FolkWorld Issue 43 11/2010

FolkWorld CD Reviews

Diarmaid and Donncha Moynihan "The Lights of Ranzanico"
Label: Own label; DMCD001; 2010
Cork brothers Diarmaid and Donncha Moynihan played in the traditional Irish band Calico in the 1990's (FW#5, #17, #20) After disbanding the group, Diarmaid emerged as a master craftsman of fine uilleann pipes tunes (well, he was a prolific composer already then), which have been played and recorded by bands such Déanta, Flook, Lúnasa, Gráda etc. Donncha built his own recording studio (, acted as producer and added his guitar and bouzouki to productions such as Edel Sullivan and Tommy Cunniffe (#34), Christy Leahy (see review below), to name but a few. With "The Lights of Ranzanico" they are back with a selection of gorgeous original compositions and some Irish, American, Breton and Asturian tunes. Most of it has been recorded for the first time. The album kicks off with a big arrangement of Asturian piper Jose Manuel Tejedor's jig "Barralin", followed by Diarmaid’s "Lights of Ranzanico" and Mairtin O'Connor's "Rockin' the Boat" (#22). The brothers are supported by Galician gaita player Anxo Lorenzo (#42). More collaborations are to come: Brazilian trumpet player Tonynho dos Santos adds some touches to Diarmaid’s slow reel "Ivory Lady," which has been recorded recently by both Lúnasa (#32) and Anxo Lorenzo (#42). With their sister and fiddler Deirdre they rework the Calico favourite "Covering Ground," which has been recorded several times since the 90s (#34, #37, #42). There's box player Christy Leahy, Caoimhin Vallely on the piano (see review below) and British jazz drummer Nic France. Eventually, Donncha takes the place in the spotlights with his own "The Long Haul Hush" and "Haapavesi Moon," which are my favourites despite - or because of - their unsophisticated arrangements. Whatever it is, it is testament to the brothers superb playing abilities.
Walkin' T:-)M

Lissa Schneckenburger "Dance"
Label: Footprint Records; FR2010; 2010
New England fiddler and singer Lissa Schneckenburger is a member of the band Childsplay (FW#41), and she took part in several CD productions, e.g. Cassel's "For Reasons Unseen" (#42). "Dance" is the second of her albums devoted to the traditional music of the US-American North East. While "Song" focused on the ballad tradition (#38), "Dance" - nomen est omen - is about the instrumental heritage, being financially supported by the Country Dance and Song Society. Though the arrangements are subtle enough to make it wholesome for non-dancers and listeners-only alike. First tune is "Petronella," which I incidentally know from the Orkney Islands, despite it's mediterranean sounding title. Besides Lissa's uplifting and lively fiddling there is Bethany Waickman on guitar and Jeremiah McLane on (piano accordion). The following track features the hornpipes "Lamplighters," which I heard on a "Contra Music" record (#27), and "Suffer the Child" from the pen of American violinist Greg Boardman. The tempo is quite fast for hornpipes. Besides Bethany again, Lissa is joined by Corey DiMario (double bass) and Stefan Amidon (percussion). I don't want to discuss every single one of these ten medleys. There's jigs and reels, popular tunes such as the "Moneymusk" and "Fisher's Hornpipe," whose origins have been lost in the mists of time, and recent compositions such as "Nancy King" from David Kaynor. There is also a waltz, "Eugenia's" from Bob McQuillen. There's more guests, such as the above-mentioned David Kaynor (fiddle), Keith Murphy (guitar), Dave Cory (tenor banjo), Eric Merrill (viola) and David Harris (euphonium, trombone). The scanty liner notes give no information on the tunes, however quite fittingly, instructions show how to dance to, since each piece has a specific dance that goes with it.
Walkin' T:-)M

The London Lasses and Pete Quinn "By Night & By Day"
Label: LoLa Records; LL005; 2010
"London Lasses" is an often recorded Irish reel. Uilleann piper Willie Clancy did it decades ago (FW#41), recently I heard it from flutist Steph Geremia (#40), to name just one example. Ten years ago it also became the band name of some lasses from London's Irish scene, plus a male member, thus The London Lasses and Pete Quinn. Their fourth album, "By Night & By Day," saw the addition of Kerry flutist Elma McElligott and Northern Irish vocalist and harpist Brona McVittie to the existing line-up of fiddlers Karen Ryan and Elaine Conwell, accordionist Maureen Linane and pianist Pete Quinn. "By Night & By Day" starts with three reels, first a composition from Paddy O'Brien, "Hanley's Tweed," that I hadn't heard before, followed by two popular reels from the Irish tradition, "Lad O'Beirne's" and "Launching The Boat." More fanciful, next are two barndances, later on a march, some polkas, nicely adding to the jigs and reels. A frequently employed composer is Charlie Lennon (#34), e.g. his "Reg Hall's Polka" is celebrating in its name the London Irish musicians, Reg Hall being a veteran piano player on the session scene. There's one Carolan tune, no it isn't, "Planxty Joe Burke" is also from the pen of Charlie Lennon for his 1993 "Island Wedding" suite and dedicated to the box player Joe Burke (#34). There is a recording of Mayo band Céide of it (#33). Besides those instrumental cuts, there are four songs as well: the English language songs "Ballyronan Maid" and the popular "A Stor Mo Chroi" (English despite its Gaelic title), and the Gaelic "Johnny Seoighe" and "Bean an Ti," lyrics and translations are included in the sleeve notes. The overall pace is very gentle, it never gets too wild. so you wouldn't think about bustle in the streets of the British capital. It's more rural like. Or is it the spirit of the 1950's when the London Irish invented the pub session?
Walkin' T:-)M

Old Blind Dogs "Wherever Yet May Be"
Compass Records; 7 4542 2; 2010
Scottish band Old Blind Dogs has seen quite some changes in their almost twenty years existence (FW#1, #12, #19 , #28, #31, #36). The only remaining founder member Jonny Hardie (fiddle) brought Aaron Jones (bouzouki), Fraser Stone (percussion) and the newest addition to the line-up, Ali Hutton (pipes and whistle), into the studio for their 11th album (one live recording included). It takes some courage to start an album with a slow air, but it is taken with "Mo Ghaol Oig Fhear A Chuil Duinn," originally a song of unrequited love from St Kilda Island. It may work, but the solemn fiddle and drone for three and a half minutes never really gets it from the ground. Too long anyway, it works as the intro to the following song, there is no clear cut, and things really kick off with bagpipes and ethnic percussion. Objects relating to the different tracks - a whiskey barrel, a ring etc. - are scattered throughout the booklet. The Dogs are dressed up like characters from the songs, Jonny is wearing some 200 years old kilt and uniform, Aaron seems to be a barrel maker, Fraser the sailor leaving his love behind, Ali the "Psychopomps" character from the tune he'd written and named. Rather accidentally arranged it makes a paperchase. Besides the instrumentals, Aaron brought some songs from his native Ireland, so even Jonny got to sing for to confirm that it's still a Scottish outfit. Song lyrics are not included in the sleeve notes and neither on their website.
"Wherever Yet May Be" is not a bad album, but this time being rather subtle than a powerhouse. Though probably not the peak of their career, the Dogs are still a force to reckon with.
Walkin' T:-)M

Niamh Ní Charra "Súgach Sámh - Happy Out"
Label: Imeartas Records; IMCD002; 2010
German audiences will be delighted to see Niamh Ní Charra of Riverdance and Carlos Nunez Band fame in October and November 2010 when the Irish Folk Festival (IFF) comes to town once again (FW#42) - after her stint with the 2008 festival tour (#38). She will bring along her brand-new, second solo album "Súgach Sámh - Happy Out".
This album kicks off in a rather bizarre fashion with "The Limerick Redowa", which is a 19th century waltz-like dance from the continent (you can hear that clearly), immediately followed by three sildes: "Going for Water" (apparently not the same as the better known "Going to the Well for Water", e.g. see the recording of Tim O'Shea -> #31), "Oakum" is based on the Gaelic song "Oakum A' Phriosuin", and eventually "Strawberry Tree" is one of Niamh's own compositions. Niamh plays both concertina and fiddle; there is Donogh Hennessy and Trevor Hutchinson of Lunasa fame (#37) on guitar and double bass, respectively, and Robbie Harris on bongos and shakers. Track #2 starts with the hop jig "Top It Off", again the pace is rather gentle, before launching into some fiery fiddle reels, the traditional and popular "Glen Road to Carrick" and "McFadden's Handsome Daughter" and Niamh's own "Devil's Ladder".
Now all ingredients of "Súgach Sámh" are together. Well, almost. Whereas Niamh's debut album "Ón Dá Thaobh - From Both Sides" (#33) was instrumental only (besides one piece sung by Brendan Begley), she recently took to singing. The story goes that she rather had to be forced into recording a song for the 2008 IFF sampler (#37). Her singing has improved and matured since that debut. Niamh is no Dolores Keane, but the girlish rendition of the emigration song "Paddy's Lamentation" (which has been often recorded, including Andy M. Stewart for the 10th IFF tour in 1991) has a charm of its own. A stark contrast to the warning cry better stay at home instead of being slaughtered in the American Civil War. By the way, Tony O'Flaherty is on piano here. This is the only song in English, later on Niamh sings the Gaelic "Cailleach an Airgid", which in English means "Hag with the Money", and is played as a jig under this title (e.g. by Mat Walklate who is joining Niamh on this year's IFF tour -> #41). You can watch a nice video of the song on Youtube.
The second Gaelic song is "'Se Fath mo Bhuartha" (The Reason for My Sorrow) with Niamh on vocals and violas and her father Eoin on the zither. This horizontal wire-strung lap harp of Third Man fame (#40) is not very typical for Irish music, though it is actually played quite similar as the harp and indeed matches the sound of the originally wire-strung harp. Here it comes full circle, because Niamh's uncle Pádraig Ó Carra (zither) played with Maire Ní Chathasaigh (harp -> #37), Maírtín O'Connor (accordion -> #39) and Ide Ní Fhaolain (fiddle) at the 2nd Irish Folk Festival in 1975, the group's name being Comhluadar.
What more should be mentioned? Perhaps the "Muineira de Pontesampaio", a Galician tune type similar to the jig, learned from Carlos Nunez of course. "Lonesome Eyes" is a slow air from the late Cape Breton fiddler Jerry Holland; Manus McGuire plays second fiddle here and Denis Carey piano (#40). The recording of the "Knocknaboul" polkas with guitarist Mike Galvin has already been featured on the 2008 IFF sampler (#37); three polkas from the Sliabh Luachra area close to Niamh's hometown of Killarney (#42).
Niamh Ní Charra seems almost permanently on the road these days, so she will probably hit a town nearby. Seek her out, you won't regret it.
Walkin' T:-)M

Shannon Heaton "The Blue Dress"
Label: Eatsrecords; CD009; 2010
I just had the pleasure to see Shannon Heaton live in concert (FW#42). Having made a couple of albums (#27, #31, #35, #39), this is her first real solo album. Though supported by a couple of fellow musicians, first of all her partner Matt Heaton (guitar & bouzouki), as well as Maeve Gilchrist (harp), Paddy League (percussion) and Liz Simmons (guitar). This time Shannon stays away from singing and concentrates fully on her flute playing which is terrific. There are 26 single tunes arranged in 12 sets. More than half of the tunes are traditional Irish, some popular like the "Flogging Reel" or the "Irish Washerwoman" jig. Some I heard for the first time, e.g. the "High Caul Cap" polka and the jig "Humours Of Castlecomer" (which are both in O'Neill's though). There is only one composition from another contemporary player, "44 Mill Street" from German flutist Kerstin Otten, but 8 original tunes of her own, including the lavish "Blue Dress" waltz, which took her favorite dress as inspiration. "Dennis Watson's" is a gorgeous reel. As a speciality Shannon has adapted "Sonny Brogan's Reel" from the slide "Over the Hill," and the "99 Polka" from Randal Bays' "99 March".
By the way, Shannon is a committed flute teacher as well. Her free podcast features a different Irish tune every month, have a look @
Walkin' T:-)M

Faran Flad "Maiden Voyage"
Wild Boar Music; WBM21088; 2010
Faran Flad is a Flemish quartet. Well, start again ... Heather Grabham (vocals, whistle) is from England, but well known in Belgium through her stint with the Flemish folk rock group Kadril (FW#21). So there's the connection with Kadril's founding member Erwin Libbrecht (bouzouki, mandolin), who is master of ceremonies here. Furthermore the band features Jan Debrabandere (guitar) and Luc Pilartz (fiddle), plus some supporting bass and percussion. The name Faran Flad is made up from old German, Celtic and English words and means something like travel splendidly - proto-Germanic faran became fahren (i.e. drive) in contemporary German. Faran Flad's maiden voyage takes them through fine contemporary Irish music which is subtly arranged. Besides traditional tunes such as the popular "Jim Ward's Jig," recent compositions such as Paul Roche's "Aaron's Key" (with half a dozen recordings recently), there are some of Erwin Libbrecht's own, Flemish overtones are probably not by chance. My favourite is the set featuring the "Modal Hornpipe", Bill Black's "Beal Bocht" and Charlie McKerron's "Bulgarian Red" (the latter had been recorded lately by the Battlefield Band -> #40). First track however ist the traditional English song "Shaking of the Sheets." Steeleye Span did it so well as a pop song, Faran Flad's more folksy version is a nice kick-off. Further songs include the traditionals "Lovely Nymph" and "Fair Maid" (always thinking about the one thing, eh?). The most interesting is the oriental sounding version of "Death And the Lady," and in the end we get "One Misty Moisty Morning" (Steeleye Span again).
Walkin' T:-)M

Various Artists "The Battle of Prestonpans 1745 - Music and Song of the Campaign"
Greentrax; CDTRAX356; 2010
In July 2010, the Prestonpans Tapestry was unveiled, depicting in 103 panels the first major clash in the second Jacobite rebellion of 1745 at Prestonpans, Scotland, where the Highland army led by Charles Edward Stuart defeated the British. As an audio companion to the tapestry the Greentrax label created a CD of songs and music from its back catalogue relating to Prestonpans and the prior history.
On 25th July 1745, 25 year old Bonnie Prince Charlie came from France and landed near Moidart in the Scottish Highlands. "The King Has Landed in Moidart," performed by The Drambuie Kirkliston Pipe Band, is a fraction of a pibroch (pipe piece) celebrating the landing. "An Fhideag Auirgid" (The Silver Whistle) is a traditional Gaelic song, meant to incite the clans. It is sung here by Capercaillie's Karen Matheson (#31). "Came Ye Ower Frae France," mocking the English king, is one of the best known songs relating to the era. There are numerous recordings (from Steeleye Span to the Tannahill Weavers), here it is from The Whistlebinkies (#9). "Charlie's Landing" is from the pen of Lady Nairne and sung by Jean Redpath (#41), "McLean's Welcome" is sung by The McCalmans (#41).
Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his banner at Glenfinnan on 19th August 1745. The Drambuie Kirkliston Pipe Band plays a set of pipe tunes whose titles are referring to the event (John Roy Stewart is the best known tune -> #34, #38). "Agus Ho Mhorag" by Joan MacKenzie is a Gaelic waulking song, and the Corries bring "News from Moidart" (I thought it a rather obscure song, but it had even been recorded by a German band -> #33).
The Jacobite army advanced south calling the clans to arms. "The White Cockade" by The Sangsters is referring to the badge worn by the Jacobites. "Bonnie Prince Charlie" and "Rise! Rise! Lowland and Highland Men" are songs from James Hogg, delivered by the McCalmans again. It is followed by three marching tunes played by The 1st Battalion The Black Watch Pipe Band, "Ye Jacobites By Name" is best known as a song, which almost every folk group plays.
Eventually the Highland army met a small royal force led by General John Cope at Prestonpans. The battle was over in 15 minutes with hundreds killed or wounded and 1,500 taken prisoner. "The Battle of Prestonpans" by the Corries is an excerpt from the local farmer Adam Skirving's poem "Tranent Muir". It is a historically quite accurate description of the battle. "Lady Frances Gardiner's Lament" by John Lindsay is sung by Coreen Scott to the tune of the Burns song "Lord Gregory". Hit of the day became another poem from Skirving, "Hey Johnnie Cope are ye waukin' yet?," as popular as "Ye Jacobites" until this very day. Here it is sung by Ceolbeg ft. Davy Steele (#18). It is a catchy, but mostly historically inaccurate insult to Cope (Robert Burns later wrote his own words to the song -> #40), insinuating he fled from the battlefield.
The album concludes with "Sound the Pibroch," a field recording featuring eight of the tapestry's stitchers singing away while at work. Following Prestonpans, fortune turned very soon for Charlie and the Highlanders were butchered at Culloden Moor the following year.He himself made it back to the continent - the youthful hero ending up a hopeless drunk.
Walkin' T:-)M

The Kane Sisters "Side by Side"
Label: Own label; DM003; 2010
"Side by Side" is the third album of fiddling sisters Liz and Yvonne Kane (FW#24, #31, #31) from Letterfrack, Co. Galway, Ireland. A short bio: both graduated from whistle to fiddle, one of their teachers being their grandfather Jimmy Mullen. He also planted the love to Michael Coleman, Finbarr Dwyer and others the siblings often refer to. Liz and Yvonne left their first impression when touring with Sharon Shannon & The Woodchoppers.
Most tracks here have been recorded in Liz's living room in Letterfrack, thanks to Ronan Browne's mobile recording studio. They were joined in session style by guitarist Daithi Sproule (#36), bouzouki player Mick Conneely (#21) and Patsy Broderick on piano. Furthermore, Ottawa Valley stepdancer Nathan Pilatzke beat it out on a wooden plank in her kitchen. It is a rather unique set of tunes: the hornpipe "Thomond Bridge," here in B flat, followed by Paddy O’Brien’s "Boys of Youghalarra". Liz and Yvonne love complex tunes with many notes in it, so there are just some rolls in it and no other ornamentation. Proceedings kick off with three grand reels, Ed Reavy's "Starry Lane to Monaghan" (which I hear here for the first time), Finbarr Dwyer's "Star of Ireland" (dito), and the well-known traditional "Sean Sa Ceo" (recorded many times). It is immediately followed by Liz's self-penned jigs "Deer and a Hare" and "Pangur Ban". And so forth, more reels, more jigs, more Liz's, but also the slow air "O'Rahilly's Grave" and the song air "Tipperary So Far Away" (the Clancy Brothers did sing it). The final track is the reel "Side by Side" from Liz, and this is exactly what they do, playing at close quarters, side by side, as one.
Walkin' T:-)M

Joy Dunlop "Dùsgadh (Awakening)"
Label: Sradag Music; SRM001; 2010
Scots Gaelic singer Joy Dunlop is from the village of Connel in Argyll. Involved with Gaelic culture from an early age, she became a popular language teacher and a most promising performer of Gaelic balladry. She already recorded two songs on Scottish Harp player Rachel Hair's "The Lucky Smile" (FW#39). Now Joy's debut album "Dùsgadh" offers 12 more tracks, featuring violin and viola player Patsy Reid (#38) and other guests. Joy's awakening is introduced with "Nach Truagh Leat Mi 's Tu 'n Eirinn" (Pity You and I Were Not in Ireland), a bittersweet love song from the 1940s which I heard before from Christine Primrose (#20). "A Mhairead nan cuiread" (O Wily Margaret) is a traditional waulking song. Even in this more merry genre Joy keeps a gentle pace, and I can't escape a melancholic feel. However, next comes a set of Gaelic mouth music (puirt a beul), starting with a drunken Christmas night and finishing off with "Meal do Bhrogan" (Praise Your Shoes, see #41 for a Scottish-Asutralian version of this piece). It is jazzy and swinging at first, but then the hounds are loose. There's more rather unfamiliar material, sourced from the Isle of Barra ("Oran na bantraich" - The Widow's Song) up to Cape Breton ("Bithibh aotrom 's togaibh fonn" - Be Merry and Raise a Tune). "Hi Horo 's na Horo Eile" is a love song that goes with different tunes, I recall a version by Margaret Bennett (#36). "Thig am Bata" (The Boat Will Come) is a well-known murder tale (e.g. Julie Fowlis -> #41). Joy has clear bright vocals, and she's very good in carrying the emotion of each story, be it passion or pain. Entirely sung in Gaelic, the sleeve notes include lyrics, translations and background notes.
Walkin' T:-)M

Colum Sands & Maggie MacInnes "The Seedboat (Bàta an t-Sìl)"
Label: Spring Records;SCD 1061; 2010
The Seedboat sails from Barra shore, young Donald’s gone to Newry, and though he swears a swift return, til then she’ll miss him dearly ... The macaronic - i.e. bi-lingual English and Gaelic - "Bata n t-Sil" (The Seedboat) is an adaption of the traditional Scots Gaelic song "Gur e mo ghille dubh dhonn" (see for example FW#34). Two hundred years ago, Donald went on a shopping trip from the Hebrides to the Northern Irish coast to buy whisky for his wedding, but (un)fortunatly fell in love with a Newry girl never to return to his native shores. This was the birth of a musical meeting between Gaelic singer and harpist Maggie MacInnes from Barra in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland (her mother is the legendary singer Flora MacNeil) and singer-songwriter Colum Sands of the musical family from Co. Down in Northern Ireland (#23, #27, #41). Colum and Maggie connect - hands across the ocean - both their homeplaces with music and song. It is a nice selection of songs. There's traditional Gaelic songs (Colum put English lyrics to some). In the story of "Dh'fhalbh mo nighean chruinn donn" it is a girl travelling to Newry to wed another. In Robert Burns' "It Was A' for Our Rightfu' King" the man leaves to fight in a foreign war. "Ard ti Cuan" (The Quiet Land of Eirean) is a well-known Gaelic ballad, sung on the Irish side of the ocean (e.g. #36) as well as on the Scottish (#36). Here it is sung in an English version, the chorus only being in Gaelic. It's a song being in the Sands fanily repertoire for quite some time (#22). Colum's original song "The Wave Upon the Shore" takes up the metaphor of the seedboat and travelling across the sea: the sea was the road and the boat was the way. There's also instrumental music, such as the 17th century harp piece "Rory Dall's Port".,
Walkin' T:-)M

Matt Cranitch & Jackie Daly "The Living Stream"
Label: Own label; MJM001; 2010
See also the ar-
in this issue
No, I will not explain anything about Sliabh Luachra music anymore here, you can read about it elsewhere. So - taking this for granted, let me tell you that the fiddle is the instrument most associated with the particular Sliabh Luachra tradition of Irish music, the accordion only recently became domestic. Though probably nobody else embodies the spirit of Sliabh Luachra music as button accordion player Jackie Daly and fiddle player Matt Cranitch, who know each other since being kids. Jackie is from Kanturk in North Cork and had been a member of popular traditional Irish bands such as De Dannan, Patrick Street (
#24) and Arcady (#35). He is known for musical partnerships with fiddlers, as Kevin Burke for example (see review below). Matt had been a founding member of the band Na Fili and currently lives in Cork. His current outfit is Sliabh Notes (#23), alongside Dónal Murphy (#40).
"The Living Stream" features 11 fiddle/accordion duets, with Paul De Grae adding guitar and Brid Cranitch piano on only three tracks. Many are local and rare tunes, associated with the names of O'Keeffe, Murphy and Clifford. In Sliabh Luachra polkas and slides predominate the dance music, when listening only, says Matt, reels are most popular, then jigs, polkas, slides and hornpipes. The CD starts with the well-known "Tenpenny Jig" as played by Julia Clifford, followed by a tune named after Art O'Keeffe, a tin whistle player and neighbour of Denis Murphy. There is a three-part version of this jig in O'Neill's called "The Hare in the Corn," which had been recorded several times. Then there's polkas, including Jackie's own "Rakes of Merlot," a word-play on the popular polka "Rakes of Mallow". He also adapted a song air that is often played as a polka and turned it into a slide, "Neili," and wrote the album's title tune, the slide "An Ghlaise Bheo" (The Living Stream). Both artists are fond of the slow air and they get their respective solo spots; Jackie does "Ceo ar Mhuisire" (Fog on Mushera Mountain), an air he'd known for ages but had no name for it, so he put one to it himself. Matt's is "Caoineadh An Spailpin" (The Farm Labourer's Lament), sourced from Sean O Riada (#28).
"The Living Stream" is entertaining from beginning to end, and have, by the way, excellent liner notes by Jackie Small of the Irish Traditional Music Archive.
Walkin' T:-)M

Feast of Fiddles "Walk Before You Fly"
Label: Own label; CDFOF005; 2010
The British fiddle orchester Feast of Fiddles (FW#25) is touring the British Isles annually, but is not known for a huge recording output. So "Walk Before You Fly" indeed is their first studio album. The line-up consists of seven well-travelled fiddlers - Phil Beer (#34) Garry Blakeley, Peter Knight (#40), Tom Leary, Ian Cutler, Chris Leslie (#39), Brian McNeill (#42) - plus six experienced musicians to support: Hugh Crabtree (melodeon), Dave Harding (bass), Dave Mattacks (drums), John Underwood and Martin Vincent (acoustic and electric guitars), and especially for this studio recording a brass section. "Walk Before You Fly," the Steeleye/Fairport folk-rock tracks are derived from the 2009 tour set, is adventurous and flamboyant from start to finish. The CD kicks off with Elmer Bernstein's "Magnificent Seven" theme mixed with two traditional jigs. Spectacular start which should put a smile on anybody's face. Next is "Music For A Found Harmonium," Penguin Cafe Orchestra's Simon Heffes' tune which had been turned into a reel by the trad music community (see e.g. #35). Feast of Fiddles like the movies and love rock music: there's Monty Norman's "James Bond" theme, and the showstopper is a medley in which Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" and Deep Purple's "Black Night" blend with the "Butterfly" and "Drops of Brandy" slip jigs. There are songs as well. Hugh Crabtree brought one, Chris Leslie delivers Michael Martin Murphy's "Geronimo's Cadillac" (Dick Gaughan did this once as well). Some tunes are originals by Leary and Crabtree, eventually Brian McNeill's "Tall Ships in their Prime" ends a magnificient set. Magnificent 7 no, but 7+ ...
Walkin' T:-)M

Jules Bitter & Tom Acton "The Hill of Women"
Label: Own label; FPCD006; 2010
No word on Dutch flutist Jules Bitter here (just follow the links -> FW#24, #40). Tom Acton is a Dublin-born singer-songwriter that settled in the Netherlands. "The Hill of Women" is a selection of Tom's poetry Jules put a Celtic soundscape to. Tom recites his original work, covering a wide range of topics (I can and will not judge the quality of the poetry). For example, "The Hill of Women" is relating to a burial place for women on Omey Island off the Connemara coast. The selection also includes two poems by William Butler Yeats ("Song of Wandering Aengus", "The Stolen Child") and the 9th century poem "The Old Woman of Beara." I suppose the original poem is in Irish, but the sleeve notes don't say who did the English translation.
To give you an idea what this album is all about: the opener is Yeats' "Song of Wandering Aengus" recited by Tom Acton, background music is the ancient Irish song air "Roisin Dubh," taken from Jules' "Druid Dance" album, featuring Jules on whistle and Rob Bitter on keyboards and Zara Roberts on harp. Next is an instrumental only track, the well-known reel "The Bucks of Oranmore." What was new to me is that the Gaelic title is "Bocannai Uarain Mhoir," bochai translates as boys. Jules is supported here by Philip Masure of Comas and Urban Trad on guitar (#32, #34). A winter poem is followed by the popular three-part reel "Christmas Eve". This time Jules doesn't supply the background story, its title actually has nothing to do with the winter and christmas season. The reel is a composition by Galway fiddler Tommy Coen which had been taken up by Irish radio for a programme broadcasted on Christmas Eve in the 1950s. Fair enough, I play it myself relating to Christmas. And so forth. Let's not forget another guest, accordion ace Dave Munnelly (#27). Last track is the popular reel "Farewell to Erin," a fitting ending.,
Walkin' T:-)M

Kevin Burke & Cal Scott "Suite"
Loftus Music; LM004; 2010
Kevin Burke is a world-renowned fiddler, born in London to Irish parents, who is a resident of Portland, Oregon since 1979. In the interim he played with Irish music groups as The Bothy Band (FW#38) and Patrick Street (#24). When multi-instrumentalist Cal Scott (here on guitar only) is not performing with the eight piece folk ensemble The Trail Band, he is writing film and television scores. Kevin and Cal first met while working on a television documentary about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. This resulted in their first album "Across the Black River." "Suite" is their second release. Kevin plays what is known as the Sligo fiddle style, highly ornamented but smooth and mellow. The selections feature traditional tunes as well as one by Kevin ("Stirabout Road") and - hear! hear! - four compositions by Cal, including a reel with the name "Kiss the Bride" (which is not the same as the one in O'Neill's) and a neat waltz. These sets are recorded with the help of Irish band Beoga (#38) and Dave Captein on double bass.
But actually you get two albums in one here. The middle section, the "Irish Session Suite," is an extended medley of 10 traditional tunes arranged in 4 movements for string quartet. Now it gets really interesting. Kevin is playing lead fiddle, Andrew Ehrlich second violin, Charles Noble the viola and Justin Kagan the cello. The tunes were chosen from the repertoire of popular session tunes: the first movement consits of four jigs, Kevin once recorded the "Cliffs Of Moher" on his album "If The Cap Fits" (1978). The second movement is a single hornpipe, "Kitty O'Neill," which I actually don't find that popular. Next is the air "An Cailin Deas Cruaite Na mBo" (The Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow), which is popular and crops up every now and then. The fourth and last movement is made up of four reels; once again, Kevin did the "Beare Island" reel on his album "Portland", which he recorded with guitarist Micheal O Domhnaill in 1982. The idea of blending traditional and classical music is not a novel one, but - hats off! - this time it works much better than previous efforts.
Walkin' T:-)M

Stevie Dunne "About Time"
Label: Own label; SDB20101; 2010
Stevie Dunne is a tenor banjo player based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but originally from Clogherhead in Co. Louth. Steve played both banjo and guitar on Paul McGlinchey's "Unearthed" (FW#37), "About Time" is his debut solo recording, featuring 11 tracks of 27 single tunes. The album kicks off with a set of two jigs: "King of the Pipers" is popular all over the place, "House On The Hill" less so. Stevie's performance is firm and steady, he provides some nice ornamentation on the banjo. He also does his own guitar acompaniment which is very rhythmical and dynamic. The next set of two neat original tunes introduces his first guest; Donál O’ Connor is the son of fiddler Gerry O’Connor and singer Eithne Ní Uallacháin (Lá Lugh -> #31) and a member of John McSherry's (#42) band At First Light (#33). Here he provides some ethereal keyboard sounds. Later on Steve is joined by further guests: Ryan O'Donnell on bouzouki and Francis McIlduff of the legendary McPeake family on bodhran. There's some more original tunes, but mostly a selection of traditional and contemporary tunes (e.g. accordionist Paddy O'Brien and fiddler Seamus Gibson are much favoured).
"About Time" is a well-arranged, dynamic and vibrant production - though subtle and sublime if necessary.
Walkin' T:-)M

Bobby Gardiner "The High Level"
Label: Own label; 2010
Bobby Gardiner (FW#7) is one of the most prominent traditional Irish accordion players, bridging the gap to one or two generations of Irish musicians earlier. In the mid 1950's, when he was just fifteen, the Clareman joined with the Kilfenora Céilí Band (#39). In 1960 he emigrated to the US, where he recorded the LP "Memories of Clare". Five decades later, he is settled in Tipperary in the south of Ireland again, while Comhaltas tours took him around the world every once in a while. Still not retired from the accordion game, Bobby is joined by his wife Ann and their three daughters Kelly, Fiodhna and Lynda on a new recording aptly titled "The High Level," referring to a well-known hornpipe, but can also be read as obeisance to the abilities of this talented accordionist.
The CD kicks off with two popular reels, "First House in Connaught" and "The Wind That Shakes the Barley." It is a live recording from the kitchen, John Coakley adds some piano. His precise accompaniment is heard here and there throughout the album. There is more support by Mary Kelly (harp) on a couple of hornpipes and Brian Morrissey (banjo) and Donnchadh Gough (bodhran) on two reels. The slow air "Easter Snow" features his daughter Fiodhna on the low whistle, Kelly plays the piano on her original air "Ré Nua," there's also Eileen O'Brien on the fiddle and Lynda on the concertina. There's more tunes than I can mention: Junior Crehan's "Luachrachan Jig" (#42), Scott Skinner's "Laird of Drumblair" (#24), the Scottish strathspey is played in hornpipe style here with lots of triplets. "La Bourrasque" is a valse musette which had been composed by one Michel Peguri about 1900 in Paris. The tune has already been recorded by Dominique Dupuis (#38), and only recently by box player Christy Leahy (see review below). There is also a song: "Fair of Ennistymon" has been written by his wife Ann after a visit to Bobby's home turf Aughdarra in Co. Clare. The tune has been made up by Lynda, and the couple is singing it together.
This gorgeous accordion album concludes with the five-part reel "Lord Gordon's" which Bobby had learned from the gramophone, and Ann throws in a fitting poem: The gramophone evokes in us that lovely old time sound. Remember how the pitch would drop if you didn't keep it wound. Technology is much advanced - there are iPods now I'm told - but none of them can bring a tear like the gramophone of old.
Walkin' T:-)M

Christy Leahy & Caoimhín Vallely "Christy Leahy & Caoimhín Vallely"
Label: Own label; LVCD 001; 2010
Christy Leahy is an accordion player from Co. Cork, who had been taught by Bobby Gardiner (see review above) and is best known from the traditional Irish music group North Cregg (FW#29). Caoimhín Vallely (#31) is from the well-known musical family from Armagh, now residing in Cork as well. Both as fiddler and piano player (he does the latter here) he performed with North Cregg and the Buille trio (#31). The album kicks off with the polkas "Buain na Rainich," originally a Scots Gaelic song, and "The Kerry Bar". The first one is a traditional, the second one composed by fiddler Matt Cranitch (see review above). Caoimhín's piano style is far off the simple vamping technique, he has a fully developed and eclectic approach filling the gaps left by the box. Track #2 is the traditional hornpipe "Spellan the Fiddler" from O'Neill's dance music collection, followed by "Back in the Garden," which I heard twice in my life before. First by flutist John McKenna on a 78rpm recording from the 1920s/30s, second on fiddler Jesse Smith's solo album (#25). The tune is played at breakneck speed. There is no need to do so, actually the melody isn't very lovely played at this pace. Questioned why play so fast, the answer probably would be: because I can! Fair enough. The point I like to make here is: whereas less superior musicians would have stumbled and fell from grace, Christy is always in firm control. Further memorable (or ear-catching) selections of the 13 medleys of mostly Sliabh Luachra music (#42): Daithi Sproule's slow air "The Crow in the Sun" (#36), a re-Irishised old-time tune called "Jenny on the Railroad", the valse musette "La Bourrasque," which Christy's mentor Bobby Gardiner had just recorded as well (see review above). There even is a humorous song about Cork's patron saint, "Hymn to St. Finbarr" by Con Fada Ó Drisceoil. I can't tell you who is the singer, unfortunatly there are no lyrics included in the package and I don't get all the words. Thanks to Google, here's the lyrics. However, words are printed in the sleeve notes for the tunes of the following polka set "The Kerry Cow/The Rakes of Mallow/The Britches Full of Stitches," though it is not sung at all. Well - minor flaws of an otherwise excellent recording.
Walkin' T:-)M

Rob Say "O'er Lang at the Fair"
Veteran; VT157CD; 2010
Located on the border of England and Scotland, Northumberland has been the site of many cultural clashes. There are unique traditions like the rapper sword and the clog dance, and the Northumbrian small pipe is a particular type of bagpipe. Traditional music is similar to the Lowlands of Scotland, thus linked to Scottish and English music. Rob Say was born in Norfolk but moved to the North East of England at the age of 10 in 1985. As a boy he learned the English concertina based on his parents' pipe music, and then tried is father's set of small pipes. These 16 tracks feature half concertina, half pipes. Most tunes are of local provenience, and since I'm more familiar with Irish and Scottish music most of the tunes are unknown to me. Ok, there's Scottish fiddler Niel Gow's slow air "Farewell to Whisky" (Rob clarifies that it isn't a temperance tune, but written after the failure of the barley crop). Nathaniel Gow's slow air "Coilsfield House" I recall from a recording of Cape Breton's Beaton Family (FW#28). The Beatons also played the march "Because he was a Bonny Lad," as well as Rob's fellow Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell (#15) and Scottish piper Iain MacInnes (#30). Rob invented some elaborate variations on the tune over the years. "The Blokes" are better known as "The Boys of Bluehill," this here is a rather unusual version of the well-known hornpipe. Rob Say plays mostly unaccompanied, his performance is lively and swinging but unhurried, even on the faster paced selections. On a couple of tunes Will Chamberlain provides piano accompaniment, fellow piper Andy May joins in on a jig set and a reel (#40).
Walkin' T:-)M

Electric Céili "Electric Céili"
Mes Entertainment; MES EC 001; 2009
Electric Céili assembles six young daredevils from the traditional Irish music circuit. Fiddler Daire Bracken played with the bands Danu (FW#42) and Slide (#42), Tim Murray has been the guitar player of Cian (#20). Furthermore there's Barra Mc Allister on flute and Gary Roche on pipes, and this traditional and acoustic outfit is completed by Peter Eades (keyboards, bass) and Paul Moran (drums). The material is strictly Irish trad, however funked and spiced up. Some instrumental sets are straight rockers, others jazzy pieces. No better way to start things off with Maurice Lennon and Paul Roche's reel "The Golden Stud". The reel had been played for some time in the session I attend, so it is fairly popular. Curiously it haven't been recorded that much, I recall only Cora and Breda Smyth (#32) and the latest Old Blind Dogs album (see review above). There's more reels, quite fittingly for this kind of approach, but also a lot of jigs, a set of slides from the Bothy Band and a set of hornpipes. There are no big surprises here, the material is quite familiar. It is the rocker's attitude that makes the difference. The band is powerful and energetic but never betrays the roots of their music. Despite it is titled Electric Céili, there's nothing electric here - save the charge you might get from too much listening.
Walkin' T:-)M

Alasdair Roberts & Friends "Too Long In This Condition"
Navigator Records; NAVIGATOR040; 2010
Once a contemporary singer-songwriter, in the last decade Alasdair Roberts evolved more and more into an interpreter of traditional songs of the British Isles. He recorded a first album of traditional songs in 2001, turned again to his own material, but drawn back into the imagery of British roots music. "Too Long In This Condition" is his third traditional album, featuring a cast of fellow Glaswegians such as cellist Christine Hanson, piper Donald Lindsay (#27) and singer Emily Portman. It is delivered in a kind of 1970's psychedelic folk rock, driven along by electric bass and electric guitar. In the eye of the storm Alasdair is picking on the acoustic guitar and delivering the message with clear and bright vocals, sometimes a bit too light and too warm for these dramatic tales. The 10 tracks are to be found in the Child and Roud's collections, Alasdair notes sung versions in the School of Scottish Studies sound archive: "The Demon Lover" (aka The Ship's Carpenter, The Banks of Sweet Viledee), "Young Emily" (or variously Edmund, Edwin or Emslie), "Long Lankin" (done by Steeleye Span), "Two Sisters" (that travelled from Britain, -> #40, to the Americas -> #29), and the most famous of all English ballads, "Barbara Allen". Unfortunatly there are no lyrics in the sleeve notes, but Alasdair makes mention of his quite fanciful guitar tunings and his use of the capodaster. For those who like to have a go too.
Walkin' T:-)M

Euphorica "Genesis"
Label: Own label; 2009
Euphorica is the collaboration of a German vocalist, shawm and bagpipes player (Phaedro), and three Czech ladies, namely Eva Žídková (vocals, percussion), Iva Šářecová (vocals, cister) and Lucy Rút Bittnerová (vocals, recorders - she seems to have left the group since recording this album).
Is it mediæval music with an Easter European touch? Or is it Balkan music slingshot back into the Middle Ages? It possibly helps looking to the tracks of the "Genesis" album. The CD kicks off with an Anglo-Normand ballad ("Salva Nos", Latin for Save Us, and wasn't it the title track of the Mediæval Baebes debut album?), followed by the Sephardic love song "Avre Este Abajour" in the Ladino language of the mediterranean Jews. Next comes a Macedonian folk song, the well-known "Sto mi e milo" (see the review of the German band Liederlicher Unfug in this FW issue for another version), a traditional German dance and a Turkish song, the Swedish carol "Tempus adest floridum" (It is Time for Flowering) and the Greek "Miserlou", the latter being popular in rebetiko and klezmer music, belly dancing and - thanks to the Beach Boys - American surf pop. This should get you an idea. The musical voyage eventually ends with the instrumental version of an Arab wedding song.
The angelic voices of the Czech ladies make a charming contrast to Phaedro's sinister chant. His wind instruments play both flattering and frantic tunes, driven by the female powers of cister and various drums. The mediæval, pan-European music genre is scarcely capable of producing anything better.
Walkin' T:-)M

Peut-être Demain "Peut-être Demain"
Wild Boar Music; WBM21094; 2010
Once upon a time six young musicians met at the Gooikoorts folk training camp. They decided to start a band and played their first gig at this Belgian festival as well. The rest is history as they say, playing the boombals circuit, that's what they call bal folk or tanzhaus elsewhere. So it's just that they performed at the Dutch Folkwoods festival in August 2010 (FW#43).
Peut-être Demain are Linde Carrijn (fiddle), Lisa Jordens (fiddle, vocals), Frauke Bogaert (chromatic accordion), Gielis Cautaers (drums) and Wouter Devriese (electric and acoustic guitar). They play no-nonsense dance music, but they are rocking the tradition with electric guitar, bass and drums. Tradition? - having said this, the instrumental tunes are in the traditional vein only. Perhaps you may identify a Scottishe, an Andro or a Waltz rhythm, but the tunes have been composed by the band members without exception, mostly by fiddler Linde Carrijn. There are songs too. The one in French that gave the band its name, "Peut-être Demain", as well as the Flemish "Het Blijft" and "Marie" are nice, flowing folk-pop songs. It reminds me sometimes of the finest moments of veteran Belgian folk rock band Kadril (FW#21) - perhaps no wonder, the disc has been produced by Kadril's Erwin Libbrecht - without becoming a clone of their forerunners. Here comes the next generation. Say what you like, their self-titled debut album is a strong and very promising recording.
Walkin' T:-)M

Ceilí Moss "La vie sent quoi?"
Label: Own label; 2010
Ceilí Moss is a folk rock band from Belgium which have been founded in 1996 as a Celtic band - hence céilí (which is Gaelic for a traditional social gathering involving music and dance), Moss was the nickname of a pub proprietor in Namur. "La vie sent quoi?" is the 4th album after a major line-up change and an even bigger musical evolution.
Ceilí Moss is Laurent Leemans (vocals, guitar), Matthieu Collard (fiddle), Yves van Elst (transverse flute, pipes), Stephane Jalhay (guitar),Thibaud Misson (bass) and Jeremy Pinera (drums). The album kicks off with a French folk-punk chanson in the tradition of Debout sur le Zinc (one example I can relate to -> FW#22) - without the electric guitars. There's more of this later. Second is an instrumental, somehow mediæval-sounding original tune by Yves that soon gets out of control with frantic improvisations. The next one is said to be a traditional Romanian melody, though it rather sounds Scandinavian to me. It flows very atmospheric for a while, then again becoming a Dervish-like Balkan polka (if there is such a thing). The traditional Irish song "The Next Market Day" aka "Maid Went to Comber" recalls the band's Celtic origins. Compare the versions of Dutch band Fling (#21) and Irish singer Jim McCann (#18); the tune to which it is sung is also used for the better-known ballad "The Bold Fenian Man". In the middle section Ceilí Moss incorporates the Renaissance tune "Tourdion." There is also a Dutch air from the 17th century and another original compostion by Yves. It's a bit too simplistic though, and it reveals the shortcomings of an otherwise enjoyable folk rock album that the arrangements rely too much on the change of the leading instrument but melodic variations. "Morphine Sweet" is a nice and relaxed English pop ballad by Laurent (he is a decent singer too), there's the Finnish "Tutskovin Polka" and the Irish "Glenside Polka" (I heard the last one from German speedfolker Fiddler's Green). What sounds like a French or Breton carol is an adaption of a piece from the Carmina Burana, "In taberna quando sumus," featuring the original Latin part recited in the middle.
"La vie sent quoi?" finishes off with an acapella excerpt from Oscar Wilde's "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" put to music. Yes, it's a strange mix, but it works. Nothing feels out of place, and it's a slick production too.
Walkin' T:-)M

Tony McManus "Fingerstyle Guitar Workshop - Celtic Jigs and Reels" [DVD + Book]
Acoustic Music; FP 8107; 2010; Playing time: 01:08:43 h
The "Fingerstyle Guitar Workshop" is a series of Acoustic Music's DVD/book tutorials introducing the mysteries of the Fingerstyle Guitar. This time it is "Celtic Jigs and Reels," and what better teacher to be found than Scottish guitar maestro Tony McManus. If you don't know him yet, just have a look at what's already have been written in these pages: FW#10, #22, #31, #38. On the DVD this self-taught virtuoso presents some of his guitar arrangements, most he recorded on his "Maker's Mark" album.
The first tune is the popular Irish jig "Rolling Waves" (D major, DADGAD tuning, capo on 2nd fret). At first Tony plays it at full speed (usually jig time is at 127 beats per minute). He explains the DADGAD tuning invented by Davy Graham (#38), which lies inbetween D minor and D major and is very popular in Celtic music. He demonstrates fingering, plucking and hammering, a particular triplet technique he robbed from Irish fiddlers, and plays the tune slowly. Now the first 15 minutes are over, next is the reel "Maids Of Mitchellstown". It is in D minor, not in reel time (222 bpm) but in the slowed down Bothy Band version (#30). Preceeding is a nice introduction, playing alternately D and A minor. Tony introduces a counter melody and a percussive slab of the bass strings. This is known by banjo players as frailing, Tony plays it with the back of the nail.
Piper Gordon Duncan's (#25) gentle "Sleeping Tune" (Gabe McVarish recorded it recently on the fiddle -> #42) uses a DADADE tuning, picked up from Martin Simpson (#41), but one step higher. Tony advises not to bury the tune in harmonies and chords, which can easily happen in fingerpicking. Then there's a medley of song airs, the Irish "Donal Og" (see e.g. #36 for a sung version) and Robert Burns "Lea Rig" (#25). This time it is dropped D tuning, Tony suggests ornamentation like a traditional singer would do. The four-part pipe reel "Dr McPhail's" from the "Ceol More" album concludes the lecture. Dick Gaughan's DAAEAE tuning (capo on 1st fret) approximates the sound of the bagpipes with a continous drone. Tony also explains the Scottish snap, which on the guitar is a quick hammering.
Well, there is much more than I quickly related here. Besides the DVD visuals, the transcriptions in the book (staff notes and tabulature) help to get into Tony's music and techniques.
Walkin' T:-)M

Mick Coyne, Nollaig Mac Cárthaigh, Paddy Keenan "Piper's Choice Volume 3" [DVD Video]
Na Píobairí Uilleann; NPU DVD 009; 2010; Playing time: 01:45 h
The first "Piper's Choice" DVD by the Society of Uilleann Pipers (NPU) was featuring Liam O'Flynn, Ronan Browne and Tommy Keane, second were Emmet Gill, Mick O'Brien and Jimmy O'Brien-Moran (FW#39). The third volume, presented by piper and RTÉ radio broadcaster Peter Browne, showcases another three virtuosic uilleann pipers - Mick Coyne, Nollaig Mac Cárthaigh and Paddy Keenan - demonstrating their skills on the pipes, performing their favourite pieces, and talking about their approach to the pipes and to the music.
Mick Coyne has a particular style with lots of triplets. He is very aware of what he's doing and what he's not and can tell about it and explain. So Mick is talking about variations, ornamentations, several techniques, and is giving examples (a DVD is very helpful to watch and listen). He plays some familiar jigs and reels, but also a couple of quadrilles he once used to perform with the Liverpool Ceili Band ("Off to Skelligs/The Midnight Ride"). He also plays the slow air "The Wounded Huzzar," and suggests to play an air in the same way as one would sing it. He advises to listen to the song lyrics and if necessary google for the words. Furthermore he is singing and playing the pipes simultaneously ("I am a Rambling Irishman"), though a lower key would suit his voice much better.
Nollaig Mac Cárthaigh is involved with the NPU since starting on the pipes. These days he is teaching weekly classes and did play a major role in the production of their tutorials. Here he demonstrates a wide spectrum of tune rhythms. He also plays a song air ("Johnny Seoige"), and also encourages to get a feeling of the song first. Finishing off with two polkas, "Tom Barrett’s" is transposed from the usual A to D.
Paddy Keenan (#23, #30) continues the tradition of the legendary travelling piper Johnny Doran. He relates some anecdotes from his illustrous career and plays some unusual tunes, with extensive us of his characteristic regulator playing.
This DVD and its previous two volumes could be your Choice if interested in the uilleann pipes, and pipers of all levels should get some fresh and novel ideas.
Walkin' T:-)M

Bill Evans & Megan Lynch "Bluegrass Jamming Essentials: Playing with the Pros" [DVD Video]
AcuTab; 2010; Playing time: 2:28 h
AcuTab's DVD project "Bluegrass Jamming Essentials" is aimed for intermediate performers aiming to play with other people in a jam or band situation to become be a better jammer or a better band member. It is presented by 5-string-banjo picker and fiddle player Bill Evans and Megan Lynch, respectively (FW#39). They front a band featuring mandolinist Adam Steffey, guitar player Tim Stafford and bass player David Thomas. There are a dozen tracks to jam along and even to play some solos, kicking off with the well-known song "Nine Pound Hammer," followed by several bluegrass session favourites. With 2 1/2 hours this lesson is extremely good value. The quintet gives very helpful and valuable tips about the ingredients of the Bluegrass sound and the space of each instrument, tuning, different tempi and what doing different at different speed, song keys, working with a capodaster, fills and back-up for singers, and - now it's getting pretty complex - creating solos for familiar and unfamiliar songs. They even discuss drive versus speed at some length and finish off with playing 3/4 time. It is a very easygoing lecture, for one thing is clear for Evans, Lynch & Co: the aim in playing music is having a good time.
Walkin' T:-)M

Sam Bush "All About Rhythm Mandolin!" [DVD Video]
Homespun; DVD-BSH-RL21; 2010; Playing time: 1:47 h
In March 2010, legislation passed in the state of Kentucky that officially named the town of Bowling Green the Birthplace of Newgrass and mandolin player Sam Bush the Father of Newgrass (FW#27). What better teacher can you get!? Though - Sam humours - he recalls meeting Bill Monroe as a young teen and demonstrating his mandolin playing, when Monroe offered the advice: stick to the fiddle!
Fortunatly Sam didn't. "All About Rhythm Mandolin!" is all about chopping. Sam's motto is Rhythm is fun! Starting out of an interview situation with Homespun's Happy Traum (#32), Sam relates the basics for about 20 minutes. He gives tips for tuning, for getting out of tune, getting an instrument and miking it. Then it's straight into things and how to kick the solo players with rhythm. He demonstrates simple chops for starters (Bill Monroe style), then it's getting more complicated and complex. The close-up and spilt-screen for left and right hand is very helpful. You can also print out a pdf booklet. Sam put a lot of thought in his rhythm playing, incorporating ideas from drum playing and from reggae music. The last half hour of the DVD is dedicated to playing mandolin and accompanying songs, here he does Bob Dylan's "Girl of the North Country" and Lowell George's "Sailin' Shoes". With some practising one should be able to become a decent chopper and strummer.
Walkin' T:-)M

"10-Minute Teacher The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl: Fairytale of New York" [DVD Video]
Omnibus; DV11517; 2010
The Pogues (FW#22, #30, #41) probably had their finest hour (and a big hit) in 1988 when recording their Christmas song "Fairytale of New York" (FW Xmas). The duet of the Pogues' frontman Shane McGowan and (the late) Kirsty MacColl (#17) became an instant classic and a great alternative to Silent Night and Jingle Bells. In this DVD from a series of 10 minute videos (including Clapton's "Tears in Heaven", Sting's "Fields of Gold", U2's "One" ...) Justin Morris presents the dropped D tuning on the guitar and shows the respective chords. He plays the original piano intro on the guitar, then shows picking patterns and strumming with on-screen chords and tablature. He goes through all the verses, the chorus and the interludes, then plays the full song. It actually takes 12 minutes, and of course, it will take you more than this to really know the song by heart, but it's quick anyway. The booklet features full notation, tablature and the complete lyrics - if you like to sing too.
Walkin' T:-)M

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