Issue 6 10/98
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Keep it up - Simon Thoumire, Eilidh Shaw, Malcolm Stitt, Kevin MacKenzie
Label: Foot Stompin' Records ; CDFSR1701; Playing time: 53.09 min
Keep It Up is a Scottish quartet, playing traditional Scottish music (to keep it up and alive...). The four musicians Simon Thoumire (concertina, whistle - Simon Thoumire Three, Seannachie), Eilidh Shaw (fiddle, vocals - Caledon), Malcolm Stitt (bouzoukie, highland pipes, whistle - Deaf Shepherd, Boys of the Lough) and Kevin MacKenzie (guitar - Simon Thourime Three, Swirler) are all quite known in the Scottish scene. All are very gifted musicians, and together they are exciting. The speciality of this CD (and of the band) are the slow tunes - often musicians think the faster the better, but Keep It Up show how beautiful slow music can be. (Now don't think they can't play fast, there are also those few fast musical moments...)
For me the biggest surprise of this excellent CD were the vocals: Eilidh is singing on two tracks -and it is so beautiful! 'Just for Gordon' is a tune Elidh has written for Gordon Duncan (a Scottish piper who loves to play fast...), it is a very slow tune and starts with Eilidh lilting (singing without words), just accompanied by some guitar cords. The other song is the Gaelic song 'Mo Chaoin Chailin', written by Niall Brownlie. Up to now I have known Eilidh before just as a good fiddler - but she is a great singer, too!
If you get the chance to see them live, don't hesitate, apart from the music they are also great fun.
Foot Stompin' Records/Tartan Tapes, Keep it up Homepage
Jim Fidler "Gypsy"
Label: Iona Records/Lismor; IRCD 059; Playing time: 44.23 min
Newfoundland is an island in the Atlantic Ocean near Canada. It has a rich cultural heritage, settlers on the island include people of Irish, Scottish, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Basque origin. Jim Fidler, singer/songwriter and multi instrumentalist, is influenced not only by the different cultural heritage of his home, but also by different musical styles as Classical, Bluegrass, Folk and Trad music, Ska and Reggae, and by as diverse musicians as Bob Marley, J.S Bach, Christy Moore, The Police, Supertramp etc.
Jim has a very effective way of presenting his original music, a blend of exciting songwriting with an excellent band. Actually, his band is quite special, as apart from very little help on some of the tracks, Jim himself is the whole band. He plays on this CD 12 different instruments, and of course he sings. The music sounds often traditional or at least based on traditions, though it is all written by Jim.
A nice addition to this great album is the informative booklet in three languages (English, French and German).
Ruth MacKenzie "Kalevala - Dream of The Salmon Maiden"
Label: Ominum Recordings; OMM2021; Playing time: 59.44 min
Based on a Finnish saga, Kalevala: Dream of Salmon Maiden was a sell-out theatrical piece. This is the original cast recording, featuring Finnish as well as English songs.
The music is often powerful and impressive combining ancient Scandinavian songs, tunes and singing styles with modern arrangements and contemporary English songwriting. The album starts with a stunning piece called 'Salmon Dance', starting with a traditional, very intensive Finnish voice style called 'kulning' that is more screaming than singing, the solo scream leading into a modern tune with exciting persussion, violin, Swedish säckpipa (bagpipes) and Ruth's lilting - the parts combining säckpipa and lilting being absolutely fabulous. The English songs tend to have the style of American songwriting, though they are always telling their part of the Finnish saga. Surprisingly enough, the English songs blend very well with the traditional Finnish ones.
I enjoyed this recording; it is not only the music of a theatrical saga, but at the same time also just music to enjoy. All songs and tunes have their very own appeal, and make up a varied listening. I was most taken away by the Finnish folk rock pieces with that typical dark flavour, while the 'kulning' pieces are the most impressive ones. A special album.
Seven Little Sisters "Girl"
Label: Room 3 Records, RTR001; Playing time: 43.03 min
No, this isn't some pseudo 'Spice Girls' teeny-bopper of a band
heralding slogans of 'girl-power'. These SIX GUYS actually hail from
Nottingham (fine, so that doesn't make them Irish either) and play music
that's a cross between Dexys Midnight Runners and the Pogues. Yep, that
means music guaranteed to get your sweat glands working overtime.
Having seen them live earlier this year, I'd been eagerly awaiting
their debut release on CD. And it's been worth the wait, although some of
the tracks they played live (like 'Whiskey Man', a tribute to Shane
MacGowan) aren't on this release. (Hint hint) The energy threatens to
burst at the seams in parts of this album, what with Nik Acons' and John
Leonard's howls, catcalls and sometimes just innane mumblings and
mutterings. The lyrics are 100% genuine Irish music material though,
from rambling on about whiskey, to sermons (??), sinners to saviours.
My favourite tracks on the album include 'Primrose Hill', which
was a great track live (can anyone persuade Shane MacGowan to do a cover
of this one?) and "Dyin'" (100% ice-filtered live bluegrass on tap). Who
said you have to be Irish to play foot-stomping, morphine miasmic,
Guinness guzzling, sweat-drenched, sinew-twisting, heart-rending folk
music? Highly recommended act to catch live. Oh, and whilst you're there,
might as well buy a copy of the album.
Room 3 Records
The Immigrants "Awkwardly Mobile"
Label: Awkward Music. AM0498-2; Playing time: 60.42 min
Upon first play, this album from the Canadian foursome sounds
more rock and grunge oriented than folk. Gone are the days when the boys
crooned bitter-sweet melodies accompanied by the folksy strains of fiddle
and harmonica. This album packs a lot more punch, demonstrating the
flexible musicianship of this Ontario-based band. Or maybe they've just
grown up. Who knows?
Whilst keeping their signature style of witty euphorisms,
(although lines like "One arrangement of ideas, can turn the key to open
ears" still boggles the mind) the band give centrestage to jangling,
growling electric guitars and pounding drums that churn out powerful,
grinding melodies. At times, Peter Zantingh's singing style sounds vaguely
reminiscent of Adam Duritz' of 'Counting Crows' (who himself was highly
influenced by Van Morrison, no less). The fiddling is also akin to fellow
Canadian band 'The Paperboys'. Having said all this though, these bands
are all top in their field, which puts 'The Immigrants' second album
naturally in the radio-friendly charts. A good thing really, as it's high
time this band got more airplay and a wider listening public. And that's
on both sides of the Atlantic.
Celtic Aire "Rock, 'Piper', Scissors"
In this age of computer technology frenzy, where there's
everything from a virtual pint of Guinness to (ahem!) virtual hanky
panky, the incorporation of MIDI pipes (doh?) in evolutionary recordings
like this one by Celtic Aire should not be surprising. And who's going to
bear a grudge or lament the loss of good ol' piping techniques when there
are traditional favourites aplenty on the album anyway?
Ok, ok, so this third release by the band sometimes betrays a
confusion of styles, as if the musicians were uncertain for one moment of
their vocation (can we stick to folk now, lads?) , giving in to slow
atmospheric ballads after a decidedly hell-raiser of a previous track, and
having the sharp-pitched strains of highland pipes wailling a wake-up call
after a bluesy, soulful saxophone introduction complete with keyboards
played in a lazy loungelizard,cocktail-complete-with-yellow-paper-umbrella
style. Still, experiment is the key to progressing in music, isn't it?
Why bother to stick to the formulaic 4/4 beats and boring guitar solos
when you've got the range of instruments and musicianship to explore more
My favourite track though, had to be 'Moonstar'. Pour this tuneful
melody gently into a glass, blend in a few blue notes of Led Zeppelin's
'Stairway to Heaven', a twist of early 'The Who' tracks, and serve shaken,
not stirred. Best appreciated whilst lounging in a black leather sofa with
All in all, "Rock, 'Piper', Scissors" is a distinctive recording
by a band who continually aim to widen and explore the established
boundaries of traditional Celtic folk. Never mind the somewhat corny
Na Lua "Os Tempos Son Chegados"
Label: Do Fol / Boa; DF 007 CD; Playing time: 49.37 min
Na Lua are a folk rock six piece band from Galicia, Northern Spain. Long established and well known, Na Lua started in 1980 and this is album no. six of Na Lua. They play self written and traditional music in a very powerful way on instruments ranging from gaita (Galician bagpipe), whistle, accordion, bouzouki and guitar to sax, synth and percussion.
The sound is very straight forward, the music is not just for the head, but also very much for the feet - it is not to easy to sit while listening to them. The guest musicians, helping them to create their great songs and interesting arranged tunes, inlude Pancho Alvarez (read the review of his solo album in this issue), a founder member of Na Lua and Maria Teresa Duro, who sings on two tracks.
Apart from the music, the booklet is excellent designed, with all these great photos you want to go to Galicia immediately...
The next album of Na Lua is already in the pipeline - for all of you who can't wait just listen to this excellent album (it has made Fifth in the Editors' CD Top Ten of 1997!)
Do Fol / Boa
Battlefield Band "Rain, hail or Shine"
Label: Temple Records; COMD 2074; Playing time: 45.49 min
Battlefield Band, one of Scotland's institutions, have just had a major line up change - 'Rain Hail or Shine' is the first CD with Davy Steele (Caledon, ex-Ceolbeg, ex-Clan Alba, etc) on vocals, guitar, bodhran and bouzouki replacing Alistair Russell; and Mike Katz (ex-Ceolbeg) on Highland bagpipe, small pipes, whistles and bass replacing Iain McDonald.
The new musicians complete the remaining line up of Alan Reid (the last original member) on vocals, keyboards and John McCusker (fiddle, whistle, accordion, piano) - young of age but now already an 'old' member of Battlefield Band. The sound changed a bit (of course!), but you can feel the well known Batties charme. Davy is an excellent singer (especially of slower ballads) who is already well integrated in the band - just hear the breathtaking Norland Wind and Heave Ya Ho...
They are good in playing fast and danceable, but for me it is the slow music that is special - the expressive slow fiddle and whistle tunes and the slow ballads.
The Batties have proved that their latest line up is once again well worth a listen - this band will live on, maybe forever?!
Tommy Couper "The Piper's Muse"
Label: Lochshore / KRL; CDLDL 1275; Playing time: 45.14 min
As you can imagine when you read the title of this album, Tommy Couper is a piper. This is his debut solo CD, but solo does not mean a CD of solo pipe music - Tommy (on Highland and Border pipes) is backed by some well skilled musicians of the folk circuit: the producer of this CD Ross Kennedy on guitar and bouzouki, Steve Lawrence on percussion and bodhran, Angus Lyons on keys and piano, Andy Nicol on flute and whistle and Gavin Pennycook on fiddle. With them, this album contains a full folk band sound focussed on the pipes. Much of the material is composed by Tommy, but you can hear his strong connections to the tradition.
He started as a piper in various pipebands, left the pipeband scene to join the 'Whisky Fingers', a young, energetic and up and coming band in 1994 - after the band split up, Tommy joined the Shotts and Dykehead Caledonian Pipeband. But he wanted to play folk music again, and after meeting Ross Kennedy he got the chance to present this album.
Lochshore / KRL
Choice - An Anthology of Traditional Irish Music
Label: Claddagh; CC40/65 CD; 30 tracks; playing time: 01.34.14 min
If you are looking for a sampler that contains
the real stuff, this one is for you. These two CD-set has it all:
From the lively dance music to lovely airs, highlighting the
different instruments and regional styles, to songs in english
and gaelic, featuring the best of traditional irish artists dead
and alive, including:
The Chieftains, Maire Aine Nic Dhonnchadha,
Seamus Ennis, Len Graham, Sean (fiddle) Keane, Sean O Riada,
Dolly McMahon, Leo Rowesome, Sarah & Rita Keane, Denis Murphy
& Julia Clifford, Dan Dowd, Sean 'ac Dhonncha, Paddy Taylor,
Derek Bell, Tommy Potts, Ronan Browne & Peadar O'Loughlin,
Vincent Campbell, Robbie Hannan, Gabriel McArdle, James Byrne,
John Murphy, Paul McGrattan, Mary McNamara, Dolores Keane, Mick
O'Brien and Michael Tubridy.
Sleeve notes are by Paddy Moloney with editing
by Peter Browne (disc1) and notes by Dermot McLaughlin and
editing by Finbar Boyle (disc 2). The set encorporates a 1984
release (16 tracks) as well as a newly compiled accompanying disc
containing 14 tracks. All the tracks are taken from other
For all who are tired of New Age-, Celtic,-
Folk-Rock/Pop/Jazz samplers, here is one with strictly
traditional irish music. To me, this is definitely the Hightlight
of the year in the sampler category !
And remember: Christmas is coming soon !!
Claddagh; Tel.+3536793664 Fax +
Cordelia's Dad "Spine"
Label: Appleseed Recordings; APR1023; Playing time: 52.42 min
A superb traddy album of this cool American folk band. The musical style of the is album goes into the direction of traditional English folk music, reminding me of some of the highlights the English scene has to offer - especially the music around the Carthy/Waterson Clan. Cordelia's Dad have here a line-up featuring dulcimer/accordeon, frame drum, guitar/banjo and fiddle, capturing the full magic and energy that pure traditional music has in it. Their songs show their qualities in harmony singing; the band is lucky enough in having three great singers, one of them female. With this album, the young band from Northampton, MA gives traditional music again a cool and powerful image - it's just superb stuff.
An album full of traditional delights, hugely enjoyable, and well destined to become a classic in the folk music scene. This one needs its safe place in any good folk CD collection.
Appleseed Recordings; more infos at Cordelia's homepage
Os Cempés "Opa iii!!"
Label: Do Fol / Boa; DF003; Playing time: 51.23 min
Os Cempés is one of the many young Galician folk bands formed during the last few years. Opa iii!! is their debut album; being a live recording, it has captured the full power and party atmosphere of Os Cempés' popular live concert, while the quality of the recording was not harmed.
Their music is based on the Galician pipes, the Gaita (as you can see already in the photo on the CD cover); backed by an accordion player and three percussionists on instruments like tambourine and a big drum. There is one lively traditional song found on the recording, the rest are tunes. You can imagine that the album sounds very much traditional and pipe based - maybe there is a bit lack of variation in the music of this album, which by far does not mean that I find the album boring. The craic and energy should make their live concerts to a 'not to be missed' affair. Os Cempés means 'The 100 Feet' - without doubt at their concerts there will be several 100 feet dancing to their music.
Do Fol / Boa
Ewan MacColl, A.L. Lloyd, Ry Harris "Bold Sportmen All - Gamblers and Sporting Ballads"
Label: Topic Records; TSCD495; Playing time: 47.50 min
Topic Records have done another superb job for the English folk music scene publishing three classic theme albums with lots of valuable recordings from the sixties. This one's about sports songs, featuring two Topic Records from the 50s/60s plus three more tracks.
A.L. Lloyd, the famous English singer and folk music expert, said that the songs have their origin mainly in the last century, when sports columnists went at the end of the day to the pubs 'with a comission to produce a ballad on the latest prizefighter or horse race, for two and sixpence a song". Thanks to these columnists, we have here an album of some of the best such songs, telling of 'sports' like card playing, Gaelic football, pool, hunting or highway robbery. Its all great music and great songs, sung by the great singers A. L. Lloyd, Roy Harris and Ewan MacColl and accompanied on guitar, harmonica and sometimes concertina or fiddle. The booklet gives intersting background information on the songs. This album, featuring some of the earliest recordings in the Topic Records catalogue, is both folk historically interesting and good fun to listen to.
The other two copilations are also well worth to check out, the one, 'Round Cape Horn', features trad songs of sailors, ships and sea sung by Ewan MacColl, A.L. Lloyd, Louis Killen, the Watersons and others; the other, 'English Drinking Songs', features songs collected by A.L.Lloyd in one special alehouse on the East Coast of England. Both are reviewed in the German version of this issue.
Topic Records, 50 Stroud Green Rd., London N4 3EF
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