GREN BARTLEY – Magnificent Creatures (Fellside FECD 2680)

GREN BARTLEY Magnificent CreaturesOriginally from Stratford-upon-Avon and now based in Dudley,  Bartley recorded his third album in Wolverhampton with the increasingly legendary producer Gavin Monaghan, his first to feature his new touring trio of cellist Sarah Smout, Julia Disney on violin and piano and percussionist Leslie Glanville (the former two also providing harmonies), with contributions from Jim Sutton on bass, Matt Marks on accordion and Laura Hares.

Though clearly influenced by Americana folk, there’s more of a Canadian mountains feel to the music in its airy melodies, the fingerpicked ‘Fair Share’ is reminiscent of the young Gordon Lightfoot, although, having said that, on the wide open sky sound of opening number ‘Tall Wooden Walls’ vocally reminds me of John Denver. The latter features some soaring backing vocals from Disney and Snout, but their voices really come into their own on the lovely simple acoustic ‘Angels Fade’ and the closing a capella ‘Silent Hotel’, another open air dusk setting, where the three voices interweave. On the preceding track, ‘This Changes Everything’ (another song featuring lovers lying on the grass and thoughts of what tomorrow brings), they also get to spotlight their dexterity on the strings, violin and cello providing warm accompaniment to Bartley’s simple acoustic guitar.

While the bulk of the album is quiet and reflective, the choppy war-themed ‘Home Soon’ features Monaghan blowing some bluesy mouth harp while two back-to-back cuts also take things up a notch. Opening with an acoustic strum and with lyrics inspired by the shipwrecks off Portland Bill in Devon, ‘Portland’ is a slow builder two-step swayer that climaxes with Bartley singing about swimming with the dead (the magnificent creatures if the album title) before string and guitar take it to muted close. Then comes ‘Nightingale’, the album’s seven minute tour de force with Bartley’s guitar dancing around Glanville’s propulsive drums, as the track sandwiches a traditional folk mid-section with fingerpicked guitar between rock sensibilities and poppy elements strongly redolent of the Thompson Twins’ ‘Hold Me Now’.

Both it and the following track, ‘Of The Girl’, are solid showcases of both Bartley’s musicianship and his arrangement skills, the latter seeing Disney’s wordless vocals circling round his slide guitar and Glanville’s skewed percussion. There’s slidework too on ‘Strange Times’, another bluesier number with lyrics about getting out before you’re broken down that link an old rusty truck sent for scrap with memories of the men who laid down the railway tracks but never got to ride the line. Clearly as gifted a writer as he is a musician, it’s time he was discovered and embraced by a much wider audience.

Mike Davies

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‘Tall Wooden Walls’ – official video:

Gren Bartley – new album

Gren Bartley Magnificent CreaturesWell respected acoustic musician and lyricist, Gren Bartley releases his third album Magnificent Creatures in September 2015 on Fellside Records, alongside a tour taking in major cities including London, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Bristol & Nottingham. Now touring with a string section, three part harmonies and driving percussion he is creating something truly original in the underground folk scene, if you think you’ve heard something like it before… then think again.

 “The measure of a good singer/songwriter usually lies in the quality of the songs, not the quantity. With Gren Bartley, we really do get the best of both worlds”   Northern Sky

Comparisons to Rufus Wainwright, Elliot Smith and Badly Drawn Boy are sure to arise, but Gren is talented and ambitious enough to make his own mark.

Gren is a widely praised and accomplished musician. He has been recording and touring nonstop these past few years, working with an array of talented musicians and producers. Magnificent Creatures was produced by Gavin Monaghan (Editors, Kings of Leon, Paulo Nutini, Young Braves) at Magic Garden Studio.

Magnificent Creatures is the follow-up to the successful Winter Fires album and features a beautiful, symphonic sound. His style and flair (he is an expert fingerstyle guitarist) has put him at the top of his game and he is constantly gathering more fans and supporters along the way.

‘Tall Wooden Walls’ is the lead track from this album. The captivating intro gradually twists into a beautiful symphonic sound.  Backing vocals blend with full-bodied instrumentation under the remarkable production values of producer, Gavin Monaghan.  The animated video for ‘Tall Wooden Walls’ is directed by Gren and celebrates the art of stop-motion animation.

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‘Tall Wooden Walls’ – official video:

 

The Armistice Pals

armistice pals header non internetEveryone remembers the charity version of ‘Perfect Day’ with its myriad of voices from the pop and rock world.

Let’s hope everyone will also remember the upcoming answer from the Folk World – ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’ – with a plethora of voices from across the acoustic folk and roots spectrum representing the great and the good, young and the old, seasoned and emerging, all on the same single. The group is called The Armistice Pals and is releasing a fitting tribute to Pete Seeger, who sadly passed away this year as well as marking the 100 years anniversary of the breakout of the First World War. All profits will be distributed between four peacekeeping charities.

However, perhaps it’s not a perfect world after all and the late Pete Seeger’s classic anti war song, ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’, points a finger at the carnage, supposedly ‘ the war to end all wars’ which tragically mislead us to believe it was worth the sacrifice.  The sacrifice, not only of the lives of those who died, but the resultant desolation and struggle of the loved ones who were left behind. Whole swathes of communities were left bereft of their young men-folk who trustingly signed up into ‘Pals Battalions’, many of whom were never to return, with those who did too often spending lives blighted by the experience.

Armistice Pals is the name of the folk community ‘super band’ who are all performing on this single, which is due out on Remembrance Sunday, 9th November 2014. It was the brain child of Damian Liptrot (manager of folk-rock band Merry Hell), who, as the project expanded, has invited Folkstock’s Helen Meissner on board as co-organiser. The project has attracted over 30 names including Chris and Kellie While, Julie Matthews, Judy Dyble, Christine Collister, Dave Swarbrick, Ray Cooper, Sally Barker, Peter Knight, Boo Hewerdine, Gavin Davenport, Blair Dunlop, Lucy Ward, Ken Nicol, Merry Hell, Luke Jackson and Kelly Oliver. A line up so good that, were it to be a festival, it would undoubtedly be the event of the summer.

The single will be released via the usual digital outlets as well as a physical CD and as a nod to the historical element, a limited edition vinyl 45, on new community label, Folkstock Records.

As this is intended to be a community project, we are inviting Folk Clubs across the country to contribute by organising an ‘Armistice Pals Night’ during the week of the release of the single. This can take any form but should include a collective version of ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’ at some point during the evening, followed by a passing round of the hat to support the Armistice Pals charities.

If you would like to know more about the project, all the artists, the charities and the inspiration can be found at http://www.armisticepals.com or contact us direct via armisticepals@hotmail.co.uk

We hope that you will feel able to enlist and offer your support.

Helen and Damian
for The Armistice Pals

THE ARMISTICE PALS: A FULL LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS

Attila The Stockbroker (poet/musician and sheer force of nature, whose father survived the Somme).

Billy Mitchell (one time Jack the Lad, ex-Lindisfarne and much else besides).

Blair Dunlop (One of our brightest, youngest singer-songwriters, currently telling tales from the ‘House Of Jacks’, he also found time for a stint in The Albion Band..).

Bob Pegg (Storyteller, singer-songwriter and member of the legendary Mr Fox).

Boo Hewerdine (one time Bible basher, all time songwriting phenomenon).

Chris While and Julie Matthews (singers, songwriters, multi-instrumentalists, award winners in their own right and members of more prestige bands and projects than you can shake a stick at).

Christine Collister (one time She Devil, ex-Daphne’s Flight, much sought collaborator and loved by Q magazine).

Dave Mather & Peter Robinson (singer/songwriters (one of them has written an opera you know), ex-Houghton Weavers, stand up comedy and currently presenters of Salford City radio’s first folk show).

Dave Swarbrick (simply a living legend. As it says on the flyers, ‘needs no introduction’).

Edwina Hayes (multi-million You Tubed singer-songwriter with the ‘sweetest voice in England’).

Eric Bazilian: (Hooter, hitmaking songwriter worldwide for self and others, now he’s One Of Us!).

Flossie Malavialle (multinational singer et chanteuse aussi, gig travelling traffic reporter).

Gavin Davenport (much vaunted solo singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, award winning, ex-Albion band member).

Gren Bartley (the spine tinglingly beautiful guitarist, banjo playing poet).

Helen Watson (Singer/Songwriter, multi genre artist, producer and erstwhile member of Daphne’s Flight, Carmel and Sons of Arqa, as well as taking a great photo).

Johnny Coppin (broadcasting singer-songwriter, ex-Decameron and now sufficiently multi-faceted to be considered a true diamond).

Judy Dyble (singer/songwriter, ex-Fairport, nearly King Crimson and Facebook dog blogger).

Kellie While (singer-songwriter considered to have one of the outstanding voices of her generation, ex-member of The Albion Band and so much else, her arrival makes The Pals a family affair as her mother and sometime singing partner Chris is also involved).

