FolkWorld Issue 36 07/2008

FolkWorld CD Reviews

Newpoli "Newpoli"
Label:Beartones; No. 004; 2008; Playing time: 50:17 min
Founded in Boston USA in 2003, Newpoli brings together a group of Italian jazz students who became at some point interested in discovering their own musical roots. This debut album presents their Southern Italian folk music. The band features two female lead singers, with an instrumentation of guitar, accordion, bass, percussion, violin, flute.
On the album they play a mix of traditional tunes, including a number of tarantellas, as well as several ballads in an early music style. There is nothing really wrong with the music, and the talent of the musicians is undoubted. However, I did find that the music is somewhat too polished and misses the natural spirit, the temper, the excitement which is so essential to top class Italian folk music.
Michael Moll

Fanfara Populara "Vita da coni"
Label: Own (Bama); No. 001; 2007; Playing time: 43:06 min
A very brassy band from Southern Italy. The music is built around trombone, tromba and tuba, and is arranged with plenty of percussion, with the addition of accordion and bagpipes, ciaramella or flutes. All tunes are composed by band members; the melodies and style is clearly influenced by Mediterranean traditional brass music. Some of it is clearly steeped in Southern Italian brass traditions, others reminds maybe more of Balkan gipsy music. Some of the music may be shrill and repetitive, but the tunes are easily accessible and are full of energy.
Michael Moll

I Suoni del Pollini "Sonate Calabresi"
Label:RadiciMusic Records; No.RMR-123; 2007; Playing time: 48:47 min
I have to admit that this CD has been an endurance test for me – how long will one last listening? I have not found one number on the CD which gave me listening delight; everything sounds to me shrill and noisy.
However, interesting it may be for the bagpipe enthusiast. The album features a range of old bagpipes which look great (for the experts – the bagpipes are between 3 and 5 palm pipes), plus “chitarra battente”, a five course guitar. The music is played by three traditional musicians, with the two pipers looking back at some 60 years of bagpipe playing each.
Certainly not a CD for the faint hearted, it clearly takes some endurance to appreciate this music.
Michael Moll

Terrasonora "Core e tamburo"
Label:terreinmoto; No. TiM 009; 2007; Playing time: 36:56 min
This album is superb – Southern Italian contemporary folk music at its very best. The band takes its inspiration from the traditional music from Campania in Southern Italy. The songs are all written by the band, but the content takes inspiration from folk tales and traditions of the region; similar, the music is based around traditional themes, such as tarantellas and tammurriata.
The band successfully merges the old and the new, featuring guitars, percussion, acoustic bass, keyboards and wind instruments including ciaramella and flutes. The focus is on the singing – and the band combines a strong and expressive female voice and a more soft and calming male voice. The music is full of energy and spirit, it fills the listener with happiness and joy.
Another example that sometimes it is the quality not the quantity that counts – the CD may be only 37 minutes long, but those 37 minutes are not to be missed!
Michael Moll

Old Blind Dogs "Four on the floor"
Label: Compass/Vertical Records; No.VERTCD083; 2007; Playing time: 57:25 min
The question that springs to mind with this CD is obvious: Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Given that for this album, only one original “Dog” is left, and another singer has left, the style of the music has somewhat changed.
So what are the latest changes? Well for the latest line-up, founder member Johnny Hardy (fiddle, guitar, vocals) is joined by Rory Campbell (who has been the band’s piper and flautist for several years), Fraser Stone (drums, percussion) and the latest addition to the Dogs, Aaron Jones (bass, bouzouki, guitar, vocals).
The CD offers nine new titles plus three “recycled” and live re- recorded numbers from previous CDs (Bedlam Boys, Branle and the Bonnie Earl o Moray). As you would expect of such a well versed and reputed bunch of individual musicians, the quality of the music is top class throughout. The songs featured are sung randomly by Rory, Johnny and Aaron in their very own styles; and the tunes also appear to bring together choices from the individual musicians.
In some numbers, the unique Old Blind Dogs style still shines through, but overall the band has changed into something different; it brings together four individual talents in a new project, but as a whole the CD does not feel like an Old Blind Dogs album. Clearly the trade mark of the band, a strong lead singer – a role taken up previously by Jim Malcolm and beforehand Ian F Benzie – is not featured anymore. The re-recording of a few old numbers remind of the good old times of the band – although I do prefer the original versions.
Having said all this, the album is a high quality collection of Scottish folk music; and the talents of the individuals within the band shine through in the music. However, when listening to the album as an Old Blind Dogs album, you may feel that the Old Blind Dogs got a bit tired, as the album does not have the same level of energy.
As a conclusion, I cannot answer my initial question, but rather pose a different one: Once you have taught a group of old dogs new tricks, are they still the same old dogs? Probably it would have been wiser to re-name the band as a new project of four individual musicians rather than using the old brand. But otherwise not a bad album at all.
Michael Moll

Steve Tilston "Reaching back – the life and music of Steve Tilston" (5 CD plus book collection)
Label: Free Reed ‘Revival Masters’; No FRQCD70; 2007; Playing time: 6h 21 min (75 + 75 + 77 + 75 + 79 min)
Quite a bumper set of CDs from the English singer/songwriter and guitarist, with more than 6 hours playing time in total. Three CDs cover songs and tunes from his entire career and discography(split into 1971-1990, 1990-2000 and “A new millennium”). Then there are two bonus CDs. One, entitled “Do what you please - The album Steve never made”, features new Steve Tilston recordings of cover versions/songs from other hands bringing together a range of number that have influenced and inspired Steve. The other, entitled “Bringing in the Steves”, is a collection of cover versions of Steve’s songs, performed by a range of performers including e.g. Wizz Jones, Ralph McTell, Fairport Convention, Dolores Keane or Pete Morton. Finally, the package also includes a book about Steve’s career.
Clearly, this is a collector’s item. With such a huge amount of material, the set is less likely to be purchased by somebody new to Steve Tilston’s music. Fans will have already many of the numbers of the first three CDs of the set from the original album, but will no doubt wish to have the two bonus albums. Accordingly, I would think the market for this CD set is limited. However, those who will go for it will find a lovingly brought together collection of music, displaying the full unique range of songs and tunes written and/or performed by Steve. Literally a full days worth of Steve Tilston’s music!
Michael Moll

Discanto "Ride la luna"
Label: Own; No. CD04; 2007; Playing time: 62:03 min
Discanto "A collection"
Label: Own; No. CD03; 2006; Playing time: 66:16 min
Discanto plays the traditional music from the rural Abruzzo region in Italy, and combine traditional with contemporary instruments. Their instrumentation features guitar, cello, accordion, violin, clarinet, Italian bagpipes and percussion (including tambourine and other hand held percussion).
Their latest album, “Ride la luna”, follows their usual quality recipe, of some intense, both male and female, singing, with interesting musical arrangements - traditional Abruzzian music with musical touches from e.g. jazz or other cultural influences, such as Arabic or Balkan. It is a solid and good quality album, which will delight their fans around the world.
“A collection” looks back at the first few years of the band. It features seven new live recordings, plus four numbers each from the first two album, “Dindirindella” and “serenata fuori stagioni”.
I can appreciate the quality, authenticity and passion in the music, but find that the singing is for me somewhat too intense – which would not stop me though from recommending it to anybody into this kind of trad Italian music. And you get a lot of music for your money from either of the CDs.
Michael Moll

Margaret Stewart "Togaidh mi mo Sheolta – Along the road less travelled"
Label: Greentrax; No. CDTRAX311; 2008; Playing time: 67:44 min
Margaret Stewart is respected as one of the leading and finest traditional Gaelic singers around. As a native from the Isle of Lewis, she has been surrounding by traditional Gaelic music all her life. Her latest album continues with the high quality of her previous albums, notable for both excellent choice of songs as well as top class guest musicians.
The songs range from waulking songs via love and humorous songs to ballads. Many of the songs are from the great Gaelic bards of the last few hundred years, and some of them are very rarely heard today.
The singing is in the centre of attention throughout, but what makes the album really successful is the tasteful, subtle but perfect instrumentation throughout the album. It features the likes of Scottish musicians Alan Henderson (grand piano, fiddle), Ian McFarlane (fiddle), Ingrid Henderson (Clarsach), Iain McDonald (bagpipes), and Irish musicians Mick O Brian (uillean pipes) and Altan’s Mark Kelly (guitar).
Margaret’s voice may not be appealing to all (it is somewhat high pitched), it is an album that carries the past into today’s world, and has the kind of reflective beauty of time standing still. The album comes with a stunning booklet (nearly a book indeed!), with Gaelic and English lyrics, background information and some beautiful photos from Lewis, and will give you listening pleasure of nearly 70 minutes.
Michael Moll

Milagro Acustico Ensemble "Siqiliah – terra d’Islam"
Label: Compagnia Nuove Indye; No. CNLD20519; 2007; Playing time: 44:29 min
The Italian Milagro Acustico Ensemble are renowned for their works reflecting and researching the musical Arabic and Eastern traditions in Italy. Their latest album follows on from their 2005 release, “Poeti Arabi di Sicilia”. Again, they have collected texts from Arabic poems who were born and lived in Sicily between 800 and 1100, translated them into Sicilian dialects and put music to them. Entitled “Sicily – land of Islam”, the band interprets such poems with a range of Mediterranean traditional instruments, including darbuka, tambur, daf, baglam, plus classical guitar, double bass, violin etc. The result is, once again, intriguing and capturing.
Michael Moll

Knocker Jungle "Knocker Jungle"
Label: Acrobat Music; No.ACMCD4286; 2008 (originally released: 1970); Playing time: 47:30 min
Apparently, this album was (and the original may well still be) a real collector’s item. Reason for this is that a) the duo had already split by the time the album was released in 1970, and b) it was withdrawn from sale almost immediate given that the LP cover featured an “offensive hand signal”. The Acrobat label discovered the original recording as part of an acquisition of a catalogue of recorded works owned by the Krueger organisation. The CD brings together the original album plus fou previously unreleased tracks.
Knocker Jungle are Keith Jones and Tony Coop, and the album was produced by Tony Cox, well known on the electric folk scene of the 60s. I personally cannot get enthused at all by this album. The sound quality is very poor and does not make an impressive re-mastering, and the music is quite flat and boring 60s/70s soft pop music with some folk influence. And even the “offensive hand signal” would not be considered particularly offensive these days – so it is somewhat a mystery to me why this album was such a collectors’ item.
Michael Moll

Kraja "Under Himmelens Fäste"
Label: Drone Music; No. DROCD045; 2008; Playing time: 50:22 min
The pictures on the CD and booklet give me the connotation of an innocent and happy youth in rural Sweden – girls whiling their time away in flowery meadows etc. And innocence and purity is the overall flair of the CD: It features the voices of four young women – pure singing of traditional songs, without any instrumentation. Of the four singers, only one name is familiar to me – Frida Johansson, who has toured with Plommon. The other three are Eva Lestander, Linnea Nilsson and Lisa Lestander.
Pleasant, but maybe a bit too pure for my own liking.;
Michael Moll

Nando Citarella "Mozart – al chiaro di luna"
Label:RadiciMusic; No.RMR119; 2007; Playing time: 54:21min
This is without any doubt the most peculiar album of my bunch of review CDs for this issue. The idea is to re-explore Mozart’s Don Giovanni, combining the original with traditional folk music and theatre. The CD features also some spoken word (in Italian, so it may all make more sense to those who understand Italian!). There may be the odd moments that the music reminds of Mozart, but most of the time it does not sound like Mozart, but it does sound neither traditional. Peculiar is still the best description I can come up with for this album...
Michael Moll

Rattle the Boards “The Parish Platform”
Label: Own/Doon Production; No. DP01; 2008; Playing time: 39:59 min
Irish traditional music at its best – lively and real, spontaneous and passionate. Central to the band’s sound is the wonderful accordion playing of Danu’s Benny McCarthy, and he is joined by Pat Ryn (fiddle, guitar, mandolin), John Nugent (guitar) and the singing of John T Egan. A great mix of traditional tunes – from jigs and reels via polkas and airs to hornpipes and quicksteps – plus a number of trad songs. A few friends have joined the lads for a few numbers – and there is a bit of an unusual but very welcome interlude of a trumpet in one of the numbers, giving the number some jazzy flair.
All of this played with so much passion that the listener’s feet won’t stand still. This lot managed to distil the spirit of traditional music onto a CD, giving the listener the feeling that the foursome would just sit around the corner in his/her kitchen. And don’t be surprised that you find yourself rattling the boards of your wooden floor dancing away. An album that lifts your soul and just makes happy. Great stuff!
Michael Moll

Trio Bravo+ "Live"
Ozella; OZ 019 CD; 2008
Trio bravo is, surprise surprise, a quartet of musicians from Ukraine, Poland and Albania. That’s the reason why they put a + behind the name, percussionist Adam Tomaszewski is added to the original trio. All four musicians have a history in classical music but some also in pop, theatre and more ethno orientated music. In the past they have composed and recorded soundtracks, klezmer and traditional east-European music and this Live CD is for sale exactly ten years after their debut CD. On this live album all the best elements of the trio’s music come together. The result is a strong hour of acoustic live music. I love their mixture of eastern European sounds with classical and light jazzy elements. Troika is one of my favourite songs, such a spooky atmosphere with the piano constantly repeating the same theme over and over. Together with the airy violin, it’s a hypnotising piece of music. More friendly are these pieces in which the marimba takes a leading role like Chanson triste and Darf ich bitten. But also the bands more aggressive side is very convincing. Listen to the haunting songs Rondo Ukraine and Panzerkreuzer potemkin. With this Live CD the Trio+ shows their great quality both as composers and musicians.
Eelco Schilder

Esther Buser & Oli Rickenbacher "Feuermohn"
Label: Own label; 2007
Feuermohn is the result of the cooperation between singer and accordionist Esther Buser and vocalist, bassist, percussionist Oli Rickenbacher. They started Feuermohn in 2002 and this CD is the result of five years hard work. This Swiss duo sings and plays original compositions by Esther Buser. It’s a trip around the world with compositions sung in German, Swiss-German, Italian, Spanisch and English. The result is a friendly CD with easy going acoustic songs. Many of the songs show the sunny sides of life like Te pido dios and Tarantella. Personally I like their more serious side the best. Alte traurigkeiten has this beautiful atmosphere of an old German theatrical play. The same for Neben dir, one of the best songs on the CD, only guitar and the nice lead vocals of Esther Buser. Feuermohn shows two talented musicians who sing in a free and easy way.
Eelco Schilder

The Loose Acoustic Trio "Sorrow Be Gone"
Big Book Records; BBR15; 2008
The Loose Acoustic Trio started about eight years ago and this Sorrow be gone is their second CD. Part of the trio are New-York born, Ken Cooper on string instruments. Cooper writes songs for movies and ‘The dillards’ have recorded one of his songs. Richie Lawrence on accordion who also played in a polka band! And the third member is Steve O’Neill the bass player who joined the band in 2006. The CD contains fifteen songs, mostly self written, in the tradition of an old time jug band. It’s music that would do great on party’s of on small gatherings. The songs are brought with so much pleasure and sunshine that it really makes live a bit easier. The three gentleman are decent musicians who know what they are doing and clearly love doing it. This Sorrow be gone is a nice country-folk-cajun-blues blend CD with honest and pure music.
Eelco Schilder

Les Blerots de Ravel "Timbre"
Label: Tambouille; tamb02; 2008
Les blerots de Ravel, a band with such a name must be something special, and it is! This French group is a small kind of big band. With seven members they create a modern form of theatrical music. With instruments such as accordion, violin, drums, tuba, harmonium and the guitar, just to name a few. CD starts with Shakespeare in love a cool song that has the atmosphere of an ancient street theatre group in a small village somewhere in
France. Check the female vocals in this one, a bit over the top dramatic, great! Dégats d’idées, the second song, has a more rock nature. Lovely klezmer influenced music, which starts to rock on unexpected moments. Dans vos bras starts a bit brave, singer Alice starts like she is singing an chanson, suddenly joined by a singing-saw. I like the way her singing changes during the song. She changes from sweet, almost naïf to a woman who knows what she wants and want the world to know it. Adieu paris is a typical French song. The way of singing, the arrangements, French all over but again with nice twists and, I know I’m starting to reapeat myself, so much energy. Fourteen songs long this CD is one big happening. It’s theatrical French, big band, klezmer, folk, rock music of high quality. The band creates it’s own world with a passionate style of music and a lot and lot of fun. This is such a CD that just makes my day!
Eelco Schilder

Da Blechhauf’n "Entertainment"
Label: Tomtone; 311.207; 2008
Da Blechhauf’n is a band from Austria with seven musicians and this CD is the registration of a live concert recorded in 2007. This ‘brass band’ recorded three CD’s before. When the first song Championsleague fanfare starts I’m still thinking that it’s a bit a joke. This tune, composed a long time ago by Händel, is known by every soccer fan worldwide and it’s funny to start with. But slowly I find out that the title of the CD is exactly what the band wants and the opening isn’t the ‘joke’ I thought it was. This brass band plays every cliché you can think of. A mixture of several national anthems, a Presley medley, a Beatles song, Beethoven and Ernst Mosch. And that wouldn’t be a problem if they would really reinvent a song, but they don’t and somehow their music is so decent, so predictable that after five songs I get a bit bored. Don’t get me wrong, technically spoken the band shows some quality, and it might be different when I would see them playing live on stage. To y personal opinion this CD is nice as a souvenir after visiting the concert. But without the visual aspects it’s just a bit to dull.
Eelco Schilder

K.C. McKanzie "Hammer and Nails"
T3 Records; T3 0018-2; 2008
K.C. McKanzie releases a CD every two year since 2004, so Hammer and nails is her third project. I remember that her debut CD was promising and her second CD The widow tries to hide was a really strong album with good, sometimes a bit dark, folk music. On her new CD she sounds a bit sunnier and somehow her music got a bit more pure and sober. Beautiful is Summer’s blue, See how you’ve mastered me and the folk-rock song Razorblade. McKanzie stays close to her original concept and mixes bluegrass with Americana, English folk and own creativity. Hammer and nails doesn’t surprise me as much as The widow tries to hide but it’s still a good and solid folk album which fits perfectly in the new-folk wave that is rolling over the world at this moment.
Eelco Schilder

Ocote Soul Sounds and Adrian Quesada "The Alchemist Manifesto"
Label: Esl Music; 130; 2008
This Ocote Soul Sounds is a project by Adrian Quesada, one of the founders of Fantasma, and Martin Perna who started the Antibalas Afrobeat orchestra. The result of their cooperation is called The Alchemist manifesto which will be released in June 2008. Both new songs and remixes, mostly instrumental but a few Spanish sung songs as well. Their music is a mixture of light psychedelica, Latin, Afrobeat, soul, jazz and even some hip-hop. Mostly electronic music, a bit like a soundtrack of a alternative Latin movie. This Alchemist manifesto, has an overall good sound and a positive vibe. It’s to far from folk or roots music to be really at it’s place in this magazine but nevertheless it’s exciting music with stacks of sounds / rhythms and sometimes a good hallucinating atmosphere.
Eelco Schilder

SULP "Recycling"
Zytglogge; ZYT 4911; 2007
SULP is a trio from Switzerland presenting traditional and original compositions on sax, accordion, tuba, bass, alphorn and vocals. Recycling is their debut album with nineteen songs, about six are traditional. SULP plays on instruments that are common in the Swiss folk music, but they don’t just play it in the traditional way. For example Polca des pares. They change this polka into a small, soft almost shy tune. The same for Mi schätzli, with a minimal approach the band creates a wonderful sound. I love Swiss loops, with the heavy tuba backing, the sax and the well placed yodelling. In Anneli wo bisch the band stays close to the traditional song. Somehow this song doesn’t really fit between the other songs, it just sounds like a traditional recording which could been recorded by many other bands, I miss the typical SULP sound. This happens again in the traditional Hanny christen landler and the “do wah do wah” traditional Oh du liebs ängeli. It’s like the band has recorded two different CD’s. I hope they will see it as a compliment that I prefer their own compositions above their interpretation of the traditionals. Their own tunes are a lot more creative and have a nice kind of freshness.
Not a bad debut at all this Recycling!
Eelco Schilder

Va Fan Fahre "Zet je maar"
Zephyrus Records; ZEP005; 2007
I often ask myself where do those dozens of brass bands come from? It’s like they come and go from every corner the world. Often they are a kind of ‘Balkan beats’ spin off or Klezmer sound-a-likes. Va fan fahre is a Belgian brass band and Zet je maar is their second CD. Together with guests from India and Morocco they brass their way around the globe. Strange Indian tabla sounds, Moroccan style singing, mixing with the down to earth brass section. Not always with the best result to my personal opinion. The title song Zet je maar is a nice blend but Kajele tikika nakarame is almost irritating. The tabla’s versus brass is no problem, but I don’t understand the uncontrollable vocals, impossible for me to listen this song to the end. Besides playing with guests, most songs are the Fanfare only. Nothing wrong with those tunes. Nice and easy going brass music, nothing spectacular just solid danceable music.
Eelco Schilder

Annbjørg Lien "Waltz with me"
Heilo; HCD 7216; 2008
Annbjørg Lien is probably the best known Hardanger fiddle players of modern times. It’s almost twenty years ago that she recorded her first solo CD, the first careful step towards international success. It was her 1994 album Felefeber that started to get her flame rising, and the 1999 folk rock album Baba yaga made sure her name got known in worldwide. Besides her solo career she is also part of the successful band Bukkene bruse. A group that presents music that is deeply rooted the Norwegian tradition and ‘must have’ for all serious fans of Norwegian folk music. Now, in 2008, Annbjørg Lien has released a new solo project called waltz with me. It’s actually a project commissioned by the famous Telemark festival in 2007. Together with Bruce Molsky on (Hardanger) fiddle, vocals and guitar, Mikael Marin on viola and Christine Hanson on cello, Lien plays ten self written compositions. Together with special guest Kirsten Bråten Berg, one of the grand ladies of Norwegian folk, this quartet recorded a remarkable CD. It’s no longer pure tradition or folk-rock, it’s a mixture of contemporary music with traditional Norwegian and English influences. The traveller shows this mixture the best way. Starting with a beautiful string intro, it turns out to be a song, sung in both Norwegian, by Bråten Berg, and English, by Molsky. This combination of languages works really well and will probably help Lien to reach an even bigger international audience. What follows is Sula mountain a furious instrumental piece on the string instruments. Than The fiddle a song with lyrics from the famous fiddler Knut Buen, again sung in Norwegian and English. In Home east Lien created a more mystical atmosphere, while a tune like waltz with me is more careful and fragile. These are just some examples of songs from this beautiful album.I love her fresh and open minded way of playing and composing. I think Lien shows to be the right person to bring Norwegian folk in a modern, acoustic way. It never gets boring and this album gets better and better each time I listen to it.
Eelco Schilder

Liz Meyer "The Storm"
Strictly Country; SCR-59; 2005
Liz Meyer is an singer-songwriter from the
US, now living in the Netherlands. Besides being a singer-songwriter she also produces CD’s for other (folk) artists and some of her songs are recorded by others. This ‘The storm’ is recorded back in 2005 and contains twelve nice songs. Besides her own deep, earthy and warm voice and guitar, she is backed by known names such as Emmylou Harris, Bela Fleck and some great mandolin work by Sam Bush amongst others. The storm is a solid CD with besides the nice vocals, also some great string work on violin, guitar, dobro, mandolin, banjo and bass. Rooted in the Bluegrass and US folk styles, often acoustic but at a few occasions in a light rock style. With this CD Meyer shows her best side and has recorded a warm CD with a personal touch.
Eelco Schilder

Unni Løvlid "Rite"
Grappa; 4223; 2008
Unni Løvlid is a Norwegian singer who has just released her third CD called Rite. Her debut was in 1999 with So ro liten tull a CD with sixty three children songs. A sweet, nice maybe even a bit naïf  album. In 2005 she launched Vita an album with, more or less, traditional vocals. Now in 2008 she released Rite, a surprisingly different album than the first two. Eight own compositions, still some traditional elements, but programming and other electronics  took over. The result is a pure, adventures and mystical album. You can hear the Norwegian landscapes, the wind and the cold nights in her music. Vind kom is a fragile song and a nice start of the album. Fantastic is Her møter eg deg. The dark and deep sound of the cello, an accordion sounds somewhere in the distance and than, when the French horn starts to play, I cant escape anymore. It’s a song like a dream  that takes plays in a dark night, in a dark and deep forest. On Bak vaker verda she continues this dark atmosphere with well placed electronic sounds and a sample of a children’s choir. It’s like angels sing me to sleep, but I know that when I fall asleep they will get to me and that scares me. On Mørketid you can hear the sound of ice, this song reflects the Polar night. Sanning is only vocals and Hardanger fiddle, a song like a whisper. You have to listen very carefully to hear it. The same for Eg drikke din raude vin in which she only uses her voice. The CD ends with Portrett probably the most dark composition on this album. As if an unknown danger is slowly coming towards us. Rite is definitely her best album and one of the best examples of modern Norwegian dark-folk I have heard in a long time. It’s music that makes me fantasise, that scares me and on the other hand fascinates me from the first to the last second.
Eelco Schilder

Jaya Lakshmi "Sublime"
BSC Music; 398.6674.2; 2008
Deva Premal "Into Silence"
Label: Sounds True; M1258D; 2008
Two CD’s in the same vein, both meditative music by a female vocalist. Jaya Lakshmi started to write devotional songs about thirteen years ago. This Sublime is her third solo CD with own compositions. Together with musicians on tabla, cello, flute, guitar and cello. She sings mantra’s with a good touch of Indian ambient music. She has a nice clear voice and the music is exactly what you expect from an ambient / trance devotional Indian style CD. It’s relaxing music, some will call this new age others prefer to call it ‘music to chill on’. In this genre it’s good quality stuff and not only for your daily Yoga hour. It’s music that gives rest and peace for one’s soul. Deva Premal publishes with Into silence a compilation album with songs from the past ten years. She was born in
Germany and from the first years of her live surrounded by music and spiritual discipline. She sings mantra’s and her songs are composed for meditation. Strangely enough I don’t find her music relaxing at all. This wall of electronics disturbs me and I find her voice to airy, I prefer a more earthly voice for relaxation. But that’s a personal preference of course. The difference between her and Lakshmi can be heard in the Indian style songs like Om  hraum mitraya and shows that Lakshmi understands this type of music and the tradition much better. These two CD’s prove that what can be meditative for my neighbour can be irritating for me and the other way around.,
Eelco Schilder

Indigo Masala "Big Gods & Little Animals"
Label: Jigit; 1039; 2008
Indigo masala is trio that is based in Germany. The band includes the German Yogendra who studied classical Northern Indian music and plays the Sitar. Ravi Srinivasan was born in Singapore to a Anglo-Indian family and he has been performing worldwide with his tabla. The last one is Susanne Xochitl Paul who was born in California out of a Mexican-German family. Her main instrument is the cello but she plays several other instruments as well. So this International trio plays together since 2005 and except for a four track demo CD, this is their first full length CD. The music is clearly influenced by Indian traditional music, but the band doesn’t interpret ate the music in a traditional way. They add influences from many other world music styles and sound a bit groovy jazzy at some moments. A good example of this is Dark cloud which is a really nice, laid back, sitar-jazz tune. What I like is the open minded way this trio makes music. Good Indian traditional music is often hard to understand for untrained listeners, but Indigo Masala makes it accessible by blending it with others styles in a very comfortable way. Nice debut CD by a talented trio of musicians.
Eelco Schilder

Vulcan Ensemble "Gypsy Verve"
plaene; 88950; 2008
The Vulcan Ensemble was established in the year 2000 by accordionist Emil Aybinder at the
Jerusalem academy of music and dance. They performed under the name Emil Aybinder ensemble and became the one of the leading ensembles of the academy. Together with fifteen students he recorded this live album with eighteen Balkan melodies. It’s orchestral folk music, like the first Serbian tune Cica obrenovo kolo which is played in an energetic way. Ederlezi is the second song, once made famous by Goran Bregovic in one of his films. The version on this CD is a bit more slow and the voice and flute have a little bit trouble to keep the attention until the end. Than a lot of orchestral pieces come by, sometimes with solo’s for several instruments such as Sano duso for the master on accordion himself, Csardas with Nir Sarousi on violin and the Russian suite with Tom Cohen on mandolin. Singer Reit rivka Shabi, who also sung Ederlezi, takes the lead on two other pieces. I have to be honest and say that I’m not that enthusiastic about her singing.  To my personal opinion her voice is to light for this type of music which is so full of passion, history and drama. This Gypsy Verve is a typical example of orchestral Balkan music, unfortunately it gives me the feeling that it’s played more from the head than from the heart.
Eelco Schilder

Levon Helm "Dirt Farmer"
Vanguard; 79844-2; 2008
Levon Helm, I remember his name from old records my father used to listen to many, many times and actually not that long ago I did buy some of the LP’s he recorded with the legendary group ‘The Band’. And now, almost 50 years after his first recording (as a drummer on a Ronnie Hawkins LP) a new solo CD is published. During these fifty years Helm has build an impressive career. He worked with all the great names from Bob Dylan, Van Morison, Ringo Starr, Muddy waters to Nora Jones. And than I haven’t even mentioned his solo career. After surviving throat cancer just before the new millennium, it looks like Helm has more energy for life than ever. He rebuild his barn studio, is a guest musician on a long list of albums and now and than publishes some solo work. Dirt farmer as his latest album is called, is the crown on his work. Thirteen songs varying from traditional songs to work by artists such as Steve Earl and Buddy Miller. From the first song False hearted lover blues Helm impresses me with his bit broken voice, his fresh and positive sounding music and the well done choice of repertoire. Listen to The mountain a song by Steve Earl about the mountains where he was born. It’s melancholia without being bitter, it’s looking back with a smile and maybe a small tear of happiness. That’s the way this album continues until the last track  wide river to cross. Levon Helm shows his quality as a drummer but more as a singer from the hearth. Do yourself a favour and buy this album that will improve the quality of life each time you listen to it.
Eelco Schilder

Filip "Crane-grief"
Label: Own label; 2006
Filip is a singer-songwriter from
Sweden and Crane-grief is his second solo CD. Filip is a back to basic, singer in the so called ‘loner’ style. Recorded analogue, vocals and guitar/piano only, introvert style and songs that breath loneliness and purity. His music is a very personal reflection of his mind and it feels a bit like hearing something that was not intent to be heard by me. It’s no easy music, because of his personal style as a listener you must take the time to feel his music and dare to dive into his world. I recommend that you visit his webpage and listen a few songs so you can decide for yourself if you like Filip’s world or you rather stay on your own planet.
Eelco Schilder

Little Venus "Boots & Legs"
plaene; 2008
Little Venus is an acoustic trio and Boots & legs is a double CD/DVD album with one studio recording and a registration of a concert. Irina Simoneta is the lead vocalist with her nice, but limited, earthy voice she takes the leading role on this album. She also plays the flute occasionally. Another main ingredient of the bands music is the cello played by Andreas Kühnrich. He adds a melancholic, sometimes a bit dark atmosphere to the music. He is also doing the backings and plays the guitar incidentally. The main guitarist of the group is Marc Rossier. Who is also doing the backing vocals and plays the dobro. Rossier is the fundament on which the others build their compositions. He might not be the first you hear, but without his input the album will hopelessly fall apart. Nineteen songs are a bit much for me personally. After ten songs the band is repeating it self and I start to recognise earlier used patterns, but then in a slightly different musical arrangement. Nevertheless a nice band with enough potential to grow. I hope they will develop their own style more and more and dare to cross their own bounders, I’m sure it will result in some great music in future.
Eelco Schilder

Stone Age "Totems d’Armorique"
Keltia Musique; kmCD186; 2007
What would you expect when you see a CD with the title Totems d’amerique ? Indeed, you would expect some American Indian music. But the first thing I hear when I put the CD in my CD player is a Breton style folk song and then, when I take a closer look, I find out that Stone Age is indeed a French group that ever since their start in 1992 is inspired by Celtic history and sounds. After a few successful CD’s, they decided to take a new road and got inspired by the American Indian totems ancient history. This album is a kind of concept album that has some great French (Breton) folk-rock like Menez an Indian koz, Totems d’Armorique and enez sun Ballads like the English sung Freedom of light which sounds more like a dramatic song from some kind of musical, which is a bit of a stranger on this album. Energetic Celtic dances like the Organic reel and Funky Breton rock in Born in G,one of the highlights on this album. Stone age makes a great mixture of energetic folk and rock. I like their fresh approach although I find it occasionally a bit to theatrical. Nevertheless a quality CD.
Eelco Schilder

Elina Duni "Baresha"
Meta; 039; 2007
Elina Duni was born in Albania and now a days lives in Switzerland. She studies classical piano but turned out to be a lover of the jazz music. In her short career she has been part of several projects in both music, composing and film. This Baresha is her first solo CD. Backed by a pianist, bassist and drummer she sings thirteen jazzy songs. Her repertoire includes traditional Albanian, Greece and Bulgarian songs, next to French songs by Gainsborough and Ferre. Duni impresses with her warm voice. This CD shows her love for acoustic jazz and although her songs come from very different sources, her way of singing them makes them sound universal. Baresha is a CD of high quality that shows a gifted singer who chooses her repertoire from the hearth. At a few occasions she permits herself to add some vocal art, in stead of straight singing. That are the moments the album is at it’s best. Duni can easily become one of the bigger international jazz names. She has the creativity, the quality and the passion for it. I hope she will shake of the last hesitations and dives deep into her vocal creativity. A big promise for the future.
Eelco Schilder

Tuscae Gentes "Storie di donne"
Label: Merlo Records; 005; 2008
Tuscae Gentes is an Italian folk group started in 1992. The original concept was to bring together musicians who have experience in different styles with a common interest in medieval and renaissance music. Besides that there is a mutual interest in the traditional music of
Tuscany. Their latest work is a collection of fourteen Tuscan songs about woman. Most of the songs traditional, but an occasional own composition is added. The booklet contains some great old black white pictures and explanation about the music and songs, but unfortunately in Italian only. The four musicians of the group play several ancient instruments mixed with guitar, accordion etc. They are backed by five guest musicians. Tuscae gentes sings and plays the traditional songs in a decent, gently way. To me it sounds more like ‘studied’ music than as folk music. Technically well done, nice arrangements, well played and sung. What I do miss is, how to describe this in my poor English,  the feeling that the music really comes from under their skin. Maybe what I wrote just earlier is the best description, it’s ‘studied’ music with the focus on the singing and playing and not on the story behind the music and the lyrics, the real emotion behind them.
Eelco Schilder

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