Issue 23 09/2002

FolkWorld CD ReviewsDog

Aly Bain & Ale Möller "Fully Rigged"
Label: Whirlie; CD7; Playing time: 48 min
Aly Bain is well known to fans of fiddle music. Here he plays tunes from his native Shetland, with a handful of Swedish melodies thrown in. World famous in Sweden, the name of multi-instrumentalist Ale Möller may ring a bell for those who remember Filarfolket: on this recording he accompanies Aly on mandola and various wind instruments, and contributes two fine compositions.
Aly's fiddling is fabulous, with lightning fingers and an amazingly rich tone. Apart from that, there isn't a lot to say. The tunes are top quality, beautifully combined: ancient and powerful Shetland reels alternate with those slightly ethereal slow airs born in Nordic isolation to create a larger-than-life, almost mythic sound. Da Foula Reel is a good example, with its simple rhythm and repetitive melody inducing a light trance, accentuated by the mediaeval continuo from Ale on reed pipes.
For those familiar with Aly Bain's repertoire, there are reprises of some old favourites here: the great Shetland yule air Da Day Dawn, a new version of the sword dance from Papa Stour, and the honorary Shetland showpieces Reel du Pendu and Bonaparte's Retreat amongst others. For the rest of you, these are all treats in store. There are also plenty of less familiar gems: a mill tune from Jos, some heartbreaking Swedish waltzes, and some less well known Shetland tunes such as Da Dykes o' Voe and Maggie o' Ham.
Polished and professional from start to finish, with great sleeve notes, this is a very fine CD indeed. If I have a criticism, it's that things are played a little too safe at times: not quite enough bite in the reels, too regular a rhythm in some of the slower tunes. There's also a slightly tinny edge to the mandola on some tracks. To be fair, in an album by almost anyone else I probably wouldn't even mention such trifles. They're like tiny white clouds which briefly obscure the sun on an otherwise perfect summer's day: you notice them vaguely if at all, and they certainly wouldn't force you inside when everything else is so pleasant. Just enjoy the sunshine.
Alex Monaghan

Grainne Hambly "Between the Showers"
Label: Shamrock Records, 1050-2
Gráinne Hambly is a young harpist from County Mayo with a long apprenticeship in traditional music and a couple of music degrees under her belt. She has been a member of the Belfast Harp Orchestra for a surprisingly long time, recording with them and with other groups, but Between the Showers is her solo debut. This is a true solo album, featuring nothing but the neo-Irish harp without even any double-tracking, and it contains over an hour of exquisite music. There are just two duet tracks, one with harpist sister Róisin and the other with guitarist Peter Ratzenbeck who composed the title track.
If I were a young harpist, I'd be delighted with this recording. The fingering is deft and lively, the tunes are varied and well chosen, and the sound quality is excellent. The harp is not the easiest of instruments to record, and this album captures both the bell-like purity and the deep resonances of this ancient instrument. Full marks to the engineers at Green Dolphin studios in Belfast.
As you'd expect, there's a high proportion of slow tunes here. About half the 19 tracks start slow, but some of them finish fast. Gráinne's playing is at its best on some of these airs: her interpretation of Inis Oirr is out of this world, and the slow version of Brendan McGlinchey's Splendid Isolation is equally angelic. A couple of lesser-known Carolan compositions are given fine treatments, and the two modern waltzes are welcome additions to the harp repertoire. But Gráinne doesn't shy away from the quicker forms of Irish music. The opening track is a spirited frolic through a pair of fine traditional reels, and there are plenty more reels and jigs before the finish, as well as the odd hornpipe, set dance, or fling. The album ends as it began, with a pair of heavyweight traditional reels that present no problems to Gráinne's nimble fingers.
This is an exceptionally good album. I know I've said that about a lot of CDs recently, but it's true: musicians are getting better and better! If you have any interest in Irish harp music, this is a recording you should have and Gráinne Hambly is a name you should look out for.
Shamrock Records is a relatively obscure Austrian label which doesn't seem to have a website, but fortunately Gráinne does: is her site, and is her email address. Drop her a line to say how much you enjoyed her CD: I did.
Alex Monaghan

Hoogie "Just for the Halibut"
Label: Kylin Studios, KSCD 007; 2001
These guys will blow your socks off. Hoogie is a quartet of musicians from the vibrant Edinburgh music scene, this is their second recording, and both are outstandingly good. The combination of fiddle, pipes and accordeon is ideal for traditional tunes, but also works well here for some much more modern material. The back line of guitar, bass and drums is flexible and tasteful. The three songs on this recording are a mixed bag, with a traditional Scottish ballad, an old Gaelic lament, and a recent composition from Hoogie's guitarist: all three are nicely sung and expertly arranged, although most of the vocals come from guest singers.
The album title is hugely appropriate. Hoogie seem to have thrown an enormous range of music onto this CD, to see what happened. The opening set of reels on fiddle and box, against a rich modern background, is followed by a sumptuous Scottish waltz in the style of Blair Douglas or Sandy Brechin, and then the idiom shifts away from the contemporary: a traditional song that owes much to Ossian, a fine fiddle solo with ringing strings, and a set of Breton Larides with the pipes coming in half way through like a vacuum cleaner. Things start to build up again with a set of extremely bouncy reels, then a medley of dance tunes over slap bass and percussion, then a lovely slow air with a terrible name, and into the gorgeous Gaelic song Braigh Loch Iall which gets a dramatic but sympathetic treatment.
Still with me? There are another seven tracks to go in this hour-long outburst, including an unannounced bonus, but there are a couple of other things I want to mention.
First, Hoogie's musicianship is top class. Most of the tunes have been written and arranged by the band to a stunningly high standard. Hoogie's technical brilliance is equally high, particularly on the accordeon. I learnt about this CD because box supremo Sandy Brechin included it in his 2001 favourites, and it's not hard to see why.
Second, the taste and understanding shown on this recording is exemplary. With a broad mix of styles and lots of guest musicians, this could have been an unremarkable and disjointed CD, but instead there's a consistency and coherence which connects all the different tracks. The only oddball is perhaps the midatlantic song Find You which isn't really from the same stable.
Last, it's obvious that Hoogie had great fun recording this material. Just for the Halibut is extremely enjoyable, not just because of all the corny jokes. I've rarely heard music with more bounce, and the combination of this with Hoogie's tight sound and sound technique is a definite winner.
If you want to know more, visit - maybe you'll even find an explanation for the name.
Alex Monaghan

Frankie Gavin "Fierce Traditional"
Label: Tara Music, TARACD4011
Frankie Gavin is one of the finest fiddlers of the early 20th century, no mean achievement for a man who wasn't even born until 1956. To compensate for not getting born in time, Frankie has led a small but significant movement to recreate the style and sound of Irish music from early recordings. Frankie Gavin and De Dannan, John Carty and At The Racket, and one or two others, have brought the music of Michael Coleman, James Morrison, Patsy Touhey and others back to life in recent years, helped by the sterling work of archivists and restorers of old recordings. This new recording is unsurpassed in both technical and artistic merit. The sleeve notes give detailed information on written sources and early performances, and most of the generous eighteen tracks have that crisp, no-nonsense flamboyance associated with the early recording stars of Irish music.
There are some modern touches, of course. Gone are the crackles and pops of the old 78s, and the tunes needn't be played at breakneck speed because nowadays the wire won't run out in a hurry. There's also a greater depth of tone: today's musicians may have the benefit of better instruments or better maintenance, or the difference may all be due to the ravages of time. It would be fascinating to compare this CD with a pristine recording from the 1930s, or even a recording of Morrison or Coleman made with today's technology: perhaps their tone would be as good or even better.
In 56 minutes (one for every year Frankie missed of the 20th century), Fierce Traditional reworks some of the most well-known and oft- recorded tunes in Irish history: The Foxhunter's, The Flogging, The Mason's Apron, The Wheels of the World, Lucy Campbell, Jenny Picking Cockles, and that's just the reels. There's no elaborate modern production, just Frankie with Brian McGrath (piano and banjos), familiar sideman Alec Finn (bouzouki), and brother Sean Gavin on the button box. There's a bit of double-tracking to get Frankie's flute and fiddle onto some tracks, but that's as fancy as it gets. And the results are magnificent: the dance music is full of vigour, the slow airs are bittersweet like the memories they represent, and it's all as fresh as if it had never been heard before - even The Mason's Apron!
Alex Monaghan

Slainte Mhat "Va"
Label: Greentrax (for Europe), CDTRAX 229, 2002, Playing time: 50 min
This young Nova Scotian outfit has taken three years to follow their excellent debut album. Slainte Mhath have something of a reputation for perfectionism, and the production and packaging here certainly reflect that. They also have difficulty getting people to pronounce their name correctly, hence the album title.
Since 1999 there have been a few changes in the Slainte Mhath sound. Ace piper Bruce MacPhee has left them, to be replaced by John of that ilk. Bruce was a true piping prodigy: John's style is rather less flamboyant and certainly not as crisp, but he comes close at times, particularly on Garret Barry's Jig and Steve Young's evocative tune Magnus Memory. Virtuoso keyboards player Ryan MacNeil is still a major determinant of the overall style, and the percussion and twin fiddles are likewise unchanged, but the arrangements have become noticeably more contemporary and high-tech. Distorted speech is mixed into several tracks, synthesisers pop up here and there, and the general feel is of a relatively expensive modern production.
About eighty percent of the material on Va is broadly traditional. Most of that is Irish, ranging from Donal Lunny's Tolka Polka to the classic session tune The Silver Spear. The guitar solo on The Farmer Killled His Ox Today is uncannily similar to early recordings by Arty McGlynn. Scottish music is also well represented with tunes by Gordon Duncan, Ian Hardie, William Marshall and others. There's a noticeable Cape Breton flavour to the whole thing, although there are none of the big Cape Breton medleys. Many of the tunes are Cape Breton versions, often adapted for the pipes. The fiddles do their share of the driving too: the one brief medley of nine reels and strathspeys is a mini fiddle showcase, and they're also well to the fore on the more modern tracks (with the exception of Attack of the Flying Slugs).
Slainte Mhath made a big splash with their first recording. Their second could create even more waves, especially with a younger audience. There are clear differences between this album and Slainte Mhath's debut. The first one had a wee bit more fire, this one's more thoughtful. The piping was very impressive on their debut CD, but Va is in some ways more rounded. Why choose? Get them both.
Homepage of the artist:, contact to artist:, contact to label:
Alex Monaghan

Alan & John Kelly "Fourmilehouse"
Label: Black Box Music; BBM2003; Playing time: 47 min
Alan Kelly is a fast-fingered phenomenon from Roscommon with two excellent solo recordings to his name. Here he's joined by baby brother John on flutes and whistles, and it turns out that the Kelly musical genes were shared pretty evenly. Alan has previously exploited the versatility of his piano accordeon to dabble in foreign and exotic musics, but there's none of that on Fourmilehouse: this is the proverbial pure drop, as distilled by Paddy O'Brien, Paddy Ryan, Patsy Hanley, and many other fine traditional musicians including these boys' father Frank Kelly. The accompaniment here is generally low key, and always in keeping with the tunes.
The tunes themselves are a healthy mix of old and new. A toe-tapping set of reels including The Boys of Portaferry is followed by some gentle ambling jigs. A particularly fine rendition of Lady on the Island precedes a pair of expressive slow reels. Another set of jigs features Liz Carroll's Diplodocus, the first of two American compositions: Billy McComskey's Palm Tree Reel is given a sparkling whistle treatment later on, alongside the lovely Pleasures of Hope hornpipe.
The only slow track is Alan's showpiece, The Parting Glass and a wonderful half-speed version of The Duke of Leinster. Another highlight has to be John's version of The Bush in Bloom, similar to Matt Molloy's classic recording. Straight after it is one of my favourite hornpipes, The Mountain Ranger. Here as elsewhere, Alan and John take turn about to start a set, giving a varied and relaxed feel to the whole album. There are plenty of nice touches in the later tracks, concluding with a trio of driving reels over guitar and percussion. At times the best thing to do with guitars and percussion is to drive over them, but in this case they complement the music perfectly.
The worst you can say about this recording is that the sleeve notes are a bit lacking. Great tunes, mighty players, good craic, and plenty of it: let's hope there's more where this came from.
Fourmilehouse is available from or P.O. Box 156, Galway, Ireland.

Alex Monaghan

Tim Edey "Daybreak"
Label: Gnat Bite Records; 2002; Playing time: 62.56 min
Tim Edey has certainly been around, despite his tender years. He's toured with Sharon Shannon, Flook, Mike McGoldrick, Anam, Capercaillie and others, but he's always been in the background. Daybreak brings him to the fore with a vengeance. You won't often hear a tastier touch on the button box, and certainly not from someone who also plays guitar, banjo, piano, bass and whistle.
As well as being a one-man ceilidh band, Tim is a prolific composer of fine tunes. There are over a dozen Edey compositions here, and some of them are outstanding: Baltic Arrival, New Jig, and the Reculver Polcas to name but a few.
Born in Kent to Irish parents, Tim is something of a showman. The opening hornpipe is flash and fancy, with swing guitar and finger-bending melodeon. He plays the box in a powerful punchy style, akin to the Begleys or the older Galway musicians. Track 2 rattles through some great tunes in the West of Ireland style, and Edey manages to make McGoldrick look dull! Tim can also turn his hand to the slower forms: his tunes for Emma and son Nathan are masterpieces lovingly played.
He can also coax a few surprises out of the traditional repertoire. Track 8 includes a smashing meaty version of Congress Reel in the lower octave which could make strong men weep, and he does ample justice to great tunes such as George White's Favourite and The Gold Ring.
Sure, there are a few imperfections. The timing slips a little on a couple of tracks, and some of the endings are a bit weak. On the other hand, there's over an hour of music here with Tim frequently triple-tracking or more, plus he's written half of it himself, and he's only 22! All in all, Daybreak is a stunning triumph of skill and musicality, and should take Tim Edey from obscurity to stardom. This has to be one of the best traditional albums of 2001, and one of the biggest surprises too.
For the record, this isn't Tim's debut solo CD but the previous two are not readily available.
Daybreak is being distributed by Gael-Linn in Ireland, and can be obtained from Gnat Bite in the UK on 07971415053,
Alex Monaghan

April Verch "Verchuosity"
Label: Rounder; No. 7019; 2002; Playing time: 52 min
Never heard of her, right? Well you have now. Ottawan fiddler April Verch was born with two great gifts: a musical ability that allows her to mix and match fiddle styles from all over Canada, and a surname tailor-made for puns. At 22, April has four albums under her belt but this is the first one to be widely available outside Canada.
April's style makes its mark from the very first notes of Reel William Gagnol, a Quebec version of an old Irish tune given plenty of swing and lift. This is fiddling with flair, one eye on the tune and the other on the audience. The showmanship continues in the New England standard Ross Reel Number 4, which includes a Brazilian percussion solo: not quite as impressive as her inspiration Alasdair Fraser, but loads of fun.
The waltz Britany is the first of six Verch compositions, written in American Old Time style with similarities to Ashokan Farewell and Tennessee Waltz, a lovely tune. Then things get more contemporary again with the jazzy Fire When Ready, reminiscent of April's teachers Matt Glaser and Darol Anger. A very American touch is the pan-Canadian medley which starts with archive footage of an adolescent April on local radio, then slips deliberately into a more mature version of the same medley. This is one of only four medleys on Verchuosity: the other twelve tracks are all single showpiece tunes.
Before her 52 minutes are up, April covers classics from Cape Breton, Quebec, Appalachia, Brazilian jazz, and a set of tunes by the late great Graham and Eleanor Townsend. Mixed in with these are April's own tunes, some straight traditional, some anything but, plus one by husband Marc Bru which balances April's waltz Marry Me: some men just need a little hint.Thomas Reel, written for sister Tawnya (sic), is worth the price of a CD by itself, and the Hot Club number Sneaky would more than justify the postage and packing.
The sleeve notes would have you believe that April is the finest fiddler since Johnny beat the Devil. I wouldn't agree with that, or with the endorsement from T.S. Eliot, but she's certainly up there with the best musicians of her generation. Thanks to Rounder, you can now form your own opinion. As April says, enjoy!
Verchual April is available on the web at and you can email for more information.
Alex Monaghan

Liz Doherty "Quare Imagination"
Label: Buzzy Lizzy Records; BLR001; 2002; Playing time: 45 min
On her second solo album, Donegal fiddler extraordinaire Liz Doherty sqeezes an exciting and uplifting selection of tunes from that narrow space between bow and fiddle. Liz's music has been described as quirky, happy, bouncy, and quare by her own admission: she's also a leading authority on the tunes and styles of traditional music, and she puts her knowledge to good use by selecting great music and musicians from all over the North Atlantic.
Reels are Liz's forte, and about half the tracks here demonstrate her prodigious talent for these demanding tunes. Reels from Scotland, Canada, Orkney, and of course Donegal, flow effortlessly from her fiddle, each with a new twist or variation. The marriage of a rhythmic style and a bouncy personality is a happy one, and it puts extra life into even the finest tunes. My favourites are James Kelly's Touching Cloth, the full band sound on The Blue Lamp, Neil Dickie's great tune The Kitchen Piper played at a blistering speed and losing one or two notes in the process, and the entire Spirits of Wine set.
Jigs are also here in abundance. There's a lovely set which starts with the slow Canadian jig Le Tourment, moves into the jazzy Pacific Avenue from John McCusker, and finishes with a saucy little tune called Betty Anne's. Another track groups the Donegal jig Gally's Canter with a John Doherty version of The Irish Washerwoman and then follows the emigrants to Scotland for Annie's Carafe.
Like many Donegal fiddlers, Liz is a rover. Her travels have allowed her to assemble tunes and people which we wouldn't otherwise hear on an Irish album. Michael's Mazurka from Shetland, with Eilidh Shaw on fiddle and Daniel Lapp on trumpet, is a good example. So is The Ba' Rag, a tune from Orkney with Canadian backing from Matt Foulds on drums, Ryan MacNeil on piano, and Daniel Lapp again. Liz can also tell you the composers and the histories of almost every tune, which makes for excellent sleeve notes. Add to this the skills of producer Gerry "banjo" O'Connor and other Irish stars such as John Joe Kelly and Manus Lunny, and you have a quare album indeed, all of it good and most of it excellent.
Alex Monaghan

Frères de Sac "Bag Brothers"
Label: MusTraDem; MTD22
This is the first recording by Christophe and Jean-Loup Sacchettini, playing flutes and squeeze-box respectively. Whistle wizard Christophe may be familiar from the French folk supergroup Dédale, and baby brother Jean-Loup has learnt his melodeon style from Dédale's leader Norbert Pignol.
The brothers Sacchettini offer us ten tracks in forty minutes. The title is a translation of the duo's name, itself already a pun, and there is also a slightly misleading subtitle "Bal Folk ...". A "bal folk" is like a ceilidh or a barn dance, and although one track of Bag Brothers does feature actual dancers, only about half the music here lends itself readily to dancing. Despite that, it's all mighty fine stuff and it certainly gets my toes tapping.
Christophe's exceptional talents are immediately obvious. The clarity and dexterity of his recorder playing is simply world class, comparable with Carlos Nuñez or Dick Lee, and he can crank out a cracking bourrée on the Berry bagpipes too. Jean-Loup's musical gifts are less apparent until one realises that he's the composer of more than half the music on this CD: his tunes sit comfortably beside traditional greats and modern compositions by the likes of Jon Swayne and Jean Blanchard.
There are many highlights on this recording, particularly in the middle. My own favourites, after repeated listening, are the two traditional bourrées d'auvergne, and Jean-Loup's compositions Change pas d'Main and Les Dernières Volontés d'un Danseur. The soaring sweetness of the recorder and whistle is truly uplifting, and the tunes are enchanting.
This is a very enjoyable CD, and a brilliant debut. The accordeon shows off its multiple personalities to great effect, and the flute sparkles on every track. Bag Brothers is full of little twists and surprises, but I won't spoil the fun: listen for yourself.
Available from and well worth getting, now distributed in the UK by ADA of Belper in Derbyshire (
Alex Monaghan

Various Artists "Evolving Traditon 3"
Label: Mrs Casey Records, MCRCD 1002
If the previous two albums in the series are anything to go by, this should be a pretty good predictor of the future stars of traditional music. Names such as Kate Rusby, Luke Daniels, Eliza Carthy, Simon Thoumire, Catriona MacDonald and Michael McGoldrick were featured on Evolving Tradition CDs 1 and 2, not to mention the Wrigleys, the Hendersons, Tabache, and Cordelia's Dad.
Many of the artists on Evolving Tradition 3 have already made quite a name for themselves - the likes of Cara Dillon, Chris Armstrong and Malinky are well known in certain corners of the folk music world. There are several names here that were relatively new to me, though: Kieron Mearns, Ola, Philippe Barnes, Talei Edwards and Emma Reid among them. The styles range from purist to pop, from bluegrass to barndance, with well over an hour of music and song. I'll tell you what my favourites were: not the big names, in many cases, perhaps because I'd heard them before. Roughly two thirds of the eighteen tracks here have been previously released, and the rest will probably make it onto another album pretty soon.
Harpist Phamie Gow's was the first track that leapt out at me. Her lovely lively jiggy composition Heelstergowdie is a wee gem expertly played, and was enough to persuade me to buy her solo CD. The set of reels from NeffBros could be straight from a Dublin session, and a good one at that: the fiddle and pipes combination is full of raw energy, and there's bags of rhythm and musicality too. The fjord-style fiddling of Edwards and Reid is a different beast altogether, dark and earthy but with a power that affects those little hairs on the back of your neck. Ola is a trio of young musicians who play music for fun. They're technically brilliant, imaginative and well rehearsed, but the fun comes across loud and clear. I'd go quite a long way to hear more of them. I probably won't need to go so far to see Acaysha, an established young string band playing mountain music and its variants: very listenable. In a similar vein, the supercharged acoustic swing provided by The Black Cat Theory takes some beating.
Depending on your musical tastes, you may prefer the tracks by Broderick, Clive Carroll, Brolum, Bedlam, Dr Faustus, or the trio of MacDiarmada, Fitzgerald and Rooney whose fine debut CD I reviewed a while back. Whatever your likes and dislikes, you should give Evolving Tradition 3 a whirl.
Alex Monaghan

Johnny B. Connolly "Bridgetown"
Label: Green Linnet; GLCD1217
Of the many Johnny Connollys playing the Irish button accordeon, Johnny B is the Dubliner who played with Anam and then moved to Oregon. For the past several years, he's been performing stateside with fiddler Kevin Burke and guitarist Aidan Brennan who join him on this recording. The promising young box-player on Anam's first album has matured into an accomplished performer, as his solo debut shows.
On first hearing, this CD may not grab you. It took me a while to get into it, causing some initial disappointment, but there are hidden depths here if you take the time to listen. Johnny B has tremendous technical ability, and at times that can take the life out of a tune. He also doesn't always pick the best material for his talent: the two French tracks here are unnecessary low points. On the other hand, some of the solo reels and jigs are breathtaking and the duos with Kevin Burke are a joy to listen to.
A somewhat frugal ten tracks means only 42 minutes of music. Never mind the quantity, feel the warmth: there's a lovely light tone throughout, and several great moments. My favourites would be the opening set of jigs with Kevin Burke hitting some eerie harmonies, the set dance Down the Hill with Skip Parente's string trio, and the final thrash through The Trip to Durrow with Jim Chapman's bouzouki tinkling away in the background.
Most of the music here is relaxed, flowing, and firmly traditional. It's great to hear an acoustic recording with just a few guests, and no fussy arrangements. The cover photo sums up the feel of this album: Johnny B alone in an empty room, just playing the box for his own pleasure. It's a very intimate, very pure, and very traditional sound. Enjoy it.
Alex Monaghan

Hammy Hamilton "The Moneymusk"
Label: Ossian Publications; OSSCD120; Playing time: 43 min.
Belfast-born fluter Colin "Hammy" Hamilton is better known as a composer and flute-maker than as a performer. This CD, and his recent Ossian recording with Seamus Creagh and Con O Drisceoil, should certainly change that. In actual fact, twelve of the eighteen tracks on The Moneymusk were released on cassette in 1990 but disappeared into obscurity except among the cognoscenti. This CD is doubly welcome because it adds six new recordings to these older tracks.
Hammy Hamilton moved down to West Cork in the '70s to set up his flute workshop, and he's joined here by several local musicians. Most noteworthy perhaps is the concertina of Peadar O Riada, which features on two or three of the older tracks. There are also a couple of flute duets with Paul McGrattan, and some flute'n'fiddle tracks with Connie Connell, as well as several flute solos.
Hammy plays flutes in D and Eb, presumably his own products, and an Indian bansuri in low Bb. He gets a lovely tone out of all of them, and his playing is technically very good. The Ulster style comes through strongly, plenty of tonguing and an emphasis on rhythmic effects. The tunes are all little gems, many of them chosen to highlight the possibilities of the wooden flute: nothing too fancy, and plenty of variety. The highlight of this recording has to be Hammy's two famous jigs, The Woodcock and The Kerfunten which have become session standards, but there's plenty more memorable music here: the title track which combines a traditional strathspey with an old Irish hornpipe, Sarah's Reel which Hammy wrote for his daughter, a pair of fine old jigs from the rich repertoire of James Morrison, John Egan's great polka, a smashing reel identified as The House on the Hill which I hadn't had a name for before, and two truly wonderful slow airs on flute and bansuri.
You'll have gathered that I liked this album. The old and the new fit together seamlessly to make 43 minutes of very fine flute-playing, the notes are full and interesting, and the tunes are among the best in the tradition. What more could you ask for?
Alex Monaghan

La Bottine Souriante "Cordial"
Label: Mille-Pattes; No. 67527 02042; 2001; Playing time: 59 min
It's hard to believe that anyone still hasn't heard of La Bottine Souriante, acclaimed by many as the best band in the world. However, just in case any readers have been on a desert island (or in Mountjoy) for the last few years, I'll tell you that La Bottine is a 9-piece band from Quebec, combining French Canadian and Celtic traditional music with a large dose of swing, a brass quartet and an irrepressible sense of humour. If you haven't heard them yet, now would be a good time.
Over the past 25 years, La Bottine have become incredibly good at what they do. Traditional and contemporary songs in Canadian French, accompanied and unaccompanied, alternate with reels and airs from the rich repertoire of Quebec. This band boasts one of Canada's best singers in Yves Lambert, as well as the incomparable foot-tapping multi-instrumental talents of Michel Bordeleau and an unrivalled line-up of traditional and contemporary musicians. They play everything from barbershop to rap, kitchen session to cool jazz, and it's all excellent.
Cordial follows the success of recent albums La Mistrine and Rock'n'Reel at pulling new styles into La Bottine's melting pot. There's a bit of Caribbean party music, a bit of techno, and a lot of big band razzamatazz, but the core sound is still the dance music and songs of rural Quebec. Canadian standards like La Grondeuse and Reel de Baie St-Paul are dusted off and souped up to fit La Bottine's sound, but in many cases this is the band that established them as standards in the first place. In fact, there are only four non- traditional tracks here.
There isn't really a lot more to say. I could get all misty-eyed about André Brunet's fiddle on Suede Inn, or tell you how wryly amusing the lyrics are on A Bas les Rideaux, but what would be the point? Like the man said, it's all good. Brash, bouncy, brilliant and beautiful, Cordial is bound to appeal. Try it and see.
Homepage of the artist:
Alex Monaghan

Blyth Power "On The Viking Station"
Label: Downwarde Spiral; DR010CD; 2002; Playing time: 72.20 min
"On The Viking Station" sounded nice when listening for the first time. After repeated attempts, getting familiar with the material, and grasping an understanding of the songs, I must say I am nearly addicted to it. Blyth Power (-> FW#19) plays no folk rock by any means, even if acoustic guitar and accordion gets out sometimes. The music is deeply rooted in post-punk and new wave. The words are opulent and Baroque, speaking to us like an obscure poet from distant times. Blyth Power's engine is at full speed from the beginning. Joseph Porter is constantly at war, following Mary Queen of Scots, Armstrong going to war (he drank and he whored and he stayed in bed, and where his soldiers fought and bled, he neither knew nor cared), riding with the Baader-Meinhof gang, and battling in Iceland's fishing grounds. The Cod War along with The Falklands Conflict and Desert Storm provided us in the latter half of the 20th century with a trilogy of Tolkienesque complexity and splendour. Because there's more good men in The Fisherman's Friend than all of Iceland's shores. The CD cover pictures the trademark of Fisherman's Friends lozenges, which are made in Fleetwood, Lancashire, just on the other side of the Pennines Chain from Blyth Power's base in Harrogate, Yorkshire. Try a "Friend", it first sends chills down your spine. In the end it is both tasteful and salubrious. So is Blyth Power.
Downwarde Spiral/Blyth Power
Walkin' T:-)M

Spontus "Spontus"
Label: An Naer; 401; 2000; Playing time: 49.17 min
Spontus (i.e. frightening) has been founded way back in 1996 by school friends from Auray in South Britanny. The line-up consists of Alan Paranthoen (violin), Yann Le Bozec (bass), Ronan Le Bozec (binioù), Youen Paranthoen (accordion), Erwn Bérenguer (guitar), and Pascal Kermorvant (bombarde, piston). The group interprets Breton dance music, mostly from the area of Vannes, but also original compositions. It was their simple aim to create fest-noz music, but the group found a niche inbetween classical fest-noz and a modern jazzfusion sort of things. The self-titled debut album, produced by the famed accordeon legend Yann-Fañch Perroches is a diverting listening pleasure. Even the CD package is an optical masterpiece (but it won't fit into your CD stall). The booklet is in French and Breton only.
An Naer
Walkin' T:-)M

Excalembour "Resurgences"
Label: Own label; 2001; Playing time: 47.16 min
Legend has it that the town of Mulhouse (i.e. mill house) came into being one winter's evening when a miller's daughter looked after an exhausted warrior. However, Mulhouse's Celtic group Excalembour took their name from another legend. The man, who is able to pull the mythical sword Excalibur out of a stone, was to be the rightwise king of England. Arthur succeeded. In fact, it were French narrators who introduced the name into the Celtic-Britannic lore. Now comes the band Excalembour, the CD cover depicting a fiddle fixed in a rock. But the French dare to draw it, playing Celtic music, i.e. Irish here, featuring fiddle, whistle, flute, accordion, guitar, bass and bodhran. The odd French Canadian tune is thrown in for good measure. Add some interesting twists, some French songs, and you get a combination of bal folk with traditional Irish tunes. I was instantly captivated by the "Musical Priest" reel which becomes the piano piece "Saint Gangolph" (+760; the Burgundian martyr had been killed by a priest who had an eye on Gangolph's wife). These are the French ways. Unbeaten tracks in South Alsace.
Walkin' T:-)M

Séamus Quinn & Gary Hastings "Slán le Loch Eirne"
Label: Cló Iar-Chonnachta; CICD 152; 2002; Playing time: 46.17 min
Numerous stories relate to Irish priests who opposed traditional crossroads and house dancing and used to break up parties, if not breaking the instruments themselves. (Junior Crehan composed a lament concerning the decline of the country house dance -> FW#21.) A hundred years ago, some clerics didn't anticipate what dancing fashions were yet to come. So nowadays some are much wiser. Others even doing it for themselves.
Father Séamus Quinn from Derrygonnelly, Co. Fermanagh, is priest in Scotshouse near Clones, Co. Monaghan, Reverend Gary Hastings from Belfast a Church of Ireland minister in Westport, Co. Mayo. Both met first at the University of Ulster, Coleraine, and shared many a tune on fiddle (S) and flute (G). Later Gary toured with De Dannan, Séamus played with Craobh Rua, before both retired from professional music to take up a "respectable" career.
Séamus and I are great fans of the old 78'' records, confesses Gary. We also feel that there was a lot more freedom in the music on the 78'' records than there is today. So, with a little piano backing (S), some bouzouki accompaniment by Ciarán Curran (Altan), and a fiddle duet with Charlie Lennon, we are treated to some old-style tunes from John McKenna, Paddy Killoran's Pride of Erin Orchestra, Michael Coleman (the "Shaskeen" reel is played in C instead of the usual G), some rather unusual slow airs ("Farewell Dear Erne, I Now Must Leave You", "The Banks of the Clyde"), and tunes from the Fermanagh tradition, and the Orange fifing tradition as well. "Maho Snaps" is played in the old West Fermanagh fiddle style, tuned up half tone to A flat.
Traditional music isn't about music at all, it's about people. Indeed, the most important bits of a session of traditional music are the bits in between the tunes. The crack and drivel and silence and chat that give the music shape and meaning and reason. Without that, the music in only another flurry of notes, one more kind of music amongst the hundreds available in the modern world. To really get a hoult on this music, you need to be close enough to smell the musicians. This kind of stuff doesn't stick too well to shiny CDs and plastic tapes. People are people. Recordings are only recordings. Wise men - and musical priests as well.
Cló Iar-Chonnachta Teo
Walkin' T:-)M

Mary Timony "The Golden Dove"
Label: Matador; 2002; Playing time: 46:33 min
Here it comes, that poison melody plays to me. That kind of music can kill your mind. I see it coming, an apocalyptic sign. Mary Timony once was the head of the art-pop band Helium from Boston, Massachusetts. Taking the road on her own, she blends effortlessly her celestial, melancholical voice with psychedelic folk and grooves, bringing back the early 1970s. A bit Suzanne Vega, yet with a sinister edge (a very dark one). Kafka with a touch of Charles Manson, it sends chills down the spine, but don't dwell in the black holes. There is darkness but it always seems like there is always some way out. (G. Belsha) The 17th century "I Prithee Send Me Back My Heart" gets an ambient treatment in a final encore. The chorus of "Magic Power" resembles very closely a German ditty, "Hejo, spann den Wagen an," I wonder if there's an English version. Music sets us free, music of the spheres uncover the dust of ancient years.
Matador, Zomba Distribution
Walkin' T:-)M


More English CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5 - Page 6
More German CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page 2
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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 09/2002

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