Take Flight with Afro Celt Sound System

Brand new album, Flight – with major UK tour – November 2018

Afro Celt Sound System

With album sales now topping one and a half million and two Grammy nominations to date, Afro Celt Sound System celebrated their 20th Anniversary in 2016 with an acclaimed album, The Source.

ECC Records are now delighted to announce the release of Flight, the eighth studio album by this ground-breaking collective. Flight, released on 23rd November, will be supported by a major ten day UK wide tour (November 2018, including London’s Barbican Centre on 21st) and will explore themes of migration – both human and avian – with a dazzling cast of stellar musicians from around the globe.

Afro Celt Sound System have invited three other large collectives to join them on this album and by doing so, shine a spotlight on migration, with a particular focus on refugees. These include the Amani Choir from the Democratic Republic of Congo with music director Emmanuela Yogolelo,  who has a refugee background. The album also features Stone Flowers, the band supported by Music Action International, a charity who helps transform lives affected by war, torture & armed conflict through music and song, alongside the Johannesburg based African Gospel Singers.

The album also references the environment and is in part inspired by ECC Records owner’s Simon Emmerson and Mark Constantine’s shared passion for bird-watching. Flight is perhaps Afro Celt Sound System’s most overtly political album and draws from Armagh-born vocalist and flautist Ríoghnach Connolly and Emmanuela’s work within the refugee community of Manchester and across the north west of England.

Formed by Grammy-nominated musician and record producer Simon Emmerson, Afro Celt Sound System are a European and African based collective who have forged a reputation for their energetic, uplifting shows.  Winners of the Songlines 2017 Best Group award, they combine folk traditions of different cultures in a unique and innovative way.

Thirteen self-penned tracks on Flight introduce moving devotional songs alongside Afro Celt Sound System’s trademark driving afro house, with drum and bass beats, bold west African brass and exuberant electronic rhythms and bass lines. Central to the album is a 4-part ‘migration’ medley’ drawing parallels between bird and human migration and ending with Ríoghnach’s embracing lament.  Recorded for the 1st time in the band’s career as a live studio performance, it’s the closest they’ve got to capturing the dynamic of the gigging band in a studio; gone are the loops and samples that used to provide the backdrop to the band’s sound, now replaced by the passionate performances which make the bands live shows so exhilarating and distinctive.

Simon Emmerson is joined by long-term members’ vocalist, kora and balafon player N’faly Kouyaté and Dhol Foundation drummer Johnny Kalsi but both album and tour will feature contributions from more than seventeen musicians and at selected gigs will also include the Amani Choir. This host of outstanding musicians include Ríoghnach Connolly; off-grid Highland Crofter, Griogair (vocals and highland pipes); Amani Choir MD Emmanuela Yogoelo; bodhrán player and percussionist Robbie Harris and Malian master drummer and percussionist Kalifa Knoé. Bass is provided by Mass, Simon ‘Palmy’ Richmond, Richard Evans and Simon Emmerson. The pipe, fiddle and flute tunes are all original and performed and written by Scottish Fiddler, Ewen Henderson, County Mayo Piper, Emer Mayock and flautist, Ríoghnach Connolly.  As well as the Amani choir, the band are also joined on Flight by very special guests, Stone Flowers, The Kick Horns and the African Gospel Singers

Flight was recorded in more than thirteen studios in Africa and Europe and is written, arranged, engineered and mixed by Afro Celt Sound System collective. The executive producer is Mark Constantine and the album is released on his and Emmerson’s label, ECC Records. Label artwork has been produced by Jamie Reid, legendary punk artist, cultural activist and ACSS founding member.

Artists’ website: http://www.afroceltsoundsystem.org.uk/

Afro Celt Sound System live:

SARAH McQUAID – If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous (Shovel And A Spade Records SAASCD001)

If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get DangerousIan Semple, whose radio programme on CoastFM specializes in promoting artists with a connection to Cornwall, describes Sarah McQuaid’s new CD If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous (due for release on February 2nd 2018) as ‘pure brilliance’ and ‘without doubt one of her finest…’. As this is the first of her albums I’ve heard all through, I can’t make that comparison, but on the strength of this CD, I’ll certainly be digging deeper into her previous output myself.

Sarah is known far beyond her adopted home in Cornwall as a fine singer, songwriter and guitarist, with particular expertise in the modal guitar tuning DAGDAD. This CD also sees her work bolstered by a handful of other fine musicians, including veteran singer/songwriter/guitarist Michael Chapman, who also produced it.

  1. The title track ‘If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous’ might be summarized as “fear of fracking”, but that would be to understate the lyrical complexity of the piece. Sarah’s vocals and electric guitar are augmented by Michael Chapman’s slide guitar, Roger Luxton’s drums, and Richard Evans’ trumpet.
  2. ‘Slow Decay’ also has a lyrical complexity that’s unusual, even among the more thoughtful contemporary singer/songwriters, playing as it does on the multiple meanings of ‘decay’ in acoustics, wave functions and mortality.
  3. ‘One Sparrow Down’ has some of the feel of the acapella version of Suzanne Vega’s ‘Tom’s Diner’, being sung unaccompanied apart from some unconventional percussion and sound effects. Vega’s song is essentially a sequence of observations and ‘found’ images. However, Sarah’s lyric, with its echo of Matthew 10.29, extends observation into metaphor. And I rather like the tune.
  4. Unusually, ‘The Silence Above Us’ features Sarah’s piano well forward in the mix, as well as her guitar and Samuel Hollis’s upright bass. A lovely ballad.
  5. ‘Forever Autumn’ is a cover version of the song from the Jeff Wayne project War Of The Worlds. I came across a lovely live version by Sarah on YouTube some time ago, but this version gains from the addition of her own piano work and Joe Pritchard’s cello.
  6. The ‘Dies Irae’, a hymn in medieval Latin, the words very familiar from the Requiem mass (though not all the words are used here). This version is essentially the plainsong melody known since the 13th century or earlier, though in this case Sarah’s vocals are supported by her own guitar, Michael Chapman’s slide, and Joe Pritchard’s cello. Its presence here is particularly appropriate, since the opening line is echoed in the well-known instrumental intro to ‘Forever Autumn’. This setting seems particularly suited to her captivatingly fragile vocals.
  7. The theme of mortality is continued with Sarah’s atmospheric instrumental ‘The Day Of Wrath, That Day’, the title being a literal translation of the first line of the ‘Dies Irae’. Sarah plays electric guitar on this, augmented by Roger Luxton’s percussion and some ambient noise from Michael Chapman’s guitar. Spine-chilling.
  8. Although the lyric to ‘Cot Valley’ takes into account the valley’s place in the history of Cornish mining – and the (mis)use of child labour here and elsewhere in Britain right into the 20th century – it also works as a reminder of the way in which beauty spots in so many places – not only Cornwall, but (for instance) Shropshire, South Wales and the North East – have outgrown their dark industrial past. Unusually, Sarah augments her own acoustic guitar work with high-strung electric guitar – that is, a guitar with the four lower strings replaced (usually) with the octave strings from a 12-string set – while the instrumentation is further filled out with Michael Chapman’s electric guitar, Richard Evans’s trumpet, Georgia Ellery’s fiddle, percussion from Roger Luxton, and Samuel Hollis’s upright bass, to great effect.
  9. ‘New Beginnings’ is a very neat guitar piece, written as a “wedding march” for Zoë Pollock’s wedding. I think this one might just creep into my own repertoire.
  10. ‘Time To Love’ was co-written with Gerry O’Beirne, and features Georgia Ellery and Joe Pritchard double tracking violin and cello as a sort of counterfeit string quartet.
  11. ‘Break Me Down’ is described in the press release as “possibly the cheeriest song ever written about decomposition” – I’m trying desperately not to think of the old joke about composing and decomposing – and that’s a pretty good description of this slightly bluesy piece. Sarah’s vocal, electric guitar and high-strung guitar are reliably supplemented by Michael Chapman’s trusty ES175 and Roger Luxton’s drums and percussion. But I was particularly impressed by Samuel Hollis’s work on both upright and electric bass.
  12. ‘The Tug Of The Moon’ may already be familiar to you, having been released as a single. The song is more than adequately carried by Sarah’s vocals and electric guitar. Much as I love the acoustic guitar, it surprises me that more people don’t see (outside jazz, at any rate) the potential of the solo electric guitar as an instrument for accompaniment. Now there’s a song for New Year’s Eve…

This is an album of fine instrumental work that never detracts from the song or the vocals. And the songs are exceptional: some of the lyrics here would look equally at home in a volume of poetry, though it would be a pity to deprive them of Sarah’s voice and melodic flair.

I suspect that even Sarah’s fans will be pleasantly surprised at how good this album is, and it should make her many more.

David Harley

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Artist’s website www.sarahmcquaid.com

We make no apologies for featuring this video again – ‘The Tug Of The Moon’:

For Sarah’s tour dates, go to: http://folking.com/sarah-mcquaid-announces-new-album-and-tour-dates/

Free Stream of Blacksmith’s Prayer form SETH LAKEMAN LIVE WITH THE BBC CONCERT ORCHESTRA

In March 2012, folk-inspired, multiaward winning singer-songwriter Seth Lakeman played with the renowned BBC Concert Orchestra at Plymouth Pavilions in Devon. Seth will release a five track LIVE EP on 03 December featuring recordings from that night mixed by Richard Evans.

The live EP features versions of some of Seth’s best known songs, arranged by Anne Dudley and conducted by Matthew Coorey. It features Blacksmith’s Prayer (streamed below)  from his current album Tales from the Barrel House, Kitty Jay the title track from his 2005 Mercury nominated album, Lady of the Sea and King & Country from his gold-selling album Freedom Fields and Changes from Hearts & Minds.

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Artist’s website: http://www.sethlakeman.co.uk/

Seth Lakeman Band live review plus new EP: live with the BBC Concert Orchestra

Seth Lakeman Band Ipswich Corn Exchange Sunday 21st October 2012. A top-class night at the very nicely refurbished Ipswich Corn Exchange.

After watching Seth grow as a musician on and off since his late teens with his brothers and Equation, through his emergence as a solo performer and post Mercury Prize nomination take off, this was Seth, and band, at one with the stage more than it has seemed in a while and firing on all cylinders, it was great to witness.

Two elements have lifted the live performances lately, one is the return of the much missed Cormac Byrne, the beating heart of a band on Bodrhan and anything else he can hit, including an anvil this time! Now the perfect band line up is complete with the addition of Lisbee Stainton an inspired decision alongside the four guys , and I hope they don’t let her go. Having a female voice on stage has now opened up Seths back catalogue more and taken his shows into a new phase. A live Lakeman show has always had an edge,drive and theatre but now the edges have been softened a bit which is very refreshing. Apart from vocals, Lisbee is a pretty handy musician too, the toys on stage have been added to with a harmonium and she plays a mean Banjo.

We were treated to songs covering the last 10 years and 6 albums. It was great to hear songs rarely given an airing from John Lomas from Kitty Jay to up to date songs like The Sender From Tales From The Barrel House.

It was a fast paced evening and the opening two song weld of More Than Money and the brilliant Blacksmiths Prayer set the tone of the night and it didn’t let up until the end of Race To be King that had everyone up and dancing .

Highlights at Ipswich were Seth and Cormac thrashing out Bold Knight and the band driving a full on Zeppelin like Blood Red Sky (I could always hear their influence in this ) and then as contrast the lovely Changes and White Hare with Lisbee.

I could not write a review without highlighting Seths signature song, the bow shredding Kitty Jay with added eerie back lighting for extra drama, I have never yet seen him play this and the room not been worked into a frenzy and exploded when the last note fades, it’s still thrilling after all these years .

Seths albums from kitty Jay on-wards have always had a sense of the dramatic, now he and his band have the tools and the graft behind them to bring that onto a stage fully, it’s taken a while, but I think they really have a show that they have been trying to perfect for a few years, and now should be proud of.

Seth really has come a long way down the road from the rough and ready gigs with the sudden endings,dare I say he is turning into a showman.

Go see him next time he hits the road.

Trish Roberts

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Artist’s website: http://www.sethlakeman.co.uk/