Laurel Canyon Music

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Folk, Americana, Country, Blues, Singer-Songwriter, Roots & Acoustic music.  LCM is a new co-operative music community and on-line magazine to promote & support the music that we love. 

We aim to help music fans connect and discover great new music and help indie musicians promote their music and help them build relationships with supporters and industry professionals.

Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys - Cecil Sharp House, London (29/11/17)

ALBUM LAUNCH

Photo credit: Rob Bridge (Redwood Photography)

Photo credit: Rob Bridge (Redwood Photography)

Sam Kelly and his very talented ensemble the 'Lost Boys' are one of the best live Folk and acoustic bands in the UK. Already festival favourites and the 'young guns' of the folk circuit with their infectious blend of Folk, Americana and Irish favoured music. In Cecil Sharp House the spiritual home of UK Folk, they chose the perfect venue both to showcase their music and to release their excellent new highly acclaimed second studio album 'Pretty Peggy'. Don't be too surprised if they are nominated for best band at next year's BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. The 'Lost Boys' boasts an all-star cast of Jamie Francis (The Changing Room, Stark), Graham Coe (Jellyman's Daughter), Toby Shaer (Seth Lakeman, Carousel), Ciaran Algar (Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar), Achie Churchill-Moss (MMR) and Evan Carson (The Willows, The Changing Room, Ange Hardy). 

Opening the night were a wonderful Americana/Folk duo from Edinburgh called The Jellyman's Daughter, which I had the great pleasure of first meeting at the Harrison in Kings Cross a few years ago. Emily Kelly (acoustic guitar/vocals) and Graham Coe (cello/mandolin/vocals) have certainly gone from strength to strength since our last meeting, with their fusion of bluegrass, post-rock, folk and the good kind of pop. Hopefully in the Spring of next year they will be releasing their new second studio album called 'Dead Reckoning', via a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign.

Performing around a retro bi-directional condenser microphone they played a set of favourites from their 2014 self titled debut release and also a taster of songs from the new album. I really enjoyed their interweaving vocal harmonies, which were complimented by a very interesting mix of cello and acoustic guitar. Graham's cello providing a very catchy percussive back-beat.  Stylistically their set reminded me of Lewis & Leigh.

Graham was also one of the busiest people in the night, as he is also part of the very talented Lost Boys.

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After a short intermission Sam and The Lost Boys exploded onto the stage with the very catchy high tempo traditional whaling shanty the 'Greenland Whale' sometimes know as 'The Whale Catchers' or 'The Twenty Third of March'.  It's a real toe-tapper with a great hooks and sing-a-long chorus.

 

Sam's set then followed quite faithfully the new album in order. The love interest of the traditional song 'The Bony Lass of Fyvie' gives the album it's name, 'Pretty Peggy'. On the album the band are joined on the track by the wonderful Cara Dillion who provides some of the vocals which perfect complements Sam and the band. "Unfortunately" said Sam "Cara can't be here tonight, as she is no longer with us....that sounds really bad......I mean she is not with our band.....she currently on her tour", Sam deputised perfectly singing both parts. Next up was 'Angeline The Baker' (Roud 1834) was written by Stephen Foster for the Christy Minstrels and first published in 1850. The original Appalachian tune laments the loss of a female slave sent away by her owners. 'When The Reivers Call' is a song written by Jamie Francis and was inspired by the Scottish/English border 'reiving' in the middle ages. The terms comes from the Scots and Northern English dialect and means to go on a cross border plundering raid. "Basically people would come over the border to steal your money and PlayStations. As Jamie is from Cumbria, it's basically a song about his childhood" Sam joked.

The Irish traditional love song with the genders swapped 'If I Were A Blackbird' received a new arrangement from Sam and Chris Woods. Sam related learning this one from his grandfather who started his love of folk music. We return to a nautical theme for 'The Shining Ship', a dark tale in which a lady's lover long lost at sea, returns to her and persuades her to come away with him to a distant land. After boarding the ship, in the true traditions of folk music, she quickly realizes not all is as it seems......[spolier alert] One of the varients of this traditional song is called 'The Demon Ship'. The personal and tender 'Chasing Shadows' written by Sam, is a song for a friend and for anyone going through a tough time.

There is a case of the same mistaken identity as The Kinks 'Lola' in the next song 'The Close Shave', a very clever and funny variation on the traditional song 'Barrack Street'. It tells the unfortunate tale of gold miners in the a New Zealand town, gross deception, heavy drinking, robbery and a never ending cycle. A couple of tunes next 'Josh's Slip' by Toby and 'Rookery Lane' by Ciaran which form the 'Shy Guy's Serve' set.

It's always great to see a cover of the now Nobel prize winning singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in the set. This time it was 'Crash On The Levee' their version of the lesser known song, 'Down In The Flood (Crash On The Levee)'. 'The Keeper' is always an interesting choice to cover. It is a tradition song about a gamekeeper chasing and catching deer, but listen to it closely and it's like a 'Carry On' version of a folk song, full of double meaning and euphemisms. The song is always a fantastic live favourite with it's band call and audience response. The excellent main set finished with a song called 'The Rose' which was translated from the French song 'Le Beau Rosier'. First heard when Sam played mandolin for Belgian band 'Naragonia' in 2016 and fell in love with the song.

For the encore Sam and the band played another firm favourite from their self titled debut album the uptempo 'Jolly Waggoners', followed by the rousing and high energy Irish tune 'Banish Misfortune'. It had the audience on their feet and clapping along......and ended with a well deserved standing ovation.

A fantastic evening of music in the company of some of the UK's finest young folk musicians. Catch them on tour if you can!

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Rhiannon Giddens - O2 SBE, London (17/11/17)

FREEDOM HIGHWAY TOUR

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Rhiannon Giddens has many prestigious awards and accolades to her name including a Grammy win for her previous roots 'string band', the Carolina Chocolate Drops and BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer of the Year in 2016. Watching Rhiannon and her band live last night at the packed O2 SBE, you get the impression that she could sing any type of music from Soul, R&B, Blues, Jazz, Musical Theater through to Folk, Blues and Roots music with the same level of skill and excellence. She is passionate, powerful, thought-provoking and a highly skilled vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter.  

Last night marked the latest date of her 'Freedom Highway' UK tour, as part of the excellent London Folk & Roots Festival. Rhiannon and her world class ensemble dazzled the enthralled and enchanted audience with a commanding performance of American music that blended Country, African-American Gospel and Blues, Jazz and even Hip-Hop and Cajun music as she sang, played banjo, fiddle and flat-footed. She roots it all perfectly in the rich story-telling traditions of the American South, taking us from the miseries of slavery, through the civil war and onwards to the freedom marches of the 1960's.

Opening the night was a Canadian singer-songwriter and banjo mistress Kaia Kater, who we think has a wonderful future ahead of her. Kaia released her critically acclaimed second album 'Nine Pin' last year, a powerful and emotive collection of songs with her rich, sweet and powerful vocals front and center.  Born of African-Caribbean descent in Québec, Kaia grew up between two worlds: one her family’s deep ties to Canadian folk music in her Toronto home; the other the years she spent learning and studying Appalachian music in West Virginia. Her acclaimed debut album Sorrow Bound (May 2015) touched on this divide, while 'Nine Pin' explores even further and casts an unflinching eye at the realities faced by people of colour in North America. The album draws on her own love of traditional music and is in part based on Kaia's own personal experiences.

Kaia's all too short stripped set of just vocals and banjo opened with the slow syncopated groove of the traditional 'Little Pink' about love gone bad, a lovely retelling of the ancient story of insecurity and jealousy.  Continuing her rich and personal story-telling style, Kaia's time at University in West Virginia was next covered the the intimate 'Southern Girl'. Showcasing her versatility next with the beautiful waltz the 'Harvest & The Plough', Kaia issued a dance challenge to the audience. Kaia received a banjo lesson from Rhiannon at 12 year old and on the basis of the set so far, she couldn't have had a better teacher. Almost to prove the point two beautifully played tunes followed 'Waiting For Nancy' and 'Valley Free''. Next up was the title track of 'Nine Pin' which comes from “a traditional square dance formation in which a woman stands alone in the middle of a circle of people turning around her”, but there’s a double meaning at play as the nine pin is also “one of the pins in bowling that keeps getting knocked down”. It carries the idea of resilience in the face of continuous hardships and setbacks and is perfectly suited to the song’s world weary lyrics. Kaia then saved one of the best to last with the wonderful 'St.Elizabeth', my personal favourite on her last album, with it's personal narrative around the theme of life and love in the digital age coupled with audience participated at the end of the song with its 'call and response'. Kaia has been described as "Nina Simone meets bluegrass" and we would certainly agree with that.

After a short intermission Rhiannon Giddens and her world class band exploded into the stage with the powerful, infectious and high energy 'Spanish Mary', a tale of love on the high seas. It's a song taken from the 'New Basement Tapes' a project guided by T Bone Burnett, that featured arrangements of unused Bob Dylan lyrics. This segued into some great and high energy fiddle tunes including 'Pateroller' and 'Black Annie'. Showcasing the band's versatility they quickly moved into the toe-tapping funky and jazzy piano led 'The Love We Almost Had'.

History is always a great teacher if we listen, and Rhiannon is a wonderful scholar and champion of human rights and freedom. A case in point is the very moving and powerful 'At The Purchasers Option' based around an advertisement about the sale of a 22 year old slave girl in New England in the 1700's, whose 9-month-old baby was also available “at the purchaser’s option.” She compared it to almost selling a human life like a used second hand car.

With fellow Carolina Chocolate Drops band member Hubby Jenkins on bones, almost tribal drum beats from Jamie Dick and Rhiannon with some super banjo playing, next was the instrumental 'Following The North Star' which certainly had the wow! factor. 

Immigration has always been a hot topic thought the years. The traditional unaccompanied song 'Pretty Saro' is a case in point, a English folk ballad originating in the early 1700s which traveled to America and was preserved in the Appalachian Mountains through oral traditions. 'What makes America great is it's diversity' commented Rhiannon and we wholeheartedly agree. Based on the wonderful old African-American folk tale 'We Could Fly' written by Rhiannon and Dirk Powell imagines people in slavery being able to fly and has the rich and important themes of hope and freedom. A tribute and homage to Odetta 'Water Boy' is a American traditional folk song built on the call "Water boy, where are you hidin'?" It's one of several water boy calls in cotton plantation folk tradition. I loved the stunning fiddle solo.

The next part of the programme was a wonderful Creole and Cajan two-step waltz written by Dewey Balfa called the 'Newport Waltz'. The richest and diversity of the music continued with the traditional African-American infectious spiritual song 'Children, Go Where I Send Thee'. It's also known as "The Holy Baby" or "Born in Bethlehem'. It's always great to have a Aretha Franklin cover in your set and Rhiannon did justice to the super and powerful 'Do Right Woman, Do Right Man'.

Proving that she has a very talented family Rhiannon's sister Lalenja Harriton took lead vocals for the next song 'Just One More Day', with it's soaring gospel harmonies. The fantastic R&B driven 'Better Get It Right The First Time' deals with the contemporary topic of the shootings of young black men in America and included a rapped testimony by nephew Justin Harrington.

The personal stories of slaves in the America Civil War is the theme of the very powerful and moving 'Come Love Come' with it's infectious refrain 'Come, love come, the road lies low. The way is long and hard I know. Come, love come, the road lies free. I'll wait for you in Tennessee." It's based on some of the personal accounts in a book called 'The Slaves War - The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves' by Andrew Ward. A Roebuck 'Pop' Staples written classic and the new album's title track 'Freedom Highway' completed the main part of the set. It discusses the struggles in civil rights movement in the 1960's . The song also refers to the murder of Emmett Till at Tallahatchie River. The lyrics begin “March up freedom's highway, march each and every day.......Made up my mind and I won't turn around.".

A very well standing ovation followed for this world class band and it's incredibly talented leading lady.

Rhiannon and the band rounding of the evening of music perfectly with her tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominee) "the original soul sister" and "the godmother of rock and roll and R&B" with great versions of 'Lonesome Road' and 'Up Above My Head'

Another very well deserved standing O followed. With a couple of bows and waves from the band, Rhiannon skipped and danced off stage with the sound of the appreciative sell-out audience still ringing around the venue. A superb night of music from a modern leading star of America Roots music.

  • Rhiannon Giddens - Lead Vocals, Banjo, Fiddle
  • Dirk Powell - Keys, Accordion, Electric/Acoustic Guitar, Fiddle, Mandolin
  • Hubby Jenkins (CCD) - Banjo, Electric/Acoustic Guitar, Mandolin, Bones and Vocals
  • Jamie Dick - Drums and percussion
  • Jason Sypher - Bass/Upright Double Bass
  • Lalenja Harrington – harmony vocals, Vocals
  • Justin Harrington - Rapping and backing vocals

Paul Mosley - Green Note, London (16/11/17)

WINTERTIDE EP LAUNCH

An evening spent in the company of the excellent singer-songwriter Paul Mosley is always a special and very worthwhile experience. After releasing his fantastic critically acclaimed and epic folk opera 'The Butcher' last year, Paul returns with a number of new projects including this his new seasonal five-track EP 'Wintertide' which is released on the 17th November.

The launch was an great opportunity not only to showcase Paul's new EP, but also to celebrate some of the wonderful songs from Paul's long and distinguished musically career and finally to look to the future with a taster of his forthcoming 2018 releases. The night also included a host of special and very talented guests including two great support sets from Robin Elliott and Jack Harris. Plus members of Paul's ensemble The Red Meat Orchestra.

The evening was opened by London based singer-songwriter Robin Elliott, who originally hails from the North West of England. The always busy Robin has written material performed by Ben Walker, Samantha Whates and Sophie Jamieson amongst others and his music and songs have featured on the soundtrack of the feature film 'A Very British Gangster' and on Channel 4's 'Cutting Edge'.

His set included songs from his latest release 'At Sunset' as well as his 2015 EP release 'Green Ginger Wine'. Wearing a red smock coat and carrying his Gibson acoustic guitar, Robin's opening words to the audience were 'I don't have much time, so I'm going to smash out the hits'. He duly followed with atmospheric 'William V' with it's strong narrative themed on the early 1980's London riots. Vocally and stylistically it reminded me a little of Sting. The retrospective and gentle 'Par Avion' showed off Robin's lovely vocal style and soft finger-picking, with a equally fine arrangement. Post party blues and the effects of a big night out where discussed next in 'Gentle Chunks', with it's vivid and poetic imaginary. After a brief interlude describing why Kolo Toure's face superimposed over the Milky Way would be his favourite stage backdrop. Robin then played one of my favourites from his back catalogue 'Lean Times', a song about daily suffering and hardship, accepting that things won’t be getting better any time soon. It came complete with a mouth trumpet solo. Hot off the 'musical' press was a new song 'Mute The Button' recorded a few weeks ago in Brighton. Robin described it as like 'Metropolis - The Musical'. "Everything is modern and big" he said. He played a backing track to the song from his trusty laptop, complete with metronome clicks and female harmony vocals. He was 'The Singer at The End Of The Song'.

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Following Robin was another LCM favourite, the very talented Jack Harris. The craftsman songwriter, vocalist and guitar player, who has been described by Anais Mitchell as "a priest of song" and we would agree. Jack has perfect comic timing and provided a masterclass in stagecraft including sharing with the audience that it's a trade secret to always mention your name three times in a set. This all too short section of the evening started with the wonderful 'Medicine Bow' followed by a new song 'What Am I Gonna Do About You? getting an early outing. Jack then contemplated on how he would like to be remembered. What would be his musical legacy and inheritance? Originally he said he liked the idea of building an adventure playground, but now after much thought Jack has finally set his heart on a memorial library. Time will tell if that dream will come true.....but for now his songs are becoming his rich legacy.

One of my favourite songs from Jack's previous back catalogue is the beautiful written, reflective and gentle 'Donegal', so I was extremely pleased to see in included in his set. Jack then raises the mood for a toe-tapping, bluesy and Irish Americana favoured Andalusian song about 'good time girl' 'Molly Bloom'. "Hey Molly Bloom you mountain flower....They're wild about your loving, you'll have your fun and it might as well be me as anyone". Just like a true pro that he is, after breaking a guitar string tuning just before his final song, Jack put his guitar down and launched into a unaccompanied song. It was his version of the Dave Sudbury classic about the very famous racing pigeon 'The King Of Rome', which was first made famous by June Tabor......the song that is....not the pigeon!

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Not only was Paul celebrating the launch of his Wintertide EP, but also it was ten years since the release of his debut solo album 'Fear' in 2007. It has also been fifteen years since the release of 'The Swimming Zoo' in 2002 with his previous group indie folk cult band Moses. It was fitting then that Paul's first song was '100 Swans', his first solo song in Moses. 'Wintersun' followed the first track from his 'Wintertide' EP. It has a real 'Laurel Canyon' late 60's retro feel about it with catchy hooks and dream like melody. It would sit very happily on a CSNY album. 

With it's lullaby like melody the 'The Romantic' is the super title track from the Paul's 2011 'The Romantic album. For this one Paul was joined on stage by the very talented Anna on cello. Tackling a more serious and timely issue was 'Sumberland' written for a very close friend who took his own life. Paul said that 'International Men's Day' which sounded like a Richard Herring punchline was a very important event' Especially discussing on the subjects of mental heath and the problems with modern toxic masculinity. The album version of the song has a beautiful harp section by Tom Moth.

Paul then explained how after recording 'Sumberland', Florence from Florence & The Machine stole his harpist Tom. "I wouldn't have minded" said Paul "But I had to learn the 'bloody' ukulele!!". He cheekily included a section in the next song 'This Way For Fun' of Florence's 'You've Got The Love'.......adding the line "Yes....You've got the love........and you've got my harp player too!"

One of the lead tracks from Paul's highly acclaimed epic folk opera 'The Butcher' followed the lovely 'Satellites' where Paul was joined on vocals by Jack. The atmospheric and haunting duet with Esther on 'Ghosts Ships' is one of my favourites from Paul's 2011 'The Romantic' album. I love the beautiful operatic solo from Esther and the poignant last line "Just like ghost ships, we both refuse to die". Paul explained that Esther, who was in the super group The Medieval Baebes, shared the same management for a while. "She was the best one in the group so I pinched her". Paul joked "If it's not nailed down, I'll have it!" 

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Raevannan and Anna then joined Paul for a song from his excellent 2013 'A Chattering of Birds' album with the very special 'Skylark Above Me'. Paul then apologised and said that "I don't normally talk too much between songs......it all gets a bit panto". "Oh no it doesn't!" came the reply from the audience

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A glimpse into the future next as Paul performed four tracks from his forthcoming 2018 project 'The Loneliest Whale in The World" #TheWhaleProject. It was based on an story of a unidentified whale with a call at 52 Hertz, which is much higher and at a completely different frequency from any other known whale. So sadly no other whale can hear it and answer its call. It is now thought that the whale might be a very rare Blue Whale/Fin Whale hybrid or even deaf. The first song of the #Whale set was super 'Shadowboxing' followed by 'We All Sing The Same Song' with it's harmony singing intro. Paul said that it was inspired by child tourists all with same clothes, hats and backpacks moving around London like shoals of fish. This was followed by the lovely 'Silence Said The Whale' and finally the title track 'The Loneliest Whale in the World', written from the viewpoint of the 52 Hz whale.

As it was the Wintertide EP launch it was fittting that the last song of the main set was its title track. Paul's new single is based on the famous Christmas carol 'I saw three ships go sailing by...''  Paul described it as “an epic journey through the eyes of three captains and the ominous dangers that come with the seas.” Check out below the great new innovative 'Wintertide' video with Jack Harris, Esther Dee and Josienne Clarke guesting as the three captains.

For the encore, Paul returned with a heartfelt and reflective song about unrequited love 'Mama's Boy' with it's powerful refrain "Please don't turn away from me now".

It was another excellent evening in the the company of Paul and his very talented ensemble The Red Meat Orchestra, wonderfully supported by Jack and Robin and special guests Esther and Rae. A brilliant set of songs from Paul's outstanding musical career and a preview of the new music to come......I can't wait to hear the studio version of the next EP....I'm going to have a #whale of a time!

Show Of Hands - Union Chapel, London (09/11/17)

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Steve Knightley, Phil Beer and Miranda Skyes better known as the multi-ward winning Show Of Hands, are one of the best Folk groups in the UK. They have honed their skills and craft over very many years together to create a fantastic night of music and entertainment. Their gig at the Union Chapel as part of The London Folk & Roots Festival and their 'Cathedrals Tour' was one of the best live performances I have seen from them. An evening of pure magic starting from their opening unaccompanied a capella walking through the audience to the stage to their very well deserved final standing ovation. Their music is thought provoking and sometimes hard hitting but always wonderfully written and presented. They blend traditional and contemporary folk with themes and subject matter which really resonate and are timely in highlighting important and topical issues of the day. 

Introduced personally by Steve, it was also a very important night for their special guest, London singer-songwriter Kirsty Merryn who was also launched her debut album 'She & I', themed on a collection of stories about inspirational women. Kirsty is getting a lot of attention for her music recently with a bursary from EFDSS, festival appearances and now a series of support appearances on the current Show of Hands UK 'Cathedrals Tour'. Kirsty's music is heavily anchored in the folk tradition, but also has influences from her background in jazz and classical music. She also has a fantastic pure crystalline vocal and delighted the sell-out Chapel audience with her delicately introspective piano based songs and sophisticated musical style. 

Murder ballads are a staple of Folk music and Kirsty's opening song was 'The Outlandish Knight', where unusually the heroine survives to tell the tale, unlike in this case the unfortunate Knight. 'Winter In Ontario' followed, one of the lead tracks from her debut EP 'Just The Winter', about being snowed-in in Canada. Celebrating the life of the author Jane Austin 'Love in A City Room' also taken from her 2013 debut EP, explores the practical side of love in a unromantic age. She continued her classy set with the unaccompanied 'The Birds Are Drunk', another folk murder ballad, this time based on a Persian poem. Kirsty's family was her next inspiration for 'The Pit and the Pugilist' about her great great grandfather Tommy Mitchell, who won a major boxing match and received a gold watch as his prize.

One of the highlights of the set was Kirsty's new single 'Forfarshire', a wonderful live duet with Steve Knightley. The song is based on the life of Grace Darling an English lighthouse keeper's daughter, famed for participating in the rescue of survivors from the shipwrecked 'Forfarshire' in 1838. It also explores the life of her father William. Kirsty completed her set with the wonderful 'A Song Of Parting', which is currently a free download for joining her mailing list. Something we highly recommend.

Walking slowly through the audience in the aisles to the stage singing the 'The Old Lynch Way', Steve, Phil and Miranda created their own piece of magic. They vocals rang around throughout the Chapel with the song's fantastic 'call and response'. It was one of the many 'goose-bump' moments on the night.

Once on stage the band started with the very moving and atmospheric 'The Preacher', first recorded on their 1995 'Lie of the Land' album. Show Of Hands have a strong social conscience and this was evident in their next song 'Cold Heart Of England' written by Steve in a Tesco's in Bridport in 2002. It discusses how negative changes often created by big business lead to the determent of local communities. Also very timely was a song about Halloween 'Hallows Eve' with strong audience participation joining in on the choruses.

'The Gamekeeper' is a story about a soldier in the Devonshire regiment in the Battle of the Somme. It was also the song that started SOH's critically acclaimed WW1 'Cententary' project. The song includes parts of the lyrics of the 'The Keeper' and 'Love is Handsome'. Always a firm favorite is Liam Clancy's famous 'The Parting Glass', in this version it has new lyrics from Steve but coupled with the original tune. This segued perfectly into Chris Hoben's 'The Lily & The Rose' with Miranda on lead vocals. 'No Secrets' is a new song written by Steve after a Folk singer friend asked him for one piece of advise on getting married. Phil said 'Don't' and Steve said 'Have no secrets', which became the basis of the song. Then it was Phil turn on lead vocals on with 'Exile', which Phil described as the best song that Steve has ever written. Their twin acoustic guitars playing of lead and rhythm working in perfect synchronicity.

The band over the years have developed a network of friends wherever they stay on tour, Stevie described them jokingly as 'safe houses'. The next song 'Smile, She Said' was inspired by photos changing over time in the home of one of the families they often visited. Kirsty joined them on piano and vocals. Always another very atmospheric song was Sidney Carters 'Crow On The Cradle' and SOH's stunning version was no different, with on Phil lead vocals and Steve on Bouzouki.

In 'IED: Science and Nature', disease is sinisterly portrayed as an unexploded bomb waiting to be detonated by forces unknown amid ghostly echoes of the traditional song 'The Trees They Do Grow High' and the gospel-tinged 'The Worried Well'. Tiny decisions and random chances often having a great impact on life. The traditional Celtic ballad 'The Blue Cockade' features a young man being forced to enlist in the army and wanting to return to his true love. The song then deals with the aftermath and the sadness and pain of his promised lover. Some really lovely harmonies and guitar solos on this one.

For the encore SOH chose another song with a current theme 'The Flood', dealing with the forces of nature, man's interference and the consequences. It then moved at the end into a William Blake poem. The evening finished as it had started with the band moving off stage and standing at the front singing unaccompanied the sea shanty working song 'Keep Hauling' with everyone in the venue joining in with the 'call and response'. Another goose bump moment as Steve, Phil and Miranda left walking down the Chapel aisles singing together with their enthusiastic audience.

Another standing ovation followed.

A very classy, magical and special evening by one of the UK's leading Folk groups and a fabulous debut album launch from a new potential star of the future.

Emily Mae Winters / Patch & The Giant - Slaughtered Lamb, London (08/11/17)

Photo Credit: Keith Bache

Photo Credit: Keith Bache

One of the joys and absolute delights of the London Folk & Roots festival is their showcasing nights featuring some of best up and coming musicians in the UK. The Slaughtered Lamb, a famous music venue in Clerkenwell, played host to the series this year. On this excellent double bill were two acts which I've been been following closely for some time now, Cambridge based Emily Mae Winters and London based 'Balticana' Folk band Patch & The Giant.

It is always a pleasure to see Emily perform and this time night she was backed up by two of the finest folk string players and session musicians in the UK, two times BBC Radio 2 folk award winner Ciaran Algar (Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar, Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys) and John Parker (Nizlopi, Paper Aeroplanes) who seem to be playing on the majority on my favourite folk albums over the past few years. Having both Ciaran and JP in your band is always a mark of high quality.

Emily Mae Winters is rapidly becoming an wonderful addition to the live UK Folk and Americana circuit. With a critical acclaimed debut EP 'Foreign Waters' released in 2016 produced by the multi award winning Ben Walker and her fantastic debut album 'Siren Serenade' released in April, Emily is proving herself to be a accomplished songwriter and vocalist. Her showcase set included songs from both releases and a new song 'Wildfire' which shows great promise for future releases. 

Emily opened the set with 'As If You Read My Mind' complete with it's bright acoustic guitar and string section interplay. It's a real classic and high quality song. Brooding double bass line underpin the beautiful and award-winning 'Anchor', one of my personal favourites from Emily's debut EP. It deservedly won the folk category of the Guardian Music songwriting contest in association with Sony Music UK. Emily’s rich and pure vocal builds in intensity from gentle finger-picked acoustic guitar as her vocal is joined by wonderful string playing from John and Ciaran. Emily's love of poetry and lyrics shines through as she paints beautiful and deeply atmospheric word pictures. 'Miles To Go' is another very lovely written song and the second track from her debut EP, a finalist in last year’s UK Songwriting contest. A love song spanning across the oceans, encouraging her lover to reach out, to explore new possibilities and met her halfway. "Like a moth to flame, I still stay close to you and I will wait for you across the water, but you’ve got miles to go". 

It is also exciting to hear new music from Emily and she debuted her beautiful new song 'Wildfire' in her showcase set. 'She Moved Through the Fayre' is a traditional Irish folk song and Emily's version really captures the heart and essence. The song recounts the story of how the singer sees his lover move away from him though the fair, saying it will not be long until their wedding day. She returns at night, as a ghost, repeating that it will not be long until their wedding day, presaging the singer's own death. Another dark themed folk song disguised with a lovely melody. Also from her debut EP was 'Until the Light' a personal and tender song with sublime string arrangements which build throughout the song.  "I shouldn’t walk alone at night, I drag my heels because the morning’s now in sight. I shouldn’t wait upon the skies. Dark colours captivate these eyes until the light".

Emily can move very comfortably in style between contemporary and traditional Folk, Celtic Folk and Country music and a case in point was the sublime 'Blackberry Lane', with it's Americana feel and flow. It tells the story of Emily's move to Cambridgeshire from London. 'Siren Serenade' the title track from Emily's debut album is always a fantastic addition to her live set, with the audience providing two part rhythmic harmonies backing Emily's top-line and melody. It's very seductive and has a spiritual and gospel quality as would fit a 'Siren'. It has also has a real 'O Brother, Where Art Thou? feel about it, echoes of the temptresses of the movie Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch singing "Didn't Leave Nobody But The Baby".  

Photo Credit: Keith Bache

Photo Credit: Keith Bache

To complete this double header on this night of super music at the Slaughtered Lamb were London indie five piece Patch & The Giant, this time joined by Ben Wiseman from We Used To Make Things on drums and percussion.  P&TG are a very exciting live band and are guaranteed to get your toes tapping and singing along to their infectious music. Back in February they released their debut album the imaginatively titled 'All That We Had, We Stole'. Their fresh music is a fusion of styles lending comparison to bands like US Indie folk 'Beirut', American Indie Rockers 'The Decemberists', a harder-edged 'Keston Cobblers Club' and Brighton's very own folk-rock band 'The Levellers'. It has a Irish folk-rock feel coupled with an almost eastern European influence at times, which we would like to call 'Celtic Balticana'. The album is full of rousing anthemic songs interspersed with some dark brooding and personal songs. It's complemented by Angie's accordion, harmonica and trumpet, Nick's bass and string playing from Gabriel and Derek. It's Luke's distinct vocal which give the album it's raw Celtic sounding edge. Their set included songs from the debut album and a cover of great covers. 

They kicked off with the 'Dylanesque' harmonica intro on 'The Day You Went To Sea' launching into dark themed Irish folk. We love the chorus on this one....it's a real earworm. The rousing Irish almost punk sounding anthem 'The Beggar's Song' was next. It's always a live favourite with an instantly catchy and sing-a-long chorus. Full of energy and attitude with strong, choppy beats and soothing violins. "The price of a life is worth twice, if it's nicer than a man on a street with no name"

With it's mandolin opening the radio-friendly 'A Local Man' has a Celticana feel. A driving beat with the accordion underpinning the central melody. Performed live at one of Bob Harris's Under The Apple Tree session 'Love & War' is another reflective song. Some wonderful lyrics here as well. It's deep upright double bass added texture, mood and tone. Almost invoking a sea shanty or broadside 'The Sleeping Boat' contains a nautical theme with it's multiple references to the sea and sailing. One of my favourite P&TG songs and a real standout is 'Another Day', so I was delighted to see it included in the set. It's a wonderful big, lively and anthemic song full of high energy, a real toe-tapping live crowd favourite as well, with plenty of audience participation. This is one of songs that showcases Angie's multi-tasking abilities off simultaneous playing accordion and trumpet....Hey!!!

The reflective and gentle 'Where My Body Lies' with it's cello intertwining melody building to a full ensemble piece. It reminds me of the great Glen Hansard. This was followed by a new song 'Wood For The Fire'. The pace drops slightly for 'Flowers' another very clever piece of songwriting and yet again a real ear-worm of a chorus. Luke on lead with Angie on backing vocals. Lovely string and brass arrangement too. The song suddenly explodes towards the end with Luke's emotive vocals added extra angst and passion.  'Flowers' is one of the debut album's lead singles. The video was filmed by our good friends Marv and Ben in We Used To Make Things. Next up with a lovely cover of Bob Dylan's 'Oh Sister' first released by Bob on his 1976 'Desire' album. It started with a wonderful harmonica intro from Ange, launching into some lovely three part harmonies.

'America' the first of two encore songs is another foray into up-tempo sea shanty-style folk. A track about setting sail across the sea for America, preparing to journey into the hardships and mysteries of the unknown. "I have seen the Devil cry...I have seen the Devil sin....singing songs of you and I" . Angie's trumpet style almost gives it a Mariachi band feel. It could also be a metaphor for the band's journey in music. P&TG signed of in style with a great atmospheric cover of 'House of the Rising Sun' originally recorded by the Animals and first released in 1964.

Photo Credit: Keith Bache

Photo Credit: Keith Bache

Gretchen Peters - Union Chapel, London (07/11/17)

Gretchen Peters.jpg

 

The multi-award winning Gretchen Peters is one of the most respected singer-songwriters in Nashville. She has the wonderful ability to create songs which are truly engaging and cinematic, painting rich imaginary & soundscapes. Mostly songwriting in the first person Gretchen completely inhabits the characters she creates and sings about, transporting you into their lives and the world which surrounds them.

As well as her own music she has composed hits for a host of other artist including Martina McBride, Etta James, Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, George Strait, Anne Murray, Shania Twain, Neil Diamond and she is a co-writer with Bryan Adams. It has been a while since this Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer headlined in London and on the basis of the latest showcase concert in the super London Folk & Roots Festival, it was long overdue return. “I’ve missed you” she told the audience as she took to the stage with her acoustic guitar. Gretchen and her world class band including her husband Barry Walsh and Conor McCreanor (bass) & Colm McClean (electric guitar), were all clearly delighted to be back in London and playing at one of London's favourite music venues.

The evening was opened by a Folk and Americana duo Hannah Saunders and Ben Savage, who are rapidly becoming a new force on the UK acoustic scene. Both wonderful musicians in their own right, it was their second time performing at the Union Chapel after a wonderful performance last year supporting the multi-Grammy award winning Sarah Jarosz. Performing around around a retro single condenser microphone they have the wonderful ability to draw the audience in with their darker themed Folk and Americana songs but with very catchy hooks and melodies.

With acoustic guitar and dulcimer they started their set with 'Ribbons and Bows' a cover of a Richie Steans song, about choosing the means of your own death, here “falling through the hot summer sky with ribbons and bows tied to my hands and feet“. A gentle folk song followed 'I'll Weave My Love A Garland' from Hannah's debut album 'Charms Against Sorrow', with its soft picked acoustic guitar. It segued perfectly into a lovely version of an old English lullaby made famous by Joan Baez 'I Gave My Love A Cherry' with Ben on Dobro and Hannah on acoustic guitar. Twin acoustic guitars next on 'Oh Lord What Have You Done'. I also loved their version of the Bob Dylan classic 'Spanish Boots Of Spanish Leather'. Hannah and Ben's very impressive set ended with the song 'Awake'.

After a short break Gretchen and her band took to the stage with the very powerful and empathetic 'When All You Got Is A Hammer' taken from her 2000 album 'Blackbirds'. It deals with the difficult subject of ex serviceman struggling with post traumatic stress disorder. Gretchen said 'There’s a saying among people who work with vets who suffer from PTSD – ‘don’t leave them behind – they’re not home yet.’ We ask so much of these men and women, and then too often forget about them when they come home. If you don’t give someone the tools for coping emotionally with something as horrific as war, you’re basically consigning them to prison'. (Blackbirds)

With it's great guitar solo and it's personal and reflective outlook the title track of the 'Hello Cruel World' album was another masterclass in songwriting. "I’m a ticking clock, a losing bet, a girl without a safety net. I’m a cause for some concern. You don’t live this long without regrets. Telephone calls you don’t wanna get. Stones you’d rather leave unturned, but ooooooh – the grain of sand becomes the pearl. Yeah ooooooh – hello cruel world."

With Gretchen accompanied with accordion and upright double bass next was the very atmospheric 'The Matador' another track from 'Hello Cruel World'. To fall in love is to lose oneself temporarily. To be pulled into another’s world. To love an artist like this is to be pulled into the furnace of his creative fire, to be swallowed whole by his world. And to resign oneself to being a spectator. "I threw a rose to the matador, Not sure who I was cheering for. My aim was true, my heart was full. I loved the fighter and the bull"

With the subject of the tragedy of the oil spill in Gulf Of Mexico in 2010 at its heart, 'Black Ribbons' from 'Blackbirds' is a powerful social commentary. "The Devils Blood it flows on and on......black ribbons on the water". Scheduled for Gretchen new album was a new song 'Lowlands' which channeled disillusionment and cynicism of world events. Misgivings about modern America, including the Trump era and fake news. The dark and brooding title track of her award winning 'Blackbirds' album a co-write with Irish singer-songwriter Ben Glover, is one of the most deeply affecting murder ballads since Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska". A victim of incest who ends up murdering the perpetrator. (Blackbirds) 

Next was a stunning song which was a co-wrote and big hit with Bryan Adams in 1997 'When You Love Someone', It may be over twenty years old but it still sounded fresh and current. Some of the dark themes were explored in another murder ballad 'Where Did You Go'. 

Gretchen has almost cornered the market in murder and abuse ballad's and the next song 'Wichita' had another strong narrative. This time it has been written from the standpoint of an older sister who is convinced that no one will believe her and is scared that the abuse she suffered will continue on her younger sister. She takes things into her own hands using her mother’s gun as the murder weapon, “I hope I was the last thing you saw that night in Wichita” Gretchen sings. Gretchen is afraid to tackle difficult subjects in her songs and 'Truck Stop Angel' about prostitution is a case in point. But her subject matter is always treated with empathy and understanding.

Gretchen is a mistress of fantastic lyric writing and I loved 'Woman On The Wheel' another track from 'Hello Cruel World'. "There's a man out here, puts his head in the mouth of a crocodile. Puts the whole thing in, takes it out and gives the crowd a great big smile. And they walk away with their illusions of safety safely intact and they tell their little wide eyed kids, it's only an act. There's a man out here, throws knives at a target with a blindfold on and the wheel spins 'round and the knives bear down 'til they find their home. And I can feel the rush and the whoosh of every blade of steel.....'Cause I am the woman on the wheel'. One of my favoutites in the set was the beautiful and classy piano led 'On A Bus To St Cloud' taken from Gretchen's 1996 'The Secret Of Life' album. A ode of lost love and a bus ride in Minnesota. It has a stunning narrative and is almost cinematic in its description. The Union Chapel provided a perfect setting. 

The very reflective 'Five Minutes' followed reminiscing about a old broken relationship on a short cigarette break. A single parent reflecting on her life, past and present with the sage line 'In five minutes your whole life can change'. She’s caught at the crossroads where the struggle to come to terms with one’s mortality meets the urge to slip into unconsciousness. The hell with it; have another cigarette, another glass of wine, another piece of pie. Feeling the weight of her past and watching it as it bears down on her own child. Another superbly cinematic and stunning song 'Idlewild' is themed around the assassination of JFK in Dallas in November 1963 and its resulting aftermath. The song takes its name from the New York City airport, that would come to be known as JFK soon after the president’s death. The narrator is a child, observing her parents hearing the tragic news as they are driving to visit her grandmother.

Encore

Gretchen and the band returned with a rousing cover version of Rodney Crowell’s 'I Ain't Living Long Like This' with a great and energetic piano solo from Barry. To finish the night in style Gretchen played solo with her acoustic guitar in hand. Another new song with a positive and uplifting theme, There is Love'.  It had some really beautiful, personal and heartfelt lyrics and with a large number of her close family in the audience, it was an very emotional performance for sure. 

With a double standing ovation from an enthusiastic and appreciative audience, this was truly a masterclass in songwriting, performance and musicianship from Gretchen and her band.

With a new album and UK tour promised for next year.....I can't wait.

 

1. When All You Got Is A Hammer 2. Hello Cruel World 3. The Matador 4. Black Ribbons 5. The Lowlands (N) 6. Blackbirds 7. When You Love Someone 8. Where Did You Go 9. Wichita (N) 10. Truck Stop Angel (N) 11. Woman On The Wheel 12. On A Bus To St Cloud 13. Five Minutes 14. Idlewild 15. I Ain’t Living Long Like This (Rodney Crowell cover) 16. There Is Love

The Secret Sisters - Union Chapel, London (06/11/17)

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There is a saying that 'absence makes the heart grow fonder'. This was definitely the case at another of the London Folk & Roots festival's showcase events at the fabulous Union Chapel on Monday night. This time is was the turn of the marvelous Alabama sister duo Lydia and Laura Rogers better known as The Secret Sisters. They are famous for their trademark stunning lush harmonies and songwriting, often compared to a modern female version of The Everly Brothers. They are charming, instantly likable, funny and entertaining as well as being great musicians in their own right. After a couple of years away from performing in London and experiencing a really tough time at home, they made a triumphant and very special return. They described the Union Chapel as 'their favourite venue to play in the world', their delight, excitement and shear enjoyment at being back was clearly evident throughout the night. 

First up to set up the night perfectly was Martin Longstaff, a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter from Sunderland. Playing solo this time Martin often performs with his band as the wonderfully named 'The Lake Poets'. Always a high quality performer Martin's music has been described as "quietly devastating. accomplished & intelligent. spellbinding & heart-breaking’'. He is also a primary school teacher and his personal experiences from his home town often provide the basis for his songs, including the hard hitting and tender 'Black & Blue' about domestic violence. Martin's set comprised a super selection of great songs including some from his 2015 self titled debut album including 'To The Lighthouse', the very personal 'North View' and one of my favourites and his best selling song 'Your Face'.

After a short break it was time for the Secret Sisters to join the party. With their opening word's "Hello beautiful London!' they instantly engaged their very appreciative and warm audience. We were informed very early on "If you came in a good mood, please don't hold onto that". Often in the Union Chapel less is most definitely more. Lydia and Laura's set was stripped and pure with just a single acoustic guitar and twin vocals. Perfect for the venue and also for the occasion. 

Bathed in warm yellow light and vapour smoke, which they commented reminded them of a swamp, they started with the lush and crisp 'Tennennesse River Runs Low', the opening track to their recently released crowd funded album 'You Don't Own Me Anymore'. It had a wonderful a capella intro before a lovely build into the song’s driving rhythm and a retro 50's doo-woop feel.

After explaining the many perils of being brought up in a bluegrass family, the sisters expertly covered 'The One I Love Is Gone' from the father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe. Clearing enjoying their time in London and explaining how they planned to kidnap one of the Queen's swan from Hyde Park.....by taping up it's little break and stuffing it in their suitcase. (I didn't have the heart to tell about the Pelican's in Green Park). This lead into thoughts of sibling murder using the same modus operadi, a beautifully segue into the atmospheric murder ballad 'Mississippi'. We were informed before they started "that all the characters in this song die in the end, so you shouldn't become too emotionally attached to them".

The excellent Brandi Carlile produced the sisters third album and the next song was the very catchy and retro 'Black & Blue', a marvellous co-write with her. SImon & Garfunkel's wonderful 'Kathy's Song' provided some funny and playful stage banter between the two sisters who argued who would play the part of Paul or Art. "I'm shorter so I should play Art. I'm the one with the guitar so that settles it........" The sister covered this classic with their usual aplomb.

The sisters have worked with some greats in the industry including T-Bone Burnett who produced their second album. After touring with Bob Dylan, he sent them some demos to collaborate on. Their favourite one (and mine too) was the steamy and sultry 'Dirty Lie'. Full of blues and jazzy tones

Laura briefly took over guitar duties for their first single the beautiful 'Tennessee Me', written about lost love and heartbreak. 

Often compared to the Everly Brothers it was great to see them cover one of their songs 'Let It Be Me'. It had special significance as Lydia walked down the aisle to it when she was getting married. Their very Southern mother, passive aggressive family members and deep impulses were covered in the personal and intense 'Bad Habit', another tale of lost love and the darker side of emotions.

Considering what the sisters have been through over the past couple of years including being dropped by their record company and facing legal action and bankruptcy, very fittingly their new album's title track was the very defiant 'You Don't Own Me'.

'He's Fine' their first radio single was up next. It was the last song Laura she wrote before she was (happily) married, about her previous boyfriend. Spolier alert: It doesn't end well. 

Some goose-bump moments in the traditional gospel number 'Flee As A Bird' which worked perfectly with the Chapel's acoustics, followed by a capella version of 'You Belong To Me', returning to the retro feel of their opening song and providing a perfect symmetry to their superb set.

A very well deserved standing ovation followed.

It's only when you hear Lydia and Laura live that you really appreciate how good their blood harmonies are coupled with some great story-telling and songwriting. The sister's will be back in the UK in the spring as part of the Transatlantic sessions, with their own headline tour promised later in the year. If you haven't seen them before, please take the opportunity to go to the gig. You won't be disappointed. Highly recommended.

Edgelarks - The Sound Lounge, Tooting (02/11/17)

'Edgelarks' - Album Launch

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To paraphrase a line in William's Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliette "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet". This would certain apply to 'Edgelarks', the new band name of Radio 2 2014 Folk award winning duo Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin. Not only have they decided to change and simplify their duo name, but they have also chosen to release new a 'watershed' album of the same name. Last night marked their London launch at the very popular community music venue The Sound Lounge in Tooting, South West London. I always think that album launches are very special gigs and this one was no exception. Their new name 'Edgelarks' carries the idea of 'singing about or from the margins'. It's an album about transitional spaces, liminal places, people and times, the straddling of boundaries and thresholds, crossroads and borderlands, travelers and refugees, dusk and dawn. 'Edgelarks' is an album with the same very high quality musicianship, production and songwriting that you would expect from one of the best live Folk duos in the UK.

Phil and Hannah were joined on the night by a musician who played a very important role in co-producing and bringing the album together, John Elliot aka the excellent 'The Little Unsaid'.  This multi-instrumentalist also played drums, percussion, piano, Moog synth and harmonium on the album. Completing the high quality ensemble of musicians on the album were Lukas Drinkwater on Electric Bass/Double Bass and Niall Robinson on Tabla. 

John opened the evening with a great selection of music from his now vast and wonderful back catalogue. It was a rare solo gig for John, as he normally plays with his band. We were treated to a masterclass in musicianship and looping as John layered his instruments and vocals to form a rich and sweeping soundscape. Opening the set was 'Hunger' taken from his 2014 EP 'A Filthy Hunger'. I make no secret of the fact that I love John's music and his latest album Imagined Hymns & Chaingang Matras, is one of my favourite releases this year. It's fresh, vibrant, powerful and elegantly crafted. One of it's two title tracks followed 'Imagined Hymns' an atmospheric track with John vocals floating over soft finger-picked acoustic guitar.  'Dig' wass full of intensity. Demonstrating the full emotional weight John's music can carry. Again beautifully written 'Everyday I wake into this miracle I find. Your accident of cells somehow exploding next to mine. How we dance through the seasons now. How we gently ebb and flow and some days how we ride, the frenzied tides on which we're thrown.......to the moment we fall from the moment we first rise. We've got to dig the happiness from our own landfill lives.' The newest song in the set was the alternative themed love song 'Sweet Kind Of Hurt'. The deep and reflective 'Get On The Other Side Of That Door' continued a personal and rich look at life and working your way through the many problems of modern living. "Sirens out there howling loud, midnight in London Town. I stand here naked now in your headlight eyes. I was weary of the tail chase. Hunting down my mistakes.......We live the fantasy of living free". This wonderful set ended with a piano ballad 'Day is Golden'. It's a look into John's inner deep feeling, struggles and demons. It's one of the most honest and personal songs I've heard in awhile.  "I have no home, but the day is golden, The sun is up but I have seldom felt colder. It's fine being alive some days.....I am hanging by a thread, my friend, today" 

After a short break, Phil and Hannah were welcomed to the stage to perform a fantastic set of both songs from the new 'Edgelarks' album and some older audience favourites including Silbury Hill, Lamps Trimmed & Burning and The Nailmaker's Strike.

The set began with the first single from the album the very powerful 'No Victory', which we featured recently as one of our LCM songs of the day. The tender and personal 'Undelivered' stretches itself out over seven-minutes, a story inspired by a cache of seventeenth-century letters discovered in the Netherlands played out over gently plucked strings. It is a telling and wonderful example of music’s ability to humanise and personalise history. Taken from their excellent 2013 'Mynd' album 'Silbury Hill' is always a live favourite, with it's combination of banjo and dobro. The song is about Silbury Hill, a prehistoric artificial chalk mound near Avebury. The unusual habits of Californian Bush Jay is the subject of the next song 'Song Of The Jay'. The bird has be observed to hold 'funerals' for other birds, regardless of their species. The song is clever extended metaphor for inclusivity and acceptance.  It also features the chaturangui, tabla and acoustic guitar.

Inspired by a trip to Tasmania where they saw a sign saying Paradise (15 Miles) - No Where Else (5 miles). 'Signposts' deals with homesickness and the power of music to console and to bring people together. It also showcases Hannah's deft, melancholy fiddle playing, with Phil adding his skillful acoustic guitar and harmonica playing. 

The film the 'Big Short' was made around the 2008 banking crash. The film saw Brad Pitt in one scene at Phil and Hannah's local pub in Exmouth. 'Caravans' acts as a kind of creation myth for the band, and on another level offers a sage manifesto for living in harmony and alongside and with the natural world. The song saw John join the duo on keys with Phil on slide guitar + stomp box and Hannah on Shurti and lead vocals.

This segued perfectly into a Cornish language song 'Estren' which means 'Strangers'. Its story tells of a travelling stranger with something of a reputation as a ladies’ man. But despite its age-old themes, it carries great relevance to the modern world where intolerance and fear of the foreigner still hold sway.In 'Iceberg' Phil's beat-box & harmonica playing cleverly underpins a thoughtful exploration of human coldness. 'What's The Life Of A Man' is a traditional piece which reminds us of our insignificance in the grander scheme of nature. It directs us to find acceptance and comfort in our fate. The treatment of women at the frighteningly named Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre is explored in 'Yarl's Wood'. The song was first written and performed as part of the very popular 'Shake The Chain's' project. Hannah was part of this very popular ensemble brought together by Greg Russell.

Always a very popular favourite is the song of hope, the traditional gospel blues song 'Lamps Trimmed & Burning' First made famous by Blind Willy Johnson in 1928. It alludes to the Bible parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. It's is always a joy to watch live with Phil on harmonica and beatbox plus stomp box. A marvel in co-ordination and skill. Also taken from their Mynd album was the very popular and high energy 'The Nailmaker's Strike'. It's a firm staple of their live set with its audience participation call and response. For their well deserved encore they fittingly chose the last song on the new Edgelarks album 'The Good Earth' with Phil on his chaturangui and Hannah on her acoustic guitar.

CC Smugglers / Keston Cobblers Club - Union Chapel, London (28/10/17)

Photo credit: CC Smugglers

Photo credit: CC Smugglers

What happens when you bring together two of the finest live bands in the UK and give them a double headline gig at one of London's best music venues? A standing ovation for both bands, dancing in the aisles and a very, very happy audience. Whoever made the decision to curate and organise this gig, we salute you......you are a genius!

This wonderful gig was one of opening events of the excellent annual London Folk & Roots Festival, which is rapidly becoming one of the highlights and 'must see' festivals of the London musical calendar.

First up were the high energy, very entertaining, infectious and 'show stealing' CC Smugglers, a wonderful Bedfordshire based six-piece, who started live as a gorilla busker band and who are now making a huge impact wherever they perform. They had a storming set at the main stage of the Cambridge Folk Festival this year, so it was very interesting to see how they would handle in a intimate setting of the Chapel. It is fair to say that the band exploded onto the stage bathed in the warm yellow glow of the house lights with their song 'Lydia' and thoroughly enjoyed themselves on stage throughout their set, even joining the audience at some points in their performance. They transformed the Union Chapel in a huge street carnival. One of their songs 'Grumpy All the Time' was dedicated as Richie explained to someone in the audience with a 'mood on', which voted by his friends turned out to be a gentleman called Ian. In Richie Prynne the band have a perfect front man, an energetic and very engaging and entertaining showman, whose skills have been honed by many street performances. The CC Smugglers are a very talented and tight unit. Instantly likable, they always have a huge amount of fun on stage and this is highly contagious.  

The CC Smugglers are Richie Prynne (Lead vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Harmonica & Banjo), Ryan Thomas (Vocals, Lead Guitar, Dobro & Banjo), Sam Barret (Vocals, Rhythm Guitar & Fiddle), Dan Edwards (Vocals, Double Bass), Iain McFarlane (Vocals, Drums, Percussion) and Tom Seals (Vocals, Piano, Accordion). 

Their set was perfectly summed up by Richie who said "This may be the house of the Lord, but that doesn't mean we can't get rowdy!   

Their set included songs from their 2015 EP 'Write What You Know' and some newer songs including 'Rhythm' and their latest single the very catchy 'Dirty Money'. The band are currently running a crowd funding campaign and pre-sale on Pledge Music for their debut studio album.  We think on the strength of this live performance alone they are well worth supporting. BBC 6 Music’s Cerys Matthews described them as “the best live band on the scene at the moment”. We won't disagree.

After a short break to catch our collective breath and a visit to a very busy 'merch' stand. This fabulous show continued with the brilliant and highly regarded Bromley based Keston Cobbler Club, fresh from their sell-out 'Almost Home' album launch six months earlier at the venue. The KCC are one of the most innovate bands in the country and this was on display throughout their fantastic set. Like the CC Smugglers they are instantly likable and have created a very close and hugely loyal following over the years. Unfortunately the tuba playing Bethan has left the band since the launch, but now the band now have a new tuba player called Dan, who was with the band originally. Formed in 2009, the beating heart of the KCC are brother and sister Matthew and Julia Lowe plus childhood friends Tom Sweet and Harry Stasinopoulos. They were also joined on the night by Connor and Helen for a few of their songs adding extra instrumental layers. A super set followed with lots of crowd favourites including 'Your Mother', 'You-Go', 'Wildfire', 'St. Tropez', 'Bicycles', 'Forest Hill', 'Demons', 'Almost Home' and one of my personal favourites the fantastic 'Contrails'. We even had a great version of Paul Simon's 'Graceland' for good measure   

The KCC were joined on the well deserved encore by the CC Smugglers to form a new super-group, which we would like to name either the 'CC Cobblers' or the 'Keston Smugglers'.

This was a gig which left the audience with huge smile on their faces. A superb night of music from two of the most innovative and entertaining live bands in the UK. A perfect start to The London Folk & Roots Festival.

Music Makers Festival - Omnibus Theatre, London (5 & 6/8/17)

The Music Makers Festival  was held in the wonderful Omnibus Theatre on the north east side of Clapham Common. It showcased an excellent hand-picked selection of some of the cream of the UK's young independent singer-songwriters and bands. The festival was organised by Albert Man & Manoja Ullman and together with their team created a very special and exciting weekend of live music. It had a very strong community feel and it was great to see the London independent music scene coming together to support this special event. I really hope that this will continue as the festivalt is the perfect showcase for independent artists. Same time next year?

Saturday

Steve Young: The festival started with a strong opening set from Hertfordshire based Steve Young and his five-piece band of Abbie, Olly, Steve & Pete. Steve's music has been described as “Country music with pop sensibilities” and “Well crafted Pop songs with strong Country overtones”. Steve is a singer-songwriter & globe trotting session guitarist. After years on the road he has finally released his own blend of Acoustic Country-Pop & Blues. I particular liked 'In My Dreams' from Steve's 2016 'Troubadour' album, which had a smooth west coast vibe, the smooth soul of 'Integrity' and the Americana flavoured 'Back To Mine' with it's funky guitar solo. Another highlight was Steve's version of 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' the first song Steve learned to play. It's never easy to cover Pink Floyd, but Steve did a great version of this classic.

https://steveyounguk.com/

Matt Perriment: Matt Perriment is a 24 year old London based singer songwriter with a great vocal. Establishing himself on the South England festival scene, he began writing folk and indie inspired music seven years ago. His debut 3-track EP 'Everlast' was released in March 2017. Matt played an impressive set on sparkling acoustic guitar and keys including 'Kin', 'It's Too Late Tomorrow', Cattle Bay', Beauty & Madness' and 'Distance'. Matt reminded me of vocally of a little of Jamie Lawson and Ross Wilson with a nod to acts like Bears Den, Passenger and Ben Howard. Matt is due to play a headline date at the SJQ in Dalston on the 23rd August and then he will head to the stunning New Zealand on tour.

Adam Masterson: London born Adam is a talented singer-songwriter who now lives in New York. He taught himself guitar and was writing his own songs by the age of 16. He made his start in the music industry in his late teens, playing in several bands on the London circuit. Branching out as a solo artist, Adam's demo recordings for the small Volume Records label came to the attention of the BMG subsidiary 'Gravity'. The revival of interest in singer-songwriters in the new millennium helped his cause, and he toured America as support for the Stereophonics’ Kelly Jones. Adam has hints of Jim Morrison and Ray Davies in his vocals and feel of his music. His exciting set included 'Bad Luck Baby', 'Free Fall', 'Runaway', 'Jasmine', 'Crazy Rain', 'When You Are On Your Own' and 'Farewell Blue Eyes'. Adam is currently recording a new album.

Tony Moore: Tony has a rich history in the music business including time in Iron Maiden and The Cutting Crew and as a hard-working session musician. Other accolades include being a singer-songwriter. manager, producer, promoter and Director of Music, Art and Development for the legendary Bedford in Balham. In the late 90's Tony launched a seminal venue for songwriters in Central London called 'The Kashmir Klub' . His entrepreneurial instinct and passion for music helped him establish a ground breaking club that went on to discover and develop artists like Damien Rice, KT Tunstall, Imogen Heap, The Feeling and many more. It is always a pleasure to meet Tony and see him perform his songs. Sage themes incluiding faith & re-assurance, space transit vans and appreciating the present followed. The set was completed perfectly with the very catchy 'call and response' "Hell Yeah!" Tony is working on a new album and book, so watch out for those on release.

https://www.musicglue.com/tonymooremusic

Belle Roscoe: The beating heart of the band are the brother and sister duo Matty & Julia Gurry. Orginally from Melbourne, Australia they moved to London about 15 months ago. With their twin acoustic guitars, percussion and rich sibling harmonies Matty and Julia are making rapid progress on the London independent music scene. Their music is a great fusion of indie folk rock, a Fleetwood Mac vibe and some electronic elements included on their band recordings. Belle Roscoe is normally a 5 to 6 piece band but Matty and Julia performed at the festival in duo format. Their set featured a selection of songs from their highly anticipated upcoming album, as well as tracks from their self titled EP released last year. 

https://www.belleroscoe.com/

Dani Slyvia: Surrey based singer-songwriter Dani, the winner of the 'Best Songwriter' award at the 2016 Unsigned Music Awards certainly didn't disappoint. Her wonderfully smooth, creamy and rich vocals perfectly complement her insightful songwriting, often exploring relationships & some darker and deeper themes. Her performances have been described as raw, emotional and intense. The combination of meaningful, relatable lyrics and a soulful voice created a powerful connection with her audience. Together with her band Alessandro Lombardo and Serge Sainte Rose, they played a wonderful and very impressive live set including song from her recently released 'Monologues'' EP. With the promise of her upcoming debut album 'Tall Tales' due to be released soon, Dani is definitely another 'one to watch'. 

http://danisylviamusic.com/

Up Down Go Machine: Playing in duo format with acoustic guitar and percussion/drums London based Sam Martin and Stephen Hallwood shared an excellent stripped set complementing their usual 4 piece live band line-up. Their great Celticana music and vocals reminded me of a cross between Blue Rose Code & Hosier. The duo weaved delicate Folk and Americana melodies around their powerful vocals, acoustic guitar and percussion led sound. The band's new single the western themed 'The Gambler' was released on Friday with a new 3-track EP to follow shortly. With support from BBC Introducing they are a band quickly going places.  

PROSE: The Saturday headliners Manchester-based band PROSE finished the first day in style. Their music blends hip-hop with acoustic guitars and beats, interweaving a very insightful look at Manchester life. It reminded me a little Ben Drew's Plan B with some the lyrical cleverness of Enimem. Beats maker/producer Dave Stone and rapper Mike Murray are cousins; Dave Stone and guitarist Lee Royle are friends. They were joined for the evening by Steve Hermitt. After being featured in Amazon’s ‘New and Emerging 2016’ PROSE have continued to show themselves to be an incredibly promising new band. Their first EP gained the support of BBC Introducing Manchester, as well as early radio plays from BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens, Phil Taggart and Radio X’s John Kennedy. The band also won the coveted Manchester Evening News fan-voted ‘Best Breakthrough Artist’ for 2016, demonstrating the real burgeoning support from their home city. Their debut album 'Home Of The Brave' was released last July. With sold out shows and collaborations with Big Issue North, PROSE are fast becoming one of the most promising homegrown bands to come out of Manchester in recent history.

Sunday

Mark Sullivan: Mark Sullivan is an accomplished singer/songwriter from Hitchin, Hertfordshire with a
massive voice and an ear for writing memorable and immediately familiar sounding songs. He is a Master of the loop pedal and expertly executed guitar solo’s. His vocal has a rich, full and slightly gravel tone reminding me of Antonio Lulic. Mark played a selection of great songs including 'Warm Your Bones' the latest single from his recent EP 'Still Good For Nothing'. Interestingly like Steve Young opening on Saturday, Mark included a Pink Floyd cover in his set this time the classic 'Wish You Were Here', again performing it with perfect style and panache.

https://www.marksullivanmusic.com/

Tara Lee: Best known for her acting roles on hit TV dramas such as 'The Fall' and 'Raw', Dublin based Tara Lee looks set to make waves in the music industry too. Her often deep and darker angsty themed music draws you in. Her latest single 'Paradise' released in May should see Tara receive more recognition. I especially liked her slower and intense cover of Chris Isaak's 'Wicked Game'.

Brian McGovern: We continued the Dublin based theme with the next singer-songwriter Brian. who joked he is normally introduced as a Ellen Degeneres look-alike. A RTE 'Breakthrough Artist' and enjoying three No.1 songs on the Irish Charts, Brian is an experianced performer and was formerly the front man of The Fallen Drakes. This popular musican has also shared the stage with Bon Jovi and Daniel Bedingfield. I really loved Brian's vocals and songwriting. Wife' the title track of his latest EP is a wonderfully tender and gentle ballad. 'Scars' also from the new EP is a thoughtful and personal exploration about the state of the world and it's future. Brian was joined on his last song by fellow Dublin singer-songwriter Gavin James (another firm favourite here at LCM) for a fantastic version of Bruce Springteen's 'Dancing In The Dark'.

Anna Pancaldi: Another favourite here at LCM, it is always a joy to see Anna play her songs. This solo performance saw the Essex singer-songwriter at her most pure and stripped, playing just with acoustic guitar and keys. The set include songs both old and new and she treated us to one unplugged song and one of my personal favourites the tender and personal 'Brother'. Influenced by the likes of Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley and Carol King, Anna's haunting, deep and mature vocals alongside her thought provoking and raw music left the audiences wanting more.

http://www.annapancaldi.com/

The City & Us: This new 4-piece band from Dublin formed just in March are definitly ones to watch for the future. Their music is unique blend of acoustic tracks with a hint of electro. The set saw a solo performance from Mark Hogan without his band mates this time. Mark played a selection of their latest material including 'Home', 'One More Day' 'Our Last Goodbye' and 'Confused' even including a cover of Cyndi Laupers' 'Time After TIme' for good measure. 

Albert Man: Another very popular choice was Manchester born but London based singer-songwriter Albert who also co-organised the festival. Joining with his four piece band of Pete, Sammy and Sian, he played a selection of songs from his album 'Cheap Suit' and recently released EP 'Nothing of Nothing Much'. If you haven't come across Albert before he writes piano-led, melodic pop songs described by Fresh On The Net as “sweet piano led shenanigans that come over like the lovechild of Billy Joel and Adam Levine”. Albert also released a new live album recorded at the historic St. Pancras Old Church in London, which is well worth checking out. I can highly recommend it, as I was in the audience for the recording. 

http://www.albertman.com/music/nonm/

Tom Speight: One of my favourite sets of the Sunday schedule came from London based singer-songwriter Tom Speight, who was joined on stage by the the wonderful Lydia Clowes and Tom Ashby. Tom has a great pure vocal and this is complemented by Lydia's harmony vocals and electric guitar playing by Tom Ashby. After being forced to take a long hiatus due to Illness, Tom is back better than before, releasing a quartet of EP's in 2016 and late 2017, releasing his latest EP 'My My My' at the end of July.  Tom's music takes the best elements of folk and pop music to create a new and fresh infectious sound. 2017 has also seen Tom signed to Kobalt (recording) and Cooking Vinyl (publishing). Radio 2 playlist support continues and he has reached an amazing 10m streams on Spotify.

http://www.tomspeightmusic.com/

Michelle Stodart: The fantastic festival was closed by a super performance from Michelle Stodart and her very talented new band. Double platinum selling Michelle an integral part of 'The Lucky Numbers' has been working on a new solo material. Her set was tender, vulnerable and intimate covering songs from her 2016 solo album 'Pieces', as well as older songs including 'Invatation To The Blues' and 'Take Your Loving Back' from her 2012 album 'Wide-Eye Crossing'. We also were treated to some brand new unreleased songs too, that will hopefully be included on her new album. Michele has learned from the very best over the years and on this performance it absolutely shows. 

http://michelestodart.co.uk/ 

Reg Meuross - St. Pancras Old Church, London (28th July, 2017)

FARAWAY PEOPLE - ALBUM LAUNCH

  • Line-Up: Reg Meuross
  • Location: St. Pancras Old Church, London
  • Date: 28th July, 2017
  • Website: http://www.regmeuross.com/
  • Review By: Gary Smith (LCM)

The launch of 'Faraway People' marked the second in a trilogy of solo albums from Somerset based singer-songwriter Reg Meuross.  Simply put it is Reg's music at its most pure and intimate. The historic St. Pancras Old Church in London provided the perfect setting for a night with one of England's master musical storytellers.

The new 'Faraway People' album is a strong insightful comment on life in an ever changing and uncertain world. Lessons to be learnt from the past are also explored, echoing warnings that resonate through time and are still relevant today. Among the protest and acute observations though are moments of beauty, love and good humour. With just an acoustic guitar, banjo, dulcimer, mouth organ and Reg's vocals, we were taken on a perceptive and personal journey of discovery. We were also treated to a two sets featuring songs from the new album, unreleased songs and some classics from Reg's back catalogue.

After Reg's nightmare seven hour car journey from his home in the West Country, it seemed very apt that the first song of the set was the unreleased banjo and mouth organ led 'Songs About A Train', which echoed classic Bob Dylan. Maybe this could be the preferred means of transport next time.

Inspired by the Bob Dylan song 'The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carol' and continuing some of its themes of murder, racism and lack of justice. Reg's 'Lonesome Death Of Michael Brown' is based on the true story of a 18 year old black man killed by a white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. He was shot after Michael Brown reportedly robbed a convenience store. The initially disputed circumstances of the shooting sparked existing tensions in the predominantly black city, where protests and civil unrest erupted. A St. Louis County grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson and he was exonerated of criminal wrongdoing by the United States Department of Justice.

One of my personal favourites from the new album is the very topical 'Angel In A Blue Dress' exploring the power of music and the current issues within the NHS caused by failing government policy over many years. This is a deeply personal personal account of a hard-working nurse, who listens to music to help her get through the day. Reg described the piecemeal selling off of our health system back in 2015 in his acclaimed song 'England Green & England Grey'

It is always very interesting to learn about the inspirations for songs and Reg's next one the unreleased 'World Being The World' is based on a quote by Ian McShane's character Albert "Swejen" Swearengen, the proprietor of the Gem Saloon in the US TV series 'Deadwood'

In 'Leavin' Alabama' Reg imagines a meeting between two of his heroes Dylan Thomas and Hank Williams. who died within one year of each other in 1952/3.

With it's gentle finger picked acoustic guitar 'For Sophie (This Beautiful Day)' is the moving account about Sophie Scholl an anti-Nazi activist in WW2, who was part of the 'White Rose Movement'. She was convicted of high treason and executed after having been found distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich with her brother Hans. Following her death, a copy of the sixth leaflet was smuggled out of Germany to the UK, where it was used by the Allied Forces. In mid-1943, they dropped over Germany millions of copies of the tract.

The finish the first set was a wonderful story and song from Reg's life on the road with Hank Wangford on his 'No Hall Too Small' UK Tour. It was a great example of Reg's sharp observational qualities. Delightful titled 'Phil Ochs & Elvis Eating Lunch in Morrissons Café' it was a sage tale of mistaken identify and eating lunch in a UK supermarket cafe.

The second half started with another 'Faraway People' album track the gentle and tender love song 'In Your Arms'.  The very topical 'Refugee' explored the current personal plight of refugees fleeing hardships and war in their own country and trying to seek refuge and a safe life with their families. For 'A Quiet Night' another unreleased track Reg turned to his trusty Appalachian dulcimer. It was graceful, delicate and tender.

Reg's next subject is 'Cicero' an influential Roman philosopher, political activist, politician & lawyer, who served as consul in 63 BC. Marcus Tullius Cicero came from a wealthy municipal family of the Roman equestrian order and is considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists. Many of the points about society Cicero wrote about still applies today, almost two thousand years later.

Complimented by SPOC's 10pm chimes, I really loved 'In Dreams'. With it chord structure and melody it had the feel of a softer REM track. When Reg first heard about New Brighton he had a romantic idea about a place like New York's Coney Island, so he wrote a song about one of it's residents the 'New Brighton Girl'. Reg said that he has since visited New Brighton and unfortunately it wasn't like he imagined it be in the song.

The final song of the set was the album's powerful. personal and through-provoking title track 'Faraway People' dealing with the many issues and deaths in the UK due to the current government austerity policies and cuts, which adversely affect the lives of so many people. All individual stories of 'faraway' people with only limited and distant voices. One of the very powerful echoing lines of the song is 'You will be unfit to work when you're dead!'

Returning for a well deserved encore the final song of the evening was a classic, the very catchy 'Man In The Moon' from Reg's 'Short Stories' album.

It was a super evening in the company of one of the UK finest singer-songwriters. 'Faraway People' is topical, thought-provoking and insightful. It's a album which will undoubtedly be another classic in Reg's already outstanding collection.

Kirsty Merryn, Kitty Macfarlane & Emily Mae Winters - Green Note, London (18th July, 2017)

LCM LIVE REVIEW

  • Line-up: Kirsty Merryn, Kitty Macfarlane and Emily Mae Winters (trio) - Triple header "Estival"
  • Location: Green Note, Camden
  • Date: 18th July, 2017
  • Reviewed by: Gary Smith (LCM)
  • Photo Credit: Mike Watts

 

Organised as a folk music celebration for the beginning of summer, “Estival” brought together three of the very talented 'fast rising' young stars of the UK Folk word. All very different in their unique styles but very complimentary. A perfect match.

This triple header was opened by Kirsty Merryn, who organised the event. Kirsty is a London-based singer-songwriter whose music is heavily anchored in the folk tradition, but with influence from her background in jazz and classical music. Kirsty who has a pure crystalline vocal, become a regular on London’s folk scene, delighting the crowds with her delicately introspective piano based songs and sophisticated musical style, which are balanced beautifully by an intimate and finely observational lyrical content. Kirsty is currently working on her debut album which is a collection of stories about inspirational women, supported with funding from the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS). It's produced by the award-winning Gerry Diver (Sam Lee, Lisa Knapp) and will be released later this year. The album will also feature the talents of award-winning musicians Steve Knightley and Luke Jackson.

Kirsty's set begun with the tradition folk song 'The Blacksmith,' a cautionary and universal tale that men are not to be trusted, especially the much maligned Blacksmith. Her version was slightly slower with a more jazzy feel, but it worked very well. Celebrating the life of the author Jane Austin 'Love in A City Room' taken from her 2013 debut EP 'Just The Winter', explores the practical side of love in a unromantic age. 'The Fair Teamaker of Edgware Row', is a new track on Kirsty's debut album, written about another inspirational woman, Emma Hamilton the mistress of Lord Nelson. It was the song which Kirsty said started the theme of the new album project. We turn to Kirsty's family for her next inspiration 'The Pit and the Pugilist'. It's based on he great grandfather Tommy Mitchell, who won a major boxing match and received a gold watch as his prize.

Murder ballads are a staple of Folk music and unusually but very apt was Kirsty's next choice 'The Outlandish Knight', where the heroine survives to tell the tale, unlike the unfortunate Knight. Another taster of the new album was 'Forfarshire'. a duet with Show of Hand legend Steve Knightley. Deputising on the night was special guest Claude aka 'Alex Alex'. The song is based on the life of Grace Darling an English lighthouse keeper's daughter, famed for participating in the rescue of survivors from the shipwrecked 'Forfarshire' in 1838. It also explores the life of her father William. Kirsty will be touring with Show Of Hands in the autumn. She completed her classy set with the unaccompanied 'The Birds Are Drunk', another folk murder ballad, this time based on a Persian poem.

Next making her Green Note debut was Somerset based singer-songwriter Kitty Macfarlane.  Kitty’s songs are charged with a sense of place, more often than not her home of Somerset. As well as the release of her debut EP 'Tide & Time', Kitty has been on a national support tours with Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman and Blair Dunlop. Her EP received outstanding reviews and national airplay on the BBC Radio 2 folk show as well as other regional BBC radio shows across the UK and features Sam Kelly (co-producer), Jamie Francis, Lukas Drinkwater, Ciaran Algar and others. Kitty was also a BBC Young Folk Award semi-finalist in 2015.

Kitty started her set with an unaccompanied song "The Folk Of The Sea", about the 'Sea Morgans' who are a group of fabled sirens in the Bristol Channel. Inspired by the floods in Somerset and valuing intangible things and well as the tangible, was the central theme of 'Man, Friendship'. Next in the build up to the next song Kitty talked about her love of nature, a local badger who comes into her garden and her mothers quest for the perfect family Christmas card. One of my favourites in the set was the beautiful 'Lamb', which is based on a William Blake poem. The very topical 'The Glass Eel' was next discussing the flux, flow and motion of human migration and its barriers both natural and man-made. The title track of Kitty's debut EP 'Tide & Time' about the Northern France fishing industry highlighted her rich storytelling ability. Another favourite was 'Wrecking Days' based on a documentary of two Padstow beach wardens and beachcombers, continuing the theme of constant movement and current. The final song of the set was Kitty's very popular cover of Tim Buckley's 'Song To The Siren'.

Last but not least was Emily Mae Winters and her very good trio Jasmine Watkiss on fiddle/backing vocals and John Parker (Nizlopi) on Double Bass. It was only their 2nd gig together, but you wouldn't have noticed. Emily is a little more Americana leaning than Kirsty or Kitty and she has an added dash of Irish Folk. Born in England, Emily grew up Clonakilty, County Cork, where a love of acoustic music was nurtured and encouraged by the local scene and Emily developed a taste for live performance. Influenced by the sounds of traditional and contemporary Folk, Celtic, Country and Americana music, she learned to play the guitar, piano and whistle and began playing local music festivals . A return to London in 2009 to study History at The Royal Holloway saw her begin to flourish as a songwriter and in 2012 she was offered a place to study music and theatre at the prestigious Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (RCSSD). From an early age, Emily also developed a deep love of poetry. After graduating she performed in numerous theatre productions across the UK whilst continuing to enter songwriting competitions and gigging in and around the heart of the acoustic and roots scene in London, quickly establishing herself as a writer and performer to be reckoned with.  After completing her studies, that connection led to Emily working at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden and at Keats House Museum, Hampstead Heath. Emily is now based in Cambridge.

Emily's set opened with her lovely cover of Gillian Welch's 'Go On Downtown'. A Ben Miller cover 'Sun Is Gonna Rise' was next choice, recorded recently by Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage on their excellent duo album 'Before The Sun', in keeping with the summer theme. Emily was the special guest at their album launch gig. We were treated next to a new and yet unrecorded song 'How Do You Fix A Broken Sun?', before some relationship and dating advice. Could there be a new market for 'Folk Tinder'? Another new song followed the very uptempo and catchy 'WIldfire'. Then we had a five song mini set from Emily's debut album 'Siren Serenade' released in April including 'Blackberry Lane' a song about Emily moving from London to Cambridge, the very upbeat 'The Ghost Of The Pirate Queen' inspired by Grace O'Malley, the lovely 'As If You Read My Mind' and the love song 'Miles To Go' a finalist in a UK Songwriting contest. The set closed with the wonderful award winning and one of my personal favourites 'Anchor'.

For the very well deserved encore Kirsty, Kitty and Emily combined for a fantastic off-mic a capella version of 'Pleasant and Delightful'. I really loved the harmonies on this one. It will be interested to see what the future holds for this very talent trio. We hope it includes future projects together.

http://kirstymerryn.com/

http://www.kittymacfarlane.com/

http://www.emilymaewinters.com/

 

 

 

Sadie Jemmett - Green Note, London (5th July, 2017)

LCM LIVE REVIEW

The Green Note in Camden has long been regarded as the best small music venue in London. With it's super sound, listening audience and warm atmosphere, it is the favourite of many acoustic artists. Hosting some of the best musicians and singer-songwriters over the years, it has also been used to record live sessions and concerts. Famously The Shires recorded their first EP at the venue. Tonight was a another special occasion as East Sussex based singer-songwriter Sadie Jemmett had chosen the Green Note to record her new live album for release later in the year. 

First up were the special guests for the evening, two young brothers Ed and Ollie Goodale from West Sussex. Despite his young age, Ed has played extensively at gigs, clubs and festivals throughout the UK and Europe, gaining him a strong following on the modern folk scene. Ed's songs are inspired by his 'gift' of Asperger's. With Ed on vocals and acoustic guitar & brother Ollie on cajon, it was a mature performance and strong set of songs based on Ed's life and experiences. Vocally Ed reminded me of Andrew Jones from Journey Home.  The seven song set included songs about 'going with the flow', relaxing and contemplating life in 'I'm alright', 'I'm feeling fine' and 'I want to stay' to the subject of relationships and his daughter in 'Through it all'. There was the optimistic and inspirational 'Don't take no for an answer' about following your dreams as a singer-songwriter. It was also the title track of Ed's 2015 album 'The Same But Different'. The set was concluded with a moving song about their older brother serving in Afghanistan called 'Far Away'. 

Sadie Jemmett comes originally from Cambridge but spent most of her life in North London. She even ran a stall in Camden market selling fruit and juices. Sadie's music is inspired by London life and her personal experiences. It is autobiographical bohemian indie-folk, strongly influenced by the classic Greenwich Village folk music of the 1970's.

With just Sadie on stage with her finger-picked acoustic guitar, she began her set with the emotive, personal and dream-like 'I'm glad your back' taken from her 2011 album 'The Blacksmith's Girl'. Next was her ode to North London, the americana flavoured 'Up on the heath' which was dedicated to Immy, who had asked Sadie for the chords of the song so she could play them on her ukelele. The song reminded me a little of Billy Bragg.

Sadie lived in a one-bed flat with her young daughter and worked in Camden for many years. The next song was another personal take on North London life 'Five things I noticed while I walked to Camden Square'. Following perfectly was the emotive 'Stay' a love song from her 2014 EP 'London Love Songs'. Many singer-songwriters find it difficult to write a 'happy' song. The beautiful and touching 'Fighting chance' was Sadie's latest song to try and crack this elusive subject.

Very topical and timely was another new song 'Rescue street', about the perils of internet dating and the difficulty of modern relationships. Sadie said while writing the song she thought of a place where all these people were waiting to be rescued and saved. Sadie mentioned that the next song 'Another Way To Be' was written after the worse jetlag ever after flying to the US to record her debut album. After four sleepless night this was written for her young daughter. 

Sadie also lived near Dalston and the next song was another slice of London life the title track from her EP 'London Love Songs'. With an Americana feel and tackling the subject of addiction ''Adventures in Sobriety' was written for a friend who had trouble stopping drinking. He would often talk about a 'beast sat on his shoulder'. Written on a very rainy London summer's day 'These days' is a personal account of difficulties of being a single mum.

The very well deserved encore was the up-tempo country infused title track from her 'The Blacksmith's Girl' album, about a girl who goes out at night to seek her fortune. 

It was another special night at the Green Note, I wait with eager anticipation to hear the forthcoming live album.

Darlingside - Union Chapel, London (3rd July, 2017)

LCM LIVE REVIEW

Concerts at the the multi-award winning Union Chapel are always special events. This gothic styled working church is often named as one of London's best and favourite live music venues. Last night was very special indeed, with headliners Darlingside alongside their special guest Caitlin Canty producing a stunning performance. Although both are based in the US, Caitlyn in Nashville, Tennessee and Darlingside in Cambridge, Massachusetts, this had all the feeling of a 'homecoming' gig. A packed Union Chapel audience (and their biggest worldwide (non-festival) audience to date) witnessed something quite extraordinary, culminating in a very well deserved double standing ovation

Special guest Nashville based based US singer-songwriter Caitlin Canty (originally from Vermont) opened the evening. Darlingside describe her as a 'big sister' and close fiend who they first met in Williams College in Western Massachusetts. Darlingside also produced Caitlin's first EP and they also played in a wedding band together. This was Caitlin's first London gig and her first trip to the UK. I'm sure that it will be the first of many to come. With a beautiful acapella introduction Caitlyn opened with the lovely 'The Brightest Day', one of the many songs in her extended set from her latest album 'Reckless Skyline' which was released in 2015.

With it's soft picked acoustic guitar slowly building into a rocky finish 'Love For You Will Not Fade' was a firm favourite. Caitlin’s next song “Dotted Line” taken from her latest EP 'Lost in the Valley' was used recently on Netflix’s drama 'House of Cards'. The very catchy and rocky bluegrass 'Enough of Hard Times' was another toe-tapper. One of my favourites in her set was her hit 'Get Up' . Caitlin has a wonderful pure vocals and this song showcased them to the full. I love the arrangements too.  Caitlyn said that in Nashville as a songwriter you have to write a 'weepy' and this was her one, the lovely 'Idaho'. Coming off-mic to deliver a super "unplugged' version of a Country classic made famous by Glen Campbell and written by Lefty Frizzell "I Want To Be With You Always'. Described by Caitlin as her 'crush on the south' was the sublime and reflective 'Southern Man'. Caitlin said that there was so many parallels between the UK and US and there was such a deep sense of community. The last song in her set was the beautiful title track of her last EP 'Lost in the Valley'. 

Darlingside are Don Mitchell (guitar, banjo, vocals), Auyon Mukharji (mandolin, violin, vocals), Harris Paseltiner (guitar, cello, vocals) and David Senft (bass, kick drum, vocals). They are a 'band of brothers' all from very different musical backgrounds and performance styles including chamber music, choral singing, Celtic session playing and street busking. NPR described them as 'exquisitely-arranged, literary-minded, baroque folk-pop'. Simply put the music Darlingside plays is serious, cinematic and deeply moving. There is a real special and magical feeling about it. All the band are all highly skilled multi-instrumentalists with a super tight delivery in their playing and harmonies. They certainly have the 'wow!!' factor.

The band’s name originates from a songwriting class taken by the band members at Williams College. The course instructor, Bernice Lewis, quoted British writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch in teaching the class to “kill your darlings.” Lewis applied this philosophy to songwriting, wherein a favorite line, lick, or riff (“a darling”) might compromise the balance and arc of the song as a whole. The name “Darlingside” is an homage to “killing one’s darlings.” It is spelled with an “s” instead of a “c” (like regicide, fratricide, or homicide) because the band felt the “s” is easier on the eye and because they are not super into death.

Grouped around a single bi-directional condenser microphone Darlingside started their set with the powerful and moving 'God Of Loss'. One of my favourite songs on their 'Birds Say' album and live it is quite simply stunning. An ode to Chicago followed, sparse notes from banjo, acoustic guitar, violin and keys punctuate the solemn and beautiful 'White Horses', in keeping with the song’s themes of haunting nostalgia and bleak winter inertia. They were joined on stage by UK singer-songwriter and friend of of LCM Tom Hyatt on keys.

Turning to a track on their 2012 debut album 'Pilot Machines' the band played the sublime and heartfelt 'My Love'

After a short interlude to describe the unfortunate encounter Harris had with walking into a glass sliding door on tour in Bristol and the ensuing mayhem, the band moved seamlessly into their next song the very entertaining and clever 'Harrison Ford'. The title track from their 2016 EP 'Whippoorwill' followed, a song about childhood and the passage of time. The song is named after a cabin in upstate New York. Also from the 'Whippoorwill' EP was the next track the rocky, psychedelic and catchy 'Blow The House Down'.

What can only be described as a 'Cheese' interlude by Auyon followed. After only finding out on tour that Cheddar was not only a cheese but also a place in England. The band had encouraged him to learn more about the country he was touring and of course cheese, which he approached with gusto. Raiding all the information on the 'British Cheese' website and then describing the band members entertainingly in cheese metaphors and imparting cheese facts for Cheddar, Stilton, Lancashire and Shropshire Blue.

It was back to their 2010 debut EP 'EP1' for the next track the reflective and personal 'Catbird Seat' with it's excellent fiddle playing from Auyon, making up for insulting his fellow band members earlier. Next up was the 'Bird's Say' album's opening track with it's bowed cello and gentle mandolin playing 'The Ancestor'. It reminded me of a gentle version of the Keston Cobblers Club, who headlined the same venue recently. Another super track was 'Good For You' again with mandolin taking the high notes and amazing four-part harmonies floating over the appreciative Union Chapel audience. With it's wonderful lyrics and metaphors was the almost Beatlesque 'Clay & Cast Iron'. It so difficult to pick a favourite song from their last album and EP as the quality is very high. It's the kind of music you just need to put on your headphones, have a glass of red wine by your side and just close your eyes and drift away. 

Very timely for the eve of the American holiday was another song from 'Whippoorwill' EP the 'Fourth Of July'. A very special Tom Petty cover 'Wild Flower' followed with Caitlin joining the band on stage. It held special memories as it was sung by Caitlin at Harris' wedding as Harris' bride was walking down the aisle. Harris said it was almost like being back at his wedding, as he was back in a church. But as one of his bandmate interrupted 'This time it was like the audience marring Harris'. To which someone in the audience shouted 'I Do'. 

With it's fuzzy guitar opening the wonderful 'Go Back' had shades of early Mumford and Sons. Brittle synthesizer-like sounds from Auyon’s mandolin seamlessly mesh with acoustic and 12- string Danelectro guitars for a great rock groove. 

They then made an important announcement. Darlingside are shortly to begin to record a new third album, to be released in the spring of 2018.

The final song from 'Bird's Say' in the set was the retro 'My Girl, My Guy' with shades of CSNY and the Beach Boys. As a fitting conclusion the encore was the powerful and anthemic 'Sweet and Low' written by the band 5 years ago and appearing on their debut album. They were once again joined by Caitlin and Tom.

The following double standing ovation I think said it all. I'm sure with the reception the band received that they will come back to tour the UK very soon. Watch out too for their new album in the spring, it's going to be very special. 

August & After - The Lexington, London (28th June, 2017)

LCM LIVE REVIEW

'Stream' Single Launch

A packed Lexington saw the launch of London indie-folk band August & After's new single 'Stream', which is due for release on the 30th June. It is the first release of a series of singles recorded by the band in Paris last October. It also marks the beginning of a bigger and fuller live sound, with Vedantha playing electric guitar rather than acoustic for the first time and the expansion of the band with the addition of keys and drums/percussion (first seen on their last EP Cascades).

The evening was started by special guest London based harpist and vocalist Ellen Reay, who the band first met at university. She performed an eclectic set of covers including 'Song To The Siren' (Tim Buckley), Pitseleh (Elliott Smith), the traditional folk classic 'She Moved Through the Fair' and 'Loving Circles' (Bowerbirds). Ellen also included one of her own compositions about a bad encounter with a man at a bus stop. Ellen had a lovely pure vocal and also used a loop station on some of her songs, looping harp and percussion. It will be interesting to see how she develops this in future performances. 

Then after a short break and to an enthusiastic audience August & After started their release show with the sublime 'Elegy', a track from their 2016 EP 'Cascades' This was followed by a new song, Ned's reflective homage to 'Airports'. An excellent solo by Jordan on this one. Next was the very popular lead single from Cascades 'Wolves', now complete with a new lovely three part harmony arrangement. Always a popular choice is their very catchy cover of MGMT's 'Kids', which was delivered with strength and feeling.

Pride of place went to their atmospheric and personal new single 'Stream', which Vedantha described as like an 'evening on Primrose Hill'. As explained by Ned the song "is loosely about perspective and the unattainability of certain ambitions, set in a ‘space context’." As a teenager, he would write song after song about staring up at the night sky. Some were about love, others about escapism; occasionally there was a fairly technical one about astronomy. "With “Stream”, I wanted to close the chapter of my song-writing life where I obsessed with space/stars, whilst using my childhood dream to one day travel into space as an analogy for my present day struggles to become an indie-folk musician".

The very touching 'Halley' reflected on the shortness and transient nature of human life. It captures the conversation a young Vedantha had with his father about Halley's Comet, which first introduced him to the notion of mortality. Halley's Comet is visible from Earth on average every 75 to 76 years or once a lifetime. 

Next was a tribute to their percussionist Dan who plays regularly with his band 4 Square, a cover of their song 'Digging Song'. This was keep secret even from Dan with a large ? on the band playlist. 'Waltz For Marie' from their debut album 'Embers' is always beautiful live and tonight was no exception.

With it's wonderful acoustic finger-picking 'Vancouver Waves' continues the reflective and personal theme. "You are the calmest wave that I've ever known........Hibernate until I'm on form again. The world can wait another year. Hibernate until I'm ok again. The tidal waves can't follow me here. So I came here to the island. I braved the stormy seas. The air is clear and silent. Far from some tragedies. The sunset's better than a painting. It calms my eyes with ease. But it's the saddest sky....that I've ever seen"

The last song in the main set was 'Salamander' was also from their debut album. Written by Ned and named by Ned's mum.

Very fittingly the encore song was a cover of 'Round Here' by Counting Crows from their 'August & Everything After' album, which gave the band their name.

Tonight's performance marked an exciting new chapter the the band's musical journey. It will be very interesting to see how they develop their richer sound in the coming months.  

Sierra Hull - Bush Hall, London (26th June, 2017)

LCM LIVE REVIEW

  • Line-up: Sierra Hull and Ethan Jodziewicz
  • Location: Bush Hall, London
  • Date: 26th June, 2017
  • Website: http://www.sierrahull.com/
  • Review by: Gary Smith

Monday night saw the remarkable first London gig by the Grammy nominated US Country star Sierra Hull, a mandolin virtuoso with the vocals of a young Alison Krauss. She was joined on stage for the performance by another high talented virtuoso musician, the double bass playing marvel Ethan Jodziewicz. The two instruments and Sierra's pure vocals complemented each other perfectly. Sierra and Ethan captivated the audience from start to finish, receiving a very well deserved standing ovation. The performance included many of the wonderful songs from Sierra's Grammy award nominated album 'Weighted Mind', some older songs from her previous albums, some brand new pieces including 'Sundance' and even some JS Bach, Prince and an excellent Loretta Lynn cover included for good measure.

Sierra came to bluegrass very early and she was a remarkable teen prodigy. Alison Krauss called her to the Grand Ole Opry stage when Sierra was just 11-years-old. Two years later, she signed with Rounder Records and soon became known as a remarkable mandolin player, a pure tone-true vocalist and a recording artist of high order. She later played the White House, Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center. She became the first bluegrass musician to receive a Presidential Scholarship at the Berklee College of Music. Her new 'watershed' album 'Weighted Mind' is a wonderful fusion of Bluegrass, Folk and Americana. Produced by innovative banjo master Bela Fleck, it also featuring Ethan providing resonance and rhythmic complexity on his double bass, with the excellent Alison Krauss, Abigail Washburn and Rhiannon Giddens adding their enchanting and world class harmonies.

Before the album's release it was a life changing time for Sierra and this is reflected in the album's central themes "It was a frustrating and somewhat difficult musical period for me," Sierra writes, "but out of it has come a new discovery of myself as a musician and I wouldn't change a thing."

Sierra shares the pain of losing her sense of stability. Having to renegotiate her relationships and about caring very deeply about choosing well. It's full of depth and maturity.

The interplay and arrangements between Sierra's vocals and mandolin playing and Ethan's sometimes bowed, sometimes finger-picked percussive playing was very special indeed. Two musicians of the highest quality making musical magic. At times delicate, at other times deep and haunting, always reflective, thoughtful and very personal.

The tone was set with 'Stranded', a deeply personal song about being adrift in live at an early age. Being in a place where you are not happy, almost stagnating. Wanting to move on and try new things, but others don't want you to change. It echoes with the sad refrain 'Dear 22.....I'm stranded here'. The beautiful and ethereal 'Compass' continues the theme "My skin is old. I need to shed it......Cause there's more to me. I have to let it out.". It's full of wonderful comparisons about losing your way and wanting to break free and change things. Themes which are also explored in 'Choices & Changes' "If you won't go where I'm goin', then I'll have to go alone." and 'The In-Between' "22 years with so much to learn. Too young to crash, but not to get burned."

Packed full of meaning is the title track 'Weighted Mind' "Should I leave or should I lay low, These walls must come down. So much left to figure out. Weighted mind - wasted time. A broken glass that never spills."

We enter into the classical world next with JS Bach's 'Invention No.6 in E Major' moving into an instrumental written by Sierra delightfully named 'E tune'

A new song in the set was the stunning 'Sundance' with it's haunting bowed double bass and fresh mandolin top notes. Sierra next turns to a Psalm about boundless divine presence for 'Wings Of The Dawn'. Heavenly and ethereal with soft hand picked mandolin, deep double bass line and Sierra's rich vocal. The album version has Rhiannon Giddens on backing vocals. 

A Loretta Lynn cover 'You Want To Give Me A Lift' gave goosebumps to the audience and performers alike. The traditional song 'Queen of Hearts' is always a firm favourite and this was segwayed into a lovely self penned instrumental 'Royal Tea'. Written for her mother was the lovely 'Lullaby'.  "I'm too old for a lullaby, but I'll never be too old to cry"

Full length solo Double Bass instrumentals due to the nature of the instrument are often hard to pull off.  'Jostling The Bugs' written in the Nashville summer and performed by Ethan alone on stage was an interesting piece demonstrating the mastery of his instrument.

The thoughtful and personal 'Birthday' was next. "So go ahead and walk with anger and make this girl your only stranger. If love was unconditional, well it ain't no more. Tell yourself that you know best and dwell with pride in your empty nest". From her 2011 album 'Daybreak' came the light-hearted and very catchy bluegrass 'Best Buy', inspired by a trip to electrical store in Cookville, Tennessee.

As the set closes to it's end we enjoyed the hopefully, forward looking and moving on song 'I'll Be Fine'. One of my favourites from Sierra's new album is the excellent 'Black River' and it was very fitting that in was the last song of the set. To get the 'party started' the encore was a wonderful bluegrass cover of Prince's '1999' with Ethan joining Sierra on vocals. 

Sierra reminds me of a cross between the excellent multi Grammy award winning Alison Krauss and Sarah Jarosz. On the strength of this performance it wouldn't be long before Sierra is winning one of her very own. Hopefully the fantastic Sierra and Ethan will return to London very soon.

Copyright 2015-7 (c) Laurel Canyon Music

 

 

 

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