Issue 28 04/2004

FolkWorld CD ReviewsDog

Carl Nelkin "Irish Heart - Jewish Soul"
Label: Own label; CJN001; 2003; Playing time: 42.44 min
What is your nation if I may ask? says the citizen. Ireland, says Bloom, I was born here. Ireland (James Joyce, Ulysses). Bloom (Blum) is not an unusual surname among Dublin's Jews. The first Jews dwelling in Ireland disappeared after their expulsion out of the English controlled territories in 1290. They re-appeared in the 17th century and immigrated in significant numbers from Tsarist Russia in the 1880s. The only religious group still under severe pressure, even after Catholic emancipation, there even was a pogrom in Limerick in 1904. Rather ironically, when the German air force bombarded Dublin and destroyed the synagogue, the German embassy apologized to the Jewish community for the arisen damage, being interested in the Irish neutrality in the war. Today 1,200 jews live in Ireland, almost 90 per cent settled in Ireland's capital around Clanbrassil Street, Dublin's kosher shopping area.
The Irish seemed to regard the hammered dulcimer as typically Jewish. An Dublin advertisment in 1738/9 announced, The Jews music is to be had at the Sign of the Fiddle and Dulcimer in Copper Alley by Archibald Williamson, who Gentlemen are pleased to called the Irish Jew. In 1769, a German-born Jew, Isaac Isaacs arrived in Dublin where he enjoyed a successful career playing Irish jigs and reels on his dulcimer in theatres and taverns. For several years he was under a retainer to play with a fiddler weekly for a well-known brothel-operator.
The fiddle-ish fiddlers fiddled fiddlingly, both Irish and Jewish as "Der Rebbi Elimelech" puts it, and the subjects of the songs - love, laments, celebrations and craic - is quite universal in both Irish and Jewish cultures (and a lot others). There never developed a particular Irish Jewish music. Tenor Carl Nelkin, a trained aviation law consultant, selected his favourite songs, both Irish ballads (by composers such as Thomas Moore, Percy French, Herbert Hughes' "Star of the County Down", and the inevitable "Danny Boy") and songs from the Yiddish vaudeville theatre. Carl gives the latter the Irish treatment, accompanied by traditional Irish musicians Peter Eades (keyboards, guitar, percussion), Christy Sheridan (banjo,mandolin), Vince Milne (fiddle) and James Wilson (pipes, whistles).
Today there's yet no animosity, no matter what persuasion, but failte and hospitality inducing fresh acquaintance, as another song goes (which is not featured here). In these days when religion - at least regarding Christian-Jewish relations - is rarely a cause for conflict, Carl is proud of his heritage. The pride of an Irish Jew, denomination: Jewish, nation: Ireland: Many times the Jew's spirit is broken, he is overcome by the slightest wind. Nevertheless the greatest storm cannot uproot the beautiful tiny spark. That spark of Jewishness, so good, offers you honour and pride. Care for it, cherish it, guard it!
Carl Nelkin
Walkin' T:-)M

Metropolitan Klezmer "Mosaic Persuasion"
Label: Rhythm Media Records; RMR 002; 2001; Playing time: 56:18 min
Metropolitan Klezmer "Surprising Finds"
Label: Rhythm Media Records; RMR 003; 2003; Playing time: 62:47 min
Isle of Klezbos "Greetings from the isle of Klezbos"
Label: Rhythm Media Records; RMR 004; 2003; Playing time: 49:05 min
What we have here is a lovely trio of albums of Jewish music. The first one, Mosaic Persuasion, is just some years old and the others were also just reviewed in 2003 in many magazines but we got them now and perhaps they are new to you. If you like contemperorary Jewish music, you should be interested in this productions. Driving force behind both of this projects is drummer Eve Sicular, who formed Metropolitan Klezmer in 1994. They are nearly a big band counting ten members on Mosaic Persuasion. Clarinet and violin were played by two musicians on the former album, so the members didnīt play on every tune. On Surprising Finds we find them consisting of eight members. With Sicular on drums and dumbeq and Dave Hofstra on bass or tuba they have nearly a complete rhythm section that could also play in a traditional jazz band. Folk instruments are the accordion played by Ismail Butera (on the older album also by Rachelle Garniez who appears more as a guest here). Strange and fascinating sounds are added by Michael Hess on the Egyptian ney flute and on the kanun, a zither that reminds on the traditional klezmer zimbel. The main instrument of traditional Jewish music in Europe was always the violin and it is contributed here by Hess also, while on the former album it is also played by Harris Wulfson. The clarinet became the main lead instrument in the USA and is played by Dera Kreisberg and on Mosaic Persuasion also by Steve Elson. Both add other woodwinds to the instrumentation. While Pam Fleming contributes trumpet and flugelhorn on both albums, Rick Faulknerīs trombone as a new element on the new album renews the strong brass tradition in American klezmer music. Last but not least we hear the vocals of Deborah Karpel on both albums, but a majority of the tunes are instrumental.
All the three albums are lovingly annotated. That reminds us on the one hand on the fact that Sicular studied Russian literature at Harvard but on the other hand this is not too scientific - it shows the deep but not too nostalgic interest in every aspect of the music and belonging culture which is brought to life here for today.
The line up shows what you get here. Metropolitan Klezmer's albums are as strong rooted in musical traditions as they are bringing together different influences in instrumental colours. Relations to Arabic music are to be heard (Araber tants on Mosaic Persuasion) as music from Jewish films and even Jewish theatre music from the Soviet Union. Most of the material is traditional, but there are compositions of the members as well. Surprising Finds is spiced up with live recordings and home recordings of Deborah Karpels grandfather Phillipp Karpel. While the latter is perhaps the best and most interesting of the three albums in objective terms, Isle of Klezbos' Greetings from the isle of Klezbos is funny and joyful as a klezmer album as you can imagine, making this my personal favourite. Consisting of all of the above mentioned women plus Catherine Popper on bass we have an all-female sextet, they are breaking traditional barriers also by the fact that most of the members are lesbian. While this ensemble doesnīt have all of the instrumental colours of the bigger group, the rhythmic aproach is stronger here. The album, that contains also some live-tracks, has a certain power to it.
All these records are examples for a strong, living musical culture, rooted deeply in traditions but ever an event of the present.
Metropolitan Klezmer
Ansgar Hillner

P.P. Slaggart "Tales from a Whisky Town"
Label: Own label; 2002; Playing time: 39.29 min
P.P. Slaggart from Omagh in Northern Ireland cultivates the post-Pogues (-> FW#22) style. Less punk, more singer-songwriter folk rock, or hiberno pop if you like. Quite like the songs on the first Moving Hearts album. Twelve tales setting up a concept album which gives an insight into the Northern Irish male psyche, some of them are real gems. The North of Ireland is a "Divided Land": Farewell to the khaki clad teenage oppressors I've seen, who come from the high risers of England to die for their queen. Well I've thrown a stone yet I've never known any real hate in my heart for a working class soldier who' had to shoulder a gun to keep us apart in this divided land. Don't ask me to stand for your flags and your songs, don't ask me to fight whether you're right or wrong. For your poets and writers, your freedom fighters, it seems they have nothing to say, they just sing their sad songs and tell of the wrongs while the lifeblood is seeping away from this divided land. But P.P. Slaggart, Steve Wickham (fiddle, banjo, whistle, mandolin -> FW#27), James Blennerhassett (bass) and Ted Ponsonby (electric guitar, hammond) also like to party in their "Whisky Town": Get out of them factories and get out of them farms. Wash yourself below your belt and underneath your arms. Friday night's for living, not lying in your bed. Prohibition's over and Woodrow Wilson dead. Or "live like the Indians": When Friday night comes around I think I'll paint my face, stick a feather up my arse and burn the whole damn place. Do a war dance in the street and scalp the people that I met until somebody calls the cavalry. Songs that should appeal from the dregs of Killybegs mother and daughter to the rich super bitch from across the water.
Walkin' T:-)M

Glengarry Bhoys "Rhoots"
Label: Own label; GB006; 2003; Playing time: 54.49 min
Glengarry Bhoys "In a Big Country"
Label: Own label; 2003; Playing time: 3.36 min
Another Celtic roots pop and rock outfit, the Glengarry Bhoys resemble The Paperboys in many ways (-> FW#25), with a touch of Celtic rocker John MacLean Allan (->FW#25). The four bhoys and one ghirl from Eastern Ontario's Glengarry County, a Highland Scots enclave in Canada, play a blend of original pop songs and fiery dance tunes of Irish, Scottish and French-Canadian origin. They stand the test in both camps. Principal songwriter Graham Wright the only native Scot, from Ayrshire, rejects the term Celtic rock: We stay away from that label. We have the Glengarry sound, and it's a world folk sound with a bit of a rock feel, a bit of a contemporary feel and a traditional flair to it. I try not to be write my songs based around Celtic music. I write them, and then we bring in the instruments. Shelley Downing brings in the sparkling fiddle, and James Libbey whistles and Highland bagpipes, to form the band that prevents you from being still. - "In a Big Country" has been taken from Scottish rockers Big Country who had an almost folksy sound. The electric guitar is replaced here by the pipes. Nine points out of ten!
Glengarry Bhoys
Walkin' T:-)M

