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Thursday, 22 May 2014

Ragged Staff review- Kiss the Shore

You only get one chance to make a good first impression and generally speaking the first track of an album is the key indicator for a listener on whether or not they’ll enjoy the style of music put forward. This doesn’t always mean putting your strongest track first, but it certainly means putting a track that summarises your musical style and gives the audience a clear indication of what you are about.

Ragged Staff are another I got from a Fatea Showcase, ‘Magnetism’. Their introductory track from ‘Kiss the Shore’ is ‘The Blacksmith’ and this is also the track featured on Magnetism. Now this track does exactly the job these first tracks are supposed to do.

Ragged Staff are self described as Traditional and Contemporary Folk and ‘The Blacksmith hits us straight away with a mystical Traditional sound to immediately grasp hold of you and tie you down so that you listen. Next in this song a lovely set if vocals take over and sing a wonderful ballad about... well I’m sure you can guess. A lovely surprise in this track is about three quarters in when another powerful voice jumps in and takes you completely off guard.

There are of course a lot of bands that do traditional music and many may wonder if you can have too much of a good thing but I believe Ragged Staff have added another version of ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsies’ that just proves this isn’t the case. As well as the exciting music and great variety in sounds that just blast you in this second track the vocals of Caroline Riches and Ned Lawton really hit you with such enthusiasm that you could never get bored of the track.
It is also nice to see that though Ragged Staff’s style is generally fast paced, like ‘Keys of Canterbury’, foot stomping type folk they are not a one trick pony and you get nice varieties of pace even within songs such as ‘Rosebud in June’ and the wonderful ‘Si Bheag Si Mhor’.

Folk music is also of course a tool for storytelling and Ragged Staff have certainly captivated this element perfectly. If you listen to ‘The Nightingale’ and then ‘The Whaler/ The Wren Hornpipe’ then not only do these two tales flow into each other, but they are so completely different from the slow paced ‘Nightingale’ to the faster ‘Whaler’. Even the choice of changing from Caroline to Ned is a great decision as it really shifts the gear at this point in the album.
There are a lot of wonderful tracks on this album, a fine addition to any collection!


Monday, 19 May 2014

Kelly Oliver

I first discovered this lovely lady on Fatea Showcases. I always enjoy these as they are great to cast your net out and discover brilliant talent that you may have otherwise missed.  The most recent editions ‘Chemistry’ and ‘Magnetism’ have introduced me to at least three artists that I felt I should explore further.

The first of these is Kelly Oliver who has her debut EP ‘Far From Home’ now available both as downloadable and physical copies. The EP is a standard 5 tracks and the first song I heard was the title song from the EP ‘Far From Home’.

This tune is a very gentle, soft tune with a pleasant guitar strum setting the scene of a young lady eagerly awaiting the return of a young man of which she is pretty smitten. Despite her mother’s warnings and the way the chap decided to spend most of his time away from the central character is still devoted to his return. And they say long distance relationships are difficult.

I ended up putting this song on repeat for almost an hour as each time the beauty of Kelly’s voice and the musical foundation really just builds and builds on you. The occasional harmonica intermission also did a great job of breaking up the song and keeping the variety going so the listener doesn’t get bored in any way, and this keep going throughout other tracks as well.
The next tune, ‘Keilan are you Coming?’ has some nice differences, being much faster paced with a louder strum on the guitar and a lot more fire in the voice. In a way, it’s quite a similar song, but they display two totally separate emotions, the first on ‘Far From Home’ is one of patience and then this one seemed a little more like an excited child struggling to hold back that excitement. This is a nice variety then from a later track ‘He Walked on the Side of the Sea’ which is calmer.
Kelly has been influenced a lot by Irish traditional music and this certainly comes across her music, but luckily that’s all it is, an influence. Kelly does a fantastic job of keeping her music so wonderfully individual and simple. I am often impressed by musicians who make their music stand out with original ideas are bizarre combinations of vocals and instrument, but what is even more impressive is to find individuals who can be original but give you an air of familiarity so that their music is comfortable and soothing. Kelly has certainly gotten this balance spot on.

I loved this EP and I wish I had made it to Folkstock last September (I was supposed to go but alas last minute couldn’t make it) as I would have seen her live! Kelly has certainly made the list of live performances I must find.

I wonder if Kelly would make what I like to call a ‘wildcard’ track when she does a full length album, as she certainly has a secure sound. Wildcards are songs that are quite different from the rest, usually shorter bizarre tracks that many artists are now attempting. Although risky for people I believe Kelly could certainly pull it off, although to be honest she wouldn’t need to.

A lovely singer, to find out more follow these links and be sure to follow Kelly on Twitter @kellyoliverfolk, and me @paulrawcliffe

Kelly -

Folkstock -

Fatea Magazine/ Showcases –