Issue 17 12/2000

FolkWorld CD Reviews


Billy Joe Shaver, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings "Honky Tonk Heroes"
Label: SPV Records 085-29982CD
One thing most seasoned country fans will recognise here is that none of the artists credited above posses much in the way of a singing voice. Thus it is that most of these tunes, which originated from sessions recorded at Nelson's Pedernales Studios originally for a Shaver solo project, sound pretty rough even in their final mixed state. However, fans of the 'Outlaw Country' school will find much to enjoy, and some of Shaver's songs (Ain't No God in Mexico, Easy Come Easy Go) are potential anthems in the making. If you're a fan of this kind of country, or you like Ray Wylie Hubbard, early Steve Earle or Butch Hancock then check this out, but why oh why do country artists continue to shortchange us? At a measly 32 minutes, this album hardly represents a bargain at any price.
Colin Jones

Shango "Juno Reactor"
Label: Electric Melt ELM8033CD
Close on the heels of the Eat Static CD reviewed for the last issue comes this effort, another "World Dance" album mixing ethnic instruments with dance beats. Unfortunately, to my mind it's neither as inventive nor cohesive as the Eat Static album, though it does have its moments. The opener 'Pistolero' has a great flamenco groove, whilst 'Masters Of The Universe' (with guest vocals by Sin É's Taz Alexander) fairly rattles along. However, likely of much more interest to the dancer than the world music fan, though full marks for the full colour digi-packaging.
Colin Jones

Various Artists "Piping Up"
Label: Lochshore CDLDL 1300
Anyone concerned about the state of piping as we enter the new Millennium should give this album a listen and then relax. Compiled by Ross Kennedy, Piping Up is a comprehensive trawl through the current piping scene, including small and Uillean as well as the great Highland variety. Although all the selections are taken from previously released albums on the Lochshore label, there is still enough variety and quality here to satisfy the most demanding of piping fans. However, perhaps the greatest recommendation concerns the range of recordings on offer - from solo, through small ensembles up to full bands. If you only want a couple of piping albums in your collection, this kind of sampler could provide a solution that won't have you constantly reaching for the skip button. Artists featured include Fred Morrison, Gordon Duncan, Paddy Keenan and Troy Donockley as well as Lochshore artists Anna Murray, Tommy Couper and Chris Armstrong.
Colin Jones

Ralph McTell "Red Sky"
Label:Leola Music TPGCD17
Fans of Ralph McTell will have been waiting for this for some time - a new album of songs from the man, no theme, no rehashes of old glories. Recorded with obvious loving care at Fairport's Woodworm Studios and featuring most of the band as backing musicians, everything is in place for a cracking record, or at least something that will rekindle enthusiasm for the artist that we all know McTell can be. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work out that way, and it's not hard to see why. It was songs, great songs like 'Streets Of London', From Clare To Here' and 'White Dress' on which McTell's reputation is based, and there's nothing of that quality here. It's all very pleasant, and the rich chocolate-brown voice is still present, but with fairly ordinary material by McTell's own high standards, we're looking to the arrangements and production to lift the album. Sadly, even this is tired and flat, despite the undoubted quality of the backing musicians, and since McTell wrote and produced the album he has no one to blame but himself. The overwhelming impression left with me is of a middle-aged man making a middle-aged record, and for his fans that are also settling into middle age maybe they'll welcome it with open arms. Having been a fan of McTell's since I first saw him live in 1972, I feel I can and do expect more of him and for me this record is a big disappointment. I suppose the question is does he have it him to be hungry enough to push himself to make better records, or is he just going to settle for the steady income from royalties and the occasional album and tour. This record sounds as if the decision has already been made, and if so it's very sad not only for fans like me who want him to keep pushing himself to do better, but also for the scene as a whole. We need stars like McTell to keep the flame burning for the younger generation. Alas, this record sounds like Ralph's flame has gone out.
Colin Jones

Tony Falanga "Soul of the Bass"
pläne 88846; 2000; Playing time: 56.44 min
New Yorker Tony Falanga is known as accomplished chamber and jazz bassist. In recent years, he was working with Giora Feidman and fellow bassist John Feeney. Soul of the Bass contains "classical" works for bowed double bass or adopted for the instrument, accompanied by pianist Robert Kopelson, as well as a self-written "Lament" for solo double bass. Two jazz selections feature Joe Temperley (saxophone, clarinet), Adam Rodgers (guitar), Mino Cinela (percussion), and Junior Mance (piano). Another lose brick in the Great Wall separating "Classical Music" and "Jazz".
Walkin' T:-)M

Ravi "Korus"
ORI Music; ORI 02; 1999; Playing time: 54.46 min
The kora, a cross between harp and lute, is the traditional instrument of a professional musician caste in West Africa. Its striking appearance and haunting sound in the hands of masters like Toumani Diabate or Mory Kante ensured its place in the World Music circuit. Londoner Ravi played a drum kit at eight, was strumming Beatles and 60's pop, Rock, Soul, Acid, Folk. He played with the London School of Samba and East-European gypsy group, Odessa. He saw a Kora for the first time when witnessing The Gambia National Troupe. "That was the musical experience that changed my whole musical direction." After four years of experimentation, Ravi has found his definitive sound. "Korus" features eleven songs with backing from kora, tablas (indian drum), shenhei (chinese flute), guitar, and whatever accompaniment possible. When it's true that all great kora players are bewitched by spirits, Ravi helds the spirit high.
ORI Music, info@ravi-art.; Tel: 0411 265011 (UK), Fax: 0171 2246153 (UK)
Walkin' T:-)M

Crosskeys Inn "Live in the Kitchen"
The Crosskeys Inn Heritage Trust; 2000; Playing time: 65.15 min
Christmas is coming! What better to do than combining the benefit with the pleasure. This CD is a possibility! The Crosskeys Inn in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, is one of Irelands most famous Irish Traditional Music Pubs. Musicians from all over Ireland have played within it's walls. Unfortunatly, in late January the 250 years old cottage was badly damaged by a fire. There were no injuries but many broken hearts. However, the good news is: Owner Eamonn Stinston is determined to rebuild and continue the bar. To raise funds 30 musicians, including 13 all-Ireland Fleadh prize winners, came together for a special session around the kitchen table to recapture the unique atmosphere of the pub. This CD is the result, featuring 20 songs, tunes and stories. Participiants include singer Len Graham and story teller John Campbell, fiddler Clodagh Warnock and guitarist Eoghan O'Brien (Deanta), flautist Brian McCart and harper Claire Creelman (Cois Locha), guitarist Paul McSherry (Tamalin), bodhran maker Seamus O'Kane, along the likes of Maurice Bradley (fiddle), Ciaran Kelly (melodeon), Frank Cassidy (bouzouki), Geraldine Lyons (banjo), and all those talented musicians from the locality.
The Crosskeys Inn Heritage Trust,; 40 Grange Road, Ardnaglass, Toome, Co. Antrim, BT41 3QB, Northern Ireland; Tel: +44 (0)28 79650694
Walkin' T:-)M

Solas "The Hour Before Dawn"
Shanachie; SH-78041; 2000; Playing time: 57.02 min
A well-known formula, even a very successful one, may become boring when it's aging. That's the way I felt about Solas in recent times. There was a fulminating debut album, but despite, or because, of perfectly recorded follow-ups, the spontaneity of the beginnings had been gone. But change is inevitable, for better or worse. Meanwhile, Seamus Egan (flute, banjo) wrote the music of the Irish dance show "Dancing on Dangerous Ground" featuring step dancers Colin Dunne and Jean Butler of Riverdance fame. John Doyle (guitar) released an instructional video "Irish Rhythm Guitar" (he has been replaced now by Donal Clancy for the Eileen Ivers Band and vice versa). There is still Winifred Horan (fiddle) and Mick McAuley (accordion, tin whistle), but Tipperary-born singer Deirdre Scanlon on vocals, replacing Karan Casey who left to persue a solo career. The sound as well as the live line-up has been expanded by bass and percussion. "The Hour Before Dawn" features a fine and well-balanced selection of tunes and songs. Seamus and Mick wrote some original tunes, including a Breton/Bulgarian "Boy/Girl Tune". "I Will Remember You", written by Seamus with pop star Sarah MacLachlan, has been re-recorded, now recapturing the Irish spirit of the melody. The dawn is breaking again ...
Walkin' T:-)M

Aileen Carr "Green Yarrow"
Greentrax; CDTRAX 173; 2000; Playing time: 46.40 min
It was hearing the likes of Belle Stewart at the 1967 Blairgowrie Festival that was the defining moment for Scottish singer Aileen Carr. Working as solo unaccompanied singer from the 70s, Aileen joined Ceolbeg in the 80s and later became a member of the highly popular a capella group, Palaver. Her debut solo album Green Yarrow samples her favourite songs, fine powerful ballads as well as spirited singalongs, a good deal taken from the Greig-Duncan or Child collections. Help comes from singer Maureen Jelks, jazz pianist Brian Kellock, piper Iain MacInnes and fiddler Stuart Morison (fiddle, guitar, cittern & mandolin), both Ex-Tannahill Weavers, now Ossian, and guitar wizard Tony McManus. Although an eclectic singer, it is the great classical story ballads that attracts her most. But Aileen is not only an accomplished singer, she takes it free and easy: "The real folksinger sings where and whenever possible, and whatever takes the fancy ... traditional or popular, great ballads or Country and Western, nonsense or serious stuff."
Greentrax,; Cockenzie Business Centre, Edinburgh Road, Cockenzie, East Lothian EH32 0HL, Scotland, UK: Tel: +[44] 01875 814 155, Fax: +[44] 01875 813 545
Walkin' T:-)M

Donald Black & Malcolm Jones "Close to Home"
Macmeanmna; SKYECD 15; 2000; Playing time: 59.59 min
Donald Black from the Benderloch area of mainland Argyll, Scotland, is an accomplished harmonica player. But his thing is not the typical mouthie art, he is rather steeped in the Scottish Pipe and Gaelic Tradition. He is playing reels, jigs, waltzes, hornpipes, pipe marches, lullabies and airs. Some of his harmonicas has been specially modified to accomodate the Bagpipe scale. His main playing partner is guitar and accordion player Malcolm Jones of Runrig fame. And that's brought together on Donald's debut album, plus a bunch of guest musicians. Not everything is Close to Home, but there's the occasional flying visit to Ireland and Cape Breton.
Macmeanmna,; Gladstone Buildings, Quay Brae, Portree, Isle of Skye, IV51 9DB, Tel. 01478 612990; Fax 01478 613263
Walkin' T:-)M

The Irish Folk Festival 2000 "The Lighthouse of Tradition"
Magnetic Music; MMR CD 1012; 2000; Playing time: 62.32 min
After 25 years of existence, the Irish Folk Festival, without doubt the most renowned folk tour across Germany, has been taken over by Magnetic Music. Comments have been critical, but the first test has passed successfully. The autumn tour and accompanying CD have gathered first-class musicians: the trad & folk-pop group Nomos, Karan Casey (former singer of Solas), accordion "Methusalem" Joe Burke & Anne Conroy, and the new band around Scottish singer and guitarist Ross Kennedy. All tracks are previously unreleased. Thus, the "Lighthouse of Tradition" is of general interest, and not only for the tour visitors. To quote the booklet, that's the spirit we hope for: "The lighthouses giving seafarers a safe passage round the cliffs, leading them into the harbour. But a lighthouse also shows the direction we should go."
Magnetic Music,; Planie 22, 72764 Reutlingen, Tel. +49/7121-478605, Fax. 07121-478606
Walkin' T:-)M

John Wright "Just Left of Center"
Narnian; 9901-2; 1999; Playing time: 50.21 min
John Wright has been involved primarily as a bass player with all varieties from jazz to pop. As a solo artist, he incorporates all these influences to create a folk rock style of his own. The only cover song "Well May the World Go" written by Pete Seegar is the perfect opener of his second album, "Just Left of Center". Besides two traditional Irish jigs, John wrote the rest of the tracks. He plays bass, acoustic and electric guitar, and mandolin. Matt Jacobs (drums), Stuart Martz (violin) and Steve Lehto are joining in. Someone compared John Wright with the famous folk rockers Fairport Convention. But forget about that. John's better!
Narnian,; 4400 Stinson Blvd, Minneapolis, MN 55421; Tel. 1-800-638-4558
Walkin' T:-)M

Calico "Songdogs"
Black Hat Music; BHMCD21; 2000; Playing time: 46.40 min
Calico are one of the finest bands to emerge from Ireland in recent times. Their debut album, Celanova Square, was voted "Best New Folk Album of the Year" by the readers of the Irish Music Magazine. Calico was founded in 1994 with the intention of combining traditional Irish and Breton tunes with some original music written by the band members. The trio Diarmaid Moynihan (low whistle, uilleann pipes), Tola Custy (fiddle) and Donncha Moynihan (guitar) evolved into a five piece band adding Deirdre Moynihan (vocals, fiddle) and Pat Marsh (bouzouki). "Songdogs" contains seven original instrumental tunes, some have been already recorded by Flook, the Mike McGoldrick Band, and Galicians Santu Spiritu. Deirdre sings one original and two contemporary songs, one about the Salem witch trials and another about a chemical plant. With some furious concerts this autumn, Calico proved their musical versability. I hope to see you back again soon!
Black Hat Music,; 65 The Rise, Bishopstown, Cork City, Ireland; T +353 21 4542958
Walkin' T:-)M

V/A "Sex, Sca & Sedition: The New Ballads"
Free State Records; CD Alt 001; 1999; Playing time: 74.01 min
Jimmy Crowley is a folk singer and bouzouki player from "Rebel" Cork. He is also head of his own recording company, called Free State Records. Since Corkonians have always been fiercely independent and dare to question the status quo, Jimmy has strong opinions: "There's more radio stations , but they are all selecting CDs from the same shelf." "We are losing regional dialects within the music. Yet at the same time the average standard amongst players is far better than in any previous generation, but there's less of a sense of place or individuality in the music." That's what Free State Records champions. Sex, Sca(ndal) & Sedition features new ballads from a selection of Cork writers and singers. The satirical ballad is back when poking fun on floppy drives, Viagra (made in Cork), Interpretative Centres, and finally the Pub Musicians Complaint. "This record is a reminder that song is still unavoidably, and terrifically, of place, happenings and of people", Fintan Vallely is raving. Ballad making is a living thing. And with guys like this, it's in secure hands.
Free State Records,; POB 145, Cork, Ireland
Walkin' T:-)M

Ian MacInnes "Tryst"
Greentrax; CDTRAX 182; 1999; Playing time: 50.52 min
Ian MacInnes is ex-member of the Tannahill Weavers and plays now with Ossian. He plays both the Highland and small Pipes. On this, his first solorecording, he was able record with some brilliant guests: Tony Macmanus, guitar, Aidan O'Rourke, fiddle, harp by William Jackson and a very sensitive percussion by James MacKintosh. The repertoire is well chosen between old classics and new ly found or composed tunes. We find a lot of different interesting tune types: reels, quicksteps, airs, jigs, marches etc. ian MacInnes playing is exact, nice variations, but nothing is overdone. The liner notes are excellent!! I am sure that very soon this CD will be called a milestone!
Greentrax, Edinburgh Road, Cockenzie, East Lothian EH32 0HL, Scotland, mail to Greentrax, Tel: +44 1875814155 Fax: +44 1875813 545
Rolf Wagels

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