FolkWorld Issue 32 12/2006FolkWorld CD Reviews
Airdance "Cloud Nine"
Great Meadow Music;
GMM2020; 2006; Playing time: 52:53 min
"Cloud Nine" reportedly became a quick seller from the
Great Meadow Music contra music catalogue.
This is crystal clear if you only listen carefully to it.
Six years ago, fiddler Rodney Miller and his band assembled
to record music for a film about New England contra dancing.
The project took to its own pace. And eventually here comes the
second album. Rodney:
We're focusing in on contemporary contra music as it's heard around the country:
with deep roots in Celtic and Appalachian old-time music.
Tunes have been composed by Rodney Miller, Dave Richardson
(Boys of the Lough -> see below),
and John Morris Rankin.
The sound and performance is skilful, high-spirited and fun-loving.
Furthermore, the music is floor tested. It is meant for dancing, even more
the dancers have to love it. Since contra music dancers are always asking
for more waltzes, Rodney Miller composed three of them. For sure, this band and
its attitude should bring dancers old and young to cloud number nine.
Aisleng "Down at Dunbar"
Label: Desbow; 354.2201.2; 2005; Playing time: 46:18 min
East and west of the North Sea and the Channel, there is a host of folk bands who prefer cherishing a traditional, usually Celtic repertoire to create original compositions. This philosophy also applies to Aisleng, a Southern German band grouped around a Scottish singer, who have been touring "half of Europe" (as their press release proclaims) for the last decade and a half. In 2005 they released their sixth record, which is a studio album spiced with the odd live recording of a song or set of tunes. Aisleng are a family of six, who are in command of a wide range of instruments, from the guitar, keyboards, drums and percussion to the flute, whistle and recorder to the harp to the bagpipes, with special guests regularly standing in for additional vocals as well as the fiddle and the violin. Down at Dunbar gives a representative survey of Aisleng's musical profile and interests: The sixteen tracks comprise songs, ballads, dance tunes and bagpipe solos, many of them obvious choices such as "I Once oved a Lass", "I Tell Me Ma", "The Swallow's Nest / Tripping it up the Stairs" or "Mill Brae / The Musical Priest". Yet, added to the great number of "classics" are no less than two songs composed by keyboarder-singer Wolfgang Bauer: "Missing" and the title track, "Down at Dunbar".
However popular and widely known the traditional pieces may be, Aisleng succeed in adapting them to the present. First, they back them not with a bodhrán but a full drum-kit, and secondly, the band know their art, for the arrangements are cleverly and sometimes surprisingly done. But most of all, the sheer enjoyment and energy that comes across even in the studio recordings, is simply incredible. If trad music can always be honoured in as lively a way as Aisleng have created on their latest album, then there's no risk that the Celtic tradition becomes stale, smelly and insipid is not be feared in a long time.
4446013; Playing time: 41:54 min
Flemish band Ambrozijn
underwent some major changes. There is still the musical
backbone of accordion player Wim Claeys and fiddle player Wouter Vandenbeele,
but Ambrozijn's great singer Ludo Vandeau, whose golden voice literally put the nectar into
the band's performance, left for good. This sent shock waves throughout the
folk scene some time ago. Well, it's not all gloom and doom. Guitar player
Tom Theuns took to the vocal job, and their new album "Krakalin" was
produced by French folk legend Gabriel Yacoub
The lyrics of the new songs are in Flemish, French and English, written by Theuns,
the instrumental tunes are traditional or composed by the band.
The latter still is the good old Ambrozijn thing. And the songs? And the singer?
The words of "How Far We Are Near" go like this:
Where we go I cannot say, certainly there's no return.
Are you ready for the dreams we have?
I'm not sure if everybody of the fans will follow that path, even if
sometimes it's gold, sometimes obscenely joyful.
Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh "Daybreak : Fáinne an Lae"
7 4428 2; 2006; Playing time: 45:54 min
Here I am, on the road again. The song began...
Since 2003, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh
is the vocalist, flute and whistle player of Danú (-> FW#27) .
Before that, she travelled with Sessions from the Hearth (-> FW#12).
