Issue 27 02/2004
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Neil Mulligan "An Tobar Glé"
Label: Spring; SCD 1049; 2003; Playing time:
Séamus Ennis used to tell a lovely story of how a piper got [The Gold
Ring] jig from the fairies after coming across a fairy session late one night
and finding a gold ring after disturbing the proceedings. On returning with the
tiny gold ring the next day he was rewarded by a grateful fairy with the tune
that the piper was playing the previous night and The Gold Ring was the title
that the piper gave to the tune from that day forth. Séamus
Ennis was the spiritus rector of uilleann piper Neil
Mulligan (-> FW#23). In the 1970s,
when Séamus ran a traditional club in Slattery's pub of Capel Street, Dublin,
called An Tobar Glé (i.e. the clear/bright well), Neil was one of the resident
musicians. Neil also has fond memories of Séamus's father Jim Ennis coming
on visits to our house when I was a young boy and telling wonderful stories to
us all. He certainly followed the piper's instruction that a piper should
spend seven years learning, seven years practising, and seven years playing before
calling himself a piper. Neil has been through to this. He brings to life the
legacy of Ennis, but he also recalls the other heroes of the Irish piping tradition,
Willie Clancy, Leo
Rowsome (-> FW#26), and even sean-nós
singer Seán ach Dhonncha from Carna who influenced Neil's attitude to the
playing of slow airs. Again it was Séamus Ennis who always insisted on
the importance of understanding the Gaelic words. However, it was Neil's father
Tom being the source for most of his tunes, and the album finishes off appropriately
with two home recorded sets from 1982 featuring the late Tom Mulligan on the fiddle.
Neil prefers the art of solo piping, he says: Unless you’re into buying and
listening to CDs, there’s no place to hear it. There’s nowhere like Slattery’s
today. And music is all speeded up – everybody seems to have a bouzouki or guitar
player in tow. This is the pure drop from the well of tradition.
Gerry Harrington & Nancy Conescu "The Fiddle
CRCD 3054; 2003; Playing time: 54.19 min
Gerry Harrington (-> FW#14) is a fiddle
player extraordinaire from Kenmare, Co. Kerry. In the 1980s he lived in Chicago,
playing with Liz Carroll and others (-> FW#24).
But he's probably best known as a duo with accordion player Charlie Piggott.
At first Gerry had something different in mind: I saw the project as a solo
album but in the long gestation period I played some sessions with Nancy Conescu.
Her fresh and inventive guitar accompaniment of Irish music was so clever and
sympathetic it added a new dimension not only to my playing but to the tunes
as well. Nancy Conescu, of presumably Romanian extraction, is a singer of
traditional Irish and American ballads, both as solo performer and with the
group Aontas. She backs up Gerry proficiently on guitar. The great maestros
of traditional Irish music are present in the tunes, Padraig O'Keeffe, Denis
Murphy, Julia Clifford, and all the Sliabh Luachra connection. Denis Murphy's
trademark of playing in octaves is featured on the "Lisheen" slide. Nancy sings
some traditional Irish songs, in a dark, resonant voice, "May Morning Dew" and
"Thinking Ever Thinking," associated with the Keane family (-> FW#3,
FW#22), the English "Death and the Lady,"
alternating between 5/8 and 6/8 time, and the Appalachian "Pretty Saro". Personally
I need getting used to her voice; the songs are great though. And there is a
spark when this fiddle and this voice (and this guitar) meet.
Thomas Walsh "Ethnic Tears"
CRCD 3055; 2003; Playing time: 53.22 min
Did you ever hear of Thomas Walsh? Never? Think again! Thomas's claim to three
minutes of fame is the lovely air "Inisheer".
The tune is played in the entire universe I guess and recorded as well (-> FW#5,
FW#25). Only recently by an Irish-German
band who attributed it to one Arthur Shaen (who in fact was the subject of an
Carolan tune). Now say it again, it was Thomas Walsh who penned it: I composed
Inisheer after spending the best holiday of my life on the island. There was
no electricty on the island and that time, which was new to a Dub like me. I
found the people and the island had something special which I never experienced
before. I composed Inisheer the next day while I was walking in the Phoenix
Park dreaming of what I had left behind, and the peace and tranquility it gave
me. Now here's finally his debut album. Thomas plays the accordion - and
I always associated "Inisheer" with the whistle, tsss -, and the air is soon
taken up by a flute, aah! It's fascinating to recognize the minor changes, some
would say improvements, in the melody while it has been passed on and on. Like
accordion players do today, he composes and he plays entirely his own original
tunes (-> FW#26). But that's fine. Thomas
has a bias for slow and mid tempo songs, somehow typical accordion music. There
are some lovely jigs, charming waltzes and touching slow airs. Though nothing
has the majesty of "Inisheer," there's pleasant bits and parts that possibly
make you drop some tears, ethnic or not.
Tom Walsh "In Company"
Label: Own label; 2002; Playing time: 49.10
Another Dublin man, another Walsh, another Tom. This time Tom
Walsh. Since 1972 Tom plays with Joe
Foley again and again, bouzouki player and luthier from Dublin's Churchtown.
In the 1980s, Tom followed with An Beal Bocht in the footsteps of Planxty,
and eventually in the 90s the name of band was Rattlin' Strings, featuring Barry
Carroll on hammered dulcimer (-> FW#23).
Both men, Foley and Carroll, are featured here again. Tom Walsh himself sings
and backs up Irish dance music, traditional songs, and last but not least his
own original compositions with the mandola. Some smart lyrics and tunes deserve
some wider recognition, I'd say. There's the song about the Irish peasant girl
emigrating to New York to escape a match make to a much older man on board
the Caledonia, and the piper travells on board the Titanic: My journey
to the land of dreams began the other day. A piper born in Dublin town, sweet
music I would play. My thoughts and expectations like a cran and roll in flight
of that new world that does await my music will excite. A humble child of poverty
my music to entreat, and now the rich and powerful are standing at my feet.
Fifteen hundred people had perished by idle gain. The pipes no longer played
the tune but I played on just the same. With a pint in the one hand to wet
the whistle for a song and listening to a powerful tune, you're in fine company
Mick O'Brien & Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh
"Kitty Lie Over"
CD 102; 2003; Playing time: 54.06 min
The herrings are boiled and the praties are roasting, Kitty
lie over close to the wall! A line borrowed from the Irish jig "The
Frost is All Over". Dubliners north and south, Mick O'Brien (uilleann pipes,
whistle) and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (fiddle, whistle), meet. And
it wasn't in the midst of the muddy river Liffey, though one may say this record
is a landmark like the newly erected Millennium Spire on O'Connell Street. These
days there seems to be a trend to the pure drop. 15 tracks including 11 pipes/fiddle
duets, 2 whistle duets, and 2 fiddle/whistle duets. The only accompaniment is
the drones and regulators of the uilleann pipes. These are pitched in Bb, and
the fiddle is obviously tuned down. Thus the sound is mellow and smooth. There
is a fondness for Sliabh Luachra music, Mick and Caoimhín pay homage
to the great names, Denis Murphy, Patrick Kelly. The latter is almost forgotten:
Isn't it shocking that with all the recordings available nowadays, you can't
get a single track of this most wonderful of fiddle players. If you were to
give him a few bits of cast-off tunes, he would sculpt them into something that
could fly - like making an aeroplane out of a scraphead. Mick and Caoimhín
give their best to continue this legacy. As Peter Browne puts it in the liner
notes: Everything sounds right!
Michael Hynes & Denis Liddy "Waifs and Strays"
Label: Tigh na Coille; TNC001; 2003; Playing
time: 46.08 min
Clare musicians Michael Hynes & Denis Liddy
both hail from a long line of musical families. Denis is a fiddle player from
the Crusheen area (next to concertina player Jack Mulkere, founder of the Aughrim
Slopes Ceili Band); flutist Michael comes from the Kilshanny parish. Michael
and Denis met in Lahinch two years ago and discovered that they both love to
play for set dancers. Accompanied by Rob
Sharer on guitar. It's Clare music on offer. When God spoke, Let there
be music, he added and a rake of Clareman. It is certainly not true
that if you're not from Clare you can't play music, but Michael and Denis
are an example for the opposite. They can play, and they play in the tight and
bouncy style of County Clare, more precisely in the West Clare style (as opposed
to the bluesy East Clare style). Michael is a composer in his own right, but
the album title has been inspired by the collection of traditional Irish dance
tunes assembled by Chicago police captain Francis O'Neill, "Waifs and Strays
of Gaelic Melody," the source of many tunes on the disc. There are others, the
"Cradle Song" appears in James Scott Skinner's collection (-> FW#25),
and it was there you could read: talent does what it can, genius does what
Tigh na Coille/Liddy&Hynes
Barefield Céilí Band "Between
Label: Tigh na Coille; TNC002; 2003; Playing
time: 36.11 min
Let's céilí again! It's been a long way from the first one held
in London in 1897 by the Gaelic League and today's music for set dancing. In
the 1930's came the céilí band revolution when public dances in
village and parish halls replaced the traditional crossroads dancing. The acoustic
situation created the modern dance band, including a large troupe of musicians,
piano and drums, sometimes even saxophones. Despite the ups and downs of traditional
Irish music there has been and still is always fresh supply to cater for the
dancers. Denis Liddy (see above) formed the Barefield
Céilí Band at Barefield National school, a little village
outside Ennis in Co. Clare (-> FW#26),
the heartland of Irish traditional music and set dancing. The group was
formed when most of the pupils have been at the age of only eight, in 1998 they
won the All-Ireland Fleadh in the category Ceili Band under 12. "Between
the Sets" features 12 tracks, the "Caledonian Set" and the "Plain Set" in 5
figures, respectively, recorded by Michel Sikiotakis (see below). Featured are
5 fiddles, 5 flutes, 2 uillean pipes, 2 accordions, 4 concertinas, 1 banjo,
piano and drums. And dancers. It is straight set dancing music, the tunes handed
down to us over generations of house dances and sessions. So let's dance!
Tigh na Coille
Emily Smith "A Day Like Today"
CDFSR1716; 2002; Playing time: 43.14 min
Emily Smith's home is in Dumfries,
south west Scotland. This is Burns
Country, and there's Robbie's "Rigs o' Barley" given a new grooving melody,
and the traditional "Fair Helen of Kirkconnel". Emily has been student on the
Traditional Music course at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in
Glasgow, and has been the 2002 winner of the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional
Musician Award. Her instruments of choice are piano and accordion, with an intensified
liking for traditional singing. "The Emily Smith Band" also features Ross Ainslie
on pipes and whistle, Jamie McClennan on fiddle, and Sean O'Donnell on guitar.
Emily's own song "A Day like Today" is a real ear-catcher. The vividly executed
tunes are immediately disarming any critic. But what's going on when a tune
is called "Party In My Pants"? Find out yourself!
Robin Bullock & Michel Sikiotakis "The Irish
DOR-93257; 2002; Playing time: 56.24 min
The Irish Girl in question is, of course, red-headed, like Rossetti's "La
Ghirlandata" which adorns the CD cover. It is also the title of a reel recorded
by James Morrison (and by Michael Coleman as well, but he called it "The Wild
Irishman" - strange things happen). Featured on this disc is also the slow air
"An Cailín Rua" meaning the red-haired girl. So far, so good.
- American Robin Bullock (guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, keyboards) met Michel
Sikiotakis (flute, whistle) in Paris, a Frenchman of Greek extraction but an
All-Ireland champion too. So there is no need to hide for Robin
& Michel. Michel executes dance tunes as well as slow airs with the same
finesse. Robin's rythm guitar backing and his fingerstyle guitar (on Carolan's
harp tune "Kitty Magennis") is sensitive; his mandolin picking is gypsy-hot
("La Valse des Niglos"). Both are composers as well. The album finishes off
with a haunting slow air written by Michel; and "The Depth Charge" is a vivid
jig by Robin: The title is a souvenir of his wilder days; a depth charge
is a drink consisting of a shot glass of whiskey dropped (glass and all) into
a pint of beer. Slainte!
The Neff Brothers "Ar Scáth a Chéile"
T003; 2003; Playing time: 62.31 min
Pipes and fiddle are one of the great combinations in traditional Irish music.
Following close in ar scáth a chéile (i.e. in each other's
shadow) are two young talented brothers from Cork City: Flaithr&iaute; &
Eoghan Neff. Flaithrí was captured by the sound of the uilleann pipes and Eoghan
took an interest in playing the fiddle, their teachers being Tomás Ó Canainn
and Gary Cronin, respectively. Awards and competitions won by Flaithrí and Eoghan
are too numerous to mention. Flaithrí makes full use of drones and regulators,
something not every young piper is doing today. Eoghan’s fiddle playing has
been rightfully described as a real killer punch. The material is traditional
and traditional-like, chiefly from Ireland, but Asturias and Britanny as well.
Purists will certainly disapprove of the shenanigans in their playing, and accompaniment
as synth, electric bass guitar, wah-wah bouzouki and ethnic drumming. But with
an open mind you will find some real treasure. And if you ask about the rather
strange sounding surname "Neff," their great great grandfather, a watchmaker
and jeweller from the Black Forest, Germany, came to Cork in 1864. Meanwhile
these lads are fully rooted in the Irish tradition, even when expanding it,
so watch out these jewels!
available on-line: Mad For Trad
Fiddlers 3 "Encore!"
Label: Own label; 2003; Playing time: 44.42
Fiddlers 3 means three young sibling
fiddle players plus mum and dad, a large piano accordion and - yes - washboard.
That's the Lozinski family from Ontario, Canada. Add some guitar and bass and
spoons, and the ceilidh is opened, according to the maxim ... we dare you
to keep your feet still. Or maybe they call it a kitchen party over there
(but it's a large kitchen obviously). It's music for the dancers, and as such
lively and pulsating. The tunes are Irish, Scottish, French-Canadian, and from
the American old-time tradition. For obvious reasons I love "Captain Keller's"
by the title alone, but there's more to feel attracted. At least one encore!
V/A "A' the Bairns o Adam - Hamish Henderson
CDTRAX244; 2003; Playing time: 54.21 min
Hamish Henderson (-> www.folkmusic.net,
passed away on 8 March 2002, aged 82. The poet, folklorist and songwriter was
a driving force behind the Scottish folk revival. Hamish was born in Blairgowrie,
Perthshire, on 11 Nov 1919. During the Second World War he served with the 51st
Highland Division, was in North Africa, and worked with the Partisans in Italy.
In the midst of the battle he would compose "The D-Day Dodgers" (tune: "Lili
Marleen," sung here by Rod Paterson (-> FW#15)
and "The 51st Highland Division's Farewell to Sicily" (sung by Hamish himself).
Hamish was collecting songs, from the allied troopers, German Jews in the pioneer
corps, POWs and partisans alike. His book of war poetry "Elegies for the Dead
in Cyrenaica" chronicles his experience of the Battle of El Alamein (and Brian
McNeill turned a line from the first Elegy into his song "No Gods and Precious
Few Heroes"; not featured here). In 1951 Hamish established the School of Scottish
Studies at the University of Edinburgh. American song collector Alan Lomax (->
FW#23) introduced him to the portable
tape recorder, and Hamish travelled around Scotland for many years collecting
traditional songs and tales. He discovered the great singers Jeannie Robertson
("My Son David"), Flora McNeil, and the Stewarts of Blair. Hamish himself wrote
"The John MacLean March" (by The Laggan) and "The Freedom Come-All-Ye" (Jim
Reid). The latter song had been put forward as a candidate for a "Scottish National
Anthem", something which Hamish strongly resisted regarding it as an international
song. Hamish supported every persecuted people, his "Gillie More" (Dick Gaughan
-> FW#9, FW#23,
FW#25) would be sent as a tribute from
the blacksmiths of Leith to the blacksmiths of Kiev, "Rivonia" (Corrie Folk
Trio) would be sent to the freedom fighters of South Africa. There's more featured,
recitals, piping by Allan MacDonald (-> FW#4,
The sleeve notes are quite extensive and all the song words are given (but I'd
wish some comments on the songs themselves as well). Most tracks have been recorded
for this album. Session musicians include Sandy Brechin (acc -> FW#9,
FW#19), Angus Lyon (acc -> FW#19,
FW#26), Alison McMorland (bj -> FW#20),
Frank McLaughlin (small pipes), and Malcolm Stitt (gt,bz -> FW#10,
V/A "Contra Music - The Sound of New England"
Meadow Music; GMM 2012; 2002; Playing time: 54.14 min
Rodney Miller "Airdance"
Meadow Music; GMM 2003; 2000; Playing time: 64.31 min
In the 1970s people young and old returned to the old folk dance traditions,
and contra dances again sprang up all over New England. Contra dances are related
to French, British and Irish country dancing, done in sets of partners. The
partners begin the dance facing each other (contra to one another), then swirl
off into a series of figures at the command of a caller. The rhythms and tunes
being jigs and reels, waltzes and polkas, but it can also be a Scandinavian
polska or from Eastern Europe too. The rather unembellished melodies are carried
mainly by the fiddle and accompanied by a straight piano, both to suit the dancers.
But every instrument is welcome, sometimes as strange as the Breton bombard.
"The Sound of New England" features Mary Cay Brass, Wild
Asparagus, Bob McQuillen, David
Surette, The Moving Violations,
Also featured are several tracks from New Hampshire fiddler Rodney
Miller. He is one of the most respected maestros of contra fiddle and is
said having almost single-handedly inspired the New England contra music revolution.
In the 1970s/80s he recorded the genre's core repertoire, in the 1980s he started
to arrange contra dance music for a modern ensemble by taking traditional
and contemporary material and coming up with an ensemble treatment that makes
musical sense, but still holds it danceability. Rodney Miller explores Celtic,
traditional and jazz tunes by artists as diverse as Brendan
Blizard, and Thelonius
Monk, and Kieran Goss (-> FW#25).
Rodney once coined the term Airplang, that's the way a New Englander
might pronounce the phrase ear playing, to describe the musician's gift
for playing to the sound of dancing feet. Such is "Airdance": A dance for
All that's missing is the merry clop of a few hundred feet. But it's
not only for dancing, it's for listening as well. New England's own has not
enjoyed a great commercial revival yet, it still lives where it was born, in
community dance halls and church basements. Great
Meadow Music tries its best, so check out their website! There's more on
Great Meadow Music
The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra "Serenity"
Records; RECD 546; 2003; Playing time: 65.39 min
The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra was formed
in 1980, originating from Fiddlers’ rallies throughout the country. The aim
was to have a group of about 150 enthusiastic musicians to create the highest
possible standard of orchestral fiddle playing without devalueing the traditional
roots of Scottish music. Princess Anne agreed to be the patron. The orchestra
is largely the creation of usical director and principal conductor John M. Mason,
whose fiddling stems from his Orcadian roots. In 1987 his efforts were recognised
in being awarded the MBE by the Queen for popularising of Scottish fiddle
music over the last thirty years. Deputy conductor Andrew McGarva is a member
of the ceilidh band Coila (-> FW#20,
FW#22). The orchestra's leader Bill
Cook is also the conductor of The Stirling Caledonian Strathspey and Reel Society,
and has published a number of books, the most important being "A Guide to Scottish
Fiddling". Of course there's a lage party of fiddlers, or violinists, if you
like. Among the members piper Keith Easdale too (Calasaig -> FW#19).
The orchestra performs Scottish slow airs of the Highlands and Islands. Original
tunes, traditional tunes, tunes by Jay Ungar (see review below), Phil Cunningham
(-> FW#3, FW#24),
Stephen Foster, Scott Skinner (-> FW#25),
and Carolan (-> FW#20). Last but not least,
the Scottish parting song "Auld Lang Syne." Trad heads be warned, this is orchestra
music after all.
V/A "Island to Island"
OSSCD 131; 2003; Playing time: 48.48 min
Traditional Music from Ireland and Newfoundland off the east coast of
Canada. "Talamh an Éisc" (land of the fishes) as the island is known
in the Irish language. Legend has it that Saint Brendan undertook the voyage
across the Atlantic in the 6th century. Seriously recorded Irish settlement
began in Newfoundland in the 17th century, mainly from the South-East, the counties
Waterford, Wexford, Kilkenny and Tipperary. Indeed, by the late 18th century,
the Irish were the 2nd largest group in Canada. Today about 4 of 30 million
Canadians claim Irish ancestry. Placenames, phrases, accents, a traditon of
house dancing and lilting clearly indicate the Irish connection. The fiddle
is the predominant instrument regarding traditional music, the button accordion
is popular as well, usually accompanied by the piano.
So it's a meeting of cousins: Bodhran player Paddy Mackey (Black Dog
Bodhrans), guitar players Mick Daly (Arcady, Four Men and a Dog, Lee Valley
String Band) and Jason Whelan, banjo
player Billy Sutton, accordeon players Aidan Coffey (De Dannan) and Graham Wells,
fiddlers Colin Carrigan and Séamus Creagh (-> FW#9).
Concerning the latter, "Island to Island" actually is almost a Séamus
Creagh album in disguise. Originally from Westmeath but residing in Cork, Séamus
is one of the best exponents of the Sliabh Luachra style. Not many traces here,
straightforward jigs and reels prevail. Séamus spent five years in Newfoundland
(1988-93), during which he taught and played traditional music with a number
of St John's musicians. "Island to Island" is the meeting of two traditions
sharing an ample amount of common ground, energy and fun.
V/A "The Portraits and the Music"
COMD2093; 2003; Playing time: 48.39 min
Subtitled Music linked to the portraits held by The Scottish National Portrait
Gallery in Edinburgh. 14 portraits, 14 musical pieces. There's the romantic
characters of Scottish history: Mary Queen of Scots (Aileen Carr, -> FW#17,
sings an ode Mary which wrote and her secretary Rizzio reportedly set to music);
Bonnie Prince Charlie once escaping disguised as a maid. One could have taken
Brian McNeill's "Strong Women," but here "Twa Bonnie Maids" is featured sung
by Alan Reid (-> FW#5, FW#6,
FW#23). There's the great Scottish musicians:
William Marshall, Niel Gow, James Scott Skinner (-> FW#25),
Skinner playing himself before taken up half way by Alasdair White (backed by
Pat Kilbride -> FW#23). And there's
more: Sir Walter Scott, Robbie Burns of course. Further musicians featured include
Aly Bain (-> FW#3, FW#23,
FW#24), Davy Steele (-> FW#18,
and John McCusker (-> FW#6, FW#17,
FW#26). That makes me feel like taking
out brush and canvas to paint my masterpiece and look forward to the accompanying
"The Best of Battlefield Band / The Temple
COMD2091; 2003; Playing time: 145.01 min
Robin Morton is best known as original member of Boys
of the Lough (-> FW#23). He soon
left the group to change sides in the recording business. But when Topic Records
refused to produce an album of Scottish solo harp (by Robin's wife Alison
Kinnaird), he decided to release it himself. Thus he formed Temple Records
in 1978 and assembled 90 albums of Scottish music to this day.
It's almost impossible to review this double CD set. CD #1 features 19 tracks
from 18 albums of the Battlefield
Band, which are the best horse in Robin's stable (-> FW#5,
Since 33 years the Batties proceed Forward with Scotland's Past, and
only recently in 2003 they won the Best Live Act category of the first Scots
Trad Music Awards. 33 years of a constant line-up changing, including at some
time or another fiddlers Brian McNeill (-> FW#4,
FW#10) John McCusker (-> FW#6,
pipers Dougie Pincock (-> FW#2, FW#8,
FW#20), Iain MacDonald (-> FW#24),
singers & stringers Jamie McMenemy (-> FW#10,
Pat Kilbride (-> FW#23), Alistair Russel
(-> FW#18), Davy Steele (-> FW#18,
and Karine Polwart (-> FW#14, FW#15,
FW#24). Alan Reid (keyboars, vocals)
is the only surviving original member. Robin's choice of material is a rather
unusual selection. Alan says Just dip into our past and hear what we were
up to. I look back on these recordings and count myself very lucky. Why? Because
I've been in a succession of great bands ... and they're all called Batlefield
CD #2 includes 25 tracks of the rest of the best from the Temple legacy which
is not that bad too. The first 25 years and only the start of the adventure.
Fiddles, pipes, harps, Scots and Gaelic song. There are albums that we reviewed
ourselves: Christine Primrose (->FW#20),
John McCusker (-> FW#17). Artists we
reviewed: Máire Ní Chathasaigh (-> FW#1,
FW#20), Pat Kilbride (-> FW#23),
Brian McNeill (-> FW#4, FW#10),
Mike Whellans (see revies in the German section), William Taylor of the Rowallan
Consort (-> FW#18). The first 25 years,
and there's more to come. Go get it! Will do you no harm.
Pine Mountain Railroad "The Old Radio"
Records; CD-8732; 2003; Playing time: 41.53 min
Bluegrass the way like it should be played. Not out of fashion, but timeless.
O.k., it ain't from Kentucky, it's from Knoxville, Tennessee, in the shadow
of Pine Mountain in the Great Smokey Mountains. Who cares anyway when it is
played from a band like Pine Mountain
Railroad. The sound is there, the instruments are all in place: banjo, mandolin,
fiddle, rhythm guitar, bass, high lead vocals and excellent blending harmonies.
Despite its bits of nostalgia, there are a few subtle ideas to place bluegrass
music firmly into the 21st century. The boys put all the hay in the barn
and give their kind regards to all the bluegrass legends they grew up with on
The Old Radio. In a traditional gospel song they Talk About Suffering:
bluegrass music - at its best - reflects the heart and soul of a people who
have struggled with life's many roads. But besides all the love gone wrong
and breaking hearts with a bluegrass song, there's a lot of fun and a groove
that make you want to tap your foot as you listen, compare their version
of 1970s rock band Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'". My most favourite song,
"The Legend of Jack Huff," has a lovely story: Jack Huff's mother had one
last request before she died. She longed to see one more sunrise from the top
of Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains. Jack sat her in a straight-backed
chair and, with leather straps taken from the back of his horse, lashed the
chair to his back before starting up the steep, rocky 6-mile trail. Not
featured on the disc, the group usually opens or closes a show with the official
theme song for Odom's Tennessee Pride Real Country Sausage, a staple throughout
the Southeast. That's to whet the appetite.
Red Stick Ramblers "Bring it on down"
International; DOT 0208 2003; Playing time: 44.23 min
On the back cover of this CD Linda Ronstadt is cited: "The Red Stick Ramblers
are pure joy. They´re a great band, crafty songwriters and faithful interpreters
of the most authentic Cajun tradition." Well, I agree in most terms, but this
is not an album of traditional Cajun music as you would expect now. The Red
Stick Ramblers bring western swing music to life. There is a very strong influence
of pre war jazz here, and their original What can I do is a real ear catcher,
followed by a swinging dance number, Stay all night. But you also get some Cajun
notes, and that´s no wonder remembering that fiddler Joel Savoy is the son of
Marc and Ann Savoy. The second fiddler, Linzay Young also takes the lead vocals.
Chas Justus on guitar often goes electric, adding to the swing feel of the music,
as do Glenn Fields on drums and Ricky Rees and Eric Frey on bass. Chas´ haunting
Rattle my cage, a ballad in the bluegrass style with the guitarist debuting
on lead vocals is another highlight on the album. Last but not least, Josh Caffery
not only plays the mandolin but also is the most versatile songwriter here.
I´m not very fond of their idea to include a cover of the too often heard Sixteen
tons, but nevertheless this album is a delight for all friends of traditional
Sam Bush & David Grisman "Hold On, We're Strummin'"
Disc; ACD-54; 2003; Playing time: 70.30 min
Everything started when 15-year old David "Dawg"
Grisman met Ralph Rinzler,
musician, folklorist, and promoter of the Newport Folk Festival. Rinzler also
was an expert bluegrass and folk mandolin player. For over three decades now,
David Grisman lead contemporary mandolin music. In 1965 he met 13-year old Sam
Bush at the Roanake Bluegrass Festival and handed him his 1924 Gibson F-5
to pass on the torch (so to speak). That lit a spark literally, and Sam went
on to create the New Grass Revival and challenge traditional bluegrass music.
Now this dream team of mandolin music got together again, and Crusher and Hoss,
their instruments respectively. Their is a wide range of different styles. It
is masterly played, no doubt at all. But I'm not so convinced that it is of
much interest if you are no mandolin afficionado. The album title refers to
"Hold On, I'm Coming" by soul giants Sam
& Dave, which closes the disc.
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