Issue 5 7/98

FolkWorld CD Reviews

Xenos "New Moves"
Label: Own; XM3333; Playing Time: 46.01 min
Xenos play the music of the Macedonian Gipsies; they have been based for several years in Switzerland and toured all over Europe, and since recently they live in Tasmania, Australia. Two members were left behind in Europe, but they are welcoming two new Tasmanians to the band. This alone is already a great story...
Xenos' music is innovative, very lively and energetic; the titles are mainly traditional gipsy pieces from Macedonia (Greek Macedonia and Kosovo), and have the for this region typical complex trance rhythms. For all bagpipe fans (there are quite a few in FolkWorld's readership) important to know: Xenos have in their line-up also the Macedonian gaida; this instrument was in history more and more replaced by the saxophone. Both instruments are played in Xenos. Other ancient instruments include zurna (a powerful little double reed instrument), davul and darabuka (two traditional drums). Add to these instruments bass and accordeon, and sometimes the shrill singing of Anne Hildyard, then you have an idea of Xenos' music.
This is music full of energy and spirit, and looking at the photo on the CD they are surely also a superb live act. If you are interested in fresh Balkan gipsy music, this album is well worth for you.
mailto Rob Bester of Xenos (in Germany the album is distributed by Verlag der Spielleute; Reichelsheim)
Michael Moll


Chris Newman "Fretwork"
Label:
Old Bridge Music; OMCD11; Playing Time: 49.51 min

The long awaited new, third solo album of Chris Newman - his first after fifteen years - sees him at the heights of his skills. Chris is one of the very best guitar players in the UK; he is well-known through the duo performances with his wife, harp player Máire Ní Chathasaigh.
On 'Fretwork' Chris plays mainly his own compositions written over the years, completed by a few trad pieces (one of them trad Swedish) and a set by James Scott Skinner. All the tunes are very fresh and virtuous folk music tunes with regular trips to especially jazzy bits. Over the years, Chris has developed his very own distinctive style of playing, and you can easily hear that he is the master of this album. Still he has guests on about half of the tunes, but all from his family - he is joined by his wife Máire on Irish harp, piano and tin whistle and Máire's sister Nollaig Casey on fiddle. Chris plays guitar, mandolin and bass.
And as Chris is a fun person, his sleeve notes about the background of the tunes are great fun. You can find out there for example about Oz, Chris' and Máire's cat, who hates music and is always streaks out of the room as soon as anyone starts to play anything. As Chris finds, "a cat with taste..."
Old Bridge Music Homepage; e-mail Old Bridge Music
Michael Moll


Sky Walkinstik-Man-Alone "Cherished Memories & New Beginnings"
Label: Own; Playing time: 39.11 min
Sky Walkinstik-Man-Alone, American Indian of the Choctaw/Miwok, plays (and also builds) the Native American Flute. This instrument is one of the oldest flutes in the world, and it is the only flute with two chambers, giving the flute its very own, beautiful and enchanting sound.
On this album you can hear pure music on the American Indian Flute. Sky expresses with his flute playing his deepest feelings, and one is impressed by the beauty and magic of the music. Some of the tunes are very old traditional pieces, partly used for courting, some are written by Sky himself, expressing his very own feelings. Completed is this collection of flute tunes by the traditional Scottish/Irish tune The Water is Wide/Amazing Grace, that went into the American Indian tradition when the Irish and Scottish -as friends - joined the Native Americans on the Trail of Tears.
This is music full of peace, taking you away into other worlds. It is said that the music of this flute can also heal; at least it helps calming down.
Sky is - in live and on CD - one of the most impressive musicians I have ever heard.
Sky Walkinstik Man Alone's Homepage; his e-mail. In Europe, his CDs are since recently available from Robert & Ria Smith, Haggestraat 105; B-2381 Weelde; Belgium. Tel. B-(0)14 - 65.80.20
Michael Moll


Kings of Puck "After the Fair"
Label: Own; KOPCD001; Playing Time: 52.25 min
Kings of Puck are a professional Irish ballad trio from England who are proud to have won the Best Entertainment Award at the Puck Fair in Ireland. The first title of the CD 'Whiskey in the Jar' shows already the direction of the album: well-known Irish ballads and tear-jerkers - the stuff you first think of when thinking of the daily live programme of Irish theme pubs around the world.
'After the Fair' has a poor production quality, and the selection of songs is, I must unfortunately say, for my taste also poor; 'The Fields of Athenry', 'Sweet Sixteen', 'McAlpine's Fusiliers' and the inevitable 'Wild Rover' to name but a few...
Kings of Puck Homepage
Michael Moll


Frank Morey "Bourbonsoakedhalo"
Label:
Indigo Hamlet Music; IHM 000-1; Playing Time: 27.22 min
Frank Morey from Massachusetts sings on this his debut CD eight of his own songs. The songs are mainly about feeling blue - melancholy, bourbon, dark streets and loneliness are central themes. But still, especially in 'Willow', there is optimism and hope. The songs, with their sometimes colloquial, but still good lyrics, are sung with a bluesy voice. The instruments on the recording are guitar, a nice bandoneon, piano, bass, persuccion.
It is a homogenious, blue singer/songwriter album - just title Nr. 2, a silly little story with a rough kind of humour, was really not necessary...
Indigo Hamlet Music; e-mail Frank;
Michael Moll


Troy Donockley "The unseen stream"
Label:
Alliance Music; 1901162; Playing Time: 47.47 min
The Uilleann Piper of the famous Celtic Rock Band Iona, Troy Donockley, has released his first 'solo' CD. It shows him as a very multi-skilled guy: He plays besides the Uilleann Pipes also Low Whistles, Electric and Acoustic Guitars, Keys, Cittern and Mandolin, and he has composed most of the tunes!
'Solo' does not mean that only he is featured; guests include Irish fiddler Nollaig Casey, piano player Neil Drinkwater, his Iona colleagues Joanne Hogg (voice), Terl Bryant (percussion) and Tim Harris (bass), the Emperor (String) Quartet and Duncan Rayson on the Rochdale Town Hall Organ. The result is a very full, sometimes even bombastic sound; stylistically somewhere between Sean Davey's Irish Orchestral works, folk, rock, jazz, Scandinavian symphonies and New Age.
The tunes, as Troy says, are mostly expressions of experience, reflecting especially natural beauties of the coast. 'The Unseen Stream' is an interesting work in a unique style, but for me it is often a bit to orchestral-bombastic.
Alliance Music
Michael Moll


Calico "Celanova Square"
Label: Ossian Publications; OSSCD100
Calico believe that 'Celanova Square' is "as much about chords as it is about melody" and this is a band that have written songs inspired by their personal journeys around the world, fusing traditional Irish and Breton tunes with more contemporary strains, and even dedicating the title track to a group of friends in Galicia, Spain.
The personal feel of the album lies in the listener often sharing in the creative process of the songs. For example, 'Two Days to Go' was written by uillean pipe and whistle player Diarmaid Moynihan during his last days as an Economics student at University, and the delightful melody of the song exudes the ecstatic sense of finishing one's finals at last. And yes, Diarmaid does play with another big name in the Irish music business, the band Croab Rua.
The most beautiful tunes on the album are the traditional ones, such as 'The Hidden Note' and 'The Waterbed', with soulful uillean piping and fiddling provided by Donncha Moynihan and Tola Custy respectively.
It is heartening to see more and more young bands emerging into the forefront of the Irish/ Celtic music scene, and Calico are definitely amongst the top acts. With a distinct zest for life, (yes, these guys know how to relish their pint of Guinness) Calico take you with them along a musical journey into the heart of Celtic melodies and heartbeats.
mail to Ossian
Kathy Tan


Danú "Danú"
Label: own label; TM002
Danu is the mystical Irish goddess of prosperity, and is often identified with the land and its fertility. Listening to the tunes on this debut album from the band Danu, I am inclined to think this is indeed music fit for the gods. Traditional favourites are given a refreshing twist by these seven Irish lads who have enough energy to pack one hell of a punch. Every track is a gem, and highlights include 'Inish Iar', a haunting air named after the West coast of Ireland, 'Joe Banes', a lilting fling and reel featuring Donnchadh Gouch on uillean pipes and bodhran, and 'An T-oglach', sung beautifully by Cartach Mac Craith. With 1998 set to be the year for an Irish/ Celtic folk music Renaissance on a global scale, Danu are definitely one of the bands taking centrestage.
available via Claddagh (e-mail link)
Kathy Tan


The Prodigals "Raggles to Riches"
Label: Smiddy Made; SMD611
After all the hype about 'The Corrs', it's certainly refreshing to discover a band that produces a more digestible blend of Irish folk and pop-rock. With catchy tunes and great vocal harmonies, traditional Celtic ballads ('Raggle Taggle Gypsy'), slow airs, jigs and reels (check out 'Drummond Castle'), even bluegrass fiddling, this is one album guaranteed to send any folk junkie into seventh heaven. My favourite track was 'Riches', which recounts the Gold Rush fever which hit America in the late 1800s. In my humble opinion, The Prodigal's second album is definitely a worth-while investment, and not least because it sports a Scottish 10 note on its cover!
e-mail Smiddy Made Recordings, Scotland
Kathy Tan


Tziganarama "A Journey through Eastern Europe"
Label: Black Pig Records; PUG CD020; Playing Time: 40.32 min
A Journey through the folk music of Eastern Europe can be made with this London based trio. Fiddler Chris Haigh, who was first introduced and captivated by Eastern European music through the playing of Andy Irvine, was taught many gipsy tunes from Russia and Hungary by a Russian fiddler whom he met in London. Since then, Chris plays himself Eastern European styled music; since recently in his trio Tziganarama along with Alan Dunn on accordion and piano and Bernard O'Neill on bass.
This album showcases fourteen original tunes, written by Chris, but steeped in the traditions of Russian, Klezmer or Hungarian traditional tunes.The trio is joined by 11 guest musicians on diverse, mainly typical Eastern European, instruments, like gaida, balalaika and cymbalon. The music is very melodic and varied; it is sometimes wild and energetic, sometimes slow and beautiful, but always gets you with its complexity into a trance.
Just exciting music.
e-mail Chris Haigh
Michael Moll


Skara Brae
Label:
Gael-Linn; Playing time: 46.54 min
The only album of "Skara Brae" was recorded in 1970 and released in 1971 - Gael Linn re-released it in 1998.
As "Skara Brae" were the first group that put harmonies to Gaelic songs it's a huge brick in the wall of Irish music.
But this album also shows the great feeling and understanding that Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, her sister Maighread, her brother Mícheál and Dáithí Sproule had and still have (for they had a unique re-union concert in Ireland on the 29/12/97).
The album starts with their single hit "An Cailin Rua" and has a lovely version of "Cad é sin don té sin?", too. Their version of the beautiful but sad love song "Tá mé 'mo shuí" shows their particular personal background, Rann na Feirste in the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking district) of Co. Donegal, for the same song is sang different in other parishes of the same area.
All of those old traditional songs still keep a spirit even for those who can't understand what the lyrics mean for every song is in Irish. The sleeve contains (most of) the lyrics, their translation into English and some interesting remarks, too.
For lovers of songs in Irish this album is a must. Still.
Gael-Linn, Tel.+353-1-6767283, Fax + 353-1-6767030
Marcus Metz


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