Issue 28 04/2004

FolkWorld CD ReviewsDog

V/A "Simpático: A Tribute to Finn"
Label: Whirling Discs; WHRL 008; 2003; Playing time: 63:23 min
Living, playing and touring together for months and years, a music group, along with their entourage of roadies, producers and technicians, resembles an extended family. Consequently, if one of its members quits the business for some reason or other, he or she leaves behind a void which cannot easily be filled by someone else. This is true, tragically, of the Dervish family. On Christmas Day 2002 of all days, the trad band from Sligo had to mourn the death, by accident, of their sound engineer Tim Finnegan, who had been with them for no less than eight years. To this severe loss, Dervish responded with a gala concert, staged on 28-29 Novemberg 2003 at Sligo Town and featuring a broad range of well-known groups, many of whom had collaborated with Tim in recent years. -- Everyone who could not be there is now given a second chance, for Whirling Disc have just released a collection of songs and tunes recorded by musiciancs who took part in Tim Finnegan's "wake". The groups and individuals united on this album include Dervish [-> FW#3, FW#19, FW#19, FW#26, FW#26], Four Men and a Dog, Martin Hayes, Kíla [-> FW#26], Perry Blake, Danú [-> FW#27], Sliabh Notes [-> FW#23] and The Saw Doctors [see review in this FW issue]. Most of the pieces on the album have appeared elsewhere before. Three tracks, however, were recorded espescially for this sad occasion. Both musically and thematically, the compilation thus revolves around these three: Steve Wickham's [-> FW#27] "Fado", Felip Carbonell's "Finn's Waltz", and, above all, Cathy Jordan's (out of Dervish) "I Hope You Still Dance". Ultimately, the tribute album reflects the atmosphere of the two nights at Sligo as well as the impressive range of muscial styles, both trad and non-trad, which the late Tim Finnegan both loved and produced. In liberis and libris, in children and books, do we live on after our passing away, or so the Ancients believed. Modern technology has added a few more media to the commemoration of the dead, as the Tribute to Tim Finnegan testifies. May his memory live on in this muscial monument!
Whirling Discs
Erik Margraf

V/A "Beautiful - A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot"
Label: Borealis/NorthernBlues; BCDNBM500; 2003; Playing time: 62.15 min
There are two things that Canadians take seriously: hockey and music, says Michael Timmins. So I introduced my wife to a picture of Gordie Howe and played her some Gordon Lightfoot. Howe, she had never heard of, but to the Lightfoot song her response was, "oh, he's Canadian?"... typical American response, typical Canadian superstar. Gordon Lightfoot means a lot more than "Sundown" and "If You Could Read My Mind" (especially thinking of the inferior pop version recently hitting the charts again). He has always put the song first and never made a big spectacle of himself (R. Sexsmith), was so "un-star-like", but he had this intense, dignified charisma in every word he said, and in every note he played. (C. Linden) His songs though are literally light-footed. In 1964 "Gord" entered the Toronto folk scene and his songs were soon covered by folks like Peter Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan etc. If you were growing up in the 70s in Ontario, his music was probably what you listened to most, recalls Harry Manx. It was the soundtrack for every small town, the perfect music for every affair of the heart, every description of nature, the ultimate driving music.
All tracks have been newly recorded for this tribute album. Unfortunatly their are no lyrics in the 20-page booklet. I like best the rocking Cowboy Junkies' "The Way I Feel" (-> FW#23), Blackie and the Rodeo Kings' "Summer Side of Life", The Tragically Hip's "Black Day in July" (about race riots in Detroit 1967, uncharacteristically a political song), and the haunting Murray McLauchlan's "Home from the Forest" and Maria Muldaur's "That Same Old Obsession". James Keelaghan (-> FW#24) presents the "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" (ft. banjo player Leonard Podolak and flutist and piper Jordan McConnell of The Duhks (-> FW#25), Gord's song with the most folksy and traditional touch. Add Jesse Winchester, Ron Sexsmith, Bruce Cockburn (-> FW#21), Blue Rodeo, Connie Kaldor, Terry Tufts, Harry Manx and Quartette. Finally a tribute song by Aengus Finnan (the tune almost sounds like "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" by Cockburn): Here's to the man who sought the quiet melody of the true north, and sang our lives with such poetry and passion, such tenderness and grit, such sorrow and pride. Thanks God this is no obituary, Gord is still alive.
Borealis Recordings, NorthernBlues Music
Walkin' T:-)M

V/A "The Gathering - Great Celtic Pipers"
Label: ARC Music; EUCD 1710; 2002; Playing time: 57.28 min
Bagpipes once are spread all over Europe, at least in medieval times. Today the instrument is associated with the Celtic fringe of western Europe only. Scotland boasts of a proud bagpipe tradition, the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band in their Royal Stewart tartan is an example of a typical pipe & drum band. The birth of this world famous band goes back to 1883, being the first pipe band outside of the British Army. Scottish folk rockers Wolfstone (-> FW#2, FW#24) fuse the pipes with electric guitar, here featuring piper Dougie Pincock of Battlefield Band fame (1983-90 -> FW#27). Britanny offers Bagad Kemper (-> FW#20) and their classic fest noz sound, and Bleizi Ruz (-> FW#9, FW#9) who are somewhere inbetween bal folk and folk rock. "Cinquat'" is a jazzy improvisational eastern sounding tune. Galicia has the gaita, featured here with Milladoiro's (-> FW#15) almost symphonic sound. Not mouth blown but pressed with the elbow are the Irish uilleann pipes (-> FW#26): Sean Talamh plays "Inisheer", an air only recently composed by Thomas Walsh (-> FW#27). This band featuring piper Michael Horgan is the predecessor of what later became Shantalla (-> FW#8, FW#9, FW#10, FW#21). The track is dedicated to band member Tommy Keenan's late father, his brother is the legendary piper Paddy Keenan (-> FW#23, FW#27). Planxty featuring piper Liam O'Flynn (-> FW#5, FW#27) is one of the revival bands of the 1970s (-> FW#27). Not very traditional Irish here, "Smeceno Horo" is a Bulgarian dance tune in 9/16 time. Moving Hearts fused Irish music in general and the pipes in particular with jazz and 1970's pop and rock, the piper being is Davy Spillane (-> FW#11). Finally, Mark Britton plays with the rhythms and grooves of the 1990s. The booklet features extensive notes in English, German, French and Spanish.
ARC Music
Walkin' T:-)M

V/A "Gaelic Ireland"
Label: ARC Music; EUCD 1821; 2003; Playing time: 78.57 min
The most important legacy of the Celtic tribes who occupied Ireland in the 1st millennium BC is the Irish (Gaelic) language. Legend has it that the scholar Fenius Farsaid went off to study all the languages after the demise of the Tower of Babel. He eventually created the Gaelic language from the best parts. The vocabulary of the poorest Irish farmer, who can neither read nor write, covers about four to six thousand words, says the scholar Pokorny, whereas many English country people do not have more than five hundred words. But the number of Gaelic speakers has been in decline since the Great Famine of 1845-49 and the subsequent mass emigration. Currently it stands at around 80,000 speakers.
John O'Regan chose the full spectrum of Gaelic singing for this compilation: a capella sean nos (old style) by Diarmuid Ó Súilleabháin, Seán 'AcDhonncha and Seán de Hóra; Na Filí featuring Tomas Ó Canainn on vocals and pipes (he recently wrote a biography about Sean Ó Riada, see T:-)M's Night Shift in this FW issue) represents the 1970s attitude to traditional Irish music; Altan is one of the great groups of the 1990s (-> "Runaway Sunday", "Another Sky", "The Blue Idol"); so is Cran (-> FW#4) featuring piper Ronan Browne (-> FW#21, FW#24, FW#24). Most extraordinary is Brian Kennedy's simple but effective guitar and bass accompaniment to "Taimse 'im Chodladh" which brings together traditional and contemporary sounds. Eilís Kennedy's "Nead na Lachan" (-> FW#22) and young Lasairfhíona ní Chonaola's "Casadh an tSugain" (-> FW#24), taken from two top records of 2002, show that Irish singing is alive and kicking. Don't forget Katie McMahon of Anuna fame and The Dubliners (-> FW#23), and Gaelic Ireland is almost complete to carry the Irish language into the 21st century.
ARC Music
Walkin' T:-)M

"Blasket Island Reflections"
Label: RTÉ; 2003; Playing time: 141.17 min
The townland on the Great Blasket Island off the Dingle Peninsula in south-west Ireland was Europe's most westerly community until it was abandoned in 1953, when population fell to only 22, opposed to 121 islanders in 1930. It is only the largest of a cluster of islets, one of the smaller, Beginish, gave its name to a traditional Irish band. Nowadays Great Blasket is a tourist destination only: according to Sean Ó Riada (see the review about his biography in this FW issue) the island's population consists of a few sheep, several thousand rabbits, and one solitary hen. This poor lonely creature has now been joined by some rich American ladies. It is a pity that they a rich Bostonians, and not liberals from Rhode Island. I gather that it is their intention to make of the island a haven of luxe calme et volupté, something which generations of islanders could not succed in doing. The Great Blasket has become a suburb of Boston, Mass.
Great Blasket was known before as Ferriter's Island, after the Norman family who leased lands in the area from the 13th to the 16th century. The poet Piaras Feirtéar, executed in Killarney in 1653, is said having spent some time in a hidden cave on the island. Excavations have revealed a Mesolithic settlement, Iron Age people built a promontory fort, but a permanent population had taken up residence only by the start of the 18th c. The renewed interest in the Irish language in the late 19th c. saw the beginnings of cultural tourism, and language enthusiasts and scholars found a pre-literate world, yet many islanders were highly skilled in language use, traditonals stories and songs. Encouraged by their visitors, the islanders began to put down their memories and write in Gaelic about their lives.
Great Blasket made a big impact when a series of writings were translated, the Blasket Trinity: Tomás Ó Criomhthain's (1854-1937) "An tÓileánach" (The Islandman) was the first Blasket book, published in 1929. It is largely a history of the island community during the author's lifetime. His grandson Pádraig Ua Maoileoin says: Tomás started the writing and the rest imitated him. As I often say, "when one goose shits they all shit"! Peig Sayers' (1873-1958) "Peig" tells her own story, that of a renowned traditional storyteller. "Peig" was edited for the Irish language curriculum where it became a regular text, and, according to a recent poll, one of Irish pupils' most hated readings. Finally, Muiris Ó Súileabhháin's (1904-1950) "Fiche Bliain ag Fás" (Twenty Years A-Growing), Muiris was the first educated and literate writer.
The Great Blasket is deserted now, but its legacy is kept alive by the magnificent sight of the island, its heritage centre at Dún Chaoin, a couple of amazing books - and this double CD "Blasket Island Reflections". To mark the 50th anniversary of the abandonment of Great Blasket Island and to encourage to read or re-read the Blasket books, RTÉ produced a radio documentary series about the island authors, their books, their life and the island's history. Featured are views and reflections of contemporary critics, enthusiasts and local people, as well as extracts from the Blasket books. For example, accordion player and singer Áine Uí Laoithe is reading from "Peig". (At her album "Mna an Oileain" Áine performs a selection of songs and tunes associated with the Blasket tradition.) The Irish Gaelic pieces are translated in the 52-page booklet.
The islanders wrote the epitaph to their disappearing world in these books, says RTÉ's Paddy Glackin. They give us a world populated by people who struggled daily with physical hardships and danger and eked out an existence on the Blasket for generations. The immense depth and wealth of their oral culture and language helped compensate for their lack of worldly comforts and make their island experience an endlessly fascinating story. Tomás Ó Criomhthain simply summarised the Blasket community in the line: the likes of us will not be seen again.
Walkin' T:-)M


Peter Puma Hedlund "Vägen"
Label: rpm Music; No. RMCD-002; 2003 (second editon); Playing time: 52.24 min
In FolkWorld's last issue, I reviewed Peter's latest album with band, "Another Way", when I was not too impressed by the band arrangements, concluding that "I would love to hear a full solo CD of Peter". My wish was directly heard, and so this time I have the pleasure to review a solo CD of Peter Puma Hedlund.
The Swede Peter plays the nyckelharpa, a keyed fiddle, a unique Swedish instrument. As I mentioned in the review of "Another Way", Peter is a two time winner Nyckelharpa World Championship title, and on this album, he has the opportunity to fully showcase his talent: 52 minutes of solo nyckelharpa playing.
While the nyckelharpa is more and more often found in Swedish folk bands, for my taste, the nyckelharpa deserves to be listened to on its own merit. The instrument has a very full, gentle and subtle sound, with a bit of a classical touch - its sound actually reminds at times of a string duet. Peter masters the instrument beautifully, playing a mixture of traditional Swedish tunes and music composed by himself or other composers.
A beautiful, calm and gentle album, just the right thing for a quiet evening, ideally with a candle light dinner. Recommended!
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Michael Moll

"Trad Magazine: 15 ans - 15 Groupes Vol. 1"
Label: Trad Magazine; No. VTMCD 100-4; 2003; Playing time: 64.08 min
Trad Magazine, the French magazine for traditional music and dance, celebrated last year its 15th anniversary. To mark the occasion, the editors decided to publish two CD samplers of traditional and contemporary French folk music. FolkWorld received its Volume 1 for review.
The CD offers 15 full-length tracks of 15 different bands mainly from France (with one exception - an Italian duo). A strong focus is on dance music, reflecting the current popularity of Fest Noz and similar dance events in France. Only very few titles are songs. The range of dance music goes from traditional to modern and innovative, with the bands hailing from all over France. Some names are quite well known internationally (Dédale, Dremmwel, L`Occidentale de Fanfare), but most are new for me. If you are into French based dance music, I am sure you will be able to make quite a number of new discoveries with this CD.
To our colleagues from Trad Magazine a belated happy anniversary, and good luck for the future of your magazine!
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Michael Moll

Annie Grace "take me out dancing tonight"
Label: Greentrax; No. CDTRAX256; 2004; Playing time: 40.41 min
This album came as a bit of a surprise. I would have expected an album focussing on instrumental music, building on Annie Grace's carreer as central instrumentalist of the innovative folk rock band The Iron Horse, playing bagpipes and flutes. Even though Annie used to sing with The Iron Horse, an album with her singing 10 songs was definitely unexpected. Yet it was a very pleasant surprise, as this beautiful album is a real success.
Annie has a pleasant voice, and a relaxed and warm singing style. The songs on this album are well chosen, all very suitable to her. They are a mix of traditional and contemporary songs, performed in a style which is not easy to pigeonhole, with influences from trad, folk, jazz, blues and easy listening. Personal highlights include Cheryl Wheeler's "Summerfly", the traditional "The trees they grown high" and Baroness Nairne's "Land o' the leal". Annie is supported on the album by a skilled bunch of folk musicians: Aly Macrae (a range of instruments including guitar, grand piano, harmonium), Gavin Marwick (fiddle), Davy Cattanach (percussion) and Aaron Jones (bass guitar).
A pleasant, very enjoyable and well crafted album, convincingly showcasing a lesser known side of Annie Grace's talent.
Footnote: The info that came with the CD referred to The Iron Horse having retired in 2001 - apparently retirement has been too boring for the Iron Horse, as a new album, with a new line-up, closer to their original line-up, has just been published - watch this space!
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Michael Moll

Tannahill Weavers "Arnish Light"
Label: Green Linnet; No.GLCD1226; 2003; Playing Time: 44.51 min
If I have not lost count, this is the 14th album (plus 2 compilations) of the Tannahill Weavers, and their 10th for Green Linnet. The Tannies are one of Scotland's longest touring folk bands, and without doubt also one of the most stable and talented ones. For decades, they have stayed true to their style, without too much experimenting, yet always remaining at the same high quality. With their new album, the Tannies welcome a new young piper to the band - Colin Melville replaces Duncan J Nicholson. Colin plays both Highland and Scottish Small Pipes, as well as whistles, guitar and djembe. The rest of the line-up remains unchanged, and has been in place for more than a decade: Roy Gullane (guitar, vocals), John Martin (fiddles, mandola), Phil Smillie (flute, whistles, bodhran, djembe, volcals) and Les Wilson (bouzouki, keyboards, guitar, vocals).
On "Arnish Light", the band plays seven songs and five sets of tunes, to a large extent traditional, with some composed by band members. The songs are, as usual, in beautiful Scots, featuring often some impressive harmony singing. Only criticism I have is the use of keyboards, which is in most cases, to my liking, a bit disturbing, taking away the simple beauty of the acoustic instruments.
Overall, the Tannies are on their 14th album as good as always, you will get exactly what you expect. No experiments for the Tannies - but why should they as they have a very successful formula.
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Michael Moll

Zar "Tusind tanker"
Label: Tame; No. TM5133872; 2004; Playing time: 45.25 min
An impressive album of young Danish music. The music is based in folk music, but gives a new dimension to Danish folk, by creating eclectic arrangements with an attractive modern edge. Most of the music is build around songs; Zar have in Sine Lauritzen an impressive singer with a stunningly attractive voice. The band combines traditional instruments with exciting modern arrangements. Featured are up to three violin players, all with an energetic and entertaining style with a range of influences. The band also features double bass/cello, piano and some rhythmic guitar/mandolin/bouzouki playing. Most of the songs and tunes on this album are traditional Danish, and Zar manages to give them all a new breath of life.
"Tusind Tanker" is Zar's second album. It presents a very mature band, yet still full of youthful energy. They have create a new modern sound of Danish traditional music, which I am sure will soon be celebrated also internationally.
One of the most impressive albums of Danish folk music I have heard - a real treat!
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Michael Moll

Session A9 "What Road?"
Label: Raj Reconds; No. cd002; 2003; Playing time: 53.13 min
A band that brings together a session of some of the very best of Scottish fiddle players, along with a top band. No, I am not talking of Blazin Fiddles, but Session A9, with a different combination of top fiddlers: There is Duncan Chisholm of Wolfstone fame (who features on Blazin Fiddles first album), Capercaillie's Charlie McKerron, Croft No. Five's Adam Sutherland and Gordon Gunn. The Session A9 is completed by the superb guitar and melodeon player Tim Edey (read the FolkWorld review of his debut album), Brian McAlpine on keyboards (Pearlfishers and other bands) and singer/songwriter/guitarist Kris Drever (Fine Friday).
So much talent makes you expect top notch world class Scottish music. And of course, the music on this album is excellent, even though I have to admit that I expected a bit more. There is always a feeling of session in the recording; the arrangements are very good, but not outstanding. If you compare the music to Blazin Fiddles (which seems to be an obvious comparison), Blazin Fiddles wins. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty to enjoy here, the quality is very high, and I do like the album a lot.
The album offers a great selection of tunes, mostly written by fiddlers of the band, making up a showcase of contemporary tunes with distinctive traditional Scottish flavour. The live feeling of the album makes the music very much alive. "What road?" is definitely recommendable, yet I do hope that there will be another album of Session A9, which will be outstanding and world class indeed - the potential is definitely there.
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Michael Moll

Laiksne "Es jauna budama"
Label: Own; 2003; Playing time: 51.06 min
Laiksne "Janu nakti zelta rasa"

Label: Own; 2002; Playing time: 52.42 min
These are, to my knowledge, the first albums from Latvia to be reviewed in FolkWorld - with the EU enlargement being imminent, it seems to be more than overdue to feature more Eastern European music in FolkWorld!
Laiksne is a talented all-female band, performing traditional songs with a contemporary feel. As the letter with the CDs explains, Laiksne are part of the Latvian "post folklore" music scene - distinguishing itself from the "authentic" traditionalist folklore. I suppose in Western Europe they would be called folk music (rather than folklore).
A bit of research on the Internet informed me that Latvian is one of only two surviving languages of the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family, and speakers of Latvian regard it as an endangered species. Just over half the people in the country speak it as their first language. The language spoken in east and west Latvia has dialectical differences from the standard Latvian spoken in the central region of the country. Laiksne psing mainly songs in the Latgallian dialect.
Laiksne are five young women, all are singers with pleasant voices, yet they also play a rather extensive range of instruments. The names of the instruments are not translated, yet I believe to hear, among others, something like a hammered dulcimer, accordion and violin. The hammered dulcimer is central in the instrumentation of the band, giving the sound a soft, flowing and relaxing sound. Many songs feature well elaborated harmony singing. Overall, to me as a complete newcomer to music from the Baltic States, the style reminds of Finnish folk songs, with a hint of Russian traditions. Compared to some of their Finnish counterparts, Laiksne's music does not have the same power as bands such as Värttinä; Laiksne focus more on beautiful slower melodies.
Both CDs have a rather similar style and flair, even though both have a distinctive theme. "Janu nakti zelta rasa" is a collection of songs celebrating midsummer (called Janu in Latvian). Midsummer is traditionally a very important celebration, with a host of rituals which are supposed to bring fertility and wealth. The songs collected on this album refer to all aspects of the celebrations; all songs are traditional, yet arranged in a contemporary way. The chosen songs give a female point of view to Janu.
"Es jauna budama" reflects in its songs women's lives in all their diversity - "women as brides, sisters and mothers".Both albums have at times a happy atmosphere, other songs have more a reflective and ritual feeling to them.
This is gentle and very pleasant music, with a very high standard of musicianship. I thoroughly enjoyed these albums, and I do hope to discover more music from the Baltic States! The albums have been independently released, and are distributed through the Centre for Cultural Management "Lauska". To find out more, contact Daina at
Michael Moll

Krauka "stiklur"
Label: Musikpres; No. MPCD 24; 2004; Playing time: 40.02 min
Krauka are three Danes, playing a mixture of traditional Danish and self written songs. Their inspiration lies clearly with their Swedish neighbours, and overall Krauka do manage to breathe a new, different life into Danish folk music. Even though the album is focussed on songs, the clear winner of Krauka are the instrumental arrangements, which are mostly original and distinctive. The band features bowed lyre, lyre, flutes, jewharp, shawm and percussion. With this limited range of instruments they create an exciting soundscape, generally with a raw, minimalist approach. I prefer Krauka's faster songs and tunes, where they develop a very powerful appearance; some of the slower songs tend to become a bit boring for me. All three band members also sing; the voices are nothing outstanding, but fit well enough into the band's music. I suppose this album is not necessarily one I will listen to very often, even though I found some good ideas and arrangements in the music, and some numers that are quite outstanding. Krauka have definitely developed their own distinctive style.
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Michael Moll

La Talvera "Pòble mon Pòble"
Label: Own; TAL10; 2003; Playing time: 66.40 min
La Talvera "Faguem Ribòta"

Label: Own; TAL07; 2000; Playing time: 68.00 min
Occitanian culture is one of the more unknown and forgotten European cultures. Occitania is a cultural region that stretches from Southern France to Northern Italy. Occitan is not a single language, but a collection of dialects; about 10 million people understand today one of these dialects.
La Talvera is one of the old established Occitanian folk bands, being already since more than 20 years in the business. The band sounds as if it stays overall close to the tradition, while at the same time further developing the folk music culture. The band brings together four Occitan musicians, joined on the latest album by an Algerian.
Daniel Loddo, the founder of the band, writes a large number of songs for La Talvera, inspired by traditional themes. He plays also a large range of instruments, including accordeon as well as a range of typical instruments from Southern France, such as local bagpipes, oboe and a reed-flute. The other distinctive element of La Talvera is the strong and intensive, slightly shrill singing of Céline Ricard (even though Daniel also sings). Other central instruments are clarinet, tambourine, precussion, mandola and jews harp.
"Pòble mon Pòble" is the more modern and innovative album of these two. It includes modern percussion, even some samples, and some of the songs have a much more contemporary feeling to them. The title track, for example, is more of a rap. The album is full of experimenting and playing about with the music - in one number some baby crying, in another one a little bit of electric guitar, or a bit of a phone conversation. The album is fun and has been created with a good sense of humour; it is full of little surprises. The music takes in influences from all over the Mediterranean Europe and Northern Africa. Overall, however, also this album stays true to the local Occitan tradition; the traditional instruments are usually in the centre of the music. The accordion is quite often central to the sound of this album.
Compared to "Pòble mon Pòble", "Faguem Ribòta" sounds very harmless. Even though also on this album, many songs are composed by Daniel Loddo, the feeling of the album is much more traditional. Here, La Talvera sounds much more like a lively group performing on village fete in Occitania, even though this album shows a good sense of humour and improvisation as well.
Both albums show a lively band with a distinctive sound, and with many ideas how to liven up the music, have fun, entertain. Both albums are also extremely long, well over an hour - some bands would have made 4 CDs of this amount of material! My personal favourite of the two albums is the latest, "Pòble mon Pòble", with its modern arrangements - for my taste, this is much more of a CD to listen to at home, while "Faguem Ribòta" feature more the kind of music which is best enjoyed in live, in the authentic surroundings of a Southern French village; on CD it sounds at times a bit too shrill to my liking. Both albums are lively and fun, both albums are full of sunshine, summer and joie de vivre.
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Michael Moll

Last Night's Fun "Tempered"
Label: Rabble Rouser; No. RR003; 2004; Playing time: 45.01 min
Last Night's Fun is a trio combining one of England's best concertina players, Chris Sherburn, a great uilleann piper, Nick Scott, and an Irish singer/guitarist with his very own distinctive style (described by some, with a twinkle in the eye, as fog horn), Denny Bartley. This is the third album of the trio, after "Dubh" and "Live at the Wharfe".
"Tempered" has a very relaxed feeling, and provides plenty of musical space for all three musicians. Compared to their last album "Dubh", which featured rather dark and serious music, this one has a much more positive atmosphere. The material is very well chosen - the instrumental sets take full advantage of the three instruments, featuring some haunting solo piping or concertina playing as well as energetic joint playing of pipes, concertina and guitar. "The Watchmaker" set is a classic example of the trio's talent - starting off with a beautiful gentle tune "The Cliffs of Moher", with first solo concertina, leading into a beautiful slow ensemble playing, followed by two more powerful traditional tunes. The four songs are enjoyable as well - I like in particular "Sammy's Bar" and "Thirty Foot Trailer", which seem to be well suited to Denny's singing style. The other two songs are Woody Guthrie's "Tom Load" and an unusual lament version of "Whisky in the Jar". Even though I have to say that I still miss the bodhrán playing of Jane Sherburn, who performed on Denny and Chris' earlier albums, "Tempered" is a treat.
Last Night's Fun's definite best album so far.
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Michael Moll

Old Blind Dogs "the gab o mey"
Label: Green Linnet; No. GLCD1223; 2003; Playing time: 49.09 min
The new offering of the Old Blind Dogs, one of the leading Scottish folk bands, does overall not disappoint. It has a different flair than their last album, in general more calm, less rocky and energetic, at the same time there is less traditional material. In the tunes, Rory Campbell is, once again, the most outstanding feature, with his extraordinary talent on the bagpipes; yet also the founding Dogs Buzzby McMillan (bass, cittern) and Jonny Hardy (fiddle) give the music its own unique note. Of course, there is also excellent tribal percussion, a trademark of the OBDs based mainly on bongos, this time provided by Fraser Stone. All instrumentals are great; one of its highlights is the Breton and Galician set, with its southern flair, where Rory shows his skills on the Galician gaita bagpipes. Unfortunately, this album only features one of Rory's own composition, with "A wild rumpus" - hopefully the next album will have again more of Rory's compositions!
Of the five songs on the album, all sung by the superb singer Jim Malcolm (see also review of his latest solo CD in this issue), two seem to be a bit weak and do not really work for the band, letting the album overall a bit down - these are Jim's "The wisest fool" and Brian McNeill's "Lads o the Fair". The remaining three songs make up for that: The first track, "Monymusk lads", shows the OBDs at their best, in a lively traditional song with energetic and modern arrangement; "Bogie's bonny belle" is a beautiful gentle traditional ballad, and finally, a charming version of the well known shanty "Rolling Home" provides a pleasant close to the album.
The Old Blind Dogs are still at their very best when performing live; still, "the gab o mey" is a very enjoyable and well mixed album, providing enough sound scope for all instruments.
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Michael Moll

Wolfgang Meyering "Malbrook"
Label: Westpark Music; No. 87102; 2003; Playing time: 46.58 min
This exciting album which has been voted by FolkWorld's editors as best album of 2003 has been re-released on Westpark Music - unfortunately now with a very ugly booklet. Even though the booklet is ugly, this should not stop anybody from purchasing this superb album!
Wolfgang Meyering is one of the leading and most innovative folk musicians from Germany, well-known as member of the East Berlin band Jams - one of the best German folk bands - and the Northern German band Spillwark. Wolfgang draws his inspiration from Northern German music traditions from East Frisia, but experiments with influences from all over the genres and traditions. His new album "Malbrook" celebrates the links and connections of Northern German with Scandinavian music traditions. Among the host of musicians that have been gatherered for this album, there are a number of musicians from the Swedish Bohuslän and the neighbouring Norway; most notably Anders, Christer and Mia Gunberg Adin. The range of instruments is exciting and rather unusual, and includes hurdy gurdy, jews harp, German and Swedish bagpipes, Bohemian Harp and horn, along with the more usual suspects of guitars, mandolin, flutes, keyboards, percussion.
All four ballads on the album are traditional in East Frisian dialect, a language which is rather similar to Swedish. Sung by Wolfgang, several have a thoughtful atmosphere, reflecting a feeling of the wide open landscapes of Northern Germany. Others are more modern arranged, and sound more rough. Instrumentally the CD is superb, with exciting arrangements, often with a very powerful appearance featuring hurdy gurdy and German bagpipes. The more unusual instruments make this album unique, yet also the cheekyness of some of the tunes and instruments, the large amount of different and exciting ideas and the experimental approach ensure plenty of entertainment.
I am also pleased to hear that the Malbrook band is also available for bookings, and will play at a range of festivals this summer. Festival organisers across Europe - this is FolkWorld's Number 1 recommendation this year!
A unique album, a real "eye opener" that will convince anybody that there is some excellent and world class folk music around in Germany. This album is a "must" for fans of regional European music with distinction.
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Michael Moll

Jim Malcolm "Live in Glenfarg"
Label: Beltame Records; No. BELCD103; 2004; Playing time: 69.48 min
Jim Malcolm is, without any doubt, one of the best singers and most gifted songwriters to be found today on the Scottish folk scene. During the last few years, he has become even better known through his work as singer of the Old Blind Dogs. Jim has had for a long time the plan to record a solo live album; finally he got round to it - and it has been well worth waiting for!
This album features 15 songs from Jim's vast repertoire, and indeed the selection is a real "best of Jim Malcolm", bringing together most of my personal favourites of Jim's previous four studio albums. Highlights are several of Jim's self penned songs, including Jim's classic anti-war song "Battle of Waterloo", the song "Neptune" (which has, since his first recording, been covered by Kate Rusby), the swinging "Achiltibuie", a celebration of the Perthshire landscapes "The Lochs of the Tay", the hilarious song "The Party" and another song which has become a classic in its own right: Jim's funny song "Flowers of Edinburgh", to the traditional tune. The album showcases the full variety and talent of Jim Malcolm - featuring traditionals, self penned songs both serious and funny, sometimes more traditional, at other times jazzy-swinging.
The recording quality is excellent; the Glenfarg Folk Club audience gives the album a warm feeling by providing for some songs a beautiful backdrop chorus singing - in particular in "Sir Patrick's Spens" - a.k.a. "Ooooh Ooooh" (that's what Jim's daughter calls it!). The album only features a bit applauding after each song, but no announcements to songs - as Jim explains in the booklet "All the patter between the songs has been edited out, partly because it gets in the way and partly so that I can get away with telling the same old jokes at my concerts."
This is Jim Malcolm pure, in top shape - only his attractive voice, his guitar and, in some tunes, his mouthie. It is lovely to hear some of the songs from Jim's earlier albums in this treatment, which were performed on the studio album in a jazzy band context. And generous he has been as well - the album offers nearly 70 minutes of songs, all the very best quality.
I really love this album, and it is likely to become one of my favourite Jim Malcolm CDs. If you know and like Jim Malcolm, this album is a must, even if you have most of the songs already on earlier albums from Jim - the arrangements are different, and the atmosphere is superb, giving full justice to Jim's warm singing style. If you have not heard anything from Jim Malcolm before, this is a perfect introduction to the songs and singing of one of Scotland's very best.
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Michael Moll

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

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

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