Reckless River - New full-length album by Zoë Wren

Review by Simon Haines

Reckless River album cover digital copyIf you were in the audience at the Canopy Theatre in Beccles on October 31, you will have seen two first-rate performers: Finn Collinson and Zoe Wren. Since that evening Zoe has released her long-awaited 10-track album. I have been l lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this excellent album. Here is my longer-than-usual review. First some information about Zoë herself.

Zoë Wren started her musical career as a busker and still works regularly on the London Underground. She also plays folk clubs, festivals and other venues as a solo performer, with Jasmine Watkiss in the duo Roswell, and in a trio,  The Honeybees. She helps organise singing workshops in prisons for the grassroots charity Sing Inside, and has raised money with her live-streaming performances for the C4WS Homeless Project

Zoë has recorded several EPs, but Reckless River is her first full-length recording and comprises nine of her own songs and the traditional Let No Man Steal Your Thyme. An odd mixture? Not at all. Zoe’s compositions have a lot in common with traditional songs: they have appealing melodies, tell personal stories and have catchy choruses and, without being overtly preachy or political, they also seem to present a consistent view of twenty-first century life, a view I’d characterise as refreshingly positive, empathetic and optimistic.

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‘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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