RURA – In Praise Of Home (Rura Music RURACD003)

In Praise Of HomeAlmost the first sound you hear is the voice of Steven Blake’s grandfather, James Russell, reflecting on his home in Montrose. Or rather the feeling of home, that sensation sailors used to call the channels, and that idea is really what In Praise Of Home is about. Later, we hear some of the story of David Foley’s grandmother, Sheila Littlejohn, who came to Scotland from Jamaica as a child.

Both Blake and Foley composed tunes inspired by these stories, the former being the opener and title track of what is otherwise a purely instrumental album. It segues effortlessly into the second track, Jack Smedley’s ‘The First Day’ which harks back to the band’s origins as an instrumental quartet, having gained and lost Adam Holmes in the interim. The track, opening with keyboard drones, quickly morphs into the most traditional sounding tune on the record and will be released as a single.

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be and the band turn to other sources of inspiration for a while. ‘Malice Member’ was inspired by Jack Badcock and ‘Catriona’s’ by Catriona Price and I refuse to speculate on what might have prompted Foley to write ‘Lust In Translation’. Then comes his ‘Away Back’ with the voice of his grandmother. He took a step back while Blake, Smedley and Adam Brown wrote ‘The Gorilla’, inspired, apparently by a Gorillaz track.

Finally we come to two tracks linked as ‘Horizons Pts 1 and 2’. The first, Steven Blake’s ‘Below The Horizon’ is built around his Rhodes with Jack Smedley’s fiddle picking up a mournful melody. It’s my favourite track. Smedley composed the final ‘Journeys New’ which brings the whole album full circle but was the first track written. It’s built over Adam Brown’s guitar with the fiddle picking up the melody and features producer Euan Burton on Rhodes. Starting gently, it builds quickly to an appropriately exciting finish for a record that sees Rura moving on again.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: www.rura.co.uk

‘Lust’ – live:

Rura announce new album

Rura

In Praise of Home is the new album from four-piece powerhouse Rura. The Scottish outfit, described as one of the most exciting bands on the Scottish folk scene today, will release their new album on Friday 1st June 2018.

With their last album (Despite the Dark) released in 2015, it is three years since RURA last produced a record. The foursome have taken their time to make sure their new material is as reflective of them as a band as possible, with their new release being their first ever exclusively instrumental album.

In Praise of Home features nine tracks of completely self-penned music that showcases a fresh and evolved sound from these four outstanding instrumentalists and celebrates a new chapter for the band.

Jack Smedley, one of the founding members and fiddle player in the band, said: “For us In Praise of Home celebrates our progression as a band – this was one of the biggest motivators behind us composing all of the music together as a four piece. The primary overarching theme for this album is all of us getting back to our roots as instrumentalists, composing and playing together as a group, whilst at the same time showcasing a progression in our sound. We’re pretty happy with the result and we hope listeners are too!”

Throughout the new album’s writing process, the group felt there was the opportunity within some of the music to feature spoken word and sampled audio. Sampled interviews with band member David Foley’s granny and Jack’s grandfather – both sharing stories of their home – can be heard on the album. This recognition of their ancestry and the places Rura to name both the opening track and the full album In Praise of Home.

Rura began in 2010, as award-winners at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections. Since then Jack Smedley, Steven Blake, David Foley and Adam Brown’s powerful, entrancing instrumentals have been a main stage highlight of many of the world’s leading folk festivals, including Cambridge, Tønder, Winnipeg, Vancouver and HebCelt, amongst countless others in over 20 countries.

Enjoying a number of accolades over the past eight years, Rura were named Live Act of the Year at the 2015 Scots Trad Music Awards and nominated Folk Band of the Year in 2016.

Rura have affirmed their position as one of Scotland’s most powerful contemporary folk-based bands. Their rugged yet refined blend of fiddle, Highland pipes, flute, bodhran and guitar has won a devoted following in many corners of the globe, amongst audiences and critics alike.

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Rura will be taking their new album on tour throughout June this year, taking in 15 venues across the UK.

Artists’ website: www.rura.co.uk

Cwlwm Celtaidd opens Young Musician 2016 competition

Cwlwm Celtaidd
Robin Huw Bowen and Dylan Cairns-Howarth

The annual Cwlwm Celtaidd’s Young Musician of the Festival competition for under 18 year-olds returns.

 As part of the festival weekend on March 4-6, 2016 Cwlwm Celtaidd will welcome talented young musicians to the Porthcawl Grand Pavilion stage where the winner will receive a financial prize of £50 and a chance to play as part of the main concert on Sunday, March 6.

The festival will also welcome artists form four corners of the Celtic world with RURA from Scotland, Jamie Smith’s Mabon, Linda Griffiths and Sorela from Wales and dancers Perree Bane from the Isle of Man among them.

To have the chance of winning the ‘Young Musician of the Festival’ title the applicant will need to present between 3 and 5 minutes of traditional Celtic tunes on an instrument of their choice with a short explanation.

This year’s adjudicators are accordionist, Jamie Smith, triple harpist Robin Huw Bowen and the Breton piper Antwn Owen Hicks.

Jamie Smith is the band leader of one of this year’s headliners, Mabon. He says:

“It’s a pleasure to be one of the judges again this year for the Young Musician of the Festival competition. We had a highly encouraging turn out for the first one last year and after some tough decision-making the prize went to Welsh fiddler Dylan Cairns-Howarth, beating off some stiff competition from Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man!”

Last year’s winner, Aberystwyth fiddler Dylan Cairns-Howarth, picked up the fiddle for the first time at 5 years old and will be returning to Cwlwm Celtaidd this year to perform with his father, guitarist Andy Cairns. They will be playing new arrangements of traditional dance tunes from Britain, France, Scandinavia and North America. Judge Jaime Smith says:

“As Dylan has his own concert spot this year at the festival, it shows what a great launchpad it is for young musicians who are interested in performing opportunities. It would be fantastic to have even more entries this year, especially from young Welsh musicians. Although we take the judging seriously the event is warm and friendly, just like the whole festival, so it’s not too scary! The main aim is to get young musicians together to listen to each other play and inspire each other. As judges we offer some positive critical feedback on ways they can improve.”

A family friendly festival, Cwlwm Celtaidd has a packed programme of concerts, dances, workshops, free street dance displays in the Town Centre and on the Esplanade as well as legendary music sessions at the bar.

The competition will be held at Porthcawl Grand Pavilion at 10am on Sunday, March 6. Those interested in entering the competition can download the form from Cwlwm Celtaidd’s website. They will need to fill in the form and send to Sarah Smith, 209 Erw Hir, Bridgend, CF31 2VH or email to smithy1954@hotmail.com by Saturday, March 5, 2016.

Tickets: http://www.grandpavilion.co.uk/

Rura – new album and tour

Rura2

One of the most exciting folk-based bands to emerge from Scotland in recent years, Rura returns with their feverishly-anticipated second album, Despite the Dark.

Rugged and hard-hitting, yet intricately disciplined, instrumentals sit alongside heartfelt, anthemic songs, in a masterpiece release from the Glasgow and Edinburgh-based five-piece.

Lead, looping melody lines from fiddler Jack Smedley and Steven Blake, on Highland pipes and whistle, are bolstered by a punch-packing rhythm section of bodhran and guitar from David Foley and Adam Brown – a powerful combination, matched by the earthy honesty of singer-songwriter Adam Holmes’ vocals.

Recorded by highly respected recording and live engineer, Andrea Gobbi, and produced by one of Scotland’s foremost multi-instrumentalists, Ali Hutton (Treacherous Orchestra, Old Blind Dogs) – the album is an all-round triumph.

The tone is established within the seven-and-a-half minute opening track, Dark Reel. Not only was it the band’s first arrangement of new material for the record, but it illustrates the band’s natural progression towards larger arrangements and heightened production levels.

Following tracks weave between similarly high octane sets, and songs – namely the stirring ‘Between the Pines’ – to the delicacy of ‘Cauld Wind Blast’, ‘The Lowground’ and ‘The Glorious 45′.

The intensity and suspension of closing number ‘The Lasher’ bookends nine tracks of powerful, whilst contrastingly stripped back, subtle arrangements of instrumental and vocal mastery, demonstrating the band’s musical maturity, and highlighting both an innate understanding of their chosen material, and unashamed joy in what they do.

Artists’ website: www.rura.co.uk

‘The Lasher’ – live at Celtic Connections:

Tour Dates – http://www.rura.co.uk/tour-dates/

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Folk Awards 2013 (Proper Music Properfolk14)

Folk Awards 2013Glorious…there’s no other word to describe it. Opening with every folk fans favourite band of ragamuffins Bellowhead and “Roll The Woodpile Down” this 3 CD compilation of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards positively blasts forth heralding the achievements of all concerned. We in the folk world have a lot to be grateful for and the inclusion of (amongst others) Hannah James & Sam Sweeney, Gilmore & Roberts and Kathryn Tickell show how they can ‘acoustically’ kick butt along with ‘rock’ music’s finest. It brings a beaming smile to my face to feel privileged as I do that my enjoyment of this much maligned genre really can give every other form of music a run for its money and that recording’s like this will hopefully inspire the next generation to pick up the baton and run with it. Mind you…before I sign off (heartily recommending that you purchase a copy of the album) I’d like to credit Smooth Operations Jon Lewis on whose shoulders rest the unenviable task of selecting this compilation as it must have been an agonising decision choosing only one track from each of the featured artists plus the bonus ten track CD of the Young Folk Award contenders. Finally, Proper Music and the production team led by the legendary Brian Ledgard have to be congratulated for their support each year in allowing ‘our’ music such a fantastic shop window (and not a hint of Mary Portas in sight) in which to showcase such astonishing talent.

PETE FYFE

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RURA – Break It Up (Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX364)

I don’t know what it is…maybe it’s the water…Highland Spring naturally (!) that they’re drinking inScotland but the skirl of the pipes is causing many ‘folk’ audiences in the UK to prick up their ears. It will possibly come as no surprise then that the band Rura are creating something of a buzz with this, their first release on the evergreen Greentrax label. Opening with the march/reel “Oran nan Mogaisean (Song Of The Moccasins)” they follow in the footsteps of The Tannahill Weavers and The Battlefield Band where, rather than use a full drum kit they opt for David Foley’s driving bodhran. Of course this draws your attention to the more organic process of ‘acoustic’ music and the excellent combination of Steven Blake (pipes/whistle), Jack Smedley (fiddle/vocals), Adam Holmes (vocals/guitar) and James Lindsay on bass. This is a band that can seriously ‘rock’ when pumping out Murray Attaway’s (Guadalcanal Diary) song “Allegory” or just as easily lull you into a false sense of security with the final track “Lament For Donald Ban” where the plaintive fiddle is supplemented by the inclusion of the pipes in full cry. No messing about, Rura can get down and dirty with the best of them.

PETE FYFE

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Artist’s website: www.ruramusic.com