FolkWorld #56: CD Reviews
FolkWorld #56 03/2015

CD & DVD Reviews

Drew Gibson "1532"
Cragmont Records, 2015

www.drew-gibson.com

This is another fine album from one of DC’s better singer-songwriters.[53] Drew Gibson has been touring some over the years, which is great as the rest of the country should take to his excellent timeless music. He has stuck close to his family for these songs as he has explored his past and present thoughtfully and poetically in the stories contained in the lyrics. Musically, he is as warm as ever with such a pleasant manner of hooking you in with varied guitar styles and his embracing voice. His acoustic guitar and vocal work are always a treat just by themselves, but this album like his last adds plenty of full band arrangements to different degrees to keep things fresh throughout. This makes for a lovely listen late at night with the lights low, but should be listened to many times over in any environment you find yourself in. You will gain much with the experience.

Songs to try first:


© David Hintz

Rod Clements "Rendezvous Café"
Batsville; 2014

www.rodclements.com

This is an interesting project, certainly for Lindisfarne fans. Their guitarist Rod Clements has taken songs he has written or co-written over the decades and recorded them anew with just voice and guitar, along with some double bass assistance and occasional overdub. The style puts the focus on the song and there are some really good ones from the slightly rockier ‘Sunderland Boys’ to the hearty folk of ‘Refugees’. Clements has collaborated with many talents over the years and has always been a fine guitarist. It is good to see a focused exhibition of his talents on this two-CD set. It plays well and should easily hold your interest throughout all 26 songs.
© David Hintz


MaryLeigh Roohan "Skin and Bone"
Own label; 2014

www.maryleighmusic.com

Country folk is at the heart of this or rather at the skin and bone of this fine musical body. MaryLeigh Roohan has a firm almost Sandy Denny quality in her voice that works on soft and heavy levels. And that is good as the band can push the rock or pull back to lighter sounds as the song requires. The ten songs are carefully tracked to allow a great variety of music that coheres into an album featuring fine songwriting and great vocals throughout. I like the folkier items like ‘My Surrender’, but the rockers (such as ‘Get Me Home’) work very well and show far more than average chops in the playing and arrangements. There is a dreaminess in the backing while the vocals seem firmly rooted and are delivered directly with honest emotions. This album is a keeper and makes me sorry I missed her Jammin Java show.
© David Hintz


Jewels and Johnny Nation "Outdoor Boogie"
Sepia Tones; 2014

www.jewelsandjohnnynation.com

Usually I tire easily of the blues and blues rock format unless it is done really well. I am not sure this CD rises up to great heights, but the charm of this homemade effort makes it a fun listen. The dual vocal work is especially good and the music has just enough lilting quality to make it warmer than most other music of this ilk. This may not be worth going well out of your way for, but it is a pleasant listen.
© David Hintz


Achilles Wheel "Stones to Sand"
Own label; 2014

www.achilleswheel.com

These guys emit a west coast Grateful Dead sort of Americana vibe. There are more blues and soul moves here than psychedelia, but it is no surprise that when I specifically look at the notes to see if it came from California, I found that it did. There is something about that west coast vibe that manages to work into many of the forms of music out there. But Achilles Wheel also works in some near-reggae beats, or perhaps it is other island styled. It is decent music as these guys are quite skilled. It occasionally sparkled for me, but at times it was just a bit too laid back in approach. At times, this is an interesting band worth checking out if you get the chance.
© David Hintz


Soulmate "Rebel Inside"
Own label; 2014

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This is nothing to do with folk, but instead is a lush and slickly produced pop rocker. The sound is as thick as the ice fields from northern Norway, where songwriter Ken Petterson aka Soulamate hails from. Think a poppier more mainstream Dungen and you can conjure up the general sound here.
© David Hintz


Diyet "When You were King"
Own label; 2013

www.diyetmusic.com

I believe this is the second record I have heard recorded in Whitehorse in the Yukon, east of Alaska. And this is another record that both sounds good and whose songs are also worth a listen. Diyet has topical songs that are reminiscent of the classic folk era, but has a rootsy rock band behind her that adds just a bit more fuel to her fire. It is a fine approach as there is a little something for everyone, even as the folk roots are clear and direct. Quite simply put, these are powerful songs that delivered well and should stay with you for some time.
© David Hintz


Boister "Your Wound is Your Crown"
Own label; 2014

www.boister.net

This band boasts a large lineup and uses it well. Even though they are from nearby Baltimore, I have not come across them yet, which is my loss. They have a universal sound of sorts that works equally in rock music, folk, progressive, and even lighter jazz. The trombone, saxes, and winds add so much depth and universality to the mix, although the core instruments offer plenty as well. The lead vocals are excellent and create an atmosphere all of their own that will pull you in. If you sort your music by genre, I hope you have an ‘other’ or ‘all of the above’, as that is where you may want to put this. But make sure it is within reach as Boister’s brand of song and style is something that you won’t hear as frequently as you would like.
© David Hintz


Ground Level Falcons "The Revealor"
Own label; 2014

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These six songs give a tantalizing taste of the music of the Ground Level Falcons. It is more rock based than folk, but there are ethereal dreamy moments that may be of interest to psyche fans. More often, it is solid rock music with some interesting passages. The guitar sound is thick and gnarly but within the overall structure. Not bad and I would like to see them live some time if they ever extensively tour from their base of Edmonton, Canada over in my direction.
© David Hintz


Jesse Brewster "March of Tracks"
Own label; 2014

www.jessebrewster.com

There are 14 pleasant songs here from this singer songwriter with full band. At times it reminds me of Eric Andersen mixed with Dan Fogelberg or Kenny Rankin, but at others it moves into a more song oriented blues rock vein. It is on the lighter side, but there is plenty of heart and they can rock out enough (probably more so in the clubs). A few worldbeat moves give just enough variety to help the album’s flow. The focus is on the song and there are a few that stand out well enough, like ‘Rest of my Life’ or ‘One More Moment’. Not a bad effort, this.
© David Hintz


Ochre Room "Box, Bar & Diamond"
Beste Unterhaltung, 2014

Artist Video

www.ochreroom.com

There is something about the guitar work here that worked its magic on me rather quickly. It is the quick and playful style that seems like melody is emitted exponentially. The warm vocals also work some wonders as well. There are blues moves in some songs as the arrangements vary and the styles adjust slightly within a unified band concept. There are even dreamy moments with male and female vocals and a mix of spacey and precise guitars. There are many intricate elements in here that remind me of some of my favorite artists in the folk and folk-rock world, but none stand out as a direct comparison. Suffice it to say, this is a quality record from an excellent Finnish band that I will be going back to.
© David Hintz


Enrico Fink, Arlo Bigazzi & Cantierranti "Fuori dal Pozzo"
Materiali Sonori, 2014

Artist Video

I always like to listen to music before reading the backstory and this CD is a good expample of my approach. As I listen, I initially heard a Nick Cave weary but intense vocal style atop gypsy folk music that somehow worked in reggae beats, raps, middle eastern moves and female vocals. There were vibes, violins, and other acoustic and electric sounds in this flavorful stew. So in reading about the artists, I saw that Enrico Fink is an Italian musician specializing in Jewish/Klezmer music. Arlo Bigazzi is a master of ambient music and Cantierranti is a “glocal” song caravan that probably has an amazing variety of approaches that are only stretched further by the addition of these two fine composers. This is a lot to take in, but the arrangements are outstanding with their variety and clarity of sounds. So any world music, especially those leaning toward modern sounds will get a lot of this music.
© David Hintz


5J Barrow "From the Dim, Sweet Light"
Own label; 2-14

www.5jbarrow.com

There is plenty of energy in this folk rock music, yet the musicians have a great handle on their dynamics, so that the flow and transition is quite exciting. The violins and multiple vocalists provide an intensity that the rhythm section underneath enforces. There are piano passages that shine in the quieter moments as the vocalists pull back with great skill. The two lead singers (female and male) have both been on Broadway, so the dramatic skills in the musical presentation are of little surprise. It is a good lesson for aspiring (and veteran) musicians to add a sense of drama to music when you can by thinking of it as a full born live presentation of a story. 5J Barrow do it extremely well and with plenty of pep and excitement as well.
© David Hintz


Jim Keaveny "Out of Time"
Own label; 2014

www.jimkeaveny.com

This appropriately named album with have you thinking a lot of roadworthy folk singers of olden days and more recent times. The voice is Dylanesque, although the music is if he spent a lot more time on the Guthrie trail than he did. There are some snappy guitar runs along with fiddles, accordions, and brass in many interesting combinations. That helps freshen up a rather well worked formula. Keaveny’s songs seem quite interesting at times and he has some stories and ideas that keep you attentive. If you like the dust bowl style with a mix of strong folk-rock band moves and more, then this one will offer you quite a bit of pleasure.
© David Hintz


Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors "Good Light"
Own label; 2013

Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors "Medicine"
Own label; 2014

www.drewholcomb.com

This is Holcomb’s fourth album with the Neighbors and appears to be his eight overall. Between that much music and extensive touring behind him, you would expect a sharp well produced record. You certainly get all of that here and there are songs that all could warrant plenty or pleasant replays. There are elements of folk, Americana, and folkrock in this mix and the overall quality makes any overlapping of style fairly seamless. It is yet another solid album for the Nashville born Holcomb and band.
And it is with pleasure that I have two Drew Holcomb albums to review. I think I could easily listen to his whole catalog and not have anything too tedious or overly predictable. This album follows the same general approach with a distinct infusion of rock guitar in some of the cuts. ‘Shine Like Lightning’ simply smokes. There are still plenty of quality songs where his vocal delivery punctuates the drama with distinctive phrasing and clarity in tone. Holcomb is definitely someone to follow if you are a regular Folkworld reader.
© David Hintz


Bar "Bar"
Rookie Records, 2014

www.barklang.de

Not the best band name I’ve heard lately, especially in the internet age. More fun was the previous band name that three of the members came from: Liquid Laughter Lounge Quartet. This appears to be sonically similar from the little I’ve heard of the former band. There is a Nick Cave light approach that reminds me of a saxophone less Morphine (the band not the drug, I know not the drug). It is lounge, but more ethereal rock than jazz. The Duane Eddy twang is a nice touch. Sometimes this works well, but it is acquired taste. It is always nice to hear something that is comforting, yet a bit off the beaten path.
© David Hintz


Frazey Ford "Indian Ocean"
Nettwerk, 2014

www.frazeyford.com

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Frazey Ford’s style has always been welcome in this household. She has a breezy folk style with an intense quiver in her voice keeping things sharply focused even as you may be lulled in by the smooth musical accompaniment. There are lovely backing vocals and a variety of instruments including horns and organ that offer something unique beyond the usual guitar, bass drums approach. That sound is in there, too, as the approach is familiar yet highly personal. Frazey Ford writes a unique high quality song that is always worth listening to many times over to enjoy and contemplate.
© David Hintz


Good Omens "Open Plain"
Beste Unterhaltung, 2014

Artist Video

www.goodomensband.com

This is one solid modern folk album. There are female and male vocal leads, both separated and together in harmony depending on the song. There are folktronica elements, but they are subtle for the most part. Acoustic guitars take the lead in addition to the haunting vocal work. I enjoyed the melodies and even with the modern touches, there is an old fashioned charm to the overall ‘folk feeling’ this record brings out. There are a lot of good songs on here, some are extended a bit more than what I would like, but the overall flow is good throughout this debut album from Finland.
© David Hintz


Zak Smith "Signs of Life"
Precambrian; 2014

www.zaksmithband.com

There are quality arrangements in the music of Zak Smith on this album. I particularly like the gospel feeling brought out by the back-up singers. Smith’s vocals also have plenty of heart as well, all delivered with a breathy rasp that retains the melody. The pianos, guitars, and other instruments all are balanced well and everything comes off well, as the fuller arrangements are balanced with more stripped down moments. It is hard to fault much of anything here, although I always hope for more soaring moments. There are a couple of those moments early in the album, so it is well worth a listen.
© David Hintz


Riika "In Tune with Wolves"
Rockadillo, 2014

www.riikkamusic.com

Dreamy snowscapes near the Arctic circle mixed with pop music has been a recurring theme for many artists from Iceland to Scandinavia and beyond in recent years. Helsinki’s Riika is the latest on my listening list and she is a worthwhile participant in this genre. The vocals are clear and crystalline and are offset by arrangements that use bowed strings with plectrum struck strings to keep enough edge within the flowing ambience. There may be some deep and distant folk melodies in here as well, so it has relevance for folk lovers, as much as Scandinavian music often provides (even in the extensive Metal scene). This is a pleasure.
© David Hintz


Epsylon "Manufacture du Temps"
Own label; 2014

www.epsylonlegroupe.com

If you like bagpipes, there is nothing like a full-fledged hard rock band to play with them and keep up with the intense volume. Epsylon does this on many songs featuring the Breton pipes. There are also accordions and violins to give classic French folk sounds to this full rock sound. It is heavy, but very melodic with find vocals and catchy rock songs. I like this quite a bit, even as it is a tricky sound to bring unique qualities to. Epsylon has just the right balance of loud folk and rock instruments to get the sound right along with decent songwriting as well.
© David Hintz


Ragga Gröndal "Svenfnljoo"
Bella Records/Beste Unterhaltung, 2014

www.rgrondal.com

Ragga Grondal has a lovely voice, which she takes on a journey that soars among the clouds before floating gently to the earth. This is ethereal dreamy folk, but there are plenty of grounded moments that head to folk-pop style as well. This album meanders about a bit, but it is all in a playful way and the vocal work unifies it well enough, so that it works as a whole. It is quite pleasant with enough edge to engage critical listeners as well as those that want to drift away.
© David Hintz


Hubertus Rösch "Waiting for this Train"
Own label; 2014

www.hubertusroesch.com

Trains and folk music? That is a train we have all been on plenty of times. Rosch’s particular journey is a bit more Dylan/Cohen than Woodie Guthrie, as it has a softer edge of reflection in the tones of the seven songs. There are six originals on this EP along with a cover of Dylan’s ‘Oh Sister’. But it is ‘Ridiculous Thoughts’ that works the best for me and gives me the desire to hear a long player from Rosch. That song has some mysterious and subtle slide guitar along with deliberate picking and as he picks up the intensity in his song. There is some creativity here among the familiar sounds.
© David Hintz


Celtica Pipes Rock! "Legends and Visions"
Stringdependent; 2014

Artist Video

www.celticarocks.com

Here’s another of those bands whose name pretty much says it all. They have pipes, they play Celtic music, and they rock. It is pretty much a straight forward somewhat metal, somewhat old school hard rock band with lots of piping and some other instrumental flourish in the backing to give an air of ancient mystery. The vocals are so-so and I preferred the mostly original material. ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ had me longing for either a more traditional version or Thin Lizzy’s classic take. Still, this is a fun record to get revved up in a Celtic way, and if you are in the mood for that, it will be hard to find anything that will do the job more than this.
© David Hintz


Craig Bickhardt "The More I Wonder"
Stone Barn; 2014

www.craigbickhardt.com

Craig Bickhardt has been a force behind the scenes for some considerable time. He’s worked with Albert Grossman, Ahment Ertegun and had an early song recorded by Art Garfunkel. He’s shared stages with Springstreen and Stills. And his music may be familiar to you as he was part of the score of the movie Tender Mercies, with Robert Duvall, playing a character he can probably relate to. So I had fairly high expectations for this album and it delivered. The songs sound like something you could have heard 50 years ago or 50 years from now. His voice is smoothly weathered and brings fine thoughtful emotions to his lyrics. The arrangements are classy and keep the album lively and fresh throughout.
© David Hintz


Janne Westerlund "Marshland"
Ektro; 2015

www.jannewesterlund.tumblr.com

I recall that I enjoyed Helsinki’s Janne Westerlund’s previous album quite a bit,[49] so it was great pleasure to receive this in the mail. And within one song, I knew I had another album that would make it to the top of my replay pile. Westerlund has a spiritual style that mixes folk, blues, and Scandinavian styles into a compelling blend that reminds me of Woven Hand. I can’t pay much more of a compliment than that, as I think David Eugene Edwards of Woven Hand (and 16HP) is one of the best songwriters out there. And there is definitely a link between simple arrangements with a droning style on some of the songs here. But there is a fairly broad array of songs here with enough style variation in the tone of the song and arrangement to make for an engaging listen all the way through. Grab onto this one, psyche-folk fans.
© David Hintz


Lynne Taylor "When Lightning Strikes"
Own label; 2013

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Lynne Taylor mixes some classic folk moves with a gutsy Americana style through much of this interesting album. Her voice has precision and she pushes the power buttons when needed and knows how to pull back to heighten the drama of her songs. Her piano playing is skillful throughout and she has strings and the usual rock instrumentation to fill out the rich arrangements. There is plenty of quality and heart in this album and she sounds like someone I would love to see on stage some time as well. I also enjoyed the sticker on the cover warning of ‘Mild Language’ in one song. If this was a gangster rap album, I am thinking that would be the one cut that did not have objectionable language.
© David Hintz


Lighthouse "Lighthouse"
Moody Maraccas; 2014

www.lighthousesweden.com

This Swedish duo has their feet fully planted in rural Americana soil. The sound is incredibly lush and full as the twang in the guitars echoes over the thicker rhythmic beats. The male and female vocals work together well, and there is a country vibe in some of the songs. I have heard this all before, so have almost all of us, but they do a fine job of giving the listener a full sound rich with experience and panache. They also know their way around a hook in the structure of some of the better songs here. They are worth an eye and an ear.
© David Hintz


Uwe Gronau "Thoughts of Tomorrow"
Own label; 2014

www.uwe-gronau.de

Somewhere between krautrock and new age comes this mostly instrumental album from German composer, Uwe Gronau. There are old synth sounds with more modern electronic tweeks amidst a smooth array of instrumentation. The beats can be quite brisk at times and there are acoustic instruments like bass and piano to spice up the sound in unique jazzy directions. There are vocal bursts used as instruments for melodic effect and coloring. This is quite bright and breezy with some more reflective songs in between to create a full listening experience that works on the whole. Nice job, although folk fans should look elsewhere.
© David Hintz



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