FolkWorld #55: CD Reviews
FolkWorld #55 11/2014

CD & DVD Reviews

Will Z. "12 Visions"
Own label; 2013

www.willz.be

I was quite excited when I was approached with this album from Belgium's Will Z. He sent it as I was a fan of the amazing 1978 album Book of AM done by Gong's Daevid Allen and some communal musicians living on an island off of Spain. Will Z. worked with two of these musicians here. Sometimes projects like this sound better than the results, as maybe a fan of the music gets the people together but the core of the new work isn't as strong as the concept. Fortunately, here Will Z. has some lovely songs that are fully in the spirit of the Book of AM album and moves from psyche-meditative to what even becomes fairly catchy folk rock. There are some nice arrangements with different sounds, but plenty of space as well as this music works perfectly between Book of AM and Fit & Limo. There are more misses than hits with modern artists trying capture that magic psychedelic folk feeling from the sixties and seventies. This is a big hit and should have any fan of the genre giving full attention.
© David Hintz


Paul Karapiperis "One Sin in Seven Parts"
Own label; 2014

www.smallbluestrap.gr

Straight blues is tough these days. It is all pretty good, but the form is rather rigid, so you better be at the top of the game or you are just one of many. So why not twist it around a bit and raise a few eyebrows? That is what Paul Karapiperis has done with these seven sinful songs. Purists may want to condemn him to Hell for this sacrilege, but I was thrilled with the way he could add wildly psychedelic passages to standard blues runs and make it all sound so natural. The opener "Welcome Boy" is a wild journey through earth and space clocking in at nearly seven minutes. There are a lot of subtle shifts here and there with even some Spanish flair shown in some of the guitar moves. This a grounded psychedelic album with exciting twists and turns that should have any psychedelic music fan very interested.
© David Hintz


Riddle & The Stars "This Is Happening"
Songs & Whispers, 2014

www.benriddle.com
www.thefallenstars.com

German CD Review

Although singer/songwriter Ben Riddle is Australian, the band is southern California all the way and it shows. Although both the USA and Australia have similarities with the more spacious western lands, so it is a fine musical marriage. They manage to find the common ground of expansive rural folk that is rooted to the historical roots of music more than one place. they waver between country and folk, and of course I prefer the folkier cuts. Nothing is particularly weak here, so this should be an album for all fans of those genres as well as those on a lookout for solid singer songwriters.

Songs to try first:
© David Hintz

SOJA "Amid the Noise and Hate"
Own label; 2014

sojamusic.shop.musictoday.com

DC band Soja has some smooth reggae working here in these thirteen songs. There are several guest stars (such as Damian Jr., Gong Marley) to help shape some variant sounds, which help keep things fresh. But the core sounds are good and there is a soulful approach here that merges in classic should and R&B moves in a radio friendly blend (as we said back in the day). That may be a bit off-putting at times but the quality is there and the heart seems genuine enough. The Soldiers of Jah Army succeed at getting you on the dance floor and may keep you on the toes with the shifts in vocals and style.
© David Hintz


Messenger "Illusory Blues"
Svart; 2014

www.messengerbanduk.com

‘What the hell is this?’ was the first thing out of my mouth after five minutes of listening where I looked down to my CD player to make sure this was the album I was supposed to review. I needed to pinch myself to make sure three or four entirely different forms of music weren’t combining together in a fascinating dream. What felt like dreamy folk went a little Roy Harper before furious prog moves and heavy rock sounds exploded from some mysterious part of the song. I am not sure how this all comes together, but I am glad it did, as it is a fascinating and full sound that I may put in my folk collection, but could go about anywhere. They have a distinct Radiohead feel in the vocals and that band at its most psychedelic folk may sound like this, provided the kept the rock foundation. If you have broad musical spectrum and like quality music (who doesn’t?), give this a serious listen. UK’s Messenger blew me away on first listen, so I will be replaying this album many more times.
© David Hintz


Blair Dunlop "House of Jacks"
Rooksmere, 2014

www.blairdunlop.com

Artist Video

This is nice, crisp singer songwriter folk-rock music given a steady workout by a sharp band. Some songs are pulled back into lighter folk styles, but with electric guitar and/or bass in the airier arrangements, it is not at all traditional and has a modern feeling. This is Dunlop’s second album and he is a mature songwriter and has a fine grasp of how at arrange the material as well. After ten solid originals, he closes with a fine rendition of Ashley Hutchings and Ken Nichol’s ‘Song of Two Bridges’. Well worthy of a listen for those that don’t necessarily need the traditional arrangements, but want to hear solid songs.
© David Hintz


Terry Quiett Band "Taking Sides"
Lucky Bag; 2014

www.terryquiettband.com

I apologize in advance for taking the obvious route here: there is nothing quiet about the Terry Quiett Band. This is gnarly tough blues rock delivered with a full electric band. They cook up the basic blues as a trio, but do a nice job with guest spots on harmonica, brass, and keyboards, which add some sparkle at key moments in these 13 songs. But the core material is plenty strong and played at a pace that does not careen out of control, but rather has a little swing to it. This is also welcome in my book, as this breathes a little more life into these chops that we’ve all heard before. Not that, the guitar solos don’t bring it, as they are a lot of fun, too. This is a good dose of the blues on this, the tenth album from the Terry Quiett Band.
© David Hintz


Lestat Vermon "Hillside"
Broken Silence, 2014

www.lestatvermon.com

Artist Video

This is a very warm folk record and there are plenty of folk-rock and even psychedelic-folk songs here to please a vast array of folk fans. ‘When the Molecules are Stopped’ hit me with its mysterious vibe, while ‘White Water’ won me fully over to Lestat Vermon’s style. There are also well executed songs with strings and fuller sounds, yet the acoustic guitars and voice are strong in the mix. If you are a fan of early Donovan and even Bob Theil, you may not want to let this one slip past you.
© David Hintz


Stefan Johansson "The Door to the Unknown"
Own label; 2014

www.stefan-johansson.de

German CD Review

Artist Video

This record starts with a mix of folk-rock and blues rock songs, all with breezy upbeat vocals. Then, “That was the Night when Day Died” hits and something new was born. This is a mysterious song that conjures up Dead Can Dance, Fit & Limo, among other heavenly folk artists. There are other songs that continue along intriguing paths, while others move back into various forms of folk and rock and even some Celtic touches. I like variety, but you would have to like a very wide variety to fully embrace this album. Yet there are great highlights and those will stay with me.
© David Hintz


Sue Young "Gliding"
Own label; 2012

www.sueyoungmusic.com

This is rather easy going singer songwriter full band folk music. It has a laid back, playing on the porch vibe. The topics vary from various stories to explorations of thoughts and emotion. Some cuts work much better than others depending on the depths of the lyrics. The vocal delivery is always good and there is a bright positive tone there, which is welcome in my world any time at all. I also liked the Spanish language songs, even if I couldn’t follow the lyrics. She is based in Austin, so I need not say much more about the quality of the musicians playing with her.
© David Hintz


Loudon Wainwright III "Haven’t Got the Blues"
Proper, 2014

www.lw3.com

Loudon is getting older and crankier, but he still has that great sense of humor that smoothly flows in his lyrical delivery. I think he had me when I saw a song entitled “I’ll be Killing You this Christmas”. There are many great stories in these fourteen songs, but if you’ve heard Wainwright before, this will not surprise you. There are some people out there who still may not realize just how good a songsmith he is. I am not sure where this ranks among his 26 albums, but whether it is your first or 26th time hearing a LW3 album, you’ll be glad you did.
© David Hintz


Robyn Hitchcock "The Man Upstairs"
Yep Roc, 2014

www.robynhitchcock.com

4 Songs Played @ Sawyer Sessions

There is always one thing missing on Robyn Hitchcock albums, stage patter. On stage, Hitchcock’s talking between songs is worth the price of admission alone. Thankfully, the wit and grace in his conversation is every bit as present in his songs and these ten new cuts offer nothing contradictory to expectations. He keeps the arrangements down to some of his favored instruments—acoustic guitars, strings, and backing female vocals. There are some keyboards, electric guitar and a light rhythm section employed which keeps things fresh and popping. The spacey guitar and backing on “Don’t Look Down” reminds me a bit of Meic Stevens, although vocally he still has that sweet Beatlesque style that balances the folk with the pop and rock. And even though I am thrilled with his original music, there is a wonderful version of one of my favorite Doors’ songs, “The Crystal Ship”. Yet another find Robyn Hitchcock record we have here. Long may he find the creative juices to keep it going.
© David Hintz


Ivor Game "Dizzy Spells"
Own label; 2014

www.ivorgame.com

German CD Review

This is a nice little album of short songs delivered directly without much flair. The soft voice contrasts nicely to the sharp sting of the guitar strings when they are plucked with some force. Game can turn a phrase but doesn’t add much beyond the basics here. Still, there is a certain charm that would make him a welcome addition in my local folk club. And these songs may stay with you a lot longer than you may immediately believe.
© David Hintz


Robbie Boyd "So Called Man"
Tawny Owl; 2014

www.robbie-boyd.com

Robbie Boyd brings a folk style to his full band rock music on this album. The clarity in his voice is matched by it warmth and will hold most listeners’ interest. The songs have decent hooks and the band is solid. This is his debut album and shows that he has plenty of experience working his way to this point. I also like the positivity inherent in his songs. This sometimes can be looked at as being slight, but should be something more songwriters strive for. This is a fine starting point for his recorded career. Let’s see where he goes with this.
© David Hintz


