Issue 14 6/2000

FolkWorld CD Reviews


Ceolbeg "Cairn Water"
Greentrax; CDTRAX 188; 1999; Playing time: 54.15 min
One of the big Scottish folk bands, with a twenty-year history, Ceolbeg can be expected to deliver quality, and they do. The emphasis is on the tunes, mostly Scottish, but with a Spanish and a French one thrown in for variety. The five songs also leave the accompanying instruments plenty of room for expression.
Variety is a key term actually - the arrangements are as complex and varied as has become common practice with Scottish folk ensembles, the pace alternates between stomping dance tunes and more reflective melodies, and the lead vocal on the songs is taken in turns by Rod Paterson and Wendy Stewart. Coherence is provided by the recognisable band sound, comprising harps, flutes, pipes, guitars and, where suitable, unobtrusive drums and keyboards.
Further info and MP3 from MusicScotland
Anja Beinroth

Eric Andersen "You Can't Relive The Past"
Appleseed Recordings; APR CD 1032; 2000; Playing time: 66.44 min
The latest release from a long-established and well-respected American singer / songwriter. I tried very hard to like it, but somehow it never quite managed to grab me - maybe I'm not old enough? Lou Reed guests on the title track, and this is a good indication of the overall style and sound of the album. It also has four previously unreleased songs co-written with the late Townes Van Zandt, so will be an essential purchase for his fans as well as Andersen's.
A couple of other songs have Lucy Kaplansky singing harmony vocals, and they are the ones I like best. Some of the recording was done in Mississippi using local musicians (73-year-old drummer Sam Carr and guitarists James "Super Chikan" Johnson and Kenny Brown), giving those songs an edgier, more bluesy feel and sound than the rest.
Lots of illustrious guests, lots of reasons to like it, and I still can't figure out why it simply doesn't excite me. Try for yourself.
Eric Andersen's website; More CD info from Appleseed
Anja Beinroth

Various "Cantes del Pueblo: Música Tradicional Española"
Sonifolk; 20138; 2000; Playing time: 62.04 min
This is real folk musik - from the people for the people, narrative songs, love songs, party songs and tunes. Some are unaccompanied, some have just a rattle, some a full band. There's individual singers, groups of singers, and groups of musicians playing (dance) tunes, too. What they share is passionate performance by people singing and playing the music they learned from their parents and grandparents, purely for the joy of it.
The recordings were made between the late 1970s and 1997 in villages and towns around Spain by music enthusiast Pedro Vaquero Sanchez, who set out with a tape recorder trying to capture what he could of Spain's traditional music before it could disappear and be forgotten in an age of televisions, radios and bland international commercial pop.
The album has been compiled by his widow, Mercedes Santamaria, as a tribute to the man and his work. It's a great introduction to and overview of Spain's many different regional folk musics, proving once and for all that there's much much more to it than just the internationally popular flamenco.
Contact Sonifolk
Anja Beinroth

Dan Lambert "The Clearing"
Label: Coordinate Records; HT 917; 1997; Playing time: 68.58 min
Dan Lambert "Plaids"
Label: Coordinate Records; HT 918; 1998; Playing time: 71.37 min
Dan Lambert "Melodies / Improvisations"
Label: Coordinate Records; HT 919; 1999; Playing time: 70.49 min
Three purely instrumental acoustic guitar albums from an American who plays steel-stringed guitar with an admirable light touch. Influences vary, but Dan Lambert has travelled the British Isles and the tunes he heard there clearly serve as a main source of inspiration in his composing and playing. Most tunes follow a pattern which establishes a nice melody, then takes off in a flight of fancy, improvising and taking the tune in various directions before finally returning to base and rounding things off with a reprise of the source tune.
Dan Lambert himself sums it up perfectly in the booklet of "Melodies": "Sometimes I think of myself as a piano player, trying for a nice, rich fabric of sound. At other times, I'm a sax player, flying up high with some extended melody line while I provide my own accompaniment down below. Sometimes I'm a cellist or a bassist, singing down in the lower, earthier range of the guitar. And other times, I'm a piper, my sound echoing against the hills and drifting across the moors. And maybe during the last set, after a good black and tan, I'll actually get this picture of myself as a guitar player."
The first two albums use some overdubs, giving them a slightly fuller, richer sound than the third, which explores the possibilities of the solo guitar. This may make "Melodies" the best choice for fellow guitarists who are interested in the technical side of the playing. My personal favourite is "Plaids" which has a few truly wonderful tunes, but there's not much to choose between them and they're all worth seeking out for acoustic music fans.
More info on the albums and Dan Lambert; Another page with Dan Lambert information
Anja Beinroth

Sinikka "Lille Rosa: Kjærlighetsballader"
Grappa Musikkforlag; GRCD 4170; 2000; Playing time: 74.01 min
An album of ancient dramatic ballads from Østlandet / southeastern Norway. It isn't exactly easy listening to sparsely accompanied narrative songs without understanding the words - that it works at all is down to Sinikka Langeland's amazing, passionate, spine-chillingly expressive singing (in the traditional kveder style, the notes say).
The booklet also give a short summary of the contents of each song, so the listener has at least an impression of what is being told - and for the benefit of Norwegian speakers (or language students) the full lyrics are included as well. Musical arrangements are by Sinikka Langeland, who sings (in part unaccompanied) and plays a Finnish 39-string kantele. The slightly harp-like sound of the instrument adds to the bardic quality of the recording. The atmosphere is quiet and intense, transporting the listener into an ancient, medieval world where the oral tradition of mythical storytelling was very much alive.
A very evocative recording which demands a lot of attention from the listener, but rewards the effort.
Grappa Musikkforlag; contact Sinikka Langeland
Anja Beinroth

Louisa John-Krol "Alexandria"
own label; SH001; 1998; Playing time: 57.02 min
An example of the Loreena McKennitt school of "folk": a seemingly very sincere, well-meaning but perhaps just too damn nice female songstress; a strong emphasis on atmosphere (sound) over content (meaningful words), wafting synthesizers alongside assorted string instruments, pleasant melodies, inoffensive singing woven into an overall soundscape. Fatal tendency to fade into the background. Demands little attention. Pleasant enough, but not as rewarding as music which really gets under the skin. Sweet, but ultimately too harmless to be truly moving.
Louisa John-Krol's website
Anja Beinroth

Jack Evans "Once Upon A Time In The North"
Greentrax; CDTRAX 192; 2000; Playing time: 45.59 min
Multi-instrumentalist Jack Evans, who has been actively involved in the Scottish folk scene for years (currently as a member of the Cauld Blast Orchestra) and his collaborators, singer / fiddle player Mairi Campbell of The Cast and fiddler Jenny Gardner of Salsa Celtica, explore new musical ideas without ever venturing too far from the beaten track of Scottish folk music. The album mixes Scottish tunes and vocal tracks. Traditional instruments and singing take centre stage, but are carefully and discreetly blended with samples and sequencing.
The will to experiment and to transpose the music into the present also shows itself in the use of unusual instruments - from the stylophone (rarely heard in a folk context since The Lost T-Shirts of Atlantis disappeared from the British scene) to a Swiss Army knife (which apparently makes a good slider for a guitar). The album has a nice, spontaneous feel to it - the musicians sound very much at ease. An interesting musical journey, both innovative and faithful to its roots.
Jack Evans' website; Further info and MP3 from MusicScotland
Anja Beinroth

Alan Woolley "Unrattled"
RAW Records; RAWCD 5; 1999; Playing time: 46.42 min
A low-budget (but professional-sounding) acoustic rock album from the former frontman of The Rattlers, singer / songwriter Alan Woolley. As such not really relevant to this magazine - it is definitely not World Music and can hardly be classed as folk either. The songs are personal reflections on life and fate with a large proportion of love-gone-wrong songs. Accompaniments are on acoustic guitar with additional guitars, keyboards and the like added by producer Volodimir Lebid and other guest contributions on harmonica, bass and background vocals on individual tracks.
Nothing particularly wrong with this; it's quite nice really, but not exactly a must-have.
Find out more from Alan Wooley; Tel. or Fax +44 1332 834438
Anja Beinroth

Føyk "Kraaka"
Heilo / Grappa Musikkforlag; HCD 7155; 1999; Playing time: 46.43 min
Føyk is an innovative Norwegian folk music group, using a traditional West-Norwegian singing style (by folk singer Tone Fedt) with a very contemporary backing of keyboards (jazz composer Skram) and percussion (Kenneth Ekornes). The music uses ethnic rhythms to create a sound that is at once very modern and almost archaic; "an electronic and acoustic soundscape" as they themselves call it.
It is a strange concept and it seems even stranger that it is so successful. This may be because Tone Fedt is a good singer with a strong voice, or it may be because of the creative backing, which is very inventive and full of variety, emphasizing all the atmospheric changes suggested by the singing.
Certainly an album which is difficult to describe! If you've become curious, I suggest a visit to the Føyk website which has some Real Audio samples.
Føyk Homepage
Anja Beinroth

Little Johnny England "Little Johnny England"
Label: own; LJECD 1; Playing time: 52.08 min
Little Johnny England play "traditional" English folkrock, mostly using melodeon, fiddle, electric guitar, bass and drums. They have an obvious admiration for North-East England's songwriter Pete Scrowther - they cover three of his songs, and indeed the overall style and arrangements reminded me a lot of Scrowther's on his eponymous album ("Scrowther" on the Swiss label Zytglogge, 1995). What is more, they also have a talented songwriter in their own lead singer P.J. Wright.
The songs have something to say - the title track in particular deserves to become a classic - and the tunes rock. I bet this lot are a cracking live band. They certainly sound like they're enjoying themselves on the album. A safe bet for anyone who likes the genre, I'd say.
Little Johnny England, P.O. Box 1957, Eathorpe, Leamington Spa, CV33 9YG, England
Anja Beinroth

