Issue 24 12/2002

FolkWorld CD ReviewsDog

Dan Beimborn "Shatter the Calm"
Label: Crufty Music; CRUFTCD001/DB2589; 2002; Playing time: 50.30 min
Dan Beimborn hails from a Milwaukee-based family of German, English and French ancestry, but he found his musical heritage in traditional Irish, Scottish and American tunes. Reels, jigs, slides, polkas, marches, mazurkas, waltzes. Some recently composed by Dan himself, Frank Ferrel, Liam Kelly (-> FW#3, FW#3, FW#19, FW#19), and even the Pogues' Terry Woods (-> FW#15) and Shane MacGowan, (-> FW#22). So never say again that the Pogues didn't make any contribution to Irish music. Dan is a competent player of a number of stringed instruments, mainly mandolin and (10-string) bouzouki, occasionally harmonica and tenor banjo. Passionately executed, with ornaments and grace and all, so that every tune is polished to its best effect. Dan is accompanied by guitarists Zan McLeod (Touchstone) and Paul Kotapish (Open House). I think "Shatter the Calm" is an absolute must for the string aficionado, but relevant for anyone with the slightest interest in traditional dance music. That should be enough to whet your appetite and to shatter your calm.
Dan Beimborn
Walkin' T:-)M

Niall & Cillian Vallely "Callan Bridge"
Label: Compass; 7 4348 2; 2002; Playing time: 52.48 min
You can't await another Lunasa album (-> FW#5, FW#12, FW#21). You're lucky, here's ersatz in brothers Niall & Cillian Vallely, siblings from the well-known Armagh family of musicians. Father Brian and mother Eithne were founders of the Armagh Pipers' Club. Uilleann piper Cillian made his first steps with the Riverdance orchestra, and eventually joined Lunasa. Niall, rather unusual, plays the concertina, erstwhile in Cork's Nomos (-> FW#17), and lately with his partner in life, Karan Casey (-> FW#20). "Callan Bridge" is the place in Armagh both grew up and now came back together - musically: Occasionally we've done bits of gigs together and we had the notion that whenever we'd get a chance we'd get down and play a few tunes together and make a record. There have been a number of tunes that we had been playing for years and we came up with some not necessarily new tunes but old tunes that haven't really been recorded before. It's a pretty traditional album. It's straight forward. We both like the classic sets of tunes that you got on the Bothy Band albums or even further back Michael Coleman. But there are some new tunes as well. Caoimhin Vallely (piano) and Paul Meehan (guitar -> FW#9, FW#19), Donal Clancy (guitar -> FW#22), and John Doyle (guitar -> FW#17) help out to create a formidable and classic recording that will certainly stand the test of time. Concertina duels pipes. Who won? Listen yourself!
Compass Records
Walkin' T:-)M

Éamonn Coyne "Through the Round Window"
Label: Compass; 7 4345 2; 2002; Playing time: 55.01 min
For some reason or another, banjo players are one of the most hated species in traditional music. (Only bodhran and guitar players come first.) Thus, banjo jokes have a wide circulation: If you drop a banjo from a tall building, what do you hear when it hits the ground? - Applause. Bela Fleck and Tony Trischka once undertook a jetboat ride on a lake in New Zealand with a rather daredevil driver: `Who wants to go down in history as the guy that drowned the two best banjo players?' A fellow musician replied `Well, you have to start somewhere.' Banjo player Frank Godbey confesses: Enjoyment? Banjos are cranky, loud, obnoxious, hard to get in tune, impossible to keep in tune, hateful beasts. But it's still something I have to do, must do, am compelled to do, driven by unseen (evil?) spirits. Who says the fiddle is the devils only box? Banjo playing is not for the faint-hearted, nor is banjo listening.
However, if you still believe in this prejudice, you never encountered Dublin-born Éamonn Coyne (-> FW#10, FW#14). He plays the tenor banjo in a very elegant style, at the same time without denying the instrument's inherent wildness. "Through the Round Window" kicks off with a jig written by Seamus Quinn (-> FW#23) and ends with a song from Éamonn's grandmother Ethna. Inbetween we are treated to a creative interplay of traditional Irish tunes and American old-time music. Tunes from different sides of the Atlantic; one played in Ireland that I am told is Scottish, and an American old-timey tune. It's funny to see the tunes go back and forward across the Atlantic. What the continental drift drives apart, music brings back together. Éamonn revives some old tunes, I found so far only recorded at the "Farewell to Ireland" compilation of 78 rpm records. Kevin Doherty adds two of his songs.
Musical guests include Alison Brown (5-string banjo -> FW#18), Dermot Byrne (button accordion, melodeon) and Ciaran Curran (bouzouki) of Altan (-> FW#2, FW#3, FW#8, FW#14, FW#22), Jimmy Higgins (snare drum -> FW#1), Russell Hunter (piano) and Sandy Wright (guitar, dobro) of Russell's House (-> FW#14), Pat Marsh (bouzouki) of Moher (-> FW#9) and Calico (-> FW#5, FW#14), Mike McGoldrick (flute -> FW#5, FW#13,), Tom Morrow (fiddle) of Dervish (-> FW#19, FW#19), Paul O'Driscoll (bass) of the Bowhouse Quintet (-> FW#12).
According to Steven Harvey (-> FW#23), the banjo is for losers. It followed slaves from Africa and became the meeting place for the disenfranchised of Africa and Europe when blacks and blackfaced minstrels brought the banjo to the Appalachians. It was played by lonely and homesick soldiers on both sides during the Civil War and later was enlisted in the labor battles of the thirties and civil rights protests in the sixties. Losers? I don't believe this anymore.
Compass Records
Walkin' T:-)M

Martin Nolan "Bright Silver, Dark Wood"
Label: Own label; MSN-CD 002; 2002; Playing time: 49.10 min
Bright the silver and dark the wood, that's the features of Dubliner Martin Nolan's instrument of choice. Plainly speaking, uilleann pipes made by Andreas Rogge (-> FW#20) and low whistles made by Cillian O'Briain. Martin is performing in the traveller's legato style of piping, no wonder, his teacher was John Keenan, father of Paddy Keenan (-> FW#23). Martin also plays in the group Khanda, performing a crossover from Indian to Irish music, and that says a lot of Martin's approach. Diversity and curiosity is the rule not the exception, e.g. when the pipes clash with the harpsichord (an instrument rarely heard these days). But not everything's exotic, of course, there's the ordinary treatment as well. Martin plays some original tunes, others have been revived from the James Goodman Manuscripts, only recently published under the title "Tunes of the Munster Pipers" by the Irish Traditional Music Archive. James Goodman (1828-96) from the Dingle Peninsula, though a Protestant of English extraction, grew up speaking the Irish language. He played the pipes himself and people sang and played for him so that he was able to collect numerous tunes. One song, "Cillairne," is sung by Deirdre Ni Chinneide, and Martin is accompanied by luminaries such as fiddler Kevin O'Connor. The piping album even a piper's wife would enjoy is a real treat. So if your're pleased, Kiss the Piper: the title...? Well, what's in a name?
Martin Nolan
Walkin' T:-)M

Kieran Halpin & Chris Jones "Moving Air"
Label: SOS; SOS 013; 2002; Playing time: 66.56 min
Mike Hanrahan "What You Know"
Label: Dinky; DINKYCD001; 2002; Playing time: 43.47 min
Well, you know, Irishman and -women are born musicians. But not only the traditional lot, but there's also the crop of contemporary singers and songwriters, as different as can be (e.g. -> FW#7, FW#11, FW#12, FW#20, FW#23, FW#23, FW#23). Just two more examples.
Kieran Halpin's songs already have been recorded by fellow artists (e.g. -> FW#11, FW#12). He was born in Drogheda, Co. Louth, a fertile ground for musicians, just recall the Taylor Brothers, who invented the uilleann pipes in D tuning, Cran's Sean Corcoran (-> FW#4), Deirdre Scanlan (-> FW#17, FW#22), and the Dubliner's Eamonn Campbell (-> FW#23). Kieran's biography is almost fabulous, just lacking the last step to success: The first guitar was a Spanish nylon strung, costing £17. That same evening Kieran learned Am and Em and wrote his first song. 1974 saw him winning The Letterkenny Song Festival (previous year winners were Clannad -> FW#6, FW#20). Kieran did extensive travelling and busking, teaming up with Tyneside fiddler Tom McConville (-> FW#10), Martin Allcock (-> FW#19), Manus Lunny (-> FW#3, FW#8, FW#12, FW#16, FW#23, and many others. His intense singing curiously reminds me of Jon Bon Jovi, but I bet the pop stars would be very happy to have such powerful songs. But the comparison is not that bad. Kieran plays very melodic songs. They are only a bit different. "Moving Air" has been recorded live in Britain and Ireland one year ago, and I hope the audience was as cute as he's accustomed in Germany: They're really into words, trying to understand what you're saying. If I didn't print the lyrics on the label I wouldn't sell one album over there - they're are incredibly interested in what people are trying to say. Otherwise this is your chance to get the meaning. Add the guitar skills of Chris Jones (-> FW#12), and it's a well balanced affair. P.S.: This time the lyrics are not printed in the booklet, but included on a CD-ROM track.
Ennis, Co. Clare, is a hotbed of Irish music. However, the music Mike Hanrahan took to the world is not in the traditional vein (but so is Ennis, chosen by Eircom to be Information Age Town). Mike performed American country-like songs with singer Maura O'Connell (-> FW#9, FW#11), and later joined Stockton's Wing, one of the pioneers to work contemporary songs around traditional tunes. Besides his commitments as musical partner of Ronnie Drew (-> FW#19, FW#23, both played the Folkwoods Festival 2001 -> FW#20), chairman of the Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO), and the one or another take (-> FW#14), Mike like his former Wing colleague Maurice Lennon (-> FW#23) eventually found some time and peace to record eleven of his own songs. Musically it's quite a sort of easy-listening folk pop, though Mike's voice sounds husky and seasoned. He can be full of hope, but primarily he's reflective, melancholic, sometimes dark: And as we look deep into the mirror, do we salute what we've become? God's greatest creation, almost done. But Mike isn't done, he's just starting.
SOS Records/Kieran Halpin; Dinky Records/Mike Hanrahan
Walkin' T:-)M

Irishields "The Last Night in Doolin"
Label: Own label; 2002; Playing time: 43.51 min
Doolin, Co. Clare: You suddenly hear this beautiful bouzouki playing and for some reason you can never understand, you just want to dance like that preening idiot in Riverdance (you know, the one with the blond quiff and the vaselined chest who went off in a huff because his name was only fifteen feet high on the posters and he'd categorically stated they had to be fifteen feet and four inches). (T. Bradford -> FW#19) Talking about a tiny fishing village at the west coast of Ireland, while we could spent our time at the Riviera. An Italian plaza doesn't seem to be the most natural place for Irish music, but it already arrived on mediterranean shores (-> FW#6, FW#7, FW#19). Irishields is a Ligurian quartet of fiddle, flute, guitar and percussion. This area once was inhabited by Celtic tribes before it came under Roman influence, and the Ligurian dialect is closer to Piemontese, Lombard and French than to Standard Italian. A firm base to knit your own Celtic identity, but of all places the boys' point of reference is Doolin. The mecca of traditional music with sessions almost any night is to Irish traditional music what New Orleans is to traditional jazz. (P.J. Curtis) In its golden days the top musicians passed through. It was a place you could get a great tune and it was well appreciated. I remember two sessions going on at the one time in McCann's. Stockton's Wing (-> FW#23), before they were famous, were down by the fireplace and in the other corner in the bar were Paddy Keenan (-> FW#23), Matt Molloy (-> FW#7, FW#8, FW#13, FW#22) and Tommy Peoples going at the same time. It was a haven for musicians. (E. O'Connor) Then there were Americans or Australians coming to Doolin to listen to Germans or Dutch play Irish music. (P.J. Curtis) But only recently Doolin became base of the record label Magnetic Music (-> FW#22), which felt that Doolin still has a lot of charm. It's not a kind of Irish Mallorca. So does Irishields.
Walkin' T:-)M

Jules Bitter "Druid Dance"
Label: FluitPraxis; FPCD001; 2002; Playing time: 55.20 min
Despite the discouraging album title, don't worry! Even the freely available spliff doesn't turn the Lowlanders into whirling dervishes, neither Celtic nor any kind. This is just the way for flutist Jules Bitter from Zeeland to introduce his timeless experience of music, poetry and dance, having in mind the legendary Tree of Rhiannon, where the blackbirds sang so beautifully that they made listeners forget time and place. Again, don't worry. That doesn't mean a sort of Enya. After all, the ancient Celts had no synths. Jules has been taught whistle and flute by Tommy Keenan, brother of Paddy (-> FW#23), and he is at present performing with the Dutch-Irish band Finglas. "Druid Dance" includes dance tunes from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Galicia, Carolan pieces (-> FW#20), and Thomas Moore's "Silent oh Moyle". I'd like to mention "Mulqueeney's Hornpipe" which Jules has taken from a 70's LP (I guess Molloy/Brady/Peoples) and have never come across another version since. Jim Mulqueeny was a fiddler from Kilfenora, Co. Clare, and member of the Kilfenora Ceili Band. Check out the recordings of accordion player Seamus Walshe or flutist Brian O'Connor. Brian is the son of Dessie O'Connor, tin whistle champion of early fleadhanna ceoil. Jules's own "Maxima's Hornpipe" is married with the traditional "Alexander's" (recorded by -> FW#23), after hearing that the Dutch Crown Prince Willem Alexander was to marry the Argentinian Maxima. No political sentiment audible in the tune, though the arrangement wasn't easy (Maxima is the daughter of a former member of the Argentinian military regime). The celtic soundscape is created with whistle and flute, of course, fiddle, accordion, harp, bouzouki, guitar, yews harp, bodhran, voice, and - o.k., synthesizer, but "Druid Dance" is delighting most of the time. Just to mention, the record has been mixed by Philip Masure (-> FW#15), and mastered by Guy Roelofs (-> FW#22). So get your sickle then, cut some mistle-toes and do the Druid Dance!
FluitPraxis/Jules Bitter
Walkin' T:-)M

Oysterband "Rise Above"
Label: Pläne; 88874; 2002; Playing time: 39.06 min
Maybe we don't know right from wrong, maybe we don't know what we're here for, maybe it's time to sing this song, this is an uncommercial song. Business as usual with the Oysterband (-> FW#2, FW#8, FW#10), even after a 25 years band's history. But that's fine. Lately, a reviewer of the predecessor "Here I Stand" lamented that England's folk rocker #1 didn't make the stand in Blair's Britain. Practical politics (or is it the politicians) can be disillusioning. But here we are again. As always, hummable tunes, impassioned choruses, and telling lyrics. Plus reworkings of the traditional Irish ballad "Blackwaterside" and an a capella version of the traditional English "Bright Morning Star". But I better shut up now, before my mouth gets me into trouble. Because: it wants a kiss like whisky, a breath of spring, it wants a taste of freedom, it wants everything.
Pläne Records
Walkin' T:-)M

Liz Carroll "Lake Effect"
Label: Green Linnet; GLCD 1220; 2002; Playing time: 49.47 min
Chicago, Irish, Music - three words, one meaning. Well, almost. I just recall the legendary music collector and Chief of Police Francis O'Neill, and the Chicago River is annually coloured in green at Paddy's day. Another reason is the latest opus of first-rate fiddler and composer Liz Carroll. Almost a living legend, awarded a US National Heritage Fellowship for her great impact on Irish music in America, a Master Traditional Artist who has contributed to the shaping of our artistic traditions and to preserving the cultural diversity of the United States. Lately, the Mayor of Chicago declared September 18 to be Liz Carroll Day. (A nice alternative if you're sick and tired of Paddy's Day or Burns Suppers.) Liz composed about 170 tunes, many have entered into the repertoire of traditional Irish musicians, a lot have been recorded (e.g. -> FW#5, FW#21). "Lake Effect" features 25 new tunes to add to the list (plus three traditional ones thrown in for good measure). Some real gems, executed with fiery fiddling. The performance is backed by John Doyle (guitar, bouzouki -> FW#17, FW#22), Mairtin O'Connor (accordion -> FW#22), Liz Knowles (fiddle), and the Turtle Island String Quartet. Enriching the tradition, to say it with the title of one of her tunes: For the Love of Music.
Green Linnet; Germany: Sunny Moon
Walkin' T:-)M

Haugaard & Høirup "Lys/Light"
Label: GO; GO0501; 2001; Playing time: 47.54 min
Where's light, there's also shadow. Nobody knows better than the Scandinavians. One should think that the new conservative government should have any interest in traditional music. Far from it! Is folk music inherently left and alternative? Whatever, any promotion has been decreased that allowed many artists to bring their music beyond the Danish border. The promoters of the Tønder Festival (-> FW#23) say: Our kind of music will also have to try to survive in new, harsher conditions. It is not yet clear how hard the new political message will hit folk music in Denmark, but our inventivness and resourcefullness will definitely be put to the test. Nevertheless, Danish music is still going strong, last proof is the latest release of Haugaard & Høirup (-> FW#8, FW#15, FW#15, FW#20, FW#20).
The traditional and contemporary fiddle tunes of Harald Haugaard, some of them already recorded on the earlier live album, spread delight and pleasure like a highly infectious contagion. The opener, "Lys", is a homage to the light (not only the one at the end of the tunnel), ironically followed on the next track by a reinlander from Randers in east Jutland: The ties with Norway were strong even after the cessation of Danish sovereignity, which is known in Norway as the 400 Years Night. Morten Alfred Høirup sings the romantic "Til Rosengården" (To the Rosegarden) - in rememerance of his regular haunt, Rosengårdens Bodega, in Copenhagen, once a busy street where prostitutes kept state - and another bittersweet love song, said to be the most popular of Danish ballads, "Det var en lørdag aften" (On a Saturday Night).
However, "Lys" is predominantly for partying, made particularly obvious with the "Kalkmanden Waltz": The "kaldemanden" is the man in the village who saw to it that people were invited to parties and celebrations. He was also posted at the door to cry out a warning if there bailiffs showed up to stop the performing of the forbidden menuet. Only the nobility were allowed to dance the menuet, and in the case the villagers should get any ideas of equality... So when the `kaldemand' cried out the musicians changed into a waltz. And it finishes with a "Menuet du France", but as Danish as rødgrød med fløde.
Walkin' T:-)M

Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin "An Dealg Óir"
Label: Gael Linn; CEFCD 183; 2002; Playing time: 62.05 min
Irish singer Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin originally hails from Rann na Feirste, Co. Donegal, (like the Domhnaills -> FW#5) but is now living in Mullaghbawn, Co. Armagh (the Slieve Gullion Festival of Traditional Singing celebrating its 21st anniversary in 2002 is said to be the longest running singing festival in Ireland). For her new recording Pádraigín unearthed 14 songs from fragmentary sources preserved in South East Ulster. Just a small selection of a stock of 54 songs from her "Songs of a Hidden Ulster" (which itself is accompanied by two CDs of a cappella singing).
It is claimed that except Peadar Ó Doirnín's (1700-69) "Uilleagán Dubh Ó" (Dark Beautiful Maiden O) no song has been recorded before. To be true, some are quite well known and have been recorded, or better say, versions have been recorded: "Éirigh Suas A Stóiríin" (Rise Up My Darling; compare Pádraigín's sister Eithne Ní Uallacháin, -> FW#10, on a 1970's German Irish Folk Festival album, also Karan Casey's -> FW#17); "An Seanduine Dóite" (The Wasted Old Man; Seamus Begley -> FW#25); "Séamus Mac Murfaidh" (Connie Ó Gallchóir on "Trad trathnona"); "Máire Bhán" (Fair Mary; Eithne again); "Thugamar Féin An Samhradh Linn" (We Brought the Summer With Us; lilted to James II when he landed at Kinsale in 1688); "An Bonnán Buí" (the great lament for the Yellow Bittern that supposedly died of thirst near a frozen lake and Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna (1680-1756) resolves never to give up drink himself -> FW#5); "Tá 'na Lá" (Day is Come -> FW#19, see also Eithne's own version).
But there's also more obscure. Special mention deserves the light-hearted macaronic love song "Éalaigh Liom" (Come With Me), which we will hear more often in the near future, I would think. Séamus Mac Cuarta's (1645-1733) literary lovesong "Ailí Gheal Chiúin" (Fair Gentle Ellie) with its internal rhyming scheme, typical for Gaelic poetry. "Cailín as Contae Lú" (A Girl from County Louth), an ordinary song with an extraordinary air. It has middle European influences, though this is not surprising as this area on the main route through the Gap of the North, was home to the aristocratic O'Neill's who gave patronage to poets and musicians, it saw much coming and going.
The songs have been arranged by Steve Cooney (guitar, keyboards) and brought to life by Liam O'Flynn (uilleann pipes, whistle), Helen Davies (harp -> FW#23), Laoise Kelly (harp), Odhrán Ó Casaide (fiddle), Rónán Ó Snodaigh (percussion -> FW#4, FW#19), Máire Bhreathnach (viola -> FW#8, FW#22), Pat Crowley (piano), and Liam Ó Maonlaí (bodhran -> FW#11, FW#17, FW#23). The booklet includes notes, and lyrics and translation of two verses of each song. For more details you must turn to Pádraigín's above-mentioned book.
Considering the latest news from Ulster, we get in touch with a harmonic and tranquil place here. "An Dealg Óir" (the golden thorn) refers to the blackthorn bush carried at the Feast of Bealtaine which signifies the fruitfulness and fertility of the golden summer. Bealtaine (May Day), Grobh na Carraibhe (Grove of the Branches) and Cnoc a' Damhsa (Hill of Dancing) are placenames near Killeavy, Co. Armagh, where "Amhrán na Craoibhe" (The Garland Song) was traditionally sung. Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin and her songs are living proof that the Irish song tradition is coming back to live gain - even in Ulster. Tá 'na lá is seal 'na mhaidin - Day is come and it is dawning.
Gael Linn
Walkin' T:-)M

James Scott Skinner "The Strathspey King"
Label: Temple; COMD2084; 2002; Playing Time: 66.15 min
James Scott Skinner (1843-1927), the self-styled Strathspey King, left behind a legacy that has had a great effect on Scottish fiddling and traditional music. The legendary fiddler composed over 600 tunes, still played by contemporary artists (e.g. -> FW#2, FW#2, FW#2, FW#12, FW#14, FW#16, FW#20, FW#22, FW#22). But James Scott Skinner recorded during 1905 and 1922 many traditional tunes and his own compositions himself, both on cylinder and early vinyl discs. Low-fi, but re-mastered (included is one repeat to compare the original from a 1970's Topic release to the processed track). The booklet notes are written by Alastair Hardie and Bruce McGregor (-> FW#15, FW#20, FW#23, FW#23). Says Bruce, We'll never truly know what went on in Skinner's mind, or fully understand what drove him on; in many respects it doesn't really matter. What is clear is that his music possesses the unique elements of Scottish music; passion, vigour, heart and soul and as long as those are the core elements of traditional music, then James Scott Skinner will always remain `the King'.
(Watch out for a comprehensive narrative of James Scott Skinner and his music in the next FolkWorld issue #25.)
Temple Records; Germany: Bellaphon Records.
Walkin' T:-)M

V/A "25 Years of Hobgoblin"
Label: Hobgoblin; 2001; Playing Time: 78.26 min
Once upon a time. Well, not so long ago. In 1976 Pete and Mannie McClelland founded Hobgoblin Music in West Sussex. Their search for a concertina grew into a thriving business providing the exotic instruments of folk and traditional music then hard to track down. Since then several stalls have been opened all across England. To celebrate the 25th anniversary, Hobgoblin recorded and released this CD featuring the Hobgoblin staff past and present. From opening Novacain's folk rock and Tricks Upon Travellers' pop, to folk singer Sarah Mallinson (-> "Lowlands"), contemporary songwriter Steve Turner, Blackthorn's spirited instrumental music (i.e. founders Pete and Mannie themselves), and the pure drop when Nigel Chippindale plays the concertina. If the service and advice at Hobgoblin shops is just as good as the musical standard displayed, the future of traditional music is in good hands.
Hobgoblin Music
Walkin' T:-)M

V/A "Travellin' Companion 3 - A Musical Journey to Germany"
Label: WeltWunder; 503-2; 2002; Playing Time: 56.38 min
The "Travellin' Companion 3: Germany" (part 1 and 2 deal with Poland and Italy) wants to give an outline on the German world and roots music scene in all its different facets. (I doubt if that's possible at all.) Anyway, Ken Hunt is right: Germany is now home and host to considerable diversity, much of it rooted in regional culture, in home-grown popular music like Schlager (pop songs), bandoneon music or indigenous dance forms like Zwiefacher, or hot imports like hip-hop, klezmer and tango. If the music ... testifies to anything, it testifies to the porosity of Germany's musical and cultural boundaries. Since Reunification, the changes to the nation's popular and folk music seem to be arriving faster and faster. Where to begin? A simple list bears no evidence of any imagination but the slyness of the reviewer, but it may decisively swing the purchase decision of the reader (please follow the links for the respective FolkWorld reviews): 17 Hippies, Das Blaue Einhorn (-> FW#7, FW#11, FW#13), Di Grine Kuzine (-> FW#21), Bayrisch Diatonischer Jodelwahnsinn (-> FW#12), Jams (-> FW#2, FW#3, FW#4), Element of Crime, Lecker Sachen (-> FW#5, FW#6, FW#7, FW#10, FW#18, FW#23), Erci E, Grenzgänger (-> FW#21), Elster Silberflug, U.L.M.A.N., Bavario (-> FW#20), Mahones (-> FW#5, FW#22), Polkaholix, Leipziger Folksession Band (-> FW#5, FW#15), Schäl Sick Brass Band (-> FW#23) and the BandonionFreunde Essen. So what do you think? Is it worth the acquisition? At least to become acquainted with? This is music within and outside a tradition. It is music on the move. The good news is that the old days are gone.
WeltWunder/Sunny Moon
Walkin' T:-)M

Sinéad O'Connor "Sean-Nós Nua"
Label: Hummingbird Records; HBCD0030; 2002
Pop singer Sinéad O'Connor had always the dream to record an album of Irish traditional songs, those songs she had learnt as a child growing up in Ireland. Mmmh, interesting to see what comes out of this project. For my taste, Sinéad has a rather interesting and good voice, however she needs a certain kind of songs. On some of her earlier pop albums there used to be a few highlights, but much of the rest was, if at all, mediocre.
So folk songs it shall be this time. Looking at some of the songs on the sleeve left me already a bit scared - songs included e.g. "her Mantle So Green", "Molly Malone", "I'll Tell Me Ma". Although she got in experienced people from the folk music scene, including the Irish folk guru Donal Lunny as co-producer and musician and Christy Moore joining her in the soing "Lord Baker", the result is overall not impressive. Some of the songs might be pleasant enough, but somehow real highlights on this album are missing - and there are several low-lights. It does not help that in many songs Sinead's voice is echoed, giving the songs a horrible new age feeling.
I am not impressed...
Homepage of the artist:
Michael Moll

loris vescovo_cercis quartet "stemane ulive"
Label: Nota; NOTA CD 388; 2002
This is quite a mixed CD, stylistically crossing many borders; probably the most distinctive influence is Jazz, mixed with Folk and traditional Italian influences, Pop and World Music. Overall it is quiet music, based on the soft and calm voice of Loris Vescovo. Most of the songs are written by Loris, added by various traditional and contemporary songs and poems.
There is a lot of improvisation and originality in the music, and it is rather obvious that the musicians must come from diverse musical backgrounds. The core quartet features acoustic guitar/voice, sax, double bass and drums/percussion. On the CD, there are additionally guest musicians on instruments such as accordion, trumpet, cello, tabla, sitar etc. Some of the music is very pleasant and has a lot of atmosphere, other bits feature for my taste too much experimenting and improvising, and finally, some bits sound a bit boring. Nevertheless, overall I did enjoy listening to this CD. There is a lot of talent in this band, and this definitely shines through.
Contact to artist:, contact to label:
Michael Moll

Kerstin Blodig & Ian Melrose "Kelpie"
Label: Westpark; No. 87090; 2002
German bands playing Celtic music are plentiful. What a nice exception is Kerstin Blodig, whose musical horizon does not stop in the Celtic area, but has a strong base in Scandinavian music traditions. On "Kelpie", Kerstin teams up with the Germany based Scotsman Ian Melrose from Ayr.
"Kelpie" is an impressive album, presenting a beautiful mixture of Scandinavian and Celtic songs and acoustic arrangements. All material sounds authentic, however the duo has left their very own improvising mark on it. Kerstin has a deep knowledge of Scandinavian music; she studied musicology and Scandinavian languages and cultures in Germany and Norway, with a focus on Norwegian folk music. She has an enchanting light voice, and loves to play with vocal arrangements. She sings on the album six Norwegian songs, mostly traditional, as well as the songs "Bedlam Boys" (trad) and "Kelpie" (Ian Anderson). Another song is added by Ian Melrose, a great version of Jim Malcolm's song "The Battle of Waterloo", well suited for Ian's sensitive warm voice. All these songs have appropriate acoustic instrumentation with them, showcasing the skills of Ian on Guitar and Low Whistle, and Kerstin on Guitar, Bouzouki, Mandolin and Bodhrán. There are also three excitng instrumentals.
The mixture is highly enjoyable, overall more on the quiet side of music. Two highly talented musicians at their best. I am sure that also Norwegians will be impressed by this album. One of the best albums I have heard from Germany for a long time. Hopefully the next album of this duo will follow the same concept!
Homepage of the artist:,,contact to artist:, contact to label:
Michael Moll

Mackenzie "Fama Clamosa"
Label: Macmeanma; SKYECD22; 2002; Playing time: 47.45 min
Three beautiful young women from the Isle of Lewis with gorgeous voices, singing and composing Gaelic songs in an absolutely enchanting way.
Mackenzie comprises the sisters Eidlidh, Gillian and Fiona Mackenzie. Each of their voices is distinctive and full of depth; brought together the vocal harmonies are bittersweet and full of beauty. Their material is all in Gaelic. Partly the sisters draw their material from the rich Gaelic song traditios from the Outer Hebrides, but all three are also skilled composers. It is lovely to see that young people are taking up the tradition of writing songs, often in the traditional ideom, but mostly with modern messages. Most of the songs sound like they could be traditional. An exception of this is Eilidh's composition "Fama Clamosa" (the Latin expression for "Whispering Rumours"), a song that sounds more like an African chant, and is a declamation against persecution in religion and education.
Although the album is very much based on a capella singing, partly solo, partly in harmony, Mackenzie have some subtle instrumental backing from William Jackson (harps), Mairi Campbell (fiddle, viola), James Mackintosh (hand drums and shakers) and Brian O hEadhra (guitar). Produced is the album by Calum Malcolm, usually associated with more modern Scottish projects, who also plays piano and keyboard on the album.
An album full of passionate and enchanting singing, wonderful for quiet relaxed hours.
Homepage of the artist:, contact to artist and label:
Michael Moll

Phønix "Pigen og Drengen"
Label: Go Danish Folk Music ; go0202; 2002; Playing time: min
Phønix come with their fourth album with a big surprise. They have built up their fame from their exciting and innovative, purely instrumental New Danish Folk music. And this album has surprisingly a focus on songs!
The singer Karen Mose Nørgaard has joined recently the band (after a short term engagement of another singer), and she adds an attractive new dimension to the band. She has a highly attractive singing style, breathing life into traditional Danish songs, and presenting them in a way that they become attractive also for an international audience (I have to admit that, for me, many Danish singers do not manage to break down the linguistic barriers...). She has a hand for choosing songs that both suit her voice and the Phønix sound.
The unique Phønix sound stays also with the singer alive - a strong and powerful, inventive blend of Danish music traditions with modern and Jazz music influences. The grooving bass clarinet makes the sound rather unique, joined by the attractive combination of accodrdion, recorder/flute/violin and percussion.
Phønix has been for a long while one of the most exciting bands from Denmark, if not from Europe. The addition of the singer can only add to the band's attraction. Absolutely wonderful stuff!
Homepage of the artist:, contact to artist:, contact to label:
Michael Moll

Nana Lüders, Peter Uhrbrand, Eskil Romme, Karen Tweed, Ian Carr "Færd"
Label: Tutl (Alternative distribution: GO); SHD55; 2002
This album combines Danish with English/Irish folk music talents and presents a musical journey from Denmark and England to the Faroe Islands.
The result is rather impressive: A beautiful combination of old traditional music and modern influences, open minded and masterfully presented. The material played on Færd is all related to the cultural North Sea region, with a strong focus on the Faroes. Most of the ballads stem from a collection of "Faroese melodies to Danish Heroic Ballads" from 1923; the majority of tunes are based on Christian Svabo's music book from the 18th century, containing a rich collection of dance tunes played at that time in Denmark and England.
On the Danish side play Peter Uhrbrand (violin/viola), Eskil Romme (soprano sax) and the singer Nana Lüders, on the English/Irish side we have the unique talents of Ian Carr (Guitar) and Karen Tweed (accordion). The combination of these musicians works incredibly well. The centre of the songs is set on the beautiful singing of Nana; yet the instrumentalists provide a very strong and varied accompaniment. Musically, the melodic base is set on violin/viola and accordion, plus the sounds of the soprano sax giving the music an exciting more modern edge. Although the focus of most of the music is on the Danish and Faroerse elements, the unique element of the duo Ian Carr/Karen Tweed, with their distinctive combination of rhythmic and innovative guitar playing interwoven with Karen's accordion.
A strong album of Northern European music, enjoyable from the first to the last minute.
Contact to band:, contact to label: , Danish distribution:
Michael Moll

Label: Go Danish Folk Music ; go0402; 2002; Playing time: 53.03 min
INSTINKT is a new Danish New Folk band, full of improvisation and inspiration. The band combines musicians working or having worked with some of the most important bands of the recent Danish folk revival, such as Sorten Muld, Kætter Kvartet and Skarn. Obviously there is a huge amount of talent gathered in this band.
The start of the CD is highly promising, starting with cool drumming and fiddle picking, with a cheeky shrill flute entering the field. The strength of this band definitely lies in their instrumental talents and the combination of instruments, featuring violins, guitar, flute/hurdy gurdy/jew's harp, bass and drums/percussion. However, I wish they would not try to sing - all vocal parts of this album do not appeal to me, be it songs or more screams. Also I think at times they are overdoing their experimenting, resulting at times more in noise than music.
Nevertheless, this band is a bright new star on the Danish folk scene, and Hur! is a rather inspiring work. Even though some of the numbers are quite difficult listinening...
Homepage of the artist:, contact to artist:, contact to label:
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

To the content of FolkWorld No. 24

© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 12/2002

All material published in FolkWorld is © The Author via FolkWorld. Storage for private use is allowed and welcome. Reviews and extracts of up to 200 words may be freely quoted and reproduced, if source and author are acknowledged. For any other reproduction please ask the Editors for permission. Although any external links from FolkWorld are chosen with greatest care, FolkWorld and its editors do not take any responsibility for the content of the linked external websites.

FolkWorld - Home of European Music
FolkWorld Home
Layout & Idea of FolkWorld © The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld