Issue 25 6/2003
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Alison Brown quartet " Replay"
; 74321 2.; 2002; Playing time: 51.27 min
Alison Brown just released her seventh solo album replay. This cd is a replay
of public favourite songs which she recorded again in a fresh new musical arrangement.
It was not the meaning to publish the recordings but the result was of such a
quality that it was impossible to not publish the recordings. Together with her
fellow musicians John R Burr on piano, Garry West on Bass and Kendrick Freeman
on drums, Alison shows her quality as a highly respected banjo player who won
a Grammy in 2001 for her album Fair weather. The cd is a collection of 15 relaxed
and pleasant tunes mostly in bluegrass tradition. With a light touch of blues
and jazz music, this quartet is indeed the top of today's bluegrass scene and
I'm sure not only fans will enjoy this replay it's also a good chance for others
to get to know one of the finest banjo players of our time.
Martin Stephenson " Collectiveforce"
Label: Own; 0001.; 2002; Playing time: 71.59
The English singer-songwriter Martin Stephenson just released his latest solo
album called collective force. It's an intriguing pie e of music in which Martin
plays with music and surprises me often by going a completely other direction
than I aspect. It starts with Orange is the colour of joy a song with a gospel
sound worshipping the beauty of the colour orange. The next song has this blues
feeling in which he tempts the sun to come out. On Highland bossanova he creates
the atmosphere of a warm evening in the Highlands including a passing by bagpipe
player. The song sounds of the garden is interesting as well. It's exactly like
the title tells you. Want to hear an intriguing piece of music by a singer-songwriter
who has a high creativity and an unique approach of music? Buy this cd!
Artist homepage: www.martinstephenson.com
Cynthia MacLeod "Head Over Heels"
Label: Guernsey Cove Parlour; GCP053; Playing
time: 45 min
Not just another stunning teenage Canadian fiddler - this one comes with a whole
band attached, and a full-bodied sound that will rock you back on your heels.
From Prince Edward Island, young Cynthia has definite leanings towards the music
of neighbouring Cape Breton: there's lots of Scots in her repertoire, from the
18th-century beauty of Neil Gow's Lament to the great modern Cape Breton reels
Brenda Stubbert's and Molly Rankin. There's plenty of Irish too: at least four
reels and four jigs, including a rousing version of Sheehan's Reel with some
great guitar picking from Bruce MacEwen, and a lovely languid lope through The
Boys of Ballymote which Cynthia knows as Dan Collins' Father's Jig. The thing
that sets this CD apart from the copious Canadian crop of talented teenagers
is the tight, punchy, mature ensemble sound. Take the classic Cape Breton combo
of guitar and piano, add a bit of funky bass, some discreet drumming and a few
duets with young star Ellen MacPhee on smallpipes, and the result is hard to
beat. Cynthia's world-class fiddling is nicely filled out, allowing her talent
free rein without too much risk. Once or twice the fiddle is slightly swamped,
particularly on the live track where the sound quality also slips a little,
but most of the time this recording is as polished as those from artists two
or three times Cynthia's age. Although the sleeve design is engaging, there
isn't much info on Cynthia or her music. For that, you have to visit http://cynthiamacleod.com
(no www in this one, right?), but it's worth the click. Along with all the awards,
rave reviews and photos with the great and good of Canadian music, there are
some audio clips to back up the hype. Also, this is the most direct way to buy
the album, which you probably should do because it really is exceptionally fine.
Homepage of the artist: http://cynthiamacleod.com
Label:Shanachie; 78048.; Playing time:65 min
It doesn't take a genius to work out that the tracks on this CD are unusually
long: up to twelve minutes long, in fact, more like a mini concerto than a traditional
Irish medley. Bohola have put a great deal of thought into their music, and
come up with some inspired arrangements. Combining songs and tunes on the same
track is unusual in Irish music, but Bohola weave grand old tunes around songs
such as The Shamrock Shore, Ewan McColl's Go, Move, Shift, and the rather weaker
Home which probably wouldn't hold our attention without the pair of reels grafted
on. Bohola combines the powerful piano box of Jimmy Keane with the chameleon
fiddle of Sean Cleland, backed by Pat Broaders on bouzoukis. The tight trio
sound drives firmly through a wide range of dance tunes, and Pat sings seven
songs. All the material is broadly traditional, and much of it has a clear Irish
American flavour not too surprising for a Chicago-based band. The faster tracks
are lean and hungry, packing quite a punch: from Larry Redican's Jig to Lady
On The Island, Bohola kicks mule and no mistake. The other side of their music
is the emigrant's sentimentalised view of life back home, in songs such as The
Little Thatched Cabin, The Shamrock Shore, The Shamrock Sod, and pretty much
anything else with a hint of green. Pat Broaders puts the lyrics across with
gusto, and the arrangements are generally spot on, but you have to be in the
right frame of mind. When First Unto This Country is a great song well sung,
but its impact is definitely weakened by being the sixth song of exile here.
If you have any sort of leaning towards the Irish diaspora, you'll find plenty
here to your taste. There's bags of lift in the music, a wonderful variety of
tones and textures, and several good songs: just don't sing them all at once.
Information on the material is sparse indeed, but www.bohola.com
promises to fill that gap in the future. I'd say Bohola would be a great live
Homepage of the artist: www.bohola.com
Paul McGrattan "Keelwest"
Label: Hare's Ear Music; 002; Playing time:
Congratulations to Paul on completing a hat-trick of fine CDs. From his promising
debut recording The Frost Is All Over on the Claddagh label in the early nineties,
through his 1996 duet album with fiddler Paul O'Shaughnessy, to his second solo
CD released in the early noughties, Paul McGrattan has earned a reputation as
one of Ireland's finest flute players. Dublin born and bred, Paul is now recording
on a label which he set up with fellow Dub Seán Óg Potts, but the music on this
CD is based far from Dublin: Keelwest is a wild and beautiful place on Achill
Island, off the coast of Mayo, and the inspiration for Paul's excellent playing.
There's no hiding behind accompaniment here. From the outset it's flute to the
fore on a spirited set of reels including The Dispute At The Crossroads and
the gorgeous Satin Slipper. Three well-known jigs follow, with flute and fiddle
slipping beautifully into Geese In The Bog and giving The Eavesdropper laldy.
The slow air Paddy's Rambles Through The Park is enchanting, with the Atlantic
surf in the background (well, it does say "File under Celtic" on the box). The
second half is almost all reels, with the slow air Banks of Sulán as a brief
calm interlude. Paul's own composition Seán McGrattan's Reel sits well with
classic reels like Come West Along The Road and Gilbert Clancy's. Great tunes,
lovely flute playing, and top class accompaniment from friends and Beginish
colleagues: this is a highly enjoyable CD. It even looks good. A polished piece
of work all round, Keelwest is worth seeking out.
Contact to artist: email@example.com
Chris Norman Ensemble "The Caledonian Flute"
Label: Boxwood Music; BOX 902; Playing time:
The name Chris Norman should be familiar from Scottish supergroup Skyedance.
He's also well known in North America as a soloist specialising in Baroque and
traditional flute music. Here he is joined by guitarist Andy Thurston, percussionist
Simeon Darley Chapin (no relation), and James Blachly on string bass. The material
is mostly obscure, often gleaned from 18th-century manuscripts and earlier sources,
but some of it is still part of the mainstream Scottish repertoire: the breathtaking
air Port Atholl, the country dance Meg Merrilees, and the reel Arthur's Seat.
Better known as a Northumbrian pipe tune, Go To Berwick Johnny is double-tracked
on flute and small pipes to stunning effect. The big strathspey Tullochgorum
is another stunner, with virtuoso variations: this must be a real show-stopper
live. While one or two tracks have a distinctly Renaissance feel, the majority
are modern arrangements with more than a touch of jazz. I'm not a great fan
of jazz-folk crossover, but it seems to work every time on this recording. Chris
Norman's classical background means an attention to detail and a level of technical
perfection which can be slightly clinical: the accompanists counter that with
plenty of swing, and when the flute cuts loose as in the distinctly funky Skye
Jigs set there are very few people who can compete. You'll find plenty of neglected
treasures here. The gorgeous Lend Me Your Loom is one, complete with 17th-century
inuendo. The Dram Shell is another, a reel from the 1816 Fraser Collection with
an interesting etymology. For those unfamiliar with piobaireachd, the flute
arrangement of The Duke of Athol's Salute will be a rare treat with its formal
variations and haunting melody. All in all, this is a CD well worth seeking
out, from www.boxwood.org or specialist
The Reel and Soul Association
Label: Flying Sparks Records; TDBCD065; Playing
time: 39 min
You have to give this a whirl. It's fun, it's inventive, and it'll have you
itching to sing and dance along. RASA combines some of folk music's favourite
sons (Mike McGoldrick, Martin Allcock, John Kirkpatrick, John-Joe "Jonjo" Kelly,
and Simon Swarbrick) with soul singers Kellie While and Thea Gilmore. There's
the usual back line of drums, guitar and bass, but the combination of acoustic
front line and soul divas is a revelation.
With styles ranging from glam rock to gospel, new country to new-age traveller,
RASA produce a sound that is both hard-hitting and persuasive, sort of nice-cop
and nasty-cop in one. The word lush seems appropriate for once as Thea Gilmore
wraps her voice round Warm and Tender Love, or Kellie While croons over throbbing
drums and sobbing accordions on When Something Is Wrong With My Baby. There's
absolutely no slush, though: there's a starkness in these arrangements that
cuts through the production, delivering the message behind songs of social conscience
like Are You Sure and Harvest For The World.
As well as the songs, there are two or three instrumental numbers and plenty
of solos where the flute, fiddle and mandolin sparkle. The balance of vocals,
breaks and backing track is close to perfect here, and it's hard to resist the
combination of great music, foot-tapping arrangements, and an all-star line-up:
Dédale "Face Cachée"
MTD225; Playing time: 66 min
This all-star outfit hails from Grenoble, and like many French groups they overlay
their traditional roots with several layers of more modern music. There are
similarities to the Cock & Bull's recent repertoire, to Breton band Ti-Jaz,
and even to late Blowzabella, but for innovative use of traditional French instruments,
Dédale are in a class of their own. What makes this group special is the front
line trio of prodigious musicians: Isabelle Pignol on hurdy-gurdy, Norbert Pignol
on push-pull accordion, and Christophe Sacchettini on flutes and bagipes. It
might not sound like an exciting combination, but in the right hands it's electrifying
- and these are very definitely the right hands. Backed up by bass, bouzouki
and the busy bee clarinet of Jean-Pierre Sarzier, this virtuoso trio becomes
a versatile six-piece capable of handling styles from Baroque to Hot Club jazz.
Face Cachée is Dédale's seventh or eighth album. The title is a complex pun,
and many of the tunes are named with the same obscure humour: Dentifrice au
Chewing-Gum, Sac de Billes, and Deux Basses et Au Lit, for instance. Almost
all the material was written by Isabelle and Norbert Pignol, but the arrangements
allow everyone to shine. There's also a bass clarinet showpiece by Mr Sarzier,
and a short track by bassist Yves Perrin who turns out to be a fine exponent
of the Moorish Latin guitar style on D'Une Fois Sur L'Autre. Notes on the tunes
are sadly lacking, but the music speaks for itself. You've only to hear the
first few bars of Circus Confetti and you're hooked, the tones of clarinet and
recorder producing a warm relaxing glow. The big band sound on How Are You Leone
Pipe? by any other name would sound equally uplifting: Mr Sacchettini's wild
whistling is hard to beat, and the ineffable sweetness of the hurdy-gurdy is
such a contrast to its effable use in other bands I could mention. Dédale used
to be a purely instrumental band, but on this recording there are two songs
from Isabelle Pignol: I'm not completely convinced that this is a good thing,
and I much preferred the instrumental tracks. Maybe it's a matter of personal
taste: see what you think. From Circus Confetti to the closing bars of China,
there's one word that sums up Dédale's performance: class. They've got it in
abundance, and they know how to flaunt it. The subtle arrangements, the perfect
timing, the number of times when you think "How did they do that?" - it all
adds up to first-rate entertainment. Unfortunately, you're unlikely to find
Face Cachée outside specialist shops, but there's always www.mustradem.com
for the web-enabled.
Jesse Smith "Jigs and Reels"
Label: Own; 33001; Playing time: 38 min
The hardest thing about reviewing this album was deciphering the title and catalogue
information. Everything else was a pleasure. The quality of Jesse Smith's solo
debut more than makes up for its lack of quantity: phrases like full-on, fired-up,
and from-the-hip fit the music of this States-born fiddler. Having helped kick-start
the career of young band Danú, Jesse decided to pursue several personal projects
of which this CD is the first to be completed. And it's a cracker, from the
first reel to the last jig. Jesse's firm technique and light touch bring out
the best in classics such as Colonel Fraser and The Musical Priest, as well
as resurrecting many neglected gems: my favourites are the gritty low version
of Conor Tully's Reel and the spirited rendition of Jimmy Shand's Bluebell Polka
with fluter Harry Bradley.
I don't think there's a single tune here that's younger than Jesse himself,
and in one way that's no surprise. Jesse learnt his craft at the knee of some
of the finest Irish-American fiddlers, and he has had one eye on the golden
era of Coleman and Morrison ever since. Much of his repertoire comes from very
early recordings, and it's great to hear a young fella dust them off and rekindle
their old spark with all the benefits of modern technology. Even better when
it's a young fiddler with as much skill and energy as this man.
Jesse Smith doesn't quite have the flamboyance of Frankie Gavin, or the consistency
of John Carty, but he comes close. He also has drive and innovation in abundance,
plus the considerable advantage of being in his early twenties. This is a very
polished debut indeed: imaginative arrangements, plenty of sleeve notes, and
great tunes well played. Jesse's website www.jsfiddle.com
will tell you anything else you need to know.
Harem Scarem "Let Them Eat Fishcake"
Label: Vertical Records; VERTCD 063; Playing
time: 56 min
Take a brace of fiddlers, the same of fluters, twice as many singers and an
accordeon, place them in Edinburgh or thereabouts, oil and sheikh well, and
the result is a hareem to scare the best of 'em. This formidable female foursome,
plus token male Ross Martin on guitars, are amazingly experienced for their
age: The Poozies, Keep It Up, Tabache, Daimh and Drop The Box are all on their
CV, but somehow they've evaded these sobering influences to form a free-radical
collective devoted to good fun, great music and terrible jokes.
Their debut CD starts with Finnish, a traditional Scandinavian tune even older
than that pun, preceded by a Nordic composition from the box-player Inge Thomson.
Silliness breaks out almost immediately, mixing outstanding musicianship with
gamine humour. After a while things settle down a bit, and Harem Scarem feed
us a regular diet of songs and tunes, many of them original compositions and
all of them well worth hearing. Material from Nuala Kennedy's Dundalk background,
Eilidh Shaw's highland home, Sarah McFadyen's island heritage and Inge's nordic
retreat is supplemented by gleanings from Asturia, central France and elsewhere.
Much of the music here has not been recorded before, and very little of it has
been recorded better. There's a feisty wee version of Margaret Cook's Fancy,
a couple of lovely Gaelic songs, several intriguing lyrics by budding songwriter
Inge Thomson, and a triumphant combination of ladette vocals with Leo McCann's
quirky reel The Piper And The Stone from mouth music aficionada Eilidh Shaw.
Inspired by Marie Antoinette, Harem Scarem combine exquisite style with a disdain
for the commonplace. They also have a tendency to lose their heads, and a deeply
worrying website at www.haremscarem.co.uk
which is more than a little flaky. One for those long summer evenings of
frivolity and mild intoxication, I think: it may become a cult classic.
Andy May "The Yellow Haired Laddie"
Label: Fellside FECD174
This champion young Northumbrian piper is tipped as the obvious successor to
Kathryn Tickell when she hangs up her feather bonnet. Nine times open championship
winner, Andy May is still only in his twenties but he's just old enough to have
caught the tail end of pre-revival piping in Northumberland. He cites Billy
Pigg and Tom Clough as major influences, and there are numerous echoes of Charltons,
Armstrongs and other great piping families here. Andy's debt to the tradition,
and his respect for it, can be clearly heard in his classic treatments of Sir
Sidney Smith's March, Billy Pigg's Hornpipe, Bobby Shaftoeand others.
About half the two dozen tunes here are from the Northumbrian tradition, or
at least adopted long ago. The other half come mainly from Scotland, with a
couple from Irish piping and one or two from the wider English tradition. The
Scots connection is highly appropriate: pipe tunes have been swapped across
the border for centuries, and much of Tom Clough's music was influenced by James
Scott Skinner. Interestingly, it's the Scottish tunes which stand out for me:
inspired versions of Skinner's Bonnie Lass o' Bon Accord and Anderson's Da Slockit
Light, a full-flood rendition of The Spey In Spate, and powerful performances
of the lament Roslin Chapel and the strathspey The Sidlaw Hills.
Technically, Andy May's playing isn't note perfect but it's pretty close. Artistically,
he's well able to convey the Northumbrian tradition and he has plenty of his
own ideas to try: sometimes they work brilliantly, as in Cheviot Lament, but
occasionally they fall flat as in Blow the Wind Southerly or The Banks Hornpipe.
Of the fourteen tracks here, almost a dozen are a complete success and the others
are still better than average, giving 52 minutes of very fine music. Andy plays
with himself on pipes and piano, and he's joined by four friends including Kathryn
Tickell - no hard feelings, obviously. The whole thing is very nicely put together,
with good sleeve notes too, so The Yellow Haired Laddie seems to be a winner
Tommy Peoples "Waiting for a Call"
Label: Shanachie 78052; Playing time:62 min
This is a rare recording indeed. Most of it dates from around 1985, and features
a still youthful Tommy and equally tender-aged Alec Finn on bouzouki and Donal
Lunny on bodhrán. Seán Ar-Óg Potts apparently bunked off school to play the
pipes on a few tracks. Back in the days when an album could last up to 40 minutes,
there wasn't quite enough material to release so Tommy went back into the studio
seventeen years later with guitarist John Doyle to finish the job.
And what a job they finished. This is one of the finest recordings of Tommy
Peoples. The drive and spark which characterised the Bothy Band and inspired
a generation of fiddlers is there in abundance. Tommy's skill and grace are
as astonishing as ever, particularly on the older tracks, and there's a sweetness
of tone in many tunes which isn't always associated with the Donegal tradition.
Feast your ears on John Blessing's Delight or Tommy's own slow air The Fairest
The bravura performance of Carmel Mahoney Mulhaire would put many a young virtuoso
to shame, and Tommy attacks big old tunes with gusto: The Monaghan Jig, The
Mooncoin, The Spike Island Lassies twice, and two different versions of King
of the Pipers. There's a beautifully light-fingered version of Páidin O'Rafferty,
and a powerful gutsy rendering of the strathspey King George IV. Few other fiddlers
could take a well-known tune like The Lark in the Morning and make it their
own as convincingly as this man.
Tommy's combination of an earthy Donegal repertoire and an urbane relaxed style
is a sure-fire winner. Echoes of Bothy Band energy abound: Give Us a Drink of
Water, Drumnagarry, and the reels Miss Ramsayand Tommy Peoples' where the pipes
come in strongly. Several of Tommy's acknowledged compositions make an appearance,
along with tunes by fiddlers such as Ed Reavy, Aly Bain and Francie Dearg. The
occasional highland or hornpipe adds yet more variety, and illustrates once
again the versatility of this man: Waiting for a Call is an album to treasure
for many reasons, all of them Tommy Peoples.
Paul Mounsey "City of Walls"
Records; IRCD069; Playing time:50 min
I have to nail my colours to the mast here. I love the first Nahoo album, love
it to death, and still play it often. The second had some great tunes, but was
less essential than the first, and by the time the third album came, even I
was thinking maybe it was time for a change. Well, nearly three years on and
Mr. Mounsey returns with a new album, and it's a cracker! More orchestral and
tuneful than the last two albums, this contains few of the Nahoo-style drum
machines and big band workouts and instead drags every last nuance from some
lovely Scottish and Brazilian tunes. Also in the mix are some challenging lyrics,
and it is obvious from his choice of source material (songs dedicated to, amongst
others, the Palestinian refugees, the Landless Workers Movement of Brazil and
the Brazilian Atlantic Forest) that he has a keen social conscience as well
as an ear for good tune. Again, most of this album is done by splicing samples
from recordings into tunes played by live instruments, and the joins are hard
to spot, unlike Nahoo 3, which I found forced and uneven.
High points are many and various, and the strength of this album is the many
musical facets it presents to the listener. It's hard to imagine many who would
not find something here to cherish, and most will enjoy it all. This is an album
from a mature composer and performer working at the height of his powers. I
can't recommend this highly enough and urge everyone to have a listen. Play
track 8, Anna Murray's vocal which gradually fades into one of the best tunes
from the first album, From Ebb To Flood, here making a welcome reprise in a
more considered version than previously. If you can listen to this track and
remain unaffected, check your pulse - chances are you need urgent medical attention!
It speaks volumes for the quality of the musicians Mounsey has surrounded himself
with that they cope with this material so well, and it would be a real treat
to see this done live. Let's keep hoping for a tour, but in the meantime, buy
Josephine Keegan "The Keegan Tunes" (Tune
book + CD)
Label: Ceol Camloch
Josephine Keegan is a very well known fiddler and pianist from South Armagh.
Over the past thirty-odd years she has made many recordings, usually as an accompanist,
and composed well over a hundred tunes. This book collects more than eighty
of her compositions, many of which have already become part of the Irish tradition.
The accompanying double CD includes performances of nearly all these tunes in
the house dance style. The book itself runs to 125 A4 pages, some thirty of
these given over to Josephine's flowing prose. In between sections on her musical
background and on traditional dancing in Armagh, we find the tunes organised
by form: 35 reels, 16 jigs, 18 hornpipes (something of a Keegan speciality),
and many more. Of particular note is a suite of tunes dedicated to Micheal Delargy,
a late lamented violin maker from Newry. The text is lavishly sprinkled with
old photographs and other illustrations, and the tunes are beautifully typeset
two to a page. There is no overall index or list of tunes, which is a shame,
but each section (reels, jigs, or whatever) starts with a list of all the tunes
in that section and the book is short enough to flick through.
The quality of Josephine Keegan's compositions is obviously not constant, but
judging which are her best tunes is bound to be subjective. The general calibre
of this music can be judged by the large number of Keegan tunes which have been
picked up, and often recorded, by other musicians: The Cable Stitch, The Curlews,
Ronnie Cooper and many others, often simply known as Josephine Keegan's. My
own favourites include September, Kelly's Cellars, Carolan's Dowry, The Square
of Crossmaglen, and two really great reels Bulmer's and Aughacashel. So please
don't start playing those: get your own.
Contact to label: firstname.lastname@example.org
Oysterband "Rise Above"
Records; CD 88874; 2002, Playing time: 39 mins
Those of us who hitched our wagons to the Oyster's rising star any time over
the last ten years or more will know what to expect here - a quality album of
hummable melodies with socially relevant themes, all delivered in the usual
Oysterband style - but wait! What's that noise - surely not the Uillean pipes?
Yes, this album features guest James O'Grady prominently on pipes and whistle,
and he contributes some telling solos as well as beefing up the band sound considerably.
Also prominent on this album is Chopper's cello, a far more lyrical bass instrument
than a simple bass guitar could ever be. At some stage, someone should write
a PhD thesis on the development of the Oysterband since Ian Kearey left - respect
to him, but the addition of Chopper and his cello has made a huge difference
to the Oyster sound, so much so that it's hard to imagine the band now without
Produced by Alan Scott, responsible for several previous albums, is crisp and
clean and brings the most from the various sounds available. Compositions are
all credited to the whole band except for Blackwaterside (lovely piping) and
Bright Morning Star (acapella), both trad. arr. The songs themselves are typical
band fare, some (Shouting About Jerusalem, Uncommercial Song) a bit too wordy
for the tune, some (If You Can't Be Good, Rise Above, Wayfaring) rollocking
good time tunes. Another good Oysterband album, then, but why just 39 minutes
Barahúnda "Al sol de la hierba"
Barahúnda describe their music as "arab-andalusian atmospheres,
sepharidc songs, castilian jotas, Galician-portugues cantigas and original compositions".
I suppose this description captures quite well their music - it is music that
crosses cultural borders, without really leaving Spain. The music brings together
many of the multicultural influences that have created Spanish culture: Sephardic
traditions from the Jewish ancestors, the medieval Arab-Andalusian link, Iberian
music features from across Spain and Portugal. Barahúnda have created
their very own unique sound, with an open mind to arranging traditional and
composing new music.
Right at the heart of Barahúnda's sound is of Helena de Alfonso, with
her fascinating passionate soulful singing. Around her, the band fatures hurdy-gurdy,
clarinet, guitar, e bass and darbouka/zarb/tabla. The album also features various
guest musicians from the Spanish scene, adding some more musical flavours to
This is an intriguing album, fascinating enough to take your full attention
from the start right through to the end. The fascination also comes from the
fact that all these old traditions are woven together and brought back to life,
showcasing an Iberia that is multicultural by tradition, with its wide range
of different music influences.
Homepage of the artist: www.relatores.com/barahunda/,
contact to artist and label: email@example.com
Sari Kaasinen & otawa "reissunainen"
Label: Mipu Music; MIPUCD19; 2002
Sari Kaasinen is probably to some of our readers still known as a former lead
singer of the best known Finnish folk band, Värttinä. Since 1996,
she has established herself a successful solo carreer. This is her second album,
after her stunning solo debut "Emo"
from 1998. A comparison of the CD covers tells already quite a bit of the music
- while "emo" came along rather cool with hot colours, "reissunainen"
sees Sari sitting at a lakeside in a wooly jumper. It is similar with the music
- while "Emo" offered progressive Finnish folk rock music, "reissunainen"
comes more relaxed and calm. This however does not mean that the album is any
less exciting than "emo", and also "reissunainen" offers
some exciting Finish folk rock/pop music.
I love Sari's singing; it has a special fascination about it - I suppose it
is the combination of her attractive and sensitive, yet strong voice and this
intriguing Finnish language. As on "emo", Sari has brought together
for her second album a skilled band that creates a unique soundscape, featuring
Sari's kantele, mandolin, accordion, guitars, bass and percussion. All songs
are written by Sari, and even though they are in Finnish, you will soon start
to hum along...
It took a few times listening until I became convinced that "reissunainen"
is as good as "emo", just a bit different. Another indeed stunning
album of my favourite Finnish artist - one of the albums of 2002 I definitely
would not have liked to miss!
Donal Hinely "We Built A Fire"
Label: Scuffletown Records; STR 1080; 2002;
Playing Time50.52 min
I don't know about "fire" in the sense of lighting a beacon for other recording
artistes to observe and acknowledge. But I can tell you this: from the FIRST
moment the voice hits you, it creates sparks. And before long the album is well
The title track is the final one. By then one has really concluded that one
is in the presence of a considerable new talent. But let me not go overboard:
this is not some seminal album that comes along once in a decade. One can safely
say that music historians thirty years from now, will not see this as a "Red
Headed Stranger", the way that their counterparts writing now revere Willie
Nelson's classic of the mid Seventies.
But that said, there is so much about this album that is genuinely exciting.
The moment the voice creates that tingle, it gets your mind racing. When did
you LAST get such a sense of excitement? Even Slaid Cleaves didn't make your
nerve ends feel quite so alive. I have to go back to hearing Loudon Wainwright
lll, back God knows when, and that first LP, as he wailed out the words "In
Delaware when I was younger".
Not that the songs are anything approaching the Wainwright quality. Nor are
they as quirky, nor do they cover as impressive a range of subjects. (Indeed,
these seem to be centred on the theme of travelling on.) But what they have,
is something fairly rare. They are - and forgive me for a misspent youth in
a thousand "picture palaces" - strangely CINEMATIC. Close your eyes and with
each song you see the footage of a Coen Brothers or Wim Wenders movie.
Much is made in the press release of the influence of songwriters like John
Hiatt, Steve Earle and Richard Thompson. Great names indeed. But then the press
release goes on to talk about the great Texas storytelling tradition, and it
was here that we have the real clue. This guy strikes me as being, in racehorse
terms, by Jerry Jeff Walker out of Nanci Griffith.
On the album, he is well served by a handful of musicians, and pulled off quite
a coup in getting the services of Grammy nominated Kim Richey on some harmony
"Promise of a Dream" is the one song that came closest to ringing all the right
bells for me. It tells the story of how he meets a once-mildly famous lady,
now down on her luck in a Salvation Army store. It is more of a complete song
than many of the others: listening to the rest of his songs is a bit like a
movie actor looking at the previous day's "rushes" (that is, snippets of the
latest footage filmed). Sort of incomplete.
But then of course, one senses that writing "start/middle/end" songs were never
part of Hinely's "master plan"! If his plan was to make critics sit up and take
notice, then he has succeeded admirably.
Homepage of the artist: www.donalhinely.com,
contact to artist: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tarneybackle "Distant Dreams"
Label: Tarneybackle Music TBM002; 2003; Playing
time: 55.33 mins
This is the second album from a threesome based in Perthshire, Scotland. I had
neither encountered their first CD, nor indeed seen them perform, so they were
a complete unknown quantity to me. Were they are a pleasant surprise?
Well they certainly started off with a fine opener: the Dougie MacLean song
"Feel So Near". And a good job they made of it. Sandy Marshall sings the song
like he has ownership of it: one minor criticism of it is the mixing of the
track. I understand that John Davidson's whistle has been kept a bit muted in
order not to deflect from the vocal, but it could really do with going up a
notch or two. (Fortunately, the were to be no further problems on the production
The album is a mixture of familiar ballads (mainly from the Tradition) and songs
penned by Sandy and fellow group member John Davidson. I am not sure that this
is a good idea, and here's for why.
They seem to have an uncanny ability to know where to go to find a tried-and-tested
song that suits them. And don't they deliver them well! They reach their artistic
zenith with their version of "The Mermaid": golly they deliver the song with
real brio and fine harmonies. Not far behind is their lyrical version of "Tramps
But all this juxtaposition of fine songs (on the one side) and John and Sandy's
own creative output (on the other) does, is put a searching spotlight on the
songwriting talents of the two "boys". So how do they fare?
Truth is, not well. I realise the songs mean a lot to the guys personally, and
no songwriter wants his own "babies" decried. But, I am equally sure they don't
want me to NOT tell them just how I see it. So, brace yourselves chaps.
After listening to each one of them three times, I have to sadly declare they
made no impact on me. I could see that they had a certain merit in the lyric
department, but melodically the lads seemed to have come up with tunes that
But what the heck! I am just one person, and maybe one with his ears on wrong!
If their audience like the songs, THAT is what matters.
I wish the album God's speed and a fair wind. There is much here that is of
Homepage of the artist: www.tarneybackle.co.uk,
contact to artist: email@example.com
Wendy Weatherby "Two Loves"
CDLDL 1312; 2002; Playing time: 47.65min
This is Scots lassie Wendy's second album. It builds on the solid foundation
of her first "A Breath on the Cold Glass" released two years ago.
She is a very decent singer and a fine cellist. She is accompanied by James
Ross on piano and accordion, and the phenomenally versatile and talented Stevie
Lawrence, (playing guitar and everything bar the kitchen sink).
She has remembered Henry Miller's golden rule: start with the dynamite, and
end with the TNT. The first and last cuts are the two strongest tracks on the
CD. She kicks off with that fine Northumbrian song "Bonny at Morn", and ends
with John Tams's so-very-singable "Hold Back The Tide".
In between we have a convincing assortment of instrumental pieces and ballads.
Nice to hear the Irish song "Church on Sunday" rather than the easier option
of its first cousin "Loving Hannah".
The album never runs out of steam, and often surprises (as it does with "Temple
Locks", a new enchanting melody by Steve Lawrence). And the album scores particularly
well on its liner notes: good informative stuff that can be easily read. Black
print on a white background: you can never know JUST how much that favourably
predisposes this reviewer towards an album!
Homepage of the artist: www.neilwarden.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/wendy/, contact to label: firstname.lastname@example.org
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