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Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Today we have my review of Lazibyrd

This is another duo, consisting of Sharon Martin (Fiddle) and Tom Chapman (Guitar) who work together harmoniously to give us a fine example of today’s English Folk. Sharon Leads the vocals, supported by Tom.
They open their album ‘Under the Sky’ with a brilliantly catchy song called ‘I’m Alright Jack’ which does a great job of drawing you in to hear more. It’s like Pringles. I’d describe the method of singing as being slightly rap/ slightly skat/ jazz but with an action folk instrumental that fits like gears.
After the attention grabbing start, the album then settles into slightly softer songs, but they do not lose any sense of grip, ‘It’s the Little Things’ in particular is the kind of song that will blow you away and would be perfect for one of those happy life montage scenes in cheesy films.

What is interesting about Lazibyrd is the lack of emphasis in their songs. Usually bands with vocals have that pushed into the front with the instruments used as a pedestal to then hold those vocals up on. With Lazibyrd however it doesn’t quite come across like that. Yes there are vocals, powerful vocals, and yes this is over a musical background, but there is more unison. The music is not just to support the vocals; the vocals draw attention to the music too, which is nice to see.

In regards to the playing of music there seems to be more of an emphasis on the guitar over fiddle, but that’s possibly because Sharon leads with vocals. The playing is a great balance as there isn’t this problem of over playing that some guitarists do in an attempt to get noticed.

‘Half of One Whole’ is a particularly heart warming song that almost lead to me typing the cheesy line of how these two musicians work so well that the absence of either one would be ‘half of one whole’, they are not two musicians they are one whole as Lazibyrd. Of course I would never write anything that cheesy.

Overall the album has a good mix of the fast exciting (‘Fly Away’)and the slow moving (‘Run to the Dawn’) and they are musically a great pairing.

I expect to see much more from Lazibyrd to come as this ship has clearly only just set sail.


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Red Shoes review

Apologies all for the lack of recent posts, my computer had a brief moment of crazy but seems to be under control again now.

This week I will be reviewing a couple of folk bands and I will be doing a compare and contrast of Ange Hardy’s ‘Bare Foot Folk’ with her earlier album release ‘Windmills and Wishes’.

My first entry though is Red Shoes and their album release ‘All The Good Friends’

The duo already have already had a fair stretch on the folk scene with their debut album ‘Ring Around The Land’ and have now returned with this new release.

The album kick starts with a song called ‘Red Coat Ride’ which is an anti-hunting theme that cleverly uses strong percussion along with confident booming vocals and guitar. To me the percussion is a particularly nice touch as it ‘clomps’ along almost like the sound of hooves during horse riding.
The vocals of Carolyn Evans are very forcefully, pushing the message and story of the songs to you in a way gets you to listen carefully and grabs your attention. That isn’t to say her vocals can’t be soft though as the soothing song ‘Hidden Name’ and ‘River Rea’ then shows us very early on.
As for Mark Evans we get his acoustic abilities featuring behind in every song acting as the perfect counterpart to Carolyn. Their musical matching is shown particularly well in ‘Sunday Afternoon’ and the foot tapping ‘Swansong’ (Also has brilliant backing vocals).

The big sell for this band is the feeling that is portrayed through the music, ‘Blackberry Way’ is arranged both musically and vocally in such a way that you have to notice it. For Red Shoes there is no such thing as background music, they will always be the centre of attention when playing or being played.


Thursday, 17 October 2013

Community, have a go, and twitter

Right so I was asked why I like folk so much and don't give any other genre the same attention. (such as with blogging and reviewing).

First of all I do like other genres, I like Pop, Rock, Techno, Electric, Chart etc etc.

I was also asked why I like this 'weird' music.

I tried to explain that when you really think about it folk and traditional music is not weird. New music is weird. If you look at the whole of human history, folk and roots will have taken up a majority of that time period in some capacity. Chart and music today only really takes up the last one hundred years or so at most. So which is weird? The truth of course is that since chart music is now mainstream any genre different to that is weird.

I have been surprised by how many younger people are into folk. In reality a lot of young people love it, and this is growing!

To answer the question of why I like it more than other genres is because of the community aspect. In chart music you rarely find pop stars doing a show then sitting in the audience to watch the next show at a festival. With folk that happens all the time. Of course there are the elites in folk like anything else but there is much less of a gap and everyone feels more on equal ground. Folk artists are just ordinary people, generally avoiding throwing in the celebrity aspect. (Having said this I do tend to get starstruck by certain bands or artists which is a nuisance and something I really should be past now!)

Only in folk do they have this kind of 'come and have a go' attitude which has encouraged me to take up Melodeon. In the mainstream music industry it is very competitive, and although this happens in folk as well there just seems to be more space, and a bigger willingness to co-operate and get on.

Folk is not just a genre of music, it is a community. I take the title of being a folkie very seriously and much like certain metal music groups or even rap music groups there is an entire identity based around this music style. But not simply based on just music.

I really started to get into folk when I went to an Irish music session at a pub near my house. Session music is great because anyone can join in, just bring your instrument and get stuck in. It was because of this I got myself an Irish Melodeon, and I intend to join in one day when at an adequate level.

You see this a lot of twitter too. Folkies are really reaching out on twitter and are supporting each other. It's great to be part of a community that at least tries to be nice to one another.

So if you consider yourself a folkie, be proud! And keep it up! Oh and retweet this on twitter for me... you know... if you don't mind...


Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Review - The Full English

If you are a regular follower of EFDSS then you’ll know all about ‘The Full English’ Project. For those of you who don’t it is basically the English Folk Dance and Song Society’s project to archive their collections onto a large online database. Called ‘The Full English’. Like a big breakfast of folk songs and dances of English origin… it’s very clever.

Some of the most meaningful and exciting of the songs archived have been adapted by Fay Hield and a team of musicians to great an album called… well I’m sure you can guess.

Folk enthusiasts have been waiting patiently for the arrival of their CDs and I like to think that I speak for most when I say the wait has been well worth it. The collection is absolutely fantastic, really utilising the skills of some of the best folk artists on the block and creating beautiful songs for us.

The tunes in the collection are not simply a case of “let’s do this one, this one looks good!” but Fay and her team have chosen very carefully to reflect the world of folk and its current position in British life. The songs have been adapted and altered as needed but not in a butchered way.

Fay, Martin Simpson, Rob Harbron, Sam Sweeney, Nancy Kerr, Ben Nicholls and Seth Lakeman have united their superpowers of folk to form an Avengers style team up!
The album starts off with ‘Awake Awake’ (Fay Hield) which frankly sets the bar high for the rest of the album. The vocals are beautiful, the tune is gripping and exciting with perfect harmonics with the backing vocals.

‘Stand By Your Guns’ (Seth Lakeman), ‘Rounding the Horn’ and ‘The Servant Man’ (The use of swapping vocals in this track are really effective!) are all foot tapping catchy tunes which suggests to me one of the main purposes of the collection is to be gripping, and catch people in a net almost.

We also get soothing tracks, with the instrumental ‘William and Nancy’ and ‘Creeping Jane’ which sounds almost like the kind of story tune a father would sing to his children on a sunny day.

Most of the tunes are stories and I found myself hanging on each word, particularly in ‘Arthur O’Bradley’.

The entire collection shows the experience and skill of all the artists and words will never be able to fully project what this album has to offer to any music lover. Those who are varied in their genre, or those who want a sample of folk because they have not tried it before must add this to their collection!


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Review - The Fox Glove Trio 'Like Diamond Glances'

The Foxglove Trio... a name I have seen popping up all over the place. They kindly sent me a copy of their CD ‘Like Diamond Glances’ and I must admit it has jumped high onto my list of favourites. The first track ‘Newry Town’ simply blew me away with beautiful vocals and a gripping musical arrangement to match.
It is only recently I had my first taste of Isle of Man music through Barrule and so it is great to add this Welsh experience too. This 5 song collection features two welsh songs, ‘Cariad Cyntaf’ and ‘Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn’, both are lovely songs and paints the welsh language in an excellent light.

These exciting tunes are also matched with gentler tunes like ‘The Sign of the Bonny Blue Bell’ which is a lovely folk tale allowed to reach its full potential because of these musicians.

My favourite tune was a toss-up between ‘Newry Town’ and ‘Betsy Bell & Mary Grey’ which the latter just winning as it had me merrily dancing around in my seat. (I must add much to my embarrassment when someone walked in. I can’t chair dance well. Or any kind of dance really).

My only complaint is how short ‘Like Diamond Glances’ is. I am certainly left wanting more and the name Foxglove Trio is no longer going to be one of those names I keep seeing, but rather one I will eagerly watch, waiting for more releases.