THE BEST FOLK OF 2019 (Episode 1)

Since the beginning of 2019, we could enjoy a good number of valid and interesting folk music albums and we are already able to point out which are the best records of the year (up to now). The first episode of this chart refers to the first quarter of 2019 and it features five different albums spanning from indie to traditional Scottish folk. Enjoy this article and stay tuned for future updates!



#5) “Tomb”, by Angelo De Augustine

Indie Folk

Sometimes you meet with artists, or records, that manage to transmit you strong emotions independently from the specific music they play. Tomb, which is the latest LP released by American singer-songwriter Angelo De Augustine, represents one of these cases. The LP is third of a discography which includes his self-released debut album, 2011’s Spirals of Silence, and his previous 2017’s LP named Swim Inside the Moon.

Tomb develops over a profound and universal statement: we grow up following some dreams that, at same point in our life, may be erased because of external factors. There are two ways to cope whit that: we give up or we try to emerge from the darkness of our disillusions, elaborating the loss and trying to come out stronger than before.

Listening to the music of Angelo De Augustine is like enjoying the recitation of a poem, and in this sense his work is actually in between these two different forms of art.

The album is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify. Here you can read the review of the LP that I wrote for the blog, with additional details on the record and also a few videos to see.



#4) “Those Who Roam”, by Claire Hastings

Traditional Scottish Folk

The biography of young Scottish folksinger and songwriter Claire Hastings says that despite already at primary school her teachers noticed how good was her voice, she didn’t pursue music until she arrived at the University. In a few years, however, she managed to compensate for all the time lost and, impressively, she was named “BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year” even before releasing her debut album (Between River and Railway). This year Hastings has released her second LP, named Those Who Roam, and we may enjoy once again the talent of one of the most promising figures of contemporary folk.

The element that stands out the most in this record is for sure the beautiful voice of the singer, while the musical part is not always at the same level. Those Who Roam is like a nice walk in a flowery park, under the sun. A sun that, however, still can’t make you feel warm, it’s only a slight sensation that you have on the skin.

Those Who Roam is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify. Here you can read the review of the LP that I wrote for the blog, with more information and a couple of songs to enjoy.



#3) “Ode to a Friend” by Old Sea Brigade

INDIE FOLK


After releasing a number of intriguing and appreciated short publications, American singer-songwriter Ben Cramer, who plays under the moniker of Old Sea Brigade, eventually released his debut full-length record, named Ode to a Friend. Despite arriving after four previous EPs, the songs of the new album are all unpublished and the new material shows the capacity that has been developed by Cramer – in just a few years – in defining a style that is quite unique and personal, moving with ease among folk, Americana and ambient soundscapes.

Ode to a Friend is an album that’s absolutely poetic and fascinating, something which has the capacity to take us away from the chaos, but which also requires extremely quiet environments in order to be fully appreciated. And if most of the tracks of the LP are still built on Cramer’s finger-picked guitar and echo effects, for the first time we enjoy in his songs also a wider palette of sounds which includes notes from a distant piano or gentle layers of synths.

Ode to a Friend is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify. Here you can read the review of the LP that I wrote for the blog, with videos and other information.



#2) “Le Ceneri di Heliodoro”, by Rome

DARK FOLK

Le Ceneri di Heliodoro is the latest release from Luxembourg’s folk master Jérôme Reuter, who operates under the name of Rome. This is the most recent entry in a very large discography which features more than 10 LPs and many other EPs, all of them devoted to telling fascinating stories which interconnect ancient wars with the struggles of modern times.

Le Ceneri di Heliodoro is an album that manages to be at the same time profound, conceptual but still absolutely enjoyable to listen to. From a musical point of view, the album doesn’t deviate substantially from the dark folk that has been offered in all the previous releases from Reuter, with the exception of an increased presence – in the new album – of “martial” elements. The LP starts with a sequence of impressive and absolutely brilliant songs, gifted by some of the most beautiful melodies we heard in recent times.

Le Ceneri di Heliodoro is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify. Here you can read the review of the LP that I wrote for the blog, with videos and other details.



Best Folk Album of 2019 (so far)

“Crushing”, by Julia Jacklin

INDIE FOLK / INDIE POP

Julia Jacklin is an Australian singer and songwriter based in Sydney, and she has released in late February 2019 her second LP, Crushing, which follows her 2016’s impressive debut studio album, Don’t Let the Kids Win. Similarly to what happened on the occasion of her first record, the first thing which impresses of Crushing is the remarkable emotional intensity of the songs. These are reflections and flashes made by the artist on her life and her past experiences, translated into music with a naturalness and a sense of urgency and immediacy that cannot leave us indifferent.

From a musical point of view, the songs of Crushing stay right on the border that separates indie pop from folk. The instrumentation, in particular, is that typical of folk music: the tracks develop mainly on Julia’s voice and guitar, with a simple rhythmic session made by repeated notes of bass and slow beats on the drums. Rarely we hear a piano. The simplicity of the arrangement, however, is compensated by warm and beautiful sounds of all the instruments, which in the end enhance the sense of intimacy of the tracks.

Crushing is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify. The album was included in this blog’s Best New Music category and here you can read the review of the LP that I wrote for the blog, with more information and also a couple of singles to enjoy.



All the best indie folk songs that were released since the beginning of the year are collected in the Playlist called The INDIE FOLK Radar, which features all the artists included in this chart bat also other remarkable songs from artists like Sun Kil Moon, Meat Puppets, Mandoline Orange, and many others. Listen to it and follow it: the playlist is periodically updated with new tracks.


Quick Review: “Those Who Roam”, by Claire Hastings

The biography of young Scottish folksinger and songwriter Claire Hastings says that despite already at primary school her teachers noticed how good was her voice, she didn’t pursue music until she arrived at the University. In a few years, however, she managed to compensate for all the time lost and, impressively, she was named “BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year” even before releasing her debut album (Between River and Railway)

This year Claire Hastings has released her second LP, named Those Who Roam, and we may enjoy once again the talent of one of the most promising figures of contemporary folk.


The music of Those Who Roam represents a gentle and serene version of folk, as evidenced by the fact that most of the songs bring with them a cheerful and positive spirit, while only a couple of songs are touched by shadows and melancholy. The LP is nice to hear and it higlights the good work that was done by all the musicians that were called to support: Jenn Butterworth on guitar, Laura Wilkie on fiddle, Thomas Gibbs on piano and Andrew Waite on accordion.

The element that stands out the most in this record, however, remains the beautiful voice of the singer, and this is perhaps also the limit of the album. Basically all the songs of Those Who Roam are nice and graceful, but some of them, in the end, don’t manage to really touch the depths of your soul.

My overall rating for the album is 6/10. Those Who Roam is like a nice walk in a flowery park, under the sun. A sun that, however, still can’t make you feel warm, it’s only a slight sensation that you have on the skin.

My favorite songs are the opening track The Lothian Hairst, King of California and Seven Gypsies.


Claire Hastings’s new album is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify.


The Lothian Hairst, from Claire Hastings’ new LP, is now featured in MELANCHOLIC FOLK. Check it out.


Quick Review: “Turn to Fray” by Hickory Signals

It may seem a bit strange to review a debut album from a new folk collective and then, after just a few months, finding two of the full-time members of the same project releasing another debut LP under a different name. But that’s exactly what happened. Laura Ward and Adam Ronchetti are two talented English folk musicians that founded in 2014 the band named Hickory Signals.  The duo has released so far a couple of interesting EPs and they eventually released in November 2018 their first LP, named Turn to Fray. Earlier this year, however, Ward and Ronchetti contributed to the publication of The Crowing, the debut LP from Bird in the Belly, which was reviewed and also included in one of the recent charts of this blog.

It’s a strange circumstance, as I said, but at the same time it gives us the possibility to verify how the same artists can offer, even if in very similar contexts, different interpretations of the same genre of music. More precisely, after that we appreciated the formal and accurate process through which Bird and the Belly have transposed into music ancient and forgotten legends of the British tradition, in the case of Hickory Signals we can enjoy a defintely more relaxed approach to folk: less constrained by the formal rigor of the ancient traditions and more open to influences of other kinds of music. In this sense, the debut LP from Hickory Signals is absolutely surprising. Alongside a good number of songs that are deeply rooted in the Celtic tradition, the album features other tracks that are strongly reminiscent of the American art rock scene (I can quote Patti Smith and Kate Bush) or rather inspired by that version of pop-folk that was brought to success by bands like The Cranberries.


“Two Girls”, from the debut album by Hickory Signals, is one of the songs that’s most representative of the style of the duo but which also presents nice influences from the music of other bands such as The Cranberries

“Zelda”, from the debut album by Hickory Signals, is one of the songs which brings evident references from the American art rock tradition.

As a result, if Turn to Fray may appear on one side a little less compact and fascinating than Bird in the Belly’s The Crowing, on the other side Hickory Signal’s debut LP features a wider range of styles and, to some extent, this is reflected in the fact that the record is more dynamic and enjoyable to listen from the beginnng to the end. I feel that these two approaches to folk music are quite complementary, but although in the case of Bird in The Belly the road seems clearer and more linear, as far as Hickory Signals are concerned I perceive that the effective potential of the band has yet to explode: the gift that these two artists have already manifested in their capacity to soften up the canons of traditional folk in a more universal and “progressive” style of music must still reach a more solid center of gravity. But if we consider that even in this phase of consolidation we can already enjoy songs so beautiful as those we have in Turn to Fray, it means that it will be absolutely a pleasure to stay here and follow the development of their promising career.

Hickory Signals’ debut LP can be streamed from Spotify.

Standout tracks: Rosemary, Who Put the Blood and Two Girls.


“Rosemary” is the opening track of “Turn to Fray”, the debut LP by Hickory Signals

“Who Put the Blood”, originally published in the band’s first EP, has been re-edited and it is now featured in Hickory Signals’ debut LP “Turn to Fray”

An Explosive Expression of Humanity: The Best TRADITIONAL FOLK MUSIC of 2018

This article is an update of a previous post that appeared in this blog on July 2018, when I introduced the best four traditional folk albums that were released in the first half of the year. The original selection has expanded and the list now includes a few additional masterpieces that were published in the last couple of months.

In the few weeks that remain before the end of the year we may expect some last minute entry, anyway the music presented in this page starts to be representative of the status of traditional folk in 2018. Which is definitely healthy and lively, as testified by the fact that there are two debut albums within the seven that are part of the selection.

Enjoy this list, and also the songs that have been selected for each record. Traditional folk, as I already wrote, is a genre of music where you can really feel the internal battle between tradition and innovation. And when this inner tension meets the skill and talent of a great artist, here we have those masterpieces that we love so much.


#1) Kyle Carey, “The Art of Forgetting”

Celtic Americana artist Kyle Carey created a synthesis of music called ‘Gaelic Americana’, which mixes Celtic and Appalachian folk with literary elements. She has released so far 3 LPs and on EP. Carey’s new album, “The Art of Forgetting”, unites an all-star international cast of musicians such Sam Broussard on guitar, John McCusker on fiddle, Ron Janssen on octave mandolin, Kai Welch on trumpet and Mike McGoldrick on Flute.

Despite being a relatively young contributor to the folk world, American songwriter Kyle Carey has already taken a prominent role among the representatives of American Celtic music, which is that special style of folk that mixes together western European sounds with American (in this case Appalachian) elements.

On early 2018 Kyle Carey released the third full-lenght album of her discography, named The Art of Forgetting, and all the good things that have been said and written so far were totally confirmed by her new record. The beauty of Carey’s last album is further enhanced by the quality of the musicians who have been called to contribute to the recording of the songs. The release notes of the LP show that Carey has called together a super team of artists. Just to mention a few ones, we have singer, violinist and banjo player Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), American guitarist Sam Broussard (from the Cajun band Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys), and Scottish folk musician and composer John McCusker.

One of the most interesting aspects of Carey’s music is the absolute ability that she manifests in exploring different musical influences without ever altering and distorting the essential element of his style. And whatever is the inspiration of her songs, it may be an Irish ballad or an American poem, everything is shaped and incorporated into the music in an extremely natural way, creating a collection of songs that whilst showing an impressive stylistic coherence, at the same time are gifted by a variety of nuances that make the listening experience extremely pleasant.


The official audio for the song “The Art of Forgetting”, from the new album by Kyle Carey.
A live performance of Kyle Carey’s original song ‘”Evelyna”‘ from her album ‘The Art of Forgetting’

#2) Bird in the Belly, “The Crowing”

Bird in the Belly is a Brighton based folk collective, consisting of alt-folk musician Jinnwoo, folk duo Hickory Signals , producer and multi-instrumentalist Tom Pryor, and visual artist and musician Epha Roe.

Nowadays the UK folk scene seems particolary active, as witnessed by the fact that there is a new generation of artists that are gaining increased attention and consensus. Within the family of the younger folk bands, Bird in the Belly was formed a few years ago by a collective of artists and musicians with the stated objective to rediscover old and lesser known stories from the ancient British folk tradition, and present them to the public in the form of contemporary folk songs.

The Crowing is the debut LP from the band, and this record somehow shows all the merits, but also the defects, which we can expect from this type of operation. On the one hand we perceive all the charm of ancient and gothic folklore, here offered to the public by means of old-style melodies and enchanting atmospheres. The musical performance is unexceptionable and we can really feel the accurate work that was done by all the members of the collective to transpose into songs – and valorize – the original lyrical material. On the other hand, however, there is at times a certain “coldness”, or better “seriousness”, of the overall performance. We miss in a few songs that special feeling of urgency and transport which can only emerge when music become the way through wich an author expresses his inner feelings.

Taken as a whole, however, the record is enjoyable as well as interesting and quite original and this justifies its position among the bery best folk releases of the year. A special note of merit goes to Ben Webb (who plays under the stage name of Jinnwoo), a young and promising British artist who showcases here an impressive and special talent to give life to every song where he sings.

“Give Me Back My Heart Again”, the first single extracted from “The Crowing” 
“Shoreham River” is one of the most fascinating songs of Bird in the Belly’s debut LP.

#3) Blowzabella, “Two Score”

Blowzabella is a genuinely unique band that makes an inimitable, driving, drone-based wall-of-sound played with a fabulous sense of melody, rhythmic expertise and sheer feeling They compose their own music which is influenced by English and European traditional folk music and song – a shared culture with ancient roots. (from the band’s webpage)

Blowzabella aren’t absolutely newcomers in the folk world. This unique and characteristic English formation celebrates in 2018 their 40th year of activity (“two-scores”) and of course there are many records and publications released by them to date. In case there is someone approaching the band for the first time, what’s necessary to know is that Blowzabella distinguished themselves for their particular and truly unique style of music where traditional folk is merged with drone music. A vast array of acoustic instruments are in fact played and manipulated in order to obtain sounds and rhythms that are typical of the dance world (a “wall of sound” as they like to say), but always played with a traditional spirit. One could really say that the music of Blowzabella is one of those happy cases where the union between two distant worlds, in this case the legacy of the folk tradition and the spirit of innovation, has produced something that’s much larger than the sum of the original elements.

The last album by Blowzabella, Two Score, shows the band in a state of absolute grace: the maturity acquired by these musicians over the years is still supported by the desire to experiment new sounds and rhythms, so that their songs are never the mere repetition of schemes and tricks from the past repertoire. The LP offers also a relative variety among its tracks, and in the end the only thing these musicians ask to the listener is to free the spirit, start dancing and be carried away by the frenetic, hypnotic and magical music they’re creating for us.

“Adam was a Poacher”, an old song from Dartmoor, England, from the album “Two Score”
“The Uttoxeter Souling Song / Turner’s” from the album “Two Score”

#4) Kittel & Co, “Whorls”

Jeremy Kittel is a contemporary American musician and composer. Fluent in multiple musical genres, his original music draws from traditional roots, jazz, Celtic, Classical, electronic, and more. Kittel performs with his own band or trio, as a duo, and as a soloist with orchestras.

American fiddler and violinist Jeremy Kittel has gained quite a relevant reputation as one of the most talented performer and composers of celtic folk and bluegrass, with a style which emphasizes both his technical skills and a special taste for timeless melodies. He’s been involved in many projects, both as a soloist and with supporting partners. In his most recent release, Whorls, he offers a new exciting collection of folk songs that are enriched by many different influences, including traditional celtic music, baroque classical melodies, American bluegrass and a few hints of jazz.

A number of skilled musicians contributed to Whorls, including mandolin phenom Josh Pinkham, guitarist Quinn Bachand, cellist Nathiel Smith, Simon Chrisman on dulcimer and also vocalist Sarah Jarosz. The quality of the performances is extraordinary, and the songs offer a good level of variety and surprises to keep the attention high along the entire record.

Beyond the value of the line-up, however, what I really appreciated in this LP is how the technical ability of Jeremy Kittel and his companions has been put at the service of a profound musicality. Rather than appearing as a mere demonstration of the skills of the performers, Whorls is ultimately a beautiful collection of engaging and enjoyable folk songs. There are some passages which make me stay open-mouthed for the expertise of the musicians in playing their instruments and also for the complex and articulate harmonies that they create, but what remains in my mind at the end of the record is the sweet and touching music I heard.

“Waltz”, from the album “Whorls”
“Chrysalis”, from the album “Whorls”

#5) The Furrow Collective, “Fathoms”

The Furrow Collective is an award-winning and critically acclaimed English/Scottish band consisting of four distinctive and talented performers: Lucy Farrell (viola, voice & saw), Rachel Newton (harp, fiddle, voice), Emily Portman (banjo, concertina, voice) and Alasdair Roberts (guitars, voice).

When a group of talented musicians who have already gained fame and appreciation as soloists decide to come together and form a new group, it’s not for granted that the final result will be up to the expectations. In the case of The Furrow Collective, however, the artists have reached a level of cohesion and unity so high that the goal is absolutely achieved. One of the reasons that made it possible is the fact that the music played by The Furrow Collective is composed by subtractions rather than overlaps, and each one of the participants has shown great wisdom and talen in dosing his own contribution without ever trying to stand out among the others.

The Furrow Collective is an English/Scottish traditional folk band, formed by artists of the caliber of Alasdair Roberts, Lucy Farrell (from the Jonny Kearney & Lucy Farrell duo), Rachel Newton and Emily Portman. In the timespan of 5 years the band has released 3 full-lenght studio albums, and has already won the attention of both fans and critics. Fathoms is their most recent record and it confirms all the qualities that these musicians had already shown in their previous releases.

From a musical point Fathoms offers a particular and intriguing version of traditional folk which is enriched with many atmospheric and ambient-like elements. The tones are extremely delicate and, as I alerady mentioned, the overall lightness of the songs is mostly due to the impressive work that was done by each member of the band to keep his contribution extremely minimal, at times almost imperceptible. Many of the melodies in Fathoms are only alluded, outlined, rather than completely defined by the instruments, and this helps the music to be always ethereal and suspended. 
Musically speaking, this is and extremely precious and delicate version of traditional folk that grows from the silence and which, because of that, risks to be dampened by the background noise. This music is not meant for being played from the speakers of the car or listened when you travel in the subway, it would be crashed from the external chaos. The songs of Fathoms, on the other hand, have the power to make you fly over distant and magic worlds, you have only to find the right moment to do it.

“Write Me Down”, taken from “Fathoms” by The Furrow Collective
“The Cruel Grave”, taken from “Fathoms” by The Furrow Collective 

#6) Solasta, “A Cure for the Curious”

Solasta are a relatively young folk ensemble from UK consisting of fiddler Elisabeth Flett, cellist Hannah Thomas and guitarist Jamie Leeming.

Despite their young age and their relatively recent appearance in the UK folk scene, Solasta are gaining increasing notoriety because of their peculiar style of celtic folk, wich incorporates many elements from classical and jazz, and also for their lively exhibitions. Solasta is composed by three young but already acclaimed instrumentalists: award-winning fiddler Elisabeth Flett, cellist Hannah Thomas and guitarist Jamie Leeming. But well beyond the talent of the individual musicians, it’s the emotional cohesion that they have achieved which makes thier music so effective and, at times, magical.

Solasta debuted in 2016 with a self-titled EP, and they released this year their debut LP, named A Cure for the Curious. The songs recorded by the trio don’t correspond to that idea of “popular” celtic folk (I would say “commercial”) that too often has been released for the masses of casual listeners. The music of Solasta is in fact deep and articulated, full of references and elements from ancient music, and it requires a certain patience and dedication to be appreciated in its entirety. The musical lines that are played by the three instruments intertwine in fact one with the other, generating articulated harmonies and atmospheres that are sometimes dreamy and joyful, sometimes darker and more reflective.

The songs that I like the most in A Cure for the Curious are the most melancholic, and in this respect one can see how these three musicians have been working hard for enhancing the emotional aspect of their music, rather than just focusing on the the uniqueness of their performance.

“Bedlam Boys”, taken from the LP “A Cure for the Curious” by Solasta
“Lost and Found”, taken from “A Cure for the Curious” by Solasta

#7) Stick In The Wheel, “Follow Them True”

Stick in the Wheel is an English folk band which consists of Nicola Kearey (lead vocalist), Ian Carter (Dobro guitar), Fran Foote (harmonies), Si Foote (percussions) and Ellie Wilson (fiddle)

English folk band Stick in the Wheel, from East London, is bring a contemporary approach to celtic folk with theor style characterized by raw minimalism, setting vocals, simple accompaniments and handclaps. Follow Them True is their second album and it arrives two years and half after their 2015’s debut work, From Here.

Since the beginning of their career this quintet of folk enthusiasts has adopted an austere and formal approach to folk music, which is characterized also by the choice to use only acoustic instrumentation. As a result, their songs have always an ancient and suggestive charm which further exalts the fantastic voice of the singer Nicola Kearey. In their new album you won’t find danceable songs or pop-folk motifs, but rather a very good collection of ancient ballads and melodies of the past, all revisited with an aggressive spirit.

Only in some moments the tension and the austherity seem to leave the field for slightly more relaxed and poetic tones, and perhaps these are the most accessible and enjoyable parts of the disc, at least for the casual listener.

“Over Again”, taken from “Follow Them True” by Stick in the Wheel
The title-track of the album “Follow Them True” by Stick in the Wheel


Many of the songs that were included in this post are featured on MELANCHOLIC FOLK, the playlist I’m curating on Spotify with the most moving and emotional folk songs.



And if you liked the music selected in this page, you will love my mixtape FOREVER AUTUMN.  37 minutes of pure poetry.

Quick Review: “Fathoms” by The Furrow Collective

When a group of talented musicians who have already gained fame and appreciation as soloists decide to come together and form a new group, it’s not for granted that the final result will be up to the expectations. In the case of The Furrow Collective, however, the artists have reached a level of cohesion and unity so high that the goal is absolutely achieved. One of the reasons that made it possible is the fact that the music played by The Furrow Collective is composed by subtractions rather than overlaps, and each one of the participants has shown great wisdom and talen in dosing his own contribution without ever trying to stand out among the others. The video the band made for Polly Vaughn, a song of their 2017’s EP The Tamosher, explains this particular approach much better than what I can do with my words.

 

 

The Furrow Collective is an English/Scottish traditional folk band, formed by artists of the caliber of Alasdair Roberts, Lucy Farrell (from the Jonny Kearney & Lucy Farrell duo), Rachel Newton and Emily Portman. In the timespan of 5 years the band has released 3 full-lenght studio albums, and has already won the attention of both fans and critics. Fathoms is their most recent record, published in November 2018, and it confirms all the qualities that these musicians had already shown in their previous releases.

From a musical point Fathoms offers a particular and intriguing version of traditional folk which is enriched with many atmospheric and ambient-like elements. The tones are extremely delicate and, as I alerady mentioned, the overall lightness of the songs is mostly due to the impressive work that was done by each member of the band to keep his contribution extremely minimal, at times almost imperceptible. Many of the melodies in Fathoms are only alluded, outlined, rather than completely defined by the instruments, and this helps the music to be always ethereal and suspended. All of this doesn’t apply to the lyrics, which are absolutely clear and moving, as per the folk tradition.

 

 

With Fathoms The Furrow Collective has given a further confirmation of the talent of the musicians involved, and also the perfect cohesion that they have reached as a group. Musically speaking, this is and extremely precious and delicate version of traditional folk that grows from the silence and which, because of that, risks to be dampened by the background noise. This music is not meant for being played from the speakers of the car or listened when you travel in the subway, it would be crashed from the external chaos. The songs of Fathoms, on the other hand, have the power to make you fly over distant and magic worlds, you have only to find the right moment to do it.

The album can be streamed from Spotify.

Standout tracks: The Cruel Grave, Write Me Down and The Cabin Boy.

 


 

If you liked the music from The Furow Collective, you will love my playlist MELANCHOLIC FOLK. More than 3 hours with the most moving and engaginf folk songs.


 

Quick Review: “A Cure for the Curious” by Solasta

Solasta is relatively new UK folk ensemble that is gaining increasing notoriety because of their peculiar style of celtic folk, wich incorporates many elements from classical and jazz, and also for their lively exhibitions. Solasta is composed by three young but already acclaimed instrumentalists: award-winning fiddler Elisabeth Flett, cellist Hannah Thomas and guitarist Jamie Leeming. But well beyond the talent of the individual musicians, it’s the emotional cohesion that they have achieved which makes thier music so effective and, at times, magical.

 

 

Solasta debuted in 2016 with a self-titled EP, and they released this year their debut LP, named A Cure for the Curious. The songs recorded by the trio don’t correspond to that idea of “popular” celtic folk (I would say “commercial”) that too often has been released for the masses of casual listeners. The music of Solasta is in fact deep and articulated, full of references and elements from ancient music, and it requires a certain patience and dedication to be appreciated in its entirety.

The musical lines that are played by the three instruments intertwine one with the other, generating articulated harmonies and atmospheres that are sometimes dreamy and joyful, sometimes darker and more reflective. None of the three artists dominates the others, and the resulting balance is impressive and in many songs really exciting to listen.

The songs I like the most in A Cure for the Curious are the most melancholic ones and, in this respect, in thet short timespan of just a few years Solasta has shown an impressive musical evolution. Beyond being appreciated as talented performers, the three musicians have been focusing on enhancing the emotional aspect of the music, making their songs much more than just a mere demonstration of their technical and virtuosistic ability.

A Cure for the Curious is available for streaming on Spotify.

Highligts: Bedlam Boys, The 5/8 Set and Lost and Found.

 


 

FOREVER AUTUMN – A Folk Mixtape by Guerino

 

The summer sun is fading as the year grows old, and darker days are drawing near,
The winter winds will be much colder, Now you’re not here.

I watch the birds fly south across the autumn sky and one by one they disappear,
I wish that I was flying with them, Now you’re not here.

Like the sun through the trees you came to love me,
Like a leaf on a breeze you blew away…

Through autumn’s golden gown we used to kick our way, You always loved this time of year
Those fallen leaves lie undisturbed now, ‘Cause you’re not here

(“Forever Autumn“, originally composed by Jeff Wayne in 1969, subsequently recorded by Gary Osborne and Paul Vigrass, and recently covered by Sarah McQuaid)

 

We have again entered that season of the year when the days become inexorably shorter, the warm air of the summer slowly turns into the colder winds of winter, and our spirit inevitably lingers in a sweet and bitter melancholy.  Driven by these feelings I collected and mixed together the most beautiful folk songs of the recent months, along with some other piece from the recent past, and made this compilation named “Forever Autumn“, which in my idea could be perfectly suited to accompany us in this beginning of the autumn season.

You’ll find here the most melancholic and emotional songs composed and recorded by artists like Sarah McQuaid, Blowzabella and Mark Lanegan.

 

Sarah McQuaid 1300
Born in Madrid (to a Spanish father and an American mother), raised in Chicago and now living in rural England, Sarah McQuaid released in 1997 her debut solo album (“When Two Lovers Met”) and she has published in 2018 the fifth LP in her career of singer-songwriter, “If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Blowzabella is an English band who play bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy and an array of acoustic instruments to produce a driving, drone-based sound influenced by British and European traditional dance music.

duke and lanegan 1300
American singer-songritwer Mark Lanegan and English singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Duke Garwood have started in the recent years an interesting collaboration which produced already two LPs: 2013’s “Black Pudding” and the most recent “With Animals“, released in 2018.

 

The complete tracklist of the mixtape is the following:

  1. Shoreham River by Bird In The Belly
  2. Waltz by Kittel & Co
  3. Bedlam Boys by Solasta
  4. Bushes and Briars by Blowzabella
  5. Forever Autumn by Sarah McQuaid
  6. Tree in the Valley by Jack Rose
  7. Off To See The Hangman, Pt. II by Gwenifer Raymond
  8. Desert Song by Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood

 

As you can see, the compilation features mostly traditional folk songs and a few pieces of american primitivism (by Jack Rose and Gwenifer Raymond).

Enjoy the mixtape, and share it with your loved ones.

 

 

Quick Review: “The Crowing” by Bird in the Belly

Nowadays the UK folk scene seems particolary active and intriguing and there is a new generation of artists that are gaining increased attention and consensus. Within the family of the newer folk bands, Bird in the Belly was formed a few years ago by a collective of artists and musicians with the stated objective to rediscover old and lesser known stories from the ancient British folk tradition, and present them to the public in the form of contemporary folk songs.

The Crowing is the debut LP from the band, and this record somehow shows all the merits, but also the defects, which we can expect from this type of operation. On the one hand we perceive all the charm of ancient and gothic folklore, here offered to the public by means of old-style melodies and enchanting atmospheres. The musical performance is unexceptionable and we can really feel the accurate work that was done by all the members of the collective to transpose into songs – and valorize – the original lyrical material. On the other hand, however, there is at times a certain “coldness”, or better “seriousness”, of the overall performance. We miss in a few songs that special feeling of urgency and transport which can only emerge when music become the way through wich an author expresses his inner feelings.

Taken as a whole, however, the record is enjoyable as well as interesting and quite original; without any doubt The Crowing is worth of earning a prominent place among the folk releases of the year. A special note of merit goes to Ben Webb (a.k.a. Jinnwoo), a young and promising British singer that showcases a mind-blowing ability to interpret the songs in which he appears.

The album is available for streaming on Spotify.

My favorite songs are: His Night Waking, Shoreham River, and Old Squire.


 

Between Revival and Innovation: The Best TRADITIONAL FOLK MUSIC of 2018

Among all music genres, traditional folk is the one where the tension between the authentic and the commercial is more evident. But it is from the perennial battle between these two extremes that usually the most interesting records are generated, as is certainly the case of the four albums that are presented in this article. As a matter of fact, the albums you’ll see mentioned in this chart are not only the best traditional folk records that have been published so far in 2018, they all contain embryos of innovation and modernity that make their music more enjoyable and somehow accessible for the new generations of listeners.

 


 

 

#1) “THE ART OF FORGETTING” by KYLE CAREY

 

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Celtic Americana artist Kyle Carey created a synthesis of music called ‘Gaelic Americana’, which mixes Celtic and Appalachian folk with literary elements. She has released so far 3 LPs and on EP. Carey’s new album, “The Art of Forgetting”, unites an all-star international cast of musicians such Sam Broussard on guitar, John McCusker on fiddle, Ron Janssen on octave mandolin, Kai Welch on trumpet and Mike McGoldrick on Flute.

Despite being a relatively young contributor to the folk world, American songwriter Kyle Carey has already taken a prominent role among the representatives of American Celtic music, which is that special style of folk that mixes together western European sounds with American (in this case Appalachian) elements. On early 2018 she released the third full-lenght album of her discography, The Art of Forgetting, and all the good things that have been said and written of her so far are absolutely confirmed by this new record. The beauty of Carey’s last album is further enhanced by the quality of the musicians who have been called to contribute to the recording of the songs. The release notes of the LP show that Carey has called together a super team of artists. Just to mention a few ones, we have singer, violinist and banjo player Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), American guitarist Sam Broussard (from the Cajun band Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys), and Scottish folk musician and composer John McCusker.

The Art of Forgetting was also reviewed in a dedicated page of this blog. Check it out.

The album may be streamed on line on Spotify.


 

 

#2) “TWO SCORES” by BLOWZABELLA

 

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Blowzabella is a genuinely unique band that makes an inimitable, driving, drone-based wall-of-sound played with a fabulous sense of melody, rhythmic expertise and sheer feeling They compose their own music which is influenced by English and European traditional folk music and song – a shared culture with ancient roots. (from the band’s webpage)

Blowzabella aren’t absolutely newcomers in the flok world. This unique and characteristic English formation celebrates in 2018 its 40th year of activity (“two-scores”) and of course there are many records and publications released by them to date. In case there is someone approaching the band for the first time, what’s necessary to know is that Blowzabella distinguished themselves for their particular and truly unique style of music where traditional folk is with drone music. A vast array of acoustic instruments are in fact played and manipulated in order to obtain sounds and rhythms that are typical of the dance world (a “wall of sound” as they like to say), but always played with a traditional spirit. One could really say that the music of Blowzabella is one of those happy cases where the union between two distant worlds, in this case the legacy of the folk tradition and the spirit of innovation, has produced something that’s much larger than the sum of the original elements. The last album by Blowzabella, Two Scores, shows the band in a state of absolute grace: the maturity acquired by these musicians over the years is still supported by the desire to experiment new sounds and rhythms, so that their songs are never the mere repetition of schemes and tricks from the past repertoire. The LP offers also a relative variety among its tracks, and in the end the only thing these musicians ask you to do is to free your spirit, start dancing and be carried away by the frenetic, hypnotic and magical music they created for us.

Two Scores is available for streaming on Spotify.


 

 

#3) “WHORLS” by KITTEL & CO.

 

 

 

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Jeremy Kittel is a contemporary American musician and composer. Fluent in multiple musical genres, his original music draws from traditional roots, jazz, Celtic, Classical, electronic, and more. Kittel performs with his own band or trio, as a duo, and as a soloist with orchestras.

American violinist Jeremy Kittel has gained quite a relevant reputation as one of the most talented performer and composers of celctic folk and bluegrass, with a style which emphasizes both his technical skills and a special taste for timeless melodies. He’s been involved in many projects, both as a soloist and with supporting partners. In his most recent release, Whorls, he offers a new exciting collection of folk songs that are tinged by many different influences from traditional celtic music, baroque classical melodies, American bluegrass and a few hints of jazz. A number of skilled musicians have been involved in the project including mandolin phenom Josh Pinkham, guitarist Quinn Bachand, cellist Nathiel Smith, Simon Chrisman on dulcimer and also vocalist Sarah Jarosz. The quality of the performances is extraordinary, and the songs offer a good level of variety and surprises to keep the attention high along all the record.

Whorls may be streamed from Spotify.


 

 

#4) FOLLOW THEM TRUE by STICK IN THE WHEEL

 

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English folk band Stick in the Wheel bring a contemporary approach to celtic folk music with raw minimalism, setting vocals, simple accompaniments and handclaps.

Follow Them True is the second album from the English folk band Stick in the Wheel, and it arrives two years and half after their 2015’s debut work, From Here. Since the beginning of their career this quintet of folk enthusiasts has adopted an austere and formal approach to folk music, which is characterized also by the choice to use only acoustic instrumentation. As a result, their songs have always an ancient and suggestive charm which further exalts the fantastic voice of the singer Nicola Kearey. In the new album you won’t find danceable songs or pop-folk motifs, but rather a very good collection of ancient ballads and melodies of the past, all revisited with an aggressive spirit. Only in some moments the tension and the austherity seem to leave the field for slightly more relaxed and poetic tones, and perhaps these are the most accessible and enjoyable parts of the disc, at least for the casual listener.

Follow Them True is available for streaming on Spotify.