Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker
Album:The Seas Are Deep
Label:Self Released
Josienne Clarke's last album, "One Light Is Gone" was one of our top three debut albums for 2010 and has brought her good airplay on a number on independent radio sations. "The Seas Are Deep" can only cement her position as one of the rising stars of the English Folk scene. Together with guitarist Ben Walker she has delivered an album of traditional folk songs, that will surely see her name spoken in the same breath as the likes of June Tabor and Anne Briggs. Available from Band Camp on name your price, the price should be a good one the album's a cracker.
Iarla O Lionaird
Label:Real World
Hailing from West Cork, Iarla Ó Lionáird is a remarkable vocalist, a man that uses his voice as much as a texture as a method for carrying lyrics to the centre of a song. It's no surprise that he ended up at Real World initially as part of the AfroCelts and laterly as part of other projects. "Foxlight" puts him back into the solo spotlight, with an album that draws on world music heritage for a really exciting collection of songs, written in conjunction with producer Leo Abrahams and performed with a cast of musicians including Neil McColl and Simon Edwards.
Rusty Shackle
EP:Hounds Of Justice
Label:Self Released
An unexpected, last minute replacements for the Outcast Band, hit at the twenty eleven Great British Folk Festival, Rusty Shackle stormed the Saturday night taking the audience partying towards the midnight hours. "Hounds Of Justice" provides all the clues to that success. There is a real swagger to their debut EP, it smacks of a band that know they've got something that sets them apart. There is a real positive vibe that comes up this release and I defy anyone not to feel better for the time spent listening to it, music to brighten your day, now there's a good idea.
Thea Gilmore:Sandy Denny
Album:Don't Stop Singing
Normally I'm not a big fan of the living working with dead artists, but "Don't Stop Singing" is not your usual dead artist guesting on an album, this has way more integrity. Thea Gilmore was asked by Sandy's family to complete a number of works from the pen of the late great Sandy Denny. These are brand spanking new songs that would never have seen the light of day without Thea Gilmore's sympathetic treatment of Sandy's words and the world would be a poorer place for it. "Don't Stop Singing" is a far more fitting tribute than any blue placque could be, simply delightful.
Hannah Faulkner
Album:Ni Ni
Label:Self Released
Hannah Faulkner came up through the open mic nights, initially in and around her native Northampton and then further afield picking up support slots along the way. Faulkner has followed the hard graft and talent route, establishing the performer before the recording artist and that reflects in her debut album, "Ni Ni" which has the feel of performance about it, capturing the spirit of an artist that puts her personality into her songs, be it love, anger or a sense of injustice. On the downside it feels like a series of short sets, rather than an album, but that will come.
Eleanor Friedberger
Album:Last Summer
Label:City Slang
There is a real retro feel to Eleanor Friedberger and her style of indie pop singer-songwriting. Listening to "Last Summer" I subconsciously found myself comparing her to the likes of Carol Bayer Sager, with that quirky, off the wall styling and slightly funk bass undertone. She's got that storytelling type rhythm running through the song, that prose set to music type of lyric and vibe reminiscent of the likes of They Might Be Giants. It's not that this is unoriginal, derivative is a more apt description, but it's well written, has a sense of purpose and whiles away the time.
Pavlov's Cat
Album:At The Races
"At The Races" is the first Pavlov's Cat album for some seven years, bringing the album count up to four, coincidently the same number as people in the band. A combination of songs written by lead vocalist/guitarist James Hibbins and traditional tunes arranged by him, contemporary in style, there is also a touch of the old hippy about the album, which isn' a bad thing. I'm sure "Old Dust & Patchouli" will resonate with a lot of people. The album kicks off with two traditional tracks to set the mood for the album and does this rather well, especially "Death & The Lady".
David Hope & The Henchmen
EP:Hell Or High Water
Label:Self Released
Jaunty is not a word I use very often in reviews, but it's perfect for the title track of David Hope & The Henchmen EP, "Hell Or High Water". With a band behind him David Hope has more of an Americana sound to his music, but you can still hear a Celtic edge coming through. In The Henchmen he has found a duo of musicians of quality and got a beautifully balanced sound as well delightfully arranged backing vocals and harmonies. There's a real uplifting feel to the EP despite the dark nature of the lyrics, you get the feeling Mr. Hope takes his surname literally.
Rebecca Pronsky
Label:Nine Mile
"Viewfinder" is one of those albums that it's difficult to find a problem with any given song on the album, the musicianship, lyrics etc. all do their job, it's just that the album as a whole doesn't seem to work. Grouped together the songs lack texture, which isn't helped by Rebecca Pronsky's voice which has a drawl to it that's perfect for a single, but grates a bit over the course of eleven songs, there needs to be more variety. Ultimately an album that, like a decent chocolate cake, is best enjoyed in slices, rather than demolished at a single sitting.
Pilgrim's Way
EP:Shining Gently All Around
BBC Radio Two Horizon nominees Pilgrims' Way are making their bid for Christmas chart glory with their take on "Magic Christmas Tree (Chinese White)" originally written by and recorded by Mike Heron. It's the only seasonal song on the "Shining Gently All Around EP" being backed with "Light Dragoon" and "Howden Town". It's a good move for Pilgrims' Way and should hopefully up the band's profile with some decent radio play, even if it doesn't threaten the X Factor winner at the top of the chart. The Christmas season has always set well in the folk calendar.
Ghostown Soldier
Album:Release The Demons
Label:Self Released
Ghostown Soldier is the recording vehicle of Matt Anderson, who writes, arranges and produces this album, drafting in Kev Robinson(acoustic guitar) and Dan Nizen(Piano) to flesh out the sound. As the title, "Release The Demons", suggests this is quite a cathartic album delivered with a brooding rage and an agressive blues rock sound, for the most part. This is an album of sizzling undercurrents and a barely restrained passion one that almost seems to capture the cusp of an emotional armagedon. It is, in short, a folk blues album from the top draw.
Ruth Moody
Album:The Garden
Label:Red House
With a mellow bluegrass/old timey feel, Ruth Moody is trending a well worn route in Americana and at first I was wondering if there was enough in her to set her apart from some of her fellow travellers and the answer is a qualified yes. "The Garden" has hints of both the Dixie Chicks and Stevie Nicks, but most importantly it feels like Ruth's album. Yes some of it is familiar, but that's because she's drawing on her heritage as the Australian member of the Wailin' Jennys, its the way she builds herself into her solo work that sets this apart and gives it clear blue water.

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