Issue 21 03/2002

FolkWorld CD ReviewsDog

Eleanor McEvoy "Yola"
Label: Market Square Records
Sometimes in an artist's career, a hit record can be a terrible thing. If it comes right at the start, it can sometimes throttle a promising artist to death (eg Natalie Imbruglia, Yazz). Eleanor McEvoy had the (mis)fortune to pen a song, A Woman's Heart, which became a huge anthem in her native Eire, spawning not only a huge hit single but also themed various artist compilation albums and tours. As a result of this, she landed a deal with a major label looking to launch her on the world as a singles artist. However, anyone who saw her live would have seen that Woman's Heart was an exception, and that most of her material was down home folksy personal songs of love, life and growing up in her adopted home of Wexford - not what one would think of as major label material at all. She went off and did the full band thing though, and met with reasonable success both at home and in the US, though sales never quite met expectations, and by her third album she had returned (more or less) to her roots. 1999's Snapshots was a more intimate song based album signalling to those who heard it an end to the 'hit single' phase of her career, though there was concern that it might signal the end of her career altogether.
It's something of a relief, then, to receive this album and hear Eleanor as she should be heard, live and intimate with mostly guitar and piano backing, with occasional bass from the mighty Eoghan O'Neill and drums and backing vocals from Liam Bradley, on loan from the Dolores Keane Band. The songs are all Eleanor originals (with co-writing credits for the Christians Henry Priestman on one track and Lloyd Cole on another), beautifully recorded and reproduced on Super Audio format for your listening pleasure. Respect is also due to pianist Brian Connor for exemplary and sympathetic playing throughout.
Being free of the major labels means also being outside of their all-pervasive marketing machine too, so radio play and live appearances outside of Eire may be thin on the ground. However, there's a simplicity and honesty that shines through this record and though hardly essential (let's be honest, what is?) repays repeated listening with a 'feel good' experience. This is music of a certain type, then, but of its type, an excellent example.
Colin Jones

Acoustic Strawbs "Baroque and Roll"
Label: Witchwood Records, WRCD 2004
In which Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert and Brian Willoughby get to revisit some old chestnuts (Tears and Pavanne, Ghosts, Flower and the Young Man, Benedictus) along with some new material performed to a guitar backing. Appeal to anyone who doesn't know and didn't already like the Strawbs will be minimal, one suspects, and the lack of any other instrumentation than guitar (and a few Robert Kirby string arrangements) gives the songs a 'saminess' that can cause attention to wander after a sort while.
That being said, the Cousins larynx is in fine fettle, and though perhaps an acquired taste, his singing here is top class. The same can't be said for all the songs, however, which are a mixed bunch, mostly of a ballad persuasion. "Not All The Flowers Grow' (about the Aberfan tragedy) sees Cousins at his most emotional, and is probably the standout track. Dave Lambert's vocal on his own composition 'Inside Your Hell Tonight' breaks up the record a little, as does the inclusion of the instrumental Remembering, composed by the group's former keyboard player John Hawken and originally featured on the "Ghosts' album. Nice banjo and string arrangement on Brian Willoughby's 'Alice's Song' closes the record, and if you're wondering if the three of them can carry off the material the answer is a resounding yes. The three piece will also be touring this year and will probably be well worth seeing if reviews of their January gigs are to be believed. Welcome back, Dave, Dave and Brian!
Colin Jones

Calvin Russell "Rebel Radio"
Label: Pedernales Records, SPV 085-72802
One of the perks of this job is opening an envelope and finding a CD in it that you would gladly have paid money for. I wear my heart on my sleeve here when I say that I put Calvin alongside Butch Hancock, Jimmy Dale Gilmour and the late Townes Van Zandt as one of Austin, Texas' finest musical exports. Don't expect an objective review, because you won't get one - like Guy Clark, Butch, Jimmie and the rest Calvin doesn't make bad albums. Some may be better than others, but like a fine vineyard, buy it for the label assured that the contents will be fine. Released as all his previous albums have been by German based SPV, this one was actually recorded in Texas and will be released in the US on Willie Nelson's Pedernales label. This means accompaniment includes luminaries like Lloyd Maines on steel, Stephen Bruton on guitar, Freddie Krc on drums and the inimitable Kimmie Rhodes on backing vocals. The album is beautifully produced by veteran Joe Gracey, whose production credits include (in addition to wife Kimmie Rhodes) such luminaries as the aforementioned Butch and Jimmie as well as Willie Nelson, Sue Foley, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Asleep at the Wheel.
Three classic Russell original songs are set here amongst three by Townes Van Zandt, a brace by Gillian Welch and songs by Stephen Bruton, Willie Nelson and Jagger/Richards' 'No Expectations', done in country blues style. If you like any of the artists I've mentioned in this review, then do yourself a favour and check this record out. If you like more than one, just go and buy it - trust me, I'm a music lover.
Colin Jones

Shantalla "Seven Evenings, Seven Mornings"
Label: Wildboar Music; WBM 21030; 2001
Shantalla are something of a strange mix, four Irishmen and a Scots lass who live and work in Belgium. Nothing strange about the music, though, which is a rich and well produced mix of traditional tunes and songs mixed with some band compositions and a couple of 'borrowed' songs, one from Guy Clark/Tim O'Brien (the opening 'John Riley') and one from Karine Powart of Scots band Malinky. The line up is Helen Flaherty on vocals and bodhran, Joe Hennon on guitar, Kieran Fahy on fiddle, Michael Horgan on pipes, whistles and flutes, and Gerry Murray on accordion, whistles, flutes, bouzouki and mandolin. The instruments are very well played and all the arrangements are unfussy and well thought out. This is a band that means business, and it's not hard to see why Green Linnet has snapped them up for US distribution.
There are plenty of old favourites here to leaven the mix, such as Tommy Peoples' reel, The Mooncpoin jig and the Breton hymn SperedHollvedel, made famous by Alan Stivell. As with most Irish traditional music, the true test will be to see if they can produce the craic live, and the omens are good. This album would be a fine addition to any trad collection, but may serve even better as a reminder of a great gig. Remember the name - you heard it here first.
Homepage of the artist:
Colin Jones

Little Johnny England "Mercs and Cherokees"
Label: Fellside; FECD 166
Not a blues singer but a band based around the melodeons of Gareth Turner and the fiddle of Guy Fletcher (no, not the one who used to be in Dire Straits) and featuring the vocals of guitarist PJ Wright. Though traditional in style, all the songs are composed by Pete Scrowther with the exception of one from guitarist Wright, a Steve Knightley song from the Show of Hands repertoire (Widdecombe Fair, featuring a guest vocal from Mr Knightley himself) and Ralph McTell's Lost Boys. The four instrumentals are all band originals. Set to a bass/drums backdrop, comparisons to the likes of Tiger Moth are perhaps inevitable, though having scorned the tradition the quality of the material is also of paramount importance. Whilst the songs are capable, the instrumentals are well thought out and avoid the melodeon/bass/drums charge of the likes of Caught On The Hop. It is telling that the Knightley and McTell covers are the best songs on the album, though. There are lots of great songs out there, and better material will help a great deal. A good effort then, but school report says probably could, and will, do better.
Colin Jones

Erling Hansen "det er mine"
Label: own; 2001; Playing time: 40.52 min
Erling Hansen is probably one of the most well-known fiddlers from Denmark. He already plays for more than 40 years and recorded several lp's and cd's both solo or with fellow musicians. This new album called Det er mine which means as much as "they are mine" is his 33 recording and a fine collection of 16 tunes which, except for one, he all wrote himself. The tunes are influenced by the Danish traditional music but you can also find influence from the Baltic, Eastern Europe etc. Erling is backed by five fine musicians on guitar and accordion. Erling is a very good violin player who is able to play with feeling and joy. His tunes are open to a big audience, easy to listen to and a bit melancholic. It's very clear that he plays in the old tradition and does not have the intention to create modern folk music.
Homepage of the artist:
Eelco Schilder

Stara Lipa "Vivum"
Label: Orange World; 004; 2001; Playing time: 49.54 min
When I was in Poland some years ago I started looking in cd shops for young musicians who made some traditional recordings. I didn't find much and they assured me that these kind of bands did not exist in Poland. So I was surprised when I got this very interesting cd by the group Stara lipa to review. Five young musicians recorded 12 beautiful songs and dances. Besides vocals you can hear instruments such as Hurdy-gurdy, Ocarina, Skrzypica, saz and many others. These instruments are not all traditional Polish and neither is the music Stara lipa creates. It's a fine mixture of musical influence from all over Europe including Poland. The overall atmosphere is medieval and reminds me of the music known from the group Ilgi. In tunes like Zimowe intro and W ognil the band sound like they are haunted by some scary creatures through the dark Polish woods. Stara lipa managed to record a both traditional as modern sounding acoustic cd. I'm impressed by this cd and I hope we will hear a lot more from this Polish band.
Eelco Schilder

Windvlaag "Vierkracht"
Label: Syncoop; CD257; 2001; Playing time: 49.08 min
Vierkracht is the second cd by the Dutch group Windvlaag and a big leap forwards compared with their first cd. Now on the syncoop label the group brings songs from the Dutch, Yiddish and many other traditions. The opening song Dri grine kusine a very famous Yiddish traditional is, like The glasgow barrowlands one of the few weak links on this album. These songs sound like the group has problems with matching the voice and instruments into a balanced song. That this is only an incidental problem proofs many of the other songs. The Flemish traditional Maske, the Shakespearean song Under the greenwood tree and especially the Greek song Itane mia fora show the quality of this band. Sadhu Bolland, who sings both the Greek ballads and a few other songs, has a strong warm voice. She is able to put emotion in each word she sings and her singing makes this cd of extra value. Syncoop was absolutely right to publish this cd. Their first cd didn't convince me, this one did. I hope Windvlaag is able to grow further and develop more and more their own style.
Eelco Schilder

Red Meadows "City Ballads"
Label: own; 2001; Playing time: 38.42 min
When I heard the cd City ballads for the first time I thought that I was listen to just another band with Americana sound. But suddenly, listening to the song Chasing that feeling, I realised that this group has much more to offer than I thought. I had to get used to the pronunciation of the lyrics sung by Dave Knudsen. That took me three songs and now I'm convinced that Read meadows made a more than average cd. Nice ballads, moody songs and a sound like Neil Young in his most peaceful moments. A bit too much Pedal steel guitar to my taste but that is a personal problem for which I need to find some professional help. I hope the group is able to grow into a more own interpretation of the American tradition and I'm sure we will hear more of this talented group.
Homepage of the artist:
Eelco Schilder

Szilvasi gipsy folk band "Ha megfogom az ordogot"
Label: Fono; fa-089-2; 2001; Playing time: 58.01 min
The Hungarian gypsy band Szilvasi isn't just another Gypsy group. They have a clear view on the music that they play and they try to renew tradition constantly so that young people also feel that the music is theirs. This live-recorded cd starts with a very nice song that reminds me a bit of the traditional singing done in South Africa. The way de voices sing in harmony and the relaxed atmosphere. Besides songs of joy the group also brings very intense melodies such as Sel mure bakre szasz kethane, szaz baranyom volt egyutt (this is not the most intense song but it has the best title so I choose to use this one as example) but each time with passion and in new musical arrangements which make this cd not only very recognisable but also refreshing.
Eelco Schilder

Tanglewood "Circular Dancing"
Label: Arpegio Briosso; 9861; 1998; Playing time: 25.04 min
The Irish group Tanglewood are Anne Breathnach who does the lead vocals and Harry Monson who plays the guitar and backing vocals. On this cd they are helped two additional musicians but the basic of their songs is guitar and vocals. I like this album. The songs are brought with feeling and especially look the other way became one of my favourites. The cd contains only six songs and that is not much. But better six songs of this quality than twelve songs with no quality. Also read the review on their newer cd: The place where you were born
Eelco Schilder

Tanglewood "The place where you were born"
Label: Arpegio Briosso; 0061; 2000; Playing time: 57.47 min
For introduction read the review on their cd Circular dancing. In that review I wrote that it was a shame that cd was so short. Luckily they also send me another cd with double as much songs. The basic is almost the same; the nice guitar and strong voice of Anne Breatnach. Only this time more musicians back the group especially the keyboard got more influence in the songs. Again the songs are of high quality. Although they are Irish don't expect to hear Irish traditional music. It's singer songwriter music with sometimes a bit poppy sound. I can't say that I would prefer one of the cd's. I like the soberness of the first one but also enjoy the richer sound of The place where you were born. My suggestion, buy them both!
Eelco Schilder

Avesto "Avesto"
Label: Double Moon; 71501; 2991; Playing time: 56.58 min
Avesto is a group from Tadjikistan and is based around lead-singer Takhima Ramazanova. The record company put the label "ethno pop" on the cd booklet and that is exactly what this is. Reminding me sometimes of the early cd's of Yulduz Usmanova, Avesto tries hard to record songs which would be suitable for both the Asian as well as the Western market. Although it sounds like the band uses traditional instruments, according to the booklet this is all the work of Jasur Khalilov who is in charge of the keyboards. Besides him there are three percussionists and one e-bass player. Avesto made a cd with nice, recognisable songs that are easy to listen to. Enough modern influence to make this cd suitable for listeners who are not used to this genre and like to get introduced into Ethno pop from Tadjikistan. For me this cd is well done but I've heard it before and consider this as a quality commercial product.
Eelco Schilder

Earth Wheel Sky Band "Rroma Art"
Label: Fono; 2001; Playing time: 39.35 min
When I heard this cd for the first time the first thing I thought was: "why have I never heard of this band before." The Earth wheel sky band was founded in 1981 and Rroma art is their third album. Leader of the group is Vince Olay who besides being a great musician also is a representation of the Roman culture. He has dedicated his live to the emancipation of the Roman people and with the Aroma art project he wants to make people around the world aware of their Roman identity. The CD contains so many different kinds of interpretation of the Roman culture that some songs really surprise me. The song Aroma adagio has influences from the Jewish music tradition while Briton peril sounds like some Latin musician left some traces. And songs like Barrio drum have a modern beat and a completely different atmosphere. While other artists often show only a certain style of the Roman music, Eart wheel sky band taught me that the Romans had their influence in musical styles world-wide.
Eelco Schilder

Balogh kalman es a Romana Kokola "Gipsy colours"
Label: Fono; 061-2; 1999; Playing time: 44.08 min
Kalman Balogh is a well-known name within the Hungarian music scene. He played Cymbalo in famous bands such as Muszikas, Okros, Zsaratnok and the Transglobal underground. Now he is the artistic director of Romana kokalo and together they recorded ten songs that find their roots in the Balkan tradition. As always Balogh is a master on his instrument and the whole cd has a relax and friendly atmosphere. The guitarists Istvan Angy and Karoly Berki have a leading role in many of the songs and make this album sound like a mixture between Balkan and Spanish gypsy music. Of course these two styles are tightly connected and it won't surprise anybody. I have to say that it's not Baloghs most impressive work. All ten songs are quality and brought by great musicians but it misses something extra. A good example is the song Hajnalodik where it's like the vocalists are bored singing the song. Technically everything sounds perfect but I miss the fire from within the musicians.
Eelco Schilder

Pili Pili "Ballads of Timbuktu"
Label: Jaro; 4240-2.; 2002; Playing time: 58.16 min
I have to be very honest to Jasper van't Hof and his fellow musicians of Pili pili. I've been very narrow minded for many years concerning their music. As a record collector I once found one of Pili Pili's first records at a record-fair and didn't like it much at that time. So after that I never bought another Pili pili record again and this new album Ballads of Timbuktu teaches me how painfully wrong I have been all these years. So not knowing the other Pili pili album but the first and the last I can recommend this cd with pleasure. It's a dynamic mixture of ancient west-African music, modern jazz and beats. Leading lady is Mabinyhy Sakho. She impresses with both sharp and warm vocals. I'm surprised how balanced the combination of the west-African music and the modern jazz sound. Both styles are recognisable and still they seam to create their own world. Again I have to say that I don't know their previous work so I cant tell you if this album is "better" than the last one, I just let you know that this is impressive music which I enjoy a lot.
Eelco Schilder

Bryan Owens "BryansBizaar - Acoustic music from near and far"
Label: own; 2001; Playing time: 49.16 min
The multi-instrumentalist Bryan Owens has been a member of several traditional groups in New-Zealand. Now he recorded the cd Acoustic music from near and far together with three fellow musicians to document diverse traditional tunes he has learned from several musicians through the years. The cd contains eleven songs in Breton, Swedish, Irish and many other traditions. Although the tunes come from different countries, Bryan managed to create a cd with an own sound. His Breton tune has the same feeling as the Swedish tune Det maste handa nagot and I have to concentrate to recognise the special Swedish or Breton style that makes these tunes so special for their country. In a way I think it's very well done because he manages to play the tunes in such a way that they are recognisable and open to a big audience. On the other hand in some tunes I miss the unique identity and I wish he gave it a little bit less of his own sound. Nevertheless, this is a pleasant cd with a well-produced and balanced sound. Bryan knows his instruments and plays with confidence and peace, which makes this cd very pleasant to listen to.
Homepage of the artist:
Eelco Schilder

More English CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4
More German CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page 2
Overview: CD Review Contents

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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 03/2002

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