CDs

Facebook Friend
Eye On The Sky
Stuff

Living On Light
Amber
Maybe I Might Fall

CD reviews

FolkWords

October 2015 - 'Album of the Month'

The long-time partnership between Dave Ellis and Boo Howard consistently exudes high-quality musicianship, whatever genre or style they choose to absorb and reflect, the result is the same - classy, imaginative and engaging. Their latest album ‘Facebook Friend’ offers all that and more.

The lyrics are well thought out, the melodies subtle and the interaction between elegant guitar, sonorous bass and laid back vocals hold a distinctive allure. As has been said before, some albums create a link between artists and audience, this is one of them. You could be sat in the same room with them, the communication is that personal. Rather than saying the album is sparse on production it’s more accurate to say there’s precisely enough production and no more than required.

The diversity of songs on ‘Facebook Friend’ is immediately evident from the delightful longing and fulfilment within ‘Home Again’, tongue in cheek bluesy humour through ‘Facebook Friend’ “… you may think I’m an old fuddy duddy but I don’t want to be your Facebook buddy” and the deep felt anguish and recognition and melodic richness of ‘God Save Olive Cooke’. The pipe dreams of the sultry ‘Back To Default’ certainly strike a chord, while the gentle truths of ‘We Go Round’ and the honest assessment of being who you are with ‘Two Left Feet’ tell stories you relate to without effort.

For those that know the music of Dave Ellis & Boo Howard this album is expectations fulfilled. And that’s how to take ‘Facebook Friend’ – let it connect with you on whichever level reaches you and you’ll find a ‘friendship’ you’ll want to continue.
(Tim Carroll)

R2

I've been a fan of Dave Ellis and Boo Howard's music since their debut as a duo - 1999's Maybe I Might Fall. Its own-label sound was every bit as good as anything the big labels were offering, and that remains the case with their latest recording, Facebook Friend. Indeed it's their best yet.

The title track pokes fun at the 'social media' world we now inhabit, from the point of view of someone who recalls, wistfully and with some irritation, a time when the population wasn't hypnotised by 'smart phones' and 'tablets'. 'God Save Olive Cooke' is a moving tribute to the British Legion poppy seller who took her own life aged ninety-two, unable to deal any longer with incessant cold calls and unsolicited requests for charitable donations.

'I Know, I Know' gently reflects upon the way humanity can make such a mess of basic yet profound religious and philosophical truths, and elsewhere tracks such as 'Back To Default', 'Nothing In Between' and 'We Go Round' epitomise not only the very high quality of the songwriting present throughout the album, but also the beautifully judged, subtle arrangements and the two voices, which sound great together. Facebook Friend is really quite superb.
(David White)

Unicorn Magazine

Dave and Boo have been playing together since the late 1970’s in a number of incarnations, backing Liz Simcock and, since the late 1990’s performing regularly as a duo at folk clubs and festivals across the UK.

Having recorded a number of albums together over the last thirty years, Facebook Friend is their most recent release. It is a creation that they should be proud of and that you should make every effort to get a copy of.

The thirteen tracks are all written and produced by Dave and Boo and they cover a range of styles from the mandolin rich We Go Round and Two Left feet to the blues and rock sound of Nothing In Between and Facebook Friend via the rather plaintiff Who Will Tie and the excellent song of belonging, Home Again.

As I listened to the album I was wondering why it sounded familiar and I think I put it down to two individual songs; Reasons For The Rhymes and Shelter. The former reminds of the style of Ralph Mctell while the latter reminds me of the Michelle Shocked albums I listened to as a student. Perhaps it was a touch of nostalgia for my younger days, but having hooked me with these two tracks, when I listened to the album again it was like playing one of my favourite LPs. It produced a feeling of warmth and contentment and the more I listened to it the better the feeling got.

While the whole album is great, I think that my favourite tracks are Victor Coyle, the biography of a man that owned a mandolin made in 1912, very similar to the one that Dave plays, and The Last Refrain, a song dedicated to Dave’s sister.
(Simon Bailes)

Tykes' News

Dave Ellis and Boo Howard are a hard working duo with an enthusiastic following in the south of England. They have made some small tours in the north (which have included two visits to the Topic), winning instant accolades and festival bookings. Not surprising, for these are consummate musicians, with intelligent self-penned songs and superb musicianship their norm: Dave's intricate guitar work and Boo's sympathetic bass and vocals combine to give a delicately honed performance with folk/acoustic clubs in mind from two people who could arguably sit with comfort in more than one genre.

This is their sixth CD, arguably their best yet, which is something of a major statement as the previous were of the highest quality, both in terms of production and content.

All the attributes which make their live performances so memorable are here on this album. Style, in lyrics and often understated instrumental playing, thoughtfully crafted songs which communicate so well to their listeners, whether in a club or, as with this CD in particular, in the comfort of your own home, are its hallmark.

It's hard to pick out highlights - they will come down to very personal taste, as the quality throughout is so consisitently high. Despite great variety in the songs, Dave and Boo's trademark of great harmonies and subtle instrumentation is constant. For me, the wistfulness of Home Again, Boo's revisiting of her Scottish roots, and The Last Refrain, a moving dedication to Dave's sister stand out, but there is something for everybody: the bluesy Nothing In Between and Back To Default; the gentle philosophy of We Go Round and Two Left Feet, themes we can all relate to. The amusing title track is something of a tongue-in-cheek look at the trite stuff that people share on social media. God Save Olive Cooke is a poignant tribute to a 92 year old lady who had spent her entire life selling poppies for the British Legion. Her body was found at the bottom of the Avon Gorge earlier this year: she had taken her own life after having been hounded by, of all organisations, charities asking her for money.

However you like your music, this CD is one of those that will tick most of the boxes for most people: a must for the car or late night chilling out. Or anytime, really. Let's hope that success for the album will encourage these excellent musicians to revisit our corner of the country in the not too distant future.
(Tony Charnock)

Liverpool Acoustic

...Facebook Friend is their eighth album together. It is as it says on the album sleeve a widely diverse range of songs and styles. I’ve listened to the album a good number of times. Dave and Boo’s voices blend well together and all the instrument work is excellent not just Dave’s guitar. The lyrics are thought provoking and very singable.

Starting with Home Again with Boo’s voice carrying the tune and you along on this journey. The title track is next with a change of pace and style and Dave taking over the lead vocals. This is one of my favourite tracks all about one of today’s phenomenons and the way it affects our lives.

The third track God Save Olive Cooke is about that wonderful woman who for many years sold poppies and in recognition of being the longest serving poppy seller she received The Points of Light award. When I first heard the song I didn’t put two and two together but upon reading the sleeve notes I remembered the sad story of her years of charity work and her sad death. Dave and Boo have said we hope this might raise some money for the cause she cared so much about so – click here to find the “God Save Olive Cooke” download for 99p – any money they receive from this song will go to the British Legion. Please share the video by using this link https://youtu.be/f7mX3qfqzK0

Now the fourth track I feel is out of place. More a stutter rather than a stall in the flow of the album but we are back on track with the next. Back to Default has some lovely guitar work and a catchy tag line. The next track takes on a jazzy feel to the vocals and instrumentals. The track is called Nothing in Between and this is mostly the feeling of the album - nothing mediocre about it. You will be hard pressed not to find something to like.

The website Folk Words made it album of the month in October this year. I just missed out hearing them live at the Brombough Folk Club (Bridge Inn Port Sunlight) where they went down a storm. Hopefully I’ll catch them next time they come north.

Shire Folk

Dave and Boo have been playing music together in bands and as a duo since 1979 and it really shows through in this very professionally produced album. This is a classy, sophisticated album, which I would term soft rock rather than traditional folk music.  All thirteen songs are written by Dave and Boo and cover such topics as family, relationships, travelling and people they have met. They play all the instruments on the album, which includes guitars, mandolin, keyboards and drums. Their live performances mean they have built up a faithful following in clubs in the south of England and I can see why.
(Jonathan Roscoe)

Folk NorthWest

Oh Facebook! I don’t do it you know? You probably guessed eh? Well I look at it this way, when even my imaginary friends won’t play with me, what hope for my potential cyber chums?!

The title track is not the lead-off on this fine assembly of 13 songs but its sprightly swagger typifies the duo’s stock-in-trade; erudite and elegant writing backed up throughout by exemplary musicianship from essentially Dave’s sophisticated guitar and Boo’s fluid bass lines – acoustic and electric in both instances. With a cool quirky YouTube clip I’d like to think they share the same antipathy as I, but truth to tell, they have an F-word page! Now that invests the word irony with new meaning!  

These two have been around the block and aren’t afraid to take chances, being sure of their abilities and it’s a brave move to start this their eighth joint album with the poignant low-key reflection of ‘Home Again’ rather than say ‘F.F.’ or the snappy ‘Shelter’ which weighs in towards the end of the record.

 Guitarist’s Guitarist is such a cliché that I won’t use it (!) but suffice to say Mr Ellis’ talents have been apparent since the ‘70s, when he left Liverpool in common with so many local musos for the big city, teaming up with Boo (I know that’s not the name her parents gave her!) in the latter years of that decade in an electric outfit, before slimming down to the current pairing and here is a bassist who ‘plays to the song’ with subtlety and restraint.

These narratives, chiming with our current dark days of uncertainty - tales of frustrated ambition, bruised relationships and a loss of faith in humanity (the sublime ‘God Save Olive Cooke’) mean there’s often though not exclusively, a mood more bleak than celebratory. Central to the album’s aesthetic is a degree of world-weariness, and helplessness. Maybe this is the way the world ends – not with a bang, just a retreat into social media and Like buttons?

 An accomplished thinking-persons package from its Magritte homage sleeve to the glorious contents; There isn’t a single makeweight song in this set and with Dave and Boo touring in our area (autumn dates this year) there are opportunities for us all to abandon F*c*book and get out more!
(Clive Pownceby)

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R2

The follow-up to 2010’s Stuff, Dave and Boo’s latest offering, Eye On The Sky, is another fine collection of songs that provide a platform for the pair’s vocal talents and instrumental skills. They began working together in 1979 and their first duo acoustic recording, Maybe I Might Fall, eventually emerged in 1999; Eye On The Sky is their sixth album.

The songs are uniformly excellent, often poignant and wistful in sentiment and, lyrically, always engaging. Beautifully arranged and produced, there’s a restrained, somewhat understated mood to the album’s overall sound yet there’s a great deal going on, albeit in often subtle manner. That’s a reflection of the quality of the musicianship and of the familiarity that comes with such a long-standing musical partnership. It’s all there in the grooves.

‘Don’t’ epitomises those qualities: another bittersweet number, beautifully arranged and performed, to the point that it simply oozes class as its gorgeous vocal harmonies spill from the speakers. It’s a standout track. I find it rather regrettable that this supremely entertaining duo performs mainly on the London-and-environs live circuit because they really ought to be making a greater splash across the rest of the country, too.
(George Clapperton)

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Folk London

Eye On The Sky is their sixth album. All eleven numbers were written between 2010 and 2013. Dave handles vocals, guitars, tenor guitar, banjo, mandolin, keyboards and percussion. Boo provides vocals, bass, keyboards, guitar, cajon and percussion. Many of the tracks are easy to understand. Any Month Of Any Year is a simple love song, repetitive and very catchy. Silly Me and Silly You is a reflection of a couple stupidly falling out - in the style of the songs Gershwin and Berlin wrote. (Lovely guitar on this track). Me & Angie is a homage to the Bert Jansch guitar style. (This is another demo of Dave's brilliant guitar work. I could do with much more of it!) The Skerryvore Light is the tallest lighthouse in Scotland and is 12 miles south west of the island of Tiree. (Banjo and concertina are featured). Another feature for the banjo is the hectic instrumental Traffic Jam.

Other tracks including the title track Eye On The Sky are not so immediately obvious. The CD is well recorded with a remarkably full sound and lyrics are provided in the inlay.
(Ivan North)

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R2

Some twelve years on from their Maybe I Might Fall debut as an acoustic duo, London-based Dave Ellis & Boo Howard have released what is certainly their most polished and rewarding collection of self-penned songs yet. They’ve been working together, in fact, for more than three decades now and it shows in their material and performances.

Songs are intelligently constructed, elegantly articulated and never less than entertaining. ‘Serenades & Masquerades’ reminds me of Paul Simon’s One Trick Pony in the quality of its songwriting, wee-small-hours mood and heart-on-sleeve lyrics. ‘Loneliest Man In The Western World’ is a downbeat tale of dashed hopes and dreams while ‘… all of the time, life goes on’.

Elsewhere, the album’s title track scratches its head in bemusement at the absurdities of modern life, ‘I’ll Be With You’ and ‘Some Day’ conjure late-night listening moods and, by way of contrast, banjo-propelled ‘Don’t Desert Me’ offers a nudge and a wink in its bluegrass-influenced strut.

The fourteen tracks on Stuff serve as a perfect advertisement for this supremely talented duo. The songs are at the heart of it all, wonderfully served by imaginative and stylish arrangements and by the singing and playing of two seasoned, wholly in tune musicians. Indeed, Dave Ellis & Boo Howard’s latest album immediately qualified itself as my album of the year. Great Stuff!
(Dave White)

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Taplas

These two have quite a track record, having played together for over 30 years, and this is their fifth together.

This gently understated album of their own original Americana-esque songs has an easy pace. Boo Howard's breathy vocal harmonies complement Dave Ellis' smoothly slapped 'n' picked acoustic guitar and come together for a mellow sound that helped them stand out enough to receive national airplay.

With keyboard, bass, cajon and even a sparrow included on the tracks, you'll find yourself moved without stirring from your easy chair. It's perhaps ironic to name your album after a song about having too much 'Stuff', but some 'Stuff' is worth having.
(Andy Piper)

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Rock'n'Reel

The fourth CD release from this London based duo, the follow-up to 2004's Amber, sees the pair continue to hone their sound to subtle but stylish effect. Working out of their home studio and rarely straying from their London stamping ground, Dave Ellis and Boo Howard are a perfect example of the UK music scene's 'buried treasures' - DIY style artists who are focused more on the music than the business and who, as a result, are far less prominent than other - perhaps less deserving - performers who know how to hustle and make a bit of a fuss.

The duo's songs and music, mainly gentle, laid-back and relaxing, is the sort of thing that fans of, say, James Taylor, would very likely appreciate. It's a classy, polished sound, testament to the pair's familiarity with the recording process and of their ability to write and perform at a level every bit the equal of their major label peers. Ellis had some success as a solo artist in the 70s, even making it as far as a string of prestigious support slots and an Old Grey Whistle Test appearance on the strength of his debut album (recently reissued). His seasoned musicianship clearly plays a major role in achieving their attractive and deceptively simple sound, while the vocal harmonising further ensures that it's all immediately likeable stuff. Yes, you may not find yourself playing air guitar along with it but, after a hard day at the office, it's just the ticket.
(George Clapperton)

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Songbook

Now here's something special. No hype being generated... thus no critics falling over themselves to be cool as they admire the musical equivalent of the emperor's new clothes. Instead, real talent. Oh and no 'proper' record company (the pair's Doghouse Records is more mongrel than pedigree) throwing money at the music glossies, so no cover features or fawning interviews either. All of which means you're going to have to search this one out for yourself or hope they play an intimate little venue near you soon.

It's sad, but true ... the likelihood of you stumbling across this fine collection of songs from London duo, Dave Ellis and Boo Howard, is otherwise slim indeed. So, something rotten in the state of Denmark then? Yes, but we all knew that anyway. It still doesn't make it any more acceptable when mediocre talents are lauded universally, afforded priceless radio airtime, valuable column inches and shelf space in the high street chain stores while the genuine article goes neglected or downright ignored.

Of course, it's more than just Ellis and Howard - performers who, by rights, ought to have earned all that and more with an impeccable selection of performances of 'Amber', a mellow and mellifluous follow-up to their even more downbeat 'Maybe I might Fall' - who suffer from such general short-sightedness in media-land.

Ellis, in fact, snatched what he presumably hopes was his first fifteen minutes' worth of fame back in the 70s with a debut on Sonet Records and appearances on Old Grey Whistle Test and the like before fading from the public eye, but has persevered long enough since to deserve another quarter hour, at the very least.

Musical partner Boo provides the perfect foil to Ellis's intelligently worked songs and guitar playing. His attractive 'English blues' voice is complemented by Howard's own quite regal delivery of the consistently entertaining, stimulating and incisive lyrics.

With 'Amber', Dave Ellis and Boo Howard have released as satisfying a collection of songs as any I've heard in many a year. It might not dazzle you with its brilliance, for it's an album of more subtle pleasures than that, but nor will its sheen tarnish with the passing months. Here you simply get great songs, beautifully performed. Not so very long ago that used to be enough.
(George Clapperton)

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Greenman Reviews

If I didn't know better, the first time I heard this album I would have said Dave & Boo were from Canada or the US. (A friend of mine put me straight.) Well, they do have a very nice relaxed gentle sound; the sort of sound American contemporary folk singers do so well. Actually the duo are based in London, and tend to do most of their gigs in the South.

This is the second album from Dave and Boo as a duo. Make no mistake about it, as it really is superb. In my part of England traditional folk song seems to rule the roost, so listening to them came as pleasant surprise. Both Dave and Boo are good singers and harmonise well. Couple to this some nice, tasteful guitar work and you begin to get the picture. Dave and Boo wrote all of the songs on this album, but Dave must take most of the credit, as he wrote 11 out of the 13 tracks. The album was recorded at Doghouse Studios, and is very much a studio recording, with Dave overlaying banjo, keyboards, bass, percussion and whistle on most of the songs. The finished production sounds good, but their sound is bound to be different when they perform live as a duo.

The album starts well with a terrific song called 'Indian Country' -- now you will understand why I thought they were American! The next song, a slow ballad entitled 'Won't Let Loving', is sung by Boo. A slinky blues song comes next: 'Mirrorman' sung by Dave; it made a good contrast to the play list. And so the album continues, alternating rhythms and mood throughout the songs. It keeps you really interested. My favourite songs on the album have to be 'Indian Country', 'Apple Tree', 'Amsterdam' and 'It Could Have Been Me', but to be fair all the songs are good, and it is hard to single out just four.

Would I recommend you buy this album? Yes, definitely. For this class of contemporary folk music, Dave and Boo must take the crown for being amongst the best. It is sufficiently different, and makes a pleasant change from the run of the mill folk music. So if you like nice gentle singing, easy listening, plus some tasty guitar work, this album's for you. Pour your self a glass of wine, sit back, and enjoy.
(Peter Massey)

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Folk On Tap

Professional CD this! Well produced, polished performance. There are some inspirational songs here. I liked 'Indian Country' and 'Apple Tree' very much. Dave Ellis has been around, as guitarist and songwriter, since the seventies and worked the same circuit as John Martyn and Gordon Giltrap. He wrote most of the songs with the addition of one from Boo and the title track from both of them.

This is a CD for the late night folk. Very sophisticated, thought provoking numbers, some slow, most more up-tempo. All with thought pictures to spark the imagination. I have to say in every case the accompaniment is spot on and original with some orchestration, banjo and guitar used sparingly and quietly behind the powerful songs. Dave and Boo can be proud of this CD. It's entertaining and shows what the combination of hard work and talent can do. A perfect fusion of voice and accompaniment. Highly recommended.
(Martin Lee)

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Taplas

The second album from guitarist Dave Ellis and vocalist Boo Howard (Amber, Doghouse DGHCD523) shows them to be considerable songwriters and performers of the Gregson/ Collister school of contemporary folk. Hardly earth shattering, but their blend of gentle ballads and bluesy guitar workouts marks them out as a class act.

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Natural Acoustics

Intoxicating harmony vocals, terrific guitar playing and stunning songs …the debut album from London-based Dave Ellis and Boo Howard was a beautifully understated delight from start to finish. Their classy collection of original songs (plus a handful of tunes), released on the pair's own Doghouse Records label, was also more than reminiscent of that earlier inspired partnership - Clive Gregson and Christine Collister! With 'Amber', they've just got even better!

There might be some who remember Dave from his days as an itinerant guitarist and songwriter back in the 70s, working the circuit alongside the likes of Gordon Giltrap, Keith Christmas and John Martyn. A Dave Ellis solo album (released on Sonet Records) earned him national exposure via appearances on the BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test and In Concert shows. From the folk clubs he found himself graduating to support slots for the Edgar Broughton Band, at London's Rainbow Theatre, and Rod Stewart, at Reading Festival. Dave was also a familiar name on the posters outside those famous bastions of the then London music scene, The Marquee and The Roundhouse. Happy days …

Eventually Dave became involved in a variety of bands and, as a result, met up with Boo Howard. The pair began to write together and individually, and the strength of their material was such that both secured publishing deals, with EMI and Epic recognising their songwriting abilities.

Some considerable time has passed since then, though Dave and Boo continued to collaborate and eventually the time seemed right for a recorded collection of their work. 'Maybe I Might Fall' was the result. It was an album of much charm, refreshing and unpretentious, and steeped in quality of 'the old school' … good songs, well sung and played; no frills or flounce!

Now, some two years down the line and a follow-up, 'Amber', makes its appearance. And it's a real gem. The pair are writing and performing better than ever and 'Amber' is a polished collection, destined to make their reputations as one of the UK's classiest folk-roots acts since … well … Gregson and Collister! Watch out for UK live dates from Dave and Boo, throughout 2002.
(Dave White)

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Dirty Linen

Dave Ellis and Boo Howard are a contemporary acoustic duo from London who invite invite comparisons to the fondly remembered Clive Gregson and Christine Collister, although without quite so much doom and gloom in their repertoire. Amber, their second release, is marked by appealing voices and clean harmonies, crisp guitar work (plus touches of banjo, accordion, and keyboards), and intelligent, hopeful, sometimes wistful relationship songs. "Rocket Ship" is a meditation on change and challenges that features lush 12-string guitar accompaniment for Howard's smooth lead vocal, "It Could Have Been Me" is a sultry blues, and the delicate title track harmoniously explores the universal wish to hold onto good memories.
(TN)

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FolkWorld

The English duo Dave Ellis and Boo Howard just released their second record called Amber. Dave Ellis already released his first solo record in the seventies on the Sonet label. Their first album which I never heard, has been compared with the early work of Gregson and Collister. When I compare these two duo's I'm afraid that I even prefer Ellis and Howard. The singing of Boo Howard is very intense and a bit melancholic. But the strongest part of Amber is the instrumentation. Sober and intense the instruments support the lead vocal to a higher level. Weak point of this CD would be some of the lyrics. The song Amsterdam is the best example of this. "Cos all the sex and drugs in Amsterdam can't give me inspiration like my baby can" This is almost to much to take serious, but maybe this song is meant to be cynical? Please note that I'm Dutch and born in Amsterdam so maybe you should not take me to serious Nevertheless, this album sounds fine and will hopefully find it's way to all the lovers of male/female duo folk.
(Eelco Schilder)

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Rock n' Reel

What a delightful surprise this album turned out to be. I am reminded in its freshness and simplicity, vocal duets and acoustic guitar-propelled songs, of Clive Gregson and Christine Collister's debut disc, "Home and Away". That was a fine recording which showcased some great songwriting and performances, something echoed strongly here on "Maybe I Might Fall".

Dave Ellis started out in the folk clubs of Liverpool, influenced by such as Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, before heading to London in 1970 where he earned himself quite a reputation as a guitarist. A solo album in 1974 led to TV appearances on the likes of The Old Grey Whistle Test and on stage at the Marquee and Roundhouse.

He met up with singer Boo Howard in 1979 and they've been working together ever since. This recent release is something of a return to their acoustic roots and features some excellent vocals from the pair, alongside Ellis's stylish guitar work (and some banjo). All the songs (and a handful of tunes) were written by Ellis too, save for one which both had a hand in, and there is some impressive material on display.

While the Gregson and Collister comparison is perhaps the most apt, there are times when I am also reminded of Everything But The Girl's minor chord melancholia. That's no bad thing either, in my book.

The duo's vocal work is attractive and engaging and it's a confident, relaxed and well-crafted collection which really ought to win them many new friends. I imagine they'll be a great evening's entertainment down the local folk club too.

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Folk London

I had absolutely no idea what to expect from the CD as Dave and Boo were unknown to me. However, I soon warmed to Dave's sensitive guitar work and to Boo's considerable vocal talents, which bring out the best of Dave Ellis's compositions.

Numbers which stand out for me are "Shadow" and "Minefield" both jointly written by Dave and Boo as well as "The Atheist's Hymn" - just Dave.

Several instrumental solos by Dave either on guitar or banjo break up the singing very pleasingly and emphasise the depth of his consummate skill, particularly on the acoustic guitar. For your copy or for further information or bookings, phone the artists on 0181 340 3215.

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Folk On Tap

In the 1970s, Dave Ellis played guitar alongside the likes of Gordon Giltrap, Keith Christmas and John Martyn with solo appearances on Old Grey Whistle Test and In Concert.

Having collaborated with Boo Howard for some time, they have decided to release this collection of their songs, mostly written by Dave.

A set of predominantly laid back songs are pepped up by some quirky tunes. Both sing, both play guitar with some fine banjo picking and the sort of voices which will make for a pleasantly mellow club session although look for the barbs in lyrics such as "The Atheist's Hymn".

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Articles

R2 April 2016

Insight

Dave Ellis & Boo Howard launched their latest album, Facebook Friend, in October of last year. Its predecessor, Eye On The Sky, was released in 2013. What had they been up to in between times?

"I suppose the main thing that has changed for us in the last couple of years is that we've been travelling 'up north' a lot more frequently and out of our comfort zone," says Dave.

Boo adds, "We've been doing lots of gigs but the trouble is we rarely do consecutive nights or what is known in the trade as... tours," she grins. "We mainly do one-off gigs, which is great but it means we have to rehearse a lot to keep our playing up to speed between shows. We also take ages recording, partly because we have the luxury of using Dave's studio, which is fantastic - and free - so no time issues, but also, we are both perfectionists; it's a nightmare, I can tell you."

What sort of reception has 'Facebook Friend' met with? "Facebook wouldn't let us promote our video for the song, which I suppose is fair enough, as the song is about not liking Facebook very much," Dave chuckles.

How about 'God Save Olive Cooke' - a sad story of our times?

"The song had originally been called 'Remembrance Day' and was about a war widow with her personal tragedy to bear," says Dave. "After we recorded it, the real tragedy of Olive Cooke's suicide at the age of ninety-two was heavily reported in the press as the result of pressure on her from charities to donate. This was after she spent most of her life selling poppies for the British Legion. We then changed our recording to fit Olive's story. It seemed like a good idea to donate the proceeds from downloads of the song to the British Legion, so we made a little video and put '...Olive Cooke' on iTunes."

In my review of their 1999 debut Maybe I Might Fall, I likened Dave and Boo's sound to that of Gregson & Collister's in that duo's heyday. In an amusing twist, Dave's partner, singer-songwriter Liz Simcock, recently toured with Clive Gregson re-creating some of those classic Gregson & Collister songs.

Dave reflects, "Clive's songs and Christine's singing have been an inspiration to Liz since she started writing and performing herself. She was honoured to be asked by Clive to sing Christine's parts from his old duo days. When you originally compared us to Gregson & Collister, I hadn't heard them - not until I met Liz. I reckon any similarity was probably down to the fact that both duos had thier roots in pop music and developed acoustically in the folk clubs."

Dave gets the lion's share of the songwriting credits,Boo. Is he greedy or is it that you just can't be bothered?

"Dave has committed his whole life to playing and writing music," Boo replies, smiling. "He rarely has a guitar of some sort out of his hand and he's always looking for the lost chord of working on the next song. I've been lucky enough to be a part of that creative process but I also have a life! I do play piano and write the occasional tune but there are so many great songs - maybe I'm just happy to sing them and play them."

What will you be up to in the coming months?

"We've a lot more gigs, especially in the north of England mainly around the Liverpool/Manchester area," says Dave. "We've also been invited to Switzerland in May and there are some very keen people there who are trying to put a tour together for us."

David White

R2 June 2011

Insight

Dave Ellis and Boo Howard met in 1979. Dave had moved to London from Liverpool in the early 70s and had forged a successful career in the folk clubs of the south-east. He also performed at Reading Festival alongside the likes of Rod Stewart and Status Quo, and on BBC TV's Old Grey Whistle Test. "Perhaps that's what gave me the inspiration to form my own band," says Dave of the former experience, "and that's when I met the gorgeous Boo."

Boo was born in London and spent her formative years frequenting the music pubs and clubs. "I had a yearning to play but didn't think classical piano would quite fit in," laughs Boo. "When I met Dave I realised that bass players only played one note at a time so that it would be easier to learn. Dave suggested that if I learned the whole of his band's set in a month, I could join the band. I did and the rest is history, as they say."

The pair recently released Stuff, the latest album on their own Doghouse label, the title track from which appeared on R2's Un-Herd CD (issue 25). It's arguably their strongest collection of songs yet. They do all their own studio work too, and invariably achieve great results. Is there any down side to doing it all - recording, running the label, and booking the gigs - themselves?

"Yes, too much time spent faffing around with equipment," Dave grins. "and we've always thought that music and business are unhappy bed fellows. Musicians are generally artists with their heads somewhere near the clouds. Business people have their feet firmly on the financial ground. Who knows where we would be now if we had given one of our songs to Debbie Harry as requested. But no, we didn't. We kept our integrity and stayed flat broke!"

"There will always be people who want to be famous and are prepared to do whatever it takes and whatever is asked. There will also be people who are lucky and are at the right place at the right time with the right song. We have managed not to be any of those people but we play the music we love from our hearts and that, for us, is a privilege and a joy."

The dynamics and chemistry work very well on stage. Do they ever harbour thoughts of putting together a full band though?

"Yes, but you get more problems when more people are involved in a project. Having said that, the acoustic act has got a style of its own that we both really enjoy and there is hardly ever a gig when we don't have a really great time, which is what it's all about."

Says Boo of their songwriting process: "There is no system. We sometimes write together, sometimes separately, but more often than not Dave produces most of the ideas, which emanate from the guitar, and then we work on the music jointly, and the lyrics may be worked on together. But usually it's easier for the words to be written by one of us on our own. Most of the songs are fairly personal observations, and about personal experiences."

Do they ever fight over who should take the lead vocal on a new song? How do they work out who sings what?

"There's always a fight over who sings a song unless it's limited by the key or the sex of the person in the lyrics! It's usually decided by which way is best for the harmonies and who sulks more if they don't get their way," Dave acknowledges wryly. "As we're a duo, the harmonies are a big part of what we do."

David White
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Right is a collage of Dave Ellis press clippings from the seventies.
Click here to read it.
The less complimentary remarks are covered strategically by others!

Left is a collage of early Dave and Boo clippings when they were called the Reactors.
Click here to read it.
Particularly have a look near the bottom left of the page at the Sounds clip... it's quite funny!

club reviews

British Duo rocks Mother’s Day

Pieterlen Dave Ellis and Boo Howard at Haus zum Himmel

BY JÜRG KÜBLI

“Folk in Heaven” with its impresarios Monika Brändli and Stephen Ferron again succeeded in engaging a musical duo of a very high standard: the singer/songwriter and fingerstyle guitarists Dave Ellis and Boo Howard from London.  With an inspired performance they exceeded even the highest expectations.

Dave and Boo belong to the cream of British folk. With their shared experience of three and a half decades on the stage, they achieved an unequalled ease of singing and making music. With his unique picking technique, Dave Ellis dumbfounded even the seasoned guitarists in the audience. He doesn’t play his solos with a plectrum but rather with three fingers. Boo Howard totally commits herself to her enchanting singing: but at the same time, she picks, strokes and beats her acoustic bass, eliciting, along with an insightful foundation, beautiful, ornamental little figures. In addition to his standard six-stringed instrument, Dave used a banjo, a four-string tenor guitar and a 12-string guitar whose strings were not octaves but are tuned individually. This results in a special tone and sound that gave each song different colours.

Stylistic versatility

Stylistic versatility suited the subject matter of the songs, which tell of many important and (im)possible aspects of the not-so-simple life as a singer/songwriter. Of course they played most of the compositions from their latest CD, Facebook Friend.  In “Nothing in Between”, the highs and lows of a turbulent relationship are accompanied by rousing music. “Who will tie my old shoelace”, cryptically and more intimately, tells about Dave’s cruel primary school teacher, Miss Kennedy, who forced him to learn to tie his shoes himself, without the help of little Sandra. “We Go Round” deals with a life truth, not to listen to too many people but to decide for ourselves: most of the time, detours lead to a goal. However, the songs from Boo’s and Dave’s souls found the most direct route to the hearts of their listeners.

Tykes News live review 17th May 2012

Topic Folk Club, Bradford

It’s nice when as bookings monitor you take a chance and it all comes right. Or at least you think it’s all come right. Having listened to Dave Ellis and Boo Howard and appreciated the high quality of their musicianship, the decision to bring them to the club was not automatic: whether their style would sit easily with a folk audience was not to be taken for granted. I needn’t have worried: consummate musicians both, they have the maturity to bend their performance, or should I say the delivery of it, to suit whatever audience they are playing to without taking away any of the imagination and subtlety of their songs, arrangements and presentation.

Dave and Boo's musical partnership began as long ago as 1979: prior to that Dave had gained recognition as a solo artist with some high-profile exposure, including appearing on the Old Grey Whistle Test and opening for Rod Stewart at the Reading Festival, but they began performing as a duo in 1998. Dave's intricate guitar work, Boo's smooth understated bass, mellow vocals and beautiful harmonies are all the hallmark of this hugely talented couple, to say nothing of the songs, all original, superbly crafted, nothing out of place.

Having a large following in the south of England does not guarantee success on a tour of northern folk clubs, but the duo’s brave decision to organise one up in our part of the world was vindicated by their being invited back up north to perform at the Chester Folk Festival only a couple of weeks after appearing at the Chester Folk Club.

It took only half a sound check for me to realise that we were in for something akin to sublime. As they eased their way through a set of their thoughtful and intelligent songs, one could imagine them perfectly at home in one of those exclusive late night West End clubs, but as the evening wore on one could imagine them perfectly at home in any kind of venue. To talk of genres is to talk of labels, and it’s a little difficult to pin a label on these two. There was sometimes a jazzy, sometimes a bluesy feel but nothing overpowered the skill in their delivery , vocal and instrumental, which was nothing short of superb.

All of the songs were new to me, and probably the rest of the audience. Ones that stood out for me were: Living on Light, the title of one of their albums, Stuff, the title of another album, Living by Numbers, Serenades and Masquerades. And more. Their excellent CD’s are constant companions in my car.

Hopefully Dave and Boo will be encouraged to bring their music back to our part of the world. Until then, check out their website www.daveandboo.com. It's well worth a visit.
(Tony Charnock)

Bothy Folk Club, Southport 13th May 2012

As good as it gets - musicianship is second to none, vocals spot on, intelligent songs, stage presence disarming and all in all, having just come away from their storming Southport gig, I'm looking to catch 'em again before they head home.
(Clive Pownceby)

7th Feb 2010:

If there were any justice in the music world, or any other sphere for that matter, Dave and Boo would be up there on main stages worldwide. The dichotomy is that such a raised profile would take away from the responsive and intimate atmosphere that you only get in small acoustically-based venues such as the Bothy. A memorable night and hugely enjoyable.

If Southport at large knew that this quality of music-making existed on its doorstep, it would be beating a path along Park Road West every Sunday. Sssh-hh then, (he said ironically) we don't want to share this secret around too much do we?!
(Clive Pownceby)

Ram Club, Guildford 6th Oct 2006

Dave & Boo were in superb form on their debut here a year ago, pushing closing time and landlord tolerance to its limits with a storming set. Acoustic rock, folk and blues at its best, with a sackful of great homespun songs, Dave’s wonderful guitar, sublime harmonies and those soulful vocals from one of the best female singers we’ve had here.

12th Nov 2004:

Twenty years ago, he met musical partner Boo, who has one of those great voices that blends rock, folk, soul and jazz into her own unique style. In the Eighties they went electric and they rocked. Now they’re happily acoustic again, performing some great original songs with guitar playing of the highest order

Raven Folk Club, Chester 14th Feb 2016

One of the most engaging duos you will ever encounter! Dave is a wonderous guitarist.....a real find. He is also a great songwriter and a very effective singer. Boo has a lovely voice and she is a great bass-player! Together they are a quite unique act....warm, witty and welcoming. Fine songs, impressive playing, first-class music.

Rock n Reel live review 6th Feb 2010


Having waited the best part of ten years to catch up with Dave Ellis & Boo Howard in a concert setting, I’m happy to report that my patience was well rewarded. Based in London, this was the duo’s first significant foray North, far beyond the pair’s regular South East of England touring circuit. Playing selections from their handful of exquisitely crafted, self-released CDs (since 2001’s duo debut Maybe I Might Fall), it was immediately clear from the opening number that the thirty years these guys have worked together are distilled into a fine art.

Ellis writes most of the songs – beautifully rendered and affecting ballads, laconic observations from life’s theatre of the absurd, and laugh-out-loud ruminations such as ‘Internet Blues’ and ‘Stuff’ (the latter with its neatly inserted, amusing Beatles reference?‘All you need is stuff’, though the Etal audience was also privy to the baptism of Howard’s vibrantly healthy new ?baby?, ‘River Runs Deep’.

Like a laid-back Gregson & Collister, the pair shared the vocal spotlight, offering nicely contrasting tones and rather splendid harmonies, while the musicianship from both was classily understated unless required otherwise. So why have you never heard of Dave Ellis & Boo Howard? Because, of course, there’s a veritable deluge of fine music, at a variety of locations old and new, attempting to attract your attention. And because they don’t get out nearly as much as they ought to, though that should begin to change for them this year, so pay attention all you club promoters and festival bookers.
(Dave White)

Stortfolk, Bishops Stortford

Superb Jansch type guitar & powerful vocals with a touch of expert banjo, seasoned with the blues and just a dash of ragtime. They don't rock the joint, show off or try to overpower the audience - Dave & Boo are just really really good musicians. They combine a repertoire of Dave's songs with a bit of older material, a gentle sense of fun and sensitive variations of pace & style. Not your average folkies.

Chesham Folk Club 25th Jan 2016

Dave Ellis and Boo Howard simply exude class. 
With Boo’s wonderful voice and Dave’s stunning song writing and guitar playing, they are always classy, imaginative and engaging. A lot of superlatives, but they are that good

Cambridge Folk Club

Dave is known for his unique guitar style and Boo for her great voice and exceptional bass playing. Some great original, sensitive and subtle songs, with guitar playing of the highest order. 'Acoustic rock, folk and blues at its best'.

Dorking Folk Club

A long-standing musical partnership that is entirely original and in a class of its own in contemporary folk music. Their gentle singing, easy listening and tasty, often unique guitar work puts them up there among the best and always delights their many fans.

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