FolkWorld Issue 42 07/2010

FolkWorld CD Reviews

Rua MacMillan "Tyro"
Label: Greentrax; No.CDTRAX346; 2010
See also the German
review in this issue
It was only a matter of time for this stunning first solo album of Rua MacMillan to be recorded - Rua's outstanding fiddle skills have been already in the centre of the sound of the superb Paul McKenna Band, whose debut "Between Two Worlds" caused a stir not only in FolkWorld (FW#38).
"tyro" is one of those fiddle albums that stands out because not only is the playing technically perfect, but the fiddle playing has this certain something - it has soul and personality and warmth. Suitably and excitingly accompanied by Tia Files on Guitar and Adam Brown on Bodhran, and joined on some tunes by Alasdair MacLeod on drums, Lorne MacDougall on pipes and whistles and Brian McNeill on bouzouki and concertina, the CD has a rounded folk sound, making it very appealing listening. The tunes are a mix of traditionals, contemporaries and Rua McMillan compositions. Being produced by Brian McNeill gives another hint that this has to be an excellent album. This is an impressive album that shows again that the next generation of Scottish folk musicians is well on the way to make their mark on the international folk music scene.
Michael Moll

Trigomigo "Scuza-ou aqui"
Label: Folkclub EthnoSuoni; No.ES5374; 2008
From looking through the photos of this young and cool looking band in the booklet, I expected something quite innovative with a "young" sound. I have to admit that I was quite surprised, and to be honest somewhat disappointed, that this is a very traditional sounding album. The band from the Italian border to France in North-Western Italy interpret on this album songs which were all written by father-and-son bards from the 800s/900s, based on tunes from the French area of Italy. The band state that they fell in love with this music, thus decided to record a whole album of it. There are some more lively numbers on the album, but overall the music is quiet and individual tunes offer not much change, some seeming to me to go on forever. So while I am pleased that there are young musicians out there who want to bring these ancient tunes back to life, I found listening to the album from start to finish somewhat dull.
Michael Moll

Talèh "Ratapunto"
Label: Folkclub EthnoSuoni; No.ES5374; 2009
This is a highly appealing folk album from Sicily. Talèh set themselves somewhat apart from other bands from that part of the world by not putting the usual Southern Italian tambourine treatment to the music, and by looking East for borrowing additional, Balkan and Eastern European, influences to their Italian music. The songs are arranged more in a ballad style, with an appealing voice; they are generally uplifting and full of warmth. The musical arrangements are beautiful and provide a good mix of lively and calm songs, featuring accordion, guitars, bouzouki, percussion. The album offers a combination of traditional (mainly calmer ones) and self penned titles. The album may meet the expectation of Southern Italian music by featuring at least one tarantella - but it does not have the otherwise very common tambourine treatment.
Overall a superb album of contemporary Sicilian folk music with traditional influences.;
Michael Moll

Altan with R.T.E. Concert Orchestra "25th Anniversary Celebration"
Label:Compass Records; No. 7 4535 2; 2010; Playing time: 56.40 min
Over the last quarter of a century, Altan managed to find themselves climbing up in the world of fame to become one of the best known and best loved traditional Irish bands in the world. To mark their big anniversary, they recorded this album together with the RTE Concer Orchestra.
This is an extremely successful collaboration - particularly the tunes work extremely well in this collaboration, they are just beautiful. The album brings together many of the favourite tunes and songs from Ireland's leading trad band - but with the orchestra arrangements, they are given a very different and very exciting new dimension.
An exciting recording both for traditional and classical music fans, likely to widen horizons of both. What an impressive and unusual 25th birthday tribute!;
Michael Moll

A Brigà "Sul Tempo (On the beat)"
Label: Own label
The cover of this album shows a black-and-white photo of an old woman, with the only colour being a bright orange ice cream in her hand - does this give away anything of what to expect of the music? I am not sure...
The Italian band Abrigà brings together musicians from as diverse backgrounds as French folk, Irish folk, pop, swing, original music - and what do you get out of this mixture? You may be surprised but the result is excellent and varied Italian bal folk music and songs. The music shows influences from other countries - there is a French bourée or a Schottische - or styles e.g. swing. A great album of traditional and original material, full of innovation and free sprit - until you reach the near-final number on the CD "Hallelujah" - yes indeed the pop classic - which feels completely out of place and should not have found its way on this otherwise very appealing album.
Michael Moll

Bizantina "Orlando tarantato"
Label: IWM Italian World Music; No. IWM254CD; 2009
Bizantina's music is clearly steeped in Southern Italian roots, despite the band being based in Florence. Their latest album is a bit different, as it is the soundtrack to a theatre show. I am not sure what the show is about, but listening to the music, the show must be more of a folk musical, giving that the numbers on the CD are predominantly songs. And it appears from the little pictures on the album that the show is based on some story set in the past, with knights, kings and men fighting with long swords - and I would love to understand Italian to get the full story.
Musically, the overtoure on the album sounds very promising - instrumental folk rock based on old themes. The songs that follow vary in style between cabaret/chanson, traditional Southern Italian music and contemporary folk rock influences. The songs are all dominated by singer Michaela D'Astuto, with her somewhat high pitched, very intense and often doleful voice. The instrumentation is great, with particularly clarinet and accordion taking often centre stage, making the music atmospheric and exciting. But with that voice, it is all a bit too intense for my liking.
Michael Moll

Briganti di Terra D'Otranto "Focu de Paja"
Label: IWM Italian World Music; No. IWM256CD; 2009
This band hails from the heel of the Italian "boot" - Apulia. Despite most songs being written by two band members, the music on this album are very much in the typical Southern Italian style, full of tambourines and melodies such as pizzicas, tarantas and grikos. Most songs have constant tambourine backing, and feature mostly duo singing (often male/female) - which for my liking is a bit of a shame as this makes the songs lack of variety and makes the album a bit too much to listen to in one go. Having said that, there are some excellent musical arrangements, with violin, guitars, high pitched flute - and the melodies are great and invite to hum along. There are also some, if rare, moments on the CD where the tambourin stops and the songs feature just one voice - and these are for me the beautiful highlights of the album.
Michael Moll

Mattanza "Il Meglio dei"
Label: IWM Italian World Music; No. IWM251CD; 2009
Moving now from the heel to the toe of the Italian boot - Calabria, the home of Mattanza. Mattanza takes in cultural influences from the whole Mediterraenean, and the result on this album is a bit of a mix. Nearly all songs on the album are written by the lead singer of the band, Mimmo Martino. There are quiet contemporary ballads in folk chanson style, some very oriental music arrangements, the intense sound of bagpipes, sound worlds which sound like didgeridoos (but don't seem to be that!) in the background. The voice of the male lead singer sounds to me at times a bit too indistinct, but I love the charming female voices on some songs. Accordingly I find some of the music highly appealing, while other bits don't quite make it for me.
Michael Moll

Olle Lindvall "Placebo"
Label: Sjelvar, No. SJECD27; 2009
There are only very few guitarists in the folk world who have mastered to interpret traditional music on solo guitar which really stays true to the traditional tunes. Olle Lindvall is one of these. And the music, despite sounding traditional, is all composed by Olle himself. His music is focussed around Nordic traditions, and while the album shows some influences from jazz, rock and blues, it is these traditions that shine through in all tunes. The promo describes the music: "you can almost imagine him playing a fiddle with his plectrum as a bow" - and I have to sign up to this description. The only criticism I have with this album is that it could have done with some backing on violin or accordion or similar for some of the tunes, to make the album overall more interesting, and to uplift the guitar playing.
Michael Moll

Musicanti del Piccolo Borgo "Ecchite Maje"
Label: RadiciMusic; No. RMR127. 2009
One of the old established Italian folk bands established during the folk rvival in the 70s, the Musicanti del Piccolo Borgo are still going strong, as their latest album shows. The strength of the album is the varied choice and interpretation of traditional songs and music: Some songs may feature tambourine, the Southern Italian bagpipes and the piffero (a kind of shawm) - these are then a bit more shrill and lively and somewhat hypnotic. Others have more gentle instrumentation; these songs tend to have a beautiful flair full of summer.
The Musicanti play principally music from the Molise region in middle/Southern Italy; and their repertoire also includes songs in Albanian language, one of the minority languages found in the area. A strong and fresh album from a very skilled band, showcasing a wide and varied range of traditional music from Molise;;
Michael Moll

Malanova "No iabbu e no maravigghia"
Label: RadiciMusic; No. RMR125. 2009
This is a bit different to the music I expected of a Sicilian folk band - and it is absolutely superb! Malanova have mastered with this album an exciting album that manages to combine songs full of energy with beautiful slower ballads. The band offers very pleasant, for Italian folk music probably quite gentle, voices - male and female, great instrumentation and clever and exciting arrangements.
The Sicilian band focusses on self written songs in ballad style, often in Sicilian dialect. Some tend to go more towards acoustic folk pop - in its best possible meaning: very approachable and a joy to listen to; some reminds me of the Riccardo Tesi Band in style, others are more lively and more steeped in Sicilian music traditions. Malanova are quite a contemporary acoustic outfit, featuring guitars, innovative and varied percussion on a range of traditional percussion instruments, accordion, different flutes (traditional and traverse), fiddle, some bass, some clarinet. And, quite exceptional for Southern Italian bands, there is hardly any tambourine in sight.
This is a great CD, full of warmth, energy, sunshine, positiveness - and full of great musical ideas. I just love it.;;
Michael Moll

Tim Eriksen "Northern Roots - Live in Namest"
Indies Scope Records; 2009
Tim Eriksen used to play punk rock, widened his interests to embrace folk rock with Cordelia's Dad (FW#6), until it struck him to perform the most basic of American roots music. However, not the old-time music of the American South but, Tim being from Massachusetts, the almost forgotten roots music of New England, including the Christian choral music that is called shape note or sacred harp singing (#29). Shape note because of its music notation, sacred harp because of a popular songbook published in the 1840s ( Tim became a champion of the music, and got the opportunity to spread the gospel, for example, by working on the soundtrack of the movie "Cold Mountain". This here is a live recording from July 2008 at the Folk Holidays festival in Náměšť nad Oslavou in the Czech Republic. Tim launches straight into proceedings with "Farewell to Old Bedford". The 18 tracks include popular songs such as the haunting "Oh Death" and the love song "Omie Wise" (compare the recordings on "Classic Mountain Songs" -> #25), "Friendship", one of the few happy songs, "Careless Love", "Bonnie Bay of Biscay" (see versions and variants recorded by Casey/Doyle below, Matt & Shannon Heaton -> #39, and Tinkers With Talent -> #25). "Edward" is related to a Child ballad, and played by many a British folk artist. "Jewett" is just an up tempo variant of "Amazing Grace", and "Soldier Traveling from the North" has almost exactly the words as the well-known Irish folk song "As I Roved Out/The Night Visiting Song" as performed by Planxty (amongst many others). Tim performs acappella and acompanies himself with fiddle, 5-string-banjo, guitar and the Mexican 12-string bajo sexto. It is pure stuff, almost academic, music that demands attention, the song's topics being such hilarious things as blood and death (should have been called scared harp songs). However, you can feel that Tim has fun and this communicates with the listener. Besides, the old Northeners were not only addressing God but stepping it out, which Tim also displays with a couple of dance tunes and some mouth music.
Walkin' T:-)M

