FolkWorld article by Christian Moll:

New German Songs - a CD review special article
A short insight into todays scene of German songs

Wenzel - HimmelfahrtAs I have received in the last months some very interesting albums with songs in German language, the idea was there to introduce our readers with a extended CD review article into todays scene. In my opinion it is a shame, that often these singers / musicians / bands are totally ignored in the folk and world music scene outside of the German speaking countries. It is cool to listen to African music, Asian songs or Scandinavian ballads - but the German Lied is often not. Of course with all songs it is better to understand the context - but that is with all the other languages the same!

The selection of CDs / musicians does not want to represent the whole German song scene - but it should give an insight in some of the newer releases. Apart from one instrumental album (why this is included you can read later...) all the featured CDs are focused on songs in German language.

Lets start with an artist, who is a because of his last project a bit better known in the English language speaking folk community: Wenzel. Lüül - DamenbesuchWith "Ticky Tock - Wenzel sings Woody Guthrie" Hans Eckardt Wenzel, better known just with his surname Wenzel, made a visit into the US folk music. He gathered songs from the large archiv of Woody Guthrie, has put music to it and - for the German audiance - translated them into German language... A great project! But now I want to introduce his new album "Himmelfahrt": Here Wenzel is back at his own songwriting. His songs are (mostly) very strong with a lot of emotions. The stories are of very different themes: There is "Himmelfahrt" a insight in the tradition that the German public holiday is 'Gentlemans day' (as it is called in the eastern parts of Germany, in the western parts it is called fathers day) - on that day many men are meeting in the nature and drink a lot - the scene is billiant painted by the song. Many songs are made of normal days situations: one of my favorite song is "An mich, nachts" (to me, at night). This is a situation, I think everybody knows to well: Lying in the bed and wanting to sleep - there are much to much reasons, why the sleep does not come, although you want to do so much things tomorrow. Great! But there is much more to find on this CD - go and find out yourself the stories
Apart from being a genius songwriter, he is a great composer and he has gathered a very good band. The music is strong and with a full instrumentation (including accordion, brass instruments, drums, bass and guitars) - sometimes it is a bit menacholic and often very powerfull. As on many of the in this article introduced albums, Wenzels music is not to easy to pigeonwhole: of course there is folk music, but also rock, pop, classical, chanson, jazz - and all in all it is Wenzel.

Mathilda - supersexy rationalAnother singer from Berlin is Lutz Ulbrich better know under his pseudonym Lüül. As Wenzel Lüül is a brilliant songwriter. Lüül is as 'solo' singer songwriter around for quite a time already, his first solo album was published in 1980. His songs are lyrical, often the listener has something to think about. On "Damenbesuch" most songs are more or less about love and relationships. The music is happy and full of swing - but has mostly melancholic hints. Lüül is member of the 17 Hippies a Berlin band with no musical borders - and in his band (on stage and on this CD) there are members of the Hippies. His band is (including himself) a quartet with violin, double bass, accordion and guitar/banjo/piano. He has some additonal guest musicians to add some more moments to the Damenbesuch...
If you want to listen to inteligent songs (even if you do not understand them) with lots of international and lots of German atmosphere - listen to Lüül.

And a third time Berlin - this time with a very new band: Mathilda. Mathilda are seven young musicians - nobody of them has the name Mathilda... The band was started after the songwriter of all the songs Florian Bald has heard Mathilda's todays lead singer Anika Mauer for the first time in 2003. Mathilda call their music Chanson-Pop - somehow fitting, but for me myself the title pop music is a bit negative (but of course I am not a typical music consumer...).
Stoppok - soloTheir debut album is called "supersexy rational". The songs are describing more or less normaldays situations: pensioners coach trips, a working day, autumn atmosphere, tram journey with short time love feelings or the waiting for a never coming postcard. The scenes have the rigth setting and are described in a way, that you can feel the situation. The music is played with a lot of passion - the influences are from different backgrounds: there is a lot of chanson in the music, folk, jazz, pop, swing, soul, rumba,...
A very fresh young band - go out and listen to them: German songs are hip!

