocals) and Ben Schofield (backing vocals). The accompaniments are solid without being showy, focusing the listener’s attention on the songs rather than the instrumentation, as seems entirely appropriate to a quality set. of compositions.

Here’s the track listing:

  1. ‘Spanish Silver’ does indeed bring to mind words like romantic or escapist – “For Spanish Silver / I pledge my heart / for sword and spoil / for freedom sails” – echoing, perhaps, the era of Sir Andrew Barton / Henry Martyn, though the emphasis here is on freedom and adventure rather than the explicit bloodletting of the old ballads.
  2. ‘The Watcher’ certainly has echoes of faraway places and cultures. It’s not often you find references to Valhalla and the Silk Road in the same lyric, though the adventures here seem altogether more peaceful in intent than the battles of Norse mythology.
  3. ‘Norwegian Sea’ hints at a story of love lost rather further North than most love stories – or is it a fantasy, or simply a metaphor? Regardless, it’s a fascinating track.
  4. ‘Treat Her Fair’ refers not to a woman, but to the world, though the politicizing is restrained – “…So let’s stand up to those who wish to buy her / And let them know we’ve / Always been borrowing“. Nicely done.
  5. The slightly James Taylor-ish guitar introduction to ‘Anna’ leads into a fascinating metaphor/story/portrait in song slightly reminiscent of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’, though I think I actually prefer Finn’s song (heresy!). Certainly Anna seems an altogether more comfortable heroine, though clearly she is more than capable of discouraging a visitor from overstaying his welcome. Sooner or later in many of the review CDs I like most, I come across a song that makes me think I might actually like to add it to my own repertoire, and in this case it’s ‘Anna’.
  6. The appealing love song ‘Fortune’ is also available as a single, and will, I suspect, do very well.
  7. ‘Dance It All Away’ is a slow, emotive ballad accompanied only by piano.
  8. ‘Wind & Stone’ returns to the themes of freedom and escape, yet without suggesting loneliness. I particularly like the sparing use of strings on this track, which makes a fine end to the CD.

I tend to mistrust reviews that compare one artist to another in order to convey a general impression of the music being considered, but several plays in, it occurred to me that there was something vaguely familiar about this set. I think perhaps it’s a slight similarity to early Donovan in the vocals, and while Finn Paul is certainly no imitator of Donovan or anyone else, I think there’s also a resemblance in lyrical approach with these characteristic themes of romance, freedom, and escape, expressed through a certain individual approach to mythmaking.

All that aside, this is fine music from a significant talent. I think – hope – we will hear a great deal more from Finn Paul.

David Harley

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link to the US Storehttps://folking.com/folking-us-storefront/


Artist’s website: www.finnpaulmusic.com/

‘Fortune’ – official video:

Burning Salt Live In London

Burning Salt
Photograph by Jean-Francois C. Lemay

Burning Salt have a knack when it comes to finding interesting venues. The last time I saw them was at Shrewsbury Unitarian Church, an impressive venue associated historically with Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Charles Darwin. And on 28th September I had the privilege of seeing them at a ‘secret gig’ in the oldest house in Bloomsbury. But the honesty and searing quality of a Burning Salt performance are well in tune with the angst of Britain in 2019.

This time, Hannah Hull and John Parker performed nineteen songs from which the tracks comprising their next album, Close To Home, will be selected, with Hannah’s unmistakeable low-register vocals supported by her own guitar and piano and John’s outstanding double bass work.

Many songwriters hide behind a self-protective veneer of storytelling that might have roots in fact or fiction. Hannah Hull’s writing is more direct, and stunning in its integrity and emotional impact. In her own words: “These are some of my most direct and intimate songs yet, including an early song written when I was just fifteen which I have never shared before. Songwriting has been a survival mechanism for me since I was teenager, and this album contains my private reflections on self-abuse and self-resurrection.

Not an obvious candidate for enormous commercial success, then, but on the evidence of the Bloomsbury performance, musical success is guaranteed. And it does occur to me that one song with light blues overtones called ‘Groundskeeper’ – performed here with Hannah’s vocal accompanied only by John’s bass – might just be surprisingly successful if it were released as a single.

You can find out more about the album from the crowdfunding page here, and you might even feel inspired to contribute (I was!).

David Harley

Artist’s website: https://burningsalt.com/

There are no videos of this material so far. Here’s a good version of ‘Ginnie’ from the Dirt EP [reviewed at https://folking.com/burning-salts-love-letter-to-holloway-womens-prison/].

RALPH McTELL – Hill Of Beans (Leola Music TPGCD50)

Hill Of BeansThe new Ralph McTell CD Hill Of Beans, due for release on the 20th September 2019, is apparently his first collection of original material since Somewhere Down The Road in 2010, though he’s been keeping busy with other projects such as Songs For Six Strings and two albums with Wizz Jones. Hill Of Beans is also notable in that it reunites him with Tony Visconti, who played such a large part in his early recording career.

The promo copy I received gives no details of the other musicians participating in the recording, unfortunately. I don’t suppose I’m the only reader of these reviews who likes that sort of detail, but I suppose in the end it’s what comes out of the hi-fi that really matters.

Here’s the track listing.

  1. ‘Oxbow Lakes’ is a quirky application of a geological metaphor to a human relationship.
  2. ‘Brighton Belle’ combines a reminiscence of a rather beautiful train with family history, a little like ‘Barges’ on the Not Till Tomorrow Is it his own family history? It’s a bad idea to assume that a songwriter – or any kind of writer – is writing about himself. I suppose it doesn’t matter: Ralph has an enviable ability to make any story he tells sound like his own.
  3. You may already be acquainted with ‘Clear Water’ from the version by Fairport Convention on Myths And Heroes, if not from Ralph’s own concert performances. The strings and heavenly chorus in this version are not altogether to my taste, but there’s something uplifting about the song.
  4. I suppose it’s inevitable that ‘Gertrude And Alice’ should introduce its theme of the relationship of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas with Parisian-flavoured accordion: in fact, it’s a charming arrangement, slightly reminiscent of ‘Maginot Waltz’ in its period charm.
  5. ‘Gammel Dansk’ has a somewhat klezmer-ish orchestration and echoes (to my ear) of Brel, Brecht and Cohen. Really rather impressive.
  6. ‘Shed Song’ is as curious a topic as the title suggests, describing the man shed as a “church of masculinity“. Yet set in the context of a family history and married to a particularly attractive melody and orchestration, it turns out to be one of the standout tracks.
  7. The story told in ‘Close Shave’, in contrast with the orchestration of some of the other tracks, is carried only by Ralph’s ragtime-soaked guitar. Not a classic of the genre, perhaps, but pleasant.
  8. ‘When They Were Young’ features more accordion and strings against a meditation on age and first love. It’s actually rather charming.
  9. The waltz-time ‘Sometimes I Wish I Could Pray’ feels unnervingly like a country song. But it’s growing on me.
  10. The title track, ‘Hill Of Beans’, quotes heavily from the movie Casablanca while somehow telling a more personal-sounding story, apparently relating to his days of busking in Paris.
  11. ‘West 4th Street And Jones’ is a live performance, simply carried by Ralph’s guitar and harmonica. Somewhere recently, I saw this described as Dylan-ish. Well, for Ralph it would seems that for Ralph the early romance between Dylan and the late Suze Rotolo – as forever remembered on the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – still permeates West 4th Street, but there’s a wistfulness to these words that is quintessentially McTell. If there’s a classic on this album to match ‘From Clare To Here’ or ‘Maginot Waltz’ or even ‘Streets Of London’, this is probably it.

What can you say about Ralph McTell? For many of us, he’s provided some of the soundtrack of our lives for many decades. His singing is never less than pleasant, and his guitar playing, rooted in blues and ragtime, is exemplary. But it’s his songwriting that is his greatest strength, broad in scope but somehow always true to himself. I suppose any song is in some sense a story, but there are few who can tell a story so well in song as Ralph McTell. Hill Of Beans is not (yet) my favourite McTell album but it’s certainly not a disappointment.

David Harley

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link to the US Storehttps://folking.com/folking-us-storefront/


Artist’s website: www.ralphmctell.co.uk/

‘West 4th Street And Jones’ – live on TV:

THE LOST WORDS – Spell Songs (Folk By The Oak QRCD004)

Having held the unofficial job title “wordsmith” in various contexts for several decades, I was not going to miss the opportunity of hearing and reviewing an album with the title The Lost Words: Spell Songs. Especially as one of the highly-talented musicians involved in the project is Karine Polwart, whose Laws Of Motion CD I reviewed with some enthusiasm here.

It turns out that this is a multi-faceted project with a complicated backstory. Some years ago, the Oxford Junior Dictionary began to replace some of the words it defined with words that were considered to be more in keeping with the lives led by children today, so that words relating to religion and to the natural world – like bird and flower names – were replaced by words related to various aspects of information technology (for example). Robert MacFarlane was one of 28 authors – among the others were Margaret Atwood, Michael Morpurgo, and Andrew Motion – who wrote to Oxford University Press asking them to reconsider, specifically with reference to words “associated with nature and the countryside“. (I don’t intend to get into that argument here, but the OUP’s argument is that while the number of words included in the OJD is a limiting factor, the kind of words that critics want restored do feature in their much-expanded range of dictionaries for children.)

MacFarlane then went on to write a poetry book called The Lost Words: A Spell Book, published by Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, with watercolour illustrations by Jackie Morris. As it says on the web site, the poems in the book “are called ‘spells’ rather than poems as they are designed to be spoken (or sung!) out loud in order to summon back these words and creatures into our hearts.” The book has inspired a number of musical and multi-media projects, but Spell Songs is the result of a collaborative project commissioned by Folk By The Oak. The CD is available in a hardback book format (a limited-edition double vinyl album box set is also available and includes the CD book).

Sadly, the review CD is a promo copy without the book, but it looks from the web site as if the book would be worth the money for the illustrations alone. But while I haven’t seen the ‘spells’ in isolation, the music certainly sets them off beautifully. Here’s the track list.

  1. ‘Heartwood’
  2. ‘Selkie-Boy’
  3. ‘Kingfisher’
  4. ‘Heron’
  5. ‘Little Astronaut’
  6. ‘Acorn’
  7. ‘Ghost Owl’
  8. ‘The Snow Hare’
  9. ‘Conker (Magic Casket)’
  10. ‘Papa Kéba’
  11. ‘Charm on, Goldfinch’
  12. ‘Willow’
  13. ‘Scatterseed’
  14. ‘The Lost Words Blessing’

The eight musicians all contribute vocals, but also contribute individual instruments as follows:

  • Karine Polwart: tenor guitar, Indian harmonium
  • Julie Fowlis: shruti box and whistles
  • Seckou Keita: kora
  • Kris Drever: acoustic, electric & bass guitars
  • Kerry Andrew: melodica
  • Rachel Newton: electroharp, fiddle, viola
  • Beth Porter: whistling, cello, ukulele
  • Jim Molyneux: piano, Rhodes, synth, accordion, drums, percussion

With this range of singers and instrumentalists, there is much more variation in the material presented here than you might have expected, given their common source, though that unifying theme gives each piece an emotional impact that goes far beyond the introspection of run-of-the-mill singer/songwriter fare. The arrangements, singing and playing are all excellent. And I think I know what one of my wife’s birthday presents is going to be this year. That way I get to read the book as well as hearing some very beautiful music.

David Harley

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link to the US Storehttps://folking.com/folking-us-storefront/


Artist’s website: https://www.thelostwords.org/

[Book ISBN13: 9780241253588]

‘The Lost Words Blessing’ – official video: