Album/EP Reviews Energetic Fairy Tale Folk Music Folk Rock Sci-Fi

Joshua Burnell – Glass Knight – Review – 14/08/23

“A dizzying amount of craft, musical influences and layers of sonic excellence that nevertheless has an accessible shine that musical afficionados, local Dungeon Masters, and your Nan, are all going to equally enjoy”

We remember Joshua Burnell on a hot sunny day, a few years ago during the height of the Beverley Folk Festival. Burnell himself, and his band, were all there playing away as the sun blazed. Burnell was sliding all over the place over the keys, the dragon kite above his head seemed to come alive and it was all an explosive, colourful foray into the live folk scene. It was not so much that he was racing from the devil, but rather in all his efforts his gusto and enthusiasm seemed like it might have had the devil’s envy.

We sadly admit not keeping up with the development and journey in intervening years, but it is safe to say that there must be tales to be told. No longer is he the enthusiastic spirit of fighting youth, he is fact Russell Crowe in Gladiator. He knows a thing or too, and his Glass Knight, in this instance is a show of his refinement and skills. The only difference is we don’t expect Burnell to have the same sticky end that Maximus did.

For those not in the know, Joshua Burnell’s origins are a mixture of life in Haute-Savoie, Linlithgow and York. Along with his band of Nathan Greaves (electric guitar), Oliver Whitehouse (bass), Ed Simpson (drums) and Frances Sladen (backing vocals) joined with Kathleen Ord/Elizabeth Heyes-Lundie (violin), Ellen Brookes/Rhiannon Fallows (violas), and Greg Morton/Ele Leckie (cellos); we have an expansive collective that is not just large in size, but in range.

After all, Burnell has been described as having the sound and influences of Bob Dylan, The War on Drugs, Arcade Fire, Peter Gabriel and others combined with the sound of synth, art rock, folk roots, psychedelia and glam. They do feel like their own beast though, performing this mix of fantasy and folk with gusto. So how did we find “The Glass Knight”?

In “Where Planets Collide” the guitar wails as he declares, “I can’t help but feel that nothing is real anymore”. The track arrives as if on the thundering of approaching space hooves. Burnell’s opener is a bruiser; it’s layers of guitar swell and the drums spell a fatal inevitability and excitement over it’s space-fantasy themings. The purpose of the track is almost to show you how much Burnell has learned, as “Where Planets Collide” is a bit like making a special edition of the “Into the Green” album. Where “Into the Green” is Gandalf the Grey holding back the Balrog in Moria, “Glass Knight” is where Gandalf returns brandishing a ray gun and kicking ass. Energetic and confident, it is as good a translation of Burnell’s on-stage energy into a physical medium as is possible.

“Looking Glass” is truly delightful too. Burnell’s is having a whirlwind of a time with this rendition of a romance in the ilk of the original Snow White story with the references to “the fairest of them all”, “poisoned apples” and loads more. We decidedly have a soft spot for old fairytales, and this one kicks with its stirring piano, barking guitar and spellbinding singing voice. Burnell’s spin on Snow White adds to the modern record of great fable representation, be it American McGee’s Alice in a twisted, psychotic vengeance, the great Fables comic series or Yulia Stepanova’s junkie pimp Snow White in Rammstein’s “Sonne”. The difference is that is a brighter take than this other media, with a sound akin to a favourite artist of ours, Princess Chelsea. We would love to keep this discussion on the train track of folk music but let us (like Burnell) come close to coming off the rails here as we take a second to appreciate a track at the intersection of the old and new and how wonderfully it’s rock groove has been put together.

A confident retro entry on the disc is Burnell’s “Lucy”. We think that Burnell is a witch with this track due to the abundant cauldron of influences here. He sounds a lot like Bob Dylan with dashes of Elton John, William Shatner and the Beatles all the while that the song builds to an electric guitar solo (by Nathan Greaves) which could be the finer moments of Queen. Special kudos go to the mixing on this loveable “biography of a rock star” which brings Frances Sladen’s backing vocals to the sky with it’s interesting and soulful inclusion. It truly is a song that is a vibe encapsulated, as if Glam Rock music had just hatched from a reanimated dinosaur egg and thinks you are it’s mother. Bouncy and radiant this is a good track.

Another couple of great tracks to mention are “Played my Part”, a song that looks at climate change and personal responsibility with Burnell’s voice riding high in the mix and “Glass Knight”. “Played my Part” is an energetic and lively number that gets the feels going with Burnell’s directness of voice and some of the instrumental soundscapes that emerge throughout. Billed as a prequel to a previous track called, “Look at Us Now”, it is an interesting eye that is cast to a despondent future when the Earth might not be such a clean place. When we come to “Glass Knight” we realise it is the kind of subject matter that gets folklorists out of bed in the morning. It retells an old Saffron Walden story about a night in glass armour who goes to save the villagers from the stare of a “basilisk” (that can turn people to stone). Some excellent retro chord progressions and a guitar pedal effect clearly chosen for it’s futuristic haunting (a la Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds) take us along to a new grim ending when the deed is done. It seems to hint at any number of things that might lead to a lack of thought be it social media, the news, youth culture; you pick it. A great rock centrepiece to hang the album on in concept and sound.

This album is exceptional. Burnell wears his influences on his sleeves, but these sleeves are actually bracers that are so powerful he can deflect arrows with them. Nerdy but not childish it is a harkening to a musical universe which is part fantasy and sci-fi, fairytale and modernity, and rarely do we find something so surprisingly aligned with a large number of our interests yet more than successful in execution, scope and creativity. Astonishingly put together and conceived there is a lot we haven’t said, so we recommend that you go out and buy this one, Burnell’s album bristles with the aura of a disc that should win awards this year.

The Glass Knight was launched at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention on August 11th, and is available from all good stockists, though we often encourage to purchase from the artist themselves. Joshua Burnell’s store is here.

There are several tour dates coming up, check out the website here for more information.

Album/EP Reviews Debut Folk Music Irish Nature Folk Scots Singer-Songwriter

Iona Lane – Hallival – Album Review

Released – March 25 2022

From beyond the rolling mist (and probably a few sheets of snow) the mountain of Hallival stands beautiful as a site of exploration, and in seeing it, a conquest of one’s own very ideas of beauty. Iona Lane’s debut album takes this beauty and transcribes it into a folky exploration (and a curious one) heavily inspired by the mountain on the island of Rum. Lane digs deep into Scottish folklore and legends and sets these delightful pictures to the wallpaper of the green, enigmatic landscape itself (with a beautiful, careful meshing). This mixing of inspiration and lore is a stirring, deep breath out and a fresh start to the year.

There are some interesting tracks to find here. 

“May You Find Time” is a good place to start. Being a kind of call for the restorative balm of nature and everything in it it breathes deeply in a refreshing way. Lane sings of wild baths, the building of nests and to“look for tides to take your sorrow”. Unashamedly bouncy and joyful, it is unsurprising if it will help to reappraise some of the simpler joys in your life.  

“Fingal & Bran” is one of those mythologically tickling tracks you get on a folk album. A song about the duo of giant and dog; it is a gentle affair that looks at the landscape and muses on the pair’s travails as they can be seen in the wondrous shapes of the hillside, the breath of the wild as we consider “causeways and caves and all things fade”. Lane’s voice has a kind of choral shadow here like a brambled hedgerow that darkens its poppier influences only to tracer sparks of the orchestral strings of classic folk. Slightly melancholy, its echoes and character harken to the delightfully exploratory path of Emily Portman with a fantastical darkness hiding in the potential energy of a cobra knot.

We also have a lot of time for “Mermaid”. Lane’s voice is smooth alongside the lament of the shruti drone.  Like all the best stories of yore, it concerns the family of the Macleods and how they got the Devil’s hands to help build Ardvreck Castle. The problem is that the father of the family refuses to sell his own soul to the Devil as a price but offers his daughter’s hand in marriage in return.The instruments are slightly unsettling and build atmosphere in the background to Lane’s seriousness. The tension ratchets up as it goes on. The track wears the spectral influences on its sleeves and invites you to imagine this moment of history while you look into Loch Assynt.  

Headspace is a beautiful and short addition to the album. Like the tapping of light fingertips to the cheeks it speaks as a love song to the gentle joy of happiness within. Its melody depicts the joyous feeling of a mind at rest, like a puppy with its playful tummy being tickled. The piano tinkles are a large-eyed enthusiasm, and the dancing strings of the guitar deck float in a gentle breeze; it is close to one of those ASMR videos with Lane’s softly spoken voice and positivity. This positivity oozes on to the following track, “Crossroads”, a sincere call for freedom that Lane wrote in response to history and how traditional instruments, music and dance have been banned across Scotland and Ireland at different times. 

All-in-all, the album is the essence of delicate nature and the energy within like a sun-filled day and a basket full of freshly washed laundry. Her songs are like the heaving clothes that splatter an intriguing, emotive water as they are heaved over Spanish floor tiles. There is a heartfelt construction and performance here which shines in the confidence of its debut status. It is also methodical, it does not rush to gorge the senses, but slowly enfolds from its creation and warms the listener. 

We love the range. As mentioned, Lane plays hopscotch with the natural world, stories and myths and a dash of history in the influences for the album and manages to keep the interest of each part in her sights. If this sounds up your street, you could do far worse than check out Iona Lane’s first album, a considered and strong entry into the world of folk. 

If you are interested in purchasing the album, we recommend purchasing direct from Iona Lane on BandCamp @

Album/EP Reviews Dorset Duo Folk Music Gentle Nature Folk

Ninebarrow- “A Pocket Full of Acorns” Review

Timely, persistent and quiet. The natural world continues to spill forth from Ninebarrow’s fourth album, in all the best ways.

Those quiet boys of folk, Ninebarrow, have been keeping themselves busy during the lockdown.

Well, when we say quiet, we acknowledge that ever since their debut album they have been anything but; with recognition from the BBC2 Folk Awards and numerous magazine and online publications, becoming a pillar of Lyme Folk Festival as well as their books and commissions they have been involved in. But then “quiet” is all relative and you can still be softly spoken while still working hard. 

Ninebarrow, photographed in Dorset, October 2020 by Greg Funnell.

In these strange times the duo of Jon Whitley and Jay Labouchardiere have been, in fact, quietly working on their latest folk album “A Pocket Full of Acorns”. This disc looks to the natural world by specifically relishing in the human experience of it. One of the few pleasures that has not been totally off-limits during the lockdown here in the UK is the great outdoors; it appears that the nation’s love of the countryside has been reignited somewhat as it becomes the go-to meeting space. With this in mind, Ninebarrow should be in a good position as the British countryside serves as the primary inspiration for their brand of folk, it has been their muse from the very beginning and it is what they are good at singing about. 

With “A pocket full of acorns” (their fourth album) there might be a temptation to wonder where Ninebarrow has left to go with their brand of softly spoken, nature-infused folk which has served them well up to this point. Well, it seems that whilst their newest pastures are not far from the homestead we see once again that their conviction, appreciation of a simple message, and crystal clear vocals win the day against possible dissenters. To understand we could consider a bottle of olive oil. It is a hugely popular item in a kitchen and is quite ubiquitous as so much cooking requires it. For the oil to be special and stand out it has to excel in quality against its competitors. Luckily, if Ninebarrow’s combined duo vocals are like olive oil, then we can safely say that this album is beyond extra virgin.  

In exploring the roots of this work, let us now turn to the tracks.

The namesake of the album, “A pocketful of acorns” is a good place to start. The song is directly inspired by a vice Admiral in the Napoleonic times who considered the need for trees for the future of the Navy and the Country, and as a result, always carried some in his hands as he walked. When you listen, there is this pensive, personal consideration of responsibility that comes through the song. On top of this, the simple reigns supreme as the listener re-experiences the wonder of holding a potential natural wonder in their hands, ready to unfurl upwards. As such we consider actions we might take to help preserve the future. The piano is like an old wooden emissary of the woods swaying and creaking as the duo lay down this sympathetic and spiritual track and tt is, in our opinion, as close to anything they have produced that represents the core message intention and purpose Ninebarrow possess as songwriters. For additional kudos, as a part of their album release the duo are embarking on the task of planting 1000 native English trees and several shrubs which is intended to cover the carbon footprint for them touring the album. They are (so to speak) putting their money where their mouth is here, and it is a credit to their message.

Ninebarrow, photographed in Dorset, October 2020 by Greg Funnell.

Another track which exemplifies the light-touch of the album is “Nestledown”. At their most understated, the duo gently speak as if their song is the secretive sounds of the Earth’s hum, the patter and scrape of the earthworm with their guidance to the seedlings looking to grow and thrive, “there’s warmth in the air.. But nestle down deep.” Taking inspiration from the local Dartford Warbler (who braves the British cold and doesn’t migrate) and a desire to “looking forward to longer days” it is almost trance-like, taking the simple concepts of light and heat and hits the primal feels. It allows us to imagine we are of nature seeking the simple clarity of nature’s desires away from the complexities of social constructs that are divorced from nature. Instinctive and atmospheric, it is another wonder added to the disc.

“You Who Wander” is everything that is the joy of the different seasons. A bouncy rendition of the English tune “Speed the Plough” with an added exuberant splash of percussion. It is great in it’s vocal observations of those small joys such as “the glint of the Winter and the promise of Spring”. A song about rambling, it is somewhat of a prayer for walkers to have a fair day and to put your best foot forward, maybe for all sorts of things in life. It is like a feast for the optimist and a small, warm hug for those listeners who are under the weather.   

One feeling the audience might express on a cursory listening is that Ninebarrow take few diversions from enjoying the countryside. This isn’t strictly speaking true though as further attention shows us they do deviate from their theme here and there. If something else takes your fancy there is the cover of Patrick Wolf’s “Teignmouth” about a train journey from London to Cornwall with the weary character of the song glimpsing half-truths in his window’s reflection (and the closest you might hear Ninebarrow being sombre). There is also the exceptionally well known song of “Hey John Barleycorn” that in it’s barley goodness is like a smooth amber ale as it reaches the back of your throat. Barley is natural but the feeling has always seemed to us to be about nature personified instead of the observed murmurations in the skies. The strongest diversion from the nature theme however has to go to track 3, “Under the Fence”. Inspired by a documentary of the detainment camps in Calais, the song is a pretty strong blow to the heart. Quite haunting, but not too bleak in delivery,“But the girl still dreams of friends and school. But life is harsh and fate is cruel”, it reminds somewhat of Tori Amos’ “Past the Mission”. It’s latter piano presence is noticeably penetrating and a reminder that Ninebarrow can sing folk songs outright, or they can adapt them to a more contemporary singer-songwriter vibe without much difficulty. Either way it is an engaging number, a flip of expectations and probably one of the best songs on the disc.  

Ninebarrow, photographed in Dorset, October 2020 by Greg Funnell.

So we come to the summary.

In its dedication to warm, clear lyrics and message the album’s peacefulness goes for the jugular. Ninebarrow continue to expand their catalogue of nature folk in a way which encapsulates the “everyman” enjoyment and quietness of their surroundings. They are not the tsunami that rages upon the land, they are the ripple of a koi biting the surface of the water or a hummingbird effortlessly hovering in place. The mellow sound of Ninebarrow is quite fetching, the pair continue to write a good selection of songs from their source material and this album has the potential to transport their message far and wide. We recommend a purchase for that drive down the Dorset coast, the Peak District or any other part of nature’s gift to open the mind a little to the experience.

As often is the case, “A Pocketful of Acorns” is available from several stockists, though we always recommend purchasing from the artist directly if possible. 

In this instance please go to

If you want a further taster of the album, please watch the below video.

Album/EP Reviews British Debut European Folk Music Nature Folk Traditional

The Wilderness Yet – Debut Album Review

Their ears and hearts nested in the traditional, ‘The Wilderness Yet’ provide an album with many brilliant, emotional responses to nature.

Away from the bustle, in a secret garden within the leafy settlement of Sheffield, we get the glimpse of a band bringing their debut to the fore. 

“The Wilderness Yet” comprises of Rowan Piggott (fiddle), Phillippe Barnes (guitar/flute) and Rosie Hodgson (vocals), a trio of South Yorkshire folk artists entering the “wilderness” that is a folk world full of surprises and joys; they are accompanied on tracks by guest musicians Ewan Carson (bodhran), Charlie Piggott (button accordion) and Johnny Ringo (bodhran). The result is a swirling, strong entry into the genre that plays a hand of cards that will suit long time enthusiasts with it’s traditional leanings, but also excite by keeping some new songs up their sleeve.   

What goes a good way towards the atmosphere of the disc (that helps carry it along) is the artwork, which we have to start by praising. The artist Adam Oehlers ( brings together animal and tree in a beautiful, coppery unity. At this time of year in particular the golden hues of the leaves, the branches and grasses (with laws unto themselves) and the wondrous spectacle of the inside illustration are calling to the wild, calling to the intricate system of nature. When you pick up the disc, it is a sensory, auspicious start.

This scene setter leads into the light dance and explicit harkening to the season in the first track “The Beauties of Autumn”. Inspired by a walk outside Halsway Manor (definitely a semi-wild spectacle) in the early morning, the track feels like the crinkles around your wellies during an unexpected dry spell. Quietly celebratory it marks the beginning of the album with it’s positive, warm and fresh sound.

Speaking of warm beginnings, “In a fair country” is a sweet, fruity medley of blackcurrant and apple in a rich chutney that could be part of of an oaty breakfast. Sang traditionally and with a chirpy harmony, it is a good track that lends to your ears it’s familiarity in structure and character. We mention fruit as Hodgson’s voice reminds of gooseberries, a hint of sharpness that tingles the soggy tart pastry. It all works well and there is a good mingle with Piggott and Barnes’ who lay a deeper, essential mossy covering to the track. As a song which laments for the loss of trees it is close to our heart (particularly with the previous years’ battles around tree felling in the Steel City).

It is definitely an album which looks to the natural path. Queen and Country is a nice little ditty (and named pun) with its theme of pride, bees and the parallels with the commitment to the cause. Previously part of a collection from EFDSS about bees in 2018 ( this is very welcome here. A joyful song combining a humble self-appreciation and joy in one’s place (as the subject refers to themselves as a labourer), it is like a mug of tea as the Summer winds out, an understated comfort that is universal. 

We love the lower, heavier notes that precede the group’s cover of Bogle’s “Song of the Whale”, a song about the beguilement of fisherman at the sound of the humpback 200 years ago. Adding a dynamism and rumble to the entrance is a nice contrast to the lighter lyrics. Stripping out the prominence of the original’s guitar for a nautically-turned viola d’amore and flute is a good choice as it  brings more otherworldliness to the song. As a sailor you might think that the sound has come through the veil of the world itself.

Another fine song that errs towards the darker is “Of Men Who’ll Never Know”. Calling towards the darkening of the world there is a beautiful expected starkness and stillness to this Swedish Love Song.  Mournful and disarming, the bleak end of things comes and with the gentle rattle of the accompanying instruments. For an album with is mostly light and springy, it is an unexpected diversion which adds a grim ink to this chapter of the album (but is none the worse for it).

Artwork by Adam Oehlers

Overall, “The Wilderness Yet” is a fine album themed around nature and people’s experiences of it be it quiet joy, strange wonder, fearfulness or  a merry dance alongside. The a cappella numbers are stirring, the original tracks clever and the inclusion of Scandi music is a very good one. Together as a package of theme, music, song and art it is as one. Well mixed (Piggott) and mastered (Sam Proctor), the album finds the right places to shine it’s spotlight be it the vocals, the gentle tap of the bodhran or the bright fiddle. It is rooted quite nicely in the the traditional form and has some lovely original additions to it’s body, like a shapely orchid emerging from rainforest bark.

If you would like to purchase or find more information on the band, go to and check out this video below.

Acoustic Album/EP Reviews Folk Music Gentle

Saskia – Are You Listening?” (Album Review)

An album that refreshes and surveys the ground covered up to now. Saskia continues to sculpt her clay of gentle-folk into a pleasing and healing treasure.”

Released July 31st 2020.

Our Pick: “Write me a Song” (Track 5)

From the brightest, warmest and sunniest part of folk music’s acoustic heart comes musician, Saskia Griffith Moore (or Saskia, for short) with her new album entitled “Are You Listening?”

Much of Saskia’s music and character does indeed seem to come from this place. From London to the West Country and back again, Saskia has transitioned from therapist to singer and throughout has shown to be a dedicated and uplifting artist whose social media often have some sunny rays to share around. We have been listening since Saskia’s debut “Gentle Heart” in 2016 where we summed up her work with the simple sentence, “It’s ‘gentle’ nature is a strength”. This is very much still the case as this most recent album is part one of a two disc release in association with the Susanne Marcus Collins Foundation Inc. and both share in their collaboration the values of optimism and inspiration. Saskia’s hard work is paying off.

As a kind of “best of”, this is a good and fitting catch-up point for those not previously following Saskia’s work. The disc is a series of songs that dance in the huge, shiny fog-lights that are her sweet acoustic guitar and warm, enveloping voice. It is positive to the extent that even when tracks approach the soul-searching mainstays and companions of acoustic guitar such as “a long life” and “possible regret” (Write Me A Song) show up, Saskia’s will still not bring the rain clouds and misery. In this regard the album seems like a perfect fit for peaceful souls  who surround their worlds with positivity and joy (or those that would like to little more in). It is a key characteristic of the work here, and an infectious one. 

There are several tunes to like here. 

“These Hours”, co-written with Clive Gray and with Australian songwriter, Cooper Lower, is a snappy song about friendship which glows with the warmth of deep bonds and the knowing of the bumpy road that is life. Other tracks roll in like cut grass, such as “Come Comfort Me”. Much like the “perfect, golden face” in the song, there is a gentle heat hiding a quietly fierce passion as Moore’s guitar rolls like Spanish sun and an air cooled with cocktails. Feeling and place don’t collide, but rather lie alongside each other on the beach and gently turning to catch the rays.

Another great number is “Wash it Away” with its Country nods. More than a skin deep Country-feel, it fully captures the faith aspect of that world of music. Closing your eyes and listening to the words, it’s minor harmonies wash over, and both in word and character the theme of devotion is like a coastal salt spray. Perfectly pitched and quietly joyous, it is one of our favourites.

That being said, “Write me a Song” is probably our number one pick from the album. The track considers a man (possibly later in life) who has seen and done much, clearly seen a lot of bloodshed. He is settling down and has decided to end his wandering. We cannot say that the theme is unique and groundbreaking, but much like Saskia’s only cover on the disc (“Hallelujah”), the strength of the tender conviction in her voice gives it a glow of its own like a constellation of fireflies at dusk.  

Some say Saskia’s music is a “balm for our times”, we cannot really argue with this. Saskia is a reminder of another era that seems far away in time and space yet one that is craved for by many. That being said, there is a lot of original music here and the album is a testament to quiet power and observation, and (in all the best ways) seems very wedded to the artist and her outlook on life.  In a politics heavy, frightening time, this album serves as a respite to the negativity, and is a solid buy. A little nostalgia and warmth goes a long way and not taking a political angle is definitely a selling point for many.

Check out the video below and Saskia’s website for more details,

Album/EP Reviews Folk Music Historical Vitality

Kirsty Merryn – Our Bright Night (review)

Released 24/04/20

Singularly beautiful, contemplative and dark. Merryn’s second album is a creeping jaguar in the rainforest of folk.

When you think of 90’s films with pianos.. What comes to mind?

Is it “King Ralph” (1991) with John Goodman playing “Good Golly Miss Molly” in formal attire and bragging about his Rolling Stone Collection, or maybe it is Matt Damon and his exquisite side-parting in “The Talented Mr Ripley” (1999)? Or something a little lighter like “Big”?

We have to admit that our mind first races towards “The Piano”, a 1993 New-Zealand period film about a young woman with a failing arranged marriage. She gives piano lessons to a man called Baines in order to get her piano back in her possession; it is a beautiful, sensual and ruminatory film.

Why do we mention this? Well Kirsty Merryn the piano-folk, singer of stories has arrived with her second album “Our Bright Night” and with it certain expectations. There is an image in the film that always sticks out to me. Near the beginning the beautiful instrument of the piece is left abandoned on the beach (it is tricky to move). Later on it is transported and effectively held to ransom by Baines in exchange for the aforementioned piano lessons and (consensual) sexytime. 

Photo by Todd Macdonald (

What we are getting at is that much like that piano in the film, the “tricky” second album must feel like moving a mountain to create, especially as Merryn’s first outing “She and I” was a powerful celebration of incredible women from history which shone from beginning to end. Whether this is just some musician’s ghost story, a cold hard fact or somewhere in between could be a source of worry. But actually, much like “The Piano” and it’s savage vistas, this album turns out to be a beautiful meditation with a touch of the wild to it. All-in-all it is a quieter affair than “She & I”. Rather than the explosive joy and spontaneous hugs from mission control when the space mission launches, it is the quiet reverence as the large, looming wondrous sight of Mars fills the viewscreen.  Let us see this and look at the songs more closely.

The album has an epic wedding train of an entry with “Twilight/Banks of the Sweet Primroses”.  Merryn demonstrates from the beginning that her pianos and vocals are as strong and enticing as each other. On “The Banks of Sweet Primroses” we are also treated to Phil Beer’s enrapturing violin that contribute to a reworking that is like a grand stage curtain cloth. It isn’t Luke Kelly’s “rustle through the trees” or Clarke & Walker’s “echo in a woodland glen but rather like the unearthing of an archaeological find with its earthy, scholarly sound. A good place to start.

Photo by Todd Macdonald (

“Constantine” is one of Merryn’s songs about a beach in Cornwall that early in her writing career inspired her. It is a grand  evocation of an attentive piano and longing vocals from both Merryn and Alex Alex (who joins Merryn here). It could also be a song about drugs, possibly the depressant kind as Merryn muses, “I feel your icy water cover me”. It is a gentle brush with the psyche on a cooling night with Merryn and Alex calling to lovers within nature, within the world. Quietly trembling and shaking with simplicity, “Constantine” is an excellent track.

There is also more traditional fare to re-examine. Merryn’s take on the “Outlandish Knight” can be described simply as anger-incarnate. You can picture the character is shaking her head at her deed of killing the man looking to drown her in the brine (as he had six others). Merryn’s voice maintains it’s quiet dignity whilst exuding pure judgement and righteousness in this vigilantism. Through choosing this traditional ballad and modernising some of the lyrics, Merryn infuses this with song with terror the likes of which we have not heard since Grimes’ “Oblivion”. Whichever way you look this is a celebration of powerful women both very different and very similar to her muses in  “She & I”.  

Photo by Jonathon Cuff (

“Mary” is virtually a row of sunflowers as Merryn tackles the often-mentioned subject of a “traditional courting song”, except with a slight twist. Trees become telephone masts and electricity pylons and the seafront has been “tarmacked” in a possible near future. Unlike many folk songs, its a song that surprisingly does not linger on outrage for nature being stripped or for industrialisation taking over. This does make it kind of refreshing. Think of the romance in Jon Boden’s “Afterglow” except that the post-apocalyptic Orwellian-hellscape only happened in Croydon. Lyrically beautiful and excellently sung and played (like all the tracks here), this song is inspiring in its foresight. Whatever the future holds, there will clearly be more industrialisation in some areas of the world (hopefully not everywhere). Just as old and current folk songs talk about heather, fields, the sea and places of beauty; folk songs of the future will take place in these other environments and maybe they will be considered old, beautiful sites of yesteryear. Whatever the case, a great song.

There is much else to like here such as the ghostly soft tones of Sam Kelly luring a woman to her death in “Shanklin Cline” with the dropping in of ominous minor keys and haunting longing, a galloping song about theft by the higher-ups in “The Thieves of Whitehall” and (probably) Merryn’s most stark and emotive song of passing to date in “The Wake”. 

In sum it is fearlessly mixed (Ben Walker) and mastered (Nick Watson). The quiet moments are thoughtful, Merryn’s voice soars in tandem with the piano like a pair of hawks and neither get lost in the twirling hurricane that is the mixture of percussion and strings. At times Merryn’s album is like a tragic fairytale. There are twinkles of light on the black sea of space (which feels very much like the album’s namesake) but as the dark themes of ill deeds  emerge the work is grounded in the vast moorlands and gritty folk-horror of history. Another way to look at the contrast is that there is a kind of gallows humour spread around like marmite on a piece of sourdough, but also the joy of shared bread eating.

Photo by Todd Macdonald (

If you had not guessed, we cannot recommend this album enough. 

Go and buy this while you can, there is part of the tapestry of your mind yet to unwind. 

Check out a sample video below, we recommend buying from Kirsty’s website herself at

Kirsty’s online album launch was on 1 May on Facebook. If you want to listen a little more before purchase, then check out the video link on her facebook page

Album/EP Reviews Folk Music Modern Arrangement Trad Covers Traditional Vitality

Peter Knight’s Gigspanner “The Wife of Urban Law” Review

“An album that greets old friends with a warm handshake which has arrived with a zest for life and a sense of adventure”   

Picking up Peter Knight’s Gigspanner’s “The Wife of Urban Law” you might think that the soul of this disc is wrapped up warm in a coat of high reputation. Like a naughty child with a spoon of sugar, the character of sweetness must be coated on the tongue of every person whose ever heard of Peter Knight as they will make the assumption that there will be fiddle and it will be as luscious as condensed milk… and you would be right. But fiddle alone does not necessary dictate the character of an album and here the excellent efforts of Roger Flack (Guitar/Bass/Vocals), and Sacha Trochet (Percussion, Bass, Vocals) also contribute to the full flavor that rests within this metal disc.

The album is quite distinctive in appearance. With some of the brightest colours and blend of photography and artwork, it is somehow spectral without being one iota dismal or dark. A bit like a hybrid of the “found footage” technique of films and a hyper-fantasy style, the album cover is both powerfully real and imaginary. It is beautiful and eerie and brings to mind the incredible cinematography of James Hawkinson (Hannibal) with it’s accomplished modern style. Credit to all involved Tim Marris, Kate Stretton (artwork) and Captblack76 ( photography) this is a fine piece of design.

In fact track 4, “Lament for the Wife of Urban Law” conceptually and in delivery matches the artwork aesthetic faultlessly. Ethereal and stirring the instruments are almost shred the heart and soul and leave sadness out in plain sight. An instrumental that aims high and delivers higher, playing this late at night with the lights out might make you think that the dark has a character manifest. Executed wonderfully, it is our favourite track on the disc.

The whole work could be considered a bit of a “best of” classic folk tunes recognizable to anyone whose walked into a gathering of people cheering for murder ballads and felt a kinship,  but what makes Gigspanner’s  album particularly good is the manner in which it is presented.  The album displays some interesting diversions along the ways, it is sprinkled with an exotic arrangement that gives the whole thing a kick. The drumming is golden turmeric, a scattering of spice and the venture in full is like a bunch of English Folk Songs who have gone on an expedition in their youth and come back older and wiser with a bunch of tattoos and stories about close run-ins with crocodiles and other wild beasts. It is all the better for it, there are many sonic layers that are incredibly pleasing, the mixing is top notch and the CD is evidence of seasoned minds at good work.

Their version of “Green Gravel” reflects the dark origins and subtext of the children’s playground game quite well. Through the bass and percussion that thumps it marches alongside exploratory strings and we get a rather sad affair that brings the urban to stories of the countryside and graves.  Knight’s voice captures a weariness and futility rather than outright doom but along with the harmonies provides more levity than you might initially think a song such as this could have.

“Bold Riley” is a like a proud pony clopping on the cobbled street. As with all of the well-known folk songs on this album, Gigspanner bring something different to the song. In the middle, Gigspanner bring an urgent and pressing fiddle (perhaps this is a pony who has bolted) that warns of ill tidings. Maybe it is the tumultuous storm at sea or possibly the anxiety of the sailor’s wives at looking their best for “White Stocking Day”, either way it adds a great deal. Coming back to the cinema imagery, this instrumental middle (and others on the disc) add a certain touch of class a bit like the “Gongman”at the beginning of a film you know is going to be some epic, biblical Charlton Heston affair.

“Penny the Hero”, a newer track (renamed and continued from the Steeleye Span version “Seagulls”) is as the name suggests a feathery, floating number that charts a kind of love-hate relationship with the game of “shove penny.” The mandolin is clear and fast, the acoustic mastery on the number is second to none; it is a joyful addition to proceedings.

There is plenty more to enjoy on Gigspanner’s latest entry, it would a shame to spoil it for you. “The Wife of Urban Law” is a fine collection and a playbook in how to reinterpret, deeply understand and make one’s mark on a body of familiar folk songs.

If you wish to buy the album or find out more; check out the bands page,

Here is a sample for any who are still unbelievers.


Acoustic Album/EP Reviews Blues Folk Music Trad Covers

Bella Gaffney- Heaven Knows – Album Review

Album: Heaven Knows

With:  Bella Gaffney (Vocals and guitars, concertina, and more)

             Lauren Deakin Davies (Bass guitar, keys and percussion)

             Nick Hall (Backing vocals and lead guitar)

             Tim Spencer (Drums)

             Chris Elliott (Fiddle)

            Heather Sirret (Bass Guitar)

            James Gaffney (Piano)

Tracks: 11

Produced by: Lauren Deakin Davies

FOLKSTOCK RECORDS – Released July 2017


“A folk-blues charmer of an album, Heaven Knows is the wonder of biting into a Wispa and realising it’s a Wispa Gold”


PICK OF THE ALBUM: “Grandma’s House”

From the expertise of Folkstock Records and wordful mind Bella Gaffney comes a new album of acoustic delight. The joy of Folkstock is that it is rather skilled at representing an awesome range of female (and sometimes male) voices to the folk world and recognising artist talent that others might miss. Not only this, they work with these artists to bring the magic out and in doing so promote musicians with a unique sparkle that doesn’t follow a prescribed definition of folk music. Gaffney certainly has her own shine; if she was coming to your party she would wear her folk music like a bright and colourful flower on her shirt but not without a cool, slightly worn Blues Brothers trilby too. These images and sounds compliment better than the description might make out, they certainly do in her song style.

Bella can be found somewhere between Bradford and York though this year she has been on a well-received tour of clubs and festivals (we had the pleasure of seeing her in Hebden Bridge in 2017). As an artist on a journey, how was her album release?

“Heaven Knows” is not only a crisp, veritable slice of humble and capable songwriting; it serves as a reminder that  unlike the cooking of al-dente spaghetti, everything doesn’t have to be thrown at the kitchen tiles (recording process)  in an attempt to make something stick (in that time honoured way I was taught to cook pasta). On paper there are a lot of instruments here ranging from concertina to fiddle, bass guitar, piano and more but everything is in it’s right place. It is the difference between putting a seashell to your ear to hear the sea and sitting in a Ferrari with the sounds of waves vol 2 playing through the stereo at max. There is a conciseness to the selection of instruments, it is beautifully orderly like the musical equivalent of the KonMarie Method.

Looking at the tracks there is joy all around and, like the best cheeseboard, enough variety to mean you are not leaving your seat anytime soon.

“I am the tide” (Track 2) and track 3, “After the fall” are in the order they are a rather neat set of stages in a relationships: adoration (track 2), and then a break-up number (track 3). “I am the tide” is a self-proclaimed love song with a “big folk ballad feel.” This is definitely not far off the mark. Starting gentle like lapping waves at the shore there is a folky-ache in Gaffney proclamations that strikes like an aggravated cobra as she hangs on the words .”After the fall” is even better. It has some notably refined lyrics as Gaffney laments and expresses several cutting metaphors of disappointment, “strip me down, use me up, wash me clean, with your tears from the flood.” The guitar cuts down like sheets of rain in the storm of this track, the voice rises like dry ice. Another good song.

When it comes to covers, Gaffney’s version of “Cocaine” is as dedicated, characterful and hazy a cover that can be asked for. It is dark Americana in a disused alleyway, it is a sharp intake of breath contrasted with the frosty exhalation of winter air during the late end of Autumn. The song is what it says on the tin, the thought and experience of the drug,”cocaine is all running round my brain.” More lingering than John Martyn’s original it has a slower bite. It deservedly calls for your attention with it’s minor harmony creating a nice accompany to the main singer’s smouldering dark lullaby and a tragic but addictive tone. Gaffney has embraced the song and the era bringing all the delightful wonders of the age with her, her voice shines as it rises and falls in a marvellous addition to the album.

“Grandma’s House” is not alone on the CD in being a relatively quiet and introspective powerhouse of a song. It is based on the true life story heart-warming tale of a grandmother in Greece who takes in a whole family of refugees who don’t speak her language. It is a great song on many levels, the addition of concertina, low backing vocals and some fiddle alongside Gaffney’s venerating and sweet voice builds a picture of a song of pure empathy and power. This kind of songwriting reminds of the best of other artists like Louise Jordan and her recent World War concept album. As Jordan does, Gaffney celebrates kindness in a hallowed, rich hush that many artists strive for and she hits on the head. This is quite possibly the best song on the album with it’s ability to paint a picture of the coast, it’s heart-wrenching fiddle work and ability to replay through your brain through your working day. A very good track.

Out of the ten tracks on the album, for us the only track that doesn’t shine as much as the others for us is Gaffney’s version of “Gallows Pole.” It has her signature thoughtful approach and is sung well (Gaffney’s voice doesn’t faulter at all through the life of the disc). It’s stylings are closer the more modern Willie Watson’s version rather than Odetta or the rockier Led Zeppelin cover leaving it with a less pacey and urgent character than we prefer on this track. It has some measure of reflection to it, it just doesn’t quite hit the mark though I have heard her sing this very, very well live. As well, if it did resemble a hard rock track it would be out of place amongst

It is a lean album. It is muscled like Mo Farah rather than Charles Atlas as the CD definitely is geared for distance rather than brute strength and there are some fine tracks on the CD. Gaffney has some good songwriting skills that she brings to the table here. She makes it look easy as she does her sprint for glory following an excellent year of songwriting and performance, as a growing recognised artist she is certainly coming into her own.

Check out Bella’s website to have a little listen to some of the tracks here, or check out the sample video below!

The CD is available to buy from Folkstock Records here.


Album/EP Reviews Folk Music Nature Folk

Oka Vanga -Dance of the Copper Trail – An Album Review

Hot on the heels of their previous entry “Tales from Eyam” the latest album from the acoustic duo, Oka Vanga, has arrived. In fact it arrived 31 March but let us not dwell on the time that has passed. As Spring has undoubtedly turned to Autumn with the hints of amber leaves blowing in delightful spirals, what better time is there to review an album of orange and earthy brown? Let us head in and maybe grab a bourbon for the journey while we do. First of all, who are Oka Vanga?

Oka Vanga is made up of Angela Meyer (Vocals, Guitar) and William Cox (Guitar, Ukele, Mandolin) with some input here from Oliver Copeland (Double Bass), Patsy Reid (Violin), and Mark Tucker (Percussion). Angie hails from South Africa; she met the other half of the duo, Will in London at an open mic, and since then they spin some delightful mixes of history and folklore. This is certainly the case with their latest disc, “Dance of the Copper Trail” which also channels both individuals’ love of travel. While the tracks together do not follow a linear story as you might imagine from point A to B on a map, the ideas and subjects combine into an accomplished sensory experience from history which in a way is better, it leaves more to the imagination and personal perspective. The fantastic guiding star of the double bass on the CD brings the veritable bounce of travel you might picture from the Wild West and also opens up the excitement of discovery, much like a child at the sight of a big crimson bonfire and fireworks. The wheels of this old wagon are indeed spinning on their way and as they do the sun is shining on their mahogany hue.

One of the defining factors of Oka Vanga’s previous work, the “Tales from Eyam” EP was an evident well-disciplined approach from track to track. On the disc we saw a creative and thoughtful work as a story about two people in the famous plague village from history, Eyam fall in love and then part with a beautiful yet sad tone. All-in-all it was not a disc for wandering; instead it was like a greyhound chasing the rabbit, it’s eyes were fixed on the prize. In doing so it felt like Oka Vanga either through design or just consistent writing, knew what they were singing about and stuck to it with determination. It was a kind methodical, thorough determination to telling a story and doing a good job of it. “The Dance of the Copper Trail” does much the same except there are more tracks for them to play with; so what we get is tightly, knit professional feel that expands with the extra space. It does indeed touch on the senses and imaginations of what the stories of the “Copper Trail” could in fact be, you get a big sense of the craft at work here. I liked “Tales from Eyam” it was an interesting piece; but the scope, delivery and writing on the new disc is even better, there are several opportunities to inhabit the idea of travel, the Old West and folktale.

I am keen to talk about the tracks and sound, but lets say something about the artwork. I love it. The browns are like rich grizzly leather and there are reds like vials of turmeric, rusting iron and the aforementioned scraps of copper being forged into tools. The cover has the iconography of a boat, a bear and the sun, it looks very much like a storybook; it is incredibly cool. Credit to who have surpassed what you would reasonably expect for an album cover, it all helps create the environment which Oka Vanga are looking to share, and it is the first step on the dance they are choreographing.

The opening track, “The Wicken Tree” starts as a mildly mystical expedition into the Rowan Tree and it’s place in myth and history. It ponders, Angie’s voice reverberates, the fiddle seems to lurk in the shadow a little  til the final third; it all works very nicely. Not bombastic and overtly energetic as an opener, but the Double Bass hints at the positive vibes to come. It is slightly shamanistic, there is myth at work as the lyrics entangle our irrational fears and those of our ancestors. I like the exploration of the track and way that it sets the scene. Another track where it seems the song skims the reeds of the mind is the deep, winding and rather spiritual apex of mandolin and tremolo guitar in “Song of the River.” Here Angela Meyer’s voice hearkens, speaks into the black stillness of the Deep South and stirs the surface magic. The wonder you expect is at every turn, and this is further enhanced but the particularly nice mandolin on this track, this should definitely be an inclusion to keep for future works.

It’s not all in the mind though. In fact the album feels very earthy and physical. The joy of nature and the world is really let lose on track 2, “Capercaillie” which kicks it up as a joyous, old-time song about a bird that sometimes sounds likes a horse.  Much like the grouse of the song title, the duo are “flying low in the sun” with this song. Shades of sunshine and the playful side to nature come to the fore, it is smiles all-round. It has the strength of familiarity, a good looping structure and a fun subject matter. It is the kind of track you might expect your young child to like the most from an album, but just treating it is as a song of this level belies that there is some delicate and speedy mandolin at work, and a great warm, universal appeal at work.

For myself, “The Devil Inside” is the standout track on the album. From the opening you might not be sure what is about with it’s mellow enticing work, but like a flash this gives way to a more urgent, celerity with a doom-telling voice, evocative fiddle and omnipresent double bass. It is a track about a semi-mythical female pirate, and as you listen this becomes more and more apparent with it’s talk of the “seas” and the “wind.” You can almost see the shark on the horizon. Even with the sea aspect put to the side, it still feels like a timeworn story from the Americas, and be equally considered a dust-bowl allegory of faith. What we get is a woman with sass who turned heads, knew her mind and possibly broke a few hearts with her flintlock pistol along the way. It is a warning to those good, law-abiding 17th Century sailors but also a bit of a motivational work, “40 years you’ve waited.. to be Captain of the Seas” that tells us that  hard work and perseverance pays off. It is actually quite a venerating little ditty which generates awe and power in a woman I previously knew nothing about, and is a joy across the board.


Mentions should also be made for “Out of the Fire” that deals with the main singer’s transitions of thought, the acceptance of stepping back, and returning to music-making that feels as in place as everything else on the album. The final track, a version of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s gospel song, “This Train” is a lovely bookend to an album bulging with auburn wonder and surely a great crowd-pleaser wherever Oka Vanga goes.

There is variety, yet it all ties in nicely. More importantly there is a spirit of optimism that runs through the disc. Much like the gold panning miner who finds a nugget, the authors of this work have taken an entrepreneurial approach and taken a gamble. Well it has paid off and the result we have is an incredibly listenable album that is tightly managed and has a pretty rich, consistent sound that could not conceptually fit it’s theme any more than it does, it’s great.  Mystical, magical and earthy it’s feet are firmly planted on the ground and it’s taking us on a trail of discovery.

Here is to the road!

If you would like to listen to some samples and find some more information, go to Oka Vanga’s website here where their album is available.

Also, take a listen to this sample below, taken from Oka Vanga at the Village Folk room from Derby Folk Festival 2017!



Album/EP Reviews Debut Folk Music Nature Folk

Elfin Bow – A Debut Album Review

Elfin Bow – (Elfin Bow)

Elfin Bow Music

Recorded at: Hound Dog Studios, Liverpool

Released 18th March 2017


Elfin Bow is very much the ringmaster in this positively creative and interesting debut that takes the best elements of her musical inspirations and fuses them with the mysteries and wonders of folk music.


Elizabeth Anne Jones aka Elfin Bow has arrived. Wherever she has been waiting, she comes from with a musical sound  from parts of the 70s I see and hear when I consider a decade I was not a present in. I think of the joy, love and colourful air  filled with the scent of sweet flowers; Bow’s debut has this kind of energy and intention. It can be seen from the get-go with Bow’s characterful album cover art which she has creating, and on it herself as a larger than life character. The instant impression is something rather Lewis Carroll-ish from the portrait on the cover pointing to a surreal content inside, especially with the clock motif. While I wouldn’t strictly categorise the album as “surreal”, it it anything but drab and the artwork is quite lovely.

This is not to say that Bow’s debut album is all blue lagoons and influences from the age of flares, for there is a depth of thought to be found running through; quite a fresh and original one really. Indeed these waters harbour a shark or two inside the lyrical structures, and persistent instrument arrangement, Gary Edward Jones’ production and Gary Lloyd’s mix makes some excellent choices throughout. Rather than going straight for the jugular of folk convention, it walks the tightrope that is between accessibility and deep folk themes; there is a lot to like on both counts. It is not full on psychedelia, but the songs within have a flourishing of consciousness and bright shades, it romps through with the content with a giving it a confident, contemporary edge. Her particular sound might be due to how she describes as a “strict upbringing” in regards to the music she was allowed to listen to. It was only more recently she managed to hear and be influenced by PJ Harvey, Tori Amos, and Bjork. The kind of spectacle and slightly flamboyant character building she has taken on  herself in the album does remind of the flame haired pianist herself with the  direct, self-believing songs on the disc. In fact, at times there are passing nods to Fiona Apple also.

With such comparisons, the big question might be, “Is it folk?”

Yes, it is indeed. There are many elements of the folk tradition brought in, be it the seasonal “First Red Leaf of Autumn” or “Daffadilly Down”, the menace of “Grimshaw and the Fingerclaw” and “Holler in the Hollows,” or the banjo-love on “Prarie Madness.” It is just not all one thing and one thing only, there are singer-songwriter elements to the presentation but if you are a person who holds your genre dear in a singular way there isn’t much to fear by getting this. The reason is that this is not an album of piano cabaret or post-ironic, experimental work, these styles couldn’t be further from Bow’s consideration. Instead it seasons folk music and folk music topics with these influences like mozzarella on your restaurant pizza; the album ends up partly straddling magic and folklore, and also a celebration of the natural world.

For example, “The First Red Leaf of Autumn“ opens within the context of a relationship with reference to the seasons. Bow almost seems like the subject of the song here. She writes with a keen eye, rather than falling into the musical rut of being surprised about how people and feeling changes she sings with an enthusiasm for change and opportunity (mirroring her enthusiasm for this debut maybe?). Optimistic and indicative of an artist drawing inspiration, it is a nice opener, a subtle and enigmatic note to start.

“Grimshaw and the Fingerclaw” with it’s darker bass (Oscar South) running alongside a slightly nautical pacing and shanty structuring is an exceptional addition. The mandolin and percussion gives it a rather adventurous feel. It casts images of shady brothels, misdeeds, dark stout and Chinese dragons as it paints a picture of urban shadow and inviting further examination. Spending much time showcasing the fantastic cymbal crashing, weaving soundscape and evocative flute (Victoria Wasley) as it does; credit should also be given for the wonder-baiting and silken voice of the lead. The quality of the mixing with the vocal harmonies is superb, it might take you a while to fully grasp it’s intricacies as you follow the strong melody but there is so much fun to be had listening carefully and making sense of this number. It is like a flint sparking the mind, and the sparks are the wonder spraying outward.

“Edith’s Song” follows the previous track (it directly references the characters) but takes things out of the urban and into a kind of monologue being sung by the central witch character. It is one of the best songs on the album, not just because I am a fan of witch songs. It starts off with a kind of ambience that could go a number of ways, like a nameless spell it isn’t obvious at first how the song will take shape. The guitars tease that it could be more of a blues track or a gloomy instrumental; throughout there is a low hum that waits like an owl about to dive for prey. It then moves from a stirring introduction; the drums beat a sweet beat (Daniel Logan) and the wind blows (Saydyko Fedorova) as it takes flight. Bow’s voice once again reaches out and this track is a fine example of the observations about nature she makes on her debut work as she ropes in this imagery. Truly a gem of nature folk with it’s lyrics, “call me a flower on the water with pebbles that float in the rain” it is a heady mix of mystical vocals with a penetrating quality like an Arctic Wind.

There are a few other musical stops that are made,“The Wisdom”  (which has recently been released as a single) is more of a self-healing, encouraging simplicity in thought about making one’s own mind up about things, “He preached the word of God in the market, but I didn’t hear it, it left me cold”. Cold in word but not especially in sound, the strings sound particularly warm here and a certain fragility is wrought from the material with the singer’s voice. This track certainly has wide appeal, there is a thin veneer of acoustic pop and indie folk here too as the trumpet keeps it’s company in the corner. Not quite as “showboating” as it does in much indie folk, it is quite an asset in Charles Sweeney’s performance fitting nicely along the lyrics and meshing together pleasingly. There is also “Hey Auld Friend” a find of shamanistic, urban folk-rap that reminds me a little of the musical opening to “The Affair” (Container). I say shamanistic but maybe humanistic is a better description. A bit of a bluesy protest it eschews religion and places quick-stepped and varied vocals to honour the memory of others. Among the guitar and wider instruments there is a certain satisfaction in viewing the world through the natural prism of the album,  “I wasn’t fashioned from the bone of a man, and I’m content to be erased by the sea and the sand.”

Mention must be made for the final track for “Prairie Madness” is just a joy to behold. Whatever you read into the mixed light/darkness, introspective/moral parts of the album, there is little ambiguity in its closing call with old time number about waiting for a father to return, “his cart is green and yellow and his horse is mottled grey.” There is reference to clapping, there is clapping and banjo (Jamie Francis) makes an appearance cheering as the song bounces along. One might remark that the song doesn’t really fit but it goes out on a high note, and if ever there was a song that stirs memories of Charles Ingles (Michael Langdon), then this does it. Very jolly, worth a listen.

Spoilt for choice on an agile album that seems like a project borne from a hard-earned happy place, it is a very good debut indeed. I say this with compliment as often people consider that misery and depression are your best bedfellows when writing music, this is proof that this is not always the case. You can almost hear the snapping of jungle vines as Bow escapes the uncreative clutches of teaching and throws herself at any musical resistance like hot knife through butter. Having brought the best sensibilities of her musical inspirations and the positive, engaging vibe of earlier decades we see demonstration of her energy is like a serpent, quite playful, dark in places and full of conviction. It is with great pleasure I recommend Elfin Bow’s debut.

You can buy the Elfin Bow album here: