‘If Hawks were Doves’ - Red Velvet EP

Review Holly Johnston

Red VelvetOn listening to this 6-track Ep from the Cambridge-based band Red Velvet, I felt with each track that I was being taken back to another time of sepia colours and pork pie hats.  The CD begins with the title track If Hawks Were Doves where I could imagine myself sat in an old time, honky-tonk bar drinking in the atmosphere.  In some ways this song would fit well as the theme tune to a 70s comedy show, the words paint a story and the blues piano break in the middle fits perfectly.  

The second track is Imposter, which speaks of imposter syndrome and contains what Red Velvet describe as their first ever rap.  To me it was a bit more like spoken word, maybe because of the solid English accent that makes me think a bit of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins and I say that with affection.  There’s some nice alliteration in the lyrics: ‘luckiest loser’ and the track showcases some really fluent piano flourishes.

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The Silburys – Live at Spring Fest

Review by Holly D Johnston

SilburysThe Silburys
 are a full-band extension of Silbury Hill, the well-known guitar, mandolin, flute duo playing regularly around East Anglia.  Here, Scott Dolling and David Stainer are joined by Diz Deacon on bass / 12-string, and Martin Linford on drums.  When this live album arrived on my doorstep for review, I was delighted to realise I had been at the event when this was recorded and am one of the lucky listeners who can reminisce from my armchair.

The first thing to say is that this is indeed a live recording.  How often do you buy a CD at a gig only discover a recording baring no resemblance to what you heard on the night?  This CD packs all of the energy and enthusiasm you see, feel and hear at a Silbury gig. As they state on the press release – ‘no overdubs’; just pure bottled - or canned! -  Silburys.  This CD is live, complete with breath sounds (in ‘House of the King’ for example), enthusiastic applause and the flow and ebb of real music.

The Silburys repeatedly deliver homebred storytelling with tales from our own East Anglian soil.  This eight track album includes a song about ‘Thomas Wolsey’, ‘The Dunwich Bells’ about the town lost to sea, and ‘London’ a ship discovered sunk off the Essex coastline .  But what’s folk without a dose of innuendo? The ‘Bonny Black Hare’ is a bass led, throbbing interpretation of a traditional song that tips no hat to socks and sandals and will have your toes tapping, hips moving and body marching you will-lessly out onto the dance floor.

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Foundlings - Hushwing

review by Simon Haines

Screenshot 2020 06 26 at 12.41.54On first listening to this recording made by East Anglian musicians, it took me back to music I’d first heard and been thrilled by in the mid-1970s: The Old Swan Band’s first recording: No Reels. Until that point I’d been a folk rock fan obsessed by the music of the Albion Dance Band, specifically the sophisticated drum and bass dominated The Prospect Before Us. That is still one of my favourite albums, but the appearance of No Reels sent me to music from older Topic label recordings: English Country Music (1965) and Country Music from East Anglia (1973). I felt that this was music that would have been played by the people of my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generation and I identified with it.

No surprise then that Foundlings (Norfolk Found Dance Tunes), a 21-track CD by Hushwing Village Big Band, brought back happy musical memories and at the same time introduced me to unfamiliar tunes. Although many of the tunes would have been played all over the country, Hushwing have chosen tunes originally played and recorded by Norfolk musicians Walter Bulwer, Harry Cox, Sam Larner, Billy Cooper, Stephen Poll, Herbert Smith, George Watson, Walter Pardon. A number tunes are attributed to “Gressenhall” and are taken from a suite written by Francis Cunningham Woods, a London musician who visited the Norfolk village of Gressenhall and reworked tunes he’d heard being played on the accordion (melodeon?) by an unnamed local millworker.

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"Waterbound" Alden, Patterson and Dashwood

Review by Colin Hynson

WaterboundWaterbound is the third full–length offering from the Norwich–based folk trio Alden Patterson and Dashwood (Christina Aiden on vocals and guitar, Alex Patterson on fiddle, vocals and shruti and Noel Dashwood on vocals and dobro guitar). It’s a refreshingly different listen from many similar offerings for one simple reason. The entire album of nine tracks was recorded in a studio in just ten hours. They played every track twice and chose one of them for the album. In only one case did they choose the second recording. There was no editing and no overdubs added. It’s an album stripped down to the basics

The nine tracks are a mixture of interpretations of traditional pieces of music and some self–penned pieces. All three members of the band contributed at least one of their own pieces. All of the pieces are original with the exception of The Old Priory which appeared on their first album Call Me Home.

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Sleep Deprivation - Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer

Review by Val Haines

SleepDeprivationTinyI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Vicki and Jonny are among the hardest working musicians on the folk scene. In addition to their vast performance schedule (sadly now covid-19 depleted), they have a back catalogue of 10 albums (some with supporting musicians) and eight books of tunes. When not playing the true folk stuff, they can be found in medieval garb at castles, Victorian costume at Christmas markets and in 17th century finery for the Playford experience. Jonny has even done a stint at the Globe Theatre. I’m guessing that for 'contra' they dress in their own clothes.

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The Sea is My Brother - Harbottle and Jonas

Review by Les Ray

The Sea is My Brother Harbottle JonasOn my radio show “Strummers & Dreamers” I chose this sea-themed album as one of my favourites of 2019. The title of the album (and of one of its tracks) is taken from the name of a novel by Jack Kerouac. The album has delightful harmonies from the duo David Harbottle and Freya Jonas, along with lovely instrument arrangements for the songs, with the double bass, cello and violin particularly worthy of note.

As mentioned, this is very much an album of songs of the sea, more particularly, its heroes (A Lady Awake), victims (Lost to the Sea, Saved Alone) and both (Fr. Thomas Byles), in four of its standout tracks. My favourite song on the album is A Lady Awake, the story of the heroism of Grace Darling, the lighthouse keeper's daughter who rescued the survivors from the wrecked steamship Forfarshire in 1838, which to me brings to mind the music of Seth Lakeman. Lovely guitar work by Harbottle and upbeat melody line and vocals despite the dramatic theme in this traditional-style ballad.

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The Fell - The Brothers Gillespie

Review by Les Ray

The FellI selected this fine album by Northumbrian duo The Brothers Gillespie as one of my favourites of 2019 (although technically it was released at the end of 2018). It is an absolute joy, particularly on account of what Sam Lee refers to as “the glorious tones of their blood harmony”: sibling voices totally in synch, singing passionately.

Their words and music are very much rooted in the land, the mystical borderlands of their native Northumberland, as is particularly evident in the tracks Golden OneCoventina’s Daughter and Wilderness & Wild, with its Yeatsian resonances (“Come back child...”).  As the brothers themselves say: “The album is inspired by the still wild soul of the land in which we live, a land alive with presences, not owned by anyone”. 

As if their moving harmony vocals were not enough, the musicianship of brothers James and Sam is consummate, always enhancing and never cluttered. There is also some exquisite clàrsach harp playing by Siannie Moodie on Golden One and Northumberland (which also has fine percussion by Tim Lane).

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