FolkWorld #75 07/2021

CD Reviews

Niamh Ní Charra "Donnelly’s Arm"
Own label, 2021

German CD Review

Artist Audio

www.niamhnicharra.com

On the album the Irish Fiddler shows her talents also as a concertina player, and of course we’ve known for a long time that she is a wonderful singer (don’t forget: She hails from a musical family, her uncle Pádraig Ó Carra with his zither was several times on tour over here with the Irish Folk Festival). Now she puts all her talents together and invites highly qualified guests – the result: truly a joy for the ear. Instrumentals, songs in Irish and English, traditionals and even, surprise, a song by colleague Si Khan from the USA. On the cover we see a wild confusion of roots and a raised arm which looks like a picture from a book on atonomy. Prize fighter Dan Donelly died in 1820 aged only 31 years. The story of his arm, which gave the title tot he album, is told in the informative and highly readable booklet – and we understand that the arm would deserve a novel, but the CD is so lovely, so we can make to without the novel.
© Gabriele Haefs


David Munyon "American Guitar"
Own label, 2021

German CD Review

Artist Video

www.davidmunyon.de

The Songs on this CD were recorded more or less in one go in November 2020 after a period of catastrophes in the life of singer and songwriter David Munyon. The booklet tells about this and the listener feel awkwardly like a voyeuse, because the catastrophes are so private and no concern of others. But even though all the songs are melancholic, they don’t deal directly with the artist’s private woes. The title could make us expect a pure instrumental-CD, but the beautifully played guitar remains mainly in the background. On the cover David Munyon thanks Jesus for His never ending help, and we find religious motives in several songs, but it’s not exaggeratedly missionary. Munyon with his hoarse voice sings about all sorts of longings and often evokes traditional forerunners, like in his song „Beautiful Magnolias“. Not to everyone’s taste ​ perhaps is „Nuclear Joe“, the only song here which is supposed to be funny. It‘s about nuclear pollution, but in most songs melancholy prevails, in music and word, and makes the CD the ideal companion for long rainy evenings.
© Gabriele Haefs


Wren "Pink Stone: Songs from Moose Lodge"
Own label, 2021

German CD Review

Artist Video

www.wren-music.com

The moose lodge of the title is to be found in Methow Valley in the state of Washington. The info sheet for the press tells us that this valley is the old home of the Methow-People, whose few survivors today live in a reservation and speak English, even though their own language is not completely extinct. Of course we want to know more, but the songs by songwriter Wren have nothing to do with them. She simply likes to retire to Lodge Moose, first after a long period of sickness in 2016, by now in order to be able to work in peace and to find inspiration in the nature which surrounds the lodge. Her songs, which she accompanies on the guitar (among the remarkable guest musicians we find Krista Detor, accordion, and Gordon Lowry, violine) are Americana of high quality; titles like „The Sun is Going Down“ and „Corn Stalks“ tell us what they are about. Most songs are in a rather melancholy vein, the exception: the lively waltz „Cedar Tree Boy“. Makes you want more Wren (for over here she apparently is not as well known as she deserves).
© Gabriele Haefs


Sveriges Vänner "Fin är du"
Own label, 2021

German CD Review

www.sveriges-vaenner.de

„Friends of Sweden“ are a German duo consisting of Gudrun Selle and Johannes Uhlmann. On this CD with subtitle „Fin är du“, which means: „You’re a fine one“ they present Swedish CD. Whoever this „fine one“ is supposed to be, we can return the compliment immediately. The album starts with a Schottis, a merry intro into the CD. The rest is a colourful mixture, a sober hymn, all sorts of dance music, polskas, more Schottis and a Rhinelander. One Polska has the wonderful title „Polska to which Gustavus Adolphus danced with Ebba Brahe“, and don’t we see the two of them, freeing themselves from the rigid codes of behaviour at court? „Vem kann segla“, a lullaby which is very popular in the Scandinavian countries, is here as well. The duo play flute and accordeon, which provide the true Swedish sound, and if a tiny bit of critism may be allowed, then this one: Spend a bit more time rehearsing Swedish pronunciation, the rolled r and the ligatures, then everything will be perfect.
© Gabriele Haefs


Steve Tilston "Such Times"
World Music Network, 2021

German CD Review

Artist Video

www.stevetilston.com

The Leicestershire songwriter has worked together with so many legendary artists, let us only mention Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Maggie Boyle, and this makes it easy to forget that he is worthwhile listening to also on his own. The CD is probably a slightly delayed present to his fans on the occasion of his 70th birthday, and we thank the strapping jubilant with all our heart. 14 songs and one instrumental, everything written by himself. Song Nr. 3 perhaps is his motto: The is living with the blues. Life on the road, in reality and in a more symbolic way, a lot of movement, a lot of longing, many unsolved questions which make to road before the wanderer even more interesting make the mood of the songs („My mystery train“). On the cover we read that Steve Tilson is „tapping into the Zeitgeist“, but here we can have our doubts, perhaps he deals with timeless things, to which the Zeitgeist has very little to say? But that does not matter, ​ wonderful music, verses to dream and to get active by, and every now and again a catchy tune like „Dust from my heels“.
© Gabriele Haefs


Emma Langford "Quiet Giant"
Own label, 2021

Emma Langford "Sowing Acorns"
Own label, 2020

German CD Review

Artist Audio

www.emmalangfordmusic.com

Emma Langford comes from hear Limerick, but on this CD we hardly hear any Irish influences. The cover is like taken from a fairytale, a dark wood with a Hansel and Gretel house, we have to look for a moment to find the quiet giant, but there he is! There are many fairytale motives in the songs, we meet the Sandman, there is a princess like Rapunzel, wie hear about Beauty and the Ruin, and the whole thing turns biblical when Eve appears, a long time after being expelled from paradise. All songs are very much from today, though, and all of them were written by Emma Langford herself. She accompanies her singing on the guitar and has invited an amazing selection of guest musicians, most impressive are Hanna NicGearailt, who plays the piano and sings the backing vocals. There are so many styles meeting here, so many ways of developing a melody, this album is truly an adventure, which never comes to an end, because you have to listen to it all over again and watch out for more allusion in music and content.

On this album Emma Langford takes up Irish and Scottish traditions. The first song is in the style of a waulking song, „Ready-O“ show what a brilliand unaccompanied singer she is. All songs on the CD were written by herself, but this time the influences of Irish music are a lot more obvious than on „Quiet Giant“ of 2021. Again she has invited ​ many guests into the studio, but in spite of the multitude of instruments all songs show her very own distinctive style. The songs often are about persons in a crisis – the 12 year old who misses her voice, the man who cannot find his way around in his own country any more, someone locked up in a catastrophical relationship, someone who sees no way out – but the instrumental adornments show each time, that almost always some hope exists. Beautiful as a dream altogether.
© Gabriele Haefs


Varo "Varo"
Own label, 2020

German CD Review

Artist Audio

www.varodublin.com

Varo is a French-Italien female duo devoted to Irish and Scottish music and living in Dublin. Both singers play the fiddle plus various other instruments, and they present studio guests from Ireland who play many other stringed instruments. The album starts with „Ye Jacobites by name“, which seems to be extremely popular in Ireland at present. Like the Johnstons long ago Varo sing a version of the text in standard English – and the Johnstons seem to be one of there foremost inspirations, also „The Doffing Mistress“, a Belfast song, is taken from their repertoire. There are many other old favourites on the album as well, „As I roved out“, „Sovay“ and „Streets of Forbes“, to name but a few. Everything makes for pleasant listening, is presented with a great feeling for details in the way voices and tunes are used, truly an interesting acquaintance. But if you are looking for Irish, Italian or Gallic temperament you’ve come to the wrong door, there is much crooning and whispering here, no fury even in „The Streets of Forbes“, where we really expect it and which we love and appreciate in June Tabor’s canonical version.
© Gabriele Haefs


Deborah Henriksson "So far"
Own label, 2020

German CD Review

www.deborahhenriksson.com

Deborah Henriksson is a Swedish-American singer and songwriter, singing in English. Most songs on her double-CD were written by herself, others were made known by Clannad, Robert Burns and Eleanor McEvoy, to name but a few. On her website Henriksson’s style is described as Contemporary Folk/Pop/Celtic, which probably ís true, the pop-elements are strongest, but every now and again and with the help of Mats Nyman’s piano accompaniment it sounds like a classical Lieder-soirée. „Ae fond kiss“, for example, known in endless many versions, is sung here as if it were written by Franz Schubert and not by Rabbie Burns, only the title is Scots, the rest of the text has been transposed into standard English. Scottish influences make themselves known here and ​ there, „Breakers’Roar“ definitely owes its existence to „Mó ghille mòr“. Everything sounds lovely, beautiful, pleasant to listen to, but sometimes a bit less polishing would have been nice as well. Ideal music for fans of classical Lieder soirees.
© Gabriele Haefs


Merry Hell "Emergency Lullabies"
My Hell Music, 2020

Merry Hell "When we meet again" [EP]
My Hell Music, 2020

German CD Review

Artist Audio

Artist Video

www.merryhell.co.uk

Many years ago, when the Pogues and The Men They Couldn’t Hang were young and showed the way, this type of music was called Rogue Folk, and this name fits Merry Hell perfectly. This English band seems to be a family enterprise, half of the staff anyway have Kettle for a surname. And weh ave to give a special mention to Virginia Kettle who sings naughtily and like a brat from the gutters, simply wonderful. The songs, all written by the band, are about everyday madness, („Go down fighting“), about the environmental collapse which just perhaps can still be prevented, about Sister Atlas loading the world onto her shoulders and hopefully making a better job of it as brother Atlas in his day. And of course the songs are about sailors, love and the longing to have a home and to be allowed to keep it. Merry Hell have a penchant for hymns, which is also proved by the EP „When we meet again“. Here they sing three songs together with the Social Isolation Choir, calling for solidarity, no matter how hopeless everything may appear. This choir consists of more than 300 voices who all recorded themselves and sent the recordings to Merry Hell. Simply overwhelmingly great.
© Gabriele Haefs


Perttula "Pajavasara"
Bafe's Factory, 2020

German CD Review

Pajavasara, blacksmith’s hammer, is truly the right name for this album by Finnish accordeon virtuoso Perttula. He compares working on his musical material to the craft of a smith who has to use his hammer to make iron and ore yield the possibilities they hide. In addition there is the rhythm, for Perttula likes a bit of temperament, and so we get the feeling that we’re hearing the hammer in the background. But before the trusty smith hammers the ambolt into the ground the tunes turn gentle and melancholic, after all we’re in Finland, the land of vast emotional changes. Instead of Finnish tango we are treated to waltzes, the CD really has that many variations in its music. We don’t get lots of info, though. „Compositions and arrangements“ by Perttula, the cover says, but whether he has written everything himself or arranged traditional material in a new way, everything sounds wonderfully Finnish and absolutely like the craft of mastersmith Perttula!
© Gabriele Haefs


GF Morgan "Driftwood"
Eigenverlag, 2020

German CD Review

Artist Audio

www.gfmorganballads.com

On the cover GF Morgan with his tam o’shanter pulled boldly over his ear looks as if he’s on his way to join Rogers‘ Rangers, but like them he hails from Maine, which probably explains it all. After we’ve seen the photograph it comes as a surprise that his singing is so gentle, not warlike at all, not even in a song about Tommy who goes off to the wars. GF Morgan plays guitar and concertina, writes his own songs, but also sings traditionals, preferably the versions which came to Maine a long time ago and survived there, like „Barbary Allyn“ or „Twa Corbies“, for example. The Corbies show us that GF Morgen also has a penchant for Scottish and Irish music, several traditionals on this album were composed by Carolan or are at least attributed to this blind harper. One composition is by James Scott Skinner: „Hector the Hero“ and sounds frighteningly topical. Hector McDonald, a highly decorated British officer, was suspected of having sexually abused young boys, while he was stationed in India. Apparently no one was interested in finding out what really had happened. This was a tiny historical digression, the tune is an instrumental and does not take sides, it is simply another jewel on this jewel-studded album.
© Gabriele Haefs


Sigrid Moldestad "Tonen i meg"
Grappa/Heilo, 2021

German CD Review

Artist Video

www.sigridmoldestad.com

Norwegian Sigrid Moldestad is a true multitalent: She writes most of her songs, sings, plays fiddle, hardingfele and ukuleke and has a great way of selecting her studio guests. So, logically, the result is a wonderful album. Moldestad loves to mix styles, she starts off in a very folky way, but turns dramatic in the same song („Tonen i meg“, „The sound in me“, the namegiving piece on the CD). We can hear many origins of inspirations in her songs, Norwegian traditions, Swedish visesang, international songwriting, Country, to name but a few. A handful of songs which you simply keep on humming for days are based on these country influences, „Karolina“, for example. Even one instrumental is to be found on the album: Blågras, meaning „Blue Grass“, and that’s just what it sounds like. Also Sigrid Moldestad’s clear, rich voice which pronounces each word distinctly deserves a lot of praise. This is her sixth album, high time for us to discover this remarkable artist also over here.
© Gabriele Haefs


Liz Simmons "Poets"
Eigenverlag, 2021

German CD Review

Artist Audio

www.lizsimmons.net

A (much too short) album by this songwriter from Vermont. Most of the songs were written by her, others by the likes of Sandy Denny and Joni Mitchell. Joni Mitchell seems to be her absolute idol, again and again can we hear Mitchell’s style in Simmons’s songs, especially of course in „Night in the City“. The great surprise on the album is a song by Holland-Dozier-Holland, songwriterkings from the Motown-scene of the sixties: „This old heart of mine“ – totally different from all other versions we’ve heard before and absolutely a highlight of the CD. Liz Simmons accompanies herself on the guitar, it all sounds wonderfully folky, she had able studio guests, only the drummes tend to exaggerate (she’s using more than one) and beat a monotonous, obtrusive rhythm as if they had been asked to play dancemusic somewhere on a tourist ferry.
© Gabriele Haefs


Tony Trischka "Shall We Hope"
Shefa Records, 2021

German CD Review

www.tonytrischka.com

Banjoplayer Tony Trischka is one of those who always seem to have been around but still have to be discovered by larger audiences. New he has issued a concept album where he is heartily present with his banjo. A lot of studio guests have found their way to the microphones, among them, to name but one, Maura O’Connell, Ex-De Dannan, who sings the part of an Irish immigrant in the USA. The subject oft he album is the American Civil War, and many participants have their say: Immigrants who were drafted immediately, soldiers who think it’s all great sport (trigger warning: If you don’t enjoy lines such as „I’ll march away to the fighting line and I’ll kill that enemy soldier“, you won’t be happy with this CD), slaves fighting for their liberation, and even Franklin D. Roosevelt who many years later tells us about American patriotism. A richly varied album with many interesting names, many of which we still have to discover over here.
© Gabriele Haefs


Ensemble Vinorosso "Schräge Zeiten"
Kaleidos Musikeditionen, 2021

German CD Review

Artist Video

www.ensemble-vinorosso.de

Weird times, indeed. „Corona suited chamber music“, as the press text says, from Ensemble Vinorosso, a gang of eight. Surprising changes of metre are their speciality, and on this purely instrumental CD they can let their passion run free. Many musical styles are presented here, classical music, Gypsy swing, many things Balkanese, but also an Alpine Zwiefacher. And then, all of a sudden, the whole thing turns oriental (and sounds like the background music in „Angélique and the sultan“). Of course there is klezmer, we hear treacherous waltzes like in Vienna, and Ravel’s „Bolero“ acted as godfather to one tune. So much is happening on this CD! And those who want to know more find it all in the exhaustive informations about every piece which are printed in the booklet – „The 5er (here in c-major) is the smallest complex metre (a 3/8 followed by a 2/8 element) …“ and this we hear, of course.
© Gabriele Haefs


Ian Melrose und Uwe Neumann "Heine gets the Groove"
Timezone, 2021

German CD Review

Artist Video

www.heinegetsthegroove.com

Texts by Heinrich Heine, sometimes as recitals, sometimes sung, mostly by actor Uwe Neumann. Ian Melrose also sings a bit, but mostly he shows his amazing skill on all sorts of stringed instruments. Among the guest musicians Jan Hermerschmidt must be named, whose clarinet absolutely puts its imprint on the sound. Uwe Neumann has chosen the texts, and he did not necessarily settle for the best known ones (like the „Loreley“), which makes the album a great opportunity to get acquainted with the many faces of this poet from Düsseldorf: Heine the sharp sighted political observer, the cross-starred lover, the victum of anti-semite harrassment, the man behind a lot of sexist talk, the lover of everything Parisian. Highly interesting to listen to it all, especially when you have only seen the texts in print so far. There are moments of irritation, though, like when Uwe Neumann for reasons unknown pronounces the Flemish placename Waterloo the English way – Paris he pronounces like a German word, at least.
© Gabriele Haefs


Mark Schatz & Bryan McDowell "Grit & Polish"
Patuxent Music, 2021

German CD Review

Artist Audio

www.markschatz.net

Schatz und McDowell hail from Tennessee, their postal address is in Nashville, even, and this really raises great expectations. Which are fullfilled in the finest way. They start with feisty fiddling, but they also know how to do it slowly, melancholly, here a flowery waltz (the „Gardinia Waltz“), there a home-loving song („My East Tennessee Home“), in the hopes that the home may be spared from all sorts of catastrophes. Love is very important in the songs, of course, we find a lot of hillbilly-humour, like in „There ain’t nobody here but us chickens“. This album is a highly successful mixture of loud and quiet, sad und funny, of instrumentals and songs. And to crown it all a song by Bob Dylan, totally different to the versions we are used to: „One too many mornings“. And by the way, we absolutely must mention Mark Schatz’s jew’s harp, it’s a long times since we’ve heard such a virtuoso on this instrument!
© Gabriele Haefs


Andy Irvine & Lillebjørn Nilsen "Live in Telemark"
Grappa/Heilo, 1994/2021

German CD Review

Article: Live in Telemark

Article: Andy's Favourite Child Ballads

www.andyirvine.com
www.lillebjorn.no

We had to wait a lot of time for this album. The two of them have performed many more times live in Telemark since then, but the songs on this CD were recorded in 1994! No one seems to know for certain why the recordings had to lie around in archives for such a long time, but they did not get mouldy. The album is a joy to listen to, and of course far too short, since it lasts roughly one hour. A photograph shows the two artists all those years ago, Lillebjørn with short hair, menacingly frowning, cigarette in hand, Andy without a grey hair on his head yet. Just like the music! One sings in Norwegian, the other can be heard in the background, and vice versa, their many instruments go along perfectly together, they perform old favourites („My heart’s tonight in Ireland“ and „Ola Tveiten“), things we don’t hear that often („A Prince among Men“ and „Jenta in Chicago“), a handful of instrumentals are thrown in, between the songs they introduce each other to the audience and make a few jokes, it’s pure joy and great fun, and this cannot be said often enough.
© Gabriele Haefs



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