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Thursday 18 July 2024

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April review round up

Apr 7, 2020

Next! Welcome to our review round up of other releases received and duly considered, April 2020.

Send My Soul – Lorraine Jordan.

Reminded me of Julie Matthews in some ways, Sally Barker in others. ‘Send My Soul,’ has a Celtic edge thanks to the likes of Stefan Hannigan with low whistle on ‘Heavenly Voices,’ though when it comes to melodic grooving Jordan can also swing with the best as ‘The Secret To Everything,’ which makes sure this varied selection opens with class and clout.

Spiral Earth Rating ***

Torrent – Ewan Henderson.

Solo outing from founder of Gaelic rockers Manran, chock full with songs which display his love for his own back yard, its history, people and lore. Items range from full throttle reeling on fiddles, pipes, whistles to spoof pub songs about drinking. All done unplugged mind with first class production values. Not what you might expect from someone who once played with The Afro Celts, but it shows at least where he came from and through him the spring still flows pure.

Spiral Earth Rating ***

Mandorla – Pierre Schryer & Adam Dobres.

Clever fiddle and guitar interplay on a pleasingly diverse menu of tracks from west Canadian duo with stints working with The Wailin’ Jennys and accordionist Dermot Byrne between them. Accomplished picker Dobres shines particularly on ‘Orca’s Jig,’ where his fingers fly over the frets, whilst Schryer spits fire from his strings on ‘Sheepskin and Beeswax.’ Some trad and plenty of their own, the sort of album to go well with colder evenings, a small dram and a roaring log fire, that is unless you’re into dancing and it goes without saying there’s plenty of inspiration here.

Spiral Earth Rating. ***

The Embers – John Blek.

If he was from Mississippi Joh Blek would have played blues guitar, looked through the bottom of a glass darkly and gruffed ‘ my woman done gone.’ Instead he’s a literate, melodic singer writer from Cork, who puts all his angst into nine songs which chronicle the aftermath of love gone sour. ‘Empty Pockets,’ could be a song about the homeless instead it sets out his stall, other titles give you a clue to his state of mind, the most graphic being ‘Flame ( Little Death No 3.)’ This is no collection of strumming reverie though, Blek fingerpicks his guitar in true troubadour fashion and by the time we reach ‘Walls,’ you know he’ll be back soon definitely more chipper and with another take on life and all it holds.

Spiral Earth Rating ***

Cold Light – Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll.

Clever, innovative retooling of traditional and contemporary English fiddle tunes by Wyke and Driscoll who’re clearly a pair of telepaths so intuitive is their playing. What reveals itself with every spin is the way they cleverly build up the structure of each tune and the backing for maximum effect, take ‘The Knitting Reel,’ as an example, spongy bass bounces along as does well- oiled percussion while the fiddles dance and whirl around, above and below each other. Takes some chops to be able to make a recording this aware and relevant, ‘Halo’,’ is a sensitive yet powerful rejoinder to those who turn a blind eye to abuse in all its forms but especially that involving children. Certainly much more at work than just the folk process.

Spiral Earth Rating. ****

Frixx – Frigg.

Some two decades back Frigg began twisting and reforming what we knew about ringing strings. They’re the proof that roots music never stands still, album number ten, arrives to deliver the latest instalment in their barnstorming career. Beginning in the Kaustinen fiddle tradition, Frigg have since added American elements into their Scandinavian pedigree, even coming up with a new genre nordgrass. ‘Early Bird,’ is the best of the opening salvo here which shows how they widen the classic Scando string band sound that they first began with, ‘Varpunen,’ riff wise is so close to ‘ Smoke On The Water,’ it’ll even have heavier heads turning as the fiddles race and reel over the top. ‘Frixx,’ is worth it to hear seven people play like they’re a full orchestra with a folksy background who’re out to push the boundaries with whatever they conjure. Decent grist.

Spiral Earth Rating. ****

You Are My Medicine – Liam Ward & Malcolm Thorne.

Debut EP from a new blues duo who write in classic down home style but add a softer more British way of delivery. Ward has previous with The Jake Leg Jug Band a bunch of 1930s blues soakers but what they’ve composed here is thoroughly themselves and quite light on its feet. Thorne’s guitar playing isn’t in the least heavy but rather closer to fingerpicking and adds filigree to each piece. The title track takes the honours here but all five selections are worth the price. Look forward to seeing how this launches them and going forward it’ll be interesting to see how daring they can be with the genre. I’m betting that’s going to be quite a lot.

Spiral Earth Rating ***

Is It You Is It Me – Dustbowl Revival.

This crew remind me so much of E II not in the style of music they play but with the same infectious party spirit and the determination to spread some good vibes from the stage across the room. ‘Is It You, Is It Me,’ is a barrel of monkeys which pops and fizzes as well royally giving all manner of American roots a rocket in no uncertain terms. What’ll you hear across the album, they’ve honking New Orleans brass alongside jangling folk rock guitars, a funk based rhythm section and to top it all off they even turn off all the juice, stripping right down to acoustics for ‘Just One Song,’ a track which stresses how important the music is when you’re on a journey like theirs. Ever evolving this actually the work of core band members with guests, the lesson they learned from that was how to craft an album from scratch when you’ve got studio time booked and a looming deadline. Heaven help us if they ever get time to plan one in advance, that’ll no doubt emerge as a real beast. Meantime I direct you with certainty towards this offering. Enjoy!

Spiral Earth Rating ****

Simon Jones.

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