Issue 22 06/2002

FolkWorld CD ReviewsDog

Siân Phillips & Danny KilBride "Jac tô Bach"
Label: Speedy Kat; SPDKCD01; 2001; Playing time: 46.07 min
If I had just one thing to recommend in this issue, I'd say check out Siân Phillips & Danny KilBride. Siân is a Welsh fiddle player with deep roots in the tradition of the Swansea Valleys. Her fiddle had been given to her grandfather 150 years ago to play at the local churches. Siân has played with differents bands before, just to mention "Wild Welsh Women". Guitarist Danny is best known for performing with his KilBride Brothers. The title "Jac tô Bach" is no reference to the German composer, but means "the little jackdaw" which had fallen out of the tree while practising the polka set of the same name. (The music must have thrilled the young bird.) Siân and Danny deliver 11 traditional Welsh tunes and 13 newly penned. The fiddle is bouncing, while the guitar provides a firm rhythmical ground. Though spirited, both can be quite contemplative. Listen to "Clychau Puw". According to an interview with the Irish Music Magazine, Siân & Danny call it also "The Bells of Aberdovey" (I have no clue if it is the same "Bells of Aberdovey" by Charles Dibdin which appeared in his Drury Lane opera "Liberty Hall" in 1785) and relate it to a flooded kingdom. Thus, they changed it from G major into G minor: You don't drown in G major! We have been reviewing a lot of fiddle/guitar duos here before. Definitely, Siân & Danny put Wales on the list. Where are you promoters to bring some briliant Welsh music to the mainland?
Walkin' T:-)M

Kelly Joe Phelps "Sky Like A Broken Clock"
Label: Rykodisc; P2A 310612; 2001; Playing time: 55.11 min
Kelly Joe Phelps "Beggar's Oil E.P."
Label: Rykodisc; RCD 10619; 2002; Playing time: 31.17 min
Longing for depth and emotion in music, Vancouver based Kelly Joe Phelps discovered American folk and country blues. After three groundbreaking solo albums that have earned him a reputation as one of the best living slide guitarists, Phelps assembled a band (bass, drums, occasional organ and harmonica) and put aside the slide guitar to try his remarkable talents on fingerpicking style. "Sky Like A Broken Clock" is also Phelps' first record to feature no traditional material, only his own. His simple songs are deeply personal and introspective and at times full of melancholy. But not the dreariness the blues can carry along. I overheard Phelps had inherit blues perfection without being blues and he had still the blues but now they've gone to college. In fact, it's some kind of light in it. The sunshine of the blues.
The "Beggar's Oil E.P." is a limited edition companion to "Sky Like A Broken Clock", featuring "Beggar's Oil" in the album version and a band arrangement plus three other previously unreleased tracks and the traditional "Lass of Loch Royale" (If I Prove False To Thee).
Walkin' T:-)M

Own label; 2001; Playing time: 24.57 min
"Ethnocore"-band Shoom (i.e. garlic in Hebrew) was formed two years ago by four Russian born musicans who relocated to Jerusalem. Ilia Mazia (duduk, wooden flutes, saz) and Michael "Drumz" Gorodinsky (percussion) used to play folk and world music before, while Dima Hayat (percussion) and Sergey Kazz (bass, electric guitar) came from the heavy metal side of life. Truly eclectic, Shoom took Armenian, Balkan, Gypsy and medieval Italian ingredients and boil them up to give it some "oomph". One original composition is influenced by the "ashiks", wandering Sufi poets of Turkey, and turned into blues. Shoom is steeped in traditional music, but--percussion and bass driven--their output is equally suited for the dancefloor. (Sorry but I couldn't reproduce the title with its Hebrew letters.)
Walkin' T:-)M

Mick Thomas & The Sure Thing "Dust On My Shoes"
Label: twah!; 122; 2002; Playing time: 66.59 min
Australian Mick Thomas (ex-Weddings Parties Anything) gives us some fine country-inflected pop music. Partly a concept about travelling and what's to be seen: In a tiny bar, the television flickered, the drinkers lay about, and then an add for Pepsi-Cola made them look and sent them reeling, clean white nymphs on beaches left them with a sinking feeling, just knowing they would never get a chance to deal in hard currency. It could be a spiritual journey as well: I'm driving away on a road called Sweet Sorrow, I saw a sign post say No Turning Back, I passed through a township called Think of Tomorrow. The animated opener tells of juvenile joys and sorrows (plus video clip): He almost made his auntie faint when he stopped at the chemist for some black nail paint, he said `it'll match my lips.' To dress like that round here you'd guess that he likes being close to death, he's a lonely goth in a country town, he's the only one for miles around.
twah!; Released in Australia on Croxton Records
Walkin' T:-)M

Thomas Loefke & Norland Wind "Atlantic Driftwood"
Label: Laika; 3510157.2; 2002; Playing time: 54.55 min
Norland Wind is the brainchild of German harper Thomas Loefke (see FW#7). He assembled Kerstin Blodig (vocals, guitar, bouzouki; see FW#21), Ian Melrose (vocals, guitar, low whistle, keyboards; see also review in this issue), twin brothers Noel and Padraig Duggan (vocals, guitar, mandolin) of Clannad fame, and another impressive guest list again. Loefke's harp music and song from the Celtic Northwest is not the hard-driven Donegal fiddle style, but mellow and ethereal. Despite such "clannadism", Norland Wind stays acoustic and does not create any synthetic soundscapes. Most tunes have been written by Loefke himself. Blodig adds some traditional Gaelic songs, and some newly set to music. There's the haunting "An raibh tú ar an gCarraig?" (Were you at the rock?) with its unusual question-and-answer structure that piper Seamus Ennis interpreted to be a "rebel song": As part of the suppression of Catholics even celebration of mass was forbidden by the ruling authorities, so people had to meet in hidden places, at `mass rocks,' always in fear of being discovered. The song's lyrics disguise it as a love song but most words are metaphors only to be understood by `the right people.' The "rock" being the hidden site of the gathering, "my love" being the Virgin Mary, etc. However, according to John O'Daly's "Poets and Poetry of Munster" (1849) the song is the "chef-d'oeuvre" of one Dominic Mongan (*1715) and was composed for the celebrated beauty Eliza Blacker of Carrick (Co. Armagh). The Blacker estate besides the River Bann is about a mile from Portadown, stronghold of Ulster loyalism. Dominic Mongan from Co. Tyrone was a blind harper and toured with the judges and lawyers on the North-Western circuit. His son Charles (1754-1826) was appointed Lord Bishop of the Anglican dioceses of Limerick and Cloyne. I think that makes it rather unlikely to be dedicated to the Catholic cause. But anyway, forget about it, it adds properly to the mystical air.
Laika Records
Walkin' T:-)M

Éilís Kennedy "Time to Sail"
Label: Own Label; 2001; Playing time: 47.24 min
"Foxhunters" is an Irish slip jig and part of the uilleann piper's party piece "The Fox Chase". Shorten it, put some Gaelic words to it and you get the children's ditty "Nead na Lachan" (i.e. Duck's Nest). So far, so nice, if you play it on the fiddle. But try to sing it. Éilís Kennedy from Dingle does it. As gorgeous as "Amhrán na Leabhar" ("Song of Books"; Tomás Rua Ó Súilleabháin, 1785-1845, lamenting his books fallen into the sea), "Tá Mé'mo Shuí" (I am sitting), "Canadee-i-o", "Black is the Colour", "The Factory Girl", "Lord Franklin" (about Arctic explorer John Franklin; by the way, Dingle-born Tom Crean of Annascaul accompanied Shackleton to the South Pole), as well as Henry Lawson's "Andy's Gone", Richard Thompson's "Crazy Man Michael", and Sandy Denny's "Who Knows Where the Time Goes". Eilís is accompanied by the "Best of the West", including fiddler Maire Breathnach and bass player James Blennerhasset. That stirs up some desire and I'm inclined to take the very next flight. You may meet Éilís at the An Chonair pub in Dingle Town at the Wednesday night singing session.
Distributed by Gael-Linn; for information contact or
Walkin' T:-)M

The Electrocarpathians "Umpires of Straw"
Label: Global Village; CD 820; 2001; Playing time: 42.18 min
It is thought that Slavs immigrating to the Great Plains in the later part of the 1800's brought with them an early form of baseball. Not only baseball, but also their native music, turned into rock'n'roll by California Surfer Gypsy Punk Rockers. Don't take the Electrocarpathians' own labelling too serious, it's kind of misleading. It is better described as folksy rock, featuring violin, accordion, guitar, bouzouki, bass and drums, based on East European song and dance tunes. I can make out Hungary, Rumania, Slovakia, Ukraine, the Balkan, Yiddish and Ladino-Turkish traditions. In the best American way, The Electrocarpathians don't care much about if purists find it appropriate to mix it up. Shtetl-rock goes Bonanza sometimes. The "Sleazy Polka Medley" starts in Macedonia, travels to Poland and Brazil, and finishes off with the Irish "Dennis Murphy's Polka". That's the soundtrack for the global village.
Global Village (see also FW#20)
Walkin' T:-)M

Brendan Ring "Troublesome Things"
Label: Own label; BPR001CD; 2001; Playing time: 38.32 min
Brendan Ring who hails from Kent, England, moved to Ireland in 1990 to do post-graduate research on piping under Mícheal Ó Súilleabháin at University College Cork. Currently he is living in Brittany where he is a full time pipe maker. Laoise Kelly, Nomos, Sharon Shannon already recorded Brendan's tunes and he appeared on John Spillane's "The Wells of the World" album. His debut shows he is a gifted piper and low whistle player, the latter unusually employed with great effect on the faster tunes as well. The "Troublesome Things" of the title, taken from a poem by William Makepeace Thackeray, fairy roses, fairy rings, turn out sometimes troublesome things, may refer to the uilleann pipes. But it doesn't trouble Brendan that much. Four of the piping tracks are delivered unaccompanied, the rest is enhanced by guitar (John Neville of North Cregg, see also FW#9 and FW#19), bouzouki (Gerry McKee of Nomos, see FW#21), and percussion (Mel Mercier). Brendan's ancestors include a governor of Chester Jail who absconded with all the prisoners possessions, immortalised in "The Robbery of Chester Jail", and "Rí Ring" (King Ring) who shot his way out of jail when being treated for shooting a bailiff. Troublesome Rings. Rachel Healy also adds a folk-pop song, "Oisín", written by Brendan and his wife Michelle.
Walkin' T:-)M

Ian Melrose "A Scottish Legacy"
Label: Acoustic Music; 319.1249.242; 2001; Playing time: 52.27 min
Scotsman Ian Melrose, now based in Berlin, already contributed to Be Mine Or Run, Talking Water, Norland Wind (see the review in this issue), and Clannad's "Landmarks" album. While Ian's father was a member of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, Ian became a guitar player, influenced by Graham, Renbourn, Jansch, Martyn & Co. But eventually he came across his native legacy and tried Scottish fiddle tunes on acoustic and slide guitar. Ian incorporates fiddle techniques into his playing (as done before by Tony McManus, see also FW#4), but he does not play straight dancing tunes, instead he is picking much more playfully. Remember his guitar influences. The slide guitar at times makes classic tunes almost unrecognizable. "Auld Brig o' Dun" is where Tam O'Shanter escaped from the witches (see FW#17). Lochaber No More (also known as "Limerick's Lamentation" and "King James's March to Dublin") is variously attributed to different Irish harpers who might have robbed it from the Highlands. The slip-jig (9/8) "Rattlin' Roarin' Willie" is usually associated with the words by Robbie Burn. Neil Gow laments the "Death of his Second Wife" and the "Farewell to Whisky" (when making whisky was prohibited in 1799). Last but not least, a selection of Scottish fiddle genius James Scott Skinner. Simply, a Scottish legacy.
Acoustic Music Records
Walkin' T:-)M

Brian Berryman "Crossing the Border"
Label: MDG; 505 1127-2; 2002; Playing time: 76.48 min
Another gem in our series "Hands Across the Divide". The border which is crossed is that between baroque flute music and traditional music from Scotland, England and Ireland. Actually, there is no impregnable wall but rather a soft transition. At the end of the day, traditional and classical music of Gow, Fraser, Skinner, Dow and Fischer doesn't sound that different. In deed, blind Irish harper Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738) borrowed from the fashionable Italian masters (Dublin's music hall in Crow Street was erected for the practice of Italian music in 1731) and he successfully challenged violinist/composer Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762; reputedly buried in Dublin's St Andrew's Church, which is now the Tourist office). One theory says that ornamentations can be traced back to baroque music. Finally, the wooden flute used in traditional music today is the cast-off of orchestral and parlour music when the modern metal Boehm flute became popular.
Flautist Brian Berryman, who hails from Nova Scotia but is based in Germany, has specialized himself in historical performance practice, with a repertoire ranging from French baroque chamber music to Romantic orchestral works. He is a founding member of the chamber ensemble La Ricordanza. Additionally he is familiar with traditional Irish and Scottish music. As Voltaire put it: All styles are good except the tiresome sort. Of course, the latter is not featured here. Brian is joined by Axel Wolf (guitar, lute, theorbo) and Eckhart Kuper (harpsichord). Since published on a classical record label, the album comes with excellent liner notes in English, German and French. Almost revolutionary, at least I'd never encountered it before, is that each tune of the different sets is individually selectable.
Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm
Walkin' T:-)M

The Alexandria Kleztet "Delusions of Klezmer"
Label: Own label; CD 2; 2002; Playing time: 68:31 min
Let's start with a confession. Actually, I don't like clarinets that much, with their shrieking and blood-chilling abilities. To my positive surprise, one of my prejudices was proved wrong again and I became converted. The klezmer revival is in full swing with dozens of bands across the Nation. Some faithfully recreate the traditional sounds of the past, and some push the boundaries of the music by incorporating modern influences from jazz and rock and roll. The Alexandria Kleztet from Washington DC experiments with the second and fuse a wide range of influences. Clarinetist Seth Kibel (Ex-Cayuga Klezmer Revival) is occupied with a swing combo when not expanding klezmer music. Violinist Claire Cardon comes from a classical background and plays with a symphony orchestra. Bassist Scott Harlan is a jazzer and Tim Jarvis tries all kinds of exotic percussion and world beats. The tunes are either written by Seth Kibel himself or alternative klezmer reworkings of masters like klezmer clarinetist David Tarras's "Bulgar in Bb" or Israelian composer Naomi Shemer's "Od Lo Ahavti Dai". A fine work.
Just one delusion regarding the Kleztet's info sheet. "Klezmer", the term that originally denotes the instrument and became later associated with the musician himself, is not Hebrew but Yiddish, the vernacular of the Eastern European Jews.
Alexandria Kleztet
Walkin' T:-)M

Maírtín O'Connor "The Road West"
Label: Tara; MOC003; 2001; Playing time: 47.16 min
Galway-based Maírtín O'Connor is one of the most versatile Irish button accordion players. Maírtín's two-row D/D# Saltarelle button accordion was involved with Thom Moore's "Midnight Well", the Boys of the Lough, Dolores Keane's "Reel Union", De Dannan, Len Graham's "Skylark" and the original Riverdance orchestra. He was session musician for God-knows-who (see e.g. the "East Wind" project), and is a successful solo musician. While Maírtín's debut "The Connachtman's Rambles" (1979) featured traditional Irish material, "Perpetual Motion" (1990) criss-crossed from the East to the West, from Paganini to Blues. "Chatterbox" (1994) was equally diversive and included original stuff. He once said: Creativity has to be satisfied no matter what the impulse is. If you try to `straitjacket' what you do to satisfy what people want, there is a fair chance you're not being true to your own creative impulse. So again, "The Road West" features exclusively own compositions. 13 tracks, 13 tunes. With a deep Irish sense, though not strictly traditional all the time. "Rockin' the Boat" is a musical reminder of Bob Quinn's "Atlantean" thesis, that there is a connection between traditional Irish music, especially recognizable in sean-nos singing, and those styles of music practised in North Africa and Moorish-occupied Spain. "Into the New" is a belated Millennium tune - but at least well on time for the next millennium. "The Road West" is a modern example of "dinnseanchas", meaning literally the lore of place names, but presenting also a musical map of the landscape: I received a phone call one Sunday morning, confirming an engagement for me to play in Clifden one hour later. This obviously resulted in a trip of great haste, following the contours of the Connemara landscape with all its twists and turns. Dedicated to all who take the road West from wherever. Take it!
Walkin' T:-)M

Rory Campbell & Malcolm Stitt "Nusa"
Label: Vertical Records; VERTCD059; 2001; Playing time: 46.04 min
Rory Campbell and Malcolm Stitt are well known as members of Scotland's definite best traditional folk band of these days, Deaf Shepherd. This is their second duo album, after "Fields of Bell", offering even more depth and originality than their last work.
Rory Campbell is a highly talented musician, playing the pipes (on this recording he uses only border pipes and gaita) and whistles. He also composes brilliant new Gaelic-style tunes and is a sensitive Gaelic singer. Malcolm Stitt, as one of today's most sought after string instrumentalists in the Celtic music world, plays on this recording guitar and bouzouki. On "Nusa" they are backed at times by drums/percussion (Donald Hay), Electric and Double Bass (Neil Harland, Trombone (Alistair Justice) and Keyboards (Donald Shaw). Another special and exciting dimension is given by the inclusion of some stretching by DJ Extra alias Bryan Jones, a friend of the duo joining sometimes also for concerts. The album features a mixture of traditionals and tunes composed by Rory yet sounding traditional, and some brilliant Gaelic songs proving again Rory's singing talent.
The CD lives up the expectations of a recording of two brilliant professional players. This is Scottish-Gaelic music as it is traditionally played, brought forward into this century through own compositions and interesting arrangements.
Homepage of the artist:
Michael Moll

Oliver Knight "Mysterious Day"
Label: Topic; No.TSCD528; 2002; Playing time: 56.42 min
Oliver Knight, the son of legendary Lal Waterson, has worked with many well known musicians of the English scene, yet "Mysterious day" is his first solo CD project. Oliver proves on the album that he is not only a highly talented guitarist, sequencer and arranger, but also a genius composer. For the recording he has invited a little "who is who" of the English folk scene, a real star cast. Stylistically, the album swings between English trad, folk and songwriting, Britpop, Jazz and much more. A rather impressive mixture taking English folk music into today's times.
Nearly all songs and tunes are composed by Oliver himself. Highlights include the title track "Mysterious day" with singer Christine Collister, more in a Brit-Folk-Pop style, the traditional song "Go from my Window" sung by Eliza Carthy reminding of her milestone album with the Kings of Calicutt and Oliver's composition "Summer Lightning", a superb song sung by Barry Coope. Other singers featured are Oliver's sister Maria Gilhooley, John Tams and Norma Waterson. Another highlight is the instrumental number "Nelly" with Jo Freya (sax), Alice Kinloch (tuba & trombone) and Andy Cutting (accordion).
Some will say that Oliver has used too much programming and sequencing; I think though that it works rather well, sometimes even perfectly. I really did enjoy this album, and hope that there will be follow-on solo projects from Oliver Knight.
Michael Moll

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

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