FolkWorld #52 11/2013

CD & DVD Reviews

Zenobia "Fra Fynske Kyster"
Go Danish folk music, 2013

The third album by the Danish trio Zenobia. On this new album they sing songs with compositions by Carl Nielsen, who lived about 150 years ago and left a great treasure of songs. Seventeen songs are recorded. With a jazzy piano, peaceful accordion and vocals the trio creates a kind of accessible afternoon chanson-jazz. Nice that their way of arranging the songs put the focus on the lyrics, although their interpretation is also a bit decent and brave. A nice album, especially for those who like the poetic Danish songs to listen and sing a long.

© Eelco Schilder

Maja & David "NORD"
Go Danish folk music, 2013

Maja & David
Promo Video

Interesting combination of Danish fiddler and singer Maja Kjær Jacobsen and the Quebec fiddler David Boulanger. Two friends who play together and connect the music of Denmark and Quebec in a very nice way. Ten tracks, both traditional and original, are well played and show how easily the melodies and rhythms of the two traditions fit together. This results in an album full of joy and music that sounds as natural as if these styles have always been together. Make the sun appear and buy this album, is my advice.

© Eelco Schilder

Yasmine Hamdan "Ya Nass"
Crammed, 2013

Guo Gan Trio "Jasmine Flower"
Felmay, 2013

Zeng Ming "Mu dan ting"
Felmay, 2013

Yasmine Hamdan is living in Paris currently but originally comes from Beyruth where she was part of a pioneer band in indie-electronic music. This Yan ass is her first solo album and contains a fine collection of thirteen pop-rock songs with world grooves from both her original and new homeland. This resulted in a well-produced electronic album with world grooves. This album fits easily in the big stream of electronic-traditional records that is released at the moments. This is one of the more commercial ones, easy going and the right balance between modern/western beats and exotic sounds for those who are not so much into world music.
Two albums from China this time. Starting with the Guo Gan trio. This master on the Erhu, a bowed string instrument, has recorded several beautiful albums. Both solo and in combination with other artists. Together with his fellow musicians on Zheng (cittern liked instrument) and several flutes, Gan recorded a fresh, friendly and accessible combination of traditional and original compositions. It shows the beauty of the traditional instruments and tradition. Happy, delicate music.
The second Chinese album is by Zeng Ming. This master on the Kunqu, a traditional bamboo flute. On this new album nineteen traditional pieces in two parts. The first part is classical work from the Ming Dynasty by the composer Tang xian Zu from the 16th century. And the second part comes from the same period and is composed by Gao Lian. The first part is a love story while the second part tells about a girl who loses her family during war. Wonderfully played, this album shows the emotions, the techniques of the instrument and it’s player. It takes a while before the albums shows all it’s beauty. At first sight it might sound like the same music over and over again, but when you listen carefully you hear the story and the many layers the compositions exist of. For the more trained listener a recommended album.

© Eelco Schilder

Tigana Santana "The Invention of Colour"
Ajabu, 2013

The singer-songwriter Tigana Santana comes from Brazil and his latest album called The Invention of Colour is published on a Swedish label and Santana is backed by musicians from many corners of the world. Santana creates new world-pop music and brings the many moods of his music together in a well-balanced, sometimes hearth breaking beautiful album. Starting calmly with the instrumental composition Encarnacões em kodya, the album really starts when Santana starts to sing in the second song called Elizabeth moon. With a Nick drake a like atmosphere injected with slight latin influences, his voice bewitches me. What follows are a few soft, tender songs that show more of his Brasil origin. He keeps the music small, intimate and beautiful. Listen to Black woman with Ane Brun on vocals, another highlight on the album. Or the nice African styles title song, all with their own sound but fitting perfectly together. A wonderful album with beautiful music.

© Eelco Schilder

Zugluft "Barackenmusik"
Narrenschiff, 2013

London Klezmer Quartet "Welcome to Butterfield Green No 16"
Own label, 2013

Sampo Lassila Narinkka "Suomiklezmer"
Own label, 2012

A bunch of Brass and klezmer albums starting with the trio Zugluft. On violin, clarinet and accordion the three musicians play eleven original compositions. It’s the less-brass/klezmer styled album of this review. Zugluft likes to create their own sound in which elements of jazz, klezmer, Balkan, tango, European folk and other world-sounds are mixed into a nicely played acoustic music. Three fine musicians who created an accessible album, nothing more nothing less.
The London Klezmer Quartet is a more, as you might have guessed, Klezmer orientated band. Formed only four years ago by four musicians with a great love for the Klezmer music. They play a combination of old and original tunes on violin, clarinet, accordion and double bass. Helped on three tracks by a cellist. The quartet plays with a smile the nice compositions in a very pleasant way. It’s not as steamy as some might expect from a Klezmer band, but the album is melodic and somehow the sun appears when listening to their music. Sometimes a bit to careful or to decent, but that’s only a matter of personal taste. A fine album and this quartet might surprise us even more on future releases.
Over to Finland for Sampo Lassila Narinkka and their album Suomiklezmer (Finnishklezmer). This trio on violin, accordion and bass (amongst other instruments) recorded the most outspoken album of this review. Original compositions deeply rooted in the Klezmer tradition. A creative outburst of music, exciting and surprising. Wonderful melodies, a bit dark atmosphere and three musicians who take the time to tell their story. Wonderful solo pieces, intimate but unbelievably strong. Subtle percussion with dreamy voices and instruments and suddenly an old fashioned dance but played in such a way that it fits perfectly into the 21st century. Just a slice of Circus and humour and slightly controversial arrangements. That are the main ingredients for a small hour of well played music with a recognisable but also own identity. Well done.

© Eelco Schilder

D’Harmo "D’Harmo"
Own label, 2013

About each 2-3 years I get a CD with Harmonica music only. This is the latest one, from Canada this time. Four men and their collection of harmonica types. Blending pop with jazz, folky themes and other styles. The quartet creates a fresh, friendly kind of music. It’s always intriguing how with one type of instrument only, a group like this creates such a variety of sounds and styles. If you like the sound of the instrument this might be an album that you like. For me about five tracks is enough, I need more than just well played tunes. But that says more about me than about the music of these fine musicians, so just ignore me and get their album.

© Eelco Schilder

Pharis & Jason Romero "Long Gone Out West Blues"
Lula, 2013

After their awarded debut album from 2011, Pharis and Jason Romero released a second album called Long gone out west blues. A title that exactly describes the atmosphere of this album. They met at an old time fiddle meeting in 2007 and their passion for early country, blues and sort like music brought them together. For thirteen tracks long these two musicians impress with outstanding, and I quote, ‘vintage’ roots music. What makes this album so strong is the pureness of the songs, the passion with which they arranged the old ones and composed the new ones. Both in harmony and the solo parts, the singing is intense and straight from the heart. This is such a duo that brings out the best in each other and makes me want to hear more and more. The sparkling guitar/banjo play completes it all. A fabulous album and my favourite North American-roots album of the year until now.

© Eelco Schilder

Angus Lyon "3G"
Own label, 2013

From Scotland comes this album by Angus Lyon. Playing the accordion, piano and Rhodes he explores the possibilities of new composed folk music rooted in the Celtic heritage. Backed by nine musicians on instruments varying from vibraphone, bass to drums, violins and fiddle etc. Lyon presents the album as a family portrait of the farm where his family worked the past sixty years. In his fine compositions he reflected three generations and this together is like a instrumental suite in three parts and with eight episodes. His compositions are a blend of Celtic atmospheres, jazz sounds, rocking beats but also moody, dreamy at moments. It’s like Lyon wants to tell the whole story of sixty years in less than an hour. He captured the atmospheres pretty well, from happiness to sadness, from times when there was energy around the farm to the quiet, maybe even lonely, moments. A well succeed album with fine compositions that are open minded and accessible for a wide audience.

© Eelco Schilder

Martina Quiere Bailar "Vueltas y revueltas"
Own label, 2013

Martina Quiere Bailar is a Spanish quintet that plays acoustic and instrumental folk styled music. With a central role for the violin, guitar, percussion and diatonic accordion, the group mixes rhytms and sounds from the Celtic areas with more south European influences amongst others. The band reminds me of the Dutch band Flairck in their early year. Well played, friendly contemporary music with many traditional elements. Without having a very outspoken style, it’s music that will comfort many listeners because of the craftsmanship and accessible compositions. Nice album for a lazy afternoon.

© Eelco Schilder

North Atlantic Trio "Some Part of Something"
Bird creek records, 2013

Some part of something is the debut album by the North Atlantic trio. This American, Scottis, Irish trio on harp, dobro/guitar and percussion plays a combination of traditional songs and contemporary material. With elements of Celtic influences folk, Americana, Appalachian folk the trio created a kind of North Atlantic crossover folk. A calm, friendly album with recognisable melodies. Nicely played and very easy going, in the vein of many other acoustic folky albums.

© Eelco Schilder

Tom Russell and the Norwegian Wind Ensemble
"Aztec Jazz"
Proper music, 2013

For many years now Tom Russell is known for his storytelling type of music. With an impressive discography he can be seen as one of the US leading folk related singer-songwriters. This new album called Aztec jazz is a project with the Norwegian wind ensemble and Thad Beckman on guitar. With his beautifully aged voice Russell impresses with his expressive way of singing. He is such a singer that forces his listeners to listen to his story. Intriguing combination of the airy wind ensemble and the more down to earth, sometimes slightly dark, vocals of Russell. A combination that works very well. With a combination of folk, jazz, Latin elements, country and so much more, Aztec jazz entertains from the first to the last song. A welcome addition to Russell’s discography and an album that will be treasured by fans and new admirers.

© Eelco Schilder

SULP "Urban Tour"
Zytglogge, 2013

German CD Review

The Swiss trio SULP is back with a new album called Urban tour. I have reviewed their first two albums and liked them, although I preferred their own compositions above their interpretation of the traditional songs. With craftsmanship, humour and soul the three musicians present with this new album their best recordings. From the first second the album sounds fresh, well played and intriguing. On sax, accordion, vocals, tuba, bass and alphorn they bring an accessible mixture of traditional elements, jazz and contemporary styles. Sometimes melodic, often with a smile and incidentally an edge of Swiss sadness. Sulp shows a great development in their recordings and I cant wait to hear their future works, but until then I will enjoy this Urban tour a lot.

© Eelco Schilder

Embrun "Live"
Own label, 2013

New album by the Belgian band Embrun and actually their second full length disc only. Eleven live recordings recorded in April 2013. In the Belgian/Dutch hype of Balfolk meetings and bands Embrun proved to be one of the top bands in this genre. They don’t just play the traditional tunes suitable for balfolk events, but dare to create an own style and this results in an appealing mixture of folk and rock. With instruments such as hurdy gurdy, accordion, bagpipe, drums and electric bass, they create both more traditional sounding folk-rock and incidentally dreamy, hypnotic psych-folk. Nice album, with a few outstanding tracks. Not only suitable for the events, but also for listening at home and create your own personal bal folk moment.

© Eelco Schilder

Rokiczanka "W moim ogródecku"
Own label, 2013

Rokiczanka is a Polish folk ensemble founded in 2001 to promote the beauty of Polish traditional music. All musicians are lovers of the Polish folk music and joined together to become one of the true ambassadors of the traditional music. They play religious, patriotic and festive songs and they even have a children folk group that is linked to the band. Where most known Polish bands choose to create a modern kind of electric folk that appeals to a worldwide audience, this ensemble choose to stay close to tradition. Well recorded album with beautiful female harmonies, mainstream folk arrangements in which the accordion and violin plays a central role. For those who like the more traditional folklore style this album is a welcome addition to the collection.

© Eelco Schilder

Tom Clelland "Next Time"
Modestine, 2012

Next time is the fourth album by the Scottish singer-songwriter Tom Clelland. On vocals and guitar he sings his own stories in an impressive way. Backed by several guests on pipes, bass, accordion, banjo, cello amongst others. Totally unknown to me, but this first acquaintance is a more than pleasant one. Clelland seems to be a master-storyteller who, with sober, effective musical arrangements, bewitches his listeners with pure, sometimes sensitive songs. At his best in songs like Dig/Lochanside and all your troubles. Fragile songs, sung calm and with affection. An album to treasure, to listen to and let you carry away into the world of Clelland.

© Eelco Schilder

Marin/Marin "Skuggspel"
Dimma, 2013

Anders Thunell & Olav L Mjelva "Uppspelt"
Dimma, 2013

Marin/Marin Two of Sweden finest fiddlers are back with a sparkling new album. Mikael Marin, known as one of the Väsen members,[41] and Mia Marin, known from Ulrika Bodén[49] band and Bowing 9 amongst other groups. Recorded a beautiful blend of traditional and original instrumental pieces. All deeply rooted in Swedish tradition. With only Leo Svensson as a guest on cello on two tracks, this is a pure Swedish fiddlers album. In every note, every sound you hear the craftsmanship of this duo. They do not just play, they feel, breath the music and that can be heard in the inspired way of playing. A wonderful new album and a welcome addition for all lovers of Swedish traditional music and especially violin music.
The second album is a Swedish-Norwegian collaboration. Anders Thunell & Olav L Mjelva recorded folk tunes from Härjedalen. Again two violinists, but in style a totally different album than the Marin/Marin CD. Again two top musicians who bring a tradition in a vivid, high quality way. To me, far from an expert, the album reminds me mostly of Norwegian traditional violin music than of the Swedish tradition I have in my collection. It are the, sometimes complex, rhythms and melodic way of playing that intrigue and is exactly the reason why I love Scandinavian music so much. Four violinists, two albums and both of excellent quality.

© Eelco Schilder

Stolen Notes "The Loot"
Several Records, 2013

All over Spain’s geography there have been quite a few young musicians that in the latest decade were strongly attracted to the different ‘Celtic’ music traditions. Not just the ones from northern Spain (Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria), but even more those from Ireland, Scotland, French Brittany,… Back in 2011 we introduced a Spanish folk band dedicated to pure Irish trad music in the city of Alcalá de Henares (Madrid): Boys of the Hills.[44] There is even a band such as Alalé that has succeeded in Ireland (mostly in Galway), doing a fusion of Irish-Spanish Celtic music.[38][49] Back in the late 1990s, we remember a band from Andalusia’s capital city (Seville) called ‘Rare Folk’, which made us realize that flamenco is not the only kind of traditional music made in southern Spain, and we could enjoy their Irish music in some of the folk music radio programs that were popular in those days. Now in 2013 we get the second CD of another band from Seville that has been making Celtic music since 2007 as a spin-off of the trad Irish music sessions taking place in that city – STOLEN NOTES.

Stolen Notes
Video Promo

Alejo Parra (Stolen Note’s uilleann piper) travelled to Ireland in 1998 to purchase his first practice set, and through video tutorials and printed material he learned to play the instrument. In 2002 he bought a full set from ArHPa.[26] He has also attended master classes from Irish uilleann pipers such as Mike O’Brian, Tiornan Duinnchinn, Robbie Hannan or Alain Froment. José Antonio Moreno plays the bodhran (and the bouzouki) and his influences on Irish music come from bands such as Flook, Deaf Shepherd & The Chieftains. His referential bodhran performers are John Joe Kelly (Flook) and the bodhran maker Seamus O’Kane who was his teacher in a seminar in 2004 (Irish Fleadh in Caceres). Juan Jiménez (Irish traverse flute, whistles) achieved his degree on traverse flute in the conservatories of Cadiz and Córdoba, and he extended his studies in the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and the academy Barenboim-Said in Seville. Koke Folgeira was born in Asturias (N Spain) where he studied guitar in the Aviles’s conservatory in the 1980s. It was in those years when he joined the Asturian folk scene playing in the band Balandrán and with the gaita piper Xuacu Amieva. Then he moved to Madrid where he got introduced to Irish folk music playing with the banjo performer Anto Warde, and the local fiddler Harry C (who later joined the legendary Galician band Milladoiro). In 1999, he then moved to Andalusia where he joined the band Llonxana until 2001, when he went back to north Spain (Ferrol, Galicia) to play in the bands Boj and Sete Raposos Mortos. In 2011 he went back to Seville to join Stolen Notes. Salvador Daza (violin) has studied viola in Seville’s conservatory and has played in several classical music orchestras, as well as a diversity of projects, including Irish folk music.

The work that these five well prepared & experienced musicians present in their second CD ‘The Loot’, is a compilation of reels, polkas, jigs, slow airs, waltzes,… inspired by the traditional repertoires of Ireland, Scotland, French Brittany, Asturias,… but also re-processed by Stolen Note’s own style. ‘The Loot’ was recorded in studios in Seville, Glasgow & Oviedo (Asturias), and has collaborations of acknowledged folk artists such as the Asturian bouzouki performer Rubén Bada, or the Scottish fiddler Rua MacMillan. All of the songs are medleys of two, three or up to four tunes, where the sharp changes in rhythm provide great opportunities for the different instruments to demonstrate their agility. This is specially the case in the lively jigs and reels in ‘The Beach of the Two Castles’, ‘The Old Lady’, ‘The Afgan Lash’ or ‘Highway to America’. Great job done on the uilleann pipes, the guitar and the bouzouki. Not to forget the Irish flute in ‘The Old Lady’, or the beautiful slow airs in ‘The Day of the Return’ or ‘Flora’s Dream’. The ‘Tram to Amstelveen’ starts with a great jig on the whistle. ‘A Breton View’ is an An Dro style song where the bodhran sets the pace followed by the guitar, phrased by the uilleann pipes and then replied by the Irish flute, in the alternating dialogue between the bombard and the pipes typical in the music of the Bretagne. ‘PolkAstur’ is a powerful start with the boddran and the flute attacking the traditional Asturian ‘Danza de Santana’, gently followed by ‘Tolka Polka’ and ‘O’Dea’s Jig’. The Loot: Inspired Celtic music performed with the warmth of the Mediterranean latitudes.
© Pío Fernández

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