Aye tunes

October 12, 2014

Ten songs for Scottish independence (and one poem)

They may have lost the referendum, but they won the battle of the songs. Here are ten of the best new songs inspired by the Yes Campaign. I use my words carefully here. What unites these songs is a sense of hope, that people are on the rise, and that a different Scotland is possible (along with a healthy injection of contempt for Westminster politics). Most of them could not have been written before the Yes Campaign began to take off. There’s not the sense of nostalgia, of looking back, that we find in Dougie Maclean’s Caledonia – “telling old stories, singing songs, that make me think about where I come from”, nor do they fall back on national stereotypes to support their argument.

We begin with a poem :

Colin McQuillen – Alright Westminster  

And here’s my ten songs. If you know of any better ones written in 2014, please post the links.

Andy Clark & the Independence Singers – We’re aw Votin’ Aye!

Ballboy – JK Rowling changed my vote from No to Yes!

Callum Baird – Better Off Alone  

Calum Carlyle – Our Scotland  

Citizen Smart – Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright 

Eddi Reader – We Are Everything  

Glesga Poet & The Mad Squad – Independent

Macanta – Be A Nation  

San Fran and the Siscos – Yes  

Stanley Odd – Son I Voted Yes  


Band of the month

October 2, 2014


Some among you may be of the opinion that a folk album called A Celebration Of Old England is not your idea of required listening. But bear with me on this. You may have cause to thank me.

Anna Shannon

Anna Shannon

First off, Anna Shannon is not your stereotyped middle class folk singer. She lives in a caravan on the edge of the Yorkshire moors and she loves to sing about the natural world that she inhabits. As well as a Yorkshire accent, there’s a kind of honesty to her voice and in her approach to songwriting.

All bar one of the songs on A Celebration Of Old England was written by Anna, and there isn’t a weak track among them. These aren’t songs which glorify some prettified bucolic vision of England’s past. They’re songs based on solid research, which tell stories about working people and working animals; of the lives of royals, and servants, and gypsies.

The level of musicianship is a big feature. According to her website, “Anna was, by the age of ten, already accomplished on classical flute, and at twelve was playing oboe, clarinet and trumpet. Guitar, fiddle, sax and bowed psaltery followed but it wasn’t until in her early twenties that she discovered the folk scene.” The album benefits hugely from the fact that she’s playing many different instruments, and her excellent arrangements on the songs, so that no one song is like another.

She’s also quite prolithic. This, her first recording for WildGoose, is something like her ninth full length album in as many years. Most have their own theme, hinted at by the titles : Blackstrap Molasses (19th century America); Horses, Beasts and Fairytales; Up the Riggin’; and so on.

The track descriptions below are pinched from the sleeve notes.


During Cromwell’s reign, song, dance and music were punishable by gaol or the gallows so any such activity would need to be short and sharp, followed by an even quicker disappearing act.

Ways of the Hunting

Fox hunting has caused more controversy and heartache than most traditions over the centuries and continues to do so. The people mentioned in this song are all local to our Staintondale hunt. I must add that, as a songwriter, I am delighted to be able to have a triumphant fox once again!

Lady of Grace

A lady in waiting declares her love and admiration for her beloved queen

Polly Cooper

A servant girl tells of her plight after being dismissed through no fault of her own. Sadly a tale all too common in Old England





Rambling across the Mersey

April 14, 2014

14 April 2014 I’ve been listening to a lot of global music in recent months while researching for my book, but in the meantime let me bring you up to date with some of the best new local sounds.

Ian Prowse – The Murder of Charles Wootton

Charles Wootton’s death led to race riots in Liverpool in 1919. Ian Prowse links this to  Anthony Walker’s murder in 2005. This remarkable song is from the new album Who Loves Ya Baby.

Hughie Jones – Blow the Man Down

Former Spinner Hughie Jones still runs  a folk club in Liverpool. His love of Liverpool’s maritime history comes over in his latest album of songs about the sea, Maritime Miscellany.

The White Widows – Talkin’ to Yourself 

Brilliant debut single. They just launched their album on Friday so I’m looking forward to hearing that.

The Vibes – Rambling Man

One of my sounds of 2013 : they’ve been back in the studio and there’s a new EP in the works which they tell me will be “just as raw if not more so than the last EP”. Sounds good to me. Here’s a taster of it.

Electric Lips – Not Coming Back

Meanwhile The Vibes mates, rockers Electric Lips, have released their debut EP Snake Eyes, and have just expanded to a 4 piece. CDs are available at gigs, so you know what to do.

Evian Christ – Waterfall

Josh Leary, a young producer from Ellesmere Port, has a teacher training qualification and a credit on the latest Kanye West album. His new EP Waterfall was reviewed in Pitchfork (they gave it 7.3), and was the subject of a long feature piece in the Guardian.  Expect noise, technical wizardry and crashing bass.

Ninetails – Sinn Djinn 

From the EP Quiet Confidence. Electronic soundscapes aren’t really my thing, but this is a bit unusual, and worth a listen.

Stephen Langstaff – Home

Last month he was in America where he played three shows at SXSW, and toured in Texas and Nashville, and wrote this song.

Mark Pountney – Treat me Baby Like You Should

If you had to guess which of these artists also fronts a Beatles tribute band, you’d probably have got it right. While the new album Mark One is steeped in the 60s, it’s very much his own material, and let’s hope he stays away from the covers from now on, because this is great feelgood music.

Tear Talk – Parallel

According to their own record company, Tear Talk “is one of the most awkward, introverted and melancholic bands (their words) out there today”.  That endears them to me a lot ! On their 3 track EP Breathe they sound like New Order meets The Cure.

Matt Swift – Everton Songs

In the week in which Everton moved into a Champions League place, surely you can allow me a little indulgence.



1,000,000 !

March 24, 2014

Today this website reached 1 million hits !! It only just struck me, I should be doing some crazy giveaway to mark the occasion. As I’ve not planned anything here’s a promise : anyone who messages me this evening with their email address and the type of music they would like will be sent some mp3s.



For every country, a song

August 17, 2013

You’re invited to follow my new blog diary, in which I’ll be documenting my journey to collect traditional music from every country in the world.

While doing this I’m researching the stories behind the artists who wrote and performed the songs, with the aim of eventually putting them together into a book. It will tie in with a website providing a listen only stream of all the tracks listed.

I’m not just interested in contacting artists. If you or someone you know has a serious interest in the traditional music of particular countries or regions of countries, please get in touch.

Punk’s not dead …

July 5, 2013

July 5th 2013

… at least not if these recent releases are anything to go by. They’re chosen because I liked them, but hopefully there’s enough variety here to please a range of tastes.

Kicking it off, this is the Wellyboot Song by Glasgow’s Stramash.
Stramash – Wellyboot Song

Glasgow’s Girobabies have just released a preview of their new single, which will be launched at the Loch Lomond Boat Party on July 13th.
Girobabies – Secret Animal

You won’t hear a finer tribute to Yuri Gagarin than this.
Pete Bentham and the Dinner Ladies – Hey Yuri

Garage / surf / noise duo from Bordeaux who’ve just released their debut LP.
Los Dos Hermanos – Don’t Talk To Me

A punk band from sleepy County Galway.
Vamos – Plazzy Girl

IKC is Phoebe Munoz : “I’m a DIY musician who hails from the beautiful scene of Friendcore in Fresno California … I play too much ukulele.”
I Kill Cameron – Tortoise Shell Hell

My favourite punk poet from York is still churning out albums and EPs at a rate of about one a month.
Mark Wynn – I’m Mint Man Me Man Yeah Yeah

Can’t tell you anything about these guys, but this is awesome.
Haircuts – (I Don’t Wanna Be A) Haircut  TAKE 2

They’re from the Scottish Highlands and they’re “noisy, brash and fast as hell”.
Cleavers – Fuck My Life 2​.​0 (Pus Clutch)

While you catch your breath here’s an acoustic track from the Antipop roster.
Carl Moorcroft – On The Road

This folk punk combo from San Diego have just released their debut full length album – and it’s top stuff.
Bogsey and the Argonauts – Follow the Leader

And this is from the debut full length album from Iowan folk punkers The Vandon Arms.
The Vandon Arms – Streets of Gold

Debut release from Greek punks who on their facebook page  implausibly list their interests as “horse riding, golf and literature”.
Bazooka – Mr George

Fuzz pop outfit from Manchester who name the Beach Boys as an influence.
Temple Songs – Passed Caring

New band from Rochester, NY going for that 70s punk sound with big choruses.
Skirts – Mean Girl

Indiepop band from London / Brighton, not to be confused with Michigan punk band Fireworks (without the definite article).
The Fireworks – All the Things That You Said

The lead single from the 2nd album by the American garage rock band is their catchiest offering yet.
Bass Drum of Death – Crawling After You


Have you heard these albums yet ?

April 2, 2013

2nd April 2013

All new out in the last few weeks. Check out the tracks here, then click on the links to buy the albums.

Blackbeard’s Tea Party – Whip Jamboree
Lead single from Whip Jamboree (due out April 7th), new album from festival favourites Blackbeard’s Tea Party who are a folk rock band from York.

Tracey Curtis with Boff – The Cancer Song
This song from her 3rd album Thoughts In The Dark was co-written and co-performed by Chumbawamba’s Boff. It’s a conversation between two people with a common experience of caring for cancer sufferers. Many thanks to Tracey for agreeing to make this song available for free download to MTDF readers (right click and ‘save as’).

Tracey Curtis with Boff – The cancer song

Billy Bragg – Tomorrow’s Going To Be A Better Day
From the Barking bard’s highly recommended new album Tooth And Nail.

Anthony Toner – The Road To Fivemiletown

Sing Under The Bridges is the 5th album by the Northern Irish singer songwriter, and this is a quality piece of storytelling.

Lazibyrd – I’m Alright Jack
Lazibyrd are the Somerset folk duo Sharon Martin and Tom Chapman. This politically charged song is on their self-released debut album Under The Sky, due out very shortly.

The next three songs are ones you might have heard before :

The Jack Ratts – Drunken Sailor
They tell us they’re “a six-piece Dorset based Pirate Folk Punk band”. Sail The Deadly Seas is their debut album.

The Lagan – I’ll Tell Me Ma

Where’s Your Messiah Now is the debut album from the London based Celtic punk band.

The Bell Peppers – The Hokey Cokey
Manchester surf rock band who featured at #73 in my top 100 tracks from 2012. This is from a new (and free) 4 track EP which they say is “all covers of our most favorite tunes ever”.

Jess Morgan – Travelling Song

Norfolk singer songwriter Jess Morgan was #85 in my top 100 tracks from 2012. The new 7 track EP Richer Thinner Smarter was recorded live “in a one-mic-one-take fashion”.

The Romleys – Singing To A Stone

The Liverpool trio, who’ve recently posted this track on soundcloud, tell me “We are just finalising the date for our first single release this week, it should be out in the next month. All the info will be on our website http://www.theromleys.co.UK which is also going live this week. We are off to Glastonbury on Friday to play at the launch party for the festival.”

El Toro – Wicked Child

Liverpool psychedelic garage surf combo who’ve just released a splendid 10 track album Creatures and invited you to buy it at any price you choose.

The Imports – Suburban Life

Shades of The Jam ? The Woolpack Demos - also released on a ‘name your price’ basis -  is described by the unsigned Leeds trio as a ‘demo album’ and we’re promised that more tracks will be released in the coming weeks.

Blue Rose Code – From Wester Ross to Nova Scotia

North Ten is the debut album of exiled Scot Ross Wilson. Lizzie Ogle provides backing vocals and violin.

Rob Clarke – Sing Us A Song
The Liverpool singer songwriter’s 3rd album About A Time has a laid back acoustic feel. Though he’s also been recording some rock under the moniker Rob Clarke & The Wooltones.

I couldn’t resist throwing in a couple from across the pond for good measure :

RMS Olympic – Whale Biologist (I Calls ‘Em Like I Sees ‘Em)

The lyrics to this are dynamite. RMS Olympic are a one man folk punk band from California, the man being Nathanael Felon. From the album Old Reliable.

Peach Kelli Pop – Panchito Blues II
Infectious powerpop. The band was formed by Ottawa’s Allie Hanlon who’s also the drummer in the band White Wires. The new self-titled album is released today in the UK.


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