Playing for Time - Terence Blacker

Review by Val Haines

Playing for Time TBA few years ago we ventured into London, to Cecil Sharp House but not to see anything folkie. One of our favourite bands at the time, The Candle Thieves, an indie-pop duo with an all-age following were appearing on the bill. This duo were young but their sound was reminiscent of the Beatles/Kinks style of quirky, folksy pop which appealed to us and many of our age. Also performing were two young singer songwriters. You know the type, they sing about their journey on the bus here, wonder wistfully why their girlfriend left them, and describe all the time they spend alone writing songs. The young people in the audience loved them but our mid-age and older party tried our best to ensure or yawns were inaudible.

The appeal of Terence Blacker is that he knows about ageing and is determined to write songs and sing about it. Earlier classics of his such as Young Girl with the UkuleleSad Old Bastards With Guitars and I’d Rather Be French appeal to a certain generation of middle-class cynics - or sensible realists if you prefer. The appeal of listening to descriptions of being old has resulted recently in Terence teaming up with now older ex-agony-aunt Virginia Ironside. Virginia has made a late career out of describing life for older women in a humorous way. Her show, Growing Old Disgracefully, directed by Nigel Planer, debuted at the Edinburgh Festival in 2012 and sees her sitting in her armchair railing against aches and pains, the pressure to join a book-club or a cruise and anything else that old age throws her way. (Cruises now seem even less attracive than ever!)

We saw her show recently at Diss Corn Hall, a double bill with Terence entitled The Time of our Lives. Both performers reminisced about their formative years as well as cocking a snook at their third age. Terence was also promoting his new CD Playing For Time

The attarctive digipak CDs cover shows Terence as a young boy with a ukulele, looking I have to say, like a young Paul McCartney. The songs are, as you would expect, finely crafted and produced tracks covering the familiar topics of youth and bitter experience. Recorded in Italy and Suffolk, some of the tracks include lovely band arrangements. The musicians here are Hartmut Saam, accordion, Giovanni Rago, electric guitar, Fortunata Monzo, vocals, Giovanni Crecenzi, bass, Demenico de Marco, drums and percussion, and David Booth, bass, percussion and vocals. 

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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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The Fell - The Brothers Gillespie

Review by Les Ray

The FellI selected this fine album by Northumbrian duo The Brothers Gillespie as one of my favourites of 2019 (although technically it was released at the end of 2018). It is an absolute joy, particularly on account of what Sam Lee refers to as “the glorious tones of their blood harmony”: sibling voices totally in synch, singing passionately.

Their words and music are very much rooted in the land, the mystical borderlands of their native Northumberland, as is particularly evident in the tracks Golden OneCoventina’s Daughter and Wilderness & Wild, with its Yeatsian resonances (“Come back child...”).  As the brothers themselves say: “The album is inspired by the still wild soul of the land in which we live, a land alive with presences, not owned by anyone”. 

As if their moving harmony vocals were not enough, the musicianship of brothers James and Sam is consummate, always enhancing and never cluttered. There is also some exquisite clàrsach harp playing by Siannie Moodie on Golden One and Northumberland (which also has fine percussion by Tim Lane).

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Cheer Up A Bit Longer - Maggie Moore & Stan Bloor

Review by Graham Schofield

cheerupabitlongerExcellent! Excellent! Excellent!

Here you will find stalwarts of our region’s folk scene Maggie Moore and Stan Bloor who, for quite a few years now, have entertained and given pleasure with their engaging stage presence. Known for performances delivered with gusto, humour and consummate skill. 

With a total of 16 tracks, this CD is a generous serving of songs and tunes from their wide repetoire. Although drawing on the Victorian and Edwardian music hall, this offering is expertly seasoned with a sprinkling of traditional material from Stan’s beloved north west. The chosen pieces open our eyes, and our sentiments, to the historical and social mores of those times and places.

Included with the songs and tunes there is a monologue or two delivered with panache and faultless comic timing.  There are old favourites to savour such as:- Did your first wife ever do that?,  Grace Darling and of course I live in Trafalgar Square. Alongside these are many pieces, perhaps less familiar, but equally entertaining.

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A Little Cup of Tea - Proper English

A Little Cup of TeaReview by Les Ray

I must start with a small confession: I’m not a huge fan of traditional folk, as I’m more passionate about singer-songwriters, being a songwriter myself. Having said that, I have no hesitation in saying that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this CD.

Based in Suffolk, Proper English are Ed Caines, Rob Neal and Derek Simpson, who play a number of instruments and all sing, taking lead in turns and providing nice harmonies. Their website calls the album “a mix of songs and tunes we have performed over the last 40 years”, while the liner notes say the band “have always been more interested in performing live”. Listening to the CD, both statements make complete sense: the huge scope and depth of the material included (no less than 21 tracks) make it clear that the band have truly immersed themselves in local folk music over the last 40 years, and the recording itself has a real live feel, taking the listener through a range of emotions as a live gig would, with performances that are entertaining and enthusiastic, if occasionally a bit rough around the edges. 

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