EVAN CARSON – Ocipinski (Evan Carson Music – ECMCD001)

OcipinskiOcipinski is percussionist Evan Carson’s first solo album inspired by Jerzy Ocipinski and the Polish Resistance Movements of the Second World War. Why this subject matter you ask? It just so happens that Jerzy Ocipinski was Evan’s grandfather.

The album has taken somewhat longer to complete that originally planned, but as we all know Evan is a busy man recording and/or performing with The Willows, Sam Kelly and the Lost Boys, Carousel and more recently The Tweed Project, to name just a few. It was also recorded in places as far afield as the UK, Russia, Iceland and Australia so it was somewhat logistically challenging.

The music was co-written by Evan and Gleb Kolyadin, who also plays piano on the album masterfully. The lyrics are credited to Evan, Georgia Lewis, Jim Grey and Hannah Sanders who also provide their highly impressive vocal talents along with Evan himself and Ben Savage. Other musicians involved are Karl James Pestka (violin & viola), Graham Coe (cello), Toby Shaer (flutes), Chris Heales (electric guitars and bass), Josh Franklin (bass and synths), Chris Cawood (acoustic guitar and bass) and Archie Churchill Moss (melodian). You are probably already getting the feeling this is something you have to listen to.

The way the album flows is like a prog folk version of Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, albeit shorter and without all the psychedelic imagery. Four of the seven tracks are over six minutes long and all are filled with intricate percussion, piano and vocals. The album is obviously percussion driven and those of you who have seen Evan with any of his bands will know he is not one to stick with a standard drum kit and 4/4 beat.

‘Sky’, the opening track is the shortest on the album and it creeps up on you like an instrumental dawn, it builds gently and then leads into ‘Shards’ (for me the best track on the album) with it’s syncopated drum beat and frenetic piano and wonderful lead vocals from Georgia (someone I must find out more about). This leads into ‘Chrysalis’ with more haunting vocal which has an Eastern feel to it.

‘Otriad’ starts with more great piano from Gleb, features Evan/Jim on lead vocal and has the strings from Karl and flutes from Toby which come to the fore in a middle instrumental section. ‘Bloodlines’ starts slower, but then there is more of that driving percussion with Hannah on lead vocals and Ben’s warming backing vocals. This leads into ‘The Fireflies Of Falaise’ which is mainly instrumental with a multi-vocal chant to take it to the end. The final track ‘Anders Prayer’, has an industrial feel to it with Georgia again on lead vocal and it closes out the album in fine fashion.

This is a truly original piece of work brilliantly produced by Joshua Franklin, which I encourage you to take 43 minutes out of your day to sit down and listen to from start to finish. If you’re at the more open-minded end of the folk world, you will thoroughly enjoy the experience.

Duncan Chappell

Artist’s website: www.evancarsondrums.com

‘Shards’ – in rehearsal:

THE ASKEW SISTERS – Enclosure (Oakmere Music OMCD001)

EnclosureEnclosure is the fourth album from The Askew Sisters, five years since the release of the award winning In the Air Or The Earth.

Both sisters have been busy with other projects in between albums, with Hazel working with Lady Maisery and The Coven. Emily through her solo album Alchemy has been working with early music with the likes of Jamie Roberts, Simon Whittaker and also John Dipper, who recorded and co-produced Enclosure with Emily and Hazel.

The album has a very traditional feel, but somehow feels modern as well. I must confess to being more on the contemporary side of folk, but I really enjoyed the arrangements whether it be fiddle and melodeon with Hazel’s haunting voice on ‘The Wounded Hussar’ or the singing of Hazel with the cello and harmonium on ‘My Father Built Me a Pretty Tower’.

There is a wonderful medley combining waltzes, county dance and a minuet in ‘Zodiac/Joy After Sorrow/Minoway’. ‘London’s Loyalty /Heady Days’ is a second one which came from a 1651 hornpipe and the excitement of creating new music.

I especially enjoyed their take on the tale of Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight with “Castle By The Sea”, having originally heard the story on Kadia’s Outlandish Collection EP.

This album certainly grew on me the more I listened to it and I’m very tempted to make room in the diary to go to the album launch at Cecil Sharp House on 24th April. If I don’t make it I’ll just have to content myself with seeing Hazel with Lady Maisery in Harwell on 10th May.

Duncan Chappell

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

‘Goose & Common’ – official video:

FOLKLAW – We Will Rise (Fiddle of 8 Records – FO8R02CD)

We Will RiseFolklaw are a folk rock band made up of Nick Gibbs, vocals, fiddle and strings, Bryn Williams, vocals and guitar, Martin Vogwell, vocals, mandolin electric guitar and banjo, Jon Dowling vocals and bass guitar, Gaz Hunt, vocals, drums and percussion, Jacquelyn Hynes Irish flute and whistle and Emi McDade, vocals and piano. They are joined on We Will Rise by Lyndon Webb on mandolin and guitars and Paul Hutchinson on accordion.

