FolkWorld #68 03/2019

CD Reviews

Calan "Deg 10"
Sain, 2018

This superb Welsh band has been going for 10 years and amazingly this is the first time I have ever heard of them - where have I been! To celebrate their anniversary, the band has released this compilation, featuring 11 previously released tracks, three brand new songs, two live recordings and two remixes. Calan present sparkling traditional tunes, calm contemporary and original songs as well as lively folk rock tracks. The music is steeped in Welsh traditions yet sometimes ventures to modern Breton music (particularly in the remixes), English songwriting, or rock/ pop. Some of the songs are in English others in Welsh language.
Calan has everything to go for – they are great instrumentalists , with fiery fiddles, harmonious harp, attractive accordion and guitars and even on occasions bagpipes. These instruments sometimes are in a very acoustic trad setting, sometimes with the edge of drums and more. Their female singer Bethan Rhiannon has a charming voice. With a whole 72 minutes of folk music bliss, this album does not seem to leave the car CD player, with Calan directly securing the status of my favourite Welsh folk band. And stop press Calan have been confirmed as one of the headliners of Folk East Festival in Suffolk - looking forward to experiencing this bright and promising band in live.
© Michael Moll

The Helen Flaherty Band "Gazing at the Moon"
Den Appel Rekords, 2018

Article: The Outlandish Knight

Scottish singer Helen Flaherty is internationally renowned as front singer of Belgium‘s finest Scottish/Irish band Shantalla. Since a couple of years, the singer performs mainly with her own band. This band has also quite a pedigree of musicianship, featuring celebrated Belgian musicians: guitarist Philip de Masure, fiddler Siard de Jong and flautist Ies Muller. As you would expect from Helen, the album is focussed on a very pleasant selection of ballads of Irish and Scottish origin. Yet there are a few interesting contemporary songs too, such as Guido Piccard‘s „Edith‘s Lament“ about a soldier in World War I, and a couple of sets of lively tunes. Helen‘s sympathetic and pleasant singing is the star of the show of this highly enjoyable album.
© Michael Moll

Catarina dos Santos "Radio Kriola - Reflections on Portuguese Identity"
ARC Music, 2018

This album explores Portuguese music in all its shapes from around the Portuguese influenced world. Music traditions from Cape Verde, Angola, Brazil and Portuguese Fado all melt together into a wonderful fusion celebrating their similarities yet respecting their distinctiveness. This is relaxed and beautifully arranged world music with a fine dose of jazz. Perhaps as a way of paying respect to her father’s radio programme which was a strong influence to her style, the album is set up like a personal radio playlist, with some (limited) spoken word giving the CD a bit of a radio flair.
A chilled soundtrack of the summer - for the summer or to bring sunshine into the winter months.
© Michael Moll

Anna & Elizabeth "The invisible comes to us"
Smithonian Folkways, 2018

Artist Video

These two singers from Virginia and Vermont have found the songs for this album in field recording archives - songs that were recorded in kitchens and living rooms in their respective home states. Anna & Elizabeth’s recordings brings these songs to today’s audiences, filling them with life again. Many are sung with attractive harmonies and simple arrangements, in more of an Anglo folk style. However some are much more experimental - „By the shore“ for example is a storytelling experiment, with sound effects along with spoken word.
© Michael Moll

James Patrick Gavin "chewing the fat"
Sleight of Hand Records, 2017

Artist Video

This is the debut solo album of Irish folk musician James Patrick Gavin, hailing from North London, but with musical and family roots running from Northern Ireland to the Basque Country. He may be better known to folk fans as one third of top London trio Teyr.[61]
The album explores Gavin’s musical heritage and actuality, navigating the lay-lines between the London Irish and Fermanagh. With a focus on James’ exquisite musicianship on fiddle, viola, guitar and mandolin, the album is unusual and imaginative. It features on several tracks field recordings with spoken Gaelic and English word from interviews with Philomena Gavin, providing intros or centre pieces to fiddle tunes or songs. There are also field recordings of birds and London traffic to be heard in a few places. In addition to fiddle tunes, there are also a number of songs on the album, sung by Seamus Gavin or Stephen Muldoon. Many of the tracks are written by James. Recorded with a number of friends, including his wonderful Teyr companions Dominic Henderson (on uilleann pipes and whistle) and Tommie Black-Roff (on accordion), the album has frequently a very full sound, and it’s true to say that the album has a few surprises. What a wonderful tribute to Gavin’s family heritage.
© Michael Moll

Hamish Napier "The Railway"
Own label, 2018

Hamish Napier, seasoned Scottish flautist and composer, dedicates this new album to the old Speyside Railway line, following his debut album “The River” which was all about the river Spey. This album was commissioned by the new Highland Heritage & Cultural Centre in the formerly derelict Grantown East railway station, which was opened in November 2018. As part of the research for the album, Hamish spoke to three railwaymen, now in their 90s, who used to work on the Great North of Scotland Railways. Some of their stories are retold in the booklet (alongside historic photos of the railway) and inspired the music on this album.
The tunes are all composed by Hamish, and there are also two songs written and sung by Findlay Napier. The tunes are built around Hamish’s whistle and flute (and piano) playing, yet they also feature Fraser Stone on drums, Ewan Robertson on guitar, James Lindsay on double bass, Patsy Reid on fiddles, cello and viola, and Ross Ainsley on pipes - and not to forget the strathspey railway itself on whistles, wheels, brakes and chattering folk on the platform, and a Broomhill sheep on vocals! This is a pretty amazing album to celebrate all those lost railways of Scotland (and indeed anywhere else in the world), and the people associated with it. I’ll be excited to find out what theme a third solo album of Hamish might take.
© Michael Moll

Piccola Banda di Cornamusa "Siamo qui a cantar la Stela - noels, carols, stelle"
Felmay, 2018

FolkWorld Xmas

Not everybody (not everybody in my family for sure!) would go as far as this statement of the sleeve notes - that the sound of bagpipes immediately evokes the spirit and the atmosphere of Christmas. Yet we do know that bagpipes are linked in Southern Europe to religious celebrations. This band, of ten musicians from Northern Italy and the Swiss Canton of Ticino, plays bagpipes from Central France in various sizes. The album also features solo and accompanied singing of Caterina Sangineto, as well organ playing. The combination of gentle solo singing with the blast of pipes, organ and other instruments is certainly impressive. The album features Italian Christmas songs blended with French and English carols. The album has a seasonal flair, and most will find at least some of the carols sound familiar. You do have to like the sounds of bagpipes though to appreciate this album.
© Michael Moll

Tommy & Saundra O’Sullivan "Safe Home"
Own label, 2018

Tommy O’Sullivan is known on the Irish folk scene both as touring musician and singer - with Sliabh Notes, Paddy Keenan and solo. More recently, he has also built a reputation as trad Irish pub landlord (of O’Sullivan’s Courthouse Pub in Dingle). This is his first duet album with wife Saundra, whom he met in Texas at an Irish music retreat, and who provides lovely harmonies to Tommy’s singing. The album features contemporary folk songs plus a couple of traditionals, bridging Irish folk and Americana in style. While this is a duo album, there is a host of well known friends from the Irish folk scene providing a helping hand - including Mairtin O Connor, Cathal Hayden and Gerry O Britney.
The album has a wonderfully relaxed and warm feel; a good old fashioned album of folk songs.
© Michael Moll

An Crann Og "Fuaim an Chiunais"
Own label, 2018

A stunning album of beautiful Gaelic music - its mature sound makes a look at the sleeve pictures even more surprising as these teenage musicians look very youthful indeed. The Gaelic songs and music are outstanding indeed - the harmony singing is perfect, and the accompanying music is of highest quality, often gentle but sometimes with the edge of folk rock. The tracks on this album are an appealing collection of mostly traditional Gaelic songs, plus three sets of tunes. Perhaps the most surprising song though is the title track of the album - a Gaelic version of Simon & Garfunkel‘s „Sound of Silence“, and the musicians manage to turn this well-known song into something that would easily pass as a beautiful ancient traditional Gaelic song.
The sleeve notes are all in Gaelic, as is their website, thus I could not find out too much about this inspiring young band, other than that it appears to be a Donegal community project to promote traditional Irish music to younger generations, and has so far released two CDs. Manus Lunny has had his hand in helping the youngsters arrange the music on this album. Listening to this CD, it is obvious that we are hearing here some of the Irish music stars of the future.
© Michael Moll

Les Poules a Colin "Morose"
Steeplejack Music, 2017

Artist Video

Given recent exponents of Québécois musicians on the international folk scene, we have grown to have highest expectations of traditional bands from Quebec. The Quebec band Les Poules a Colin does not disappoint: the four young ladies and one gent, all in their 20s, have created their own style of wonderful energetic and unmistakably Québécois music. For their latest album, the band found lesser known French Canadian, Breton and Louisiana traditional songs. If you do not listen to the lyrics you could not guess that the topics of these French language songs tend be on the darker side, as the album just spills of life. The hallmark of the band are the beautiful female vocals with some great harmony singing. These are paired with violin, guitar, banjo, bass, mandolin, piano and the quintessential Québécois instrument of foot percussion. Superb.
© Michael Moll

Jean-François Belanger "Les vents orfevres"
Les Productions de l’homme-Renard, 2014

Artist Video

Another highly talented musician from Quebec, yet this album has a very different sound to what we would expect from that part of the world. Jean-Francois Belanger ventures into Scandinavian traditional music territories, dedicating his talents to those wonderful and unique Scandinavian instruments of nyckelharpa, tenorharpa and hardanger fiddle, with their impressively rich sounds. His Scandinavian inspired compositions are gentle and mesmerising, and have a captivating natural flow and poetic flair. The music flirts with classical and early years styles, in a very distinct Scandinavian way. The musician has enlisted the help of a number of outstanding traditional and early years musicians from North America, including cellist Natalie Haas, guitarist Yann Falquet of Genticorum, and the Cludel String Quartet.
© Michael Moll

Kiran Young Wimberley and the McGraths "Celtic Psalms - Rest in the Shelter"
Own label, 2018

The idea of this album is simple - take biblical psalms and arrange them to traditional Celtic melodies. The resulting new paraphrased psalms are convincing and enchanting - the sweet voices of Kiran and the McGraths (Declan,Kelly, Ellen and Chloe), solo and in harmony, arranged appealingly in a trad Irish style, makes this a listening experience well removed from the usual church hymns. The singers are ably backed by a range of traditional musicians including renowned John McSherry on pipes and flutes, Donal O Connor on fiddle, Neil Martin on cello and Eilis Lavelle on harp.
© Michael Moll

Clann Mhic Ruairi "Suile"
Own label, 2015

From Donegal, Ireland’s heartland of traditional Gaelic music, comes this family band consisting of brothers Tony, Aodh, Sean and Donal, and Tony’s daughter Megan. Their love for traditional Gaelic songs is clearly displayed in their music, with wonderful and often contemporary interpretations of old Donegal songs. All being great singers - both solo and in harmony - the band have recorded a convincing collection songs, including powerful versions of „Dulaman“ (very different to the classic Altan version) or „An Baitslear“, and mesmerisingly beautiful ballads like “Fear a Bhata” (with Megan on lead vocals and piano) and „Mal Bhan Ni Chuileannain“. In addition to the family‘s contribution of Piano, guitar and percussion, some guest musicians can be heard on few of the tracks including (as on the Celtic Psalms album above!) John McSherry on uilleann pipes, Donal O‘Connor on fiddle and Neil Martin on Cello.
© Michael Moll

Brian o hEadhra & Fiona MacKenzie "Tir - Highland life & lore"
Anam Communications, 2018

Artist Video

Surprisingly, this is the first duo album of this couple from the Highlands, after having worked and been for some 20 years together. They played together in Anam and Cruinn, solo, and Fiona has also played in Mackenzie and Seelyhoo. Both individually and in their various projects, they have become renowned for their Gaelic singing and songwriting. Tracks on this album take me back to some of their highs of their career - for example the contemporary powerful arrangement of the opener, traditional „An long eireannach“, reminds me of one of one of my all-time favourite albums “Leetera” of Fiona‘s previous band Seelyhoo; others remind me of Anam albums. Yet other songs are more ethereal, including the only non-Gaelic song of the album - Latin “Deus Auribus“. The material on the album is a mix of traditional and self-penned songs. Fiona‘s hauntingly beautiful singing still has this make-the-hair-at-back-of-neck-stand quality, and combined with Brian’s relaxed and warm singing style there are some sweet harmonies to be heard too. Mike Vaas helped with production and instrumentation, and other guests include Keith Morrison on keyboard, bass and percussion and Innes White on guitar and mandolin. It may be a late duo debut but a very welcome one it is indeed.
© Michael Moll

Emilyn Stam & Filippo Gambetta "Shorelines"
Borealis Records, 2018

Artist Video

This album celebrates the collaboration of two exceptional musicians from two sides of the big pond: Italian accordionist Filippo Gambetta and Canadian fiddler and pianist Emilyn Stam. Having met at Vancouver Folk Festival in 2003, it took them 13 years to rekindle their musical friendship and start this duo project – better late than never! On the album they have created their very own musical worlds, influenced by their musical backgrounds, with mostly new compositions freely flowing in all sorts of musical directions. There are new Polskas and Mazurkas, schottisches, bourees or waltzes, as well as compositions with more unusual and less danceable sounds. The tunes spark of openness and the joyfulness of playing together.
© Michael Moll

Dallahan "Smallworld"
Westpark Music, 2019

Artist Video

A powerful and convincing blend of Scottish, Irish and Balkan Folk music and contemporary music styles including jazz and pop is brewed by these five superb musicians. Energetic Celtic tunes are followed by chilled songs based on traditional lyrics but presented in a new indie folk style; this gives the old songs a completely different exciting new feel. Some of the songs pleasantly remind me of one of my favourite contemporary folk bands of the 90s, Bigjig. As another surprise, the album also features two cool Eastern European songs - Google searches seem to suggest that one is Bulgarian, the other Hungarian - courtesy of Hungarian violinist and singer Jani Lang. Jani’s band colleagues are Irish singer and guitarist Jack Badcock, Scottish banjo player Ciaran Ryan plus accordionist Andrew Waite and double bass player Bev Morris. Dallahan’s sound is unique, with sharp and catchy arrangements. This is a super-cool album, and as one of the first albums of 2019 this is immediately a winner and no doubt one of the must-buys of the year.
© Michael Moll

Genticorum "Avant l‘orage"
Own label, 2018

Artist Video

With already six albums under their belt, Genticorum are one of the well-established bands of the French-Canadian folk scene. The trio has changed its line-up this time - Yann Falquet (guitar, button accordion, Jews harp, vocals) and Pascal Gemme (violin, foot percussion, vocals) are joined by Nicholas Williams on flute, piano accordion and vocals. There’s a fair share of high energy interplay of fiddle, guitar, flute and feet, as well as the band’s trademark powerful harmony singing. The album features a number of French-spoken traditional songs, often with counter-singing, with wonderful atmospheric musical arrangements. The tunes are a mix of trad and own materials. And as a new nuance of the updated line-up, the album also features tracks with two accordions.
© Michael Moll

Agricantus "Akousticos Vol 1"
CNI, 2018

Sicilian band Agricantus was formed 40 years ago, and after a five year break, they returned on the folk scene in 2013. The very contemporary and experimental music on this album is perhaps the last you would expect of a 40-year-old folk band. On Akousticos, the musicians cleverly merge Italian and Mediterranean traditions with world, Ambient, jazz and other music styles.  While the music has an electronic flair, electronics are more the back-drop to the music electronics complementing the acoustic instruments: It’s the wide range of wind instruments- with reeds and without -, piano and percussion along with evocative vocals that create the atmosphere of the album. The current lineup of Agricantus features Anita Vitale (lead vocal, Fender Rhodes, piano), Mario Crispi (ethnic wind instruments, vocals), Mario Rivera (6 string acoustic bass, vocals), Giovanni Lo Cascio (drum set, percussion). This music is haunting and unusual, often intense and emotional but always exciting.
© Michael Moll

The Kilkennys "Blowin’ in the wind"
Pinorrekk Records, 2018

Traded in the sleeve notes as “the next Dubliners”, this Irish Quartet proves on the album that they are strong balladeers, with powerful harmony singing. And some of the choice of materials takes us indeed back to the Dubliners - several songs have been recorded previously by the Dubliners, including “the Molly Mcguires”, “Farewell to Carlingford” or “Follow me up to Carlow. These and some of the other ballads - such as Luka blooms “You couldn’t have come at a better time” - indeed remind us of the Dubliners at the height of their career. Some of the more schmaltzy songs are less my cup of tea – e.g. “As I leave behind Neidin” - but these remind also of a Dubliner, Paddy Reilly. The band shows also that instrumentally they are strong, on their bodhran/whistle/uilleann pipes, guitar/banjo/mandolin, bass/acoustic guitar and guitar/banjo/mandolin.
© Michael Moll

Rura "In praise of home"
Own label, 2018

Artist Video

Rura has been celebrated for several years as one of the up and coming Scottish folk bands. Their latest album is different to their predecessors - most of all because Rura’s singer Adam Holmes has left the band. Thus the new album is, apart from a couple of tracks with spoken word, fully instrumental. Given that I felt with previous albums that the songs were very different in style to the instrumentals, for me the new album is much more harmonious. Overall the music is more atmospheric and less wild - although there is still some fire in the belly. Fiddle and pipes lead the tunes with catchy melodies, which emerge from a soundscape of guitar, keys and percussion. “I’ll never forget” incorporates to great effect the spoken word of Sheila Littlejohn, the grandmother of the band’s David Foley, reflecting on the family’s emigration from Jamaica to Scotland when she was 13.
The album has been carefully crafted throughout, and has an elegant and exiciting flow. For me this is Rura’s masterpiece.
© Michael Moll

Perry Stänbeck "Dekadansorkestern II"
Go Folk, 2018

Swedish singer Perry Stänbeck has been living in Denmark for years, yet this is very much a Swedish release. The songs are all in Swedish language. The musical language is more varied than Swedish, as the singer moves between Blues, Jazz, Roots, Country and Pop/Rock. The songs are written by Swedish songwriters like Cornelis Vreeswijk, Evert Taube and Perry himself. Not knowing any of those, some of the lighter jazz material reminds me stylistically of Swedish singer Lisa Ekdahl, other songs are perhaps closer to blues or country rock. The music features his quartet of guitar, drums, percussion and double bass, as well as a brass section on some tracks. It may not strictly be folk, but I very much enjoyed this varied album.
© Michael Moll

Karan Casey "Hieroglyphs that tell the tale"
Vertical Records, 2018

Karan Casey is best known as lead singer of America’s Irish folk heroes Solas. This album shows Karan as an even more versatile contemporary folk singer. The album features a very individual choice of songs – ranging from covers of Bob Dylan, Eliza Gilkyson or Janis Ian via a traditional to three own songs. The music is wide ranging, from trad Celtic via jazz and blues to Americana. And also the arrangements are diverse - as is the range of musicians featured, from Scottish and international scenes featuring string arrangements, brass arrangements, flute, concertina and more. Produced by Capercaillie’s Donald Shaw, guests include Karen Matheson, Ewan Vernal, Michael McGoldrick and many more. Yet the star of the show throughout is Karan‘s beautiful gentle voice.
© Michael Moll

Flook "Ancora"
Flatfish Records, 2019

Artist Video

Flook are back – and with gusto! A whole 14 years have passed since the last album[31] of one of the most brilliant Celtic folk bands of the Noughties – and with “Ancora” we are fully reminded why we have so dearly missed these favourite four. I may be biased as Flook did play some 15 years ago a very special private concert for me (the very first, private, “Folk at the Froize”) – but Flook have certainly made their unique mark on the folk scene at the beginning of this century.
And I am pleased to say that Flook remain as ingenious as they always have been – in fact the sound of “Ancora” follows on so closely to their 2005 album “Haven” that the recoding could have been made in the same recording session. As always, the interplay is incredibly tight and full of virtuosity, passion and skill. Brian Finnegan and Sarah Allen play their magic of beautifully interwoven flute sounds, occasionally varying with whistles (Brian) or accordion (Sarah). John Joe Kelly gives the music the heartbeat, proving that he remains one of the leading bodhran players around. Last not least, brilliant Ed Boyd rounds off the sound with his guitar, bouzouki and piano playing.
The majority of tunes on “Ancora” are written by Brian or Sarah - full of flair and imagination - with the remainder composed by contemporary folk artists. While there are a number of illustrious guests on the album (including Phil Cunningham, Patsy Reid, Eva Tejador, hurdy gurdy player Matthias Loibner), you would hardly notice them - Flook’s own sound is just so powerful in itself. Their music is full of agility, ideas and rhythm, often fiery but sometimes beautifully delicate; always adventurous and unique. Their new album will utterly delight all their fans, and will no doubt win them many more friends. I can’t wait to see them on their UK tour later this spring. Welcome back!
© Michael Moll

Riccardo Tesi & Banditaliana "Argento"
Visage Music, 2018

Artist Video

As perhaps Italy’s most outstanding accordionists and folk music composers, Riccardo Tesi has a long back catalogue of CDs. And while his latest Banditaliana album features the lively and unique sound that Riccardo is famous and loved for, “Argento” equally offers a number of surprises. Riccordo’s quartet features long term musical companions, singer and guitarist Maurizio Geri and saxophonist Claudio Carboni, as well as wonderful percussionist and singer Gigi Biolcati. Yet there is a host of guest musicians featured on the album. Most notably, there is a superb song “Donna Guerriera” featuring some of Italy’s best singers – as featured in Riccordo’s Bella Ciao project: Ginevra Di Marco, Lucilla Galeazzi, Elena Ledda and Luisa Cottifogli. And the Basque Country’s txalaparta sensation Kepa Junkera also makes an appearance on one of the tracks. The music on “Argento” is lively and uplifting, showcasing the talent of this band. Top notch.
© Michael Moll

McDermott's 2 Hours Vs Levellers & Oysterband "Besieged"
On The Fiddle Recordings, 2019

Artist Video www.burbrid

McDermott's 2 Hours is the musical vehicle of singer, songwriter and playwright Nick Burbridge.[29] Brighton-based, Nick started infusing Irish music with folk rock and a punk twist at the same time Shane MacGowan[65] came up with the idea as well and The Pogues became a worldwide success. McDermott's 2 Hours never did unfortunatly, though Nick wrote both catchy and sophisticated songs about the Irish diaspora in Britain and the Troubles back in the homeland. Among his early fans were The Levellers,[66] who would later cover his spirited "Dirty Davey" about death in police custody.
Now Nick feels he's Besieged, and it is said to be the final McDermott's 2 Hours album. Indeed, the album's awesome opener about the firebird escaping the fire might refer to parting and starting anew. Jeremy Cunningham and Simon Friend from the Levellers, Al Scott and Dil Davies from the Oysterband,[63] as well as fiddlers Ben Paley and Tim Cotterell provide the powerful backing for Nick and a dozen ingenious lyrics covering issues such as child abuse and the Crusades in equal measure. To an increasing degree, Nick's swansong leans on the electric guitar compared to his previous recordings. Then, "Erin Farewell" is a modern folk ballad with a prosaic view on Irishmen abroad. Beautifully done!
Nick Burbridge retiring? Oh no, please don't! Would be a pity! I will always hope that he did not hang up his guitar on the wall for all time. Early birds and purchasers of the "Besieged" album also receive McDermott's 2 Hours Best-of compilation "Anticlockwise" from 2013,[52] which is an enjoyable fourteen-track run through Nick's 20 years back catalogue.
© Walkin' T:-)M

"Breakfast with the Craic Addicts"
Own label, 2018

Artist Video thecraicaddicts.

Article: A Happy Balance Between Extremes

German CD Review

The Craic Addicts from Sligo in the North West of Ireland have their fingers in the pie for half a decade. The original line-up had been Sarah Jane Barry (flute), Fiachra Cunningham (guitar, fiddle) and Peter Crann (percussion). Soon after, Fionnuala Kennedy (mandolin, five-string-banjo) joined the team, and Austrian fiddler Claudia Schwab[56] and Ray Coen (electric bass) replaced Fiachra and Sarah, respectively. Until now, they didn't make a name internationally, though they had a regular Tuesday night residency in The Swagman Bar in Sligo ( for this entire five years. During the period they build up a large repertoire. Furthermore, it soon turned out that they had something different to say musically. They developed their own musical genre, which they call themselves "funked-up trad and folked-up pop". This means that somebody introduces a piece of music--not necessarily an Irish dance tune or an Irish ballad, but could be an old pop song as well--and the lads and lasses turn it topsy-turvy and put it through the wringer.
Eventually, they decided to capture some of their favourite music on an album; and here you are, a wholesome breakfast of 12 varied and tasty dishes. There are traditional songs such as "My Lagan Love" and "The Saucy Sailor" (indeed, a whole lot reminds me of Steeleye Span on crack). Regarding instrumental music, dance tunes such as the traditional "Jim Ward's Jig", Maurice Lennon's "Golden Stud" reel and the old-time breakdown "Elzic's Farewell" rub shoulders with the traditional Macedonian "Sto Imala Ksmet Stamena" and the late Austrian pop/rap icon Falco's 1985 chart hit "Rock Me Amadeus." (The latter is completed with "Jenny's Chickens" reel. But wasn't the girl's name Jeanny? Ah, no, that was a different one anyway!)
© Walkin' T:-)M

Ross & Ali "Symbiosis II"
Symbiosis Records, 2018

Artist Video

Ross Ainslie[36] and Ali Hutton met at Perthshire's Vale of Atholl Pipe Band, led by the late great Gordon Duncan, when they were just twelve years of age. Since then they pursued musical careers in outfits such as Salsa Celtica,[54] Old Blind Dogs[63] and the Treacherous Orchestra.[57] Eventually they got back together again to focus on a smaller line-up. Their 2017 debut album "Symbiosis" was an instant success and let them win the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in the Best Duo category. This is now followed by Part II, a beautiful album of contemporary Scottish music. It is full to the brim with their fine compositions; the only exemption is "Beautiful Goretree," a delicate reel from the pen of the late Donegal fiddler Tommy Peoples.[67] Besides Highland pipes and whistles they employ acoustic and electric guitars, cittern and banjo; fellow artists such as Patsy Reid (strings) or Duncan Lyall (synthesizer) make a significant contribution. Thus, they are moving away from the acoustic setting of Part I, and simply enjoying themselves, to an adventuresome and experimenting soundscape. Ross and Ali go through different moods from caressing heart and soul to challenging conceptions what trad music is supposed to be. In the end, it might become quite Gordian but the knot is cut in good time.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Agam Agee & Jon Sousa "Ceol na gCarad"
Own label, 2018

Artist Video www.adam

"Ceol na gCarad" is an Irish phrase meaning Music of Friendship, and this is exactly what Agam Agee and Jon Sousa have to offer. They began playing together way back in 2005 in Boulder, Colorado. Both spent a whole year in Ireland in 2008 and drew their inspiration from the vibrant session scene in Ennis, County Clare. In 2014, they released their debut duo album, "Suantraí."[61] Their sophomore recording, "Ceol na gCarad," seamlessly ties in with Adam's soulful but powerful execution on the fiddle and Jon's perceptive guitar backing effortlessly sneaking in. This is deeply rooted in the tradition with just a slight touch of the required up-dating to make it digestible for a contemporary audience. Their fine selection ranges from impulsive dance tunes to graceful airs. You may listen to traditional music, though "Lad O'Beirne's Reel" is executed here quite unusually in the key of F, and the "Man of the House" is played in a D minor version. Tunes such as Maurice Lennon's "Road To Garrison" are tuned down to C to achieve a greater impact. With fiddler Omer Dumas's "Reel du Forgeron" we undertake a detour to French Canada, and both make a contribution with an original track, Adam's free-flowing slow air "Heather Island" and Jon's solo fingerstyle piece "Farewell to Belfast," respectively.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Bene + Cormac "Wavelength"
Own label, 2018

Artist Video beneandcormac.

Is it that both artists are on the same wavelength, i.e. their minds are like one? Or meant to be a measure between two identical high points, technically speaking? Fiddle and guitar duo Benedict Morris from Glasgow and Cormac Crummey from Belfast are releasing their joint recording debut. Bene had been inspired by the playing of Irish fiddlers such as the late Tommy Peoples and and Scotsman Aidan O'Rourke (Lau and many other outfits); he already toured with several dance shows and shared a stage with Glasgow-based quintet Ímar at the Tønder Festival; he has just been confirmed as a finalist in BBC Radio Scotland's Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2019.
Cormac Crummey has toured with artists such as Cúig; he recently teamed up with flutist Alan Doherty (Gráda) and fiddler Tola Custy (Calico, Guidewires). Bene and Cormac only met five years ago at Sligo's Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. They are still in their early twenties, yet being skillful performers they picked up demanding tunes which require courage and capability. Cormac keeps a steady beat, but also manages to flat-pick one tune or another. They have added a full band, utilizing banjo (Liam Doherty), double bass (Lúnasa's Trevor Hutchinson), keyboards (Conor Broderick) and percussion (Ciara Ni Chonghaile, Cúig's Cathal Murphy). With the latter also taking up the electric guitar, power of impact, elaborate arrangements and touches of jazz, funk and rock music are ensured. There is an interesting selection of some original music composed in Irish and Scottish traditional vein and also pieces from seasoned artists such as Aidan O'Rourke, Mike Vass, Jeremy Kittel and Hamish Napier, as well as relative newcomers such as David Lombardi (Fourth Moon) and Ted Kelly (Moxie) . For good measure, there is a traditional Manx tune, "Ah Jerrey Yn Teihill," and Cormac presents a delicate guitar solo with the tender "Teacht an Earraigh," which has been written by German multi-instrumentalist Jens Kommnick.[38][44]
After a very successful album launch tour, the lads declare that they would love to gig together for a while and see where it takes them. Watch out!
© Walkin' T:-)M

Gary Innes "Imminent"
GHI Records, 2019

Gary Innes from Spean Bridge, Lochaber in the Scotttish Highlands resigned from an athletic career in shinty playing (a hockey-like team game played with stick and ball) and took up a peculiar purple accordion instead. Fittingly, he offered a tune called "The Caman Man" on his "Era" album[63] (shinty is called camanachd in Scottish Gaelic, and hurling in Ireland). Recently he composed "Tommy Walsh's Jig," dedicated to the Kilkenny All-Star hurler, which is featured on Gary's new album. One may argue that both shinty and accordion playing require skills such as maintaining (the possession of a ball or the continuation of a musical tradition) and contesting (the opposing team or fellow accordionists at a music competition).
Besides his own outfit, Gary Innes is involved in the groups Mànran[62] and Box Club.[36] In 2017, he won the title Instrumentalist of the Year at the Scots Trad Awards. In the same year, he released his album "Era" and received much praise for his original music. His new solo album, "Imminent" (the title refers to the imminent arrival of Gary's first child last spring, and thus the joy and pain, the hopes and fears that life brings along), follows the same path, all tunes have been composed by Gary himself (including the "Reel Runrig," dedicated to Scotland's heroes he was allowed to join on their final shows).[68] Indeed, Gary actually opened a new door and wrote the lyrics of three songs included here. Songwriter Ross Wilson (a.k.a. Blue Rose Code)[65] sang vocals on "Dream Fields," Karen Matheson[59] of Capercaillie fame delivered the "Swan Song," a lament and hymn dedicated to friends who passed away before their time. Gary himself had a ball rendering himself "Starlight;" people who take up the accordion and a purple one in the first place should have the bravery to sing after all, I suppose.
This is a pleasing and well-produced record altogether. Especially because many of Gary's musician friends had one finger or another in the pie: Ali Hutton (guitar, Highland pipes), Conal McDonagh (uilleann pipes, flute, whistle), Damien O'Kane (banjo), Ewen Henderson (fiddle), Fraser Speirs (harmonica), Angus Lyon (keys), James Lindsay (double bass), Steve Byrnes (bouzouki, drums).
© Walkin' T:-)M

Andrew Cadie "Half-Witted, Merry & Mad"
Steeplejack Music, 2018

Artist Video www.andrew

Born in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, Andrew Cadie studied traditional music at Newcastle University, supervised by Shetland fiddler Chris Stout and Northumbrian piper and fiddler Kathryn Tickell (who herself grew up playing the fiddle with the renowned shepherd and traditional musician Will Taylor). He afterwards spent a decade busking and fiddling away on the streets of Europe. It was a lonesome occupation, so after moving permanently to Germany, he joined forces with guitarist Mark Bloomer to form the Broom Bezzums duo. Touring up and down High Germany and releasing five albums,[39][44][49] the time seemed right to reconnect with the naked facts and raw beauty of unaccompanied and solo fiddle playing.
There was one William Vickers who compiled a manuscript in Newcastle in the early 1770s (40 years after Playford's Dancing Master) in an effort to gather fiddle and pipe tunes that were doing the rounds in the country. He featured age-old Northumbrian tunes as well as pieces that came all the way from Scotland, Ireland, South England, and even France and Germany. He also included a poem in his tunebook that portrays musicians and their followers as half-witted, merry and mad.
William Vickers' collection was the source for many folk musicians in Northumberland, including the revival band High Level Ranters in the 1960s and fiddler Stewart Hardy only recently.[67] Andrew Cadie himself browsed through every page and played all 600 tunes. For this recording, he selected a couple of mostly forgotten pieces to revive them and revitalise a rich tradition. It is a splendid mix of partially obscure tunes with their modal sound characteristics. There are archaic reels, triple-time hornpipes and stirring songs airs. For example, the dance tune "The Cellar Door Key" turns out to be a variant of the well-known Jacobite song "Cam Ye O’er Frae France." "Sleepy Maggie" is a very popular reel in contrast, especially the variant called "Jenny's Chickens" (see the Craic Addicts review above). "Lads of Our Alley" is also to be found all over Britain and Ireland, including an untitled reel played by the late Irish fiddler Tommy Peoples.[67] Andrew is inclined to take up challenges on the fiddle; so he is crazy enough to perform "The Mad Frenchman" in the key of Eb. He also introduces overtones and double stops; probably many of these bow techniques have been known in Vickers' time.
Andrew has produced short but excellent sleeve notes, and bids farewell with the request that more people should attend to Vickers' tunebook. Last but not least, I would like to mention the one and only exception Andrew has included, namely the fiddle-singing song, "Sair Fyel’d Hinny." It is not in Vickers' but Andrew relates: "I was taught this song by Nancy Kerr and I arranged it for voice and fiddle in 2005. It was around when Vickers was compiling his manuscript and tells the story of an old man lamenting the fact that the oak tree grow stronger with age, while he grows weaker. The melody of the song has the same modal quirks that many Vickers tunes exhibit."
© Walkin' T:-)M

Sarah-Jane Summers "Owerset"
Eighth Nerve Audio, 2019

Artist Video www.sarah-jane

German CD Review

Scottish fiddler Sarah-Jane Summers had learned her trade from the late, great Donald Riddell (1908-1992; who also taught the likes of Duncan Chisholm, Bruce MacGregor and Iain MacFarlane). She co-founded the experimental fiddle quartet Rant,[53] and recorded solo[65] and in a duo with her husband, Finnish guitarist Juhani Silvola.[61] For a decade, Sarah-Jane has been based in Oslo, having acquired a masters degree in traditional music and free improvisation from The Norwegian State Academy of Music. Her latest album, "Owerset," is the result of a commission written for the Celtic Connections festival, drawing on both Celtic and Nordic traditions which she recombines with touches of jazz and contemporary music. She has employed magnificent folk and jazz musicians from Britain and Norway; distorted electric guitar and sublime trumpet are just the top of the cream in a succession of tunes leading from graceful airs to vibrating cèilidh music and back again to unfathomable sonic landscapes.
Let me fill out here a little bit the historical background. In the 8th and 9th centuries, the Scandinavian Vikings invaded the Hebrides and retained control until the mid 13th century. The remaining Norsemen became gaelicised, but their cultural influence still can be found in many placenames as well as in several Scots and Gaelic words that originate from the old Norse language. Thus, Sarah-Jane's pieces have titles referring to both languages. For example, Owerset is Scots for translate; by the way, the German word is übersetzen (similar-sounding, isn't it?), and, of course, the Scandinavian languages are related to German. Flit is dervied from flytja (we Germans have the word flitzen for running fast), and Rowk is derived from røyk (Rauch, i.e. sea mist, smoke). Many Scottish streets are miscalled gate at first glance, though there never was a gate, however the Nordic term is gata (Gasse, i.e. a rather small passage). Last but not least, the word Fitakaleerie is not of Norse origin, but implying a dance performed in a sitting posture with ale-cog in hand, according to the Dictionary of the Scots Language (fit = feet). :-)
Sarah-Jane has announced to publish a collection of her compositions later in 2019.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Johnny Óg Connolly "Fear Inis Bearachain"
Cló Iar-Chonnacht, 2018

Artist Video johnnyogconnollysite.

Johnny Óg Connolly is the son of the critically acclaimed traditional Irish melodeon player Johnny Connolly of Inis Bearacháin, Connemara, who is renowned for reviving this single-row accordion.[23][31] Johnny Óg started playing the button accordion aged nine, taught by his dad and inspired by the likes of Joe Burke and Andy McGann. Only two years later, he became winner of the Slógadh and Fleadh Ceoil competitions. In 1994, he joined the Seán Keane Band; in 1998, he toured with the Lord of the Dance show all over the place. All the while, Johnny Óg composed a lot of new tunes; some have been recorded by his father, others by harp/flute duo Michael Rooney and June McCormack, for example. Johnny Óg himself released a beautiful album of original music in 2016, "Siar".[62] (By the way, he also set poems of the popular Aran islander Máirtín Ó Direáin (1910–1988) to music to be sung by Hothouse Flowers frontman Liam Ó Maonlaí; this gives me an opportunity to introduce you to the Cúl an Tí: Songs and Cartoons project :-)[68]
Johnny Óg had always preferred the two-row accordion, though it was also his intention to play the melodeon and honour his old man when he no longer would be able. On account of Alzheimer's Disease it occurred earlier than expected. From July to September 2019, Johnny Óg was listening and playing along to his father's recordings, as well as PJ Conlon's who recorded some 50 melodeon tracks between 1917 and 1929 in America. Thus he selected tunes from both the Connemara tradition and 1920's Irish America; there are traditional jigs and reels and variations on the "Brown Coffin Hornpipe," adding three parts to turn it into an intricate showpiece. Johnny Óg composed some fine tunes; I like his bouncing hop jigs and dreamy lullabies. Furthermore, flutist Marcus Hernon[61] accounts for a barndance; Marcus had played a lot with old Johnny and recorded a duet album with him in 2010.
Johnny Óg is supported by flutist Tommy Fitzharris, banjo players Cliodhna Costello and Liam O'Connor, guitarists Pádraig Ó Dubhghaill and Garry Ó Briain. Of course, the album's title refers to his father's birthplace. Back then, Johnny Óg muses, there was little entertainment, only the music people made by and for themselves. However, it spawned a beautiful and strong tradition. Thus, "Fear Inis Bearachain" is a tribute to the melodeon, Connemara and Johnny Connolly in equal measure.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Joel Andersson "The Irish Harmonica"
Own label, 2019

Artist Video www.jaharm

Born in a small town in the north of Sweden, Joel Andersson obtained his first harmonica at the tender age of two. Naturally, he began with playing the blues, but then was literally blown away by listening to California-born Rick Epping (The Unwanted,[67] New Road),[61] All-Ireland harmonica champion of 1975, play an Irish jig on his Hohner. New Zealander Brendan Power,[66] who won the All-Ireland competition in 1993 and worked in the Riverdance show, became another major inspiration. Joel never looked back and is performing scarcely anything but traditional Irish music ever since. He came in third place at the 2014 Fleadh Cheoil na hEiréann and second place at the 2017 World Harmonica Festival in the German town of Trossingen, which is the base of the Hohner company. Joel also set up his own workshop, J.A. Harmonicas; his customized Hohner harmonicas received a chorus of praise from Rick and Brendan as well as Steve Baker[66] and other mouth organists.
For his debut album, simply titled "The Irish Harmonica," Joel spent a day with his Rocket, OctaHarp and XB-40 in the recording studio and laid down a dozen tracks: more or less popular jigs and reels, as well as a waltz ("Dear Irish Boy") and two Carolan pieces ("Welcome" & "Concerto"). One take only, no overdubbing. No tricks, but many treats. I'm hooked by the stupendous pace and the distinct tone of his execution. If this recording doesn't fulfill Joel's ambition to encourage more folks to take up the mouth organ and play traditional Irish music on it ... then I don't know anymore.
© Walkin' T:-)M

The Gothard Sisters "Midnight Sun"
Own label, 2018

Artist Video www.gothard

The Gothard Sisters[58] from Edmonds, Washington State, are singing among the sweet wildflowers. Ten years ago, the siblings started playing traditional Irish music and busking as a fiddle trio. They soon turned into a permanent group performing contemporary acoustic music, fusing Irish/Scottish traditions with pop and world music. They performed all over the US, and have released their 13th (?) album by now, "Midnight Sun." These dozen original songs, entirely conceived and performed by the honey-voiced and blonde-haired sisters Greta, Willow und Solana, reached #6 on the Billboard World Music charts in 2018. The selection is split between vocal and instrumental tracks; with the former being the most noteworthy. There are songs about mermaids and elves; for example, "Rose, Marie and Heather" relates of a clash between three sisters and a wicked fairy queen. The title track, of course, refers to the regions where the sun never sets in the summertime; and "Wandering" muses about the musician's life on the road. The lead vocals are performed by the youngest of the three, Solana, whose voice is clear as crystal. Their music is casual and disarming, exuding pleasure and fun.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Low Lily "10,000 Days Like These"
Mad River Records, 2018

Artist Video www.low

Based in Vermont in the New England region of the northeastern US, string trio Low Lily (formerly known as Annalivia)[50] plays acoustic music rooted in American folk traditions and taken in contemporary influences. Each band member has been in the business for quite some time. Liz Simmons (vocals, guitar) is a passionate and engaging singer, who has studied American vernacular music of the 1920s/30s and has performed with all-women supergroup Long Time Courting (ft. Shannon Heaton,[44] Katie McNally and Valerie Thompson), the John Whelan Band and singer-songwriter Livingston Taylor. Lissa Schneckenburger[43] (fiddle) found her niche specializing in New England's contra dance music (this bastard child of British, Irish and French traditions); she toured as a solo artist and outfits such as Solas and Childsplay.[67] Flynn Cohen[49] (guitar, mandolin) always wanted to play like John Renbourn and thus went to England to study with the master himself (along the way he also took lessons from the late great Davey Graham); afterwards he became a sought-after accompanist backing up the likes of John Whelan, Ruth Moody, Laura Cortese, Hanneke Cassel, Cathie Ryan and Aoife Clancy, to name just a few.
Following their 2015 self-titled EP,[58] "10,000 Days Like These" is their first full-length album release, displaying a characteristic sound of traditional Americana rubbing shoulders with pop music attitudes and sensibilities. Lissa is a string virtuoso on top of the game, Flynn is flat-picking like a nimble-fingered magician, and Liz puts the cherry on the cake with some decent rhythm guitar and a terrific voice to beat. The trio's selection includes the traditional English folk song "Sovay" set to new music by Liz, the original title track co-written by Liz and Egyptian-Mexican writer Sarah Yanni, songs such as Mark Knopfler's peace anthem "Brothers in Arms" and Welch/Rawlings' gospel nouveau "Rock of Ages." This is completed with some wonderful instrumental music composed by Lissa and Flynn.
Please check out "10,000 Days Like These" @ BandCamp!
© Walkin' T:-)M

FolkWorld Homepage German Content English Content Editorial & Commentary News & Gossip Letters to the Editors CD & DVD Reviews Book Reviews Folk for Children Folk & Roots Online Guide - Archives & External Links Search FolkWorld About Contact Privacy Policy

FolkWorld - Home of European Music
FolkWorld Homepage
Layout & Idea of FolkWorld © The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld