Black *Scarr – DELUDED

black scarr

Black *Scarr
DELUDED
18 Til I Die Records

It’s Folk Music Jim; But Not As You Know It! Urban Folkicana?

One of our ‘finds’ this year was London band The Persecuted and for once I’ve actually kept up an occasional correspondence with Johnny Black from said Beat Combo. As many musicians out there will appreciate Johnny has to keep a lot of plates spinning to make a living from his chosen profession; one of which is this duo with singer-songwriter Emma Scarr.
So far so good; and when he told me they had recorded an album I foolishly said “send me a copy” without thinking……and there was no going back when he uttered the dreaded F-Word……”It’s more Folk than our usual stuff.”
Well three weeks later I can tell you it’s now been on and off both the office and car stereo with satisfying regularity.
A soul stirring harmonica opens the album and first track Going Home which stars Emma on a heartfelt story of a young woman who has moved to the country for a better life but hankers for the bright lights and crazy traffic of the big city. It’s a simple yet clever story and song that will resonate with many people who return home after life at University or the like.
That harmonica returns with a vengeance on Dirty Coins; a song on many another album that would be ‘my favourite’. A wonderful tale of two women (sisters) who are polar opposites, with one tied down to a life of domesticity and the other a free spirit that flits around the world, but each is jealous of the others life and lifestyle. (PS it took a while but I know what that harmonica melody is a homage to!)
It breaks my heart to admit to liking a Folk album; but there is something very refreshing about a simple observation song like Night Tube Home, about a musician having to take said mode of transport at the end of the night (I remember Jason Ringenberg once cutting short an interview for that very reason!).
Thankfully there’s the occasional flash of pedal-steel to add extra Country spice to a couple of tracks with Emma’s pleading Mrs. Average being a stonker of a South London Honky-Tonker; and on Another Beer her deliberately ‘flat annunciation’ couldn’t be any more effective on a Country-Folk response to the Rolling Stones Mother’s Little Helper.
Johnny does take the lead a couple of times with King of Rock and Roll being a real Folk-Rocking foot-stomper and on My Therapist Said he touches nerves that I don’t want to discuss; but it’s a song many of could have written……but didn’t.
On an album chock full of Kitchen Sink dramas none are any sadder or more eloquent than Carry Me Home about a woman who ‘pops out for some shopping’ and several hours later after meeting several acquaintances asks and needs to be ‘carried home.’ Sad? Yes; but beautifully described and sung by Johnny Black.
My favourite song here though is Can of Worms, a tale of sexual infidelity and its heartbreaking consequences. The story and intimate details are pin sharp and coupled with Darren Buddell’s pedal-steel and Emma’s exquisite fiddle playing make this the type of song we would normally associate with Loretta or Patsy; not a couple of English Folk Rockers.
While Mr Black co-wrote all of the songs with Ms Scarr, she takes most of the heavy lifting in the lead vocal department, with Johnny only sneaking in a couple of times; and the world here is a better place for it as Emma has a gorgeously ‘lived in’ and occasionally ‘world weary’ quality on the songs that she inhabits like an Oscar winning actress.

http://www.18tilidie.com/default.htm

Released 16th June 2017

Sam Baker – LAND OF DOUBT

 

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Sam Baker
LAND OF DOUBT
Self-Release

A Daring Approach From a Brilliant Songwriter Creates a Bold and Beautiful Record.

It’s a challenge for any singer or band with even a modicum of success to have to choose between recording the same songs but with different titles; or do they evolve and develop; making new music that may alienate their fan base.
Thankfully Sam Baker has taken the latter route over 5 albums in 13 years and a combination of masterful storytelling and a very distinctive voice have managed to bring in new fans with every record without ever losing the original fans.
Without reading the Press Release in advance the delightful semi-classical guitar which opens track #1 Summer Wind took me by surprise and then when Sam more narrates than sings the song I sat back with a puzzled expression on my face. The song is even slower than normal and includes a de-tuned (?) guitar and some sweet trumpet playing from Don Mitchell which sent a shiver down my spine. As soon as it finished I pressed ‘repeat’ and the penny immediately dropped; this wasn’t going to be a ‘normal’ album……in some ways it’s a conceptual piece; but by golly it’s staggeringly good!
Only a few songs here; Margaret and Say The Right Words for example, are ‘typical’ Sam Baker songs in as much as they are very literate, deeply personal stories; but even Say The Right Words has Mitchell performing like an Angel on the trumpet again towards the end.
Without spoiling anything for you several tracks are referred to as ‘interludes’ which left me baffled at first’ then halfway through I realised that these short orchestral pieces work perfectly; cleansing the mind ready for the next song.
A brave thing to do; but when Song of Sunrise Birds (interlude) bleeds into The Feast of St. Valentine you know you’re not listening to an ordinary record…….LAND OF DOUBT isn’t ‘ordinary’ at all.
With that in mind, Peace Out can only be described as poetry set to music, with Sam talking through the first voice and even his singing voice hardly picks up the pace; leaving me with a fluttering the stomach and a big smile as it ended.
As a Sam Baker fan of quite a few years I absolutely love this album and salute the man’s courage for trying something different; but the title of ‘favourite song’ must go to an actual ‘traditional’ folk song; but a song that is as good as anything this great songwriter has ever penned. Some Kind of Blue whizzes us back 40 odd years to the Vietnam War as Sam tells the story of “a quiet young man/too shy to get a date.” But young Charlie enlists and before he knows what is happening he is on a jet then “crawling in a tunnel/where the fallen Angels dwell.” The irony of the chorus “Charlie fighting Charlie” isn’t lost on the character nor will it audiences. Eventually Charlie returns home and marries; but……..”crawling through a tunnel/with a loaded .45/was the only time he felt alive.”
Sadly there are thousands of Charlie’s across the Western world feeling the same way 40 years later.
The title track; which closes the record is a singular radical change of mood, with Baker again taking on the role of narrator on a very atmospheric and even claustrophobic song which brings the whole album to a powerful conclusion and owes a debt to to the Beat Poets and Gil Scott-Heron. If I still had my radio show I would play it every single week for a month.
LAND OF DOUBT is quite a departure from what we expect from an Americana/Folk singer; but don’t worry (spoiler alert!) this album is truly exceptional and takes him into the musical territory I associate with Randy Newman, Tom Waits and even the likes of Nick Cave; and Sam Baker is there on Merit.

Released June 16th 2017

http://www.sambakermusc.com

The People – STORR

storr

The People
STORR
Astral Records

The Emotive Sounds of New Scotia.

I recently sent out a Tweet asking for local bands to get in touch with music to review; and the only response came from a Glaswegian band with a singer who hailed from a town 4 miles from my doorstep.
Out of a sense of decency I said to send their latest disc; their third since 2002 and first in 10 long years which arrived the following morning.
God definitely works in mysterious ways.
I was immediately intrigued and impressed with the opening track Hymn, a Gospel flavoured acapella song lasting less than a minute; then a full on powerhouse Celtic Folk-Rocker followed; raising my eyebrows to a cartoonish level.
WOW! The epic Kaon Blues (pt1) lasts over 7 minutes and the swirling guitars, luscious harmonies, militaristic drumming and brass section combine to create a sound akin to the best of Simple Minds, Runrig and Big Country filtered through Deacon Blue. It’s a universal sound that couldn’t sound any more Scottish if it came in a shortbread tin.
While nothing else, thankfully reaches those heady heights……my senses couldn’t take it; the pitch is set perfectly for delightful folky compositions like The River and the atmospheric Ballad of the Lighthouse Keeper to seep into your consciousness like the aroma of heather after a rainstorm.
For younger listeners, on a couple of tracks The People will sound like they take their lead from bands like the Lumineers and Mumford & Sons; but ‘that Power-Folk sound’ on Into The Wilds and Henry ‘O has been around since the sixties Folk Boom and these guys do it with aplomb, passion and show you young ‘uns how it should be done.
While I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the whole album; which is just as good played on a car journey as it is in the conservatory while reading the Sunday papers one song really stands out.
The Devil Inside is one of those songs that will go on to define a band. The Devil Inside encapsulates everything that is good, not just about this album but music itself. The singer’s voice aches as a guitar weeps and wails while the bass, fiddle and drums fill every gap imaginable; and when the harmonies fill the air you feel like the world is a better place to live in.
The playing, writing and story telling throughout is quite exceptional; especially from a band I’ve never heard of and who appear to be part-time but utterly professional and play for ‘fun’…….remember that, eh?

Released April 27th 2017
https://www.facebook.com/thepeoplemusicscotland

Lazarus – ROCK n ROLL HEART

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Lazarus
ROCK n ROLL HEART
self-release

Fascinating and World Weary Stories and Songs.

I’m not sure if it was the eye catching artwork or discovering that Lazarus is his real name that attracted me to this CD; but history will prove that the fates got it right.
After trawling the back-roads and dives that litter America Lazarus Nichols has finally got around to actually recording and releasing his debut album of mostly self-penned songs; proving that there’s hope for every musician out there.
The simple opening track Rise; an almost Quasi-Religious song that turns the bible story about Lazarus into a harsh tale of a working man of the same name is really impressive; introducing us as it does to Nicholls’ way with words and his extraordinary voice, which sits somewhere between Tom’s Russell and Waits.
The songs here criss-cross Modern American Folk, Alt. Country and Tex-Mex with such ease you don’t know where one starts and one ends.
Promise Not To Tell is one of those gorgeously evocative stories that littered Tom Russell’s early albums and the occasional flourishes of Mexicana in the background add an extra ‘something’ that makes this song stand out from the crowd.
Nichols has really grasped the opportunities offered to him in the recording studio; adding extra layers of violin to the chunky guitar on the beautifully mournful Shit and Shame; and then on Gonna Be Okay it sounds like a whole New Orleans Jazz Band are sitting in on the session as Lazarus tips his hat towards the good Dr. John via Leon Russell.
But it’s the simpler folkie songs where Lazarus really shines; with Loathsome Shadow and Making Good Time sounding as good as anything I’ve heard in recent years from some big, big names in the Americana world.
The only cover song here is a fascinating choice; Bob Marley’s Small Axe (a favourite of Noel Gallagher from Oasis) which Lazarus turns into a luscious slice of cool West Coast Country.
Then there is the title track Rock n Roll Heart; my favourite song on the album, which is exactly ‘what it says on the tin’ but done in an Alt. Country stylee…..and just begs to be heard on the radio or perhaps one of those TV Detective shows with a cool soundtrack.
Who knows why some people with average talent find fame in this world; and why others like Lazarus Nichols live their lives in the shadows barely eking out a living; let’s right that wrong and give Lazarus his time in the spotlight that he so surely deserves.

Released May 26th 2017
http://www.lazarusnichols.com/

 

Jon & Roy – THE ROAD AHEAD IS GOLDEN

JON N ROY

Jon & Roy
THE ROAD AHEAD IS GOLDEN
Blue Heron Music

An Inspired and Articulate Slice of Arcadian Canada.

This is Jon Middleton and Roy Vizer’s seventh album and I’d not heard heard of them prior to receiving this disc; but thanks to the glories of the World Wide Web they found me and I can share it with you.
The atmospheric opening track Runner sets the tone nicely for a set of songs that capture the imagination and bare repeated listening.
Middleton’s distinctive voice sounds ‘lived in’ and at times ‘deeply hurt’ on songs like How The Story Goes and Nothing But Everything which features some mysteriously jazz-lite guitar and bass, which makes it perfect for listening late at night when you are feeling very sorry for yourself.
In a way it seems only Canadian artists can do it, Jon and Roy capture the sense of loss at the end of a love affair better than their counterparts anywhere else. Perhaps it’s the cold winds from the North or there’s something in the water; but I can’t imagine a song as brittle as Clever One or Every Night being written or recorded in America or the UK. Jon and Roy (plus co-producer) Stephen Franke capture that magical sense of wonderment and bewilderment quite perfectly at times.
At one stage when I was playing this on Sunday Mrs. Magpie looked up and said “There aren’t many laughs here, are there?”
That is true; and there aren’t meant to be….these songs tell fragile and complex stories in a well constructed and very articulate manner; but the whole album is still very accessible and; dare I say it….easy on the ear.
I’m contrary by nature so very rarely choose title tracks as ‘my favourite’ but The Road Ahead Is Golden which features some delightfully picked guitars and Middleton’s voice itself sounds actually golden; if a little tarnished; all making for a genuine stand out track.
Not for the first time this year I’ve made another ‘great discovery’ in Jon and Roy who are at heart Folkies but easily crossover into ‘Americana’ territory with what I can best describe as Cowboy Junkies Lo-Fi sensibilities.

http://jonandroy.ca/

Released May 19th 2017

Madison Violet – THE KNIGHT SESSIONS

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Madison Violet
THE KNIGHT SESSIONS
Big Lake Music

The Girls Are Back In Town And Re-Invent Folk!

Madison Violet aka Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac are an old fashioned Folk duo with a identifiable modern sound all of their own.
Although they have been together (in the musical sense) for 18 years I think it was about 8 years ago when I first saw them at a Jumping Hot Club gig upstairs in the packed Central Bar, Gateshead.
A love affair began that night.
This album begins with a very simple and self-depreciating We Are Famous; but listen carefully and their trademark harmonies will fill your head like a finely woven silken fog.
Both Brenley and Lisa are inordinately talented multi-instrumentalists and for THE KNIGHT SESSIONS they decided to go back beyond basics; trawling the junk shops of Toronto for any discarded sad and lonely ‘toys’ and instruments in need of care and attention but could make an organic sound unlike anything they had made before.
Some older songs have been re-imagined using this format and while it’s not always apparent what is where; the result is exceptional and surpasses the experiment with grace.
These Ships, for instance appears here twice; first as an impassioned acoustic song and then closing the record with a very radio friendly almost Electronica re-mix.
Another song that has been re-worked is Ohio, from YEAR OF THE HORSE and …..wow……the girls voices melt together in a way I’m not sure I’ve ever heard from non-siblings; and the intricate guitar and fiddle playing is stunningly good too.
I wish I knew why; but the ‘Americana/Roots’ music coming out of Canada in the last ten years has generally been of a very high calibre and Madison Violet have been at the forefront; and with beautiful almost lo-fi songs like Don’t Let Your Heart Be Troubled, Operator and How We See Love that trend continues with relish.
Not for the first time Mrs. Magpie and I disagree as to what is the ‘best’ song here; I adore the timeless and heart-shredding Trouble and she insists Hush; something akin to a ‘band effort’ with a slight Reggae tinge to it making it unlike most other Madison Violet efforts makes it the winner.
As usual she is right; of course.
Unlike most of their contemporaries Brenley and Lisa have thrown caution to the wind on this album; obviously keeping their integral ‘sound’ but modernising it and making it accessible for a younger generation while not alienating old fogies like me (and you?) which is quite some feat; and all done without the aid of a safety net.

RELEASED UK May 5th 2017

Released Canada/USA 2nd June 2017

https://www.madisonviolet.com/

 

David Childers – RUN SKELETON RUN

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David Childers
RUN SKELETON RUN
Ramseur Records

Remarkable Collection of Folk Tinged Americana Tales and Stories .

Within days of each other two ‘musicians in America got in touch to say that their friend David Childers had a new album coming out and they both thought I (the website) could like it and be interested in reviewing it. Intrigued that they would go out of their way to contact me; I still did nothing about it; but a week later an envelope from a trusted PR Company arrived with a handwritten letter saying much the same thing; and enclosed RUN SKELETON RUN.
I’ve now listened to it several times; first in snatches but when heard from start to finish ‘I get it.’
At face value David Childers is a Folk Singer with a warm voice in the style of someone like Burl Ives or Tom Paxton; but so are a million others. So what makes him so different three people have gone out of their way to promote him to me?
The album opens with the sound of an old radio broadcast that leads into the title track RUN SKELETON RUN; a punchy Country Rocker with a fiery fiddle and tsch-tsch drum back-beat that takes you on a fast car chase between bank robber ‘Skeleton’ and the poh-lise.
I didn’t have to hear another song to see why my friends rate Childers so highly. The story is exceptional and had me gripping the edge of my seat hoping ‘he would make it.’
Collar and Bell is a wonderful alliance between what I know as Bluegrass and what I was brought up to think of as traditional Folk music. While both genres can be as boring as wood; Childers has a twinkle in his eye and a smile in his voice on this lovely toe-tapper.
Belmont Ford is a fascinating song; based on a poem by Mary Struble Deery about a train disaster during the Great Flood of 1916 in Chicago. The way Childers holds your attention from start to finish shows not just what a great songwriter he is; but the way he interprates his own words, taking a sad tale from regional history and making it accessible. Not many can do that.
Although I’d not heard of him before this is David Childers’ sixth album in 20 years and you can tell that from the quality of his writing on the well crafted Promise to the Wind and mid paced rocker Hermit; both entirely different in style but fit together perfectly well.
The easy option for title of RMHQ ‘Favourite song’ would be Goodbye to Growing Old; another beautiful Folk-Bluegrass hybrid on a subject very close to my heart; but I’m going for Radio Moscow. An odd subject for a Folk Song you may think; but much like my own teenage self David Childers sounds like he spent a lot of time listening to crackly radio stations in his bedroom dreaming about a world far beyond those four walls in a claustrophobic small town or village.
Discovering the likes of David Childers and sharing their talents is the reason I first started writing reviews many years ago, and keeps me going today.
Trust me, if you like a good old fashioned Folk Singer whether that’s Woody Guthrie, Townes Van Zandt or Billy Bragg I think you will love David Childers just as much.

http://www.davidchilders.com/#home

Released May 5th 2017

Carrie Elkin THE PENNY COLLECTOR

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Carrie Elkin
THE PENNY COLLECTOR
Self-Release

Sensational Songs from the Poetic Edge of the Folk Spectrum.

Oh dear; this album by one of my favourite singer-songwriters very nearly got overlooked; such is the organisation on my desk at RMHQ.
Thankfully I found it just in time to scream its delights from the rooftops prior to its release.
I think I’ve seen Carrie play live 4 or 5 times now; either alongside her husband Danny Schmidt or more usually with Sam Baker and each time I hear her I think “She is too good for this, I want to see and hear her sing on her own!”
Then; as if by magic here is her fourth (or sixth if you count her firs 2 self-releases) album and; well…..keep reading.
Opening track New Mexico is absolutely spellbinding from start to finish; with Carrie’s crystal clear voice as she pours her heart out, dealing with the death of her father. Don’t worry. This isn’t maudlin; it’s a beautiful loving tribute for and about a very interesting man; and one I now wished I’d met.
This is followed by Always on the Run; possibly but less obviously about her father again, but words that touched me quite deeply as I lost my eldest brother only a couple of weeks prior to first hearing this touching song.
As usual I’d listened to THE PENNY COLLECTOR 3 or 4 times before reeding the accompanying Press Release; only to find that these songs were written and collated in a year where Carrie not only lost her father but gave birth to her first child; a daughter, which makes a lot of sense as songs like Tilt-A -Whirl and Niagara do sound like a wordsmith looking back at and reassessing their life in the most articulate manner.
With that theory in mind the snappy My Brother Said becomes ever more ‘interesting’ if it’s to be taken literally. I won’t give anything way; apart from the aggressively played electric guitar and the timbre in her voice resurrected some memories from my own life and I guess many out there will give a rye smile when they hear it too.
Again it was only when I read the notes that I realised the almost otherworldly rendition of American Tune wasn’t Carrie’s own words but those of Paul Simon! If you are going to cover a song; at least change it around…..and Carrie alongside producer Neilson Hubbard have turned this one upside down and inside out to create a minor masterpiece.
This is a compelling set of songs and must be heard as a complete work; but two songs in particular affected me quite profoundly, both very very different reasons and from both ends of the spectrum in Carrie’s ‘story’.
And Then The Birds Came is another song about her father; and with my own brother’s death still raw it caught me quite by surprise. While specifically about Richard Elkin (1942-2015) the sentiment is general enough to be about any loved one who has left our lives; which is the hallmark of a great songwriter.
The other Live Wire is about a rebellious daughter who was ‘Daddy’s little girl’ but ‘ran away to the Carnival’ before returning. I neither know nor care if this is a true story; because it’s such a cool and absorbing tale that I visualise an accompanying video I’m going to direct. It’s in mono/sepia with shots of Carrie singing and strumming her guitar interspersing with the character drifter in and out of shot via dream sequences……just a thought, well; it’s my thoughts actually.
If you’ve not heard of Carrie Elkin before; think Nanci Griffith or Emmylou Harris with an extra spark and sparkle and you will be somewhere in the vicinity.
Coincidentally (as if!) Carrie will be touring the UK alongside her husband Danny Schmidt in May and June; hopefully Danny will have a sore throat the night they come to Newcastle so I can hear Carrie Elkin sing these and others in all her singular glory (only kidding Dan).

http://carrieelkin.com/

Released UK April 7th 2017

Malcolm Holcombe PRETTY LITTLE TROUBLES

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Malcolm Holcombe
PRETTY LITTLE TROUBLES
Gipsy Eyes Music.

Raw and Defiantly Authentic Country-Blues.

I can’t remember how long ago it was when I first ‘discovered’ Malcolm Holcombe; but I do remember it was a Jumping Hot Club upstairs in the Central Bar, Gateshead when the room was littered with a handful of regulars who hung on every single word and note that came from the stage.
I was so smitten with the singer-songwriter I actually borrowed £5 from the promoter to go towards me buying the album Malcolm had for sale.
To be kind to the man from Carolina he has a voice and dress sense that only a Mother…..or me could love; just ask Mrs. Magpie!
I digress; let’s get onto PRETTY LITTLE TROUBLES Malcolm’s 15th album.
Some rather funky bass-lines and timpani unusually open the first track Crippled Point O’View; but it doesn’t take long for that trademark rasp and some wheezing harmonica from Jelly Roll Johnson to filter from the office speakers and Malcolm offers a rye and rueful view on these ‘tired and troubled times.’ Not exactly a protest song as such; it’s well worth listening to and, unless you are a flag waving patriot you will sadly find yourself nodding in agreement to many of of his all too keen observations on the state of the world.
When you listen to songs like Rocky Ground and Damn Weeds it’s difficult to pigeon hole Malcolm Holcombe, as he’s certainly a Folk Singer, but this is Classic Hill Music which pre-dates Bluegrass and damn sure this guy has the Blues.
The title track Pretty Little Troubles is as sweet as Malcolm Holcombe gets; but peel away the layers and you will yet another sharp and darkly witty observation on the times we find ourselves in.
As a ‘Troubadour’ Malcolm isn’t afraid to delve into the past to give you a history lesson that needs to be considered by the likes of us but repeated to future generations; Good Ole Days is a prime case in point, but you can delve deep into his back catalogue for other razor sharp examples. Here he uses the phrase ‘Good Ole Days’ and a jaunty finger picked guitar lick to draw you in to a story of a coal miner who worked with no labour laws and had seven children, of which many died of diseases associated with poverty! I listened again to this song the day President Trump promised to revive coal mining in the USA as part of his ‘Make America Great’ strategy…….perhaps someone should hack his iPhone and make this song Putin’s ringtone.
While I’m on that subject the final song on the album We Struggle is the type of restrained fury that we normally associate with Bob Dylan’s first 3 or 4 albums; but is needed in 2017 more than ever. Listen to it on headphones and it will break your heart in two.
Malcolm’s songs are always intriguing, especially the ones based on his own experiences, such is the case with Bury, England. A tale of touring hundreds of miles from home and turning up in a small town in the North of England, but it could be Nowheresville Anywhere. The intimate detail in the lyrics will bring rye smiles from British fans, and musicians all over the world.
The Eyes of Josephine finds Malcolm rediscovering his Celtic Roots, on a romantic ballad that is a timelessly beautiful Folk ballad at its heart.
As a ‘fan boy’ I’ve particularly liked Malcolm’s recent releases as he’s found some producers who are sensitive to his own particular needs…..especially his voice; which has always been brittle and worn. For long parts of his concerts you find yourself leaning forward to hear him as he can sing in barely a gruff whisper.
Without too much studio witchcraft Darrell Scott brings out a wonderful warmth and depth to that larynx on Rocky Ground and the raw to the bone Yours No More but especially on my favourite song here; and one more than worthy of inclusion on any future Best Of album……The Sky Stood Still. For once I’m lost for words as to how to describe it…..hey; buy the album and tell me I’m wrong.
Please, if you’ve got this far at the very least find Malcolm Holcombe on one of those streaming sites and I’m 99% sure you will find yourself buying something of his; and this is a damn good place to start!

Released May 26th UK & Europe
Released April 7th USA & Canada

https://www.malcolmholcombe.com/

Keston Cobblers Club – ALMOST HOME

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Keston Cobblers Club
ALMOST HOME
Tricolour Records/Absolute

Harmonious and Folklicious Music That Stirs The Soul and Your Feet.

I’m walking a tightrope with this review; as I’m going against all my principals by listening to a ‘stream’ of the album and writing about it ‘live’…..not over several sessions spread over a couple of weeks.
The title track Almost Home gets proceeding off to a lovely start, as what sounds like three part harmonies shadow Matt Lowe’s warm and expressive voice. In the background an intricately plucked guitar and a tightly wrapped Folk orchestra provide a fog of acoustic auditory sensations.
The title of Track #2 Concord intrigued me straight away; as it is the name of the original town in Washington where I live. Thankfully this intricate Nu-Folk song isn’t about Pound Shops and drunken shenanigans in and around Wetherspoons on a Thursday afternoon; instead it’s a bittersweet, (with the emphasis more on sweet) love song sung around some clever banjo and piano before it all ends with a sweeping orchestral closure. Different, yet fascinating at the same time.
While occasionally nodding back to their forbears in the 1970’s The Keston Cobblers somehow still manage to plough their own musical furrow with songs like Demons and the inspired lo-fi of Walls.
While not normally my first choice of music to listen to; and I remind you this is a ‘first take’ review a couple of songs really stand out; Bicycles uses the siblings (Matt and sister Julia) voices like an extra instrument on a clever and nimble song that transcends the Folk genre. While On Your Own takes a massive leap to the left with some Soca guitar, funky bass-lines and a bit of a Electronica back-beat supporting two luscious voices singing and harmonising like Angels. The song ain’t half bad either.
Then there is All I Need, which closes the band’s third  full length album. Julia Lowe’s sensual voice lights up a tight Folk-Rock love song and made me go weak at the knees; and was the first song I played a second time…….only to find it was even better than the first!
After listening only once to ALMOST HOME I can hear why the Keston Cobblers Club are as popular as they are with the ‘young people’; being a lot more easy on the ear than their peers, the recently departed Bellowhead and Mumford and Sons.
In Julia and Matt Lowe they have two excellent vocalists and the band behind them; with their eclectic instruments are truly exceptional musicians; plus the production is exceptional somehow merging and melting so many disparate parts to create such a singular distinctive sound.

http://kestoncobblers.club/

Released March 31st 2017