CAITLIN KING – Flower Crown (SoSlam)

Flower CrownMusicians, like policemen, are looking younger and there is a new young musician on the beat.  Southend-on-Sea based Caitlin King has only just turned 16 and has released a début EP Flower Crown which shows a lot of promise.

Caitlin has been writing since she was 12 and it’s encouraging to see that all five tracks on the EP are her own compositions.  That’s a brave choice as the temptation must be to put a couple of well known covers in, but it also means that the performer has a chance to establish their own identity and not bind themselves to a particular genre.

I would pitch this album in the folk realm, as the songs are very personal, but it certainly isn’t just a folk album.  It has to be mentioned that Caitlin may lack years but has experienced loss in her life, which influences two of the tracks in particular.

‘Metaphor’, the opening number, is about facing loss and having to deal with that the time leading towards it where hope begins to fade and praying for the best doesn’t work. This track is quite pop orientated and is the only one that has a drum accompaniment.

‘In The Wilderness’, which follows it, is musically a much simpler track with just voice and guitar and is very much a song of somebody whose life is starting to take on a new direction and with new distractions such as relationships.  It has more of a folk feel and is rather beautiful.

‘Heal your Heart’ is a song that also refers back to Caitlin’s loss but what this song has in common with ‘Metaphor’ is that it has a positive message that throughout everything love remains and that love becomes part of the healing process.

For ‘Flower Crown’ Caitlin accompanies herself on piano. There a blues feel in a song about basically about love and being there for people and has an impressive build before ending with a gentle outro.

‘Like You Once Did’ returns back to the folk idiom and can also be considered a love song although the love isn’t happy and fulfilling.  Interestingly this song also includes spoken words, which is something not often heard in songs and yet it works very well here.  Hearing Caitlin’s real voice, with even a few “you know’s” thrown in for good measure, does bring home how young she is.

Caitlin’s voice, as with the songs, can vary across the tracks.  She’s certainly capable of putting on an accent that would not be out of place in a jazz bar but she also has a simpler and, for me, more natural sound that is very pleasant.  As a début this EP does exactly what it should.  Caitlin has set out her stall and showcased her talents well.  There’s a good range of skills on display and she’s not afraid to experiment, but also manages to avoid the trap of attempting to over-complicate things for effect. It’s a very promising start, from somebody learning their trade the right way, and I think there is more to come.

The album was released at the end of 2017 and is now available to download or stream through various platforms including iTunes and Amazon.

Tony Birch

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’s website: https://www.facebook.com/caitlinkingmusic/

‘Flower Crown’ – official video:

BRONA McVITTIE – Live at the Tea House Theatre, Vauxhall, London

Brona McVittie - live
Photograph by Tony Birch

London is a city divided by the Thames, so “heading south of The River” always adds a little something to an occasion.  In this case it was only just south, to the Tea House Theatre based in an old Victorian public house that opened in 1886 on the site of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens as immortalised as the ‘Vanity Fair’ in Thackeray’s novel.  The occasion was the album launch of Brona McVittie’s We Are The Wildlife.

This is Brona’s début album, although she has appeared before on albums as a member groups including the London Lasses and neo-impressionist outfit littlebow, and it is very good.  There was no supporting act for the show, but some excellent backing musicians were used as required on each song so we had almost a series of scenes and the stage was well laid out to allow easy access and exit meaning it ran very smoothly.

The evening opened with just Brona and her harp for ‘Newry Mountain’, a traditional Irish piece featured on the album that is a very gentle love song, and so eased us in to the evening.  I say it was just voice and instrument but here we have a traditionalist who lets tradition guide rather than dictate how the music sounds.  As is so often the case these days electronics were used on most tracks either for effects or to provide a backing.  When done well, as it was here, that isn’t something I have problems with as I’m sure Turlough O’Carolan would have been interested if such devices had been around in his time.  After all, some of his contemporaries considered him too modern.

The second song of the evening also nodded to tradition, with ‘When The Angels Wake You’ based on a Yeats poem and backed by Myles Cochran on lap slide and the opening track to the album.  Yeats is a poet whom Brona uses for inspiration and that wasn’t the last poem of his to make an appearance, although we had to wait until the end for ‘The Jug Of Punch’, a parting song with is heard less frequently than ‘The Parting Glass’ but is every bit as good.

