SERIOUS CHILD – Empty Nest (TCR Music TCRM75099)

Empty NestThe core of Serious Child – or as the CD sleeve has it, SERIOUS CHiLD – consists of Alan Young on guitar and vocals, Carla March on vocals, and Steve Welch on bass. However, a fine selection of well-performed songs by Alan Young is further lifted on the CD Empty Nest by the support of an impressive number of highly-rated musicians. Among the names you may well recognize are Boo Hewerdine (who produced the album, and indeed persuaded Alan to record it in the first place) and Neill MacColl of The Bible, John McCusker, Gustaf Ljunggren, and three members of The Changing Room. The overall feel of the album is nearer to soft rock than folk, but none the worse for that: this is a quality performance.

  1. ‘Blue Is Only A Colour’ is an affecting ballad, particularly well sung. While Alan Young has a style all of his own, I could almost imagine the Walker Brothers singing this rather well.
  2. ‘Paul The Bag’ is a rock-flavoured and somewhat alarming song about an ageing gangster with something to prove: based on a real-life encounter.
  3. ‘Time Keeps Rolling’ is a reminiscent song about comfort through personal ritual and the passing of time, loosely tied to Paul Robeson’s recording of ‘Ol’ Man River’.
  4. ‘Kind Man’s Bluff’ features The Changing Room’s Tanya Brittain on vocals and accordion, on a moving song about a mother’s feelings as her child leaves home. “But no one dies of heartbreak, so let me help you pack…“. This one could be a keeper.
  5. Most of the way through, ‘I Don’t Remember Venice’ sounds like a pleasant piece of poppy nostalgia but features a sharp twist to the lyric towards the end. Clever.
  6. ‘Cinnabar’ seems to reflect a changed relationship filtered through Alan’s childhood obsession with crimson moths. Interesting.
  7. ‘The Last Chance’ is a little more conventional, but catchy, particularly in the chorus.
  8. While most of the tracks here are not particularly folky, ‘Three Hail Marys’ has an instrumental line-up that would fit in with many an Irish folk group, with prominent whistle, bodhran and banjo, and a lyric that wouldn’t disgrace the Pogues at their best.
  9. I guess we’ve all kept checking our phone for a message that someone somehow hasn’t left. ‘No Missed Calls’ seems to recall that hollow ambivalence, and has a nice guitar-dominated arrangement.
  10. ‘Open Skies’ has a slightly country-rock feel.
  11. ‘Speeding’ for some reason reminds me of John Miles. In a good way.
  12. ‘You Wear The Smile’ is a slow ballad that finishes the album in fine style.

Alan Young has long been known as a talented and versatile vocalist, but it turns out that he’s also rather a good, late-flowering songwriter – apparently he’d never written a song until he was 50. Hopefully, now that he’s discovered this extra string to his bow – um, guitar… – we’ll hear more of his songs in the future. Empty Nest is scheduled for release on the 22nd of June.

David Harley

Artist’s website: www.seriouschild.com

‘Time Keeps Rolling’ – live:

Serious Child announce debut album

Serious Child

Empty Nest is the affecting and impressive debut album from Serious Child, a talented trio fronted by singer/songwriter and guitarist Alan Young with Carla March on vocals and Steve Welch on bass. On Empty Nest they are joined by a range of folk and rock musicians, including Boo Hewerdine (the album’s producer) and Bible bandmate Neill MacColl, John McCusker and three members of The Changing Room (Tanya Brittain, Jamie Francis and Evan Carson).

The acclaimed, Ivor Novello Award nominated, English singer-songwriter and producer, Boo Hewerdine played a crucial role in bringing about the creation of Empty Nest. A talented vocalist, Alan Young had never written a song prior to his fiftieth birthday, when his wife bought him a place on a five day workshop in the Scottish Highlands. Following a second workshop, Boo, who recognised his significant skills as a songwriter, persuaded an initially reluctant Alan to record an album that he would produce.

The result is Empty Nest, an album whose theme is formed around a quote from Samuel Beckett’s one act play, Krapp’s Last Tape. The words were printed below a photo of a magnificently craggy Beckett in his 70s, in a shabby office where Alan was a research student. The photo and the quote stayed with him over the years and are to be found in the songs, the album cover and the forthcoming videos.

Most of the songs are stories about transitions between different stages of life and the fire that keeps burning as we move through them. ‘Kind Man’s Bluff’ is about a mother facing up to her child leaving home and ‘Paul The Bag’ is about an ageing gangster who is compelled to prove to strangers that he’s not too old.

Serious Child will be holding a launch event for Empty Nest at Cecil Sharp House in London on Wednesday 20 June. The formal release date for the album will be Friday 22 June. The band will be performing at various festivals over the summer and will be on tour in the autumn in the UK (dates to be announced).

Empty Nest is released by TCR Music, an independent folk label based in Cornwall, which has launched the careers of Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys, The Changing Room and Kitty Macfarlane.

Artists’ website: http://seriouschild.com/

‘Time Keeps Rolling’ – live:

The Ballads Of Child Migration on tour

Child Migration

With award-winning folk artists:

John McCusker, Michael McGoldrick,

Boo Hewerdine, O’Hooley & Tidow,

Chris While, Julie Matthews,

John Doyle, Jez Lowe,

Andy Seward and Andy Cutting

Narrated by Barbara Dickson

In November 2018, a collective of brilliant and respected musicians and singers are taking to the road to tell the moving story of Britain’s forced child migrants.

The concert, presented as a series of songs, narration, slides, audio and film clips, premiered at last year’s Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow, where it was described as “without doubt the most memorable concert of the festival.”

The songs in this concert were recently heard as part of a major BBC Radio 2 dramatisation of Michael Morpurgo’s book Alone On A Wide Wide Sea, which deals with the same subject. The radio drama, including the music, starred Toby Jones and Jason Donovan and reached an estimated audience of 6 million listeners.

“One of the pre-eminent song collections of recent times, poignantly re-telling one of the most important stories to have emerged from these islands” – Mark Radcliffe, BBC Radio 2

Forced child migration is a little known and dark part of the history of Britain. More than 100,000 children from Britain were sent overseas (to places including Australia and Canada) with the promise of finding a better life. Some did find the happy lives they longed for; many others found only hardship, abuse and loneliness.

The Ballads Of Child Migration is a tribute to those children, some of whom were sent abroad as recently as 1970.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

After each concert there will be a short Q&A session where members of the audience can ask questions of the performers and other experts about child migration.

* * *

This tour is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and is produced by 7digital – the digital music and radio services company that also produced the BBC Radio version of Alone On A Wide Wide Sea.

Tour Dates – November 2018

Monday 12th – Folk In The Barn, Gulbenkian, Canterbury

Tuesday 13th – Saint James Church, Clerkenwell, London

Wednesday 14th – Corn Exchange, Cambridge

Thursday 15th – The Albert Hall, Nottingham

Friday 16th – Floral Hall, Southport

Tickets available from www.ticketline.co.uk / 0844 888 9991

For Gulbenkian – www.thegulbenkian.co.uk / 01227 831 493

Folkeast announces its first guests for 2018

FolkEast

Growing in stature every year, East Anglia’s fast-rising FolkEast is back for the seventh time this August, proving why it is nothing like other music festivals. The three day festival will return to the glorious 300-acre Suffolk estate of 16th century Glemham Hall, the home of Major Philip Hope-Cobbold, between August 17-19.

And it will be packing a punch with probably its most impressive line-up to date led by two of the most enduring and legendary bands from the genre – Oysterband and Show of Hands who have an incredible eight BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards between them.

Oysterband, who will headline the Friday night, have been on the road with their high impact folk rock show for over 40 years, led by frontman John Jones, whilst Steve Knightley and Phil Beer of Show of Hands last year celebrated their 25th year with a fifth sell-out at the Royal Albert Hall. At FolkEast they will take to the Sunset stage as Saturday headliners, joined by their long-term third member – the acclaimed bassist and vocalist Miranda Sykes.

There will be a Scottish valedictory on Sunday night with Glasgow’s power trio The John Langan Band topping the bill. Award winners at the famous Celtic Connections Festival their music is rooted in Celtic folk but weaves in fascinating Balkan, Roma and flamenco threads.

One of the most exciting names in the line-up will be the phenomenal guitar and melodeon player Tim Edey, up for the coveted Musician of the Year title at next month’s 2018 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards – a title he has already won, back in 2012.

“Tim Edey is brilliant – in every which way. As a guitarist he has few peers. As a box player he’s a magician. As a character he’s off the scale – Colin Irwin, fRoots

“Utterly fantastic. Sheer, wonderful ebullient music” – Mike Harding

“Tim Edey plays a host of different instruments to a standard us mere mortals can only dream of. Listen and weep”– The Living Tradition

FolkEast is also delighted to welcome the Irish-Canadian award-winning songwriter and force of nature that is Irish Mythen. County Wexford-born but now living in Canada’s Prince Edward Island she may be diminutive in stature but is one of the most fearless and powerful performers out there and has appeared with both Rod Stewart and Gordon Lightfoot.

The five brothers of Co Durham’s big noise acapella singers The Wilsons and the triple talents of master musicians John McCusker, Mike McGoldrick and John Doyle will also be making their mark and the Gigspanner Big Band will see Peter Knight’s celebrated Gigspanner trio joined by Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin, nominated for Best Duo for the third time at this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (having won it in 2014).

FolkEast’s irrepressible patrons The Young’ uns (Sean Cooney, David Eagle and Michael Hughes), popular winners of the 2016 and 2015 Best Group title at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards – and nominated for Best Album (Strangers) and Best Original Song (Be The Man) this year promise another action-packed live podcast – one of the funniest, most enthralling highlights of last year’s festival.

Other confirmed artists include harmonica and melodeon wizard Will Pound, this time with his unique Through The Seasons Morris and folk dance show (with music performed by Pound, Benji Kirkpatrick and Ross Grant), ex Bellowhead cellist Rachael McShane with her new band The Cartographers and top young duo Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar, twice winners at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and still only 24 and 22.

Texas-raised Londoner Rodney Branigan is bound to draw a crowd with his riveting songs and uncanny ability to play two guitars at once while other performers will include Somerset singer songwriter Reg Meuross, Wild Willy Barrett’s French Connection, The Magnificent AK47, Luke Daniels & His Amazing Polyphon, Winter Wilson and Norwich-based Alden Patterson and Dashwood.

One of the most singular events on the UK festival calendar, FolkEast was launched six years ago by husband and wife John and Becky Marshall-Potter.

Rekindling the ancient Eastfolk moots on the Glemham Hall estate where for three days a year the folk from the East would meet kith and kin at harvest time for “a bit of a do”, this gathering has Suffolk running through it like letters in a stick of rock – from its locally sourced fare in The Imagined Suffolk Food Village to its suppliers, arts and crafts. This year festivalgoers will be able to see the Sae Wylfing – a half size replica of the famous Sutton Hoo Anglo Saxon ship discovered in 1939 near Woodbridge in Suffolk – an undisturbed ship burial considered one of the most important archaeological discoveries ever. www.woodbridgeriversidetrust.org/sae-wylfing

“Rather like a cross between Cambridge Folk Festival and a very large village fete – it feels like something that has been there since the Middle Ages. The mythical, magical land of the Eastfolk has materialised here in Suffolk’s big sky heartland” – Folkcast

The festival , with its mythical creature emblem The Jackalope, offers a refreshingly different line-up across six stages (including St Andrew’s Church, the open air Sunset Stage and the hidden woodland Soapbox Stage), with two authentic ‘village’ pubs serving competitively –priced festival ales plus possibly the smallest pub in the UK, The Halfway Inn.

Then there’s the FolkEast Art Arcade, packed dance programme, archery, donkey rides, a mini golf course, children’s activities (including den building, storybook making and a mud kitchen), yoga, poetry, storytelling, the Eastfolk Chronicle Kinedrome (showing folk and local interest films) and tours of Glemham Hall by Major Philip Cobbold.

On board again this year as a media partner will be BBC Radio Suffolk.

Early Bird tickets for the festival are now sold out. Advance weekend tickets are available price £120 (adult), £108 (full time students, senior citizens) and £80 for Youth tickets (12-17 year old) which must be purchased with an adult ticket. Family weekend tickets for two adults and two 12-17 year olds are £360. A great offer sees free admission for children aged 11 and under; camping is £15 per tent with a £25 charge for campervans and caravans.

Located close to the A12, the festival will also be running shuttle buses to the site from Wickham Market station. More performers and a launch event will be announced soon.

Festival website: www.folkeast.co.uk

McGOLDRICK, McCUSKER & DOYLE– City Roots Festival, The Junction, Cambridge (27 February 2018)

McGoldrick, McCusker & Doyle
Photograph by Su O’Brien

Even on this icy night, the venue is full, the crowd enthusiastic – a significant portion seemingly also having attended the recent Transatlantic Sessions. It’s the second visit to Cambridge in very short order for this trio of musicians and they are most warmly welcomed back. (As a side note, it looks like a simple accident of timing prevented Transatlantic Sessions from inclusion in this year’s City Roots festival).

Arriving slightly late (delayed by a missing bike lock key), the band is already underway, so it’s John Doyle’s Child song ‘What Put The Blood’ that makes the first impression. John McCusker follows with a trio of songs from his Hello Goodbye album incorporating a tender tune for his daughter, called ‘It’s A Girl’ with a strathspey link into ‘Billy’s’, a reel for Billy Connolly.

Doyle then takes up an elegant, restrained electric guitar for ‘Liberty’s Sweet Shore’, about the mass death of thousands fleeing the famine en route to Canada. Doyle’s plainly touched by a recent meeting with an elderly woman in Scotland who’d somehow survived this horrific ordeal.

Mike McGoldrick’s seemingly bottomless lungs and dancing fingers are in fine form as he takes the reins on ‘Leaving South Uist / Lochaber Badger’, two tunes learned and loved from earlier Transatlantic Sessions. To round off the first session, the crowd joins in with the deceptively jolly sea shanty ‘Billy O’Shea’, a cautionary tale of pressganging and death. Doyle momentarily loses his thread and, casting heavenwards for inspiration, he fills on guitar, greeted by an encouraging roar of support from the audience as he finds his place once more. It’s reassuring to know that even the most gifted among us is only human, after all!

A quintet of tunes including ‘Keane O’Hara’, ‘Rip The Calico’ and ‘Coming Of Age’ opens the second session, all taken from the new album, The Wishing Tree, and followed up by ‘Across The Western Ocean’ a downbeat sea shanty learned from Doyle’s father. The band happily jumbles over the various tune titles, finally settling on a relaxed, “they’re all on the CD” – which pretty much sums up their easy-going unforced rapport, the kind that only years of friendship can bring.

When they play, it’s a different matter altogether. There is a precision and clarity that unites them. Totally focused, totally in sync, every note is played cleanly: no smudging, blurring or elision. From bow strokes, to finger placing to chords, the line of the music is always sharply defined and crisp, no matter how fast the tempo gets.

They’re superb quick-change artistes too, swapping out instruments mid-tuneset in the blink of an eye, not missing a beat. Starting on whistles, McGoldrick switches to flute and McCusker to fiddle, whilst Doyle changes guitar. As the tune gathers pace, the sheer physical effort is etched on their faces and in their body movements, with Doyle arched over his instrument, practically driving it into the floor. Afterwards, McCusker only says drily, “Well, that went slightly faster than we’d hoped”.

Doyle presents his murder ballad ‘Burke And Hare’, with its chorus based on a children’s rhyme, and ‘The Apprentice Boy’ (aka ‘Charming Anne’) which he introduces as “an optimistic song – my only one”. McCusker’s tender ‘Leaving Friday Harbour’ provides a tender, wistful interlude.

The audience remains utterly engaged and absorbed, rocking out with the faster numbers, quietly attentive on the slower ones. At the end of the show, there’s uproarious applause and foot-stomping until the band returns with an encore of ‘The Banks Of The Bann’.

Never having seen this trio play before (I know), their superb musicianship delivered so much more than expected and, mostly, with apparently effortless ease. What an absolute pleasure to share in their warmth, intimacy and richly talented company for the past couple of hours.

Su O’Brien

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Believe it or not, these guys don’t have a dedicated web-site.

Live at Warwick Folk Festival:

BATTLEFIELD BAND – The Producer’s Choice (Temple COMD2108)

Producer's ChoiceIn late 2016 Battlefield Band was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall Of Fame which gave their long-time producer Robin Morton the excuse, if excuse were needed, to celebrate. Hence The Producer’s Choice, nineteen tracks featuring nineteen members of the band plus guest percussionists Donald Hay and Morton himself. Actually I count twenty but I don’t know what Jim Barnes had to do to be excluded from the official count.

The big names who passed through the band’s ranks are legends: Brian McNeill, Alan Reid, John McCusker, Davy Steele, Karine Polwart and, latterly, Ewan Henderson. All are featured but it’s probably the more obscure tracks that excite the most interest. The oldest tracks are ‘The Shipyard Apprentice’ and ‘Silver Spear/The Humours Of Tulla’ from 1977 featuring Reid, McNeill, John Gahagan and Jamie McMenemy followed by ‘Seven Braw Gowns’ from 1979 and featuring the band’s first female vocalist, Jenny Clark. Archie Fisher’s song is one of my favourite tracks in the set alongside McNeill’s ‘Lads O’ The Fair’ and ‘Rantin’ Rovin’ Robin’ featuring one of Scotland’s most underrated singers, Sylvia Barnes. ‘Leaving Friday Harbor’ is one of John McCusker’s finest tunes and I love the way that ‘The Canongate Twitch’ opens with the ‘Pinball Wizard’ riff.

The Producer’s Choice may be an important lesson for bands: let your producer sequence your album. Morton has done a superb job in mixing light and shade, songs and instrumentals, allowing the mood to go one way for a while before switching direction without any sense of dislocation. So Alan Reid’s wonderful song, ‘The Road Of Tears’, is followed by Ged Foley’s ‘Blackhall Rocks’ – stirring yet mournful – and then we’re into the melodic but rousing ‘Rantin’ Rovin’ Robin’.

For those who prefer Battlefield Band in stomping mood the album closes with the live ‘After Hours’ set and I was surprised to find that they have made only three live albums in over forty years – back in the 80s they were one of the hottest festival bands on the scene. Funny how things turn out.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: www.battlefieldband.co.uk

‘The Road Of Tears’ from the film Battlefield Band In Concert available from Temple Records.