Issue 22 06/2002
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Records; No. 004CD; 2002; Playing time: 44.04 min
If we would give out Awards to the most tastefully designed CD, "Rubai"
would be my choice of the year, with its beautiful painting in shades between
orange, red and green on the cover of one of those folding all-in-one boxes
without much plastic. Yet it is not only the CD design that attracts, also the
music on Rubai is absolutely outstanding.
Flook are on this, their second album in the established line-up at their very
height of their abilities. The playing together is perfect, there is plenty
of buzz in this music, and the choice of tunes is as good as ever. Flook has
never before managed that well to ban the unique Flook experience on CD. To
those few of you who have never heard of Flook: Flook features two of the best
flautists from the British Isles, Brian Finnegan (also playing whistle) and
Sarah Allen (also playing accordion), and likewise probably the best and most
driving acoustic rhythm section around, with John Jo Kelly on Bodhrán
and Ed Boyd on guitars and bouzouki. Most of the tunes on Rubai are composed
by Sarah and Brian, taking their inspiration in the Celtic world and well beyond
that, with influences from all over Europe.
And to add a new dimension to the unique Flook sound, they have invited for
the recording some special guests, most notably on a couple of tunes Rory McLeod,
offering some trombone blast - sounding superb in the Flook soundscape. Check
out for example the tune set "Granny" - not only a great title, but
also stunning music, featuring Rory and his trombone...
Rubai means "A four-line poem, in perfect rhyme, full of music, rhytm and
breath". Full of music, rhythm and breath is also this album. A perfect
and outstanding album.
Homepage of the artist: www.flook.co.uk,
contact to artist: firstname.lastname@example.org
No. XOUCD134; 2002
Groupa are today already nearly dinosaurs of the Swedish experimental folk scene,
having started back in the early 80s. Yet they have not lost any of their experimental
creativity on this their seventh album. On "fjalar" they offer an
impressive cross over between Swedish traditional music, Jazz, free style experimental
and world music. The Groupa line-up has not changed since their last album "Lavalek":
While Mats Edén on fiddles and melodeon and Jonas Simonson on flutes
and Härjedalspipa provide the melodic instrumental element, the a bit more
chaotic element is provided in particular by the innovative and crazy Norwegian
percussionist Terje Isungset with his most unusual set of all sorts of percussion
instruments, and Rickard Aström adds his piano and synthesizer. The latest
addition to the Groupa line-up is the young singer Sofia Karlsson, with a singing
style that crosses traditional Swedish singing and Free Jazz.
The album offers a rather broad range of music, ranging from beautiful quiet
music and wild nergetic yet melodic songs and tunes to jazzy trad songs and
simply rhythmic noise. There are several genius moments on this CD, such as
parts of the first track "Det brinner en eld" with impressive vocal
combinations. As a whole, the album is nothing for people looking for musical
harmony, as it sometimes tends to go quite a lot towards noice. This is very
free folk music of talented and highly improvising musicians. A special CD in
its very own right.
Contact to label: email@example.com
La Moresca "Senza cchiù terra"
No.fy8039; 2001; Playing time: 44.34 min
La Moresca are a Southern Italian band from Campania. They have a very attractive
line-up, providing an innovative, full and very atmospheric sound. In the centre
of the sound is often a violin, an accordion, flutes, or a classic guitar; the
percussion adds another distinctive feature, with djembe, darbouka, tambourine
and frame drums. There are two singers in the band, one male and one female.
Both have a rather heavy dark lamenting voice, providing an impressive although
at times a bit depressive atmosphere to the songs. This is weighed out by the
instrumental contributions, which are throughout the album very lively, joyful
The material is mostly written by the band, yet it is deeply rooted in Southern
Italian traditions; many of the songs are also sung in local dialects. Another
impressive Italian band to look out for!
Contact to artist: firstname.lastname@example.org,
contact to label: email@example.com
The Chieftains "The Wide World Over"
Victor; No. 09026639172; 2002; Playing time: 71.31 min
Forty years is a long time to be in any business, let alone to be surrounded
by virtually the same faces. But forty years it is since The Chieftains first
came into being, and "The Wide World Over" is a celebration of a lifetime of
music. There is quite a mixture on the album, including traditional tunes from
the band just by themselves, not to mention a very impressive roll call of famous
friends, ranging from the Corrs to Diana Krall to Los Lobos. Is there anyone
out there they haven't played with? Highlights are plentiful. "The Magdalene
Laundries" with Joni Mitchell is a choice of song with uncanny resonances of
current events in Ireland. Some of the more straightforward traditional tracks
are live recordings, and among them is a set of tunes from Matt Molloy's now
famous pub, which provides a refreshing alternative to the staged version. My
personal favourite however, without hesitation, is Bob Marley's "Redemption
Song", performed here with Ziggy Marley. The success of this track can surely
be attributed to its simplicity, with Marley's vocals very much to the fore,
and the band providing beautiful accompaniment to an already stunning melody,
even slipping into a reggae vibe on occasion. The Chieftains are now an institution
in themselves, and their name has become bigger and better known than any other
Irish traditional band. Perhaps because of this some would argue they have become
somewhat removed from that same tradition. This compilation is certainly testament
to the breadth of music they have been involved in making.)
Homepage of the artist: members.shaw.ca/chieftains
, contact to label: firstname.lastname@example.org
Various "Celtic Waves. Surfing the Ocean
Mudic; No. MMRCD1028; 2002
Magnetic Music has recently made the move from Germany to Doolin, no less, and
this double CD set is something of a sampler of what they have to offer. CD
1 comprises ten songs from a range of singers and bands, while the second CD
includes ten sets of tunes from some of the most exciting trad bands around
at the moment. Despite the simple attraction of Wild Flowers "Fear A Bhata",
among others, the first disc is, for me, the weaker of the two. Several of the
younger acts currently on the trad circuit are represented on CD 2. First up
are North Cregg, with a track taken from their latest album "Mi:Daza", surely
one of the best of its kind released last year. The Mike McGoldrick influence
is heavily evident, running from the Flook track, "Kishor's Tune" to Skrim and
Dezi Donnelly's "Gold Ring/Rory's" set through to the final track, "Greenhouse",
by Toss The Feathers. There is a certain charm to the elegant "Jenny's Dream"
by Jennifer Roland, while At The Racket provide the opportunity for a spot of
nostalgic reminiscing. Magnetic Music look set to make some serious inroads
into the Irish music scene in the future, if their current signings are anything
to go by. Some very wise choices on their part, which make for fantastic listening
Contact to label: email@example.com
Jim Rooney & Rooney's Irregulars "My Own Ignorant
Label: JRP Records;
No. JRP002; 2001; Playing time: 45.15 min
Jim Rooney has been around the block more than once. In fact, he has been in
the music business for almost fifty years. This album is a nod to just some
of the influences he's absorbed along the way - almost as much folk as it is
country. The first song to really catch the ear is "Lord Lovell", featuring
one or two well known musicians more commonly associated with Irish music, Arty
McGlynn and Nollaig Casey. The performance is tight, the melody is dark and
commanding. "Hello Baby Its You" is a pretty and accessible waltz dedicated
to the women in the lives of the composers, Jim Rooney and Herb McCullough.
The lyrics to "One Morning In May" portray a moving story of love and music,
and Jim Rooney's own melody has been covered by the likes of James Taylor. And
next time you're looking for a catchy sing-song tune, try "Roving Gambler".
One complaint I would have to make with this album is the sometimes questionable
vocals. A painfully obvious example is "Pretty Fair Maid", in which the vocals
are often weak and quavering, maybe even slipping out of tune on occasion, and
unfortunately just do not do justice.
Contact to artist: firstname.lastname@example.org,
contact to label: email@example.com
Alasdair MacCuish & The Black Rose Ceilidh
Band "Stepping Out"
No. Skyecd 18; 2002; Playing time: 72.03 min
This is the fourth album from Alasdair MacCuish and the Black Rose Ceilidh Band.
It is certainly not one to disappoint. But do not expect the usual, as this
is ceilidh music with a definite twist, and, for the first time listener, I
think you will be more than pleasantly surprised. "Ceilidh Cascade", from the
opening notes of the cool piano riff to the rousing sound of the band going
at it full tilt, is a prime example of the range of influences in evidence on
this album. There are accordion parts which sound like something straight off
the soundtrack to the recent hit movie "Amelie". There are drum sequences which
would sound equally as comfortable in a jazz club. "Gaelic Waltz" pulls back
a little, into a gentle, nostalgic, dance tune with truly evocative accordion
playing. "The Swan" is a really lovely slow air, which lush fiddle arrangements
doing justice to a very beautiful melody. "Captain Stretch's Mandolin" is a
humourous, laidback set of hornpipes. Whoever said ceilidh music was unrefined
should have a listen to this - the band just dangles you along, defying you
to go faster, on and on, but preventing you with their smooth rhythmic unity.
Brilliant music making. You could dance to this alright.
Homepage of the artist: www.rosdubh.com,
contact to artist: firstname.lastname@example.org,
contact to label: email@example.com
Paul Stephenson "Light green ball"
Records; SFR 357.6023.2; 2002. Playing Time: 46.05 min
Before I even listened to, let alone REVIEWED this album, I thought I would
kick things off by doing a "vox pop". I asked ten longstanding members of my
local folk club here on the East Coast of England, if they had ever heard of
this artiste. None of them had.
Which is a pity. For the fact is that Paul Stephenson is a talented performer,
but one who has built his reputation outside of his native country. True, the
Folk Cognoscenti here in Britain know of his burgeoning career, but the ordinary
guy in the Grimsby folk club is totally unaware of him: despite the fact that
Stephenson hails from a part of England less than 2 hours' drive away.
But this was the first time for me to be able to sit down in a darkened room
and have a CD of his before me. And just listen. And then just try and decide
if this is a classic case of a performer being "a prophet without honour in
his own land".
Well, I have now played the album three times, and I have to say, that I feel
a bit like one of those ice-skating judges: those people who display one set
of marks that are quite outstanding - straight "sixes" and all that - and then,
with their second lot of marks, incur the wrath of the spectators, and thus
the auditorium echoes to the sound of mass booing.
Which is a way of saying first that this is an extremely pleasant album on the
ear. Stephenson has a most beguiling vocal delivery: he can really draw you
into a song. (It is no surprise that he cites James Taylor as his greatest influence.)
His own guitar is backed by some very tasty musicians, the pick of them being
Grischka Zepf, who delivers some thrillingly authoritative electric bass. Backing
vocals are sublime: mind you, what else would you expect when one of the harmony
vocalists is none other than Mike Silver! Was there ever a more mellifluous
voice to stem from these British shores?
So, it is clear that the "jury is not out" when it comes to the effect of this
album on the EAR. It is an unqualified success. The problem comes when one considers
the album's impact on one's "grey matter". And there, one is much less emphatic.
And of course it is the age-old thing: you cannot make bricks without straw.
In the end it comes down to the SONGS, dear Reader, the SONGS. And the plain
fact is that Paul Stephenson's self-penned songs, although not totally without
merit, are really Lower Division songs for a First Division performer.
I cannot imagine any of these songs being covered by anyone. Which is a pity,
since they obviously mean a lot to their writer, and probably to his family
Still, to finish on a more positive note, I can honestly say that there is much
to commend in this album.
Contact to label: firstname.lastname@example.org
Blue Murder "No One Stands Alone"
Records; TSCD 537; 2002. Playing Time: 46.27 min
"Blue Murder" was the name first given to the occasional Supergroup that was
first formed in 1986. It was then a merger of The Watersons and Swan Arcade.
Nowadays it is more accurately a merger of the Waterson clan and CBS (Coope,
Boyes and Simpson). And some 16 years later, the fusion of two such powerful
forces STILL manages to create sparks: this is a seriously thrilling album.
Before I get down to the nitty-gritty, a word on the CD packaging. We have a
beautiful photo of the artistes on the back of the box, with their names alongside
them in case you have been on Mars all your life. Inside, we have 2 useful pages
on the historical background of the group, but 3 pages of further portraits
of the protagonists! These valuable 3 pages could have been taken up by information
and comments on the songs. Is it egomania or laziness? I prefer to think the
latter. But now, down to business.
The material is a mix of the traditional and the contemporary: the common denominator
is that they are all songs that lend themselves to glorious "ensemble singing".
And here we have the perfect artistes to present them.
I would not want to pick out a stand-out track. All of the tracks "deliver the
goods", and make you want to sing along with them. No, rather than discuss the
SONGS, I would prefer to say a word about some of the SINGERS. And one in particular.
I have to come clean: I have NEVER been a fan of Eliza Carthy. Oh sure, when
I stood next to her in a restaurant queue at a folk festival some years ago,
her PHYSICAL BEAUTY took my breath away. But her solo performances and her work
with luminaries such as Joan Baez, have left me somewhat "underwhelmed".
But this album took the blinkers off my eyes. Her voice is the ONE voice I kept
picking out of the seven. In contrast to her mum (Norma) - whose voice is now
alas, a shadow of what it once was - Eliza's is so strong and true. And brave.
She really GOES for the difficult harmonic lines. Her voice rings like a bell.
Far be it for me to be "ageist" - for I am of her parents' generation - but
she sounds for all the world like a strong youth amongst geriatrics. Yes, THAT
is how much she dominates the whole three quarters of an hour. She brings to
this group the raw energy that her late Auntie Lal's voice provided for The
Watersons some 30 years ago.
"Geriatrics"? A bit strong eh? Such energetic singers as CBS? Surely not? Well,
yes, obviously I must admit that the description was a bit hyperbolic. But I
promise you, THAT is the effect she has on this album.
It was not until track 5 that the great bass voice of Jim Boyes really made
itself evident, and track 9 before Barry Coope really imposed himself. This
latter fact in itself is remarkable, for Coope is surely the greatest harmony
singer of his generation. But even HE seems to defer to Eliza in full flight.
Maybe they would occasionally be going for the same harmonic line, and so he
stepped back from the mike? Whatever the reason, he is not in the magnificent
top gear we all know he CAN be in with CBS.
To sum up then: if they have a second pressing of this fine album, I suggest
they re-title it as being by "Eliza Carthy and Blue Murder". Ha! I will never
take her name in vain again.
Tom Roznowski "Voice Beyond The Hill"
Label: Blazing Stump Productions; (un-numbered);
2001. Playing Time: 42.35 min
Roznowski hails from Indiana, a State with a tradition for good song-writing.
This goes from the late Hoagy Carmichael up to the John Mellencamps and John
Hiatts of the present day. Is it something in the WATER there, or is it that
Indiana can also produce the occasional dud song-writer? Can it be that some
of their much-vaunted sons just do not "have" it?
So I thought I would put this theory to the test with "Voice Beyond The Hill",
my first chance to hear this artiste. Certainly, he comes backed with an impressive
selection of heady quotes garnered by his Publicity Machine. I read that different
characters call him, on the one hand "Americana's Troubadour"; and on the other,
suggest he has "tapped the creative wellsprings of Walt Whitman and Stephen
Foster". Those are SOME claims! And to top them all, one guy says that this
album "creates a bridge that connects the past to the future".
These quotes really whetted my appetite for the album. I pressed "Play" and
sat back, leafing through the attractive liner book containing the lyrics. And
immediately, was almost blown away by the opening track, an intelligent and
beautifully delivered song called "You Never Know".
Aptly named too. Because it was ME who "never knew" that I was already listening
to the album's high-water mark!
True, his glorious "High Lonesome" voice remains in fine fettle all the way
through the album - think of Jimmie Dale Gilmore and you won't be far wrong
- but the songs never recapture the magic. True, they run the gamut in subject
matter, and they are very well performed by some capable musicians, which include
Roznowski; but they are, in reality, inconsequential "slices of life" that forgo
We can only hope his next album has songs that will do justice to his considerable
talent as a vocalist.
Homepage of the artist: www. tomroznowski.net,
contact to artist: email@example.com
Various Artistes "Free Reed - This Label Is
Reed; FRTCD 25; 2002. 3 CDs: Playing Time: 68 mins/78 mins/78 mins.
This is a triple CD to celebrate 25 years of the Free Reed label. The CD arrives
hot-on-the-heels of a double CD to celebrate a similar quarter-of-a-century
clocked up by Fellside Records. And like the Fellside tribute, this CD is also
one that can prove worthy of a place alongside the best Folk compilation CDs
of recent years.
Now Fellside's 25 years were more-or-less continuous: Free Reed's had a 15 year
virtual hiatus between 1981 and 1996. This was because the company had collapsed:
possibly due to it diversifying too much and also moving too far in too fast
a time. But that apart, the parallels between the two companies are quite striking,
and the Traditional Folk scene in the British Isles owes a huge debt to both.
First a word regarding Free Reed: it gets its name from its owner Neil Wayne's
love of the concertina (concertinas work using "free" metal reeds). It was originally
something of a one-man cottage industry: I recall several months in 1975 when
Neil still had his record shop near Belper in Derbyshire. I used to find any
excuse to make a massive detour from where my travelling job in the Wine Trade
had taken me, just to see him there. And to talk about Folk Music with him,
buy rare folk LPs, and to listen to his plans for his label (which was just
getting off the ground). Needless to say, I have watched the vicissitudes of
his company with much interest ever since. And it is nice to see him come out
on top. Sometimes the "good guys" really DO win.
The 3 CDs come handsomely presented in a box that contains a truly engrossing
78 page insert booklet, which gives you all the information you need on the
over three and a half hours of music. Plus fascinating background on Neil and
his company. But best of all, it contains a glorious gem of an essay by John
Renbourn. Methinks he should have been wielding a pen these past 40 years, even
more so than a guitar. The man is a born writer.
And Neil Wayne is/was a BORN judge of a talented performer. Amongst the illustrious
names on this album (like Peter Bellamy and Nic Jones) there are the "unknowns":
but it is a tribute to their abilities that you "cannot see the join". There
is a fair amount of enjoyable concertina music, which given Neil's passion for
the instrument, is understandable.
Add to this the fact that there are several previously unreleased tracks, and
you have a Celebration Set that is worth every penny of its retail price.
Contact to label: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ellika Frisell & Solo Cissokho "tretakt
No.XOUCD 133; 2002; Playing time: 56.21 min
This is one of those CDs where it is a joy to play that little guessing game
with friends where this music comes from. The sparsely accompanied fiddle playing
has definitely something Scandinavian about it, the music reflecting also the
harmonic and unique music from the North. Then there is a second instrument,
contributing an influence from some culture far away from Scandinavia. Finally,
there is some male singing in distinctive African style...
And with these elements, the origin of this music is nearly discovered: Ellika
Frisell is a Swedish traditional fiddler based in Stockholm, well-known through
her works with Filarfolket, Den Fule or Rosenbergs Sja. And Solo Cissokho comes
from Senegal, living today in Norway; he plays kora and is a singer and storyteller.
He is known already from his African-Scandinavian collaborations from his work
with Norwegian singer Kirsten Bråten Berg.
On this first duo album of Solo and Ellika, Swedish and African traditions and
culture meet, melt and create a unique new blend of music styles. It works very
well, sounds innovative, yet close to both traditions. An inspiring collaboration
and a proof that folk cultures throughout the world might be closer than we
would normally expect.
Riccardo Tesi & Banditaliana "thapsos"
No.fy8034; 2001; Playing time: 61.51 min
Riccardo Tesi and his band Banditaliana is one of the most inspiring bands currently
found on the European music scene. They develop Italian folk music further,
into their very own blend of Italian tradition, Mediterrean influences, Jazz
and contemporary folk music. Riccardo Tesi is one of the European masters on
the melodeon, and he is a brilliant composer of contemporary folk music in his
own right. His Banditaliana features the joyful singing and guitar playing of
Maurizio Geri, the wonderful Jazzy inputs on the saxophone by Claudio Carboni
and the percussionist and vibe player Ettore Bonafè. Additionally, this
CD brings together also a huge range of all in all twelve guest musicians.
Nearly all titles - both songs and tunes - are written by Riccardo Tesi. Many
of the songs are real earwigs, such as "Carnival" or "Justin";
and all the tunes are very harmonic, with the melodeon always adding a unique
colour to the music. The album features a wonderful range of music where styles
do not matter; it is great music, and it does not really matter if it is now
folk, folk-jazz, world or whatever else.
Highly enjoyable, full of Italian spirit and joy.
Contact to artist: email@example.com, contact
to label: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pete Cooper & Richard Bolton "Turning Point
- Fiddle & Cello Duets"
Label: Big Chain; No.BC101; 2001; Playing
time: 52.41 min
Is this just another English folk music duo? Definitely not; the music of Pete
Cooper & Richard Bolton is unique on the English scene. As the subtitle
of the CD already suggests, this a fiddle / cello duo, and this is where the
uniqueness already starts. The two musicians are highly respected in the worlds
of tradtional fiddle music and jazz improvisation.
A lot of the material on their debut album is written by Pete Cooper, alongside
some traditional numbers. The roots of the music are in England, yet they take
up influences from the "Celtic" countries as well as the Balkan and
Sweden. The musical pace changes between quiet and lively, and between improvising
and more straight forward traditional. It is the cello adding that special spice
and jazzy-classical atmosphere to the music.
Worth to check out!
Homepage of the artist: www.cooperandbolton.com,
contact to artist: email@example.com
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