Issue 30 01/2005

FolkWorld CD Reviews
Danu with John Sheehan, photo by The Mollis
Danú with John Sheehan, photo by The Mollis

Various Artists "The Fluteplayers of Roscommon, Vol. 1"
Label: Feadóg Mór Music; Playing time: 37 min
More of a documentary than an album, The Fluteplayers of Roscommon brings together a dozen musicians representing three generations of Roscommon flute music. None of them are world famous, but the fact that they all come from this small area of Ireland makes their music both exceptional and fascinating. John Wynne, fluteplayer with Providence, is the man behind the project. Other familiar names here are Catherine McEvoy and Brian Duke. The older generation is represented by the likes of Patsy Hanly, a giant in the flute world, and John P Carty (father of fiddler and banjoman John Carty).
Some of these players are in their eighties now. The value of Pat Finn's rendition of Rolling n the Ryegrass, or Frank Jordan's version of Andy McGann's Jig lies mainly in the view it gives us into the past, into the way the music was played sixty and more years ago. This is a very different picture from early commercial recordings by McKenna and Morrison, where time pressures and audience preferences were such that the music was often played unusually fast to uncoached piano accompaniment.
If it's the stars of today or tommorrow who interest you, have a listen to Molly Bawn and The Kerry Reel from Brian Duke. Formerly with Cían, Brian produces dazzling fingerwork and brilliant ornamentation. John Wynne and Catherine McEvoy are still at the top of their game, particularly on their Trim the Velvet duet. John Carlos, John Kelly, and Bernard Flaherty are somewhere in between, with masterly touches on Adam and Eve or The Mountain Top.
The Fluteplayers of Roscommon is a warts-and-all recording, with little post-production: this is how fluteplayers really sound in the wild. There's a big thick wad of notes on flutes and players, and some appealing artwork too. Unfortunately, this CD may not be widely available. Try, or email for more information. We can expect Volume 2 at some point.
Alex Monaghan

Gráda "the landing step"
Label: Own; No.47232; 2004; Playing time: 47.33 min
This the third album of one of the outstanding newcomers on the Irish scene. Their last CD, "Endeavour", was celebrated in FolkWorld (both in its German and English issue), and was voted No. 5 in the Editor's CD Top 20 2002. I don't think that Gráda's new offering reaches the same heights or the same perfect balance that "Endeavour" did.
The songs on "the landing step" are overall more contemporary, several of them with a singer/songwriter rather than traditional style. Of course with a singer like Anne Marie O'Malley, songs will never be bad, so they are definitely highly enjoyable - but they are not as well arranged, and I suppose the choice of songs on "Endeavour" was also more interesting. Simarly, the tunes are of very high quality, yet lack of the same imagination and power that "Endeavour" could offer.
Gráda they have ended with their new CD in the dilemma of having had with "Endeavour" a real masterpiece which is difficult to repeat. If I would have not known "Endeavour", "The Landing Step" would have received a top review - as this is an album of a top Irish trad band, well worth to buy!
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Michael Moll

Danú (Irish traditional music solos played by the members of Danú) "Up in the air"
Label: Shanachie; No. SH78059; 2004
It is apparent that you can expect from an album titled "Irish traditional music solos by the members of Danú" Irish music of the highest quality - in the end, Danú are today's best young Irish traditional music band. The CD offers 18 tunes, played indeed solo (with very few exceptions), on accordeon (Benny McCarthy), flute (Tom Doorley), guitar (Donal Clancy), fiddle (Oisin McAuley), uilleann pipes (Donnchadh Gough), bouzouki (Eamonn Doorley) and song (Muireann Nic Amlaoibh). For my taste, the album would have been more enjoyable if the Danú's would have not interpreted the word "solo" as strict as they did - I would have found the album more exciting if more tunes would have some sort of backing, like the second tune on the album features, apart from flute, also some bouzouki backing. But I assume that many purists will love the album just as it is.
Michael Moll

Fliflet/Hamret "Eine kleine Kraftmusik"
Label: Lahrmsteiner Elite/Musikkoperatorene; No. LAHRM1815; 2004; Playing time: 45.21 min
The music presented by the two Norwegian folk musicians Gabriel Fliflet and Ole Hamre is definitely not the run-of-the-mill Norwegian traditional music. The intro in the CD booklet discribes their music as "Ethnic poetry and power - from Norway and beyond", and the "from beyond" is definitely an important element of nearly all titles on this album. The strongest influences in the music are Eastern European and Norwegian, but this duo has very much developed their own unique brand of music.
There is Bergen's national anthem wedded to musical themes from the Southern Balkans, a sing-along theme along Russian themes, there are Slavic songs and tunes, as well as unusual interpretations of Swedish and Norwegian songs.
Gabriel plays accordion and piano, Ole mainly percussion and drums, but also melodica, and both sing. There are also a number of guest musicians, but the clear focus is on the duo. The music is full of rather pure and raw power, with effective arrangements, impressively showcasing what power two musicians can create. "Eine kleine Kraftmusik" might be different of what I expected when first listening to the Norwegian album, but the surprise has been pleasant. I have had a lot of fun listening to this album.
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Michael Moll

Gerry O'Connor "Journeyman"
Label: Lughnasa Music; No. LUGCD962; 2004; Playing time: 45.50 min
It might come as a surpirse that this is only the first solo album of the well known Irish fiddler Gerry O'Connor (there is a banjo player with the same name, whose album is reviewed at another place of this issue). Gerry has been a guarant for highest quality Irish fiddle music for a long time, and became known internationally first through his work with Skylark, then with his own band Lá Lugh. On this album Gerry stays in his selection of tunes true to Irish traditional music heritage, playing mainly tunes from the repertoire of the great master musicians of the last century. While the fiddle always remains the centrepiece of the music, Gerry is accompanied for same tunes by his son Donal O'Connor (fiddle, piano), Paul McSherry (guitar), Martin O'Hare (bodhrán), Martin Quinn (accordion) and Neil Martin (Cello), Throughout the album Gerry's experience and skill on the fiddle shines.
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Michael Moll

Gabriel Yacoub "Je vois venir"
Label: Roseau; No. ROS 101.02; 2004; Playing time: 50.52 & 43.52 min
Gabriel Yacoub has been one of the most important musicians for the French folk revival. Having been the brainchild of the legendary French folk rock band Malicorne, Gabriel spent the last two decades as a solo singer/songwriter in a style somewhere between French chanson and French folk music. "Je vois venir" has been recorded in two very special concerts recorded in Quimper in January 2003, where Gabriel brought together a range of his favourite musicians that he has performed with before, on CDs or in live. The musicians provide very much a folky backing, with instruments such as fiddle, hurdy gurdy, uillean pipes, piano, hautbois, but also percussion, bass, electric guitar. Among the musicians, several are well-known on the French scene, e.g. uilleann piper Ronan Le Bars and hurdy gurdy player Gilles Chabenat. There is also quite a bit of harmony singing, a typical feature of Malicorn times, and Gabriel is joined on a few numbers by singers Sylvie Berger and Ludo Vandeneau (ex-Ambrozijn).
These two CDs feature the full programme of the two concerts. Most songs are written by Gabriel, added by some traditionals. They cover the full career of Gabriel, and include a number of favourites from his solo career, as well as a few Malicorne songs. The 23 songs include classics such as "Les choses les plus simples", "Le Ballet de Caqs", "Je vois venir", "Mes belles anciennes compagnes". As a bonus, there is also one song in Flemish, sung by Ludo Vandeneau. Stylistically, the arrangements range from chanson (with mainly piano backing) via folk rock and folk songwriting to a capella singing.
In my opinion, "Je vois venir" is one of the best Gabriel Yacoub's albums. The arrangements are exciting; the range of musicians and instruments is highly attractive and presents a perfect combination of traditional and modern. The album features many of Gabriel's best songs, and in fact the arrangement is at times better than on the original studio recording. A "must" for fans of Gabriel Yacoub and Malicorne, and highly recommended to anybody who likes French folk and chanson.
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Michael Moll

Iontach "The half gate"
Label: Own; No.ION CD176; 2004; Playing time: 56.04 min
The trio Iontach has a winning formula, with their combination of two impressive female voices, whose owners are also good instrumentalists, and a talented multi-instrumentalist, and with their perfect combination of traditional and contemporary songs (both in English and Gaelic) and traditional tunes.
Iontach brings together the Irish singer Siobhán Kennedy (also flute, whistles, fiddle, step dancing) and her German husband Jens Kommnick (multi-talent, mastering among many other instruments guitar, bouzouki, uilleann pipes, whistle, cello and piano), as well as Angelika Berns (vocals, keys, bodhrán etc) (Ex-Limerick Junction). Siobhán has a beautiful natural voice, and she performs a number of Gaelic songs, mainly inspired by the late Northern Irish singer Eithne Ní Uallacháin. Angelika is responsible for the English songs, all contemporary, including an impressive version of Shaun Davey's "Ripples in the Rockpool". Most of the songs have also well arranged harmony parts; the song "Another Train" is purely a-capella harmony singing. The tunes, mainly traditional Irish (plus one Galician muneira), feature an attractive variation of different lead instruments - fiddle, uillean pipes, flute, guitar.
"The half gate" offers a highly pleasant and well chosen collection of songs and tunes, performed in a beautiful, fresh and warm way. Perfect entertainment.
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Michael Moll

Bukkene Bruse "Spel"
Label: Grappa/Heilo; No. HCD7188; 2004; Playing time: 61.19 min
Bukkene Bruse is one of the best known Norwegian traditional music bands. The band combines Norway's young folk icon, the nyckelharpa and hardanger fiddle player Annbjørg Lien, fiddler and traditional singer Arve Moen Bergset, Steinar Ofsdal on wind instruments (recorder, whistles, ukulele etc) and keyboard player Bjørn Ole Rasch. "Spel" has been recorded live at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, and features also on four titles a string quartet.
Overall, the most characteristic element of the music is undoubtedly the wonderful mystical sound of the nyckelharpa (a keyed fiddle), played by one of its big masters. Throughout the album, there is a mystical, at times religious, but always very ancient feeling to the music. The singing style of Arve Moen Bergset takes the listener hundreds of years back - yet these songs and the style has an eternal beauty about it. There is also some excellent flute playing on the recording. The arrangements of the music is rather perfect.
Music for dreaming which will take your thoughts far away from today, with an eternal beauty.
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Michael Moll

Archie Fisher & Garnet Rogers "Off The Map"
Label: Greentrax Recordings; No.CDTRAX270; 2003; Playing time: 48.32 min
This album is a bit of a curio to us Europeans. Why? Well because it was released the best part of 20 years ago in North America, but never got round to achieving the worldwide release it most emphatically deserved. Now, Snowgoose Records who originally released the album, have invited Greentrax to (re)release it elsewhere.
The album results from several live recordings made when these two famous names toured North America in 1985. I say "two" famous names, but truth is that perhaps that should read "one". Archie was then at the top of his game, having just said hello to "middle age", and was rightly then acclaimed as perhaps the finest exponent of Scots ballads on the folk scene. Garnet Rogers however, outside his native Canada, was known (if known at all) as the kid brother of the great Stan: probably no more. Most British folkies would have been hard-pressed to tell you that FIDDLE was Garnett's instrument of choice.
Today of course, things are different. Archie is now in late middle age, and is now revered as a BROADCASTER as much as a performer: and Garnett's fame has spread (not least for his abilities as a PRODUCER, as much as a performer).
And how does the CD play today, two decades later? Well, just like it was recorded YESTERDAY. Very easy on the ear.
Some of my Fisher favourite tracks are here. The traditional "Rolling Home" has a chorus every bit as attractive as the John Tams chorus song of the same name ; Archie's singing of Andy Barnes's "The Last Leviathan" would bring tears to a glass eye; and Jack Foley's "Lassie O' The Morning" is a song that still deserves to be wider known (it is a puzzle why it never took off and became a "standard" in the folk repertoire). Rogers's fiddle adds vital chiaroscuro to the Fisher guitar, and Garnett himself had me laughing out loud with one humorous introduction.
One track puzzled me a little. The opening number, "Borderland": a setting by Archie of a poem by Roger Quin.
Not that the song is not enjoyable: it is. But I was struck by how apparent it was that the poet had just read the great Banjo Paterson's "Clancy of the Overflow". Like he had subconsciously turned out a Scottish version. (Or could it have been the other way round? I think not, for the Aussie poem was first published in 1895, whereas the Scots one had to wait until a further fifteen years elapsed, and the poet himself was 60 years of age. That said, Quin seldom wrote his poems down, and thus it is not impossible that he composed it much earlier and somehow it had travelled the 12,000 miles to Australia…but somehow I think not!!
But whatever the facts, there is nothing wrong with putting a tune to Quin's poem: it works rather well. But methinks Archie should try setting to music the wonderful Paterson "Clancy" verses. Not that he needs to: that has already been done very successfully.
All-in-all though, whilst not Archie's best album, this is very much a rewarding album that solidly delivers.
Contact to label:; Greentrax; Edinburgh Road, Cockenzie, East Lothian, Scotland Label tel: +44 1875 814155
Dai Woosnam

David Munyon "More Songs For Planet Earth"
Label: Stockfische Records; No.SFR 357.6032.2; 2004; Playing time: 67.10 min
David Munyon "Seven Leaves in a Blue Bowl of Water"

Label: Stockfische Records; No.SFR 357.6033.2; 2004; Playing time: 67.59 min
I make no apology for reviewing these two albums in tandem. I do so because they are inextricably linked, in that both result from Munyon solo sessions recorded in 1996/7; and both were then given the Günter Pauler "treatment" in 2004. Having made the earlier recordings personally, Pauler then got a crack team of session men (all Stockfisch regulars) to lay their magic clothes on the Munyon skeleton, and has thus come up with two albums that are rewarding and quirky and above all, WARM.
I am ashamed to say (speaking as I do as British long-standing columnist and reviewer in the Folk genre), that David Munyon is a new name to me, despite him having now released ten albums in Europe. Were I an American, I could be forgiven: only Munyon's debut album was released in his native USA.
So is this a case of "a prophet is without honour in his own land"? Not an easy question to answer. On the strength of these two albums, I'd probably conclude that the jury was still out. (Okay, push me for a verdict, and I would probably say "only in PART", at best.)
As I said above, Günter Pauler, that great creative force synonymous with the very name of his Stockfische Records, made field recordings of Munyon the best part of a decade ago. Obviously, Pauler had heard something in that debut album (released by Jerry and Bruce Hicks of Hicks Brothers Music in Sacramento) that had whetted his appetite. And now some 8 years later, we have the songs given the Stockfische treatment. And very good it is: the treatment I mean.
I have reviewed several Stockfische records, and am becoming to see these guys as familiar names and sounds in my household! As ever, Thomas Klippel on his Hammond b3 really stands out as a really class act: but it is a bit invidious just to mention him. They all have oodles of ability! One is blown away by the sheer versatility of Beo Brockhausen, and one's only regret listening to this added European input is that the wonderful harmony voice of Mike Silver seems sadly under-utilised.
But if their TREATMENT is good, what about the raw materials they are working with? Well, let me look at the POSITIVES.
As I say, a very warm voice. That helps. And songs that are brave in that they tackle a near-full gamut of subjects. From one praying (presumably to a Christian God) for his favourite baseball team (The New York Yankees), to a song that is a call on the powers of the Hindu god Vishnu! And really good value for money in that both albums play for well over an hour each.
But that said, I have to say that the songs do not grab me melodically, nor do the lyrics really convince. For sure, the occasional line arrests one: but as songs, they do not strike me as entities complete in themselves. Of course, we are getting into deep waters here, because some might say that I am old-fashioned in expecting songs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. That really songs should give you an IMPRESSION rather than tell a story.
Well, if you subscribe to the second school of thought, then Munyon succeeds to a degree. But I don't particularly "buy" that thinking, and I would like songs that eat you up as a listener, then spit you out at the end! Not songs like these: songs that do indeed succeed in leaving impressions, but often madden you in not really ENGAGING you and telling you the FULL STORY. It is not enough to make just feel WISTFUL.
So David, I will settle for the next album weighing-in at 45 minutes, but with songs that somehow make me PIN BACK MY EARS. And with perhaps the occasional song that is like a short story compressed into four minutes.
And finally, I note the name of your wife Dixie (S.P. Standley) alongside yours as writer of both words and music on almost every track. Alas, neither liner booklet throws any light on what your mutual "creative process" actually involves? Does one partner generally come up with the idea? Do the words come first, or the music?
No doubt, Stockfische's excellent website might tell me, but I would like to read something about Dixie in the handsomely presented liner notes. So please address these points in your next album.
I would certainly like to hear the next CD. There is much in these albums that bodes well for the future.
Contact to label:
Dai Woosnam

Eric Andersen "The Street Was Always There"
Label: Appleseed Recordings; No.APR CD 1082; 2004; Playing time: 63.20 min
Eric Andersen has a secure place in the pantheon of the protest singers who emerged from those heady days in Greenwich Village, in the first half of the 1960s. Okay, maybe not sitting alongside the top gods like Bob Dylan and Tom Paxton, but having a pretty secure place on the next tier down. And now over 40 years since being taken by Paxton to NYC (he had discovered Andersen singing in the Coffee Gallery, a North Beach Beat bar in San Francisco), Eric has come up with an album that tries to capture the mood of the times and allows him to put his stamp on some of the key songs that emerged from that Scene.
It is a somewhat quirky selection: perhaps licensing problems prohibited him choosing some of his first choice numbers. But he could be singing the telephone book: when an album has guest musicians of the calibre of Patrick Sky, John Sebastian, Happy Traum & Pete Kennedy and Wyclef Jean, well it has just GOT to register as being somewhat above the run-of-the-mill.
And Appleseed Recordings' usual HIGH QUALITY liner notes really help complement with one's eyes what one has heard with one's ears. Most other recording companies can take lessons from Appleseed in how to package a CD.
The album has well-known Protest "standards" like Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Universal Soldier", Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall", Phil Ochs's "I Ain't Marching Anymore" and Patrick Sky's "Many a Mile", all well-delivered in an Andersen voice that has aged like a good wine: it is markedly more "lived-in" than the mellow voice that I recall from the last time I saw him in Live Performance, some 21 years ago at Cambridge Folk Festival in England.
But the best cut on the album was a song from the now obscure Village performer, Paul Siebel. I recall buying Siebel's "Woodsmoke and Oranges" album in the very early 70s, and being blown away by a song that was later to be covered by various celebrity performers. "Louise" tells the story of the early and sad demise of a truck-stop hooker: it is one of those songs whose strength lies in what is NOT said, rather than what IS. And it has a heck of a lovely tune.
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Dai Woosnam

Eric Hansen "A Lover's Lullaby"
Label: Half Moon Full Star Records; No.005HMFS; 2004
There are albums that arrive with much publicity on my desk here on the East Coast of England. These are from major labels, and almost invariably a disappointment, at least in part.
Then there are those albums that are often one performer's attempt at "vanity publishing": paying his own way because no major label will finance his art. Now these are NOT a disappointment, because (truth to tell) one does not start out expecting too much!
And there are albums like this one from Eric Hansen. They do not fall into the first category - because he still is self-publishing despite this being his fifth album - but neither do they really fit into the second category, for it is surely not a disappointment.
Alas, nor is it a glorious triumph, but there is the occasional sparkling moment to convince me that Hansen is no lightweight performer. A performer indeed who, with stricter self-editing (knowing when to get UP from the table as a songwriter is as important as knowing when to get DOWN to work at it: that is to say that a couple of his songs went on a verse too far) has it in him to produce a real quality album.
He may already have done so, (because his work is new to me and his previous 4 albums escaped me), but on the strength of this CD, I fancy this unwillingness to compress is a long-term trait of his.
Golly, the opening cut "The Holy Man" is SO arresting! That is guaranteed to catch the listener's attention. Trouble is that nothing quite reached this high-water mark afterward.
He has a decent, warm voice and has surrounded himself with quality musicians. I was particularly struck by the vocal harmonies of Mindy Ronstadt: pity she was used so sparingly.
There are no lyrics included in the liner notes: no problem since his diction is top-drawer. But lack of playing times information is a serious omission.
Homepage of the artist:, contact to artist:, contact to label: P. O. Box 65014, Tucson AX 85728-5014
Dai Woosnam

Paul Stephenson: "These Days"
Label: Stockfische Records; No.SFR 357.6029.2; 2004; Playing time: 43.28 min
Paul Stephenson is a talented performer from the North East of England, but one who has built his reputation outside of his native country.
I had the pleasure to review his last album, and was hoping that this new release would "build" on the achievements of his previous one. And to a degree, I am pleased to say that it has. But it is a bit of a "mixed bag".
As with his last CD, Paul has come up with an extremely pleasant album on the ear. As I said in my last review, "Stephenson has a most beguiling vocal delivery: he can really draw you into a song. (It is no surprise that he cites James Taylor as his greatest influence.)"
And again, he is backed by Stockfische's crème de la crème! These are musicians to DIE for! And this time he has come up with a CONCEPT album: always something that excites a Reviewer. There was a time when such themed albums were two-a-penny: now they (alas) seem much rarer. Most albums one reviews today have twelve-or-so tracks that bear no relation to each other. You might say, why should they? And perhaps you'd be right.
But I would counter by saying that when you DO get a "concept" album succeed, it can succeed like no other. Put a gun to my head and ask me which single CD would I "save from the fire", and I would probably say Jackson Browne's "Late For The Sky", and that whole album deals with the same theme throughout: the nature of REALITY.
So bravely - and excitingly - Paul here has come up with 11 tracks all dealing with a common subject: the subject of PLACE. He tells us in his very good liner notes that this album is about some of the places he remembers. He goes on to tell us which cities are dealt with in which songs.
Trouble is that some of these songs (whilst fairly decent songs in them selves) evoke ZERO sense of the place they claim to be about. Take the opening track which is apparently about Geneva.
Now Geneva is a city I dearly love. All I can say is that he must have gone there in the thickest fog imaginable, because from the lyric it seems to be just anywhere: and that "anonymity" is one characteristic that this magical city (which once was home to the Reformation) does NOT have!
One very good song on this album is more about a VEHICLE, than a place. "Captain of the Loving Kind" describes an emergency on a KLM Jumbo Jet Paul was travelling on, and how the Captain put in to the nearest airport, which happened to be the remote Goose Bay. All because a tiny baby had a fever. Best song on the album.
And better still was his marvellous quip in the liner notes: "I've flown KLM ever since - you never know when you might need a captain like that yourself"!
Made me laugh out loud. Touché!
Contact to label:
Dai Woosnam

Pete Gavin "Shanghai Rainbow"
Label: Redox Records; No.Rdx 1053-04; 2004; Playing time: 47.46 min
It is true to say the continent of Europe is a strange place, in that performers in the English language who you'd logically think would "break" first in the British Isles, often remain relatively unknown there, whilst making an impact in mainland Europe. This happens in all the relevant art forms, and a blues performer like Pete Gavin is no exception.
Here he has come up with an album of throbbing, rocking blues music: an album that takes no prisoners. His dobro and electric slide guitars (not to forget his harmonica) all provide authoritative support to his "non-shrinking violet" of-a-voice, in an album of - I think - largely self-penned numbers … though truth is that the very inadequate liner notes gave no clue to the authorship of the songs: it just referred the reader to Pete's website, which proved frustratingly reluctant to yield-up (to my computer, at least) any information-of-value.
He is backed by "Pick Stevens aus Shanghai" on bass guitar… and other guitars. And by a drummer who really earns his corn: Christophe von Knobelsdorff. This guy must have been dripping with sweat at the end of the session! His powerful drumming at all times helping to keep the show on the road.
I quite enjoyed the whole thing. The best track is the opener "Rainbow Coloured Day" (which he chooses also to close with): I liked it for its piquant dobro, and also because I understood all the lyrics. Alas I did not get all the words of the other songs.
Which leads on to a thought. And it is this: one should never bemoan liner notes containing printed lyrics!
For instance, in this batch of CDs for review by me, were two by the American David Munyan. Now his diction is so good, that I did not need to read a word of the lyrics provided in both liner notes: and I immediately thought "if only he had used this space to write more on what PROMPTED him to write this song!". But then I felt ashamed of such short-sighted thinking: I realised it was incumbent upon me to remember that much of his audience do not have English as a first language, so naturally would not have my ease-of-comprehension.
Now with Pete Gavin, it is clear that he is a native English speaker. But for this Reviewer, at least, maybe 10% of his words proved a puzzle. And if they did for me, what chance the non-native speaker? So let's have the lyrics next time, please Pete.
As for my conclusion regarding the merits or otherwise of the CD, I would say if hard, throbbing blues (more "Chicago" than "Delta") is your thing, then Pete is your man. And if it isn't, then you could still do worse than put this on your stereo at your next party.
Homepage of the artist:
Dai Woosnam

Rasmus Storm:"Dansk 1700 - Tals Musik #2"
Label: Nattergal; No. CD03-01; 2004; Playing time: 51.15min
Life is full of strange coincidences. The day after I paid homage in a Copenhagen cemetery at the grave of the great Carl Nielsen, this CD arrived for review at my home across the North Sea in Grimsby, England. And what a strange coincidence that was. For Nielsen was the lad from the "middle of nowhere" (even by Copenhagen terms!), and Rasmus Storm came from the same place: the Danish island of Funen.
Note that I say "came", and not "come": because the truth is that this is yet another example of a group calling themselves after a legend from the past. Rasmus himself was someone who pre-dated Nielsen by a century-and-a-half, and whose fiddle tunes were the raw ingredients that went into making the young Carl Nielsen transform himself from schoolboy folk-fiddler into one of the greatest composers of the Twentieth century.
This CD is the first from the band since their debut album in 1983. This collection contains little composed by Storm himself: however, what is not his, is contemporaneous though. The music comes from old, handwritten Danish music books of the 2nd half of the 18th century.
And very good it is.
As an experiment, I played the CD alongside the new album from England's "Old Swan Band". Now, their album was also produced after a 20 year hiatus from the previous one. And the similarities do not end there.
I found so much in common between their (what I'd previously thought to be quintessentially ENGLISH dance music) and this album of Danish tunes. Both equally enjoyable. Could not put a cigarette paper between the two.
No coincidence perhaps. Because Jens Henrik Koudal in his outstandingly good bilingual liner notes, makes the point that this music "represents a common North European music culture, with identical or similar tunes in our neighbouring countries". Those words resonate with me since I live here on the east coast of England in Grimsby, a town founded by a Dane! And I can hear very similar tunes to these played at local ceilidhs…though played not so expertly, I might add!
The five men who make up the group "Rasmus Storm", with their violins, viola and double bass, have no fifth wheel on their wagon. Every player seems to pay his rent. No passengers.
Okay, so I started this review with the great Carl Nielsen, and I will end with him. So, perhaps this is not the CHALLENGING and deeply profound music of the boy from Funen. So what? It is not supposed to be.
But what it sets out in doing, it succeeds in. It is LIFE-ENHANCING music: music that makes me glad I am alive. Thus it is that this album just slips into my "top 5 Folk albums" of the many Folk albums I have heard in 2004.
Contact to artist:, Michael Sommer, Sivsangervej 34, 8220 Brabrand, Denmark. Phone: +45 8625 3004
Dai Woosnam

Majorstuen "Joran Jogga"
Label: Own (distribution: Musikkoperatorene; No. MFC01; 2004; Playing time: 43.37 min
"Hardcore fiddle music" and "the hottest folk music band in Norway" is what the promo says about Majorstuen. I have to admit, I would have expected from this description a different kind of music. Gentle fiddle music, and fiddle music pure, is not exactly what I would call "hot folk music". Maybe the "hot" refers more to the band members, five attractive young women and one man...
Be it hot or not, the music presented on the album is top class. The six fiddlers put a lot of ideas into their music, and in fact, nearly all music on "Joran Jogga" is composed by band members, based around Norwegian traditional music.Their debut album even won the Norwegian Grammy 2003. The music sounds fresh and innovative, even though it is purely fiddle. In fact, for me, "Joran Jogga" gives a bit of an overdose of pure fiddle music.
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Michael Moll

Croft No 5 "Talk of the future"
Label: Own / Planet Five Music; No.PFRCD001; 2004; Playing time: 45.25 min
Croft No 5 is one of the most recent success stories of the modern Scottish folk music scene. Their debut, "Attention all personnel", receive a lot of praise, also in FolkWorld. "Talk of the future" sees the young four-piece band with another strong album, yet it has a bit of a different feel to it. The album spends a lot of time exploring. Most titles are build up around catchy fragments, kind of Leitmotivs, which are reoccuring throughout the tune. The music is often rather removed from traditional Scottish tunes, but returns regularly back to some sort of Scottish theme. The instruments offer a broad range of musical opportunities, featuring whistles, sax, accordeon, drums, keyboards, programming, guitars. Most of the tunes follow a similar theme, and are written by band members. Two exceptions to the norm are the tune "Sputnik", written by Martyn Bennet, which is has with its very electronic sound a distinct 80s feelings about it, and the final title, "Passing Train", which features talk singing in a hip hop style, reminiscent of the music that the German band Lecker Sachen produces.
The music is definitely cool, in fact most of it has the kind of coolness about it that the album could well be played in a cocktail bar. This is appealing and quite different music, with the certain trance factor. The listener needs to take time to fully appreciate the music - it is rather like a cocktail, there are so many little ingredients in it to explore.
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Michael Moll

Liana ""
Label: Different World 8distributed in Portugal by EMI); No. DW50003CD; 2004; Playing time: 46.25min
A stunning album of Fado-Pop, presented by a young singer with a beautiful and intensive voice. Some songs come along as portuguese pop hymns to hum along, and it is clear that the album has a wide audience in mind. Yet the music is full of distinctiveness and offers interesting arrangements. There is some modern percussion, a double bass intro, yet there is also a flamenco guitar present in most songs. No doubt there will be a lot of Fado purists who feel that the arrangements are too modern, too much pop, but I rather like the eclectism of Liana's approach, making the music highly listenable. Every single song on the album is full of atmosphere.
This is an impressive album of a young singer who no doubt is a rising star on the Portuguese Fado scene.
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Michael Moll

Vamp "Månemannen"
Label: Majorstudio; No. MSCD1152-B; 2002; Playing time: 42.12 min
This is the latest album of what is probably the most importatn Norwegian roots pop band. The album features some pop songs, some rock songs - some have a strong roots feeling about them, many less so. The core band of four Norwegians only has a fiddle as folk instrument, otherwise there are guitars, piano, drums. The songs are all sung in Norwegian, with a decent, yet not outstanding voice. Highlights of Vamp's repertoire include some beautiful slow pop ballads with minimum instrumentation, mainly guitar or piano. What makes this album special is the guest musician Mick O'Brien, who plays uilleann pipes and flutes on a few songs; the CD also finishes with an instrumental based on Mick's playing.
Norwegians will probably get more out of Vamp's music, as they understand the lyrics, yet also for "foreigners" the music is definitely pleasant enough.
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Michael Moll

Milagro Acustico "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam"
Label: World Class; 2004; Playing time: 51.24 min
This is another concept album by Milagro Acustico, following their project "I storie o Café di lu Furestiero" (reviewed in FolkWorld). The band has translated poems from a 12th century Persian poet and scientist, Omar Khayyam, directly from the Persian texts into Sicilian. For the recording, they use a combination of instruments from Mediterranean regions (e.g. Mandolin, Marranzano, Daf, Darbouka, Piano) and from Persia (Santur, Duduk, Chords instruments). The Italian lead singer Fransesca Suriano Brilli has a lovely voice and sings mostly in a melancholic style, beautifully reflecting the background of the music. The Near Eastern music styles prevail on the album, most distinctive through melancholic chants and Eastern percussion. Music that might not be that accessible to friends of European music, but undoubtedly impressive and moving.
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Michael Moll

David Jacobs "Strain Ocean or a teardrop"
Label: Northerblues Music; No. nbm0024; 2004
David Jacobs-Strain is a young singer songwriter from the US and already has a great reputation for his playing skills. Although he already published four earlier cd's This Ocean or a teardrop is my first meeting with him and I cant conclude otherwise than this cd is absolutely on the highest level of music. David knows how to let the strings do the work. His way of playing the guitar has a rich sound and is full of power. His music is sometimes pure blues like in Soul of a man but on other songs he mixes the blues with folk and rock arrangements in a nice way. Good example is the title song of the cd on which he brings together the best of himself and his musicians. A fantastic Joe Craven on fiddle and exotic percussion mixed with organ and the harmonica do the rest. This is a form of blues music that is new for me and which I enjoy very much. This fusion style is followed by a slide guitar solo with vocals in the song The girl I love. Pure traditional blues full emotion and so powerful like a whole orchestra is playing, but it's only David and his slide guitar. Sleepless dream is probably the most accessible song on the cd. It has the sound of a strong popsong without getting mainstream or boring in anyway. When you hear him play you cant understand that his name isn't known on this side of the big ocean. The sound quality of this cd is extremely good and the compositions just work from the first till the last tone. David Jacobs-Strain opens the world of blues for a big audience. He is truly a great songwriter and a fabulous musician. For me he is a new discovery in the world of music who I will treasure and hopefully will hear more from in the future.
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Eelco Schilder

Ougenweide "Wol mich der stunde"
Label: Sireena; No.2021; 2004
Ougenweide, a new release by this legendary German group is always something to lookout for. I'm often listening to one of their studio lp's or their fantastic live double lp Ungezwungen and find it more than strange that these album did not get a serious cd release yet. Wol mich der stunde contains a collection seventeen live recordings from the period between 1970 and 1984. The sound quality is varying from reasonable to "for freaks only". Sure it's nice that there are some more ougenweide recordings available, great that there is some more attention for the group but why with a cd that doesn't add anything to their work? It has not even 10% of the power the group has on Ungezwungen on which you can hear that the group gave hypnotising shows during their existence. In stead this cd gives a bunch of recordings that doesn't seem to have any logic in them. Sometimes nice but mostly the bad sound quality kills the listening pleasure. This is not a release Ougenweide deserves. All their lp's (well except for maybe the last two) should be remastered and issued as soon as possible. It cant be true that one of Germany's leading folkrock groups ever, isn't worth more than this wol mich der stunde cd. Until that time, rather buy yourself a recordplayer at a fleamarket, search for their lp's and discover the amazing world of music by Ougenweide than to buy this cd which wont convince you of their quality.
Eelco Schilder

Hakim "El yomen dol"
Label: EMI 579658; 2004
According to the promo which comes together with this cd, Hakimis a big star in a big part of the (Arabic) world. His music is the Djeel music which could be seen as the Egyptian variation on the more known Rai music. On this promosheet they compare him with the legendary artist Oum Kalsoum mixed with Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and James Brown. After listening to the cd a few times I can understand why he has so many fans, it's the most commercial form of music you can find. With electronic beats he spices up all his songs into a thirteen in a dozen kind of music. Not a bit of creativity, this is music made purely to sell. Sure he has a nice voice, sure he gives his music a touch of soulmusic. But not in one hundred years he can come close to the intensity of the music by Oum Kalsoum. No, Hakim made a strong commercial product which probably will sell a high amount of cd's. But like with most commercial music of today, I heard it and forgot it. A pity, because he has enough quality to make a more sensitive and pure kind of music. But then, who doesn't want to be a big star? And you need this kind of music to become one....I guess?
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Eelco Schilder

Gazi Yalçin "Daval zurna ile anadolu gezisi no. 1"
Label: Xenos; No. xm3338; 2002
Gazi Yalçin is a Turkish player of the Zurna which is a double red instrument from ancient times. The instrument it played in several areas around the Balkan, Northern Africa and even China and Cuba. This is his first solo cd after contribution to several cd's of other artists. Besides the Zurna he plays the Davul (percussion) and he gets help from several musicians on bass, drums, electric guitar and darbuka. The sound of the zurna is of such kind that, for many people, it needs time to appreciate it. It can be compared to the sound of an bombarde or the playing pipe of several bagpipe types. It's often used at dancing events and many of the tunes on this cd have a good dancing rhythm constantly mixed with other styles. Sometimes traditional Turkish, sometimes in a jazz or more rock orientated way, Gazi Yalçin knows to convince me of his quality as a musician The sound of the instruments gets hypnotising after a while and really settles in my head. But it's not a cd that will be liked by everybody. You should really like the sound of double reed instruments and be able to stand the way the sound goes right through your head. If you take time for that you will find that "Daval zurna ile anadolu gezisi no. 1" is a beautiful cd with strong compositions and a real skilled musician.
Eelco Schilder

Jæ Sweevers "Online"
Label: Fanømusik; No.fm2002; 2001
I would wish that such a beautiful release as this one would reach my house more often. The Danish Jæ Sweevers show that the modern times bring new possibilities and with this cd/cd-rom Online they bring a fantastic look into the history of the Danish Fanø. On the first cd they recorded a collection of traditional dancingtunes from the area, brought in a pure acoustic way. They bring their music in a purist way. Sometimes beautiful slow dances with a melancholic touch, sometimes fast dances with this typical Danish rhythm and sound which is so hard to explain. But when you hear this cd you immediately know it comes from one of the Danish regions. Down to earth, uncomplicated without getting simple, that is the best description I can come up with right now. Accordion, violin and piano are the instruments that are heard most on the cd. The second cd is a cd-rom full with background information about Fanø. History of culture, music background, costumes and video with dances, music and pictures. It's a great fieldtrip with some remarkable facts. Especially the way two dancing partners hold each other while doing a traditional dance amazed me. This can be seen on one of the video parts on the cd-rom. We can always discuss if you like the music or not but I like this release so much because it is full with background information which brings the music so much more alive. Unfortunately the info is all in Danish and although I'm lucky enough to understand and speak the Danish language, it would cost more trouble to understand all the info for somebody who doesn't have a clue what rød grød med fløde is. Anyway, it took me years to pronounce that the right way and to be honest...I still cant.
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Eelco Schilder

