KIZZY CRAWFORD – The Way I Dream (Freestyle Records FSRCD128)

The Way I DreamKizzy Crawford has been making music for a while but her début album The Way I Dream is only just on the verge of being released and it’s been worth the wait.  When I first saw Kizzy she could have gone in several directions, including folk which she sings very well.  On this album she has taken a very different direction and produced something of quality that stands out from the crowd.  With a combination of soul and funk, even a bit of rap, it has a very strong commercial appeal and could well be the album that is the big breakthrough Kizzy deserves.  That’s why it needs to stand out because it’s a very crowded area, but the electronics and drums have been well mixed and produced so they compliment Kizzy’s voice rather than competing with it.  The lyrics are the most important element in every song on the album and they come through clearly.  Kizzy certainly has a voice that deserves to be heard, being very clear and nicely pitched.  She doesn’t have the biggest range but it’s warm and welcoming, drawing you in to the song.

The album opens with ‘Dive’, which is certainly a dance track and it is hard to listen to without moving.  ‘Real Love’, following it, is more upbeat in tempo and this variety continues through the album. ‘Progression’ is possibly my personal favourite, a song that bounces along and has all that excitement of youth but knowing there’s a lot more to come.  It’s another track you will find yourself moving to, especially during the chorus.

Kizzy has both Welsh and Bajan roots and both of these influence the album.  Two of the songs are in Welsh; ‘Achub Fi’ and ‘Adlewyrchu Arnaf’ but they stay in that modern style and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t.  Any language has to move with the times and find an outlet that will appeal to people as a living thing.  Track 9, ‘Waiting Game’, is in English but has a Welsh rap in it; that may be a first but it certainly catches the attention.

I would recommend this album.  It’s different from what I normally listen to but I’ve played it far more than I needed to for for review purposes because it’s very good and I’ve enjoyed it.  It’s light and well paced and certainly brightens up the daily drive to work.

The Way I Dream is released on the 25th October and I haven’t seen a way of pre-ordering yet but it will be available through all the usual platforms as well as independent websites.

Tony Birch

style=”color: #ffa747;”>Storefront 


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link to the US Storehttps://folking.com/folking-us-storefront/


Artist’s website: http://www.kizzymerielcrawford.com/

‘Adlewyrchu Arnaf’ – official video:

JAKE AARON – Fag Ash And Beer (own label)

Fag Ash And BeerYou should never judge a book by its cover, we’re told, and the same is true of album covers.  I took this album for review with a slight sense of trepidation.  As a title Fag Ash And Beer, along with a cover photo of Jake playing a guitar in his kitchen, fag in mouth, had me thinking I’d be listening to the sort of person you see in the corner of a pub playing well known standards.  Fortunately it turned out I was wrong.  Fag Ash And Beer is a well crafted set of eleven self-penned songs performed by Jake and a good backing band.

Opening the album ‘Elvis Has Left The Building’ is an instrumental introducing the band which builds from a bluesy guitar intro into a Hammond led piece of prog rock from Steve Lodder.  This is followed by the title track, a love song of sorts but with any sense of romance stripped away.  There’s neither wine nor roses whilst a cemetery with a broken tombstone becomes the trysting ground.

And the fag ash and beer wasn’t a sacrament

But it was pretty damn close.

This pattern of instrumental pieces is repeated through the album, with the last three tracks being all instrumental, an idea that grew from the original concept.  Initially Jake was recording acoustic material, which he was pretty happy with, but to reach the sound of ‘Give Me Your Horse’, the single from the album, “...I asked the players if they’d come in again to record a couple of live tracks and colour in some of the acoustic takes”.

It works well, giving a bigger sound than he would have had originally whilst retaining the acoustic sound and nu-folk feel, along with Jake’s singing style which is reminiscent of Mark Knopfler.

The instrumental pieces are on the album on merit, varying in style and tempo and showing Jake’s skill as a guitarist.  As a whole Fag Ash And Beer works well as a début album showcase for a writer and performer of high standard.  Checking out the social media there aren’t any live shows listed, either as a individual of for the band, which is a shame.  For now we’ll have to content ourselves with a recording that is available from the website as a CD or limited edition vinyl, or can be downloaded through Amazon and other streaming platforms.

Tony Birch

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link to the US Storehttps://folking.com/folking-us-storefront/


Artist’s website: https://www.jakeaaron.com/

‘Elvis Has Left The Building’:

AMY HOPWOOD – All At Sea (own label)

All At SeaAmy Hopwood hails from the seaside town of Weymouth, in Dorset, so it makes sense that her inspiration would either come from the land or the sea.  As her album All At Sea makes abundantly clear this one comes from the sea.

Amy is certainly a folk singer and she has that straightforward style that is the mainstay of clubs and singarounds throughout the country, although she does it very much better than most. Along with Tobias Raven (who also recorded and mixed the album), and Coralie Hopwood on backing vocals the ten songs are very well presented and the voices take the lead.  Impressively seven of the songs are her own compositions, two are traditional and the final one is the well loved poem ‘Sea Fever’ by John Masefield set to music.

The sea has many faces and moods and one of the things I like about this album is how Amy explores these various facets.  Opening the album ‘Constant As The Sea’ is a love song about the one left behind on the shore.  This one, as with some of the others, has a simple chorus that is going to be picked up very easily by the audience and joined in with.

Sailors have always been suspicious, a topic investigated well in ‘The Call Of The Wind Witch’.  This is based, apparently, on a true superstition where wise women would sell knotted ropes to sailors about to set off on a voyage so they can try to control the wind .  Untie one knot for a gentle breeze, two knots for strong winds across the sea but never untie the third knot.  It’s a folk song, so it isn’t much of a spoiler alert to say that the third knot is eventually untied and they all die.

Just recently a report identified Blackpool as the most deprived area of the country and only a few streets away from the illuminations and arcades are huge social issues.  ‘The Seagulls Cried’ is based on a true story of a man who walked into the sea in the depths of winter, when both the sun and crowds have gone leaving only poverty and unemployment behind them.  In this case he was rescued by some onlookers although his eventual fate is unknown.  It’s a sobering song for those of us only only visit occasionally and imagine how wonderful it must be to live there.  Good music makes you think, and this is good music.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though.  ‘Throwing Stones At The Sea’ looks at that strange compulsion boys and men have of throwing stones.  We all do it, but none of us can explain why.  Is it an offering or a warning?  This song also demonstrates how well Amy matches music to words.  These men represent an army of people taking on a bigger power so the accompaniment is a military sounding snare drum.  On all the songs the backing is well matched, picking up on the mood of the piece.  Also very well done is ‘When The Boat Comes In’, with excellent harmonies and rounds between Amy and Coralie.

It was hard to decide which songs to not cover in this review because they’re all good.  As example of local singers doing what they do for the love of performing rather than fame you you’d be hard pushed to find something better.  On the strength of this album I hope I can get to see Amy and The Raven, as Amy and Tobias perform, one day in a club or at a festival.  In the meantime the album will have to do and I hope plenty of other people decide to join me in listening to it.  It can be purchased as a CD from Amy’s website, downloaded through Bandcamp or streamed on Spotify

Tony Birch

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link to the US Storehttps://folking.com/folking-us-storefront/


Artist’s website: http://www.amyhopwood.co.uk/

‘Constant As The Sea’ – official video:

STEELEYE SPAN – EST’D 1969 (Park Records PRKCD154)

Est'd 1969There are bands who seem to have always been there and have established a reputation that even allows them to break out into the mainstream on occasions.  Steeleye Span are one such band and this year they celebrate their 50th Anniversary with a brand new record Est’d 1969.  Perhaps you would expect some kind of retrospective and you might reasonably expect ‘All Around My Hat’ to appear at some stage.  However as lead vocalist Maddy Prior said in a recent radio interview, with Brian Player on Wey Valley Radio, “We’ve done a couple of “Best of..” type albums and I think we’ve covered that, and I thought for our 50th we should do something new.” They certainly have produced something new, and very good, being familiar enough for people who have followed them from the start to feel at home with whilst being fresh enough to appeal to new ears.

