Issue 23 09/2002

FolkWorld CD ReviewsDog

Schalsickbrassband "kesh mesh"
Label: Westpark; 87089; 2002; Playing time: 74.33 min
This brass band from Cologne started as a alternative Carnival band but now the group is an internationally known and rewarded band. Kesh mesh is their fourth cd and as always one full of surprises. The start is terrible, an annoying circus tune which hurts the ears. That this opener is only a joke can be concluded after hearing the quality of the other fifteen songs. The group gets its inspiration from all corners of the world. They use sneaky Bulgarian vocals, African drums, Kurdish folksong and Egyptian belly-dance music besides the Cologne dialect. This group is not only a band with world-wide music, they also belong to the absolute best the world-brass music has to offer. Much better than al these Brass formations that think they are original by playing yet again some klezmer classics, no Schal sick looks further than that and knows how to entertain its audience.
Eelco Schilder

Eyfo (European Youth Folk Orchestra) "enfants terrible "
Label: Folkclub Ethnosuoni; ES5323; 2002; Playing time: 62.02 min
This is probably the first CD I have in my hands that is co-financed by the European Union, under the Culture 2000 Programme. And, to summarise the album in one word, it is brilliant.
The idea of a European Youth Folk Orchestra came about from the fact that there are already Euroepan youth orchestras for music as diverse as classic, baroque and jazz. It felt more than suitable to establish also an orchestra for traditional music, bringing togetehr the diversity of distinctve music traditions from all over Europe. The orchestra was established and is managed by the European Network of Traditional Music and Dance (ENTMD), and has become one of the pilot projects and a symbol of the work of this network.
But to the music itself. Now if you expect a boring orchestra sound, you are far from what Eyfo is about. Eyfo's music sounds extremely fresh and innovative, full of great musical ideas and variety, full of drive, beauty and power. The playing together is tight, and all talents in the band are well showcased. The music travels from one country to the next, from French Bourees via Swedish Polskas, a bridal tune from Western Norway and an Irish jig to songs from Italy, Spain, England. Several numbers are written by band members.
The European Youth Orchestra features some of the huge amount of young folk talent from all over Europe. The CD features artists from England (Anna Tabush and Holly Sheldrake), France (Jerome Liogier), Norway (Ase Teigland), Ireland (David O'Connell), Italy (Marco Dominichetti), Germany (Johannes Uhlmann), Finland (Piia Kleemola), Sweden (Anna-Kristina Widell and Pär Moberg, the latter is the musical director of Eyfo), Spain (Pablo Martin). The band features an impressive range of music instruments, presenting most of the European music traditions as well as providing modern influences. Instruments include from Scandinavia nyckelharpa, hardanger fiddle, kantele and jouhikko, there is a French hurdy gurdy, Italian bagipes, the melodeon of the magnificent German Johannes Uhlmann, there are violins, flutes, guitars, bouzouki, percussion, a saxophone, voices.
This is an impressive proof of the current talent found among the new generation of folk musicians throughout Europe. It is also a proof of how closely European music traditions are connected, as all songs and tunes, with their broad geographical background, form a beautiful and inspiring, well fitting overall image.This is pan European music at its best; a "must buy" for all who love geographically and stylistically open minded music based on trad.
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Michael Moll

Blazin Fiddles "the old style"
Label: Own; BRCD002; 2002; Playing time: 45.44 min
Blazin Fiddles is one of the newer bands from Scotland, and in the 4 years of its existance, it has built a reputation as one of the best Scottish bands. The band combines five musicians of the Top League of young Scottish fiddlers - Allan Henderson, Catriona Macdonald, Iain MacFarlane, Bruce MacGregor and Aidan O'Rourke. To balance all these fiddles, they are joined by Andy Thorburn on piano and Marc Clement on guitar. Their playing together is extremely tight, full of energy, well arranged.
Blazin Fiddles' first album, "Fire on!", was a real fireworks of the best of tunes this bunch of individual talents had on offer. Back then still joined by another famous fiddler, Duncan Chisholm, they played many old favourites of the individuals in new interpretations. "The old Style" cannot really compete against this; it comes along somewhat more gentle. Although there is a very high quality throughout the album, this one does not reach the same power that "Fire on!" had. Nevertheless definitely worth a listen and a buy, as this is still the Blazin Fiddles that we know and love, and the band managed once more to transfer the live energy of their concerts on CD.
The title of the album, "The old style", is a runnig joke between the band, well presented by the album cover and booklet, featuring wild photos of the Blazin Fiddles in traditional evening costumes, as well as the boys of the band in evening dresses. Those who like to see more of how the Blazin Fiddles in their dresses made Scotland's beaches unsafe, will be pleased to find out that there is an extensive slideshow in the Enhanced CD Rom section of the CD, full of mad photos. Also, for the real Blazin Fiddles' fans, the CD Rom section provides all those information you always wanted to know - the musicians' dates of births, eye coulour, Place of Birth, favourite curry, favourite drink, best hangover cure. Maybe you might even learn what about a sauna or playing golf to cure your hangovers?
Anyway, good fun, good album - there is not much more you can expect.
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Michael Moll

Din delòn "La rosa e la ramella"
Label: Folkclub Ethnosuoni; ES5322; 2002; Playing time: 47.08 min
Din Delòn are a rather new band from the Northern Italian region Lombardy. Their music is based on the Lombardian traditions; most is either traditional or composed by the band's accordion player Andrea Capezzuoli. The sound of the band is focused on accordeon, hurdy gurdy and pipes, as well as the singing of both male and female lead singers. The voices are both pleasant, though at times maybe a bit weak.
Somehow there is a very French feeling about this album, which is probably due to both the range of instruments Din Delòn play, and an appreciation of the band to French traditions. Enjoyable music, and, by the way, also nice booklet with funny little drawings.
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Michael Moll

Josephine Oniyama "A Smaller Version of the Real Thing"
Label: Storm Music; No. STORM; 2002
Josephine Oniyama is not your average youngster with a guitar. Still in her teens, the young Mancunian has a string of highly impressive support appearances to her credit, among them Hugh Masekela, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Cara Dillon and Richard Thompson. Critics have called her Britain's version of Tracy Chapman. This conclusion is far too easily arrived at, and not necessarily accurate. The formula is essentially the same, but Oniyama's vocals are quite unique, and compared to Chapman's debut, there is considerably more diversity of influence on this album - possibly a sign of the times? This, Oniyama's debut LP, has been eagerly awaited, and should herald the start of considerable media interest for her. The first thing to strike about Oniyama is her voice - heavy vibrato, remarkable dexterity, and a wide range, all combining to give way to a heady, soulful mix. The songs could fool the listener into believing that they are the work of an altogether more mature songwriter. "Stranger in the Room" is something of an emotional epic. Haunting vocals are backed by subtle guitar and smoky bass line. "Find Your Own Way" shimmies along very nicely indeed, and incorporates some fine percussion work. Tracks such as "Invitation" and "Hopeless" veer slightly closer to the folk-pop genre, potentially highly radio-friendly. Josephine Oniyama is still a raw talent - there is nothing uncomfortably slick or packaged about what she does. Catch her while you can.
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Jennifer Byrne

Kirsty McGee "Honeysuckle"
Label: Fellside Recordingsc; No. FECD170; 2002; Playing time: 43.19 min
Kirsty McGee is a bit of a puzzle to me. Her voice is, at times, a carbon copy of Eleanor McEvoy's - occasionally a whisper, but obviously capable of real muscle, not the greatest voice in the world, but perfect for her repertoire. The songs themselves, all composed by McGee, cannot be faulted, melodically speaking. Tracks such as "Wild Garlic" and "Skin" are beautifully written, very mellow and tender. Her lyrics are, sporadically, pure poetry. But they are too, intermittently, completely cringe worthy, and this is my main fault with this record. The usual clichés are well represented - coffee, alcohol and drunkenness are common themes, while that old chestnut, bad-boy-meets-bad-girl-from-wrong-side-of-the-tracks-and-end-up-in-relationship is the subject of "The Wrong Girl". I hesitate in writing this, as McGee is undeniably a talent to keep an eye on, and she certainly knows how to pen a song. I also hasten to add that dubious lyric writing is not reason enough not to hear this record. On the contrary, Honeysuckle is still very much worth investigating.
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Jennifer Byrne

Grada "Endeavour"
Label: Grada Music; 2002; Playing time: 47.00 min
At a glance, Grada might seem like just another young Irish trad group rehashing the same old tunes under a different guise. Except, in reality, this couldn't be further from how they actually sound. Endeavour is their second album, and is a work of pulsing energy and vision. The musicianship is first class, the arrangements extraordinarily insightful. Take their version of Ronan O Snodaigh's "Cathain"; Anne Marie O'Malley's vocals are the common thread between verse and chorus, which alternate between sparse instrumentation and a lush, fuller sound. The whole track has incredible drive, and rushes to a close, leaving the listener in a bit of a whirlwind, longing for more. The self-penned "Endeavour" is in stark contrast with an altogether gentler sound, thanks to the floating vocals and sweet harmonies. "Anto's Gambit" is Alan Doherty's party piece on this album. He caresses each and every beautiful note of "Cailin na Gruaige Doinne", before gently easing into "Peata Beag A Mhathair", and losing all pretensions of reverence on "Anto's Gambit". My favourite is "Biodegradable", an enchanting play on rhythm over an uncomplicated melody.
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Jennifer Byrne

Susan McKeown & The Chanting House "Prophecy"
Label: Sheila-na-Gig Music; No. SNG704; 2002; Playing time: 37.03 min
A prolific composer and recording artist in her own right, Susan McKeown's latest offering with her band The Chanting House is a feast of strong, mature, often invigorating songs. A Dubliner now based in New York, McKeown's sound contains traits that are unmistakeably Irish, but has strains from both sides of the pond. Better known to some as a traditional singer, this album is more closely related to her debut, Bones, which was only on release in the US. More rock than folk, the blend also has occasional flecks of jazz, while McKeown's personal literary influences are very much in evidence with several of the tracks being based on extracts from literature or folklore. There is, really, not a bad track on the album, so preference is personal, but among my favourites are "River" and "Chances Are". "River" has tremors of Gemma Hayes's melodic style, with soaring lyrics that represent Cuchulainn's lament on the death of his brother Ferdia, who died at his hand. "Chances Are", a bitter song of love lost, has a gorgeous chorus (note Johnny Cunningham on fiddle). However, it is worth investigating this album for "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" alone. Emily Dickinson's poignant poem is here put to music, in a most simple and effectual manner. Add to this the sublime vocals from both McKeown and Natalie Merchant and the sum is really something special and very moving indeed. Definitely the most beautiful track on an album packed with great songs.
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Jennifer Byrne

An Tor "Buds in Winter"
Label: Leiselaut; No. LLCD1-001; 2002; Playing time: 20.46 min
Every so often there comes a nice little musical surprise in the post…and "Buds in Winter" from one of Germany's (arguably the continent's) most respected bands specialising in Irish trad is certainly one of them. A short album, containing only five tracks, the playing is worthy of any good Irish band, and their compositional abilities are equally as impressive. The individual members met initially in 1994 in Co. Donegal, and this, the debut album, is the culmination of years of playing and immersion in the tradition. The set of reels "The Silver Spear/Jerry Holland's" work very well, with great guitar and bouzouki accompaniment and lovely box playing - until the closing bars that is, when the band makes the fatal mistake of introducing a completely unnecessary drum machine-driven beat. It is quite difficult to see what the point in this actually is, but suffice it to say that it just does not work. However, they then redeem themselves very adequately on the following set of jigs, and continue to do so until the very end, particularly on the closing track, "Buds in Winter". This is the band's sole composition to make it onto the album, and personally, I would love to hear more like this on the next outing. Very promising indeed.
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Jennifer Byrne

Karie Oberg "Hard Times"
Label: New Folk Records; No. nfr3575; 2002; Playing time: 43.25
This is the debut release from vocalist Karie Oberg. With a broad interest in the vocal traditions of Scotland, Ireland, England and America, Oberg's repertoire should be extremely rich and diverse. Between the presence of John Wright and Steve Lehto as co-passengers, and the power and clarity of Oberg's voice, this album is, on paper at least, an interesting prospect with plenty of things that could go very right indeed. My main argument against this recording is also the main argument for it. Oberg's voice is a powerhouse of sound, very forceful and rousing. There are occasions when the clarity is such that she bears a striking resemblance to Maura O'Connell. The problem is, she doesn't seem to know when to tame the force to suit the song, and with songs such as "Raglan Road" on the album, there is plenty of opportunity for subtlety and creative interpretation. The unfortunate result is that the tracks tend to run into one another, becoming something of a mishmash of varying variations on the general theme of loudness. Take "Ballybay" for example. With minimal drone-effect accompaniment, there is unfettered space for Oberg to really make something of the song. She sings at the top of her voice throughout. Having said all of the above, there is a lot of potential here. It's just that, sometimes, less is more.
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Jennifer Byrne

Casey Neill Trio "Portland West"
Label: Appleseed Recordings; No. APRCD 1044; 2001; Playing time: min
Casey Neill has been on the folk scene for years. His name has been associated, through collaboration, with the likes of Pete Seeger, Martin Hayes and Johnny Cunningham. With a voice like gravel, and the ability to play guitar like a man possessed, this live, warts 'n' all recording should appeal to a wide audience. Country, rock and bluegrass are all given the best in trad treatment, and the listener can gorge themselves on a wealth of styles and boundless energy. There are only two tracks devoted to straight up trad. "The Kerfuntan Set" sees both Zak Borden on mandolin and Hanz Araki on flute play like demons. One of the most interesting tracks is the new take on Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire". A classic love song, it is here paired with "The Bucks of Orranmore", adding another dimension to the original and creating an interpretation that draws further from the well of emotion already present. "Killing Thing" is a stirring song, with the usual trad twist towards the conclusion with the Hanz Araki breaking into "Man of Aran". "Riffraff" attracts the loudest response from the audience, and it is a good-time drinking song, good humoured and frenetic. This album is just a brief insight into what Casey Neill offers in a live show, and a very tempting one at that.
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Jennifer Byrne

Waterson:Carthy "A Dark Light"
Label: Topic Records; No. TSCD536; 2002; Playing time: 57.03 min
If you imagine an album containing the very best in songs chosen through intense and heated argument in the Waterson/Carthy household, you would probably be very excited at the prospect. And you wouldn't be disappointed. With intermittent support by Martin Simpson on guitar, Martin Carthy, Norma Waterson, Eliza Carthy and Tim van Eyken here deliver some truly outstanding performances, in Eliza's case, arguably her most mature yet. Favourites abound. Eliza's rendition of "May Morning" is truly inspiring. She touches something very deep in the listener with her velvety performance here. "Death and the Lady" is an altogether darker affair - the warmth of the vocals and harmonies belying the sinister subject matter. "Balancy Straw/Seventeen come Sunday/ Whitefriars Hornpipe" is a foot stomping little set There is a triumphant finale in the guise of "Shepherds Arise", a tributary salute to the Copper family - I almost found myself rising to my feet in empathetic praise. How much talent can there be in one family? A wonderful collection.
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Jennifer Byrne

Daithi Rua "Better The Devil You Know"
Label: Lacha Records; LRCD 003; 2002; Playing time: 40.46 min
Occasionally an album arrives on my desk from Left Field. On the strength of the CD label, I confess to having no high expectations. However, on exploring the CD liner lyric pages, I quickly realised that the above-named had surrounded himself with some quality backing men. Foremost of them being the quite magnificent Philip Donnelly, a wizard guitarist who I last saw backing John Prine at Cambridge Folk Festival some years back.
And unlike well-known Belgian musician Philip Masure, whose presence on the album is fleeting (though he does co-produce), Donnelly really earns his corn with some inspired stuff. His guitar just adds sheer GRAVITAS to the whole CD.
And to be honest, though Daithi Rua sings well enough, he needs his classy colleagues to help give the album "weight". And the reason it seems a little lightweight, is the age-old one. The answer lies in the material.
The majority of the songs are penned by Daithi Rua, and although they are all decent enough songs, none of them really lodge themselves in your head (let alone your heart). Perhaps the bravest effort was his song likening the children caught up in the Belfast Troubles to kids in gangs in inner-city American ghettos. But he couldn't quite pull it off.
But the CD is a brave attempt that is very good on the ear. Just not quite providing the mental food that one needs.
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Dai Woosnam

John Lester "Live at the Freight and Salvage Coffee House"
Label: Midnight Café Records, MCR 4001; 2002
I confess that this man is a name new to me. He is an American who splits his time between two Continents: he has bases in San Francisco and Paris. \par \par
And no, he is not - you might be relieved to know - yet another guitarist armed with three chords and (their version of) the truth. No he is a much rarer fish: he accompanies himself on his self-penned songs by playing acoustic double bass and electric fretless bass.
So straight away, his "novelty value" makes one sit up and take notice. And what is it that one notes?
Well the first thing that hits you is that this is a man with a real voice. Essentially a baritone, but one with a glorious upper register. And then you observe that this man plays his bass with considerable authority. And then that he surrounds himself with some decent musicians. But then comes the big "but"!
The truth is that one then observes that the "songs" are slight affairs. For sure, they are not without a certain charm: "I Like Brunettes" had me really won over. But they are more "mood setters" than songs: they are ideal late at night, just you and your girlfriend and a bottle of wine, or maybe some "whacky baccy"! Put this on the CD player, and it is total relaxation!
Artist phone contact: US (001)415-273-1810; France (33) 1 45 75 9379
Dai Woosnam

fil campbell "beneath the calm"
Label: Lahaina LMP 008; 2002
Isn't it strange how artistes these days often refrain from using capital letters for their album titles? But here we have a veritable e.e.cummings: this lady dispenses with their use in her name also. Leastwise, on the cover of her CD: the liner lyric sheets see her bowing to convention.
Now, at the outset, let me ask myself if I am as "mixed up" in my reaction to this CD as the artiste would seem to be, in the marketing of her "brand name"? The answer is no. After three plays, I am confident in the clarity of my reaction.
But that said, the truth is that this is a curater's egg of a CD. Some aspects of it are very good indeed: but, like a glorious edifice, it needs to be built on the soundest of foundations, and it is there that my doubts lie.
Okay, what do you want first? The 'good', or the 'not-so-good'? Well, I will choose FOR you, as the former far exceeds the latter. So let's look at the bright aspects. Pre-eminent in the 'plus column' is Fil Campbell's voice. It is not the classic modern female 'folk' voice: it is softer (less hard-edged) than average and oscillates a little. (Oscillates PLEASANTLY, that is.) I knew it was a voice that reminded me of someone from the past, but I could not think just who it was. And then it came to me: her fellow Irishwoman, Mary O' Hara. A woman who achieved considerable international fame.
And on the evidence of this album, there is no reason why Fil Campbell too, cannot really make her mark. Certainly, if she does, I would suggest she hang on to her backing musicians: they are a capable bunch. Too many to mention in depth, but suffice to say that the highlights were the cello of Anne Murnaghan, the backing vocals of Tom McFarland, and (best of all) the keyboards of Gavin Murphy. That organ sound was worthy of a place with Dylan's cohorts "The Band", in their full pomp.
The songs are mainly self-penned: of the others the best is Mick Hanly's "Somebody Up There", which she wisely chooses as an opener. Her songs are thoughtful, expressive of mood, and show a real sensitivity. But here we come to the 'minus' column. \par \par
You see, the plain fact is that for all their apparent charm, none of her songs (or anyone else's come to that: INCLUDING Mick Hanly's) really grab you. Gosh this is a nice CD to listen to: one could imagine it would be a perfect accompaniment for all sorts of occasions. But in the end, it all comes down to the SONGS.
After I had already played the album once, I got an e-mail from her to tell me that "I Still Think of You" was written for her father, and "Lover's Eyes" was written as though it was her native Northern Ireland that was the authorial voice. I had guessed the former, but would never have guessed the latter; though when I had been given the information, the song did grow in stature.
(Which leads me to think that a singer with her excellent diction should have no need to provide lyric sheets: that space would MUCH better be taken up with her helping us get an entry into every song, by some personal notes on the creative process.)
But as I was saying, it is not as though there is anything WRONG with these songs: it is just that they are not right ENOUGH.
I can remember the 60s. And I reckon the young Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell etc have a lot to answer for. And here is for why. When you bought their early albums, songs would just JUMP OUT at you. You got the sensation that the songs had forced their way out of their GUTS, not their heads. The songs were so special and invariably had a particularly distinctive melody, often coupled with a strong narrative thread.
Suddenly every folkie felt they had to write their own songs. But they invariably were CEREBRAL efforts, and did not 'write themselves', as the best songs (in part) do.
Many folk CDs contain poorer songs than those on this album, but the songs here share that lack of the 'really distinctive tune' and the 'compelling story'. But all is not lost: were Fil Campbell to spread her net wider and produce an album of really fine songs from little-known songwriters (and not just songs of friends, as I suspect some of these are) then I feel sure she could make a big breakthrough.
Indeed, if she wants to ask me, I am prepared to help her out with some suggestions.
Oh, and one final thing: please Fil, include 'track timings' on your next album. If you want radio plays, you will find that DJs regard this info as ESSENTIAL.
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Dai Woosnam

Various Artistes "Shining Bright"
Label: Topic Records, TSCD519; 2002; Playing time: 50.40 min
For Christmas 1972, I was given a copy of the newly released "Bright Phoebus" LP, recorded for Bill Leader's TRAILER label. It consisted of songs by Lal and Mike Waterson, largely performed by themselves, but with assistance from a stellar bunch of (even THEN) Folk Greats. And, a bit like the man in the Pear's Soap advertisement, for the next two years, when it came to LPs, I virtually used no other.
But it is a tribute to the quality of the vinyl Bill Leader used, when I say that I have just played the LP for the first time in several years, and it sounds as good as it did nearly 30 years ago.
Why take it down from my vinyl shelf after such an age? Simple. This new CD is an attempt to revisit some of the original songs, plus others written by the duo around the same time, but not previously recorded. So I wanted to compare and contrast.
The new CD involves an even greater number of the Folk Glitterati, and I found it compelling listening. But although such artistes as Christy Moore, Dick Gaughan, and Christine Collister are almost incapable of doing anything LESS than "the magical" with a song, I have to tell you that the album suffers slightly by comparison.
And here is why. Obviously (and lamentably) there is no Lal. She was ALWAYS my favourite singer amongst the four members of The Watersons. Her loss was a great one.
But at least we could have had my second favourite voice from that foursome: Mike Waterson. Alas, for some odd reason, he does not appear until the fifteenth and last track (and then only as one-seventh of Blue Murder). And let's get one thing straight: nobody sings a Mike Waterson song like Mike Waterson.
That said, there is only one Mike Waterson solo composition here: they are mainly Lal's songs, but with three Lal/Mike compositions and three Lal/Christine Collins.
It is interesting now to reflect that there was never any doubt whether it was a Lal or a Mike song you were listening to. Just as with songs apparently jointly written by Lennon and McCartney, you could immediately spot the song-writing fingerprints of one over the other. (As a rule of thumb, Lal's songs are more oblique: Mike's more direct.)
The CD is worth buying for two reasons over and above any others. First Teddy Thompson: Linda's son by Richard. I knew he had made the pop charts, but I had never heard him perform. Here he duets with his ma on"Evona Darling". Golly, that boy can sing!
And second, the high point of the album comes from two of the less celebrated performers: Kate Brislin & Jody Stecher. They really steal the show with their sweet harmonies on "One Of Those Days".
And it is SOME show to steal.
Dai Woosnam

Zjamoel "Het eerste Kwartier"
Label: own label; 2002; Playing time: 48.12 min
Zjamoel hail from Flanders in Belgium - five guys playing happy instrumental music. And even if their info letter says they have been arround for 25 years now - I have never heard of them before this CD arrived. And that is a pity.
Their music is relaxed with a touch of oldish style in new arrangements. Most of the tunes are composed by band member Dirk Vandamme / Zjamoel, four tunes are traditional arranged. Zjamoel are Hendrik Calu (fiddle), Franki Deprez (accordeon, feet), Hans Mispelaere (guitar), Dirk Vandamme (clarinet, windcontroller, bagpipe, percussion) and finally Paul Vandamme (flute, windcontroller, bagpipe and tin whistle).For this CD they have added drums and bass.
With this music it is easy to dream the day away - hopefully it will not take another 25 years before I hear again from them...
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Christian Moll

Lorraine Jordan "This big feeling"
Label: Unforgettable Music; UM002; 2000; Playing time: 52.10 min
Singer-Songwriters need to write good songs, have a good voice for their songs and should be able to back themselves with guitar (or use a good guitar player as backing) - Lorraine Jordan has all these skills. She has a powerful voice full of emotions - and she can present her songs very well.
Lorraine has a somehow pan-celtic background - she was born in Wales to Irish parents and she has lived in Scotland for many years.
On this album she has invited some guests to back her songs with cello (Kate Bevan-Baker), bouzouki (Niall O'Callanain), accordion (Pete Garnet), percussion (Mario M'goma), guitar (Jimmy Faulkner) and backing vocals (Christine Kydd); Lorraine herself plays guitar and bouzouki and of course she sings.
Lorraine is a powerful songwriter - if you do not know her by now, give her an ear.
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Christian Moll

Raznotravie "Katorga"
Label: Roff; Roff CD 026; 2001; Playing time: 60.04min (but the first 17min are without sound)
It is not to easy to find here in the most western part of Germany good Russian folk music, which is one of the reasons why I am very happy to got in touch with Mitya Kouznetsov of the Russian group Raznotravie. Raznotravie blends Russian folk music with influences of world music, ancient music, avantgarde and much more. The group was founded in 1997; almost all members have remained in the band since then. In 2000 multiinstrumentalist and folk musician Mitya Kouznetsov joined them. Together they found a new sound which is presented on this album.
Raznotravie come from Rybinsk in theYaroslavl region in Russia. The group consist of seven members: Mikhail Posadsky (vocal, jaw harp, folk-whistle), he writes most of the songs; Vyacheslav Kamenkov (acoustic guitar, domra, backing vocal) arranges a lot and also writes songs; Anna Kouznetsova (Kholodyakova) (hurdy-gurdy, backing vocal, folk winds, percussion); Mitya Kouznetsov (vocal, svirel [russian whistle], jaleika [russian reedpipe], flute, gusli [russian psaltery], mandolin, jaw harp, folk percussion) is the producer, composer and sound engenieer; Alexandra Nikitina (chello); Valery Ershov (acoustic bass-guitar, backing vocal) and finally Pavel Davydovich on drums and percussion.
I like their music a lot, it is unconventional and fresh, with a lot of variations. The album has a CD ROM part, where you can find out a bit more about the band, watch some pictures and some videos...
A great album; hopefully we will have the chance to see them live soon!
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Christian Moll

Urbàlia Rurana & Maurizio Martinotti "Territories amables/Teritori amabil"
Label: Folkclub Ethnosuoni; ES5318; 2002; Playing time: 55.58 min
This album is a collaboration of one of the best Catalan bands, Urbalia Rurana from the Spanish Valencia region, and the leader of the well known Italian band La Ciapa Rusa, Maurizio Martinotti. The music represents a mixture of music from Valencia and from the Italian Piemont. The background information I can give about this album are a bit guess work, as the CD booklet is in four different langauages, where I hardly could said what languages they are (my guess is Italian, Spanish, and Piemont and Valencia dialects?!). Maurizio and Urbalia Rurana seem to have seen quite a few cultural and musical similarities, based on similar landscape and climates around them. This seemed to be a very good reason to venture into an exciting collaboration.
Urbàlia Rurana features violin/clarinette/derbuka, percussion, flute/dolcaina/tarota (whatever those might be; guess is - from the sound - some form of bombarde), soprano sax/dolcaina , guitar/bouzouki/vocals and double bass. Maurizio adds to this line-up hurdy-gurdy, mandola and vocals. The album is consistent, and does not feel like being a cross-over between two different traditions. The material is based on songs from both traditions. The vocals are rather soft, making the CD overall pleasant listening, although at times a bit more sharpness in the singing would have helped. The instrumental side of the album is very well played, providing at times an innovative, at other times a more traditional feel to the music. The focus of the instruments on hurdy-gurdy and bombarde-like instruments makes the music at times a bit shrill.
An interesting collaboration, well worth a listen.
Michael Moll

Colum Sands & Sharon Aviv "Talking to the wall"
Label: Spring Records; SCD1048; 2002; Playing time:60.29 min
This CD brings together one of Ireland's most gifted singer/songwriters, Colum Sands, and the Jewish story teller Sharon Aviv. The overall theme are seperated (religious) communities from Belfast to Jerusalem. This theme is taken up with a sense of humour, showcasing the stupidity of the everyday life in these communities. The songs and stories provide material to think, but also to smile and laugh.
The album changes between songs from Colum and stories from Sharon, each number supported by the other. The songs include some of Colum Sands' old and new classics, great songs full of charme, humour, but often with a serious message behind them: "Talking to the Wall", "Whatever you say say nothing", "Directions", "The Night is young". There is additionally a collaboration between Colum and Sharon, with words in Hebrew by Sharon and in English by Colum, sung to an Irish traditional tune. Sharon's stories come from all over the world: the Middle East, Jewish traditions, Uruguay, Ireland (Fionn MacCumhaill), Indian traditions. As good as Sharon seems to be as a storyteller, to me storytelling from a CD is not the same as the live experience; storytelling has only the full appeal if you are in the same room as the story teller.
The CD is lovely for a quiet winter evening in front of the open fire, listening to the songs and stories from Colum and Sharon. I have to admit though that for me a CD with stories will not too regular end up in my CD player - songs can be heard again and again, while stories are only fun when heard again after a longer while. So to conclude: I enjoyed to listen through the whole CD once, but will in future programme only the seven songs of the CD. For fans of songs from the Sands Family this album is nevertheless recommended.
Still, better go and catch Sharon Aviv & Colum Sands live!
More information on the backgrounds of the album in FolkWorld's News. Contact to label:
Michael Moll

Bollywood Brass Band "Rahmania - the music of A.R. Rahman"
Label: Own; BOLL CD 2002; 2002; Playing time: 73.43 min
The Bollywood Brass Band is one of those bands I would never have discovered if I had not bumped into them at the Rudolstadt Folk Festival. The Bollywood Brass Band plays Indian film music, a label which would sound to me quite boring, as I am generally neither into Indian nor into film music. The BBB are different to what I would expect - this is intelligent, lively, powerful and innovative music, easily accessible also for the European ear. And the history of the band shows that the band members themselves were surprised to find they would become an Indian wedding brass band...
Brass bands have in today's Indian culture a central role, especially playing for weddings, with a repertoire based on Bollywood music, film music of the Bollywood Indian films.
The BBB combines the talents of 11, mainly English rooted, musicians, eight of them playing brass instruments (saxophones, trumpets, trombones, tuba, sousaphone, flugelhorn), added by three percussionists. In live this band is a unique experience, full of energy and passion. This second album of the band presents this live feeling rather well, also this CD is full of energy, talent and happiness. The music focusses on the works of the Indian film music composer A.R. Rahman, and his style combines diverse music styles, such as World Music, Jazz, Brass Band, Film music, and much more. The BBB interpretations of his works make exciting and varied listening.
Additionally to their usual music that they play in live, the band have added four tracks that act more as 20 minutes of bonus tracks. For those numbers, they asked famous UK remixers and Club DJs (Transglobal Underground; Kamel Nitrate; Groove Road) to create remixes of four tracks from the CD. I prefer the pure BBB sound, although I am sure that these collaborations might open the band doors to even wider audiences.
If you like Brass based folk and world music, you should give the Bollywood Brass Band a try. This is a magnificent and impressive album.
Homepage of the artist:, contact to artist:
Michael Moll

Brendan Begley "It Could Be A Good Night Yet!"
Label: Own; CDBOB 01; 2002; Playing time: 53 min
This is old-style button box and pure traditional song from Kerry's Dingle peninsula. There's plenty of energy, plenty of good music, and plenty of humour too from a time-served musician and showman. Brendan's third solo recording includes five songs, evenly split between English and Gaelic, and eight sets of tunes with the emphasis on Munster forms: there's only the one set of reels to be found here, but plenty of jigs and polkas.
Among many fine tracks, I'd draw your attention to four outstanding ones. First is a song which is well known in Irish as Níl Na Lá, but which Brendan renders mainly in English. There's gentle comedy to the story, which describes a lifestyle of drinking and music-making all too rare nowadays. The English version goes by the name There's the Day, and came to Brendan from his Boys of the Lough colleague Cathal McConnell.
Second is that lone set of reels, into which Brendan puts all the power of his bosca beag. Well-known tunes all, they are seldom played with more bite. Ed Reavy's Hunter's Purse is punched out in double octaves, The Green Mountain is given extra depth by Brendan's left hand, the mighty Fear a'Tigh swaggers out majestically, and Matt Peoples' Reel completes the quartet with some meaty harmonies. You won't find flash modern triplets here: Brendan sticks to good old-fashioned rolls and trills.
My third choice starts with another Boys of the Lough connection. The Shetland jig The Full Rigged Ship was originally intended to convey the rolling motion of a sea-going vessel, but Brendan gives it a more stately interpretation here. It's followed by two jigs learnt from Johnny O'Leary, and played with all the vigour of the Sliabh Luachra tradition. Tom Billy's Jig is known throughout Ireland, and although Ellen Leary's is new to me it stands up well to its heavyweight companions.
You can't judge a Kerry box-player without hearing a set of polkas, and the one which ends this recording is as good as any. The three tunes here all commemorate Munster musicians: Jack Sweeney's, Jack Connell's, and John Clifford's are lovely polkas expertly played by Brendan. The tunes and the dance rhythm both come through loud and clear, with some nice little twists. Most of this recording is gentle, unassuming music played for the pleasure of playing. This makes the occasional changes of gear all the more striking. There is some accompaniment on most tracks, but you wouldn't notice it if you weren't looking: to me, that's the hallmark of excellent accompaniment. Brendan is already well established as a fine box player in the Munster/Connaught style, and this latest CD maintains that reputation with apparent ease.
If you can't find a copy locally, jump up and down in your favourite record shop until they get it - or just email Brendan at and ask him if he'd be good enough to sell you one.
Alex Monaghan


More English CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5 - Page 6
More German CD Reviews: Page 1 - Page 2
Overview: CD Review Contents

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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 09/2002

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