DAMIEN O’KANE & RON BLOCK – Banjophony (Pure Records PRCD48)

BanjophonyIf you’re not a fan of the five-string egg-slicer you might be thinking of moving on but hold hard there, stranger. This is no ‘Duelling Banjos’, last one to the end gets the beers in mayhem-fest. The object of the exercise was to pair the 5-string banjo of the American tradition with the Irish style of tenor banjo playing but Banjophony does more than that. Most of the music here is contemporary, mostly written by O’Kane and Block with two each by Michael Mooney and David  Kosky and a traditional tune that crept in when no-one was watching.

Have a look at the cast list and you’ll realise that this is something rather special. There’s Stephen Byrnes on guitar, Duncan Lyall and Barry Bales on double bass, Michael McGoldrick on whistle and Stuart Duncan on fiddle just for starters. Indeed, we’re half a minute into the first set, ‘Miller’s Gin/Potato Anxiety’ before we actually hear a banjo courtesy of a lovely guitar intro from Byrnes.

Some tunes sound traditional – Block’s ‘Battersea Skillet Liquor’ is classic southern banjo picking topped of with fiddle – but more sound like new music written with the banjo in mind. O’Kane’s ‘Ode To Aunty Frances’ is a beautiful piece that could be arranged for any instrument(s) you fancy and still sound good. ‘Crafty Colette’ is another tune that approaches the banjo lead slowly and that lead, when it arrives, can best be described as “thoughtful”.

The band are very tight and Byrnes has contributed to the arrangements as has Kosky and all the music was recorded live apart from two double bass parts which came from Tennessee. You can almost feel the rapport between the musicians particularly when a tune doesn’t quite behave as expected. The title track is like that and is well-named.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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Artists’ websites: www.damianokane.co.uk / www.ronblock.com

This short teaser video is all we can find:

RICHARD THOMPSON – ELECTRIC

Declared by Rolling Stone as one of the Top 20 Guitarists Of All Time and considered one of the UK’s most outstanding songwriters, musician Richard Thompson returns with a brand new, guitar driven record titled ELECTRIC for Proper Records on Monday, February 11th.

After taking the bold step of recording his last album of new songs live, when it came to recording ELECTRIC, Thompson turned to Buddy Miller (Robert Plant’s Band Of Joy, Solomon Burke, Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin) to produce, recording at Miller’s home studio in Nashville, TN. Miller who himself is renowned for his guitar skills recently told Rolling Stone: “I played along on the record, playing rhythm guitar for him, and I got a two-week guitar lesson while he camped out in my house.”  The record was recorded as an electric trio with Thompson, drummer Michael Jerome and bassist Taras Prodaniuk, who both sing background vocals. Jerome and Prodaniuk formed part of the band which recorded and toured the UK Top Twenty album DREAM ATTIC, released in August 2010.

They make up the trio, with Thompson, on his forthcoming UK dates, his first extensive tour in two years.

Guests on ELECTRIC include the legendary Alison Krauss who joins Thompson on “The Snow Goose”, while English singer-songwriter Siobhan Maher Kennedy (formerly with River City People and now resident in Nashville) adds vocals on several tracks as well. Fiddle great Stuart Duncan also plays on the record; one of America’s leading bluegrass musicians he played on recent albums by Robert Plant/Alison Krauss and Elvis Costello and will be familiar in the UK from BBC4’s Transatlantic Sessions.

Richard Thompson himself commented that: “We did it ridiculously quickly. But it sounds great. It turned out surprisingly funky, sort of a new genre – folk-funk. It’s quite snappy, somewhere between Judy Collins and Bootsy Collins.”

ELECTRIC will be released as a Standard CD, Deluxe two–disc set and on 180 gram vinyl.

As a folking treat for you, we have a free stream of Good Things Happen To Bad People from the album below…

TRACK LISTING

1. Stony Ground

2. Salford Sunday

3. Sally B

4. Stuck on the Treadmill

5. My Enemy

6. Good Things Happen To Bad People

7. Where’s Home?

8. Another Small Thing In her Favour

9. Straight and Narrow

10. The Snow Goose

11. Saving The Good Stuff For You

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Recipient of a BBC Lifetime Achievement Award, Mojo’s Les Paul Award and curator of the prestigious Meltdown Festival at the Southbank in 2010, Thompson was most recently honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting by the Americana Music Association.

ELECTRIC was recorded earlier this year, 2012 marking the fortieth anniversary of Richard Thompson’s debut solo album, HENRY THE HUMAN FLY. Thompson has now released some forty albums, played on countless other classic recordings, and written more than 400 songs, some of which have been covered by R.E.M., Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, The Futureheads, Bonnie Raitt, Dinosaur Jr., Linda Ronstadt, Los Lobos, and many more.

Rolling Stone has hailed him as “a perennial dark horse contender for the title of greatest living rock guitarist.” The Independent recently described him as “probably the best guitarist this country has produced, an utterly sui generis talent…”

Thompson says of his fellow trio members: “Michael Jerome has been with me for about 12 years. He’s actually from Texas; he is a great musician, able to respond to anything that’s put in front of him.  Taras Prodaniuk worked a lot with Dwight Yoakam, and more recently with Lucinda Williams. His roots may be in country music, but he’s another extremely gifted and versatile musician.”

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

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

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

Award-Winning Songsmith Susan Greenbaum Announces This Life

Susan Greenbaum committed the first sin of musicians: She quit her day job. After working as a corporate executive in Fortune 500 companies, she traded her power suits for performing and songwriting. Since then, the Harvard graduate is poised for success, having won several national songwriting awards, including the Smithsonian Songwriters Award, The Philadelphia Songwriters Project and released four albums independently. Now, Greenbaum is releasing This Life, her most insightful and engaging songs to date, distributed by Compass Records Group this January 31st.

Not only were the songwriting trophies a boost to Greenbaum’s career change, she won a national competition to be the opening act for Jewel and enjoyed overwhelming success on the tour, welcoming thousands of new fans. Prior to This Life, her most recent album of all-original songs, Hey, Hey, Hey! was lauded by Billboard for having songs with “hooks that drill into your brain; smart, organic production; and lyrical substance to make the music an interactive experience.”

Her success has not come without sacrifice, as the tragedy of personal loss lends itself to the depth to Greenbaum’s songwriting. The album-opening “This Life” is a reflective letter to her brother who passed away from brain cancer; she wrote the song a week before her wedding. “I was thinking about how he wasn’t going to be at my wedding but maybe he was, maybe he is somewhere safe and healthy and not in pain and able to at least look down on all of us. That’s the whole idea of the song­—a conversation with him.” Greenbaum instills a glimpse of hope and recovery in her music, even in songs inspired by tragedy.

The album is far from somber and includes high-energy singles such as “Big,” a lively recipe for fame and fortune. “It’s very me, it’s funny and cynical and it’s unafraid to really look at things and be blunt and honest and there’s positivity in it and there’s reflection in… It’s like, ‘Chop chop! Let’s get to it, let’s get famous!’” The album includes lighthearted love songs like “Penny on the Sidewalk” and even a novelty bonus track lamenting the consequences of the indecision of squirrels.

Recorded in Nashville at Compass Sound Studios and produced by Garry West and Alison BrownThis Life includes such esteemed musicians as multi-instrumentalist Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Todd Phillips on upright bass, and the banjo of Alison Brown on the tracks “Virginia, the Home of My Heart” and “The Squirrel Song.” Says Greenbaum of the recording process, “Garry and Alison are very right-brained as well as very left-brained, and I am too, so we worked very well together. I had no idea what was going to happen, but it was one of the smartest risks I’ve ever taken!”

Greenbaum draws big, enthusiastic audiences who delight in her lively, diverse and powerful performances. Greenbaum has toured as a solo artist, playing such storied venues as The Bitter End in NYC, The Birchmere, Bethlehem Musikfest, Floyd Fest and Rams Head Tavern. In addition to touring with Jewel, she performed an acoustic set with Dave Matthews Band violinist Boyd Tinsley; sharing bills with Jill Sobule; and opening for Kenny Loggins, Patty Griffin, Dar Williams, Janis Ian, Jim Messina, Todd Snider, Tuck and Patti, Iris DeMent, Lucy Kaplansky, Lloyd Cole and Catie Curtis. Susan also endorses W.L Gore’s Elixir Strings.

Unafraid, brazen and under five feet tall, the dynamic Greenbaum shares an empowering message: “If you have something you know you love to do and you want to do it, you can do it! Follow your dreams!”

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.