FolkWorld Issue 32 12/2006

FolkWorld CD Reviews

James Talley "Nashville City Blues"
Cimarron Records; CIM 1010; 2000; Playing time: 49:59 min
While James Talley [-> FW#31, FW#31] is not an unsung hero - he is praised by Peter Guralnick, Nat Henthoff, Greil Marcus, Robert Christgau and more writers who are deep into American music - he is still waiting for the success he deserves. In the seventies he seemed to be on the road to fame, had four albums out on Capitol which became lost classics of the decade. On many pages of the booklet of this album Talley tells the tale of his „career“ which gave us some excellent recordings but went nearly nowhere commercially. Now he has new albums out on his own label, Cimarron Records; and has gained control of his masters for to make his music available again. Describing what happened to him in the past he cites Peter Guralnick: „I had been exhibited as a price fish, and then tossed back into the ocean.“
Greil Marcus uses the terms country, western-swing, and folk to describe Talley´s music. On this album also the blues is very present, but in a folky, countrified way as on the title track, 'Down on the corner' or 'Streamline flyer.' There are also beautiful ballads ('So I´m not the only one,' 'When I need some love,' 'Baby needs some good time,' 'I´ve seen the bear'). The writing (all songs of course by James Talley) is kind of personal, but most songs nevertheless have a traditional feel to them, the smell of real life is everywhere. And for his singing: it sounds like some neighbour or relative of the legendary Doc Watson (for whom he opened one time in 1983, but that´s part of another story he tells in the booklet) raises his voice. The playing of the band, including acoustic instruments like dobro and mandolin, fits perfectly to the songs. Great music for grown-ups who look for a singer-songwriter more down to earth than James Taylor.
Cimarron Records
Ansgar Hillner

Steve Tallis "Jezebel Spirits"
Label: Zombi Music; zomicd6; 2005; Playing time: 62:05 min
Australian singer-songwriter Steve Tallis (-> FW#31) put away the schamanistic and experimental folk sound of previous recordings and turned back to a more conservative approach, traditional blues songs plus a bit of Blind Willie Johnson, Son House and Leadbelly. It's just Steve on guitar and vocals and percussionist Gary Ridge and a powerful rendition of classical blues, gospel and (a cappella) field hollers a la "He's Got the Whole World in His Hand". Well, at least that's the one everybody knows. He's strumming the guitar like hell, and his husky voice is in top form. I hadn't that much fun with religion for a long time. And it's suitable for Christians of all colours and creeds, and even muslims, jews, buddhists, atheists, and the like.
P.S.: It is reported that Steve is about to move to Europe. So there is a chance to catch him live more often.
Steve Tallis / Zombi Music
Walkin' T:-)M

Téada "Inné Amárach" [CD + DVD]
Gael Linn; CEFCD 188; 2006; Playing time: 46:04 + 26 min
Since 2001, Irish band Téada (-> FW#23, FW#29) is under the wings of County Sligo fiddler (and occasional singer, but not this time) Oisín MacDiarmada. The third release "Inné Amárach" also features accordionist Paul Finn, guitar and bouzouki player Séan McElwain, bodhrán player Tristan Rosenstock and flutist Damien Stenson. These youngsters present the purest sounds from a bygone pre-Bothy Band (-> FW#30) era. But this CD is no museum piece. It is like listening to a band sitting in a pub, no frills, just brilliant music. The album title "Inné Amárach" means "Yesterday Tomorrow" and sums up the band's philosophy: We're all relatively young musicians, says Oisín, There's a balance there between us and the newer tunes and also some very old ones. Even on the DVD, the balance between Téada, the young band, and some of the older heavyweights of Sligo music. We think that the title gives the feel of that dichotomy of the album. Having that mentioned, the CD is accompanied by a DVD, providing a documentary context for the music, exploring the Sligo tradition and explaining the background of the group's philosophy. So "follow me down" to Sligo, that is the title of a reel featured in the opening set of tunes.
Distributed by Gael Linn in Ireland/UK/France and Compass elsewhere.
Walkin' T:-)M

Tempest "The Double Cross"
Magna Carta; MAX-9083-2; 2006; Playing time: 50:27 min
Tempest is a folk rock band based in Oakland, northern California, while its members originally come from places like Norway, Cuba, Ireland and Austria. The band exists nearly 20 years and released a dozen albums during that time, making a name in the US mainly. There's the basic rock instrumentarium plus double-necked mandolin and fiddle. The story of pirate William Kidd provides a loose concept for "The Double Cross" and original songs such as "Captain Kidd" (the tune is robbed buccaneer-like from "Sam Hall"/"Ye Jacobites") and "Hangman" (based on the "Prickly Bush" lyrics with new music). Tempest also offers traditional and original instrumental tunes, a Finnish polka and an adaption of a Norwegian folk song. I sometimes find Celtic folk rock rather boring and not as interesting and at high standards compared to the acoustic and more traditional lot (partly because of hundreds of Pogues-like bands, -> FW#22, FW#30, in Germany and Europe, one worse than the other). But Tempest succeeds, I am very pleased with their delivery of songs and tunes. Folk rocks!
Magna Carta
Walkin' T:-)M

Steve Tilston "Of Many Hands"
Label: ADA Recordings; ADA106CD; 2005; Playing time: 49:38 min
Songs of many hands ... from the tradition. That means, traditional songs whose original composers have been forgotten and others have improved words and music down the years. Steve Tilston (-> FW#31) is best known for his contemporary songwriting, though there have been almost-traditional songs as the much covered "Slip Jigs & Reels" about Billy the Kid (North Cregg, Fine Friday, only recently recorded again by Claire Mann & Aaron Jones -> FW#31). Steve already put traditional songs between his original songs on previous albums. A traditional album had been in the pipeline for a decade. Eventually, he set the songwriting aside giving full attention for the folk's way. Most of these songs have travelled well. They are quite simply a bunch of songs that have touched me in a special way, in their documentation of the human condition and the window they open into life experiences that ordinarily I would have no inkling about. The album starts with "The Girl I Left Behind Me". The tune had been the cavalry march of General Custer at Little Bighorn, but Steve succeeds with a splendid selection of songs. Just to mention his version of the knee-slapping "Leaving of Liverpool" that restores the sense of loss and longing. It ends with "Willow Creek", a tune composed by Chris Parkinson. Steve set some words to it, opposed to that the majority of his own writing sits outside the folk tradition. Steve sings and plays acoustic guitar, plus some fiddling, mouthie, accordion, slide guitar, etc. The record is terrific. Making a comparison, it is in the vein and quality of Jim Malcolm's work (-> FW#28). And guys such as Dick Gaughan (-> FW#25) have been silence for quite some time. So here's to all the many hands that over the years have adapted, adjusted, appended, bludgeoned, burnished, chipped-in, chipped-at, caressed and coaxed along the way, but mostly here's to the solitary unknown voices that first breathed life into these wonderful old songs.
Walkin' T:-)M

Dave Van Ronk "... and the tin pan bended and the story ended"
Smithsonian Folkways; STW CD 40156; 2005; Playing time: 78:57 min
This is a special recording, for it includes the very last concert of an artist who was an important figure of the American folk revival and with the exceptional booklet including song annotations by Elijah Wald, a lenghty and very personal essay by his friend Tom Paxton, notes about the concert by David Eisner and introducing words by Van Ronk´s partner Andrea Vuocolo. For my opinion it serves as a great obituary. It would be also a great introduction, but the recording seems too special for this, for of course you can hear signs of age in Dave´s voice and in his picking. On the other hand there is the kind of wisdom and humor here - especially when he is talking - that only grows when experience and age are combined.
On the set list on this evening was the mix of blues and old time pop tunes and songs by folk drenched singer-songwriters that was typical for him. He is best on his classics like 'Green, Green Rocky Road' and 'St. James Infirmary' and the performance of Joni Mitchell´s 'Urge for Going,' which concludes not only this performance but his career at all is very touching. Some of the bluesy numbers, for example the opening 'Down South Blues' are not performed too powerful, but what counts is the intensity of this performance as a whole. It was recorded more or less accidently and only the artist knew about the diagnosis he had gotten some days before.
While this recording is perhaps not the place for starters it is of high interest for all friends of American folk music and a must for fans of Dave Van Ronk.
Smithsonian Folkways
Ansgar Hillner

Carl Weathersby "In The House - Live at Lucerne, Vol. 5"
CrossCut Records; ccd 11078; 2004; Playing time: 57:18 min
Down Home Super Trio "In The House - Live at Lucerne, Vol. 6"
Label: CrossCut Records; ccd 11081; 2004; Playing time: 54:15 min
Otis Clay "In the House – Live at Lucerne Vol. 7"
Label: Crosscut; ccd 11084; 2005; Playing time: 52:40 min
Lucerne celebrates the blues with the Lucerne Blues Festival and the concerts there are celebrated by a lovely series of live recordings, each one beginning with an introduction by Fritz Jacobner. „The Blues is in the house“, is his message to the crowd in the hall, and indeed, the blues is in the house. Carl Weathersby, born in 1953 in Jackson/Mississippi, represents the blues of Chicago in it´s Albert King influenced version and there is more than only a shade of soul music in his style. He opens with 'Leap of faith,' a gospel-tinged number, then stretches out with a medley including Marvin Gaye´s What´s going on, featuring his crying guitar, before returning to the more traditional blues with two originals. The next tune, 'Hobo Blues,' is my favorite. It features the harp of Billy Branch and the singing of Otis Clay. Despite the title it is a very soul drenched piece. After that Carl Weathersby walks in the footprints of Albert King (with whom he played in the eighties) for a twenty minute tour the force including two compositions by the master himself. Often his playing feels like hard rock here, especially on 'Night Stomp,' while on 'Can´t you see what you´re doing to me' the great band is deep in the groove. The show closes with 'Looking out my window,' a slow blues by Carl himself containing angry comments on the world and wild playing in the style of Jimi Hendrix. A great live album, presenting a great artist and contemporary blues in many facets.
The Down Home Super Trio is a different affair. There are drums (Richard Innes), guitar (Frank Goldwasser), and blues harp (R. J. Mischo) and there is a rustic and stripped down sound, direct and powerful.The absence of bass and piano even adds to the strenght of their no thrills-no nonsense concept. They open with a stomper by Goldwasser called 'If you dig me let me know,' receive lots of applause, but after that it gets even better. If Goldwassers singing is a little too much forced in the beginning on his second vocal outing 'Candle is burning low' he has found his voice. But his main contribution is his solid, earthy fretwork, while most vocals are done by Mischo. On 'Just can´t stay' you could believe that Robert Petway is singing but it´s R. J. 'Keep on running,' a composition by the singer, is an electrifying performance - just Mischo on voice, harp and bass drum. Two very different instrumentals and a little jam with Frank Schulz on guitar add to the diversity of the performance. At the end Goldwasser is in the spotlight again and takes his chance with a great performance on 'Homesick Blues.' They close with a quartet number, getting Billy Flynn on guitar on stage doing a number in the vein of 'Dust my broom.' Rock-solid and masterful throughout the album is the drumming of Richard Innes. A very energetic and entertaining live album by white boys who know to play the blues.
This one again is a winner. Otis Clay is called a living legend but how lively he lives! Since the sixties he is associated with the term Chicago-soul but like many of the Windy City's great bluesmen he came from the deep south and this seems to be present in his music until today. Playing with him are Hollywood Scott (g), Benny Brown (key), David Thompson (tr), Fred Johnson (trb), Jowaun Scott (b), Edmund Farr (dr), and with him are also Theresa Davis and Dianne Madison on backing vocals. The playing is great, I especially like to listen to the two horns playing together, for in most cases you find the combination of trumpet and sax. The selection starts powerful with “You´re the one” which has slight echoes of Africa in the brass section and it remains powerful on tracks like “Nickel and a nail” and ballads like “I can take you to heaven tonight” and even on introspective songs like “For the good times”, which was written by Kris Kristofferson. While interpreting country songs in a soul style Clay is in a great tradition we identify mostly with the great Ray Charles. Another good tradition is that at Lucerne Blues Festival other artists enter the stage for a short time to join in. Here it is Ms. Sharrie Williams [-> FW#29] who guests for a gospel performance. The spirit of gospel music is ever present in what Otis Clay does and it is no surprise to hear that at home in Chicago he sings a solo in the Liberty Baptist Church every Sunday! When he closes with the Staple Singers´ “Respect yourself” your heart and soul get just a little higher. This again is a great album in a great series. Last but not least: the live sound is very good!
CrossCut Records
Ansgar Hillner

Yanka Kozyr's Orchestra [Demo Audio & Video]
Take Ukrainian Eurovision winner of 2004, Ruslana, mix it with 2006 winners Lordi and you get - no, not really, but it is not too far away. Apart of the fact that Yanka Kozyr's Orchestra is much better. This Ukrainian art-gothic-punk-folk-rock-psychedelic performance band and new high-quality professional modern show-product means medieval and fairy-like stage costumes in a hysterical show, performing both traditional Ukrainian songs and own compositions in a blend of Gothic and art rock. YKO features two powerful vocalists and five other musicians (drums, guitar, base, piano, violin). Their performance is said to have something in common with the concert programme of Pink Floyd's "Pulse" of 1994 (which I don't know). If I shall draw any comparison, there is some similarity with German rock band Rammstein at times. At least, when considering their singer having been castrated. YKO's bizarre folk theatre certainly has never been seen in the Ukraine, save anywhere else.
Yanka Kozyr's Orchestra
Walkin' T:-)M

Zambosi "To se to hraje..."
Indies; MAM296-2; 2006; Playing time: 54:31 min
At the heart of the Czech band Zambosi is the duo consisting of guitar player Jan Zamboch and singer Stanislava Brahova, plus some guests delivering the backing. "To se to hraje..." (i.e. "Isn't It Great to Play") is the debut album from this couple from Vsetí. Most songs have been composed by Jan and performed in a contemporary acoustic and folk-jazz style. The lyrics are said to be merry ones based on sophisticated word play. I'm inclined to believe this from the sound, I mean that they are merry ones. There is certainly a kind of humour and fun. Isn't It Great to Play? It is. Great to play, great to listen.
(If you're interested in Czech and Slovakian folk music, search out the article about Indies Records in this FW issue.)
Indies Records
Walkin' T:-)M

Vincenzo Zitello "Solo"
Label: Own label; VZ-001; 2004; Playing time: 59:23 min
The Italian harpist Vincenzo Zitello studied the Celtic harp since 1977 (among them with Breton Alan Stivell -> FW#6). Vincenzo explored different musical styles on the harp, for example, he is collaborating with singer-songwriter Ivano Fossati. He also recorded a couple of albums with sacred tunes and performed a couple of times before the Pope. "Solo" is his sixth album, a collection of 14 solo harp compositions of his most acclaimed recordings so far. It is dedicated entirely to the Celtic harp, both traditional (i.e. metal strings) and modern (nylon strings). Vincenzo says: I believe its sound embeds a special essence, driving people to a positive touch with the external world, a jump toward an eternal sound space that connects the listener to the natural origin of things. Is it new age music? Vincenzo doesn't think so. Me neither. It is just music to relax and keep off the busy world.
Walkin' T:-)M

V/A "Scotland - The Music & The Song - 20 Year Profile of Greentrax"
Greentrax; CDTRAX8606; 2006; Playing time: 78:52 + 77:35 + 78:21 min
In 1986 Ian Green quit the police duty and decided to turn his attention to folk music. In 2006 Greentrax Recordings celebrates its 20th anniversary. Greentrax is regarded by many as Scotland's leading traditional music record company and continues to lead the way with their wide-ranging releases, from the very traditional song and music to the most contemporary of the Celtic fusion bands. FolkWorld's first issue in 1997 featured artists such as Robin Laing (-> FW#26), the McCalmans (-> FW#30), and Isla St Clair (-> FW#1). This issue (#32) features Bodega, Dick Gaughan (-> FW#25), GiveWay (-> FW#26), Kevin MacLeod and Malinky (-> FW#24). See CD reviews above. The 20th anniversary is marked with the release of a 3 CD compilation, tracing the company's releases over twenty years. Scottish artists are selected from over 300 albums: Ceolbeg (-> FW#14), Rod Paterson (-> FW#15), Catherine-Ann MacPhee (-> FW#29), Hamish Moore (-> FW#16), Whistlebinkies (-> FW#9), Stewart/MacDonald (-> FW#21), Eric Bogle (-> FW#31), Chris Stout (-> FW#29), Brian McNeill (-> FW#10), Fiddler's Bid (-> FW#21), Salsa Celtica (-> FW#26), Jock Tamson's Bairns (-> FW#21), Fraser/Haas (-> FW#30), Deaf Shepherd (-> FW#2), Hunter/Tulloch (-> FW#2), Gordun Duncan (-> FW#25), and that's just a selection. Thanks very much to Ian and his team! Congratulations!
Greentrax Recordings
Walkin' T:-)M

V/A "Live at the Cedar: Visionaries"
Westpark; CCD 4001; 2006; Playing time: 76:03 min
The Cedar Cultural Center is a small, imtimate, non-profit theater in Minneapolis. Its mission was: to support the preservation of cultural diversity by promoting and presenting traditional music and dance of many cultures. It managed to present some 150 to 200 shows every year. "Visonaries" is the first part of a series with live recordings from the club in its 16 years existence. Listen to: Baaba Maal, Mari Boine (-> FW#19), Cesaria Evora, Gillian Welch, Doc Watson, Dave Van Ronk (see CD review above), La Bottine Souriante (-> FW#26), Liam O'Flynn (-> FW#5, FW#27) and Arty McGlynn, Martin Sexton, Loudon Wainwright III (-> FW#27), Koerner, Ray & Gloer, Greg Brown (-> FW#23), Ani DiFranco (-> FW#9, FW#11), Ali Farka Touré, Bill Frisell. Impressed? So you know where to go when in Minneapolis.
Westpark Music
Walkin' T:-)M

V/A "The Complete Songs of Robert Tannahill, Volume I"
Brechin All; CDBAR003; 2006; Playing time: 51:21 min
Robert Tannahill (1774-1810) was a weaver by trade and a poet and songwriter by calling. Hence the name of the well-known traditional Scottish group (-> FW#5; see also the Tannies live review in the German FW issue). Tannahill is a less known contemporary of Robert Burns, though you are familiar with "O Are Ye Sleeping Maggie" and "The Braes o Balquidder", I guess. The latter song had been transformed by Francis McPeake in the 1950s into "Wild Mountain Thyme" ("Will ye go, lassie, go"). However, this abscure verse making weaver left a legacy of over hundred songs, numerous poems and letters. A flautist himself, with a passion for strathspeys, Tannahill set many of his poems to traditional Scottish and Irish tunes. In 2003 Fred Freeman released the 13 CD box set of complete Burns songs. Still not finished, he turned his attention to this rather neglected character. His aim for the 19 songs chosen was not artificially trying to create period performance but, instead, representing the style and character of the music via a contemporary Scottish folk idiom. Singers include Ian Anderson, John Croall (Jock Tamson's Bairns), Ross Kennedy (ex Tannahill Weavers, nowadays with Canterach -> FW#9), Gillian McDonald, John Morran (Deaf Shepherd -> FW#2), Jim Reid, Emily Smith (-> FW#27, FW#31), and Wendy Weatherby (-> FW#24, FW#25). Instrumentalists: accordion player Sandy Brechin (Bùrach -> FW#9, FW#19), whistle player Marc Duff (ex Capercaillie -> FW#29), fiddler Mike Vass, harpist Corrina Hewat (Bachue, Unusual Suspects -> FW#31), cittern player Aaron Jones (Old Blind Dogs, duo with Claire Mann, ex Craobh Rua -> FW#15, FW#31, FW#31), mandolinists Anna Massie and Rod Paul (ex Iron Horse), guitarists Frank McLaughlin (Mick West Band -> FW#2, FW#31) and John Morran (Deaf Shepherd -> FW#2), bass player Chris Agnew (Burach, see review above), and percussionist Alaisdair MacLeod. The booklet features a short introduction, the entire lyrics and translated Scots brogue. Another 4 volumes will be released until 2010, the bicentenary of Robert Tannahill's death.
Brechin All Records
Walkin' T:-)M

V/A "World Music Instruments: Magic Banjo"
NoEthno; 1001/2; 2005; Playing time: 78:36 + 79:45 min
Ring, ring de banjo, I like dat good old song. (Foster) There's fifty ways to leave your lover, and at least that many to pluck the banjo. "Magic Banjo" is the proof, if ever needed, that the instrument is more than an American negro guitar for song accompaniment. Black slaves in the Carribean and in the southern USA developed the banjo, mixing influences from European and African instruments. In the mid 1800s white artists took it up, blackface minstrel shows as well as Irish and Scots-Irish in the Appalachian mountains. From this emerged the five-string banjo. Bluegrass changed everything, and banjo playing was ain't one damned bit funny (Macon) anymore. Furthermore, the Irish created a distinct style from the American ones for playing traditional dance tunes. This banjo bible comes in a nice package, complete with 100 pages of banjo information, history, players, tunings and techniques, pictures, and banjo jokes (there are loads of). Two CDs had been compiled by Bernhard Hanneken, titled "American Banjo" and "World Banjo", respectively, featuring 41 tracks from artists as different as Tony Trischka, Earl Scruggs (with Tim O'Brien -> FW#11), Alison Brown (-> FW#18, FW#25), Derroll Adams, Pete Seeger (-> FW#29), Gerry O'Connor (-> FW#30), Shooglenifty (-> FW#16, FW#25, FW#26), The Dubliners (-> FW#23), and many, many more. A couple of recordings, previously unreleased, have been taken from the German Rudolstadt festival that had a banjo theme in 1998. Essential for the banjo player, and those historical interested at all.
Walkin' T:-)M

Jim Malcolm "Tam o'Shanter & Other Tales"
Label: Beltane Record; No. BELCD104; 2005; Playing time: 52.13 min
The latest album from Scotland's leading singer/songwriter is focussed on one single song, "Tam o'Shanter" - and this song is a real masterpiece which is already at the time of its recording a classic. Having put music to the epic Robert Burns poem, Jim Malcolm manages to bring the poem alive again. The interpretation is most exciting, the special effects are dramatic; and listeners will be spellbound by the song for its full 15 minutes. The instrumentation is outstanding, with pipes (Simon McKerrell), drums/percussion (Fraser Stone), fiddle (Pete Clark), keyboard/melodica (Dave Watt). A tour de force of a Robert Burns poem as never heard before.
Clearly Jim put all efforts into this masterpiece; the remaining seven numbers on the CD seem to be rather filling material, without a real theme going through the album. I would have expected with the title that the focus would be on other tales, but it is quite a wild mixture of material. Several of the songs are in my opinion well below the average quality of Jim Malcolm songs (I should note though the average quality is very high!). "Blindness of my youth" has good lyrics, but the interpretation is slow and the song seems never to end. Of "Lord Nelson", Jim says in the sleeve notes that it is one of those songs which shaped itself in his mind without his control, and that "the only way to get rid of them is to record them, preferably badly, and then they don't bother (him) again" - and indeed this is a poor song. To add to this mixture, there is a Jim Malcolm country song "Singing Cavaliers" - another weak point of this album.
I did however very much enjoy "Jeannie Reid's Hooseon the Green" which sees Jim returning to his jazzier roots - an excellent piece. The album finishes on a high note, as "Corrievrechan", written by Jim, fits much more into the "& other tales" category, and is an excellent ballad with traditional music theme and enjoyable chorus.
But in the end you would buy this album because of just one song - "Tam o'Shanter" - and alone this will be worth your money. No doubt you will find that some of the other songs offer a good bonus for your money.
Homepage of the artist:
Michael Moll

Various Artists - 3 CDs "Beginners Guide to Scotland"
Label: Nascente Records; No. NSBOX020; 2006; Playing time: 46.50 min + 51.16 min + 50.01 min
This impressive compilation of 33 tracks of 32 different Scottish folk artists has been compiled by an expert of the Scottish folk scene - Mary Ann Kennedy of BBC Radio Scotland's "Celtic Connections" show. The collection is split into "Classic Roots", "New Awakening" and "No Boundaries". "Classic Roots" features many of the classic recordings of the folk revival, as well as more recent traditional music - including the likes of Silly Wizard, Archie Fisher, Cathy-Ann MacPhee, Battlefield Band, Margaret Stewart and Allan MacDonald. "New Awakenings" is more contemporary Scottish folk music - bands such as Deaf Shepherd, Blazin Fiddles, Ceolbeg. The "New Awakenings" finally presents the modern face of Scottish folk music, with plenty of influences - featuring e.g. Shooglenifty, Karine Polwart Band, Salsa Celtica, The Unusual Suspects. Of the 33 tracks, there are only two which I feel sound out of place on this collection: Jackie Leven's "Elegy for Johnny Cash" and King Creosote's "Circle my Demise (Clock Remix)" just don't work on a collection of Scottish folk music.
Overall an excellent collection, of high enough quality to please also fans who have most of the individual albums already in their collection. And obviously for the beginner of Scottish music it is just the perfect introduction!
Michael Moll

The Occasionals "Down to the hall"
Label: Greentrax; No.CDTRAX289; 2006; Playing time: 72.10 min
A CD that transports you to a typical Scottish Ceilidh dance night in a village hall. The Occasinals are well known as one of the best and most popular dance bands on the Scottish scene, featuring well established musicians Freeland Barbour (accordeon), Ian Hardie (fiddle), Gus Millar (drums) and Kevin Macleod (banjo). The music is well played, sounds very happy and 100% predictable - thus perfect for dancing. If you just want to listen to this album, it might become a bit boring, but while listening you might well find yourself waltzing through the living room or dance your Gay Gordon on the kitchen table. And once you start your dancing, you might not finish for the next 72 minutes until the CD has finished - and in those 72 minutes, you will have danced a very wide range of traditional Ceilidh dances.
Contact to label:
Michael Moll

Roger Scannura & Ritmo Flamenco "Noche Flamenco "
Label: Own; Playing time: 45.09 min
From Canada an excellent CD of Flamenco music. Roger Scannura grew up on the island of Malta, and spent later years with some of the gipsy masters in Spain to learn the tricks and nuances of Flamenco. What we hear on this, his 5th, album, is proof that he has indeed learnt the trade. All the music is by Roger, and is built around his technically perfect Flamenco guitar playing. With "Ritmo Flamenco", Roger is joined by 2 percussionists - using typical Flamenco percussion instruments ß and a fiddle player who is giving the music often a lighter flair.
This is outstanding Flamenco music full of passion and energy, yet also full of beauty.
Contact to artist:
Michael Moll

Ingrid Henderson "The little Beauty"
Label: Old Laundry Productions; No. OLP001; 2005; Playing time: 39.08 min
An album of pure beauty. The harp is always in the centre of this album, but other instruments are added to bring out the very best of this stunning harp music. Ingrid Henderson is well known from bands like Cliar as an outstanding Scottish harpist, but this is only her first solo album. Instruments added to the harp include low whistle, fiddle and button box (all Iain MacFarlane) and guitar (Ross Martin). The selection and combination of tunes is always perfect, with a range of traditional tunes as well as Ingrid's compositions and those of fellow musicians. On a couple of numbers, Ingrid complements her playing also with her voice, and for a couple of tunes she plays the piano. After an overall quiet and peaceful 10 tracks, the album finishes off on a different speed, with a lively set of reels.
Throughout the album the atmosphere of the music is very relaxed, it leaves time standing still. The beauty and warmth of the music takes you away with the fairies, leaves you day dreaming. A wonderful album.
Homepage of the artist:, contact to label:
Michael Moll

Paroplapi "La Finestra dell'utimo piano - canzoni populari dell'arco latino"
Label: RadiciMusic Records; No.RMR112; 2005; Playing time: 36.49 min
Another thoroughly enjoyable album. Paroplapi combines three singers from France and Italy, singing a repertoire of mostly traditional songs in Italian, Occitan and French language. All three (two men, one woman) have very pleasant warm voices, and combine in the songs stuning solo singing with well crafted ensemble singing. While the trio brings also percussion and string instruments along, for the album a range of musicians helps out on many of the songs on hurdy gurdy, bagpipes, piffero etc. My personal highlights are the stunning slow songs sung by Samuela Gallinari, in particular the anti-war song "I desertore" about the first world war.
This is a superb CD with plenty of soul and atmosphere, a trans-cultural album which still feels as an album of one culture, with great voices and great music. Even though the album is with not much more than half an hour playing time extremely short, it is still one of the best CDs from 2005 I have listened to - highly recommended!
Homepage of the artist:, contact to label:
Michael Moll

Barry Phillips "Tråd"
Label: Own; No. BPCD049; 2005; Playing time: 54.02 min
Barr Phillips is a cello player from California with a love for Scandinavian folk music tunes. Barry has produced a number of Celtic American folk CDs, and has played as cellist on various other projects. For this recording, which celebrates Scandinavian music, Barry managed to get two of Sweden's top players to join him: fiddler Olof Göthlin and Väsen's nyckelharpa player Olov Johansson. They play a mix of Swedish, Norwegian and original music to a very high standard.. The combination of cello, nyckelharpa and fiddle has its special flair, but I have to say that for me it lacks after a while variation.
Homepage of the artist:
Michael Moll

Give Way "Inspired"
Label: Greentrax; No.CDTRAX280; 2005; Playing time: 45.39 min
Wow. These four girls have come a long way since their debut album. Their debut might have been already acclaimed and showed their potential, but had still a bit the feeling of immaturity about it. With their second album, Give Way prove they have overcome this immaturity, providing an impressive collection of tunes and songs - and they are still in their teens. Give Way are the sisters Fi, Kirsty and Amy Johnson. Between them, they play fiddle, guitar, accordion, drums, percussion, piano, keyboards. The music has a lot of depth, and the playing together is close to perfect. There are this time also a couple of songs - the Give Way's version of Tannahill Weaver's "Maggie" is a cracker, while "Next to you" goes moreinto the pop domain. Compared to their debut, the drums are in most tunes much more in the background, letting the music speak much more for itself. To balance this a bit, there are a few folk rock tunes on the album, where the more intense use of drums works fine. The producer of the album is Phil Cunningham, a guarantee for good quality.
Extremely well done lasses!
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Michael Moll

Jenna Cumming "Kintulavig"
Label: Macmeanma; No.SKYECD36; 2005; Playing time: 48.36 min
Jenna Cumming is one of the new young generation of Gaelic singers. She has made already her name in her teens at festivals and Mòd competitions throughout Gaelic Scotland, winning a large number of medals and prizes. "Kintulavig" is Jenna's debut album.
On the CD, Jenna proves that she is a highly talented Gaelic singer with a beautiful clear voice. The album combines solo singing and songs accompanied by a high profile band of guest musicians, including Araron Jones (bass, bouzouki), Brian McAlpine (piano, keyboards), Chay Steward (guitars). It is obvious in the songs that Jenna feels still most comfortable singing solo. In fact, at times the instrumentation feels like an unnecessary add-on which is not closely enough linked to the singing. But still this never defers from the fact that we have here an outstanding young singer who no doubt we will hear more of in the future.
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Michael Moll

Hemållt "Hin håles harvedrag"
Label: Sjelvar; No.SJECD20; 2005; Playing time: 47.15 min
Hemållt are Anders, Christer and Mia Gunberg Ådin, and in fact they also form half of the German-Swedish band Malbrook, whose debut album made it to No. 1 in FolkWorld Editors' Top 10 in 2003. Hemållt on their own might not be as exciting and innovative as Malbrook, but with this album the three musicians have produced some good music. A strong focus on the CD is on Swedish dance tunes, played in fiddle, guitar/hurdy gurdy and mandola/mandolin/jews harp/box. Mixed in are also a few songs. Most of the tunes come from Bohuslän in Western Sweden.
Often this is simple traditional music, nothing particular extraordinary or exciting, but always of good quality. I particularly like the tracks with hurdy gurdy, which adds the depth to the music which is missing in some of the other tunes. And I should also mention that I love the photos of the three pigs playing accordion, fiddle and guitar in the booklet...
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Michael Moll

Malinky "the unseen hours"
Label: Greentrax; No. CDTRAX276; 2005; Playing time: 63.56 min
Malinky have gone from strength to strength in the last few years, and after two CDs have established themselves as the leading Scottish band of songs in Scots language. Last year Malinky had major changes - both singer Karine Polwart and accordionist Leo McCann left the band. This third album sees Malinky in their new line-up - so can they keep up the very high standard in their new look?
Yes indeed they can, and for me "the unseen hours" is actually my favourite Malinky album so far. The new line-up features Mark Dunlop (bodhran. fiddles, flute, uileann pipes, vocals), Steve Byrne (bourzouki, cittern, guitar, vocals), Fiona Hunter (vocals, cello), Ewan McPherson (guitar, mandolins, banks, jews's harp, darabuka) and Jon Bews (fiddle). With Fiona Hunter Malinky managed to find an excellent replacement for the superb singer that Karine Polwart is - she has a very pleasant warm and expressive voice making traditional songs very much her own, and not only that, she also adds with her cello a new very attractive element to Malinky's sound. Even though many of the songs are very long (often 5-7 minutes), none of the songs feel like that - their arrangements are so excellent that you would never really notice that the songs are actually that long. As all songs are great I struggle to pick favourites, but I think one highlight has to be "King Orfeo" with Fiona as lead singer and great chorus singing from the boys.
This is a superb album - pure delight from the first to the 63rd minute. Well done Malinky for not only keeping the same standard of the old Malinky, but even still further improving on it!
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Michael Moll

RUSK - Unni Løvlid, Frode Haltli, Vegar Vårdal "RUSK II"
Label: Heilo/Grappa; No. HCD7199; 2006; Playing time: 49.02 min
The Norwegian trio RUSK features vocals (Unni Løvlid), accordion (Frode Haltli) and violin/hardanger fiddle (Vegar Vårdal). As you would expect from this line up, the music is sparse - in fact even more sparse than you might imagine, as often the instruments are played very subtly. RUSK play a mixture of traditional songs and tunes mainly from Norway - plus a very unusual version of the song "Hurt" previously recorded by Johnny Cash. Unni's voice is very intense, sometimes a bit shrill, but always melodic and rather impressive. The sparse arrangements remind me of the wide open spaces and the loneliness so common in Scandinavia.
The music on the CD is mostly meditative and quiet, and it will take listeners under its spell if they just take the time to fully explore this unusually sparse yet innovative music.
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Michael Moll

Haugaard & Høirup with guests "Gaestbud / Feast"
Label: Go Danish Folk Music Production; No.GO705; Playing time: 63.13 min
Danish duo extraordinaire Harald Haugaard (fiddle) and Morten Alfred Høirup (guitars) follow with this album a trend set by a lot of Northern Spanish bands - make your CD recording a special occasion where you invite all your musical friends from abroad to join on an album of Danish folk music. We have seen this concept with Kepa Junkera, Oskorri, Carlos Nunez - and now we see it from Denmark's foremost duo.
Haugaard & Høirup's feast features musicians as diverse as Canadian quartet Le Vent Du Nord, the excellent Scottish-American Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas, Irish musicians Eileen Ivers and Niall Keegan, Karen Tweed, Swedish musicians Sofia Karlsson and Ale Möller, plus a number of Danish musicians including Karen Mose & Helen Blum and Carl Erik Lundgaard. Nearly all the music on this album is traditional Danish, and this clearly is the strength of this cosmopolitan project. As the duo state in the booklet, several of the international guests had not a clue what would happen in the studio, they were thrown into cold water to play Danish music - and this spontaniety and joyful experimentation comes through on the CD. My personal highlights are the collaborations with Le Vent Du Nord, bringing so much power and life into the Danish tunes - but in a way every single track is a highlight in its own right.
An album full of variety, full of appeal also for an international audience. This is Danish music for an international folk music market, this is Danish folk music at its very best, cosmopolitan and open-minded, yet always true to the tradition. A "must" for all fans of Danish music, and the perfect introduction to Danish folk for beginners!
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Michael Moll

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

To the content of FolkWorld No. 32

© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 12/2006

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