Issue 13 3/2000

FolkWorld CD Reviews


Olatz Zugasti "bulun bulunka"
Label: Elkarlanean; KD-532; 1999; Playing time: 47.51 min
The haunting beauty of the songs presented here cannot be described in words. Olatz Zugasti is a female singer from the Basque Country with a very warm and soft voice, carrying love, shelter, natural beauty. She sings here a selection of gentle lullibies in Basque language as they have been sung at Basque cradles for generations, her voice blending with the quiet sounds of her harp playing. Sometimes, she is subtly accompanied by clarinet, flute, mandolin, akkordion etc.
While being charmed by the sensitive and intimate singing, I start getting jealous on the children who are as fortunate to be brought into dreams by such beautiful sweet sounds. A timeless beauty taking you away. Listening to this album gives any evening a strong romantic touch - be it alone or by twos.
The booklet has a tasteful sensitive touch as well, with beautiful photos of children and nature. If it had come earlier, this CD would have been on a high number in the Top Ten of 1999 - it is brilliant.
Elkarlanean, Tel.+34 943 31 02 67 Fax +34 943 31 02 16
Michael Moll

Chispa y los Complices "New Pa' Que Vea"
Label: Cuba Chevere; 1999
After the highly acclaimed success of the Buena Vista Social Club, any band hoping to hit the market with promises of Cuban crooning and fiesty 'Mi Amor' ballads would have a pretty hard task, so you can't but applaud these guys for trying. These thirteen guys promise to set the girls' hearts aflame, with their slicked back hair, tailor-made suits, and funky shades, but personally, I can't see this album immediately rocketing to the top spot in the World music charts. Having said that, the tunes are radio-friendly, and provide a good example of music coming from the younger generation in Cuba. The vocals are strong and impassioned, and carry the tunes very well. Add the swinging trumpets, pianos, guitars and percussion to that, and you have a modern-day 'Desi Arnaz and his Cuban Orchestra', just for 'I Love Lucy' fans! Tracks which stood out were the title track, 'New Pa' Que Vea', and track no. 6 - 'Perder el Control'. All in all, the album was a fairly enjoyable listen, and will definitely be a hit at a cocktail party with a few Margueritas!
Kathy-Ann Tan

Bardic "The Roadsmell After the Rain"
Label: own label; 1999
It's slightly strange to listen to lyrics like 'From Bantry Bay up to Derry Quay' sung in a German accent, but this duo obviously have a Celtic agenda, with trad favourites such as 'Step it Out Mary', 'Follow Me Up to Carlow' and 'Mairi's Wedding' (ever heard good oul' Alan Stivell's cover of the tune?). The musicianship isn't disappointing though; Sarah-Jane Himmelsbach plays flawlessly on violin, whistles and percussion, and Stefan 'Eddie' Arndt adds his umph to the tracks with guitars, bass, banjo and bodhran. Oh, and he sings most of the songs too with great growly drive. The album ends with a slow number in German, 'Der Erde Kinder', the only one on the album, which contrasts greatly with the previous fourteen tracks. Bardic as are a promising new duo from Germany; and this collection grows on you after a few listens. Plus, 'The Roadsmell After the Rain' is certainly an unusual title for an album, so what the heck- add this CD to your collection if you must!
Bardic homepage
Kathy-Ann Tan

Nahoo 3: Notes from the Republic
Iona Records; 1999
This album is well-worth getting, even if because it constantly surprises the listener; every track is different! The atmospheric opening of the first tune- panpipes wail out a slow air- is deceptive; don't be fooled by it. The militaristic beat of Scottish drums soon follows, accompanied by helicopter sounds and a pulsing drum-and-bass rhythm that makes the track a cross between Runrig and Trainspotting. The second track, 'Independence Blues' is reminiscent of something out of 'The Commitments' soundtrack, the third sounds like one of 'Dead Can Dance's atmospheric arias, whilst the fourth, 'Notes from the Republic', cries out for a remix by Moby. What a supreme mix of styles! Track five ('Unfinished Business') is a real pleaser as well, featuring Paul Mounsey, who's the mastermind behind this release, on Peter Gabriel-esque vocals. A hugely enjoyable album, this one is a definite must in any music-lover's collection; the strong sense of a Nationalistic Scottish pride running through the tunes (you couldn't possibly tell from the picture of the Scottish flag flying proudly on the cover of the CD, could ya?) is great- it's encouraging that we aren't all turning into a race of teeny-bopping, boy and girl-band luving hippies!
Iona Records
Kathy-Ann Tan

A' The Best - Various Artists in Scotland
Label:Sleepytown Records; 1999
For a benefit album, this release is well-worth supporting, as all royalties from the album will be donated to the children's charity Childline Scotland. And hey, the tunes aren't all that bad either! With established names such as Capercaille ('Oh No Dhuthaich'), The Tannerhill Weavers ('The Geeze in the Bog'), The Poozies ('Hey How My Jonnie Lad'), Wolfstone ('Clueless') and Alasdair Frazer ('Free Rein'), this collection of 20 tracks, with a running time of 70 mins, provides a value-for-money sampler of some of the best trad music coming from Scotland today. So g'on- do a good deed!- it is coming up to Easter, afterall! Buy this sampler, and you'll feel an enormous sense of satisfaction afterwards, for helping a good cause. Nevermind the minimalist sleeve-notes; it's the music that matters most of all, isn't it?!
Sleepytown Records, Ellon, AB41 8JY Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Tel.+44-1779-841-543 Fax +44-1779-841-849
Kathy-Ann Tan

Michael McGoldrick "Fused"
Vertical Records; VERT051; 2000
In the 1980s, Irish folk master Donal Lunny was at the heart of an exciting experiment called "Moving Hearts". That group sought to fuse traditional Irish music with elements of rock and jazz. This new Scottish produced CD creates a similar buzz for me. Michael McGoldrick is probably best known for his recent uilleann pipe playing with premier Scottish group Capercaillie, though heads had already been turned by his flute, whistle and pipe work with Anglo-Irish group Flook.
McGoldrick's dynamically fluid playing and inventive compositional skills come fully to the fore on this brilliant album. It helps that he has a superb bunch of backing musicians from the traditional and progressive scenes in both Scotland and Ireland. That roster includes Karen Matheson and Karan Casey, arguably the best of today's trad. singers from Scotland and Ireland (respectively), on one track each. But in truth it is the instrumental playing, the interplay of McGoldrick's flute/whistle/pipes with, for instance, jazz bass, percussion and sax, or trad. fiddle, accordion and bodhran, that gives this album its particular verve.
Capercaillie band mate Donald Shaw, who also produced and played on the album, has chosen well in launching his new label "Vertical Records" with such a stunning CD.
Vertical Records
Peter Grant

Bruce Cockburn "Breakfast in New Orleans Dinner in Timbuktu"
Label: Ryko; RCD 1047
Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn has been a prolific producer of fine, lyric-driven music for nearly 30 years. He is consistently able to turn his life observations into striking and thoughtful songs. On "Breakfast in New Orleans" this alchemist's gift is applied to topics ranging from the ecological ("The Embers of Eden") to the philosophical ("When You Give It Away") to the personal ("Isn't That What Friends Are For?").
Cockburn's gritty singing style is most effective, often touching listeners as though sung only for them. And although some dislike the talking-style technique he uses with some songs, it fits well with that personal and poetic approach. While the musical styles vary - Cockburn's fine bluesy guitar instrumentals sit alongside a laid back re-make of "Blueberry Hill" and some African-tinged pieces - most will seek out this album for its lyric brilliance. The fact that the musical quality is so high is a bonus.
Peter Grant

Anna Murray "Tri Nithean"
KRL Lochshore; CDLDL 1293; 2000; Playing time: 53.02 min
"Three Things that come without asking: Fear, love and jealousy," says a Gaelic proverb, giving the title for Anna Murray's third solo album, Tri Nithean (Three Things). Anna was brought up on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides and learned from an early age to sing in her native Gaelic language and to play the bagpipes. she has played for sometime in the all-female band Calluna, and is acting in the Gaelic soap opera "Machair", and presenting children's television programmes. Hailed sometimes as "rising star", Anna delivers melancholic Gaelic airs as well as some lively puirt a beul (mouth music). The traditional songs appear with jazzy and bluesy accompaniment and rhythmical percussion grooves by Iain F. Macleod (guitars, bass) and Steve Lawrence (bouzouki, mandolas, percussion). On the instrumental side she concentrates on the small pipes, mainly reels (well, that's Scotland), but there is also a jig, march and hornpipe set, respectively. Finally I am left with one of the three things, jealousy, for not playing the pipes so well.
KRL Lochshore,; 9 Watt Road, Hillington, Glasgow G52 4RY; Tel. +44(0)141 8829986; Fax +44(0)141 8833686
Walkin' T:-)M

Muzsikas "The Bartok Album"
Rykodisc/Hannibal; HNCD 1439; 1999; Playing time: 60.15 min
At the beginning of the 20th century Hungarian composer Bela Bartok (1881-1945) set forth to collect traditional song and dance all over the Hungarian countryside - as well as in Romania, Slowakia, Turkey and North Africa. No wonder that a lot of his work is a mixture of traditional melodies in modern language. Seventy years later, people again went out to the rural areas to learn the folk music, which was not only difficult to acquire but often repressed by the state. Muzsikas from Transylvania (a Romanian province annexed from Hungary after World War I) were among them, since becoming one of the leading folk bands of Hungary. "The Bartok Album" is a tribute to the close relationship between Bartok's music and the folk music of Hungary and neighbouring areas. Almost all tunes were collected by Bartok himself and performed as Bartok heard them. Guests include classical violinist Alexander Balanescu, singer Marta Sebestyen, and dancers Zoltan Farkas and Ildiko Toth. Bartok: "The time I spent on this work was the happiest part of my life." May this recording cause the same again.
Rykodisc/Hannibal,; PO Box 141, Gloucester, MA 01931-0141
Walkin' T:-)M

Alias Acoustic Band "1798-1998 Irish Songs of Rebellion, Resistance & Reconciliation"
Proper/Retro; R2CD 40-73; 1998; Playing time: 144.04 min
A low-price, 2 CD set with Irish "rebel songs" on an obscure label. One might expect the worst. Fortunately, it's been done by Ron Kavana. "The chameleon of roots music" is well known for blending traditional Irish music and contemporary songwriting with every musical strand he gets under his fingers ("His definition of traditional must be wider than the gap between politicians and the truth"). Ron questions: "Did you ever hear of anything as commercially preposterous as a middle-aged folkie recording a two and a half hour collection of songs about oppression, famine and injustice ... no wonder the majors turned it down." Yet, the output is worth it. Ron gathered his Alias Band as well as the likes of Gino Lupari (Ex-Four Men And A Dog) and Brian McNeill to put together one of the finest works of its kind. A musical tour de force leads through traditional ballads (from "Dunlavin Green" to the "Mountains of Pomeroy", "Roddy McCorley" to "James Connolly", there's an unusual version of the well-known "Shan Van Vocht"), poems ("Easter 1916" by W.B. Yeats, "Sands of Time" about Bobby Sands, Robert Emmet's famous court speech) and self penned songs ("Home Fire", "Cry", the much covered "Reconciliation"). Who is sick of those appalling battle hymns done in straight marching time, this might be the definitive collection. A rather quiet and philosophical mood, reserved arrangements - and a great singer.
Proper,; 5 Forest Hill Industrial Estate, Perry Vale, Forest Hill, London SE23 2LX, UK; T +44(0)181 6997000; Fax +44(0)181 6998888
Walkin' T:-)M

