Issue 17 12/2000
Label: WeltWunder Records; 501-2; 1999; Playing time: 55.46 min
The first journey of this series was to discover Poland - a more or less unknown region of European folk music. But unknow does not mean uninteresting; WeltWunder could easily find enough very interesting bands and musicians from Poland.
12 different acts are found on the album (two are presenting each two tracks). Among them are the excellent Crakow band Kroke playing Jewish music; the Saint Nicholas Orchestra - an important band during the start of the new revival presenting their traditional music of Poland in a very fresh manner; the Polish Rock-music star Grzegorz Ciechowski combining fragments of ancient folk songs with samples and modern music forms - the one track on this album reminded me on the first album of the Scottish/Brazilean project Nahoo. Other interesting bands are the young Kapela ze wsi Warszawa (read the article about them in this issue, where you can win this CD...), Chudoba and the young gypsy musician Dziani.
All in all an excellent album to get an insight in the scene of Poland.
The second album of the serie is already out - it is a journey to Italy. I am looking forward to the next albums of the Travelin' Companion serie - thank you WeltWunder for the chance to travel on these new pathes to unknown music cultures...
WIN THIS CD AT THE KAPELA ZE WSI WARSZAWA ARTICLE PAGE!
Label: Resitencia; RESCD 106; 2000; Playing time: 38.47 min
Although young of age, Mercedes has done already a lot of research in Galicia, visiting the old people to find out more about the ancient traditions. On this album the traditions are not presented in a pure manner, she combines them with modern sounds and with influences from different regions - especially from the south. Mercedes says "I have had the pleasure to discover music from other ethnic groups. especially from North Africa, and find in them so many affinities, both in rhythm and expression, with our melodies that I have good reason for wanting to look further south for musical connection and communion."
The album is a genius melange somewhere between traditional and modern Galician music with lots of influences. Centerpiece is the powerful voice of Mercedes (she has no problems to sing against a bagpipe...). The songs and melodies are partly traditional, partly written by Mercedes - many of them are earwigs, even if you do not understand a word.
Mercedes has gathered for this album an excellent backing band. An absolute stunning debut CD, leaving you waiting for more....
Voted by FolkWorld as second best album of 2000!
mail to Resistencia
Label: Thein; 2000; Playing time: 49.01 min
His style is somehow a bit melancholic - suiting to the flat and wide surrounding landscape - but also full of emotions. All songs except two are written by Helmut. Those two are songs 'translated' into Platt by Helmut: 'Se sitt un tööft' is originally written by Allan Taylor and 'Un is't denn dien will' by Leonard Cohen.
On this album Helmut's backing band consists of Jörg Heinemann (violoncello), Rüdiger Schulz (sax, bandonion), Allan Taylor (guitar) and Abi Wallenstein (e-guitar, waldzither, dobro). The setting suits perfectly to the mood of the album, presenting often a quiet backing, and sometimes influences of Jazz and other music styles.
My personal highlight is the song 'Dognight' with highly original text and brilliant earwig-chorus. A brilliant album with lots of atmosphere.
If you don't know Helmut by now you should change this soon...
Helmut Debus, Am Weserdeich 23, 26919 Brake, Germany Tel.+49 (0)4401-7669
Thein, Blumenthalstr. 8, 28209 Bremen, Germany, Tel.+49 (0)421-348048
Tropo Records; TRD 1002; 2000; Playing time: 50.29 min
Some of his work in the last years seemed more tranquilizing than exciting to many listeners. Nevertheless "Tatamonk" is a wonderful lively album. (The name of the title track is a reference to Thelonius Monk, who is regarded very highly by both de Grassi and Cruz, and to the traditional melody "Tata San Juan") The different musical styles join together without losing their character.
The music remains full of colour and emotion and never bulky, like some could expect because of the reference to Monk. The moods range from joy of life to melancholy. The playing is wonderfully balanced and the production took care that nothing gets lost - notice that guitarist de Grassi produced the album himself. On some selections the guest appearences of Jeff Beal (trumpet & flugelhorn) and Ian Dogole (percussion) give additional colour. The whole CD is designed very beautifully and comes with interesting notes by the artists. Highly recommended!
Alex de Grassi Homepage; Quique Cruz Homepage
Label: Emergency Exit Arts; BOLLCD 2001; 1999; Playing time: 42.00 min
For a start, the tunes are great - unusual to Western ears (albeit less exotic than the original songs), but tuneful and gripping - they would hardly have become popular hits in India if they weren't! Then the driving beat of the dhol drums, more usually heard in bhangra music, gets those dancing feet moving in no time. And the elaborate interplay of the saxophones, trumpets, trombones and Alice Kinloch's massive sousaphone makes sure that the tunes never get boring.
As a bonus, the CD includes two remix tracks - a "Sambhangra" mix of "Gur Nalon Ishk Mitha" and a "Snake Eyes Mix" of "Khena Hi Kya" - which add another dimension by transporting the tunes into an Asian nightclub sphere; an unlikely, but again successful transformation.
If you only ever buy one brass band album, this should probably be it.
Bollywood Brass Band c/o Emergency Exit Arts, PO Box 570, London SE10 0EE, England; Tel. +44 (0)20 8853 4809 Fax +44 (0)20 8858 2025
Label: Coop Breizh; CD 905; 2000; Playing time: 69.41 min
The basic format is consistent throughout the album: one singer takes the lead, the others repeat each line in an alternating call-and- response style. The four singers take turns in leading the singing, but within each song, they stick to their roles. This makes the overall effect rather repetitive, especially for listeners who can't follow the French and Breton lyrics. The booklet provides full transcripts of those, as well as French translations to the Breton lyrics and some illustrative drawings.
One for fans and perhaps language students only, I think.
Coop Breizh, F 29540 Spézet, France; Tel. +33 (0)2 98938314 Fax +33 (0)2 98938797
Label: Coop Breizh; CD 906; 2000; Playing time: 44.44 min
What they play is dance music, based on traditional dances (rond, an dro, hanter dro, gavotte, mazurka, bourrée...), but in unconventional arrangements: for instance, the guitar can sound quite jazzy, and the oriental percussion adds another unusual flavour.
A whole album of hurdy-gurdy-led tunes won't be to everyone's taste, but it certainly is an interesting combination of skilled players and inventive arrangements, taking Breton dance music in new directions with just about the right mix of respect and boldness. Why they choose to call it "Dog of Pride", though, is beyond me.
Menestra, 16 rue des besaces, F 22680 Etables sur Mer, France
Label: Coop Breizh; CD 907; 2000; Playing time: 59.05 min
Included is a varied and entertaining selection from the performances: male singers, female singers, with bands or unaccompanied, solo or in groups, and a couple of storytellers/poets (?) and instrumental groups as well. The booklet provides extensive notes on the cultural background, the festival and the individual performers, but only in French, which will limit its international appeal.
Les Assemblées Gallèses, 9 rue de l'Argoat, F 22210 Plumieux, France
Label: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi / BMG; 05472 77393 2; 2000; Playing time: 69.01 min
The extensive booklet gives explanations and full transcripts of the song lyrics in a remarkable four languages: Irish, English, French and German. Thus the album is a wonderful tool for students of the Irish language, as well as a pleasant, if intense listening experience.
Label: Greentrax; CDTRAX 204; 2000; Playing time: 57.06 min
The basic formula of leading fiddle to piano/keyboard and low-in- the-mix guitar backdrop often appears somewhat tiresome over the course of a couple of dance tune sets, so that the few slow numbers are a welcome relief. There's nothing obviously wrong with the musicianship or choice of material, but the album lacks that magic spark that lifts the truly great instrumental albums into a league of their own.
Contact the Gordon Gunn Band
Label: Park Records; PRKCD 57; 2000; Playing time: 48.01 min
The instruments are inventively combined in as large a variety of arrangements as you could come up with, on a range of little-known tunes, many of which have seasonal Christmas-time connotations. And there's songs as well, with Kathryn and Mary revealing their vocal skills, and even a dialect poem from the Coquet valley with tasteful fiddle accompaniment.
The overall sound is very unusual, slightly medieval in feel and at all times pleasing. An album to add warmth and colour to gloomy winter days. Highly recommended.
Album info from Park Records
Label: Steeplejack Music; SJCD 003; 2000; Playing time: about 44 min
The fiddles, bass and concertina are contributed by the English duo Show of Hands (Phil Beer and Steve Knightley), whose organizer-cum-sound engineer Gerard O'Farrell has produced this album. A clever move: whereas it might have been just another one of the many albums that sells at concerts and remains otherwise unnoticed, the significant input Show of Hands have had on the recording should widen its appeal considerably.
The songs are a mix of original compositions and hand-picked cover versions - Brian McNeill's "Back of the North Wind", Phil Shackleton's "Fisherman's Tale" and Steve Knightley's "Sit You Down" plus a tune set and a superb acoustic rendition of Queen's "Show Must Go On". Finally there is a hidden live track in the basic Wayfaring Strangers duo line-up, just in case you've ended up wondering what they really sound like without the help from their more famous colleagues...
Recommended to Show of Hands-supporters, naturally, and to anyone who still likes acoustic guitar-based singer-songwriters.
Wayfaring Strangers website
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