FolkWorld #50 03/2013

CD & DVD Reviews

Tony Denikos "Under the Church"
Own label; 2012

This is a full rock band playing a nice mix of southern rock and Americana folk music. Not only have we heard it all before, but we hear it constantly in recent years as well. The songwriting is good, but the vibe captured in the arrangements is even better. There is a strong assurance from Denikos and his band that helps translate into songs with substance that will stick in your mind. Nothing really knocked it out of the park in a wildly creative way, but this was a pleasure to listen to.
© David Hintz

Arlan Feiles & the Broken Hearted
"Weeds Kill the Wild Flowers"
Not Pop; 2011

There is more heartland singer-songwriter material here, but maybe a bit more on the urban side of the tracks. The songs are good and the arrangements are full of organ, piano, rhythm section, and gnarly electric guitar. There is a Robert Pollard (Guided by Voices) paste-up artwork used for the cover, which looks like it took him about as much time as he takes in coming up with a pop hook. Like with his music, I would suggest Pollard use an editor and unlike his music, he does not appear to be able to come up with a winner with this visual art. But musically, this is all nice. Sometimes the arrangements are a little thick for the song, which normally I like, but do not always fit here. I rather liked the more active vocal work and solid instrumentation in a song like “Breaking”. There are some nice solid moments within these thirteen songs.
© David Hintz

Bob Cheevers "Smoke & Mirrors"
Back 9 Records; 2012

If I wanted to sum up this record in two words, I might just leave it with: Willie Nelson. I am not overly familiar with much beyond the basic sound of Willie Nelson, but I certainly detect that similar warm resonance of his voice in these songs of Bob Cheevers. The material here encompasses the western side of Country and Western, with plenty of blues moves and some folk and world touches as well. This is a two record set with twenty-three songs and may get a little long, were it not for the welcome feeling these songs show. The voice and music is comfortable and focused in delivering pretty decent music. Cheevers is a veteran (with his songs recorded by Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings among others) and his skills are still sharp throughout the whole of this record.
© David Hintz

J Shogren + Shanghai’d
"God Bless these Crooked Little Songs"
Jaha!, 2013

J Shogren is an interesting cat. He writes some great songs and along with some fine Wyoming area musicians, plays some assertive and twisted western styled Americana based blues and rock. It is a close cousin of ‘Denver sound’ epitomized by Woven Hand, Slim Cessna, Munly, and others. But when not playing great music, he heads off to Sweden as an environmental science professor with a share of a Nobel Prize on his resume. Say what? I could not possibly write a negative review on someone so interesting, but thankfully even if I was not enlightened to the back story, this record would quickly appeal to me. These tunes really move with the crisp drumming and rapid bass lines. There is plenty of picking, along with fine lead and backing vocals to carry the infectious melodies forward.
© David Hintz

Dropkick Murphys "Signed and Sealed in Blood"
Born and Bred Records; 2013

“The Boys are back and they’re looking for trouble” is the refrain to the first song on this eighth album from Boston’s (in)famous Irish punk band. These guys have always pushed things one notch further up the punk scale than the Pogues did, but are a notch less heavy than their sister band (with their former singer) the Street Dogs. “Rose Tattoo” is a classic Irish ballad that rocks out nicely and will have tears falling into the requisite pints of Guinness. There is even a Christmas song “The Season’s Upon Us” which is almost as funny and brilliant as the Pogues “Fairytale in New York”. There are barroom sing-alongs, hard rockers, heavy folk rockers, and everything you would want in these blazing twelve songs. The sound is clean and powerful with just enough room for pipes, accordion, and other Irish touches. It sounds like they are having fun with their full fledged comeback and they completely sold out two nights at the big club here a few weeks back, so it looks like little will stop this band. I would not dream of getting in the way, far better to sit back and join the fun.
© David Hintz

Tout est joli / All is pretty "Point D’Issue"
Home Records, 2012

There must be something in the water in Belgium as things are getting mighty interesting there. We had the run of their two great tennis pros, but now there football (soccer) talent is spreading around the globe just as I am getting flooded with Belgian bands from folk to post-punk to this interesting modern progressive album here. It feels progressive as much as anything as there is a lot of jazz elements that snake in and out in between dark steady rock sounds, bluesy slide guitar rock and even a bit of pop rock. The emotions vary from song to song and there is even a garage rock’n’roll cut called “Hate is Older than Love”. Perhaps there is not a central enough theme here tying it all together, but I don’t mind. Not knowing what is around the corner drives many a good mystery. So even being lost once in a while is well worth the vibrant surprises that await you on this album.
© David Hintz

Dan Coyle "Winter Folk"
Own label; 2012

This is homemade folk of the purest kind--One voice and one acoustic guitar presenting original folk songs. He’s got a slightly breathy delivery with a slightly positive outlook, although he pulls it back for the deeper lyrics. The guitar work is bright and clean and has a pleasant ringing quality in many of the songs here. This is a good effort but not too many songs distinguish themselves from the pack. That is until the eighth and final song where the tonal shift and interesting structure perked up my interest. This would be a good night in a folk club, but I would like to see a little bit more on future recordings.
© David Hintz

Jesse & Noah "Driven Back"
Own label; 2013

Jesse and Noah Bellamy are brothers. Jesse handles vocals and guitar with Noah adding those sounds along with bass, autoharp, and pedal steel guitar. They are joined by a few Nashville area musicians, who fill out the sound to a full well produced rock band. It is an odd mixture of rootsy music with pop-rock moves. The quality keeps everything centered nicely. The vocal harmonies are what bring this out of the pack as much as anything. It almost hearkens back to an Everly Brothers quality at times, and I do not finding myself thinking in those terms too often, these days. Between this, the skilled songwriting, and the variety, there is much to offer here for folk and rock fans.
© David Hintz

Apnoe "Fordulo"
Folkbeats, 2012

I was a little worried with the first cut as this ‘new take’ on Hungarian folk music was sounding an awful like indistinguishable lounge jazz. But the band quickly moved into more interesting territory as the songs kept coming. They have jazzy beats, but can also do straight ahead rock’n’roll and there is some vibrant folk fiddling in much of this, along with brass and the usual guitars. There are some fun moments here and the album plays through well enough, but it delves a bit too much into spry jazz for my liking. This sounds like it would be a more enjoyable live set.
© David Hintz

The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock
"The Brutal Here and Now"
Transduction; 2012

This is intriguing indie rock with more than an occasional nod and wink toward folk motifs. When it leans toward indie, it showcases those busy little guitar runs during the verses, which are kind of fun as well as the lush production with keyboards and strong drumming. Actually, “Sweeney’s Frenzy” starts of with an Irish folk melody on acoustic guitar with a familiar vocal pattern, but a full rock sound comes in moving it more into a more modern Horslips territory. “Black Diaries” has a Woven Hand type vibe with vocals closer to that of Boiled in Lead. That is great territory to be in as there is a haunting, droning quality to this intense rocker with a mysterious folk undercurrent. This Dublin band is on to something that should pick up a lot of music fans looking for intriguing stylistic combinations played well and with a mysterious deep airiness. They are not as audacious as their countrymates, United Bible Studies, but they could fill well on that bill. I am intrigued enough to want to see what they do next time around. But until then, I will be giving this many more listens.
© David Hintz

Lowlands "Beyond"
Gypsy Child; 2012

This is a smooth rocking outfit from Italy that alternately lets it rip or pulls back into a more heartland based folk-rock. When they rock, the guitar work approaches Bevis Frond with the nice wah-wah pedal in “Waltz in Time”. The breathy vocals are earnest enough and carry the better parts of the songs, but a bit more range or backing vocals could do wonders with this material. This could be classic rock, but it is not quite as rooted into a decade as some classic rock bands (and newer bands modeling their sound in the past). This is a balanced record that sounds more comforting than edgy and has a certain appeal to it. Arrangements are just solid enough to bring a thick club sound into your living room. That is not too surprising as the Producer played keyboards for Soul Asylum, and their records had a similar effect.
© David Hintz

Hat Check Girl "Road to Red Point"
Waterbury; 2012

This is a folk duo comprised of Peter Gallway and Annie Gallup, and although their base of Santa Monica, California is not exactly near Galway Bay, they do invoke the spirit of the UK folk scene. Yet there is an American styled folk in the mix as well and they balance classic forms well with some inventive arrangements. There are anywhere from one to three different guitars or banjos weaving around the melodies while the two voices work together extremely well. This is a veteran duo and they show a lot of class and experience with their music. When they nail a particularly good song, they create as classic a folk sound as you would ever want to here. And enough of these ten songs are successful enough, that folk fans of many different styles should seek this record out.
© David Hintz

Annie Gallup "Little Five Points"
Waterbug; 2012

This is an intriguing album, and quietly quite daring, truth be told. There are some nice rural folk moves that make way for beat club poetry with nightclub blues in there as well. The lyrics have a lot of storytelling, which is more interesting than most other efforts. Musically, it is likable although it did not pull me in as much as other albums I am listening to. Still, the ambitious talent here will attract the right audience, so it warrants a listen. The songwriting skills evident here will earn a lot or respect at a minimum.
© David Hintz

Kim Edgar "The Ornate Lie"
Quietly Fantastic; 2012

This Edinburgh singer/songwriter/pianist had me hooked about 1/3 the way through the second song. This is classic singer songwriter material with a jazz feel in the rhythm section, but light enough to keep this in the light rock camp. The vocals are lovely, but the songwriting is what really works here. There is variety both in the style shifts between songs, and the melodic shifts within the song. It is all quite universal in approach and style and is more a lineage out of the classic singer songwriter of the late 60s and early 70s than of a geographical or philosophical center. That is a compliment as this material will feel familiar to just about everyone who is affected by the fine melodies here.
© David Hintz

Reza "Supermaan"
French Toast; 2012

This is an intriguing combination of a westernized indie folk rock vibe and spacey otherworldly electronic nuance.[43] It does not dazzle, but locks into a steady sound that allows the soft ‘Morrisey-lite’ vocal style to stay on top of the sound. There is such control of the pace here, that a moderate rocker like “Flying Girl II” is a nice little jolt late in this album. It reminds me of when Joy Division picked up the pace, although this is not nearly that dynamic. There is something addictive in this music and I found myself really enjoying it when it finished, when I was less certain at the start. You definitely want to give this your undivided attention from start to finish, and I believe you will find the rewards within this seemingly simple framework.
© David Hintz

Sky Country "Songs from Nowhere II"
4thstrecords; 2012

This is low-key folk music that has a breezy easygoing quality to it, with a somewhat contemplative undercurrent. At times they remind me of a quieter Beau Brummels or some other sort of western US folk-rock act. If Devandra Banhart had understood the word ‘restraint’, his music may have sounded like this. Nico Georis is the man behind this ‘band’ and he plays a bit of everything but drums. This is yet another record that has a sneaky restraint underneath the main song structure that has the slow building effectiveness that makes this an enjoyable record and worthy of relistens. There is intriguing folk music coming from every corner of the globe and this one is a worthy part of what is happening.
© David Hintz

Micoe "À retardement"
Own label; 2012

Montreal has been quite the hotspot in recent years (thank you Arcade Fire) and Micoe is the most recent record from there that has come to my ears. It has some of the pop sensibilities of many of the other bands I have heard. This is far more lush and mysterious in the arrangements and there are only a few songs that move toward rock music (and not much folk for that matter). Dreamy pop with slight moves toward mellow electronica and the lightest jazz touch are more of what is in this formula. She has a voice that allows the dream to take hold and communicate her lyrics (in French). The instrumental support is smart and effective. I love the clunky synthesizer sound in Mecanique as it takes me back to the early 1980s. If this type of music is not done well, it is easy for me to quickly brush this aside. But there is an effective touch here with Micoe and the various players that should keep you absorbed if you are into this type of sound.
© David Hintz

Ground Level Falcons "Ground Level Falcons"
Own label; 2012

At first, this rock band sounded maybe a bit too retro for me. But as the old style synthesizer managed to integrate well with the heavy electric guitars, they started to pull me into their sound. Vocally, I hear a bit of Michael Stipe mixed in with any 70s rock singer you can conjure up (excepting the real screamers). They even reminded me of Queens of the Stone Age or Them Crooked Vultures on “Connections are to be Made…”, but speaking of connections, these four guys are all in other bands just like the Them Crooked Vultures guys are/were and somehow came up with a similar band name. Connections are everywhere and so is rock music. Yet I can never get enough of it, and these guys do a fine job of adding some thoughtful rock music that is both heavy and indie into the world.
© David Hintz

Paul Cargnello "Papa"
Silence D’Or, 2012

More music from Montreal comes my way with this Montreal musician’s eighth album. This is a well-recorded album featuring snappy singing that moves from reggae to R&B to bluesy rock songs. I find it sounding too transient for my liking and there is nothing terribly unifying about it all. I repeat that it is well done and may have a strong audience somewhere, but I just cannot grab on to any of it in any meaningful way.
© David Hintz

J.C. Guichen "Chadenn Denel"
Coop Breizh, 2012

This record had me from the opening notes with its muscular acoustic guitar playing. “Just Guitar” is just that for 5 ½ minutes of invoking Wizz Jones and John Renbourn styles at their strongest. Like his fellow countryman, Pierre Bensusan, Guichen is finger-style master who appears to only play in the DADGAD tuning. He showcases his amazing talent and dexterity over eleven mostly instrumentals on this album (some nice vocal work and treated vocal effects). I often wonder why I do not seem to find more excellent finger-style guitar albums, until something like this comes along and reminds me that it is not terribly easy to do this music with skill and confidence, let alone bring something personal and unique to the form. Guichen does all of that as these songs burst out of the speakers. He also adds a touch of electric guitar and violin, which rocks it out a bit in a Tomrerclaus vein. But even with an acoustic guitar, Guichen has amazing pace and power in his fingers, yet retains great warmth and heart in the playing. This is a keeper and one that is worth going out of your way for.
© David Hintz

Richard Thompson "Electric"
Proper; 2013

Although I have my favorite Richard Thompson albums versus those that do not get replayed often, I am not sure I have too many negative words to say about any of them. I was actually a little worried when Richard Thompson described this album as part of new genre ‘folk-funk’. Yet this was recorded with Buddy Miller in Nashville, which may have added a little more worry for me if I had not seen the brilliance Miller and Robert Plant created in Band of Joy. But worrying is not worth the effort, as Richard Thompson has made another fine album that sounds every bit the Richard Thompson album you would want with some flexible genre shifts that make it fun for him. As a songwriter and a guitarist/vocalist, he has already shown he is well beyond any simple genre or even geographic pigeonhole. He mixes it up nicely on this record and only a couple times delves a little too much into the Nashville sound for my liking. But he has earned the right to do whatever he likes, when he can come up with memorable songs in his sixth decade as a songwriter. The highlights here include the hard rocking “Salford Sunday” which has a great rhythm underneath the gutsy guitars and vocal work. “My Enemy” has a bit more of a classic Richard Thompson styled folk-rock vibe and is quite gripping as it is between some louder songs. “Straight and Narrow” is another fine thoughtful rock number. But the best cut is the lovely “Snow Goose featuring acoustic guitar and backing vocals from Alison Krauss. His fans do not need to care about what reviewers think, but fence sitters will want to give this one a listen. And word to other creative muicians—working with Buddy Miller will likely yield some incredibly creative output.
© David Hintz

The No Refund Band "The No Refund Band"
Own label; 2012

This is band of music veterans who are together to release a debut album of good barroom blues-rock with some heartland acoustic touches. The vocals are quite good, and eerily reminiscent of Richard Thompson (maybe crossed with David Clayton Thomas), although as I just listened to Thompson’s album, I cannot quite get his voice out of my head. This is about half covers and half original songs. Normally, I would expect to see weaker original music with that sort of ratio, but I quite prefer the originals to the covers. “Blues is my Business” is fairly predictable and “Eleanor Rigby” just does not sound like a good reinvention here. But the original music has a touching quality in the songs, and the band contains solid players that are flexible with their music and work well with the steady vocals. All in all, this is a band that you would be staying late in the night with at a blues club near you.
© David Hintz

Stan Rogers "Northwest Passage"
Borealis Records, 2012

German CD Review

Here is the latest in the welcome reissue series of Stan Rogers’ albums. I have written previously how much I enjoy these records[47][49] and this one is no exception. Rogers works with his brother Garnet who worked with Archie Fisher who is a name most folkies should know. And I always mention this as Stan Rogers’ voice and overall style is a comfortable fit for any fan of Archie Fisher, and I would add Martin Carthy, Ralph McTell, and many of the other UK-based folk greats. There is a slight contemporary feel to this album, although the folk songs start working there way in as the ten songs proceed. And the snappy sea shanty-styled “The Idiot” sounds like something more ancient than the original song that it is. Stan Rogers passed on way to early in a 1983 airplane fire, but thankfully the music is still alive through these rereleases.
© David Hintz

Uwe Gronau "Visions"
Own label; 2012

This is ambient music in the progressive realm with a touch of jazz and hearkening back to classic krautrock. The performer is German although the album is inspired by the city of Paris. If you are not a fan of this style, this will not convert you, but if you have toe in the water or enjoy the occasional dip as I do, you may find a nice little record here. Gronau does capture atmosphere well with a variety of sounds and mixes in something a little more upfront with more passive passages in an even and flowing manner. There are hints of Roedelius and others too numerous to mention here. Gronau succeeds with just the right blend of activity and passiveness in the music here.
© David Hintz

Joe Tilston "Embers"
Fellside, 2013

The name Tilston immediately had me thinking this may be Steve Tilston and Maggie Boyle’s son. Indeed that is the case, and although the parents are not anywhere on this record (except in spirit), sister Martha adds some nice backing vocals. Apparently Joe Tilston did the youth punk band start-up that many do (and rightly so, I might add), and has now moved into folk territory that does remind one of his father--especially with the moderately deep voice. There are also some sad and lonely notes in some of the songs that are reminiscent of Nick Drake. The style is different and there are bursts of energy here and there, but the sense of quiet is one that will stay with you.
© David Hintz

Andrew McFayden "Turas"
Own label; 2012

German CD Review

Scottish Gaelic folk via Cape Breton is on the menu here. It is all organic with little or no additives of any sort. Pure, raw a cappella vocal work with just a bit of instrumentation here and there. I find the instrumental additions tastiest such as that on “An-t Each Geal”. The vocal work is good and the accent and language is musical in itself, although it may not be for everyone. But purists will delight with this album. This is well worth a listen for any folk fan and will give some of the more comfortable diversification that you could imagine.
© David Hintz

Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps "Come on Home"
Jesi-Lu; 2012

Teresa James sings she is long way from Texas as this LA based musician-writer-singer records a hot little blues album that was mastered in California, mixed in Louisiana and recorded in multiple studios, at least one being in Nashville. So yes, it is slick, but it is hearty and rich in texture. James has a raspy voice that leans toward quiet and does not quite go over the top, although she can hit a note hard when needed. The band is solid as you would expect and the songwriting avoids a lot of the blues clichés, which is essential for me if I am really going to dig in and enjoy the songs (more than the mere playing). James plays some piano and there is some brass added to the usual fiery guitar and stomping rhythm section. Modern blues fans and crossover fans will easily find several winning songs on this album. As for traditionalists, my guess is that they may want to try something else first.
© David Hintz

Steve Mednick "Where are the Bodies Buried?"
Cottage Sound; 2012

There are classic folk elements here, but this record exhibits more of an early 1970s singer songwriter, folk, blues, soul, and moderate rock combination that was prevalent then. The vocals are thinner than many of the singers back then, but there are heartfelt lyrics that worked then and work now. I found a couple of the light folk rock tunes likable. Still, this sounds like something you would tolerate and maybe enjoy in a local bar and not something you would seek out.
© David Hintz

Garden of Delight "Avalon - Rebirth Of Camelot"
Broken Silence, 2012

Heavy, electric, mostly instrumental piped folk that is more progressive than heavy metal is the ‘simple’ formula here. Yet there are some nice vocal passages and some crunching metal riffs--clean with enough power. They seem to follow the Camelot storyline and are likely interpreting the events and characters, although things run rather smoothly in basic modal melodic patterns, so I am not sure I really see the connection. This is all quite listenable, but it does not hit the compelling heights I would like to hear in something this ambitious. Still, this was a fun listening experience and will appeal to adventurous souls who want a little comfort on their safari.
© David Hintz

Adam Green & Binki Shapiro
"Adam Green & Binki Shapiro"
Rounder, 2012

If you miss Lee Hazelwood, Joe Meek, and those lushly produced pop songs that were larger than life, you may be in for a treat here. You may remember Adam Green from the band ‘the Mouldy Peaches’, although he has released a lot of solo work as well. Here he teams up with a lovely female singer to create some lovely pop-folk magic. “Casanova” sounds like a lost Dusty Springfield hit, while pretty much any of the other nine songs will have you thinking back to that era. There is a modern twist to it all, not quite as dark as David Lynch’s music, but it has a milder variation of that in the mix. “What’s the Reward” has a killer twang with contrasting vocals reminding me of Bread Love & Dreams, but even trippier. This is fun, well thought out, and deceptively simple. But great artists make the simple sound vibrant and personal and these two succeed extremely well here.
© David Hintz

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