FolkWorld Issue 35 02/2008
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Mau Mau "Dea"
Label: Felmay; No. fy8126; 2007; Playing time: 45.32 min
Mau Mau are an exciting Italian world music outfit around the musicians/composers Luca Morino and Fabio Barovero. The music has many different influences, with each song having its own surprises - world music with influences as wide ranging as Italian trad, rap, Brazilean, punk, rock and a range of mediterranean trad styles.
The songs have meaningful texts - political songs (e.g. immigration, political/social situation in Italy), a story of an old Mercedes being sold to Africa, a song about a friend with a life threatening disease. Appropriate to these heavy themes, the songs are often angry and forceful, along with a few more reflective or melancholic songs. The album is constructed around the songs, while also offering a wide ranging and ever changing instrumentation - always with a strong rythm section, but often with distinctive melody instruments (particularly accordion).
In particular the change and variation of styles throughout the album makes listening to this CD intriguing and exciting. I just wish I could understand the lyrics and would not just rely on the brief English sleeve notes...
Ned Ludd "Lavoroedingita"
Label: Own; No. NL0002; 2007; Playing time: 73.23 min
Well in summary this CD review should read: Left folk music, fighting for working rights, is still alive!
In the very early days of FolkWorld, seeming like eons ago, FolkWorld featured this distinctive folk rock band from Rome. After so many years, this is indeed still only their second album, and with more than 70 minutes the band obviously felt with this CD that it was time to catch up...
The musical concept of Ned Ludd has remained the same, the music is based around social-critical, angry songs written by Gianluca Spirito, arranged mostly in a soft melodic version of folk punk rock, or with some more reflective talking lyrics. There are some great arrangements, often based around Gianna di Folco's accordion and Gianluca's guitars and other string instruments, with a strong emphasis on percussion - yet there is a wide ranging Italian folk instrumentation.
To add even further interest to the album, Ned Ludd managed to invite a number of international folk musicians to guest on a few numbers, including Scottish singer Karine Polward, Scottish fiddler extraordinaire Adrian O Rourke, Irish uilleanpiper Tiarnan O Duinnchinn and Swedish nyckelharpa player Matti Norlin.
And to come back to the start of this review - entitled "Work and dignity", every single song on this album has the interests of the working population at its heart - as the sleeve notes say, the 15 songs are "about working and not working today". Most of the songs have a modern take on the old theme of working rights - the titles say it all: "Workanddignity", "Shut for strike", "Zero hours a week", "168 hours a week". Apart from two English songs sung by Karine Polwart, all others are in Italian language.
Even if at times the music seems too strongly built around the social themes rather than being music for the sake of being music, this makes a good and proper political album.
Trio Mio "Stories around a holy goat"
Label: Go' Danish Folk Music; No. GO0707; 2007; Playing time: 49.15 min
Gentle contemporary Danish folk music, steeped in Scandinavian roots. The dominating sounds of Trio Mio are violin, some beautiful piano playing, accordion and guitar/bouzouki. The tunes are all written by the trio, written in a typical Southern Scandianvian style. The result is light and airy, swinging and pleasant music, interspersed with a few more energetic numbers. There is also one Swedish song (which sounds more Danish than Swedish), and the last tune is played to a spoken poem. The trio, of Kristine Heebø:ll, Nikolaj Busk and Jens Ulvsand, has overall produced a very pleasant album.
Visby Allmänna Sången "Utlottningen"
Label: Sjelvar; No. SJECD23; 2007; Playing time: 49.06 min
This is quite a different folk album: The recording of a choral folk epic opera composed in and about the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. The piece of music tells the island's legend that a long time ago, when the island population grew very fast, the island could not feed all its inhabitants. The legend goes that in the end the island's assembly decided to draw lots - every third man had to leave the island with his family.
The music is composed by the trio Eva Sjöstrand, Jan Ekedahl and Mats Hallberg (who wrote in 1998 the highly acclaimed "Volund" album), and sung by Gotland's excellent choir, the Visby Allmä:nna Sången. The choral arrangements are effective and interesting, particularly in combination with the attractive trad instrumentation of fiddle, nyckelharpa, accordion, flutes and guitar. Overall the music carries more melancholy than drama, and follows largely traditional Swedish/Gotland music themes. Even though I am generally not a fan of choral music, I do enjoy this album a lot.
Zulya and the Children of the Underground "3 Nights"
Label: Westpark Music; No. 87143; 2007; Playing time: 53.26 min
Zulya is a singer born in Russian Tartastan, who has lived for the last 17 years in Australia. She has created her own music style, steeped in Jazz, but with strong influences from Russian traditional music, other world music styles such as tango, and pop. The songs on this album change between Russian and English language. For me, the English language songs do not work, and have a certain blandness about them. The Russian songs have considerably more flair. While Zulya has overall clearly developed her individual style, the album does not manage to grab me throughout.
Mette Kathrine "Ojeblikke"
Label: Go' Danish Folk Music; No. GO0307; 2007; Playing time: 40.25 min
Kirstine Sand "Det dansende par"
Label: Go' Danish Folk Music; No. GO0507; 2007; Playing time: 39.46 min
Two young Danish musicians whose style and perfection has been shaped by their folk music education at the renowned Carl Nielsen Academy of Music in Odense. Both musicians are technically excellent, while each has developed their own style of music. Both CDs have been recorded with a host of Danish guest musicians.
Mette Kathrine's album is firmly steeped in Danish traditional music. Coming from a musical family, she plays the accordion. She has travelled around Denmark to meet many of the older folk musicians to learn about traditional music first hand. The CD reflects this journey around Denmrk, and features a range of guest musicians from different parts of the country. With her 27 years, Mette's music is staying 100% true to her Danish folk music roots - this is the kind of music which has been played for 100s of years in Denmark, and with musicians like Mette long may it continue!
Kirstine Sand's music also focusses on traditional Danish music, but takes a somewhat more contemporary and open approach to the music. The music is more subtle and melody focused, it is music to listen rather than dance to. The interesting arrangements, with Kirstine's fiddle music in the centre, feature piano, guitar, double bass and cello. The result is a more contemporary sound, possibly with more of a Scandinavian than purely Danish style. A charming album of a great musician.
www.mettekathrine.dk; www.kristinesand.dk; www.gofolk.dk
Fiamma Fumana "Home"
Label: Mescal/distributed by Sony; No. MES517087 2; 2003; Playing time: 56.20 min
A very modern take on traditional Northern Italian music from the Appenine regions. The songs are largely traditional, sung by charismatic female singer Fiamma. The album features plenty of electronic effects, loops and programming, but - in my opinion - stays true to the essence of the music throughout the album: Experimental, but not over the top experimental. What makes the music particularly enjoyable and keeps the listener's interest are the traditional instruments which are beautifully interwoven with the singing and electronic effects - featuring bagpipes/flutes and accordion, guitar and piano.
An album full of surprises, each song will come with its own little surprise. Stylistically the album successfully bridges traditional, folk, world and a whole range of modern music styles including pop, electronic and independent.
Individual, inspiring, different - indispensible for any collection of modern European folk music.
Tsuumi Sound System "hotas"
Label: Aito Records; No. AICD010; 2007; Playing time: 50.46 min
Traditional Scandinavian themes contemporarily composed, taken up with a huge amount of creativity and innovation: This is a powerful and exciting album, which reminds at times of the Scandinavian greats of folk innovation - Hoven Droven, May Monday, Vä:sen and the likes. Based on this album, Tsuumi Sound System should have a rightful place in the top of the league of Scandinavian bands.
Each tune on the album features different aspects of the band, with a great balance of instruments - the tunes are skilfully crafted to combine and leave space for each of the different instruments, as well as bringing together the whole bunch to great effect. The band features most beautiful combinations of the melody instruments of fiddles, piano, accordion, guitars and saxophone, skilfully backed by double bass and drums/percussion. The reference on the CD's sleeve notes to this being "Sibelius Academy Folk Music Department recording 66" suggests that the band is the fruitful result of music students coming together, and what a heavenly combination this is!
A wonderful album full of variation and brilliance - clearly one of the best recordings of 2007!
Label: Resistencia; No. RESCD193; 2006; Playing time: 47.31 min
Label: Resistencia; No. RESCD140; 2002; Playing time: 49.40 min
Faltriqueira are four female Spanish singers, with superb vocal arrangements and top instrumentation. The two recent albums show a clear direction of the band to become more experimental and even more exciting.
Their debut album stays overall closer to home, to traditional Spanish pandereita singing. The musical arrangements are intriguing and excellent, given the Spanish music a wider mediteranean flavour, with clear influences from e.g Africa. An excellent album, with no faults whatsoever; a joy to listen to.
The latest offering, "effecto", takes the girls even more international in their repertoire, presenting a well balanced and stimulating combination of traditional and contemporary songs: Some being arranged around traditional Spanish music themes, others having attractive and varied pop or world music influences. The vocal arrangements have also further developed, and are even more sophisticated, contemporary and exciting. The instrumentation of accordion, guitars, soprano sax, violin and harp is well arranged around the songs. Many of the songs are very catchy - they make very pleasant listening, and some of them have considerable mainstream radio potential.
These albums have been a relevation for me, another Spanish band not to be missed - the Spice Girls of traditional Spanish music?
L'Ham de Foc "Cor de porc"
Label: Galileo Music ; No. GMC010; 2005; Playing time: 63.22 min
L'Ham de Foc may come from Spain, but their music is much more rooted in Arabic traditions. The band is centred around the duo of singer Mara Aranda and Efren Lopez, who plays a wide range of middle eastern string instruments. Other instruments featured on this album include various forms of, again mainly Eastern, percussion instruments, as well as bagpipes from various music traditions and the Celtic harp. The songs are all written by the core duo of the band, with the language of the lyrics being the one thing rooted in Spain. The lyrics themselves are somewhat esoteric (the CD provides trasnlations into castellano, English, French and German).
Some of the music has a bit of a Spanish feel to it, but it is rare that the listener is taken far away from a mythological arabic world. Intriguing music, but for me not the kind of music I could listen to at any time; I find it makes quite heavy listening...
Rudovous "s Cizkem po funuse"
Label: Own; Playing time: 48.58 min
Czech accordion folk punk-rock with influences from pop and jazz. I love the music and arrangements - full of flair and atmosphere and very danceable, with a great range of instruments to make this top class folk rock - being arranged around the accordion, but featuring also clarinet, drums, guitars (including electric and double bass. I just cannot get enthusiastic about the singer and singing style - it is somewhat unmelodic, with the voice being a bit rough. I am sure many would say that this is just part of the punk rock flair of the band, but for me this turns me somewhat off this otherwise absolutely billiant band.
Kepa Junkera "Hiri"
Label: Elkarlanean; No. KD-725; 2006; Playing time: 71.19 min
The accordionist extraordinaire is doing his unique magic again with his latest release "Hiri".
Kepa Junkera is the master of the Basque version of the accordion, the Trikitixa. He has created his own distinctive style on this instrument which makes the music unmistakeably his. The music is uplifting and happy, you will hum along to the pleasant melodies and be amazed by the beauty and simplicity of his compostions, and the exciting arrangements around these tunes. As per usual, Kepa gathered for this album a top range of musicians around him - including Gilles Chabenat, Xose Manuel Budino, singers Bulgarka, a choir adding some atmospheric singing, pianist Alain Bonnin, and Etxak - a Basque duo playing the other unique Basque instrument, the txalaparta, a wooden percussion instrument.
This is top music, an album full of charme and positive atmosphere, it is an album that will put a smile on your face - and that for a full 71 minutes and nineteen seconds! This is uniquely Kepa Junkera - and not to be missed!
Label: Own; No. FRIGG00003; 2007; Playing time: 51.32 min
The start number sets very high expectations for this album - a fiery and powerful fiddle tune with multiple fiddles playing harmonically together. And overall Frigg can live up to the expectations; their album is delightful.
Frigg appear to be a Norwegian outfit. Featuring a total of up to five fiddles (including hardanger fiddle), this youthful band appears to be centred around two families: the Järvelä:s (Alina, Esko and Anti) and the Larsens (Gjermund and Einor Olav) - all of whom play the fiddle! They are complemented by guitar, dobro and cittern/mandolin/bagpipes/jews harp. The music is largely composed by band members, around typical Scandinavian tunes. For one title, the band is joined by large choir, providing some impressive choral singing reminiscent in style of Chateau Neuf Spelmanslag.
A great album by a great young band - while they may not be as powerful throughout the album as in the first number, the musical quality is top throughout. The Scandinavian response to Scottish super-group Blazin Fiddles!
Maria Misgeld, Olof Misgeld & Olle Lindvall "Margits sånger"
Label: Sjelvar; No. SJECD24; 2007; Playing time: 43.42 min
The songs from this album are from the legacy of the Norwegian singer Margit Finnek˚sa (1904-1989). Swedish singer Maria Misgeld was that fascinated by the song material and Margit's singing that she decided to record her own album of interpretations of Margit's songs. Maria translated and arranged the songs into Swedish and added the odd verse to some of the songs.
This is a quiet and warm album of songs with beautiful Swedish lyrics, stylistically clearly Scandinavian trad. The instrumental arrangements are appropriately sparse, featuring guitar and fiddles only. An enjoyable, calming album.
"Peerie" Willie Johnson "Willie's World"
Label: Greentrax; No.CDTRAX309 ; 2007; Playing time: 72.38 min
"Peerie" Willie Johnson was one of the great folk guitarists of this world. His music style is closely linked to the music of the Shetland Isles of the last century. He was one of those musicians who played what he enjoyed playing - and the music bridged lots of different styles: From traditional Shetland fiddle music via Jazz to Blues. "Peerie" Willie passed away on 22 May 2007, aged 86.
This album is a great legacy to this unique musician - the only full album ever published of his music. And the recordings stem from the last 50 years, many recorded in various living rooms across the Shetland isles. Many of the tunes feature other musicians - including fiddlers Willie Hunter and Aly Bain, and pianist Billy Kay. A couple of the tunes actually do not feature "Peerie" Willie himself, one being a tribute song "They can't take that away from me", the other being a piano tune played by Billy Kay.
This is an album full of natural charme and warmth. The amateur recordings further strengthen this charme. The wide range of music styles is highly enjoyable, and is a real legacy of great acoustic music from times gone by. I love this album, which has a firm place in my top 10 of 2007.
Posmrtne Zkusenosti "Aither"
Label: Indies Records; No. MAM292-2; 2006; Playing time: 54.58 min
World music from the Czech Republic. While the music takes the listener around the globe and back, coming across a range of music styles, there is still something Czech in the music, including the language of all lyrics. The music takes us from folk and all sorts of world music influences via modern dance/trance music to new age soundscapes, pop and jazz - in fact the music is that varied that you may think at times that you are listening to a mix of different CDs. Dominant instruments include pan's flute, tribal percussion, didgeridoo, drums, programming, samples and singing.
Eclectic and varied, I have found some highlights in this album - however, overall the album is for me too eclectic and at times too new-agey to listen to it again.
Label: Felmay/Dunya; No. FY8125; 2007; Playing time: 62.54 min
Very intense Portuguese fado singing, sung with a very intense voice. The songs are nearly all written by Bevinda, mostly in the typical fado style, with some heading more towards chanson. The singing is to powerful effect accompanied by Portuguese and classical guitar, percussion, tables, drums.
I find Bevinda's music very impressive, but somewhat overpowering. Some of the most intense fado singing I have ever heard.
Uaragniaun "U diavule e l'aqcua sante"
Label: Felmay/Dunya; No. FY8128; 2007; Playing time: 73.52 min
With this album I am once again glad that I am not a radio presenter, as I would not have a clue how to pronounce this band name - it may be easier to use the sub-title of the band listing the band as Luigi Bolognese Maria Moramarco and Silvio Teot.
Traditional Italian songs with some great arrangements, featuring some somewhat more unusual instrument combinationss including clarinet, sax, horn, double bass, tambourine. Maria Moramarco is a confident singer, both at home with slow and faster songs. Some of the songs are quite intense in style, and can be at times for some listeners a bit much. Some of the songs have also distinctive arabic influences.
Several of the songs are rather unusual - there are prayers which were specifically written to be used while working or whenever needed, there is a recipe for a meal made with bread, plenty of songs related to religion, devils and Italian legends. Definitely an interesting album - and long it is as well!
Nuovo Agricola Associazione
Label: Radici Musicali; Playing time: 44.12 min
The essence of this music is Italian folk, but full of diverse influences - rap, reggae, village brass bands, rock, pop, programming to name a few. And in mixing all this Nuovo Agricola Associazione have found their own distinctive and highly appealing style. The core band consists of a good balance of male and female singing, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, drums/keyboards/programming, but luckily for the album the band have invited a range of other instrumentalists, adding vibes, trumpet, trombine, piano, sax, accordion to the mix.
This is solid music, not necessarily as easily accessible to the international listener as other Italian bands, but taking the time to listen to the album is highly rewarding and recommended - a great modern take on Italian folk music.
Label: Vindauga/Westpark; No. CD87130 ; 2006; Playing time: 59.42 min
With its take on Swedish world music, Gjallarhorn has established itself as a well known name on the Scandinavian and world music circuits. Gjallarhorn's musical world is built around the clear, at times shrill voice of Jenny Wilhelms, whose origin is the Swedish minority in Finland. The other key elements in the music are fiddle/mandola, the baroque sub-contrabass recorder and other flutes/recorders and percussion.
Most of the time the music features slow singing, as raw and mythological as if it comes from a long past time. Stylistically, the music is somewhere between Scandinavian trad with a modern touch, world music, jazz and a bit of new age. Some of the music has an archaic sound to it, built around recorder and singing. Intriguing music, but not one for me to listen to every day.
Crasdant "Dwndwr - The Great Noise" (CD & DVD)
Label: Sain; No. SCD2487; 2005; CD & DVD; Playing time (CD): 50.27 min
Crasdant can be seen as the best folk band coming from Wales - kind of the Welsh Chieftains. Their new album, "The Great Noise", is another joy to listen to - well arranged traditional Welsh music played by masters on their instruments. All music is instrumental and beautifully played by the quartet, on the Welsh triple harp - harpist Robin Huw Bowen is internationally recognised as the leading exponent on this Welsh national instrument, guitar, accordion, flute and pibgorn, a wooden pipe with a cow horn at the end. A few numbers feature also some lively clog dancing.
This is delightful, uplifting music superbly played, with a comfy homely feeling to it. Top stuff!
The music CD comes with a DVD as a freeby, featuring a video of the group, 3 tracks in surround sound, sheet music and video clips with information on the instruments. To be honest, I personally rather stick to the CD.
Grada "Cloudy Day Navigation" (CD & DVD)
Label: Compass Records; No. 7 4491 2; 2007; CD Playing time: 56.02 min
Grada is one of the more recent successful folk music exports from Ireland. The arrangements of the tunes on their latest album are of outstanding quality, full of energy and enjoyment, and with superb playing on flutes/whistles, fiddle, guitar, bodhran, double bass and, occasionaly, uillean pipes. The six songs make an interesting mix, with a strong tendency to folk pop: A Suzanne Vega ("The Queen and the Soldier"), a Sonny Condell ("Cooler at the edge") and a Susan McKeown ("River") song, plus two slightly pop-y Grada compositions and one traditional song. While some of these songs are for me somewhat too much in the pop sphere, they do make a refreshing mix for an Irish trad band.
As with Crasdant, also this CD comes with a bonus DVD, in this case featuring a live concert of Grada in Dublin, showing six titles, many of them also to be found on the CD - a great introduction to the live experience of the band.
Overall very uplifting and enjoyable music played by top musicians.
Fiona MacKenzie "Duan Nollaig - A Gaelic Christmas"(Double CD)
Label: Greentrax; No. CDTRAX320; 2007; Playing time: 56.16 & 38.55 min
A full double CD of Gaelic Christmas songs, sung by the great Gaelic singer Fiona MacKenzie. What makes the CD really special is the beautiful singing being combined with great contemporary Scottish folk musicians, giving the songs, in most instances, modern and attractive arrangements. Musicians include the likes of Ronan Martin, Anna Massie, Gary Innes, Irvin Duguid and James Graham.
The CD features a number of Gaelic version of classic English Christmas carols, such as "Away in a manger", "12 days of Christmas", "Silent Nights", "We wish you a merry Christmas". Then there are some songs coming directly from Gaelic traditions, written by Gaelic bards. Finally there are a few songs which I personally find sound odd and out of place on this album: There is for example a version of the childrens song "Frere Jacques" and of "She'll be coming fround the mountain".
Some of the songs have beautiful and breath taking arrangements, with impressive strong piano playing joined by a number of traditional instruments. These songs even turn well known classic carols into something new and exciting. Others have their different seasonal magic through their simplistic beauty.
These two CDs feature some of the most beautiful folk recordings of Christmas carols around, and will get you into a festive mood and have you humming along (even now, 2 months after Christmas!). There are however a few songs which don't live up to the same standards, some of them feeling out of place on this festive album.
If these two CDs would have been condensed onto one album, only featuring the highlights of both, this would be a masterpiece from start to finish. Nevertheless this double album can be seen already now as a classic folk Christmas album.
Compagnia di musiche populari "38 parallelo instabili terre"
Label: Folk Club Ethnosuoni; No. ES 5352; 2005; Playing time: 42.51 min
A pleasant album of Italian contemporary folk music, with most of the songs written by the band's Antonio Livoti. The instrumentation of the band is gentle, featuring principally violin, double bass and guitar, with the occasional addition of percussion. The arrangements of the music are often exciting and makes listening extremely rewarding, featuring traditional Italian, classical music, as well as influences from other somewhat more mystically sounding music traditions from around the Mediterranean. The arrangements in particular of violin and double bass are quite often superb.
A great album full of character, unique and different to any other Italian band I have heard to date.
Label: Go Danish Folk Music Production; No. GO0406; 2006; Playing time: 50.30 min
Wonderful dark Scandinavian folk rock. Instinkt are a Danish five piece band playing most of the time a dark folk trance music. Some of the numbers have strong hard rock influences, based around heavy drums and electric guitars, others are much more gentle, focussing on violins, cello, flutes or hurdy gurdy. Some of the music may be for some too noisy, too repetitive, too wild. But even for those who don't like the noisy numbers, there is still plenty to enjoy on this album.
Denmark's darker response to Sweden's Hoven Droven.
© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 02/2008
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