Posts Tagged ‘bellowhead’

Bellowhead – Live: The Farewell Tour | Album Review | Top of the World

Posted on July 5th, 2016 in Recent posts, Reviews by .


Words by Julian May

Bellowhead - Live The Farewell Tour Cover

Britain’s best loved big band bids us adieu

Bellowhead made some great studio albums but their concerts are extraordinary. There was the horn section, kicking like a chorus line (including Brendon Kelly on sax pictured above); Jon Boden and Paul Sartin’s morris jigging; Sam Sweeney leaping on risers like Bruce Springsteen while wielding his fiddle; and Jon Spiers looking on like an indulgent primary school teacher at the creative mayhem surrounding him. But this big band never let the audience forget that each of the 11 members was a brilliant instrumentalist, nor that they had an enormous range – from wild free jazz to strict liturgical choral traditions – to draw on.

Much of their repertoire is English folk song, but their treatment of it owes as much to Kurt Weill (and maybe even Kurt Cobain) than Cecil Sharp. Jon Boden sings like the Norfolk folk singer Peter Bellamy, but also like chansonnier Jacques Brel. Indeed, when Bellowhead’s farewell tour caravan pulled into the London Palladium, the show opened with Brel’s ‘Amsterdam’. What was striking, as the concert progressed, was that it sounded no less passionate and deeply felt than the shanty ‘Roll Alabama’, ‘Fine Sally’ or the eerie ballad ‘The Wife of Usher’s Well’. Those with an appreciation of English folk love Bellowhead for making this music urgent and anthemic – making it live.

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Top of the World July 2016: The best new releases

Posted on June 10th, 2016 in Features, Recent posts by .

Our selection of the top ten new releases reviewed in the July (#119) issue.

Fanfare Ciocărlia
Onwards to Mars! (Asphalt Tango Records)


Balkan brass band Fanfare Ciocărlia offer 14 tracks on their latest record, released in celebration of their 20th anniversary in the music business.
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Elza Soares
The Woman at the End of the World (Mais Um Discos)

Elza Soares - The Woman at the End of the World Cover

Elza Soares, now in her late 70s, demonstrates why she is considered one of Brazil’s best samba singers in a bold release that is a fiery mix of original, uncompromising tracks.

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Kel Assouf
Tikounen (Igloo Records)

Kel Assouf - Tikounen Cover

Another guitar group to come out of the Touareg music scene, Kel Assouf return with a strong, rocking second album. Powerful rhythms and contagious grooves are aplenty on this feisty record.

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Leyla McCalla
A Day for the Hunter, a Day for the Prey (Jazz Village)

Leyla McCalla

An outstanding sophomore album from the young cellist and banjo player. Three years on from her stellar debut, McCalla once again draws from her Haitian heritage and Creole influences.

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Matthias Loibner
Lichtungen (Traumton Records)

Matthias Loibner - Lichtungen Cover

Austrian composer Matthias Loibner possesses extraordinary skill on the hurdy-gurdy; his new album shows the astonishing range this unusual instrument has in his hands.

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Maarja Nuut
Une Meeles (Maarja Nuut)


Fiddler and singer Maarja Nuut delivers her experimental second album – an exceptional listen that draws influences from her Estonian roots and displays her promising talent.

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Melt Yourself Down
Last Evenings on Earth (The Leaf Label)

Melt Yourself Down - Last Evenings on Earth Cover

Utilising abrasive sounds and forward-thinking production, the London-based band Melt Yourself Down show they are a force to be reckoned with on this game-changing album.

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Derek Gripper
Libraries on Fire (Derek Gripper)


With great aplomb, the South African takes on the compositions of the great 21-stringed kora players on his classical guitar. Gripper’s delicate transcriptions deliver beautiful results.
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Mahsa Vahdat
The Sun Will Rise (A Cappella) (Kirkelig Kulturverksted)

Mahsa Vahdat - The Sun Will Rose Cover

Vahdat is one of only a few female singers living in Iran to record regularly outside the country, and here she produces a profoundly personal album with no instrumental accompaniment.

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Live: The Farewell Tour (Navigator Records)


Bellowhead’s final album highlights the 11-piece big band in blistering live form. Known for their fantastic live shows, the album exhibits why these guys will be dearly missed.
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The 50 Greatest World Music Albums of the Last Five Years (Part 5)

Posted on August 23rd, 2015 in Features, Recent posts by .

Editor Jo Frost and editor-in-chief Simon Broughton choose their favourite albums from 2010…

Alex-Wilson-Mali-LatinoAlex Wilson

Mali Latino

(Alex Wilson Records)

Pianist Alex Wilson was born and brought up in Britain and has long had a considerable reputation on the Latin jazz scene. This collaboration with Malian musicians began back in 2004, but was developed and recorded over the past couple of years with singer (and balafon player) Ahmed Fofana and kora player Madou Sidiki Diabaté (younger brother of Toumani Diabaté). AfroCubism, the other notable Mali-Latino collaboration of the year, was released at the same time and might have over-shadowed this, but they are very different in character with Mali Latino boasting beautiful intimate moments alongside a punchy big-band sound and Kandia Kouyaté on the final track. SB 


Ballake-Sissoko-Vincent-Segal-Chamber-MusicBallaké Sissoko & Vincent Segal

Chamber Music

(No Format)

Recorded in Salif Keita’s Moffou Studios in the Malian capital, Bamako, this release on the excellent French No Format label, slowly, and without fanfare, infiltrated its way onto my pile of favourites. Its winning formula is the beautiful, simple sounding melodies on cello and kora. The harp-like trills of Ballaké Sissoko’s kora seem to float on top of the deeply resonating tones of Vincent Segal’s cello. They make an incongruous looking duo on stage – Ballaké tall and resplendent in his boubou and Vincent, the quintessentially dapper-looking Frenchman. But together they’ve made a beguiling album, classical in its elegance and form. JF 



Chris-Wood-Handmade-LifeChris Wood

Handmade Life

(RUF Records)

This latest release by Chris Wood simply confirms the fact that he is one of the best songwriters and storytellers in England. This isn’t an album to put on as background music as you’ll find yourself stopping in your tracks to absorb these wonderfully worded songs, such as ‘No Honey Tongued Sonnet,’ which, in typically understated fashion, he describes as ‘doggerel with nothing much on it.’ Subject matters range from growing asparagus in his allotment, the banking fiasco, and an incredibly potent song about Jean Charles de Menezes, the young Brazilian shot by the police on the London Underground. There’s an intensely rich, warm yet melancholic tinge to the album, thanks to the unconventional line-up of Robert Jarvis on trombone and two fellow Imagined Village bandmates, Andy Gangadeen on drums and Barney Morse Brown on cello. JF


Cheikh-Lo-JammCheikh Lô


(World Circuit)

The Senegalese musician cuts a striking figure, with his patchwork, multicoloured robes, dreadlocks, aviator sunglasses and beaming white smile. A follower of Baye Fall, a form of Sufism commonly practiced in Senegal, Cheikh Lô describes this album, Jamm (Peace in Wolof ) as being ‘pan African’ and ‘like a cocktail.’ It’s certainly packed with a variety of musical influences, and features a host of guest musicians such as former James Brown sax player Pee Wee Ellis, master Afro-beat drummer Tony Allen and Cuban violinist Omar Puente. The singer tests out some Spanish lyrics on the lovely Cuban-influenced track ‘Seyni.’ It’s a joyful, uplifting album from one of West Africa’s most popular singers. JF



Asmara-All-Stars-Eritreas-Got-SoulAsmara All Stars

Eritrea’s Got Soul

(Out Here)

This is everything one hopes for – an insightful glimpse into an unknown musical world. One might wish for slightly less reggae influence, but there’s plenty to compensate for that – the voices of Faytinga, the only Eritrean artist I’d encountered before, Temasgen Yared and Sara Teklesenbet, amongst others. The Eritreans may not thank me for saying so, but the pentatonic modes, juicy saxophone and electric organ sound are reminiscent of Ethiopian music, so anyone who likes that should try this. And the tracks make a useful introduction to the country’s varying sounds and ethnic groups. Temasgen Yared’s Tigrigna song ‘Ykre Beini’ is magnificent. A shame the Eritrean government has been so obstructive in getting the musicians out on tour. SB





English folk has never sounded so much fun, thanks to this 11-strong folk powerhouse. Hedonism was recorded within the hallowed studios of Abbey Road and produced by the acclaimed John Leckie. The formula seems to have worked, because the resulting album perfectly captures the boisterous, music-hall spirit of their live shows. Fronted by singer and fiddler Jon Boden – surely one of the most charismatic frontmen around – the band romp through a range of traditional tunes, starring a motley bunch of characters from sailors, prostitutes, maids and corpses. Whenever anyone claims they don’t like English folk music, well, they obviously haven’t had the Bellowhead experience. JF



Natalie-Merchant-Leave-Your-SleepNatalie Merchant

Leave Your Sleep


The former 10,000 Maniacs singer’s most ambitious project to date is one inspired by conversations she had with her young daughter. It’s an album of poem-songs that took five years to research, culminating in over 50 songs, featuring more than 100 musicians, including the Klezmatics, Hazmat Modine, Wynton Marsalis and Lúnasa. Merchant’s voice ranges from sounding wonderfully sassy on the quirky ‘Bleezer’s Ice-Cream’ to the delicate and poignant harmonies of ‘If No One Ever Marries Me.’ She also gets top marks for producing the best-looking release this year – the double album resembles a hardback poetry anthology, complete with fascinating notes about the songs and poets. A real labour of love. JF 


Music-of-Central-Asia-Vol-9-In-the-Footsteps-of-BaburVarious Artists

Music of Central Asia Vol 9: In the Footsteps of Babur

(Smithsonian Folkways)

There were two discs in the latest batch from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture’s Central Asia series of the very highest quality – Rainbow, an ambitious collaboration between Alim and Fargana Qasimov, Homayun Sakhi and the Kronos Quartet, and this one featuring traditional music from Northern India, Afghanistan and Central Asia. It’s something special to get music like this in performances of this quality with a highlight being the duet of Rahul Sharma on santoor and Homayun Sakhi on Afghan rubab. SB 



Out of Sight

(Oriente Musik)

The Polish trio Kroke started playing together nearly 20 years ago, but it was their signing with Oriente in 1996 and their collaborations with Nigel Kennedy that really put them on the map. Although they played some klezmer standards at the beginning, Tomasz Kukurba (viola), Jerzy Bawol (accordion) and Tomasz Lato (double bass) have been composing their own material for years – often with a klezmer or Balkan flavour. This is their eighth album for Oriente and one of their best, with a slightly dark, meditational tone. They certainly have an ear for a good tune – ‘Medinet,’ ‘Moondowner’ and ‘Madrugada’ are standouts here – and know how to develop the melodies through their arrangements and instrumental colours. SB 



Bride of the Zar


The debut recording of a new group from Cairo that made a big impact on its summer tour, including performances at WOMAD and the Royal Opera House’s Voices Across the World series. The zar music they play originates in Sudan and is a close relative to the bluesy trance music of the Moroccan Gnawa – also originating in sub-Saharan Africa. Their performances include the colourful and percussive dancing of Tu Tu, the growling tanbura lyre and the rango xylophone, an instrument rescued from extinction by this band. The track ‘Baladia Wey’ has all the raw minimal power that surges through Konono No 1. SB 



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That’s All Folks… Bellowhead’s Farewell Tour

Posted on June 8th, 2015 in News, Recent posts by .


After 11 very successful years Bellowhead have announced their farewell tours happening in November 2015 and April 2016. The band will play their final concert at Oxford Town Hall on May 1 2016, where it all began.

The lead singer, Jon Boden, has decided to step down as lead singer and the rest of the band feel it wrong to continue without him. In May 2016, after just over a decade packed full of achievements, the band will head their separate ways. The 11-piece, which formed back in 2004, incorporate an array of styles, combining traditional folk with the contemporary, producing a unique sound in the contemporary folk music scene.

Made up of a group of friends, Bellowhead’s first performance took place at the 2004 Oxford Festival; they never imagined they would become one of the UK’s most successful folk bands. Following their independently released EP Bellowhead has gone on to record five studio albums, the third of which, Hedonism, was recorded at the renowned Abbey Road Studios and is claimed to be ‘the highest selling independently released folk album of all time.’

Bellowhead have recorded theme songs for The Archers and The Simpsons, they have received two silver discs and won eight BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. In 2014 they entered the UK Album Charts at number 12 for, Revival, not long after signing to major record label Island Records.

Though it is nearing the end of the road for the band as a collective, its members will continue to create music, individually working on various solo and ensemble projects.

Tour dates have now been announced. Tickets are on pre-sale to fans from Wednesday June 10 and general sale begins on June 12.

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