Issue 17 12/2000
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Label: Topic; 508; 2000
John Tams is not a name that is well-known outside the UK. Topic describes him as one of the quiet heroes of the British folk music revolution. He has a career that spans several decades. Together with Ashley Hutching he worked on the Albion band album; 'Rise up like the sun' and also with his band Home Service, he made a strong contribution to the English Folk music. Now, in the year 2000, he brings us his first solo cd: Unity. Together with several great artists as Graeme Taylor, Alan Dunn and Linda Thompson he managed to create one of the best singer-songwriter records in years. Intense songs like 'From where I lie' and 'Who will blow the candle out tonight' are brought with passion. His lyrics show political involvement and feeling for live in general. Highlight for me is to hear Linda Thompson sing again. Her version of 'Hold back the tide' is overwhelming. Tams connected 'Hold back the tide' to the fragile song 'somewhere the sun is shining' and it is like the songs were made for each other. Absolutely the six best minutes on this cd. It's time to make up the balance, what will be the best cd of the year 2000. That question will be frequently asked in the coming weeks. This Unity cd will be close to number one. That's for sure!
Label: Realworld; 3098; 1996
I will never in my live forget the concert I saw in 1999 at the Music meeting festival in Nijmegen, Holland. The stage was black and dark. In the middle stood a Tibetan woman called Yungchen Lhamo who shared 45 minutes of her culture with the audience. Nobody dared to take breath, something special happened here. The music was so intense and so right to the soul that after the concert I felt empty and yet so full of energy. She recorded two cd's on the Realworld label and this review is about the first one. Immediately she touches my heart again. It's impossible to listen to Om mani padme hung, Lhasa pumo and the eight other songs without feeling something happening in your body. Almost no instruments, just her rich and power-full voice singing a collection of mantra, prayers, offering songs, celebration songs and a mountain song from the rich culture of Tibet. Get yourself a copy of this cd and feel how this music will take you away on a beautiful journey.
June Tabor "A quiet eye"
Label: Topic; 1999
The first time I heard June Tabor sing, it was on the Silly Sister cd 'No more to the dance'. Surprised I was after hearing that cd, I bought her solo work Abyssinians and found a complete different music atmosphere than I aspected. Tabor is one of the best in her style, bringing old and new written folk songs in a personal style. Most of her work is sober and very pure. She stayed far from the rock music and always had the inclination to use soft jazz influence in her work. A Quiet eye goes a few steps further than her earlier work, a 13 person strong orchestra gives extra power to her songs. She uses the orchestra in a brilliant way as you can hear in a song like I will put my ship in order and Pharaoh. Especially this last song shows how she uses the instruments to bring an extra tension in her songs. Layer after layer the music gets stronger and stronger and the song gets more threatening. This is a highlight in the work of June Tabor and I think that it's right to call her the best English folk singer of this moment. Topic. Elvis Costello said of her: ' If you don't like listening to June Tabor, you should stop listening to music' He is right!
The Joyce gang
"No true road"
Label: pickaxe; 004; 2000
The Joyce gang is an English band who plays Anglo/Irish roots music and uses several styles like the modern jazz. This is their fourth album and although they are known in the British isles, their name is hardly ever heard in Europe. I've never seen the group play live and this is the first time I ever heard their music and I'm sorry to say that I'm some how disappointed. Maybe it's a producers vault but the songs sound chaotic. Already the first one called 600.00, sound like somebody took a saxophone and just started playing not listening what the other musicians are doing. Also in other songs it's the sax that disturbs most. But also without it just doesn't get interesting It are nice tunes and great musicians but they don't manage to create a cd that make your eyes frown. Listened and forgotten.
"The voice of your heart"
Label: Privat label; 1998
1992 best world-music song, 1993 best acoustic song, 1994 best album of the year, 1996 best world music, 1997 best folk song, 1998 best album of the year and 1999 best world music. Well when you read this you think you are listening to a world famous music group. Maybe I'm from another planet but I never heard the name Hottentot party before. But the recommendations made me curious and I had high expectations when I started listening to their new cd 'The voice of your heart'. And I have to say, I'm not disappointed. It's not a masterpiece but the cd offers enough to grip the attention. Carl Clevens and Parissa Bouas write the music them self and they create a music style that is a mixture of folk songs and African music. A song like the last train home is perfect. Played with passion and shows that they are both strong vocalists and instrumentalists.
mail to Hottentot Party
Phil Coulter "Highland Cathedral"
Label: BMG; 09026 63615 2; 2000
Phil coulter has a long and interesting musical history. He is known as composer, producer as well as performing artist. He always found interest in Celtic music but he is also known for his contribution to the popular music. Both Sandie Shaw's Puppet on a string and Cliff Richard's Congratulations are co-written with Bill Martin and well-known even in this new millenium. Since his solo debut in 1983 he performed with Celtic music. Now, after seventeen years and about twelve albums later he recorded Highland cathedral. I think the title is perfect for this album. The songs are mystic and have the atmosphere of a cold Sunday morning. Coulter collected songs from the Celtic tradition such as Flowers of the forest and over the sea to skye but also performs Going home by Dvorak and some intense self-written songs. His music is best described as new-age Celtic music. In songs like Flow gently sweet afton, you only hear Coulter playing the piano very careful and peacefully. Other songs got more power because of the assistance of 'Different drums of Ireland' and the strong vocals of Aoife. This well-produced album will satisfy any Coulter fan and also other people who cant get enough of sweet and "Nothing the matter" music like on this fine cd. Also recommended for Christmas eve!
"Calling the boatman"
Label: Ozella ; 4401; 2000
Paul Joses, living in Germany but born in Scotland, is not a singer-songwriter like many others. The first time I heard his album: Calling the boatman, I had to get used to the sound of his voice. It reminded me a little bit of Jim Diamond but much stronger and more direct to the soul. Now, after have listened a few times to this cd I appreciate his songs more and more. Together with a group of good musicians he recorded eleven nice love-songs. His lyrics are not high literature but they give exactly what you want to hear when you are unsure about the love in your live. (In case my girlfriend reads this, not that I am unsure about us, darling) I just love his song Bottle in the sand. His voice reaches the right level and the cello does the rest. The only thing that wonders me is why he write so much short songs, eleven songs and only 36 minutes of music is not to long. Well, better to have 36 quality minutes than 70 minutes of terrible music. And this cd certainly has quality.
mail to Paul Joses
Label: Ozella; 001; 1999
Dagobert Böhm is a German acoustic guitar player who has released this solo cd last year: Circle around. Thirteen own compositions, mostly performed on acoustic guitar sometimes helped by two fellow musicians on classical guitar and fretless bass. The music of Böhm is influence from classical music, blues as well as the jazz music. On this cd he shows good talent. The cd contains some strong music. He knows the possibility's from his guitar and uses as much as possible to satisfy the listener. Böhm plays very warm and he recorded the music in such way that it's like he is sitting next to you. For people who like the sound of a good guitar-player, this cd is recommended.
Label: Privat label; 21052000; 2000
Herbert Bartmann and Thomas Blum are the musicians behind "Duo contrario". Together they have collected songs aged between 300 and 600 years old from composers such as Gastoldi, Frescobaldi but also anonymous songs. Bartmann plays different kind of pipes, tin whistle and percussion while Blum plays the church organ. Most songs are a duet between pipes and organ although both instruments also have their solo parts. Because of the organ the music might sound religious to many people. This is not music everybody will like, but music for the real fans. I think that Bartmann and Blum recorded a strong collection of songs in a passionate way. Together with the booklet it gives a view into a rich musical history. I think there will be persons who will appreciate this cd very much. Let's speak for my self: I appreciated it very much.
Label: Capital record; 001-99; 1999
Guarana is a Spanish group featuring a few well-known Spanish artists such as: Xavi Tasies and Xavi Lozano both from Electrica Dharma. All six musicians have a wide experience in music-styles from all over the globe and together they mix different regions into their unique Guarana music. Percussion and the human voice form the basic of the music on this debut cd. They create so many different songs on so many kinds of percussion instruments that I'm often surprised about the new things they come up with. A song like La Manada has a strong Caribien atmosphere mixed with some oriental sounds. While Taman taman has a strong African sound also with influence from other parts of the world. I always think that percussion cd's are only fun for the people who have seen the band playing live on stage but Guarana proofs that also live in your living room percussion music can be great to hear. Thanks to their open mind into music and not focussing on only one style, Guarana made a strong debut cd.
"Best of instrumental music"
Label: Laika; 3510132.2; 2000
From the USA comes Deborah Henson-Conant. She is a well-known harp player and she recorded all-ready seven albums until today. This new cd contains her best instrumental songs from the past thirteen years. It's a nice collection showing that Henson-Conant is able to play many styles of music. Some songs have a clear folk sounds while others have some Flamenco influence. I think that overall her songs have a strong jazz sound. Listen to a song like Georgia on my mind, this sounds like she is playing in a dark bar somewhere in the fifties way after the midnight hour. It is a nice collection of songs but to be honest I miss some variation. The jazzy mood has too much influence on the whole. I would love to hear her music with vocals, I think it would give such a cd like this more value. Nevertheless, good music!
Norma Waterson "Bright Shiny Morning"
Topic Records; TSCD520; 2000; Playing time: 48.37 min
This is the first solo traditional album of the grand lady of English folk song,
having been one of the most important singers of the English folk revival. Norma
Waterson dedicates this album to love songs, presenting 12 songs, that all have
phrases that hit the singer directly, as she says in the sleeve notes. The CD
is quite what you would expect: Relaxed and quiet singing, spreading this bit
of intimate atmosphere that Norma's warm voice has in it. The choice of songs
is, as expected, good, featuring mainly traditional songs that are not too well-known.
If we say this a solo album, it is not really a solo album of only a capella
solo singing. On most of the songs, Norma is subtly accompanied by family members
(Eliza and Martin Carthy) and diverse guests. A strong focus in the accompaniment
is the harp of Mary MacMaster, underlining again the warmth of the album. For
the cold winter time, this is surely a welcome addition.
Sharon Shannon & Friends "The Diamond Mountain
Records; CD324 870; 2000; Playing time: 53.21 min
The new album of the ever smiling pretty accordion player Sharon Shannon has
a few surprises, the main one being that it has a strong focus on songs with
an American flavour. That said, it is a very good album, that features also
many fantastic tunes. The musicians are basically Sharon Shannon's superb Woodshoppers
(featuring the fiddling Kane sisters, Sharon's sister Mary on banjo, mandolin
and fiddle, Tony Molloy on electric bass and Jim Murray on guitar) plus lots
of high profile guests.
The album directly starts off with a real gem, the Galician medley "A Costa
de Galicia", with Sharon shining with her accordion, joined by the Galician
master himself, Carlos Núñez, who comes back for another Galician
tune later on at the album. Most of the songs have a bit of a country flavour,
but - of course - they are beautifully arranged; featuring singers such as John
Prine, Steve Earle, Jackson Browne, John Hoban, Liam O Maonlai (Hothouse Flowers)
etc. Six songs versus eight sets of tunes make up a good mixture. Though I am
usually no friend of country influenced songs, I really did enjoy this album.
Chudoba "Polkas, Lullabies & Wedding Songs"
CD202-2; 2000; Playing time: 65.43 min
Chudoba are one of the young bands from the flourishing Polish folk music scene.
Being formed already in 1993 as a student's band, this is Chudoba's first international
release, coinciding with their appearance at the WOMEX in Berlin this autumn.
This album features 22 titles, most of them being songs sung with two male voices.
The songs have their origin in the Polish mountains, in the Czech Republic,
Bulgaria, Serbia, the Ukraine, and most significantly in the lemkish region
in southeastern Poland. Chudoba are an eight-piece band, with typical instruments
such as Byelorussian dulcimer, flutes, small cymbal, violin, diverse hand drums,
double bass, guitars, etc. The music changes between quiet love songs and energetic
songs with powerful voices and a lot of rhythm. Most of this CD sounds fresh
and appealing, although at times the band drifts into the folklorist/contemporary
Overall, this is a nice discovery from Germany's culturally unknown neighbour.
I enjoyed listening to this album, and I am sure that they are in live even
better than on CD.
Anne Martin & Ingrid Henderson "Nighean
; WWAVECD002; 2000; Playing time: 45.57 min
A pretty Gaelic voice and beautiful sounds of a brilliant harp player - definitely
a very good and harmonizing combination. Anne Martin from Skye is one of the
great Gaelic singers of the younger generation; her first album "Co...
?" was already praised in FolkWorld two years ago. I like "Nighean
nan geug" even better than "Co..?"; the album is much more focussed
on the song, and Ingrid's harp and at times piano proves to be the perfect accompanying
instrument. Additionally to the harp, there are at times guest instruments subtly
played to the songs - guests are James Macintosh on percussion, Iain MacFarlane
on fiddle, Colum Sands as producer and on bowed double bass and some stunning
moments featuring Rob Hall's saxophone, proving once again that a sax can fit
wonderfully to the emotional Gaelic songs.
The songs range from lively waulking songs to very soft and beautiful passionate
quiet songs, where Anne Martin proves her singing talents with fascinating and
touching interpretations of the great epic Gaelic songs. One of the highlights
of the album is though a Gaelic poem presented by Anne, surrounded by a beautiful
tune on the harp.
This is a really beautiful album, carrying the full spirit of Gaelic music and
song traditions. Probably another milestone of Gaelic song.
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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 12/2000
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