Issue 4 5/98
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Eliza Carthy "Red Rice"
Label: Topic Records TSDCD2001; Double CD consisting of:
"Red" Topic TSCD493; Playing time: 50.56 min
"Rice" Topic TSCD494; Playing time: 59.50 min
Eliza Carthy, the 22 years old fiddle player and vocalist, daughter of Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson (with whom she forms also the excellent trio Waterson:Carthy), has now released her second 'solo' album. This album is, to be exact, a two album package (both CDs seem to be available separately as well). The two albums are quite different, and they showcase the two ends of Elizas current work: 'Rice' is quite a traditional album, while 'Red' is more progressive, leading English traditions into new modern directions.
Let's start with 'Red', the more electric, more modern album: It sounds to me a bit like a concept album where new borders are reached and even crossed. Liza is backed on this album by - amongst others - Martin Green (acc, keys), Barnaby Stradling (e + ac bass), Sam Thomas (dr), Ed Boyd (ac g), Olly Knight (e g) and, on the last two tracks, by Shack and Paul (Programming). And the programming (especially on the tune 'Red Rice') is the element of the album that I don't really like. I mean there are really genius moments in the tune 'Red Rice', but all in all, this kind of programming is for me a step too far into the modern music market.
The other nine tracks I like much more. The eight songs are either (mostly English) traditional or written by Liza herself, plus one by Ben Harper. Liza has a very good feeling for her traditions, and her songwriting is very promising. This 'Red' album has many interesting influences just like Jazz, Blues, Rock etc.; and it's a very good album; although it is not a round thing and has lots of edges - but that does not really matter.
The second album 'Rice' is different - it is an acoustic album with a very traditional feeling in it. Eliza is mostly backed by Melodeon (Saul Rose) and Guitar (Ed Boyd). The material is traditional completed by some fine fiddle tunes written by Liza. On this album the young lady proves again that she is one of the best interpreters of English traditional songs I know. This is an excellent and very homogenious album with extraordinary arrangements for traditional English music.
All in all this two CD package is very well worth its price. It was a good idea to have this double one, as the material is that much different that you could not put it on one album; and as it proves to all fans - those who like more the trad as well as those who like the progressive side of Eliza - that the girl still represents 'their' favourite style. It is amazing to find this performer managing to be part of both ends of the folk scene - the acoustic trad one and the modern electrified one.
Please Eliza make your own way further on, staying true to both ends of the scene - otherwise something would be missing in the English folk scene.
Topic Records, 50 Stroud Green Rd., London N4 3EF
Spillwark "Sien Kurs"
Label: Laika Records; 35100892; Playing time: 45.46 min
Spillwark are maybe the best exponents of Northern German/Frisian bands. They are playing Plattdeutsch (low German) songs and lively tunes as fresh and natural as just very few other German folk bands. The six guys of Spillwark play quite a selection of instruments, including recorder/whistle/horn, bouzouki/mandolin/banjo, guitar, concertian/keyboards, accordion and maui-xaphoon - whatever that is).
On 'Sin Kurs', four of five tunes are written by Spillwark's singer, composer and instrumentalist Wolfgang Meyering - also known as member of Germany's best known band Jams; the tunes are lively, happy and have plenty of influences, including South-East European. The songs have a very trad feeling, though they are nearly all written by contemporary Northern German poets - the tunes with them are composed by Wolfgang. They are all in Low German, a language that also most Germans cannot easily understand; as Wolfgang says local dialects are very lyrical - these songs/poems are a good example for that. Theme of the songs is mostly the sea, a very traditional theme for the trading and fishing Northern Germans. All songs have a very beautiful and warm atmosphere - one of the highlights being the Wegenleed (a lullaby).
Spillwark have developped their very own style during their 15 years of existance. Today, as they proudly say, they are the oldest 'boy group' of Ostfriesland just after the men's choir of Emden...
Without doubt, of the folk band scene Spillwark are one of Germany's finest.
Elise MacLellan "Kiss on the Wind"
Contemporary Music for Clarsach
Label: Lochshore / KRL; CDLDL 1272; Playing time: 50:19 min
At the age of 7 Elise MacLellan started to play the "clarsach" - the celtic harp - and was lucky enough to have Savourna Stevenson as her music teacher. Since those days, Elise has developed her own remarkable style of playing and has also become a composer of contemporary music. Almost all of the tracks on her recording are her own compositions, incorporating influences ranging from soft jazz to blues. There are four guest musicians at her side who are spicing up Elise's tunes with percussion, electric guitar, violoncello, mouth-organ and bouzouki, but the overall sound is very smooth and cosy - ideal music for relaxation and day-dreaming, and - what makes it even better - without any New Age involved...
Cran "Black Black Black"
Label: Claddagh Records; CC63CD; 11 tracks; Playing time: 45:48 min
This is the second album by Cran, the first
being issued under the title "The crooked stair" on
Cross Border Media. Cran consists of Ronan Browne (Uillean
Pipes, Flute Whistles, vocal), Sean Corcoran (Bouzouki,
Vocal) and Desi Wilkinson (Flute, Whistles, Vocal).
They are supported by such brilliant musicians as Kevin Glackin (Fiddle),
Triona Ni Dhomhnaill (Clavinet, Harmonium) and vocal
ensemble ANUNA. ANUNA show their skills in an amazing Vocal
Accompaniment for the title track "Black Black Black is
the colour of my true loves hair" a haunting slow air, not
to be confused with the song carrying the same title. The mixture
of well arranged tune sets and beautiful songs is impressive.
Pipes, fiddle and flute combined with the distinctive style of Sean Corcoran's Bouzouki playing are extremely powerful, without
being played too fast. Add the Clavinet and Harmonium of Triona Ni
Domhnail and you are reminded of the days of good old Bothy Band,
without loosing the distinctive sound of Cran. The CD also
features a short bit of lilting and a nice flute duet by Desi
Wilkinson and Ronan Browne. Singer Sean Corcoron contributes also four
songs, two in English, two in gaelic. Even old favourites like
"Willie Taylor" sound new and fresh. This is a great CD
by great musicians.
Claddagh Records, Tel.+3536793664 Fax +6793664
Label: Macmeanmna; SkyeCD 10; Playing time: 50.16 min
This album is a delight. Three very pretty girls from the Isle of Lewis sing with deep emotion, just from their hearts, Gaelic songs steeped in the tradition. The MacKenzie sisters Fiona (of Seelyhoo), Eilidh (of Mac-Talla) and Gillian have a very strong knowledge of their Gaelic background in their blood, as they are proving not only with their beautiful singing but also by composing songs in a very traditional way. Their own songs have themes just like the old Gaelic songs, and listening to the CD I would not have been able to decide which songs are traditional.
Four of them are actually traditional, two titles being waulking songs. The girls have written six of the songs, some sounding beautifully quiet, emotional and trad, some presenting the new Gaelic sound, steeped in the tradition, but very forward. One of the latter is the highlight of the album - Eilidh MacKenzie's 'Hai-o eadaraibh o' with an extraordinary atmospheric beginning featuring the girls singing, dogs barking and a dramatic flute and percussion intro; the song has an exciting modern arrangement and traditional theme - alone this track is worth the CD! On a forward Gaelic album like this, it is no wonder to find in the guest musician list the names of the most forward Gaelic pipers and composers, Fred Morrison and Rory Campbell. The rest of the guests are names like Sileas (harps), Wendy Wetherby (cello), Eilidh Shaw (fiddle), Arthur Cormack (vocals) and Scottish Blues songwriter Michael Marra (producer and diverse instruments).
The album has tradition in form of a-capella songs as well as modern arranged titles. The last track of the album, Eilidh's 'Leabaidh Naoimh Aula' takes you back into far away times, with the MacKenzie sisters chanting together with Art Cormack an a-capella song in memory of the late Bob Dawson.
Seldom you find an album with such a deep emotion and beauty, seldom girls who have the tradition that much in their hearts. An impresssive album, highly recommended.
