Joe Edwards – Keep on Running
In the small town of Devizes in rural Wiltshire was the local blues/cellar bar, offering a great education in the art of intimate and stripped back acoustic roots music. And thus inspired, Joe Edwards began to play covers of his favourite Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and B.B King songs at local bars, before going to study music at the renowned Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and having his degree presented to him by Paul McCartney. And there his musical interests broadened to encompass some of the great American songwriters such as Dylan, Petty, Taylor and Simon.
His stories of travel, love, loss and human sorrow fill this debut album having teamed up with award-winning producer and musician Steve Dawson, and getting the album mixed in Nashville. Tracked over just 10 days, live in one room and with no headphones, there’s an honesty and warmth to the recordings. The usual band instruments are enhanced by Jeremy Holmes on double bass and producer Steve on a variety of traditional slide instruments, from dobro to pedal steel. Rooted.
Rachel Baiman & Mike Wheeler – The’Countin on You’ Sessions
In typical Nashville fashion, two neighbours sitting on a porch swap songs over beers on a warm summer evening. And so an album is born. Singer, Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Baiman and good friend, songwriter Mike Wheeler combined initially to finish a song that she was stuck on. That song became ‘Turn It Off’, an upbeat exploration of all the ways to hide from the world’s problems. The two enjoyed singing together so much that they continued to collaborate.
Wheeler and Baiman went into Southern Ground Studios (Zac Brown Band) and recorded three songs around one microphone in one day. They brought Shelby Means in to add just one bass track and one third harmony, leaving the project almost entirely stripped down. In doing so they capture the magic of making music just for the beauty and the joy of it. Late at night, jamming with your neighbours, pulling out a fiddle if you feel like it, songs shared among song-lovers. The the true magic of Nashville, for you to tune in and experience. Real.
Dan Whitehouse – Dreamland Tomorrow
A double album, his sixth release, you get two sides from this versatile artist. The first disc (Dreamland) is dark, brooding and intense, an experimental approach and sound palette that encompasses Tim Bowness, John Martyn and the Little Unsaid and even a little OMD on one retro track. Alongside Whitehouse originals, Dreamland features new versions of lost classics by Sunhouse and The Trashcan Sinatras. In stark contrast, the second disc (Tomorrow) sees producer Boo Hewardine capture Whitehouse hushed and raw, in the moment, mostly voice and guitar, recorded with Jon Kelly (Kate Bush, Prefab Sprout) in London. Some of you may recall Daniel Lanois solo work…..
Whitehouse specialises in simple fluttering melodies with deep, touching nuance, understated yet exploratory, with whispered, breathy vocals. Allegedly folk in origin, he transcends that genre for me, even if there are hidden roots, and he is at home in lone songwriter territory, definitely more exploratory post- or alt-rock. Shoegazing.
Ben Kunder – Searching for the Stranger
Toronto-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ben Kunder has gained attention on the Canadian indie-folk scene, touring internationally and garnering critical acclaim along the way and radio airplay from the likes of RTE (Ireland) and CBC Music (Canada) and even the BBC. This album follows up his debut from 2018: “Better Human”, is co-produced with Aaron Goldstein at Baldwin Street Sound and Chris Stringer at Union Sound Company, with numerous returning guests including singer Carleigh Aikins, Wintersleep drummer Loel Campbell and Arkells keyboardist Anthony Carone.
Kunder straddles the modern folk and pop ballad genres with aplomb, his sound evocative of CSNY, Dan Fogelberg and (most pleasingly for me) even early BJH, the pop-writing craft of the likes of Big Dish or Colin Vearncombe, he deserves to feature alongside latterday balladeers. His cautious optimism pervades throughout the narrative, with accessible melodies and well-crafted arrangements creating beautifully articulate and deeply personal songs. Soft yet strong, uplifting yet lightly wistful, this is a mature and authentic album. Anthemic.
Elizabeth & Jameson – Northern Shores & Stories
Hannah Elizabeth & Griff Jameson, an award-winning folk duo based in Bedfordshire, seem to be two rising stars of the UK acoustic music scene, high-profile support slots on the UK folk/acoustic circuit including Scott Matthews, Bob Fox, Richard Digance, Jim Causley, John Kirkpatrick, Jon Allen and Daoirí Farrell, as well as touring folk and acoustic clubs in their own right. Three EPs and a live album under their belt, comes this album.
They create a pleasant acoustic indie-folk vibe, merging their respective musical backgrounds of traditional folk and folk pop/rock. Elizabeth & Jameson arguably offer the best of both worlds; simplistic, classic song writing at its best – a stripped back, harmony-driven sound with guitar, violin and exquisite solo and harmony vocals. I have often said that simplicity can work as well as complexity. Case proven. A bonus and winner for me is the familiar view and strong links to my childhood memories of the coast and locations – I can almost smell and taste the shores and stories, if you know what I mean. Evocative.
Jack Sharp – Good Times Older
Jack Sharp’s first solo album comes after 13 years fronting pagan psych rock band Wolf People (once described by Stewart Lee as “Peat bog superfuzz sphagnum moss sludge”) but he has also made a number of solo recordings via Stick in the Wheel’s Mixtape ‘Against The Loathsome Beyond’ as well as on their “From Here: English Folk Field Recordings” and more recently his folk trio Marisa, Jack and Davy.
This collection of 11 songs features Jack’s guitar and voice, austere and sparsely recorded, using mostly traditional music and words gleaned from his home county of Bedfordshire. There’s a very tangible sense of place, memory and belonging, plaintive in tone but intertwined with necessarily intricate guitar lines, and a fine distinctive and idiosyncratic English voice that evokes English tradition. A node to Nicola Keary who provides supporting vocals that evoke the Unthanks. It’s a nod to, but is not defined by, the 1960s revivalists like Martin Carthy and Nic Jones. Italso shows that the English folk tradition remains as vital as ever, treated with respect and care. Folksome.
Pete Morton – A Golden Thread
Five years on from The Land of Time, the Leicester-born folkie returns with his fourteenth studio album, A Golden Thread: eight new self-penned songs, a brace of traditionals and the Pete Seeger title cover, with musical assistance from Sarah Matthews on strings, Matt Quinn providing mandolin, banjo and concertina, double bassist Justin Twigg, additional guitar and euphonium by George Sansome, djembe, bodhran, cajon and low whistle from Mark Woolley and Alice Jones doubling up on piano and clarinet.
The Seeger number, ‘Oh Had I A Golden Thread’, with Morton’s reworking is a jaunty opener, followed mostly by his own work: evocative swayalong, shuffling and pulsing, thoughtful and emotive, loping and bluesy, folk-anthemic, lively and jovial. Traditional to the core, and at times transatlantic, perhaps with hints of McTell at times, it’s bathed in experience and richness. Plenty to get your folk teeth into. Rich.