November 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the FolkWorld webzine. The first FolkWorld issue had been uploaded in November 1997, bringing together former writers of the Folk Michel and Folksblatt paper mags. We like to revisit issue #1 (there had been a bias towards Celtic music then) and have a look at what happened to some of those featured in FolkWorld's very first outing.
In November 2016, the Battlefield Band were inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame for "Services to Performance". The Scottish traditional music group had been formed in 1969 by student friends from Strathclyde University and took its name from a Glasgow suburb. Noted for their combination of bagpipes with other instruments and for its mix of traditional songs and new material, they have released over 30 albums and undergone many line-up changes over the years.
In 1997, Davy Steele (guitar, vocals) and Mike Katz (Highland pipes, whistle) were joining Alan Reid (vocals, keyboards) and John McCusker (fiddle) and replacing singer-guitarist Alistair Russell and piper Iain MacDonald, respectively. Before joining the Battlefield Band, Davy sang with Drinkers Drouth, Ceolbeg and Clan Alba as well as making several solo albums; Los Angeles born Mike Katz had attended Edinburgh University and played in various bands and combinations, including the Scottish Gas Pipe Band and Ceolbeg.
Half joking, half in earnest, Davy Steele told FolkWorld he joined because the Batties were one of the few Scottish full-time folk bands who could live from their music. He reckoned that the basic Battlefield Band sound would remain the same, but material and approach to performance would change simply since other people are in the band.
None of the original founders have remained in the Battlefield Band. The last remaining founding member, Alan Reid, left at the end of 2010, concentrating on his musical duo with guitarist Rob van Sante who had been the Battlefield Band's sound engineer. Davy Steele had already left in 2000 and unfortunatly died the year after; these days Mike Katz holds up the flag of Scottish traditional music that undergoes a rejuvenation time and time again.
The Big Spree
When the FolkWorld webzine went online in November 1997, Fred Morrison’s Big Spree didn't exist anymore, but we found it interesting enough to tell you all about it.
The Big Spree was featuring three different Scottish pipers, namely Fred Morrison, Rory Campbell and Malcolm Stitt. Fred told us, that the idea had been to showcase the different Scottish pipes together. Their different drones and chanter sets would produce a powerful overall sound which would have a very serious feeling. "We use a lot of strong Gaelic rhythms that are groove-based and sound very Scottish. The Big Spree is something like Runrig, only with Highland Pipes."
As well as his work as a solo piper, Fred Morrison (born 1963) has played with such bands as Clan Alba and Capercaillie. In 2004 he was voted Instrumentalist of the Year in the Scots Trad Music awards. Fred also holds the record for the most Macallan Trophys at the Lorient Interceltic festival, having received the trophy nine times.
Rory Campbell has become one of the leading pipers to emerge from the Scottish folk revival of the 1990s. He was taught by his father, renowned piper and singer Roddy Campbell. In the early 1990s, Rory was a founding member of the pioneering folk band Deaf Shepherd with which he went on to record three albums. From 1999 to 2008, he joined another exciting folk band, the Old Blind Dogs.
In 1999, Deaf Shepherd bandmates Rory Campbell and Malcolm Stitt collaborated on a duo album, Field Of Bells. Malcolm's first instrument in his teens had been the bagpipes, steadily adding other instruments to his repertoire. Malcolm was a founder member of both Deaf Shepherd and Tannas, later he joined the legendary Boys Of The Lough as their guitar player.
"The organisation of the weather costed us a whole lot", the late Danny Kyle chuckled in 1997. There was not a single cloud to be seen during the 6th Isle of Bute International Folk Festival in the Firth of Clyde in Scotland, while heavy rain irritated people from Germany down to Spain.
There was lots of great music on that bute-iful island, including a concert with American songwriting legend Tom Paxton, a whisky show of Scottish singer/songwriter Robin Laing, and one of Wolfstone's last performances before its break-up at the end of the year. Undertaking a two-month European tour with guitarist John Munro and bass player Brent Miller, Australian-Scottish singer-songwriter Eric Bogle also hit the Isle of Bute to present the emigration songs of his latest album The Emigrant & The Exile.
Born in Peebles, Scotland, Eric Bogle had emigrated to Australia at the age of 25. Two of his best known songs are "No Man's Land" (or "The Green Fields of France") and "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda". In 1987, Eric Bogle was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia, "In recognition of service to the performing arts as a song writer and singer".
Bogle's latest collection of songs, Voices, was released in 2016 by Greentrax Recordings, including "A Fork In The Road", a tribute to his long-time buddy and touring partner John Munro. Greentrax have been associated with Eric Bogle since 1989. In those 28 years, Greentrax has released all live and studio albums, plus various compilations and the 5CD box set Singing The Spirit Home.
The English singer and fiddler Eliza Carthy is the daughter of folk musicians Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson (born in 1975). She had worked with fellow singer/fiddler Nancy Kerr and with her parents as Waterson–Carthy, in addition to her solo work.
Following her solo album "Heat Light & Sound", the Waterson–Carthy album "Common Tongue" and a guest appearance at her mother's self-titled album, Eliza Carthy and her new band The Kings of Calicutt published the 2-CD folk rock set "Red Rice" in 1998, nominated for the Mercury Music Prize for UK Album of the Year (now available as two separate albums, "Red" and "Rice"). FolkWorld's Christian Moll valued that traditional music from England is given a new young image with this band.
Eliza has been nominated again for the Mercury Music Prize in 2003 for her album "Anglicana", as well as the BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music. She did win the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Album, and swept the boards winning also Folk Singer of the Year and Best Traditional Track.
In 2014, Eliza Carthy was awarded the honour of an MBE for services to folk music in the Queen's Birthday Honours. A biography written by Sophie Parkes has been published in 2012. Her latest album is 2017's "Big Machine" with the 12-piece Wayward Band featuring fiddler Sam Sweeney and melodeon player Saul Rose.
Máire Ní Chathasaigh & Chris Newman
In 1997, FolkWorld reported about an outrageous incident shocking the folk music scene. Scottish-Irish group Boys of the Lough had been sacked their uilleann piper Christy O'Leary because of him touring outside the constraints of the Boys, more precisely the Irish Folk Festival in Germany with his brother Tim O'Leary. Filled with indignation, the Boys' guitarist Chris Newman left as well.
Chris had been a member of Boys of the Lough for three years. However, he is best known as the partner of Irish harper Máire Ní Chathasaigh, with whom he played since 1987. In 2009, LiveIreland.com named Chris Male Musician of the Year for his participation at the "Heartstring Sessions", featuring Máire, her sister Nollaig Casey (fiddle) and Nollaig's partner Arty McGlynn (guitar).
By the way, in 1999 Christy O’Leary teamed up with American guitar and bouzouki player Bert Deivert. They are based in Sweden, and their repertoire is made up of both Celtic and Nordic songs and tunes. One of their specialties is doing Irish song, whistle, pipes and DADGAD guitar workshops.
The founding members of traditional Irish group Danú (named after an ancient Irish goddess) met in Co. Waterford in 1994 and consolidated as a band after performing at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient in 1995. In 1997, FolkWorld editors wrote about their debut album: "This is a must for all lovers of traditional Irish music!"
Twenty years later, Danú are still going strong as one of the leading traditional Irish ensembles. They have been voted Best Traditional Group twice in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, in 2001 and again in 2004 when their version of Tommy Sands's "County Down" also won Best Original Song.
Accordionist Benny McCarthy still is the driving force of Danú. He also is a key member of several other bands including the Raw Bar Collective, Rattle The Boards and Cordeen.
Guitarist Dónal Clancy was one of the original members. After several years pursuing a career with Irish-American group Solas and touring with his father, the late Liam Clancy, he returned to Danú.
Until 2016, the band's lead singer was Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, who replaced earlier singer Ciarán Ó Gealbháin, who had in turn replaced Cárthach Mac Craith of the earliest Danú incarnation. Recently Danú welcomed traditional singer Nell Ní Chróinín into the fold.
Since the 1970s, singer-songwriter Helmut Debus sings in the Northern German dialect called Plattdütsch (which is bearing resemblances with the English language). It is said that you can feel the landscape and the atmosphere of Northern Germany in his songs (which is the home country of the Anglo-Saxon people).
He says, "There was a time when Platt was not an issue for me, it was too stupid. Plattdeutsch -- these were the old people. I just wanted to get away from it, out of the narrowness. It was not until I started myself to sing in German that I realized what I had in me -- a wonderfully poetic, musical language that had more to do with me than the other."
However, Helmut Debus has always been an ambassador for the pan-European idea. He has collaborated with various German and Dutch musicians, and most notably with the English singer-songwriter Allan Taylor.
He is performing and recording until today, though flying mostly under the radar, because he owns no computer due to his scepticism of technology. Until recently, he actually maintained no own internet presence.
In 1997, it was reported that Scottish accordionist Blair Douglas had lost all his posessions in a fire at his home on Skye. Thankfully he and his family had escaped uninjured. His friend Art Cormack had established a trust in order to buy new instruments.
To this day Blair is in great demand as a radio and film composer. He is best known though as a founder member of Celtic rock group Runrig alongside brothers Rory and Calum Macdonald.
Runrig formed in Skye in 1973 as a three-piece dance band playing wedding receptions under the name 'The Run Rig Dance Band'. Singer Donnie Munro joined the following year. Their music is described as a blend of folk and rock music, with the band's lyrics often focussing upon Scottish locations, history, politics and people, with a number of their songs sung in Scottish Gaelic.
Douglas left the band in the mid 1970s to pursue a solo career. Since 1999, the band has gained attention in Canada, following Nova Scotian singer Bruce Guthro's entry to the band.
In 2017, Runrig announced that after 45 years they would be pulling the curtain down. They announced one final tour, ending with one final show in Stirling's City Park called The Last Dance.
In 1997, English rythm'n'folk band Bigjig gave a Sunday morning concert at the Northern German folk festival Grenzenlos & Vielsaitig. Their flutist Sarah Allen was already heading for different shores.
Two years ago, Sarah Allen got together with flute-playing friends Brian Finnegan and Michael McGoldrick (Upstairs in a Tent). The group was briefly known as Three Nations Flutes and Fluke!. After their 1997 live debut album recorded at the Sidmouth Folk Festival, Michael McGoldrick left to join Scottish folk rock group Capercaillie. Flook 's line-up was complemented by Ed Boyd on guitar and John Joe Kelly on bodhrán.
At the 2006 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Flook were awarded Best Group, playing often extremely fast traditional and original instrumental Celtic music with flutes and whistles atop complex guitar and bodhrán rhythms.
In 2008 Flook took a timeout; Ed Boyd became a member of Irish all-star quintet Lúnasa (whose 1997 recording debut also had featured Michael McGoldrick). At the time being, Flook are touring again and a new album is said to be in the pipeline.
In June 1997, Alias Ron Kavana conquered the stage in the castle yard at the 1st Wolfenbütteler folk festival Grenzenlos & Vielsaitig. For the encore, Ron Kavana called Niamh Parsons on stage as well as Geraldine MacGowan, former Oísin singer and now landlady of an Irish pub in nearby Hanover. All three had recorded Ron's great song 'Reconciliation' at various stages of their careers.
Irish singer, songwriter and guitarist Ron Kavana plays a mix of folk-rock, rhythm & blues and Irish influenced music. In the 1980s, Ron formed the eclectic group Alias Ron Kavana, subsequently named "Best Live Act in the World" by Folk Roots Magazine in 1989, 1990 and 1991, respectively.
The Pogues management temporarily considered Ron as a replacement for their departing bass player Cait O'Riordan. Ron made several appearances on the "If I Should Fall From Grace With God" album , and he co-wrote "Young Ned of the Hill" with Terry Woods. The two appear together in the 1990 Ken Loach film, "Hidden Agenda," performing the Wolfe Tones' song "The Ballad Of Joe McDonnell".
Working on and off for several years, Ron released a two-disc set "Irish Songs of Rebellion, Resistance and Reconciliation" in 2006. This was followed in 2007 with the four disc set "Irish Ways: Story of Ireland in Song, Music & Poetry." Until recently, Ron and Scotsman Brian McNeill (ex Battlefield Band) formed a celebrated emcee duo for the Sunday afternoon ceilidh at the Danish Tønder Festival.
"The best festivals often make the biggest losses," a Scottish soundman said in 1997. Unfortunatly, the number of visitors was too small to finance such a major festival and Grenzenlos & Vielsaitig was never to happen again.
FolkWorld reported from the 5th Talklänge Festival in Wuppertal in July 1997. The festival was quite eclectic, with a musical spectrum ranging from classical music to experimental jazz. Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Angélique Kidjo made the audience dance with her intoxicating mix of Afro pop and Latin in the Yorùbá, Fon, French and English languages.
Angélique Kidjo had found early success in her native Benin, though continuing political conflicts led her to relocate to Paris in 1983. She became the frontsinger of Euro-African jazz/rock band Jasper van't Hof's Pili Pili. In 1995, she travelled with her husband Jean Hebrail all over Benin to record the traditional rhythms that would form the base for the Fifa album. The single "Wombo Lombo" and its video was a big success all over Africa in 1996. In 1998, she started a trilogy of albums exploring the African roots of the music of the Americas.
Angélique Kidjo has been called "Africa's premier diva" (Time Magazine) and "the undisputed queen of African music" (The Daily Telegraph). She is the recipient of the 2015 Crystal Award given by the World Economic Forum of Davos in Switzerland and has received the Ambassador Of Conscience Award from Amnesty International in 2016.
Back in 1997, German guitarist Jens Kommnick announced his Celtic jazz rock ensemble Peche Dardou, featuring uillean piper Johannes Schiefner and singer Kerstin Blodig. You never heard of Peche Dardou? Never mind, nor did we since!
However, Jens Kommnick is still with us!
In the early 1980s, Jens had his first performances in German folk clubs, inspired by songwriters and guitarists such as Hannes Wader or Werner Lämmerhirt. He became acquainted with Irish musicians and developed his particular brand of "Celtic Fingerstyle Guitar".
Together with his wife Siobhán Kennedy, Jens is a member of Irish music group Iontach, which united with German folk group Liederjan for a while. Moreover, he collaborated with various singer-songwriters such as Allan Taylor, Peter Kerlin, Helmut Debus and Reinhard Mey. It is estimated that he had been involved in more than 60 CD recordings.
In 2012, Jens became double All-Ireland Guitar Champion, soloist as well as accompanist, the first and sole German artist in the competition's history.
At 1997's Isle of Bute Folk Festival, Tom Paxton was announced: He is like whisky - he does not get older, only better! As it happens, in the same year Scottish singer/songwriter Robin Laing actually began to stage his whisky shows. And what is Scotland famous for? Of course, first of all uisge beatha, the distilled malted water of life, and secondly traditional music and song (or vice versa).
The 1997 "Angels' Share" album had been Robin's first selection of whisky-related songs; Angels' Share being the name given to the spirit lost through evaporation during maturation. Robin had collected many traditional and not-so-traditional songs on that theme, and has also written some himself such as the great "More Than Just a Dram".
Take clear water from the hill And barley from the lowlands. Take a master craftsman's skill And something harder to define, Like secrets in the shape of coppered stills Or the slow, silent, magic work of time. Oh, the spirit starts out clear, But see the transformation After many patient years When at last the tale unfolds. For the colours of the seasons will appear From palest yellow to the deepest gold. When you hold it in your hand It's the pulse of one small nation So much more than just a dram You can see it if you will - The people and the weather and the land. The past into the present is distilled.
The latest and maybe the last album in this 5-part-series, "Whisky and Death", has been released in late 2016.
Mary Jane Lamond
FolkWorld did listen to Mary Jane Lamond's 1995 debut album "Bho Thìr Nan Craobh" (From the Land of the Trees), and assessed that the young Canadian singer with her incomparably beautiful voice was reviving the traditions of her Scottish ancestors in a sympathetic way and bringing waulking songs and ballads into the present age.
Mary Jane Lamond had recorded the album while still a student at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where she studied the school's collection of 350 field recordings of traditional Scots Gaelic songs. Among the musicians on the album was fiddler Ashley MacIsaac, who was impressed with what he saw as her punk attitude, even as she was singing Gaelic songs.
Mary Jane Lamond is best known for her Top 40 hit "Horo Ghoid thu Nighean" (Stepping Song), the first single from her 1997 album "Suas e!" (Go for it!). After 2000, Lamond put her solo recording career mostly aside for a variety of other projects, including composition for film and stage. Her collaboration with fiddler Wendy MacIsaac, "Seinn," was named one of the top 10 folk and americana albums of 2012. "Seinn" eventually won a Canadian Folk Music Award for Traditional Album of the Year and a Music Nova Scotia award for Traditional/Roots Recording of the Year.
Nova Scotia fiddler Natalie MacMaster had signed a contract with the Scottish Greentrax label to make all her recordings available in Europe, including her self-produced debut "Four on the Floor" (1989), initially released on cassette only, and her latest masterpiece "Fit as a Fiddle" (1997).
For everybody interested in acquiring the Cape Breton fiddle style, she also had published a 70 minute long video tutorial, "A Fiddle Lesson - Intermediate Level," introducing specific ornamentation and bowing techniques as well as the characteristic foot percussion often used by Canadian fiddlers for rhythmic support.
Natalie MacMaster is the niece of the late Cape Breton fiddler Buddy MacMaster and the cousin of renowned fiddlers Ashley MacIsaac and Andrea Beaton. She has toured with the Chieftains and Alison Krauss and recorded with Yo-Yo Ma. In 2002, she married fiddler Donnell Leahy of the Leahy family band and moved to Ontario. They have performed and recorded together as a duo ever since. Their latest release, "A Celtic Family Christmas" (2016), has been a concept album telling the story of Christmas night in the Leahy/MacMaster household.
FolkWorld called their 1997 album "High Ground" a masterpiece that lets the Macs shine as the figureheads of Scotland once again. Its 13 songs featured their characteristic blend of Scottish ballads old and new (such as Jim Malcolm's "Lochs o' the Tay"), comical pieces (Richard Thompson's "Don't Sit On My Jimmy Shands") and topical songs (Allan Taylor's Dubrovnik anthem "Libertas Ragusa").
The folk song trio The McCalmans were formed at Edinburgh College of Art in 1964 by architecture students Ian McCalman, Derek Moffat and Hamish Bayne. The Macs toured the world as one of the most successful Scottish traditional acts, their performance based on three part harmony, humour and a deep respect for the folk tradition.
Hamish left the band in 1982 to make concertinas in Orkney and was replaced by Nick Keir. Derek died as a result of cancer in 2001 and was replaced by Stephen Quigg.
The McCalmans eventually disbanded in 2010 when Ian decided to retire from touring. He now runs the successful Kevock Digital recording studio. Nick performed across Europe with the Tolkien Ensemble, he and Stephen continued the Macs' legacy until Nick's untimely death in 2013. Stephen has produced many solo albums and often sings with his wife Pernille.
In August 1997, Irish folk singer Christy Moore did a short German tour supported by former De Dannan singer Eleanor Shanley. This was meant to promote his latest album "Graffiti Tongue," though he played mostly well-known classics and only one song from the album, "Yellow Triangle" after anti-Nazi theologian Martin Niemöller, and that was a request. Christy got quite nostalgic, remembering his first ever appearance in front of a German audience, playing with Planxty in Braunschweig in 1973.
Christy Moore had originally been a bank employee in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. During a bank strike in 1966, he went to England and became acquainted with the music diaspora. In 1972, he released his first major LP release, "Prosperous," which brought together Liam O'Flynn, Andy Irvine and Dónal Lunny who shortly thereafter formed the group Planxty.
After leaving Planxty in 1975, Christy Moore started a successful solo career. He also formed the band Moving Hearts with Dónal Lunny in 1980, and became known for his political and social commentary reflecting a left-wing, Irish republican perspective.
Since the late 1990s, Christy Moore has rigorously reduced his workload, since years of continual travelling and heavy drinking have taken their toll. His recent album "On the Road" features 24 of his most popular tracks recorded live over the past 3 years.
His brother Barry Moore, a.k.a. Luka Bloom, is a successful singer-songwriter. His nephew Conor Byrne is an accomplished traditional flutist who played the Irish Folk Festival tour in 1996 with the Maire Breatnach Band.
Old Blind Dogs
In 1997, Scottish folk group Old Blind Dogs released their fifth album, simply titled "Five". The Dogs were five years together then, and for the very first time they had a fifth member. Border piper and saxophone player Fraser Fifield had been joining the line-up of Ian F. Benzie (vocals, guitar), Jonny Hardie (fiddle, mandolin), Buzzby McMillan (cister, bass) and Davy Cattanach (percussion).
From the start, Old Blind Dogs played traditional Scottish music without being afraid of including influences from rock and jazz music and Middle Eastern rhythms. Twice the Dogs were named Folk Band of the Year at the Scots Trad Music Awards, namely 2004 und 2007, respecively.
The line-up of the band has changed frequently, with only Jonny Hardie remaining from the original group. In 1999, Jim Malcolm replaced Ian Benzie as their lead singer. In 2003, Aaron Jones joined as their bouzouki and bass player as well as adding backing vocals. Eventually, he entirely replaced Jim Malcolm who resumed his solo career.
Still going strong for 25 years! These days Old Blind Dogs is a four-piece, composed of Ian Hardie, Aaron Jones, Ali Hutton (border pipes, whistles) and Donald Hay (percussion). FolkWorld's Alex Monaghan reasoned about their latest album Room With A View (2017): "The Dogs seem to have hit the jackpot with this line-up: there isn't a disappointing moment ..."
At the 1997 Grenzenlos & Vielsaitig Festival Niamh Parsons and her band The Loose Connections had their first ever concert in Germany. She was well received, especially her beautiful acapella songs appealed to everyone in the audience.
FolkWorld considered Niamh's second recording "Loosen Up", featuring uilleann piper John McSherry (Tamalin, Lúnasa) and accordeonist Mick McAuley (Solas), as one of the best albums of 1997, and recommended her to the Irish Folk Festival tour, which she eventually did together with guitarist Graham Dunne in 2009.
Dublin-born Niamh Parson shines through her diversity, including traditional-style Irish singing as well as contemporary songwriting. From 1992 to 2016, she has released nine albums (including one with Arcady). Her 2002 album Heart's Desire won the 2003 Association for Independent Music award.
Niamh has toured extensively in Europe and the USA with the Loose Connections, the traditional group Arcady (led by ex De Dannan bodhrán player Ringo McDonagh) and, since 1999, with guitarist Graham Dunne. One of the highlights of her musical career was being asked to play before US President Bill Clinton and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern at Capitol Hill, Washington.
Everybody knows him, announced emcee Davy Steele at 1997's Isle of Bute Folk Festival, he's a legend! Tom Paxton is like whisky - he does not get older, only better!
Tom Paxton, in 1997 accompanied by guitarist Jez Luton, belongs to the most popular singer-songwriters. He has shaped the American folk song revival of the 1960s, his songs had been recorded by well-known musicians from different genres. Dave Van Ronk said,
During the 1990s, Tom Paxton also recorded children's albums and began to give workshops in songwriting. He was still writing great topical songs. At the Isle of Bute Folk Festival he humoured the grieving Tories, who had just lost elections, and a certain Camilla Parker-Bowles...
In 2009, Tom Paxton received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In January 2017, he released his sixty-third album, Boat In The Water. He is in semi-retirement, though he still performs occasional shows and did a UK tour once again in 2017.
In the summer of 1997 Swedish band Plommon had been on a successful German tour. Five young girls playing fiddle in the traditional Swedish way, Plommon are just one example with lots of young people playing how lively and healthy the traditional Swedish music scene in the 1990s had been - and still is.
All members of Plommon were under twenty years old, that is sisters Klara, Frida and Sanna Rosén, as well as Maria Persson and Ingeborg Svenennius (later replaced by Anna Elwing). The plommonkärnorna (prune pips) had met at a folk music camp in southern Sweden in the early 1990s, when being just six or seven years old.
English duo Ian Carr and Karen Tweed (who formed half of the Swedish-English band Swåp, see below) observed that "it always seems that Sweden has more and more young people playing music. There's lots of music courses in traditional music, there's a real academic interest in it there. People are very enthusiastic about it, everybody plays fiddle. The average age group is much younger than in a British folk festival. In Sweden you have got a lot of young people, they know how to dance traditionally, most of them can sing, play an instrument, whatever."
Plommon is history. In the new millennium Maria Persson joined the quartet Svanevit, featuring Anders Larsson, Anna Rynefors and Erik-Ask Upmark, which is genuinely but fashionably upgrading traditional Nordic music and song.
In 1997, the group formerly known as The Prodigals Sons & Marcy Darcy, because of the association of these two New York City bands, released their sophomore album "Raggles to Riches" under the shortened name The Prodigals. They started performing original material besides cover songs and Irish traditionals.
FolkWorld predicted quite a potential. The Prodigals has had many changes to its members over the years. At the time being, the lineup features the three original members: Gregory Grene (button accordion, lead vocals), Andrew Harkin (bass), Brian Tracey (drums), plus Galway's Dave Fahy (guitar, lead vocals).
The Prodigals themselves call their musical style jig punk, i.e. blending Celtic roots with rock and punk rhythms as did The Pogues and fellow New Yorkers Black 47 before. Their latest album "Brothers" has been released in 2016, and FolkWorld's David Hintz stated that it is far less Pogues and more of a mature rock band.
In 2008, two of their songs were played in the crime drama "Pride and Glory," starring Edward Norton and Colin Farrell.
Once upon a time there had been a Belgium-based traditional Irish band called Séan Talamh (i.e. old ground). In 1996, their singer Katia McDermott and their fiddler Luc Pilartz left to concentrate on other things. The group became Shantalla (for ease of pronunciation) and their new vocalist the Scotswoman Helen Flaherty. Their self-titled debut album "Shantalla" was released in 1999 and received rave reviews.
In 2005, Shantalla disbanded but reformed in 2011. FolkWorld's Adolf Goriup came to the conclusion that "Shantalla are some of the finest musicians in the traditional folk scene," and Alex Monaghan raved: "Instrumentally, Shantalla can be jaw-droppingly good."
With a low profile, Shantalla occasionally performs. The current line-up is Helen Flaherty (vocals), Gerry Murray (accordion), Michael Horgan (uilleann pipes), Kieran Fahy (fiddle), Simon Donnelly (guitar, bouzouki), Joe Hennon (guitar). Luc Pilartz still plays fiddle and pipes on the Belgian scene, including stints with the Flemish world music group Panta Rhei, the Trio Trad (ft. Didier Laloy) and the Duo Pilartz Gielen.
Isla St. Clair
In 1995, Isla St. Clair had devised a BBC Radio 2 series called "Tatties and Herrin," which told the story of the fishing and farming communities of Scotland's north east. The traditional and contemporary songs from the series were released in 1997 on two albums, "The Land" and "The Sea," recorded live in a village hall in Northamptonshire.
Zetta Sinclair, Isla's mother, was a talented songwriter and poet, and became a founding member of the Aberdeen Folk Club. At the club Isla came to the attention of a BBC producer and sang on her first television programme when being twelve years old. In 1971, she released her first LP "Isla St Clair sings Traditional Scottish Songs." There followed numerous appearances, both as singer and TV presenter.
Her rise to national prominence was in 1978 when she became co-host in BBC Television's The Generation Game. In 1981, the BBC offered her the chance to do a series of her own. She decided to make the successful "The Song and The Story," which involved dressing up in historical costume and explaining the social history behind the folk songs.
Isla St Clair continues to be busy on television, radio and stage. She tours with three different stage shows, including an audio visual production about songs and film in wartime. Her recording of the ancient lament "Flowers of the Forest" (commemorating the defeat of the Scottish army at the Battle of Flodden in 1513) has been featured on the 1st Battalion Scots Guards pipes and drums album "From Helmand to Horse Guards" (2011).
In 1995, English piano accordionist Karen Tweed and guitarist Ian Carr (formerly with the Kathryn Tickell Band) teamed up with Swedish fiddlers Ola Bäckström and Carina Normansson to play some music together. Karen remembers: It was hard for us to play Swedish music and hard for them to play Irish music. I think we managed to create something in between. We changed the Swedish music, they changed the Irish music, and it sounded like Swåp.
Swåp made four albums to critical acclaim exploring a fusion of traditional Swedish music, English music, and the music of Brittany and Ireland.
Karen Tweed left Swåp (and all-women folk group The Poozies) in 2007 to work on other projects. She is still in great demand as an arranger, composer and tutor.
Ian Carr, who cites one of his many influences as Shetland guitarist Peerie Willie Johnson, has developed a highly original style of accompaniment in both standard and dropped-D tunings. He released his solo album "Who He?" in 2013, and a sophomore record with Swedish fiddlers Sofia Sandén (Ranarim) and Anders Nygårds in 2016.
Ola Bäckström released his debut solo album, "Boggdansen," in 2005. Carina Normansson often plays together with nyckelharpa player Josefina Paulson (best known here as a member of Folke, Emma & Josefina).
June Tabor's 1997 album "Aleyn" (Yiddish for alone) had been recorded live at this year's UK tour. Once again, June did perform traditional and contemporary songs with her dark and romantic voice, including the Yiddish-language song 'Di Nakht' written by Aaron Domnits and Mikhl Gelbart at the Vilnius ghetto in 1942.
June Tabor's earliest public performances were at English folk clubs in the mid 1960s. At the time she was singing unaccompanied material but in 1976 she collaborated with Maddy Prior (Steeleye Span) and a full band that included Nic Jones on the Silly Sisters album and tour. In the late 1970s, June started working with guitarist Martin Simpson and pianist Huw Warren.
June stopped performing professionally for a time, working as a librarian and running a restaurant. In 1990, she recorded a folk-rock album with The Oysterband titled Freedom and Rain and went on tour with them. Over the years June has worked in various genres including traditional ballad, jazz and art song, generally with a sparse and sombre tone to it. 2005's Always is a boxed set of four CDs, spanning her whole career.
In February 2018, Topic Records will release "An Introduction to June Tabor", featuring 15 selected tracks from her Topic albums recorded between her 1976 debut, Airs and Graces and 2011’s Ragged Kingdom.
Photo Credits: (1) Davey Steele, (3) Fred Morrison, (7) Máire Ní Chathasaigh & Chris Newman, (9) Danú, (11) Helmut Debus, (15) Ron Kavana, (17) Angélique Kidjo, (24) The McCalmans, (26)-(27) Christy Moore, (28) Old Blind Dogs, (30)-(31) Niamh Parsons (and Graham Dunne) (32) Tom Paxton, (34) Plommon, (36) Shantalla, (39) Swåp (by The Mollis); (2) Battlefield Band, (5) Eric Bogle, (6) Eliza Carthy, (8) Máire Ní Chathasaigh & Chris Newman, (10) Danú, (12) Helmut Debus, (13) Blair Douglas, (18) Angélique Kidjo, (20) Iontach, (21) Robin Laing, (22) Mary Jane Lamond & Wendy MacIsaac, (29) Old Blind Dogs, (33) Tom Paxton, (35) Svanevit, (37) Shantalla, (38) Isla St. Clair, (40) Karen Tweed, (41) June Tabor, (43ff) Cover Artwork (unknown/website); (4) Fred Morrison, (16) Ron Kavana, (19) Jens Kommnick, (25) The McCalmans, (42) June Tabor (by Walkin' Tom); (14) Flook (by Michael G. Rose); (23) Natalie MacMaster (by Kirk Stauffer/Wikipedia).