Issue 19 8/2001

FolkWorld CD Reviews


Gunnfjauns Kapell "Dansä Läite"
Label: Own/Sjelvar Records; SJECD14; 2001; Playing time: 53.40 min
Gotland is the biggest Swedish island, set in the middle of the Baltic Sea, and having its own distinctive culture and dialect, quite different to the Swedish mainland. Gunnfjauns Kapell are the best known musical embassadors from the island. The five-piece band plays traditional and tradition-influenced self composed music from Gotland. Using as main melody instrument a concert flute being played in a more classical style, Gunnfjauns Kapell's sound blends a folky and a classical sound, a mixture that works very well. The other instruments of the band are fiddle/mandolin, guitars/bouzouki and mandolin/accordeon. The latest addition to the Kapell is the young singer Charlotte Berg with her folky, sometimes also a bit jazzy style.
You can easily hear that this is a band who has been together for long - in fact nearly 20 years: The ensemble playing is perfect, the arrangements being tasteful and inventive. Highly enjoyable and relaxing music, carrying the culture and tradition of a musically more unknown island.
In the German CD review section, Gunnfjaun's earlier album "Volund" is reviewed, featuring the Visby choir.
Sjelvar Records
Michael Moll

Süperstar Orchestar
Label: Own; 2000; Playing time: 30.27 min
Sometimes, the biggest discoveries at festivals can be made away from the main stages in informal settings. Süperstar Orchestar were for me one of such discoveries while spending time at this year's Falun Folk Festival in Sweden. Always when there was no interesting music on the stages, Süperstar Orchestar was nearby, playing just in the park or on the streets, with a huge bunch of people dancing around them dancing the light Swedish nights away.
The band comes from Stockholm, yet their music is not Swedish at all, but has its roots in the Balkans. It is a brass band, featuring sax, tenor tuba, trumpet, bass tuba, clarinette and finally davoul/darbouka (percussion instruments). The wind instrument players are all Swedes, while the "oldie" in the band, Alexander Dybowski on davoul and darbouka, comes from Poland. The music comes from Macedonia, Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria, and is filled with happiness and energy. It is wonderful party music - and that is also one of the places the orchestar plays most: at weddings and festivals, ensuring an unforgettable event.
The album could capture very well the power and magic that Süperstar Orchestar have in live. It is a very lively CD with lots of atmosphere. And if you think that 30 minutes are too short, then book this band for your wedding or festival - I am sure you would not be disappointed!
Süperstar Orchestar's Homepage
Michael Moll

Hoven Droven "hippa"
Label: MNW/Home Records; Home20; 2001; Playing time: 43.18 min
Hoven Droven, Sweden's happiest band, have recorded with "hippa" a wonderful album. Central instruments in Hoven Droven are Kjell-Erik Erikssons fiddle and Jens Comén's Saxophones, joined by drums and percussion (Björn Höglund), guitars and accordeon (Bo Lindberg) and bass (Pedro Blom). The result is unique music, between many styles, like folk, rock, jazz, blues,...., music with a lot of groove, very appealing, very happy. Most of the tunes are composed by either Bo or Jens, steeped in the traditional ideom, yet carrying the unique Hoven Droven style.
"hippa" has managed better than all Hoven Droven albums before to catch the magic of the live band. It is definitely their best album so far, and it is in fact as good that it might well make its way into FolkWorld's Top 10 2001. Magic modern folk music with a lot of spirit.
And it is not only the above indicated 43.18 min this CD is offering, as the CD Rom section of the album offers plenty of fun, music, photos, background infos. You can find partly great, partly a bit embarrassing (the earlier material) live recordings and videos of Hoven Droven during the whole band history (fun to see how different the guys look today), as well as a highly amusing video from the recording session of this very album, in a little "stuga" (holiday house) in snow covered Sweden. One of the very few CD Rom sections of music CDs that is more than just a boring add-on, but really a welcome addition.
"hippa" is an album that is extremely hip!
Hoven Droven Homepage
Michael Moll

Kornog "Korong"
Label: Green Linnet; GLCD 1209; 2000
The sticker reads: "Celtic Music from France!" Tell it to a proud and patriotic Breton man! But Kornog (i.e. the western wind) were always rather fixed to the American market, perhaps you have to simplify. During the 80s, Scottish singer and bouzouki player Jamie McMenemy (Ex-Battlefield Band) and Bretons Sog Siberil (guitar), Christian Lemaître (fiddle) and Jean-Michel Veillon (flute) married traditional Breton dance tunes and Scottish ballads to create a unique sound. In 1987, after four successful albums, they parted for different ways: Orion and Skolvan are just two successful follow-ups. Thirteen years later, the boys are back in town. The only difference is Nicolas Quemener now playing the guitar. Again we get some Scottish ballads ("Braes of Killiecrankie", "Lassie Wi' the Yellow Coatie"). "Child Noryce" is made from a Child ballad; Peggy Seegers "For a New Baby" gives a contemporary twist. The swinging dance tunes showcase flautist Jean-Michel. "Thessaloniki Taxi" and a Yugoslavian "Kolo" poke up the fire. "Air Pour Faire Pleurer La Mariee" sets Nicolas Quemener into spotlight. "Fest Stivell" has been previously released on "Les Grands Airs Celtiques". Like the River Korong, the music flows gently through the hills and dales to push into the very heart of Brittany.
Green Linnet
Walkin' T:-)M

Blyth Power "The Bricklayer's Arms"
Label: Downwarde Spiral; DR008CD; 2000; Playing time: 35.57 min
Who else has, by their diversity, defied categorisation to the extent that no one to this day is prepared to even attempt to describe them in less than thirty words? Some dare - Chaucer meets the Sex Pistols, trainspotting punk folkies, a cross between Steeley e Span, The Rubettes and The Clash, make The Levellers sound like Peter, Paul and Mary. To make it clearer, or rather to add to the confusion: Boomtown Rats cross swords with Benjamin Jonson. At least that comes to my mind when listening to "The Bricklayer's Arms": raucous electric guitars and singable tunes and choruses. Lead singer and drummer Joseph Porter (at the same committed with Mad Dogs & Englishmen) formed Blyth Power, taking their name from a class 56 diesel locomotive, as his vehicle for striking historical, but at the same time personal songs. In his own words: Just like The Clash and their antecedents, we think it's funny turning rebellion into money, but we're selling the renaissance and the industrial revolution rather than throwing bricks at policemen in the street. Ben Jonson made his way from bricklayer to become a skillfil writer and rival of his more famous contemporary, Shakespeare. Blyth Power might stand in the shadows as well, but it could be a challenge of a self complacent world out there in the sun.
Downwarde Spiral/Blyth Power
Walkin' T:-)M

Calasaig "Making for the Shore"
Label: Lazymist; BKDCD103; 2000; Playing time: 62.49 min
Scottish band Calasaig are playing traditional and contemporary music and song from Scotland, Ireland and England as well as many of their own compositions. Their second album "Making for the Shore" throws the whole armoury of fiddle, pipes, flute, banjo, bouzouki, mandola, guitar, and bodhran, into battle. The chosen songs are already well established, but Calasaig are able to reveal some interesting facets ("My Son John", Burns' "Shepher d's Wife" & "How Can my Poor Heart Be Glad"). The instrumentals are at unhasty pace. Another prove that you don't have to knock down tunes at breakneck speed to get thrilled. Mozart's "Kleine Nachtmusik" and "Horn Concerto" fits well into the overall sound and develops gently into the jigs "Jimmy Ward's" and "Out on the Ocean". Sixty minutes to enjoy!
Lazymist Records
Walkin' T:-)M

Slide "The Flying Pig"
Label: Own Label; SLIDECD 1; 2000; Playing time: 47.44 min
A "slide" is a 12/8 jig-related tune type particularly associated with the Sliabh Luachra area in Co Kerry, and Slide is the most talented boygroup emerging from Ireland in recent years: Daire Bracken (fiddle, vocals), who is founder member of traditional shooting star Danu, Éamonn de Barra (flute, vocals), Aogán Lynch (concertina, whistles) and Mick Broderick on bouzouki may easily become another success story, following in the footsteps of bands like Calico & Co. The exciting, rather complex arrangements of traditional and self-penned tunes and songs of "Flying Pig" are sliding tastefully along the edge without losing control. And obviously the lads enjoy themselves: If you enjoyed this half as much as we did, then we enjoyed it twice as much as you did. Have a listen and let's slide away!
Walkin' T:-)M

Burach "Deeper"
Label: Greentrax; CDTRAX 189; 2000; Playing time: 51.40 min
Scottish folk rockers Burach are lead singer Ali Cherry, accordeonist Sandy Brechin, fiddler Greg Borland (Kathryn Tickell Band) plus a full rock backing. Their debut "The Weird Set" came gallopping down the hills; "Born Tired" (after leave of singer/songwriter/acoustic-guitarist George Stott and fiddler Gavin Marwick) put the electric guitar more in front. Their 3rd album goes literally "Deeper" than before. There's still a mix of original songs with Scottish traditional music on a carpet of modern rock rhythms. But everything's more seasoned as well as the most genuine effort to date. You can dance, but also take a timeout and listen. As the tracks say: Burach is "still there" and "keeps on shining".
Walkin' T:-)M

Matmatah "Rebelote"
Label: La Ouache; 710807; 2001; Playing time: 45.33 min
Matmatah from Brest made their fame by rocking the tradition, using a traditional Breton dance tune as well as the traditional chant "kan ha diskan". That's history. Apart from the folksy English language ballad "Gravediggers" (gorgeous indeed), "Rebelote" displays a rousing rock band of the 21st century. If there's any Celtic links, it's put in the background and the mood of the songs. "Orientalo-breizhou-pop-rock"? Can be!
La Ouache
Walkin' T:-)M

Finlay MacDonald "finlaymacdonald"
Label: Foot Stompin'; CDFSR1706; 2000; Playing time: 49.40 min
Is he "Scotland's Coolest Young Piper"? At least, Finlay MacDonald comes close. The talented laddie credits his playing with Deaf Shepherd and the Old Blind Dogs. We get an offer of traditional and original pieces on border pipes, flute and whistles which showcase Finlay's skills. He even sings the traditional "Humpback Whale". By his side you find Shetland fiddler Chris Stout, singer Findlay Napier, jazz drummer John Rae, guitar player Kevin MacKenzie, and pianist Brian Kellock, to pave a way between mad piping and restful moments.
Foot Stompin'
Walkin' T:-)M

Levellers "Special Brew"
Label: HAG Records; LP005; 2001; Playing time: 68.46 min
Finishing off the "Hello Pig" tour, the Levellers are busy with another acoustic tour, collaborate with Rev Hammer and McDermott's 2 Hours, and seem to concentrate on the back catalogue. "Special Brew" includes a collection of early tapes, EPs and live tracks released as vinyl in 1988, then constantly bootlegged. The group's halcyon days must have been a garage in Brighton. Two mikes and that's it. We can listen to early smash hits in uncommon versions, like the raw original of "Barrel Of A Gun". We learn the origin of the chorus what later became "No Change" and why the debut album has been called "A Weapon Called The Word". "Where The Hell Are We Going To Live " is a passionate song by Vin Garbut (very similar to Christy Moore's "I Wish I Was In England< /a>") and there's also a cover of Eddy Grant's "P olice on my Back" . Bootleg the bootleg! What's next?
Walkin' T:-)M

North Cregg "mi.da:za"
Label: Magnetic Music; MMR CD 1032; 2001; Playing time: 51.28 min
It's slide and polka time again! "Me daza" is a response popular with Cork people that means something like "geil", as we Germans put it. And this is meant to have good fun. North Cregg is a six piece group consisting of accordion, banjo, fiddle, guitar, piano, and snare drum, who even managed to beat their debut "And They Danced All Night". Special guest and treat, Breton Bernard Subert, plays clarinet along the Irish dance tunes. The songs are pleasant: "Slip Jig & Reels" by Steve Tilston, "Farewell to the Gold" by Pau l Metzers, "Young Jack Tanner" by North Cregg's own John Neville, and the traditional "Lord Franklin". Why make big words? Me daza!
Magnetic Music
Walkin' T:-)M

Bag o'Cats "Out of the Bag"
Label: Greentrax; CDTRAX193; 2001; Playing time: 50.49 min
A band that unites Dick Lee (sax, clarinets, recorder) - known through his folk jazz experiments with Hamish Moore - and Fraser Fifield (Border Pipes, Sax, whistle - whose extraordinary innovative talents bring or brought a unique touch to bands such as Salsa Celtica and Old Blind Dogs. It is obvious that we can expect something special and highly innovative.
Besides Dick and Fraser, Bag O'Cats features percussionist Rick Bamford, Nigel Richard on Cittern, border pipes and manditar (his own invention, instrument between sitar and mandola) and Rick Standley on bass. What these musicians let out of the bag is music that crosses the borders between folk and jazz, with a bit of world and a lot of unique own influences. We already know from other recordings that the saxophone can bring a very special touch to Scottish music - especially in combination with pipes - , which is proved again with this one.
The tunes on this album are all but one composed by the band itself. Highlights are the two numbers composed by Fraser Fifield: "Making Hay" and "Glen Kabul", a wonderful and exciting venture between Scottish trad and so many different influences - just amazing. The Dick Lee pieces are at times very experimental, with the most experimental parts being repeated plenty of times, some of them actually a bit nerving - maybe too much of it. The same problem appears at times with the three tunes composed by Nigel Richard, with a distinctive Eastern (Indian etc.) flavour.
Bag O'Cats is obviously an extremely talented band, and "Out of the bag" features several absolutely stunning moments of music. At other times though, due to too much improvising, it seems that the talent is - in my taste - a bit wasted. Still a highly recommended recording.
Michael Moll

Trio Viool
Label: Zoku/EMI; 07243-533-765-2-9; 2001
What happens when three of the best folk violinists of Belgium come together in a band? Well in this case they end up on a major record company with a CD of just folk fiddling - quite amazing. The violinists are Wouter Vandenabeele - of Ambrozijn, Olla Vogala and thousands of Belgian music projects, Edwin Vanvinckenroye - of Troissoeur (the band that plays its songs backwards...), and Luc De Gezelle - of Olla Vogala and others.
The music on their debut album crosses European folk music (influenced by Celtic, French, Flemish etc music) with world and oriental music, along with some classical and jazz elements. Most of the 14 tunes are written by Wouter, plus two written by Luc, two by a Joris Vanvinckenroye and finally three traditionals. As a kind of bonus, one tunes features directly 14 violins.
It is all and only violin on this CD, and anybody who loves violins played solo and as string trio will also like this album. I personally miss some additional instruments, making this CD a bit hard to listen through until the end. High quality music with a lot of talent and innovation though.
Trio Viool Homepage
Michael Moll

tref "accordeon diatonique"
Label: Wildboar; WBM 21027; 2001
What happens when three of the best folk accordeonists of Belgium come together in a band? The result is stunning and makes a surprisingly highly enjoyable listen. Either there is a trend in the Flemish scene to start one-instrument bands (see Trio Viool review!), or the one band got inspired by the other...
Tref are Wim Clays (Ambrozijn, Olla Vogala), Didier Lalo (Pantha Rei) and Bruno Le Tron, plus the odd non-accordenist which is Frédéric Malempré on percussion and berimbeau. The music of Tref is pan European, taking a lot of inspiration in Sweden and Norway (where quite a few of their tunes have their origin), along to the influences from France, Flanders and whereever...
Whoever thinks accordeons are boring, get this album, and you will change your mind. Tref's music is inspiring, it is in no way an accordeon orchestra sound, but innovative modern and lively folk music. It is really fun to listen to this CD, a wonderful collection of tunes (trad, self composed and by other musicians) played in a delightful way. The musicians show not only in their music a sense of humour; their sleeve notes are a wonderful funny mixture of Flemish and French (like the notes of "Walsque": Hé wilde met mij in duo spelen? - Oui. Meer inspiratie was er niet nodig voor dit walsque. 'Ce n'est pas du vent.')
A lot of talent, atmosphere, taste - I loved this album.
Michael Moll

Slàinte Mhat "Slawn-cha va!!"
Label: Greentrax; CDTRAX219; 2001
The Cape Breton Island band Slàinte Mhat made quite a buzz whenever they have come to play over here in Europe. Now they have released also an album on a European label. That they chose a Scottish label is quite obvious, as their music is based on Canadian-Scottish roots, and that it became probably the best Scottish label is also obvious, as their music has very high quality.
"Slawn-cha va!!" features only previously (in Canada) released material. Seven of the tunes on this album appeared originally on the Slàinte Mhat album Prophecy (reviewed in FolkWorld No.9) which was released in 1996. Additionally you find two tunes that appeared first on CD samplers (the samplers "Celtic Colours: Forgotten Roots" and "The Cape Breton Connection"). It is nice to hear again their lively and very energetic music, featuring Highland Bagpipes/Scottish Smallpipes/Reel Pipes, Keyboards/Percussion, Fiddle/Mandolin/Percussion etc, Bodhrán/Fiddle/Stepdancing and Drums/Percussion.
Slàinte Mhat are one of the best live bands around, and the CD captures well the live energy. Hopefully this European release will help them to spread their frame on the continent.
Slainte Mhat's homepage
Michael Moll

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