Call to Mind by Finn Collinson

Review by Val Haines

FinnThis is the first full length album from East Anglian young musician Finn Collinson. An interesting and varied collection played by Finn on mainly alto and tenor recorders, also whistle, guitar, bouzouki, mandolin and vocals. Other musicians called in to assist on the album are Emma Beach (oboe, cor anglais, vocals), Archie Churchill-Moss (diatonic button accordion, guitar), Josh Clark (percussion, electric bass), Ronan Collinson/Katriona Gilmore (fiddle), Jonno Gaze (drums, percussion) and Tom leader (double bass, guitars). However, this is not a huge band effort and the musicians are used as tastefully as possible enabling Finn to shine as the main musician. The album does make a blistering beginning with full band tune set January Walk, there are two trad songs, Hanging Johnny and Banks of the Nile, sung by Finn and Emma, and a lovely version of the Rankin Family’s Orangedale Whistle, which, as Finn explains in the notes, is a song accepting and embracing change, something we must all do. He has included his own composition Folkeast Waltz, dedicated to John and Becky Marshall-Potter who, by creating the annual Folkeast Festival, have done much to promote local and national folk music in East Anglia. My particular album favourites are Black Mountains, Finn’s own composition played simply on recorder and Emma’s cor anglais, and Tune for the Bullfinch, from the 1717 Bird Fancyer’s Delight, beautiful overdubbed alto and bass recorders to imitate birdsong, merging into real garden birdsong. There are echoes of Flook and 1990s Irish band Diesel in the album, but this is an album focusing, unusually, on the recorder, where Finn has developed his own style. Call to Mind is testament to Finn being rightly considered as one of our area’s foremost young folk performers.

The album is due for release on September 6th. See www.finncollinson.com for details and tour dates

Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer CD

Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer  “Twelve Months & A Day “

by Mike Rudge

Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer blend traditional material with contemporary sounds. Their performances showcase new interpretations of old songs alongside original self-penned tunes and new contemporary songs that are entirely at home in the tradition.

Be entranced by the haunting nyckelharpa, amazed at the cow horn (one of the worlds earliest communication devices) and meet some of the bagpipes that didn’t come from Scotland.

Vicki studied at the Royal College of Music on the double bass. She also plays the various types of bagpipes, flute, recorder, piano and nyckelharpa (Swedish keyed-fiddle).  On leaving music college Vicki started down the long path of folk music and was only seen on rare glimpses back in classical orchestras.

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Rogues & Rovers

Rogues & Rovers: Tyburn Road - Ian Giles and Dave Townsend

review by Bill Johnston

Tyburn Road is a project which unites two of Oxfordshire’s best known folk performers and has given rise to this CD of songs and tunes arranged in three sections, Rakes, Sailors,and Country Pursuits. Accompaniment is provided, where needed, with Ian playing melodeon and Dave playing an assortment of English style concertinas. A chorus is provided by The Eynsham Crew.

I first came across Dave when I bought his books of ‘English Dance Music’ in original, spiralbound format, and Ian as a member of Magpie Lane. Dave has also led workshops at Suffolk Folk Day. Their musical style has been serious and consistent. I have enjoyed listening, but generally with a feeling that the music is worked to a perfection which may be distracting in itself.

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Alastair Savage

When Barley Reaches the Shore  (SAV005CD Woodland Records 2018)

by Bill Johnson

Alastair is a classically trained violinist who combines his seat in the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra with an active participation in the heritage music of Scotland. Alastair’s respect for the tunes within the Gow, Skinner and Marshall collections is showcased here together with some of his own compositions.

The CD comprises instrumental music of the highest quality throughout. Alastair is joined by long time colleagues, Iain Crawford, Co-Principal Bass of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and a player within the ‘tradition’, and Euan Drysdale on piano and guitar, a trained and experienced musician with a broad CV. The music is organised by reference to the source for the tunes presented, and expertly arranged in a disciplined Scottish style which may be distinct from the general approach to folk music in other British traditions, allowing for exceptions. Some of the tunes presented are familiar in a social and session context, for example, Farewell to Whisky and Hector the Hero. I discovered that a hitherto anonymous tune which I have played for many years is a Gow composition, Highland Whisky. Alastair’s own compositions sit easily with the older tunes. I thoroughly enjoyed his two sets of Islay Wedding Music, and The Soldier’s Prayer. My favourite piece on the CD is Chapel Keithack from the William Marshall collection.

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All Our Own Work - The Occasional Ceilidh Band

This 15-track CD from the Occasional Ceilidh Band, who hail from Norfolk, comprises 13 instrumentals – all suitable for including in an English ceilidh – and two songs.

The title of the recording, All Our Own Work, gives the game away: the tracks were all composed by members of the band – in some cases these are great first attempts at composing - and the recording itself was made in various domestic locations and a church hall, rather than in an expensive studio. This means that the overall production is not studio quality – a plus for me because what you hear is what the band played - there’s no hint of shenanigans by clever engineers. The Occasional Ceilidh Band will sound like this if you find yourself dancing to their music.

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Never Enough - John Meed

Review by Les Ray

Although I’ve been a fan of Cambridge-based John Meed’s music for several years now, in my view his seventh album ‘Never Enough’ is possibly his finest work, finding him totally in control of his palette of words and ideas. John is a consummate wordsmith whose stories from today’s cityscapes are in turn punchily political and deeply personal and existential. Oh, and he writes great choruses too.

As regards the political, a luscious yet moody introduction sets the tone for the opening track ‘Side by side’, a plea for tolerance and understanding amid the Brexit-fuelled madness of these times. “When she returns dripping sunshine and wine, will whatever makes them different make them shine, side by side?” A beautiful, sadly necessary song.

Perhaps reflecting our sense of rootlessness today - Brexit again - John’s are songs of journeys, written in stations, constantly travelling. As in the mysterious La Fayette, which was written at the Gare du Nord amid businessmen coming and going.

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Miner’s Eyes - Kelly & Woolley

Review by Les Ray

‘Miner’s Eyes’ is the second CD by this duo from Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds, and differs from their first - ‘Papers in my Shoe’, released in 2015 - in that it is built around their own compositions, whereas the previous one predominantly contained their versions of traditional songs and tunes in a cajun and bluegrass style. What the two albums have in common is very pared-down, simple (in the nicest sense of the word) arrangements, with just two voices, Gary Woolley’s guitar and Matt Kelly on fiddle, viola or mandolin: very much what you hear here is what you get when you see them live.

Gary takes most of the songwriting credits here (8 out of the 11 tracks), with the key themes of his contributions being industrial decline (‘10,000 Stevedores’, ‘Cairo to Vincennes’, ‘Miner’s Eyes’) along with perhaps a more general sense of melancholy at passing time and loss (‘These Country Lanes’, ‘Walk Right Out the Door’). Matt contributes a tune to end the CD, an experimental song without rhyme (‘The Same Way’) and ‘Slow Toast’, a bittersweet song that also appears in a different version on a CD by Thursday’s Band.

Read more: Miner’s Eyes - Kelly & Woolley