Issue 18 04/2001
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Bleeding Hearts "Fly in the face of fashion"
2000; Playing time: 59.25 min
"Failed musicians become prime ministers, failed artists become dictators
..." Certainly nothing that may happen to
The guitar, fiddle, bass and drums outfit stands in a good traditon of British
folk rock. Uncompromising punkrock like "It Ain't Democracy" or "Hardly
Anything" alternates with
potential smash hits like "Screaming" or "Losing My Faith In You". "We want
people to have a good time sure", says singer Steve Brown, "but we
want to make them think too." Where others lost their teeth, Bleeding
Hearts bite straight into "the face of fashion". No need for big
words, it's bloody marvellous!
7 Gibson Road, Ledbury, Herefordshire, HR8 2US; Tel (UK) 07966 518726
Little Johnny England "Live"
LJECD2; 2000; Playing time: 68.47 min
Formed roughly a year before,
Cropredy Festival was the biggest gig to date.
Little Johnny England
consists of highly respected long-time members of the UK folk and rock music
scene. Gareth Turner (melodeon) has played with the
Albion Band and the
Phil Beer Band.
P.J. Wright (vocals, slide guitar) has been part of the
Steve Gibbons Band
and the Dylan Project.
Mat Davies (5-string bass) and Edd Frost (drums) are the rhythm section from
folk rock band Clarion. Original fiddler
has been replaced by Guy Fletcher, previously with
Dansaul and Ceilidh band
Little Johnny England's electric folk is drawn from English musical roots, yet
mostly contemporary. Much of this record leans on their
debut studio album,
but there are four previously unreleased numbers. "Johnny England", which
gave the band's name, was written with reference to a Northamptonshire
children's song. Tunes like "Jake's Jig" and "Race to the Summit" are
irresistibly made for dancing. "Le Boeff Anglaise" is a lively cajun rock
number, "Le Mystere Du Box Vulgaire" and "UHT" are Balkan-inspired. Three
songs have been written by North-East England's songwriter Pete Scrowther.
The only traditional "I Was a Young Man" is given a smashing electrical
which is less convincing, closes a roaring set.
POBox 1957, Eathorpe, Leamington Spa CV33 9YG; Tel/Fax +44 (0)1926 632946
Oisin Mac Diarmada, Brian Fitzgerald, Micheal O Ruanaigh
CICD 144; 2000; Playing time: 64.53 min
The Roman God
with his two faces gazing in opposite directions as though to say "Give full
face to the future but do not forget your past!" Micheal O Ruanaigh's air
"Aghaidh Jhanuis" reminds us that we always look forward with anticipation
towards the future yet at the same time we look backwards to the past which
has led us so far. That tells us a lot about traditonal music in general and
about three talented musicians from Ireland, all in their early twenties,
yet with accomplished skills, in particular. Micheal's lyrical harp, he
credits two suites of music, a mass in Irish and an album of his own
compositions, is the congenial complement to fiddler
Oisin Mac Diarmada
and banjo player Brian Fitzgerald, giving a rather unusual combination of
instruments. Tasteful accompaniment on guitar, piano and bodhran adds the
certain measure of salt.
Together with Tristan Rosenstock (bodhran),
John Blake (guitar) and Sean McElwaine (bouzouki)
a touring group called
has been formed to bring the music onto the concert stage.
The God of Beginnings also ensured good endings.
So anticipating the future, while looking to the past,
I can imagine some bright horizon.
Indreabhan, Conamara, Co. Galway, Ireland. Tel.
+353-91-593307. Fax +353-91593362
V/A "Heat the Hoose 2"
CDFSR1707; 2000; Playing time: 62.47 min
Scottish fiddle music performed by the masters of the traditional scene,
gathered at Edinburgh's Fiddle 2000 Festival.
Sixteen sets of thirty eight tunes, twelve composed by the performers
themselves. The majority are women (!). To impress with some name-dropping:
Aidan O'Rourke (Blazin' Fiddles,
Tabache), Sarah MacFadyen, Liz Doherty,
Kenny Fraser (Salsa Celtica),
Claire Mann (Tabache),
Eilidh Shaw (Keep It Up, Poozies),
Maeve and Orna Gilchrist, Gillian Boucher, Anna Wendy Stevenson
(Anam), Simon Bradley
(Llan de Cubel,
Jennifer & Hazel Wrigley (Wrigley Sisters),
Derek and Sarah Hoy (Jock Tamson's Bairns),
Russel Hunter (Russel's House), and, last but not least, Clare McLaughlin and
Marianne Campbell (Deaf Shepherd, cMc).
17 Redford Drive, Edinburgh, EH13 0BL, Scotland; Tel +44131 4413135, Fax +44131 4413189
Rosenbergs Sjua "R7"
DROCD017; 1999; Playing time: 54.23 min
Rosenberg's Septet, named after leading singer Susanne Rosenberg, is a Swedish
quartet of female vocalists, backed by a string trio of fiddle, viola, cello.
Complex vocal harmonies define the overall sound. Most tracks are traditional
ballads, hymns and "kulning" (herding calls) from Sweden and Norway. Some
quite melancholic, others lively and rhythmical. Fiddler Sven Ahlbäck wrote a
couple of polskas, singer Eva Åström-Rune composed a set inspired by old
herding calls. Booklet notes are in Swedish, English and French.
Drone Muisc AB,
Petterslundsgatan 11A, 753 28 Uppsala, Sweden; T 018 - 129466
EX 504-2; 2000; Playing time: 62.13 min
It's nearly impossible to describe Deishovida:
"Klezmir and gypsy sounds, French folklore and Balkan music,
a funky bass and a virtuoso accordion, a swinging fiddle and a raging
hurdy gurdy, reggae, cossack choirs, Franz Schubert jamming with
the Pogues, Jacques Brel struggling with Jimi Hendrix."
This says both everything and nothing. The Austrian outfit of hurdy
gurdy, accordion, fiddle, bass and percussion is running across all
European traditions, from East to West, from medieval times back to the
future. "Tradition is not bound to certain areas, there is musical
communication between musicians of different people, which replaces every
language", says Matthias Loibner, "enfant terrible" of the Continental
hurdy gurdy scene. Certainly, Deishovida's experimental and unconventional
sound is not suitable for tradheads. It's postmodern roots music from Styria -
the Alps at the back, the Balkans in front. That might explain a thing or two.
Postbox 2, A-2094 Wien; Tel +43 (1) 3101084, Fax +43 (1) 3100324
Corvus Corax "Mille Anni Passi Sunt"
JS CD 1000; 2000; Playing time: 53.41 min
The new millennium has finally arrived. The world turned upside down,
many a one might have seen the very end. Pretty much as thousand years ago.
Corvus Corax from
Berlin, crowned by an euphoric media to "Kings of Minstrelsy"
and "Bagpipe Gladiators", presents the fitting musical theme:
"Mille Anni Passi Sunt"
("Thousand years passed by"). Bagpipes, shawm and Latin chant, devil's
horns and loincloth are the proper outfit of Corvus Corax' peculiar
interpretation of medieval dance music. (It's no coincidence that there is
also the separate project Tanzwut ("dance fury"),
blending the Middle Ages with electronic club sounds.) Their new album is
dedicated to Vlad Tepes,
better known as "Dracula".
The title track is sung by his last living descendant.
Otherwise it's the usual tunes from the 11th to the 14th century.
"We try the same thing as Bram Stoker did with his book. Creating
something new from something very old."
Falco Richter, Schönhauser Allee 171, D - 10435 Berlin
More Maids "Mary is busy ..."
Verlag der Spielleute;
CD 0009; 2000; Playing time: 41.12 min
Originally a crackpot idea from the Harlekinade festival 1994. Since there
was no women-only folk band to support the
the respective group simply had to be founded.
More Maids are
Marion Fluck (vocals, flute, guitar;
winner of the German "Folkförderpreis" in 1996 with the group
Barbara Steinort (vocals, bouzouki;
Gudrun Walther (vocals, fiddle, akkordion; also with
and German-Belgian Gout d'hier).
Tight harmonies, cheerful folk pop and lively tunes are the Maiden's
trademark. Apart from the traditional ballad "Lover's Ghost" and
Robert Louis Stevenson's
"Shining Clear" (music by Alan Reid),
the Maids have a bias for more contemporary songs,
Sandy Denny type.
"Closer to Fine"
(Indigo Girls) and "Angry"
are good examples. And, of course, there's a couple of jigs and reels
and hornpipes, some of them original.
Verlag der Spielleute,
Langlosenweg 14, D-64385 Reichelsheim
Ballycotton "A La Cut"
Mecki Records; 537500; 2001; Playing time: 50.18 min
Ballycotton's guitar and percussion
form the acoustic "carpet" on which fiddle, mandolin, banjo, bouzouki and
whistle can romp about. "A La Cut"
offers instrumental music, sometimes at rest and almost classical, sometimes
blowing your mind. Influences, though with a bias for Celtic music, come from
all across Europe. Apart from an improvisation on Mairead ni Mhaonaighs
"Loch Altan Reel", Ballycotton plays exclusively original tunes. An extravagant
crossover corresponding to a typical Austrian kind of folk and roots music. Try it!
c/o Christian Dörr, Rosengasse 25/8, A-3130 Herzogenburg, Tel: +43 (0)676 4000504
Own Label; 2000; Playing time: 58.55 min
Galahad, named after the famous
after the Celtic-British wizard better known as Merlin. Think of rock music
with a shot of mysticism, a Jethro Tull-like
flute and electric guitar, Ulrike Kobergs expressive voice, Paul Jost resembling
"Heal Me" is a potential smash hit. Piper Tim Lethen of Celtic rockers
Claymore helps the opus "Two
Witches" to take off. Certainly Galahad is one of the more imaginative bands
from Germany in the field of Celtic music. Wasn't it Sir Galahad to be the only
knight of King Arthur's round table to find the Holy Grail?
P. A. Jost, Försterstr. 35, D-46539 Dinslaken, Tel. 02064-80952
An Erminig "Tennadeg"
LEICO-8423; 1998; Playing time: 45.28 min
25 years of An Erminig
(i.e. the Breton heraldic animal): Andrew Derow (vocals, accordion, fiddle,
bagpipe), Barbara Gerdes (harp, flute, bombarde, hurdy gurdy) and Hans Martin
Derow (guitar) form an extraordinary group - for playing Breton music instead
of Irish or Scottish, but being highly respectable musicians too.
Bretagne Musiques On Line
regards them as "Ambassadeurs de Bretagne", the only band not resident in
Britanny. "Tennadeg" means the harvest (of the potatoes), at the same time
the celebration after the work is done. Part of the happening are the typical
Breton line and round dances, the traditonal ballad "Gwerz" and the particular
call-and-response singing "Kan Ha Diskan". Noteworthy recordings, the ermine
nods with appproval.
Auf der Schlicht 13, D-66839 Schmelz, Tel: + 49 6887/2376, Fax: + 49 6887/3488
Tannahill Weavers " Alchemy"
Label: Green Linnet GLCD1210
Unlucky for some, though not, I expect, for the 'Tannies', thirteen albums into their career the institution known as the Tannahill Weavers is still going strong. As with many such artists, if surprise is what you're after then look elsewhere, for the band have found a brew that works for them and their many fans world-wide, and you get the feeling things aren't going to change musically an awful lot. Even the playing personnel seems to have settled, the latest change (the addition of piper Duncan Nicolson) having happened over three albums ago. Roy Gullane sings and guitars, Phil Smillie whistles, John Martin fiddles and Les Wilson bouzoukis through a selection of mostly traditional material with some self composed items thrown in seamlessly. If you've managed to live this far without hearing the Tannahill Weavers, then there's nothing here that makes the experience necessary now - however, if you know and like their straightforward approach to Scottish traditional music, then as ever you'll find much to appreciate here.
Idrissa Diop "Conscience Collective"
Label: Mikeli Music MIK005
Idrissa Diop is a new name to me, but the style of music is very familiar. A percussionist from Dakar, Senegal, Diop has listened well to fellow countrymen Youssou N'Dour and Baaba Maal, and whilst noticeably different, there's much of their styles in Diop's work. No mere imitator he, though, and Conscience Collective rattles along with good tunes and arrangements which engage the brain as well as the feet. Production is of the high standard we have come to expect from the best Paris studios, and the overall sound suggests that, whilst this is a very good record, if the ensemble ever performs live here they'll blow your socks off. Worth checking.
Alison Brown "Fair Weather"
Label: Compass Records 4292-2
Perhaps best known as the other woman in Alison Krauss' band Union Station, Brown's bluegrass banjo chops have previously been heard on solo albums for the Vanguard label. However, Brown is co-owner of Compass Records, so it's no surprise to see her turn out a solo album for the label, and she's done gone brought all her friends along too. Stuart Duncan, Sam Bush, Tim O'Brien, Vince Gill all step up to the podium at one time or another, but there's no doubt whose record this is, and Ms Brown twangs and flatpicks with the very best of them. At the end of the day it's a bluegrass record, so if you don't like bluegrass then stay away. If you do, or you're curious, then the pedigree of the people involved here might suggest to you that this would be worth checking out, and you'd be dead right.
Mostly Autumn "The Last Bright Light"
Label: Cyclops Records CYC100
Mostly Autumn are a seven-piece Rock-Folk band based in the Yorkshire area. Their tour itinerary for this, their third album, suggests that they haven't built up much of a following outside of their home area, so there's as yet little chance of catching the band live anywhere else. Judging by the music on the album, this is a pity, as there is some well thought out and well crafted rock music on this album, some of which, thanks mostly to flautist Angela Goldthorpe and guest piper Troy Donockley, has folky overtones. However, with three guitarists in the band and a keyboard player whose main influence sounds to have been Yes-era Rick Wakeman, this album will appeal mostly to those with a seventies fixation. In fact, Donockley's presence here is not a surprise as some of Mostly Autumn's material evokes that of his full-time project, the band Iona. However, Iona's material is more Celtic in feel and they also have a far superior singer in Joanne Hogg - though the press release accompanying this album claims that Autumn's vocalist Heather Findlay won a recent best new vocalist poll, she sings on less than half the tracks on this album, most of the vocals being taken by guitarist Bryan Josh, whose voice is hardly the albums outstanding feature. As you may guess, it is the instrumental work which shows the band's promise, and as a statement of intent the 12 minute plus closing track "Mother Nature" is worth a listen.
Mike Plume Band "Song and Dance Man"
Label: Gigantic Records MPB 40002
An own label effort from this Canadian four piece, which reveals a decent song writing talent, a fair voice and some instrumental prowess. If you think that means that this album probably sounds like hundreds of others, then you'd be right. There's nothing bad about it, but even after a couple of listens nothing sticks in the memory ten minutes after its finished. In fairness, this album was released in 1997 in Canada, so the band may have moved on and improved since, but if so why not release the latest material? As the band is not likely to tour over here very much, I'm left thinking, "Nice, but why bother?"
Richard Greene and Beryl Marriott "Hands Across the Pond"
Label: RGP 001
Fans of Fairport Convention will recognise the name of Beryl Marriott, one of the few dedicated piano players in the English tradition. Fans of fiddle playing of any style will know Richard Greene, whose playing down the years in whatever field he has chosen has never been less than top class, and has on occasion (Seatrain, Gary Burton Group) been innovative and breathtaking. Here, the pair take on the folk tradition, and win hands down. The selections, almost exclusively from Beryl's no doubt formidable repertoire, encompass Scots, Irish, American and English traditional music, and it never ends up and anything less than delightful in the hands of these two masters. However, this is no dry academic rendition. Both players are masters in the art of improvisation, and whilst the record is traditional, the attitude of the players is not. For the moment, the CD is available from Richard's web site (http://www.americanfiddler.com), whilst a distribution/label deal is sought. According to the sleeve note, it was Hilary James and Simon Mayor who brought these two together - well done, guys!
Tom Ovans "Still in this World"
Label: Evangeline Records CD GEL4019
Ovans has a voice that makes Tom Waits sound like Pavarotti, and a street-weary sound that is unmistakably Austin, Texas. Produced by Ian Matthews associate and Plainsong 2 member Mark Hallman, this record knocks the dust of its boots as it turns on your CD player and you can almost see the hat and worn leather jacket hanging on your door. Ovans writes it like he's lived it, and with his distinctive growl and bluesy harp playing, this is first division stuff. If you like Guy Clark, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Townes Van Zandt (RIP) et al, then do yourself a favour and check this out. It says here Ovans will be over in May, and I'll be in the queue for tickets.
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