FolkWorld Issue 33 05/2007
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Shona Kipling + Damien O'Kane "Box On"
FMCD02; 2006; Playing time: 49:42 min
Shona Kipling and Damien O'Kane
is an exciting duo bursting onto the traditional scene in recent years.
Shona Kipling (piano accordion) is English with Irish roots, her mother being
from Kerry, she grew up in County Durham.
Damien O'Kane (tenor banjo and guitar) is Irish
from Coleraine, County Derry.
Both are three-time All-Ireland champions,
Shona also became BBC Radio 2 Young Folk AWard finalist
and received a BBC Fame Academy Bursary.
Damien also plays with the band CrossCurrent
and is working alongside Kathryn Tickell (see below) as director of the
youth project Folkestra.
On their second album "Box On" they are supported by guests such as Aaron Jones (bouzouki ->
They are both composers in their own right;
Flook recorded Damien's "Shuffle" on their "Haven" album (-> FW#31).
Damien also sings the 19th century Irish lament "Airdi Cuan" (which is a peak in
Northern Ireland) and the well-known "P Stands for Paddy".
According to the album's title Shona and Damien tackle their tunes with
spirit and verve. Box on, i.e. carrying on through hard times.
We hope they'll do. It is awarding in the end.
Bilja Krstic & Bistrik Orchestra "Tarpos"
INT 3406 2; 2007; Playing time: 41:19 min
Belgrade singer Bilja Krstic
has been on the Yugoslav pop scene since the 1970s.
After a successful career in pop music, Bilja Krstic took
to the roots of her country's music. She collected folk songs from all over
Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece,
resulting in two previous albums "Bistrik" (2001) and "Zapisi” (2003).
These songs date back to Ottoman rule in the Balkan, when there was a
kind of a common culture, at least there were many similarities from the Balkans to the Middle East.
The old songs and tunes are interpreted in a contemporary way,
some songs have new tunes.
The Bistrik Orchestra is an eight-member fusion band from Belgrade, featuring
violin, pipe, duduk (a traditional woodwind instrument of Armenian origins), plus guitar, bass and percussion backing.
Bilja Krstic is a great singer, the songs are proficiently put together.
No folklore but traditional music for contemporary audiences.
Laimas Muzykanti "Orkla Bolss - The Voice of a Plough"
UPEAMCD 005; 2006; Playing time: 49:38 min
The Laimas Muzykanti
started out a decade ago as a group of musicians to accompany the Daugavpils
folk dance group Laima in the Latgale region in South East Latvia.
On one hand there is a small group that plays traditional instruments and for folk dancing,
on the other hand there is a bigger group adding electric guitar, bass and drums playing
folk rock. "Orkla bolss" (i.e. the voice of the plow) is the latter one.
The eight piece band sing traditional songs in Latgallian
about young fellas that steal horses, cheat people, drive round young girls,
and what folk songs are generally about.
Accordion, kokle (a type of zither derived from the Finnish kantele) and flute direct to an ethnic sound.
There are quite a few great ethno rock songs.
"Sielejis dancs" on the contrary is a Pogues-like polka
which doesn't work that good. It's okay for a fun song,
but lacks the seriousness of most of the other tracks.
I am not sure if I ever listened to a Latvian band before,
here is one I would strongly recommend.
Robin Laing "One for the Road"
CDTRAX313; 2007; Playing time: 50:16 min
From the Lowlands to the Highlands, from Japan to the Hebrides.
from Orkney to Kentucky and the far Antipodes,
from Tennessee to Canada and Ireland’s emerald land,
there’s a world of whisky out there, so let’s have another dram...
"One for the Road" is the third in a series of albums about the world of whisky
in song and music. Robin Laing
a fine interpreter of traditional and contemporary Scottish song,
is one of those lucky individuals who has turned his hobby
into a career: whisky, uisge beatha, the water of life,
Scotland's most important export, and her greatest contribution to humanity.
This time featuring less Scottish music.
