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Well here it is at last - the full (almost!) record of the famous November 1967 show at LA's then-newly-opened Anaheim Convention Center. Expanded from its original heavily-edited single LP to a glorious double CD, freshly remastered from the original 4-track tape source and sounding suitably immediate and full of presence. This hippy-trippy era was for many Donovan fans the acme of his creativity, coming between the epic, if mildly pretentious gentility of A Gift From A Flower To A Garden and the harder edges of Hurdy Gurdy Man; to many listeners, though, it grated with superficial sentiment and unbelievable naivety. I've always inclined more toward the former, while not managing to be entirely convinced by several of the songs written during that time. So Donovan's concert repertoire as portrayed here will necessarily alternate between the beauteous, poetic offerings and the trendy fripperies. The concert starts inauspiciously, with a cringeworthy intro from MC Rhett Walker, but settles in nicely with a relaxed Isle Of Islay. Young Girl Blues, which follows, provides the first of several opportunities for Donovan's accompanists to shine (Harold McNair turns in some superlative flute and sax work throughout the concert, notably on the punchy 9-minute workout on Preachin' Love that ends the first set). Taken as a whole, that first set's a bit wayward and inconsistent, with high-points like Epistle To Derroll and Widow With Shawl balanced by throwaways and disappointments (Sunny Goodge Street, There Is A Mountain). The second set follows a disappointingly lacklustre Sand And Foam with a really nice sequence that starts with Donovan augmented by the "Flower Quartet" for Hampstead Incident and spare, simple, intimate voice-and-guitar renditions of To Try For The Sun, Someone Singing and the then-newly-written Pebble And The Man (Happiness Runs), a pretty little song which always reminded me of the incredible String Band! Then it's back to childlike fables from whimsical fantasy-land with the charming Tinker And The Crab before the concert is allowed to disintegrate in terms of musical interest, with the singalong Rules And Regulations and Mellow Yellow making for a tediously blowsy and all-too-predictable finale complete with cabaret-style flourishes (thankfully faded at that point!). Tagged on at the end of which is the last half only of Catch The Wind, its frustrating incompleteness excused by what the all-too-brief liner note describes as a "machine problem"; it's a pity the notes don't tell us where this excerpt should be placed within the overall set-list... But whatever, it's still good to have the entire concert recording available now; it was clearly an occasion, very much of its time, and the sense of gentle, relaxed atmosphere is wonderful when the musical and lyrical invention is at its highest - so you can forgive (and skip!) the sillier and more embarrassing moments.

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Born in Massachusetts but sounding like she has the Deep South in her veins and vocal chords, 32 year old McKenna manages to fit a music career around raising four kids. Looking to find a part of life she could call her own, she began singing round the kitchen, graduating to parties and family get togethers before braving non partisan crowds in the local folk clubs. Audiences took to her songs about the highs and lows of family life and 1998 saw the release of her own label debut Paper Wings & Halo. Gathering a growing reputation on the New England singer-songwriter scene, three years later saw the arrival of this, her more widely distributed sophomore album.With a nasal and adenoids twang reminiscent of Nanci Griffith with a touch of Alison Krauss, she sets the musical flavour and thematic concerns with the opening track, a ringing acoustic guitar folk country Mars, a song about her young son's dreams of flying to the planet that also sketches a portrait of comfortable domesticity with its image of the hole in the couch. With guests who include Richard Shindell and Jennifer Kimball on backing vocals and encompassing the blues and rockinto her folk weave, she proceeds to sing of family, love, faith, life and death with an affecting open honesty. Never Die Young is dedicated to her mother who passed away when McKenna was just six, God Will Thank You is a song of everyday faith from the perspective of someone who should have died as a child, Pieces of Me, This Fire, the wonderful Fireflies and the simple voice and piano Deserving Song all mingling self-doubt and disappointment with a determination to survive in herown skin. And, just to show she sees a world beyond her house and home, she pours on the vocal bite and some reverb electric guitar for Pink Sweater, a song dedicated to James Byrd, a black man dragged to death at the back of a truck by Texan bigots.We're a bit late catching up over here and McKenna already has a third album, The Kitchen Tapes, 10 songs recorded on mini-disc at her kitchen table, in the wings, but with the recent reissue of Paper Wings & Halo featuring extra tracks this seems a good time to start.Mike Davies The Paul McKenna Band - Between Two Worlds (Greentrax) The Paul McKenna Band is a fresh-sounding young outfit that has been in existence for three or four years now but only now has got round to releasing its debut CD, which no doubt will capitalise on its growing reputation and sparkling, engaging live act. In addition to singer/songwriter/guitarist Paul himself, the band consists of recent BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award finalist Ruairidh Macmillan (fiddle), Seán Gray (flute/whistle), David McNee (bouzouki) and Ewan Baird (bodhrán), and their trademark sound, robust and lively but not without its gentler overtones, is built around the simple yet warm combination of flute/whistle and fiddle sharing melody lines underpinned by driving guitar, bouzouki and bodhrán rhythms.The disc's two instrumental sets build up a fine head of steam without toppling over into manic mode. However, since the majority of the band's repertoire is song-based, it's doubly fortunate that Paul himself is a singer of no mean stature, with a clear-toned, hauntingly expressive voice that dovetails extremely well with the instrumental lines, both on his own compositions or on traditional material (much of the latter, ingeniously, being set to Paul's own melodies). I'll admit that on early playthroughs I found the aforementioned "trademark sound" a little too unvaried over the course of a whole album, with proven arrangements consistently applied throughout; at first, the band arguably scores more highly on the variety within the material. Paul's own songs are pleasing and well-put-together, and while not always in the very top bracket as regards memorability they're a harbinger of forthcoming potential. The title track reflects its name, straddling the contemporary and traditional worlds as regards the band's approach to writing and performing, while Daylight is an attractive, considered reflection on life and the slightly enigmatic Dancing In The Dark has some of the pensive quality we associate with Dougie MacLean.Generally, the covers are sensibly chosen to match Paul's vocal strengths, although he tends sometimes to steer too accessible a middle course, allowing the rhythmic element to influence his phrasing rather than necessarily trusting his own response: the result being a certain degree of homogeneity between individual songs, an impression of over-similarity that doesn't always fade with closer acquaintance with the internal subtleties of the settings. Minor points, however, when set against the promising nature of this debut release from this vibrant band.David Kidman July 2009 Fiona J. Mackenzie - Good Suit Of Clothes (Greentrax)

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The Paul McKenna Band is a fresh-sounding young outfit that has been in existence for three or four years now but only now has got round to releasing its debut CD, which no doubt will capitalise on its growing reputation and sparkling, engaging live act. In addition to singer/songwriter/guitarist Paul himself, the band consists of recent BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award finalist Ruairidh Macmillan (fiddle), Seán Gray (flute/whistle), David McNee (bouzouki) and Ewan Baird (bodhrán), and their trademark sound, robust and lively but not without its gentler overtones, is built around the simple yet warm combination of flute/whistle and fiddle sharing melody lines underpinned by driving guitar, bouzouki and bodhrán rhythms.

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After 70 minutes the nasal whine and false starts begins to wear a bit thin, but before then there's plenty of acoustic wit and whimsy to keep you engaged as songs like and serve up his quirky off the cuff views on the world. And anyway, how can you reist someone who comes up with painfully rhymed lines like '' Mike DaviesWilly Mason - If The Ocean Gets Rough (Virgin)Two years back his outstanding debut album, Where The Humans Eat, announced the Martha's Vineyards native as one of the finest new singer-songwriters on the roots folk scene, his dust croaked world seasoned voice conjuring comparisons to Guy Clarke, Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash and Bruce Cockburn and earning him the inevitable new Dylan tag.The same reference points echo throughout the follow-up, an equally strong but more polished collection of sparely arranged strongly melodic acoustic songs drawn from personal experiences, family relationships, political views and tales of broken lives and America's mainstream rednecks.The opening Gotta Keep Walking leans towards those Cockburn colours while The World That I Wanted, an affecting song about his alcoholic, neglectful late father, shows the Clarke touches. Interestingly, the influence of Eric Clapton also surfaces here, notably on the folk bluesy We Can Be Strong and the gentle, plucked strings I Can't Sleep while you might find yourself humming Fleetwood Mac's Dreams as the title track wafts out of the speakers.But the album's more than a list of comparisons. Listen to Save Myself, a jaunty little number that reveals itself as a cutting comment about Bush's domestic policies that serves as a thematic companion piece to the last album's Oxygen. Or then again try the slow, mournful blues of the magnificent Simple Town with its ambivalent examination of small town life or the Oh Brother gospel flavours of When The River Moves On and the hobo rolling train chugging The End of the Race. Arguably, he leaves the best to last with the slow building, guitar thrumming, piano based, tom tom climaxing When The Leaves Have A Fallen, a melancholic hymn about the destruction of nature and its apocalyptic implications. Both downcast realist and hopeful romantic, Mason forges a sad beauty that will flow through your yearning hearts for months. Mike Davies May 2007Anna Massie, Jenn Butterworth and Mairearad Green - The Missing Gift (Footstompin')Anna released her first album for Footstompin', Glad Company, soon after winning the Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Of The Year award in 2003; that CD was praised for its vibrancy and accomplishment, and seemed a hard act to follow. But now, after three further years of award nominations and an ever-busy schedule of concert and festival appearances, yes it's happened! For, once again in tandem with her regular "band" - guitarist Jenn Butterworth and accordionist/piper Mairearad Green - multi-instrumentalist Anna (equally skilled - ie pretty outstanding! - on both fiddle and guitars, though she also plays mandolin and banjo here) has come up with an even more sparkling disc, which (partly, but not wholly, due to the skill of producer Donald Shaw) has an immediate, exciting and entirely winning almost-as-live feel to the music-making. And, though you wouldn't necessarily guess it, the majority of tunes that Anna and her cohorts play are not actually traditional in origin, but composed by Anna herself (17 out of the 28). The ensemble playing is brilliantly empathic, slick and highly together, with fun and energy being high in the mix (and spilling right on over into the booklet-notes too!). It matters not that the pace is predominantly at the faster end of the spectrum, for there's no sense of rushing or skating over the surface, just a refreshing breeze blowing across the musical landscape (The Blue Angel jigs are most invigorating). Moments of relative repose are provided by the relatively sedate waltz Maggie West's (composed and led by Mairearad) and the delicate The Silver Darlings (a tune dedicated to Anna's parents), both lyrical and keenly polished contrasting jewels. Mairearad's piping skills come to the fore on the sprightly We're A Case set and a nicely poised version of Hard Times (one of only two vocal tracks on the album, the other being a rendition of Si Kahn's What You Do With What You've Got – both all well and good, but arguably not quite as inspired as the instrumental cuts). The disc closes with all due style and panache with a pair of sets which, while utilising the trio's standard fiddle/guitar/accordion complement, almost bring the house down. A grand little record we have here.David Kidman October 2007Anna Massie - Glad Company (Footstompin' Records)

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Eileen's an Irish Canadian singer, songwriter and a skilled interpreter of traditional song, now based out on Vancouver Island, but she visits these shores every couple of years or so, makes a great impression through her live appearances yet inexplicably still has yet to attain much of a "name" profile in this country, despite having aided and abetted Les Barker on numerous recent occasions! Her all-traditional album was a highlight of 1997, and must be considered its true follow-up, though it's been a long time in coming! Eileen here returns to the pattern set by her earlier album , for this time round only four out of the twelve tracks contain either words or music that are traditional, the remainder being Eileen's own compositions (aside from the lovely , which comes from the pen of Eileen's good friend Aileen Vance). Eileen's musical idiom has been accurately described as "Celtic-influenced Canadian folksong"; it's generally mellow and accessible, but not lacking in intensity, for Eileen's a really fine singer with one of those gently soaring voices to die for! Eileen's a committed environmentalist, but she doesn't ram that commitment down your earpiece; instead, her songs are genuinely beautiful creations, replete with comforting, positive philosophy; though they're easy on the ear with attractive melodies, this doesn't mean that they're safe and unchallenging, for her compassion and social conscience inform her performance style and give it considerable power and internal strength. There's no lack of bite in Eileen's writing either - her commentary on global economy, is strong stuff indeed. Her talent for painting pictures and telling stories is enhanced greatly by her choice of supporting musicians - here again, principally "David K" (no relation!) on guitars, bouzouki and bass. The depth and breadth of Eileen's concerns enable a sensible variety in subject-matter too, and she even finds room for a simple love song (), set to an infectious two-step rhythm, from which point the album just gets better and better, the final trio (the haunting, entrancing Water , the dramatic ballad and the plaintive unaccompanied closer ) providing outstanding and inspiring listening. "Oh what could be more beautiful", indeed David KidmanVarious Artists - Sing Me The Songs: Celebrating The Works of Kate McGarrigle (Nonesuch)Beloved singer Kate, younger sister of Anna and mother of Rufus and Martha Wainwright, died tragically of cancer in the first month of 2010. The prospect of a celebration-cum-tribute album for this utterly irreplaceable lady probably engenders mixed feelings, but this is something quite special and different, for it has the extra ring of closest authenticity, being a live set recorded during a series of in-memoriam concerts featuring Kate's family members and assorted musician friends. Clearly, these concerts were chokingly intense occasions and a good number of the performances immediately bring the tears welling up. Perhaps no more so than on the final item of disc one, a recording of Kate herself singing Proserpina at what I believe was her final appearance on stage. Other heartbreakingly touching moments include Martha Wainwright's achingly tender interpretation of Matapedia, Antony's show-stoppingly intense rendition of Go Leave, and – inevitably – Heart Like A Wheel, here with Anna sharing the load with Emmylou Harris. Also, to hear Rufus singing the song Kate wrote about him, First Born, in tandem with Martha, makes for another immensely powerful and cherishable experience. The vast majority of the songs associated with Kate are included on this set (aside perhaps for Goin' Back To Harlan); Norah Jones gives a fine account of (Talk To Me Of) Mendocino, Jenni Muldaur (whose mother Maria first covered The Work Song in '73) does a great job on Come Back Baby, Emmylou naturally includes Darlin' Kate and duets with Norah on As Fast As My Feet Can Carry Me. Anna's revisit of Jacques Et Gilles is equally charming, and Martha demonstrates the influence of her mother's legacy on All The Way To San Francisco.Some listeners may find Rufus' distinctive vocal style a tad mannered and torchy for the material, but he doesn't let the side down with his emotive renditions of Southern Boys and Oliver, and he captures the right mood for I Eat Dinner, performed as a duet with Emmylou, and I Am A Diamond (a duet with Martha). Go Leave turns up in a second version: a completely different reading to Antony's but still an almost unbearably emotional affair, which unexpectedly brings back together on stage Richard & Linda Thompson (guitar and vocal respectively), while Tell My Sister is given two contrasted readings, by Martha W and guest Peggy Seeger (with piano) respectively. Fittingly, the second disc closes with another of Kate's own performances, a home demo of I Just Want To Make It Last, her Meaning Of Life moment. No matter that some of the ensemble items like Kiss And Say Goodbye are a touch ramshackly upholstered, nay shambolic even, but this conveys something of the spirit of the McGarrigle family concerts after all and will be judged a part of the appeal of such occasions. This is a set you can love over and over, too. Net profits from its sale will be donated to the Kate McGarrigle Foundation (a non-profit organisation dedicated to raising money in the fight against sarcoma and also to preserving her legacy through the arts). David Kidman August 2013 Kate & Anna McGarrigle - Tell My Sister (Nonesuch)

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I don't know what they sound like originally - though references points have embraced both Tori Amos, Peter Gabriel, Edie Brickell, Joni and inevitably Bush - but here their torchy, late night smoky sultriness certainly grabs the attention with Dunn sounding like some seducing angel, Jane Siberry with the sensual heat turned up. The performances tends to stick around the same mood, which does tend to mean there's not that much variety of tempo and with songs stretching out from between five to eight minutes you do have to get into the groove to really appreciate the textures. But given the quality of the writing and the playing on things like the biting commentary of History, the forlorn Valley Of Tears which addresses an artist's loss of creativity, the upbeat Be Yours and the moody voyage of discovery and life experience that is Lucky, it's well worth turning down the lights, stretching back and letting her flow through you.
Mike Davies Duotone - Work Harder And One Day You'll Find Her (Garrett Brown Music) Cellist Barney Morse-Brown, currently working (and touring) with the Imagined Village project and Chris Wood's Handmade Life band, has a musical life of his own too! This eight-track solo album presents a self-contained suite of mellow, melancholy and tremendously evocative songs that were inspired by - and are dedicated to the memory of - Barney's late partner and musical collaborator Kate Garrett.Here Barney has constructed a direct, honest, thoughtful and very powerful musical experience, his own cello, guitar and vocal supplemented on occasion by just a smidgen of pedal steel (the incomparable B.J. Cole, notably on Work Harder) or percussion (James Garrett), with Rob Harbron lending his expertise to the production duties. Barney's own creative cello playing is both lyrical and fulsome, and together with some sensitively fingerpicked guitar weaves a haunting tapestry of sound with a strongly individual identity that's real hard to forget.Barney's lyrics are sad, sure, but they're also kind-of uplifting, in a come-to-terms-kind-of-sadness way rather than a self-pitying one, with not a trace of hackneyed sentimentality. The memories Barney evokes are personal, clearly focused and deeply telling, intimate but not exclusive, with many succinct phrases that are destined to haunt the listener as much as the rich, rippling textures of the music into the fabric of which those lyrical patterns are so deftly woven. Barney's singing is equally directly focused, while remaining dreamily persuasive: a combination of vocal qualities he shares with Syd Barrett and Brian Eno in particular – and there are times when he's a dead ringer for either or both, albeit not in any copycat way. There are also hints of the gentler John Cale, Nick Drake or even Kevin Ayers in his phrasing, but it's not worth making too much of those comparisons when Barney's music is so distinctive in its own right. It's hard to categorise: not exactly folk (more like the late-60s/early-70s folk-baroque or acid-folk in many respects but markedly less elusive lyrically), and not exactly standard s/s fare; it embodies the crystalline perfection of good chamber music, albeit without the more formal structurings that tag implies, and yet there's a roundness of the total aural picture that removes it from the more esoteric or rarefied song-cycle concept model.Barney's well-articulated voice copes well with the variety of expressive and emotional levels he needs to conjure during the course of the suite, from the meditative House In Keremma to the delicately sing-song Golden Hair Saved My Life (echoing the James Joyce paraphrase from Syd's solo œuvre), the reflective Nick Drake mode of In The Evening and the charming You Don't Need Church to the desperation of Pray For Me. And one ingeniously looped instrumental piece, Finally Unwoven, unravels delicately as an interlude near the end of the sequence.All in all, this is a disarmingly memorable disc whose contents fix themselves in the mind and stay there for a very long time - in which respect it could be described as genuinely timeless.David Kidman June 2010The Durbervilles - Alternative Route To All Destinations (Splid)