FolkWorld #48 07/2012

CD & DVD Reviews

Alistair Ogilvy "Leaves Sae Green"
Greentrax, 2012

German CD Review

This is the album of a talented young Scottish trad singer. His singing has a lot of depth, and is steeped in Scottish traditions. The songs are given a bit of a contemporary touch by adding some beautiful piano (Ali Macrae) and guitar (Steven Polwart) playing. The album comes for me particularly to life with the more lively songs, such as a dramatic version of "Bonne Ship the Diamond". The album features a mix of traiditional Scottish songs and contemporary songs which sound in Alistair's hands just like traditionals - such as Bob Dylan's Girl from the North Country. A convincing album - as they say, the tradition is in safe hands.
© Michael Moll

Various Artists "Big River Big Songs - The Tyne" [DVD]
Mawson & Wareham (Music) Ltd, 2010

This is an impressive DVD telling the story of the river Tyne - in North East England - and its song traditions. THe DVD is built around songs from the North East - ranging from traditional songs from the 15th to 19th centuries via songs from 19th century music hall stars to contemporary songs from the 20th century. The DVD tells a story, with plenty of songs, along with informative commentary about songs and history - the footage is a mix of scenery, cityscapes and artists in studio, live or out-and-about settings.
The artists featured on the DVD make also quite a mix. Just when I thought I made the discovery of a young folk singer unknown yet to me - Chelsea Halfpenny - my wife popped in and told me that she is a celebrity actor from one of the top British soaps, Emmerdale - as is Charlie Hardwick, who is not only presenting but also singing a few songs. If these two would ever do a folk club tour I would love to see it - their traditional songs on this album are really beautiful. There are more celebrity actors here who do a great job singing folk songs - the "Auf Wiedersehen Pet" actors Tim Healy, Jimmy Nail and Kevin Whatley provide a great folk rock version of "Blaydon Races". Other well-known names on the album include Sting and Mark Knopfler. While most of the music style on the DVD is folk (from trad to folk rock), there is also a bit of classical (featuring e.g. English Philharmonic Orchestra) and rock. The only act I had known from the folk scene is the legendary folk rock band Lindisfarne.
A well produced high quality music/documentary DVD, full of great and varied music, information and pretty pictures. I found this very entertaining to watch.
© Michael Moll

Karen Ryan "The Coast Road"
Clo Iar-Chonnacht, 2012

German CD Review

This London based fiddler is well-known from the trad Irish band "The London Lasses and Pete Quinn". Her first solo album showcases traditional Irish fiddle music at a very high standard. The first 10 or so numbers on the album feature primarily Karen's fiddle playing accompanied by Pete Quinn on piano. On the last few numbers we can hear additional guests, on fiddles, accordion, uilleann pipes, guitar, as well as, for one Gaelic song, singer Nancy McEvaddy. While generally we hear Karen on the fiddle, she plays also one tune on the whistle and one on the banjo. A solid Irish trad album.
© Michael Moll

Rura "Break it up"
Greentrax, 2012

German CD Review

Rura are one of the newer Scottish folk bands, celebrated as one of the big newcomers in the scene. With a line up featuring pipes, fiddle, bodhran, guitars, bass, flutes and vocals, and with lots of energy, Rura is certainly promising. And indeed, Rura shows particularly on the first two numbers of the album their talent and potential - the first two sets of tunes are real hits, with the instruments blending beautifully into wonderful energetic Scottish folk, as good as it can get. Unfortunately, further on on the album, I find that the tunes quite often loose focus, some tunes featuring rather manic bagpiping and thus somewhat countering the very good first impression I had. The songs, to my liking, to not fit in very well with folk tunes - the style of the songs and singing is too mainstream; while they have grown on me somewhat on repeated listening, I remain unconvinced about them as part of this outfit.
Overall this is a band full of promise, featuring a bunch of talented musicians. However, up and coming they may be, in my view they are not quite there is the top league of classic Scottish folk bands.
© Michael Moll

Colletivo Mazzulata "Scecchendaun"
Own, 2012

Refreshing folk/rock/world music from Italy. Colletivo Mazzulata's music is overall steeped in Italian traditional music - there are pizzicas, traditional Italian songs - but takes a live of its own - by venturing into styles as wide ranging as Rock'n'Roll, Blues, Funk, Salsa or Zydeco. The instruments range feature electric and acoustic guitars and basses, drums, accordion, saxophone. This is an exciting blend of music, an album full of the unexpected. A great album.
© Michael Moll

Le Vent Du Nord "Tromper le Temps"
Borealis Records, 2012

I have not caught up with Le Vent Du Nord since 8 years (and they only celebrating their 10th anniversary this year) - so it was a delight to receive this album and to hear that they are still going very strong. This is great French-Canadian folk, full of energy and beauty, with prime influences from Celtic music from both Ireland and Britanny.
What makes the music of Le Vent Du Nord exciting is particularly the combination of hurdy-gurdy, beautiful diatonic accordion playing, plus fiddle/clogging/foot percussion, bouzouki/guitar and other instruments. Plus the songs feature the very appealing warm and melodic voice of Nicolas Boulerice. The quartet's links and previous experience includes many of the top names of Canadian-Celtic folk music - from La Bottine Souriante via Ad Vielle Que Pourra to La Volee de Castors.
Many of the songs on "Tromper le Temps" are written by members of the band, cleverly combining traditional and contemporary themes. Back in 2004, at Tønder Festival, Le Vent Du Nord were for me one of the highlights of the festival - and it seems that since then they have gone from strength to strength. This is an excellent, mature album of a top live band. Recommended.
© Michael Moll

Le Vent du Nord "Tromper le Temps"
Borealis Records, 2012

Continuing with their series of intriguing titles, Tricking Time refers to Le Vent du Nord's ability to present nineteenth-century Québecois music in a modern light. Almost entirely acoustic, with the rustic devices of jaw harp, hurdy-gurdy and foot percussion (what we call stamping) which give French Canadian ensembles a certain n'importe quoi, this youthful quartet picks up yesterday's ballads and brandies by the scruff of the neck and kicks them well into next week. There's a good mix of the traditional and the contemporary, but very little movement towards modern styles. This hotch potch of songs and tunes, borrowed or new born, is an ever-changing delight: a kaleidoscopic romp through the musical riches of France, Ireland, North America and beyond, with a heavy Montreal accent and a good solid beat.
The sombre opening of Lettre à Durham quickly gives way to the infectious fun of Le Dragon de Chimay - surely a reference to Belgian beer. The classic ballad of separated lovers Toujours Amants gets a surprisingly jaunty treatment, and the accompanying Reel des Enlacés is but a thinly disguised version of the Father Kelly favourite The Rossmore Jetty. The instrumentals take on a more Canadian character again with fiddler Olivier Demers' compositions Le Winnebago and Manteau d'Hiver, the latter having that quirky three-part structure of many brandies and clogs from Quebec. A pair of powerful songs follow, one set to a melody by Gounod, the other traditional, but both paired with driving dance tunes in the Québecois manner. A pact with the devil, a damsel in distress and a hockey match: all are grist to the mill of Le Vent du Nord, piano and percussion, bass and electric guitar. Gutsy and gentle by turns, Tromper le Temps is terminated by the delicate and graceful Souffle d'Ange, the angelic side of fiddle and accordion music. From the ridiculous to the sublime, this album has it all and comes highly recommended.
© Alex Monaghan

Zoox "Ups & Downs"
Own Label, 2011

Three young women from deepest England on fiddle, whistles, percussion and other things - a varied acoustic sound, with all three singing too, and arrangements from sumptuous to Spartan: this trio plays around with French, Irish and Klezmer music, but seems most comfortable with their own contemporary English compositions. There's some great fiddle throughout from Linda Game, particularly on her sepulchral slow drag Cook the Books, and great rattling contrabassoon on several tracks from Becky Menday. Jo May holds the whole thing together with a range of percussion, coming into her own on Rainy View and All Change, where the bassoon and fiddle also do a pretty good imitation of bass and lead electric guitars.
The songs, three of them, are a mixed bag. The intelligent Richard Thompson ballad Little Beggar Girl is attractively sung, with a catchy treatment on chimes and mandolin. The harmonies on Dollia, an eighteenth century chorus song, are raw and primal, jarring with the string backing. Zoox close with a poignant unaccompanied solo version of Old Smokey which reminds me of Edward II's doomed attempt to drag Dashing Away with the Smoothing Iron into the late 20th century: I'm not sure what they're trying to say. The instrumentals are easier to interpret, whether it's soulful whistle on Riffwood or sultry sax on Salty. This is the second Zoox CD - I haven't heard their first, but I'd say there's plenty more good music to come.
© Alex Monaghan

Brian Friel "Karusell"
Own Label, 2011

This Kerry banjoman, a former All-Ireland champion, has been living in Sweden for a few years now, hence the unusual title of his first commercial recording. He survived a year touring with the Furey brothers, so the Swedish air may be beneficial as a de-tox, and it doesn't seem to have slowed down his music. Brian plays in a no-nonsense style - this is banjo for banjo fans, following in the footsteps of fine old pluckers such as Barney McKenna, Kieran Hanrahan, Mick O'Connor and Tom Cussen, rather than the groovy flamboyance of O'Connor, Kelly, Scahill or Maloney. Mostly: there are one or two fancier tracks, Totanka Yotanka, for instance, which even includes a key change.
Great music fills this album from start to finish. A lovely rumbling version of Tom Billy's Jig gives way to the charming slow reel Bakgården - probably Swedish for something relaxing. Mick O'Connor's Reel is as well played as I've heard recently, and I've played it with the man himself. There's a driving version of Rory Gallagher's Jig, Brian's own Bonks Reel, and a final flourish on The Green Groves of Erin. Brian even produces that rarest gem, a banjo waltz. He's joined by various friends on guitars, drums, accordion, whistle, piano, and of course nyckelharpa. Karusell is a highly enjoyable album, solid playing and great tunes, plus some seriously psychedelic artwork: well worth a visit to for more information.
© Alex Monaghan

Ian Hardie "A Breath of Fresh Airs"
Greentrax Recordings, 1986/2012

1986. Edinburgh nights were reeling to the sounds of Ossian, The Easy Club, Simon Thoumire and more ceilidh bands than you can squeeze into a bar, while the AIDS scare and the Poll Tax were hot daytime topics. It was all change in Auld Reekie, but down near Kelso a young fiddler was still plying the centuries-old trade of tunesmithing. Happily the vibrant music scene of the capital and the rustic talent of the border marches were to come together in the first release by an impudent young upstart record label. Greentrax set out its stall with Ian Hardie's first solo album - on LP, not CD - presenting the perfect paradox of newly-composed traditional tunes. All the melodies here are Ian's own, although some of the harmonies from Jack Evans, Ian MacFadyen and others are time-served attendants on Scottish music. Hardie himself swaps from fiddle to viola to smallpipes, an eighties fad which has endured.
This recording flits between the staid world of country dancing and the frenzied fashions of contemporary fiddling - much as Ian Hardie's career has done. From Chorda to Jock Tamson's Bairns, The Ghillies to The Occasionals, Ian's music suits both ballroom and bothy. Even in solo mode, his Cheviot Blast and Auchope Cairn have the rhythmic syncopation of tearaway session tunes, while Kelsae Brig and Mabon of Torwoodlee have found favour in accordion and fiddle clubs. There's more than a hint of old-time fiddling in The Omnibus and The Tuneless Clock, and a nod to even older times in the MSR medley which ends with The Eight-Sided Square. Jigs in the piping idiom such as Yetholm Haugh and The Poetic Milkman, more than one fine waltz, and the odd hornpipe: Mr Hardie's pen seems to be as flexible as his elbow. The production quality is perhaps a notch below what Greentrax now manages, but that's barely noticeable with music and musicians of this calibre. It's great to see the first Greentrax album available again, and even better to hear it. There's even a bonus track featuring Isla StClair.
© Alex Monaghan

Cormac Breatnach "Éalú"
Mandala Records, 2012

Cormac Breatnach is a phenomenally talented whistle-player whose many previous recordings have pushed back the frontiers of tin whistle repertoire and technique. He has made a career of building bridges between jazz, classical and traditional Irish music, particularly with his own group Deiseal. This new collection, subtitled "Foreign Links", extends those bridges to connect the traditional and contemporary music of Spain and Africa with Cormac's native influences. The opening track serves almost as a CV for Cormac's musical past. It combines three Breatnach compositions with two traditional Irish jigs, and involves ten other musicians, allowing Cormac to segue between almost straight trad and the modern jazz funk of El Mar Picado or the skat singing of Aoife Doyle on Bothy Band favourite The Butterfly. So that's the story so far: what Éalú adds is a definite cool World beat, a lot of vocals (only one track is purely instrumental), and an enormous variety of musical landscapes from lush Latin to modern minimalist. It takes a lot of help to achieve this, and recognition is certainly due to producer Gavin Ralston (still wearing holes in guitars) and the score of mighty musicians enlisted by Cormac for this project. In fact, most of the time you'd be forgiven for wondering where the whistle-player is.
A quick run through the tracks shows the breadth of Éalú. After the scene-setting first selection, Universal Sun is a children's song about sharing our solar system: a little cliched perhaps, in a style somewhere between Senegal and St Lucia. The title piece, almost ten minutes, combines Irish, classical and jazz in an extension of Deiseal's approach - eight separate themes, a scant dozen musicians, composed and choreographed by Breatnach. All Saints is a well intentioned but musically unconvincing appeal to the goodness in Irish culture - anti-racist, charitable, defenders of the weak, repaying Ireland's debt to the world which welcomed its countless emigrants. 1916 returns to traditional Irish themes, this time combining keyboards and rock band instrumentation with some very fine whistling. My favourite track is probably Spain, a medley of Spanish and Spanish-influenced melodies with all the hot-blooded blare of fiesta music. Cormac ends with Slán, a four-part farewell, moving and cathartic, dedicated to his departed parents. Eclectic, complex, absorbing at times, with copious notes - this is a serious album for a contemplative mood.
© Alex Monaghan

Simon Chadwick "Old Gaelic Laments"
Own Label, 2012

A second album of ancient harp music, with a less catchy title than his first Clarsach na Banrighe, features Simon's replica brass-strung harp with its bell-like tone. Short tracks with long names, long tracks with short names, some well known and some hardly known at all: Simon Chadwick's music has been meticulously researched and comes with Gaelic transcriptions and English translations. Simon is assisted by Ealasaid Gilfillan with two Gaelic readings, although I must say the Gaelic accent is not the one I am used to from the Western Isles. Most tracks are instrumental, with occasional vocals by Simon.
There are some beautiful melodies here, and some powerful reminders of the bleaker and more savage side of Gaelic music. Caoine Rioghaill is a big pibroch-style piece with variations. Uamh an Òir, The Cave of Gold is a well-known song recorded on location in an actual Scottish cave, and is one of three vocal tracks without harp. All the music on this CD is almost three centuries old, some of it much older. As source material, this recording is a valuable addition to existing material. As entertainment, Old Gaelic Laments is deeply moving both emotionally and spiritually. This music means a lot to the Gaelic peoples, and may stir others too.
© Alex Monaghan

Clairseach "Let Erin Remember"
Own Label, 1979/2012

Clairseach "Ann's Harp"
Own Label, 1981/2012

Ann and Charlie Heymann, a duo from the seventies, remastered on CD: these two albums were at the forefront of American Celtic music in the era of flares and flowery shirts. Ann plays harp, and Charlie plays the role of singer and multi-instrumentalist. Charlie has his moments, but if you're looking for world class music you have to turn to Ann. She is now a leading authority on early harp music, and a great performer on the brass strung harp. Here she plays with the slightly harsh tones of a modern instrument, but the seeds of great music can be heard on Carolan's Concerto, Scatter the Mud, Mrs Farrell, The Otter's Holt, Celia Connellan and several other tracks. There's concertina, flute, whistle, accordion, guitar and more here, but the harp is the main attraction for me. Some of the dance music has not aged well, as technique and ornamentation have evolved, but many of the songs are still of interest: Pat Murphy, The Shady Woods of Trugh, Mary of Loughrea and The Red Haired Man's Wife are all fresh and entertaining. The original album sleeves have been reproduced and included, rather smaller than the twelve-inch LP covers. Plenty more information about the artists and music can be had from Ann and Charlie's website, where you'll also find Ann's more recent releases.
© Alex Monaghan

Fergal Scahill "Wayfaring"
Own Label, 2011

Those who heard this Galway fiddler's debut solo CD The Dusty Bridge will not be surprised that the music on album number two is impressive and powerful without being ostentatious. Fergal Scahill's style is relaxed, with an easy confidence and a touch of showmanship, but never brash or cocky. He plays a cracking set of jigs, starting with the classic Langstrom's Pony and finishing with Charlie Lennon's Smiling Bride, but the mood is gentle throughout and Fergal ends on the quietest cadence you could wish for. He follows this with a beautifully controlled rendition of Creig's Pipes and an exquisitely delicate version of The Baker.
There's more than a hint of stateside fiddling about this well travelled young man. The Tailor's Twist gets an injection of Jay Ungar swing, while Lord Gordon's reminds me of the great country fiddler Mark O'Connor and Poor Oul' Creathers seems to spring straight from the Flanagans' roaring twenties. Barndances, Carolan pieces, and some great old hornpipes leaven the jigs and reels. A couple of Fergal's own tunes join the compositions of Reavy, McHugh, O'Brien and others. Highlights come thick and fast: two of my favourites are Fisherman's Island and Last Night's Fun, both played at a fair clip. Fergal is aided and abetted by Ryan Molloy on piano, and a bit of guitar too. To be honest, anything more would be gilding the lily. Wayfaring is a delight, and may make my 2012 Top Ten: see for samples, pictures, and lots more.
© Alex Monaghan

Hoven Droven "Rost"
Westpark Music, 2011

Certainly not the only Scandinavian folk rockers still standing, but probably the best: Hoven Droven have mellowed a little since their 1996 album Grov which launched them on the world stage, and there are a couple of tracks on Rost which don't have the raw edge I associate with these guys, but there's still plenty on this recording to get excited about.
The opening Slyng, product of a dubious hotel liaison, is a good place to start. Its punk polka chords and thrash metal drumming seem to energise Kjell-Erik Eriksson's fiddle - think Duncan Chisholm fronting Wolfstone, but with added elk. Gubbarnas Schottis is another Eriksson original, shouty party music with a Viking vein, drums like Thor's pounding hammer, and a meaty saxophone line. Dang is a piece from the Swedish hinterlands, full of surprising rhythms and intervals: close your eyes and you can imagine a toothless shaman playing this in his cave while the glaciers roll down the valleys outside. Humbugg is a murderous triple-time dance which has "troll" written all over it - in the trow or drow sense, fierce evil creatures who skulk under the mountains.
There is a lighter side to Hoven Droven. Fridas is a charming little melody with only a small amount of weirdness. Mörsil is totally unweird, a lovely piece, but don't try to dance to it. The title track is one of my favourites here, taking me back to the seventies and groups such as Hoity Toity or La Bamboche, a simple renaissance-style sound, maybe with a touch of Fotheringay. The kraken soon wakes again, though, and the dancers whirl to the pagan beats of Oliver's Fiddle and Snodden, before dawn breaks and this dark quintet shuffles off to the sad strains of Sista Valsen.
© Alex Monaghan

Colm Phelan "Full Circle"
Own label, 2012

German CD Review

The concept of a solo bodhrán album is fraught with contradictions. Even if you accept that such albums will involve many other players, and that the bodhrán will often be in the background (if the player is at all decent), there are still only a handful of Irish players who have taken the plunge. Set this against the number of solo fiddle albums, and consider the number of sessions where bodhrán players outnumber fiddlers. Look at the old De Danann line-up: there are solo albums aplenty from Frankie Gavin, Jackie Daly, and even Alec Finn, but not from Johnny "Ringo" McDonnagh. It takes a special sort of musician, then, to make a solo bodhrán CD. Colm Phelan joins the likes of Tommy Hayes, Colm Murphy and more recently Neill Lyons, a select band indeed. So what justifies this young whippersnapper's pretensions to such exalted company? Well, he's bloody good: he's won All Ireland championships on both bodhrán and drums, and he was the first World Bodhrán Champion back in 2006. He also has a removable beard, although that doesn't really come across on this recording. What does shine through Full Circle is Colm's flexibility and sensitivity. A sensitive bodhrán player: that surely deserves special consideration.
Colm manages to be there without being distracting, judging the mix and matching it. His tipper taps gently to the complex gentle waves of Tréigthe, but batters away boisterously enough behind banjo and pounding piano on Jeremy Kittel's Lost Time. Colm's many friends front reels and jigs with gusto. Actually it's mainly reels, but there is a set of jigs and a couple of hornpipes, as well as one or two slower tunes. Stephen Doherty's flute and accordion, Sarah Jane Murphy's Puirt a Beul, and Seamie O'Dowd's guitar are joined by most of the band Goitse: fiddler Áine McGeeney, pianist Tadhg Ó Meachair and banjoman James Harvey. Most tracks are one-on-one, with points evenly split between Phelan and his sparring partner: knock-outs are rare, but Áine's low-down dirty fiddling on Lady's Choice is a clear winner. There's some fancy picking on The Chase, some great straight trad on Colonel Frazier and The Chicago (another jig, as it turns out), and a fine finale with two tasty McGeeney melodies. By the end you forget this is a bodhrán CD - which is kind of the point really. Not as retiring as Colm Murphy, not as reverberating as Tommy Hayes: Colm Phelan is his own man, and this is definitely his own album, but that doesn't stop it being loads of fun for the rest of us. Good music, great drumming, and a fine balance between the two. Look out for Colm solo or with Goitse.
© Alex Monaghan

Polkaholix "Polkaface"
Initiative Musik, 2010

Looking like a cross between The Blues Brothers and The Seven Dwarfs, this powerful septet pumps out high-proof dance music in a rainbow of styles. To paraphrase their blurb: "Punk, Ska, Reggae, Heavy Metal, Rock 'n' Roll ... it's all Polka!" Most of the time this is simply excellent party music with an ethnic edge. Occasionally the sound gets uncomfortably close to the Oberkrainer repertoire, and you half expect someone to start yodelling, but that's rare. With horns, clarinet, banjo, jaw harp, drums, and a massive range of guitars, the old stomach Steinway is generally buried in the mix. To be fair, Jo Meyer's accordion is so flexible that it fits perfectly into all these genres.
A knowledge of German, and an appreciation of Schuhplattler, is definitely an advantage for enjoying this CD to the full, but it's not essential. I was going to start this review with something like "If you're only planning to buy one polka CD this year", but then I realised that most of us - me included - aren't planning to buy ANY polka CDs. So how to persuade you to consider this one? Think of it as Madness on an Alpine picnic, Bob Marley busking by the Brandenburg Gate. If you're already into German music, then this cocktail of blues, grunge and Strauss should come as no surprise. For anyone who is a serious polka junkie, take care - these guys are not afraid to trip up the dancers with an extra half beat!
There are two songs in English, and one instrumental, but the other ten tracks here are sung in German. The lyrics are very amusing - a Berlin version of Billy Connolly's D.I.V.O.R.C.E, a song about dumping your live-in lover, some advice on drinking the family fortune, and other hilarious real-life situations. Apart from Weisses Boot, which seems to have been washed up from a Barry Manilow album, it's all catchy stuff. I particularly liked Hans Bleib Da, the Polkaholix version of a traditional comic song, and also the title track which features oddly Dutch-inflected English and tells the completely plausible story of extra-terrestrials who invade Earth just to get some decent polka music. It's nice to know that these guys keep their musical fads in perspective.
© Alex Monaghan

Aaron Novik "Secrets of Secrets"
Tzadik, 2012

This is definitely the first "Kabbalistic avant metal jazz sojourn" to come my way, and possibly the last, but it is really quite fascinating. Clarinetist Novik has layered folk, jazz, rock, and pure noise into his arrangements, all inspired by a 13th-century mystical Jewish text. The resulting music is no doubt deeply meaningful, but it is also enjoyable in its own right. Each of the five tracks here is a monster, between twelve and seventeen minutes long. The different rhythms and tempos (Khoisdl, Terkish, Hora, Doina, Bulgar) tie Novik's music to Eurpean and Eastern Jewish forms, but these ties can be tight or loose Secrets of Creation reminds me of post-Moorcock Hawkwind, mostly free form but with a strong spiritual feel, electric clarinet doing the job of lead guitar, with percussion and bass, then adding a subtle string section. Secrets of the Divine World evolves into something between avant garde Mediterranean folk and Middle Eastern trance music. The Hora form of Secrets of the Divine Chariot features the acoustic clarinets of Ben Goldberg, soulful yet serene, gradually giving way to the more menacing sounds of bass clarinet and brass. The brass section carries over into the following Doina, Secrets of the Holy Name, which then spirals into chaos and confusion. Finally, Secrets of Formation mixes post-Baroque fugues with braying fanfares, echoing ELP or Jarre, winding down to a surprisingly gentle finish. Like I said, fascinating: definitely one for the more progressive souls among us.
© Alex Monaghan

Hannah Köpf "Flying Free"
GLM, 2012

Christina Fuchs & No Tango "2"
Wizmar records, 2012

Aaron Novik "Secrets of secrets"
Tzadik, 2012

Sumi Tonooka "Now"
ARC, 2012

Georg Breinschmid "Fire"
Preiser records, 2012

A bunch of jazz related albums for review now. First the German vocalist Hanna Köpf and her album Flying free. Nine original compositions which Köpf sings beautifully, backed by a band including piano, drums, guitars, Wurlitzer, flutes and many other instruments. She creates a light kind of pop-jazz with a sunny, uplifting feeling. Totally uncomplicated music at a high level, ready to find its way to a big audience of jazz-light lovers.
The second jazz album is recorded by the German saxophonist Christina Fuchs & No Tango. This is their second album with ten new compositions by Fuchs. The quartet plays a bit experimental and free mixture of jazz and world sounds, yes including tango influences. A complicated album that is not always easy to follow, but intrigues me at the same time. Four highly professional albums play in a passionate way, I don’t think an album that is suitable for the folkies, but might be loved by the more jazz orientated readers of this magazine. Let’s continue to some more intriguing jazz.
Next the American pianist Sumi Tonooka. She recorded a 100% solo piano live 2-cd set called Now. On the first cd she plays jazz classics from composers such as Cole Porter, Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk. On the second cd she plays original material with a jazzy/classical vibe. Might be interesting for lovers of the light-jazz-piano genre.
From Austria comes Georg Breinschmid one of that country’s leading jazz musicians and a real virtuoso on the bass. On this new album he performs as duo with Thomas Gansch on trumpet and as trio with Roman Janoska on violin and his brother Frantisek Janoska on piano. Fourteen new recordings and a bonus album with four extra tracks. Strong jazz music with sometimes a gypsy edge or a slight Latin touch. Uncomplicated music that relaxes and enjoys at the same time.
© Eelco Schilder

The James Low Western Front "Whiskey Farmer"
Union Made, 2012

Michael and the Lonesome Playboys "Last of the honky tonks"
Own label, 2010

James Low is an Oregon raised singer-songwriter and this Whiskey farmer is the debut album of his band The James Low Western Front. Together with three fellow musicians and a bunch of guests, Low recorded eight original songs with a nice bluesy, country edge and a slight hint of pop music. His nice vocals are neatly backed by the musicians and together they create a very accessible kind of roots-pop. Easy going, nice to listen to, but a bit too much on the safe side after my personal taste.
Michael and the Lost Playboys play a more country/honky tonk style. Nice vocals, pedal steel, dobro, bass and drums. An accessible album with mainstream music in this genre.
© Eelco Schilder

Nanci Griffith "Intersection"
Proper, 2012

Franka De Mille "Bridge the roads"
Chi wara, 2011

Marketa Irglova "Anar"
Anti, 2011

A few known and lesser known female singer-songwriters. Starting with probably the best known of them; Nanci Griffith. She recorded twelve new tracks and bundled them on a CD called Intersection. Although I don’t know all of her work, this is probably one of her best albums. With her typical, wonderful sound, she sings about things that matters, about things she cares about. Not always the easiest subjects, it shows her engagement with the world and society. She sings her story calm, professional and passionate. Her easy going mixture of Americana and pop works very well. This album has a pure sound and takes it’s time to reveal all the musical layers. Griffith is on her way to more awards and she deserves it.
Second in this review comes from London and is called Franka De Mille. With Bridge the roads she released her debut album together with an international cast of musicians. De Mille follows her own path and creates a pleasant mixture of Americana, European folk and more alternative (world) styles. She plays with sounds of (more or less) traditional instruments, classical themes and electronic possibilities. Especially in the more introvert songs she shows to be a fantastic singer with a powerful voice. She knows how to tell a story and it’s nice to hear how she slowly creates a unique, own sound and style. A very nice album by a great singer who probably will surprise us many more times in the future with her music.
The third album comes from Marketa Irglova and is called Anar. Best known as one of the half’s of The Swell Season and Academy award winner. This is her first solo output and It will probably be liked by many. It’s a careful mixture of jazz, Americana, pop etc. Reminds a bit of Tori Amos sometimes, easy going songs that somehow sound a bit too much alike after my personal taste. I would have expected a more outspoken solo album by such a talented artist. Irglova choose the safe way and created a nice, but bit predictable middle of the road folk- pop album with some jazzy edges.
© Eelco Schilder

Sinouj "Were"
Youkali, 2012

Open Range "The Elevator Story"
Peregrina music, 2012

1982 "Pintura"
Hubro, 2011

Viaggio "Ode"
Herzog records, 2012

World-Jazz, often a great combination of (original) roots music and jazz vibes. In this review a few albums that blend those two styles in a more than average way. First the band Sinouj and their debut album Were. This international project with musicians from Africa, South-Europe and Cuba brings a strong mixture of jazz and African/Arabic sounds and rhythms. With a funky feeling these musicians know how to create some exciting crossover music. I love the bit dark, Arabic sound of Tasim possible or the more late night jazz style of Haka aka. Great, sharp sounding violin in many tracks, smooth electric bass and a keyboard player who knows how to add the right spices to the music to give it a deeper sound. Sometimes subtle, sometimes loud and a bit heavy. The same for the drummer and percussionist, they build a solid base that is essential in good music. Great project, great album! Would love to see this live on my favorite festival Music Meeting in Nijmegen.
Second band in this review is called Open Range and with their debut album The elevator story this German trio, plus saxophonist Volker Schlott, show their vision on world-jazz. Two guitarists, a drummer and a saxophone, that are the ingredients for their jazz music with an Arabic touch. A more introvert album than the Sinouj album, some strong finger picking here, with dreamy and laid-back sax. The effective percussion and drums gives the compositions an occasional boost. A very nice debut album, with wonderful melodies, sometimes a light outburst of energy, but most of the time friendly and accessible jazz.
The third album in this review comes from a Norwegian trio called 1982. This bit older album, recorded 2010, is a mystic mixture of the Norwegian traditional Hardanger fele, drums and harmonium/Wurlitzer. Dreamy, almost fragile, compositions forming an intriguing mixture of typical Norwegian jazz, Swedish psych-folk from the seventies and modern composing. This trio plays like a storyteller, whispering stories in my ears. There is no escape; I have to listen to the subtle changes in rhythms and small, well arranged, melodies. I like the sometimes almost minimalistic approach and I love the way these musicians take the time for their music, they got a story to tell.
Viaggio is a German quintet and this Ode is their debut album. On accordion, clarinet, bass, guitar and percussion they bring a vivid mixture of jazz, gypsy, Arabic and folk music. Eleven original compositions written by three of the musicians show a band with an ear for nice acoustic world-jazz. Uncomplicated music in which they easily play with the different influence they use in their music. Well played, but don’t expect to hear a renewing band at work. It’s great music, but perfectly fitting in the tradition of many other bands in the same vein.
© Eelco Schilder

Soetkin Collier "Reiseiland"
Appel records, 2012

After her strong debut album Nocturne the Belgian singer Soetkin Collier comes with her second album called Reiseiland. Collier is known for her collaboration with Ambrozijn and as one of the Urban Trad singers. On this new album she is backed by a few of Belgium’s finest musicians and together they recorded eleven new tracks with both traditional and original material. As much as I liked her debut album, this follow up disappoints me a bit. I think I heard it five or six times now and I’m doing my best to understand why this album just doesn’t do it for me. Her vocals sound a bit uninspired to me, I personally miss the emotion. Although some of the lyrics are nice, Collier forgets to bring them to life, she forgets to tell the story. The same with her musicians, they are fantastic and I wrote great reviews on many of their albums. But on this album they choose to play some safe arrangements, all nice, but it doesn’t do it for me. Reiseiland is a middle of the road folk inspired CD, which, as you will understand after reading my review, doesn’t come close to her great debut album.
© Eelco Schilder

Five Men in a Boat "Five Men in a Boat"
Etnisk musikklubb, 2012

This is an interesting debut album from Norway. From Norway? Well not really, some great international musicians joined together and recorded this folk album. Five middle aged men, as they call themselves, who start a folk-boy-band. The album contains fourteen tracks, some traditional but also original works from some of the musicians or other (folk) heroes. The big question is, does their play on violin, bagpipe, accordion, flutes, concertina, guitar, cittern and much more, and does their solo and harmony vocals sound like a band for middle aged folkies (yes, three of them even have beards)? Yes it does and thank god for that! This band doesn’t have the need to proof something, no urge to sound different, this is Norwegian / English / French folk music in a pure way, solid as a rock and sounding great. I absolutely love the opening track, nicely sung in a fragile way. You hear the craftsmanship of the musicians, without any false pretentions they play their music and it sounds like acoustic folk should sound.
© Eelco Schilder

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