FolkWorld #47 03/2012

CD & DVD Reviews

Oliver Schroer & Nuala Kennedy "Enthralled"
Borealis, 2011

Maverick musician and composer Oliver Schroer undertook many unusual projects during his sadly brief career. This is one of the more mainstream ones, but it still shows plenty of his trademark wackiness. The pairing of Oliver's Canadian fiddle and guitar with Nuala Kennedy's Irish flute and vocals is not such a surprising combo: Nuala's 2007 New Shoes album shows signs of quirkiness, and her Tune In 2010 release is eclectic verging on eccentric. Enthralled reprises one track from Tune In, but otherwise this is all new material by Oliver and Nuala, including one or two arrangements of other people's tunes.
Oliver's compositions are characteristically eclectic and playful. The title track is a flirtation with Eastern European modalities, while his Flowers says beautifully what he could not express by horticultural means Oliver sticks pretty much to fiddle theoughout Enthralled, and his fiddling is easier to appreciate here than on some of his own richly arranged recordings. He has a fine touch, and excellent timing, even if his taste is idiosyncratic at times. The stately melody Healing shows a serious side to his compositions, in keeping with the CD artwork: think Centauri Republic from Babylon 5. Beso Beso, by contrast, has a down-home country character which reminds me of the classic Andy Irvine ballad Never Tire of the Road. Oliver had a great ear for tune titles, too: The Smile on Your Face speaks for itself, and The Suspenders of Hope has very different connotations on different sides of the Atlantic.
Nuala 's half of the composing credits includes the wonderfully bouncy fiesta piece A Face for Scuba and the sumptuous air The Dark Lantern which is one of the few points where flute and fiddle do not gel perfectly. Crystal Sun restores the happy vibe which pervades most of this album. Nuala also provides the only song here, her own Books in My Library inspired by a Luis Borges poem and accompanied by Filippo Gambetta who plays accordion on a few tracks. There is a smattering of guests across Enthralled, but nothing to detract from the essential duo who have written, played and produced this exceptional release. The final Whispering Wind shows the outstanding talents of Nuala and Oliver in all three areas. An hour of absorbing music, an inspiration for the more adventurous players and composers out there, and a great way to celebrate a much missed master musician: has more details.
© Alex Monaghan

Mark Anthony McGrath "Champagne & Onions"
Own label, 2010

An Ulster guitarist with a few albums under his belt, Mr McGrath plays a mixture of Irish, Scottish and original melodies, thirteen tunes in twelve tracks. There's a bit of percussion, but basically Champagne and Onion is solo guitar, so it's no surprise that the music is generally easy on the ear. This was a great background CD over Christmas, as there are only a couple of places where McGrath really makes you sit up and listen. His playing has been compared to Irish harping: if so, it's the harping of fifty years ago, gentle rippling arpeggios and graceful slow airs, rather than the powerful and challenging music of the harpists who have followed Derek Bell and Máire Ní Chathasaigh. More than competent, and able to make his guitar sing with harmonies and harmonics, Mark Anthony McGrath is still not in the same league as Tony McManus or Colin Reid.
From the Irish tradition, McGrath chooses the hornpipe Limerick Junction and two Carolan pieces. The hornpipe is nicely rhythmic, with a relaxed tempo, but no great technical difficulty. Eleanor Plunkettand Carolan's Dream are equally pleasant. The Scottish melodies are slightly more up tempo, particularly the traditional pipe jig Drummond Castle and Gordon Duncan's great reel The High Drive. Aidan O'Rourke's air The Quiet Place is lovingly adapted to the guitar, in a style appropriately reminiscent of Kris Drever. Neil Gow's Lament for his Second Wife is very nicely handled, a beautiful and timeless melody played with feeling. McGrath's own compositions are strongly tinged with classical and Latin flavours: Flamenco touches on Lyric Epiphony and the title track, hints of John Williams on Where the Birdies Is and Kelday in Campsie, more of a Latin jazz feel to Farewell Spaghetti. If you're a guitar fan, or a slow air and acoustic soundtrack junkie, this CD is well worth a listen.
© Alex Monaghan

Calan "Jonah"
Sain, 2011

They're Welsh, they're wild, and they're walking that wavy line between folk and rock. I'm not saying they don't overbalance occasionally, but their sways from old to new and back again are fascinating. Electric bagpipes start us off on a journey around the celtic fringe, a few slip jigs which definitely owe something to Ireland and Scotland, then a couple of raucous Welsh hornpipes. Well, the pipes aren't actually electric, but they are Welsh - a modern recreation of a lost instrument, as is the pibgorm or Welsh bombarde, and both have that earthy resonance of early music. The electrics come from guests on bass and synth, and possibly a vocoder or two. You don't hear many vocoders these days: lovely pieces of kit. Anyway, moving on to the first of five songs: the title number is a sparse bit of English doggerel, not a million miles from the kitsch of Anybody Else But You, and both are by guest guitarist Huw Williams. The same man wrote the Welsh words to The Wise Man's Song, a powerful anthem of lost communities in the valleys.
These pugnacious modern compositions sit strangely beside the traditional Welsh ballads Y Gwydr Glas and Paid A Deud, where the harps and vocoders really come into their own. Those Welsh bagpipes also play a gorgeous slow air break, tying Welsh music to its Scots and Breton cousins. There's yet another side to Calan's music, more akin to Cornish or southern English folk. Swansea Hosepipe starts with a cousin of Harvest Home and develops into something akin to a Suffolk barn dance, while the Welsh Processional Morris is surprisingly close to the popular folk tunes from Helston or Padstow. Personally I prefer the more clearly Celtic pieces: The New Set with its modal wailing and its compound rhythms, or the the flowing fiddle reels of The Dancing Stag which may or may not be based on a lads' night out in Aberystwyth. I should mention that there's some great accordion and stepdancing too. In fact, there's so much variety that you hardly notice when the cheeky monkeys repeat two tracks, effectively adding nine duplicate minutes to a 45-minute album. I've done it myself at a gig, but someone's bound to notice on a CD!
© Alex Monaghan

Fidil "The Old Wheel of Fortune"
Own Label, 2011

German CD Review

This fiddle trio from Donegal has already made its mark with powerful stirring music played purely on the old horse and cat. The Old Wheel of Fortune - approximately their third recording - continues their approach of fiddle-only arrangements, but the sound is a little less raw, maybe more rounded, which is neither good nor bad. The material is more of the same: John Doherty reels and jigs, two charming Donegal waltzes, a powerful if over-long version of Shoe the Donkey, John Doherty hornpipes, reels from James Byrne and Neilidh Boyle among others, and the fine James Scott Skinner air Herr Roloff's Farewell to finish.
A couple of tracks deserve special mention. The March of the Mín na Toiteán Bull is one I've only rarely heard before, a grand tune with some great low harmonies and fiddle percussion thrown in. John Whorskey's is actually the country dance tune La Russe, well known in Scotland and England from the mid nineteenth century. It's paired here with a classic Donegal polka, a patchwork of musical themes with the idiosyncratic rhythm and phrasing of so many archive recordings. Finally, if anyone doubted the skill or sensitivity of these Donegal fiddlers, their rendition of a poignant Skinner air shows them to be just as apable of finesse as of fiery dance music.
© Alex Monaghan

Jaron Freeman-Fox "Manic Almanac: Slow Mobius"
Own Label, 2010

With a lot of help from his friends, JFF has put together an album which has a bit of everything. From the Casey Driessen style southern newgrass of Road to the northern soul of Waterfall, from the Western Swing of Caboose to the eastern mysticism in Tribe of the Coda, fiddler Freeman-Fox leads us on a twisting journey of musical inspirations. Among the notable influences on this music are Toronto's late great Oliver Schroer, exerting a powerful force from beyond the grave, and the spirit of India which Forster long ago cast as a chaotic force, blurring our occidental perceptions. JFF spent time in what he calls "the madness of India", immersing himself in ragas and moras, so I'm inclined to forgive his gratuitous use of tabla effects on the balti feast that is Solkattu Cowboy. Asian flavours are balanced by bagpipes on Hunter S Thompson's Polka, and by some simply beautiful fiddling on Prayer and The Birds Will Sing Again. That man Filippo Gambetta crops up on button box, and there's a full complement of fretted strings and drums, as well as a roving brass section. Easy listening it ain't, Manic Almanac: Slow Mobius is full of surprises and too provocative to ignore. As you might expect, is a little out of the ordinary too. Check Jaron's band The Opposite Of Everything - one step beyond, indeed.
© Alex Monaghan

Myserk "Fifty/Fifty"[EP]
Own Label, 2011

A meaty EP from some of Milwaukee's finest, this recording showcases mid-western US fluters Asher Gray and Brett Lipshutz, bodhrán acette Amy Richter from the band Athas, and guitarist Randy Gosa who already has a fine album or two with Mr Lipshutz. All five tracks are flute led, except when Brett switches to bombarde. Myserk have a taste for the unusual, starting with a couple of mazurkas - one from the European café scene and the other from Donegal fiddler Tommy Peoples. Both are brilliantly arranged and executed, with bags of lift, and enough quirks to feed a fully-grown quirkivore. Track two takes a familiar Irish march and turns it into a wonderful waltz, joining it to Marcus Hernon's Beautiful Goldfinch air with Brett on flute and Asher on whistle. My favourite track here is Bonnie Prince Charlie, a great Scottish anthem which I learnt from The Corries and played frequently with Pearl O'Shaughnessy in Dublin: popular on both sides of the North Channel, this haunting melody flies from flute to flute, finally settling on the guitar for a fingerpicked solo.
Two Breton tunes next, the waltz Le Saint-Jean and the rhythmically tortuous Ker Jacob by guitarist Gilles Le Bigot. Breton bombarde is not everyone's cup of tea, but Brett on bombarde is subtle and sympathetic, enhancing these tunes while adding an element of the raw earth magic of P-Celtic prehistory. The final set of straight Irish reels is no disappointment either, allowing Ms Richter's delicate tipper to shine through the tight flute duet. The heavyweight Skylarkis a timeless favourite, but In the Promised Land is new to me. Esther's Reel has had a few studio outings recently, notably from The London Lasses, and is a great tune to finish on. Myserk's mix of Irish tradition and Yankee ingenuity works stunningly well on Fifty/Fifty, and I'm eagerly awaiting more from these guys - either a full-length CD or a European tour.. Keep an eye on, and let me know if you hear any interesting rumours!
© Alex Monaghan

Brendan Mulholland "Jean's Hill"
Own label, 2012

This solo album follows on from Brendan's storming debut with Hendry and McSherry on the trio CD Tuned Up. Antrim flute player Mulholland easily carries the burden of solo performance here: his complete mastery and excellent choice of material make this an exceptional recording, and he adds a gloriously rich tone to the rhythmic power of Northern flute music. This combination of fire and finesse is striking on several sets of reels: Farewell to Ireland, The House of Hamill, The Pigeon on the Gate and others. Jigs are taken at a more relaxed pace: there's a lovely languid version of Dermot Grogan's and a nicely controlled turn of Behind the Haystack where Brendan holds the bodhrán firmly in check. Most of the tracks on Jean's Hill are accompanied, with a mix of bodhrán, bouzouki, guitar and piano, but the flute is always well to the fore. The slow airs An Chuilfhionn and The Hills Above Drumquin are pure solos with just a hint of post-production polish.
An Chuilfhionn and the pair of slow reels The Laurel Tree and The Sally Gardens are played on low Bb flute. For the flute anoraks among us, Brendan plays Michael Grinter instrumets, usually in D, with two tracks in Bb and two more on the Eb flute. The tone on all three instruments is deep and resonant, with breathiness as an option but not fitted as standard. Mulholland is equally comfortable with hornpipes, and there are some lovely ones here: The Tin Wedding, new to me, as well as an extraordinary rendition of The Factory Smoke, The Acrobat and The Sunshine. Northern music is well represented with hornpipes from Belfast and Newry, not to mention Brendan's own fine composition Sean's Reel. This first class CD ends with a batch of well-known reels in virtuoso style, culminating in a great performance of The Chattering Magpie. There's no explanation of the album title, but Jean's Hill get my highest recommendation. Brendan's website is rather bare at the moment, so I'll give you his email address: Tell him I sent you.
© Alex Monaghan

Maggie Adamson & Brian Nicholson "Hameaboot"
Own label, 2011

When I reviewed her debut CD, recorded at age fifteen, I wrote "this Shetland fiddler has more attack than the entire Scottish three-quarter line."[34] Sadly, that's still true - although the Scottidh rugby team has scored a few tries recently, Miss Adamson has gone from strength to strength and on her fourth album she tackles everything in sight. Andy Brown's Reel and Mitton's Breakdown from the flash end of transatlantic fiddling, Da Slockit Light and Danny Boy from the slow air traditions of Ireland and Shetland, a Scott Skinner MSR set as meaty as anything on the rugby field, and of course plenty of driving Shetland reels: nothing scares wee Maggie. Not a lot of jigs, though - maybe that's her Achilles heel!
No longer a child prodigy - at the age of 19, Maggie is now just a prodigy - there's a maturity to her fiddling on this album which wasn't there a few years ago. She cleverly takes her foot off the gas during Colgrave Sound in preparation for the leap into Hullock's Reel, and she draws every tear from the epic air Ossian. There are some great examples of Shetland swing on Hameaboot, from the American oldtime classic Back Up and Push to the humour of Pat the Budgie. Brian Nicholson's guitar does a splendid job of supporting everything from laments to lullabies, waltzes to walkabouts. Brian also has two composing credits on this recording: I particularly liked Jake's Waltz, a lovely gentle tune with a hint of country fiddle showmanship.
Oh, I've just found a jig - Miss Russell of Blackhall - so no weakness there either. French Canadian waltzes, Swedish promenades, hornpipes - you name it, she'll play it. However, there's only one Maggie Adamson composition on Hameaboot so maybe she's slowing up - or maybe she's just had a lot of exams to study for at school. In either case, she certainly hasn't lost her touch in her teens. Still young enough not to blush at Sandy's Shetland Stag Week and to launch herself happily into I Wanna Be Like You from Disney's Jungle Book, Maggie is also one of the few fiddlers who can come close to Duncan Chisholm's 1997 rendition of the wonderful air Leaving Stoer, ending this collection on a fantastic high. Don't worry, Duncan, she's not quite up to your standard yet - but she's getting there. Maggie Adamson clearly knows her musical heritage, and if you want to know where Shetland fiddling is going, you should listen to Hameaboot. Email if you can't find this album.
© Alex Monaghan