Tradish "Beyond the Borders"
GO' Danish Folk Music; GO0210; 2010
The Danish trio Tradish was founded two years ago, it's members having played together in the Irish music group Moving Cloud (FW#36) and other Danish bands such as the defunct Nordic fusion band Instinkt (#36). Singer and guitar player John Pilkington rose through the traditional session scene in England and Ireland before settling in Denmark. Louise Ring Vangsgaard is a trained classical violinist but switched direction for both Irish and Nordic roots music. Percussionist Brian Woetmann is well-versed in many musical genres, here he is not only beating the Irish frame drum, but employs cajón, djembe and udu as well. Proceedings kick off with one of John's original songs. Later we have more of him, and there are generally nice lyrics, as is one song of Brian's. It is followed by John Spillane's "Don't Go to Ballincollig", with the small town hero Johnny taking off to the city and then to the world. Further songs include the popular "Blacksmith" and the famous Child ballad "Who Put the Blood", followed by John Carty's tune "Seanamhach Tube Station," which already travelled well into the recording studio (e.g. #31, #39). So let's get back: the first tune set consists of tunes not so often performed: Brendan McGlinchy's "Splendid Isolation", Mike McGoldrick's "Windbroke", Bill Black's "Granny Quinn's" (Lunasa recorded the first two, Solas the last one). The most popular tune is undoubtedly "Doctor Gilbert's Reel," a favourite since Michael Coleman's glory days. John wrote a tune with crossing over to the Balkans. "False Proof" by Jowan Merckx (Amorroma) has been recorded by Flook though in a different key (#22).
Which borders are meant that would be beyond? Probably that of Denmark, their repertoire stays confined within the limits of Ireland and Britain. This beyond the borders is mainly supposed to mean an openness of the band's sound to other musical styles and influences. So the Danish trio is not that different to contemporary Irish and British trad bands. Which is a good thing for a band abroad not trying to be too puristic. It's not supposed to be trad but tradish.
Walkin' T:-)M

Peter Carberry "Traditional Irish Music from Co. Longford"
Label: Own label; PPC10; 2010
Peter Carberry is a traditional Irish accordion player from Holla in Co. Longford. He comes from a long line of musicians in his family. In the 1960s he emigrated to Britain and played with the legendary Felix Doran, Michael Gorman and Des Donnelly Sr in the Manchester session scene. Nowadays Peter is living in Galway, He plays the accordion (and the tenor banjo on one track, though it is said that he once lost the index finger on his right hand in an accident). As his close friend, Martin O’Connor, he plays the box the older press-and-draw C#/D style instead of the more common B/C style. On these recordings he is supported by daughter Angela Carberry on banjo (FW#30) and John Blake on guitar and piano. There are also contributions by Seamus O'Kane (bodhran) and James Blennerhasset (bass); more family members join in on the grande finale.
Here are really some great tunes, perfectly executed. Track #1 kicks off with "Sean O'Duibhir an Ghleanna", the great song air (e.g. #31) being played as a set dance here. It is followed by the popular slide "Ask My Father" and the reel "Sporting Nell". Track #2 has two terrific reels, the "Ladies' Pantalettes" in an unusual setting (compare to #36) and "Molly From Longford" (#24). I could go on like this. There is the occasional hornpipe such as the well-liked "Galway Bay". "Johnnie Cope" is also played as a hornpipe, picturing the many parts of this 18th century battle near the Scottish town of Prestonpans. This is a treasure trove, let me just mention Finbarr Dywer's jig "Aherne's Egg" and "Hurry The Jug" which I knew only from the O'Neill's collection. "Eanach Cuain" is a jig that Junior Crehan made of the air of the same name (#21). And there are not only dance tunes, e.g. the Carolan piece "Lament for Owen Roe O'Neill."
"Traditional Irish Music from Co. Longford" should make a nice addition to your Irish button box collection.
Walkin' T:-)M

Pur "The Lassies' Reply"
MacDug Music; DUG002; 2009
"Jim Malcolm's Bard Hair Day - Robert Burns Returns" [DVD Video]
Label: Beltane Records; BELDVD101; 2010
The Robert Burns anniversary is all over (FW#38, #39, #39, #40), the attention to Scotland's most famous bard will probably last for another 250 years. The duo of Shona Donaldson and Katie Mackenzie, both vocalists as well as fiddler and harpist, respectively, claims that "The Lassies' Reply" is the first undertaking that is presenting Burns' songs in the Gaelic language. More precisely, the very first recording, since the Gaelic lyrics here are from the pen of one Roderick Macdonald. In fact, it is a mixture of Gaelic and (Scots-)English lyrics, sometimes macaronic versions, i.e. English and Gaelic in one song. The songs are quite familiar, Burns took many Gaelic airs for his words (my heart's in the Highlands, chasing the wild deer and following the roe): "My Heart's in The Highlands" is the opener. There's "John Anderson My Jo", "Ae Fond Kiss" (set to the Gaelic air "Rory Dall's Port"), Slave's Lament (which only recently became very popular with recording artists), and eventually "Auld Lang Syne". Shona and Katie and their guest musicians apply a pop sensibility to their interpretation, but don't betray the tradition (the disc has been produced by Gaelic singer Fiona Mackenzie -> #40). Scholars will tell you that Robert Burns was fond of the girls - the sweetest hours that e'ed I spent were spent among the lasses, O -, he probably would have been very fond and very proud of Shona and Katie too.
Jim Malcolm, successful both as front man of the popular Scottish band Old Blind Dogs (#36) and as a solo performer (#39), has recorded the odd Robert Burns song from time to time, including an album fully dedicated to the bard. In 2009, Jim dressed up with wig and clothes as Robert Burns to play the second half of his concerts. This here has been filmed at the Souter Theatre in Perth. Jim presents Burns as a Casanova on steroids, he relates funny tales and embraces comedy and parody. The one comment that I recall is Glenmorangie, Glenfiddich but at all costs avoid Glenn Miller ... you have to be in the mood. However, when rendering the songs he is dead-serious: "Rantin' Rovin' Robin" and "Willie Brew'd A Peck o' Malt" as well as "My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose" and "A Man's A Man" (which Ferdinand Freiligrath translated into German -> #42). Jim also finishes off with "Auld Lang Syne" (sung to the more melancholic tune that Burns actually wrote his words to). The DVD extras feature a 16-minute playback version of "Tam O Shanter" (the introduction had been shot at the Brig o' Doon, where Tam once escaped the witches), and "Rabbie's Big Day Out", visiting the sights and views of Edinburgh and Ayrshire.,
Walkin' T:-)M

