The Squire’s Thingumbob and Kitty’s What You May Call It - Maggie Moore & Stan Bloor

Review by Graham Schofield

MaggieStanThe title of Stan & Maggie’s new CD could lead you to suspect that this might not be a collection of erudite and sensitively artistic folk song offerings. Indeed this is a rumbustious romp through a collection of the type of song upon which the later Music Hall entertainments of the Victorian and Edwardian eras are rooted. More suited as the musical accompaniment to a convivial evening of Beer and Sandwiches, not so much the Vicarage Tea Party.

Maggie and Stan are well known for their love of entertaining audiences. The musical arrangements and song delivery are of the highest quality and are perfectly tailored to the style and genre of the material. The songs on this CD are well researched and there are ample sleeve-notes to satisfy even the most demanding. 

The songs have been taken from books published by William West (1834 -38), such as “The Delicious Chanter And Exciting Warbler. A Capital Collection of Randy, Roaring, Rousing, Tear-up, Flare-up songs,” or “The Little Icky-Wickey Songster.”

The lyrics are unashamedly non-pc reflecting a culture and moral climate very far removed from our own, sometimes over-sanitised, times. In them there is a delightful sauciness, unsubtle innuendo and sometimes downright smut. All delivered by the duo with a forthright clarity. In all there are 17 tracks, some with a sing-a-long chorus and known tunes. Such as “The Wedding Secret” to the tune of “White Cockade”, “Colin and Susan (or No! No! No!)” to the tune of “Lincolnshire Poacher,” and even “The Landladies Count” to the tune of “Derry Down.”

This is a delightfully quirky CD, well presented and performed, definitely not high-art rather something that, in an earlier age, might have been delivered under a plain-cover. A naughty pleasure!

Available directly from Maggie Moore 01449 722615 or 07913087691 

Websites
https://www.maggieandstan.co.uk/index.html
www.plucknsqueeze.co.uk

'Maim' by Whyte

Review by Colin Hynson

MaimThe two musicians that make up Whyte, Alasdair and Ross MacllleBàin, are making a name for themselves within the Gaelic music tradition. Some of that is due to their fusing traditional song forms with electronic music. Gaelic/Celtic music and electronica - especially the more minimalist sort - seem to be a good match for each other. Maim is an album that is both lush and forbidding at the same time with the ethereal sound of the Icelandic band Sigur Ros throughout.

This is an album that emerged because of the lockdown of 2020. Whyte were working with a theatre company putting together a show featuring drama, music, video and dance. The show explored the decline of Gaelic culture in the face of the forces of profound economic and cultural change and made worse by the climate crisis. The touring show ground to a jarring halt as lockdown began. The lockdown forced many people in the creative world to explore new ways of presenting their work. This album is one of those ways.

The first track, ‘Oml’ starts with a melancholic piano with a gentle pulsating electronic sound in the background. It’s reminiscent of some dark folk or the musical scores to a horror movie. It’s a song using the words to a 19th century Gaelic song called (in English) ‘Goodnight to You All’.

The second track is the title track. It’s an instrumental piece that leans heavily on the circularity and repetitiveness of much of folk music. Again it has a film–like quality to it and to my ears at least some influence from the start of Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’.

Track number three, ‘Maim-Slé’, is a spoken word piece with fluctuating music that beautifully follows the rhythm of the words. You don’t need to understand any Gaelic to know what is being said. This is a lament for all that is gone and all that may go soon.

‘Creach’ is the next track. It has a slightly unsettling start before morphing into a gentle guitar piece with a keyboard background. This quiet–ness continues with an original Gaelic song called ‘àill’. 

For those who hanker after a piece of traditional music then the next track ‘gur fad ’am thàmh mi gu tostach sàmhach’, will more than satisfy. It’s another 19th century song. It starts with just an unaccompanied voice and then with a slow build–up of keyboard and strings emerges from below. There’s a short piano solo, which almost seems like some kind of interval, and then we’re back with the second part of the song.

The album finishes with ‘Mharbhrann’ which seems to bring together all of the themes and styles explored in the album. Voices, strings and synthesiser music weave and dance around each other. 

There’s a strange paradox in an album that laments the demise of something that it may actually help to revive. Traditional forms of music the world over go through waves of decline before rising again. Much of that revival is down to a readiness to change and adapt with the times. Maim does just that.

Bandcamp link:

https://whytetheband.bandcamp.com/album/maim

‘Spectres’ by Tom Moore & Archie Moss

Review by Colin Hynson

Spectres CoverTom Moore, violin and viola, and Archie Moss, diatonic accordion/melodeon, have both been fixtures on the folk scene for some time now – as musicians in their own right, as two–thirds of the well–regarded folk trio Moore Moss Rutter and lastly as a duo. They released their first album together in 2017. It was called ‘Laguna’ and it put down a marker for two musicians who remain grounded in traditional music but have integrated subtle electronica and sound effects into many of their tracks. 

This exploration of the boundaries of traditional music continues with their latest album ‘Spectres’ (the first release for Slow Worm Records, a Norfolk–based record company). The sleeve notes say that all of the music on this album ‘originates’ from the viola and melodeon (with the exception of some sampling on a couple of tracks). It’s an interesting word to use. No electronic instruments like the synthesiser here but electronic sounds emerging from both instruments.

Track number one, ‘Gusts’, immediately sets the album off on its chosen path. A spectral, drone–like quality from Moss’s accordion punctuated by a repeating theme from the viola. It should be a soothing piece of music but it’s strange and a little disconcerting - but in a good way.

Now we’ve entered familiar territory. The title track comes next. It starts off sounding very much like a traditional acoustic piece of music but soon the introduction of sampling reminds us of what this album is about. Moving on, purist lovers of traditional music will appreciate the sublime duet–playing on the next two tracks ‘Pop One’ and ‘Oculus’. 

‘Giga and ‘Lek’ both use rhythms that are nods to traditional dance forms with more than a hint of reels and jigs on each track. ‘Pigeon City’ returns us to the slower and more melodic themes of the start of the album and is the second and last track to feature sampling. Back to some more lively duetting on ‘Omens’. 

On the home straight now and there’s a short quiet melodeon–led piece called ‘Green Belt’. Could this be a reference to those protected areas of countryside around our cities or to what was originally a Christian music festival? Through the penultimate ‘Windmill Hill’ and finishing with ‘Balbis’ – a track that would not be out of place as the soundtrack to folk horror movie.

Fans of traditional folk, followers of Hauntology - electronic music that draws on a mythical urban and rural past - and those who listen to bands like Penguin Café Orchestra will all find something on this album to satisfy them. Moore and Moss clearly respect traditional music forms very much, but still want to take it in new directions. There was never any intention to tear up the folk rule book but simply to add a few paragraphs to make it a little bit richer.

You can download Spectres from Bandcamp: https://duomooremoss.bandcamp.com/album/spectres

‘Spectres’ by Tom Moore & Archie Moss. Slow Worm Records 2020

Wheel and Dive - CD from Cambridge and Walker

 

Review by Val Haines

Wheel DiveHow lovely to have a new CD plop onto the doormat during lockdown. Jenna and David recorded this last year but kept it back as their expectations of performing it live in 2020 were thwarted. Now seems the right time for release as the promise of venues reopening is on the cards and organisers become eager to start rebooking. Hopefully soon the duo will be able to show Wheel and Dive off to the world.

David Cambridge is well known in East Anglian acoustic circles as a singer/guitarist/songwriter and teaming up with Jenna Walker has given this sound a new dimension. Her voice is reminiscent of the Unthanks and, whether solo or in harmony with David, it cuts through as an additional instrument. Jenna adds piano, accordion and sansula, Hattie McCall Davies adds cello and there is an assortment of percussion.

CambridgeWalkerThere are a couple of new songs: Jenna’s title track Wheel and Dive which uses piano, and the song of a Devon skylark from 1966, is an eco-song for our times, and David’s Sea Change which is a homage to the East Coast fishing industry in decline. The duo have successfully recreated several cotemporary  classics: Richard Thompson’s Waltzing for Dreamers, Joni Mitchell’s Case of you and John Martyn’s Hurt in Your Heart, all given the distinct Jenna and David treatment. Tom Waits’ The Briar and the Rose is sung a capella; they are right to call it ‘traditional sounding but non-traditional’. It work

 

The remaining tracks are well-known reworked traditional songs; Two MagiciansReynardine (with the spooky sansula – nice), Come All Ye Fair, a version of Let No Man Steal Your Thyme, and the Unfortunate Tailor, for which Jenna has composed a new melody. Also included are smatterings of Walter Scott, Robbie Burns and a children’s rhyme. 

There is lots to like here: great musicianship and singing and a variety of material moulded the Cambridge and Walker style.


Wheel & Dive


Sea Change

You can find out more about Cambridge and Walker here: www.cambridgeandwalker.com

Herding Cats - CD from Wolfnote

Review by Les Ray

WolfNoteHerdingCats 2“Herding Cats” is the debut album by Berkshire-based quintet Wolfnote. The band comprises four women (Gill McCoy, Bex Rennie, Ceri Rushent and Ann-Marie Thomas) and one man, Mike Tuffery, the elder statesman of the band, so to speak. They are highly versatile, as they all sing, all play a stringed instrument of some sort, they have two recorder players (Bex and Ceri) and two percussionists (Mike and Ann-Marie).

The intriguing title of the CD refers to what the band describe as “the horrendous task of trying to get five people together in one place to rehearse (or in fact do anything) outside their day jobs...”. And I don’t suppose that’s getting any easier now, since the CD was recorded before the first lockdown.

However, if getting together was as hard as herding cats, working together would seem to have been a much smoother experience, as this is a highly accomplished and eclectic first album, with great songwriting, singing and musicianship. All of the band members contribute their songwriting skills to the album, and this gives each song a distinct flavour, yet the band still very much have their own overall sound.

Read more: Herding Cats - CD from Wolfnote

REVIEW Folk Recorder by Val Woollard and Friends

Review by Dawn Wakefield


REC COVHere is a real cornucopia of catchy cheerful ceilidh band tunes led by the very versatile Val on a variety of different recorders  –  ranging from the energising fast fingerwork on garklein, sopranino and descant on several tracks, to the mellower tones of treble, tenor and great bass on others.

I have always particularly loved the few bands that feature recorder players prominently and the Hosepipe Band is a recommended example. At an actual live ceilidh or on their existing CD recordings, recorder solo tunes are scattered in amongst those led by other instruments, however here we have a collection of ‘the best bits’ for recorder, selected from recordings made over many years (1986 – 2017) in their current band as well as previous groups.

Read more: REVIEW Folk Recorder by Val Woollard and Friends

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.

Read more: Reckless River - New full-length album by Zoë Wren

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