Issue 19 8/2001

FolkWorld CD Reviews

Dog

Eric Bogle "By Request"
Label:
Greentrax; CDTRAX 210; 2001; Playing time: 69.11 min
What honours a good songwriter more than the fact that his songs are played by many other musicians? With respect to this, Eric Bogle is one of best of his guild. One often thinks "hey, I know this song from (someone else)" when listening to the new Bogle compilation. For instance, "And the Band played waltzing Mathilda" - known from the Pogues, Joan Baez and many others - or "No Man's Land", aka. "Green fields of France".
The record contains mostly quiet and reflective songs, anti-war songs like the above mentioned, melancholic ones like "Now I'm easy", but also humorous; all in a best singer/songwriter style.
Eric writes in the booklet "Compilation Records should really only appear when the artist in question is safely dead, but I'm still in reasonable health and need the cash now". No matter if this is the real reason for releasing this record, or the problem that most of his old records aren't available any more, it made a collection of beautiful songs, nothing new for old Bogle-fans, but highly recommended for 'Bogle-beginners'.
Greentrax Recording LTD.http://www.greentrax.com, Cockenzie Business Centre, Edinburgh Road, Cockenzie, East Lothian, EH32 0XL Scotland, Tel.: 01875 815888, Fax: 01875 813545, Email: greentrax@aol.com
Tom Kamphans


Rod Clements "Stamping Ground"
Label:
Market Square Records; MSMCD 107; 2000; Playing time: 42.21 min
Although Rod Clements belongs to the english folk scene - mostly known as member of Lindisfarne, but also from his joint works with Ralph McTell, Bert Jansch and many others - his first solo record sounds rather american. Blues with a pinch of country or rockelements and a typical Bob Dylan sound. But this is no restriction in the quality of this CD: beautiful melodies, strong lyrics, a solid singer/songwriter record one enjoys listening to. Mentionable are one duett with Thea Gilmore in the melancholic and lovely song "We have to talk" and the pipes of Kathryn Tickell in "Roads of East-Northumberland".
Market Square Records, http://www.marketsquarerecords .co.uk, Market House - Market Square - Winslow - MK 18 3AF - United Kingdom, Tel.: +44 (0) 1296 715288, Fax.: +44 (0) 1296 715286, Email: peter@marketsquarerecords.co.uk
Tom Kamphans


Curtis Kamiya "You can close your eyes"
Label:
Curtis Kamiya; 2000; Playing time: 30.30 min
The debut CD of Curtis Kamiya, born in Honululu and living in San Franciso, contains cover versions from Don McLean, Tracy Chapman and James Taylor as well as own songs in a solid singer/songwriter style. Skillful guitar playing, combined with a pleasing voice. Altogether a nice record, that you might really enjoy after hearing Curtis live, but it misses something individual to stand out of the mass of singer/songwriter CDs and to be a good recommendation. But things can improve, so it might be interesting to listen to forthcoming records from Curtis.
Curtis Kamiya, www.curtiskamiya.com, 473 21st Ave. #2, San Francisco, CA 94198, Tel. (415) 244-2914, curt@curtiskamiya.com
Tom Kamphans


Zuba "Chameleon"
Label:
IonaGold; IGCD219; 2000; Playing time: 43.42 min
Worldmusic at its best, from Scotland! At the second sight not so astonishing: Bandleader Jerry Boweh escaped 1991 from a civil war in Liberia. 1997 he founded his band during a fund-raising project for Liberia and called it "Zuba" or "Forget your worries and have a good time". And the music of the band reflects this motto: a music that expresses hope and joy. Their self-written songs are about good times, sprituals, african legends, high ideals and positive utopias, but one finds also songs with an autobiographical nature, about changes in the world and their influences to individuals. Altogether, the first record from Zuba is a brilliant work.
Iona Records www.iona-records.com, 27-29 Carnoustie Place, Glasgow, GH 8PH, Tel. 141 420 1881, Fax 141 420 1892, info@iona-records.com
www.zuba.co.uk

Tom Kamphans


Kila "Lemonade & Buns"
Label: Kila Records KRCD005; 2001
I remember receiving a copy of Kila's debut album 'Mind The Gap' back in 1996 and thinking then they were an eclectic bunch. Well, nothing's changed much, except they've toured a lot, gained followers and a decent business organisation, so this album actually sounds as if it was recorded properly and has expensive full colour liner notes too. The music?? Let's just say four to the floor it ain't. The majority of the tunes are written by piper Eoin Dillon, and his is the most distinctive sound on the album. However, in such a large ensemble there's always a lot going on, sometimes too much for the coherence of the music, but then I guess if you like this sort of thing coherence isn't what its about, no sir. I suspect it's about getting off your face to Guinness, whiskey or whatever your particular fancy is and dancing like a maniac as the music performs its twists and turns around you.
To be fair, I've not seen Kila live, and I suspect this will make a lot more sense when you've seen them play. A band that can call on pipes, whistles, saxophone, fiddle, flute, bouzouki, guitar, mandolin, accordion, bass guitar, bodhran, djembe, drums and percussion could make a varied, interesting album or a hell of a racket, and this album veers nicely between the two. Vocalist Ronan O'Snodaigh is usually called 'a cult figure', which, loosely translated, means he doesn't have a great voice but presumably is a good front man on stage, so the ratio of three songs to eight instrumentals sounds about right. If you're a bit precious about Irish music and like it the way it always was, perhaps you'd be better steering clear of this lot - however, if you fancy the idea of a bunch of tearaways giving the Irish tradition a bit of a respectful trashing, then check this out.
Kila
Colin Jones


Eliza Gilkyson "Hard Times In Babylon"
Label: Red House Records RHRCD146; 2001
Every critic, if truth be told, loves to have artists like this up their sleeve. When people are raving about Dido, or whoever the current flavour of the month is, you casually say "Yes, but have you heard ..", knowing full well that the answer will be no. Texan Eliza is just such an artist, and she's been turning out brilliant records now for over ten years at least, of course on several different labels. Inevitably they have Mark Hallman at the controls, and are recorded at the home of great Americana, Austin Texas. I first became aware of her 'Legends of Rainmaker' album for the ill-fated Gold Castle label back in 1989, a truly excellent album scuppered by the premature bankruptcy of the label. She's been around a bit since then, but hopefully now has settled at Red House where she can get the kind of recording budgets she needs to turn out minor classics like this. As you may have gathered I'm a fan, and so too are Johnny Walker and Bob Harris of BBC Radio 2, who have both played tracks from this album several times on their shows. I suppose it's too much to hope that she'll actually tour here, but in lieu of that buy this and play it often. This is one of those records that shouldn't be categorised, as any attempt at doing that may put off some people from listening to it, and that would be a pity. It may not be easy to find, but if you like good music as opposed to 'pop' then do yourself a favour and check this out. Even if you decide not to buy it, your life will be richer for the experience.
Colin Jones


Old Blind Dogs "Fit"
Label: Green Linnet GLCD 1214; 2001
There was a phenomena in new age music a while back known as 'fretless bass', wherein one of the dominant sounds of the record was the distinctive sound of the fretless bass, with is glissandos and unique 'buzz' dominating the sound stage. Well, the phenomena has now reached folk music with Buzzby McMillan the guilty party. In fact, the rhythm section of McMillan and Paul Jennings on assorted percussion contrive to make most of the tracks sound the same, and distract from some of the good work going on around them. Rory Campbell is a fine piper, and his small pipes carry the tunes nicely. Johnny Hardie is a good workmanlike fiddler, no Eileen Ivers but steady and effective. Jim Malcolm is a fine singer (if sometimes let down by his material) and certainly an adequate guitarist. This could be a good band, but someone needs to get a grip on that rhythm section. After seven albums you feel they should be doing better than this. Maybe an outside producer for the next album, chaps?
Colin Jones


Rab Noakes & Fraser Spiers "Lights Back On"
Label: Neon Records neoncd002; 2001
Noakes has been turning out decent records since the 70's, but apart from a brief spell in the limelight when Lindisfarne covered a couple of his songs he has remained what we like to call a 'cult' figure i.e. album sales probably in the high hundreds and occasional day jobs to keep the wolf from the door. At first sight this potentially dull pairing (essentially voice/guitar/harmonica) have come up with an interesting album, mainly thanks to the eclectic choice of material (alongside Noakes' originals we have Holland/Dozier/Holland, Victoria Williams, Bob Dylan, Beck, Lieber/Stoller, Sam Cooke etc) and the invention of Spiers' harmonica. On several tracks it's like a string section and orchestral backing, that's how good he is. It's hard to see how this is going to gain much exposure other than at duo gigs, but does enough to suggest that an evening spent in their company would be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
Colin Jones


Show of Hands "No Song To Sing (The Collection)"
Label: Delta Records CD47054; 2001
The duo of Steve Knightley and Phil Beer have recently celebrated their tenth anniversary as Show Of Hands, and have, as many will know, sold out the 5,000 seats in London's Royal Albert Hall not once but twice, as well as having played every folk club and concert hall across the UK and most of Europe too. Their concert success has not been matched by record sales, and listening to this album it's not hard to see why. Live, they generate an aura, a feeling of being one of a special club, and they encircle the audience in a kind of reality distortion field where the songs become somehow enhanced. Don't ask me how they do it, because if I knew I would bottle it and make my fortune, but I've been at enough SOH gigs to testify to its effect. On record, this magic is missing, and they are revealed as the competent if hardly unique duo that they also are. True, there's some good songs here, Steve Knightley is a good vocalist and Phil Beer is of course a wonderful instrumentalist, but the magic ingredient which laces the live brew is totally absent and the album begins to drag a bit after a while. Fans will lap this up, but it might be hard work for the uncommitted. There's no denying the guys have worked hard for their success, and good luck to them, but on the whole this is a pretty dull record.
Colin Jones


Canterach "Canterach"
Label: Lochshore CDLDL1303; 2001
Whirligig "First Frost"
Label: Lochshore CDLDL1302; 2001
Angus Lyon "Long Road"
Label: Lochshore CDLDL1305; 2001
Otherwise known as the Steve Lawrence show, these three albums of mostly Scottish traditional music share musicians and producers around so that in the end it's hard to tell who is doing what with whom. Canterach is the most straight ahead Scottish album, featuring as it does the aforementioned Mr Lawrence on bouzouki and percussion along with Ross Kennedy on vocals and guitar, Iain MacInnes on whistles, small pipes and Highland pipes, Alistair McCullogh on fiddle and Rod Paul on mandolin, banjo and guitar. Kennedy's vocals help to break up the tune sets and provide some much needed variety which is unfortunately missing on the other two albums, though there are a couple of songs on Lyon's solo effort. Teenage accordion prodigy Lyon guests on piano and keyboards on the Canterach album, and Lawrence, Kennedy and McCullogh return the favour on his album. Fraser Spiers also turns up on both, and Lawrence plays small pipes, bouzouki, mandolin, recorder and percussion and also produces the Whirligig effort. This is the most studied of the three, featuring classical guitar and lute alongside pipes and hurdy gurdy in a 'classical/traditional' mix. Effectively done, it remains the least likely to reach a mainstream audience, but I doubt that even entered the musician's heads as they were recording it. Lyon's album also features Capercaillie's Marc Duff on whistles ands wind synth and cellist Wendy Weatherby, and is a good pointer for the future. Fans of Scottish music will find much to enjoy here, but if you're not that keen then stay well away. On the whole, good first division stuff, with Canterach most likely to push for promotion to the premier league, Whirligig having a good home record but unable to pick up points (or listeners) away from home, and Angus Lyon being the maverick, beating the top teams one week and losing to the bottom team the next. By the way, whoever asked John Wright to take on Donagh Long's song Never Be The Sun on Lyon's album had obviously never heard Dolores Keane's version, by which all others must be judged. Don't give up the day job, John!
Colin Jones


Refugee Voices "Building Bridges"
Label: Own, RV 002-2; 2001
A project initiated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and assembled, produced and recorded in his own Xippi Studios in Dakar by Youssou N'Dour, this album features many different styles of distinctively African music played by members of Youssou's band Super Etoile and performed and written by a variety of artists who have in common that they have fled from oppressive regimes. The lyrics are as you would expect very politically oriented, and the styles vary from traditional balafon and kora to rap, jazz/rock and pretty much everything in between. Immaculately recorded and produced, as you would expect, all involved gave their services for free to raise funds for the United Nations Refugee appeal and to raise awareness of the problems of Refugee communities world-wide. It seems churlish to criticise such a record, but aside from availability problems, such a variety of styles on one album rarely pleases anyone, though the reverse is that almost everyone will find something they like. Some lovely performances, but I suspect one for the 'gathering dust' pile. Expensively packaged in full colour Digipack, and accompanied by a thirty minute documentary TV programme, I'm left rather uncharitably thinking that may be they'd have been better to donate the money spent on this directly to the fund.
Colin Jones


Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali "A Better Destiny"
Label: Real World Records CDRW98; 2001
At the moment these two young guys are better known for being nephews of the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan than for any achievements in their own right, but on this, their second 'straight' Qawwali album for Real World, the omens are fair. The group works well in ensemble, and whilst there is none of the old master's inspired soloing yet, time is surely on their side and one hopes that their dabbling in western styles (as on the Temple of Sound collaboration 'People's Colony No1') does not adversely affect their development of the more traditional approach. I can't pretend to understand the words or dissect and analyse the music, but that's not what this about. This is about transformation and rapture, and there's genuine devotion and worship going on here. Not for the fainthearted or followers of fashion, but a worthy expression of a faith firmly held and offered up to the world for inspection. It's gratifying that Real World are still putting out albums like this, and I hope they generate enough sales to make more.
Colin Jones


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