Issue 31 1/2006
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Bollywood Brass Band "Movie Masala"
Label: Own; No. BOLL CD 2004; 2004; Playing
time: 43.35 plus bonus CD 37.55 min
Bollywood Brass Band is a unique London based brass band playing Indian film
music, combining musicians with Indian background with English ones, giving
the Bollywood music a bit more of a European flair and attraction. On their
latest CD the band celebrates 50 years of hits from Bollywood, the Indian film
world. They chose 9 songs which they feel have been among the greatest of the
last 50 years, and give them their usual Bollywood Brass Band treatment - interesting
and exciting arrangements around their brass section, with plenty of percussion.
The result is, as per usual, a lot of groove and wildness, along with impressive
hymns. As a bonus, the band has added this time a whole second CD with remixes,
by Temple of Sound and Future World Funk. These remixes always keep the unique
Bollywood Brass Band feeling, but I have to admit that I prefer the "real"
BBB. This double album is once again of high quality, although I personally
was more impressed by BBB's previous album, featuring music from A.R.Rahman
- the tunes somehow do more appeal to me.
I found that on both CDs there are a lot of tunes which are usually played -
in a lot poorer quality - in the local Indian restaurants, showing that these
are more the Bollywood classics. May I suggest that a good promotion activitiy
would be to send this CD to all Indian restaurants in the UK (and in particular
to my local ones!) to replace the mellow piped music there - this would add
so much to the Indian curry experience!
Homepage of the artist: www.bollywoodbrassband.co.uk,
contact to artist: firstname.lastname@example.org
Riccardo Tesi & Banditaliana "Lune"
No. ISBN 21-750-8089-7; 2005; Playing time: 52.13 min
Another offering from the excellent Italian Banditaliana. Riccardo Tesi is an
extraordinary accordion player and composer, and with his Banditaliana he delivers
a highly attractive blend of original songs and tunes, Italian folk and world
and jazz influences. His Banditaliana has remained the same, with singer and
guitarist Maurizio Geri, saxophonist Claudio Carboni and percussionist Ettore
Bonafè. On "Lune" you will find the typical Baditaliana songs
and tunes, lively and in full swing. Some of them have this time a bit more
of a world edge to them (e.g. parts of "Lune" and the tune "Macedonia"),
other are more chanson-like. All have a lot of flair. While most of the songs
are sung by Maurizio Geri, one song features the beautiful voice of Ginevra
The final two titles on the CD are remixes of previously recorded numbers -
to fill up the CD or as bonus tracks, whichever way you want to see it. These
are the song "Maggio", a Banditaliana classic, and the tune Tevakh.
The remixes don't do it for me, thus the CD stops for me after title number
Homepage of the artist: http://www.riccardotesi.com,
contact to artist: email@example.com, contact
to label: firstname.lastname@example.org
Briganthya "viaje de bruxas"
Label: Own; 2005; Playing time: 45.14 min
The Basque folk music scene has given us Kepa Junkera and Oskorri, but other
then these no Basque have really made it onto the international folk music scene.
This might be bound to change, with two impressive folk rock releases reviewed
in this issue (see also Kukuma review below).
Briganthya are an impressive young Basque folk rock band, with an excellent
and charismatic singer, Laura Latienda with her pop style voice. The songs are
all in Basque and are very catchy, presenting a perfect marrying of pop/soft
rock songs with folk music themes. The song style reminds me of the French folk
rockers Glaz. The other element of Briganthya's musical universe are folk rock
instrumentals, usually either in a typical Celtic folk rock style or focussed
on the Basque accordion style à la Kepa Junkera. The number of band members
totals to a substantial 10, and the most significant and distinctive instruments
in the band's sound are Basque accordion, the unique Basque Txalaparta percussion,
Gaita (Spanish bagpipes), piano, fiddle, bass, electric guitar, drums. The band
is joined for part of the album also by the musicians of the popular Galician
band Luar na Lubre.
The band clearly has found their niche and concept - the combination of pop
songs and Basque and Celtic folk rock tune is very strong, and no doubt the
songs have very high radio appeal. The CD has been published by the band itself,yet
looks very professional, with an attractive cover design and full sleeve notes
(however only in Basque and Spanish).
This is a most exciting folk rock album, which has every potential to find a
large international audience. One to watch out for!
Homepage of the artist: www.briganthya.com,
contact to artist: email@example.com
No. KD-669; 2004; Playing time: 42.33 min
Innovative distinctively Basque world music. Kukuma offer an eclectic blend
of music styles - within the 11 titles of this album, I discovered Samba, Eastern
European, Cajun, African and Celtic influences, but always felt that there was
a distinctive Basque feeling about the music. There is also a bit of punk, rock,
a pop ballad with a samba flair, a Galican gaita tune, and also quite a bit
of the typical Basque accordion music..
Instrumentally, Kukuma features the Basque accordeon, Galician gaita and uilleann
pipes, percussion and drums and guitars. All material is original; the focus
is on songs in Basque language, which sometimes do not sound Basque at all with
all their influcences. There is one song (Ezusteko arrantza) which sounds to
me like noise, but apart from that I did find all titles appealing.
This is one of those albums where each title awaits with a new surprise, and
where you never quite know where it will take you to. The CD has the feeling
of a concept album, trying out a lot of things, without deciding on one style.
But what is being created is exciting. I shall be interested to see what their
next CD is like.
Homepage of the artist: www.kukuma.tk,
contact to artist: firstname.lastname@example.org,
contact to label: email@example.com
Eric Eid-Reiner "Grand Tour: Traditional Music
Label: Late Nite Productions; No. 005; 2005;
Playing time: 72.35 min
Eric Rid-Reiner is a talented pianist from Massachusetts. At only 15 years of
age, he presents here his debut. While the album is entitled "Traditional
Music on Piano", it features additional to a range of traditional folk
music - Irish, Cape Breton, French Canadian, Jewish - also Bluegrass, Jazz and
Ragtime. I feel that it would have been better to stick to the traditional music
- the range of music is a bit too wide. I feel that the Jazz classics, e.g.
Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer", feel a bit out of place between
the traditional tunes. Similarly, the bluegrass tunes do not quite work. Maybe
it would have been wise to be more selective, rather than filling the album
up to 72 minutes. The other thing I have to note is that the quality of the
fiddle playing on some tunes, by Eric's dad and brother, does not have quite
the same standard as Eric's excellent piano playing.
No doubt Eric has every potential to make himself a name as folk piano player.
Homepage of the artist: www.EricEid-Reiner.com,
contact to artist: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lister "Cold Start"
Label: Own; No. 002; 2004; Playing time: 57.04
A dutch quartet playing mainly Eastern European influenced music. The band features
accordion, bass guitar, violin and electric guitar/baglama. The material is
a combination of traditional tunes, usual Eastern European, and own compositions,
with the odd Celtic contribution. While the melody instruments accordion and
violin are overall not bad, I got quickly irritated by the dominance of electric
guitar and bass guitar, making every tune sound the same. It actually also results
in a cold sound - is that where the title of the CD comes from?
Shame, as I did quite enjoy the chosen material, and also the original material
is overall not bad.
Homepage of the artist: www.listermusic.org
Rick Lee: Look What Thoughts Will Do
River Music (SRMCD101); 2005; Playing time: 55.38 min
Here is a man with a voice that is warm enough to fry eggs on. This is also
a guy who has lived more than a bit, and is now approaching the veteran stage.
Now, I ask you to put these two facts together. And this is what you will get:
an immensely pleasurable album that exudes a sort of folksy wisdom. Note I said
folksy wisdom [good], not folksy whimsy [bad].
Above all, I like his eclecticism. Judging from this CD, nearest to his heart
seems to be the traditional ballad from the British Isles. But hot on its heels
comes a love of country artists like Lefty Frizzell and the Louvin Brothers;
relatively recently deceased folk icons like Richard Fariña and Kate
Wolf, and ace contemporary songwriter Bill Country Roads Danoff
(here represented with a fine song of his co-written with autoharp virtuoso
The Lee voice has a very special DNA. I guess if some boffin could cross the
voice of Johnny Cash with Burl Ives, then Rick Lee would be the result. And
this great voice is backed by some consummate musicianship.
If I had to pick out one musician then it would have to be Hal Rugg on dobro
and pedal steel. His work on the best track on the album (Kate Wolfs Sweet
Love) is nothing short of sublime.
An album I intend to keep and play. And not send to the charity shop.
Homepage of the artist: www.ricklee.org,
contact to artist: email@example.com,
contact to label: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ron Lindsay: Americelt Union
Label: Americelt Records (no number); 2005;
Playing time: 47.15 min
Ron Lindsay is a new name to me. But that said, he is not some new kid on
the block. He has been around a while and has paid his dues.
He pulled out of the singer-songwriter role in 1980, and turned his back on
it. But some 20 years later, a chance meeting with producer John Wooler (a man
with 26 Grammy nominations under his belt!) got the career back ontrack.
And here is the album that has resulted. And very good it is. Several things
jump out at one from the getgo: perhaps foremost is the fact that Ron has put
most of his own songs on the backburner. Instead, 10 of the 12 songs are by
other people, mostly famous contemporary writers.
Now this I find commendable. Far too many singer-songwriters insist on giving
you an album of exclusively their own compositions: with the result that the
albums have too many makeweight numbers that are not really cutting the mustard.
Instead, Lindsay just gives us two songs from his pen. And pretty good they
are, though that said Ron, if I were you, I would not apply for a job as a lecturer
in Scottish political history! (Where the Eagle is King is not about
a Scotland that I know!)
Lindsay has surrounded himself with some very tasty musicians and backing singers
and come up with a very creditable CD (recorded in the Steakhouse Studios in
My favourite cut is his version of Roy Orbisons Only The Lonely.
And this is what I love about it: he puts his own stamp on it. (One cannot always
say this for the other tracks: his When Im Dead and Gone is
phrase-for-phrase pure Gallagher & Lyle.)
But that Orbison song is sung in his own voice: and what a sweet voice he has.
I look forward to hearing more from Ron Lindsay in this vein.
Homepage of the artist: www.ronlindsay.com,
contact to artist: email@example.com
Scuttlebut: Tall Ships
Label: Soundside (SB01); 2000; Playing time:
They always used to say that real film fans preferred to see films in black
and white, because such films were more COLORFUL. And it is that thought that
is foremost in my mind having listened three times all the way through to this
What a joy it is! Scuttlebutt is three American folk performers (augmented by
two guests) who play sea shanties. Note I said play. Not sing.
And that is their USP (unique selling point) it seems to me.
And play these tunes wonderfully well, to boot. With perfect good taste always
to the fore. I cannot recall when I last heard a solely instrumental CD that
gave me more pleasure. And not just pleasure in the HAPPY sense.
Some of it really tears at your heartstrings: I defy you to hear their exquisitely
plaintive Shenandoah which segues into The Water is Wide
without tears running down your cheeks.
Buy this album. And if you are a shanty singer manqué, without the nerve
to sing in your local folk club, let it be like a kind of karaoke machine for
you, and sing along, in the privacy of your home.
I tell you this: you will not get better accompaniment.
Contact to artist: firstname.lastname@example.org
Janis Haves: Big Front Door
Label: Own; No.; 2005; Playing time: 39 mins,
The thing that strikes me about this album is that it is ideal material for
consideration should they be wanting to bury a capsule that incorporated all
that is quintessentially ENGLISH in 2005. Note that I said English
and not British.
Janis has a pleasant warm voice that seems blissfully unmannered. And Praise
God she is not singing in an English regional accent (about three notches up
from the regional accent in which that performer would SPEAK!): but rather in
RP (Received Pronunciation) English with diction that thus makes
her splendidly readable lyrics (in white on charcoal grey in the liner booklet)
a bit superfluous.
Janis and husband/producer Geoff Haves have built a solid reputation these past
few years as performers. She has one of those sweet fragile voices: just like
an English version of Irish songstress, Dana. Janis is a former staff writer
of potential hit records at the famous Rockfield Studios in Monmouth. And it
My favourite track is her opener. Gwendoline evokes the memory of
her singing teacher. You might think it too personal a song for other artistes
to pick up on: but no. It does not matter that you or I did not have a singing
teacher called by this name: we can all relate to it. She marvellously evokes
the kind of memory we ALL had as kids of certain people in our life. A mixture
of love, respect and yes, a little FEAR too! I certainly felt
just the same way about the lady who taught me piano as a small boy, and I am
sure I would get much the same sensations should I return to her house today
after half a century.
There is a commercial aspect to the sound of her songs: they all are knocking
at the door of instant memorability (essential if ones writing pop songs).
Of course Janis will say that these songs (aimed incidentally at the memory
of several now-deceased women who had made an impact on her life) are the very
antithesis of pop. And of course they are: but that said, her knowledge that
the HOOK is everything in pop, never leaves her. So Waiting For Jesus
(a very serious song) has the catchiest of choruses.
She wont thank me for saying that I see her voice as more Lynsey De Paul
than Joan Baez! (Yes, dig myself out of THAT one! Well actually, I dont
have to: Lynsey De Paul was a very tuneful singer!)
But what the heck! Janis is NATURAL. She is sweet and a breath of fresh air.
Homepage of the artist: www.janishaves.com,
contact to artist: email@example.com
Belinda OHooley: Music Is My Silence
Label: RabbleRouser Music (RR001); 2005; Playing
time: 51mins, 40 secs.
I came at this CD blissfully ignorant. After playing it through the once, I
then read the accompanying notes (I always play review copies three times, but
only read notes AFTER the first playing, as I always want my first listening
to be totally free from preconceived notions); and on reading the notes, I discovered
that in 2001 Belinda had won the massively popular British television programme
Stars In Their Eyes with her impression of Eurythmics diva Annie
Now, seeing as I am the only person I know who never looks in at this light
entertainment programme, it is conceivable that I am one of only a few people
in Britain who had never heard of her!
But now, 51 minutes X3 later, am I glad that I finally got around to hearing
her voice? You bet. She is a seriously accomplished singer. (One can hear -
in that voice of hers - Annie Lennox bursting out at regular intervals.)
But one suspects that it is as a SONGWRITER she really wants to be taken seriously.
And these ten self-penned songs put down an impressive marker. With subject
matter running the gamut, and melody and instrumentation avoiding the obvious,
the songs draw you in and like a good novel keep you turning the page.
That said, I think none of the songs are destined to become standards
amongst floorsingers in folk clubs. They have just too much of the nighttime
cabaret singer about them. One can imagine Marianne Faithfull or Jane Birkin
The opening and closing tracks have more than a touch of the avant garde about
them. They make you check if you have your ears on wrong, and this can be no
My favourite cut is track 3 Moon Over Water. Belindas voice
and Rachel Unthanks cello blend so naturally.
One senses that this is the first of several albums that will come from this
lady in the years ahead. She has obvious talent, and will not be a one
album wonder! But it is whether these albums will be a bit more mainstream
will be the interesting question. No artist can be too far ahead of their market
(not if they still want to pay their mortgage that is!)
Homepage of the artist: www.belindahooley.com,
contact to artist: firstname.lastname@example.org
Brendan Devereux: Songs From A Yellow
Label: Sitric Records(SITCD02); 2005; Playing
time: 42 mins, 57 secs.
I get to review a lot of CDs. It is part and parcel of the times we live in.
Just as I came of age in the late 60s at a time when anyone with a half-decent
chemistry set could produce hallucinogenic tablets in their back bedroom, so
it is that in the Noughties, recording equipment has come on leaps and bounds,
and so it is that folk performers can now produce albums with close on studio
fidelity without ever leaving their house.
Now this has proved a mixed blessing. Sure its great for the creative
process, but it has meant that a plethora of folkies have produced albums, when
in truth they only had an EP in them.
And to my shame, when I picked up Brendans CD, I foolishly thought it
one from what I call my produced in a bedsitting room pile! How
wrong I was.
From the getgo, I could tell that this had such a crisp sound that it just MUST
have come from a recording studio. And on investigating the sleeve, I noted
that it had come from a set-up just celebrating its 20th anniversary: the prestigious
Westland Studios in Lombard Street, Dublin 2. He doesnt do things by half,
does our Brendan.I then discover that in 1996 he had released a previous LP
called Copper Alley. Where has he been hiding himself? How come
I never heard of him?
And having listened to this CD several times, I have to tell you that whilst
Brendans diction is a bit of an acquired taste (mid Atlantic vowel sounds
laid over a spectacularly unadulterated Irish accent
just listen to the
way he several times pronounces the word think on track 7 Deadmans
Tale and track 8 Beyond The Blue! Just charming!), his singing
always engages and his guitar work always commands ones attention. But
best of all, his songwriting avoids the cliché and covers an impressive
range of subjects.
There is one song on this album that has all the chances of becoming a classic.
A standard in folk clubs everywhere. It appears early-on in the CD. It really
made me sit up and take notice. Dromin is a song for all of us who
are unlucky in love, and Brendan delivers it with real passion. He is aided
here (as he is throughout) by truly superb fiddle accompaniment from Fionnula
Devereux. Who she? Sister, wife
I think we should be told. Indeed that is a fault of this album: no liner notes.
Okay, we do not need the lyrics printing (Brendans diction is so clear
as to obviate the need for written lyrics), but as sure as heck we could be
given some bio details on the musicians, and maybe some information on what
prompted certain songs. Look, my friend: you wisely hired a fine studio. No
need to penny pinch on the liner booklet.
Now as I sign off from this review, I think I will play Bohemian Cowboy
for the fifth time. It wont have the legs of Dromin, but it
sure is a nice cut.
Homepage of the artist: www.brendandevereux.com,
contact to artist: email@example.com
Jenny & Martin Schaub: Kite high
Label: West of Music; (WOMCD5); 2004; Playing
time: 41 mins, 06 secs.
What would happen if you crossed the voice of Judy Collins with that of Alison
Krauss? Well, apart from receiving the inevitable reproach of if it aint
broke, dont fix it!, youd end up with a thing of joy. A voice
that is the hybrid of the two: a voice that is Jenny Schaubs.
She and Martin are members of the Swedish group West of Eden, but
here they perform as a duo. And what a revelation this album is. A blissful
surprise that fair bowled me over. WEST of Eden these two aint. More like
this is music from the centre of paradise: the Garden of Eden itself.
I normally play review copies of CDs three times: this one in contrast has had
at least a dozen plays. I am deeply taken with it. It came to me from left field:
that so often is the source of the albums that win my heart. Shotgun marriages
dont work with music. When the big publicity machine hails a new CD with
fireworks to herald its release date, you can be sure theyll have got
my back up. And (subconsciously, you understand) I will be determined NOT to
But here, it was love at first sight
or rather hearing. Jenny Schaub is
a singer who exudes warmth, as indeed does Martin (though he takes more of a
back seat with the vocals, and concentrates on his exquisite guitar accompaniment).
The songs are partly Irish traditional, and partly written by Martin and sometimes
by Martin/Jenny. Seven of the tracks were recorded in Limerick, with some stellar
names from the Irish folk scene lending a hand.
Every track pays its rent on the album. There are no squatters here. And despite
the fine traditional songs they have chosen, the masterpiece on the album is
a song written by Martin. New Years Prayer written in an elegiac
minor key, but not remotely a downer! Au contraire, it is a life-enhancing little
song. Check the lyrics on their website www.westofeden.com In fact the
website makes up for a paucity of info on the CD itself: what passes in the
jewel box for liner notes, actually barely pass muster.
But a piffling criticism, methinks. This is a very fine album indeed.
Homepage of the artist: http://www.westofeden.com
Kieran Kane & Kevin Welch (with Fats Kaplin)
You Cant Save Everybody
Records; (4385); 2004; Playing time: 42 mins, 03 secs.
Kane and Welch have toured together on-and-ff for a few years now. But this
is the first time these two fine performers and decent songwriters have got
into the recording studio to lay down an album where they share the vocal and
the writing credits. Fats Kaplin complements the duos own not-inconsiderable
mastery of their acoustic instruments
So they finally made it into the recording studio together! Not before time,
I reckon, on the strength of three listenings to this CD. They have produced
an atmospheric anthem to the American blue collar worker wherever he works (or
LOOKS for work) in that big and varied country.
To this British ear, it sounds very much the real thing. Although produced in
Nashville, the CD is commendably earthy and eschews the glib chocolate boxy
sound that seems to have permeated the scene there in the last dozen years.
Kieran Kane/Sean Lockes Callin Me really made me sit
up and listen hard, but it was the following track with a melody almost
straight out of the Moody and Sankey Sacred Songbook that really made
the greatest impression on me. Till Im Too Old To Die Young
proved irresistible. It was nearly caught on the rails though by the final track,
A Prayer Like Any Other, a song that has more than a touch of the
John Prines about it. It maybe lacks some of his flourish with a lyric, but
it makes up for that with its patent sincerity.
To sum up then: this is an album that whilst not a masterpiece, still contains
a serious body of work.
Homepage of the artist: www.deadreckoning.records.com
Various Artistes (showcase): Girls With
Label: Girls With Guitars;(Egham Records)
2004; Playing time: 50 mins, 23 secs.
This is a trailer CD showcasing the talent of six UK female
singer-songwiters/guitarists. They are performers of varying abilities and
also artistes who have achieved varying levels of audience awareness.
Girls With Guitars is an international female singer / songwriters
group. It had its origins in Nashville 9 years ago. The London branch opened
in 2003 and is organised by ex-Nashvillean Jae Avery and runs monthly showcases
at the Porter House, Covent Garden.
All the core members of the group are featured on the Girls With Guitars
web site, which can be found at www. girlswithguitars. co. uk and are featured
regularly at the showcases.
Here 6 of the leading lights sing two songs each. Jae Avery kicks off with
an authoritative performance that sets the standard for what is to follow.
All six artistes seem worthy of an album of their own, and although it is
perhaps invidious to pick out one or two, I feel compelled to say that Carrie
Lennard (who comes from west London) just oozes class, and Silvia Rox has
a foxy quality to the voice that makes me suspect she could successfully cross
over to the mainstream pop market and make lots of money. But I am sure that
is the furthest thing from her thinking!
I think them all better performers than writers. None of their songs seem
destined to be covered by their peers. But that said, every song on this CD
is at very least workmanlike and worthy of respect for the effort involved
in the creation.
Homepage of the artist: http://www.girlswithguitars.co.uk
Rosalie Sorrels: My last go round
House Records; (RHR CD 167); 2004; Playing time: 59 mins, 22 secs.
Rosalie was born in 1933, and this album is a recording of her farewell concert
69 years later in March 2002. And what a wonderfully warm hours listening
Rosalie Sorrels is a woman who has known and sang with many of the leading lights
on the American folk scene in over 4 decades. She is something of an icon to
the American folkie. A solid singer and (especially) a storyteller of note.
Here in Britain it is fair to say that she is only known to the Folk cognoscenti:
and then, only those of more mature years. (The fact she is not a household
name to the British folk audience, is their loss.)
How I wish they could all hear this album. Oh sure, she had some stellar names
join her on stage that night, in the Sanders Theater at Harvard University:
Christine Lavin, Jean Ritchie, Peggy Seeger, Patrick Sky and Loudon Wainwright
lll. But had she just appeared with her glorious guitarist Mitch Greenhill,
shed still have had the audience hollering for more (if holler
is quite the right word for an audience at Harvard!)
She sings some of her own songs and really shows that she is a gifted writer.
But even more telling are her versions of the fine songs of her dear friend
Bruce Utah Phillips. His song to the then recently departed Dave
Van Ronk, I Think of You perhaps steals the album (well the sublime
acoustic guitar of Mitch Greenhill helps!), but the album finishes with one
contender for best song after another.
First, a moving Peggy Seeger ballad, then a song unknown to me by Larry Penn
called Rondinellis Castle. This song straight out of the school
of Dory Previn charmed me to bits (this time with Greenhill dazzling on electric
guitar), and then that was almost trumped by a quirky little number called Wind
Chimes which writer Christine Lavin delivered with real brio, and had
me laughing out loud. Then a Joe Dolce song that had its feet commendably on
The time just flies. Before you know it, the hour is up. And youd like
another, but are thankful for what youve had.
Farewell concerts are seldom so splendidly memorable as this one methinks. The
CD really does justice to a seminal figure of the American folk scene, and if
you have nothing in your CD collection by her, this will plug a gap that really
should be filled if you have any serious desire to be a bona fide student of
the Folk scene on both sides of the Pond.
Homepage of the artist: www.wayoutinidaho.com
Dr. Max: "Logarhythms"
Label: Private, no cat. number; 2004; Playing
time: 58 mins, 17 secs.
Every so often you get an album for review that you so WANT to be able to write
good things about. Oh for sure, one does not want to slate anyones work:
but lets admit that there are so many albums that one tries to find the
glass half full (rather than empty), but having written ones review realise
that you are left with no warm feeling as a reviewer.
Now this was a curious album. Max van de Kamp whose work this is, strikes me
as a thoroughly decent fellow. Where do I get that from? Well, you can TELL
somehow, in the liner notes in the letter that accompanies the CD for review:
and I am rarely wrong.
And even if he wasnt, one would have to admire the sheer amount of work
he has put into the making of this CD, with his faithful 4-track cassette recorder
in his (then) Toulouse apartment. And one admires his clear musicianship and
multi-instrumental virtuosity, as he dubbed layer over layer.
And at the end of it all he also presented us a very handsomely produced set
of lyrics in the liner booklet. So I so wanted to love this CD.
Alas I could not. But I respected it: and I guess Max should not be too disappointed
since I occasionally get review CDs that I cannot respect.
So why did I not like it more? Was it his singing voice? No. Id say that
he has a voice like the guy in your local folk club: perfectly adequate, without
having any special DNA.
No, it was the material. One longed for strong songs. We only got one: Jacques
Brels powerful Port of Amsterdam, which he delivered in a
thoughtful and (deliberately?) less impassioned way than that used by the Belgian
master, in those glorious days when he used to use crescendo so memorably and
end up HOLLERING those words out.
There is a brave attempt at freeing us from the Muzak-fodder that a once interesting
song like Ride On has become, and Max makes some changes including
(slightly) the words: it becomes in his hands Drive On. Alas Max,
your version will not LIVE on!
Oh, I nearly forgot: there is a creditable version of that old favourite Lanigans
Ball. And it was also great for this British reviewer to read the lyric
sheet as Max sang in Dutch at motor-cycle speed. Not for nothing do us Brits
talk about Double DUTCH as being our idea of the incomprehensible!
So I end this piece by saying that this is a CD really for Maxs fans.
I wish both it and him well.
Contact to artist: firstname.lastname@example.org
Shannon Saunders & The Splinters: "Cold
Label:None; SAS20042; 2003; Playing time:
40 mins, 38 secs.
Shannon was a new name to this British reviewer, but on the strength of this
album, one I am happy to become acquainted with. She has a warm and pleasant
voice, and she can handle a song lyric with real intelligence. Backed, as she
is here, by some very tasty musicians, this bluegrass album manages to deliver
But, that said, one felt that it could have delivered a whole lot more. It had
everything going for it: some of the best studio engineering in British Columbia
produced a fabulously clean and crisp sound. But in the final analysis it fell
down on the last hurdle: the material.
Look. You can have the best musicians in the business to back you: the best
guys to do the mixing and the mastering; you can get well-produced liner lyrics.
But you cannot make bricks without straw.
In the final analysis, what is the point of checking you can jump all the hurdles
when you know full well that the last one (song quality) will bring you down?
Shannon is a fine performer, but on the strength of this CD, just an adequate
And the best chefs should only work with the best ingredients.
Homepage of the artist: www.thesplinters.com,
contact to artist: email@example.com
Plethyn: "Best of the rest on CD"
SCD2437; 2004; Double CD; Playing time: 50.19 min and 50.46 min
I started my last review of a Plethyn album with the following words: Plethyn
have long been one of the glories of Wales. This trio performed in public for
the last time some 5 years ago, after having been going strong since the late
Seventies. They had built a massive reputation in their native country, especially
amongst their Welsh-speaking compatriots. Then, in 2003, after the five year
absence, they returned to the recording studio to produce this best of
collection. Eleven of the 18 tracks were specially re-recorded for the album.
Well, those words of a year ago from my review of their goreuon
album still hold true today and work well as an introductory paragraph to my
review of this double CD. All the songs are proudly and unashamedly in the Welsh
language. Most of the songs are traditional Welsh songs, but there is the occasional
translation of an English-language number (e.g. Wild Mountain Thyme)
and there are a few contemporary pieces (chiefly members of the group performing
The typical Plethyn recipe is here: gorgeous harmonies, passionate lead vocals,
and fine self accompaniment (augmented by some tasty work from well known local
musicians). None of the tracks grated, and it was pleasant listening from start
to finish. And despite the fact that the tracks here are culled from 5 albums
recorded between 1979 and 1987, Sain make their usual excellent job in production
terms. It is as clean as a whistle and if there were recording variations between
the 5 albums, well all I can say is that they make a fine job of making that
If I am to be brutally honest though, I would say that this is a double set
that is really only for true Plethyn fans. Whereas by contrast, their magnificent
goreuon has almost been worn out by my constant play. There every
track pays its rent on the album: here one or two though well performed
do not quite cut the mustard in their melodic impact.
But that said, I wish this double set a fair wind.
Contact to label: firstname.lastname@example.org
The pickPocket ensemble: "Fingerpainting
in Red Wine"
Label: Odd Shaped Case Records; OSC 1008-2;
2004; Playing time: 42 mins, 27 secs.
The pickPocket ensemble consists of composer Rick Corrigan on accordion, Marguerite
Ostrovski on violin, Tim Fox on guitar, Greg Kehret on bass, and Katja Cooper
This is the fourth album from a band who clearly specialise in those dreamy
meditative albums so beloved of the likes of Bob Salmieri and his Milagro Acoustico.
They are a group of musicians who constantly strive to think outside the square,
and more importantly make us the listener realise that the brain is a muscle
and just like any other muscle, we use it or we lose it. The band's meditative
sound has been described as "cafe music without borders." That is
not such an accurate description, even if it does SOUND impressive. Truth is
that you would be hard-pressed the world over to find café music of this
quality! More pertinently, someone made this brilliant observation It
can't be characterized as folk music, yet people of many different ethnic backgrounds...
hear the music of their homeland when they hear the pickPocket ensemble.
YES! Absolutely spot-on.
The pickPocket ensemble have been described as making music at the [worlds]
crossroads. This again is neatly observant. For their myriad influences
manifest themselves in every other bar. They have Id guess been inspired
by many world folk and instrumental traditions, from Roma to Balkan, to North
African music of the Souk and the Casbah, to Klezmer, to Contemporary Classical,
to Swing, and French Musette.
The album is seriously HYPNOTIC. The stand out cut is the 10 minute and 23 seconds
long third track, The Serpent Cure. This features some sensationally
good clarinet playing from Peter Jacques, who is not a band member. My advice
to the ensemble is to sign that man up for immediate group membership please.
Homepage of the artist: http://www.pickpocketensemble.com,
contact to artist: email@example.com
Neil Macdonald Thomson: "Common Ground"
Music; 452002; 2001
This is the third album by this Scots singer-songwriter. It is an album that
has its moments.
He is clearly a performer of some substance. His opening track has vocals that
would do justice to Jez Lowe, and the total instrumental sound would also not
be far behind that of the Bad Pennies. The performance aspect of this CD is
Where the album falls short is in the material. He is a competent songwriter,
but on the evidence of this, his own songs will not be covered by other performers
on the Folk Circuit. There is only one real quality song and that is the old
favourite The Old Armchair. This he delivers with brio. It made
me wonder just how good this album could have been had Neil raided the Music
I see he has a penchant for putting other peoples poems to music. And
he is pretty good at it. Trouble is that they are not really the right poems.
He says in the well-produced liner notes words to the effect that various poems
so impressed him that he felt compelled to set them to music.
Now, hold on Neil! That is not the way to do it. Some poems will never be song
lyrics: you can try until the cows come home. And if he doubts me, ask Country
Joe McDonald. He once made an LP of the splendid poems of Robert W. Service
(I have the album on my shelf), and not one poem made a half-decent song. I
have played the LP twice in about 27 years!
But you are on to something, my friend. You show talent in this department.
Just look for poems that have the FEEL of a potential song-lyric about them.
Contact to label: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rik Barron: "The Quiet Faith of Man"
Label: Odd Sock (via CDBaby
[US] and Barndance [EU]); Pro 105; 2003;
Playing time: 33 mins, 28 secs.
Rik Barron is a multi-instrumentalist with a fine rich baritone voice. His
delivery is straight and uncomplicated. If someone told me that he had sat at
the feet of John Stewart, then I should not be surprised.
Here we have a variety of traditional and contemporary material. Songwriters
include Cape Breton Island's, Duncan Wells and Newfoundland's Trad/Rock pioneer,
Dave Panting. The latter incidentally, performs with aplomb in his roles as
multi-instrumentalist and backing vocalist on this album
Rik has toured throughout Canada, the United States and Europe. With stronger
songs he could well find the breakthrough album in all those countries. For
sure the quality of the voice, the instrumentation and the album production
are all first-rate.
I mention the songs on this album: truth is that they are all very decent efforts.
None of them caused me to grind my teeth. But only one stood out as really worthy
of the combined talents: a mini-masterpiece called No Place For Children
by Daniel Masters of Staten Island, NY. I thank Rik for putting it my way. He
tells us in the not-too-easy-on-the-eye CD notes, that the song won the prestigious
Woody Guthrie Festival song-writing competition in 2000. This festival is held
every July in Woodys old home town of Okemah, Oklahoma.
Well, I am ashamed to say that I had never heard of Masters, but clearly that
was my loss. It is a quite magnificent song. It stands out head, shoulders and
torso over any other song on the CD. And its a CD by the way, that is
not exactly overlong, at a measly 33 minutes!
Lets have more for our money next time please Rik.
Homepage of the artist: www.rikbarron.com
Seamus Gavin & The Ocrastra: "Justice"
Label: Ocrasata; unnumbered; 2004
A cynic might say that this is a decidedly inapposite album title given that
Seamus Gavin is a lawyer by trade. After all, since when have lawyers been about
getting justice? They are surely about winning cases,
and justice can more-often-than-not, go hang!
However, it becomes apparent from this CD that Gavin is a rare breed: a lawyer
with a conscience. And that conscience is all over this CD in spades.
And it has to be said that the album is none the worse for his inability to
sit on the fence. This is a bloke who clearly sings what is in his heart and
soul: there are no deliberately artful songs here where the songwriters
first person viewpoint is that of a character in the song, and thus
at variance with what the songwriter actually feels himself. No, I think Gavin
would think that course was really for wimps.
The album runs the gamut in subject matter, but has justice (or often rather,
FAILURES to get justice) as a theme. All the words and almost all the music
is by Gavin, and the latter is very well played by the Ocrastra (or Ochrastra,
if you are to believe some of the PR material accompanying my review copy of
this CD: they cannot make their minds up on the spelling). Also there are rather
good sound effects occasionally woven in.
Gavin clearly brings to the recording studio the same passion he displays in
the Courts: and I must say that I find his brio engaging. The songs are well
constructed and often use rhyme and scansion, but do not really grab me as SONGS.
The stories (and the pictures they conjure up), well, that is a different matter.
I salute Sean Gavin for his courage in writing about subjects that are often
off most songwriters radar.
When I got to track 9, I had a déjà vu experience. I thought for
a moment I was losing the plot: surely I had heard this song recently? (I had
just minutes before come back from the 4-day Cleethorpes Folk Festival. It must
have been there.)
No, it was just 25 minutes earlier. Track 9 is just a shortened and slightly
different version of track 3. A rum affair this: one that clearly went over
I see that proceeds from the sale of this CD will go to the costs involved in
taking the UK Government to the European Court. Such is my feeling toward Antonio
Blairescu that I am tempted to order a thousand copies.
Contact to artist: Ocrastra@online.ie
Waking The Witch: "Hands & Bridges"
Label: Witch Records; Witch-01; 2005
Its rare to find a four girl group these days, and even rarer to find
one in which all four women play acoustic guitar. This group based in Leeds,
Yorkshire in Northern England, have released this CD as a follow-up to their
2003 debut album Like Everybody, and very pleasing on the ear it
is. As pleasing as they are on the eye, judging by the jewel-box cover photo.
Their publicity hand-out likens them to a female Crosby, Stills Nash & Young!
Now that is SOME praise. Is it hyperbolic?
Well, as someone who used to pounce on a CSNY LP the very moment it was released,
I have to say that (believe it or not) it isnt remotely. Their harmonies
are very akin to those of the famed heroes of Woodstock. However, the major
difference in the end result - apart from CSNYs instrumentation
being more forceful and dynamic (these CD notes claim that there are four guitars
at work on track 9: I must have my ears on wrong!) - was that at least those
LPs of years ago would perhaps have three or four high quality songs.
Here we have ten perfectly respectable (often reflective and occasionally angst-ridden)
songs, but songs that all forgo immediate memorability. The pick of the ten
is the last one, I Cant Breathe, and that is quite a clever
move as it winds the album up on a high note. Thus leaving us wanting more.
Homepage of the artist: www.wakingthewitch.co.uk,
contact to artist: email@example.com
Barry Dransfield: "Unruly"
Label: ViolinWorkshop (via www.propermusic.com);
1CD; 2005; Playing time: 46 mins, 45 secs.
There are occasions when a CD reviewer knows that he has stumbled upon something
that, whilst not an unqualified success, will still be an album that at the
end of the reviewing year will give him more pleasure than most. This is one
such: an album that provides many pleasing moments, and one that just oozes
I have to declare an interest of sorts: I first saw Barry perform live as far
back as 1970. I was hooked from the start: and I have purchased many of his
albums since, and never been disappointed.
But I will not let that interfere with my role of Reviewer: my first duty here
is to take the side of the potential purchaser. Would buying a copy of Unruly
represent money well spent? In order to answer that question, lets look
at some of the most significant tracks.
As the great Shirley Collins so perceptively says in an overview
sent me by Barrys PR people, my appreciation grew when Barry told
me recently that he couldnt read music and was self-taught. Some people
may think that this is a hindrance for a singer and musician, but I believe
it gave Barry a head start [
]every song he has learned BY HEART.
We start with Haul Away. Talk about a song redolent of place!
Just listening to it and I was back in Hastings on the south coast of England.
I was going up the East Cliff funicular railway again, looking down on the tall
narrow wooden houses where the fishermen keep their nets. Having had their share
of the sea, generations of fishermen now wanted their share of the sky (a fact
that Barry zeroes in on, in his lyric). A lyric by the way set to the Largo
from Telemanns Trumpet Concerto in D. (Are you beginning to see what I
mean about gravitas?!)
Whilst the opening track puts down an impressive marker, Barry follows this
with a song that is often regarded as an exercise in profundity. The Grand
Conversation On Napoleon was a song collected by Vaughan Williams and
sung my many famous names down the past. Barry learned what he calls this
blockbuster from Gordon Hall at the famous Empress of Russia club in Islington,
London. The song is perhaps most famously associated with Frank Harte.
Now, whilst he makes a great job of the delivery, I have to tell you that I
have always been of the opinion that the song does not merit its usual epithet
of a mighty song, but rather, I hold the view that it flatters to
deceive. It is a song that borders on the pretentious and appears to say much
more than it really is saying. But, such is its haunting melody, I can forgive
it the overblown lyric.
We follow with one of several fiddle solos: here, I will cover all the instrumental
tracks with a one sentence comment. They are all pieces played with passion
and a very real artistry.
Silent Worship comes next. Composer G.F. Handel, no less. This is
not your run-of-the-mill Folk CD, alright! Barry handles the lyric with aplomb.
Then the great Sussex favourite (Two) Constant Lovers. Never fails,
this great song. Barry reminds us that this was a song written for the Tin Pan
Alley of its day
and is not the pure folk song many of us think it to be.
The liner notes point out that here Barry not only has his vocals and simultaneous
fiddle recorded, but also has 2 fiddles by him overdubbed. Makes for a really
atmospheric 4½ minutes, and was so evocative as to immediately take me
back to my days 35 years ago as a lighthouse keeper on Sussexs Beachy
It would have been the best cut on the CD were it not for two numbers to come
up on the rails and take it by a short-head. The first is another G.F. Handel
biggie: his very famous Whereer You Walk. And golly, this
really cuts the mustard. It is the first time I have ever heard ANYONE sing
this aria who has not make me long for the glorious version by Kathleen Ferrier.
So Barry should realise that coming from me, this is some tribute.
And then comes a curious little song for the walking wounded: Harps in
Heaven. Never heard it before, nor had I read the novel by Mary Webb it
was drawn from. Such was its ability to get under my skin, that I will immediately
go to my local public library and put in a reservation for her book Gone
Who needs to try to be a Renaissance Man and attempt the hopeless task of trying
to immerse oneself in all branches of the Arts? After all, there are not enough
hours in the day. Instead, on the basis of this CD at least, one can let Barry
Dransfield take the strain and take you on his magical mystery tour of his potpourri
I end this review by highlighting a remark Barry makes at the end of his liner
notes: All the music on this recording was learned and played by ear.
Any classical material herein is guaranteed to be played inaccurately and in
an unruly fashion.
Well, you can strike the inaccurately: that is just modesty
talking! But Ill go along with the word unruly. So indeed
does Barry: he makes it his title for the album.
It is an unruly CD in its triumphant defiance of the rules of Folk
convention: he ploughs his own furrow, and judging by the reaction of
some of my Folkie friends to this album, it will be far from being a LONE one.
Homepage of the artist: www.barrydransfield.com
Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas - "Fire
Label: Culburnie Records 2004 - CUL121
Greentrax label includes this album in its Top Ten Sellers. At first, I was
attracted by the originality of the issue, that is the uncommon combination
of solo fiddle and cello performing traditional tunes from Scotland and around.
Another appealing reason for purchasing it was the renowned name of the fiddler,
Alasdair Fraser, being nearly unknown to me the name of cello player Natalie
Haas, apart from her participation in Fraser's second album "Legacy of
the Scottish fiddle". About her, I could so discover that she is a young
Californian musician, credited of having been part of Mark O' Connor's band.
I was quite curious about this release, because I think that cello, in the family
of bow instruments, is the one that has more troubles finding its role and identity
when performing traditional music from the British Isles. After having listened
to the album, I think that no great progress has been made in this direction.
The music includes tunes from Scotland, Shetland, Northumberland, Cape Breton
and Scandinavia. The skills of the interpreters, and the accuracy of the recording,
are undisputable; the first impact with the music is captivating; but as long
as he music flows, very soon dissatisfaction comes.
Natalie Haas shows strong commitment in obtaining from her cello some non-orthodox
voices. Despite her angelic features (judging from the cover photo) she handles
the bow with warlike fury, furnishing in most cases a rhythmical and harmonic
base for the melody played by the violin. There are some pleasant episodes indeed,
but, especially in fast tunes, the final effect is often boring. The situation
does not seem to get better when the two musicians swap their roles, devolving
the leading melody upon the cello and leaving the accompaniment to the fiddle.
Some annoying "bridges" between the tunes do not help: they tend to
cancel that pleasant surprise-effect, that should come from the clever joining
of different melodies in a set. And even in the fastest episodes, despite Alasdair
Fraser's mastery, the ostinato played by the cello makes the whole thing as
light as a Christmas pudding, and as sunny as a fjord's bottom in a winter's
So the best tracks can be found in the few real duets of the two instruments,
and in the rendering of the slow airs. It would be unfair to avoid mentioning
some pleasant tracks. Among my favourites, I would like to mention a meditative
and charming performance of the Swedish "Josefin's Waltz", the one
that many know as a hit of the Irish band Dervish; the Scandinavian set "Slang
Polska / Rumbling Quadrille", probably more fit for this orchestration
than the Scottish material; and an interpretation of classical flavour, nearly
in the J.S.Bach way, of the one set that is fully dedicated to the dames. This
latter is introduced by two ancient airs, "The Duchess of Bedford"
and "Lady Hope of Pinkie", ad ends quite happily with the traditional
and lively "Lady Montgomery".
In my opinion this is not much of a result, if we consider the level of the
two musicians and the ambition of the project: what is missing, indeed, is some
real enthusiasm. And if we are not moved to emotion when listening to music,
what is the point in it?
Anne Wylie "Silver Apples of the Moon"
Label: Vollton Musikverlag 2003
Anne Wylie comes from Dublin and her music is based in the ancient Celtic inheritance
of the bards and the druids. Her latest album "Silver Apples of the Moon"
is another evidence of musical talent and creativity coupled with the mystic
touch of Ireland's culture. Anne sings and plays guitar and djembe and she is
accompanied by her long time musical partners Florian King on Irish bouzouki,
guitars, dobro, percussion loops and backing vocals and Henrik Mumm on 6-string
bass, fretless bass, double bass, cello and backing vocals. Since 2003 the excellent
Norwegian percussion player Helge Andreas Norbakken regularly tours with Anne
Wylie and he plays a very important role in the line-up. Brian O'Connor on low
whistles and Friedemann Witecka and Ingo Rau on backing vocals are guest musicians.
There're two versions of the title track on the CD: It starts with the radio
version of W. B. Yeats' poem "The Song of the Wanderin' Angus". Yeats'
brilliant poetry has been brought to music by the band, rhythmic and hauntingly
beautiful, the final concert version being my preferred.
The album features three more self crafted songs including the short Irish sean-nos
"Aisling". Even though the ancient traditional songs deserve to be
kept alive, I think the tradition of writing folk songs should still be maintained.
Folk music is music from the people for the people and I bet that today?s excellent
musicians still have something to say. Henrik Mumm is a great bass player and
he gives the jazzy touch to the music, even more when supported by Helge Andreas
Norbakken?s stunning percussions. Florian King is a master on the bouzouki and
it's also a pleasure to listen to his dobro. And last but not least Anne Wylie
showcases her excellent singing whenever she raises her voice. 1976 Maire Brennan
sang Dúlaman on Clannad's 3 rd LP and Anne Wylie don't have to dread comparison
with her rhythmic and fantastic version of this Donegal song. My absolute favourite
is the Waterford traditional praise of the calves, "Aililiú Na Gamhna".
I've heard two versions of this song by Karan Casey and it has become one of
my all time favourite Irish song. Anne's version is as spell binding as Karan's
are. Each time I listen to this song my mind is wandering through green pastures,
overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
If you like traditional music fused with modern influences, if you appreciate
brilliant musicianship and musical creativity you should get hold of a copy
of this breathtaking CD.
Adolf "gorhand" Goriup
Dirk Hamilton "The Relative Health of
Label: Outside Horizon (a division of Comet
Records) - HZ 016/2
Few people have heard of singer-songwriter Dirk Hamilton, although his career
first took off in the early 1970s. Despite a good range of music from rock 'n'
roll, R&B to gospel and reggae, Hamilton has often been overlooked whilst the
likes of Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp hit the spotlight and broke through
the mainstream charts. With his previous releases - "You can Sing on the Left
or Bark on the Right (1976), "Alias I" (1977) and "Meet Me at the Crux" (1978)
- Hamilton's audience has always remained a small, but tasteful, one. The release
of a 2-CD live album, however, "The Relative Health of Your Horse Outside" looks
set to change things. Hamilton's rugged vocals reminds one of Van Morrison and
Bruce Springsteen (especially on the track "Colder Than Mexican Snow", track
4 on Disc 2), and the soulful guitar on "In the Eyes of the Night" (track 1
on Disc 2) certainly tugs at those rusty heartstrings. The sound quality of
the album is also remarkable, crystal clear acoustic guitar and the clarity
and precision of a studio recording. It's a shame that this double CD won't
be available in all record shops, given its limited distribution. If you want
a copy though, and the money's well-worth it, you can purchase one directly
from Dirk Hamilton's website: www.dirkhamilton.com.
Shad Weathersby "Chomp Chomp"
Label: Singing Rock Records - B0007LVJ8Y
Singer-songwriter-guitarist Shad Weathersby has a busy schedule when he is not
recording his latest children's song in the studios. Usually he can be found
performing in children's classrooms or at expos in front of an audience of thousands.
His latest CD, Chomp Chomp, has received nothing but praise since its release.
Child therapists have highly recommended the CD for not only children, but their
parents as well. No wonder, for here is an album of not only fun, but also educational,
tunes that covers the range of genres from folk and country to pop. The themes
that are touched upon in the songs are familiar, yet seen from a wonderful new
perspective: the weather, bugs (a chomp-chomping caterpillar) and butterflies,
the days of the week ("Calendar Song", and the beauty of friendship. On this
CD, Weathersby is often joined by his chorus of young back-up singers. The result
is a cheery and uplifting mix of tunes that appeal to both a younger and older
audience alike. The last song on the CD, "In My Room", is a soothing and intimate
bedtime song that parents can play their little precious ones when they drift
off to sleep at the end of a long day of excitement, fun and play. Now, could
one possibly ask for more?
Shad Weathersby has his own website- http://www.shadweathersby.com.
Check out this website for more information on his latest CD, "Chomp Chomp",
as well as his three previous albums available to order- "Light Outside that
Door" (1984), "Dreamworld" (1996), and "To Behold The Light" (2003).
Stephen Simmons "Last Call"
Label: Locke Creek Records - SS1873
The opening strains of the mouth harmonica on the first track of Stephen Simmon's
second album (the first being the self-released acoustic album "Stephen Simmons
Live: Five Song Sampler", which received rave reviews in the Nashville music
circles) pretty much describes the rest of the album - plaintive, soulful, verging
on the poetic at times- and sets the mood for the album's main theme: the tension
between last call for alcohol, tomfoolery (especially with women, that oh-so-dangerous
and exotic species) and the last call for your soul.
Born and raised in the small town of Woodbury, Tennessee, Simmons was exposed,
at an early age, to a strict, Church of Christ upbringing. "When you're raised
in the Church of Christ, if you're sensitive at all, it leaves you with a lot
to struggle with," explains Simmons. This sense of struggle is revealed in the
songs on this album, which collectively portray the tension between a life of
rural simplicity and the opportunities and temptations represented by the city.
The song "Country Lines", for example, contains the lines "County Lines/ Run
in funny ways/ But once they draw 'em up/ They don't ever change/ They say you
can't go back/ So don't even try/ Take one more step/ And kiss your County goodbye."
To categorize Simmons' music would be a hard task: not strictly country, folk
or even Americana, but somewhere in-between, the songs on the album definitely
reveal the influence of artists such as Steve Earle, Gordon Lightfoot and even
the Small Faces, as well as Simmons' raw passion for his acoustic guitar. For
more information, pics and downloads, visit Stephen's homepage: http://www.stephensimmonsmusic.com.
Peter Funk & Herbert Wegener "New Day
Label: T&TT - LC 10417
This is a rather unusual CD, not least because it showcases tunes from St. Anne's
Reel / Soldier's Joy, to the Super Mario Theme! The 11 tracks on the duo's second
album are played entirely on the steelstring guitar, resonator-guitar, a lap-style
instrument made out of metal and wood, and the autoharp. The genres range from
swing and blues to folk and country, and accompanying the lads on the album
are Listening to the album, I discovered that it's not too hard to close your
eyes and pictures the swaying palm trees in a Hawaii-esque setting. In fact,
as the duo explains, Hawaii folklore is an important source of their musical
compositions, as is obvious on tracks such as "Waikiki Waltz" and "Every Pinch
Grows an Inch" (ahem… excuse me?!) The self-confessed guitar freaks are certainly
very inventive and their musical craftsmanship is no less than a "Note 1". If
you'll excuse me, I think I'll just go look for my Nintendo 64 set now…
Peter Funk & Herbert Wegener have their own homepage: http://www.funk-wegener.de,
inclusive of musical scores and other interesting links. You can also get hold
of a copy of their first album, "Great Dreams from Heaven", here.
Label: Friskin Records
First of all, let me say that these six "red haired and sober" lads look extremely
gorgeous and resplendent in their black suits, and not at all like the scallywags
they claim to be. Nice press photo, guys! J At present, the line-up consists
of Stefan Beer (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, vocals), Patrick
Rehm (accordion, vocals), Thomas Wirthensohn (acoustic guitar, trumpet, vocals),
Michael Moosbrugger (violin), Christian Manser (drums, vocals), Florian Waldner
(bass). With a nod to The Pogues, The Whisky Priests (with whom the band have
toured), and closer to home, bands such as Fiddler's Green and The Shanes, these
six lads spin out a collection of folk-festival friendly tunes. What is so great
about Scallywag, however, is not their studio albums, but the various other
projects that they have been, and are, involved in, such as Jazz Seminars in
Dornbirn for the theatre project, "The Wall", soundtrack projects for films
and folk festivals in their local Bregenzerwald area.
"Entschuldiger" the album itself is definitely a promising album, ending on
a rousing Pogueian note ("Barrels of Beer", track 12), although I'd like to
see more instrumental pieces, which I think would show off the lads' musical
proficiency. I'd also love to see these guys perform live sometime. If you'd
like to too, check out their website- www.scallywag.at
- for more information on tour dates, projects, music downloads, etc.
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5 - Page 6 - Page 7 -
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2 - Page 3
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