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. Continue reading “Joseph Spence: Complete Folkways Recordings 1958”

Julie Fowlis: Live At Perthshire Amber

Summary41nvyxuvhal-_ac_us160_-album

Format:  CD

Genre:  Folk (mainly traditional; Gaelic; vocal)

Tracks: 13

Playing time:  59 minutes

Availability (out of 3):  ***

Related website(s): www.juliefowlis.com

 My rating:  8/10

I like: Julie’s voice, the arrangements, the sound quality

I’m less keen on :  The flimsy card packaging!

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I first encountered Julie Fowlis’ singing through a friend. Somehow he had bought two copies of her album “Cuilidh” Continue reading “Julie Fowlis: Live At Perthshire Amber”

Ralph McTell: Songs For Six Strings Vol II

Summary

Format: CD6-strings-album

Genre:  Folk (contemporary)

Tracks: 20 (18 songs)

Playing time:  75

Availability (out of 3): *

Related website(s):  http://www.ralphmctell.co.uk

My rating: 10/10

I like…   The range of song topics and moods, the powerful lyrics and great tunes, Ralph’s natural stage manner

I’m less keen on…  Its being hard to source! 

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I was in two minds whether to review this album in view of its present scarcity. In the end I have done so, as used copies will be available at times, and in any case it is a worthwhile album to review!

Who?

early-ralphRalph McTell’s musical career has spanned almost 50 years. He is best known for his song “Streets Of London”, for which he won an Ivor Novello award. In 2002 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Continue reading “Ralph McTell: Songs For Six Strings Vol II”

Kelly Joe Phelps: Brother Sinner And The Whale

Summary

Format:  CDProduct Details

Genre:  Blues (acoustic)

Tracks:  12

Playing time:  51 minutes

Availability (out of 3):  ***

Related website(s):   http://www.kellyjoephelps.net;   (unofficial) http://riverratjimmy.pagesperso-orange.fr/pages/gear.htm

 My rating:  9/10

I like: Minimal arrangements, upbeat and more plaintive songs and moods, interplay of voice and guitar

I’m less keen on :  Minimal sleeve notes

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Soon after seeing TV footage of Kelly Joe Phelps at the Cambridge Folk Festival years ago I bought his debut album, “Lead Me On.” In my opinion Continue reading “Kelly Joe Phelps: Brother Sinner And The Whale”