Issue 31 1/2006
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Chloë & Jason Roweth "The Riderless Horse"
Label: Own label; JCCD0007; 2005; Playing
time: 54:10 min
Chloë and Jason Roweth (better known as the Australian folk duo Us
Not Them, or members of the Wongawilli
Dance Band) perform Australian songs and poems from the trenches and the
home front, 1914-1918. The Great War era seems to have left a huge impression
up to these days, much more than in Europe itself where Australian soldiers
had been sent to fight the Turks at Suvla Bay and Gallipoli. This is known for
most of us by Scotsman Eric Bogle
(-> FW#1, FW#15,
FW#19, see also the review of his recent
live cd in this FW issue) who emigrated to Australia and wrote "The Green Fields
of France" and "The Band Played Waltzing Mathilda". However, "The Riderless
Horse" is dedicated to the war songs of the period, songs sung while marching
and songs brought back from the trenches or written afterwards. It is an
emotional journey beginning with the nationalistic fervour at the outbreak of
the war, and on through many stark realizations resulting in a more mature,
confident and worldly outlook by the time peace was declared. The more realistic
songs had been banned and censored at the time, some lyrics send shivers down
the spine, but there is pathos and glory as well and sentimentality and parody
alike. Well, that war is over, the next is certainly on its way: Fighting
the Kaiser, who'll come a-fighting the Kaiser with me. And we'll drink all his
beer and eat up all his sausages, who'll come a-fighting the Kaiser with me.
Us Not Them
The Kennedys "Half A Million Miles"
APR CD 1090; 2005; Spielzeit: 40:02 min
Round, round, ten traveling years is a mighty long, long while. When the
long road stretches out ahead, a half a million miles. The two Kennedys,
Maura (she played country rock with the Delta Rays before) and Pete (he accompanied
Nanci Griffith), perform an enthusiastic acoustic guitar pop in the vein of
their heroes, the Byrds and the Everly Bros. Still fresh, after ten years of
marriage, over 1,000 concerts and 500,000 miles of touring. The title track
recounts their first date when they met at Buddy Holly's grave in Lubbock, Texas.
There's two covers (Bob Dylan's "Chimes of Freedom", Richard Thompson's "How
Will I Ever Be Simple Again"). The ten original tracks bear references to an
Buddhist outlook: Buddha Holly, if you like. As the couple says: This
is a collection of new songs that neither look back with nostalgia nor stands
on tiptoe to try and guess the future. It is just another milestone on the path
from innocence down the turnpikes and interstates and through the very valleys
of darkness to the place where we first began.
MAM276-2; 2005; Spielzeit: 38:32 min
Well ... Sometimes it's hard to find words. That's even one more chip on one's
shoulder if you have to find words on something you deeply like. Noi is a band
from Czechia playing some sort of folk rock. It is slow and sad, the typical
folk instrumentation such as with flutes, mouth organ, violoncello, acoustic
guitar and percussion. The lyrics are Czech (I don't know if these are traditional
songs). I regret that I have no understanding of the song lyrics. However, the
musical style is rather west European and contemporary. As I said in the beginning,
I love this album. So there is much worse to czeck it out at the record label's
Maraca - Zimbova "Krvave Balady"
MAM258-2; 2005; Spielzeit: 43:46 min
"Krvave Balady" means bloody or murder ballads and it refers to
the big traditional song corpus found in every European folk tradition, though
not in today's clean tv and radio volksmusik. However, listen to Sweden's
Triakel (-> FW#30)
or Norway's Skrekk (see CD review in this issue), for example. The Czechian
band Maraca teamed up with another group
called Zimbova to arrange and perform some haunting Moravian ballads, dating
back to the 16th century. Vocalists Marta Vavrova and Gabriela Vermelho sing
bleak songs about a sorrowful place in which life was short and cruel, full
of unfulfilled loves, rapes and murders. Most songs are in the Czech language,
except a few which are in Portuguese. Must be an interesting story behind this
connection. The mood is not too sad altogether. In contrast to the sad stories,
the arrangements are bright and tuned up with contemporary jazz and rock. So
this collection of traditional Moravian sex & crime stories is in line with
musical developments in other European countries. Czech tradition has finally
arrived in the 21st century.
Irish Dew "Sance"
MAM267-2; 2005; Spielzeit: 54:47 min
Irish Dew is vocalist and harpist Sean
Barry plus some Czechian friends. Based in the beautiful city of Prague, which
had become a diaspora for many people (and seemingly many musicians), the quartet
features accordion, flutes and acoustic and electric guitars. Most of the songs
are rather well-known ("Carrickfergus" etc.), those are the tunes (though I
can't recall most names and the CD cover doesen't help because it's all Czech).
The crucial point is the treatment. The pace is relaxed, though the instrumentation
makes it a folk rock album at times. The band plays mainly Irish, but also pays
visits to other musical worlds, including Vlachian singer Frantisek Segrado
and kora player Lamin Kouyat from Senegal. That makes the most exciting tracks,
while some orchestral, almost baroque oeuvre don't work that well. I wonder
what the guys are doing live.
Benedikta "Punky Dumky"
MAM257-2; 2005; Spielzeit: 36:37 min
The Czech band Benedikta fuses anything that 'she' gets into her hands: pop,
rock and funk and jazz to her punky dumky style. Slavic folklore might
be an inspiration at the start. I have a liking for the mid tempo numbers which
are quite attractive. However, there is also a funky side which makes you dancing.
I suppose it's a band that is best heard live in the small and sweaty underground
clubs in the belly of Prague.
Rig the Jig "Passing Through"
Cove; MLG2 50668; 2004; Playing time: 58:44 min
I have some fuzzy memories that I've seen Rig
the Jig (-> FW#23) when passing
through Longford a couple of years ago. County Longford in the very midst of
Ireland is not really a hotbed for traditional and folk music, though they have
the annual Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival
now, but it's Rig The Jig who put the town on the music map And yes, there's
two banjo players in the band (Johnnie Duffy and Jimmy Flanagan) plus lead singer
Michael Banahan, uilleann piper Noel Carberry, button accordionist Brendan Doyle
and bass and guitar player Paul Gurney. This feel-good-band mixes traditional
Irish music with its Anglo-American folk music sequel, and makes the Irish coming
full circle. The choice of songs makes nice slogans for the group: Where
the whiskey flows and the dices roll till dawn, from Rory
Gallagher's "Barley and Grape Rag"; Sing the Colleen Bawn and we'll drink
the night long, ah me songs and yarns are my only charms, from Charlie McGettigan's
"Liftin' of the Latch". The "City of New Orleans" is linked with the "Maid Behind
the Bar" reel. On a darker note we have Johnny
Cash's "I Still Miss Someone". Leonard
Cohen's "Passing Through" is a great song that I've never heard of before.
So the next time you're getting in the Longford area - stop and listen!
HCD 7193; 2004; Playing time: 55:38 min
Skrekk is the Norwegian counterpart to Swedish bands such as Triakel
(-> FW#9, FW#16,
FW#30). And the same is true: it's chilling.
Singers Tone Juve and Camilla Granlien accompany themselves on cello and double
bass. Åse Teigland adds some terrific fiddling (violin and hardinger fiddle).
Their musical source are the 1800s broadside ballads. Those ballads are dramatic
tales: thefts, murders and executions. The merrier ones are about bittersweet
love, leaving your girlfriend behind, of course pregnant. A water spirit is
transformed into a handsome young knight who dances a maiden to death, and Skrekk
reads the story's moral as: I advise all maidens to avoid arrogance when
dancing. "Dei tvo systrene" (i.e. "two sisters" -> FW#21)
is a story common to both sides of the North Sea: The older sister pushes the
younger into the river where she drowns. Two travellers find her bones and craft
a fiddle. They bring the fiddle to the wedding of the elder sister and the younger
one's former betrothed fiancee. The fiddle eventually starts playing and tells
the entire story. Well, well, happy shiny people these Norwegians.
Cómhrá na dTonn "The Conversation
of the Waves"
Label: Own label; DHCD 003; Playing time:
Máire McDonnell Garvey and her musician
friends (including bouzouki player Niall O
Callanain -> FW#26) lead us all
off the beaten track. 32 tunes, some dating back to the 17th century: 'MacDonnell's
March' or 'Allisdrum's Lament' (-> FW#27)
with the entire thirteen parts; mummers tunes; William Marshall's strathspey
'Duke of Gordon's Rant' that evolved into 'Lord Gordon's Reel' (-> FW#26,
FW#28) by the time of Michael Coleman.
There is well-known stuff, e.g. the song airs of "Boolavogue", "My Lagan Love",
Carolan tunes (-> FW#20), but much more to
discover. The (hi)story of each of the 20 tracks is told in a companion book
with more extensive notes than would fit in any CD booklet, complete with music,
song lyrics and pictures. And this book is the main reason to purchase. Read
more at T:-)M's Night Shift.
Dana and Susan Robinson "Native Soil"
Label: Threshhold Music; TM 0048; 2004; Playing
time: 45:42 min
I've made my living as a songwriter, says Dana
Robinson from Asheville, North Carolina, close to Peggy Seeger (see the
CD review above) - one of his songs has been recorded by English singer Miranda
Sykes on her recent album (see CD review below) -, yet I could never
write the way I do without the influence of traditional music. And here
are Dana (vocals, fiddle, guitar, mandolin)
and Susan Robinson (vocals, banjo, guitar) with a tribute album to the music
of Scots, Irish, African, and Native American origin that has been continually
reinterpreted and recycled through generations to become something uniquely
American. Dana is the multi-instrumentalist, with an elaborate and powerful
guitar style. He's a celebrated songwriter too, having a warm tenor voice. Susan
adds the clawhammer-style banjo and rich, close harmonies. Traditional songs
from the odd "Cuckoo" to "East Virgina Blues" and "Miller and the Lass" (compare
Eliza Carthy -> FW#4). Plus a couple of
tunes. This is rural America explored with elegant simplicity.
Threshhold Music/Robinson; Britain:
"The Festival in the Desert" [DVD Video]
WRASS 129D; 2004
V/A "The Festival in the Desert" [CD]
WRASS 128; 2004
The nomadic Kel Tamashek people from the area of Northern Mali are known to
Arabs as Tuareg, the forsaken of God. The ancients called them berber,
well, berber but no barbarians. Tuareg musicians already got introduced to the
electric guitar and integrated it in their culture. Three days in early January
2003, the Saharan oasis of Essakane became a big musical celebration. According
to the organizers, the festival was set up for the pleasure of a people who
have never even heard the word festival before. But they were happy.
There were bands from all over Mali (besides superstar Ali
Farka Toure), such as Tinariwen
(who played the German Rudolstadt festival a couple of years ago -> FW#23).
The Tuareg group whose name translates as desert plays hypnotic and trance-like
music, multiple guitars with percussion, hand claps, and overlaid vocals. Sometimes
you can imagine where the blues came from. There's also a selection of international
artists: world music from the French Lo'jo,
Robert Plant and Justin
Adams, and rather curiously but representing a people looking for its identity
in just another context, the Native American punk rockers Blackfire
(that played Rudolstadt the same year as Tinariwen). The festival had been filmed
by Lionel Brouet, also featuring a very interesting interview with conference
manager Issa Dicka and a photo gallery with moody images from the desert and
the festival (with music, that's fine and not that often the case with DVD extras).
The documentary is in French, but available with English subtitles (sometimes
hard to read). A 20 track CD with different content is also available. - Woodstock
in the Sahara desert, so without the rain.
Wrasse Records; Music available
on CD: Triban Union
Dobrek Brasil "Luz e Sombras"
DOBRECORDS 02; 2004; Playing time: 66:12 min
If an Englishman in New York has inspired a classic pop song and an American
in Paris an entire symphony, then it is little wonder that a Pole in Vienna
who forms a musical companionship with a Brazilian eventually comes up with
an innovative album up his sleeve. Thus, Kraków-born accordion player Krzysztof
Dobrek, who has established himself lately at the head of the Viennese world-music
scene, has recently produced an album under the name of "Dobrek Brasil", following
his successful Dobrek Bistro project of
earlier years [-> FW#28]. It has evolved
from Dobrek's collaboration with the Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Alegre
Corrêa and features the two companions along with a couple of other skilled
musicians, such as Endrigo Bettega on drums and percussion, Ronaldo Saggioratto
on bass guitar and, as special guest, Aliosha Biz on violin.
Notably, "Luz e Sombras" is not made up of the five hundred thousandth interpretations
of "Desafinado" and "The Girl from Ipanema", as one might possibly have expected.
On the contrary, all tunes on the album are Dobrek's own compositions. This,
then, is the key to the musical success of his latest work. As pieces like "Pararará"
or "Astor libre" amply demonstrate, Dobrek Brasil's variation on the theme of
transatlantic communication does not result in an amorphous multi-cultural mixture,
but its very opposite: the congenial synthesis of Brazilian vivacity and Slavic
melancholy. Taste it for yourselves!
Kay McCarthy "Rianta"
SONO35; 2004; Playing time: 53:15 min
For a quarter of a century, Kay McCarthy,
born in Dublin and bred in County Westmeath in central Ireland, has been hailed
as the spokesperson, if not "ambassadress" of Irish music and culture to Italy,
her elective homeland. Critics have long praised her skillful harp-playing and
her enthralling interpretation of Irish ballads, rendered mostly in the Gaelic
tongue. Lately, McCarthy has even taken to her new role as songwriter and as
such has now released a new album, "Rianta". For this full-length CD, the balladeer
has written no less than 14 out of 16 pieces, again most of them in Irish. On
"Rianta", MacCarthy emphasizes her reputation as an outstanding musician and
singer, and if her presence on the album is only half as gripping as her widely-acclaimed
live appearances, then her concerts must be practically out of this world.
Helikonia; Germany: Zyx/Siebenpunkt
Jasna & Balkaneska [Demo]
Label: Demo; 2004; Playing time: 31:40 min
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, countless young musicians have mushroomed
all over Eastern Europe who hand down the songs and tunes of their national
or regional traditions while at the same time keeping in touch with the "international"
development in jazz and pop/rock music. Jasna & Balkaneska are one of the shining
example of this new generation. Born and bred in Serbia, Montenegro and Hungary,
and reared particularly on the diet of the Franc Liszt Musical Academy in Budapest,
the band of five have just produced a four-track demo album, which comes across
as the follow-up to an earlier one [-> FW#29].
On their new record, Jasna & Balkaneska illustrate very impressively their distinctive
musical style, which blends "Western" jazz with songs and tunes from the Balkans.
This is already borne out by their selection of material, which joins two jazzed-up
arrangements of traditional folksongs and two original compositions written
by the band's mastermind, Jasna Jovicevic, who is also featured on the saxophone,
flute and "indigenous" woodwind instruments.
With its freshness and vitality, Jasna & Balkaneska's new demo CD is certainly
apt to convince musicians from all kinds of background of their understanding
of "ethno jazz". Thus, after appearing at the Etno Jazz Competition in Milan
in 2004, the group will hopefully be heard outside Greece and the Balkans more
frequently than before in years to come.
V/A "Magic Irish Voices"
Label: Vive la Difference!; VLDCD39380; 2004;
Playing time: 63:34 min
The editors of the "Magic Music" series, which appears exclusively for the Frankfurt-based
publishing house Zweitausendeins (or "2001") on the German label "Vive la difference",
must have taken a liking to traditional Irish music. Along with samplers like
"Magic Irish Inspirations", " Magic Irish Roots", " Magic Irish Instrumentals"
or " Magic Irish Romances", they have recently released a compilation of "Magic
Irish Voices". This album brings together nothing short of the crème de la crème
of today's trad musicians, which ranges from the Fureys [-> FW#9]
to Andy Irvine [-> FW#23] to Barry Moore
[aka Luka Bloom -> FW#29] to Dolores
Keane to Máire Ní Bhronáin [-> FW#27]
and Clannad [-> FW#6]. The song collection
likewise spans from "An Spailpín Fánach" and the pathos-laden "Song for Ireland"
to the humorous "John Barleycorn" and "Why Paddy's not at Work Today" and on
the whole appears to be an exemplary sample of what is out there. Thus, the
"Magic Irish Voices" CD can serve as a pantheon of Irish music as well as an
anthology of the twentieth-century Celtic folk revival -- no more, but no less
Tim O'Shea & Friends "Lake of Learning"
Label: Lackeen Records; LAKCD003; 2003; Playing
time: 48:23 min
Tim O'Shea hails from the lakes
of Killarney. He is a singer and plays guitar. Some of his friends add concertina,
fiddle, accordion, whistles and uilleann pipes. For his 3rd album, Tim dived
deep into the "Lake of Learning" and successfully returned. This is also a great
song of Tim's (reminding me of the great piper Tomas Lynch and his original
songs). The "Lake of Learning" is the literal translation of Loch Lein, the
largest of the Killarney lakes, because of the monastery on Innisfallen island,
and the song mixes local history and legend. Furthermore there's Ron Kavana's
"Reconciliation" and Andy M. Stewart's "Freedom Is Like Gold". Excellent song
selection. The eight tune sets are typical Kerry and Clare music, the Sliabh
Luachra area near Killarney is present by its slides and polkas. The slow air
"Feartha Famine" is a fine original on solo guitar. Feartha is a deserted townland
on the old Killarney-Kenmare road, today used only by walkers. I did this once,
so this cd is almost a deja vu.
Sofia Sandén "Courage"
DROCD041; 2005; Playing time: 51:06 min
I'd like to sing a song if I may lend your ear and then ponder the state
of our lives... (En visa vill jag sjunga) No, it is not everything about
customs and costumes, dancing to the fiddles in the bright hours at midsummer
night, traditions of a bygone era. Well, not only. Swedish singer and fiddler
Sofia Sandén plus a band consisting
of flute, guitar, mandolin, cello, fiddle, hurdy gurdy etc. perform traditional
songs, mostly from the Siljan area, Dalarna. She found the courage - "Hey Courage"
is the name of a polska and joking tune by fiddler Knis Karl Aronsson - recording
the first solo album, after she found reasonably success with Rosenbergs Sjua
(-> FW#18) and Ranarim (-> FW#18,
Sofia and her fellow group members follow in the great tradition of Scandinavian
bands such as Triakel (-> FW#30). I hear
a sound Celtic musicians developed over the years and other Europeans brought
into their own traditions - could this interlude rather be a jig than a polska?
That makes Sofia's music popular, almost pop, but without making it commercial
pop music. It's great, fresh and novel. Still traditional and roots music. Sofia
says: Generations come and go, yet the Earth remains.
The lyrics are printed in the booklet, plus translations and explanations in
Quietly Spinning Man "Inside Out"
Label: Osmosys; OSMO CD025; 2004; Playing
time: 42:49 min
Quietly Spinning Man are a phenomenon.
Currently, the band come in the shape of a singer/songwriter duo from North
London, consisting of Gavin Beckwith and Andrew "Neil" McNeill. Yet, their collaboration
dates back to the Eighties' band Eye of the Storm, when Beckwith and Neil recorded
a demo tape together with two friends, calling themselves Quietly Spinning Man
for the first time. This "album" sold over a thousand cassette copies purely
by word of mouth before the master tapes were lost. Still, these cassettes spread
Quietly Spinning Man's reputation as far as Italy, where, much to the surprise
of the duo, on one occasion several dozen Italians knew the lyrics to some of
the old songs by heart!
The new album, then, took eight years to be completed. After a break of several
years Beckwith and Neil started playing together again, yet for a long time
recording only bits and pieces of the songs that came to their minds. Nevertheless,
the result, completed eventually in 2004, is overwhelming. On "Inside Out",
they present a collection of ten songs which immediately convey the special
qualities of the duo: Their songs are as tight as they are plain, evoking a
soothing atmosphere through music and words alike. With their technical excellence
on top, it is small wonder that critics have likened Quietly Spinning Man's
style to that of groups like America, Crowded House or even the unforgettable
Simon & Garfunkel. And rightly so, for this is simplicity at its best, inspired
by the spark of genius!
Shawn Phillips "No Category"
Label: SPV; SPV 085-70972 CD; 2004; Playing
time: 58:50 min
He has been around for half a liftetime, has produced one and a half dozen records,
collaborated with Steve Winwood in his Traffic days, co-written many of Donovan's
[-> FW#30 ] songs on the latter's big-selling
Sunshine Superman album (well, at least arguably), and appeared as special guest
with Tangerine Dream. And yet, the Texas-based singer/songwriter Shawn
Phillips has not achieved stardom or made it on the front pages of the world's
leading music magazines. Nevertheless, this does not mean that Shawn Phillips
has not won himself a substantial number of devout followers. Ever since his
1970 trilogy "Contribution", "Second Contribution" (for which he was awarded
a platinum record) and "Collaboration", he has been an insider's tip in Canada
and the U.S., only his reputation has never reached continental Europe.
Although, as the son of spy novelist Philip Atlee, he has lived in virtually
every corner of the globe, Phillips has never really taken to the vast area
of world music, apart maybe from his semi-successful attempt at the sitar. However,
there are other ways in which he has done honour to his unacclaimed motto, which
also lends the title to his latest record: "No Category". In his music, Phillips
blends folk, rock, jazz, country and soul, yet shaping the diverse material
into a distinctive sound of his own that comes across as a unified whole. Lyricwise,
he has retained the busker's or, more generally, the outsider's outlook on life,
treating subjects as diverse as loneliness, womanhood, hipness and in-ness,
earthquake casualties, moneymania and world peace. Even if these were, prematurely,
the last notes and words of this "restless iconoclast" (Luis Alberto Urrea),
then Shawn Phillips' legacy would remain food for thought for posterity.
Darden Smith "Circo"
80302-01156-2; 2004; Playing time: 46:07 min
Darden Smith's new release comes across
as a very intimate "portrait of the artist as a middle-aged man". Essentially,
it proves as the outcome of a musical and personal midlife crisis. Yet, these
circumstances are just what makes his latest album so successful. To begin with,
"Circo" is only the second of Smith's albums to have appeared on Dualtone records,
following the CD "Sunflower" of 2002. Incidentally, the breakup with his previous
label coincided with the breakdown of his marriage. Therefore, Smith is lucky
to say that at least his band, who are made up of some of his closest friends,
have remained the same as on the predecessor. Next, the title may initially
have been inspired merely by the CD's back sleeve photograph, of a Mexican circus
trailer bearing the word "Circo" on it; however, there is a figurative meaning
to this term, namely, the "circle of life". Darden Smith draws heavily on this
concept, as is borne out by the middle-age wisdom of his lyrical craftsmanship.
Consequently, the author's true colours keep shining through his songs. Apparently,
this was a new experience to Smith, who states, "Even into my mid-30s, I was
trying to be cool with my music rather than being completely truthful. They
tell you as a kid that it's always easier to tell the truth, and I learned that
it's true. Most of the songs are not very fictional. I find that the circus
of life is way more fascinating than anything I could dream up."
Thus, the songs on "Circo" range from the hardships in a personal relationship
to the sublimity of experiencing Nature to problems like religious fundamentalism.
The last point even allows for a spiritual dimension on the album, which is
at the same time profoundly humanist. Correspondingly, Smith says, "I used to
be uncomfortable writing about spiritual matters, but my personal way to view
God or whatever is that everybody's looking at the same tree. We're just on
different sides of it. What are we arguing about? To me, religion is all about
questions, not answers."
Ultimately, this even goes to show that even an individual's development toward
personal maturity can bring forth, if unintentionally, subject matter of topical
interest. So much for the privacy of an artist…!
Free Range Pickin' "Free Range Pickin'"
Label: Driving Records; DR04101; 2004; Playing
time: 50:00 min
Free Range Pickin' is another hot
acoustic outfit from the American Midwest. The principal songwriters are Tony
Ihrig (banjo) and Steve Schley (mandolin); add Geoff Schley (guitar) and Dan
Christensen (upright bass). Their dirty old rags (which is also the title
of a jazzy banjo tune) is uptempo bluegrass, country and old-time music. This
is no aged hillbilly music, but newgrass, nearly pop, but not that much to disqualify
it as un-authentical (whatever that means). So if you're a fan of acoustic
Americana, listen to these cool riffs and free range pickin'.
Paul O'Shaughnessy & Harry Bradley "... born
Label: Own label; BFS001; 2005; Playing time:
Born for sport, but more importantly raised on a staple diet of traditional
Irish music, is this meeting of two masters: Dublin fiddler Paul O'Shaughnessy
played with the early Altan, so he's immersed
in the Donegal fiddle tradition and the off-the-beaten-track Donegal fiddle
repertory (fiddler John
Doherty is the best known source on this cd). Later Paul joined Beginish,
and this explains a couple of Kerry polkas and slides. Harry Bradley is a flutist
from Belfast. He has a Northern touch too, his sources being Sligo's Paddy
Killoran and Michael Coleman
and Leitrim flute player John McKenna. Harry already has two solo albums under
his belt, and performed with the Tap Room Trio (-> FW#25,
FW#27). That's where he brought bouzouki
player John Blake (until recently with Teada -> FW#23,
FW#29) to do the accompaniment. Now,
this really is a fiddle-flute dreamteam, reminding of the classic O'Shaughnessy-McGrattan
album "Within a Mile of Dublin". And there's some observations that I cannot
resist to tell, e.g. regarding the reel "O'Dowd's No.9": The perceived loss
of O'Dowd's other tunes (at least 8 others) was a source of some depression
among Irish musicians given the quality of his "No.9". That is, until Ciaran
Carson as a result of his literary musings, discovered that the title probably
refers to a defunct brand of whiskey! Suddenly it all made sense. Great
sportsmen, born for glory!
Distributed by Claddagh Records
V/A "The Wildlife Album"
Square; MSM CD134; 2005; Playing time: 77:51 min
Music writer Colin Harper (see T:-)M's Night Shift)
gathered his musician friends and created 'The
Wildlife Album' as a way to raise funds for The
Ulster Wildlife Trust and The World Wildlife
Fund. The album features 21 tracks, ranging from folk, blues, rock and jazz.
Twelve tracks were recorded specifically for this album, five derive from existing
albums and another five from Colin's vaults. To name but a few: Cara Dillon
(-> FW#22), Martyn Joseph (-> FW#28),
Janet Holmes (-> FW#29), Steve Ashley
(-> FW#11), Fairport Convention (-> FW#23),
etc. Andy Irvine (-> FW#23), with Jethro
Tull's Ian Anderson on Indian bamboo flute, sings the Australian convict song
"Moreton Bay" (see the article on Australia folk song in this FW issue). Roy
Harper reads Lewis Carroll's nonsense poem about the dragon Jabberwock (slaughtered
by Monty Python in a 1970 movie).
Well, get the Wildlife album, and if only for the following reason: It took
a timescale of probably no more than 40 years, a couple of centuries earlier,
for mankind to consign the Dodo to oblivion. We don’t even know what this creature
looked like any more. Mankind has a depressing record of ineptitude, complacency
and crime. Who shall be next?
Market Square Records
Golden Bough "Songs of the Irish Immigrants"
Music; EUCD 1900; 2004; Playing time: 52:10 min
Golden Bough, the name is a reference
to a mystical tree in Greco-Roman myth and the title of Sir James George Frazer's
study in magic and religion, began in 1980 as a duo with Paul Espinoza (guitar,
octave mandolin and accordion) and Margie Butler (flute, harp, bodhran) in California.
With time other musicians came and went, in 2001 the violinist Kathy Ross Sierra
joined the band. So far, so good. Or bad. Since being tired of the road, Golden
Bough called it a day after 25 years. "Songs of the Irish Immigrants" is the
trio's musical legacy. The selection of songs stretches from the rather odd
"Muirsheen Durkin", classics like "Paddy's Green Shamrock Shores" and "Sliabh
Gallion Braes", to Tim O'Brien's "John
Riley" (-> FW#11, also recorded by Shantalla
-> FW#21). The group's concept is to
combine traditional Irish and Scottish music with a contemporary acoustic sound,
including their own compositions. This creates a full, rich sound carpet. Quite
a sound sound. Their voices sound very classical trained and this is perhaps
a question of getting used to. The good news: it might not be an entire break
but just a pause from a hectic schedule.
Stephan Smith "Slash and Burn"
ATM-CD-51535; 2004; Playing time: 43:56 min
Stephan Smith "The Bell"
SYC005; 2003; Playing time: 24:57 min
If you're tired and bored 'cause all the music out there just makes you snore,
then kick of your shoes and get on the dance floor, 'cause here comes a mother
like there ain't no more since hip-hop died and so did country, since they both
got sold to the company, since the industry became part of the slavery...
At a time anticipating Bush Wars Episode III, Stephan
Smith (-> FW#26) steps up again:
While I am drawing on the ballad legacy of writers like Dylan and Guthrie,
I'm inspired by people like Bob Marley and John Lennon who used the sounds of
their times to make protest accessible. Protest music can be pop. It must be
both infectious and profound to have widespread social impact. Topical songs
on Bush, war in Iraq, globalization, inequality, for the first time performed
with a full band here. Stephan, the son of a Iraqi physicist with Kurdish origins
and an Austrian with a Jewish background, her family died in the Holocaust,
could be the next step since Dylan plugged in the electric guitar. His update
of the traditional murder ballad "Omie Wise" (-> FW#29)
about a South Korean farmer leader who committed suicide at a WTO demonstration
in 2003 proves that his art is just a continuation of the classic American folk
tradition. Listen to his mantra: You'll get a headache if you try to fit
me in a genre cause I'm freakin out. I've got to sing and shout to tell you
'bout all the things my eyes have seen. The trees come down in the Amazon, young
kids getting killed fighting tanks with stones, while the Clear Channel Radio
plays another boy-band...
Peter Kerlin with Jens Kommnick "Dancing Days"
Label: Own label; STIR 305; 2005; Playing
time: 50:05 min
Many years ago in Goettingen, that's where it all began. We played pubs and
clubs and theatres, we went busking in the street. It's come a long way
since the Dubs and Pogues hit German streets. Now there are Celtic songs about
Goettingen. The German singer-songwriter and bouzouki player Peter
Kerlin (-> FW#20, FW#21,
FW#30) wrote this wee song for his 25th
anniversary concert. During those 25 dancing years and days, he met up with
Jens Kommnick (guitar) and Siobhan Kennedy (flute): a friend, a fine musician
and his beautiful wife. He lifted me to higher peaks, helped me open some new
doors, together we can sail the oceans exploring distant shores. And here
we are for the third time again. Songs so full of harmony, tunes we played
like hell, with a slight melancholical feel all about it. Besides Peter's
original songs and tunes, he plays the traditional northern Irish rebel ballad
"Henry Joy" (I never heard the song, -> FW#7,
with the tune Peter chose), which is followed by a bouzouki-driven tune called
"From Antrim to Athens". The title says it all. (Besides, Belfast had been called
Athens of the North in the late 18th century.) There's a tune called "Mind the
Gap", the title relating to its uneven beat. This is clearly the Andy Irvine
influence (-> FW#23) which is found in Peter's
songs and singing as well.
Peter told me once he was surprised to listen to one of his songs on Belfast
radio. It turned out it had been played by his colleague Colum Sands (->
FW#27). And the song had also been heard
by the organizer of the bi-annual Nordic Festival in Berlin. Promptly, Peter
found himself invited on the next bill as German Andy Irvine. This is
well deserved. It's been a long, long way, it's been a long, long time, but
I'm still travelling on.
See also the interview with Peter and Jens in the German FW issue.
Women in Docs "Under A Different Sky"
Label: Own label; UM-18; 2001; Playing time:
Women in Docs "Times Like These"
Label: Own label; WIDCD004; 2004; Playing
time: 19:00 min
Since their full length album, Women in
Docs (-> FW#24) from Brisbane, North
Queensland, were continueously on the road following their dream of making music.
They unquestionably saw different skies. Touring the world might be something
that reduces experiences (fortunatly not their musicality), so Roz Pappalardo
and Chanel Lucas are celebrating and reflecting the life of a travelling troubadour
and wanderer on their recent 5-track-EP "Times Like These". We get a
rucksack full of Australian folk pop and folk country music. It says rather
ironically: I'm going to Nashville with my guitar, I'm going to make me a
big big star. Hopefully not. But, if I had nothing left to sing, you'd
still hear me sing. Yeah, please.
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