John Wort Hannam – Long Haul
This 8th album follows 2018’s ‘Acres of Elbow Room’. Birthed in early pandemic days, random ideas coalesce into narratives of small victories earned through faith, resilience and humour, reaching beyond isolation to a shared sense of gratitude for what we have, and grief for what we’ve lost. Recorded remotely with intuitive accompaniment from Black Hen regulars Gary Craig (drums), Jeremy Holmes (bass) and Chris Gestrin (keyboards), memorable performances from producer Steve Dawson (guitar/strings) and John Prine alumnus, Fats Kaplin (mandolin, fiddle, banjo and accordion) add chemistry to the mix.
Long Haul is an album of very good songs. The title track is a reminder that there are no instant solutions in life. ‘Hurry Up Kid’is a father’s exploration of the ephemeral nature of youth and the relentless passage of time. The sense of loss that tinges many of the tracks is uppermost in ‘Other Side of the Curve’. ‘Meat Draw’ and ‘Beautiful Mess’ a humorous duet with Shaela Miller fits comfortably alongside country classics like ‘Jackson’ or ‘In Spite of Ourselves’. Engagingly melodic, topical and enduring, Long Haul is a career defining work by an artist who has come into his own. Warm and spontaneous.
Granny’s Attic – The Brickfields
Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne (Melodeon, Anglo Concertina, Vocals), George Sansome (Guitar, Vocals) and Lewis Wood (Violin, Vocals) are a folk trio who play the tradition with verve, energy and their own inimitable style. Experienced through touring since 2009 across the UK and Europe, they’re both accomplished and heralded for their lively performances, and delivery and selection of traditional songs.
With financial support from the English Folk Dance & Song Society this album was recorded live, with no overdubs, over 3 days in April 2021. It’s a pure sound. It’s a team dynamic. It’s a stunning record of the excitement and emotion of playing together. It’s real and honest. They are all exceptional musicians and fine singers and play English traditional and original music. This is a high-octane take on tradition that brings a freshnesh and newness to the music, full of passion whilst honouring the genre. Pure.
Gordie Tentrees – Mean Old World
With help from a score of artistic collaborators including members of the Dakhká Khwáan Dancers, an internationally renowned Inland Tlingit performance group based out of Whitehorse, Yukon, there’s an amazing back-story to this album. Mean Old World explores the path of Gordie Tentrees from foster child to foster parent in songs like ‘Rosetta’, ‘Every Child’ and the title track ‘Mean Old World’. Time in the social service system before becoming schoolteacher and youth worker, then back full circle to be foster parent to an indigenous child. Gordie’s days as a five-time Golden Glove boxer are recounted in ‘Ring Speed’.
His gratitude rises in ‘Far Away Friends’, a tribute recognizing all those special off-the-stage hosts who supported him in his 2,500-plus concerts around the world. Experiences in foreign countries pursuing record deals roll tongue-in-cheek throughout ‘Danke’. The learning gained from supporting a childhood friend through cancer is presented in ‘Train is Gone’. ‘Twice as Nice’, co-written with Roland Roberts, lets us know that the grass is never greener. Mean Old World is best listened to as a whole project. Each song is a treasure, beautifully sung, great instrumentation, wonderful production, fantastic lyrics, yet fitting together as a whole. Life!
Abby Posner – Kisbee Ring
Abby Posner has worked in Los Angeles for the past 16 years, best known for her ability to play nearly any instrument and pushing the boundaries of folk, roots, and pop music. Posner played every instrument on the record, as well as mixing and producing it: ” My intention was to create a warm vintage sound with a Beatles inspired melodic walk down and hints of Nick Drake. I wanted it to feel like the listener was getting an auditory hug.”
This is an album about urgency, reckoning and repairing. Each song on the album takes a deep dive into topics such as depression, racial unrest/injustice, and the urgency of getting help when you are in a dark place or “lost at sea.” Kisbee Ring is another word for Life Preserver, a metaphor that carries through the entire album. Deep and difficult, challenging and championing, it’s a thought-provoking listen. Affirming.
Matt Pattershuk – An Honest Effort
Like all Black Hen releases, this record is full of fine musicians. Steve Dawson plays guitar, pedal steel and Weissenborn, Jeremy Holmes adds groove, touch and taste on bass and mandolin. Gary Craig lends wonderfully inventive percussion. Keri Latimer’s tuneful and airy voice is a great foil to Matt’s earthy one. Fats Kaplin contributes wizardry on fiddle, ukulele, banjo and harmonica.
Matt Patershuk’s Grandad used to say, “God loves a trier”. He meant that there is worth, and value in trying; the act of making an effort is redemptive, regardless of outcome. This is An Honest Effort, about folks trying. Matt is a singer and songwriter first, valuing simplicity, but incorporating the small details that bring a story to life and make it relatable. Though his songs aren’t devoid of metaphor, you’re not left guessing about what the song is about when you’re done listening. Together the songs paint musical pictures that are a great counterpoint to the lyrics. With the musical on show, heartfelt vocals, and inventive yet relatable subject matter, this is not just a good try, it succeeds. Good effort!
Saskia – Where are We Heading?
Saskia Griffiths-Moore is a folk/acoustic singer known for championing acoustic music, most recently with her lockdown initiative ‘Talent Is Timeless’ – the UK’s first Age-Positive Songwriting Competition exclusively for the over 50’s, attracting support from Tony Moore (Iron Maiden), Ian Matthews (Kasabian), Cafe Nero – and me! Inspired by Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Eva Cassidy, this is the second album in a transatlantic record deal struck between Saskia and The Susanne Marcus Collins Foundation Inc. (US), to create “quality acoustic music mirroring the style and capturing the energy of the great legacy folk artists.”
Recorded at Abbey Road, this album speaks to topics of our times, as all great folk albums do. It celebrates friendships. It shows gratitude. Honed over 9 weeks of recording and perfecting, it is expertly crafted and equally expertly played, retaining a live feel for such beautiful acoustic music. I’m repeating other reviews in many ways, but what you get is powerful and heartfelt, poignant and memorable, melodious and totally natural with heavenly vocals. Delightful.