Kris Drever with Éamonn Coyne & Megan Henderson (EP, Reveal Records)

This EP serves as a brief reminder of the sheer power of storytelling that is harnessed by Kris Drever’s remarkable and characteristic voice. Bereft of any needless ornamentation, Drever sings with a stark purity that instils a knowing sense of sincerity and urgency in his delivery, effortlessly drawing the listener in to something that is more akin to a conversation than a performance.

There is possibly a limitless array of material from the folk genre that one would wish to hear Drever tackle, and we’re treated to several such standards here. “Parcel Of Rogues” receives a more rumbustious treatment than some of the more usual preachy readings, whilst retaining the tenor of its ardent lyrics, and a breathtaking race through “Shady Grove” gives off some truly exhilarating, frenetic vibes. A more relaxed performance is evident on Sandy Wright’s “Wild Hurricane,” one of those magical moments where the potency of singer and songwriter combine to achieve an exceptional synthesis.

There is an impressive range packed in to this abridged release. The assured driving force of Éamonn Coyne’s banjo sets things off to a rollicking pace on several occasions, accompanied by the sprightly flourish of Megan Henderson’s fiddle, and the commanding, rhythmic authority of Drever’s own guitar on a lively combination of traditional and contemporary tunes, positively brimming with sheer joy and energy. In contrast, Drever’s own delicate composition, “Lament for Glencoe,” offers a blissful, serenity-filled few minutes.

There’s nothing fancy here, and it may only last around fifteen minutes, but you might well struggle to find a more accomplished, more enjoyable fifteen minutes of music on this year’s release schedules. Mike Wilson

Artist’s website: http://krisdrever.com/

SUZY BOGGUSS – American Folk Songbook CD and Songbook (Loyal Dutchess Records LDR 1006)

When I took my first faltering steps into the world of ‘folk’ music my music teacher presented me with a book of American folk songs edited by Alan Lomax. That memory is once again evoked by this glorious collection of songs and what better way than to reminisce than with Suzy Bogguss. It sounds very much as if Ms Bogguss and I travelled the same road for isn’t it best that in the first instance you should ‘enjoy’ what you’re performing and if possible invite everybody in who’ll listen? If that is the case then this comes across in a presentation that is simple yet effective utilising amongst others the skills of musicians including Jerry Douglas (dobro), Stuart Duncan (fiddle & mandolin) and John McCutcheon on hammer dulcimer. Along with long time associate Pat Bergeson on guitar Suzy’s lyrical style is all encompassing with an easy going approach that will appeal to anyone who feels a kinship with predominantly traditional ‘folk’ music. Opening with the unrequited love song “Shady Grove” of which the melody in the UK is more recognisable as that employed by Fairport for “Matty Groves” (but nowhere near so gory) the catalogue of 17 tracks reads like a top of the pops list of those we have loved. “Shenandoah”, “Red River Valley” and Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer” are all treated with dignity never allowing the arrangement to become indulgent thereby giving an honest, orderly representation of the chosen material. The hardback book is well laid out with piano accompaniment and guitar chords and Suzy’s informative notes make for interesting reading but not (thankfully) in a scholarly way. This project was obviously put together by someone who wants to convey the message that ‘folk’ music is good for the soul and if you’ll allow it you too can become an advocate. If the CD and book get the kudos they deserve I hope it won’t be too long before another recording is in the offing – perhaps with “The Titanic” and “Jesse James” amongst them?

PETE FYFE

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Artist Web link: https://www.suzybogguss.com/