Tangerine trousers "Dressed for success"
Label: Own; 2003
Americana is what the Tangerine trousers play, and they had some success with that during the past years. They were awarded with the Detroit music award for outstanding acoustic artist and their cd Far above rubies made it into the top ten of best folk cd's of 2002 by The Current. Dressed for success is a fresh piece of music which immediately brings me into a good mood. The opening song Beautiful thing convinces every second. Strong vocals and especially strong string-work of several kind in this song. The second song Sycamore bay is a more standard song but again really well done. It has a good touch of modern Americana music and again sounds fresh and open-minded. Than the third song Aggie's gone shows that the band has more to offer. A beautiful, exciting jazz song and although self-penned by one of the band members, with the feeling of an old jazz-standard. After three songs it's also time to praise the vocals of female vocalist CJ Milroy who, not only knows her way in the Americana style songs but also in the just mentioned jazz style song. I'm not going to mention all the songs, I just picked out the first three to give you a picture of this cd. It would also be a pity to tell you about the fourth song One for 3 as this is the weakest link on the cd. A bit to easy, it has no depth of any kind or it must be the strong string instruments again. Still a nice song but compared to the high level of the rest of the cd, this song somehow doesn't fit in. Tangerine trousers recorded a more than average cd with many outstanding moment. Although I prefer the first part of the cd the more I listen to it, the more I get convinced this group has the potential to become a real big name in future.
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Eelco Schilder

Imani Ngoma troupe "Bape"
Label: Dunya/felmay; No.fy8082; 2004
From Zanzibar comes Imani Ngoma troupe. They bring dance music in the Taarab style and this cd is one of the few recordings of the black music of Zanzibar. The group was founded in 2000 and wants to develope and promote the local music, dance and theatre traditions of Zanzibare. Besides the recordings it contains a nice booklet and a 10 minutes video which shows several sides of the music and dancing of this group. Remarkable is the fusion of styles that this tradition has. Msoma is a dance that sounds like many people would know African dance music. But Dunbak for example has a very Arabic sound because of the vocals but most of all because of the way the group plays the violin. It's a facinating, hypnotising pease of music with a very complex and beautiful structure. The percussion creates a drone on which the violin dances wilder and wilder. Defenitly a highlight on this cd which continues for almost 12 minutes. Another almost 12 minutes long song Sindimba focuses on the vocal tradition. Again the group brings a basic of percussion on which they bring both harmony and solo vocals. They do the same in Ngoma which again has this Arabic touch. An intersting production which gives us a look into a culture that until today wasnt much known around the world. This Bape is a strong addition to the big collection of traditional recordings of the African continent.
Eelco Schilder

Tummel "Transit"
Label: Own; 2004
The Danish/Swedish group Tummel just released their second cd Transit. The band mixes klezmer music with Balkan and music from the bit further-east countries. They do this in such an energetic way that I already reviewed their first cd in a very positive way and I'm going to do exactly the same with this second cd. This cd is so full of energy, that is's impossible not to smile and dance along. Still the album has also some moments to breath like the beautiful A nach in Den Haag. The group is grown in the right direction. Although I loved their first cd oy this Transit is over the whole line of better quality and a more adult cd. The, mostly original, compositions work really well. The arrangements are sometimes surprising me and again the electric guitar that they kick in from time to time really work for me. (Did like that of the first cd as well.) What you get are thrilling clarinet, squeezing accordion which sounds a bit dark from time to time, steaming percussion all mixed into a continuing story of exciting music. The cd doesn't sound like thirteen separate songs but the group managed to make Transit sound like one piece of music. Like a journey through the Balkan and the Middle-east, they overload me with impressions. With this cd Tummel shows that they are one of Scandinavia's best kept secrets and it's about time that they get the attention they deserve. I recommend this cd for 100%, this is exactly the way I love it!
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Eelco Schilder

Reel "Strannie ludi"
Label: Sketis; 2002
For the last issue of folkworld I reviewed several cd's from the Sketis label, as far as I could find out a newer label full of great underground Russian music of all areas of this big country. I was very enthusiastic about their catalogue and the cd I got this time is another piece of fabulous music. Again (I also had this complain last time) no info in English and a webpage in Russian doesn't help to be able to introduce the group properly to you. The less info I have tells that the group wants to play world music based on Russian cultures. Strannie ludi starts with one of the highlights of the cd Vutitsa. A mystic song with throat-singing and airy female vocals. The song (and many others) remind me of the farlanders, one of the few Russian folkrock groups who made it outside the country. The way the songs are build up and the vocals have a lot in common with this group. Reel, however mixes more with other cultures than the Farlanders. On Obriadovaja the band creates a fusion between an Irish flute tune and steaming Russian male vocals. The same on Zarja where bagpipe, violin and jazzy flute combine into a catchy piece of crossover music. The song Pomorskaja goes all around the world. With male vocals that sounds like the Joiking of the Sami people with a flute that reminds me more of South America, percussion that is often heard in India and all of this mixed with fine subtle electronics this song is another highlight on the cd. Strannie ludi is another strong product from the Russian Sketis label and I just cant wait until I'm allowed to review more of this experimental record company.
Eelco Schilder

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

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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 01/2005

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