Issue 7 12/98
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Hamish MacGregor - Scottish Love Songs
Label: Tartan Tapes; CDTT1003; Playing time: 44.53 min
Hamish MacGregor, alias Simon Thoumire, has released this collection of love songs from Scotland on his own Tartan Tapes label.
The album looks like a good designed sampler for the tourist market - and it really aims the tourist market, but it is surely much more than simply one of thousands of samplers.
The album features the creme of Scottish singers, like Elspeth Cowie (TMSA coordinater, Seannachie, Chantan), Alan Reid (Battlefield Band), Rod Paterson (Ceolbeg), or the wonderful Sheena Wellington. But that is not all, the beautiful singing is backed by some excellent instrumentalists as Elidh Shaw (Keep it up) on fiddle, Kevin Mackenzie (The Swirlers) on guitar and Simon Thoumire himself on concertina, whistle, percussion and pipes.
All the (love) songs are exclusivly recorded for this album - so this great CD is not a sampler, but a high quality collection of excellent singing; just a 'must' for all fans of the featured singers.
More of such, please!
Tartan Tapes: Tel.+17 Redford Drive, Edingburgh EH13 0BL Scotland, Tel.: +44 131441 3135
V/A "Who Fears To Speak"
RTE; CD209; 19 Tracks; Playing time: 73.17 min
Danny Doyle "The Gold Sun Of
Universal; MCD 60056 18 Tracks;
Playing time: 71.28 min
Frank Harte "1798
The First Year Of Liberty"
HBCD0014; 17 Tracks; Playing time: 68.05 min Ireland 1998 - that also
means the bicentenary commemorations of the United Irishmen rebellion, the unique
collaboration of both liberal Protestants spurred on by the enlightenment ideas of
revolutionary France and America and Catholic tenants who rebelled against their
exploitation. Liberty, Equality and Fraternity inspired many to write ballads. The people
were kept up-to-date through word-of-mouth and through broadsheets to the United Irishmen
cause. A few songs were written immediately after some of the insurgents' initial successes
and subsequent failures, other well-known pieces were written fifty to a hundred years
after the uprising. The Irish folk memory still remembers and, with the bicentenary
commemorations, there are a lot of albums
around comprising 1798 songs.
Who Fears To Speak is the official bicentenary
album backed by the commemoration committee, the Irish televison and the Irish government,
featuring Liam Clancy, Aine Ui Cheallaigh and Len Graham. Their output is a lavishing
orchestral commemoration, obviously designed to appeal beyond the normal traditional music
market. "He who has the best ballads wins" - Danny Doyle has become the
seanachie, the Irish storyteller, to bring together 1798 in song, story and
poetry. "The Gold Sun Of Freedom" is also available as a book co-written by historian
Terence Folan including the background and important events and personalities of the
rebellion. Thirty-five ballads come complete with musical notation and guitar chords.
Frank Harte, an eager collector of songs for many years, put together well-known
ballads as well as unusual versions. "Those in power write the history, those who suffer
write the songs", and Frank has an awful lot of those songs. Donal Lunny provides a
restrained accompaniment to Frank's haunting voice. "The First Year Of Liberty" comes with
a 32-page-booklet with a summary of the 1798 events. If you are looking for a fine
collection of 1798 songs, I recommend one of these three albums.
Bukkene Bruse "Steinstolen"
Label: Grappa Musikkforlag; HCD7145; Playing time: 49.21 min
Four respected Norwegian musicians are featured in this band: Annbjørg Lien is a well-known young fiddler (on Hardanger Fiddle, Nyckelharpe and 'normal' fiddle), Arve Moen Bergset is known for his enchanting singing style, but also plays Hardanger and 'normal' fiddle; Steinar Ofsdal has a reputation as a flautist; and finally Keyboarder Bjørn Ole Rasch. Bukkene Bruse features on the one hand tunes mostly based on typical Norwegian fiddle music, but arranged in a up-to-date way. On the other hand there are the songs that often reflect echos of far away times; the young singer Arve has a beautiful voice with a classical singing style. Combined with flute and keyboards, this style gives the songs their very own, special and magic feeling. The keybords are always well integrated, and do not sound too heavy or discordant for accompanying the traditional pieces.
The material is partly traditional, partly self composed; and you cannot really feel which ones are traditonal and which ones not. All in all it is a fitting ensemble; just the first number sounds quite different than the rest; it is more modern arranged but anyway it is also great stuff.
The peaceful Nordic beauty, with the confounded and innovative Norwegian melodies, displayed on this album is exactly the right thing to listen to at home on cold winter evenigs.
Grappa Musikkforlag; Akersgata 7; N-0158 Oslo; Norway; Tel. N-22-41-24-00; e-mail
Label: Wild Boar Music; WBM21003; Playing time: 50.20 min
Alea is an excellent album of an excellent band from Belgium. Produced by the French folk legend Gabriel Yacoub (Ex-Malicorne), the CD features many exciting tunes and songs of this four piece band. Their line-up is Guitar, diatonic accordeon/bagpipes, fiddle, and singing. The songs are partly in Flemish, partly in French language - all songs have exciting arrangements and intensity, and both the Flemish and French singing sounds harmonic. In some songs you can hear an influence of Malicorne/Gabriel Yacoub, others sound just like Ambrozijn. The instrumental side of things is not worse than the singing side - they are all skilled musicians who know how to arrange traditional tunes and songs in a powerful and modern way. The booklet and packaging is individual as well - in the CD package you can find a little 'alea' (dice)...
Ambrozijn is definitely a name to remember - and it makes me wonder once again why I know just very few Belgian bands; and in general why it is so difficult to find out about music from a region that is just neighbour of mine.
This CD is one of the highlights of the year 1998; and is fourth in FolkWorld's CD Top 10 of 1998. We hope to have soon an online interview with this magnificent band.
Wildboar Music/Ambrozijn, Burggravenlaan 323, 9000 Gent, Belgium; Tel./Fax +32-9-223-34-88
Label: Greentrax; CDTRAX160; Playing time: 57.13 min
The second album of the young Scottish band Seelyhoo contains an enjoyable collection of beautiful Gaelic songs and great tunes. Since their first album, Seelyhoo's line-up has slightly changed, with Niall Mair replacing Aaron Jones (who is now member of Craobh Rua). The others in the band are still the same: Fiona MacKenzie from the Isle of Lewis, with her haunting voice, is one of the best young Gaelic singers and songwriters around, writing songs in the traditional style with themes of today. The Wrigley twin sisters Hazel and Jenny have their origin on the Orkneys which can be felt in their playing style. Playing guitar, piano etc (Hazel) and fiddle (also the Norwegion Hardanger Fiddle) (Jenny), both are also skilled tune composers. The band is completed by the wild accordeonist Sandy Brechin and drummer/percussionist Jim Walker.
This album features nearly an hour of inspriring music and songs, with influences from the Hebrides, the Orkneys and of course Edinburgh, the band's base in these days. Much of the material is not really traditional, only composed in a traditional style; and everything is presented in a young and fresh manner.
Seelyhoo carry the Gaelic music culture with bravour into the new millenium.
Annie Ebrel & Riccardo Del Fra "Voulouz loar/Velluto di Luna"
Label: Gwerz Pladenn; GWP16; Playing time: 37.37 min
A duo consisting of a traditional Breton singer and an Italian jazz double bass player - it sounds strange doesn't it. It is definitely interesting, and mostly quite fitting, this extraordinary collaboration.
Annie, hailing from the Northern Cornouaille in Britanny, is a respected traditional singer, singing with her great voice traditional Breton songs. She has had several concerts with well-known Breton band Skolvan. Riccardo, from Rome, is a jazzman of some repute; he has collaborated several years with Chet Baker. He is double bass player and composer.
On this album, they weave together the two music styles, creating a new, very own music. The Breton traditions stay true, while they are given a sort of new 'heart beat' with Riccardo's bass. Some of the songs have also some string instruments (violin, alto and violincello) giving some excitement into the songs.
Maybe the thought to get these styles together is not that far - both Breton singing and Jazz is very improvising, gets musicians and listeners alike into a trance, is very much based on moods.
It is an unusual, but successful collaboration. Unusual is, by the way, also the packaging of the CD, being all pasteboard with an unusual clap system which looks great. Definitely a CD for all those of you who like unusual collaborations; but I am sure that most lovers of Breton music will like this CD as well.
Gwerz Pladenn/Coop Breizh, Kerangwenn, F-29540 Spézet; France; Tel.+33-298-938314
Label: JVC; JVC9034-2; Playing time: 47.53 min
This CD still features the old line-up of Anam, with Aimée Leonard on vocals and bodhrán. Aimée leaves at the end of 1998 the band, being replaced by Gaelic singer Fiona MacKenzie (of Seelyhoo and MacKenzie) and fiddler Anna-Wendy Stevenson (Calluna, Anna Murray Trio). The rest of the band - Brian Ó hEadhra on vocals and guitar, Treasa Harkin on button accordeon and Neil Davey on mandolin and bouzouki - remains the same as on this album.
Anam - as an interceltic band with members from Ireland, Scotland and Cornwall - have found their own style, somewhere between traditional, singer/songwriter and folk pop. Two of the songs on this album are in Gaelic, five in English; and they are completed by six tunes. The tunes are all sounding traditional, although some of them are self-composed; they have their origin in different Celtic regions, and all are fresh and modern arranged. The songs - also partly trad, partly original - are also enjoyable listen; some of them have radio quality - and this is not criticism, but a sign of the wider appeal Anam's music has. Compared to Anam's earlier works, on Riptide they sound already mature; they have found their own music; the album sounds like a whole. The mixture between songs and tunes gives a balanced feeling to the album.
Now I am already excited waiting for the new sound of Anam, with their new line-up. You can find out about the 'new' Anam on their big tour in the UK, Europe and the US (tour dates can be found on their website); and if you do not catch them, their next CD with the new line-up will be recorded in 1999 as well.
Kepa Junkera Double CD "Bilbao 00:00 h"
Label: Resistencia; RESCD065; Playing time: 48.19 + 61.52 min
Kepa Junkera is an accordeonist from Bilbao in the Basque Country. Bilbao (at the Atlantic Coast) is, as Kepa says, a city full of music, the human lung of the Basque country. With this album, Kepa wanted to stand on different viewpoints from which to look into the Bilbao melting pot. As Xavier Rekalde says in the booklet, "what we begin to discover in this project is that Bilbao, Kepa Junkera's music and the world's beating could well be one. Perhaps they are one."
This, his ninth, album is in several ways special and full of superlatives. The first obvious extravanganca is the booklet and packaging - actually you cannot really call it a booklet, it is actually a book in CD format of 140 pages, with the two CDs in the binding of the book. The 'book' is full of information and pictures of Kepa, the tunes and the guests. 113 pages are in Basque and Spanish language, the rest are translations in English and French.
The guests on this CD are the second superlative: There 52 guest musicians, all being leading roots musicians from around the world. Indeed the right kind of project to open the eyes all over the world for this Basque city, to reflect its possible connections into the world.
Now let's come to the music itself. We find on the two CDs all in all 23 numbers; most of the music is written by Kepa, and Kepa's accordeon is in the centre of most of the tunes. He has a very distinctive style, both in writing music as in playing. In these songs and tunes, you can find lots of different influences, be it Celtic, Swedish, Spanish, Galician or destinctive Basque. Now some examples of the collaborations: The very first tune of these albums, Arin Quebec, features Kepa along with Québec's own La Bottine Souriante - Kepa and accordeon are in his tune joined by foot percussion, violin, and La Bottine's brass section. Amazing. Or the traditional 'Anitia nun Zira?', a love song sung by the Portuguese singer Dulce Pontes. A powerful tune written by Kepa, and played together with the Swedish hard folk band Hedningarna. A tune with three of the world's best accordeonists, Kepa, Mairtin O'Connor and Phil Cunningham. And of course you find two musicians on quite a lot of the tunes who regularly have projects like this themselves: Paddy Moloney and Galician's piper Carlos Núnez. Who else? Oskorri from the Basque country, Justin Vali from Madagaskar, Alasdair Fraser from Scotland, Liam O'Flynn from Ireland and and and.
The exciting thing is that although musicians from so many different cultures are involved, the whole project sounds like a round thing, the numbers with the different musicians blend, as Kepa's accordeon blends with the music from the other musicians. It is a very special album, and has loads of great music to offer. You can hear combinations of musicians that you might never hear again (it's a bit like Tønder Festivals Ceilidh afternoon, just that this all is kept together by one man who writes most of the music and always plays).
Bilbao can definitely be proud to be the home of this extraordinary musician. And the city is lucky enough to have such a talented ambassador. Anybody interested in Basque, European, World or Celtic music - get this 'book' with two CDs. It's well worth. And it represents an open minded culture of the Europe of the regions...
Resistencia, San Isidro Labrador 19, E-28005 Madrid, Spain; Tel.E-91-366-6723
Label: Wicklow Records/BMG; 09026 63262 2; Playing time: 47.30 min
With their new release, the Finnish roots band Värttinä have changed once again their label: 'Vihma' is published on Paddy Moloney's new label 'Wicklow Records', a world music sublabel of BMG. What Värttinä plays these days, is more Finnish Roots Music than traditional music. All tracks on their new album are written by band members; the song lyrics mostly remain in the Finnish folk idiom. From their last album 'Kokko', they moved further in direction of folk pop music (maybe other people would call it also 'World Music'...). It is not bad at all - they still work out exciting arrangements with their four powerful female singers, with the combination of accordion, fiddle and kantele and sax, and drums and double bass. Still, for me they have lost with this album a bit of the rawness, individuality and eroticism in their music; it sounds to me - compared to their albums before - a bit over-produced, and without those edges in their music.
Maybe the reason is simply that their albums before have had such a high quality and were favourite albums of mine - after having listened to this album many times now, I am sure that this album will not get the same appeal their former albums had on me.
That said, I have to stress that this album is good quality; it is very much the unique, powerful and exciting Värttinä sound.
To the first CD page
To the third CD page
To the content of FolkWorld CD Reviews
To the content of FolkWorld online magazine Nr. 7
© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 12/98
All material published in FolkWorld is © The Author via FolkWorld. Storage for private use is allowed and welcome. Reviews and extracts of up to 200 words may be freely quoted and reproduced, if source and author are acknowledged. For any other reproduction please ask the Editors for permission.
FolkWorld - Home of European Music
Layout & Idea of FolkWorld © The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld