Music Reviews | 2023

Joseph Decosimo | While You Were Slumbering | Album Review | Sleepy Cat Records | 06.01.23

Reminiscent of some of Sam Amadon’s work, Joseph Decosimo further explores the Old Time repertoire with similar authority.  With the fiddle and the banjo at the heart of While You Were Slumbering, it’s the relaxed vocal that holds it all together.  Recorded at several locations, the fourteen songs and tunes spring from a deep understanding of the Appalachian South and in particular, the music of the Cumberland Plateau, his own stomping ground of Tennessee.  An award winning musician, Decosimo has studied under some of the musicians steeped in the past, their traditions and their music and the songs and tunes collected here, demonstrate a deep respect of those traditions.  The better known songs, such as “Shady Grove” and “Man of Constant Sorrow” might leap out initially, but the lesser known songs are gems of equal importance.  Having recently delved into the treasure chest that is Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard’s Pioneering Women of Bluegrass: The Definitive Edition, it’s rewarding to find Gerrard on a couple or so of tracks here, notably “Apple Brandy” and the haunting “Come Thee Fount”.  Other musicians involved include Cleek Schrey, Stephanie Coleman, Matthew O’Connell, Joe O’Connell and Alec Spiegelman.

Carrivick Sisters | Illustrated Short Stories | Album Review | Self Release | 13.01.23

We don’t have to wait long for the sibling harmonies to kick in on this latest release by the Carrivick Sisters, five seconds to be precise as the twins deliver the opening song “In the Odstock Churchyard”.  Illustrated Short Stories, the duo’s seventh studio album features a dozen such songs and tunes, each making good use of their distinctive voices, but also their exceptional musicianship on various acoustic instruments, including the fiddle, dobro, lap guitar, mandolin and at one point at least, an electric guitar, good heavens.  However clear it might be that these musicians are entrenched in the bluegrass and old time music of America, they never hide their own roots, much of the material here based on the stories and legends of the Westcountry.  Charlotte and Laura have been at this for some time now and it has been rewarding to see their musical chops develop, both through their collaborative work, such as Midnight Skyracer, an all-female Anglo/Irish quintet, the bluegrass quartet Cardboard Fox and Charlotte’s own side project partnering up with fiddle player Kieran Towers, as well as through their now well established duo work.  Recorded, mixed and mastered by Josh Clark, Illustrated Short Stories is a fine addition to the Carrivick’s already impressive canon of work.

Ruth Angell | Hlywing | Album Review | Talking Elephant | 2023

There’s nine new and original songs on this, Ruth Angell’s debut album (as a solo artist), plus one borrowed from Joni Mitchell’s back catalogue, the poignant “Magdalene Laundries”, which fits in neatly with the others.   Released on Talking Elephant Records, Hlywing, which translates from the medieval English word as shelter or refuge, focuses on atmosphere, with slick arrangements throughout.  The songs are for the most part gentle, yet each is infused with a powerful punch, Ruth’s violin weaving in and out of focus, allowing the orchestral passages and Knopfler-like guitars plenty of scope, notably on the sublime “Little Boy Blue”.  Ruth’s voice is consistently her own, the voice of a convincing storyteller, but also a voice of elegance, demonstrated midway through “Shipyard Fairy”.  It’s easy to drift away to these songs, their smooth calming timbre leaving any sharp edges out of harm’s way.  The country-infused “Treasure” allows a momentary peek at another side of Ruth’s multi-layered approach to song.  Drawing on her classical background, having studied the violin and composition Birmingham Conservatoire,  the rich orchestral arrangements complement the piano and guitar conversations with apparent ease, certainly on the gorgeous “No Roses”.  Once again, Ruth teams up with husband/producer Sid Peacock, the team who made their earlier duo album Love Forgiven so memorable.