Tusmørke "Riset bak Speilet"
Svart, 2014

myspace.com/tusmoerke

If you can imagine a Scandanavian Jethro Tull, you may have a good idea of Tusmørke. Of course, with Jethro Tull, there is a wide range of song styles to choose from and Tusmorke is not an exact match for any of them. But with the floating flute sounds, the dancing keyboards and full progressive band sound, you could easily fit this into your Tull world. But with the overall tone and themes here, they might be closer to the flute-based Jade Warrior with a dose of Nektar as well as the many Scandanavian progressive bands of old. There are dark tones and a modern feeling that you may get from goth metal. But this is lovely progressive music that is built from classical and folk musical forms. The vocals are clean and inviting and the music consistently has a playful flowing feeling to it, with some icy fjords near by, but still mobile. This is a highly interesting band that I hope to hear a lot more from.
© David Hintz


Richard Thompson "Acoustic Classics"
Proper, 2014

www.richardthompson-music.com

Artist Video

Richard Thompson has chosen 14 songs from his 45 year plus songwriting history and has given them a new release, arranged with just voice and acoustic guitar. Diehard fans will want this record. Mere fans may think about adding this to the collection, but the inclusion of songs like “Walking on a Wire” which was sung by Linda Thompson and “Shoot Out the Lights” which had a full rock band arrangement are of great interest to all. Fans of his guitar playing will want to hear new workouts of “1952 Black Lightning” among others. People who don’t know or listen to him too often (few if any that would ever be reading FolkWorld) will enjoy hearing some of his finest songs played and sung immaculately on this excellent recording. So whoever you are, enjoy!
© David Hintz


Tina Schlieske "One of the Boys"
Movement; 2013

www.tinaschlieske.com

You may know this singer from her band the B-Sides. Although now in California she grew up in Minneapolis and has paid homage to that fine musical scene with this six-song EP of Minnesota artists. I know all of them well, some personally and have seen five of the six—alas, I have not seen Prince. They range from Bob Dylan through Gary Louris (Jayhawks) and there are three from the piping hot early 80s scene that featured Husker Du, the Replacements, and Soul Asylum. These versions are slower and more song focused than rock workouts, but are tough and strong with fine vocal interpretations. This was a fine listen.
© David Hintz


Jonah Tolchin "Clover Lane"
Yep Roc, 2014

www.jonahtolchin.com

Artist Video

This is easy going roots music that wavers from folk to blues to lounge-jazz and maybe even more. The pace is well under control, which allows for vocal drama and sharp instrumental flourish. Ultimately, the songs ring out with quality and depth that is what you look for in any singer songwriter style. So add the variety of style and you have one fine record here.
© David Hintz


The Kenn Morr Band "Afterimage"
PWR; 2014

www.kennmorr.com

There are 28 songs on this two CD collection featuring Kenn Morr’s music and a tight little band he has assembled. The rhythm section is augmented with violin, mandolin and Morr’s guitar and keyboards. The musicians are pictured in a circle, which is just how they made this music—playing live in the studio. I don’t always have a preference on how this is done, but in this case, I think the listener is served well by their approach. This has a small folk club feel to it with straightforward vocals and thoughtful instrumentation where the band is locked in and having a good time. The songs have a gentle warmth to them as they run through a range of emotions, telling a number of stories. I particularly enjoyed ‘Twister’ with the slightest hint of rock music within. But this is folk and light folk-rock for the most part and is a welcome listen in this household a it will be to all folk fans.
© David Hintz


Kina Grannis "Elements"
Own label; 2014

www.kinagrannis.com

Kina Grannis is working in the more experimental pop rock realms—trails that Kate Bush blazed long ago. There is a bit more sunlight coming through on this trail Grannis takes, as there is a spritely pop element that surges through with regularity (as well as less audacious experimenting). As the songs unfold, Grannis adds more singer-songwriter style and even drops in a folky acoustic number as well. The genre shifting is subtle and works superbly as each song has a strong presence. She is a fine stylist with songs you can grab on to and this is a fine, fine listen.
© David Hintz


Heather Stewart "What it is"
Own label; 2014

www.heather-stewart.com

A little bit of country, a little bit of rootsy rock music, and decent songwriting make up the core of this Heather Stewart album. All songs are full band workouts with gutsy rock foundations for the most part. There is enough strength within to satisfy most music fans of roots music, as well as fine vocals and solid melodies to grab hold of. I would personally like to see the music stretch the boundaries a little further next time. This is solid, but it fits almost too comfortably among other records of its type. But the band rocks, so it may get another listen in this household.
© David Hintz


John Fullbright "Songs"
Blue Dirt Records; 2014

www.johnfullbrightmusic.com

This album is full of fine songs with keyboard and guitar led arrangements, sort of like a more mentally balanced John Grant. Why would we want that? Well, actually most singer songwriters have it together well enough, although they walk the edges with their sad tales and difficult life choices. Fulbright offers plenty of challenges in these lyrics and pulls the emotions out with his rich and full vocals. Most songs are sparse, but there are some full band rockers that offer a nice kick in the pants to keep you alert. This is a solid album, and few voices are much better than this, so the quality levels should draw in a fairly large audience.
© David Hintz


Michael Packer "I am the Blues"
IMG; 2013

www.michaelpackerbluesband.com

Bold statement, but Michael Packer makes his case with blues songs and spoken narration of his life story. Alternately interesting and frustrating, the narration tells a tale of a failed musician and troubled life. It may be of interest to those of you who have not heard this same story dozens of times, but it becomes a bit frustrating to me, as the pattern is so similar among so many musicians. But at least Michael Packer is the only one who has a relative who was on trial for cannibalism. And after narrating that story, Michael Packer plays a variation of Phil Ochs’ songs about the legendary Alfred Packer. The music is fair and looks to be a mix of songs from various eras of his career with previous bands from long ago to more recent material. So set yourself down for a spell and listen to his story. We can debate the meaning of the blues thereafter.
© David Hintz


Alicia Bay Laurel "More Songs from Living on the Earth"
Own label; 2014

www.aliciabaylaurel.com

This record quickly reminded of the glory folk days of Joan Baez and Judy Collins. This was even before I read that although Alicia Bay Laurel recorded this album within the last year, she wrote these songs in the 1960s and 1970s when she lived on various communes in the US. She has that same beautiful voice with occasionally barbed lyrics. The arrangements are classic folk, but there is also some lounge jazz in a few of them, which plays well. While this is not a Linda Perhacs style discovery, Alicia Bay Laurel is a nice find, taking us back to a great time in folk music.
© David Hintz


Polly O’Keary & the Rhythm Method "Compass"
Own label; 2013

www.pollyokeary.com

What at times is a rather predictable blues workout, is worth staying with, as there are some fascinating worldly gems like “Nothing Left to Say” that have a Spanish flair with brass instruments and some hot guitar licks as well. The blues material is all well and good, but I hear that plenty. I am sure between the blues spirit and the occasional flair in songwriting, Polly O’Keary would deliver well in a live setting. But don’t ignore this record, as there are good things here as well.
© David Hintz


Giulia Millanta "The Funambulist – Songs from the High Wire"
Ugly Cat; 2014

www.giuliamillanta.com

Artist Video

The subtitle gives away the circus ambiance that is subtly present in this very fine album. Millanta and her band have a Western US spacious roots folk rock style, but there are further exotic touches everywhere here. From the Italian language songs to English ones, Millanta’s vocals have real flair and a powerful presence. The production and recording in Austin is top notch as the guitars jump out, whether they be fuzzy electric slide passages or stinging acoustic picked patterns. Great songs here, so roots fans with imagination, sit back and drift away with Guilia Millanta. And be sure to stick around for the dramatic title cut, which sent a chill up my spine.
© David Hintz


John Zipperer "Full Circle"
Own label; 2014

www.johnzipperer.com

This is a breezy feel good album of blues-rock, lounge-folk, with even a Jimmy Buffett sensation I hear from time to time. The crisp rock moves keep things humming along nicely, until he pulls back into more country and western influenced folk music. There are some Irish influences here as well, even beyond the cover of Van Morrison’s ‘Brown Eyed Girl’. This is a pleasant album that a little something for everyone.
© David Hintz


Jacob Latham "Midnight Train"
Own label; 2014

www.jacoblatham.com

There are just five songs here for you to get acquainted with Jacob Latham. But by set’s end, you should have a pretty good idea of what he’s about—fine songwriting in a heartland tradition that rocks nicely with fine folk moments as well. The guitars offer a range of sounds that color the stories and themes of these songs. Latham’s voice is expressive and comforting, which will continue to sound better with each listen. He has interesting songs and I will be happy to hear more any time.
© David Hintz


Jonny Two Bags "Salvation Town"
Isotone; 2014

www.jonnytwobags.com

Jonny Two Bags plays guitar along side one of the finer working songwriters, Mike Ness, in the band Social Distortion. There is some of the roots-punk of that band here, although the classic western C+W style is more present. The playing is top notch and the side men include David Lindley, Zander Schloss, and even Jackson Browne, so that is not too surprising. The songs are all good, but a few sort of follow expected clichés. When he nails one, such as on the brisk ‘Avenues’ or the folk-ballad ‘Ghosts’, everything sounds pretty great. So there is definitely enough reasons to give this record a careful listen, as there is some strong material here for roots rock fans.
© David Hintz



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