Kelly Oliver (singer/songwriter, guitarist and harmonicist who has taken Boots Of Spanish Leather to places most of us can only dream of).

Ken Nicol: (globetrotting, guitar endorsing, ex-Albion Band and Steeleye Span virtuoso).

Kevin Brennan MP (an accomplished musician, fan of folk music and passionate supporter of live music).

Lavinia Blackwall (the vocalist who is both a Trembling Bell and a Crying Lion).

Linda Simpson (singer/songwriter, ex-Prog/Folk/Rock legends Magna Carta and supplier of some ideas that are so good that I’d like to present them as my own).

Lucy Ward (singer/song writer and possibly the current heart of British Folk Music as she gets played on virtually every folk show I listen to regardless of the other tastes of the presenters!).

Luke Jackson (bright young purveyer of Fumes and Faith).

Merry Hell (8 piece folk-rocking explosion of melody and joy).

Ninebarrow (award-winning, Dorsetshire folk duo).

Patsy Matheson (singer/songwriter, spent time Waking The Witch, now The Domino Girl).

Peter Knight (singer/fiddle player, Gigspanner, Feast of Fiddles, Steeleye and holder of the world record for continuously playing the violin whilst travelling up and down the lift in the Empire State Building).

Phil ‘Swill’ Odgers (30 Year veteran of punk-folk luminaries, The Men They Couldn’t Hang).

Ray Cooper (singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, ex-Oysterband and now a pearl in his own right).

Richard Ryall (singer/songwriter, member of the band Litmuss and he comes from a land Down Under).

Robb Johnson (Irregular singer/songwriter and social conscience).

Said The Maiden (3 rising doyennes with harmonies the envy of angels).

Sally Barker (folk singer and by popular acclaim, the true winner of The Voice).

Sian James (Singer, writer, harpist, composer, conductor and actress from Wales, a big Armistice pals ‘Creoso’ to her).

In addition, there is also The Pals Chorus, made up of friends and members of several folk clubs who will be recorded together to help swell the voices and to represent the fact that this is a true community project.

Gren Bartley – Winter Fires

Gren Bartley Winter FiresAnother beautifully crafted album from West Country festival favourite Gren Bartley.

Based on the loose theme of Winter fires – physical and emotional landscapes before the Spring thaw, and the flames which keep us going.

The style of this album is relaxed bluegrass with a touch of country. Gren’s voice is gentle and emotive, his lyrics are subtle and poetical, For me, Gren seems at his best in his portrayals of human character and emotion. The title track is one such stand-out song. Who would be so frosty as to remain unmelted by lyrics such as, “some nights never end/but I know tonight will/because it’s too sweet here in my lady’s arms”? The portrayal of the freedom-loving, love-distaining girl in “Porcelain Hand” also shows a deep and mature understanding of the human condition.

A lovely, lovely album which will keep you warm on many a Winter’s night.

Valerie Moss

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Artist’s website: http://www.grenbartley.com

GREN BARTLEY – Songs To Scythe Back The Overgrown (FELLSIDE FECD247)

When Tom Kitching and Gren Bartley went their separate ways after a successful partnership there was a feeling of inevitability about the directions they took. Tom formed Pilgrim’s Way and stuck with mostly traditional material and now Gren has taken the solo singer-songwriter route. Songs To Scythe Back The Overgrown is his debut.

Gren claims the album came to him a dream; a dream which included being offered loads of money by Kate Rusby and presumably a guest appearance by Joni Mitchell who’s ‘The Last Time I Saw Richard’ is the only non-Bartley composition. The songs are coloured by the traditions he grew up with so ‘My Time Is Nearly Over’ has a gospel-blues structure, ‘Slow Train’ is a blues with a British accent and ‘Kings And Queens’ feels almost like a traditional English song. He plays guitar, banjo, slide guitar and a little harmonica and is supported by Andy Whittle on keyboards and harmonica, Katriona Gilmore on violin and vocals and Robert Hallard on backing vocals but no-one is overused.

There’s something of Martin Simpson in Gren’s vocals and the way he sidles up to a song and gives it space. ‘The Last Time I Saw Richard’ is a perfect example of this as, over a solo guitar accompaniment, Gren muses on loneliness and the mundane realities of life. This was an intensely personal song for Joni, reflecting on her short-lived marriage, but Gren makes it work so it could almost be about two friends separated by time and distance.

Gren has made an excellent debut with this record and has proved himself again to be a fine songwriter as well as a skilled interpreter of other people’s songs.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist Web Link: www.grenbartley.com