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Category Archives: british folk

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Eddie Affleck is a well repected Scottish folksinger, he concentrates mainly on Scottish traditional songs, but also incorporates traditional and modern composed songs from other countries mainly England, Ireland, Canada and the United States.

joJohnny Flynn’s new album follows 2008′s ‘A Larum’ and 2010′s ‘Been Listening’. Johnny and long-time collaborator / best friend Adam Beach (The Sussex Wit) chose a very different process to the workmanlike five weeks in a studio of previous albums. They produced it themselves; Johnny called it ‘demoing with intent’. His thing about demos is that you usually prefer them to the finished thing. So they did their recordings in a number of different studios, in New York and London over the last two years. Those fresh, first drafts have become the finished album. Flynn adds that he can’t even remember writing many of the songs this time round – “Normally I have loads of notebooks, but this just kind of happened.”
The theme for the album is one of journeying, with the way as a teacher: a ‘Country Mile’ being an indefinite distance. The allegory is a through line for the record with each song making up the different elements of a life seen as one journey. They stand as a map or constellation; the ‘journey’ under observation includes those of the Earth, the Moon, the Sun and the stars.

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Richard & Linda Thompson‘s marriage was crumbling as they were recording Shoot Out the Lights in 1982, and many critics have read the album as a chronicle of the couple’s divorce. In truth, most of the album’s songs had been written two years earlier (when the Thompsons were getting along fine) for an abandoned project produced by Gerry Rafferty, and tales of busted relationships and domestic discord were always prominent in their songbook. But there is a palpable tension to Shoot Out the Lights which gives songs like “Don’t Renege On Our Love” and “Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed” an edgy bite different from the Thompsons‘ other albums together; there’s a subtle, unmistakable undertow of anger and dread in this music that cuts straight down to the bone. Joe Boyd‘s clean, uncluttered production was the ideal match for these songs and their Spartan arrangements, and Richard Thompson‘s wiry guitar work was remarkable, displaying a blazing technical skill that never interfered with his melodic sensibilities. Individually, all eight of the album’s songs are striking (especially the sonic fireworks of the title cut, the beautiful drift of “Just The Motion,” and the bitter reminiscence of “Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed”), and as a whole they were far more than the sum of their parts, a meditation on love and loss in which beauty, passion, and heady joy can still be found in defeat. It’s ironic that Richard & Linda Thompson enjoyed their breakthrough in the United States with the album that ended their career together, but Shoot Out the Lights found them rallying their strengths to the bitter end; it’s often been cited as Richard Thompson‘s greatest work, and it’s difficult for anyone who has heard his body of work to argue the point.

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FOFotheringay’s only album – the beautiful self-titled ‘Fotheringay’ – has long been regarded as one of the finest achievements of British folk-rock. Originally released in 1970, soon after Sandy Denny left Fairport Conventiion, the album includes some of her finest vocal performances and some of her finest original compositions.


Sandy Denny – guitar, piano, vocals
Trevor Lucas – guitar, vocals
Jerry Donahue – guitar, vocals
Pat Donaldson – bass, vocals
Gerry Conway – drums
Linda Thompson – vocals
Todd Lloyd – vocals

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John Renbourn: Guitars, vocals
Tony Roberts: Vocals, flute, recorders, oboe, piccolo
Jacqui McShee: Vocals
Sue Draheim: Fiddle, vocals
Keshav Sathe: Tabla, finger cymbals

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beBella Hardy’s new studio album battleplan, the brooding follow-up to the award winning Songs Lost & Stolen.
On battleplan, traditional ballads are re-imagined from a female perspective, and personal experiences are reflected against fairy tales and folklore. Allowing the old and the new to mingle more than on previous albums, Bella has chosen to record some of her favourite traditional songs; songs which would be familiar to many had they not undergone a fair amount of repurposing, amalgamating and, in some cases, entire tune transplants ? as is essential to the folk process. In Hardy’s hands, songs some hundreds of years old could’ve been written yesterday, while those from her own pen have the echoes of history behind them.
Produced by Mattie Foulds (responsible for recordings by Karine Polwart, Alasdair Roberts, Lau and many more), Bella is backed on battleplan by her band The Midnight Watch, featuring the top drawer talents of Mattie himself on drums, Anna Massie on guitar & banjo, Angus Lyon on keys & accordion, and James Lindsay on bass.

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ALLANAllan Taylor is one of England’s most-respected singer/songwriters. His songs have been covered by artists on both sides of the Atlantic, including Don Williams, Frankie Miller, Fairport Convention, Dick Gaughan, the McCalmans, the Fureys, the Clancy Brothers, and De Dannan.


Allan Taylor – 6 and 12 string guitars, cittern, dulcimer
John Kirkpatrick – melodeon, accordion
Colin Ross – Northumbrian pipes
Ian Fairbairn – fiddle
Bill Mitchell, Stu Lackley, Bob Fox -  singers

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lorenThe liner notes of this first time CD edition of two mid-80′s vinyl albums from folk vocalist Loren Auerbach explain how this memorable collaboration with Bert Jansch led on a winding path through the intervening years to recent marriage. One can hear sparks of muses co-mingling betwixt the Icelandic poetry graduate student-turned-unsteady-vocalist and the diving swallow grace notes of Jansch’s steelstring guitar. Most of the material is written by producer Richard Newman, and is very nearly up to the quality of Jansch’s handful of originals that reflect depths he’d never had a chance to show on his previous repertoire of English Isles folk standards.

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madA true legend of British music, Maddy Prior has built her long career on exploring various musical avenues. 3 For Joy is no exception, a further exploration of the tradition that Maddy loves so much alongside two musical partners. Together with Giles Lewin of the Carnival Band and accordion player Hannah James, the singer crafted an album that sits perfectly within her canon. There are elements that stretch back to her very first recordings with Tim Hart and others that are completely new. As ever, the material on the record reflects Maddy’s passion for seeking out new sources and inspiration.

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penRecipients of a Lifetime Achievement gong at the 2007 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Pentangle were one of Britain’s first ‘supergroups’ and remain copper-bottomed bastions of UK folk. It wasn’t always thus. Regarded as quixotic mavericks in their late ‘60s/early ‘70s heyday, the combination of finger-picking guitar maestros Burt Jansch and John Renbourn, airy-piped balladeer Jacqui McShee and the nimble rhythm section of Danny Thompson and Terry Cox, birthed a unique and remarkable jazz/folk/pop hybrid which few could emulate. Despite this, Pentangle drew rock and folk fans in droves and even troubled the singles chart before the original line-up hit the buffers in 1973. Versions of the band have regularly regrouped since 1981 and a little over a decade after first re-emerging, founders McShee and Jansch teamed up with lead guitarist Peter Kirtley, bassist Nigel Portman-Smith and drummer Gerry Conway to form what many regard as the most effective, post-‘70s Pentangle incarnation.
The first fruit of the collaboration, the One More Road album, appeared in 1994, garnering healthy reviews. On it, McShee’s crystalline voice showed no sign of wear, lending a luminous soprano yearning to the traditional “Will Of Winsbury” and an uncharacteristic contralto ache to the band composition “Travelling Solo”. Jansch was also on fine form – his distinctive picking style both decorous and propulsive on “Oxford City”, his lugubrious vocals leading the picaresque American pioneering yarn, “Lily Of The West”. Though Kirtley’s sinuous solos occasionally hit the spot, the three new recruits are generally rather anonymous – less integral band members, more supporting players. The album suffers too from its overly clinical, squeaky clean, early ‘90s production – too much reverb, too much gloss, not enough flesh and blood.

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allanIn the early 70s Lindisfarne made Newcastle and its Brown Ale famous. For a short time they were the darlings of the press, concert audiences and the pop charts, outselling Elton, Marc and Rod. The songs that took them there, apart from the notable exception of Rod Clements’ Meet Me On The Corner, were the work of Alan Hull who somehow managed to mix working class ethics, human frailty, poetic imagery, a love of tabs, wine and beer with melodic and memorable tunes.
The Lindisfarne classics are all in this fine collection – Lady Eleanor – possibly the only hit single inspired by Edgar Allen Poe, We Can Swing Together, Fog On The Tyne – in it’s pre-Gazza glory, the beautiful Winter Song and the anthemic Clear White Light. But these are only part of the story.
We Can Swing Together, with excellent sleeve notes by David Wells, draws together Hull’s earliest Beatlesque cuts by the Chosen Few, rare early solo cuts, experimental tracks backed by Skip Bifferty, the obvious hits, samples of his fine Pipedream and Squire solo albums and some of his best songs from the reconvened Lindisfarne lineups. Although the later stuff occasionally suffers from the curse of 80s production Hull’s songs like One Hundred Miles To Liverpool and the acerbic Day of The Jackal are still up there with his best. We also get a taste of his live work including a great version of Pipedream’s Breakfast.
At the time of his fatal heart attack in 1995 at the tragically young age of 50 Hull was working on a new album, completed by his friends and released as Statues and Liberties. Tracks featured here show that Hull was still writing strong material at the end. The set fittingly ends with a blistering live Clear White Light from 1977, always a highlight of Lindisfarne shows. We Can Swing Together is a great introduction to the work of one of the best British songwriters. Over two CDs it captures some of his finest moments and tantalisingly leaves out many others. Anyone intrigued by this collection should hunt out all the early Lindisfarne albums, the Hull solo albums and especially the live solo recordings.

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ricRichard’s decision to record the album at Buddy Miller‘s intimate home studio in Nashville, as Miller favors a speedy solution to recording, favoring vibe over perfection. As such, there’s atmosphere and air to spare on Electric — it’s music that breathes,never feeling suffocated — and there’s plenty of room for Thompson to spin out spiraling guitar leads, but the focus isn’t on his peerless playing or even his sharply crafted songwriting, which is once again finely observed and richly detailed. No, the distinguishing character of Electric is its feel, how Miller creates a wide-open space for Thompson, a vista that showcases his crackling musicianship and sharp songs. And Thompson has yet another strong set of songs here, highlighted by the big-footed stomp of “Stony Ground,” the lacerating wit of “Sally B,” the sardonic resignation of “Good Things Happen to Bad People,” and the gentle lilt on “Salford Sunday.” As good as the songs are, the distinguishing characteristic of Electric is its atmosphere, how the music jumps and breathes, how Miller has given Thompson his liveliest album in years and, on just sheer sonic terms, his best in a while, too.

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kanSleeper is the title of the most recent album by Kan, a contemporary Celtic music band based in the UK. Kan features some of the finest musicians in the current Irish and Scottish roots music scene. The musicians describe their act as “a homogenous quartet of lead instruments.”The four musicians demonstrate admirable skill as instrumentalists and perform highly creative music. Kan composes original material that combines traditional music from Great Britain and Ireland with Asturian jigs from Spain, Breton dances from France and modern jazz elements. Although the interplay of flutes, whistles and fiddles are in the forefront, rhythm, specially drums, plays an essential role in Kan’s music with inspired drum kit work and expert tempo changes.

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SUSusan McKeown is one of Ireland’s best kept secrets, though she’s been living in New York for half her life and she’s won a Grammy so the secret’s spreading. She’s been recording her new album .’Singing in the Dark’ is an album of songs that explores Creativity, Suffering and the Pursuit of Happiness. Taking as it’s theme creativity and madness, the lyrics come from poets of the last thousand years who, for the most part, were writing through the lens of depression, mania and substance abuse.New music for the poems was written by,Elaine Agnew, Lisa Gutkin and Frank London, and there are songs from John Dowland, Violeta Parra and Leonard Cohen.

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joIn 1976, John Renbourn was commissioned to record an album of instrumentals for use as what is called “library music” in the U.K. (i.e., soundtrack music that can be plugged into numerous films and television programs. Unknown even to most serious Renbourn fans in its original incarnation, The Guitar of John Renbourn wasn’t released commercially until 2005, when Castle issued it on CD with a historical liner note. With occasional help from Tony Roberts and fellow ex-Pentangler Jacqui McShee, Renbourn created a series of pieces designed to accompany certain moods. That’s apparent from both the titles (such as “Introspection,” “Summer Song,” “Deserted Streets,” and “Passing Time”) and the “remarks” column on the back of the original sleeve, whose pithy summaries — “gentle pastoral,” “relaxed, carefree,” “wistful, thought-provoking” — were presumably intended as shorthand aids for pros looking for specific musical backgrounds. By its very nature, of course, this couldn’t be considered one of Renbourn’s more essential works. That noted, however, it’s really quite good, and is performed with great care and genuine musical feeling. There’s a soothing (but wholly non-sappy) quality to most of the material, particularly the numerous pieces that also feature recorder, and McShee adds some delightful (if a little faintly mixed) scat vocals to “Portrait of a Village” and “Summer Song.” Renbourn’s guitar work is excellent and varied, usually in the placidly bittersweet British folk-rock style, though there’s some edgy strumming in “Light Traveller,” jazz blues on “Freedom Road,” and some pleasingly haunting spiky high reverberating notes on the guitar duet “Reflections (1)” (though it’s not made clear whether those are the work of Renbourn or his accompanist). Not at all a superfluous entry in the Renbourn discography, it’s heartily recommended to both Renbourn admirers and those who enjoy quality instrumental folk guitar music in general.

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Solomon’s Seal was an album recorded in 1972 by folk-rock band Pentangle. It was the last album recorded by the original line-up, before the band split in 1973. Jacqui McShee has stated that it is her favourite Pentangle album. The album title refers to the Seal of Solomon — a mythical signet ring with magical powers, sometimes associated with the pentagram symbol adopted by Pentangle.

Terry Cox – drums, percussion, finger cymbals, vocals
Bert Jansch – acoustic guitar, dulcimer, harmonica, banjo, vocals
Jacqui McShee – vocals
John Renbourn – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, sitar, banjo, recorder, vocals
Danny Thompson – double bass

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“Jaunty” is the word which immediately springs to mind when listening to the debut album from Stockport trio Pilgrims’ Way. The most striking element is the versatile voice of Lucy Wright, equally adept at handling a haunting ballad as a spritely knees-up.Taking their name from a Peter Bellamy setting of a Rudyard Kipling poem (as well as the album title), Pilgrims’ Way are third-generation folk revivalists, sourcing their material from the likes of Bellamy, Anne Briggs and Norma Waterson. But no matter where the songs come from, there’s no doubting the verve of their rendering here.There’s a variety and versatility to their source material which is welcome, because if there is one criticism of the haunting beauty of Wright’s performance it’s that she could lighten up a little. Pilgrims’ Way cover the waterfront, from the rousing Tarry Trousers to the poignant Dark Eyed Molly. The lengthy My Generous Lover does flag spread over near 10 minutes, whereas Adieu Lovely Nancy tugs the heart strings at a good single’s length. These are songs of cross-dressing, love and betrayal; war and mechanisation. These are songs which span the years, sung and played with enthusiasm, fiddle and melodeon bringing a spritely air to jigs and reels.But the core of the album is A Pilgrim’s Way, penned by Kipling, that poet of Empire. It was 40 years ago that the late Peter Bellamy began the Kipling revival – his classic 1970 album Oak Ash & Thorn is just making its CD debut. In this trio’s hands, A Pilgrim’s Way becomes a timely song of unity and is, in their words, a “great humanist anthem”, with its refrain of “The people, O’ the people / Are good enough for me”.If there is a criticism of Wayside Courtesies, it’s that some of the performances are a tad tentative, and perhaps the net could be cast wider for material. Otherwise this is a promising debut, with encouraging signs that a 21st century folk revival is reaching out to fresh generations.

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