JIM MORAY – The Outlander (Managed Decline MD001)

The OutlanderFor The Outlander, his seventh solo album, Moray dispenses with any original material to focus on a set of ten traditional numbers, some familiar, some obscure, and gives them his own personalised interpretation. He’s also adopted a more direct, live performance-based approach making extensive use of his purchase of a 1949 Epiphone Triumph archtop guitar and inviting an array of fellow folkies, among them Jack Rutter, Sam Sweeney, Matt Downer and Josienne Clarke, to join him in the studio.

With Rory Scammell on hurdy gurdy complementing Sweeney and Tom Moore’s urgent violins and Moray’s driving rhythm, the opening ‘Lord Ellenwater’ (sometimes ‘Derwentwater’), compiles the lyrics from an assortment of sources and is set to a tune collected in Cambridgeshire by Vaughan Williams in 1907 from (although some claim it as in 1905 from Emily Agnes Stears in Sussex) and concerns the alleged role of Ellenwater’s in the Jacobite uprising of 1715 and reports that the rivers on his estates ran blood on the night he was executed.

Learned from Roy Harris, ‘Bold Lovell’, a variant on highwayman ballad ‘Whiskey In The Jar’, is launched by handclaps (there’s no drums anywhere on the album) and proceeds at a fair trot, one again propelled by violins, but then, opening with just voice and Nick Hart’s concertina, things slow down for ‘When This Old Hat Was New’, a classic song of old folk nostalgia that traces back to 1630 and bigs up the Romans for looking after the poor folk as the instrumentation gradually builds.

The centrepiece, certainly in terms of running time, is ‘Lord Gregory’ which, extended to a waltzing six and a half minutes with addition of verses from alternate versions, is largely accompanied by just finger picked guitar, presented as a duet with Clarke in an Anglo emulation of the Welch/Rawling harmonies pairing albeit channelling the recordings by Maddy Prior and Kathryn Roberts. It’s followed by the almost as long ‘The Bramble Briar’, learned from the Ewan MacColl version of ‘Bruton Town’, a good old English folk ballad about murder that has its origins in Isabella and the Pot of Basil, a story about a farmer’s daughter, her jealous brothers and a beheaded lover in Boccaccio’s The Decameron. A spare, stark arrangement compounds the gloom of the narrative.

‘John Barleycorn’ is one of two folk club staples given a new lease of life by Moray taken at a suitably flagon-swigging mid-tempo, the other, which closes the album, being a stately, wearied pace and spare arrangement reading of ‘The Leaving Of Liverpool’ that captures all of the song’s inherent resignation.

Betwixt these comes a slow strummed melancholic Appalachian-flavoured interpretation of ‘The Isle Of St Helena’, a song about Bonaparte’s exile collected by Cecil Sharp in Kentucky and learned from Steve Turner’s 1979 album Outstack, albeit without the concertina arrangement. Switching hemispheres, his fiddle-backed reading of transportation ballad ‘Australia’ owes a debt to Bob Hat’s 1973 version which relocated the destination from the original Virginny.

The final choice is ‘Jack Tar’, a handclap percussion, fiddle stomp take on the shanty about an opportunistic sailor overhearing a scheme by a squire to have his lover dangle string from her window so he can pull it for her to let him in, and naturally sneakily taking his place instead. Learned from the version collected by Sharp in 1904 with a slight variation in the lyrics, although, for purists, sadly he doesn’t include the “doomy-amma dingy-amma doomy-ammma day” chorus!

The most direct and simple of Moray’s albums to date, it cuts to the heart of what traditional folk music is about while ensuring a musical relevance for to the modern generation.

Mike Davies

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Artist’s website: www.jimmoray.co.uk

‘Bold Lovell’ – live with Tom Moore:

JACK RUTTER – Gold Of Scar & Shale (own label RUTTCD025)

Gold Of Scar & ScaleThere can be no doubt that Jack Rutter is one of the finest young interpreters of traditional song in the country. For his second album, Gold Of Scar & Shale he has enlisted Sam Sweeney to augment his guitars, bouzouki and concertina with cameo appearances from Alice Robinson on Northumbrian pipes and Sam Fisher on flugelhorn. Once again Jack has delved into old manuscripts, both songs and poetry for a set of which I’ve only heard two songs before.

‘I Was Once A Young Ploughboy’ comes from Hammond and Gardiner and tells a familiar story although not one I know. Jack gives it a suitably robust, martial treatment in case you thought that it might be a gentle pastoral piece. That comes with ‘The Hills Of Longdendale’ from the poetry of Ammon Wrigley and which provides the album’s title. Jack introduces it on bouzouki then sings the first verse unaccompanied. Actually, it’s not gentle in the way that a comparable southern English song would be. They’re a hardy lot who walk the hills above Saddleworth. He crosses the border again for ‘The Lancashire Liar’. A not so subtle dig? I don’t know but Sam Sweeney is on fine form.  Next is Jack’s adaptation of a Child ballad, ‘Fair Janet & Young James’. Child lists numerous versions of the song and Jack has combined several texts to produce an interpretation that makes sense to modern ears.

I have heard the infrequently sung ‘John White’ before. It’s a tale of unspeakable brutality: an event that occurred in Hounslow and which resulted in the abolition of flogging in the army. The song is again from Hammond and Gardiner and I believe it was collected in my adopted county of Hampshire. The official record states that White was sentenced to 150 lashes but the song ups the ante to 300.

‘The Shepherd’s Song’ comes indirectly from Willie Scott and features Robinson’s pipes and that’s followed by the other song I’ve heard before, ‘When Jones’s Ale Was New’, although Jack dispenses with the chorus and adds a tune of his own at the end.  ‘Down By The Derwent Water’ and ‘The Sledmere Poachers’ both come from northern collections and finally we have the bitter-sweet ‘Fieldfares’ written by Frederic Moorman who also penned ‘The Dalesman’s Litany’.

Gold Of Scar & Shale is a fine album that introduces a number of lesser-known songs to a wider audience and that’s a bonus. I look forward to hearing Jack in the flesh again next month.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s webste: www.jackruttermusic.com

‘The Lancashire Liar’ – official video:

Jack Rutter announces second album

Jack Rutter

Gold Of Scar & Shale, the second solo album from traditional folk singer and multi-instrumentalist Jack Rutter will be available on CD and DL from October 4th 2019.

Produced by Joe Rusby and recorded as live, the new album continues the stripped back approach of its critically acclaimed predecessor, Jack’s debut solo outing Hills. The songs are unearthed gems from the folk canon – almost all of them rare and many previously unrecorded – gathered from old song books and source singers as Rutter uncovered material for this major new release.

Jack’s soaring vocal takes centre stage on the album, delivering each traditional tale in a fresh and current way; his masterful playing and arrangements providing the perfect accompaniment. Jack contributes guitar, bouzouki, duet concertina and harmonium to the album with featured guest musicians Sam Sweeney on fiddle, Alice Robinson on Northumbrian pipes and Sam Fisher on flugelhorn.

There is a strong sense of place on the new record too; over half of the songs have a connection to Jack’s native Yorkshire. The album title itself Gold Of Scar & Shale comes from a line in one such track ‘The Hills of Longdendale’, with words written by ‘The Moorland Poet’ Ammon Wrigley (1861-1946).

Jack Rutter says “To me Ammon Wrigley is describing the rough and bleak parts of the moorland with this line, the scar and the shale that is always nevertheless gold to him. I love this line and realised that for me it’s also a great metaphor for traditional songs; rough, stark and honest things that contain such riches. I found then that I’d stumbled upon the perfect title for this album, or at least one that I really loved anyhow.”

Jack grew up in the Holme Valley area of West Yorkshire, a place steeped in a wealth of traditional song, and following a BSc degree in Countryside Management at Newcastle University has forged a highly successful career playing music across the UK and Europe. In addition to his acclaimed solo work, he has become a highly sought-after collaborator for a host of the biggest names in folk music such as Seth Lakeman, Sam Sweeney and Jackie Oates as well as performing in the celebrated instrumental trio Moore Moss Rutter.

The release of Gold Of Scar & Shale is set to confirm Jack Rutter’s place as a solo artist, singer and performer of traditional songs first and foremost, marking him as one of the standout voices of the folk, roots and acoustic music scene. By shining a light on these original sources and singers, Jack has crafted a collection very much his own.

Pre-order now: www.jackruttermusic.com/shop

‘I Was Once A Young Ploughboy’ – the first single:

EFDSS NATIONAL YOUTH FOLK ENSEMBLE – Grand Arcade, Cambridge

EFDSS National Youth Folk Ensemble
Photograph by Su O’Brien

Serendipity. It’s great isn’t it? I was just leaving John Lewis (other department stores are available -Ed), doing a spot of late-night shopping, when I became aware of a largish, youthful-looking group of musicians setting up to play in Cambridge’s Grand Arcade. Nothing particularly unusual there, except that flyers and t-shirts indicated that this was the EFDSS National Youth Folk Ensemble. Needless to say, the shopping trip was rapidly abandoned in favour of spending the next 40 minutes pleasurably listening in.

Opening with a Saraband from Playford, this group of young musicians quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with and attracted a decent crowd, heading swiftly into the second of their 8-track set, a sweet take on Catriona MacDonald’s ‘Show Me’. The tunes and arrangements showed the ensemble off pretty well as they roved around the country from Lancashire to Cornwall. The ensemble also showed some ability to create diverse moods, although this session – sensibly enough – was crowd-rousing stuff in the main. Sam Sweeney, the ensemble’s Artistic Director, was on hand giving support to this, his second cohort of students to pass through the EFDSS programme.

It’s a very tough gig playing in the swimming-pool acoustics of a shopping arcade to a bunch of strangers passing through who didn’t actually come to see you and have other priorities anyway, so these youngsters deserve every praise for handling themselves with grace and aplomb. It’s a minor point to say that at times they seemed more intently focused on the music, perhaps slightly at the expense of giving a performance to the audience, but given the distracting environment, maybe it’s not surprising. Overall, they gave a most convincing account of the enduring vitality of folk music.

For anyone attending the Cambridge Folk Festival, the EFDSS National Youth Folk Ensemble will be opening the programme of events on Friday lunchtime, 3rd August. Do try to give them some support: the future of folk music could look a lot like them.

Su O’Brien

Artists’ website: www.efdss.org/efdss-education/national-youth-folk-ensemble

The ensemble in 2017:

JON BODEN – Afterglow – Hudson Records HUD004

AfterglowFolk royalty Jon Boden’s latest album, Afterglow, is an excellent follow on from Songs From The Floodplain, which was released in 2009, and was Jon’s second solo album. Jon is a twelve time BBC Folk Award Winner who partnered celebrated concertina player John ‘Squeezy’ Spiers in Spiers and Boden, fronted Bellowhead, and comes out to play with his Remnant Kings now and again.

Afterglow is a story of urban lovers after dark. The ten fabulous tracks portray a journey after dark into the early morning leaving the previous night behind – their adventures into the night and what they experience.

The album starts with ‘Moths In The Gaslight’ – in true Boden melodic style then leading into the title track and bringing in a drum beat. ‘Wrong Side Of Town’ brings in the traditional Boden irregular beat we all know and love. ‘Fires Of Midnight’ is a spoken lyric in the traditional style of Boden. One of my favourites, ‘All The Stars Are Coming Out Tonight’ is a foot tapping track including fiddle, bodhran, Cajun and all!

‘Dancing In The Ruins’ includes off-beat rhythm and an electric guitar taking the listener into ‘Burning Streets’ telling the tale of the lovers escaping down the back streets to a racy beat. The penultimate track – ‘Yellow Light’ – has Jon’s traditional concertina, cello and quietens the mood down after the night’s activities. Afterglow ends with a track entitled ‘Aubade’ – the dawn is now breaking bringing the end of the night, the birds are now singing heralding in the dawn and a new day.

An excellent album as we would expect from a master of his craft. Ex-Bellowhead members Paul Sartin, Sam Sweeney and Ben Nicholls (Seth Lakeman Band) are involved on this album as are members of The Remnant Kings together with producer Andy Bell, and recorded in Sheffield. As always, Jon Boden’s albums are vivid and give beautiful imagery in the lyrics. This album is no exception to his pure talent.

Afterglow is now on general release. Available as a single CD, a de luxe version and a vinyl version and from the 6th November Jon is on tour solo. Jon while the Remnant Kings are touring in November from the 17th.

Jean Camp

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Artist’s website: www.jonboden.com

‘All The Stars Are Coming Out Tonight’ – official video:

LEVERET – Inventions (Rootbeat RBRCD38)

InventionsAfter two very successful albums and sold out gigs, Leveret bounce back onto the music scene with Inventions, an album of original material which was recorded live at Real Life studios in April 2017.

Leveret comprises of fiddler extraordinaire – Sam Sweeney, who was 2015 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Musician of the Year. Not surprising as his talents have enhanced Bellowhead, also Folk Royalty Eliza Carthy’s Wayward Band, and acclaimed singer/songwriter John Boden’s Remnant Kings, not forgetting his own very successful Made In The Great War project.

Melodeon player extraordinaire – Andy Cutting – has won BBC Radio2 Folk Awards Best Musician three times and has played with Topette, Rock legend Roger Daltrey, Blowzabella and June Tabor.

Concertina genius – Rob Harbron who leads the English Acoustic Collective summer school, collaborated with The Full English also Jon Boden, Fay Hield and many more.

So you would expect, with all this talent and skill for them to produce a CD of tunes that would be amazing to hear, and quite rightly, they have! ten glorious original tunes of varying tempos, ranging from reels, jigs and un-pigeon-holeable tempos, they delight the listener. If I have to be pushed for a favourite, it has to be the lively ‘Two Nights at Chieveley/Henry Blogg’.

I have seen them play live and can see the mutual respect for each other, impeccable timing, genuine love of playing their music and delighting the audience. Music at its best, but appealing to those who just like music!

This is a worthwhile album addition to anyone’s collection. I really enjoyed it and is the in the car taking me away from the hustle and bustle of reality. Keep an eye on their website for live gigs, check them out, pre-order the Inventions album and purchase their previous albums.

Jean Camp

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Artists’ website: www.leveretband.com

‘Grenville Morris’ live: