Tag Archives: folk

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/

Anna Hester : Towards Today, EP released November 2018

A long awaited second EP of original songs from Milton Keynes guitarist/singer Anna Hester, following up her four track release ‘In The Meantime’ from 2014. An entrancing live performer with just vocals and acoustic guitar; on these tracks her empathetic backing ensemble enhance her pure folk voice.

1. We Can Get Lost A mellow opener, the relaxed backing of the band is a foundation for a lyric celebrating the uplifting optimism of a promising new relationship. Anna’s vocal soars and floats along with some neat self-harmonies.

2. Have We Met A slow ballad, starting with the elegant line ‘…I found your tapestries there in my eyes…’ the listener is invited into a world of abstract melancholy, (creating a similar mood to ‘The Byrds’ on her previous EP, a song that when I first heard it I wrongly assumed it to be a folk standard, such was its timeless resonance). The lyric drifts towards disappointment and betrayal, with some clever musical nuances along the way. A sublime track, my favourite on the EP.

3. Watch The Clock The lead single from this collection, a highlight of her live set. On here Anna embraces an easy jazz/folk styling for a late night middle tempo song of questioning and hope. Combining the seventies instrumentation of ‘Solid Air’ era John Martyn and the lyrical yearning of Nick Drake this standout song is propelled by a loping, sensual double bass and echoing piano hauntingly moving in and out.

4. Towards Today A more conventional song structure with a catchy chorus line. The gentle vocal interweaves with sparkling acoustic guitar arpeggios and a cello counter melody. A subtle end to an EP of quality and richness.

http://annahester.com/

Snowpoet : Thought You Knew, LP released February 2018

Snowpoet join together elements of folk, jazz, ambient and of course poetry to produce a captivating fusion of sound. The writing and performing core of the band is singer Lauren Kinsella and instrumentalist Chris Hyson joined on this album by other talented acoustic players.

Opening track ‘The Therapist’ is a glistening series of guitar arpeggios with the soulful vocal of Lauren on a haunting journey where the melody never quite settles. Other instruments steal in and out and the overall effect is beguiling and mellow. Instrumental track two ‘Under The Tree’ has a ticking clock theme and paves the way for some shimmering string effects on the pastoral ‘Water Baby’ along with the piano figure constantly returning under the voice.

‘Love Again’ is a longer piece and probably my favourite track on the album, a jazzy late-night treat with a slightly up-tempo bass and a saxophone solo; like much of this album it is never too hurried. ‘Dear Someone’ is vocal only, you can imagine this one making an impact in a live context. ‘Snow’ is a measured, smooth ballad with a gorgeous vocal performance, ‘Two Of Cups’ (a tarot card that ‘…shows the beauty and power that is created when two become one…’) is a slow, evocative waltz that is reminiscent of a mid-period Van Morrison instrumental track.

And there are more special moments; the semi-spoken word of ‘It’s Already Better Than OK’ and the simple piano accompaniment to the free form ‘Another Step’, a short and powerful vignette that brings this impressive album to a satisfying end.

https://www.facebook.com/snowpoet