Monday, 10 June 2013



Folk veteran Martin Simpson is celebrating his 60th birthday this year and next month will be releasing his new album Vagrant Stanzas which can be pre-ordered from

Martin Simpson has a new album in the pipeline
 - picture courtesy of Dave Angel
The album is due for release on July 29 at the Cambridge Folk Festival but if you can't wait that long then you can catch Martin in Birmingham on Tuesday June 11 at the Symphony Hall touring with and supporting Bonnie Raitt.
The CD is available in two versions a 21 track deluxe double disc, autographed and including 7 bonus tracks and a 20-page booklet for £12.98 or a straightforward single CD for £10.98. The offer is only open while stocks last.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


Live Review

Newhampton Folk Club

Singer and flautist Maggie Boyle has an organic, unadorned voice which is honest and refreshing to hear. At the snug venue in the upstairs room of the Newhampton Inn, Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton she was on stage with acclaimed guitarist Paul Downes.

Maggie Boyle at the Newhampton Folk Club
For the final show of the venue's Spring season, they opened as a duet with a traditional song Brave Boys with Downes on guitar picking out the accompaniment nicely. 
With Once in a While, from her latest album Won't You Come Away, Boyle started a Capella and while her voice is not very powerful it is clear, precise and confident and was backed up perfectly by Downes again on guitar. 
Downes picked up his banjo for well-known athem Sweet Nancy which was a soft ballad and this time the backing was provided by Boyle on flute. 
The Irish singer then pulled out a trio of tunes using her flute starting with Lament for John Doherty which had a deeply melancholy feel to it and evoked memories of the Ken Loach classic Kes. This was followed by Betty-Sue Southall which was more upbeat and had Downes adding the sound of his guitar to fill in the colour of the tune. The final track was Paddy Boyle’s Highland which was a much lighter tune which was identifiably Celtic.
With Lady Margaret Boyle seemed to have really got into her stride and matched Downes who was showing his skill back on the guitar. Boyle went right back in the tradition with Donal Og from the 12th century and again her voice harmonised with Downes' playing. 
There was in the 1960s a novelty song called There's a Hole in my Bucket which has slipped into obsolescence but has been cleverly reworked by Boyle's son and called Liza and Henry. If you didn't know the original then it would be a completely new song and if you did then once you got hold of the lyrics the penny would drop. The song was more upbeat than the original and Downes provided a racing guitar backing.
Paul Downes on the banjo
They opened the second half of their set with a gentle ballad from Boyle in Moorlough Mary/Stream of Bawdeen which had a restful accompaniment of Downes' guitar which was then embellished with her flute.
The Old Man's Retreat is certainly not a cheerful song but it's strong lyrics about the evil in the world seemed a contradiction against Boyle's soft tones. 
Downes then moved back on to the five string banjo to play unaccompanied and show his skilful picking, unfortunately his voice doesn't match his playing skills and his range is severely limited and fell flat a couple of times when trying to hit some of the notes.
With Linden Lea Boyle's voice seemed a little unsettled but then sang the title song from one of her albums Gweebarra Shore which she did a Capella and told the story of ordinary lives, immigration and the changing landscape. 
Hate the Rain was a simple ballad which had a 70s feel to it. They finished on the almost inevitable immigration song, Road to Camden Town, which was a soft ballad and a new offering musing about coming to Ireland to England.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

FOLK 21 (3of3)

FOLK21 (part three of three)

Newhampton Arts Centre, Dunkley Street


The Folk21 West Midlands Regional Day culminated in a showcase of folk talent which featured artists from up and down the British Isles and beyond. 

Long Lankin

First up were Long Lankin a three-piece band from London who opened with the old bluegrass/country favourite Get Along Little Doggie which featured some lovely smooth singing from Amy Jane Hardy accompanied wonderfully by the mandolin, fiddle and guitar which were laid down to finish off a Capella.
Amy Jane Hardy
Melanie Powell
Vocalist, flautist and mandolin player Hardy, fiddle player Melanie Powell and guitarist Tanya Jackson, then moved on to a softer acoustic ballad with again sweet harmonies with Amy picking up some notable Greek-style accents on her mandolin which blended wonderfully with the soft warbling voice of Tanya.
The trio pulled out a Scottish song Jolly Hay which was jaunty Celtic sound that had their voices dancing harmoniously with their instruments. Lankin then went Nordic with the flute and bouzouki for a Norwegian tune which had a light dancing melody and was a playful tune which built slowly. There was a really mellowness to their version of Notton which was very chilled with a crystal clear flute opening which had a slightly oriental undertone.
Tanya Jackson
Amy's crystal voice was also soft and coloured by the flighty flute sound and enriched by the fiddle which gave it a sort of  mountain sound inside the soft folk melodies.

Alun Parry

Alun Parry
Their set was followed by Alun Parry from Liverpool who is a great admirer of the legendary Woody Guthrie. Which meant it was appropriate that he opened with Woody's Song which had a toe-tapping beat on acoustic guitar and accompanying mandolin.
Next up was If Harry Don't Go which was a song with a cautionary tale about Harry Constable who was a London docker, this ballad which had the fiddle providing a real jig of a tune was a story about solidarity, sticking together to beat being exploited by those who hold the purse strings.
His next offering Bring Love had an 'ol time country hick feel to it but somehow he managed to get really close to a reggae undertone.
Parry then fessed up that his next song was written by his mother. Called Oh Mr Cameron it used the tune to that fantastic Will Hay film, Oh Mr Porter and was a political song lampooning the Tory party and their policies.
Over the Water was a ballad lauding Liverpool which had a deliberate injection of the Merseybeat.

Harp & A Monkey

Martin Purdy
Offering something distinctly different were the next act, Harp & A Monkey another three piece band but this time hailing from Lancashire.
They opened with a song inspired by a 1900 Lancs poem Bolton's Yard and their sound is unmistakably rooted in the folk stable but, much like pioneers Fairport Convention, they have introduced an electro sound to go along with their banjo, xylophone, guitar and occasional harp which produced a toe tapper with an oompah beat gradually building up the sound.
Andy Smith
They then pulled out Old Oak Tree, a song about a tree in Gallipoli which was a ballad with staccato cadence to the words and combined their electrobeat backing track with of all things a harp played beautifully by Simon Jones. This was followed by a slower deeper ballad about old wives' tales using the xylophone again. The Molecatcher was filled out again by a backing beat this time providing a thumping rhythm to which singer Andy Smith  produced a  deep voiced deliberate ballad.
Simon Jones
Their next track was Katie's Twinkly Band from their first CD. The track has a sweet inspiring story attached to it about the eponymous Katie. It was a light jumpy sound with the banjo of Martin Purdy adding colour that had an old style busker/skiffle stomp feel to it.
The excellent banjo playing painted pictures with sounds and the rhythm was picked out by a dub sound.

Roger Davies

Roger Davies
Roger Davies from Yorkshire was next up and he opened with a soft ballad called Here For You which had more than a hint of Ralph McTell about it with Davies utilising some impressive chord changes.
Brighouse on a Saturday Night  was a cheerful ballad and traditional song about his home town with some nice witty touches.
Davies then told how he was raised on rock 'n' roll so he produced something with a Buddy Holly sound. It was a song pretending to be a rock song but was performed with a strong Yorkshire accent which cleverly incorporated Holly's hit song Rave On.
He then pulled out his harmonica and produced a great version of the fantastic Woody Guthrie anthem, This Land with added localism.
Davies then sang a gentle ballad Stephanie which showed the clear sound of his voice and the strong cadence in the words and tune. This was followed by A Dreamer which was a pleasant easy ballad and he finished with Destiny which was a calling song about dreams.

The Raven

Carolyn Forbes
Next on stage was duo  Carolyn Forbes and Stephen Moncrieff who are The Raven. They opened with a murder ballad called Young Edwin which showed off their impressive a Cappella singing for what was a lovely traditional ballad.
The Blacksmith was a slow number with the guitar of Moncrieff picking out the beat and the flute providing wonderfully evocative highlights.
Rather strangely their next offering was about a Somerset vampire, Green Lady was a soft ballad again gently accented by the guitar. They finished with the upbeat version of Maggie May with Forbes using the squeezebox.

Jez Lowe

Jez Lowe headed the line up at Folk21
Headliner Jez Lowe then took over with the Geordie balladeer opening with Tethers End which was an upbeat song with a great acoustic sound and his singing was accented with a slight tremble in his voice.
There followed a couple of political songs first from the Pitmen Poets which was a soft ballad accented by Lowe's gentle guitar strumming which complimented his soft Geordie tones followed by Taking On Men a tale of ship building which was a jaunty ballad with simple but powerful lyrics about workers having to line up and wait to be chosen for any jobs there were.
Lowe then changed to his bouzouki for Back In Durham Goal which was an upbeat toe-tapping comedy song coloured by his harmonica playing.
He showed his storytelling skills with Fan Dancer's Daughter a gentle but cautionary tale about a family with secrets which also brought out Lowe's impressive guitar picking.
Once again his penchant for comedy came to the fore with a light Geordie version of It's Wonderful Life, called It's a Champion Life inspired by the classic film starring James Stewart.
In between keeping people entertained with his witty banter he played the gentle ballad which was the story of London Danny. He also related how he was involved with Shrewsbury Folk Festival and to celebrate Charles Darwin he, along with several other musicians, was commissioned to come up with a song about the great man. He produced a dark comedy song We'll Hunt Him Down which had a hint of bluegrass about it.
To bring the night to a close he sang the thought provoking Judas Bus about the miner's strike in the 1980s and Old Bones which was an anti-war song.

To read part one click on the link

To read part two click on the link