The art of songwriting

November 29, 2015

I continue my survey of 2015 with selections from some of the best singer songwriter releases of the year.

Krista Detor – Can I Come Over   (Barely)

Steve Earle & The Dukes – Mississippi, It’s Time  (single)

Craig Finn – Newmyer’s Roof   (Faith in the Future)

Gilmore & Roberts – She Doesn’t Like Silence    (Conflict Tourism)

Bella Hardy – Oh! My God! I Miss You    (With the Dawn)

The Honey Dewdrops – Loneliest Songs   (Tangled Country)

Gurf Morlix – 50 Years   (Eatin’ at me)

Old Man Luedecke – Wait a While   (Domestic Eccentric)

Grace Petrie – The Last Love Song   (Whatever’s Left)

Rod Picott – Drunken Barbers Hand   (Fortune)

Dave Rawlings Machine – The Trip   (Nashville Obsolete)

Joe Topping – One Beat Away   (The Vagrant Kings)

Will Varley – Concept of Freedom   (Postcards from Ursa Minor)


Back to Trad

November 22, 2015

Not all strictly trad, but a lovely collection of tunes from albums released by British and Irish artists in 2015. This is just the tip of a large sized iceberg, so please also check out the distressingly small number of other sites that feature this music : folkwavestradconnect, folk radio uk,  bright young folk, irish music magazine, uk folk music.

Bryan O’Leary & Colm Guilfoyle – Slides: The Bicycle; Johnny O’ Leary’s
“This is our debut album. It was recorded in Tureencahill National School and not too far from ‘where the bog is’. This is an expression of our respect and appreciation for the music and history of our native Sliabh Luachra.”

Caitlín Nic Gabhann & Ciarán Ó Maonaigh – Joe Cooley’s Morning Dew / The New Mown Meadow’s
Irish fiddle and concertina

Daimh – Raasay
‘Gaelic Supergroup’ based around West Lochaber and the Isle of Skye

Danu – Passage West
“For over a decade, Danú’s virtuosi players on flute, tin whistle, fiddle, button accordion, bouzouki, and vocals (Irish and English), have performed around the globe and recorded seven critically acclaimed albums.”

Éamonn O’Riordan & Tony O’Connell – Áine’s Reel/Gan Ainm/The Clare Reel
Duo from West Limerick : Tony is a self-taught concertina player and is a multiple All Ireland winner from under 15,18 and senior. Eamonn is a flautist with four All-Ireland titles to his name.

Eliza Carthy – Thirty-Foot Trailers
From the compilation album Joy of Living – A Tribute to Ewan MacColl

The Foxglove Trio – The Owlesbury Lads
The trio’s debut album contains “mostly traditional songs from around the British Isles in English and Welsh”

John Kirkpatrick – I Didn’t Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier
Former member of the Albion Country Band, Magic Lantern, The Richard Thompson Band, Umps and Dumps, Steeleye Span, Brass Monkey, Trans-Europe Diatonique, and Band of Hope, as well as numerous ceilidh bands. Tunes from the Trenches is a collection of songs from two world wars.

Mairearad and Anna – Jerry & Otis
Mairearad plays pipes and accordion on the album, and Anna helps out on guitar, fiddle and banjo.

The Rheingans Sisters – Dancing in the Cow Shed
Rowan and Anna are fiddle-singers who grew up in the Peak District

Sam Lee – Over Yonders Hill
The Fade in Time is a collection of songs gathered from the gypsy community. Sam Lee’s unconventional interpretations challenge all preconceptions of what ‘traditional folk’ should sound like.

Séamus Begley – Annie Laurie
Irish accordionist turned singer : “I’ve never in my life been as busy. At 66. My musical world took off at pension age. And when Oisín [Mac Diarmada] asked me to join Téada, I never thought that at 62 years of age I’d be joining a boyband. It’s been fantastic. I’ve exposed myself to the world. But these are songs that I like singing. They might be a bit emotional, but I love them. And anyway, I’m 66 now. I have nothing to lose.”

Triona Marshall – O’carolan’s Farwell to Music
One of five in a family of musicians from Portlaoise, Triona started playing the harp when she was seven. She held the post of principal harpist with the RTE Concert Orchestra for five years until 2003, since then she’s played both solo and as harpist for the Chieftains.

The Young ‘Uns – The Drift from the Land
“Inspired by the actions of a group of Stockton residents who chased a Benefits Street film crew from their doors, The Young’uns new album Another Man’s Ground celebrates working class heroes of the past and present with powerful and poignant tales of struggle, poverty and peace.”


bandcamp nuggets

November 15, 2015

These were all released on bandcamp in 2015. The one line descriptions are just to give you a bit of a guide, but don’t let them put you off. It’s all good music. Just remember your support means the world to all these guys. The albums are virtually all self-released, probably on a shoestring. If you want them to keep making records, go to bandcamp and buy the music.

anna phorra – minigolfing with tiger woods
Screamo/Post-Hardcore from Edmonton, Alberta

Arroyo Deathmatch – Finding Excuses to Be Alone
Five-piece, hardcore-and-metal-influenced experimental anarcho folk band from Albuquerque

D.B. Rouse – I Hope If We Live Through This We Learn From Our Mistakes
State of the world song from my December 14 band of the month

Jesse LeBourdais – The First Time I Screamed
Acoustic punk from Vancouver

Jordan Fox – My Faults, Your Problems
DIY emo folk from somewhere in Scotland

The Last Revel – No Compromise
Lyric driven, foot moving, folk music from Minneapolis

Mickey Rickshaw – Not my Problem Now
New Celtic punk band from Boston

Moon Bandits – We Ain’t Lazy
My February 2015 band of the month – I called them a vegan straightedge folk punk band from LA

Shambles Miller – Aaarrgghhh!
“Hello! I’m Shambles Miller, a singer/songwriter from Glasgow. I can usually be found in gig venues around Glasgow and beyond, or in the pub doing the crossword. You should still come over and say hello though, I’m probably stuck.”

Stick and Poke – Weary Traveller
From the folk punk scene in Toronto

T.C. Costello – A Gentleman of the Most Unsavory Sort
Folk punk accordionist from Greenville, South Carolina

The Vaudevillian – The Hamilton Strip
Old time music for the punk generation from Kitchener, Ontario

The Waxies – Step It Out Mary
Irish folk rock from Grand Rapids, Michigan


New music from Eastern Europe

November 8, 2015

In honour of my trip to Budapest last month – these are all from albums released in 2015, and they’ve all got at least some folk music influence.


Irfan – Nehet

Oratnitza – Yaninka


Duo Malva & Kirsipu – Ohtu Tuleb

Hannah James & Tuulikki Bartosik – Ellin Polkka

Trad.Attack! – Oleks Minu Olemine


Zurös Banda – Nem Fújnak Most Olyan Szelek


Giriu Dvasios – Gervela Dai Ciuto


Kapela Maliszow – Ballada o Sierotce

Kapela ze Wsi Warszawa (Warsaw Village Band) feat. Mercedes Peón – Leeec

Lautari Trio – U jeziora zimna woda

Tegie Chlopy – Gasacki

Volosi – Nomadism


Taraf de Haïdouks – The High Balcony In Ciolpan


Muzicka – Ci To Všitko Pravda



watch this space …

November 4, 2015

I know I’ve not been adding much new content this last year. The main reason for that, by the way, is that I’m still heavily involved in my great project, collecting traditional music from every country in the world. You can read more about the project here – and if you’ve got a lot of knowledge about traditional forms of music from particular countries and regions, do please get in touch. Anyway this is just to let you know than I’m planning on posting a lot more music on music to die for in the coming months in the form of themed playlists, and I’ll be starting very shortly with some selections from 2015.


Band of the month

November 1, 2015


After 25 years of writing songs that have inspired people from Christy Moore to John Peel, Little Sutton’s Ian Prowse has just released an album of covers. And it may just be his best work yet …

Ian ProwseIan Prowse’s career has had its share of ups and downs. Pele were a good band, people loved their songs, but somehow when Britpop came along it passed them by. Ian has bitter words for the label : “The A&R man who signed Pele left the label and the new fella’ tried to make his mark and make me go solo … and set my career back by seven years. We missed the Britpop boat and watched with great distress as all of our previous support bands like Cast, Travis and Sleeper hit the big time, while we argued with that idiot!” He started again with a new band, Amsterdam, but it was hard work : “To go from full venues right back to the very start again was hard: playing gigs to 10 people in awful London venues, when two years before 700 cockneys loved us, felt like musical snakes and ladders. The first reality TV show to manufacture pop stars hit our screens around then too and the music industry deemed you were too old at the age of 25! For a few years Amsterdam just made music and waited for things to change.”

With a combination of determination, strong songwriting, and Ian’s always engaging vocals, Amsterdam built up a loyal following. Their last studio album was in 2008. When in 2012 a Best of Ian Prowse compilation album was released, even though it contained a few new tracks even diehard fans must have wondered how much more he had to offer. But once again he came back, in 2014 releasing under his own name the crowd-funded album Who Loves Ya Baby, which included the wonderful anti-racist song The Murder of Charles Wootton.

Last week Ian tweeted that his new album Companeros “will NOT appear on Spotify or Apple. “. Instead you can download it here. It’s a collection of songs by friends and mostly little known songwriters whom he admires, concluding with a gorgeous 9 minute live cut of an old Amsterdam tune Name & Number. Although they’re not his songs, Ian wears his heart on his sleeve, both in his very interesting choice of material and in his delivery. St Patrick’s Brave Brigade is a nice arrangement of a song written by Damian Dempsey about Irish-American soldiers who fought on the side of Mexico in the US-Mexican War of 1846-7; Derry Gaol was Alan Burke’s humorous reworking of a traditional song; while What Am I to You is a rather fetching appeal to his beloved by Dublin born songwriter Eoin Glackin. Best of the bunch though is Alun Parry’s tribute to Des Warren, the trade union activist jailed with Ricky Tomlinson in the early 70s. “His version has blown my socks off!!” wrote Alun on his website. “It’s absolutely brilliant. Fist punchingly good. I’m beyond delighted, not just because he has paid me the highest compliment that any singer can pay a songwriter, by putting my song on his new album – but that he has done such an awesome job of it too.”

Ian’s appearing in Liverpool next month with the full Amsterdam band – Sat 5th December 7pm @ Liverpool Arts Club.


Ian Prowse – Derry Gaol

Ian Prowse – My name is Dessie Warren




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  


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