Issue 21 03/2002
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Duncan Chisholm "The Door of Saints"
Label: Copperfish Records (available from
Music Scotland); No.CPFCD002; 2001,
Playing time: 42.59 min.
Duncan Chisholm, fiddler from Scotland and known by his collaborations with
Ivan Drever and as part of Wolfstone, shows on his new album beautifully his
big talent. With a lot of feeling and skill he presents traditional and contemporary
tunes. The focus of the CD is on quiet beautiful tunes, not on the powerful
fast jigs and reels that Duncan is known for from his appearances with Wolfstone
and Ivan Drever. The pace of the CD allows Duncan to show his full skills as
a sensitive fiddler.
The CD directly starts with a gem - a stunning instrumental version of the Gaelic
song "Chro Chinn t-saile". The instrumental interpretation of Gaelic
songs is anyway a major theme of this CD; there are several beautiful versions
of wonderful quiet Gaelic songs interpreted on the fiddle, with a subtle backing
on guitar and keyboards. Additionally, there is an Ivan Drever tune ("El
Caballo Blanco") and one by the Basque accordenist Kepa Junkera. Duncan
is masterfully accompanied by a bunch of great musicians, including Ivan Drever
and Phil Cunningham.
The only little draw-back is the shortness of the CD (just over 40 minutes),
yet it is a masterpiece from the start to the end. "The Door of Saints"
was awarded by FolkWorld's Editors as the third best
album of 2001.
Contact to artist: Copperish Records, Kirkhill, Inverness, IV5 7NZ; firstname.lastname@example.org
Deaf Shepherd "Even in the rain"
DEAF SHEPHERD 1; 2002; Playing time: 57.52 min
"Even in the rain" sees Scotland's best traditional band in its very
best shape. It features the usual eclectic mix of wild traditionally based tunes,
beautiful songs in Scots and wonderful calm tunes. The first tune "Millenium
Village" directly bursts with energy and passion, while the second number
provides a calming down with a quiet song, "The bonnie Lass o wellwid ha'",
showcasing the talents of singer John Morran.
Deaf Shepherd are without doubt the best traditional folk band that Scotland
has produced since a long time. The band is still not playing full time; most
members have "normal" day jobs, and maybe it is just the fact that
they are a hobby band that keeps their music so lively, fresh and original.
Deaf Shepherd gather the best talents of the Scottish music scene: John Morran
can be claimed as one of the best singers in Scots language, Marianne Campbell
and Clare McLaughlin are two highly skilled fiddlers, Rory Campbell is not only
one of Scotland's best pipe and whistle players, but also one of the most talented
composers of tunes in the Gaelic tradition. Then there is Malcolm Stitt, probably
the most sought-after bouzouki players in the Scottish scene today (playing
also with the Boys of the Lough); and finally, Mark Maguire is a great bodhran
"Even in the rain" is the third CD of Deaf Shepherd, after the celebrated
releases "Ae Spark o Nature's Fire" and "Synergy". The concept
has stayed the same, and the result is even more stunning. "Even in the
rain" gives you the kick, more than any other traditional music release
since a long time; and without doubt, this album will make Deaf Shepherd again
many more fans. One of their fans is by the way Sam Brown (of "Stop"
and Jool Holland Big band fame) - she was that fascinated by the music that
she directly asked if she could join in. And as an offer of a good singer can
be hardly rejected, we find on the CD a bonus track, Deaf Shepherd feat. singer
Sam Brown: The song "Lost for words at sea", to be found in its original
version at the debut album of Deaf Shepherd, is beautifully mastered by Sam
with the band. Her comment: "It's really different for me, and I loved
For anybody who has never seen the band playing live, Deaf Shepherd have added
a CD ROM part to the CD, featuring a video of a live concert well presenting
the unique power, spark and flair so typically for this young band, mixed with
some interview statements.
This is probably the best album of Deaf Shepherd so far, and confirms their
status as the very best folk band that Scotland has on offer. A gem from the
first to the last minute; an absolute must-buy!
Homepage of the artist: www.deafshepherd.com,
contact to artist and label: email@example.com
Tim van Eyken & Robert Harbron "One Sunday
Jo Records; No.BEJOCD-34; 2001; Playing time: 49.27 min
Tim van Eyken is known in England for having won the prestigious BBC Radio 2
Young Tradition Awardin 1998. This is the second album of Tim, and the first
pure duo album of Tim and Rober Harbron. What can we expect from this album?
Easiest answer is: English traditional music with the eyes well open beyond
Tim is one of the new big masters on the melodeon, having developed his own
distinctive style, close to English traditions, yet with many influences. He
is also a gifted traditional singer. Duo partner Robert plays the concertina
and guitar, and sings as well (although on the album only backing vocals). Both
are (at least officially) tea drinkers - that explains the range of tea pots
on the photos of the CD cover. How do they say on the booklet? "We finally
mangaed to spend a few days at Rob's house drinking tea, having a laugh and
at the same time knocking out a few songs and tunes onto tape". Well that
sounds like a comfy atmosphere, and it must be just that which makes the album
sound so natural, relaxed, pure.
Tim and Robert's repertoire is travelling from England with its traditional
songs and tunes to France and Sweden. And Tim even takes the courage to sing
two verses in Swedish language ("Det stod en jungfru"), besides playing
Swedish tunes. The "New Swedish" set sees Rob writing a wedding tune
close to Swedish music, and Tim pinching a wedding polska from the Belgian accordeonist
Win Claeys (I suppose there is indeed something like a Europeanisation of folk
All in all a lovely collection of traditional music for those who love "the
real thing". Tim and Robert have worked themselves already up into the
top league of English folk musicians; this album is a strong confirmation for
their qualities. They have, by the way, also a wonderful sense of humour...
Homepage of the artists: www.timvaneyken.co.uk
Crasdant "Nos Sadwrn Bach - Not yet Saturday"
Records; SCD2306; 2001, Playing time: 43.35 min.
Unlike other "Celtic" regions in Europe, Welsh folk music is rather
unknown in the European folk scene. Listening to Crasdant one can only say that
this is indeed a big shame! Crasdant is without doubt one of the best and most
interesting traditional folk acts, featuring four of the best musician from
there: Robin Huw Bowen is famed as one of the few professionals on the Welsh
triple harp, Andy McLauchlin is a master on wooden flute, whistles and pibgyrn
(just don't ask me what exactly a pibgyrn is), then Stephen Rees being a talented
multi instrumentalist, to be heard on this album on fiddle, accordion and whistles,
and last not least Huw Williams, a great guitarist who at times also joins the
band with step dancing.
Crasdant play mainly traditional Welsh music; added on this album by two tunes
composed by Robin and one by Dick Lee. They offer perfect ensemble playing,
rich in varieties. There is quite a drive in the music, the selection of instruments
works extremely well together, and all musicians get a chance to fully display
their skills. Traditional music with a gentle and very harmonic feeling. This
is a classic album of one of the best traditional "Celtic" bands in
Homepage of the artist: www.crasdant.com,
contact to artist: firstname.lastname@example.org,
contact to label: email@example.com
The Fraser Sisters "Going Around"
Masters; NMCD19; 2001, Playing time: 46.05 min.
In the last issue, I had the pleasure to review Token
Women's album Elsa (that made its way into FolkWorld's CD Top 10 - Editors'
Choice). Two of the central figures of Token Women are these two sisters: Fi
Fraser and Jo Freya. Fi and Jo are two of the more innovative and exciting musicians
on the English scene. Playing instruments such as soprane/alto/tenor saxes,
whistles, clarinets (Jo) and fiddles, clarinet, hammered dulcimer and percussion
(Fi), they have not only an extraordinary musical talent, but have also brought
instrument to English folk music that are not at all typical, providing a wonderful
new groove. Additionally, they both have also pleasant voices.
