Quick plays: POLLY BARRETT, CATHERINE MACLELLAN, JANE KRAMER

Polly Barrett - Probably Me

POLLY BARRETT Probably Me [Release date 22.09.14]

We had the release of Irish singer songwriter Polly Barrett’s 2011 debut Mr Bookshop down as the folk/pop album Andrea Corr should have made if she wanted to sustain her popular profile.

Barrett toured the album extensively in Ireland and the UK, sharing the bill with artists such as Agnes Obel, KT Tunstall, and Cara Luft and on her travels met producer and multi-instrumentalist Scott Poley from Liverpool.   As a result she made the journey to the Waterside Studios in Liverpool in November 2013 to record her second album – Probably Me – with Poley engineering, co-producing and playing guitar, mandolin, dobro, keyboards, drums and percussion.

And he’s done a sterling job of capturing Barratt’s crystalline vocals.  But whether it’s Barratt’s new material or Poley’s influence, Probably Me takes a large step away from the pop/folk crossroads, placing both feet very firmly in folk territory.

As a result, Probably Me is an album that, while impeccably delivered, is going to appeal to those who favour the works of the likes of Richard Thompson and Kate Rusby, rather than The Corrs, but while it will add a fresh infusion of blood to the folk circuit it’s unlikely to widen her appeal more broadly.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley

CATHERINE MACLELLAN The Raven’s Sun [Release date 15.09.14]

Lauded as Critic’s Favourite New Discovery by Canadian folk magazine Penguin Eggs in 2008, Catherine MacLellan has been a fixture at the top of the Canadian Roots charts, won numerous awards, and been winning plaudits from mainstream broadcasters and press ever since.

Also a favourite amongst her East coast songwriter peers she’s perhaps still relatively unknown beyond the roots circuit and charismatic as her latest release is – The Raven’s Sun, recorded in the Woods outside Woodstock and produced by long time musical partner Chris Gauthier – it’s unlikely to do more than cement her existing appeal.

A generally uncomplicated and tastefully arranged affair, MacLennan’s effortless delivery is balanced by Gauthier’s fine finger picking guitar work and subtle backing vocals that add just a hint of country to the Americana mix of folk and blues.  And in his electric guitar playing there’s an intriguing blend of Mark Knopfler/Hank Marvin.  Add some excellent cameos from Nashville fiddler Andy Leftwich, and it’s a bewitching brew.

So, an accomplished set delivered with no little aplomb, easy on the ear, and consummate playing.  But does The Raven’s Sun grab me by the privates?  A delicate tickle here and there, but really you need to be a roots purist to appreciate the full range of Catherine MacLennan’s charms.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley

JANE KRAMER Break & Bloom [Release date 08.09.14]

The debut solo release from The Barrel House Mamas (a 2003-2009 North Carolina folk outfit) founder member, songwriter, and singer Jane Kramer has much in common with the rootsy folk of 10,000 Maniacs and Natalie Merchant’s own excursion into traditional folk with her 2003 release The Carpenter’s Daughter.

Yes, in style, substance and vocal delivery Break & Bloom bears many of the hallmarks of Merchant’s folk focused work.  But it’s no Tigerlily, Ophelia, Motherland or Merchant’s latest exquisite eponymous release.

Not that that’s a criticism, and while the PR blurb describes Kramer’s voice a tad colourfully as a blend of molasses, bittersweet chocolate and oak aged whiskey, they’ve got a point and there’s much to be admired here – notably on the sumptuous flugelhorn infused Red Balloon.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley


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Power Plays w/c 16 September (Mon-Fri)

BLOCK BUSTER Losing Gravity (Frontiers)
WATCH ME BREATHE Don’t Think I Haven’t Thought About It (The Label Group/INGrooves)
FIRES OF FREYA Take A Bow (indie)
BLACK STAR RIDERS Underneath The Afterglow (Nuclear Blast)
STOMPIN’ HEAT Shiny Curly Red Hair (indie)

Featured Albums w/c 16 September (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 THE DEFIANTS Zokusho (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 CORELEONI II (AFM Records)
14:00-16:00 TONY McLOUGHLIN True Native (Fuego)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

BAD COMPANY Company Of Strangers (1995)



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