CD Review – The Transports

A review for of a new take on Peter Bellamy’s Ballad opera. Actually a live version of the toured production seen at Shrewsbury Folk Festival in 2017 (and there’s currently another short tour running). Well worth seeing/hearing.

VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Transports – A Tale Of Exile And Migration (Hudson Records HUD007LP/CD)

David Harley

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Wheatsheaf, High Street, Shrewsbury: [update]

I gather from a post in the Acoustic Sloggers group that the Wheatsheaf in Shrewsbury (the one in High Street) is open again and that there should be a Sloggers session as usual there this Thursday (11th January). Sorry, I’ve no info on other events at the moment.

I can’t make any promises about any future sessions, the open mic or other musical events. I’ll post any further information I receive here, of course, but as I’m based in the West Country, it’s not easy for me to track these things, so you’ll need to check with other resources such as the Acoustic Sloggers Facebook group and the Wheatsheaf Open Mic page for up-to-date local information.

David Harley

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CD Review – Jack Brett

Another CD review for, this time for the very talented Jack Brett: JACK BRETT – Plays The Blues And Other Melodic Misfortunes (JBR Records)

A super slide player, but turns out to be a darn good songwriter, too. And based in South Shropshire.

David Harley

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Sarah McQuaid – Digging the new CD

[First published at Wheal Alice Music, since there’s a Cornish connection. But I’m sure that there will be plenty of people along the Severn interested in Sarah’s music.]

This article isn’t about Michael Chapman, but bear with me… Towards the end of the 1960s I acquired his album Rainmaker, and found him to be an innovative guitarist and very distinctive singer/songwriter. (I remember confusing one of my friends by saying that a song of his reminded me pleasantly of Michael Chapman, until I realized that he thought I meant that Chinnichap chap! ) I played Rainmaker a lot in my teens, and it certainly influenced my early guitar playing. Ironically, I finally parted with the album, along with nearly all my other vinyl, when moving to Cornwall.

Ironically? Well, mildly, in that it’s since that move to Cornwall that his name has recently crossed my radar again. Specifically, as producer of the forthcoming 5th album by the very talented Sarah McQuaid, a well-known name not only here in Cornwall, but far beyond.

Interestingly, Sarah not only shares but exceeds my own passion for the DAGDAD guitar tuning, having written a book and developed two workshops on using it. But her singing and songwriting has earned her many fans who may not know much about modal tunings, but appreciate a fine performance.

I’m looking forward to reviewing her new album If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous nearer to the release date (due out 2nd February 2018). In the meantime, you might like to check out the track The Tug Of The Moon, which is on the album but was released as a single in November 2017: see Mawgan Lewis’s intriguing video here.

David Harley

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News from Knucklas 2017-2018


Christmas special – This Thursday 21st December 2017

At The Castle Inn, Knucklas

There will be music in the function room and in the bar. Everyone is welcome to play or sing – so bring instruments, tunes, songs and good voices!

Excellent food and beer!

The idea is to come on the train if you can!

Starts at 7pm



 will be on SATURDAY 13th January 2018.

A musical procession will leave Castle Green, Knucklas just after 7pm – so you can come on the train that arrives in Knucklas at 7.01pm!  After the procession there will be an evening of music & celebration at the Castle Inn. Please wear bright and colourful clothing if you can, bring your own torch or lantern, something to make a noise with (e.g. saucepan lids & wooden spoons) good singing voices and stout footwear.  The purpose of Wassailing is to awaken the cider apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit for the autumn.


Ceilidh with Sue Harris and Bandamania

Sat 20th Jan 2018

Whitton Community Hall 7pm

£7  inc.Bar and refreshments

Organised by Whitton WI.



Wassail Poster 2018 (2)

Ceilidh Poster

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CD review: GreenMatthews – A Christmas Carol

A seasonal review for in which I managed to repress my inner Scrooge.

GREENMATTHEWS – A Christmas Carol: A Folk Opera (Blast Records BFTP011)

David Harley

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DARIA KULESH – Long Lost Home (own label)

[Review also published on the Wheal Alice Music blog.]

In a recent review for of the excellent CD ‘Shakespeare Songs‘ by the Company of Players, I described the stunning performance by Daria Kulesh of her own song ‘Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk’ as ‘almost operatic in its intensity’. If you’re not a fan of opera don’t stop reading! While I’ve no doubt that Daria has the range and technical ability to sing anything she wants to, her own CD Long Lost Home (released early in 2017, but I’ve only recently caught up with it) isn’t one of those albums where a classically trained singer dabbles in a more popular idiom. Rather, this is a collection of (mostly her own) songs, deeply rooted in her own family history, sung with a grace, skill, and emotional intensity few singers can match. To quote a review of the same CD by Dai Jeffries:

“…the word “operatic” keeps coming to mind but that isn’t right at all. It’s about power and heart and love and melancholy and about telling important stories in a very human way.”

I’m pretty sure he’s a fan too…

That family history has roots in Ingushetia, in the Caucasus Mountains, and most of the songs here relate directly to the region. The arrangements here, while never so obtrusive or flashy as to distract the listener from the singer or the songs, are perfectly executed. It is, perhaps, a measure of how successful they are that the instrumentation – including such relatively unusual instruments as dahchan pandar, doul, nyckelharpa, hammered dulcimer and Scottish smallpipes as well as a wide variety of more familiar instruments – always seem just perfectly appropriate rather than intrusively exotic.

Here’s the customary track-by-track listing.

  1. The lyrics for ‘Tamara’ come from Mikhail Lermontov (translated, abridged and adapted by Daria), and the music is Daria’s. The supernatural tale of a very dangerous lady “who by a demon was kissed“.
  2. ‘The Moon And The Pilot’ tells the story of Daria’s great grandmother, whose husband died while trying to deliver supplies to Leningrad in 1942. He was named a Hero of the Soviet Union, but his wife and children were caught up in Stalin’s deportation of the population of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1944, for alleged collaboration with the Nazis. A terrible injustice, but not without hope: “This is the story of one extraordinary woman’s strength and survival, and it is also the story of her people.” For a taste of Daria’s music, I heartily recommend the ‘official video’ linked at the end of this review.
  3. ‘Safely Wed’ is a little more upbeat, with bouzouki and accordion lending it a decidedly Mediterranean feel, though the story is drawn from Daria’s family history. And has a happy ending. J
  4. ‘Amanat’ is the story of Daria’s grandmother’s grandfather, the first Ingush ethnographer and collector of folklore. A sad story, but a beautiful tune.
  5. ‘The Hazel Tree’ is another story from the deportation, of Aishi Bazorkina and her longing to be buried in her homeland.
  6. The traditional lament ‘Distant Love/Gyanar Bezam’ is sung part in Ingush, part in English (translated from Ingush by Daria).
  7. ‘The Panther’ is the story of Laisat Baisarova, “an Ingush NKVD officer who refused to take part in the deportation and genocide of her people.” Despite a startling echo of the ancient ballad ‘The Two Magicians‘ – “Bide, lady, bide/No place you can hide” – this “skilled sniper” was never captured or subjugated.
  8. ‘Like A God’ tells the story of Alaudin Poshev, “a doctor and a gent/In times when gangsters ruled the roost“.
  9. ‘Heart’s Delight’ is a song of Daria’s inspired by the traditional ‘Song Of Mochkho’ and, in particular, the lovely thought “May your heart’s delight/Become your fate“.
  10. ‘Gone’ poses a question that seems all too apposite at a time when English isolationism and xenophobia so often dominates the news. “Will you be hostile or will you be kind” to the displaced and disposed of the world?
  11. ‘Only Begun’ is a bitter-sweet “song of saying goodbye.” And yet it illustrates how even those of us whose lives are less dramatic than the protagonists of Daria’s stories live on in the memories – and, sometimes, the songs – of those who come after.
  12. ‘Untangle My Bones’ echoes an Inuit legend, but is framed in an arrangement as fresh as next week’s papers. A great finish to a wonderful album.

This is a lovely and compelling album, and I hope to be listening to it for years to come. Do your ears a favour, and check it out.

David Harley

Artist’s website:

Video of ‘The Moon And The Pilot’.

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