Brona is fortunate to be able to call of some terrific backing musicians, in addition to Myles Cochran, and they made a huge contribution to the evening.  Flautists Anne Garner and Keiron Phelan swapped places, with Anne also providing backing vocals alongside Barbara Marion whilst  Hutch Demouilpied’s sensitive trumpet playing fitted in perfectly. As already mentioned this mixing of sounds and players kept the evening fresh as you never knew what was coming next.

Of course, every song featured Brona and her harp so there was a common theme.  Brona’s voice compliments her chosen instrument so well with its gentle lilt and gossamer application.  This also reflects back into the songs which often have a sense of not being quite of this world.  ‘Under The Pines’ is a good example of this.  The inspiration for the song was a walk in the woods, past some dog kennels where the dog’s barks echoed off the trees so the sound became a surround rather than have a distinct direction.  Reality and fantasy collided and there were occasions where we, as the audience, weren’t quite sure which realm we were inhabiting but it certainly wasn’t part of South London surrounded by flats.

Yeats even managed to inspire an instrumental piece on the album which deserves mention for its title of heroic proportions.  ‘The Vast And Vague Extravagance That Lies At The Bottom Of  The Celtic Heart’ drew on most of the band and this slow, lilting piece brought soft rain and gentle landscapes readily to mind.

Music can touch many emotions but this evening left a feeling of quiet relaxed satisfaction, as if leaving a dreamscape you long to return to and We Are The Wildlife is a perfect of example of traditional sounding Irish music that has found a new lease of life and vigour in recent years.  The album is now available through the artist’s website or other platforms including Amazon and Rough Trade, but if you get the chance I would strongly recommend buying it at a live show.

Finally, credit must go to the sound man for the evening, Mark Thompson, who did an excellent job balancing up instruments and voices with very different ranges, as well as joint promoters Graham Smallwood of FolkonMonday and Karen Ryan of Irish Music and Dance in London.

Tony Birch

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’s website: http://bronamcvittie.corkbots.com/

‘Newry Mountain’:

 

BENJAMIN FOLKE THOMAS – Copenhagen (LOUVAIO L00005)

CopenhagenBenjamin Folke Thomas was born on a small island off the coast of Sweden, mainly populated by evangelical Christians, but his third album takes it’s title from across the Øresund; Copenhagen.

Combining his upbringing with musical influences ranging from Leadbelly to Cohen and Jackson Browne means his work tends, perhaps not surprisingly,  to be introspective and personal. His style and voice are similar to Martyn Joseph and, like Joseph, he is a supreme storyteller.  His stories encompass large issues but at the individual, human level so this is not necessarily an album to be put on in the car whilst driving.  To get the most from it you need take the time to sit down and listen to every word and you will be well rewarded for your effort.

The title track, ‘Copenhagen 30/6’, is a good example of his work as a storyteller.  There are seven verses and no chorus, which is fairly typical.  It’s a song about needing somebody in order for life to make sense and have purpose and yet not until the very end of song are we given any hope there might be a happy ending.  There may also be an element of autobiography in it

“I missed you tonight when I was up on stage,
I couldn’t find my focus I was unable to engage,
The sound was bad not enough tickets sold,
I wish I was with you tonight.

‘Finn’ is another story set to music, rather than a song, and it is a terrific story about the passing of time; how things change but how they also stay the same.  It chiefly concerns two men who have come into Benjamin’s life and the song is so convincing I believe they are real people.  We are first introduced to Abbas, a Palestinian and doctor but trying to make ends meet working in a supermarket having left his wife and children behind.  Next we are introduced to Benjamin’s grandfather, the Finn of the title, who also ended up as a refugee from the Nazis and lost his brother to them.  Two men separated by time and yet neither are able to live the life they wanted because of forces they cannot control which separate them from loved ones.

If there is a theme to this album it is that search for love and stability yet worrying that finding what you want may not be the answer.  As he sings in ‘Safe and Secure’

They say that love is liberating
But I don’t understand
How can anyone in love ever feel
Safe and secure

Musically the influence is Blues with a bit of Rock but the strength is the words.  In a different persona Benjamin could be described as a poet, rather than singer, and he would be equally good.  Copenhagen is an incredibly good album of contemporary music from a performer who has a lot to give and is not afraid to give all.  It is highly recommended.

The album was released on the 3rd March and is available through the artist’s website as well as the usual platforms.

Tony Birch

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.

‘Copenhagen’ – official video:

DARIA KULESH Live at Cecil Sharp House

Daria Kulesh live
Photograph by Tony Birch

February 23rd is a date that should be known in history.  On this day in 1944 the entire population of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, those who weren’t away at war fighting for the Soviet Union, were told they were being deported for alleged collaboration with the enemy.  Many were children and resistance was met with death.

Move forward to 2017 and February 23rd was the date chosen by Daria Kulesh to launch her second album Long Lost Home at Cecil Sharp House in London. The location was appropriate because, as Daria said, CSH collects and stores folk memories so that they are available for future generations and Long Lost Home is more than just an album of songs as Daria through her Grandmother, Fatima Akhrieva, is Ingushetian. The evening was a celebration of her journey to find that link to her past.

February 23rd 2017 will also be remembered for Storm Doris, which provided a suitably tumultuous backdrop to the event but unfortunately disrupted travel and meant some audience members were unable to attend. They missed an evening of powerful, moving emotion that was also uplifting with its message of hope for the future.

The evening began with two well received pieces from Timur Dzeytov, People’s Artist of Ingushetia, including a song about the deportations followed by a traditional tune.  He played the dakhchan pandar, a form of the balalaika, and it was obvious even to me that this was not “Russian” music.  There were resonances of the near- and middle-east in the sound.  It was a suitably exotic opening.

Daria then took to the stage wearing a most beautiful dress that had been hand made and decorated in traditional style. She opened, as does the album, with ‘Tamara’ a dark song about sorcery and death.  The simple accompaniment from Timur and Evan Carson (percussion) emphasised the words well.  Evan came in as an emergency replacement but it certainly didn’t look that way, the sign of a very talented musician.

I’ve been fortunate to have seen some of these songs before, at least one on its debut, often with just Daria accompanying herself on guitar or shruti.  For the album launch we were treated to a full backing band which allowed the music to be fully expressed.  At various points during the evening we were also introduced to Jonny Dyer (piano and guitar), Kate Rouse (hammered dulcimer and piano), Vicki Swan (double bass, nyckelharpa and small pipes) and Phil Underwood (various accordions and guitar).

Daria Kulesh live
Photograph by Tony Birch

The evening followed the album so we were quckly enraptured with the ‘The Moon and The Pilot’, the story of Daria’s great-grandparents, Diba Posheva and Rashid Akhriev.  Diba was one of the deportees in 1944, two years after Rashid died a Hero of the Soviet Union in the battle for Leningrad.  It could not save his wife and their two young children, one of whom was Daria’s grandmother.  It was impossible not to be moved by Diba’s story of resilience and love for her children.

My personal favourite on the album came not long afterwards. ‘Amanat’ is the story of a relative even further back in time, Chakh Akhriev, who was born in 1850 and essentially fostered to Russian parents as a hostage.  It’s a story of a different time and place, yet of a man who never quite fitted in.  The song appeals to me, maybe for that reason, and it is also a fine example of Daria’s incredible vocal ability.  There’s so much power, range and control in her singing she entrances a room in the way very few other singers can.

This is not a review of the album so I will only mention one more song, ‘Heart’s Delight’.  This is Daria’s translation of the Ingush ‘Song of Mochkha’.  She also wrote the gloriously uplifting tune.  The first time I heard it I thought it was the Ingush National Anthem, and it possibly should be.

What is yours by right, May you always hold/May your heart’s delight become your fate.

To show how music can cross boundaries this was the tune where Vicki Swan played her small pipes, a suggestion which originally came from Timur Dzeytov.  It worked so very well; the drone of the pipes adding a frisson to the words that raised the hairs on the back of my neck.

For an encore we were treated to ‘Fata Morgana’, the opening track from debut album ‘Eternal Child’ and the start of Daria’s journey to her Long Lost Home in the Caucasus Mountains.  To complete the journey Timur Dzeytov returned to the stage to play a lezginka, a traditional dance from the Caucasus.  In the dance the man (on this occasion Anzor Aushev, who was one of Daria’s hosts in Ingushetia on her research trip for the album) is an eagle and the woman, whose name I don’t know, is a swan.  It was a beautiful insight to a different culture, the dance involved no contact between the partners but the courtship aspect was more than clear.  This is the dance which is also referred to in ‘Like A God’, the story of Daria’s great-great-uncle, and Diba’s brother, Aludin Poshev.  It was said he could dance like a god.

We also had a speech from Khairudin, the leader of the Vainakh (Ingush & Chechen) community in London  and I was left with the impression that Long Lost Home is a folk memory of Ingushetia that will become important to a country and people who are trying to reestablish their identity after many years of turbulence and suppression.

Tony Birch

Artist’s website: http://www.daria-kulesh.co.uk/

‘The Moon And The Pilot’ – official video:

CARREG LAFAR – Aur (Sain SCD2754)

AurCarreg Lafar are a five-piece band from Wales and Aur is their fourth album in a career that has spanned 20 years.  From the front cover picture, with its carefully arranged Victoriana it’s clear that this is going to be an album of traditional music and a glance at the track list confirms it will be in Welsh. That gave me two options; I could try to translate, or accept the language as part of the sound.  I went for the latter and discovered an album of great charm and delightful music, although the bi-lingual sleeve notes give some useful pointers.

The album opens with ‘Aderyn Bach’ or ‘Little Bird’ is is very up tempo.  The song is brought to life by the stylish singing of Linda Owen Jones and also demonstrates the wide range of instruments the band have at their disposal.  This song, I am certain, also introduced me to a new instrument; the pidgorn or horn pipe.  It has an ethereal quality, not quite a Northumberland pipe, but far more ancient sound.

Following that comes a love song ‘Cariad Aur’, which is absolutely beautiful mainly because the musicians blend together so well.  Here the flute, fiddle and voices weave through each other solidly supported by Danny KilBride’s guitar.

Each of the songs has been carefully selected and placed within the album to give a range of style and tempo that keeps everything fresh.  For example the lively ‘Tom, Dic A Chwrw’ is followed by the lullaby ‘Baban Bach’ before the album ends on another love song ‘Titrwm Tatrwm’.

Welsh traditional music has never had the exposure of its Gaelic cousins and yet this album shows it is a vibrant genre in its own right, which deserves to more widely heard and appreciated.  Carreg Lafar, along with other bands such as Allan Yn Y fan, are certainly providing us with an opportunity to listen and we would be missing out if we didn’t take up their invitation.

The album is available from the band’s website, or from various sources as both CD and download.

Tony Birch

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.

Artists’ website: http://www.carreglafar.co.uk

Carreg Lafar live (Caution: bagpipes):

ROSIE HODGSON – Rise Aurora (own label)

rise auroraI’ll get straight to the point.  Rosie Hodgson’s Rise Aurora is an absolute gem of an album and I will probably not be the first reviewer to say you will want to listen to it over and over again.  It’s full of beautiful music with seven of the twelve tracks being written by Rosie herself and the rest being either traditional folk songs or works by Burns and Kipling.

Rosie Hodgson released an EP Somewhere North in 2012 and was a finalist in the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award in 2013 but is probably best know as the lead singer with Crossharbour who are a London based Irish band, even though she comes from West Sussex and is a Morris dancer. On this album she teams up with Rowan Piggott, an Irish fiddle player who is also classically trained and a chorister.  From that you can assume that quality is going to be core to the music and you would not be mistaken.

Rosie’s songs revolve around ordinary individuals, which is what folk music is about, and two of them relate to her own family.  The title track ‘Aurora Rising’ is based around her Grandfather’s home town of Cromer in Norfolk.  Fishing was the main industry with all the hardships and dangers that brings, not least for the families left ashore hoping the men will come back again.

On an album this good it’s difficult to pick the stand out tracks but ‘Hetty’s Waltz’ deserves mention.  This is a song for Rosie’s Grandma and Grandfather who fell in love on a bus and enjoyed dancing all their lives.  It’s beautiful and showcases both Rosie’s crystal clear voice and Rowan’s delicate accompaniment.  Both artists have good voices and are more than capable of singing a capella, as they show on a excellent arrangement  of Robbie Burn’s ‘Westlin Winds’.

The album is well produced and Rosie’s precise enunciation means there is no need for the lyrics to be written down.  Instead the background to each song is given, again following that folk tradition of explaining why a song exists.

Final mention must go to the last song, ‘Liverpool Lullaby’, written by Rosie when she was just fourteen.  What’s remarkable about that, apart from it being another beautiful song, is that is now ten years old.  Rosie is only twenty-four!  There is a very long and bright future dawning.

The album was released on December 1st and is available through the artist’s website as either a CD or download.

Tony Birch

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’s website: http://www.rosiehodgson.com/

‘Rise Aurora’ – live: