Issue 16 10/2000
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Eat Static "Crash and Burn"
Label: Mesmobeat Records MESMO CD3
For some time now, there have been people saying that dance is the new pop, and that any music which didn't embrace the dance culture would miss out on popular (i.e. young) audiences. In response to this, there have been some pretty dire ambifolk-type releases that have either drum-machined folk rhythms or gone the sample route (i.e. the catchy Chicane/Clannad remix). To my ears, both types felt a little false, something being forced rather than fitting naturally into place. I had been recommended to listen to Eat Static by a colleague whose opinions I value, but events overtook me when I actually saw the band live at this year's WOMAD festival in Reading. The set was stunning, a mix of beats and samples that flowed effortlessly, made we want to dance and leap around, and contained enough 'ethnicity' to have passed the WOMAD test.
A short while later, this CD arrived through the door, and I have to confess to being a little disappointed - not because it ís not good, but like many great live bands, somehow it all seems a little flat in the comfort of your own home. However, all the ingredients are in place here, and if you haven't seen the live show then you've nothing to compare with and I would have thought most 'Worldies' looking for an intro to the dance scene will find plenty of reference points here to keep them happy. Not a totally unreserved recommendation, then, but if you're at all interested in combinations of world music and dance, do yourself a favour and grab a listen.
Snakefarm "Songs from my Funeral"
Here ís a real oddity. Much touted by Folk Roots when it was only available as a US import, Snakefarm (the duo of Anna Domino and Michel Delory) is now available on domestic release. The album contains a bunch of so-called American traditional tunes such as House of the Rising Sun, John Henry, Black Girl (yes, the one recorded by the Four Pennies!) and Banks of the Ohio. However, this is not your average US country/folk album, because the usual mix of instruments (Domino plays keyboard and concertina and carries most of the vocals, Delory plays all the stringed things) is augmented by the tasteful rhythm programming of Delory. Though some tracks, notably This Train That I Ride and John Henry, canter along at a fair old pace, this is still very much the folk end of programming. There’s nothing here that going to have you reaching for your stash of E, nor is there too much to upset the purists. However, if you like American country/folk with a lick of steel and a dash of panache, this may well be for you. This is such a complete album, it’s hard to see what they’ll do for a follow-up, but in the meantime, enjoy this for what it is. Recommended.
Shooglenifty "Solar Shears"
Label: Vertical Records; VERTCD053; 2000; Playing time: 44.17 min
Try saying the name of this group and the title of their CD three times in a row quickly. You now have some idea how easy it is to come to grips with this group and their music! Let's try a few adjectives: Scottish; beat-filled; industrial-strength; (very) loosely tradition-based; too-clever-by-half - Oh I give up!!
Anyone who has seen this brilliant band live swears by the awesome energy and verve they bring to Scottish/World music. And anyone who has listened to their previous albums knows to expect the unexpected. There are tunes that start out all bucolic, but end up in some industrial junkyard being pounded to death; there are other tunes (like fiddler Angus Grant's "Igor's") that more than tip the fez in the direction of the Middle East. Surprisingly there's even a song: a cautionary tale about the formidable "Maggie Ann of Clachnabrochan", sung by mandolinist Iain MacLeod as if down a drain pipe backed by feline synthesiser and percussion.
There are other slow, moody tunes, such as the Iain MacLeod's brooding "August", where a beautiful melody is spun out with weird samples from a radio talk-show, and some typically complex percussion from the brilliant James Mackintosh. This seems to be to their mode of operation: take the tradition, subject it to the insensitivities of urban Scotland in the 21st century, give it a shake and see what comes out.
That's not to suggest that Shooglenifty thereby shake off the skills of traditional musicianship. The last track, a set from Iain MacLeod called "Bjork's Chauffeur", illustrates well the wonderful mandolin, fiddle and percussion work of the band. It is also one of the few tracks to get down to an almost straight melodic format. The result is so infectious and (dare I say) danceable, that it makes you wonder whether they've been hiding their melodic light under a tricksy, percussive bushel for too long.
Label: Survival; SURCD 025; 2000
Depending on how you count, this is Capercaillie's 10th album in 16 years, and their first since 1997. If that implies that the Scottish band isn't exactly prolific, it should be emphasised that virtually every one of those albums has been a gem, and Nadurra (Gaelic for "naturally") is no exception. Anyone wanting to pick the eyes out of this album will find that it's no Cyclops!
Prior to its release, rumour had it that the album would see them "return to their roots" - presumably meaning Scottish traditional folk. Seeing the band in concert in Scotland a few months ago convinced me that such talk would have to be seriously qualified. A new bass player and two percussionists added beef to a band already famous for accenting the lilt inherent in traditional Celtic music, and then tweeking it further still. And the stellar voice of Karen Matheson - whether singing in Gaelic or English (or any language she might choose!) - has always lifted the band into a category of its own.
Live in June 2000 they were a brilliant blend of funky rhythms and fine melodic musicianship. Ditto with Nadurra. From gently lyrical Gaelic songs like "… A Phosa Mi" to dazzling tradition-stretching tunes like fiddler Charlie McKerron's "Michael's Matches" or piper/whistler Michael McGoldrick's "The Bass Rock", this album is as varied as it is superb. One moment they are plumbing the emotional depths of Celtic melancholy (as with Manus Lunny's "Truth Calling"), the next they are showing its irrepressible flip-side (as with Shaw's "Inspector Hector" or Lunny's wonderfully-titled "Granny Hold the Candle While I Shave the Chicken's Lip 2").
Rarely will you hear a band so at home with the individual and collective skills of its members. This is a beautiful album - as shimmering and unpredictable as a summer's day in the highlands.
Label: Westpark;87078; 2000
Welcome to the confusing dream-world of Wimme. He will take you on a journey to the cold north. You might have to get used to his joik-songs but please, don't be afraid. Have the guts to dive into his music, let the atmosphere seduce you. Even more than on his previous cd's, Wimme created a new music style. He has always been flirting with electronics but on Cugu the electronically music is, together with the joik, the basic ingredient. It's a mixture of sounds and music, rhythm and silence. Sometimes suitable for dancing, like the tittle song Cugu, sometimes cold and dark like Silbabiedju. This cd contains twelve small pieces of art. Very special, very intriguing.
Label: Amigo; amcd744; 2000
Magnus Stinnerbom and Daniel Sanden-Warg play Swedish violin music. They play in traditional vein, in their own arrangements. You could compare it with Väsen but I don't because of the difference in quality. Both are good instrumentalists and technically spoken there is not much what I can say about this cd. But the songs are so predictable. The first three songs are nice but than it's over, no surprises left. They stayed on the safe side and that's why this cd sounds like many other Fiddle cd's. I think that is a pity because with a little bit more creativity this could have been a great musical adventure. A missed chance!
Paul James Berry "Ginnel"
Label: Super Music; 4039967000033; 2000
Paul James Berry was a member of the band Rose of Avalanche and started to go solo a few years ago. Ginnel is his second solo cd and for me the first time I ever heard of this artist. As a reviewer of folkworld I had to get used to this cd. Not because of the quality (it's a great cd!) But I expected folk music and Berry plays a very different music style. He is a singer songwriter with a modern, very own sound. In his bio they compare him with several artists, he doesn't need this kind of comparing. His music is strong enough to compare other artists with him. His songs are full of live. You can hear that the cd is produced with passion and that he choose his musician with care. They have a rich sound and can be both making you feel happy or force you to listen and feel guilty about something you didn't do. I'm going to see if I can find his first solo cd somewhere, and I just hope he will give a concert in my area soon. So Paul James Berry, if you read this: COME TO HOLLAND and don't forget to invite me for the concert!
Bananafishbones "My private rainbow"
Label: Polydor;543 938
When I saw the sleeve of the band: Bananafishbones, I thought to myself: What the ***** is this? Three middle-aged men, wearing glitter cowboy suites. This must be terrible music. Guess what? I had a great time! I started to love my guineapig more after this cd and my girlfriend and I are having dandruff fights each Sunday before we go to sleep. It's a mixture of Madness, split enz and other groups who are able to mix serious good music with humor and a pleasant sound. So after thirteen years I discovered this group and enjoyed listening to their music and even more I enjoyed listening to their lyrics. Well done, have fun!
Ballast "I live"
Label: Go;ballast 01.00.; 2000
Often I discuss with other people how it's possible that some countries have a rich new folk scene and other countries only produce traditional material in a new jacket. Denmark is such a country. Sometimes a Danish folkgroup managed to get a cd imported to Holland and always It's good, solid music but never surprising. The same with Ballast. I used to live in Denmark for quite a while and I have a lot of records with old Danish folktunes. This could be one of them. Ballast plays the old tunes like they are played for ages and they are very suitable for folk-dancing. But….not more than that.
Abbie Gardner "Abbie Gardner"
Label: own label; 1999
The singer-song writer Abbie Gardner has recorded a three song EP. With band she plays three songs in different styles. Personally I like Rosie knows something most. It is a well sung, sensitive song. The other two and especially violet are nice but nothing special. If the quality would be like the Rosie song, she should record more but when I hear the rest I think it's better to wait a few years to get a better quality balance. I do believe that she will grow and develop her own sound more and more, it just needs some more time.
To the second CD page
To the third CD page
To the content of FolkWorld CD Reviews
To the content of FolkWorld online magazine Nr. 16
© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 10/2000
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.
FolkWorld - Home of European Music
Layout & Idea of FolkWorld © The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld