Gentleman by Fela Kuti. A little different from my usual fare, but I just bloody love Fela Kuti. If you’re not sure after the first minute, just give it until 3:30 and tell me you don’t like it then.

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newportfolkfest:

Jimmy Cliff - Many Rivers To Cross.

This man is 65 years old.

Criminal by Kappy Arnold. Soft, gentle, easy, laid back, tender; so many adjectives all equally applicable to this jewel of a track. After a rough tough day this is exactly what you need; pour yourself a nice cup of tea and enjoy.

I have to say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of whispery vocals of the Julia Stone school, but Kappy Arnold is an absolute exception to that rule; her voice is delicate without being twee, and perfectly suited to the song. The music itself is familiar without being derivative, some gentle plucked acoustic guitar chords surrounded by electric bass and what could either be an accordion or a synth; but the standout is definitely Arnold’s subtle yet affecting vocals. I really, really like this song, and I’d highly recommend giving the rest of the EP a listen.

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Biting Your Tail by Iron & Wine. Sod it, have another Iron & Wine song. If somewhere offered a PhD in Iron & Wine, I’d sign up the second it was announced. Just a hint: avoid any live versions of this with the band, really nowhere near as good as this. Mind you, few things are as good as this.

See my look at Our Endless Numbered Days here.

Two Hungry Blackbirds by Iron & Wine. Ignore if you can the irritating fire noise that’s been added by the uploader. This is the best version I’ve yet heard of Two Hungry Blackbirds, as far as I can tell recorded live at The Triple Door in Seattle, back in 2009. If you can get your hands on a bootleg recording of the show it’s pure gold, but I’m afraid I have no idea how to track one down.

See my look at Our Endless Numbered Days here.

Hymn #101 by Joe Pug. Video’s not brilliant, song is honestly one of the best I’ve ever heard. Pug is the best lyricist around, in my opinion.

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I’m On Fire by Town Mountain. What’s that you say? Give me a bluegrass cover of a Bruce Springsteen song? Well OK, I guess…

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Seasons by Fox Glove. I am not normally a fan of the ukulele, I much prefer the mandolin for a higher string sound, but on this track it actually works well. Whilst the mandolin hints at a folksy dog-on-a-string leather hat feel, the ukulele is much brighter, chirpier, dare I say it poppier; perfectly suited for this track. The tambourine, the electric bass perfectly in time with the kick drum, the glockenspiel half way through; everything about the instruments suggest the kind of happy hippy pop music that the song absolutely delivers on.

When I write these reviews, I listen to the song about five or six times to catch every recorded nuance and detail. Normally the song starts to get a bit old and I want to move on, but with Seasons I just wanted to listen again and again and again. It’s only just 3 minutes long, so as it winds down to the finale you feel as though you haven’t quite had your fill and head straight back to the beginning to listen again. It’s a wonderful, wonderful song, and the whole EP is equally well written, recorded and made.

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Lady Eve by Pop & Obachan. Some real lo-fi stuff here, just two voices and two instruments. Lo-fi recordings are very tricky to master, often by foregoing production value songs lose their structure and fall apart, but this is a great example of how to do it absolutely correctly. It was recorded on a 4-track tape recorder, and you can hear the analogue warmth in the track, even through this cold digital version.

For me the best songs don’t try to do anything outlandish musically, but instead evoke an emotion through the melding of melody, lyrics and chords, and this is a prime example of such a song; no new ground is being broken, but wonderful, wistful, warmly melancholic emotions are expertly expressed and explored. This is fantastic music.

Bandcamp

Williamstown, MA by Dogs On Main Street. He plucks out the chords on his guitar whilst rasping out the words, the loose production only adding to the emotion and appeal of the song. This is folk music drenched in Americana, from the wild wail of the harmonica to the thick drawl of the vocals: everything about it is all that’s good about American folk music. The melody mirrored between the guitar and the vocals will stick in your head all day, it’s exactly the kind of thing that’ll have you reaching for your own guitar to strum out.

Dogs On Main Street have just released Reckoning, their new album, which you can buy on Bandcamp.

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Leader of Men by Stephen Simmons. There’s something intensely appealing about a the music of guitar, a double bass and a fiddle as a trio, something that hints at the great tradition of country and western singer-songwriters but owes more to the neo-folk movements of the 60s and of recent years. However the lyrics are firmly in the old folk tradition, telling the story of a young orphan raised by his uncle’s family. This juxtaposition of two traditions works very well; the melody has none of the rough edges of so many old folk songs, whilst the lyrics actually say something, unlike so many other songs.

Stephen Simmons has just released What The Midnight Swallows Whole, a setting to music of the lyrics of Jeff Wickland, and it’s available now on Bandcamp.

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Send me your music!

Want a free review? Hankering after a few more listeners? Just want to get your music out there? Send it to me! I’ll be happy to give anything a listen, and I’ll be sure to post a review of anything I like. If you’re nervous or shy, don’t be! I can guarantee it won’t be anywhere near as bad as some of the tripe I wade through for the songs I post here.

So tell your friends, tell your family, tell your teachers, tell your students, tell the bus driver, tell everyone you know who records music: I’ll give you a free review, and if I like it then I’ll give you a post you can share.

Click the link on the top of the page that says “Send Me Your Music” and get in touch!