Issue 12 12/99
Label: Green Linnet; GLCD1201; 1999; Playing time: 52.59 min
Old Blind Dogs "Live"
Label: KRL/Lochshore; CDLDL 1294; 1999; Playing time: 57.48 min
It was entirely clear that with this new star line up the Old Blind Dogs should remain a top band. However, when in January 1999 at the Celtic Connections Festival club in Glasgow the Old Blind Dogs introduced their new line-up for the first time to the public, I was astonished that the typical and original sound of the Doggies is preserved without reservations. Now the first CD in the new Line-Up is out, "The World's Room".
Already after the first minute, each fan of the old Old Dogs will completely be convinced, that the line-up change has not damaged the appeal of the Doggies. Jim Malcolm gives a worthy succession of Ian F Benzie with his traditional songs, moreover he adds on the CD also one of his great own songs, "Battle of Waterloo". Rory Campbell, without doubt one of the best composers of modern Gaelic pipe tunes, expands the repertoire with his pieces, arranged in the typical Old Blind Dogs style combined with the rough energy of new wave Gaelic music. Also the new Percussionist, Paul Jennings, contributes with his inventive percussion to the old magic of the Old Blind Dogs. The sound is held together by the old established dogs, Buzzby McMillan on bass and cittern and Jonny Hardie on fiddle, guitar, mandolin and bouzouki.
The World's Room offers a highly enjoyable selection of five songs and five instrumentals, for a big share composed by Rory. The Sound is yet entire the old, "clubby folk music", destintinctively traditional, with Djembe/Conga-Percussion, the songs of Jim Malcolm with nice backing choirs, plus an exciting traditional selection of instruments. The appearance of the Old Blind Dogs meanwhile has now a cooler and more youthful touch - without doubt a good start to gain new bigger audiences.
Those who miss nevertheless the old Old Blind Dogs and want to have another souvenir of them, and those who want to have the direct comparison, should get the previously unpublished live recording of a concert in the Aberdeener cult club "The Lemon Tree", brought out of the archives of Lochshore Records. In the old Line-Up Buzzby - Jonny - Ian F Benzie - Davy Cattanach, the Old Blind Dogs play once again all the old favorites of the Doggies. The quality of the recording is quite high, and the famous atmosphere of the Lemon Tree is captured as well on the album. The Old Blind Dogs as they used to be at their best - live in concert.
The Old Blind Dogs - old and new - prove with both discs that they have been and still are one of the best folk bands that Scotland has produced in the last decade of the millenium.
KRL/Lochshore Homepage; Old Blind Dogs' Homepage
Label: Own; 1999; Playing time: 44.52 min
Rattle the Boards is a band that has found together in pub session, and brings together three highly talented musicians. Benny McCarthy is the internationally best known musician of the trio, playing accordion in the famous band Danú, joining up in Rattle the Board with Pat Ryan from Co. Tipperary, a talented multi instrumentalist playing in Rattle the Boards banjo and fiddle, and with John Nugent, a guitarist from Newcastle. The ensemble playing is very tight, and you can feel that these lads have played together for quite a long time. On this recording, the three have a guest singer, Martha Beardmore from Newcastle, adding with her beautiful and sensitive voice two impressive songs, "Loving Hannah" and Nancy Griffith's "Talk to me".
Playing mainly old traditional Irish tunes, Rattle the Boards are one of those few Irish bands who have managed to capture the fun, enjoyment and atmosphere of traditional Irish music on CD. There is enough variation on the CD, and the combination of instruments works really well.
Rattle the Boards are another strong proof that the scene in Ireland produces currently a lot of new highest quality trad bands. This is a recording that anybody interested in lively Irish trad music simply must have in his/her collection.
Phone Pat Ryan at Tel.+353 52 23796
Label: Elkarlanean; KD-521; 1999; Playing time: 55.12 min
Having learnt the playing of the txalaparta from the Zuasnabar brothers, Jexux Artze along with his brother Jose Anton have developed totally new ways of expression on this old Basque instrument, and have made the instrument once again popular, and have made it to a kind of symbol for Basque culture.
This album is dedicated to the txalaparta. Featuring four of the best txalaparta players, Jexux Artze himself, Pello de la Cruz, Mikel Artola and Iker Muduruza, it brings ancient traditions to live - mostly featuring only a pair of txalaparta players, and sometimes joined by some shrill sounds of ancient Basque flutes, once also by a little song. The album is completed by a beautiful song of the local youth choir. As a frame around the txalaparta sounds, the CD starts and finishes with the ringing of church bells, having a strong part in Basque culture and having acted as "mass media prehistory".
This album gives an insight into an ancient, almost unknown Basque instrument. However being based on a percussion instrument, it will not have a bigger appeal to mainstream audiences and will without doubt remain an album for only a very small circle of specialists. Still, for music ethnology, it will be an important piece of Basque (music) culture.
Elkarlanean Records, Portuetxe Kalea 88 bis, 20018 Donostia, Spain
Label: KRL/Lochshore; CDLDL 1291; 1999; Playing time: 42.55 min
Yes, you are right: It is not the usual Irish traditional music session. It is a mature combination of Irish Traditional music with a "chamber orchestra" of traditional musicians. The tunes are all traditional arranged by Paul O'Driscoll, and with the calibre of the participating musicians (no doubt some of the best Irish fiddlers available) it is clear that the musical result of the Bowhouse Quintet is of highest quality. Recorded in a small local church in Ennis, the magic of an unusual classical arrangement of Irish traditional music can fully develop.
Label: Seita Music Ky (Finland); SeitaCD 003; Playing time: 42:24 min
His instrumental CD features him playing in various contexts: solo banjo, or being the whole bluegrass band on all instruments. All original material, some of it with a progressive/Trischka type influence. Other stuff ("Rosine") is as hard-core bg as you could want. One of the tunes that was tabbed out with the BNL piece, "Feta Cheese and Meatballs" is here, played on 2 banjos (only). "River Valley Waltz" has him on multiple mandolins backed with guitar on a lovely semi-classical sonding piece.
"Across The Marshland" is the only track with a real Finnish folk feel. Violas, fiddles, bowed bass on a slow dark minor tune (ala JPP) with a subdued banjo added in. "Blue Harbor" which features accordionist Maria Kalaniemi, and some light electric guitars with, Viksten's guitars/banjo/fiddle is hard to pegeonhole - sort of impressionist jazz-folk; if you've listened to the most recent Kalaniemi record, IHO, is along those lines.
And finally, the track I kinda like best, "Malabar Junction". A slower funky blues stomp with cool instruments - banjo played with slide, plus rhythm mando, bass, drums, electric sitar and electric dobro, jew's harp, and acoustic guitars. Remember the Eagles' "Flight Of the Sorcerer" (the best track they ever did, imo) which got used as the theme music for the radio version of "Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy"? That's the feel this track has!
Overall, a really fine piece of work.
Seita Music Ky, Box 24, 69601 Kaustinen, Finland
Label: Sibelius -Akatamien (Finland); SibKaCD027; 1999; 6 tracks; Playing time: 49:54 min
While one can play recognizable "tunes" on the kantele, a very big part of the older, especially Karelian, repertoire was improvisational trance music. Arja Kastinen has previously recorded in this trance/minimalist mode with her 1995, one-track, 55 minute improvisational kantele CD, IRO - Arja Kastinen (Mipu) (which was re-released in 1997 on Warner/Finlanda as KANTELE MEDITATION.) This new album VITA is an continuation of that approach, but with the ancient goat-horn sharing the trance.
The goat-horn is literally made from a goat's horn. Having heard some old ethnic field recordings of the instrument in which it seemed to function more as a brash noisemaker or signaling device than as a musical instrument*, I was quite surprised and amazed at the tone and control Forsberg has achieved, getting it sound more like a French horn. (*In fact, some archive samplings were incorporated into track 6.) Often the simple melodic lines are comprised of long sustained reverb-soaked notes, played over a repeated phrases on overdubbed horns, creating a an almost synthesizer effect, such as on Brain Eno's DISCREET MUSIC. Tracks such as "Ukontaarna" are very similar to Eno's tape-loop music, although the process used is overdubbing rather than tape manipulation. (Occasionally, Forsberg's phrasing/tone reminds me a bit of modal Miles Davis).
I can't really call any of the tracks 'tunes' or 'melodies'. 'Atmospheres' would be a more apt description. I liked it as in the same way I like Eno's work, and both Kastinen and Forsberg are excellent musicians on their instruments. But, don't order this expecting something along the lines of JPP or Värttinä!
Sibelius -Akatamien (Finland)
Label: Magnetic Music; MMR CD 1029; 1999; Playing time: 48.00 min
Magnetic Music, e-mail; Planie 22, D-72764 Reutlingen; Tel +49/7121/478605; Fax +49/7121/478606
Label: Temple Records; COMD 2080; 1999; Playing time: 55.34 min
Temple Records, e-mail; Shillinghill, Temple, Midlothian, Scotland EH23 4SH; Tel.+44/1875/830328; Fax +44/1875/830392
Label: HTD Records; HTDCD 98; 1999; Playing time: 69.37 min
HTD Records, e-mail; Unit 10, Kent House, Old Bexley Business Park, 19 Bourne Road, Bexley, Kent DA5 1LR; +44/1322/557355; Fax +44/1322/522878
Label: Coop Breizh; CD 890; 1999; Playing time: 58.32 min
Coop Breizh, Contact: Mathieu Hamon, T 0240 519041
Label: Extraplatte; EX 350-2; Playing time: 64.49 min
Extraplatte; POBox 2, A-1094 Vienna, Tel +43/1/3101084; Fax +43/1/3100324
Label: Sessions from the Hearth Ltd.; SFH001; 1998; Playing time: 63.01 min
Sessions from the Hearth Ltd., e-mail; Fortlands, Ballard, Tralee, Tel/Fax +353/66/7126952
Label: Folk&Musik; FFS 9801; 1998; Playing time: 62.29 min
All of the music is taken from three different Danish music books from the 18th century. Eight of the tunes are from Jens Christian Svabo (1746-1824) alias Svabonius, another eight are taken from a manuscript from the 18th century. The remaining two are from a music book called "English Dances" from 1799.
The whole album is an exciting and atmospheric musical journey two hundred years back. Lars (fiddle, hurdy-gurdy) and Per (viola) Lilholt have invited in the "Next Stop Svabonius" Band a huge number (all in all 18!) of excellent Danish musicians. Still most tunes feature only about six musicians, so that the atmosphere of the album remains very intimate and warm. It is an instrumental album, with the only exception of some beautiful "lilting" of Sofie Bonde.
Denmark - you don't hear of this county too often outside of Denmark (even in Germany not). This is such an album which should nevertheless receive the international interest and publicity it deserves. Thanks to Folk&Musik for supporting and releasing this brilliant project of old Danish music!
Album is available via FFS' Homepage, there you can also subscribe to the magazine (a subscription includes regular CD samplers of Danish music)
To the second CD page
To the content of FolkWorld CD Reviews
To the content of FolkWorld online magazine Nr. 12© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 12/99
All material published in FolkWorld is © The Author via FolkWorld. Storage for private use is allowed and welcome. Reviews and extracts of up to 200 words may be freely quoted and reproduced, if source and author are acknowledged. For any other reproduction please ask the Editors for permission.