Issue 18 04/2001
FolkWorld CD Reviews
The Good Sons "Happiness"
Label: Floating World FW009
Fans of good music will remember Gary Hall and the Stormkeepers, a fine UK country rock band with two excellent songwriters in Gary and Michael Weston King. When the band split, Gary took himself off to the USA, whilst Mike returned to Preston and formed the Good Sons. This, their fourth album and the first for three years, shows that the band still have the same problems to overcome before they are anything other than a curiosity in the alternative country-rock genre. In Weston-King they have a fine songwriter, but he's unfortunately not a natural vocalist. Added to this, the arrangements are dull, the playing is pedestrian and the album lacks both dynamics and impact. Some of this may be due to budgetary restrictions, but it means that the album will sell as a reminder of a gig, rather than as an artefact in it's own right. They are a good live act, well worth catching if they are at your local club, but on this evidence they still haven't quite learned the art of making records. I hope I'm wrong and I wish them well, but I suspect it may be a few years yet before the next Good Sons album.
Martyn Joseph "Thunder and Rainbows (The Best we could find 1988 - 2000)"
Label: Pipe Records PRDCD001
I first came across Joseph in the Sony years, when on the back of a couple of nearly singles (Working Mother and Dolphins Make Me Cry, both included here) he was being tipped, somewhere between Steve Forbert and Jeff Buckley as the 'next Dylan'. Although good, I couldn't see what the fuss was about until I saw him live, at which point it all became clear. It was a live album which brought him to the attention of Sony, and it was clear that live he was a class act. Listening now to this two CD collection, it is also clear that although the ultimate prize may have evaded him, he has over the years assembled a consistent body of work and a substantial fan base which extends far beyond his Christian beginnings. Though only a few tracks are unaccompanied and the Sony material is by contrast lavishly instrumented and produced, the emphasis throughout is on the songs, and that's a wise decision. Joseph is a quality song writer, and also has a fine voice, maybe acquired from his Welsh ancestry. Uncluttered accompaniments featuring notables such as Mal Pope and Cliff Richard Band and ex-Iona sax player Mike Haughton enhance the delivery of songs which you'll think you've heard before even if you're listening for the first time.
Compiled by Joseph's fans from a poll taken on his web site, the double CD pack contains 33 tracks drawn from 7 albums, plus two new songs including the title track recorded specially for this project. In case you're wondering, the fans first choice was not one of the singles but rather the achingly beautiful "Have An Angel Walk With Her'". In an era when big money is being made by stage school wannabees, it is refreshing to hear that those like Martyn Joseph who really can still do and also make some kind of living at it. Long may it remain so.
Tim Easton "The Truth About Us"
Label: New West Records NW6023
Tim Easton is probably a new name to these shores, as his only previous band, The Haynes Boys, never made it much beyond the east coast of the USA. However, Tim, the main song writer, attracted some fans within the music business community, hence this album on Austin, Texas based label New West produced by American Music Club producer Joe Chicarelli and featuring the band Wilco as backing musicians. The end result is a little like the Byrds meets Beck, an interesting sound that pulls you into the album. The treatment of the guitar sounds is interesting, and there's lots of little samples and loops going on in the background, too. I suspect it will be hard, if not impossible, to reproduce this stuff live without a sizeable backing band, so for now probably for CD consumption only.
Sally Barker "The Compilation - Another Train"
Label: Hypertension HYP 0192
Sally is probably better known as a member of the Poozies, but before that she had a successful career as a singer/songwriter playing the kind of club venues that are now unfortunately all too rare. Sometimes solo but more often with her band 'The Rhythm', Sally graced stages around the country and across Europe after her initial breakthrough, winning the 1986 Songsaearch Competition with her song 'Hunting The Buffalo'. She made five albums between 1989 and 1998 from which the tracks on this album have been selected by Sally herself, plus a couple of unreleased extras. Her version of Pete Morton's 'Another Train' has long been a favourite of mine, and the trouble with this album for me is that from that song at track 1 on the album, there's nothing else here to match it. Sally has a good bluesy voice and there are some good moments here, but none of these albums sold in huge quantities first time around. What makes Hypertension or Sally assume that this compilation will enhance her following is a mystery to me, but if little improved, the world is certainly no worse a place for a Sally Barker compilation album.
Tempel of Sound/Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali "People's Colony No1"
Label: Realworld CDRW94
Singing Qawwali is probably the most difficult art in the musical world. This form of devotional worship through sacred singing has to blend melody and rhythm with spirit and passion in such a way that the performance pulls in and entrances the listener in the same way that the whirling dance of the Sufis captures both dancer and onlooker. For many years the worlds leading exponent of this form of singing was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and when he died the search was on to find a successor. Fortunately it wasn't necessary to look far, as the great man had been training his nephews in the art, and their ensemble Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali slipped not only into the master's shoes but also into his recording contract with Real World, too. Two albums of strict devotional music followed, but just as with Nusrat some ten years ago, the siren call of collaboration has sounded and this is the result.
Temple of Sound is the new sonic vehicle for former Trans-Global Underground front men Neil Sparkes and Count Dubula, and this collaboration with Rizwan-Muazzam partly stems from Sparkes' own interest in Sufism and a spiritual experience he had at a Nusrat concert at the 1993 WOMAD festival in Reading. What is obvious here for the most part is that this is Qawwali with beats, not the other way around, as happened with the late master's collaboration with Massive Attack. There's no doubting the modern approach, but except for a couple of tracks (the opening dubby Jewelled Heart and the album's title track) which perhaps overdo the technical at the expense of emotion, it's a fairly 'faithful' (if you pardon the pun) rendition of the Qawwali spirit. Where this leaves you, the listener, is anyone's guess, because I suppose if you aren't so interested in Qawwali there may not be enough of the other stuff to keep you on board. Play the final track, Love Moves The Sun, on which Dubula's mix and Wobble's bass take centre stage. This is about as TGU as it gets, so if you don't like this track then perhaps this album is not for you. However, it's a brave and mostly successful effort, and all parties are to be congratulated for keeping all the traditions afloat in what may, in different hands, have turned out to be a very leaky boat. Worth checking.
Allan Taylor "Colour to the Moon"
Label: Stockfisch Records RTD 357 6021 2
I have to confess to a certain bias here, having been Allan Taylor's agent many years ago when he was a member of the short-lived but excellent band Cajun Moon. I've kept in touch with Allan's career down the years, and it is with considerable pleasure that I can report that the new album continues the theme of excellence Taylor has made his own, both in terms of the quality of his writing and the production values of his albums. Allan has increasingly of late had to turn to European labels to put albums out, and this release, on the German Stockfisch label, is no exception. However, many influential artists such as Dick Gaughan, The Fureys and De Dannan have championed Taylor's songs, and this collection oozes quality, so expect the usual number of cover versions in due course. If you've never heard Allan Taylor, then this is as good a place to start as any. If you already know his work, rest assured you can purchase 'Colour To The Moon' in total confidence. Albums such as this should be required listening for all those angst-ridden youngsters whose world view never gets above their navel - songs from a life well lived, consummately performed.
And the same album from another perspective - reviews were written paralelly:
Allan Taylor "Colour to the Moon"
Records; RTD 357.6021.2; 2000; Playing time: 48.46 min
After a long time a new album of Allan Taylor, one of the best and most sensitive
singer/songwriters around. Allan's voice has become once again a bit deeper,
which suits his songs very well. All songs on "Colour to the moon"
are written by the Englishman himself, and have generally a very high quality,
as we are used from Allan Taylor songs. They tell about characters that Allan
met on his journeys, about personal feelings, and in a way, this album is probably
more focussed on autobiograhic songs. The songs are very sensitive, creating
a warm, yet thoughtful atmosphere, as the songs touch in describing everyday
feelings and situations.
