Issue 25 6/2003

FolkWorld CD ReviewsDog

Andrew White "Pray For Rain"
Label: Vertical Records; VERT CD 056
At last I have finally caught up with the work of Andrew White. I was aware of his growing reputation, but until this review copy arrived on my desk, I was unable to "put a voice" to the name. But now with this his debut VOCAL album, he will be able to increase his fan base from those who had been fortunate to see him open for Capercaillie on two national tours.
A friend of mine who saw him perform on one of those tours tells me that he has "talent to burn" and exudes a "real stage presence". This may well be the case, and I look forward to seeing him at a festival somewhere. But for the moment I have just this CD to go by. And let me say at the outset, there is much in this CD that has real merit.
First, White's gentle, light tenor voice (another voice straight out of the Nick Drake voice factory). Then there is his own not-inconsiderable talent as a guitarist; and add to that a stellar list of musicians to assist on the album (best-known perhaps would be Michael McGoldrick on wooden flutes and uillean pipes and Karen Matheson giving vocal support). The other musicians also perform admirably, helping give vital chiaroscuro to the self-penned songs. Add to this, a classy production, right down to the CD liner notes.
But all that said, I feel compelled to say that I wish I could have liked it a whole lot more. In the end, the songs did not "do it" for me. Not that there was anything particularly WRONG with them: but neither was there anything especially RIGHT.
I see a critic in "The Scotsman" has called his songs "tautly worded". Well yes, that certainly is the case. But "taut" is a word to apply to ropes, facial expressions, and even telegrams, but is not necessarily such a glowing adjective when applied to song lyrics. One looks for real "individuality" in these songs, but alas one doesn't find it.
For instance, take track 9, "Holy Island". Now those of you reading this who are not domiciled in Britain may not know this island off the Northumberland coast. It is the most atmospheric and special of places. Thus, I awaited the track with heightened expectation. Alas, neither lyric nor melody could deliver. And this went for most of the other tracks too, though melodically, now and then a track hinted at possible memorability.
But my misgivings apart, it is clear that "Pray For Rain" will delight listeners more interested in a gentle plaintive voice and fine musicianship, rather than listening to songs that grab you and take you inside them.
Homepage of the artist:, contact to label:
Dai Woosnam

Robb Johnson: "The Triumph of Hope over Experience"
Label: Irregular Records; IRR 045; 2002; Playing time: 56.13min
About a year ago I came across some words of Robb on the subject of festivals and bookings. Words that really struck home.
To paraphrase - and to do him an injustice, for he put it in a more articulate way than this - he pointed out that for all the ploughing of his own lone furrow that he had done, he was only booked for a couple of British festivals that year. Yet the same names keep appearing at festivals up and down the country: implicit in his comments was "what am I doing wrong"?
The answer my dear sir, is NOTHING. You have commendably danced to your own drum, and not gone down the broad Folk Highway that seems the "road of choice" to so many Folk performers.
That is not to say that you do not have your influences. Your long love of the "chansonnier", really comes across on this album. Track 4 for instance, "When the Swing Began to Swing", could have been written by your hero Jacques Brel. And there are fleeting touches of Jackson Browne there: not in the voice or the song structures, but more in your ability to catch that sense of poignancy that is in the air.
But of course, the real influence is Leon Rosselson. It is there in the whole delivery, the uncompromising political stance and the humour. In fact, I think of RJ as "Son of Rosselson": and that is no put-down, since LR is a very fine artiste indeed. (And come to think of it, there is another similarity: Leon does not get booked for many festivals either!)
True Robb Johnson has not scaled the great heights than Leon has, but he still has time on his side. Leon has written at least half-a-dozen top-drawer songs: Robb has not made the same mark. But he has written many pretty good ones, and there are a few evident here.
"Life is Football" is a witty take on our national sport, with a killer last line (a RJ speciality: just when you think a song is a throwaway humorous ditty, he hits you with a line that gives the whole song another layer of meaning and a real sense of profundity). And "Happy Birthday General", whilst being a non-subtle song, is one that grabs you, by its sheer ATTACK on General Pinochet.
But the standout track has to be "Supporting Chumbawamba". Both witty and catchy.
Fine production to boot, with some quality musicians including Saskia Tomkins on fiddle and rising star Miranda Sykes on double bass. This is a CD that has its failures (don't most albums?), but has the all-compensating quality of being an artiste's attempt at being true to his heart and mind. You cannot say that very often these days.
Homepage of the artist:
Dai Woosnam

Dhalia "Celtic Dreams and Dances"
Label: Water Violet Records; 2002; Playing time: 59.60min
This album is from a German-based Celtic band. It's no surprise that this is a band that knows how to deliver: after all, they stem from "Paddy Goes to Holyhead" and "Wild Silk". And "deliver" they do. A very pleasing album of largely traditional material. And, as befits a band with personnel from Germany, Egypt, Ireland and Turkey, it is eclectic in the extreme.
Imagine consuming a kebab and a few too many steins of Weisse, Altbier or Pilsner. And then pleasantly hallucinating and seeing a leprechaun on the back of a camel! Well , that just about sums up the overall mood and effect of this album. One goes from the Scots whalers' anthem "Bonnie Ship The Diamond", to a strangely haunting song in Arabic "Elamal", and we end with a setting of a Schiller poem to music.
En route, we pass such old favourites as "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda". Now "old favourite" it may be, but it really will not do for Dhalia to claim it as "Trad". It is not! It was written in the early Seventies. I hope Eric Bogle HOUNDS them for his royalties, even though he is not short of a shilling!
And one other complaint about an otherwise very agreeable album: if there is an award for the most irritating liner notes of the DECADE, then this is a candidate. Which is sad, because they clearly spent a bit of money on trying to create a good artistic effect in this "packaging" department.
The liner "notes", in this case, are really the LYRICS, but instead of my beloved BLOCK CAPITALS, the band choose to favour the most illegible cursive script since the Pope was an altar-boy! The scribble just induced a headache in the reader.
Whoever was behind this should be shot.
But let's take nothing away from the CD itself. Good vocals, good musicianship, fair-to-good material: this for me represents a review copy that will stay in my CD collection, and won't find its way to the local charity shop.
Homepage of the artist:
Dai Woosnam

Snakes In Exile: "Merrily Polluted"
Label: Alea(Wild Boar Music); WBM210356; 2002; Playing time: 45.46min
Every so often one gets an album for review that is a bit of a "sleeper". That is to say that it doesn't make much impact when one plays it the regulation three times before review. But one holds the review back, since one has a hunch that the album is really better than one that warrants a few dismissive words.
And so one plays it again. And again. And what do you know? It grows on you. And this is one such.
I confess to being blissfully unaware of this band's previous two albums. Indeed, largely unaware of the band ITSELF. I knew they had appeared at a recent Cambridge Folk Festival, but hadn't caught their set. So I checked them out with a few friends.
Apparently, this Belgian foursome have made a real impact in the Low Countries, but the fact is that they have yet to become well-known this side of the English Channel. Let me describe their sound.
Vocally, the three-part-harmony sound they provide most brings to mind a "Crosby, Stills Nash and Young", but inevitably perhaps, one firing on one-cylinder less. Very tight harmonies, and like that famed foursome, somewhat eclectic in taste.
As for instrumentally: well, they play no dazzling vast array of instruments, but they are none the worse for that! The guitars, accordion and drums they DO play, they seem to play in a very accomplished way. But to add some more variety to their sound, they bring in friends to play fiddle, bouzouki and mandolin.
And the whole effect is rather fine.
It is a collection of self-penned songs, plus visits to the Tradition with particularly fine versions of "The Parting Glass" and "Town of Kiandra". Add to this, decent contemporary songs like Lester Simpson's "Polly On The Shore" and Roger Wilson's "Payday".
Personally, I was not particularly won over by their self-penned material. Melodically their own songs were fine enough, but the lyrics did not lodge themselves in the memory.
One awaits an album of 14 tracks (or so) in which they interpret some of the best newish songs on the Scene, not just the "decent" ones.
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Dai Woosnam

Stevie Lawrence: "Standing Alone"
Label: Lochshore; CDLDL 1309; 2002; Playing time: 59.57min
This instrumental album is a candidate for the Guinness Book of Records. I doubt whether, since the advent of multi-tracking, there has ever been a CD on which a solo artist has played such a dazzling variety of instruments. And played them so well.
Just pin back your ears and listen to this list: tenor banjo, acoustic guitar, guitar/bouzouki, mandola, mandolin, percussion, baritone guitar, dobro, fretless bass, hurdy gurdy, Scottish smallpipes, mandocello, low whistle, cittern, nylon strung guitar, Appalachian dulcimer, bouzouki, tenor guitar, and finally, concertina. Gosh! Eat your heart out Stevie Wonder! What do you make of THAT for a list!
One wonders if he plays bass concertina and BOTH anglo and English concertinas. If so, he missed the chance to a couple more to the list. There WAS one other instrument mentioned, but it was one I had never heard of and I thus assumed it a misprint. He says in his liner notes that he played the "tiple" on track 7. Come to think of it there was another listed on track 8: a requinto, something I kinda feel I've HEARD of, but haven't a clue what it is.
Anyway: is this just a "vanity trip"? Is it a bit like those people who claim to be polyglots and speak 20 languages, but in reality cannot say anything of merit in ANY of them? No, not remotely. It is a varied and aesthetically pleasing hour's listening. And although his background as a performer clearly lies in stringed instruments, he is no slouch when it comes to the others.
Several of the tunes are self-penned (hardly surprising: if he eschews session men, one doesn't expect him to call upon songwriters!), but call on them he does, and to great effect.
Somehow one expected him to successfully mine the back catalogue of such luminaries as Donal Lunny/Declan Sinnott, Alistair Anderson, the late Billy Pigg etc, but the real bonus comes from his surprising visit to the work of another Anderson, Jon. (He of the famous British progressive rock band "Yes")
If you regard the human voice as an instrument (as I certainly do) and feel it ESSENTIAL on any album, then this is not for you. But if you want varied instrumental sound, well produced, and very authoritatively performed: well, look no further.
Homepage of the artist:
Dai Woosnam
Vincenzo Zitello: "Et Vice Versa"
Label: Felmay; FY 8051; 2002; Playing time: 39.49min
What an arresting title for an album. "Et Vice Versa". My dictionary shows this meaning in English "(And) the other way round". So immediately one is drawn into a semantic puzzle: does it mean that you can play the album back to front? Does it mean the track titles are interchangeable? Is it just a deliberately misleading (and therefore pleasantly mischievous) title? Or indeed, is it downright pretentious?
Now let me level with you. Although I was a distinctive fan of Alan Stivell when he achieved European prominence in the 70s, and always had a soft spot for the harp in any ensemble (whether it be the late Derek Bell in the Chieftains, or Robin Williamson in The Incredible String Band), much of the "cutting edge" new-composition/virtuoso stuff has passed me by.
Certainly, I was not aware of the body of work that Italian-based Vincenzo Zitello has under his belt. Here is a man who has studied at the feet of Alain Stivell and Dan Ar Braz! And it shows. Here is high quality sound produced by a man who is patently master of his instrument: the bardic harp (basically a Celtic harp with metallic strings).
The more-interesting-than-usual liner notes tell me that this album "forms a bridgehead between folk music and modern songwriting". Nice resonant phrase, but hey, stop there! MELODY writing is I think the term they are looking for! "Songs" have words, and none of these 8 tracks have any lyrics.
And the truth is that I am hard-pressed to note strong differences between the tracks. And the choice of track titles seem somewhat arbitrary: for instance the last track is entitled "Erin", but if truth be told it seems no more redolent of Ireland than at least two other tracks that have no Irish link in their title. Which makes me finally conclude that the choice of album title is no coincidence either!
I never saw myself as such an aficionado of the instrument that I would freely buy a whole solo harp CD. And so the question must be, would I have bought this?
The honest answer is probably "no", because it doesn't really capture the attention of my intellect (such as it is!). And that may be my fault, at least in part.
But my ear likes what it hears with this CD. Maybe I would indeed not have bought it, but I would have been more-than-happy with it as a gift. Artist website: Artist e-mail: Label: Address: Strada Roncaglia 16, 15040 S. Germano (AL), Italy. Tel: +39 0142 50577 Fax: +39 0142 50780 E-Mail:
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Dai Woosnam
Gary Tipping: "Gary Tipping"
Own production, 2002
If I had just returned from being on Mars for 30 years, and not known about Nic Drake's tragic suicide, I would figure (on hearing this) that he was alive and well and living in Southsea Hampshire. However, for some inexplicable reason, he had changed his name to "Gary Tipping"!
This is one of two CDs (from separate artistes) I received review copies of in the same post. They both have Drake's fingerprints all over them. They show the unmistakable influence of one of the most revered English singer/songwriters of recent decades.
Gary Tipping - like Drake - has a voice that denotes a high degree of sensitivity coupled with a very real vulnerability. It is not the sort of voice that is redolent of swaggering self-confidence. And maybe it's all the better for that.
Here, accompanied by what sounds like his trusted synthesiser, he comes up with no less than 19 tracks. Talk about wanting to give "value-for-money"! (Alas, he gives us no track-timings: this is a big error if he wants his album to get any radio plays.)
His songs here are all self-penned. The lyrics rhyme and make sense: the songs are decently crafted. Immediately one thanks heaven for that: so often these days, singer/songwriters serve up self-indulgent drivel. Not so, Gary Tipping.
But that said, I wanted to like this a whole lot more than I eventually did. What exactly was the problem?
Well, I think it is because I have the same difficulty with his output that I had with Nic Drake's. The songs are lacking in variety: they all have that enormously wistful quality. They sound as though they have been composed in a bed-sitting room by Al Stewart's (less talented) second or third cousin. No single song jumps out at you.
And the tone of his singing voice never varies. True, it is perfectly pleasant, but he would never TALK this way. Instead he would emphasise words and put light and shade into his conversation.
So on your next album Gary, please worry less about tone and texture, and more about MEANING. Let us get the impression that you FEEL what you sing. Artiste contact: (no website nor internet address)
Contact to artist:Tel.+44 7905 349840.
Dai Woosnam
Paddy goes to Holyhead "Red letter days"
Label: Indigo ; 280362.; 2002; Playing time: 54.57 min
The German band Paddy goes to Holyhead just released their sixth studio album called Red letter days. The style of the group is pop music with folk influences. They play in such a "middle of the road" way, that they probably will satisfy a big audience. On the cd they recorded traditionals like The oak and the ash but also the world famous House of the rising sun. Besides these traditionals the band has a lot of own songs written in the folk-pop tradition. The self-written songs are easy to hear and have a catchy sound. Most of the time the structure is simple and the lyrics on the safe side. Good example is the song who I am which is one of the weak links on this album. Much better is the exciting song The Klabautermann. Which has an oriental touch and deep roaring violins. Enjoyable as well are the more ballad orientated songs like On angels wings, nice accordion mixed with strong vocals. This Red letter days is a catchy commercial product which will be enjoyed by many people. Paddy goes to Holyhead is a band that plays their music without taking any risk. For many people this would be a reason to buy the cd, for some it will be to much mainstream.
Artist homepage:
Eelco Schilder
We nun Henk "RUM"
Label: Private release; 000.; 2003; Playing time: 25.57 min
We nun henk is one of the few Dutch young folkbands. Their getting known more and more across the country and slowly but surely the quality of their music gets at a higher level. Their latest release is a special tribute project about the Belgian band RUM. This legendary Belgian folk band from the 1970's, could be seen as the most important folk group in Belgian history. We nun henk has been highly inspired by this group and that's why they decided to record this special project cd. They choose ten songs and perform them with respect and in high quality. The vocals of Luc Plompen are strong and I love the way the group plays with the songs. Especially Het lyuiaardsgild is a highlight on this album. This because of the combination vocals and Katrien Bos on Contrabass which make this song very intense. How different is the famous song Jan mijne man a happy atmosphere complete with whistles and beating drum. It are the instrumentals that are the weak links. I love the Muzette and we nun henk tries hard but can't even come close to the original version. The guitar is to careful and sounds unsure while this is a very powerful, dramatic tune. But besides this the cd is more than worth buying. It's a long time since I've enjoyed a Dutch production as much as I enjoyed this RUM cd.
Artist homepage:; contact to artist:
Eelco Schilder
Maxwell street klezmer band " Old roots new world"
Label: Shanachie ; 67008.; 2002; Playing time: 55.32 min
There are so many Klezmer bands in the US, if I look at the past year I think I reviewed about fifteen different groups and not many of them bring the music to a higher level. Most of the time it's just another nice cd with brave Klezmer music. No problem to listen to but when you heard one, you heard at least eight of them. Unfortunately it's not much better with the Maxwell street klezmer band. Although this group has some more fantasy than most groups, their music stays simple, honest but a bit boring. I like the way the play with Classical music in a tune like Leah's saraband. Strong violin play which make this tune one of the highlights on the cd. Personally I found both the piano and the simple rhythm section disturbing. They chance the music into a sunny boulevard orchestra which maybe is a compliment for the group but not my style of Klezmer music. I'm sure many people will enjoy this "no risk" cd but for me it's one of the many "nice" klezmer cd's.
Eelco Schilder
Bunt " Es echte"
Label: Own; 310.; 2002; Playing time: 53.07 min
This is the fifth studio cd Bunt recorded and the first one ever that made it to my cd player. They sing in Pfälzisch dialect and bring, according to themselves, folkrock-pop music. I think that is not the right description because Bunt is so much more. It's easy to make a link to the flute music of Ian Anderson but I also hear Jewish influences and sometimes their music comes close to theatre music. Best example is Egal in which the lyric take a central role. The dramatic way they arranged this song reminds of a good rock-opera. I especially enjoy the high quality musicians. Each song has a surprising sound and the musicians know what to do to bring the song to a climax. I love the combination of ballads and quite heavy flute-rock tunes. The vocals are in most cases strong and convincing and although in a German dialect, I'm able to follow most of the lyric which is a big compliment for the vocalist Ulrich ZehfuB. His way of singing make me want to understand what he is singing about. I'm surprised about the way this band is able to mix vocals and exciting music in such a strong way. This is such a cd that gets better and better each time I hear it. Hope I can get their other cd's somewhere, I just HAVE to hear more!
Artist homepage:
Eelco Schilder
STS " The best of"
Label: Universal ; 0664102.; 2002; Playing time: 70.20 min
STS stands for Steinbacker, Timischl and Schiffkowitz. They started in 1978 as STS and recorded their first lp in 1981. They has a hit with Furstenfeld but always kept on playing the music they liked. Their repertoire is a combination of German translations of famous songs like George Harrisons Here comes the sun, songs by Dylan, Stills and self-written songs. It's absolutely true that the group has a good harmony vocals, beautiful guitars but that's not enough to make interesting music. This cd shows their musical career over more than 20 years and I can hardly find a difference between the first and the last songs. It's are all mainstream songs without much of a development. This is the kind of music that I found terribly hard to listen to because really nothing happens at all. But remember that this is my personal feeling, the fact that they released a best of cd proofs that many people will disagree with this opinion.
Eelco Schilder
Folkcorn "Ghy sotten" - "Jan de Mulder" - "Laet ons den landtman loven"
See for further details
The Dutch group Folkcorn plays traditional Dutch and Flemish music from 1400-1900. The group is active over 30 years and could be seen as one of the treasure keepers of Dutch Folkmusic. For more info please read the article you find in this issue of Folkworld. The past twelve years they released three cd's. The oldest one is called Ghy sotten Klomp records 955 from 1992 This cd contains 14 songs and tunes including the famous Isabella mijn dochterke and Te haerlem in den houte. The group plays several ancient instruments such as accordion, autoharp, flutes, guitar and others. Typical for the sound of Folkcorn is the soft very pleasant and recognisable sound of Jitze Kopinga his vocals and the strong harmony vocals. The group presents their music in a sober but strong way. The same for Jan de Mulder Clipsound 97212 from 1997 it has the same style as Ghy sotten only 20 songs and tunes. Personally I prefer this Jan de Mulder cd. Although the music is the same style, this cd has a better sound and balance between songs and tunes. I find this cd their most passionate one and if you want a good introduction in Dutch traditional music, you will love this cd. Their last cd is a special project called Laet ons den landtman loven Munich 348 from 2002 This cd is a co-operation between Folkcorn, the University of Agriculture in Wageningen and Munich music. All songs are about farmers and different aspects of country-live. The cd has a different sound than the two earlier once. I find the music more abstract and somehow this cd is a bit darker. I think this is such a cd that needs more time to grow. But if you give it the time you will probably see the strength of Folkcorn's music. All three cd's can be ordered at their webpage.
Artist homepage:
Eelco Schilder
Sois belle " same"
Label: Own; 0000.; 2002; Playing time: 29.34 min
At the last Folkfestival in Tilburg one of the members of this Belgian group gave me a demo to introduce their music to me and the readers of folkworld. I always get excited when people start new groups and especially when I hear their music and I want to listen to it again. Sois belle is a group with four musicians doing vocals, accordion, acoustic and electric guitar and drums. Their music is traditional folkrock and self written songs. This demo shows that the band is going a very interesting direction. Although the music needs to grow and the band should still be working on their synthesis of instruments and vocals, this is a very promising demo. The group plays with different styles like in the song Bar del sol where they mix Brazilian beach music with friendly folkrock. Highlight is the song Onstandvastigheid. They changed this traditional in a exciting beating folksong. Also in the French song Fantomes they know how to create the right atmosphere. This demo is very promising but the group needs a while to grow into their own sound. Now it are often four musicians playing and it needs to be one sound, the sound of sois bell. But believe me, it will come! Curious? Visit their webpage or try to get them at your festival if you dare!
Artist homepage:
Eelco Schilder
Aquabella " Nani Dschann"
Label: Jaro ; 424-2.; 2002; Playing time: 44.12 min
Aquabella is a formation from Berlin with five female singers. They bring a- cappella folksongs from all over the world. I have to be honest and write that normally I'm not a big fan of a cappella music. But the way Aquabella bring their music is so convincing that I have to admit that this is a great cd. Pure, bit sharp vocals always perfectly in balance. They remind me a lot of the Belgian group Lais. It's funny to hear that they sing songs from Ireland, Romania, Chile and so ,many other countries and still are able to make it sound like it comes from one tradition. Aquabella proofs that music, more than anything else in this world, unites people and doesn't show how different we are but how much we are alike. This is a cd that can be bought almost blind. especially if you enjoy strong powerful female vocals and a cappella music.
Artist homepage:
Eelco Schilder

Various "A Woman's Heart"
Label: Dara Records; No. tortv1148cd; 2002
It's hard to grasp the fact that it has been ten years since the original A Women's Heart concept took the Irish charts by storm, and harder still to believe that the original compilation remains one of the country's leading sellers. The original album focused on the talents of a small number of Irish female vocalists, which made for tiresome listening after a while - there was no escaping Eleanor McEvoy's title track. The commemorative album takes the opposite route, incorporating a much wider range of personalities, but as such loses focus and direction.
As individual works, there is some great music on this album. There is the freshness of Juliet Turner's beguiling vocals on "Sorry to Say", a track taken from her most recent release Burn the Black Suit, an album which has by no means achieved its due credit. There is the glorious "Down to the River to Pray" of O Brother Where Art Thou fame, led by Alison Krauss. Cathie Ryan sounds as beautifully clear and fluid as ever on "Carrick-a-Rede".
But then, in keeping with the original A Woman's Heart album, the Black sisters take over. There are no less than four appearances by the ubiquitous Frances and Mary. Sinead O'Connor is represented by the saccharine laced "This is to Mother You"; surely not an indication of the body of work she has given us over the years. Admittedly the mistake was all mine. I naively approached this compilation expecting something new, possibly an interesting collection of song and music from our best loved female performers. I genuinely did not anticipate what this collection actually turned out to be; a tired, predictable jumble.
Contact to label:
Jennifer Byrne

Máire Breatnach "Máire Breatnach"
Label: Cala Music, No. mbcala102cd; 2002
Máire Breatnach really needs no introduction - the woman is nothing if not prolific in output. She is probably best known for her fiddle playing, and has been a mainstay of many of Ireland's leading line-ups in recent years, including the Sharon Shannon and Mary Black bands. Máire's talent as a vocalist first came to my attention through the Gael Linn project Éist, which saw the release of two fine compilation albums, sung entirely as gaeilge. Máire performed the title track, a self-penned duet with Brian Kennedy. It is a reworking of this song, "Éist", which opens Aislingí Ceoil; a quiet, unassuming record of expressive and highly lyrical songs, each song linked to the next by delicate threads of dreams and visions. Aislingí (dreams) are an important recurrence in Irish poetry, so this link to a deep history, as well as Máire's graceful use of gaeilge throughout, leaves the listener with a feeling that they are dipping into something truly special here. There are too many highpoints to mention. The oft re-hashed "An Chúilfhionn" is lovingly interpreted with very simple, unobtrusive piano accompaniment. The beauty of the melody and the vocals stand for themselves, and the result is simultaneously fragile and gripping. Máire's own composition "Aisling Samhna" is surprisingly tense and ghostly in its harmonies and all the more effective for that. This is thoughtful listening music, an album to sit down and savour. Treat yourself.
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Jennifer Byrne

Shooglenifty - "The Arms Dealer's Daughter"
By my rough definition a "head tune" is a song or tune that lodges in your brain deeply enough to play its way out several times a day, especially when you are not overly pre-occupied. How many decent "head tunes" can a good CD hold? Two, perhaps three? A week of listening to Shooglenifty's new CD, followed by four days away from it in the Tasmanian highlands, have revealed at least five head tunes on this album. Translation? This is a great album!
To my mind this wonderful Scottish band had drifted somewhat in their last CD or two. Their inventive pairing of almost industrial-strength percussion and Scottish tunes had wandered too far in the direction of weirdness for my liking. Melody and lilt, Scottish music's great strengths, were becoming too hard to find. So what's changed? Let me be parochial enough to suggest that the injection of young Tasmanian mandolin/bouzouki/banjo whizz Luke Plumb into the group has given it a huge melodic lift. He was conscripted for their 2002 Australian tour, and has become a welded on and, it's to be hoped, long-term member of the band.
Right from the first track, the memorable Glenuig Hall, his melodic inventiveness makes its mark. That's not to deny the on-going splendour of fiddler Angus Grant's playing and tune writing - for instance the gentle title track contrasting with the energetic Aye Right!, or his playful Nordal Rumba, with its brassy Latino feel. Also the playing and writing of percussionist James Mackintosh (the edgily exotic A Fistful of Euro), and guitarist Malcolm Crosbie continue to inspire. And Garry Finlayson is still dangerously close to making banjo playing fashionable.
But - and please forgive the pun - the plum tunes so often have Luke Plumb's name associated with them. And none more so than the last two sets. Scraping the Barrel is a set of three tunes that range from menace to mania, all the while keeping within ear-shot of the Scottish melodic tradition. But the gorgeous closing track Tune For Bartley, heads the "head tune" list. Building slowly from a simple guitar/mandolin/banjo start, it adds percussion, bass, fiddle and finally some stunning uilleann pipes from guest Mike McGoldrick. The resulting melody is one of rare bucolic beauty. It helps convince me that this is Shooglenifty's finest album for many years.
Peter Grant

Blackthorn "swift and sloe"
Label: Sjelvar; No. SJECD15; 2002
A great traditional Irish album, with everything you would expect from high quality Irish trad - a range of lesser known traditional ballads, sung by a beautiful sensitive female voice well backed by skilled musicians, some lively tunes; good and tight playing. Blackthorn has existed for some 10 years, and the music sounds just as mature as that. The band's instruments include fiddle/accordion/guitar, bouzouki/piano, bodhrán, flute/whistle/bones and guitar/banjo/mandolin. And if I had heard the CD without having read the names of the musicians in the CD booklet, I would have been convinced that this is a good trad band from Ireland.
However, reading the line-up - Anders Clarhäll, Fredrik Jakobsson, Karin Johansson, Henrik Norbeck and Jörgen Sälde - it becomes apparent that the band comes from Sweden. Very well done, en jättebra skivan!
Homepage of the artist:
Michael Moll

Ialma "marmuladas"
Label: Zoku-Emi; No. 07243 5394332 5; 2002; Playing time: 47.16 min
Directly the first seconds of this album caught my attention, and the fascination and appeal of the music lasted all the 47.16 minutes of the CD. Ialma features five young Spanish women, who all sing and play pandeireta. Even though the album is based on the voices of the five singers, there is additionally plenty of innovative and exciting music around them. Ialma's backing band features some superb musicians of the Belgian scene - Ialma are actually based in Belgium. The CD band includes Greet Garriau (accordion), Jowan Merckx (flutes, gaita) and many more. Outstanding in the instrumentation are probably in particular gaita, accordion and some brass. The songs are mostly traditional arranged by the band, all in Spanish language. The range of voices of the five women are varied and create a rather stunning overall picture.
An impressive and inspiring album that captures me again and again. In my opinion a "must have"!
Homepage of the artist:, contact to artist:
Michael Moll

More English CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5
More German CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page 2
Overview: CD Review Contents

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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 6/2003

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