Album Review- Allison Russell – Outside Child

After the success of the Our Native Daughters project Allison Russell made the decision to release music under her own name for the first time. Outside Child is a personal and intimate project which Allison describes as being about ‘resilience, survival, transcendence, the redemptive power of art, community, connection and chosen family’. Many of the songs were written in response to her childhood trauma and by singing her wounds she finds healing and catharsis. Continue reading “Album Review- Allison Russell – Outside Child”

Album Review: Natalia Lafourcade – Un Canto por Mexico Vol. 2

Natalia Lafourcade’s Musas albums brought the history of Latin folk music to life for modern audiences and she continued to explore her roots on last year’s Un Canto Por La Mexico Vol 1. That album was a collective celebration, which included many guest artists and reworkings of her old songs. It went on to win three Latin Grammys as well as the overall Grammy for Best Regional Mexican Album. The second volume of the project continues her collaborations with many modern artists of Latin music, who together celebrate the greatest hits of her musical culture. Continue reading “Album Review: Natalia Lafourcade – Un Canto por Mexico Vol. 2”

Album Review: Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi – They’re Calling Me Home

Back in another lifetime when live music still existed I was lucky enough to see Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi play on a cold winter evening in Edinburgh. Despite being in a large concert hall the show was intimate, brooding, frenetic, inspiring.

What was also apparent was the deep connection between the couple, musically and personally – they came from different countries, different worlds and yet they seemed like two halves of one whole. The duo’s previous album ‘there is no Other’ used folk music to show the dangers of a world where discrimination and hatred grow, but it was also about how finding a home in this world can be a devastating struggle for so many. Strange then that coronavirus would soon afterwards force us all to stay in one place, to have a reckoning with what home really means.

During the pandemic the power of music to bring comfort and bridge barriers of time and space became even more important and resulted in this new album They’re Calling Me Home. Continue reading “Album Review: Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi – They’re Calling Me Home”

Album Review: Peggy Seeger – First Farewell

In her illuminating autobiography ‘First Time Ever’, Peggy Seeger tells the story of her life and the history of folk music itself. Her family were legendary musicians and she explores the importance of that inheritance and how to keep the purpose of the genre alive today:

We need to capture the public imagination, sing to the fence-sitters, bring factions together…Let’s stop complaining and write – with as few clichés as possible – about hope, compassion, gratitude, cohesion and, above all, action. Sounds simple. It is.’

Her new album ‘First Farewell’ makes a bold attempt to live by this statement of intent. You can’t help but be impressed and inspired by this eighty five year old’s assertive musical ambition and deeply felt songwriting. Continue reading “Album Review: Peggy Seeger – First Farewell”

Album Review: Yasmin Williams – Urban Driftwood

Instrumental albums pose challenges for reviewers like myself whose natural tendency is to focus on vocals and lyrics. Yet I love to listen to this kind of music, to let it work its mysterious magic on my soul and instead of deconstructing the words to search for the narrative in my own emotional reaction to the sound. Yasmin Williams’s new album ‘Urban Driftwood’ is a masterpiece of acoustic guitar playing, connecting with her instrument on a level that reaches the sublime. Continue reading “Album Review: Yasmin Williams – Urban Driftwood”

Album Review: Emma Swift – Blonde on the Tracks

In his Nobel Prize acceptance lecture Bob Dylan discussed how he first began learning old folk songs, eventually internalising them into his own songwriting. ‘You hear all the finer points, and you learn the details,’ he explained. By singing these songs he discovered ‘the devices, the techniques, the secrets, the mysteries’, concluding that ‘songs are alive in the land of the living’. Old songs are meant not just to be heard, but to be sung anew by the next generations.

Emma Swift began ‘Blonde on the Tracks‘, her project of Dylan covers, as a way to recover her artistic inspiration after experiencing depression. Mainly recorded in 2017 these versions were not even intended to be an album but when the pandemic destroyed Swift’s plans for touring she decided to release the recordings. Continue reading “Album Review: Emma Swift – Blonde on the Tracks”

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