New Folk Radio episode #86

Opening this week’s Folk Show is New Zealand songstresses Anna WoolesDeanne Krieg, and Rose Blake – best known as Ida Lune whose debut album we reviewed here. Those dainty, decorative and masterful voices lead beautifully into the new offering from James Yorkston and The Second Hand Orchestra with lead single ‘Struggle’, a tender and beautiful love song to his children, taken from their new album ‘The Wide, Wide River’.

Featuring Beth Orton, we have Sam Amidon‘s Sundown, taken from his recently released self-titled album – “A handsome and entirely seductive album” – which we reviewed here. Those that have been keeping up with our premieres this week will recognise ‘Life Lives Inside’, a song that explores life’s uncertainties and hopes, by Flo Perlin & Pilgrims’ Dream while only just premiered today, it was impossible to not include the new single from revered Scottish folk songstress Karen Matheson. ‘Cassiopeia Coming Through’ features on her new album ‘Still Time‘ (released February 2021 on Vertical Records) – a collection of contemporary and traditional-sounding songs featuring an intoxicating palette of sonic textures wrapped around that instantly recognisable voice. Featuring piano and production by Donald Shaw, this new album is a creative discovery from this summer’s unexpected lockdown.

From their Silhouettes release which was a Featured Album of the Month, we have a further offering from Stables – “there’s so much going on in Stables sound that would attract a massive audience. And the message that this album imparts holds true; if you can find strength in unity and combine it with a true love for what you do, then the possibilities are endless.”

Leyla McCalla is joined by Rhiannon Giddens for Rose Marie, taken from her new album Vari-Colored Songs, a celebration of the complexity of Black culture and identity, and a tribute to the legacy of poet and thinker Langston Hughes. A songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, McCalla sets Hughes’ poems to her own spare yet profound compositions.

This takes us neatly onto a song from our current Artist of the Month – Ross Ainslie with the exotic Rapa Nui from his new album Vana which we reviewed here. “Take your time with Vana, it’s a slower, more introspective album than Ainslie’s previous Sanctuary. Consider it as, to quote Ainslie, a ‘journey album’ and it should be treated as such. Linger in it and you’ll be much rewarded.”

Shivelights is an English word referring to the shafts of sunlight that pierce the foliage of trees…the tune features on Sonder, a beautiful new offering from Harriet Riley & Alex Garden that you should definitely seek out. It’s sparkling with innovation and the interplay between these two has jazz-like qualities which I love…as you can hear on this track.

As Johnny said in his review of Shooglenifty‘s Acid Croft Vol 9 (another of our Featured Albums of the Month) “I can look forward to many more tunes that will get the family dancing around the kitchen” and today is a day that will find many dancing around their kitchen…

From her new EP ‘Five Songs‘ we have a lovely version of Streets of Derry by Jenna Moynihan whose previous releases – Woven and her duo album with Màiri Chaimbeul, One Two featured on Folk Radio UK, be sure to seek this one out.

Another cover is Angel From Montgomery, a John Prine classic that gets the Martin Simpson treatment here, taken from his new album Home Recordings, another Featured Album of the Month which Glenn Kimpton reviewed here – “Although of course impeccably performed with a huge amount of skill and musical prowess, there is still something pure and beautiful about this music that finely balances it and sets it apart from any other Martin Simpson album I can think of. A wonderful achievement and gratefully received.”

That’s followed by another Featured Album of the Month from the creative talents of The Rheingans Sisters and their superb new album Receiver which Thomas Blake reviewed here – “a masterpiece of modern folk music as well as a captivating physical artefact.”

Irish-Australian artist Matthew James Noone is a new name to me but I’m so glad his album ‘The Other Side of Knowing‘ reached me. He is now recognised as Ireland’s foremost exponent of the North Indian lute called sarode. He has studied Indian classical music with maestros Sougata Roy Chowdhury and K. Sridhar for over 15 years. This album was recorded in rural East Clare in a small cabin during COVID lockdown from April-June 2020. Definitely seek this one out, this is the sort of music that transports you.

There is a third helping from Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin & Ultan O’Brien this week which has included a Song of the Day and Album Preview with a Track-by-Track…on An Sceilpín Draighneach they said:

Love, don’t abandon me because of sheep or cattle!

This is for all the romantics who don’t want to be rolling in the cash and who couldn’t care less about road frontage. Unfortunately for the fella in this song, his lover’s family aren’t too keen on him and it all ends in tears. He goes off and joins the army – not the best way to deal with a break-up,

but f’what can you do!

There are many versions of this song. This one is one we got from the great Colm Ó Caoidháin. Colm was a great singer, storyteller, composer and lilter from Glinsce. Séamus Ennis collected over 200 songs from him. He had a particular suspicion of the ediphone that recorded the songs, calling it “an seanfhear” (the old man), because of the way it distorted the sound:

“Meas tú dá gcuirfinn faoi mo smig mar seo é, nach amhlaidh amhlaidh is fearr a bheadh glór aige? Ní thaitníonn liom an ghlór atá tíocht amach – feicthear dhom go bhfuil sé an-bhodhfánta! Feictear dhom go bhfuil mé ag cur focla breá cainte isteach ann is níl fhios agam beirthe ná beo cén fáth nach labhródh sé amach breá gnaíúil mar tá mé féin a labhairt, mar bhí an ghnaíúlacht ag plé linne riamh, is neart cainteannaí againn. Níl a fhios agam beirthe ná beo céart atá air, murar ceal braon óil atá air!”

“I wonder if I put it under my chin like this would it make a better sound. I don’t like the sound that comes out of it. It seems to be very deadening. I think I am giving it fine words of speech, and I have no idea why it can’t speak out properly and clearly just as I am speaking because we were always known to be decent people, and we had lots of things to say. I have no idea what’s wrong with it – unless it needs a drink.”

We hope this oul fella doesn’t sound too strained to ye. Hopefully we’ll get to play it all out in the flesh soon enough.

We end on the only track which isn’t a new release…Ensemble Ériu whose music I often return to in shows and mixes. There is no other band like them and I like to remind people that there are many artists out there that deserve a lot more exposure…this is one of them. Taken from their self-titled 2013 album which you can buy here.

Music Played

Ida Lune – The Well
James Yorkston and The Second Hand Orchestra – Struggle
Sam Amidon – Sundown (feat. Beth Orton)
Flo Perlin & Pilgrims’ Dream – Life Lives Inside
Stables – Hawthorne
Karen Matheson – Cassiopeia Coming Through (Radio Edit)
Leyla McCalla (ft. Rhiannon Giddens) – Rose Marie
Ross Ainslie – Rapa Nui
Harriet Riley & Alex Garden – Shivelights
Shooglenifty – Air Chuairt
Jenna Moynihan – Streets of Derry
Martin Simpson – Angel From Montgomery
The Rheingans Sisters – One More Banjo
Matthew James Noone – Morning
Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin & Ultan O’Brien – An Sceilpín Draighneach
Ensemble Ériu – Seachrán Sí


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