Archive for Folk

Joan Baez: a Tribute by Miss Irenie Rose


Irene Rose

Venue 53 The Space @ Surgeons’ Hall Theatre 2

August 3rd to 25th

Launching straight into the mournful Scottish ballad, Arise Mary Hamilton; with nothing more than an acoustic guitar to accompany her; Miss Irenie Rose takes her audience through the canon of the songs the American singer and political activist Joan Baez has made her own over the last five decades.

In her good-humoured style, she recounts how Baez’s politics and pacifism has permeated all her work. She was more political than her old beau Bob Dylan and made much more use of some of his songs. Bob was paranoid when he was on drugs; Baez never did drugs.

The venue is intimate, so Miss Irenie Rose makes it seem that she is talking and singing just for you. All the old standards are there; Blowin’ in the wind, the haunting Donna Donna and the darkly humorous Farewell Angelina.

The audience joined in a rousing chorus of hope in the time-honoured civil rights standard, We Shall Overcome and went into ecstasy when her sister, Elsa-Jean McTaggart, joined Miss Irenie Rose on stage to finish the show with The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.  Joan Baez is in her seventies now; although she is still touring.  Fans who want to remember her at the height of her powers will enjoy this superb, respectful tribute from a young, talented Scottish folk singer.

Reviewed by David Kerr

#EdFringe2018 #EdFringe #IntoTheUnknown



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Ladysmith Black Mambazo

ladysmithThe Edinburgh Playhouse

18-22 Greenside Place

Running time: 2 hours

Best known for accompanying Paul Simon on his hugely successful 1986 album Graceland, this nine-man South African Zulu choir held their adoring fans in raptures with a moving range of haunting a capella harmonies expressing universal values and experiences.

As you would expect, one of the songs – Long Walk to Freedom – was a tribute to the late ANC leader Nelson Mandela. However, most of the songs are related to the mundane things of everyday life; to encourage a young man taking cold feet before his wedding to go ahead with it and another extolling the virtues of mothers-in-law.

One or two cultural differences did show up for the Edinburgh audience. The song Lovely Rain may go down well on the parched South African veldt and in the townships, but in Edinburgh? One thing Edinburgh has no shortage of in most years is rain. In fact a house less than a mile away was hit by lightning in a heavy thunderstorm the previous evening.

The choir members interact well with the crowd, gently taking the rise out of one-another and, just before the break, with the audience too. What’s astonishing is that the performers bring out this extraordinary range of harmonisation without any accompanying musical instruments. It’s all done with the human voice alone. Once you see and hear this you’ll never forget it!

***** Five Stars

Reviewed by David Kerr

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The Sorries


The Sorries

The kilted duo pose for the cameras.

The Sorries

Venue 40, Quaker Meeting House, Victoria Terrace


Lovers of the music of the legendary Scottish folk band, The Corries, will not be disappointed by this tribute act.  This well-matched duo, Martin Philip and Douglas Kay, run through a programme of Corries cover songs, traditional folk songs, original material, topical observations and witty banter.  At one part they even attempt to outdo one-another with virtuoso guitar riffs – duelling acoustic guitars.  Throw in an electric mandolin and a pair of bodhrans and these lads will demonstrate their crowd-pleasing talents.


It’s impossible to just sit still and listen to The Sorries. It will be all you can do to stop yourself taking to the floor and dancing a jig around the hall.  Don’t do it; just clap along, join the lads and the rest of the audience in belting out the odd chorus and have a real good time just like everyone else in the hall.


***** Five Stars

David Kerr

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This Land


This Land
The Story of Woody Guthrie


Zoo Southside

Woody Guthrie, the legendary American folk singer, was one of the principal musical figures of the early to middle part of the last century. His folk songs caught the mood of his generation with his tales of the great depression, the Oklahoma dustbowls, the war on Hitler’s Germany and the plight of workers and the downtrodden sectors of American society. He went on to influence Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger Phil Ochs and Bruce Springstein. Billy Bragg has recorded a British version of This Land, his best known song.

Punctuated with rumbustious renditions of some of Guthrie’s best known songs, This Land journeys through the highs and lows of his life; from his early days in the dustbowls of Oklahoma to his hospital bed where, by the time he met the young Bob Dylan, he was laid up with the final stages of Huntingdon’s Chorea.

Based on Guthrie’s own memoirs, the story is told by seven different Woodies, each one representing a different phase of his life. This inspirational play demonstrates the man’s dedication in the face of personal tragedy and debilitating life-limiting illness. It’s a perfect play from a perfect cast.

***** Five Stars

David Kerr

Some of the Woodies serenade the audience leaving the theatre; So long, it’s been good to know you…

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Revamped 1

Revamped 1 by Tim Bragg

This revamped compilation of songs comes from a number of previous albums that are no longer available, although listeners are rewarded with one new song, The Fighting’s Over, and a pleasant slow cover of the Thin Lizzy classic, The Boys are Back in Town.

Tim Bragg offers a number of memorable melodies and catchy guitar riffs, notably in the opening song, Rise Above It and in Of Doubts and God. This album explores love and loss, whether it’s looking for an elusive girl in a white dress or a dad’s pride in his son.  My Boy contrasts completely with Harry Chapin’s estranged son in the bittersweet The Cat’s in the Cradle.  This dad takes time out for walks by the river with his boy, perfect walks where he can take pride that his boy is growing into a man.

Not every song has to talk about love, however. Common Courage suggests something else is needed.

The re-release of Fields of England is timely, given the Con-Dem government’s recently announced scheme to wipe out planning laws in order to allow a property developer’s free-for-all. This would make an excellent soundtrack for a YouTube video protested at George Osborne’s scheme to bulldoze the fields of England into oblivion.

This album is permeated by a sense of spirituality, reminiscent of Van Morrison’s Avalon Sunset, especially in the track, Holy Spirit with its commendation of quiet meditation.  The catchy Heaven on Earth suggests that you can find heaven on earth, working the land. In Of Doubts and God though, Bragg declares with frank honesty that, ‘I’ve got doubts about everything’ and that ‘I don’t know anything about anything’.  This questioning attitude is the mark of true faith in which the Way is a Journey rather than ‘The Answer’ to everything. Like much of Bragg’s work, this song provokes deeper thought that is not dispelled by its infectious melody.

The production values on this album are high, given that it is self-published, but it’s a shame that no lyrics were included on the CD booklet. That’s only a minor criticism.  It’s superb. Let’s hope that we won’t have to wait too long for Revamped 2.

Available for download from or ITunes

The striking cover of Revamped 1.

Revamped 1 is available for download on for £7.49 or £0.89 per track or from ITunes for £7.99 or £0.79 per track. Find out more from tahbragg[at] if you want to buy a physical CD.

David Kerr

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Scottish Folk Roots and Offshoots

Scottish Roots and Offshoots

The Royal Oak Bar

Infirmary Street


SCOTLAND’S music has travelled all over the world; toAustralia,New Zealand,Canada, but most of all toAmerica.  Scots settled abroad for many reasons; poverty and religious or political persecution at home, or just in search of a new life.  Wherever they settled, they brought their music with them. That’s why one of the songs sung for generations in theAppalachian mountainsmentions the River Clyde.  It’s a folk memory.  Once there, the music met with other strains, mutated a bit and came back here.

This trend is epitomised by the Singer/Songwriter David Ferrard.  AnEdinburghlad himself, his mum is American, and he spent most of his summers as a young man over there, picking ups songs as he went along.

This comes out strongly in his routine which draws together songs from Robert Burns excoriating the politicians of his day as a Parcel of Rogues, romantic Jabobite songs dedicated to the Young Chevalier, Black American freedom songs from the slave era and some of his own composition.  Love songs, sad songs, rude songs and silly songs.  They’re all here.

Ferrard engages with his audience in an understated way that draws them out into singing choruses and participating in ‘hand-dancing’. More than half the audience had seen previous performances and come back for more. What better recommendation can a man have?

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Sagittarius – Songs From The Ivory Tower

Sagittarius – Songs From The Ivory Tower (Cold Spring Records)

SONGS From The Ivory Tower – has any album title ever more succinctly summed up the elitist and idealist aspirations of neo-folk and martial industrial music? Sagittarius is the solo project of German musician Cornelius Waldner, and Songs From The Ivory Tower is the band’s second album following 2003’s Die Große Marina, released as a limited edition vinyl LP by Renovation Verlag, and still available as a free download from the Sagittarius website and from Neo-Form magazine ( For the recording of Songs…, Cornelius Waldner has assembled a formidable array of guest musicians, including Marcel P. of Von Thronstahl, Halgadom etc., Herr Twiggs of Kammer Sieben, Damiano Mercuri of Rose Rovine E Amanti, Troy Southgate of H.E.R.R. and Seelenlicht, and Philipp Jonas of Secrets Of The Moon.

Songs… opens with a song in English, Nihil Arisen. Cornelius Waldner’s wistful piano finds an apt counterfoil in Philipp Jonas’ guitar, as Waldner intones the mournful lyrics in a clear, simple spoken recitative. The general effect is similar to Golgatha or some of Karsten Hamre’s (Penitent, Arcane Art) work. However, the song is marred by the words simply not fitting the rhythm of the music, which is a shame. Fortunately, nearly all of the album’s remaining tracks are either instrumentals or in German, so this problem doesn’t arise again. The following four songs form a sort of suite, all being based on poems by Timo Kölling, the former editor of the German black metal magazine Moondance and a member of Trist. All the lyrics are given in the album booklet, but without English translations, so you’re on your own there. Musically, the songs are dominated by neo-classical piano work. Marcel P. contributes cello to Du Stehst Am Alten Gartentor Und Schweigst and An Des Meeres Strand and An Des Meeres Strand features vocals by Herr Twiggs, who arguably has a deeper, richer voice than Waldner.

Later songs feature lyrics by other German poets, including Stefan George, Bernhard von Uxkull-Gyllenband, Gottfried Benn and Ludwig Uhland. Of these, the most famous is undoubtedly Stefan George, whose Das Lied is the seventh track on Songs…, with the vocals being handled by Marcel P. Cornelius Waldner contributes piano and flute, at least according to the album notes, but this doesn’t sound like a concert flute to me, more like a wooden flute or recorder.

The following song, Der Gute Kamerad has vocals by Troy Southgate. Now, those who have read my previous reviews of H.E.R.R. and Seelenlicht will know that I’m not the most ardent admirer of Troy Southgate’s vocal stylings, but here, he’s not half bad. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that this is the most enjoyable work I’ve heard so far from him – his voice suits the material, it melds well with Damiano Mercurio’s acoustic guitar, and overall it sounds quite a bit like Ian Read of Fire +Ice. A stately, formalist minuet by Johann Krieger follows, also with Damiano Mercurio on guitar and more of that mysterious flute.

The thirteenth song is Europa Calling, a cover version of the song originally recorded by Forthcoming Fire, but made famous by the several different renditions of it released by Josef K.’s subsequent band, Von Thronstahl. This song has become something of a neo-folk anthem, a rallying cry for the Children of the Black Sun to rival Death In June’s Runes And Men, and Sagittarius fully do it justice:

Don’t you hear Europa calling
For him who leads the children home…

(This song, incidentally, is not to be confused with the Sol Invictus song of the same name, which is also very fine, but is entirely unrelated.)

The album concludes with a bonus track, The Song, an English rendition of Das Lied, with Tory Southgate again handling the vocals, and again sounding good. Apart from my reservations about the opening track’s clunky lyrics, Songs From The Ivory Tower is an effortlessly pleasant listen, with many talented musicians playing real instruments, strong lyrics and beautiful neo-classical arrangements. Praise and plaudits to all involved – this is another quality release from Cold Spring fit to stand beside Von Thronstahl, Rose Rovine E Amanti and Werkraum at the more melodic end of the Cold Spring roster.

Reviewed by Simon Collins. Reprinted with acknowledgements to Judas Kiss web-zine.

Songs From The Ivory Tower by Sagittarius is available from:

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Edinburgh Fringe 2010: SCOTTISH FOLK ROOTS AND OFFSHOOTS   ****


23-30 August 18:30hrs
The Royal Oak, Infirmary Street    TICKETS

David Ferrard spent his youth travelling between Scotland and Pennsylvania where his mum comes form.  His music embraces both sides of the Atlantic.  He traces many of those songs that began in Scotland and set down roots in North America, particularly in the Appalachian Mountains. On most of this show, he accompanies himself on an acoustic guitar, but he holds his notes well enough to sing two ballads a capelo.

He learned one fine son from a 93-year-old lady who has since died..  Wistfully entitled, Oh, I wish I was Single again, the song contrasts the hopes and dreams of a courtship and a future marriage with the less pleasant realist.

Ferrard has a quiet engaging style that allows him to win over reluctant audiences, most of whom tend to sit well back in fear of being picked on to do something embarrassing.  In the space of an hour the international audience in the intimate venue were cheerfully joining in the choruses.

Much of the material, though sadly not Oh, I wish I was Single again, is on Ferrard’s new album, Across the Troubled Wave.  If you can‘t make the show do get hold of this CD.  You won’t be sorry.

**** four stars

The Royal Oak

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NEW MUSIC: Black Tartan Clan and Anglo-Saxon

Over the past month I have come across two albums by hitherto unknown bands: Anglo-Saxon and the Black Tartan Clan. One of the beauties of the internet is the ease with which unsigned bands are now able to showcase their work on websites like MySpace, Facebook and YouTube for anyone in the world to find.

The Black Tartan Clan take the ‘bagrock’ of the popular Red Hot Chilli Pipers a step further with their ‘Celtic Punk’ sound, a hard-edged foot-stomping fusion of pipes, drums bass guitar and pulsating punk rhythms.
Sounds terrific, you might think, so whereabouts in Scotland do these lads hail from? That’s the odd thing. The band was formed in 2008 in Belgium of all places! Despite this, they sing in English and have managed to gather a popular following in Scotland itself where they have played a few gigs in places as far apart as Kirkwall and Dumfries.
The Black Tartan Clan has followed its last album Boots, Kilts’n’Pipes with a superb 20-track double CD, The Loyal Men. On this album you’ll find the band’s take on such bagpipe standards as Highland Cathedral, The Hills of Argyll and Amazing Grace sitting along their own original songs and covers of some old punk hits from the days of my youth. Their version of Sham 69’s If the Kids are United will have you wanting to get up and dance till you drop.
Check out the band on MySpace where you can listen to a few sample tracks. They even have a couple of videos up on YouTube. Field Marshall Montgomery Pipe Band it ain’t but it is a lot of fun!

By contrast, Anglo-Saxon isn’t having quite so much fun. The band’s recent album Endangered Species brings together rock’n’roll, folk and metal styles to decry the state of modern England and make a passionate stand for what is right. Lead singer Gary Marsden had the unnerving experience of having his house raided by police because of a complaint made about one of the songs which, for good measure, is offered in both a live mix version and an unaccompanied acoustic versionon this album. This song criticised the 7/7 bombers and the attitudes that spawned them in the lyrics,
They took the passport and the Pound
but then they bombed the Underground
but they’ll never destroy the land of hope and glory

Two other songs, This is not a Crusade and Lest we Forget 7/7 explore similar themes. You might have thought that such sentiments are self-evidently true, and in the end no charges were bought against the songwriter. However, he has suffered for his art and for telling the truth as he saw it; he has lost his job and has had some difficulty getting another one.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s some nifty guitar work in this album Look out for the original song This Thing Called Rock’n’Roll and a fine version of the traditional folksong, Scarborough Fair. As is the case with the Black Tartan Band, you can also access Anglo-Saxon on MySpace and YouTube. This album and individual tracks can be downloaded on iTunes or you can get a physical CD from the band’s website.

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