"McLeod is one of the most energetic, most generous performers
I've seen." (Doug Spencer, ABC Radio, 2001)
"The evening came to a close with Learning To Walk Again, a perfect
end to a perfect encore and another reason why the crowd did not want
him to leave." (Revolver, Sydney, 19 Feb 2001)
" 'The charismatic British storytelling troubadour, proved to be
very entertaining as he tripped passionately through highly original
and distinctive self-penned material. Rory is a confident conversationalist." (Beat Magazine, Melbourne, 21 Mar 2001)
"...eloquently expressed ideas are set to vibrant,
dynamic music with bouncy rhythms, infectious riffs and nifty tunes. McLeod
transmitted a pure joy of music making ..."
St Louis Post-Despatch (USA)
"Atavistic peoples' music ... something uncommon
and most certainly an endangered species. You'll know Rory when you see
him - above all don't miss him next time he's here."
Molly McAnailly Burke, Hot Press (Ireland)
"Rory is a dynamic live performer - never
still or silent, his shows radiate energy. All this dynamism does not
obliterate his songs which are always thought-provoking and well crafted.
Get hold of one of his albums and come and see one of the folk circuit's
greatest live performers."
Venue magazine, Bristol (UK)
"...he inspired both a standing ovation on the main
stage and widespread enthusiasm at his many workshops."
The Ubyssey, Vancouver Folk Festival (Canada)
"He immediately won the hearts of people by playing
a tune on his harmonica to a crying baby, who was so astounded that it
stopped crying (temporarily)! For an encore he played Back to Donegal
at the request of the crowd which did not want to see him go."
Mary Evans, Sidmouth Herald (UK)
"Like a human organ-grinder..."
City Pages, Minneapolis (USA)
"Rory McLeod was another revelation ... He also proved
to be a risk-taking performer leaving the Tinely stage during a harmonica
piece to walk among the audience, completing the tune without the PA system!"
Dirty Linen, Womad Festival, Toronto (Canada)
"If you're up there God, then please look after Rompin'
Rory, some of us down here need this boy more than breath, love and tears"
Dick Barnes (UK)
"Rory McLeod has a profound disadvantage - for pigeon-holers
and hacks - that he is so original it's nigh impossible to compare him
with anyone else. Writing songs packed with streams of words, often so
dense that the casual listener could easily let the craft, beauty and
power of the content slip by. An awe inspiring live performer who, you
discover when you repay his craft with the scrutiny it deserves, writes
quite brilliant songs."
Ian Anderson, Folk Roots (UK)
Rory was commissioned in June 2003
to compose the music for the award-winning TV animation series Creature Comforts.
From the makers of Wallace and Gromit,
it has been shown regularly over the last few years.
Rory was voted Best Live Act at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2002.
The award was presented by singer and songwriter Vin Garbutt:
"....Rory McLeod has developed a stage act like no other with his 300mph rap folk delivery and his highly potent, original songs that fearlessly tackle everything from major social issues to the minutiae of everyday life."
Previous Record Reviews:
MOUTH TO MOUTH (Double CD):
"'A beautiful mix of tender love songs, powerful
political messages and everything in between." (Byron Shire Echo,
Byron Bay, 9 Jan 2001)
'"This album is getting acclaim world wide
and it's easy to hear why. This man makes socio-political stance a
joyous right instead of
a tiresome ballad. A body of work that's fresh and full of life, laughter
and song." (XPress, Perth, 11 Jan 2001)
"His songs evoke a life lived at the edge with great
Rivers Echo, Byron Bay, 11 Jan 2001)
"Unorthodox and brilliant" (Green Left, Weekly, Australia, 1 Feb
"Immerse yourself in the vibrant and emotive words and music of Rory McLeod
and you will certainly feel most pleased to be alive!" (Beat Magazine,
Melbourne, 7 Feb 2001)
"A treasure trove." (Geelong Advertiser, Geelong, 18 Feb 2001)
"A panoramic collection of infectious songs and
instrumentals that is fully of warmth, humour and insights... Affectionate
songs about 'ordinary'
people." (Canberra Times, Canberra, 1 Mar 2001)
ANGRY LOVE :
"A wide variety of styles should certainly have appeal far beyond the
tight confines of the British folk circuit" ('Swagbag'
"Rory's tune smithery is impressive throughout...
Songs are strong, rhythmic and singable which is striking for someone
so prolific" ( 'Folk
"Rory McLeods insidious charm
and unflustered bravery are a delight to uncover. A lyrical eloquence
that's cheeky, endearing, strong and striking.
This is an overtly political album in many ways (Personal to international)
while acknowledging the ties that bind the family without cloying sentimentality." ( 'Sounds'
KICKING THE SAWDUST:
"Autobiography with all cupboards open." (Leeds
'Other Paper' UK)
"No-one, not one soul in this whole crazy world, can
help but fall in love with Rory McLeod's latest Double CD 'Kicking
The Sawdust.' ...an
album infused with happiness, with not one dud track. Jam packed with
21 wildly original tacks. Each song is a delight with playful tunes and
lyrics worth listening to, time and time again." (
Nic Rigby. Evening News. UK)
FOOTSTEPS AND HEARTBEATS :
"Uncompromisingly earthy and edgy" ('BJ
Cole, Guitar Magazine)
"These nine songs are among the most interesting
you're going to hear all year."
Folk Roots (UK)
footsteps and the pulsing heartbeat of the music takes the listener
on journeys through the streets of Britain, the dusty plains of the
East and the ramble tamble of the south Americas. There are some
melodies at play; it's Mcleod who provides the beating heart." ( 'Broadbeat',
"I love this record, it's non-stop aural caressment.... Singing
Copper is a journey to a policemans' heart and soul, a high point
lyrically. This is world music, real, vital and intensely listenable.
Probably one of the best collection of Love songs you'll ever hear." ( Rock
and Reel. UK)
...philosopher Descartes had it right when he said " the simplest
man with passion will be more persuasive than the most eloquent without." Add
a traveller's ability as a teller of tales and a compassionate eye
for detail and you get the idea." ('Entertainer'
"Lovers of folk music will breathe a huge sigh
of approval upon auditioning Rory's superbly crafted release." (Cape
Country Courier' – Tasmania)
TRAVELLING HOME :
" 'Back to Donegal' is a Bacchic delight of banjo, fiddle, Uillean pipe
and spoons-filled Irish tunes. A joyous travelogue. (A high energy 'Coney
And there's social criticism that's not detached and dogmatic. Rather,
he breathes a passionate angry fire into songs about the ruin and rot
of our country..(the Rhumba-esque 'Defending our Homes') or racism (a
hearty adaption of Broonzy's Black Brown and White) And then there's
a more light -hearted edge. 'Compatability' a chirpy duet, is a witty
analysis of a relationship.
Soulful, passionate and transcendent. A blinder of a record." ( Folk
Roots - UK)
LULLABIES FOR BIG BABIES :
" Seldom is it that a small shiny plastic disc so easily evoke so many
sensory pleasures. Lullabies...takes you to places where you can inhale
the freshness of newly cut grass, soak up market aromas, feel the sunshine
on your skin, taste succulent fruit, feel tipsy on booze and life, glow
with the warmth of friendship and ache with loneliness. Rory McLeod creates
music that celebrates life.....the good, the bad and the ugly." ('Sarah
Coxson, Folk Roots' - UK. #170/17)
There's a tendency to dismiss Rory McLeod as a glorified novelty act, a maverick one band who's a great live act willfully dipping into different styles, but doesn't somehow merit consideration as a serious songwriter. This is the album to blow that myth out of the water. Here the stylistic form is as seemingly random as ever, a veritable musical maze of ideas, but the lightning barrage of words isn't quite as intimidatingly clever as it can be, with the result that you end up admiring the quality of the songs rather than the performance. McLeod's instinctive inventiveness is especially acute this time round too. A Cut In Pay marries a clever lyric about monetarism, which someone should send to Bob Geldof to play at the next G8 summit, to a full-blooded Caribbean steel drum sound. It also includes some mighty yodelling on Hank Williams's Rambling Man, an optimistic cover of Dylan's The Man In Me, a glorious soulful acapella version of the standard Glory Of Love that's worthy of Smokey Robinson, an unnerving, unaccompanied old-timey Oh Death (a variant of which was once sung demonically by Peter Bellamy) and a lovely slide guitar romp through Jerry Reed's Guitar Man, famously covered by Elvis.
It's fun but it has substance and his own songs offer the authentic voice of the intrepid, singular troubadour McLeod has been for so long. He's always sided with the underdog, but with Guitar Man pointing the way, the poor old travelling songsmith is invariably the one being championed here in colourful, anecdotal songs like the 7-minute Not For Sale, the gorgeous, gently defiant Cold Blow These Winter Winds and, mostly for laughs, The Man Who Couldn't Say Goodbye. Emperor's New Clothes - played to a background of his son's sampled voice - must surely rank as one of the best things he's ever written. I'm not too sure the deceptively jaunty arrangement works with choir and all, but Ballad Of The Burston School Strike - relating the extraordinary story of a strike by Norfolk schoolchildren in 1911 with far-reaching consequences - could even become his The World Turned Upside Down.
It's true that the best live performers can't always transfer the magic into the studio and some element of that may also apply to Rory's past recording career. Not anymore it doesn't though. This is the poodle's rude bits
Colin Irwin. Folk Roots. August 2005.
Songs For Big Little People:
In which the inimitable Rory McLeod joins the likes of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton and Cilla Fisher in making a children’s album. But Rory being Rory is several steps beyond nursery rhymes and while the themes and imagery certainly have child appeal, it carries enough charm and wit to appeal to grown-ups too. Songs, tunes and monologues all come with that glint in the eye and sideways smile that invariably characterises the McLeod songbook, with invigorating harmonica, trombone, guitar, banjo and all manner of percussion and tap dancing to keep you listening.
A lot of the material is already tried and tested having originated in a theatre piece for children, Huff Puff And Away, performed with the Scottish dance company Tabularasa, and there’s one particularly compelling story, Death In A Nutshell, sometimes told by Taffy Thomas. And if anyone fancies calling on Rory for tea one day, then full and detailed instructions are given in the absurdly infectious Directions song. Fun for all the family.
Colin Irwin. FOLK ROOTS August 2007
Songs For Big Little People:
Rory McLeod’s new album is a wonderful vote of confidence in our world’s children. And anyone with an ear for a good tune, song or story will love this CD. I could stop right there but I’ll support my argument with a review of his latest CD Songs For Little Big People.
Rory McLeod has produced a great album, 21 tunes, songs and stories which carry us on a journey with the wind. The wind and breath are kind of an overall theme on the album and as pointed out in the sleeve notes some of the material is also used in ‘Huff Puff and Away’ a dance-theatre piece for kids by Scottish Dance Company ‘Tabularasa’. Right from the start the rhythm of the tap shoes, percussion and guitar claims your attention, and the voices and syncopated rhythms of breath tells you straight away that here is someone who can tell a story, sing, play and mix it all up into a magic potion.
I think one of the ideas behind this, was to make an album of new songs and stories for children which broke away from the sometimes rather condescending pat-on-the-head approach. It does exactly that, it’s full of poetry and wisdom on life. Windfall is a story of relativity, how meanings and abstracts exist not in spite of but because of their opposites. This is told in the story of a windfall, a year of good luck, when the apples fell down from the trees and harvest was easy. ‘If some people didn’t have bad luck there would be no luck at all’. Other favourites are Death In A Nutshell, a little story of the big things in life, Where the Wind Lives, a wonderful personification of the wind in all its disguises, Heaving Breath for its catchy tune and Balloon Dance just because it makes my daughter smile and twirl. With this album Rory McLeod will feed our children’s imagination and breathe a little life into our own.
Pernille Rutzou. Living Tradition. Issue 75
"....informal, soul baring, colourful observations, cracking tunes, sharp narratives"
"a hugely endearing yet provocative album that synthesises McLeod’s long history disrespecting conformist styles and artificial genres."
"intriguing amalgam of moods concocted here- whenever Morgan puts lips to clarinet you think of Klezmer, every pluck of the Rojas harp takes it into Latino territory and McLeod’s songs acquire the robes of the chameleon."
"Plenty of glee here and no little spark either."
COLIN IRWIN - FOLK ROOTS
"....Made me want to throw away my inhibitions and take to the road: McLeod seemed a kind of Jack Kerouac armed with string instruments and harmonica."
"...the visual impact of the man could never be captured on audio disc."what glorious energy there – the energy to glow in the dark. "
"Bob Morgan positively dazzles on clarinet and saxophone."
"...you have the spark there to light your fire, and this four piece combo will fill you with glee and ensure that the fire will not go out in a hurry."
"....a unique intriguing fusion between confessional singer songwriter, world music influences, and jazzy swing, different from anything else around."
"a fresh unique alternative take on life that he highlights through his entertaining exuberant songs"
"You Can't Just Let Nature Run Wild, a thoughtful song which I personally relate to as a trained Geographer and Ecologist."
"The Familiar Strangers really add meat to the bones of Rory's great material"
JONTI WILLIS - Roots Music Club Doncaster.
To see these guys is to become an instant convert."
"The double bass provided a constant backbone"
PHIL LAVERTON - Rye Festival of Music and Arts Festival
"...a whole new light. Wonderful stuff!"
LOTTE LYSTER - Prince Albert Stroud.
"Rory McLeod and the Familiar Strangers are indeed familiar and strange at the same time.
Every element of their appearance at Hebden Folk Roots was a joy - for organisers as well as audience."
Artistic Director Hebden Bridge Folk Roots.
"Rory McLeod just gets it. His songs are stories that are as old as the hills but refer to the experience of everyone in the room.
And he’s cool too, but not so cool that he can’t write a song about his grandmother….which is a song about my grandmother
and probably everyone in the room’s grandmother too….universal, affectionate and…. a rare gift this…. completely unsentimental.
We worried that the stage at the Hippodrome wouldn't be big enough…and sometimes
the energy in the polemic and the music and the dancing filled the space to bursting.
But it was a shapeshifter of a gig and moments later a shared intimacy and another story wrapped the room in a warm bear hug.
Rory has the backing of Diego, Bob and Richard, fabulous musicians all.
The Familiar Strangers. Great name for a band. We had that feeling at the end of the night that we’d met before, somewhere on another road."
Paula Tod - The Hippodrome, Eyemouth. www.eyemouthhippodrome.org
"The Familiar Strangers are big favourites at Purbeck Valley Folk Festival.
Rory McLeod himself is an amazingly charismatic songwriter.
Add the band and there's an upbeat sound backing Rory's robust songs about real people and real life.
Icing on the cake is when other performers see Rory at the festival, he is called up on stage to join in on a number.
Paul Burke, Purbeck Valley Folk Festival.