Issue 15 8/2000
Label: Lochshore Recordings; CDLDL 1298; 2000; Playing time: 48.24 min
The music is partly Asturian, partly American in origin and is presented as a successful amalgamation of both (with Spanish-only lyrics). Arrangements are as varied as the line-up would suggest and show some similarity to the Galician "folk orchestras" like Berrogüetto, Milladoiro et al. The result is a very enjoyable mix of powerful songs and tunes in which the Asturian bagpipes often - but not always - take centre stage.
Label: Magnetic Music [in America: House Party Productions]; MMR CD 1030; 2000; Playing time: 50.33 min
All four are accomplished musicians, mostly on multiple instruments including fiddle, jaw harp, keyboards, harmonica, sousaphone, french horn, guitar and assorted percussion between them. As if that wasn't enough, they all sing as well. Despite all this variety, "Encore!" sounds a little more rounded to my ears than the debut release "Barachois". Something a little different from the spate of (often excellent) fiddle albums from Prince Edward Island and certainly worth exploring. Better still, try and catch a live performance if you can!
Label: Elkarlanean; KD-555; 2000; Playing time: 63.10 min
On the plus side, Pier Paul Berzaitz is a very good singer and the musical arrangements are very nice, lots of piano and percussion, strings, occasionally a bit of guitar, accordion and flute, even sax, on the whole somewhat closer to chanson than folk song in style perhaps. Do non-French speakers listen to chansons? If so, perhaps there is a market for Pier Paul Berzaitz outside the Basque Country.
Label: Greentrax [in Australia: Acmec Records]; CDTRAX 196; 2000; Playing time: 69.35 min
The album was recorded with Bogle's current touring band - multi-instrumentalists Ian Blake and David O'Neill plus percussionist Jonathan Jones - and additional musicians Gillian Pratten (cello), Scott Dodd (bass), Fred Pilcher and Karen Strahan (backing vocals). Thus its sound is fuller and more varied than on some of Bogle's older recordings, but it still sounds distinctively like an Eric Bogle album. If you liked any of his previous work, you won't be disappointed by this.
More details on the album; a good Eric Bogle fansite
Label: Hard Yacka Records; HYR CD 1013; 1999; Playing time: 39.33 min
Contact Vince Brophy; Hard Yacka's CD information
Label: Scottish Harp; ES43; 2000; Playing time: 54.15 min
Her singing style won't be to everyone's taste, but the voice is very powerful and distinctive and may appeal to people who like blues singers like Sally Barker and Rory Block. Sample MP3s of some tunes and songs are available from the website, along with the full track notes and lyrics, so if you think this might be for you, visit
Elspeth Smellie's website.
Label: Wild Boar Music; WBM 21011; 1999; Playing time: 46.27 min
The founder and heart of Kimiz is clarinet-player Christel Borghlevens; she is joined by guitarists Filip Verneert and Dirk van Esbroek (the group's singer), violinist Jean-Michel Alexandre, bassist Christophe Devisscher and percussionist Johan De Baedts. The musicians have varying backgrounds in assorted musical genres, hence the unusual choice of material and inventive arrangements. Anyone who likes both klezmer and Eastern European gypsy music is likely to love this.
Kimiz website (in Flemish)
Label: Waterbug Records; WBG 0047; 1999; Playing time: 50.22 min
Arrangements vary from the simple - typically Rick Lee on banjo or keyboards, producer Andy May on guitar - to the more elaborate with the addition of backing vocals, mandolin, pedal steel guitar or dobro, creating a very rich acoustic sound. The choice of material ranges from traditional ballads like "The Ballad of the Tinker's Daughter" to fairly recent songs by Rick and his contemporaries.
A well-produced, enjoyable album by one of the better singer/songwriters.
More album info from Waterbug (with a longer review); Rick Lee's website
Label: Hard Yacka Records; HYR CD 1011; 1998; Playing time: 51.37 min
This impression may be reinforced by the choice of material, which includes well-known tracks like Sandy Denny's "Who Knows Where The Time Goes", "The Mingalay Boat Song", "The Silkie of Skule Skerry" (whose tune Pete Seeger used for the chilling "I Come and Stand Every Door"), "Hard Times (Come Again No More)" and Carolan's "Blind Mary". Not all tracks are folk standards, though, and Cate Burke contributes two original compositions. Her singing uses a bit too much vibrato for my taste. Other than that, it's all very nice.
You can sample the album on Hard Yacka's website.
Hard Yacka's CD information
According to the sleeve note, the album aims to evoke a mystic Celtic voice which is supposed to carry the listener off into some kind of magical dream world. The music is better than that kind of silly waffle would suggest - pleasant singing, competent playing - but hardly ground-breaking. Nice though.
Morgane Touze, Lestréminou, Rte de St Jean Trolimon, F-29120 Plomeur, France
Label: Cuba Chévere Musikproduktionen; 02-0500; 2000; Playing time: 55.36 min
Competent Cuban party music catering to the expectations of the market, but sincere and home-produced (in Havana). So if you pick this out of the current flood of Cuban CD releases, at least you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you're supporting a working band, as well as a small independent record label.
Label: Alliance Records
Any doubts that their rock heritage has been completely abandoned are blown away as early as the first track, Woven Chord, an instrumental which gives both Bainbridge and Donockley a chance to show their chops. Vocalist Joanne Hogg remains the key instrument in the mix, and her performances on this album are strong as ever. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of some of the material she has been given to work with. It seems the proliferation of soloists in the band has tilted the writing in favour of the instrumental passages, though the slightly stilted narrative may also be partly due to the storytelling nature of many of the lyrics.
Fans of the band will go and buy this in complete confidence, but for the rest of us it may be wise to hear this before purchase. True to the standards they have set themselves in previous releases the album contains a good 73 minutes of music, and the packaging is of the standard we have come to expect from Britain's leading Christian folk rock band. Though the band are always worth seeing live, I suspect this album may be seen in retrospect as marking something of a transitional period in their development.
Label: Hannibal Records
Le Mercier's influence also extends to a tune selection, and many times during the course of the album he can be found overlaying the trademark African polyrhythms with his jazz tinged whistle and fiddle. Craddick plays his usual storm, stepping out on lead or underpinning the rhythm when the percussionists take off. I've had the pleasure of seeing this band live, and if you like the album then the live show is even better. Craddick says in the sleeve notes that most of the material was worked out on the road, and as a result the arrangements are as tight and crisp as you would expect. There could be a slight criticism of Craddick's production in that he doesn't manage to convey the full dynamism of the show to the record, but if you haven't seen the show it's not an issue. Sogo, by the way, is the name of a Ghanaian drum, supposed by legend to contain 'The Lightening Spirit'.
It remains something of a mystery to me why Baka have never been fully embraced by the World music crowd. This may partly be due to Craddick's former incarnation as one half of the slightly crusty Outback duo or the two distinctly British singers' dodgy pronunciation of the various dialects, but if there is any justice this album should see them welcomed fully into the fold. Dancier than Sin É, more African than the Afro Celts, this is a very good album indeed.
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