Issue 26 10/2003

FolkWorld CD ReviewsDog

Kíla "Handels Fantasy"
Label: Kíla; KRCD 003; 1992; Playing time: 40.37 min
Kíla "Mind the Gap"
Label: Kíla; KRCD 004; 1995; Playing time: 57.02 min
Kíla "Tóg É Go Bog É"
Label: Kíla; KRCD 005; 1997; Playing time: 71.06 min
Kíla "Lemonade & Buns"
Label: Kíla; KRCD 006; 2000; Playing time: 56.45 min
Kíla "Monkey!"
Label: Kíla; KRCD 008; 2001; Playing time: 38.04 min
Kíla "Luna Park"
Label: Kíla; KRCD 009; 2003; Playing time: 65.00 min
Kíla "Glanfaidh Mé"
Label: Kíla; KRCDS004; 2003; Playing time: 14.01 min
The all-Irish language school Colaiste Eoin in Stillorgan, Co. Dublin, was formed in the 1970s. As well as Gaelic, music is an important part of the education. Among its pupils were Davy Spillane, Liam O Maonlai and Fiachna O Braonain of the Hothouse Flowers, and members of the group Deiseal (see below). And then there was Kíla (-> FW#4,FW#19), one of the most unusual bands from Ireland. The band was formed in 1987, when its members were about 16 years of age and were attending the school: Rónán Ó Snodaigh (vocals, slide bodhran using a hollow tube such sounding like a talking drum), Rossa Ó Snodaigh (mandolin, low whistle), Colm Ó Snodaigh (flute, saxophon), plus Eoin Dillon (pipes), Dee Armstrong (fiddle), Brian (bass) and Lance Hogan (guitar). Every class was encouraged to have its own traditional band and there was great enthusiasm for Irish music. We were as likely to be listening to the Sex Pistols as Horslips, The Chieftains and even Mushroom, says Colm. Rossa adds: When we started out we used to play a lot of Bothy Band tunes, and The Lark by Moving Hearts. However, Rónán started to insist we write out own tunes, threatening he would play bodhran only to our own music.
The result is a mix of traditional idioms with world ethnic models, tribal rhythms and African-like Gaelic chants. Hailed (or feared) by others as trash trad, acid ceili, the Irish version of a `rave' band, but that's more words than make any sense. Rossa simply says: We don't see ourselves as a traditional group. We simply play new Irish music. We're much more into experimentalism than the drier traditional approach. And also opposed to: The money nowadays is in Celtic Mist schlock, the most awful rubbish. Kinda like The Boyzonation of the music, production-line Trad. Their new album "Luna Park" (named after a fun park in Los Angeles where they once performed) and the accompanying limited edition E.P. (with a radio edit of the main track plus three tunes taken from recent soundtracks) continue the series of almost cinemascopic tunes; cinemascopic but alway determined to suit the dancers.
Though I can understand that not everyone will appreciate Kíla, it's not only worth a try, but the lads (and the one lady) formed one of the few Irish bands - in Scotland for example is much more experimentation with contemporary styles - that created a sort of original Irish world music. The Celtic Connection festival of 1999 puts it in an amusing form: LEGALIZE Kíla! Join our campaign to legitimise Kíla as Ireland's most abORIGINAL, tribal, world beat dance band!
(P.S.: See also the review of Rónáns solo effort "Tip Toe".)
Walkin' T:-)M

Hom Bru "No Afore Time"
Label: Own label; HB 105CD; 2003; Playing time: 58.28 min
The Shetland Islands are remote but its musical scene is thriving (e.g. (Aly Bain -> FW#3,FW#23,FW#23,FW#24; Catriona MacDonald -> FW#13; Fiddler's Bid -> FW#8,FW#18,FW#21"). There was the ancient Scandinavian influence. Three hundred years ago the fiddle was introduced to the Isles (by Hanseatic traders I'm told), before Scotish music had a major impact: Although the Scottish be the prevailing music of the country, the native musicians insensibly impart to it a character of their own, the smoothness and simplicity of which they seem to have derived from their Scandinavian ancestors, and which no intercourse with other countries has yet been able altogether to efface. (1809) One of the best-known Shetland folk bands today is veteran band Hom Bru (-> FW#19) who are celebrating 25 years on the go. The line-up is mandolin, banjo, fiddle and guitar. The tunes are from the west of Ireland up to the Scottish mainland and American old-time inbetween (and no particular Shetland tune). It can be quite interesting when the composers are Francisco Tarrega and Chet Atkins. The occasional song rather refers to the locality. The jolly "Trowie Song": Trows are the Shetland version of Norwegian Trolls, but are smaller and nimbler and often seen late at night on the way home from parties. And that's what it is, four fun-loving fellas enjoy themselves and have a merry ceilidh.
Home Bru
Walkin' T:-)M

Robin Laing "The Water of Life"
Label: Greentrax; CDTRAX246; 2003; Playing time: 53.14 min
Robin Laing is a whisky fanatic, and a folk singer too. That's a fine combination because in the Scottish tradition, old and new songs alike, there is enough to say about the Water of Life. Robin Laing has been collecting songs and poems for years, and produced a book and an album already (-> FW#5,FW#24). Whereas Part 1, "The Angel's Share," was smooth and mellow with its almost exclusively nylon strung guitar playing, the follow up is much more robust and full-bodied. Robin adds the odd keyboard and bass and drum here and there (Charlie McKerron of Capercaillie (-> FW#3,FW#8,FW#12,FW#16,FW#24), Brian McAlpine (-> FW#13). He selected 14 songs: there's Brian McNeill's "Best o' the Barley" (-> FW#23), Robert Louis Stevenson's "Shining Clear" (-> FW#18,FW#18), Jim Malcolm's "Lochanside" (-> FW#15), and Robin's own words to Neil Gow's "Farewell to Whisky", but most of it belongs to rather unexplored territory (like finding a long forgotten malt in the remotest corner of the house). You can choose if you'll be happy a' thegither owre a wee drappie o't or whisky is a devil jaud that burns the brains o' man. The album is dedicated to the makers of whisky and to the makers of song, the distillers and the songwriters, the alchemists and the poets. Without them Scotland would be a poorer place! It can be equally enjoyed with or without a dram of 'the water of life' - we recommend 'with'! So let's have a wee dram: The closing chords evoke the sun going down at the end of a perfect day - the fire is lit, a trout is sizzling in the pan and the cork is out of the bottle. Slainte mhath!
Greentrax Recordings
Walkin' T:-)M

Dervish "Spirit"
Label: Whirling Discs; WHRL007; 2003; Playing time: 72.32 min
Dervish (-> FW#3,FW#3,FW#19,FW#19) embodies the spirit of traditional Irish music as almost no one else: both authenticity and innovation, seriousness and enjoyment, a coherent team and individual expression at the same time. Again fiddle (Tom Morrow), flute (Liam Kelly) and accordion (Shane Mitchell), mandola (Brian McDonagh), bouzouki (Michael Holmes) and guitar (Seamus O'Dowd) create a firework. Or is it the secret of success that they play a semitone up from standard to create a special oomph? The tunes, many rooted in the Northwest, are both as old as piper "Patsy Touhey's," reputedly the first man to record Irish Traditional music, way back in the ages before mini-discs and cds, and as pristine as Tom Morrow's "Siesta Reel" inspired by a close encounter between a Seat and a Fiesta during the recording of the album. Twelve years on the road doesn't mean a view back, but taking another step forward. There's new elements when vocalist Cathy Jordan is rendering three dance tunes with words, associated with Peadar O'Ceannabhain and treated like a set of tunes with backing, key changes and all. Bobby Dylan's "Boots of Spanish Leather" fits perfectly into the Dervish style. Dylan was very influenced by balladeers and the Irish song tradition back in the 60s, and he was known to borrow the odd tune and this was written at a time when he was influenced by Irish music. Seamus O'Dowd sings Ewan McColl's "Lag's Song". A recent composition by Brendan Graham, "The Fair Haired Boy," is arranged with a string quartet. Furthermore there's a bass player and a qanoun, which is an Arabic harp.
Whirling Discs/Dervish
Walkin' T:-)M

Niall Ó Callanáin + Band "Live"
Label: Phoenix; PPCD 102; 2003; Playing time: 52.55 min
Irish Bouzouki player Niall Ó Callanáin made his musical fame with jazz-trad group Deiseal (featuring flutist Cormac Breatnach -> FW#20). After the band disbanded, Niall toured with Máire Breatnach (-> FW#25) and guested on albums like Mick Conneely's (-> FW#21). Besides Niall's Oakwood bouzouki, his partners are flute and whistle player Kevin Shields, guitarist Jimmy Faulkner (known from Christy Moore and Máirtín O'Connor), bass player Mertin Curry, and Angolan percussionst Mario Ngoma. All tunes have been written by the man himself, partly taken from his recent studio album "Strings & Things," others are brand new. But it isn't hot, I mean, Niall takes you out of the pub into the cafe. It's traditional but it sounds like jazz and swing music. It's hiberno jazz and it's cool.
Niall Ó Callanáin
Walkin' T:-)M

Ennis Ceílí Band "Traditional Dance Music from County Clare"
Label: Rath Records; RRCD002; 2003; Playing time: 35.02 min
A ceílí (lit. friendly visit, social evening) nowadays is a gathering for music and dance, invented in 1897 by the Gaelic League. The ceílí dances were derived from group set dances and French quadrilles, but were set to Irish music. When the Dance Hall Act of 1936 officially blacklisted crossroads and home dancing (Junior Crehan penned the "Lament for the Country House Dance" -> FW#21), it forced the dancers into parish halls and it paved the way for the first group arrangement in Irish music. Such ceílí bands, without any amplification, had to be loud and rhythmical to suit the dancers. The line-up typically consists of some fiddles and flutes, accordion, piano and drums. Sometimes a double bass and even trombones and saxophones were added. Tormented Seán Ó Riada damned the sound of the ceílí bands: The most important principles of traditional music - the whole idea of variation, the whole idea of the personal utterance - are abandoned. Instead everyone takes hold of a tune and belts away at it with as much relation to music as the buzzing of a bluebottle in an upturned jam jar.
But it's not all gloom and doom. Take a look at Ennis in County Clare in the west of Ireland. This small 17th century plantation town can boast of singer Maura O'Connell, accordionist Tony MacMahon, and banjo player Kieran Hanrahan (Stockton's Wing). The Ennis Trad Festival and the Fleádh Nua attract thousands of music loving visitors every year (and they discuss a monument to Muhammed Ali whose ancestor, one Abe Grady, hails from Ennis, no joke). The Ennis Ceílí Band is an outfit of recent origin, formed as a junior band in 1992. Its members have grown up with the band, without changing that much personnel. So the music got the chance to grow as well. You can hear that. In 2001 and 2002 the ECB won the All-Ireland title for best ceílí band and follow the famous Clare bands from Tulla and Kilfenora. "Traditional Dance Music from County Clare" features selections from the previous 11 years, opening with a number from Fleádh Cheoil 2002. But I better shut up and reach out for my dancing shoes, let's ceílí!
Ennis Ceílí Band
Walkin' T:-)M

Garmarna "Garmarna"
Label: Westpark; 87096; 1993/2003; Playing time: 38.15 min
The Swedish band Garmarna (-> FW#10,FW#16,FW#19,FW#19,FW#22) started out in 1990 as a trio: Stefan Brisland-Ferner (violin, hurdy-gurdy), Gotte Ringqvist (luteguitar, violin), and Rickard Westman (bouzouki, guitar). Jens Höglin soon joined as percussionist and in 1993 they got the chance to record seven titles for an EP, featuring vocalist Emma Härdelin. These songs are still on the live agenda. This re-released disc features those seven songs plus six demo-tracks recorded before the appearance of Jens and Emma. "Månpolkan" never made it on an album anyway. This is what we sounded like in our most original form. This album differs from what we are today. But it is very much Garmarna. Indeed. It is much more acoustic, before the band went metal and added electric guitar and contemporary grooves. This was long overdue.
Westpark Music
Walkin' T:-)M

Pete Seeger & Friends "Seeds: The Songs of Pete Seeger"
Label: Appleseed; APR CD 1072; 2003; Playing time: 116.04 min
At age 80-something, Pete Seeger is both the living legend of American folk music and the musical voice of the world's conscience. While cultures still collide, while inequality still flourishes, while the earth air and waterways fill with pollution, the iconic songwriter, musician and political activist just can't keep from singing out in protest. From the 1940's Almanac Singers with Woody Guthrie (-> FW#20), The Weavers, the Sing Out! magazine, to the 1960's folk boom. Many of his adaptions and original songs have become anthems and standards. The double CD "Seeds" is the final set of the Pete Seeger trilogy (-> FW#20,FW#21) celebrating Seeger's music and its globally warming effects. That's 85 songs now with almost 450 musicians. But volume 3 is special. While Disc 2 contains new recordings of Pete Seeger material by Pat Humphries, John McCutcheon (-> FW#24), Janis Ian, Tony Trischka, Dick Gaughan (-> FW#9,FW#23,FW#25), Tom Paxton (-> FW#20,FW#24), Natalie Merchant and many more, Disc 1 includes Pete's first own recordings since 1996. Both solo and featuring family and friends like Billy Bragg (-> FW#13,FW#23"), Ani Difranco (-> FW#9,FW#11), Steve Earle (-> FW#23), and Anne Hills (-> FW#20).
Songs that span a time frame of almost 60 years. We have Pete collaborating in writing songs with such diverse people as the person who wrote the songs in "The Wizard of Oz" to the person who wrote the book "The Joy of Sex". "Bring Them Home", originally written as anti-Vietnam song, applies now to the invasion of Iraq (Pete also joined Stephan Smith in another anti-war song, see review above). Pete decries blind jingoistic patriotism while at the same time rejoicing in America's freedom of speech and thought. Mind you, Pete was blacklisted during the 1950's McCarthy era, and isn't there a widespread feeling that McCarthyism and censorship is returning. Pete sings a version of Victor Jara's "Estadio Chile". It was another September 11th, that of 1973, when Pinochet carried out his coup d'etat - by courtesy of the US. Throughout are spoken comments that emphasize Pete's philosophy of life: everyone can make a difference in the world and has the right and the duty to do so. And producer Jim Musselman hopes that Pete's songs will continue to be sung around the world but that some of the anti-war songs will become obsolete and never need to be sung again. The day when "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" becomes less relevant will be a great day for humankind.
Appleseed Recordings
Walkin' T:-)M

V/A "Spain In My Heart: Songs of the Spanish Civil War"
Label: Appleseed; APR CD 1074; 2003; Playing time: 61.56 min
Appleseed Recordings is dedicated to sowing the seeds of social justice through music, and here's another apple just fallen from the tree: The Spanish Civil War 1936-39 drew 45,000 volunteers from all around the globe to join the five International Brigades and to defend the democratic Spanish Republic against General Franco and his allies Hitler and Mussolini: A bunch of brave soldiers but whacky, screwing Franco, Il Duce's lackey. The struggle against fascism that failed created a sPAIN in many a heart, songs were written during the war, revived by the 1950's folk boom, penned only recently. Featured are 17 new recordings by artists as diverse as the volunteer brigades and the Spanish Republican army they came to assist. The USA is represented by Pete Seeger (see above) and Arlo Guthrie (originally a parodic lyric to "Red River Valley" adapted by Arlo's father Woody and Pete that became a commemorative anthem), John McCutcheon (-> FW#24), Quetzal, Laurie Lewis (the "Peat Bog Soldiers," written in a German concentration camp -> FW#25,FW#25); Mexico and Nicaragua by Michele Greene, Joel and Jamaica Rafael, Lila Downs (-> FW#24), Guardabarranco (a poem by renowned Federico Garcia Lorca); Ireland by Shay Black (Christy Moore's "Viva La Quinte Brigada," also covered by Carlos Nunez -> FW#11), Aoife Clancy (the "Bantry Girl" longing for her love who went off to fight in the Peninsular War 1807-14); Spain itself by Eliseo Parra (a song by Miguel Hernandez who died at 31 from tuberculosis he contracted in Franco's prison, already brought to American audiences by Joan Baez) and Uxia (-> FW#21). And there's a message as well: As we see in the news every day, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Let us learn that flaunting of international law and agression by great military powers against more defenseless adversaries is not a divine right but a curse to be exorcised. Volunteer Milt Wolff: The songs will not leave one lingering in nostalgia, they will inspire one as well - to continue the Good Fight.
Appleseed Recordings
Walkin' T:-)M

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

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