Tag Archives: folk

Order Of The Toad : Re-order Of The Toad, LP released 2nd Oct 2020

A track by track review of ‘Re-Order Of The Toad’,  the new album from Glasgow esoteric indie-psych trio Order Of The Toad.

1. Ladys Mantle  Previously released, read about it in detail here

2. Just Because  Mellow pop built around rhythm guitar, a driving middle-eight and the spooky chorus that stays in your head.

3. Rabbets  The tale of Mary Toft, who claimed to be giving birth to rabbits in 1726. The bizarre story, baritone vocal and counterpoint musical complexities make this a great listen.

4. Brintons Marrakech  Possibly a song about a carpet or a Moroccan city or who knows? I like the way the vocals are linked and underpinned by the unrelenting bass and guitar figure.

5. Fabulator  The band draw on that 60s hinterland between prog rock, folk and psychedelia on this album to great effect and this is another track that splices pop into that heady brew too.

6. Slow Ballad 44  Moody and sombre, with unexpected chord changes to keep the listener guessing. Maybe this would be an unpredictable live set opener, pulling the audience into the world of this unique band..

7. Do It With Feeling  Loose, laidback retro type hit with spiky instrumental passages. Sounding simultaneously timeless and modern, it could be nicely covered by fellow psychsters King Gizzard…

8. Lindow Woman  Another historical theme and detailed lyric, this time the narrator inhabits the remains of a body from Roman times found in a peat bog in 1983. Listen, learn and enjoy…

9. Toads Theme  A strange epic duel of character-filled vocals and abrupt, urgent instrumentation. An incomprehensible delight.

10. Mend It  A hippy reverie with a comfortable psychedelic melody and structure, in the middle it breaks up nicely into distorted guitar solos.

11. A Pittance  Like a medieval tale of legendary battle, the marching drums and bass play along under a fine storytelling vocal from Gemma Fleet.

12. Cruise Control  This final track combines many other elements from the album to make a fresh, sparkling punch of pop.

https://www.facebook.com/orderofthetoad

https://recklessyes.com/

http://www.gringorecords.com/

The Magpies : Tidings, LP released June 2020

A track by track review of ‘Tidings’, the debut LP from contemporary folk quartet The Magpies. Formed in York in 2017, with four vocalists and many different stringed instruments they have drawn together influences and styles to create a rich and rewarding sound.

1. Two Magicians. A traditional song with a lyric describing the sensual shape-shifting antics of the lady and the blacksmith. Mandolin and fiddle weave sinuously around the warm vocal.

2. Catharsis. The instrumental dexterity of the first track goes straight into this gorgeous fast-paced workout. Great production and mix, the band sound like they are in your front room.

3. Run River Run. A considered meditation on the flowing of the river and the passing of time as a resolution for problems. The mid-song instrumental break is sublime.

4. Rock of Ages. A cover of Gillian Welch’s spiritual anthem, showing how the band blend aspects of americana into their sound. Hypnotic and stunningly effective.

5. Foss Island. The violin double-stopping of the introduction gives way to an instrumental that is lighter than air and makes the island of the title sound like the perfect place to be (although it seems to be an inland area near York?). The theme inverts into variations with intricate structures as the track continues.

6. No More Tears.
The expression of emotion is beautifully concise here as the banjo, guitar, violin and cello gently contribute, dusted with harmony vocals and infused with the fragile atmosphere of a forgotten Woody Guthrie song.

7. Shuffle Set.
It is a nicely structured collection, just when you are haunted by the previous track there is instant uplift from the synchronised playing and sparkling solos on this traditional whole band showcase.

8. Galway Shawl.
The longest track on the album, it is nearly seven minutes to develop the languid and mellow feeling of this song, well known in the folk world. It is a tale of a chance meeting filled with poetic details including naming of other songs within the narrative and the repeating motif of the title garment; the descriptions are brought to life by a super vocal performance and complex layering of the instruments. Entrancing and beguiling.

9. Golden Girl. An air of mystery pervades this track, a ghostly story with of course a sad end. The violin shares the counter melody over the brooding chord sequence in this dark but affecting track.

10. Balls To The Wall. An exotic and unpredictable instrumental spectacular, with bouzouki patterns, speed changes and handclaps interweaved with folk dance tempos. An explosive finale to this excellent album.

https://www.themagpiesmusic.com/
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Sunflower Thieves : Hide And Seek, single released 29 May 2020

‘Hide and Seek’, is the excellent new song from Leeds Indie folk duo Sunflower Thieves.

Debut single ‘Two Halves’ was a mellow introduction to their work, with a meditative verse giving way to the catchy chorus featuring their spot-on harmony vocals. Follow-up ‘Heavy Weight’ had a distinct melancholy threading through the descending chord sequence and carefully crafted melody and meditative lyrics ‘….what would you do if all the streetlights burned out?…’ resolving into ‘….restlessly waiting for a train….to take away your heavy weight…’.

The band perform live with just acoustic guitar and their luminous vocals but this new track allows other instruments and extra voices to drift in and out, adding subtle multi-layers to the mix. The overall effect is laid back, atmospheric and as summery a sound as you could want. It is a warm and comfortable lyric, evoking reminiscence of younger, less complicated days ‘…..falling asleep in the back of your car… hoping you’ll carry me up to my room…’ , feelings so good that ‘….I don’t want this to end…’.
It is definitely a track to fully immerse yourself in.

This is their third single and you can find other high-quality tracks on YouTube and various radio shows too if you do some searching…

 

https://www.facebook.com/sunflowerthieves/

sunflower theives hide and seek artwork

Kirsty Merryn : Our Bright Night, LP released April 2020

A track by track review of the new LP from singer/songwriter/pianist Kirsty Merryn, an ambient-folk concept album of snapshots and musings from dusk till dawn.

1. Twilight. A distant piano, freed of time constraints drifts and sustains as a bookend to the songs. When the voice and other acoustic instruments arrive the scene is set.

2. The Banks of the Sweet Primroses (feat Phil Beer). Straight into this traditional tune, Kirsty’s pure voice tells a tale of a dark ambiguous encounter, nicely tempered by a subtle violin.

3. Constantine (feat Alex Alex). The piano is back at the forefront for this gentle and unhurried duet of love and longing ‘…hold me in your arms…only you can keep me safe…’

4. Mary. Stepping the tempo up, Kirsty delivers a winning vocal with variations on ‘…Mary…say you’ll come walking with me…’ in this concisely structured folkpop track.

5. Our Bright Night.
Over an atmospheric drone from a shruti box, the vocal takes on an extra sparkling clarity in this timeless reflection.

6. The Deep | The Wild | The Torrent. Probably my favourite track on the collection, one to lose yourself in like some island landscape. The graceful waltzing chord sequence is laced through with many instrumental contributions that embrace the voice and lyric to perfection.

7. Outlandish Knight. A version of another traditional tale, steamy and sinister with mysterious and mythical overtones, augmented by the tension in the music.

8. Little Fox. Sparse and concise, a sweet melody with an undercurrent of the dark woods.

9. Shanklin Chine (feat Sam Kelly). The tree-lined gorge in the Isle of Wight is the evocative backdrop to the duo’s contrasting vocals and some neat twists in the melody. The sombre story doesn’t end well ‘….at Shanklin Chine the jagged rocks would be her only marriage bed…’

10. Thieves of Whitehall. A contemporary comment set to a melody and backing that could be from an older tradition.

11. The Wake. A return to the purity of simple piano and voice, this is another favourite track for me, packed with poetic imagery ‘….or the freezing air should take a hold in June…….and the grass that grows will remind me of our parting…and the grass grows long…’ Gorgeous.

12. Dawn. The final instrumental, as the excellent musical vignettes of the night fade but linger in the memory…

https://www.kirstymerryn.com/

Molly-Anne : California Calling, EP released April 2020

An EP that collects together earlier solo work by Gloucestershire based singer and songwriter Molly-Anne, predating her new band Molly & The Moon. Fusing elements of folk, country and storytelling, these well-crafted songs are uplifted even further by Molly’s top-quality vocals.

1. A San Francisco Story. Starting with just percussive guitar chords and the pure voice this opening track is described by Molly as a live favourite that tells its own story ‘….it was a quarter to eight down by the Golden Gate….I lost my heart in San Francisco…we didn’t care and we wore flowers in our hair…’ The amalgam of real or imagined imagery works a treat and the band rise to the occasion as they gradually join in.

2. Horizon.
A wistful recollection of a past relationship, the narrator looking at the horizon and still hoping in the anthemic chorus ‘…come and find me where the ocean meets the sky…’

3. California Calling. The biggest chorus on the EP is bookended by gorgeous folk stylings in the vocals of the delicate verses. A guitar solo and organ fills out the sound before the celebratory full harmonies at the end.

4. Bristol Boy. Contemplation of a summer romance inspires vivid memories ‘…we’re running over Clifton Common searching for the sun…’, with a hint of melancholy as ‘…times like those keep me reminiscing…’. The song rushes along with urgency, as unfortunately the time passes all too quickly.

5. The Lakes. Alternating between the reverie of the verses and the majestic chorus this is another thoughtful anthem with luminous lyrical reflections ‘….and now the winter’s here and you keep the frost at my door….’. The final minute and a half of instrumental and vocal build-up is a brilliant finale to the EP.

https://www.mollyandthemoon.co.uk/

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Salt House, Storey’s Field Centre, Cambridge, 15 March 2020

Storey’s Field Centre in the new settlement of Eddington near Cambridge welcomed folk trio Salt House.
The clarity of the acoustics and the lofty church-like structure were an ideal setting for their haunting, celebratory music – conjuring images of stark but beautiful landscapes from the Scottish islands where they record.

Opening song ‘Turn Ye to Me’, “a tale of a baby stolen by a sea monster and replaced by a changeling whilst her mother gathered seaweed” is a new interpretation of an existing poem; immediately the music and voices on this and the following ‘Lay Your Dark Low’ set the tone for the evening. With acoustic guitars, a Gretsch hollow-body electric twelve-string, violin, viola and an indian harmonium the instruments were as lovely to look at as to listen to.

Imagine seeing hump-backed whales and orca off the coast then the northern lights in the sky, top it off by writing the gorgeous ‘Old Shoes’, with its fast guitar picking, relaxed harmonies and a lustrous violin solo and you have a perfect song to go with the ideal day.

Over the course of two sets they played many songs from their 2018 album ‘Undersong’ as well as all the tracks from their new long-player ‘Huam’ (the call of an owl), released at the end of the week. Each song was introduced and explained, drawing the audience into the rewarding layers of this rich musical genre.

The band feature the history and folklore of traditional Scandinavian and Scottish themes such as ‘The Sisters’ Revenge’; an epic seven minutes built around the recurring words ‘…the summer comes the summer goes…the grave of my father green grass grows…’. The words and music built the tension as the title characters prepared for the gory final act ‘…they hacked him into pieces small…’.

There were more contemporary reflections too; ‘All Shall be Still’ ties in the tedium of work routines with thoughts of escape and the timelessness of the natural world, also evoked in ‘Mountain Of Gold’ and ‘Staring at Stars’. Musically there was plenty to gently immerse yourself in but there was also darker, sombre moods such as the hypnotic dream of ‘The Road Not Taken’ with pulsing rhythmic guitar and soaring violin.

It was a warm, flawless and brilliant show.

http://www.salthousemusic.com
https://www.hudsonrecords.co.uk/
https://www.storeysfieldcentre.org.uk/


Josienne Clarke, The Musician, Leicester, 8 March 2020

The Musician pub and venue is hidden away on the edge of Leicester city centre, hosting an extensive programme of live music that crosses the genres.

Tonight the mellow audience welcomed two solo singer/songwriters; first on stage was Autumn Dawn Leader fusing folk and blues as a platform for her very personal lyrics of emotional exploration. Starting at the piano but mostly accompanied by guitar, her vocals fully inhabit the theme of the songs as they move through their thoughtful structure. ‘Bottle’ takes a simple idea and spins it into an impressive ballad, new single ‘Another Year’ is a considered lament for the passing of time, while the much-streamed ‘What It Is’ fuses distant and haunting verses with a powerful and catchy chorus.

Weaving together subtle and varying guitar playing with her mesmerising and pure voice Josienne Clarke makes music of breathtaking beauty, showcased immediately by her opening tracks ‘Seconds’ and ‘The Drawing of the Line’, two highlights from her 2019 album ‘In All Weather’. The lyrics have the timeless imagery of the best folk music ‘…the swallows only sing the summer long…and leaves will turn to ochre in the fall…’ as well as more contemporary themes ‘…I’m leaving London but I might be back….I’ve given him my best years and he’ll never give them back….’.

More experimental tracks such as the song about a song ‘Season & Time’ (‘…this one struggles with structure…it wanders in its rhyme and its reason….’) appear alongside brief ideas and interludes – like the loop-pedalled vocals of ‘Fair Weather Friends’ that we share for less than two minutes and then drifts off hauntingly into the ether. ‘Onliness’ was a fragile and melancholy vignette, ‘Cast In Stone’ was a track that she recorded with previous collaborators Pica Pica and there were new songs too.

In this intimate performance space Josienne effectively communicates and invites the listeners into her musical world, the two sets she played tonight were over all too quickly…

https://www.facebook.com/josienneclarkeHQ
https://www.facebook.com/AutumnDawnLeaderMusic
http://www.themusicianpub.co.uk/

Molly & The Moon : Cold Is The Night, single released February 2020

First recorded as a solo acoustic ballad in 2019 by folk country singer and composer Molly-Anne this stunning new version has reimagined and expanded the original and now stands as the first release from the new band Molly & The Moon.

Reassuringly the track has retained the subtlety and understatement; set to a gentle waltz time it is a simple expression of missing a loved one ‘…I think that I love you too much…you’d break my heart if you never came back…’ resolving into the perfectly balanced three-part harmony chorus, ‘….cold is the night without you here….the pain of my heartache as wild as the sea…I hope the wind blows you back to me….’.
The production and performance is relaxed and mellow – with the rich but delicate lead vocal hinting at the depth of emotion beneath the surface.
This new band line-up features acoustic bass, guitar, banjo and cajón and is featured in an atmospheric video recorded at a 10th Century Saxon Barn in Gloucestershire, an appropriately timeless and classic setting for this gorgeous song.

(Molly & The Moon can be seen at the charity Frameshifter II Festival on 21st March, tickets available here )

https://www.mollyandthemoon.co.uk/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/12/22/molly-anne-autumn-leaves-ep-released-december-2019/

Molly-Anne : Autumn Leaves, EP released December 2019

Issued as a very limited edition, this EP showcases the quieter acoustic side of Gloucestershire folk-country composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Molly-Anne.

1. Little Cove Starting with a gently weaving guitar arpeggio the vocal appears as if over a distant horizon. The verse resolves into the evocative ‘….and I’ll be yours under the Cornish sun,’til morning comes…’. This track creates the foundation of the atmosphere for the whole EP – spectral, minimalist, beguiling.

2. Against the Tide With slightly more urgency on this song, the guitar figure personifies the flowing water of the title. ‘….I feel I’m swimming against the tide now….I know this world is turning slow now….fear of growing old…’. It is a gentle musing on choices and passing time (and was inspired by Pink Floyd’s classic ‘Time’). A harmonica appears near the end, the only other instrument to feature on this collection.

3. Cold Is the Night Straight into my pick of the year dozen, this is a gem. An understated ballad, the subtle guitar chords waltz along as the yearning lyrics deliver a feeling beyond the poetry of the words. ‘…those flowers on my windowsill, gold as the sun they remind me of you…and I’ve known heartbreak before…and what I wouldn’t give to see you walk through that door, for me…’. Gorgeous.

4. When You Leave Another song that goes straight to the emotional core, a slower meditation on life after loss, also drawing in the passing of the seasons and the slowing down as autumn moves into winter. A beautifully sung free-form melody leads into the haunting chorus ‘… I can’t sleep, the monsters in the night won’t comfort me…’

5. Yellow Sky From the impressionistic title and the moody introduction the fine vocal performance interchanges between light-as-air verses and restrained power in the chorus. Again the autumnal theme of the EP underlies the optimism, with the striking middle eight reflecting the longing at the heart of the song.

https://www.mollyannemusic.co.uk/


Chris Fox : From The Shadows, LP released November 2019

A track by track review of ‘From The Shadows’, the third album from Cambridge contemporary folkster Chris Fox.

1. Bird Of Paradise A likeable and catchy song that Chris has been performing live for a while, a relaxing bluegrassy piece featuring contrasting backing vocals and a subtly cool acoustic ensemble driven by upright bass.

2. Tinseltown This current single is a darkly humerous murder ballad about how a US summer job went awry, ending with the consequences from ‘….paid me a couple of grand to bury a body in the sand…the coyote howled and the owl did screech….’. The narrative motors along smoothly, always returning to the inevitable chorus line ‘….now I’m running from the law…I’m running like I never run before…’ . It is a morality tale to relish.

3. You Helped me through A looser, free-form song with just a gently percussive acoustic guitar and a confiding, emotive vocal reminiscent of the late John Martyn. Excellent.

4. Little Brown Sparrow Inspired by an encounter with a homeless woman, pondering the future and the choices involved on both sides. A sparse guitar figure weaves its spell in the background.

5. Annabelle A song of love and loss, with a strong tune and the words cleverly blending multiple exes into the title character, also deconstructing aspects of the creative process into the lyric and featuring some neat couplets ‘…I wrote a hundred songs about you…did you write one about me?…’.The bass stretches and yearn across the words, as it does on the next track too.

6. I’m in Love with you A highlight of the album, with smooth rhythm from the brushed drums and a violin with a counter-melody giving depth to this lovelorn coffee-themed tale. The harmony vocal from Zoe Wren is just right and the atmosphere created reminds me of the whispering folk/blues of J.J. Cale.

7. The Motivator Blues A change to electric guitar (played by album producer and multi-instrumentalist Dan Wilde) for this 12-bar blues, a burst of positivity and statement of intent.

8. Castaway With the 2000 movie as the inspiration for this gently scored acoustic piece, it extends the metaphor into deeper reflections, with fine voice work from Chris and Zoe.

9. Just a Fool From a slow thoughtful start this expands into a folk anthem as the acoustic chords continue to build. With the topic of unrequited love the lyrics are sombre ‘…I’m just a fool left out in the rain, still I pine for you…‘, but there is still an element of moving on despite this.

10. Who Really Loves you Timely pondering of the genuineness of friends and supporters and who really counts. It is built around a catchy hookline and leaves you thinking as it drifts away through the ether accompanied by a sharp guitar solo.

With 42 shows so far in 2019, Chris Fox is a consummate live performer, either as a solo guitarist or with like-minded musicians. This is a collection of songs that deserve an even wider audience…

https://www.chrisfoxmusic.org/