The album is a mixture of new songs, along with the traditional, but it has that distinctive sound of Steeleye Span to it.  The album opens with ‘Harvest’ and I’m sure that a lot of people, without knowing in advance who the band are, would recognise them within ten seconds.  If they didn’t get it from that then after twenty seconds there would be no doubt at all in their minds.  A close harmony opening, very reminiscent of ‘Gaudete’, gives way to a rollicking folk song that is going to go down a storm at festivals and live shows with a chorus you can’t help but sing along to “And we’ll roar out, roar out, roar out our harvest home.

Of the nine track on the album it’s difficult to pick which ones to talk about because there’s such a range across it.  Dave Goulder’s ‘The January Man’ is dominated by Maddy Prior’s voice, deeper than it was but still beautiful, and with a surprisingly detailed backing that doesn’t detract from the words.

Of the traditional songs ‘The Boy And The Mantle’ (Child Ballad 29) is an saga lasting over six minutes and demonstrates the best of prog rock folk, with a harpsichord and electric guitars adding to the effect.

Although the track listing is nine there are actually ten tracks as ‘Domestic’ has two songs in it, the second of which gratifyingly starts with “As I walked out one May morning” to show without doubt folk is the heart of Steeleye Span’s music.  This also harks back to The Silly Sisters, being a song Maddy used to sing with June Tabor.  The men don’t particularly come out well on either track.

Est’d 1969 has a huge range, different styles and tempos and new band members bringing their own influences but retaining the core sound in an evolution rather than rebellion.  Over fifty years cycles begin to appear so Benji Kirkpatrick is now part of the band, following in father John’s footsteps.   Given all the changes how is that sound maintained?  Maddy Prior again “It’s very interesting having new people, young people, who don’t know a lot about traditional music…they think they know what it is before they join us and then they discover it’s much more complex than that”.

There are a couple of chances to see Steeleye Span play at festivals over the summer but then also a major tour in November and December; full details are on the website.  If you can’t wait until then to get Est’d 1969, and you shouldn’t, it’s released on 28th June and is available from Park Records

Happy Birthday, Steeleye Span, 50 years young and still making a huge contribution to the folk scene.  Long may it continue.

Tony Birch

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link to the US Storehttps://folking.com/folking-us-storefront/


 Artist’s website: http://steeleyespan.org.uk/

‘Harvest’ – live:

HEADSTICKS – Kept In The Dark (STP Records Group STP056)

Kept In The DarkDefining or categorising music can sometimes be difficult.  If you Google Headsticks you find them defined as Alternative/Indie.  Their website, however, says  FOLK, PUNK, ROOTS, REVOLUTION. The website is probably a better definition of the music to be found on their new album Kept In The Dark.  Headsticks formed in 2012 and although they have built their reputation through live performance the back catalogue of two studio albums, two studio EPs and a live album in that time show they’re more than willing to get their music out to a wide audience.

Kept In The Dark is impressive before even a note has been played, being produced in the style of a hardback children’s book although I suspect the mushrooms on the front cover aren’t the sort found in a Sunday breakfast. Mushrooms are the image of this album because they’re kept in the dark and fed on…  Inside, the clearly printed lyrics are interspersed with photos from live shows and you can sense the energy and raw power the band brings to those.  The band, incidentally, are Andrew Tranter (lead vocals), Stephen Dunn (guitar & vocals), Nick Bayes (bass & vocals) and Tom Carter (drums & vocals).  So the album cover looks and feels good, with a lot of thought and production in the packaging, but what of the music?

The intro to track one ‘When?’ lasts three seconds then straight into driving guitar and drums with the first lyric being a screamed “yeah!” and we’re off.    Back to production values the lyrics sit well above the instruments so every word is crystal clear and Taylor doesn’t rush to get them out at the expense of enunciation.  The concept of punk, after the genre started to worry about gold discs, found a natural home in folk music because it was stories about ordinary people wanting to be heard. Headsticks have got something to say and they make sure you hear it.

A thought provoking track, one very relevant to now, is ‘The Song For Song’s Sake’ with a great chorus.

This is the song it’s the song for songs sake
It doesn’t mean nothing cus we’ve got nothing to say
This is the song and it don’t mean nothing
Singing la la la, hey hey hey…”

In each verse there’s a dichotomy so people are sitting around the festival fire pit, you can almost hear the bongos and see the dreadlocks, whilst across the world there’s another disaster unfolding as we sit “drinking whiskey with a steampunk pirate”.

The album is full of these insights.  ‘Out Of Fashion’ is certainly a dig at the slactivists we all know, perhaps even are.

Get angry with the TV?
Point our fingers at the screen?
Whilst we post our latest status,
of the false lives we all dream?

I’ve quoted far more lyrics already than I normally do in a review because this is an album where the words are important and ‘Out Of Fashion’ is spoken word rather than sung but this album is also worth listening to for the music which is good and tight.  Perhaps the biggest difference in this latest evolution of punk is that people can play the instruments and give us musically good songs without losing the edge.  I’d love to see this band at a festival because I know the audience will be moving and throwing themselves in to it completely.  The buzz of a live performance must be incredible.

So is it punk? Or folk? Or roots?  Yes, to all of them.  These are story songs with an arc and chosen to be played amplified and electronically but some of the tracks, ‘All Of The Trees’ for example, would work well acoustically.   With sixteen tracks on the albums there’s plenty of variety.

Should you buy Kept In The Dark?  Yes, unambiguously.  I love traditional music and, at it’s heart, this is an album of traditional music for the 21st century.  It can be bought as both CD and vinyl from the artist’s website as well as the usual platforms.

Tony Birch

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link to the US Storehttps://folking.com/folking-us-storefront/


Artist’s website: http://www.headsticks.co.uk

‘Peace Or War’ – official video:

TOBIAH – Are We Angels (Star Music)

Are We AngelsAre We Angels is the first album to be released by Tobiah since Step Up in 2011.  Words like ethereal come to mind and many of the songs would not be out of place in musicals, as they do have a theatrical feel to them with lush orchestration backing Tobiah’s clear and beautiful vocals.

The title track is a song that sums up the album, being both about relationships and how music can be used to heal or express the world.  From the sleeve notes accompanying the album we discover that Tobiah lost her husband whilst still in her twenties, after just a few years of marriage, and it was the random acts of kindness from often complete strangers that helped her through those difficult times.  We can all be angels on occasions, is the message, and it’s the small things that count.  As she says “My songs are very visual, about experiences in my life or a story that has caught my imagination.  Lyrics are important – I could never write a song that didn’t move me”.

The opening track ‘Kiss Kiss’ could easily be one of the songs from a show I mentioned earlier.  It’s a love song about all those special moments in a relationship with the most special moment being the kiss because “nothing is better than that, nothing is more special than that”.  It’s a very moving piece that gives the warm, fuzzy feeling of a true love song.

Selecting tracks to mention in this review, from the nine on offer, has proven difficult because the standard is very high throughout but I will mention ‘Ancient Church’, inspired by an old stone church near Tobiah’s home.  Sitting in it she began to think about those who’d come before and had perhaps found comfort and inner peace in it’s age and stability through bad times and good.

I also have to mention ‘Apples – The Long Goodbye’ which originally started  as a song about the changes of the season but became a song about Tobiah’s mother who is in the final stages of dementia.  Despite the subject this isn’t a depressing song at all.  Time passes and fortune or fate can give both the bounty of an apple harvest or the slow passing of a loved one.  It’s all part of the world we live in and music such as this can reach out to people to help them make sense of that.

I was attracted to this album the first time I heard it and many plays later I still find it both beautiful and moving.  It’s an album for those times when you want to just pull back and spend some time in quiet and contemplation.  When the world starts to get get a little too much this is the one to play and  recharge the batteries, as so many of the feelings within it are ones we’ve encountered but can have problems expressing.  It’s a reminder we’re not alone and life goes on.

I’ve mentioned Tobiah’s strong vocal ability but adding immensely to the album are the musicians she has chosen to work with, who interpret her music with great style and sensitivity; Caroline Lavelle (cello), Colette O’Leary (piano accordion), Rowan Piggott (fiddle), Simon Callow (keyboards/percussion) and Kenneth Hope (piano).

The album will be launched on 10th May and will be available on both iTunes and Spotify.  There are also physical CDs but no details as yet of how to order.  All profits from the album will go to the charity Animals Asia, which Tobiah has been supporting for several year, having previous released a single ‘Moon Bear’ on their behalf.

Tony Birch

 Artist’s website: https://www.tobiah.co.uk/

‘Moon Bear’: