FolkWorld #48 07/2012

CD & DVD Reviews

Annbjørg Lien "Khoom Loy"
Heilo, 2012

Annbjørg Lien is one of Norway’s leading folk musicians for many years now. She developed from a traditional minded musician into a modern music orientated composer and violinist. This new album shows exactly what she likes, international crossover influenced new compositions with rock influences. On this new album she shows that her interest in music goes far behind the Scandinavian culture. With, for example, Indian and Celtic sounds she creates an international appealing sound. Hearing her last few albums again, I must say that I do miss a certain development in her music. It’s well played, but I also get the feeling she forgets to give her fine compositions the time to blossom. It’s a bit too bombastic now and she is far from the so called ‘less is more’ style of composing. A pity, because it makes me a bit tired of her music after a few tracks and I wish she would cut half of all her ideas and added sounds. I think it will give me the chance to enjoy her wonderful violin play again, because now it too often drowns in the overkill of sounds.
© Eelco Schilder

Harald Haugaard "Den femte søster"
Westpark, 2012

Harald Haugaard is for many years now one of Denmark leading folk violinist. He already recorded many successful albums as a duo with Morten Høirup, played and produced many other famous (Danish) artists and even wrote a book. On this new album he plays thirteen new recordings, mostly self composed. Together with known and lesser known artists such as Tapani Varis, Helene Blum and Roger Tallroth. In a very accessible and almost light way, he plays with his beautiful melodies. On this album he shows to be a great violinist and composer at the same time. He has a wonderful playing style and sound and somehow his music has a kind of own comfortable atmosphere. With this album Haugaard shows to be and internationally acclaimed artist who will bring us a lot more beautiful music in future.
© Eelco Schilder

Guo Gan "Scented Maiden"
Felmay, 2012

The Chinese musician Guo Gan is a master on the so called Erhu. This traditional string instrument is often called the Chinese violin, although it might be compared with the lute kind of instruments as well. It has two strings only and it's related to a similar instrument used in Central Asia and in the North Asian nomad areas. On this new album he plays two self composed songs and for the rest mainly compositions that are written in the last hundred years. So he chooses a relatively young repertoire. Listen and get amazed about the wonderful, melodic, bit airy sound of the instrument. Hard to believe that such a wonderful, melancholic, music is played on two strings only. Take the time to discover the sometimes complex melodies or just enjoy the friendly and peaceful sound. A wonderful album that shows the beauty of an instrument that is relatively unknown in the Western world.
© Eelco Schilder

Boémia "Os peregrines do mar"
Own label, 2011

Boémia is a band from Portugal and with their new album they tell about a kind of pilgrimage to the sea. With poetic lyrics they bring a mixture of contemporary, tradition influenced music with a jazzy-pop touch. The strong vocalist knows how to tell the story, even when you don’t understand the language. Sunny melodies and easy going rhythms make this a real summer album. Uncomplicated music from Portugal, well played and lovely to listen to. I do miss a working webpage with more background info that would help to understand more of the idea behind the album.
© Eelco Schilder

JazGot "Świeta z JazGotem"
4evermusic, 2011

FolkWorld Xmas

Available from

JazGot is a Polish band from the Tatra mountains. The four musicians and friends bring on this second album a fine collection of original songs, written in the tradition of the many cultures that surround the wonderful mountains of South-Poland. It’s a passionate album where styles meet and form a whole own sound. Sometimes a ballad-like, beautiful song, on other moments beating cimbaloms and hauling violins. Occasionally a light jazz of rock influence, but it is always the traditional elements that form the lead of their music. Listen to the richness of the cultures from the Tartra mountains and beyond, professionally and passionate played by this great band.
© Eelco Schilder

Fred Pellerin "C’est un monde"
Tempete disc, 2011

Canadian singer Fred Pellerin released with C’est un monde his second solo album and as his debut CD, it got nominated for a JUNO award again. With thirteen songs in French, he is from the Quebec area, both traditional and originals he puts a smile on the listeners face. His simple, open minded songs are sung like small (bed time) stories and have a most pleasant atmosphere. Pellerin has a warm voice that is so nice to listen to and brings a calm kind of feeling over me. Backed by a bunch of fine musicians, he created his own world. A place where I think many of us would love to be. Pellerin is a great singer and even a better storyteller in songs.
© Eelco Schilder

Nick Burbridge & Tim Cotterell "Gathered"
Own label, 2012

Levellers "Static on the Airwaves"
On The Fiddle Recordings, 2012

The cover art depicting a trapped animal immediately reminded me of Nick Burbridge's[29] classic song "Fox on the Run" recorded two decades ago when performing under the moniker of the punk folk outfit McDermott's 2 Hours. Now it is quite misleading, "Gathered" is an acoustic singer-songwriter album par excellence, its pace rarely accelerating. This time the Brighton-based artist is getting quite close to his poetry.[32][44] Nick takes the listener through his struggles: It's called the road less travelled but you've taken it for years, it's risen and unravelled through forsaken dreams and fears, it's not a free and easy way ... It is an album that has to grow on you, but it is doing so, especially when getting engaged with the smart and inducing lyrics. Nick teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Tim Cotterell who besides producer duties laid down some fiddle and mandolin tracks never overpowering Nick's world-weary delivery.

By the way, good news for any fan of Nick's rockier output: a new McDermott's 2 Hours album is said to be released later in 2012. You can take comfort in the meantime with the new Levellers CD, a band personally related to Nick though musically quite different.[33]
Brighton's premier rock band had its heyday in the 1990s. Their output being not that prolific in the last decade, they nevertheless did become veterans of the concert and festival circuit. Rust never sleeps, and with their 25th anniversary approaching they recorded an album revisiting the Golden Age of albums like "A Weapon Called the Word" (1990) or "Levelling the Land" (1991). "Static on the Airwaves" is a vintage punk-folk statement: anti-politics, anti-capitalism, anti-war, anti-corruption ... Kicking off slowly with "Gunmen" but eventually developing in a mid-paced anthem concert goers will surely sing along to (despite the song's theme), followed by the lifted single "Truth Is" celebrating working class issues. Alternating between the swift, the melancholic and the dramatic the Levellers deal with the US of A after President Bush ("After the Hurricane") and the future fate of Europe, metaphorically wrapped up in a tale of shipwrecking and the "Raft of Medusa". The final track is a Pogues-like rendition of the traditional song "The Recruiting Sergeant," albeit with new and updated lyrics warning to sign up for life in the army and getting send to Afghanistan but run away before follow me and die. Then, "Ways We Have Won" is optimistic and jaunty, and while Europe may be a contintent in crisis, the Levellers are as militant as always and a great deal better than in previous years. It is said that all songs have been recorded live in the studio without any overdubs, which might be one reason that "Static On The Airwaves" is that powerful and muscular.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Derek McGinley & Tara Connaghan
"The Far Side of the Glen"
Own label, 2011

I have heard Donegal's premier trad band Altan just in concert,[47] and for many years Altan defined the music of Ireland's north west for me. However, Altan's approach to traditional Irish music is a rather refined and contemporary one. Recently I encountered the Donegal fiddle trio Fidil,[48] who is staying true to its roots but take the music into quite outlandish realms.
Listening to the kitchen recording of "The Far Side of the Glen," however, we are treated to the pure drop and the very roots of Donegal fiddle music. Derek McGinley and Tara Connaghan are two traditional fiddlers from South West Donegal - Derek from the Glencolmcille area and Tara from Glenties, respectively - who play together for years which shows in their mutual understanding. Twin fiddling has a long tradition in Co. Donegal. Furthermore, there is gentle pacing and no crossover into other genres. The repertoire as well is rooted in the area, the music they grew up with. Such as the opening two jigs learned from their mentor and teacher James Byrne, "John Phadaí Chonchubhair’s / The Nova Scotia Jig," both not very well known. This is followed by some more unfamiliar highlands, hornpipes and barndances. The travelling fiddler John Doherty has to be credited for many of these tunes. I could go on and marvel about the chosen tunes, let me only mention the popular reel "The Old Wheel Of Fortune" (the tune also being the title track of Fidil's latest album), or "Maggie Pickens," a specific solo step dance, played in two different versions here, the second learned from Glenties fiddler Vincent Campbell.[42] Derek has his solo outing with the well known song "Rocking The Cradle," while Tara does some beautiful waltzes, and God knows how these tunes made their way from Austria to Donegal in the last 200 years.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Lucy Ward "Adelphi Has To Fly"
Navigator Records, 2011

I was already thrilled about Lucy Ward's single release "For the Dead Men".[47] Listening to her full length debut album I get even more enthusiastic: what an eclectic and talented artist this young Derbyshire singer is. She also plays concertina and guitar, and is furthermore supported by Stu Hanna on banjo, mandolin and guitar, bass player Sam Pegg, pianist Belinda O'Hooley, and backing vocalists Heidi Tidow and Debbie Hanna.
Lucy is equally at home with traditional material and songs from more recent vintage. Concerning the former, there is a stirring version of the familiar, but seemingly rarely recorded "Maids When You’re Young". The Child murder ballad "Two Sisters" is also turned into a bouncing ride. For the latter, let me mention her acapella take on Mike Waterson's "A Stitch In Time" relating the revenge of a battered wife. Lucy has also become a fine songwriter, e.g. with the true poignant story of "Alice In The Bacon Box" and her "Bricks & Love" with the chorus taken from the traditional "Eriskay Love Lilt": though they couldn't sing, they'd stand up very week, and the locals would use this time to go to the bar, fill up their drinks ... Well, Lucy can sing, and she comes full circle with putting a tune to "Death (Rock Me To Sleep)," a song supposedly written by Anne 'of the Thousand Days' Boleyn while awaiting her execution in the Tower of London.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Treacherous Orchestra "Origins"
Navigator Records, 2012

You could fill this review by simply listing the line-up of this 11-piece trad big band, so take your time now ... No, I make it short and simple: from the land that brought us Martyn Bennett,[36] Croft No. Five,[30] Peatbog Faeries,[46] Salsa Celtica[26] and Shooglenifty[41] comes another trad fusion outfit. Featuring highly talented Scottish (and Irish) artists, almost everyone still in their twenties: fiddlers Adam Sutherland[45] and Innes Watson, pipers Ali Hutton[43] and Ross Ainslie,[36] flutist Kevin O'Neill, accordionist John Somerville,[36] banjo player Éamonn Coyne,[24][33] guitarist Barry Reid,[30] bass player Duncan Lyall,[37] bodhrán player Martin O'Neill and drummer Fraser Stone.[43] Besides the traditional tune "Sheepskins Beeswax" (though I never heard of it) and Irish piper Brendan Ring's "Maverick Angels" all music has been composed by Adam, Ross, Kevin, Innes and John (with Adam's "Garry Porch of Avernish" already recorded by Dàimh fiddler Gabe McVarish).[42] The album starts somewhat solemn, from track #3 the pace quickens. The Treacherous Orchestra can rock with power, but also deliver sophisticated arrangements. They can play catchy melodies on bagpipes and whistles and also stomp along with simple, straight-forward riffs. It's almost epic, and indeed orchestral, with tracks taking up to 15 minutes. Is it my impression that the entire album is built up just like a symphony with an overture and several extensive movements. But mind you, this is not a studio project, the Orchestra was founded at the Celtic Connections festival 2009, and I have seen them myself at last year's Rudolstadt festival.
The Treacherous Orchestra is destined for even greater things - if they are capable to hold the line-up together.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Dan Brouder "The Lark's Air"
Lark Records, 2011

Dan Brouder is an accordionist from Newcastle West who plays a West Limerick accordion style and the music of the neighbouring music of Sliabh Luachra. Being heavily influenced by this, Dan also helds an interest in Irish Amercian music of the 1920/30s and the London sessions of the 1960/70s. "The Lark's Air" is a lovely accordion album in the purest traditional vein. Dan plays an airy but expressive button box. The album is kicking off with two jigs composed by Dan showcasing his compositional abilities, followed by more familiar traditional reels, jigs and hornpipes. While Brian McGrath (piano), Seamus O'Kane (bodhrán) and Gearoid Dineen (guitar) do the back-up, Dan is joined by flutist Francis O'Connor and fiddler Áine Ní Chonnaile on the three-part "Patie's O'Leary's Jig," and by fellow box player Derek Hickey on the popular slow air "An cailín deas ag cruite na mBó". Flutist Eamon O'Riordan and banjo player Brian Mooney lend support on a couple of reels, flutist Donal O'Sullivan on a polka set, and eventually banjo player Angelina Carberry[30] on the fling "Maggie Pickin's," a tune probably better known as its Scottish counterpart, the strathspey "Whistle O'er the Lave O't".
© Walkin' T:-)M

Breabach "Bann"
Breabach Records, 2012

Breabach is a familiar name on the Scots folk circuit.[37][37][42] However, the band undertook some major line-up changes in recent times. Megan Henderson (fiddle), known from Salsa Celtica, took over duties from Patsy Reid,[38], while James Duncan Mackenzie doubled on bagpipes. Are these two new recruits responsible for the rather experimental start on the first few tracks before settling into the Breabach routine we all know. Well, piper Calum MacCrimmon, guitarist Ewan Robertson and bass player James Lindsay hold it all together. Breabach's third album "Bann," which means connecting, is a collection of lively instrumental tracks from the Scottish tradition and recent tunes from the pen of Allan MacDonald, Duncan Chisholm etc. and thoughtful songs such as Calum's "Western Skies," his autobiographical childhood story of crossing the Atlantic, Karine Polwart's "Rivers Run" (sung by Megan) or Edwin Muir's poem "Scotland's Winter" (aka "Scotland 1941" sung by both Ewan and Megan). The greatness of the album lies in the tricky details - and isn't breabach the name for an intricate grace note used in the piobarachd style of Scottish bagpiping -, but at the same time the music is performed full of passion and there is rarely a dull moment.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Titom "Second Souffle"
Vocation Records, 2011

