Issue 11 10/99
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Label: Own; Flatfish002CD; 1999; Playing time: 49.18 min
This is the long awaited first studio album of the sensational English-Irish flute-ish band Flook. After the video which appeared earlier this year (reviewed below), this is the first CD with Flook's new line-up which is already well established around the scene. The band's founding member Mike McGoldrick has left the band some time ago, leaving the stage for Sarah Allen on flutes, whistle and accordion and Brian Finnegan on flutes, whistle and bansuri joined by Ed Boyd on guitars, bouzouki and mandolin and John Joe Kelly on bodhran.
"Flatfish" features both terrificly fast twin-flute sets with driving guitar and bodhran backing and beautiful slow tunes. It is a well balanced and varied selection of tunes drawing from diverse European traditions as well as from the composing skills of Sarah, Brian, Eaman McElholm and other musicians with Celtic roots. Though the music is mainly based in the Celtic (Irish) world, you find also traditional tunes from Macedonia, Spain and Brittany.
A fine selection of tunes, with jigs, reels, waltzes, Spanish muñeras, Macedonian oros, etc. One of the sets is called "Flutopia", and being asked for the origin of Flook, Flutopia is just the perfect answer: international flute music with interesting, often unique, arrangements.
Available via internet, from Flook's Homepage
Rock Salt & Nails "Boxed"
Label: Iona/Lismor Records; IRCD065; 1999, Playing time: 43.58 min
In last year's interview, Paul Johnston promised that those who liked the early Rock Salt & Nails albums will love the new one. After listening to "Boxed", I can attest: This fifth album marks a welcome "back to the roots" of this Shetland based folk rock band. Actually it is a quite a follow-up musically to their second, 1995 album "More and More".
A lot has happenend since the last album. Their label - a division of Chrysalis - was sold; and the band decided to move back to their first record company: the Scottish Iona label. The line-up is reshuffled as well, and sees the new Rock Salt & Nails again with a twin fiddle sound! Left from the old line-up are singer and guitarist Paul Johnston, his wife and pianist/keyboardist Fiona Johnston and the bassist John Clark. They are now joined by Paul Anderson and old-time RSN member Emma Johnston on fiddles and Davie Jamieson on Drums/Percussion.
The twin fiddle sound brings back the Shetland fiddle magic we knew from RSN in their earlier days, interweaving earwig melodies into both songs and tunes. All in all, the sound has become rougher again, with those enjoyable edges. Especially Paul's singing has returned from the soft folk pop style (as on the last 2 albums) to his very own destinctive rough and individual style. The songs have some great hooklines, and are partly written by Paul, partly by his hero Julian Dawson. The tunes carry the typical Shetland power and magic, combined with the bit of Bluegrass and Rock creating a wild and fiery melange.
Produced by the excellent Ron Kavana, this great album was a reviewer's delight which might well be declared as the best Rock Salt & Nails album so far! It is seldom enough to see bands coming from their folkpop approach back to their roots - well done RSN!
Gerry O'Beirne "Half Moon Bay"
Label: Own; 1999; Playing time: 52.44 min
Gerry O'Beirne is a well-known face on international folk music stages, having toured the world with Andy M Stewart, Patrick Street, Sharon Shannon Band and Midnight Well, to name but a few!
His songs have been covered by well known artists, his subtle guitar playing is renowned. Still, and amazingly enough, this is his first ever solo album, having been long awaited by his many fans and friends.
It is a beautiful album full of warmth and passion. His songwriting skills are represented in seven songs - poetic, mature, passionate songs. Among them are the favourites "the Holy Ground", "Half Moon Bay", "Western Highway" and "Shades of Gloria", sung with a soft and sensitive voice. Additionally, there are four guitar compositions by Gerry; in a way they are similar to the songs, being also very sensitive and inventive. It is a real solo album, with just the occasional help of bass or keyboards. Very well produced and with a tasteful design of the booklet, it is a real masterpiece.
This is just the right album for the (at this side of the world coming) winter season, to bring some warmth into the cold days and nights.
Own Production; available via internet
Deoch an Dorais
own label - no catalogue number; 10 Tracks;
Playing Time: 53.59 min
Deoch an Dorais are one of the many German bands who play Irish traditional music, and like most of them, they inevitably aren't as good as "the real thing". There are a few things to be said in their favour, though: the choice of material is more imaginative than average, avoids the "usual suspects" and includes some non-Irish material like the Northumbrian "Dol-li-a", Robert Burns' "More Than Just A Dram" and "Weathered By The Whiskey" which was written by Alan Glen for the Canadian band Uisce Beatha.
The song notes indicate that they have at least been to Ireland and know something about what they play; and if they sound like amateurs, it's hard to blame them - after all, that's exactly what they are. And they obviously enjoy playing together. Fine for what it is - namely a quickly recorded amateur production, no more, no less.
Deoch an Dorais website
Das Blaue Einhorn -
Robert Zollitsch - Naßler & Schneider "Deutscher
Thein; HD 993; 8 Tracks; Playing Time: 36.12 min
"Der deutsche Folkförderpreis", the annual German folk music award is open to any musicians living in Germany who work "in the field of folk, ethnic music, traditional music, world music and all points inbetween". The competition, now in its eighth year, is organized by the German folk music association Profolk, Folker! magazine, MDR Kultur radio, and the Tanz- und Folkfest Rudolstadt, where the three artists nominated by the jury perform in front of an audience, and the jury chooses the winner. Two months before the festival, the three nominated artists are invited to record two to three tracks at Tonstudio Thein for the annual Folkförderpreis-CD, which is released at the time of the festival.
While the CD is undoubtedly a suitable means of promoting the talents of the nominated artists, unfortunately, the three artists chosen are usually so totally different that it has very little appeal as an album. This applies to the current recording as much as to the previous years'. Robert Zollitsch, this year's winner, combines alpine traditional music (yodelling and zither) with chöömii, the mongolian throat singing
style. The result is highly original and fascinating, even funny, but simply too weird to be enjoyable to listen to for any length of time. Das Blaue Einhorn ("the blue unicorn") play in assorted musical styles (with a clear preference for the melancholy) such as klezmer, fado and gypsy music, and Jörg Naßler & Silvio Schneider are an acoustic guitar duo who enjoy a good reputation among guitar aficionados in Germany for their jazzy compositions and arrangements. Recommended to radio presenters who are looking for examples of German music to feature in their programmes, but not to the general listener.
Folkförderpreis website (in German)
Ani DiFranco & Utah Phillips "Fellow Workers"
Label: Cooking Vinyl; Cook CD 182 (US: Righteous Babe Records RBR15CD); 18
Tracks; Playing Time: 50.41 min
Unlike their first collaboration, "The Past Didn't Go
Anywhere", this album was recorded in direct interaction between storyteller Utah Phillips and Buffalo singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco and her band (Julie Wolf, Jason Mercer and Daren Hahn). There are also guest appearances from Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum and sound engineers Andrew Gilchrist and Ethan Allen. It was recorded in two evenings at Kingsway Studio New Orleans in front of a small, invited audience of around 40 fans and friends - conditions which were obviously conducive to spontaneity, improvisation and fun.
For the most part, the band creates a soundscape rather than recognizable melodies, so the music often has more in common with jazz than folk music, but it works well as an unintrusive accompaniment to Utah Phillips' stories and anecdotes. His subject matter, as the title suggests, is the role of the working people in recent American history, and along with the stories, the CD includes workers' anthems like "The Internationale" and Joe Hill's "Pie in the Sky". History lessons don't get more entertaining than this.
Ani DiFranco website, Cooking Vinyl's Ani DiFranco website
Hank Schwartz "Notes along the Way"
Label: Hank Schwartz Design; HSD 001; 24 Tracks; Playing Time: 73.52 min
This one's strictly for banjo lovers only; 70+ minutes of old-timey banjo tunes and songs with banjo accompaniment. It's a home recording, but the sound quality is surprisingly good. In the liner notes, Hank Schwartz is needlessly apologetic for his "untutored" voice - yes, he's no virtuoso, but his singing is in fact perfectly adequate and suits his style.
He's playing purely for the pleasure of it and has put together a selection of his favourite traditional tunes and songs for this album. As you would expect, many are familiar - "Arkansas Traveler", "Soldier's Joy", "Katy Cruel", "The Water Is Wide" and "I Once Loved A Lass" are all here - but he plays well (and fast!) and thus it's an enjoyable listen. As long as you like the sound of the banjo, that is!
Hank Schwartz website
Leilía "I é verdade, i é mentira"
Label: Virgin Records Spain; 8468852; 14 Tracks; Playing Time: 44.10 min
Leilía, the six pandeireteiras (singers with tambourines) from Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, were one of the great successes at this summer's Rudolstadt Festival, where their vigorous performances quickly won the hearts of the audience. It is quite common for Galician folk groups to invite pandeireteiras to perform with them - Berrogüetto and Na
Lúa are just two examples. But it is very unusual to see it the other way round, with the women taking centre stage. That's exactly what you get from Leilía. "I é verdade, i é mentira" is the first time they have attempted to record with their accompanying musicians rather than on their own, and unfortunately the result is not an unqualified success.
Don't get me wrong, this is a lovely album, but the voices don't quite have the clarity and sharpness that you want and expect from pandeireteiras. (As Suso de Toro puts it in the liner notes: "It's not singing but feeling. A powerful feeling that rings in the tambourine and howls like a wounded wolf.") This may be a concession to the major label; it can't be Leilía's fault because in their live
performances they came across with all the intensity you could hope for.
While the vocals may sound a little mellower than ideal on this album, the strong melodies and spine-tingling harmonies still make it a wonderful listening experience which noone should miss out on. They also have a talent for creating wonderful arrangements in which unobtrusive accompaniment alternates with effective interplay of the voices with the traditional instruments. For extra variety, they also include a few unaccompanied (except for the tambourines) songs. The booklet, with the full lyrics and even a map to show where the different tracks originate, is great as well.
Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys great singing; especially anyone who also likes the Finnish group Värttinä.
Label: Nascente / Music Collection
International; NSCDD 1999; 38 Tracks; Playing Time: 75.16 min (CD1), 76.36 min (CD 2)
Label: Nascente / Music Collection
International; NSCDD 2000; 30 Tracks; Playing Time: 76.00 min (CD1),
77.03 min (CD 2)
To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Folk Roots Magazine, editor Ian Anderson has compiled two double albums of roots music. The first,
"Roots", concentrates on Britain, Ireland and North America, while
"Routes" covers the rest of the world. It is sort of a "best
of the roots music of the last twenty years" if not a definitive
collection obviously - how could it be with so much to chose from, limited
space, personal preferences and the inevitable licensing difficulties. What
you do get is a first-rate selection of music spanning a wide range of
styles and traditions, in ancient as well as modern guises. What you
don't get is a selection of easily digestible material aiming to
please the casual buyer.
These then are collections for broad-minded people who are glad to be
reminded of long-forgotten musical highlights and will discover a few new
ones at the same time. There are plenty of big names of course - just about
everyone you would expect to find, plus a few lesser-known performers as
well. The selections are expertly sequenced, so they work well as albums
despite mixing very different musical styles. They present a first-rate
selection from the musical traditions of our planet. What is more, like all
Nascente releases, they offer excellent value for money. (Expect to pay
between 12 and 15 pounds sterling for each double CD, and note the generous
playing times!) The ideal present to give to people with open minds or a
recently-discovered liking of world music, but also a well-worth buy for
those who have liked it for a long time, but don't have huge CD
including track listing of "Roots" ... and of
BEV (BonificaEmilianaVeneta) "Apotropaica"
Label: Robi Droli; Enrosadira 0010; 1999; Playing time: 46.47 min
BEV's debut album is a real treat of highest quality Italian folk music. Founded by three former members of the popular Italina band "La Piva Dal Carner", BEV present traditional music from the Northern Appennini Mountains, stretching from the Po river to the Alps range. The line-up is a highly appealing combination of Italian pipes (piva), hurdy gurdy, accordion, guitar and double bass, plus an occasional sax, bombarde or mandoloncello.
Most pieces on "Apotropaica" are traditional regional tunes from the Appennines, interpreted with musical influences from other regions of Europe as well as modern music styles. Lead singer Marco Mainini has an enjoyable warm voice singing six songs (five of them trad), telling in nice lyrics about love, legends, humour and deserters. Directly the first number of the CD, "Al loov in t'al bosc" ("The Wolf in the woods") is a highlight, treated in a fresh and powerful way, yet rooted in the traditions, with some strong chorus voices and a superb arrangement.
The album title refers to the "bugne apotropaiche", stone faces that people in the Appenino Mountains used to hang on the walls of their houses to keep away bad luck from their houses. The album has an attractive bilingual (English and Italian) booklet with texts and translations of all songs.
A very strong album of five young Italians who obviously enjoy what they are doing. If you are into Italian music, then this one is a "must buy". If you have never heard before Italian music, it is a perfect introduction!
Robi Droli Records; BEV's homepage
Tartan Amoebas "giant"
Label: Iona/Lismor Records; IRCD066; Playing time: 43.52 min
Tartan Amoebas are one of the bands I would file under "Scottish Trance Music" (just like Shooglenifty and Peatbog Fairies). With their new album, they walk still on their very own way of a modern rendition of Scottish folk traditions.
All tracks on this album are composed by the Amoeba Fraser McNaughton. The main features of the music are highland bagpipes and fiddle to give a destinctive Scottish feeling to the music, then a brass section of sax and trombone adding a very groovy and a bit jazzy flavour, and finally the modern stuff in form of programming, electric guitars and drums. Out comes a very danceable (well not the traditional dances though), groovy and exciting blend of styles. Now there is also a singing Amoeba: Piper Julie Fowlis sings with an attractive sexy voice two songs: "Rescue" comes along as a modern, yet appealing Scottish dancefloor song, while the Gaelic song "dàn" has a more quiet feeling.
A great party album, also appropriate to play to people without any connections to folk and trad music.
Iona/Lismor Records; Contact of their management
Farlanders "The Farlanders"
Label: Jaro; JARO 4222-2; 1999; Playing time: 60.49 min
Folkrock from Russia - not the thing a mid-European folk fan is used to. Still, the Farlanders from Moscow are well worth a listen! Having started her carreer in the popular Russian rock band "Alliance", female singer/songwriter Inna Zhelannaya is the leader of the Farlanders, a band rooted in Russian traditions. Her confident and powerful, yet attractive voice is one of the trademarks of the Farlanders, along with the unique folk rock jazz approach. The songs (all in Russian) are a combination of old traditional and contemporary Russian songs, partly composed by Inna and the other band members. Her own songs are often very lyrical, and have a destinctive, innovative folk rock sound. Among the traditional songs, the orthodox Easter song should be mentioned sounding here like innovative fresh and modern Russian music.
The band features the in Russia sought-after clarinet player Sergey Starostin adding - along with Sergey Klevensky on clarinet, flutes etc. - interesting, sometimes jazzy influences to the music. Bass and drum are the instruments to give a rock feeling to the band.
In Western Europe, you hear yet seldom of Russian music. The Farlanders with their exciting approach of avantgarde folk rock are a proof that there is some cool folk music stuff from Russia.
The Farlanders are this autumn on big Germany tour - dates at the
Tsufit "Under the Mediterranean Sky"
Label: Sunbird Records SBCD 001; 1999; Playing Time: 42 min
The flip side of this CD says: "Shelf as Folk/World/Roots". Also suitable would have been: "Shelf as Klezmer/Gipsy/Flamenco/Singer/Songwriter". "Under the Mediterranean Sky" by Tsufit belongs to the pleasant kind of CDs that cannot be pigeonholed. The same applies to the biography of the Canadian singer: The daughter of an Israeli father and Romanian mother in the Mediterranean, spent her first years in different countries, before she had her first gigs in local folk clubs with her own songs - while being still at highschool.
The thirteen songs are by turns in English and Hebrew and melt elements of klezmer, flamenco and oriental influences. The artist is accompanied by a band of eleven musicians, e.g. with guitars, tambourines, percussion, accordion, cello and sax. "Under the Mediterranean Sky" convinces by its pleasant arrangements and first of all by the Tsufit's outstanding voice.
Tsufit e-mail and Homepage
Tannas "Suilean Dubh (Dark Eyes)"
Label: KRL/Lochshore Records; CDLDL 1289; 1999;Playing time: 45.41 min
Four years since their last album, and a mayor line up change (just one of the former line up is left, the Scottish Gaelic singer Sandra MacKay) - but now Tannas are back.
Tannas is and was always one of the most interesting young bands that is bringing Gaelic songs into today's life.
Formerly, Sandra MacKay and her sister Doreen formed the core of Tannas, but Doreen quit the musicians' life some time ago, so Sandra had to look around to form a new Tannas. The new Tannas are Sandra MacKay on Gaelic vocals, Amy Geddes (fiddle, backing vocals), Davy Scott (guitars, backing vocals) and Iain Murray (drums, percussion). On this album they are supported by some of Scotland's finest musicians including Donald Shaw (accordion, keyboards) and Charlie McKerron (fiddle) of Capercaillie fame, the great piper Fred Morrison, the bassist Davie Paton and Tannas' former member Malcolm Stitt (of Deaf Shepherd, Keep it Up, Boys of the Lough,...).
Most of the material is traditional along with some self written material. It is presented by combining pure traditions with more modern influences, without losing their roots out of sight.
The album is a prove that there is Gaelic music of today!
Gwerinos "Lleuad Llawn (Full Moon)"
Label: Sain; SCD 2221; 1999; Playing time: 42.47 min
This album is not to easy to pigeonhole - to say it in one sentence: Gwerinos are seven guys from Wales, and they play music rooted in Welsh traditions, all the lyrics are in Welsh language and all except three trad ones are selfwritten.
I like their music a lot, but have problems to describe it. It is much influenced by Welsh traditions, but has many other influences as well.
Gwerinos is a highly original band, the CD is a bit inhomogenues, but very enjoyable...
Tejedor "Texedores de Suaños"
Label: Resistencia; RESCD081; Playing time: 47.19 min
The Asturian folk group Tejedor is a family affair - the group consist of the brothers José Manuel (Asturian bagpipes, low whistle, flute) and Javier (button accordion, bagpipes, flutes) and their sister Eve Tejedor (traditional percussion, vocals). All three are young, but already outstanding musicians.
You can see there talent if you know that Phil Cunningham, one of the most thought after musician/producer of Scotland was the producer of this album - this is actually the first album to come out of Spain, which is produced by Phil.
Phil adds with his accordion also as a guest to the sound of the album but there are more heavyweights of the folk scene to help Tejedor: Michael McGoldrick on uilleann pipes, flute (Capercaillie), Duncan Chisholm on fiddle, the magic Trikitixa player Kepa Junkera, James Mackintosh (Shooglenifty) and more.The chosen material is self written or traditional, but all excellent. The group has a fresh, and acoustic sound. The instrumental parts are often based on the gaita (the Asturian pipes). The songs are either sung by the powerfull voice of Eva Tejedor, or by a group of some girls (including Eva). And one song is sung by the guest singer Chus Pedro.
Tejedor have proved with this album, that Asturian music should not be ignored in the world of folk music.
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