Album reviews: Return to Y’Hup – The World of Ivor Cutler

Some of Scotland’s finest musicians step up to interpret the work of the late, great Ivor Cutler, and his witty ditties retain an all-ages appeal, writes Fiona Shepherd

Ivor Cutler was a true one-off. The Glasgow-born surrealist, storyteller and sage may have been the epitome of the outsider artist but his witty ditties retain an all-ages appeal.

Which is probably why the quartet of musicians at the core of this tribute album – Citizen Bravo’s Matt Brennan, Raymond MacDonald of Glasgow Improvisers’ Orchestra, guitarist Malcolm Benzie and Frightened Rabbit’s Andy Monaghan – had no difficulty in attracting a host of mostly Scottish musicians to the project, from practised storytellers such as Kris Drever to idiosyncratic stylists such as Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch.

The singular spirit of Cutler is evoked throughout Return to Y’Hup, not least in the use of Cutler’s own harmonium and the love and respect accorded to his writing across the board.

Cutler’s partner Phyllis King gives her implicit blessing with a recitation of Latitude and Longitude, while Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos, James Yorkston, BMX Bandits’ frontman Duglas T Stewart and Robert Wyatt apply their distinctive speaking voices to their respective nuggets of wry insight, which never outstay their welcome, only whetting the appetite for more. Continue reading

Record Review: Richard Dawson’s “2020”

This is art shorn of artifice, pop against populism, and it just so happens to be one of the defining statements of our times.

Richard Dawson’s new album is called 2020. Knowing what we do about the way Dawson’s unique songwriting brain works, it’s tempting to surmise that it’s going to be a near-future concept album about an England almost identical to our own, but with the weirdness and woe condensed in that forthright Dawsonian manner we’ve come to expect. And in a way this is true. The songs on 2020 describe the inner lives of normal individuals in a country on the cusp of something vaguely unpleasant, something black and looming that has just appeared over the horizon. Dawson’s songs alchemise widespread political and social anxieties into pinpoint vignettes; ostensibly mundane concerns are conjured into startling focus. Continue reading

Album review Seasonal stunner from Kate Rusby

★★★★★

THE WORD “magic” attaches itself to the festive period almost by default and nothing encapsulates it better than music.

For one, there is ample time to listen to it — time you’ll need to savour this offering from Kate Rusby in all its glory.

It’s a delightful melange of traditional South Yorkshire ballads, sung locally in pubs over centuries, mixed with contemporary gems.

Rusby’s voice, effortlessly expressive and soothing, is complemented by sublimely measured instrumentation and there’s a luxurious elegance to the brass arrangements by Andrew Duncan in what’s a collective labour of love and excellence.

Yorkshire Three Ships and Lu Lay delight, while Thomas Haynes Bayly’s The Mistletoe Bough wrenches the heart.

The dulcet humour of Hippo For Christmas and the raucous love story of BBBB (Big Brave Bill from Barnsley), one of “the heroes who drink Yorkshire Tea all the time,” are a seasonal delight.

Magnificent.

Source: Album review Seasonal stunner from Kate Rusby | Morning Star

Record Review: Osian Rhys “Autumn Shades Of Gold” 

Autumn Shades Of Gold is a remarkable debut by Welsh singer-songwriter Osian Rhys, a thing of grace, elegance and beauty.

Backwater Records – 13 December 2019

The release of the Autumn Shades Of Gold marks the recording debut of Welsh singer-songwriter Osian Rhys.  Produced by Richard Woodcraft, (Neil Young, Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead) it will be released across a variety of formats.

Blessed with a disarmingly irresistible voice, the music presented across the four tracks in many ways defies categorisation, suffice to say that Autumn Shades Of Gold is a thing of grace, elegance and beauty, bringing a welcome warm breath of folk-psych air to the rapidly falling winter temperatures.

The opening track, The Ballad of Mr Withers, is, in essence, a waltz, albeit a foreboding waltz like no other.  The opening gentle guitar notes entice the listener in and before long one is enveloped and snared by the soaring strings which herald the chorus to maximum ethereal effect.  Each stanza presents an almost photographic scene, a device echoed in the official video release, created on Super 8 by artist Clare Marie Bailey, which accompanies the song.  Whilst the chorus melody and arrangement are tenderness and sweetness personified, this belies the somewhat dark lyrics

‘Lovers embracing on bridges

Her jumper lies about the bruises on her arms’

The next track up, Tour Of Bedlam, presents almost as a modern-take on plainsong, celestial layers of vocals effortlessly weaving their way, for an all too brief two minutes and ten seconds, creating an alluring, hypnotic effect.  If there is such a thing as ‘diaphanous sounding music’, then this is surely it, although, once again there is an intriguing incongruence between the music and the lyrics, the somewhat bleak words painting  grim dystopic pictures, in a rather stark contrast to the sound

‘Come stroll through the slum

A tour of Bedlam

See how we live

Behind the pain and misery

There’s a crumbling country’

Track three, or first track on side B of the vinyl, is a re-recording of Osian’s debut single, ‘Long Time Gone’.  The opening harmonica notes, sharply Continue reading

Review Stick in the Wheel’s “Against the Loathsome Beyond”

The modern mixtape emerged as a hip-hop expediency to avoid sample clearance. Stick in the Wheel – former ravers turned innovative folk artists – have cheerily embraced the almost-album form, putting out the collaborative This and the Memory of This mixtape in 2018 soon after the much-lauded Follow Them True (2018), their last full band outing. This year, core Stick duo Nicola Kearey and Ian Carter offered up yet another collected compilation, the many-limbed English Folk Field Recordings Vol 2.

This latest series of “explorations” with medieval roots, Against the Loathsome Beyond, maxes out their innovative impulse. Here, then, are more chilly ancient tunes, re-imagined as drone-rock (Down In Yon Forest) or baroque early synth pastorales (Drive the Cold Winter Away), or as electronic sound art (a remix of Cambridge avant-guitarist C Joynes’s Sang Kancil). Most fist-pumping of all is the instrumental centrepiece Moskeener (British Yiddish for pawnbroker, apparently), a raga that could have gone on far longer. Kearey speaks two tracks, given extra witchy poke by more resonant thrumming. Given that no single version is ever definitive in folk, “anything goes” remains a valid modus operandi.

Source: Stick in the Wheel: Against the Loathsome Beyond review – maximum innovation | Music | The Guardian