FolkWorld #47 03/2012

CD & DVD Reviews

Fiolministeriet "Fiolministeriet"
GO Danish Folk Music, 2011

Top quality Scandinavian fiddle playing - certainly no less can you expect from this short (38 mins) album. The "violin ministry" three of the top Danish folk musicians - Kristine Sand (fiddle), Ditte Fromseier Mortensen (fiddle, viola, guitar) and Kristine Elise Petersen (cello). The album offers a beautiful collection of primarily traditional Danish tunes (but also some from other Nordic countries and some own compositions) along with a couple of Danish songs. Enjoyable.
© Michael Moll

Concerto Caledonia et al. "Revenge of the Folksingers"
Delphian Records, 2011

German CD Review

It was the most snowy week in December for years, when a group of Scottish musicians travelled to and took residence for a week in Suffolk. The group consisted of a mix of early music and Scottish traditional musicians, and they were invited for a week's residence in Snape, home of composer Britten, to record a folk music album. The musicians in this project are early music ensemble Concerto Caledonia, classically trained Olivia Chaney, and folk musicians Mairi Campbell (one of my favourite Scottish singers, of The Cast), Jim Morey, and Alasdair Roberts.
So what's the point of shipping a group of Scottish musicians to the East of England to record Scottish music? Well residency meant that they could focus on collaboration and creativity, bringing together the early music and folk approach. And there is a link between Britten and Scottish/folk music - Britten did arrange a number of folk songs, and the musicians took advantage of the Britten library to get additional inspiration.
It was certainly a worthwhile project, as the result is impressive. The songs on the album are a mix of Britten adaptations of Scottish traditional music, own songs (often with more contemporary themes) and other traditional material. The album feels relaxed, with generally gentle music, overall Scottish folky - which should appeal to both early music and Scottish folk fans. The mix of songs is somewhat unusual but works well.
This is an enchanting album, featuring very pleasant voices and beautiful instrumentation. A great piece of work!
© Michael Moll

Basco "Big Basco"
GO Danish Folk Music, 2011

Add to traditional violins, accordion and cittern a three piece brass section, then blend this all together with a mix of Danish, Scandinavian and English folk, and add a good dose of Jazz into the mix - and out comes a tasty Big Basco!
Overall more calm than overly lively, the music is enjoyable and appealing - and it is the "horn collective" within the line-up that makes this album interesting and exciting.
© Michael Moll

The Long Notes "In the Shadow of Stromboli"
Hobgoblin Records, 2011

German CD Review

The wonderful Ex Bumblebees Irish accordionist Collette O Leary teams up in this band with Scottish fiddle Jamie Smith, London-Irish banjo/mandolin player Brian Kelly and Dorset-based singer/guitarist Alex Percy. The album is primarily instrumental, plys a couple of songs - one sung by Scottish guest singer Adam Holmes.
A tasteful collection of mainly Scottish and Irish music, with musical ventures out to Galicia and Canada, and a few own compositions. For me personally the only drawback is the strong presence of a banjo which is not my favourite folk instrument - even though it is most of the time not too dominant.
This is a lively album full of great music - and the music becomes even more delightful when seeing my 15-months old dancing to it!
© Michael Moll

Various Artists "A Winter's Night 2011"
[Download Sampler]
Nettwerk, 2011

FolkWorld Xmas

The Nettwerk label celebrates the season with a collection of twenty songs, featuring artists such as Jay Brannan[39] and the Mediaeval Baebes.[46] Included are classic Christmas songs ("God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" sung as a duet by Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan and rock band Barenaked Ladies), contemporary pieces (John Lennon's "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" done by hardcore punk rockers Sense Field) as well as original recordings. My favourite is Joshua Hyslop (who is marketed as a modern folk musician, an amalgam of influence in the classically romantic tradition of Damien Rice, Ryan Adams, Iron and Wine, and Sufjan Stevens), doing a pretty good job on Hugh Martins unsentimental classic "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," far beyond the Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra releases.
The sampler is available as digital download only @ Amazon and other outlets.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Hoven Droven "Rost"
Westpark Music, 2011

Rust never sleeps ... For twenty years - not having retired, never tiring - Hoven Droven are the rock dinosaurs of Swedish trad and folk music.[6][19][32] The Swedes took their time after their live album to return to the studio. In the year 21 and on their sixth album Hoven Droven, which is slang for helter skelter, get off to a flying start - raw, powerful and boisterous. They play common Nordic rhythms - polskas, scottishe, waltzes, a 6/8 metre. Kjell-Erik Eriksson (fiddle) and Jens Comén (saxophon) are in charge for the catchy melodies and some jazzy execution, respectively. Bo Lindberg plays Hoven Droven's hot riffs and grooves on the electric guitar. Pedro Blom on the bass guitar and Björn Höglund on drums are the gutsy rhythm section.
Great stuff once again! Listen to "Slyng" or "Fridas" and agree with me or be silent forever!
© Walkin' T:-)M

La Bottine Souriante "Appelation d'Origine Contrôlée"
Borealis Records, 2011

Considering that Sweden's Hoven Droven is in its 21th year (see review above), it's even more amazing that Canadian band La Bottine Souriante is in its 35th.[8][9][23][26][30] They haven't retired (still some original members are onboard this unsinkable ship) and there is no tiresome moment on their recent album "Appelation d'Origine Contrôlée" (after a seven year abstinence from the studio). Since adding a brass section in the early 1990s, the group claims eleven members. Like a fine wine - grown in the region and aged to perfection - their music is a mélange de tradition et de modernité. The opening track "Cette Bouteille-la" already has all the band's characteristic trademarks - an up-dated traditional call-and-response song with an additional reel composed by fiddler Jean-Francois Gagnon-Branchaud: Celtic fiddling, plenty of foot percussion, a funky bass, big band brass. Mostly traditional Celtic and French (including Quebec and Louisiana), plus singer-songwriter Richard Pelland's "Mon Pere" and a couple of tunes composed by fiddler David Boulanger. At times experimenting with jazz, Latin and African grooves, La Bottine Souriante also teams up with Basque group Oreka TX and their marimba-like txalapartas.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Lone Raven "Flight to the Hinterlands"
Lone Raven Music, 2012

Craig Markley is a Celtic and World music multi-instrumentalist (piano, accordion, whistle, guitar) from Columbus, Ohio, who had been several times featured in the FolkWorld webzine in the past.[14][29] He took up the moniker Lone Raven for his current outfit, featuring his daughter Kara on vocals, keyboards and fiddle (she studied with Eileen Ivers,[35] Natalie MacMaster[44] and John McCusker),[26] plus Gypsy-guitarist Neil Jacobs, fiddler/mandolinist Elizabeth Blickenstaff and double bass player Sid Omasta. Support includes Columbus group Ladies of Longford, with whom Lone Raven occasionally performs as a septet. The midwest band performs an unusual mix of traditional Celtic and Gypsy and Balkan music. The well-known Irish songs "Black Is the Colour" and "My Lagan Love" sit alongside the Bosnian tune "Moj Dilbere", the popular Greco-Turkish tune "Miserlou" and an Hungarian czardas. There's a couple of self-penned songs and tunes plus borrowings from Swedish fiddler Magnus Stinnerbom (Groupa, Hedningarna) and English accordionist Karen Tweed. Hinterlands worth seeking out!
© Walkin' T:-)M

Laura Risk, Kieran Jordan, Paddy League "Triptych"
Own label, 2011

A triptych is a medieval panel painting divided into three sections, which can be folded shut or displayed open. They are found on altars from Byzantine to Celtic churches. Triptych is also a Celtic trio from the Boston area, tying three components together. The group has a quite unusual and distinctive sound, which can be gathered from the line-up: fiddler Laura Risk, singer, guitar player and percussionist Paddy League and step dancer Kieran Jordan (sic!). The latter's percussive dance not only making a visual but acoustic impact as well. Kieran's dance routines are inspired by both Irish sean-nos and French Canadian step dance traditions. The CD is kicking off with some old and rarely played Scottish reels. There is Irish music, Paddy wrote a couple of jigs and hornpipes, French-Canadian fiddle tunes, and a Galician march thrown in for good measure. Paddy also sings the Irish language "Nansai Og Ni Obarlain," a Donegal song learned from Irish singer Susan McKeown, "Mo Bhron Ar an Bhfarraige," old Irish poetry set to music by Paddy, and Ewan MacColl's radio ballad on the travelling people, the "Moving On Song". Like the triptych, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Nicolas Pellerin et Les Grands Hurleurs "Petit Grain D'Or"
Disques Tempête, 2011

Petit Grain D'Or, the little golden grain, is a gem of an album, the joie de vivre of traditional French-Canadian music, its ingredients at its best. In 2008, Nicolas Pellerin (vocals, fiddle, cajon, feet percussion) and his keyboard playing brother Fred did win the Felix award for Traditional Album of the Year. Nicolas afterwards took his own path and founded Les Grands Hurleurs, the Great Howlers, featuring Simon Lepage (vocals, bass) and Simon Marion (vocals, guitar, mandolin). After the trio's self-titled debut album from 2009 and lots of concerts (they made a big impression at the 2011 Rudolstadt festival),[46] this here is the second effort (with guests such as cello player Natalie Haas and others), kicking of with "Tregate", traditional verses with an additional chorus written by Nicolas. It is traditional music, but also cross-cultural and contemporary, traditional Breton/French chant on one side and African grooves on the other. Next is the title track, "Petit Grain d'Or," a traditional children's lullaby. Furthermore, dance tunes written by Nicolas and the two Simons, French and Acadian ballads, the Quebecoise favourite "Cabaretier" ("The Innkeeper", originally a traditional Breton song), and a take on Fred Pellerin's "De Fil en Chanson". However, it is not Nicolas' return to the roots and the start of his recording career, but a big leap forward with a tight performance and intricate and imaginative arrangements.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Tom McElvogue & Paddy Kerr "The Long Hard Road"
Own label, 2011

2011 marks the recording debut of Tyneside born flute player Tom McElvogue, though he has been composing tunes for more than two decades which were spread by the likes of Mike McGoldrick, Kevin Crawford, Karen Tweed and Kathryn Tickell. Some of his tunes have been subsequently played by Claire Mann,[31] Tony O'Connell & Andy Morrow,[32] Cara,[33][36] and Seana Davey.[44] Recording this album with Paddy Kerr (guitar, bouzouki, bodhrán) really had been a Long Hard Road, explains Tom:

"The CD started about 20 years ago in Newcastle when Paddy [Kerr] and I both lived there. We then parted company for a number of years and decided to pick up on it again in 2002/2003. From there we recorded everything in my flatmates bedroom when he was on tour with Dervish (Tom Morrow – fiddle player in Dervish was my flatmate at the time). The first mix sent for mastering was rejected due to digital elastics in the mix, the second mix crashed the Roland desk it was living on. I had to repair the Roland desk in order to get the mix off. When we got the masters back, I had to remix again and then remaster. Whilst taking the photographs for the cover, I got stranded in the mountains of Dublin and had to be rescued by passers-by. In order to fund the whole project I had to sell several prized flutes, and to top it all off, the celtic tiger lost its teeth and I lost my job."

It is pure stuff with original compositions from both Tom and one by Paddy as well as traditional tunes. The CD is kicking off with Sean Maguire's reel "Master McDermott's" and the "Boys of Ballisadare," the latter in the rather unusual key of F Major. Tom changed parts at the "Castletown Conners" jig (compare it to Cara's version, for example,[29] or printed in O'Neill's). The "Mathematician" is a hornpipe composed by James Scott Skinner[25] that shouldn’t really be played on the flute at all, Tom jokes (though I heard it from Chieftains flutist Matt Molloy), I always saw these tunes as a challenge and enjoyed playing them. Paddy won’t thank me for this but watch out for his 007 run on the bouzouki. Paddy is a brilliant support for Tom's selections, and Tom a masterful flutist as well as imaginative composer. His "Tom McElvogue's Jig in D #10" is an exercise in triplets, "Tom McElvogue's Jig in A Maj #4" a practise for chromatics on the simple system flute. Almost all tunes are available as sheet music from Tom's website:
© Walkin' T:-)M

David Kosky & Damien O'Kane "The Mystery Inch"
Pure Records, 2011

Damien O'Kane has toured with box player Shona Kipling,[33] is accompanist in Kate Rusby's band,[44] and recorded himself a vocal album receiving rave reviews.[42] David Kosky originally comes from bluegrass flat-picking, though did become a sought-after session player regarding traditional Irish music. Both decided to do an instrumental album together with Damien playing tenor banjo and David the guitar. Furthermore, they opted to do kind of a session album without much planning, deciding about the tunes and their setting on the spot in the studio and recording the tunes as raw, fun and live as possible. The first track sets the tone, the well-known jigs "Humours Of Ballyloughlin" and the "Banks of Newfoundland" with David's "Mystery Inch" sandwiched in. Damien is walking in the footsteps of banjoists such as Gerry O'Connor and Cathal Hayden. Button accordionist Danny Cameron and bodhran player John Joe Kelly (plus some Tibetan cymbals from Joe Rusby) lend their support. Fiddler Carmel O'Dea joins Damien's "Trip to Portugal". The selections are both contemporary and traditional, with some of David's and Damien's. Slower tunes such as "Marga’s Moment," a subtle 7/8 air by Flook's flutist Brian Finnegan, give David the opportunity to distinguish himself with playing melody. The bonus track is the repetition of David's "Welcome Return" and "Fi's Frolics," but at a different pace and with swapped instruments. Works as well.
A follow-up album is already planned by David and Damien, with the promise to be even more exciting than this debut.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Dónal McCague "Bits'n'Pieces"
Own label, 2011

"Bits'n'Pieces" is only the debut album of a young Irish fiddler, but he is playing as if he's always been there with an assurance beyond his age. Dónal McCague is a native of County Monaghan and regularly plays with the Leitrim flute-player Dave Sheridan.[44] He started himself on the whistle at the age of three but swiftly moved on to the strings. He obviously is influenced by the fiddling legends of the 1920s - Michael Coleman, James Morrison, ... -, but also listenend to the performers of the past two or three decades, he himself mentions Tommy Peoples (his "Quiet Glen" is featured here), Frankie Gavin and Cathal Hayden. However, Dónal doesn't try to replicate anyone's particular style, but takes a bit here and a piece there, that's why he decided to title his debut album "Bits'n'Pieces" (which also is a very common Monaghan phrase). Dónal's is a no-nonsense fiddle style displaying much detail and expressing much emotion. Yes, expressivity is a good description, he is not showing off with pyrotechnics. He is joined by his guitar and bouzouki playing brother Michael McCague (At First Light),[46] as well as brief spells by De Danann's pianist Brian McGrath and bodhran player Johnny Ringo McDonagh, at a beautiful selection of traditional Irish tunes. Where to start? Nay, it's almost impossible to favour one set of tunes before the other! Dónal doesn't refrain from some experimentation, the well-known reel "Cottage In the Grove" is performed in a lower key as usual which gives the tune more depth. Likewise, the "Old Burnt Man" is played in E major, and, even a bit more adventurous, the "Spey in Spate" and "Little John's Hame" are recorded as hornpipes. No prob, works quite well!
© Walkin' T:-)M

Olivia Korkola "Playing in Traffic"
Own label, 2010

Kathleen Gorey-McSorley "Cheoil Binn"
Own label, 2010

Olivia Korkola is a classically trained violinist, however, she had been introduced by her grandmother to the family heritage and the traditional music of Nova Scotia. So she travelled to Cape Breton and was taught by the likes of Jerry Holland & Co. Only recently she won the 2009 Minnesota State Old Time Fiddle Championship, just being 15 years of age. Her debut album is a mix of traditional and contemporary 'Celtic' music. It is produced by French-Canadian fiddler Pierre Schryer who also fiddles a bit here and there, and contributed some tunes such as the French-Canadian "Reel a Joseph", his "New Canadian Waltz", or the string piece "Tanera Mor". There's Irish reels, Elmer Briand's air "Beautiful Lake Ainslie", and last but not least Texas Swing with the "Black And White Rag," with which Olivia won the above-mentioned fiddle championships. Olivia's teacher Rob Randle contributed "Olivia's Reel," sandwiched in between a Cape Breton set of the famed John Morris Rankin. Olivia herself composed a strathspey dedicated to her guitar playing brother, "Jesse Korkola's," who is featured on the disc, of course, as are luminaries such as Ashley MacIsaac (fiddle) and Brenda Stubbert (piano) on selected tracks. We're listening to the start of a possibly great career.
Olivia's rendition of Scott Skinner's[25] "Bonnie Lass o' Bon Accord" and the "Hurricane Reel" in the middle of the album brings me to another young Canadian fiddler. Both Skinner tunes constitute the second set of tunes on Kathleen Gorey-McSorley's "Cheoil Binn". Kathleen is a red-headed young fiddler from New Brunswick of Irish ancestry. Inspired by the Grand Old Opry she is playing since the age of eight. "Cheoil Binn" (i.e. sweet music in Gaelic) is already her second album, made when she was only 15. Quite eclectic, Kathleen plays anything from old-time to French-Canadian music, and is a member of the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra as well. This here is essentially Irish jigs and polkas and Scottish strathspeys and reels, including another of Skinner's, the "Tullochgorum" reel, contemporary Celtic tunes from Scottish box player Sandy Brechin, American fiddler Jeremy Kittel, and Jean-Paul Loyer's "Le Tournent" and Eddy Arsenault's "Reel du Hareng" thrown in for good measure. Mark Kelly's slip jig "The Snowy Path" is played in both C# and its original D. Five tunes are of her own making, including the beautiful slow air "Hills Where We Walked". Kathleen is accompanied by pianist Carolyn Holyoke, her usual comrade-in-arms when performing, with some help of guitar and banjo player Patrick Lamey and piper and whistler Ryan MacNeil.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Kavan Donohue "Kavan from Cavan"
nyah, 2011

Nineteen-year-old harpist Kavan O'Donohoe (and occasional uilleann piper) is the son of Angela and Martin Donohoe, main force behind the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann (All-Ireland Championhips) and many other ventures in the Irish Co. Cavan. Kavan from Cavan started playing the harp more than ten years ago at the Granard Harp School. Three years ago he won the O’Carolan International Harp Festival, as well as several awards at the Granard Harp Festival and the Ulster Fleadh. The strings are in the centre of the CD, aptly assisted and accompanied by guitarist Tim Edey,[47] bouzouki player Fintan McManus, bodhran player Niall Preston and his sibling Savannah Donohue on the flute. The thirteen tracks surprisingly kick off with the song "Clocks" by pop rock band Coldplay, followed by the "Hunter's Purse" reel. No more gimmicks then, but what we get further on is slow airs to reels. First of all, Scott Skinner's[25] "Hector The Hero," the tune he composed in tribute to his friend, Major General Hector MacDonald, which Kavan got from the fiddle trio Fidil. There is Turlough O'Carolan's "Planxty Wilkinson" and Niall Vallely's "Dark Loaning." Kavan has a fondness for waltzes, including Stephan Spence's "Callum's" as well as Seamus Egan's "Sunday's" and Peter Browne's "Charlie's Car". April Verch's slow piece "Britany" originally had been a waltz too. There is faster dance music a lot; on the harp, and Kavan additionally plays uilleann pipes on a pair of reels, "The Morning Thrush," and "The Old Bush," as well as low and tin whistle on a pair of French round dances, one traditional, the other composed by French flutist Jean-Michel Veillon. However, pipes and whistles are the weak points of the production. (Compare the reel set to the performances of Neil Mulligan[27] and Cillian Vallely,[24] respectively.) Kavan's harping though is innovative, novel and refreshing, and he is joining a line of young harpers currently reviving the Irish harp tradition.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Jackie Oates "Saturnine"
ECC Records, 2011

Singer and fiddler Jackie Oates had been a former member of Rachel Unthank + The Winterset. After leaving, this year's BBC Folk Award winner[47] got on the trajectory of a successful solo career. I got to see Jackie recently supporting German-Irish group Cara.[46] Contrary to this band, Jackie's thing isn't high octane powerfolk but subtle renditions of traditional ballads from the British isles. Her already 4th album "Saturnine" features a dozen mostly sinister traditional English songs, the title referring to the saturn return phenomenon promising a turning point or change in life. Whatever that is in Jackie's life or career!? There seems to be a flirtation with a Devonshire/Cornwall identity here, which seems a bit odd since she's been born in Cheshire and grown up in Staffordshire. The album starts with the 19th century miners favourite "Sweet Nightingale," with a tune by Jackie and her pianist Mike Cosgrave. Futhermore there is Barney Morse-Brown on the viola de gamba and Steve Tyler on hurdy-gurdy. Songs include the popular, e.g. "Marrow Bones" and "The Trees They Are So High," and the rather obscure, such as "Brigg Fair." One of the highlights is Jackie's take on New Zeland born singer-songwriter Paul Metsers' "IOU," featuring Karen Tweed on accordion. Jackie has a lovely and bright voice, besides her fine fiddle performance she is playing the five-string viola and some hardanger fiddle. There is instrumental music too: the song "Four Pence A Day" is followed by English country dance tunes, again featuring Karen Tweed on accordion as well as Miranda Sykes on double bass. Her mandolin/bouzouki player Neil Davey composed some kabm pemps (Cornish five-steps) and Mike Cosgrave three further tunes inspired from Finnish tango music. The latter, seemingly rather exotic, fits nicely in a highly recommendable album.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhríde "Smúidghealach"
Own label, 2011

Gweedore (Gaoth Dobhair) is an Irish-speaking area in County Donegal in north west Ireland. It is known for having preserved the Irish language as well as old customs, folk lore, and, of course, traditional music. There are two active choirs in the parish, Cór Thaobh 'a Leithid being led by Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhríde, himself a well known sean-nós singer. His debut album "Smúidghealach" is a treasure trove of Irish song. Some are familiar: "Sean O Duibhir a Ghleanna" is a big hit, performed and recorded everywhere on and off as song or song air. I heard "Caitlin Triall" from the early 1970s group Skara Brae,[5] as well as modish renditions of "Inion a' Bhaoilligh" and "An Clar Bog Deil" from Grainne Holland[46] and Lorcan Mac Mathuna,[35] respectively. In the second half of the album Doimnic leaves familiar territory with six songs I never heard of, then to finish off with "Seachran Chairn tSiail," which Donegal group Clannad recorded on their legendary "Magical Ring" album in the 1980s.
This is one of the must-have-albums for fans of Irish language song. Besides singing Doimnic plays piano, flute and uilleann pipes, the latter is also played by Ciaran Mac Fheilimidh, and Niall Hacket supplies bouzouki, mandolin and concertina. The booklet has all Irish lyrics and English translations.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Uxu Kalhus "Extravagante"
Own label, 2012

2012 has only started yet but already there is a candidate for one of the top albums of the year!!! It's been a long way for the Portuguese sextet Uxu Kalhus, emerging from the traditional dance tradition, and probably is still able to play folk proms. Today's fusion band Uxu Kalhus has recycled its song material with Anglo-American pop and rock music as well as jazz and world grooves for a listening instead a dancing - maybe for a head-banging rock - audience. In 2010 Uxu Kalhus was celebrating their 10th anniversary with a concert DVD called "Ao Vivo",[44] followed now by a studio album in the same musical vein. "Extravagante" is not too fancy, but a solid south European rock album rooted in traditional music. Joana Margaça is a fantastic singer, and a whirlwind that catches the eye too. Paulo Pereira plays several wind instruments (transverse flute, recorder, oboe), traditional sounding, but with a jazzy attitude too. Then there's electric guitar, bass and drums rocking away. "Extravagante" is featuring great songs such as "O Velho," all in all nine tracks plus two reloads ("Saia da Carolina" is another hit).
© Walkin' T:-)M

Gavin Whelan "Homelands"
Tallaght Records, 2011

"Homelands" is Gavin Whelan's fourth solo album - after three CDs[26][32][41] and a tune book.[45] The Irish whistle player has intentions to do more live gigs both in Ireland and abroad and to promote it with this record, though there is a session vibe throughout the whole CD (Gavin is playing the Sunday session at the Belgard pub in Tallaght) and kind of a home place concept (the inside cover of the CD features a panorama of his parents' hometown, Ballyfermot, cradle of the Furey[47] and Keenan[23] families). Gavin loves singing but says he hasn't a note in his head, so he plays songs as slow airs. There is a lot, e.g. "Emigrant's Farewell" (not Immigrant's Farewell as the back cover has it), featuring Gavin Ralston on guitar. There also is Paul Doyle guitar on "Geaftai Bhaile Bui," as well as Daire Bracken (fiddle) and Peter Eades (keyboards) on Robert Burns' "Ae Fond Kiss" and the Scots Gaelic love song "Ian Ghlinn Cuaich". Here, Gavin plays the low whistle and on the latter also the uilleann pipes. Indeed, Gavin is playing the pipes a lot (is this owing to the Ballyfermot legacy?), e.g. on Scott Skinner's "Hector The Hero"[25] or Sean O Riada's "Roisin Dubh" from the Mise Eire documentary.[34] But it's not all gloom and doom and slow airs, "Homelands" has a lot of dance music too. Gavin is raised on the traditional style of Co. Clare, and a typical set is "Kevin Griffith's" reel (named after the banjo player from Doolin, Co. Clare) leading up to "Terry Bingham's" reel (named after a concertina player from Doolin). A track I like very much is the set dance "Downfall of Paris," supposedly take from the French revolutionary song "Ça Ira" (and featuring Deirdre Smith on fiddle).
© Walkin' T:-)M

The House Devils "Crossing the Ocean"
The Living Tradition, 2012

Mat Walklate[44] is a jack-of-all-trades on both harmonica and flute, at ease with traditional Irish music[33] as well as the blues.[44] Add singer-guitarist Matt Fahey, All-Ireland fiddle champion Andrew Dinan (who worked with The Bad Shepherds[44] and Mike McGoldrick’s Future Trad Collective[41]) and double bass player Anthony Haller to form this Mancunian outfit.[41] Mat Walklate plays some hearty reels and jigs on flute, and jigs and reels on harmonica, respectively. There's some lovely slow reels, "Dinan's Duo," but eventually the gang is battering away with a 'fast' reel set, "Blackberry Blossom ...," as if being in a session and like they regularly use to do in The Jolly Angler in Manchester. Mat is playing the flute and the uilleann pipes here, being a fine piper too. Besides dance music there are lots of songs. Mat sings "Awake Awake," an English folk song that came down to us because Cecil Sharp collected it in the Appalachians, and his own "There With You," written while teaching music in jail. He also does "I Have Travelled This Country," which incidentally is the title of Cathal McConnell's songbook, only recently published.[47] In the same book you find "The Hare's Lament," delivered by Matt Fahey here, who got it from Cathal's co-collector Len Graham. Matt also does the well-known "Wearing the Britches" and "My Bonny Boy Is Young" (a.k.a. "Trees They Grow High"). I haven't heard "Tied My Shoes to the Bed" before, which is a very fine song and should be sung more often.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Värttinä "Utu"
Rockadillo/Westpark, 2012

La mie laulan musta tyttö ... I'm the dark girl singing my songs, I've got a fine figure, I can choose, I can charm ... Apart from not being dark but blonde, this trio of girls and their music is quite charming and luring the unsuspecting into the great unknown. Ah well, if the girls introduce the uninitiated to Finland's music traditon, no word against it, eh? It has been six years since their last studio album, but eventually Värttinä[7][14][18][38] released a new album entitled "Utu" (i.e. mist). In the meantime the band wasn't idle but touring worldwide and especially composing the music for the "Lord of the Rings" musical. The Värttinä line-up has gone through some changes, there's vocalists Mari Kaasinen, Johanna Virtanen and Susan Aho, alongside Matti Kallio (accordion, keyboard etc.) and Hannu Rantanen (double bass), plus some guests exclusively for the recording such as Finnish joik singer Wimme,[42] saxophonist Sakari Kukko, fiddler Kukka Lehti or guitarist Matti Laitinen. All songs are original, the lyrics mostly written by Mari Kaasinen (and often songs from a female point of view), put to music by Matti Kallio. The booklet includes the Finnish lyrics and English translations. The three girls have crystal-clear and powerful voices, they are chanting their souls and hearts out. The sound is fresh and lively, the Finnish tradition merges with contemporary pop music. Indeed it is rootsy but at the same time suitable for the billboard charts (especially track #2 "Tuuterin Tyttäret," which means The Girls from Tuuteri).
Another one of the great albums that start this very promising year 2012!
© Walkin' T:-)M

Kevin Crawford "Carrying the Tune"
BallyO Records, 2012

Kevin Crawford[40] of Lúnasa fame[37][42] is taking a break from the band's hectic touring schedule. Together with the help of John Doyle[46] on guitar and bouzouki and occasionally Mick Conneely[21] on bouzouki and Brian Morrissey on the bodhran, Kevin recorded 14 tracks that weren't meant to become part of Lúnasa's repertoire, though I see no reason why not. It's a party, it's fresh and innovative as we knew it from Lunasa - though more stripped down here, of course. I love the nice slip jig set of Maurice Lennon's "La Ollamh"[23] and Donal Lunny's "Lucky Lucky Day". There's a pair of lovely waltzes, Phil Cunningham's "Flatwater Fran" and Rory Campbell's "Mrs Jean Campbell (BSC)," and before finishing off Kevin throws in a couple of his own original jigs. The highlight though is in the middle of the album, the song air "Dear Irish Boy" followed by two jigs with a total lenght of seven minutes. For sure, Kevin Crawford can carry a tune. Great traditional Irish music, not only for flute afficionados!
© Walkin' T:-)M

Allan Yn Y Fan "PWNCO"
Steam Pie Records, 2012

With their 4th album "PWNCO" Allan Yn Y Fan[33][39][42] is continuing with their musical journey and re-freshening the Welsh tradition. There is a capella music and the full band playing lively dance music, oscillating between joy and grace. Allan Yn Y Fan is: guitarist Geoff Cripps, singer/fiddler Meriel Field, accordionist Chris Jones, mandolinist Linda Simmonds and flutist Kate Strudwick. The album kicks off with two polkas written by Kate, and in the course of the album there is more original music by her, Chris and Meriel. Kate's majestic "Lle Arall" also features the group's friend and German nyckelharpa player Thomas Roth of the Geyers band,[26][30] another two tracks feature brass (trombone, saxophone, trumpet) making for an ambient sound and opening up new horizons maybe. There is lively music with the Celtic sandwich: the Welsh "Miniwet Dinbych" followed by the Irish "Leitrim Fancy" jig and the French Canadian reel "Growling Old Man And Grumbling Old Woman". On the other side there is a sad love song, the popular "Dacw Nghariad," or Meriel's slow and moody piece "Arafu" (i.e. slowing down). Allan Yn Y Fan is finishing off with a nice version of the classic children's song "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," which might put a smile on your face. But, after all, the whole album does.
By the way, the album title refers to the Mari Lwyd tradition of Glamorgan and Gwent marking the end of winter and the beginning of spring, where a party parades a horse skull from house to house. Revellers and householders are exchanging improvised verses challenging and insulting each other, but usually everything is ending up well with plenty of food and strong liquor. Of course, the Mari Lwyd song is featured here.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Kevin Henderson "Fin da Laand Ageen"
Own label, 2011

Kevin Henderson[34] comes from the Shetland Islands way off north the Scottish coast, an archipelago with a rich fiddle tradition. Of course, south is Scotland and west lies Scandinavia with their respective and distinct fiddle styles. Here we are on the intersection of both perhaps. Kevin was inspired by his grandfather to start playing at the age of nine, and studied with Willie Hunter amongst others, probably Shetlands greatest fiddler in recent times.[2] At the age of 14, he co-founded the group Fiddlers’ Bid which made its way ever since.[8][18][21][31][40] Ten years ago he guested with the Boys of the Lough and eventually became a full-time member.[23][32][38] He also joined the group Session A9 in 2004[28][36][45] and only recently the Scottish-Nordic collaboration The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc.[46]
Between all this hectic activities Kevin revisited pure Shetland fiddle music with his debut solo album, "Fin Da Laand Ageen" (i.e. to arrive back home). Dance tunes such as the jigs and reel "Stout's Trip to Skea/Christmas Day I'da Mornin'/Da Forefit O' Da Ship" (already put on disc by Boys of the Lough's "Midwinter live") and listening music such as "Da Silver Bow." A typical Shetland thing are wedding tunes and marches such as "Da Farder Ben Da Welcomer" and "Dus Bün Lang Awa an im Tocht Lang tae See Dee" (Kevin already recorded these with Fiddler's Bid). Last but not least, there's the lullaby "Minnie O' Shirva's Cradle Song," featuring Nina Pérez on second fiddle (she being the wife of Swedish guitarist Mattias Pérez who adds accompaniment throughout the album), an appropriate ending for a special fiddle repertoire. But it's not only the repertoire that is special, the music on "Fin da Laand Ageen" is a hybrid of Celtic and Nordic music, played in an understated way, just a bit like a Shetland counterpart to Irish fiddle player Martin Hayes.[35]
© Walkin' T:-)M

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