FolkWorld Issue 42 07/2010

FolkWorld CD Reviews

Lonnie Kjer & Stefan Mork "13 Songs"
Label: Own label; 2009
This is a very nice record from Denmark. The female vocals courtesy of Ms. Kjer are prominent, but there are also a lot of male vocals weaving into the songs. Instrumentation is sparse and delicate and is mostly composed of two acoustic guitars. Although the jazzy beginnings may lead you to believe there is a mainstream approach, staying with this record reveals a vibrant and delicate folk to psychedelic-folk approach not unlike Elly & Rikkert or the Balladeers. It is more subtle here, but the songs are quite beautiful and are successful in transplanting me to a dreamy, contemplative state of mind. Some nice electric slide touches add to the atmosphere. There are even a few songs with full band accompaniment that add some rock and jazz touches at times. This one goes on my short list for repeated listenings.
David Hintz

Slowman "I’m Back"
Label: Own label; 2010
This record is basic blues rock from a veteran Swedish guitarist. Slowman is Svante Torngren who is “slowman” due to the 20 years it took to make a solo record—not to be confused with Eric “Slowhand” Clapton. In fact, his hands are pretty quick, but mostly steady as he dishes out blues riffs and tasty solos in his very agreeable songs. No reinvention or fusion here beyond basic commercially acceptable blues rock along with a few songs that are pure blues. There is almost no information on the sleeve, but I hear a basic backing band on most cuts with a some songs stripped down to a couple of guitars and voice. Not a bad listen at all.
David Hintz

Maia "Maia"
Label: P&C Vandal; 2010
This four piece starts the record out with a few songs that perfectly blend of the modern free folk style made popular by Devandra Banhart and others along with a more traditional folk. As the record moves on, the songs become even a bit more daring. They are all very easy on the ear, but the daring part is their ability to mix genres and defy categorization. And even if that makes my task more difficult, it makes for a more exciting listening experience. I hear different African and South American touches in rhythms and use of brass. There is some Americana evident at times, but in other songs their English roots show through. The vocals seemingly come from another dimension in a less demonstrative Antony (and the Johnsons) Heggarty style. This has enough elements of folk for genre fans but covers an awful lot of ground and is one of the more compelling listens I have had in a while.
David Hintz

JP Den Tex "American Tune"
Label: Comme les Chansons; 2009
This is an ambitious 12-song cycle that follows a linear story line. The songwriter takes us on a journey of a European writer exploring the American west searching for the existence of the mythical “American Dream”. My joke answer would be that the American Dream exists in owning a home, or so we have been told by that industry for decades (and how has that worked out lately). But the songwriter here goes through adventures with various characters and self-examination. This is somewhat interesting, but lyrically does not do much with lines like “you’re like honey from a bee”. The music has elements of folk, country, blues, mid-tempo rock and is nicely produced and delivered in a steady manner. Maybe this theme is just a bit tired even with his reasonably thought-out conclusion. The effort was good and this should appeal to many people.
David Hintz

Jon Strider "Fresh Tracks"
Label: New Sky Records; 2010
Jon Strider is from San Francisco, now living in Sweden. He has played with some major stars like Van Morrison and John Lee Hooker. I would place his record somewhere between singer/songwriter and country. The songs tend to go in one direction or the other. There is full rock band accompaniment on all songs keeping things at mid tempo or slow for the most part. I rather liked the contemplative near-folk elements of the song “Magnolia Tree”. That would be the direction that may separate this from the pack. Otherwise, it is competent music that unfortunately sounds like many other perfectly decent, competent bands.
David Hintz

Ashley Hutchings and Ken Nicol "Copper, Russet and Gold"
Label: Park Records; 2010
The first pairing of the man who founded Steeleye Span in 1970 (but left in 1972) with the present guitarist of Steeleye Span who has been there for about six years. The connecting link is the Albion Band, Hutchings long running, rotating member collective where they both did a lot of work together. For this release, it is mostly a duo with Nicol playing all guitars and mandolin with Hutchings contributing bass lines. They both sing and enlist the aide of a couple of female vocalists for some lead and backup duties. Hutchings wrote the lyrics and Nicol handled the music with nothing traditional, interestingly. There are certainly traditional sounding songs, which work best for me in this release. The opener “I am Prologue” is the best example (along with the closer “I am Epilogue”). The title cut and “Sleeveless Errands” have classic folk elements and modern touches. There are some light blues songs that don’t do as much for me. I have a lot of respect for these two and they did not disappoint me with this release. The best cuts fit in nicely with the rich history both have provided.
David Hintz

Symplybill "Sound Experiment"
Label: Own Label; 2008
Bill Cave is the singer/songwriter/guitarist behind Symplybill. His record has all the classic elements of the singer/songwriter genre with American folk, blues, country and even some Appalachian touches. The recording is clean and good with some excellent mandolin and fiddle augmenting his decent acoustic work. I would not call the sound lo-fi, but it is simple and effective. His voice is strong and flexible and the songs are very good. They are strong and accessible (in a good way, not the commercial axiom usage). I find this record easy to listen to without calling it easy listening if you know what I mean. If not? Find out for yourself and give this pleasant little independent record a try.
David Hintz

Matt Keating "Between Customers"
Label: Kealon Records; 2009
Matt Keating is a veteran songwriter and performer and has written a gem of an album here. The music is a smooth blend of many classic styles that work off of a folk-rock base. There is an intelligence and maturity in the songwriting that not many performers have. There are a lot of albums like this out there to sample, but this is one to move to the front of the queue. Keating’s experience, art and style combine for songs that are page-turning short stories delivered with music that is not short on hooks courtesy of a bull band and rich worldly singing.
David Hintz

Peter Gallway "Manhattan Nocturne"
Label: Gallway Bay Music; 2009
In case you were uncertain how to classify this, the CD booklet includes the definition of nocturne as “a piece appropriate to the night or evening and an instrumental composition of a dreamy or pensive character.” I don’t disagree with that after listening to this. I would add that this is clearly smooth jazz (with some dark moments) rather than folk, rock or pop. The music is smooth and steady if that is what you are seeking. Gallway plays piano, guitar and sings. Acoustic bass and trumpet provide much of the jazz along with the brush drumming.
David Hintz

Brooks Williams "Baby O!"
Label: Red Guitar Blue Music; 2010
I have not heard Brooks Williams for many years, but remember him as a deft finger style guitarist. This is his 17th record and it is clearly deep with the blues more than folk this time around. It was recorded in England with many solid players assisting including Jethro Tull’s David Goodier on bass. Most of the songs are original, but a few covers of Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Duke Ellington and Mel London are included. His guitar playing is still excellent and this is a well-done record. I think I prefer some of his earlier folk outings, but it is nice to see him take some different approaches. Of course, if you do seventeen records, you may go quite mad if you don’t vary the formula a bit. So, if you are fan, check it out, you will not be disappointed. And you may see him in your town as he tours both sides of the Atlantic pretty steadily.
David Hintz

Kat Eggleston "Speak"
Label: Own label; 2009
Ms. Eggleston mentions her goal of trying to achieve simplicity with this release and how simplicity it turns out is the hardest thing to achieve and to keep. I do believe that theory and she could not keep it any simpler here, as it is just her singing and playing guitar. I detected no overdubs, so this as about as simple and naked approach to presenting songs as she could have chosen. It may be hard to achieve, but this Seattle-area artist has succeeded. The songs are good with gentle and effective guitar playing. Her voice is lovely and is balanced nicely with the guitar. There is one song from Scotland, another working with another songwriter’s melody, with ten more of her songs. The melodies are nice and her lyrics keep you glued to her story or poem. The guitar playing is high quality and has a complexity well aside from showiness. A solid record and an artist I would love to see at a folk festival or club some time.
David Hintz

Kate MacLeod "Blooming"
Label: Waterbug Records; 2009
This Utah based singer/guitarist recorded her sixth solo record in Nashville. She previously worked with a Celtic band, but that is not something I noticed from these songs. She also is an accomplished fiddler with an instructional video release, yet there is only a small amount of fiddle here and it is played by the producer. The music is sort of a balanced pop-folk music with some Americana touches and some Nashville influence. I am not a fan of traditional Nashville sound as a rule and am guessing I might like her western US recordings a bit more. But it is a good professional sound here, and with her nice voice and decent song writing, this will appeal to a lot of people. She also plays with Kat Eggleston (reviewed above) and that would make an excellent duo.
David Hintz

Lowri Evans "One Way Ticket"
Label: Shimi Records; 2009
Like many of my favorite Welsh artists, Meic Stevens and Heather Jones for example, Lowri Evans records both in the Welsh language and English. This album is entirely in English. It features her singing and playing acoustic guitar and piano. Her supporting players fill in subtly with pop, rock and jazz moves creating a smooth backdrop for her lyrics and singing to sit front and center. There are all originals aside from a surprise cover of Guns’n’Roses’ “Sweet Child O’Mine”! The one live cut, “You”, is the most sparse with just voice and piano and has a light jazz arrangement. A solid record, but nothing jumps to the forefront for me.
David Hintz

Girlyman "Everthing’s Easy"
Label: Own Label; 2009
The harmonies immediately drew my attention on this record by an Atlanta based trio. And they kept coming and coming throughout the fifteen songs on this record. The three members of Girlyman (one “Girl”, two men) also do the major share of the instrumental work with some guest help on cello, banjo and drums. The songs are very catchy folk-rock pop. There are easy to grasp hooks and good lyrics as well. Anyone who writes a song called “Easy Bake Ovens” and manages to capture suburban life in the seventies as vividly as they do, will always find a warm spot in my heart. It is a pleasure to have records like this bring a smile to my face with good pop intentions. I can always be cynical another day.
David Hintz

Joe Mock "Capgun Cowboy"
Label: Own label; 2009
This is a compilation of unreleased recordings of over forty years by a singer/guitarist from western Canada. He has been on many records over the last 30 years in such folk rock bands as Pied Pumkin and Pied Pear. If given a choice, I would like to hear more of the group efforts. This release has a variety of folk, country and light bluesy rock songs. There is not much to distinguish them as they all have a laid back low-key main stream feel to them. I suppose “Fool that I am” and “Song for Mother” have the nicest folk feel to them.
David Hintz

Le Clou "Café Louisiane"
Label: Moustache Records; 2009
My radar sends me a signal anytime a band from another country tries to achieve the deep ethnic sounds of another country or region. It is not always bad and I remind myself to be open-minded as the cross cultures can produce some interesting results and variations. Although this record label is based in Germany, the band is French, which does indeed have ethnic ties to the American immigrants in the Louisiana area. This is a veteran band that has made a career of playing the Cajun music of the Mississippi delta. Le Clou has been doing this for thirty years and from the first notes, I was happy to find a very competent band doing an excellent job in this genre. The music was smooth with rich, raspy vocals on top. There were all the expected instruments such as violin and accordion with a good rock rhythm section. There is also some guitar work and a touch of saxophone and whistle. I felt there was a little less energy at the close of the album, but was impressed overall as the songs have good pace and really rustic feel that makes for a pleasurable experience whether you are in Europe, or in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
David Hintz

PicAce "Authentic"
Label: Own label; 2008
17 “authentic” cover songs are played for over one hour on this album. The band is a male and female duo, each singing and each with acoustic guitar. The songs are mostly blues songs from Robert Johnson to Michelle Shocked, so a wide range of artists are covered. This is a live recording, so it is rather simple sounding. The songs are decent enough, but there is not an original in the bunch, nor is there a particularly interesting reworking of a classic. So this is another example of something that will work better live and not as well on record unless you want to take some music home with you after seeing their live set.
David Hintz

Four 2 the Bar "Second Hand"
Label: Earprint Music; 2009
This is another all covers album, aside from one brief guitar intro on the live track. There are a mixture of hits and lesser tunes and while I don’t particularly care to hear these covers only albums, this one does succeed for what it is. The band is comprised of two guitarists and a bass player. They have guests assisting on percussion and other instruments, so there is a full sound. The vocals are decent and there is a fair amount of talent here. I can recommend this German band in that I would expect a good live show. And if you like these types of albums, then give this one a try.
David Hintz

Paul-Simpson-Project "A Hunger for Life"
Label: Own label; 2009
This project consists of Bernd Paul on guitar, vocals and harp along with Jennifer Simpson on vocals. There are some other instruments (mostly percussion) on about half of the tracks, but it is usually just the two of them. But you will not often hear such rich full songs with such a small line-up. Two reasons account for this full and powerful set. First, Jennifer Simpson is a strong powerful vocalist with a range similar to Annie Lennox. Second, Bernd Paul creates great atmosphere with his guitars and arrangements. Together, they hit a strong psychedelic folk feel, not unlike Emtidi or Trader Horne. However they stand out with strong vocals in the manner of Eclection as opposed to the ethereal vocal style of so many folk duos. I highly recommend this excellent record as one that will fit right in with many other excellent records in the psyche-folk, folk rock and modern folk field.
David Hintz

Angus & Julia Stone "Down the Way"
Label: Flock (UK); 2010
This folk duo at first listen has some similarities with very popular acts like Joanna Newsome and Cocorosie. Primarily that is due to the fey or twee voice of Julia Stone. But as I listened further, she also has a gutsy quality to her voice similar to Karen Dalton, which is a very nice sonic space to occupy. Angus Stone also takes some leads and harmonizes as well. So by album’s end, I am fully drawn into their songs. The guitar work is lovely and creates different atmospheres depending on the song. There is variance from acoustic strumming to shoegaze styled background wash and there is even a banjo in there at times. Piano also drives some songs and the rhythm section is subtle in the mix. There are the usual relationship songs, but the lyrics are thoughtful and worth a close listen. Travel is a theme that comes up in many of the songs which is appropriate as this Australian duo is poised and ready to hit North American and Great Britain this summer for a series of shows and festival appearances. Based on this fine album, they should do well.
David Hintz

Keith Donnelly & Flossie Malavialle "Dark Horses"
Label: Dark Horse Records; 2010
Flossie Malavialle is a veteran French folk singer who has performed frequently in the UK in the last ten years. She teams up here with guitarist Keith Donnelly for their debut album, released just prior to a supporting gig with Fairport Convention. There is a nice production here with a mix of full band to duets and to a lovely solo piece called “The Killing Time”. Apparently, Keith Donnelly is also involved in comedy, which is clear with his one turn at lead vocals on “Can Blue Man Sing the Whites”. This record works with strong vocals, nice subtle variety and just an overall sense of quality in the arrangements.
David Hintz

Reto Burrell "Go"
Label: Echo Park Music; 2010
Reto Burrell is a Swiss singer/songwriter guitarist who wrote everything on this album with a lyrical assist on two of the songs. He has a full band accompanying him at all times which makes for steady rock music deep in the Americana roots sound. The sound is solid bar band rock and roll, not too up-tempo, but with plenty of electric guitar atop a rock and roll beat. The lyrics don’t elevate things much beyond this, either. But that is not a bad thing and a couple of songs really stand out. “Not as Cool as L.A.” show Burrell’s punk roots. But I would recommend a song like “Uninvited Honesty” that really stands out as a song most bands would be proud to play. Try out that song at his myspace page and you may want to hear more. This ultimately succeeds as a slick and listenable rock record.
David Hintz

Drive-By Truckers "The Big To-Do"
Label: ATO Records; 2010
This looks to be the tenth album by this quintessential modern Southern rock band, although they have also backed various other artists over the years. A Truckers live show is almost always exciting with lots of volume and great songs from their lengthy and high-quality catalogue. They have varied their style in clear yet subtle ways over the years mixing in British rock, classic rock, country and western, blues, and folk. I felt their recent albums moved me less than some of the earlier material and was pleasantly surprised with the strength of this record. There is less of the country sing-song approach that Mike Cooley too often takes. Cynically I could say that it is due to the inclusion of only three of his songs, but I found his “Birthday Boy” to be one of the best songs on this album where his style matches the storyline as well as the catchy melody. Patterson Hood’s songs dominate this album with Shonna Tucker also penning two. “The Fourth Night of my Drinking” is a gem with its great rock foundation in the verses split by startlingly slow western landscape breaks between. “This Fucking Job” is a tough, hard-edged rocker with strong lyrics and Hood’s usual emotive singing. This is pretty much an essential band to at least sample at a live show and to give space in your record collection for a few of their albums. This is a perfectly good place to start if you have not hit the road with this band already.
David Hintz

Bernd Rinser "Got You"
Label: Fenn Music; 2010
This is my kind of blues album. It is street tough in the city and wild crazy when wading in the swamplands. The first two cuts “Luck” and “Bible Belt” blast away with heavy guitar, evocative slides, surly guttural vocals and pulsating rhythms. The style is great but there are also solid melodies and surprising rock twists that almost hearken back to the late 1960s with a touch of psychedelic lead guitar. Then just when the songs hit a fever pitch, Rinser pulls it back with the title cut and a long and lovely more acoustic song like “If”. Strong and sensitive vocals are the steady ingredient common in both the rock songs and the blues/folk songs. Great work from this German songwriter who sings, plays guitar and harmonica. This is an excellent album that has many attractive qualities and creativity to interest most anyone.
David Hintz

Janet Robin "Everything Has Changed"
Hypertension Music; 2010
From the picture on the cover (Janet Robin with an acoustic guitar), I prepared myself to get ready for a classic singer/songwriter folk album. As you have already guessed, I was thrown a number of curves right at track one. The song was pretty much a rocker with both acoustic and electric guitars. As the album progressed, there were some slower acoustic folk songs. In fact, there was a nice variety of tempos and volumes throughout. Janet Robin is credited with all guitar work, which is very impressive as I was expecting some ace studio guitarist to have done the leads. Silly me, as her biography details that she was taught guitar by the late (and very great) Randy Rhoads of the Ozzy Ozbourne Band. She also was in the heavy rock band, Precious Metal. She clearly shows off her rock chops on this album, but also displays a deft touch on the acoustic instrumental “CHR Number 137”. The songs are all here own, although sometimes with a co-writer, aside from two covers. The best of the two is PJ Harvey’s “This is Love”. Janet Robin is fine singer, a decent writer, but above all an excellent guitarist and this record provides many varied examples of that. This is a really nice listening experience.
David Hintz

Kim Richey "Wreck Your Wheels"
Label: Lojinx; 2010
Kim Richey sings “this town gets smaller and smaller” in the lovely “99 Floors” on this album. In fact, the world gets smaller as I sit in my Washington DC home listening to this CD sent to me from the Netherlands’ offices of Folkworld. The amazing coincidence is that Ms. Richey and I attended the same high school in Kettering, Ohio in 1974 and 1975. I was two years behind her in school, so we did not know each other at all. Since then, Kim Richey has established herself as an excellent singer/songwriter in the folk and (alt-) country music categories. Her sixth album features eleven original songs that she co-wrote with ten different partners. The songs are roots oriented, but dance delicately between a number of categories. Richey’s voice is smooth and conveys a comfortable and meaningful mood. The song arrangements are lush without being over-produced. “Careful How You Go” is a lovely song with a piano deep in the mix punctuating key moments as the acoustic guitar carries the main melody aside along with the vocal line. An organ and a rhythm section create the depth and movement. The rest of the arrangements also work well. I recommend “In the Years to Come” with its delicate slide work and contemplative mood. This is a fine album.
David Hintz

Dold "Out of the Blue"
Label: Chroma Music; 2009
Dold is an interesting five-piece from Germany playing original songs sung in English. Rebeeka Dold is the sole vocalist and her voice has a clean folk style to it. The music, as seems so typical of what I hear from Germany, is intricate with a mix of folk, progressive, rock and pop. The songs vary quite a bit, but in a subtle intricate way with the vocals holding the album together. The songs did not jump out at me strongly at first but have slowly grown in stature the more I listen. A song like “Reckless Wanderer” has some great rocking moments with a rather intense violin passage. I also enjoyed the odd jazz moves in “Fear of Scars” where I also found the lyrics interesting as well. I recommend listening to this one twice and see if it slowly works its way onto your playlist. Future listenings are assured in my home.
David Hintz

Janet Martin "Passage"
Label: Own Label; 2009
This is the fourth album from Richmond, Virginia’s Janet Martin. I have not heard the previous albums, but the album descriptions on her press release left me with a question. When her first record is Celtic, folk and new age; her second record is country rockers directed to Nashville talent scouts; and her third record is a commercially focused study in pure pop, what exactly is she trying to accomplish? Is this a talented artist in search of a commercially viable style? I am hoping it is more of a case of an overly enthusiastic manager overdoing the hyperbole on the website. So where is this album in the grand scheme of things? It sounds like a well-produced record blending folk, rock, pop and blues. Ms. Martin has a smooth and solid voice. Her guitar playing and that of her guests is good, no wild pyrotechnics, just tasty playing. The songs are decent with “Holy Water” standing out as a good folk song with a fascinating sonic build into a more mysterious folk-rock finish. No matter the motives, there is some good music here.
David Hintz

Adam Arcuragi "I am Become Joy"
Label: High Two; 2009
From Philadelphia, comes this talented singer/songwriter. He has a very broad folk-rock sound with some country/Americana touches at times. The backing music and production is thorough without being ostentatious. I read at least two comparisons to Nick Drake, which is completely ludicrous to my ears. The voice is strong here and while the songs are thoughtful, they do not have the deeper mystery of the Drake songs. The guitars are rather straight-forward on this record as well with brass, steel guitars and even a full choir creating a fuller atmosphere. The last song “Bottom of the River” has some nice pace to it, even if there is too much steel guitar for my taste. Aside from the over use of steel guitars, this is a good record and this may be a songwriter to keep an eye on going forward.
David Hintz

Pollyanna "On Concrete"
Label: Songs & Whispers; 2010
What an interesting record we have here. Although this folk record has a wistful melancholy present, there is a strong backbone in place throughout this French folk duo’s songs. Isabelle Casier’s vocals (all sung in English) are assured and seem to be as crystalline in meaning as they are in tone. She also adds acoustic guitar to the mix. Her partner, David Lopez, plays numerous instruments which gives the songs a sense of adventure. There are strings, electric guitars, a rhythm section, banjos, keyboards and much more. “In the Cornfields” is a song filled with hooks and a great groove to sweep one in. The almost experimental sounding “Friends” leads into the brilliant “Railroad Boy” which has the classic doomed British folk lyric coupled with mysterious driving music which adds a soundtrack quality to the folk moves within. This record succeeds in reminding me of the classic late sixties/early seventies British folk scene, while still sounding clearly in the 21st Century. That is not an easy task and I consider it a major success.
David Hintz

Alcoholic Faith Mission "Let this be the Last Night We Care"
Label: PonyRec; 2010
This is a richly produced and dense album with many voices, instruments and electronic sounds weaving in and out of the melodious songs. If you have heard the Canadian bands Arcade Fire or Do Make Say Think, then you have an idea of what this will sound like. Not surprisingly, this Danish band has music on a Canadian independent film, so there is a sonic connection with Canada. There are elements of shoegaze here, but it is subtle. It is mostly modern pop-rock music with extra effort spent in the studio to create a diverse atmosphere for their expression. I am not sure this band is as strong vocally as the two I mentioned, but those are excellent bands and there is plenty of room for Alcoholic Faith Mission to carve their niche in this genre.
David Hintz

Lee Harvey Osmond "A Quiet Evil"
Latent Recordings; 2010
This is new band put together by Canadian ace songwriter Tom Wilson. He has four veterans with him, some of whom were in the internationally known Cowboy Junkies. This is another oddball mix of styles, which often makes for a fun listening experience. I would call it alt country with some Doorsian psychedelic-blues, and lounge jazz-folk tossed in. The songs are good and between the throaty vocals and the deep arrangements, a murky atmosphere is created and sustained nicely throughout this album. The final cut, “I Can’t Stand It” sends it out with a hard rock intensity amidst manic guitar soloing.
David Hintz

Janet Bates "The Little Spinner"
Label: Own label; 2009
Janet Bates is a singer that comes across as somewhere in between Joan Baez and Bridget St. John. The songs are classic folk, lead by acoustic sounds with electric accompaniment as well. The production is clean with the vocals having an ethereal air to them. The band is solid with veteran studio wizard Tony Levin on bass. The lyrics cover a lot of ground between optimistic and questioning. There are some sharp political barbs on several songs which are assertive, yet delivered within a beautiful folk song. I appreciated this clean, classic style and the songs were quite moving. If you like well arranged traditional folk, this record is worth many listens.
David Hintz

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