Titom is a project of French bombarde player Thomas Lotout, featuring versatile artists such as flutist Yannig Alory and fiddler Raphael Chevalier and a fine rhythm section, and this is apparently their already second album as the title suggests. Thomas Lotout plays his chosen instrument with energy and verve, and he chose to take the double reed instrument far away from its fest noz connections, but anchor it in the centre of contemporary music. Titom take plinns and scottishe, the traditonal call and answer strucure of Breton music and Celtic-sounding tunes and blend it with rock and jazz music. It thus becomes music to dance to at any festival or concert, but is a listening pleasure as well when sitting at home with a glass of cidre in your hand.
© Walkin' T:-)M

KAN "Sleeper"
Own label, 2012

KAN is a new ensemble, however, its line-up features veteran trad artists Aidan O'Rourke,[39] fiddler of LAU,[41] ex Flook flutist Brian Finnegan[31] as well as Ian Stephenson on miscellaneous strings and drummer Jim Goodwin. KAN causes an Emotional Storm, as one of the tracks is titled. Most of the tunes have been written by the quartet, plus one by Israeli bass player Avishai Cohen, Niall Vallely's "Oblique Jig", John McSherry's "Slide from Grace" and a Breton Ridée. There is much of the music of LAU and Flook here, its brilliance and boldness, Celtic music at the core but embracing jazz and world music. The arrangements are sophisticated, swinging tunes which ripen, build up an arc of suspension (I like the groovy bass especially). It is an epic musical journey with gorgeous melodies and groovy rhythms, and though all its ingredients are familiar we're definitely far off the beaten track.
KAN (i.e. seed) is named after the Mayan expression for the year 2010, a year meant to be a time for a new start. I sense this is exactly what we have here, and what a great start it is.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich
"Fé Scáth - In the Shadow"
Own label, 2011

Séamus Begley & Oisín Mac Diarmada
"Le Chéile / Together"
Ceol Productions, 2012

The musical Begley clan from the Dingle Peninsula in the west of Ireland is at it again. Breanndán,[23] who is a member of Boys of the Lough,[32] was born and still lives in the shadow of Mount Brandon, the major inspiration for his latest release "Fé Scáth". Besides two swinging jigs played on the melodeon and a set of waltzes the album is a collection of fonn agus amhrán, steady slow airs and sean nos songs associated with the West Kerry area. Songs such as Christy Moore's dramatic "The Conneeleys" about the drowning of two brothers fishing off the Aran Islands, or airs such as "Her Rolph’s Farewell" (actually "Herr Roloff's Farewell" from the pen of Scots fiddler James Scott Skinner). Sometimes Breanndán delivers both song and instrumental only version, e.g. "Caoineadh Sheáin Laoí," another drowning tragedy with lyrics by Breanndán and music by fellow Boys of the Lough flutist Cathal McConnell.[47] There is the popular air from the Blasket Islands, "Port na bPúcaí" ("Tune of the Ghosts"), and I hear the background story for the first time on his website. According to Breanndán the ghosts in question might be communicating whales while on their migration across the sea. Breanndán's performance on an E flat Grey Paolo Soprani and a C/C# Hohner is expressive and full of passion, his singing is emotional and lyrical. The backing features his children Bréanainn on guitar, Cormac on concertina, Conchúbhair on accordion and Cliodhna on fiddle and sean-nós dancing. Garry O’Briain also plays some guitar and piano.

Meanwhile accordionist Séamus Begley[39] teamed up with fiddler Oisín Mac Diarmada[23] (and actually became a member of Oisín's band Téada).[42] This must be Séamus's first playing in a band, previously performing as duo with various guitar players (Steve Cooney, Jim Murray, Tim Edey, ...). But back to this recording, "Le Chéile" is the result of touring together through the US in the past two years. Séamus is responsible for the Kerry tunes, the album kicking off with a set of slides and finishing off with some polkas. Many of his tunes for the album come from Finbarr Dwyer, a somewhat legendary accordionist who adapted many a familiar tune to make it his own. On the other hand, Oisín brings in the music of Co. Sligo, e.g. reels associated with the legendary fiddler Michael Coleman. "Over the Moor to Peggy" he already recorded with Téada on "Inne Amarach."[32] Their musical trip from the Irish north west to the south west is exciting and somewhat raw. "Le Chéile" also includes four songs, all of them Séamus has not previously recorded. The only guest musician is Séamus’s daughter Méabh who sings subtle backing vocals on the familiar 18th century Gaelic songs "An tSeanbhean Bhocht" (Oisín played the hornpipe version on "Lá an Dreoilín"[29]), "Bánchnoic Éireann Ó" and "Eibhlín a Rún" (according to Séamus possibly the oldest known reference of the phrase Céad mille fáilte – A hundred thousand welcomes). A less familiar song is the English "Banks of the Bann".
© Walkin' T:-)M

Gerry Harrington "At Home"
Own label, 2012

Gerry Harrington[14][27][34] comes from Kenmare in Co. Kerry in the south west of Ireland and offers a fine selection of unusual tune versions from the Mountains of Sliabh Luachra. Gerry launches straight into the multiple-part "Gallagher's Jig," taken from the playing of fiddler Pádraig O'Keeffe, followed by a set of hornpipes and, typical for the area in question, three slides he don't give the names but seemingly including "The Game Cock" (recorded by Sliabh Notes)[23] and "Kiely Cotter's".[32] Its fifteen tracks feature the entire spectrum: reels, polkas, and two airs, namely "Old Man Rocking the Cradle" and "The Banks of the Danube" ("The Wounded Hussar"). Both from the playing of Pádraig O'Keeffe once again, other performers mentioned are Billy and Julia Clifford, Tom Billy Murphy, Paddy Cronin, Denis McMahon ... stalwarts of the Sliabh Luachra tradition. It's a fiddle only album, so rather aimed for fiddle aficionados than the average folk fan. However, Gerry is a virtuosic fiddler with a bright and pleasant style, the choice of tunes and his interpretation is excellent. The extensive sleeve notes cover tune sources, composers, recordings etc. as well as a couple of anecdotes.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Horslips and the Ulster Orchestra
"Live at the Waterfront Belfast"
Own label, 2011

German CD Review

Actually I haven't been that delighted when Donegal trad group Altan celebrated their 25th anniversary with a collaboration with the RTE Orchestra,[42] Sharon Shannon didn't do it for me as well.[48] So it really took me by surprise when I instantly fell in love with the Horslips'[44] attempt to perform with a symphonic orchestra. However, it makes perfect sense keeping in mind the elaborate music of this 1970s Celtic rock outfit. Even more so since the chosen songs were taken from the two epic concept albums, "The Book of Invasion - A Celtic Symphony" (1976), named for the book of Irish mythology "Lebor Gabála Érenn" and itself divided into the three ancient Irish symphonic movements "Geantrai" (i.e. joyful music), "Goltrai" (sorrowful music) and "Suantrai" (lullaby), and "The Táin" (1973), based on the early Irish legend "Táin Bó Cúailnge" (The Cattle Raid of Cooley).
And so it happened that the Horslips got together with the 69-piece Ulster Orchestra conducted by Brian Byrne and played and recorded without much rehearsing on St Patrick's eve 2011 at Belfast's Waterfront Hall. The songs and instrumental tunes have been arranged in different order than on its original releases: 8 tracks from "The Book of Invasion," featuring the single releases "The Power And The Glory" and "Trouble With A Capital T" as well as folk songs such as "My Lagan Love" and "Drive The Cold Winter Away," and 10 songs from "The Táin" with its fusion of traditional Irish music and progressive rock, grooving through new songs such as "Dearg Doom" written over traditional music (here: "O'Neill's March"). After samples taken from these two connected long pieces of music, the Horslips and the Ulster Orchestra deliver some additional music such as the set dance "King Of The Fairies" from the "Dancehall Sweethearts" album (1974), "Ghosts" from "Aliens" (1977), "I'll Be Waiting" from "The Man Who Built America" (1978), and "Rescue Me" (which I believe was only a single release in 1979).
Funny how, for years I held the opinion that Horslips made some nice but dated folk rock music, in the last couple of years I changed my mind: same songs, nearly the same delivery, but it's topical as can be.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Al Andaluz Project "Abuab Al Andalus" [CD & DVD]
Galileo MC, 2012

German CD Review

Veteran of the medieval music circuit Michael Popp is infamous for criticising both the pretended historically informed performance, so favoured by academics, and the fully commercialised medieval carnivals, which are so popular in Germany. His intention always was uniting medieval with contemporary sounds and playing music on the cutting-edge without becoming mediocre. This worked out with his medieval groups Estampie and QNTAL,[38] and also was the mission when he met musicians of the Spanish groups L'Ham de Foc[14] and Amán Amán and suggested to work on a joint repertoire. The group's name Al Andaluz Project refers to the Arab name given to the Iberian peninsula, which was ruled by the Moors from 711 to 1492. It was an economic, scientific and cultural heyday where Muslims, Jews and Christians more or less peacefully lived with each other, interacted and probably also made music together.
Article: Some Observations on Judeo-Spanish Sephardic Songs After two studio productions[42] this year's winner of the German World Music Awards RUTH[47] opened a new door. CD and DVD "Abuab Al Andalus" (i.e. the Gates of Al Andalus) were recorded on 21th January 2011 in the Reithalle Munich. Spaniard Mara Aranda,[39] Moroccan Iman al Kandoussi and German Sigrid Hausen - three voices, three religions, three cultures - form the nucleus to present traditional Jewish-Sephardic and Arab-Andalusian songs, the Cantigas de Santa Maria and some dances from the 13th century. Michael Popp plays string instruments such as ud, saz and tar, Ernst Schwindl plays hurdy-gurdy, nyckelharpa and Indian reed organ, Aziz Samsaoui the oriental zither quanun, Jota Martinez hurdy-gurdy and cittern, Johann Bengen and Jürgen Schneider miscellaneous percussion instruments. There isn't much nostalgia at all. The performance of the Al Andaluz Project is fresh and up-to-date, passionate and soulful - and multicoloured just like the mix of peoples in Al Andalus at the time. Mission accomplished: the music is carried into the here and now and an entire culture is brought to new life!
Besides the concert, which can also be viewed with Michael Popp's comments about the individual tracks, the DVD contains additional interviews with all artists. Afterwards you are well informed about both the genesis and the cultural background of the Al Andaluz Project.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Rachel Hair Trio "No More Wings"
March Hair Records, 2012

The Scottish harpist Rachel Hair[38][39] just released her third album. "No More Wings" is basically a trio album, featuring her touring partners Jenn Butterworth (guitar, vocals) and Euan Burton (double bass), plus some guests, namely Angus Lyon on piano and accordion, sax player Fraser Fifield and percussionist Signy Jacobsdottir. Kicking off with Rachel's self-penned title track “No More Wings" you soon realise that her harp music is not as angelic as it first appears. It rather is a lively and happy affair, despite all its subtleties, and thanks to her collaborators featuring a good deal of jazz music. There are traditional and contemporary dance tunes, airs and songs from Scotland (such as Phil Cunningham's reel "Harsh February") and beyond (such as Galician pipes and hurdy-gurdy player Anxo Pintos' popular "Cancro Cru," which Rachel already recorded on her "Hubcaps and Potholes" album, Michel Faubert's Quebecois waltz "Valse des Jouets" or Soig Siberil's "Plevin Jig"). Jenn Butterworth turns out to be a gorgeous singer with her own song "Island" and Jesse Winchester's "My Songbird," e.g. from the repertoire of Emmylou Harris. My favourite, however, is her rendition of Cyril Tawney's "Grey Funnel Line," often performed and recorded, but rarely so crisp as by the Rachel Hair Trio.
By the way, Rachel has just published the second volume of "Mostly Scottish Harp".[42] Featuring seventeen Scottish, Irish and Manx traditional tunes and some of her own compositions, including the title track of her latest album, "No More Wings."
© Walkin' T:-)M

Jaakko Laitinen & Väärä Raha "Yö Rovaniemellä"
Helmi Levyt, 2012

From the north of Finland, close to the Arctic Circle, comes singer and lyricist Jaakko Laitinen with his band Väärä Raha (i.e. Bad Money),[45] featuring Jarkko Niemelä (trumpet, bouzouki), Marko Roininen (accordion, whistle), Tuomo Kuure (double bass), Janne Hast (drums, synthesizer), and some guests with more brass, violin, guitar etc. The motto of their second album "A Night in Rovaniemi" is tanssi tanssi! - dance dance! and they kick off a fiery dance party to fight Lapland's low temperatures. Doing this by blending rhythms from the Balkans with solemn Russian choruses and Finnish popular music, the catchy melodies have been composed by different band members (and also using two Russian folk tunes), while Jaakko Laitinen wrote bittersweet lyrics about love found and lost (the Finnish lyrics are in the booklet). The music is simply infectious, and it would be nice to see and hear Jaakko Laitinen & Väärä Raha beyond Finland's shores and over here on the European mainland. There's seemingly forming a fan club since I started playing the CD.
P.S.: The only thing I can complain about concerns the bloody cardboard box, the worst package I've ever encountered, with the silver disc constantly in danger of being thrown around.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Kilfenora Céilí Band "Chapter Eight"
Own label, 2012

The céilí band's céilí band named after their hometown Kilfenora in County Clare opens a new chapter in their book.[39] The present incarnation has been going for two decades, and this is the fifth album from the current band and the eighth since forming in 1909. For making a difference they have added double bass, cello and viola to the line-up of four fiddles, two flutes (incl. Garry Shannon),[33] one accordion, one concertina (Tim Collins),[31] one piano and one drum set under the direction of banjo player John Lynch. The titles chosen for the different sets lead to the many places the Kilfenora Céilí Band played - from the Banner County Clare to Dublin and Belfast, Birmingham and London, to Glastonbury festival and across the Atlantic to the Milwaukee Fest. There's reels and jigs to dance for the ceili, also polkas and waltzes, the two step "Echoes Of The Schoolhouse" and the quadrille "Adam and Eve". The overall sound is probably as up-to-date as you can get it without betraying the céilí audience. Furthermore, Galwegian singer Don Stiffe gives a fine rendition of the old emigrant song "Galway Bay" and the popular "Come By The Hills," the latter made famous by the Fureys.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Folke, Emma & Josefina "Kontakt"
nu trad, 2011

Folke Dahlgren (guitar, bagpipes), Emma Svensk Gunillasson (fiddle) and Josefina Paulson (nyckelharpa) are dedicated to the traditional music of Västmanland province in middle Sweden (to the west of Stockholm and Uppsala). Quite off the beaten track, Västmanland and its traditional music is somewhat ignored, so to speak. Anyway, now they make contact with the outside world, and they have a treasure to offer. The trio plays traditional polskas and schottis, a waltz by Josefina and some smoky tunes composed by Folke. Last but not least Folke's tune whose first five notes come from Steve Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". Their performance is swinging and modern. Västmanland is not behind the moon, and the trio obviously listened to all kind of influences. Folke's rhythms drives on, while the tunes are delicately dealt with by the girls' fiddle and key fiddle. Folke, Emma & Josefina arrived on the circuit, and that's a good thing.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Dónal Donnelly "Tremolo"
Own label, 2012

Dónal Donnelly is a young traditional Irish fiddler from Galbally, Co. Tyrone in the north of Ireland. Despite published under his own name, "Tremolo" is a band effort, featuring guitar player Donncha Moynihan (guitar), Dutch uillean piper Stijn Van Beek (who plays with Hot Griselda)[40] and multi-instrumentalist Karl Nesbitt (bouzouki, bodhrán, flute, didgeridoo). The overall sound is rooted in the tradition, but more in the trad crossover vein. While the arrangements are groovy and intoxicating, Dónal Donnelly plays a bright fiddle with much versatility. Most compositions are from the pen of Dónal, with some of Stijn's or Alasdair Fraser's well-known "Tommy's Tarbukas" reel thrown in for good measure. Eventually, Dónal and the Tremolo band are going exotic with a Hungarian sounding piece from his own and Elva MacGowan's rendition of the Mexican folk Song: "Mi Sueño" (My Dream).
© Walkin' T:-)M

Ewan McLennan "The Last Bird to Sing"
Fellside Recordings, 2012

Scottish singer and guitar player Ewan McLennan debuted in 2010[40] and subsequently won the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for Best Newcomer and was named Best Male Vocalist of the Year by the Fatea Music Awards. He continues his triumphal procession with his second album "The Last Bird to Sing." Ewan is mostly on his own with just subtle support by John McCusker (fiddle), Karine Polwart (harmony vocals), Martin Simpson (slide guitar) and Laurence Blackadder (double bass). Though young by years Ewan sounds like a veteran, I'd like to say that his interpretation of traditional songs such as "Jamie Raeburn" or Matt McGinn's "Rolling Hills Of The Borders" might become the classic version for some years to come. Ewan's three big passions – music, history and social change – and him listening to Dylan & Co. produced three fine original songs: "Whistling The Esperanza" is a modern-day epic folk tale about the Chilean miners, the title track "The Last Bird To Sing" deals with unemployment, and - for those affected by scarce of work and who end up in the military - Ewan tells the story of Joe Glenton, soldier turned conscientious objector because of the British in the Afghanistan war and hence sentenced to jail. Ewan's skills on the guitar are furthermore demonstrated by two instrumentals sets where he is musically crossing the Alps with Napoleon to return for a take on Robert Burns' "Ae Fond Kiss."
© Walkin' T:-)M

Noreen O'Sullivan "The Quiet House"
Own label, 2012

Noreen O'Sullivan hails from Corrandulla in Co. Galway. Her parents owned J.J. Gavin’s pub where she was exposed to traditional Irish musicians coming and going. She started playing the tin whistle at the age of five and, these days living in Carna in Connemara, is teaching the inexpensive but intricate instrument ever since in local schools. Noreen chose a selection of more or less familiar tunes. It's mostly reels (she wrote the title track "The Quiet House") with some jigs and hornpipes thrown in for good measure (again two composed by Noreen). She is a masterly performer on the whistle, with a steady breath for dance music, but also with a smooth hand for slow airs. Noreen is suported by guitarist Seamie O'Dowd,[39] bouzouki players Hazlett Keers and bodhrán player Richie Lyons, and her brothers Frankie Gavin (fiddle, piano) of De Danann fame[44] and Seán Gavin (accordion) join in for a family céilí.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Blackbeard's Tea Party "Tomorrow We'll Be Sober"
Own label, 2011

I haven't enjoyed a folk rock band for quite some time as much as these five young fellas (on melodeon, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, percussion) and a handsome maiden (on fiddle and cello) from York who formed just three years ago. The album kicks off with a mighty rendition of David Dodds' modern mining song "I Can Hew". Vocalist Paul Young does an excellent job. There are traditional and contemporary shanties to sing along, a rather muted version of Stan Rogers' "Barrett's Privateers," the "Jolly Bold Robber" robbed off the Brass Monkey version, and last but not least a spirited interpretation of Cyril Tawney's "Chicken on a Raft" plus the Appalachian old time tune "Cluck Old Hen". There is a bit of fellow folk rock group Pressgang here,[43] a rampage intended to dance to, have fun and start a riot, but also to tell some tales and spin some yarns, as well as an occasional nod to the trad fusion orchestra Bellowhead[47] in its inventiveness and intent do something beyond the usual sometimes. Thrown in for good measure are groovy tune sets from Scotland to Canada - they are a veteran ceilidh band -, mostly of modern Celtic genesis (Fred Morrison etc.).
© Walkin' T:-)M

Avven "Kastalija"
Own label, 2011

The Slovenian folk metal group Avven from Litija started out way back in 2003, at the time calling their style Eastern Rock. In 2011 the band released their second album "Kastalija" with the intention to take off and make themselves a name beyond the Dinaric Alps. The album title kastalija obviously is derived from the Greek and means something like a source of inspiration. Avven then is derived from the Welsh word awen which means something like inspiration as well, and there is even more of a Celtic affinity with the band members having nicknames such as Anam (singer/guitarist Primož Lajovic) or Morrigan (fiddler Barbara Upelj). Only flutist and piper Anej Ivanuša insists on his Slavic identity and calls himself Anej I. with a nod to punk music. There is a great deal of classic Celtic rock with heavy metal guitars and boisterous brass. You can headbang, hum along to their catchy melodies or chant their gutsy choruses. Besides one song in pidgin English, Avven fortunatly sings in the Slavic language spoken in Slovenia. No idea what it is about, reportedly they have an affection for fairytales and fantasy stuff, which certainly fits the bill.
© Walkin' T:-)M

The Old Dance School "Forecast"
Transition Records, 2010

Though named The Old Dance School,[39] this is a young British band, consisting of guitarist Robin Beatty, fiddlers Helen Lancaster and Samantha Norman, flutist Laura Carter, trumpet player Aaron Diaz, bassist Adam Jarvis and drummer Jim Molyneux. The group's name stems from the place they met in 2006, the Betty Fox School of Ballet in Birmingham. They quickly left the ceilidh circuit behind to perform original music in the traditional vein with jazzy overtones and the energy of a rock outfit. "Forecast" is their second album, recorded in the mouth of an old miner's tunel in Dinorwig quarry in Snowdonia with the sounds echoing from the slate walls. The track list itself reads like an epic journey across the vast British landscape, the sound is cinematic and epic. Tunes have been composed by Robin, Samantha and Helen, with melodeon player Andy Cutting's "Spaghetti Panic" thrown in for good measure. Strong and catchy melodies are combined with complex and intricate arrangements. Three tracks are contemporary folk pop songs: Robin wrote the puzzling "The Real Thing" and "Strange Highway", while "John Ball" is a true English folk song written by Sydney Carter to commemorate the Peasant's Revolt 600 years ago.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Dealan "Impuls"
Folkart Records, 2011

"Impuls" is the second album of the Spanish group Dealan, which formed half a decade ago in the Catalan capital of Barcelona. There's many a band in Barcelona that knows how to rock and update traditional grooves and songs, though this is not your typical Catalan outfit. Rather take the best of contemporary Celtic music and put it to Mediterranean grooves (yeah, this rather reminds me of certain Galician bands) with some crossovers into the orient. There's flutes and pipes galore, as well as some didgeridoo and various ethnic percussion instruments. Besides the fiery and delicately arrranged instrumental tracks, mostly written by fiddler Elisabet Llort, piper Noah Cuni and cellist Alba Pujol, there are some vocal contributions: "Always When I'm Wrong" is a rather prosy folk pop ditty saved only by the gutsy instrumental interlude. The Spanish language "Navegants de la Terra" (Navigators of the Earth) and "Lluna d'Argila" (Moon of Clay) work much better for me. After all, I strongely recommend to take a listen!
© Walkin' T:-)M

Sprag Session "Sprag Session"
Own label, 2012

Colin Grant started solo with "Fun for the Whole Family,"[44] now comes the adult stuff - putting a band together and rocking traditional Cape Breton music. The Nova Scotia fiddler joined forces with multi-instrumentalist Darren McMullen (banjo, mandolin, flute, guitars), keyboarder Jason Roach, bass player Donnie Calabrese and drummer Colin Clarke. Sprag is a Shakespearean word for quick and lively, and that's exactly what you get here, Cape Breton dance music or newly written music in this vein. Furthermore, the tunes are arranged towards rock and funk and are fiddling (so to speak) with tune structures, textures and time signatures. Most tunes have been composed by Colin (he already recorded a family-friendly version of "Jenn & Anthony’s" on his solo album), with some of Jason's and one of Derek's, plus a traditional Newfoundland tune, a Breton Andro and a tune by English accordionist Martin Green ("Frank and Floe's") and Scottish guitarist Kris Drever ("Salty Boys") of British trio LAU, respectively.
© Walkin' T:-)M

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