Issue 28 04/2004

FolkWorld CD ReviewsDog

Paxton/Hills/Gibson "Best of Friends"
Label: Appleseed Recordings; CD 1077; 2004; Playing time: 53mins.18 secs
For very nearly 20 years I have carried around with me an amateur recording of this trio in concert. I have all but worn it out. What a delight therefore to be presented for review with this much better recording!
In 1984, folk superstar Tom Paxton, teamed up with the then relatively unknown Anne Hills, and the by then almost shamefully neglected Bob Gibson, to form a trio. As they were the best of friends, they had no problem when it came to finding a name. Alas, they only lasted some 18 months, and they were never to go into the recording studio: but some of us were blessed to see them on their tours of the US, Canada and the UK. They were a trio that has never been bettered, and perhaps never even been equalled. A truly mellifluous blend of voices and musicianship.
This CD is the result of the taping of a gig in February 1985 at Holsteins, a Chicago club. The recording was subsequently broadcast on WFMT-FM. And thus it is that we miraculously find it seeing the light of day as a 2004 CD, which thus serves as the only official aural documentation of this lamentably gone-far-too-soon grouping.
What did they have exactly? Well, whatever it was, it was GREATER than the "sum of the individual parts"… and heaven knows, they were great enough in themselves.
I don't think I need say anything about Paxton: if you don't know just what he brings to the microphone and the songbook, then perhaps you alighted at the wrong website! A true giant, with the warmest of baritone voices and great skill with harmonies.
Anne Hills brings the kind of purity of vocal tone to the proceedings that would make even spring mountain water seem polluted. And to boot, whilst not a well-known writer, shows she is no slouch at the art, with "While You Sleep", a fine song that I have heard in my head at least monthly for some 20 years now.
But then there is the late Bob Gibson. Now here is the guy that really made them tick. A reason why perhaps they never got back together again, was that he fell very sick with the same rare progressive nerve disease that killed actor Dudley Moore (supranuclear palsy) and was himself to die in 1996. But heck, while he was around, he didn't half pull his weight in this group!
Although he was a noted exponent of the 12-string guitar, it is his plaintive banjo that delights here…added to his gentle tenor voice that neatly complements Paxton's more earthy baritone. The tracks are all of a high standard - no dud tracks here folks to be used as Polyfilla - but that said, some really jump out at you. None more so than Bob's own co-written "Let The Band Play Dixie" which is a candidate for my favourite song of all time. Oh those words! And those rhymes! And what a chorus!
And if you thought that the chewing gum had lost its flavour with "Rambling Boy", try that old favourite again here. They almost turn the chorus into a version of singing "rounds": very inventive. And there's the late Shel Silverstein's opening song - "Sing for the Song" - which they deliver with real brio: a song that should be the philosophy of every true folkie.
And mentioning that much-threatened species: every true folkie should get out and buy this album. It is April as I write, and I can safely say that you will not find its equal in the rest of the year.
Contact to label:
Dai Woosnam

Battlefield Band "Out for the Night"
Label: Temple Records; COMD2094; 2004; Playing time: 69 mins, 18 secs
I have forgotten just how many years it has been since I first saw this great band in live performance. One thing for sure is that I must have been a much younger man (at least 25 years younger), for this amazingly is the twentieth album that the Battlefield Band have issued under the umbrella of Temple Records.
So, let us immediately "cut to the chase". Does the album deliver the goods? Or are there cracks forming in their glorious edifice?
Well, to successfully answer that question, it depends from where you arrive at it. For instance, if you are a huge Battlefield Band fan (and heaven knows, there is a plethora of them about!) you will know their superb live act, and also their formula in the recording studio. And you emphatically won't be disappointed here.
But there are people (myself included) who think that the band have seldom done themselves justice in the recording studio: we see them as a "Live Performance" band, par excellence. Not for nothing were they voted the "Best Live Act" in the initial 2003 annual Scots Trad awards.
This CD almost is proof positive of my theory. There are three bonus LIVE tracks, and these create a frisson that those laid down in the recording studio do not. They crackle with energy.
The CD liner notes are handsomely produced, and should be acknowledged as such. But one caveat: with their promo material, could they please use language more carefully? How anyone can describe "Belfast to Boston" as a "great song", almost defies belief. It is not even a PASSABLE one.
But there are good songs here. Not least "The King's Shilling". I was pleased to be reminded in the liner notes that this is NOT a traditional song, but was written by Ian Sinclair from Thurso. It is a stirring number, well delivered.
More of the same please, boys.
Homepage of the artist:, contact to label:
Dai Woosnam

Hedningarna "1989-2003"
Label: Westpark; 87100; 2003
In my top five of best cd's ever, Hedningarna's cd Tra would definitely be in it. Seldom I felt so overwhelmed by music as the first time I heard that cd and still, many years later I have to hear it at least once a month. Each time again I get totally caught by the rough and hypnotising atmosphere this cd has. It's not only the quality of the music that attracts me to Hedningarna, it's also the fact that the group tries new paths and styles so that each of their cd gets a unique and intriguing sound. 1989-2003 gives a nice overview over the band's career from their first acoustic cd until the last studio album Karelia visa. The choice of songs is very well done, I think I would have made the same choice for almost all the songs. It gives an idea of the different atmospheres the cd's have so the listener can choose the style that fits him best. Nice extra's are the sasha mix of Kruspolska and the two new songs. These new songs show strong vocals in an energetic setting. Nice, but I miss the context of a whole cd. For me Hedningarna is not the kind of group where you only listen to one song. Most songs get much better when you hear them in the context of the whole cd. So...what about a brand new album let's say, next year spring? Anyway, if you do not know the music of Hedningarna this cd is a must. I don't think you will find better Scandinavian modern-tradition music in the past, present or future.
Eelco Schilder

Bulgarian Voices Angelite "Angels Christmas"
Label: Jaro; 4252-2; 2003; Playing time: 47.12 min
The world famous choir Angelite just released a new cd. An album full of Christmas songs sung in their typical Bulgarian vocal style. Beautiful music full of atmosphere and the right Christmas spirit. A little bit strange to listen to when we are in the middle of spring. The album is full of Bulgarian Christmas songs but also known ones like silent night, holy night. Again I can say that the Bulgarian voices of Angelite is like a warm bath to listen to but the songs have to much the Christmas atmosphere to be enjoyed anytime before December. But I'm sure this cd will be my most listened Christmas cd during Christmas 2004.
Eelco Schilder

Sois belle "Sois belle"
Label: Parsifal; 290; 2003; Playing time: 42.14 min
A new name in the Belgian folkscene; Sois belle. Already last year I reviewed their demo and heard a sound that had the chance to develop in something beautiful. Now their debut cd is officially released and I can only conclude that Sois-belle made an outstanding debut. The cd starts with a great version of the traditional Schoon lief. In a smooth rocky arrangement this, often recorded , song gets a whole new feeling. The next song, Standvastig, is one of the strongest on the cd. Great happy atmosphere, nice switches. This ain't folkrock, this is rockfolk the way I like it. Also the third song can be considered as a highlight. Het laatste lied starts like a normal, nice ballad but the ending is sublime. Good background vocals, electric guitar etc. Although I find the first three songs the strongest part of the cd the rest is almost as enjoyable. Sois-belle plays rock the way I like it. Strongly influenced by folk, played with pleasure and fire. For the persons who understand the language, the lyrics are nice but not very inventive. A bit naive, bit predictable but this doesn't bother me at all. Sois-Belle is a strong debut which will be loved by many for it's unforced style of music. The year is still young but definitely one of the better cd's of 2004 until now.
Eelco Schilder

Media aetas "Li turchi viaggiano di Roberto De Simone"
Label: Oriente; riencd44; 2003; Playing time: 72.04 min
Roberto De Simone, does that ring a bell? Than you were probably interested in Italian music during the seventies because he was one of the founders of the famous group Nuova compagnia di canto popolare. The group was successful both in and outside Italy with their interpretation of the traditional music of South-Italy. Now, De Simone is the artistic director of the group Media aetas. A group of almost twenty musicians who now play traditional music from the same area. The cd has without any doubt the famous Southern Italian atmosphere. The vocals have this deep, heavy singing technique which is a mixture of a traditional and opera way of singing. It brings automatically emotion into the music but also makes this cd a bit difficult to listen. I have to be fully concentrated to really capture the music but when I do I feel that the music has a deep sense of tradition of an ancient culture. A very strong cd but you have to be a lover of the genre, otherwise the music might be to difficult to get through.
Eelco Schilder

Vilddas "Haliidan"
Label: Wood; 033; 2003
When a few years back I reviewed the first cd of the Sami group Vilddas I wrote in general a positive review. Although I remember the first cd being a bit chaotic at moments, It showed a very talented group which I planned to follow in the future. Now their latest cd is here for review and the group shows on Haliidan a great development. The arrangements are much smoother and technically the cd is in better balance. The mixture of yoik, rock, jazz and other styles has a good touch of modern music without getting popular. I like the way the group mixes influences from different traditions into their own style of music. Sometimes the cd has an almost Hungarian atmosphere followed up by some Arabic feelings. and than again a straight yoik. I love a song like Danses lille Sara, which shows how connected cultures can be. The rhythms remind me of many Arabic groups while the vocals are pure Yoik. This is definitely one of the strongest songs on Haliidan. Vilddas proved enough to be taken serious on the international market. I think it's time festivals start informing if it wouldn't be possible to get the group at some festivals because Vilddas has a very own interpretation of traditional music. It might be terribly difficult to get the cd, visit the webpage of the band to see how to order one.
Eelco Schilder

Cantos wiwa "Cantos Wiwa"
Label: Felmay; 8072; 2004; Playing time: 64.01 min
The wiwa native community live in North-east Colombia in a region full of forest, mountains and rivers. This cd reflects the traditional music of this community. The first seven tunes are played on wooden flutes the last nine tunes on the Jew's harp. It are field recordings (you hear the sounds of the forest mixing with the music) made in 1992 and the profits from the sale of the cd supports the Wiwa community. You must be really interested into ethnographic recordings to like this cd. The tunes all are very much alike and after three tunes on one of the instruments it's almost impossible to tell where one tune ends and the other starts. It's nice to listen to such ancient culture but a whole cd is far to long to keep my attention. If you want to support the Wiwa community, buying the cd is a nice way of doing this.
Eelco Schilder

Sinikka Langeland "Runoja" & "stjerneklang"
Label: Heilo/Grappa; 7180 / 7166; 2002 / 2002
Sinikka Langeland is a folk singer and kantele player from the South-east of Norway, close to the border with Finland. The area she lives is called Finnskogen and was settled by Finnish immigrants in the 16th century. Her family has connections with both Norway and Finland which you will hear in her music as well. In 2002 she has released two cd's. Her fifth solo cd is called Runoja and contains fifteen rune songs from the Finnskogen area. The cd is a very intimate piece of music with, besides the warm vocals and kantele by Sinikka, beautiful light jazz arrangements done by three great musicians. Together they are able to turn each song into a small piece of art in which you still find the influences of the rune songs but most of all this is a light Nordic-jazz record of strong quality. The other cd she released was together with Andreas Liebig who plays Wagner organ. Stjerneklang is a Christmas cd containing Norwegian folksongs and Christmas songs by Bach. Again, it's difficult to listen to a Christmas cd when it takes a while before December starts. But the pure, classical interpretation of the folksongs are very nice. No modern arrangements like on Runoja, this cd still has the holy atmosphere of the dark days around Christmas. The sound of the organ is impressive and the combination of organ and the music of Sinikka is very nice. Will Runoja probably be loved by jazz lovers, this Stjerneklang will be loved by lovers of spiritual classical music and who knows also by lovers of old Norwegian folksongs.
Eelco Schilder

Curenta alternata "Giue"
Label: Avalon; 1004-2; 2003; Playing time: 45.41 min
Curenta alternata is an Italian band started in 1999 with four musicians. The band plays music for bal folk but also just Italian and some French traditional music. The cd Giue shows the different sides of the band in all it's glory. The opening tune Le bergere starts exciting with bagpipe and drum accompanied by accordion and flute. Unfortunately the song is killed after 2 ½ minute by the person who does the programming including some fake hand-clapping which would have been inventive in the seventies but really sound terribly out of date nowadays. That this is just a mistake show many of the other songs. Tresso e balet, Bottacula and others show that this band exist of four good musicians who now how to interpretate the traditional tunes. Some are just not my style of music like Anahata valzer, but they are at least done in an enjoyable way. Than why songs like Scotis siciliano with again this terribly uncreative way of programming the drum-computer (at least I hope it's a drum-computer). I think Giue is a missed chance. I hear a fantastic Cornamuse player, a strong flute and accordion player and a few tunes that really matters. But the cd is so unbalanced that the earlier mentioned tunes with programming really spoil my listing pleasure. In my opinion they should or choose to go all the way and mix the music with real inventive electronics or just stick to the traditional thing in which, I can not conclude otherwise, this group is really good.
Eelco Schilder

Bidaia "Oihan"
Label: Resistencia; 144; 2003; Playing time:44.58 min
Sometimes I get a cd from a group who is totally unknown to me and they just smash me out with their music. I love such moments because this are moments of surprises and when music surprises me I think I have some of my happiest moments. This cd Oihan by the Spanish band Bidaia is such a cd that caught and I just have to listen to over and over again. The first three minutes I'm not aware of what is going to happen to me. Good atmosphere, strong vocals but the way the first tune goes into the second one and the second one goes over in the third one, give the feeling I'm listening to a kind of traditional story told in several parts. The way this group puts the tunes together is fantastically done. The strong musical arrangements are extremely well done. From intense vocals into aggressive cowhorn, smooth hurdy-gurdy tunes into fabulous guitar work. The music keeps on moving in all kind of directions and still stay in such a perfect balance. I could tell something about each separate song but that wouldn't do justice to this cd. You should listen to it as one concept in which the musicians mix traditional Spanish material with own compositions and this is one of the rare cd's that I don't feel the difference between the traditional tunes and the new material. I think I made myself clear, I simply love this cd, get it!
Eelco Schilder

Raushan Orazbaeva "Akku"
Label: Dunya; 8076; 2004; Playing time: 47.40 min
Raushan Orazbaeva was born in Kazakhstan in a family of artists and she is an interpretater of an instrument called the Kyl-kobiz. This is a kind of cello with two strings which got almost completely forgotten under the years of Russian occupation. According to a legend it was the first instrument to be invented by Korkyt, a mythical figure who, according to the legend, invented music in general. Orazbaeva is one of the first female players on this instruments because it's only since recent that women are allowed to study the instrument. The cd contains fifteen solo pieces out of the rich Kazakh region. I'm very impressed by the low, sad sound of the instrument. I think it's a miracle that Orazbaeva can keep my attention for fifteen tunes on only two strings. Her interpretation of the tunes sound very personal and the music has a big emotional impact. With subtle change of rhythm and styles, Orazbaeva knows to make me close my eyes and flood away on the intense quality of her music. Very impressive and a landmark cd in the history of Kazakh music.
Eelco Schilder

Voxology "Live (demo)"
Label: Omebanjo;2003; Playing time: 19.28 min
Kevin Neidig and Les Vonderlin are a duo from Central Pennsylvania who been performing together for over nine years now. Their group Voxology excists only for four years now and they played at the 2002 winter Olympic games in Salt lake city. They have recorded two studio cd's and now, for review, I got a live demo five songs and three spoken intro's. This duo plays original material accompanying themselves on guitar. Unfortunately the sound quality of this live demo is in such a bad condition that I find it hard to review their performance. There is a nasty kind of echo which must have effected the vocals. What's left are a few nice songs, brought professionally but that's about it. I didn't hear any remarkable arrangements, the vocals I don't dare to judge them. If I was a band and I wanted to promote myself I would at least send better recordings because these doesn't tell me anything other than that it sounds like very amateurish home recordings. Sorry about that, hope next time to hear one of their studio cd's to really get an impression of Voxology's quality.
Eelco Schilder

Anonimi "Sto labyrintho"
Label: Raumer records; 15402; 2002; Playing time: 48.48 min
Although the sleeves immediately reminds me of a Greece cd, My first thought is only halve right. Anonimi turns out to be a group of musicians from Berlin who came together and recorded a very nice collection of original songs. The atmosphere is definitely that is known from the Greece traditional music. The sound of the bouzouki is known to, I think, almost anybody and a few songs, for example Tis sois mas ta kala, have this cliché Greece sound which is very recognisable. Done really nice, but I've heard it so often that it doesn't surprise or really excite me in any way. But this cd has a few songs that really do matter. Listen to Fotia, which is much more introvert than most of the other songs on this cd. This results in a song that immediately catches my attention, beautiful vocals by Aspa and although the music is still without any doubt Greece, there happens so much more in this song. This happens again on another song sung by Aspa called Fili tis Eoniotitas, although not as impressive as Fotia, the songs where she sings have more melancholic and are the best on this cd. Sto labyrintho is a nice German/Greece cd which doesn't add much to the Greece traditional repertoire. It are the few songs sung by Fotia that make this cd a little bit special but unfortunately that is not enough to really impress.
Eelco Schilder

Triskilian "Triskilian"
Label: verlag der spielleute; 0303; 2003; Playing time: 54.17 min
The German group Triskilian has just released their cd Triskilian. For me this cd is a first meeting with the group and a very pleasant one. Triskilian brings music which most people would link to the middle ages. Instruments such as hurdy-gurdy, bagpipe, schalmei, whistles, nyckelharpa mixed with percussion and beautiful vocals make this an almost mystic cd. I like both the ballad and the dance side of the cd. Beautiful is the ballad An lauretten which has lyrics by Chr.Hofmann put on music by one of the bandmembers in a convincing way. What finishes this song is the sober instrumentation and the strong vocals by Jule Bauer. On the opposite of the ballads the group plays tunes like andro in which they make good use of the drone instruments. Funny is that in this French piece they seem to use rhythms that I somehow more connect with the Arabic part of the world than with France. From the fourteen songs only the NV rue mit sorgen is a song that really doesn't do anything to me. I cant explain why but it's just to....happy? No that's not the right way to describe it. Who cares anyway, what is left are thirteen good songs and tunes. Very nice!
Eelco Schilder

De piotto's "Gipsy passion"
Label: Parsifal; 293; 2003; Playing time: 51.41min
I don't think many groups have such a history as De piotto's. Founded by Piotto Limberger together with his brother and nephew more than sixty years ago. Today his four sons and one grandson keep the tradition alive as a tribute to their (grand) father. It must have been an amazing men this Piotto Limberger. Born in Holland you could often spot him around Django Reinhardt. He played violin, piano, trumpet en guitar but they say he is mostly remembered because of the virtuoso way he played the violin, the role his son Jan took over in the Piotto's of today. The music of De piotto's is best described as gypsy jazz. Especially the first part of the cd sounds like a top orchestra which has it's roots sixty years ago and before. Here it's the jazz that takes first place in a very pleasant way. The legendary tune All of me closes the first, more jazzy part. The last part of the cd there is more room for the gypsy blood the musicians have. Starting with a Hungarian traditional the atmosphere of the music changes. It gets more alive and to be honest this is the music that I prefer. There is so much more passion to hear, so much more fire in the tunes, the last five songs woke me up after being nicely and gently put to sleep by the first eleven jazz tunes. Suddenly the violin roars but unfortunately it are only five songs in the gypsy style, if I had to choose next time they start with gypsy blood from the beginning.
Eelco Schilder

Crifiu "Di periferia"
Label: Dilino; cr1002; 2003; Playing time: 50.31 min
Crifiu is a Italian group founded in 1998 inspired by groups like Pogues and Modena city ramblers. Besides these groups it are the Italian revolutionary songs and the Italian and Irish folk that influenced their musical style. Di periferia is a remarkable cd with a very own sound. It has a deep underground, bit dark atmosphere with some brilliant moments. Absolute highlight is the 13minutes song L ora dell aurora. The group reminds here of the best progressive folk from the seventies in a modern setting. All the above mentioned influences come together in this final song and the band manages to get of the ground and lift the music into an exploding epilogue. It's not often that I start writing about the last song, but this masterpiece just had to be mentioned first. About the rest of the cd, the opening song Minati a mmenzu na via shows the absolute fire this group plays with. The combination of tunes, samples of sounds and these dark vocals work for me but I already found out that some people get very nervous of the speed of this music and the fact that it's a bit out of tune at moments. In my opinion at the right moments, but not everybody agreed with me. Between this last and first song there is a collection of seven other songs which change from happy folk to powerful songs. Crifiu is hard to describe. I like their own way of playing with the music. It has such a spirit that it really got me somehow. Would love to see this band live as well, must be a real party. Do I recommend this cd? Wow, depends on who is asking. If you are into the popular Celtic mist or lord of the dance music, don't buy it because this is much to creative for you. Are you into underground, inventive folk and progressive music. Then you should get your self this cd.
Eelco Schilder

Schrammel + slide "Pow wow"
Label: Acoustic music records; 31913142; 2003; Playing time: 47.06 min
Hans Reffert and Adax Dorsam form the duo Schrammel + Slide who just released their sixth cd Pow wow. This duo focuses on stringmusic playing several kinds of guitars, mandolin and balalaika. Besides the string instruments they use occasionally their voices, mouthharp and harmonica. On this cd they have guest-musicians on percussion, bass, violin and wind instruments. The cd contains fifteen easy-going tunes with roots in folk, blues, Hawaiian, Scandinavian, Jewish and many other styles of music. Sometimes a bit old-fashioned, sometimes a bit predictable but always technically very balanced. This is such a cd that wouldn't bother anybody, it's just nice music for on the background but not innovating enough to really keep my attention. But I can imagine lovers of finger-picking, moody middle of the road folk will love this Pow wow. Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad cd, it's just to ordinary to keep me focussed on the music for the whole cd.
Eelco Schilder

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