Issue 27 02/2004
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Bill Laswell "charged live"
013; 2002; Playing time: 61.38 min
It's often surprising what kind of cd's I get for review if you think this is
a folk magazine. I had jazz, metal, rock, psychedelic and many other forms of
music that do not fit into the "folk" category, whatever that might be. This cd
by Bill Laswell and others is such a non-folk cd. Together with a few good musicians
and a DJ, Bill recorded a intriguing album full of strong rhythms and easy melodies.
The long tracks have a experimental character in which the instruments do not
always follow a straight melody but are often used to create rhythms or sounds.
I like the way the musicians try to find the limitations of the music and create
a great atmosphere. Only for people who enjoy experimental modern music, if you
are only into folk...
Erin O'Bryan "walk with the saints"
Label: private; 2003; Playing time: 48.46
Erin O'Bryan is a US singer-songwriter who just released her debut cd walk with
the saint. a collection of eleven fine folkrock songs. Being inspired by Joni
Mitchell and Chrissie Hynde she tries to combine her folk side with the power
of a Chrissie Hynde. She wrote the cd inspired by the death of artists like
River Phoenix, Shannon Hoon and Kurt Cobain. She doesn't just want to play nice
music, according to the promosheet she search for the essence of emotion. The
cd has a strong overall sound. Good arrangements and nice vocals and even a
potential hitsound with songs like All I ever wanted. I find her lyrics not
particular strong, a bit cliché at moments. I also get the feeling after halve
of the cd that she is a bit repeating herself. The same beat, same nice open
sound but it doesn't surprise me anymore. I still enjoy the music with a smile
but the songs are to middle of the folk-road to really capture my attention
for the whole cd. Being a very talented musician I think that Erin has the potential
to grow big in the next coming years. This nice debut cd shows some of the directions
she might take in the future, I'm very curious which path she will choose.
Kremlinaires "Soviet swing & bolshevik boogie
from the commissars of cool"
33wm129; 2003; Playing time: 43.27 min
what to think about this cd? According to the promosheet the London fiddler
Chris Haigh discovered some musicians in a Moscow night-club and brought some
musician to the UK promising them fame and fortune and most of all capitalism.
The band exists of seven musicians on instruments such as accordion, piano,
drums, sax, clarinet etc. The overall atmosphere of the cd booklet, the promo
material is that of fun and somehow a band that enjoys playing and wants to
bring happy Russian party music. How different the cd is. The songs are not
more than nice Russian melodies with influences from many cultures that live
in the Russia area. The openingtrack Crem de la crem like most of the other
songs sounds like a piece of music from the 1920's played without any fantasy
except for the voiceover. The first song that comes a bit close to passionated
music is breathless in Budapest. But unfortunately this song is followed by
one of the most terrible tracks Take me back to Belgrade, which is completely
over the top swing-jazz with a totally non-sense text. The funny thing is that
from this song on I started to take the music less serious and somehow the cd
even got funny and enjoyable. I do hope I don't offend any musician by writing
that if you don't take the music to serious and you are able to enjoy the over
the top arrangements and small jokes it actually is a better cd than I thought
after a first impression. But still I don't know if I should recommend the cd,
I think it's best you go to the webpage and see if you like the atmosphere around
the group or go to your cd shop and listen what this band does with your mood.
I thank the Kremlinairs for the way they confused me.
Justin Sullivan "Navigating by the stars"
attack; atk2307.; 2003; Playing time: 57.12 min
Justin Sullivan is known from the band New model army and now released his first
solo album called Navigating by the stars. The cd contains 12 self composed
songs with a big influence of the sea in the lyrics. He gets help from musicians
such as Danny Thompson on bass and Mark Feltham on harmonica. This debut might
be called quite a surprise if you compare it with the music known from the New
model army. No darkness, mostly acoustic and with a great inner peace. The cd
needs time to grow, but gets deeper each time I hear it. The opening of the
cd is Twilight home, which is build up in an overwhelming way. The orchestration,
the way his vocals keep on getting a bit louder during the song are almost hypnotising.
The arrangements of the songs is one of the strong parts of this cd. There isn't
a note at the wrong place and not a note to many. Justin knows to keep his songs
small and put the focus on the vocals. Nice is the Apocalypse dreams which somehow
reminds me of a young Leonard Cohen. Again great orchestration and intense vocals
make this my favourite song of the album. I find it very surprising the way
Justin Sullivan took his own way in music. I can feel that the music means something
to him and he feels bounded with his songs. If you combine such passion with
nice vocals, sober and effective arrangements and good musicians, than I can
only conclude Navigating by the stars is a cd that should be heard by many.
April Verch "from where I stand"
116 617 046-2; 2003; Playing time: 47.12 min
April Verch is a Canadian fiddler who already had great success since quite
some years. She won several awards and recorded her first solo cd in 1992 when
she was only fourteen years old. Now she just released her fourth cd on the
rounder label which contains 14 tunes and for the first time in history, also
some songs which she sings herself. April doesn't just play traditionals but
she also composes herself and I have to say that her compositions are particularity
strong. a tune like the Fraser valley reel could easily have been a traditional.
Her music has a lot of stepdancing influences which can be heard in the rhythms
she uses but she is not afraid to use all kind of musical styles such as Latin
or bluegrass. One of my favourite pieces is Light in the window, the first song
on the album. April has a young, high voice which is a bit unsure at moments.
Especially in the bluegrass song Ill be all smiles tonight I get the feeling
that the vocals are a bit forced, that is funny because I would definitely describe
her voice as a traditional bluegrass one. This is only a small comment on a
very strong album. Don't be afraid that this is for fiddler junks only, she
has a good team of musicians on piano, guitar, sax, percussion and many other
instruments to accompany her so this is a cd for everybody who is into good
acoustic Canadian folk.
Various artists "Musik aus dem odenwald"
2018; 2003; Playing time: 76.00 min
From Odenwald in Germany come a big group of known German bands like Elster
silberflug and Guru guru, a more progressive group. On this cd you will find
recordings from the late seventies which were already issued on lp but now are
reissued on cd with seven bonustracks. The cd contains twenty live recordings
of groups like zeitenwende, who with Ich liebe die liebe made one of the nicest
songs on the cd although I still prefer the more intense version on their lp
Zeitenwende. There is fingerpicking from Paule dusenfinger & seine Heissen dinger,
Bowie and Beatles cover from Turwan and nice folktunes from Marktplatzchen and
so much more. Not all the recordings are of great quality but most songs are
in at least reasonable quality. My favourites are the more seventies German
folksongs like es fuhrt uber den Main by Meischen zirpefein orEmma Myldenberg
by emyl. A nice re-issue of the lp, with some nice songs but at least it gives
a view of what happened in the seventies in Odenwald. and that is something
I always wanted to know!
Pipes strings "suite"
Label: private no webpage on info; 0602; 2003;
Playing time: 59.19 min
Pipes'n strings is a group of twelve musician who play folk music with a strong
Renaissance and classical influence. They recorded traditional songs, many tunes
from John Dowland and original material. Although it's a big group of musicians
the music is kept very small and is sometimes close to the sound of the silence.
Each song/tune is played by only a small part of the musicians. I find the music
very easy to listen to although at occasion a bit to obvious played. For example
the first allemande or the mediterana where the staccato play is a bit annoying
me. Otherwise there is nothing wrong with this cd. A nice change of instruments,
nice vocals and also the original material fit's surprisingly well with the
more ancient tunes. But I have heard this type of music played many times before
and this group is as good as a few of the other renaissance groups I know, and
that is a pity because that also means they do not fit enough new elements to
the music to keep my ear interested for almost one hour.
Jens Hausmann "back on the track"
records; 74339; 1999; Playing time: 71.20 min
The cd Back on the track is already an older work of Jens Hausmann who is a
German singer-songwriter who sings original English material. Just him and his
guitar, mandolin, harmonica, percussion and bass. The cd contains seventeen
songs changing from straight singer-songwriter to songs with blues, light jazz
and Us folk influences. The music is very pure and basic and of a constant nice
quality. But on none of the seventeen songs it gets further than that. Nice
fingerwork, vocals are fine, although I miss the roughness of live in his voice
which would make a song like Times have change much easier to believe. There
is nothing wrong with this back on the track but in my opinion there is to less
to get really above the huge lot of singer songwriter cd's which are published
Waarschuwing voor de scheepvaart "King fethi's
5763 cd269.; 2003; Playing time: 46.12 min
I saw the Dutch band Waarschuwing voor de scheepvaart Storm warning for
the first time last November on the Music meeting festival in Nijmegen. They
were blowing the audience away and brought everybody who was listening in higher
spirits with their blowing horns and beating percussion. The band exists of
seven brass musicians and a percussionist. They play music from every corner
in the world but mostly they are inspired by the Eastern European brass bands
but on the cd you can also find South-African or Scandinavian material. The
problem many of these bands have is that they are fantastic to see live but
when you listen them at home directly live from the cd....it's a bit of a disappointment.
This King fethi's dream is somewhere in the middle of this. The choice of tunes
is very well done so it has a lot of variety to offer. The songs like Romanian
rhapsody are tunes that should be played in a terribly high speed and I find
that the band can't give this the power it needs to convince me. On the other
hand when the band plays music where the accent lays on the melody instead on
the speed they do a very good job. I highly recommend any festival director
to book them, success guaranteed. The cd is absolutely worth listening but has
two faces and when you don't aspect firework like in their shows you will find
the cd very enjoyable.
Strepitz 02 "Suns naturai"
417.; 2002; Playing time: 13.06 min
I got a very intriguing two song cd by the Italian band Strepitz.02. The band
which contains seven musicians on several ancient and modern instruments remind
me of theatre music mixed with traditional elements and a bit of jazz music.
I especially like the second track Da lipa moja niyvyza which has a scary, dark
atmosphere with lot's of surprising twists. I the other music by the group is
as good as these two songs I would buy the whole cd blind. It is creative, both
new and old and forces to listen. I'm so sorry I only got two songs, this asks
Various artists "The oak center general volume
folk records; 6962; 2003; Playing time: 71.75 min
The oak center is a store and folkforum where for the last twenty years have
been given many folk concerts. The Oak center can be found in Minnesota and
is also linked to the new folk records label from which you can find several
reviews in this edition of folkworld. They wanted to make a cd with songs from
the best concerts they had the last twenty years. This first release vol 1 is
the start and if the other volumes are of the same quality I hope they record
many many volumes. The start is already fantastic by John Williams and John
Doyle, absolutely top on accordion and guitar. This strong start is followed
by Kelpie which are Kerstin Blodig and Ian Melrose. Great vocals, beautiful
song which is probably one of my favourites on the cd. Other highlights are
for me personally Salamat and Chuck Suchy. Sure a compilation album always has
a few songs that ain't my style but somehow I like this one. Most of the songs
really should be on this cd. New folk records brought me some new names I would
like to get to know and a few old names from who i already know they were great.
Trio obscure "Tango metropole"
musik; 46; Playing time: 66.15 min
The trio obscure are Mulo Francel on saxophone and clarinet, D.D. Lowka on bass
and Peter Ludwig on piano. On tango metropole they bring sixteen compositions
by Peter Ludwig, all in tango style. I'm surprised by the intimate way the group
plays the tango. It reminds me of a dancehall at the beginning of last century
at the end of the evening. Romantic, relaxing but with so much atmosphere and
good music. They keep the music very close to themselves and use their instruments
in a very minimalistic way. Nothing unnecessary is added to the music, these
compositions are good enough to be played naked and with the soul only. They
don't need tricks to upgrade the listening pleasure, this is pure quality for
anybody who can enjoy the intense soul of midnight tango.
John Wubbenhorst & Facing east "Facing beloved"
east productions; 2003; Playing time: 67.45 min
John Wubbenhorst is an American flute-player who studied eastern music very
deeply. He plays both the western flute and the bansuri, the Indian bamboo-flute,
that is made popular by the Indian master Hariprasad Chaurasia. With his group
Facing East, he fuses Indian classical music with jazz. His group consists two
South-Indian percussionists playing ghatam claypot, very characteristic for
South Indian music and kanjira framedrum that looks and sounds similar to Arabic
frame-drums. The group is completed with a guitarplayer and en bassplayer, who
plays fretless bass in order to produce the typical Indian glissandos. With
fine sensitivity they melt the different traditions together. They start with
a very easy going flute tune, in which the percussionists can explore their
rhythm. It is set in an 8 ½ beat cycle, which is very hard to manage. The second
piece is an alaap played by the bassplayer. alaap means, the introduction to
a raga, with slow, long glissandos. I never heard an alaap played on electric
bass, but it is very convincing. In a long piece they pay tribute to John McLaughlin,
the master of Indian-Jazz crossover. Also in this piece, the bass is used as
melody-instrument, so there is growing a dialogue between the bass and flute.
In the pieces that follows the group is exploring very different paths. Two
pieces, Irish prelude and Irish Raga, are based on Irish folktunes. Just like
Hariprasad Chaurasia is used to do with Indian folksongs, is written in the
booklet. It is great to hear how an Irish tune slowly transforms into a raga.
Another proof of the open musical mind of the musicians is title-track "facing
beloved" in which an excerpt from a J.S.Bach-flute concerto is used as basic
melody for a raga-performance. All the pieces are very well performed, quite
nice to listen to, even if you are not fully into Indian music, and a great
example of how you can blend traditions from all parts of the world.
Harry Payuta "movements"
verlag; 2003; Playing time: 66.12 min
..Movements.. is a the work of sitarplayer Harry Payuta.. He combines sitar,
guitar and keyboard with electronic music. He programmed all the music himself
and plays all the parts. On the cd we can read "The classic Indian instrument
sitar played in western meditation blues and trance-Goa styles for deep relaxation
and dancing." To accomplish this he divided the cd in two parts, one called
"Inner vision" and the other "Dance 'n'Trance". That will sound quite exciting,
but in reality the music is not good enough to inspire for 70 minutes. The first
part sound a bit to weak. It goes on and on, without the real fine touch that
makes the sitar worth listening too. The problem is a lack of technique. Vaguely
listening, it sounds quite well, but in closer perspective, the meendsgliding-technique
are not very impressive. In the faster tracks, part two, the fastness is created
mostly by repeated small phrases over and over. Everything is done in the middle
octave, no long scales up and down the sitar. And because this never will be
compensated by an interesting electronic basic-track, boredom is just around
the corner. Maybe, this cd is suitable for new age-gatherings or restaurants,
but not for admirers of Electro-Indian crossovers.
Tomás Lynch "The Crux of the Catalogue"
Label: Linecheck, LCCD 002; 1993
"Tomás Lynch's 1993 release sees the guest appearances of a few well-known and
respected musicians in the Irish/Folk music scene. Sigh, it's all "connections,
connections" nowadays, isn't it? Ron Kavana, for example, plays slide guitar
and contributes backing vocals, Alan Burke plays Bodhran and provides backing
vocals, while June Tabor does the main vocals on Track 2, "I Wonder What is
Keeping my True Love this Night." One of the better tracks is Track 3, "Rainy
Day/ Sean Smith's Garraí na Saileog." The pieces (reels and a jig) lead into
each other quite well, with Tina Johanson's birimbau, talking drum and floor
tom providing good percussion to the tunes.
Lynch's melodic vocals are exhibited on most of the tracks, especially Track
4, "Óró Sé do Bheatha 'Bhaile", a track which features him on uillean pipes
too. I enjoyed listening to Track 7, "Munster Monsters/ Josie's Clinking/ The
Brit in the Liffey", a set of jigs written by Lynch himself. I did tell you
the man had a good sense of humour!
All in all, it's a good CD. Perhaps, however, it lacks that certain raw intensity
which makes a really outstanding album. The tunes are well arranged and they
flow along merrily, but seldom is there a heart-rousing launch into a jig or
reel that really grabs the listener's attention, or a really impassioned vocal
performance by the man himself. Perhaps Lynch is a better live performer; he
certainly enjoys touring around Europe! For a review of Lynch's performance
in the Temple Bar in the Kultfabrik, Munich on 17th November 2003, click on
the "Reports & Stories" link in this issue of Folkworld.
Seka ["Sister"] Vol. 2 & Vol. 3
Label: Twah! (Tunes with a Heart) - Twah!
115 & 119 respectively
Following the immense success of Seka ["Sister"] Vol.1, the long-awaited Vol.2,
released in 2000, was extremely well-received by fans and new listeners alike.
Vol. 2 features a palatable selection of rare versions and live performances,
by a diverse range of international Irish/folk/country/rock artists from Tom
Waits and Mary Chapin Carpenter to Black 47 and Great Big Sea. The total running
time of 78:03 mins also gives you your money's worth! Some personal favourites
on the album include Tom Waits growly "Georgia Lee", TV Smith's "Expensive Being
Poor", Steve Knightley's acoustic version of "Track of Words", Chuck Prophet's
exclusive version of "February Morning", Great Big Sea's "Ordinary Day" and
"Loudon Wainwright III's beautifully rendered "Pretty Good Day", conveys an
irony about war and devastation, a theme most fitting to the collection.
Volume 3, released this year to widespread acclaim, is proof that the Seka project
is still alive and kicking. This third compilation features tracks from The
Men They Couldn't Hang, Andy White, and even The Popes (of Shane MacGowan fame).
In collaboration with music label Twah!, SEKA have once again produced a third
excellent compilation of folk-pop/rock tunes guaranteed to appeal to the ear
as well as the heart. Outstanding amongst the 19 tracks are Caitlin Cary's catchy
"Shallow Heart, Shallow Water" (Track 2) and Maria Solheim's "The Man Who Left
his Past" (Track 7), a quietly beautiful ballad about a man who is scarred by
the effects of war. The inclusion of Naked Raven's live version of "Anything"
is also an excellent choice.
SEKA (the affectionate Serbo-Croatian term for "Sister") began as a project
in July 1997 and provides a shelter for traumatised women and children living
in the war zones of former Yugoslavia on the Adriatic island Brac (Croatia).
The centre provides a place where women and children of all ethnic and religious
groups can meet and gather in an atmosphere of respect, openness and mutual
understanding. SEKA has been partially funded by the European Commission from
1997 to April 1999, and unfortunately the project's financial situation reached
a critical stage in 2003. At present it is relying on donations, hence 0,50
Euro of every CD sold of the first 5000 copies, and every 1,00 Euro per CD sold
thereafter, will be donated to SEKA.
For more information on SEKA, and their project, please visit the official webpage:
www.seka-hh.de. Donations are welcome and
much appreciated; help a good cause if you can! Twah! has a homepage which can
be found at www.twah.com. It's a good website
with recommended musical releases- check it out!
"Streets of Salvation" - Patchwork
Records - PRP009
"Maybe Salvation Starts Here" - EP
Patchwork Records - PRP008
"Loboville" - Patchwork Records
"The Mainstreet Sword" - Patchwork
Records - TGW 9603
Well, I have saved the best for last! If you have not heard of the Greenland
Whalefishers, or are sceptical of a folk-rock band who hail from Bergen, Norway,
and whose influences include The Pogues, the Waterboys and the Dubliners, I
dare you to listen to these albums and not dig your ears in disbelief thereafter.
Not just because the lead singer, Arvid Grov, sounds so much like Shane MacGowan
that the resemblance is seriously freaky. Past reviews of GWF and their music
have remarked on the striking resemblance, but I doubt if Mr. Paddy Rolling
Stone himself has met his doppelganger. Well, he bloody well should.
Greenland Whalefishers (the name, in case you were wondering, comes from a track
on the Pogues' album Red Roses For Me, titled "Greenland Whale Fisheries") comprise
of Arvid Grov (lead vocals), Gunnar "Two Sheds" Grov (mandolin, banjo and bouzouki),
Trond Olsen (guitar), Terje Schumann Olsen (bass), Agnes Skollevoll (yes, the
lone female Ranger who brandishes her lethal weapon, the tin-whistle), Odin
Døssland (fiddle), Kristian Malmo (fiddle) and Ørjan Eikeland Risan (drums).
