Salut! Lists

Salut! Live albums of 2009: the Unthanks, Cara Dillon, Topic?


The answer to my own question is that I am having it all ways. This has been a thin year for Salut! Live, a consequence of the time I have necessarily spent on the day job (and developing another of my sites, Salut! Sunderland). The records don't flow my way quite as they did. But I could not let the year end without sharing my thoughts on the best I did come across in 2009 ...


The organisers of two British folk awards approach me each year for my nominations in their year-end polls.

Cara Dillon's Hill of Thieves may seem an obvious inclusion for CD of the year, her outstanding version of Spencer the Rover for best traditional track.

And so I voted, in the BBC Radio 2 Folk awards. The album was also among those listed by me in the fRoots poll (for which judges are not required to place their choice in order).

So Hill of Thieves is Salut! Live's album of 2009? No. That is where having it all ways comes in.

A misunderstanding on the release date led me to name it my album of last year. The confusion may have been mine but I am stuck with the choice I made. Since the album was considered a 2009 candidate in both the BBC and fRoots polls, I had to nominate it there.

Salut! Live is under no such obligation, and will continue - however erroneously - to regard Hill of Thieves as last year's event. I had the album in November, for heaven's sake.

So to my top 10 folk albums for 2009. One note of caution: I no longer receive albums in the numbers that I once did. Some that would probably have featured in my list in other circumstances have not come my way.

Partly for this reason, I have made no distinction between new CDs and reissues. The effect of this is that I have decided, for the first time since I began naming my album of the year two decades ago, to place two albums - one new, one a compilation - in joint first place.

Here goes:

Continue reading "Salut! Live albums of 2009: the Unthanks, Cara Dillon, Topic?" »

Chris Wood double at the BBC Folk Awards 2009


Chris Wood scored a notable double in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for 2009, collecting both Best Singer and, for Trespasser, best album titles.
All the winners are offered warmest congratulations by Salut! Live. Highlights of the awards evening (held last night) will be broadcast on the Mike Harding show on Radio 2 tomorrow evening, Wed Feb 4, at 7pm UK time. The full list of winners is:


Chris Wood


Eliza Carthy

Julie Fowlis

Karine Polwart


Chris While & Julie Matthews


Bob Fox & Stu Luckley


Spiers & Boden








Trespasser – Chris Wood


Dreams of Breathing Underwater – Eliza Carthy

Low Culture – Jim Moray

This Earthly Spell – Karine Polwart


All You Pretty Girls – Andy Partridge (performed by Jim Moray)


Come Down Jehovah – Chris Wood (performed by Chris Wood)

Mr Magnifico – Eliza Carthy/Ben Ivitsky (performed by Eliza Carthy)

The Cottager’s Reply – Frank Mansell/Chris Wood (performed by Chris Wood)


The Lark in the Morning – Jackie Oates


Fakenham Fair – Bellowhead

Lucy Wan – Jim Moray

The Lady of York – Chris Wood


Jackie Oates


Bella Hardy

Jeana Leslie & Siobhan Miller

The Shee


Tom McConville


John McCusker

Martin Simpson

Phil Beer


The Demon Barbers




Seth Lakeman


James Taylor


Judy Collins


The Black Swan Folk Club, York

Salut! CDs of 2008: an Anglo-Irish summit

Elizaunderwater2For the first time since I began nominating my folk CD/s of the year, an entirely subjective exercise though I have been lucky enough to have platforms for my views for 20 years or more, I found myself stumped.

There was not one clear winner; there were two: Eliza Carthy's outstanding Dreams of Breathing Underwater being caught at the last minute by Cara Dillon's spellbinding Hill of Thieves. An Englishwoman who has given a mountain of service to folk, whatever she chooses - we choose - to call her music now, shares the Salut! Live honours, as performer of the best CD of 2008, with one of the best singers to emerge from Northern Ireland/north of Ireland in decades.

This is simply one man's opinion, of course. It is not even the opinion I gave in my response to the fRoots and BBC critics' polls, for the simple reason that Dillon's album had not even reached me in the UAE when the deadlines for those nominations were looming.
This is my full list - I will add more detail regarding my choices when I can get round to it!:

1 Eliza Carthy Dreams of Breathing Underwater
1 Cara Dillon Hill of Thieves
3 Bellowhead Matachin

4 Fotheringay 2
5 Leon Rosselson A Proper State
6 Chris Foster Outsiders
7 Maddy Prior Seven for Old England
8 Karine Polwart This Earthly Spell
9 Ruth Notman Threads
10 Seth Lakeman Poor Man's Heaven
10 Kris Drever, John McCusker, Roddy Woomble Before The Ruin

* one obvious ps concerns the criteria applied in composing the list. No, I do not see every folk CD. Now that I live in the Gulf, and am no longer the folk critic of The Daily Telegraph, agents and record companies feel much less need to bombard me with everything that is released. So I rely on those that are sent to me, by the people who have dealt with me long enough to know whether I am likely to try to make use of them, and those I buy myself.
In other circumstances, I am sure some of the following - and others, had I heard them - would have entered my considerations since each is by an artist I have in the past championed or regularly reviewed:

Bob Fox & Stu Luckley 30 Years On
Karan Casey Ships In The Forest
Tom Paxton Comedians & Angels

Jim Moray Low Culture

Rosie Doonan Moving On

Catriona Macdonald Over The Moon
Mary McPartlan Petticoat Loose
Loudon Wainwright III Recovery
Tiny Tin Lady Ridiculous Bohemia
Capercaillie Roses and Tears
Chris While and Julie Matthews Together Alone
Tom McConville Tommy On Song
Dervish Travelling Show

Folk music to ease the fear of flying

Alanstivell2s Whenever I interview Kate Rusby, her fear of flying crops up sooner or later. I am not well placed to offer reassurance.

My earliest flights were the stuff of nightmares: rickety little plane from Blackpool (I think) to the Isle of Man, short hops over to France with airlines about to go under.

Even in my mid-20s, I needed an American to get me through a simple flight from Belfast to London. I'd spent a fortnight avoiding being shot, bombed or beaten up and was now trembling about a routine journey by air.

"I think we're going to make it," he said as we completed takeoff and stiff drinks were served. That was long ago. I have no formula to offer Kate. Practice has simply made, if not perfect, acceptable.

And if I no longer truly fear each flight, I still adopt a form of gallows humour and treat it as if it is going to be my last.

It's not really serious, just a slightly morbid game I play, and it passes time. I work out what music I'd like to have heard for the last time just in case. Don't mock my choice - it's taken from whatever I had on the iPod......

My list for last night's trip back to the UAE from Jordan is as follows:

* Rachel Unthank and the Winterset.......Fareweel Regality

* Joan Baez.......A hard rain's gonna fall

* The Dubliners
.....Bonnie Shoals of Herring (Luke Kelly singing)

* Cara Dillon
......There Were Roses

* Alain Stivell (pictured courtesy of Roger Liptrop and his indispensable Folk Images site) ......Brian Boru

* Fairport Convention (with Sandy)
.......Farewell Farewell/The Deserter

* Graham and Eileen Pratt
...The Last Road

* Steeleye Span....Long Lankin/Blackleg Miner

* Rachel Unthank and the Winterset.......Fareweel Regality (such a great song, so brilliantly done, worth at least one more hearing)

Irish music at its best? (4)

This is the fourth part of Salut! Live's series of selected Irish music, and the second collection of YouTube clips featuring my own favourite female performers from Ireland north and south. Please feel free to suggest clips you feel I ought to have included, or to applaud or criticise my choices. The first six YouTube clips in this exercise appeared in the Salut! Live posting "Irish music at its best? (3)". As mentioned in that item, clicking on to each clip also opens a gateway to much more by the same artists. Explore and enjoy...
Mary Black's lovely version of Raglan Road nearly made it into the list, until I saw - and found myself endorsing - comments at YouTube suggesting that no one could touch the late Luke Kelly's interpretation. But room had to be found for Mary's exquisite vocal charms, and I have always liked her singing of The Thorn Upon The Rose. One "jonhedge" at YouTube added this interesting anecdote: " This is Julie Matthews song, I know because I was 1 of 4 people at her house when she played it for the first time, & She told us M B had taken an option on it, The Best Version of it is by Pat Shaw on the Lies & Alibis Album (Fat Cat Records FATCD001)Pat & Julie were a Duo at the time. Mary black is Brilliant though."

Cara Dillon is not to everyone's taste. Once I had grown to appreciate her voice - which didn't happen in a flash - I came to regard her as an accomplished and highly appealing singer, and The Lark in the Clean Air provides a fine platform for her strengths....

Continue reading "Irish music at its best? (4)" »

Irish music at its best? (3)

Don't forget, the headline is a question, not a statement. All I have done, in this labour of love, is to trawl YouTube for some clips of the female Irish singers/musicians whose music - and, in a couple of cases, friendship - has been important to me over the years. I say that's all I have done, but it has taken a long time; what a good job Friday is the Muslim world's Sunday equivalent, giving me day-off time in the UAE to devote to the exercise. What we end up with is a dozen of the best, which I have spit into two parts, the second of which will appear here by tomorrow morning (Sunday). Where possible, I have deliberately avoided over-familiar songs in favour of something a little different. There are people, or versions of songs, I simply couldn't locate, so I can hardly claim to have eliminated familiarity altogether. Never trust an old hack with new technology. But see what you think, and if anyone knows any of the individuals who placed the clips at YouTube, let them/me know - I'd like them to know they're in appropriate hands, and me to know that they approve.

The wonderful Cathy Jordan of Dervish kicks off the list....... I remember once dashing across London from having seen Altan at the Fleadh to catch Dervish at the Waterman's arts centre in Brentford. A luxury of riches....

One of the best gigs I ever attended was Touchstone playing a club in Bristol in the early to mid-1980s (a club I recall as being in or just off The Centre, and having an old telephone kiosk plonked in the middle. You can either watch the interesting graphic (unrelated to the band) or, if you were there the same night in Bristol, close your eyes and still see Claudine Langille sitting on a table, swinging her legs to and fro as she plays banjo and joins Triona Ni Domhnaill in the best version of Jack Haggerty I've ever heard.....

Speaking of Altan, as I was a second ago, this list would not be complete without Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh. Tá mo Chleamhnas Déanta is taken from a 13-year-old BBC recording. I will never forget my many warm encounters with Mairéad, and of course the late, hugely missed Frankie Kennedy, in the UK and Ireland....

Continue reading "Irish music at its best? (3)" »