FolkWorld #45 07/2011

CD & DVD Reviews

Ralf Novak-Rosengren "Semno palla mander"
Etnisk Musikklubb, 2010

Andreas Bjørkås "Veiskille"
Etnisk Musikklubb, 2010

Oluf Dimitri Røe "Meltemi - Wind of Mykonos"
Etnisk Musikklubb, 2011

Three albums on the Norwegian Etnisk musikklubb label. The first one is by Ralf Novak-Rosengren who represents the Swedish Roma culture and since the eighties has collected songs from Scandinavian Roma people and performed them on several occasions. Besides being an important collector of the musical heritage, he is a songwriter himself as well. This album is his second full length album, but his work can be found on several compilation albums. The album contains a unique collection of songs all from the early and more recent history of Scandinavians Roma people. Some of the songs have never been available for public before and with recording them Novak-Rosengren brings a part of the Nordic history and present into the spotlight. He does this with his bit heavy voice, backed by three guest musicians on violin, mandolin and accordion. An intriguing album that has an important ethnomusicology meaning for the Scandinavian (music) culture.
The second album in this review comes from the Norwegian violinist Andreas Bjørkås and is called Veiskille. Bjørkås collected a fine collection of seventeen pieces mostly from the last 200 years. On a few tracks he is backed by Erlend Viken on violin and/or Olav Christer Rossebø on guitar and mandolin. The result is a beautiful acoustic folk album with a fresh interpretation of traditional tunes from Oppdal region, situated just under Trondheim. The three musicians and especially Bjørkås of course, keep the traditional feeling alive but also give it their own personal sound. A very fine album for a lover of the Norwegian violin music like me.
The third one is also by a violinist, this time it’s Oluf Dimitri Røe and his album called Meltemi - Wind of Mykonos. He comes from a Norwegian-Greek family and grew up in both countries. This CD is his debut album and contains music from the Mykonos island. With a big bunch of guest musicians from Norway, Greece, Serbia, Kenya and other places, Dimitri Røe impresses me with this debut album of the highest quality. He is a passionate musician who is capable of put many kinds of emotion into his music. From the sadness to the light dancing and cheer happy moments. A fantastic highlight is the bagpipe in Ta kefalonitika a ballaristos dance that according to the booklet is a typical kind of dance from the island. A fascinating duet between vocals and bagpipe that I keep listening over and over again. But also the wonderful folk-jazz composition in Nordic style called Norwegian moods is a real treasure. Well played accordion in this bit melancholic piece. This track is followed by another fabulous bagpipe piece with impressive percussion and a violinist who is going crazy somewhere in the far distance. Strangely enough the album ends with a Rumba with again fabulous accordion parts by Pavlovic. And with this a beautiful album ends with a Greece spirit, but with sounds from many other parts of the world. All integrated into an impressive blend of styles. A highly recommended debut album.
© Eelco Schilder

Peter Bryngelsson "Wunderbaum"
Own label, 2011

Sorry but no information available about this band and when searching on the internet there turned out to be many bands that are called Wunderbaum. Looking at the names of the musicians it looks like a Scandinavian-German band that is into a kind of neo folk with a vintage touch. Old fifties rhythms are mixed with fine old fashioned guitars and a lot of saxophone and trombone. It’s like each track tells a small story and is the soundtrack of a small movie. Very nice music, pure, creative and well played. But also a bit much styles and ideas for one album, no problem if instead of twenty tracks the musicians were a little bit more critical and produced an album that has more unity. Nevertheless a keeper, next time maybe with some more info on the digi pack so I write a bit more about the background of the band?
© Eelco Schilder

Gretli & Heidi "Gretli & Heidi"
Ragadang Records, 2010

What at first sight looks like an over the top Yodel album from the mountains of central Europe, turns out to be a Musical project of two Swedish artists. Gretli is played by Carin Blom and Heidi by Catharina Backman. Together with their impressive collection of cowbells, bottles, wine glasses, two accordions flutes etc. This duo creates a theatrical, experimental kind of Alp-noir music. Starting the album with a greeting the sun Yodel, followed by their thoughts of lonely girls, stumbling over a 4000 years old corpse and fighting over a man. Then they got lost in the fog and disguise themselves as men and get free rösti. It all ends in an ode to a guy who works in a glass factory for 25years. How all of these themes sound? Well, a lot of high pitched and airy sounds, sometimes surprisingly melodic and rhythmic but always with big and small cows just around the corner. This is visual music made for live performance. Not bad recorded at all, but I keep getting the feeling that I miss something and wish the two artists appeared in my living room when playing their CD. Something tells me their stage performance is quite spectacular.
© Eelco Schilder

Hazmat Modine "Cicada"
Jaro, 2011

The New-York based band Hazmat Modine surprised me a few years ago with their outstanding debut album.[34] Their pure mix of folk, blues, country and other (old times) styles really caught me and opened a new world. Finally a new album is released, but for those who couldn’t wait already heard the band play on Natalie Merchant’s masterpiece leave your sleep. But now thirteen new recordings with, besides Natalie Merchant as guest, the Gangbé brass band and the Kronos quartet. This results in variety of the earlier mentioned styles mixed with African and East-European influences. I love the way these typical American guitars, harmonica and vocals are mixed with brass and other sounds. It gives the music an extra dimension and make it sounds fresh and so 2011! Hazmat Modine shows to be one of the hottest New-York acts of this moment and lead vocalist and harmonica player Wade Schuman shows to be a great songwriter and a more than talented field recorder of insects, birds, footsteps and accordionists who play under bridges in Amsterdam. What a multi talent he is!
© Eelco Schilder

Jaakko Laitinen & Väärä Raha
"Jaakko Laitinen & Väärä Raha"
Helmi Levyt, 2010

Jaakko Laitinen & Väärä Raha is a band from Finland with an untypical Finnish sound. They get their inspiration from the Finnish tango tradition, the Russian music and Balkan brass music. With singer Laitinen fronting a band of fine musicians including bass, piano, brass instruments and so much more. They create a kind of old fashioned Balkan-pop sound in the ten recorded tracks. With a light romantic swing, the band will do really well in a nightclub after the midnight hour. Laitinen has a pleasant , deep voice and the musicians know what they are doing but play a bit brave. A friendly album with sometimes a beautiful song, not very innovative but solid folk-pop with a Balkan touch.
© Eelco Schilder

Colouring the Mind "Colouring the Mind"
Own label, 2011

Colouring the Mind is a collaboration between the Calcutta born Tabla player Ashis Paul and the German sitar player Yogendra. Yogendra I have reviewed before as one of the members of the very nice band Indigo Masala.[36] Two names in Indian music that might not ring a bell immediately amongst lovers of the genre, but should be known by people who are not so familiar with Indian music but loves the sound of it. The problem with Indian ragas is the complexity of the compositions and structure of the performances. This duo brings the beauty of the tradition in a accessible und understandable way for untrained ears. The three ragas are sparkling and melodic and show two musician who enjoy intensively the music they play. A rich album that might brighten your horizon from folk to the beauty of Indian world music.
© Eelco Schilder

Trobairitz d’oc "La mau d’amor"
Felmay, 2010

Two singer and a saxophonist from Torino join together under the name Trobairitz d’oc. Even without the information on the CD booklet you will recognize the Occitan style in their first track called Colorina de ròsa. It’s the style that I know so well from two of my all time favorite singers Rosina de Peira & Martina. On this album you hear two female singers as well, but with a much more frivol and light voice than de Peira and Martina. I like the purity of the album, vocals and sax only. It shows the beauty of Occitan traditional songs in all its glory. The way of singing is a bit decent and riskless, but the two singers have a well trained voice and a kind of sparkling in their voice that is really nice to listen to. What I also like is the sober role the saxophone plays, absolute an essential part of the music but with sober arrangements, a very wise choice. A very accessible interpretation of Occitan music that brings me in a sunny mood. What more do I want in these summer months?
© Eelco Schilder

Emin Yağci "Tulum"
Felmay, 2011

Emin Yağci is a Turkish Tulum (Turkish bagpipe) player from the Black sea region. Besides the bagpipe he is known in his region for his poems, dancing and composing. The Tulum plays a big role in the traditional (dancing) music of the mentioned region but somehow there aren’t many albums with the Tulum as the leading instrument. Under the musical direction of Cenk Güray (who also plays the saz on the album) and Erdem Şimşek (who plays the Bağlama on the album) and together with a percussionist and Kemençe player, Yağci creates a wonderful album with haunting music from the Black sea region. The typical sound of the Tulum is not easy to compare with other kind of bagpipes and the very rhythmic way of playing is ideal for dancing and a intriguing listening adventure. Happily the booklet contains English info so as a listener you even get some background information about the project and each song that is recorded. A valuable document that gives a view into an ancient and yet relatively unknown rich tradition.
© Eelco Schilder

Pitom "Blasphemy and Other Serious Crimes"
Tzadik, 2011

My heart always makes a small jump when a new album released on the Tzadik label arrives at my doorstep. This label gave me a total new view on modern Jewish rock music and shows the richness of the young generation musicians who bring their tradition their way. Guitarist Yoshie Fruchter is behind the group called Pitom and with Blasphemy and other serious crimes he brings some heavy roots-rock. Joined by violinist Jeremy Brown, bassist Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz and drummer Kevin Zubek, Fruchter gives us heavy guitar parts, wild violin solo’s, beating drums and a solid bass line. What I like of this music is that even at the wildest part it stays melodic. It’s a bit raw and unpolished but that is part of the charm of Pitom’s music. For all those who are already familiar with the label or for those who think Jewish inspired music is boring, try this!
© Eelco Schilder

Zapatango "Tan Sensible"
Zimbraz, 2011

Just when I was about to wonder when the tango related albums would arrive, Zapatango entered the house. The quintet is formed around the Argentinean jazz and Latin guitarist Carlos Diaz and besides him includes four Belgian musicians on piano, accordion, violin and bass. The album contains eleven original tracks composed by Diaz. A fine blend of tango, jazz and light acoustic music make this album a delightful break in my hectic life. Five strong musicians play on a high level and create a friendly and accessible sound. Diaz shows not only to be a great guitarist, but also a strong composer. His compositions have the atmosphere of the Tango but also a very own sound and style. A very pleasant album with well played acoustic music that is accessible for a wide audience.
© Eelco Schilder

Rick Cutler "First melancholy, then the night stretch"
New Dude Records, 2010

Rick Cutler is a pianist and drummer from the US who backed several known and lesser known musicians. This is his second solo output with piano pieces only, all self composed and played. Eighteen tunes mixing classical, jazz, world and popular styles. Cutler shows his great gift as a musician and composer, it’s of a high technical level. But personally I find the album a bit to mainstream. I prefer a more outspoken style, especially on an album with piano only. Hundreds of these albums are released each month and it takes more to raise above the big stream of pianist output to really catch me. Nevertheless I think many will love this album as it is so well played and the music is friendly for every ear it reaches.
© Eelco Schilder

Tracy Nelson "Victim of the Blues"
Delta Groove Music, 2011

Tracy Nelson, an almost legendary name in music, but strangely enough not that known outside the USA. She recorded her first album in 1965 and many albums followed. She was one of the members of the blues rock band Mother earth, sung a Grammy nominated duet with Willie Nelson in 1974 and after a long silence during the eighties her strong voice can be heard in country and blues music again for the past twenty year. Her latest album Victim of the blues is a great collection of blues rock songs with a raw edge and deeply rooted in the early years of the blues rock music. Unbelievable how powerful her voice still sounds and with the fine musicians she gathered around her, she rocks like not many others can do. Unfortunately the album comes with a remarkable ‘thank you’ for the Burns volunteer fire department for ‘literally saving the record.’ Only a short while ago her house burned down and the firemen managed to safe the computer out of the house with all the recordings for this album. Should we be thankful to this fire department? Yes we should, otherwise we had to miss this great album.
© Eelco Schilder

Wendy McNeill "For the wolf, a good meal"
Own label, 2011

Only a few weeks ago the latest album by the Canadian singer-songwriter Wendy McNeill was released. Her former album A dreamers guide to hardcore living is still in my CD player occasionally so I think you understand that a new work by McNeill makes me really curious how it sounds. Well, first of all the looks. The CD is packed in a wonderful artwork and the booklet is beautifully designed and illustrated. The music is recorded in Sweden and McNeill is backed by three Swedish musicians including Christoffer Lundquist who also recorded and mixed the album. What you get is a great selection of alternative (folk) songs. Mcneill creates a whole own world with her music. Sometimes intimate, sometimes strange and a bit spooky and at other moments powerful. Backed by several kind of organs, mellotron, electric guitars etc. You can imagine what way this album goes. But even in the vocals and accordion parts she somehow amazed with her intriguing own sound. A wonderful new album by one of the best alt. folk related artists I know.
© Eelco Schilder

Grinberg, Danilov, Laszakovits & Grinberg
"In the Klezmood"
Own label, 2010

For over thirty years the pianist and singer Roman Grinberg is active in the world of Yiddish music of Vienna. Besides musician he plays in theatre pieces as well. In the past thirty years he has build an impressive career including starting Yiddish bands, conducting and so much more. This new album is with his brother Tony on percussion, Sasha Danilov on clarinet and Hannes Laszakovits on bass. It’s a live registration from a 2010 concert where the quartet played fourteen traditional tracks. Their jazz interpretation of the traditional songs is very nice and you can feel the passion these musicians have for their music. Grinberg is a fine vocalist and a ditto pianist. I like the melodic clarinet, beautifully played by Danilov. A Klezmer album for those who like jazz as well and don’t mind a lesser traditional sound.
© Eelco Schilder

Pili Pili "Ukuba noma unkungabi"
JARO, 2011

Jasper van’t Hof is one of the better known Dutch composers and musicians and his impressive discography contains a few highlight albums. His group Pili Pili is probably his best known band and in a review of one of his earlier albums I already admitted that I have been a bit narrow minded concerning this group and their last albums proved how wrong I was.[21] And as if that is not enough this new album convinces me ones more of the quality of this band and van’t Hof as composer. Again a remarkably fine blend of jazz, world, light-rock and much more. The smooth keyboard of van’t Hof blends perfectly with the warm vocals by Smangele Khumalo and the very strong percussion by Dra Diarra. Or what about the strong sax by Tineke Postma, the violin by Vasile Darnea and the cello sound by Anton Peisakhov. Together they create a well produced album with beautiful crossover music. Are you into jazz with world (African) influences and a lot more? Go to the site and listen, this is a great addition to your collection!
© Eelco Schilder

Danças Ocultas "Tarab"
Numerica, 2009

For more than 15 years the Portugese quartet Danças ocultas surprises the world with inventive accordion music. All four musicians are fantastic accordionists and especially in their early years, their way of playing the instrument added a new sound to the world of accordion music. By now there are many popular accordion players worldwide bringing the instrument into the 21st century, but when this quartet started it was relatively new. During the years their style improved and one record was a bit better than the other but at least this are musicians who have the guts to try new routes. This album is not their latest one, they recently released a new CD, but their 2009 album called Tarab. Ten new recordings can be heard on this fourth album, which I consider as one of their best. Beautiful compositions with influences from all over Europe, tango, Arabic styles and so much more. Played in a bit introvert and intimate way. Wonderful melodies creep into my ear and make me dream away on the soft rhythms of the accordion basses and the bit mystic melody lines. A recommended album for fans of the instrument, but also suitable for those who still think the accordion is some kind of old fashioned, dusty instrument. This album will change your mind.
© Eelco Schilder

Plöckinger "The War of the Peasants"
Time Zone, 2011

In 2008 I wrote a raving review about the debut album from the Austrian singer-songwriter Plöckinger.[38] This singer, guitarist and teacher impressed with a fragile album based around 19th century lyrics. His new album is a musical theatre piece telling about the 16th century war of peasants. With 23 musicians and singers, Plöckinger created a concept album with folk influences from the past five centuries. He uses both ancient and modern instruments and focus on the vocals sung solo or harmony by the many singers. It’s a nice story he tells with this new album, but somehow It doesn’t work for me without the visual aspect. Sometimes it’s to close to middle or the road musical music, at other moments it’s a kind of gospel influenced light pop music and only a few moments later it’s some electronic sounds, middle age kind of atmosphere of just a nice song. What I miss as a listener, without seeing the play, is a consistent musical story. To many musical ideas on one album and at the same time all the songs are too much in the same vein. I might listen to this album in a different way after seeing the theatre piece, but audio only this new album doesn’t have what it takes to keep my attention for the whole album length. A pity as I loved the debut album and I do hope his next album is not a theatre-musical whatever, but a good, solid singer-songwriter album. In his own, unique sound and style.
© Eelco Schilder

Shaun Davey "Voices from the Merry Cemetery"
Tara, 2010

Shaun Davey can easily be called the king of orchestral Irish influenced folk music. His discography contains a few big projects with several kind of known and lesser known musicians. His newest project is called Voices from the merry cemetery and is recorded in Romania. The album contains known names such as Rita Connolly and Liam O’Flynn, but the main sound is produced by the fine voices of the Romanian choir; Corul facultăţii de teologie din Sibiu. Their male vocals are backed by excellent folk and classical trained musicians. The result is a easy going mixture of classical themes with Irish and Romanian traditional elements. It’s one of the nicer Shaun Davey compositions, less bombastic and beautifully arranged around the male choir. A fine new addition to his impressive catalogue.
© Eelco Schilder

Katell Keineg "At the Mermaid Parade"
Honest Jons, 2010

I think it’s almost fifteen years ago that I bought a secondhand copy of Katell Keineg’s album O seasons, o castles which I enjoyed a lot. Only one other full length album was recorded a few years later, now fourteen years ago and than a long silence until 2004 and now her newest album is available in the shops. This originally Breton singer songwriter now lives in New York and it’s almost unbelievable that so many people don’t know her yet. She has her very own style of singing and songwriting. Her earthy vocals match the sober, but powerful musical arrangements perfectly. She is one of these few singers that without any pretention can tell a story in her songs. It’s pure and intense and a bit outside the standard folk influenced singer songwriters box. Go to the website and listen, Katell Keineg is still a unique sound in the big stream of singer-songwriters.
© Eelco Schilder

Epiphany Project "Live in Germany"
Valve, 2011

The Epiphany project is formed by singer Bet Williams and pianist John Hodian. On this new double live album they are backed by drummer Mal Stein. All twenty tracks are recorded during a tour through Germany and give a clear picture of the band's quality. Williams has a powerful voice which match perfectly with the virtuoso play by Hodian on his piano. The duo brings a fine blend of jazz, rock, Americana and world music. Sometimes they remind me of an acoustic kind of Dead Can dance, especially in the more world (Indian) orientated tracks. But the album also contains some honest jazz ballads and almost chanson styled tracks. It’s amazing what Williams can do with her voice, constantly searching for the maximum of quality. An impressive live CD set by musicians who have an international sound and perform at the highest level.
© Eelco Schilder

Svavar Knútur "Amma (Songs for my Grandmother)"
Beste Unterhaltung, 2010

I think this review should be as the album made by the Icelandic singer-songwriter Svavar Knútur called Amma, songs for my grandmother. No artificial additions, just the information you need. This album is fantastic! Would love to stop here writing, but somehow I can’t. I at least have to tell you that this album contains twelve Icelandic folk and traditional songs, recorded during a living room concert for friends and family (including grandmother) Knútur impresses me deeply with his pure and sparsely arranged versions of the old Icelandic songs. His warm, almost vulnerable, way of singing and the soft way of picking his guitar and ukulele make this album like coming home, even for a Dutch guy like me. Definitely one of the best Icelandic folk albums I heard and I got quite a few in my cd and record collection.
© Eelco Schilder

Igriczek "Magyarok Fenye"
Own label, 2007

A bit older album from the Hungarian band Igriczek. This band brings mediaeval music from Hungary and other European countries. In a beautifully decorated digipack, the sextet surprises with some intriguing ancient compositions. The album has a rich and full sound and shows a passionate group of musicians. It’s really nice to hear this mediaeval music with clearly Hungarian influences that I know from all those other great Hungarian bands. Nice bagpipe tunes, good harmony singing, wild dances but also dark styled songs and tunes. Interesting is their version of the Gaudete song, that most folkies know in the Steeleye span version. Igriczek version is different and more authentic than the Steeleye version. Although four years old, a very nice album to buy and add to your collection. Both for lovers of Hungarian folk and for those who love mediaeval music. The combination of sounds is great!
© Eelco Schilder

La Talvera "Cançons Pebradas"
Own label, 2011

A new album by Talvera is always something to look forward to! Especially after their fantastic 2009 album Sopac & Patac,[41] which I still think is one of the best Occitan related albums ever. Their new CD starts familiar with the song Lo canari. Céline Ricard's recognizable vocals make this a comfortable start. What follows is a collection of 22 songs, both traditional and original. The album has a much more light-footed character than the previous one. Easy going folk songs, happy sounding and even flirting with light pop and ska influences. Between the 22 songs some real treasures can be heard, but the album does not have the impact on me as the previous one which is just perfect from the first until the last second. This Cançons pebradas is a fine collection of songs, but has a more average sound than earlier work. But even than this band keeps being great!
© Eelco Schilder

No Crows "On the Moon"
Whirling Discs, 2010

No crows is an Irish (more or less) ensemble playing Irish music with influences from all over the world. The quartet is on this third album backed by over twenty guest musicians from many parts of the world. This collaboration results in a very fine, international album with sparkling (acoustic) folk music and songs. Some still very Irish, but also Italian, Arabic, African, Latin, Greece, Balkan and many other styles can be heard. From the first moment you hear the quality of the four musicians and their passion for the music they create. A strong third album!
© Eelco Schilder

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