Issue 7 12/98

FolkWorld CD Reviews

Bloco Vomit "Never Mind the Bossa Nova Here's Bloco Vomit"
Label: X Creature Productions; Bloco 001 CD; 12 Tracks; Playing Time: 37.18 min
This is noisy, irreverent, and above all, fun. And if you don't like seventies' British punk, chances are you're going to hate it. Bloco Vomit's "samba punk" is basically that, underpinned with frantic percussive drumming. It couldn't even remotely be called folk, of course (unless one goes with the view that punk is a form of folk music) so I'm not really sure what it's doing here ; )
The twelve tracks are spirited cover versions of classic punk songs including "Pretty Vacant", "Should I Stay or Should I Go", "Police and Thieves",
"Teenage Kicks" and the wonderful "Jilted John" (quote: "I'm so upset - I should smash his face in - ah yeah but he's bigger than me i'n'he ... - ah well - I don't care!"). If you like those you'll probably enjoy this album a great deal.
Bloco Vomit
Anja Beinroth

Boiled in Lead "Alloy"
Omnium Recordings; OMM 2017; 19 Tracks; Playing Time: 71.13 min
"Alloy" is the CD released to celebrate 15 years of Minneapolis' roots rockers Boiled in Lead. Most of the 19 tracks are previously unreleased demos, out-takes, alternate mixes and live versions, which makes the album great value for existing fans as well as offering new ones a chance to discover what they've been missing.
Personally, I lost interest in BiL with the departure of singer/guitarist Todd Menton, and much prefer the older tracks on this album - the demo recording of "The Dreadnaught", beautifully sung by Jane Dauphin, is a particular favourite. However, current singer Adam Stemple does manage to sound particularly effective on the bizarre lullaby "All The Little Horses".
The album emphasizes BiL's Celtic/songwriting side over their more unusual and often successful experiments fusing western rock music with east European dance tunes, although some of the tunes here ("Arpad's Guz", "Neda Voda") do show off their excellence in this area.
BiL have always been an eclectic band and this compilation reflects that - which probably means that only die-hard fans will like every single track on the album, but also that most people will discover something they particularly enjoy. At over 70 minutes, it's certainly good value.
Leadheads fan pages; Omnium's Boiled in Lead website
Anja Beinroth

Deirdre Cunningham Band "Cry From The Heart"
KRL/Lochshore Records; CDLDL 1277; 11 Tracks; Playing Time: 47.41 min
This one's a grower. When I first put on this CD, the player was in "endless play" mode, and before I knew it I found myself tapping my feet to the third airing of the infectious "Sweet White Water". I believe that's pretty indicative of the type of music this is: it doesn't leap out and grab your attention, but sits contentedly in the background waiting for the listener to succumb to its very real charms.
It's sophisticated folk/pop music in the mould of the "A Woman's Heart" CDs, with the same broad appeal as these successful albums. Deirdre Cunningham is an able singer backed by a fine band. There's fiddler Steve Wickham (of Waterboys' and Connaught Ramblers' fame), husband Liam Cunningham on accordion, Deirdre's own acoustic guitar and a driving backbeat of bass / cello (James Blennerhassit) and djembe / percussion (Conor Gillen). Deirdre's son Fiachra adds electric guitar and / or backing vocals on several tracks, completing the basic sound.
Only two of the largely self-penned songs feature additional guest musicians: Lucy Cummings adds recorder and Francis Bell viola to the beautiful "Carrowkeel", and the hard edge on "Hard Edge" is supplied by extra percussionists Colin Blakey, Ciaran Gallagher and Nial Gregory. Very much a family affair, the album (Deirdre's third) was produced by band member Liam Cunningham in his own Lake Recording Studios in Co. Roscommon, which may well account for the nice unpressured feel of the recording.
Definitely recommended listening for anyone who likes Maura O'Connell, Mary Black and Dolores Keane.
Further information
Anja Beinroth

Dirtball "The Well"
Planetary Records; Planetary 9006; 11 Tracks; Playing Time: 51.42 min
This is country-tinged rock music somewhat similar to R.E.M. and Weddings Parties Anything, well-produced and inoffensive. It took a while, but I grew to like it quite a lot after a few spins.
Dirtball are an eight-piece US band led by singer Wes Freed, whose singing style may not be to everyone's liking (it reminds me of Alan Tyler of the Rockingbirds) although it certainly suits Dirtball's musical style. All eleven tracks are written by members of the group, mostly by guitarist Jeff Liverman, and deal with typical country themes, such as love and drinking, as far as I can tell (lyrics are not included in the woefully slim booklet). Production credits go to Bob Rupe of US rockers Cracker.
My favourite track is "Cloudy Moon", which has a catchy sing-along chorus and would have definite hit potential in a less commercialised music industry than we have today. If you like the groups mentioned, check this out.
Dirtball; Contact Planetary Records
Anja Beinroth

John Drury "Michael is Leaving Las Vegas"
Label: Yewtree Music; YTCD 001; 11 Tracks; Playing Time: 43.29 min
According to the press blurb, John Drury was brought up in London surrounded by (Irish) traditional music - well you wouldn't know it from hearing his music. This is pretty average old-fashioned singer/songwriter fare, pleasant enough and unlikely to offend anyone, but hardly essential listening.
John Drury now lives in Yorkshire and has a good number of musician friends providing sensitive backing to his singing on this CD, most notably Kev Martin who supplies guitar accompaniment and backing vocals on most tracks, as well as producing and engineering the album. Other guests include Chris Newman, Steve Tilston and Maggie Boyle, to name just the best-known of many.
The songs cover the usual range of singer/songwriter concerns. John's children Paul, Joseph and Ann each serve as inspiration to individual songs, and "Stories She Told Me" recalls his own childhood memories of his mother's storytelling. Others like "Under The Apple Tree" and "Glorious Moon" tackle Christian ideas from a personal perspective, while "Chinese State Circus" moves onto political territory mentioning the plight of the people of Tibet.
All in all, it's nice enough, but I can't see who's going to want to buy it outside his immediate circle of family and friends.
John Drury
Anja Beinroth

Tom Flannery "Song About A Train"
KikoMusic; KM-101; 14 Tracks; Playing Time: 52.25 min
Another singer/songwriter. This one's from Pennsylvania and moves in Dylan's footsteps. His singing is a lot easier on the ear than Dylan's, though. (He sounds a little bit like Paul Brady.) The accompaniments are dominated by Flannery's acoustic guitar and harmonica. Guests Neal Casal (New Jersey singer/guitarist), keyboarder John Ginty and percussionist Pat Marcinko add further nuances on assorted instruments.
The songs deal with a wide range of issues, from social ones like the Irish potato famine ("Marie's Song") or the fate of workers in company towns ("Johnson's Station") to Flannery's personal experiences in the music business ("I'm Gonna Fade Away", "Steve Earle Blues", "Moshing With David Crosby"). If you like that sort of thing, contact
Tom Flannery.
Anja Beinroth

K-Passa "The Morning After..?"
Harbourtown Records; HARCD 035; 36 Tracks; Playing Time: 72.58 min (CD 1), 71.04 min (CD 2)
This double CD was released to coincide with K-Passa's 10th birthday celebration and offers a pretty complete overview of their recorded output. "Who are K-Passa?", you may well ask. K-Passa are one of the undiscovered greats of the British punk-folk genre. Their music's led by the interplay of Simon Edwards' melodeon and Barrie Morgan's fiddle (the latter has now left the band, but they still have a fiddle player) to a driving rock band backing of guitar, bass and drums. Many of their recordings also feature the fine banjo playing of ex-member Chris Thompson.
K-Passa's biggest weakness is that they've never had a good singer. Simon Edwards is a great melodeon player, but his singing leaves much to be desired, and the female backing singers don't really make up for it. Chris Thompson used to sing as well when he was in K-Passa and does so here on his own songs "Empty Air" and "Running out of Loving", but even he sounds pretty rough compared to some of his other recordings. Most of the lyrics are unintelligible, which is a shame as some of them are worth listening to.
However, what they lack in vocal skills, they make up for with their playing. The music has tremendous energy and drive - it won't keep you sitting still. Some of the arrangements are really inventive; check out the radically different recording of the Boothill Foot-Tappers' "Feelings" (the only track on the album not written by members of K-Passa). It's one of the songs which employ reggae rhythms and guest brass players to great effect, as do "Do You Really Care" and "Running Out...". Some of the straight rock songs ("Whirlpool" and "All Fall Down") also benefit from the addition of a brass section.
Like most folkrockers, K-Passa work best in front of an audience, and it's on the live recordings they really come into their own. The album includes quite a few live tracks which were originally released on the "Two Back From The Front" CD in 1992, as well as an outstanding closing track recorded at this summer's Dranouter Festival in Belgium which makes you wish you'd been there.
Obviously the best introduction to K-Passa you could get would be to see them in concert, but if you can't manage that (and it's hard to catch them outside their home town of Bristol) this album is the next best thing. It seems to include a version of every song they've ever recorded, minus the duplications between albums. Well worth investigating for anyone who likes rock music which incorporates strong traditional influences - Anglo-Celtic dance music, Cajun-style fiddling, banjo-picking and some reggae/dub in this case. If you appreciate the raw energy of the early Pogues recordings you'll love this, too.
Anja Beinroth

Nenes "Akemodoro Unai"
GlobeStyle Records; CDORBD 096 (licensed from Antinos Records, Japan); 11 Tracks; Playing Time: 47.21 min
If you've not yet discovered the joys of Okinawan roots music, you will find no better place to dip in your toes than this. Nenes are a female quartet of excellent singers backed by their mentor Sadao China on sanshin (a snake-skinned string instrument which sounds a bit like a banjo) and his band.
The singing is very much in the foreground, with sensitive backing on mainly sanshin and acoustic and electric guitars. The music has echoes of Chinese and Indonesian music as well as country and rock, but at the same time is totally unique.
Nenes was formed in 1990 to make the "shima uta" (island songs) tradition of Okinawa, the largest of the south Japanese Ryukyu islands, accessible to young people (with great success). The group has recorded seven albums in as many years. "Akemodoro Unai" is the latest, and follows a major line-up change. Despite this, the group sounds extremely tight on this enchanting album. The licensing deal with GlobeStyle should hopefully make it easy to get hold of, and give Nenes some well-deserved international recognition.
Incidentally, Nenes can also be heard on the title track of Talvin Singh's celebrated fusion CD "OK", which should bring them to many people's attention. Nenes fanclub, Nenes home page
Anja Beinroth

Various "The Floating Folk Festival Vol. 1: A Compilation of Richmond Artists"
Planetary Records; Planetary 9007; 14 Tracks; Playing Time: 55.06 min
The Floating Folk Festival is a co-operative of musicians from Richmond, Virginia who organise concerts with a varying roster of participating artists. It's Folk, Jim, but not as we know it - only in the American sense of "anything with an acoustic guitar in it". Most of them seem to be into MOR country, judging by their CD. They may or may not be guesting on each others' tracks here - it's impossible to tell without the booklet, which was missing from my review copy of the CD.
The anonymous reviewer in Folk Roots Magazine rightly reckons "the 'gotta listen to that cut, again and again' quotient" to be low. Gerry Laverty's "Die In Winter" did it for me; the rest is fairly ignorable, albeit nice enough. Roy Orbison fans will enjoy Burnt Taters' (dreadful name!) "Until The Time Is Right", as their singer sounds stunningly like the great man himself. Probably one to buy at gigs, rather than to go out of one's way to get hold of.
Floating Folk Festival
Anja Beinroth

Various "The Rough Guide to English Roots Music"
World Music Network; RGNET 1018 CD; 18 Tracks; Playing Time: 70.03 min
The Rough Guide CDs have a reputation for being authoritative selections of an area's regional music (selling at a moderate price), and this sampler indicates that it may be well-deserved. English roots music often gets overlooked due to the strong and vibrant traditions of its Celtic neighbours; maybe this compilation will redress the balance a little.
So what is English roots music? A number of different strands of the tradition are represented here: from unaccompanied close-harmony singing (The Watersons; Coope, Boyes & Simpson) via the ballad tradition (Louise Fuller; Harry Cox; Waterson:Carthy; John Kirkpatrick; Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick) to the modern singer/songwriter genre (Billy Bragg; Rory McLeod), from dazzling solo instrumentalists (Northumbrian small piper Billy Pigg) to modern rock bands with their roots showing (Eliza Carthy & The Kings Of Calicutt; Oysterband; Hank Dogs; Albion Band) and those who uphold the English country dance tradition (Walter & Daisy Bulwer, Billy Cooper, Reg Hall, Mervyn Plunkett & Russell Wortley) not to mention those who inventively fuse their English musical background with influences from all over (Edward II; The Barely Works; Savourna Stevenson, June Tabor & Danny Thompson).
So what's it like? Depending on your tastes and preferences, you will pick your own favourites; the standard of excellence is high throughout. Of course you could argue about the selection decisions - time alone will tell whether darlings of the moment Hank Dogs' contribution to the history of English roots music justifies their inclusion here; and most people will be able to name something or other that really should have been included but isn't. Such discussions are futile; fact remains, it's a pretty good overview that manages to give an impression of the diversity of English roots music - and it's really enjoyable to listen to. What more can you ask?
World Music Network
Anja Beinroth

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