MARTYN JOSEPH – Days Of Decision (Pipe Records PRCD029)

Days Of DecisionWhat do we know about Phil Ochs? He was a member of the 50s/60s protest movement and a prolific songwriter admired by his contemporaries. He never really had a hit in any conventional sense and died far too soon by his own hand. Yet, he is still remembered although, sadly, most of his records are out of print. I’d like to think that Days Of Decision, subtitled A Tribute To Phil Ochs, may do something to rekindle interest in his work. Martyn Joseph has something of Phil Ochs’ passion and commitment but also a great sensitivity towards the music. Someone else might have been tempted to “modernise” these songs but that isn’t Martyn’s way.

The set opens with one of Phil’s best-known songs, ‘I Ain’t Marching Anymore’, which holds a dark mirror to Dylan’s ‘With God On Our Side’. Phil details America’s wars, both foreign and domestic, and states forcefully that he’s had enough. Martyn performs it with a simple strummed guitar complete with a tap on the instrument at the end; it could have been recorded in 1962 in Phil’s kitchen.

He sticks to the same style through ‘I’m Gonna Say It Now’ and ‘Days Of Decision’, gradually increasing the complexity of his accompaniments, adding piano to ‘Flower Lady’. Many of these songs are rooted in contemporary events and with ‘The Ballad Of William Worthy’ I really had to investigate the back story. ‘That Was The President’ was written in the immediate aftermath rather than through the prism of history and it is probably the best song ever written about the events of November 1963.

Inevitably, many of the songs still resonate and I credit Martyn’s choice of material for this. ‘Knock On The Door’, ‘Lou Marsh’ and Phil’s other best known song, ‘There But For Fortune’, still have meaning: totalitarianism, gang warfare and poverty are still rife.

Very subtly, Martyn allows his performances to develop in parallel with Phil’s career. He is so deeply immersed in these songs that it’s easy to forget that you’re not listening to the originals although Martyn admits that he doesn’t have Ochs’ purity of tone. But if, Phil Ochs had lived to his mid-fifties this is how he would have sounded, I’m sure. As my first review of a 2020 release Days Of Decision seems most appropriate. It gives me some hope.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘When I’m Gone’ – live on the sofa:

Cropredy 2020 line-up announced


Fairport’s Cropredy Convention three-day open-air music festival announces the line-up for the 2020 event.

Now in its forty-first year, the festival will take place on Thursday 13, Friday 14 and Saturday 15 August 2020 on its usual farmland site in north Oxfordshire.

“We’re really pleased with this year’s line-up”, says Fairport bassist Dave Pegg. “It consolidates Cropredy’s core appeal, celebrates Fairport’s rich heritage and also introduces a wide and diverse range of music. It’ll be a particular pleasure to have Richard Thompson playing with us again during our three-hour headline set on the Saturday evening.”

Cropredy will feature two sets by host band Fairport Convention. On Thursday 13 August they will open the festival with a short acoustic set. On Saturday they will close the event with their customary extended headline performance.

Fairport’s Saturday set will include a fiftieth anniversary celebration of Full House, the band’s acclaimed 1970 LP. The Full House line-up of Simon Nicol, Richard Thompson, Dave Mattacks, and Dave Pegg will be joined by Chris Leslie (standing in for the late Dave Swarbrick) to play the whole album.

Thursday 13 August

Fairport Convention
Host band Fairport will open the festival on Thursday with a short acoustic set

Thumping Tommys
This London-based bluegrass outfit plays barn-storming blues-infused Irish, American, and English folk music.

Edward II
Cropredy favourites Edward II play a fusion of world music, folk and reggae blending the rhythms of the Caribbean with traditional British songs.

Multi-award winning band Clannad has arguably done more than any other band to bring Irish music to a worldwide audience.

Trevor Horn Band
One of the most influential producers in popular music, Trevor has worked with Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Grace Jones, Pet Shop Boys, Seal and Robbie Williams among many others.

Friday 14 August

Maddie Morris
Cropredy will present a set by singer-songwriter Maddie, winner of the 2019 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award.

Emily Barker
A Cropredy debut for this acclaimed Australian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose repertoire encompasses Americana, country and folk.

Home Service
Co-fronted by John Tams and John Kirkpatrick, Home Service is one of the UK’s best-loved folkrock groups and is characterised by a distinctive brass sound and great repertoire.

Martyn Joseph
Legendary singer/songwriter Martin returns to Cropredy with his rich voice and spellbinding songs.

The Slambovian Circus of Dreams
Hillbilly meets Pink Floyd in this surreal New York band. Rootsy psychedelia from the cool end of Americana.

The Sharon Shannon Quartet
Irish musician Sharon is known for button accordion, fiddle and whistle. Springing from Irish folk, her music reveals wide-ranging influences.

Turin Brakes
Indie folk rockers Turin Brakes are making their first appearance at Cropredy. They have seven studio albums and a million record sales to their credit.

Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited
One of the most Britain’s most accomplished and celebrated guitarists returns to Cropredy. Steve’s extraordinary musical versatility draws on influences as diverse as jazz, world and blues to recreate the unique sound of prog-rock legends Genesis.

Saturday 15 August

Richard Digance
BAFTA nominee Richard returns to his traditional Saturday slot to get the day off to a flying start.

Holy Moly & The Crackers
Fronted by vocalist Ruth Patterson, this Newcastle sextet mixes British folk with dollops of rock’n’soul, indie, balladeering and a touch of psychedelia. They describe their sound as “riotous party music for the masses.”

The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican
This comedy folk and parody band from Barnsley completely stole the show when they played Cropredy in 2018 and are back by popular demand.

Rosalie Cunningham
Rosalie Cunningham is an English singer/songwriter with a distinct style who has appeared on Later with Jools Holland and supported Jack White’s UK tour.

Matthews Southern Comfort
Fronted by ex-Fairport singer Iain Matthews, Matthews Southern Comfort plays melodic laid-back Americana.

Richard Thompson
Virtuoso guitarist and renowned songwriter Richard will take the Cropredy stage twice in 2020; in his own solo set and as part of the fiftieth anniversary of the Full House album.

Fairport Convention
Saturday’s traditional extended headline set from Fairport will include the band’s 1970 line-up playing the whole of Full House in album order plus the current line-up performing a wealth of material old and new.

Cropredy tickets on sale

Cropredy three-day tickets are on sale from today.

The first 1,000 orders will receive a Christmas card signed by all five members of Fairport Convention the first 2,000 will get a souvenir Cropredy car window sticker.

Tickets are available via Fairport Convention’s website



MARTYN JOSEPH – Here Come The Young (Pipe Records PRCD028)

Here Come The YoungMartyn Joseph released Here Come The Young on January 25th. I imagine most people reading will know Martyn Joseph, but in case he’s new to you, Joseph is a multi-award winning singer and songwriter. His lyrics spring from an internationalist and humanitarian belief in people and their ability to make the world a better place; his music has that rare ability to draw you in on first hearing – and years later you’re still playing it because you’re not yet sated by the songs; his live performances are compelling.

That’s rather a lot for a new album to live up to – but it does. Here Come The Young was produced by Gerry Diver, who apparently took Joseph outside his comfort zone and the resulting album, while still being very recognisably the same artist, has an even greater energy and depth of sound than previous albums: Martyn Joseph plus, perhaps? Bob Harris has described Here Come The Young as “Strong, powerful and brave, it takes Martyn’s songs to a new, exciting and challenging place”.

The video below is to the title track and would give an excellent introduction both to Joseph the artist and to this particular album. The song, which looks outward onto our world, is a simple statement of challenge and hope that the young who are tired of so much of our unequal socio-enviro-political world “might just save the day”. The powerful graphics on the video enhance the track even further.

By contrast, ‘Oh My Soul’ turns inwards, asking at us to believe in our “heart’s poetry” and has an exhortation in the chorus as part of the quatrain “Oh my soul/Let me get out of your way/Oh my soul/Wake up and seize the day”.

We are a chorus of many” is central to ‘Love’s Majority’, a classic Martyn Joseph song with a quietly expressive vocal and the ability to merge poetry into song in a verse like “We’re not just straining for the echoes/Of all the vision we hold dear/We’re looking for the common threads of love/That bind us truly human here”.

I don’t know if it’s the best song, but among many powerful tracks on the album ‘Driving Her Back To London’ is the one that tears most at my heart (in a good way). It’s a song about inter-generational swapping of tunes on iPhones “She plays Kings Of Leon I play her rolling Stones……I play you Bruce you play me Muse” and builds to a wider reflection of uncritical love – it’s something I’ve done, and this track captures the moment perfectly.

‘Take Back The Sky’ is written in memory of a young Palestinian medic, shot in Gaza; ‘Summer Has A Way of Finding You’ has the simplest arrangement (vocal, piano and cello), a complement to the more up-tempo band sound of ‘Get Back To You’ and the almost bluesy ‘This Glass’ – the latter a song which asks us to take our half-filled glass and fill it up with things of beauty for the human spirit. ‘Nothing Is Lost in Love’ is not only a tribute to the power of love but I’d imagine will become as much of a song for an audience to quietly sing along with several thousand full marquees have done previously with ‘On My Way’.

I’ll finish with ‘Communion’ in the middle of the album, which has the distinctive musical depth I mentioned earlier. I know of no other artist who could both write lines like “When I make the bed, it’s like breaking bread/I stand in our room and I fall in communion with you” and make them sound as pure as poetry when they are sung. Similarly the chorus:

So when we’re all cried out from singing
We’re gonna rise up and sing it again
And when the light goes down we’re gonna stoke the fire
And bring it back to life, bring it back to life again”.

These are images which can be seen as purely descriptive, but which are surely metaphors for hope. And, as ever with Martyn Joseph, these aren’t treatises, these are songs – when you hear them, you want to sing along.

Here Come The Young is a great addition to Joseph’s already impressive series of albums. He is on tour in Germany from February 15th and then in the USA before returning to the UK from mid-May

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website:

‘Here Come The Young’ – official video:

Martyn Joseph announces January release of new album

Martyn Joseph

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph returns with new album Here Come The Young released January 25th 2019 via Pipe Records. Produced by Gerry Diver (Tom Robinson, Lisa Knapp, Sam Lee), Martyn was encouraged outside his comfort zone and the result is a career defining record.

Martyn says of his new album, “The songs are exploring uncertainty to varying degrees through different subject matter both in the personal and political. I hope for those who listen it will be the sort of record that takes you on a journey and leaves you buoyed and hopeful at the end, despite the fact that we go to a few tough places.”

Born in Penarth near Cardiff, Martyn is gifted with the rare ability to speak to the soul with his expressive and poignant lyrics and has enjoyed a career spanning 35 years to date, over a half a million record sales and thousands of live performances. He has created his own style and reputation as a stellar songwriter, jaw-dropping guitar player and mesmerising performer, and social justice is an essential part of his music, which has been recognised with various humanitarian awards and plaudits. In 2014, he launched Let Yourself Trust, a not-for-profit organisation which aims to challenge injustice wherever it’s found, educating via advocacy, campaigning for human rights, and raising issues that have been forgotten or ignored, via fundraising initiatives. To date they have raised over a quarter of a million pounds. He’s also Patron of Advantage Africa and Festival Spirit in the UK and Project Somos in Canada/Guatemala.

On Here Come The Young, his songs are imbued with an optimism at a time when it is not easily found. Running throughout the album is a sense of hope and belief in the good of the majority, and that this will overcome the loud, cynical noise that pervades. For Joseph, songs are photographs of moments and visions be they good or bad, his lyrics encourage people to fight fear, cynicism and negativity and the rhetoric of those who hold power.

The title track ‘Here Come The Young’ suggests the young don’t have the same baggage of past generations and are more open and inclusive On ‘Loves Majority’, a protest song of sorts, the greater collective good will always outweigh the bad. There is a heart-breaking tribute to those who work for the betterment of others on ‘This Glass’. Self-doubt is the subject in ‘Oh My Soul’, encouraging belief in one’s journey. Six years ago, Martyn visited the West Bank in Palestine to play a festival and this became a catalyst to him forming a non-profit organisation to work with grassroots projects across the world. It was his experience in Gaza that lead him to write ‘Take Back The Sky’, where young kids fly kites as a symbol of freedom “the wrist that holds the string of dreams for one brief moment takes back the sky”.

Martyn has previously toured with the likes of Art Garfunkel, Jools Holland, Ani DiFranco, Suzanne Vega, Mike and The Mechanics, Joan Armatrading, Celine Dion and Shirley Bassey.  In 2016, in addition to playing over 170 shows worldwide, he was asked by the EFDSS and British Parliament to write and perform as part of Sweet Liberties with Nancy Kerr, Sam Carter and Maz O’Connor to mark 800 years of British democracy. One of his songs from this, “Nye” celebrating Nye Bevan, the author of the NHS, has been enthusiastically received by audiences everywhere, as well as having BBC national airplay on Mark Radcliffe’s Folk Show and Tom Robinson’s 6 Music show.

Artist’s website:

‘Nye’ from Sweet Liberties – official video:

Martyn Joseph honoured on both sides of the Atlantic

Martyn Joseph

Not just ‘one of acoustic music’s most original voices’, but also one of its most active humanitarians, acclaimed Welsh singer songwriter Martyn Joseph has received a top honour at the International Folk Music Awards in the USA.

Martyn was presented with a Spirit of Folk Award at the Folk Alliance International convention at the Folly Theatre in Kansas. These coveted awards are presented ‘to honour and celebrate people actively involved in the promotion and preservation of folk music through their creative work, their community building, and their demonstrated leadership’.

Known for his astute and powerful songs of compassion and one of the finest live acts on the circuit, Martyn has become a celebrated artist on both sides of the Atlantic over his 33-year career and aptly been dubbed “The Welsh Springsteen”.

Five years ago Martyn met his wife Justine Ferland at Folk Alliance and together they developed the UK charity Let Yourself Trust which has been actively involved in combatting social injustice, supporting myriad grassroots projects all over the world from helping rebuild a demolished family home in Palestine to leading a 25-strong team in the creation of a music centre in a Guatemalan children’s village and getting involved in Advantage Africa’s Albinism project in Uganda.

Accepting his award from Folk Alliance International’s Barbara Manners, Martyn said he was humbled: “These are strange days and we need good songs to remind us of who we really are. The real danger is cynicism and fear. We are a big army and we should be making a hell of a noise right now and I’m proud to be part of that rumble”.

Let Yourself Trust, whose patron is broadcaster Bob Harris OBE, has raised some £250,000 since its inception with recent projects including helping to clean a mercury poisoned river on a Canadian reserve, aiding the homeless at a Swansea refuge, supporting a teenage mental health project in Boston, USA and backing a mobile school initiative which provides education for street children in 25 countries.

Meanwhile back in the UK Martyn was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award by FATEA Magazine in their annual folk awards. FATEA’s Neil King said:

“Martyn Joseph has done more than create great music for a long period; it’s about the way he uses music and the recognition built up to put back into the wider community, focusing his attention towards trade justice, third world debt cancellation and human rights.”

Just after receiving the award Martyn played the famous Half Moon, Putney and was joined on stage by friend and Welsh actor/comedian Rob Brydon to sing Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’.

Two years ago, Joseph was also nominated at the AIM Independent Music Awards in London – in the closely contested category of Hardest Working Band or Artist whilst he has also been recognised with an Amnesty International Award for his support of Brazil’s MST Landless Workers’ Movement.

A previous winner of the Best Male Artist title in the BBC Welsh Music Awards, Joseph’s story (over three decades of performance, five Top 50 hits, half a million album sales and 32 album releases) continues to grow and connect with audiences everywhere.

An exceptional singer songwriter and guitarist, Joseph, who was invited by the English Folk Dance & Song Society’s (EFDSS) to write and take part in the Parliament-instigated democracy-celebrating project Sweet Liberties, has recently started recording his 33rd album which will be produced by in demand Gerry Diver and released next autumn.

Artist’s website:

SWEET LIBERTIES – Sweet Liberties (Quercus QRCD002)

Sweet LibertiesSweet Liberties, originally a commission by the EFDSS and Folk at the Oak, in partnership with the House of Commons, to mark the 2015: Anniversaries: Parliament in the Making, this has now expanded to become a 14-track album featuring a varied line up of folk musicians in celebration of 800 years in the pursuit of democracy.

Some of the names will be familiar, others less so, but all contribute thoughtful and relevant songs touching on various aspects of the overall topic. I am assuming that everyone listed in the credits (which includes Nancy Kerr and Patsy Reid on violin, Nick Cooke on melodeon) played on all (or most) of the songs, the writers themselves handling the vocals, perhaps the best known being Martyn Joseph who contributes three of his own numbers, the first, featuring fingerpicked guitar and violin, a revisiting of ‘Dic Penderyn’ from his Evolved album, the story of the 1831 Merthyr Riots and the man hung for a crime he could not have committed. The second, a duet with Sam Carter, is also one from the back catalogue, ‘Twelve Years Old’, from Songs For The Coming Home, inspired by the 1833 Factory Act and framed as a conversation between two children a hundred years apart. His third, ‘Nye’, is a new song written for the project, a fingerpicked, violin-accompanied tribute to those who work in the NHS and to its founder, fellow Welshman, Aneurin Bevan.

The album opens with ‘Kingdom’, the first of four songs by 2015’s BBC Folk Singer of the Year, Nancy Kerr, a traditional styled solo acoustic number that takes Magna Carta as a springboard to address the ownership and management of land for profit and the subsequent loss of habitat. Coloured by violin, ‘Seven Notes’ is another traditional framed track, one which uses the image of the migrating cuckoo as a poetic metaphor for colonialist history, setting it in an experiment in musical patterns to represent multicultural Britain.

Rather more jaunty, the waltzing, melodeon-led Music Hall-like ‘Lila’ (the only song not to also feature on her new Instar album) connects the suffragette movement with the abolition of slavery through its twin subjects, Adelaide-born Muriel Lila Matters, who took to a hot air balloon to scatter Votes for Women leaflets over Parliament, and Mary Prince, an eighteenth century Bermudian whose autobiography offered a narrative of slavery. Her fourth contribution, the spare, melodeon, violin and guitar accompanied ‘Written On My Skin’, again draws on metaphor and nature imagery (here a hunted fox) on a song in memory of women forced to resort to the Human Rights Act to have their sexual assault cases justly tried.

A relatively new voice on the British contemporary folk scene, Maz O’Connor also has four credits, all new recordings, kicking off with the violin-backed ‘Rich Man’s Hill’ which, inspired by the 1601 Poor Law and concerning the widening gap between the haves and have nots,, tells of a homeless man in London who believes that, if he works hard enough, he too can get himself a mansion. The one track to address democracy directly, ‘This Old House’ (a nod the Palace of Westminster) is a playful take on democracy and compromise framed in the context of a couple redecorating and patching up their shared house, pizzicato violin driving along the chorus.

Featuring nimble fingerpicked guitar and violin, ‘Broad Waters’, as the title suggests, concerns the 1985 killing of PC Keith Blakelock on the Broadwater Farm estate and the subsequent police fitting up of three innocent men for his murder, and is set as a dialogue between a police officer pressuring a young boy into testifying against Winston Silcott. Her last track, backed by just acoustic guitar, the plaintive ‘Broken Things’, also concerns social justice, here, borrowing the opening of Wilfred Owen’s Anthem For Doomed Youth, a lament for the decline of the trade union movement, focusing on the Miners’ Strikes of 1984 and, in particular, the death of David Jones during violence on a picket line.

Which leaves Sam Carter who, like Joseph, provides three numbers. Echoing Kerr, ‘Am I Not A Man?’ also addresses slavery a waltzing number inspired by freed slaves organisation Sons of Africa whose campaigning contributed to the Abolition of Slavery Act, drawing for its details on the slave autobiography Interesting Narrative Of The Life Of Olaudah Equiano.

His two other songs come at the back end of the album, the first being the lurching cabaret-styled ‘Dark Days’, a straightforward state of the nation comment with gyspy violin accompaniment, proceedings closing with the folksy salvationist hymn ‘One More River’, a return to the theme of slavery that sounds a personal note in that his great great aunt married the son of a fugitive Virginian slave, sun in his voice as he contemplates fleeing to England, ending in an unaccompanied chorus by Carter and, presumably, his three female associates.

Featuring none of the bombast or flagwaving that would likely characterise an American equivalent, this is both a damn fine album and a salient reminder of the liberties we so often fail to hold dear.

Mike Davies

‘John Ball’ live at the launch event: