Issue 25 6/2003

FolkWorld CD ReviewsDog

Jim Malcolm "Home"
Label: Beltane 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 anthem.
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 enjoyable listening.
Homepage of the artist:
Michael Moll

"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:
Michael Moll

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 a listen.
Colin Jones

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.
Colin Jones

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; 2000
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. e-mail:
Eelco Schilder

Dick Gaughan "Prentice Piece"
Label: Greentrax; 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 (-> FW#9, FW#23) 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, Dick!
Walkin' T:-)M

Levellers "Green Blade Rising"
Label: Eagle; EHAGCD002; 2002; Playing time: 37.18 min
Levellers "The Wild As Angels EP, Part2"
Label: Eagle; 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.)
Eagle Records
Walkin' T:-)M

Jesse Smith "Jigs and Reels"
Label: Own 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.
Jesse Smith
Walkin' T:-)M

Feast of Fiddles "live '01"
Label: Own label; CDFOF001; 2002; Playing time: 58.05 min
Feast of Fiddles "live '01 Bonus CD"
Label: Own 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
Walkin' T:-)M

Richard Koechli "Blue Celtic Mystery"
Label: MARA 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.
Walkin' T:-)M

Melanie O'Reilly "Aisling Ghéar/Bitter Vision"
Label: Mistletoe; 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 "Oro", Kearney's "Glory 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 Pass today.
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.
Mistletoe/Melanie O'Reilly
Walkin' T:-)M

Steeleye Span "Present - The Very Best Of..."
Label: Park; 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 (drums).
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 Henry). Gaudete, 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. John 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 Magicians, Drink Down The Moon); "Commoners Crown" (1975, Long Lankin); and the peak of our commercial success, "All Around My Hat" (1975, Black 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, Sir 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 example, Blackleg 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.
Park Records
Walkin' T:-)M

Railroad Earth "Bird in a House"
Label: Sugar 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
Walkin' T:-)M

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).
Distributon:; or email Paul at
Walkin' T:-)M

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 in songs.
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:
Dai Woosnam

Glendalough "Along The Shore"
Label: Gema; (LC 03899); 2003; Playing time: 59.14min
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 it.
Homepage of the artist:, contact to artist:
Dai Woosnam

Jeff Talmadge "Gravity, Grace And The Moon"
Label: Bozart Records; (no cat#); 2003; Playing time: 46.24min
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 heart.)
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:, contact to label:
Dai Woosnam

Claire Mann
Label: Footstompin; CDFSR1712; 2002
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 stunned me.
This is a mature album full of great musicianship and top Celtic music.
Homepage of the artist:
Michael Moll

Gordan Duncan "Thunderstruck"
Label: Greentrax; 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
Alex Monaghan

Barachois "naturel"
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 always high,
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 best!
Homepage of the artist:
Michael Moll

More English CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5
More German CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page 2
Overview: CD Review Contents

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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 6/2003

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