New Nile Orchestra "New Flowers"
Label: Addison Ababa Records; ADABA-020198; Playing time: 61.34 min
It all starts off at a basar, an international outdoor market - the intor giving the setting of the album. The New Nile Orchestra is indeed international: They are based in the US, and play Ethopian songs. Their Ethopian singer and dancer Kiflu Kidane is backed by a modern 'Western' - as they say - band, with percussion, drums, keys, guitar and bass. The songs are trad and contemporary Ethopian, while the music fuses diverse styles such as World, Jazz, Reggae, Funk etc.
It is modern and grooving Afro world music. To finish off the album, New Nile have left an highlight: The Shoa region love song Sela, traditionally accompanied by the singing voices of an entire village.
Mailto New Nile
Ulli Bögershausen & Reinhold Westerheide "Pictures"
Label: Laika Records; 35100932; Playing time: 43.36 min
Two extraordinary German guitar players meet on this recording of acoustic guitar music. Ulli Bögershausen is one of the best German folk guitarists, playing finger style technique on a steel string guitar, leading two guitar schools and having brought out already eight CDs that gave him also some international fame. Meanwhile Reinhold Westerheide is based in the classical music, playing concert guitar, and having solist diploma in both guitar and drums. This is their first pure guitar album together.
On 'pictures', they both show their talent and fun of playing; having exciting imaginative and enjoyable duo guitar arrangements. They also show their skills in composing guitar tunes - on this album each of them contributes four of their own compositions; additionally both choose one tune of another composer (Jacky Molard - Juan Pablo Dobal) being written for a different instrument. For over a year they have worked out the duo arrangements. It's been well worth the time, as the result is a successful blend of folk and classical music on concert and steel string guitar.
Chris Sherburn and Denny Bartley with Jane Sherburn "Foothold"
Label: Sound Out Music; SOMCD003; Playing time: 52.01 min
When I think of the duo Chris Sherburn and Denny Bartley, the words excellent, strange, crazy and very funny spring to my mind. And it is even happier, when Chris' sister Jane plays with them - Jane seems to be the happiest bodhran player in the world!
Chris is a crazy concertina player from England, while Irish guitarist and singer Denny brings his very own sound into every song.
On this, their second album, they play a selection of traditional (Irish) and contemporary songs and tunes. The tunes are very lively, driven by the rhythm of guitar and bodhran. The concertina playing is often unusual, but always with a great feeling for the tune. Denny's way to sing and arrange the often very well known songs (e.g. the trad. 'Night Visiting Song', Leon Rosselson's 'The World Turned Upside Down' or Ewan McColl's 'Freeburn Man') is quite strange, but surprisingly it works well and sounds good. If you listen to interpretations of songs by Denny and Chris, it happens, that you need some time until you realise: 'oh, yes, that's that well known song...'
If you don't know them yet, you should change that asap - buy their CD and visit them at a concert!
Sound Out Music
Photo: Chris & Denny; Photo by the Mollis
JSD Band "Pastures of Plenty"
Label: KRL/Lochshore Records; CDLDL1274; Playing time: 51.05 min
JSD are a Scottish folk rock legend. In the early seventies they have been one of the leading British folk rock bands, and have influenced and pioneered the sound of electic folk. In 1974 they disbanded - a formed together again two years ago!
This one is the first really new album since the seventies. JSD are today Jim Divers (voc, b), Sean O'Rourke (voc, fl, sax,etc.), Des Coffield (voc, mandolin, g, keys), Colin Finn (dr, perc), Rob Mairs (banjo, dobro) and Chuck Fleming (f). They are doing well, playing traditional songs and tunes plus a song written by Chuck. Among the songs there are also well known ones, like 'Spanish Lady', 'Shady Grove', or 'Gipsy Laddie'. They have still - or again - a very own fresh sound; especially the jazzy, groovy sax of Sean and the electic guitar of Des making it extraordinary.
Still the overall sound is the one of the classic electic folk of the seventies - but with a fresh air of the nineties.
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