Besides nine new songs, "Colour to the Moon" features also the song
"Back again" from his 76 album "Cajun Moon" and the song
"Crazy Amsterdam" from the 82 album "Win or Loose". "Crazy
Amsterdam" is here the first part of a hommage to Allan's old friend Scotty,
who died in 1999; the second part is a poem Allan wrote when he heard of Scotty's
Recorded for the German Stockfisch label, the guest musicians on the album are
also mainly Germans, yet it is always Allan Taylor with voice and guitar that
is the focus of the music. Parallely to the album, Stockfisch published also
a limited collector set, featuring the album "Colour to the Moon"
and a CD "Behind the mix" featuring outtakes from the studio session
(from the likes of Chuck Berry and The Drifters), an hommage to Alex Campbell
and Deroll Adams and live recordings from a BBC interview when Allan sings with
Deroll. FolkWorld has not received a copy of "Behind the Mix", so
no further comments.
"Colour to the Moon" is a mature recording, highly enjoyable.
Allan Taylor's website
Xosé Manuel Budiño "Arredor"
Label: Yerba Buena /Virgin
Records España; 8494532; 2000
Xosé Manuel Budiño is one of the great bagpipe players of Galicia
- the most north western part of Spain. His second album 'Arredor' is surely
another milestone in his carrier.
Apart from his excellent piping (on gaita and uilleann pipe) and low whistle
playing, Xose is an exceptional composer and arranger of music. The whole album
is full of energy and raw power - his music has strong roots in the tradition
of Galicia, but it also has influences from rock and jazz music. The arrangements
create a fascinating atmosphere somewhere in the center of the new wave of interesting
modern young folk music in Europe...
He has gathered an interesting bunch of
musicians as band: percussionist Leandro Deltell, bassist Xan Hernández,
bouzouki player Pedro Pascual, accordeonist Xavier Díaz, bass clarinetist
Pablo Alonso adding another dimension to the sound and of course Xosé
himself on gaita, uilleann pipes and low whistle. Additional to his band there
are some more guests on this album, among them are the Breton star fiddler Jacky
Molard, the Scottish master guitarist Tony McManus and Scottish Donald Shaw
of Capercaillie fame. On 'Arredor' are ten instrumental tracks and two with
voices: one is a breathtaking song of the excellent young Galician singer Mercedes
Peon (she has recently published her debut solo album, which was chosen by the
FolkWorld editors as second best in 2000), the other is a song without words
sung by Leilia.
This album arrived a bit too late to be included in the top ten of 2000 - if it
would have arrived earlier it would surely have found a place in it... An excellent album!
Label:EMI Finland; LC0542; 2000; Playing time:
Pohjannaula come- as you could guess from their name - from Finland. The music
of these five lads is very energetic and raw. As their information material is
in Finnish only - I can not say too much about this band. Pohjannaula are Samuli
Mäkisalo (voice, guitar), Juha-Matti Pesonen (guitar, madolin), Antero
Aunesluoma (bass), Tomi Rikkola (viola, guitar) and Juha Menna (drums).
All 13 tracks are songs - the lyrics are printed in the booklet (no translation
of the Finnish language). They have interesting arrangements - their music lies
somewhere between traditional music, pop/rock and energetic punk music. It is a very vibrant
mixture. And for everyone who likes modern forms of the dark music of the far
European north this is surely a gem. But also friends of energetic punk folk
should give them a listen...
Label:Kansanmusiikkii-instituuttii / Folk
Music Institute; KICD 67; 1999
Prusikoukku are five Finnish lads playing instrumental music from Finland. The
band are Ville Kangas (violin, viola, bouzouki and organ), Marko Möttönen
(drums and percussion), Son John (guitar, triangel), Jussi Petäjä
(bass, bouzouki, big old huge trialngel) and Jori Vuorinen (synth, piano, accordion,
voice). As guest they have invited Tuija Myllykangas & Tellu Virkkala, who
are adding their voices as a sound instruement on one track and Teemu "Käpeikkö"
Korpipää and Seppo Santala for loops.
All the tunes are written by either Kangas, Petäjä or Kivioja,
or combinations of them. The music is sometimes acoustic, quiet and sounds traditional,
other parts are modern with interesting rootsy influences and sometimes heavy.
The lads know how to produce up-to date instrumental music from Finland...
mail to the folk music institute
Kimmo Pohjonen "Kielo"
Label: Rockadillo Records; ZENCO 2060; 1999;
Playing time: 45.14 min
I must admit that I have some cut and dried opinions when I read 'accordion solo' in a festival
program. But the alternative concert hasn't begun, so I have a look. And I
am very surprised: Kimmo Pohjonen shows something far away from my - in the
meantime discarded- stereotyped idea of accordion players.
His innovative compositions are influenced by folk, classic and
jazz and are mixed a hard to describe, but fascinating sound,
that acts a litte bit dark, sometimes psychedelic - one might
get the impression to hear 'Ummagumma' on accordion.
The man from Finland excellantly understands how to use the
whole spectrum of electronic effects, to enhance the sound of
accordion and voice to a listening experience in quadrophonie.
He use a 'digital delay', an effect that permanently repeats a stored
sequence, so that Kimmo is able to play to a background made from tones
from the accordion, voice, knocks and flicks, so one can hardly believe
that all the sound is produced by one single person. His performance -of
course supported by an appropriate light show- gets continously dramatic
and ends in an inferno of sounds from the digital delay and bolts, to
which Kimmo Pohjonen walks roboter-like across the stage and finally sinks
down behind his accordion.
Althought you have to listen to his first and award-winning
record without lightshow and performance, you can enjoy
11 remarkable -and imho most excellent- songs.
Rockadillo Records www.rockadillo.fi Ilmarinkatu 12 a 2,
33500 Tampere, Finland, Tel. +358 3 213 1260, Fax. +358 2 213 1297
Lehto & Wright, featuring Matt Jacobs
"Ye Mariners All"
Label: Narnian records; 0012; 2000; Playing
time: 66:23 min The folk-rock duo Steve Lehto and
John Wright -with the assistance of Matt Jacobs on percussion- released
their first album 'Ye Mariners All'. The 13 songs are made up by new and
skilful arrangements of traditional or covered pieces and own songs,
influenced by american as well as celtic folk. The 3 Americans perform
their songs with virtuosity, combining excellent fingerpicking guitar with
voices pleasing to the ear. And though it sounds not really new or
exceptional, everyone who likes folk-rock songs in the style of Fairport
Convention or guitar tunes in the style of Brian McNeill will enjoy this
Narnian Records, a division of Cold Wind Records, http://www.coldwind.com, 4400 Stinson
Blvd., Minneapolis MN 55421, 1.800.638.4558
, P.O.Box 6182, Minneapolis MN 55406
Fuori dal Mucchio "Combat Folk Vol.2"
Label: Larione 10; LAR FDM 1112-2; 2000; Playing time: 66.40 min
If you want to discover a world of interesting folk rock music and rock music with folk influences - then this sampler from Italy is the right thing for you!
You can find 17 tracks (2 tracks of every band, plus additionaly a live track of the Modena City Ramblers) of young and mostly up to now not so well known bands of the Italian scene. The language of the songs is Italian - only at one time a chorus is in English...
Some of the bands are surely on the edge of folk music - but nevertheless most of the music is fresh and unconventional rootsy music. The informations in the booklet are only in Italian - but the texts are not too long, most is information about the bands (including the line-up and contact adress!). To name the bands: Casa del Vento - a young five piece band with strong voice and interesting arrangements; Pseudofonia - a quite rocking six piece with nice sax; the singer songwriter Giuliano Contardo with his semi-acoustic band with violin with classical touch; the eigth musicians of Ratti della Sabina present strong songs with interesting backing; the four lads of Miafiori Kidz do roots rock; Folkabbestia! have two diffent types, one up-tempo song, the other one has a nice light arrangement; Ned Ludd (read an interview with them in issue 7) do fine - quite rocking - roots music; finally there is the five piece band Tupamaros with roots rock underlined by accordion.
All in all you get a fine view into the rootsy rock music scene of Italy on the edge of the folk scene.
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