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.

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Late Cut - Steve Turner

Review by Colin Hynson

As well as being a consummate folk musician and concertina–player, Steve Turner is a bit of a cricket fanatic. So I thought that there might be some significance to the title of this album. In cricketing terms a ‘late cut’ is a batting technique in which the batter hits the ball behind him. It looks like a simple shot but it’s actually difficult to do well. I could be reading too much into this, but the songs on this fine album are simple and cut-back yet are clearly the product of a musician that has spent many years immersed in and perfecting his craft.

Late Cut starts with ‘Lily of the West’, a traditional song arranged by Steve Turner. The song touches on those well–explored themes of English folk song, a rejected lover, jealousy and revenge. Steve Turner plays the concertina and provides the vocals whilst the guitar is played by Sam Carter.

That’s one of the lovely things about this album. Steve Turner is joined by other fine folk musicians. You’ll hear, amongst others, Sam Carter on the guitar, Eliza Carthy who lends her unmistakeable voice to harmony vocals, Gina Le Faux on fiddle and Martin Simpson appearing on the second track playing the banjo.

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Weave Trust With Truth

A new CD of Songs and Poems about Dunfermline Weaving

Performed by Gifford Lind, Alex Black,and Guy Burgess

A project local to Dunfermline in which some local musicians were asked for songs to accompany weaving exhibits in the Carnegie Library and Galleries Museum. This album is built around the song and poem that were found, supplemented by original material. Some of the new songs are set to existing folk airs so that despite three contributors whose individual writing and performance styles can be differentiated, the material benefits from a cohesive approach. Enough preamble…

The two pieces upon which the CD is built are ‘The Shuttle Rins’ by Henry Syme (pub 1849), an industrial protest song disguised in gentle ballad form to the tune of ‘The Boatie Rows’, and ‘Dunfermline Linen’, a light murder/suicide recitation often heard as a leavener in sessions. The remainder of the main part of the CD are original songs, fulfilling the commission. I particularly enjoyed ‘Jamie Blake’ and ‘The Weaving’s Gone’ both by Gifford Lind. The CD is completed by ‘bonus’ tracks a song and recitation recorded live and ‘The Work o’ the Weavers’ to close.

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Switched-on Playford - Chris Green

Written by Mary Humphreys

This is Marmite music. You hate it or love it. I love it, but recognise it is a niche market. It is ostensibly music to dance to, but with the complex arrangements and extremely long introductory passages and associated arrhythmical playing I cannot see it being used by any dance clubs for dancing to. The voices over-dubbed on some of the tracks are not very conducive to encouraging the dancers to concentrate on dancing. Chris Green has over-dubbed to infinity on all the tracks - he has only one guest musician Paul James who plays saxophone, the rest is all his own work, mastered by Steve Kitch.

Notwithstanding my comments above, I would urge people to give this CD a play - borrow it from the library or borrow it from friends to see if you like it. Chris Green has done some sterling work in liberating manuscripts from dusty library shelves and publishing his findings. His version of Playford tunes deserves a listen  because it brings out the joy and exhilaration of dancing with abandon that seems to have deserted many Playford dance clubs. He might well become the darling of the Zesty Playford scene as it gathers momentum nationally.

This is not dance music for geriatrics, but I do not believe that Playford dances were intended to be danced by them. It was for youngsters with energy to dance all night. This is goes some way to opening a door to a new reading of Playford.

Blast Media BFTP012  Chris Green www.chrisgreenmusic.uk

Patience Vaisey at Adwell 1892 - Amsher

Written by May Humphreys

This little gem of a CD is full of delightful songs and singing. It probably not your cup of tea if you like loud backing and lots of instrumental accompaniment, but if you like an intimate song with minimal interference from backing musicians, this is right up your street. John Dipper who was the technical brain behind this deserves credit for a superb end product. Bob Askew,the mastermind behind the project, is a svengali of the highest order.

Lucy Broadwood visited her cousin Herbert Reynardson in 1892. He lived in Adwell House, Oxfordshire. The gardener's wife, Patience Vaisey was a Hampshire lass and sang her repertoire to Lucy, probably very gladly because her husband the gardener at Adwell didn't like folk songs preferring instead hymns Ancient and Modern. There's no accounting for taste!

The songs are performed here by a select cast of Southern singers. Annie Winter and Alison Frosdick are well known on the trad folk circuit, being regulars at Whitby and other trad festivals. This is the first time I have come across Anna Baldwin and Jack Burnaby who supplies the minimal accompaniment on piano and concertina. His piano playing is very in keeping with the sort of parlour music Lucy Broadwood would have been used to. I was most taken with his little riff at the beginning of When The Moon Stands on Tiptoe. This is a glorious hunting song which is ambiguous in its quarry - human or hare!

There are many songs here that would benefit from more exposure. Many of us know , or at least have heard, My Bonny Bonny Boy, but how many of us know How Sweet in the Woodlands? We have a huge wealth of songs that were collected because somebody out there thought they were worth preserving. Let's get them out there into the folk consciousness. This collection deserves to be much more widely performed.

Thank you to Bob Askew for your dedication to your local heritage. It is a grand job you are doing. Keep plugging away!

Shadows in the Mist - Paul & Liz Davenport

Written by Mary Humphreys

The fifth album from this Yorkshire singing duo is very much 'more of the same'. If you know their singing style - unison - often unaccompanied with a nautical theme and in a very traditional style, then you know what to expect. There are no unpleasant surprises here. Happily, there are some new gems that have been hiding in plain sight for discriminating songsters like the Davenports to put before us for our delight. There is some minimal accompaniment by Paul on concertina ( a duet, I think, though it is not mentioned in the sleeve notes.)
We start with Come Come My Brave Boys, collected by Gardiner from an inmate of Portsmouth workhouse, followed by a lovely atmospheric wistful modern song This Barren Shore by their talented son Gavin set to a tune by Paul. The Leaving of Liverpool, sung by Paul is a beautifully sincere rendition to a much more traditional-sounding tune which I much prefer to the done-to-death one. I hope you will prefer it too.
I remember singing exactly the same version of Bread and Roses for International Women's Days during the 1980s. I think we agree that the chosen tune carries the message so much better than the original one. Two Champions from the Gatty collection, a good and interesting song, is one that could have done with a bit more careful editing as there are some places where the singers fail to sing exactly together. This often happens in a live performance, but I don't think that is the point of a recording. Another 'take' might have improved matters.
The Widowmaker by John Conolly is has a stately and compelling tune allied to the story of the stark reality of the life of a fisherman's wife in the Hull of less than 50 years ago. Liz does a grand job of it. Canterbury Bells is a modern song celebrating ceremonial customs. The Davenports have given it a good airing and write-up, though I am not sure it will take the traditional customs world by storm.

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Two Score - Blowzabella

Somewhat like marmite, I expect you either love or hate Blowzabella. Whatever your taste, the band are undoubtably one of the icons of the Folk music revival in this country. To celebrate their 40 years on the circuit Blowzabella have released an album, aptly named, Two Score.

Two Score is performed by the line-up which has been in place since 2005, Andy Cutting – melodeon, triangle, Jo Freya – vocals, saxophones, clarinet, whistles, Paul James – vocals, bagpipes, saxophones, Gregory Jolivet – hurdy-gurdy, Dave Shepherd – violin, octave violin, viola, Barnaby Stradling – Bass, Jon Swayne – bagpipes, saxophones, whistle.

Being relatively new to both the folk arena and Blowzabella, I was entranced as soon as the disc went into the car player. Wow – the wall of sound is breathtaking, exciting, vibrant and captivating. Every member of the band has brought a plethora of instruments into the mix, and, as the sleeve notes state, they ‘develop arrangements together by gathering in a room, playing the melody and exploring tempo, keys, rhythm and harmony until we get to a point where it sounds like Blowzabella’.

There is something for everyone on this album – original tunes composed by the band members, arrangements of traditional tunes, songs a plenty as well as touches of drive, pathos, melancholy and occasionally humour.

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