JEFFERSON HAMER – Alameda (own label)

AlamedaYou may know the name from Child Ballads, the album he made with Anais Mitchell back in 2014, while he’s also recorded with the likes of Session Americana, Laura Cortese and Sarah Jarosz, who, along with Hannah Read, provides harmonies. This, though, is the Brooklyn-based songwriter’s solo debut, a collection of ballads built around acoustic and electric guitars, fleshed out with drums, bass woodwind, strings and pump organ, variously written between 2006 and 2017, and graced with a cover photograph of his late grandmother riding a single chairlift in 1954 Wyoming.

Rooted in California, it opens with the title track, initially suggesting a post break-up lament about being rootless since things fell apart (“I haven’t had a place since Alameda moved away/I’ve got nowhere to go/I’ve got nowhere to stay”) but, beyond that, it addresses deeper concerns of unemployment through the failure of the crops, of itinerant workers being moved on by the police and of how “It’s dangerous in the open/It’s hard to trust your friends”.

Lives in transit are also at the heart of 2008-dated ‘Moving Day’, sung in a dusty whine with brushed drums and harmonica driving along a Guthrie-esque number about a family moving home and starting a new life, taking with them only the things that matter (“for a long hot two day drive/With nothing but each other”) to an uncertain future. The core theme continues on the CS&N Laurel Canyon chug of ‘Vagabond’ with its images of migration and displacement, Jarosz and Read on backing and Alec Spiegelman colouring the track with bass clarinet and alto flute.

The lengthiest track at almost six minutes, featuring whistle solo from Tim Britton, ‘Busker’ is a fingerpicked portrait of a handful of street performers and how music joins them together so that “the bright dream does not vanish” before it heads back on the road for ‘Champlain’. Heading out from Vermont in the summer of 2001 to chase the northern sun down highway 59, he’s befriended by a singer from Lake Champlain looking to make her name and, romance blossoming, they head off on tour to California and into Washington to the strains of Stan Rogers before, ten thousand miles later, “late night in the guest house she packed up in a rush” as things come to a personal and professional end.

However, as several songs suggest, it’s taking the chance that matters most, of following a dream wherever and however it may end, a conviction that underpins ‘Vision’ with its puttering drums, electric guitars and echoes of a cross between Lennon and early Neil Young as he sings “Every day has been in preparation/Your lifetime is about to begin” and how, while “No one will keep your candle burning/Brighter than you can”, he and other friends are there to “help you paint your portrait”. At times, it’s almost like a father’s words to a child.

Drawing on traditional folk flavours, etched on electric guitar filigrees, ‘The Man In Love With Everyone’ has a more downbeat tenor, the singer cautioning that the people pleaser the girl he loves is seeing may just flatter to deceive, although there’s also a suggestion of jealous obsession and perhaps even stalker tendencies simmering below the surface.

Featuring a la la la refrain evoking a similar Eastern European traditional folk backdrop as ‘Those Were The Days’ as well as a fairy tale reference to Rapunzel in her tower, it ends with the undulating rhythms and softly sung Youngian tenor resonances of ‘Wolves’, again with a lyric about making choices between those who wish you well and those who will do you wrong and again with a slightly unsettling undercurrent in “I’ve waited weeks now at the bottom of your stairs… unbolt the door/And choose the one you most adore”.

Addressing those in the fringes of society, it’s a darker album than it might initially appear, underling the subtlety and sophistication of his writing and, now that he’s stepped into the spotlight, surely destined to ensure he stays there.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘Champlain’ – live and solo:

I’M WITH HER announce debut album

I’m With Her, is a new band project featuring; Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan, who have recently announced the release of their full-length debut, See You Around (out February 16, 2018).

Co-produced by Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Laura Marling, Paul McCartney) and the band and recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in Bath, England, See You Around is a 12 track LP filled with fine-spun narratives and breathtaking harmonies – full track listing is below. Additionally, I’m With Her has announced an international headlining tour that will kick off in March 2018 and bring the band to major cities across the world including Los Angeles, Paris, London, and more.

See You Around presents a warmly textured, yet stripped-down sound layered with lush guitar tones and crystalline harmonies. The album is comprised of 11 originals, penned by the band in Los Angeles and Vermont, plus the never before released Gillian Welch-penned “Hundred Miles.” With each member playing guitar and handling various aspects of the instrumentation— including fiddle and ukulele for Watkins, mandolin and banjo for Jarosz, piano and synth for O’Donovan—the band cut most of the album live, performing just a few feet away from each other in the tracking room. All through See You Around, I’m With Her exhibits a refined musicality that reflects their deep musical roots.

After years of crossing paths in their intersecting scenes, I’m With Her came together by happenstance for an off-the-cuff performance at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival during the summer of 2014.The multi-Grammy-Award-winners have individually released nine solo efforts, co-founded two seminal bands (Nickel Creek and Crooked Still), and contributed to critically acclaimed albums from a host of esteemed artists. The band has garnered tremendous acclaim for their unique blend of instrumental interplay and indelible harmonies.

“We all feel immensely fortunate to be in this band together,” says I’m With Her. “As longtime friends and fans of each other’s music, it’s been wonderful to realize that writing and collaborating together fits so seamlessly into our lives. And now, we’re so excited to get to tour and share the work we’ve done as a band with our debut album, See You Around.”


1. See You Around
2. Game To Lose
3. Ain’t That Fine
4. Pangaea
5. I-89
6. Wild One
7. Waitsfield
8. Ryland (Under The Apple Tree)
9. Overland
10. Crescent City
11. Close It Down
12. Hundred Miles

Artists Web Link:

AOIFE O’DONOVAN ­– In the Magic Hour (Yep Records B016LKYKVW)

In The Magic HourCall me crazy, but I hear a bit of Patti Smith in Aiofe O’Donovan’s startlingly lovely new album In the Magic Hour.

No, she’s not following in Smith’s punk-rock vocal-guitar shredding wake. But she does share Smith’s rare gift of waving deeply personal meditations in her lyrics a la Steve Earle, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and a handful of other boldface Americana songsmiths.

On the ten songs on this, O’Donovan’s second solo album, the Crooked Still alum melodically analyzes the intersections of ambition, loneliness, family and solitude. But unlike the full-on assault of much of Smith’s punk rock, O’Donovan wraps her words around impressionistic sounds reminiscent of some of the work of The Beatles (Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Revolver), Tori Amos (Scarlet’s Walk comes immediately to mind) and other dream weavers.

You’ve likely read some reviews comparing O’Donovan – who is joined by guests including Sarah Jarosz, Sara Watkins and the Punch Brothers’ Chris Thile – with Patti Griffin and Shawn Colvin. Certainly songs such as the richly textured folk-with-Celtic ‘Magpie’ can bring those artists to mind.

But O’Donovan is no Griffin- or Colvin-come lately. Her song ‘Detour’ suggests as much Emmylou Harris as it does Griffin and Colvin while ‘The King of All Birds,’ with assertive strings and vocals would slip comfortably into a set by Amos.

When O’Donovan was writing the songs for this album, her family patriarch died. Indeed, his singing is heard on a snippet of the traditional Irish song ‘Donal Og’ and the album’s artwork features a 7-year-old O’Donovan frolicking in the small Irish town of Clonakilty on a visit to her grandfather.

The Boston-area born, Brooklyn-based O’Donovan is only 33, decades younger than Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and her other reported musical idols but this album proves her musical soul is just as old.

Nancy Dunham

Artist’s Website:

‘Magic Hour’ – official video:

Kate Rusby releases New Album ‘20’ to Mark 20 Years of Music Making


The Barnsley nightingale Kate Rusby has released a new album to celebrate 20 years of making music. Entitled ‘20’ the album features new recordings of Kate’s favourite songs from throughout her illustrious career.

From the trad folk of ‘Jolly Plough Boys’ and ‘Annan Waters’ from her solo debut ‘Hourglass’ (’98) to the seasonal beauty of ‘Home’ from her 2011 Christmas album ‘While Mortals Sleep’ via ‘Unquiet Grave’, ‘Sho Heen’ and ‘Wild Goose’ from her Mercury nominated ’99 album ‘Sleepless’, the title tracks from ‘Underneath The Stars’ (2004) and ‘Awkward Annie’ (2007) and many more, Kate dips into every corner of her catalogue to create a set that is a wonderful introduction for the uninitiated and a fabulous reinterpretation of her ‘greatest hits’ for the committed fan. In addition Kate has written and recorded a beautiful new song for this album called ‘Sun Grazers’, on which she duets with Paul Weller, who has never sounded in finer voice. Other collaborators on the album include folk giants Richard Thompson, Nic Jones, Paul Brady and Dick Gaughan, Radiohead drummer Phil Selway, bluegrass upstarts Chris Thile and Sarah Jarosz, American folk & country singer Mary Chapin Carpenter, Eddi Reader and many more.

‘20’ has been released on the Rusby family’s Pure Records label via Island Records. For this release Island has resurrected the legendary ‘Island Pink’ label on which albums by Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Sandy Denny, and Richard & Linda Thompson were released during the 70s.

‘20’ is available on double CD and digital download from the folking store link below. The full tracklisting is:


1. Awkward Annie (feat. Chris Thile)

2. Unquiet Grave (feat. Aoife O’Donovan)

3. Sun Grazers (feat. Paul Weller)

4. The Lark (feat. Nic Jones)

5. Planets (feat. Sarah Jarosz)

6. Wandering Soul (feat. Eddi Reader & Dick Gaughan)

7. Who Will Sing me Lullabies (feat. Richard Thompson & Philip Selway)

8. Jolly Plough Boys (feat. Dick Gaughan)

9. Sho Heen (feat. Eddi Reader, Phillip Selway & Jerry Douglas)

10.Bitter Boy (feat. Damien O’Kane)



1. I Courted a Sailor (feat. Jim Causley)

2. Mocking Bird (feat. Sara Watkins)

3. The Good Man (feat. Joe Rusby & Jerry Douglas)

4. Annan Waters (feat. Bob Fox)

5. All God’s Angels (feat. Paul Brady)

6. Elfin Knight (feat. Dave Burland)

7. Wild Goose (feat. Stephen Fretwell)

8. Home (feat. Mary Chapin Carpenter)

9. Underneath the Stars (feat. Grimethorpe Colliery Band)

10.Bring me a Boat (feat. Declan O’Rourke)

Words and music on all songs are by Kate Rusby except ‘Jolly Plough Boys’ and ‘Annan Waters’, which are traditional songs arranged by Kate, ‘The Good Man’ whose words are a combination of trad and Kate with the tune written by Kate, and ‘Bring Me A Boat’, which has lyrics by Kate and melody by Phil Cunningham.

Kate Rusby was born into a musical family in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. Her parents had a ceilidh band which Kate and her sister Emma joined at a very early age. Kate’s musical world is still very much a family affair – her parents, along with Emma and her brother Joe manage her, run her label, record her albums and book her tours, while her husband Damien O’Kane co-produces her records and plays guitar in her band. Kate’s first album release was a collaboration with another young singer – ‘Kate Rusby & Kathryn Roberts’ (’95). She has since released 9 solo albums: ‘Hourglass’ (’98), ‘Sleepless’ (’99), ‘Little Lights’ (2001), ‘Underneath The Stars’ (2004), ‘The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly’ (2005), ‘Awkward Annie’ (2007), ‘Sweet Bells’ (2008), ‘Make The Light’ (2010), and ‘While Mortals Sleep’ (2011). She was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in ’99 and has won Folk singer of the year (2000), Best album (2000), Best song twice (2002 for “Who Will Sing Me Lullabies” and 2006 for “No Names”) and Best Live Act (2006) at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Proof that the cottage industry approach can pay off in the 21st century, Kate has quietly sold over a million records on the family-run independent label Pure Records and regularly plays sell-out tours around the country.

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Transatlantic Sessions 5: Volume One (Whirlie Records Whirlie CD25)

The great thing about receiving the latest Transatlantic Sessions CD is that you know all is right with world. In company with twenty-six of the best vocalists/musicians in the field of ‘folk’ music you don’t even need to get the accompanying DVD (although of course you could) to soak up the electric atmosphere of being locked away in an old hunting lodge in the Perthshire Highlands…for emanating within the stone walls comes forth possibly the most joyous sound you are ever likely to hear. The empathy created by everyone being so closely involved in the project must be the dream of any producer and capturing the whole experience is recording, mix and mastering maestro Iain Hutchinson. If I credited everyone it would take until the next session to list them but just to whet your appetite the line-up includes the staggering dobro performances of Jerry Douglas, Aly Bain on fiddle, Donald Shaw (accordion), Danny Thompson (double bass), Eddi Reader, Sarah Jarosz and Alison Krauss vocals. The feeling of bonhomie that is in evidence throughout the whole recording would provide scientists with enough energy to power the Large Hadron Collider and even Edgar Allen Poe’s gothic poem “Annabel Lee” set to an Appalachian sounding minor key melody by Jarosz can do nothing to mute the immeasurably good time everybody had in each others company. On a final note, what a pleasure it is to hear Eric Bibb’s interpretation of “Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad” as, for me (and I’m sure many others) it brings back many happy memories of Scotland’s JSD Band in full flight and just goes to show you can’t put a good song down!


SARAH JAROSZ – Song Up In Her Head (Sugar Hill Records SUG CD 4049)

Sarah Jarosz was a new name to me when I first heard this stunning record played during the interval of a Martin Simpson gig. For those that care about these things, I suppose this is more of a Country album than ‘folk’ (there we go…pigeonholing again) but it still doesn’t detract from it being an astonishing piece of work whichever the side of the fence you’re on. I was also intrigued to find that Jarosz was not only a powerful vocalist but also a highly talented multi-instrumentalist with an arsenal of mandolin, octave mandolin, guitar, clawhammer banjo and piano at her disposal. Not bad when you take into account her age (and I don’t really wish to appear ageist about these things) of just nineteen! With a backing band including Jerry Douglas (slide guitar), Stuart Duncan (fiddle) and ex-Nickel Creek mandolin master Chris Thile you can see she moves in illustrious circles. Youthfulness to one side, this lady certainly has a mature head on her shoulders and a poetic way of writing that will draw the listener into a world that makes you feel she has plenty yet to offer. In one of her songs “Edge Of A Dream” she would lead you to believe that she is insecure of her surroundings as an adolescent. This, she clearly is not as the maturity of the lyric makes abundantly clear. This is the kind of album I can see being used as the soundtrack to teenage-based TV series such as Dawson’s Creek or Smallville and will I am sure pave the way for a brilliant future.


Artist website: