TREMBLING BELLS – Dungeness (Tin Angel)

DungenessDrummer and singer Alex Neilson declared that, for ‘Big Nothing’, the 62-second opening track on Dungeness, the band’s seventh album, he wanted the plangent chords “to sound gigantic and degraded, like a building collapsing in slow motion” as well as capturing the parched, flat end of the earth landscapes of the Kent headland from which it takes its title.

It’s a sonic description that extends to much of what follows, brooding reverb bass, wah wah pedal, drums and keys providing the introduction and bedrock to ‘Knockin’ On The Coffin’ with its dark, mutant cosmic medieval feel and Lavinia Blackwall’s soaring echoing soprano held back in the mix as the song, inspired by Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, explores the twin poles of destruction and desire, sounding as though it’s been disinterred from some 70s psychedelia crypt.

Nodding to Incredible String Band and Bowie influences, as well as Ted Hughes and WB Yeats, ‘My Father Was A Collapsing Star‘ has descending scales and a wonky singalong chorus either side of sonic storm midsection while, Simon Shaw’s bass again laying down the bedrock for the galloping rhythm, ‘Death Knocked At My Door’ offers a disorienting amalgam of folk, samba, freakbeat, glam and pop.

Although the keys and guitars seem to be charting a different course, the melody, fiddle crescendo and Blackwall’s singing in ‘Christ’s Entry Into Govan’ are more in tune with traditional Scottish folk filtered through their early Fairport influences.

‘The Prophet’ is a sparser, doomier affair more akin to stoner metal with its sludgy, lumbering riffs and Blackwall’s howls, giving way to the angular riffs and mantra-like Eastern flavoured feel of the melody and vocals of ‘Devil In Dungeness.’ Following this, Neilson on vocals, the rhythmically fluid ‘This Is How The World Will End’ strikes a distinct contrast, not least with the inclusion of a country rolling bridge spanning the otherwise Scottish folk elements before taking off into the skies for the distortion heavy, anthemic finale.

Blackwall again to the fore, the swayalong ‘I’m Coming’ is the album’s most immediate musically accessible track, although the sexual imagery involving erotic auto-asphyxiation and “the blood rushing on my tongue” that co-mingles with spiritual cues and lyrics about the abuses of power probably won’t find it on mid-morning Radio 2 anytime soon.

It ends in formidable form with the Early Music (the sleeve image is firmly Renaissance) and ISB influences of ‘Rebecca, Dressed As A Waterfall’, Celtic drone, hurdy gurdy, trilling recorder, synthesised birdsong and Blackwell’s high flying folk soprano eventually giving way to a chaotic instrumental swirl with improvised drumming that gradually builds to a climax and gently fades. Folk music for the closing night of the apocalypse.

Mike Davies

Artists’ website:

‘Christ’s Entry Into Govan’ – live:



Trembling Bells

Galley Beggar were about to premiere some of their new album, Silence & Tears, in front of a live audience and they were … not nervous but a little apprehensive about the reception the new material would receive. Of course, they had no need to worry.

They began with a couple of old favourites: ‘The Outlandish Knight’ and ‘Willow Tree’ before the most typical of the new material, ‘Geordie’ with a stunning solo from David Ellis. ‘Empty Sky’ followed ‘Adam And Eve’ then came ‘Pay My Body Home’, the song from the album that is destined for live greatness and which allowed David into guitar heaven. They closed with ‘Jack O’Rion’, a big ballad compressed into a few minutes’ story-telling – the perfect ending to the set.

Sadly, Celine Marshall was unavailable but her dep, Emma Scarr, did a solid job although possibly without the freedom of expression that Celine might have had. It was still a fine set and one that would have appealed equally to the dedicated fans as well as the merely curious.

Galley Beggar Photograph by Ester Segarra

Trembling Bells also have a new album, The Sovereign Self, and a new guitarist, Alasdair C Mitchell, but it is still Mike Hastings, a giant of a man who produces a big sound from his Burns guitar who dominates the stage almost as much as Lavinia Blackwall. Actually, Mitchell is more than just a guitarist, sometimes taking over from Lavinia on keyboards and adding another voice.

They started with three songs without a word of introduction, just great waves of sound washing over us and their albums are a bit like that; you have to attune your head to them. The guy behind me remarked that it was like San Francisco in 1968. I’ll take his word for it because I know I wasn’t there but I think I know what he means. I suspect that it’s more the way we remember the sixties to have been than the way they really were.

‘O, Where Is Saint George’, which begins with a fragment of the Padstow May Day song, is perhaps typical of Alex Neilson’s unique imagination moving from a traditional lyric to what sounds like stream of consciousness or cut-up – “Lou Read and Lauren Bacall defeated Asterix the Gaul” and I admit that I looked that up afterwards. ‘Bells Of Burford’ feels like a traditional song written by Dennis Wheatley while melodically echoing ‘The Lyke Wake Dirge’ and was one of the highlights of the set.

There were more moments of weirdness with Alex’s solo turns at the microphone. One might have been called ‘My Girlfriend’s Got No Navel’ but I’m not sure I got that right. When they announced their final number it seemed like an awfully short set but they came back to finish with a spiky version of ‘The Auld Triangle’. Everyone went home very happy and a good many albums were bought – even by me.

Dai Jeffries

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 or contact us direct via

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

Helen and Damian
for The Armistice Pals


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.