For her debut solo album, Muireann chose folk songs and traditionals such as
"Free and Easy", "The Banks of the Nile", plus the odd Richard Thompson (-> FW#25) and
Gerry O'Beirne (-> FW#11). She decided to interprete them in a rather modern and
popular manner. However, since Muireann hails from the Kerry Gaeltacht in South West
Ireland, growing up on Inisheer, Clear Island and Dunquin, she chose some
songs in Irish too. For example, "Slán le Máigh" (see also book reviews).
It's fine that all lyrics are printed in the booklet, the Gaelic words are translated.
Muireann's low voice is tender and warm. She recalls the great
Dolores Keane in her finest hour.
Furthermore, Muireann delights with a jig and a reel set, respectively,
for she is also an excellent flute player.
Support comes from Oisín McAuley (fiddle) and Éamon Doorley (bouzouki) from Danú,
Shane McGowan of the Border Collies (->
guitar players Tony Byrne and John Doyle (ex Solas, see below), and
songwriter Gerry O'Beirne (-> FW#11),
who contributed two songs that had already been recorded by Maura O'Connell
in the late 1980's.
The first of me rambles I now will sing ... Yes, please!
CD 415876 SOKOJ; 2006; Playing time: 38:12 min
is a ten piece orchestra from Belgrade, Serbia,
under the guidance of singer and arranger Jovana Backovic.
The group had been formed way back in 1998, and since then
took to the idea of fusing traditional music from the Balkan region
with ambient sounds and jazzy improvisation.
The repertory includes traditional songs and such written by
Jovana Backovic and sometimes the whole group.
The instrumentation is classical flute, violoncello and piano,
plus electric guitar, bass and percussion.
But most important is the quartet of female singers.
Think of Flemish female group Laïs as a comparison
It sounds much alike, and it has the same greatness as well.
Arhai's crossover music has a lot of commercial appeal,
and the band should be on the way to conquer the European world music market.
If I'm forced to say in a short phrase, I turn to Arhai's one particular song title:
it really is a Balkan Mantra.
Produkcija Gramofonskih Ploca
Battlefield Band "The Road of Tears"
COMD2098; 2006; Playing time: 71:52 min
Immigrants anywhere have often been treated with high suspicion and disgust.
Or, once established, they themselves have participated in the removal of aboriginal
people in these lands they have gone to in search for a better future.
The Scots know this very well from their own eventful history,
the path of emigration is a well-trodden one.
So it is no surprise that many songs and compositions have been inspired by the subject.
Maybe more surprising that the
(-> FW#27) decided to dedicate an entire
album to refugees, asylum seekers and economical emigrants. But why not.
Singer-keyboarder Alan Reid's "The Road of Tears" sets the theme.
The Highland Clearances, the Irish Famine, the expulsion of Native Americans,
and contemporary issues all put in one song. Moreover,
Robert Burns' "The Slave's Lament" and "To a Mouse",
Woody Guthrie's (-> FW#31) "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos",
and the often recorded "Emigrant('s Farewell)".
Certainly, there are tunes as well: "The Highlander's Farewell to Ireland" turns out to
be a strathspey version of the reel "Farewell to Ireland".
Fiddler Alasdair White wrote "The Patagonia Highlanders" after he found out that 4 percent
of foreign settlers in Patagonia in 1895 had been Scottish shepherds.
"Don Juan McKenna's Jig" is named after the Tyrone born hero of Chile's War of Independence.
The line-up of the Batties at the time of writing also includes piper Mike Katz
and Northern-Irish singer and guitar player Sean O'Donnell
(Deaf Shepherd, Emily Smith Band, Solas; see review below).
Furthermore, Mike Whellans (-> FW#27) plays mouthie on "Out in Australia at Last" (-> FW#31)
and other songs.
Blue Grass Boogiemen "Who's Afraid of the Boogiemen?"
VANDIVER Records; CD 2005; Playing time: 37:32 min
Bluegrass. 1751. Being any of several American grasses of the Poa genus and having
a bluish cast, earlier called Dutch grass (1671). Besides, Bill Monroe's
influential fiddling uncle Pendleton Vandiver was of Dutch ancestry, and so was
Bill's mother then. Now listen to the Blue Grass Boogiemen!
Hm? ... those songs ... that accent ... that is ... Dutch, yes ...
You wouldn't believe it, but the Boogiemen are from Utrecht in the Netherlands.
So why does a quintet (mandolin, guitar, bass, fiddle, banjo)
from the Lowlands of Holland dare to challenge musicians from the Kentucky plains?
Guitar player Robert Kanis explains:
I grew up listening to Elvis Presly, and then I discovered that Bill Monroe wrote
Blue Moon of Kentucky. Bill Monroe rocks. Fair enough.
Since 1990, the Boogiemen are a professional bluegrass band, one of the best in Europe.
The drive and virtuosity, the four part harmonies, and the feeling is top-notch.
The selection of songs is excellent; bluegrass songs and country songs they like to
grass up. I'm only left to say: Go ahead, boys!
Blyth Power "Fall of Iron"
Downwarde Spiral; DR012CD; 2006; Playing time: 50:34 min
I can't make sense of Shakespeare's history plays, at tragedy he's no master.
His star-cross'd lovers grate and prick, his swan necked heroines make me sick.
When the crowd hurled dung at his Henry Vth, t'was a well-deserved disaster.
So Joseph Porter had to do the job himself. And he had the songs, and he had his
band Blyth Power
to put it out for the public's pleasure and the public's rage
The lyrics are very English to the core, rustic, mythological and historical.
It is clever and sarcastical.
The protagonists are guys like Samson and Bomber Harris.
However, what is meant is today's England, Europe and this planet.
Kind of folk rock, so to speak. But it is no folk music, even if the chorus goes:
Whack-fol-a-day, the merry musings of the harps and the violins played,
so we danced 'til the break of day to the rhythm,
whack-fol-a-day, went the music to our hearts as the melodies strayed,
Neither it is pop music, though the songs' stories and tales are
of and for the people. Just plain and straight punk rock.
A sound that never changes too much, always recognisable und quite unique.
In the end, Blyth Power's "Fall of Iron" album is not as strong as the "Viking Station"
but equally matured. And it provides rather much variety.
Compared to earlier efforts of the band, you won't think you'd hear the very same song all the time.
CDTRAX295; 2006; Playing time: 53:03 min
Young Scottish band Bodega
consists of piper Gillian Chalmers, fiddler Ross Couper, clarsach harpist June Naylor,
guitarist Tia Files, and accordionist Norrie MacIver who also sings.
The band formed in March 2005, when meeting at Dougie Pincock's (->
National Centre of Excellence for Traditional Music in north-west Scotland.
Half a year later the five already won the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award.
Here's the debut album. And - wow - the result is startling. No seasoned artists,
going almost from nil to hundred per cent in no amount of time.
Bodega chose a mixed bag of instrumental tunes and songs in English and Gaelic.
Among them Dominic Behan's "Crooked Jack" and Dylan's "Wagon Wheel",
Scots Gaelic ballads and a waulking song. The sound has a jazzy and swinging feel to it.
No power band compared to other youngster. They already know yet when to stop
and step away from the gas. And that makes it more special, as it already is.
Bollywood Brass Band "Movie Masala"
Emergency Exit Records; BOLL CD 2004; 2004; Playing time: 43:35 min
Before getting in touch with world music perhaps you didn´t have too much ideas about brass bands, but there is great music there from the balcan countries and from other parts of the world. Today it´s about music of Indian origin.
The Bollywood Brass Band
is situated in England and ethnically mixed (only a part of the members comes from Indian families) but a very special virus has got them all: the music of the great (and in many countries totally unknown) Indian movie industry, which is nicknamed Bollywood. The musical directors are big stars there, and the melodies familiar to the people. The band has a four-piece percussion section consisting of Indian and western drums and percussion and nine musicians on brass and woodwinds. There are only little guest contributions on bass, violin, and keybords (the latter only on one track) but there is nothing missing for their style of drum´n´brass is very affecting and powerful, from the opening salvo of 'A marriage made in heaven' on. There are also romantic moments, especially on the ballads 'You have stolen my heart' and 'Tonight.' A touch of mystic is everywhere, especially for sure for my western ears.
The bonus CD is a fun affair. There are five remixes of tracks from the album done in very different styles, partly in dub/reggae rhythm but one tune, 'Dum maro dum,' was very short and so the band decided not to put it on the album. It is here in three versions which stand out as the highlights among the bonus tracks and are a joy listening to.
Drum´n´Brass the Indian way - great music and a great album by the Bollywood Brass Band.
Boys of the Lough "Twenty"
Lough Records; 009CD; 2005; Playing time: 44:05 min
The title says it all. It is the 20th album to date, and that's a formidable output
for a Celtic band. Boys of the Lough
Mark Whatever consists of Irishmen Cathal McConnell (flute) and Brendan Begley
(accordion), Scotsmen Kevin Henderson (fiddle) and Malcolm Stitt (guitar), plus
last but not the very least Dave Richardson (concertina, mandolin) from Northumberland.
Since the end of the sixties, the Boys had a go at traditional roots with
bringing in brand new ideas.
The origin of the various band members from all over Britain and Ireland certainly
helped a lot to break free. This is no longer necessary, these days the approach is
more conservative. At least, say: it's state of the art, still tip-top,
but not revolutionary. Ireland, Scotland and England - that's where the tunes come from.
A couple of songs, including "Ned Kelly" (The Kellys -> FW#31),
side by side with "Eamon an Chnoic" (Ned of the Hill).
Two fugitives from English law, so to speak.
The booklet is very informative (I just have to say that), and the Boys,
yes, still going strong. Let's look out for album no. twenty one!
Dale Ann Bradley "Catch Tomorrow"
7 4445 2; 2005; Playing time: 42:21 min
Dale Ann Bradley is arising on the bluegrass horizon.
Hailing from Kentucky, she was raised in the Primitive Baptist church where her father
was a minister. But instead of shape-note singing (a system of learning musical notes
by their shapes -> FW#29), their
singing was the music of Ralph Stanley and what he recorded down the ages.
Dale began performing at age 14 as a singer and guitarist. Her
first solo album was released in 1997. On "Catch Tomorrow" she delivers some
driving bluegrass tunes.
The autobiographical "Run Rufus Run" is a moonshine story taken from family lore:
That was rampant in that part of the South, you know. That was my cousin, who is deceased now, but he did that. He ran moonshine. He would go through the mountains and had ways of getting it to folks privately. My grandmother, who was his aunt, felt like that was a rough way for a kid to have to do. But it was economics, in those days they just needed the money, and a lot of people would scrape up the money to buy a quart of moonshine. He died at an early age because of, well, because of alcoholism.
Dale also comes up with samples of country, folk and gospel music. She is drawn to songs
that carry a message, and she chose them from
Billy Joe Shaver
and Kris Kristofferson (Me and Boby McGee)
besides her own.
"I Can't Stand the Rain" is grassed up and gets the bluegrass treatment.
Danny Thompson's "When the Mist Comes Again" is performed with Irish band
Lúnasa (see CD review below).
The studio band included Tim O'Brien (-> FW#11),
and as producer Alison Brown (-> FW#18,
Catch Dale today, don't wait until tomorrow!
Brechin All Records;
CDBAR001; 2006; Playing time: 53:31 min
Scotsman Sandy Brechin
is a hip accordion player, if there is such a thing as a hip accordion player,
and his vehicle to show up is the folk rock band Bùrach
The group is in existence since 1993 and it is re-grouped again,
at least for the second time. Singer Ali Cherry left for good, unfortunatly her songs
were the heart and soul of the band. New vocalist is singer-guitarist David Taylor.
Album number four is, well, lets say, it's different.
Though the songwriting is promising, I still have to get used to the songs of David
and those of bass player Chris Agnew in mid-Atlantic delivery.
The instrumental tunes written by Sandy and the devil's own fiddler Gavin Marwick
and their arrangement and interpretation work best for me.
This is Bùrach's strength. Maybe time will tell, and will
make Bùrach really unstoppable.
Brechin All Records
Paul Casey "Songs in Open Tuning"
Paul Casey Music; PCM 002; 2005; Playing time: 52:33 min
The third album of Paul Casey
offers blues inflected as well as slide and bottleneck guitar infested pop and soft rock music.
Paul's contemporary music is firmly rooted in the old style.
His songs are quite catchy, he is a virtuoso on the strings.
It is a pleasure to listen.
Paul Casey is no American songster, he is from County Derry in Northern Ireland.
So some uilleann pipes and whistles add a local accent.
Pop music is an international language, and so is the blues.
Chumbawamba "A Singsong and a Scrap"
No Masters; NMCD23; 2005; Playing time: 42:44 min
"Give the anarchist a cigarette": No single song line sums up the philosophy of the Leeds-based, flat-sharing, ever-changing agit-prop communist rock-and-brass co-operation which has received something close to pop-star status under the name of Chumbawamba
as does the title of the opening track of their 1994 album Anarchy. "Chumba" have always been a political band, an activist band, an anarchist band. Therefore it is small wonder that their latest release is a collection of "home-made" rebel songs; one might only wonder why they haven't done anything along these lines in their younger years...