"Going around" is their second duo album; recorded with the musical
support of Ralph Jordan (on most tunes)on guitar, bouzouki and concertina, and
the occasional inputs of Dave Sturt on bass, Al Day on percussion and Oliver
Knight on electric guitar. It offers a pleasant mixture of eight more sensitive
songs and four groovy swinging sets of tunes. The songs are all either trad
arr or written by contemporary songwriters, while many of the songs are written
by Jo Freya. The songs feature some really beautiful interpretations - such
as Cheryl Wheeler's "Summer Fly" featuring a grooving sax, a lively
attractive version of "Monday Morning" or the sensitive "Half
in Love with you". At the same time, there are a couple of songs that are
for my tast not really suitable for repeated hearing - the traditional "Watercress
Girl" with a bit of a cheesy easy listening feel, or the waltz "Yorkshire
Romance" - played live in a folk club, these songs might be fun, but on
a CD it is a bit too much for me.. but hey that's what the programming mode
of the CD player is for!
All in all it is a wonderful CD with plenty of highlights; the tunes are highly
enjoyable, and most of the songs are rather impressive and definitely pleasant
Contact to the artist via the label: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gabriel Yacoub "Tri"
Label: celluloïd/mélodie; BP3187; 1999, Playing
time: 70.51 min.
Gabriel Yacoub ":Y:"
Label: celluloïd/mélodie; 2001, Playing time:
About 30 years ago, Gabriel Yacoub formed France's probably most important folk
band, Malicorne. 20 years ago, Malicorne split, and Gabriel started a solo carrier.
While "Tri" - as a compilation of his first five solo albums - gives
a flashback on these first 20 years, the new album ":Y:" reflects
a bit of a new phase of his carreer.
"Tri" features 16 titles from Yacoub's first five albums, seeing him
experimenting with different kinds of band setups. It reflects with titles from
his first album "trad.arr" how Gabriel started off very traditional
and minimalistic, went through a phase of pleasant songwriting with some more
musical arrangement, and ended up with a pop/rock band that at times was quite
far away from folk music (just listen to the - to my taste awful - "papa-loi,
maman-loi"). All in all, "Tri" is probably a very good reflection
of those years, featuring several highlights of his solo carreer, yet covering
such a wide range of music that probably only fans will like all of the material.
Even if "Tri" features quite a few great songs, it is a real pleasure
to see how Gabriel's style has evolved now. The music is now more "back
to the roots", no longer a rock band with him, but a pleasant mixture of
French chansons and a traditional music flair. As Gabriel said a couple of years
ago in a FolkWorld interview: "The last line-up, the last band I had was big,
more like a real Rock'n'R band, (...) I felt a bit tired of this. (...) I wanted
to do something more simple, more direct, I wanted to be able to play in big
venues as well as in small ones. So I tried to imagine what would be the best
way." And it seems that he has found the best way for this. While most of the
songs are still written by Gabriel Yacoub (with the exception of one English
song of Richard Shindell, and a Chanson by Paul Fort and George Brassens), the
choice of accompanying musicians is much more folky. There are his stage collegues
Nathalie Rivière on violin and Yannick Hardouin on bass, then also the
likes of Gilles Chabenat on Hurdy Gurdy or the Breton uilleann piper Ronan Le
Bars. Along to that some more tribal percussion, a little bit of brass. A lot
of the songs have a bit of the typical melancholy that Gabriel's songs often
have. The music that Gabriel Yacoub creates now is is somewhere between French
and Celtic Folk, French Chanson, Classical music, maybe also a bit of Pop. Still,
over all lies the unique and destinctive sound of Gabriel Yacoub that we know
since his Malicorne times.
If I should recomment one of these two CDs, my recommendation would definitely
go towards ":Y:" - as this album presents Gabriel Yacoub at the heights
of his solo carreer. ":Y:" has been selected by FolkWorld's editors
as one of the best 10 CDs of 2001.
CDs available via the Homepage of the artist: www.gabrielyacoub.com,
contact to artist: email@example.com
Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band "Gold Frankincense
Records; No.PRKCD59; 2001, Playing time: 47.31 min.
Christmas is now already a few months past, yet it is still worth to review
this seasonal album. Maddy Prior is probably known to most of FolkWorld's readers,
having been for a long time the lead singer of probably the most important band
in the British Folk Rock movement, Steeleye Span. For this seasonal album she
has teamed up with The Carnival Band, a very talented bunch of six young musicians
playing on the album a huge range of mainly acoustic instruments. To give just
an idea of the instrument range, it includes djembe, talking drum, lutes, guitar,
modern and baroque double basses, violin, recorders, darbuka, saz, balafon,
clarinet and more.
The album has two parts: a sequence called "Gold Frankincense & Myrrh"
composed by Maddy and the band, and, under the title "Creatures and Kings",
a selection of six traditional songs.
The first sequence is based upon folk tales and legends around the Three Kings.
The words of the songs are all written by Maddy Prior, while the music took
its basis from Middle Eastern, Afican and medieval sources and developed through
collective improvisation. It is an exciting mixture of English medieval folk
song traditions and uthentic music from the Middle East and Africa. The highlights
are the moments when the band is improvising in those foreign traditions; the
music sounds close to the real music from those parts of the world, as also
the instruments are authentic, and also Maddy Prior's singing suits perfectly
this "world music" approach. Some wonderful stuff.
The second part, "Creatures and Kings", features traditional seasonal
songs, most of them not too well known. These songs include also one French
one, "Entre le Boeuf et L'Ane Gris", giving once again the CD a bit
more of an international flair. Probably the best known seasonal song of the
CD is the traditional English "Hark! Hark What News".
This is a CD with several highlights, and these highlights make enjoyable listening
throughout the year. Yet other songs capture too much a Christmas spirit to
be enjoayble in summer. For a Christmas CD this is a successful venture, a highly
recommended alternative to all that dull Christmas pop music that is central
these days in the season. Best is to buy it already now for next Christmas,
as long as you remember it...
Contact to label: firstname.lastname@example.org
Avadå "rätt & slätt""
distribution: Play Ground Music;
kalCD03; 2002; Playing time: 59.42 min
This is one of the more inspiring albums from Sweden, recorded by a band that
is up to now internationally not known at all. Avadå is a five piece band
from Malmö in the south of Sweden, playing innovative newly composed music
with its basis in the wide range of Swedish music traditions. The band features
in its harmonic centre violin and clarinets or soprano sax, accomponied by guitar/bouzouki,
bass and drums.
The album features only instrumental music, mostly composed by band members
(just three tunesare traditional). The music has a distinct Swedish feeling
about it, yet it opens its horizon to other music styles, especially with the
help of the clarinet and soprano sax. It is demanding music, music with a lot
of edges and excitement,yet also music with a lot of groove and enjoyment. It
is difficult to compare Avadå style with other Nordic bands, as they have
developed their very own style. Yet it is for sure that this band can play in
the top league of innovative Swedish music.
A hot tip for all lovers of Scandinavian music as well as for those who are
always looking for demanding innovative music.
Homepage of the artist: www.avada.nu, contact
to artist: email@example.com
Ian F. Benzie "I'se the B'y"
No. CDLD 1307; 2001
Since Ian F. Benzie left one of Scotland's top band, the Old Blind Dogs (being
replaced by Jim Malcolm), we have not heard much from him. But now he is back
on the scene, with his second solo album. His voice is as unique as it has always
been - warm, rich, a bit rough and very Scottish.
All songs on this album are traditional, most of them more quiet and romantic
than lively. The song selection is tasteful, featuring a mixture of familiar
and new, yet mostly it's traditionals which are not over-used and rather seldomly
heard in the repertoire of Scottish bands and musicians. For the recording,
Ian F. has invited the Ex-Old Blind Dog collegue Davy Cattanach, being one of
the innovative and exciting percussionists of Scotland and bringing the buzz
into several of the songs. Other contributors on the album are Carol Anderson
on fiddle, Mark Duff on whistles, recorders etc., Grame "Bug" Stephen
on guitars and Niall Mathewson on keyboards and electric guitar. Some of the
songs are very reminiscent of the Old Blind Dogs with their old line-up, especially
throught the input of Davy Cattanach.
Thoughout the album it is high quality music, always focused on Ian's songs,
with only few instrumental parts. This might be a bit of a weakness - it would
do the reperoire quite well to have some more instrumentals mixed into the repertoire
of the CD, to give a bit more variety. Yet this is a very welcome release to
welcome Ian F. Benzie back in the recording folk market.
