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”

Album Review: Indigo Girls – Look Long

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”

Album Review: Natalia Lafourcade – Un Canto Por Mexico

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”

EP Review: Anoushka Shankar – Love Letters

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”

Album Review: Bonny Light Horseman

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”

Live Preview: Celtic Connections Festival 2020

Celtic Connections is the best traditional roots, folk and Americana festival in the world, offering a dazzling array of artists live on stage in Glasgow during January and February each year. What always impresses me about the festival is how well represented women are from across all of the main roots genres. Read on to find out my highlights from the festival, with a focus on the Americana offerings. Continue reading “Live Preview: Celtic Connections Festival 2020”

E.P. Review: Aoife O’Donovan – In the Magic Hour Solo Sessions

After touring with the collective I’m With Her for most of the last couple of years Aoife O’Donovan is now back as a solo artist releasing her new acoustic E.P. ‘In the Magic Hour Solo Sessions’. As suggested by the title four of these songs are versions of tracks from her last solo album ‘In the Magic Hour’ which was released in 2016 and she also adds a couple of well chosen cover songs to the track-listing. Continue reading “E.P. Review: Aoife O’Donovan – In the Magic Hour Solo Sessions”

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