The songs pay tribute to a number of famous and infamous rebels of political and musical history, such as William Francis of Yorkshire, a business tycoon avant la lettre, who lived in Yorkshire in the seventeenth century, earned a fortune from his farmland and workhouses but died all alone to leave his riches to his favourite horse, Magenta; Emma Goldman & Alexander Berkman, who in late nineteenth-century New York plotted to assassinate the boss of a factory which hired hitmen to kill striking labourers; or Joe Hill, the Swedish-born songwriter whose radical words put him into jail and, eventually, before the firing squad in Utah, U.S.A, during World War I. Moreover, some of the songs on the album deal with what is called the "re-turn to religion", and it is just like Chumbawamba to warn their listeners of the dangers of fundamentalism ("Walking into Battle With the Lord") as well as giving them more of their naively materialist outlook on the world ("By and By").
However, what is most striking about their latest album is the way in which they have adapted the musical style of the ol' rebel song. This is borne out by the fact that the Italian partisan tune "Bella Ciao" (in a lyrically updated version dedicated to Carlo Giuliani, who was shot by the police during the 2001 G-8 summit in Genoa) as well as The Clash's punk rebel hymn "Bank Robber" ("My daddy was a bank robber, but he never hurt nobody") are perfectly and harmoniously fit between their original compositions.
Slab it on your CD player, listen to the new set of anarchist hymns and enjoy the distinctive four-part vocals: Within seconds you'll be back in the Chumbawamba world, as scornful and sarcastic as you have always known it to be.
Dónal Clancy "Close to Home"
7 4438 2; 2006; Playing time: 40:36 min
is the 1975 born son of the famous Irish balladeer
He spent his childhood in Canada and the USA,
before the family settled back in An Rinn, County Waterford, in 1983.
Dónal started learning the tin whistle first and got the
guitar basics taught by his father. Later on he was
inspired by the likes of Artie McGlynn, Paul Brady etc.,
but was also influenced by the early country blues and contemporary guitar players such as
(-> FW#30) and
Dónal went on to became member of the
Eileen Ivers Band (-> FW#26),
Solas (see review below) and
Danu (-> FW#27).
With the latter he still plays, but here is Dónal's solo guitar debut.
He plays traditional Irish tunes on the acoustic guitar, fingerpicking style:
jigs, reels, slow airs, a barndance and a mazurka,
a hornpipe, Carolan's (->
"Lord Inchiquin". His major influence has been American guitarist Duck Baker and
his arrangement of Irish tunes for the acoustic guitar.
But Dónal makes also a reference to his first music teacher Jim Horgan from
Youghal, County Cork. (Jim taught him "Garrett Barry's Jig", however, you might know him
because he appeared briefly as a child in the "Moby Dick" movie which was shot on
location in Youghal.) So Dónal becomes another fine representative
in a long line of Celtic musicians displaying the art of traditional music
on an instrument that was thought not very suitable for this genre
(e.g. -> FW#22,
MWCD 4052; 2005; Playing time: 47:13 min
Comas is the Gaelic word for power, and
Comas is a multi-national quartet,
featuring artists from Ireland (Aidan Burke, fiddle),
Britanny (Sylvain Barou, flute),
Belgium (Philip Masure, guitar, bouzouki)
and the US (Jackie Moran, percussion, bodhran).
This is the legacy of bands such as Orion
and Urban Trad
The four assembled together in early 2003, played some festivals to remarkable success,
and here comes the studio recording to make way outside Belgium and the Netherlands.
The tunes and songs bring together the different musical backgrounds.
Phillip Masure sings at their live shows every now and then, for the recording
Scottish singer Helen Flaherty
has been employed (see also Munnelly Flaherty Masure review in the German issue).
One of the songs has been written by singer-songwriter Daithi Rua
It is power that Comas is all about. A tough and awesome rhythm machine.
Frea Records; German distribution: Sunny Moon
Tracy Curtis "Picture Postcards"
IRR065; 2006; Playing time: 38:56 min
I praised the debut album of British singer-songwriter
(-> FW#30) in the first flush of excitement.
I still think so in the second. Meanwhile Tracy supported
Chumbawamba (see review above),
Attila The Stockbroker,
David Rovics (see review below)
and Danbert Nobacon, spread her music
and refined her trade. That is topical folk pop (if there is such a thing),
with great emotion, intelligence, humour and common sense.
For example, she imagines "If the death penalty were an olympic sport".
(China will be hosting the Olympics in 2008 and thousands are executed every year,
the song using the Amnesty International figures.) Tracy sends "Letters to Mr Bush"
and remembers her "First Riot", which had been against the poll tax in 1990,
and witnessed the brutality of Mrs Thatcher's troopers.
"All the Girls Love a Soldier", well, Tracy Curtis certainly is not that type of girl.
Delta Moon "Howlin'"
Own label; 12005; 2005; Playing time: 43:28 min
This band from Atlanta – “Howlin´” is already their fourth outing - is still producing their albums by themselves on their own label, Delta Moon Records. Perhaps no bad idea for they found their style with no company in the background and do not seem in danger to lose direction.
“Howlin´” is an explosive album. I could say that “Higher ground”, “Must be lonely”, “Midnight train”, “Put your arms around me”, “Low country boil” and “Blue Highway” are my favorites here, so what is it with this music?
There is a singer (Kristin Markiton), a guitar and organ player (Tom Gray), another guitar (Mark Johnson) and a tight rhythm section (Scott Callison on drums and Phil mSkipper on bass). This is not too unusual. What they do together is a tight, rootsy, simple to-the-point playing that can lift you up every while you listen to it.Blues, rhythm and blues, swamp music and rock are the ingredients to a hot and spicy mix that is really cooking. Something like this can only come from the south. The rhythm is irresistible and the music feels fresh and new and very old at the same time. Listen and enjoy!
Dick O' Brass "Disk O' Brass"
MAM296-2; 2006; Playing time: 40:20 min
Dick O' Brass is
the Czech version of a Breton rock band. The six piece band combines rock music
with Celtic music, drawn mainly from traditional Breton and traditional Irish music.
Bombarde, Scottish bagpipes (by Czech piper Tomáš Nedelka), flute, harp (by Irishman
Seán Barry), plus a rock backing. And, Geez, these raggy boys
are of high quality, they are fun, and you don't have to go all the way to Britanny
when the beautiful city of Prague, the banks of the Moldova River
and tasty premium beer are just around the corner.
(If you're interested in Czech and Slovakian folk music, search out
the article about Indies Records in this FW issue.)
Eoin Dillon "The Third Twin"
kcrd 201; 2005; Playing time: 40:25 min
Eoin Dillon is the uilleann piper of flamboyant Irish band
He also worked with the likes of Hector Zazou, Jane Sibery and
While Kila (including Eoin, of course) teamed up with Japanese Ainu musician Oki
to deliver the goods (see review elsewhere), Eoin took to a more traditional effort
on his own terms. Though, except one tune by Frank Tate and one by Dee Armstrong,
respectively, he has written all the sets by himself. He displays the whole
spectrum of traditional art - from a passionate waltz to a fiery reel - in his
style of open piping. Additional help came from bouzouki player Proinsias Tate,
guitar player Desmond Cahalan and fiddler Steve Larkin.
Eoin is not the third man in disguise (->
and pipes are not a zither, definitely not.
But it makes me recapitulate the famous words of Orson Welles:
In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace.
And what did that produce? The cuckoo clock!
In Ireland for nine hundred years they had occupation, warfare, terror, murder,
And what did that produce? Irish music, uilleann pipes and Eoin Dillon.
MAM315-2; 2006; Playing time: 46:34 min
After a successful album in 2004 which took 11th place in the World Music Charts Europe,
Slovakian group Druzina presents
the follow-up "Tragare". The band's name means suite.
It had been formed in 2000 from folk, rock and jazz musicians,
and they arranged Slovakian folk songs as contemporary ethnobeat,
as they call it themselves. And this is a as good a description as any,
at least we know where to put it. Very at ease, heading straight into
the heart of the pop charts. Not as rocking as fellow Slovakians Konaboj (see review below).
Not meant ironical or negative, it is really a pleasure to listen.
This amiability stands in contrast to the lyrics.
Thanks to the translations in the CD booklet, we eventually get to know what traditional songs from
Slovakia are all about: Wouldn't that be funny if my boyfriend died.
I would be mourning him so much, I would be dancing in the pub for three days.
Never wed a Slovakian girl, I say. What about the men?
From Ocova to the mill there is a well-trodden path.
Johny had trodden that path looking for the miller's wife.
The miller ran to get his axe, he chopped Johny's head off
and had it thrown in the water. When the miller's wife went to get cold water,
she had seen her sweetheart's head drifting away.
Yeah, amusing people, these Slovakians.
(If you're interested in Czech and Slovakian folk music, search out
the article about Indies Records in this FW issue.)
Dulaman "Four Years In November"
Own label; 2003; Playing time: 44:49 min
Dulaman is the Gaelic word for seaweed, and the name of an Irish song
known from Clannad or Altan.
But the British band Dulaman
from Cheshire is no Celtic outfit, rather playing American music.
The young group formed in 1999, and had already been compared to
And this is quite true: an eclectic mic of Celtic music and folk, bluegrass
and old time, country and pop music. Let's call it folk pop,
Americana with a particular sound.
Many songs and tunes have been composed by the band members themselves.
At the time of recording Dulaman had been: Anna Kelly (fiddle),
David Pickering (mandolin), Eleanor Cross (double bass), and
James Dewdney (guitar). The line-up changed since then, David left, and
a new CD of the remaining trio is said to be in the pipeline.
The Eighteenth Day of May "The Eighteenth Day of May"
HNCD 1496; 2005; Playing time: 47:47 min
The Eighteenth Day of May
formed a couple of years ago in East London - guess what month and day -
from an acoustic trio. Vocals, guitar, mandolin, flute
had been expanded to a six-piece band, employed a viola player, and eventually
They shared love of the English folk music of Shirley Collins and Martin Carthy,
the West Coast pop of The Charlatans and The Byrds and the psychedelia of
Spacemen 3 and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Their electric folk rock is
somehow very British, this time very original with new twists and turns,
and kind of bizarre sometimes. I don't know if smoking ganja brings any further
comprehension, but it may help. Among the dozen tracks are two traditionals
("Lady Margaret", "Flowers of the Forest") and a
Bert Jansch piece ("Deed I Do").
A psychedelic trip into British traditions.
Emma & The Professor with Tom Leary [Demo]
Demo; 2006; Playing time: 26:18 min
Emma Heath started singing with Benji Kirkpatrick's Hedgerows
and featured on the first Evolving Tradition album.
Four years ago, she teamed up with Mark Davies to pen
some original songs and play acoustic music
drawing on folk, blues and contemporary music:
Emma & The Professor !
Emma is singing and playing the guitar, being of Lebanese ancestry might explain
certain Eastern influences in her delivering. Mark is banging away on the frame drum,
driving the songs forward. Recently the Shropshire based duo teamed up with fiddler
The first time I saw Emma and Mark perform at the Cromer
festival I knew they were a bit special, very powerful, with some great
material and arrangements, a truly great duo, Tom says.
He has worked extensively with legendary British folk and folk rock
artists, from Fairport Convention
(-> FW#23) to the Albion Band and Jethro Tull. In the last decade,
Tom has been touring with Kevin Dempsey,
Little Johnny England
(-> FW#14) and
Feast of Fiddles (-> FW#25).
A collaboration in its infancy, maybe something special is born here. We look out for.
Terry Evans "Fire in the feeling"
ccd 11086; 2005; Playing time: 58:48 min
To fans of blues music Terry Evans is a familiar trademark. Like so many great colored singers he was born in the Mississippi Delta. From early on he wanted to be a soul singer. What made his greatness is his very personal style. Often he uses the great possibilities of his voice in a gentle and elegant way. Many listeners will know his duo work with Bobby King or his collaborations with Ry Cooder or one of his already six solo albums.
On his first Crosscut release Evans presents himself as a mature singer and songwriter. Although many musicians are involved in different combinations the sound is always intimate. This helps to shape the whole package as a very personal statement. There are many highlights here, for example the beautiful ballad “I´ll be your shelter”, “Let´s get gone” which proves that it is possible to rock in a way that is gentle and kind of understated, “Uphill climb”, a clever composed song that has some harmonies which are interesting and uncommon in a soul/blues context, and the topical “My baby joined the army”, composed by Ry Cooder and given exclusively to Terry. Here Evans on vocals and David Lindley on guitar seem to sing a duet and it sounds almost heavenly despite the fact that the song deals with an actual war scenario. The album closes majestetical with “Walkin´ Chains”. Terry Evans shows one more time that he is one of the greatest artists in modern blues and in contemporary music in general.
Fanfare Ciocarlia "Gili Garabdi - Ancient Secrets of Gypsy Brass"
Asphalt Tango Records;
CD-ATR 0605; 2005; Playing time: 56:43 min
The fourth album by the Romanian gypsy brass ensemble is a joyful experience from start to finish. A joyous adaption of the 'James Bond -Theme,' which opens the selection sets the standart for nearly one hour of great playing. Nearly all of the music here invites the listener to dance and to listen at the same time because there is so much shear energy and so many ideas in the music, which calls Garth Cartwright „a goulash of oriental funk and jazz“. One can´t define this electrifying fusion much better. Beautiful melodies are there too. And about the jazz influences (there is a great version of Duke Ellingtons 'Caravan' here) clarinetist Ioan Ivancea states: „Who is to say that our cousins who went to the USA didn´t help to invent jazz?“ I can imagine this after listening to this album.
Of course most tunes are not American but by composer Adrian Sical. And there are two tunes with special guest Jony Iliev, the great singer from Bulgaria performing two songs from his vast repertoire. Members of the Fanfare also sing on some of Sicals compositions.
I remember this band playing on the WDR Folk Festival in Cologne some years ago. After the concert they didn´t finish - they continued playing walking through the streets and eventually stopped at a place exciting people who perhaps never before listened to folk music. You can feel this spirit listening to this great record - the ancient secrets of gypsy brass live on!
P.S.: In one selection the Pink Panther is hiding - listen carefully to be sure to catch him ...
Asphalt Tango Records
Lonesome Brothers "Mono"
Captivating Music; CM-9160; 2006; Playing time: 43:15 min
Foghorn Stringband "Weiser Sunrise"
0 6700 30422 2 2; 2005; Playing time: 48:35 min
Feed + Seed "McKinley's Ghost"
Own label; 2006; Playing time: 35:38 min
Old-time music, the source music of the American south, was a laid-back affair.
Bill Monroe took it and created
hard driving bluegrass music. Now we are one step further.
These days numerous young bluegrass and old-time bands spring up. Some are
not worth mentioning, some are quite extraordinary.
These youngsters are inspired by classic bluegrass, old-time and country artists,
but have also been influenced by the Beatles and the
to Hendrix via
Bill Monroe and
Flatt & Scruggs, so to speak.
Rather surprising, they deliver the goods in a straight, stripped down
and acoustic way, gathering around and performing and recording through
one single 'fatass' microphone without any tricks or overdubbing.
The Lonesome Brothers had been already
formed in 1985, so being alt-country pioneers.
Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter Ray Mason
plays easy, engaging folk and folk rock,
but he is also the bass player of this five piece band.
Both Ray and fellow band member Jim Armenti wrote sprightly songs
propagating hillbilly wisdom. "Mono" is the Brothers 6th record, and aptly titled it is.
The Foghorn Stringband
is from Portland, Oregon. The title "Weiser Sunrise" of their debut album comes from the
national fiddle championships in Weiser, Idaho, the place where the band
members first joined together as a band. It has been recorded in three days,
and, just the same as on stage, the five band members sat in a circle and played
live. Almost all songs are traditional, sometimes from the 1700s.
The most modern being Jimmy Davis' "Nobody's Darling But Mine" from the first half
of the 20th century. The Foghorns say:
Old time music has a purity and a democratic quality that appeals to us. What bothers
me most about today's music is its commercial aspect; it's all lead singers
with back up bands. A band should have a real tie between the players, they should
hang out and play together. The community is as important as the music.
Another band worth mentioning is Feed + Seed
from Bellingham, Washington. No southern band as well. They played for two years as a quartet with banjo, mandolin,
guitar and bass. Recently also a fiddle player joined to make the line-up complete.
This very young band is unusual for having no lead singer, everybody gets the chance
to sing as well as having his instrumental solo. The next big step is to get out
of Bellingham to spread their music.
A music just as in the good old days, but with a contemporary edge. A seed has been planted
decades ago and it crops up time and time again.
More English CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5 - Page 6
More German CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3
Overview: CD Review Contents
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