Issue 6 10/98
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Maite Dono "Corazón de Brief"
Label: Do Fol / Boa; DF 011; Playing time: 40.00 min
Maite Dono, a female singer from Galicia, Northern Spain presents with Corazón de Brief her debut album. Maite is an exceptional singer, her style is very lyrical and she can express different emotions very well. Maite is only supported on piano by Manuel Gutiérrez, which creates that special sound somewhere between traditional and modern music. Most of the songs are written (or at least arranged) by Emilio Cao, one of the centre figures of the revival of folk music in Northern Spain. Emilio is a harping bard, who has many records under belt (read a review of a re-release of his forth CD in the German section of this issue, or the review in English of his latest CD in issue 2).
Maite before concentrated on theatre, maybe this helps her to express deep emotions in her songs. She also writes poetry, her book 'Manta de Sombra' (Blanket of Shades) has won the First International Price 'Libros de Egoista', in 1996 - hopefully on her next album she will include also some of her self written material.
Maite Dono is a multitalented young lady to watch out for, hopefully her musical career will carry some such delicious fruits soon again.
Do Fol / Boa
Ned Ludd "a zero ore"
Label: own; NL001-98; Playing time: 69.16 min
This is - finally - the first time that Italian folk music is reviewed in FolkWorld! Ned Ludd are a cool folk rock band from Rome, and this is their excellent debut album. Describing their music style is not easy - their sound is based on accordeon and drums, with string instruments (mandolin, guitar, bouzouki, bass) woven through; guests include a violinist and the English piper Ian Lawther from Kent. In the centre of the band is always Gianluca's charismatic and strong singing and songwriting. All of the songs are in Italian language, and most of them are socio-critical and political, written from the perspective of the normal Italian folk. The songs tell about the 'unemployment dance', about racism, about corruption and mafia in Italy '91. The texts are open and direct, with the musical arrangements always supporting the content of the songs, and any listener should feel moved by their content. There is a lot of power in the music, and - although the texts are great - you can enjoy the music also without understanding Italian (the texts are translated into English in the very well lay-outed booklet).
This is one of my favourite CDs I have heard this year. Watch out for an online interview with Ned Ludd in one of the next issues!
Ned Ludd's homepage, e-mail Ned Ludd's Gianluca
Zabe i Babe with the Ansambl Theodosijevski "Drumovi/Routes"
Label: Bison Publishing; BP110857; Playing time: 43.38 min
For most people Bosnia nowadays is just a symbol for war, isolation, inhumanity. Zabe i Babe want to remind of and live the multicultural melting pot (in a totally positive sense) that Bosnia used to be. In Bosnia, different world views, life styles and cultures were interchanged for centuries, and there is a unique spirit of openness and creative exchange that is still found in the music. Zabe i Babe ('frogs and grandmothers' meaning the same as the phrase 'apples and oranges') is an American based band with (at least) their singer having a Bosnian cultural background. On this album, they are joined by Ansambl Teodosijevski, a formerly hugely popular folk band from Yugoslavia, that features music particularly from their own Macedonian Rom tradition. The album presents a varied mixture of diverse musical cultures from the balkan, mixed with modern and contemporary influences. It must be hugely exciting for Zabe i Babe's Tim Eriksen and Peter Irvine to play at the same time in this Eastern European band and in the very much English-American influenced band Cordelia's Dad. This CD opened my eyes for the musical melting pot of Bosnia; and while some pieces - especially those with the typical singing style - seem to be unusual and shrill for my ears, the music is always at least interesting.
Anne Martin "Co...? - Gaelic songs from the Isle of Skye"
Label: Whitewave Music; WWAVE CD001; Playing time: 43.31 min
Anne Martin has been for me the greatest discovery of my last Scotland trip. The Gaelic singer from the Isle of Skye has an enchanting voice, and a superb repertoire of the most beautiful Gaelic songs. Her band features some not too unknown musicians such as Ian MacDonald, the Ex-Battlefield piper, flautist and concertina player, Runrig's own Malcolm Jones on guitar and accordeon, Ian MacFarlane on fiddle and Ingrid Henderson on harp. The quality of these musicians lies in given just a subtle arrangement to the songs that never disturbs the singing of Anne. Anne's voice is simply wonderful, both at home at the faster puirt-a-beuls as in the slow lullabies. My favourite song of this album is the beautiful and slow lullaby 'Maighdeanan na h-airigh', I believe any child (and most adults) would fall into a peaceful sleep when Anne would sing it to him in the night...
The quality and quantity of superb Gaelic albums that come out in these days is a proof that Gaelic language - at least in the music culture - is far away from dying out. This is another album that deserves its safe place in the collection of the best-ever Gaelic albums; and Anne is a singer definitely worth to watch out for.
Various Artists "Brave Hearts"
Label: Narada; 7-2438-45445-2-2
Ever wondered what the Scots were up to while their fellow Celts, the
Irish, were making hay from Riverdance? Wonder no more. This superb
compilation of Scottish and Scottish-inspired music shows what a diversity
of expression is contained within that musical tradition. Far from being
full of bagpipes and mournful ballads, "Brave Hearts" show-cases the rich
variety and vitality of contemporary Scottish folk music. There are
well-known acts such as Capercaillie, Dougie MacLean and Alasdair Fraser.
But it isn't only the stars that make this album shine. Lesser-known names
play some of the most startling music. Take Blair Douglas' instrumental
"Nelson Mandela's Welcome to the City of Glasgow", for instance. Combining
South African township rhythm and chant with bagpipes and military drums,
this extraordinary piece melds two traditions in a most electrifying way.
There is plenty of excellent singing - mostly in Gaelic - from wonderful
Scottish singer Karen Matheson and Canadian Mary Jane Lamond, and from
groups like Capercaillie and Tannas. Instrumental work on fiddle and
bagpipes is highlighted on tracks by groups like Skyedance and Old Blind
Dogs. And the whole is rounded off by a brooding rendition of "Auld Lang
Syne" by Dougie MacLean. Ignore the tacky title - this album is a superb
showcase of contemporary Scottish folk.
Deanta "Whisper of a Secret"
Label: Green Linnet; GLCD 1173
Deanta (pronounced JAUNT-uh) play a fresh, almost elegant style of music
that's steeped in the Ulster Irish tradition. It's a tradition that has
sometimes been overshadowed by that of its southern neighbours.
The six-piece group - five women and one man - features fiddles, flute,
whistle, bouzouki and bodhran, with harp and keyboards adding some of the
stateliness that typifies their sound. Their other distinctive feature is
the gorgeous voice of Mary Dillon. Her take on the traditional air "Lone
Shanakyle", for example, is lip-tremblingly memorable.
At the livelier end of their sound there are jigs and reels, some
traditional, most composed by group members, all played with great relish.
But even these have a restraint and depth that lifts their music out of the
ordinary. "Whisper of a Secret", Deanta's third album, continues to
underline just how good this Irish group is.
Bill Whelan "The Roots of Riverdance"
Label: Celtic Heartbeat ; UD 53106
The Riverdance phenomenon may seem to have sprung from nowhere, but this
album reveals the long period of musical development composer Bill Whelan
has been through. It's an enthralling ride, beginning with Whelan's
involvement with Irish folk supergroup, Planxty (the brilliant "Timedance"
set), and taking us as far as some of his post-Riverdance work (the
dramatic film score of "Some Mother's Son"). Along the way we hear some of
Whelan's influences: from Balkan rhythms to Spanish dance and of course the
richly complex music and dance of his native Ireland.
The resulting album features mainly instrumental music, though there are
choir and other vocal highlights. Not all tracks are composed by Whelan -
he is gracious enough to both acknowledge and highlight the work of people
like Davy Spillane, (Riverdance's original Irish piper and whistler) and
Andy Irvine (who first fused Balkan and Irish music). "The Roots of
Riverdance" could easily have been a "puff piece", with bits of Riverdance
cobbled together with older tunes to cash in on the craze. Thankfully it is
a far more serious and important album than that. So there are only two
Riverdance tracks, and music from the previously unrecorded piece "The
Spirit of Mayo" has been especially recorded for this album. Anyone
interested in the ongoing evolution of Celtic music should listen to this
Label: BMG/RCA; 74321560072
What keeps a band fresh for more than 25 years? Whatever it is, Irish group
Clannad seems to have some answers. Perhaps it is their continued
connection to their place of origin - the music and culture of
Gaelic-speaking Donegal. Perhaps it is the fact that they are family -
sister and brother, Ciaran and Maire Brennan, and their uncles Noel and
Clannad's new album, their 21st, continues to display a freshness of
approach and a depth of musical expression that must be the envy of their
peers. The formula is deceptively simple: haunting melodies, tight
harmonies, a touch of mist and mystery (helped by their singing a number of
songs in Gaelic) and an uncluttered but classy instrumental sound.
Alongside this seemingly simple approach, Clannad has always been willing
to wander from their musical roots, and here they mix celtic folk with jazz
influences, Afro-percussion (on "A Mhuirnin O") and even a touch of Latin
rhythm and saxophone (on "The Golden Ball"). The trademark vocal harmonies
still pervade the album, giving it an essentially Irish feel. But even when
the two instrumental tunes, both from the pen of Ciaran Brennan, are far
from traditional, they still fit beautifully into an album that represents
some of the best of contemporary Irish music.
Martyn Bennett "Bothy Culture"
Label: Ryko/Festival ; D 31813
Nothing if not unusual, this album is being touted as a ground-breaker in
world music. It is certainly that! To say Martyn Bennett plays the bagpipes
is probably to lead you in the wrong direction. Certainly he was one-time
piper to the city of Edinburgh, and piped in such dignitaries as the Prime
Minister of Tanzania. But he's is also an accomplished
multi-instrumentalist, playing fiddle, keyboards, percussion and a variety
of exotic blown and fretted instruments. He's a techno-freak as well,
having recorded this whole effort at his home studio, with lots of
The result is difficult to describe, but terms like dance-beat and hip-hop
blended with celtic traditional influences cover some of the territory. It
is also witty, with musical and vocal jibes at a few sacred cows on tracks
like "Tongues of Kali" and "Yer Man From Athlone". But just when you think
he's being a bit too tricksy, Bennett pulls off a track like "Hallaig" - a
tribute to the late Skye poet Sorley MacLean. The cut starts with a
recording of the poet reading, with a percussive and semi-orchestral
backing. It concludes with a quite beautiful tune written for the poet's
When you give up trying to classify this album and let it tell its own
complex tale of Scottish culture thriving in a new age, you'll find music
that always stimulates, even if it isn't always accessible.
Pancho Alvarez "Florencio, O Cego Dos Vilares"
Label: Do Fol / Boa; DF 013 CD; Playing time: 46.12 min This is a fascinating and brilliant CD from Galicia, Northern Spain. Pancho Alvarez is multi instrumentalist (he plays more than 10 instruments on this CD, including fiddle, bouzouki, concertina and percussion) and an excellent singer. Special of this, his first solo album is that (apart from the help of enchanting singers Maria and Maca Solleiro on one track) all material is played and sung just by Pancho himself. Still the sound of the album is much more like a top class band with much practise to play together than just a solo musician's CD. A very fresh, lively sound is created with many facettes - sometimes you can hear a very wild young band, sometimes slower ballads accomponied just by fiddle. Everything is excellently played and arranged, no boring second on this CD.
Another fascinating point of this CD is that it is a tribute to Florencio, o cego Dos Vilares (the blind of Dos Vilares). The music and songs of the blind had a long tradition in Galicia - but this tradition died many years ago. Florencio, born in 1914, was a blind musician and singer who went to the fairs of Galicia and Asturias to present there his music. He was one of the last, or maybe even the last, blind fiddlers of this old tradition.
Pancho uses a lot of material from Florencio, wanting to recover the style that was used by the blinds on the fairs. The contents of the songs include often love and mockery romance with lots of irony. Pancho does not leave this music in its old style, he combines it with his own ideas - the listener gets a spectacular insight into old traditions presented in a modern and up to date way.
The CD is full of personal highlights, including the very powerful starting track 'A Moza electricista', and 'Vai de Amores' where Pancho is joined by the magic voices of Maria and Maca Solleiro...
Pancho is a very well known musician in the Galician scene (founder member of Na Lua and Matto Congrio and today member of the Carlos Núñez band), and no matter if you have never heard music from Galicia or if you are listening to nothing else - this CD is well worth a listen.
Do Fol / Boa
Pierce Turner "The
Label: Beggars Banquet; BEGL
2010 CD; Playing Time: 70.22 min
A word of warning first: this is not a folk album. It is, however, an
excellent CD which should appeal to a wide range of music lovers.
Pierce Turner, an Irishman living in New York, is a grossly underrated
pop/rock singer-songwriter. His Irish roots become manifest in his strong
ear for a good tune, his inventive, poetic lyrics and his unique vocal
delivery (he is a trained singer). He is rated highly by colleagues such as
Christy Moore, who has covered two of Pierce's songs - "Wicklow Hills" and
"Musha God Help Her".
This album is a selection from Pierce's recordings on Beggars Banquet and an
ideal introduction to his work. It contains most of the brilliant 1989 "The
Sky & The Ground" album (8 of the 10 tracks) plus 4 songs each from
1991's "Now Is Heaven" and 1987's "It's Only A Long Way Across" (one,
"Mayhem", in a more recent live recording).
If you like Van Morrison, Paul Brady or other Irish rock music you should
definitely give this album a listen. A longer review and track list is at
Pierce Turner site.
JPP "String Tease"
Label: Rockadillio Records; ZENCD 2056; Playing time: 53.18 min
JPP's line up is quite special: four musicians play violin, one harmonium and one double bass. To make the album of this Finnish band even more special they have invited for 10 out of 14 tracks another seven additional violin players to create a very full violin sound. The music ranges from traditional to a lot of selfwritten material (mostly by Arto Järvelä and Timo Alakotila), and it has a very interesting and energetic appeal. On two traditional Swedish pieces they are accompanied by Swedish star band Väsen, both bands have performed several times together on stage, now finally you can find some of their collaboration on CD.
All of the band members are well known faces of the Finnish music scene - most of them have studied (folk!) music, and some today teach themself. JPP is not the only band the musicians are involved in, others (where at least one of JPP's members is involved) are Maria Kalaniemi's band Aldargaz, Troka, Luna Nova, Folkkarit, Pinnin Pojat and Helsinki Mandoliners.
For those who are wondering why they are called JPP - original in the early eighties their name was Järvelän Pikkupelimannit (Little Folk Musicians of Järvelä, the village near Kaustinen, where they come from), but this name was shortened in 1986 to the very simple JPP.
mail to Rockadillio Records
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