'Freefolk' (on-line folk magazine) Bed Of Straw CD review
Here you will find classy English Folk Guitar, eminently listenable
vocals and great songs, both traditional and contemporary .
The opening track, Bed of Straw, was written by McFarlane and is
destined to become a classic.
On many of the pieces his guitar is tuned to an open chord of C
modal, a favourite of Nic Jones.
The recordings are totally honest. Book this gentleman for your club
and this is what you will hear..
You will not have to imagine how he
will sound without studio tricks and session men - there are none.
The engineer was Alistair Russell, for fifteen years a mainstay of
the Battlefield Band.
McFarlane, a resident of Leeds, is a born again folkie, having last
performed in a folk club in 1972.
All those lost years! Welcome
LINEN (USA Folk Magazine) Apr/May 03 Issue #105 - Bed of Straw CD
Duncan McFarlane is an English singer/guitarist whose honest,
focused sound recalls people like Nic Jones and Pete Morton.
debut CD, Bed of Straw (Dunx Music DUNCCD001 (2002), is a solo
voice-and-guitar recording that includes traditional songs
the much-covered "Boys of Bedlam" and "Three Drunken Maidens" - and
the less familiar
"The Americans Have Stolen My True Love Away", the
lament of the one left behind. McFarlane also shows a flair for
writing tradition-styled originals, l
ike the title track, which
recounts the unfortunate end of a pair of conscripts in McFarlane's
home city of Leeds, and "Famous Floating B", a rakish sailor's tale
that makes a voyage transporting female convicts to Australia sound
like a party cruise. McFarlane shows promise as both a interpreter
and a writer in the English song tradition.
- issue 227 May '02, Bed of Straw CD review
Duncan's a punchy guitarist in the 'English folk' style and offers a
set about equally split between his own songs, other people's and
While he pulls off the interesting feat of updating Martin Carthy's
update of Begging Song - the traditional process in action or what?
- his version of Barrack Street sticks very close to Nic Jones's,
though nothing could ever be quite like that one as far as I'm
He follows a creditable Anderson's Coast with his own jaunty take
on transportation, Famous Floating 'B' .
If that song shows a good way with words, McFarlane's storytelling,
tune-writing and performance really come together on the title
This was inspired by two stone skulls half way up a stable wall in
Leeds, that are reputed to commemorate two conscripts who succumbed
to a hazard of military life that never would have occurred to most
This costs £13 inc p&p and is well worth checking out.
Beale - fRoots
- CD review - Raymond Greenoaken, Editor -
South Yorks. Folk Magazine, Dec ’01 – Feb ’02 issue
Duncan McFarlane – Bed of Straw – Dunx Music – DUNXCD001
''Time for a bit of fancy footwork here.
Readers might recall that I got all sniffy in last issue’s Reviews
section about artists who are locked in a 1970’s time warp.
mitigation, I should have pointed out that, in many ways, the 70’s
were a genuine golden age.
Forget for a moment all that lumbering, over-elaborate folk rockery
and the massed battalions of ‘‘snot-bum-and-willy’’ folk comedians;
the truth is that the decade was the defining period stylistically
for English trad music, particularly in the matter of solo
It was the time that, thanks to the efforts of Martin Carthy, Nic
Jones, Dick Gaughan, Tony Rose and others, that a mode of
emerged that was bang up to date yet completely faithful
to the genius of the tradition. And in the blizzard of eclecticism
blowing through the folk scene, those ‘70’s
benchmarks are in some danger of being lost to sight.
Which is why, when I say that the opening bars of Duncan McFarlane’s
debut CD whisked me back to that unjustly-traduced decade
me there till the last, I mean it as a compliment.
Although, to judge by the biog on his website, Leeds-based Duncan
was bashing out buzz-saw riffs on a Telecaster in those days,
absorbed the best practice of Carthy and Jones in particular in his
playing and singing.
His guitar work is fluid and melodic on the more reflective
material, and brusquely percussive on the up-tempo stuff.
sometimes it’s both at once; but at all times it’s perfectly judged
never – the besetting problem with today’s guitar aces –
Meantime, his vocal phrasing plays subtly off
the guitar in the approved Carthy-Jones fashion.
Nor is he afraid to advertise his influences: included here are two
songs impregnated with the Carthy watermark (Begging Song and
Devil And The Feathery Wife) and another (Barrack Street) bearing
the indelible Jones thumbprint. He makes them his own.
Duncan can also turn a good trad-style song himself, to judge by the
title track and by The Famous Floating B,
a curious and naughtily un-PC tale of a floating bordello bound for
Van Dieman’s Land. Another original composition,
Say You’ll Never, hints at his earlier life as a popster; featuring
a Brill Building-by-numbers lyric, it could have been nicked from a
Dusty Springfield b-side, but nevertheless sits comfortably enough
between Boys of Bedlam and
The Americans Have Stolen My True Love Away.
Bed of Straw is a quiet delight, a compendium of unfashionable but
enduring virtues. It’s living proof, in this sample-swamped age,
that all you need are a voice and six steel strings.''
Music Maker - CD Review from magazine – Nov issue ‘01-
Duncan McFarlane - Bed of Straw - Dunx Music - DUNXCD.001
’This is an admirably honest and unpretentious CD from singer,
songwriter and guitarist Duncan,
who's rapidly (and deservedly)
making a name for himself on the folk club circuit in Yorkshire and
Sympathetically produced and with typical restraint by Alistair
Russell, it showcases Duncan's considerable talents both as
guitarist and songwriter on a well-programmed collection of songs
(and one appealing self-penned instrumental piece).
Stylistically, Duncan's guitar technique falls very much within the
Carthy/Nic Jones school, with a strong rhythmic impetus
that's infectious in the extreme, and he has all the deftness of
co-ordination required to bring it off.
His singing has real character too, though he'd readily admit it
isn't as accomplished as his playing
(but remember that's a hard act
His own songs, which comprise four out of the fourteen tracks, are
impressive indeed: both the title track and Famous Floating B both
a distinct traditional influence and are particularly memorable
among the livelier tracks, while For the Ladies and Say you'll never
contemplative in the manner of contemporary
singer-songwriter and every bit as successful.
Aside from fetching performances of John Warner's Anderson's Coast
and Dougie MacLean's Talking With My Father, the rest of the
material is trad arr,
often with distinct shades of Herr Carthy in
Duncan's delivery (as in The Devil & The Feathery Wife) - not
necessarily a bad thing of course!
The recording is excellently managed, giving all the immediacy and
presence of a live performance without the ambient distractions,
you can easily forgive any minor vocal stumbles or lapses in
intonation (as you would in the live gig situation)
The only tiny
caveat is that maybe the 'galloping guitar' arrangement is used for
one track too many, but the CD's sensible sequencing helps
any potential for boredom.
Oh, and a word of praise for the creative cover design and
photography and the interesting background
notes to the title track,
making this a very attractive package all told.’