You might recognise the fresh face on the video snapshot above as Laura Theis, whose album I produced. Well, one of her many other bands, Robot Swans, is releasing a new album this month (for Facebookers the launch is here).

It’s called The Tyranny of Robot Swans, and it looks like this: Continue reading

I had the great pleasure to be MC-ing the main stage on Saturday night at this year’s Folk Weekend Oxford festival, and the first act were one of my favourite local acts: Small & Gold.

Which meant I got to say the same spiel that I’m about to write here. If you were at that gig, well, it improves with repetition. Probably. Continue reading

dangerdanger_boxI can’t, in all conscience, recommend the album Screw It! by Danger Danger. It is dreadful.

I mean it. It’s absolutely dreadful. Not shocking. Not sick. Just dreadful.

But… yet… somehow…

Okay, it’s like this.

You know how some albums just get you when you’re young and vulnerable?  I was 14, and my family was going on holiday to the United States, which I was very excited about. All the more so as my brother and I were going to be able to spend some time (again, I can’t remember – it might have been a week, it might have been 2 years) at a summer camp. For guitarists.

Continue reading

More ‘songs’ in the second recommendation this month.  This time, not of separation but just of… stuff, I guess.  Ditte is now based in the North East, but for a long time was one of the brightest stars on the Oxford acoustic scene, and her album features, amongst others, Laura and Rosie, who have each recorded albums recently – and the three of them have returned the favours to each other and have all appeared singing harmony on each album.

She played a fantastic gig at St Columba’s Church in Oxford the other night, and it was this harmony singing that really blew me away.  Great melodies, extraordinary voice, and seriously great guitar playing, incidentally – although perhaps it’s something only guitar players notice.  But I wish I played with that kind of elegance and clarity.  (If you’ve seen what my guitar looks like, it’s fairly obvious that elegance and clarity have seldom troubled it.)

Current favourite track: You Find It Easy

https://ditteelly.bandcamp.com/album/songs

Okay, this is a fun new thing for my website: a recommendations section.  This month it has mainly been Jenny Hill’s project Songs of Separation.  As the website puts it:

Songs of Separation brought together ten female folk musicians from Scotland and England, to create a recording which reflects on the issue of ‘separation’ in its many forms, through traditional song. Celebrating the similarities and differences in our musical, linguistic and cultural heritage, and set in the context of a post-referendum world, the work aims to prompt new thinking about the issue of separation as it occurs in all our lives.

Throwing a bunch of random musicians together for a short period of time and getting them to record an album is always a bit of a gamble: it can easily sound like less than the sum of its parts.  Or, as in this case, it can sound like a band that’s been playing forever.  Right from the first track, Echo Mocks The Corncrake, you know you’re in for something special.  And it really is the best trad album I’ve heard in a while, and the reason is because it’s really strong in an area where so many traditional artists are weak: variation.  There are many great artists out there who are technically really proficient, but after about Track 4 you know you’re just going to hear more of the same.  And with the really great artists, that’s okay, because the same is really good.  But so few people in traditional music focus on creating interesting and varied sound on record.  Perhaps because it’s considered a bit sinful in traditional music to do anything but capture the same bunch of musicians playing in a room.  But I love the percussion on this album, the strange noises, the constant shifts in tone like the Hebridean weather.

And watching the documentary above, it looks like they all had a blast.  And I think you can hear that (in a good way) on the record.  Go check it out!

Current favourite track: Unst Boat Song

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/songs-of-separation/id1053151093