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Sam Kelly And The Lost Boys - Bush Hall. London (11/11/18)


  • Line-up: Sam Kelly and The Lost Boys with special guests Honey and the Bear

  • Date: 11th November, 2018

  • Location: Bush Hall, London

  • Review By: Gary Smith (LCM)

A ‘Remembrance Sunday’ gig at the wonderful Bush Hall in London saw one of the UK’s finest young folk bands headline a very memorable night of music. It was full of passion, high energy and high quality music.

Sam Kelly and The Lost Boys have gained a worthy reputation as an very exciting live band. They are also a folk super group, full of very talented award winning individual musicians in their own right. They played a slightly reduced regular line-up at Bush Hall with Graham Coe (The Jellyman’s Daughter) and Archie Churchill-Moss (MMR) missing. But still had the awarding winning Sam Kelly (The Changing Room), Jamie Francis (The Changing Room, Stark), Toby Shaer (Seth Lakeman, Carousel), Ciaran Algar (Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar) and Evan Carson (The Willows, The Changing Room, Ange Hardy) in their ranks. 

Special guests Honey and Bear, the newly married duo of Jon Hart and Lucy Sampson. had joined Sam and the band on their tour in March last year and the combination worked perfectly again. Hailing from Suffolk their great blend of Folk and bluesy Americana really complemented SKATLB’s more high energy Folk Rock style. I’m always fascinated by multi-instrumentalists and both Jon and Lucy swapped their multitude of instruments with ease. Their infectious music and tight rich harmonies adding to the mix. Subject material included the long distance yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur, Dulwich under the sea, a lovely song dedicated to their grandparents and the beautiful ‘Sailor’s Daughter’.

After a short break Sam and The Lost Boys opened with the upbeat ‘The Kings Shilling’ from the band’s self titled debut album. The album version also features Kitty Macfarlane, who has just released her excellent debut album also produced by Sam.

Included on Sam’s 2015 EP ‘Spokes’ ‘Hickathrift’ tells the story of a giant killer. Tom Hickathrift is a legendary figure of East Anglian English folklore, a character very similar to Jack the Giant Killer. '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. The song was also featured on Jamie Francis’ debut solo album.

The title track from Sam debut EP ‘Spokes’ followed but not before an anecdote about the song being played a few times on BBC Radio Shropshire on its release, enabling the band to buy a Freddo between them with the PRS radio royalties. Sam mentioned that the song was also played on the TV series ‘Hollyoaks’.

Sam revealed that Jamie and himself had recently signed a publishing deal. ‘Like Lennon and McCartney’ Sam said ‘You now have Kelly and Francis’. ‘Francis and Kelly I thought’ corrected Jamie with a smile. ‘He doesn’t say much, but when he does…’s solid gold’ said Ciaran laughing.

Taken from Sam’s second album ‘Picking Up The Pieces’ with ‘The Changing Room’, ‘Gwrello Glaw’ meaning ‘Let It Rain’ is a stunning song sung in Cornish. Sam mentioned that he played the song at Jon and Lucy’s wedding as their first dance. We returned to a nautical theme for 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 all is not as it seems......[spoiler alert] one of the versions of this traditional song is called 'The Demon Ship'. The love interest of the traditional song 'The Bony Lass of Fyvie' gave them the title of their latest album 'Pretty Peggy'. On the album version the band are joined on the track by the wonderful Cara Dillon.

Described as ‘the stuff of nightmares’ by Sam, the ‘Dullahan’ is a headless Irish horseman who collects the souls of the dying. With its excellent high energy finish, this song is also found on the bands debut album. Next was a song dedicated to Sam’s grandparents who inspired his love of folk music, the beautiful ‘I’ll Give You My Voice’. Sam mentioned that you can find himself and his grandfather playing music together on YouTube.

First collected in the late 70’s from the North East of England and learnt from the singing of M. Knopfler, was a super high energy version of ‘Sultans of Swing’. It’s always a crowd favourite and it didn’t take much to have the audience singing and clapping along.

'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, cross dressing, gross deception, heavy drinking, robbery and a never ending cycle. The personal and tender 'Chasing Shadows' written by Sam is a song for a close friend and for anyone currently going through a tough time. Sam also mentioned that is now available on all BA flights, as it has been added recently to their playlist.

To finish the main set the band played ‘Greenland Whale’, a very catchy high tempo traditional whaling shanty is sometimes know as 'The Whale Catchers' or 'The Twenty Third of March'. It's a real toe-tapper with a great hooks and a sing-a-long chorus.

Their encore song ‘Healing Hands’ was followed with a couple of tunes, 'Josh's Slip' by Toby and 'Rookery Lane' by Ciaran which form the uptempo 'Shy Guy's Serve' set.

With a standing ovation and the sound of a very happy audience ringing in their ears the band knew that they had performed one of their best London gig to date. Another excellent addition to The London Roots Festival.

 Photo Credit: Navigator Records

Photo Credit: Navigator Records

 Photo Credit: Jon Hart

Photo Credit: Jon Hart

 Honey and the Bear

Honey and the Bear

Callaghan - Dingwalls (07/11/18)


  • Line-up: Callaghan with special guest Danni Nicholls

  • Date: 7th November, 2018

  • Location: Dingwalls, Camden, London

  • Review By: Gary Smith (LCM)

  • Photo Credit: Mark Banks

When you have two of the finest fast rising UK female singer-songwriters on the same bill, you know you are in for a great night of music. The excellent 2018 London Roots Festival hosted this wonderful high quality event at the famous Dingwalls in Camden Lock.

Opening the evening was the very talented Americana singer-songwriter Danni Nicholls. It was very fitting that Danni returned to Dingwalls, as it was the location of the recording of her Vintage TV live album which was released last year. Nominated for both album and artist of the year at the recent AMA UK awards, Danni’s star is definitely on the rise. Her excellent third album has recently been recorded in Nashville and it’s set for release in the spring. From what I’ve already heard, it’s going to be very special..

A wonderful selection of songs followed including those from Danni’s award nominated studio album ‘Mockingbird Lane’ including ‘Long Road Home’ inspired by her home town of Bedford and the wonderful breakup song which is a personal favourite of mine ‘Beautifully Broken’. It wasn’t long before we had a taster of the new album with lovely ‘Losing It’ and a song which Danni described as a love song to herself ‘Ancient Embers’, showcasing this highly anticipated new release.

Audience participation was the order of the day next as Danni played the catchy ‘Back To Memphis’ with its very infectious singalong chorus. Ending the set perfectly with ‘A Little Redemption’ based on a poem found in a book at the Women’s Institute, complete with its ‘humming’ audience backing.

After a short break the very impressive Lincolnshire born but now LA based Callaghan and her three piece band took the stage. They started with the simply beautiful ‘Surrender’, setting the tone perfectly for the rest of the set. Moving seamlessly into the super ‘Solid Ground’. Callaghan’s recently released self titled album has an overall bigger cinematic feel which translates and works very well live. Her back catalogue also includes some very catchy pop tracks including ‘Crazy Beautiful Life’, which describes her often unpredictable but ultimately fulfilling life as a touring musician.

Always a crowd favourite is her cover of "Stand by Me", originally released in 1960 by Ben E. King and written by King, Jerry Leiber, and Mike Stoller. The audience didn’t need much encouragement to join in. A lovely version can also be found on Callaghan’s Acoustic Coffee House live album released in 2016.

Often Callaghan’s music is inspired by her life on the road and the people she meets on her musical journey. ‘When You Loved Me’ taken from her 2015 ‘A History Of Now’ is based on a the story of the grandmother of the family she was staying with in New York. Although 85 year old this lady could clearly remember her life in the 40’s and 50’s, including vividly her first love as teenager. Exploring the idea that people are alive as long as someone remembers them, the tender and reflective ‘If You Miss Me (When I’m Gone) was another beautifully written and performed song with the attentive audience ‘pin drop’ quiet.

The mood was lifted with another cover, this time Steve Wonder’s classic Motown ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours). This blended perfectly into the mega catchy reggae infused ‘We Don’t Have To Change The World’, a song about worrying less and having more fun, with another great audience singalong in the chorus.

In a world where a lot of communication is often through the internet or social media ‘Skin On Skin’ explores the importance of ‘face to face’ personal contact. The song was co-written with Grammy award winning Jeff Silbar, who also famously wrote ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ among many other hit songs. ‘Who Would I Be’ is another highly crafted beautiful piano led track, full of personal reflection and feeling. Callaghan has a wonderful talent for penning songs with very memorable hooks and melodies. With it’s whistling introduction the relationship track ‘Better Together’ is another perfect example.

Written for her nephew ‘Noah’s Song’ provides much sage guidance and encouragement for a young person growing up in the world. “Try to touch the sky……I hope you will be alright……as you learn to fly”. Recorded with Louis Price (ex lead singer of The Temptations and The Drifters) and a gospel choir ‘The End Of The World’ was a thought provoking and beautiful uplifting piece of gospel soul-pop.

‘Broken’ could quite easily be the next James Bond theme, with it’s super string section provided by 30-piece orchestra. It’s big, it’s sweeping and very cinematic. Callaghan’s producers on her new album include husband and wife team Starr Parodi and Jeff Eden Fair who also composed the updated 2005 James Bond Theme, ‘Golden Eye’ and ‘Die Another Day’ among may other themes including Mission Impossible 2 and Harry Potter.

One my favourite Callaghan tracks, the very positive up-tempo and mega catchy ‘Best Year’ was the first in a very well deserved encore. It was one of the first tracks I heard back in 2015 and it still brings a smile to my face every time it’s played. Quite simply it’s bright summer sunshine and broad open horizon’s in musical form. With the band leaving the stage it was time for Callaghan to perform a stunning solo version of the classic ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ on keys. Although often covered, there was something very special, intimate and fresh about this version.

A very well deserved standing ovation followed, bringing to a close another fantastic night at the festival. I really hope that 2019 will prove to be the breakout year for these two very talented and classy UK singer-songwriters.

Lindsay Ell - The Borderline (16/10/18)

Lindsey Ell 2.jpg
  • Line-up: Lindsay Ell with special guest Jake Morrell

  • Date: 16th October, 2018

  • Location: The Borderline, London

  • Review by: Gary Smith (LCM)

Concerts by Canadian singer-songwriter Lindsay Ell are always very special and her recent headline performance at The Borderline in London was no exception. Playing solo to a full house Lindsay captivated the audience with her superb guitar playing and catchy highly crafted songs. Unfortunately just before she flew to the UK Lindsay had most of her equipment stolen in Los Angeles, with one of the few survivors being her trusty Fender ‘Hector’.

First up was the young fast rising UK Country star London based, Norfolk born Jake Morrell rocking double denim and his acoustic guitar. An excellent set followed with Jake powerful vocals front and center. ‘Heading For Heartache’, ‘Long Way Round’ followed from his March released second EP ‘Englishman’ themed around Jake’s country music life in the UK. It was followed by the very good ‘Wire & Thorns’ from his ‘The Greenline’ EP, which received lots of BBC Radio 2 airplay and earned Jake a invite to play at Glastonbury. The pace slowed a little for ‘Once He Left You’ and a reflective new song about his parents ‘Half Your Love’, set for release next year. It was then the audiences turn to join in on the chorus on Jake’s song ‘Signs’ and then very neatly ending with the title track of his latest EP ‘Englishman’. Jake is definitely one to watch for the future.

After a short break Lindsay took to the stage with her Fender ‘Hector’ and a borrrowed pedal board loop station. She confessed that London was her favourite audience, which naturally received a very warm reception from the packed crowd. She used the loop station to great effect building her loops quickly and effortlessly. Lindsay is a top quality multi-instrumentalist and vocalist and this was a excellent showcase for her music.

Lindsay started her set with the very catchy opening track ‘Waiting For You’ from her debut album ‘The Project’. The whole audience singing along and providing the backing vocals. Appreciating what we have in life and being content with that is the central theme of ‘Castles’, which was inspired by her work on the ‘Continuum project. I also loved the rockier ‘Wildfire’ with it’s earworm of a guitar riff and a fantastic solo. It really reminded me of vintage Sheryl Crow.

The very catchy ’Champagne’ written about the wife of Justin Timberlake is one of my favourite songs of Lindsay’s debut album, so it was great to see included in her set. Another excellent song Mint’ is a love song about how a relationship is not always going to be a movie screen relationship, where you're getting flowers every day and everything is so sunny. It talks about a relationship being ‘real’ with just two people getting to know each other and that’s your version of perfect. Your version of mint. Lindsay finished the song with (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay, which end giving the song a new twist. Lindsay has a great ability to write very memorable songs, full of excellent hooks and the next one ‘Good’ was a very example.

Another one of my favourites ‘I Don’t Trust Myself (with Loving You)’ from the new ‘The Continuum Project’ saw the introduction of a drum machine on Lindsay’s iPhone. She then asked for requests. Someone shouted ‘Hit Me Baby (One More Time)’ which was greeted by “Really??….ok then” seeing her slipping into a wonderful Britney cover on her acoustic guitar once again joined by the audience in full voice.

Lindsay said that she was a big Vamps fan and had recent co-written a song ‘Stumble Home’ which is now part of the new Vamps album. We were then treated to her 2016 hit the more Country flavoured ‘All Aright’. Lindsay has also just been on tour with the great Keith Urban. The next song ‘Horses’ was recorded with Keith for his latest album. Written by another very talented Nashville based singer-songwriter Caitlyn Smith, the wonderful ‘Space’ was a atmospheric, personal and reflective addition to the set.

The last song of the main set and a another highlight was her recent big hit ‘Criminal’. Lindsay comments “It's a love song. It talks about, I feel like I'm falling in love with you so much that you're stealing my own heart away from me."

For Lindsay’s encore we had something very special. ‘Not Another Me’ was written for one of her friends. Lindsay comments “A sweet friend of mine has muscular dystrophy and honestly has one of the most beautiful hearts I’ve ever met in my life. She is so honest, funny, generous, and is completely full of natural inner/outer beauty. She is one of my biggest supporters and fans of my music”. It was a beautiful heartfelt song played perfectly and intimately on her acoustic guitar, complete with a guitar ‘tapping’ intro.

When Lindsay left the stage at the end of her set to head for the Merch table, a long queue quickly formed to meet her after the show. The atmosphere was electric with the audience thrilled and very happy after witnessing an excellent performance. With a new album produced by Kristian Bush of Sugarland in the pipeline. The future is looking very bright for Lindsay and her music.

Lindsay, please come back to London soon :)

Emily Mae Winters - Cecil Sharp House, London (03/10/18)


Emily Mae Winter CSH 1 - TB.jpg
  • Line-Up: Emily Mae Winter Trio

  • Location: Trefusis Hall, Cecil Sharp House, Camden

  • Date: 3rd October, 2018

  • Review By: Gary Smith (LCM)

  • Photo Credit: Tony Birch (FATEA)

The hallowed halls of the home of English folk music Cecil Sharp House provided the backdrop to a wonderful headline gig from fast rising star Emily Mae Winter and her superb band. Emily was joined on the night by the very much in demand John Parker (Nizlopi) on double bass and the very talented Jamie Leemings (Solasta) on electric guitar. The combination works perfectly adding a perfect complimentary backing for Emily’s rich soaring vocals and high quality songwriting. The gig was the very first one for Emily as a full time musician, having recently given up her teaching job.

After a short introduction by EFDSS’s new creative director Zoe Nicholls of the Worry Dolls, the first set was opened with the atmospheric ‘This Land’. Powerful vocals from Emily’s coupled with her new mint green Gretsch, bowed double bass from John and Pink Floyd like guitar break and slide guitar from Jamie. Emily concentrated on some of her newer songs in the first half and the next one in the set was the lovely ‘Lately’. Although currently based in Cambridge, Emily previously lived in London for seven years….and might be returning in the new year. ‘Lately’ with it’s rich feel is Emily’s tribute to the capital. Emily said that she wrote the next song ‘How To Fix A Broken Sun’ while shadow hopping in the hot summer sun. It made her wonder what would happen if it suddenly stopped shining. The sun is also often used as a metaphor for happiness and new beginnings. Continuing the London theme the next song ‘Until The Light’ was written on the Southbank. After a switch to her Tanglewood guitar due to a misbehaving Gretsch, this one was played solo. Gentle finger-picking really complimented the song’s content. It was a return to the Gretsch after some quick maintenance by John. ‘Would The World Stop Turning’ is a beautifully song and I was so glad to see it included in the set. Returning to an older song Emily played an acoustic version of the excellent ‘Miles To Go’. To further enhance the set Emily played ‘Across The Wire’ a reflective Piano song about receiving love letters in the modern era. About the problem of getting things across and of being in love.

Emily then spoke about her current Pledge campaign and pre-sale for the album (link below) and that title ‘High Romance’ carries the idea of escapism

Up next was the title track of her debut album ‘Siren Seranade’. which she wrote at Lake Balatar in Hungary after sadly being dumped. Emily conducted the audience in two sections to provide the underlying humming two-part harmonies. The award winning ‘Anchor’ provided a fitting end to the first half. A song written by Emily at 17 years ago when she was living in Conakilty in West Cork, Ireland. A song themed on a sense of home and place based on people and your roots.

After a short break the second half began with a new piano ballad ‘One Of These Days’. Emily used the metaphor of children washing up on a beach like treasure and trying to explain the world to them. A perfect seasonal song was the autumnal ‘Blackberry Lane’ about blackberry picking in Cambridge. Written in Ireland another excellent song ‘Foreign Waters’ was the title track of Emily’s debut EP. We had a special guest Elisabeth Flett, Jamie’s band mate from Solasta, who joined Emily on fiddle for the next traditional song ‘Down By The Sally Gardens’. Solasta will be performing next in London on the 11th October at The Goose Is Out! Ivy House in Peckham.

We shifted up a gear for the up-tempo Americana and Western flavoured song about gin and whiskey ‘Gin Tingles and Whiskey Shivers’. Which is sure to be a popular live track on new album. With a powerful County Rock feel another new track ‘Wildfire’ was next and worked very well with the previous track. Another highlight was ‘Come Live In My Heart And Pay No Rent’, a song which Emily has recently adapted from an Irish poem. A fitting encore was a solo acoustic cover of the Goffin/King classic ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ with the audience joining in on the harmonies.

Emily is one of the fast rising young stars of the UK Americana and Folk world. We see a very bright future ahead.

Emily Mae Winter CSH 2 Piano - TB.jpg

A Winter Union - St. John On Bethnal Green, London (14/12/17)

A winter union stage 5.jpg
  • Line-up: A Winter Union (Katriona Gilmore, Jade Rhiannon, Jamie Roberts, Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage
  • Location: St. John On Bethnal Green, London
  • Date: 14th December, 2017
  • Review By: Gary Smith (LCM)
  • Live photos and video: Keith Bache

One of the musical highlights of the pre-Christmas period is the annual UK mini tour from folk super-group 'A Winter Union'. It brings together five of the leading lights of the current British roots scene, who have joined forces to create a festive folk band like no other. Their repertoire includes brand new, specially written songs, fresh arrangements of traditional carols both well-loved and little-known and seasonal classics from both sides of the Atlantic. High class musicianship and songwriting plus wonderful close soaring harmonies are the hallmarks of the night. This gig was made extra special as it was hosted at St. John's, a grand but rather cold early 19th-century 'Sir John Sloane' designed church, just a stone's throw from Bethnal Green Station.

'A Winter Union' was originally formed in 2015 for a one-off Yuletide concert. They returned in 2016 for more shows including one of the home's of UK folk music Cecil Sharp House in London and a live session on BBC Radio 3. This year brings the band’s first line-up change with BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winning Kat Gilmore & Jaime Roberts replacing another multi award winning duo Stu and Debbie Hanna from Megson.

The evening started in true seasonal fashion with the traditional and popular carol 'Ding Song Merrily on High' with Hannah and Jade sharing the lead vocal. This was followed by an original song called 'Every Midnight Mile', a tender and thoughtful charity single released in 2015 to raise money for 'Shelter' as part of the Song Ark project. This Americana Folk flavoured song reflected on 'being grateful for what we have' and was written by Kat. The original recording also included UK folk favourites Lucy Ward and Sam Kelly.

Secrets were revealed next as Ben confessed that his hobby away from music is cider making. The rowdy and rousing song 'Our Wassail' followed with Ben taking the lead vocals and featured very strong and lively fiddle playing from Kat. Wassailing refers to a traditional ceremony that involves singing and drinking to the health of trees on Twelfth Night in the hopes that they might better thrive. The purpose of wassailing is to awaken the cider apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the Autumn.

'Elizabeth' is a homage to Elizabeth Woodcock from Cambridge who after visiting a local inn and getting quite merry fell off her horse in the wintertime and was allegedly entombed in an ice cave in a snow drift for 8 days. She survived so the story goes on nuts and brandy. I loved the acoustic guitar solo from Jamie in this one.

It's always great to have a traditional song about yuletide kindness to peasants and 'Good King Wenceslas' fitted the bill perfectly. This popular Christmas carol that tells a story of a Bohemian king going on a journey and braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen. The song featured Kat on tambourine (borrowed from Jade's daughter), Ben on Dobro and some fantastic three part harmonies from the group.

We were treated to an 'almost' world exclusive live premiere (2nd play) of an excellent new song written by Kat called 'Fox In The Wintertime' which geatured Kat on lead vocals and Jade on BV's. To close out the first half 'The King' featured 'the king of birds' the wren. The ancient annual hunting and killing of the little wren symbolized of the death of winter. The song is also a new charity single to support missing people. This segued nicely into a few choruses of 'Good Rest You Merry Gentleman' with it's heartly 'good tiding of comfort and joy' refrain

The second half opened with the group singing unaccompanied the rousing ancient and traditional carol 'The Boar's Head' (first published in 1521). Starting at the back of the church, they walked down the aisle through an enthralled audience, finishing the song the front of the stage. The church acoustics working marvelously. I also loved the instrumental version that followed of another traditional carol 'In The Bleak Midwinter'. The song is based on a poem by the English poet Christina Rossetti written in 1872 and was first set to music in The English Hymnal in 1906 by Gustav Holst. This version saw Hannah on dulcimer, Kat on fiddle, Ben on Dobro, and Jamie on acoustic guitar. A third very popular traditional carol followed with a wonderful version of the 'The Holly & The Ivy' featuring Jade on lead vocals.

The 'Mistletoe Bough' is based on a horror story, which has been associated with many mansions and stately homes in England. Surprising it was a very popular Christmas song in the mid 1800's, even forming the basis of a later Alfred Hitchcock movie. It features a new bride, playing a game of hide-and-seek during her wedding breakfast, who hides in a chest in an attic and is unable to escape. She is not discovered by her family and friends and unfortunately dies. The body is found many years later in the locked chest, as a skeleton in a wedding dress.

The 'First Light Of Day' is a song written by Jade's husband Cliff who was on baby sitting duty on the night. Ben joking said that for a few years they never took much notice of what the song was called, they just nicknamed it 'Cliff's Christmas'. Jamie took the lead standing in for the absent Cliff.

It was very fitting that for the very famous carol 'We Three Kings', that they were joined on stage by one of the resident church statue 'Melchior'. When I say resident, the statue has been taken on a bit of a journey recently including the Parliament buildings, The National Theater and various London Football Clubs. The history of the statue and its journey was then told by Father Allen. Interestingly and quite uncannily the statue bore a striking resemblance to Richard Thompson, unfortunately this time without his trademark guitar. After the end of the song Father Allen come back to retrieve the in true Elvis Presley tradition..........'The King has left the building!' 

Christmas hat time followed with the group donning various Christmas novelty hats for a cover of a Christmas Country number one from The Band called  'Christmas Must Be Tonight'. Ben joked that because it was a Country song and the first one the band had written, they included a lot of Country song references including trucks.

For the well deserved encore the group returned to the front of the stage. A sang around a retro bi-directional condensor mic that Hannah and Ben often use in their duo set. 'Raise A Candle' was a tender and heartfelt post Christmas song reflecting about the New Year. 

A Winter Union live single mic.jpg

To end a wonderful evening of music they chose a rousing and uplifting American-American spiritual counting song called 'Children Go Where I Send Thee'.

It was an excellent concert from a group of very talented folk musicians and friends. I hope that the 'A Winter Union' tour becomes a permanent and regular fixture for many years to come. It's a early Christmas treat and a perfect seasonal musical present.

A Winter Union group promo photo.jpg

Jade Rhiannon (The Willows) – Vocals
Katriona Gilmore (Gilmore & Roberts, The Willows) – Vocals, Mandolin, Fiddle
Jamie Roberts (Gilmore & Roberts, The Dovetail Trio) – Vocals, Guitar
Hannah Sanders (Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage) – Vocals, Guitar, Dulcimer, Autoharp
Ben Savage (Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage, The Willows) – Vocals, Dobro, Guitar

Moulettes & 9Bach (Double Header) - Cadogan Hall, London (08/12/17)


The grand Cadogan Hall a stone's throw from London's Sloane Square played host to two of the UK's most original and innovative bands. This wondrous double header was magic in the making. 



To open the evening there was a mini set from MOBO nominated Ayanna-Witter Johnson. She came to stage rocking a 'Grace Jones' vibe, all dressed in black. I really enjoyed her collection of orchestral RnB, Soul, Jamaican folk, redefined pop and cello looped songs, all with a classical twist. Graduating with a first from both Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and the Manhattan School of Music, Ayanna was a participant in the London Symphony Orchestra’s Panufnik Young Composers Scheme and become an Emerging Artist in Residence at London’s Southbank Centre. She was a featured artist with Courtney Pine’s Afropeans: Jazz Warriors and became the only non-American to win Amateur Night Live at the legendary Apollo Theatre in Harlem, NYC.



After a short break the dynamic and exciting Welsh band 9Bach took to the stage. They deservedly won the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for best album for their excellent collection of Welsh language songs called 'Tincian' in 2015. I have been a big fan of their music since then. 

9Bach was originally formed by Lisa-Jen and Martin Hoyland in 2005. The name is a play on numbers and words. Lisa comments: '9 is as in Nain, (pronounced nine), which means grandmother in the North of Wales, Bach means little and is also a term of endearment in Welsh. In one language 9 is something so mundane as a number, but in Welsh Nain is a cozy, family orientated lovely thing: your grandmother is a person we can relate to and visualise.'

The set opened with the beautiful and almost hypnotic 'Llyn Du' (Black Lake) the opening track from their latest album 'Anian'. It was inspired by a painting Iwan Bala that incorporates words from 'Un Nos Ola Leuad' (One Moonlit Night) by Caradog Prichard. It's a song sung by the Queen of the Black Lake, the Queen of Snowdonia. She has a manic mind, racing, forever waiting for the beautiful one. She's trapped, eternally pregnant, enslaved and left there as her thighs embrace the whirling mist and breasts caress the clouds. 

A song sung from the perspective of a poacher is the central theme of 'Yr Olaf'. It's inspired by the picture of 'Sudan', the world's last male white Rhino. How does it feel to kill the last of something? What kind of person are you and what are you made of? Why are we so obsessed with destroying everything that is beautiful in this world? 

'Anian' is the title track from their latest album. It's a Welsh word which carries the idea of 'nature, the natural order, natural morality, the natural world, creation. What you are made of, your soul and bones and how you connect with other people. Wonderful three part harmonies, distorted electric guitar and funky backing.

'Babi'r Eirlys' (Snowdrop Baby) is based on a book by Jerry Hunter called Gwreiddyn Chwerw (Bitter Root). A woman in the late 1890's give birth at home in the middle of the night in extreme weather. The wind is howling and crashing. It is a difficult labour that panics the father. He comes racing up and down the stairs, banging his feet in anger and frustration. The only comfort the women has is the sweet smell of the snowdrops in a cup that is by her bed. The lady finally gives birth to a boy, but all is not well and the baby is small, sickly and disabled. It is instant love from the mother and pure hatred by the father. He insists she put the baby under the bed to die by the morning. He has no wish to bring this strange looking baby into their lives and wishes him dead. She is weak, confused and scared. She complies. In her exhaustion and pain, she kisses him and cries, then bends over in agony and places him under the bed. But by the morning in her sleep, she has subconsciously picked up the baby and placed him on her breast. In the morning the mother and baby wake up together and they are both heathly.  The mother sings this song to her grown up son who is a beautiful and talented man. It is a truthful ode to her boy, explaining what happen that night. 

Next was the wonder 'Pebyll' with its dark themes and  is a ruin in Llanddewi, Brefi. The song was written after discovering this derelict but beautiful building on a walk. It is a fantasy song about who may have lived there. A young girl with her grandmother (Nain). The child sleeps it her grandmothers arms, the fire turnings to ashes by the morning, where the fieldfare, thrush and sparrow feed on the nearby threshold, the snowdrops push themselves through the black soil to make Nain happy

The dark and moody 'lwybrau' (Pathways) is taken from a poem called Llwybrau Unig by William Griffiths, Hen Brac. This poor man has no soulmates. He is struggling with life. He is walking paths and feels nothing, things have changed and too many friends have been lost. The person walks and visits the gravestones of loved ones and wishes he was buried deep like them, This world is no longer theirs and the person feels comfort by nothing but 'angau' (death) and wishes not to be a burden to anyone. This person is very lonely although the world is full of people. The mood is created with distorted electric guitar providing the dark mid-range and harp melody highlighting the top notes. 

Plentyn (Child) tells the story of the stolen aboriginal children of Australia which happened up into the late 70's. The Film 'The Rabit Proof Fence' is based on the events. A child is snatched from her mother's breast by fierce men laughing. They hold her skinny arms too tight and throw her in a car, her black eyes and cheeks pressed against the glass. Screaming for her mother. Her mother is kicked and thrown to the ground and covered in red dust, hollering and screaming for her child. The mother sings 'to please remember me when she is grown up', knowing she will never see her child again. She misses her daughters 'just woken up face' and the smile she first gave in the morning. It is an imaginary story about an Aboriginal child based on real shocking events. It is a story song originally written in Australia accented with its powerful 'Hey-I-I-A' chants.

Described as a hate song to a local farmer, 'Llwynog' (Fox) references Gyrn Wigau which is a summit amongst the Carneddau. The fox stands still at the foot of this mountain hiding behind the rushes. He's escaped the shot of the gun and is much faster than the farmer's dog. The carcass of the lamb stains the stream red whilst the fox returns in triumph and head towards the Carneddau, back to his home in the earth. This is a victory song to the fox, with its pulsating baseline and underlying drum rhythms.

The haunting 'Cyfaddefa' (An Admission) explores the themes of the old Greek Rembetika songs, the underground songs that arose from the hash dens, prisons and brothels. The protagonist is imprisoned and is pleading for help before realizing bitterly, as everyone ignores her, that we are all guilty. We ignore all the bad stuff that's happening. It had a real Middle Eastern flavour with its hammered ducimer and block accents. I loved the songs build to it's explosive finish.  

'Wedi Torri' (It's Broken) is a song about seeing someone you love in a bad state. In this song the loved one is a broken man. It's the panic that sets in when you see this in someone, that haunted look on their face, the empty eyes and hiding from everyone. Jen sings about the guilt, the self-blame, the dry mouth and sending you off to somewhere dark, so you end up with two broken people.


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The final part of the show belonged to the Moulettes, an exciting and innovative group of four multi-instrumentalists, Hannah Miller on 5 string cello, vocals, synths, and autoharp, Raevennan Husbandes on electric guitar and vocals, Ollie Austin on drums, guitar, synth and vocals, and Jim Mortimore on bass, double bass, moog and vocals. Their sound is quite unique, blending elements of progressive and heavy rock with neo-classicism, perfect harmony vocals and with super fingered guitar work mixed against bombastic drums, bass, and cello that adds a musical depth to the sound.

This was one of the last dates on their 'Preternatural’ album tour. A name comes from Latin and carries the idea of ‘beyond nature (and beyond fate)’. “Suspended between the mundane and the miraculousin a domain of wonder & marvel. Strange specimens evoke questions about the natural order... they provoke the spirit of investigation. Phenomena that fall “between the known and the unknowable"

Very few bands have the creative range and work ethic of Moulettes, skillfully blending their mix of acoustic and electric instruments. Lead singer and songwriter Hannah Miller creates an otherworldly framework in which fantastical characters move between the realms of nature, magic and science and out of that Preternatural was born, an eclectic 11-track opus for the Natural World and the strange and beautiful creatures in it. December 2017 marsk the concluding chapter of Moulettes’ two-year Preternatural tour, and the last chance to see the astounding live show that has taken the band across Europe from Poland to Malta and across Canada from Nova Scotia to Victoria Island.

The Moulettes positively exploded into the stage with their opening number the rich, clever and expansive 'Under Water Painter', taken from their latest album. It came complete with it's very catchy siren like 'Wa-Oh's'. It's themed on the strange creatures who live way down in the dark and depths of the ocean. It reminded me of almost a electro-prog version of BBC series Blue Planet 2. Next up was the very clever and descriptive 'Coral' with it's 'we are a force of nature........we can not control.....can control' refrain. The very important coral reefs are home to a quarter of all marine species. The song dealt with the themes of symbiosis & diversity, hypocrisy and responsibility vs short-term thinking.

Next was a song based on the subject of mind control and propaganda, a very apt topic for today's world, 'Parasite' with it's very haunting cello lines had and an almost Middle Eastern feel. Hannah's lead vocals adding a further Kate Bush like layer. It is a very 'other worldly' song, which which would sit very happily on a dystopian 'Bladerunner' soundtrack. The lovely and clever Pufferfish Love followed with it's rich instrumental layers and Rae taking lead vocals. Deep cello bass lines underpin the central melody and I also really liked the interesting percussion. One of my favourite Moulette songs is their gorgeous 'Songbird', with it's rich three part harmonies. The song is about making decision and following your muse and it is taken from their 2012 album 'The Bear's Revenge'. I loved the stunning cello solo from Hannah.

The soaring 'Medusa' is another trademark 'other worldly' and richly layered track, discussing immortality and rapture. The very catchy phrase 'As far as the eye can see' winds its way throughout the song. The underlying incantations creating a spiritual quality. The keyboard and cello led 'Right of Passage' explores being born curious and the value of education by nature. 

Next was the powerful big, bad, bold and theatrical 'Behemooth', named after one of the huge ancient creatures of the past. It's the massive opening track to the new album. A modern prog-rock classic!

Exploring the idea of being being two worlds in a 'dreamscape' is the premise of 'Hidden World'. If you have seen the film 'Inception', then you have very good feel for this song. I really enjoyed Rae operatic style fill. "There’s a hidden world beneath your feet, In the hairline cracks of the gold mine. Three and a half hours down below the crust. Patterns realign.........Open the door to the last unexplored supernatural kingdom far from the sun. So far from what we imagine. All the impossible things we have done. A strange phenomenon" 

One of the highlight of the Moulettes 2014 album 'Constellations' was the very powerful 'Lady Vengeance', so I was very happy to see it included in the set. The original has great and memorable bassoon bass lines (see below).

The excellent set ended with the explosive and gypsy jazz flavoured 'Requiem' from their 2010 album 'Moulettes', sequeing unexpected into a classic cover of Led Zepplin's 'Kashmir'. Some super electric guitar licks from Rae on this one.

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


 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!




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



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)


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 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)


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'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)

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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 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.


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 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 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 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?


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.

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.

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.

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'.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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


  • Line-Up: Reg Meuross
  • Location: St. Pancras Old Church, London
  • Date: 28th July, 2017
  • Website:
  • 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)


  • 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.




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