Newsletter No 226 - April 2021
Hello all, I hope you're all keeping well, as always.
As usual I'll list all the regular streaming stuff at the end: I keep an eye on most of it, but it's possible that some online performances have been discontinued for whatever reason, but there's plenty going on out there: more and more as time goes on.
CD Review: Karen Matheson - Still Time (Vertical Records)
Along with her fellow band members in Capercaillie, Karen has been prominent in bringing traditional Gaelic songs to a wider audience.On this, her latest solo release, she focuses instead on songs by a variety of writers including Robert Burns, Si Kahn and Callum & Rory MacDonald (Runrig).
Immaculately produced by her husband, Donald Shaw, the album was recorded at various times from 2005 onwards and completed during lockdown. Karen’s voice is complemented by a stellar list of musicians,resulting in a fine album of contemporary Scottish music rooted firmly in her folk heritage.
Standout tracks include Cassiopeia Coming Through (one of 4 songs by singer-songwriter James Grant), the Diamond Ring and the classic Ae Fond Kiss.
If you are familiar with the quality of Karen’s work, then this is amust – and well worth exploring if you’re not.
Available through Karen’’s website: www.karenmatheson.com.
The Dillen Doll and The Corly Croons by Jez Lowe
What’s this? A book review?? Ah, but both books are by Jez Lowe. Both see Jez bringing the fascination and affection for the history, traditions and folklore of his native north-east seen in his songs, to two stories set in 18th and 19th century Newcastle. The books are linked in that one character appears in both; and at their heart, both involve attempts by ordinary people to challenge, in the only ways open to them, the power and corruption of the ruling elite.
Central to ‘The Dillen Doll’ (a popular song of unknown provenance in the late 18th century) is an impoverished but feisty lady, living on her wits with a man who falls foul of an important military leader. Together they get involved in the secret removal to safe-hiding of documents exposing the corruption of those running the city; and the two of them flee north pursued by soldiers. Meanwhile, it gives horrific descriptive reality to the enforced recruitment implied in ‘Here’s the Tender Coming’, as militiamen sweep through the city capturing any young males they find.
‘The Corly Croons’ involves a London policeman sent to Newcastle to investigate a suspicious death. As he gets drawn ever deeper into the local circumstances, further violence and deaths occur – someone is trying to prevent old secrets being brought to light. Oddly for a whodunnit, the villain of the piece is unmasked long before the end, but this sets up a thrilling denouement described from the perspective of both hunter and fugitive.
Both books paint a vivid picture of the squalor and desperation of ordinary lives lived on the edge in northern English cities of the time, as well as their vibrant popular culture. They are written with all the skill you’d expect from such a consummate song-writer. You can buy them from Jez’s website: www.jezlowe.com I can strongly recommend them.
Duncan McFarlane's Tune a Day marathon
Duncan, who with Anne Brivonese gave us a memorable Facebook concert last month, continues his ‘Tune a Day’ series on Facebook which has been going since March 20th 2020, three days before the first UK lockdown. Whilst this was initially aimed at being short term, he’s now well past 300+ songs (currently there’s 100+ Trad songs, 100+ Contemporary songs and almost 100 of his own compositions) ...mostly Folk, but with some surprises!
The series can be found daily at https://www.facebook.com/duncan.mcfarlane.79 and the entire series is now also on YouTube as a Playlist. Subscribing is free and that gives easier navigable access to the whole lot at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLi2SK01Utl3JSlUzufJNSa6flCwcTostB
THE TOPIC IN CYBERSPACE
Two Topic Facebook concerts this month:
Mossy Christian - Thursday 8th April 8pm
Please see the attachments for more details about Mossy.
Kath Reade - Thursday 22nd April 8 pm.
Heartfelt sentiments in song from the pen of this prolific singer-songwriter from over t'border. "Goosebumps voice and genius songs"
NEW: Phil Snell, a frequent visitor to the Topic over past years, has made a selection of lockdown videos: tunes and songs "in an attempt to cheer folk up". You can check them out on:
TOPIC YOUTUBE CHANNEL
I hope those of you who wish to access the new Topic YouTube channel are able to do so without any problems. Details as advised in my separate newsletter of 20th December.
The mummers' play - about the Boar of Bradford, no less - written by John Waller and performed by Topic regulars (mentioned previously) is available to watch on the channel (along with other Topic-related delights - more items are being added as we speak) so head on over to:
A reminder about Roger Sutcliffe's Zoom singers and Musicians Nights from his part of the world for anyone who would like to join in. They take place on a Tuesday:
Here is the link: firstname.lastname@example.org. and the website is https://www.cuttywrenfolkclub.com/.
OTHER ONLINE STUFF
Dougie McLean does a series of online concerts, some free, some longer ones for which you have to book and pay to watch. He has lots of website/contact pages which you can find by googling him, but this one seems to give most of the info about these concerts: https://www.facebook.com/ButterstoneTV
Pete Coe's club - Ryburn Folk Club, https://www.ryburn3step.org.uk/. Not sure what's coming up, but bound to be something good. To find out email email@example.com. or phone 01422 823099. They are also considering putting on a virtual barn dance but the date hasn't been decided yet, but if you were a follower of their acclaimed Waring Green Barn Dances get in touch with them by the above email address to keep in the loop.
There's the usual regular stuff going on online: NB some artists may be taking a rest from regular streaming, but by following the links you can usually watch past sessions.
Kath Reade, singer songwriter, has been using lockdown as an opportunity to broadcast her songs live on Facebook and they have been getting thousands of views.
Kath has now set up a new facebook page, Kath Reade's Songs, so all her songs can be found in one place.
As mentioned earlier in this newsletter Kath will be performing for the Topic Facebook concert on 22nd April.
Skinner & T'witch, a Leeds-based duo who have been to the Topic on a singers and musicians night, have a facebook page which is well worth visiting, they have different stuff going on regularly, eg "Pick & Mix" sessions with some well-known performers, and what they call "Garden Sessions", plus lots of other stuff.
The Grove Folk Club is running sessions every Friday on their group Facebook page at folkatthegrove. The club has contacted me to say anybody is welcome to send in a video to take part, see the fb page for details.
Karen Pfeiffer & Paul Walker continue to do a regular afternoon spot on Fridays at 4pm.
Honey & The Bear bring their excellent music every Sunday evening at 7.30 pm https://honeyandthebear.co.uk/
Winter Wilson's "Live from the Lounge" every Thursday, 8.15 pm, see their facebook page.
Check out The Live Room Saltaire - https://theliveroom.info/ who have had to suspend their live concerts but are continuing to stream some excellent shows. Lots going on there.
HEART (Headingley Enterprise and Arts Centre) in Leeds has been closed for the duration of the latest restrictions, but keep an eye on their website https://www.heartcentre.org.uk/, there's sure to be something as soon as circumstances permit.
The Folk Forecast advertises all sorts of folky stuff going on (with some big names) which you might find very useful, self explanatory of you follow this link:
https://thefolkforecast.substack.com/people/17173534-the-folk-forecast. Thanks to Graham Smout for the info.
It covers the current week, if you subscribe they will send you details each Monday.
Take care and best wishes to everybody. Things seem to be looking up at last. And it's Spring....
Topic Folk Club