FolkWorld #64 11/2017

CD & DVD Reviews

Black Market Tune "Drifters & Vagabonds"
Galileo, 2017

www.blackmarkettune.com

The first track of this Austria based outfit suggest that this another one of those many continental bands fallen for Celtic music: a high-quality set of fast tunes on fiddles and accordion spurned on by a driving guitar - certainly a promising start. Yet this is not an album that sticks to Celtic music, as after this opener the four musicians present an album full of surprises. Unlike other bands in the Celtic genre, this one pays tribute also to the Austrian roots of the band - there's a beautiful German version of a Bellman song about a distiller and even some yodelling. Other unusual tracks include the song medley "Traveller" combining song versions of a Wordsworth and three Robert Louis Stevenson poems. Add to that a few homemade tunes taking inspiration from Celtic, Swedish and Austrian traditions, some Jazz (particularly with Johanna’s jazzy singing) and Blues, occasional sampling, and a traditional song (“Willie o”) and you'll get a picture of the variety these four musicians present. Despite this wide range of styles, the album has a good flow to it.
© Michael Moll


Mary Ann Kennedy "An Dan"
ARC Music 2017

Artist Video

www.maryannkennedy.co.uk

Born and brought up in a Gaelic tradition bearing family in Glasgow, Mary Ann has been raised with Gaelic singing from an early age. Best known in the UK as a BBC Radio 3 radio presenter, Mary Ann has also been part of celebrated Gaelic band Cliar; however somewhat surprisingly this is her very first solo album.
I was fortunate to experience a beautiful intimate duo performance of Mary Ann with guitarist Finlay Wells in a church at Suffolk's Folk East Festival which saw her wonderful singing presented at her very best. This album beautifully showcases Mary Ann's singing, and is at its best when her voice is giving maximum attention, with subtle arrangements on say guitar and piano, or with the addition of an uillean pipes. Some may say that on a few tracks the songs are more heavily arranged than required, although I find that all arrangements do work. The material is a mix of successful new Gaelic songwriting by Mary Ann in a traditional style, and interpretations and arrangements of largely contemporary Gaelic poems and songs by other poets. A great album by a wonderful singer.
© Michael Moll


Tilly Moses "Alight and adrift"
Ginger Dog Records, 2017

www.tillymoses.com

Suffolk hasn't had in recent years many folk music stars to claim, so it is a pleasure that Suffolk has with Tilly Moses a very young yet clearly up and rising home grown star – which is also an asset for one of England's premier festivals Folk East to showcase. This young singer songwriter's debut album will no doubt help her to further well deserved fame. Tilly Moses' maturity in her singing and lyrics belies her young age of 18. She presents on her debut 12 of her own songs, about topics such as love, footprints we leave behind, the flatlands of her home region or protecting the environment. Her warm singing style is complemented not only be her own mandolin, guitar and harmonium playing, but also by a whole band of excellent young folk musicians - including Finn Collinson on guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, recorder and whistle, Kevin Duncan on bass guitar, percussion, piano and accordion, Cellist Ginny Davis and fiddler James Delarre. Sam Kelly makes also a guest appearance on backing vocals. Tilly’s crowd funded debut is the kind of album that still further grows on you on repeated listening, and is quickly becoming a favourite of mine. Check this young singer out if you can.
© Michael Moll


April Verch & Joe Newberry "Going home"
Slab Town Records, 2017

Artist Video

Canadian fiddler, singer and step dancer April Verch has teamed up here with American singer, banjo and guitar player Joe Newberry. The album is dominated by songs, many written by Joe, in an Americana and country style. These are interspersed by some fast and furious fiddle tunes led by April's fiddle talents. And yes there is also some step dancing to be heard on the album - but hearing step dancing is somewhat unsatisfactory and how can you judge this album when you haven't seen this duo in live, as this is no doubt where these two fully shine.
© Michael Moll


Moirai "Here & Now"
Wild Goose Records 2017

Artist Video

www.moiraitrio.co.uk

Moirai brings together three brilliant English female folk musicians: the household name Jo Freya (Sax, clarinets, whistles), Melanie Biggs on melodeon and Sarah Matthews on fiddles und tenor guitar. The trio creates quite a trademark sound, with the blend of sax, melodeon and fiddle combined with effective harmony singing creating a beautiful full sound. As the trio also play up for ceilidhs, the album features a number of lively and very danceable tunes which are of high quality so also enjoyable to just listen to. However the album does focus on songs too, powerfully arranged, with an interesting and more unusual choice of songs, some with a bit of a twinkle in the eye such as "Dust if you must". A couple of the tracks may sound familiar from Jo Freya's other current and previous projects, Token Women and Blowzabella.
This music is fun, energetic and spills out happiness. And if you are, like Moirai, depressed about Brexit and need cheering up, then you can either follow Melanie's example to eat biscuits or, the healthier option, listen to her tune "Brexit biscuits" to make you feel better - or best why not combine the two.
© Michael Moll


Ryland Teifi "man Rhydd"
Gwymon/Sain, 2016

Still probably best known in his homeland as an award winning actor, Ryland Teifi has turned on this album his talent to singing and songwriting. This beautiful gentle Welsh folk pop charms me, even though, with the majority of the songs being in Welsh and the lack of sleeve notes, I have no idea what many of the songs are about. Four of his ten songs on the album are in English, and the topic of these is related to his home turf and love. The songs have contemporary arrangements, featuring Ryland on piano, guitars and other instruments, plus other musicians on fiddle, bass, guitars and drums/percussion.
© Michael Moll


Annie Moscow "Passing trains"
Own label, 2017

www.anniemoscow.com

Dedicated to anyone in a major life crisis turning their life into turmoil, this album reflects Annie Moscow's own experiences, trying to find her new place in the world at the end of a long marriage. The American singer songwriter focusses in her songs on hopes, trying to leave things behind and moving on, but there is in some of the songs also melancholy and sadness. The songs are well arranged and presented in a style moving between folk and pop. The album was produced by late John Jennings who unfortunately had been unable to complete the project as he passed away before the album was finished.
© Michael Moll


Yann-Fanch Kemener Trio "Dans"
Coop Breizh 2017

www.yfkemener.com

Yann-Fanch Kemener, one of the leading singers on the Breton folk scene, and having been involved in the scene since the 70s, has teamed up in his trio with accordionist Erwann Tobie and guitarist Heikki Bourgault. The mesmerising singing of Yann-Fanch, often in fast Breton dance tunes, is full of depth and skill. Yet it is the excellent instrumentation on accordion and guitar that adds additional drama and excitement to the songs, making this music that is as suitable for Breton Fest Noz as for an enjoyable night in listening to this music. The singing is pretty intense so you do need to be in the mood for it. As Breton song goes it cannot get better than this.
© Michael Moll


Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys "Pretty Peggy"
Navigator Records 2017

Artist Video

www.samkelly.org

Young Cornish singer Sam Kelly has become over the last couple of years a festival and folk club favourite in the UK, and is defining a new cool in English folk music. His second album features again his "lost boys", an illustrious six piece band featuring one of the greatest current English fiddlers Ciaran Algar, Archie Churchill-Moss on melodeon, Jamie Francis on banjo and guitars, Graham Coe on cello, piano and indeed the fire extinguisher, Toby Shaker on flutes, whistles and some lovely uilleann pipes on one track, and Evan Carson on drums and bodhran. The boys also provide a powerful backing choir.
"Pretty Peggy"'s highlights are the more traditional sounding songs, and there are quite a few great ones in the mix - including "Greenland Whale", a great version of the (not quite traditional but with a very traditional sound) “The Close shave" which is leading into a superb set of instrumentals, Appalachian song “Angelina the Baker” and English trad song “The Keeper”. I love “The Rose”, a song orginally written in French by Belgian band Naragonia and put to English by Sam, yet still maintaining the French/Belgian sound. In some songs Sam tries in my view a bit too hard to sound cool, e.g. his interpretation of traditional "Shining Ship" or on the Bob Dylan song "Crash on the levee" - but perhaps it's just me getting old! I do always find with the Lost Boys' live performances that they are not making enough of such a top notch large band, and this is somewhat also true on this album - as you would expect the arrangements are great but too often the band is too much “just” a backing band to Sam Kelly.
Since last year's FolkEast Festival, Sam Kelly is one of the favourite acts of my 7 year old daughter so no doubt we will also listen to this CD on most car journeys, which is not bad prospect at all.
© Michael Moll


Cabit "Unico Figlio"
Felmay, 2017

FolkWorld Xmas

An album dedicated to Ligurian Christmas traditions. Unlike with other international Christmas albums, on this album no songs sound familiar to my Northern European ears. While there are many songs on the album, it presents more than just seasonal songs - there's also tunes and even Ligurian bells. The music is dominated by the drones of pipes, the piffero (Oboe) and hurdy gurdy. The album is as much a record to enjoy as it is a historical document of the varied musical Christmas traditions of this Italian region. I myself found the album and music generally not too accessible, and it did not give me that warm and fluffy Christmas feel - perhaps you need to be from that region to fully appreciate the album.
© Michael Moll


The Young'Uns "Strangers"
Own label; 2017

www.theyounguns.co.uk

The fourth album of this exquisite northern English singing and songwriting trio firmly placed them amongst the finest Folk acts in the universe. The quality of the songs on “Strangers”, all bar one written by the band’s Sean Cooney, reach a new height. They tell of heroes of today and the past; the lyrics are incredibly moving and reflect some of today's big societal issues.
There are many songs on this album that I would happily nominate as the best original song of the year - yet there is one which stands out, perhaps even as the song of the decade: "Dark water" describes how a Syrian refugee braves to swim a five mile strait of the Aegean Sea across from Turkey to Greece, using some of the words that he used to describe his journey after being rescued - like no other song does this song sum up the story of today's refugee crises, the despair and hope that drives refugees to escape the troubles in their home country. The song has beautiful lyrics and incredibly moving music. Other superb songs on the album include the story of the Thalis terrorist attack or that of a teessider converting his van to a kitchen van to travel to France to dish out food in the Calais migrant camps. "Be the man" is another very touching song, about the story of Matthew Ogston and his fiance Nazim Mahmood who tragically took his own life two days after his deeply religious family confronted him about his sexuality. Somehow the Young’Uns manage to package these amazing stories into catchy and moving beautiful songs. Many of these brilliant songs are presented a capella, while in others the harmony singing is backed by accordion/piano (David Eagle) and guitar (Michael Hughes), by backing vocals or strings of Aldeburgh Young Musicians, or in “Be the man” and atmospheric addition of a Flugelhorn.
This trio had already been one of my favourite acts before, yet “Strangers” sees the Young’Uns excel even more as brilliant songwriters and harmony singers. They already have won many a BBC Folk Awards previously, yet this their latest album, and all of these stunning songs, surpass what they have done before. I would be surprised if more awards are not on their way. It certainly will be my no. 1 album of 2017.
© Michael Moll


Ljom "Stundom"
KKV, 2017

Artist Video

www.ljom.net

This young Norwegian five piece band dedicates their music to very local music traditions, of the region of Snåsa in central Norway. Their new album celebrates the lyrics and music from three cultural stalwarts of this area, folk musician Gunnar Daeli and poets Lina Jørstad and Reidar Sandnesmo, whose work was created over a span of two centuries between the late 18th century and the early 21st century. The music is focussed around the expressive singing of Kjersti Kveli, and combines elements of Norwegian folk and free jazz. The band features accordion, guitars, clarinet and cello and bass. It's a pleasure to hear a young band focussing in on such local traditions, in a creative fashion.
© Michael Moll


Acquaragia Drom "Rebelde"
Finisterre , 2017

www.acquaragiadrom.it

Artist Video

A wonderful album by this Italian gipsy band, featuring on this album also mandola player Mimmo Epifani. On Rebelde, the band reminisce classic Italian songs (from outside the folk genre), and revisit them with a unique Italian gipsy folk treatment; as well as offering some new compositions by the band. The music and songs are bursting from energy and, in their lively arrangements, cheer me up and make me smile. The most notable instruments heard on the album are mandola, accordion, clarinet and bass clarinet; as well as violin, mouth harp, tambourine and double bass. I enjoy every single track on this album. Some have familiar elements from Italian pop classics, but my undoubtable highlight of the album is "Tu vuo' fa amerikano", and you don't need to understand Italian to figure out that this song is about a certain American president whose name makes up the chorus of the song, and it does sound like there might be some mockery in the song. A grand album.
© Michael Moll


Frigg "Frost on fiddles"
Own label, 2017

www.frigg.fi

Pure fiddle power made in Finland. Bringing together four fiddlers, plus double bass, guitar and cittern/mandolin, Frigg produces a terrific full sound. Their music brings together the beauty, and at times melancholy, of Finnish and Nordic music with the raw energy of Celtic fiddling and the sophistication of classical music, creating a wonderful and harmonious whole. While the band refer to their music as “Nordgrass”, Nordic bluegrass, I felt that, on this album, the bluegrass element is rather slim. The most famous names of the band are Alina and Eskorte Järvelä from the famous Järvelä musical family.
With the exception of one tune by Scottish fiddles Chris Stout, all tunes are composed by the band, and every single one is superb. The album cover features a wonderful wintry illustration of a sleigh pulled by the band’s instruments.
With this being already their eight album, Frigg have established themselves a strong reputation on the album international scene, and no doubt their upcoming November Uk tour will further this reputation.
© Michael Moll


Blazin’ Fiddles "The Key"
Own label, 2017

www.blazinfiddles.com

More fiddle power – this time made in Scotland. I managed in my Frigg review above not to make reference to Blazin’ Fiddles, but with these two CDs reviewed in a row, I now cannot restrain myself to call Blazin Fiddles Scotland’s Frigg - or vice versa - Frigg as Finland’s Blazin’ Fiddles.
The Scottish fiddle power house of Blazin’ Fiddles easily compares with Frigg in so far that both bands have four superb fiddlers, with the Scottish band additionally featuring piano and guitar (or a fifth fiddle). I have loved Blazin Fiddles music since their very first album, and despite only one original band member - Bruce MacGregor - remaining, the band has remained just as outstanding and true to style. Their current mouth-watering line-up features, apart from Bruce, fiddlers Jenna Reid, Kristan Harvey and Ruairidh Macmillan, fiddler and guitarist Anna Massie and pianist extraordinaire Angus Lyon. The music is all distinctively Scottish, blending raw energy with beautiful more gentle numbers. The material is a mix of compositions by Bruce MacGregor, by other Celtic musicians and traditional tracks – with reels, jogs, marches, beautiful airs and more. Also in their current line up Blazin Fiddles remain at the top of their game.
© Michael Moll


Cocanha "I es?"
Pagans, 2017?

Artist Video

www.cocanha.net

The Occitan traditional music scene, which has increased over the years in international awareness principally from their most famous and prolific bands La Talvera, has in Cocanha a new elegant exponent. This trio of female singers presents on “I es?” attractive harmony singing, largely a Capella or with some percussion (principally tambourine or feet). Their youthful voices bring a fresh and contemporary appeal to traditional songs in this old language. If you like polyphonic a Capella singing, Cocanha are certainly worth to check out.
© Michael Moll


Gilles Servat "70 ans a l‘ouest"
Coop Breizh, 2017

www.gillesservat.fr

Gilles Servat is one of the outstanding, almost legendary, chanson singers of the Breton folk music scene. To celebrate his 70th birthday, this album presents a collection of his songs in French language. Gilles‘ expressive and relaxed singing is backed by an exquisite backing band of Breton folk musicians, on piano, guitars, violin, uilleann pipes/low whistles and percussion. The titles on the album combine well-known and previously unpublished songs, some poetic, some funny, some political. At 70 years, and after 50 years on stage, Gilles’ wonderful voice still makes him sound at the height of his career.
© Michael Moll


Kate Rusby "Angels & Men"
Pure Records, 2017

FolkWorld Xmas

www.katerusby.com

This is already the fourth album of seasonal songs by one of the most popular English folk singers. And Kate Rusby and Christmas songs is a match made in heaven (pardon the pun) - there’s something angelic (and distinctively Yorkshire angelic) about Kate‘s warm and velvety soft singing, and with her stunning angel wings on the album sleeves you could hardly imagine a more authentic angel!
This album features a number of English traditional and less traditional songs, including „Hark hark“, „let it snow“ and „Deck the halls“, and for the banjo players amongst us there’s a good version of David Myles’ “Santa never brings me a banjo”. The album finishes with two songs written by Kate herself, “Let the bells ring”, a reflective song of the post-Christmas days, and “Big brave bill saves Christmas”, a light hearted song about big brave Yorkshireman Bill rescuing Christmas. Produced by Kate’s husband Damien O Kane, the arrangements are very tasteful; with the songs having a contemporary and often jazzy feel. Many songs have a wonderful brass backing. A relaxed album perfectly suited to give the listener this warm and fuzzy feeling we are all looking forward to in the December weeks.
© Michael Moll



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