Don McLean: Tapestry

Summary

Format: CD

Genre:  Product DetailsFolk/pop

Tracks: 11

Playing time: 42 minutes

Availability (out of 3): **

Related website(s):  https://don-mclean.com

My rating:  10/10

I like…  Don’s voice, the thought-provoking lyrics, the range of tunes, arrangements and sounds

I’m less keen on…  Nothing really, though as with any album I like some tracks more than others

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In 1971 suddenly, and seemingly out of nowhere, an American singer-songwriter captivated many listeners with an epic but enigmatic song, “American Pie”, and the following year with “Vincent”. Much as I was tempted at the time to buy the “American Pie” album, I opted instead to buy Don’s debut album, “Tapestry”. Although the album, and its title track, shared the same name as Carole King’s better known “Tapestry”, Continue reading “Don McLean: Tapestry”

Dale Miller: Fingerpicking Rags And Other Delights

 

Summary

Format: CD

Genre:  Folk/Folk-blues/Jazz/Pop

Tracks: 21

Playing time:  38 minutes

Availability (out of 3): **

Related website(s): http://www.dalemiller.com

My rating:  10/10

I like…  The variety of genres, the upbeat feel, the rich tone

I’m less keen on…   Some of the tracks are very short, but then the album is really aimed at guitar players wanting to learn new tunes and arrangements

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Not only did the “folk revival” in America in the 1960s see the rediscovery of some great performers from, several decades earlier, it also saw a new generation of would-be guitar players. Many set themselves to learning the styles of the likes of Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis and Son House.  Some tracked down the music of other players, long dead, from the 1920s and 1930s. Blues and ragtime guitar challenged their dedication and co-ordination.

 

A number of players married the fingerpicking styles of some of the greats to compositions of their own, or to a range of tunes from folk or pop traditions. This album is a case in point. Continue reading “Dale Miller: Fingerpicking Rags And Other Delights”

Fay Hield: Orfeo

Summary

Format: CD

Genre:  Folk (trad; vocal)

Tracks: 11

Playing time:  43 minutes

Availability (out of 3): ***

Related website(s):  www.fayhield.com

My rating:  9/10

I like:  Fay’s voice, the arrangements, 3 especially strong songs including one that blows me away each time

I’m less keen on:  a few of the less melodic songs – personal taste only, however!

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“The Hurricane Party” isn’t what you would expect for the name of the band that backs a singer who performs traditional “folk” music. The way its members were selected also breaks the rules. Instead of deciding what instruments were required and inviting musicians to play, Fay Hield instead invited some of her favourite musicians to join her for the album and (in the most part) for her tour to promote it, even though there was some duplication or overlap on instruments that they played.

Who?

Fay Hield is a singer from Sheffield. To her repertoire of mainly traditional folk song Fay brings a voice that is at one and the same time natural yet adeptly used. On stage she establishes a strong rapport with her band and audience. Some singers who don’t also play an instrument can appear a little wooden on stage, or close their eyes for prolonged periods. Fay looks confident and relaxed, and uses her hands subtly as she sings. Continue reading “Fay Hield: Orfeo”

Sandy Denny (biography) “No More Sad Refrains”

Summary

 

Format:  Bookno-more-sad

Genre:  Biography (Music: Folk)

Pages (paperback): 

Availability (out of 3): **

 

Related website(s):  http://www.sandydennyofficial.com

My rating:  9/10

I like…   Engaging, empathetic, easy to read 

I’m less keen on…  The sloppy grammar at times

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Sandy Denny had an uncanny ability to get right inside even songs penned by others, whether a traditional folk song or a more contemporary one, making it her own and delivering it with a power and an aura that were awesome. In a voice that was natural yet controlled she made the melody soar and tumble. It has the ability to break and mend the heart. Despite frequent listenings, some of her songs still have the ability to make my spine tingle and the hairs on the back of my neck rise.

Continue reading “Sandy Denny (biography) “No More Sad Refrains””

Mississippi John Hurt: Library Of Congress Recordings

Summary

Format: CD (2 discs)mjh-congress-cover

Genre:  Blues/Folk blues

Tracks: 35

Playing time:  108 minutes

Availability (out of 3): **

Related website(s):  http://mississippijohnhurtfoundation.org; for footage and tutorial material: http://www.guitarvideos.com

My rating: 10/10

I like…  The warm, gentle singing and nimble guitar playing, the upbeat feel

I’m less keen on…  –

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Not all acoustic blues will appeal to a newcomer to the genre. I feel that Mississippi John Hurt is a great starting place.

Firstly not all his music was, strictly blues, but came from a wider range of material. Many of the songs he recorded are upbeat and melodic rather then melancholic and strident. Secondly, as the great Doc Watson and Stefan Grossman described them, even Mississippi John’s blues had a happy feel to them!

He recorded a few songs in 1928 and was rediscovered in the 1960s American folk revival, where he endeared himself to a new generation of fans, many of whom learned to play and sing some of his songs.

I love Mississippi John’s guitar playing. It’s tuneful, often mirroring the melody line, and generally gentle and nimble. He plays a steady, alternating bass and weaves the melody over it, with some nice syncopation and bass runs. I play a number of his songs on guitar myself.

Who?

I’ve already given away part of the game. John passed into obscurity Continue reading “Mississippi John Hurt: Library Of Congress Recordings”

Alison Eve: Time & Tide

Summarytime-and-tide-cover-copy

Format:  CD

Genre:  Folk/Celtic/”Meditative and reflective”

Tracks: 8

Playing time:   58 minutes

Availability (out of 3):  **

Related website(s): http://alisoneve.co.uk;  http://ritualitas.co.uk

 My rating: 8/10

I like: The variety of sounds and moods, Alison’s voice as well as the harp, the arrangements

I’m less keen on :  –

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I love the sound of a harp. It’s relaxing and somehow soulful, and when it’s Celtic harp playing folk melodies (traditional or contemporary) I think it’s almost magical.

I’d never heard of this player or album until they were brought to my attention by a fellow member of a review site. I took a punt, ordered two titles, and eagerly awaited their arrival!

Who?

Alison Eve has studied and taught singing. From her childhood she played piano, guitar and trumpet.alicud033-edit1

From around 1999 she decided to teach herself harp, and her website names Loreena McKennit and Clannad as strong influences.

Besides singing and recording in her own right, she seems to have quite a diverse range of styles. As well as singing in a folk vocal group “Messenger” and a female choir “nChant” she has also sung with a folk-rock “Eve And The Garden”, and even a heavy metal band “Ascentis”!

She plays at an increasing number of weddings.

Celtic harp

Unlike classical harp with its various pedals, Celtic harps have levers. They come in various sizes and with various numbers of strings, but essentially they have a wide pitch, giving the unique sound, the higher pitched strings creating an ethereal tinkling in contrast with the lower pitched ones. Alison Eve’s website describes three instruments that she has: a small harp with 25 strings, her main one, a maple large lever folk harp, and also an electric instrument harp made from carbon fibre. The photograph below from her website (used with kind permission) shows her with the second of these instruments, performing at a wedding.

delaney-michael-crop-1

 

In Ireland the harp has had a very chequered history; it was such a part of Irish culture that it came to be seen as a symbol of resistance to English rule and was banned for many years. It’s hardly surprising that for many years the harp did indeed serve as a symbol of Irish identity, and graced the back of coins from Eire for many years! Continue reading “Alison Eve: Time & Tide”

Joseph Spence: Complete Folkways Recordings 1958

Summary

Format: CDspence-album-cover

Genre:  Folk/world (instrumental guitar)

Tracks: 9

Playing time: 51 minutes 

Availability (out of 3): *

Related website(s):  http://www.folkways.si.edu/joseph-spence-bahamian-master-guitarist/world/music/article/smithsonian

My rating:  9/10

I like…  The sponataneity, the vibrancy, slightly exotic feel, variations and improvisations

I’m less keen on…   The lack of polish won’t appeal to some (but doesn’t put me off – it’s simply the trade-off for spontaneity). The vocals need to be accepted rather than enjoyed. 

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The revival of interest in “folk” music in the 1950s – which embraced several acoustic genres – led to a search for some former great players and singers from the 1920s and 1930s, and also to widespread travel to capture “field recordings” in obscure places by local people who sang or played on a purely amateur basis.

The hope of those who undertook such journeys was, of course, to make a great discovery. Obviously, the search for great music from people hitherto unheard of was far more fickle. Huge amounts of music were captured, much of it interesting. Little of it was great, however.

Joseph Spence was one great exception. Continue reading “Joseph Spence: Complete Folkways Recordings 1958”