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P. C. Jowett (mid Wales)

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The Innocent Left
The Innocent Left
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A gem of an album!, 23 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: The Innocent Left (Audio CD)
I love this album - it is so full of interest and refreshingly original. The opening track, a poignant song about a Scarecrow demonstrates this well, with a great guitar riff, strong vocals from Roberts and strong support from Gilmore on fiddle and viola. The duo are not afraid to take risks - all the tracks, bar one, are self penned and tackle a variety of subject matter from gambling addiction, a brain-damaged boxer and a soldier who has a replacement arm from a thief after a battle injury. The Lovell sisters (Larkin Poe) guest on a number of tracks on the album; their blue grass playing is used to great effect on the song about gambling addiction, Shuffle and Deal, which has a very catchy hook. Other favourites include Doctor James about the life of the celebrated surgeon, Dr James Barry, who was found to be a woman, after her death; and The Stealing Arm but it is all wonderful - have played it non stop since I bought it.
Gilmore & Roberts have been deservedly nominated for duo of the year in the 2013 Folk Awards - this is their third album and best yet.

Price: £5.99

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bold, brassy and brave, 17 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Broadside (Audio CD)
I must confess at the outset that I am a fan of this band and so I was eagerly awaiting this new release. On first hearing it I thought it was not as immediate as their other albums. However, after a couple of days listening I am not disappointed. It is a rich, heady concoction. Some of the songs grab you immediately - eg 'Roll the Woodpile' Down' and '10,000 Miles'. Also loved the sad love song 'Betsy Baker', with its Beatlesque feel, from the first moment I heard it. Other songs take a few listens - they sound strange at first and then worm their way into your brain and won't let go. In this category I would put 'Old Dun Cow', 'What's the Life of Man' and the haunting (in every sense) 'The Wife of Usher's Well'. The choral arrangements in 'Usher's Well' remind me of Orffe's 'Carmina Burana' for some reason; but this track is my favourite - a real grower. 'Black Beetle Pie' is another track that takes a few listens - it is quite, quite brilliant in a bonkers kind of way.

There is so much to enjoy in these tracks - particularly the layers of vocals, although sometimes these almost overwhelm Jon Boden's lead. (Found I need to listen on really good headphones to get the best effect). There seem's to be so much depth and so much to discover from repeated listening. Another triumph - can't wait to hear it all live!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 18, 2012 11:13 AM GMT

State And Ancientry
State And Ancientry
Price: £13.34

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterful Accomplisment, 2 April 2012
This review is from: State And Ancientry (Audio CD)
State and Ancientry is Hannah James and Sam Sweeney's follow up to their debut album `Catches and Glees'. It is a wonderful album from two of folk music's rising stars. In the three years since this album was released, the duo have been busy with myriad projects - including Bellowhead, Jon Boden, Fay Hield (Sweeney) and Lady Maisery and Demon Barbers (James).

It has been worth the wait: their sound has matured into a distinctive style with a much greater depth and texture. Sam plays a variety of stringed instruments including the Scandinavian Hardanger fiddle and Nykelharpa, which contribute to the characteristic sound. Hannah is the foremost young accordionist in the Country and the owner of an angelic voice. The result is a rich tapestry of ancient tunes (many sourced from Playford's Dancing Master) and songs; and more contemporary works including some of their own compositions.

It is hard to single out particular tracks when the whole is of such high quality, but highlights include their particularly innovative treatment of `William Taylor' with an accordion motif redolent of Paris; and `How do you do? / Gallons of Cognac' to name but one of the intricate tune sets. The album also includes the tune with the silliest name ever, the wonderfully entitled `Parson upon Dorothy'; which is paired with a catchy little song called `Dolly'. The tune sets contrast with the simplicity of the one unaccompanied song, `There was a lady who lived in the West' which is sung beautifully by Hannah.

What makes the music so interesting is the way they take these old tunes and freshen them up. The accordion and fiddle weave in and out, building layer upon layer of sound, complex yet delicate; and all played with great charm. Highly recommended - and if you get the opportunity, go and see them - their live set includes Hannah's renowned clog dancing.

Lighten the Dark
Lighten the Dark
Price: £12.83

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A triumph, 9 Nov. 2009
This review is from: Lighten the Dark (Audio CD)
I'm usually wary of Christmas albums - they're either full of sentimentality, or, quite frankly, dull. However, I am glad to say that this delightful album by Kerfuffle is neither of these things. The album is billed as a midwinter album and it is a mix of some familiar and some not-so-familiar, traditional songs, all themed around the Christmas season.

The album opens with a version of 'Three Ships' which gradually builds to a rousing carol. The Cherry Tree Carol is an unusual carol featuring a sulky Joseph who refuses Mary's request for cherries - however, she is granted her wish when her unborn child causes the tree to bow down. I particularly love the stripped down simplicity of the lullaby 'Lullay My Liking' which has a beautiful melody and is a fine showcase of the band's vocal harmonies, as is 'Nowell, Nowell' and 'Gallery Carol'. There are many spine-tingling moments on the album including the last track 'The Bitter Withy', an old English folk tune. This is a rather sinister carol which overturns the idea of the innocent child. In an inspired piece of musicianship, this features the tune of `God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' on bagpipes providing a sharp contrast with the words of the carol.

If you want a novelty album then there are plenty of run-of-the-mill ones to choose from. However, if you want a real novelty - a Christmas album which truly uplifts your spirits - then this is the one for you. You'll return to it season after season.

Catches and Glees
Catches and Glees
Price: £13.18

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Angel's Delight, 13 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Catches and Glees (Audio CD)
Hannah James and Sam Sweeney have taken time out from their band Kerfuffle (and numerous other projects including Bellowhead and the Demon Barber Roadshow) to record this album and I'm very glad they did!

This is an exceptionally well crafted collection of traditional songs and tunes which features the inventive playing of these young musicians, (mainly piano accordion and fiddle, but with a sprinkling of other instruments) and Hannah's pure clear vocals.

The album opens with Gaol Song - about the daily grind of a young man sentenced to hard labour which opens with my favourite line: "Step in young man, I know your face - it's nothing in your favour"

There are catchy tunes which worm their way into your brain, (which is why such tunes are often called maggots,) eg Dick's Maggot/Dog Leap Stairs and Catches and Glees/Comical Thought, and wistful songs and melodies, for example the soaring beauty of Polska.

Sweeney and James, in their first album as a duo, have produced a work of complexity and maturity which amply repays close listening. Buy it, sit back and enjoy it - you won't be disappointed!

PS Listen carefully for the thunderstorm, which contributed to the atmosphere (!) but I won't tell you on which track - you'll have to discover that for yourself.

To the Ground
To the Ground
Price: £11.52

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Magical!, 21 Jun. 2008
This review is from: To the Ground (Audio CD)
We have been fans of this young talented band since we were lucky enough to see them live at Shrewsbury Folk Festival last year. This new album surpasses all expectations. Catchy tunes, haunting songs and vibrant playing from all the band.

Particularly love Arise Arise - a short song which all the band sing - and it is just perfect. Also love Dr Lecher's Favourite - a wonderful tune with pipes and a favourite of this family too.

Cannot recommend this disc highly enough - the band have been together about 6 years - since Hannah was 13. It is hard to imagine that they can improve on this - but I am sure they will and look forward to their next offering. Cannot get the tunes out of my head and have bought a waterproof MP£ so I can listen to this when I am swimming!

Definitely our record of the year - buy it now, you won't regret it

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