Issue 18 04/2001

FolkWorld CD Reviews


Bleeding Hearts "Fly in the face of fashion"
Thingymajig; 2000; Playing time: 59.25 min
"Failed musicians become prime ministers, failed artists become dictators ..." Certainly nothing that may happen to Bleeding Hearts. 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!
Thingymajig,; 7 Gibson Road, Ledbury, Herefordshire, HR8 2US; Tel (UK) 07966 518726
Walkin' T:-)M

Little Johnny England "Live"
LJE; LJECD2; 2000; Playing time: 68.47 min
Formed roughly a year before, Fairport Convention's Cropredy Festival was the biggest gig to date. English country-folk-rockers 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 Original fiddler Tom Leary has been replaced by Guy Fletcher, previously with Dansaul and Ceilidh band Tickled Pink. 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 treatment. "Dixie Chicken", which is less convincing, closes a roaring set.
LJE,; POBox 1957, Eathorpe, Leamington Spa CV33 9YG; Tel/Fax +44 (0)1926 632946
Walkin' T:-)M

Oisin Mac Diarmada, Brian Fitzgerald, Micheal O Ruanaigh
Clo Iar-Chonnachta; CICD 144; 2000; Playing time: 64.53 min
The Roman God Janus 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 Teada 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.
Clo Iar-Chonnachta,; Indreabhan, Conamara, Co. Galway, Ireland. Tel. +353-91-593307. Fax +353-91593362
Walkin' T:-)M

V/A "Heat the Hoose 2"
Foot Stompin'; 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), John McCusker (Battlefield Band), Eilidh Shaw (Keep It Up, Poozies), Maeve and Orna Gilchrist, Gillian Boucher, Anna Wendy Stevenson (Anam), Simon Bradley (Llan de Cubel, Russel's House), 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).
Foot Stompin',; 17 Redford Drive, Edinburgh, EH13 0BL, Scotland; Tel +44131 4413135, Fax +44131 4413189
Walkin' T:-)M

Rosenbergs Sjua "R7"
Drone; 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
Walkin' T:-)M

deishovida "gaisfeld"
Extraplatte; 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.
Extraplatte,; Postbox 2, A-2094 Wien; Tel +43 (1) 3101084, Fax +43 (1) 3100324
Walkin' T:-)M

Corvus Corax "Mille Anni Passi Sunt"
Falcone Music; 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."
Falcone Music,; Falco Richter, Schönhauser Allee 171, D - 10435 Berlin
Walkin' T:-)M

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 Poozies, 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 Passepartout), Barbara Steinort (vocals, bouzouki; DeReelium) and Gudrun Walther (vocals, fiddle, akkordion; also with Passepartout 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" (Dear Janes) 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
Walkin' T:-)M

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!
Mecki Records,; c/o Christian Dörr, Rosengasse 25/8, A-3130 Herzogenburg, Tel: +43 (0)676 4000504
Walkin' T:-)M

Galahad "Myrddin"
Own Label; 2000; Playing time: 58.55 min
Galahad, named after the famous knight, Myrddin 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 Mark Knopfler. "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?
Galahad,; P. A. Jost, Försterstr. 35, D-46539 Dinslaken, Tel. 02064-80952
Walkin' T:-)M

An Erminig "Tennadeg"
Leico; 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.
Leico,; Auf der Schlicht 13, D-66839 Schmelz, Tel: + 49 6887/2376, Fax: + 49 6887/3488
Walkin' T:-)M

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.
Colin Jones

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.
Colin Jones

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.
Colin Jones

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.
Colin Jones

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?"
Colin Jones

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 (, 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!
Colin Jones

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.
Colin Jones

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