Issue 13 3/2000

FolkWorld CD Reviews


Bernard Brogue & The Loveless "Birdwatching"
no Label; BRO 9901; 1999; Playing time: 59.15 min
Bernard Brogue is a Dutch singer-songwriter clearly influenced by popular English heroes of the genre (people like Nick Drake, Allan Taylor, John Martyn). Like them, he's an acoustic guitar picker, and his songs have strong melodies, helping them to capture the listener's attention. Lyrics are in English, so he has at least the potential to find an audience among acoustic guitar fans right across Europe.
On the album, Bernard Brogue is backed by a quite large number of musicians, but the arrangements are listener-friendly and successful: varied enough to be interesting while avoiding the mistake of cramming everyone in all at once. It's a home recording, which gives it a pleasant intimate atmosphere. At the same time, the recording quality is not at all amateurish, but as good as you would expect from a studio recording. Fans of the genre are sure to enjoy this album.
Contact Bernard Brogue
Anja Beinroth

Armòs "Musica Tradizionale Siciliana"
Associazione Culturale Armòs; ARMCD 001; 1999; Playing time: 45.49 min
Armòs is a musical project which aims to rediscover Sicilian traditional music and interact with it by playing old material, on old instruments, in a modern spirit - with an emphasis on joy rather than reverence. The album presents music and words taken from the traditional Sicilian repertory as researched and revived by the group Armòs. Some of the traditional instruments were rebuilt specially, using old illustrations and descriptions.
Probably through the use of the traditional string and woodwind instruments, variations of which were common across Europe, much of the music sounds similar to that played by other medieval revival bands in countries like Germany, England, or France. This probably means there's a ready market for it outside Sicily itself. And the Italian vocals really seem to suit the melodies. It's lovely, gentle but also lively music, which is very pleasant to listen to.
The booklet includes explanatory notes on the project, song lyrics, and their English translations as well as some nice illustrations. Anyone interested in medieval music and historical instruments should find this a rewarding album; for people with Sicilian roots, it should be a fascinating voyage of discovery.
Associazione Culturale Armòs, Tel & Fax +39-095-223031.
Anja Beinroth

Mikel Laboa "Gernika-Zuzenean 2"
Elkarlanean; KD-547; 1999; Playing time: 59.05 min
66-year-old singer, guitarist and composer Mikel Laboa apparently is a bit of a folk hero in the Basque Country. Thus he was invited to contribute a couple of songs when the orchestra Orfeón Donostiarra were celebrating their centenary in 1997. In August 1999, the two tracks were performed live at the Victoria Eugenia theatre in San Sebastián by Mikel, his band, the orchestra and the Joven Orquesta de Euskal Herria alongside another orchestral arrangement. This album includes the three orchestra pieces as well as five other tracks performed by Mikel Laboa and his band at the same concert.
Mikel's music is described by Elkarlanean as "mixing tradition with contemporary poetry and experimentalism", and the result is pretty varied, with an emphasis on the experimentalism - which will probably make it hard for the album to find an audience outside the Basque Country. The music is interesting and quite impressive, but I can't imagine anyone wanting to listen to it more than once or twice unless they were at least able to follow the lyrics. One for connoisseurs only.
Contact Elkarlanean
Anja Beinroth

Mr McFall's Chamber "Like the Milk"
Discipline Global Mobile; DGM 9809; 1999; Playing time: 66.37 min
Mr McFall's Chamber is, at its core, a string quartet, with some supplementary musicians (bass, piano, and folk singer Dave Brady) and an astonishingly broad choice of material. There's folk ("Coal Not Dole", "Parcel o'Rogues"), rock (Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Costello), tango (Astor Piazolla), classical music and lots more. The arrangements range from jazzy to instantly accessible, with heaps of adventurous spirit in evidence.
Mr McFall's Chamber was originally formed by members of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra to flee the restrictions of classical conventions - and that they certainly still do very successfully. Apparently they consider themselves a rock band with classical instruments these days, hence the inclusion of things like the Jimi Hendrix track. They're certainly original, and entertaining, and I imagine they must be quite an experience on a live stage.
Bernhard Jugel of DGM Germany welcomes comments and feedback: Tel. +49-89-4801116.
Anja Beinroth

Jasper Van't Hof's Pili-Pili meets Phikelela Sakhula Zulu Choir "Incwadi Yothando / Love Letter"
Jaro Medien; Jaro 4225-2; 1999; Playing time: 56.11 min
In preparation for this album, Jasper Van't Hof travelled around KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, meeting many musicians and dancers, and finally chancing across the young Phikelela Sakhula Choir at a rehearsal in a derelict theatre in Durban. Those six men and four women were the ones he chose as collaborators for Pili-Pili's next recording project.
The vocals of the Phikelela Sakhula ("We are young, but we are growing") Choir were recorded in Durban, and cleverly integrated by the Pili-Pili rhythm section to create something unique and impressive. The songs mix solo and choir singing and strong, danceable melodies with Jasper Van't Hof's characteristic keyboard improvisations and some prominent brass and guitar parts.
Like all Pili-Pili recordings, these songs are very accessible for Western listeners, but at the same time this album has a distinctly African sound, even more so than the band's earlier work. The booklet contains extensive notes (in English and German) on Zulu musical traditions, and the background of the project and the musicians involved. So it should be with an album whose aim is collaboration with, not exploitation of, Zulu musicians.
A musical experiment which I think has worked very well.
Further information from Jaro
Anja Beinroth

Matt Seattle "Out of the Flames: Music for Border Bagpipes from 1733 to the Present"
Discipline Global Mobile; DGM 9907; 1999; Playing time: 50.01 min
Matt Seattle seems to devote much of his energies to the rediscovery and revival of the border bagpipes - "border", by the way, meaning the one separating England from Scotland. His commitment has been aided by the discovery of William Dixon's manuscript of pipe tunes from the 1730s, when border piping was at a peak. The manuscript has since been republished by Matt Seattle, and many of the tunes on his CD are taken from it. And smashing tunes they are, too.
The sound of the border pipes falls somewhere between the sweetness of the Northumbrian small pipes and the mighty sound of the Scottish Highland pipes. Here, they are presented in interplay with a variety of folk instruments like mandola, cittern, fiddle, guitars, concertina, clarinet and others. The accompanying musicians include some familiar names, like Brian McNeill, Steáfán Hannigan, Ian Luff, which should give you an idea of the high standard of excellence you can expect from this recording. This level of quality even extends to the booklet, which is very informative.
The most entertaining bagpipe album I've heard, by far. Fans of Scottish folk and of Kathryn Tickell will love it.
Bernhard Jugel of DGM Germany welcomes comments and feedback: Tel. +49-89-4801116.
For William Dixon's Tunebook "The Master Piper", contact Dragonfly Music at P.O.Box 13772, Peebles, EH45 8YE, Scotland.
Anja Beinroth

Various "Paisaxes: Galicia En Música"
Do Fol / Boa Music; DF 020; 1999; Playing time: 38.10 min
The Do Fol Collection aims to promote Galician music at home and throughout the world, and with this their twentieth album release, they take a look back at their achievements. What all their albums have in common is quality Galician music presented in a highly attractive design (their booklets and digipaks are always beautiful). This is a selection of the best, containing a track each from some now-well-known names like Berrogüetto, Na Lúa, Os Cempés, Susana Seivane and seven others of equal talent and quality. A great overview of the successful work Do Fol is doing - the only complaint has to be the astonishingly short playing time. Surely there's enough to sample from that they could have filled at least an hour?
That said, this is a fine introduction to the delights of Galician folk music, and if you want to get a taste for it, it's the perfect place to start.
Colección Do Fol
Anja Beinroth

Gilbert Isbin & Geert Verbeke "Twins"
Tern Records VZW; CD-J05; 1999; Spielzeit: 49.19 min
Subtitled "New Acoustic Music", this album of ambient soundscapes fits somewhere between the jazz and new age categories. Gilbert Isbin is a Belgian acoustic guitarist whose jazzy improvisations are accompanied and enriched here by Geert Verbeke on assorted cymbals, bells and gongs. Probably not something that will appeal to many folk and world music fans, but if you're into solo acoustic guitar performances and have an interest in jazz, it may be worth a try.
Sample it at Gilbert Isbin's website
Anja Beinroth

Plommon Tune Book "Folk Music From Sweden"
Music Contact; ISBN 3-9804859-2-7; 1999; 40 Pages, 27 pieces of music
In Germany, the five girls of Plommon are today already one of the best known representants of Swedish Spelmans music. This is their first (?) tune book.
The book features 27 pieces of music, mainly traditional tunes from Skåne in Southern Sweden, completed by four tunes composed by the girls and a few Swedish song verses to some of the tunes. The material is mainly arranged for lead instrument plus harmony parts, along with chords for accompanying instruments.
Most of the tunes and songs can be found on Plommon's Album "Emma - Folk Music From Sweden", published by Music Contact and reviewed in issue 10, so that the user of the tune book can listen to how the music should sound like. Surely a nice collection of Swedish music.
Music Contact
Michael Moll

"The Captain's Collection" performed by Johnny Hardie, Brian McAlpine, Alyth McCormack & Rory Campbell
Greentrax Recordings; CDTRAX 187; 1999; Playing time: 45.39 min
Captain Simon Fraser's life in the 18th/19th century was dedicated to the collection of indigenous Highland Music of Jacobite Scotland. In 1816 he published a collection of 230 tunes from the Scottish Highlands and Islands, mostly derived from the singing of his father and grandfather. The legacy of this until this day inspiring collection was celebrated as part of the 1999 Highland Music Festival programme and, luckily enough, has now also been recorded by four of Scotland's greatest young musicians.
Johnny Hardie (Old Blind Dogs) plays the instrument Simon Fraser also played: the fiddle (he adds also some guitar playing). He is joined by Rory Campbell (Deaf Shepherd, Old Blind Dogs) on pipes and whistles and Brian McAlpine (Iron Horse, The Pearlfishers) on piano and keyboards. Half of the pieces are songs in Gaelic language, mostly presented by the beautiful voice of Alyth McCormack. And then there is a highly enjoyable surprise: Rory Campbell sings also a song, in a traditional style quite similar to the one of his father, the great singer Roddy Campbell - wonderful! Both songs and tunes give a very harmonous ensemble of enchanting material.
As a whole, this CD presents some of the most beautiful music heard on Scottish albums during the last years.
Greentrax Recordings, Edinburgh Road, Cockenzie, East Lothian EH32 0HL, Scotland, Tel: +44 1875814155 Fax: +44 1875813 545
Michael Moll

Carmen Higgins "Carmen Higgins"
Label: Sleepytown Records; SLPYCD007; 1999; Playing time: 35.15 min
Once upon a time, Shetland's folk rock band Rock Salt & Nails featured a (sometimes) red haired girl with a nice smile and a fiddle. If you have ever wondered if she is still playing, here is the answer...
This is Carmen's debut solo album featuring 10 sets of - well yes - fiddle music. For a big part, the tunes have Irish origin, the other tunes have a Scottish origin - either traditional Scottish or composed by Carmen. Two numbers are played solo, for the other bits she is accompanied by acoustic guitar (which is nice) and on two numbers also by bass guitar and percussion (which maybe sets down the tunes). Still, this is a good, yet a bit short, album of a talented fiddler from North East Scotland.
Sleepytown Records, Ellon, AB41 8JY Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Tel.+44-1779-841-543 Fax +44-1779-841-849
Michael Moll

Olla Vogala "Gnanomo"
Label: Zoku-EMI; 07243 826310 2 6; 1999; Playing time: 50.33 min
Olla Vogala are a most special project from Flanders, combining tradtional folk music with orchestral or Big Band arrangements and world influences. "Gnanomo" is one of the most special and most exciting albums that has come from Belgium during the new Flemish revival.
The folk orchestra under the lead of Ambrozijn's fiddler Wouter Vandenabeele features a couple of violas, diat. accordeon, hurdy gurdy, bagpipes, sitar, dobro, a brass section (sax, klarinet, trumpet etc.) and diverse percussion instruments. Additionally, Olla Vogala features four singers: the brilliant singer of Ambrzijn, Ludo van Deau, then Djamel Derrezzeg bringing soming Arabic sphere into the band, Lus Callaert and Catherine Delasalle.
The material includes some exciting instrumental compositions, combining traditional elements (often from French traditions) with orchestral arrangements - the result is an unusual, but highly enjoyable music. Especially the brass section often offers melodic and exciting new insights into trad sounding melodies. The songs are mostly in French language, and mostly trad arr. Wouter; they are combined with some arabic singing and one Flemish song. Some moments remind clearly of Malicorne - and this orchestral arrangement fits very well to Malicorne-like music. In one case it is not really surprising that it sounds like Malicorne - "Pierre de Grenoble" is sung by Gabriel Yacoub himself, having received an exciting arrangement from Wouter. One of the most impressive songs is the anti-war song "La Guerre", sung by Ludo Van Deau along with additional singing by Djamel Derrezzeg.
Olla Vogala have found an attractive way to blend traditional music with orchestra/Big Band and world music. The blend is a new music style, and is far away both from the sometimes inappropriate combinations of different cultures known from World Music and from hard core ochestral music. Definitely worth a listen!
Olla Vogala's Homepage
Michael Moll

Tommy Sands & Vedran Smailovic "Sarajevo - Belfast"
Appleseed Recordings; APR CD 1026; 1999; Playing time: 49.08 min
I think I have never been more emotionally moved by a recording than by this. Bringing together two musicians who are stamped by the troubles they have experienced in their home country, it is an impressive call for peace in Europe and everywhere.
Vedran Smailovic is a cellist from Sarajevo, who could be seen all over the world in the news when he played in the streets of Sarajevo while they were shelling the city. Tommy Sands is a singer/songwriter (part of the famous Sands Family) from Northern Ireland, who has written many songs for peace in the North. This album reflects a lot of feelings, both of hope and despair, and any number on it tells a long, impressive and moving story. These stories are illustrated by moving texts by the musicians in the booklet.
Starting with the "Ode to Sarajevo", the album directly starts with a strong and unusual interpreted song of hope - the song is written by Tommy, and received an orchestral arrangement by Vedran, featuring among others also Joan Baez. Afterwards follows a mixture of tunes by Vedran and songs by Tommy. The tunes are sometimes orchestral arranged, sometimes also more in a folk (rock) manner, and are influenced by the balkan origin of Vedran. The songs include Pete Seeger's "Where have all the flowers gone", Colum Sands "Buskers" and Tommy's "Laganside", the optimistic song which was sung at the Good Friday Peace Agreement for Northern Ireland.
Two strong personalities reflecting their feelings of war and peace. There is a lot of hope in this music, yet also the dispair of a person who has recently been part of a terrible war, a person who had been proud before of the multi cultural society in Sarajevo, which is now destroyed.
The sadness of quite a few of the numbers on this CD should - in the old tradition of Irish laments - take away our own sadness, and give us new hope. And hope is definitely important with all the troubles which are still part even of Europe.
Appleseed Recordings
Michael Moll

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