Written by Sammi  

I met Kim at Tunstall Village Hall, and he handed me his CD, I always like to hear fellow songwriter's material, and so I played the CD in the car on my roadtrip to South Wales.

This album has 13 songs, and each one has been written with feeling.

The CD started off with the fantastic “Castaway” which has a Lindisfarne feel about it. A nice sing along, which could easily become his catch phrase of a song.

“All Through the Night” has a more Folk-Rock feel about it. and following songs include stories about love and heartbreak. 

The wonderful lyrics of “Lovers, Dreamers and Fools” “Wondering how my lover came to wear stranger’s face” hits hard to those who have felt that feeling. “Crosslanes” tells a story about Flanders, and the gentle drone of the concertina and harmonies add a fullness to the song. 

The album ends with “The Town Wait”, all about Christmas, a lovely Folky feel the song.

In all, a nice mixed bag, and I look forward to hearing Kim’s next album. A great mixture of musical storytelling from this talented singer/songwriter.

Kim frequents Folk/Open Mike nights in North Yorkshire and County Durham from time to time, and worth seeing in action.

BRISK LADS: Alan Fitzsimmons & Peter Wood 

Written by Ailsa MacKenzie   

Tally Ho! for an excellent, no frills CD by this well known North East twosome, which forms a fine collection of songs. This album is well researched and a pleasure to listen to.

 Firstly a pat on the back for including a hunting song, rarely heard in folk clubs these days, (no need to totally expunge our heritage). Their rendering of ‘Last Valentines Day’ is the first track on the CD, (perhaps a thumbs up to p.c.?).Good for them. 

The lads give the song a nod to the influential Swan arcade, but is covered very well by themselves. I have always loved it, and it brought back great memories of folks in the 1970s.

 What are folk songs anyway but a reminder of the past?

Secondly, the recording makes it seem as though the lads were simply singing in front of a Folk Club audience or during a singer-round, which makes it so enjoyable. There are plenty of choruses to join in with as well. Lovely to listen to songs that are unadorned with fancy instrumentation.

 Both men have a long pedigree in folk music, being the regulars at Gosforth Folk Club where Alan was the organiser, so they have a knowledge of different types of folk songs as is exemplified here. 

 I really enjoyed the ‘White Hare of Howden’ and also ‘London's Ordinary’, with roots in the 17th century. Their version of ‘A Brisk Lad’ (apparently a Dorset song) raises it from a dirge to a state of life as being a matter of fact.

 Thirdly they've been bold enough to include songs one would not normally expect from a couple of such lusty singers. One thinks that ‘Loving Hannah’ ought to be sung gently and softly, since it is a song of lost love, but they certainly do it Justice and make it work. It is almost as though they are waiting for the audience to come in on the refrain.

 There are 15 songs in this compilation, and several that I have not heard before including ‘Old Billy Blue’ and ‘When Geordie and I Was Young’, the latter, a nod to their surroundings, along with ‘The Collier's Rant’. But my favourite is ‘Blue Tar Road”, echoing the hard life of traveling people. In short, there is plenty of choice here for everyone, but it will really appeal to those who love to join in chorus's and refrains. Recorded and mixed by the lovely Steve Cunningham in Newcastle, I would certainly recommend it.

TUNES: Tom Richardson

Written by Chris Taylor  

This is a home recorded CD by Harrogate based guitarist Tom Richardson.

Although home produced, it is recorded and presented to a professional standard. Some of the tracks are completely solo, and have a few extra guitar and/or light percussion added. Tom plays all the instruments himself.

It is an eclectic collection, there are traditional tunes mixed with pieces by Northumbrian pipers Billy Pigg and Jack Armstrong, 19th century Scottish fiddler James Scott Skinner, and the blind 17th century Celtic harpist Turlough O’Carollan. Alongside these are interpretations of ‘American Songbook Standards’, a couple of Django Reinhardt numbers, and a paean to the 60s folk/blues movement, with a Bobby Timmins/Davy Graham medley.

There are 14 tracks on the album common, and all are enjoyable and played well. For me, the outstanding performances are of Billy Pigg’s ‘Gypsy Lullaby’, Skinner's ‘Herr Roloff’s Farewell’, Reinhardt's ‘Nuages’ and O’Carollan’s ‘Planxty Hewlet’.

However, as mentioned above, the outstanding performances are enjoyable. I particularly liked the pairing of Bobby Timmin’s ‘Moanin’ with David Graham's ‘Anji’, the latter, of course, used to be a folk club standard, and has been recorded many times on its own (not least by the composer, but also in 1964 by Bert Jansch, in what is often considered the definitive version) Tom Richardson is an extremely accomplished guitarist. 

This album is well worth a listen and can be obtained direct from Tom. It costs five pounds (which includes postage and packaging), making it extremely good value for the 14 tracks. Recommended!

Contact Tom on 07734-323572  Email tomrichardson017@btinternet.com


Written by Mike Webster

Curiosity in a crate is a generous three CD collection of songs, with well over two hours of listening time - a real bargain box of delights, showcasing Tony Wilson's wide ranging musical talents. Having spent twenty years concentrating on his storytelling, he decided to revive his musical career, and these offerings show nothing has been lost in the meantime.

Interestingly, he came up with the idea of revisiting his 1986 cassette recording ‘A Certain Curiosity’, an eclectic mixture of fourteen songs and tunes, 5 Trad and 9  originals, loosely based on the idea of a young man having ‘A Certain Curiosity’ about joining up and going to fight in foreign lands. 

As well as using his own outstanding musical abilities on guitar, banjo and mandola, he enlists the help of two talented musicians, Tom McConville and John Kotra, who provide admirable and sympathetic accompaniment on some of the tracks. 

Songs like ‘Warlands’ and ‘Unguarded Moment’ have catchy choruses, and are mixed with traditional songs like the ‘Banks of Time’ and ‘Wish That The Wars Were All Over‘, and stonkingly good instrumentals like the ‘De Barren Danse’, the lively self-penned ‘Give A Jig A Bad Name’, and the sensitive ‘Anne In The Garden’, in which McConville features. Overall, it's an impressive album well worth a listen.

On a second CD Each Picture Song, Tony Wilson adds some bonus tracks from his extensive back cataloge, 16 tracks in the variety of Styles (all the basic tracks were recorded in one take, with bass Harmony and additional keyboard added after).

Strong rhythmic accompaniments drive many of the songs, such as ‘Nancy Dawson’, which can't fail to get your feet tapping, and Ed Pickford’s union song ‘If They Come For You In The Morning’. Then there are powerful versions of traditional ballads like ‘Lisbon’ and ‘Cruel Love',  and a very atmospheric instrumental called ‘Hope Sprang Eternal’. 

In contrast there are self-penned songs like ‘The Bait Tin’, an amusing tale about a mouse filching his food, and the efforts to thwart him. 

The whole CD offers resident guitar and instrumental compliments, with a vibrancy and freshness which comes from his interpretations of the songs he has loved, internalised, inhabited and then decided to share freshly with the audience's again. In fact, I enjoyed every track.

Curiosity In a Crate is bundled with doodles, pictures, fragments of old notes, and quotations about music, Alongside personal reminiscences and commentaries. It's a triumph of graphic design, and comes wrapped in a Tony Wilson lanard thoughtfully attached to a magnifying glass, so you can read the smaller print on the sleeve. 

The whole package somehow encapsulates all the best of his versatility and talent. and that this collection is like his ‘life in a box’. 

I would write more praise, but I run out of space! Highly recommended.

ONE FINE DAY: The Jon Palmer Acoustic Band

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Written by Tony Haynes 

You can't throw a stick in this town without hitting someone who can really play. Jon sings about his hometown Otley, of course, which is the subject of the opening track of his latest album. Jon's band are the best of them, that is common local knowledge. 

This, his new album, will be launched at Otley Court House Arts Centre (LS21 3AN) on Saturday 25th of April 2020. It will be their 5th successive annual gig there, and all of the previous events have been totally sold out!

We suggest you book early for this one.

Jon's lyrics are disarmingly honest in our current political environment, but there is no despair. There is always hope, as reflected in the title track ‘One Fine Day’, (shades of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet perhaps?

Jon combines some great new songs with some established older ones, but with a new take. He doesn't pull his punches when making his views felt in ‘Bridges Not Walls’, ‘Little England - What Have You Done?’, and ‘Like Lemmings Jumping Over the White Cliffs of Dover’. These are lyrics as sharp as the ‘Knife Thrower's Assistants Blade’.

And yes that is Edwina Hayes lurking in there as a backing singer. It just goes to prove how highly regarded Jon is by one of the best in the business. Twelve tracks of brilliance.  ‘Fairport with balls’. 

For  more information see https://www.jonpalmeracousticband.com/ 

It's already my album of the year for 2020. You'll have to go some to dislodge it. 


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Written by Jeff Williams

Toni Bunnell is a singer-songwriter who has performed in folk clubs and at festivals for many years. She is also a wildlife biologist, broadcaster and writer of stories, and very passionate about the fate of hedgehogs (for many years now she has run a hedgehog rescue service!). 

This CD takes us through important events in social history and highlights Toni’s concern and compassion for all human beings, creatures and how they are all affected by the events in our social history. Each song delivers a poignant and sincere message reflecting on current times and how history has that somehow inevitable way of repeating itself. All songs are self-penned and rooted in the folk tradition. Toni accompanies herself on a range of instruments:  Bouzouki, Guitar, Appalachian Dulcimer, Harmonium and Hurdy Gurdy in a simple style which doesn’t take away from her thought-provoking lyrics. The title track Last Port of Call focuses on the plight of migrants endeavouring to seek safety in the UK by attempting to cross the English Channel in a dinghy on Christmas Day 2018. 

All Over England relates the devastation caused by the building of houses on green field sites. The fire on Saddleworth Moor caused by the extreme drought in June 2018 brings the focus to the escalating problem of environmental change that has such devastating consequences for the countryside and wildlife.  Toni doesn’t just deal with issues in Britain. Chocolates, Cookies and Hugs visit the end of World War II when Auschwitz survivors were liberated, and Changes reflects on Toni’s own personal changes on moving to Heidelberg in 1980.

One of my favourite tracks is a more upbeat song called simply The Tune, which will be understood by every musician who has ever played in a session. Toni sings this with warmth and expression drawing on her own experiences and gives an insightful view into a roomful of musicians. I felt that The Call of the Sea was a little drawn out by the repeating chorus. I have enjoyed the CD more each time I have listened to it. Toni’s sincerity and compassion for humankind and the earth we enjoy is underpinned by sympathetic accompaniments. Everyone should hear these messages.


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Written by Jenni Wilson

The Mile Roses is Kate Bramley, Simon Haworth and Kari Macleod, three singer songwriters who describe this CD as ‘contemporary folk music with a nod to Nashville!’ Blue Skies was launched in July 2019 on a national tour starting in Hexham. All songs on the album are original, most being written by written by band members, (with a number of co-writes from Simon and Kate). There is also a song from former Mile Roses band member Edwina Hayes, and another one from Kate written in conjunction with North East song writer Jez Lowe. 

The Mile Roses are all dedicated and highly talented musicians and use their instruments (mandolin, cittern, fiddle, guitar) to produce some very effective and sophisticated accompaniments which in no way compromise the sound and clarity of their singing. With meaningful lyrics and tight harmonies they take us through a sequence of moods and deal with several current relevant topics - floods in Cumbria, immigration, and refugees … to mention but a few.

The album is professionally done, with an attractive cover which contains a booklet providing the lyrics to all songs - so you can join in with your favourites. Talking of favourites (but that’s difficult because every time I play it I like more of the songs!) I must admit that I almost know Hold On, A Million at Sea, and Girl in forget-me-not blue by heart. I enjoyed the varied styles of music and congratulate the band for their choice.  As a person who leans towards the more ‘traditional’ I have been surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed the contemporary slant of this CD. I think it’s a very commercial product and definitely a worthwhile buy. As a postscript, Simon, how about sending the musical notation of your beautiful tune The Rose under the Hill for Folk Roundabout to put into print, so all of us (practising) musicians can have a try playing it? I know Su is always happy to receive offerings.

AMY & GAVIN DAVENPORT: A Boat of Promises

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Written by Chris Taylor

This is the first recording by this couple as a duo. They are both from families with a fine folk performing pedigree. Amy hails originally from Liverpool whilst Gavin is from South Yorkshire.

There are 11 tracks on this CD, consisting of a tasteful balance of self-penned songs, traditional songs, and songs written by performers currently working the folk scene across the country. Some of the songs have been specially gifted to the duo to record.

The album opens with one of those gifted songs, Nancy Kerr’s Droving Dreams, a song about leaving home to find something better but remembering to cling to your roots at the same time. The second track The Spade is a broadside ballad with a tune written by Gavin. The couple describe this as ‘mildly preposterous’, as it works on the premise that gardening is the solution to all the world’s ills! It is followed by a John Conolly song The Widowmaker.

The two wholly traditional songs on the CD are Drowsy Sleeper (one of the many versions of the song more commonly known as Silver Dagger) and I’m A-Fading Day By Day, a song collected by Vaughan Williams.

Two of the tracks are written by Gavin: One Magpie Sits Alone, and the title song A Boat of Dreams - which is a lullaby to their baby son. The remaining tracks Annie Bonnie (Luke O’Hanlon, Rachel Stalker), The Return (Archie Fisher), The Jeannie C (Stan Rogers), and When All the World was Young (Charles Kingsley, Keith Marsden) complete a very satisfying and enjoyable collection. Amy sings on all tracks, and Gavin sings and provides skilful accompaniment on Guitar and Cittern. Two tracks are augmented by Double Bass, two others by a fiddle, and one by Hurdy Gurdy. Well worth a listen. 


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Written by David Kidman

Rooted finds Martin still at the top of his game. His 21st studio album is a collection of songs that embrace “nature and travel, mental health, real life stories, loss, politics and history”, while encompassing musical idioms from blues and old-time Americana to traditional English. This recording is a mighty and unforgettable experience. Martin’s world-class playing is supplemented by offerings from Nancy Kerr, Andy Cutting, Liz Hanks, John Smith, Dom Flemons, Alan Barnes, Ben Nicholls, Tom A. Wright, Chris While and Julie Matthews. 

But let’s not forget that Martin’s an ace songwriter too, as Rooted’s original compositions prove. Outstanding among these is Kingfisher, where the poetic beauty of Martin’s portrait of the bird is accompanied by appropriately iridescent guitar magic weaving around the Fair Flower Of Northumberland melody. Fool Me Once and Trouble Brought Me Here bring authentic home-grown country-blues (the latter perhaps a little reminiscent melodically of Never Any Good), while true-life characters form the basis of both Henry Gray and Ken Small.

Entirely complementary to these songs is Martin’s choice of cover versions. Pick of these are a haunting rendering of Shel Silverstein’s ballad-style Hills Of Shiloh, and Robb Johnson’s More Than Enough - the latter in direct homage to Martin’s late father-in-law Roy Bailey, who first brought the song to wider attention. Most notable among his arrangements of  traditional items are a pair gleaned from the singing of Hedy West: performed back to back here, we find animated accounts of Queen Jane (Child #52) and Joe Bowers (a ballad from the California Gold Rush era). Wistful autumnal string-based backdrops are a nice touch on several tracks, including Who’s Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Foot? Two songs come from the repertoire of Martin’s early inspiration, erstwhile guitar shop owner Paul Empson: Kimble was taken from Jackson C. Frank’s LP, while Ragtime Millionaire provides the foundation for Martin’s fun contemporary rewrite Neo. There is a companion bonus disc, Seeded - a collection of seven instrumentals. So, another must-purchase set from Maestro Martin.

HEATHER FERRIER: – Circles, released 25/06/2021 

Written by ?

Circles is the debut single from Stockport-born, Newcastle-based accordionist Heather Ferrier. With this first release under her own name, Heather is exploring a new route in her music making, combining contemporary folk-inspired composition with a fresh electronic perspective. 

Circles is a snapshot of the world we currently live in; an exploration in finding inspiration from the cyclical and mundane nature of everyday life in the midst of a global crisis. With riffs that twirl around soaring melodic lines, ‘Circles’ immerses us within our deepest thoughts before a cathartic release allows us to reconnect with our emotions once again. 

Embracing a newly found love of electronics, Heather has united her virtuosic traditional roots with bold, contemporary soundscapes. Circles is a DIY affair, composed, arranged and recorded entirely at home during lockdown with Heather layering each part individually. The only outside involvement came from Niles Krieger (The Often Herd, Assembly Lane) who assisted in the recording and mixing process before sending it off to mastering engineer Bevan Morris (Pons Aelius, Assembly Lane). 

In addition to her solo work, Heather also collaborates in various ensembles including folk quartet Balter, whose most recent single, Erica’s, earned them a nomination at the Scots Trad Music Awards. She is also one half of RŪNN, who are currently writing music together remotely in preparation for live performances later this year. 


Written by Norma Neal

Renowned folk musician Jez Lowe scored a tremendous hit when he appeared in October at Ceddesfeld Hall, the magnificent home to Sedgefield Community Association. Already very popular as a regular at Sedgefield Folk Festival, this time his writing skills were to the fore as, hot on the heels of his US tour, he launched his second novel The Corly Croons at Sedgefield Book Ends (a literary and arts festival which has grown dramatically since its relatively small beginnings in 2017). Organisers Sarah Guest and Norma Neal were delighted when he agreed to come along, and Jez entertained the very appreciative audience with his inimitable style of singing and playing, and his irrepressible banter.

Based (as was his first venture The Dillen Doll ) in 19th century Newcastle and on the folk music of the North East, Jez’s eagerly anticipated second novel weaves an intriguing tale around a Southern stranger who uncovers mystery and tragedy on Tyneside. The music and poetry of the Tyne Bards fill the streets, taverns and music halls. Described by fRoots magazine as “a master of the art of storytelling”, Jez skilfully transfers his deep love of the region and its music to create a wealth of characters and situations which grab and hold the reader’s attention. 


Written by Ged Wilson

Earlier in the year I spotted an event advertised in that wonderful magazine Folk Roundabout (now they’ll have to include my review!). It was a performance in March of Jimmy’s Fiddle at the Gosforth Civic Hall. Of course, being a Gateshead lad, I had to go to find out more about James (Jimmy) Hill - one of the town’s favourite sons.

The cast comprised Tom McConville & Stuart Hardy (fiddles) Alan Fitzsimmons & Jim Mageean (singers), with clog dancing from champion dancer Natalie Reid. What a brilliant night! Every cast member was on top form - or so I thought (see later)! Fiddling, singing and dancing were all of the highest calibre, as was the humour - and the camaraderie among the performers was really heart-warming. I hadn’t expected to be educated as well! (Spoiler alert: who knew that Italian violin maestro Niccolò Paganini played two gigs in Newcastle?)

When we found out that the show was to be presented again at this year’s Whitby Folk Festival, I told anyone that wanted to hear (and no doubt some that didn’t!) that they’d kick themselves if they didn’t go to see it. It was a packed house at ‘The Met’ (Metropole), which made for a great atmosphere. Although visibility (especially of the dancer’s feet) was not as good as in Gosforth, the performances were - incredibly - even better than previously. I came out singing Tom McConville’s song Jimmy, Jimmy all the way back to our B&B.

The next day we came across Jim Mageean heading for the Spa Theatre. I don’t normally gush, but I had to tell him that all of our party agreed that the show had been the highlight of our week - though I could have said “of our year”. He gave us a beaming smile and said “Why, that’s really made my day!”

To hear more of ‘Jimmy’s’ music, look out for the book and accompanying CD called The Lads Love Beer, and look out for more performances of Jimmy’s Fiddle (checking in the Folk Roundabout, of course!).