Reviews

Jo singing at Orkney Folk Festival 2009.

 

 

"Fusing traditional folk melodies and vocals with Americana accoustic  arrangements, is not a well trodden path. 'The Jo Philby Band' have taken these two musical forms and achieved a fresh hybrid sound which is both challenging and captivating."

Gavin MacGregor - United Sounds of Americana - March 2015

 

The above quote came out of our recent Tour in March 2015 whilst performing at a wonderful House Concert at Crystal House in Strathpeffer.

 

 

“Beautiful vocals and harmonies combine for a CD all will enjoy” 

Review of 'Beneath the Starry Sky' For The Orcadian November 2012 by GMS

"If I was asked to choose a favourite from the 13 tracks on Jo Philby’s new CD, Beneath the Starry Sky, I would have great difficulty.

This is Jo’s second album and although her folk roots are still there, the influence of Americana and Country music can be clearly heard…"

If you want to read the whole review please open the attached PDF below - The Orcadian Review 

Also.... 

"Jo Philby’s superb new album really shifts everything up a gear” 

 

Review of 'Beneath the Starry Sky' by JRS - 'Living Orkney', December 2012

"Her highly distinctive vocals..are no longer out on their own, but meshed into a lush mix of haunting harmonies & perfectly arranged guitars, paino & cello background.

The experience of it all is not just relaxing & pleasurable but, in places, truly uplifting”.

 If you want to read the whole review please click on the PDF below - Living Orkney Review

 

More...

"Philby’s affectingly understated mix of originals and covers, sweetly accompanied and harmonised by her four-piece band" 

 

Sue Wilson, The Scotsman - June 2012

The above quote was taken from a fabulous 5 star review of this year's 30th Orkney Folk Festival! The highest accolade we could have got. The festival was indeed delighted. Needless to say myself & new line-up were extremely pleased with our review as it was the first time we had appeared together live. We were launching my New EP 'These Days'. So long may it continue...

If you want to read the whole review please click on this link; The Scotsman Review

 

Since the release of 'Saltwater & Stone' & now 'Beneath the Starry Sky' Jo has received many great reviews. Here are a few examples of her latest reviews & quotes from the media.

"Jo has a pure & mature voice and clearly believes in her chosen material...this is a quietly beguiling disc"

fRoots

 

 

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Media Quotes 2009

 Clear, well measured vocals

“Jo Philby has chosen a broad selection of her favourite songs from the folk tradition and really made them her own with clear, well measured vocals and a sensitive, uncluttered approach to instrumental accompaniment.  

This is a recording Jo can certainly be proud of!” 

Emily Smith, Scots Singer of the year 2009

 

Her sheer delighting in and love of the songs..is obvious throughout this recording..

“Jo Philby's debut album 'Saltwater and Stone' is  a treasure trove of carefully chosen songs from the living well of folk music. Jo's sweet singing is a pleasure to listen to in any weather, her sheer delighting in and love of songs and singing them is obvious throughout this recording.
Jo has managed to gather around herself sensitive musicians who share her understanding of the songs and the music which, as part of everyday life, enrich our experience of the world and can serve to lift us above and yet further into the ordinary. Saltwater and Stone is a gem that will not tarnish in salt water nor be worn out by stone." 
  Ger Wolfe singer/songwriter  

Life on Orkney has imbued her voice..

“Jo’s growing interest in folklore and her interpretation of the songs has always been a pleasure to witness.

Life on Orkney has imbued her voice with all the passion and vitality that comes from a life surrounded by sea. The purity of the ocean washes through the songs she has chosen for this recording and adorns them with the precious jewels of her environment. I am proud to have played a small part in it”.

Sara Daniels Singer/songwriter                                         

                                                      

I'll be listening to Jo's CD many times..

“On hearing Jo Philby’s CD Saltwater & Stone, I couldn’t believe that she’s waited so long to produce her debut album! The songs are so well chosen for Jo’s beautiful voice, and truly evocative of the Orkney Islands where she lives. Other artists who accompany Jo on the album also live on the islands, and the arrangements are superb. My favourite song has to be Follow the Heron at the moment, but this could change as I’ll be listening to her CD many times!”  

Ali O’Brien - Sounds of Folk presenter, Oldham Community Radio; Director, Saddleworth Folk Festival

 

Probably the best female CD I have been sent for a long time...

“I can’t stop playing your CD. It is probably the best female CD that I have been sent for a long time. You have progressed to become a wonderful singer and the production is outstanding”- Mike Peach, Anchor Folk Club, Byfleet

 

There is wonder, radiance & soul in this collection of songs...

“I think ‘Saltwater & Stone’ has managed to capture a pail full of these islands’ special magic, it may be the closest one can get to bottling whatever it is that is Orkney.

This whole project: the immaculate design of the album sleeve, the painstaking choice of songs, through to the talented compliment of contributing musicians and the polished studio production has, more than anything else, been realised because of the intense passion and commitment that Jo has to traditional song. Nothing this beautiful is easily won. There is wonder, radiance and soul in this collection of songs and I feel they have been given life by a very special voice.

The CD is out now and is already receiving praise and radio play. Go purchase, cajole or otherwise track down by any means available this lovely album.  Keep it with your stones from the beach in the drawer of your Orkney chair…

Mike Fairbairn - Musician   

Readifolk Review - Where Fire Meets Water Tour

 
 
Orkney Island Special
 
29th November 2009
 
We were advised to arrive early because this evening would be popular, and rightly so.
 
Self-schooled fiddler Fiona Driver and guitarist Graham Simpson hail from the Orkneys, and were playing Readifolk at the end of a tour with close friend and singer Jo Philby, herself originally from Berkshire but now living in the Orkneys.
 
Guest host Sara Daniels’ informal style set a warm, relaxed tone for the evening, opening with Sara’s own lyrical song Where Are You Going to?, followed by two toe-tapping numbers from Chris and Danny, including a lively rendition of Dr Feelgood’s , Back in the Night with guitar and mandola.
 
Jo’s easy rapport with the audience introduced the guests’ set, starting with a vivid portrait of summer romance in the Irish song Summer at my Feet. Graham joined Jo on guitar for Emily Smith’s A Day Like Today, followed by two numbers with Fiona’s interwoven fiddle melodies. We were treated here to Fiona’s own jig Waterside slipped in between verses of Kate Rusby’s song I Courted a Sailor.
The first half concluded with an instrumental set from Fiona and Graham, combining traditional music with shades of jazz and ragtime, and including Pauline’s Waltz, Fiona’s tribute to the fiddle player who had first inspired her to play.
 
As the audience drifted back from the interval, the second half started off with another song from Sara and floor spots including two well loved songs from Malcolm Smith, newly returned from his travels in Europe, an interlude of well-known instrumental pieces from
accordion and banjo trio 3 2 1, and a passionate rendition from Readifolk regular Doug Brown of Robin Laing’s true-story ballad Jamie Penman.
.
The second half of the guests’ set started with a moving performance by Jo of Orcadian Dream a song composed for her by Sara Daniels during a visit to the Orkneys. Jo was joined on stage again by Graham and Fiona for songs including Bill Staines’ song River . A lively and varied instrumental session followed with a catchy rag, jigs and a peppy tune about a mouse in a toaster, penned by Fiona. The evening finished with the Irish song and a last tune from Fiona and Graham.
 
For me the joy of this evening was the infectious enjoyment of the music by the artists themselves. Put together, Jo’s warm vocals, Graham’s sensitive accompaniments on
guitar, the interplay between Jo’s voice and Fiona’s fiddle, and then Fiona’s simply
stunning fiddle playing offset by Graham’s accompaniment made a varied, entertaining set that left the audience wanting more.
 
Alison

Review for 'Orkney Today' by Carolyn Allan

A varied collection of Folky songs

What a refreshing CD this is. It’s a varied collection of folky songs both ancient and modern sung by Jo Philby. Jo’s voice is natural, unpretentious and very easy to listen to.

The opening track begins gently with a simple guitar intro. I immediately felt my shoulders relax even before Jo began to sing “Follow the Heron” by Karine Polwart. There’s a lovely unobtrusive harmony on flute with this one. In “A Day Like Today” by Emily Smith I was taken by surprise by some very exciting chord sequences on guitar and again that lovely flute.

Not sure if it was the song that suited Jo’s voice or Jo’s voice that suited the song but a good choice furtiver.

I loved the arrangement

Jo’s diction is so good, every word can be heard when she sings three songs unaccompanied on the album, “Summer at my Feet” by Ger Wolfe, “Do You Love an Apple?”(Traditional) and “Orcadian Dream” by Sara Daniels, a friend of Jo’s. This one has a dreamlike quality and is followed by a beautiful waltz with a Scandinavian feel, a lovely fiddle intro and delicate, syncopated guitar rhythm. I loved the arrangement.

The traditional song “Down the Moor” fairly nips along at a foot tapping pace. It must be tricky fitting all those words in but it doesn’t seem to phase Jo. There’s a sizable backing band on this one and great fiddle tunes by Fiona Driver. I was nearly dancing in the sitting room!

Slow and soft this time is “Old Man Time” by Karine Polwart. What a lovely melody and again that simple guitar doesn’t detract from the words of the song.

A beautifully played clarsach provides the smooth, rocking accompaniment for the traditional song “The Constant Lover” and fiddle and guitar effectively harmonise with Jo’s voice in “Under the Moon” by Jenny Crook and Henry Sears.

The words of the traditional song “Blackbirds and Thrushes” made me smile. It’s the age old activity of boys chasing girls! It’s upbeat with great accompaniment and an impressive transition from song to following tune “Wee Johnny”.

The song “River” by Bill Staines, in waltz time, has a real country feel to it with driving guitar accompaniment and some great fiddle, sometimes delicate and sometimes staccato.

“I Courted a Sailor” by Kate Rusby is another foot-tapper with some percussion driving it along and a fabulous jazzy bit of flute in the middle.

And finally “My Donald” by Owen Hand is an atmospheric whaling song, almost unaccompanied; the keyboard in the background was so clever.

All in all a very enjoyable CD

All in all a very enjoyable CD and if you’re a singer you will want to nick some of these songs!  

 

 

 

 

Review for 'The Orcadian' by Mike Fairbairn 2009

 
SALTWATER AND STONE
The debut CD by Jo Philby
 
When tourists come to Orkney they are easily identifiable because of the way they step smiling through the towns’ streets. In fact they needn’t be wearing any of the north travellers garb, the wind-cheaters, back packs and cameras – because shining out of their faces is an unmistakable childlike marvel and rapture. Their gestures give away a thrilled impatience to explore and soak up. They desire to know: Where lie the edges of this impossible place? What makes up its shocking, beautiful soul that hauls at their precious time? The pure cool winds that rasp over oceanic fields buffet their every sense and Orkney’s ungraspable quanta pass like thunder-bugs into picture frames, becoming another part of them.
  
I normally give these travellers three days or so, and if they’re not building small reverential stone circles next to the tide, or parking in evermore bizarre places to point at another of the sea’s other worldly colours and creatures, you will at least hear them whistling or singing in the shop or hotel or quayside. They may even begin to develop an affliction of wanting to learn the fiddle or pipes, though this is usually, sadly (or not!) short lived…
 
But what will return home with them, perhaps in fragments of melodies or traces of phrases, will be the islands’ songs, tunes and poems? In Orkney the power of word and rhyme is immense and overriding. Indeed anyone attempting to capture a representation of the islands must rise up and meet the soaring standards of artistry that have gone before and is still being maintained. With this in mind I am very pleased to be able to say that Jo Philby’s first album of songs, “Saltwater and Stone” does this and will, I feel, be a treasure that both infatuated visitors and discerning residents will take into their souls and homes. I think it has managed to capture a pail full of these islands’ special magic, it may be the closest one can get to bottling whatever it is that is Orkney.
 
As I listened to Jo’s CD – starting with the wonderfully gentle “Follow the Heron” with its tender guitar accompaniment and exquisite flute playing by Graham Simpson and Derek Curtis respectively – what came through immediately was the care that is always present in Jo’s voice. Over the years when I have listened to her sing in traditional pub sessions (always bringing the bawdy bar to a complete hush) it was the clarity and depth of her delivery that always struck me. Now though, I realise she has a rare voice that is loved by the clattering bar and the studio microphone alike in equal measure. All the subsequent tracks confirmed this, whether they were unaccompanied or otherwise.
 
With over a dozen fine tracks here, there are many that I think will become firm favourites. The biggest surprise for me was just how accomplished Jo sounds in a band setting, on the strength of this alone she can feel totally confident about performing at any traditional festival anywhere. Her voice retains its warmth amidst guitar, fiddle and bodhran whilst never becoming strident or stylised. Really, I was foolish not to expect this, since her long background in solo singing now allows her to instinctively pick smooth phrasing which, along with that virtually indefinable entity, outstanding traditional tone, enables her to sound just right in each setting. Picking standout tracks can be hard to do on any album, and it is even harder on this one. Not only do there appear to be no weak tracks but the CD as a whole seems to be able to flit between lightly accompanied songs, sparse beautiful unaccompanied tracks, with just some ethereal reverb added, right through to full blown chorus bejewelled stompers – without out dipping in quality or integrity. This is a great trick that is rarely, if ever, accomplished.
 
Much of this is to do with the musicians Jo surrounded herself with. Fiona Driver is a wonderful fiddle player and composer, who I suspect had little trouble selecting, from her enormous repertoire of self- penned tunes, the few gems that grace some of the songs. Her ‘significant other’ Graham, as previously mentioned plays guitar with a fine rhythmic touch – not surprising since he plays fantastic percussion as well, a skill that bubbles memorably to surface on the brightly delightful “I Courted A Sailor”. In the other half of the ‘other halves’ department, Roger Philby – Jo’s husband - plays some tight and resounding bodhran (that’s an Irish drum in case you’re puzzled!) and it is good to get this chap near a microphone – something that should happen more frequently. The song that receives the full-on bodhran treatment is the magnificent “Down the Moor” sure to become a well played track, complete as it is with Derek Curtis and another ‘not so secret weapon’ who graces this album: studio maestro Phil Anderson playing bass.
 
Derek is a rare thing in Orkney; a superb Irish style wooden flute player, his touch on the instrument is sure and elegant, and he’s put to excellent work on several tracks, most notably “Blackbirds and Thrushes” a poignant traditional ballad that’s given the driving breath and beaten strings treatment. Also on this track is Gavin Firth, powerhouse guitarist behind the awesome “Chair”. Stylistically he counter points Graham’s playing on the other tracks brilliantly, adding his own specialities, namely lift and svelte intricacy, in equal measure. Phil Anderson’s hand is evident through out of course, and whether he’s playing keyboards or bass, the former as on the final haunting track, and my personal favourite, the Owen Hand song “My Donald”, he adds an informed and knowledgeable steering presence to the proceedings.
 
Another guest is Elma Cullen who ably provides backing vocals, subtly remaining in the background whilst still managing to shine. Elma must be an advocate of the ‘less is more’ school because though she is never prominent in the mix she adds much and I would like to hear more of her. She can be heard to fine effect on “River” a rolling infectious song that always goes down very well live. Speaking of things shiny, Mark Shiner has also been lured from his deep shed of harp-making activities and supplies some absolutely first class harp playing on the soul wrenchingly atmospheric “Constant Lovers” the ending of which is darkly exquisite and yet another high point.
 
I’m tempted to mention many other songs, but I’ll limit myself to mentioning only a few more. “Old Man Time” is a Kate Rusby song and Jo’s rendition can result in the hairs on your neck’s back becoming slightly flustered – it’s wonderful! She seems to instinctively know that the most you can do to bring out the soul of a song is to try to do nothing, the one caveate being that a very particular kind of nothing is the only sort that works…
   
There is also one very special song here. It is one that holds treasured memories for both Jo and Roger and is entitled “Orcadian Dream”, written for them by the renowned English folk singer and musician Sara Daniels, following a visit to their farm in Birsay. It is an oft-requested song already and here Jo sings it unaccompanied, letting its story unfold like a brightening morning. Fiona then rounds it off with her own fine tune, written especially for the CD and aptly titled “The Saltwater Waltz”.
   
This whole project: the immaculate design of the album sleeve, the painstaking choice of songs, through to the talented compliment of contributing musicians and the polished studio production has, more than anything else, been realised because of the intense passion and commitment that Jo has to traditional song. Nothing this beautiful is easily won. There is wonder, radiance and soul in this collection of songs and I feel they have been given life by a very special voice.
 
The CD is out now and is already receiving praise and radio play. Go purchase, cajole or otherwise track down by any means available this lovely album. Keep it with your stones from the beach in the drawer of your Orkney chair…    
 
Reviewed by Mike Fairbairn

Saltwater & Stone Review - Living Orkney July 2009

WORDS: John Ross Scott

PHOTOS: Tom O’Brien

Saltwater & Stone by Jo Philby (Newtonhill Records)
 
Every now and again a CD emerges from the local scene that demands that you sit up and take heed.
Jo Philby’s long awaited debut is a perfect example of this.
 
The launch of ‘Saltwater & Stone’ in front of an enthusiast 80-strong gathering at the Saturday lunchtime session at this year’s Orkney Folk Festival was the culmination of years of preparation, but, with copies of the album only arrived back in Orkney the day before Jo joked: “ This can now be classed as a ‘Near Miss’ album launch.”
 
Starting, unaccompanied – alone on the stage with the audience stunned into complete silence – Jo began with the haunting ‘Summer At My Feet’. When she finished the applause was deafening.
 
The album was clearly going to be a winner from that point on as layer upon layer of different musicians joined her on stage and the sound built to a crescendo right up to the final offering of the sing-along Bill Staines song ‘River.’
On stage by then were Jo’s bodhran playing husband Roger, fiddler Fiona Driver, guitarist Graham Simpson, flautist Derek Curtis, and backing vocalist Elma Cullen.
Others who participated on the album but couldn’t be there for the launch were harpist Mark Shiner, guitarist Gavin Firth and bass player and record producer, Phil Anderson.

A live quality 

The contrast between this half hour show and the first time I saw Jo perform at the Folk Festival’s Firth Ceilidh back in 2004 was immense. Her distinctive voice still holds its pitch well but maturity - shown in stance, presentation and overall confidence - had taken over from the rawness of five years before.
The joy is that the album manages to hold all of the energy shown in Jo’s live performance.
 
After the launch she told Living Orkney: “I’ve been thinking about making an album for a year or so. At recent gigs folk have asked ‘Have you got a CD’ so this year I decided to go for it and what better a place to launch it than Orkney Folk Festival!
“Because this is my debut album I had the luxury of choosing some of my favourite songs from the past. The selection is a variety of traditional, contemporary and chorus songs.”
She added: “Most traditional singers get the reputation of singing depressingly sad songs about lovers that have died. I prefer to sing more uplifting songs. On this CD I only managed to kill off two people, which is quite an achievement!”
She acknowledges that she has a lot of friends to thank for helping her bring ‘Saltwater and Stone’ together, not least her husband Roger – whom she classes as “my inspiration” – producer Phil Anderson, who “had never recorded a traditional singer before”, Sara Daniels for providing her with some enchanting songs and her closest friend, Fiona Driver, who as well as accompanying her allowed her to use her record label.

Orcadian environment

Jo started taking an interest in English and Irish traditional music in Surrey where she was born and brought up. She first sang at the children’s workshop at Devon’s International Folk Festival in Sidmouth and, also, became devoted to music at school.
In 1994 she married Roger – who also plays with the Orkney Band Shoot The Piper – and they moved to Orkney and set up Fluke Jewellery in Birsay in 2002.
“What I wanted to create for this album were enjoyable songs that merge well with the Orkney environment, supported by really sensitive accompaniment to make it enjoyable to the listener.”
All that has been achieved.

A special voice

Her special voice entices you in to the collection right away with the first words of ‘Follow The Heron’ which state that ‘the back of the winter is broken and the seeds of summer have spoken’. Although this was written by Karine Polwart about Shetland it portrays a strong image of Orkney as well.
Emily Smith, who won the 2008 Scottish Folk Singer of the Year award, is one of Jo’s favourite songwriters so it is no surprise to see ‘A Day Like Today’ featured. It is a perfect contemporary song written in a traditional way with the odd ‘twas’ thrown in for good measure.
‘Summer At My Feet’ by acclaimed Irish singer/songwriter Ger Wolfe is again a song for the seasons. Sung to great effect unaccompanied, Jo’s voice like a haunting clarinet weaves the tapestry as she sings of “buttercups and roses” and a lover with “eyes as deep as the ocean.”
Then there are the upbeat numbers like ‘Down The Moor’ - which has Fiona Driver’s ‘Pig Reels’ attached – which tells of a lad who is besotted by a lass who lives ‘down the moor and across the heather”. It has a difficult tune, but the timing is brilliantly executed by Jo and her five piece back-up.
 
Likewise, the aforementioned ‘River’ is an outright winner and definitely the most commercial song on the album.
My favourites, however, are ‘Old Man Time’ and ‘Under The Moon’. The first is an enchanting Kate Rusby song that highlights the preciousness of time and how it passes so quickly. Driver’s work on the fiddle brings the poignancy of not doing enough with our lives to the fore. It is brilliant and, rightly, got a massive response at the launch.
‘Under The Moon’ by Jenny Crook on the other hand is an excuse for fun, using as bait a lad asking a lass to dance naked under the moon. Humour and perception are to the fore and the fiddle and Graham’s guitar back-up is perfect.
 
‘The Constant Lovers’ is a beautiful but sad song with mellow drops of harp from Mark Shiner.
‘Blackbirds and Thrushes’ reminded me of my love of Steeleye Span and Pentangle in the 1970s, ‘Fal da li diddle’ stuff layered with thick strumming guitar and meandering flute, while Sara Daniels ‘Orcadian Dream’ is special in more ways than one. It is an exceptional song but according to Jo its lyrics express everything that drew Jo and Roger Philby to live in Orkney.

13 Exceptional tracks

There are 13 tracks in total and all of them are exceptional. This is a showstopper of a CD.

With ‘Saltwater & Stone’ now selling well, Jo – who is enjoying a new found celebrity status - intends to perform locally during July, so keep an eye on local press for details. She will also tour in the south during November with Fiona Driver and Graham Simpson.

fRoots Review - June 2010

 
“Though primarily known for singing unaccompanied, Orkney-based Jo’s backed here on her debut (a thoughtful, mostly uplifting collection of favourite traditional & contemporary songs) by skilled local musicians including Fiona Driver & graham Simpson. Jo has a pure & mature voice & clearly believes in her chosen material,...this is a quietly beguiling disc”