Some reviews that we weren't able to fit into Stirrings 174...
THE ART OF FORGETTING
Riverboat Records TUG1109
12 songs from American singer/songwriter/guitarist Kyle Carey, and right from the go-get, as I think they say over there, you know you’re in good hands - not really surprising when John McCusker and Mike McGoldrick are in the band and Rhiannon Giddens is singing backing vocals.
Kyle has a fine voice – think Alison Krauss but contralto – and is a good lyricist; I particularly enjoyed Tillie Sage, a banjo/guitar/fiddle driven Appalachian take on Charles Dickens’ Miss Haversham, and Tell Me Love – very Union Station. Elsewhere I loved the jazz trumpet and piano on the Irish Ballad Siubhail A Rin and the New Orleans marching band treatment of the American gospel hymn Down to the River to Pray, here sung in Scottish Gaelic. Recommended.
NIGHT AND DAY
Music Without Measure MWMCD003
This is Saskia’s third studio album and is crowd-funded by her fans. She sings all eleven songs and wrote ten of them. She has a beautiful, crystal-clear voice with unimpeachable diction and is accompanied by Ciaran Algar (fiddle), Lukas Drinkwater (bass), Jack Cookson (guitar), and Ivan Carson (drums) – I hope the Christian names are correct (the first letter of each line of the PR is missing).
These musicians have a good pedigree – Radio 2 Folk Awards, Seth Lakeman, The Levellers etc – and the playing, arrangements and musical content are all well above par, but the lyrics are at times clichéd, vague, and detract from the otherwise excellent overall feel of the album. The one exception is the closer, Wild Mountain Thyme, which Saskia sings to a simple but very effective acoustic guitar accompaniment provided by Jack Cookson, who also (I assume) supplies vocal harmonies – there’s life in the old dog yet.
PETER FERGUS McCLELLAND
THE TURN OF THE TIDE
Hobgoblin Records HOBCD1017
Peter Fergus McClelland is a Sussex-based singer and guitarist who has obviously learned a lot from Martin Carthy and Nic Jones, the influence of both being acknowledged. This album developed from a concert performance at Cornwall Folk Festival in 2016. It is subtitled as songs of the sea, coast, fishing, rivers, lovers and banishment, and its twelve tracks include three of Peter’s compositions, six traditionals, which include two from Nic Jones and one from Martin Carthy, and a further three songs by Lennie Gallant, Stan Rogers and Archie Fisher. There are a number of back-up musicians, but Peter and his guitar are forefronted and the back-up is kept minimal.
The album starts under the theme of banishment, with two traditionals from the repertoire of Nic Jones – The Island Of St. Helena and The Isle Of France. Nic’s percussive, open-tuning style of accompaniment is adopted, but Peter’s singing is distinctive. The following theme of fishing includes the well-known cumulative song The Herring’s Head, followed by the tune The King Of The Cannibal Isle. Then the theme of rivers includes the witty, tongue-twisting song Johnny Sands, from Martin Carthy’s repertoire, and I wonder if Martin still sings it, given that it describes a man getting one over on a woman, the opposite of The Drunken Husband. Peter’s sleeve notes describe it as "a rather unpleasant little song" which "always seems to go down well though". Under the same theme is the traditional Just As The Tide Was Flowing, the first song Peter performed live, and taken from the singing of Tony Rose. Two of Peter’s compositions come under this theme – The Willow Tree, which is a rewrite of an old English folk song, and The Appalachian Way, which is suitably American-sounding and based on a US road trip in late 2015.
His other composition, Top Alex, is closer to home and comes under the theme of coast. It is about Southend’s long pier, and it was written after a family visit to the pier in 2005. There had been a tradition of fires at the pavilions at either end of the pier – 1959, 1976, 1977 and 1995. Another broke out the night following Peter’s family visit. Top Alex is followed by the concluding track, Men Of Worth, written by Archie Fisher and about the North Sea Oil Rush. This is a refreshing album, very varied within its generally aquatic themes, and it is good to hear a bit of unpretentious singing and guitar accompaniment reminiscent in a positive way of Martin Carthy and Nic Jones.
Own label AJRCD0317
On this, singer/songwriter/guitarist Ady Johnson’s second album he gives us eleven self-composed songs in a style somewhere between The Kinks and the early Faces – on occasion, the opener Problems of Your Own for example, his voice has more than a smidgeon of Ray Davies in it.
The songs are both musically and lyrically literate and well arranged – they don’t sound “arranged” at all, more like they just occurred naturally. I particularly enjoined the brass sound on Put The World On Standby, the upbeat The Glass Tower which captures exactly that feeling you get on the long drive home after days/weeks of hard graft, and a couple of songs – The Black And The Blue, and Bring You Back – which are mostly just voice and acoustic guitar, with occasional sparse, ghostly, and very effective licks from David Rothon on pedal steel. Recommended.
Haven Records HAVENCD22
This is 63-year-old heart transplant recipient David Botting’s debut album, and all proceeds will go to Harefield Hospital Charity. He sings well, his voice working towards having an edge on it, and plays both plectrum and finger style acoustic guitar very well indeed.
He wrote 9 of the eleven songs – the other two are adaptations, Slipping Stones from Kelly Joe Phelps Flash Cards, and All Of Mine from Robert Plant’s All The King’s Horses (both with permission); if you’re going to borrow, borrow from the best.
There’s plenty of variety in his own material – the bossa nova rhythm of Take Me To The High Place, the descending guitar figure behind Haven In Your Eyes, and the jazzy 3:4 major 7ths love song Let's Rendezvous. I also enjoyed his use of mandocello/8 string cittern/bouzouki (only the headstock with 8 machine heads is visible in the photo) on Above The Waterline and Cammino Della Luce. Well worth a listen or three.