TANNARA – Strands (Braw Sailin’ Records CD006BSR)

StrandsAfter their impressive debut, Trig, Tannara could have headed into folk-rock territory – Owen Sinclair played a mean electric guitar. Alternatively, they could have turned back to their roots and with Robbie Greig coming in to replace Cameron Ross on fiddle it seems that was the direction they chose. Although all the tracks on Strands are originals (with a couple of borrowings), the band’s second outing is a more thoughtful affair. Mattie Foulds is still in place as recording engineer and occasional percussionist but Sinclair and Joseph Peach have taken over production duties.

The first track, ‘Smiling’ comprises two tunes ending in a field recording of running water which lead in the first song, ‘The Next Station Is’, which begins with voices discussing something or perhaps nothing. The songwriter and vocalist is Sinclair and the song could have been rocked up but, although there are some interesting sounds bubbling away underneath the song is lead by acoustic guitar, fiddle and accordion. It ends with a big finish without ever getting out of hand.

Peach’s ‘Good Ship’ is dedicated to Sinclair and then comes Becca Skeoch’s first contribution – not delicate harp pieces although her harp is there over the underlying keyboards and drums – but something rather modern with Greig’s fiddle as much to the fore as the harp. There’s just a touch of the grungy sound that they employed on Trig. The second song is ‘Spent Lees’, a melancholy piece again by Sinclair with Peach’s keyboards and lots of strings.

Tannara have succeeded in bringing traditional influences together with modern ideas in a way that doesn’t jar. Traditional sounding tunes pop up playfully among arrangements which are definitely modern without being outré. The final track, ‘Jutland’, with words by Les Sullivan given a very traditional tune by Sinclair, begins with the voice of Danny MacLachlan, a survivor of the battle recorded in a very formal style in 1970. The song is punctuated by the sound of Morse code and ends with Tom Anderson reminiscing about survivors watching film of the battle in their later years. It’s a modern approach while still being respectful to the past and that’s what Tannara do. I applaud them for it.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Spent Lees’ – official video:

Tannara announce new album

Tannara

2019 will be the biggest year yet for Tannara, with the release of their second album Strands at the Celtic Connections Festival 2019. The album represents a significant development for the band who have spent the past two years writing and recording this superb work.

The album was produced by Owen Sinclair and accordionist Joseph Peach, with input and guidance from Lau’s Martin Green. They’ve created a whole world around the band’s music; of found sounds and samples, synthesisers, and guest performances from Mattie Foulds on percussion and Josie Duncan on backing vocals

Following the album release, the band are set for a busy year of doing what they love best-performing- with UK tours taking place in March and September, a summer of festival appearances, and touring in mainland Europe in November.

Bold, creative, and original; Tannara (Owen Sinclair, Robbie Greig, Becca Skeoch and Joseph Peach) have established themselves as one of the UK’s most interesting and unique contemporary folk groups.

Formed in 2014, the band came about as a natural extension of the four members’ love of making music together. Fuelled by this, they’ve covered considerable musical ground over the past five years. With a background in Scotland’s native traditions, their ceaseless musical development is a melting pot of ideas, genres and sounds: From indie rock to electronica, as well as Scotland’s vibrant and diverse folk scene.

Unafraid to experiment, their music is an electrifying meeting place for a world of sounds: Punchy and clean, riotous and gritty, tender and honest. On fiddle, harp, guitar, accordion and vocals, Tannara make an intensely considered musical world which is uniquely theirs.

Their debut album Trig was released in 2016. Produced by Rachel Newton, their first offering as a band was a raw, joyous, reflection of a band finding its sound.

It was received to great acclaim, from critics and audiences alike. Described by Living Tradition Magazine as “Simply Outstanding”, it was longlisted for “Album of the Year” at the 2016 Scots Trad Music Awards, the same year in which the band were nominated for “Up and Coming Artist of the Year”.

From open air festivals, to intimate house concerts, and everything in between, the band love playing live. A fact that’s reflected by their so far busy schedule of performances and radio appearances across Europe, with highlights including Cambridge Folk Festival, and Festival Interceltique de Lorient, a performance described as “Firey and Graceful” by The Herald.

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‘Spent Lees’ – official video:

Elliott Morris announces debut album

Elliott Morris

Lost And Found is the debut album from singer/songwriter and guitarist Elliott Morris. Recorded at Caribou Studios, Scotland and produced by Mattie Foulds, the album is a melting pot of folk, rock, blues and country. Blending progressive, contemporary ingredients with still vibrant British folk and roots traditions, this is folk music for the 21st century.

The album showcases Elliott’s expert percussive acoustic guitar playing, swooping and soulful electric solos, heartfelt lyrics and strong, honest vocals.

And he’s put together an all-star ensemble. Playing alongside are Paul Carrack (Ace, Squeeze, Mike + The Mechanics, Eric Clapton) on Hammond organ, Paul’s son Jack Carrack on drums, Innes Watson (Treacherous Orchestra) and Mike Vass (PRS Scots Trad Composer of the Year, SAY Award Nominee) on fiddles/strings, Laura-Beth Salter (The Shee) on mandolin and vocals, Lisbee Stainton (Seth Lakeman Band) on guitar and vocals, Jim Molyneux (4Square) on piano and Fender Rhodes, Alan Thomson (The John Martyn Band) on fretless bass and Elliott’s brother Bevan Morris (Dallahan, Pons Aelius) on double and electric bass.

Music blog WriteWyattUK proclaimed that Elliott Morris “redefines folk…with a little John Martyn influence delivered in Seth Lakeman style” and BBC 6Music’s Tom Robinson described him as “absurdly talented”.

Lost And Found is released both on CD and on iTunes worldwide on 16th June 2017. Elliott plays a special launch gig at Cecil Sharp House in London on 21st June, and at Café Portico in Lincoln on 30th June.

With hundreds of gigs behind him – and a coveted Danny Kyle Award from Celtic Connections 2013 – Elliott Morris has a formidable reputation as one of the hardest-working and most sought-after young artists on the acoustic scene.

The singer-songwriter, featured in Acoustic magazine as “The Next Big Thing”, taps the strings and beats the guitar’s body to create an intricate spectacle, together with an original and unique sound integral to his songs.

Half English, half Scottish and raised in Wales and Lincolnshire, Elliott is continuing this journey by means of his almost constant touring schedule. He plays across the British Isles, from Orkney to Plymouth, Boston to Llangrannog, Belfast to Clonakilty.

Elliott’s original compositions marry intricate guitar lines with heartfelt, honest vocals and clever wordplay, combining elements of folk, roots, jazz and country, all the time embracing the traditional and the contemporary.

Elliott has honed his craft on the road, regularly clocking up 120+ gigs a year. He has headlined in Germany, Holland, Ireland and Upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, as well as performing at major festivals such as Cambridge Folk Festival, Hop Farm, Towersey Festival, The London Acoustic Guitar Show and the Ullapool Guitar Festival. He scooped a prestigious Danny Kyle Award at Celtic Connections in Glasgow, and last year BBC Alba broadcast a duo performance with Dougie Maclean at Perthshire Amber.

Elliott Morris twice toured the UK opening for Paul Carrack (Squeeze, Mike + The Mechanics, Ace, Eric Clapton), taking in over fifty major venues including a show at The London Palladium.

He has also supported a seemingly endless list of other respected acts, among them Frank Turner, Andy McKee, Seth Lakeman, Lau, Big Country, The Levellers, Ed Sheeran, Cara Dillon and Eddi Reader. But now Elliott moves centre stage, the spotlight focused on him.

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

‘Sirens’ and Elliott’s tour video:

BENJAMIN WILLIAM PIKE – A Burdensome Year (Gin House Records)

A Burdensome YearWhen I first heard of Benjamin William Pike’s latest CD A Burdensome Year (released on January 27th 2017), my interest was piqued by a suggested comparison to Michael Chapman. (That’s the folky/bluesy/jazzy singer and guitarist, not the Chinnichap chap who wrote and produced hits for the likes of Sweet, Suzi Quatro and Blondie in the 70s.) And there is a resemblance to Chapman sometimes in song structure, but mostly in Benjamin’s “gin-soaked” vocals, though the overall effect is perhaps smoother. However, Benjamin’s fluent guitar lines reminded me less of Chapman than of Jack Jackson (to whom there is also an occasional vocal resemblance) and at some points Martin Simpson. The instrumental work here is as more about providing a strong melodic basis for the songs than it is about displaying technique, though his mastery of the acoustic guitar in particular is evident.

I was also interested, after recently reviewing The Treatment Tapes EP by Rab Noakes, to find that the songs on this CD were also based on his experience of illness, hospitalization and surgery. Not that I have the least objection to people using their personal experiences directly in their music-making, and for the benefit of those who are uneasy with sad songs, let me reassure you that the general tone of this album is generally upbeat, despite the poignancy of some of the lyrics.

Personnel:

  • Benjamin William Pike: vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, pedal steel, piano, Fender Rhodes
  • Mattie Foulds: drums, percussion, backing vocals
  • Adam Richards: double bass
  • Patsy Reid: violin, viola
  1. ‘Beasts Of Burden’ is not, of course, the Rolling Stones track of almost the same name, though there’s something slightly exotic about the way he sings the modal melody and underlying guitar figure that might remind you a little of early Stones music and Brian Jones’s experimentation with Indian and North African influences. (Benjamin is, in fact, well-acquainted with Indian classical music: I’d like to hear some of his work in that area.)
  2. ‘Hand You’ve Been Dealt’ includes some somewhat Simpson-esque acoustic guitar work, and has a fatalistic lyric, and some passages that are almost orchestral. Very nice interplay between the bass and the guitar, and a catchy chorus.
  3. Benjamin describes ‘Ones To Forget’ as a country song, and the restrained steel guitar in the background does give it a country feel.
  4. The guitar in ‘Ties That Bind’ makes it sound a little folkier. Though the lyric describes “things slowly falling apart“, the up-tempo arrangement keeps it the right side of lugubrious.
  5. ‘Keep Me In Your Mind’ is one of those songs like Phil Ochs’s ‘When I’m Gone…’ and Warren Zevon’s ‘Keep Me In Your Heart For A While’ that face up to the thought of a world without the composer in it, and it’s a very attractive example of that idiom. Fortunately, it was premature.
  6. The intro to ‘Bless The Bad Days’ is similar enough to the previous song that for a minute I thought I’d fallen for a false ending, despite the spoken “1,2,3,4…” that leads into it. Once it gets going, though, it’s a song that more than deserves a place on the CD in its own right.
  7. Benjamin describes ‘Time To Lend’ as having been “swirling around my heard in the first days after my operation…This is about being short on time.” His always excellent acoustic guitar work is supported by some unostentatious but totally appropriate electric guitar.
  8. ‘Dead Man Walking’ isn’t as gloomy as the title might suggest, being about “the death and re-birth of the body and mind“.
  9. ‘Down This Road’: I love the line “If you don’t know what the hell you are doing, you’re probably doing things right” and the general message about learning from your mistakes rather than abandoning them.
  10. ‘City Living’ has an attractive tune with a between-verses acoustic guitar part somewhat reminiscent of ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’ as Martin Simpson might have played it. The song itself is more country than folk, but with its theme of a musician wanting to get back to country living, perhaps that resemblance is deliberate. In any case, it rounds off the CD nicely.

There’s a lot to enjoy here. Those vocals may or may not be gin-soaked, but they’re certainly not unmusical. They carry some very interesting songs very well. While this probably isn’t intended to be a CD focused on guitar wizardry, Benjamin’s fluent technique shines throughout, with some solid instrumental support. I would, perhaps, have ordered the tracks a little differently (especially track 6), and some of the choruses repeat lines a little more than I like personally. Nonetheless, I look forward to hearing much more from him.

David Harley

Artist’s website: www.benjaminwilliampike.co.uk/

‘Beasts Of Burden’ – promo video:

TANNARA – Trig (Braw Sailin’ Records CD001BSR)

TrigHere is yet another fine young band coming out of Scotland with a song on their lips and a tune in their hearts. We think this album is called Trig – that little symbol on the cover, see. Actually it’s written on the spine but I don’t believe anything I read these days and that little tease seems typical of their approach. Rooted in the tradition but not in thrall to it.

At the heart of the band are the traditional instruments you would expect but it’s the other instruments and how they are used that strikes you first. In ‘Two Birds, No Stones’, for example, there is the juxtaposition of  Becca Skeoch’s harp with a grungy electric guitar from Owen Sinclair who also wrote the tune which is paired here with Andy Cutting’s ‘Archie The Flying Beast’. Owen is also the band’s vocalist and they have put together a strange and haunting version of ‘Three Ravens’, not at text I’ve heard before and one in which the doe is replaced by a lady. The other two songs, ‘When First I Came To Caledonia’ and ‘Queen Jane’ are also given imaginative treatments in which Joseph Peach’s piano and Fender Rhodes feature.

Cameron Ross’ fiddle is the mainstay of the instrumental sound and he contributes one tune ‘Deid Fish’ (yes, there is a story there) but it’s the interplay between the instruments that’s crucial – a tribute to the recording skills of Mattie Foulds and the production of Rachel Newton who, I’m sure, ensured that the harp was never swamped even with everything else that’s going on around it.

I never cease to be astonished by the young talent emerging from Scotland – perhaps I should take it for granted by now – but Trig merely confirms that the process is ongoing. And I always find something new to enjoy.

Dai Jeffries

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Tannara live in Antwerp – a compilation:

RACHEL NEWTON – Here’s My Heart Come Take It (Shadowside SHADOW02)

Here's My Heart Come Take ItRachel Newton’s third solo album, Here’s My Heart Come Take It, is a gorgeous, sophisticated work for which great credit must go to co-producer and engineer Mattie Foulds who also added percussion to the vocals, harps and keyboards of the initial recording sessions.

The set opens with the title track; traditional words with Rachel’s own tune. It’s a warning about the fickleness of young women, or perhaps a warning to fickle young women as she is the loser in this case. ‘Gura Mise Tha Fo Mhulad’ then provides the opposite viewpoint – that it doesn’t do to be too trusting for fear of ending up spurned with a babe in arms. ‘The Bloody Gardener’ is a classic murder tale and a warning to young men not to be late on a date while ‘Proud Maisrie’ proves that the women usually get the upper hand.

Rachel’s electroharp rings bell-like on the title track and I presume that’s some sort of oscillator tone in the background. Then the piano (also Rachel) and drums come in and Lauren MacColl’s strings swell over the top and her solo violin soars plaintively over the second track. Doomy piano features heavily but ‘Proud Maisrie’ is as close to folk-rock as you can get. I don’t believe Pentangle recorded it but this arrangement would have suited them perfectly. Foulds does enjoy panning across the soundscape and lets himself go a bit on this track which is really the record’s big production number.

As you may know, Rachel has a love of country and western but doesn’t indulge it on record. But here’s ‘Don’t Go Out Tonight My Darling’ from the Max Hunter collection which is C&W in everything except execution decorated as it is by Michael Owers lonely flugelhorn. Later comes another Max Hunter song. ‘Poor Lost Babe, first recorded in Arkansas and it would be a short step from an Ozark ballad to a country standard.

As I said, this a beautiful album and with everything else that’s going on Rachel is still front and centre where she should be.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s website: www.rachelnewtonmusic.com

There are no videos from the album yet but here is the title track: