FolkWorld #55 11/2014

CD & DVD Reviews

Steven Casper & Cowboy Angst "Endless Sky"
Silent city records, 2014

Jerry Douglas "Three Bells"
Rounder, 2014

Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis "Our Year"
Own label, 2014

Osborne Jones "In the moment"
Own label, 2014

Jim Wurster "Raw"
Own label, 2013

Tom Shed "Mama’s goin out"
Own label, 2012

Delta Moon "Life's a Song - Live Volume 1"
Own label, 2012

Louvat Bros. "Contrastes"
Acoustic Music, 2014

Paolo Bonfanti & Martino Coppo "Friend of a Friend"
Felmay, 2014

Bo Ahlbertz "Lazy Afternoon"
Own label, 2013

Hillbenders "Can you hear me"
Compass Records, 2012

Ralph Stanley & Ralph Stanley II "Side by Side"
Rebel, 2013

Also issued in the Americana/country/blues vein past months are: Steven Casper & Cowboy Angst with their new album called Endless Sky. This L.A. based singer-songwriter recorded a collection of fine and uncomplicated blues-rock styles music with a country feeling. Nice, bit mainstream with a slight edge of rawness.
Jerry Douglas is a known guitar player and with Three Bells he recorded his latest output. Douglas is known for his great sound and craftsmanship and has played with many great names. This album shows his pure quality as an musician in beautiful, peaceful compositions that slowly reveal their power and complexity. A must for lovers of the genre.
Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis is a married couple from Austin and after many solo albums Robison and Willis can be heard together on this new album. It’s a friendly mixture of mainstream Americana influenced music and surprisingly intense ballads. Nice for a lazy afternoon to sit and enjoy.
Osborne Jones brings together the friends David Osborne and David-Gwyn Jones new country from Los Angeles. What I hear is honest country pop, played with pleasure by these two fine musicians. Fitting perfectly in the huge stream of mainstream-proof country releases.
Jim Wurster plays a mixture of own compositions and songs from great heroes such as Neil Young and Sonny Bono. With his pure voice he creates an intimate sound during the album. The first half of the album I admire the special sound he creates, the instruments melt together into one wall of sound. But at the end I’m waiting for something else to happen, some new ingredients which don’t come. Wurster intrigues me, he creates his own style, own sound which I enjoy, but it needs more to keep me focused at the end of the album.
Tom Shed plays uplifting country pop which brings everybody in a good mood.
Delta Moon is a quartet with four great musicians issuing fourteen live tracks. On (steel) guitar, banjo, bass, drums and vocals the four show how a bluesy night out sounds. I hear some great quality, some fragments of songs that could be absolutely fantastic. But somehow the sound quality isn’t always at the right level and on some occasions it’s like there is some kind of thin wall between the instruments and vocals. A pity, a more balanced sound throughout the whole album might have made this a perfect live CD.
The Louvat Bros is a trio on string instruments such as the guitar, banjo, mandolin and bass. On their new album you find fifteen mainly original compositions. It’s a kind of acoustic and instrumental Americana music with a touch of funk, blues and Celtic tradition. Nicely played, easy accessible sounds, nothing more nothing less.
Paolo Bonfanti & Martino Coppo is a duo on vocals, guitars and mandolin singing a mixture of original songs, traditionals and contemporary songs by great artists such as Neil Young. The duo recorded a sparkling album in with nice vocals and outstanding work on the strings. It’s blues, Americana, folk and acoustic pop played by two masters of music in a refreshing and highly professional way. Great for lovers of fingerpicking and acoustic music of the better kind.
Bo Ahlbertz from Sweden sings original compositions in the country-folk-pop style. With his raspy voice he knows how to create a good spirit. The album is a bit unbalanced at moments, but that’s also its charm. Ahlbertz has his own authentic sound and adds a personal touch to the many many Americana influences pop releases.
The Hillbenders might create a more balanced sound on their album, but because of their mainstream approach it has not the personal touch which the previous album has. Focusing on bluegrass and country pop this band succeeds in creating a full, rich sound that will be liked by a big audience world-wide. A professional album that is created to please as many people as possible, it’s a choice they made and I think many will love this well played, light footed music.
Back to pureness; Ralph Stanley and Ralph Stanley II created one of the purest albums of the past year. Two generations singing and playing bluegrass and country music right from their hearth. With a surprisingly strong voice Stanley surprises me with his beautifully aged voice. He touches the soul of the songs perfectly and together this duo creates this real ‘folk’feeling, music from the people, from the daily life. The joy of singing with your family, in a way that shows the deep roots their music has in culture and history. A small jewel this album.
© Eelco Schilder

Surpluz "Laat ons drinken!"
Wild boar music, 2012

Artist Video

A bit older album, but nevertheless a welcome addition to this episode of Folkworld. Surpluz is a Belgian quartet playing old songs and tunes from the ancient Flemish and Dutch books. This Laat ons drinken is their second album and according to themselves they have been searching for songs for this album for over two years. Besides playing hundreds of years old composition, they also play original ones. I’m in doubt what to write about the album. I hear fresh, well played music. Strong harmony vocals and a well-chosen repertoire. But I also hear the familiar arrangements (a bit dated even to my personal opinion) which would have been fresh and renewing fifteen years ago, but mainly shows that there is not much urge to search for a 100% own style. Probably that is also not their intention, and if they wanted to record an album that fits perfectly in the mainstream ‘new folk’ genre, they succeeded very well, than this album has quality and will for fill all expectation. If you are waiting, a bit like me, for a group that shakes up the sleepy world of Belgian/Dutch folk, than you might get a bit disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, this is a strong album, I’m just longing for something really new.
© Eelco Schilder

Orbal "Noctispora"
Appel rekords, 2013

Orbal is a Belgium quintet and with Noctispora they have released their first full length album. In the past few years the band slowly build a positive reputation in the Belgium folk scene and is now a welcome guest at (dancing) concerts. On instruments such as flutes, saxophone, guitars, banjo, darbuka and daf, the musicians create a fresh and easy going sound. The album starts with Kamperfoelie which is a summer tune with a central role for the flute. Slowly the album changes from this kind of ‘happy mood’ tunes to dreamy psych-folk styled composition with a slight edge of seventies alternative folk. This is a promising debut with strong original compositions by a band that is exploring its own identity and on some moments succeeds in that.
© Eelco Schilder

Barcelona Ethnic Band "A tribute to different musical cultures"
Temps record, 2013

The Barcelona Ethnic band is a septet that brings acoustic music from all corners of Europe and beyond. On guitar, flute, cello, accordion, bass and percussion they take their listener on a journey around the globe. Individually the songs are well played and nice to listen to. Chimeg a song from Mongolia, has some strong vocals and this specific tradition is brought by the band in an accessible way for Western ears and although the Scottish tune that follows is very different than the song, somehow it fits together. Each song has its own atmosphere, the Bulgarian Trgnalo mi ludo Mlado is more standard, the combination of Armenia and Norwegian music in Navavar & Den første gang is beautiful, with an intense atmosphere and so on. Sometimes a tune breaks the unity of the album a bit, not that it’s badly played but it gives me the feeling it should have been placed on a different place on the album. But that’s only a small remark on a really nice CD.
© Eelco Schilder

Laura Moisio "Spiraali"
Beste Unterhaltung, 2014

Laura Moisio is a singer-songwriter from Finland and with her album Spiraali she releases her debut CD. Her self-composed songs are intriguing and this strong debut shows a musician with an own style and identity. Her music is pop with a dreamy, funky and sometimes folky sound. It differs from acoustic to airy songs with soft electronic sounds. Although it sounds fragile at first, each of the eleven tracks have a solid, earthy soul. A beautiful pop album that needs time to grow and gets better each time you listen to it.
© Eelco Schilder

Abaca "Abaca"
Own label, 2013

Accordionist Diego Zanoli composes new tunes rooted into the (North) Italian folk tradition. Together with three fellow musicians on the fagot, clarinet and the strings of the guitar, banjo and bouzouki, he presents his personal and modern interpretation of the folk tradition. The light footed music perfectly fits into the bal folk tradition in which more and more musicians dare to compose their own music. Abaca creates meetings between the strong spirit of the Italian dances and more Celtic influenced contemporary music. A well-played debut album which shows the potential of the band. Although I get the feeling they stay a bit too much into their comfort zone, this is a strong debut album which shows the potential of four fine musicians and a more than interesting composer.
© Eelco Schilder

Cicinatela "Tungi"
Timezone, 2014

Artist Video

This Germany based quartet is formed around the Georgian singer Natalia Vanishvili. She is joined by three musicians on Oud, guitar, bass and percussion. The band plays traditional songs from Georgia mixed with original compositions oud and guitar player Edin Mujkanovic. The band chooses an accessible approach of the rich cultural heritage of Georgia (and Macedonia in one song)Also the original compositions breath the atmosphere of the tradition. It sounds like a mixture of acoustic world-folk played by a chamber music ensemble. They choose a mainstream approach which makes their music suitable for a big audience, but also makes it a bit predictable. Nevertheless a fine album that will be liked by many, but for me personally I miss a more outspoken approach.
© Eelco Schilder

Romain Baudoin "1 primate"
Hart Brut, 2013

Artist Video

The hurdy gurdy is an instruments that for hundreds of year have been liked by a select group of musicians. It has a magic touch, so many possibilities from traditional dances to modern, electric music styles and everything in between. The past fifteen years there is a kind of Hurdy gurdy 2.0 revival and occasionally there is a musicians who tries to reinvent the possibilities of the instrument. Romain Baudoin starts a new chapter in the history of the instrument. He made a hybrid instrument that mixes a modern hurdy gurdy with an electric guitar which gives new possibilities. What follows is an experimental, noisy hurdy gurdy rock. An album that sounds dark and edgy at first, but when you listen closely you hear the melodic folk aspects and the complex structures. Baudoin creates his own universe in which nothing is what it likes, an intriguing, unexpected and alienate album for the lovers of experimental (pagan) music. Includes some great monkey art work!
© Eelco Schilder

Chancha Via Circuito "Amansara"
Crammed discs, 2014

Artist Video

This is the third album by the Argentinian band Chancha Via Circuito. This band plays electronic music mixed in which traditional (more or less) instruments and sounds play a small role. Despite the fact that it’s not that much a folk record, this is a quality album with some fine electronic music. Close to the ‘lounge’ kind of stuff at first sight, but listen closely and you hear some well composed pieces. Beautifully arranged and well played. I like the soft rhythms, the melodic lines and intriguing structures of the album. A fine album for those who are into soft electronic music of the best kind, mixing with some traditional elements and more.
© Eelco Schilder

2naFronteira "Zapatiños para Diaz Castro"
Inquedanzas sonoras, 2014

Zapatiños para Diaz Castro is the collaboration of Galician singer Carmen Penim and Roman piano and harmonium player Maurizio Penim. On this album fourteen pieces of poetry on music. From the first second this album catches me and Penim bewitches me with her warm, rich voice. The soberness of the album creates a pureness that I concern as the essence of passionate music. Especially the combination of vocals and Harmonium are splendidly done. Listen to Alaládo verme e a estrela, a pearl on the album with this hypnotizing harmonium in duet with the voice of Penim. But also the bit more mainstream sounding piano-vocal parts are of such high quality that until the end this album keeps me focused. A hearth warmi9ng album by two highly skilled musicians who bring out the best in each other.
© Eelco Schilder

Scaramanouche "Voyager 2011"
Felmay, Felmay

Scaramanouche is a musicians collective that brings on this new album a combination of known songs from all kind of styles. From the Sex Pistols, Marlene Dietrich to Pink Floyd and Django Reinhardt. The band makes of all these compositions folky pieces and chance it into mainstream acoustic music that will please all the generations of your family. If you like to hear known themes in a light feted acoustic jacket, this is your album.
© Eelco Schilder

Titom "Les Egares"
Coop breizh, 2013

Artist Video

The band Titom is formed around Bombarde player and composer Thomas Lotout. Together with five folk(rock) musicians and a hand full of guest musicians Titom recorded their third album since 2010. Eleven new compositions deeply rooted in the Breton tradition, rock and other folky styles. They play bombarde rock in the best tradition which we already know from the legendary bands from the seventies. The band choose to keep on representing that same style which makes this album both nicely recognizable, but on moments also slightly predictable. The craftsmanship of the musicians, the strong compositions and the variation in guests (including Annie Ebrel, always one of my favorite) make this album a welcome addition to any (Breton) music collection.
© Eelco Schilder

Cantares do Brion "Arruidos"
Inquedanzas sonoras, 2013

Fifteen known and lesser known traditional and original songs from the Galician tradition are brought on this album by the choir Cantares do Brion which exists out over sixty singers and musicians. They are ambassadors of the traditional vocal art of Galicia and show the beauty of the tradition when sung by multi-vocal ensemble. It’s pure roots music and intriguing for those who like choir albums or when you like Galician music and want to hear many known songs in a totally different setting. The album contains a beautiful booklet with song lines, pictures and information. Unfortunately no English liner notes which would have made this album accessible for a worldwide audience and inform them about the richness of the tradition. A missed chance on that part.
© Eelco Schilder

The Gentle Good "Y bard anfarwol"
Bubble wrap records, 2014

Gentle Good is the stage name of musician/composer Gareth Bonello from Wales who in the past few years gained great fame for his pure and original music. His first two albums got noticed worldwide for its quality, pureness and originality. Now, on his third full length album, he continues the success story in a beautiful way. This album is partly the result of a trip to China where he got his inspiration and composed an album based on the life of Tang dynasty poet Li Bai. Together with composer Seb Goldfinch, the Mavron string ensemble and members of the UK Chinese ensemble he recorded eleven new tracks. Mixing traditional Chinese and Welsh sounds with contemporary music, Bonello and consorts surprise with strong compositions, a well-balanced, pure and intriguing album. Impressive how they managed to integrate the different styles into a natural sounding sound. In combination with the craftsmanship of the musicians an album that is going straight to the top ten of best albums of the year. Without losing this slightly seventies private folk sound, this is probably The gentle goods most professional and strongest album until now.
© Eelco Schilder

Daniel Lavoie "La licorne captive"
Le chant du monde, 2014

The legendary Canadian composer and singer Daniel Lavoie recorded a new album with nine new compositions. For decades now he is known for his music, (film) compositions and his writing for famous artists such as Nana Mouskouri and Mireille Mathieu betwee4n many others. Recorded over 20 albums since 1975, won an impressive amount of awards and so many more. On this new album he is backed by eight musicians on several types of violins, tablas, lute etc. With his deep, beautiful and warm voice he bewitches me at the opening of the album. What an experienced master of composing singing is at work here. He doesn’t sing songs, he creates fairy tale worlds of faraway countries, forests and dreams. Without any bombast Lavoie and his fellow musicians create a new universe in which folk, medieval, classical and sounds from many sides of the world are blend into a well-produced album. I think all fans of this living legend will embrace this album immediately. For those who are new to his work this might be the start of collecting more of the marvelous work of Lavoie.
© Eelco Schilder

Valeria Cimò "Terramadonna"
Own label, 2014

The Italian composer and singer Valeria Cimò is not a name that is known by a big audience and it’s hard to trace some fact about her past and present. Her new released is a double album with one CD full with poems and one full of songs. She sings original work but also gives a great interpretation of Landi’s Passacaglia. It’s an album with an own style, music against the (main)stream and I like that. With her raw style she surprises me with her unexpected twists, creative finds and own approach. It’s modern Italian folky kind of music with a poetic and slight anarchistic approach. Beautiful to hear an artist that plays from the heart and by doing this is capable of touching other hearts.
© Eelco Schilder

Emilia Amper "Trollfågeln"
Bis, 2012

J Åkerlund & J Paulson "Små saker och stora ting"
Nutrad, 2013

Jonas Åkerlund & Alban Faust "Pipmakarns polska"
Vildsint records, 2012

Ralsgård & Tullberg "+1"
Kapsyd, 2014

A fine collection of Swedish folk albums in this episode of FolkWorld. Starting with the new album by Emilia Amper. Amper is one of the leading nyckelharpa player of Sweden nowadays. She has been part of several project, composes new traditional tunes and has been awarded as world’s best nyckelharpa player in 2010 and won several grammar awards. On this new album she combines traditional compositions with her own compositions. Her outstanding play can be enjoyed in a combination of tradition, chamber music and more contemporary acoustic music. I like the diversity of the album and what shows her craftsmanship as musician is that the balance between the different styles is perfectly. An intriguing album with fabulous music by a top musician.
On the new album by J Åkerlund & J Paulson it’s also the nyckelharpa that lays a central role. It’s one of the many projects in which Josefina Paulson takes part. Together with multi-instrumentalist Åkerlund, you can hear him on guitar, violin, hardanger violin and Swedish bagpipe amongst other instruments, she recorded sixteen tunes. A combination of traditional and original work, played in a sober and pure way. I like the traditional Swedish atmosphere of the album, both musicians know how to touch the soul of the music and they show that on this fine album.

Artist Video
On the third album in this review Jonas Åkerlund forms another duo, this time with Alban Faust. On Pipmarkarns Polska the duo plays sixteen traditional pieces and combine the Swedish bagpipe with violin, cittern, flutes etc. Interesting for those who like the sound of the Swedish bagpipe, which has a more subtle sound than many of the more known bagpipe types. It’s a good addition to earlier works of Faust, who is an authority on the Swedish bagpipe and in combination with Åkerlund he recorded another fine album.
From bagpipe to flutes, a new album by Ralsgård & Tullberg. The second album by this duo on wooden flutes. thirteen traditional tracks, many wooden flutes duets in the best tradition. Two masters on their instruments show again the beautiful sounds and possibilities of the instruments. They are occasionally backed by some guests on cello, harpsichord, nyckelharpa and other instruments. Recommended for lovers of the Swedish tradition and of the sound of the wooden flute.
© Eelco Schilder

Dwight Lamb & Jensen & Bugge "Live 2013 part two"
Go Danish Folk Music, 2014

Valfart "På vej"
Go Danish Folk Music, 2014

Haldanskerne "3"
Go Danish Folk Music, 2014

Ulvsand & Hjetland "Ulvsand & Hjetland"
Go Danish Folk Music, 2013

News from Denmark in this review! Starting with Dwight Lamb & Jensen & Bugge recorded a concert in 2013 and the first part was previously issued and now the second part can also been bought. It’s more of the same, nice traditional Danish music played by two of Denmark best known musician and an accordionist from The USA with Danish ancestors. The trio found each other in their love for old tunes and it seems that Lamb still wakes up in the middle of the night remembering an old tunes from earlier generations. For those who need more after part one, here is your part two!
Valfart is an acoustic folk quartet that was the result of a church theater about an pilgrimage to the island of Mors. On flutes, vocals, accordion, percussion, violin and more the band plays a combination of tradition and original compositions. Clearly you will find some Scandinavian sounds here, mixed with slight Balkan influences amongst others. It’s a nice, decent album. Uncomplicated music that is brought with pleasure by the musicians, and fits nicely into the mainstream part of the Danish folk revival.
Halfdanskerne is a popular band in Denmark that sings poetic songs in which the lyrics count. On this album they focus on the work of three known Danish poets; Benny Anderson, Halfdan Rasmussen and Frank Jæger. With a light-pop-folk-jazz sound they are storytellers and bring the beautiful lyrics in a convincing way. A nice album but mainly for the Danish speaking part of this world who understands the beauty of the poems they sing.
Ulvsand & Hjetland are two musicians who are known from their work with the great band Færd.[40] Now the Norwegian/Danish vocalist Hjetland and the Swedish bouzouki player Ulvsand created a solo project together. With nine tracks this album gives a picture of both their own composing quality and the compositions by others they like. Starting with Visa I vinden by Vreeswijk, the Dutch born composer who became a legend in Sweden. A beautifully sung ballad, which slowly changes into An Aire from the Shetlands. A strong start of this debut album in which the two musicians show that when two dedicated souls work together you get synergy and music that rises above the average level. This album is a good example of that, a good choice of repertoire, strong musical arrangements and two musicians that put their heart and soul into each of the songs.
© Eelco Schilder

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