Taxi Chain "Smarten Up!"
Label: NorthernBlues; NBM0019; 2004; Playing time: 39.39 min
It's - well, ehm ... good question, what is it? - There's the myth about the bluesman standing at the crossroads. He waits with the guitar in hand until Old Nick appears at midnight, takes his guitar, plays a couple of complicated blues riffs and hands it back: The devil's pact is made and the bluesman is a guitar champion from now on. - Forget about the bluesman and his guitar, it must have been bagpipes. Even bagpipes get the blues, state Toronto's Taxi Chain delivers a mixed bag of casual blues and country and pop songs and kicking instrumental music. The latter features a traditional polka set, and self-penned tunes titled "James Brown ate my Bagpipe", "Tandoori Mustache", "Zimbobby", and that's exactly what you get. Besides the pipes, the Canadians play guitar, bass and drums, whistles, flutes, mandolin, blues harp and saxophone. Now I don't really think that Taxi Chain sounds like a mad Highlander let loose in the middle of a New Orleans street party, possibly live, but "Smarten Up!" is rather relaxed. - It's ... - I still don't know - but I like it!
NorthernBlues Music
Walkin' T:-)M

Konaboj "Ja sa kona bojim"
Label: Indies; MAM 228-2; 2004; Playing time: 52.26 min
Konaboj is a first class folk rock band from Czechia. East meets West, i.e. western rock music meets eastern vocals and acoustic instruments. Partly Jethro Tull turned into a 1980s rock group, partly Celtic rock a la German's Galahad (-> FW#18). Just to give you an idea, because Konaboj is a flock of their own. I cannot figure out if the songs are traditional, spiced up for a contemporary rock audience, or composed by the band. But they sound traditional based, sometimes very medieval. I like the sweet vocals, the fiery electric guitar solos and the feathery flute and fiddle playing. Pretty good.
Indies Records
Walkin' T:-)M

Show of Hands "Country Life"
Label: Hands On Music; HMCD19; 2003; Playing time: 55.33 min
Show of Hands "The Path"
Label: Hands On Music; HMCD18; 2003; Playing time: 45.47 min
No surprise no mystery what we are or where we're from, our lives our history in a song, as opposed to no compromise you used to boast, but hearing you play all that boy band cover trash, now that's what really hurts me the most. No surprise no mistery what we are or where we're from. No life no history in your song. Show of Hands (-> FW#19), i.e. Steve Knightley and Phil Beer (-> FW#25), from the English West country are twelve years on the road now. One of the most popular of England's roots acts (both like to be known as an acoustic roots act and not folk). Steve Knightley's powerful songs on the rural way of life And the red brick cottage where I was born is the empty shell of a holiday home. Most of the year there's no-one there, the village is dead and they don't care. The shady side of the countryside with country snobs and foot and mouth, a lively folk rock track. The rest of the album is more relaxed - musically. "Country Life" features Steve's most recent compositions as well as the traditional songs "Reynardine" (with a new tune) and "Adieu, Sweet Lovely Nancy". The 2 CD set has a bonus CD featuring a Show of Hands' concert at the Royal Albert Hall.
The sixteen instrumental tracks featured on "The Path" are inspired by sights and sounds along the South West Coast Path, Britain's longest National Trail. 25 years in existence, the 630 mile trail from Exmoor National Park to Poole Harbour is a popular attraction to walkers. Phil and Steve composed a series of romantic tunes - titled Foreland Point", "Carbis Bay", "Land's End", "Pendennis Castle", etc. Some could be featured in a film, some might become classics.
Hands On Music
Walkin' T:-)M

The Deanna Varagona Trio "The Goodbyes Have All Been Taken"
Label: Gadfly; 284; 2003; Playing time: 48.46 min
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Deanna Varagona has played with a number of Nashville musicians, namely Chris Mills and Paul Burch. With a passion born in the Appalachian Mountains but bred in a world of a punk rock youth and Joe Ferguson on bass and Jimmy Earley on drums, Deanna says a powerful Hello rather than Goodbye. Her voice is both strong and pleasant, the songs are very touching and quite diverse, folk, blues, bluegrass and country music. I like to juxtapose Deanna and the one and only Michelle Shocked (-> FW#24, FW#24, FW#27) - and Deanna can easily compete. So Goodbye for now, but hopefully not forever.
Gadfly Records
Walkin' T:-)M

Martyn Joseph "Whoever it was that brought me here will have to take me home"
Label: Pipe/Appleseed; APR CD 1078; 2004; Playing time: 43.22 min
In February 2004, Welsh singer/songwriter Martyn Joseph was named Male Solo Artist of the Year in the Welsh Music Awards; his involvement with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement won him an Amnesty International award. Though Martyn use to talk about that he'd won more awards for golfing than for his music. Fortunatly, the professional golfer in spe turned into a professional musician. Martyn is sometimes compared to Bruce Springsteen. Well I always thought The Boss being more competent when plugged in, and Martyn is not half as boring as Bruce's acoustic numbers. Just the opposite, Martyn has a powerful voice and some stories to tell. "Whoever it was..." features more reflectice and personal songs, e.g. a tribute to older women in a youth-cult society, For a glimpse of the political side, Appleseed Records has appended two tracks from one of his benefit EPs, to benefit War Child, a network of independent organisations working across the world to help children affected by war. "The Great American Novel" laments the death of the American Dream, "The Good in Me is Dead" is from the standpoint of a young Kosovan refugee. Martyn's here - whoever it was who brought him - and hopefully for some time before he's taken home again.
Pipe Records, Appleseed Records
Walkin' T:-)M

Darrell Scott "Theatre of the Unheard"
Label: Full Light; FLR-0301; 2003; Playing time: 62.02 min
Darrell Scott grew up on the Indiana side of Chicago with the rusty steel mills belching in the westward wind. Later he walked Carlsbad to White Sands for forty days and nights, but it only took ten minutes for that man to realize: Lord, it's lonesome everywhere. Even later he moved to Nashville and penned a string of country music hits for artists as the Dixie Chicks and Garth Brooks alike. Recently he played guitar on Tim O'Brien's (-> FW#11). The songs featured on "Theatre of the Unheard" were written in Boston between 1986 to 1990, when Darrell found my voice as a writer. He got a record deal, recorded it - and it wasn't released. Eleven years later they come to life again, re-recorded in his living room with the help of friends like steel guitarist Dan Dugmore, bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Kenny Malone. He launched his own label Full Light Records to fully own and control his recordings without anyone telling him how he should sound or what he should do, and here we are. Folk and country rock, growling kinda Steve Earle-like but much more pleasant. Though residing in Nashville, this sound is as far from Nashville as can be. Some men have a God that keeps them from harm, some men have a bottle at the end of their arm. And some men have a CD with sophisticated songs to offer.
Darrell Scott
Walkin' T:-)M

Cosmic Drone "Cosmic Drone"
Label: Own label; FISD 001; 2003; Playing time: 55.24 min
Cosmic Drone, the adequate name for this French folk rock band. Stephane Durand plays the electric hurdy-gurdy versus keyboards, bass guitar and drums. Nearly all tunes were written by Stephane, drawing on traditional dance music from France and Britanny, but fused with rock music, funk and jazz. The performance is excellent, this high-octane Celtic rock should work especially in concert and make the dancers sweating. Personally I find the electric hurdy-gurdy sounding too synthetical and clinical. Something is missing, I'm not exactly sure what, maybe a singer inbetween or a second melody instrument for diversification.
Cosmic Drone
Walkin' T:-)M

The Fenians "Every Day's a Hooley"
Label: Mizen Head; MH495CD; 2003; Playing time: 59.42 min
The Fenians, named after the followers of the mythic Gaelic hero Finn MacCool (warriors but obliged to know the rules of poetry) and/or members of a secret organization with the aim to overthrow the English rule in Ireland (properly titled Irish Republican Brotherhood, many of them wrote poems and ballads as well), are retracing the sound of Shane MacGowan and The Pogues (-> FW#22). That kind of music is still in full bloom, even 20 years after of its birth in London, this time in sunny Orange County, California. Fenianism means there's revolution everywhere: It is said, in terms of love and war, that the Irish are quite mad, for their songs of war are merry, and their songs of love are sad. Even at the end of a bottle: Whisky you're no devil, to me you're more a saint. You make me feel like heaven and the angel that I ain't. When I get my fill of whisky, my eyes are shot with red, I lose my footing, fighting revolutions in my head. To see me when I'm in the state that poteen's set me free, all the chains in Britain's hordes have no way to shackle me. Very fine are the Fenians' versions of Ewan MacColl's "Go Move Shift", the traditional "Night Visiting Song", and the cool saxophone on Ralph McTell's "From Clare to Here". One of the outstanding original songs is "Greener Pastures", there's a lot of humour on "Baker's Dozen", while "Grace" - Joseph Plunkett married Grace Gifford in his cell in Kilmainham Jail a few hours before being shot in 1916 - is much too histrionic. Every Day's a Hooley for these Bold Fenian Men, so better take the offensive, arrest suspects and confiscate arms!
Mizen Head Music
Walkin' T:-)M

Kinky Friedman "Sold American"
Label: Vanguard; 79734-2; 2003; Playing time: 47.55 min
The 30th anniversary edition with two bonus tracks and a video interview of a classic (if this is the right expression here) country music record! Kinky Friedman, the Jewish country singer was born on Halloween 1944 - guess where? - in Palestine, Texas. In 1966 he attended Austin University when a fellow student shot up the campus from the clock tower, subject of "The Ballad of Charles Whitham": He was sitting up there with his .36 Magnum, laughing wildly as he bagged 'em (sounds familiar, eh?). In 1971 he formed "Kinky Friedman & The Texas Jewboys" and recorded his debut album "Sold American" two years later, a banjo-pickin' devil, a singin' rag-time saint. Out in the fallen snow he'd sing his song to a world too cold to listen and too white to sing along. Kinky Friedman being very kinky was politically incorrect long before politically incorrect was cool. "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and You Buns in the Bed" earned him the National Organization of Women's Male Chauvinist Pig of the Year award: You uppity women I don't understand why you gotta go and try to act like a man, but before you make your weekly visit to the shrink you'd better occupy the kitchen, liberate the sink. So damn emancipated in your mind and your body, gonna have to cancel all your lessons in karate. If you can't love a male chauvinist you'd better cross me off your shopping list. If you missed it the first time around, here is another chance to get it. And now I'm heading for the public library and get some of Kinky's mystery novels, ride 'em, Jewboy!
Vanguard Records
Walkin' T:-)M

The Hackberry Ramblers "Cajun Boogie"
Label: Hot Biscuits; HOTBI 5002; 1992; Playing time: 35.59 min
The Hackberry Ramblers "Deep Water"
Label: Hot Biscuits; HOTBI CD 5001; 1997; Playing time: 46.01 min
"Make 'Em Dance - The Hackberry Ramblers Story" [Video]
Fretless Pictures; 2003; Playing time: ca. 55 min
Seventy years together! The Hackberry Ramblers were formed in the 1930s by guitarist Edwin Duhon and fiddler Luderin Darbone in Hackberry, cajun country Louisiana. When the Ramblers first made music, Rosevelt was newly elected president. The rural country was about to change, it was also a transition time for Cajun music. The Ramblers were the first band to combine Cajun music, sung in French, with Anglo-American country music, sung in English. They were also one of the first Cajun bands to use a sound system; all of a sudden, audiences began to hear individual instrumental solos. The group cut over 100 songs for RCA's Bluebird label. The old-time trio evolved into a western swing orchestra in the 1940s, electric guitar player Glen Croker brought in R&B, honky tonk and country in the 1960s.
There have been more than 70 Hackberry Ramblers over the years. Luderine Darbone and Edwin Duhon (who plays mainly the accordion these days), now in their nineties, still lead the band. These five guys together bring about 400 years of experience to the stage noted Dotson, but they still play with the enthusiasm of a teen-aged garage band. Sometimes with the helping hands of Michael Doucet, Rodney Crowell, Marcia Ball and Jimmie Dale Gilmore Except for the youthful drummer, no one in this group is less than 60 years old. Ben Sandmel on drums joined in 1987 and introduced the band to a national audience, they even toured Holland and France in 2002. "Deep Water" was nominated for a Grammy, and led even to a performance on MTV.
The Ramblers still play weekly in Lake Charles, LA. The boys may not have the stamina of their early days, but they're still standing and any deficiencies are is balanced by the sheer fun of the players. And that's everything is about. Lassez les bon temps rouler!
The Hackberry Ramblers/Hot Biscuits Recordings
Walkin' T:-)M

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

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