JIM MORAY – The Outlander (Managed Decline MD001)

The OutlanderFor The Outlander, his seventh solo album, Moray dispenses with any original material to focus on a set of ten traditional numbers, some familiar, some obscure, and gives them his own personalised interpretation. He’s also adopted a more direct, live performance-based approach making extensive use of his purchase of a 1949 Epiphone Triumph archtop guitar and inviting an array of fellow folkies, among them Jack Rutter, Sam Sweeney, Matt Downer and Josienne Clarke, to join him in the studio.

With Rory Scammell on hurdy gurdy complementing Sweeney and Tom Moore’s urgent violins and Moray’s driving rhythm, the opening ‘Lord Ellenwater’ (sometimes ‘Derwentwater’), compiles the lyrics from an assortment of sources and is set to a tune collected in Cambridgeshire by Vaughan Williams in 1907 from (although some claim it as in 1905 from Emily Agnes Stears in Sussex) and concerns the alleged role of Ellenwater’s in the Jacobite uprising of 1715 and reports that the rivers on his estates ran blood on the night he was executed.

Learned from Roy Harris, ‘Bold Lovell’, a variant on highwayman ballad ‘Whiskey In The Jar’, is launched by handclaps (there’s no drums anywhere on the album) and proceeds at a fair trot, one again propelled by violins, but then, opening with just voice and Nick Hart’s concertina, things slow down for ‘When This Old Hat Was New’, a classic song of old folk nostalgia that traces back to 1630 and bigs up the Romans for looking after the poor folk as the instrumentation gradually builds.

The centrepiece, certainly in terms of running time, is ‘Lord Gregory’ which, extended to a waltzing six and a half minutes with addition of verses from alternate versions, is largely accompanied by just finger picked guitar, presented as a duet with Clarke in an Anglo emulation of the Welch/Rawling harmonies pairing albeit channelling the recordings by Maddy Prior and Kathryn Roberts. It’s followed by the almost as long ‘The Bramble Briar’, learned from the Ewan MacColl version of ‘Bruton Town’, a good old English folk ballad about murder that has its origins in Isabella and the Pot of Basil, a story about a farmer’s daughter, her jealous brothers and a beheaded lover in Boccaccio’s The Decameron. A spare, stark arrangement compounds the gloom of the narrative.

‘John Barleycorn’ is one of two folk club staples given a new lease of life by Moray taken at a suitably flagon-swigging mid-tempo, the other, which closes the album, being a stately, wearied pace and spare arrangement reading of ‘The Leaving Of Liverpool’ that captures all of the song’s inherent resignation.

Betwixt these comes a slow strummed melancholic Appalachian-flavoured interpretation of ‘The Isle Of St Helena’, a song about Bonaparte’s exile collected by Cecil Sharp in Kentucky and learned from Steve Turner’s 1979 album Outstack, albeit without the concertina arrangement. Switching hemispheres, his fiddle-backed reading of transportation ballad ‘Australia’ owes a debt to Bob Hat’s 1973 version which relocated the destination from the original Virginny.

The final choice is ‘Jack Tar’, a handclap percussion, fiddle stomp take on the shanty about an opportunistic sailor overhearing a scheme by a squire to have his lover dangle string from her window so he can pull it for her to let him in, and naturally sneakily taking his place instead. Learned from the version collected by Sharp in 1904 with a slight variation in the lyrics, although, for purists, sadly he doesn’t include the “doomy-amma dingy-amma doomy-ammma day” chorus!

The most direct and simple of Moray’s albums to date, it cuts to the heart of what traditional folk music is about while ensuring a musical relevance for to the modern generation.

Mike Davies

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‘Bold Lovell’ – live with Tom Moore:

JACK RUTTER – Gold Of Scar & Shale (own label RUTTCD025)

Gold Of Scar & ScaleThere can be no doubt that Jack Rutter is one of the finest young interpreters of traditional song in the country. For his second album, Gold Of Scar & Shale he has enlisted Sam Sweeney to augment his guitars, bouzouki and concertina with cameo appearances from Alice Robinson on Northumbrian pipes and Sam Fisher on flugelhorn. Once again Jack has delved into old manuscripts, both songs and poetry for a set of which I’ve only heard two songs before.

‘I Was Once A Young Ploughboy’ comes from Hammond and Gardiner and tells a familiar story although not one I know. Jack gives it a suitably robust, martial treatment in case you thought that it might be a gentle pastoral piece. That comes with ‘The Hills Of Longdendale’ from the poetry of Ammon Wrigley and which provides the album’s title. Jack introduces it on bouzouki then sings the first verse unaccompanied. Actually, it’s not gentle in the way that a comparable southern English song would be. They’re a hardy lot who walk the hills above Saddleworth. He crosses the border again for ‘The Lancashire Liar’. A not so subtle dig? I don’t know but Sam Sweeney is on fine form.  Next is Jack’s adaptation of a Child ballad, ‘Fair Janet & Young James’. Child lists numerous versions of the song and Jack has combined several texts to produce an interpretation that makes sense to modern ears.

I have heard the infrequently sung ‘John White’ before. It’s a tale of unspeakable brutality: an event that occurred in Hounslow and which resulted in the abolition of flogging in the army. The song is again from Hammond and Gardiner and I believe it was collected in my adopted county of Hampshire. The official record states that White was sentenced to 150 lashes but the song ups the ante to 300.

‘The Shepherd’s Song’ comes indirectly from Willie Scott and features Robinson’s pipes and that’s followed by the other song I’ve heard before, ‘When Jones’s Ale Was New’, although Jack dispenses with the chorus and adds a tune of his own at the end.  ‘Down By The Derwent Water’ and ‘The Sledmere Poachers’ both come from northern collections and finally we have the bitter-sweet ‘Fieldfares’ written by Frederic Moorman who also penned ‘The Dalesman’s Litany’.

Gold Of Scar & Shale is a fine album that introduces a number of lesser-known songs to a wider audience and that’s a bonus. I look forward to hearing Jack in the flesh again next month.

Dai Jeffries

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‘The Lancashire Liar’ – official video:

Jack Rutter announces second album and tour dates

Jack Rutter

Gold Of Scar & Shale, the second solo album from traditional folk singer and multi-instrumentalist Jack Rutter will be available on CD and DL from October 4th 2019.

Produced by Joe Rusby and recorded as live, the new album continues the stripped back approach of its critically acclaimed predecessor, Jack’s debut solo outing Hills. The songs are unearthed gems from the folk canon – almost all of them rare and many previously unrecorded – gathered from old song books and source singers as Rutter uncovered material for this major new release.

Jack’s soaring vocal takes centre stage on the album, delivering each traditional tale in a fresh and current way; his masterful playing and arrangements providing the perfect accompaniment. Jack contributes guitar, bouzouki, duet concertina and harmonium to the album with featured guest musicians Sam Sweeney on fiddle, Alice Robinson on Northumbrian pipes and Sam Fisher on flugelhorn.

There is a strong sense of place on the new record too; over half of the songs have a connection to Jack’s native Yorkshire. The album title itself Gold Of Scar & Shale comes from a line in one such track ‘The Hills of Longdendale’, with words written by ‘The Moorland Poet’ Ammon Wrigley (1861-1946).

Jack Rutter says “To me Ammon Wrigley is describing the rough and bleak parts of the moorland with this line, the scar and the shale that is always nevertheless gold to him. I love this line and realised that for me it’s also a great metaphor for traditional songs; rough, stark and honest things that contain such riches. I found then that I’d stumbled upon the perfect title for this album, or at least one that I really loved anyhow.”

Jack grew up in the Holme Valley area of West Yorkshire, a place steeped in a wealth of traditional song, and following a BSc degree in Countryside Management at Newcastle University has forged a highly successful career playing music across the UK and Europe. In addition to his acclaimed solo work, he has become a highly sought-after collaborator for a host of the biggest names in folk music such as Seth Lakeman, Sam Sweeney and Jackie Oates as well as performing in the celebrated instrumental trio Moore Moss Rutter.

The release of Gold Of Scar & Shale is set to confirm Jack Rutter’s place as a solo artist, singer and performer of traditional songs first and foremost, marking him as one of the standout voices of the folk, roots and acoustic music scene. By shining a light on these original sources and singers, Jack has crafted a collection very much his own.

Pre-order now: www.jackruttermusic.com/shop

‘I Was Once A Young Ploughboy’ – the first single:

Remaining Tour Dates

2 November SHEFFIELD Album Launch Show, Shakespeares, South Yorkshire

8 November Music Institute Folk Club, Guildford, Surrey

12 November LONDON Album Launch Show, Green Note, Camden

Tickets: www.jackruttermusic.com

 

JACKIE OATES – The Joy Of Living (ECC Records ECC018)

The Joy Of LivingJackie Oates’ new album, her seventh, is an intensely personal one with songs spanning four generations of her family from her grandfather to her daughter Rosie. The latter can be heard on several tracks notably her “theme tune”, ‘Rosy Apple’. The Joy Of Living reflects on new life and death – Jackie’s father died unexpectedly five days after Rosie was born, and I really can’t imagine the tumult of emotions she must have felt.

So a makeshift studio was set up in her kitchen and producer Simon Richmond would travel to hers and they would get as much work done as possible in the time available – hence young Rosie’s contributions to some of the tracks. The album opens with Hamish Henderson’s ‘Freedom Come-All-Ye’. Jackie’s father fought in the 51st Highland Division, Henderson’s regiment, and she sings the beautiful tune sensitively but without excessive emotion. From there we turn to the new life with ‘Spring Is Coming Soon’, a song that Jackie made up when Rosie was very small and it paves the way for several other children’s songs scattered through the album.

John Lennon’s painful ‘Mother’ comes as something as a shock and I’m still not sure how to interpret it. Is Jackie lifting the lid on something better left concealed? If so she quickly slams it shut again with a reprise of ‘Spring Is Coming Soon’ with its repeated “we’ll be happy very soon”. It’s certainly a stunning performance and one that Jackie is not afraid to tackle on stage. The traditional ‘Virginny’ is a song that Jackie learned from her father and is faithful to his version and now we have encompassed all four generations.

‘The Joy Of Living’ had quite an impact on the young listeners at the launch event but, being an old codger, I can’t help but contrast it with ‘The Manchester Rambler’, written when MacColl was a young man. The love of the mountains is present in two songs written roughly fifty years apart in very different contexts. But I digress. ‘Unicorns’ is another song that Jackie grew up with and I suppose that ‘Catch Me If You Can’, ‘The Bird’ and ‘Sweet Farewell’ fall into that category. The last two songs return to Jackie’s father. ‘The Last Trip Home’ was one of his favourites and ‘Rolling Home’ is actually a fragment of a recording of him in a session – Jackie picks up the song as the clip fades out.

Musically, there is great variety but nothing is overbearing – how many musicians can you actually record in a kitchen at one time? The piano was already there but John Parker had to bring his double bass, Barney Morse Brown his cello and Matt Allwright his pedal steel. Jack Rutter is Jackie’s regular sidesman now, John Spiers dropped in and Megan Henwood was around a lot to provide the backing vocals. The Joy Of Living was recorded over a long period and not necessarily under ideal circumstances but it comes over as fresh and spontaneous and, indeed, a joy to listen to.

Dai Jeffries

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

‘Nay Ivy Nay’ – live:

JACKIE OATES – Lush Studio Soho

Jackie Oates
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

I have reported on CD launch events from a number of venues; the BBC Club, The Convent, even Wigan but none as lush as …well, Lush. On the hottest day of the year in London the air-conditioned Lush Studio Soho was an oasis. It’s a rabbit warren of a building and definitely bigger on the inside than the outside. I don’t know what part of the firm’s business is conducted there but the place was full of shiny happy people who obviously love their jobs. Jackie Oates has a commercial connection with Lush so where better to stage this event.

The performance space is called The Nest and was decorated with roses and flooded with red light. This was after terribly sticky cupcakes featuring roses and apple and hand made cocktails featuring the same ingredients – although a bigger shot of gin wouldn’t have gone amiss – and the roses and apple scent of one of their fragrances.

The album being previewed is called The Joy Of Living. Its title track is the Ewan MacColl song and the number that Jackie closed with. The younger and less embittered members of the audience admitted to tearing up a little at the end. It’s an appropriate title for an album that spans four generations from Jackie’s grandfather who fought with the 51st Highland Division to her daughter, Rosie and her sibling on the way, and encompasses life and death.

Jackie opted to open with ‘Caroline And Her Young Sailor Bold’ which isn’t on the album but its theme of love conquering all is totally relevant. ‘The Last Trip Home’, which came next, was one of Jackie’s father’s favourites and is redolent of the sadness surrounding his death. Then Jackie looked forward with three children’s songs: ‘My Shoes Are Made Of Spanish’, ‘Spring Is Coming Soon’ and ‘Rosy Apple’ – hence the decorative theme. Before we got too misty-eyed she switched to John Lennon’s extraordinary ‘Mother’, perhaps making the point that parenthood isn’t always a bed of roses. Hamish Henderson’s ‘Freedom Come-All-Ye’ for Jackie’s grandfather and ‘Virginny’ learned from her father brought us almost home before ‘The Joy Of Living’.

Jackie stuck to her five-string viola and was accompanied by Jack Rutter on guitar, Indian harmonium (great for drones) and a remarkable looking but wonderful sounding fan fret cittern – hand built, of course. It was a delightful evening which promised a lovely album to come.

Dai Jeffries

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

‘The Joy Of Living’ – live at Cecil Sharp House:

Jackie Oates: new album

Jackie Oates
Photograph courtesy of The Oxford Times

We are proud to announce the release of the seventh studio album, The Joy Of Living, by Jackie Oates. It’s a record that covers an intensely personal period of her life, in which she celebrated the birth of her daughter Rosie and bid an emotional and loving farewell to her beloved father.

The Joy Of Living features songs made famous by folk greats including Ewan McColl, Lal Waterson and Davey Steele, as well as carefully picked songs from contemporary artists such as John Lennon and Darwin Deez – all interpreted in Jackie’s inimitable style.

Recorded at home in Jackie’s kitchen (with baby Rosie in attendance) she collaborated with fellow Imagined Village alumni and producer Simon Richmond to create this intimate, touching and uplifting collection. The album also features performances by friends from the world of folk including Mike Cosgrave, Barney Morse Brown, John Parker and Jack Rutter.

Born and raised on folk music, Jackie Oates started her career as a finalist in the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards in 2003. Since then she has been nominated for twelve BBC Folk awards; at the 2009 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards she scooped Best Newcomer and Best Traditional Track on the same night.

Jackie will be performing at festivals throughout the summer and is on tour in November 2018 and February 2019.

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‘The Joy Of Living’ – live: