Nic Zuppardi - North Cape

Review by Colin Hynson

North CapeMy earliest memory of hearing a mandolin was when Vivien Stanshall said the word ‘mandolin’ towards of the end of side 1 of Tubular Bells and then Mike Oldfield played one. Since then, as I moved away from prog rock and concept albums and towards folk and acoustic, I found myself hearing and appreciating the mandolin more and more.

Local boy - at least he’s local if you’re in East Anglia - Nic Zuppardi is seen by many as one of the finest mandolin players playing and touring on the folk circuit. He’s currently one–third of the increasingly well–regarded Shackleton Trio and occasionally accompanies the banjo player Dan Walsh and other bands on the Norwich folk scene.

North Cape is his debut album. It brings him together with Adam Clark on guitar, Calum McKemmie on bass and the Norwich–based folk duo Alex Patterson on fiddle and Christina Alden on guitar. They are all musicians who know each other well and that familiarity has clearly made it easier for their playing to blend and weave with each other.  All but two of the tracks on this album are self–penned (and one of those two he has co–written with the Nashville–based mandolin player Caleb Christopher Edwards) and both the local and transatlantic influences are clear throughout.

The album starts with two tracks The River and Silver Haven which are tributes to Norwich – the city that Nic Zupppardi is lucky enough to call home. Those of you who’ve heard the Shackleton Trio’s last album Mousehold will realise how important local landscapes and traditions are to Nic Zuppardi. 

Halfway Pond is a cover version of a track written by the American fiddle player Jim Childress. It’s a nod to the influence of American folk music on his music. That influence is also clear in the later track Del Rio which was co–written with Caleb Christopher Edwards. 

After Halfway Pond is a jaunty little piece called Alpardi McPatterzup - a sort of portmanteau cobbled together from the names of all of the musicians on the album. The tempo then slows down a bit with a slow solo piece called Madeleine

The album finishes with Alexandra Road; there’s an Alexandra Road in Norwich so I’m guessing that’s got something to with this track, and then the title track North Cape. This was inspired by a trip he took to the Arctic Circle. I was expecting this piece to be Scandinavian–flavoured but instead it’s a rather lovely meditative solo piece.

If you want to listen to a well–crafted album from an accomplished mandolin player musician well-steeped in the traditions of folk music both near and far then I give you North Cape.  

You can listen (and buy) the album on Bandcamp:

Mossy Christian & Megan Wisdom

CD Review    Live Sampler  -  Mossy Christian and Megan Wisdom

Megan Mossy 2


I have recently had the pleasure of listening to a new CD released in April by Mossy Christian and Megan Wisdom.  They have chosen a good selection of traditional songs and tunes from the East of England with an emphasis on humour and storytelling.  They have done the arrangements  themselves with a very successful mix of harmonies for the songs and tunes.  Tracks 1, 3 and 5 are appropriately lively and light-hearted.  Track 2 has a darker theme of betrayal but Megan weaves a delicate ribbon of sound on the whistle around Mossy's storytelling and then takes up a similar theme in a lovely solo version of The Cuckoo.  Track 4 is the only instrumental and Mossy plays Old Joe and Percy Brown's Polka with great skill on the one-row melodeon which certainly set my feet tapping. The two tunes brought the flavour of the seaside and all the fun of a traditional fair to mind. It is no surprise to hear that Mossy emphasises the importance of rhythm and dance in his playing.

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The Squire’s Thingumbob and Kitty’s What You May Call It - Maggie Moore & Stan Bloor

Review by Graham Schofield

MaggieStanThe title of Stan & Maggie’s new CD could lead you to suspect that this might not be a collection of erudite and sensitively artistic folk song offerings. Indeed this is a rumbustious romp through a collection of the type of song upon which the later Music Hall entertainments of the Victorian and Edwardian eras are rooted. More suited as the musical accompaniment to a convivial evening of Beer and Sandwiches, not so much the Vicarage Tea Party.

Maggie and Stan are well known for their love of entertaining audiences. The musical arrangements and song delivery are of the highest quality and are perfectly tailored to the style and genre of the material. The songs on this CD are well researched and there are ample sleeve-notes to satisfy even the most demanding. 

The songs have been taken from books published by William West (1834 -38), such as “The Delicious Chanter And Exciting Warbler. A Capital Collection of Randy, Roaring, Rousing, Tear-up, Flare-up songs,” or “The Little Icky-Wickey Songster.”

The lyrics are unashamedly non-pc reflecting a culture and moral climate very far removed from our own, sometimes over-sanitised, times. In them there is a delightful sauciness, unsubtle innuendo and sometimes downright smut. All delivered by the duo with a forthright clarity. In all there are 17 tracks, some with a sing-a-long chorus and known tunes. Such as “The Wedding Secret” to the tune of “White Cockade”, “Colin and Susan (or No! No! No!)” to the tune of “Lincolnshire Poacher,” and even “The Landladies Count” to the tune of “Derry Down.”

This is a delightfully quirky CD, well presented and performed, definitely not high-art rather something that, in an earlier age, might have been delivered under a plain-cover. A naughty pleasure!

Available directly from Maggie Moore 01449 722615 or 07913087691 


'Maim' by Whyte

Review by Colin Hynson

MaimThe two musicians that make up Whyte, Alasdair and Ross MacllleBàin, are making a name for themselves within the Gaelic music tradition. Some of that is due to their fusing traditional song forms with electronic music. Gaelic/Celtic music and electronica - especially the more minimalist sort - seem to be a good match for each other. Maim is an album that is both lush and forbidding at the same time with the ethereal sound of the Icelandic band Sigur Ros throughout.

This is an album that emerged because of the lockdown of 2020. Whyte were working with a theatre company putting together a show featuring drama, music, video and dance. The show explored the decline of Gaelic culture in the face of the forces of profound economic and cultural change and made worse by the climate crisis. The touring show ground to a jarring halt as lockdown began. The lockdown forced many people in the creative world to explore new ways of presenting their work. This album is one of those ways.

The first track, ‘Oml’ starts with a melancholic piano with a gentle pulsating electronic sound in the background. It’s reminiscent of some dark folk or the musical scores to a horror movie. It’s a song using the words to a 19th century Gaelic song called (in English) ‘Goodnight to You All’.

The second track is the title track. It’s an instrumental piece that leans heavily on the circularity and repetitiveness of much of folk music. Again it has a film–like quality to it and to my ears at least some influence from the start of Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’.

Track number three, ‘Maim-Slé’, is a spoken word piece with fluctuating music that beautifully follows the rhythm of the words. You don’t need to understand any Gaelic to know what is being said. This is a lament for all that is gone and all that may go soon.

‘Creach’ is the next track. It has a slightly unsettling start before morphing into a gentle guitar piece with a keyboard background. This quiet–ness continues with an original Gaelic song called ‘àill’. 

For those who hanker after a piece of traditional music then the next track ‘gur fad ’am thàmh mi gu tostach sàmhach’, will more than satisfy. It’s another 19th century song. It starts with just an unaccompanied voice and then with a slow build–up of keyboard and strings emerges from below. There’s a short piano solo, which almost seems like some kind of interval, and then we’re back with the second part of the song.

The album finishes with ‘Mharbhrann’ which seems to bring together all of the themes and styles explored in the album. Voices, strings and synthesiser music weave and dance around each other. 

There’s a strange paradox in an album that laments the demise of something that it may actually help to revive. Traditional forms of music the world over go through waves of decline before rising again. Much of that revival is down to a readiness to change and adapt with the times. Maim does just that.

Bandcamp link:

‘Spectres’ by Tom Moore & Archie Moss

Review by Colin Hynson

Spectres CoverTom Moore, violin and viola, and Archie Moss, diatonic accordion/melodeon, have both been fixtures on the folk scene for some time now – as musicians in their own right, as two–thirds of the well–regarded folk trio Moore Moss Rutter and lastly as a duo. They released their first album together in 2017. It was called ‘Laguna’ and it put down a marker for two musicians who remain grounded in traditional music but have integrated subtle electronica and sound effects into many of their tracks. 

This exploration of the boundaries of traditional music continues with their latest album ‘Spectres’ (the first release for Slow Worm Records, a Norfolk–based record company). The sleeve notes say that all of the music on this album ‘originates’ from the viola and melodeon (with the exception of some sampling on a couple of tracks). It’s an interesting word to use. No electronic instruments like the synthesiser here but electronic sounds emerging from both instruments.

Track number one, ‘Gusts’, immediately sets the album off on its chosen path. A spectral, drone–like quality from Moss’s accordion punctuated by a repeating theme from the viola. It should be a soothing piece of music but it’s strange and a little disconcerting - but in a good way.

Now we’ve entered familiar territory. The title track comes next. It starts off sounding very much like a traditional acoustic piece of music but soon the introduction of sampling reminds us of what this album is about. Moving on, purist lovers of traditional music will appreciate the sublime duet–playing on the next two tracks ‘Pop One’ and ‘Oculus’. 

‘Giga and ‘Lek’ both use rhythms that are nods to traditional dance forms with more than a hint of reels and jigs on each track. ‘Pigeon City’ returns us to the slower and more melodic themes of the start of the album and is the second and last track to feature sampling. Back to some more lively duetting on ‘Omens’. 

On the home straight now and there’s a short quiet melodeon–led piece called ‘Green Belt’. Could this be a reference to those protected areas of countryside around our cities or to what was originally a Christian music festival? Through the penultimate ‘Windmill Hill’ and finishing with ‘Balbis’ – a track that would not be out of place as the soundtrack to folk horror movie.

Fans of traditional folk, followers of Hauntology - electronic music that draws on a mythical urban and rural past - and those who listen to bands like Penguin Café Orchestra will all find something on this album to satisfy them. Moore and Moss clearly respect traditional music forms very much, but still want to take it in new directions. There was never any intention to tear up the folk rule book but simply to add a few paragraphs to make it a little bit richer.

You can download Spectres from Bandcamp:

‘Spectres’ by Tom Moore & Archie Moss. Slow Worm Records 2020

Wheel and Dive - CD from Cambridge and Walker


Review by Val Haines

Wheel DiveHow lovely to have a new CD plop onto the doormat during lockdown. Jenna and David recorded this last year but kept it back as their expectations of performing it live in 2020 were thwarted. Now seems the right time for release as the promise of venues reopening is on the cards and organisers become eager to start rebooking. Hopefully soon the duo will be able to show Wheel and Dive off to the world.

David Cambridge is well known in East Anglian acoustic circles as a singer/guitarist/songwriter and teaming up with Jenna Walker has given this sound a new dimension. Her voice is reminiscent of the Unthanks and, whether solo or in harmony with David, it cuts through as an additional instrument. Jenna adds piano, accordion and sansula, Hattie McCall Davies adds cello and there is an assortment of percussion.

CambridgeWalkerThere are a couple of new songs: Jenna’s title track Wheel and Dive which uses piano, and the song of a Devon skylark from 1966, is an eco-song for our times, and David’s Sea Change which is a homage to the East Coast fishing industry in decline. The duo have successfully recreated several cotemporary  classics: Richard Thompson’s Waltzing for Dreamers, Joni Mitchell’s Case of you and John Martyn’s Hurt in Your Heart, all given the distinct Jenna and David treatment. Tom Waits’ The Briar and the Rose is sung a capella; they are right to call it ‘traditional sounding but non-traditional’. It work


The remaining tracks are well-known reworked traditional songs; Two MagiciansReynardine (with the spooky sansula – nice), Come All Ye Fair, a version of Let No Man Steal Your Thyme, and the Unfortunate Tailor, for which Jenna has composed a new melody. Also included are smatterings of Walter Scott, Robbie Burns and a children’s rhyme. 

There is lots to like here: great musicianship and singing and a variety of material moulded the Cambridge and Walker style.

Wheel & Dive

Sea Change

You can find out more about Cambridge and Walker here:

Herding Cats - CD from Wolfnote

Review by Les Ray

WolfNoteHerdingCats 2“Herding Cats” is the debut album by Berkshire-based quintet Wolfnote. The band comprises four women (Gill McCoy, Bex Rennie, Ceri Rushent and Ann-Marie Thomas) and one man, Mike Tuffery, the elder statesman of the band, so to speak. They are highly versatile, as they all sing, all play a stringed instrument of some sort, they have two recorder players (Bex and Ceri) and two percussionists (Mike and Ann-Marie).

The intriguing title of the CD refers to what the band describe as “the horrendous task of trying to get five people together in one place to rehearse (or in fact do anything) outside their day jobs...”. And I don’t suppose that’s getting any easier now, since the CD was recorded before the first lockdown.

However, if getting together was as hard as herding cats, working together would seem to have been a much smoother experience, as this is a highly accomplished and eclectic first album, with great songwriting, singing and musicianship. All of the band members contribute their songwriting skills to the album, and this gives each song a distinct flavour, yet the band still very much have their own overall sound.

Read more: Herding Cats - CD from Wolfnote