Stoppok's double album "solo (live)" is maybe the album of the ones reviewed in this article, where a bit of German would be most apprechiated. If you cannot understand any German better go for another album of the bard from the Ruhr Stoppok. "solo (live)" is a CD which really gets his normal stage performances, with lots of funny and strange stories between the songs. Stoppok is a songwriter and entertainer and he always has to tell you something...
Normally Stefan Stoppok tours together with his band (which is on the rock edge of the folk scene), recently he has toured as a duo Stoppok & Worthy (with the bassist of his band) - and now he has started the project to be really alone on the stage. Stoppok has written during the years many great, funny, mad, interesting, critical and satirical songs. On this double CD are gathered 26 of his songs all arranged newly for his solo performance.
Wolfgang Rieck - Alles muss sich wandeln

Wolfgang Rieck's new album "Alles muss sich wandel" (all things have to change) was chosen by the editors of FolkWorld (that are my brother and me) as the second best CD of 2004... Although Wolfgang is a excellent songwriter (he has written 6 of the 16 songs himself) he is more than that: he is not just a singer of his own songs but a interpret and composer of songs written by other songwriters / authors. He really has gathered the right selection of songs or better to say texts, as Wolfgang has written the music to the texts. One of his favorite writers at the moment seems to be Theodor Kramer, who has written in the 1930s many poems in newspapers all over the countries speaking German language. This poet is somehow today more or less ignored, but his poems are full of passion - and it is great to see that they are now back, and this time as songs! The singing of Wolfgang is full of emotions, sometimes a bit pathetic and always creates a full atmosphere.
You can see that Wolfgang is hailing from the northern part from Germany as three of the songs a sung in low German language - this adds another dimension to this great album.

Bernie Conrads was a well know face in the German music scene in the 70ies and 80ies. Bernie was the leader of the Autobahn Band - they have had several famous songs known not just in the folk music scene. 15 years where for Bernie at that time enough time on the road, and he decided to stay at home with his family... All the time he continued to write songs, but he did not sing them himself in public. There where other people to sing them as Stoppok, Maffay or Schmeckenbecher.
Bernie Conrads & Pankraz - Drei Flaschen MondscheinIn 2005, after a very long time without singing in public, he has made a new album with new songs. For "Drei Flaschen Mondschein" (three bottles of moon shine) he joined forces with Pankraz a quartet from Dresden. Pankraz are Henrike Jähme on accordion and singing, Gregor Mennicken on violin, Jörg Isermeyer on double bass and Thomas Fimpel on guitar and singing. The songs are all written by Bernie Conrads, apart from the first song which was written by Bernhard Schuhmacher, who also plays mouthie on one track of the album. The songs are honest and with no art language. The stories are often situations of alldays live, mostly they are very simple - reminding me on stories for children. It is good to see that sometimes the history lives on and suddenly becomes today again...
The other way round is the titel of Pankraz album without Bernie, it is called "Erinnerung an morgen" (Memories of tomorrow). Pankraz sing themselfs German songs, too. Thomas Fimpel is their lead singer, and he is a songwriter as well. But apart from singing their own songs Pankraz they do use songs from other authors (on this album: Thomas Brasch, Volker von Törne and again Thomas Kramer), and compose to their text new music. Nice to have more and more bands singing German songs again.
Pankraz - Erinnerungen an morgen

A bit another story as all of the other in this article reviewed CDs is Furiopolis' "Dornrös chenwecker". This is an all instrumental album without lyrics. But it has a strong relation to German songs - as all titels are based on German folk songs. Furiopolis is a quintet around the duo Furiosef consisting of Markus Heinen and Markus Türk. The two of them started playing 'normal' american jazz standards in different projects. At some point they had the idea to play instead their own German folk songs - not on the traditional way, but as wild combination of traditions and jazz. Furiopolis is now a bigger band playing energetic music between jazz (latin, free jazz, swing, New Orleans, Bebop,...) and German folk songs. It is a absolute breathtaking combination. If you do know some of the standard German folk songs - go out and listen to the new version of them played by Furiopolis, it is worth while!

And if you still don't have enough of German songs, maybe the various artist double album "Marsch der Minderheiten - 40 Jahre deutsches Lied bei Pläne" (March of the minorities - 40 years German songs at Pläne Records) is the right one for you. You can find here 31 songs in German language sung by many different artists. The first album is more filled with songs from older albums. The second is more are sampler of the newer releases of the Pläne label. Pläne Records has a 40 year history of publishing music. If the artist have a political opinion in their songs it is left wing. It is a fascinating selection of singers and songs.Furiopolis - Dornröschenwecker
Happy birthday Pläne Records - all the best for the next 40 years!

This article features the following CDs:

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