Published on January 19th, 2016 | by Mike Ainscoe1
Mike Ainscoe’s Winter Round Up
As part two of the Autumn round up fails to materialise, the albums simply slip into the next box, so here’s another delve into some of the albums which have made contributions to recent shows.
THE DREAMING TREE – ‘SILVERFADE’
Labelled ‘alternative rock with progressive tendencies’ – an album where maybe the best track is saved till last and is well worth the wait. ‘Zero To Type One’, a track shared on a sampler CD given out with the October issue of Rock Society magazine, and guaranteed that once you heard it, would alert you to exploring more of the Dreaming Tree catalogue. So with thanks to Dan Jones, guitarist with TDT, we have the chance to see if the new album is as good as the sample.
Not to say that it’s a trial to get to that point though – not in the slightest, as the thirteen preceding tracks run through the whole gamut of styles from hard rock stomps to more friendly and accessible piano and keyboard washed material. ‘Heart Shaped Bruises’ fair rattles along early doors, and the strangely titled ‘Higgs’ carries an underlying threat, a rougher edged sound explored in the second half of ‘Kosovo’, without lapsing into standard mainstream rawk .
Although, ‘Yours To Find’ and ‘Loose It Off’ might test the rock fans with a smoother and more polished, funky even, vibe, the eight minute ‘Forever Not Forever’ is a proggy treat and the middle section is perhaps Dan Jones’ best guitar performance of the album in the searing and melodic lead line, combining with some lovely keyboard backed chunky riffing. Moving musically through different passages, it’s perhaps the most fully realised track on the album and a real threat to ‘ZTTO’.
Best track: ‘Forever Not Forever’ is great but has to be, ‘Zero To Type One’ – a chunky dark riff heavy song and exactly the one I’d showcase to pull in the punters.
PETE MORTON – ‘THE LAND OF TIME’
Pete’s second release for Fellside Records sees him continuing his famous frapping (folk rapping for the uninitiated), and once again he’s on fine form, self penning all but two tracks where he’s gone for the famous trad.arr. set up. His unique delivery doesn’t stop at frapping though – there’s much more to Pete Morton than being a one trick pony – as he delves into ballad and, shock horror, even love songs.
However, it’s his fraps that grab the attention and provide his USP. Like marmite, people seem to love or hate them, but he’s not afraid to use them as his vehicle to pass comment on society; ‘Poverty Frap’ takes up the theme of working conditions in the sweatshops of Bangladesh, and is compared against Victorian mill life, while ‘Slave To The Game’ bemoans the exploitation of women in Victorian London. Moving from the bold and confident pacey delivery, to the softer gentler and more personal feel of something like ‘Bloomsbury Boy’, Pete Morton is one of those underground acoustic/folk artists who seem to be growing in stature and moving beyond the original template to offer something with wider appeal.
Best track: ‘One Hundred Years Ago’ – a belter of a song about the fortunes of war from a personal viewpoint. It could be an antithesis of Dylan’s, ‘John Brown’.
FOLKSTOCK COMPILATION – ‘DOWNTOWN’
Anything that gets amongst the Sunday Times new releases must be worth its salt, yet not necessarily a guarantee as the broadsheet press wouldn’t necessarily be the go to place for on the button musical critique. High profile though and for once, knowing Folkstock and the Folkstock artists as we do at Sonic Bandwagon, they’re bob on.
With four of the ten tracks a bit of a bonus, having been recorded exclusively for its release, the album is bookended by Folkstock’s shining star, Kelly Oliver, with her most recent single – another song teasing ahead for her Stu Hanna produced album due early 2016 – as long as she doesn’t spoil the impact and release too many teaser singles first ;-). Daria Kulesh is also on there with an exclusive track, her voice ringing pure and clear with the instantly recognisable work of Kate Rouse backing her. Minnie Birch’s ‘Nashville’ and ‘Dustbowl’, American sounding titles, in contrast showcase her delicate/on the edge of breaking voice. She’s hot on the heels of Kelly as the proverbial one to watch. Zoe Wren and Marina Florance add a soft country/Americana influence.
The guys get a look in too with Ben Smith’s shuffling, ‘Let Me Down Easy’ and Fred’s House country rock of ‘Shut Up And Dance’ rounding off another quality collection showcasing the best of upcoming young folk artists and one which we’re proud to support.
Best track: hard choice but I’m probably going with Minnie Birch’s, ‘Nashville’ – three minutes of close to holding your breath to listen before what might be seen as her letting rip by comparison.
MARINA FLORANCE – ‘THIS THAT & THE OTHER’
And if you get a taste for a bit more Marina Florance, having been teased on the ‘Downtown’ compilation, then here’s another interesting release from Folkstock; evidence that their actual stock and roster is getting healthier by the day, and an album which is hitting not only the Sonic Bandwagon playlists, but also being divvied out on Rick Stuart’s Roots & Fusion – always a good sign.
Hard to believe when you listen to Marina Florance’s folky Americana that she’s from Norwich – home to Bernard Mathews, Nicholas Parsons’ quiz of the week, ‘Sale Of The Century’ and one of our broadcasting heroes, Alan Partridge. Nothing crass or superficial about Marina though. If you want a reference point, at moments her playing and vocal style suggests hints of some of Passenger’s acoustic leanings, just her and a guitar and a set of songs which venture into the c/w and Americana fields. Venturing a little beyond the simple voice and guitar formula, which serves her well enough, there’s the squeezy box sound adding something to the gentle, ‘Wedding Day Waltz’, and a subtle duet with some spoken word from Richard Pierce on ‘A Better Song’. The mournful, ‘When The Past Came A Callin’, feels almost like one of those Old Shep heart string tuggers, while ‘Carried Away’ gently ushers in a change of pace – the sort of gentle shuffling jig you’d find in the hands of the youngsters in Keston Cobbler’s Club.
Signing out with ‘I’ll Remember You’, the common theme of contemplation rears its head and provides a gentle and reflective moment as a wash of strings seems to drift by in the background, before a short coda of an instrumental version of ‘Wedding Day Waltz’ provides that world weary walk home music.
Best track: Probably ‘Carried Away’ which has a more contemporary feel and in commercial terms could be the sort of track which opens Marina to a wider audience.
MARIE-CLAIRE BERREEN & HER HUSBANDS – ‘COME HOME’
Egg Boy Records
Talk about making the most of a situation. Caught in the midst of the ferocious storms which whipped the North Wales coast in early 2014, Marie-Claire Berreen, and writing partner guitarist, producer, Steven Wattison found the influences of being open to the elements a perfect inspiration for their songwriting.
Opening with the sound of gulls and the soft wash of the sea, the title track, quite bizarrely, is a calm haven. A calm which pervades the whole album in fact, although there’s a gentle shuffle and lyrical reference to the extreme weather in, ‘The Fury Of The Storm’, and more than a little bit of folk rocking which is first evident on, ‘Draw Breath’ and ‘Never Enough For Her’, while a more country rock feel accompanies ‘Spark’. Some standard folk smut comes in the form of ‘Husbands’ – a remotely scandalous tale of the wonderfully named Flossie Mott, a 19th Century lady who at the behest of her father enjoyed ‘trying out’ multiple suitors! The overall vibe though is one of relaxed tranquillity and gives the chance to highlight some superb harmonies, captured at their best in the closing track, ‘Foundlings’. A sparse arrangement of just guitar, piano and some gentle strings, add the depth for the ghostly vocal to float on top. Another great example of album sequencing which makes the final track end an album on a high.
Best track: ‘Foundlings’ – a perfect example of restraint and everything in moderation.
FAY HIELD – ‘OLD ADAM’ advance EP
A tasty four track taster ahead of Fay’s ‘Old Adam’ album due out at the start of 2016 brings together the usual dream team of Andy Bell at the control desk at Real World Studios, and South Yorkshire Hurricane Party including regular wingmen Sam Sweeney and Rob Harbron. It certainly whets the appetite with four tracks all delivered in her instantly recognisable folk tones. Not surprisingly given her academic background and pursuits, the album aims to unearth a set of stories and song which range from the rhythmic ‘Green Gravel’ to the more pastoral and gentle ‘Willow Glen’ and a splendid frolic through the familiar tale of ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ – the sort of tale involving young ladies barely sixteen year olds and the dubious character of Back Jack Davey, which in modern times would provide a mouth-wateringly scandalous front page in The Sun. Can’t wait for the main course
Best track: Raggle Taggle Gypsy – classic folk!