Browsing Tag

Orchestral Folk

Grainne Eve paid a poignant homage to Sam Henry with her cover of ‘Maid of Culmore’

Taken from Grainne Eve’s debut album, The Songs of Sam Henry, the standout orchestral folk single, Maid of Culmore, is so much more than a narrative tale; the inexplicably anachronistic arrangement conjures panoramic imagery to ensure you’re not solely looking at a portrait of the lyrical protagonist, you are in the landscape within her, completely abstracted from the 21st century.

The debut LP is just a scratch on the surface of the Portstewart, Northern Ireland-hailing folk singer-songwriter’s lifelong mission to understand and pay homage to the legacy of the folklorist and ballad crafter Sam Henry, who was integral to the preservation of Northern Irish folk tradition. Grainne Eve is currently in the final stages of writing her PhD, which focuses on Henry’s vast folk collection after completing a BA and MA in Music at Newcastle University.

‘The Songs of Sam Henry’ made its official debut on July 8th, 2022, at the Riverside Theatre in Coleraine. The album launch event was graciously introduced by the renowned TV presenter Joe Mahon. It was also presented live on Raidio Failte as part of the Belfast TradFest 2022 and received airplay on BBC Radio Ulster. Notably, ‘The Songs of Sam Henry’ earned a nomination for the NI Music Prize in 2022. Here’s to hoping we hear plenty more from Eve in the not-too-distant future.

Stream Maid of Culmore on Spotify and find out more about the exemplary artist and aural academic by visiting her official website.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Brian Berggoetz tenderly chases an ethereal spectre in his orchestral folk score, Just a Dream

Just a Dream is the latest orchestrally ornate single meticulously crafted by the Tucson, Arizona artist, Brian Berggoetz. While the acoustic guitar strings keep the orchestration humble, intimate and folky, the cinematic interplay between the cello and violin strings brings a profound sense of elegant refinement to the lyricism, which tenderly chases an ethereal spectre.

With his backing band, Brian Berggoetz has become a prominent fixture in the Tucson live circuit and beyond; his live shows, whether he’s opening for Reverend Horton Heat, Charlie Sexton and Chris Murphy or topping the bill, have a reputation for rendering audiences enraptured.

Original songwriting is just one of his talents in a vast repertoire; he also has an affinity for reimagining classical songs in his distinctive style, which balances euphonic decadence with the intense affability of folk rock to make classical overtones effortlessly accessible to a wide audience. If Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack for Into the Wild infused more orchestral strings, I’m not entirely convinced it would emanate the same delicate visceral mesmerism of Just a Dream.

Just a Dream is now available to stream on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

The Bluegrass Bards, The Way Back Yard, are Back in Action in Their Eponymous EP

To kick off their eponymous EP, the Minneapolis band The Way Back Yard put their own baroque spin on the folk classic Wayfaring Stranger. The vignette of a world-weary soul traversing dirt roads in a bid for self-discovery may have been around since long before the Civil War, but it still lyrically rings just as true today in an era that is blighted by a collective loss of meaning.

The folky Americana retelling of the melancholic tale will embed itself deep within your soul; with every cello and violin sting pull, you will feel more of the gravity projected by the three-part harmonies that The Way Back Yard has become revered for.

They’ve come a long way since playing in backyards in the Twin Cities; their Crosby, Stills and Nash-inspired melodies have received extensive radio and podcast plays, and they’ve become part of the furniture in the Minneapolis bluegrass scene. On the basis of the gravitas in their cover of Wayfaring Stranger, it is about time for them to become a global folk phenomenon.

The self-titled EP from The Way Back Yard is now available to stream on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

The UK orchestral folk duo River Knight is on melodious form in their sanctuary spilling single, Unsprung

The folk duo River Knight has been fairly quiet since their 2021 album, Grow. They are back on melodious form in their latest orchestral folk single, Unsprung, which borrows fractions of the melody to Take on Me, but with such a stunning orchestral string ensemble and hints of the Verve and 90s Britpop in the verses, who is complaining?

The earworm brings the ragged and rough timbres through the acoustic guitar strings and percussion while the smooth can be found in the gloss of the orchestral crescendos, which are as close to heaven as the impious are likely to get.

Each new progression is a brand-new opportunity to fall in love with the duo who banded together in 2017 as a form of therapy for Darren Knight after the tragic passing of his wife. Stone River was there for unwavering support and to offer the Ying to Knight’s songwriting Yang. The duo are well known on the London, Portsmouth and Southampton live circuit, but it’s only a matter of time before they take their international-level approach to indie folk rock to the status it beckons.

Unsprung officially released on December 16th. Catch it on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Peaks & Valleys speak for the melancholic souls in their orchestral indie-folk single, Surrender

Peaks & Valleys have debuted their masterful, aptly morose EP, How Far We Fell, featuring the bitter-sweet exposition of grief, Surrender. The Edinburgh-based three-piece start with sombre acoustic guitars before the quiescently ennui-laden vocals hush desolation into the polished orchestral production, which brings in orchestral strings and minor piano keys to pay homage to the roots of Scottish Folk and laden you with compassion for the disillusioned protagonist portrayed.

In a time when it feels like everyone with a shred of empathy and awareness is succumbing to the subjugating grips of futility, Surrender will undoubtedly have a profound effect. The grief shared through the lyricism that leaves plenty of room to inject your reason for melancholy against the climactic orchestral crescendos is inexplicably beautiful in its resounding darkness.

Surrender will be available to stream from December 13th via SoundCloud.

Follow Peaks & Valleys on Facebook and Instagram.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Snows of Yesteryear ‘Wait by the Shore’ in their orchestral indie folk exposition of generational grief.

Snows of Yesteryear could only hail from Scotland with their mesmerising future-resisting take on orchestral indie-folk, which resounds in their debut single, Wait by the Shore.

No one can ever truly replace the alchemy that blossomed in the melancholy of the original Frightened line-up. But Snows of Yesteryear set our hearts and minds alight with a similar spark as the high-octave vocals from Kat Orr captivate as they mourn the tragedies which befell Scottish fishermen in 1881.

Classic, but still a million miles from archaic, Wait by the Shore is an achingly artful dark exposition of generational grief that proves the up-and-coming indie folk outfit is inseparable from their sonic and hometown roots.

Wait by the Shore is now available to stream on Spotify. The official music video will premiere on December 9th, and their debut album is in the pipeline, so get them on your radar.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Elisa Winter – Summer Spent Dreaming: orchestrally apocalyptic post-grunge resonance

While many artists desperately wrestled with their creativity during the first lockdown only to reveal trite lyricism the performer, composer, multi-instrumentalist and baroquely phenomenal recording artist, Elisa Winter foresaw the new normal before the modern plague was on our door.

Finally, her debut album, Summer and Smoke, which was officially released on Summer Solstice 2022, is here to spill orchestrally apocalyptic post-grunge resonance. The LP tracks across the tensions between truth, reality and gaslighting, with the engrossingly stunning highlight, Summer Spent Dreaming.

Lush yet tumultuous. Visceral yet encompassing the detachment we all felt in some capacity, Summer Spent Dreaming is the most authentic aural depiction of the frustration and entropy I’ve heard yet.

Everything changed, in a way it is almost impossible to put in words. I say almost because Elisa Winter discernibly succeeded with “speak to me please, what has happened to you? Searching for you in your eyes, you won’t let me in.” There’s been a disconnect that we’ve kept our heads in the sand about. Thankfully, Elisa Winter is here to vindicate the confusion in our alien relationship with reality and each other.

Elisa Winter’s latest album, Summer and Smoke, is now available to stream via Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast


Henry Liggins orchestrated every hopeless romantic’s quintessential playlist staple with his folk single, Makeup

After a Cohen-Esque acoustic guitar intro, Henry Liggins’ vocals mellifluously float in with the same captivating ease over his tenderly orchestrated piano and guitar progressions as Glenn Hansard in his latest single, Makeup.

The hopeless romanticism in Makeup is nothing short of breath-taking poetry as Liggins muses on his muse, capturing the fragile beauty within the vulnerability of relationships in our chaotic existence. The amount of sincerity is almost a shock to the system. There’s no doubt that this dreamy serenade came straight from Liggins’ sugared Shakespearean soul.

While staying true to his timelessly intimate style, the Birmingham-based singer-songwriter notably has a tirade of commercial appeal behind his ornately captivating sound.

Makeup will officially release on June 10th. Hear it here.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Singer-songwriter Kelsey Hughen takes us to the House on a Hilltop.

Classically trained Austin, Texas-born singer-songwriter Kelsey Hughen has released her latest cinematic Celtic folk single, House on a Hilltop; the semi-orchestral single captures Hughen’s genre-fluid at its most arcane.

The celestial timbre of the instrumentals sets a fantastical tone, as the lyrics yearn for an escape from the struggle of conformity with the one person that you can strip back the façade with unashamedly. House on a Hilltop is easily one of the sincerest love songs to hit the airwaves this year. The way it captures the security of love that frees us is just beyond beautiful.

House on Hilltop is now available to stream via Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Explore the Folklore in Garefowl’s single ‘Hion Daila Horo Ri Ho Hion Daila La’

Folklore organically flows through ‘Hion Daila Horo Ri Ho Hion Daila La’, just one of the singles found on the Alt Folk artist Garefowl’s alchemic TARDIS of an album ‘Cliffs’.

The entrancingly tribalistic record consistently subverts your expectations by seamlessly shunting you from eerie tones into euphoria-infusing traditional St Kildan melodies.

Even though each of the artists contributing to the album worked remotely, the instrumental arrangement transcends being ‘tight’. The mesmerism which breathes between the brooding notes is enough to tear you away from modernity and allow you to wonder what it would be like to live a subsistence existence away from the fray and 21st distraction,

After receiving high praise from the likes of Cerys Matthews (BBC Radio 6), Mark Radcliffe (BBC Radio 2) and The National, it is impossible to see how Garefowl won’t become a major part of the musical landscape in 2021 and beyond.

You can check out Garefowl’s single via Spotify or YouTube.

Review by Amelia Vandergast