The Night Out – Monkey See Monkey Do
A folk-ish bunch of primates from the south of England (their words not mine) who love traditional and modern folk music, and we love entertaining at pubs, festivals and private events across the country (Covid-permitting, of course). Over the last couple of years they wrote, arranged and recorded eight high-energy tracks and used revenue from gigs to fund everything, with a final Kickstarter kick to get them over the line.
So you have got eight 3-4 minute uplifting, storytelling songs arguably best heard live in those settings where the ale flow freely and modern life is pleasingly absent. I read that Monkey see, monkey do is a pidgin-style saying that appeared in American culture in the early 1920s, referring to the learning of a process without an understanding of why it works, or the act of mimicry, usually with limited knowledge and/or concern for the consequences. Total opposite of the band ethos in my humble opinion – their focus is purposely on having a good time, on a continuation of heritage, and a desire to display good musicianship. I look forward to seeing what they do post-lockdown! Uplifting.
Lau – Live Series 1.0
Scottish folk trio Lau return with a new direct to fan release recorded in January 2020 at London’s Kings Place concert hall by Lau’s sound engineer Tim Matthew. During lockdown digital re-issues and rare material including live performances, remixes and collaborations have been released digitally and the band have also made a new series of “Unplugged” apparel and tour prints available from their website. The new E.P is one of several archive releases the band have made available via their recently launched Reveal Records Bandcamp page.
“Live Series 1.0” captures Lau live at the start of their hoped-for ‘Unplugged Tour’ and is a collaboration with Chris Watson (founding member of Cabaret Voltaire, now one of the worlds leading recordists of wildlife and natural phenomena). Think Brian Eno meets David Attenborough. Thoughtful, languid, earthy, unhurried, as improvisational as it is structured, it’s a side to folk I haven’t encountered before – more power to their fiddling elbow. Natural.
Tangle of Souls – Scott Cook
Canadian Folk Music Award nominee Scott Cook is a relentless world tourer (Canada, US,Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Africa),averaging 150 shows and a dozen festivals annually while still producing seven studio albums. His seventh album,Tangle of Souls, is a 12-track collection (10 originals, 2 covers) telling the story of a life-changing health crisis and drawing parallels to our societal crises such as climate change and Covid-19.
Cook’s blunt and honest songwriting is at the forefront, supported by adventurous acoustic arrangements, recorded in Australia with his intercontinental string band- The She’ll Be Rights – Liz Frencham on upright bass, harmony vocals and engineering; Bramwell Park on banjo, mandolin, guitar and harmony vocals; fiddlers Esther Henderson and Kat Mearher and dobro wizard Pete Fidler. As you can tell by the instrumentation, it’s solid, homespun (or as he says in “Leave a Light On” a ‘low budget love song’), transatlantic and folksome. Tangle of Souls sees the human race as one family, and bonded to the earth, Cook pleading for global citizenship and mutual understanding from someone who’s lived an exceptionally borderless life. It’s a story of individual transition, and puts a case for political transformation. Personal.
Long Day in the Milky Way – Kris Delmhorst
Long Day in the Milky Way is Delmhorst’s eighth full-length release, with the gifted lyricist on top form and purposeful. The world-weary but hopeful songwriter responds to a time of global anxiety with a heart-felt missive. She’s been compared to artists as various as Anaïs Mitchell, Lucinda Williams, and Juana Molina – though she herself cites Rickie Lee Jones.
Recorded in a nearly 300-year-old farmhouse in Maine with trusted collaborators, it’s a deep and lush record – piano, guitar, trumpet, upright and electric bass, harp and violin instrumentation, but central are the voices: Delmhorst is nuanced and emotive, with supporting harmonies from a trio of singers who provide a steadying and amplifying presence throughout. Clever, considered, calming and subtle, this is a delightful record to listen to. Immersive.
Mean Mary – Alone
Alone is what it says on the tin. The ten original songs, recorded in her home studio in Nashville, are stripped down to a minimal production of just her voice and an instrument. Equally versatile on guitar, fiddle, and 8
other instruments, Mary has recorded 17 albums to date, but leaving her other instruments aside, she opts for a lone guitar, a banjo, or a banjitar (a combination of the two – nope, me neither).
Songs about life on the road, childhood, trial and triumph sit alongside her gleeful personality as she plays around with traditional tunes (well-known bluegrass song, ‘Nine Pound Hammer’ becomes an original blues song titled ‘Nine Pound Banjo’ and old folk song, ‘Cindy’ becomes a jazzy romp). All this makes for an up and down journey. Whilst straighforward, in her arrangements she creates drama, shows a personal touch, has natural depth and a live feel with impressive picking. Upfront.