The album starts as it means to go on with the title track ‘We Will Rise’ with its upbeat tempo. There is a chance to slow down for a moment with ‘Love Again’, then it’s back to the upbeat tempo again.

Subject matter for the album is a good folk mix of suffragettes, the environment, stories of the heart, mental health and life on tour. Song writing and vocal duties are shared amongst Nick, Bryn and Martin, though I must say I think my preference edged towards Nick’s songs, especially ‘Rocks Of The Burren’ and ‘Angels Wings’.

The album is nicely produced and if you’re a fan of fiddle driven foot tapping songs, then this is an album for you.

Duncan Chappell

Artist’s website: www.folklaw.com

‘Folky Pirates’ – official video:

RUSTY SHACKLE – The Raven, The Thief & The Hangman (Get Folked Records)

The Raven, The Thief & The HangmanRusty Shackle are a vibrant and energetic five piece folk-rock band from South Wales who I had the pleasure to see perform on the main stage at BunkFest, Wallingford in 2018. They have previously released three studio albums and one live album. The Raven, The Thief & The Hangman is the result of two years researching folk music and stories then writing their brand of music to provide an exciting setting for the olde worlde words.

The first track ‘Hanging Johnny’ sets the tone of the album, it’s a bit of a foot stomping tub thumping experience. ‘Sam Hall’ follows in the same manner and ‘Newport Rising’ is an anthem song. ‘Long John’ is a bit slower, but still has a bit of oomph. ‘The Holy Ground’ is more gentile with mainly an acoustic guitar accompaniment that gives you a bit of a breather.

If there is a song that feels a bit out of place it is ‘Coorie Doon’ with its piano that sounds like it’s come out of a Western and Pogue-esque growly voice, I was half expecting Kirsty MacColl to come in over the top with some jolly vocals, but she doesn’t.

‘The Raven’s Song’ takes us to a much more boppy place with hand claps and pipes and clever overlapping vocals. ‘St James Infirmary’ brings us back on track and if Kasabian had a banjo in their line up this is what they’d sound like! The final track ‘Time Of Death’ also sounds Kasabian-ish and is another track with a great beat and is a great way to close the album.

I’m looking forward to seeing them live again in a few weeks in Witney.

Duncan Chappell

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

‘Sam Hall’ – official video of the first single:

ME AND MY FRIENDS – Look Up (Split Shift Records – MAMFCD001)

Look UpThis is a cool album from a band I’d not come across before. Their Facebook page describes the band as “the sound of English folk colliding head-on with the golden-era music of 1970s West Africa and the Caribbean”. There are nine tracks on the album two of which are instrumental, these are the title track ‘Look Up’ and ‘You Read My Mind’. The songs are bass and rhythm driven ranging from the upbeat and happy ‘Another Lifetime’ and ‘High as the Sun’ to the laid back ‘Good Life’.

Me And My Friends have an original yet familiar sound to them that reminded me very much of Sade, though I guess I’m showing my age now as ‘Diamond Life’ came out in 1984! You’ll see what I mean when you listen to ‘Promise Me This Much’. The band are made up of Emma Coleman on cello and vocals, James Grunwell on bass, Fred Harper on drums and percussion, Sam Murray on clarinet and vocals and Nick Rasle on vocals and guitar.

The album was recorded at Henwood Studios by Tom Excell (who produces Megan Henwood so well) and James Grunwell and produced by James. All the songs are written by the band except the last track ‘Sometime’, a John Lee Hooker song wonderfully executed by the band.

I will be seeing this band live as soon as I can.

Duncan Chappell

Artists’ website: www.meandmyfriends.co.uk

‘Look Up’:

THE MAGIC LANTERN – To The Islands (Hectic Eclectic Records)

Magic LanternReading the PR notes there were several references to jazz, and as I’m not a jazz aficionado I didn’t think I would enjoy this CD, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Jamie Doe (aka The Magic Lantern) has a wonderfully mellow voice with a great range and sings with superb diction so you can hear the story being told. He covers topics as varied as his Dad’s Alzheimers, ‘Two Bells’ to finding his wife, ‘Re: Her’, and a myriad of other doubts, fears and hopes.

This is his third album album that includes a number of previously released singles ‘Holding Hands’, ‘Albatross’ and ‘Lydia’ and it has a very contemporary feel. It puts me in mind of Me For Queen, aka Mary Erskine, especially the use of brass and keyboards on ‘Holding Hands’ and the subtle brass on the gently rolling ‘Between The World And Me’.

This is an album to sit in a softly lit room with your favourite libation and just gently chill, letting that warm mahogany voice transport you to a comfortable safe place. Enjoy!

Duncan Chappell

Artist’s website: https://the-magic-lantern.co.uk/

‘Albatross’ – live at Abbey Road: