Album Review: Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar – Utopia and Wasteland

Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar came together as a duo back in 2011 and since then have had an increasingly industrious few years. Having taken home the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award just two years after forming the pair turned heads all across the country. The next year when they won the Horizon Award for Best Breakthrough Act it came as little surprise to their legions of fans and cemented them as one of the most firmly sought-after duos in modern folk.

This year saw the release of their latest triumph, the ominously titled Utopia and Wasteland – another stunning collection of masterfully crafted melodies that absorb you and send you drifting off into the ether. Powered by the earnest and driven guitar melodies of Greg Russell’s guitar the music the band produce seems as natural as the wind. At times it is soft and gentle whilst at others it blows fast and fierce. It is a whimsical and mesmerising attribute that is only bolstered by the astonishing fiddle tunes from Ciaran Algar. Drawing influence from across the globe the pair have managed to craft and album that has carefully steeped a variety of Celtic and Gaelic influences into their work with songs such as Seven Hills which sound timeless and classic. Their mastered fusions of sound mean that they are not encumbered by either modern day music of past constraints – each song they create is uniquely and unarguably their own charmed take on the world.

NEW VIDEO of album track ‘Lock Keeper’

The music that Russell and Algar produce is clear, earnest and painfully tender – it’s overflowing with a passion and grace that lulls and astonishes you in equal measure. Drifting above their rich and melodic tunes are the ardent and emotive vocals of Russell. His voice is charmed, eloquent and cuts through the air like a knife. There is a beautiful sense of restraint in his voice that always makes you feel like he could open up and belt the world with his Hansard-like depth of vocals. But as his voice rings out through their music and draws you in like a moth to a flame you cannot help but be overwhelmed by its subtle lullaby qualities. Overlaid with the rich Celtic influences it contains and an experimental rift that plants them firmly as a contemporary and timeless band their music becomes something that could win over a heart of stone.

More info at: www.russellalgar.co.uk

ALBUM TOUR DATES

18th February BRACKNELL, South Hill Park Arts Centre

Web: http://www.southhillpark.org.uk Tel: 01344 484 123

19th February COLCHESTER, Arts Centre

Web: https://www.colchesterartscentre.com Tel: 01206 500900

20th February LONDON, Green Note

Web: http://www.folkonmonday.co.uk/forthcoming-events/

21st February Nr HULL, Cottingham Live

Web: http://www.andy-hammond.co.uk Tel: 07765034081

23rd February LEEDS, The Grove Folk Club

Web: http://www.folkatthegrove.co.uk

24th February CORSHAM, Wiltshire Pound Arts Centre

Web: http://www.poundarts.org.uk/pound/default.aspx Tel: 01249 712618

13th April HEBDEN BRIDGE, Wadsworth Community Centre

Web: wegottickets.com/event/424330 Tel: 07731661053

14th April BIDDULPH, St Lawrence’s Church

Web: biddulphupinarms.com Tel: 01782 523277

15th April HITCHIN, The Sun Inn

Web: hitchinfolkclub.idnet.net Tel: 01462 812391

17th April CHESTER, Storyhouse

Web: http://www.ravenfolk.org.uk Tel: 01244 677212

18th April EASTBOURNE, The Lamb Folk Club

Web: lambfolkclub.co.uk Tel: 01323 728268

20th April THAMES DITTON, The Ram Club

Web: theramclub.co.uk Tel: 0208 686 9421

21st April Nr STROUD, Under the Edge Arts

Web: utea.org.uk Tel: 07791 323 869

22nd April WALTHAMSTOW, Folk Club

Web: walthamstowfolk.co.uk Tel: 07740 612 607

25th April SHOREHAM BY SEA, Ropetackle Arts Centre

Web: ropetacklecentre.co.uk Tel: 01273 464440

27th April SHEFFIELD, Live at Sam’s

Web: liveatsams.co.uk

Review by Joe Knipe