FolkWorld #56 03/2015

CD & DVD Reviews

Naragonia Quartet "Idili"
Appel rekords, 2014

Artist Video

The Belgian band Naragonia is probably one of the best groups wandering around in the Belgian world of folk music. A new album is something to look forward to and believe me, this recent record will not disappoint you. The four musicians on accordion, violin, sax, bagpipes etc. Is joined by the great hurdy-gurdy player Gregory Jolivet and together they made a small new masterpiece. Twelve new recordings by band member Toon van Mierlo (except one which is by Pascale Rubens) starting with a Scottish called Hellebore/Ttoo late to sleep. A great bagpipe piece with some smooth beats. A full rich sound and well played. What follows is a melancholic waltz called Helene / Muddy boots in which the accordion plays a central role. Or what about a tune called Lilac / Dave the watchmen which starts gently, almost fragile, on acoustic guitar and slowly changes into a tender accordion piece. More into upbeat tunes, maybe Bieke’s /Hitting the wall is your tune. These are only a few examples of the craftsmanship of this Belgian band. With this new album Naragonia probably recorded their album yet and shows that Belgium is still a place to be when it is about acoustic folk music.
© Eelco Schilder

Malanova "A testa o giocu"
Radici music, 2011

Artist Video

Malanova is a band from Sicilia, playing Ethnic music from this wonderful island. A testa o giocu is already a few years old but only recently offered for review. With nine musicians and singers the band mixes the many styles from Sicily into an enjoyable mixture of folk, brass and contemporary acoustic music. Unfortunately there is no information in English available on both the webpage and in the booklet so I can’t give you much background information. It’s an album that many might call typical for the southern part of Italy and Sicily. Dances, easy going songs, lots of percussion, brass instruments and voices that make sure to be heard. It’s nice to listen to, well played and very accessible. Do you like easy going Italian ethnic sounds but want it all controlled and a bit conservative, this is definitely your album.
© Eelco Schilder

Tsching "Vagabunden Suite"
Own label, 2014

Tsching is a German trio on violoncello, sax and guitars. On their album they play fifteen compositions, mainly self-written but inspired by folk tunes. Their mainstream acoustic sound is filled with known parts of songs such as the folk classic Soldiers three and The drunken sailor. But also a pop classic like Those were the days and many other known themes are mixed into their own compositions. It’s a friendly album, easy going music which is technically well played but also a bit to riskless for me personally.
© Eelco Schilder

Mike Vass "In the Wake of Neil Gunn"
Unroofed records, 2014

Artist Video

The Scottish musician and composer Mike Vass was one of the members of the great Scottish folk group Malinky,[39] but since some years his fame as a solo musician and composer is rising.[42] This new album shows exactly why a worldwide audience should know his name and work, In the name of Neil Gunn is a forty minutes instrumental journey that pleases the ear and the soul. Inspired by a journey around the Scottish West coast which the writer Neil Gunn made in 1937, Vass created a multi-disciplinary project including local history, a book and the music on this album. Besides Vass on multiple instruments (including the violin of course) he is joined by Ian Hutchison on piano, Jennifer Port on oboe and clarsach, Hamish Napier on flute and whistle, Euan Burton on bass and by the Cairn string quartet. The album reflects the journey in a beautiful way. With folk, jazzy, pop and classical influences, the musicians create the coast line of Scotland, the always changing sea and weather. The well composed, melodic tunes are played with passion by the musician and this results in a fresh sounding, accessible album that brings folk styled music in a modern and catchy way. Dream away on the melodies, enjoy the strong arrangements and discover new sounds every time you listen. An adventure worth taking.
© Eelco Schilder

Martin Green "Crows’bones"
Revealrecords, 2013

Artist Video

What is it? What makes some album intriguing from the first sound? Is it the fabulous compositions? The great musicians? Or is it something unexplainable? Crows’bones is such an album. It gets under my skin, it confuses me, hypnotises me and gives me the feeling that there is no other choice than to adore it. Is it magic? Has Martin Green found some kind of pattern that bewitches the listener? I don’t have a clue, but right now, while listening for about the twentieth time this album still gives me that feeling. Accordionist and Composer Green brought together a group of great musicians and together with them he made one of the best albums of 2014. Although a part of the songs are traditional and the other part highly inspired by traditional folk, it’s like they create a whole new world, a new folk style, both modern, mystic, edgy and ancient. The first twelve minutes with the songs Mess of crows and Lyke wake dirge make me shiver. Strong female vocals from another dimension mixed with tradition and darkness. Easily the musicians change from the sparkling sound of the nyckelharpa to the deep sound of the bass, mellotrone and piano. So what is it? Why is this album irresistibly beautiful? I don’t have a clue, I only know that it is a high quality musical adventure to enjoy and amaze.
© Eelco Schilder

Groupa "Silent folk"
Footprint records, 2014

Each country has it’s legendary names in Folk, Groupa is one of the godfather of Swedish folk and active for decades already.[39] Recorded many albums including a few milestone ones, Silent folk is their latest output. The three musicians, Mats Eden, Jonas Simonson and Terje Isungset, recorded ten instrumental pieces on flute, violin and percussion. A mixture of original and traditional compositions with the typical Groupa sound. Not as expressive as some of their earlier output, but an album that has the same level of sound for 50 minutes with subtle changes. Recognisable from miles away, this typical way of flute playing, melodic violin and the minimal approach of the percussionist. It’s not a surprising album, it’s somehow what you probably expect from this band. It’s like I already knew the album before I heard it. Well played, original sound, but also a bit artificial at moments. Well, probably many of you won’t agree with me as I say that, despite of the high quality of the music, it’s also a bit predictable and more of the same. I would love to hear these three top musicians a bit more out of their comfort zone.
© Eelco Schilder

Laura Moody "Acrobats"
Surbitoon lagoon, 2014

Artist Video

Cellist Laura Moody has recently released her debut album called Acrobats which turns out to be a beautiful piece of art. Together with sound designer Edward Jessen she recorded seven of her own compositions, cello, voice and sounds only. Moody was a member of the Eylisian quartet, an experimental avant-gardist classical ensemble. It’s the same name that fits her solo album. Innovating, expressive and avant-garde sounds. With influences from modern classical music, jazz, folk and minimal styles, Moody intrigues from the first to the last second. Beautiful vocal-art mixed with her melodic cello and sounds of old clocks, wood on wood, and many other organic sounds. Moody creates her own dreamy world, well balanced, edgy and innovative. An album that forces to listen, impossible to hear it and do something else at the same time. So sit down, close your eyes and enjoy!
Also available on 300 pressed limited vinyl, well, 299 as I ordered one today at her webpage.
© Eelco Schilder

Buda Folk Band "Buda Folk Band"
Fono, 2014

German CD Review

This is the second album by the Hungarian folk music group called Buda folk band (Magyar vilagi Nepzene) A young band with a fresh approach to the rich musical heritage of Hungary. On this album the eight musicians create a wonderful sound and a typical Hungarian folk product. Starting strongly with the beautiful song Tengerpart on which singer Anna Marczi impresses with her vocals and the musicians with their strong, well balanced play. It’s Hungarian music with a small touch of Paris. What flows is a mixture of full force dances, sunny folk tunes, strong songs and fine modern folk music. With influences from other traditions and styles, without losing the typical atmosphere of Hungarian music, the band recorded an album that is solid as a rock.
© Eelco Schilder

Ilkka Heinonen Trio "Urban Ancient"
Own label, 2013

Jouhikko player and composer Heinonen[55] recorded four new tracks together with his trio on bass, drums and electronics. Mixing the ancient sound of the ‘bowed lyre’ with contemporary styles, this trio creates a kind of jazz-ambient-folk. Four long tracks are like landscapes. Rural and experimental, rough and a bit of sadness, but there is always hope nearby. An album for those who like complex, experimental sounds. It’s not an album that pleases, but that is edgy, goes against the stream and makes the listener wonder what is going on. With their very own, personal sound, this trio impresses with new music. Do not listen when you are short of time, this album needs attention, not a hurry-up feeling.
© Eelco Schilder

Maarja Nuut "Soolo"
Own label, 2013

Artist Video

Soolo is the debut album by the Estonian singer and vocalist Maarja Nuut recorded and published about two years ago. Despite those two years, I think this beautiful album deserves the attention of music lovers world-wide. Her passion for old village tunes and songs made this a passionate album with some wonderful, pure pieces of music. With violin and voice only (well, there is a bass player playing along on the final song) Nuut pictures a wonderful image of the Estonian folk tradition. Her minimalistic approach uncovers the pure beauty of the songs. Sometimes hypnotizing, on other moments fragile and on a few occasions cheerfully, especially in the well-played solo violin dances. Maarja Nuut worked with her heart and soul on this project and that can be heard.
© Eelco Schilder

Laurie Antonilio "Songs of Shadows, Songs of Light"
Origin records, 2014

Laurie Antonilio is a jazz singer who always has been interested in mixing her fine jazz music with folk and world influences. On this new album she sings thirteen Joni Mitchell songs, backed by a sextet on guitar, sax, bass and more. Always a danger to sing songs of a legendary artist such as Mitchell. Antonioli does a fine job, she interpret ate the songs her own way and turns the songs into a kind of midnight jazz café style. Well played, but also more mainstream and less intimate and deep than the originals.
© Eelco Schilder

Kyzyl-Moscow "Traditional music and throat singing of Tuva"
Sketis, 2013

Nezam Rajanzadeh "Smile of Sun"
Etnisk musikclubb, 2014

Saif Al-Khayyat & Nora Thiele "Ahlam Babiliyya"
Talanton, 2014

Srdjan Beronja "The Sounds of Varanasi"
ARC Music, 2014

A bunch of traditional world music album starting in the far East in Tuva. Kyzyl-Moscow is a collection of tracks by artists from Tuva. Twenty songs played by soloists, ensembles and a children folklore group. I always like the traditional music of Tuva, it has a unique sound and identity with the horse rhythms and throat singing always as main ingredients. The album differs in quality, some tracks are nice, others a bit messy and not always in the best recording quality. But all of them are authentic and it gives a nice view on the interpretation of the same musical heritage by different artists.
From Tuva to Iran with the music of Nezam Rajabzadeh on his album Smile of Sun he shows the beauty of the traditional music of the Lorestan province. On his own compositions he sings poems by Heshmat Shafieian and does this in a style deeply rooted in the traditional heritage of the Luri culture. With an international group of musicians, Rajabzadeh impresses with beautiful compositions, his beautiful, warm vocals and strong musical arrangements. Direct from the soul he sings the poems and although I don’t have a clue about the lyrics, I listen, amaze and love his style and sound. He managed to create both an authentic and modern style which might appeal to several generations of lovers of world music. Highly recommended album with impressive and accessible music from the hearth of Iran.

Artist Video

From Iran to Iraq with music by the duo Saif Al-Khayyat & Nora Thiele. On Oud and percussion they play modern Iraqi maqam music for oud and percussion. A mixture of traditional and original tunes the duo creates a warm and intimate atmosphere. They discover the corners of the compositions in a graceful way. An album with a classical atmosphere which gives warmth in colder days.
Srdjan Beronja issued on his album The sounds of Varanasi live recordings made between 2001 and 2011 in the holy town of Varanasi. Although the album shows the beauty of Indian holy music, the Beronja comes from Serbia and recorded all of these tracks during ten years of field research. This results in an ambient, peaceful album full with Indian field recordings with both classical, traditional and sacral background. Music in its purest form, interesting for lovers of field recordings and Indian music.
© Eelco Schilder

Tangokvintetten "Plays Piazzolla"
Go Danish folk music, 2014

Tango Eurosque "Histoire du Tango"
ARC Music, 2014

Two tango albums starting with the Danish band Tangokvintetten. This quintet on violin, piano, guitar, double bass and accordion plays Piazzolla compositions on their latest album. Probably the most reproduced tango musician and composer ever and not without risk to play music by a composer that is a fabulous and legendary musician himself. Happily these musician choose their own path and instead of copying Piazzolla’s style, they create their own sound. With a jazzy approach they recorded a fresh and modern interpretation of the wonderful compositions. Played in an intense way, in strong musical arrangements they recorded an accessible album that has all ingredients to become a legendary recording in the history of “Danish” Tango music.
From Denmark to an English duo called Tango Enrosque. On their album Histoire du Tango, they start with the Piazzolla suite with the same name. Followed by original compositions. The more naked approach, only violin and accordion, creates a whole different sound than that of their Danish colleagues. Besides that they make the tango occasionally sound like folk tunes or almost chamber music. And…is that a Tango –Waltz I hear? A nice album with easy going music, a kind of tango-light which also gives it a bit of a mainstream sound.
© Eelco Schilder

Zef "Just Merlot"
Appelrekords, 2014

Artist Video

On the Belgian Appel Rekords, home of many nice Belgian folk groups, a young and dynamic French quintet called Zef. This Just Merlot is their second album after their 2010 debut cd. It contains a collection of original tunes played on violin, accordion, guitar, bass, flute and more. They play bal folk music of a high level. Nice instrumental dances with French folk influences, musette, Belgian style folk and other touches of traditions. Just Merlot is a light footed album with well-played new folk music which is suitable for many occasions.
© Eelco Schilder

Folklorny Subor Lipa "Traditional music from Slovakia"
ARC Music, 2014

Founded in 1948 Subor Lipa is one of the oldest Slovakian folk ensembles. None of the original members are left, but a young and talented group of musicians took over together with a big group of dancers. This album contains recordings from 14 years ago, don’t have a clue why the record company choose to issue such old recordings, but they did. The recordings are made in Canada and shows the many sides of Slovakian traditional music in its purest form. The repertoire comes from several regions of the country and it gives a nice picture of the many traditions available. Played in a line up including violin, cimbalon, bass and more including some occasional vocals. For those who are interested in hearing real traditional music from Slovakia this is an interesting album.
© Eelco Schilder

Dan Chadburn "Whispers the Falling Snow"
Own label, 2013

Ok, it´s a bit difficult to review a winter album when it´s almost spring and I just had enough of the Dutch rain, snow and cold. And besides that, a solo piano album, not always my favourite style to review. Than why don´t I turn this album off after one song= Why do I keep on listening, feeling calm, warm and a bit emotional at the same time? Why do I stop writing, lean backwards and drink a warm cup of tea? Because of Chadburn’s wonderful new album with beautiful new compositions and great improvisation. Ten warm, passionate and storytelling pieces that softens me, calms me down and make me dream away. Am I getting old that this album touches me so much? Is it because it’s the first day of my spring holiday and this rich, well played music just happen to reflect my feeling of the day? Well, I don’t know, I don’t need to know. The only thing I can say is that Chadburn knows how to put emotion, warmth and passion in his play and compositions and that this album is a small treasure hidden between the many mainstream review albums I get throughout the year.
© Eelco Schilder

Follia "Follia!"
Wild boar music, 2014

Ten years after their debut album, the Belgian folk rock band Follia releases their latest album. The seven musicians recorded twelve self-composed songs together with a bunch of guest musicians. For years they have been one of Belgium’s most exciting live folk bands, but to be honest I didn’t hear much from the band for some years and also on their webpage the information about the band stops around 2006 when they won the Dranouter folk rally. The sound of the new album is recognisable. The band tries all kinds of musical ideas, from straight on Folk rock to a kind of mystic fairy tale story telling in Drakendoder or French folk-rap in L’air du cool and some kind of Western-folk in Bye bye billie. Follia is a band that knows how to create a party and sometimes I enjoy their nice accessible folk rock. But the album also gives me another feeling. It’s not as innovating as it was ten years ago, the ideas, way of arranging the music, it’s a bit on the safe side. Besides that the album lacks some unity, as if the band most of all wanted to put as much ideas on the album as possible and forgot to check if all those ideas fit together and form a steady overall album sound. Nevertheless a fine album with a few fine tracks, but also an album that keeps giving me the feeling that it could have been more…
© Eelco Schilder

Matt Harlan "Raven Hotel"
berkalin records, 2014

Grazztrio "Three Sheets to the Wind"
Own label, 2014

Steve Hill "Solo recordings Volume 1½"
No label records, 2013

Leslie Evers "I can’t remember my dreams"
Cumulus records, 2014

Railsplitters "Railsplitters"
Own label, 2013

Tom Corbett "Tonight I Ride"
Roundhole records, 2010

Hardin Burns "Down the deep well"
Own label, 2014

Brad Colerick "Tucson"
Back 9 records, 2014

Levi Parham "Avalon Drive"
Own label, 2014

David Vidal "World of Trouble"
Own label, 2013

DC Bloom "The rest is commentary"
Own label, 2014

A bunch of American Folk related albums. Starting with Matt Harlan from Texas and his third album called Raven Hotel. A collection of original songs in which his rich and strong vocals mix perfectly with the musical arrangements into an intimate Americana folk album. I like the slightly edged sound and at moments this album is stunningly beautiful. Great guest vocals by Rachel Jones and a strong group of musicians. An album to cherish, it gets better and better every time you hear it.
Grazztrio is a banjo, mandolin and bass trio playing original compositions on their album called Three Sheets to the Wind. Coming from Barcelona, this trio focusses on the American folk and bluegrass style music. Intriguing, because their roots add a new sound into the Americana sounding tunes. Wonderful techniques by the musician, a relaxed atmosphere and some strong compositions that make this a real treat to listen to. Nice when interested in American folk styles, but with an extra twist.
Steve Hill shipped a four track EP for review with fifteen minutes of pure, raw and soulful country-blues. Steve Hill comes from Canada and has been performing with many create names in music the past twenty years. These four tracks show me one thing, it’s about time that Hill gets as known and appreciated as the many names he worked with. From the first moment his underground style blues album overwhelms me in its craftsmanship, honesty and pureness. With a full rich voice, sparkling guitar play and beating rhythms Hill impresses and I feel really sorry that after four tracks this promo-cd is over. I just ordered his two album on vinyl and just can’t wait to hear more. Highly recommended!
With Leslie Evers we go back to a more popular approach of American folk styles. On her own label Evers recorded her debut album with nine original songs. Together with a quintet of musicians on guitar, bass, mandolin and fiddle, Evers recorded a convincing first album. She has a nice, smooth easy going voice and accompanies herself on the guitar and banjo. Starting with a bright, sunny song which is a pleasant first acquaintance with Evers her skilled, warm voice. What follows is a fine collection of songs going from mainstream, accessible Americana to more basic and pure vocals and banjo only. Sometimes a jazzy edge makes the album complete. A strong debut by this singer/composer who clearly is ready for a big audience world-wide.
The Railsplitters is a band that crowdfunded their debut album on the Kickstarter website. The quartet brings a nice mainstream mixture of Americana, bluegrass, folk and contemporary music. With nice vocals, well played instrumental parts they easily know how to please a big, mainstream audience. They love what they are doing and do it with such fun and passion that this album makes me smile all the way through. A promising debut by a young band of talented musicians.
Tom Corbett is a singer-songwriter and mandolin/ guitar player from the US. Tonight I Ride is his five years old third album. Together with a fine selection of musicians Corbett recorded a fine collection of new-bluegrass music. From attractive up-tempo songs that make you want to dance to nice, well played ballads. Suitable for a big audience, mainstream-proof and of the better quality.
Hardin Burns recorded nine of his own compositions and the Richard Thompson classic Walkin on a Wire. Together with singer Jeannie Burns and fellow musicians he created an accessible, easy going album with fine, light-footed country-folk music with a touch of rock and pop.
Brad Colerick sounds like he plays for you straight from the pub. On his album Tucson you can hear eleven of his new recordings. Country styled with a slight pop sound. Honest singer-songwriting with a bit rural touch.
Levi Parham sends us a six track promo-EP called Avalon Drive. Rocking the stars away, he brings a strong mixture of Americana, bluegrass and rock with occasionally some nice raw edges. Something happens on this EP. Parham has a nice, strong voice and I like the edgy way he writes, sings and arranges his compositions. Parham shows that he has all the ingredients to become a major name in the more underground sounding Americana-Rock styled music. Intriguing and definitely worth a listen at his webpage.
David Vidal has the same kind of pureness as the Parham album, but in a totally different way. A man with his voice and slide guitar, performing eleven of his own songs. Vidal knows how to put the blues in his music and that results in a pure, honest and personal album. Listen to the sound of his cigar box guitar, how great is that sound! When looking for some pure blues music, stop looking, buy Vidal his album.
DC Bloom does not have that pure blues sound like Vidal has, but his album is at least of the same quality. Another singer-songwriter who sings from his heart and together with a big group of fellow musicians greats a surprising mixture of sounds. Starting small with guitar, voice, soft percussion and Tuba, Bloom knows how to get the listeners attention. It’s the start of a folk-blues rock album with moments of happiness, darkness, outspoken and introvert at the same time. But always focused and with a create intensity. This is such an album that gets better and better each time you hear it, full of creativity and craftsmanship.
© Eelco Schilder

Steve Hill "Solo Recordings – Volume 2"
No Label Records; 2014

More electric blues are shown off here from this fine Canadian guitarist. I enjoyed the album well enough, but I would crave even more for a live show as he plays the guitar solo and sings, which is well enough, but he also manages to play drums with feet and guitar attachments all at the same time. It sounds like a real treat and these songs are well enough to that even as you get used to that unique approach, he’ll still manage to keep your attention. He’s even got some nice acoustic moves in here to, just to break things up a bit.
© David Hintz

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