Issue 29 09/2004
FolkWorld CD Reviews (4)
Fiedel Michel, photo by The Mollis
Palava "Fallen in Clover"
Label: Folkwit Records- F0001
Ever had the urge to fill a jeep with musical instruments, drive across to County
Mayo and record an album in a 200-year-old cottage? Well, Palava (Nick Butcher
on vocals and guitar; John "Gaff" Gaffan on 12-string guitar and backing vocals;
and Liam Doona on banjo, bouzouki, dobro and backing vocals) certainly did,
and thus was their second album, Fallen in Clover, born, a project showcasing
a wonderful mix of folk, roots and country with both Irish and American influences.
And with great vocals to match!
The opening eponymous track is a catchy number; Nick's motto of "keep it simple,
keep it real, trust your intuition" is reflected in the lyrics, which are down-to-earth
manifestations in words of the ups and downs of everyday life. Notable tracks
on the album are "Smoke and Lies" (track 3), "Wings of Angels" (track 7), and
my personal favourite, "Don't Turn the Radio Town" (track 8- listen out for
the lovely waltz instrumental!). At 39:05 minutes, the length of the album is,
perhaps, its only shortfall. It somehow leaves the listener craving more; then
again, I suppose that makes the anticipation of Palava's next release even sweeter!
Do check out Palava's website at www.palava.org.
Fallen in Clover was produced by Folkwit, an independent Internet-based record
label promoting UK based folk-roots and country music. The Folkwit website can
be found at www.folkwit.biz. Order a copy
of Fallen in Clover today from either of these two websites!
Craig and Kara Markley "Once Upon a Winter
Label: Lone Raven Music - LRM0502
Craig and Kara Markley are a father and daughter duo who have been playing together
ever since Kara was a little girl. On this album, Craig plays the whistles,
piano, keyboards, uillean pipes, hammered dulcimer and percussion; Kara contributes
vocals, fiddle, flute and harp. Once Upon a Winter Moon is one of those Christian,
feel-good albums that get released in the festive season of Christmas or Thanksgiving.
It certainly contains all the classic carols such as "What Child is This", "God
Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Angels We Have Heard on High". Having said that,
the album does contain several original compositions as well, namely the eponymous
track, "Christmas Day is Here" (probably the best track on the album), "Lady
With the Silver Thread", "For He I Know" and "Tinúviel".
The album itself is a pleasant-enough listen. However, I found it rather hard
to work up an enthusiastic for it. For one, the market is already flooded with
enough albums of this nature (just look under the 'Christmas' section in your
local Borders or HMB music store). It takes that extra bit of oomph to make
the cut, and somehow I got the nagging feeling that Once Upon a Winter Moon
could have been more appropriately called Once Upon the CD Player. But I am
mean- 'tis the season of giving afterall; much hard work has gone into the making
of this album, and this is a fine example of a father and daughter duo which
truly works. I'll leave it to you to decide.
More information on Craig and Kara Markley can be found at www.loneraven.com.
Label: Koch Records- LC 10014
Barrage, onslaught, deluge, salvo, bombardment, volley, surge, the list of synonyms
is endless, as was the enthusiasm that received this new musical performance/
phenomenon the likes of "Stomp" and "Riverdance". In other words, embarrassingly
overrated, overhyped, and better live than on CD. Barrage are the Canadian answer
to Riverdance, and comprise of eleven young multi-instrumentalists. These are:
Denis Dufresne (violin & vocals), Scott Duncan (violin & vocals), Bob Fenske
(percussion & mallet), Errol Fischer (violin & vocals), Allison Granger (violin,
tin whistle & vocals), Tim Harley (electric bass), Roxanne Leitch (violin, vocals,
tin whistle & low whistle), Kent Macrae (drums), Lynae Oliver (violin & vocals),
Aaron Young (guitars & mandolin), Josh Zubot (violin & vocals) and John Hyde
(acoustic bass). OK, so that's a whole lotta violin playing.
The album, presumably, is a soundtrack to their live performances, which, as
mentioned earlier, have been received with wide acclaim. Think "Chicago" (the
musical) and "42nd Street", add violins, percussion and a Celtic touch, and
you pretty much have Barrage in a nutshell. Don't get me wrong; I'm sure Barrage
are a great act live (the last track on the CD, "Joe's Favourite" is a live
track, complete with appreciate audience screams, taken from one of their sell-out
performances). I'm just not sure that one would be inclined to get a ticket
to go to the show after listening to the CD; much the other way around, I'd
reckon. Then again, the Amazon sales ranking for the album isn't all that bad,
so they must have a substantial-enough following!
Label: Xource (Music Network Records Group)
Simbi are a multi-cultural group hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden. Their music
is heavily inclined towards world music, especially Latin and African rhythms
and beats, and percussion plays a big part in their music. Their first two albums,
Vodou Beat and Kreol, received wide acclaim from Swedish and International music
critics. On Kalalou, their third album, Simbi's sound have matured and fans
who have eagerly anticipated the new album will not be disappointed. The album
combines voodoo songs and chants from Haiti with Afro Cuban percussion, jazz,
roots and rock to produce a powerful and surging sound.
The band are: Marianne N'Lemvo Lindén (vocals and percussion), Lotta Sjölin
Cederblom (vocals and percussion), Sten Källman (saxophones, vocals and percussion),
Raul Lara (Cuban percussion), Martin Brandqvist (drums, alto saxophone and percussion),
Johan Ohlsson (keyboards and accordion), Stefan Bergman (bass and percussion)
and Andreas Falk (guitar and percussion).
Simbi are definitely a world-class band from Sweden. Check out their website!
Cajole "Unreel "
Label: No album information
Cajole are a great little Belgium folk band (originally from the town of Wervik,
famous for its tobacco!) with heaps of potential. The band play traditional
Irish music with touches of jazz, ska and reggae, otherwise defined by Cajole
themselves as 'contemporary and obstinate folk' (!) The tunes are catchy, listener-friendly,
and should receive a fairly good amount of airplay on independent music stations.
The range of instruments is good and the musicianship even better. But let me
introduce the band: Peter Derudder (uillean pipes, tin and low whistles, German
flute, Irish flute, bodhran, kazoo), Dimitri Durnez (acoustic guitar, djembe,
darbouka, piano), David Bailleur (drums), Olivier Delbecque (bass guitar, Jewish
harp), Peter Steen (fiddle, electric guitar), Timothy Volcke (vocals, piano,
keyboards) and Rik Vandersyppe (sound and P.A.).
Un-Reel is a cracker of an album, and not just because it sounds like the guys
had a lot of fun in making it. It contains both cover songs and original tunes.
Track 8 is a great cover version of Bob Geldof's (of The Boomtown Rats fame)
'The Great Song of Indifference'. Traditional favourites are also included,
such as 'Dirty Old Town', 'Loch Lomond' and 'Star of Munster'. I quite liked
Track 3, a reel and hornpipe set rather aptly titled 'The Wacko Breton'. Track
6 ('Jazzy Pipes') also Peter Derudder's highly skilful and rather unconventional
uillean piping and snazzy drumming by David Bailleur. The one thing I really
liked though, was Peter Steen's fiddle playing on the album (listen to Track
7, 'Brenda Stubert's Reel'), which I thought added touch of class. ;) Also some
fine piano work by Dimitri and Timothy on the tracks.
Un-Reel is really (no pun intended!) a nice little gem of an album. Check out
Cajole's website: www.cajole.be. Don't worry
if the pages are only in Dutch- an English (and perhaps even a German!) version
should be out soon.
Various Artists "Nowt So Funny as Folk"
Label: ADA Recordings - ADA105CD
In all my years of experience as a folk junkie I have never come across such
an interesting compilation. Call it a concept album, a collection of little
witty gems that sparkle their way into the deep, dark night. Nowt So Funny as
Folk is a fifteen-track cracker of a compilation of hilarious songs and stories
from the likes of Les Barker, Sean Cannon (from The Dubliners), Anthony Hohn
Clarke, Cyril Tawney and Roaring Jelly. The little note of warning on the CD
sleeve says it all: "Don't play this CD if you don't like laughing!"
My favourite has to be 'Voicemail' by Les Barker (Track 3). Mr. Funnyman wrote
this witty number whilst he was waiting to speak to someone else at the other
end of the phone. It was originally recoded on Arovertherapy (Mrs Ackroyd Recods
DOG015), and is a cracker. So is Track 2 'Valerie Wilkins', which is a classic
song and one of the Roaring Jelly's most requested tunes live. Track 7 'Tuesday
Night is Always Karaoke', sung by Anthony John Clarke, is also a mighty fine
gem of a track, as is Track 14, 'Ten Pints of Tetleys', a live performance by
Cockersdale, of Keith Marsden's song. After listening to this album, I find
myself looking through my collection for more of the same, and find my finger
lingering on the spines of albums by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, early Talking
Heads and Frank Zappa. Hmm… and what's that I see? The Best of Peter Cook and
Dudley Moore on DVD? Sigh… perfect! :-)
Nowt so Funny as Folk was produced by ADA Recordings. As of October 2003, ADA
Recordings/ ADA Mail Order and Distribution have merged with 'Rocking Chair',
with the intention of providing a better service to the folk, roots and acoustic
music scene. Check out the new 'Rocking Chair' website, which provides a great
mail order service, and which can be found at: http://www.mrscasey.co.uk/rockingchair/.
The Real McKenzies "Oot & Aboot"
Label: Honest Don's Recordings- DON044-2
The Real McKenzies are a Canadian Punk band with Scottish (read 'bagpipes and
beer') music influences. With reviews of their music in the Shite 'n' Onions
and StandUpJack eZines to prove it, the band have drawn a considerable enough
following across Europe, pulling crowds who are all self-confessed Celtic punk-rock
fans. Interview the average person in the audience during a Real McKenzies gig,
for example, and you will discover that they either a) have a Scottish ancestor
somewhere up the grapevine, b) heard of the Pogues, Dropkick Murphys, Floggin
Molly, Fiddler's Green, Paddy Goes to Holyhead, Oysterband, The Men They Couldn't
Hang, Black 47, and so on… the list is endless (NOT that the Real McKenzies
should be compared to any of these bands; they each have their own unique sound)
or c) simply want to have a fro(ck)licking good time, and dig the whole booze,
punk and kilts thang (although the Real McKenzies themselves, music deconstructionists
that they are, are pretty wary of the whole Celtic punk genre!)
On a more serious note however, 'Oot & Aboot' is a cracker of an album. The
tunes are mostly, if not all, self-written. Compared to their last album, 'Loch'd
& Loaded', much more effort has noticeably gone into producing the album, and
writing the songs. I guess my favourite couple of tracks would have to be 'Drink
the Way I Do' and The Night the Lights Went Out in Scotland' (were you there,
were ya?) and 'Taylor Made' is a great little bagpipes number with which to
close the album. The boys play good ol' Celtic punk, while flashing a good-natured
finger at the tons of other bands to whom they have been compared (see paragraph
The Real McKenzies lineup to-date reads: 'Dirty' Kurt Robertson (guitar, vocals),
Matt MacNasty (bagpipes), Mark 'The Bone' Boland (guitars), Jamie Fawkes (bass),
Brad Attitude (drums) and last but certainly not least, Paul McKenzie (lead
vocals). On a closing note, these guys are not to be messed with (or they'll
lift up their kilts and flash something in your face).
Check out the Real McKenzies' website, which can be found at www.realmckenzies.com.
'Oot & Aboot' is released on Honest Don's Records, and they have a homepage
Finisterra "Kein Evoë Kein Requiem"
Label: Trisol Music Group GmbH- TRI 142 CD
When I first received a review copy of this CD I put it warily aside, not liking
the look of the cover and sleeve notes which proclaimed Finisterra as a 'mittlealter'
(medieval), Goth-rock-with-Celtic-influences band. Rather flippantly, I thought,
'only in Germany!' and settled deeper into my comfy sofa reading my book.
An hour later though, pressed to finish my reviews for Folkworld, I was listening
to these guys and to my surprise, they were pretty darn good afterall! In fact,
'Kein Evoë Kein Requiem' is a superb follow-up album to 'Als die Erde eine Scheibe
war' which was released to critical acclaim. The new album continues Finisterra's
powerful sound, but this time there is a clearer fusion of modern and medieval
elements, and the guitar and bagpipes create a good synthesis of sound which,
thankfully, does not overwhelm the listener. The dark, medieval atmosphere that
is created to a large extent by the album's sleevenotes, complete with references
to Judas and Jesus, sinner and saved, and rather dark and spooky paintings,
is, of course, enhanced by the song lyrics which contain their fair share of
Latin. The incantatory and mystic feel of Finisterra's music is also not lost
on this album.
If you're looking for a good introductory album to Medieval Goth rock with Celtic
influences, I'd recommend Finisterra's 'Kein Evoë Kein Requiem'. If you're rather
skeptical of the whole genre, however, then I'd recommend reading on… ;)
Check out Finisterra's rather 'interesting' website (complete with intro and
links), at www.finisterra.de.
Sliabh Notes "Along Blackwater's Banks"
Label: Ossian Publications & Sliabh Notes
Music - OSS CD 130
Well, what can I say? Sliabh Notes comprises of three wonderful guys - Matt
Cranitch (fiddles), Dónal Murphy (accordion) and Tommy O'Sullivan (vocals -and
they are wonderful vocals!- and guitar)- and their latest offering, 'Along Blackwater's
Banks', features collaborations with some of the finest names in the business,
including Kevin Burke, Matt Molloy, Colm Murphy, Steeve Cooney, Brian McGrath
and Liam O' Maonlai. Hang on, wait a minute before you start surfing eBay for
a copy! Why not read the rest of my review, then you can go out and buy all
THREE of their albums! ;)
And now for the obligatory / explanatory bit! (Expert Irish folk junkies please
skip this paragraph and read the next!) Sliabh Luachra is a region in the south-west
of Ireland which is renowned for its distinctive style of music, particularly
its slides, polkas and sets. The repertoire of tunes, the style of playing and
the spirit of the area (read, 'the craic'!), the sheer 'draíocht' (magic) of
the Sliabh Luachra area is something which the band Sliabh Notes tries to convey
in their music.
The listener of 'Along Blackwater's Banks' will be enthralled with the collection
of tunes and songs that it showcases (and the talent of the musicians themselves!)
The opening couple of polka and slide tracks, 'Paddy Scanlon's Polka/ Mrs. Mulvihill's
Polk/ The Kinnard Polka' and 'Art O'Keefe's Slide/ The Star Above the Garter/
Taidhgín an Asail's Jig' are always favourites amongst a live audience (see
my other review of the 15th Annual St. Patrick's Day Music Celebrations in Tuebingen,
Germany, where Sliabh Notes was one of the bands playing live). My favourite
tracks, however, were the reels (I've always been a sucker for them!), especially
track 3, 'The Providence Reel/ The Man of the House/ Speed the Plough' and track
8 'McDonagh's Reel/ Peg McGrath's Reel/ Martin Mulvihill's Reel', which are
simply brilliant tunes. The album as a whole is superb, and definitely one to
add to your collection. It has also received rave reviews from the various trad
music magazines such as Irish Music Magazine. O.K.- NOW you can go online and
grab copies of these albums with my full consent! (Just in case you were wondering
what the other two Sliabh Notes albums are, they are the self-titled debut album
(CBMCD 018; KM-9506) and Gleanntán (Ossian OSSCD 114).
For more information on the band and Ossian Publications, check out the Ossian
website at www.ossian.ie, or contact Sliabh
Notes directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steve Hughes "The Love You Shared"
Label: The Unlabelled Label/ Irregular Records
With influences such as Robb Johnson, Rory McLeod and Billy Bragg, you'd expect
songs with a fair dose of political and environmental overtones. That's what
Bristol-born and bred singer-songwriter, Steve Hughes, offers on this album,
and more. Track 12, 'Tight Walls', for example, is a song dedicated to the victims
of war around the world, the refugees and asylum seekers and peace campaigners
that, in Hughes' opinion, don't get saluted enough in music today. Put simply,
this is an album by one man and his guitar, complete with… erm… Hughes' characteristic
slightly strangled-sounding rooster crows on certain tracks, where I preferred
to press the 'skip forward' button. Having said that, I guess Steve Hughes would
be an interesting enough performer 'live', seeing as he's performed with the
likes of Eliza Carthy and Rock, Salt & Nails, and has become a familiar face
in the South West of England with sets at festivals and local pubs and clubs.
I guess all in all, this album deserves a fair amount of praise, if you're in
the mood for intelligent, politically and socially-aware lyrics and some fine
slidy fingerwork on the steel and acoustic guitars.
Rabies "Bad Ass Molly"
Label: Rabies - RAB2003-2
Hmm… what to make of an Irish-Folk-Rock band from Recklinghausen, with influences
from the Pogues and Billy Bragg to rock and country diddlyeye? Especially with
other bands already establishing a solid reputation at folk festivals- the likes
of Schandmaul, Fiddler's Green, Paddy Goes to Hollyhead, Dropkick Murphys and
so on - do these guys actually stand a chance? Well, seeing as these guys claim
to have been around for 10 years together as a band, maybe they do! 'Bad Ass
Molly' features a few covers and traditionals, including 'Lakes of Ponchartrain,
Folsom Prison Blues (yes, from Johnny Cash) A New England, The Foggy Dew and
Streams of Whiskey. The last, incidentally, does try to imitate Shane MacGowan's
drunken swagger and growl. Unfortunately, it falls short of convincing, and
I simply stuck the original on. Schade! I think the guys do a better job with
their original compositions (check out the last track, 'Forgotten Love'), which
just goes to prove the cliché, 'just be yourself' eh?
Rabies are: Karsten Fechner (vocals, tin whistle, accordion), Sebastian Gerdes
(guitar), Stefan Schlautmann (vocals and blues harp), Michael Meinders (bass),
Andreas Herzmann (drums & percussion), Denis Wildschütz (vocals, mandolin, guitars)
and Andreas Belz (livesound - yes, whatever that means!)
Check out the Rabies' website, at www.rabies-online.de.
And no, they don't bite, and they're not contagious!!
Dave Goodman "Rocks, Skies & Waters"
Label: CrossCut Records - CCD 12007
I swear, for a moment, I thought it was Davy Spillane on the cover of the album.
Yes, Dave Goodman is a dead-ringer for Spillane, although his music is nothing
like the Irish uilleanpipers'. Born in Vancouver, Canada, to British parents,
Goodman began playing in various blues and rock bands at a young age. His development
as a musician led to the recording of his first solo album, 'Roadblock Rhymes',
also produced by CrossCut Records. 'Rocks, Skies & Waters', his second album,
features Goodman (on vocals, guitars, lapsteel and banjo) working together with
three other musicians (Paul Pastouchov- upright bass, Oliver Spanuth- drums,
and Manfred Fleckenstein - acoustic bass), and the music that results is a good
blend of acoustic rock and roots. The cover of the album shows a Canadian mountain
lake view, with its metaphorical associations of wildness and loneliness, an
appropriate frame of mind with which to listen to the songs of the album, which
cover the range of emotions from restlessness and yearning to moments of happiness,
as well as stories about the unique individuals we meet along life's lonesome
highway. A pretty good number on the album is track 10, 'Stone Angel', well
at least I found myself singing along to the refrain: 'A long forgotten spirit
on the rise/ A wave of emotion in the wake of what has died.'
'Roadbook Rhymes', Goodman's first CD, is available on CrossCut Records, www.crosscut.de.
Harry Manx "West Eats Meet"
Label: Dog My Cat Records Inc. - DMCR 12062
Harry Manx's fourth and latest release, 'West Eats Meet', affirms his place
as one of the top fusion musicians in the acoustic folk-blues-world genre. Born
in the U.K., Manx went on to live in Europe, Japan and India. A talented musician
with a real feel for rhythm, Manx plays the lap slide guitar, blues harp, six-stringed
banjo, and most uniquely, the Mohan Veena, a guitar/sitar hybrid created and
named by Indian musical guru Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. Manx's music has been called
an 'essential link' between the music of East and West. On this album especially,
the backing vocals of Emily Braden and The Heavenly Lights render a somewhat
gospel and ethereal quality to the music. Manx's somewhat wry sense of humour
and his penchant for penning short stories about his global experiences shine
through on this album. A sure delight for Manx fans, this album puts him firmly
in the top notches of the folk-blues-world ranks.
Check out Harry Manx's website: www.harrymanx.com,
which, incidentally, requires a Flash player.
Amadou Kiénou "Sya (Rythmes de la tradition
du Burkina Faso)"
Label: Felmay - FY 8083
A virtuoso of the djembé, Amadou Kiénou, who hails from Burkina Faso, has worked
with other renowned African musicians such as Manu Dibango, Youssou N'Dour and
Baba Maal. Burkina Faso, a country of immense cultural diversity, is home to
roughly sixty different ethnic groups (the Mossi account for half the country's
population), and has a complex folkloric heritage. No wonder, then, that listening
to Kiénou's dizzying and hypnotic polyrhythmic beats on the djembé, coupled
with his intense, melodic vocals, proves such an unforgettable aural experience.
The album, then, is a heady and rhythmic offering of 11 tracks with a total
playing time of 55 minutes. Track 10, 'Warba', a traditional rhythmic piece
originally played on Mossi drums, but which has been adapted for the djembé,
is particularly intoxicating, as is Track 2, 'Tiriba', an original composition
whose title means 'to move'. A fitting enough title for music to which the listener
simply cannot keep still! All in all, Sya is a good album, if heady tribal percussion
and rhythm is what you're after. Having said that, Kiénou should not only appeal
to percussion heads, but any listener who appreciates the rhythms and sounds
of African music.
For more information on Amadou Kiénou and his music, check out Felmay records,
www.felmay.it. Or, simply email the artist
directly, at email@example.com.
Shane Flew "7,000 Miles"
Label: No record information
I like this guy's music. And hey, not just because he's Australian! There's
just a mesmerizing quality about the effortless way he sings and the tunes are
catchy enough. Born in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales in the town
of Bowral, Shane began playing the drums in a rock and roll band at age 11.
Turning professional after moving to Sydney at age 20 he started working in
an original country rock band, Rainshine, for 2 years. His musical career took
off in 1984 when he joined pop/rock band QED and since then, Flew has played
opening sets for The Highwaymen , Leane Rimes, and The Dixie Chicks. On this
debut album, '7,000 Miles', Flew is joined by Matt Fell on electric guitars,
chamberlain, bass and percussion, Catherline Lambert on harmony and background
vocals, and Andrew Burns on uprught piano. It's a pretty good album, and best
heard all at one go. I fell in love with track 9, 'It's No Secret (she's amazing)',
probably Flew's best known song, and one that radio stations around the world
have been promoting, and found myself humming the tune long after the final
note was played. Shane Flew is definitely a top-notch artist in his own right,
and his musical blend of electro-acoustic-country-folk certainly ensures his
prominence in the contemporary Australian scene.
Visit Shane Flew's website: www.shaneflew.com.
Bernie Leadon "Mirror"
Label: Really Small Intertainment, Ilc - RS00303
This solo album from ex-Eagles guitarman has been long overdue. The release
of 'Mirror' caused ripples in the Americana music world, and probably with just
cause, seeing as Leadon has been a prominent name on the music scene since the
late '60s. With an impressive C.V. including collaborations with the likes of
Randy Newman, Emmylou Harris (who appears on this new album, courtesy of Nonesuch
Records), Gram Parsons, Linda Ronstadt, Michelle Shocked, Stevie Nicks and Travis
Tritt, Bernie Leadon has certainly built up a sizable fan-base too. 'Mirror',
then, is a reflective (yes, there's a pun in there somewhere!) collection of
10 heartfelt, insightful songs. Highlights include 'Volcano' and 'Center of
the Universe' (a song which takes to terms the importance, and the challenge,
of self-scrutiny and self-exploration).
Musical credits on this album go to: Bernie Leadon (vocals, acoustic, electric
& 12-string guitars, banjo), David Kemper (drums and percussion), Michael Rhodes
(electric and upright bass), Tommy Burroughs (acoustic rhythm guitar, tiple,
mandolin, fiddle and mandocello), James Hooker (piano and B-3), Ethan Jones
(octave mandolin, weisenborn slide guitar, B-3 organ and percussion), Emmylou
Harris (harmony vocals on 'Backup Plan' and 'God Ain't Done with Me Yet'), Jimmy
Davis (harmony vocals on 'Volcano') and Jim Horn (horn arrangement on 'Sears
and Roebuck Catalog').
More information on Bernie Leadon's solo career and 'Mirror' can be found on
his website, www.bernieleadon.com.
Sara Marlowe "Times Like These …"
Label: World to Win Records - FE 1503
I'll be damned if this Toronto-based singer-songwriter Sara Marlowe doesn't
steal some of Ani DiFranco and Alanis Morrisette's fan-base! Fans of these two
artists will also be easily swayed into buying Marlowe's successful debut release,
'A World to Win', which received good reviews and airplay in Canada and the
U.S. Which is not to say, of course, that Marlowe stands in the shadow of these
two giants. In fact, I think she deserves a following of her own. 'Times Like
These …' is a fantastic album, and an eclectic one, thanks for the Latin-jazz
drumming of Daniel Holowachuk, funky basslines of jazz-fusion composer Steve
Sherman, top tabla-rhythms of Lowell Lybarger, smooth piano notes of Dave Olson,
saxophone expertise of Brodie West, and soulful cello-playing of Alex McMaster.
Oh, and of course, Marlowe's own mesmerizing and lyrical voice.
Ultimately, 'Times Like These …' is a heartfelt, protest-folk album with a twist,
encompassing musical styles from acoustic roots-pop-folk, to world-beat, jazz
and funk. The songs range in their material from the War on Iraq to the global
phenomenon of the increasing gap between the rich and poor. Certainly Marlowe
herself has been an active participant in numerous social justice events including
International Women's Day celebrations, anti-globalisation protests and labour
rallies. Toronto certainly cannot get enough of her, and Marlowe works hard,
playing at bars and clubs around town, both as a solo performer and with her
This is definitely an album worth buying. And not just for the excellent links
in the CD sleeve to websites that interrogate global injustice today. Check
out Sara Marlowe's website, www.sarahmarlowe.com.
Mason Jennings "Use Your Voice "
Label: Bar/ None Records - BRN-CD-151
'Use Your Voice' presents the listener with the challenge of finding his/her
own voice. To Jennings, voice is the most powerful instrument of inspiration
and communication. Inspired by Johnny Cash's 'American' recordings and Bob Dylan's
'Blood on the Tracks', Jennings attempted at reproducing that 'no-frills' sound
on his record. At the tender age of 28, and with three albums under his belt
(1998's self-titled release, 'Birds Flying Away' in 2000, 'Century Spring' in
2002), Jennings has already built up a considerable fan-base in Europe, Australia,
and around the world, and had favourable reviews in The New York Times, LA Weekly
and Washington Post. Nice.
Jenning's fourth album, then, features the following musical line-up: Mason
Jennings (vocals, guitar and harmonica), Chris Morrissey (upright and electric
bass), Brian McLeod (drums), and Amy Jennings (vocals on 'Ballad of Paul and
Sheila'). Notable songs on the album are 'Southern Cross' and 'Ulysees'.
For more information on Mason Jennings, check out his website, www.masonjennings.com.
Solas "Another Day"
Label: Shanachie Records - Shanachie 78056
O.K., I'll admit it. It's hard to write an unbiased review when the album at
hand is by one of the most raved-about, prominent, musically accomplished, and
respected Irish trad music bands on the scene today, and when you'd give your
two front teeth to see them play live. Nevertheless, I'll try. :)
Right. So, first things first. 'Another Day' is Solas' sixth album, following
hot on the heels of their previous release, 'The Edge of Silence', which pushed
back the boundaries of acoustic Irish folk, incorporating a more electric feel.
'Another Day' puts the band back on the acoustic track, with a generous, and
delicious, dose of traditional material. The album features respected guest
musicians Bela Fleck (of the Flecktones) on 5-string banjo, Chico Huff on bass
and Ben Wittman on drums and percussion. It also includes a moving interpretation
of Dan Fogelberg's "Scarecrow's Dream" as well as songs by renowned Irish and
Scottish songwriters Kieran Goss and Dougie McLean.
For those unfamiliar with the line-up of Solas (tsk tsk, you should be ashamed
of yourselves!), the band consist of: Seamus Egan on flute, low whistles, guitar,
mandolin, electric guitar and bodhran, Winifred Horan on fiddles and backing
vocals, Mick McAuley on button accordion, piano accordion, concertina and backing
vocals, Deidre Scanlon on lead vocals, Eamon McElholm on acoustic guitar, keyboards,
cello and backing vocals.
It'd be hard to select my personal favourites from the entire album, seeing
as this folk junkie who usually prefers the instrumental pieces suddenly found
herself caving in to Deidre Scanlon's beautifully mesmerizing vocals, especially
on 'Scarecrow's Dream' and 'Just You'. All in all, 'Another Day' is another
fine album, as one would expect of a band the caliber of Solas. On a closing
note, however, it must be said that I think Solas' first two albums (self-titled
and 'Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers') are still their best, and two gems
in my Irish trad collection.
Do visit Solas' website for additional song lyrics and translations: www.solasmusic.com.
Schandmaul "Wie Pech & Schwefel"
Label: Fame Recordings (BMG) - FR021
Hmm… anything ironic about writing a review on a German 'mittlealter, Celtic/folk-rock'
band in English? I guess not, especially since after seeing these guys play
live at the recent Folk-im-Schloss festival in Bonfeld, Bad Rappenau, I am a
believer. In fact, I even bought a copy of their first album, 'Wahre Helden'.
Schandmaul are an excellent band, which puts them head to head in competition
with other bands in the Celtic folk-rock-metal category such as Fiddler's Green,
Paddy Goes to Hollyhead (who, incidentally, were also at the Folk-im-Schloss
festival), Dropkick Murphys and Subway to Sally. However, there's just something
about Schandmaul's music which, I find, puts them head and shoulders above the
rest. Maybe it's Thomas' deep melodic voice, the catchy melodies, 'dark' lyrics
about love and loss, or the fact that these guys look like they have so much
fun when they play live. The highly-anticipated release of 'Wie Pech & Schwefel'
has not disappointed fans and newcomers alike, I am sure. Tracks from this album
which have been received especially well at live gigs include 'Kalte Spuren',
'Leb!' and 'Reich der Träume'.
The full Schandmaul line-up reads (oh go on, I'll do it in German!): Thomas
Lindner- Gesang, Gitarre, Akkordeon, Percussion, Anna Katharina Kränzlein- Geiger,
Stefan Brunner - Schlagzeug, Martin Duckstein- gitarren, Birgit Muggenthaler-
Dudelsack, Matthias Richter- Bass. Oh go on, grab a copy of this album- I think
you might just enjoy it!
Check out what dates Schandmaul are playing at a town near you! Trust me, they're
well worth seeing! www.schandmaul.de.
Anders Hagberg "Earth Songs "
Label: Xource - XOUCD 120
Anders Hagberg is one of the top flute improvisers of Scandinavian origin and
has, to date, collaborated with various musicians and groups with styles of
music ranging from rock and jazz to folk music. A virtuoso on the traditional
scandinavian overtoneflute, "sälgflöjt", Hagberg mixes jazz with various elements
from diverse musical cultures, a feature of his 1999 album, Earthsongs, where
old nordic traditions like jojk, kulning and overtone flute meet the sound and
vibes of the contemporary world music. The album was nominated for the Swedish
grammy award, and received praise around the globe.
Earthsongs struck me as more than just a New Age CD. Hagberg's sense of timing
is excellent, and the result is a very listenable album best played from start
to finish. I especially found the 'Folksuite', a cycle of three songs, interesting
'Lockrop' (Mating Call), 'Pustan' and 'Eftertanke' (Afterthought). 'Pustan'
was probably my favourite track on the album, where Hagberg's excellent playing
on the saxophone can be heard.
Since Earthsongs, Hagberg and his band have released another recording, entitled
The Herd. I'm quite tempted to get that one too, actually!
For more information on Anders Hagberd, check out his website, http://www.andershagberg.com.
Téada "Lá an Dreoilín"
Linn; CEFCD 185; 2004; Playing time: 58:20 min
The CD cover displays an old black-and-white photograph of two young lads with
battered bodhráns and another with a piccolo flute, costumed and going
out hunting for the wren on "Lá an Dreoilín" (i.e wren day) which
is St. Stephen's Day, 26th December. The custom has been so fittingly described
by poet Sigerson Clifford (-> FW#28).
Accordingly the album features "The Ace and Deuce of Piping" - a tune first
published by PW Joyce (-> FW#27) and recorded
by Leo Rowsome (-> FW#26) - to evoke the
atmosphere of the wren boy tradition. However, these young Irish lads of Téada
(-> FW#23) are far from being battered,
but belong to the cream of the exciting, young Irish bands in recent years.
The band is centred around fiddler and singer Oisín Mac Diarmada (->
plus John Blake (flute, guitar), Seán McElwain (banjo, bouzouki), Tristan
Rosenstock (bodhrán), and the late addition of Paul Finn on button accordion.
Unstringed but not uninspired (Téada means strings in the Irish language).
The ten instrumental sets are well-chosen and carefully put together. The tunes
are quite easy-going, and Téada is determind to true musicianship rather
than to speed away. Seamus Mac Mathúna joins in lilting on a couple of
jigs. Oisín also sings three Gaelic songs, "Bríd Thomáis
Mhurchadha", "Thíos i dTeach an Tórraimh" and "Píopa Ainde
P.S.: "Lá an Dreoilín" has been released in the US under the title
"Give Us A Penny and let Us Be Gone" on Compass
Susan McKeown "Sweet Liberty"
Village; 468029; 2004; Playing time: 48:20 min
As I roved out one evening fair..., Susan
McKeown (-> FW#11, FW#11,
kicks off and goes on ...in search of fame, fortune and sweet liberty.
The Dublin born singer but based in the US for some time is harking back to
the pure drop and deals on her new album "Sweet Liberty" with interpretations
of traditional songs, entirely orientated towards her voice. The choice of songs
from Ireland, Scotland and England is excellent, and almost every track is a
real treat. Only the minority is such well-known and over-done as "The Winter
It Is Past" (aka "Curragh of Kildare"), though in the version of the Boys
of the Lough here (-> FW#23). The
backing is most of the time only guitar and one additional instrument, e.g.
Joanie Madden of Cherish The Ladies
(-> FW#4, FW#10)
on flute, or Dee Armstrong of Kila (-> FW#26)
and the late Johnny Cunningham
(-> FW#27) on fiddle. However, the "Wee Birds
All Have Come and Gone" (aka "Verdant Braes of Screen" -> FW#14)
is spiced up by Flook (-> FW#11,
The Gaelic "Oró Mhíle Grá" has been recorded with the Tuareg
band Tartit from Mali, African chant and all inclusive, and "Eggs in Her Basket"
features the Mariachi Real de Mexico and brings in a jazzy tex-mex trumpet.
Distribution: Harmonia Mundi
Label: Own label; BOX 005; 2003; Playing time:
Britanny has been settled in the 5th century A.D. by Celtic Britons from Cornwall.
It was neither the last Celts to take up residence in the north west of France
nor the last to play Celtic music over there. Simon Arber (vocals, bouzouki,
guitar) - half Irish, half Rhodesian, half pint - and Yorkshireman Glyn
Warren (bass) followed the ancient trail to Britanny and combined forces with
Bretons Kevin Camus (uilleann pipes, whistle), Youenn Manchec (flutes, whistles)
and David Seite (bodhran) to form the traditional Irish music group Boxty
in 1995. As you probably know, boxty is the traditional Irish potato cakes made
of grilled spuds and celebrated in the rhyme boxty on the griddle, boxty
in the pan, if you can't make boxty, you'll never get a man. The equally
named group put some Breton seasoning into the traditional Irish dish to spice
it up. And fast and furious it is from the first to the final minute, songs
and tunes alike. Songs include the traditional "Crow on the Cradle", "Blacksmith",
"Step It Out Mary", and some originals written by Simon: I believe the time
has come to take a glass in hand, I believe the time has come to find the promised
land. The evening draws towards it's close, the dreams are large as life, the
daily drudge forgotten to the fiddle and the pipes ("Session"). Bon appetite!
Distribution: Coop Breizh
Roger Landes "Dragon Reels"
DOR-93238; 1996; Playing time: 52:16 min
Bozuk duzen means broken tuning or in a disorderly state,
according to the detailed bouzouki history in the booklet. Neglecting the last
4,000 years of the lute-type instrument here, in the late 1960s Irish musicians
began experimenting with the Greek bouzouki (Johnny
Finn -> FW#26, Andy
Irvine -> FW#23, Donal
Lunny) and an Irish version emerged with flat backs and wider bodies and
four course and unison pairing of strings tuned G,DAd. Nowadays the Irish
bouzouki has become a standard accompaniment instrument in Irish music
(and spread even further). Roger Landes
took up the instrument in 1981 while at Kansas City University, Missouri. He
performed with popular Celtic band Scartaglen, but abandoning the group in 1994
for exploring the melodic capabilities of the bouz on its own terms. On "Dragon
Reels" (an anagram of Roger Landes's name) he plays a ten string instrument
tuned D,A,EAe. His bouzouki playing is as fiery as the mythical beast in question,
but can be as charming as the pretty maiden which is usually kidnapped by the
dragon. The guest list features the usual bunch of Irish American traddies with
and without any trace of Celtic blood in their veins (John
Whelan, Zan McLeod, Connie
Dover, Dan Beimborn
More English CD Reviews: Page 5 - Page
6 - Page 7 - Page 1 -
Page 2- Page 3
More German CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page
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