Fiona Cuthill & Stevie Lawrence "A Cruel Kindness"
Fellside, 2011

Fiddler Fiona and stringer Stevie are well known in southern Scotland, with many bands under their belts. This album gives them a chance to shine through simpler arrangements, and also showcases Fiona's prolific composing talent together with three of Stevie's creations. There are only two traditional tunes on A Cruel Kindness, and one of those is Norwegian. With the exception of a Jethro Tull number everything else comes from Cuthill: reels, jigs, slow airs, a plantation-style hornpipe and a couple of crazy timesignatures are all expertly led by Fiona on fiddles, while Stevie does his stuff on guitar, bouzouki, bass and gurdy. As well as eleven instrumental tracks, this recording includes two songs, sung by Stevie I believe: Ian Anderson's Locomotive Breath and the traditional Lang Awa' Ship. A few guests pop in too, with notable contributions from Rachel Hair on harp and Fraser Spiers on moothie.
Listening to A Cruel Kindness, I found myself thinking "I know that tune" many times. This was not, as sometimes happens, because the melody was accidentally ripped off from the tradition: in Fiona's case, her compositions sit so comfortably in the modern Scottish idiom that I was convinced they must have been by McCusker, McKerron, McCulloch or the like. Now I know to add McUthill to my list of fine fiddle tunesmiths. Memorable new melodies here include Both Ends of the Candle, Sleepless in Sleat, The Velcro Shelf and the title track, which should tell you that Ms Cuthill is a mistress of well chosen titles. The decimal Holly Wilson's Arrival and the stately Seven Sisters also stuck in my mind, but these titles are not so remarkable. Fiona also has something of a gift for slower forms: Unfinished Business is a powerful 9/8 air, Mrs Nan Stewart is a fine waltz, and Waiting for Dawn is simply gorgeous. Stevie's tunes comprise two jaunty jigs and the culpably titled First Time Ever I Saw Your Fez.
© Alex Monaghan

MAZ "Télescope"
Own Label, 2011

French Canadian electric guitarist and tenor banjo plucker Marc Maziade has teamed up with fiddler Robin Boulianne and a couple of others to combine Quebec folk with tonal jazz - like atonal jazz but with tones, I suppose. The result is as weird as you'd guess, but with plenty of good points. Télescope opens with a little banjo riff which is uncannily like the theme music to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and the feeling of galactic scale continues throughout this CD. Titles such as Veillée Spatiale, Reel Plutonal, Quasi-S-Pace and Satellite en Marche reflect the spaced-out sound of many tracks. Reel du Combat, Reel Roulette and La Course represent the more traditional side of MAZ's music. It's a true mixture, with everything from funk to rock, trad to jazz.
Synthesisers, wurlitzers, bass, harmonica, mandolin, and that old Canadian foot percusion combine to make a very varied soundscape behind the front line strings. There's plenty of folk influence, shading to country fiddle - Darol Anger or Mark O'Connor style - and then on past Hawkwind and Rush to space opera. Even in the gentle Valse de l'Apesanteur, or the sparse Latin Riendo, the space theme is continued. All the material here was written and arranged by MAZ, mostly by Marc Maziade, with the exception of Reel Roulette which may be traditional. There's very little information with the CD - the sleevenotes provide sixteen pages of photos, but no text - so if you want to know more try (another space reference). There are videos and sound samples online. For the English website, click top right. Télescope is fun, accessible, sort of Canadian folk, and well worth a listen.
© Alex Monaghan

The Bonny Men "The Bonny Men"
Bonny Records, 2011

German CD Review

From the first notes of synthesiser and strings here, we could be stepping back thirtysomething years to a Bothy Band concert. The flamboyant piping, the pulse of bouzouki and bodhrán, the flowing flute and fiddle: this music is a real blast from the past. It remains to be seen whether these young upstarts can reach the heights of Keenan and Lunny, but they've certainly made a good start. Moss "Matt Molloy" Landman's flute sounds like a very tidy bit of timber, launching into Larry's Favourite and The First Slip. Turlough Chambers' fiddle style is closer to Kevin Burke than Tommy Peoples, and he has great control on both the galloping reels and the slower Harvest Moon set. Maitiú Ó Casaide has his work cut out to follow Paddy Keenan, but he's clearly up for it on Elizabeth Kelly's and The Jolly Tinker, with some great tremolo on the bottom hand. It might seem unfair to compare this band with so directly The Bothies, but how many Irish trad groups include a female harpsichordist without expecting the name Triona to crop up? Natalie Ní Chasaide plays piano, harmonium and that Renaissance boxed harp in a style more than reminiscent of Ms NÍ Dhomhnaill. Her intro to The Slow Jigs is taken straight from Triona's playing, and the whole track could easily be from a Bothy Band album - a great compliment indeed to these young musicans.
But the Bonny Men are much more than just a Bothy Band tribute group. Their Planxty set clearly evokes that other great Irish outfit of the seventies, and there are plenty of other echoes in The Bonny Men's music. Their use of guest singers is akin to De Danann: four vocalists give us a song each on this debut recording, ranging from the very traditional Caoineadh na dTrí Mhuire with minimal accompaniment, to a reincarnation of Maura O'Connell for a vaudeville version of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. The other two songs are new compositions, without the class or polish of older material. Elsewhere, the Lyons brothers on guitar and bodhrán pump great energy into a gritty bunch of slides in contemporary trad style, and Adam Whelan's bouzouki starts off a storming set of slipjigs which put me in mind of Cran's powerful acoustic arrangements. Enthusiasm triumphs somewhat over experience on The Reel of Mulinavat, but generally The Bonny Men are as tight as a drum and twice as welcome. This great debut should please fans of old and new trad music, and will no doubt be followed by a second album which is even better. In the meantime, you can check out in the vain hope of some explanation for their curious name.
© Alex Monaghan

Leilía "Con.sentimiento"
Fol Musica/BOA, 2011

Leilía is one the most experienced bands of Galician pandereteiras (tambourine playing & singing women) that together with other folk groups such as Faltriqueira (also in Galicia, NW Spain) or Ialma (in Belgium), have developed a consistent career during the last decade. This has widely settled the popularity of this old traditional style of rural female music, in Spain and abroad. The voices of the six Leilía girls are complemented with the instruments of: Xoán Porto ‘Guancho’ (guitar, gaita bagpipes, accordion, keyboards), Xacobe Martínez (double bass) and the accordionist from Belarus Vadim Yukhnevich. All the 13 songs are traditional from the Galician provinces of A Coruña and Pontevedra, and they have been instrumentally arranged with the same good taste as in previous recordings of these artists. Leilía has dedicated this CD to the many Galician female singers & tambourine performers that have modestly (not silently though) transmitted this traditional style of music for generations. They specifically mention the late pandereteira Eva Castiñeira who was met by Leilía in the 1908s, together with the blind trad musician Florencio, during the recording of the CD published by Pablo Quintana CD ‘Recolleita’ (Harvest). Florencio became a relevant figure, in great part thanks to the CD from Pancho Álvarez (Carlos Núñez’s band) ‘Florencio, O Cego dos Vilares’.[12] But for whatever reasons, Eva Castiñeira’s footprint in the memory of Galician trad music was not as deep, and Leilía wanted to recognize her contribution. The lyrics of seven songs in ‘Con.sentimiento’ are written by 7 contemporary female poets & writers from Galicia.
© Pío Fernández

Vaamonde, Lamas & Romero "O Tambor de Prata"
Fol Musica/BOA, 2011

Suso Vaamonde (Galician gaita bagpipe, tambourine, triangle, voice), Pedro Lamas (soprano sax, voice) and Xosé Lois Romero (accordion, bones, voice) are a traditional music trio whose members have formerly played in the bands of some of the most relevant artists of the latest Galician folk scene, such as: Mercedes Peón, Susana Seivane, Guadí Galego (ex-Berrogüetto), Xosé Manuel Budiño, Uxía Senlle, Fuxan Os Ventos, Faltriqueira, Luvas Verdes, Xabier Díaz, Nova Galega de Danza, Quique Peón Cía, etc…. In this CD+DVD this folk & comedy trio makes a truly original exercise, by rescuing the repertoire of a traditional Galician band dated back in the last years of the 19th century, ‘Os Trintas de Trives’, and by performing this set of thirteen songs together with the municipal band of the city of A Coruña. Os Trintas was a band from the town of Trives, on the hills close to the Sil river separating the provinces of Ourense and Lugo, in Galicia (NW Spain). In the year 1902, Os Trintas had such a high consideration within the traditional music from this part of Spain, that they were invited to participate in the crowning ceremony of King Alfonso XIII (the grandfather of today’s King Juan Carlos I), and as a gift they received a silver drum (tambor de prata, in Galician). Os Trintas were four musicians playing: gaita, clarinet, drum & bass drum. The set of songs in this record are a good & excellently performed example of the typical repertoire of the traditional Galician music that has arrived until today: polkas, muiñeiras, pasodobres, jotas, rumbas, mazurkas,... most of them written by Ricardo Courtier who was the composer of Os Trintas. But this time the musical experience gets reinforced by the classical music sounds of the municipal band from A Coruña, as can be enjoyed in the DVD which displays a concert of more than an hour.
© Pío Fernández

Banda Crebinsky "Crebinsky" [CD + DVD]
Fol Musica/BOA, 2011

This is a truly peculiar DVD+CD material. The centre point is a comedy written & filmed by Enrique Otero, that tells a story about two brothers born in the mid 1910s living in a deserted cost of Galicia whose parents (a Galician peasant woman and a Russian Bolshevik?) die in a lumberjack accident during a picnic journey. The two orphan kids learn to survive on their own, together with a blond cow that is the only property inherited from their parents. When they reach their young age, the Spanish Civil War is already over and the Nazi and the US armies are confronted in WWII, having some soldiers & submarine sailors fighting even in coastal scenarios as remote & beautiful as this Galician beach facing the North Atlantic Ocean. The historical period and the imaginary universe of this quite sub-real story inspired a musical soundtrack based on instruments such as: accordions, clarinets, vibraphone, marimba, cello, double bass, violin, Hammond organ, banjo, horns, guitars... All the songs are composed by Pablo Pérez (also playing double bass, keyboards, glockenspiel, percussions) and performed by a band of 20 musicians, being one of them the accordionist from Belarus Vazdim Yukhnevich who is also the writer of several lyrics in the CD. Enrique Otero, the film writer & director, is also the player of Hammond & Moog organs in the band. Each of the songs corresponds to one of the key scenes in the movie: Crebinsky (a Russian airplane fighter pilot?), Desembarco (a US Navy submarine navigating along the NW Spanish coast?), Muchka (the blond cow)... The rhythms that can be heard are a sequence & a fusion of waltz, pasodoble, polka, ska, fox-trot, Klezmer & Russian folk songs... Although the movie scenes take place in several open air spaces very characteristic of the deepest Galician forest & maritime landscapes, you will not hear any trad music with muiñeiras, gaitas or pandeiretas. The band that was created specifically for this movie is a mixed crew of folk, jazz, rock, experimental & classical musicians, that when put all together they manage to develop a very diverse musical landscape, with lyrics in a variety of languages: Galician, Russian, Spanish, French, Italian,... (Not to forget that several actors also dialogue in English and German in the film). An unique visual & musical experience: A half-true dream rescued from the fog of past times in a forgotten coast.
© Pío Fernández

Mosquera Celtic Band "Peregrinatio"
Several Records, 2011

Fernando Mosquera is a young bagpiper that works with his band in the development of repertoire deeply rooted in the traditions of Galicia, although significantly influenced by the Celtic music from Ireland, Scotland & French Brittany. Fernando’s family is from the Galician town of Sada (province of A Coruña), but his life & career in folk music have taken place in the central south Spanish region of Castilla-La Mancha. At the age of 18, he starts playing in concert with his Galician gaita bagpipe, and along the years he performs with as many as thirty different musical instruments. A few of them are: gaitas, Scottish small pipes, great Highland bagpipes (GHB), Irish Uilleann pipes, Bulgarian gaídas (kava & djura), zanfona (hurdy gurdy), whistles,… Fernando’s starts with folk music were with the Castilian folk bands Almez and Babieca. But his great skills were recognized by the popular gaiteiro Carlos Núñez, who invited Fernando to join his band and play the GHB in his 2005 tour “Carlos Núñez & Amigos”. Also in that year, Fernando joined a very popular Celtic-folk-rock band from the Castile-La Mancha region: Akelarre Agro-Celta, where he keeps playing the pipes. After a number of previous recordings (in CD and DVD), Fernando Mosquera presents now Peregrinatio (Pilgrimage), where he presents his personal concept of Galician & Celtic folk music: a set of 14 songs a few of them traditional in Galicia, but others from Ireland (from T.O’Carolan and K.Crawford-Lúnasa), Brittany (An-Dro) and Italy. But most of the songs are compositions from Fernando, mainly based on the traditional music from Galicia and the Celtic countries although in many cases incorporating rock and pop sounds, which will obviously help to get these tunes closer to the general taste of young audiences not so much interested on folk. Peregrinatio is nice Celtic music exercise developed by an 8 member band that complements the bagpipes with instruments such as: violin (Marian Garcia & Manuel Briega), electric guitar (Javier Garcia), electric bass guitar (Oscar Hernández), piano & keyboards (Jesús Alberto Luna), bodhran & Galician frame drums (Xosé Manuel Bieito), and drum set (Jesús Garcia-Ochoa).
© Pío Fernández

Marc Egea "Flower of Death"
Several Records, 2011

Marc Egea is a Catalonian musician who is part of the latest generation of hurdy gurdy performers in Spain.[30] ‘Viola de roda’ is the name that this instrument takes in his homeland, being equivalent to the French ‘Vielle à Roue’: wheeled fiddle. Born in 1973 in Barcelona, at the age of 8 Marc started learning musical notation and flabiol (Catalan traditional recorder), he studied philosophy in Barcelona’s university, and since 1996 he has specialized in the hurdy gurdy, after participating in several courses organized by the AIZ (Asociación Ibérica de La Zanfona) with teachers such as Gilles Chabenat and Valentin Clastrier, and by the Centre Artesà Tradicionàrius with Pascal Lefeuvre. He has been a member of the Catalonian band from the Pyrenees mountains El Pont D’Arcalis, and has participated in diverse kinds of music projects: traditional, jazz, oriental, classical, contemporary, music for theatre plays, for poetry,… This is Marc Egea’s eighth CD and was composed in 2010-2011 after the death of his father, Miquel Egea. This work is a very introverted musical exercise where Marc seems to get inspired by the coldness & quietness of winter landscapes covered with snow and ice, and composed, played & recorded alone at home 14 songs, with a variety of instruments such as: hurdy-gurdy, soprano & alto recorders, sälgföjter, ocarinas, duduk, trumpet, taragot, organ, guitar glockenspiel, waterphone, kalimba,… The end result is a set of tunes with titles such as: ‘Cold Dreams’, ‘Autumn Landscape’, ‘The Moon between the Trees’, ‘Wood Bird’, or ‘Flower of Death’. There are only three songs that are traditional or ‘standards’: ‘Banga-muri’ (from Okinawa, Japan), ‘Canción de Cuna’ (lullaby from Murcia, SE-Spain, the homeland of Marc’s father), and ‘Oh Rubor Sanguinis’ (from Hildegard Von Bingen). No matter how bare, dark, or even sad some of these compositions may sound, they reflect an intense emotion and picture a personal circumstance of peace and quietness. The end result is a truly beautiful series of intriguing musical images, comparable to the set of pictures included in the CD booklet. They were most likely taken in a forest and river area probably somewhere in northern Europe, and they display broad landscapes with frozen waters, snow covered fields, and leafless woods, all illuminated by the dim light of the winter.
© Pío Fernández

Janni Littlepage "Strange Angels"
Own label, 2011

Paxton Norris "Something’s gotta give"
Own label, 2011

Brian Ashley Jones "Courier"
Own label, 2007

Donal Hinely "The Famous Rocket Cage"
ATOM records, 2011

Elisabeth Cutler "Slow Release"
Trelune records, 2009/2011

Five singer-Songwriters, more or less, from the United States with all four their own style and sound. First Janni Littlepage who is a Californian born singer songwriter and together with a fine group of musicians she recorded eleven new tracks. Her music is a mixture of seventies folk, jazzy twists and Americana with a country edge. All of this mixed with soft rock elements. Her easy going music suits the lovers of mainstream roots-pop very well I guess. Littlepage is a strong singer who always stays in her listeners comfort zone. A few times I get the feeling that the way the songs are arranged sound a bit the same and after half the album my mind keeps dreaming away, wanting something to happen. Although her fine voice and ditto musicians, I personally think this album stays too much in the mainstream vein to really catch me.
Paxton Norris plays a totally different style on his album Something’s gotta give. Thirteen blues rock tracks played really well by this fine guitarist and singer. Sometimes jazzy vibes, but always a good, bit raw, rock feeling. Interesting record for those who love the blues rocking away. Easy going album, well played, nothing more and nothing less.
Another nice singer songwriter album from the United States with some nice easy going music comes from Brian Ashley Jones. This guitarist and singer is backed by a dobro and bass only. It’s a more introvert album and probably the most traditional singer-songwriter styled one. His eleven original songs are recorded naked and pure. Ashley Jones knows that less is more and only adds the necessary elements to his music. His nice voice and ditto guitar play does the rest. A promising second album that shows a talented Americana artist who is getting better and better and has a lot of potential to become a leading musician in future.
Donal Hinely impresses me with his album The famous rocket cage. This new release contains fourteen new recordings on which Hinely and his band plays country-folk influenced rock music with a smile. The whole album has a relaxed atmosphere and the sunny guitars and friendly vocals in combination of the more powerful sound of the drums, accordion etc really work. Within all of this a real diamond are the combination of track 4 and 5. First a train comes in on the small instrumental piece called Haze grey which smoothly turns into the beautiful song Flesh & bone. A real highlight on this strong album. Hinely likes to play with his music and add nice extra’s to his fine compositions. A really nice album.
Finally an album recorded in 2009 by the singer-songwriter Elisabeth Cutler. Her album Slow release is recorded in Italy, backed by a fine selection of Italian musicians. Starting with a very easy going pop song called Missing love Cutler chooses to start her album a bit mainstream. I immediately fall for this slightly raw edge in her voice, but musically spoken this first track is too poppy. Thankfully Cutler gets better in the second track, I want to understand you is a beautiful, bit dreamy track in which her voice is at her best. Unfortunately this great song is followed by two light-rock middle of the road song again, not bad but so much like many other songs in this vein. Thin line makes it up a bit, again a slow song in which she catches my attention again. A bit strange album, sometimes wonderful songs, especially the more introvert ones, and on other moments such mainstream music that I’m wondering if it’s really the same album I’m listening to. Without doubt a voice I love, but overall her music needs more to convince me.
© Eelco Schilder

New Country Rehab "New Country Rehab"
Own label, 2011

The Crows "One flew over the cornfield"
Own label, 2011

Nearly Beloved "Where’s Bob"
Attaboy records, 2011

Homespun Remedies "Great Depression"
Own label, 2011

A bunch of Country and sort like influenced album starting with the New Country Rehab, a new Canadian folk/country rock band. This debut album contains ten recordings including original and Hank Williams tracks and in between a traditional and Springsteen composition. The quartet takes an alternative route with energetic, well played country rock with folk and alternative sounds. Listen to State trooper, one of my favorites. Roaring violins creating sirens and a haunted feeling helped by a great bass player who shows us all the corners of his instrument. Or take their own composition The houses in this town are all falling down, which has somehow a bit SKA atmosphere, with great heavy guitar sound and really inventive twists in the music. A really strong debut album by a band that has everything to become a major international alt-country rock act in very near future.
Second is an album by the US band The Crows and their album called one flew over the cornfield. This stringband from Nashville re-recorded their over twenty year old debut album, long out of stock and now the same songs in new recordings. An album with a positive, uplifting atmosphere. Good old string music played with fun and pleasure. Well played, easy going and the best medicine after a stressful day. It’s uncomplicated, exactly what I expect from a stringband like this.
Next is Nearly beloved with their album Where’s bob. This band, formed around guitarist, singer and mandolin player Matt Lax, who also composed all the songs, except the Dylan track Subterranean homesick blues. What you get is a fine mixture of fine contemporary roots music, country and some bluegrass. Nice songs, decently played and a pleasure to listen to. Nothing more, nothing less.
The Homespun Remedies is a band from the Dallas region and they mix the same styles as the previous mentioned Nearly beloved band. But somehow this Great depression catches me more. Nice harmony vocals, lovely strings interludes and a slight touch of rock. They play with the country, Americana styles but also have some nice jazzy ballads. Some songs could easily be played on radio like Good to hear your voice which has the right commercial spirit without getting to mainstream. Nice album.
© Eelco Schilder

Cathal Lynch "The Jolly Roving Tar"
Nyah, 2011

Lorcan Mac Mathúna "Northern Lights / Dubh agus geal"
Own label, 2011

Tim Edey & Brendan Power "Wriggle and Writhe"
Gnatbite Records, 2011

A few ‘Celtic’ inspired folk albums. First one is by Cathal Lynch and is called The jolly roving tar. This young and known Irish traditional singer is accompanied by Fintan McManus on several string instruments. Twelve traditional songs, brought in the purest possible way. Voice only or vocals and a few strings. Lynch sings in the best Irish oral tradition and brings the typical Irish soul into his versions of the traditional songs. McManus does some great backings, sober but sparkling at the same time and at the highest level. An Album for those who are into the real Irish vocal traditional music.
The second ‘Celtic influenced’ album takes me by surprise. Singer Lorcan Mac Mathúna plays together with the Belgian top musician Raphael de Cock and uillean pipe and flute player James Mahon. This collaboration results in a marvelous album on which the trio re-arranged traditional Irish and Scandinavian tunes and songs. Top quality music in which the tradition of the music is kept really well, without sounding out of date. Wonderful (harmony) vocals, well arranged instrumental parts. It’s an album which brings the ancient atmospheres back to life in a wonderful way. Listen to Mac Mathúna’s great vocals, which fit perfectly with the voice of De Cock. Softly backed by the flutes, pipes, hardanger fele and other strings. Definitely one of the best Celtic influenced albums from 2011.
The third album is recorded by the duo Tim Edey & Brendan Power and contains an uncommon combination of instruments. Power plays the chromatic and diatonic harmonica’s while Edey plays the button accordion and guitars. Together they recorded seventeen tracks, most traditional but also a few original ones. Starting with Celtic thunder a great, uplifting dance written by Edey. I’m pleasantly surprised by the fresh and sunny sound of their music, what a great combination of instruments and what an energetic, professional duo. Both in the more up-tempo and I the more introvert compositions these two impress with virtuosic play on their instrument. A wonderful album with a ‘Celtic’ sound, but also with a very own identity.
© Eelco Schilder

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