Issue 25 6/2003
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Jim Malcolm "Home"
Records; NELCD102; 2002; Playing time: 51.30 min
Jim Malcolm has the reputation as one of the most gifted songwriters on the Scottish
music scene. Although Jim has been recently quite busy touring as lead singer
with the Old Blind Dogs, he still pursues his solo carreer, touring and recording
as singer/songwriter with attractive warm voice and guitar and harmonica player.
"Home" is Jim's fourth solo album.
As the title already suggests, this album is somewhat more personal, reflecting
Jim's love of his home region in Perthshire. This is also apparent in two songs
where he sings of homesickness during weeks of touring in the States with the
Old Blind Dogs. The atmosphere is overall mostly quiet, reflective, relaxing;
the style swings between traditional and modern folk songwriting. Among Jim's
own compositions, one song, "Fields of Angus" about the travelling folk
of Tayside, could be a traditional song; "Simple little steps" is a
song written by Jim for Jim. My favourite of his own compositions is "Coldrochie",
telling about a ruined and abandoned croft near Perth.
As well as Jim's compositions there is a beautiful traditional song with a new
chorus, "Sir Patrick's Spens", a Robert Burns song ("The Lea Rig"),
a Jim Malcom instrumental composition, and to finish off the album, Jim provides
his version of John McLellan & Hamish Henderson's "Freedom Come All Ye",
the wonderful Scots song which some refer to as the unofficial Scottish national
Guest musicians on the album include Malinky's Steve Byrne, Jim's ex-Old Blind
Dogs colleague Tim Jennings on percussion and fiddler Greg Borland.
This is another strong album from Jim, probably the strongest so far. It showcases
brilliant songwriting, and the interpretation of the songs is beautiful. Highly
Homepage of the artist: www.jimmalcolm.com
"Musiche Tradizional Furlane - Traditional
Music from Friuli-Venezia Region - Italy"
Label: Folkest Dischi; SO3 2002; 2002
Friuli-Venezia is a Northern Italian region with its own distinctive music
traditions, however it is also characterised by the presence of various ethnic
groups. This album presents the wealth of exciting folk music that this region
has to offer. It provides a broad range of styles - band sound, singer songwriter,
folk rock, solo accordeon and more.
The exciting full band sound of Braul with an intriguing female singer is definitely
among my highlights; other interesting bands that sound to me worthwhole to
check out are the roots rock band Nosisa and the rather traditional, yet fresh
sounding band Carantan. However, there is plenty more to explore, and I am sure
that whoever listens to this CD will have his/her very own favourites.
A compilation that gives an insight into the music traditions from Friuli-Venezia,
and makes you want to explore this internationally unknown music scene more.
Homepage of label: www.folkestdischi.com
Richard Thompson "The Old Kit Bag"
Label: Cooking Vinyl COOKCD251; 2003
It never rains, but it pours! In one month, three of my favourite artists release
new albums and I get free copies - who said hard work doesn't have its rewards?
However, all is not well in the house of Thompson, as the switch from EMI to Cooking
Vinyl testifies. In the press notes accompanying the album Richard is scathing
about the major labels obsession with top 40 success, but one senses that EMI
had themselves watched Thompson's sales slowly decline over the duration of his
contract. He's still a critics darling, all the things that made him such a favourite
all those years ago are seemingly still in place, but somehow Richard has lost
the plot, such that new boys on the block like David Gray have become the sound
of bed-sitter land instead of Mr Thompson. Sadly, this album shows no sign of
redressing this balance, being a modern Thompson album of catchy words and nice
tunes but nothing that stays with you after an hour of listening to the CD. Looking
back to the Island albums, the collaborations with Linda or even early solo efforts
like Hand Of Kindness or Mirror Blue, there were always at least a couple of tunes
that grabbed you immediately, and hence made you want to put the CD on again,
and by repetition get into more of it. Since 'You? Me? Us?' however, the catchiness
has gone along with the fine fretwork that was the other major attraction of Richard's
work. The early albums always had little bursts of trademark Thommo guitar that
would blister paintwork and boggle the imagination. Unfortunately, that seems
to have gone too, replaced by lots of Thompson vocal, occasionally accompanied
by Judith Owen, and little in the way of accompaniment. Whilst the press release
might try to pass this off as 'paring down to the essence' it sounds to me like
saving money on the (self-financed) recording budget.
Richard needs to step back a while from his safe little circle and see what is
happening. Is it a coincidence his wife Nancy Covey is the executive producer,
John Chelew, a long time associate is the studio producer, and the only other
musicians of note are drummer Michael Jacobs and long time associate and friend
Danny Thompson (as ever immaculate on bass)? Richard needs some serious A&R input
or else soon there will be no new fans, his fans amongst the critics will retire
or get promoted, and he'll be left playing to devoted but increasingly smaller
audiences, a sad fate for what is still, on the surface, a very talented composer
and performer. The album? It's a Richard Thompson album. If that rings your bell,
go and buy in confidence - if you've heard of him but not heard him, the Island
albums or the Richard & Linda ones are the best place to start. If you're interested
in a really contemporary singer/songwriter, check out David Gray, who very much
seems to have found the plot at the moment. I wish I wasn't writing this, but
I am - this is a record by an artist whose best days seem to have been some time
ago now. Approach with caution.
Footnote: I wrote this within a week of receiving the album, thinking my
deadline was quite close. Having now had longer to listen and consider, I guess
I've probably been a little harsh in what I wrote above. This is a good album;
it's just not the kind of Richard Thompson album I want to hear. I guess Richard
would say he doesn't do that stuff any more, and if so, fair play to him. There's
nothing like Calvary Cross here, or Wall Of Death, or even Beeswing, and that's
the kind of songs I want Richard Thompson to do. I guess he's moved on, and I
haven't moved with him. The only way to find out if you have is to give the album
Simon Barron & Rosalind Brady "Somewhen"
Label: Mobile Recordings MOB001CD
A throwback to 60's style troubadour folk, two voices, one guitar, no overdubs,
this is a fine example of harmony in a Simon and Garfunkel style. The music is
by force of circumstance rather primitive, but the sparseness of the arrangements
suits the material well. There's not much here to draw in the uncommitted listener,
but it does more than enough to suggest that evening spent in their company, at
your local club or round a campfire, would be quite a pleasant experience. Simon
plays guitar and harmonica well, they harmonise extremely well, and the material
is good, certainly competent enough. Go see them when they are round your way
and you'll probably end up buying this a souvenir. Like the Oysterband album above,
this is also a 39-minute CD, but whereas I wanted more from the Oysters, this
length is just about right here. Sameyness starts to creep in, and maybe the recording
budget could be stretched next time to include a little more accompaniment. Still,
all things considered, a satisfactory debut. Now, get some gigs under the belt
before the next album.
BOOK REVIEW: Cor van Sliedregt "Nederlandse en
Vlaamse volksmuziek op oude en nieuwe geluidsdragers/Dutch and Flemish traditional
music on old and new recordings"
Publisher: drie koningen; isbn number: 9075770-12-x;
Cor van Sliedregt is a Dutch musician who, besides making music, also has a weak
spot Cor Dutch and Flemish traditional music. In the year 2000 he published a
discography of Dutch and Flemish traditional music which have been recorded on
both lp or cd. The book, which has a limited pressing of 100 pieces only, contains
a fantastic collection of groups, record titles and other info about groups who
play the traditional music of the Netherlands and Flandres. It's the best discography
I know and without any doubt the most complete one. It's a must for any collector
of Dutch traditional music or these person with a special interest in traditional
music. Van Sliedregt stated the group/artist, name of the lp/cd, the label number
and year of publishing. He does not give any additional info about songs, this
book is discography only. It can be ordered by his own publishing business:
Uitgeverij Drie koningen, westerstraat 46, 1601 AK Enkhuizen, The Netherlands.
Dick Gaughan "Prentice Piece"
CDTRAX236D; 2002; Playing Time: 107.27 min
I walked from Ypres to Passchendale in the first gray days of spring. My
mother's father walked these fields some eighty years ago. He'd been dead a
quarter century by the time that I was born. The mustard gas that swept the
trenches ripped aparts his lungs. Another name and number among millions there
who died, and at last I understood why
old men cry. Nothing changed that much in the meantime. So welcome to
FolkWorld's Special Wartime Edition.
It's true that Dick Gaughan (->
can claim being a Scottish institution. He played with the Boys of the Lough,
Five Hand Reel, and Clan Alba, but is today Scotland's most renowned solo performer
in the folk business. Just voice and guitar, but full of energy. I reckon
Gaughan alone could have provided enough power to light Edinburgh for the Evening
if they could find some way to wire him into the National Grid, someone
wrote before. "Prentice Piece" contains 21 pieces from 1975 to 2001. 12 albums
from the Topic, Wundertuete, and Greentrax labels. There are his own songs (Sail
On, Both Sides the Tweed, Outlaws and Dreamers), others by contemporary songwriters
(Auchengeich Disaster, Land of the North Wind, Games People Play, Father's Song,
Muir and the Master Builder, October Song, Pound a Week Rise, Yew Tree, 51st
Highland Division's Farewell to Sicily) traditional Scottish songs (Willie o
Winsbury, Cruel Brother, Lassie Lie Near Me, Flooers o the Forest), and Irish
(Wind That Shakes the Barley), and instrumental guitar pieces at last. It's
a craft well learned and if that's Dick's prentice piece, I'm eager for his
master work. Through pastures of plenty and dark city byways. Thirty five
years of singing and playing, thirty five years of life on the road. Laughing
at tyrants and spitting at despots. They've called me an outlaw, they've called
me a dreamer.
By the way, and because this in an internet magazine, Dick is also involved
in designing websites. He believes passionately in the principle that all
sites should be designed so as to be fully accessible to all readers regardless
of platform or software, and he has no patience with sites which say
`best viewed on' or which are built using non-standard code which only works
with one particular browser. That's what I always wanted to say. Sail on,
Levellers "Green Blade Rising"
EHAGCD002; 2002; Playing time: 37.18 min
Levellers "The Wild As Angels EP, Part2"
EHAGXA003; 2002; Playing time: 10.16 min
Fifteen years on the road, the 7th studio album. What's new? At, least the cover
art. We haven't seen any Socialistic realist artwork from the Levellers
yet. But "Green Blade Rising" does not deny the good old times (-> FW#19),
quite the opposite, different to the "Hello Pig" album (-> FW#18),
Brighton's folk rockers abandon all experiments and go back in time, when they
were levelling the land and seem to represent the zeitgeist. There
is a little help from Tim O'Leary on the whistle (McDermott's 2 Hours -> FW#20)
and Chopper on the cello (Oysterband -> FW#24).
And I couldn't find too much to be disappointed. (Expect a live review from
the Tilburg Festival in the next issue.)
Jesse Smith "Jigs and Reels"
label; 33001; 2002; Playing time: 38.38 min
Jesse Smith is a young fiddle player,
grown up in Baltimore, Washington DC. His mother is Donna Long (pianist and
fiddler of Cherish the Ladies -> FW#4,
FW#10), his fiddle
teacher has been the great Brendan Mulvihill. Jesse remembers: They played
all the time in the house. There was always loads of music. Before I got to
like Irish music I remember wishing they would stop playing. It didn't stop
him fortunatly and he started studying classical music. I was sort of stuck
between the two kinds of music. I knew I was going to play Irish music for the
rest of my life, people around me in the college were saying `Put that aside
and concentrate on classical music,' that wasn't me. I just moved to Ireland
then. He did so in 1998 and shortly after joined up with the young stars
of Danu (-> FW#16).
Leaving the band recently, Jesse concentrated on the 78rpm recordings of the
great players of old, such as James Morrison, Michael Coleman, Lad O'Beirne,
Paddy Killoran, John McKenna, the Flanagan Brothers, and John J. Kimmel. The
later one, a German-American melodeon player known as `The Irish Dutchman,'
made the very first commercial recording of traditional Irish music back in
1903. And that's what "Jigs and Reels" is all about. There is John Blake on
guitar and piano (-> FW#23),
Harry Bradley on flute (see review below), and Joe Naughton dancing. And, by
the way, it's no all jigs and reels, but barndances, polkas, hornpipes and a
song air "The Little Heathy Hill" (An Cnoicin Fraoich) as well. All perfectly
laid down. At last, Jesse is currently working on transcriptions of all Michael
Coleman's music ever recorded, some 96 tracks, and he is hoping to have a book
published soon (and perhaps reviewed here as well). He settled in Galway and
is just getting married to fiddler Yvonne Kane (-> FW#24).
I bet there's been a Musical Priest at the Temple House and Jesse's
a Happy Birdie before the First Month of Summer. Sort of. Best
wishes from the FolkWorld team.
Feast of Fiddles "live '01"
label; CDFOF001; 2002; Playing time: 58.05 min
Feast of Fiddles "live '01 Bonus CD"
label; CDFOF002; 2002; Playing time: 28.36 min
Scotland has the Blazin' Fiddles
(-> FW#15, FW#23),
Ireland has Liz Doherty's Fiddlesticks
(not to confuse with the various other Fiddlesticks bands lurking around), and
England follows with Feast of Fiddles.
The group is the brainchild of Hugh Crabtree (melodeon) and consists of fiddlers
Phil Beer (-> FW#19)
, Ian Cutler, Peter
Knight, Tom Leary,
Chris Leslie, ( -> FW#23),
and Brian McNeill (-> FW#10),
plus a rock based backing band including drummer Dave
Mattacks. The gentlemen rock and fiddle around the Irish/British repertoire,
but also do their best on the bluegrass standard "Orange Blossom Special". All
executed in a typical English manner. The "Lark in the Morning/Foxhunter's"
set might tell the adept what's going on. Brian sings "The Devil's Only Daughter"
and Phil "The Blind Fiddler". What a feast. But at last, we have to ask: Hey,
where's the ladies?
Feast of Fiddles
Richard Koechli "Blue Celtic Mystery"
Records/AMA; 626635; 2002; Spielzeit: 57.31 min
Van Morrison was presumably right when he said, the Celtic Music is the Blues
for white people. But why not attempt to go one step further with this idea
of Black and White and mix the `Blues of the Blacks' with the `Blues of the
Whites' together? Yeah, why not. The people called by the Romans Celtae
settled in what is today Switzerland and La Tène at the Lake Neuenburg names
a whole era in human history. Some of them emigrated in 750 B.C. and finally
even reached the British Isles. The Celts knew how to blow trumpet and horn,
and the bards accompanied their songs of praise and mockery on lyra-like instruments.
Then came the slide guitar, but that's a different story altogether.
Richard Koechli is constantly in
demand in the Swiss blues, country and rock circles. As slide guitarrist he
is one of the Best in the West (which is also the title of one of his
music books, perhaps we have the chance to review them as well in the near future).
"Blue Celtic Mystery" is a fusion of Celtic folk and melodious blues and rock.
Instrumental slide guitar pieces alternate with serene songs. Sometimes sheer
powerful, sometimes pure melancholy: Today there are almost no Lamenters,
and only superficially or seldom heard in the Blues. On the contrary the suicide
rate is growing apparently unstoppable! My song is a personal attempt to explain
the valuable traditions. The music is deadly serious, but Celtic cliches
are commented upon with a twinkling in the eye. In the end, it's pretty cool.
Melanie O'Reilly "Aisling Ghéar/Bitter Vision"
moe 003; 2002; Playing time: 39.55 min
Jazz up the tradition! Melanie O'Reilly,
who represents the section for singer-songwriters with the Musicians' Union
of Ireland, has been described as the spirit of Ireland - with the voice
of Ella Fitzgerald. "Aisling
Ghéar" is a fusion of Irish traditional music and jazz. She takes the old music
from the public bar into the night club. It is just as smoky, but there are
luscious cocktails instead of strong stout. The music is as simple as can be.
Just Melanie's magnificent voice and the acoustic guitar of Seán Ó Nualláin.
Songs include "Rosc Catha
na Mumhan" (Battle Hymn of Munster; from the 18th century), "Seán
Ó Dhuibhir an Ghleanna" (John O'Dwyer of the Glen; Colonel O'Dwyer surrendered
to Cromwell at Cahir and went into Spanish exile), Pearse's
O" (I wonder how them patriots feel about the jazz thing), The tune to "Laudate
Dominum" has been composed by Francesco
Geminiani (that's the one who challenged Carolan, -> FW#20,
and is supposedly buried in St Andrews, Dublin, which is now the Tourist Office).
My personal favourite is Melanie's original song "Delphi" about the march of
600 starving people from Louisburgh to Doo Lough in Co. Mayo during the Great
Famine in 1849, I vaguely recall there is a memorial plague at the Doo Lough
The duo calls their approach mistletoe music: All other sacred trees,
plants and herbs have peculiar properties. But the berries of the mistletoe
have no medicinal properties. The leave are equally valueless; and the timber
can be put to few uses. The Druids used it as an emblem of their own peculiar
way of thought. Here is a tree that is no tree, but fastens itself alike on
oak, apple, poplar, beech, thorn, even pine, grows green, nourishing itself
on the topmost branches when the rest of the forest seems asleep, and the fruit
of which is credited with curing all spiritual disorders. The symbolism is exact,
if we can equate Druidic with Sufic thought, which is not planted like a tree,
as religions are planted, but self-engrafted on a tree already in existence,
it keeps green though the tree itself is asleep. Melanie's music might grow
and creep into your ear as well.
Steeleye Span "Present - The Very Best Of..."
PRKCD64; 2002; Playing time: 105.46 min
Sometimes I think there is a similar kind of rivalry between the English folk-rock
pioneers as has been with British beat music. Either you did like the Beatles
or you did like the Stones. No compromise. Equally I am mostly bored by Fairport
(-> FW#23), but Steeleye
is the thing. This present consists of re-recordings of the group's best known
songs, the selection has been chosen in a recent online poll. The line-up is
almost classic: Maddy Prior (vocals), Bob Johnson (guitar), Peter Knight (fiddle,
see also Feast of Fiddles review above), Rick Kemp (bass), and Liam Genockey
Traditional music experienced a huge revival in 1950's and 60's England. When
it became apparent that Fairport didn't wish to limit themselves to traditional
material, Ashley Hutchings looked around to continue his quest and found allies
in Terry and Gay Woods (-> FW#15)
and the traditional duo Tim Hart and Maddy Prior (-> FW#21).
However, the debut album "Hark! The Village Wait" (1970, featuring Blackleg
Miner) was never to be performed live. Terry and Gay left, Martin Carthy
(-> FW#18, in fact
he had suggested the name Steeleye Span) and Peter Knight joined. Steeleye performed
in a play to enact the British army's retreat in Spain under Wellington, the
material from the show appearing on "Ten Man Mop" (1971; When
I Was On Horseback concerns the death of a soldier, not so much from
the wounds of war, but from the side-effects of love). Ashley and Martin
left, in came Bob Johnson and Rick Kemp. "Below the Salt" (1972) brought an
interest in the big ballads (e.g. King
an accappella carol in Latin, became a big chart hit. It was already `folk'
with the spirit of `rock', without us having to do anything except sing it.
Barleycorn, gory and sadistic, this is simply a description of how to
make beer. Steeleye were also staging Stevenson's "Kidnapped" and "Parcel
of Rogues" (1973) featured some Jacobite songs (Cam
Ye O'er Frae France, One
Misty Moisty Morning, The
Weaver And The Factory Maid). When touring the US, Steeleye were opening
with the Lyke
Wake Dirge, a grim piece of music from Yorkshire concerning purgatory
and we all dressed in dramatic mummers ribbons with tall hats. Five gaunt figures
lit from below casting huge shadows, intoning this insistent dirge alarmed some
members of the audience whose reality was already tampered with by 70s substances.
A string of albums followed. Now We Are Six (1974, Thomas
The Rhymer, Two
Down The Moon); "Commoners Crown" (1975, Long
Lankin); and the peak of our commercial success, "All Around My Hat"
Jack Davy). Hard
Times Of Old England, topical today as it was then: The government and
its economic policies appear to be working against the man in the street. No
change there then. The single All
Around My Hat took Steeleye again into the charts. Our claim to fame!
It is in fact a combination of two songs, which makes complete nonsense of each.
And that is how the traditon works. People may puzzle over the meaning of this
in years to come.
Then came the advent of punk music. Albums such as as "Rocket Cottage" (1976,
James The Rose) and "Sails Of Silver" (1980, Let
Her Go Down) did not achieve the same popularity. Only in the 90's Steeleye
rediscovered the music that had brought us together in the first place and
we were able to approach it with a maturity and confidence that had been absent
for a while. As Tim Hart put it: These songs have a longevity that defies
logic - there's no reason why they should have lasted all these years, but they
have and they have beautiful melodies and although the lyrics are about strange
things they have a flow to them and feel that people identify with. For
Miner has transformed itself several times. It began as a piece of history
about the coal mining world of the 19thC. But with the advent of the Miner's
Strike in '84 it became extremely relevant. What had been a strong lyric became
a war cry. And now, so many years later, with the demise of the mining industry,
it has again become an historical piece. But Steeleye is not history. Not
yet. This is present. The magic is still there. It says we still can do it.
No, we can do it even better.
Railroad Earth "Bird in a House"
Hill; SUG-CD-3956; 2002; Playing time: 66.22 min
It began in January 2001 as a spontaneous pickin' party among friends, since
then Railroad Earth created a hype
and has taken the newgrass scene by storm. Deservedly. The group is made up
of some of the best players from other Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey bands,
Todd Sheaffer (vocals, guitar), Tim
Carbone (violin), Andy
Goessling (guitar, banjo), John Skehan (mandolin), Carey Harmon (drums),
and Dave Van Dollen (bass). Another reviewer put it: They combine the adventure
of New Grass Revival with the soulfulness of the Grateful Dead. It's Grateful
Grass for a new generation! Yeah, the songs are really grooving. Though
they sound familiar, it's bluegrass as fresh and exciting as I haven't heard
for a long time. Recommended.
Sugar Hill Records
Paul Moran & Fergal Scahill "A Flying Start"
Label: Own label; PMRCD001; 2002; Playing
time: 45.55 min
Only slightly more complex than blowing a blade of grass, some might say: But
for whatever reasons, the harmonica or mouth organ certainly is one of the least
popular instruments in traditional Irish music (-> FW#9;
and Scottish etc. as well -> FW#17).
Though there has been a number of competent players, namely the Murphys of Wexford,
Mick Kinsella, Eddie Clarke, and Brendan
Power. Another challenge still is to join the mouthie with other instruments.
Here, Paul's musical partner is youngster Fergal Scahill (fiddle, guitar) from
Corofin, Co. Galway. However, Paul Moran (harmonica, lilting), originally a
Dubliner, but now based in Galway, stands the test. Paul's father already played
the harmonica, and Paul seems to have it in the blood, the instrument and the
session tunes from Clare, Galway and Sliabh Luachra. You might catch him in
some session with a 12-watt amplifier and a microphone, to hear himself amongst
the other instruments, and he says: I find people like the harmonica as it's
not an intrusive instrument. They say, the harmonica is a breath away from
the soul of a man, and there is a lot of soul in Paul and Fergal's performance.
Interest? Maybe you go now for the mouth harp as well. Paul plays a diatonic
harp (blues harp) with the third blow tuned up (Mick Kinsella style), and a
MadForTrad tutorial is
already on the way (-> FW#21).
or email Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Martin Donnelly "Earthbound"
Label - none; 2002
There is much in this album to commend it. Martin, from Northern Ireland, is
a more-than-decent singer, and has surrounded himself with very capable musicians,
including the famous and classy Henry McCullough. All the musicians manage deliver
in fine style, especially Maire Breathnach (on fiddle and viola) for whom this
album is something of a personal triumph.
So the thing that puzzles me is this: why did I not enjoy this CD a bit more
than I did? After all, his first album got seemingly some good reviews, and
one senses that this is a writer teeming with ideas that will find their expression
His songs are not obvious: there is a slightly mysterious quality to them, and
I like that fact. They deal with a variety of subjects, but just beneath the
surface of most of them seems to be his theme of coming to terms with our mortality.
Almost WELCOMING it, indeed. He has nice turn of phrase and shows real insight
into the Human Condition.
But the truth is that melodically the songs don't really grab me, apart from
Track 10 "Old Friend", and there, it was in no small measure due to the sterling
performance by Ms Breathnach. And, that is sad, for (to state the obvious),
melody is half of ANY song. His melodies are not unmusical: just somewhat formulaic.
The other song that made an impression was "Everything Will Be Alright" a truly
profound lyric added to a not-untuneful melody.
For his next album, I look forward to Martin really following the oldest custom
in the Folk Tradition: that is to set his own lyrics to the plethora of fine
traditional tunes there are out there.
Contact to artist: email@example.com
Glendalough "Along The Shore"
Label: Gema; (LC 03899); 2003; Playing time:
Glendalough are a German band specialising in folk music from the British Isles,
with a particular fondness for Irish music. I thought I'd first check them out
on their website, but found that they are still working on their English version.
And alas, my German just about runs to asking for a cup of coffee!
Where does their name come from? Well, they have clearly named themselves after
a beauty spot in the West of Ireland. The logical question then follows: have
the group committed hostages to fortune with their choice of a beauty spot for
their band's name? I mean to say: how beautiful is the band's sound?
The truthful answer is that they make a reasonably mellifluous sound, and in
Hannah Pohl they have a singer with a decidedly tuneful voice. She accompanies
herself on guitar and the other three members provide whistle, guitar and percussion
background. Plus vocal assistance.
Their choice of repertoire is generally to favour the "tried and tested". Ewan
MacColl, Tommy Sands, Dougie MacLean, and a few of the very familiar songs from
the Tradition. Songs like "She Moved Through The Fair", "Matty Groves" and "As
I Roved Out".
But she doffs her hat to her native country by setting "Willkommen und Abschied"
(the poem by Goethe) to her own melody. Interestingly she credits the great
German writer, but when it comes to "Sally Gardens" shows it as "Traditional"
and ignores Ireland's Goethe, W.B. Yeats!!
One of Andy Irvine's lesser-known songs brings up the rear. A pleasing selection
of songs, if albeit, slightly bordering on the "safe". But that said, how "SAFE"
is it to try and deliver a song like "She Moved Through The Fair», when most
of us have what we consider «definitive versions» running on a tape loop through
our subconscious? In some ways it is quite brave.
I have to say however that I do have a little caveat. And it is to do with Hannah's
diction. Note, I say DICTION, not ACCENT.
It is charming to hear a German accent: one does not want her to sing songs
parrot fashion, imitating to the nth degree the regional British, American or
Irish accent she has just heard. No, we want her to «be herself».
But alas here, we find her mispronouncing several words. A little bit more care
would have avoided this.
But then that said, I almost want to breathe the words back in. For heaven knows,
there are many SOURCE singers who were native-English speakers, yet who truncated
words and took God-knows-what liberties with the lyric! But that said, I am
clutching at straws rather.
For the fact is that whilst I am looking forward to their next album, I would
like that bit extra care taken with the lyric. For her pleasing voice deserves
Homepage of the artist: www.glendalough.de,
contact to artist: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Talmadge "Gravity, Grace And The Moon"
Label: Bozart Records; (no cat#); 2003; Playing
All the songs on this CD are entirely self-penned, with the exception of one
co-written with Annie Gallup and another co-written with Karen Mal.
It appears that Jeff is one of Austin Texas's leading singer/songwriters. I
say "it appears" because I confess to having been sublimely unaware of his existence
until this review copy appeared on my doormat, courtesy of the postman. I have
been quickly making up for lost time and checking him out.
This is his fourth self-released album in the last five years. Gosh! He is not
hanging about! What have I missed? Well on the strength of this, it's hard to
say. For sure though, there is much in the credit column.
He immediately comes across as supremely self-assured. His insights are often
perceptive and penetrating. He doesn't seem the sort of guy who'd have the wool
pulled over his eyes. Indeed, if Eric Chandler's "Private Eye" Philip Marlowe
could sing, he'd probably sound like this.
Assisting Jeff on this CD are Bradley Kopp, guitars and backing vocals; Randy
McCullough and Laurie Singer, backing vocals; Karen Mal, backing vocals and
guitars; Michael Hardwick, dobro; Richard Bowden, violin and mandolin; Chip
Dolan, accordion and piano; Peter Keane, guitars; Paul Pearcy, percussion and
drums; Glenn Fukunaga, bass; and Rich Brock, harmonica.
The production is clean as a whistle, and each instrument of every member of
the extended band comes through crystal clear. And Talmadge sings with some
authority. So there is much to praise here.
But the thing I would REALLY want to praise - and I suspect, the aspect of his
art that he is proudest of - I regret that I can not. And that is his songwriting.
Melodically, the songs do not do it for me. Nor do the lyrics really make a
way to my HEAD let alone my heart. Sure there are (as I've stated) some sharp
insights: but perception ALONE does not make a songwriter. Yes, I am aware that
Jeff has won several awards for his songs: maybe they were better on his previous
three albums. I cannot see him winning any awards for these. (If I have just
identified myself as a dunce, then so be it: I can only say what I feel in my
But all that said, the fact remains he is a talent, for sure. I look forward
to encountering further examples of his work.
Homepage of the artist: www.jefftalmadge.com,
contact to label: BozartCD@aol.com
If you have come across this talented young musician, it is most likely that
you have seen her in the outstanding Scottish/Irish duo Tabache, with fiddler
Aidan O'Rourke. This is Claire Mann's first solo album. Claire comes from Newcastle,
where she learnt folk music in the Irish community. She has lived for quite
a while now in Scotland, and her music has turnt into a mixture of Irish and
Scottish music. Claire plays both fiddle and flute at the highest level. On
this album, she is joined four outstanding musicians from the Scottish and English
music scene: Aaron Jones, who tours regularly with Claire, on bouzouki and guitar,
Flook's John Joe Kelly on bodhran, Brian MacAlpine on keyboards and Footstompin's
owner, the concertina wizard Simon Thoumire.
Most of the music on this album comes from the Irish tradition; however the
tune with the most intriguing title, "Mrs Malaprop's obsessedisland"
(referring to Claire's granny), is written by Claire herself. Other tunes she
has borrowed from contemporary musicians, such as Tim O'Leary or Andre Marchand.
The album features also two songs, "The Green Laurels" and "Drinaun
Dhun", which are pleasant enough, however they do not have for me the same
appeal as Calire's songs on Tabache's debut album - those were songs that really
This is a mature album full of great musicianship and top Celtic music.
Homepage of the artist: www.clairemann.com
Gordan Duncan "Thunderstruck"
CDTRAX241; Playing time: 62 min
You get three things on this recording which it would be hard to find elsewhere.
First, there's Gordon Duncan's amazing virtuosity on the highland pipes. Maybe
one or two pipers in the world can play better than this man. Maybe. Second,
there are fifteen of Gordon's own compositions on Thunderstruck: this is the
man who wrote Andy Renwick's Ferret (there's a breathtaking version here), Pressed
For Time (picked up by Brian Finnegan and Flook), Zeto the Bubble Man, and many
more great tunes that have been adopted by Irish musicians worldwide. Third,
and certainly not least, you get to hear Gordon Duncan playing his own tunes
as only he can: the definitive interpretations of More Brandy, The Straloch
Turkeys, Shotgun Woman and a dozen more.
In case you still associate highland pipers with shortbread and cheap Scotch,
let's be clear what we're dealing with. Gordon Duncan's tunes have been recorded
by Niall Vallely, Martin Nolan, Craobh Rua, Loose Connections and many other
Irish artists. His playing is tuneful, skilful, and brimful of those touches
which mark a master musician. He wouldn't be seen dead on a biscuit tin, although
he's probably not so averse to cheap Scotch.
Wrap your ears round some of the more striking tracks here. The Belly Dancer
is a gut-wrenching tune in the Moorish style of Glen Kabul or Return to Kashmagiro,
with souky bouzouki from Neil Fergusson. A set of four Galician tunes starts
with two by Mercedes Trujillo and ends with Gordon Duncan's finger-blurring
tribute to her. There's a monster medley climaxing in variations on Mrs Macleod,
and the wonderful many-part Jig o' Beer. Then perhaps you'll be ready for the
more traditional tracks slotted in amongst Gordon's gems. Or maybe you'll want
to go straight to the big finish with that ferret. Alex Monaghan
Label: House Party Productions; HPP 5.; 2002
Barachois are a live sensation - full of fun, slapstick, but also amazing musical
talent, with breathtakingly fast playing. Barachois as a live act is very hard
to be beaten. The band features former stand-up comedian Chuck Arsenault, Lousie
Arsenault (not related to Chuck), Albert Arsenault (not related to Chuck or
Louise) and Hélène Bergeron (Albert's brother). They play a huge
range of instruments, but especially they all play fiddles, sing and step dance.
Barachois come from Prince Edward Island on Canada's east coast, a place where
Scottish and French traditions and language met and joined.
Knowing them as a brill live act, I must say this album comes a bit disappointing
along. I suppose there is nothing really wrong with the album, but it is far
away from Barachois as a live act. Additionally, to my personal taste, there
are by far too many country songs on this album, some of them not really enjoyable
at all if you do not like country music. With other songs, I feel that they
are one of their slapstick numbers in their live performances - however in my
opinion it would have been better to leave them solely for the live performance
- an example is a fun version of Paul Simon's "The Boxer". Even though
the choice of titles is not exactly my taste, the musicianship is nevertheless
There are however also plenty of enjoyable moments on this album - especially
when the four musicians come into full speed - this is when the live appeal
of the band comes very well across. And of course there are the funny photos
of the band in the booklet - alone they make this CD a must for all Barachois
fans! I am looking forward to see the guys again in live, and my recommendation
is: Go and see them live - that is where they are undoubtedly at their very
Homepage of the artist: www.barachois.com
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