Johnny Parry “An Anthology of All Things” (Songs & Whispers, 2017)

Most records we get have such a limited scope and ambition that we can at least attempt to encapsulate them within a few hundred words. This record is of such ludicrous sweep and ambition that I doubt I could ever even start to detail its borders. It contains a chamber orchestra, a soprano (Donna Lennard) and the Bedford Arts choir. It consists of eight movements with the lyrics constructed from short statements submitted by the local community. It appears to be both a logistical nightmare and one of those projects that seem worthy of approbation but are seldom enjoyed. If it were American I’d be talking about Charles Ives, John Adams, Saul Chaplin, Michael Daugherty and how it fits into Americana in its broader sense. I have fewer British reference points, possibly Benjamin Britten, then I’m at the limits of my knowledge. Continue reading “Johnny Parry “An Anthology of All Things” (Songs & Whispers, 2017)”

Stanley Brinks and the Old Time Kanicks “Vielles Caniques/Nouvelle Caniques” (Fika Recordings 2017)

I don’t know how many records Stanley Bring aka Andre Herman Dune has been involved in or how many gigs he’s played, hundreds for the former and thousands for the latter. He’s completely at ease as a performer and these songs, like much of his catalogue (at least that much known to me), ooze a kind of infectious convivial bonhomie that immediately put you at ease, constantly referencing social situations, friends getting together and drinking and the love songs are everyday tales told from the perspective of a courtly lover, a man full of respect for his audience, his peers and the objects of his desire. Continue reading “Stanley Brinks and the Old Time Kanicks “Vielles Caniques/Nouvelle Caniques” (Fika Recordings 2017)”

Shirley Collins, The Barbican, London, 18th February 2017

Shirley Collins holds a unique place in the pantheon of English folk music – her 1959 song collecting journey in the USA, assisting Alan Lomax, is legendary enough but she also shook up the folk scene with collaborations with Davey Graham and her recordings with her sister Dolly which brought new arrangements to old songs which were sung in an unaffected English voice.  She was widely lauded as carrying a distinctive folk purity, acting almost as a vessel for the music, through the late sixties and into the seventies.  And then she lost her singing voice. Continue reading “Shirley Collins, The Barbican, London, 18th February 2017”

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)”

Two Cow Garage “Brand New Flag” (At The Helm Records, 2017)

‘He had a tattoo under his right eye that said ‘Fuck the world!’ and I wasn’t in a position to disagree,’ Say what? ‘Anger is an energy,’ John Lydon once sang. It sure is. If you could bottle Two Cow Garage’s anger we could substitute fossil fuels like oil and petrol and run the world on indignation and rage. Brand New Flag is part scathing social commentary, part-venting, and more than partly responsible for blowing my speakers out. Continue reading “Two Cow Garage “Brand New Flag” (At The Helm 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)”

Wayne Graham “Mexico” (K & F Records, 2016)

Wayne Graham is a duo, Hayden and Kenny Miles, brothers from Whitesburg, South-East Kentucky, where their father founded a church and they backed the services on drums and bass. Wayne Graham is a composition of both their grandfather’s first names. Both were coal miners, as were their father and uncle, until the closure of the mines, following the strikes of the United Mines Workers in the 1970’s. Barbara Kopple’s Oscar winning film “Harlan County USA” depicts the area at the time – a reminder of the miners strikes in the UK. Continue reading “Wayne Graham “Mexico” (K & F Records, 2016)”