Issue 28 04/2004
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Carl Nelkin "Irish Heart - Jewish Soul"
Label: Own label; CJN001; 2003; Playing time:
What is your nation if I may ask? says the citizen. Ireland, says Bloom,
I was born here. Ireland (James Joyce, Ulysses). Bloom (Blum) is not an
unusual surname among Dublin's Jews. The first Jews dwelling in Ireland disappeared
after their expulsion out of the English controlled territories in 1290. They
re-appeared in the 17th century and immigrated in significant numbers from Tsarist
Russia in the 1880s. The only religious group still under severe pressure, even
after Catholic emancipation, there even was a pogrom in Limerick in 1904.
Rather ironically, when the German air force bombarded Dublin and destroyed
the synagogue, the German embassy apologized to the Jewish community for the
arisen damage, being interested in the Irish neutrality in the war. Today 1,200
jews live in Ireland, almost 90 per cent settled in Ireland's capital around
Clanbrassil Street, Dublin's kosher shopping area.
The Irish seemed to regard the hammered dulcimer as typically Jewish. An Dublin
advertisment in 1738/9 announced, The Jews music is to be had at the Sign
of the Fiddle and Dulcimer in Copper Alley by Archibald Williamson, who Gentlemen
are pleased to called the Irish Jew. In 1769, a German-born Jew, Isaac Isaacs
arrived in Dublin where he enjoyed a successful career playing Irish jigs and
reels on his dulcimer in theatres and taverns. For several years he was under
a retainer to play with a fiddler weekly for a well-known brothel-operator.
The fiddle-ish fiddlers fiddled fiddlingly, both Irish and Jewish as
"Der Rebbi Elimelech" puts it, and the subjects of the songs - love, laments,
celebrations and craic - is quite universal in both Irish and Jewish
cultures (and a lot others). There never developed a particular Irish Jewish
music. Tenor Carl Nelkin, a trained aviation law consultant, selected his favourite
songs, both Irish ballads (by composers such as Thomas Moore, Percy French,
Herbert Hughes' "Star of the County Down", and the inevitable "Danny Boy") and
songs from the Yiddish vaudeville theatre. Carl gives the latter the Irish treatment,
accompanied by traditional Irish musicians Peter Eades (keyboards, guitar, percussion),
(banjo,mandolin), Vince Milne
(fiddle) and James Wilson (pipes, whistles).
Today there's yet no animosity, no matter what persuasion, but failte and
hospitality inducing fresh acquaintance, as another song goes (which is
not featured here). In these days when religion - at least regarding Christian-Jewish
relations - is rarely a cause for conflict, Carl is proud of his heritage. The
pride of an Irish Jew, denomination: Jewish, nation: Ireland: Many times
the Jew's spirit is broken, he is overcome by the slightest wind. Nevertheless
the greatest storm cannot uproot the beautiful tiny spark. That spark of Jewishness,
so good, offers you honour and pride. Care for it, cherish it, guard it!
Metropolitan Klezmer "Mosaic Persuasion"
Label: Rhythm Media Records; RMR 002; 2001;
Playing time: 56:18 min
Metropolitan Klezmer "Surprising Finds"
Label: Rhythm Media Records; RMR 003; 2003;
Playing time: 62:47 min
Isle of Klezbos "Greetings from the isle of
Label: Rhythm Media Records; RMR 004; 2003;
Playing time: 49:05 min
What we have here is a lovely trio of albums of Jewish music. The first one,
Mosaic Persuasion, is just some years old and the others were also just reviewed
in 2003 in many magazines but we got them now and perhaps they are new to you.
If you like contemperorary Jewish music, you should be interested in this productions.
Driving force behind both of this projects is drummer Eve Sicular, who formed
Metropolitan Klezmer in 1994.
They are nearly a big band counting ten members on Mosaic Persuasion. Clarinet
and violin were played by two musicians on the former album, so the members
didnīt play on every tune. On Surprising Finds we find them consisting of eight
members. With Sicular on drums and dumbeq and Dave Hofstra on bass or tuba they
have nearly a complete rhythm section that could also play in a traditional
jazz band. Folk instruments are the accordion played by Ismail Butera (on the
older album also by Rachelle Garniez who appears more as a guest here). Strange
and fascinating sounds are added by Michael Hess on the Egyptian ney flute and
on the kanun, a zither that reminds on the traditional klezmer zimbel. The main
instrument of traditional Jewish music in Europe was always the violin and it
is contributed here by Hess also, while on the former album it is also played
by Harris Wulfson. The clarinet became the main lead instrument in the USA and
is played by Dera Kreisberg and on Mosaic Persuasion also by Steve Elson. Both
add other woodwinds to the instrumentation. While Pam Fleming contributes trumpet
and flugelhorn on both albums, Rick Faulknerīs trombone as a new element on
the new album renews the strong brass tradition in American klezmer music. Last
but not least we hear the vocals of Deborah Karpel on both albums, but a majority
of the tunes are instrumental.
All the three albums are lovingly annotated. That reminds us on the one hand
on the fact that Sicular studied Russian literature at Harvard but on the other
hand this is not too scientific - it shows the deep but not too nostalgic interest
in every aspect of the music and belonging culture which is brought to life
here for today.
The line up shows what you get here. Metropolitan Klezmer's albums are as strong
rooted in musical traditions as they are bringing together different influences
in instrumental colours. Relations to Arabic music are to be heard (Araber tants
on Mosaic Persuasion) as music from Jewish films and even Jewish theatre music
from the Soviet Union. Most of the material is traditional, but there are compositions
of the members as well. Surprising Finds is spiced up with live recordings and
home recordings of Deborah Karpels grandfather Phillipp Karpel. While the latter
is perhaps the best and most interesting of the three albums in objective terms,
Isle of Klezbos' Greetings from the isle of Klezbos is funny and joyful as a
klezmer album as you can imagine, making this my personal favourite. Consisting
of all of the above mentioned women plus Catherine Popper on bass we have an
all-female sextet, they are breaking traditional barriers also by the fact that
most of the members are lesbian. While this ensemble doesnīt have all of the
instrumental colours of the bigger group, the rhythmic aproach is stronger here.
The album, that contains also some live-tracks, has a certain power to it.
All these records are examples for a strong, living musical culture, rooted
deeply in traditions but ever an event of the present.
P.P. Slaggart "Tales from a Whisky Town"
Label: Own label; 2002; Playing time: 39.29
P.P. Slaggart from Omagh in Northern
Ireland cultivates the post-Pogues (-> FW#22)
style. Less punk, more singer-songwriter folk rock, or hiberno pop if
you like. Quite like the songs on the first Moving Hearts album. Twelve tales
setting up a concept album which gives an insight into the Northern Irish
male psyche, some of them are real gems. The North of Ireland is a "Divided
Land": Farewell to the khaki clad teenage oppressors I've seen, who come
from the high risers of England to die for their queen. Well I've thrown a stone
yet I've never known any real hate in my heart for a working class soldier who'
had to shoulder a gun to keep us apart in this divided land. Don't ask me to
stand for your flags and your songs, don't ask me to fight whether you're right
or wrong. For your poets and writers, your freedom fighters, it seems they have
nothing to say, they just sing their sad songs and tell of the wrongs while
the lifeblood is seeping away from this divided land. But P.P. Slaggart,
Steve Wickham (fiddle, banjo, whistle, mandolin -> FW#27),
James Blennerhassett (bass) and Ted Ponsonby (electric guitar, hammond) also
like to party in their "Whisky Town": Get out of them factories and get out
of them farms. Wash yourself below your belt and underneath your arms. Friday
night's for living, not lying in your bed. Prohibition's over and Woodrow Wilson
dead. Or "live like the Indians": When Friday night comes around I think
I'll paint my face, stick a feather up my arse and burn the whole damn place.
Do a war dance in the street and scalp the people that I met until somebody
calls the cavalry. Songs that should appeal from the dregs of Killybegs
mother and daughter to the rich super bitch from across the water.
Glengarry Bhoys "Rhoots"
Label: Own label; GB006; 2003; Playing time:
Glengarry Bhoys "In a Big Country"
Label: Own label; 2003; Playing time: 3.36
Another Celtic roots pop and rock outfit, the Glengarry
Bhoys resemble The Paperboys in many
ways (-> FW#25), with a touch of Celtic
rocker John MacLean Allan (->FW#25).
The four bhoys and one ghirl from Eastern Ontario's Glengarry County, a Highland
Scots enclave in Canada, play a blend of original pop songs and fiery dance
tunes of Irish, Scottish and French-Canadian origin. They stand the test in
both camps. Principal songwriter Graham Wright the only native Scot, from Ayrshire,
rejects the term Celtic rock: We stay away from that label. We have
the Glengarry sound, and it's a world folk sound with a bit of a rock feel,
a bit of a contemporary feel and a traditional flair to it. I try not to be
write my songs based around Celtic music. I write them, and then we bring in
the instruments. Shelley Downing brings in the sparkling fiddle, and James
Libbey whistles and Highland bagpipes, to form the band that prevents you
from being still. - "In a Big Country" has been taken from Scottish rockers
Big Country who had an almost folksy
sound. The electric guitar is replaced here by the pipes. Nine points out of
Taxi Chain "Smarten Up!"
NBM0019; 2004; Playing time: 39.39 min
It's - well, ehm ... good question, what is it? - There's the myth about the
bluesman standing at the crossroads. He waits with the guitar in hand until
Old Nick appears at midnight, takes his guitar, plays a couple of complicated
blues riffs and hands it back: The devil's pact is made and the bluesman is
a guitar champion from now on. - Forget about the bluesman and his guitar, it
must have been bagpipes. Even bagpipes get the blues, state Toronto's
Taxi Chain delivers a mixed bag of casual
blues and country and pop songs and kicking instrumental music. The latter features
a traditional polka set, and self-penned tunes titled "James Brown ate my Bagpipe",
"Tandoori Mustache", "Zimbobby", and that's exactly what you get. Besides the
pipes, the Canadians play guitar, bass and drums, whistles, flutes, mandolin,
blues harp and saxophone. Now I don't really think that Taxi Chain sounds
like a mad Highlander let loose in the middle of a New Orleans street party,
possibly live, but "Smarten Up!" is rather relaxed. - It's ... - I still don't
know - but I like it!
Konaboj "Ja sa kona bojim"
MAM 228-2; 2004; Playing time: 52.26 min
Konaboj is a first class folk rock band
from Czechia. East meets West, i.e. western rock music meets eastern vocals
and acoustic instruments. Partly Jethro Tull
turned into a 1980s rock group, partly Celtic rock a la German's Galahad
(-> FW#18). Just to give you an idea,
because Konaboj is a flock of their own. I cannot figure out if the songs are
traditional, spiced up for a contemporary rock audience, or composed by the
band. But they sound traditional based, sometimes very medieval. I like the
sweet vocals, the fiery electric guitar solos and the feathery flute and fiddle
playing. Pretty good.
Show of Hands "Country Life"
On Music; HMCD19; 2003; Playing time: 55.33 min
Show of Hands "The Path"
On Music; HMCD18; 2003; Playing time: 45.47 min
No surprise no mystery what we are or where we're from, our lives our history
in a song, as opposed to no compromise you used to boast, but hearing
you play all that boy band cover trash, now that's what really hurts me the
most. No surprise no mistery what we are or where we're from. No life no history
in your song. Show of Hands (->
FW#19), i.e. Steve Knightley and Phil
Beer (-> FW#25), from the English West
country are twelve years on the road now. One of the most popular of England's
roots acts (both like to be known as an acoustic roots act and
not folk). Steve Knightley's powerful songs on the rural way of life And
the red brick cottage where I was born is the empty shell of a holiday home.
Most of the year there's no-one there, the village is dead and they don't care.
The shady side of the countryside with country snobs and foot and mouth,
a lively folk rock track. The rest of the album is more relaxed - musically.
"Country Life" features Steve's most recent compositions as well as the traditional
songs "Reynardine" (with a new tune) and "Adieu, Sweet Lovely Nancy". The 2
CD set has a bonus CD featuring a Show of Hands' concert at the Royal Albert
The sixteen instrumental tracks featured on "The Path" are inspired by sights
and sounds along the South West Coast
Path, Britain's longest National Trail. 25 years in existence, the 630 mile
trail from Exmoor National Park to Poole Harbour is a popular attraction to
walkers. Phil and Steve composed a series of romantic tunes - titled Foreland
Point", "Carbis Bay", "Land's End", "Pendennis Castle", etc. Some could be featured
in a film, some might become classics.
Hands On Music
The Deanna Varagona Trio "The Goodbyes Have
All Been Taken"
284; 2003; Playing time: 48.46 min
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Deanna Varagona
has played with a number of Nashville musicians, namely Chris
Mills and Paul Burch. With a
passion born in the Appalachian Mountains but bred in a world of a punk rock
youth and Joe Ferguson on bass and Jimmy Earley on drums, Deanna says a
powerful Hello rather than Goodbye. Her voice is both strong and
pleasant, the songs are very touching and quite diverse, folk, blues, bluegrass
and country music. I like to juxtapose Deanna and the one and only Michelle
Shocked (-> FW#24, FW#24,
FW#27) - and Deanna can easily compete.
So Goodbye for now, but hopefully not forever.
Martyn Joseph "Whoever it was that brought
me here will have to take me home"
APR CD 1078; 2004; Playing time: 43.22 min
In February 2004, Welsh singer/songwriter Martyn
Joseph was named Male Solo Artist of the Year in the Welsh Music Awards;
his involvement with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement won him an Amnesty
International award. Though Martyn use to talk about that he'd won more
awards for golfing than for his music. Fortunatly, the professional golfer in
spe turned into a professional musician. Martyn is sometimes compared to Bruce
Springsteen. Well I always thought The Boss being more competent when plugged
in, and Martyn is not half as boring as Bruce's acoustic numbers. Just the opposite,
Martyn has a powerful voice and some stories to tell. "Whoever it was..." features
more reflectice and personal songs, e.g. a tribute to older women in a youth-cult
society, For a glimpse of the political side, Appleseed Records has appended
two tracks from one of his benefit EPs, to benefit War
Child, a network of independent organisations working across the world to
help children affected by war. "The Great American Novel" laments the death
of the American Dream, "The Good in Me is Dead" is from the standpoint of a
young Kosovan refugee. Martyn's here - whoever it was who brought him - and
hopefully for some time before he's taken home again.
Pipe Records, Appleseed
Darrell Scott "Theatre of the Unheard"
Label: Full Light; FLR-0301; 2003; Playing
time: 62.02 min
Darrell Scott grew up on the Indiana
side of Chicago with the rusty steel mills belching in the westward wind.
Later he walked Carlsbad to White Sands for forty days and nights, but it
only took ten minutes for that man to realize: Lord, it's lonesome everywhere.
Even later he moved to Nashville and penned a string of country music hits for
artists as the Dixie Chicks and Garth
Brooks alike. Recently he played guitar on Tim
O'Brien's (-> FW#11). The songs
featured on "Theatre of the Unheard" were written in Boston between 1986 to
1990, when Darrell found my voice as a writer. He got a record deal,
recorded it - and it wasn't released. Eleven years later they come to life again,
re-recorded in his living room with the help of friends like steel guitarist
Dan Dugmore, bassist Danny
Thompson and drummer Kenny
Malone. He launched his own label Full Light Records to fully own and
control his recordings without anyone telling him how he should sound or what
he should do, and here we are. Folk and country rock, growling kinda Steve
Earle-like but much more pleasant. Though residing in Nashville, this sound
is as far from Nashville as can be. Some men have a God that keeps them from
harm, some men have a bottle at the end of their arm. And some men have
a CD with sophisticated songs to offer.
Cosmic Drone "Cosmic Drone"
Label: Own label; FISD 001; 2003; Playing
time: 55.24 min
Cosmic Drone, the adequate name for
this French folk rock band. Stephane Durand plays the electric hurdy-gurdy versus
keyboards, bass guitar and drums. Nearly all tunes were written by Stephane,
drawing on traditional dance music from France and Britanny, but fused with
rock music, funk and jazz. The performance is excellent, this high-octane Celtic
rock should work especially in concert and make the dancers sweating. Personally
I find the electric hurdy-gurdy sounding too synthetical and clinical. Something
is missing, I'm not exactly sure what, maybe a singer inbetween or a second
melody instrument for diversification.
The Fenians "Every Day's a Hooley"
Head; MH495CD; 2003; Playing time: 59.42 min
The Fenians, named after the followers
of the mythic Gaelic hero Finn MacCool (warriors but obliged to know the rules
of poetry) and/or members of a secret organization with the aim to overthrow
the English rule in Ireland (properly titled Irish Republican Brotherhood, many
of them wrote poems and ballads as well), are retracing the sound of Shane
MacGowan and The Pogues (-> FW#22).
That kind of music is still in full bloom, even 20 years after of its birth
in London, this time in sunny Orange County, California. Fenianism means there's
revolution everywhere: It is said, in terms of love and war, that the Irish
are quite mad, for their songs of war are merry, and their songs of love are
sad. Even at the end of a bottle: Whisky you're no devil, to me you're
more a saint. You make me feel like heaven and the angel that I ain't. When
I get my fill of whisky, my eyes are shot with red, I lose my footing, fighting
revolutions in my head. To see me when I'm in the state that poteen's set me
free, all the chains in Britain's hordes have no way to shackle me. Very
fine are the Fenians' versions of Ewan
MacColl's "Go Move Shift", the traditional "Night Visiting Song", and the
cool saxophone on Ralph McTell's "From
Clare to Here". One of the outstanding original songs is "Greener Pastures",
there's a lot of humour on "Baker's Dozen", while "Grace" - Joseph Plunkett
married Grace Gifford in his cell in Kilmainham Jail a few hours before being
shot in 1916 - is much too histrionic. Every Day's a Hooley for these
Bold Fenian Men, so better take the offensive, arrest suspects and confiscate
Mizen Head Music
Kinky Friedman "Sold American"
79734-2; 2003; Playing time: 47.55 min
The 30th anniversary edition with two bonus tracks and a video interview of
a classic (if this is the right expression here) country music record! Kinky
Friedman, the Jewish country singer was born on Halloween 1944 - guess where?
- in Palestine, Texas. In 1966 he attended Austin University when a fellow student
shot up the campus from the clock tower, subject of "The Ballad of Charles Whitham":
He was sitting up there with his .36 Magnum, laughing wildly as he bagged
'em (sounds familiar, eh?). In 1971 he formed "Kinky Friedman & The Texas
Jewboys" and recorded his debut album "Sold American" two years later, a
banjo-pickin' devil, a singin' rag-time saint. Out in the fallen snow he'd sing
his song to a world too cold to listen and too white to sing along. Kinky
Friedman being very kinky was politically incorrect long before politically
incorrect was cool. "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and You Buns in the Bed"
earned him the National Organization of Women's Male Chauvinist Pig of the Year
award: You uppity women I don't understand why you gotta go and try to act
like a man, but before you make your weekly visit to the shrink you'd better
occupy the kitchen, liberate the sink. So damn emancipated in your mind and
your body, gonna have to cancel all your lessons in karate. If you can't love
a male chauvinist you'd better cross me off your shopping list. If you missed
it the first time around, here is another chance to get it. And now I'm heading
for the public library and get some of Kinky's mystery novels, ride 'em,
The Hackberry Ramblers "Cajun Boogie"
Biscuits; HOTBI 5002; 1992; Playing time: 35.59 min
The Hackberry Ramblers "Deep Water"
Biscuits; HOTBI CD 5001; 1997; Playing time: 46.01 min
"Make 'Em Dance - The Hackberry Ramblers Story"
Fretless Pictures; 2003; Playing time: ca.
Seventy years together! The Hackberry
Ramblers were formed in the 1930s by guitarist Edwin Duhon and fiddler Luderin
Darbone in Hackberry, cajun country Louisiana. When the Ramblers first made
music, Rosevelt was newly elected president. The rural country was about to
change, it was also a transition time for Cajun music. The Ramblers were the
first band to combine Cajun music, sung in French, with Anglo-American country
music, sung in English. They were also one of the first Cajun bands to use a
sound system; all of a sudden, audiences began to hear individual instrumental
solos. The group cut over 100 songs for RCA's Bluebird label. The old-time trio
evolved into a western swing orchestra in the 1940s, electric guitar player
Glen Croker brought in R&B, honky tonk and country in the 1960s.
There have been more than 70 Hackberry Ramblers over the years. Luderine Darbone
and Edwin Duhon (who plays mainly the accordion these days), now in their nineties,
still lead the band. These five guys together bring about 400 years of experience
to the stage noted Dotson, but they still play with the enthusiasm of
a teen-aged garage band. Sometimes with the helping hands of Michael
Doucet, Rodney Crowell, Marcia
Ball and Jimmie Dale Gilmore Except
for the youthful drummer, no one in this group is less than 60 years
old. Ben Sandmel on drums joined in 1987 and introduced the band to a national
audience, they even toured Holland and France in 2002. "Deep Water" was nominated
for a Grammy, and led even to a performance on MTV.
The Ramblers still play weekly in Lake Charles, LA. The boys may not have the
stamina of their early days, but they're still standing and any deficiencies
are is balanced by the sheer fun of the players. And that's everything is about.
Lassez les bon temps rouler!
The Hackberry Ramblers/Hot Biscuits
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