Roots in January

Giulia Millanta – Tomorrow is a Bird

Musician. Traveller. Writer. Warrior. Cook. a nomad. a dreamer…songwriter, instrumentalist and producer of alternative-Americana music with a European Twist. Good song construction, mix and instrumentation featuring her solid yet fragile reverb guitar all support the song, the story, the imagery, the ideas. From Beatles-y britpop to Cohen-esque poetry with mid-western elements, anglicised country, we’re not a million miles from Kieran Kane or Boo Hewardine here.

She explores places she has never been, including her own conscious and sub-conscious. Her dreams become her songs, her stories, and her reality. Giulia’s 7th solo album is about re-evaluating life, about endings and beginnings, failures and opportunities, about changing direction, trusting that the wind will support your wings and get you where you need to go.“Today is a Feather, Tomorrow is a Bird”. Uplifting and understatedly powerful. Flighty.

Paul Ruane – Sound

This is a commemoration of the life and music of a fiddle player and teacher who inspired many. Born in Leeds in 1967 to parents originally from County Mayo, Paul took up the fiddle with Leeds Comhaltas, quickly gaining honours in the Fleadh Cheoil both in Britain and Ireland. After graduating from Cambridge University, he married Deirdre (Dee) Filan, a champion box and whistle player from Birmingham, and in the 1990s the couple settled in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne where Paul was a teacher. An inventive and intuitive musician, Paul played in numerous bands, ranging from the college orchestra in Cambridge, to a folk-punk band Wild Bill Hartzia and the Malarial Swamp Dogs, plus appearances with Ceilidh bands and folk artists. This album reflects Paul’s love of traditional music and his personal interpretations, capturing performances from 2012 until his untimely death in 2016.

Explaining the album’s title, friend and flute player Norman Holmes said “Paul was a man of few words, and the title refers to his reaction to anything that pleased him. He would offer a nod and say, ‘Sound’.” These recordings feature Paul and his wife Dee along with friends they were regularly playing music. Initially recorded for posterity, his death gave special meaning and impetus to the project. Friends and family have subsequently added to the recording, as was the original intention, giving wonderful perspective to Paul’s and Dee’s playing. This is a commemoration of a no-nonsense, no-fuss-required consummate musician who quietly, yet unforgettably, left an impression upon those who played alongside, those he taught, and many a fond memory of him as a result. What else can I say but – sound!

Various Artists (Reveal Records) – Home is Where the Art is

Celebrating 15 Years of Reveal Records label, this is their first compilation. An independent music company formed after a chance encounter in 2005 on Myspace between widely acclaimed American songwriter Joan As Police Woman and then independent record store (Reveal Records Derby) owner Tom Rose. A snip around 7 quid, you get a deluxe double CD with booklet, housed in a triple gatefold card package for a primer for new listeners and a chance to look back over the variety of world class music Reveal Records artists have created to date.

The album includes cult classics, deep album cuts, new and unreleased music from artists including multi BBC Folk Award winner Kris Drever, recent Gorillaz and Tony Allen collaborator Joan As Police Woman, visionary folk trio Lau, Scottish legend Eddi Reader, maverick English songwriter Boo Hewerdine and newer artists such as Brooklyn indie songwriter Benjamin Lazar Davis and Berlin electronic-R’n’B producer GRIP TIGHT. Check out some other artists I’ve reviewed elsewhere too – Dan Whitehouse, The Little Unsaid, Nels Andrews. Enjoy the poppy Gramercy Arms, lo-fi jazzy Jon Redfern, unsettlingly melancholic piano of Aidan O’Rourke. As with most compilations there’ll be some which aren’t your cuppa, but there’s plenty of gems and earworms and temptations to dig deeper. VFM!

Reveal Records

Anna Elizabeth Laube – Annamania

Anna Elizabeth Laube is a songwriter, multi-instrumtalist, producer and engineer. A techy in San Francisco, she left to pursue a career in music. This retrospective album is a hand-picked collection of songs from her previous four studio albums: Outta My Head(2006), Pool All The Love * Pool All The Knowledge (2009), Anna Laube (2015) and Tree (2016). Additionally, Annamania includes three further songs – a piano and French Horn cover of Tom Petty’s ‘Time To Move On’, recorded with John Turman, a member of the Seattle Symphony, ‘I’m Gone’, a garage rock tune, featured in the Netflix show Locke & Key,and ‘Jardim da Estrela’,a brand new song inspired by Laube’s recent time spent in Lisbon, Portugal, featuring Chris Joyner on accordion (Ray LaMontagne, Heart, Amos Lee).

Intimate, heartfelt songs rooted in traditional Americana, her expressive and versatile voice and understated rootsy production are the constants in a diverse collection which veers from finger-picking bluegrass songwriter, delicate piano maudlin and lo-fi alt-folk via hard-edged rootsy blues and folky, summery covers. Rootsy indeed.

Peach & Quiet – Just Beyond the Shine

From Pender Island, British
Columbia, Peach & Quiet is a Canadian West Coast singer-songwriter duo known for their authenticity, poetic lyrics and gorgeous harmonies. Jonny is a singer-songwriter and staple of the British Columbia music for over 30 years. Welsh-born Heather was a child prodigy, discovering it afresh when moving to BC in 2013, starting two bands – Wayward
Sirens and Clancy’s Front Porch, before meeting Jonny in 2019.

Partners in music and life, Heather Read and Jonny Miller have a warm, atmospheric roots sound. This debut album Just Beyond the Shine, is an intriguing and delightful variety of original songs recorded during the depths of the pandemic, exploring the darker and lighter sides of love and the unwavering commitment to remain true to the heart in the face of all odds. Ranging in style across vintage country, Americana and folk rock, their music is pacifying, sweetly captivating, gently reminding us that our own hearts are key to take us into a sustainable and kinder world. Nicey nice.

Dave Thomas – One More Mile

Born in Newport, South Wales, now residing in Norfolk where he (used to) runs Fine City Blues sessions at the Louis Marchesi pub – he finished this album off in Bristol. But he is more well-travelled, as his music indicates. Dave Thomas was the lead singer, songwriter and guitar player for the seminal 60s/70s progressive rock band Blonde On Blonde. So fifty years of recording experience and live work combine into this album. Four tracks recorded with Cleveland Blues musicians, other tracks with Irish folk musicians and some with Ken Putelnik’s Groundhogs.

Rousing anthems and gentle reflections, eclectic styles and distinctive vocals, originals and covers (BB King and Tony McPhee songs) this is a distinctive and distinct celebration of a mammoth journey but ultimately rooted in blues. The opener, BB King track It’s my Own Fault, with parpy horns, is an undoubted highlight. Indeed the whole Cleveland section is a treat. But then the homespun acoustic tracks are a rootsy palette cleanser too. And he doesn’t let the side down with the more rocky McPhee compositions either. A game of three halves! Bluesy.

The Moonbeams – This Land (2018)

Following “Sparrowhawk”s Eye” and “Watching Wildlife” the third album continues their paean to the countryside, filled with folk and roots tales of rural life. The group is part of the Moonbeams Collective, whose stated mission is to celebrate the environment and way of life – specifically that of the Yorkshire Dales. Sentimental and evocative, all the album’s tracks, The Yorkshire Tup excepted, are all originals.

The songs keep the conceptual intent through images of nostalgia and of loss, such as children playing and empty cottages. Mixed to ensure clarity of vocals, the songs focus on simplicity, core instruments being guitar / bass / drums with melodic support from viola and whistle. It’s a thoughtful piece of work with a pleasant 60/70s feel. Strong roots, simple pleasures and a retro approach. And why not? Communal.

Betty Accorsi Quartet – The Cutty Sark Suite

Here’s the debut of saxophonist and songwriter Elisabetta Accorsi. Joined by Finn Carter (piano), Andy Hamill (double & electric bass) and Scott MacDonald (drums, it’s a gorgeous primarily instrumental jazz album. Nice use of world influences from Chinese through Indonesian gamelan to African and players like Pastorius or Coetzee. With a concept of the Cutty Sark’s return from China to London as a theme, unsurprisingly there is great focus on the instrumental strengths of the band, with all featuring in sterling ensemble and individual practised and improvisational performances that ebb and flow, rise and fall, energise and relax, and yet always retain that all important interest. Evocative.

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