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.

Read more: Rogues & Rovers

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.

Read more: Alastair Savage

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.

Read more: All Our Own Work - The Occasional Ceilidh Band

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.

Read more: Never Enough - John Meed

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

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.

Read more: Late Cut - Steve Turner

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.

Read more: Weave Trust With Truth