They are no newcomers to the scene either, and the first line-up of GWF back
in 1994 comprised of Arvid, Gunnar, Trond, Agnes, Kjellaug Borten and Bjørn
Helgesen. The latter two are no longer in the present line-up; Bjørn left because
he didn't like all the travelling the band was doing (yes, these guys are seriously
hardworking!) 1995 saw the phenomenon otherwise known as "The Year of the Irish
Pub"; loads of pubs sprang up overnight all across Norway, and as the Guinness
flowed, so did the demand for live Irish music, and the GWF found themselves
in great demand. This led to the decision to release a full-length CD, Mainstreet
Sword, which was finally completed in 1997. 2000 and 2001 were great years for
the band, with a UK tour and the release of their second full-length album "Loboville"
in October 2001. As the band put it, the future seemed so bright they had to
And what to make of the music itself? Well, let me put it this way. Do you remember
the "Pepsi Challenge" that the softdrink company organised as part of marketing
campaign a few years back, whereby innocent passersby were stopped dead in their
tracks and kindly asked to participate in a survey, whereby, blindfolded, they
had to guess which of two cups contained Pepsi Cola? The other, of course, was
a "bitter cup" of Coca Cola. Apparently more than 50% of the people got it wrong.
Well, it would certainly be interesting to apply that test here! Simply take
one The Pogues' CDs (personally I would recommend Red Roses For Me) and one
from Greenland Whalefishers, put them on, turn the volume up, and I bet every
penny I have, that 90% of listeners will ask of the GWF song, "Is that a rare/
unreleased track that Shane Macgowan recorded?" The resemblance is stunning,
there's no denying it. Complete with growls, snarls, and heartfelt vocals on
ballads. Even better, Arvid still has all his teeth intact!
I am seriously impressed by this band. In the past there have been too many
Pogues-wannabies (and I won't name any names here!) but, in my humble opinion,
they have all failed dismally. Here is a band, however, who not only have genuine
musical talent, but also have admirable song-writing skills. The tunes are excellent,
from the rollicking, frenzied jigs, reels and hornpipes to the slower, moving
ballads. The lyrics are intelligent and well-penned. Best of all, GWF actually
write all their songs themselves- no mean feat! My all-time favourite GWF tracks
have got to be: "The Thirsty Cave" (Track 8 on Loboville), "I am Roving" (serious
competition with the Pogues here!) and "The Clown" (Tracks 1 & 4 on The Mainstreet
Sword) and "Acid in N.Y." (Track 3 on Maybe the Salvation Starts Here E.P.)
And now for a review of their latest CD, "Streets of Salvation", released earlier
this month. Well, it's a rather mixed album, containing both rollicking rock
n' roll paddy type tunes (try "Limp Joe's Story", "The Night Rick Holder Died",
"The Party's Over" and "The Escape", the latter two being my favourite tracks
on the album) and slower ballads such as "Lost in Paradise" (Track 4.) The last
track, "For Bitter & Whiskey" sounds a bit like one of those football chants
("Three lions on a shirt…") Also on the album is a version of "Fields of Athenry"
and "The Great Exercise Day/ The Day After". Don't be fooled by the slow-beginning
of the latter; the tune erupts mid-song into the frenzied playing and singing
characteristic of GWF. All in all, "Streets of Salvation" is a good album; it
reflects all the hard work put into the making of it, as well as a good-natured
experimentation with the fusing of different tunes and styles. I think my favourite
GWF album is still "The Mainstreet Sword"- it's simply fantastic!- but their
latest album should be a must for any GWF fan or folk junkie.
I want to watch this band live. Even if it means traveling to the Prague for
their Paddy's Day gig next year, for something tells me it's one gig not to
be missed. Need I say more? Keep up the excellent work guys!
Check out the Greenland Whalefishers website and leave them a nice message in
their guestbook! www.g-w-f.com.
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