FolkWorld Issue 42 07/2010

FolkWorld CD Reviews

Pressgang "Outlandish"
Vox Pop; VOX028; 2009
British folk rockers Pressgang (FW#9) had toured since the late 1980s. In 2000, after releasing 6 albums, they called it a day and parted (I vividly remember the gossip then -> #16). It didn't stop their music, e.g. guitar and hurdy-gurdy player Damian Clarke released a nice solo album (#34). Recently Damien got together again with his old companions - George Whitfield (accordion), Cliff Eastabrook (bass) and Tony Lyons (drums) - to revive the old magic. And yes indeed, these four rockers succeed with their adaptations of traditional ballads from the British Isles, e.g. "The Outlandish Knight" (Child ballad #4, compare more folksy recordings by Pete Coe, -> #31, or James Raynard, -> #37). "The Gaberlunzie Man," which I know from the Tannahill Weavers, became a nice pop song. The highlight halfway through is a gorgeous version of the Scottish whaling song "Bonnie Ship the Diamond," of which Wolfstone performed a rock version, but that was nothing really. At the grande finale Pressgang's foursome is chanting, ranting and rapping through "The Raggle Taggle Gypsies," and as in the songs before it suits the thing better than sticking slavely to the original tune. Besides, despite their punkish attitude Pressgang is never violating the speed limits. There is also one medley of dance tunes, featuring the "Dorset 4 Hand Reel" led by electric guitar (compare the well-behaved ceilidh version of ThingumaJig -> #30), which eventually gives way to the accordion and the Welsh tunes "Pwt-ar-y-Bys" and "Pant Corlan yr Wyn". "Outlandish" might be their finest output. I'm glad they got together again.
Walkin' T:-)M

WilloS' "Dirt Tracks"
Sounds Different; SD CD002; 2009
WilloS' is a pan-Celtic band based in the ancient Etruscan city of Siena in Tuscany. The ancient Celts only made it that much south on the Italian peninsula when plundering Rome, and Irish pubs were not openend until the 20th century. This outfit with the rather peculiar band name and spelling is made up of Belfast fiddler Stephanie Martin and American singer Alice Reynolds, who are living in Italy for a couple of years. Alice sings anything from jazz and blues (being a teacher at the Siena Jazz Foundation) to gospel and folk music. Stephanie is originally a classically trained violinist, but was taught by fiddler Athena Tergis, who also produced this album (FW#34). The quintet is completed by flutist Lorenzo Del Grande, who was misled from the righteous path of classical music by Danú's Tom Doorley (see review below), guitar and bouzouki player Luca Mercurio and percussionist Giulio Putti, and special recording guests Liz Carroll on fiddle and John Doyle on mandola and bouzouki (#39). "Dirt Tracks" kicks off with a song by Tony Maguire, "Ballysillan", who is Stephanie's great grandfather. It relates how industry replaces wildlife in the outskirts of Belfast. Later on there is one more Tony Maguire song, an original based on a Tolkien story, and the traditional "Geordie" and "Willie Taylor". There is one medley comprised of four traditional and popular Irish reels and another set that leads us from Italy via Greece and Norway back to Ireland. Fittingly, they finish off with a traditional Italian Tuscan song, "Alla Finestra Affacciati".
So not everything is pure Celtic, but there is a particular touch of their own in their mix of Celtic-Irish and Mediterranean sounds, and maybe even American roots and jazz music. The band has been rightly acknowledged and will make their stand at this year's All Ireland Fleadh in Cavan.
Walkin' T:-)M

Danú "Seanchas"
Label: Own label; 2010
"Seanchas," which translates as lore, tradition or even mythos, is only Danú's fourth album in 15 years (FW#5, #16, #27). Today the traditional Irish band is Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (vocals, flute -> #32), Benny McCarthy (accordion -> #36), Oisín McAuley (fiddle -> #33), Éamon Doorley (bouzouki -> #41) and Dónal Clancy (guitar). On these recordings they are joined again by ex-members Donnchadh Gough (bodhran) and Tom Doorley (flute), who went into semi-retirement finding it too hard to tour anymore.
"Seanchas," which has been in the pipeline for five years or so, is very gentle and melodic. There are only two reels: one is the Michael Coleman showpiece "Lord Gordon's" in a medley with "Murphy's Hornpipe," a popular tune which Coleman also recorded. The other is a cajun-style "Green Fields Of America" (yes, Coleman again), which finishes off the Andy Irvine song "Never Tire of the Road" (#23). Other songs include the traditional Gaelic ""An Staicin Eornan" and the macaronic song "Cailin na nUrla Donn" (Girl of the Brown Locks), where Muireann shares vocals with former band member Ciarán Ó Gealbháin. I haven't heard both songs before. Better known is Sigerson Clifford's "Boys of Barr na Sraide," as is "Malai na gCuach Ni Chuilleanneain" under the title "Is Fada Liom Uaimi" (e.g. Altan). Muireann and Donal also apply some vocals to the jig "The Frost Is All Over" (hm, yes, Coleman ...). The sleeve notes have all the lyrics and English translations. There is more instrumental music (nay, no Coleman again): some Polkas, a Breton An dro, Donal's "Farewell to Whiskey". More or less at a gentle pace. The band has settled somehow, lacking some of its youthful vigour. So "Seanchas" is not creating the spark that many would love to get, which doesn't mean that this is a bad album. On the contrary. Here are performers that were great a decade ago, and now even more mature, and since they are never tired of the road there is supposed to be a show in a theatre nearby.
Walkin' T:-)M

"Learning to Play the Hurdy-Gurdy" [DVD Video]
Label: Eigenverlag; 2010
See also the German
review in this issue
Ina Lemm wanted to learn the hurdy-gurdy there was no tutorial which could answer all her questions, and no one could show what to do. She had to teach herself. Out of this experience this DVD tutorial was born to facilitate hurdy-gurdy playing for future generations. The DVD is shot in simple video frames at the romantic 12th century Veldenz Castle. I'm soon convinced that the hurdy-gurdy is no instrument for both the restless and persons which fingers have all thumbs. Chapter 1 is dedicated to the history of the instrument. Instrument maker Kurt Reichmann details the mediaeval origins and the evolution until the Renaissance and the pastoral music of the Baroque. Ina Lemm discusses furthermore the parts of the hurdy-gurdy and its tuning (here the so-called German tuning in G). In Chapter 2 the basics are laid out: tuning, padding the strings, using resin and adjusting the drone strings. Chapter 3 teaches playing it, including fingering and techniques for both hands. There is a fourth Chapter dedicated only to the drone technique for rhythmic backup. The musical examples at beginner's and medium level are partly executed in two harmonies. The DVD also features leads for buying a hurdy-gurdy and things that are to be avoided at all costs. The easy-to-follow DVD is available with English voice-over; a pdf document contains additional material.,
Walkin' T:-)M

The Three City Four "Smoke & Dust"
Label: Fuse Records; CFCD 068; 1965-67/2010
As his US American precursor and counterpart, the British folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s was rooted in left-winged politics and social awareness. In 1963, Leon Rosselson (FW#37) undertook to form a group singing the new folk songs of the day. Leon got together Martin Carthy (#36), Marian McKenzie and Ralph Trainer. Later on Roy Bailey replaced Martin Carthy. 3 City 4 had only a short life span. However, before they separated and went on to become sucessful solo artists, they recorded two LPs, "The Three City Four" (1965) and "Smoke & Dust" (1967) for Decca and CBS, respectively. Here they are all put on CD for the first time - folk, blues and jazz songs taken from Ewan MacColl's radio ballads ("Travelling People", "The Shoals of Herring" -> #37) and the who's who of British and American songwriters: Cyril Tawney ("Sally Free and Easy") and Ian Campbell ("The Apprentice's Song") as well as Pete Seeger ("Oh Had I a Golden Thread") and Bob Dylan ("Oxford Town"). Leon is reminding us that folk song was once viewed as radical, subversive, dangerous even. Though these songs are not pretty or sweet, it's rendition by four flawless vocalists and it's gentle accompaniment by guitar and banjo is. This compilation is both a History Lesson and occasionally still relevant and timeless, musically as well as socially. Only listen to "15 Million Plastic Bags" and a Christmas song such as Sydney Carter's "Standing in the Rain".
Walkin' T:-)M

Leon Rosselson with Reem Kelani and Janet Russell "The last chance"
Label: Fuse records; CFCD008; 2010
Getting the new album by Leon Rosselson is like a time travel for me. When I was a kid, my father got two cassettes with music from Leon Rosselson and Roy Bailey and after hearing the music many times my father took his guitar and started to play them himself. So some of Rosselson's songs are part of my life for over thirty years I think. My all time favorite is the record Love, loneliness, laundry, a record that I still love listening to. Although my father forced me to listen to all his albums from the past twenty years and some I did like, I find this new album one of the most impressive collection of songs in Rosselson’s entire oeuvre. Eight songs, six by Rosselson, one beautiful Song of the olive tree by Janet Russell and the song Yafa by Reem Kelani taken from her beautiful album Sprinting gazelle. They sing songs about Israel and Palestine and tell about their feelings in an intense, sometimes emotional and personal way. For many people this is a controversial theme but I think it’s so important to keep standing up and share our feelings, our doubts, our thoughts and hope. These three artists did that in a wonderful way and hopefully they encourage people to keep the dialogue alive.
Eelco Schilder

Lionel Loueke "Mwaliko"
Blue note; 509996; 2010
Incendio "Seduction"
Label: New world music; NWCD 045; 2006
Ida Kelarova "Aven bachtale"
Label: Indies; MAM454-2; 2009
Marbin "Marbin"
Label: Own label; 2009
Nicolas Simion Group "Transylvanian Jazz"
Label: Institutul cultural Romana; 2009
Vincent Herring & Earth Jazz "Morning star"
Label: Challenge records; CR73297; 2010
Max Nagl "Sortiléges"
Label: Rude noises; 017; 2009
Starting this pile of jazz albums with a new Blue note label release by Benin guitarist Lionel Loueke. The last years Loueke has become very successful with his mixture of African jazz with Western music. He has played on albums of Herbie Hancock and Angelique Kidjo to just name a few. Kidjo also sings on this new album. Mwaliko is a top African-jazz album which shows the best of Loueke’s guitar play and composing qualities. Backed by top musicians Loueke recorded his best album until today and the legendary Blue note label published a beautiful new album again.
Four years after the release the album Seduction by the trio Incendio arrived at my desk. This guitar/keyboard trio plays an easy going late night jazz with influences from the Southern part of the world. Flamenco rhythms, sunny Latin grooves etc. Well played, positive vibe but a bit too easy listening after my personal taste. This is holiday music when I want to clear my head and that is a pity because when you listen really closely the trio shows some great techniques and creativity.
The third album comes from Ida Kelarova and is called Aven bachtale. Kelarova is a Czech singer with a deep, warm voice. Since her debut CD in 1992 this is her eighth album. Her music can be pure emotion like in the midnight jazz club song Duj džeňora in which I think her voice is at her best. She flirts with gypsy swing and somehow in those songs the music gets a bit too easy going, it doesn’t have the warmth and impressive sound of the more introvert songs. Although I must say there are a few strong solo parts by the musicians who spice these songs a bit. Nice is Bari vera in which the German singer Nicole Nagel sings a duet with Kelarova. Both singers have opposite voices and make this an intriguing conversation between a young, energetic singer and the experienced and peaceful Kelarova. I’m a fan of Kelarova’s voice, the music on this album is not always my cup of tea but with such a voice I don’t care what you sing, as long as I can close my eyes and hear it now and then.
After two nice but easy going albums now an intriguing debut CD by a duo called Marbin. Formed in 2007 in Israel where guitarist Dani Rabin and saxophonist Danny Markovitch met. They relocated to Chicago where this debut album is released. Ten original compositions sometimes dreamy, thank surprisingly fresh and sometimes they choose an almost minimalistic approach. Because of their sober arrangements they give room to the nice melodies and offer the listener the change to dream away on their nice play. Very strong debut of a duo that give their own interpretation to jazz music.
Nicolas Simion is a saxophonist from Romania and after being part of successful jazz formations in Romania he emigrated to the Vienna in 1989. Since then he recorded an impressive collection of albums both as a band member and solo. Simion is such a musician that always searches for ways to blend styles like jazz, folk and classical music. Although this new album is without any doubt a jazz album, you can hear his Balkan roots in his compositions that sometimes are directly inspired by traditional (more or less) tunes. I think this album shows his quality both as composer and musician. Beautiful melodies played on the highest level. Sometimes he touches the sax gently and melancholic while at other moments it’s like a village party without getting to wild. Very nice!
Vincent Herring is a saxophonist as well, but instead of Romania he is based in New York and his style is deeply rooted in the American jazz tradition. This new album Morning star is a cooperation with Earth jazz trio on piano, bass and drums. Ten compositions from the members of the trio, Herring himself and a few from others like Coltrane’s Naima. It’s jazz as most people would say jazz sounds. Laid back music, traditional (as far as jazz can be traditional) well played, but my untrained jazz ears don’t hear a difference between this one and many other albums in the same vein. I do like a good jazz album now and then, but it has to surprise me and this one is absolutely good, but doesn’t drive me crazy.
And the third saxophonist on a row is Max Nagl. This musician from Austria has a thirty years long career in music and besides jazz music, he also composes music for theater. This album has two parts. The first part are five compositions played by Big four, a quartet with Nagl on sax, Steve Bernstein on trumpet, Noël Akchoté on guitar and Brad Jones on bass. Five songs, recorded live, shows a professional band playing soft, careful jazz music with sparkling melodies. The second part of the album is a solo project by Max Nagl in which he turns out to be a multi-instrumentalist. Again nice melodies but this time interrupted by strange noises, water dripping and many other sounds. Very experimental and somehow these songs show that he composes for theatre as well. These are small stories that scream for images.,,,,,
Eelco Schilder

Nifty’s "Naftularasa"
Cracked Anegg; 09200932; 2009
Boban I Marko Markovic "Devla, blown away to dance floor heaven"
Label: Piranha; 2339; 2009
Balkan Beat Box "Blue eyed black boy"
Label: Crammed discs; craw 55; 2010
Shazalakazoo "Speaking Balkanian"
Label: Own label; 2009
In this reviews a few brass/Balkan beats/rock albums starting with Nifty’s and their album Naflularasa. This Austrian group exists out of five musicians on guitar, trumpet, bass and drums. The eight new compositions on this album have influences from the Balkan traditions, rock and jazz music. I like the nice trumpet solo’s which is more subtle than from most Balkan-brass influenced bands. Nifty’s music has a bit chaotic atmosphere changing from smooth jazz into fast rock in a second. The recordings sound a bit raw and the album has a nice unpolished producers sound. Nice group for a steamy live performance with a great trumpet player.
Boban I Marko Markovic is much better known in the world of Balkan brass. Especially the sound of Boban’s Flugelhorn is much awarded and internationally known. On this new album he is joined by Marko Markovic on trumpet and over ten other (brass) musicians. This Devla is a real party album with strong, mostly original, compositions from Marko Markovic. The compositions have everything you expect from these musicians. Great melodies, sunny and uplifting brass, sometimes surprising solos on bagpipe and accordion. This album has a produced sound to make sure that it will be loved by many. Nothing new, but solid as a rock.
The third one is by Balkan Beat Box and is called Blue black eyed boy. With this album Balkan beat box proves to be at the top of the Balkan beat hype of this moment. This music is raw, energetic and creative and much better than 99% of the Balkan-beat shit that is released daily. It’s renewing, it’s for dancing and to be amazed. Get it and you have a great hour of fun, with some fabulous music.
Shazalakazoo is a duo from Serbia doing some programming, turntables and shouting. This duo doesn’t use samples but invites musicians to join them like the Orkestar legende Vranje and some solo musicians. They add some heavy beats, trip hop elements and so on and the result is nice modern Balkan beats album that goes above the average Balkan beat band because of their heavy approach and ultra modern sound. This is not just a studio guy adding some beats, but two musicians who know what they are doing and love creating new music.,,,
Eelco Schilder

Nayekhovichi "Klezmer is dead"
Laika; 3510261.2; 2010
Klezmic Zirkus "13 chemin des mandarins"
Label: Homerecords; 2009
Red Hot Chachkas "Beats without borders"
Label: Own label; 2009
Klezmer is dead! Klezmer is dead? Well, I’m very sorry but seen the fact that Folkworld keeps sending me lots of Klezmer CD’s from all over the world I get the feeling that Klezmer is more alive than ever. Here in this review a few new releases starting with Klezmer is dead by the Russian band Nayekhovichi. This quartet has a line-up with organ, electric guitar, drums etc which suggests a seventies prog or psych band. Somehow they do have a bit of this old fashioned style. For example in New Russian sher which is great klezmer rock with a good dose of humor, sun and fun. In Rezinke the band sounds more like a fifties group with this great Hammond like sound and a fabulous solo part halfway on clarinet. Borsht is the more recognizable kind of party-klezmer and their version of the classical song Rumenye is, how to say it... different. This song is often sung as a ballad slowly speeding up. But this band turns it into a wild punk-klezmer song with vocals that go all directions except the right one, full speed flute and heavy guitars and a smoking saxophone running from one side of the band to the other. Nayekhovichi is a great party band and the fun these musicians have comes rolling out of the loudspeakers. Totally unsubtle and not for those who only take Klezmer as a serious kind of music. And if you like this or not, you can’t deny that this band has their own style.
Second Klezmer album comes from Klezmic Zirkus and is called 13 chemin des mandarins. On the Belgian Home records label known for its rare and unconventional record releases. Leading lady is Aurelie Charneux who plays the clarinet and is the group's composer. The album won’t satisfy the lovers of the traditional Klezmer genre but offers a sometimes almost avant-gardistic, theatrical kind of music. With Zahava Seewald doing some free vocals and the band playing complex patterns on trombone, tuba, clarinet, bass, guitar, accordion and drums. Interesting album with music that is far from easy listening but is absolutely one of a kind.
The Red Hot Chachkas plays the more obvious and accessible kind of Klezmer with recognizable melodies and uplifting dances. The band was founded thirteen years ago and with this third album they proof to be one of California’s nicest Klezmer influenced band. Their original compositions are of good quality and there is chemistry between the musicians which results in a strong groups sound and occasionally some nice solo’s supported by the rest of the musicians. A sunny album with uncomplicated quality music.,,
Eelco Schilder

I See Hawks in L.A. "Shoulda Been Gold, 2001-2009"
Label: American beat records; 7028; 2009
Joy Kills Sorrow "Joy Kills Sorrow"
Label: Signature sound recordings; 2027; 2010
The Mayflies "A thousand small things"
Label: Mud dauber records; 0003; 2009
Starting this review with the band I see hawks in L.A. from Southern California. This is the bands fifth album full of country influenced middle of the road rock. Together with sixteen guest musicians this quartet proofs to be a band that has the quality to entertain a big audience. Their music is well played, easy going and has the right sunny atmosphere. It’s exactly the music that I imagine by a mainstream roots-rock band from California. The sound of the dobro and lap steel, the disciplined drummer, the guests on the more traditional instruments such as the mandolin, banjo, fiddle and accordion. I’m sure that this band turns every concert into a party with their recognizable sound and easy going songs.
Joy kills sorrow is a Boston based band with four acoustic string musicians and a female lead singer. This Darkness sure becomes this city is a refreshing, open minded and sunny album. I love the uncomplicated way this quintet mixes folk, Americana with pop and a jazzy edge. Eleven songs that make the sun appear! Singer Emma Beaton has a beautiful voice and her fellow musicians know how to hit their strings. When you are into nice Americana-pop of the best kind, this is definitely your album!
The Mayflies just released their third album called A thousand small things. This trio plays some rock with Americana, blues and country influences. The album has two sides, sometimes great Country like rock songs that are really nice. The band takes the shortest way to your ears and prefers a uncomplicated approach of the music. The drums are sometimes mixed a bit too loud and the songs are middle of the road. But the band has a hearable pleasure in what they are doing and that helps making this album enjoyable.,,
Eelco Schilder

Loyko "Hotza"
Snail records; 66014; 2010
Loyko is Russia´s best known gipsy band and now, for the first time ten of their songs are compiled on this album and for sale outside Russia, where they issued four albums. This trio has two violinists and a guitarist and sometimes they even sing! Although the album contains some fabulous violin play and strong guitar works, somehow this album doesn’t work for me. I find it a bit chaotic and the musical arrangements often too predictable. I do hear the fire of the musicians, I hear their craftsmanship but some songs are too unsubtle for me. It´s a bit like a melting pot of known musical fragments and musical effects that are a bit cliché at moments. And then, suddenly a wonderful song or melody pops up. But these moments are too few for me personally to keep me focused. It does hurt a bit to write this as I´m a big fan of Snail records and I think I have about their whole catalogue in my collection and some of their albums are even in my top 25 of best albums of the past ten years. But somehow this one isn’t my cup of tea.
Eelco Schilder

The Hut People "Home is where the hut is"
Fellside; FECD228; 2010
The Hut People is an English duo with Sam Pirt on accordion and Gary Hammond on percussion. The duo was formed only two years ago and now their debut album is released on the Fellside label. They play tunes from all over the world, from Cajun to Canadian, but with a focus on Finland. The opening track Happy one step is such a happy song that even I feel my depression vanish within a few seconds. Very different is the second song Kuortaneen from Finland, written by the Varttina accordionist Markku Lepisto. The Hut People is doing a great job here, strong percussion bringing a mystic mood and Pirt is playing a wonderful piece of accordion here. Back to happiness in La gran noticia and they play a wonderful version of Lepisto’s Lansiranta. Don’t I know this melody from Sharon Shannon as well? Or am I mistaken? With Princess royal they proof to be excellent players of Irish traditions as well. The album ends with a composition of that other great Finnish accordion player, Kaleniemi. A powerful end of a wonderful album that took me by surprise. I did not expect an album with such a variation in styles, well played and with the right atmosphere.
Eelco Schilder

Cassis & the Sympathies "Analog love"
Label: Wunderblumenmusik; 2009
Cassis is a New York based singer-songwriter and accordionist who fronted the band B Blush and she is best known for her film music compositions. Together with a big group of Sympathies (amongst them Herbie Flowers) she recorded thirteen alternative pop songs with sometimes a neo-folk sound like in Be there. But also bluesy like in Girl time which shows a totally different side of the musician. I think those two songs tell the story of this album. Cassis loves experimenting and changing styles at the moment you think to get a grip on her music. From late night jazz, Broadway, blues, folk to alternative rock. From happiness to melancholy, Cassis puts it all on this album. Intriguing at moments but It takes a lot from the listener to stay focused and follow the way Cassis thinks and plays. Good to hear a musician who does what she likes and does this with passion and quality.
Eelco Schilder

Grant Peeples "Pawnshop"
Label: Own label; 2009
Last year I received Grant Peeples debut album It’s later than you think and I loved it. At that moment I found it hard to believe that it was his first album and hoped that Peeples would continue making records of this high quality. His second album was published only a year after his debut album and It makes me very happy to hear the same great, bit raw, voice singing beautiful songs sometimes with a good sense of humor, sometimes sad but always pure and honest. I find this second album a bit more balanced than the first one, as if Peeples has more inner peace and has more confidence in his singing and playing. With a fine band on stacks of guitars, drums, banjo, bass and keys Peeples recorded an intense country/blues rock album that shows his quality as both a musician and a songwriter.
Eelco Schilder

Márta Sebestyén "I Can See the Gates of Heaven"
World village; 45009; 2008
A new album of the Hungarian singer Márta Sebestyén is something to look forward to. Her musical career is full of award winning music, beautiful international projects and a hand full of solo albums. She is known as the voice of the famous Muszikas band and a worldwide audience knows her for her singing in the English patient soundtrack. I never saw this movie, but for many years I listen to her work with Muszikas and all the other bands she sings with. On this new album she focuses on Hungarian religious and secular songs. She is backed by Balázs Szokolay Dongó on several kinds of flutes and reed instruments. He is also doing some traditional Hungarian overtone singing. The second one is Mátyás Bolya on lute and zither. The album starts with two Moldavian songs including a sweet lullaby. Sebestyén singings backed by the typical sound of the shepherd flute. Bolya touched his lute gently and changes halfway to the more colorful sound of then zither. In Heritage the song starts with Hungarian traditional overtone singing, a vocal art most people know from the Mongolian and Tuva folk music but which is occasionally also part of the Hungarian tradition. For over fifty minutes the musicians take us on a journey through ancient Hungary. A friendly ballad like Invocation is followed by the pureness of the sacral song Driving away sorrow. The atmosphere of the songs changes but the soul stays the same. The only moment I lose my attention is while listening to a collection of dances called Valiant knights. The saxophone is doing a great job but the arrangements of the strings is too simple and sounds a bit unsure. But that is only a small remark about a beautiful album which keeps Sebestyén at the highest level of Hungarian folk music.
Eelco Schilder

Sons of the Never Wrong "On a good day I am"
Waterbug; wbg88; 2009
Sometimes I find an album I my reviewing pile that makes me stop what I’m doing, this is such an album. It’s a combination of the right atmosphere, the right combination of music and musicians and probably the right state of mind of the reviewer. This On a good day I am is the sixth album by this trio from Chicago with eighteen new compositions in Americana style. The trio is joined by the Kairos quartet on cello, viola and violin. The quartet gives an extra dimension to the songs and takes care of a few nice interludes on the album. The CD opens beautifully with I am. A song in which the band shows their quality as harmony singers and (acoustic] musicians. Strangely enough I miss that good vibe in the second song I saw sorrow. Male vocalist Bruce Roper takes the lead in this one backed by his two female companions and he gives me the feeling that he is a bit nervous or shy, I don’t know how to describe it, and that makes that somehow this song doesn’t work for me. Roper takes revenge later on the fabulous Head over heels a song that suits him perfectly. Absolute highlight for me are those songs where Sue Demel is the leading singer. Say goodbye has everything a good song needs. Solid songwriting, good musicians and a singer that sings from her hearth. I love her powerful, but at the same time sensitive, way of singing. When Demel sing, I believe every word she sings and I have to listen. She does this again in Twiggy little bird, hard to explain but this is a singer that conquered my heart. On Leona Deborah Maris Lader takes the lead and she has a more accessible voice which is of high quality as well but of a more decent kind. It really gets interesting when the two women start singing together, their different sounds match really well and give songs like Other things and Order in my house the right spirit. This album intrigues me from the first until the last moment. From now on I’m a fan of Sue Demel, but keep in mind that this is a personal preference and that the whole album is of top-quality. This must be one of the most refreshing US bands I know. Worth visiting their webpage and listen to a few songs, I’m sure it will make you order one or two of their albums.
Eelco Schilder

Luigi Cinque "Tangerine Café"
Label: Egea/Ncipit records; inc106; 2009
Luigi Cinque is a multi instrumentalist, composer and producer who has an impressive history in jazz and traditional music. Started in the early seventies with the band Canzoniere del Lazio and has been part of many (solo) projects ever since. This Tangerine Café is a re-release of his 2002 success album, now with a bonus video of almost one hour which is a registration of a unique concert mixed with pictures from the different cultures that are united in his music and short interviews. Some fantastic music can be seen and heard on this video from several (mediterean) cultures. Unfortunately for me the video doesn’t have English translation of the interviews which would have been an interesting extra. Now back to the album Tangerine Café. I already had the 2002 version in my collection but didn’t play it for a while. This new version proofed me how wrong I was by not playing it. I have seldom heard such a well succeed mixture of traditional styles with jazz and modern electronics. I love the opening track Song line 5 which starts with the beautiful Indian vocals of Mangla Tiwari who is backed by the soft saxophone and electronics of Cinque. Then suddenly the song is taken over by singer Badare Seck from Senegal. Such a different way of singing but the match is perfect as can be heard in the parts where the vocalists sing together. On Senza ‘e te the Napolitan singer Raiz takes the lead with his deep voice. With North-African and jazz backings this singer impresses. Mecanico chorus is another highlight with all these vocal styles, strong electronic and acoustic sounds etc. On Blue Ararat the band has a sober sound with Cinque on the clarinet. A sensitive melody with the dramatic vocals of Evelina Meghnagi. Each of the eight songs on this album is fabulous and shows the quality of Luigi Cinque and the musicians he invited to play along. It’s not often that I heard such a well succeed crossover album with sometimes surprising mixtures of traditions and with the right balance between acoustic and electronic instruments and sounds. I personally consider this album as a highlight in the (Italian) crossover music. And for all those who haven’t got the original 2002 edition, this new edition is your chance to buy a more than intriguing album.
Eelco Schilder

Marco Zurzolo Band "Migranti. Un mare di sogni"
Egea; SCA141; 2009
Mudestra "Serenata a Napoli"
Label: Own label; 2009
Two albums from musicians from Napoli, two different interpretations of the music. First the saxophonist Marco Zurzolo. Since he started composing in 1995 he has recorded about ten albums. He has been on stage with international artists such as Van Morrison, Chet Baker, Solomon Burke and many others. On this new album he tries to link the cultural history of Napels and the southern p[art of Italy with those from the Northern parts of Africa. Together with almost an orchestra of guest musicians Zurzolo managed to record a very nice album. Besides his own compositions there is a traditional piece, an anonymous composition from the year 500 and his fellow musician Baba Sissoko wrote the nice Masa composition. What I like of this album is the open minded, easy going atmosphere. Zurzolo’s melodic way of playing give this album a very accessible sound. What I think is interesting is that he managed to mix the styles in the right way. I never have the feeling that I’m listening to an African or Italian album, but do recognize the influences from the different regions. Zurzolo managed to integrate the styles in such a way that it sounds like an organic whole. This Migranti is a very nice, easy going album that is suitable for a wide audience.
Mudestra is a trio based in Germany playing and singing in the more traditional Napoli style. This new album Serenata a Napoli contains fifteen tracks that most people will immediately recognize as music from the town and surroundings of Napoli. The trio kept the music very basic which gives it a powerful, old fashioned feeling. On mandolin, guitar the two string musicians play light footed string music, which is a perfect accompaniment for the theatrical vocals of tenor Gustavo Martin-Sanchez. Mudestra recorded a strong album which is a nice tribute to the unique musical tradition of this Southern Italian city.,
Eelco Schilder

Lang Linken "Liv"
Go folk; 110CD/DVD; 2010
Lang Linken is probably one of the better known traditional bands from Denmark and they have recently been celebrating their 40th anniversary. A good reason to release this interesting CD/DVD. The Danish/English booklet gives a brief history of the band and a clear signal that the three musicians don’t even think about ever stop to play, until today they love what they are doing. On the CD they recorded 21 traditional pieces including many known and lesser known (Danish) dances. Very suitable for bal folk dancing and for those who love solid acoustic traditional music. I personally find the DVD the most interesting part of this double album. The DVD is divided in three parts; a bal folk recorded in 2009 where the trio plays the violin, diatonic accordion and electric piano. This 45 minutes long video shows dancing Danes and Lang Linken play dance after dance. After about fifteen minutes it’s getting a bit boring as the band stays too much in the same vein. Perfect for the dancers, but lesser interesting for me here at home. I like the small Odense concert which is on the DVD much more. Here they play ancient instruments such as dulcimer, hurdy gurdy, bagpipe, violin and more and show a totally different side of their music. The third party of this DVD is an interview hold by Morten Alfred Høirup. For over an half hour the musicians tell about their history, present and future. They tell about their music and some anecdotes. Now I have the luck that I lived in Denmark for a while and understand the language good enough to be able to follow the interview. But there are no English subtitles so It might not be that interesting for those who don’t understand the Danish language. I think this double album shows exactly what Lang Linken has been and still is. A great dance band and masters on the more ancient instruments as well. A good way to celebrate a 40th anniversary.
Eelco Schilder

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