Issue 7 12/98
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Bloco Vomit "Never
Mind the Bossa Nova Here's Bloco Vomit"
Label: X Creature Productions; Bloco 001 CD;
12 Tracks; Playing Time: 37.18 min
This is noisy, irreverent, and above all, fun. And if you don't like
seventies' British punk, chances are you're going to hate it. Bloco Vomit's
"samba punk" is basically that, underpinned with frantic percussive
drumming. It couldn't even remotely be called folk, of course (unless one
goes with the view that punk is a form of folk music) so I'm not really sure
what it's doing here ; )
The twelve tracks are spirited cover versions of classic punk songs
including "Pretty Vacant", "Should I Stay or Should I Go", "Police and
Kicks" and the wonderful "Jilted
John" (quote: "I'm so upset - I should smash his face in - ah yeah but
he's bigger than me i'n'he ... - ah well - I don't care!"). If you like
those you'll probably enjoy this album a great deal.
Boiled in Lead
Omnium Recordings; OMM 2017; 19 Tracks; Playing Time: 71.13 min
"Alloy" is the CD released to celebrate 15 years of Minneapolis' roots
rockers Boiled in Lead. Most of the 19 tracks are previously unreleased
demos, out-takes, alternate mixes and live versions, which makes the album
great value for existing fans as well as offering new ones a chance to
discover what they've been missing.
Personally, I lost interest in BiL with the departure of singer/guitarist
Todd Menton, and much prefer the older tracks on this album - the demo
recording of "The Dreadnaught", beautifully sung by Jane Dauphin, is a
particular favourite. However, current singer Adam Stemple does manage to
sound particularly effective on the bizarre lullaby "All The Little
The album emphasizes BiL's Celtic/songwriting side over their more unusual
and often successful experiments fusing western rock music with east
European dance tunes, although some of the tunes here ("Arpad's Guz", "Neda
Voda") do show off their excellence in this area.
BiL have always been an eclectic band and this compilation reflects that -
which probably means that only die-hard fans will like every single track on
the album, but also that most people will discover something they
particularly enjoy. At over 70 minutes, it's certainly good value.
pages; Omnium's Boiled in
Band "Cry From The Heart"
Label: KRL/Lochshore Records; CDLDL 1277; 11
Tracks; Playing Time: 47.41 min
This one's a grower. When I first put on this CD, the player was in "endless
play" mode, and before I knew it I found myself tapping my feet to the third
airing of the infectious "Sweet White Water". I believe that's pretty
indicative of the type of music this is: it doesn't leap out and grab your
attention, but sits contentedly in the background waiting for the listener
to succumb to its very real charms.
It's sophisticated folk/pop music in the mould of the "A Woman's Heart" CDs,
with the same broad appeal as these successful albums. Deirdre Cunningham is
an able singer backed by a fine band. There's fiddler Steve Wickham (of
Waterboys' and Connaught Ramblers' fame), husband Liam Cunningham on
accordion, Deirdre's own acoustic guitar and a driving backbeat of bass /
cello (James Blennerhassit) and djembe / percussion (Conor Gillen).
Deirdre's son Fiachra adds electric guitar and / or backing vocals on
several tracks, completing the basic sound.
Only two of the largely self-penned songs feature additional guest
musicians: Lucy Cummings adds recorder and Francis Bell viola to the
beautiful "Carrowkeel", and the hard edge on "Hard Edge" is supplied by
extra percussionists Colin Blakey, Ciaran Gallagher and Nial Gregory. Very
much a family affair, the album (Deirdre's third) was produced by band
member Liam Cunningham in his own Lake Recording Studios in Co. Roscommon,
which may well account for the nice unpressured feel of the recording.
Definitely recommended listening for anyone who likes Maura O'Connell, Mary
Black and Dolores Keane.
Label: Planetary Records;
Planetary 9006; 11 Tracks; Playing Time: 51.42 min
This is country-tinged rock music somewhat similar to R.E.M. and Weddings
Parties Anything, well-produced and inoffensive. It took a while, but I grew
to like it quite a lot after a few spins.
Dirtball are an eight-piece US band led by singer Wes Freed, whose singing
style may not be to everyone's liking (it reminds me of Alan Tyler of the
Rockingbirds) although it certainly suits Dirtball's musical style. All
eleven tracks are written by members of the group, mostly by guitarist Jeff
Liverman, and deal with typical country themes, such as love and drinking,
as far as I can tell (lyrics are not included in the woefully slim booklet).
Production credits go to Bob Rupe of US rockers Cracker.
My favourite track is "Cloudy Moon", which has a catchy sing-along chorus
and would have definite hit potential in a less commercialised music
industry than we have today. If you like the groups mentioned, check this
Dirtball; Contact Planetary Records
John Drury "Michael
is Leaving Las Vegas"
Label: Yewtree Music; YTCD 001; 11 Tracks;
Playing Time: 43.29 min
According to the press blurb, John Drury was brought up in London surrounded
by (Irish) traditional music - well you wouldn't know it from hearing his
music. This is pretty average old-fashioned singer/songwriter fare, pleasant
enough and unlikely to offend anyone, but hardly essential listening.
John Drury now lives in Yorkshire and has a good number of musician friends
providing sensitive backing to his singing on this CD, most notably Kev
Martin who supplies guitar accompaniment and backing vocals on most tracks,
as well as producing and engineering the album. Other guests include Chris
Newman, Steve Tilston and Maggie Boyle, to name just the best-known of
The songs cover the usual range of singer/songwriter concerns. John's
children Paul, Joseph and Ann each serve as inspiration to individual songs,
and "Stories She Told Me" recalls his own childhood memories of his mother's
storytelling. Others like "Under The Apple Tree" and "Glorious Moon" tackle
Christian ideas from a personal perspective, while "Chinese State Circus"
moves onto political territory mentioning the plight of the people of Tibet.
All in all, it's nice enough, but I can't see who's going to want to buy it
outside his immediate circle of family and friends.
Tom Flannery "Song
About A Train"
Label: KikoMusic; KM-101; 14 Tracks; Playing
Time: 52.25 min
Another singer/songwriter. This one's from Pennsylvania and moves in Dylan's
footsteps. His singing is a lot easier on the ear than Dylan's, though. (He
sounds a little bit like Paul Brady.) The accompaniments are dominated by
Flannery's acoustic guitar and harmonica. Guests Neal Casal (New Jersey
singer/guitarist), keyboarder John Ginty and percussionist Pat Marcinko add
further nuances on assorted instruments.
The songs deal with a wide range of issues, from social ones like the Irish
potato famine ("Marie's Song") or the fate of workers in company towns
("Johnson's Station") to Flannery's personal experiences in the music
business ("I'm Gonna Fade Away", "Steve Earle Blues", "Moshing With David
If you like that sort of thing, contact
Label: Harbourtown Records;
HARCD 035; 36 Tracks; Playing Time: 72.58 min (CD 1), 71.04 min (CD 2)
This double CD was released to coincide with K-Passa's 10th birthday
celebration and offers a pretty complete overview of their recorded output.
"Who are K-Passa?", you may well ask. K-Passa are one of the undiscovered
greats of the British punk-folk genre. Their music's led by the interplay of
Simon Edwards' melodeon and Barrie Morgan's fiddle (the latter has now left
the band, but they still have a fiddle player) to a driving rock band
backing of guitar, bass and drums. Many of their recordings also feature the
fine banjo playing of ex-member Chris Thompson.
K-Passa's biggest weakness is that they've never had a good singer. Simon
Edwards is a great melodeon player, but his singing leaves much to be
desired, and the female backing singers don't really make up for it. Chris
Thompson used to sing as well when he was in K-Passa and does so here on his
own songs "Empty Air" and "Running out of Loving", but even he sounds pretty
rough compared to some of his other recordings. Most of the lyrics are
unintelligible, which is a shame as some of them are worth listening to.
However, what they lack in vocal skills, they make up for with their
playing. The music has tremendous energy and drive - it won't keep you
sitting still. Some of the arrangements are really inventive; check out the
radically different recording of the Boothill Foot-Tappers' "Feelings" (the
only track on the album not written by members of K-Passa). It's one of the
songs which employ reggae rhythms and guest brass players to great effect,
as do "Do You Really Care" and "Running Out...". Some of the straight rock
songs ("Whirlpool" and "All Fall Down") also benefit from the addition of a
Like most folkrockers, K-Passa work best in front of an audience, and it's
on the live recordings they really come into their own. The album includes
quite a few live tracks which were originally released on the "Two Back From
The Front" CD in 1992, as well as an outstanding closing track recorded at
this summer's Dranouter Festival in Belgium which makes you wish you'd been
Obviously the best introduction to K-Passa you could get would be to see
them in concert, but if you can't manage that (and it's hard to catch them
outside their home town of Bristol) this album is the next best thing. It
seems to include a version of every song they've ever recorded, minus the
duplications between albums. Well worth investigating for anyone who likes
rock music which incorporates strong traditional influences - Anglo-Celtic
dance music, Cajun-style fiddling, banjo-picking and some reggae/dub in this
case. If you appreciate the raw energy of the early Pogues recordings you'll
love this, too.
Label: GlobeStyle Records; CDORBD 096
(licensed from Antinos
Records, Japan); 11 Tracks; Playing Time: 47.21 min
If you've not yet discovered the joys of Okinawan roots music, you will find
no better place to dip in your toes than this. Nenes are a female quartet of
excellent singers backed by their mentor Sadao China on sanshin (a
snake-skinned string instrument which sounds a bit like a banjo) and his
The singing is very much in the foreground, with sensitive backing on mainly
sanshin and acoustic and electric guitars. The music has echoes of Chinese
and Indonesian music as well as country and rock, but at the same time is
Nenes was formed in 1990 to make the "shima uta" (island songs) tradition of
Okinawa, the largest of the south Japanese Ryukyu islands, accessible to
young people (with great success). The group has recorded seven albums in as
many years. "Akemodoro Unai" is the latest, and follows a major line-up
change. Despite this, the group sounds extremely tight on this enchanting
album. The licensing deal with GlobeStyle should hopefully make it easy to
get hold of, and give Nenes some well-deserved international
Incidentally, Nenes can also be heard on the title track of Talvin Singh's
celebrated fusion CD "OK", which should bring them to many people's
Nenes fanclub, Nenes home page
Floating Folk Festival Vol. 1: A Compilation of Richmond
Label: Planetary Records;
Planetary 9007; 14 Tracks; Playing Time: 55.06 min
The Floating Folk Festival is a co-operative of musicians from Richmond,
Virginia who organise concerts with a varying roster of participating
artists. It's Folk, Jim, but not as we know it - only in the American
sense of "anything with an acoustic guitar in it". Most of them seem to be
into MOR country, judging by their CD. They may or may not be guesting on
each others' tracks here - it's impossible to tell without the booklet,
which was missing from my review copy of the CD.
The anonymous reviewer in Folk
Roots Magazine rightly reckons "the 'gotta listen to that cut, again
and again' quotient" to be low. Gerry Laverty's "Die In Winter" did it for
me; the rest is fairly ignorable, albeit nice enough. Roy Orbison fans will
enjoy Burnt Taters' (dreadful name!) "Until The Time Is Right", as their
singer sounds stunningly like the great man himself. Probably one to buy at
gigs, rather than to go out of one's way to get hold of.
Various "The Rough
Guide to English Roots Music"
Label: World Music Network; RGNET
1018 CD; 18 Tracks; Playing Time: 70.03 min
The Rough Guide CDs have a reputation for being authoritative selections of
an area's regional music (selling at a moderate price), and this sampler
indicates that it may be well-deserved. English roots music often gets
overlooked due to the strong and vibrant traditions of its Celtic
neighbours; maybe this compilation will redress the balance a little.
So what is English roots music? A number of different strands of the
tradition are represented here: from unaccompanied close-harmony singing
(The Watersons; Coope, Boyes & Simpson) via the ballad tradition (Louise
Fuller; Harry Cox; Waterson:Carthy; John Kirkpatrick; Martin Carthy & Dave
Swarbrick) to the modern singer/songwriter genre (Billy Bragg; Rory McLeod),
from dazzling solo instrumentalists (Northumbrian small piper Billy Pigg) to
modern rock bands with their roots showing (Eliza Carthy & The Kings Of
Calicutt; Oysterband; Hank Dogs; Albion Band) and those who uphold the
English country dance tradition (Walter & Daisy Bulwer, Billy Cooper, Reg
Hall, Mervyn Plunkett & Russell Wortley) not to mention those who
inventively fuse their English musical background with influences from all
over (Edward II; The Barely Works; Savourna Stevenson, June Tabor & Danny
So what's it like? Depending on your tastes and preferences, you will pick
your own favourites; the standard of excellence is high throughout. Of
course you could argue about the selection decisions - time alone will tell
whether darlings of the moment Hank Dogs' contribution to the history of
English roots music justifies their inclusion here; and most people will be
able to name something or other that really should have been included but
isn't. Such discussions are futile; fact remains, it's a pretty good
overview that manages to give an impression of the diversity of English
roots music - and it's really enjoyable to listen to. What more can you ask?
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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 12/98
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