Issue 15

Liam Ó Maonlaí Live | The Greystones, Sheffield | 05.10.21

“It’s been ages since I last saw you Liam” I tentatively pointed out upon entering the Green Room, situated up a short flight of stairs at The Greystones in Sheffield, a room that has no doubt served as a retreat between sets for many a familiar face over the years and a room that has also seen little action more recently due to you know what.  John Willis, the tour manager, introduces me to the singer after a riveting couple of sets downstairs in The Backroom, the suitably named concert space on the ground floor of the pub.  “I’m sure it was at the Cambridge Folk Festival”, I continued, knowing full well that it was.  “Oh” said Liam, rising from a low sofa, a friendly hand held out for me to shake, “that would have been 1997”, a flash of memory momentarily crossing a heavily bearded face, beads of sweat steadily evaporating upon his brow.  “I remember that gig so well.. Jackson Browne was sitting in the wings watching us”.  Steve Earle might have also been milling around backstage, the Texan troubadour’s set being the one immediately prior to the Hothouse Flowers’ appearance on the main stage.  This is the sort of memory that most of us would probably like to keep, if only to share with people every once in a while. 

Liam Ó Maonlaí is a good twenty-four years older now, yet his charisma is still intact, together with his warm, friendly and accommodating nature, very much evident as he approaches the piano stool a couple of hours earlier.  He wears glasses for the first number, one moment his mouth close to the microphone, the next almost touching the keys, then occasionally it all gets flipped back in an ecstatic gesture, causing his long wavy Robert Plant-like locks to fly in all directions, suitably enhancing his obvious rock star credentials.  Liam rejects this image immediately by milling around in the main bar prior to the show, meeting old friends who are out just to see him.  “Why a solo tour of Northern England?” I enquire.  “Oh, the idea was just suggested to me at a festival recently and I thought, why not?” he says, as he reaches for a glass of water on the coffee table between us.  The band that opens the show, a trio made up of Jane Stockdale, Chris Bartram and Sarah Dean, collectively known as White Sail, suitably warm up the audience with a handful of self-penned songs that includes “Beautiful World”, “Sailing on the Blue” and “Spring”, together with a reading of the traditional “She Moves Through The Fair”.  Flautist Jacquelyn Hynes is beckoned to the stage at strategic points to add some of her distinctive flute playing. 

There’s the shortest of breaks before our main guest appears, positioning himself at the piano centre stage, radiating movie star quality charisma.  After the first number, Liam lifts the glasses from his face, holds them up to the light and with the simplest flick of the wrist, tosses them over his shoulder, surplus to requirements for the rest of the set.  His eyes are hidden, not so much by the glare of the spotlight, but by a natural squint, not unlike that of a young Jeff Bridges circa the Thunderbolt and Lightfoot years.  While adjusting the microphone stand over the top of the piano, the singer peers out into the darkness, seemingly weighing up his audience, then in a playful gesture, guns down the entire front row Sid Vicious-like, motioning the weapon from side to side like a scene from The Great Escape.  “Can you imagine?” he askes, going on to admit, “I’d probably turn it on myself afterwards”.

Movies are also the subject of one of the earlier numbers in the set, a hit for his band Hothouse Flowers back in the day.  ‘Do you go to the movies..’ the singer enquires, ‘..find a friend in a film, holding hands with the heroes, fall in love with the heroine?’  It’s something we all do, something we can relate to.  The thought suddenly crosses my mind that some of the fans of the mid-eighties Dublin band might not necessarily fully appreciate the extended song cycle that soon follows, a medley that encompasses Gospel, Blues, Soul and the Gaelic tongue, but there again, those fans have probably grown in the same manner as Liam, to fully appreciate the soulfulness of this highly atmospheric performance.  “Better Days Ahead” is still there for the older fans, as well as “Christchurch Bells”, but in between there’s an occasional whistle tune, notably “The Gold Ring”, then there’s one or two covers, including surprisingly, the old Johnny Nash hit “I Can See Clearly Now”, together with the almost obligatory Dylan song, “Is Your Love in Vain” on this occasion. 

Throughout the two sets, each of the White Sail musicians are invited up to join Liam in various combinations; some harp here, a little trumpet there, one or two beats of the djembe and the occasional flute flurry courtesy of Jacquelyn Hynes, whose Pre-Raphaelite locks echo those of the singer we’ve all come to hear.  The Sheffield show is the fourth stop on Liam’s current tour, a tour that appears to be revitalising and reconfirming Liam Ó Maonlaí’s credentials as a first rate and thoroughly engaging performer.

Úrchnoc Cheín Mhic Cáinte  is included on both this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

Whitby Pavilion, North Promenade, West Cliff, YO21 3EN

This year’s Musicport Festival in Whitby may be the last.

After long consideration Jim and Sue McLaughlin, who have been at the helm of the Whitby festival since its inception in 2000, have decided it is time to step down. This year’s festival (22-24 October) will therefore, in all probability, be the last. Jim said, “The last 21 years have been a life-changing experience for us, and we have met and worked with so many wonderful people and experienced hundreds of amazing artists. We always hoped to hand over the reins but realise in these difficult times and because Musicport has never been a money-making venture that this is unlikely. One significant factor contributing to our decision is the increased cost of accommodation in Whitby which has dramatically affected costs for us accommodating artists and for our audience who generally stay in guest accommodation. When we started out one of the reasons for doing the festival at the time of year, we did was to help extend the tourist season. It is obvious that is no longer a primary aim as the tourist trade is now year-round!

Hundreds of artists have appeared at the festival over the years including The Buena Vista Social Club , Hugh Masekela, Richard Hawley, Toumani Diabate, The Levellers, Misty In Roots, Courtney Pine,  Vieux Farka Touré, The Mahotella Queens Lemn Sissay.

“We are proud of the achievements we have made introducing young people locally to music from diverse cultures, bringing top class international artists to the Yorkshire coast and creating an event that so many said was the highlight of their year, but we feel that the time is right for us to concentrate our time on running smaller local events and our music shop. Sue added, “Wanting to go out on a high, and having recently secured Arts Council funding for this year, we think the line-up is as strong as ever and fairly reflects the range of artists we have worked with over the years. Weekend and day and tickets are still available so if people are wondering whether to come, we’d obviously advise them not to miss this last chance! There will also be session tickets available on the door. We have strong Covid 19 measures in place to try to ensure people’s safety at the event, so we hope we can all have a good time and remember it as an event that successfully put Whitby on the international music map.

“We will miss working with the Pavilion and its manager, and our wonderful team of staff and volunteers, many of whom have been there since the start. We have events at The Coliseum in Whitby in November, December and next Spring and hope to do more outdoor events like In The Grove (which happened in Mulgrave Woods earlier this year) so we are not giving up on bringing high quality events to the area.”

This year the festival will see performances by The Men They Couldn’t Hang, Les Negresses Vertes (France), Muzsikas (Hungary), Le Vent du Nord (Canada), Monsieur Doumani (Cyprus), Mary Coughlan, Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita, Les Triaboliques, Justin Adams & Mauro Durante, Dizraeli, Graham Fellows, Tankus the Henge, She’Koyokh, My Darling Clementine, Cleveland Watkiss (The Great Jamaica Songbook).

Plus, DJs and live guests in the new Perfumed Garden On Sea stage and, an alternative venue outside the main venue, Bob’s Blundabus.

To book, ring 01947 603475 or call in at Whitby Music Shop on Skinner Street in Whitby.

Northern Sky will once again be reporting from the festival, watch out for a full review in the next edition on 1 November.

For more details, visit musicportfestival.com

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Jack Rutter Live | Roots Music Club, Doncaster | 08.10.21

It takes Jack Rutter merely a few seconds to settle into his set at the Roots Music Club tonight as the Shepley-born folk singer delivers his first solo indoor gig in almost two years, pretty much since the time of his club debut.  With two sets predominately consisting of traditional ballads, Jack finds space in the set for one or two covers, notably Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” and Dwight Yoakum’s Country-flavoured “It Won’t Hurt”, bringing a mixture of post-Genesis Prog/Pop and West Coast Hillbilly to the Doncaster venue.  Despite the sparsely populated room tonight, due in no small part to the ongoing ‘easing back to some sort of normal’ scenario, which we all know is going to take some time, the atmosphere is still one of positivity and determination.  One or two of the club regulars were also absent due to unforeseen circumstances, family commitments and other completely viable causes, but also went out of their way to send in their apologies.  The support act was also forced to cancel, though club regular Ian Mather stepped in like the trooper he is, to help get the night off to a good start.

Jack pulls most of his set list from his two albums, Hills (2017) and Gold of Scar and Shale (2019), opening with “The Lancashire Liar”, while accompanying himself on a bouzouki that couldn’t sound better.  ‘It took a long time to get it to sound like that’ the singer later admitted, a sound presumably enhanced by one or two handy inbuilt audio devices.  Continuing with “The Bilberry Moors”, the singer was on his way to marking the Ukrainian Centre in Doncaster as his own territory for the evening.  Having worked extensively in the power folk trio Moore Moss Rutter, as well as within Seth Lakeman’s band, Jack’s highly rhythmic guitar/bouzouki technique is so well rehearsed it is never brought into question.  If the quality of his playing appears to be straight off a duck’s back, then the singer chooses to challenge himself with one or two newer numbers that require more attention due to the multitude of words that are packed into the lyrics, notably “Small Northern Town”, which kicks off the second set. 

