In her debut album, “Unwind,” fingerstyle guitarist Yasmin Williams expands the sonic capabilities of the acoustic guitar and reimagines what’s possible on the instrument.
“Watching Yasmin Williams perform is mesmerizing. Her music is gorgeously mellow and rhythmic, but the most captivating part of her performance is the way she plays the guitar. Williams holds the guitar horizontally, so the fretboard faces upwards and she hits the strings to sound the notes, a style called “lap-tapping.” – studybreaks.com
“As Leo Tolstoy once expressed, “Music is the shorthand of emotion”. It expresses the inexpressible. Music makes us dance. It makes us think, laugh, scream or cry; and, when it comes to Yasmin Williams, music makes us feel.” – NYU Palladium
“Yasmin is a unique talent. Her melodies pack a poignant dose of resonance and levity – a testament of the quiet confidence that comes across in her performances.” – NYU Palladium
“Yasmin Williams, who strummed, drummed and plucked her acoustic guitar to create a plethora of sound, created the effect of multiple instruments playing at once.” – Washington Square News
An album filled with traditional and contemporary bluegrass/country music.
Drakesville features Minnesota musician, Heath Loy, on the banjo. Stellar cover tunes along with fresh originals make this album a must have… played and sung by some of the finest bluegrass musicians around. Recorded at Slack Key Studio in Nashville TN.
Lest anyone dare forget, bluegrass music has a soul of its own. Granted, it differs from what’s normally associated with the standard rhythm n’ blues, although the same fervor can be found in the sweep and strum of banjos, fiddles and mandolin, along with the high harmonies that wail above the fray.
Tennessee Jed knows that all too well, and on Pimpgrass, his fifth album to date, he shares those sentiments in ways that are both expected and beyond the norm. The soaring sentiments of the album opener, Over the Mountain, offers the initial indication, a wistful ballad expressing the draw of home and the weariness of the road. The heartfelt lament, Can’t Get There From Here, continues on that tack, fully affirming Jed’s genuine sense of longing for those things that often lie just beyond our reach, just as the gritty work song, Sunup ‘Til Sundown,emphasizes the struggles of everyday existence. Despite his unruly-looking demeanor — the back photo of the CD cover shows him about to smash his guitar against an abandoned bus — his soulful spirit is never in doubt.
If that was the only hint of sentiment, it would definitely be enough. Yet along with the ramble and rumble of high lonesome ballads like The Train for to Carry Me Home, the driving sounds of Soul-Country Pimpgrass, and the astute and assertive instrumental, Opie’s Intermezzo, Jed adds some surprising cover songs that further assert his soulful stance. One wouldn’t expect to hear the Isley Brothers classic Shout parlayed by a group of professional pickers, but here it isn’t out of place, its exuberant exhortations fully fleshed out by bluegrass regalia. Likewise, when Jed and company tackle Kiss, the remarkable barnburner from Prince, the fusion of two genres stays surprisingly in sync. To his credit however, Jed doesn’t feel inclined to share his soul merely through the efforts of others; when he sings in his upper register on his own original offering, Cells, he soars like a man well able to rely on a faithful falsetto.
Credit too a reliable backing band that’s easily able to navigate those shifts in style. By now, Tennessee Jed’s reputation is such that he’s able to attract an exceptional group of players, among them Scott Vestal on banjo, Todd Parks on bass, fiddler and backing vocalist Luke Bulla, Josh Shilling of Mountain Heart playing keys, Andy Hall of the Infamous Stringdusters contributing dobro, and three members of the Daily & Vincent band fleshing out the rest. It’s an exceptional ensemble, and one well equipped to operate in Jed’s jurisdiction.
Now more than ever, breaking down barriers is of prime importance. Credit Tennessee Jed with journeying to those unlikely realms and finding a fit once he arrives.
Sometimes you just run out of ideas and names and you call your album Peanuts. I’m okay with it though Stanley Brinks certainly doesn’t need my approval. The songwriter’s been having a blast recently, making folksy good-time records with the Wave Pictures; this solo record offers an all alone iteration of his quixotic anti-folk troubadorings.
Stanley Brinks sets the bar high when it comes to artistic independence, freedom, tradition and avoiding fashionable trends. In 2006, André left his band, Herman Düne. Now based in Berlin he releases timeless albums, playing them live in small venues where he can remain true to his musical ideals
The rule of three has been observed in art and society since antiquity. Omni trium perfectum runs the Latin phrase: everything that comes in threes is perfect. The three movements of a classical concerto; the three ghosts in A Christmas Carol; the tripartite nature of any fairy tale worth its salt. Triads are inescapable: even the previous sentence adheres to the rule. Moore Moss Rutter seem well-attuned to the power of three. They are – as you’ve probably guessed – a trio, and their third album, simply titled III, is expressly crafted as the final act in a musical trilogy. This fact makes us aware of the group’s sense of purpose, of their concerted vision, even before we have heard a note.
They hail, fittingly, from three diverse corners of England. Tom Moore is a fiddle and viola player from Norfolk who is currently studying for a masters in creative music at Goldsmiths. Melodeon player and teacher Archie Churchill-Moss lives in Bristol. Jack Rutter is a guitarist from West Yorkshire who has previously worked with Jackie Oates and Seth Lakeman. Plot their homes on a map and you will come up with a roughly equilateral triangle. That may be coincidence but I prefer to call it synchronicity.
And synchronicity is an important factor in this album’s appeal. Producer Andy Bell – who as always does an excellent and typically sympathetic job in the recording studio – mentions it in his liner notes when explaining how III was recorded at close quarters and as complete live takes. And you can hear the closeness from the first few bars of opening track The Iron Bell, a Moss-composed piece that morphs from a graceful, fiddle-led tune into something much more blustery and percussive, in which Rutter’s disciplined guitar provides a backbone around that allows the other instruments to play and wander.
The trio – who won the BBC’s prestigious Young Folk Award in 2011 – are adept at taking an object, place or event and interpreting it, but they use the interpretation as a musical jumping-off point rather than an end in itself. It’s a refreshing approach which yields results that are varied, surprising and crammed full of ideas. Hilly Fields/Blakeney Point takes two very different places as inspiration for two tunes that sit perfectly together. Hilly Fields (named after the South London park saved from redevelopment in 1896 by National Trust founder Octavia Hill) is a bright, brisk Moore/Moss co-composition that taps into elements of English folk dance to highlight the joy of shared experience, while Blakeney Point – that wild spit of sand, samphire and seals on the north Norfolk coast – is presented in a way that is complementary but subtly different: looser and somehow freer.
They pull off a similar effect with The Intrepid/Espresso. One tune is dedicated to a diesel engine, the other to strong coffee, but both convey movement – steady in the first instance and wonderfully jittery in the second. Worrall Road/The Glade is a pair of Moss compositions linking west to east (or more specifically Bristol to Cambridge). They make a bustling combination, allowing Moss to stretch his fingers and prove his ample melodeon talents, while Moore’s fiddle provides a constant counterpoint.
III is not short of genuinely moving moments: on Dougal, Moss pays tribute to a family pet and the result is a truly tender and heartfelt piece given even more power by the intimacy of the recording. All three instruments are given space, and each delicate note of Rutter’s guitar part is traceable. Archer Street/Somerset Safehouse is another pair of place-specific tunes, composed by Moore and Moss respectively, that proves that both have a fine ear for a melody that is simultaneously complex and catchy. But they are by no means limited to their own compositions. Minuet is an interpretation of a Henry Purcell piece, set alongside two French tunes – Soulèvement and La Goulette – and while the contrast is striking, the tunes are combined with such a light touch that you feel they belong together.
An interpretation of the Danish wedding tune Brudestykke begins as the album’s most sombre piece (if that’s what a wedding is like in Denmark, what about a funeral?), but builds into something quietly celebratory, as Rutter’s guitar provides a stop-start kind of propulsiveness. Brudestykke neatly dovetails into St. Martin’s Lane, a dance that dates back to 1696. This rendition sounds surprisingly modern, with a kinetic, rhythmic feel provided by Rutter’s punchy playing. The tune builds in urgency as if daring the listener to dance along with it, until its final, abrupt full stop.
Rutter’s guitar playing has an important role right across the record, providing a rhythmic and sometimes percussive base around which the other instruments’ melodic flights of fancy can revolve. But on the final tune, Rowler’s Jig/The Beeches the guitar plays a bigger part in the melody itself. The jig is Rutter’s own composition, and on it, all three instruments wrap around each other. As jigs go, this is a sedate one, and its appeal lies in the way the trio interact, the way they instinctively know when to give each other room. They sign off with The Beeches, a joyful tune by Moss that gives his melodeon centre stage. It is a pleasingly upbeat way to finish an album that – perhaps because of how frequently it takes its inspiration from geographical locations, or because of the wide range of emotional landscape it covers – often feels like a journey.
Crucially, the journey never feels laboured. There is a different view to enjoy at every turn. The music is so rich in detail and so personally, lovingly crafted that it will reveal new facets and deeper resonances with every listen. It is suffused with pastoral light but anchored in earthy realism, unshowy but technically innovative, driven by emotion but never sentimental. III is a folk album played with the inventiveness of jazz and the control of chamber music. If it is the end of a project, the culmination of something, then it is tempting to ask what Moore Moss Rutter will do next. With any luck, it will be another perfect set of three.
Loreena McKennitt’s simple explanation for the 12-year break between new albums of original material is that “life happens” — touring to support her previous releases, caring for her late mother, researching another musical project. But McKennitt is back with the May 11 release of her 10th studio album Lost Souls.
“I had a lot of people ask us, ‘Are you ever going to release anything original again?'” the Canadian songstress — who also released two collections of traditional material following 2006’s An Ancient Muse — tells Billboard. “I figured the quickest way was to go to the cupboard and look at what had been written in the past. Four or five songs existed as little breadcrumbs from the late ’80s to the present, which gave us a good start. So (Lost Souls) is a bit more of a collection, a corralling of pieces than ‘Here’s a creative vision and I want the right pieces to fit that.’ It’s more like a gathering, a collection of morsels.”
The nine tracks on Lost Souls span more than three decades. McKennitt recalls performing “The Ballad of the Fox Hunter” and “Ages Past, Ages Hence” during the late ’80s, while “Spanish Guitars and Night Plazas” was written during the early ’90s. “La Belle Dams Sans Merci” was considered for An Ancient Muse, “Sun, Moon and Stars” has been around for a few years and “Manx Ayre” comes from a melody McKennitt composed during her days of busking on the streets of Toronto.
The “Lost Souls” track, meanwhile, was the album’s most recent song, written last year and inspired by CBC lectures published in Ronald Wright’s 2004 book A Short History of Progress. “(Wright) has studied civilizations as one might study the black boxes of aircrafts that have gone down,” McKennitt says. “In his view it seems as a species we have a tendency to get ourselves into progress traps. When he wrote this lecture series it was coming as much from an environmental concern as anything else, but I put the connection to new technologies. I think they are very quickly and drastically changing everything we have known in such a fundamental and a quick way that I worry we may be in a progress trap here, too.
“Those were the ruminations that underpinned that song. I didn’t want to get into it too literally, like many artists, so I wrote in a cryptic or metaphorical way so people could relate to it even if they didn’t understand where I was coming from.”
McKennitt will support Lost Souls’ release with in-store appearances May 16-18 in Germany and the Netherlands. She plans to begin touring in earnest during October, with a two-year global campaign the will kick off during October in South America. Meanwhile, McKennitt already has her sights on her next album, a set that will examine the connection between Celtic and Northern Indian cultures that she began working on some years ago.
“It continues to morph each passing day, almost too dangerous to time,” McKennitt says. “I took a wonderful trip (to India) to start working on this and got plenty of inspiration, and I would love to feel I can go and do another. It’s very interesting but very challenging because of the way the music business has changed so much in the last 10 years or so, when we released Ancient Muse. The creative side is the least of my worries; It’s more, ‘Is there going to be a proper return for the time and money invested in this. Will people actually BUY something when it’s put out?’ So there’s much to study and learn and evaluate.”
When Junior Sisk decides to take a step back and assess his
musical direction, one must never question his motives again.
Simply put, Brand New Shade Of Blue is the record Junior has
been wanting, needing to make for years. “When I first started
performing professionally, my goal was always to present
traditional bluegrass,” says Junior. “With the loss of so many great,
traditional Bluegrass artists of late—Ralph Stanley, James King,
Dave Evans, and Melvin Goins—I really want to make a strong
effort to keep their sound alive, as well.” That opportunity
presented itself organically when Junior’s long-time band,
Ramblers Choice, had a change in personnel at the end of 2017.
“When Jason Davis and Kameron Keller moved on to create a
new band, I really felt like it was the perfect opportunity to regroup
and put more focus on my original goal. I’ve had these songs
stashed away for a while and they were perfect for this record.
They are modern songs featuring a traditional vocal treatment.”
Junior may very well have made one of this year’s best albums,
possibly the best of his career, with Brand New Shade Of Blue.
To do so, he relied on the help of some stellar vocalists who fit his
own style perfectly. Del McCoury sings tenor on “The Guilt Was
Gone,” a sure-fire vocal collaboration that is well overdue. The
sweet songbird voice of Heather Berry Mabe melds with Junior’s
Appalachian sound like none other and creates a match made in
heaven for a duet on “Backwards And Forwards.” And who better
to bring a soulful duet vocal on “God Did Good” than Marty
Raybon with his brother Tim joining in to create a three part
harmony structure. Songwriting stalwart Tim Massey, who has
contributed several great tunes to Junior’s repertoire over the
years, sang tenor on his self-penned “Honey Do List.” And another
award-winning writer, Daniel Salyer, equally known for his high
lonesome sound, rounds out the bulk of the harmony on the
project. But one of the best collaborations is that of Junior and The
Lost And Found’s Allen Mills on “By Now I Would Be Dead.” Noone
performs tongue-in-cheek songs better than Allen Mills and
bringing him into the mix on this song is pure genius. But for all the
highlight tracks featuring guests that make this album special, the
standout star continues to be Junior with his heart for a song that
shows every time he opens his mouth to sing a note. Brand New
Shade Of Blue is quintessential Junior Sisk music and an album
that bluegrass enthusiasts will no doubt embrace with open arms.
Friends, Junior Sisk is back!
‘Hover’ is Bryony Griffith’s brand new solo album of Traditional Tunes for an English Fiddle player.
Recorded by Ian Stephenson at Simpson Street Studios, Northumberland and featuring him on guitar and double bass.
Bryony Griffith is a highly respected fiddle player and distinctive singer with a broad repertoire of traditional English Dance tunes and songs. She is among the few fiddle players whose repertoire draws almost exclusively on traditional English tunes, with a particular passion for the more uncommon dance tunes of her native Yorkshire and surrounding counties.
Her skills and enthusiasm encompass solo performance, duo work with her husband, Will Hampson and extensive experience of playing for folk dancing, including her role in the BBC Folk Award-winning Demon Barbers and the ceilidh band Bedlam. She was also a member of the much-missed acappella quartet The Witches of Elswick.
With over 20 years’ experience researching folk material and devising innovative ways of presenting it for use in performance and education work with children, young people and adults, Bryony’s down-to-earth and relaxed style of teaching and performing is much in demand.
Following the success of her debut solo album, ‘Nightshade’, the release of her solo album of fiddle tunes ‘Hover’ coincides with 25 years of performing on the UK folk scene.
“Bryony Griffith has established herself as one of the most powerful and distinctive vocalists to emerge in the past decade, with fiddle, viola and piano work that send a shiver down the spine.”R2 magazine
“A solo album of great power and magnificence. She sings beautifully and knows how to kick out a song and does it brilliantly. Wow, what a great voice.” – Mike Harding
WILL POUND’S THROUGH THE SEASONS: THE MUSIC OF MORRIS & FOLK DANCE
Will Pound’s Through the Seasons – The Music of Morris and Folk Dance
Joining Will Pounds are Debs Newbold (storyteller), Ross Grant (Inlay) and Benji Kirkpatrick (Bellowhead, Faustus)
Will Pound, Benji Kirkpatrick and Ross Grant,with the support of archive footage
and photos plus stories from Debs Newbold, bring the Morris and folk dance year to life, a unique and powerful musical experience in English culture, tradition and history for all.
A celebration of the year of folk dance, Through the Seasons gives audiences a chance to experience three exceptional musicians showcase beautiful arrangements of traditional dance tunes and songs, bringing their innovative and playful style with all the joy of a summer’s festival to the thrill of a winter’s fireside rapper sword-dance.
Will Pound is an award-winning professional harmonica and melodeon player. He has been nominated 3 times (in 2012, 2014 and 2015) for BBC Folk Musician of the Year, as well as winning Fatea Musician of the Year 2014 and 2015 and was also best newcomer for Songlines magazine in 2014.
His debut solo album and his most recent duo albums with Haddo and Pound & Jay have all appeared in the Telegraph’s Folk Albums of the Year 2016, 2014 and 2013, as well as gaining airplay on BBC Radio 2 and 3.
“A flat-out genius harmonica player” MARK RADCLIFFE (BBC Radio 2)
“Virtuoso melodeon” FROOTS MAGAZINE
“A staggeringly brilliant performance” FOLK RADIO (Ignite 2016) Benji Kirkpatrick (Bellowhead, Faustus, The Transports) plays bouzouki, banjo, mandolin and vocals.
“Everything that’s best in modern traditional music” ACOUSTIC (on Faustus)
Ross Grant (Inlay) is on violin and vocals.
“Heritage and innovation brought together without a visible seam” FOLKWORDS (on Inlay)
“Contemplative folk that looks backwards to move forwards” ★★★★ SONGLINES (on Inlay’s Forge)
Will intends to involve a local dance team at every gig to dance on stage where space allows – or pre-show or during the interval which is potential for local audience development. The musicians are also skilled workshop leaders and it will be possible to explore the addition of workshops in ‘Playing for Dance’ and related topics where tour routing allows.