Vivian Leva’s last album ‘Time is Everything’ was an underrated folk country gem and on this new self-titled album she promotes her previous collaborator Riley Calcagno to equal billing. You sense the deep musical and songwriting connection between the duo, who together have created an authentic, effortless country sound. Continue reading “Album Review: Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno”
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”
Released on Team Love records this new album Wishbone by Darci Phenix is a welcome discovery in a very barren winter for new music. Continue reading “Album Review: Darci Phenix – Wishbone”
The sweet, sweet sound of the fiddle contains the soul and spirit of folk music in one perfect instrument. Fiddler Bronwyn Keith-Hynes plays bluegrass music which understands the traditions of the instrument’s past but she isn’t afraid to cut loose and find her own path too. Continue reading “Album Review: Bronwyn Keith-Hynes – Fiddler’s Pastime”
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”
The first time I heard the Indigo Girls was in 1995, watching Glastonbury on TV. I had just begun reading the NME and gorging myself on loud alternative rock and yet the acoustic performance from Amy and Emily stopped me in my tracks. They were singing Closer to Fine, of course, and their words, voices and harmonies got me in the heart. Some songs and bands are just instantly with you for life.
Look Long is the Indigo Girls’s first album in five years and the band continue to appeal to a wide audience, influencing younger artists like Brandi Carlile and Justin Vernon. The title and songs suggest these legendary artists are still seeking truths, considering the world and moving forward musically. To go with them is to walk in unity, creativity, hope. Continue reading “Album Review: Indigo Girls – Look Long”
The power of Mexican folk songs, traditions and culture is conveyed in Natalia Lafourcade’s new album Un Canto Por Mexico. Lafourcade has described the album as representing a visit to a Mexican market – the people, the sights, sounds, everything you find in such a place is in her music. To walk with her in song is to join in with a joyful celebration of life.
Her last project, the Musas albums, shifted Lafourcade’s focus towards folk music, taking her artistic ambitions in a revelatory direction. From there she was nominated for the Oscar for her contribution to the Coco soundtrack and she performed at the Grammys. Her star in Mexico is huge and she is now rightfully known beyond the narrow confines of ‘world music’. What Lafourcade is doing is transforming traditional folk music for a modern Mexican audience, and showing that to sing for your county is to sing from your own soul. Continue reading “Album Review: Natalia Lafourcade – Un Canto Por Mexico”
Sitarist Anoushka Shankar began working on her new EP Love Letters after going through a particularly difficult time in her private life. The songs address the complex reality of dealing with her divorce and its emotional aftermath.
Shankar chose to work mainly with other women on this project, seeking solace from her female friendships. As she explained in a recent interview, “I really got to experience the way women show up for each other when crisis strikes. And, that’s really where this music came from — the shared experience of women, holding my hand and helping me find a safe place to put some of my feelings”. She works with an array of women on the album from guest singers to engineer Heba Kadry and illustrator Azeema Nur. Continue reading “EP Review: Anoushka Shankar – Love Letters”
Songs and stories are passed down through history for multifarious reasons: to entertain us, to heal us, to warn us, to teach us how to live. Anais Mitchell’s musical Hadestown combined Greek myths and folk music in a way that showed how the past could speak directly to the modern world. Her new project Bonny Light Horseman offers traditional songs in a fresh but familiar way, wrapping the listener in a comfort blanket of melodic beauty. Continue reading “Album Review: Bonny Light Horseman”