FolkWorld Issue 39 07/2009

FolkWorld CD Reviews

Kimberley Fraser "Falling on New Ground"
Label: Own label; KFCD-02; 2006
The opening set is a glorious start, a series of six tunes: a marching air, two strathspeys and three reels afterwards. It is the Cape Breton repertoire, plus tunes sourced from Scottish collections (including the odd Skinner and Gow). Kimberley Fraser has been born and bred on Cape Breton Island, becoming a talent in fiddle and piano playing and step dancing. Still in her early 20s, she had the honour of being the pianist for Cherish the Ladies during their European tour in 2004. In 2005 she graduated from St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia with an honours degree in Celtic Studies and a minor in Jazz music. On her second album, "Falling on New Ground," she displays a fiery fiddle on seemingly never-ending tune sets, and the solo piano piece "The Braes o' Auchtertyre" with its jazzy chords. Kimberly is backed and supported by a couple of guest musicians, the best known being Irish flutist Nuala Kennedy (FW#33), pianist Troy MacGillivray (FW#36) and the Danish fiddle-guitar duo Harald Haugaard and Morten Hoirup (FW#36).
Walkin' T:-)M

Chris Haigh "Off the Wall"
Label: Own label; TZCD02; 2008
Chris Haigh is the fiddler's fiddle player. His books "Fiddling around the World" and "The Fiddle Handbook" and his website are comprehensive sources on (almost) any fiddle style. While researching his latest book Chris, who recorded with his own klezmir bands and artists from James Galway to Alison Moyet, got the idea to record a solo album. "Off the Wall" features western swing and bluegrass, Irish and Scottish tunes, plus 7/8-time Balkan tunes and a Jewish wedding tune thrown in for good measure. There is also an interesting take on the classic "Over the Rainbow". He jokes that one said: it is such a beautiful tune ... and it should be treated with more respect. No bother, Chris has the deepest respect. However, he is no purist and adds a certain swing to the music.
Every CD buyer is entitled to get a pdf-file from Chris, featuring sheet music of all non-copyright tunes (which is the bulk).
Walkin' T:-)M

2Duos "Until the Cows Come Home"
Artes Records; ARCD3043; 2009
We've all gone solo, we all play solo, ain't life a solo? So goes the Sanny Denny song. However, best things happen sometimes in good company. Gudrun Walther (vocals, fiddle) and JŘrgen Treyz (guitar) are members of German group Deitsch (FW#31, FW#32). Claire Mann (FW#25) is the Tabache (FW#4) flutist and fiddler gone solo, Aaron Jones (vocals, bouzouki) is best known as retired member of Northern Irish band Craobh Rua (FW#2) and lately of Scottish band Old Blind Dogs (FW#36). Together they are 2Duos! They crossed their path again and again and developed a mutual understanding. Eventually the four took the 2Duos on the road in 2008 and decided afterwards to put it on CD. "Until the Cows Come Home" features folk music, being it German or Anglo, which fits perfectly together into a Planxty (FW#30) like sound. Francis Child meets Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Aaron Jones sings the "Midlothian Mining Song", Richard Thompson's "Beeswing" and David Francey's "Saints and Sinners"; Gudrun the "Markgrafensohn" (chorus with English lyrics made up and added), "Stets in Trauer", "Rheinbraut", "Ballade der Drei Grafen und der Nonne" - partly from Gudrun and JŘrgen's "K÷nigskinder" album - and the last curtain call "Lasst uns all nach Hause gehen". Both their singing is nice, and the four-part harmonies gorgeous. Additionally there are three fiery instrumental sets of Irish-Scottish tunes. Until the cows come home is a Scots saying which means something like very, very long, and possibly there is hope for more.
Walkin' T:-)M

