Issue 29 09/2004
FolkWorld CD Reviews (5)
Swåp, photo by The Mollis
Patricia Daly "The Rolling Wave"
Label: Own label; 2004; Playing time: 44:34
The Northern Irish County Armagh has a rich musical history. Armagh-born Edward
Bunting (1773-1843) wrote down the music of the Irish harpers at the 1792
Belfast Harp Festival. Back then it was a dying tradition, the harpers no longer
being employed at the courts of the Irish aristocracy. In the 19th century the
piano was more fashionable, while the Celtic harp made way to the pedal harp.
Meanwhile the Irish harp has been revived and the instrument is no longer restricted
to the performance of Irish airs but dance music as well (-> FW#1).
Armagh's Patricia Daly, All-Ireland
champion harper, singer, teacher and researcher, has been performing since the
1970s when she became a member of the Armagh
Pipers Club (see review below). In 1996 Patricia helped establish the Armagh
Harper's Association. It was one of her students that was asked to play at
Queens University Belfast during Dr. Colette Moloney's (-> T:-)M's
Night Shift) launch of "The Irish Music Manuscripts of Edward Bunting". In
2003 Patricia was instrumental in running the seven month long Edward Bunting
Irish Harp Festival. "The Rolling Wave" features traditional dance tunes, the
Carolan airs "Lady Dillon" and "Loftus Jones" (-> FW#20),
and recently composed tunes by Charlie Lennon, Mary O'Neill and Matt Seattle (->
FW#13). Patricia's performance is often
crossing the line that most harpers are confined to, and her playing is rolling
like the waves in the album title. Her own slow air "The Magic of the White Swans"
fits well into the tradition. She also renders some local songs, partly unaccompanied.
"Gosford's Fair Demesne" is a love song from around 1800 passed on in her husband's
family; "The Road to Clady", "The Montains of Pomeroy" (-> FW#13)
and "Lough Erne Shore" are quite better known.
Patricia Daly is also the author of the "Irish Harp and Song Book". Please expect
a review in the next FW issue.
Distribution: Ossian, IrishMusicMail
Maeve Donnelly & Peadar O'Loughlin "The Thing
CCF 36CD; 2004; Playing time: 42:32 min
Claddagh Records has been crucial in recording unique talents in Irish traditional
music since 1959. The company still continues to release first-rate musicians
(-> FW#6, FW#27),
and such is "The Thing Itself". Flutist Peadar O'Loughlin (-> FW#24)
is a pillar in traditional Irish music since the late 1940s. He has been a member
of both the Tulla and Kilfenora Céilí Bands, but lasting reputation is made
by his contribution to the famed vinyl with Paddy
Canny, P.J. Hayes and Bridie Lafferty in 1959, one of the first LPs of traditional
music and the very first featuring the lonesome sound of the area. Fiddler
Maeve Donnelly (-> FW#24)
earned three All-Ireland fiddle titles in the early 1970s. In 1976, she was
the youngest of 25 Irish musicians invited to perform at the US-American Bicentennial
celebrations, followed by recording "Sailing into Walpole's Marsh" with Maighread
Ní Dhomhnaill, Seán Corcoran and Eddie Clarke. Later on Maeve was a founding
member of the Ennis-based group Moving Cloud. When two generations of musicians
meet, the tradition is passed on, so to speak. Literally, you can listen to
the passing and flowing of the music on this record and the magic and fun it
sparks - though it happens to be two performers in their prime. The performance
styles don't clash against each other, but generate the whole that is more than
the sum of its parts. Geraldine Cotter
is backing on the piano with a plain, understated style, while Ronan
Browne (-> FW#21) is joining them
with flute and tin whistle on a couple of tunes. As they say, there's nothing
more like the thing than the thing itself.
Miranda Sykes "Don't Look Down"
IRR052; 2004; Playing time: 44:31 min
Patrick Süskind, a German novelist and playwright familiar to an international
audience on the grounds of his novel Perfume, once wrote a one-man play titled
The Double-Bass Player. In it he presents a hilarious psychogramme of the joys
and woes a double-bass player is provided with in the course of his career by
his cumbersome musical instrument. The double bass proves a delight and a burden
at the same time, the latter particularly because it relegates his master to
the ultimate "back-bench" position in any symphonic orchestra. If this is true
for a classical bassist, it does not in the least apply to the up-and-coming
English musician Miranda Sykes. A singer and guitarist and a double-bass player,
Sykes has lately earned a reputation for her outstanding musical craftsmanship.
Having worked before, among others, with Phil Beer [-> FW#19,
FW#28], Kirsty McGee [-> FW#24]
and Bill Jones [-> FW#23, FW#25,
FW#26] as well as being in great demand
as a session musician, Sykes has now produced a solo album, Don't Look Down,
released on Robb Johnson's [-> FW#25,
FW#27] Irregular Records in the spring
As her label's press release points out, this gifted Englishwoman has indeed
chosen "a fine selection of material representing the best of the ongoing folk
tradition". It includes interpretations of "This Rhythm is Mine" and "Barbara"
as well as her own version of sixteenth-century lyricist Christopher Marlowe's
pastoral poem "Come Live With Me and Be My Love". Moreover, she is also paying
tribute to her family's musical tradition, recording a song each out of her
mother's and her father's pen, "The Wild Goose Man" and "The Lincolnshire Song",
the latter of which paints a picture of her home county.
Don't Look Down clearly reinforces Syke's position as both an innovative bass
player and a singer who is seldom afraid to test her voice's strength and range.
Signs from her solo debut are that Miranda Sykes won't be a mere back-bencher
in the House of Trad Musicians for a long time. Far from it!
Maranna McCloskey "Fraser Island"
Label: Own label; Playing time: 17:13 min
While still beavering away at her new full-length album, Derry singer Maranna
MacCloskey is already wetting our appetite by releasing a four-track EP
titled Fraser Island. The title track tells the mythical story of Fraser Island,
off the Australian coast, where once upon a time a young maiden fell in love
with the rainbow, only to find that its earthly rival, who had an enchanted
boomerang at his disposal, knew sufficient magic to... MacCloskey, who already
earned the Vocal-Cut of the Year Award in the latest Live-Ireland competition
(after being voted new Artist of the Year in 2003, to be sure), supplements
three additional songs: the traditional "The Bonny Light Horseman", once made
popular through Planxty's album After the Break; her own all-time sing-song
favourite, "Caledonia", written by Dougie MacLean, and B. Caddick's "John O'Dreams",
based on a theme by Tchaikovsky. Thus, after singing with the trad groups Óige
and Murrough, MacCloskey is now evidently embarking on a solo career, and her
latest record is easily apt to convince the folk community of her stunning talent
and proficiency as a vocalist. So watch out for the forthcoming album of this
"miraculous alto" (Live Ireland) -- you will definitely not regret it.
Aranmore "Bygone Days"
Label: Whippersnapper; WPSCD008; 2002; Playing
time: 45:58 min
Aranmore is the name of
the latest folk-music project of the English violin and viola player Michael
Burnham. A graduate of Birmingham Conservatoire and Trinity College of Music,
London, Burnham has been on the scene for over three decades, playing classical
music with the New English Orchestra as well as setting up his own folk groups,
such as Time & Again and Smiddyburn. To form Aranmore he joined with Meg Lawrie,
a pianist, violinst and acclaimed ballad singer of Irish descent. On their first
album, Bygone Days, the duo celebrate the richness of Irish folk music, both
vocal and instrumental. Their material is predominantly traditional, and there's
evidently method in that, for the whole album presents itself as a homage to
"bygone days." As Burnham points out himself, it was essentially inspired by
Lawrie's grandfather, Michael Cullen, a typical village fiddler in County Roscommon
in the first half of the bygone century, who spent his time serving the community
on his instrument, playing for ceilidhs, weddings and other social gatherings.
-- Notwithstanding this deep-rooted family tradition, however, Aranmore's music
bears unmistakable testimony to the professional training of the two members.
Accordingly, the duo combine the earthiness of the jig, reel and ballad with
the warmth and harmony of classical music. In the end, Bygone Days may not be
the liveliest record under this summer's sun, but with the proficiency of its
creators as well as the acoustic and electric piano accompaniment throughout,
it definitely stands out as something special.
Sperris & Wicca "Falling up the Sky"
Label: Own label; 2004; Playing time: 61:17
Despite its Afro-American origin, jazz music has given birth to countless outstanding
musicians all around the globe. Correspondingly, it's small wonder that what's
commonly known as "trad" music has done likewise, regardless of the grumble
of some hard-core "purist" fraction. Yet, here's a duo playing Celtic-style
music whose latest album lives up to the most devout purists' expectations,
even though its creators are fundamentally non-Celtic in terms of ethnicity.
Sperris & Wicca [-> FW#19,
FW#22], who borrowed their name from
two tiny Cornish iron-age settlements, are in real life Sabine Hillen (voc)
and Ralf Schomacher (g, voc) and are based in the picturesque Westphalian cathedral
and university town of Münster in Northern Germany. In recent years, they have
played concerts with Fairport Convention [-> FW#2,
The Albion Band and even Andy Irvine [-> FW#23],
appearing in Westphalia as well as Yorkshire, London, and Cornwall, obviously.
Consequently, their reputation has started to spread, so that Hillen has even
turned into a sought-after teacher of vocal-workshop courses like the one she
recently taught at Dartmoor.
Sperris & Wicca have just released their third full-length album, Falling up
the Sky, which is doing further honour to their name. The record features the
duo on no less than 16 tracks, most of which the two wrote and arranged themselves,
and which are only very cautiously spiced with trad standards such as "Ye Jacobites"
and "She Moved Through the Fair." The album possesses a distinctive, homogenous
style throughout, characterised essentially by Schomacher's original guitar-picking
technique and Hillen's impressive alto voice, which blends in congenially with
her partner's accompaniment. Besides the acoustic guitar, instrumentation remains
sparse on the album, with just the odd mandolin, cello or bagpipe chiming in
with the duo. However, here is clearly a case of "less is more", for apparently
it takes no more than a guitar and a pair of voices to create an atmosphere
that is as tight as it is evocative (as we have known since the classic works
of Simon & Garfunkel). Sperris & Wicca's 1999 debut album was widely considered
a "must buy" by critics. In my view, Falling up the Sky can clearly keep up!
McDermott's 2 Hours v Levellers "Disorder"
Label: Hag Records; LP/HAG011; 2004; Playing
time: 59:18 min
Part III of the revived McDermott's 2 Hours (-> FW#20,
FW#26). That means singer/songwriter/guitarist
Nick Burbridge, lead guitar player
Matt Goorney of the first McDermott incarnation and - new addition on board
- fiddler Ben Paley, plus Levellers'
bass player Jeremy Cunningham and drummer Charlie Heather (-> FW#18,
FW#26). This time Nick Burbridge's contemporary
Celtic folk and folk rock from England's pastures isn't always that straight-forward
compared to the previous albums. There is a bit of experimenting, it is more
sophisticated. Nick is rapping and ranting himself away, he is even singing
in French. With that unique voice that keeps me fascinating. McDermott's social
and political slant is still there: I sing of the green blade rising, a new
dawn of brotherhood. Lord and governor falter, boundaries break apart, and the
iron rod of the master melts in the forge of the rebel heart. Nowadays it
is the anti-globalization protests, when they are marching side by side against
the law of the obscene, empire of the wallet and the rule of the machine.
Another song on (London)Derry's Bloody Sunday of 1972 is the link to the band's
early days and its Northern Irish themed songs. With time and repeated listening
"Disorder" succeeds. However, if you are not familiar with McDermott's 2 Hours
yet, you better try the previous albums "World Turned Upside Down" (-> FW#20)
and "Claws and Wings" (-> FW#26). But
Alambic "Tournée générale"
Label: Chapeau de Peille; CP83150; 2004; Playing
time: 60:54 min
Tourist industry says that Besançon in eastern France is remarkable
for the richness and diversity of its cultural life. The town is abundantly
blessed with cultural centres (museums, exhibition rooms, theatres, etc.). It
is the setting for numerous events of national and international standing.
The birth place of writer Victor Hugo, the brothers Lumière who invented cinematography,
and Claude Goudimel who taught Palestrina, may add the acoustic outfit Alambic
to its cropped up seeds. Musiques pour bal folks et concerts, et autres occasions
de fétes, featuring Jean-Pierre Aufort (fiddle, mandolin), Julien
Coupey (flute), Rémy Masse (guitar), Vladimir Torres (double bass) and
percussionist and (Irish-style) bouzouki player Lionel Tessier. The group is
inspired by the rhythms and traditional dances of Britanny, the Auvergne and
Central France. The quintet plays entirely original music, in scottish, valse,
polka, bourrée, mazurka, an dro time. But it isn't a tour de france
but rather a tournée générale, mixing influences
from eastern Europe and the Celtic fringe (Ireland) as well as jazz and rock
music alike. In one moment you get the impression walking along the Atlantic
coast, in the very next joining a Gypsy party on the Balkan. I praised some
French bands to high heaven before (-> FW#27),
and here I am inclined to do the same. It's infectious.
Tore Bruvoll & Jon Anders Halvorsen "Nattsang"
HCD 7194; 2004; Playing time: 48:36 min
Way back in 1886 one Sondre Norheim from Morgedal invented skiing in Telemark
style. Long being neglected, the Telemark is regaining popularity, and such
is the the folklore, culture and music of the equally named area in southern
Norway. One of it's figureheads is the duo Bruvoll
& Halvorsen (-> FW#26). Jon Anders
Halvorsen is a young traditional singer who specialises in songs from his native
area. Some of them Jon Anders has learned directly from older singers, others
have been collected in the 19th and 20th centuries, partly even medieval ballads.
Jon Anders was awarded the prize for best vocal performer at the 2002 Landskappleiken,
Norway's most important competition for folk music, and his performance has
been dubbed magical overtones from Norway somewhere. These songs with
their haunting and frequently melancholical tunes sometimes remind me of Irish
airs, but the connection between Scandinavia and the British Islands has been
demonstrated before, e.g. in the "Skippar Valivan" song (-> FW#21).
The lyrics are printed in the CD booklet and explained in English for all those
that aren't able to understand the Norwegian language. But you don't have to
understand it at all, just listen by heart. Tore Bruvoll's warm and restrained
guitar backing is at the same time true to the traditional singing style and
brings Jon Anders' performance into the modern era. The raw and simple energy
of vocals and guitar is spiced up with trumpet, viola and percussion at times.
Personally I feel it wouldn't have been necessary. Live in concert you get only
vocals and guitar, and that's even better. But - with or without - it's an important
record, and it's magic.
Tim Eriksen "Every Sound Below"
APR CD 1080; 2004; Playing time: 44:17 min
Remember the haunting "O Death" and "Lonesome Valley" in the "O Brother Where
Art Thou" movie (-> FW#23)? Likewise Tim
Eriksen's vocals and songs send shivers down my spine. The Massachusetts
musician is an expert in Anglo-American balladry. He fronted Cordelia's
Dad (-> FW#6) as the support act who
opened accapella at Nirvana shows,
and helped release two volumes of the archival recordings of American songs
collected by Frank and Anne Warner at the East coast between 1940 and 1966 that
helped trigger the folk revival. Several songs are drawn from it. Tim arranged
the historic sacred harp/shape note singing style featured in the "Cold
Mountain" blockbuster. He had been the offscreen singing voice for Brendan Gleeson
and had to conduct Nicole Kidman, Jude Law and 50 Romanian extras (where the
movie was shot). "Every Sound Below" is a microcosmic view of pre-20th century
life and its 21st century resonance. 10 traditional American ballads and
4 originals - 18th and 19th century New England murder ballads, Civil War songs,
hymns - display just Tim Eriksen's voice, guitar, fiddle and clawhammer banjo.
Even the self-penned and more contemporary tracks sound as soaked with history
and relevance as the ones Tim uncovered from previous centuries. Outstanding!
The Crooked Jades "Seven Sisters: A Kentucky
Creek; CCCD-0204; 2001; Playing time: 57:39 min
The Crooked Jades "The Unfortunate Rake Vol.
Creek; CCCD-0203; 2001; Playing time: 56:42 min
The Crooked Jades "The Unfortunate Rake Vol.
Creek; CCCD-2005; 2003; Playing time: 67:09 min
The Crooked Jades from San Francisco
have been founded in 1994 to fulfill Jeff Kazor's vision and mission
to revive the dark and haunting sounds of old-time music before the influence
of radio (1880s to 1930s). And Jeff and the Jades found their home on the
extraordinary Copper Creek label (-> FW#23).
But while at the same time respecting the tradition, the Crooked Jades make
the music their own and are far from becoming antiquated. The musical spectrum
stretches from haunting ballads to vigorous dance tunes, merging early string
band styles, country and bluegrass music. Characteristically, those happy-go-lucky
tunes combined with grief-stricken lyrics. The traditional material is sometimes
obscure, and you should be able to make some discoveries. There is a bluegrass
version of Elvis's "Mystery Train" and also traditionally-inspired original
pieces. "Seven Sisters" in particular is the sound track to the equally named
documentary film which chronicles the lives of seven sisters from the depression
to the post-war boom, from their small cabin up in the Appalachian Mountains
down to the city of Lexington below. The Crooked Jades, featuring Jeff Kazor
(guitar), Lisa Berman (dobro, banjo), Tom Lucas (fiddle, banjo), Stephanie Prausnitz
(fiddle), and David Bamberger (double bass), are no unfortunate rakes, but born
under a lucky star. At least we listeners are with these three gorgeous records;
a must-have for bluegrass and old-time freaks.
Copper Creek Records
John Reischmann & The Jaybirds "Field Guide"
Creek; CCD-0221; 2003; Playing time: 50:34 min
John Reischmann is a smart mandolin
player from Vancouver, British Columbia. He is probably best known performing
with the Tony Rice Unit and the Good
Ol'Persons (alongside Kathy Kallick,
see CD review). This time John Reischmann assembled a mixed bag of ornithologists
from the Canadian West Coast, featuring Nick Hornbuckle (banjo), Greg Spaz (fiddle),
Trisha Gagnon (bass) and Jim Nunally (guitar). John Reischmann & The Jaybirds'
"Field Guide" is a band's recording, no mandolin special (-> FW#27).
The bluegrass and old-time tunes are rather unusual, so are the versions sometimes.
The opener "Lonesome Dove", for example, is nothing else than the good ol' "Shady
Grove". Half of the tracks is original anyway. Seeing a jaybird in your dream
signifies pleasant labour, they say, rotating this field guide in your CD player
is a lasting pleasure.
Copper Creek Records
Eliza Gilkyson "Land of Milk and Honey"
House; RHR CD 174; 2004; Playing time: 45:06 min
Johnny Cash (-> T:-)M's
Night Shift) once said, the only good thing that ever came from a war
is a song and that's a hell of a way to have to get your songs. Folk singer/songwriter
Eliza Gilkyson got a lot of those
songs following that devilish trail. Her father before has been a successful
songwriter, with recordings by the Kingston
Trio, Harry Belafonte,
Dean Martin, and music for
Disney movies such as "The Aristocats" and "The Jungle Book". Unlike his daughter,
Terry Gilkyson (1916-99) avoided
political controversy. Eliza's "Bare Necessities" is the "Land of Milk and Honey".
Rather ironically, touring in her van, dubbed El Presidente, she is aware
of the discrepancy between the unsettling reality of life on earth and the
promised land. Her comment on the Iraq war is: the white god said to
the little man "we're gonna fulfill scripture in the Holy Land, between the
Tigris and Euphrates it's a lot like hell, go on and liberate my people and
their o-i-l". But apart from any social and political consciousness, Eliza
is blessed with a terrific voice. With a bunch of Austin musicians, she creates
eight awesome original folk and country songs and two covers. One is the previously
unrecorded Woody Guthrie song "Peace
Call", featuring singers Patty Griffin,
Mary Chapin Carpenter and
Iris DeMent. Music for a generation
that won't stand idly by while its vision for improving the quality of life
on earth seems ever clouded by a dust-storm of politics, power, greed and global
Red House Records
David Rovics "Songs for Mahmud"
Reviled; ER0007-2; 2004; Playing time: 64:22 min
David Rovics (-> FW#23,
is writing songs without getting tired, and here's another 21 songs of dissent
and protest. After the group sound on the 2003 release "Return" he went back
to the solo acoustic thing, recorded one evening in March in Houston, Texas.
Most songs have been written since David's last album. Again he advises to speak
your mind in the American Way, about the political pundits and corporate
crooks, their accountants and scientists. "Moron" is an ode to G.W., and
David comments: Others say he's a sociopath rather than a moron. I disagree.
I firmly believe he is, in fact, both. David cries out: Maybe you voted
for him 'cause you like to shoot your gun, or perhaps you own an oil company
and you're happy that he won. There's a "Song for the School of Americas"
(part 2), the Korean War is revisited and the "Battle of Blair Mountain" about
the West Virginia coal mine war of 1921. "Here At the End of the World" shows
David's interest in the decline of post-industrial US cities, but his main interest
is in the situation in the middle east: the "Song the Songbird Sings" has been
written in memory of Mahmud al-Qayyed, age 10, killed by Israeli occupation
forces for the crime of catching songbirds in the Gaza Strip. "Operation
Iraqi Liberation" ridicules the original code name for invading the Iraq, which
was later changed to "Operation Iraqi Freedom": Tell me, what does that spell:
Operation Iraqi Liberation, O – I – L. Thus "Songs for Mahmud" almost becomes
the alternative sound track to Michael
Moore's 9/11 documentary. I've seen you in the markets, I've seen you
in the streets, and at your political convention, talking of your crusade, talking
of your nation, and other things too terrible to mention. And you proclaim your
Christianity, you proclaim your love of God you talk of apple pie and mom. Well
I've just got one question and I want an answer: Tell me, who would Jesus bomb?
Ever Reviled Records
The Racketeers "Exit Hellsville"
Label: Spellbound; SPCD 05; 2004; Playing
time: 44:08 min
Americana from Dublin. And it ain't Dublin in the state of Ohio, but Dublin,
Ireland. There has always been a deep affection to country & western music by
the Irish, but this is alternative country. The
Racketeers, centred around singer/guitarist Eamonn Dowd, took to country
rock and rock'n'roll with tinges of both Neil
Young and Steve Earle. Kind of psycho
ceili in Claremorris, as Ron Kavana's (-> FW#6)
song has it (Eamonn is from Claremorris, Co. Mayo), but it ain't a ceili. Brian
O'Toole on bass guitar and drummer Chris Teusner follow Eamonn Dowd's cracked
vocals and dark lyrics on their way down into hell. Considering the trio
is from Europe, they do it better than well (see also -> FW#25)
and can compete with their musical brethren on the other side of the Atlantic.
In fact, it's much better than a lot of the trash from across the western ocean.
Janet Holmes "The Road to the West"
Square; MSM CD129; 2004; Playing time: 47:23 min
Belfast has soul. Only recall Van
Morrison (German speaking readers should also have a look at T:-)M's
Nachtwache) and his odd theory that blues and soul music originally came
from Scotland and Ireland. It may sound rather funny, but there are artists
that make you almost believe this: Janet
Holmes performed with a heavy-rock gospel group throughout the '80s and
a band fusing traditional Irish music with bluegrass and jazz in the 90s. When
Colin Harper, biographer of Bert Jansch,
organised a tribute album to his hero, Janet was featured. Her rendition of
"People on the Highway" from Pentangle's 1972 "Solomon's Seal" album, led directly
to her solo debut "The Road to the West" and to form the "Hillbilly
Soul Foundation" to sound like wistful hillbilly music played by The
Who. We had the celtification of classic soul songs before (-> FW#24,
FW#25), but whereas Celtic and soul
music stood rather unrelated side by side on the latter, Janet Holmes and her
collaborators move trouble-free from traditional and folk music to country,
soul and rock music. Besides Janet's own and her band members Colin Harper and
Colin Henry compositions, "The Road to the West" features covers from Paul
Carrack, Bert Jansch, Lyle
Woods, and a bluegras treatment of The
Smiths. Further help comes from Martin
Hayes (fiddle), Ireland's only Woodstock veteran Henry
McCullough (mandolin, acoustic guitar), and electric guitar aces Colin
Reid and Barry Bynum.
Market Square Records
Kevin Bowe and the Okemah Prophets "Angels
on the Freeway"
255 043; 2003; Spielzeit: 54:47 min
Minneapolis based songwriter Kevin Bowe
is stuck between the angels on the freeway and the crosses on the
road. His songs have been recorded by Leo
Kottke (featured here is "Lonesome Angel" co-written with Leo), Etta
James, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and John
Mayall. Exchanging the songwriting with the performing part, he gathered
a band for a showcase and subsequently to record his songs himself. Kevin's
main influences are Steve Earle, the
Replacements and the Byrds,
and so is his own brand of roots rock leading from country music to rock'n'roll.
Half the album is about damage, says Kevin, the other half is about
what comes after the damage. Why Okemah Prophets? Okemah in Oklahoma is
where Woody Guthrie is born: He
describes this town crazy who used to sit in the town square and proselytize
and preach, only it was just nonsense and people called him The Okemah Prophet.
"Angels on the Freeway" is an album that apes a classic old movie or book,
devoid of gory deaths, sex or car chases it instead offers story development
and a feel good factor that will appear more to those who rate Casablanca as
the best movie ever made than to those who prefer Pulp Fiction. Thirteen
brilliant songs; in a perfect world he could make it on his own terms. Blame
the record industry!
Mary Lou Lord "Baby Blue"
VJCD147; 2004; Playing time: 44:28 min
Mary Lou Lord from Salem, Massachusetts,
made her first musical steps busking on London and Boston streets. She soon
became a figure in the local folk circuit. Relocating to Seattle, Mary went
on being the muse for both the late Kurt
Cobain and Elliot Smith, at the
same time creating her own blend of folk and indie rock in tune with her model
Shawn Colvin. Last summer Mary went
over to England to collaborate with Nick Saloman of psychedelic rock group The
Bevis Frond. Typically a busker, Mary is rather interpreting covers than
her original songs. Most of the songs have been written by Nick Saloman. He
is one of the best songwriters I know, says Mary, I always browse through
his DATs with unpublished songs. Other covers include the successful adaptations
of Pink Floyd's "Fearless"
"Baby Blue", two of her favourite songs. The only self-penned song is "Long
Way From Tupelo" which displays Mary Lou's songwriting talents, but she couldn't
reach the decision to put too much own stuff on the record. Probably because
they are too personal and too gloomy. I didn't want my daughter Annabelle listen
to these songs and think "what did mum come up with?" So Mary Lou Lord whispers
through an attractive set of folksy acoustic numbers and alt-country music,
from soft to psychedelic rock. It ain't all over now, Baby Blue, it only started.
The Choosy Beggars "The Choosy Beggars"
Label: Own label; 2003; Playing time: 54:19
I recently read in a newspaper that Rolling Stones guitarist Keith
Richards should be already dead for about eight years, at least according
to scientific knowledge for his life-long alcohol and drug consumption. Now
what the hell I'm talking about? Well, not about those weathered Stones' faces
but young guns from Asheville, North Carolina. Imagine vocalist and songwriter
Bryan Cates singing somewhere inbetween of Mick and Keith and imagine furthermore
a mixed bag of garage soul songs that fit on any Stones album 60's/70's
style. Then you get The Choosy Beggars,
though you would file the CD under what is nowadays called alternative country.
And contrary to most Stones records that have two or three hits and much trash,
this here is fine from beginning to end. If I had to choose... no beggar's banquet.
Wunderkammer "Today I Cannot Hear Music"
2002; Playing time: 49:03 min
I always thought that Finnish musicians are crazy. Obviously the virus jumped
the species barrier and get as far as Norway. Vocalist Pål Jackman founded Wunderkammer
(i.e. wonder chamber) somewhere in the mid-1990s. He then asked gipsy-violinist
Gjertrud Økland, jazz double-bass player Per Zanussi, drummer Børge Fjordheim
and accordionist Johan Egdetveit to join in for a mixture of Anglo-American
pop/rock and European gipsy/klezmer/oom-pah/circus, and a dash of punk attitude.
Cellist Tanja Orning joined the group and Øyvind Storesund stepped in when Zanussi
moved on playing the musical saw. Some tracks on this album also feature trumpet
player Arve Henriksen. "Today I Cannot Hear Music" is alternating between Balkan-style
dance tunes and 1960's psychedelic rock, sometimes both in one track (our German
readers might recall the vocals of Hans-Eckhardt Wenzel -> FW#15,
Dylan Thomas, Edgar
Allan Poe and Czech underground poet Egon Bondy are some of the authors
of the poem-become-songs on "Today I Cannot Hear Music". For Wunderkammer anything
goes as long as it means a clash between various genres. Crazy but fab.
The CD package is lovely. The cover artwork by Vegard Hoel has been designed
in a way that enables you to choose title and front picture.
The Saw Doctors "Live in Galway"
SAWDOC010CD; 2004; Playing time: 72:36 min
The Saw Doctors "Live in Galway" [DVD Video]
SAWDVD01; 2004; Playing time: ca. 130 min
I rarely hear pop music these days. What for? Too much crap and much too time
consuming to find the few needles in the haystack! Therefore I was a little
bit surprised, way back in 2000, to find a small parcel in my mail box: first
surprise, sender was the Irish "Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment";
second surprise, the parcel contained the Saw
Doctors' (-> FW#20) Best-Of-CD "Sing
a Powerful Song". Had I requested this as a review copy? I couldn't recall at
all! Only later it occurred to me that on the occasion of the Expo in Hanover
I had joined in some competition and - bingo - I had won. So eventually I got
to hear the Saw Doctors.
The Saw Docs have always been at their best on stage in front of their audience
rather than in the studio, and any album of theirs is a poor relation to the
live show, at least that's frequently heard. Now the band from Tuam in the
west of Ireland fulfilled the greatest wish of their fan base: a live CD, and
at the same time a DVD containing the concert plus a charming 50-minute documentation.
The glimmer twins Davy Carton and Leo Moran have penned some catchy pop
songs about their repressed, catholic, conservative, small-town, agrarian,
angst-ridden and showband infested society, without at the same time ever
denying the positive characteristics of the rural Irish community. The medicine
show kicks off powerfully with "N17", the band's Irish Route 66,
and keeps going at strong pace. A mixture of ballads and up tempo tracks, much
more rocking as on the studio recordings. "I Useta Lover" of course, the band's
first number one hit and for a while a second Irish national anthem, showing
that even in Ireland the lover's rear is much more interesting than the priest's
sermon. But the Saw Docs are no random pop band from anywhere, they are deeply
rooted in the music of Ireland after all. Not only when slipping into the role
of the "Joyce Country Ceili Band", guest-starring the folk group Ri-Ra from
Tuam and Lunasa fiddler Sean Smyth (-> FW
The Saw Docs' Best-Of has been one of my favourite records since, regularly
finding its way into my CD player. Now there's another option.
Shamtown Records/Saw Doctors
V/A "Live Recordings from the William Kennedy
Label: Own label; WKPFCD001; 2003; Playing
time: 60:01 min
William Kennedy (1768-1834)
was a blind piper and pipe maker of Tandragee, Co. Armagh (a land where the
girls neat and handy can dance a fine jig, as Colum Sands's -> FW#27
song has it). As was the custom, blind children went into the music business
for employment. William's main work was making and repairing Irish bagpipes.
It is said that he added keys to the chanter, so that flats and sharps could
be played. He extended the range of the chanter, added additional notes to the
regulator and two large keys, managed with the wrist, so that basses can be
stopped or opened at pleasure. This had led to the suggestion that he might
be the true inventor of the Irish uilleann pipes. Whatever's the truth. The
Armagh Pipers Club had - unknowingly
at the time - organised the first William Kennedy Piping Festival almost on
the 160th anniversary of his death. Run by Brian and Eithne Vallely, parents
of North Cregg fiddler Caoimhin (->
FW#26) and Lunasa
piper Cillian (-> FW#21, FW#24,
FW #27, FW#28),
the Pipers' club is promoting traditional music in the Armagh area since 1966.
"Live Recordings from the William Kennedy Piping Festival" assembles recordings
from the first nine years of the festival. It demonstrates bagpipes from all
over the globe: the mouth blown Scottish Highland pipes (Gordon
Duncan -> FW#25, The
Field Marshall Montgomery Pipe Band and its piper Robert Watt), Scottish
small pipes (Allan MacDonald
-> FW#4, FW#20,
FW#21), English border pipes (Moebius),
the Asturian and Galician gaita (Anxo Lorenzo, José Manuel Tejedor who
is featured on Skydance's "Live in Spain" album -> FW#23),
and the revived Welsh pipes (Ceri Rhys Matthews);
likewise the bellows-driven uilleann pipes (Robbie Hannon, Tiarnán Ó
Duinnchinn of Na Dorsa, Cillian Vallely,
Mick O'Brien -> FW#27,
McGoldrick -> FW#13, Tommy
Keane), and the Northumbrian pipes (Kathryn
Tickell -> FW#15, FW#17).
More exotic and rarely seen are the Italian ciaramella and zampogna (Gianni
Perilli and Guido Iannetta),
and the Sardinian triple pipes called launneddas (Luigi
Lai). The latter instrument being depicted on a high cross in Clonmacnoise
monastery. Performed solo and in collaborations it’s a thrilling mix, embracing
almost anything that can be desired. Well, almost, but the next William Kennedy
Piping Festival takes place from the 16th to the 21st November 2004.
More English CD Reviews: Page 6 - Page
7 - Page 1 - Page 2- Page
3 - Page 4
More German CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page
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