There are still good Scottish whisky songs to be uncovered but I wanted to do
something different, Robin says. I had picked up a few good non-Scottish
songs and was writing songs in a different style. In any case, whisky is an
international phenomenon. He wrote a couple of songs himself, others were taken
from Karine Polwart, Mark Wise, Amy Allison, Simon Haworth,
Harley Allen & Carson Chamberlain and Tegwen Roberts.
The arrangements are catchy and go straight into the heart.
Or is it into the veins? Or into the belly?
If you’re fightin' off a lurgie, you can gargle wi’ Glenburgie,
and Balvenie is Viagra in a glass.
Robin is just like his favourite single malt whisky, A'Bunadh,
which means something like origin or source:
full-bodied, powerful, of great complexity,
just the pure stuff of the old style.
Please read the interview with Robin in this FW issue too!
Samograj; SAMCD 01; 2006; Playing time: 49:12 min
There is an old Armenian fairy tale about "Azaran", the bird of a thousand trills.
It says, when Azaran sang everything blossomed.
The quartet Lautari from Poznan in Poland
chose this as an inspiration.
Its music is ethnic jazz, deeply rooted in the traditional music of the Balkan countries,
Romania and Greece. The blend of violin, flute, clarinet, piano and drums take care
for an ambient sound. There are eastern influences, there is gyspsy music, and
a jazzy feeling throughout. Then, from time to time it sounds like a chamber orchestra.
When Azaran sang everything blossomed. It does so still today.
Distribution: Multikulti Project / FRIPP
Alasdair White "An Clàr Geal"
COMD2099; 2006; Playing time: 46:40 min
Lauren MacColl "When Leaves Fall"
Make Believe Records;
MBR1CD; 2007; Playing time: 53:03 min
Lori Watson "Three"
ISLE 02CD; 2006; Playing time: 48:59 min
David Garner & Pete Airey [Demo]
Demo; Playing time: 41:17 min
Fiddle part I, Scotland:
Alasdair White hails from
the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.
Only in his mid twenties, he has been the fiddle player of the Battlefield Band
for five years (like John McCusker before him ->
FW#26) and is featured on the
albums "Time & Tide" (-> FW#23),
"Out for the Night" (-> FW#28)
and "The Road of Tears" (-> FW#32).
His debut solo album "An Clàr Geal" (i.e. "The White Album")
is no tribute to the fab four. He gathered colleagues such as
Aaron Jones (bouzouki -> FW#31),
Mike Katz (bagpipes) and Alison Kinnaird (harp)
to execute the Scottish repertory of tunes and rhythms.
The Hebridean fiddle style is influenced by the piping tradition,
and Alasdair handles his instrument with the skills of a matured performer.
It is the pure stuff, and the only reminiscence of the contemporary world is the slow air "An Draigheann":
I recorded Allan MacDonald singing the tune into my mobile phone memory,
and learnt it from there. It wasn't like that in the old days!
Though one of her self-penned tunes is called "God is an Accordion",
is a divine fiddler.
The debut album of the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award winner from Ross-shire
features traditional and original Scottish tunes, including source material from the Shetlands
the Highlands and Islands, Scott Skinner, and once straying as far as Norway.
"When Leaves Fall" has been produced by Chris Stout (Fiddlers' Bid ->
Guitarist Barry Reid (Croft No. 5 -> FW#30)
and pianist James Ross form her usual trio,
and guest accordionist Luke Daniels (-> FW#31)
is featured on one track. Well, if God was a fiddler...
Fiddler and singer Lori Watson
teamed up with Fiona Young (piano accordion) and Innes Watson (guitar) to form a
tremendous band called "Lori Watson Three".
Lori is in good shape, both
as an interpreter of the Scottish fiddle tradition as well as writing her own tunes.
She is from the Scottish Borders, thus featuring tunes like "The Lowlands of Scotland" and
"Lasses of Hawick". Songs as well are mostly from her native Borders, written or collected
by Robert Burns and James Hogg.
David Garner has been born in Durham
in the North East of England in 1985. He took up the fiddle when only nine.
When moving to Dumfries in Scotland at the age of 13,
he joined the school ceilidh band. Soon after David became
All-Scotland and All-Britain fiddle champion. Recently he started
studying Engineering Design at the University of Bristol, besides
playing music with different kinds of outfits.
