Issue 21 03/2002
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Eleanor McEvoy "Yola"
Label: Market Square Records
Sometimes in an artist's career, a hit record can be a terrible thing. If it
comes right at the start, it can sometimes throttle a promising artist to death
(eg Natalie Imbruglia, Yazz). Eleanor McEvoy had the (mis)fortune to pen a song,
A Woman's Heart, which became a huge anthem in her native Eire, spawning not
only a huge hit single but also themed various artist compilation albums and
tours. As a result of this, she landed a deal with a major label looking to
launch her on the world as a singles artist. However, anyone who saw her live
would have seen that Woman's Heart was an exception, and that most of her material
was down home folksy personal songs of love, life and growing up in her adopted
home of Wexford - not what one would think of as major label material at all.
She went off and did the full band thing though, and met with reasonable success
both at home and in the US, though sales never quite met expectations, and by
her third album she had returned (more or less) to her roots. 1999's Snapshots
was a more intimate song based album signalling to those who heard it an end
to the 'hit single' phase of her career, though there was concern that it might
signal the end of her career altogether.
It's something of a relief, then, to receive this album and hear Eleanor as
she should be heard, live and intimate with mostly guitar and piano backing,
with occasional bass from the mighty Eoghan O'Neill and drums and backing vocals
from Liam Bradley, on loan from the Dolores Keane Band. The songs are all Eleanor
originals (with co-writing credits for the Christians Henry Priestman on one
track and Lloyd Cole on another), beautifully recorded and reproduced on Super
Audio format for your listening pleasure. Respect is also due to pianist Brian
Connor for exemplary and sympathetic playing throughout.
Being free of the major labels means also being outside of their all-pervasive
marketing machine too, so radio play and live appearances outside of Eire may
be thin on the ground. However, there's a simplicity and honesty that shines
through this record and though hardly essential (let's be honest, what is?)
repays repeated listening with a 'feel good' experience. This is music of a
certain type, then, but of its type, an excellent example.
Acoustic Strawbs "Baroque and Roll"
Label: Witchwood Records, WRCD 2004
In which Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert and Brian Willoughby get to revisit some
old chestnuts (Tears and Pavanne, Ghosts, Flower and the Young Man, Benedictus)
along with some new material performed to a guitar backing. Appeal to anyone
who doesn't know and didn't already like the Strawbs will be minimal, one suspects,
and the lack of any other instrumentation than guitar (and a few Robert Kirby
string arrangements) gives the songs a 'saminess' that can cause attention to
wander after a sort while.
That being said, the Cousins larynx is in fine fettle, and though perhaps an
acquired taste, his singing here is top class. The same can't be said for all
the songs, however, which are a mixed bunch, mostly of a ballad persuasion.
"Not All The Flowers Grow' (about the Aberfan tragedy) sees Cousins at his most
emotional, and is probably the standout track. Dave Lambert's vocal on his own
composition 'Inside Your Hell Tonight' breaks up the record a little, as does
the inclusion of the instrumental Remembering, composed by the group's former
keyboard player John Hawken and originally featured on the "Ghosts' album. Nice
banjo and string arrangement on Brian Willoughby's 'Alice's Song' closes the
record, and if you're wondering if the three of them can carry off the material
the answer is a resounding yes. The three piece will also be touring this year
and will probably be well worth seeing if reviews of their January gigs are
to be believed. Welcome back, Dave, Dave and Brian!
Calvin Russell "Rebel Radio"
Label: Pedernales Records, SPV 085-72802
One of the perks of this job is opening an envelope and finding a CD in it that
you would gladly have paid money for. I wear my heart on my sleeve here when
I say that I put Calvin alongside Butch Hancock, Jimmy Dale Gilmour and the
late Townes Van Zandt as one of Austin, Texas' finest musical exports. Don't
expect an objective review, because you won't get one - like Guy Clark, Butch,
Jimmie and the rest Calvin doesn't make bad albums. Some may be better than
others, but like a fine vineyard, buy it for the label assured that the contents
will be fine. Released as all his previous albums have been by German based
SPV, this one was actually recorded in Texas and will be released in the US
on Willie Nelson's Pedernales label. This means accompaniment includes luminaries
like Lloyd Maines on steel, Stephen Bruton on guitar, Freddie Krc on drums and
the inimitable Kimmie Rhodes on backing vocals. The album is beautifully produced
by veteran Joe Gracey, whose production credits include (in addition to wife
Kimmie Rhodes) such luminaries as the aforementioned Butch and Jimmie as well
as Willie Nelson, Sue Foley, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Asleep at the Wheel.
Three classic Russell original songs are set here amongst three by Townes Van
Zandt, a brace by Gillian Welch and songs by Stephen Bruton, Willie Nelson and
Jagger/Richards' 'No Expectations', done in country blues style. If you like
any of the artists I've mentioned in this review, then do yourself a favour
and check this record out. If you like more than one, just go and buy it - trust
me, I'm a music lover.
Shantalla "Seven Evenings, Seven Mornings"
Music; WBM 21030; 2001
Shantalla are something of a strange mix, four Irishmen and a Scots lass who
live and work in Belgium. Nothing strange about the music, though, which is
a rich and well produced mix of traditional tunes and songs mixed with some
band compositions and a couple of 'borrowed' songs, one from Guy Clark/Tim O'Brien
(the opening 'John Riley') and one from Karine Powart of Scots band Malinky.
The line up is Helen Flaherty on vocals and bodhran, Joe Hennon on guitar, Kieran
Fahy on fiddle, Michael Horgan on pipes, whistles and flutes, and Gerry Murray
on accordion, whistles, flutes, bouzouki and mandolin. The instruments are very
well played and all the arrangements are unfussy and well thought out. This
is a band that means business, and it's not hard to see why Green Linnet has
snapped them up for US distribution.
There are plenty of old favourites here to leaven the mix, such as Tommy Peoples'
reel, The Mooncpoin jig and the Breton hymn SperedHollvedel, made famous by
Alan Stivell. As with most Irish traditional music, the true test will be to
see if they can produce the craic live, and the omens are good. This album would
be a fine addition to any trad collection, but may serve even better as a reminder
of a great gig. Remember the name - you heard it here first.
Homepage of the artist: http://www.shantalla.com
Little Johnny England "Mercs and Cherokees"
Not a blues singer but a band based around the melodeons of Gareth Turner and
the fiddle of Guy Fletcher (no, not the one who used to be in Dire Straits)
and featuring the vocals of guitarist PJ Wright. Though traditional in style,
all the songs are composed by Pete Scrowther with the exception of one from
guitarist Wright, a Steve Knightley song from the Show of Hands repertoire (Widdecombe
Fair, featuring a guest vocal from Mr Knightley himself) and Ralph McTell's
Lost Boys. The four instrumentals are all band originals. Set to a bass/drums
backdrop, comparisons to the likes of Tiger Moth are perhaps inevitable, though
having scorned the tradition the quality of the material is also of paramount
importance. Whilst the songs are capable, the instrumentals are well thought
out and avoid the melodeon/bass/drums charge of the likes of Caught On The Hop.
It is telling that the Knightley and McTell covers are the best songs on the
album, though. There are lots of great songs out there, and better material
will help a great deal. A good effort then, but school report says probably
could, and will, do better.
Erling Hansen "det er mine"
2001; Playing time: 40.52 min
Erling Hansen is probably one of the most well-known fiddlers from Denmark.
He already plays for more than 40 years and recorded several lp's and cd's both
solo or with fellow musicians. This new album called Det er mine which means
as much as "they are mine" is his 33 recording and a fine collection of 16 tunes
which, except for one, he all wrote himself. The tunes are influenced by the
Danish traditional music but you can also find influence from the Baltic, Eastern
Europe etc. Erling is backed by five fine musicians on guitar and accordion.
Erling is a very good violin player who is able to play with feeling and joy.
His tunes are open to a big audience, easy to listen to and a bit melancholic.
It's very clear that he plays in the old tradition and does not have the intention
to create modern folk music.
Homepage of the artist: http://www.erlinghansen.dk
Stara Lipa "Vivum"
World; 004; 2001; Playing time: 49.54 min
When I was in Poland some years ago I started looking in cd shops for young
musicians who made some traditional recordings. I didn't find much and they
assured me that these kind of bands did not exist in Poland. So I was surprised
when I got this very interesting cd by the group Stara lipa to review. Five
young musicians recorded 12 beautiful songs and dances. Besides vocals you can
hear instruments such as Hurdy-gurdy, Ocarina, Skrzypica, saz and many others.
These instruments are not all traditional Polish and neither is the music Stara
lipa creates. It's a fine mixture of musical influence from all over Europe
including Poland. The overall atmosphere is medieval and reminds me of the music
known from the group Ilgi. In tunes like Zimowe intro and W ognil the band sound
like they are haunted by some scary creatures through the dark Polish woods.
Stara lipa managed to record a both traditional as modern sounding acoustic
cd. I'm impressed by this cd and I hope we will hear a lot more from this Polish
CD257; 2001; Playing time: 49.08 min
Vierkracht is the second cd by the Dutch group Windvlaag and a big leap
forwards compared with their first cd. Now on the syncoop label the group brings
songs from the Dutch, Yiddish and many other traditions. The opening song Dri
grine kusine a very famous Yiddish traditional is, like The glasgow barrowlands
one of the few weak links on this album. These songs sound like the group has
problems with matching the voice and instruments into a balanced song. That
this is only an incidental problem proofs many of the other songs. The Flemish
traditional Maske, the Shakespearean song Under the greenwood tree and especially
the Greek song Itane mia fora show the quality of this band. Sadhu Bolland,
who sings both the Greek ballads and a few other songs, has a strong warm voice.
She is able to put emotion in each word she sings and her singing makes this
cd of extra value. Syncoop was absolutely right to publish this cd. Their first
cd didn't convince me, this one did. I hope Windvlaag is able to grow further
and develop more and more their own style.
Red Meadows "City Ballads"
2001; Playing time: 38.42 min
When I heard the cd City ballads for the first time I thought that I was listen
to just another band with Americana sound. But suddenly, listening to the song
Chasing that feeling, I realised that this group has much more to offer than
I thought. I had to get used to the pronunciation of the lyrics sung by Dave
Knudsen. That took me three songs and now I'm convinced that Read meadows made
a more than average cd. Nice ballads, moody songs and a sound like Neil Young
in his most peaceful moments. A bit too much Pedal steel guitar to my taste
but that is a personal problem for which I need to find some professional help.
I hope the group is able to grow into a more own interpretation of the American
tradition and I'm sure we will hear more of this talented group.
Homepage of the artist: http://www.readmeadows.com
Szilvasi gipsy folk band "Ha megfogom az ordogot"
fa-089-2; 2001; Playing time: 58.01 min
The Hungarian gypsy band Szilvasi isn't just another Gypsy group. They have
a clear view on the music that they play and they try to renew tradition constantly
so that young people also feel that the music is theirs. This live-recorded
cd starts with a very nice song that reminds me a bit of the traditional singing
done in South Africa. The way de voices sing in harmony and the relaxed atmosphere.
Besides songs of joy the group also brings very intense melodies such as Sel
mure bakre szasz kethane, szaz baranyom volt egyutt (this is not the most intense
song but it has the best title so I choose to use this one as example) but each
time with passion and in new musical arrangements which make this cd not only
very recognisable but also refreshing.
Tanglewood "Circular Dancing"
Briosso; 9861; 1998; Playing time: 25.04 min
The Irish group Tanglewood are Anne Breathnach who does the lead vocals and
Harry Monson who plays the guitar and backing vocals. On this cd they are helped
two additional musicians but the basic of their songs is guitar and vocals.
I like this album. The songs are brought with feeling and especially look
the other way became one of my favourites. The cd contains only six songs
and that is not much. But better six songs of this quality than twelve songs
with no quality. Also read the review on their newer cd: The place where
you were born
Tanglewood "The place where you were born"
Briosso; 0061; 2000; Playing time: 57.47 min
For introduction read the review on their cd Circular dancing. In that review
I wrote that it was a shame that cd was so short. Luckily they also send me
another cd with double as much songs. The basic is almost the same; the nice
guitar and strong voice of Anne Breatnach. Only this time more musicians back
the group especially the keyboard got more influence in the songs. Again the
songs are of high quality. Although they are Irish don't expect to hear Irish
traditional music. It's singer songwriter music with sometimes a bit poppy sound.
I can't say that I would prefer one of the cd's. I like the soberness of the
first one but also enjoy the richer sound of The place where you were born.
My suggestion, buy them both!
Moon; 71501; 2991; Playing time: 56.58 min
Avesto is a group from Tadjikistan and is based around lead-singer Takhima Ramazanova.
The record company put the label "ethno pop" on the cd booklet and that is exactly
what this is. Reminding me sometimes of the early cd's of Yulduz Usmanova, Avesto
tries hard to record songs which would be suitable for both the Asian as well
as the Western market. Although it sounds like the band uses traditional instruments,
according to the booklet this is all the work of Jasur Khalilov who is in charge
of the keyboards. Besides him there are three percussionists and one e-bass
player. Avesto made a cd with nice, recognisable songs that are easy to listen
to. Enough modern influence to make this cd suitable for listeners who are not
used to this genre and like to get introduced into Ethno pop from Tadjikistan.
For me this cd is well done but I've heard it before and consider this as a
quality commercial product.
Earth Wheel Sky Band "Rroma Art"
2001; Playing time: 39.35 min
When I heard this cd for the first time the first thing I thought was: "why
have I never heard of this band before." The Earth wheel sky band was founded
in 1981 and Rroma art is their third album. Leader of the group is Vince Olay
who besides being a great musician also is a representation of the Roman culture.
He has dedicated his live to the emancipation of the Roman people and with the
Aroma art project he wants to make people around the world aware of their Roman
identity. The CD contains so many different kinds of interpretation of the Roman
culture that some songs really surprise me. The song Aroma adagio has
influences from the Jewish music tradition while Briton peril sounds
like some Latin musician left some traces. And songs like Barrio drum have a
modern beat and a completely different atmosphere. While other artists often
show only a certain style of the Roman music, Eart wheel sky band taught me
that the Romans had their influence in musical styles world-wide.
Balogh kalman es a Romana Kokola "Gipsy colours"
061-2; 1999; Playing time: 44.08 min
Kalman Balogh is a well-known name within the Hungarian music scene. He played
Cymbalo in famous bands such as Muszikas, Okros, Zsaratnok and the Transglobal
underground. Now he is the artistic director of Romana kokalo and together they
recorded ten songs that find their roots in the Balkan tradition. As always
Balogh is a master on his instrument and the whole cd has a relax and friendly
atmosphere. The guitarists Istvan Angy and Karoly Berki have a leading role
in many of the songs and make this album sound like a mixture between Balkan
and Spanish gypsy music. Of course these two styles are tightly connected and
it won't surprise anybody. I have to say that it's not Baloghs most impressive
work. All ten songs are quality and brought by great musicians but it misses
something extra. A good example is the song Hajnalodik where it's like
the vocalists are bored singing the song. Technically everything sounds perfect
but I miss the fire from within the musicians.
Pili Pili "Ballads of Timbuktu"
4240-2.; 2002; Playing time: 58.16 min
I have to be very honest to Jasper van't Hof and his fellow musicians of Pili
pili. I've been very narrow minded for many years concerning their music. As
a record collector I once found one of Pili Pili's first records at a record-fair
and didn't like it much at that time. So after that I never bought another Pili
pili record again and this new album Ballads of Timbuktu teaches me how
painfully wrong I have been all these years. So not knowing the other Pili pili
album but the first and the last I can recommend this cd with pleasure. It's
a dynamic mixture of ancient west-African music, modern jazz and beats. Leading
lady is Mabinyhy Sakho. She impresses with both sharp and warm vocals. I'm surprised
how balanced the combination of the west-African music and the modern jazz sound.
Both styles are recognisable and still they seam to create their own world.
Again I have to say that I don't know their previous work so I cant tell you
if this album is "better" than the last one, I just let you know that this is
impressive music which I enjoy a lot.
Bryan Owens "BryansBizaar - Acoustic music
from near and far"
2001; Playing time: 49.16 min
The multi-instrumentalist Bryan Owens has been a member of several traditional
groups in New-Zealand. Now he recorded the cd Acoustic music from near and
far together with three fellow musicians to document diverse traditional
tunes he has learned from several musicians through the years. The cd contains
eleven songs in Breton, Swedish, Irish and many other traditions. Although the
tunes come from different countries, Bryan managed to create a cd with an own
sound. His Breton tune has the same feeling as the Swedish tune Det maste
handa nagot and I have to concentrate to recognise the special Swedish or
Breton style that makes these tunes so special for their country. In a way I
think it's very well done because he manages to play the tunes in such a way
that they are recognisable and open to a big audience. On the other hand in
some tunes I miss the unique identity and I wish he gave it a little bit less
of his own sound. Nevertheless, this is a pleasant cd with a well-produced and
balanced sound. Bryan knows his instruments and plays with confidence and peace,
which makes this cd very pleasant to listen to.
Homepage of the artist: http://www.bryansbizaar.com
More English CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page
2 - Page 3 - Page 4
More German CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page
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