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Album Reviews Folk round-up: November 2018

STEVE JOHNSON reviews the latest releases from Eddi Reader, George Duff, and Kelly Oliver

Eddi Reader
Cavalier
(Reveal Records)
★★★★

EDDI READER is currently celebrating her 40th anniversary of performing live, initially with folk-rock group Fairground Attraction and then as a successful solo artist. Cavalier, consisting of 16 contemporary and traditional songs, is a fitting tribute to her talent

Although now a regular at folk festivals, the album shows that it's hard to pigeon-hole Reader. It starts with traditional folk song Maiden's Lament and that theme continues with songs like Meg of the Glen.

But there's a more jazzy feel on tracks like Starlight and her own composition Go Wisely is a joyous song of advice for children as they depart the nest.

Back to her Scottish folk roots, Reader ends the album with a fine rendition of Robert Burns's A Man’s A Man For All That, whose inspirational lyrics are a perfect way to round off such an impressive collection of songs.

George Duff
The Collier Laddie
(Birnam)
★★★★★

LONG regarded as one of Scotland's great interpreters of traditional folk song, George Duff has never previously released a solo album. Thankfully, the wait has ended with this inspiring collection of songs old and new.

Hailing from the mining community of Midlothian, Duff gives powerful interpretations of classic songs like Blackleg Miner and The Eight Hour Day.

Remember Connolly by Geordie McIntyre celebrates the life of the great Irish revolutionary and there are Robert Burns songs such as Green Grow the Rashes.

But the political themes turn contemporary on Brian McNeil's The Prince of Darkness, which tears apart the New Labour idea that class struggle is no longer necessary and there are more contemporary songs by singer-songwriters including Hamish Henderson.

Representing the best of the political folk-song tradition, this debut solo album will, hopefully, be the first of many more.

Kelly Oliver
Botany Bay
(kellyoliver.co.uk)
★★★★

KELLY OLIVER'S first two albums consisted mainly of her own compositions, but Botany Bay is a collection of traditional folk songs collected from her home county of Hertfordshire.

Oliver's voice, accompanied by guitar and harmonica, is well suited to classic songs dealing with typical folk themes such as transportation, as on the title track, while ancient songs of love and heartbreak are also represented with her arrangements of Trees They Do Grow High, Lady Margaret, the murder ballad The Bramble Briar and the happier Dark Eyed Sailor.

But this 10-track album is not just a rehash of old songs much recorded by others. On Cuckoo's Nest Oliver rewrites the bawdy and somewhat sexist lyrics to turn it into a song of female defiance.

Whether singing her own material or delving into the past, Oliver's clearly an artist destined to go further.
 

 

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