FolkWorld Issue 41 03/2010
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Iain MacInnes "Sealbh"
Label: Macmeanmna; No.SKYECD51; 2009
As it is THAT Iain MacInnes - Scottish piper and whistle player of Ossian, Tannahill
Weavers and Smalltalk fame - this album is ensured to have top quality music.
"Sealbh" features Iain most of the time on small pipes (with the occasional
change to whistle and highland pipe); there are a couple of small pipe solos,
but the CD is in my view at its strongest with the tunes in a contemporary folk
band context. Which is no real surprise if you read the calibre of guest musicians
- including Mairi Campbell on fiddle and viola, Ross Kennedy on bouzouki and guitar,
John Martin on fiddle, David McGuinness on harmonium, harpsichord and piano, Iain
MacLeod on mandolin and Simon Thoumre on concertina.
The album offers a great selection of tunes, mostly traditional Scottish or contemporary
Scottish in traditional style. The most unexpected tune is Händel's "Water
Music" - which works extremely well on small pipes and I am sure Händel
would have been delighted to hear it in this interpretation. How it found its
way on the CD? Well according to the booklet, that's what happens if you ask a
harpsichord player "do you know any good hornpipes?
Fuxan os Ventos "Terra e Sonos" [CD & DVD Video]
No. 10002038; 2009
Fuxan Os Ventos are one of the oldest established Galician folk bands, having
been around since 1972. As seems to have become the "tradition" of
the Northern Spanish folk scene, for this album it was Fuxan os Ventos turn
to invite a number of the best known musicians from Galicia to join them in
a celebration of their music. Recorded live in concert, the list of special
guests is long and spectacular - including Mercedes Peon, Uxia, Xabier Diaz,
harpist Rodrigo Romani, Sabela Rodriguez and several more. Additionally to these
special guests, the concert saw also a band to join the core nine Fuxan os Ventos
musicians and singers - I count a total of some 27 musicians being involved
in this recording. The album is a delight to listen to. The songs are somewhat
melancholic, with their own unique beauty.
The CD features a sizeable number of 20 songs - but this is only a cut from
the original concert. All 28 numbers from the live recording are however featured
on the DVD. The DVD offers the option to watch the full version, including introductions
to the songs, or a "songs only" version. It is a well recorded video
with good cuts, and of course the concert has been impressive, but I have to
say that the video material does not give me enough to want to actually watch
the whole DVD - I get more out of listening to the CD (which of course has unfortunately
8 songs less than the DVD). The DVD features additionally a video of the stroy
of the band with interviews, which are inaccessible to me as I do not know the
Spanish language. Also to note that the booklet is impressive, with great pictures
of the various musicians and full lyrics.
An impressive album.
Label: www.boa.es / www.dofol.es
McCalmans "The Greentrax Years"
Label: Greentrax; No. CDTRAX350; 2009
This is a huge amount of McCalmans magic for a whole 46 songs from the 24 years
recording history of the Macs with Greentrax Recordings. And the best of it all:
You will get 2 CDs for the normal price of 1! There is though also some not so
good news attached to this - as the McCalmans are due to retire at the end of
The double album takes us through a quarter of a century, featuring over the years
Ian McCalman, Hamish Bayne, the late Derek Moffat, Nick Keir and Stephen Quigg,
in various trio combinations. The selection features the mix of McCalmans songs
that we know and love - some are full of humour, others are serious, political,
ironic or simply beautiful - traditional, picked up from fellow folk musicians
or self penned. I won't go on listing any favourite songs from the album, as no
doubt the 46 songs will feature some favourites of any fan of the Macs, but there
will be also songs that one may have forgotten or even never heard from the band
- and may inspire the listener to go and find the full albums in their collections
or in the shop!
The McCalmans have throughout their career always taken the music and their audience
serious, but most importantly they have always being genuine, and shown that they
genuinely love their music, and indeed have fun with it. They have been with Greentrax
for a quarter of a decade which is in the recording industry rare and impressive.
The Scottish folk scene without the McCalmans is quite unimaginable - so much
have the McCalmans been at the centre of the Scottish scene, as well as being
possibly Scotland's most popular ambassadors in countries such as Germany, Holland
and Denmark. We have with this double CD, together with the recent beautiful live
CD "Coming Home" (FW#39), a most wonderful
reminder of the McCalmans magic that the folk scene loved for the last 45 years.
Mick West "Sark o' Snow"
Label: Greentrax; No. CDTRAX344; 2009
Mick West is one of the best interpreters of traditional songs in Scotland,
and always proves to be an uncoverer and research of more unusual songs from
the Scottish tradition. His new CD has all the Mick West trademarks - his calm,
warm voice, generally more on the melancholic side, emotionally brings the songs
to life, and is put to dramatic effect by the stunning instrumentation, with
the music ranging from trad into jazz. The band features the usual backbone
of the Mick West Band, genious and highly versatile Fraser Fifield (on plenty
of instruments, including sax, whistles, clarinet and smallpipes - and producer
of the album), guitarist Frank McLaughlin, Stevie Lawrence on bouzouki, Mario
Caribe on double bass and Ali Hutton on guitar and bodhran.