Contact to label: firstname.lastname@example.org
Music/Dofol; No. 29; 2001; Playing time: 54.14 min
"Hepta" is Greek for the number seven. And no, this is not the seventh
album of Galica's best live band, but only their third one. Still there are
plenty of "sevens" around - for example, Berrogüetto combines
7 of the most talented musicians from Northern Spain: Anxo Pintos (hurdy-gurdy,
sax, violin, piano, bagpipes), Issac Palacín (percussion), Quico Comesana
(bouzouki, harp), Quin Farinha (violin), Santiago Cibeiro (accordeon , piano),
Guillermo Fernándes (guitar, bass) and last not least Guadi Galego (vocals
and bagpipes). And then of course seven are the musical notes, the colours and
also the fine arts... And there are seven number on the CD, plus 6 further titles,
named "7+1", "7+2",..., "7+6"....
Berrogüetto are once again at their best with "Hepta". It is
beautiful and lively music with that certain edge to it that makes it exciting.
The range of instruments is highly attractive and makes up a very full sound;
the music is innovative and modern, yet close to the tradition. The combination
of the sax to the line-up adds additional excitement. Additionally to their
normal line-up, Berrogüetto have on the CD five guests, from as far apart
as Hungary, Sweden, Armenia and Spain.
It is difficult to go more into detail into the titles, as the information on
the promo version of the CD are VERY sparce; yet the press info promises that
there is an excitingly designed booklet with plenty of information with the
CD. I have no confirmation for this though...
The last title of the album goes a bit away from the rest of the numbers: Starting
with a fast traditionally based tune, it ends in two minutes of sinlence (I
hate this trend, that every innovative band need these hidden tracks) - anyway,
after 2 minutes, a different Berrogüetto comes alive: a modern Roots Rock
Band, plenty of samples back the singing of Guadi, before the band goes back
into their fast tune. The modern section works actually very well; maybe a nice
future project to have a full album of that style? (Yet why do they have to
hide the tune away?)
This CD has plenty of atmosphere; it is probably the best Berrogüetto album
so far. Strong songs, strong tunes, wonderful stuff. A confirmation that Berrogüetto
are still one of the best bands on the European folk music scene.
Homepage of the artist: www.berroguetto.com,
contact to artist: email@example.com,
contact to label: firstname.lastname@example.org
Toni Bunnell "Nothing More To Be Said"
Label: Own; 2000; Playing Time: 42.15 min
Ah, if ONLY. If only this reviewer could take the words of this album's title
as advice to be followed! But I cannot. There are times when a reviewer must
"grasp the nettle".
But before I say what I feel compelled to say, I want to recall some words of
a person who, like Toni Bunnell, also spent some years living in Manchester.
I refer to the brilliant wordsmith, the late Anthony Burgess.
Thirty-five years ago I came across some words of his on the subject of reviewing.
True, they were on reviewing NOVELS, not CDs. However, the principle is the
And those words so embedded themselves in my mind, that to this day, I can quote
them verbatim. Space restrictions decree that I cannot give you the whole passage:
so I will make do with this little extract. For "books", please substitute "CDs".
"Book-writing is hard on the brain and excruciating to the body: it engenders
tobacco-addiction, an over-reliance on caffeine and Dexedrine, piles, dyspepsia,
chronic anxiety, sexual impotence. Behind the new bad book one is asked to review
lies untold misery and a very little hope. One's heart, stomach and ANAL TRACT
go out to the doomed aspirant."
That is powerful stuff. And it goes without saying that Burgess did not always
live up to that noble sentiment. At the end of his life, he took great pleasure
in settling old scores. (One disgraceful review of a collection of essays by
Graham Greene comes to mind.)
However, that is no reason for me not to try to put his philosophy into action.
So, I will endeavour, as always, not to gratuitously insult the artiste here.
Who is she? Well according to the CD sleeve this is her FOURTH album! Were they
also privately produced? It seems so, because the liner notes say that they
are available "from" her. Were I to hear them, then I hope that this one represents
a trough in the artistic curve, rather than a peak! Let me explain.
All but three of the thirteen tracks are her own compositions. And gosh, HOW
I wish I could like them, but the truth is that I found the lyrics bordering
on the mundane, and found the melodies unmemorable.
Several of the songs seem variations on the same melodic theme, and the sheer
predictability of her melodies is really made apparent when she plays Jay Ungar's
beautiful "Ashokan Farewell". And she plays it very well.
She is a talented multi-instrumentalist with a pleasant voice. But it is clear
that song-writing is NOT her forte.
One song, "The Road To Aberdeen", tells the story of her travelling from her
home in the North of England to do a gig in Aberdeen. The song makes Aberdeen
seem exotic: like it was somewhere way up past the Arctic Circle!
I have news for her: some 20 years ago I used to make the car journey from my
then home in South Wales to Aberdeen WEEKLY. And, even though I was in an under-powered
car like her, I thought nothing of it. Still, she is entitled to use "Poetic
Licence", I suppose.
But were I Toni Bunnell, I would put down my pen for a while and try interpreting
other songwriters' material. For she has a voice like the young Rosemary Hardman
(well, like Rosie in her "sotto voce" mode, anyway!), and this coupled with
her skill as a multi-instrumentalist, suggests a whole new and more rewarding
But all my caveats aside, I look forward to another CD from Toni Bunnell, somewhere
not-too-far in the future. But one that shows a change of direction.
Homepage of the artist: http//members.tripod.co.uk/tonibunnell
, contact to artist: Toni@packardbl.freeserve.co.uk,
Tel. +44 1904 -791124
(Various Artists) "Flash Company"
FECD 156; 2001; Playing Time: 74.45 min/79.37min
If the title of this CD seems familiar, then it is to be expected: in 1986,
Fellside Recordings celebrated their tenth anniversary with a compilation LP
of that very name. Now, to celebrate 25 years in business, they have produced
a double compilation CD. And as "compilation CDs" go, not only do you get a
remarkably lengthy amount of playing time for the purchase price, the album
really IS superior stuff.
Disc 1 is, in large part, a reissue of the vinyl album: but with the addition
of three bonus tracks. Even if one does not have the LP in one's collection,
most of these tracks on disc 1 will be familiar to any Folkie who did not spend
the years 1976-1986, in the most TOTAL of drug-induced hazes. However, Disc
2 contains the more modern stuff, with new kids on the block like "422".
What needs to be said about "compilation Albums" is that the playlist order
is almost EVERYTHING. So often, not enough thought goes into it. The best analogy
is with paintings.
No curator would hang say, a Jackson Pollack next to a Raphael. But perhaps
Edvard Munch's "The Scream" hanging alongside (say) Picasso's "Guernica" could
pack an even MIGHTIER punch (although I am not sure that such a thing is possible!)
Anyway, you get my drift.
And here the "batting order" has some lovely juxtapositions. Whether, they resulted
from serendipity, or were "well thought out", I know not. But they WORK. By
golly they do.
The heavenly - almost ethereal - voice of John Wright, is followed by the "both
feet on the ground" singing of Bob Fox. And in fact, this pairing is "trumped"
by the song that follows: a song that mysteriously I "missed" the first time
round. Hughie Jones's self-penned "Marques" is a song that deserves wider recognition.
I think I had also forgotten just what an impressive singer Linda Adams is.
(Paul and Linda Adams are Mr.& Mrs. Fellside Records.) She uses the "wonders
of technology" to harmonise with herself on "Yellow Handkerchief", and she turns
in one of the choicest of the cuts on display.
Nice to hear the incomparable Johnny Silvo again. With him living in Norway
these several years past, we do not get to see him in Britain as much as we
would like. Also Nic Jones, in all his pomp, before his VW had that appointment
with the lorry-load of bricks, (fortunately) just OUTSIDE Samarra. And John
Conolly with that classic song of his that always comes up fresh: "Fiddler's
Green". And then there is Steve Turner who seemingly has shunned the limelight
in favour of running a music shop. What a fine voice he has, and what a loss
to the Folk Circuit he is!
So much quality in this double CD. Very little that is questionable. As everything
I do now is a race with the undertaker, I cannot seriously look forward to a
50th anniversary of Fellside. So let's hope that they have a 30th anniversary
release planned. It is enough to make the most suicidal of us "hang on in there"!
Fellside Recordings, P.O. Box 40, Workington, Cumbria, CA14 3GJ, England.
Stark Raven "Committed"
No. SR-0502; 2001; Playing time: 66.27 min
When I did a search on this band I got really confused - why there should be
action figures on sale of a folk band ? Not even Ashley Hutchings ever thought
of that : then it turns out that Stark Raven is also a US comic book and TV
series - the figures are now at half price so perhaps it wasn't a success !
Committed is Stark Raven's second album. What they say they offer is "Traditional,
Contemporary, and Original Music from the Celtic Lands", which they expand to
cover "the British Isles, Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, and other Celtic influenced
Now the word "Celtic" might be a warning (Corrs ? Riverdance ?). The band here
call themselves Stark Raven and neither of those are Celtic words, both coming
into Old English from Northern European sources. Ian Telfer of the Oysterband
has warned that "Celticness" is a marketing concept, beyond the wildest imaginings
of anyone who played pipes in the Chicago Police Irish band or whistled Youghal
Harbour in a back bar in Rotherhithe".
But it's the music that matters, and the traditional songs here are Irish or
Scottish. The version of I know my love is said to be Danny Carnahan's (best
known perhaps for Celtic/bluegrass interpretations of Grateful Dead songs) but
is vocally remarkably similar to the Paddy Moloney arrangement on the Corrs
/ Chieftains version of the song.
This is a pleasant enough album : stark it isn't. The playing is fine and the
band members can all take lead vocals but for me there is no excitement here,
no prickles in the hair on the neck. It's not impossible for Americans (even
with no obvious Irish roots) to take a traditional song and add something to
it - Steve Earle or Boiled in Lead come to mind - but half way through this
album I started longing for something dirtier and greasier.
Homepage of the artist: www.starkraven.com,
contact to artist: email@example.com, contact to label:
Spiers & Boden "Through & Through"
No. FECD161; 2001 Playing time: 64.25min
"Through and Through" is the debut offering from Oxford-based duo Spiers and
Boden. Jon Boden sings and plays fiddle. His fiddle playing is edgy and vibrant,
which, occasionally, has detrimental effects on the singing - the result is
often quite a jumpy, uncontrolled sound, which is unfortunate, as his choice
of songs is superb. Having said that, a number of critics have argued that this
is part of his charm, and this rawness should be celebrated. A welcome sample
of Spier's dynamic performance talents is "Red Kites", an evocative slow air.
More of the same please, next time.
As a pair, Spiers and Boden work very well together, and their interaction sometimes
produces an audible sense of humour and wit. The choice of material is good,
and the delivery is often infectious. "The Rochdale Coconut Dance" is one example,
as is the set "Oswestry Wake/Morgan Rattler". The arrangements work beautifully,
and the results are toe tappingly irresistible.
So, are John Spiers and Jon Boden the major new folk discovery of 2001, as their
record label would argue? I'll have to leave that up to you.
Anne Wylie Band "One And Two"
Records; No. Biber 76721; 2001; Playing time: 49.59 min
If you like your Irish music with a bit of a twist, then maybe Anne Wylie's
"One and Two" will be of interest. With an instrumental line-up that includes
bass, soprano sax, djembe, grand piano and northern winds, it is quite obvious
that we're onto something just a little different here. Wylie does not claim
this to be traditional music. It certainly has its base within trad, but there
is a very definite new age flavour too - something quite magical and mystical,
with plenty of atmosphere and drama.
Wylie herself has quite a versatile voice, although not necessarily to everyone's
taste, as it sometimes verges towards weakness. There are occasional echoes
of Eleanor McEvoy's vocals, particularly on tracks such as "Tam Glen". A highlight
is "One'n Two", a song which is notably lighter in tone than some of the others.
Not for the purists out there, but worth a listen nonetheless.
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