Farlanders "Moments: live in Bremen"
Jaro Medien; JARO 4230-2; 2000; Playing time: 72.03 min
A live recording from the Farlanders' tour of Germany last autumn, though it sounds almost too perfect to be a concert - credit to the musicians. It has a certain fascination, which seems to intensify as you go on listening, the band gradually drawing you into their individual world of sound.
The Farlanders have an impressive female singer in Inna Zhelannaya, a strong male voice provided by Sergey Starostin, two reed and woodwind players (the former and Sergey Klevensky) and a strong rhythm section including an unusually creative electric bass player (Sergey Kalachev), a drummer and a percussionist. The sound is highly individual, taking Russian folksongs from various regional traditions and transporting them into the modern age, using the unrestricted freedom of expression and spirit of improvisation and harmonising usually only found with jazz musicians. The interplay of the double reed / woodwind (clarinettes, flutes, whistles, cow horns, bagpipes...) is particularly fascinating.
The audience is fairly low in the mix, but it is obvious they were wildly excited by what they were experiencing - here's a chance to share their enthusiasm.
Farlanders webpage; Contact JARO Medien, Bismarckstrasse 43, D 28203 Bremen, Germany; Tel.+49 421 705771 Fax +49 421 74066
Anja Beinroth

Sergey Starostin's Vocal Family "Journey"
Jaro Medien; JARO 4226-2; 2000; Playing time: under 30 minutes
This wasn't really intended to become an album - that it has is the result of fortunate circumstances and the musicians' desire to let a wider audience enjoy the magic result of the spontaneous coming together of unaccompanied vocal music from Russia and Bulgaria.
The background: the Bulgarian Voices Angelite choir went on a long concert tour with Sergey Starostin and Mikhail Alperin of the Moscow Art Trio. Spending plenty of time in each other's company, they - inevitably perhaps - started to experiment with singing together, each contributing material from their own traditional background. They were so pleased with the intensity and beauty of the result that they felt it should be heard outside of hotel and dressing rooms. At the Edinburgh Festival in 1999, the opportunity arose to make a recording in Grey Friar's church. And here it is.
The album presents pure unadulterated vocal music, beautiful and deeply relaxing, almost meditative. Perhaps to increase this effect on the listener, it includes about 9 minutes of trailing silence - to stop you rushing back to your stressful lives after diving into this sea of calm.
A journey well worth taking. The only minor criticism is that it is so short. It will leave you wishing for more.
Contact JARO Medien, Bismarckstrasse 43, D 28203 Bremen, Germany; Tel.+49 421 705771 Fax +49 421 74066
Anja Beinroth

Sin É "Deep Water Dropoff"
Wicklow Records; 09026 63538 2; 1999; Playing Time: 60.32 min
Sin É's second album was, to a large extent, recorded and mixed in the Real World studios in Wiltshire, and it sounds like it. The band have made extensive use of the available technology, producing a very modern-sounding album which has roots in Irish folk, but bears little resemblance to it.
Fiddles and bagpipes often take the melodic lead, but are blended into an elaborate soundscape dominated by synthesizer and drums / percussion. Add to this Taz Alexander's atmospheric vocals (on 7 out of 11 tracks) and you end up with something that should have some commercial potential, but possibly little appeal to traditional music fans.
Try it if you like Afro-Celt Sound System, Shooglenifty and similar.
Album information from Wicklow Records
Anja Beinroth

Kayah & Bregovic
Label:ZIC-ZAC / RCA Victor / BMG; 74321724142; 1999; Playing time: 39.52 min
Goran Bregovic is today one of the best known musicians in his home country - Poland. He is an excellent music writer and arranger, he has written the music of some films (e.g. 'Arizona Dream', 'Underground' or 'Time of the gypsies') and he has worked together with musicians from such different scenes as traditional, rock and classical.
Kayah is an impressive singer - as the press informations says 'Kayah is one of the most interesting female singers of the pop music history in Poland'.
Centerpiece of this album is the singng of Kayah - it is arranged in a quite modern way, but has the feeling of the culture and tradition. The songs have different backgrounds; some are written by Goran, some by Kayah, some are written by contemporary writers (as Iggy Pop, Andrew Marvell) in other languages and then translated into Polish.
The sound is full with much rhythem, the strongest 'melody instrument' is Kayah's strong voice....
There is one booklet with all informations in Polish language, and another one with the translations in English and Italian language (they are big in Italy), a good idea.
A very strong album of Polish world music!
ZIC-ZAC / RCA Victor / BMG
Christian Moll

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