Though completely at home with the traditional fare, such as “A Dalesman’s Litany”, “Fair Janet and Young James” and “Hey John Barleycorn”, the contemporary material seems to fit in well with the bulk of the set, even while delivering such lyrics as ‘Today I had another bout with sorrow, You know this time I almost won, If this bottle would just hold out ’til tomorrow, I know that I’d have sorrow on the run’, resisting that all important Bakersfield twang or indeed the white Stetson and matching rhinestone encrusted suit.  Confident with both accompanied and unaccompanied songs, Jack enjoys the silence around the room during his reading of the traditional “Down by the Derwent Side”, an unaccompanied ‘North-Countrie’ song the singer learned from Frank Kidson.  We probably forget just how hard it is to deliver a convincing a cappella song, but Jack does it with some authority.  Concluding with a fine sing-a-long staple, “Ranzo”, the Roots Club enjoyed another fine night of acoustic music by one of the nicest musicians on the scene at the moment.

The Sledmore Poachers is included on both this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

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Leveret Live | Howard Assembly Room, Leeds | 12.10.21

Access to the Howard Assembly Room has up to now been achievable through the Opera North entrance on New Briggate, where visitors have always climbed the imposing staircase, rubbing shoulders with opera-goers and possibly not realising quite how high up in the building this intimate venue actually is.  Now that the venue has its own entrance a little further along the street, there’s a clear indication of just how elevated the room is upon entering the newly renovated atrium, which clearly shows the three levels, the Assembly Room being right at the very top.  It’s an impressive transformation and the staff seem only too pleased to welcome customers in and to show them around.  The last time I visited the venue was for its closing party back in February 2019, where we raised a glass in celebration of the venue’s tenth year.  Two and a half years later and the venue reopens its doors with an impressive programme of events, the best news being that the actual room remains unchanged, adhering to the old adage that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Tonight, the folk trio Leveret are the main guests, with Sam Sweeney on both violin and viola, Rob Harbron on concertina and Andy Cutting on a shed load of melodeons.  Clearly pleased to be out and about performing their delicate music in front of live audiences once again, this exclusively instrumental trio plays gentle and atmospheric music based on dance tunes, which appears to come over as a sort of folk version of chamber music.  Chamber folk perhaps?  So cleverly intertwined and dovetailed these arrangements are, it’s often difficult to pick out one specific instrument, each cleverly disguising each other’s presence in both unison and sumptious harmony.  Each performance is unique, the three musicians often surprising one another with the way their improvised music follows unexpected twists and turns along the road.  ‘If you were to come to see us in Manchester tomorrow night’ says Sam Sweeney, clearly enjoying the moment, ‘it will be an entirely different set’.  The three musicians seem relaxed as they arrange themselves in a small semi circle, almost huddled together, with each keeping their eyes on the other’s fingers.  Thirty fingers are constantly at work, yet there’s a calming ambiance with each of the tunes they play, or indeed sets of tunes, usually in pairs and curiously, three tunes together on just the one occasion, “Byron’s/Lady Grey/Brakes”.   They claim to know seventy-three tunes, eighteen of which come out to play tonight, from the opener “Hessian Camp” through to the final set a couple of hours later, “Rain on the Woodpile/Terminus”, before returning to their seats for the one encore, “Cotilion”, a relatively new tune in their repertoire.

There’s a sense of total relaxation after a Leveret gig, where the trance-like tunes continue to reverberate well into the night.  There’s little point reaching for the car stereo on the M62 as I trundle homeward, with such tunes as “Two Nights at Chieveley”, “Henry Blogg”, “Lola Flexen” and both Nelson’s “Hornpipe” and “Maggot” respectively, still whirling around my head, each mile whizzing past at a moderate speed.  Lovely to have the Howard Assembly Room back and as conducive to good music as it ever was.  Here’s to the next ten years.

For more information about Leveret

Rain On Woodpile/Terminus is included on both this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

Ian M Bailey – Songs to Dream Along to | Kool Kat Musik

There’s something immediately familiar in the sound that Ian M Bailey creates, something very much embedded in the past, back to the time when the twelve-string Rickenbacker was King.  There should be no need to return to the sound of The Byrds or The Association, we should never have left it behind in the first place and there’s a distinct feeling here that Ian never did hang up his Rickenbacker for long.  In collaboration with Cosmic Rough Riders’ songsmith Daniel Wylie, the two songwriters wear their influences very much on their sleeves, not just The Byrds and R.E.M. but also Crosby Stills and Nash and The Jayhawks, each leaving either a strong or almost subliminal impression somewhere in these songs.  Highly melodic, the bulk of the material appears to reflect the songs that can be found on the scattering of records seen on the back of the inner sleeve, with Hendrix and The Who sharing the same carpet space as Don McLean and Buddy Holly, a reminder of the sort of music we listened to before the music allegedly died.  It’s almost impossible to listen to “The Sound of Her Voice” without thinking immediately of Lennon and McCartney, especially the dreamy harmonies midway through, together with the eastern-flavoured coda, which could easily be mistaken for an outtake from Sgt. Pepper.  “Slow Down River” likewise is reminiscent of the Traveling Wilburys, a strong pop song that doesn’t seem too far from “Eight Miles High” in feel.  Other musical observations might include the instrumental “Midday at Hope Lodge”, which is for all intents and purposes Traffic, getting it together in the country once again.  Recorded at Small Space Studios, which is located at Ian’s Preston home, the eleven songs capture the spirit of a bygone musical age, yet also manage to keep it all very much in the here and now.  A fabulous, evocative and well observed album.  

Slow Down River is included on both this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

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Cara – Grounded | Artes Records

Cara was formed almost twenty years ago and in that time has built a strong following and a reputation for being one of the finest traditional folk outfits on the Irish music scene in Germany.  The four musicians that make up the German-Scottish collaboration create a sound based on their own particular traditional roots and manage to forge a mixture of traditional songs and tunes, together with original compositions and the almost obligatory Dylan cover, in this case, “”Lay Down Your Weary Tune”.  The dozen songs and tunes that make up Grounded, the band’s sixth studio album to date, are richly observed with fine arrangements, providing space for individual solos, such as the fine guitar passage midway through “The Grounded Traveller” courtesy of Jürgen Treyz, which sets it apart from other fiddle tunes of this nature.  With Gudrun Walther on fiddle, viola and accordion, Kim Edgar on piano, Hendrik Morgenbrodt on uilleann pipes, flute and whistles and the aforementioned Jürgen Treyz on various guitars, banjo and bass, Cara make an impressive sound throughout, both on the songs as well as the tunes.

The Windhorse is included on both this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

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John Wort Hannam – Long Haul | Black Hen Music

The eighth album by Alberta-born John Wort Hannam sees the singer/songwriter flirting with humour in at least a couple of places.  Known for his more serious material, songs like the fabulous “Beautiful Mess”, a country duet with an equally fabulous Shaela Miller comes as a pleasant surprise, especially the very notion of throwing in the ‘god-damn cat’ with the Lou Reed record as a parting gesture.  Likewise “Meat Draw” finds Hannam in a cheerful disposition as he takes a look at the finer aspects of small town life.  On a slightly more serious note, Hannam takes a cathartic look at his own life in “What I Know Now”, a deeply moving meditation on regret, with such insightful lines as ‘I wish I told my father but I was not of age, How to treat my mother but I was not brave’.  Such honesty shines through clearly on this and other songs on this excellent album.

Long Haul is included on both this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

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Danny George Wilson – Another Place | Loose

The opening song on Another Place hits home like Phil Spector’s wall of sound, as “Lost Future” creates a slightly uneasy feel, possibly due to the dominant sound of what could be likened to running one’s finger tip along the rim of a wine glass, or several actually.  Danny and the Champions of the World frontman Danny George Wilson, delivers this solo album in collaboration with the Sussex-based producer Hamish Benjamin, the ten predominantly original songs offering something slightly different from the norm, each selection inventive and richly textured, while bolstered by Wilson’s distinctive vocal prowess.  There’s a soulfulness in his voice, which is enhanced by the occasional organ flurry, such as on “Sincerely Hoping” and “I Would Be In Love (Anyway)”, which features a fine duet with Emma Swift (Blonde On The Tracks).  The opening line to “Can You Feel Me” borrows from Carly Simon’s most famous and much sampled hit “You’re So Vain” in an almost subliminal way, before taking its own direction, a song with an almost Neil Young sensibility.  Likewise “Right Place”, which has more of a “Harvest Moon” feel to it as Wilson reaches for those almost unachievable higher register moments.  “Heaven for Hiding”, the new single from the album, motors along to a rhythmic pulse, which is easy to hitch a ride with.  Studio embellishments like this are used often, which provides each of the songs with a contemporary edge, notably “I Wanna Tell You”, with the deepest of bass notes to rattle the windows.  It all sounds highly experimental, but in each case the melodies work closely alongside the technical wizardry to great effect.   

Heaven for Hiding is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Long for the Coast – Revolution Starts at Home | Self Release

The Totnes-based duo Jamie and Sophie Gould, otherwise Long for the Coast, return with their second full-length album, Revolution Starts at Home, which once again captures the duo’s warm and soothing harmonies.  Jamie pretty much takes the lead throughout, with each song embellished by some almost subliminal, yet sublime harmonies, courtesy of Sophie.  The politically charged title reflects the duo’s social stance, an ongoing endeavour to help change the world by starting with themselves; the conscientious ‘if we can change, then so will the world’ ideology.  The songs and their arrangements in particular, carry no immediate Clash-like call to the cause, just a gentle nudge in the right direction.  Delicate in places, the arrangements resonate with strings in all the right places, notably on such songs as “In Our Own Time” and “Hold on Brother”, two of the most soothing songs on the album, while the acoustic guitar takes a vital role on such songs as “Orcombe Bay” and the sublime “Sophie”, presumably a song from one to the other.  “Haight Ashbury” is a colourful homage to the so-called Summer of Love, with nods to both the Grateful Dead and the city they once called home.  Produced by Stian Vedøy, Revolution Starts at Home features one or two guest musicians including Simon Walker on bass, cello and backing vocals, Jacob Spencer on drums and Abi Vedøy on backing vocals with multi-instrumentalist Vedøy adding piano, synths, lap steel, samples and backing vocals where necessary.  Long for the Coast make a special sound that needs to be heard more widely.

Hold on Brother is included on both this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

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Mànran – ÙRAR | Mànran Records

ÙRAR is Mànran’s fourth album to date and the first to feature newcomers, the singer Kim Carnie and guitarist Aidan Moodie, both who appear to have slotted into the renowned Scots band’s ranks with some ease.  Pronounced ‘oo-rar’, meaning ‘fresh’ or ‘flourishing’, the eleven tracks are made up of songs delivered in both English and Gaelic, together with intoxicating instrumentals and sweep along at pace, providing much scope in terms of driving rhythms and delicate songs, suitably lifted by Kim’s gentle lead vocal and Aidan’s subtle backing vocals.  The songs, including “Crow Flies”, “San Cristóbal”, “Griogal Crìdhe” and the pounding “Black Tower” signify a strong vocal presence, while the powerful instrumental arrangements of “Crossroads” and “The Loop” effectively showcase the band’s deep understanding of their traditional roots.  Having a good eleven years behind them now, the band which also consists of Ewen Henderson on vocals, fiddle and pipes, Gary Innes on accordion, Ross Saunders on bass guitar, Ryan Murphy on uilleann pipes, flute and whistles and Mark Scobbie on drums, sparkles as a unit with an almost continuous flow of uplifting melodies and intricate arrangements, poised for action, especially for the festivals to come, which they are always guaranteed to go down well at with this sort of repertoire.

San Cristóbal is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Sarah McQuaid – The St Buryan Sessions | Shovel and a Spade

The St Buryan Sessions is the new post-lockdown album and accompanying film by the American singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sarah McQuaid, whose deep and highly emotive voice, a cross between John Peel protégé Bridget St John and gospel legend Odetta, fills all the relevant spaces.  Presented as a live album, albeit with the absence of an audience, the atmosphere is immediately felt in the natural reverb from the venue itself, Sarah’s own local medieval church in West Cornwall.  Despite there being no audience, there’s a sense of an audience sitting in the pews, stirred by the natural vibrations within the old church walls, not just those who might have otherwise been present now under different circumstances, but also those parishioners who might have taken those seats over the centuries; quite a large audience in that case.  Choosing some of the songs that have served Sarah well over the years, older songs such as “Charlie’s Gone Home” and “The Sun Goes on Rising” to more recent songs “If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous”, “The Silence Above Us” and “The Tug of the Moon”, the singer approaches each performance with humility and reverence for her surroundings.  Anyone familiar with Sarah’s live appearances will be aware of the importance of the single drum, which serves as the perfect accompaniment to an otherwise a cappella song “One Sparrow Down”, on this occasion sounding even more powerful in this atmospheric setting.  Sarah takes on the jazz standard “Autumn Leaves”, with impressive results and also pays homage to her friend and one time mentor, the late Michael Chapman with a version of Chapman’s “Rabbit Hills”, seated at the local choir’s grand piano.  Soulful, stirring and emotive, a fine album.

Charlie’s Gone Home is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Absolutely Free – Aftertouch | Boiled Records

‘Aftertouch’ is apparently a term used for the MIDI data sent when pressure is applied to a keyboard after the key has been struck and while it is being held down or sustained, which immediately goes over my head.  The Toronto-based trio Absolutely Free rose from the ashes of the experimental rock band DD/MM/YYYY back in 2012 and comprises Matt King, Michael Claxton and Moshe Fisher-Rozenberg, who between them create huge multi-layered cinematic soundscapes, which are occasionally reminiscent of Pink Floyd, notably the impressive “Remaining Light”, which initially borrows from African rhythms before wending its way into Wish You Were Here territory.  “Are They Signs” is reminiscent of some of Tomita and Tonto’s Expanding Headband experimentation, with an almost Tears for Fears dance sensibility.  Produced by Jorge Elbrecht, Aftertouch is packed with musical ideas that stretch beyond the band’s neo-psychedelic, Krautrock and African influences into a more pop/rock oriented arena.

Andy Comley – Oh Me Oh My | Self Release

The Winchester-born singer/songwriter Andy Comley has a similar desire to that of the now disgraced R Kelly, that he wishes he could fly and repeatedly tells us about it in this instantly memorable pop song.  There’s a pleading quality to Andy’s voice throughout “Oh Me Oh My”, which the singer describes as a ‘love/hate’ song.  Playing all the instruments himself, including all the guitars, keyboards, drums and bass, Andy gives us a brief glimpse into his world and delivers it with some expertise.  Describing his music as ‘an emotional response to the moment’, while the words are ‘an emotional response to the music’, Andy has a clear vision of what he sets out to achieve. “Oh Me Oh My” joins several other singles released by the songwriter, “All That I Am”, “You” and “The Night Brings the Dawn” among them.

Oh Me Oh My is included on both this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

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Emma Gale – Enjoy Life While You Can | Example Records

Dorset’s Emma Gale instils a sense of optimism in her latest single release, a song of hope in these difficult times, with a message that we might all heed as we scrape around in our search for a way out of our current situation.  “Enjoy Life While You Can” is a positive mantra delivered in a bright and breezy manner, written in collaboration with John Paul Mason and Chris Pepper, who also provides backing vocals and most of the instruments on the single.  As a finalist in the Talent is Timeless songwriting competition, Emma took advantage of the opportunity to record a video of the song at the famed Abbey Road Studios, while the song itself was recorded closer to home in Weymouth and at Saltwell Studio in Huntingdon.  Released ahead of her forthcoming Boo Hewerdine-produced debut album, Emma says of the single ‘the message is that we should all live our lives to the fullest especially after what we have all been through over the last eighteen months’.  Well, we can’t really argue with that.

Enjoy Life While You Can is included on both this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

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Fergus McNeill – Bloodrush | Jam Records

Glasgow’s Fergus McNeill recently became the national winner of the first Talent is Timeless songwriting competition, an event set up by fellow songwriter Saskia Griffiths-Moore, an age-positive movement that concentrates on promoting the music of older artists.  “Bloodrush” satisfied the eighteen judges to the extent of considering it the best of the bunch, a bunch that stretched into several hundred entries.   Recorded at the Abbey Road Studios in St John’s Wood, the single features a small band that includes Louis Abbott on percussion, Donna Maciocia on keyboards, James Mackay on guitar and Jill O’Sullivan on violin.  Saskia also provides backing vocals on a song that considers love, relationships and the blood that runs through our veins.  Gentle, tender and honest, a deserved winner no doubt.

Bloodrush is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

Paddy Moloney (1938-2021)

Paddy Moloney became a familiar face on the traditional Irish music scene since forming The Chieftains back in 1964, always seated centre stage at thousands of concerts and festival appearances.  His cheerful ever-smiling face captured the hearts of many throughout his almost six decade career as a musician, notably playing the Uilleann pipes but also the tin whistle, as a fine composer and producer.  Moloney was involved in countless albums, live appearances and recording sessions over the years, not only with his band, but also working alongside other notable artists such as Frank Zappa, Mike Oldfield, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Sting and Stevie Wonder among them.  Born in Donnycarney, Dublin, in 1938, Moloney picked up the whistle and pipes at a very early age and would later also learn to play the button accordion and bodhrán.  As a composer, Moloney was also involved in film work, including soundtracks for such notable films as Braveheart, Treasure Island, The Grey Fox, Gangs of New York and the Stanley Kubrick period drama Barry Lyndon, which was filmed in Ireland.  Paddy Moloney died on 11 October.  He was 83.

Rita Hosking at the Greystones, Sheffield in 2011

Diana Jones at the Greystones, Sheffield in 2011

78. Frank Zappa – Hot Rats (Reprise 44078 – 1969)

The first time I heard Frank Zappa’s music was in the early 1970s when I bought the Mothers of Invention’s second LP Absolutely Free (the name of the album not the price tag) from Ken’s Swap Shop on St Sepulchre Gate in Doncaster.  I was one of Ken’s keenest swappers.  The concept was simple; you would take in a couple of discarded LPs and swap them for a new one, with the smallest exchange of cash.  My paper round only paid £1 a week, so the cash flow was limited, even in 1971.  This would lead to a world of Zappa for the next forty-odd years.  I particularly enjoyed Hot Rats because it was more about the music than the humour, one of the things that has frequently irritated me about Zappa over the years.  This LP is a fine example of jazz/rock fusion with some astonishing guitar solos courtesy of Zappa himself.  The only ‘Mother’ to appear on this LP was Ian Underwood.  “Willie the Pimp” also features a cameo by Captain Beefheart.  It’s one of the most re-visited of all Zappa’s albums in the collection and it continues to resonate today, ‘Hot Meat, Hot Rats, Hot Zitz, Hot Wrists, Hot Ritz, Hot Roots, Hot Soots…’  What’s not to like?

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79. Wishbone Ash – Wishbone Ash (MCA MKPS2014 – 1970)

The first track I ever heard from the debut album by Wisbone Ash was without question “Lady Whisky”, which John Peel played one night on Top Gear sometime in the early 1970s, in fact it was quite possibly 1970 itself.  It was one of those frustrating moments where I didn’t manage to catch the name of either the band nor the title of the track.  Bear in mind we didn’t have the luxury of the internet to scour back then, so I spent the subsequent weeks attempting to hum the iconic riff to friends, who in turn thought I was completely barking.  I then heard the song in a friend’s flat in the early hours of the morning after a good party and discovered the rest of the album, including the iconic Wishbone Ash staple “Phoenix”.  Wishbone Ash became one of my favourite bands of the 1970s and joined the list of great bands I got to see at the Sheffield City Hall, bands that included Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Stone the Crows and Curved Air.  I would later meet up with original member Martin Turner for a chat, who I found to be a perfectly bonkers interviewee.

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80. Various Artists – Picnic (Harvest SHSS1&2 – 1970)

Other than the radio, sampler LPs provided the only economical way of keeping abreast of the sort of music I was interested in back in the late 1960s early 1970s.  The volume of new tracks being played on John Peel’s radio programme would create for me a dilemma at the record shop the next day.  The only way to have a bit of everything on a teenage budget at this time was to browse the samplers and even then, the double LPs would cost slightly more.  After saving up for a couple of weeks, the choice of adding this double LP to my collection was made all the more easier due to it being on the Harvest label, EMI’s prog rock imprint.  Most of the artists on the label were already familiar to me, including Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and the Edgar Broughton Band.  This sort of sampler LP would introduce me to new acts such as Kevin Ayers, Michael Chapman and Roy Harper, all slightly familiar by name only, but also completely new acts such as Quatermass, Forest and The Battered Ornaments.  The memorable thing about parting with my hard earned 29s/11d, was that while everyone around me was listening to “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep”, I was getting down on an eclectic mix of traditional folk, hard rock, psychedelia and completely obscure stuff that would make my dad’s face contort with pain; and all thanks to the Harvest label and Mr Peel.

78. The Move – Tonight (Harvest HAR5038 – 1971)

I don’t know how true it is, but legend has it that Roy Wood wrote the 1971 pop song “Tonight” for the then current middle of the road band The New Seekers.  The Move had gone through various changes since their inception in 1965 and had scored a number of successful singles on Regal Zonophone, such as “Fire Brigade”, “Blackberry Way” and “Flowers in the Rain”, the very first song to be played on Radio 1 in 1967.  By 1971 however, the band had been reduced to a trio made up of Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan, who signed for the Harvest label and released a trio of hits including “Chinatown”, “California Man” and the heavily acoustic “Tonight”.  There is a video from 1971 featuring this line-up miming to the song, with possibly the only film or photographic footage of Lynne without his familiar shades on and Roy Wood doubling on acoustic and electric lap slide guitar for the now familiar, if not iconic, instrumental break.  

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79. Free – Wishing Well (Island WIP 6146 – 1972)

Whether right or wrong, good or bad, sensible or stupid, I was straight out of school in 1972 aged just 15 and thrown into an adult world of pubs, bedsits and the bohemian underworld of a Northern English town. Records topped the list of priorities at the time and my own particular record buying habit was informed by the radio, the music press and the jukeboxes in the local underground pubs that I would regularly visit at the weekend. Although the pop charts were loaded with pap in those days (as in any other period really), the proprietors of the establishments I would frequent had the good sense to load their jukeboxes with decent stock.  In Doncaster those pubs would be the Silver Link on Bradford Row, Beethams on St George Gate, The Blue Bell on Baxtergate and The Yorkist on St Sepulchre Gate.  During this time, the single that was played almost on repeat was “Wishing Well” by Free, one of the band’s last singles before their final split. Like the smell of patchouli oil and the sight of maroon corduroy loons, the sound of this single takes me right back there.

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80. Paul Simon – Mother and Child Reunion (CBS S7793 – 1972)

Recorded in Kingston, Jamaica with Jimmy Cliff’s backing group, Paul Simon’s first single as a solo artist since “I Am A Rock” in 1965, came as a bit of a surprise after seven years spent with Art Garfunkel in the hugely successful duo Simon and Garfunkel.  Simon was interested in Reggae music and had previously tried his hand at the genre in the earlier song “Why Don’’t You Write Me”, which appeared on the hugely successful Bridge Over Troubled Water album released a couple of years earlier.  With “Mother and Child Reunion”, the title allegedly inspired by a chicken and egg dish on a Chinese menu, Simon managed to create a more authentic feel, largely due to the guitar playing of Hux Brown and Jackie Jackson’s bass, two of Jimmy Cliff’s sidemen who were also long serving members of Toots and the Maytals.  The single, which also featured Cissy Houston, appeared as the opening track to Simon’s eponymous second solo album released in the same year of 1972.

Playlist for Show 15.10.21 (#535)

Slow Down River – Ian M Bailey (Songs To Dream Along To)
Long Haul – John Wort Hannam (Long Haul)
Movies – Hothouse Flowers (Home)
Úrchnoc Cheín Mhic Cáinte – Liam Ó Maonlaí (Rian)
Enjoy Life While You Can – Emma Gale (Single)
Oh Me Oh My – Andy Comley (Single)
The Sledmere Poachers – Jack Rutter (Gold of Scar and Shale)
Rain On Woodpile – Terminus – Leveret (Inventions)
Just As The Tide Was A’flowing – Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band (No Roses)
I Wanna Roo You – Van Morrison (Tupelo Honey)
The Windhorse – Cara (Grounded)
Tempted – Squeeze (East Side Story)
It Must Be Love – Madness (Single)
Heaven for Hiding – Danny George Wilson (Another Place)
San Cristóbal – Manran (ÙRAR)
Hold On Brother – Long for the Coast (Revolution Starts at Home)
Charlie’s Gone Home – Sarah McQuaid (The St Buryan Sessions)
Bloodrush – Fergus McNeill (Single)
Give Me Your Hand – The Chieftains (The Chieftains 5)
Spanish Tide – Family (Fearless)

Family – Fearless (Reprise K54003 – 1971)

Fearless is the fifth album by the Leicester-based progressive rock band Family and the only album by the band to feature the future King Crimson bassist John Wetton, who replaced John Weider, himself only having joined a short time before and who played on the band’s previous couple of albums A Song For Me and Anyway (both 1970), and whose contribution can be immediately felt on the album opener “Between Blue and Me”.  Better known for its elaborate file-like multi-page album sleeve, which shows the blurring of each of the musicians’ heads, designed by John Kosh, with an inscription in the Olde English typeface ‘This album is dedicated to all the people who have pulled strokes for or against us, for they shall be called fearless’, beneath which a cartoon rabbit says ‘Daft I call it’.  Wetton joined the ranks of Roger Chapman, Charlie Whitney, John ‘Poli’ Palmer and Rob Townsend, the band folding a couple of years later in 1973.

Spanish Tide is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band – No Roses (Mooncrest Crest11 -1971)

The famed English folk singer Shirley Collins was still married to the ex-Fairport Convention bassist Ashley Hutchings at the time of No Roses, an album the couple collaborated on under the guise of the Albion Country Band.  The centre spread of the gatefold sleeve shows the couple strolling along in a field reminiscent of Gainsborough’s Mr and Mrs Andrews, though devoid of the tricorn hat and gun.  The LP is perhaps best remembered though for the collaborative nature of the recordings, with various folk luminaries dropping in and out of the studio during the recording sessions, including Fairporters Simon Nicol, Dave Mattacks and Richard Thompson, singers Lal and Mike Waterson, Royston Wood and Maddy Prior and an assortment of other folkies that included John Kirkpatrick, Nic Jones and Barry Dransfield.  The title No Roses comes from a verse in “The False Bride”, a song Collins released on an earlier EP Heroes in Love almost ten years earlier.  Recorded at both Sound Techniques and Air Studios in London and produced by Sandy Roberton and Ashley Hutchings, No Roses stands as a landmark in folk rock from its early Seventies heyday.

Just As The Tide Was A’flowing is included on both this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

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Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey (Warner Bros K46114 – 1971)

The bulk of the  songs on Van Morrison’s fifth studio album were written in Woodstock, the artsy ‘back to the country’ home of Dylan and The Band and namesake of the legendary festival that was staged a couple of years earlier, albeit a good fifty miles away in Bethel.  The small town was a temporary retreat for Morrison and his then-wife Janet ‘Planet’ Rigsbee together with their small family.  The music reflects the idyllic setting, notably the title song, the name of which relates to the honey produced from the flowers of the tupelo tree.  Shortly afterwards, Morrison moved to California, where the album was recorded at the Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco and completed in May 1971 at the Columbia Studios.  The album provided the singer with three singles, the first being “Wild Night” with “Tupelo Honey” and “(Straight to Your Heart) Like a Cannonball” following shortly afterwards.  The catchy country song “I Wanna Roo You” was also featured on the Warner Bros sampler LP Fruity, famed for its circular sleeve.

I Wanna Roo You is included on both this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

Playlist for Show 24.10.21

Slow Down River – Ian M Bailey (Songs To Dream Along To)
Long Haul – John Wort Hannam (Long Haul)
Movies – Hothouse Flowers (Home)
Úrchnoc Cheín Mhic Cáinte – Liam Ó Maonlaí (Rian)
Enjoy Life While You Can – Emma Gale (Single)
Oh Me Oh My – Andy Comley (Single)
The Sledmere Poachers – Jack Rutter (Gold of Scar and Shale)
Rain On Woodpile – Terminus – Leveret (Inventions)
Just As The Tide Was A’flowing – Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band (No Roses)
I Wanna Roo You – Van Morrison (Tupelo Honey)
The Windhorse – Cara (Grounded)
Hold On Brother – Long for the Coast (Revolution Starts at Home)
Give Me Your Hand – The Chieftains (The Chieftains 5)

Much more can be found in our extensive archive by clicking on the panel above
All reviews and features by Allan Wilkinson unless otherwise stated