Maggie Sand & Sandragon "Susie Fair"
WildGoose; WGS361CD; 2009
English singer Maggie Sand (vocals, harmonium, bouzouki) did release three albums in Germany under the disguise of "Alquimia". The last two in collaboration with Mark Powell (guitar, mandola, hurdy-gurdy, bouzouki). Add some woodwinds (Malcolm Bennett on flute, recorders and crumhorn) and Columbian percussionist Anthat Kharana for a sort of Blackmore's Night (FW#37). Though Sandragon, named after the mythological beast in the legends of St George the dragon slayer, is not seeking a mainstream audience but prefers a more rootsy approach (I mean that as a positive thing.) There are dance tunes from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (e.g. a French farandole, a self-written estampie), traditional English songs such as "Bushes and Briars", "Dance to Your Daddy" and "Rigs of the Time", and two French chansons. The title track "Susie Fair" has traditional lyrics set to a new tune by Maggie Sand and Mark Powell. A pleasant and decent album that is worth to give it a try.
Walkin' T:-)M

Broom Bezzums "Under the Rug"
Steeplejack; SJCD011; 2008
Broom Bezzums (FW#36, FW#36, FW#39) are like a sweeping brush on English folk music (though the duo is based in Germany). Andrew Cadie from Berwick upon Tweed (vocals, fiddle, guitar, Northumbrian pipes) and Mark Bloomer from the black country Birmingham (vocals, guitar, mandolin) play traditional and traditional-sounding songs and tunes from the British Isles. They clearly display both their northern English roots as well as a working class point of view, though as they jokingly confess, there haven't been any miners in their families for generations. It is straight-forward folk music without tricks and eccentricities. "Under the Rug" is the duo's second album, which is less rough than their debut album and much more confident and mature. What is lacking in spontaneity compared to their debut album, is balanced by this time's production values.
Walkin' T:-)M

Alla Fagra "Vňta pussar"
Nordic Tradition; NTCD14; 2009
Mina grannar tycker inte om mitt piano ... which translates as my neighbours don't like my piano, my neighbours say I have bad habits, my neighbours can't even hold a beat when they hit the wall. Though: I try, work hard and practice for hours. Alla Fagra (i.e. all fair) are five blondes (more or less) from Malm÷: singer and harpist Julia Westberg, singer and percussionist Dan Svensson, fiddler Olof G÷thlin, bouzouki player Gabriel Hermansson, and bass player Per Svensson. Most lyrics have been written by Dan and put to music by Julia. The quintet plays contemporary Swedish folk music with a hippie attitude and oriental grooves reminiscing German band Malbrook (FW#36), which itself draws on northern German and Scandinavian music. Highly recommended, this could develop into something special.
Walkin' T:-)M

Máirtín O'Connor, Cathal Hayden, Seamie O'Dowd "Crossroads"
Label: Own label; MCSCD001; 2008
The Unwanted "Music from the Atlantic Fringe"
Label: Whirling Discs; Whrl 013; 2009
Máirtín O'Connor (accordion) is a De Dannan legend, also recording a string of solo albums in recent years (FW#22, FW#24, FW#38). There are six of Máirtín's compositions featured, including "Flowers in the Wind" dedicated to the late Micheal O Domhnaill and Jimmy Faulkner, and Haendel's "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" resurrected from De Dannan days. Cathal Hayden (fiddle,banjo) is best known as a member of Four Men & A Dog (FW#14, FW#35), playing mostly the fiddle here plus a fiery banjo set. Seamie O'Dowd (guitar,vocals) toured the world with Dervish ( FW#26) and is responsible for the song bag, here it is Rory Gallagher's "The Barley and Grape Rag", Thom Moore's "The Cedars of Lebanon" and the traditional "As I Roved Out". A real vocal treat. The three had been performing together on and off since 2001, and eventually got together on more permanent terms after a gig in Sligo in memory of Dervish's late sound engineer Fin Corrigan (FW#28). Everyone is a virtuoso on his own, as a trio O'Connor, Hayden, O'Dowd (FW#38) are much much more than the proverbial sum of the parts. "Crossroads" is traditional Irish music with a swing. When Máirtín recently remarked concerning the financial crisis that the Celtic Tiger never really roared for musicians, he overlooked his own ouevre, which is rich and prosperous - so to speak.
"Crossroads" also features the vocal talents of Dervish's singer Cathy Jordan (bodhran, bouzouki, guitar, autoharp -> FW#35) and Rick Epping (harmonica, concertina, mandolin, 5-string-banjo), which form another trio with Seamie O'Dowd (who also plays fiddle here) under the name of The Unwanted. Californian-born Rick Epping has been moving to and fro between Ireland and the United States in the last four decades (FW#37). "Music of The Atlantic Fringe" explores the common ground and the differences between Irish music and American old-time music which spring up from the same sources, travelled across the Western Ocean, back to the Old World, and meanwhile once over again. There is Leadbelly's "Out on the Western Plains" (probably through Rory Gallagher), the intermixture of American traditional dance tune and the Stephan Foster song with the same name, "Angelina Baker," Thom Moore's "Turn the Corner" set to the tune of "Sean O'Duibhir a Ghleanna", the Rolling Stones' "No Expectations". The closing track is "Eileen a Ruin" (with English lyrics) and for me, funny how, embodies all that The Unwanted and the Irish-American experience is about, because it is featured in the "The Molly Maguires" movie about Irish in the coal mines of 1876 Pennsylvania. It is the best of the barley from both the Old World and the New, a first class and sometimes a very particular interpretation of a great selection of songs (and some tunes). I hope that Dervish stays with us for some time, but hopefully there is more of these unwanted...,
Walkin' T:-)M

Snaarmaarwaar "Snaarmaarwaar"
Apel Rekords; APR 1314; 2009
Flanders is an area rich in both traditional and fusion music, here comes a straight, contemporary folk album featuring the talents of Jerden Geerinck (guitar), Maarten Decombel (mandola, vocals on the Northumbrian "Dance to Your Daddy") and Peter-Jan Daems (10-string-mandolin). As you can see Snaarmaarwaar is a string band. There are traditional tunes from Flanders, Brittany, one Michael McGoldrick tune, and a lot of original compositions, unmistably middle European with hints of the Celtic fringe, the Mediterranean and American string styles. These snare wizards possess an youthful attitude and attack, building up a firm wall of sound. Which is firm and robust, but also showing nice details.
Walkin' T:-)M

Albert Niland "Live at the Paradiso Amsterdam"
Label: Own label; 2008
Singer/Songwriter Albert Niland (see also -> FW#39) has been born in Galway in the west of Ireland and is currently living in Ghent, Belgium. He left Ireland behind and any kind of guitar playing which might be asscoiated with it. Though Irish topics in his songwriting are the "Kings of Kilburn High Road" and the "Bells of Dublin City"; he goes international with "Christmas Cards from Guantanamo". What makes this live record best is that Albert is on his own, just guitar and vocals. This is all what it needs. Some great songs, perfect singing and more than average guitar playing.
Walkin' T:-)M

Mara Aranda & Solatge "DŔria"
Galileo MC; GMC033; 2009
Truly my uncle is a wonder, and when he dies he shall leave me his guitar and tambourine, and his grace in singing. For years, Mara Aranda has been the voice of Valencian band L'Ham de Foc (FW#14, FW#27, FW#35). After their demise she looked for other playgrounds and eventually came up with her new band Solatge. The band's name comes from the Catalan saying als solatges hi ha la flor (on the sediment grows the flower). This neatly describes Mara's concept: traditional Spanish music from the Pyrenees down to the coastal plains, Valencia, Catalunya, Aragon. Both quiet and more dynamic songs are about peasants' work and romance, fiestas and wakes, dancing round the bonfire and marching religious processions. Even a Sephardic cancionero is included. Mara's singing is quite impressive, the selection of songs shows quite a variety, which both transcends her work with L'ham de Foc. The arrangements are delightful, executed by the line-up of Josep-Maria Ribelles (Celtic harp), Eduard Navarro (pipes, crumhorn), Manolo Lopez (double bass) and Jota Martinez (bouzouki, guitar). "DŔria" will certainly stay near my record player for weeks to come. The CD comes with a nice booklet too, which have translations of the lyrics into English.
Walkin' T:-)M

Balbarda "La Via de La Plata"
Several Records; SRD-350; 2007
The Via de la Plata is the lesser known St Jacob's Way from Sevilla to Santiago. A 1,000 kilometre long road taken by pilgrims from many nations, a road that has many stories to tell, and some are told by the Spanish group Balbarda. Xurxo Ordonez (wind instruments such as flutes, pipes), Javier Monteagudo (guitar and other stringed instruments), Milena Fuentes (fiddle) and Jose Luis Escribano (various percussion instruments) perform traditional tunes. The opener is a Balkan tune with an uneven beat featuring duelling flute and fiddle. Track #2 is a jazzy pipe tune, track #3 medieval/oriental sounding. And so forth, there is Spanish music as well as overtone chant. A long road trip, however coming back to its roots, so it never sounds arbitrarily. Just as the Via de La Plata, its musical equivalent is mostly pleasant to travel, though sometimes demanding, passes a number of land(sound)scapes, and is an insider tip if you want to avoid the beaten track and crowded places.
Walkin' T:-)M

Randal Bays and Dave Marshall "Dig With It"
Label: Foxglove; FG0550; 2008
American fiddler Randal Bays is on the traditional Irish music circuit for quite some time (FW#38). He says that somehow the music of Co. Clare got into my soul many years ago, which might be strange for a guy from Indiana, or maybe not these days. "Dig With It" is no-nonsense traditional Irish music on fiddle and guitar, a mixed bag of the jigs and reels, plus - look out for it! - the slow air "The Bold Trainer O" (from the playing of Willie Clancy -> FW#36) and the sean nos song "Ta Na Paipeir Dha Saighneail" (from the sean-nos singing of Aine Meenaghan). Some tunes are originals or from the pen of James Kelly (FW#31) and others. Canadian guitarist Dave Marshall plays DADGAD guitar and tenor banjo. Randal's son Willie makes his recording debut on guitar, he also contributed a tune. The CD starts with Randal's own "Master's Degree March", and he certainly has passed any degrees to become a master on the Irish fiddle.
Walkin' T:-)M

Dazkarieh "Hemisférios"
Label: Hepta Trad; HEPTA006CD; 2009
Caminhando vi luz que embala, sentir que escapa ao olhar, fortepercorri nova estrada em trilhos por semear - Walking by a rocking light, a feeling that eludes sight, strongly I travelled a newfound road on trails to be sowed. This song lyrics might be a good description of Portuguese band Dazkarieh. They started out originally as a Gothic band ten years ago. With their third album in 2006, "Incˇgnita Alquimia", they settled on folk music drawing on south European traditions also as on metal music in the vein of Swedish band Garmarna (FW#16). This is in correspondence with their instrumentation: Vasco Ribeiro Casais plays nyckelharpa, Greek Bouzouki, bagpipes and flute, LuÝs Peixoto Irish bouzouki and mandolin, and André Silva the drums. Joana NegrŃo (also bagpipes and percussion) is responsible for the piercing vocals. The songs could have been placed on one disc, however, Dazkarieh chose to put it on a double CD, the first featuring original songs, the second traditional Portuguese songs. In the end, who can tell the difference?, both hemispheres sound more or less the same. Most lyrics of the originals are by Joana Negrao, most music by Vasco Ribeiro Casais. The translations display a certain poetical language (how good remains to Portuguese native speakers to decide). The traditional songs are the usual currency of love, love-making and its aftermath (sometimes unwanted). Though "Hemisférios" is less tight than their milestone album "Incˇgnita Alquimia", it could develop into one of the highlights of 2009 after repeated listening.
Walkin' T:-)M

Cillian Vallely & Kevin Crawford "On Common Ground"
Label: BallyO Records; BOR 001; 2009
This might be considered as L˙nasa (FW#32, FW#37) for the poor, but actually is a treasure house. L˙nasa's flutist Kevin Crawford and uilleann piper Cillian Vallely, backed up by guitar players Paul Meehan and Donal Clancy, got together to record a couple of Irish tunes. Mostly jigs and reels, with the odd fling and slow air thrown in for good measure. Of course, their performance is above the average, the tunes carefully selected. So far, this seems business as usual. What makes it more special is their common ground, namely that pipes and flutes are pitched to the key of C. This sounds rather unique, producing a mellow and luscious sound. Diversity is not an obligation in traditional music, but sometimes refreshing to say the least.
Walkin' T:-)M

Donal Murphy "Happy Hour"
Label: Own label; DMR001; 2009
"Happy Hour" opens with "Murphy's Polka", that he got from the playing of his father Dan Murphy. With them polkas and slides, he made the statement that we are deep in the heart of south west Ireland, namely the mountain area of Sliabh Luachra. Donal Murphy is deeply rooted here, though born in England, his family moved to Abbeyfeale in Co. Limerick way back in the 1970s. Donal followed his father and took up the button accordion. In 1990 he co-founded the group Four Men & a Dog (FW#35), in 1995 Sliabh Notes (FW#29). Eventually he recorded his debut solo album "Happy Hour", featuring Steve Cooney, Tim Edey, Brian McGrath, and a load of other Murphys. It makes clear why he is so highly regarded. There's the jigs and reels, all trad arr except his own "Valentia Jig", but also the slow air "Caoineadh Ui Dhomhnaill" (O'Donnell's Lament) and "Hale's" ragtime tune. A medley with the unusual order of hornpipe, reel, slide and polka brings us back to Sliabh Luachra. In the end, his spirited accordion playing guarantees more than one happy hour.
Walkin' T:-)M

Penno¨ Skoulm "Trinka˝"
Innacor Records; INNA10806; 2008
Penno¨ Skoulm is a fusion of the Breton bands Kornog (FW#19) and Gwerz (FW#3). Founded in 1982, they recorded a cassette tape in the late 1980s, at the time featuring guitarist Soig Siberil (FW#34) and piper Patrick Molard (FW#30). The band disbanded in the early 1990s. When in 1994 a CD was made from the old recordings, Penno¨ Skoulm reconstituted. Eventually this Breton veteran all-star band recorded their second album, these days featuring the line-up of Ronan Le Bars (uillean pipes), Christian Lemaitre (fiddle), Jacky Molard (fiddle), Nicolas Quemener (guitar) and Jean-Michel Veillon (flute). Penno¨ Skoulm plays a wide range of Breton dances - ridées, plinns, polkas, an adros -, arranged and interpreted in the latest fashion. The sound carpet is tightly knitted, the arrangements full of nice ideas. Penno¨ Skoulm raises simple dance music to high standard art music - somewhere between The Chieftains (FW#22) and Moving Hearts (FW#35) to make a comparison to Irish music. In the end you can still dance to it. The CD also includes an 11 minute video documentary about the band.
Walkin' T:-)M

Líadan "Casadh na Taoide - Turning the Tide"
Label: Own label; LN002; 2009
The band's great ... and the music as well! A sigh that wasn't meant for the haunted lady or the medieval poetress of the name of Líadan (I heard different versions of the story), but Irish group Líadan (FW#38, FW#38, FW#39) playing the Irish Folk Festival tour in Germany in the last fall. The songs and tunes of their second album "Turning the Tide" have been tested while on tour, and were eventually put down in Charlie Lennon's (FW#34) studio in Connemara with guest percussionist Brian Morrissey and producer and bass player Brian Masterson. Let me introduce the six young ladies of the band, Líadan is SÝle Denvir (harp), Deirdre Chawke (piano Accordion), Valerie Casey (fiddle), Claire Dolan (fiddle) Sarah-Jane Woods (flute) and Elaine Cormican (whistle). There's no trademark bouzoukis and guitars, Ireland's national instrument, the harp, has the go. Thus the tunes and arrangements sound a bit orchestral, Chieftains-like (FW#22). Despite their instrumental variety, Líadan's trademark is their singing, up to six-part harmony from mouth music to Samuel Lover's "The Angel's Whisper". Indeed, it is music like an angel's whisper.
Walkin' T:-)M

Cloudstreet "Clouds on the Road"
Label: Own label; 2007
Cloudstreet is an Australian duo consisting of Nicole Murray and John Thompson. They play Australian folk music, the melange that shaped down under from English and Irish traditions and many other nations. Cloudstreet has been on the road for a decade and recorded four studio albnms, "Clouds on the Road" features live recordings of performances in 2007. These live recordings make perfectly clear why Cloudstreet became a much sought after act on the Australian folk music circuit. They sing two-part harmony, a capella or backed up by guitar. Nicole also plays flute, John plays the English concertina. Their performance is engaging and full of enthusiasm. The songs are carefully chosen, featuring songs of the Anglo-Celtic-Australian songbook ("Thousands or More"), original songs ("Violet Sarah", "Van Song"), plus Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and Tom Waites' 'The Briar and the Rose". "King Willy" is a version of Child ballad #6, the tune is a well-known Breton ditty (best known over here as a drinking song with German lyrics), Nicole and John give it a nice touch by adopting different voices to tell the story. "Clouds on the Road" is a good introduction to the duo's ouevre. Unpretentious and casual, it shows all the grandeur of simplicity.
Walkin' T:-)M

The Kilfenora Ceili Band "Century"
Label: Own label; KCB 100; 2009
From rags to riches - The Kilfenora Ceili Band celebrates its 100th birthday! It all began in the 1870s with a fife & drum band, which evolved into a brass & reed band, and finally into a ceili band when several musicians came together as a fund-raiser for the renovation of the church in the small village of Kilfenora in Co. Clare in the west of Ireland (a ceili being the traditional Irish social dance, i.e. set dancing). The KCB went on to become the most famous of ceili bands, taking their music from crossroads dances onto the world's stages. Along the way they won three All-Ireland titles three years in a row, 1954 to 1956 and again 1993 to 1995. The set dancing revival of the 1990s put them back in business under the tutelage of bandleader John Lynch (banjo), whose father and grandfather already played with the band. The KCB today also features flutist Gary Shannon (FW#33) and concertina player Tim Collins (FW#31) plus fiddlers Pat Lynch, Anne-Marie McCormack, Anne Rynne, flutist Anthony Quigney, accordionist Claire Griffin, pianist Fintan MacMahon, drummer Sean Griffin, and guests such as Trevor Hutchinson (double bass) of Lunasa fame (FW#37). The KCB resisted the temptation to present a collection of what have been put to record in these 100 years (the first recording had been made in 1958, then in the 1970s and 1990s, their first live album had been published in 2002), but rather represents a band in full flight. "O'Mahoney's Military Two Steps" reminds of the KCB's humble origins; tune titles such as "Kitty's Reels", "Ward's Marches", "Sexton's Reels" and "Tierney's Polkas" celebrates past musicians: pianist Kitty Linnane, the band's leader from the 1950s to the 1970s, the Ward family, box player Michael Sexton, fiddler Austin Tierney. The band has continued in the style of its predecessors, but it is Irish dance music that also can be enjoyed as listening music. So congratulations, the torch is carried on, maybe for another 100 years.
Walkin' T:-)M

The Old Dance School "Based on a True Story"
Label: Own label; ODSCD 003; 2008
The Old Dance School is a septet from England, consisting of Helen Lancaster (fiddle), Samantha Norman (fiddle), Laura Carter (whistle, recorder), Sarah Jeffery (whistle), Robin Beatty (guitar, vocals), Tom Chapman (percussion) and Aaron Diaz (bass), who grew out of Joe Broughton's Conservatoire Folk Ensemble and took their name from the old Betty Fox School of Ballet in Birmingham. Their debut album "Based on a True Story" features traditional and contemporary dance tunes from the British Isles, plus some self-penned by Helen and Samantha. Still in their mid twenties, the band's sound is mature, though played with youthful vigour. They draw their interpretation from jazz, classical and rock music. Members of The Old Dance School have performed or recorded with artists such as Chris While, Kevin Dempsey, Martha Tilston, and even The Violent Femmes. Robin Beatty also has a sweet voice, shining on his own "The Silver Pin", Tom's "A Learned Man", recounting a Zen Buddhist tale, and Owen Hand's whaling song "My Donald".
Walkin' T:-)M

Allan Yn Y Fan "Trosnant"
Steam Pie Records; SPCD 1013S; 2009
The Welsh version of traditional music, or at least Allan Yn Y Fan's (FW#33) version of Welsh music, is the sun permeating through the bleak British weather, even on a sad subject such as "Lisa Lan", and if it's for the comment no hope of a second chance with this Lisa, she dies even before the song starts. The spring song "Moliannwn" has musical loans of "All Around My Hat". "Ar Hyd Y Nos" (All Through the Night) is one of the first songs from the British Isles I ever encountered, I first saw it decades ago in one of my parents' school books. Newbridge's Allan Yn Y Fan features Chris Jones (accordion, flute), Linda Simmonds (mandolin), Geoff Cripps (guitar), Kate Strudwick (flute), and - for the very first time in the band's history - a singer, Meriel Field, who also plays the fiddle. So Allan Yn Y Fan manages to add another dimension to their already splendid work.
Walkin' T:-)M

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