This month’s issue •
Come Write Me Down
A sampling of reviews from the current issue
LEVERET New Anything Rootbeat RBRCD23
Photo: Elly Lucas
The Right Honourable Robert Harbron, Sir Samuel Sweeney and His Lordship Andrew Cutting… now that’s an enticing little feast to perch on anyone’s gramophone. Recorded live one day last summer, it eschews all conventional notions of arrangement and pre-presentation, they just sit down and play, relying on intuition, symbiotic trust, some cracking tunes and their own natural feel and innate musicianship to create something wonderful. And, of course, when it comes to playing English music respectively on concertina, fiddle and accordeon, there are scarcely three better individuals in the business.
They’d hardly played a gig when they sat down to record this and the live version of Leveret will very likely provide a more telling insight into their mesmerising interplay, but this is still a hugely attractive album. They’ve gone out of their way to forage through dusty old books to unearth tunes that don’t often see the light of day, which they then present in such a heartwarmingly relaxed manner of mutual harmony that it’s nigh on impossible not to get sucked in by the grins you just know they are sharing as they sit in that semicircle playing their hearts out.
They add to the rich tradition with a scattering of admirable tunes of their own , like Professor Cutting’s beauteous melody in homage to the Derbyshire town of Milford, Harbron’s impudent-sounding Cossack Square and Sweeney’s merry Gallons Of Cognac… all slotting in easily alongside more seasoned material like the glorious Morris tune Glorishears and the processional Abbots Bromley Horn Dance.
Above all else, they prove that you don’t need to play at 100mph or stamp your feet or slap your thigh or slip in a thunderous rhythm to capture the attention. Sometimes brilliant musicianship, the right spirit and a good heart is sufficient.
• www.leveretband.com | Buy from Amazon.co.uk
BOB & RON COPPER Traditional Songs From Rottingdean Fledg’ling FLED 3097
Bob & Ron Copper
The vinyl version was released in 1963 (EFDSS LP 1002) – limited edition and for sale to members only, probably as a way of avoiding Purchase Tax as it was known then. The shelves in this house also bear a 1996 cassette version from Folk Legacy from America but, amazingly, this is the first time that these historic recordings by Peter Kennedy have been generally available in this country in the original album form. And they are lovely – sixteen songs from the heart of this family’s rich heritage.
Their many subsequent releases and Bob’s books mean that the Copper Family history and song repertoire is now widely known but it reminds those of us who came to traditional song in the ’60s that access was very limited up until the album set and book of 1971.
So what has changed? Well, the pace for one thing! Revisiting an early interview with Bob reminds me that he once said to his son, “Slow down, John, we are the Coppers, not the Young Tradition!” This makes it strange to report that the songs here proceed at a faster pace with the gaps between lines shorter than that of the current singing Coppers.
Bob is in great voice here, sure pitch, confidence, enthusiasm, timing – all the qualities that we associated with him for decades, but it the rich, deep, thunderous voice of his cousin that has a huge impact. By the time of A Song For Every Season, Ron was in declining health which shows in his singing. Here his resonant bass is an utter delight, the best bass singer of the five recorded generations of Coppers.
Listening again to these on three formats, it is clear that the CD offers a sharper clarity, though the notes do not mention a re-working. They do offer the full version of Bob’s introduction which was truncated on the earlier releases.
• www.thebeesknees.com | Buy from Amazon.co.uk
SO III Muuttonaurujen Parvia Suvi Sounds SUVISCD04
Photo: Sami Perttilä̈
Finnish fiddler Suvi Oskala has an admirable musical pedigree in her homeland, including a degree in folk music from the Sibelius Academy. Her solo and group work had wandered far and wide musically, but with the trio SO III she’s definitely hit the bullseye.
Oskala plays a five-string fiddle, giving greater range and depth to the music, and sings, along with Oskari Lehtonen (percussion and vocals) and Teemu Korpiää on live electronics. The songs are all original, with lyrics by the Finnish poet Saija Nojonen. The debt to Finnish folk is there, not only in the ‘ditty’ song Näkinkeniä, which bounces merrily along in the traditional manner, but also in the dark undertones that inhabit many of the tracks, reminiscent at times of the bold music of early Hedningarna. It’s a very spare disc, with fiddle and voices offering the only melody, but it’s still incredibly rich. Harmonies layer to create sounds that range from nightingale to banshee. It’s definitely a journey to another world, where fiddle lulls or drives. It’s definitely the lead of the band, but the other two work so deftly and subtly that the way they fill out the sound seems completely organic. Whether the arrangements are plotted or have simply developed, it’s masterful. More than atmospheric, it’s a disc that arrives straight out of left field and proceeds to dance through winding mazes, then over the hills and far away. The joy of it is that the music here stands outside of everything, deliciously alien (although a couple of moments offer faint echoes of Björk at her best, which is no bad thing).
It’s probably a Marmite record, love it or hate it, but it packs more adventure and fire into its seven tracks than many musicians manage in an entire career. Utterly bloody wonderful.
FALSE LIGHTS Salvor Wreckord Label FL002
Photo: Tony Bell
Now this I like. Lots. And lots and lots. Jim Moray and Sam Carter sat down in a bar one night – as you do – and decided what they needed to do was put together a folk-rock band in the grand old style of the good old late 1960s. These sorts of conversations are probably held all the time whenever musicians quaff ale in a late night bar, but this one actually made it through to the cold light of day, with Nick Cooke recruited on melodeon, along with Tom Moore on fiddle, Jon Thorne on bass and Sam Nadel on drums.
It’s true that folk-rock became something of a redundant, denigrated form once those trailblazing early years were gone and, aside from one or two Oyster-flavoured stalwarts, nobody has done much fresh with it until the emergence of The Rails last year.
Carter, Moray and their chums put their own spin on folk-rock in a way that just about sidesteps suggestions of pastiche or that they are a tribute band. Not that they do anything radically different but, while their version of Skewball sounds a bit like Steeleye back in the day, the old nag has never run with so much glory, fuelled by ferocious drumming, an overload of feedback and exceptionally volatile electric guitar. And generally they play with such joy and relish it’s nigh on impossible not to be sucked in. Sounding more jack-the-lad than ever, Sam Carter’s vocals are especially appealing while this must surely be Jim Moray’s dream band. It’s perhaps an image hard to picture, but you imagine Jim strutting his stuff surrounded by such an uplifting barrage of sound grinning from ear to ear. Sam Nadel, too, plays a key role, beating seven bells out of his drumkit at every available opportunity.
They comfortably work their way through a variety of folk classics in enlightened fashion – The Wife Of Usher’s Well comes with a new tune and an unusual angle influenced by Carter’s interest in the American shapenote tradition; Tyne Of Harrow is sung appealingly by Moray against an insistent backbeat; the bawdy The Maid Of Australia triggers some inspired melodeon from Nick Cooke; harmonies abound on How Can I Keep From Singing even if they sound like they’re coming from a shed up the garden. And Crossing The Bar, a hymn of departure that closes the album – organ and all – climaxes with a glorious blaze of horns and samba beats.
What might easily have turned into folk’s Spinal Tap is rather wonderful and could actually be a game changer for all those involved… and perhaps even the scene generally.
• www.falselights.co.uk | Buy from Amazon.co.uk
AND THE REST… The albums - good, adequate and plain bad - which didn't get the full-length treatment, contributed individually by a selection of our various reviewers cowering under the cloak of collective anonymity. For example…
Miroslav Evacic Memphis – Koprivnica – Puttaparthi (Rock Live CD001)
Slide guitar and cimbalom play nice Croatian country blues instrumentals on a short sharp 5-track EP. Only shame is it’s in a clunky old jewel box. www.cardasblues.com
Ensemble Ériu Ensemble Ériu (Raelach RRCD004)
Seems to be a core duo of multi-instrumentalists Jack Talty and Neil O’ Loghlen with eight other musicians. A truly mesmerising suite of six long tracks which might bear tagging as an Irish traditional Penguin Café. It’s only in the ATRs as it came out in 2013 and we only stumbled on it via a Facebook tip. Quite a beauty. raelachrecords.bandcamp.com
Ethiocolor Ethiocolor (Selam SSCD003)
Three generations of muso are represented in this Addis Ababa group which – guess what? – wants to combine old and new. Swedish-produced, major exposure looming: they are about to tour Scandinavia with Youssou N’Dour. www.selam.se
Serpentyne Myths And Muses (Serpentyne Music SM1401)
A couple of songs off Steeleye’s Below The Salt, some stuff about “Boudica, Celtic maid, with your army all arrayed”, and a sprinkling of Latin. Electric guitars, hurdy-gurdy, didgeridoo (yes, really) and mediæval dressing-up box. Desistere pro fuxake. www.serpentyne.com
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This month’s issue •
Come Write Me Down