ZiRP "Circle Divine"
Own label, 2020
Ten years ago I've seen the mediaeval group Liederlicher Unfug
busking at the Rudolstadt festival. Originally a school band, they recorded two full length albums after all. Their hurdy-gurdy player
Stephan Groth went on to join the popular pagan folk pop group Faun
to become an integral part. That wasn't enough, however, Stephan wanted transcend conventional barriers. He loves the natural sound
of the hurdy-gurdy with its simultaneous melody, rhythm and harmony playing, but he also likes to pluck the instrument into an effect device and make it twang like an electric guitar or a synthesizer.
Thus he co-founded the more experimental quartet ZiRP way back in 2007 (zirpen is the German word for the chirping of a cricket) and recorded the smartly titled album
(a wordplay on drehen, i.e. spinning around, and evolution)
to critical acclaim, the musical coordinates rather being Hoelderlin Express and U.L.M.A.N.
(to name just two German bands from the past) instead of the hootering and banging on the mediaeval-style marketplaces.
After eight years, ZiRP present their sophomore album, "Circle Divine". Of course, the hurdy-gurdy is in the circle's centre,
but it wouldn't the same without the splendid finger-picking, the groovy bass guitar and the funky percussion
of Olaf Peters, Florian Kolditz and Florian Manuel Fügemann, respectively. The result is a lush soundscape embracing
bal folk, jazz and progressive rock in all respects. ZiRP's instrumental music is also versatile with reference to
melodies and rhythms, a beautiful potpourri of bourrée, polonaise, polka, schottische and mazurka – not only acceptable for the folk dancer but
also presentable for the jazz rocker and the headbanger. Their original compositions (and the one reinterpretation of a Slovakian dance tune from the 1700s)
won't make you stumble, even in 5/4 and 7/4 time, the ZiRP approach denotes finesse and subtlety. Please check it out! Let 'em chirp!
© Walkin' T😊M
David Rovics "Rebel Songs"
Own label, 2021
Singer-songwriter David Rovics
admits that his latest album, Rebel Songs, turned out to be a fairly big project by his standards. Thanks to the lockdown.
He recorded the basic tracks with voice and acoustic guitar at home in the state of Oregon, employed bass player Arcellus Sykes and drummer Spank Hopkins,
then sent the files over to Northern Ireland, where Pol Mac Adaim
added keyboards, Celtic whistles and blues Harp for good measure. Totalling 13 splendid songs written since late 2019 and
performed with righteous outrage and gusto, there are David's
historical accounts, here "The Pogroms of 1969",
mob attacks across Northern Ireland, and "When This Fertile Valley Was Stolen",
the racist foundation of Oregon. "The Pandemic of 1918", drawing analogies
between the present and the deadly influenza pandemic after World War I, introduces current issues, more or less dealing with Covid-19 and its repercussions.
"Essentially Expandable" relates to the ordinary man and woman
who keeps everything going but is not considered of systemic importance. On the other hand,
"All the Jared Kushners of the World" are too big to fail.
David recalls the newly formed protest movement with "Masks Upon Their Faces and Leaf-Blowers In Their Hands".
As if all of this wasn't enough, he pays homage to Julian Assange ("Behind These Prison Walls")
and Black Lives Matter ("Say Their Names").
Last but not least, David once again brings to mind that, when all your merch sales and all your gigs are gone, crowdfunded patronage is the only way for someone like him to survive as an artist, "Patreon". If you want to make David's art and life a bit more possible, check out patreon.com/davidrovics. Please watch the Rebel Songs Livestream consisting of a solo performance of the Rebel Songs. See also Attila the Stockbroker Introduces David Rovics and the Rosa Luxemburg Conference Set.
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Raske Drenge "Raske Drenge"
Tutl Records, 2020
Different backgrounds came together here. Guitarist and singer Ragnar Finsson hails from the Faroe Islands, fiddler Oscar Beerten is from Belgium.
They met in 2017 while studying at the Malmö Academy of Music, Sweden, and found a common ground in folk music. Their self-titled debut album features
Faroese ballads and traditional music from all over Scandinavia spiced up with Celticana and Anglo-Americana plus their
fanciful original compositions and their meaty approach. It is at the same time raw and alien but melodious and comforting.
The band's name derives from the 19th century Faroese ballad "Grindavísan" depicting a whale hunt and means something like
brave boys, and that's what they are: two Hot Cats at the beginning of a pursuit for artistic fame and glory.
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Andy Irvine "Old Dog Long Road Vol. 2" [Do-CD]
Own label, 2020
He's at it gain, the folk singer-songwriter of Sweeney's Men, Planxty, Patrick Street, Mozaik fame,
not to mention a highly successful solo career over the course of umpteen decades.
Following his acclaimed retrospective collection "Old Dog Long Road Vol. 1",
Andy Irvine offers more goodies, getting back to the early 1961 when the eighteen-year old recorded "Hobo's Lullaby" on reel-to-reel tape
(composed by 'The Yodelling Wrangler' Goebel Reeves and covered by various singers, notably Woody and Arlo Guthrie).
He followed in Woody's footsteps by writing "Facing The Chair" about the iniquitous Sacco & Vanzetti trial and execution, and
"You Fascists Bound To Lose" penned while »I was hitchhiking in Eastern Europe in 1968. They were usually personal songs like 'West Coast of Clare' or 'Autumn Gold'. But here’s
one I wrote as fascism reared its ugly head. I sang this on a TV programme I had in Ljubljana. Yugoslavia had no diplomatic relations with Spain or Portugal so I was
able to have a go at Salazar and Franco without fear of creating an international incident!!
On another occasion, Joe Dolan and I sang the chorus as we walked out of the Hofbräuhaus in Munich after watching the bouncers physically eject a bunch of innocent
but over excited Australians, one of whom was a cripple.« On the other side of the timeline, we find a triad of Child ballads,
including Nic Jones' version of "The Blind Harper" and a variant of "Willy O' Winsbury" which Andy had previously recorded with Sweeney's Men.
Personally I love his take on the Scottish song "Erin Go Bragh," recorded in 2010; he already learned it in the mid sixties but couldn't recall the music
and therefore put a new tune to it. Andy uncovered recordings from gigs and home recordings, mostly solo, but also some ensemble pieces.
1975's Planxty line-up (Liam O'Flynn, Paul Brady, Johnny Moynihan) crooned "As I Roved Out," with Andy operating the hurdy gurdy.
He looks back on his joyous 1983 tour with fiddler Nollaig Casey delivering a lively reel set, "Cooley's/O'Dwyer's." Only recently, he recorded the Greek song
"The Snows - Οι χιονιές" with singer Chrysoula Kechagioglou, which didn't make it on the latest Mozaik album
"The Long & The Short Of It."
"Old Dog Long Road Vol. 2" is another treasure trove, and I wouldn't be disappointed if he unpacked the metal detector again to look for more gold and silver.
© Walkin' T😊M
The Byrne Brothers "Living the Dream"
Own Label, 2020
The album's title exactly says what this all about, i.e. living the dream of playing music and enjoying the fun.
The brothers Luca aged 16, Finn 14, Dempsey 11, and their dad Tommy are a family trad band that made their way from
Dublin via Donegal to the shores of Americay.
Luca is an unwavering box player, Finn is superbly picking the banjo and guitar,
and Dempsey is whacking the bodhrán for heaven's sake. Their individual qualities is matched by their solid ensemble playing.
Finn's "Waikiki Reel" establishes the pulse. The Byrne Brothers also composed the releasing "Quarantine Reel" and the cheerful "Yvonne’s Waltz,"
honouring their granny. They co-wrote the "Banna Swing Reels" with Colin Farrell, and tried their luck pinning down (John Carty's)
"Seanamhac Tube Station", successfully of course, and tackling (Arty McGlynn's) "Lead the Knave" and a couple of traditional pieces.
What's knew, they sing: the old Dubliners' ditty "Banks of the Roses" and (Patsy Cavanagh's) crooner "Home To My Donegal."
They are not exactly vocal acrobats, but it surely provides for some diversion in the live set.
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Tapestry "Once Upon A String"
Own label, 2012
Tapestry "Watercolour Clouds"
Own label, 2017
Tapestry "John O' Dreams"
Own label, 2020
Lancashire, North West England, 1999: John Green and Steve Gerrity founded the Tapestry duo, playing traditional Irish music.
Unfortunatly, John passed away in 2005. Steve's later wife Jane came aboard in 2009 resulting in a heavenly match of lovely
vocals and dexterous guitar and banjo picking. The duo's debut album "Once Upon A String," originally intended to become a musical that
didn't see the light of day so far, features nine original folk rock songs by employing keyboards and drums. The album title is explained by the fact that
Tapestry's compositions often begin once upon a string. Their sophomore album "Watercolour Clouds" materialised because of
requests for recording the cover songs featured in their live set. Jane and Steve embarked on stripped down versions of
John Prine's "Paradise", Sting's "Walking on the Moon", the Corrs' "What Can I Do?", and Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi".
Particularly, the latter suits Jane very well.
2020 marked the 15th anniversary of John Green's premature death, so Steve took the opportunity to remaster their vintage recordings. "John O'Dreams," singer-songwriter Bill Caddick's text utilising a Tchaikovsky tune, had been one of their most popular songs. The studio recordings (Pete St John's "The Fields of Athenry", Ralph McTell's "From Clare to Here") are rather delicate, whereas some live tracks ("Three Drunken Maidens", "Black Velvet Band", "Rare Old Mountain Dew") showcase a more boisterous approach. A Turlough O'Carolan waltz ("Planxty Irwin") and some Irish dance tunes are thrown in for good measure.
After all, the Tapestry Mark 1 sound has aged very well. However, if you're rather fond of its successor, there is good news that reportedly a second all-original album is in the pipeline.
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Martin Murray - Frankie Gavin - Emma Corbett - Carl Hession "By Heck: A Toast to the 1920s"
GMCH Music, 2018
Frankie Gavin & Alec Finn "Traditional Irish Music on Fiddle and Bouzouki, Volume II"
Own label, 2018
Like so many Irishmen and Irishwomen the Flanagan Brothers emigrated to America in the early 20th century. They subsequently became the most successful Irish music act on the North American dance hall circuit. Their engaging performance style and their particular repertoire has been revived from time to time, especially their beloved comical side, but otherwise it has been largely ignored. In the 1980s, virtuoso fiddler Frankie Gavin had his go with several De Dannan recordings exploring the Flanagan Brothers stuff and style. He even made it to play at Mike Flanagan's 83rd birthday party. More than twenty years later, Frankie Gavin  founded the Roaring Twenties Irish Orchestra, summoning Martin Murray (banjo), Emma Corbett (melodeon), Carl Hession (piano) and a full brass section plus clarinet and double bass. A few words: Emma Corbett is a young melodeon player and triple All-Ireland champion from the Flanagan's Co. Waterford taught by the renowned Bobby Gardiner. Martin Murray from Tipperary has toured with Mairtin O'Connor and The Chieftains and his style of banjo playing has been likened to that of Mike Flanagan. Last but not least, Galway's Carl Hession recorded several albums with the Shaskeen céilí band and Moving Cloud and is widely known as pianist, arranged and composer. "By Heck" is a recreation of the Roaring Twenties Irish sound a la Flanagan Brothers. It is full of verve, radiating sanguinity and spiritedness, in summerary the craic. The music adjoins 1920's jazz orchestras, while being rooted but shaking up traditional Irish music. It is interesting that a hundred years ago the musical spectrum was rather wide. Besides the jigs & reels (the "Temperance Reel" is a nice reference to the prohibition age ;-) the album kicks off with a clog (a vintage cousin to reel and polka), the title track is a barn dance (the outlandish brother to a hornpipe). Fashion at the time launched the rag and the foxtrot. There are thirteen tracks adding up to just thirty-plus minutes; "By Heck" even recreates the rather brief playing time back then. However, don't mistake Frankie Gavin's Roaring Twenties Irish Orchestra for a clone band of a distant past. It is 21st century, though lightheartedly and playful. This clearly transpires in the final number when the four are digitally fitted into the Flanagan Brothers' recording of "Auld Lang Syne" ...
Yes, Frankie Gavin is best known for founding the legendary group De Dannan which existed from 1973 to 2003 in various line-ups. After
De Dannan broke up, Frankie Gavin and co-founder Alec Finn
fought over the right to use the group's name: De Dannan played this venue,
De Danann appeared next town.
Fortunately, their former accordion player Aidan Coffey managed to bring the erstwhile close friends to record together again.
Just before Alec Finn left to Strike The Gay Harp in heaven above,
both entered the studio to lay down some tracks that became the thirty-minute
"Traditional Irish Music on Fiddle and Bouzouki, Volume II" (their first duo album had been released in 1977). It once again reenacts the glorious sound
of the good old days. Frankie Gavin fiddles away like in ecstasy to the backdrop of Alec Finn's mesmeric bouzouki playing.
It brings back pleasant memories. Sad to say, it's definitely end of story. Frankie Gavin had reportedly been trying to arrange one last joint show,
which didn't come to fruition. What a pity!
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Katie McNally Trio "Now More Than Ever"
Own label, 2020
Fiddler Katie McNally grew up on the U.S. East Coast playing Cape Breton and Scottish music. At the time being she is involved with
the fiddle orchestra Childsplay,
Cape Breton quartet Fàrsan,
and her own Katie McNally Trio featuring viola player Shauncey Ali and piano player Neil Pearlman.
Katie's previous record, "The Boston States" (2016),
told the story of the cultural baggage that Canadian immigrants brought to the Boston area;
her sophomore album continues with increased maturity and finesse where we've been left behind.
»Now More Than Ever is very much a story of where we all come from and yet how far we’ve come«, Katie says. »With our debut album, we were actively working
towards reaching for something new whilst still holding on to the traditions of something old, and at the same time trying to establish our sound as a band.
However now more than ever, we feel like we’re significantly more content with our own sound and we want to explore
that primarily. With this album, we have grown in confidence to fully be ourselves, musically speaking.«
This bundle here is brimming with Katie and Neil's original tunes with a nice selection of contemporary compositions by the likes of Flynn Cohen, Jerry Holland etc.
and a couple of traditional melodies. Shauncey offers a sensitive entourage to Katie's strings, while Neil provides a pronounced groove. There's an
inseparable interplay, which cannot even spoiled when fooling around with bits and bobs that might rather be found in bluegrass or jazz.
One shouldn't underestimate the influence and inspiration of producer Anna Massie (of Blazin' Fiddles fame)
and engineer Angus Lyon,
who are well versed in traditional Scottish music and its Cape Breton progeny.
One final remark: »The title of the album also reflects a communal feeling among us that this year we need to continue to collaborate with each other, make music and embark on projects
that nourish us. As a band, and as members of the wider cultural community, we need to share our music and cultivate our artform in as many ways as possible during these difficult times.«
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Ross & Ryan Couper "An Den Dey Made Tae"
Couper Records, 2020
"An Den Dey Made Tae" is a Shetland family affair in instrumental music with perfect sibling harmony and empathy.
Ross Couper is best known as the fervent fiddler of Celtic fusion group Peatbog Faeries
and sparring partner to guitarist/flutist Tom Oakes.
Ryan Couper has reportedly been the only one ever receiving guitar lessons from the iconic 'Peerie' Willie Johnson,
and plays with trad quartet Vair in his spare time. The brothers have been growing up playing music together and an album was eagerly anticipated.
Whereas the Corona pandemic rendered all public music making impossible, it provided the opportunity to record together.
It is a grand selection of traditional Shetland Reels, new tunes from Ross and Ryan, father Alec and mother Margaret as well as
fellow musicians from the Celtic persuasion such as Chris Stout (the grand "Sneug Water Waltz"), Brian Finnegan, Tommy Peoples, Mike McGoldrick, Jerry Holland.
Last but not least, legendary Shetland fiddler Willie Hunter is responsible for "Lorna’s Reel" and "The Cape Breton Fiddler's Welcome to Shetland".
Off the beaten track we may take delight in "And So It Goes," a Billy Joel song from the ingenuity of guitar maestro Tommy Emmanuel.
On the whole it is just fiddle and guitar (besides the final set featuring sister Mariann on the piano), but performed with youthful enthusiasm and devilish pleasure.
The album is titled after a local saying about the frequent consumption of the dark strong brew, sure inbetween all the tunes you can always squeeze in a cuppa...
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Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin & Ultan O'Brien "Solas an Lae - The Light of the Day"
Watercolour Music, 2020
Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin and Ultan O'Brien have been playing together for a long time in ensembles such as Dublin folk group
"Solas an Lae - The Light of the Day" is their duo debut album. Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin is in possession of a strong and lush tenor voice,
which suits the sean-nós, i.e. the traditional singing style in the Irish language. (See also the Lorcán Mac Mathúna article!)
The sean-nós is usually unaccompanied, however, Ultan O'Brien provides a sympathetic accompaniment on the fiddle.
He is back-up and support, escort and harmony, impetus and antithesis — just what the situation requires. Sean-nós is emotional and sorrowful.
Old story: the man is off to join the (British) army or just fetch some tobacco; the woman is left behind in tears; or: he is rejected by
his adored and that's why he is off to war. The English language song, "All Our Lonely Ghosts" written by Eoghan and Ciarán O'Rourke,
fits the gloomy atmosphere reconsidering the treatment of females, children and generally the weak in days of yore as well as modern day Ireland.
Ultan has thrown in some dance medleys for good measure, including lilting, the old Gaelic art of using the voice as substitute
for absent instruments. That's the fun part of the album meant to get the feet moving.
"Solas an Lae" kicks off with "Mo Mhúirnín" (My Beloved), Ultan's setting of Pádraic Colum's poem "The Beggar's Child" which also accounts for the album's title: »Mavourneen, we'll go far away from the net of the crooked town, where they grudge us the light of the day.« For Eoghan and Ultan this is meant as a message of hope and optimism: »Things can get on top of you — music is the great escape. It lifts off the bridles and anchors the world puts on us — lifts the door’s latch; Since we recorded this, the weight of everything has grown heavier for many people, for many different reasons. We hope this bit of music can help fling off a bit of the weight and help people breathe a little bit easier.«
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Laura Flanagan "The Great Southern Ocean"
Own Label, 2020
Laura Flanagan is from Lubbock, West Texas, but fond of the glorious sounds of Irish fiddle masters like Bobby Casey, Paddy Canny and Joe Ryan.
Her debut solo album "The Great Southern Ocean" is a fine selection of jigs and reels as well as the occasional hornpipe, march and polka. Most of them
are from the depth of the Irish tradition, with an Ed Reavy, Bobby Casey, Paddy O'Brien tune thrown in for good measure. I must not forget the
gorgeous "Belltable Waltz", composed by Stockton's Wing's Maurice Lennon and Kieran Hanrahan and beautifully fleshed out by Laura Flanagan. She sparkles
like The Little Diamond that gave a popular polka its name. Laura is also a promising composer; the album concludes with the title track, a slow air
picturing the sights and sounds when standing on the Melbourne beach overlooking The Great Southern Ocean towards Antarctica. She says she had been
raised by bouzouki players and loves support that is not just accompaniment; she found this attitude again in esteemed
Australian bouzouki player Luke Plumb (who spent a decade with Scotland's acid croft band Shooglenifty)
and his mate, guitarist Peter Daffy.
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Cli Donnellan "Beneath the Hedgerow"
Own label, 2020
Cliodhna 'Cli' Donnellan is a highly skilled Irish fiddler from the small village of Mountshannon in East Clare,
where she ran a traditional music festival from 2010 to 2019, and still hosts a weekly show for Scariff Bay Community Radio named after the "Morning Dew" reel.
This popular dance tune is not featured on Cli's debut album, but a fine selection of tunes linked with the area.
Many have been played by P.J. and Martin Hayes, for example (though some in a different key), others conjure up names like Junior Crehan.
This is characteristically East Clare: straight-forward, at casual pace, in no uncertain terms.
Not only when playing Carolan's Baroque-like compositions. The album's opener is a solo piece scanning and skimming her native area and its musical culture.
The following track is adding Liam Flanagan's twin fiddling, subsequently reinforced by Bríd O'Gorman on the flute and Ciara O'Sullivan on the harp.
The rhythmical back-up is offered by guitarists Clara Buteler and Martin O'Malley. Cli has composed "The East Clare Jig" and smuggled into the
traditional sequence, without attracting any attention as unusual. She also devised "The Legacy" air, which beautifully sits beside the
magnificent "Sliabh Geal gCua na Féile".
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Pat Walsh "Simply Whistle"
Bunowen Music, 2020
Pat Walsh has been born in Manchester in the mid 1950s of Irish parents and fell in love with the tin whistle at an early stage.
Subsequently, she has been part of North West England's thriving Irish session scene for 50 years. She also turned into a prolific composer
whose tunes have been performed and recorded by the likes of Kevin Crawford, Colin Farrell and Mike McGoldrick. The latter also sat on the production table.
His low whistle and C flute can be heard counterpointing Pat's high on occasion. John Doyle's guitar and bouzouki is responsible for most of the accompaniment,
whereas Tim Edey shines on two tracks. Pat is effectively employing her John Sindt Whistles, fleshy not flashy, sober not inebriate. Great music which is
a mixture of traditional favourites such as the slip jig "Humours of Whiskey" (the very first tune she properly learned on the tin whistle),
traditionally styled tunes from Niall Vallely, Liz Carroll, Tony Sullivan etc., the poignant slow air "Caoineadh an Spailpin", which is actually a modern
composition from Seán Ó Riada for the soundtrack of "Playboy of the Western World", as well as lashings of original melodies. These include a finespun
slow reel for her favourite whistlemaker, "John Sindt's Favourite," and the "Belly Dancer" reel transplanting her Irish roots into rather oriental terrain.
"Simply Whistle" comes with a comprehensive booklet covering background information about every tune next to Pat's musical biography.
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Edgelarks "Henry Martin"
Own label, 2020
Phillip Henry is a slide guitarist and harmonica player from Lancashire, north west England, Hannah Martin is a singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist (but especially
fiddler) hailing from Devon, south west. Best duo at the 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and part of Peter Knight's Gigspanner Big
they renamed themselves Edgelarks in 2017.
Let's hear about their latest release in their own words: »We were halfway through a tour when COVID-19 shut down the world...
As the days passed in a strange, featureless desert, we were hugely moved by how supported we were being, by listeners subscribing to our Bandcamp,
ordering cds, refusing refunds for cancelled gigs, and tuning in to our online concerts. Suddenly we realised we had been given a rare gift – time...
We decided we wanted to celebrate that mighty survivor, the tradition itself, ...«
The result has been a nine-song selection of English folk ballads (including a detour to Ireland and the Anglo-American oldtime-bluegrass tradition, respectively).
The album's title is an allusion to the well-known pirate ballad "Henry Martin" (Child ballad no. 250)
that has been suggesting itself. The recordings are homemade and raw (just listen to the percussive sounds of actual locks and bolts in "Locks and Bolts")
but nonetheless soulful and cordial. They strove towards a rather sanguine expression, because current times are hard enough and »this is an album about overcoming,
about not giving up, about not stopping playing.« Their musical execution is contemporary with a funky electric guitar and beatbox-like harmonica,
and virtually forward-looking to »a time when we can overcome the distance that separates us, and raise our voices together once more in song.«
Indeed, the final track, "The Seeds of Love" which had actually been the first song ever collected by Cecil Sharp,
comes to the conclusion: For the grass that have been oftentimes trampled underfoot, give it time it will rise up again...
Check it out @ philliphenryhannahmartin.bandcamp.com!
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Graham Lindsey "Tradhead"
Wavelength Media, 2019
Graham Lindsey "The Next Best Thing"
Wavelength Media, 2020
Multi-instrumentalist Graham Lindsey had been nominated for his debut solo album "TradHead" for the Canadian Folk Music Awards. Right so.
But it is not without irony, since Graham Lindsey is entirely writing his own tunes, drawing from traditional Celtic roots, but employing variations
and alterations that make his music rather special. Add to his fanciful compositions a particular approach to performance and arrangement
by a crowd including members from Prince Edward Island's Ten Strings & A Goat Skin
and Sweden's Westmannnafolk. For good measure, Graham popped in an unorthodox version of the song "Wild Mountain Thyme,"
beautifully executed by folk-pop singer Kristan Couture, sure that's the popular ditty which Belfast piper Francis McPeake made up in the 1950s from an 18th century Scottish piece.
With the 2020 lockdown and its boredom came "The Next Best Thing." Graham gathered a whole bunch of friends for a corona party, at least virtually and digitally, to unleash his most recent compositions. Let me just mention here fiddler April Verch, fiddler Rachel Davis and multi-instrumentalist Darren McMullen (of Nova Scotia's Còig), and introducing Swedish folk guitarist Simon Nyberg and accordionist Markus Räsänen. (As a byproduct Graham revealed the secrets of computer recording to a couple of Canadian folk musicians!) "Shack Wacky" is one of the more traditionally styled tune medleys, named after Cape Breton fiddler Anita MacDonald asked Graham if staying at home had turned him shack wacky. Maybe it did. The album's opener "Fractions" alternates between 9/8 and 10/8 time, eventually adding 12/8 for good and all. On the whole it is a fine mix of Celtic and American roots music propelled in a new orbit. The album's title takes its name from one of the two featured songs; "The Next Best Thing" written by Graham Lindsey and Jordan Coaker (of folk duo Quote the Raven) and sung by Cara Luft and JD Edwards (of The Small Glories).
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Pat Broaders "Pat Broaders"
Own Label, 2020
Pat Broaders is a born and bred Dubliner though with a Co. Wexford background (indeed, the closing track of this album features
his daddy singing "My Irish Jaunting Car" at Foley's Pub in Newbawn in 1962).
Pat himself started playing the tin whistle, before upgrading to the uilleann pipes directed by the legendary Leon Rowsome
and later to the bouzouki. Following his love interest to Chicago in the early 1990s, he performed with almost everyone in the Windy City.
These days he is a member of both Jimmy Keane's group Bohola
and the trio Open the Door for Three featuring uilleann piper Kieran O'Hare and fiddler Liz Knowles.
The simply titled "Pat Broaders" is his first solo effort browsing through the back catalogue of traditional Irish ballads
and contemporary folk songs. It kicks off with two well-known ditties from the 1798 United Irishmen rebellion in Co.
"Kelly, The Boy From Killane" and "The Croppy Boy," which he both already learned in his childhood. There is more stuff from
the 18th/19th centuries, such as the outlaw-turned-werefox story of "Reynardine" or the transportation ballad "Van Dieman’s Land,"
both of English origins. Ewan McCall wrote "School Day's Over" from "The Big Hewer" radio ballad about working in the mines,
Huw Williams laments "Rosemary’s Sister" getting killing in the WW2 blitz. Canadian-based songwriter David Francey as well
sings about a lost brother never being forgotten. Pat Broaders has a fine baritone voice, and things are slowed down making it easy to
follow the narrative of each song. So is his subtle backing on the bouzar, a hybrid instrument between guitar and bass bouzouki.
Occasionally, he employs some pipes, whistles, bodhrán or keyboard to add some colour. But the entire album is a low-key affair,
intended not to distract from the song. Thrown in for good measure are a couple of dance tunes. He wrote the bustling "Liz Effect"
for his two favourite fiddlers, Liz Knowles and Liz Carroll.
On the other hand, the laid-back "Merrimac Ferry" gently crosses his wife's beloved Lake Wisconsin.
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Rachel Walker "Gaol"
Ròs Dearg Records, 2020
Rachel Walker is a singer-songwriter from Lochaber in the Scottish Highlands. Though originally from Lincolnshire in England,
she grew fond of Gaelic language and music. She subsequently joined the folk music ensembles
Last year's solo album "Gaol" has been conceived over the last ten years. The album's title is not to be confused with the specifically English
expression for jail, but means Love in Scots Gaelic, and the album's overall theme is romance and passion, love for family and country,
virtually all aspects. The album kicks off with "Là Luain" (The Day that Never Comes), a poignant ballad tugging at everybody's heartstrings.
It is an affectionate duet with fellow vocalist James Graham. It is also one of two songs co-written with Gaelic language poet
Marcas Mac an Tuairneir. The second is a newly-created jolly waulking song, "Tìr is Sàl" (Land and Sea). Another collaboration is
"Caisteal Ghaoilein" (Gylen Castle), a heroic chant co-written with Flora MacPhail. Fine songwriting all over. Rachel Walker also
selected a couple of traditional songs, namely, "An t-Iarla Diùrach" (The Earl of Jura),
"A Phàidirinn A Dhùisg Mo Dheòir" (Pàidirinn who Awoke my Tears) and "Thug Mi Gaol Dhut Thug mi Gràdh Dhut" (I Gave You Love).
Only the first one rings a bell for me from a Lauren MacColl recording dating back 15 years.
All the lyrics are translated in the album sleeves, Rachel furthermore subjoins two original English language laments,
"All for you" accompanied by the Brodick String Quartet and "I Always Knew" highlighting Rachel's other musical support.
Jamie Smith and Aaron Jones are the backbone on all strings; add Alice Allen on cello, Jarlath Henderson on the Irish pipes,
Sileas Sinclair on accordion and Rory Grindlay on drums. Rachel's sensitive vocal delivery gives the entire album a mollifying facet.
Recorded in the converted church of St Mary's in Appin, Argyll, you can hear the fire sizzling and almost feel its warmth and cosiness.
© Walkin' T😊M
Anakronos "The Red Book of Ossory"
Heresy Records, 2020
Irish singer Caitríona O'Leary has made a name with performing traditional and early
Best known probably for "The Wexford Carols" album featuring Tom Jones, Rosanne Cash and Rhiannon Giddens which surprisingly topped the Billboard
This time she dedicated herself to the illustrious Red Book of Ossory from the 14th century, particularly the Latin religious lyrics therin,
composed by Richard de Ledrede, Bishop of Ossory (1317–1361), and intended to replace
songs which are lewd, secular, and associated with revelry sung by the priests and choristers of St. Canice's Cathedral in Kilkenny at holidays and celebrations.
Ledrede's enigmatic poetry has been set by Caitríona to music from the 12th to 15th century, sourced from England and France, but also Catalonia and Northern Italy.
Rendered crystal-clear like an angel, the delivery gets cutting-edge by employing a peculiar backing trio
– Nick Roth (saxophon, recorders), Deirdre O'Leary (clarinet) and Francesco Turrisi (synthesiser). These are indeed new sounds,
merging medieval with jazz, electronics with ethnic percussion. So far, so good and beautiful. However, history hasn't forgotten that Richard de Ledrede
has also been a notorious witch hunter. In 1324 the Bishop accused Dame Alice Kyteler with enchanting the good folk of Kilkenny with magic potions.
The Lady itself escaped to England, but her servant Petronilla de Meath was burned alive at the stake.
Caitríona dedicated a couple of instrumentals (a fine diversion to the singing anyway) to their memory:
"Artisson's Dance", named after Dame's alleged demon lover, is based on a tune by 13th century troubadour Moniot de Paris, whereas
"The Flight of Dame Alice Kyteler" and "The Burning of Petronilla de Meath" are adaptations from
Matteo da Perugia (c.1400) and the French Magister Franciscus (c.1370).
© Walkin' T😊M
Steve Tallis "Where Many Rivers Meet"
The story goes that young Steve was taken to a concert by Louis Armstrong and Trini Lopez in his native Perth in Western Australia in the mid-sixties.
Afterwards he said to his mom: I know what I'll do with my life! Fifty years later, forty of them as a professional musician,
Steve Tallis has firmly established himself as Australian bluesman.
I haven't heard from him for a long time, and in a jiffy he offers a feast for the ears: 25 tracks, 16 of which are his own and 9 covers (Stewball, Black Betty,
See That My Grave Is Clean, John The Revelator, House Of The Rising Sun), solo armed only with an electric and twelve-string acoustic guitar, respectively.
As a further personal touch, Steve comes up with a mono recording; the respective titles and their Wall of Sound are supposed to succeed or fail in their totality.
The album is partly reminiscent of the early Billy Bragg, although the grungy guitar playing is rather copied from Neil Young.
Rooted in the Blues, the end result is pristine, unadorned and, so to speak, in Adam's costume.
It is so matchless and individual that no one else could have done it that way.
He chants like a cotton picker in the field, rocks like a shaman in a trance, tells stories like an African griot.
The album title "Where Many Rivers Meet" already refers to the many and varied strands that were merging here
and have created something recognizable but still fresh and crisp.
© Walkin' T😊M
Burgos Buschini Trio "Tierra que arde"
The Argentinian folk music duo Horacio Burgos (classic guitar) and Carlos (a.k.a. ‘El Tero’) Buschini (acoustic
bass guitars) present their album ‘Tierra que arde’ (‘Burning ground’). A CD with a beautiful compilation of ten
traditional rhythms from: Argentina, Peru, Venezuela or Brazil on the guitar, enhanced with jazz background
flavors, mostly on the bass strings. Burgos & Buschini met years ago in their city of Cordoba (Argentina), but it
was in 2017 that their musical project started in a recording studio in Milan (Italy). Their first album was
‘Entreverados’ (‘Intertwined’). In the words of the Argentinean journalist & writer Alejandro Mareco: “..The
Argentine music, that South American sound that had given light to their identity, before starting to travel the
world, amazed them in depth of two pulsations, above the nakedness of inspired notes...”. Their charming string
skills are demonstrated in melodies such as: ‘El Surco’ (‘The Groove’), popularized by the great Peruvian singer
Chabuca Granda (1920—1983), or ‘Valz Venezolano’ (‘Venezuelan Waltz’), from the composer Antonio Lauro
(1917—1986). Carlos Buschini is the author of five of the songs, perhaps the ones with the clearest Argentine
folk beat: ‘Milonga del Orto’, ‘Cumbrecita’ (‘Little Summit’), ‘Tierra que Arde’, ‘El Paso del Lagarto’ (‘The Lizard’s
Step’) with the Italians Gegé Telesforo (vocals) & Francesco Pinetti (marimba), ‘Aroma a Yuyito’, written
together with Nahuel Porcel de Peralta (lyrics), and with the sweet voice of Mery Murùa (Cordoba, Ar.). The
Brazilian fringe in this South American acoustic color spectrum appears in ‘Gariba’ (H.Burgos), and Salve
Copinha (Hermeto Pascoal, Arapiraca, Bra.), both of them with the percussions of Gilson Silveira. The album
concludes with ‘Volver’ (‘Return’), the immensely popular tango where Carlos Gardel and the poet Alfredo
LePera, strongly expressed all the sense of nostalgia and their emotions when approaching again places and
people that once defined us in the past.
© Pío Fernández
Bellanöva is a band from northern Italy, more precisely from the territory known as the Four Provinces:
Alessandria in Piedmont, Genova in Liguria, Pavia in Lombardy, and Piacenza in Emilia Romagna. When looking
at the photographs on the CD, the list of band members and their instruments, what is striking is the combined
character of the ensemble. Stefano Valla (piffero and voice) and Daniele Scurati (accordion and voice) are the
rural or traditional mainstay,
while Marcello Fera (violin and voice) and Nicola Segatta (cello and voice)
contribute to the classical, even ‘baroque’ enveloping structure. And as you start listening to their twelve songs
that is exactly what you perceive. The more rustic or archaic timbre of the piffero, the double reed musical
woodwind with conical bore, is combined with the vibrant harmonies of the accordion. And in a complementary
way, the violin and the cello, embellish each of the songs with their romantic patina. Most of the melodies are
taken from regional repertoires, and in all of them you find that powerful amalgamation and contrast between
the pungent piffero, and his elegant companions, for instance in: ‘Levar di Tavola’, ‘Alessandrina in La’,
‘Alessandrina in Re’, ‘La Neve va con il Sole’, ‘Piana Bella’, or ‘Polca di Ernesto’. Throughout all the recordings,
the mastery of the piffero skillfully interpreted by Stefano Valle, creates something truly eloquent and
fascinating, in many ways comparable to that from the bombarde in the music of French Brittany. The vocal
harmonies from these four singing instrumentalists can be also appreciated in tunes such as: ‘Angiolina’, ‘Ochi
Neri’, ‘Valzer Dei Disertori’, ‘Marcellina (pianta verdollina)’, or ‘Bella Nova’. This is an album to achieve a new
perspective on traditional Italian sounds, this time from the north. As described by the violinist Marcello Fera:
“..Everything happens with potent, savage energy, and the most touching melancholy, in this musical treasure
which lives in the Apennine mountains, between Liguria and the Po Valley”.
© Pío Fernández
Occitania is the historical region in southern France where Occitan was historically the main language spoken. Currently just about 200,000–800,000 people out of 16 million living in the area are either native or proficient speakers of Occitan. The languages more usually spoken in the area are French, Catalan, Spanish and Italian. FolkWorld wrote about the Occitan female band back in 2017, and now in 2020 they come back with their album ‘Puput’. This trio of voices and percussions, Lila Fraysse, Caroline Dufau and Maud Herrera, develops a set of thirteen mostly traditional songs from the different areas in the broad southern French region limiting with the Pyrenees mountain chain, like the Atlantic Gascony, Aquitani, Bearn, ...
One of the regional percussion instruments that stands out throughout the album is the string drum, or in French: tambourin à cordes, tambourin de Béarn or Tambourin de Gascogne. In the southern side of the Pyrenees mountain range it is known as: ttun-ttun in Basque (for the sound emitted), chicotén in Aragonese, or salmo in Spanish. It is an ancient stringed musical instrument, a kind of long psaltery that is tuned to provide buzzing chords. It is usually used as a rhythm accompaniment, such as in the pipe & tabor.
Here, instead of the pipe or flute, hypnotic string percussion blends with powerful young female vocal polyphonies.This peculiar feature emerges since the start of the CD, in ‘Suu Camin de Sent Jaques’ (traditional in Gascogne), ‘Colorina de Ròsa’ (trad. Bearn), ‘Cuauque Còp’, ‘Janeta’, or ‘Los Aucèls’. Others are almost purely vocal, like ‘La Femna d’un Tambor’ (a beautiful solo by Lila Fraysse), ‘Lo Castèl Roge’, or ‘Bèth Aubre’ (Caroline Dufau’s solo). The producer of this album is the innovative and versatile guitarist Raül Refree, who became popular supporting the beginning of the musical career of the pop singer Rosalía.
© Pío Fernández
Gallo Pinto y Vicky González "Amor y Revolución"
Frisin Records, 2020
Gallo Pinto is one of those intriguing Latin folk-pop music projects that are born in far-off places like the Austrian forests, but that develop a successful repertoire of twelve Cuban, Mexican, Colombian, Spanish … songs : rancheras, cumbias, boleros, Spanish pop hits, … Nothing to be too surprised when you can find traditional Celtic music bands in almost every corner of this planet, and not necessarily with artists of Irish or Scottish descent. The members of the band are : Daniel Amann (steel guitar, electric guitar, trumpet, voice), Bernhard Breuer (drum set, cajón, guiro, accordion), Bernhard Widerin (guitar, vihuela, e-guitar, harmonica, vocals), Martin Widerin (bass guitar, voice) and the Mexican singer Vicky González (guiro, gúira, maracas, claves, vocals). Most of the tunes are written (music & lyrics in Spanish) by the members of Gallo Pinto & Vicky González.
The opening tune is 'Malecón', a tale that takes place on the Havana dock, where decaying architecture and cars, an endless seafront, the city's inhabitants and their revolution become the setting for love story. We are not talking here about 100% pure traditional South American folklore. This is more of a cross between Hispanic-inspired melodies and pop music orchestrations.
But 'Amor y Revolución' (‘Love & Revolution’) is not just a sampler of Latin music dance songs, there are also pieces like 'Mi Caballo Blanco' (‘My White Horse’), a painful poem with nostalgic guitar and accordion, about a good white-haired friend who passed away. The influence of Austrian waltzes on Mexican music (a plausible holdover from the tragic reign of Emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg, 1832-1867), appears in 'Alacrán' ('Scorpion'), a song of love and pain with mariachi trumpets and the beautiful voice of Vicky González. ‘Un Canto a Galicia’, the 1970’s pop hit by Julio Iglesias dedicated to his father’s homeland (Galicia, NW Spain), with Vicky's sweet voice and the accordion is another cornerstone of the album. Vicky González is the author of two of the album's mellow tunes: ‘Tangible’ and ‘Una Gota’ (‘One Drop’).
A subtle sense of humor is possibly a trait of Gallo Pinto's style, in songs like 'Patatas Bravas', dedicated (I guess) to the typical tapas dish that is usually served in bars and restaurants in Spain. Love for food seems to be a key motivational subject for the band. The last page of the CD booklet even contains the cooking recipe for the South American dessert ‘Tres Leches’ (‘Three Milks’). In fact, the band’s name ‘Gallo Pinto’ (‘Spotted Rooster’) comes from the traditional breakfast with rice and beans, which is especially popular in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
© Pío Fernández