Although Janet Dowd writes songs, and there are three of her own compositions on Home, her particular forte is in covering other writers. Her subjects are mostly Irish and an album like this will serve to introduce British audiences to some new songs, but she also encompasses Scotland and Australia and unless you are a particular fan of the writers involved these too may be songs you haven’t heard before.
The album opens with Eric Bogle’s ‘All The Fine Young Men’ which has been covered quite frequently (but good luck finding Eric’s original these days). It features producer Donogh Hennessy on guitars, keyboards and programming with strings from Niamh Varien Barry. Janet’s strong, clear voice does full justice to a song that should be rated alongside ‘No Man’s Land’.
Irish songwriters have a sentimental streak and Tommy Sands indulged his on ‘County Down’, a song of the auld country calling the expatriate home. It features Alan Doherty on whistle and Colin Henry’s Dobro, an instrument which appears several more times. Quite why a resonator guitar should suit celtic songs so well, I can’t say, but it just does. The theme of home, and not being there, returns in Dougie MacLean’s ‘Garden Valley’, Janet’s own ‘Westport Town’ and, supremely, Brendan Graham’s ‘My Land’.
The second Australian represented here is The Waifs’ Josh Cunningham whose ‘Lighthouse’ actually has someone coming home and happy to be doing so. Another highlight I must mention is the traditional ‘Súil A Rúin’ which again features Niamh Varien Barry and Pauline Scanlon’s backing vocals.
Home manages to combine the simplicity of emotion in both writing and singing with arrangements that are always interesting without being too clever or overwhelming the songs. Beautifully done.
“This CD is 100% guitar free” boasts the sleeve of Cera Impala’s fourth album, Tumbleweed. This may be bad news if you’re banjophobic but you can’t win ‘em all. Cera is a much travelled multi-instrumentalist singer and songwriter who plays indie-rock with Dark Green Tree and sings old-time jazz with The Bevvy Sisters. Her core band, The New Prohibition, is double bass player Joey “Jello” Sanderson and her husband and co-producer Dirk Ronneburg who was known to play fiddle with Southern Tenant Folk Union.
Tumbleweed tries to pull all these strands together with thirteen of Cera’s original songs. It opens with the swing of ‘Fingernail Moon’ and I was really enjoying ‘Little Bird’ until I realised that I was listening to ‘Long Black Veil’. It may have a generic chord progression but it’s not exactly obscure. ‘Ponderosa’ is nicely bleak, courtesy of Alan Ross’ harmonica and Ronneburg’s keening fiddle but, for me, far too much of the album lacks bite. ‘Caroline’ has that radio voice effect at the beginning but drops it quickly and it’s only ‘Magic’ that employs all the tricks and sounds really old-timey. Call me a traditionalist if you will but it’s the best song on the album.
The final track, ‘Home’, features some fairly pointless turntable scratching by Bríeuc Bestel. He doesn’t do enough to be radical and the song drifts along nicely and would do so without him. I’m sure I should like Tumbleweed a lot more than I do and that Cera’s fans will take me to task over it but, as I said, you can’t win ‘em all.
After the incredible success of her previous two singles ‘Cool’and ‘Home’, Twinnie is set to release her self-titled debut EP, out on 29th July 2016 via TLM Records.
The EP explores different themes of love and loss under the guise of her signature country pop style. Opening track and previous single ‘Cool’ evokes memories of times gone by, whilst latest single ‘Home’ is about the difficulties of losing love. The next track ‘Lie To Me’ is a stunning ballad, which portrays Twinnie’s vulnerability with her extremely emotive vocal performance before the EP finishes with ‘Looking Out For You’ – a heartwarming song about Twinnie’s relationship with her grandad.
After securing a publishing deal with Universal, Twinnie has branched out into all areas of the entertainment industry. She has performed backing vocals for the likes of Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke (‘Blurred Lines’ and BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge), Brian May and Roger Taylor to name but a few. Although her roots are in England, Twinnie also travels extensively to LA and Nashville, working alongside the critically acclaimed songwriters behind artists such as Pink, James Bay, The Shires and Jason Mraz.
Despite being relatively new to the country scene, Twinnie’s first single ‘Cool’ reached number 2 in the iTunes county charts and second single ‘Home’ peaked at number 3. Twinnie has also already received support from the likes of Heat Magazine, Digital Spy, Think Country and Songwriting Magazine and is now focusing her talents solely on music.
Twinnie is out on Friday 29th July 2016 via TLM Records, whilst singles Cool and Home are out now and available to buy on iTunes and all good online retailers.
A round-up of recent EPs and singles that have come our way
ANGE HARDY releases a seasonal single, ‘When Christmas Day Is Near’, all multi-tracked a cappella full of joyous optimism which is something we all need plenty of these days. The tune insistently reminded of something I couldn’t quite identify but which I eventually pinned down as ‘Three Jolly Rogues’. It’s coupled with ‘William Frend’ from her album Esteesee leading neatly into a short plea for ‘Solidarity’ written in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. http://www.angehardy.com/
ROSA REBECKA is a Swedish-American singer who came to Devon to study and stayed to work for Wren Music. Home is her first recording for Folkstock records although far from her first outing. The opening title track has a beautiful melody. That’s followed by the traditional Swedish ‘Det Står Ett Träd’ which is a complete contrast. The top is probably ‘Jonah’s Song’ in which Rosa is reminiscent of a young Joni Mitchell as her voice soars into the stratosphere. The final track is the traditional Jewish ‘Sh’Ma’, as Rosa pulls the threads of her heritage together. For collectors, Home is also available as a guitar shaped USB stick with bonus tracks from her debut album. http://www.rosarebecka.com/
CHRIS WHILE & JULIE MATTHEWS take a hard-hitting approach with their single ‘Are We Human?’. Written by Matthews it’s an attack on our collective inhumanity in the face of the refugees fleeing conflicts in the Middle East. It features Neil Marshall, Ken Nicol, Liz Frencham and Christine Collister and all the proceeds will go to Migrant Offshore Aid Station. The song put me in mind of ‘Jewel In The Crown’ which she wrote more than twenty years ago and similarly attacks the political mind-set of this country. http://www.whileandmatthews.co.uk/
‘Lampedusa’ is a download single from EWAN McLENNAN – another not very festive seasonal offering – but its proceeds will go to Médecins Sans Frontières. Lampedusa is also an island roughly midway between Sicily and the North African coast and a place where many refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean find themselves. With songs of migration a major feature of Scottish song this is a natural subject for Ewan and although the title is very specific the theme and sentiments are universal. Finger-picked guitar is backed by slide and fiddle – ‘Lampedusa’ is a fine song, a serious subject and a worthy cause. http://www.ewanmclennan.co.uk/
Very few Canadian musicians have had as fascinatingly diverse a career as Ken Tizzard. In over two decades as a professional musician, he has gone from plying his trade as the charismatic bassist in top Canadian rock bands The Watchmen and Thornley (he is featured on six gold and platinum records received numerous Juno nominations and MuchMusic Awards, and licensed songs to such TV shows as CSI and Fashion Television) to then emerging as an eloquent roots-based singer/songwriter and guitarist with a prolific solo career.
Wearing his rock ‘n roll hat, Ken has toured internationally, appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and played such major venues as The Air Canada Centre. When he puts on his cowboy hat, Tizzard can be spotted performing his original material, solo or with a band, for a loyal and growing audience in pubs, clubs and concert halls across Canada.
His new album, No Dark No Light, is Tizzard’s fifth solo studio record since his 2006 debut, Quiet Storey House…an Introduction. A work of real emotional and musical resonance, No Dark No Light is emerging as his strongest work to date. It continues Ken’s pattern of never repeating himself stylistically, as its acoustic country meets folk ambience is in sharp contrast to his previous album, 2012’s The Goodness of Bad Intent.
“In the past, I’ve battled a lot with trying to find a character or niche with my music,” Tizzard explains. “Now I realize that maybe I’m a guy who doesn’t do the same thing twice. Every record I’ve done has moved me in a different direction and onto a different career path. That’s fine and it’s fun!” He views No Dark No Light as “the most cohesive record I’ve made. It almost feels like a concept record to me, and in the early stages I had songs sequenced in order that told a complete story.” That approach was modified, but a thematic coherence remains.
There is a soul-baring lyrical honesty to the material on No Dark No Light. The majority of the songs are focused upon his own emotions and experiences or those of close friends, but, in true folk music tradition, he also creates characters and stories. He takes those songs just as seriously, striving to imbue them with real authenticity. “I see those songs as research pieces,” says Ken. “Rather like a method actor working on a role, I really immerse myself in those themes, searching to find the real story.”
Tizzard has now moved out of the dark and into the light, and his luminous music is ready to shine.
FEATURING COLLABORATIONS WITH THE CREAM OF ROCK, FOLK & BLUEGRASS ARTISTS INCLUDING PAUL WELLER, RICHARD THOMPSON, NIC JONES, DICK GAUGHAN, PHIL SELWAY, MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER, CHRIS THILE, EDDI READER AND MORE…
The Barnsley nightingale Kate Rusby has released a new album to celebrate 20 years of making music. Entitled ‘20’ the album features new recordings of Kate’s favourite songs from throughout her illustrious career.
From the trad folk of ‘Jolly Plough Boys’ and ‘Annan Waters’ from her solo debut ‘Hourglass’ (’98) to the seasonal beauty of ‘Home’ from her 2011 Christmas album ‘While Mortals Sleep’ via ‘Unquiet Grave’, ‘Sho Heen’ and ‘Wild Goose’ from her Mercury nominated ’99 album ‘Sleepless’, the title tracks from ‘Underneath The Stars’ (2004) and ‘Awkward Annie’ (2007) and many more, Kate dips into every corner of her catalogue to create a set that is a wonderful introduction for the uninitiated and a fabulous reinterpretation of her ‘greatest hits’ for the committed fan. In addition Kate has written and recorded a beautiful new song for this album called ‘Sun Grazers’, on which she duets with Paul Weller, who has never sounded in finer voice. Other collaborators on the album include folk giants Richard Thompson, Nic Jones, Paul Brady and Dick Gaughan, Radiohead drummer Phil Selway, bluegrass upstarts Chris Thile and Sarah Jarosz, American folk & country singer Mary Chapin Carpenter, Eddi Reader and many more.
‘20’ has been released on the Rusby family’s Pure Records label via Island Records. For this release Island has resurrected the legendary ‘Island Pink’ label on which albums by Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Sandy Denny, and Richard & Linda Thompson were released during the 70s.
‘20’ is available on double CD and digital download from the folking store link below. The full tracklisting is:
1. Awkward Annie (feat. Chris Thile)
2. Unquiet Grave (feat. Aoife O’Donovan)
3. Sun Grazers (feat. Paul Weller)
4. The Lark (feat. Nic Jones)
5. Planets (feat. Sarah Jarosz)
6. Wandering Soul (feat. Eddi Reader & Dick Gaughan)
7. Who Will Sing me Lullabies (feat. Richard Thompson & Philip Selway)
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Words and music on all songs are by Kate Rusby except ‘Jolly Plough Boys’ and ‘Annan Waters’, which are traditional songs arranged by Kate, ‘The Good Man’ whose words are a combination of trad and Kate with the tune written by Kate, and ‘Bring Me A Boat’, which has lyrics by Kate and melody by Phil Cunningham.
Kate Rusby was born into a musical family in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. Her parents had a ceilidh band which Kate and her sister Emma joined at a very early age. Kate’s musical world is still very much a family affair – her parents, along with Emma and her brother Joe manage her, run her label, record her albums and book her tours, while her husband Damien O’Kane co-produces her records and plays guitar in her band. Kate’s first album release was a collaboration with another young singer – ‘Kate Rusby & Kathryn Roberts’ (’95). She has since released 9 solo albums: ‘Hourglass’ (’98), ‘Sleepless’ (’99), ‘Little Lights’ (2001), ‘Underneath The Stars’ (2004), ‘The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly’ (2005), ‘Awkward Annie’ (2007), ‘Sweet Bells’ (2008), ‘Make The Light’ (2010), and ‘While Mortals Sleep’ (2011). She was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in ’99 and has won Folk singer of the year (2000), Best album (2000), Best song twice (2002 for “Who Will Sing Me Lullabies” and 2006 for “No Names”) and Best Live Act (2006) at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Proof that the cottage industry approach can pay off in the 21st century, Kate has quietly sold over a million records on the family-run independent label Pure Records and regularly plays sell-out tours around the country.