Issue 22 06/2002
FolkWorld CD Reviews
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?
Kelly Joe Phelps "Sky Like A Broken Clock"
P2A 310612; 2001; Playing time: 55.11 min
Kelly Joe Phelps "Beggar's Oil E.P."
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).
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.)
Mick Thomas & The Sure Thing "Dust On My Shoes"
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
Thomas Loefke & Norland Wind "Atlantic Driftwood"
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.
Éilís Kennedy "Time to Sail"
Label: Own Label; 2001; Playing time: 47.24
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",
(about Arctic explorer John
Franklin; by the way, Dingle-born Tom
Crean of Annascaul accompanied Shackleton to the South Pole), as well as
Gone", Richard Thompson's
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 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Electrocarpathians "Umpires of Straw"
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
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
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.
Ian Melrose "A Scottish Legacy"
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,
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
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
Brian Berryman "Crossing the Border"
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,
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)
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
The Alexandria Kleztet "Delusions of Klezmer"
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.
Maírtín O'Connor "The Road West"
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!
Rory Campbell & Malcolm Stitt "Nusa"
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
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: www.nusa.co.uk
Oliver Knight "Mysterious Day"
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
More English CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page
2 - Page 3 - Page 4 -
More German CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page
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