1. Chris While & Julie Matthews
‘I Don’t Know’
Marking their 20th anniversary, Chris While and Julie Matthews released their ninth studio album in November 2014. Who We Are finds While and Matthews in full creative flow and once again showcases their diversity as both musicians and songwriters. Chris While and Julie Matthews’ musical partnership began in 1994 when they were key members of influential folk super-group The Albion Band. In 1997, they left the band to concentrate on their work as a duo. They are 10-time nominees at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards since 2001 and were best duo winners in 2009.
2. The Folly Brothers
‘Time In The Can’
The Folly Brothers is a Leamington-based bluegrass trio consisting of brothers Mark Roden (acoustic guitar) and Jonny Roden (banjo), and Wes Stanton (double bass). Going down a storm on the local festival circuit, and having amassed BBC Introducing success, the trio delves into a gritty and rootsy mélange full of sweeping licks, pumping bass lines and tasty harmonies. They successfully blend a modern country twang with rollicking bluegrass which has stirred up the UK roots circuit. Currently recording music to be released later in the year, keep your eye on their Facebook page for release info and details of upcoming shows.
3. Fernwood Arcadia
Formed in 2006 by Todd Montgomery and Gayle Ellett, Fernwood has released three albums so far: Almeria, Sangita and Arcadia. They create contemporary acoustic music that is beautiful and elegant, with a strong cinematic and pan-cultural feel. By combining elements of pastoral acoustic music, with the sounds of Traditional American, Irish, Eastern European, Asian, and Middle Eastern music, and a laid-back Southern California vibe, the music of Fernwood is quite special. With a deliberate focus on composition, arrangements and orchestration, they have created a new Americana hybrid style that is uniquely their own.
4. Fanfare Ciocarlia
‘The Absinthe-Minded Gypsy’
Fusing infectious, lightning-fast melodies, thunderous drums, unbridled brass and a mischievous, captivating stage presence, Fanfare Ciocarlia are unparalleled live performers. Described by The Times as “a heavy, heavy monster of sound” and by The Evening Standard as ‘’the best live band in the world’’, Fanfare Ciocarlia have taken their eerie Balkan groove into venues, festivals and dance clubs across the planet. Fanfare Ciocarlia’s live blast appeals to punks and headbangers, jazz and funk fans, world music aficionados and those who simply love music that is unique.
Bruise has carved a niche with their progressive take on alt-folk over the last 15 years, touring worldwide. Isobel Morris and Jim Kimberley’s catalogue of quality material only lacks the comfortable security of fitting into a genre, with no inevitable blues or soul template to follow – just an honest re-imagining of folk, a creative mission which at times is just barely folk. The Bruise repertoire has always absorbed its melodic sensibilities from the world of folk, and their arrangements and production values have always had their feet in the world of prog. Their collection of songs sees an evolution of the band’s sound, and this acoustic sensibility feels like a homecoming.
6. Michael Fix
This remarkable composer and musician has the power to create sensory experiences through his music – it captures and conveys emotions, experiences and images with ease. Over the past 25 years, he’s released 13 albums, together with several DVDs, songbooks, singles and EPs, and has established himself as one of Australia’s finest guitarists and composers, performing regularly at festivals across Australia, Europe, Asia, and writing evocative music for television, film and documentaries. He’s also won numerous awards for his music, including three Golden Guitars, and, as a Maton guitar endorsee (with his own signature model guitar), his guitar workshops are in high demand all over Australia and internationally.
7. Fabian Holland
Fabian Holland is a songwriter who gets right to the heart of the human condition in a disarmingly subtle way. Less than 18 months after releasing his widely applauded self-titled debut CD, the canal boat-dwelling musician is back with A Day Like Tomorrow, an album of nine compelling original songs segueing seamlessly with strong interpretations of two traditional tracks and further showcasing his distinctive voice and guitar playing. Unusual teamwork features in this classy release with the introduction of edgy drums, percussion and vocals from the acclaimed Fred Claridge. A Day Like Tomorrow is out on April 27.
8. Noah Francis Johnson
‘For A Long Time’
Inspired by Bob Dylan, what strikes you is Noah Francis Johnson ability to characterise and express his personal feelings. Brought up to greats such as Marvin Gaye and Frank Sinatra, Noah is blessed with a versatile range, depth, richness and power. Similar to Gaye, Noah’s diversity has given him the ability to sing ranging from rock, blues to soul. Noah’s musical journey started alongside his father performing in working men’s clubs in his home country of Wales, a place that has given birth to names such as Tom Jones, Stereophonics, and Manic Street Preachers. Noah’s Life And Times is out now.
9. Paul Brett
Paul Brett is rated as one of the best 12-string acoustic guitarists in the world. He has played or recorded with the Strawbs, the Overlanders, Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera, the Velvet Opera, Tintern Abbey, Fire, Roy Harper, Al Stewart, Lonnie Donegan, Paul Brett Sage and in his own right as Paul Brett. He was a top session guitarist in the 1960s and 70s, having been in demand for many top sessions with a wide variety of artists. His first 12-string guitar suite ‘Earth Birth’ was critically acclaimed. It was released on Paul’s own label Phoenix Future. This led to Paul being signed on a four-album deal to RCA Records.
10. Paul Thompson
‘Flights Of Geese’
To mark the release of Lost In The Land Of Midnight Sun, Paul Thompson is embarking on a musical journey from his Norfolk home to the Outer Hebrides… in a milk float! Starting on June 5 at the Green Britain Centre, he will be travelling in the specially converted vehicle, with solar panels powering music gear. Performing at outdoor locations such as Wildlife Trust Centres and the Northumberland National Park, Paul will be running songwriting workshops, and there will be support slots available for up-and-coming singer-songwriters. The tour will finish at the end of August with a 12-day string of shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. Details can be found at Paul’s website.
Tinderbox is an award winning acoustic duo featuring Dublin born Monique Houraghan with a distinctive “honey-like” vocal, and Dan Tucker with an intricate fingerstyle guitar technique. In addition to headline shows in the UK, Ireland and America, Tinderbox has played support for many high profile acts including Joan Armatrading, Graham Gouldman, Cara Dillon, Hazel O’Connor, Jon Allen, Eleanor McEvoy, Amy Wadge, Ben’s Brother, Ralph McTell, Squeeze’s Chris Difford, and Ade Edmondson. BBC 6 Music’s Tom Robinson described the music as “gorgeous”. Tim Carroll of Folkwords magazine described Tinderbox as “highly accomplished”.
12. Chris Gray
‘She Loves The Morning’
Chris Gray has spent the past few years honing his brand of bluesy, melodic folk-rock, regularly performing live as both a solo acoustic artist and with his band. He has opened for Roger Daltrey, Peter Green, the Coral, the Charlatans, John Power, Status Quo, Matt Cardle, Feeder, Turin Brakes, and headlined the Deep South Festival. In 2013, Chris was asked to record a cover of the Kinks classic song ‘Waterloo Sunset’ for the Peter Quaife Foundation. While recording the track, he worked on creating a four-track EP (Don’t Lose Your Way) with producer, Tony Lowe (Robert Fripp), who offered Chris a recording contract with Sunn Creative.
13. Tristan Mackay
‘Wire & Wood’
With his new album Wire & Wood due out in April, Tristan Mackay is a hot prospect for 2015. Since he was famously discovered busking by producer Martin Levan, this singer-songwriter has been amassing a passionate fanbase. Tristan’s first studio album Out Along The Wire topped the iTunes Blues chart in 2012 and received acclaim from the music press. His follow-up album Wire & Wood, an all-acoustic record, is already receiving effusive praise and early airplay from Radio 2. Tristan has toured and guested extensively since his debut album as support for Beth Hart, Rumer, Billy Bragg, the Proclaimers, Steve Harley, and Eric Johnson.
14. Inti Rowland
‘Beaten, Battered, But Bold’
Recorded in six days in a converted chapel in the Scottish highlands, 17th Century Japanese Aviary is the first full-length release from London-based singer-songwriter Inti Rowland. Rowland’s fingerpicked guitar sits in the fore, but the album soars way beyond the foundations of traditional singer-songwriters, with brass, a string quartet and light percussion adding to the mix, which combine to give the album a John Martyn vibe. The church setting gives Rowland’s soft vocals reverberation that gives way to a Benjamin Francis Leftwich-style track. The intimate yet full-bodied experimentation is on par with other modern folk greats such as Laura Marling and Ben Howard.