Issue 3 2/98

FolkWorld CD Reviews

Christy Moore "Graffiti Tongue"
Label: Grapevine GRACD 215
In preparing his 1994 CD "Live: At The Point", Christy Moore listened to the tapes of 28 of his own concerts. Apart from describing it as a "mind-boggling horrible task", he discovered some sounds and techniques that he'd never tried on a studio album.
The latest album, "Graffiti Tongue", is an effort to get closer to that live sound while retaining the control of a studio album. The result is a very spare, pared back sound - just Christy Moore's guitar, voice and bodhran. This gives it an intensity that is accentuated by the often serious subject matter.
"Yellow Triangle" is a plea against apathy, while "Boning Halls" and "Miracles of Nature" both reflect environmental concerns - the latter opposing a quarry in a wildly beautiful part of Ireland called the Burren.
The fact that this is the first album made up entirely of Christy's own songs or collaborations, means that its content is very much a reflection of his current concerns. So while there are songs with lighter, more satirical content (such as "On the Mainland" and "God Woman"), it is the serious songs which stand out. One of the strongest - "Strange Ways" - is about child sexual abuse. Its deceptively sweet melody - enhanced by the addition of his daughter's voice - belies the song's vice-like grip.
If at times the album may lack the spontaneity of a truly live performance, its intensity and strength of purpose win through, making it one of the Irish singer's finest albums yet.
Grapevine
Peter Grant


Capercaillie "Beautiful Wasteland"
Label: Survival SURCD 021
It is still beyond me that Capercaillie are as little known here as they seem to be. Since the early 80s they've been turning out breathtaking music based on the Scottish tradition. The voice of their lead singer, Karen Matheson, would alone be reason enough to buy any of their several albums. But add to that the inventive instrumental and song-writing skills of the other band members, and even a Scotsman's wallet should gladly surrender its contents.
This stunning new album only raises their already high standards. There is an exquisite mixture of tunes and songs starting within the tradition, but often ending up in another galaxy altogether! The title track is a classic example, with its simple melody built on a catchy, syncopated rhythm and then launched into the stratosphere by some sublime uilleann piping (from guest Michael McGoldrick).
We are kept guessing about musical sources, with a couple of tracks featuring the Guinean female vocal duo Sibeba. So for instance "Co Ni Mire Rium" sounds African, but is actually a Gaelic clapping song. The percussive element on a number of tracks adds to this world music feel, but the bubbling use of fiddle, accordion and bouzouki remind us that the music is Celtic at heart. And on songs like "The Tree" and "Finlay's" the incredible Gaelic mouth-music vocalisations of Karen Matheson nail us back among the Scottish islands, whatever the exotic beat may try to tell us.
Ironically it is the contemporary compositions that have the more laid-back, traditional feel to them. "Am Mur Gorm" puts verses of Skye poet Sorley MacLean to the band's music; and Manus Lunny's "Thiocfadh Leat Fanacht" is a gentle trad. sounding exile's song.
On an album already full of brilliance, mention should be made of guest Michael McGoldrick's contribution on pipes and whistle. His playing is almost as breathtaking as Karen Matheson's singing, and his tune "Kepplehall" is coupled with fiddler Charlie McKerron's "25kts" to create an instrumental ornament on an album not lacking in highlights.
Survival
Peter Grant


Darol Anger & friends "Heritage"
Label: Six Degrees/Island CD7569 2
American fiddler and multi-instrumentalist, Darol Anger, has brought together the cream of North American acoustic musicians for this fascinating look at the American folk tradition. "O Shenandoah" tops and tails the selection, which ranges through spirituals, ballads, and other traditional songs and tunes. Singers as diverse in style as Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Jane Siberry and Willie Nelson are there, while instrumentalists include Bela Fleck (banjo), Jerry Douglas (slide), Edgar Meyer (bass) and Dave Grisman (mandolin). The generous collection (over 70 minutes) never settles into anyone style - say bluegrass or gospel- and this has led some to say it lacks fire. But with so much American music already depending on fireworks, I found the subtlety of this album refreshing. And some tracks still standout, notably the Cajun ballad "La Ville des Manteau", with its tight unison fiddling, and the spiritual "Rise Up Shepherd and Follow", with its inspired resophonic guitar from Jerry Douglas. Overall a beautifully played and pleasingly subtle collection of American traditional music.
Six Degrees/Island
Peter Grant


Mes Souliers Sont Rouges "Tape la Galoche"
Label: own; MSSR001; Playing time: 50.59 min
In Caen, home town of these five French guys, everybody knows at least the name of MSSR. 'My shoes are red' - the band name was chosen in thought of MSSR's musical heroes and friends, La Bottine Souriante - 'the smiling shoe' from Québéc. This (their first) album from 1995 is a live recording, showcasing not only the live atmosphere, but also the crazyness and fun of a cult live band.
Typical for MSSR's sound are the tapping feets of their sitting stepper, plus accordeon, fiddle, guitars, mandolin and bass. All 5 also sing; most of the songs are in French and of Canadian-Québécan or Normand origin; just two of the songs are English - the one of them, 'Will the Circle be unbroken', reminding me of all those good days at Tønder Festival. Still, I like more the French pieces. This album - on their own label - sold more than 20 000 copies - a cult album!
Mes Souliers Sont Rouges
Michael Moll


Mes Soulier sont Rouges "Gaillardises"
Label: own; MSSR002; Playing time: 56.33 min
MSSR's second album was produced in the studio of their friends of La Bottine Souriante in Canada. Now with mainly original material and only French titles, MSSR have developped their very own style. It's another greart album; MSSR have now the line-up Franšois Boros, the foot percussionist, playing while tapping also Mandolin, Guitar or Triangle; Dominique Adrix (Jimi) on guitar, Stéphane Devineau on fiddle and guitar, Denys Lefranšois on Bass and Guitar and Ludovic Syffert on Accordion, BodhrÓn and Flutes. . There are still a few of the typical traditional French counter-songs; exceptional also four magnificant a capella songs with great harmony singing. If I should recommend one of the two albums, I would have problems - they are both not too be missed. If you like French music, if you like La Bottine Souriante, do not hesitate to get directly both albums - you will enjoy it.
Mes Souliers Sont Rouges
Michael Moll


Laura Smith "It's a personal thing"
Label: Universal Music UMSD81033; Playing time: 46.08 min
One of the finest things in a reviewer's life is to receive an album of an artist never before heard of, and being carried away by the music.
Laura is a singer/songwriter from London, Ontario, nowadays based in Nova Scotia. In Canada she seems to be well-known, having won in 1996 two East Coast Music Awards and two Juno nominations.
Her songs take you on an emotional journey, telling of life, love, intimate thoughts, joy and pain. On this (her second) album, her style is very much singer/songwriter, moving between folk, jazz, blues and rock/pop. The result is well worth a listen; my favourites are the quiet folky pieces, like "I am a beauty" or the final "You know too". This one's an album full of fascination, beauty and thoughtful atmosphere.
Laura's homepage and e-mail
Michael Moll


Bachue Café "Bachue Café"
Label: Highlander Music HRMCD001; Playing time: 50.57 min
Another outstanding duo from Scotland, that is also one half of Scottish top band Seannachie. On harp and piano/guitar, Corrina Hewat and David Milligan create an exciting music full of imagination. Sometimes the music sound beautifully traditional, sometimes it is swinging; at some moments Corrina and her harp flirt with the listener - Corrina and David make you with their music day dreaming. Additionally, there are four songs on the album, sung by Corrina in a very intimate manner that makes you feel she is singing in your room.
Bachue Café have developed their very own style; on this album they are joined in some pieces by Davy Cattanach on Percussion, Iain Fraser on Fiddle, Mairi Campbell on viola and Brian Shiels on Double Bass. A wonderful release that is highly recommended.
e-mail Corrina or e-mail Highlander Music
Michael Moll


Rock Salt & Nails "Stand your Ground"
Label: Forth Recording/Hit Label; FORCD50; Playing time: 39.42 min
Shetland's folk rock stars Rock Salt & Nails have with their fourth album a continuation to their last one '4621'. Sounding on their CDs more and more poppy, the typical RS&N sound is still there: Their new fiddler Leonard Scollay does a great job giving the music a fine and enjoyable feeling (though I still cannot forget the magic of their former twin fiddle arrangements - to be found on the first two RS&N albums). The songs are mostly written by singer Paul Johnston, and quite a few of them have catchy choruses. Two out of ten titles are sets of tunes, with all the fire and energy that makes RS&N in live special. At a few moments I dislike the keyboard arrangements, but in the end they have created another good album, that makes me wonder again why they are stll not that famous. Go and catch them live - it's worth to see them!
Rock Salt & Nails' homepage
Michael Moll


At the Racket "At the Racket"
Label: Racket Records RR001; Playing time: 46.25 min
At the Racket is a new four piece band from Ireland. Stylistically they follow the folk music of the dance halls in the 1920s; a sound that is at the moment quite unusual for Irish trad bands. All members of the band (John Carty, Brian McGrath, Garry O'Briain, Seamus O'Donnell) are multi-instrumentalists and play at least three instruments; the most exceptional among banjos, fiddles, flutes, keyboards etc. being the saxophone played by Seamus. The approach of At the Racket is steeped in the past, combined with elements from now.
e-mail At the Racket
Christian Moll


Mary Jane Lamond "Suas e!"
Label: Turtlemusik/A&M Records; Nr. 26884200-2; Playing time: 49.32 min
Gaelic traditions from Cape Breton, Canada, are presented on Suas e!, the second album of young fine singer Mary Jane Lamond. She has gathered lots of guests for this album to make this album really special - nevertheless the singing of the (all traditional) Gaelic songs is always in the foreground. Sometimes the magic voice can be heard a capella, sometimes there is an excellent folk rock backing with drums, keyboards, guitar, bagpipes, fiddle etc. Nevertheless the feeling of the music is always steeped in the tradition.
There are some extraordinary moments; the CD begins with the sound of a spinning wheel; eight dancers finish the song 'Horo Ghoid Thu Nighean (Stepping Song)'; sometimes there is an excellent voice/choir backing of the choruses. The CD is made with lots of imagination and love for every detail.
Superb!
Mary Jane Lamond's homepage; e-mail Mary Jane
Christian Moll


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