Reviews roundup – Songs of Separation vs. Fay Hield vs. Keith Emerson Trio vs Sam Coulson

Songs Of Separation

“Songs of Separation celebrates the similarities and differences in our musical, linguistic and cultural heritage, and set in the context of a post-referendum world, the work aims to evoke emotional responses and prompt new thinking about the issue of separation as it occurs in all our lives. The collected songs will aim to get to the heart of what we feel when we are faced with a separation, both good and bad. Providing a ‘thread through time’, joining us to previous generations who shared the same human experiences and responses to separation, and to the generations that will follow.”

That’s the smell of art, fart and hippy all rolled into one.  It’s so painful, it almost makes my teeth hurt.

It also translates as “my hard earned taxes have went to pay for a bunch of folkies to have a weeks holiday on Eigg.”  Sweet.  Nice to know the 60-70 hours a week I put in is going to a good cause.  It’s the kind of thing that really gets me riled up, and regardless of the fact that there are some good songs on here, it should not exist.

If Eliza Carthy, Karine Polwart, Mary Macmaster, Kate Young, Hannah James, Hazel Askew, Rowan Rheingans, Jenn Butterworth, Jenny Hill and Hannah Read want to have a beano, then do it of your own back.  A cast iron reason why the likes of Creative Scotland and the Arts Council are moribund, ein welt bureaucracies that should be shut down now. Shameless.


Old Adam

So buy this instead.  Because it is a cracker of a folk album.  The third solo album from Ms Hield, following on from The Full English project, this is chock full of sparkling performances allied to some great songs.

You can well understand why she has so many award nominations under her belt, as she tackles material from the seventeenth century right through to the modern day.  Which takes us from the outstanding ‘The Hag in the Beck’ to the dull as ditchwater Tom Waits tune ‘The Briar and the Rose’.  But that’s just about the only stumble on an excellent record.

The highlights for me were ‘Green Gravel’ and ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’, but you’d be hard pushed to pick favourites here.  The arrangements and performances from her band, The Hurricane Party, are exemplary, which is no surprise with the likes of Rob Harbron and Sam Sweeney in fine form, alongside guest of the calibre of Martin Simpson.

It’s due out early in 2016, but don’t be surprised if you’re still playing it at year’s end.


The Keith Emerson Trio

A curio this one, from the very early days of the keyboard maestro, Mr Keith Emerson.  Turns out someone came across a copy of an acetate he’d recorded with his band, back when he was just a wee boy.  It’s been out as a limited edition vinyl record, but now everyone can get their hands on the CD version.

Turns out that back in 1963, the seventeen year old Keith sat down in the front room of his parents’ council house and recorded a number of jazz songs with his trio on a reel-to-reel recorder.  The band got a copy each and the spare was used to try to get gigs.

Fast forward fifty plus years and you can hear his combo run through jazz standards by the likes of Hank Mobley and Oliver Nelson, while there is an airing for one of his early compositions, ’56 Blues’.  Is it any good?  Well, it’s not bad, but there is nothing here that is essential listening.  Fans, though,  will enjoy hearing his early work, especially on ‘Soul Station’.


Electric Classical
Japan Castle Records

For those of you who don’t know, Sam Coulson is the current guitarist in melodic prog rock band ASIA. He took on the big job of replacing Steve Howe, something which would have daunted many, but he seems to have taken it in his stride, both live and in the studio, as the “Gravitas” album attests.

Away from that, he has a large online following for his tutorial, all leading to this, his first solo album.  “Electric Classical”, as the name suggests features his guitar interpretations of famous classical works from artists such as Bach, Beethoven, and Schubert among many others.

It’s a respectful guitar album, so don’t come here looking for Malmsteen styled sturm und drang.  Instead, he keeps to the melody, and expresses himself with style rather than flash.  I won’t be the first person to point out the similarities to Jan Akkerman, so if you yearn for some respite, then this could be for you.

However, it would be remiss of me not to point out that you are being asked to pay full price for 25 minutes of solo guitar music.  Which is a bit cheeky, no matter how enjoyable it is.