The booklet contains the background of the songs which makes at times a fascinating
read - and it even features a bibliography of the songbooks where the songs
were sourced from. The album features some better-known favourites - such as"Tail
Toddle", "Carls o' Dysart" or "Well below the valley",
alongside much more rare treasures. Most unusual, and a very welcome addition,
is the Norwegian song "Kringsatt av Fiender", featuring both the original
Norwegian lyrics - sung by Norwegian singer Thorhild Ostad - and an English
version (translated by Rod Sinclair) sung by Mick. The interpretation of this
song becomes even more unusual by featuring some hardanger fiddle and a background
recording of a Lancaster flight crew above Berlin circa 1943.
Excellent album, highly recommended.
h-Òganaich "Gun Stad"
Label: Macmeanmna; No. SKYECD53; 2009
Na h'Òganaich were apparently a highly influential band for Gaelic song
back in the 70s, paving the way for Gaelic high profile bands such as Capercaillie
and Runrig. To be honest, I cannot recall to have heard of them before having
received this album - but it seems that I have missed out there! Following several
one-off performances over the last few years, deman for Na h'Òganaich
on CD has grown. Rather than re-releasing the original albums from the 70s,
they teamed up with Simple Mind's Mick MacNeil to produce update versions of
their old songs.
Thus "Gun Stad" features new recordings of the trio's old classic
songs - and it is the trio's first recording since 1975! It offers top quality
contemporary interpretations of Gaelic classics, focussed on the beautiful voice
of singer Margaret MacLeod, alongside guitarists and singers Donnie MacLeod
and Noel Eadie. The album has a much more modern flair than their original "two
men with guitars plus a woman singer" approach - which was back in the
70s groundbreaking in the Gaelic song world. Despite the more contemporary approach
- sometimes with a bit of Enya-esque flair - the music remains true to the Gaelic
soul of the songs and the trio. Many of the songs we know well from later recordings
from the likes of Runrig, Capercaillie and others - but the simplicity of Na
h'Òganaich (which is still there despite the modern touch) lets the songs
shine in their best light.
This is an album which has grown on me a lot on repeated listening; by now I
love it enough to include it in my favourite CDs of 2009!
Tamburellisti di Torrepaduli "Taranta
Label: IWM - Italian World Music; No. IWM255;
What a band and what a CD! A big gutteral voice singing songs which are interspersed
with catchy melodies focussed on accordion and violin, driven by tambuorines;
lively, full of excitement and superb musicianship - and all this in a revived
tarantella genre the band calls "pizzica". And as stunning as this CD
recording is, it appears that this is a band which you have to experience live
- their appearances include a fiery female dancer, and judging from the photos
in the booklet, their concerts must be hot, amazing and breathtaking.
The Italian band from Apulia, led by the singer and songwrite Pierpaolo de Giorgi,
has revived the long forgotten "pizzica pizzica", a Dinaysian and archaic
tarantella danced in "healing rites" when women are freed by the poisonous
bite of the spider tarantula. And the band is bringing this music indeed back
to live, it is hypnotic and virtuous, of a unique magic, driven by the characteristic
singing and the whirling accordion and fiddle.
As difficult as it may be for non-Italians to remember the name of this band,
it is worth to do so as Tamburellisti di Torrepaduli's music is a rare treat,
on CD but probably even more so live in concert.
Please note: FolkWorld has received a number of albums from this Italian folk
music label - more to be reviewed in the next issues.
Väsen "Väsen Street"
Time flies by. It's twenty years now, and we're back on Väsen Street
with Swedish nyckelharpa player Olov Johansson (which is a keyed fiddle,
in case you don't know), guitar player Roger Tallroth and viola player Mikael Marin,
In these twenty years the band had been on a road to success,
and made such an impression that the organizers of the Lotus World Music & Arts Festival
have started lobbying the town of Bloomington, Indiana to name a street after them.
Now we're waiting for the physical realization, virtually it already became true.
Väsen gives a nod towards their American fans, the song
"Absolute Swedish" is embracing bluegrass music with
the backup of US musicians such as mandolinist Mike Marshall and fiddler Darol Anger.
However, the rest of the album follows a path we're acquainted with:
polskas, waltzes, brudmarsches, schottis ... Modal music in minor keys, with
a melancholic drone, but essentially aimed for the dancers.
16 tracks which are mostly original, but soon might be played as trad somewhere else.
Rallion "One for Sorrow ..."
are a Scottish four-piece band featuring
Stevie Lawrence on guitar and bouzouki (ex Iron Horse,
recently accompanist to Mick West -> FW#35,
Red Hot Chilli Pipers -> #39,
and many other Scottish artists),
the twin fiddles of Fiona Cuthill (Canterach, Real Time ->
#20) and Andrew Lyons,
and last but not least singer Marieke McBean.
Marieke McBean (née Smegen) is from the Netherlands, but settled in Scotland
in the early millennium; with this knowledge it is no surprise that the
final track is the Dutch drinking song "Wat Zullen We Drinken" (What Shall We Drink).
The original lyrics were written by Dutch songwriter Hans Sanders
to a traditional Breton melody, the Aussie band Cloudstreet used the tune for their song "King Willy" (#39).
Rallion's second album "One for Sorrow ..." features
traditional songs such as "There's Nae Luck Aboot the Hoose",
Robert Burns songs ("Rightfu' King", "Lassie Lie Near Me"),
and self-penned tunes exclusively (besides a traditional Norwegian polka and a Schottische
by Maria Jonsson -> #35).
Fiona's "Le Vent du Nord" is named for her favourite band, indeed
one of her tunes had already been recorded by the French-Canadian band
Steve contributes some exotic rhythms on his funny titled
"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Fez" (referring to the famous Ewan MacColl song
"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face").
His "Last Chicken in Tesco's" had already been recorded on
Mick West's "A Poor Man's Labour" (#35).
I only drivelled about the band's selection of songs and tunes, so let me say
the quartet is up to the best you can find in this musical field.
Well done, lads and lasses, it will eased any sorrow for sure.
Gavin Whelan "In full flight"
Tallaght Records; TACD03; 2009
Many Irish trad afficionados make a start on the aul' penny whistle, and if not giving it up already,
moving on to another instrument. But there’s a lot more to this tiny instrument than the basics.
from Tallaght just outside of Dublin stuck to it
(to be honest, two tracks here feature his uilleann piping),
and even made a career as one of only a few solo tin whistle players.
Gavin's third album of tin whistle music
is a display that there are lots of different techniques you can learn to play
beyond the basics (#40).
The music featured is from Dublin to Donegal, West Clare to Bull Run and Britanny.
However, the latter are exceptions, it's mostly jigs and reels with the odd hornpipe, fling
and strathspey thrown in for good measure. Furthermore, two slow airs,
"An Páistín Fionn" and "Dark Lochnagar".
The tunes are trad. arr. except some compositions by Charlie Lennon (#34) and James Keane (#35).
Accompaniment is from concertina, banjo, guitar (Donnacha Moynihan -> #20), keyboards and bodhran.
Gavin himself is in full flight (the album cover shows his hand reaching towards the whistle
in mid air), this is one of the best you can get considering the penny whistle.
If anything is cheap it's not his performance. Phrasing and tone display a virtuoso
on his instrument.
P.S.: Gavin has a book of traditional Irish tunes in the pipeline, soon to be released.
Cady Finlayson "Irish Coffee"
Own label; 2007
Fiddler Cady Finlayson is a girl
based in Brooklyn. We know that New York Girls can dance the polka, as the old shanty goes,
they can also do the jigs and reels and strathspeys.
Cady has played the violin since her childhood in Seattle,
she studied Irish fiddling in particular with New York/Sligo-style fiddler Brian Conway (FW#37),
and went to the Blas International Summer School in Limerick, Ireland to learn from
the best fiddlers available today. Her third album "Irish Coffee" features 19 instrumental tracks.
Most tunes are traditional, a couple are by herself, plus the odd Dave Richardson (#38)
and Scott Skinner (#25).
The tunes were put down in Nashville, but it's no Nash trash but
honest traditional Irish fiddle music (with some American and World Beat influences),
backed up by pipes, accordion, harp, guitar, keyboard and bodhran.
Her music and performance is both lively and moving.
Just as it is with Irish Coffee (a mix drink invented more than fifty years ago at Shannon airport
near Limerick), it's ingredients work perfectly well for themselves, but blended together it's heaven.
The House Devils "Adieu to Old Ireland"
EUCD 2232; 2009
You may talk of your outings, your picnics and parties,
your breakfasts and suppers, your hoolies and all.
But wait till I tell you of the gas that we had
on the night that we went to the Charladies' Ball.
Lyrics of the 1930's "Charladies' Ball" song, where the participants
had one-steps, two-steps and the devil knows what new steps,
we swore we never would be dull again, bedad.
Yes, it's a gas. The House Devils
is the new Irish music outfit of Mat Walklate
Mat himself plays flute, harmonica, uilleann pipes, whistle,
the other three are Matt Fahey (guitar, vocals),
Andy Dinan (fiddle) and Anthony Haller (double bass),
more or less Mancunians of Irish ancestry or a deep interest in traditional Irish music,
respectively. The instrumental sets are catchy and intoxicating.
There are a lot songs, such as the
emigration song "By the Hush" (better known as "Paddy's Lamentation"),
the Appalachian "Omi Wise", Thomas Davis' poem "The Flower of Finea",
or the Irish working song "The Mickey Dam".
The Devils' "Adieu to Old Ireland" has been picked up by the ARC label, so it has two booklets.
First of all, a 4 page folder with explanations,
and secondly an additional 16 pager in typical ARC style (see e.g.
i.e. introduction in four languages, song lyrics, and explanations -
different and less than in the aforementioned folder.
Cass Meurig & Nial Cain "Deuawd"
is one of Wales's foremost crwth performers (FW#31), which is a
medieval bowed lyre. It's gut strings deliver a gentle sound with a
range of about an octave. During the 18th century the instrument fell out of favour, while
the modern fiddle and country dance tunes took over.
Today the crwth is hip again, thanks to Cass Meurig too.
Besides working as a soloist (#28),
Cass did and does play with Welsh folk bands
Fernhill and Pigyn Clust (#36),
and in a duo with Swedish/Estonian bowed harp player Sofia Joons.
She also edited the 1752 John Thomas manuscript of fiddle music
Lately, Cass collaborated with guitarist Nial Cain (who is also a skilled violin maker).
"Deuawd" (duet) mixes tunes and songs from the depth of the Welsh tradition with new compositions.
There are uplifting dance tunes as well as haunting slow airs,
some sung with verses in penillion style (i.e. the art of Welsh vocal improvisation,
with a singer singing a countermelody over a harp tune).
Cass' fiddle and crwth playing is fiery and expressive,
well backed up by Nial's guitar; her voice is soft and tender.
A duet par excellence.
Emily Smith & Jamie McClennan "Adoon Winding Nith"
White Fall Records;
With Emily Smith
being born and raised only ten miles from Robert Burns’ Dumfriesshire home
and with Jamie McClennan
(#40) Scottish ancestry,
it had to be done sometime. To throw a Robert Burns party
Especially, since 2009 marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland’s national bard,
and 2009 also being the year that the Scottish Government named Year of Homecoming.
"Adoon Winding Nith" is a feast for the ear. There's popular ditties
written by Burns or songs he collected and 'improved':
"Lassie Lie Near Me" (slightly altered from the original, Emily provides a new melody),
"A Man's A Man For A' That"
(first sung with no accompaniment then joined by the fiddle). There's less well-known
territory ("The Soldier's Return", "Soldier Laddie", "Whistle Ower The Lave O It"),
and really unbeaten tracks with the Ploughman
through Craigieburn Wood
to Galla Water.
A definite must was the title track "Adoon Winding Nith", the Nith being a local river:
Adoon winding Nith I did wander to mark the sweet flooers as they spring.
Adoon winding Nith I did wander of Phillis to muse and to sing.
The delivery is in Emily's (vocals, accordion, piano) and Jamie's (guitar, fiddle)
unmistakable style, both subtle and passionate. And there's no excuse to overlook Burns' poetry,
the booklet contains both lyrics and a glossary of Scots words.
Indeed, a fine ending to the Burns anniversary.
Kathleen Loughnane "The Harpers Connellan"
Own label; 2009
The brothers Thomas and William Connellan, whose lives spanned the period of about 1640 to 1720,
were born in Cloonmahon, Co. Sligo, Ireland.
Both brothers were harpers and travelled throughout Ireland and the Scottish Highlands,
at the time still sharing the same Gaelic culture. However, it was an era
of a major social cultural transition, the Gaelic feudal system rapidly declining.
Music-wise the Gaelic harping tradition was challenged by Baroque art music.
We know some of their music, nine tunes attributed to the Connellans had been
collected by Edward Bunting at the Belfast Harp Festival in 1792.
Thomas Connellan is credited with the song "Molly St. George"
(compare recordings by Maire Ni Chathasaigh -> #34,
and Kieran Fahy -> #34),
and "The Dawning of the Day"(Éirí an Lae).
Songs attributed to William Connellan include "Molly MacAlpine",
(which I think is the same as the one called "Poll Ha'penny").
The nine Bunting tunes are featured on this recording, but
also included are some tunes of Scottish origin associated with them
(as I said before, there was a common culture on both sides of the sea).
Harper Kathleen Loughnane
(#27), member of Dordán,
an all-female group who mix traditional Irish and Baroque music, plays a fine
neo-Irish harp. She is backed up by fiddle (Liam Lewis), cello (Adrian Mantu),
uilleann pipes (her son Cormac) and tenor guitar (Alec Finn),
so this is not the sound of the 17th century.
Besides the instrumental interpretations,
Éamonn Ó Bhróithe sings the aforementioned "Molly St George",
Seán Garvey sings "Éirí an Lae" and the song we know as "Lochaber No More"
with the words of Edinburgh's 18th century poet Alan Ramsay
(the Irish know the tune as "Limerick's Lamentation" ->
There is also a 50 pages book available with the music and manuscript versions of each tune, plus
an account of the life and times of Thomas and William Connellan.
Pete Seeger "Live in '65"
APR CD 1118; 2009
On 20th February 1965 at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Music Hall,
was at his best and on the crest of his musical prowess.
It was a typical show of the time in the midst of the Cold War, the Civil Rights movement
and the escalating Vietnam War. Pete right in the middle, singing for peace and unity.
He was like a fish in the water; he plays banjo and 12-string-guitar,
he sings, lectures, teaches lyrics, and makes the audience participating.
The 31 song list features topical songs, traditional ballads, international folk tunes and singalongs.
You probably know the lot: Peat Bog Soldiers (#25),
"Freedom Come All Ye", "Oh Susanna", "Greensleeves", "Never Wed an Old Man",
"Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall", "This Land Is Your Land",
plus his own "Where Have All the Flowers Gone", "If I Had A Hammer", "Bells of Rhymney", "Turn Turn Turn".
"He Lies in an American Land" has only recently recorded by Bruce Springsteen with some
newly-written verses; it is actually a Slovakian song by union activist Andrew Kovaly.
Only recently discovered and previously unreleased this 2 CD set
makes a fine companion album to the German concert in der Schaubühne in Berlin from 1967
So forget Springsteen, this is the real deal.
Sòmi de Granadas "Le champ des dunes"
Own label; 2009
Sòmi de Granadas
is the French-Occitan duo of
(vocals, flute, pipes, oboe)
and Thierry Roques
(accordeon, bandoneon, concertina), plus various percussionists. Their
debut album "Le champ des dunes" takes us on an acoustic journey from the Mediterranean
to the Maghreb. We sideswipe the gorges of the Balkans, but in particular we are crossing
the Pyrenees (Lopez' grand-parents were Spanish immigrants).
From Grenade-sur-Garonne to the Andalusian Granada it is, so to speak.
It is a journey, a marriage of cultures, of language, songs, rhythms, modes and metres.
This Occitan-Spanish-Berbere melange mixes acoustic roots music with the attitude of jazz.
17 tracks, including 12 instrumentals (mostly own compositions) and 5 songs, which are
probably in the Occitan language with French translation in the booklet
(as I understand, and I don't understand both languages).
Lopez and Roques created a sonic space that is both subtle and full of energy.
When the journey is over after an hour, you probably lean back in your armchair,
thinking: wow, what an adventure!
Susana Seivane "Os Soños que Volven"
Evanies musica; 2009
is celebrating the 10th anniversary of her debut solo recording.
On her 4th album altogether, "Os Soños que Volven," she revisits
a part of the tunes which accompanied her musical life
since she started playing the gaita, the Galician bagpipes, when three years old.
Her life's soundtrack encompasses some 200 tunes she had to choose from:
muneiras, pasodobles, marches, waltzes and mazurkas. Susana plays various gaitas,
her band members and collaborators add flute, accordion, frame drums, bouzouki,
bass, electric guitar, saxophon, drums, fiddle, hurdy gurdy and harp.
Some of them might have a familiar ring to it: Rodrigo Romaní,
Anxo Pintos, Pedro Lamas, ... The tunes were arranged to give it a contemporary feel
and make a lasting impression. Catchy dance tunes and racy rhythms are married to
adventurous chords and exciting harmonies.
Certainly, this is no childish play, but Galician music of the 21st century.
Also featured are five songs, including lyrics by Susana's grandfather.
The booklet is in Galician, Castilian, French and English.
Luke Daniels & Jonathan Preiss "Above the Bellow"
Luke Daniels "Lost Music of the Gaels"
Luke Daniels "Art of Trio"
is a really excellent button accordionist.
He won the BBC's Young Tradition Award in 1992 and since then has performed with
artists such as De Dannan, Eleanor Shanley and the Riverdance show
(FW#31). In 2001, Luke met the classically-trained
guitarist Jonathan Preiss (e.g. London Guitar Trio). Jonathan proves to be both a
delicate accompanist and an exciting tune player.
Their mutual understanding is complete, even when running wild and turning loose on
the most complex of interweaving patterns.
Unfortunatly the tune credits are quite confusing,
and the order of tracks must have been rearranged.
At least, I don't believe that the "Silver Spire" reel has really been composed by Luke,
or that "Bobby Casey's" is from Stan Rogers. However, that's the only thing substandard here.
"Lost Music of the Gaels" is a different cup of tea:
a string quintet (ft. Christ Stout -> #34),
an uillean piper (Jarlath Henderson -> #36)
and Luke on the box playing both classical and traditional Irish music.
Quite fittingly, Brian Keenan, author of a novel about the travelling Irish harper Turlough O'Carolan,
wrote a forword for the booklet. This project (I wouldn't call it a band) cuts loose
just as Carolan melded the ancient Gaelic music with Baroque music.
Two Carolan pieces are featured ("Si Bheag agus Si Mhor", "Carolan's Concerto",
the latter starting with an extract from Purcell's opera "The Fairy Queen"), as well as
Thomas Moore's "The Last Rose of Summer" (more unorthodox than the standard tenor singer's version),
some of Luke's own compositions and some trad.
"The Swallow's Tail" reel (learned by way of Dervish -> #26) is hybridized with a fugue.
One original piece is called "Suantra", referring to the function of Irish music as making people
fall asleep, but it makes you rather get up and listen.
This is not the run-of-the-mill folk music, you need to listen quite hard to get into it,
but it's worth it.
Luke's latest offering is a trio with fiddler Teresa Kavanagh and guitarist Mike Galvin,
simply called Art of Trio.
Luke riped off the traditional music archives of Dublin town.
Theresa grew up on a staple diet of fiddle music from North West Donegal
(Con and Frank Cassidy, Pronsias O' Maonaigh, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh etc -> #37).
This is beautifully wedded together. Killarney's Mike Galvin, who recently performed with
Frankie Gavin’s new incarnation of De Dannan and with singers Pauline Scanlon and Eilis Kennedy (#39),
plays an electric Les Paul guitar, but have no fear,
he plays it quite subtle, not in the same style but in the same spirit
as Martin Hayes' accompanist Dennis Cahill (#35).
I forgot to mention that Luke Daniels not only plays instrumental music,
but throws in a good song once in a while: "Reynardine", "Raglan Road" ...
However, I'd rather prefer his abilities on the accordion than his vocal delivery.
So search him out for some high-class squeezebox playing!
Own label; 2009
The band Runa
(i.e. mystery, secret lore -> FW#41) unveiled themselves in 2008, featuring
Philadelphian singer Shannon Lambert-Ryan and
her Dublin-born husband Fionán de Barra on guitar.
The latter started playing the guitar professionally with the Riverdance show
in the US in 2001, since then he has performed with Moya Brennan (of Clannad ->
Irish band Galldubh (#41) and Shetland's Fiddlers Bid
The line-up is completed by Canadian percussionist Cheryl Prashker (e.g. Tracy Grammer
The trio plays music from Ireland and Scotland as well as the US and Canada.
It is an almost live approach, which means it is put down in the studio
with the same instrumentation as the trio would produce in concert.
Shannon has a bright voice and is able let it sound fresh and anew,
even if it's quite popular and worn-out songs such as the "Blacksmith", "Bedlam Boys" or the "Star of the County Down".
There are some contemporary songs thrown in for good measure:
Cher's "Gypsies, Tramps, & Thieves" has only recently introduced to folk music
by Irish band Dervish (#35).
Indeed, Dervish might also be the source for a couple of traditional songs such as
"Molly & Johnny" or "Erin, Grá mo Chroí".
Alan Stivell "Emerald"
Keltia III; K3111; 2009
Here he is at it again, Breton (electric) harpist and singer
His third album, entitled "Renaissance de la Harpe Celtique" and recorded in 1971,
introduced many to folk music. Later on, Alan became a pioneer of the
Celtic folk rock genre. Time didn't stand still, and so didn't Alan.
I've seen him twice live in concert in the past decade.
The first at Tilburg I cannot really recall (#18,
at the second at the Bardentreffen in Nuremberg
I was rather annoyed for the songs and tunes were drowned in electronics.
It is still his trade and trademark, and it is still here with his new album "Emerald",
but I'm rather surprised in a positive way and it doesn't seem to bother me here.
His latest offering celebrates the emerald anniversary of his first album "Reflets".
Alan is rock'n'rolling, putting heavy guitars and bagpipes (both electronic and acoustic)
to electric and acoustic harps. Since his vocal rendering can't compete with his
arranging and instrumental skills, the up tempo songs work much better
than the airs and laments which are also featured
(Breton lyrics to the Scottish "Skye Boat Song" and the Welsh "All Through the Night", plus
the piobaireachd "Cha Till Mac Cruimen"). These folk rock arrangements (if you like)
blend different cultures and musical styles: Breton and Gaelic, Indian and African.
He is fortunate to have access to a number of excellent collaborators, namely
fiddler Loumi Seveno, guitar player Gaetan Grandjean,
singers Dom Duff and Solenn Lefeuvre, and the L’Ensemble choral du Bout du Monde.
Colum Sands "Look Where I've Ended Up Now"
Spring Records; SCD 1059; 2009
Good evening my friends and my thanks to you all for being here when you could be at home.
If it weren't for you, I might be there too, for I'd hate to be here on my own.
Singing songs that I found in the back of beyond and the places that lie in between.
Songs for the times that you dream of and the times when you wish you could dream.
Sure I've traveled through hedges and ditches in search of the reason and rhyme.
I've been to the place where nine stitches can be saved by the one made in time.
I've heard of the cat and the fiddle and the moon looking up at the cow.
I've read everything from Luke to I Ching.
Look where I've ended up now, look where I've ended up now!
security's getting more dangerous, there's so much to remember and know.
Your passport, your pincode, you're pestered wherever you go.
And all of your baggage is surplus if you travel with more than a smile.
Prepare to drink ink if you carry a pen, and hang round in the airport a while.
Once again Northern Irish poet, singer and songsmith
of Sands Family fame presents 10 songs from his own pen
(plus Hugh Speers' "Giant's Causeway Tram").
They are about local characters from his native Rostrevor, County Down.
Other inspirations came from his travels abroad:
Walking down the road I thought I heard a song,
I'm not sure where it came from, it was neither short nor long.
Not sure how it started and I don't know where it ends,
but it walked along beside me like we were the best of friends.
Colum cites his father: If you don't get out of the house, you know nothing!
One song is for Shropshire folk singer Fred Jordan, another for
Doreen Henderson (of the Elliotts of Birtley ->
#38), and for
Nuri Al Ukbi, a Bedouin and Israeli citizen.
Colum can be very witty at times, so is he struggling with the idea of formal and informal words
for you in the German language,
Now do you see, said Sue to me, two words for you in German.
My lovely teacher looked at me to make sure I was learning.
Sie is formal, Du for friends, her voice was sweet perfection,
and soon I knew that Du and Sie would drive me to distraction.
For I saw Sue as Du not Sie, while she to me was Sieing,
and the more I sow of Sue each week the more I thought of Duing.
"Too Loud" is against noise pollution and decibel raisers, ear drum erasers,
conspiring to drown every word of those with a use for their brain.
But no need to turn down the volume here, Colum's isn't too loud, it is no muzak.
He is an artist seemingly of a quieter nature - though outspoken if needed.
Last but not least, let me mention some of his musical backing, i.e.
his siblings, accordionst Karen Tweed,
whistler Brendan Monaghan and Armenian oud player Vasken Solakian.
Martin Simpson "Prodigal Son - The Concert" [DVD Video]
By the tender age of 12, English guitarist
was already playing guitar and banjo. In 1970 he became a full-time musician, touring the
folk club circuit. In 1976 he recorded his first solo album. He teamed up with June Tabor
(FW#35) and moved to America in the late 1980s. Over the next decade he was playing a mix
of folk, blues, bluegrass, cajun and even Indian music.
End of story part 1. In the late 1990s Martin Simpson returned to Britain.
It was also a return to his musical roots: traditional British folk music.
In 2007 he released his album "Prodigal Son", which became
BBC Radio 2 Folk Award's Album of the Year
This DVD release is a concert filmed at London's beautiful Union Chapel on 13th November 2007.
It recreates his best effort ever live in concert,
more than two hours of music, exquisitely shot with 5.1 sound.
Playful as Andy Irvine (#23), who is a similar vocalist,
he is equally at home with traditional songs and his own original songwriting.
He effortlessly crosses musical boundaries between Britain and the US.
His guitar playing is a league of its own. Only his endless tuning drives me nuts
(I never blame Hannes Wader again I swear -> #40).
The first 7 tracks are Martin Simpson solo; after the break
he is joined by accordionist Andy Cutting,
Andy Seward on double bass (the DVD folder has it falsely as Stewart)
and Kellie While on backing vocals for another 8 songs.
It took me a while to access the 2nd set because of a bit strange DVD menu.
At least I discovered the bonus short film where Martin pays a visit to his native Scunthorpe.
CAP 21817; 2009
Boot is the newly-founded Swedish outfit of
Hållbus Totte Mattsson (lute), Ola Bäckström (fiddle, bouzouki) and
Samuel Andersson (percussion). Well, actually it's not that new.
Boot started out as back-up players for the dance group Virvla which recorded an
album in 1999 and was nominated for a Swedish Grammy in 2000.
Their comeback was long overdue, I was instantly thinking after listening to this album.
Hållbus Totte Mattsson has a background in groups such as Groupa
and Hedningarna (#28);
Ola Bäckström played with Swåp (#31); Samuel Andersson recently joined Hedningarna as its second fiddler.
That explains the sound: traditional Swedish instruments and rhythms, but combine this with
heavy percussion. The tunes are not traditional at all,
but mainly composed by either Bäckstrom or Andersson, though in the traditional vein.
There is one major difference to the sound of their other band, whereas Hedningarna
leans on electronics, Boot's sound is almost completely acoustic.
The trio is able be very subtle, and can be a rollicking powerhouse,
both deeply rooted in Nordic roots and transcending these traditions.
It is a global adventure beyond the Baltic Sea. They
push forward just as their Viking ancestors pushed forward their dragon ships
to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, with the inherent excitement and amazement that lies in such a quest.
What the heck with all them polskas and brudemarches when there's more exotic dances, rhythms, styles to discover?!
Still, the music is Scandinavian, but there seems to be a mission: don't sound all the same
for the un-initiated listener! Mission accomplished!
So besides the rather bizarre and silly sounding band's name and album title, I give nine points out of ten.
It is one of the most exceptional debuts of the year 2009.
Hiesix "Neue Klänge auf vergessenen Volksinstrumenten aus der alten Schweiz"
This is the first album of a group only recently founded in 2007.
The awkward album title translates as
new sounds on forgotten folk instruments from ancient Switzerland.
The instruments in question are bagpipes, hurdy gurdy, fiddle, accordion,
but also things such as the lute-like hanottere and the zither-like häxeschiit.
However, the band Hiesix, featuring my namesake
Thomas Keller as well as Dide Marfurt of Doppelbock and eCHo fame (#38),
take a view above the Emmental hills, introduce more recent and more exotic instruments such as
tabla, darabuka, cajon, busuki, electric guitar and bass. Volxtöne instead of
volksmusik, which might be a surprise from a country that is so often too self-absorbed,
not to mention certain political tendencies. Hiesix plays traditional Swiss dances and songs,
but the band is grooving and creating a wide variety of sounds and images.
Yes, it can be so simple to like your own traditional music if it's performed in the right manner.
Ah, home sweet home!
Nar 2009050; 2009
Sean Tyrrell "Message of Peace"
Longwalk Music; LMCD006; 2009
Here comes John Boyle O'Reilly
(1844–1890), Irish poet and political activist. He was a member of the Irish Republican
Brotherhood (Fenians) and sentenced to twenty years penal servitude in Western Australia.
(By the way, his passage represented the last convict transport. Onboard
O'Reilly edited a weekly newspaper; some features are collected in
"Poems and Songs of Irish Australia" -> #28.)
In 1869, O'Reilly escaped on an American whaling ship and settled in Boston, where
he became a prominent spokesperson for Irish sentiment and culture, but also
championed Native and African American rights. He also devised the plan that rescued
the Fenians left behind in Australia onboard of The Catalpa (#31).
What a life! What a man! The likes of him will never be seen again!
And here comes Sean Tyrrell
Irish singer and tunesmith from the Burren in Co. Clare,
retelling the extraordinary story of John Boyle O'Reilly in song and spoken word.
Sean had already set a number of O'Reilly's poems to music,
which were included on his 1994 album, "Cry of a Dreamer".
These are featured here as well as poems by Bobby Sands, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Lover and Francis Ledwidge,
and contemporary songs such as Dylan's "Blowin in the Wind" and Lennon's "Working Class Hero".
Driven by Sean's trademark vocal style and instrumentation, it is a very entertaining mix of poetry and song, and a valuable history lesson.
Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club & Friends "Gates of Gold"
Own label; MSFC004; 2008
The Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club
is a group of fiddle afficionados meeting monthly since 1995 to play tunes from Scotland and the
Scottish diaspora. Old and young placed side by side, beginners, semi professional and professional players alike.
The loose party evolved over the years into an excellent performing ensemble,
giving concerts and playing at Australia's biggest folk festivals. They
recorded three CDs, the latest, "Gates of Gold", was awarded 2009 Australian Folk Album of the Year
(FW#41). The recording features
fiddle players from all over Melbourne, guest fiddle players from across Australia,
a rhythm section, and singers and dancers. More precisely, 33 fiddlers, 9 singers,
plus the odd harpists, accordionists, guitarists, bassists and percussionists.
There are solos and full sets. The CD is kicking off with an original set of tunes written by the club members.
Afterwards it's Scottish trad, a lot is associated with the famous Scots fiddler Niel Gow.
There is also mentioned one Niel Gow Foggo having been transported to Van Diemen's Land.
(I first thought this was a joke, but indeed web search reveiled that
Neil's great-grandnephew Niel Gow Foggo was a fiddler and seaman who came as a convict to Tasmania before 1848.
He was charged with indecent assault of a child in 1857, second offence, and died in 1870 at Port Arthur.)
The ensemble also plays tunes from Cape Breton,
plus North American fiddling such as cajun and old-time which is more or less related to Scottish fiddling.
There are songs too, seven out of 15 tracks: Scottish trad, both in English and Gaelic,
Robert Louis Stevenson's poem "Gates of Gold" and Dylan's "Let Me Die in My Footsteps".
It is a real treat, from down under but of highest standards.
If you happen to be around, the Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club meets the
3rd Sunday of the month at St Aidans Uniting Church, North Balwyn, Victoria, Australia.
Le Chéile "Out of the West"
White Hart Music; WHM CD 03; 2010
No saint can preserve us now - on the devil's dancefloor - let the dance begin ...
Peter Roe's "The Devil's Dancefloor" became kind of a motto for veteran band
(pronounced le kayla which means together).
Le Chéile were a cult tradtional Irish band of 1970's London.
When a compilation of tracks from 1974-1977 albums was released on CD in 2007,
it reignited the spark and got the band together once more
(fiddler Danny Meehan, banjo player Liam Farrell,
pianist John Roe and guitarist Kevin Boyle),
with some new members thrown in for good measure (flutist Paul Gallagher,
accordionist Andy Martyn). The selection and arrangement of tunes are fine,
and the performance is more than all right.
No time travel to the 1970s, but trad as it is performed in the early 21st century.
Once entirely instrumental, Le Chéile introduced some songs to their repertoire.
is not what you call a great vocalist,
but his weary and broken delivery has a charm of its own.
The song selection does not feature the usual suspects,
and pieces like "The Old Arboe", "Killyburn Brae" and
Kevin Dempsey's "Susan, The Pride of Kildare"
are able to take a new life on their own.
P.S.: Kev's singer-songwriter solo album "Palestine Grove" will be reviewed soon on these pages.
Rattle on the Stovepipe "No Use in Cryin'"
WGS 371 CD; 2009
These days some of the best of Americana music seems to come
from this side of the Atlantic, especially from Britain.
Rattle on the Stovepipe is a prime example for my thesis.
Three veteran folkies - performer, musicians, singers, dancers as well
as researcher, collector, broadcaster; the fiddle-banjo-guitar trio of
and Dan Stewart. "No Use in Cryin'" kicks off with "Elzick's Farewell",
a version taken from the Celtic trad band Flook (#38), and why not.
Since it had been composed in the 1800s in Kentucky, it was a long way,
the tune lost some bars but got a third part. This is
followed by "Short Jacket and White Trousers".
Bert Lloyd unearthed it in the early 1960s from a collection of sailor's songs;
Dave put it to a new tune. There's more 'authentic' and real American on this album,
but the band is deliberately criss-crossing the Atlantic Ocean. It is a joy to
listen to "Princess Royal" from the pen of Irish harper Turlough O'Carolan
and the Child ballad "The Two Brothers",
which has been collected in the Appalachians by Cecil Sharp in 1917.
Childsplay "Waiting for the Dawn"
O, rattlling roaring Willie, O he went to the fair,
and for to sell his fiddle and to buy some other ware.
But parting with his fiddle, the salt tear in his eye,
and rattling roaring Willie you are welcome home to me ...
A traditional/rewritten song by Robert Burns kicks off the album,
followed by songs such as the Irish traditional "I am a Youth that's Inclined to Ramble"
(taken from the version of Paul Brady, see below),
U2's "Mothers of the Disappeared", Steve Earle's "Christmas in Washington"
and even Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender". You wouldn't expect it though.
First of all, Childsplay
is not a band, but a musical collective, held together that each member
plays a violin crafted by Bob Childs of Cambridge, Massachussetts.
This all-star ensemble keeps on going for 20 years with different line-ups,
including 14 fiddlers and violinists here (e.g. Lissa Schneckenburger -> #38),
plus some guests to make a fuller sound (such as flutist Shannon Heaton -> #39).
Secondly, Childsplay performed strictly instrumental music before - fiddle tunes from Ireland,
Scotland and Cape Breton plus new compositions by band members. On their fifth album
"Waiting for the Dawn" the fiddle orchestra explores
the relationship between the human voice and the violin.
It has often been said that the fiddle in the right hands is the nearest resembling the human voice.
Childsplay found their congenial vocalist in Aoife O'Donovan, member of the newgrass band
Her voice fits perfectly to the full tone of Bob Childs' wooden wonders.
It could be a Crooked Still album really, save for the symphonic arrangements and wall of sound
minus the bluegrass instrumentation.
Now tell me, when do you ever have the opportunity to listen to a family of instruments
of the one craftsman? Well, this is it!
© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 03/2010
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