FolkWorld Issue 35 02/2008
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Steve Eaves "Moelyci"
Sain Records; 2007
Steve Eaves comes from the Ogwen Valley in the North of Wales. “Moelyci” is the name of a small mountain near Bangor and the title of Eaves’ 9th CD. He has recorded the album over a period of 5 years in 5 different studios and as it is told it takes its time to produce something really good.
Eaves is accompanied by his regular band Rhai Pobl featuring Jackie Williams on vocals, Elwyn Williams on guitars and keyboards, Gwyn Jones on drums and Iwan Llwyd on bass. As special guests we can hear Owen Lloyd Evans on double bass, Jochen Eisentraut on piano and saxophone, Stephen Rees on fiddle, Gwyn Evans on trumpet and Manon Steffan Roos on vocals.
The album starts with “ymlaen mae canaan” (onwards to canaan), a blues song with the playing together of Eaves on harmonica and Eisentraut on the electric piano. Eaves has a beautiful voice and the backing vocals of Jackie Williams match perfectly. The title track is a melancholic instrumental tune dedicated to Siân, Eaves’ wife who has passed away and whose ashes have been scattered on the slopes of “moelyci”. Gerallt Lloyd Owen reads extracts from his poetry on “lleuad medi” (September moon), a wonderful and dreamy song with Gwyn Evans on trumpet. Also double bass, piano and electric guitar give it a jazzy touch. “gwlad y caledi” (the land of hardship) is another poem of Gerallt Lloyd Owen brought to music by Steve Eaves and Elwyn Williams. Eaves’ daughter Manon Steffan Roos joins in to sing “nos da, mam” (good night, Mam) with her father. And finally the CD ends with the recitation of the final verse of “Y Glwadwr”, the classic poem by Gerallt Lloyd Owen, and Stephen Rees on fiddle.
The 13 self penned songs are blues influenced but nevertheless typical Welsh music, not only because of the Welsh words, which are translated on
www.myspace.com/steveeaves. A great voice accompanied by highly talented musicians, beautiful words and a wide range of styles make this CD a brilliant sample of Welsh music, you should not miss it.
Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup
V/A "The Imagined Village"
Real World Records; 2007
Simon Emmerson has been re-inventing different music styles since the early eighties. His most popular project in the last years was the Afro Celt Sound System. Together with some of the finest musicians in the folk-, world music-, rock-, electronic- and club music – scene Emmerson has created with his new album “The Imagined Village” a new milestone in modern folk music.
The voices of folk singers like Martin Carthy and his daughter Eliza, Chris Wood, Billy Bragg or the Copper Family meet the “Dub Ranter” Benjamin Zephaniah and the South London borne Indian Singer Sheila Chandra. Traditional folk music instruments like fiddle or Northumbrian Pipes play together with tablas, sitar, cello, viola as well as guitars, bass and keyboards. And then there is finally the programming work, synthesizers and samples.
Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? The CD features 3 original tracks, 5 traditional tunes and songs and 3 traditionals completely reworked and retold. A composition by John Copper, Simon Emmerson, Sheila Chandra and Steve Coe, who has worked with Chandra in the band Monsoon, is the hypnotic opening track. John Copper tells the story of his grand father Jimmy Copper and this epic story has been brilliantly brought to music on “Ouses, Ouses, Ouses”. Sheila Chandra’s hauntingly beautiful voice, Carole Robb’s pipes and Phil Beer’s fiddle dominate my absolute favourite track. The following classic folk song “John Barleycorn” is a terrific sample of the newly arranged traditional songs. Eliza and Martin Carthy are singing it together with Paul Weller. Eliza’s fiddle, the guitars and Emmerson’s cittern are accompanied by hurdy gurdy and great drum and bass programming. “Tam Lyn” is retold by the charismatic Benjamin Zephanaiah in a fascinating trance ballad. Here is the programming of Trans Global Underground in the foreground and fiddle, guitar, bouzouki and sitar are softening the sound in the background.
The CD ends with an English Ceilidh Medley brought forward by two fantastic bands: The Gloworms meet the Tiger Moth. This latest work of Simon Emmerson is definitely worth a listen, a fantastic journey through the world of music, from ancient folk songs up to brand new dance floor music, interpreted by musicians who don’t stick to a style which climbs the charts, but who are ready to go further on and try something revolutionary new. Certainly a strong candidate for the top ten CDs of 2007.
Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup
Lowri Evans "Kick the Sand"
Fflach Records; 2007
Lowrie Evans was borne in Haverfordwest, a little market town in South Wales, where she started singing lessons at the age of seven. Later she left her home for a couple of years to live, study and make music in Newcastle upon Tyne, North England, before she came back to Pembrokeshire and started her solo career at Fflach Records. After an EP and a CD with songs in Welsh she recently released her latest album “Kick the Sand”.
Together with her partner Lee Mason (Guitars and bass) she recorded eleven songs, ten self-penned tracks, one of them co-written with Mason and a cover version of a U2 song. Besides Evans who plays guitar and piano and Mason there are ten great guest musicians on bass, double bass, Hammond organ, piano, cello, violin, lap steel, drums and percussion.
The album starts with “Can’t Decide”, a beautiful Blues song, recorded Live and performed on acoustic guitar and double bass. Evan’s singing is sublime and she has got a wonderful voice that doesn’t need a big arrangement. On U2s “With or without you”, which was equally recorded Live, her singing is only accompanied by guitar and cello, an absolutely stunning version. It would be interesting to hear her singing it together with Bono. The only Welsh song “Merch y Myny” has been recomposed and recorded in English as well, “Mountain Girl”. While the rhythmic Welsh version showcases a rich line-up, she sings the melancholic English version only to the sound of guitar and cello.
The album features eleven hauntingly beautiful songs, chill-out jazz at its best. Melancholic ballads alter with rhythmic and joyous songs sung by a 28 years old brilliant singer and accompanied by excellent musicians. This singer will certainly make her way with her music that joins together Celtic influences with popular and jazz music as she does bring together the Welsh and the English language.
Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup
Maggie Reilly "Rowan"
Red Berry Records; 2007
Glasgow born singer Maggie Reilly first met Stuart MacKillop in the 70ies. They played together in the funk-rock band Cado Belle. 30 years later with the experience of eight solo CDs and numerous guest appearances and collaborations she released her album “Rowan”, again together with MacKillop.
In the past decades Reilly has worked with Jack Bruce, Juliane Werding, Mike Batt, David Gilmour and many more. The most important collaboration was certainly with Mike Oldfield. Who hasn’t heard her singing on “Moonlight Shadows” and the impact of Oldfield’s musical genius on Reilly’s music cannot be denied.
Reilly is joined by producer and co-composer Stuart MacKillop (guitars, keys and piano), Andy Roberts (acoustic guitars, bouzouki and bodhràn), Simon Little (acoustic and electric bass) and Steve Taylor (drums and percussion). Gareth Turner (accordion), Calena Delamare (violin) and Mark Hornby (guitars) have been invited as guest musicians.
When you listen to “Away wi’ the fairies”, one of the four compositions by Reilly and MacKillop, close your eyes and you will see a band of elfish creatures sing and dance along, no matter if it is one of the five acoustic recordings on the bonus CD or the band version on the main CD. There are two more songs that have been recorded twice. I prefer the acoustic version of the traditional love song “Once I had a Sweetheart”; it is more authentic. Alasdair Robertson, former songwriter for Cado Belle, has written the melancholic ballad “The Star” and cover versions of a Sandy Denny and a John Martyn song as well as recomposed versions of traditional songs like “Wild Mountain Thyme” complete the song list.
Reilly’s music is romantic and fairish, melancholic and magic, sad and light-hearted and her hauntingly beautiful singing puts a spell on you and doesn’t let you off before the last note is sung.
Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup
Pamela Wyn Shannon "Courting Autumn"
Massachusetts based singer/songwriter Pamela Wyn Shannon started her career in the 90ies with a New Jersey rock band, before she got involved with traditional Irish Folk music. After having spent a year in Ireland she returned to the US and started to work with musicians from the likes of Solas, Lunasa or Cherish the Ladies. 2007 sees the release of her new solo album “Courting Autumn”.
The album features 10 original songs and 2 traditional arrangements and was recorded with portable recording equipment in different places all over New England, no record studios but places like house museums, private rooms, farms and stables. Shannon sings about autumn, the wonder of nature and spiritual and pastoral themes.
“O’Bittersweet Dear Madeline” is a wonderful melancholic song about the autumn winds trying to chase the summer wind away, it is a brilliantly hypnotic track with Pamela’s hauntingly beautiful singing, her gifted guitar playing and Bill Shontz’ on the recorder. “Tis Rambletide in Ambleside” is inspired by Dorothy Wordsworth’s love to her brother William. She used to walk for miles through the Lake District to retrieve his letters. Liz Knowles plays a string quartet and thus gives this beautiful ballad a touch of chamber music. The title song is a romantic song with superb instrumental playing. Pamela on guitar, banjo, dulcimer and glockenspiel is accompanied by Michelle Kinney on cello. The arrangements are usually for few instruments, an exception is “Vespertine Autumn” with Anna Patton on clarinet and penny whistle, Ethan Hazard-Watkins on violin and Pamela on guitar and glockenspiel. The Scottish traditional song “Ca’ the Yowes” has been originally written by Isobel Pagan and adopted by Robert Burns. Pamela plays guitar and harmonium and Chris Hale accompanies her on sitar, a breathtaking arrangement.
Pamela’s music is like a fantastic voyage through ancient times; time seems to stand still and daily tasks disappear behind a thick velvet curtain und you find yourself daydreaming and in a happy mood. Excellent songwriting, beautiful singing, gifted guitar playing and beautiful instrumentation create one of the best albums that have been released in 2007.
Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup
Rory Campbell "Intrepid"
Rory Campbell is certainly one of Scotland’s finest pipers and most innovative tunesmiths. He plays different pipes and whistles and has been working in the course of his career with some of the best acts. On his latest solo album “Intrepid” he has been joined by Old Blind Dogs mate Jonny Hardie on guitar and Donald Hay on drums from the Edinburgh based band Mystery Juice.
The album features 14 tracks, original songs and tunes as well as tunes by his father Roddy, traditional music from all over the Celtic lands and cover versions. Rory dedicated the CD to his family and signs it “Nous sommes intrépides” (we are bold).
And so is the music on this CD. Rory and his friends recorded another masterpiece of modern traditional folk music. The three inspired musicians play the brilliant tunes and songs and thus transform the world of the listener into a universe of music and mystery. Campbell’s breathtaking pipe and whistle playing is accompanied by Hay’s pulsating rhythms and Hardie’s virtuoso guitar playing.
When Rory kicks off the CD with Murdoch MacArthur’s “Oran Nam Mocaisean” (the song of the moccasins) I am instantly captured by the hypnotic and hauntingly beautiful music. Then one highlight follows the other: Roddy Campbell’s tune “Break in Borve”, dance tunes like Gavotte (France), Strathspey (Corinna Hewat) or Pasodoble (Galicia) and tunes written for Rory’s family alternate with hauntingly beautiful songs – cover versions, originals and traditional songs. At the end Rory sings “Sunny Outside” a capella, a song he has written several years ago, and proves that he also is an accomplished singer.
Campbell’s album is my favourite album of the year 2007.
Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup
Ar Log "Goreuon - The Best of Ar Log"
SCD2547; 2007; Playing time: 75:23 + 77:44 min
Ar Log in Welsh
or For Hire in English, and they were purchasable for years,
being one of the veteran bands of
the Welsh folk music revival and godfathers of all Welsh folk bands.
Ar Log formed in 1976 after representing Wales at the Interceltique
festival in Lorient in Britanny.
They met The Dubliners (-> FW#23) who suggested that they should stay together.
The original members were Dafydd Roberts (triple harp, flute), Gwyndaf Roberts (lap harp and bass), Dave Burns (guitar) and Iolo Jones (fiddle).
Dafydd and Gwyndaf hail from Llwyngwril in the heartland of the Welsh language.
They learned to play the harp from the legendary Nansi Richards,
one of the last traditional Welsh folk harpists.
Over time the band evolved from the original quartet to an eleven-piece ensemble.
By 1988, Ar Log had essentially become a part-time operation.
In 1996, Ar Log celebrated their anniversary by recalling all of the group's members past and present to record once again.
This double cd "Goreuon" features recordings between 1978 and 1996,
plus one live track from the 10th birthday bash of the Taunusstein folk club
in Germany in 1984. Ar Log play mostly traditional tunes and songs from Wales,
and some originals. I discovered the set
"Bryniau Iwerddon/Alawon fy Ngwlad" (The Hills of Ireland/The Airs of My Country).
A couple of years ago the set was regularily played at sessions in Braunschweig, Germany, I never knew the source. Ironically the first tune is from a
collection titled "Alawon fy Ngwlad" by Nicholas Bennett (1896), a source of
many tunes played and made popular by Ar Log.
Harmony singing became a kind
of trademark, though maybe not for anybody's taste, reminding a bit too
much on male choir singing (which is true, Wales having a living choir tradition).
The singers provide quite contrasting styles. Dave Burns was singing in the
English language. Geraint Glynne Davies is a Welsh speaker, however, his
main influence is said to be the rock group Queen. The Welsh song "Dadl Dau"
has a the tune which has been borrowed by Robert Burns for "The De'il's awa
wi' th' Exciseman"; "Lisa Lân" is one of Wales' best loved traditional
love songs. Versions of it can also be found in England and Ireland.
The Welsh and English language booklet makes an important chapter of Welsh
and British folk music history complete.
Robin Huw Bowen "The Road to Aberystwyth"
SCD2526; 2007; Playing time: 54:35 min
Ffarwel yn awr i'r Llyfrgell, i'r troli ac i'r stace ...
Ah sorry, I give you the English translation:
Farewell the National Library, the trolley and the stack.
Farewell to all you archivists, I'm shouldering my pack.
I'm leaving dusty volumes, my harpstrings are now set.
Across the world I'll sing for Wales, and never will regret.
The name's Robin Huw Bowen,
the profession: Welsh triple harpist (-> FW#11).
In 1986 Robin gave up employment at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth ... to be happy.
And he was happy ever since, playing the traditional Welsh triple harp,
which has three rows of strings of which the outer two are tuned in unison to the diatonic scale, the middle row provides the semitones.
Robin Huw Bowen is beyond question the leader of the pack regarding
the Welsh triple-harp. He was first exposed to the instruments by
Dafydd and Gwyndaf Roberts of the traditional music group Ar Log (see above).
Since 1998 Robin has been a member of the group Crasdant
At the National Library Robin discovered several old collections of Welsh tunes and arrangements for
harp. He has also drawn on living sources, in
particular the Welsh Gipsy harpist Eldra Jarman (1917-2000).
The very first tune of the album is from fiddler John Thomas
which is given the Welsh Gipsy harp treatment. Tunes are also
from Playford's Dancing Master (1657) and
John Griffith's Fashionable Collection of Country Dances (1788),
America's earliest known printed dance collection.
Most tunes are traditional Welsh, as small selection is played all over the place:
the "Cuckoo Hornpipe" has been recorded by Michael Coleman as "Murray's Fancy,"
that's also the title in O'Neill's collection; "Napoleon Crossing the Alps" is
also known as "Dennis Murphy's". Four tunes are compositions by Bowen, and some
jigs by German Ange Hauck from Wuerzburg.
Erik Ask-Upmark "Himlens Polska"
NTCD07; 2007; Playing time: 54:51 min
More than ten years ago Erik Ask-Upmark
smashed his harp on a German ICE train on the way to Basel.
He was able to get an Irish harp in Switzerland and brought it back home to Sweden.
Afterwards he decided to try this harp on his traditional Swedish repertory.
Harp music once must have been common in Sweden too, but it's been
a tradition that died (proper harp, not nyckelharpa which is a keyed fiddle).
So "Himlens polska" (Heaven’s polska) is the first solo CD ever with exclusively Swedish traditional music played on the Celtic harp.
In other countries like Ireland and Scotland where the instrument has maintained
its importance, dance music is often played on the harp (-> FW#33),
another tradition that I wish for to be revived in Nordic music,
he says. "Fingersträckarn" and "Flageoletten" are talking song titles.
Most tunes are polskas, the almost magical dance with its suggestive
heartbeat rhythm that I find fits the harp so well,
but also folk baroque hymns, and a brudmarsch (bridal march).
The Finnish "Taivaallinen polska" (Heaven's polska) gave the album its title.
The "Slip Polska" is an Irish slip jig that turns into a Swedish polska,
Erik got the idea from German harpist
"Allor e'ro a allor bir'o" means It never is, and never will be
so wonderful. Well, I hope it will, "Himlens Polska" features some
heavenly tunes and some extraterrestrial playing. It is a nice start for more.
Maria Jonsson, Ian Carr & Mikael Marin "Timber!"
NTCD09; 2007; Playing time: 54:28 min
Ten years ago, Maria Jonsson of Svart kaffe (viola d'amore),
Ian Carr of Swap and the Kate Rusby Band (guitar -> see review below) and
Mikael Marin of Väsen (five-stringed viola -> FW#34)
played together for the very first time. They were struck by the energy between
them and managed to meet again and continue.
Timber, or Timber 3,
or whatever they call themselves, play original music in the traditional vein.
Polskas, hallings, waltzes and marches composed by the three of them.
Only later some traditional polskas are played,
courtesy of fiddlers Spel-Erik Eriksson, Alfred Nilsson and Andreas Lång.
Timber has an attractive instrumentation (at least for my ears and personal taste),
full of power. Well, I don't know where the band got its name from.
I'd say that the band, even in its original songs, is deeply rooted in the soil
of tradition like an old tree, but like the best firewood they are lighting a fire
that is burning for hours.
Battlefield Band "Dookin'"
COMD2100; 2007; Playing time: 49:57 min
They have been inspired by the likes of Planxty (-> FW#30) and the Bothies (-> FW#30)
to put Scottish folk and traditional music on the map.
30 years on the road, 24 albums to their credit,
the Battlefield Band
still doesn't sound expired.
There has been always enough fresh blood to remain in the first line of
folk artists. Their new album "Dookin'" features the
only remaining founder member Alan Reid (keyboards),
American-turned-Scotsman piper Mike Katz (bagpipes, flute),
Alasdair White from the Isle of Lewis (fiddle -> FW#33), and
newest addition Derry-born Sean O'Donnell (guitar).
(Plus occasional guest Mike Whellans on harmonica and
guitarist Mitch Greenhill, their US agent.)
The last Battie album had been a concept album (-> FW#32),
"Dookin'" is pretty straight forward and a
mix of traditional and self-penned music.
The reel "An Gille Dubh' mo Laochan" had been used by Robert Burns for
"A Man's a Man for a' that" which the Germans turned into a song of the
1848 revolution, just 160 years ago.
The jig "The Blue Lagoon" by US piper Peter MacLeod is said to be
the most difficult piece ever composed for the bagpipe. It certainly
has some unusual rhythmic and melodic ideas, but it is no problem for the
Batties. Sean sings John Spillane's "I'm Going to Set You Free"
and Ewan MacColl's "Ballad of Accounting" (see book reviews in this FW issue).
Alan sings Robert Burns' "My Luv's Like a Red, Red Rose"
(with a melody discovered in Johnson's Scots Musical Museum from 1784,
the more familiar tune is played as instrumental break),
the traditional "Allan MacLean" and his original "Gathering Storm".
The latter might be a telling title for ... yeah, for what ... some dookin' ...?
Well, if you like to know what the album title is about - go and get the cd.
Boldwood "Feet Don't Fail Me Now"
HOBCD1006; 2007; Playing time: 45:26 min
The story began in 1999 when Becky Price
found some handwritten manuscripts in a leather-bound volume
at the Cecil Sharp House in London. Many tunes had never been recorded before.
She needed a new band, and she got Boldwood:
three fiddles (Kate Moran, Richard Heacock, Daniel Wolverson),
one accordion (Becky Price) and bouzouki and guitar (Tim Perkins).
Their mission: rescue forgotten English and Welsh dance tunes from the shelves
and put them back on the dancefloor.
After a four track EP in 2006, here's their debut CD "Feet Don't Fail Me Now".
The tunes are mainly from the 18th century,
partly from unpublished manuscripts from the Cecil Sharp House,
partly from Alawon John Thomas, a Welsh fiddler's tunebook from 1752 (-> FW#28) which had been
edited by Cass Meurig (-> FW#28).
Sources are also Playford's English Dancing Master, some
tunes had been collected by Northamptonshire poet and fiddler John Clare (-> FW#24). Certainly, I'm not familiar
with most tunes, so I cannot write too much about it. I am not sure if the
"Barbara Allen" hornpipe and "Three Sea Captains" have anything to do with the
songs of the same name, I'm able to recognize that
"Greensleeves" features the well-known melody.
Though "Feet Don't Fail Me Now" has a Baroque feel throughout,
I haven't heard it so lively in quite some time.
Mawkin "The Fair Essex"
Good Form Records; MKN002; 2006; Playing time: 51:17 min
Mawkin is an old English term for a scarecrow. No scarecrows for sure are the
(at least musically, I haven't seen any photograph of the band).
James Delarre (fiddle), Alex Goldsmith (melodeon),
Danny Grump (bass and piano) and David Delarre (guitar) are
just in their early twenties, however (or just because of it),
their performance is top-notch.
Their debut album "The Fair Essex" is mostly at a relaxed pace, though playful
and good fun throughout. Every instrument gets its solo outing.
Half of the tracks is traditional ("Banks of the Dee", "Trip to Berwick", "Alexander's Hornpipe" etc.), half original, plus one tune by the late
Johnny Cunningham (-> FW#27).
Mawkin is rather connected to continental traditions than to their Celtic cousins.
I took track #8 for an East European tune, but in fact it is a French set.
The music makes me feel comfortable and anticipate the
transition from the dreary winter into springtime.
The booklet artwork has been done by abstract artist Chris Pearson.
It says to me that sometimes there is much more meaning behind some seemingly simple
Wise Records; WISCD3435; 2007; Playing time: 53:50 min
"Centrifusion" is already the third album of
Where did they hide all the time?
The opener "When My Love and I Parted" is marrying some traditional lyrics
with the Jewish wedding song "Nigun Atik", followed by the jig "Banish Misfortune".
It is a real showstopper, and this is going on and on throughout the entire album.
The songs have been written by singer Gwyneth Keen (-> FW#32), plus
the traditional Appalachian song "I Love My Love",
the Welsh "Can y Melinydd" and Andy M. Stewart's "Where Are You".
Her singing is gorgeous. The instrumental dance sets are of Welsh and Irish
origin, played by fiddler Siân Phillips (-> FW#22),
flute player Imogen O’Rourke, harpist John Harris and guitar player Gordon Taylor.
It is contemporary folk music, eclectic but rooted in the tradition.
Both haunting and lively, "Centrifusion" became one of my personal favourites of 2007.
Chulrua "The Singing Kettle"
23002; 2007; Playing time: 54:48 min
The Irish-American music trio Chulrua
is featuring Paddy O’Brien (button accordion -> FW#33),
Patrick Ourceau (fiddle) and Pat Egan (guitar).
Paddy has been born in Castlebarnagh, County Offaly, Ireland. He
played with The Castle Ceili Band way back in 1968 and moved to America in 1978
where he has been ever since. He is famed for having collected some 4,000 tunes
from where to (push and) draw. Paddy has found the perfect musical partners
in French fiddler Patrick Ourceau and Tipperary man Pat Egan
(married to Vermont flute player Laura Byrne).
"The Singing Kettle" is already their third album, after a pause of three years.
The playing is excellent. There's unusual tunes, variants and versions:
the "Morning Dew" reel as a two-part version, courtesy of Joe Cooley;
the jig "The Gander in the Pratie Hole" is a three-part setting inspired by Dublin fiddler Tommy Potts;
the reel "The Wild Irishman" is a west Clare setting of the well-known recording by Sligo fiddler Michael Coleman;
the jig "Gallant Tipperary" was used by Thomas Moore for his song "The Young May Moon", here as a four part version, courtesy of Galway flutist Jack Coen;
the reel "Paddy Murphy's Wife" has been learned from County Tipperary accordion player Paddy O'Brien, plus an extra third part composed by County Offaly accordion player Paddy O'Brien. Well, don't get confused here. There are both
fiddle and accordion solos. The former two reels by Sean Ryan, the latter
the hornpipe "The Drunken Sailor" played in A minor plus an extra sixth part
that had been composed by Tommy Potts (he played it in G).
Pat Egan is also a fine singer with a smooth voice. He prefers contemporary songs but in
a narrative style. Two songs are from Dubliner Mick Fitzgerald ("Ballad of Capel Street",
"Asha"), one by Scotmans Archie Fisher ("Ashfields in Brine"), and rather surprisingly one
Percy French song ("Bridget Flynn").
Dervish "Travelling Show"
Whrl 011; 2007; Playing time: 55:33 min
Imagine a traditional Irish music group showing up at a song contest
dressed up in silly costumes, moving like dancing bears to a playback track,
and ... last position. Geez, my personal nightmare became true at the Eurovision
Song Contest 2007 in Helsinki (-> FW#32).
Sure, last place wasn't deserved, there was worse. But what did you expect?
There should have been some Riverdance to make an impression.
So next try, Dervish
went into the studio for their next and tenth album. Here are the results:
the Eurovision song had been omitted, but included are a good deal of
contemporary songs. The album is opening with Cher's 70's hit song
"Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves," and boy, you believe singer Cathy Jordan's
opinion that it feels like it was born out of Ireland. There are
David Frechette's "My Bride and I" (featuring Steve Wickham’s string arrangement),
Sonny Condell's "The Cat She Went A-Hunting," and
Suzanne Vega's "The Queen and the Soldier".
Cathy wrote an air and Nashville songwriter Sharon Vaughn put some lyrics
about 16th century pirate queen Grainne O'Malley (Granuaile) to it.
Cathy also put a tune to a version of the Child ballad "Lord Levett," and
they got Triona Ni Dhomhnaill to play harpsichord on it.
Known as being a firm bodhran player, Cathy also plays guitar, bouzouki and
autoharp now (the latter came about when she undertook a project exploring
the music of the American Carter Family).
Though being mainly a song album, some instrumental music is also featured:
the reel "The Master's Return" has been originally known as "The Floating Bottle."
According to the booklet the name was coined in 1949 by piper Seamus Ennis to commemorate a return to Ireland by Sligo fiddler Paddy Killoran. I heard
another version of the story, namely that Ennis arrived in Dublin just in
time for a performance. While he was preparing his pipes, he told the audience:
I arrived home this afternoon on an airplane from Scandinavia, and while I
was on the airplane, a tune began to plague my mind. The name of the tune is
The Master's Return, and I'm going to play it for you now.
Whatever. Lets put it simply: The masters are back. Maybe better than ever.
Katie Doherty "Bridges"
PRKCD96; 2007; Playing time: 42:06 min
Katie Doherty is one of the young graduates from the folk music degree
in Newcastle, but unlike many of her contemporaries,
her album is a singer-songwriter recording and it certainly takes
its inspiration from traditional song, but features no traditional music at all.
As a singer and as an emerging songwriter, Katie Doherty is
following a well-trodden path paved by Kate Rusby and others (see CD review below).
She wrote seven songs herself, there is one from Nancy Kerr ("Port and Brandy")
and The Mississippi Sheiks' "Sitting on Top of the World", plus Robert Burns'
"Winter is Past" and the traditional "Snow Dove" set to new original music.
Katie is poetic, sometimes cryptic in her lyrics. Some songs have a
traditional and folksy feeling. She plays piano, there are
fiddlers Shona Mooney and Olivia Ross,
flutist and uilleann piper Calum Stewart, and
accordion player Julian Batten.
Kathryn Tickell plays some fiddle on one track (-> FW#33).
One of Katie's songs goes: She'll keep on building bridges,
until we all find quiet shores, 'till there's roses in our gardens
and our homes are open doors. She succeeded to bridge the academical
world with the world of folk music. When she is singing
I'd like to think somewhere you're dancing,
that somewhere the music still moves you,
well, I'm moved.
Dave Flynn "Draíocht"
Frisbee Records; FRCD001; 2006; Playing time: 53:04 min
is a songwriter and composer from Dublin, Ireland.
He performs music in many different genres: classical and jazz, rock and folk.
Ten years ago Dave and his friend Ciarán Swift arranged some traditional Irish tunes
for nylon and steel string guitars. That was the beginning of Dave's occupation
with his native music. Indeed, some of these arrangements have now been recorded
for his debut album "Draíocht".
Dave plays both guitar and octave mandolin, both as an accompanist and a soloist.
Guest musicians include fiddler Liz Coleman, banjo player Mick Dunne,
Manus Lunny on bodhran (-> FW#34).
In Dave's (and the author's) opinion, draíocht
(= magic, enchantment) is the right word for the spellbinding quality which traditional Irish
music has. He tries to recreate that magic. However, people and land and society did
change and evolve over the decades and centuries. Thus he incorporated
contemporary arrangements, non-Irish influences
such as jazz and African music.
The arrangement for the traditional "Tempest/Old Sean's Jig" has been
inspired by Malian music; banjo player Mick Dunne once met members of the
National Music Ensemble of Mali who said to him after playing:
our music is the same.
Dave Flynn's "Afro-Classical Jig" is a mix of Zimbabwian Chimurenga music,
Baroque and Irish music. His "Magical Reel" is melodically influenced by
both jazz music and the pop group New Order. Personally, I like very much
his version of the reel "Drowsy Maggie," played very slowly on guitar.
Dave comments: The magical beauty of the melody often gets lost with speed.
Sometimes the key to the tune lies in its title. He also put poetry of
Pádraic Ó'Beírn to music, which has some stronger and some
weaker qualities. But the rest is ... spellbinding.
Eliza Gilkyson "Your Town Tonight"
RHR CD 205; 2007; Playing time: 64:33 min
Ironically Eliza Gilkyson's
most successful album "Pilgrims" from 1987 established her as kind of new age artist.
After collaborating with Swiss harpist Andreas Vollenweider in Europe, she
fortunatly returned to the US and her folk roots. After some fine studio albums
FW#33), Eliza recorded her
first live recording at the Cactus Cafe in her hometown of Austin, Texas.
She is accompanied by guitarist Mike Hardwick, bass player Glenn Fukunaga
and percussionist Cisco Ryder.
"Your Town Tonight" is no simple Best-of-Album. The fourteen songs include
frequently requested favourites (e.g. "Requiem") as well as older originals
("Lights of Santa Fe"), cover songs (Dylan's "Jokerman", her father Terry Gilkyson's
"Bare Necessities" from the "Jungle Book" movie and "Green Fields").
Mostly intimate songs, from the dark and lonely to the lightly and infectious.
Eliza Gilkyson at her simplest and best.
Red House Records
Eliot Grasso "Up Againts the Flatirons"
Na Píobairí Uilleann;
NPUCD014; 2007; Playing time: 49:25 min
hails from Baltimore, Maryland. With five years of age he took up whistle and flute,
with twelve the uilleann pipes. He learned from pipers Paul Levin and Kieran O'Hare
and started attending weekly sessions at J. Patrick's Pub with his fiddling father.
With fourteen Eliot began composing tunes, several can be heard on this recording. He
went to Ireland and took up tuition from Seán Óg Potts and Robbie Hannan.
With 18 he recorded his debut album "Standing Room Only," followed in 2006 by
"North by North West" with Dave Cory.
From an early age Eliot Grasso had an impressive piping style of his own -
lot of Seamus Ennis with some Robbie Hannon. Still only in his mid-twenties
he was invited to record an album of unaccompanied uilleann piping
for Na Píobairí Uilleann, the Society of Irish Pipers. "Up Againts the Flatirons" is
Volume 1 of a series entitled "The Ace and Deuce of Piping." Eliot has
taken some liberties: for example, the "Farewell to Erin" four-part-reel has been transposed to
D mixolydian to fit the range of the pipes better. His version of the reel
"Sporting Nell" is a hybrid of the Donegal setting by fiddler Dermot McLaughlin
and that by piper Mick O'Brien.
The Flatirons are an impressive mountain range near Boulder, Colorado,
Eliot Grasso's performance is equally impressive. Powerful and fast,
but always under control.
Na Píobairí Uilleann
Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill "Welcome Here Again"
GLCD 1233; 2008; Playing time: 53:01 min
"Welcome Here Again" by fiddler Martin Hayes and guitarist Dennis Cahill
is the first release on the Green Linnet
label since its acquisition by the Compass Records Group,
and more important the first studio album by Hayes and Cahill since their
last studio recording from 1997 and their live album from 1999.
Martin Hayes hails from
Maghera, County Clare, in the west of Ireland.
At the age of 13 Martin was touring with the Tulla Ceili Band, led by his father
PJ Hayes. He went to America in the 1980's and eventually struck a musical
partnership with guitar player Dennis Cahill in the Windy City of Chicago.
The East Clare style of traditional Irish music is opposed to any hectic pace,
and Martin embodied the lonesome touch and contemplative sound. However,
instead of ten- or twenty-minute-long sets of tunes, of which Martin did
become somewhat notorious, he now takes one tune after another.
18 tracks, 14 are just one single piece. Martin explores every tune, every
single note, every emotion. With ornamentations, variations and phrasings,
originally simple tunes for dancing are turned into small masterpieces.
As if saying that playing music is not about killing time, but a pastime that
is an enduring pleasure.
Dennis explains: We loved polishing each of these tunes like a little gem.
We want you to really hear the tune. We want to make every note count.
Dennis Cahill's accompaniment on nylon and steel string guitars
is sparse but effective. He also displays his talents on the mandolin,
and is not only a subtle accompanist but can play a tune or two.
What can I say? Welcome here again ...
Green Linnet / Compass Records Group
Ross Kennedy "Scottish Voice and Acoustic Guitar"
CDTRAX317; 2007; Playing time: 44:17 min
Ross Kennedy (-> FW#9)
is a professional folk musician since 25 years. He has
toured and recorded with The Tannahill Weavers, Iron Horse and Canterach.
Eventually this is his solo debut. Ross has a powerful voice and plays
no mean guitar. His song selection is excellent:
Robert Burns' "The Tarbolton Lassies," to which Ross added a chorus,
the stunning original ballads "The Flower o' them aw" and "Farewell to Glasgow",
contemporary songs by Dave Goulder, Andy Mitchell and Archie Fisher.
In the second half of the disc it eventually gets traditional:
"The Earl o' Moray," "The Birken Tree," The Tiree Love Song," "Peggy Bann."
Ross Kennedy also plays some instrumental fiddle and pipe tunes, which he
succesfully adapted on the guitar.
Skinner and Marshall flat-picked on the guitar is a real treat, the
18th century Scottish slow air "Mrs Jamieson's Favourite,"
inspired by the fiddle playing of Aly Bain, suits the guitar as well.
"Scottish Voice and Acoustic Guitar," the title says it all, it's mostly
voice and guitar, though it features some contributions by Lorne MacDougall
(whistle, pipes), Alison Smith (fiddle) and Steve Lawrence (bouzouki, percussion).
This is the album I wished Dick Gaughan had made instead of trying to play the drums
Kennedy's Kitchen "A Pocketful of Lint"
Own label; 2006; Playing time: 57:25 min
My memory took me back again to a small bar in New Orleans
where an old man played the violin. Clancy lit a fire in me that made me sing and dance.
He charmed the hard earned leather off their shoes, and the toiling men from here to
Oklahoma would sit and watch in longing as we sang the songs of Erin.
do sing the songs of Erin on their already third CD, though
the quintet from South Bend, Indiana, is according to the CD's liner notes not at all
of Irish descent, everyone who performs on this CD is a grandchild of someone who
came over to America on a boat, pursued by poverty or the failed
politics of the old world, looking for a chance. Our grandparents arrived here with
the name of a town, an address, perhaps a much read letter which stated that they
were welcome, that there was work to be found, and that someone would be expecting
them. Other than that, they had their hopes, a small cardboard chest filled with a
life’s belongings, and a pocketful of lint.
John Kennedy plays the guitar, Bob Harke guitar and bodhran, Nolan Ladewski whistles,
Chris O'Brien fiddle, mandolin and banjo, and Rob Weber bass.
"A Pocketful of Lint" features up-tempo songs such as "Mountain Dew" and "Jug of Punch,"
and eventually W.B. Yeats' "Lake Isle of Innisfree". There are
traditional tunes and some composed by Nolan Ladewski. My personal favourites are
the traditional English song "Country Life" (here called "The Life of a Country Boy"),
a cappella with some fine harmonies, and the slow reel "The Mangled Whistle,"
written and played on a not-too-mangled whistle by Nolan Ladewski.
With some excursions into typical pub song style, which I rather like to skip,
it is a fine album after all. A sometimes fidgety performance is more than balanced
by the sheer fun of Kennedy's Kitchen's undertaking.
Kilshannig "On Holy Ground"
Own label; BUFO 1003; 2007; Playing time: 71:41 min
The Holy Ground is a well known song, and this album has been recorded in churches
(and small theatres) in North Holland. Without any amplification, without overdubs,
just 8 microphones. It has a great sound concerning the circumstances. Not everything
is perfect ... fair enough, it's a live recording.
Kilshannig is a
quintet from the Netherlands: two guitars, fiddle, whistle, concertina, bass
and bodhran. There is nice harmony singing and a mixed bag of rousing songs
("Bonnie Ship The Diamond", Andy M. Stewart's "Queen of Argyll")
and some instrumental tunes.
I feel that the ballads work best ("Ride On", here followed by a bourrée
which had been featured on the very first Solas album,
"Spancil Hill", Eric Bogle's "My Youngest Son"). The CD booklet has notes on every song,
information about composers and lyricists. There's a lot that I didn't know. For example,
Kerryman Sean McCarthy wrote verses to a children's skipping song from Kanturk,
County Cork, in 1955, which today is known all over the place as "Step It Out Mary".
The "Jolly Begarman" is a poem by Lord Byron, the hornpipe set to it written
by John Jacob Niles. "Song for Ireland" has been
written by an Englishman [Phil and June Colclough],
it became some sort of alternative National Anthem in Ireland.
Is it still Irish then? Does it have to be 'made in Ireland'?
Does it have to be sung by an Irishman?
Listen and make up your mind ...
Last Orders "Last Orders"
FECD207; 2007; Playing time: 58:30 min
Mentioning Last Orders, there come some memories.
No, I'm not talking about spending some nights at the local pub.
Musically it is. Last Orders is a Bradford based pub rock band,
a German folk band playing Irish and German folk music,
the title of an album by fiddler Liz Doherty.
This review is not about those. These
are a four piece folk band originating from Newcastle upon Tyne.
Joe O'Connor (melodeon), Matthew Jones (guitar), Kevin Lees (fiddle) and
David Jones (fiddle) first met as members of Kathryn Tickell's 17 piece youth
folk band, Folkestra (-> FW#33).
They decided to form a permanent quartet
and subsequently won the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards in February 2007.
A year later, they have recorded their debut CD and are in fine form.
Their album features lots of polkas from Ireland and Sweden,
there are jigs and reels as the CD progresses,
but also a Swedish polska and a Belgian bourrée.
The four lads were joined for two numbers
by vocalist Maz O'Connor, Joe's sister:
Emily Smith's "Go to Town" (-> FW#31) and
Andy Barnes' classic "The Last of the Great Whales",
which is a nice addition to the opulent sound of twin fiddles, guitar and melodeon.
Henrik Jansberg "Omnivor"
GO1007; 2007; Playing time: 38:06 min
The young Danish fiddler Henrik Jansberg
is a graduate of the Carl Nielsen Academy in Odense. He
has been chosen as frontrunner for the Danish Roots project,
which has been created to promote Danish folk music abroad.
Henrik Jansberg is well chosen. His debut album "Omnivor",
produced by Harald Haugaard (-> FW#32),
has been two years in the making. Tracks were recorded, re-recorded,
dubs added, parts built in, removed reduced and deleted. It was worth the effort.
Henrik Jansberg plays violin and viola, his band features - known by the group
Zar (-> FW#28,
for example - Rasmus Zeeberg (guitar, mandolin, banjo),
Rasmus Brylle (drums percussion),
Perry Stenbäck (nyckelharpa, guitar, dobro),
Steffan S. Sørensen (double bass),
plus session musicians Christopher Davis Maack (violin)
and Sonnich Lydom (harmonica, accordion).
Henrik Jansberg has written most of the tunes, and
he is capable of writing a proper and fine tune. He also is a
marvellous fiddler with excellent technique.
"Omnivor" is not traditional Danish music, neither the tunes nor the interpretations.
But it's Made in Denmark and that makes it somehow Danish. Who cares anyway?
Comparing last year's musical output,
Henrik Jansberg managed to publish the most exciting record from Denmark in 2007.
Robb Johnson & The Irregulars "All That Way For This"
IRR066; 2007; Playing time: 56:18 min
50th birthday gig in December 2006 at the Windsor Arts Centre
was reportedly a noisy punk rock affair.
His band, The Irregulars, had such fun playing that they
immediately set forth the plan to record Robb's next album together.
Robb promised he won't be playing so much electric guitar,
and he didn't (playing too much electric guitar).
Maybe apart from "Sunny Afternoon In Ilmenau" (Ilmenau is a small town in Thuringia,
Germany, close to the famous Rudolstadt festival), which easily could be an early
R.E.M. song. Robb is at his most accessible musically, there are no tabloid
stories. Coming from Moronland, the land of the living brain-dead, he
is best known for topical songs. So "Peanuts" is certainly not about any crops.
The Irregulars are John Forrester (ex Pressgang -> FW#9, at the time working with
New Model Army offshoot Nozzle) on bass, Andi Tuck on drums, and
Saskia Tomkins on electric violin.
The band is adding a swing to Robb's songs that was missing sometimes in his
solo performances. After having played "All That Way For This" a couple of days
on my car stereo, I added it to my list of favourite albums published in 2007.
© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 02/2008
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