Issue 29 09/2004

FolkWorld CD Reviews (1)

Edinburgh Session, photo by The Mollis

Karen + Helene "solen"
Label: GO Danish Folk Music Production; GO0304; 2004; Playing time: 49.02 min
This is a spectacular release - probably the first CD bringing traditional Danish songs to major attention not only of the Danish, but also international media. Karen Mose and Helene Blum have everything it takes to make traditional songs attractive to a wide audience - they are young, pretty, have charismatic voices and an excellent lively stage performance. They definitely have been one of the big attractions of this year's Tønder Festival - which is quite something, as Tønder is overall focussed on Celtic music. Karen has already been given some attention as the new lead singer of Danish band Phønix, featuring strongly on their latest album, praised in FolkWorld No. 24.
On "solen", the duo's debut album, the focus clearly lies on traditional Danish songs, added by a couple of songs from Sweden translated into Danish, and a Norwegian Halling. Many of the Danish songs are among the most common and well known songs. The two yong women managed to gather some of the creme of the Danish folk music scene into the studio to record the album - including Harald Haugaard and Morten Alfred Høirup. The accompaniment is usually subtle, sometimes very impressive; in particular Hans Midtskov's saxophone adds sometimes an additional dimension to the music. Overall, the atmosphere of the album is calm and relaxed, and makes lovely listening for a quiet evening in.
This is a stunning and inspiring debut, which surely will help to bring the evolving innovative new folk music scene of Denmark further to international markets. Highly recommended.
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Michael Moll

Le Vent Du Nord "Maudite Moisson!"
Label: Borealis Records; BCD151; 2003; Playing time: 51.40 min
Another real eye-opener. Le Vent Du Nord are from Québec, and represent the strong French-Canadian traditions. And indeed the band has everything that makes a French Canadian band special - plenty of stepping, accordion, power, innovation, French charme. What makes Le Vent Du Nord additionally special is the extensive use of the hurdy gurdy, an instrument which finds too seldom use in today's folk music. Le Vent Du Nord were without doubt one of the highlights of this year's Tonder Festival in Denmark, and their live shows are unforgettable - a must for any festival organiser and festival goer!
The band brings together four top musicians, who have between them worked in most of the important French Canadian bands, including La Bottine Souriante and Ad Vielle Que Pourra. They are: Nicholas Boulerice (hurdy-gurdy, piano), Olivier Demers (fiddle), Benoit Bourque (step dance, accordeon) and Bernard Simard (guitar, voice). The band's repertoire combines energetic and lively songs with plenty of stepping and vocal counter singing, and more quiet love songs with plenty of atmosphere, often instrumentally focussed on accordeon and hurdy gurdy. A lot of the material is traditional, and several of the songs will sound familiar to fans of bands such as La Bottine Souriante. In fact, Le Vent Du Nord sound very much like La Bottine Souriante used to sound in the old times, when they did not have their brass section.
Overall, this is a very happy, positive album, full of power and atmosphere. If I had this album before compiling the Top 10 of 2003, I am sure it would have featured quite at the top of my list.
This album is a joy from start to finish, and should not be missed.
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Michael Moll

Gwenaël Kerleo "Yelen"
Label: Coop Breizh; 2003; Playing time: 45.03 min
Purely Celtic Harp.On Yelen, the young Breton harpist presents her own composition, divided into three parts. There is a clear influence of Gwenael's Breton music background throughout her composition. The composition features mostly only the Celtic Harp, with occasional addition of the young woman's enchanting voice, singing without words. Gwenael shows her skills on the harp and in composing, creating a masterpiece of beautiful music with enough variety to take the listener's full attention throughout the album. The music allows the full beauty of the sounds of the Celtic harp come to live.
Beautiful, dreamy, enchanting music, that carries you far away into sweet day dreams.
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Michael Moll

La Lionetta "ballate 1978-1996"
Label: FolkClub Ethnosuoni; ES 5336; 2004 (1978-1996); Playing time: 56.24 min
La Lionetta have in the last few years impressed with some of the most innovative and exciting music that has come out of Italy, if not to say out of Europe - see FolkWorld reviews of "Ottoni & Settimini" and "Arzan". Having been founded in Turin in 1977, the band looks now already back on more than 25 years of band history. This album looks back at the good old times of La Lionetta, when the band was much more focussed on traditional Italian music per se.
This CD combines the music of two old LPs, "Danye e Ballate dell'Area Celtica Italiana" from 1978 and "Il Gioco del Diavolo" from 1981. The approach to the music is much more traditional on these recordings than what La Lionetta are doing these days. The band features a wide range of traditional instruments, including dulcimer, bagpipes, accordeon, flutes, fiddles guitar, mandolin, percussion. All numbers are traditional songs, sung mainly by a female lead singer.
After 1981, the activity of the band was gradually reducing; only in 1995 a number of the original band members found together again, with more of a folk rock attitude, to revive the band. From this time, the album features two titles which have been previously unreleased, but which are for my taste a bit bland folk rock. After a short folk rock phase, La Lionetta evolved to what it is now - an open minded ethnic band basing their music on Italian traditions, but adding songwriting and powerful arrangements that cross musical borders to the music.
The album has been fully remastered, and the sound quality is good throughout the album.The enhanced CD part gives additional infos on the band history.
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Michael Moll

Kenneth Thompson "Seòladh Dhachaigh"
Label: Macmeanmna; SKYECD26.; 2004; Playing time: 46.49 min
Kenneth Thompson has recorded his first solo album only after retiring from his career in the National Health Service in Glasgow. The recording of the album is some 25 years after he won the National Mòd Gold Medal. On this album, Kenneth sings with his mature soft voice 15 Gaelic songs, several of them very popular in Gaelic song circles. He is joined on the album by some of Scotland's best musicians, including Mary Ann Kennedy, Allan Henderson, Ingrid Henderson and Chaz Stewart, on instruments such as fiddle, clarsach, piano, guitars. Not necessariy an album full of excitement, yet it is an album featuring Gaelic songs from the heart, in as perfect accompaniment as possible.
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Michael Moll

WoodworX "Two short planx"
Label: Poke Records; No. PROD-013; 2004; Playing time: 44.20 min
Two Aussie-ex pats, Toni Woods and Brian Heywood, who have left Australia for the UK, and ended up meeting each other in no other place than Yorshire. This is singer/songwriter folk rock, overall quite in the English style, with a typical folk rock outfit of guitars, fiddle and drums. For the CD, there is a number of guest musicians, both from the UK and Australia, on various rock instruments, fiddle and accordeon. Most of the songs are written by Brian Heywood, plus a few Scottish traditionals and songs by other composers. Both Toni and Brian sing, providing a nice combination of male and female voices - both voices are pleasant yet not outstanding. Overall, this is nothing really new, yet it is definitely decent folk rock music.
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Michael Moll

Triakel "Sånger från 63° N"
Label: Westpark (Germany) - Triakel Records (international); No. WP87104; 2004; Playing time: 47.17 min
Since their inception, Triakel have brought Swedish traditional songs to the forefront in the international folk scene. Triakel combines musicians from two of the most famous and popular Swedish folk rock bands - singer Emma Härdelin from Garmana, and fiddler Kjell-Erik Eriksson and harmonium player Janne Strömstedt (formerly) from Hoven Droven. In Triakel, the musicians leave their folk rock background behind, and play pure traditional songs. Emma's clear voice is always in the foreground, while fiddle and harmonium provide the right backing atmosphere. In fact, the songs are sung as clear that they could be used in Swedish classes.
A quiet CD full of Swedish songs, performed in the honest traditional way.
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Michael Moll

Lews Castle College 50th Anniversary Commemorative CD "Breaking the Ground"
Label: Own; No. LCC01CD; 2003; Playing time: 58.11 min
As the title already says, this album celebrates the 50th anniversary of Lews Castle College, featuring students and teachers of the music courses at its Benbecula Campus. These courses combine the learning of traditional Scottish music and Gaelic language. Since 2002, the course releases annually a CD with music from the students, called "Ceòlraidh". This album features seven tracks from the 2003 "Ceòlraidh". one from the 2002 "Ceòlraidh" and six tracks from solo CDs of students.
The album features a wide range of music of high quality, some tunes grab me more, some less. Some of it is very close to the Gaelic music tradition, other titles have a bit of a wider, yet mostly Scottish, music background. Instruments features on the album include flute, whistle, scottish smallpipes, bouzouki, mandolin, accordion, guitars, bagpipes. There are some songs in English language, as well as impressive Gaelic songs sung by Janet MacDonald.
Overall a lovely collection of a variety of Scottish folk music.
Info about Lews Castle College Music Courses and this CD:
Michael Moll

Xosé Manual Budiño "Zume de Terra"
Label: Boa/Do Fol; Do Fol 34; 2004; Playing time: 56.44 min
Xosé Manuel Budiño is one of the recent shooting stars of the Galician scene, having entered with his gaita many concert stages throughout the world. With "Zume de Terra", Xosé has created one of the most creative and innovative modern folk music albums that has come out during recent years. It combines Galician traditions with world music and dance music, in a highly appealing and sexy way. Some gaita hymns will stay in your mind for hours if not forever!
The album features Xosé on gaita and whistle, guitars and programming, as well as a large number of guest musicians from the Spanish and international folk and world music scene. Singers come from Cabo Verde and Brazil, and some song samples are taken from old Spanish field recordings remixed and integrated into gaita hymns. Throughout the album Xosé is proving what broad range of music styles and sounds the gaita can accomodate. Tunes are weaving together gaita and low whistle, and a host of other instruments, including accordeon, fiddle (Jacky Molard!), bass, guitars, samples. The hymns in each tune are repetitive, but that makes part of their appeal, and makes them unforgettable. An unexpected highlight of the CD is the last number, which is not even listed on the CD - a song in the style of an African chant, with a host of guests, leading into a wild gaita tune.
All tunes are composed by the young master himself, and show a certain unique style of modern Galician music. This is indeed music which can be played in discos, is highly radio friendly, but stay true to folk music, and I would imagine that most open minded folk music fans are still very comfortable with the music.
I love this album, it is full of power and innovation, and develops folk music to another dimension. Unforgettable and an absolute must for friends of modern folk music.
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Michael Moll

La Ciapa Rusa "Diario di bordo"
Label: FolkClub Ethnosuoni; ES 5335; 2004; Playing time: 59.30 min
La Ciapa Rusa has been one of the most important bands of the Italian folk revival. The Piedmont band was at the forefront of the Italian folk music scene for 20 years. in 1997, the band members decided not to continue with La Cipa Rusa, as they felt burnt out, did not enjoy themselves anymore and believed that the magic had gone of their music. Six years later, on the 20th anniversary edition of the Folkermesse, a traditional music festival in Piedmont, La Ciapa Rusa agreed to get together once more, gathering on stage all musicians that have made the band during the past 20 years. This CD recorded the event; and as the booklet states, this is now formally the splitting up of La Ciapa Rusa.
Altogether 15 musicians have contributed to this final concert, on a large range of instruments, including hurdy gurdy, melodeon, piva (the Northern Italian bagpipe), fiddle, sax, guitars, drums and many more; plus of course singers. The CD presents 15 songs and tunes from the repertoire of the band, all performed with passion, full of happiness and joy. The music is mostly traditional, and the interpretation follows also more traditional ways.
Defintely an appropriate farewell for this important Italian band.
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Michael Moll

Bagad Kemper "Sud -Arsu"
Label: Keltia Musique; No.KMCD151; 2004; Playing time: 55.45 min
This is probably the most exciting bagad band from Brittany - usually, Breton bagads are pipebands. But Bagad Kemper is much more than that - the band invites for their projects a whole host of guest musicians. The core Bagad Kemper is more the usual Bagad line-up - a host of Breton pipers, an as big a number of bombarde players plus drummers. For "Sud -Arsu" the band features as guest musicians an extensive brass section (trumpets, trombone, sax), accordion, bass and percussion, plus as special guest Galician gaita player Susane Seivane.
Bagad Kemper does not only play traditional Breton music, but also music from further south. For example, the opener of the CD, the classic Brazilian tune "Mas que Nada", is a real treat, full of fun and power, full of pipes and brass and samba drumming. Of course you do have also still plenty of the shrill sounds of bombardes, and the "real" Breton pipeband feeling. But overall, this is more cool music; the CD has been recorded and the wild atmosphere of the audience has been well captured.
Unique pipe & bombarde band music with an open mind, full of power and ideas.
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Michael Moll

Steampacket "Homecoming"
Label: Leiselaut; No.LLCD1-003; 2004; Playing time: 55.36 min
This band combines some of the finest Irish folk musicians, and presents Irish music of the highest quality. And yet none of these musicians is actually of Irish nationality, all of them are German. Some of the musicians are well known on the German Celtic scene from their participation in classic German Celtic bands, such as Limerick Junction and Dereelium. Steampacket are: Stephan Schneider and Tina Fastje both on fiddle, Claus Steinort on flute, Rolf Wagels on bodhran and Andreas Lassak on guitar and bass.
Steampacket's music is mostly Irish traditional, playing the full range of reels, jigs, waltz, hornpipe; yet there is also the odd finnish polkka, Breton tune or bouree mixed under. The musicians prove that tey are both at home with slow and fast tunes, and the tunes picked are definitely not the usual "run of the mill" session tunes. This is top Irish music, as good as you would find it among the best Irish bands. Irish music fans - watch out for this album!
Michael Moll

Jaune Toujours "barricade"
Label: own; Chou 0402; Begium; 2004; Playing time: 38.40 min
I love this Belgian band - since I first heard an album of them! We have chosen their album "Brusk" as best album of 2000. And barricade is - again - a great CD.
Mastermind of Jaune Toujour is Piet Maris, he is the singer of the band, additionally he plays accordeon and piano - but most of all he writes all the texts of the songs (mostly in french language, but also in flemish) and composes (sometimes together with the band members Theophane Raballand and Mathieu Verkaeren) all of the music of their album. And while talking already about them - I can introduce the other musicians of this album: Theophane Raballand plays drums and percussion, Mathieu Verkaeren double bass and guitar, Mattias Laga, soprano sax and different clarinetes, and finally there are 5 musicians playing trumpet: Bart Maris (also trombone), Yves Fernandez and Sam Versweyveld (both also flugelhorn), Sam Vloemans and Bert Bernaerts (also tuba). And as guests there are 12 accordeon player of La Nouvelle Hamrnonie Bruxelloise d'Accordeons.
So - how to describe their music? It is highly individual (only original material) - modern and multi cultural influenced with hints of accordeon muzette and southern brass. Through often repeating hook lines the music gets an trance atmosphere - and many of the songs (and also melodies) will stay for hours as earwigs in your head... What to do against it - well put again the CD in and play it loud!!!
They have stayed on the same musicial pathe during the last years - and I think they have matured and are now at their heights. The playing time of this album might be a bit short for these days - but the quality is very high. (And I have to say - I hate it, if musicians put material of lesser quality on their album, just to "fill it up".)
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Christian Moll

Jasna & Balkaneska - demo
Label: demo: 5 tracks; Playing time: 42.39 min
The musical journey goes on. This time it takes me to eastern and south eastern Europe. Jasna Jovicevic - musical head of Jasna & Balkaneska hails from Serbia & Montenegro. This year she is graduating (or more probably already now has graduated) at the Frans Lizt Music Academy in the Jazz departmend in Hungary. In that academy she has met the other members of Balkaneska.
The music they are playing is quite divers - partly traditional from Yugoslavia, partly written by modern componists including Jasna herself. The music varies between balkan ethno motives and a lot of improvisations of jazz (as you can imagine as they are from the jazz department). it is great to see the music wander around folk, jazz, world music (or how you want to call it).
Jasna & Balkanseska are Jasna on saxophones, flute and shepard flute; pianist Attila Blaho (YU); Zoltán Kovács (YU) on double bass and sometimes on bass guitar and violin the Hungarian drummer / percussionist Csaba Pusztai. Sometimes they have an Yugoslavian singer as guest.
This album is a demo CD (I don't know if you can buy it from them) - it has quite sparce information on it. I hope they will soon publish a "real" album. Their south eastern European jazz folk should be heard by more people!
Contact to artist:; Jasna Jovicevic, Degré u. 2; 2740 Abony; Hungary; Tel. ++(38) 70 5708789
Christian Moll

Capercaillie "Grace and Pride"
Label: Survival Records SURCD 030
Subtitled 'The Anthology 2004 -1984', this is what is known in the trade as a milking exercise. Capercaillie have now left Survival for the sanctuary of Sanctuary Records, but they continue to be Survival's best selling artist by some way, hence this re-release of items from their back catalogue, enhanced with a couple of tracks licensed from the band's Sanctuary album "Choice Language' released last year. A double CD, there is something here from every period and line-up of the band's long career, and to be fair to them Survival have gone down the 12" mix, previously unreleased route, so there could be a reason for longer term fans to splash out on this compilation. There's also a 20-page colour booklet with lots of pictures and featuring articles from 'The Living Tradition' magazine and one by Donald Shaw (founder member and accordion player) lifted from the Scotsman newspaper, and a career retrospective by John O'Regan.
There can't be many reading this who will not know who Capercaillie are, but if you're one of them, they are probably the best, and certainly the longest lasting, folk rock band from Scotland. Fans of the band will know what to expect, and for the curious or recent converts this release provides a way to catch up on the highlights of the band's recordings painlessly, though be warned, you may end up buying some of the albums anyway! The tracks are in date order, but unusually beginning with the latest album as tracks 1 to 3 on CD 1 and going back to 'The Little Cascade', recorded back in 1984, as track 20 on CD 2. As a long-term admirer, if not ardent fan, of the band, I have no reason to quibble with either the track selection or the package. It does exactly what it says on the case - 38 tracks, 150+ minutes of music, including rare, unreleased and long deleted tracks. Good stuff.
Colin Jones

Andrew Cronshaw "Ochre"
Label: Cloud Valley Records CV2008
It scarcely bears believing that it is now 30 years since I put Andrew Cronshaw on stage at the Victoria Palace Theatre as support to Renaissance, where his solo zither playing stilled the full house and went down a storm. He has not been exactly prolific since, this being only his ninth album in that time, but the spellbinding sound is still there, this time on a collection of mostly English tunes and airs. Working with an eclectic bunch of musicians from the Middle East to Wales, Cronshaw mixes zither with oud, quanun, triple harp, clarinet, sax and the occasional vocal from Natacha Atlas into a soothing, inventive, spacious tapestry of melodies. The trick is in the blending of instruments to create something new from these traditional tunes, and it's an art Cronshaw now excels at. Highly recommended.
Colin Jones

"The Big Session: Volume 1" (Oysterband plus guests)
Label: Westpark Music; 87105; 2004; Playing time: 65.06 min; England
The sleeve for this album mentions neither the Oysters nor 'Various Artists', but anyone who saw the live shows will tell you that the Oysters conceived and ran the Big Session like an open supper, just bring a dish and eat. In this recorded version, done live over three days at the BBC's Bush Hall in London, we have the stalwarts from the live shows, Ben Ivitsky, Eliza Carthy and Jim Moray, plus old friends (and established album sellers) June Tabor and Show Of Hands. Just to show they weren't resting on laurels they also invited along alt:country darlings The Handsome Family, who threw their distinctive spanner into the mix. The result, as you might expect, is an album of two halves, the stuff from the live shows coming across much stronger than the newer material from the invited guests. Show Of Hands and June Tabor are professional enough to pull through this test, but the Handsome Family stuff sounds like pork at a kosher wedding to these ears. Still, enough successes to warrant further investigation, and the good news is another big session will be coming along November/December this year.
Colin Jones

Sean Keane "A Portrait: The Best Of 1993 - 2003"
Label: CR Records CR004CD
Dolores' brother's work over the past ten years sampled on this 'Best Of', along with two new tracks recorded for this release. When 'All Heart, No Roses' came out in '94 it looked like Sean was ready to step out of his famous sister's shadow and become a star, but the impetus gained by that recording was not maintained and Keane has remained a peripheral figure, though with a steady and loyal following. Arrangements which sound more like Daniel O'Donnell than Christy Moore have not helped his cause, and whilst there's no doubting he has a fine voice, it's not enough on its own. One for your mum or your Granny, sadly.
Colin Jones

Lila Downs "Una Sangre"
Label: Narada/EMI / Peregrina Music (in Germany) PM50382; 2004; Playing time: 50.18 min; Mexico
Following her appearances at WOMAD and on the soundtrack to the movie "Frida", here is Lila's new record, and it's a corker. All the dynamism of her live show is somehow bottled into the CD and comes fizzing out when you push the play button. From the opening track 'Viborita' on, the tempo is up, the playing is spot on and Lila's vocal dominates the mix without shouting or harshness. Traditional Mexican music hasn't been this good since Los Lobos. Fans of quality (world) music should give this one a listen.
Colin Jones

More English CD Reviews: Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5 - Page 6 - Page 7
More German CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page 2
Overview: CD Review Contents

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