Two years ago David met veteran guitar player
Pete started playing the guitar at the age of 8 following the example of
his jazz pianist father. While at University in Bristol, he played the folk club
circuit. In the 1970s he formed a band with Dave Evans,
a duo with Steve Tilston (-> FW#32) and
joined the legendary folk rock band Gryphon. David and Peter went on to
form a folk act, gigging around Bristol. The repertory is mainly Irish, partly
Scottish. A bit of the Celtic fringe in southern England.
Oisín McAuley "Far From the Hills of Donegal"
7 4446 2; 2007; Playing time: 55:55 min
Niamh Ní Charra "Ón Dá Thaobh - From Both Sides"
Imeartas; IMCD001; 2007; Playing time: 52:58 min
Fiddle part II, Ireland:
has been a member of Danú
since 2001. He grew up in Carrick, County Donegal. These days
Oisín is based in Boston, Massachussets, and he breaks out from the more traditional mould of his band.
Starting off with some Quebec reels (overheard in Britanny), finishing off with
"Port na bPucai", the famous slow air from the Blasket Islands off the Dingle Peninsula
However, Donegal music is in his blood, so is the Donegal style of fiddling (John Doherty etc.),
though Oisín is trained in all styles from bluegrass to jazz.
Guests include Shane McGowan (guitar) and Ronan Browne (uilleannn pipes ->
Oisín proves indeed, he came far from the hills of Donegal
to bring us the best.
Niamh Ní Charra
is another Irish fiddler who broke out to stand on her own feet.
She did tour the world with the Riverdance show for 8 years and eventually
returned to her native shores to record her debut solo album.
Niamh hails from the lakes of Killarney, so a couple of Sliabh Luachra slides are featured.
The air "Caoineadh Eoghain Rua" possibly refers to the 18th century poet
Eoghan Rua Ó Súilleabháin from just outside Killarney.
However, there is more: Irish tunes, traditional and original, Cape Breton tunes,
Bill Monroe's hornpipe "Crossing the Cumberlands". A Hungarian csárdás
taken from Muzsikás' Bartók album (-> FW#13)
is followed by the "Gravel Walk" reel.
Guests include ex Moving Hearts bass player Eoghan O Neill and
accordion player Brendan Begley,
who is now with Boys of the Lough (-> FW#32).
Brendan sings "An raibh tú ag an gCarraig?"
in a version containing both Gaelic and English verses.
Niamh also plays the concertina, and she chose
Giulio Regondi's "Allegretto #4" as her test piece.
The Italian composer was one of the first who performed on Wheatstone's newly
patented concertina in 1834, and he was probably the first to introduce the instrument
to Irish audiences. The allegretto was written for the English concertina, but
Niamh worked it out for the Anglo-German concertina. A talented lady indeed!
Pat Broderick & Ann Marie Murray "The Good Friday Session"
Own label; 2006; Playing time: 36:46 min
Danny McLaughlin Band "Dark Wood"
Own label; 2007; Playing time: 45:01 min
Kathryn Tickell "Strange but true"
PRKCD90; 2006; Playing time: 62:53 min
Ceri Rhys Matthews "Pibddawns"
cd293h; 2006; Playing time: 47:34 min
East Galway is an area in the west of Ireland that produced its special treatment
of traditional Irish music. Generally it is more relaxed and less rhythmical.
Many tunes are in flat or minor keys lending a melancholic feeling.
Must be in the water or in the turf!
Fiddler Martin Hayes took it to the extreme trance-like, but usually the music is not
quite that bizarre but much more accessible. Uilleann piper (and whistler)
Pat Broderick is the heir to a long family tradition.
"The Good Friday Session" is recorded live and in full flight
in Cregg Castle, his family home, and he is joined by his partner for three decades,
Ann Marie Murray, on bodhran. He is further accompanied by concertina player Tim Lyons,
and drummer Jason Duffy (of the Corrs) on a ceili-like track.
It is a fine session indeed, including an exciting selection of tunes
and a strong performance.
Pat Broderick pays homage to the East Galway tradition, mind you,
travelling piper Johnny Doran often passed through,
piper Patsy Touhey had been from the area and became quite famous in the U.S.
a hundred years ago.
Thanks to the flourishing economy, Irish musicians are allowed to stay home these days,
which is great, they can record their music, which is even better.
(Distribution by Claddagh Records.)
was born in Manchester to Irish parents. He had a couple of uilleann
pipers in his family and was early exposed to giants such as
Liam O'Flynn (-> FW#27) and
Paddy Keenan (-> FW#30).
Nowadays Danny lives in New York. In 2005 he met guitar player Ziv Shalev
and formed The Danny Mclaughlin Band as a Celtic rock outfit.
Danny plays uilleann pipes and low whistle, plus a rock band as backing.
Moving Hearts without the songs. Most tunes were written by Danny himself,
with some borrowings from traditional Irish music. It's good craic listening
on disc, and I suppose live even more
Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell
needs no introduction. Though still in her prime, she had a 25 years career and
decided looking at a few of the collaborations I've been
involved in over the years, ranging from the sublime (I hope) to the ridiculous,
and yes, there are some strange moments on it. There are
duets with Karen Tweed (-> FW#24)
and Catriona Macdonald (-> FW#13),
jazz saxophonist Andy Sheppard, the Norwegian Brazz Brothers,
harpist Corrina Hewat (-> FW#26)
and youth folk ensemble Folkestra,
performing both Tickell compositions as well as traditional
Northumbrian and Shetland tunes. Kate Doherty wrote a new tune for
Burns' "Winter is Past", there is also a
rendition of the traditional Tyneside pressgang song "Here's the Tender".
Kathryn's friends haven't been pressed into service,
there is joy and fun throughout.
Ceri Rhys Matthews
(featured on -> FW#29)
has been a key figure in the renaissance of Welsh traditional music.
Being it as a producer (e.g. Cass Meurig's solo recording of crwth music ->
member of the group Fernhill, or as a soloist. A solo album of pipe music
is not too amazing, but it is when it comes to Welsh pipe music.
The Welsh pipes had disappeared decades ago.
John Glennydd built a set of pibe cyrn (i.e. bag hornpipe)
based on existing ancient instruments,
with some innovations to enable a wider repertoire to be played.
It sounds quite as sweet and sticky as the Northumbrian pipes or the Scottish small pipes.
Many of the tunes, traditional dance music of Wales,
have never been sounded on a bagpipe before, and
"Pibddawns" is the first recording entirely devoted to that kind of instrument.
John Munro "Plying My Trade"
CDTRAX312; 2007; Playing time: 49:26 min
Scotland by birth, down under by choice. John Munro
has been born in Glasgow. Just like Eric Bogle (-> FW#32), he chose to emigrate to
Australia. John recorded on some 50 albums, he always felt most
comfortable as Eric Bogle's accompanist or member of Colcannon,
but he never made a solo recording before.
Ian Carr of Greentrax Records eventually bullied him to do
and we're glad he did. John Munro selected a dozen own
that matter to him, playing guitar and mandolin, backed up by the creme of
Adelaide's musicians. John Munro's songs are about Australia, e.g. there is
an instrumental tune about bushranger Ned Kelly
About Scotland, there is an adaption of Tannahill-McPeake's (->
FW#32) "Wild Mountain Thyme".
In "While I'm Here" John promises: Whatever I may do I'll do the best I can,
I will try to make a song that touches someone's heart.
He certainly did.
Tony O'Leary "Pump the Box"
Own label; 0207635; 2006; Playing time: 43:00 min
Welcome to a kitchen party, Newfoundland style!
Viking Leif Eriksson came to these shores looking for supplies for Greenland's
The Irish and Scots came, following their saint Brendan's route who went there
even before the Vikings, and brought the music. As people with a high
regard for home and hearth but also for partying and dancing,
they invented the kitchen party and
developed the traditional dance music.
This environment created some masterful performers over the decades,
in recent time you can add button accordionist
to the list. Quite fittingly
Tony dedicated "Pump the Box" to all the transient workers both past and present who
travelled many miles to earn a living for their families.
He selected traditional Irish tunes and songs (from "Far Away in Australia" to "Banks of the Lee"),
a couple of his own, and his uncle Frank O'Leary's Labrador tunes.
It is an accordion-led ceili band with drums and all. Tony O'Leary knows a good tune,
and how to execute it. So pump the box, Tony, go on!
Rónán Ó Snodaigh "The Last Mile Home"
KRCD 104; 2007; Playing time: 38:49 min
Tinariwen "Aman Iman: Water is Life"
CAP040; 2007; Playing time: 54:18 min
By coincidence I got these two cd's on the same day. However, this is not the
reason that I decided to review them together, but it is the same trance-like and
shamanistic music that connects them.
In 1992, the rebelling touareg guerilleros made peace with the government of Mali.
They traded their kalashnikovs for electric guitars and
fight for their unique culture and their language
with their traditional music ever since.
The band Tinariwen
(-> FW#31), which means
means empty space or desert,
recorded their third album "Aman Iman - Water is life" in
Mali's legendary Bogolan studios, where Ali Farka Touré produced many of his hit records.
Imagine a one chord groove,
a female chorus chanting, clapping hands, the groove going on for minutes and minutes
and not much happens, time stands still, one guitar player after another is drawn in,
until half a dozen are swinging to the beat.
Their songs are about wandering, displacement and exile, self-sufficiency and freedom,
about homesickness and longing, separation from family, their loved ones and the land,
about the beauty and mystery of the desert, but also about
the lack of water and the ignorance of their native language.
Rónán Ó Snodaigh
is the enigmatic singer of Irish world beat band
Kíla (-> FW#4,
Rónán already recorded two solo albums before ( ->
"The Last Mile Home" is a singer-songwriter album with mostly English lyrics,
occasionally in Gaelic. Relaxed songs, but tough folk music with tendencies
to acoustic folk rock. Though rough and ready all along the way on the last mile home,
it is Rónán's most accessible work to date.
And maybe the one where he took the greatest number of turns.
Some people think that the desert is everywhere the same. But there is
sand and rock, salt and lava, and a lack of water only means that somewhere
there must be water.
Erol Parlak Baglama Quintett "Threshold of Light"
319.1378.2; 2007; Playing time: 46:03 min
Folks in Western Europe and North America have the guitar,
people in Turkey and the Middle East think highly of the
baglama (also called saz),
a long necked lute with three steel strings.
Erol Parlak is a star in his
home country, a renowned musicologist and baglama virtuoso.
Erol is a champion of the almost forgotten polyphonic playing style (called: selpe),
i.e. not played with a plectrum but plucked with fingers. Strings are often sounded
by hammering onto the fingerboard with fingers of both hands.
The Erol Parlak Baglama Quintet had been formed in 2001, the
album "Esik" (Threshold of Light) dates from 2004, and Erol and his students
throw a light on the peculiar tradition and repertory of the baglama. The quintet
performs original compositions and improvisations,
folk dances from Northeast Anatolia and Azerbaijan, and religious music of the Alevis.
Finishing off with the popular song "Istanbul Türküsü" and Mozart's "Turkish March".
(Mozart's "Rondo alla Turca" is the last movement of his
"Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major, K. 331".
It imitates the sound of Turkish Janissary bands, which was much in fashion
in the late 18th century.)
If only any encounter between east and west could be so beneficial.
P.S.: Erol Parlak's baglama instruction books will soon be available in English and German
by Acoustic Music.
"Born in the Honey - The Pinetop Perkins Story" [DVD Video/CD]
SB101; 2007; Playing time: 60:08+ min
had been born Joe Willie Perkins in 1913 on the Honey Island Plantation outside
Belzoni, Mississippi. He began playing the blues in 1927, originally a guitar player,
but he dropped the instrument after a serious injury in the 1940s (and a colourful story it is)
and changed to the piano. He came under the influence of
boogie woogie inventor Pinetop Smith, hence his nickname.
When Otis Span left the Muddy Waters band, he called on Perkins.
Pinetop he come from the part of the country that really know
what he's doing with the blues, said Muddy (-> FW#25).
Pinetop plays the barrelhouse piano that he learned in the juke joints
of Mississippi, a more straight and more bluesy style than Otis Spann did, fewer notes,
fewer fills, less jazz. At the age of 83 Pinetop launched his solo career,
never looking back ever since. At the beginning of Peter Carlson's film-biography he
says: I had a rough time, but I made it.
The hour long documentary features historical film footage, some life performances,
and interviews with friends and fellow artists. A bonus cd features 10 tracks live in concert
from Chicago. In his 90s, Pinetop is still playing and, I guess,
other performers who are in their prime would like to have his ability and verve.
The Reckless Ramblers "Lowdown Hoedown"
Great Meadow Music;
MM 2021; 2007; Playing time: 48:49 min
They call it contra music (-> FW#27), however,
with The Reckless Ramblers there is more than meets the eye.
Featured is the bluegrass line-up of fiddle, guitar, mandolin and bass (no typical contra piano in sight!),
and there is more than just a slight touch of jazz in it.
Larry Unger, Nat Hewitt, Ginny Snowe and Sam Bartlett
start from the scratch, the common contra dance tunes,
mostly reels and jigs, polkas and waltzes composed by guitar player Larry Unger
(who plays both rhythmic and melody guitar).
They play as they would do for dancers, rhythmically and accentuated,
though infusing different styles into it (jazz, swing, blues).
Thus it is also a pleasure to listen if you've got stiff legs.
Great Meadow Music
Mick Sands "The Ominous and the Luminous"
BoxRoomRecords; BRR0001; 2006; Playing time: 49:57 min
Mick Sands is a fine singer and flutist from the
West Durham coalfields in the North East of England. After university Mick moved to
London, where he was briefly a member of the legendary London group
Le Cheile. Today Mick concentrates on theatre work,
specialised in adapting medieval and ethnic vocal music for use in classical plays
on the one hand, and in composing original music on the other.
He mixed with the London Irish session scene and eventually has found some time to
record his debut album. "The Ominous and the Luminous" is centred
around his remarkable singing voice. Songs from
Northumbria ("Up the Raw", "I Drew My Ship", "When the Boat Comes In"), Ireland ("Lough Erne's Shore", "Donal Og", "Cunla")
and the Appallachians ("Silver Dagger"),
even a traditional Sephardic text ("Tres Damas") set to original music.
There is a Louis MacNeice poem and Burns' "The Slave's Lament"
(compare the Battlefield Band version -> FW#32).
The original "Where the Deerness Flows" is about the decay of the coal industry
in his native home. In the end, Mick takes up the flute and treats us to
three self-penned reels and a medley of a Romanian air, a jig and a slip-jig.
The album title "The Ominous and the Luminous" might be intended for guiding
any reviewer, but there is some truth in it.
Amy Speace "Songs for Bright Street"
WFL 1309; 2006; Playing time: 53:49 min
Singer-songwriter Amy Speace is based in New York.
Her second album "Songs for Bright Street" is a gas, featuring great musicians and
Amy has a strong voice, each of the 13 songs has a different face,
from dreamy and melodic ballads to straight roots rock, with a bit of folk and country
music thrown in for good measure.
The old timey "Two" is a duet with Gary Louris (Jayhawks), and there is a
countryfied version of Blondie's "Dreaming". Even disco queens write excellent songs,
they only need an adequate interpretation. Amy Speace is the right choice.
Sally Spring "Mockingbird"
Sniffinpup; CD-SNP-0001; 2006; Playing time: 44:55 min
North Carolina folk singer Sally Spring
is playing music since her teen years. She has a warm voice, and slips easily
in the footsteps of roots singers like Eliza Gilkyson (-> FW#29).
Sallys fourth album "Mockingbird" is a mix of folk, blues, country, old time, pop
and roots rock, featuring elusive guests such as Tift Merritt, Caitlin Cary (Tres Chicas)
and John Teer (Chatham County Line -> FW#31).
Gene Parsons (ex Byrds) joins in on Gram Parsons's "Hickory Wind".
However, Sally has no need to make an impression, she is impressive enough on her own terms.
Besides the traditional "Pretty Peggie-O", Sally concentrates on a series of original
songs that form a mature body of work.
© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 05/2007
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