FolkWorld Issue 35 02/2008
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Rose Laughlin "Souvenir"
Own label; 2005; Playing time: 30:51 min
With just half an hour, the debut album of US-American singer
is quite short, nevertheless it's ten songs are a joy to listen to
(if you're not put off of a slight vibrato that makes the Irish songs sound
very American). Rose's maternal ancestors were from County Clare, Ireland. She
became occupied with traditional Irish music, after getting
inspired by a balladeer's performance in Seattle.
Her repertoire has expanded to include traditional songs
from Appalachia and those penned by contemporary singer-songwriters.
"Souvenir" is a blend of traditional and contemporary Celtic and American folk music,
featuring the traditional Irish songs "The Month of January",
"I Wonder What's Keeping My True Love Tonight",
"Red is the Rose" and "The Parting Glass",
the traditional American "The Blackest Crow" and
the contemporary American "Roseville Fair"
(probably the happiest to have ever been written in the folk genre)
and the "Tennessee Waltz", Hank William's "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", as well
as Townes Van Zandt's "Tecumseh Valley" (-> FW#34). The tune of the latter
has been slightly altered (or interpreted very creatively, at least).
Rose is accompanied by Dennis Cahill (guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, bass; see Martin Hayes review above),
Liz Knowles (violin) and John Williams (accordion -> FW#32), among others.
Le Vent du Nord "Dans les airs"
BCD189; 2007; Playing time: 49:08 min
Le Vent du Nord
light-footed and spirited, rooted in French and French-Canadian traditions,
but appealing to contemporary audiences and critics alike, is a sure winner.
Driving reels, great harmonies, let's don't forget to mention
some foot percussion that's causing giddiness. Le Vent du Nord consists of
fiddler Olivier Demers (being also a tight guitar player ->
hurdy gurdy player Nicolas Boulerice,
singer-guitarist Simon Beaudry (his brother is La Bottine Souriante's Eric Beaudry).
The newest addition is bassist, accordionist and pianist Réjean Brunet
(brother of La Bottine Souriante's André Brunet), a former member of
La Volée d'Castors. "Dans les airs" is already Le Vent du Nord's third album.
Traditional French-Canadian songs are interspersed with dance tunes,
both traditional and original. These songs are usually about celebrating,
eating, drinking, singing and having a way with the ladies. A song such as "Le vieux cheval"
from the French tradition of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia,
is rather unusual. It is praising a loyal horse. It is a racehorse.
Romi Mayes "Sweet Somethin' Steady"
Own label; 2006; Playing time: 44:12 min
Singer-songwriter Romi Mayes
has been raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. If not singing about herself,
characters like Kerouac, Robert Johnson, St Peter and St Augustine
populate her mainly desparate songs.
Romi seems tired of the road, according to her songs,
but she's bravely going on - just 'cuz you're down, ain't no right to be sinkin' -
and delivering a dozen great songs.
Country, folk and bluegrass, blues and roots rock. Name it, you get it.
There is almost no weak song. Anyway if she's rocking or performing an acoustic ballad.
A giant pumpkin among the marshmellows of published music in general
and the radish of Americana in particular. (If you know what I mean.)
Joanne McIver & Christophe Saunière "Glenfinnan to Glasgow"
3017294; Playing time: 50:48 min
Joanne McIver & Christophe Saunière "The Three Sisters"
3017700; Playing time: 51:16 min
Joanne McIver & Christophe Saunière
are based in the French town of Villiers-sur-Marne.
Both songs and tunes of "Glenfinnan to Glasgow" are composed by Joanne.
The tunes, tune names and the booklet are a tour de force through Scotland,
Scottish society and history. You learn about John McAdam and James Watt,
Highland Games and the Highland Clearances, stags and crofters, whisky, mines and dockyards.
Joanne seems to favour mouth music and waulkin' type choruses. The songs are about
the sea ("The Herring Fishers", "The Whaler")
and the land ("The Land and the Crops", "The Clearances Lullaby")
and its products ("The Illegal Distillery").
Joanne plays Highland and Scottish small pipes, whistles and flute;
Christophe plays concert harp, guitar and piano.
"The Three Sisters" are standing stones situated at Machrie Moor on the west coast of
Arran island. These sisters provided the subject for an original story from Joanne
(full story as pdf on the cd). All tracks, which have been composed by Joanne and
Christophe, refer to this tale. The songs and instrumental tunes bring to life the
atmosphere of the magnificent, isolated, wind-blown moor.
Hear the silence of the wind, time is standing still.
Feel the lore of days gone by, and see the white stag on the hill.
Touch the softness of the dew, like gossamer it falls.
See the eagle rise above o'er the hillside he calls.
The booklets are both in French and English. It is fine original music according to
the motto: we'll be happy in the morning, how we'll laugh and dance and sing.
Alan Moorhouse "Travellers' Tales"
Art of Choice; AOC9.068; 2005; Playing time: 47:38 min
Come in my friends you're welcome - sit down pull up a chair.
They say that you have travelled some and been most everywhere.
We want to hear your story and drink the landlord's ales.
Come drink with us and tell us a couple of travellers' tales.
Alan Moorhouse from Cornwall
busked his own trail across the continent,
he'd fiddle and he'd frail in every town he went.
Alan is based in Germany since the 1980s and spent his life ever since
busking and gigging around Europe. With "Travellers' Tales" he
wanted to make a different album, nothing political or particularily angry.
Though there are stories of World War 1 and 2, e.g. "As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me"
is based on the biography of Heinrich Steinmetz (So weit die Füße tragen).
But what's more important: heaven is coming together in a nice local,
getting a good pint and swapping stories with a few friends.
"Travellers' Tales" is Alan's second album on his own terms
(I am now too old/ugly and unhip to have a record company),
featuring story telling songs to join in and sing along with.
He had a backup band providing melodic folk rock, acoustic pop and country rock.
The music is nice and friendly, and though the tunes don't grip me much,
Alan is a serious writer having a sense of humour.
Deirdre, for example, is the choirboy's friend:
Some girls like their men mature, Deirdre likes them young and pure.
Half a dozen local vicars know the colour of your knickers
and everybody snickers when they hear your name.
If I was thirty years younger - but I'm not ... Ah, what a shame.
Oh Madame Whiplash! With your stare cruel and despotic - how I find you so erotic.
Oh you must thrash me again, you're what makes us Englishmen.
Is it a comical song or serious? Alan's an Englishman after all!
Franco Morone "The Road to Lisdoonvarna"
319.1380.2; 2007; Playing time: 41:57 min
Italian Franco Morone is a fantastic
fingerstyle guitarist combining folk, jazz and blues music,
who at times tries his luck as a flat-picker. And he's very fortunate with it.
"The Road to Lisdoonvarna" is focused on Celtic instrumental music. Of course,
it's time for slow airs: Thomas Walsh's "Innis Oirr" (-> FW#33),
the traditional "The Water is Wide,"
Carolan's "Lord Inchiquin", "Captain O'Keane"
( probabilmente una della piu belle melodie composte da Turlough O'Carolan) and
"Sheebeg and Sheemore". Franco Morone has also the right hands for dance tunes,
such as the Bothy Band (-> FW#30) set "Kesh Jig/Give Us a Drink of Water".
There's more: the Breton mazurka "L'Inconnu de Limoise" (The Unknown Piper), the
set "Geordie" (a northern English ballad quite well known in Italy by
Fabrizio De André),
"John Barleycorn" (the great English ode to beer) and the Scottish rebel rouser
"Ye Jacobites" played in reel style.
Franco made a jig from Carolan's "Planxty Irwin" and interprets "The Star of the
County Down" as a slow air (indeed, it has been the song air for the ballad
"Van Dieman's Land" and others). Obviously, he is using different guitar tunings,
he is playing both fingerstyle and flatpicking, on Carolan's "Lord Inchiquin" he
recorded a second guitar an octave lower. "The Road to Lisdoonvarna" is another great
album in the tradition of traditional Irish and Scottish music played on the acoustic
guitar (compare e.g. FW#22,
Moving Hearts "Live in Dublin" [CD]
RWXCD60; 2007; Playing time: 68:10 min
Moving Hearts "Live in Dublin" [DVD]
RWXDVD60; 2007; Playing time: ca. 116 min
Moving Hearts, as you certainly know,
are an Irish folk rock band formed in 1981, when bouzouki player Donal Lunny
and singer Christy Moore of the traditional Irish band Planxty
wanted to link contemporary music with traditional Irish music,
as a vehicle both of Christy's topical songs and Donal Lunny's desire
to fuse folk music with rock and jazz music. Christy Moore soon left the Hearts
(as did replacement Mick Hanly). The group performed as an instrumental outfit
recording the acclaimed album "The Storm", but eventually ceased touring in 1984.
Twenty years it had been quiet about the Hearts, however quite busy for it's
individual members. Everyone continued in the music industry: Donal Lunny as well as
bass player Eoghan O'Neill, saxophon player Keith Donald,
uilleann piper Davy Spillane (-> FW#11), drummer Matt Kelleghan,
electric guitarist Anto Drennan, and percussionist Noel Eccles.
In these 20 years, bands such as Kila (-> FW#34)
continued where the hearts did stop
and ploughed the fields of jazz rock trad fusion. The Hearts always felt it had been
unfinished business and they hadn't finished exploring the possibilities of their
unique line-up. To put a long story short, the Hearts rose again.
This CD and DVD had been recorded at Dublin's Vicar Street during a sold out
four-night stand in February 2007. They were joined on stage by keyboard player
Graham Henderson and fiddler Kevin Glackin.
Even for the Hearts time didn't stand still, but they were able to keep their sound
intact. It is a pleasure to look and listen to the Hearts
(the DVD includes the concert, the Hearts' backstory, and
tunes and sets explained by Donal Lunny).
I only wished it wasn't an instrumental only album,
where's Christy or Mick to give us a song?,
but you cannot have anything. Hearts moving on.
GO0807; 2007; Playing time: 40:18 min
The beginnings of Phønix
date back to 1990 when remaining members Anja Præst and Jesper Vinther formed
the band Fritterne, playing traditional Danish music. Since 1994 original
music composed by the band members gradually substituted the traditional material.
When the first CD of newly composed music had been released in 1995, the band
name had changed to Phønix. Despite several line-up changes
(Harald Haugaard -> FW#32;
Kristine Heebøll, see review below),
the group always rose again from the ashes like the proverbial bird of
Greek legend that gave them
their name. As volcanic ashes that turn into fertile soil,
and as dynamite as the volcano itself.
Anja Præst's bass clarinet gives Phønix its very special sound,
bass player Jesper Vinther and percussionist Jesper Falch provide a steady
backbeat. They invited guest fiddler Ditte Fromseier Mortensen and
Danish rock vocalist Ivan Pedersen. But more important is the latest addition to
the Phønix line-up: singer Karen Mose received a Danish Music Award in
2003 for best vocalist of the year. Right so, her interpretations of traditional
Danish songs are stunning.
Phønix's 6th album is simply titled "Folk", but it is much much more:
modern interpretations of traditional Danish music
and original music composed in the traditional vein.
Phønix brings new life to the traditional music of Denmark.
GO' Danish Folk Music
Poor Man's Fortune "In Good Time"
Own label; PMF CD-003; 2007; Playing time: 48:17 min
Poor Man's Fortune
play old tunes for new ears, new tunes in old traditions.
The Austin trio of Frenchman Serge Laîné (dulcimer, accordion,
bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, and singer of French and Breton songs), fiddler Kristen Jensen
and flutist Larry Rone are a kind of Breton diaspora in the United States,
caring for Breton culture and language and especially music. It is well preserved.
The opening track is a couple of schottische (actually these are English hornpipes
but played as schottische since Methusalah was in the third grade),
courtesy of Blowzabella. There are Irish jigs and polkas, Scottish mouth music,
a Breton question-and-answer-song and a Breton gavotte, ridées, an English ballad, a Belgian waltz.
Looks like quite a mix-up, but no, everything makes sense and falls perfectly
in place. The playing is tight, the tunes are well selected. "In Good Time" has no
poor music, it rather is a fortune to listen to.
Potes Flor' "Roc'h Vran"
VOC437; 2006; Playing time: 35:50 min
Potes Flor' "Folk-noz"
VOC662; 2007; Playing time: 47:10 min
is a Breton duo of both two accordionists and two Florences.
(Potes means friends in French.) The two Florences are
hailing from two neighbouring regions in the north of Britanny,
Leon and Dreger, respectively. Florence Glorion plays the chromatic
accordion, known as the boest an diaoul, the devil's box.
Florence Pinvidic plays the diatonic accordion, the boestig an diaoulig,
the small devil's box. Ever since they first met at the Festival de
Musique Traditionnelles de Saint Chartier in 1999, these two accordionists
have been playing with and against each other at fest noz, folk dances, concerts
and workshops. They also sing French and Breton songs. Their second album
"Roc'h Vran" consists of folk music from the Leon area, their third album
"Folk-noz" features music from mostly Paimpol
and some other Breton regions. Gavottes, polkas, waltzes, plinns, scottische, mazurkas etc.,
traditional tunes as well as contemporary and original compositions by both Florences.
Devilish music exhibiting heavenly results!
Remmelt, Muus & Femke "The Long Way Round"
Remmelt Records; RRCD 200501; 2005; Playing time: 49:39 min
Remmelt, Muus & Femke live "Evensong"
Remmelt Records; RRCD 200701; 2007; Playing time: 39:53 min
On the CD cover there are windmills in Monument Valley and a cactus in a street
with typical Dutch brick houses, on the silver disc there is American music
recorded by a Dutch trio.
Hugo Remmelt, Thijs Muus and Femke Japing
are singer-songwriters from The Hague,
Netherlands. In 1995 Remmelt and Muus joined together, in 2000 female singer
Femke Japing came on board.
There are two sides of the story. First thing, I put their studio album
"The Long Way Round" on. Aha, well, nice, I was thinking about which reviewer
might be the right one for this. Then I gave their live CD "Evensong" a try.
I immediately got hooked. When Thijs sings Neil Young's
"Old Man" and "Tonight's the Night", it is more real than the real thing.
(Of course, I'm talking of the acoustic Neil Young in his finest hour,
not the electric rocker.) Their own songs, comprising 2/3 of the album, are great too.
Catchy tunes, close harmonies, two acoustic guitars and a lonesome harmonica
- this indeed is Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Folk, pop and a bit country music - I really fell for the live album.
I don't think this is nostalgic music, it's timeless. As I said before,
I heard the studio album "The Long Way Round" first and I wasn't convinced.
I'm still not. Though the instrumentation is almost the same, it sounds overproduced
with bass and drums and electric guitars,
and it feels, yes, kind of sterile. Maybe it's too perfect, I really don't know.
Kate Rusby "Awkward Annie"
PRCD23; 2007; Playing time: 51:59 min
Kate Rusby (->
FW#26) at it again.
To be honest, I did like her music at the very start in 1995,
as a duo with Kathryn Roberts, on two albums of the Poozies.
Inbetween I got a little bit bored, I rather fancied her interpretations
of traditional songs than her original songwriting. Maybe I got used to it,
or it got better. Anyway, on her sixth or seventh album "Awkward Annie"
Kate is at her best. Five originals, including the awesome title track. There are
two traditionals ("John Barbury", "Andrew Lammie") and three traditionals
with new melodies ("Farewell", "The Old Man", "The Streams of Lovely Nancy").
The most ambitious is "Blooming Heather" aka "Wild Mountain Thyme,"
the song the McPeakes made out of Robert Tannahil's (-> FW#32)
"Braes of Balquhidder" (-> FW Fiction).
Opera singer John Hudson is featured, it has an orchestral score, some guitar and bass -
and I am not so sure that I like it very much.
The rest of the album is not that over-produced, though features the stellar cast
of guitarists Ian Carr (see Timber! review above),
John Doyle (-> FW#32)
and Kris Drever (FW#33),
mandolin player Chris Thile, fiddlers John McCusker and Greg Lawson,
accordionist Andy Cutting, vocalist Eddi Reader,
and finally Capercaillie's (-> FW#34)
Ewen Vernal (bass),
Donald Shaw (harmonium) and Michael McGoldrick (flute).
Kate also included a bonus track, "The Village Green Preservation Society",
which was written by Ray Davies of The Kinks fame and it works pretty good.
Mick West "A Poor Man's Labour"
CLCD042; 2004; Playing time: 49:40 min
Scottish singer Mick West
releases a new recording only once in a while. This is from 2004,
and before that it was 1997 ("Right Side o' the People" ->
FW#2) and 1995 ("Fine Floors and
Foolish Glances"). Though Mick is a well-known face on the Scottish folk circuit
home and abroad and is considered by many to be one of the top traditional Scottish singers.
You don't have to rush, if this is the message, it is well chosen.
"A Poor Man's Labour" features mainly Scottish traditional songs with one
or two contemporary ones thrown in for good measure (well, the jazz standard
"Funny Valentine" from the 1930s was a rather curious choice).
Mick opens with an unusual and atmospheric version of the hackneyed drinking song
"Wild Rover". Really, I hate this song, I even would if it had not been played to
death by hundreds of untalented singers. But this time it is simply wonderful, Mick does a great job.
This track alone is worth to purchase the album.
There are Irish traditionals such as "Ramblin Irishman" and
Scottish such as "Jamie Raeburn", Burns' "Rantin Rovin Robin"
and Alistair Hulett's "Proddy Dogs & Papes" (-> FW#26).
"A Poor Man's Labour" features some first class musicians:
Stevie Lawrence on bouzouki (ex Iron Horse),
Fraser Fifield on saxophone, low whistle and keyboards (-> FW#24,
Frank McLaughlin on guitar and Scottish small pipes
(e.g. featured on -> FW#32),
and additional vocals by Karine Polwart.
Sligo Rags "The Whiskey Never Lies"
CeltHick Music; 2007; Playing time: 53:54 min
We had one million bags of the best Sligo rags ... The
classic song "The Irish Rover" gave the
Sligo Rags from Los Angeles
their band name. It was fiddle player Michael Kelly who brought this outfit together.
Kelly (classically trained), David Burns (bluegrass banjo player) and Gordon Rustvold
(jazz bass player) perform as a trio since 2002. I didn’t know any Irish music
until I joined this band, admits Rustvold. My grandparents were from Ireland,
but it really wasn’t until I learned these songs that I started to understand the
culture. Then it occurred to me that this culture is part of my heritage.
Enter Eric Hartwell in 2005, a drummer (from a Afro and Latin music background).
Hartwell combined a cajon, which is an Afro-Peruvian box-shaped drum, and a djembe
with chimes, a couple of crash cymbals and a tambourine mounted on a foot pedal
for a unique percussion instrument, slapped or tapped with open hands. The
Sligo Rags' second CD "The Whiskey Never Lies" is a collection of original and
traditional tunes that blends Celtic music, American folk and bluegrass.
There are traditionals such as "Brennan on the Moor," with a fantastic funky and bass-driven
arrangement. Much more harmless are "Raglan Road", "Black is the Colour",
"Whiskey Yer the Devil" and Ewan MacColl's "Go Move Shift" (see also book reviews). The Rags play
Carolan's "Blind Mary", some Irish dance tunes and some bluegrass romps as well.
David Burns turns out to be an accomplished songwriter, especially the album's
title track "The Whiskey Never Lies".
The Rags are no ordinary pub band as it seems on first sight, their music
is first class, uplifting and enjoyable. There's not much
Sligo in it, but no rags either.
Heidi Talbot "In Love + Light"
7 4469 2; 2008; Playing time: 47:25 min
is from Kill, County Kildare, Ireland. She visited Dublin's Bel Canto singing school,
before moving to New York. In the New World Heidi joined Cherish the Ladies
in 2002, she released her solo debut album "Distant Future" in 2004.
In 2007 she left the Ladies and eventually recorded her second album "In Love + Light".
The album blends traditional Irish, American folk and pop music.
It has been produced by British songwriter
Boo Hewerdine, who contributed
two songs. But "In Love + Light" seems to have a Scottish bias: it has been
launched at Glasgow's Celtic Connections in January and it features the
traditional Scottish ballad "Glenlogie". Furthermore, there are the Irish
"Bedlam Boys", Tom Waits' "Time", and the American "Blackest Crow"
as an old-time duet with Kris Drever (-> FW#33).
Heidi is supported by Eddi Reader,
guitarist John Doyle (-> FW#32),
fiddler John McCusker, as well as Capercaillie's
Donald Shaw, Mike McGoldrick and Ewen Vernal
Angels are singin in heaven for me, Heidi sings in "The Music Tree",
written by Tim O'Brien (-> FW#11)
and Darrell Scott (-> FW#28).
Here's an angel singing on earth, her vocals being both gorgeous and at ease.
If you can stand it that this is no purist traditional album,
but crossing into pop und mainstream terrain, this is your cup of tea.
But so do Kate Rusby (see review above) and others as well.
Tarneybackle "Winds of Freedom"
Own label; TBMCD4; 2007; Playing time: 59:03 min
The individual members of
based in Perthshire, Scotland, sing folk songs since the 1970s.
The band was founded in 2000 and features
John Davidson (guitar, mandolin, flute and whistles),
Sandy Marshall (guitar, bouzouki, bodhran) and
Lorna Davidson (djembe, bongos, ...). It hasn't that much changed since the 70s
(and that's not always a bad thing). Their repertoire consists mainly of Scottish
ballads, close harmonies being kind of a trademark,
some Irish and American stuff, plus some instrumental dance tunes.
Their fourth album "Winds of Freedom" opens with a great track written
by Lorraine Jordan about the Highland Clearances in the second half of the
18th century, when Scottish men and women were driven from the glens
to make way for sheep. There are traditional songs such as "Coulter's Candy",
"The Four Marys", "Gallowa' Hills" and "The Forester" (Child #110),
Burns' "Ca' the Yowes" and "Parcel of Rogues", Robert Tannahill's "Are Ye Sleepin' Maggie"
(-> FW#32), Violet Jacob's poem "The Wild Geese" set to music by Jim Reid,
and Hamish Henderson's "Freedom Come All Ye" (-> FW#27).
Furthermore, Bill Staines' "Roseville Fair", Allan Taylor's "Flower in the Snow" and
Buddy MacDonald's "Getting Dark Again" from Nova Scotia.
Tarneybackle is not one of the big names at the folk circuit,
especially not outside of Scotland,
but "Winds of Freedom" is an honest and splendid performance and a nice selection
of mostly up-lifting folk songs and ballads.
"A Journey Through the Blues - The Son Seals Story" [DVD Video]
SB102; 2007; Playing time: ca. 57 min
When blues music was on a low in the 1970s,
Frank 'Son' Seals (1942-2004)
was an exception and one of only few real discoveries in Chicago's electric blues scene.
Son Seals was the last of 13
children of a trombone player and juke joint owner in Osceola, Arkansas.
Son played drums with Robert Nighthawk when only 13,
then joined Earl Hooker and eventually Albert King. This was his big influence,
and he emerged as clever songwriter, impressive singer and, meanwhile,
excellent guitar player. He performed worldwide, but some day got quiet for various reasons.
A railway accident in Scandinavia killed his band.
He was shot twice in the face by his ex-wife, which required extensive surgeries.
One of his legs was amputated due to diabetes. (If these stories are all true.)
Moreover, I guess his creativity was failing him and a new generation of bluesmen let him
look like a veteran. "A Journey Through the Blues" features
a 30 minute documentary with interviews and a dozen of his most popular songs,
plus another half hour of live concert footage. It is
documented from the perspective of his close friend, blues documentarian
Peter Carlson, who dedicated himself to creating audio and video documentaries
of the lives of the senior bluesmen (Junior Wells and others before).
Peggy Seeger "Bring Me Home"
APR CD 1106; 2008; Playing time: 46:49 min
Pete Seeger use to sing bring them home (->
half-sister Peggy Seeger
prefers rather personal things when talking about going home.
The album is the third and final volume of her "Home Trilogy", featuring
traditional songs she learned in her childhood (in the suburbs of Washington DC),
when she was inundated with Bach, Barbara Allen, Big Bill Broonzy, and banjos.
Peggy explains: I wouldn't know how to live without these old songs. I don't choose
the songs - they chose me. They tap me on the shoulder when I pick up the banjo
or guitar and demand, Sing Me! Singing them is like re-visiting old friends.
They are like furnishings that I bring with me from one home to another.
At the time Peggy is teaching songwriting in Boston, Mass.:
The more I teach how to make new songs, the more I respect and love the old
ones for their stamina, their truth, their position in time and space, their
pure musicality and singability. She plays
mostly 5-string-banjo, guitar and concertina. Two songs are a cappella.
Most selections are American folk songs and ballads of British and Irish origin,
such as "Wagoner's Lad", "Molly Bond" and "Napoleon".
Almost all the Napoleon songs in English have grand, sweeping melodies.
They sympathise with the little Emperor and mourn his downfall. Did the songmakers
prefer the dictator from abroad to he despots they had at home? (Or have these
songs rather Irish origin and as such anti-British attitudes?)
"Newlyn Town" is better known on this side of the Atlantic as "Newry Highwayman"
- must have come to the US via a Chinaman - and has a much more lively rhythm.
The last song is the only original, "Bring Me Home", a personal song about her own life.
One chapter is closed, another is surely opening. It is reported that Peggy has an
album of light-hearted songs in the pipeline.
Lorcán Mac Mathúna "Rógaire Dubh"
Own label; 2007; Playing time: 53:59 min
On the CD cover there are two garbage bins, a graffiti painting on a door,
a house that has seen better days. Is this the present of sean-nós,
the old-style singing in the Irish language? Well, in a way, yes! Don't get me wrong.
I don't mean it is garbage or something. No way, but
Lorcán Mac Mathúna's
rendition of sean-nós is not rustic or old-fashioned, rather it has an ambient
feel about, though it certainly is no ambient interpretation a la Afro Celts etc.
Lorcán is accompanied by
fiddle and hardanger fiddle (Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh),
uilleann pipes (Mick O'Brien), harp (Helen Lyons),
cello (Jane Hughes), and bodhrán (Conor Lyons).
He tackles the classic sean-nós songs:
"An Rógaire Dubh" (compare the following vocal and instrumental versions ->
"Amhrán na Leabhar" (->
"Bean Dubh an Ghleanna" (-> FW#21,
"An Buachaillín Bán" (-> FW#24,
Less known songs are (at least for me):
"Johnny Seoighe" (-> FW#28),
"Cath Chéim an Fhia" and "An Clár Bog Déil".
I never encountered before: "Na Táilliúirí",
"Saileog Rua" and "Tuireamh Mhic Finín Duibh" (Seán Ó Riada,
-> FW#28, had revived it from an obscure manuscript).
The booklet has the entire lyrics, plus partly translated verses and explanations.
"Rógaire Dubh" is certainly not everybody's cup of tea. It can be rough
at times, Lorcán is no belcanto singer. However, these are rough, dark and
haunting stories, and no teenage fairytales anyway.
V/A "Sunrise on the Wicklow Hills" [DVD Video]
West Wicklow Films;
2005; Playing time: 57:04 min
(irish: Contae Chill Mhantáin) is in the south west of Ireland's capital Dublin.
It is called the Garden County with Powerscourt Gardens,
the Vale of Avoca, the ancient monastery of Glendalough and, of course,
Wicklow Mountains and national park. As in other parts of Ireland, the events and affairs
of the people have been preserved in songs and passed on by oral tradition.
However, I figure that most of the Wicklow songs have not been slipped into
the well-known repertory of Irish folk song which is known worldwide.
Mattie Lennon got the idea of making a DVD to remember and honour
some of the stories as told in the ballads. It is a sentimental journey with
images of the countryside and villages and black & white newsreel footage.
94 years old Mona Power and Father Padraig McCarthy
recall the Roving Bard Peter Cunningham-Grattan
who travelled the roads of Wicklow busking until his death in 1956.
Senator Labras O'Murchu of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann
and Seamus MacMathuna share their knowledge of songs and songwriting in Wicklow.
And so forth.
Then there are the song. Some traditional ballads have been
rescued from obscurity, e.g. "The Wicklow Mountains High"
(there is a recording by 'Patrolman' Frank Quinn from the 1920s featured
on the box set "Farewell to Ireland").
There is much contemporary songwriting:
"The Banks of Avonmore" (there is a reel of this title in O'Neill's collection)
has been written by the above-mentioned Peter Cunningham-Grattan;
"Ann Devlin" has been composed by Pete St. John about the
heroine of 1803 (included in Danny Doyle's songbook "The Gold Sun of Irish Freedom"
The music is either in a drawing-room or pub folk style,
sung by local singers and songwriters Margaret Eustace, Mick Brady, Billy Meade.
Denis Molloy, Peggy Sweeney and Patsy McEvoy.
It is probably not really appealing to most listeners of traditional Irish music
outside of Ireland today. Furthermore, fiddler Rachel Conlan plays some dance tunes,
as well as the nine-piece group Fuinneamh
(fuinneamh is the Irish word for energy).
"Sunrise on the Wicklow Hills" is a nice DVD video anyway, the
scenery is an invitation to pay a visit. It is close to Dublin, so why not make
County Wicklow your destination.
West Wicklow Films
Billy Craig "This Side of Somewhere"
Own label; 2007
For two years, singer songwriter Billy Craig has been working on his CD; This side of somewhere. Being a musician since the age of seven, he was part of several bands in different styles. Today his music is a mix between country and rock with a good touch of folk. This solo CD, which was recorded in the famous Sun studio, contains fourteen easy going songs that show a passionate musician. His compositions have a very recognisable sound and I personally like his slower songs the best. For example Woody G or the opening song The good side of life. Fine country influenced pop songs that have the potential to please a lot of people. It’s such a CD that would be perfect for long drives or after a stressful day at work. The only song I skip is Flip flops. Somehow this light Jamaica influenced song is a bit misplaced between the others, it breaks the unity of the album a bit. But besides this small remark, a job well done.
Tau Emerald "Travellers Two"
Important; 172; 2008
Tau Emerald is a cooperation between the singer songwriter Sharron Kraus and Tara Burke. The idea for the album came after the two musicians missed a flight to Finland and instead of getting bored they decided to start recording together for a week. This Travellers two is the final result of their cooperation. Both Kraus and Burke are deeply rooted in the mystical folk music, and that is exactly what you get. They claim that all compositions are original, but listening to the opening track Travellers two makes it very clear that during the recording sessions they have listened to the LP On the shore by the Trees, because this composition is almost similar to Trees' version of Soldiers three. A nice, bit spacey start of the CD followed by sound improvisations on recorders, bells, dulcimer and many other instruments. It’s clear that Kraus and Burke had a great time experimenting with all their ancient instruments and somehow they managed to create a friendly, dreamy atmosphere but a bit more structure would have done the CD some good. Now it’s a collage of many nice ideas and a collection of musical fragments. They are at their best in the vocal parts like earlier mentioned opening track and in Henbane which has great harmony vocals. And many of these fragments are beautiful like Water divining. But personally I think that more unity in the songs and tunes would have brought this CD to an even higher level.
Important Records; 2008
Beequeen, a band from my hometown Nijmegen. This duo exists out of Frans de Waard on electronics and Freek Kinkelaar on several instruments, electronics and vocals. On this new CD Sandancing they get the help of Olga Wallis on vocals, Barry Gray (Legendary pink dots) on guitar and Kees Rietveld on slide guitar. With this new CD the duo shows their quality like never before. Starting of with Breathe which sounds like a sailing song sung on an old wooden ship. The sounds, the soft electronic rhythms and guitar and especially the lead vocals by Olga Wallis make this track a beautiful start for a great album. Each song has well placed electronics and sounds but never to much. Listen to the beautiful song Melt or the mystical sound of The eddie three step which both show a perfect balance between pop and electronics. I also love The honeythief, especially because this is a very naked composition but with a powerful result. Or the Maypole song, which brings back a dreamy version of my own childhood memories. Well, after hearing this CD a few times I can only conclude that I love every minute of it. It has the right balance, the right vocalist and the right atmosphere. Great!
Sharron Kraus "The Fox’s Wedding"
Durtro Jnana; 004; 2008
It has been a few years since I reviewed Sharron Kraus her debut CD. I still remember that from the first moment I was a fan of her folk style music. Now, in the last two years I have reviewed several recordings on which she plays an important part including the beautiful cooperation with Helena Espvall and Meg Baird and other solo recordings. Now she has recently released her latest solo CD called The fox’s wedding. Twelve new compositions in her own typical style. And compared to her last solo CD, even more balanced and sometimes unnaturally beautiful. The opening song Brigid is probably one of the best recordings she has ever made. Starting with the sound of a small bell, slowly the guitar, the recorders and bass are added. At first she sings like an old winter ballad to end with a, somehow bit sad, vocal expression. The second song is at least as good. Green man sounds like a long lost English folk classic with strong piano work by Nick Palmer. Or listen to the string arrangements in In the middle of summer, just Kraus and her banjo in July skies and Would I or just Kraus and her recorders in Robin is dead, another highlight on this CD. A scary, spooky song that starts so full of joy but ends, yes indeed, with a feeling of death. I wrote it in my review about her debut CD, I worte it in my review about her other CD’s and I write it again. Go to her website, listen to her songs and do yourself a favour; buy this The fox’s wedding. Which is, to my personal opinion, a small masterpiece.
Pantaleimon "Mercy Oceans"
Durtro Jnana; 007; 2008
Pantaleimon is a pseudonym of Andria Degens, a singer-songwriter from Hastings in England. She has played together with 16 Horsepowers, Bonny “Prince” Billy and Antony & the Johsons just to name a few. On her new CD Mercy oceans she recorded ten new compositions. Guest on the CD are Isobel Campbel, Keith Wood and Baby Dee amongst others. Her music is written in an acoustic tradition with a good touch of the mystical atmosphere of the so called “neo folk” wave. Her music has sober arrangements, often not more than one of two acoustic instruments together with her voice. Guitar, dulcimer, cello and harp are just a few of the instruments recorded. The result is a very personal, intimate CD of high quality. Often dreamy, sometimes very down to earth but always a minimalistic approach straight to the heart.
© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 02/2008
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