Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The first 6 months of the year - my favourites so far: part 6

Dan Whitehouse - Introducing EP

Dan Whitehouse has just signed to one of my favourite record labels, Reveal. The Birmingham-based singer songwriter's last album Raw State remains one of the best albums of the last couple of years for me.  Dan also played a great session on the show in May 2015 and I'm hoping he might come on again in the near future.

Introducing is his first release for his new label and is a mix of Dan's own songs and some choice selections of songs written by others - Boo Hewerdine, Chris Wood and Cowboy Junkies. In fact as much as I love Cowboy Junkies I think I prefer Dan's version's of their song Sun comes up, it's Tuesday morning to the CJ one. The EP, or is it a mini-album, features wonderful Norfolk based singer songwriter and Quiet Revolution favourite Jess Morgan on the opening song Close up. I last heard that sung by it's writer Boo Hewerdine when he played at the Jubilee Hall in Market Harborough last autumn. Introducing is one you need in your collection and is a taste of things to come on perhaps a full length album? I look forward to it.

Megson - Good times will come again

The Guardian's Robin Denselow has described Megson as "the most original duo on the British folk scene" with Neil Spencer of The Observer referring to them as "a force in the folk revival". Megson are Stu and Debs Hanna, a couple from Teeside who have been based in Cambridgeshire for a number of years now.  They have made consistently gorgeous music since 2003's album On the side. which is when I first came across them. Their latest album is a very welcome addition to their recorded works and could be described as very much for our times. I've kind of fallen in love with it all over again having seem them at Broadstairs Folk Week on 7th August. I've already played quite a few tracks on the Quiet Revolution, expect more on future shows.

Adam Holmes and the Embers - Brighter Still

I was pointed in the direction of Adam Holmes and the Embers music by way of a tweet from Ross Wilson AKA Blue Rose Code. This was at the time of the Edinburgh troubadour's previous album Heirs and Graces which was produced by the legendary John Wood. Adam has drawn comparisons with John Martyn and it has been suggested he combines a mix of americana and celtic soul. I rather like that description. I've dipped into this album a good deal on my show and my current favourite track is Joanna. Worth buying the album for that song alone. Oh and did I mention Eddi Reader duets with Adam on one of the tracks? It's called Love down the line in case you were wondering.

If you've not yet discovered Adam's music I encourage you to rectify that.

My girl the river - This 'ain't no fairytale

Kris Wilkinson-Hughes is from Louisiana and her husband Joe Hughes is from Coventry.  They are based in Bedford and before forming My girl the river put out music under the name Cicero Buck.
This 'ain't no fairytale is their debut album as MGTR and it's a wonderful record. At the moment I'm pretty much hooked on the Woods behind our house, it's been an ear worm for a while now! Yet the rest of this album is equally as fine. Great singer songwriters in their own right, Jonathan Byrd and Will Kimbrough, both Quiet Revolution favourites, are to be found on the album alongside Kris and Joe. Kris is also a big Talk Talk fan and the art direction for the album was undertaken by James Marsh.

Kris and Joe came into the studio and played a fantastic live session in July. I'm hopeful this will be the first of a number of visits to Market Harborough.

Spain - Carolina

Spain were another real find for me in 2016. I can't believe I haven't been aware of them before, after all the band have been around since 1995. Well I'm glad to have come upon their music now albeit late.

Josh Haden fronts the band and this new album is his first for 2 years. There are songs on Carolina about the Great Depression, mining disasters and Josh's own childhood in Malibu. Kenny Lyon who has worked with Joe Walsh, Bruce Springsteen and The Lemonheads, amongst others, produced the record and he's made a great job of it. Why not have a listen?

Thursday, 4 August 2016

The first 6 months of the year - my favourites so far: part 5

Phil King - The Wreckage

I was a big fan of Phil King's album They come, they go. I feel similarly enthused about the Bristol-based singer-songwriter's most recent album The Wreckage which was released in April.  The album was recorded at Peter Gabriel's Real World studios and it's an absolute gem of an album. Many tracks have weaved themselves into the fabric of my show through playlists from April onwards.

Phil's excellent live too. I was lucky enough to see him play a short set at The Donkey in Leicester earlier in the year. If you get the opportunity to catch a live performance from him jump at it. And grab yourself a copy of The Wreckage, you will find yourself rewarded with one of this year's finest releases. 

Ellie Ford - The Other Sun

Quite often I find myself being sent albums from artists wholly new to me. Ellie Ford is one such artist and her album, a debut release on Hidden Trail Records, has made quite an impression on me.
Ellie is based in Brighton and is described as an 'alternative folk musician'. She and her band recorded this album live as much as is possible. Harp, violin, clarinet, drums and guitar all feature on this album alongside Ellie's captivating vocals and a fine mix of songs. Writing this reminds me it's about time I played another track on the show.

The Lowest Pair - Fern girl and ice man

Another new discovery for me in 2016. The Lowest Pair are Kendl Winter and Palmer T.Lee. The two met on the banks of the Mississippi. They started making music together and the new album had it's beginnings in Minnesota in the winter of 2015. They wound up recording enough material to fill two albums, Uncertain as it is uneven (a title I think is just superb) and the album that found it's way to me at HFM Radio, Fern girl and ice man. The album is on Team Love Records which will be familiar to Simone Felice fans; Nick Baker I'm talking about you here and me and I'm sure many others. How to describe the glorious sound that The Lowest Pair make? Americana - yes; folk - yes; alt-country - yes.  Just have a listen to them for yourself and I imagine you'll be hooked as I was. 

Ana Egge and the Sentimentals - Say that now

One of my favourite releases of last year was an album by American singer songwriter Vanessa Peters and the Danish band The Sentimentals who include M.C Hansen amongst their number.
Well on Ana Egge's new album (pronounced Eggy by the way) she too is joined by the Sentimentals. She certainly knows how to choose damn fine collaborators as her last album, and another of the best releases of last year for me, Bright shadow was recorded with the excellent American roots band The Stray Birds. Interestingly Ana has a connection to Denmark. Although she was born in Saskatchewan and grew up in North Dakota her mother was of Danish heritage. Indeed on her website Say that now has been described as having a sense of hygge, a Danish word that translates to warmth, cosiness, a welcoming environment. The latest album is certainly welcoming, once you've listened to it you want to keep dipping back in for more. There are some heavy topics covered on the album all with relevance to the world today yet it's been rightly referred to as both an inward and an outward looking album. I recommend it highly to you.

Yorkston, Thorne and Khan - Everything sacred

OK, in the spirit of full disclosure, I'm a long-standing fan of James Yorkston's music. To be honest I like that whole East Neuk/Fence Collective thing, the amazing King Creosote and The Pictish Trail included. James is part of that. James' song Woozy with cider is probably one of my favourite records of the last 20 years. So yes, I like him a lot. And he's something of an innovator. This most recent trio project is certainly different, it kind of reminds me of, in some ways Pentangle crossed with Tinariwen with a hint of Quintessence and some Incredible String Band and...well, I could go on. However, any album that includes a cover of the late great Ivor Cutler's Little Black Buzzer featuring the Irish singer Lisa O'Neill has got to be good in my view.  The band in addition to James are jazz double bass player and member of Lamb Jon Thorne and New Delhi classical singer and sarangi player Suhail Yusuf Khan. One of the most innovative albums of the year for me.

Richard J.Birkin - Vigils

Possibly one of my favourite record labels over the last 6 years or so is Derbyshire based Reveal. Tom Rose has some very talented people on his label and generally I've been used to receiving gorgeous albums broadly from the contemporary folk, singer songwriter and americana genres. So Richard J.Birkin's album I'll admit took me a little by surprise. A very pleasant, most welcome surprise though. It remind me in some respects of contemporary classical musicians like Dustin O'Halloran and Ed Alleyne-Johnson (around the time of his Purple Electric Violin album) and then on one of the tracks halfway through Richard comes in with some vocals. Almost impossible to try and categorise, so I won't bother, just give this album a chance, be open minded and open-eared! I think   like I did you'll find it just beautiful.

Edd Donovan and the Wandering Moles - Making mountains volume 1

As a radio presenter and a music lover I'm always hungry to hear new music. The ways I discover it can be many and various. Often I'll be sent a promo or a download by a label or a promoter or often the artist themselves. I may be recommended something by a listener, a Facebook friend or a musician (sometimes both).  I can catch someone doing an opening set at a gig and find myself captivated by their music. Perhaps I can be leafing through one of the music magazines, R2, Uncut or Mojo perhaps or an online blog and stumble on something that has an immediate appeal or makes me want to investigate further. The latter one of my most used or over-used phrases by the way! I came to discover the wonderful music of Edd Donovan and the Wandering Moles through the recommendation of a fellow radio presenter Alex Huskisson who puts together and hosts a highly recommended show on Severn FM called the Mystery Train. Do, err, investigate further if you possibly can. You'll doubtless wind up adding lots of new albums to your to buy list. Anyway, Alex suggested to Emma from the Wandering Moles that I'd most probably enjoy the album and he was absolutely right. So thanks Alex and Emma.

Tom Robinson of BBC 6 Music has described Edd and the Moles album as "summery alt-country to gladden the heart" and Maverick magazine have referred to it as "contemporary folk with a powerful and tuneful message". I'd agree with both of these descriptions. Making Mountains is a truly excellent album, Edd is a very talented songwriter offering thought-provoking lyrics. The instrumentation just adds to the overall listening experience, you have keyboards, accordion, strings and brass plus a rhythm section. I'm very much looking forward to the follow-up record from this Cheltenham-based musician who hails originally from Merseyside. In the meantime we have Making Mountains to enjoy and I suspect I'll be looking at the previous album too, 2014's Something to take the edge off. 

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

The first 6 months of the year - my favourites so far: part 4

Sam Carter - How the city sings

It's been a while since Rutland born singer songwriter Sam Carter released a solo album, 2012 in fact when The no testament came out. I first discovered Sam's glorious contemporary folk four years before with the Keepsakes album. Before that their was a rather fine EP.

In between The no testament and How the city sings Sam has been working in a duo with another young, very talented singer songwriter, Jim Moray, putting out an album under the name False Lights.
However now we have new music from Sam and the album has been very much worth the wait. Sam played a superb gig at the Market Harborough Theatre at the time of Keepsakes release. Hopefully he will be making a trip to the town again before too long to play songs from the latest record.

Erika Kulnys - Rise Up

A real discovery for me in 2016 has been the music of Canadian singer songwriter, and soon to be Nashville resident, Erika Kulnys. Rise up is a social justice themed album recorded at Signature Sounds studio and featuring Fairport Convention's Dave Mattacks among others.

Erika grew up in Nova Scotia, she's a classically trained musician and Rise up takes in folk and rock styles underpinned by songs that have been described as intimate and political. The album is worth adding to your collection for the title song alone and there's a great deal to enjoy on this high quality release.

Laura Gibson - Empire builder

Empire builder is the fourth album from Laura and it's based after the Amtrak route she took while moving from Portland, Oregon to New York City in summer 2014.Her experiences prior to the album's release were traumatic to say the least. In March 2015 her East Village building burned to the ground in a horrific gas explosion which killed two people and left many homeless. 
Gibson escaped from her apartment unharmed, but lost everything including every word she had written in response to her move. In view of these experiences Empire Builder possibly stands as her most personal album release so far.
And it's a rather superb album too, borne out of very difficult experiences. Check it out for yourself.