Category: Ruth Notman

New Artists, (Re)Covered: Still-Rising Stars
Ruth Notman, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Fort DeClare & more!

October 16th, 2010 — 01:55 pm

The mailbox is stuffed to the gills with sweet sounds from artists we first noted as new and rising stars – a validating turn of events, proving that the young songwriters we feature in our New Artists, Old Songs series and elsewhere really are the next generation of folk music. Today, we celebrate our prescience with a look at the newest output from some increasingly familiar under-thirty voices, each well worth keeping on the radar screen.

Though we featured her famous families early in our incarnation as a folk coverblog, we first noted the emergence of Lucy Wainwright Roche when she appeared at Falcon Ridge Folk Fest in the summer of 2009. Back then, Lucy was newly committed to the music world, having hit the road in ’07 as a backup singer for brother Rufus after finishing a Masters in Ed., then going on to record a sweet pair of 8 song EPs; since then, she’s cropped up at least once more, thanks to an etherial duet with her father on his double-disc tribute to Charlie Poole. And now, with the release of her debut album Lucy, the youngest member of the Roche/Wainwright clan comes fully into her own.

But those who love her work with father Loudon, half-sibling Rufus, mother Suzzy of The Roches and others need not be dismayed: all appear on the aptly-titled album, along with the Indigo Girls and fellow Falcon Ridge Most Wanted showcase alums Girlyman. Lucy, which also includes a surprising hidden-track cover of Elliot Smith’s Say Yes recorded with nasal NPR stalwart Ira Glass, is a tour de force of wry, concrete songwriting, mixing her parent’s observational prowess with her own innocent voice and youthful optimism. See if you can identify the harmonies in this gorgeous new album-closing cover, then head over to Signature Sounds to sample and purchase Lucy for yourself.

Bonus tracks:

Previously on Cover Lay Down:
Lucy Wainwright Roche duets with her father on classic tune Beautiful

Like fellow new britfolk sensation Kate Rusby, Ruth Notman came to me through my own blog, via a Brit Femfolk guest post three summers ago while I was away at my annual folk festival journey; though our guest poster Divinyl, once a stalwart of collaborative music blog Star Maker Machine, has long gone absent from the web, Notman herself remains a voice to listen for, cranking out more and more sweet and tender music as she approaches her early twenties.

In the past year, in fact, Notman has recorded not one but two wonderful coversongs: a truly great recapture of Fairport Convention’s 40 year old french version of Dylan’s If You’ve Gotta Go, Go Now released last fall on her newest album The Life Of Lilly, and an even more recent take on the well-covered theme song to Weeds, recorded for a Pete Seeger tribute on BBC Radio 2.

Bonus tracks:

Recently on Cover Lay Down:
Ruth Notman covers Dougie MacLean’s Caledonia

Teenage sensation Sam Ramos, a.k.a. Fort deClare, made a splash here on Cover Lay Down just a few months ago with an exclusive look at his first recorded coverage tryptych; now he’s back with more of the delightful lo-fi indie electrofolk which won our hearts the first time around. Still delicate, but increasingly well-balanced in production and tenor, the new songs only reinforce our fandom, and their selection speaks loudly and clearly of Sam’s influences. With its thick, layered atmosphere and gentle repetitive elements, fans of Vashti Bunyan, Bon Iver, Sam Amidon, Iron and Wine, and that early Morning Benders covers album will find this an especially vibrant set – and Elise Krepcho’s vocal turn on Train Song beats Feist’s, too.

Meanwhile, with Christmas just around the corner, it’s great news indeed to find our favorite Sufjan-meets-Denison Witmer singer-songwriter Joel Rakes gearing up for another holiday coverage sampler. This time, however, he’s looking for our input, letting fans vote to influence his yearly selection. And I’m thrilled to have a chance to advocate for both songwriter and song selection in one fell swoop.

We’ve featured the Philly-bred artist for several years running, thanks to his fun yearly takes on the classic hymns of the season; he’s sure to revisit some oldies this time around, too, but I’m gunning for some stripped-down coverage of more modern songs, like Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmas Time and Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You. Won’t you help this coverblogger’s Christmas dreams come true? Head over to Joel’s blog to vote now, and pick up his newest full-band EP The Philadelphia Sessions, recorded just before his move to Nashville late last year, while you’re there. Here’s a pair of older Xmas covers to whet your whistle:

Finally, word of new work from local alt-country folkrockers Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers is always good news, and though they’ve already finished their swing through the lower half of the country, I’m happy to note that their Fall tour will soon bring them back to my own neighborhood as they continue to promote their newest record The Bear, which comes highly recommended. Kellogg himself is an over-thirty, and there’s nary a cover on The Bear, but the addition of fave young folkpop-slash-bluegrass sensation Sara Watkins on this very recent, somewhat raw live Townes Van Zandt* Rolling Stones cover, recorded from the crowd just last week in Pittsburgh, bring it into our under-thirty mix today.

*This version of Dead Flowers was sent along to Kellogg’s mailing list labeled as a Townes cover; it’s certainly derivative, but we know better, don’t we…

1,631 comments » | (Re)Covered, Joel Rakes, Lucy Wainwright Roche, New Artists Old Songs, Ruth Notman

The Tradfolk Revival: Young Brit Femfolk with today’s guest host: Divinyl

July 18th, 2008 — 11:41 am
This post has absolutely squat to do with the picture above, but it is a feast of British folk, therefore I thought that the picture was fitting; just ignore the artist listing. I shall start with a confession – I am entirely rubbish. I am a terrible procrastinator and someone who often does things at the very last opportunity. And that is the case here. I feel slightly shame-faced tarnishing such a wonderful blog with my efforts, but honoured to have been offered the privilege, therefore I could not resist posting just a little something.

Due to time constraints and slight inebriation, I have limited this post to talking about only three of the darling dames of the very much thriving young British folk scene (hey, maybe Boyhowdy will invite me back some time to introduce a few more?!). It is my understanding that, despite these times of t’internet and music easily accessible to all, often folk music does not seem to cross borders and oceans very quickly. I am continually surprised when I converse with fellow bloggers from the other side of the pond, people I consider to be far more musically-knowledgeable than me, to hear that they are not familiar with even the ‘bigger’ names. I am here, therefore, to begin the process of rectifying that!

All of the songs included below have one common theme – they are traditional songs; songs that have been sung and loved by many over the years, that have done the rounds with folk festival crowds and back-room-of-the-pub singalongs. The particularly interesting thing, then, is these ladies’ interpretation of these well-known tunes, their very understanding of what is at the core of each song, and how they may make it their own.

First up is Kate Rusby – a charming Barnsley lass (that’s South Yorkshire FYI) with a strong northern accent, a down-to-earth attitude and a love of sea shanties and other traditional songs. Accordingly, you will often find her sweet-as-apple-pie voice singing tales of lost love, violence and death! Courtesy of parents that were in a ceilidh band, she grew up around folk music and folk music festivals.

She is perhaps my very favourite of the set, her voice almost tear-inducingly beautiful. She is also immensely likable and is absolutely brilliant live if you should ever have the chance – I have seen her twice to date, and her performance was astounding on both occasions. Rusby has truly mastered the art of inter-song banter and the whole stage presence conundrum, which I believe to be almost as important as the music itself in a live environment.

Rusby is getting on a bit now, in terms of this theme, at age 34 (ha!), but started out waaay back in 1995 and has since released eight solo albums, in addition to releases with Kathryn Roberts and her former band The Poozies. She has garnered much praise from the British press at large, and even more in folk circles, resulting in her receipt of four BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (including Folk Singer of the Year in 2000). She was also nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 1999 – a contest that spans many genres and that often makes highly influential, independent choices. Here she is with a sea shanty and one about fighting a dragon!
The Wild Goose – Kate Rusby (trad.)
(from Sleepless)
Sir Eglamore – Kate Rusby (trad. arr. Kate Rusby)
(from Hourglass)

Ruth Notman was only 18 years old when she released her debut album, Threads, last year, which only made it all the more impressive. Less well known, to date, than the others in this post, she is definitely a name to watch. Notman hails from Nottingham, in the Midlands of England and started performing in folk clubs in her home county and neighbouring Derbyshire at the age of 13.

The most consummate thing about the traditional songs (and cover songs in general) on her album is her interpretation; her arrangements evidence a wonderful musical maturity and a solid understanding of composition and tune. Yet just as tenable is that 18 year old spirit – despite the tradsong, you can hear that this is a young woman equally familiar with modern music and pop sensibilities; someone who knows Independent Woman and other such fluff, just like her peers. Oh, and she is also a cracking pianist (and multi-instrumentalist).
She, too, has been noticed by the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards people, reaching the final of the Young Folk Award in 2006.
Present here is the usual happy folk subject matter of neglect, beating, and suicidal ideation! Fause Fause is one that you can also hear by the likes of Kris Drever and Kathryn Tickell.
Still I Love Him – Ruth Notman (trad. arr. Ruth Notman)
(from Threads)

Fause Fause – Ruth Notman (trad. arr. Ruth Notman)
(from Threads)

Another lass with a love, and sound understanding, of the traditional is Northumberland’s Rachel Unthank, who has released two albums with The Winterset – her sister Becky (who actually appears as a co-lead vocalist), Jackie Oates (the viola player who was replaced last year by Niopha Keegan) and Belinda O’Hooley (who is also impressive as a solo artist and is a stunning pianist).

A lot of the music that Unthank delivers is very closely tied to the region – a region which has a very strong folk identity, with Northumbrian dialect and tales of border battles with Scotland. It is also startlingly untrendy, in the very best possible way…this is honest, unfussy, bare bones tradfolk. In fact, Rachel and Becky Unthank started out performing as an a capella duo. But tradfolk does not tell the whole story. For example, there is a Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy) cover on their second album The Bairns (which is even better than their debut Cruel Sister…just the kind of trend we like to see!). Just to clue you in, “bairn” is Northumbrian and Scottish dialect for ‘child’.
Again the folkies at the BBC are impressed, and she/they were nominated for three awards just this year, winning the Horizon Award. Rachel, pre-Winterset, also reached the finals of the Young Folk Award. Do you see a theme starting to develop here?

Like many, the Unthank sisters come from musical stock – their parents are both singers, and father George is part of North East folk group The Keelers. I love that the music they choose is so intrinsically about the region in which I live. The first track below is an amalgamation of several traditional songs (The Wedding O’Blythe, When the Tide Comes In, Blue’s Gaen Oot O’the Fashion, The Lad With the Trousers On, The Sailors Are All at the Bar). Rachel, in the liner notes of the album on which it appears says,

“The songs provide a snap shot from a period of history when the shores of the River Tyne saw the hectic comings and goings of press gangs, soldiers, sailors and tall ships.”
Blue Bleezing Bling Drunk is, on the other hand, a good old domestic violence ditty! It is also, apparently, one of the very first songs to depict a drunken Scottish woman…I’m sure that there must have been many more since!
Blue’s Gaen Oot O’the Fashion – Rachel Unthank and The Winterset (trad.)
(from The Bairns)

Blue Bleezing Blind Drunk – Rachel Unthank and The Winterset (trad./Belle Stewart)
(from The Bairns)

Divinyl holds forth on a broad assortment of music from folk to Feist at Ceci N’est Pas un Blog. She is also the sole female member of the collaborative at Star Maker Machine.

615 comments » | Guest Posts, Kate Rusby, Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, Ruth Notman