Various Artists "The Complete Songs of Robert Tannahill, Volume II: Gloomy Winter's Noo Awa"
Brechin All Records; CDBAR010; 2010
2010 marks the bicentenary celebration of Robert Tannahill (1774-1810 -> FW#41), and this is the second installment of a proposed five volume series (#32). Too long Tannahill's work had been neglected, though his is of a quality that compares with Robert Burns, Tannahill being one generation younger than Scotland's national bard. Vol. 2 is dedicated to the late Jim Reid, who appeared on vol. 1. This time vocalists such as Steve Byrne (#32), Nick Keir (McCalmans -> #41), Jim Malcolm (see review above), Marieke McBean (Rallion -> #41), Brian O Headhra (#38), Lucy Pringle and Emily Smith (#41) do a splendid job. The music is provided by a who's who of Scottish trad and folk, including luminaries such as Aaron Jones (#39), Angus Lyon (#32), Wendy Weatherby (#42), and quite fittingly fiddler John Martin of the Tannahill Weavers (#33). This is much more than an academic exercise and an addition to the Scottish songbook, these 21 tracks are contemporary Scottish folk music that's supposed to stand on its own. Some melodies have been reworked or wholly supplied by editor Fred Freeman, some choruses were created, some lyrics altered. I guess Tananhill would have approved. "Hey Donald, How Donald" is probably the hit on this disc, it had been already featured on vol. 1. "Gloomy Winter's Noo Awa'," recorded by the Tannahill Weavers, is the second Robert Tannahill hit. Of most songs I know no recording, or heard it otherwise. Very nice is "One Night in My Youth, ""While the Grey Pinioned Lark", "Come Hame tae yer Lingels" and "Peggy O'Rafferty". "Kitty Tyrrell" is put to the air of the Irish "Caitlin Triall" which Skara Brae recorded in the 1970s (#5). "Soldier's Adieu" has a tune that is very similar to the Irish "The Parting Glass". "Bonnie Hielan Laddie" sounds familiar, or maybe there is another song with that title. At least, the tune is very popular, somewhere sometime overseas it eventually became the sea shanty "Donkey Riding".
All that is left now is to wait for the upcoming three volumes and to look forward to future discoveries.
Walkin' T:-)M

Hanneke Cassel "For Reasons Unseen"
Label: Cassel Records; HJC2009; 2009
Hanneke Cassel, a native of Port Orford, Oregon, started playing classical violin. In the early 90s she discovered traditional fiddle styles. After winning the U.S. National Scottish Junior Championship there followed a scholarship with the renowned Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser (#31) and Cape Breton's Buddy MacMaster (#17). She also went to win the Scottish Fiddle Champion seniors and is today an active member of the Boston music scene. She is a member of the fiddle band Childsplay, and of course she plays here a fiddle by Bob Childs (FW#41). These 12 tracks feature 20 individual tunes, of which most have been written by Hanneke. "For Reasons Unseen" kicks off with "Ides of March", a heartfelt tune for her mum's birthday (so not Julius Caesar's death). Hanneke is playing fiddle and piano, Lissa Schneckenburger joins in on second fiddle (#38) and Natalie Haas on cello (#31). Track #2 gets more lively with a David Fisher tune and one of Hanneke's own original reels. This time Ariel Friedman is on cello and Keith Murphy on guitar. It is listening music, even if it is a dance style tune. Later on there's even a set featuring the traditional strathspey "Dusky Meadows," James Scott Skinner's "Sandy Cameron's" (#25), and some other tunes. This is a string extravaganza, this time Rushad Eggleston being on cello, Casey Driessen on 5-string fiddle and Christopher Lewis on guitar. "For Reasons Unseen" is quite sophisticated, sometimes demanding, but never boring. To say the least.
Walkin' T:-)M

Sonnich Lydom & Morten Alfred Høirup "Svip Svap Svovlstikke"
GO' Danish Folk Music; GO0510; 2010
Morten Alfred Høirup certainly needs no introduction, having been the long-time accompanist of fiddler Harald Haugaard, and the writer of many an article about Danish bands for the FolkWorld webzine (e.g. FW#36). When the fiddle/guitar duo of Harald Haugaard and Morten Alfred Høirup (#36) split, they left a void in the Danish folk scene. Though there are many talented Danish artists, no one really dared to fill this vacuum. It has been left to Morten himself to step up again, and he chose the accordionist Sonnich Lydom as his partner, Sonnich also being a veteran performer on the Danish folk scene. Both know each other since the early 1980s, but this is the start of their cooperation. "Svip Svap Svovlstikke", named after a song from a hundred year old gramophone recording, features traditional Danish music which had been collected in manuscripts from 1700 onwards, including the well-known Rasmus Storm collection from 1760 (#41). Many tunes have never been recorded before. There is dance music (sønderhonings, reels, marches, polkas, menuets, waltzes), three new tunes by Morten and three Danish songs from the 19th century. Klezmer chanteuse Channe Nussbaum is the great vocalist on "Maria, græd ej mere for mig," which was put to a new tune by Sonnich. A song worth seeking out! There are more guest contributions - US fiddler Ruthie Dornfeld, Finland's Tapani Varis (Jew's harp), ... - though it essentially is a duo effort: Sonnich plays diatonic accoridon and harmonica, Morten sings and plays the acoustic guitar.
Maybe it's only a poor ersatz for the grand Haugaard/Høirup recordings, but at least it's a beginning.
Walkin' T:-)M

BraAgas "Tapas"
Indies Scope Records; MAM455-2; 2009
It is always interesting to discover a novel and excellent band. If it is a young and newly formed band, you are not surprised. But, geez, this "Tapas" is already the third album of the Czech band BraAgas, and somehow the word didn't spread to west of the Bohemian Forest. What a pity, had I known it earlier it easily would have slipped into my top ten albums of 2009. But let's start at the beginning: BraAgas is a quartet consisting of four singers, Katerina Göttlichova, Alzbeta Josefy, Karla Braunova and Michala Hrbkova. Besides four-part harmony and polyphony, they are playing a diversity of instruments, many are historic replicas: fiddles and flutes, bagpipes and shawm, cister and clarinets. The band is often labelled a medieval music group, but these four are much more than that. The songs are taken from the last millennium, more or less one half is from the Iberian peninsula, the other half is from the Nordic countries and eastern Europe (including the well-known "Herr Holger" which was made popular by the Swedish fusion band Garmarna -> #16). The first ones are performed with samba- and flamenco-like exuberance and joy, the others in a melancholic, at times dark mood, thus embracing a wide range of emotions. Although these songs are from very different sources it sounds all of one piece. Fans of Lais, to mention a well-known western band (#31), certainly will love this.
"Tapas" is supposed to make BraAgas popular beyond borders in both space and time, geographically between east and west as well as beyond the medieval music scene.
Walkin' T:-)M

Bellevue Rendezvous "Salamander"
Label: Own label; JYM002; 2010
The three Scottish artists that make up Bellevue Rendezvous got together in Edinburgh four years ago. Fiddler Gavin Marwick has played with a wide variety of Scottish trad bands, some quite legendary such as Iron Horse, Cantrip (FW#24) and Burach (#32). He had also formed a striking fiddle duo with Jonny Hardie (#10), not to mention his studio work which includes the who's who of the Scottish folk music scene. Ruth Morris plays the Scandinavian nyckelharpa (#42), which makes a good companion to Gavin's fiddle with its dark and full resonating sound. Cameron Robson, son of the renowned Borders fiddler Wattie Robson, switched from playing with rock bands to the trad scene. Here he explores chords and harmonies on cittern and guitar, greatly adding to the overall sound. The trio plays instrumental music, however, not Scottish airs and dance music, but tunes from all over the world: their second album "Salamander" kicks off with a French 5-time waltz called "Gabriel’s Step", followed by a traditional Swedish slängpolska with the name of "Byss-Calle #32", and a tune written by Väsen's viola player Mikael Marin, "Hasse A’s" (#35). This set of tunes is almost eight minutes long. Next is a hanter dro from Britanny and "Tuolpagorni" from Frigg's recording (#35). There's more trad, namely the "Makedonsko Devojce", the klezmer piece "Der Triske Rebn’s Chosidi" and a Nordic Herding Song. Gavin Marwick had written a couple of tunes, and eventually there are two schottishe. However, as we know despite of its name this type of dance tune has nothing to do with Scotland at all. "Salamander" is full of variety, both lively and delicate if needed to be, and at best - simply gorgeous.
Walkin' T:-)M

Vincent Campbell "The Purple Heather"
Label: Cairdeas na bhFidileiri; CNF006; 2009
Irish fiddler Vincent Campbell has been born in 1938 near Glenties (Na Gleanntaí) in the Donegal Gaeltacht. He was brought up with music, song and dance, starting to play the fiddle at nine and learning tunes and techniques from the locality. The travelling Doherty's, John and Mickey, were regular visitors. Vincent spent some time working in Scotland as well as in London in the 1950s (at some point Barney McKenna asked him joining a group as their fiddle player -> FW#23), shaping his Northern Irish/Scottish fiddle style in regard of fingering, bowing, phrasing, ornamentation and variation. You might never heard of Vincent Campbell before, but in fact he has been extensively recorded over the years. These two discs feature 63 tunes recorded between 1962 and 2009, the whole lot: jigs and reels (mostly reels), highlands and hornpipes, airs and polkas. He is playing mostly single tunes instead of sets, and often only one or two rounds each. Some of Vincent’s background stories are featured in both English and Irish.
Let's have a short look at the repertoire: the very first tune is the reel with the title "The Wild Irishman," one of the best known Donegal fiddle reels, recorded by artists such as Donegal's Altan (#22). There is more to come I especially heard from Donegal's musical ambassadors. Besides these more or less common fare: "Cathal Rua" is associated with the late John Doherty, the "Titanic Reel" has been supposedly played by one Doherty aboard the sinking ocean liner. It is a reel version of the well-liked strathspey "Devil in the Kitchen". The "Cuckoo Waltz" is credited to Swedish trumpet player JE Jonasson, and the hornpipe "Purple Heather" has been composed by Vincent. There are less common tune types such as barndances, two-steps, germans (a kind of hornpipes which were very popular once), highlands (the Donegal version of Scottish strathspeys), mazurkas, polkas (once not restrained to the Sliabh Luachra repertoire in the Irish south-west -> #42)), and even a cotillion (the precursor of the quadrille) called "The Coatie Lan", the tune being similar to the jig "Out on the Ocean". There are even airs and laments: "Ta Gleann Beag Aoibhinn in Eirinn" is the tune to the song "Saighdiuir Treigthe", which have been recorded by Skara Brae for example (#5). "Sean McLaughlin's" is a distant cousin of the well-known "An Paistin Fionn" (compare e.g. Junior Crehan below). You see, there is still a lot to discover in the Donegal repertoire which hasn't travelled too far.
Walkin' T:-)M

Sean Magee "Ye Fidlers Fate"
Label: Own label; smgcd-1001; 2010
It must have been ten years ago or so when I visited Castle Caldwell in Co. Fermanagh in Northern Ireland (FW#18). Before entering the grounds there is a weathered stone with the shape of a fiddle, erected in memory of the fiddler Denis McCabe, who fell into Lough Erne and drowned in 1770. Too much uisce beatha probably. The inscription reads: Beware ye fidlers of ye fidlers fate ... on firm land only exercise your skill ... Let's pause and play the "Temperance" reel, or let's say no more, Sean Magee probably chose the album title only because The Fiddlers Stone sits besides his grandparents house. His instrument is his great grandfathers fiddle, which had been purchased from Germany in the 1940s, so I understand. Sean is still a teenager, but very skilled and did win the All Ireland Under 15 Fiddle in 2009. To celebrate he recorded his debut album "Ye Fidlers Fate", backed up by a couple of friends on guitar, piano, bass and bodhran: Track #1 is a set of Paddy Faheys reels, then it's jig time, the popular "King of The Pipers," every single note and phrase is gracefully executed. There are hornpipes, a beautiful slow reel, a slow air, even a three-part polka (of which I'm not too fond of personally). "The Professors Set" features compositions by Sean's fiddle teacher Pat McManus (no, not James Morrison who had been nicknamed The Professor). Sean's fiery original reel "Road to Rossbeg" kicks off my favourite tune set. "Lord Gordons", the mother of all reels, is the approbriate ending.
Don't forget about Michael Coleman and his great rendition of that tune, but Sean Magee makes it all his own. So I can only beg that you might lend him an ear.
Walkin' T:-)M

Tendachënt "Arnèis"
FolkClub Ethnosuoni; ES 5383; 2009
Tendachënt is a folk band from the Piedmont area in northern Italy. The group's name means something like preserving, and arneis means tools for doing something (e.g. music) and is also a great white wine from the Piedmont. Tendachënt's fourth album "Arnèis" features 14 studio tracks and 5 live sets. As I understand the band dismissed the drum kit as in their previous albums. So it is purely acoustical. I can't really judge since not haven't heard them but I don't miss it. The sound is full and balanced. There is only one traditional tune, most songs have been written by the band's singer Maurizio Martinotti in the dialect of the Piedmont region. I think most people wouldn't notice it and regarding it as traditional Italian fare. There is also a song from Amerigo Vigliermo, who is no band member, but founder of the Centro Etnografico Canavesano and director of the Coro Bajolese. The bonus live tracks feature more trad, more Martinotti tunes, plus one by the group's fiddler Bruno Raiteri. Maurizio also plays ghironde, epinette, zufoli and mandola, Mauro Basilio violoncello and oud, Enrico Negro is the guitar player, and there are several guests on percussion, oboe, sax, etc. Their songs and instrumental music is best regarded as bordun music with a contemporary edge. It is lively and makes nice listening. The sleeve notes are in Italian, English and French, and include the song lyrics.
Walkin' T:-)M

Karan Casey & John Doyle "Exiles Return"
Compass Records; 7 4529 2; 2010
No need to introduce both singer Karan Casey (FW#34) and guitarist John Doyle (#39), both being members of Irish-American trad band Solas in their hey-day (#32). Since leaving the band for good, Karan recorded a couple of albums to different success, John became a sought-after accompanist. "Exiles Return" sees them joining up together again for the first time. It starts with the Child ballad "False Lady". Then John sings the title song, which he has written himself: And though we bid farewell in sorrow, we may meet again in distant lands and drink a health in joy for parting for the exile will return again. Better known are "Sailing Off to the Yankee Land" (sourced from Frank Harte -> #30), "The Nightingale" and "Flower of Finae" (written by Thomas Davis). There is a version of "Bay of Biscay" (see Tim Eriksen above). "Little Drummer Girl" is one of many songs in which a young woman dresses up like a man and joins the army, navy, whatever. "Out of the Window" is an older version of "She Moved Through the Fair" with more verses and a slightly different melody. So, what initially was meant to be a concept album about coming to or leaving America is not really all about exile. A lot are love songs, and yes abandonment, loss and longing is so typical for Irish songs. Though this is no depressing album, rather uplifting. The song selection is quite good, John even is lead singer on three of them. They duet on another two, and harmonies are not always typical fare. John's guitar playing is business as usual, i.e. simply gorgeous. Further support comes from flutist Mike McGoldrick and old-timer Dirk Powell on bass and banjo.
Well, the sun is up again. It is certainly the best Karan delivered since leaving Solas, and one of John's best efforts as well.,
Walkin' T:-)M

Seoirse "Mná na hÉireann - The Women of Ireland"
Errigal; SCD014; 2009
Seoirse "Sheep May Safely Graze"
Label: Errigal; SCD018; 2009
Seoirse Ó Dochartaigh is a jack of all trades from the Inishowen peninsula in Co. Donegal in the north west of Ireland, a painter, a poet, and a musician and singer with half a dozen records to his credit. "Sheep May Safely Graze" is a collection of solo guitar music, performed on the nylon-strung classical guitar. Music once played on harps and pipes with Seoirse adding harmonies and bass lines. The disc is starting with a traditional French tune (you may never heard its title, "Romanca", but you certainly know this melody). Then it's getting Irish with Carolan & Co: "King of Laois" is a well known march, though not often recorded, what you can't say of "Morgan Magan" and "Maire Dhall" (Blind Mary). "Brian Boru's" also has been put on record, including Maurice Lennon's project about the mediaeval Irish High King (FW#23) and a rather peculiar version by a Chinese group (#38). "Maidin i mBearra" is rather famous as the "Londonderry Air" or infamous as "Danny Boy," since a certain Englishman put some words to it. To make the CD complete, Seoirse also offers a selection of Mendelssohn & Mates, including Johann Sebastian Bach (which gave the album title) and Ludwig Beethoven's popular ditty "Für Elise".
The title "Mná na hÉireann - The Women of Ireland" provides the links of Seoirse's song selection, of which he says they had been sung all over Co. Donegal once upon a time. The title song "Mna na hEireann" is by poet Peadar Ó Doirnín (1682-1769), put to music by Seán Ó Riada in 1969 (#28). The tune featured in the Kubrick film "Barry Lyndon", performed by the Chieftains (#37). Altogether there are nine Gaelic and six English songs, lyrics and translations are included in the sleeve notes: there are many versions and recordings of songs such as "Flower of Magherally", "I Know My Love" and "Holy Ground," the last one performed in a beautifully slowed down version. The Gaelic ones did also travel well: Donegal's musical ambassadors Altan recorded "Tiocfaidh an Samradh" (#14), as did the Bothy Band (#30). "An Droimfhionn Donn Dilis" and "An Cruiscin Lan" were quite popular at certain times, and there are many different versions of the drinking song "Nil se 'Na La" all over Ireland. Yet I never encountered "An Realtan Lenabach" and "Green Fields of Gweedore" before; but "Queen of Hearts" has been played by both Joan Baez and Martin Carthy. The CD is finishing off with a setting of Laurence Glackin's poem "I Lost My Own Sweet Inishowen," a testimonial to Seoirse's stamping ground.
Two decent albums, to say the least.
Walkin' T:-)M

Junior Crehan 1908-1998 "The Last House in Ballymakea"
Label: Own label; MJC 1908; 2010
See also thebook
review in this issue
They seek him here, they seek him there, music lovers from every where. They taped in the kitchen, they taped in the room, even in the hay barn for an old or new tune..., Ger Crehan wrote about his brother
Martin 'Junior' Crehan (1908-1998 -> FW#30). Junior was born in the townland of Ballymakea about four miles south of Miltown Malbay in Co. Clare in the west of Ireland. His father was the local schoolmaster and he was related to the legendary piper Garret Barry. Junior himself took up the fiddle and became a pupil of Scully Casey. With Scully’s son Bobby he played at crossroads and house dances. In the 1950s Junior played in a ceili band alongside uilleann piper Willie Clancy (#41). To re-discover Junior's music, his daughter Ita (who is a flutist) compiled a 2 disc set, featuring 25 tracks that have been recorded from the 1950s onwards. Junior is talking and playing, sometimes joined in by family members and friends. (Junior had five children and no one plays the fiddle, it is his nephew Kieran who carries on the torch -> #21.) Much of Junior's repertoire consists of the popular dance tunes which are played more or less all over Ireland. He uses only a few but complex ornamentations, his favourite being the roll. He also has a habit of flattening and drawling certain notes, lending a melancholic and lonesome feeling to a tune. The extensive use of double-stopping, i.e. playing two strings simultaneously, might be an influence from uilleann piping and its harmonic accompaniment. Junior also had preference for slow airs, a consequence of his love of traditional singing. He probably knew the words to "An Paistin Fionn" or "An Raibh Tu Ar An gCarraig?" by heart, his fiddle reflecting the performance of a traditional Irish sean-nos singer.
Featured on the CDs are also the "Lament for Willie Clancy" and the "Lament for the Country House Dance," which have been composed by Junior. He composed many a tune, inspired by the sounds of nature and his environment. Some tunes are now firmly established in the traditional music repertoire: "Farewell to Miltown Malbay," for example, has been recorded by The Kane Sisters (#31), the jig "Mist Covered Mountain" by more artists than can be mentioned here. The latter tune had been the signature tune on Clare FM traditional music programme for some years. His hornpipe "Caislean an Oir" (also numerous recordings) is made up from the old air "Caoineadh an tSagairt". A couple of additional tracks consist of Junior singing "The Christmas Letter" and his wife Cissie singing "Making Children by Steam" in 1958, plus Junior's mother Baby playing a march and a jig on concertina. She was recorded in 1963 at the age of 87.
Junior's daughter Angela (Crotty) also compiled a book of her father's compositions, "Martin Junior Crehan, Musical Compositions and Memories 1908-1998" (#42).
Walkin' T:-)M

John McSherry "Soma"
Compass Records; 7 4538 2; 2010
John McSherry might be regarded as a lighthouse concerning the art of uilleann piping. He was born in Belfast in Northern Ireland. With his siblings he formed the folk pop band Tamalin in the mid 1990s, he also collaborated with the likes of Sean Smyth and Michael McGoldrick what was to become the neo-traditional group Lunasa (#5). Only recently John set up a piper's club in Belfast.
It is said that John has a number of albums in the pipeline, the first coming up is "Soma" (perhaps derived from the Gaelic somas which means ease, comfort): John kicks off with a slow air he'd written himself, "An Bhean Chaointe" (The Keening Woman). That was a brave decision but seems to work, and only seconds later he's speeding up. "Down the Back Lane" is from Willie Clancy's repertoire and has been widely recorded (#41). "Atlantic Drive" is another of John's own. These two tracks set the tone for the rest of the album, there are driving dance sets, both traditional and original, and some haunting airs for good measure. Maurice Lennon's jig "Stone of Destiny" (#23) has been recorded by McGoldrick (#41), Lunasa did as well (#32). The "Gulf of Mexico" is a traditional jig, and not pointing to a certain disaster in the Gulf. "Aisling Gheal" (Bright Vision) is a well known song air, here it is transposed from the common D to the key of G.
The sleeve notes are at times confusing. Is "Badai na Scadan" (The Herring Boats) traditional or a McSherry piece? Much more is not to grumble about, his piping is close to perfection (as is his performing the low whistle). Drones and regulators are nicely employed, and the overall sound is firmly 21st century.
Walkin' T:-)M

Burning Bridget Cleary "Everything is alright"
Label: Own label; 2008
It's an infamous story worth telling: Bridget Cleary was a young woman in County Tipperary, Ireland, who had been burned to death by her husband in 1895, convinced that she had been abducted by fairies and exchanged with a changeling. Burning Bridget Cleary is remembered in the name of this trio from the Philadelphia area and the song "Ah Tusa Shi" on this album, an up-beat number written by the band's Rose Baldino and Genna Gillespie. Other songs included are "The Shearing's Not For You", the "Saucy Sailor," known from British folk rockers Steeleye Span (#40), BBC's version is acoustic and even more eastern sounding. "The Faeries" is Lou Baldino's rather unnecessary 60s folkpop song. "Soldier, Soldier" is a traditional song I cannot remember having ever encountered. The rest is instrumental music, including the well-known slip jig "The Whinny Hills of Leitrim" which kicks off the album followed by a jig and a reel from the pen of Rose and Genna, a take on "Waram Patat", and airs such as Brian McNeill's "Peace and Plenty" (#10) and "Autumn Lux Lucis", a beautiful air/waltz by Rose.
BBC's debut CD had been recorded in 2006 when Rose and Genna were 15 years of age, followed by "Everything is alright" only two years later. I haven't mentioned yet that both Rose and Genna are prize-winning fiddlers, and the quartet is completed by Rose's father Lou on guitar and percussionist Peter Trezzi. "Everything is alright" is a high octane tour through Celtic music, lively and entertaining. There's nothing fairy-like about it, but straight 21st century feeling. Everything alright, I'd say.
Walkin' T:-)M

Eric Monbel & Bruno Le Tron "Vertigo"
al sur; ascd 017; 2009
Eric Monbel is one of the most ingenious contemporary bagpipers in France, what the French call cornemuse. He is also no mean flutist, and his duo partner is Bruno Le Tron, who should be your choice when it comes to the diatonic accordion. "Vertigo" is a band recording, where Eric Monbel and Bruno Le Tron teamed up with Frank Fagon (clarinet, saxophon), Laurent Cabané (double bass, guitar) and Michel Rey (vibraphone, drums). This is bal folk, as the French say, or fest noz, as the Bretons have it, traditional dance floor. The eleven medleys are a mix of marches, bourrées, polkas, scottishes, waltzes, and even a calypso. There are traditional tunes as well as original compositions by Montbel and Le Tron and their guitarist Cabané. The tune selection is first class. It is a joy ride through Western Europe, and rarely boring. Dancers will get jumpy and listeners smile madly. The "Vertigo" sound is infectious, which is, by the way, an interesting album title. You can whirl and spin to the music, even get dizzy. Who ever wanted to dance some French and other Mid European dances could do worse than put this disc into his or her record player.
Walkin' T:-)M

Paul O'Reilly & Helen Kirwan "The Poet's Dream"
Label: Own label; POCD002; 2009
Paul O'Reilly is a musician from Enniscorthy in Co. Wexford, Ireland. He performed and recorded with traditional Irish singing group "Whisht!" (FW#38), and now released with the help of Helen Kirwan a 2 disc set of 27 songs and more than 2 hours of music from his native Wexford. The first disc kicks off with a text from Paul's father Myles Joseph O'Reilly (1943-2005) put to a traditional tune. 10 more of his father's songs are to follow, covering topics such as Wexford artist Art Sinnott, Bobby Sands, the Listowel Fleadh, and I'm a busker by trade and a rover by choice, and I've earned a fair living with my squeezebox and my voice. I have travelled this green land every village and town, and there are places I would see again before I am laid down.
Regarding Wexford, most people only know one of the gory songs about the 1798 United Irishmen uprising (#4), MJ wrote: now you've heard many stories about ninety eight. But another to you I will now relate. It's about Wexford men who were no more than boys, that were handed down pikes when they should have got toys. They were scarcely out of knee lengths pants and knew not of love nor of romance, all they knew was of hatred and tyranny and they'd never heard of democracy.
Paul's "Concertina Man" has been written for his father's 60th birthday: Listen to the concertina man, ragged keys he strokes with ease, he can touch the lowest of our hearts, mend the scars of shattered dreams. However, there's more: the traditional songs "The Jolly Butcher", "In Ninety-Eight", and "Jack Barry" about the commodore from Wexford who founded the US Navy, songs from the Cooper family including "Men Of Ninety-Eight" (I understand William Cooper is Paul's great grandfather and Richard Cooper Paul's great great grandfather).
MJ sums up the reason for this collection: True tales of war and romance by writers of the verse go forever when their singer's lying face-up in a hearse, years of first-hand accounts of great events are being let die, and unless we soon take it in hand this chance will pass us by, so I beg of you endeavour for to learn or to write down all of these hidden ballads while there are still some around.
The sleeve notes feature all lyrics and some background stories. The singing and accompaniment is refined and graceful, it is about the songs and their stories not the singers' ego.,
Walkin' T:-)M

The Henry Girls "Dawn"
Label: Own label; 2010
The Henry Girls Joleen, Lorna and Karen are three siblings from Malin on the Inishowen peninsula in Co. Donegal, Ireland. A decade ago they formed a band, performed here and there, recorded a little bit (FW#38). Fate had it that some of their music has been used in the film "A Shine of Rainbows" starring Aidan Quinn which had recently been shot on Inishowen. It gained the Henry Girls a nomination for Best Original Score at the Irish Film and Television Awards, and their third album is intended to hit big time. The Dawn breaks with the original song "Early in the Morning," which is a real show-stopper. The sound reminds me of Irish-German group Cara (#34). Furthermore the girls relate Richard Thompson's "Dimming of the Day" (no wonder of the album title), an acapella version of "Morning has Broken" (not really trad, written by children's author Eleanor Farjeon in 1931 to a suppoosedly Scottish tune and reworked and popularized by Cat Stevens) and - this time actually traditional - "As I Roved Out" (one of the well-known songs with that title) and the "Mingulay Boat Song". There is also instrumental music, including self-composed tunes and the haunting air "Eamonn An Chnoic" (Ned of the Hill). The girls play fiddle, accordion, whistle, harp, mandolin and keyboards. The three-part harmonies are great, and there is a sensibilty for contemporary pop music throughout, which doesn't bother on the Henry Girls' most mature output yet.
Walkin' T:-)M

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