My songs of 2013

Part 1 : Bluegrass

November 10 2013

The theme this week is bluegrass. The songs appear here in the order that I played them in my Vintage Radio show this week. All have been released since I published my best of 2012 list last December.

Square Peg Rounders – Red Apple Rag

This album came about from a chance meeting at the Old Fiddlers Convention in Virginia. 12 tracks were recorded in one 4 hour session.

Rebecca Frazier – Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow

“I’ve been writing this record for seven years, as I’ve been traveling from state to state playing bluegrass, and eventually settling in Nashville.”

Pharis & Jason Romero – Come On Home

From the Canadian duo’s second album (both highly acclaimed).

The Carper Family – Old-Fashioned Gal

They’re not actually related. They’re just three female vocalists based in Austin who share a love of old time country and swing music and a sense of fun.

April Verch Band – Big Eared Mule

Former Canadian fiddle champion. Watch out for the step dancing !

Wood & Wire – Rollin’ in the Washingtons

Mandolin player Matt Slusher describes the quartet’s debut album as “Dirty Texas grass”.

Bruce Molsky – Rattle Down the Acorns

“An album from an absolute master” – Devon Leger

Paige Anderson & the Fearless Kin – Wild Rabbit

18 year old Paige fronts the band, aided by her two younger siblings Aimee and Ethan, and their mother Christy Anderson who plays bass.

Alan Jackson – Wild And Blue

“I didn’t want them to think I was just another country act wanting to make a bluegrass album. I wanted it to be as true as I knew how to make it—to be something I could be proud of.”

Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby – How Mountain Girls Can Love

This grizzled duo have been making bluegrass music together since 2007. Their new album is a collection of live recordings from their recent tour, and this is an old Stanley Brothers number.

Dubl Handi – Single Girl

Bringing Appalachian old time music to Brooklyn.

The Cadillac Grainer String Band – Shortenin’ Bread

“The finest in Old-Time, Hard-Drinking, Hard-Traveling, Hard-Rambling, Hillbilly String Band Music.”

Hunnabee & The Sandy Tar Boys – Crawdad

Since recording this the band have split up, though some of them now play in The Sandy Tar String Band.

Del McCoury Band – Blues Rollin’ In

“50 years is a long time to be playing music in any field. But to keep the purity that you need to do this kind of music, and the drive and the energy takes a special kind of guy. And indeed, McCoury is something special, a living link to the days when bluegrass was made only in hillbilly honkytonks, schoolhouse shows and on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, yet also a commandingly vital presence today.” – Elvis Costello

Jim Lauderdale – Old Time Angels

“I love that I can play the Opry one weekend, a jam-band festival the next and then a bluegrass festival the following week.”

The Spinney Brothers – Grandpa’s Way of Life

Grandpa’s Way of Life is 80% about my grandfather … He came from Norway and he always poured his coffee into a saucer and then slurped it out of the saucer. I thought he was the only one that did that but come to find that is pretty common among that generation.”

Tar and Rosin – Old Plank Road

“An Old Time Appalachian String Band that formed this past winter in the drunken basements and apartments of Des Moines Iowa.”


Part 2 : Sounds of Ireland

November 17 2013

I’ve been playing a few of these songs on my radio show, and I wanted to showcase some of this beautiful music which won’t be featuring in many end of year lists. For those who want to keep up to date with Irish traditional music, I recommend the Irish Music Magazine and tradconnect.com.

Ross Ainslie & Jarlath Henderson – Smecano

Jarlath’s Uilleann pipes meet Ross’s border pipes on this Irish – Scottish collaboration.

Christy Moore – Arthur’s Day (live at Whelans)

Drinks giant Diageo are trying to establish a day devoted to drinking Guinness. This is the great bard’s scathing riposte.

Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh – The Bold Fenian Men

Muireann is best known as lead singer of Danú. This is a rebel song written by Peadar Kearney.

Sean O Fearghail, Caoimhin O Fearghail & Tomás Ó Gealbháin – Humours of Tuamgreany / The Mountain Groves

On the album Seán Ó Fearghail plays fiddle, concertina and bouzouki, Caoimhín Ó Fearghail uilleann pipes, flute and guitar, and Tomas Ó Gealbháin the accordion. All three musicians have been playing together since their childhood.

Gavin Whelan – Limerick’s Lamentation

From a collection of slow airs by the tin whistle player from Dublin.

Roving Crows – God on Demand

UK based folk rock band fronted by Paul O’Neill from County Kildare, who’s also the band’s songwriter.

Niamh Dunne  – Jimmy Mo Mhíle Stór

Niamh’s a singer and fiddler from County Limerick, and a member of the band Beoga. This is from her debut solo album.

Bernadette Morris – All the Ways You Wander

From the North this one : Bernadette’s a fluent Irish speaker from County Tyrone with a beautifully clear singing voice. After releasing her debut album in May she took time out to get married.

The Whileaways – Dear My Maker

The Whileaways are Noriana Kennedy, Nicola Joyce and Noelie Mc Donnell and their debut album was recorded in a log cabin in County Galway. Noriana has now joined Solas.

Solas – High, Wide, and Handsome

Irish American band whose album Shamrock City explores the experience of Irish emigrants to the US. Since the release of the album, County Cork singer Niamh Varian-Barry has got married and left the band, to be replaced by Dubliner Noriana Kennedy.

Dervish – Baba Chonraoi

Cathy Jordan learned this song from Peter Crann who got it from Antaine O’Faracháin. It tells the story of a young girl farmed out to another family who treated her badly and left her with no choice but to run off with the English soldiers – “The Sappers” down in Tralee – a decision that wouldn’t have been taken lightly.

Edel Fox & Neill Byrne  – Jigs: The Hill of Bruff/The One That Was Lost/Australian Waters

Edel is a concertina and fiddle player from County Clare. She’s joined by Waterford men Neill Byrne on fiddle, Caoimhín Ó Fearghail on guitar and bouzouki, and County Cavan’s Richie Lyons on bodhrán.

Fionn Regan – The Bunkhouse

Fionn gets back to basics : recorded in his bunkhouse studio with a 4 track, a mic, and an acoustic guitar.

Enda Seery  – It’s a Working Man I Am

Westmeath man Enda on whistles, flute, keyboard and vocals is supported by John Byrne on guitar, James Hughes on fiddle, Eoghan MacAogáin on whistle and Tom Delany on guitar.

Yvonne Bolton & Alan Jordan – The Dreamer

Featuring Yvonne from County Laois on concertina and fiddle, and Alan from Mayo on guitar, low whistle and electric bass, with Joe O Dubhghaill cello, Dermot Sheedy bodhrán and Matteo Cullen piano.


Part 3 : Merseysounds

November 24 2013

A memorable Merseyside derby match this weekend, and here’s a list to celebrate.

The Romleys were just formed in 2011 but their infectious 60s inspired brand of rock n roll is not to be missed.

The Romleys – Hey Diddle Diddle (It’s Alright)

Formed in 2013, The Vibes describe themselves as a rock & roll/rockabilly/blues/garage band. This is an awesome cover of the Clash song from London Calling.

The Vibes – Brand New Cadillac

Three piece band from the Wirral who keep getting better and better. Glam rock with heavy basslines and a touch of fuzz.

The Loud – He’s Killed A Swan

In football terms he’s a red – but he was hanging out with his mate Leighton Baines at Glastonbury this year. Radio friendly song with a big hook.

Miles Kane – Don’t forget who you are

Nadine came from Switzerland to study music at LIPA and plans to stick around. Electronic music with a textured, organic feel to it.

Nadine Carina – The Love

This haunting atmospheric track was off their Ophelia EP earlier this year – definitely a band to watch in 2014.

Bird – Pious

We’re very fortunate in Merseyside to have a singer songwriter of Alun’s quality, passion and principles. Like many songs on the album, this was written about a real person, London dockworker Harry Constable.

Alun Parry – If Harry Don’t Go

Pop punk trio who look from this video as though they’re having fun.

Sheepy – Little Chatterbox

From Belfast originally but now based in Liverpool. Gentle guitar strumming and great lyrics.

Gary Maginnis & The Like – Blood

Jo spent derby day shooting a video for this song – where are her priorities ?? One of those rare musicians who other guitarists can only hope to learn from.

Jo Bywater – Chopping Wood

If you’ve wandered down Peter Kavanagh’s of a Tuesday night in the last 4 years you may well have seen these two wonderful bands – Sidney Bailey’s No Good Punchin’ Clowns and their sister band The Flamin’ Mamies – who bring old time music to life and make it sizzle. Sadly both bands have now played their last gig.

Sidney Bailey’s No Good Punchin’ Clowns – He’s In The Jailhouse Now

The Flamin’ Mamies – Sadie Green (The Vamp Of New Orleans)

Garage surf rock as it should be played.

El Toro! – Creatures

Graham Holland summed it up nicely when he wrote that R Peter Davies writes “original songs that feel instantly familiar”. Quality country music from the Liverpool Midwest.

The Good Intentions – I dreamed about you

This though is my favourite of the lot – I love singing along to it – come to think of it, it wouldn’t make a bad football song ! Their album Songs of the Sea is well recommended and can be ordered via their website.

Liverpool Shanty Kings – Roll the old Chariot along


Part 4 : Traditional Folk

December 1 2013

In Parts 1 and 2 I’ve included a lot of traditional sounds from North America and Ireland, so this is a European list. I’m not sure if all the songs are traditional, but the instrumentation and the inspiration certainly is. If these songs don’t make you a fan of traditional folk music then nothing will.


Mick Ryan & Paul Downes – The New York Trader

Lady Maisery – Lady Maisery

David Gibb & Elly Lucas – Lovely Molly

The Rheingans Sisters – Sorry the Day


Le Tre Sorelle – Figghia mia tu n’esci a balla

Matilde Politi & Compagnia Bella – Festa della Borgata


Firil – Det er den største dårlighet


Janusz Prusinowski Trio – Mazurek Ciarkowskiego


Battlefield Band – Ceann Loch an Duin

Mairearad & Anna – Can’t Play a House

Frances Wilkins & Claire White – Rough Diamond

Breabach – The Poetic Milkman


Irmelin – En sjömans begravning

Mats Edén – Storpolskan from Bingsjö


DNA, Delyth & Angharad Jenkins – Casse En Lorient


Part 5 : Punky

December 8 2013

You’ve heard about supporting the underdog. Well this is a celebration of the ants and flies who crawl on the belly of the underdog. Most of these bands have little means of promoting themselves other than playing loud music in bars. Their rejection of all the slick packaging and production values of the record industry is intrinsic to their appeal. Their biggest assets are a DIY ethic and plenty of raw energy and attitude, and lyrics that matter. Because this is my list after all there’s a lot of folk punk here, but hopefully there’s enough variety to satisfy all you punk heads. Finally please support the artists : buy the music and go see your local bands.

Bass Drum of Death – Crawling after you
Garage rock band from Oxford, Mississippi.

Bastards On Parade – Drunken Haze
“Based in A Coruña (Galicia), Bastards on Parade was born in late 2007 and the idea was to combine their celtic roots with their loved punk rock.”

The Dead Rabbits – Feelin’ Regret
Celtic punk from Houston. Facebook status : “March tour plans are now underway! We’re headin’ East! Drop us a line if you’re in the market to have your booze decimated and your women offended!”

Dead Subverts – Economic Genocide
UK hardcore. “In Dead Subverts we feel that politics and the way in which we live is as much (if not more) important than the music … We all have our own ethics, our own politics and cover various issues depending on who wrote the song, but we all agree on the fact that fascism has no place in any society. We will play anywhere whether it’s a pub, house, field, cave, rave etc but will not play for fasicst promoters.”

Disease – Mother Nature is dying
“Coming from the sinked, underground holes in Skopje (Macedonia) Disease started working in the middle of 2012 … At the moment the band is on hold, taking a break since Alex is serving prison sentence till February 2014.”

Foolish – Hangover
Skapunk from France.

Fur Blend – Pretty Good B-Side
Rhubarb Bomb : “While I failed to discover that elusive, original sound that popular music is crying out for, they succeeded in not being utter dogshit.” On the Wakefield label Philophobia Music.

Holiday – Missiles On The Roof
“Holiday are a new melodic punk band from the North West of England. They feature current and former members of bands such as The Autonomads, Grover, The Great St. Louis, Burn All Flags, etc etc and write happy songs about unhappy things.”

Hunx and His Punx – Mud in your Eyes
Seth Bogart called the new album Street Punk – “It’s exclusively for women and gay guys. I just think it’s funny to take something that exists and rebrand it … What I hope is that people who are really young and who don’t know what street punk is, will think that this is street punk.”

The Jack Ratts – Muirshin Durkin
“Founded in the sunny sea side town of Bournemouth in 2009, this small group of friends dabbling in banjos, mandolins & accordions, eventually evolved in to a regularly gigging & fully focused six piece band.”

LochNesz – Have Another Whisky
From Hungary, my December 2013 BOTM. “LochNesz plays Celtic punk music following the footsteps of their great predecessors in the genre: in addition to the basic rock band formula, they also play the great highland bagpipe, the accordion, the banjo and the violin.”

Los Dos Hermanos – Don’t Talk to Me
“Los Dos Hermanos are a garage duo, formed by Billy Dorados on white Stratocaster guitar and Carole Tweedlady on drums, based in Bordeaux, France.”

Rail Yard Ghosts – Train 45
They’re a “folk/bluegrass/punk band from all over the place” and they want to tour UK/Europe next year. Here’s why you should support them do this, and how you can.

Sketchy – Better Days
Lo-fi Brooklyn band whose interests include beer and pizza.

Spirit Of John – Atrocities
“Influenced musically by folk, blues, country, skiffle and punk, and thematically by industry, crime, folklore and local heritage, the Leeds duo have crafted a raw, earthy sound, defined by double bass slapping, guitar chopping and raspy hollering.”

Stramash – The Stramashannach
“Stramash are a Celtic Folk Punk band with Heavy Guitar Riffs, Celtic/Punk Rhythms, Folk inspired Vocal Melodies and Bagpunk Pipes and Whistles. Stramash are determined to push the boundaries within the Folk genre and give it a major shot of adrenaline whilst keeping true to their Scottish roots. ”

Teenanger – Surveillance
Now Toronto : “These days, straying by going electro has become de rigueur, with plenty of indie bands capitalizing on the popularity of dance music to court new fans. Teenanger’s going the other way – getting nastier, punkier, sounding more like themselves, whether or not it $ells. Even their album release show is free. ‘Sometimes money comes to you and sometimes it doesn’t,’ says guitarist Jon Schouten. ‘We’re not gonna be like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re making so much fucking money.'”

The Tossers – Slainte
“Formed in 1993, the six-piece Celtic punk band of Chicago, IL has been proudly spreading their Irish gospel across the globe, with no plans of slowing down.”

Turncoat Collective – Living by Example
“we are a collective of artists, musicians, freedom lovers, pacifists, love-mongers, and revolutionaries. we were formed in november 2011. we are a completely DIY band, from packaging our own discs, to making our own shirts and patches, to booking our own shows. members come and go, but comrades are forever.”

The Wakes – Never Again
“The Wakes are a Folk’n’Roll band from Glasgow, Scotland. Their ambition is to make music with a social conscience. Music that matters. Their songs are songs, born from political and social struggle, of protest and of heartache and of the joys of life.”


Part 6 : Americana

December 15 2013

The common factor this week is the songwriting. Fifteen magnificent songs from some of the top songwriters in the business. Most of these fall somewhere in the folk/country spectrum, there’s a bit of blues in here too.

Album titles are in brackets, with links where you can buy them.

Amber Cross – City Lights (You Can Come In)

Ashley Monroe – Morning After (Like A Rose)

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite – All That Matters Now (Barnswallow)

Brandy Clark – Take a Little Pill  (12 Stories)

Charlie Parr – Motorcycle Blues (Barnswallow)

David Francey – Harm (So Say We All)

Guy Davis – Love Looks Good On You (Juba Dance)

Holly Williams – Waiting on June (The Highway)

Johnny Fritz – Ain’t It Your Birthday (Dad Country)

Lucinda Williams – This Old Guitar  (V/A The Music Is You – A Tribute to John Denver)

Luke Winslow-King – Ella Speed (The Coming Tide)

Robbie Fulks – Guess I Got It Wrong (Gone Away Backward)

Todd Farrell Jr & the Dirty Birds – My Currency is Doubt  (All Our Heroes Live in Vans)

Valerie June – Twined & Twisted (Pushin’ Against a Stone)

Vikesh Kapoor – Blue-Eyed Baby (The Ballad of Willy Robbins)


Part 7 : Briticana

December 22 2013

I’m not proposing a new genre – there’s more than enough of them already. Last week’s list featured some of the best this year from American songwriters, so this week the spotlight is on the UK.  It strikes me though that not many of these songs could be mistaken for being American, and it’s not just the accents which are different. An exception perhaps is Billy Bragg’s wonderful Tooth and Nail : although his accent is instantly recognisable, the album is steeped in Americana and has done exceptionally well in the American roots music charts.  There’s a lot of female vocalists in this list, but maybe that just says something about me.

All Things Considered – Gatwick  (Dance Through the Storm)

Babajack – Hammer and Tongs  (Running Man)

Billy Bragg – Goodbye Goodbye  (Tooth and Nail)

Billy Liar – Change  (All I’ve Got)

Blackbeard’s Tea Party – Rackabella  (Whip Jamboree)

Blue Rose Code – One Day at a Time  (Whitechapel)

Ed Harcourt – Murmur In My Heart  (Back Into the Woods)

Fabian Holland – Home  (Fabian Holland)

Hannah Sanders – Beware of the Kids  (Warning Bells)

Laura Marling – When Were You Happy? (And How Long Has That Been)  (Once I Was An Eagle)

Lisa Knapp – The Shipping Song  (Hidden Seam)

Liz Simcock – Blow Me Home  (Friday Night Train Home)

Ma Polaine’s Great Decline – Love Me Or Leave Me  (Suffer It Well)

Nancy Elizabeth – Desire  (Dancing)

Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin – The Nailmaker’s Strike pt​.​II  (Mynd)

Serafina Steer – Night Before Mutiny  (The Moths Are Real)



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