Roots in January

Luke Daniels & The Cobhers – Luke Daniels & The Cobhers

Started in 2019 by Luke Daniels (melodeon, guitar & vocals) he’s joined by Matt Tighe (fiddle), Scott Turnbull (guitar), Michael Biggins (piano) and Elanoe Dunsdon (clasarch). The album is produced by Paul Savage (Mogwai, Paulo Nutini). He’s got an interesting track record – Riverdance musician, on the soundtrack to Lord of the Rings & Hobbit, played with Cara Dillon & Ian Anderson, and seasoned live performer.

First things first, it’s pronounced ‘covers’! Quite apt considering they cover the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive, AWB’s ‘Pick up the Pieces’ (a personal fave), ‘Groove is in the Heart’ and the unforgettable ‘Superstition’ – songs you’d think didn’t have a folk bone in their bodies – until now! Combined with quite progressive interpretations of traditional material and some self-penned tunes, this is a well-crafted and cleverly thought through assault at enticing new and old audiences. At times I’m drawn back the the same life affirmation that Capercaillie brought – this is music to stimulate the ears and also the feet.

Nic Zuppardi – North Cape

Nic has taught mandolin and performed professionally for over fifteen years, providing workshops on the mandolin and traditional music. His current projects include acclaimed folk group The Shackleton Trio with whom he’s performed at major international festivals and stages for six years.  He also occasionally performs alongside top UK clawhammer banjo player and BBC Folk Award nominee Dan Walsh in the Dan Walsh Trio. He’s also part of bluegrass/covers band Cobbler Bob, and acoustic group The Corncutters.

He’s joined by Alex Patterson (Fiddle), Christina Aiden or Adam Clark (Guitar), and Calium McKemmie (Double Bass) to create a lovely set of mostly self-penned thought provoking tunes and arrangements. His skill and talent shine through, but such a unique talent needs (and gets) strong backing to make the songs and performances stand out. Folk, bluegrass, some international traditions such as Breton all blend into an enjoyable mix. Seamless.

Polly Paulsuma – The Pivot on which the world turns

In 2004 Paulusma released a shed-recorded debut ‘Scissors In My Pocket’ that received acclaim and led to support for Bob Dylan, Jamie Cullum, Coldplay among others. In 2012 she founded label Wild Sound for her third, ‘Leaves from the Family Tree’. A PhD and two kids later, ‘Invisible Music: folk songs that influenced Angela Carter’ in 2021 saw a profile increase. This is now her ninth album, a fifth studio release.

Unsurprisingly a world of experience sees blues-inspired americana meet a more traditional approach or poetic poppiness making this an effervescent and lightly eclectic release. There’s a lot of depth in the album concept, from the adaptation of a phrase from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina in the CD title, to the theme of examining the roles that women play in their lives, and how they pivot. There’s a strength in this song-set, and individuality and an uncompromising vision backed up by good songs, production and package. Folk-pop? Pop-folk? Folk-indie? How about: Indie-pop-folk.

Noel Dashwood – Noel Dashwood

Noel Dashwood, of Alden, Patterson and Dashwood. Still no idea? He’s an astoundingly good dobro player. He’s an adventurer, having upped sticks and gone to the island of Tresco and worked there to fund this album. In case you think this is rather unusual, Dashwood grew up on the South Pacific island of Raratonga which he honours in a hawaian guitar piece. He’s massively supported by ex-bandmates from the Vagaband, other band players from the Often Herd, Sargasso Trio singers and others.

Different arrangements, great harmonies and a division of tunes, songs and instrumentals make this an entertaining album. Old time instrumentals suit the dextrous Dobro and flying fiddle. Hints of americana and Neil Young work well, as do drum and slide-guitar numbers, and there’s even hints of psychedelia and stadium rock. A rich and varied debut. Variety!

Old Californio – Old Californio Country

They are singer/songwriter Rich Dembowski, guitarist/ vocalist/ songwriter Woody Aplanalp, drummer Justin Smith, Jon Niemann on keyboards, Kip Boardman on bass, newest member Paul Lacques on dobro and guitar with the addition of drummer Anthony LoGerfo and bassist Corey McCormick, and John Avila on bass and vocals.

Never heard of them? Nope. One of those best kept secrets that are best not kept secret! Only three original songs, this is a seasoned, experienced band with a CV too long to print. It’s a loving homage to the California country mother lode, with classics like ‘Lonesome Fugitive’, ‘Lotta Love’ and ‘Willin’’, that summon the ghosts of west coast country rock. Production is lo-fi, but in a good way that suits the music and vibe. The singer is up close and personal, the musicianship peerless, intense and personal. Gritty.

Finn Collinson – The Threshold

Widely regarded as one of the foremost recorder players on the English folk circuit, Finn is a founder member of recorder quartet Aurai and is in demand as a ceilidh musician, notably with Ceilidh Tree and Stroma. His regular touring band support him here: Emma Beach on oboes and vocals, Archie Churchill-Moss on guitar and diatonic accordion, Evan Carson  on bodhran and percussion, plus guests Tom Leader and Simon Chorley, mixing and mastering by Josh Clark and Nick Cooke, and artwork and strings by Finn’s sister Rowan Collinson: the album is a creative and collaborative effort.

This is his second album and he still looks like he should be at school! Across its six instrumentals and four vocal tracks, subject matter ranges from the driving folk-rock of Victorian ghost story Jerry Bundler to the layered soundscapes and sparkling melodies of climate-change inspired Big Smoke, or the baroque sensibilities of Pool’s Hole. Finn’s distinctive tune style ties together the material, with a respectful eye on the past but a strong grounding in the present. Finn Collinson has been steadily gaining a strong reputation for his energetic and creative performances and this album showcases that perfectly. Boundary-pushing.

Plu – Tri

Sibling trio Elan, Marged and Gwilym Rhys from Snowdonia are Plu (meaning ‘feathers’ in Welsh) and have released several albums since 2012, including an album for children ‘Holl Anifeiliaid Y Goedwig’ in 2014. This is their latest release after ‘Tir a Golau’ in 2015.  Over two years, the collection was recorded at Stiwdio Sain, Llandwrog, with producer Aled Wyn Hughes (of Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog). Carwyn Williams, Dafydd Owain and Edwin Humphreys add broader instrumentation to Plu’s acoustic sound.

Plu play alternative Welsh language pop-folk, with close 3 part harmonies a back-bone to their varied set. Their album has an atmospheric mix of folk, Americana and pop tunes, all featuring the complex harmonies associated with Plu’s vocals. I suppose it is typical to think of Clannad and Corrs, and frankly if you like either, you’ll like these. Their harmonies are gorgeous, their songs infectious, and just listen to Dinistrio Di if you don’t believe me – there is so much in the 4 minutes of this gorgeous song. I apologise for my ignorance that I don’t know what they are singing about, but I don’t care – it’s simply lovely! Lush.

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