Karine Polwart “Laws of Motion” (Hudson Records, 2018)

A cornerstone of the Scottish folk scene, six times winner at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards along with a host of other accolades, Karine Polwart goes from strength to strength with this magnificent album which is rich in tradition yet speaks strongly to the current times. ‘Laws of Motion’, while not a concept album nevertheless addresses many of the issues which trouble most right-minded folk, using historical themes and personal reflections. Polwart says of the album, “I didn’t set out to write songs on a unified theme – they’ve just landed that way. Perhaps that’s no surprise, given the times we’re in.” As such, she sings of the Kinder transport, the underground network which smuggled Jewish children out of Nazi Europe, of her grandfather fighting in Italy in 1944 and then never talking of it, of migrations and flight and, in a powerfully poetic song, of Donald Trump’s Scottish ancestry. Continue reading “Karine Polwart “Laws of Motion” (Hudson Records, 2018)”

Celtic Connections announces 2019 line up

Glasgow’s annual winterfest of roots music has unveiled the line up for 2019 and as usual, amidst the myriad of acts with more than 300 events taking place over the festival’s 18 days, there’s plenty of Americana acts to enjoy. As Donald Shaw, Creative Producer for Celtic Connections, says, “Every year we strive to programme the most diverse and eclectic festival yet and 2019 is shaping up to be just that. From artists who have influenced the current scene, to musicians who are re-defining the music of tomorrow, Celtic Connections 2019 will continue to embrace a huge range of styles and genres that showcase artists and cultures from across the world.” Continue reading “Celtic Connections announces 2019 line up”

Glasgow Americana Festival, 3rd -7th October 2018

Now in its 12th year the Glasgow Americana Festival is essentially a very concentrated dose of life affirming music delivered courtesy of local promoters, The Fallen Angels Club, who otherwise offer us locals regular spoonfuls of sugar throughout the year. Over five days and in various venues throughout the city around 25 acts converged, varying in style for sure but all rooting for roots music, that indefinable Americana we all talk about and which they all, in one way or other, delivered to their audiences. Continue reading “Glasgow Americana Festival, 3rd -7th October 2018”

Murphykid “Skeletons” (Murphykid Records, 2018)

There’s a rather sweet tale behind this album which involves Al Murphy, AKA Murphykid, retreating, wounded following a broke down love affair, to a garden shed in order to pour his heart out to an eight-track recorder. This all  happened back in 2004, just before Bon Iver carved out a career from a similar move but Murphy’s tapes languished in his sister’s attic as he went on to become a successful illustrator. Noting some interest in these old recordings Murphy retrieved them and after some spit and polish (in the form of additional studio embellishments), he now unveils his 14-year-old heartbreak for all to hear. Continue reading “Murphykid “Skeletons” (Murphykid Records, 2018)”

Stephen Fearing “The Secret of Climbing” (Rega, 2018)

A founder member of Canadian supergroup Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, Stephen Fearing’s 11th solo release is a bit of a departure from his usual routine. Featuring just him and his bespoke Manzer acoustic guitar, ‘The Secret of Climbing’ is a limited edition vinyl only release recorded by and available from Rega. Yes, the company which makes those fab turntables everyone raves about. Continue reading “Stephen Fearing “The Secret of Climbing” (Rega, 2018)”

John Murry + Benjamin Folke Thomas + Steve Grozier, Broadcast, Glasgow, 16th September 2018

John Murry seems to be on his own (smaller) version of Dylan’s never ending tour as he and his band resumed a UK tour which kicked off back in June and then had a short break. Murry was joined on the road once again by his new buddy Benjamin Folke Thomas (the pair seem to have really clicked according to some of their social media posts) who was the main support and who then joined the latter half of Murry’s set on guitar and good vibes. Continue reading “John Murry + Benjamin Folke Thomas + Steve Grozier, Broadcast, Glasgow, 16th September 2018”

Great Lake Swimmers “The Waves The Wake” (Nettwerk Records, 2018)

Over their 15-year career, Canada’s Great Lake Swimmers have crafted to perfection their version of folk informed chamber songs led throughout by Tony Dekker. While their last release, ‘A Forest of Arms’ added a more muscular beat to the songs than one expected from them ‘The Waves The Wake’ finds them back in a more ethereal mood. However, Dekker forsakes his usual style of acoustic guitar based writing for a set of songs featuring elaborate arrangements of instruments normally found in orchestral surroundings. Continue reading “Great Lake Swimmers “The Waves The Wake” (Nettwerk Records, 2018)”

Dusty Stray “Estranged” (Great Waters, 2018)

Dusty Stray is the adopted moniker of Jonathan Brown, a man raised in Texas who now lives in the Netherlands. ‘Estranged’ is his fifth album of low key (not lo-fi) songs which hover around the more Gothic edges of Americana somewhat akin to the work of Stephin Merritt with The Gothic Arches who released music to accompany the Lemony Snicket novels although Brown is less theatrical. Brown points to the writer and artist Edward Gorey as an influence and indeed one of the songs here is titled ‘Gorey Story’ which is basically a potted biography of the Cape Cod author. Continue reading “Dusty Stray “Estranged” (Great Waters, 2018)”

Southern Fried Festival, Perth, Scotland, 26-29th July 2018

Eleven years old this year Southern Fried continues to occupy its position as the best Americana and roots music festival in Scotland and perhaps the best of its kind in the UK (although there are three contenders who might challenge that assumption). The festival doesn’t rest on its laurels however and this year saw its headline shows expanded to include the Thursday night while there was the welcome return of the renovated Perth Theatre to the roster of venues as it hosted ticketed and free events. What doesn’t change however is the mixture of world famous acts, the cream of international and UK roots music and a generous helping of more local musicians all adding up to four days of joyous music concentrated within the centre of one of Scotland’s most beautiful cities. Continue reading “Southern Fried Festival, Perth, Scotland, 26-29th July 2018”

Letitia VanSant “Gut it to the Studs” (Independent, 2018)

Giving up a career in social and environmental advocacy to take up music full time paid off for Baltimore based VanSant when she won the Kerrville New Folk song writing competition joining the ranks of previous winners such as Lucinda Williams and Nanci Griffiths. ‘Gut it to the Studs’, her first album since permanently switching on her out of office email response is a powerful collection of intimate songs buoyed by a superb band who can wax and wane as the songs demand. Continue reading “Letitia VanSant “Gut it to the Studs” (Independent, 2018)”