Issue 8 2/99

FolkWorld CD Reviews


Keltik Elektrik "Edinburgh Hogmanay Party Mix"
G2 / Greentrax; G2CD7003; Playing time: 49.21 min
This one is fun and party stuff. Here you have all the favourite Scottish songs and tunes presented in a cool and clubby way, with big beats and dancey grooves. The main surprise is when you - after having danced to these 50 minutes of very modern sounding traditional music - look at the musicians who have created this delicious blend of music styles. Sandy Brechin with his distinctive and modern accordeon style comes as no bigger surprise, but who would think that The Tannies' John Martin and The Cast's Mairi Campbell fiddle along, that the singer is one of Scotland's greatest songwriters Jim Malcolm, that Dougie Pincock plays the pipes, and that the guitarist of the highly traditional Jock Tamson's Bairns, Jack Evans, is in charge for playing the electric guitar, and programming all the clubby grooves? I think if this would become a live band, then it would be THE Edinburgh cult band...
It's amazing stuff; the tunes are very dancey, and include the likes of Clumsy Lover, Flower of Scotland, and of course Amazing Grace. On the song side of things, Jim sings a beautiful version of Caledonia, Wild Mountain Time, and a cool and clubby version of Scotland's Schmaltz hero Andy Stewart's Donald Where's your Troosers? And of course the Hogmanay Mix may not end without the final Auld Land Syne, where the party can end in a crowd singing that good ol' song...
It's not for the traditionalist really, but it's just the right sing to play at your parties where you expect also some people who might not be into folk music. The ultimative Scottish party CD!
G2/Greentrax Recordings
Michael Moll

V/A "Seka ["Sister"]"
Twah!/EFA 61113-2; 17 Tracks
"Seka" means "sister", but "Seka" is also the abbreviation of "seminara kuca", a recreation house on the Isle of Brac in Croatia, dedicated to educational and therapeutical purposes for women and children of all religious and ethnic groups from the war torn regions of former Yugoslavia. Furthermore, "Seka" is the title of a benefit album featuring seventeen folk singers and folk rock bands from Ireland, Britain and the US. Seventeen, partly exclusive, songs from the Oysterband, Mary Black, Ralph McTell, Capercaille, Eliza Carthy, Pressgang, Maddy Prior, John Doe, Alison Krauss, Show of Hands, Whisky Priests, Forrester, Chris & Carla, Shane MacGowan & The Popes, Jackie Leven, Rory Mcleod und Mary Coughlan. As the "Seka"-project is promoting the idea of coming together, the songs are treating war and hope. But besides from the benefit purpose, the album is a also good overview of the current folk scene.
Walkin' T:-)M

Acoustic Drive "Saguaro Woods"
Label: Jones'n'Jones Records; JJ 97209; 12 Tracks; Playing Time: 45.00 min
My first reaction to this CD was "Oh dear, it's another German attempting to sing the blues and failing". While that is true for the first track, "Call Me The Breeze", the album on the whole is actually pretty good.
Acoustic Drive is a three-piece consisting of Rainer Brunn (guitars), Stephan Zirkel (mandolins, dobro) and David J. Woodford (bass). Eight of the twelve tracks are songs, mostly sung by Rainer Brunn with the others backing him. The album contains acoustic arrangements of a selection of the band's favourite tracks, plus a few originals. The cover versions span a wide range of styles: from "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" and the Doobies' hit "Long Train Running" to Country / bluegrass material like Guy & Susan Clark's "Ol' Friends", Russ Barenberg's "Magic Foot" and David Grisman's "Opus 38".
It's the tunes which work best. On "Opus 38", Stephan Zirkel's mandolin and Rainer Brunn's guitar swap the lead in a highly effective "Dueling Banjos"-type manner. "Magic Foot" and Zirkel's own "Reel of Fortune" also demonstrate his skillful mandolin playing, while the album's title track (inspired by a drive through the southwest of the USA), another Zirkel composition, proves him to be a fine dobro player as well.
This album is a very enjoyable companion on quiet, lazy afternoons at home.
Anja Beinroth

Coinneach "Ice, Trees and Lullabies"
KRL/Lochshore Records; CDLDL1280; 11 Tracks (+1 unlisted); Playing Time: 53.27 min
Coinneach is a young Scottish band treading in the footsteps of groups like the Levellers and the Waterboys. What stands out most is Debbie Swanson's fiddle playing and Davy Cowan's vocals, with sensitive backing on keyboards, bass, mandola and drums from the rest of the band. Most of the songs, all written by Davy Cowan, have catchy, up-tempo tunes that invite the listener to hum along, if not get up and dance. A few slower numbers provide variety - I particularly like the beautiful ballad "Still November", which describes the sense of loss and helplessness felt by the family left behind when someone suddenly disappears without warning.
Coinneach come from the Scottish Highlands, and the rainy, windy weather which dominates that region is clearly a major inspiration for Davy Cowan's songwriting, as evidenced by the frequent references to the weather in nearly all of the songs.
A fine folkrock album that gets even better with repeated listening. Highly recommended.
KRL/Lochshore Records' Coinneach page
Anja Beinroth

Fiddler's Bid "Hamnataing"
Greentrax; CDTRAX 167; Playing time: 65.47 min
A band with four fiddlers, and not boring at all. Well you surely will guess where this band comes from - from the Shetland Islands, the home of thousands of great fiddlers. Fiddler's Bid are deeply rooted in the rich Shetland fiddle music traditions, playing mainly traditional Shetland tunes.
The four fiddlers are joined Scottish Harp/Piano, Guitar and Bass Guitar. Most tunes are played energetic and fiery, having at the same time a very filigrane sound; others are more quiet and simply beautiful. This is some great Shetland music from a magnificent young band.
Greentrax Recordings
Michael Moll

Kætter Kvartet "Live"
Label: KAT Records; KAT CD 98001; 12 Tracks; Playing Time: 50.03 min
This is one of those live albums that sounds like it was all great fun and makes you wish you'd been there. It was recorded in Århus by Danmarks Radio P3, and the sound quality is excellent. So is the music, come to that.
Kætter Kvartet's music is based on the folk traditions of Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia, but written almost exclusively by mandolinist John Bæk and fiddle player Søren Korshøj Nielsen. It is all very danceable and infectious, with great melodies and inventive arrangements. They sing in Danish, but the booklet supplies English notes on the songs, which suggest that they deal with universal folksong subjects such as sailors' relationships to women, and the pleasures of home.
The music is driven by fiddle and Svend Seegert's keyboard, with Bæk leading on mandolin or backing on guitar, and Vivi "di Bap" Kristensen adding drums and percussion.
On the evidence of this fine album, Kætter Kvartet should become hugely popular in Denmark and beyond.
Mail for further information , agency website
Anja Beinroth

The Oyster Band "Pearls from the Oysters"
Label: Snapper / Recall; SMDCD 148; 30 Tracks; Playing Time: 59.04 min & 60.35 min
The Oysterband are going from strength to strength at the moment, releasing one excellent album after another and deservedly winning quite a few new fans along the way. Some then become interested enough that they want to seek out earlier releases, and receive a bit of a shock at the impressive size of the Oysterband discography. Faced with such an extensive back catalogue, where should one start? Well, here's the obvious answer.
Snapper have compiled a generous double CD of songs and tunes by the then Oyster Band; it includes 6 out of 9 tracks from the seminal 1986 album "Step Outside" (a turning point in the band's history with the addition of drummer Russell Lax to the line-up), 8 of the 11 tracks of "Wide Blue Yonder" (1987), all 10 tracks from "Ride" (1989), 4 of 10 from "Little Rock to Leipzig" (1990) plus two cover versions of traditional songs ("Star of the County Down" and "Curragh of Kildare") originally released on various singles around 1993/4.
There are some bizarre omissions; namely the two tracks which really got the Oyster Band noticed in the late '80s, their highly individual interpretation of "Hal-An-Tow" and their own "The Oxford Girl", which takes a typical folksong story and turns it on its head by giving the woman's point of view.
Many other classics are here, however; the political ones like "The Early Days Of A Better Nation", "Bully in the Alley" and Billy Bragg's "Between The Wars", the classic cover versions of New Order's "Love Vigilantes" and the traditional "New York Girls", "Bold Riley" and "Lakes of Cool Flynn", many of their own finest songs like "Flatlands", "A Careless Life", "This Year Next Year" and "Too Late Now" and the proverbial "much, much more". All this for slightly less than the price of a normal single CD album. A worthwile investment for anyone who doesn't already own the early Oyster Band albums or wants a cheap supplement to worn-out vinyl records.
Official Oysterband website , Vonnie's Oysterband fanpage
Anja Beinroth

Csókolom "May I kiss your Hand - Hungarian & Gipsy Fiddle Music & Songs"
Arhoolie Records; No. 469; Playing time: 73.12 (!) min
Csókolom is pronounced something like 'shock column', and is originally an old fashioned Hungarian greeting meaning "May I kiss your hand?" At the same time Csókolom are an extraordinary band based in Berlin and Amsterdam. When they were invited by German Profolk organisation to represent Germany at the Folk Alliance, they made with their Hungarian roots music at least two persons crying: on the one hand Nora Guthrie (who writes a dedication in the booklet), on the other hand Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records who directly invited them to record with his label.
The result is impressive. Anti von Kleewitz, leader of the band and both singer and violin player, has a charismatic voice. The songs are presented in a very moving way, accomponied sparsely, but at the same time very effectively by violin and double bass. The songs are in diverse languages from South-East Europe, often in Hungarian, but also in Serbo-Croatian, Romanian or in Roma, the language of the gipsies. The tunes are based on the up to three fiddles of Csókolom, with exciting arrangements between them. There is a special feeling in this music; a lot of swing and energy, with traces of Jazz and Improvisation, but always based on Hungarian and Gipsy traditions. Although the line-up of just violins/violas and double bass is surely unusual, the music has a strong appeal - you never have the feeling that other instruments are missing.
This is great stuff. If you like Eastern European or gipsy music, this one is a must! And, yes, with this recording you get nearly one and a quarter hours (!) of hugely enjoyable, high quality music!
Arhoolie Records; Csókolom's homepage, and e-mail Csókolom
Michael Moll

V/A "fokal point: Edinburgh - traditional music from a new generation"
Greentrax; CDTRAX168; Playing time: 69.31 min
Edinburgh is now - with the introduction of the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood - once again the official capital of Scotland. For a longer time already, Edinburgh has been the focal point of Scottish folk music; with many musicians moving to the beautiful town to become part of the lively folk session pub scene. It's been long due to dedicate an album to the thriving and exciting scene of Edinburgh; and this CD will hopefully sell well also in the touristic market as it offers a lot of the best of Scottish music.
The choice of the material is excellent - but what else would you expect if you ask Deaf Shepherd's own Claire McLaughlin to make the choice. Appearing on this album are: Shooglenifty, Martyn Bennett, Calluna and Kick (both previously unreleased), Jim Malcolm, Deaf Shepherd, Keep it Up, Anam, Tony McManus, Eilidh Shaw, Russell's House, Tabache, Corner House, Burach, Seelyhoo, Jenny & Hazel Wrigley. Well of course the collector of Scottish music has most of the stuff already, but this collection is good enough to be nevertheless a welcome addition to your collection. If you are not that much informed about the current music scene of Edinburgh, and like to have a collection of both traddy and modern Folk Music - this one's for you!
Greentrax Recordings
Michael Moll

Vince Brophy "The Meeting Place"
Label: Own; VB29303CD; Playing time: 55.17 min
Grown up in Dublin with songs and dance in his house, Vince is living today as an Irish Australian in Australia. As a singer/songwriter he draws especially upon this Irish background, combined with his emigrant experiences and his love to his new home. This is his third album, recorded with a talented bunch of musicians on guitar, mandolin, Keyboards and Violin/Viola. Vince himself plays finger style guitar and Bodhran. Most of the songs are written by Vince, with great lyrics and often catchy choruses; completed by a few traditional Irish songs (Cliffs of Doneen and others) and three Poems of the Scot Will Ogilvie put to music by Vince. The central theme is the Irish/Australian emigrant; some of the songs are good enough to be taken into the tradional repertoire, e.g 'The Meeting Place' or 'Leaving the Land'. His band on this album adds another dimension to his enjoyable singing; especially the violin player.
Vince Brophy is a real treasure for great emigration songs. He will be in Europe this year with his songs of the Irish/Australian experience, so all of you Europeans: watch out for them!
Vince Brophy's homepage
Michael Moll

Label: Wildboar
; WBM 210004; Playing time: 55.56 min
Shantalla might arguably be classified as a "Celtic” group on the basis that the members are Irish and Scottish. But this is none of your duty-free-shop sampler stuff. The music is top-drawer traditional Irish instrumentals combined with Scottish and some Irish songs which range from the endearing to the haunting.
The arrangements are uncomplicated in the best sense of the word, while having enough subtlety to give them depth and variety, so that the album will appeal to a wide audience without compromising any of the integrity of the tradition in which it is steeped. It is indeed an excellent reflection of the state of Irish traditional music in the closing years of the twentieth century: alive and kicking ass, revelling in a standard of individual musicianship that is higher than it ever was, embedded in an unapologetic pride in something that the country has given the world to enjoy, and confident enough to accept new influences which will go on enriching it for years to come.
The tone is set with the opening bars of the first track, a rhythm base laid down by Joe Hennon's guitar, joined by Helen Flaherty's bodhrán, both providing subtle colour as well as drive. Together they create a sense of excitement, getting your foot tapping and your shoulder shrugging even before Kieran Fahy on fiddle and Michael Horgan on flute launch into a Breton tune which intriguingly has more than a suggestion of the Balkans about it. An effortless transition to Gerry Murray, whose delicate touch and skilful but restrained playing make the piano accordeon sound like the best of Clare concertina music, and we are back home with a reel from the prolific but ever-tasteful pen of Charlie Lennon.
The second track brings a complete change of mood with a haunting Scottish song of infanticide from Helen which is still sadly relevant today. The lively mood picks up again with a set of reels led by Gerry on accordeon, joined by the rest of the group including Michael on uilleann pipes - a fine post-Good-Friday-agreement demonstration that even these two legendarily incompatible instruments can make sweet music together in a climate of parity of esteem.
Helen's next offering is a lively love song - "P stands for Paddy”, the chorus of which you will be singing along with in no time. This number is a better reflection of her charming personality and stage presence which contribute so much to the terrific rapport that Shantalla creates with its audience.
The album continues with sufficient variety of tempo and mood to please both the the general listener with only a passing interest in Irish music and the true aficionado. One of the more noteworthy tracks is no. 12, a set of reels in which the individual instruments are showcased, and which brings the house down at every Shantalla gig. Another is "The new age polkas” featuring one of several of the group members' own compositions and a tune by Donal Lunny who about thirty years ago, together with accomplices such as Andy Irvine, smuggled some exotic Balkan rhythms into Ireland hidden in bouzoukis. The instrument and the rhythms have since become naturalised with the help of advocates like Bill Whelan, and the music and the dancing are all the richer for it - witness the excitement generated by Riverdance.
Based in Brussels, but very much at home in any session in Ireland, Shantalla have been building up quite a following in continental Europe – particularly in Belgium but also in the Netherlands, Germany, France and as far away as Austria – since they adopted their present lineup in 1997. This début album was released by Wild Boar Music in the Benelux in November 1998 and will shortly go on worldwide release. When you have experienced the enthusiasm they generate among their audience and sensed the enjoyment they get from their music in spite of a hectic performing schedule, you will share the feeling that this band could go a long way yet.
Wildboar Records,Shantalla's homepage.
Roger O'Keeffe

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