Issue 12 12/99

FolkWorld CD Reviews


Niamh Parsons "Blackbirds & Thrushes"
; GLCD 1197; 1999; Playing time: 56.05 min
Another real gem from Ireland. Niamh Parsons is Ireland's best female traditional singer, having a very rich and mature voice, and the skill to let the full beauty of any song flourish. After having worked and recorded for several years with The Loose Connections which was more of a modern folk outfit, this is a pure traditional album, and without doubt Niamh's best album yet.
The wonderful voice of Niamh is the main feature of "Blackbirds & Thrushes"; still Niamh has invited a couple of great Irish musicians adding a subtle beautiful accompaniment to some the songs. The album directly starts with a real cracker; the title track starts with a sensitive low whistle solo of John McSherry; later on Niamh's singing is supported by subtle uilleann pipes, fiddle, guitar etc, and ends up with an instrumental set "the Blackbird Waltz". All songs featured on this album are traditional, and there are several quite unknown treasures among them. Still, a singer of the calibre of Niamh Parsons does not have to fear to record a couple of the best known Irish traditional songs. And when Niamh sings "Fear a Bhata", "The Water is Wide" and "The Flower of Magherally O", the listener is only impressed by the extraordinary beauty of this voice, and would not think about even knowing the song at all. A highlight of the album is the song "Droimeann Donn Dílis", bringing together the two possibly best traditional Irish singers of the time: Niamh Parsons and Ciarán Ó Gealbháin (Danú).
This album is simply too beautiful to express the feeling and quality in words, so I can only recommend to get the album and listen to one of the best traditional Irish albums of this decade...
Green Linnet
Michael Moll

DeReelium "Millvalley"
Liedekeler Musikproduktionen; LIECD99012; 1999; Playing time: 63.47 min
This album was one of the most welcome surprises of this issue. DeReelium - one of the German Irish bands - proof with their debut album that they are not only good musicians with a passion for and knowledge of Irish music, but that the quality of their music can easily be compared with the high standards set by some of the traditional bands in Ireland. And they have developed their own style, adding tastefully some non-Irish influences to the Irish music.
DeReelium has an attractive line-up featuring bouzouki/singing (Barbara Steinort), fiddle (Michael Möllers), English concertina (Georg Möllers), banjo/mandola/Schäferpfeife (German bagpipes) (Klaus Gehrmann), guitar/bass (Reiner Köhler) and bodhran/bones (Rolf Wagels). These instruments work very well together; especially the - in Irish trad music less usual - English concertina adds some special atmosphere into the songs and tunes. In diverse sets of jigs and reels, the guys show that they are very much at home in Irish traditions. Meanwhile, you can find also a few destinctive tunes composed by band members. One of the highlights of the album is the traditional set "Sam's Tune/Gain Ainm/The Abbey Reel" with some Klezmer feeling in it, and some great lilting of Barbara in the end. Barbara sings also four songs with her pretty voice, tastefully and originally arranged by the band; all of them being far away from Irish ballad standards ("Susanna Martin"; "Stretched on your Grave"; "Wave up to the Shore"; "Kind Friends And Companions").
A CD with many highlights, and a sure recommendation to any lover of Irish and Celtic traditional music worldwide. DeReelium combines some of the current best talent of Celtic music in Germany, and the band has found its own destinctive sound. Maybe the best Continental Celts from Germany that have come to my ears yet. No doubt you will hear from them again soon in FolkWorld.
P.S. They are regularly see in Hanover's pub sessions - so if you are in Hanover...
Dereelium's homepage, E-mail DeReelium
Michael Moll

Bagad Bro Kemperle "Ar gouriz ruz"
Coop Breizh; CD 895; 1999; Playing time: 73.45 min
Bagads are the "traditional" pipes, bombardes and drums bands from Brittany. This is one of the oldest established bagads, with its roots tracing back to 1949. Still, this is one of the most exciting and most modern pipeband CDs I have heard yet.
You will find on this album a lot of typical Breton tunes, many of them traditional. While the base of the music are always bombardes (soprano, tenor and alto) and Breton bagpipes, there is still a lot of variation and excitement in the music. Apropos variation - most people who will buy this album will do it because of two tunes, live recorded in 1996, featuring Bagad Bro Kemperle along with the rockers Celtas Cortos - the result is exiting hard rock pipe'n bombarde music.
I have never thought that I would ever enjoy 74 minutes of a pipeband - the arrangements of this Bagad give pipeband music a totally new dimension, a perspective for a huge audience.
Coop Breizh
Michael Moll

Phons Bakx "Music and the Dispel of Thoughts: Jew's Harp Music"
Label: Antropodium; ATP002-99PhB; 1999; Playing time: 76.35 min
"Music and the Dispel of Thoughts" aims to demonstrate that the Jew's harp is a serious instrument rather than just a toy, and it succeeds. Dutch ethnomusicologist Phons Baks has been playing, studying and teaching the Jew's harp for many years and is the author of a history of the instrument, published in Dutch.
The album has two distinct parts: the first 55 minutes present Phons Baks playing in different combinations with other musicians, from renowned Jew's harp players from all over the world like John Wright to locally resident musicians with various backgrounds, including the acoustic blues group Banty Rooster and the Irish brothers Robert & Jules Bitter. Their contributions are among the most accessible tunes on the CD, and the unusual combination of Irish traditional tunes and Jew's harp accompaniment make for a fascinating listening experience. So do the amazing Jew's harp duets with Enno Meijers.
The final 21 minutes of the CD are reserved for Phons Baks' solo work. They are multi-tracked home recordings inspired by a variety of subjects ranging from observations of nature, especially of birds, to the work sounds created by various Jew's harp manufacturers.
The album comes with a 26-page booklet providing extensive notes on the Jew's harp, the players and the tunes featured on the CD. It is available from the Foundation Antropodium at the following address:
Stichting Antropodium, Van Bourgondielaan 32, 4333 LR, St Laurens - Middelburg, Holland. Telephone: +31 118 624 934.
Anja Beinroth

Capercaillie "Glenginnan (Songs of the '45)"
Survival Records; CAP 6; 1998; Playing time: 36.05 min
"Glennginnan" consists of six songs and a tune recorded in 1995 for the BBC Scotland documentary "Raising the Standard" about the 250th anniversary of the last Jacobite rebellion in Scotland, and two extra tracks which were also recorded as film music.
The lyrics are all in Gaelic, and unfortunately no translations are provided - in fact, the song lyrics aren't included in the booklet at all, though they can be mailed to buyers on request or copied from Capercaillie's website. Song notes are also rather brief, which is a pity considering that most non-Scottish listeners will probably be unfamiliar with the historical context of the songs.
There's a very percussive sound to the music and quite a lot of wafty synthesizer as well as the traditional instruments (bouzouki, fiddle, bagpipes and whistles), which won't be to everyone's taste, although Capercaillie fans may be used to it. The album fits neatly into the current wave of "Celtic" releases, so it's unfortunate that it's only available directly from Survival Records and Capercaillie (see website for details) - with the right promotion and wide availability, it could sell in huge numbers.
Capercaillie Homepage
Anja Beinroth

Dennis Gomo "Nippising"
Label: own; DG222; 1999
Yet another American singer/songwriter of the "not too bad, not too good" variety? He's Canadian, actually, but other than that it seems like fair comment. He doesn't actually sing all the time either, choosing instead to recite large portions of his lyrics and restrict the singing to the chorus on a few tracks. If the idea is to make the words harder to ignore, he's probably succeeding; I found it a little off-putting, though.
Most of the tracks are sparsely arranged with dobro and harmonica (played by Gomo) plus percussion and sometimes one or two additional elements such as female vocal, keyboards or accordion. While the album couldn't be described as a blues recording, the sound is nevertheless strongly influenced by Gomo's years of experience in the genre. His lyrics are transcribed in the booklet and tackle life in the modern world and visions of the future in a thoughtful and tentatively optimistic manner.
I can't make up my mind whether I like this or not, so it may be worth a try as long as you like acoustic / country blues and the plaintive sound of the dobro.
Dennis Gomo Homepage
Anja Beinroth

Various "Nordic Ethno Grooves Collection 2"
Westpark Music; WP 87064; 1999; Playing time: 50.32 min
This album samples the modern variety of Scandinavian roots music and includes mostly artists who have already made a name for themselves at least in other European countries if not further afield: Groupa, Hedningarna, Garmana, JPP, Wimme, Troka, Triakel, Anitas Livs and Hoven Droven are all represented, and should need no introduction.
The list of names may give you an idea of the broad range of approaches to Scandinavian traditional music featured here: from strongly evident roots right through to computer-generated dance grooves with merely a hint at the tradition.
The sampler works extremely well as a first introduction to current Scandinavian music, and will be a helpful guide when venturing further. Anyone who hasn't only recently discovered an interest in Scandinavian roots will probably already own most of the source recordings, though.
Anja Beinroth

Soïg Sibéril "Gwenojenn"
Label: Coop Breizh; CD 889; 1999; Playing time: 56.58 min
Brittany (Northern France) is a region offering a wealth of - mainly Celtic - music. The label Coop Breizh presents all styles of Breton music: from HipHop-Folk over Bagads to archaic traditions. This time the celtic guitarist Soïg Sibéril shows how a Breton 'guitar' album can sound.
Soïg has gathered some of the best musicians of Brittany around him, including Alain Genty (Bass), Alan Stivell (Harp), Jackie Molard (fiddle) and Karl Gouriou (Sax). So the whole album is more like a band's album than a solo album.
Much of the material is written by Soig, others is traditional; the whole ensemble of tunes is well chosen and makes up a fascinating album. The overall sound is quite modern, very hypnotic and often powerfull and groovy.But there are also some quieter bits presenting solo guitar music.
Soïg is an excellent fingerstyle guitarist, and the guitar mostly first presents the themes of the tune, but often an other instrument (e.g. the saxophone) takes it over. Alain Genty has produced some of the fine tunes, being an excellant talent in arranging traditional and traditional influenced music for the present. A fine album!
Coop Breizh,
Soig Siberil's homepage
Christian Moll

Debbie Scott
Veesik Records; VKCD104; 1999; Playing time: 53.24 min
Shetland - if you think of these islands between Scotland and Norway, what instrument do you have in mind? - Right: the fiddle. Debbie Scott plays this instrument, and she actually plays it extremly well.
Debbie was taught fiddle by the late Dr Tom Anderson (the best known Shetland fiddle player) from the age of eight until about the age of fourteen. Today she has got the feeling for music from Shetland in her blood. Besides interpreting traditional tunes, Debbie composes some great music herself - e.g. the excellent opening track or tune 'The Bousters Boy', which she has written for the legendary guitarist 'Peerie' Willie Johnson. Peerie Willie, by the way, plays guitar on 'his' set himself...
The Shetland fiddle is always centerpiece of the music, it can be heard solo but often it is backed very delightfully by John Hutchinson on guitar and double bass (and on one track by Peerie Willie and on one by the accordion player Alan Clark). The backing music just emphasises the fiddle music, it doesn't take the attention of the listener away from the lovely, sometimes wild and a bit archaic fiddle music. About two minutes of quietness after the last tune mentioned in the booklet, then slowly the guitar begins to play again and this is the openig of the unexpected finale of a great album - but have a listen yourself. If you like fiddle music and especially Shetland fiddle music, this album is a must!
Veesik Records
Christian Moll

Fred Morrison "The Sound of the sun"
KRL/Lochshore; CDLDL 1284; 1999; Playing time: 58.03 min
Fred Morrison - the king of the pipes, as he is called in France - has brought out after a long time a new solo album. Fred has done between his last and this solo album musically quite diverse projects. He was member of Clan Alba, Urb Ri, Capercaillie, he is the head of Ceolas, he has produced some great albums and has taught piping.
Fred was taught by his father, an excellent piper of South Uist, whose tutoring was based wholly on the cainntearachd, a unique singing style to teach piping, where specific notes and rhythms are given particular sounds. Equal emphasis was given to feel and technique. Fred is much influenced by the music of South Uist, and all (also the self written material) is steeped in this tradtion.
Fred plays on this album Border and uilleann pipes and low whistle. Some of the tracks are solo like the haunting low whistle set 'The sound of the sun', or the Border pipes ste '2/4 marches', others are accompanied by Deidre MacLullich (fiddle), Kenny Fraser (fiddle), Ross Martin (guitar) and Will Lamb (bouzouki). With the latter two Fred also performs life. The backing is sometimes subtel and emphasising Fred's music, sometimes rhythmic and driving.
Fred is an outstanding musician and composer, who has done much for the young piping scene in Scotland - go now and listen to Fred himself.
Christian Moll

Les Frères Morvan (Ar Vreudeur Morvan) "Fest-noz à Botcol"
Coop Breizh; CD 893; 1999; Playing time: 74.00 min
These days, Fest Noz dance nights enjoy a huge popularity, especially among youths. The revival of Fest Noz has started in the 60s, with the Frères Morvan having had an important part in reviving it. The cover of this CD shows three old men in front of a mikrophone, all three in a blue checked shirt and a beret on their heads. But there is also another photo, with the backs of those three in the foreground and a big hall packed with a dancing crowd in front of them...
74 minutes of a capella Gwerz singing of three old guys who know very well their business. All songs are Breton dance songs - there are two Suite Plinn, two Suite Fisel, then Gwerz, Polka, Kost ar c'hoat, Pach Pi, Scottish and Polka Plinn. It's amazing how they make it to sing without a longer break to breath for a whole Fest Noz. It must be an impressive experience to dance the night away to the songs of these three originals.
It is a great album to use for dancing, and it is a perfect one to add another curiosity to the records collection...
Coop Breizh
Michael Moll

Tallari "Virtta"
Label: Kansanmusiikki-Instituutti (Folk Music Institute); KICD 65; 1999; Playing time: 43.59 min
Tallari is these days regarded as a Finnish institution. Started in 1986, it is Finland's only state supported folk music group, charged with the task of researching, reconstructing, reviving, recording and presenting Finnish folk music in all its variety. This is their eighth album, featuring once again the core and founder members Antti Hosioja (accordion, guitar etc.), Ritva Talvitie (violin, melodeon etc.), Timo Valo (harmonium, kantele, keys, double bass) and Risto Hotakainen (Violin, mandolin, percussion etc.). They are joined this time by the famous and talented singers Tellu Virkkala and Anita Lehtola who have been with Tallari during the last few years; and this album actually marks the farewell of the two singers.
While their task of reconstructing and researching might sound like a museal activity, Tallari's music is far away from being antiquated. The CD offers an attractive mixture of traditions and modern arrangements, of traditional and own material. Often, the music is quiet and atmospheric, with the voices of the two "guest" singers having an important part in the recording. Tellu adds a bit of her background by providing a polska from Hedningarna and a self composed Kalevala poem. A beautiful selection of songs and tunes of Finnish traditions, played with passion.
Kansanmusiikki-Instituutti (Folk Music Institute), 69600 Kaustinen, Finland
Michael Moll

Loreena McKennitt "Live in Paris and Toronto - Quinlan Road"
Canada's Loreena McKennitt has been a Celtic and world music phenomenon for the last decade or so. Each of her earlier studio albums has been as carefully crafted as a mediaeval tapestry, though they've sold more like common hot cakes. But to my mind it didn't seem the kind of material that would translate well onto the live stage. Loreena McKennitt's style is usually moody to the point of being ethereal, and layered with what sound like studio effects.
This double live album proves me quite wrong. It is as polished, intense and extraordinary as her studio work. McKennitt took an ensemble of exceptional musicians on tour in Europe and North America in 1998. Around 100 minutes of recordings from the Toronto and Paris shows have made it onto this double CD set.
A fine musician and composer, McKennitt plays Celtic harp, accordion and keyboards. However her voice is her finest instrument, as true live as it is on record. She reaches great heights on such wonderful songs as "The Lady of Shalott" and "The Highwayman". That fine voice is backed by a few conventional instruments, but also by the exotic sounds of the hurdy-gurdy (Nigel Eaton), the oud and the bouzouki (Brian Hughes), the cello (Caroline Lavelle) and the acoustic double-bass (Danny Thompson). The sound is beautifully rounded out by the rich percussion of Rick Lazar.
Sad to say it was personal tragedy that hastened the release of this CD set. Loreena McKennitt's fiance Ronald Rees and two other men were drowned in a 1998 boating incident in Canada. Proceeds from the sales of the CDs will go to the The Cook-Rees Memorial Fund that aims to promote water safety.
Peter Grant

David Hyams "Miles to Go"
Label: Dark Horse Records; DH001
Western Australian guitarist David Hyams may not be well-known on the other side of the continent, but that hasn't stopped him from producing one of the finest Australian acoustic albums for years. This self-issued release begins with a couple of creditable acoustic evocations of the west Australian bush, but soon veers into territory not usually well covered by Australian musicians - Celtic music.
With support from concertina, whistle and uilleann pipe player Ormonde Waters, flautist/piper Dougal Adams, harpist Shellyt Cox and a host of other W.A. musos, Hyams launches into some fine and fresh Irish and Scottish-inflected tunes. Most are self-penned, including the notable "Journey into Ireland", which has some rollicking dance music sandwiched between haunting themes that recall a visit to Ireland. There is a refreshing precision to the musicianship of David Hyams, whether playing electric or acoustic guitar, or the more Celtic-sounding cittern or mandolin. The same can be said of his guest musicians, who add classy touches to an album that grows in stature every time you listen to it.
Distribution details for "Miles to Go" are available from: or email
Peter Grant

Groupa "Lavalek"
Xource Records; XOUCD 125; 1999; Playing time: 48.55 min
Groupa is one of Sweden's old established music exports. Today Groupa has fife members: Mats Eden (fiddle, viola, dronefiddle, melodeon) is an member of the band since its inception in 1980. He has studied composition at Norway's Musikhöyskole in Oslo, and he composes much of Groupa's material. Rickard Åström (keyboards, piano) provides with his imaginative playing a backbone of Groupa's sound. Jonas Simonson (flute, alto flute, natural flutes, folk flutes) is the flutist of the band, and has developed his very own flute playing style. Terje Isungset is Groupa's Norwegian percussionist - anybody who has seen him in live knows how divers percussion instruments can be... The newest member is the singer Sofia Karlsson.
The music is something between Scandinavian traditional music, jazz, contemporary music and music art. The sound is not easy to decribe; it is Groupa's very own sound of nowadays music traditions.
"Lavalek" is an album full of exciting unexpected moments.
Xource Records
Christian Moll

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