FolkWorld #68 03/2019

CD Reviews

David Munnelly "Aonair"
Appel Rekords, 2018

www.davidmunnelly.com

Aonair means alone, lonesome, a single soul, and that's exactly what you get here. Button box innovator Munnelly puts his heart and soul into this recording, a minimalist one-man performance filled with passion and panache. Like several recent Irish albums, Aonair uses all the possibilities of the instrument - mechanical noises, percussive noises, the full suck-squeeze-bang-blow of an accordion engine, but Munnelly has also included ambient sounds and carillon recordings from his adopted home in Utrecht. This collection switches from right to left hand, from straight musical notes to sound effects and field recordings, with a degree of improvisation in many cases. I should also mention the brilliant sleeve design, inspired in its simplicity, with sleevenotes that are literally on the button.
Make no mistake - despite Dave's Mayo roots, this is not traditional Irish music. There are elements of Ireland here - alongside elements of France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and most of Western European music from the Middle Ages to modern times. Transparent is perhaps the most recognisable piece for traditionalists, a jazzy waltz breaking into a reel before its structure shatters like a glass heart. Much of the rest of Aonair is difficult to describe, full of twists and turns, constantly in flux: a Parisian chanson here, a Gregorian chant there, a breathless run through a Spanish fiesta, snatches of hornpipe or march, melodies moving from box to voice and back again, all wrapped up neatly with a bow. It's as though Munnelly has opened a door into his mind, allowed us to watch the flickering creativity play out for forty minutes or so, and then closed the portal again. Fascinating.
© Alex Monaghan


Cúig "The Theory of Chaos"
Own Label, 2018

www.cuigmusic.com

German CD Review

Artist Video

Five youngsters from Armagh and Tyrone playing polished pipe and accordion music with a rock band backing: their material is mainly their own, but draws on the Irish and Scottish piping traditions as well as more modern influences. There's banjo and fiddle in the mix too, so this is unmistakably Irish music: reels and jigs of course, but with a demanding beat and an energy level more suited to the nightclub than the céilí. Starting with the irrepressible pipe reel Lexy MacAskill, a piece which propelled the Peatbog Faeries to greatness, there's a mix of fast and less fast numbers, and a wacky section in the middle with the two-part title track. The Theory of Chaos ends on Cúig's own Tirolo Nights, one of my favourite tracks here, with its lighter fiddle and mandolin melody recalling Elephant Sessions.
This is Cúig's second album, more confident than their first, and also features three of their own songs, a new departure. The vocals are not yet at the same high level as the instrumentals, but with these lads it's probably only a matter of time: album number three could see them challenging Take That! A bit of Moxie, a bit of Mellowosity, echoes of Buille and Bongshang, but mostly this is Cúig's own sound, and it's as sound as a pound. The Theory of Chaos is right in that new stream of tectonic trad combining great tunes with head-banging accompaniment, but also subtle arrangements which draw the best from both folk instruments and modern music. Give it a try - it will certainly be a fresh experience.
© Alex Monaghan


Jeremy Spencer "The Lion's Head"
Own Label, 2018

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Artist Video

County Kerry has a long tradition of fiddler composers, probably the most famous being Padraig O'Keeffe, and this young Carlow fiddler has clearly benefitted from his move to the musical mecca of Dingle. Jeremy Spencer has been prominent in fiddle music for at least a decade, playing and recording with bands such as Nuada, Ensemble Ériu and Séamus Begley's aptly named Síbín Orchestra, but this his first solo recording. I say solo, although Spencer is accompanied by the mighty Donogh Hennessy, but every tune on The Lion's Head is Jeremy's own. Polkas and slides of course, reels and jigs, slip jigs and hornpipes fill a very generous half hour - on the short side still, and whenever I've listened to this album on a multi-CD system I've always wished it was longer.
The tunes here - twenty-seven in all - are finely crafted and catchy enough. Many will no doubt be picked up in sessions and recordings before long. Six slides and the matching half dozen polkas capture the energy and lift of Kerry dances, with enough surprises to keep the accompanist on his toes: Donogh throws in a bit of Cooneyesque thrash guitar for good measure! Jeremy Spencer has recycled a few titles - The Ferry Reel, Trip to Scotland and The High Road for example - just to add to traditional confusion. No explanation is offered for any of the compositions here, which is maybe just as well given some of his other titles: The Wine Shoe, Oiche na Gaoithe Móire, Smuggler's Cave and The Three Sisters. From the sparkle in Jeremy's fiddle, I doubt if all of these are entirely innocent. Every one is a charmer though, whether it's the title track slip jigs, the Kerry polkas and slides, or the driving reels which top and tail The Lion's Head. You'll find Jeremy Spencer's music on Facebook, or YouTube, or perhaps even in a music shop.
© Alex Monaghan


Sophie & Fiachra "Portraits"
Own Label, 2018

www.sophieandfiachra.com

French Canadian fiddle and song meets Irish piping in this pairing, supported by the guitar and tapping feet of André Marchand. Traditional tales of love, assorted abuse and loss are delivered in a sweet and pleasant voice by Sophie Lavoie, who also storms through some impressive Irish and Québécois dance tunes on fiddle. Fiachra O'Regan's pipes handle this eclectic repertoire with ease, and also shine on the modern Irish jig Spóirt, the Tyneside classic Keel Row, and a version of the oldtime Arkansas Traveller known in Quebec as Les Rois. Check the website for this pair's previous recordings - their shared experience shows here.
This is a unique combination as far as I know. Breton bands have certainly mixed French song with Irish pipes, but not with Quebec reels as well. David Boulanger collaborated with a Danish fiddler on a couple of albums, yet that was rather different. Sophie & Fiachra have something special here, and it works brilliantly: the vocals and instrumentals are nicely balanced, the French Canadian trick of throwing a merry tune on the end of a miserable song is employed to great effect on Les Filles de Campagne and Le Reel de ma Grand-Mère Odile Boudreault, and this duo are equally convincing on crooked Québécois reels or on classic Irish jigs. Molloy's and Lillies in the Field both lead into fine Irish medleys, while Le Reel de mon Père and Le Casse-Reel à Aimé open Canadian oldtime suites given extra push by pipes and John Carty's cameo banjo. Portraits is a hugely enjoyable collection, a real treasure for those with eclectic taste.
© Alex Monaghan


Vesselil "Vesselil"
GO Danish Folk, 2018

www.vesselil.dk

Two fiddles and a singing cellist, this new Danish trio produces a wide range of beautiful music, from the well-known opening jig Pericondine to the final spooky Nog är världen trötter which I'm guessing is some wintry mix of alcohol and pigs' feet. The delicate waltz Opdagede Omsider is followed by a driving dance tune before the first song, a piece which gives the group its name. Close unison singing is underpinned by flawless fiddle and low rhythmic cello, raw and unassuming but crystal clear. After a sixty-second Interlude, a popular device on folky albums at the moment, Vesselil launch into Blå Vals with gusto and swing, another earthy piece making the most of their dark string sound.
Krystallen continues the ancient Nordic mood, Maja Aarøe Freese's vocals not quite as sinister as Garmarna's but definitely heading that way. Morfars Schottish lets in a ray of light, but this is still old modal music, powerful on funereal cello and double-stopped fiddles from Clara Tesch and Elisabeth Dichmann, a stunning piece. The familiar Långdans maintains that melancholy edge on Vesselil's music to the very end. Vesselil's repertoire is almost evenly split between the Danish tradition and their own compositions. Despite its dark and brooding nature, this is a very absorbing album, technically excellent and musically magnificent, perfect for those dark winter nights with a roaring fire and a few like-minded friends.
© Alex Monaghan


Fársan "Fársan"
Own Label, 2018

www.farsanband.com

I never expected to review an album of puirt à beul from North America, or to enjoy it so much. The last time I heard a recording celebrating Scottish mouth music was - well - Mouth Music, a loose collective featuring Talitha MacKenzie which appeared in the late 1980s. Fársan are rather different, an acoustic quartet based on the singing of Màiri Britton, as well as step-dancing, pipes and fiddle. Their debut CD includes five tracks based around a mix of rare and well-known puirt à beul, from Crathadh d'Aodaich a Ghaoil to A Mhisg a Chuir an Nollaig Oirnn - eleven of these rhythmic part-improvised ditties in total. Edinburgh native Màiri, now living in Nova Scotia, can give the likes of Karen Matheson or Julie Fowlis a run for their money on these demanding mouth-music medleys. She also makes an excellent job of poignant Gaelic laments and lullabies as well as the final waulking song Gun Togainn air Hùgan. She is backed by the versatile Neil Pearlman on piano, vocals and step-dancing. Màiri also rattles the boards in Nova Scotian style.
Katie McNally[61] and Elias Alexander provide fiddle and bagpipe breaks, and fit some great tunes around the songs. Katie is from the Boston Scottish fiddle community, well versed in music from Scotland and Cape Breton but also bringing Stateside sensibilities to the tradition. Elias wields Highland and Border pipes with the ability to be both strictly traditional and seriously innovative. This combination of talents produces spine-tingling arrangements of the lullaby Tàladh a'Phuilein, the Selkie song Òran an Ròin, and five toe-tapping instrumentals from Andrea Beaton's jaunty jig The Water Boiling Machine to James Kelly's urgent reel Touching Cloth. The tight duets between pipes and fiddle are impressive, and the melodies are supported by strong accompaniment. Fársan also employ mandolin, accordion and foot percussion to enhance their already full sound. A very polished performance, plenty of variety and a new perspective on some of the best music from the Scottish diaspora, Fársan is a breath of fresh air for any fan of Gaelic music on pipes, fiddle or voice.
© Alex Monaghan


Jeri Foreman "The Blue Album"
Own Label, 2017

bandcamp.com/...

A young Australian traditional fiddler, Jeri's style is somewhere between Scots, Irish and Oldtime. While there is an Australian tradition, the music of bushmen and others not unduly influenced by European traditions, Jeri's music here is much broader than that and includes elements of Scandinavian, Celtic and American fiddling. Most of The Blue Album is her own compositions, ranging from the beautiful waltz Remembering Martin to the foot-stomping Quebec-style reel West Richmond Station. Foreman presents this album as new Australian Celtic music, part of an evolution from the playing of generations of European and North American immigrants.
Tracing the Footprints has a contemporary Scottish feel to it, a syncopated jig followed by a spiky reel. The Dusty set is more oldtimey, grinding and ominous, ending in an upbeat breakdown. A fondness for syncopation follows through Fun Dance and The Surprise Gift, each track also illuminated by informative and entertaining sleeve notes. There are some stutters - Jeri writes in fearsomely difficult keys at times - but generally her playing is smooth and rythmic with a pleasant lift on both fast and slow pieces. I particularly liked Clio's Tune, the spooky Juggling Act, and the gentle Estonian Waltz. Ms Foreman is joined by Rachel Johnston on cello and Paddy Montgomery on guitar, with a spot of bass from Gage Stead. She includes three tunes by other contemporary Australian fiddlers, reinforcing this new genre and fitting nicely with her own pieces. This is Jeri's second album in a relatively short space of time, so I'm looking forward to more from her before too long!
© Alex Monaghan


Michael Burnyeat "A Sense of Tradition"
Own Label, 2018

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Artist Video

From British Columbia, this young Canadian fiddler is something special. He struts through a dozen fiddle showpieces without breaking sweat, from Graham Townsend's hallmark Mockingbird to the French Canadian Growling Old Man and Woman, showing all the technique of a master fiddler in the process. The title of Burnyeat's debut CD is well chosen: this music comes from the heart of the Canadian fiddle tradition, in all its breadth, whether from Quebec or Alberta, Toronto or Vancouver. Two of Calvin Vollrath's popular compositions bracket the oldtime classic Wayfaring Stranger, and the crowd-pleasing Estrellita is followed by Spade Cooley's Willow Springs, Pee Wee King's Tennessee Waltz and the even funkier Tico Tico.
Michael adds mandolin to his fiddle mastery, not at quite the same level though, and he also invoves a few friends: Victor Smith on keys and more, Brian Robertson on guitar, and Micki-Lee Smith on duet fiddle. Don Davidson and Sarah Ann Chisholm add vocals on the gospel anthem, and the final reels are enhanced by Hugh Brock's flute and Blake Williams' bodhrán. Michael Burnyeat is the star attraction here though, whether storming through the reel Le Rossignol or duetting sweetly on Roxanna's Welcome. The fiddle is strong on Jeanne's Waltz, and holds its own against an accordion band for Beer Barrel Polka. Burnyeat and Smith's joint composition UBC Fiddle Club Theme could be another Calvin tune, and leads nicely into Flanigan's. The whole album hangs together perfectly, every track another highlight, and you can rest assured that Mr Burnyeat has A Sense of Tradition. Drop him a line - michaelburnyeat@gmail.com ?? will get you all the details!
© Alex Monaghan


Le Vent du Nord & De Temps Antan "Notre Album Solo"
La Compagnie du Nord, 2018

www.leventdunord.com
www.detempsantan.qc.ca

There has already been an exchange of personnel between these two top-flight Québécois groups, and of course there are family ties too, but producing a joint album was a bold step. Touring as an eight-piece bands was even more audacious, but both seem to have paid off handsomely,[67] and this CD provides a snapshot of the awesome synergy between Le Vent du Nord[56] and De Temps Antan.[65] It produces new sounds - like the fiddle rally tone of La Galope du Brigadier, or the rap and roll of Rose. Accordion, harmonica, enough foot percussion to sink a battleship, jaw harp, hurdy-gurdy and a triad of fiddles bring to life the reels and gigues of Quebec, in sets like Medley Brun and Rive Sud or after powerful songs like La Houlette and the hilarious Nicolas.
Traditional pieces sit alongside new compositions by Beaudry, Brunet and Demers. Loves are won and lost, culture is created and celebrated, and of course many bottles are uncorked and drained. The final Verse Verse is a hymn to the camaraderie of drink and song, while Les Soeurs du Couvent is simple nonsense. 500 Hommes is all about manly pursuits, whereas M'en Allant Chasser ironically is more to do with the pursuit of women. All are good, doubly so with this combination of two fine ensembles. Solo? I think not.
© Alex Monaghan


Vrï "Ty ein Tadau"
Erwydd Records, 2018

www.vri.cymru

Microsoft and HTML both struggle with the characters in this Welsh band's name, and it's not clear to me what should be upper case and what should be lower case, so I apologise for any errors and I wonder how long it will be before Vrï give up the struggle as other bands have done. Whatever they call themselves, their music is interesting and unique - intentionally so - mixing classical and traditional influences as well as Welsh nonconformist religious music. Aneirin Jones, Jordan Price Williams and Patrick Rimes between them muster a string quartet and three-part vocal harmonies to handle dance music, airs, hymns and folk songs. Despite their breadth of talent, I'm pretty sure Vrï draft in Beth Celyn to front most of the songs here. An exception is the curious Clychau Aberdyfi, billed in the bilingual notes as 'An amalgamation of all the songs about bells we could think of", which reminds me in many ways of Edward II's epic take on Dashing Away with the Smoothing Iron.
Welsh music is a difficult and fraught subject - it is almost certainly a broken tradition, yet it has absorbed and adapted enough from English, Irish, Scottish and other p-Celtic nations to make a body of Welsh music with its own character. Ty ein Tadau stamps that character on all the pieces here, whether it's the popular Playford tune Mount Hills, a version of the Northumbrian hornpipe Go to Berwick Johnny, Neil Davey's Cornish composition The Hills of Trencrom, a Swedish polska or the modern Welsh fiddle tune Tafliad Carreg. In between are old Welsh airs and poems reinterpreted by these tradition-steeped young custodians. You can judge for yourself how successful they have been, and how much this matches your idea of Welsh music, as the whole album is available to listen to on the band's website. I think you'll find this music intriguing, and perhaps exciting: it is certainly entertaining, a worthy endeavour and a valuable addition to the Welsh tradition.
© Alex Monaghan


Brian McAlpine "Mutual Imagination Society"
Own Label, 2018

www.brianmcalpine.com
www.mutualimaginationsociety.com

This is big - too big to cover in a couple of hundred words. Not just because of its generous duration: keyboard king McAlpine has enlisted a dozen top musicians to add depth and breadth on this wide-ranging concept album, and he has composed some stunning pieces. Expressing emotions from mirth to melancholy, ecstasy to ennui, Mutual Imagination Society stretches from ambient sounds to toe-tapping Scottish dance music. Led by Brian on accordion for the most part, there are nods to Phil Cunningham and Blair Douglas, but also to Gordon Duncan, the Peatbog Faeries, Shooglenifty, and indeed more mainstream influences such as Emerson Lake & Palmer, Mark Knopfler, and even film soundtracks. Touches of Galician and Appalachian traditions add colour and variety, but the overall feel is still Scottish: fiddle, accordion, plenty of bagpipes, as well as horns and strings, subtle vocals and percussion, all perfectly arranged. Every track is a treasure trove of tunes and textures, licks and riffs, motifs and motets too many to mention or recall. This CD is subtitled Volume 1, so it seems there is even more to come from Mr McAlpine.
© Alex Monaghan


Peter Browne "Sidewinder"
Own Label, 2018

www.peterbrownemusic.com

Dublin button box boss Peter Browne brought out an excellent album called The Twelve Pins a few years ago with Robbie Harris and Lucas González. This is his follow-up, and it doesn't disappoint. All traditional Irish in the broadest sense, with ten recently-composed tunes scattered among a score of older pieces, Sidewinder showcases Browne's prodigious technique and creativity without straying too far from the core of contemporary approaches to Irish music. There are hints of North American and even South American influences, but basically this is a CD of strong traditional music superbly played.
Brady's Jig has a piping snap to it, Ahern's Egg is smooth as silk, The Bee's Wing buzzes with crisp ornamentation, and the final Hill 60 has all the virtuosity of a Finbarr Dwyer tribute. Fiddlers Michelle O'Brien and Oisín McAuley join Peter for a couple of tracks, and David McNevin's banjo batters through a great set of jigs starting with John Carty's Seanamhac Tube Station. Familiar reels such as Master Crowley's and The Miser's Purse are deftly handled at session speed, while Sweeney's and The Coast of Austria edge confidently beyond most players' comfortable pace. There's fine guitar accompaniment, and a touch of bodhrán from John Joe Kelly. Sidewinder has made a lasting impression on me, and even after repeated listening there's always something fresh to enjoy on this exceptional album.
© Alex Monaghan


Brìghde Chaimbeul "The Reeling"
River Lea Recordings, 2019

www.brichaimbeul.com

Artist Video

A young Skye piper with a taste for rhythmic tunes, Brìghde Chaimbeul plays smallpipes throughout this debut album of traditional Scottish and Bulgarian music. She is joined by Aidan O'Rourke's fiddle and Rona Lightfoot's mouth music on a few tracks, and adds a touch of impromptu keyboards on a harmonium found in the East Cromarty church where this whole collection was recorded as if live. Some pieces are familiar from Alasdair Fraser's Skyedance album with Paul Machlis, but most are rarely if ever recorded by Scottish musicians: the brooding old modal O Chiadain an Lo, the hypnotic A Bhriogais Uallach, plus of course the fascinating Bulgarian dance tunes Momo e Moma Rodila and Tornala Maika.
The smallpipes are limited in compass and dynamics, and the balance between the drones and chanter fixes much of the character of the music. Brìghde has emphasised the drones and kept the melodies simple here to give a very constant sound, where the rhythm of the notes is often more striking than the pitch. In a way, that's what mouth music does too. Rona's contributions underline this point on Tàladh nan Cearc and Ruidhle Mo Nighean Donn. At times I feel that the rhythm is too dominant, sacrificing the swing and subtleties of tunes like Harris Dance and Mary Brennan's, but that could just be my preference for melody. There are moments of more spontaneous playing - The Old Woman's Dance and The Skylark's Ascension for example. The Reeling is certainly an accomplished and absorbing CD, showing a different aspect of the Scottish smallpipes.
© Alex Monaghan


California Feetwarmers "Gloryland"
Own Label, 2019

www.californiafeetwarmers.com

Out of Los Angeles, this seven-piece combines folk, gospel, Dixieland jazz, ragtime and swing, and mama do they rock! Every track is a treat, and even the gospel afterlife musings of the title song have a toe-tapping joy in the music. Feetwarmers is right: from Fats Waller's 1927 Minor Drag to Artie Matthews' 1915 Weary Blues, you'll be itching to dance. The infectious (in a good way) combination of banjo and trombone, sax and sousaphone, rises above any clownish reputation and becomes world class party music here. Add guitar and drums, cornet and harmonium, and a number of fine vocalists: there's a hint of bluegrass in the band's own I Got Dreams, and more than a flavour of Latin jazz in their Wani Night to supplement vintage Americana from some of the greats. Merle Travis' No Vacancy and Sadie McKinney's Rock Away Blues give a solid core to this album, with Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton adding depth on guest vocals. Half a dozen friends make an appearance, roughly one per track, but they're just the icing on an already tasty cake. The California Feetwarmers can handle solos on cornet and clarinet, songs full of soul or blues, and instrumentals with the careful co-ordination of Feeling Drowsy or the exuberant bounce of Royal Garden Blues. The country waltz I'm Drifting Back to Dreamland is a sweet delight which could only be improved by Tom Lehrer, but my absolute favourite here has to be Sam Morgan's sassy Short Dressed Gal with only a guest bass player. Don't miss this peach of a CD.
© Alex Monaghan


Eabhal "This is How the Ladies Dance"
Own Label, 2019

www.eabhal.com

German CD Review

Five go mad on South Uist: yet another young Scottish band taking their own approach to traditional Gaelic music, Eabhal combine pipe and fiddle tunes, songs and mouth music, with a contemporary but almost entirely acoustic backdrop. Opening with the waulking song from strikingly young singer Kaitlin Ross, the band shows sensitivity and skill in an arrangment that brings in fiddle, guitar, accordion, flute, and imaginative backing vocals. MaSim, the first instrumental track, shows off the composing talents of fiddler Jamie MacDonald who already has a fine duo CD under his belt, as well as his virtuosity on fiddle alongside piper Hamish Hepburn and box-player Megan MacDonald. Next up is a medley of reels from Ireland, Quebec, and Jamie again: Eabhal punch these home with aplomb, although Michel Bordeleau's Fleur de Mandragore is certainly a challenge on the flute.
Nicky Kirk does an outstanding job on guitar behind the front line firepower, with a little help from Charlie Stewart's double bass on a few tracks. Hamish Napier's delicate melody Windsong gets a very satisfying treatment on flute, fiddle and piano box, ranging from uber-delicate to dangerously dark. Kaitlin's second song An Ribhinn Donn is set to a jaunty Donald Shaw jig, and sung with ethereal sweetness. The title track is a driving medley of pipe tunes, mostly well known, all great melodies superbly played here. The tail end of This is How the Ladies Dance offers a moving Irish Gaelic song, a medley of mouth music delivered with expression and enviable stamina by Kaitlin, and a few more fine compositions from Hamish and Megan, Caithness pianist James Ross and Manchester fiddler Emma Sweeney. These five lads and lasses deliver them all flawlessly. No wonder Eabhal have been winning awards!
© Alex Monaghan


Carl Cleves "Before Twilight Turns to Night"
Own label, 2018

www.carlcleves.com

Andante is the moderate tempo signature used in classical music informally described at a ‘walking’ pace. It strikes me as the appropriate word for Carl Cleves’ folk songs, as I feel like I am joining him on a comfortable walk through the world. There is much to view while keeping the pace as his words and vocal expression paint a rather vivid portrait of the environment. There is steady accompaniment, light, yet assured throughout these songs. The arrangements are good and there is an interesting Laura Marling trilogy that runs nearly ten minutes. So we have yet another fine folk outing from Carl Cleaves with this release and folkies would do well do give it a thorough listen.
© David Hintz


Paul Stephenson "Mother Nature’s Rules"
Stockfisch, 2018

stockfisch-records.de/...

While this quality release boasts fine arrangements and a smooth approach, it is the extremely catchy melodies that captivate me. ‘Crying Shame’ and ‘Silence is Deafening’ sound so good that I swear they are receiving pop radio play. This is still folk based music and while it may be a bit too mainstream to some (and the lesser songs have me in that camp), enough songs work so well that I can’t help but listen attentively.
© David Hintz


Jimmy Rankin "Moving East"
Factor, 2018

www.jimmyrankin.com

File this in between Kenny Rankin and Ranking Roger. Sorry, I am being too glib but I couldn’t get these other musicians out of my head before playing this LP. And to continue the theme, it is far more rootsier folk approach than Kenny Rankin and it has more of the punch and spirit of Ranking Roger, although staying in the Canadian styled Americana folk vein. And Jimmy Rankin has experience from Canada to Nashville as key part of the successful Canadian group, the Rankin Family, as well as significant solo work in Nashville. There is a traditional feel to many songs, maybe a bit too much in ‘The Rawleigh Men’ which you would have to say is a reworking of the traditional song, ‘South Australia”(or is it vice versa?). There is a nice variety here with even some barroom country rockers mixed into the folkier mix. Plenty of good vibes abound here.
© David Hintz


Svavar Knútur "Ahoy! Side A"
Nordic Notes, 2018

www.svavarknutur.com

Artist Video

The extremes of this record are present within the first minute of the first song when the spooky mysterious folk setting jumps into a loud rock explosion. It is quite a contrast and unique in both forms. The record settles back a bit thereafter with a mostly modern rock setting, although there are quieter songs as well. This is a decent record in all, but it may sit well with a modern fan of singer song writing and indie rock.
© David Hintz


Vanessa Peters "Foxhole Prayers"
Idol Records, 2018

www.vanessapeters.com

Artist Video

Vanessa Peters comes from Dallas, Texas, although her music seems quite universal and would be hard to pigeonhole. There is enough Americana in here, but she reaches emotional depths that make the geography less important. The melodies are also good as her folk rock glides along seemingly without effort. Of course it takes fine musicians to make good music sound like there is no effort involved, and Peters and her comrades are up to the task. This is a smooth listen, but with many quiet intensities that dig in deeply. Fine record, here.
© David Hintz


Steve Tilston "Distant Days"
Riverboat Records, 2018

www.stevetilston.com

Artist Video

Steve Tilston is a familiar name to finger style acoustic guitar lovers worldwide. He visits his ‘distant days’ by re-recording several of his finer songs from previous albums. They are all minimal versions with just voice and guitar or banjo. He includes a couple of songs from his excellent Village Thing debut, ‘An Acoustic Confusion’ as well as my favorite cut, ‘Let Your Banjo Ring’. He has the usual array of alternative tunings and his playing is still impeccable. His voice is weathered and has seen many distant days, but it gives these songs a sense of history. He even has a few older songs that did not make it onto previous albums, so there is plenty here it fill out your Tilston collection.
© David Hintz


Travels & Trunks "I Get Along"
Homebound Records, 2018

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Artist Video

This is a little too spacey to be a roots record and too rootsy to be a spacey western Americana record. But if you like this integration of styles, this album may work for you. Although a band, all the writing and much of the playing is by Julius Jeske. The songs were a bit erratic in quality, although all were decent. But a few were very good and warrant many further plays. I probably won’t get a chance to see them live, but when in Dortmund or other European clubs, I would recommend a night out with them.
© David Hintz


Kieran Goss and Annie Kinsella "Oh the Starlings"
Cog Communications, 2018

www.kierangoss.com

Goss provides the delicate acoustic guitar and Kinsella the quiet voice. She sounds a cross between Joan Mills and Bridget St. John. Goss focuses on restrained playing that creates such a relaxed atmosphere. You may not even notice other musicians filling in on bass and second guitar with this kind of vibe going on. I enjoyed the atmosphere, although the songs trailed off a bit on me as it is tough to maintain this atmosphere over a long player unless you have some of that gripping ability of Joy Division in the mix (ok, a little unfair to require something that uniquely powerful.
© David Hintz


Amber Rubarth "Wildflowers in the Graveyard"
Make My Day Records, 2018

www.amberrubarth.com

Artist Video

Although recorded in Nashville, Amber Rubarth’s[65] eighth album sounds like it was recorded on a porch. That is not due to the fine sound qualities, but rather her relaxed rural folk approach. There is a Karen Dalton quality here, although Rubarth’s voice is much smoother and creates a more airy atmosphere. Yet the album moves briskly through the songs and sounds complete and composed at the end.
© David Hintz


Jenny and the Mexicats "Ten Spins Round the Sun"
Rough Trade, 2018

www.jennyandmexicats.com

Artist Video

Artist Video

Worldly fusion music centering in on Madrid, Spain for this interesting album. There is some flamenco, southern American influences, and even reggae beats. The trumpet adds an exotic flair to the instrumental passages as well. The songwriting is quite intriguing as it combines things together in an original manner, but in a highly comfortable way. This is a smart and talented band and will musically fit right in at your boisterous party as well.
© David Hintz


Sun Temple Circus "Sun Temple Circus"
Sireena-Tribal Stomp, 2018

I am trying to use the term ‘kosmiche’ to replace krautrock, as there may be a few people who find the latter term offensive. Whatever you may call it, it is an odd genre, but you certainly know it when you hear it. Sun Temple is modern rock band practicing in the old ways with psychedelic jams and gloriously gratuitous use of sitar. They have some acoustic moves and remind me a bit musically of Witthuser & Westrupp at times. As a big fan of this style music, I welcome just about any attempt at furthering this sound and this band does it well. I would certainly love to see them live, but this recording, which features some live tracks, will certainly be on my personal playlist. I see they opened live for Agitation Free a couple years back in a great pairing.
© David Hintz


Tri Atma "Tri Atma"
Sireena, 1979/2018

This is a welcome reissue of a cult favorite from 1979. This was another east-west connection record, this time between Germany and India. Working a similar vein to Magic Carpet, this band took sitar and tabla and added acoustic guitars, flutes, and other instrumentation to create rock music both backward and forward. There is a soothing quality to most of their songs and the percussion is particularly helpful in adding a light punch, while holding on to that dreamy state that eastern music can conjure up.
© David Hintz



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