Issue 10 7/99

FolkWorld CD Reviews


Susana Seivane
Do Fol; Df-015-CD; Playing time: 43.42 min
Susana Seivane is a young 23 years old female piper from Northern Spain. This self titled album is her debut solo album - solo meaning here an album of Susana with a backing band. Susana plays the Gaita (Spanish pipes) and various percussion instruments. The backing is provided on accordion, guitar, bouzoukÝ, bass guitar, violin, flute, keyboards, percussion and the fine voice of Sonia Lebedynski.
Susana started to play the pipes at the age of three, both her father and her grandfather are pipers. The album contains 11 tunes and 2 songs, all are sounding quite traditional, but most are written by contemporary artists. Northern Spain has a growing number of excellent pipers, Susana is surely one of the new stars. With this album she directly starts on a highly professional level, and it will be interesting to see where the next steps of her career will lead her...
Everything in the booklet is written in three languages: Galaga, Spanish and English, so many people can understand it.
Do Fol
Christian Moll

Tim van Eyken "New Boots"
Label: Appledore Music; Playing time: 44.06 min
Tim van Eyken, a young melodeon and whistle player and singer from England, has won one of the most prestigous awards in Great Britain, the BBC Radio 2 Young Tradition Award 1998. This award has helped in the past several young musicians to make their way in the folk scene in Britain: Michael McGoldrick (who now has an all star band and plays with Capercaillie), Luke Daniels (who has played with Riverdance), Jenny Wrigley (who tours the world together with her sister).
Tim hopefully will receive now some media and music listener attention as well, he is worth it. He has a nice relaxed way to play the tunes sounding a bit modern but steeped in the traditions. Many tunes are trad ones, some fine tunes written by Tim himself, and to complete the tune selection there are a 'Schottische' written by Belgian box player Wim Clays (of Ambrozijn). Additionally, there are four songs, three traditionals (Twa Corbies, Rounding the Horn and General Wolfe) and one excellent self written song (The Keys of Sorrow). Tim knows who to interpretate songs, he has a very nice slow way to present them. All music on this album is played on acoustic instruments: Tim (melodeon, voice, whistle) is backed by Colin Cotter and John Hunt on guitar, Jane Harbour on violin and Robert Harbron on concertina and guitar.
Tim van Eyken is definitely a name to watch out for...
mail to Appeldore Music
Christian Moll

Cantychiels "Cantyshiels"
Greentrax; CDTRAX 175; 10 Tracks; Playing Time: 46.37 min
Cantyshiels is the collective name for a group of Scottish musicians known from bands like Deaf Shepherd and Iron Horse, who have long enjoyed playing together informally on occasions. They themselves describe their first studio recording as an "eclectic collection of songs and tunes", and it certainly is. It covers a wide range of styles and genres, from Scottish trad. to US country rock, with diverse influences from new age / Celtic mysticism to Eastern European rhythms thrown in. The playing is beyond reproach, but the album veers off into so many directions that it fails to form any sort of coherent whole and may therefore ultimately satisfy nobody.
This has the potential to develop into something good, but it's a way off yet.
Contact Greentrax for more information
Anja Beinroth

Toumani Diabate & Ballake Sissoko "New Ancient Strings "
Rykodisc / Hannibal; HNCD 1428; 8 Tracks; Playing Time: 53.25 min
This album is a rare gem: two kora masters alone in a quiet room with a natural acoustic, recreating the spirit of their fathers' classic recording "Cordes Anciennes" (hence the title). It is a very intimate, intense, fascinating and beautiful recording of purely instrumental kora duets - with no overdubs - by two masters of the instrument who have been playing together since childhood. A few tunes are reinterpretations from the original album, illustrating how playing style has evolved in the last three decades.
To quote the excellent liner notes, "their 42 strings weave an intricate and seamless tapestry of ornamental variations, lyrical melodies and flowing, punchy rhythms. " Already much praised elsewhere, this album is a must-have for everyone who likes the sound of the kora. You won't hear it played better than this.
Contact Rykodisc for more information
Anja Beinroth

Ashley MacIsaac "Close to the Floor"
Wicklow Records; 09026 63247 2; 11 Tracks; Playing Time: 46.43 min
When he recorded his first album in 1992, Ashley MacIsaac was just 17, but already a dazzling fiddle player totally in control of his instrument. The album consists mainly of lively dance tunes - jigs, reels and strathspeys - with a few slow airs thrown in for variety. It is purely instrumental.
The tunes are interesting and well-arranged. The instrumentation is sparse, with the fiddle very much the centre of attention and a backbone of piano (Joey Beaton) and acoustic guitar (David MacIsaac). The latter, however, frequently gets drowned out in the mix.
Even back then, the now-much-celebrated Ashley MacIsaac was a fine player with a dynamic, lilting fiddle style and, despite the limited instrumentation, manages to hold the attention of the listener throughout.
Album information from Wicklow Records
Anja Beinroth

Oysterband "Here I Stand"
Pläne; Nr. 88833 / ARIS CD 216 699 62; UK: Running Man; RunManCD 101; 16 Tracks; Playing Time: 58.58 min
In the July '99 issue of FolkRoots magazine, editor Ian Anderson suggests that British roots-based musicians might stand a better chance of gaining wider recognition and commercial success in the mass market if they used the now-available technology to their advantage instead of ignoring modern production values and presentation standards. The Oysterband have been taking just this approach for over a decade now and their latest album is a good example of how well it can work.
"Here I Stand" is a carefully crafted, thoroughly modern rock album, brimming with ideas and deeply rooted in the tradition without sounding in the least traditional. It relies heavily on a range of acoustic instruments - fiddle, melodeon, acoustic guitar, cello and kantele to name just the most prevalent - while still achieving a full modern rock band sound.
The songs are all Oysterband originals, and very varied in both mood - from dark and brooding to jaunty and jolly - and subject matter. There are the critical, politically aware lyrics which have attracted the German Pläne label, as well as some fine love and love-gone-wrong songs; there's even a millenium anthem, "I Know It's Mine", complete with belt-out chorus, for all those of us thoroughly sick of the Robbie Williams alternative. Inbetween, there are some lovely tunes, used as short linking sequences and showcasing the more unusual instruments (cello, kantele and the gorgeous glass harmonica).
"Here I Stand" is a bold statement of confidence from a mature band that knows where it's at and seems happy with where it's heading. And it deserves to be hugely successful.
The Running Man edition of "Here I Stand" comes packaged with a 20-page "F-Word" fanzine in which members of the band reflect on the album, its production and the wider issues of roots music and life-in-general. A US release of the album is also planned for the near future.
More information from Pläne (in German); Oysterband website; Oysterband's information on "Here I Stand"
Anja Beinroth

Diego Peláez "Melosofias"
RCA Victor / BMG; BM 560; 12 Tracks; Playing Time: 52.55 min
This has all the signs of a major-label money-spinning venture - take an experienced singer from the Latino music scene in Paris and give him the chance to record his first solo album. In Havana, Cuba. Where else. Who could blame him for taking up the offer?
The style of the recording is salsa, characterized as (I quote the booklet) "a brass section straight out of the 1950's, mixed with the latin groove of the 1960's ... and 1990's". Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't really have anything to make it stand out among the current flood of Cuban CDs. It's neither particularly good nor bad - just rather unnecessary.
Anja Beinroth

Pili-Pili "Best of ..."
Jaro Medien; Jaro 4223-2; 12 Tracks; Playing Time: 66.34 min
Inspired by a visit to Central Africa in the early '80s, Dutch jazz keyboarder Jasper van't Hof got a group of international musicians including the Guinean Isaac Tagul percussion group together to record "Pili Pili", a 15-minute musical journey which unexpectedly became a dance hit in 1984 and encouraged Jasper van't Hof to take this musical experiment further.
For the second album, the group was joined by lead singer Angelique Kidjo, who stayed on for the following five albums and extensive tours before launching her successful solo career. Her place is now filled by the equally talented Izaline Calister.
The "Best of" was compiled by Jasper van't Hof and producer Uli Balss from seven studio albums recorded between 1984 and 1998. It aims to represent the various facets of the Pili Pili concept, which is based around the interaction of West African rhythms and melodies with a Western horn section and Jasper van't Hof's keyboard. They have succeeded in putting together an album which sounds coherent and interesting and is very enjoyable to listen to. At the same time, it is also very danceable and would make a great soundtrack for a party in a large venue.
Further information from Jaro
Anja Beinroth

The Wendigo "This Fiery Height"
Label: Misericordia; Miseri 3; 12 Tracks; Playing Time: 64.42 min
"This Fiery Height" is the first recording of The Wendigo, a trio consisting of Julian Sutton (melodeon), Steve Tyler (hurdy gurdy, cittern) and Anne Marie Summers (bagpipes, clarinet, recorder), who formed the group in 1995 to pursue a shared interest in the dance music of the Massif Central region in France. All the tunes here are original compositions by group members and were recorded in just two days.
As one might expect, the drones of the hurdy gurdy and pipes dominate the sound. Fans of medieval music are sure to get a lot of pleasure out of this recording. Others may find it a little bit tedious. I did like it, but think it would have worked a lot better if some of the tracks were a bit shorter - they don't all offer enough variety to maintain the interest over six minutes and more.
The Wendigo website; Contact The Wendigo
Anja Beinroth

Various "Celtic Visions"
RCA Victor / BMG; 09026 63372 2; 13 Tracks; Playing Time: 51.13 min
I must admit that I flinch when confronted with compilations which have the word 'Celtic' in their title, as so many of them are simply dire. This one's not as bad as many, though, at least it does feature a few respectable performers like Carlos Núñez and Cherish the Ladies. For no obvious reason, half the album is given over to just two performers, James Galway and Áine Minogue, and most of the others are practically unknown. The chosen tracks are a mix of traditionals and original compositions, inevitably including a couple of Carolan harp tunes.
All the source CDs are released on the RCA Victor label, and this selection is as 'mainstream' as you would expect. Think 'nice' rather than 'exciting'. Might make a decent present for someone who doesn't actually like folk music. Anyone who does should have no trouble finding something more interesting to buy.
More information
Anja Beinroth

Ashley MacIsaac "fine thank you very much (a traditional album)"
Wicklow Records (BMG); 09026 63248 2; Playing time: 56:44 mins
This follow-up to Ashley MacIsaacs highly acclaimed album, hi how are you today? proves that the man with the devilishly attractive goatee and trademark sunglasses is a master fiddler in his field. Whilst the last album was infused with synthesizers and drum loops, this one is a purely traditional release, which features MacIsaac on raw fiddles and piano. John Allan Cameron is the special guest on guitar, and the album pumps 100% pure traditional juice, the perfect accompaniment to a steaming bowl of Irish stew and a pint of Guinness down at the local pub.
Fans of MacIsaacs first major album might be surprised at the traditional feel of this second one, but it is reminiscent of his first real recording back in 1992 in terms of its strictly traditional tunes, instruments and arrangements. This has recently been re-released in the shops, and is worth checking out. Fine thank you very much includes some traditional toe-tapping strathspeys, hornpipes, jigs and reels such as Maggy Cameron, MacLaine of Loch Buie, Gin I had a Bonnie Lass and Paddy on the Turnpike (?!); check out track 6 which is a live track with lots of atmosphere, jangling pianos the likes of Jools Holland and MacIsaacs frenzied fiddling (yes, the oul shouts and yelps punctuate the music too!).
To date, MacIsaac has made himself a favourite at folk festivals in Canada, the USA and Britain, and this album shows his traditional roots, giving a fuller picture of his talented fiddle-playing. Makes you wonder what the next album will be like - hmm, with a touch of jazz and bossanova perhaps?
Ashley MacIsaac Homepage, Fan club address : C.B.D.A. PO.Box 25025 Clayton Park RPO, Halifax, NS B3M 4H4
Kathy Tan

Steve Ashley "The Test of Time"
Label: Market Square Music; MSMCD102; Playing time: 72 mins
If the name sounds vaguely (if not strikingly) familiar, this is because Ashley co-founded the Albion Country Band in 1971 with ex- Fairport Convention members Ashley Hutchings, Simon Nicol and Dave Mattacks. A year later he recorded an album with Anne Briggs and formed his own band, Ragged Robin. This set the scene for his style of English folk rock which has resulted in a musical career spanning over 30 years.
This retrospective collection of Ashleys material is a good introduction to his style of song-writing and impassioned delivery, ranging from quiet, introspective ballads to wassails in folk-rock style reminiscent of fellow folksters Richard Thompson, the late Ewan MacColl and Peter Bellamy. Indeed, working with Ashley on this album are some of folk rocks well-known names, such as Dave Mattacks, Linda Thompson and Nick Drakes arranger, Robert Kirby. If youre into this sort of folk, then the tracks Fire and Wine, Over there in Paradise, Before the Fireballs Fall, The Duke of Cambridge and Old John England should send you off into seventh-heaven, as you close your eyes and remember the days when the Glastonbury festival was actually about music and not mud, and flower-power reigned supreme. As for myself? Well, sadly, this isn't quite my field of expertise. This album, which was the recommended folk album of the year by the Sunday Telegraph, was not quite my cup of tea, and I found myself flicking from track to track listlessly.
But thats my own short-coming; fans of English born and bred folk talent should love this album by a musician who played a major role in the development of its scene. Plus, the 17 tracks and a fully-illustrated 8 page booklet do a good job of giving you an insight into Ashleys career which has, indeed, stood the test of time.
E-mail Steve Ashley; Market Square Music, Buckingham, MK18 3AF, England
Kathy Tan

Laurel MacDonald "Chroma"
Wicklow Records (BMG); 09026 63270 2
Laurel MacDonald is the latest in a string of successful artists to emerge from Canada, and she follows hot on the heels of fellow female songwriter Mary Jane Lamond (whom she pays tribute to in the sleevenotes) and Nova-Scotian fiddler Ashley MacIsaac.
MacDonalds style of song-writing reminds the listener a bit of Enya and Lorena McKennitt, and her ethereal vocals do a good job of weaving through the arrangements of ambient guitars, drums, percussion, bells and other traditional Irish instruments such as the uillean pipes and bodhran. The lyrics range from drawing on the traditional folk-ballad in a wing and a prayer to Christian liturgical sources in Angus Dei. Track 4, oran na h-eala, posits the simple, yet moving, lyrics: o guileag i, guileag e, guileag o... my nest was robbed / when i was in Ireland / my feet are black, / and my body is pure white. The album ends with Upon Silence, which demonstrates MacDonalds concern with boundaries and planes of perception : earth meets sky where? At this obscure horizon / all earth or all heaven in grey-green and white / as you hurl yourself out to that frozen forever / and into the grey sky your body takes flight. Hmm, yes, a profound question indeed, as you ponder over it thoughtfully whilst swaying to the rhythm of the guitars, moringa (clay pot) and percussion.
This is an album to add to your Celtic / New Age collection if you want a good dose of melodic trance-chant type stuff. Maybe striking the pose MacDonald does on the cover (eyes closed, arms wrapped around neck and shoulders) is a step in becoming a truly New Age hippie. Oh, and lots of silver eyeshadow and glossy lipstick helps too.
Wicklow Records (BMG); further infos
Kathy Tan

Cherish The Ladies "At Home"
BMG Music 09026 633772; 12 Tracks; Playing Time: 58.00 min
Over the last twelve years, the name of an Irish jig has become equally known as the name for the first all-female traditional Irish band in what is still a male dominated field, Cherish The Ladies. For their second release on the major label RCA Victor, and their seventh release at all, Joanie Madden and her merry band of girls gathered family members and old friends "at home" to join them in a musical house party. And so they came, to name but flautist Seamus Egan from Solas, The Clancy Brothers, and fiddler and former Cherish The Ladies member Eileen Ivers. Altogether they are digging out the roots of their musical heritage. Powerfully played tunes and soulful songs, most of them well known. Critics may moan about those too often covered stuff. However, it's the sheer joy in playing that drives the album. And that's what a house party is about, isn't it?
BMG Music
Walkin' T:-)M

Orion "Restless Home"
Keltia Musique RSCD 224; 14 Tracks; Playing Time: 62.46 min
Back in 1991 the Dutch "New Folksounds" wrote: "Often enough the Irish, whether feeding on Guinness or not, seem hardly interested in what's going on on stage. This makes it even more remarkable that, almost effortlessly, these musicians managed to get on top of things with their instrumental and often subtle Irish traditionals." Belgian-Breton band Orion is still going strong with their 3rd release, "Restless Home". The band has undergone a number of changes in its line-up, often including leading Irish and Breton musicians. Latest addition to Raquel Gigot (accordion), Rudy Velghe (fiddle) and Marc Keyaert (keyboards) is Glaswegian Jamie McMenemy (bouzouki, vocals), once founding member of the Battlefield Band. This time Orion is playing mainly own compositions, in between the Irish tradition and European influences: haunting airs, powerful jigs and reels, O'Carolan pieces as well as Bulgarian rhythms. Jamie adds a traditional Childe ballad and a contemporary song in 7/8 time. If you ever questioned what "world music" really means, look no further. Whereas some people in Europe still kill each other, Orion is blending music from traditions all over the continent. And it works in perfect harmony.
Keltia Musique
Walkin' T:-)M

Rory Campbell & Malcolm Stitt "Field of Bells"
Lochshore Label CDLDL 1285; 10 Tracks; Playing Time: 39.36 min
The inlet cover shows Rory and Malcolm getting off an old automobile, wearing dark sunglasses, reaching out for something in the distance - yeah, for what? Is the picture a metaphor for their new album? Can be! Rory Campbell (pipes, whistles) and Malcolm Stitt (guitar, bouzouki) have been playing music together for years. Both are members of Deaf Shepherd, Rory is also a member of Old Blind Dogs and released a solo album in 1997, "Magaid A Phipir - The Piper's Whim", Malcolm is performing with Keep it Up and Boys of the Lough. The "Field of Bells" draws heavily on Rory's original compositions in the traditional idiom, but it's the arrangement, Neil Harland on bass and drum programming by Jim Sutherland, which may shock the traditional purist. Now, like it or not! Scottish musicians are used to that kind of experiment. One can argue it is not necesarry to add such beats, but here's good musicians at work and the tunes speak for themselves. And whatever, you can give the album to your kids anyway!
Lochshore Label
Walkin' T:-)M

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