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:

CAROL FIELDHOUSE – Linen (own label CAROLFIELDHOUSE02)

LinenIt’s not usual for an artist to release a debut album in their sixth decade but Carol Fieldhouse has done just that with Linen. Not that she’s a newbie to the business: she’s a specialist in early music and leader of folk trio Cenote but this is her first album as a solo singer-songwriter. It was produced by Boo Hewerdine who seems to be making a habit of finding new talent to nurture.

Carol has an MA in songwriting but even without knowing that you’d label her as a poet. Three of the songs are co-writes and there is one cover. At her best, Carol can raise a smile or a nod of recognition: the superb opener, ‘A Little Piece Of Land’, is about that peaceful place that we all need. “No mobile phones, a broadband ‘no go’” is one of the choruses while the title track, ‘Linen’, is primly suggestive: “I’m wearing linen now, less crisply pressed/But underneath, well who knows” is the closing couplet, and of course it’s about dancing.

For me, Carol’s up-tempo songs are her strongest. ‘Billy Marshall’ is straight out of the folk tradition – the story of a seventeenth century king of the gypsies – and ‘Residue’ could be full of pain were it not so defiant. These things are in the past, she is saying, let them remain so. Linen is very much guitar driven with Hewerdine and Neill MacColl supporting Carol’s playing and MacColl also plays mandolin and it is his decorations that make the record what it is. The exception is the cover with Jim Watson’s solo piano as Carol sings ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’. It feels like an odd choice but I’m not a Beatles fan so maybe that’s just me. Like most poetry, Linen will repay the attention you give it.

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).

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Artist’s website: http://www.carolfieldhousemusic.com/

‘The Wave’ – live with Cenote:

MARRY WATERSON AND DAVID A JAYCOCK Two Wolves (One Little Indian tplp1284cd)

MARRY WATERSON AND DAVID A JAYCOCK Two WolvesWhen her brother, Oliver Knight, decided to take a break from music, Marry Waterson found herself with something of a quandary. Not playing any instruments herself, while she might have the words, setting them to music was a bit of a problem. However, an unexpected, and frankly unlikely, new ‘musical foil’ presented itself in the form of Jaycock. Described by mutual friend James Yorkston as a “Cornish hermit and underground psychedelic freak-ball”, he’d been impressed when he saw her performing in 2009 and, out of the blue, got back in contact to see if she’d be interested in working together.

Although this mostly took place by e-mail and phone, the pair clearly developed a fruitful rapport, he retaining his experimental approach but tempering this with a more traditional structure, and she finding ways to wrap her words round the melodies. With guitarist Neill MacColl and multi-instrumentalist Kate St. John handling production duties, contributions from the likes of Simon Edwards, Alison Cotton and Kami Thompson and instrumentation that includes piano, oboe, viola, cello, accordion and Weissenborn, the album began to take shape, the songs roaming across a wide range of subjects.

Setting the tone, it opens with the watery guitar and dreamlike pastoral cor anglais and oboe-shaded sound of ‘Sing Me Your Tune’ (a instrumental reprise providing the album’s play out), the line “You were the strange melody that came fully formed to me, the picture you painted filled the space vacated” almost a summation of the working relationship. Musically, it summons up a sort of Arthur Rackham world, a landscape of ferns, dew-hung spider webs and dragonflies hovering over standing waters, an atmosphere that permeates the following ‘Hoping To Be Saved’, a visit to the beach littered with piano arpeggios about Britain’s disappearing village communities, and, indeed, much of the album.

The seaside also finds its way into the acoustic guitar and piano dream world of ‘The Honey And The Seaweed’, the lyrics shaped from the words of her late mother, Lal, found in the same 60s notebook from whence came many of the early songs for the ‘Bright Phoebus’ project. There’s another nod to the family legacy on ‘Velvet Yeller’ which interweaves samples of her late uncle Mike’s recording of the traditional ‘Tam Lin’ between Waterson’s own verses.

With a melody line at times reminiscent of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Stranger Song’, the title track explores the duality of human nature, a fight between ego and empathy, sorrow and serenity, etched with circling acoustic guitar and a wailing Jen-1000 synth that’s mirrored by Waterson’s mournful howl. If that conjures thoughts of late 60s progressive folk, so too do ‘Caught On Coattails’ and the accompanying a capella ‘Ginger Brown & Apple Green’, both of which are redolent of Pink Floyd, the former circa Piper At The Gates Of Dawn while the birdsong on the latter can’t help but recalls ‘Grantchester Meadows’ off Ummagumma. That same air of pastoral psychedelia also hangs over ‘Brighter Thinking’.

Featuring MacColl on marxophone, the dreamily lilting ‘Woolgathering Girl’ is a particular highlight, lyrically underscoring such Waterson influences as Dylan Thomas and Billie Holiday, the ghost of the latter also haunting the jazzy blues ambience of ‘Emotional Vampire,’ while the final stretch also offers the breathy, banjo-dappled intoxication of Mockingbird with its talk of “everyday déjà-vus” and the childhood nostalgia of the music hall coloured ‘Circa ’73’ with its playful Lewis Carroll-like imagery about Wendy houses, telephones made from paper cups. “stilts made from empty tins of powdered milk” and “quick brown frogs jumping over the dogs”.

Ethereal and melancholic, like its shadow play cover illustration, it conjures and transports you to a timeless world that exists just behind the veil of our perceptions, at once mysterious and unsettling, but also alluring and comforting.

Mike Davies

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).

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

‘The Honey And The Seaweed’ – official video:

Marry Waterson – new album

Marry Waterson - new album and tour

Marry Waterson returns with a brand new album made in collaboration with David A. Jaycock on 20th November. Entitled Two Wolves, it was recorded in May of this year and produced by guitarist Neill MacColl and multi-instrumentalist & arranger Kate St. John.

The seeds for the union were sown in 2013 when David was asked – via mutual friend and collaborator, James Yorkston – to rearrange ‘Yolk Yellow Legged’, a co-write with Yorkston taken from Marry and brother Oliver Knight’s 2011 debut The Days That Shaped Me. David had been struck by the character and warmth of Marry’s singing when he saw her performing with Yorkston in 2009. “It was earthy, dreamlike, warm, powerful and jagged. It had the capacity to be both melancholic and joyful, and it could tell a story – of course Marry Waterson could tell a story!”

When Oliver elected to take a break from music last year, Marry found herself without a musical foil (“I don’t play an instrument, my tunes are sung into existence.”) So she was intrigued when David – described by Yorkston as a “Cornish hermit and underground psychedelic freak-ball” (!) – renewed contact to see if she would be interested in working together.

Hearing David’s music was to prove revelatory.

“I felt like I had entered through a door hanging askew on one twisted hinge into a surreal world of cobwebs, all layered guitars and synths,” recalls Marry. “Sometimes it’s scary in there, but mostly it’s beguiling.” All the more so as Marry discovered that “I could sing anything into David’s tunes, the words just wrapped themselves easily around the melodies, though I had to be quite inventive sometimes to accommodate certain structures – and that gave me a different voice.”

Starting with what became ‘Sing Me Into Your Tune’ – completed in a matter of hours – Marry and David entered into an eager musical correspondence by email and by phone.

“What was coming back from Marry convinced me that we were on the right path. I felt a more tonal, but still dreamlike, surreal and at times dark sound was emerging. It was fascinating and exciting sending ideas and waiting to hear what came back. I could still experiment and be playful but always had an ear on keeping to a more traditional structure. Marry was interpreting the pieces beautifully. The lyrics were complete.  I felt we were working almost telepathically at times. Modern technology making it all possible.”

The match made, Marry went about assembling a team of musicians around her to best service the material. Having previously worked with Neill MacColl and Kate St. John on several projects including Hal Willner’s Rogue’s Gallery at Sydney Opera House, the Bright Phoebus tour and on the forthcoming Ewan MacColl tribute album Joy of Living (contributing ‘The Exile Song’), the pair were the obvious choice to produce the record, in turn enlisting the help of outstanding musicians Kami Thompson (The Rails), Michael Tanner (Plinth), Alison Cotton (The Left Outsides), Simon Edwards (Fairground Attraction) and Emma Black (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra).

“Neill is another brilliant musician who really listens and gives you space,” enthuses Marry. “His contributions are so tasteful yet subtle, his playing is awesome, he’s rock solid and I feel safe with him. Kate’s arrangements are so compelling and definitive, vividly bringing these stories to life. They are both inventive and intuitive players.”

The songs themselves cover a wide range of subject material from laments about disappearing village communities (‘Hoping To Be Saved’) to the title track’s reflection on the duality of human nature. Two songs explicitly acknowledge the Waterson legacy: The words to ‘The Honey and the Seaweed’ are fashioned from an original Lal Waterson lyric, written out of love for her friend and co-writer Christine Collins and set down in the late 60’s in a book containing early Bright Phoebus songs. ‘Velvet Yeller’ meanwhile utilizes Mike Waterson’s recording of ‘Tam Lin’ to startling effect. “I got to ‘sing’ with him one more time by weaving him into this tribute, which he read before he died,” says Marry of the song.

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.

Artist’s website: http://marrywaterson.com/