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folk

Sonja Kristina, Anthology, 2017

SONJA-KRISTINA anthologyThis double Anthology disc from Sonja Kristina, of Curved Air fame, features a collection of her solo work and rare and newly recorded exclusive tracks. It also features custom cover art and her personal liner notes. Makes sense because she personally picked the songs. Or as she puts it; “these are my reveries on life and love through the decades”. Decades? Yes, after topping the British Music female vocalist polls throughout the seventies and being the first woman fronting a rock band, she is still vibrant and edgy today. And catching the spotlight whenever she performs live.

The 21 songs on the discs are proof of a lady willing to experiment (no wonder after being in a prog band for 50 years), but also does not shy away from delivering intimate songs. And everything in between. So the variety on the album is enormous. From folk, singer songwriter, to pop, Beatlesque pop rock and so on. All held together by her voice and a feel for melodies that are able to seduce you.
I guess it is safe to say there is something for everyone here. For the casual listener, as well as the more demanding aficionado. Not sure this collection will find its way to all who would enjoy it. Alas so many today are so unaware of all the real music that is available…

I very much enjoyed listening to the album and hit repeat several times. That ought to tell you something!

Website

Alan Simon, Songwriter, 2017

alan simon - songwriterIt never seizes to amaze me how much there is to learn about all the music out there. Here I was thinking I had never heard of Alan Simon before, and then it turns out he has been involved in a wealth of albums, rock operas and soundtracks! So maybe you know about the Excalibur releases? I didn’t to be honest, but if this compilation is anything to go by, the man is a songwriter indeed. And in capitals! No wonder he can have people from for instance Supertramp, Midnight Oil, Fairport Convention on board, as well as guests like Alan Parsons, Martin Barre, John Wetton and Justin Hayward, to name a few.

This 40 track double CD is divided in a world & symphonic side and a “British” side. For me, CD 1 is filled to the brim with wonderful music. Indeed a lot of folky melodies and instruments, as well as more classical sounding pieces. But all done with a great sense of atmosphere and emotion. Melancholy runs strong throughout the songs, but that makes it easy to connect. The second CD is more pop and rock oriented I guess. But the quality and melodies remain. All released between 1995 and 2017, but sounding fresh and vibrant.
Lots of details, perfectly produced and very varied. Rich in ideas and textures, with a plethora of different instruments, it is a pleasure the keep hitting the play button.

Very impressed by the wonderful collection of material and a trigger to go dig in his back catalogue, I have been missing out! And since Excalibur IV has just been released, again with an impressive cast, I get another chance of finding out more…

Website

Guy Paul Thibault, It’s About Time, 2017

guy paul thibault - its about timeFor reasons not disclosed in the press sheet, Guy Paul Thibault has been absent of releasing new music for 17 years. Back in the day he released 5 successful albums, so that makes It’s About Time (duh!) #6. The 10 songs are written, recorded and performed by Thibault, with guest appearances from Shawn Cherry (drums) and David Bradshaw (violin and mandolin).

Opener Here She Comes is a contemporary folk song. Great acoustic guitar and a light footed feel that is easy to catch on to. Misdemeanor is a catchy pop rock tune that will please both the casual listener as well as, well people like me :). Songs like Hills, Tallest Man On Earth, Stay (For Riley) or Saturday Night show a mature writer at work, able to add depth to his songs. And songs like We Just Don’t Care or Saving Grace just plain rock. And then there is still a ballad and a singer/songwriter track. So yes diverse, but all held together by the confident delivery of the man’s voice.

Despite not being familiar with older work, I think that Guy Paul qualifies as an experienced musician who delivers well crafted songs that will appeal to many music lovers. So personally I hope that the next set of songs will not take another 17 years to surface.

Website

Michael Malarkey – Mongrels, 2017

michael malarkey - mongrelsAccording to the press sheet Michael Malarkey is an actor, known from The Vampire Diaries. But since I hardly watch TV, I must say I wouldn’t know. So I guess the good thing about that is, being able to listen to this without any prejudice.

First thing I noticed about the album that it is pretty eclectic. Site regulars will probably understand that this counts for bonus points in my book. Second thing is that I think Malarkey can really sing. His dark and fairly low voice has presence and grabs you while delivering his lines. And last but not least; he writes quality songs too and lights them with thoughtful lyrics! And as a bonus; this is a musician not afraid to keep it sparse. Because when all you need to get the massage across is a guitar and a voice, there really is no need to expand in the arrangement.
Don’t worry though, variety is key on the album. Clearly a lot of thought went into the dressing up of the songs on the album. But all songs create an impact. Be it because of the vocal delivery, the sometimes chilling contributions on violin, or because the whole of the instruments just reaches out to touch you.

So the title might refer to a bastard dog, this is far from whimsical. Very moody and beautiful. Music that a lot of people will like if they take the time to soak it in. If you do; make sure to hear Uncomfortably Numb and the title track. Or even better, listen to it as a whole.

Website

Lost Lakes, Self Titled, 2016

Lost-LakesAlas I cannot remember for the life of me how I got this. And unfortunately I did not receive any info with it either. So with the help of internet I have found Lost Lakes to be a four piece band. Central is the collaboration between Corey Mathew Hart and Paul Mitch, who met at a songwriting competition and just clicked. The style is described as pop infused folk rock, which I believe to be pretty accurate.

So in general this is a lot more mellow as most of the stuff I have been listening to off late. But that takes nothing away from it feeling authentic and heartfelt. The 12 songs all clock around 3 minutes and sometimes even have a hint of Country, or Americana if you will. All arranged with the song in mind, so no room for musical indulgence. Lots of vocals and melodies that want your attention.
So while this isn’t something I would usually pick up, I must confess that it is no punishment to listen to the album. At all! No, it is very well done and sounds honest and pure. In a time where fake music seems the standard, this is something to applaud.

All songs are of the same calibre so if you have a listen and still like it after Digital Tears and slight personal favourite Can’t It Wait, just buy it. Very enjoyable.

Website

17 Pygmies, Isabel II, Abaddon Rising, 2015

17 pygmies - isabel iiActually the picture on the left does not do justice to the packaging of this album. By now I would say “as usual” 17 pygmies spared no expense when it comes to wrapping their albums. Housed in a transparent little envelope comes a 26 page booklet, containing the essay Jackson Del Rey wrote about the story, a wrapper for the CD (beautiful) and a wrapper for the whole of it (pictured left), with the Fibonacci sequence on it (not visible here) if I am not mistaken. All very beautiful and probably costly.

And all that beauty is perhaps needed to match the music. Because beautiful is a word that pops up in my mind on a regular base while listening to this. The 10 tracks are Isabel XII to Isabel XXI, a logical continuation of the previous album. The opening track with the vocals of Meg Maryatt sets the tone. It may be mellow, but the tension building here is really great, very good start of the album and what we are to expect. Some of the songs are instrumental. Sometimes with a beat or percussion guiding the track along. Various instruments are used to help build the atmosphere needed. Especially the acoustic guitars and various violins prove helpful. The music is described as a mix of prog, classical and folk and that is a tag I understand. But for me this is a lovely album that anyone with ears and a heart will enjoy. So please give it a chance!

Website or Facebook

Gabrielle Papillon, The Tempest Of Old, 2015

gabrielle papillon - the tempest of oldTime for something different! A yet unknown name, at least to me, Gabrielle Papillon is a singer whose music comes across as a mixture of country, folk and a bit of pop and rock. Emphasis is on melody and the arrangements succeed in highlighting the emotionally charged delivery of Gabrielle. These arrangements are done very well. Sometimes sparse, but with authentic sounds like violin, banjo, distorted guitars and percussion. In combination with vocal melodies that always seem to be hitting the right spot, this makes for a winning combination.

Opening track Got You Well proves the point, your attention is grabbed right away, and even the chants feel at home in this beautiful song. With Our Trouble has a distinct country feel because of the guitars (and later with the added banjo) and again the melody is just right. The whole of the album feels real and true. I am sure that if she would be singing in front of you, with only an acoustic guitar to accompany her, we would all be in awe. Her passion will take care of that.

So even if this is not music I listen to regularly, I am loving what I hear here. Pure and honest, songs with content, all done really well. Make sure you go check this out.

Website

Tim Young, Life Of A Song, 2015

tim young - live life of a songThe Tim Young Band had a feature here back in the early days of the blog, and last year Tim Young decided to try a different route. You know that saying that a good song will show itself, even if only singing it at home, playing a guitar? Well, that is kinda what Tim did. And presuming the saying is true, he is delivering good songs!

Actually the whole Life Of A Song cycle is made up of 5 EP’s with 4 or 5 songs each. See them them pictured on the side. With a total of 22 songs, this procedure makes sense. As a whole it is quite a lot to listen to. But when divided into 5 bits, each of them is easy to handle. Not really good with referencing this, but I guess somewhere between Johnny Cash, Neil Young and a dash of Elvis comes close. Mind you, all is recorded live in a studio with Tim’s voice, his guitar and occasional some effects on that guitar. That is it. So it all comes down to mood and lyrics and I think he pulled it off. As the EP’s progress, his singing seems to become more confident and despite the minimalistic approach it is easy to connect. Sometimes a voice and a guitar is all you need!

So there you go, maybe not for all day every day, but enough fine moments to enjoy when the company is good! The CD’s can be found at CDBaby and iTunes by the way.

Website

Franka De Mille, Bridge the Road, 2013

Franka De Mille - Bridge The RoadsBetween all the busy things happening here (I do not make a living writing these after all) I have been kicking things back with the album Bridge the Roads by Franka De Mille. And it really brought me some much needed peace of mind. So the right album for the occasion!

Personally I had never heard of her before, but as it turns out, she is making quite a name for herself lately. After all, not that many independents get selected for an industry campaign (Why Music Matters from the British Phonographic Industry, alongside names like Nina Simone, the Beatles, Kate Bush, etc.) and as a consequence she is now signed to the Chi Wara label.

As you might have guessed it is quite a contradictory album compared to the ones on offer on these pages off late. What I really like about it is the focus on the voice of Franka. Instrumentation is sparse and leaves a lot of room for the instruments that are used. And not the most obvious ones either. Think violin, cello, accordion, mandolin, or flute, besides piano, guitar and drums. The atmosphere is immense because of that. Every detail is crystal clear and no matter what you are listening to, it has impact. So in a time where we are often bombarded with sound, this is a wonderful and intimate album. Maybe not for every occasion, as this deserves your undivided attention, but a very welcome addition to any collection. Reminded me a bit of the also damn fine Patti Witten albums discussed earlier. Don´t let the folk tag deceive you, to me this is universal music that will appeal to a lot of people!

Website

Reincarnatus, New Life, 2012

reincarnatus - new lifeA new year, a new Reincarnatus album, a New Life and a new wardrobe for the ladies (or so I have heard)… If you read my post about the first Reincarnatus album, you will remember I was quite fond of the musical quality on offer. The combination of medieval instruments like hurdy gurdy, key-fiddle, recorder etc. with a modern rock ensemble of drums, bass, guitars and keyboards just works.

On this record they updated their sound a little without straying too far from the folk and classical infused pop rock they delivered earlier. Maybe a little more guitars and keyboards, but still focussing on (vocal) melodies. No need to repeat the technical abilities of this full female band, they have proven to be professional musicians on every level.

Opening with the very strong couple of Festival Day and Orléans I am immediately caught by the catchy grooves. Ideal single candidates the both of them. But them comes Als Cathars. The Gregorian sounding choir sends shivers down my spine and I think this is one of the best songs on the album. If I recall correct, they already played it last year. The combination of the choir and the band is simple awesome and in itself a reason to buy this album. Yes it is that good!

Another good development is that more of the members bring in songs. I am sure that is another reason the bar is raised as it gives them more material to choose from. They also do a convincing cover of Anastacia’s Left Outside Alone, which fits seamlessly because of the Reincarnatus treatment. Another step forwards and a joy from beginning to end. Support them as I am sure that open minded rockers will dig this as well. (There are guitar solos on board…)

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