KITEWING – Kitewing (own label)

KItewingKitewing’s self-titled album avoids Joni Mitchell’s warning about “putting all the trees in a tree museum” (more about that later!). That said, this album is superb British (all the way from Norwich!) folk music with strong vocals, acoustic guitars, harmonies, fiddles, a banjo, and the occasional tenor guitar.

The (great!) world folk band 3 Mustapha 3’s slogan was “Forward in all directions”. And those words certainly capture the perfectly balanced and greatly talented contributions from each member of Kitewing. The first instrumental, ‘Island/Pull Down Your Vest’, skates on melodic ice with wind-blown mandolin, violin, and strummed acoustic guitar. It’s a delightful overture. Then, ‘The Greenland Shark’, an original song by Christina Alden, touches beautiful weather, with vocals that caress ancient folk driven winds, with a bit of a seagull soar floating over the tune. There are more original songs. Georgia Shakleton’s sweet-voiced ‘Five Thousand Miles’ is a banjo bounced and fiddle framed always fresh Appalachian melodic memory.

Kitewing’s instrumental touch is graced with a finely woven tulle weave. The before mentioned original ‘Island’ (Thank you, once again, Georgia Shakleton!) is fused with the traditional ‘Pull Down Your Vest’. And, Nic Zuppardi’s ‘Holy Mackerel’ highlights his own mandolin prowess, but morphs to yet another foray into Appalachian country dance music as it explodes with fiddles, acoustic guitar, and light percussion. My friend, Kilda Defnut, says (with oxymoronic intent!), “This tune is propelled with delicate explosives”.

Ditto for the intricate ‘Winder Slide’.

And ditto, ditto, as the band glides through Liz Carroll’s ‘A Tune For A Girl’ and links its labyrinth melody into the fiery drive with Aaren Bennett’s strident strum of their own ‘Tune For The Gulls’.

Of course, Kitewing, even with its fertile modern folk compositions, has a deep-rooted soul. Their rendition of the traditional ‘Handsome Molly’ has a harmonious and gentle touch on a tune that is etched (perhaps by Cecil Sharp!) into the most ancient of emotive folk song oaken bark, and has been read by so many great artists like Dylan, Doc Watson, Peggy Seeger, Norman Blake, and (my personal favourite) Bill Morrissey. Indeed, Kitewing is in good company.

Now, for an explanation of that (also before-mentioned) Joni Mitchell’s warning about “putting all the trees in a tree museum”. You know, it’s very easy and way too comfortable for a folk-loving Anglophile to fall back into the “museum” vaults of 70’s classics reissued on compact disc (and now on resurrected and often expensive vinyl!). It’s all available from brilliant bands like Dando Shaft, Steeleye Span, Mr. Fox, Trees, and thankfully, more obscure groups like Decameron, Spirogyra, Flibbertigibbet, Lick The Tins, and (my favorite!) Hedgehog Pie. And it’s equally easy to quote the great Vin Garbutt, whose final song on his Tossin’ A Wobbler album sang, “They Don’t Write ‘Em Like That Any More”.

Well, Kitewing’s new album sprouts from those classic roots, but let’s just say it isn’t yet for sale in the museum gift shop. This is vibrant folk music that sparkles with an always river current zest, as Alex Patterson’s instrumental, ‘Buffy – Mary And Joes’ wags a merry dance stepped flagon filled flag. Nice. Then, ‘Bird’s Nest Bound’ oozes with even more of a see-saw sawdust trans-Atlantic Appalachian fiddle, banjo, and vocal vibe. Nice, again!

The final song, ‘Dig Away’, is folk song perfection, with vocals that harmonize with unison faith and the instrumentation of (almost) religious sermon certainty.

Sometimes, even today, “They Still Write ‘Em” with a folk magic that engulfs Pentangle time. This is an album of good songs galore, nicely balanced with danceable tunes, and with an age-old “great Valerio” tight rope walk, spins in a very modern and melodic folk song’s “Forward in all directions” groove.

Bill Golembeski

Artists’ website:

‘Holy Mackerel, – live: