FolkWorld #46 11/2011

CD & DVD Reviews

Beoga "How to tune a fish"
Beoga Music, 2011

German CD Review

This album features some superb contemporary tunes in traditional Irish style. Beoga brings together the impressive talents of Damian McKee (button accordion), Sean og Graham (button accordion/guitars/mandolin etc), Eamon Murray (Bodhran, precussion), Liam Bradley (piano. keys, clavinet) and Niamh Dunne (vocals, fiddle). The tunes just burst of energy and fun, and are a rare delight to listen to. The songs, sung by Niamh, are more contemporary and tend to be influenced by Country music - they are certainly not bad, with Niamh being a good singer, but for me personally, they feel a bit out of place on this album. And I am sure that many will disagree with me on this! Still, for me, the cracking tunes alone are worth a purchase of this album.
© Michael Moll

The Greentrax 25th Anniversary Collection
"Music and Song from Scotland"
Greentrax, 2011

Article: Happy Birthday Greentrax

Greentrax, one of the most superb folk music labels around, celebrates this autumn its 25th anniversary. FolkWorld is paying tribute in an article in this issue. To toast the anniversary, Mr. Greentrax, Ian Green, has compiled another double CD with songs and tunes from the vast record collection that Greentrax has published over the last quarter of a century.
As Ian states, this is not necessarily a "best of" collection, but rather a compilation of 25 (plus 2 bonus) tracks which/whose artists have featured in some special way in the Greentrax history. So the album may be best described as the sound track to the "Greentrax years" chapter of Ian Green's autobiography ("Fuzz to Folk" - see FolkWorld feature). As a result I have to say that the choice of songs and tunes feels somewhat random to the listener, and I doubt that I will listen to this collection too often - it will certainly not become for me the kind of favourite that the superb 3-CD collection to celebrate Greentrax's 20th anniversary has.
That said, anybody will find some real highlights on the double-CD. And maybe it's alone worth a purchase for the one tune not previously released - the beautiful tune that Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham composed for Ian and June Green's golden wedding anniversaries.
Many happy returns Greentrax!
© Michael Moll

Samepico "Samepico"
Radici Music Records, 2010

This album is the result of a fortunate encounter at a sad event - guitarist Allessandro Bongi first heard singer/songwriter Antonio Cerfeda's voice at a funeral at a mutual friend - and was struck to the heart by that voice. And as things come, the encounter resulted in a joint project, published on this stunning album.
Antonio is a highly talented singer/songwriter with an impressive, very pleasant voice - combine that with the skills of arranger/guitarist Allessandro, and you have the prefect CD in your hand! In Antonio's songs, the Southern Italian traditions are skilfully captured - despite some of the songs having very modern themes (e.g. about the dumping of hundreds of drums containing contaminated transformer oils). Other songs have more traditional themes, and many are very lyrical - from the short resumes in English, the lyrics of the songs are very skilfully put together.
Also to those of us who don't understand the Italian lyrics, the album is very delightful. Antonio has a good voice, the music is lively and has some great arrangements (featuring e.g. accordion, tambourine, bass etc.). An excellent collaboration, which I can highly recommend.
© Michael Moll

Calicanto "Mosaico"
Felmay, 2011

The first two tracks of this CD made me rather optimistic about this album: The album starts off with a Grechesca arrangement which reminds me somewhat of Nordic modern folk sounds, which is followed by a beautiful slow song with harp. During the second song there are the first doubts - while the harp and song are beautiful indeed, the band should have kept it at that - and not add other instrumentation or whistling to it. After that, I found the CD increasingly disappointing. There are some great moments, but I find that the music is often too free style, and it feels like quite often the music does not lead anywhere, getting stuck in repetitive themes (which at times sound somewhat unmelodic and shrill).
Some talent is certainly there, but the album does have quite a few irritating moments.
© Michael Moll

Alessandro Tombesi "Barene"
Calicanto, 2010

Alessandro Tombesi is a young harp player from Padua who comes from a known family of traditional musicians. Visit the Calicanto, already for decades a famous Italian folk band, webpage and you will find the name Tombesi several times. Alessandro plays the harp since a young age and had a few known (European) harp players as his teacher. This debut album contains a combination of original work and traditional Italian pieces. Together with a strong selection of guest musicians (including Calicanto members) Alessandro Tombesi recorded a more than promising debut CD. The album has a fresh, sparkling sound and Tombesi shows to be a talented composer and musician. Nice harp solo’s, slight folk rock parts, tunes and a few songs. Always close to the (North) Italian tradition, occasionally some slight Celtic sounds and much more. It will be more than interesting to follow this young musician and see him develop his own style more and more. I think he can become such a musician that brings traditional music into a new generation, it needs time and the guts to follow his own ideas and undiscovered roads.
© Eelco Schilder

Tangoyim "Der Filosof"
Own label, 2011

Electric Balkan Jazz Club "Balkan Dogs"
Musique Estetica, 2010

Bakad Kapelye "Eins..und spielt!"
Own label, 2010

Orkestra del Sol "Lung Capacity"
Own label, 2011

Kalio Gayo "Parti y prije"
Own label, 2011

A bunch of brass/klezmer/Balkan albums starting with Tangoyim, a German duo formed by Stefanie Hölzle on vocals, violin and clarinet and Daniel Marsch on accordion and vocals. Since 2004 they perform Balkan and Yiddish music and today they call their music Yiddish tango. On their album Der filosof they combine popular Yiddish songs like Di grine kusine and A Yidishe mame with Balkan styled songs like the Bulgarian Marko Šeta and Tsona ide niz lozeto. In those last two Stefanie Hölzle is backed by Rebekka Hölzle and together they try to create an authentic Bulgarian vocal style. The album ends with two tango compositions sung by Fernando Cornejo. It’s not bad at all what this duo recorded, but instead of searching for those things that have these three styles in common, they just reproduce the styles as they are. I think it would be more interesting to search for what binds these three styles. Nevertheless a nice album with fine klezmer/Balkan influenced music.
The second album is by Electric Balkan Jazz Club and is called Balkan dog. It’s all in the (band) name. You get Jazz music with Balkan influences or the other way around. Mostly traditional pieces, well played with a nice modern Balkan Beat vibe, but also a good old retro jazz sound. This album takes you from dancing to tear jerking ballads. Very nice done, a pleasant album in the huge stream of Balkan beats related albums.
The third band is called Bakad Kapelye and their album Eins und spielt. This German quintet started to play together only four years ago and now their debut album is released. They play traditional tunes, mainly with a Jewish/Klezmer/Balkan background in their own arrangements. With drums, violin, accordion, guitar, clarinet, sax and more they play known and lesser known tunes in a nice, uncomplicated way. Their arrangements are a bit conventional and the music is not renewing at all, just straight on, nicely played, party music. Nothing more, nothing less.
The fourth album is called Lung capacity and is recorded by the eleven musicians of Orkestra del Sol. This young (and wild) brass band from the UK comes with a sunny debut album. On several brass instruments, accordion, drums, violin, piano and vocals, they bring a really great brass-folk. With influences from all over the globe, from South-America, East-Europe but also some UK and USA folk styles, reggae and so on. With a good dose of humor they recorded a feel good album. Well played, effective arrangements and really nice compositions. 100% sure this band is a real festival hit and will be a much wanted band for live events all over the world.
Article: Folk (in the) Woods The Dutch band Kalio Gayo is known in the lowlands for their great party concerts. This energetic ensemble is a real treat when you are in the mood for dancing. This new album is only a shadow of the bands live performing qualities. A nice mixture of Balkan influences with US folky styles, rock and world grooves. The musical arrangements are simple, but effective and the band has hearable pleasure in playing their music. But somehow Kalio Gayo didn’t succeed in catching the great live vibrations on this album, a pity.
© Eelco Schilder

Maïa Vidal "God is my bike"
Crammed Discs, 2011

The debut album by singer-songwriter Maïa Vidal is called God is my bike. This strange title suggests ditto music, well you won’t be disappointed. Vidal shows with this CD to be a fantastic singer, composer and musician. She has this bit airy, folk voice and fits with her compositions that are full of small sounds and nice alternative arrangements, in the more commercial orientated new-folk movement. Vidal is such an artist that somehow has a vivid, child like creativity without being childish. She plays with styles, she is folk, she is jazzy, she is global, but most of all she is a director of sounds. A strong debut album which might be the start of a great career.
© Eelco Schilder

Vicious World "Plays the Music of Rufus Wainwright"
Spinaround Records, 2011

Ssahha "Ummi"
Own label, 2011

Seth Kibel and Bay Jazz Project "Phonin’ it in"
Azalea City Recordings, 2011

Jacqui Dankworth "It happens quietly"
Specific Records, 2011

Marie-Laure "Simplement la vie"
NRW, 2011

The jazz septet Vicious World recorded eleven of Rufus Wainwright’s compositions in a instrumental jazz style. Being a big Rufus Wainwright fan, I was more than curious how his music would sound in a totally different setting. The album starts sunny with their relaxed version of Going to a town followed by a more melancholic Natasha which somehow is a bit dull. Much nicer is the more expressive and raw version of This love affair and The art teacher. What I like is that the band tried different jazz related styles and created a varied album. Some of the tracks surprise, others sound a bit too easy but overall a nice attempt to show a different side of Wainwrights music.
Pianist Amino Belyamani from Morocco is the central musician on the album by the group Ssahha. The Ummi CD contains nine of his compositions all with his jazzy sounding piano in the center of attention. This North-African ensemble plays a mixture of jazz and traditional North-African music. You can hear how the tradition influences the music in nice piano opening called Taqsim for ummi which is a sober piano composition which makes the piano almost sound like an ancient, traditional instrument. The rest of the ensemble exists out of musicians playing the bass, Ney, ud, flutes and many other traditional and more modern instruments. The compositions are strong and I think the combination of the more western orientated jazz music with the North-African sounds work perfectly. This ensemble created a very own sound and recorded a strong album.
Seth Kibel is a clarinet, saxophone and flute player from the USA and known for his klezmer related projects. This time he comes with a solo album, backed by pianist Sean Lane and bassist Bob Abbott. Two drummers and a vocalist do a guest appearance. Eight new recordings with a good old fashioned vibe. A few original material is mixed with compositions by known composers such as Gershwin and Berlin. Kibel and band plays them open in a sunny uncomplicated way. No world shocking new arrangements, just solid old time jazz. Very lovely.
Jacqui Dankworth has somehow a very recognizable, traditional jazz sound as well. Her much more orchestrated music fits perfectly to her smooth, soft voice. She sings songs from known and lesser known composers such as Cole Porter, Jimmy Dorsey and Oscar Hammerstein. She is backed by a romantic orchestra, this is the perfect midnight-romance album.
Another female jazz singer comes from Germany and is called Marie-Laure Timmich. Backed by a typical vocal jazz quartet on piano, bass, drums and percussion, she sings original material in combination with known songs such as La vie en rose, La foule and Ne me quitte pas. With a powerful voice she sings her way through the album. Always in control, mainstream interpretations of the standards which is a bit riskless. The well produced album will comfort you and that might sound great, but a song like Ne me quitte pas is to discomfort you and to touch you deep in the heart. Don’t expect such emotions, Timmich sings to entertain nothing more, nothing less.
© Eelco Schilder

Fur Dixon & Steve Werner "Songs of the Open Road"
Grass & Gravel Records, 2011

Ivan Appelrouth "Blue and Instrumental"
Ellersoul Records, 2011

Tripping Lily "The day everything became nothing"
Own label, 2009

Jerry Burgan "Reflections, Songs & Stories"
GRA, 2011

David Philips "The Rooftop Recordings"
Black & Tan Records, 2011

The Good Intentions "Someone Else’s Time"
Americana Music Association, 2011

For eight years singers and guitarists Fur Dixon and Steve Werner are a musical couple. This new album is their third release and contains ten new recordings. They sing compositions by famous singers like Doc & Merle Watson, Woody Guthrie and Mary McCaslin. They are backed by six musicians on fiddle, accordion, guitars, bass etc. Their music is a kind of old-school acoustic country music. Dixon has a bit high pitched voice, while Werner has a more down to earth way of singing. Their interpretations of the songs are easy going and relaxed. They don’t try to reinvent a song, but play them in a pleasant way, perfectly fitting a warm sunset on the Californian country side.
Ivan Appelrouth is a blues guitarist from the USA. On this new album he and his fellow musicians play eighteen original compositions in a traditional blues, swing, R&B sound. What you see is what you get, no tricks just solid and honest guitar play backed by a fine band. Appelrouth searches in his composition for the roots of the songs and he succeeds. Nice and pure album for the lovers of bluesy guitar music.
The third US band is called Tripping Lily. This string band released this third album called The day everything became nothing in 2009. Four musicians on ukulele, violin, guitar, mandolin, bass and vocals. Nice original songs influenced by folk, country, Americana and sort like. This young quartet shows on this two years old album a lot of talent. A song like Summer is beautiful, with soft strings and very nice female/male harmony vocals. And this album has more of these fine songs. But it also contains some well played, but a bit to common tracks. This gives me the feeling that the band has to get rid of a certain shyness. A very promising album with occasionally a fabulous track between solid, well played, but bit riskless acoustic Americana pop.
Next is singer songwriter Jerry Burgan with his debut album Reflections, songs & stories. After fifty years of singing, Burgan found it was time to release his first solo album. Since the sixties he has been part of the We five band. A band that made their first recordings in 1965. Backed by eight musicians, including a number of relatives, Burgan plays and sings a combination of original songs and versions of songs by artists such as Tom Paxton, Errol Garner and Elizabeth Cotton. The result is a beautiful, friendly album. Burgan has a great voice that bring a peaceful feeling in one’s mind. Despite the big number of musicians that is backing him, the music stays small and personal. Nice personal songs, a bit dreamy at moments but from the first to the last song I believe what he sings and his music gives me a good, warm feeling. A very nice debut album, hopefully more will follow.
Back to the blues with singer-songwriter David Philips and his album The rooftop recordings. This English guitarist and singer started writing songs only six years ago after being a backing musician for several known and lesser known artists. This is his second album and you might get surprised when hearing it, unbelievable that he isn’t a worldwide acclaimed artist yet. With his fine mixture of blues, Americana and sort like styles, and his warm, deep voice he is the kind of singer that makes you close your eyes and dream away. His fine finger picking sparkles and supports his vocals in a beautiful way. This new album must open doors for him as I consider this as one of the best singer-songwriter albums in its genre of the past year.
The last album in this review comes from a group called The Good Intentions. The album is called Someone else’s time. Although based in the UK, the band plays Americana influenced acoustic folk-rock. Easy going songs with a happy feeling. Uncomplicated played by this trio and the backing musicians. The band shows a lot of progress since their debut album, which I found a bit to unpolished and not always well balanced. The harmony vocals got much better, the music shows more variety and the band sounds relaxed. It’s open minded, very accessible Americana that won’t bother anybody and is very suitable to entertain a big audience.
© Eelco Schilder

Trio Bravo+ "Trio Bravo+"
Ozella, 2011

Thirteen years after their debut album a new CD by the international quartet Trio Bravo is released. Nineteen instrumental pieces, all except one original, and played together with five guest musicians. I reviewed their live album not very long ago and this made me curious how the band would sound on a studio album. What I like is the combination of strong compositions, highly professional musical craftsmanship and a surprising mixture of styles. The musicians blend traditional elements from Europe, South America and other global places with jazz, classical theme’s and many other sounds. They change from slight bombastic circus music to sad and lonely piano solo parts. From tango influenced dances to ballroom virtuoso. And the good thing is, that they mix it in such a natural way that they create a unique Trio Bravo+ style which is recognizable, of the highest quality and very enjoyable.
© Eelco Schilder

Tomáš Kočko "Godula"
Own label, 2011

Together with his orchestra Tomáš Kočko plays music rooted in the Mid-East European tradition. Although the music is composed by the master himself, they carry the spirit of ancient cultures. The mixture of flutes, percussion and strings give both a mystical and a frivol atmosphere to the music. Strong male and female vocals complete the album. I’m surprised by the open minded and very accessible style of the album. It’s a kind of traditional-pop without being commercial or middle of the road styled music. Well produced, professionally played a real pleasure for my ears!
© Eelco Schilder

I Muvrini "A tè Corsica"
Content, 2011

Strange, a new album by a legendary band but no record label on cover or any additional release info. Of course, the band from Corsica doesn’t need an introduction. Their polyphonic singing is legendary all around the world and for decades they impress with unbelievably beautiful compositions. Their albums have a certain atmosphere that is very recognizable from the first second. With this new album called A tè Corsica they show you the beauty of spiritual songs from the island. As always, an album of high quality but not renewing at all. While hearing the album I often get the feeling I heard it all before, they recorded so many beautiful albums that I’m not convinced that this one really adds something new to their discography. Well, I Muvrini fans don’t care I guess, a new album by their heroes is something to look forward to and seen the quality of the album they won’t be disappointed.
© Eelco Schilder

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