ODETTE MICHELL – The Wildest Rose (Own Label)

The Wildest RoseAs previously mentioned on Folking.com, Odette Michell is following up her well-received debut EP from 2018 (By Way Of Night) with a full-length album called The Wildest Rose. The new CD will be launched at TwickFolk, held in the Cabbage Patch in Twickenham, on April 14th 2019, and is due for release on the 26th April. The launch will feature special guests Richard Lee & Phil Beer which gives you some idea of the regard in which she’s held among her fellow musicians. Talking of which, Odette’s vocals, guitar and bouzouki are more than ably supported here by Phil Beer on fiddle and backing vocals (tracks 1, 3 and 10), Stu Hanna on a variety of instruments (especially violin) and backing vocals on most tracks, and Toby Shaer on fiddle and whistle (tracks 2, 7 and 8).

Here’s the track list.

  1. If the sleeve didn’t tell me that ‘The Wildest Rose’ was written by Odette, I’d have assumed it was a traditional song I hadn’t met before: not only because of the cast of the lyrics – it seems to be a trademark of hers to write lyrics that are strongly influenced by traditional forms – but because of the shape of the very strong melody which has more than a hint of Irish. Some fine fiddling (of course) from Phil Beer here.
  2. ‘The Banks Of Annalee’ is also along traditional lines lyrically but a little more contemporary in presentation, with very striking vocal multi-tracking on the chorus, and nice doubling up between the fiddle and whistle.
  3. ‘Rolling Shores Of England’ is a nostalgic song that benefits from vocal harmony from Phil Beer.
  4. The title of ‘Bless The Ground You Grow On’ kind of speaks for itself. The vocal harmonies (which reminded me a little of Alison Krauss) and mandolin are particularly effective here.
  5. It would be a trifle perverse to make a song featuring the ‘Great Old Northern Line’ sound very traditional, I guess, and in fact this one leans a little (not too much!) towards country, but as ever, it has a very strong chorus that I could well imagine being popular in sessions. Very striking lyrics: it’s a pity there’s no lyric sheet with the CD. I almost catch myself being nostalgic for the 25 years I spent commuting on the Tube.
  6. ‘True Lovers Farewell’ is a very classy minor-key version of a song sometimes known as ‘Fare Thee Well’ or ‘Ten Thousand Miles’ or even ‘The Turtle Dove’ (under which title it was arranged by Vaughan Williams, though this is a very different reading). Beautifully sung with very tasteful guitar harmonies.
  7. ‘I Once Loved A Shepherd’ starts with striking double-tracked whistle before moving into a very accomplished story-song, though the tune is a little reminiscent of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Urge For Going’ in the chorus.
  8. There are many broadside ballads about the Gunpowder Plot, but ‘Light Up London Town’ takes a more contemporary approach, and yes, includes a strong chorus.
  9. ‘Dance Me Through The Night’ is perhaps the most ‘modern’ song here, but still fits very well in delivery and instrumentation with the rest of the CD.
  10. ‘The Eastern Seas’ could easily pass as an Irish air, and a good one at that. A lovely finish to the CD.

All in all, this is a fine collection of excellent melodies, beautifully sung and played, most of which give a nod lyrically and or melodically to UK traditional forms without straying too far into pastiche, and are notable for their irresistible choruses.

David Harley

Artist’s website: www.odettemichell.com

‘The Banks Of Annalee’ – live:

Odette Michell announces debut album

Odette Michell
Photograph by David Sell

The Wildest Rose is the enchanting debut album from Hertfordshire based folk singer-songwriter Odette Michell.

The album follows on the heels of Odette’s 2018 debut EP By Way of Night, which itself showcased a bold and emerging talent within the British folk and acoustic music scene. The EP garnered high praise and gained Odette her first national and international radio plays across the early part of 2018.   

 “…’By Way Of Night’ demonstrates a freshness and vitality enduring in English folk … it also presents a talent that English folk should not ignore”  – FolkWords, May 2018

When it came to her first full length studio album, Odette chose wisely by teaming up with acclaimed producer Stu Hanna (also one-half of the award winning folk duo Megson) and soon after released her first single; Bless The Ground You Grow’ – a “taster” for the forthcoming album – and an exciting glimpse of the shape of things to come. The single led to an exclusive premiere on Folk Radio UK and was accompanied by a stunning music video filmed on location at the legendary Chalk Horse in Oxfordshire.

Featuring on the album are exciting musical contributions from Phil Beer (one-half of the multi-award-winning acoustic folk band Show of Hands) who plays fiddle on the hearty opening title track as well as the evocative closing track ‘The Eastern Seas’ – and also lends his trademark vocals in sensitive accompaniment to Odette’s, in the third track ‘The Rolling Shores Of England’.

Fiddle/whistle player and man of the moment Toby Shaer (Cara Dillon, Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys) also lends his genius musical wizadry on three of the tracks – the rousing folk fairytale ‘The Banks of Annalee’, the upbeat ‘Light Up London Town’, (a song exploring the political climate behind the famous gunpowder plot of 1605) – and also the hauntingly beautiful ‘I Once Loved A Shepherd’.

Musically, the album covers a varied landscape – it pays homage to the natural landscape that surrounds us and explores our nation’s colourful history; and it visits the idiosyncrasies of human experience whilst veering playfully into the all but lost art of storytelling.

The Wildest Rose is a compelling, highly impressive debut that both soars and soothes, whilst effortlessly breathing fresh new life into the rich acoustic tradition that the songs themselves emerged from.

Artist’s website: https://www.odettemichell.com/

There will be an exclusive Album Launch for The Wildest Rose on Sun 14th April at 7.45pm at Twickfolk at The Cabbage Patch in Twickenham, London. Odette will be joined by special guests Phil Beer and Richard Lee.

‘Bless The Ground You Grow On’ – official video:

SHERBURN – BARTLEY – SANDERS – be.guile (own label SBS001)

be.guileIf like me, you tend to dig out the old Last Night’s Fun CD’s and wonder what would have happened if Nick Scott had been woven into a Fairy Queen folk tale, whilst being held in the arms of Chris Sherburn and turned three times into a snake, a lion and finally a suitably clothed, rather attractive and talented female fiddle playing singer in black leggings and floral dress, then you are in for a treat!

LNF always gave you a great night out, got you lost in those beautiful meandering tales such as ‘The Tinkerman’s Daughter’ and played raucous sets at the speed of a stream train. You always looked forward to Chris introducing the songs which would usually involve something Nick Scott related. From a scrapheap challenge reference as Nick assembled his pipes before a tune to Chris inviting the ladies in the audience to take Nick out on a date. In fact, the way Sherburn held the audience with his unique blend of impromptu observational banter made them much loved by festival audiences far and wide.

After the band split, Chris Sherburn and Denny Bartley did a few festival and gig appearances as a duo and recorded a CD but it always left me wondering if another trio project was ever going to be on the cards again and if so, who it was going to be with.

Well even a pair of rough old diamonds like Chris and Denny sometimes need smoothing out and polishing up a little and what better way of buffing them up than introducing the lovely and talented Emily Sanders on vocals, fiddle and viola to the fold.

It’s really thanks to Terry Oliver that this project ever came together at all. It happened back in 2016 when the new trio played a Thursday afternoon concert at the Whitby Folk Festival and it was Terry’s suggestion that they record a CD.

be.guile is a fine record, it keeps that tried and tested Sherburn – Bartley formula of vocal, guitar and Wheatsone concertina and marries it together with Emily’s lead/ vocal harmonies and fiddle. The album also has some great guests, Andy Seward, Martin Simpson and Chris Miley together with Phil Beer in control of mastering.

The track selection and placing also works really well and is listed as follows:

  1. William Taylor (feat. Andy Seward on Double Bass).
  2. Next Market Day.
  3. Sammy’s Bar.
  4. Seven Curses (Feat. Martin Simpson on Slide Guitar).
  5. Adieu Lovely Nancy.
  6. New Railroad (Feat. Martin Simpson on Slide Guitar and Andy Seward on Double Bass).
  7. The Tinkerman’s Daughter/ The Holly Bush (Andy Seward on Double Bass).
  8. Bright Blue Rose.
  9. Bantry Girtls Lament/ Bulgarian Red/The Fisherman’s Lilt (feat. Chris Miley on Snare Drum).

Like the definition, the album sets out to charm and enchant, it may deceive you in to thinking about Last Night’s Fun but its actually a new day, spent in pleasant company.

Darren Beech

Artists’ website: http://www.chrisanddenny.co.uk

Here is a performance from 2017 of Emily singing ‘Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy’ from the Downend Folk Club

GLYMJACK – Light The Evening Fire (Storm Lantern GLYMJACKCD001)

Light The Evening FireTo describe Glymjack simply as contemporary English folk would be rather inadequate. It is acoustic roots, lyric-driven with a nod to soft rock, peppered with a little Americana, and anchored here by two traditional English songs to establish the home ground. Thus Glymjack arrives all guns blazing with a finely produced sound and a galaxy of star guests that give an unequivocal seal of approval to their debut album Light The Evening Fire.

First, some name checking. In the driving seat is singer-songwriter Greg McDonald (accordion, bass, cuatro, guitar, tenor guitar, mandocello, mandolin, piano, vocals) who has written eight of the ten tracks. Adding flair and colour to the now-touring trio are Gemma Gayner (violins, violas, vocals) and Dickon Collinson (bass). The hallmark of the album is sophisticated arrangements with multi-instrumental and harmonic delights provided by a line-up of well-known guests from the folk world: Phil Beer, Steve Knightley, Miranda Sykes, Sam Kelly, Evan Carson, Louise McDonald, Tom Peters and Claire Portman. I read elsewhere that McDonald has been in the Phil Beer band, hence the reciprocal collaboration.

The word glymjack is Victorian slang for a street child who led strangers through the streets of London at night with a lantern. Many of McDonald’s songs are London-centric and the lyrics clearly reflect current social issues. But here’s my major gripe: why, when the lyrics and subject matter are so important, is there no booklet or word sheet in the CD, or indeed anything that tells you the background to the material? One could argue, I suppose, that if the lyrics are clearly audible (which they are), nothing else is needed. Well, I may be slow, but two hearings later I still don’t quite grasp the meaning of ‘The Wolf Who Cried Boy’. ‘Bright Sparks’ makes reference to folk heroes such as hedge preacher John Ball, one of the leaders of the 1381 peasants’ revolt, and to the suffragettes. I’ve no doubt that McDonald is a fine song writer, but some of the songs reflect particular events and concerns for which the listener (or is it just me?) needs at least a clue.

‘Bows Of London’ and ‘The Sweet Trinity’ are fine renditions of traditional songs, showcasing one of the many pleasures of the album – the rich harmonies. To conclude – thumbs up for a decidedly delicious and very English set of songs steered admirably by arrangements from the very best of the folk hierarchy.

Jon Bennett

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‘Bright Sparks’:

Glymjack’s debut album is on the way

Glymjack

Produced with Show of Hands’ Phil Beer, and featuring Steve Knightley and Miranda Sykes alongside Sam Kelly percussionist Evan Carson and fiddle virtuoso Gemma Gayner, English folk-roots act Glymjack’s debut album Light The Evening Fire is released this month.

Previously described as “a dynamic, fiddle driven force to be reckoned with” (Maverick), or simply “brilliant folk music” (fRoots), Glymjack’s music is pitched somewhere between the gritty Americana of Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen and the string-laden indie-folk of Blue Rose Code.

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Greg McDonald’s original songs are unflinching in their dark vision of Brexit Britain. Title track ‘Light The Evening Fire’ steels itself against the coming darkness with angry defiance as McDonald reels off a list of what he’s prepared to burn to get through the night while Knightley and Beer chant “On the fire! On the fire!” Meanwhile the anthemic ‘Made In England’ depicts homeless soldiers sleeping on the streets of London, and the epic ‘Hope Point’ takes a road trip through rural counties where immigrant gangs face exploitation and worse.

There’s traditional English folk music here too, of both the dark-hearted balladic kind on ‘Bows Of London’, and the festival-pleasing kind on a fiery rampage through the seventeenth century traditional tune ‘The Sweet Trinity’.

The album closes with the epic ‘Bright Sparks’, a tribute to two beacons of English progressive politics, fourteenth century radical John Ball and suffragette Emily Davison. Based on a speech given by the late Tony Benn at the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival where he and McDonald shared a bill five years earlier, it signs off with an anthemic sing-along as defiant in the face of the Trump era as it is celebratory of its heroes’ inspirational legacy: “When all light’s lost in the dark”, Glymjack’s assembled cast roars, “I just close my eyes and I see bright sparks”.

Fittingly, the name Glymjack is itself a nod to a dark chapter of English folk history, taken from Victorian criminal underworld slang for a street child who led strangers through the streets of London at night with a lantern. Phil Beer and Steve Knightley’s roles in the making of the Light The Evening Fire album mark the creative zenith of a musical relationship that began when a teenage Greg drunkenly cornered the pair with a demo at a gig – an incident, immortalised in the Show Of Hands song ‘Be Lucky’, which would ultimately lead to Beer suggesting the studio collaboration out of which Light The Evening Fire grew.

Throughout 2018, Glymjack tour as an acoustic trio with Greg joined by Gemma and bassist Dickon Collinson, delivering a high energy, harmony-rich set of hard-hitting originals, English folk songs and fiddle tunes.

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Introductory video:

Show of Hands at Wells Cathedral – Friday 3rd November 2017

Almost exactly seven years have passed since Show of Hands last appeared before an audience at Wells Cathedral; an interval of time that many would conclude has seen the world become an ever-more uncertain and unpredictable place. In these days when the news amounts to a cavalcade of increasingly unsettling events its reassuring that some cherished institutions remain steadfast and dependable, enshrining values that continues to inspire. As part of the fittingly titled ‘Sanctuary’ tour it was a joy to see two much revered institutions reunite – musical act and sacred building – each casting the other in new and unexpected light.

The first member of Show of Hands to appear before tonight’s audience – a congregation comprising the band’s staunchly loyal audience and the cathedral’s parishioners – was Phil Beer. Illuminated at the altar, Beer introduced the evenings supporting artist, Kirsty Merryn. His warm words of praise were swiftly borne out by a distinctive set, most notable for Merryn’s liquid clear voice cascading over the deft piano runs of her original compositions. Many of the songs, drawn from Merryn’s debut album, ‘She and I‘ provided a fresh perspective on the achievements of esteemed female figures from history including Jane Austen and Grace Darling. As ever, Show of Hands had picked an artist to accompany them on this tour of cathedrals who genuinely was the ‘special guest’ of the evening rather than a mere supporting artist.

When, after the interval, the band appeared it was, as is so often the case, without any grand gesture or musical fanfare. Instead the performance began with the solitary figure of Steve Knightley walking down the cathedral’s central aisle as he gently intoned the words of ‘The Old Lych Way’, a composition by Topsham songwriter and musician, Chris Hoban. The song focuses on a longer and yet more ancient route that traverses a remote stretch of Dartmoor along which the faithful would bear the deceased to a final resting place at Lydford Church. A suitably contemplative and mystic atmosphere was conjured beneath the Cathedral’s hallowed arches, setting the tone for much of what was to follow. Next came ‘The Preacher’ from 1995 album ‘The Lie of the Land’, a song in which the prayers of a lonesome island-dwelling cleric lead to guilt and self-recrimination.

While some of Show of Hands best loved numbers were absent from this evening’s performance – there was to be no regaling of ‘Cousin Jack’ – this was entirely fitting since the set list had clearly been compiled to highlight the spiritual questing evident in so much of Show of Hands’ material. Phil Beer, a more vocal presence during this evening’s show than is often the case, offered an exquisite rendition of Sydney Carter’s masterpiece ‘The Crow on the Cradle’, a song that focuses on the power of mankind to avoid the horrors of war.

Throughout the evening Show of Hands’ stunning music was complemented by equally impressive lighting effects. The St. Andrew’s Cross, an enormous arched structure that occupies the east end of the nave was often spectacularly lit while the carved stone work that lies immediately behind it was frequently illuminated to produce a striking contrast. As Steve Knightley himself pointed out, the band’s music became in this context just one element of the experience. Perhaps the lighting was at its most dramatic during a rendition of ‘Innocent’s Song’, the words of Cornish poet, Charles Causley set to music. As the song was performed the massive stone backdrop was bathed in red – powerfully representing the blood of the innocents murdered by the biblical King Herod. Another highlight was Phil Beer’s tune ‘Gwithian’, the music’s urgent fiddle-driven rhythm increasingly intensified by the hand claps of an enraptured audience.

At intervals throughout the evening Show of Hands were joined by the Dartmoor Folk Choir whose contributions highlighted the anthemic quality of many of the songs while providing an apt accompaniment for performance in a cathedral. Also present at times to further embellish the music with accordion was Chris Hoban, who Knightley commended as a songwriter who “sometimes writes better songs than me”. When at an earlier point in the evening Show of Hands double-bassist Miranda Sykes, sang a captivating version of Hoban’s song ‘The Lilly and the Rose’ it was difficult not to agree.

The great care evident in the content of this evening’s show in terms of the songs chosen, guest musicians and lighting design all served to elevate Show of Hands’ performance far beyond the ordinary infamous while reconfirming the outstanding quality of so much of their material. An inspiring evening indeed.

Tim Carter – Presenter – ‘Off the Beaten Track’ www.somervalleyfm.co.uk

Artist Web Links: https://www.showofhands.co.uk/ – http://kirstymerryn.com/