Neil McSweeney “A Coat Worth Wearing” (Hudson Records 2017)

An album that features an Edward Thomas poem on its sleeve notes is always going to be worth the time spent on it and the rule remains true with this latest offering from the Sheffield folkster. Muscular production and some stunning soundscapes lift the material above the simply strong and into the realm of the memorable. Forlorn Hope has some deep booming beats that underpin the groove and gladden the heart. But it is Danse Macabre that genuinely grabs the listener by the scruff of the neck demanding attention. Hymnal and elegiac the palette grows as vocals collide in a processional celebrating the wolf. There are comparisons to be made with Wolves by Phosphorescence not only in the haunted quality of the storytelling but in the subject matter and manner the story is told. Continue reading “Neil McSweeney “A Coat Worth Wearing” (Hudson Records 2017)”

Cormac O Caoimh “Shiny Silver Things” (Independent, 2017)

The fourth solo outing for singer songwriter O Caoimh continues where his previous efforts left off. This is a collection songs that belie their often ‘lightweight’ production with hidden depths or lyrical touches that make the listener sit up and take notice. On the back of the wave of positivity concerning his last release not least from this very website (‘this album is a tour de force’) O Caoimh has his work cut out – not many artists have more than one tour de force in their careers. This reviewer can but think of a couple, if that.  Continue reading “Cormac O Caoimh “Shiny Silver Things” (Independent, 2017)”

Jackalope Tales “Let Me Tell You a Story” (Independent, 2017)

‘Let Me Tell You a Story’ is the second full-length album from the Sheffield based folk trio Jackalope Tales. It is comprised of three previously released EPs plus a couple of bonus tracks, the band mainly performing songs written by their American songwriter Linda Lee Welch. The album opens with a group composition A Jackalope Tale. What’s a jackalope you ask?  Well… a jackalope is a mythical animal of North American folklore (a fearsome critter) described as a jackrabbit with antelope horns. Thanks Wikipedia. Still no wiser; the track appears to be an attempt at an adult nursery rhyme listing as it does things related or pertaining to this creature. It swings along but the vocals unfortunately are not good or idiosyncratic enough to bring any charm in the lyrical nonsense to the fore, and consequently the track doesn’t escape the boundaries of some naive lyricism and rudimentary bluegrass.
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James McArthur and The Head Gardeners “Burnt Moth” (Moorland Records, 2016)

“Burnt Moth” is the second album from James McArthur, former drummer for Paul Weller’s touring band. It follows his well received “Strange Readings from the Weather Station”. And it is more of the same. This is a pastoral, proggy folk dappled with some beautiful embellishments in the form of some excellent strings and restrained melodies. It comes as no surprise that Joey Magill of Syd Arthur (the current riders of the crest of the prog mini revival) is in the very small roster of musicians that play on this interesting and sometimes arresting album. The album opens with 14 seconds and What The Day Holds, both reminiscent of Grantchester Meadows Floyd with strings to the fore on a bed of acoustic guitar and whispered vocals. Continue reading “James McArthur and The Head Gardeners “Burnt Moth” (Moorland Records, 2016)”

Pilote “Libero” (Micro Spiral, 2016)

Producer Stuart Cullen is Pilote and this is his 7th album of self penned ditties and tasteful covers all filtered through a folky country prism with plenty of waltztime melodies as well as banjos, harmoniums, fiddles and even spoons. It is, as expected, beautifully produced with some nifty touches – the electronica insert in Train on the Island and the rumbling back beat on Baby is a Hybrid which gives it a 70’s Moroder vibe despite the blue grass banjo and fuzzed guitar. Continue reading “Pilote “Libero” (Micro Spiral, 2016)”

Various Guises “Tide Take Him” (Independent, 2016)

Various Guises are modern folkies – a duo featuring Blanche Ellis and Maya McCourt. ‘Tide Take Him Out’ is their debut EP. A short glimpse into a world of gothic flecked acapella suffused with sparse instrumentation. There is mournful cello beneath the intimate vocal harmonies and gently strummed guitar on the second track Green. Willow follows the same template with strong vocals and lyrics coloured by the cello played with a fierce verve. But this is not enough to develop these songs. There needs to be more of a palette to properly reflect the songs. Continue reading “Various Guises “Tide Take Him” (Independent, 2016)”

Rainbrother “Tales From The Drought” (General Board 2017)

Opening with a joyful and instantly memorable piano motif on the track Riverside, ‘Tales from the Drought’ announces its intentions from the get go. Bjarke Bendtsen performing as Rainbrother has produced an album of delightful melodies, sparkling song writing and affecting sounds. The aforementioned Riverside is a complex yearning narrative build around the ebb and flow of the repeated piano motif – worthy of some serious airplay. East African Dream follows, an instrumental filled with yelps and whoops over a Midlakeish harmony again memorable and insistent with its driving rhythm. Continue reading “Rainbrother “Tales From The Drought” (General Board 2017)”