Issue 20 12/2001

FolkWorld CD Reviews



McDermott's Two Hours vs. The Levellers "World Turned Upside Down"
Label: HAG Records; HAG 006; 2000; Playing time: 38.43 min
McDermott's Two Hours was the result of the friendship and musical partnership of singer, guitarist, lyric writer Nick Burbridge and melody composer, fiddle, bouzouki, whistle and harmonica player Tim O'Leary. They achieved limited popularity around the south of England in the late eighties / early nineties before eventually going their separate ways. The Levellers claim them as one of the inspiring influences on their musical approach, and so it came about that Levellers bassist Jeremy Cunningham suggested a musical collaboration.
This album is the result. It presents Burbridge's songs - about love, war, drinking: the eternal subjects of folk song - accompanied by O'Leary and the Levellers' rhythm section (Cunningham and drummer Charlie Heather, who sticks to just percussion on some of the songs). You can just about see how the Levellers might be the logical sequel to this, though they're a good deal more boisterous than Burbridge & O'Leary.
Levellers website
Anja Beinroth

Tannahill Weavers "Alchemy"
Label: Green Linnet; GLCD 1210; 2000; Playing time: 45.12 min
"Alchemy" ist the Tannies' 13th studio album (not counting the two compilations) and their third in succession with unchanged personnel, making this line-up of Roy Gullane (voc, guitar), John Martin (voc, fiddle etc.), Duncan J. Nicholson (pipes, whistles), Phil Smillie (voc, flute, whistles, bodhrán) and Les Wilson (voc, bouzouki, guitar, keyboards) the most enduring in the 28-year history of the group. Since their last two releases "Leaving St Kilda" (1996) and "Epona" (1998), they've been perfecting their four-voice harmony singing, and try their hands at an a capella "It Was All For Our Rightful King" with great success here.
As we have come to expect, the album mixes traditional and self-penned Scottish songs in varied arrangements with majestic pipe tune sets and dreamy slow airs. Like for the last two albums (at least), the booklet provides full notes and lyrics plus a Scottish-English glossary for the linguistically-challenged listener.
You'd think a group would have to be rather good to keep going this long and remain popular. You'd be quite right! This is quality stuff.
Tannahill Weavers website
Anja Beinroth

Dames Dubbel met Kat yn't Seil "Jaarringen"
Label: Pan Records; Pan 192; 2001; Playing time: 49.26 min
This album is designed to accompany you through the course of a year. Dames Dubbel (half of Dutch group Kat yn't Seil) have collected songs and tunes from Dutch folkore connected to the various holidays and rituals historically celebrated by the people. The resulting album begins and closes with songs connected to the turning of the year, and takes in Lent, Palm Sunday, Easter, May dances, Whitsun, Midsummer, Harvest, St. Nicholas' and St. Martin's days in November and Christmas along the way.
The music is supplied by all four members of Kat yn't Seil, who play flutes, accordion, schalmei, krumhorn, cow horn, bagpipes, guitars, cister and assorted percussion between them. For some of the songs, collected from old books, where the music had been lost, new tunes were created ("reconstructed", as they put it) for the recording. The "double ladies", Marita Kruijswijk and Marian Nesse, have also adapted obscure and dialect expressions into modern Dutch "so that today's listeners could understand them at first hearing" - assuming they understand Dutch, of course. This would indeed no doubt enhance the pleasure of listening to this album, but thanks to the extensive (bi-lingual) eplanatory notes, it is still interesting even if you can't follow the lyrics.
Contact Dames Dubbel
Anja Beinroth

Trans-Global Underground "Yes Boss Food Corner"
Label: Koch; CD 33552-2; 2001; Playing time: 60.37 min
This is dance music, but aimed at nightclubs, not ceilidhs. Trans- Global Underground mix elements of various cultures, mostly Asian, with electronic beats, and succeed in blending the two elements better and more creatively than most who dabble in this field. Definitely not one for purists, but it does have a certain fascination.
More information and real audio files
Anja Beinroth

Michael Snow "Here Comes The Skelly"
Label: Irish Eye Records; 1999; Playing time: 44.14 min
Michael Snow "The Rats and the Rosary"
Label: Irish Eye Records; IYE 944; 2001; Playing time: 46.37 min
It's a trendy thing for Americans digging up roots. Michael Snow did the same. After beat music, showbands, a contribution to John Lennon's "Power to the people", playing piano with Chuck Berry, he settled in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1973. Recently leading the Celtic band Ceolta Nua and collaborating with Dr. Hook-singer Dennis Locorriere. His songs were recorded by Ray Stevens and Earl Scruggs. The Skelly trilogy is meant to be an exploration of music inspired by Michael's Liverpool/Irish background. Skelly is a character not me exactly but it allows me to express a broad range of thoughts and ideas about the whole Irish immigrant experience. The songs have correspondingly a slight Irish touch, covering a broad range of musical influences from singer/songwritung to folksy pop. "Rambling Road", "A Time to Kill", "Skelly Scouse" are finely crafted songs, which explore rockier ground and seem (at least for me) to work best. Michael is not the greatest singer (if that's an artistic criterion at all), but he is determined for a journey (and I'm sure part three of the Skelly trilogy is coming soon): Cut my finger, I bleed green / That's the way it's always been / Hide your daughters, lock your house / Here comes the Skelly Scouse.
Michael Snow / Irish Eye Records
Walkin' T:-)M

Black 47 "On Fire"
Label: Gadfly Records; GADFLY 280; 2001; Playing time: 60.19 min
Larry Kirwan "Kilroy Was Here"
Label: Gadfly Records; GADFLY 273; 2001; Playing time: 56.07 min
Our first gig was a benefit where we opened for political activist Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey, says singer/guitarist/playwrigth Larry Kirwan, after about fifteen minutes, someone roared out: For Christ's sakes, play an Irish song! To which I replied, I'm from Ireland. I wrote the song, that makes it Irish. So shut the fuck up! Black 47, named after Ireland's Great Famine, is an Irish-American band that combines traditional material with often political themes - Irish Republicanism mixed with left wing humanistic ideology. And plays it loud and fast cause we're not talking about another folk band but a group devoted to pure rock, rap and reggae. A bit of Moving Hearts taken into the 1990s. Drinking music for thinking people. Their latest offering is "On Fire", recorded live on Paddy's Day 2001 (presumably in New York City, the group's main stage). The line-up consists of brass section of Geoffrey Blythe (sax, founder member of Dexy's Midnight Runners) and Fred Parcells (trombone, whistle), uilleann piper Chris Byrne, plus Andrew Goodsight on bass and Thomas Hamlin on drums. Now everywhere we go we cause a fuss / 'Cause we play what we like and our sound is us / It's got a whole lot of hell and a little bit of heaven / That's the story so far of Black 47, says "Rockin' the Bronx". The "Big Fellah" is Michael Collins, "Bobby Sands MP", of course, devoted to Bobby Sands. "Fire of Freedom" and "American Wake" are other highlights. It finally closes with Peter Gabriel's "Biko". A band, unlike any other, who played original music and refused to patronise their audiences.
Larry Kirwan's solo effort "Kilroy Was Here" slows down a bit. I want to get back out in front of an audience with just a guitar and see if I can do it the way I started off in Wexford, so many moons ago. And speaking of Wexford, it permeates the album - not the successful Wexford of today - but the one I remember, grey, gloomy, rain-soaked, lightning streets, full of teddyboys, sailors home on leave, presentation schoolgirls, bookies, messenger boys, Sister Philip, Tommy Swift, mini minors, Franciscans, altar-boys, culchies on old black bicycles, country boys sweating in black suits on Curracloe Beach, Sunday walks to Ferrycarrig, Norman castles, Yola and memories of '98, Eddie Calvert's trumpet, showbands at the Parish Hall, girls in seamed stockings who thought you were an eejit, opera and rock & roll all mixed into one grand, big yellowbellied stew. No wonder I'm so messed up! Still, I want to ... merge the two worlds I'm a part of - theatre and music, once and for all. The lead instruments are trumpet and violin, creating a more intimate, jazz sound throughout. The autobiographic "Life's Like That, Isn't it" tells of the 60s in his native Wexford. "Molly" is a witty song, falling in love with James Joyce's heroine. "History of Ireland" tells 900 bloody years in five minutes, featuring Malachy McCourt in upper-class voice. "Spanish Moon" remembers Garcia Lorca, Victor Jara and General Pinochet: The poet lives forever, the general dies alone ...
Funny how but at first listening I always furrow a brow or two, but thereafter I always think it's cool. Since Kirwan is currently collaborating with Tom Keneally, (author of Schindler's List), on a musical about women convicts being deported from Ireland to Australia, I'm looking forward with great interest.
Gadfly Records
Walkin' T:-)M

The Waterboys "Too Close To Heaven"
Label: Own Label; 74321881522; 2001; Playing time: 58.20 min
For many people, "Fisherman's Blues", the Waterboys' flirtation with folk and traditional music, is their best work to date: a subtle blend of folk's poppier moments and Irish music's rootsy instrumentation. (P. Byrne) Too Close To Heaven is the sequel of these heady days in Spiddal in the west of Ireland. Or better, the forerunner, because those tracks have been recorded previously. [We] were listening to Blues, Cajun, Country and old Gospel music, says singer and guitarist Mike Scott. And we played it too, on our acoustic instruments - guitar, fiddle, mandolin and sax, leaving behind the cinematic sound people thought of when they heard the word Waterboys ... It took eight years to be revisited. So here we are, left in the intervening period somewhere between the folksy Fisherman sound and the older Waterboys rock. Mike Scott plays guitar and piano, Steve Wickham fiddle, Trevor Hutchinson double bass, and Anthony Thistlethwaite sax and mandolin. There is also Vinnie Kilduff on uilleann pipes and tin whistle, Roddy Lorimer on trumpet, and another line of bass players and drummers. Naturally you can't expect any big hits with some almost forgotten tracks, but there's some fine songs and songwriting. Not only for the advanced Waterboys fan.
Mike Scott/Waterboys
Walkin' T:-)M

Mark Elliott "My Great Escape"
Label: Cub Creek Records; CCR-1967; 2001; Playing time: 48.55 min
Nashville-based singer/songwriter Mark Elliott's "My Great Escape" breaks free from the hectic pace of the urban American everyday life. If I were a train, I would take my time. Folk and country turn easily into pop and jazz. And finally Mark makes his get away full of doubt, full of faith, full of freedom.
Mark Elliott
Walkin' T:-)M

Christine Primrose "Gun Sireadh, Gun Iarraidh"
Label: Temple; COMD2086; 2001; Playing time: 56.37 min
Gaelic song and Gaelic music has in recent years almost been destroyed by Celticism, says Angus Peter Campbell in the liner notes, Christine Primrose exposes these trends as pale, commercial shadows that have little to do with real Gaelic tradition. There's little to add and I could finish here, but to give you some more information: Christine Primrose hails from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides and she is regarded as one of the most passionate performers of Gaelic song. I can confirm this. Christine's stunning vocals tell epic, haunting stories of people and land, love and hatred. Half of " Gun Sireadh, Gun Iarraidh" (without seeking, without asking) is genuine voice. The other half is tastefully accompanied by harp (Alison Kinnaird), fiddle and whistle (Alasdair White), small pipes (Iain MacInnes), and guitar (Duncan MacGillivray). All the words are translated and the song contents shortly introduced in the booklet to add to the pleasure of the non-Gaelic speaker. But in the end, Christine's expressions carry all emotions and there is no further understanding required.
Temple Records
Walkin' T:-)M

Gillian Frame & Back of the Moon
Label: Foot Stompin' Records; CDFSR1711; 2001; Playing time: 47.57 min
There's a lot of moon in this FolkWorld issue. This time we cast some light on the backside of the Earth's satellite. The Scottish band "Back of the Moon" consists of fiddler Gillian Frame, whistler, border and uilleann piper Simon McKerrell, pianist Hamish and guitarist Findlay Napier. The instrumental sets of their debut recording, also titled "Back of the Moon", flow freely and easy-going. All four are singing as well and I personally like their party version of "T he Greenland Whale Fisheries". The band is called "Back of the Moon", but there's no need to hide away.
Foot Stompin' Records
Walkin' T:-)M

Haugaard & H°irup "Let's Dansk"
Label: Stockfisch; SFR 357.6022.2; 2001; Playing time: 57.22 min
Haugaard & H°irup (see also article about Harald Haugaard in this issue, FolkWorld live report and previous CD review) have been described as the Danish equivalent of the breathtaking Irish duo Hayes & Cahill. Likewise the idea was quite simply to put together two dynamic, technically and musically gifted musicians, not as `soloist with accompaniment,' but working together as equals, and then see what happened. And as Martin Hayes put it: Many of the old musicians had this special `draiocht' ... Through the honesty of their expression they could touch your heart. Morton Alfred H°irup (guitar, vocals) and the devil's own Harald Haugaard (fiddle) are really like two hands on a piano. "Let's Dansk" has been recorded live at the folk club Strackholt in Northern Germany. Schottische, polkas, waltzes, jig- and reel-type tunes, traditional Danish songs. The entire spectrum of human emotions can be found, from tender sweetness to effusive passion. Simply the best weapon that Continental Europe has to offer against the Celtic invasion.
Walkin' T:-)M

Pure Irish Drops "Sounds from the North"
Label: Liekedeler; LIECD 01017; 2001; Playing time: 43.34 min
Germany has always been an important market for folk music and some top acts even got their reputation while doing the German folk circuit and being pushed by the German festivals and festival tours. Where were The Fureys or Clannad without it? One less known annual festival tour being the "Pure Irish Drops" of Florian FŘrst, dedicated to represent traditional Irish music as pristine and intensive as possible. This year the tour introduced the music from the North of Ireland, featuring flutist and singer Desi Wilkinson (Cran), fiddler banjo player Cathal Hayden (Four Men and a Dog) and button accordonist Jim McGrath. For the first time "Pure Irish Drops" are on record, which is a pleasure concerning the magnificent selection of musicians. I hope that there will be some more drops falling on these lands soon.
Walkin' T:-)M

Brolum "7:11"
Label: Own Label; BROLUM1; 2000; Playing time: 43.22 min
Brolum is a seven-piece group from the Strathclyde University, Glasgow: the twin fiddles of Eilidh Campbell and Sarah Wilson, Julie Fowlis on whistle and vocals, Tony Russel on clarsach, Andrew Webster on guitar, Duncan Lyall on bass and Martin O'Neill on percussion. Being winner of the "Danny Kyle Open Stage Competition" at Celtic Connections 2000 (that pleases us ol' Danny-fans), led to the decisison not to call it a day and travel on down the road. It was a wise decision. For a debut album, the ensemble playing is very tight. The tunes are generally groovy. "Quiraing" has an Easter-European flavour. Julie sings the traditional Gaelic songs "Muil eann Dubh", "An Ataireachd Ard" and "Clann Ulaidh". Scotland at its best.
Walkin' T:-)M

More English CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5
More German CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page 2
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