Issue 28 04/2004

FolkWorld CD ReviewsDog

Karl Seglem "Nye Nord"
Label: NORCD; 0246; 2002; Playing time: 55.07 min
Isglem "Fire"
Label: NORCD; 0343; 2003; Playing time: 37.02min
Utla "Song"
Label: NORCD; 0351; 2003; Playing time: 50.07 min
Norway, the nordic country at the edge of Europe, has much more to offer than its famous fascinating nature, take for example the strong going traditions, best showcased by the unique hardanger fiddle... A quite different Norwegian world, with traditional music as its basis, and well worth to explore, is presented in the diverse music of saxophonist / ram's horn player Karl Seglem.
Apart from being musician he has his own record label - NORCD. This label specializes in Norwegian folk, world and jazz music. " NORCD produces niche music. Our goal is to present quality music for quality music listeners, and to maintain our reputation as the record company that cares more about the music than the sales."
The three CDs reviewed here all feature Karl himself . Karl Seglems solo CD and Isglem and can be categorized more in the world and jazz music niche, Utla has a lot influences of traditional Norwegian folk music.
Karl Seglem's solo album "Nye Nord" from 2002 features a lot of guest musicians: Three different singers (Odd Nordstoga, Unni Løvlid and Berit Opheim); a number of accordeons, percussion, piano, synth, guitar, programming, bass and hardanger fiddle. Most of the music and two of the songs are composed by Karl himself. It is a very moody nordic music with lot of jazz and world music and hints of traditional music.The numbers are mostly slow and with much atmosphere with a clear nordic identity... In 2004 will be the next solo album of Karl be published - I am looking forward to that.
Isglem are Terje Isungset (drums, percussion, ram's horn and voice) and Karl Seglem (tenor saxophone, ram's horn, electronics and voice). Their album "Fire" is a true duo CD without guests. Isglems music is hard to be pigeonholed - even harder than Karls solo album. Both are highly individual musicians with their own nordic music world. The combination of the most individual percussionists I know (he workswith many different percussive 'instruments' - stones are also favorites of him...) and the the jazz/world/folkmusic saxophonist Karl Seglem is extremely special. You have to have an open musical mind (especially in the direction of very free jazz music and individual soundscapes) to find your way into their music... But if you are into that - Isglem are definitely not to be missed!
Add to those two musicians of Isglem a traditional hardanger fiddle player (Håkon Høgemo) then you have Utla. Utla present a great mixture of traditional nordic music with jazz and world music influences. On their previous albums they represented themselfs as an instrumental trio. On "song" they have as a special guest the great singer Berit Opheim. And as the title of the CD suggests it is really an album full of songs, most of them are traditional.. Utla are an excellent band to give to these traditional songs the right atmosphere somewhere between the past, today and tomorrow. If you like traditional songs from the north - go for the "song" CD from Utla. But also if you are interested in a bit unkonventional presented tradtional music go for it...
The most unconventional of the three revied CDs is surely Isglem's "Fire", Karl Seglem's "Nye Nord" is a very moody nordic jazz-world album with hint of traditional music and Utla's "song" represents more the traditional side, with hints of world and jazz music... But all three are excellent... Looking forward to the next CDs with new musical adventures from the north!
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Christian Moll

GOZE - Gezellig Onderuit Zonder Elektrik
Label: KLOEF MUSIC; LCM100045; 2004; Playing time: 44.41min
I have to say, I love Begian music for some time now. If I remember it right, Ambrozijn were my first introduction to the new Belgian folk music... Today I have the pleasure to review a great album of one of the members of Ambrozijn (Wim Claeys - diatonic accordeon, bagpipes) who has joined up with the fantastic guitarist Maarten Decombel.
The short form of the name of this duo - GOZE - is easy to remember - and it definitely should be. The long version Gezellig Onderuit Zonder Elektrik is more the theme of their music - they (and the listeners as well) have their fun without electric tricks... Their musical world is the heart of Europe, they do traditional tunes from Flanders (of course!), but also from the Auvergne, Brittany, Sweden and Ireland, and they also compose themself. The music on their debut album is very honest - always played just by the two musicians on guitar and diatonic accordion or bagpipes. The arrangements are highly individual and absolute fantastic. If you like accordion and guitar (and from time to time some bagpipe) - you should go for them!
Wim Claeys started with this album his own Record label Kloef Music - after the debut CD of GOZE I am really looking forward to the next album of this new label...
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Christian Moll

Mercedes Peon "Ajrú"
Label: Discmedi; DM 838-02; 2003; Playing time: 43.14min
Mercedes Peon is still a rising star of the modern folk music scene of Galicia in northern Spain. Her debut album "Isué" was voted by the FolkWorld editors as one of the best 3 CDs in 2000. Through that album Mercedes got a lot of very positive attention mostly in the World music scene (although I would call the music of Mercedes folk music from Galicia - but that's a matter of definition...).
An absolute breathtaking part of the music world of Mercedes Peon is her most powerful voice. It is amazing to see and hear in live a "competition" between her voice and the loud "voice" of a Galician bagpipe (gaita) - and Mercedes voice can win against the bagpipe. Stunning stuff...
But there is more than 'just' the exceptional voice of the young lady - Mercedes is a genius composer and arranger of new modern folk music from Galicia. She has developed a unique powerful style which can push the traditional music into today's world.
Mercedes has gathered a good bunch of folk and modern style musicians on Ajru - but a lot the sounds are made by herself including voice, singing and chorus, bagpipe, clarinet, flute, keyboards, loops, tambourine, guitar.
Do not expect too traditional music - it is folk music of today! I love it.
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Christian Moll

Lecker Sachen "Universum d'Amour"
Label: JigIt; JICD1028; 2004; Playing time: 45.04 min
Lecker Sachen (Tasty Things) is one of the few bands from Germany, that is taking its own path of individual modern folk music with many influences. I have watched the developments of the band since their very first public concert. Since then some of of the bandmembers have changed, and their musical direction has changed slightly. But they were all the time highly individual and made their very own music.
It has been a long time since they have released their last album (and that has even been a live album). So a lot of the songs on this CDs are developed and tested during some years in their concerts. If you have seen concerts of Lecker Sachen during the last years, you surely will recognize some of the music of this album.
Today they call their music Poplore. And at times the pop-part in some songs is for me a bit too dominant - for my taste, the singing is at times a bit too soft and harmonic - I would like it a bit rougher at times... But that is personal taste. Their texts are all in German language (if you do not understand the language, you are missing some of the jokes - and philosophic aspects in the songs...)
Lecker Sachen do also some very interesting instrumental sets (some with some voice elements). Their instrumental music is not easy to pigeonhole - there are definitely influences from Irish music - but also trance, pop, classical music, etc.
A fascinating aspect of Lecker Sachen is the addition of a classical string trio (Da Gansta String Trio) - this adds a great dimension to Lecker Sachens individual style. Quite often, the string trio also joins the band at concerts.
Lecker Sachen is one of the most exciting acts of the modern folk music scene of Germany - if you don't know them by now, give them a try.
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Christian Moll

Ammaracciccappa! "...ecciccapparrappa"
Label: own; Playing time: 46.37 min
Ammaracciccappa! - what a name for a band! This name is surely not too easy to remember - at least after some time you definitely are not sure any more if you remember the name right... But nevertheless this band is worth to be remembered.
Ammaracciccappa describe their music as "voices of the desert, urban sound and estatic rhythms of Southern Italy". To quote some more info from their introduction text: "Goal of the band is the creation of an original music through the cross-pollination and contamination of different popular cutlures and musical traditions of the world. Such work of musical fusion rather than being carried on by manipulation of the traditional performance models purely aimed at making their "consumption" easier for modern ears, is achieved through a work of integration of the different musical traditions and sources that preserving their authenticity unearths their linguistic and expressive points of contact."
The combination of a lot of very differnt traditions as well as music forms of this Italian band works well. It is an individual sound from southern Italy, the arabic world and other neighbouring regions, shaping a part of today's urban music. Although the music has different cultural backgrounds and different musical inflences, the sound is not a boring or flat combination where none of the ingrediants can be heard, but a highly exciting soundscape with lots of interesting tastes. All influences in their own right have been given enough space to create their individual atmosphere. Well done lads!!!
The album reviewed was a promotional copy of their own production. I hope this album will be published as a regular CD soon, so that it can get the worldwide attention that it deservers.
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Christian Moll

Tarujen Saari "Levoton Hauta"
Label: Silence; SLC007; 2002; Playing time: 42.07 min
Finland presents some of the most individual musical adventures of the world of folk music.
Tarujen Saari is a female singer with powerful voice - she alway sings in her native language, which sounds for my ears always a bit archaic. The band featured on this album has a powerful and a bit pathetic way of presenting the songs.
The origins of the songs are not only in Finland. Tarujen likes also to interpret some of her favorites of other countries. Those songs are translated into the Finnish language, but you will still easily be able to hear the source of the songs through their interpretation: The songs that are not coming from Finland are: "Ballo in fa diesis minore" from Italy, "Twa Coorbiers" from Scotland, "The Unquiet grave" from England and "L'ecolier assassin".
Although the songs from the other origins are nice (but she has not really made them her own), I think Tarujen is best in songs from Finland.
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Christian Moll

Egin "il colore delle idee"
Label: own; 2003; Playing time: 59.07 min
Hey - this is a kind of folk influenced rock music, or rock music influenced folk music, or rootsrock, or how you would call it - it is definitely my kind of music. It is loud, it has its edges, it has something to say, it has lots of influences from traditional music, it is rough and it has intelligent lyrics.
Egin are hailing from Turin in northern Italy. The musical mastermind of the band is their singer Fabrizion Bobbio, who also writes most of the lyrics of the band and a lot of their music. Then there are Walter Ogero (Keyboard), Umberto Forno (bass), Antonio Mammone (accordion), Alessandro Gazza (guitar), Alessandro Ricardi (drums), Andrea Bertola (violin), Massimo Milan (tromba), Francesca Rissoti (voice on one track), Alessandro Piasco (piano), Piermario Piacenza (clarinet), Alessandro Mastellaro (e guitar) and Roberto Vendrame (piano).
The language of the songs is Italian - but there are some bits in other languages (including English and French). It is nice that translations are always provided (both back into Italian, where the songs are in a different language, and into English).
I am looking forward to their next CD - and meanwhile hoping to see them at some point coming for some concerts over here.
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Christian Moll

The Transports Silver Edition
Label: Free Reed Records FRDCD 2122; (2 x CD DeLuxe Box Set)
No one can doubt the sincerity of Nick Wayne's enthusiasm for the Transports. He commissioned the original project from Peter Bellamy when others refused, and at the start of the CD era he licensed it to Topic so that it could remain available to a new generation of listeners. Topic, however, declined to include all the details that had been in the original album sleeve about the story behind the project and the recording, and instead gave the CD a plain four page cover. Twenty-five years on from that deal, the rights have now reverted back to Free Reed, and Nick Wayne decides to give the recording, by now established in the folk pantheon, the full box set treatment. There's plenty of archive written and pictorial material, no problem there, but what of the music? Several of the original cast, including Peter Bellamy himself, are no longer alive, and though there are extant live recordings available they were all done a long time ago when live recording wasn't what it can be now and of course would in any case merely duplicate what is on the original CD. Therein lies the rub of this project - the original album, with Martin Carthy, Norma Waterson, Bert Lloyd, June Tabor et al is an established classic, and a deluxe booklet would be no problem, but where will the extra music come from?
Nick Wayne's solution to this was to re-record a contemporary version of the Transports using musicians and singers based either around Fairport Convention or a collective working from the area around Keighley, the town in which Peter Bellamy spent his last years. Sadly and unsurprisingly, this CD isn't a patch on the original, and whether you'd therefore want to lay out £30 of your hard-earned for a deluxe package of the original CD alongside an inferior copy is a moot point. It is a wonderful package, with a 132 page book containing the libretto, reviews of the original issue, notes on the recordings, personal memories of some of the performers, a potted history of transportation, all the song lyrics plus tons of photographs. Nigel Schofield and Neil Wayne have done their usual fantastic job of collating and presenting source material in a fascinating and coherent package. Shame, then, about the second CD, but here is the original in a setting which truly befits its classic status.
Colin Jones

Lunasa "The Kinnitty Sessions"
Label: Compass Records (No serial number)
Here, recorded 'live' in the supposedly haunted Kinnitty Castle in Co. Offaly, Eire, is the latest, but surely not the last, of Irish bands to be awarded 'folk supergroup' status, with comparisons to the Bothy Band being the order of the day. True, the line up (flute, fiddle, pipes, guitar, double bass) has echoes of the Bothies, but the comparisons miss two vital things - firstly the quality of the musicians (Sean Smyth or Tommy Peoples; Cillian Vallely or Paddy Keenan; Michael O'Domhnaill or Donogh Henessy; Matt Molloy or Kevin Crawford), but more importantly, the context of what they are doing. When the Bothy Band landed in 1975 no-one had seen their like before - UK pub sessions were as rare as hen's teeth, and the quality of the band's playing was as astonishing as it was unprecedented. Thirty years later, sessions are commonplace and the standard of most so high that any muso not of gigging standard would find it hard to keep up. Against this background, Lunasa are a good band - solid if somewhat uninspired, melodic if occasionally plodding, and full of the kind of playing you would expect from a virtuoso combine, albeit tinged with the lack of edge playing the material night after night, year after year brings. Much is made on the sleeve notes and the press release accompanying this album of the lack of studio trickery, but truth be told there is no trickery required to play this kind of music well. Lunasa are ploughing a well-used furrow, and to my ears are ploughing it no deeper than many who have been there before. They are the ones doing it now, though, so if you want to see or hear the current 'state of the art' in Irish traditional music, pop along to a Lunasa gig or pick up this CD: but if it were a choice between buying this or 'Out Of The Wind, Into the Sun' by the Bothy Band, for me the Bothies would still win thirty years on. As they say, "You pays your money,……"
Colin Jones

Pete Lashley "Gravel"
Label: own; 2003
Pete is a singer/songwriter from Milnthorpe in North West England. This is his first album, and if I am any judge, will not be his last.
Apart from a curiously chosen instrumental version of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" two thirds of the way through, Pete sings all self-penned songs. Two other musicians help provide quite a full sound. The songs are all melodically DIFFERENT from one another (if not alas melodically catchy!) and he attacks them with real brio, accompanying himself on guitar. I am not sure of his skills as a lyricist, as some words I could not catch.
He has a voice made for pop music (rather than folk): I say this because he seems to style his diction and vocal delivery on David Gray. I refuse to believe he sings as he speaks: don't tell me that folk in Milnthorpe pronounce "lot" and "got" the American way!
But you might counter with "why should he sing as he speaks?" Well… why indeed? There is no rule that says he must. But it occurs to me that this is as good a way of distinguishing pop/M.O.R performers from folk ones. Pop people sing in mid-Atlantic accented English; folkies are more likely to sing as they speak.
But all that said, with stronger songs, Pete Lashley could make an impact well outside his neck of the woods. But these songs don't quite have the "grab you" factor.
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Dai Woosnam

Sean Keane "Valley of the Heart"
Label: own; CR003CD; 2003; Playing time: 50 mins, 38 secs
Sean Keane is a singer with a massive reputation. And one can see why. He has a mesmerising voice which, allied with his spectacularly unadulterated Galway accent, just proceeds to first charm, and then hypnotise the listener.
And it is no coincidence that a colleague of mine (in a print magazine for which I write) recently suggested that this album is best played at night. Why? Well, although he did not say it, the clear inference is that this guy could lull you to sleep. And that in turn brings connotations with it of a lack of any aural and cerebral stimulation from the record.
No, the record is better than that. It is emphatically NOT one to be consigned to the wee small hours. It should be played morning, noon and evening. A fine group of session musicians (headed by producer Arty McGlynn) and that spectacular voice deserve nothing less.
But is this album an artistic success? Here I am much less emphatic. A lot of my indecision has to do with Keane's choice of material: and some has to do with the very nature of the way Sean uses his magnificent instrument.
The album is essentially one of contemporary songs. Some from the pen of stellar writers like Guy Clarke and Tim O'Brien. I applaud this. It is great to see a singer not become obsessed with writing his own material, and instead look for better stuff elsewhere.
The problem is that he does not seem to have looked too hard. There are songs here that frankly don't "cut the mustard", including one which is a most obvious attempt to ride on the back of Michael Smith's celebrated "The Dutchman", but contains none of that song's wit, lyricism or melodic appeal. How I would have loved to have heard him sing Smith's original (made famous of course by the late great Steve Goodman).
For the last track, Sean leaves the contemporary for a raid on the Tradition, in which he is joined by Maighréad Ni Dhomhnaill. They deliver alternate verses of "Bruach Na Carraige Báine": her in Gaelic, him in English. Wonderfully atmospheric. It was perhaps no coincidence that I liked this cut the best.
But before I close this "one thumb up" rather than TWO thumbs up review, let me return to the other slight caveat I expressed a minute or two ago: viz. the way SK uses his wonderful voice.
Do you know something? The singer he reminds me of more than anyone is, not a man at all, but a woman. A woman with a delightfully feminine voice: Kate Rusby. How come? After all, Sean's voice is decidedly masculine, is it not?
Yes, of course it is. But why the two seem like twins is the fact that they sacrifice EVERYTHING on the altar of tone and texture. They make all songs sound the same. I have said elsewhere that were Kate to sing an angry rap anthem, followed by a "broken token" traditional ballad, followed by a comic ditty, followed by a lullaby… well, they would all sound very much the same. And alas Sean has the same affliction: let's call it Rusbyitis!
But that said, both stars continue to sell CDs in shed-loads, and pack them in at their concerts. So they must be doing something right!
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Dai Woosnam

Rachel "Both Sides"
Label: Sain Records SCD2419: 2002
Rachel (she follows the current trend of abandoning her surname for professional purposes) is a young Welsh harpist and singer. Born in Pembrokeshire, she now lives in Cornwall. And until this CD arrived, she was an entirely new name to me.
But what a welcome arrival she has made. A strikingly good voice and a nice assured self-accompaniment on her 36 string Welsh folk harp. And a nicely eclectic mix of material.
Perhaps the nicest aspect of this CD was the fact that it is a clear attempt to bridge the linguistic divide: both Welsh and English languages have equal status on the album. Indeed, the front cover shows the title in Welsh: "O'r Ddwy Ochr".
So this mix of traditional and modern ballads really IS "both sides". Stand out track was that famous folk song "Bugeilio'r Gwenith Gwyn" that us Welsh all learnt as kids in junior school. Compelling accompaniment with pipes and bodhran augmenting her harp. And even here she goes the extra mile and sings an English translation at the end.
This album gives off good vibes: it is about being linguistically INCLUSIVE, rather than excluding people who way be the wrong side of the linguistic divide. I wish it well.
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Dai Woosnam

Catherine Craig & Brian Willoughby "I Will"
Label: Goldrush; GOLDCD009; 2002; Playing time: 52 mins, 40 secs
Brian Willoughby is a name well-known to me from his years with The Strawbs. Cathryn Craig however was new on my radar. And having read her CV, I confess to feeling a bit of a dunce. If you just look at the list of illustrious names she has recorded with (mainly as a Nashville session singer)! A list to die for!
And you can see why: she is a most assured vocalist. How can I describe - for those who have not heard her - the texture of her sound? Not easy. Best to say that hers is not one of those ethereal voices: more a hard-edged Nanci Griffith type voice, bordering occasionally on the Patsy Cline.
This album is their second collaboration, although their first with joint billing. It contains a mixture of songs they have co-written themselves, plus some contemporary numbers like "That Ol' Guitar" … a song with the DNA of the late Shel Silverstein all over it.
The subject areas run the gamut. It was nice to see a song of theirs "Mr. Jefferson" which attempts to throw a different light on the almost-beatified former US President. And a song impishly titled "Rod Stewart", which turned out to have nothing to do with the famous rocker.
Willoughby is listed as playing an impressive collection of guitars. Now sometimes this can be misleading, but not in his case. Willoughby really IS the virtuoso the collection suggests. Ms. Craig by comparison is a more your everyday "competent accompanist", and she thus contains herself to her Takamine "Santa Fe".
And they turn out a pleasant album. However, there was a certain feeling of "if only" about it: if only they had gone for really ace songs, this album would have gone beyond "pleasant" to the foothills of the "very fine".
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Dai Woosnam

de Fries & D.Beck "Balance"
Label: own; 2003; Playing time: 53 mins, 01 secs
I cannot play the fiddle. In that, I am not so rare. Most people cannot… unless that is they have grown up in somewhere like the Shetlands where it is compulsory to learn it at school.
So I like fiddle music... but in SMALL DOSES. Give me Jay Ungar playing "Ashokan Farewell", and my eyes can fill with tears like the best of you. But an album of pure fiddle instrumentals? Surely not for me?
Well, I have to tell you something: this album came as a big surprise to me. I have played it more than my regulation three times all the way through: I fancy it could become a regular fixture in my household.
Tove de Fries is the fiddler offspring of a legendary Danish fiddle player. Here we are brought a selection of largely Danish dance music. What makes it noteworthy, is not just the exceptional playing, but also the fact that the fiddle has piano accompaniment. This apparently was once common in Denmark, but the pairing of these two instruments nowadays makes it almost of curiosity value!
And what a piano accompaniment! Malene D. Beck acts like a supreme accompanist here, in that she always supports the rhythm and tempo, but never seeks the spotlight. She always ensures she gives her partner the necessary room to "do her thing".
And the overall effect is quite charming. I holidayed in Aarhus, Denmark's second city last month. HOW I could have done with a transfusion of such VITAL music when I entered the bars there in the Latin Quarter! Alas there was "nothing doing" when it came to folk music on the nights I was there.
But at least now I have this charming record with which to remember Denmark.
Artiste address: Gilbjerggade 1, 4. tv; DK - 2200 Kbh. N; Homepage of the artist:
Dai Woosnam

Chris Jones "Roadhouses & Automobiles"
Label: Stockfisch Records; SFR 357.6027.2; 2003; Playing time: 51 mins, 41 secs
Chris Jones is not a new name to me. Although he is not really a "known name" on the UK folk circuit, I have noted his work before (accompanying such artistes as Paul Stephenson). He is an American who hails from Nevada, and has been based in Germany since 1976. He regularly works with the top names of British folk when they are touring continental Europe.
And as this is the first album of his that I have encountered, I therefore played it with some pleasurable anticipation. And were my hopes justified?
On balance, I think yes. The musicianship was of considerable merit, and the guy has the authentic American voice of the Ramblin' Jack/Derroll Adams kind. The songs are his own compositions, and subject matter runs the gamut.
He surrounds himself with tasty session players. Thomas Klippel's Hammond b3 organ and the wonderfully imaginative electric bass of Grischka Zepf really stand out. But no musician quite overshadows Jones himself: I particularly liked his dobro playing.
The two strongest cuts come at the end. Track 11, has this immortal couplet:
"It's NO to contraception and a woman can't abort/
But when a priest molests an altar boy we settle out of court".
That very couplet tells me the man is no slouch at the craft of lyric-writing.
And the final track gets right into the shoes of a man who realises that his former lover has, instead of love, pure ice in her heart. And Jones's dobro and Klippel's Hammond b3 really serve to highlight the sense of shocking reality.
A good end to an interesting album. One hopes that perhaps his next album will provide a more even distribution of similarly strong songs.
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Dai Woosnam

Various artistes: "canu'r pridd"
Label: Sain Records; SCD2358; 2003; Playing time: 45 mins.38 secs
This album bears the secondary title of "Authentic traditional songs and music from Wales". And let me tell you folks, it is the real thing alright. I8 tracks all in the Welsh language from a number of the leading names on the scene.
From start to finish the album really delivers. Some tracks of course stood out for this listener, and one perhaps grated a bit. That is not a bad ratio, by anyone's book.
The real delight for me were the contributions by Triawd Foeldrehaearn and by Cogia Llanfihangel. (Ha! It must be something to do with my ancestors being also from Montgomeryshire!) Both made me feel a real sense of hiraeth, here in far-off North-East Lincolnshire.
The former named trio's close harmony singing is worthy of a much bigger audience outside the Cymraeg diaspora: they do a fine job in keeping the "Plygain" tradition alive.
And that same tradition is also championed by Cogia Llanfihangel. And it is their version of a favourite traditional carol "Daeth Nadolig fel arferol" that is the standout track . They take it by a short head from a cut from the imaginative pairing of Julie Murphy and Breton singer Brigitte Kloareg and their committed version of "Tra bo dau".
The album is dedicated to the late Elfed Lewys, a man who did so much to keep the singing tradition alive in his native Wales. It is a fitting tribute.
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Dai Woosnam

More English CD Reviews: 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. 28

© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 04/2004

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