GNOSS – Drawn From Deep Water (Blackfly Records, BFLY03CD)

Drawn From Deep WaterA little over a year since their Brother Wind EP made a favourable impact on Folking’s Singles Bar, those talented Gnoss chaps are back to unveil their new album, Drawn From Deep Water. Now a well-established four-piece of Aidan Moodie (guitar/vocal), Graham Rorie (fiddle/mandolin), Connor Sinclair (flutes/whistles) and Craig Baxter (bodhrán/stomp/percussion), their time spent touring and maturing has forged a richly coherent unit.

A good proportion of self-written material appears on the album, showing the lads to be as strong creatively as they are performatively. Moodie’s ‘Three Shores’ opens up proceedings with a light touch, the loping roll of the rhythm lifted by whistle and mandolin, while Sinclair’s ‘The Duchess’ features his deft, curling flute over tautly sparkling mandolin and soft-spoken guitar.

Rorie demonstrates great compositional versatility deeply rooted in traditional music, from the lyrical patterns of ‘An Orkney Christmas’ to the more manic ‘Voodoo’. The latter’s lithe, twisting 3-tune set drops flavours of jazz and blues into the melting pot, the whole held steady by Baxter’s intently quick-fire percussion. ‘The Badger’ begins with a looping spiral of fiddle and flute motifs before an atmospheric guitar bridge leads into the band’s own arrangement of ‘The Banks Of Newfoundland’. James Lindsay (Breabach) lends some ethereally swirling Moog on his piece with Rorie, ‘The Peeriefool’, as well as bass duties across the album.

Moodie’s other track here, ‘Sea Widow’ breathes more intimately. The understated melancholy of the lyric derives from Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown, whose work also makes an appearance in ‘The Five Of Spades’. There’s a rather sweet swinginess to this version of the late Lise Sinclair’s song, from her cycle inspired by Mackay Brown’s novel A Time To Keep, although it feels as if it needed to be edgier, murkier. However, there’s a pleasing fragile brightness to Dave Francey’s ‘The Waking Hour’ and Väsen’s ‘Hasse A’s’ is just a burst of vital energy; its expressively fluttering, slurring fiddle pinned by a vividly pattering percussion.

Ross Ainslie’s airy, rounded production lets the interplay of instruments sing, as in album finale, the swirling ‘Laurel Cottage’ (Sinclair again) with its shifting transitions between foreground and background. Lending a warm, live-like sound, it manages to encapsulate the band’s essential dynamic and energy.

Drawn From Deep Water is a very impressive album, fully delivering on the EP’s promise and still leaving plenty of scope for future development. Don’t be an aGnosstic, give it a listen.

Su O’Brien

Artist website: www.gnossmusic.com

‘The Moul Head’ live:

SINGLES BAR 28 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 28Leviathan! by BLACKBEARD’S TEA PARTY is an energetic and accomplished recording by these York-based folk-rockers that did strike some nostalgic (power) chords, with electric guitar, bass and two drummers driving the folkier fiddle and melodeon. There are versions of two traditional songs – ‘The Bonny Ship The Diamond’ and ‘The Weary Whaling Grounds’ – that you may remember from Bert Lloyd’s similarly entitled whaling song collection from 1967, but the tone here is very different. Also featured are two home-brewed instrumentals – ‘DFLN’ and ‘The Lost Triangle/The Lone Pancake’, both highly reminiscent of 60s-70s folk rock – and the very effective song ‘Leviathan’, based on the story of albino sperm whale Mocha Dick that partly inspired Moby Dick. Not for purists, but well worth a listen.
www.blackbeardsteaparty.com

Brother WindGNOSS, once a duo, is now a four-piece hailing from Glasgow’s fertile hotbed of fine musicians, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Their four-track EP, Brother Wind, provides a pleasingly versatile balance of two songs and two tunes. The title track hits with an immediate Disney-soundtrack catchiness before opening up its folky heart with some terrific harmonies. From the snaking groove of ‘The Closet Bodhrán’ to the vigorous reels of ‘Moul Head’ via the sensitive rendering of ‘My Ship’, it’s very easy to understand why this band is being so hotly tipped as one to watch.
www.gnossmusic.com

Amy GoddardA self-released EP of songs connected to mining, at the heart of Welsh singer-songwriter AMY GODDARD’s Green Is The Colour lies her six-minute Remembering Aberfan, a charity single released in 2016 to mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster when a slag heap in the Merythr valley slid killing 116 children and 28 adults in the nearby school and neighbouring buildings. A stark, acoustic number with a mournful backing choir, it’s a haunting listen.

However, the tracks that surround it are no less strong. Initially sung unaccompanied, the title track was inspired by the arsenic mines of Devon and Cornwall, the biggest of which was owned by the family of William Morris, its poisonous green pigment used in his iconic wallpapers. There’s a brace of well-known covers, the first being ‘North Country Blues’, an early Dylan number about the closure of the iron ore mines and the effect on the mining community, a history repeated in Wales in the 1980s, the other a chiming acoustic guitar waltz through Merle Travis’ ‘Dark As A Dungeon’.

The perils of working underground inform the sprightly self-penned folksy strum ‘Underground Road’ which, featuring Hannah Fisher on fiddle, charts the life of a mining community. Sharing a poisoning theme with the opening number, sung with just hand percussion accompaniment, the final track has Goddard has duetting with Andy Adams on ‘Blue Murder’, an Alistair Hulett song about asbestos mining.
http://www.amygoddardmusic.co.uk/

Al ShieldsNow backed with The Delahayes, Edinburgh-based troubadour, AL SHIELDS returns with a new collection of freshly squeezed Americana, in the form of the Fire On Holy Ground EP, due for release on Shields’ own label, Al Shields Music (ASM004), on April 30th.

The band-backed electric sound is a slight deviation from Shields previous all-acoustic efforts, but with the same old glimmers and shades of Ryan Adams and co. it is a most enjoyable listen. From the disc’s half-dozen numbers, ‘Counting the Hours’, ‘Kick Your Feet Up’ and ‘The Boys in the Band’ are among the stand outs, but then, there is very little to dislike about this record.
https://www.alshields.com/

Rag’N’Bone (And The Coal Rippers Daughter) is an upcoming EP from singer-songwriter NEIL BROPHY. So far only a single comprising two versions of the title track has been released. The song is set in 19th century London: Rag’N’Bone is obvious and apparently a coal ripper is or was a man who dug out the rock above a coal seam and shored up the walls and roof. Who knew? The story is of a love story set among the squalor – “my dog died, too, and you can have his bones” – as two young people set out for a life among the mudlarks at Blackfriars. The acoustic version features Neil on guitar, harmonica and kick-drum while the radio edit is a full band version with a Levellers feel about it.
www.neilbrophy.co.uk

KIM LOWINGS & THE GREENWOOD have a new single in the form of the five-minute plus ‘New Moon’, a track that doesn’t feature on the recent Wild & Wicked Youth album,. Driven by a persistent repeated drum pattern from Tim Rogers and Dave Sutherland’s throbbing upright bass with a hypnotic circling guitar line by Andrew Lowings and Kim on dulcimer, it’s a nod towards late 60s/early 70s progressive folk rock of outfits like The Trees, Bread Love and Dreams and the pre-epic Renaissance rather than the more traditional inclinations of her other material.
https://www.kimlowings.com/

Jake AaronThat’s a great cover picture. ‘Give Me Your Horse’ is the new single from genre-bending guitarist JAKE AARON. The guitar is somewhat submerged here with Steve Lodder’s Hammond and Steve Waterman’s trumpet taking the lead over the bass and drums of Guy Pratt and Marc Parnell. You’re forever expecting a vocal line to appear but for all that it remains resolutely instrumental.
www.jakeaaron.com