Lynch The Box "... and more"
Verlag der Spielleute; CD 9809; 1998; Playing time: 62.32 min
"Who likes Planxty and who wants to hear some other stuff, is right in here. Surely, the German names are only a cover to avoid the German foreigner taxes." That's what some critics say! Now, personally I suppose Planxty sounds a little bit different (no harm at all), and the songs have been with Christy, Andy & Co as well (no harm, too). But anyway, Irish Folk " ...and more" is the debut album of Lynch The Box. Johannes Mayr (Ex-Hoelderlin Express, Rolling Drones) on accordeon and pipes and Matthias Rülke (Rolling Drones) on vocals and bouzouki followed a current trend in turning away the typical German "power folk rock" for a more traditional gusto. Thus, they recorded five songs and eight sets with the help of some friends from the Southern German folk scene, namely Jørgen Lang on guitar and Gudrun Walther on fiddle (More Maids). Both lads have a good sense of humour and the arrangements are delightful and laid back, maybe sometimes a little bit too laid back. However, the English industrial ballad "Dalesman Litany" is grooving. The original tunes "In These Circumstances" and "More Than Ever" depart from the Celtic model. - Remember that lynch law is sometimes related with the Lynch family of Galyway, Ireland. Fortunately, that's a wrong reference. Thus, there is no reason to lynch the box, and neither its player, too.
Verlag der Spielleute,; Langlosenweg 14, D-64385 Reichelsheim; Tel. (+49) 06164 912083 Fax (+49) 06164 912084
Walkin' T:-)M

Brian Joseph "Somewhere it's true"
Label: FrogSongs; FSR0114; 1999; Playing time: 44.03 min
Somewhere it's ... the debut album of American actor and singer-songwriter Brian Joseph. Brian calls folkies like Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon, as well as jazz musicians like Miles Davis and Charlie Parker as his influences. And this sets the tone, blending folk and blues with jazz and pop. The sound is casual and easy going, the opening track "Campfire" could be Top-Ten-able. Brian's warm, soul comforting voice and his lyrical fingerstyle guitar touches all strings of human emotions. Some of the tracks are cautiously arranged with backing piano, bass and drums. However, Brian's strongest moments are when he's left all alone ... true!
FrogSongs,; 2326 Welsh Court, Walnut Creek, CA 94598; Tel.+ (925)9896400
Walkin' T:-)M

Senan's Haggart
Label: Own Label over; 2000; Playing time: 44.29 min, 2 tracks
"Music somewhere between Shooglenifty and Martin Hayes, but different" - that's how my brother described this album to me as a first rough classification, making me curious to hear Senan's Haggart.
Looking on the track list, you would think this is just another singel', because only two tracks are listed - but when you realise the total playing time of nearly 45 minutes it is a totally different story...
Senan'Haggart is a new band from South Australia, featuring the Irish fiddle players Tim Whelan and Bartley O'Donnell together with the formal studied and jazz influenced Lauren Pittwood (bass clarinet, soprano saxophone) and Luke Plumb (mandola). The two fiddlers have played together for a long time, and they developed their own characteristic rhythms based on the traditional style of Irelande's East Clare fiddle music.
The two tunes on the album are 'Sporting Nell' (17,45 min) and 'Sean Ryan's' (26.55 min). As you can see, for normal tunes or even sets of tunes in the world of folk music they are very long. The music is somehow very simple but at the same time very complex, you can feel the strong influences of the Irish roots, but also of jazz and experimental music. It is somehow a bit of minimalistic music, it is a trance music, it is imaginative and impressive. The music takes your attention, while finding its way through your brain - it creates an intense athmosphere.
It is not easy to describe this music. It is unusual and new - steeped in the traditions but creates something new. I am looking forward to watch their development in future - how may sound their second album?
Christian Moll

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