Here we are with the second edition of Americana UK’s latest roundup of albums that could happier be tagged as Folk than purely as Americana. This month the music is very solidly within the British folksong tradition – with strong showings from Scottish and Irish bands and musicians as well as English folk. Welsh folk doesn’t seem to come our way so very much, more’s the pity (and there’s the open invitation if you’re feeling overlooked).
Kathryn Tickell is well known as the preeminent player of Northumbrian Small Pipes, as well as being no slouch on the fiddle. Well known for her championing of the music of the North East of England and particularly the border region Kathryn Tickell has over many albums sought to keep the music modern and relevant. Her latest collaboration is Kathryn Tickell & The Darkening, and the album ‘cloud horizons‘ aims to create a new fusion described as “Ancient Northumbrian Futurism“. And it achieves the aim quite impressively, with combinations of the Northumbrian pipes with accordian, synthesizers, mandolin and percussion both drummed and programmed. Infused with a pagan spirit it recalls, in places, the ‘British Tribal Music’ phase of Hawkwind most notably on ‘Gods of War‘ where the question is “will I worship the Gods of War who can bring you down or should I summon the spirits of earth and singing skies to lift me up?” Alongside this though there are several more traditional sounding pieces which offer an irrisitable invitation to movement. An excellent release all round (8/10).
Honey and the Bear are a husband and wife duo from Suffolk and ‘Away Beyond The Fret‘ is their third album. It draws on several strands, drawing from their lives some songs were inspired from having recently become parents, and their is a strong sense of place in songs from their East Anglian home with ‘The Suffolk Hero‘ being a song of a man who was both smuggler and lifesaver with more smugglers and the legendary Black Shuck featuring in ‘Do You Keep It Underneath?’. And there are songs of the achievements of notable women – ‘Daughter‘ tells of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson the first female doctor and ‘Head in the Stars’ celebrates the astronomer Cecilia Payne. There is a slight earnestness to the album, and the accomplished playing by the multi-instrumental duo, supported by various friends, never truly achieves the unrestrained emotions that some at least of the songs cry out for – perhaps just a little too polite. (6/10)
The Rosie Hood Band have released ‘A Seed of Gold‘ which seamlessly blends the traditional with the modern, but very traditional sounding. It opens with a wonderful pairing of two traditional songs – ‘The Swallow‘ and ‘Turtle Dove‘ which segue from one to the other within a heartbeat and sound as if they should have always been together. Hood’s song of the shape shifting witch ‘Lyddie Shears‘ is a glorious embracing of freedom against the curtailing pressures of the patriarchy, whilst ‘Tyger Fierce‘ is a retelling of a true encounter between a menagerie tiger and a barmaid who spent just a little too long tormenting it. ‘Ethel‘ sings of the healing properties of the hills of the Peak District, it’s an invitation to ramble freely across the many access land areas of that National Park. The closer ‘Les Tricoteuses‘ was written by Jenny Reid who dances in the same morris side as Rosie Hood, and celebrates centuries of women who faced societal control – and we’re talking male controlling pressures – and “nevertheless persisted.” The playing and singing throughout is just perfection, a great song collection worthy of attention. (8/10)
Ryan Young‘s album ‘Just A Second‘ – not surprisingly his second release – is Ryan on fiddle accompanied by guitarist Craig Irving together capturing nine tune sets of, mostly, old Scottish tunes. Ryan Young has won and been nominated for a raft of Folk awards, but his second album was delayed due to ill health. The whole of ‘Just A Second‘ was captured live with the pair playing together.
Ryan Young is a very soulful player – his concentration is on finding the beauty of a tune, wringing the emotion out in silvery notes rather than giving way to a distracting speed-freakery in his playing. It makes for a very soothing listen, with just a dash of wintery melancholy. (7/10)
Miscellany Of Folk are Benny McCarthy, Billy Sutton, and Eddie Costello, who together have produced a debut album ‘Atlantic Sounds’ which bridges the musical traditions of Ireland and Newfoundland. The album is a collection of tune sets – the banjo assisted Barn Dance tunes ‘Boys of Bluehill / The Green Grove‘ are particularly sprightly – and songs such as ‘Deckhand on a Trawler‘ which tells tales of perils on the seas and ‘1962‘ which is pure nostalgia for times gone by, tinged with slightly maudlin reflection for things, music and love, “that’s all gone, it won’t come back again.” If there’s nothing particularly earth shatteringly new in this take on Irish, and Irish influenced, music there’s also nothing that would disappoint the lover of a good tune well played. (6/10)