EMILY SMITH – Traiveller’s Joy (White Fall Records WFRCD004)

Since 2002 when she won Scotland’s Young Traditional Music Award Emily Smith has garnered many accolades from the folk music press with no less than Mike Harding citing “…As far as I’m concerned she can walk on water!” Possibly a little over the top but certainly heading in the right direction this young lady is a fair old chanter and in company with her musicians including James Fagan, Stuart Duncan and long-time collaborator Jamie McClennan makes a more than pleasurable sound. With a traditional background it’s unsurprising to find the likes of “Gypsy Davy”, and “Lord Donald” in her repertoire along with Richard Thompson’s “Waltzing’s For Dreamers” and her own self composed tracks nestling comfortably within a set that showcases her not inconsiderable talents as both musician and songwriter. Possibly my favourite track on the album is the gently sweeping acoustic funk of “Sweet Lover Of Mine” a setting of one of many traditional puzzle songs although I have to say that the rather abrupt ending isn’t quite so much to my taste. Perhaps it could have been rounded off by a tune…but, a minor quibble on what is a well-produced recording and a further feather to Smith’s burgeoning career.

PETE FYFE

Artist website: http://www.emilysmith.org/

NANCY KERR, JAMES FAGAN & ROBERT HARBRON – Dorking Folk Club 14.10.09

Two weeks running…and a rare attendance from me at the same club within a month. Having said that, this is one of the nicest clubs I’ve been too in a while. Within the walls of Dorking’s Friend’s Provident social club the theatre style setting is rather posh although, I hasten to add not in an austere way. Starting proceedings, MC Neil McRitchie proved a genial host who also happens to be a performer himself and a fine concertina player to boot. Kicking off with his own composition “The Trees Are Raining” and a Morris dance tune “Highland Mary” the audience were nicely warmed up for the main guests Kerr, Fagan & Harbron. Diving in with the digitally demanding “Favourite Duet” interplay between the concertina and fiddle of Rob & Nancy respectively you could just tell we were in for a treat with displays of vocal prowess coupled with divine musicianship. With a wonderful set of songs including “Alan Tyne Of Harrow” and “The Diamantina Drover” (from their recent “Station House” recording) featuring James fervent vocals and Nancy’s own self-penned “Queen Of Waters” culminating in the chorus led “Keep Hauling On” this feast of music composition brought the climax of the first half to a stirring end. Paving the way for the second set we were treated to a couple of songs from club ‘regular’ Dave White who regaled us with a rousing rendition of “Fathom The Bowl” lustily buoyed by an audience more than eager to join in the refrain. What more could we ask than a storming second set from the ‘guests’ in which we were treated to instrumental pyrotechnics from the fluid rhythm and lead of James ‘Bizarre’ (a term utilised by wags for the Stefan Sobell 8-stringed instrument that he so proudly utilises) and musically challenging songs such as “It’s Hard To Be Leaving Old England” segueing seamlessly into the more established “Hard Times Of Old England”. As I’ve said, these are ‘real’ musicians who obviously enjoy challenging themselves whilst providing the assembled crowd with a thoroughly ‘entertaining’ evening. If you hadn’t guessed it already this is ‘folk’ music at its best and I can’t wait to see the trio again at the earliest opportunity.

PETE FYFE