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Folkways Recordings and the daughter of (New Lost City Ramblers) John Cohen and Penny Seeger died from cancer, aged just 50, shortly after this album’s release.


Story Sound Records have also re- released the two previous Last Forever albums – 1997’s Last Forever and 2000’s Train- fare Home (reviewed in fR 172 and fR 218/219, respectively). Brilliantly original music and a voice that truly will Last Forever.


www.storysoundrecords.com Steve Hunt


MAIREARAD & ANNA Best Day Shouty Records SHOUTYCD03


One again Mairearad Green and Anna Massie treat us to a dazzling showcase of musi- cal skill, demonstrating what a full sound a duo can make. Mairearad’s lyrical accordeon and stirring bagpipes com- bine seamlessly with Anna’s exuberant versatility on gui-


Mairearad & Anna


usage by the anti-fascist resistance movement active in wartime Italy. The stage show that bore the name and featured this and other deliciously subversive folk songs was hugely controversial at its many performances throughout Italy. The show is widely credited with sparking off the huge folk revival in Italy.


Here is an album that marks 50 years since the epoch making show Bella Ciao in Italy. Less strident than the original perfor- mances, these new arrangements by Riccardo Tesi accentuate the beauty of the songs with- out in any way detracting from their power. The swinging Latin rhythm of the prison song Porta Romana points to the fact that current Italian prisons are dominated by migrants from all over the world.


The exquisite singing of the three women is undoubtedly the most powerful element of the album. It would be invidious to draw comparisons between the three – Lucilla Galeazzi, Ginevra Di Marco and Elena Ledda – but personal preference would lean towards the last named; the mature voice of the great Sardinian has long been a favourite.


www.agualocarecords.com Vic Smith HARRY UPTON


Why Can’t It Always Be Saturday? Musical Traditions MTCD371


Harry lived in Balcombe in Sussex; a farm worker and a singer with a varied and mixed repertoire of traditional songs learned from parents and from song sheets. Like those of many of his contemporaries, these songs were interspersed with country ditties, some humorous, moralistic or sentimental,


Unlike many of his peers who shared many items from his repertoire, Harry never involved himself with the folk revival; in fact apart from a local working men’s club, he rarely seems to have sung in public.


All the recordings were made by Mike


Yates and as part of his thorough and utterly admirable notes, Mike recounts that record- ing Harry was not an easy task; there was even opposition from Harry’s son. Mike was usually only offered one or two songs on each visit. Harry would only sing items that he felt were properly prepared and he would not offer fragments. It’s likely that many interesting items from his repertoire were never recorded.


To tie in with an article on Harry that Mike


had written, Topic issued a limited edition of Harry’s songs, an LP of 250 copies in 1978 and a few others were included on compilations of Southern singers. However, as Mike writes in his excellent notes ”…we felt that it would now be a good idea to have all of Harry’s recordings available in one place.” – so apart from two omitted for reasons of space, the 22 other recorded songs appear here.


Harry was a considerable singer; very precise in his delivery. He has an interesting voice and he gives good attention to diction, phrasing and pitch with a strictly limited use of decoration. He always sounds comfortable and fully in control.


Had he decided to join the likes of George Belton, George Spicer, Johnny Doughty, Gor- don Hall et al in appearing at clubs and festi- vals, his name would be more widely known, Certainly, it is alongside these others that he deserves to be rated.


www.mtrecords.co.uk Vic Smith LAST FOREVER


Acres Of Diamonds Story Sound Records161-104


Shortly before listening to this CD I read a col- umn by Amos Perrine on the No Depression website entitled: “What Is Americana?” It’s a question that I’d love to hear answered by composer/arranger Dick Connette, whose vision of Americana seemingly encompasses jazz, vaudeville, minstrelsy, the New Deal classical composers and orchestrated pop. Last Forever – essentially Connette, with singer Sonya Cohen and engineer/producer Scott Lehrer describe their music as: “New and Old Songs out of the American Tradition.”


Connette’s songs are beautifully crafted, highly melodic and full of memorable lyrics. On the opening Mr Olio he shares the writing credits with friend and fan Loudon Wain- wright III. The traditional Lonesome Day and Boll Weevil Blues are made new with startlingly original arrangements, while the sparse, shifting accompaniment figures of Lady Franklin’s Lament summon the phrase ‘Julliard Jim Moray’ to mind.


Spinet, trombone and strings all play their surprising parts, but by far the the most gloriously distinctive instrument is the voice of Sonya Cohen. Heartbreakingly, Cohen – artist and graphic designer with Smithsonian


tar, fiddle and banjo. After twelve years play- ing together, they sound like a single musical goddess with eight arms!


This is the duo’s first album to include songs, and the songs steal the show. There’s a tender rendition of Dougie MacLean’s She Loves Me, with warm, rich accordeon and guitar accompaniment. And the duo’s sweet- ly sonorous version of Nanci Griffith’s Always Will is evocative and moving.


www.mairearadandanna.com Paul Matheson


GENTLEMEN OF FEW The Way And The Return Own label


If folk’s protagonist is found on the creaking boards of ships and scaffolds, then country’s hero is surely on the dusty dirt track. The Way And The Return, as the name implies, is a col- lection of road songs. It is a mini-album of foot-stomping, infectious bluegrass which at first glance conjures sepia vignettes of denim- clad hoedowns and That Famous Coen Broth- ers Film. A few tracks down the line, however, the familiar banjo/kick-drum combo gives way to synthy delay and a bellowing indie vocal. Songs like Fluorescent Breeze divert from the thoroughfare, and Gentlemen Of Few emerge: four lively Kentish lads, all under the age of 20.


You might recognise the band as one of the finalists for the Young Folk Award in 2014. Their line-up is banjo, guitar, bass, and piano, and paired with a rich lead vocal, clam- ouring harmonies, a rhythm section and some well-placed brass, the arrangements are bursting and flaunt deft musicianship. The stripped back Wildfire is a restorative tonic, an unmistakable nod to The Tallest Man On Earth’s driving fingerpicking.


Dare I say it? Yes, they sound a lot like Mumford and Sons. They share elements of their chord progressions, song matter, instru- mentation, and the singer sounds a bit like Marcus. And they wear waistcoats. But Mum- ford sounded like Old Crow Medicine Show before them, and Old Crow like Dylan before that… And didn’t Bob Dylan spend his teenage years channelling Woody Guthrie, even down to copying his speech patterns? It was the great BB King who famously said “all of us borrow”, and there are certainly a lot of influences in this propulsive music. Encased in a cleverly designed album sleeve, these joy- ous anthems will have you wailing harmonies over the steering wheel.


www.gentlemenoffew.com Kitty Macfarlane


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