FolkWorld Issue 43 11/2010
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Own label; 2010
For almost fifteen years this English band surprises their home country and far beyond with their energetic mixture of styles. On a wide range of instruments from brass, drums, electric guitars to saz, bouzouki and vocals this band knows how to create a party. Their Balkan brass orientated music goes from rock to ska, Arabic, dark jazz rock and psychedelic sounds. Each song is a surprise with unexpected twists, good music and just some unbelievable energetic rocking. I love Sufi’s Beard which is a fantastic peace of progressive world rock. In A Slow March to China these musician show that not only they know how to rock, they are also capable of playing a beautiful melody and are fantastic musicians. The Baghdaddies recorded a great album which makes me hope they keep on playing for another fifteen years at least.
Kyrie Kristmanson "Origin of Stars"
Kyrie Kristmanson is a Canadian singer-songwriter and with Origin of Stars she issued a small masterpiece. Coming from a family where music was part of all day life, she started recording her music with a very own sound at young age. The eleven songs on this new album sung and played on her guitar and trumpet have a unique style blending free jazz with gospel, folk and acoustic pop. With her naked and pure compositions she touches the essence of music. Without any unnecessary sounds and words, with a crystal clear voice and subtle guitar and trumpet play, Kristmanson is one of the most talented musicians I know. Somehow it’s so hard to write about this kind of artists as their own sound is refreshing but also difficult to describe. It’s music that you must hear, feel and enjoy. Will be one of my favorite albums of 2010.
Pørtners Komplot "Oldefar på tour"
Falgren Busk Duo "Duet"
Baltic Crossing "Firetour"
Various Artists "Højbystævnet 2009"
Jensen & Bugge "Projekt Dialekt" [DVD Video]
In this review some of the latest releases of the fantastic Danish GO folk label. First with the Danish quartet Pørtners Komplot which is formed around violinist Astrid Pørtner Nielsen. Founded five years ago, their goal is to play acoustic folk music with influences from rock, jazz and classical music. Their album is called Oldefar på tour which includes eight traditional pieces and four new compositions. The album breaths Danish air from the first to the last second, no doubt about the groups background. Nice that they know how to keep the Danish sound alive without just copying the old music. They really try to make something different out of it. Sometimes they try a bit too hard and a very few moments I got the feeling the musical arrangements were a bit forced, but ninety percent is decent, entertaining Danish music brought enthusiastically and with passion for the music.
The second album from Denmark comes from the Falgren Busk Duo. This is a cooperation between violinist Bjarke Falgren and pianist (but also on other instruments) Nikolaj Busk. Falgren is a new name to me, but Busk I do know from his work with the Trio mio and his other duo called Hal & Nikolaj. On this new release twelve new compositions which shows the quality of both musicians. In a highly professional way the two musicians play their melodies that brings several musical influences together. Jazz is always nearby and traditional elements are occasion ally added. I like the calm atmosphere of the album. The more introvert way of playing the violin and the peaceful, but rhythmic, piano is a golden combination. Besides that the booklet is really beautiful and somehow reflects the music in a perfect way. An album like a soft wind blowing from the Danish fields, really nice.
The third album comes from a young quartet called Abild and is called Methea. On violin, piano, violins, mandolin, guitar and diatonic accordion the group impresses me with fresh sounding, well played music. The eleven tracks on this album are all traditional but arranged in such a way that they sound like new. Their light, sunny way of playing is really a pleasure to listen to. The dances really invite the listener to move their legs and the more introvert melodies like Mucikander plagern and Primo shows the potential this group has to become a major Danish acoustic folk act. Just a bit of polishing here and there and Abild will certainly shine. Again, a very nice album from Denmark.
The fourth album is an international production called Baltic Crossing. The group was founded six years ago by musicians from Denmark, Finland and the UK. Their debut album was nice and now their second album called Firetour is released. Thirteen dances are played in an energetic way. The traditional styles are blend into a natural kind of music which is very well played. Occasionally the band takes it a bit too fast and this effects the music by sounding a bit messy sometimes. And what makes the violin sound so sharp in English gimp? The album has more of these small things that kind of irritating me, but I can’t describe exactly what it is. I mean, it’s well played, nice tunes, good dancing music but even after a few times listening the album doesn’t do it for me. Do feel free to email me and tell your opinion about this album, maybe you can explain me why my feeling is wrong as it’s not often that I can’t find out why a well played album like this just doesn’t work for me.
The fifth is a various artist album called Højbystævnet 2009 and contains recordings from the 2009 festival that took place in Hobby stævnet. The first seven tunes are for violinist Kristian Bugge who brings the old-time fiddle tunes back to live. Together with Mette Kathrine Jensen and Korstine Uhrbrand he plays a powerful set. The next eleven tracks are for the Swedish violin trio Gässbiköllor. Their beautiful way of playing harmonies on the violin is something I love. I think everybody who knows a little bit of Swedish folk will recognize the style and hear that this group does a very nice job. On the second CD it starts with five songs by Bøg. Four violins and a piano creates this typical Danish dancehall atmosphere. This two cd set ends with eleven tunes played by the Norwegian violin duo John Ole Morken and Jørgen Nyrønning. Again eleven nice traditional pieces which shows a part of the Norwegian violin tradition. This album might be very interested for violinists and lovers of the traditional and pure Scandinavian folk genre.
The last album is a very special DVD from Denmark by Jensen & Bugge called Projekt Dialect. These two young musicians, together with accordion player Mette Kathrine Jensen, organized four dance concerts. Now, that might not sound very interesting, but the way they did this really is. They choose four places in Jutland and organized a Vestjysk, Læsø, Fanø and a Thy concert. Four places who have their own dancing and music style, all Danish but all with their own ‘Dialect’ (Which explains the title of this DVD). They invited eight local musicians who understand the details of the selected region to play with them. The DVD includes some interviews and explanations, which have English subtitles. That helps making this DVD and international interesting document for lovers of the Danish regional folk music and dancing. The recordings itself are a bit amateurish and could easily have been filmed fifty years ago, but they are effective and show what the initiators , musicians and dancers want to express. That’s why I think this is a great DVD with modern fieldwork of two inspired young musicians.
Next, another duo called Rannok. This duo exists out of pianist Theis Juul Langlands and violinist Michael Graubæk. This is the duo’s first album with eleven (traditional and original) compositions. The album starts strong with their version of the traditional Enkelt kæde / Petersen. An uplifting dance. Followed by the other side of this band, Generalen is a more silent and introvert composition. Written by the violinist, a wonderful melody that fits perfectly in the Danish folk tradition. Same for the newly written songs Jerry’s Set, Finnish Lullaby, Verdens Ende and many more. A nice, uncomplicated acoustic folk album with easy going compositions and somehow very, very Danish.
Baltic Crossing "Firetour"
GO 1310 ; 2010; 13 tracks; 37 min
Baltic Crossing really rock on several tracks here. The title number kicks off in fine style, pipes and fiddle fairly lashing into two great tunes, with Shetland-style swing guitar setting a catchy rhythm. Rigel and Hopska are similarly stoked, and the swing guitar is evident throughout this album. Most of the CD is less boppy, but the fiddle-led Schottis is another toe-tapping track. This is Baltic Crossing's second CD: the line-up is Englishmen Andy May and Ian Stephenson on Northumbrian pipes and guitar respectively, Kristian Brugge from Denmark on fiddle, and Finland's Esko and Antti Järvelä on fiddle and double bass. The guys also play mandolin, viola, hurdy-gurdy, melodeon and keyboards on some tracks.
Firetour is a tight and polished production, with a full and varied sound which shows very few rough edges. Many of Baltic Crossing's melodies evoke the unquiet graves and unburied bodies of Nordic myth. English Gimp and Lounge Mazurka both have that undertone of minor menace, while Frede's Polska sits on the border between dark and light - a solstice tune perhaps. Reventlow sounds so Northumbrian on Andy May's pipes, it epitomises the Danish-English crossover. Other tracks are very Danish, ranging from the old pomp of La Pantoufle and Klinkevals to the dance beats of The Green Skirt and Waltz 132. That wintry Northern edge keeps creeping in, and even the apparently Christian Psalm which ends Firetour is an eerily dark and pagan piece, accentuated by drones and vocal harmonies.
This recording is entirely based on material from the Danish islands of Lolland and Falster, with every tune here taken from old collections except for Frede's Polska by contemporary Lolland fiddler Frede Nielsen. In the English and Scandinavian style, most tracks on Firetour explore a single tune. Gofolk doesn't seem to mind short albums - this one is well under 40 minutes, and cramming 13 tracks into that time means that many of the selections are quite short. If less is more, this is a good thing: I for one would have liked to hear some longer tracks or medleys, but there's always album number 3 to look forward to.
GO 1210; 2010; 11 tracks; 36 min
Fiddle and piano from two well-known Danish musicians putting out their first duo CD: Rannok draws on Northern European traditions, as well as new compositions. It's not a long album, and it perhaps lacks some variety - there are no guests or fancy studio effects - but there's plenty here to enjoy. There are no sleeve notes to speak of either, and the CD cover disagrees with the website on the order of tracks, so I'll rely on the CD order here.
Jerry's Set could be a tribute to Cape Breton fiddle with its gentle lilting jig and driving reel. The Skinny Scot is a very creditable strathspey, and slips easily into a Danish jig, both original pieces which will doubtless soon be absorbed into the tradition. Finnish Lullaby by fiddler Michael Graubæk has a touch of the frozen north about it, as well as a modern feel. Vals Til Lene by pianist Theis Juul Langlands is much more Germanic in character, a North Sea tune. Rannok moves between these two musical magnets, the grounded Danish dance tunes and the airy modalities of new and old Scandinavian airs.
One track in particular feeds my prejudice against the piano in folk music, and as luck would have it this is Rannok's opener. The fiddle is superb, but the bass line on Petersen should be supplied by something much meatier than a piano - it's just too genteel. This is a clear case for low-down dirty strings, or even electronics, the sort of tune Lúnasa or Wolfstone should pick up. However, this track is balanced out by Verdens Ende and Jordan Hill, a jig and reel with flawless front lines from Langlands followed by powerful piano accompaniment to some energetic fiddling from Graubæk. Other highlughts are the raw Melodi af Ole Kjær and the sheer excitement of the title track. Rannok is hard to pigeonhole - give it a listen yourself.
Carol Anderson & Martin MacDonald "Single Track Road Trip"
Tradition Bearers; LT5001; 2010; 11 tracks; 45 min
In Cape Breton, they'd say "There's Gaelic in that fiddle!" Which is odd, because fiddler Carol Anderson is an Aberdeenshire lass, a long way from Gaeldom, and as far as I know she doesn't have West Coast connections. Perhaps because of Stirling summer schools with Aonghas Grant, she makes a marvellous job of pipe tunes. There are some splendid examples on this debut CD: The Clan MacColl, Culbokie and Lucy Cassidy stand out. Martin MacDonald, on the other hand, is a Lewisman, so his mastery of compositions by MacLeans and MacLeods on fingerpicked guitar is no surprise. This recording includes some spectacular slow airs too: the traditional Roslin Castle which was a favourite of mine before Dan Brown became famous, the regal Auchenblae by Donald Rennie, and Carol's own Wilderness Brae. The fiddle tone on these tracks is pure as Speyside malt, contrasting nicely with the gutsier sound on big reels like The Haggis and The Fourth Floor.
You wouldn't expect to hear a North East fiddle album without some grand strathspeys, and this one obliges in style. Skinner and Milne's well-known collaboration The Shakins o' the Pocky keeps company with North of the Grampians, both deftly bowed and delicately accompanied. Nothing to brash or flashy, this duo take their time and make the most of their music. Carol and Martin add a few very respectable reels and jigs of their own, plus an atmospheric arrangement of The Little Cascade for fiddle and banjo, before their departure to a trio of timeless retreat marches. Single Track Road Trip is also a departure for the Tradition Bearers label, its first instrumental release, and possibly its youngest artist so far, suggesting exciting possibilities for future recordings.
Dartry Ceili Band "The Killavil Post"
Own Label; 2010; 14 tracks; 42 min
This album has the sound and the feel of a good session, as well as being perfect for dancing. The Dartry Ceili Band won highest honours in 2009, taking the All-Ireland trophy back to Sligo - a rare event indeed. This young band is formed around a tight nucleus of players, nine melody instruments you couldn't separate with a bucket of cold water, plus very tasteful drums and piano which provide just the right support without intruding. Flutes, fiddles and free reeds include some familiar faces - Philip Dufy, Declan Folan, June McCormack, Mossie Martin and Michael Rooney have all recorded before. This breadth of experience provides a very varied fourteen tracks: two songs, a spot of lilting, and a dozen selections including marches, polkas, barndances and hornpipes as well as the obligatory jigs and reels. As you might expect, the music of Michael Coleman and Paddy Killoran is not lacking.
Down the Broom and Cregg's Pipes start us off, the band leaning nicely into the long notes. Next Joe Derrane's Jig jogs neatly into Lesley's March, the first of several Scottish tunes here. Michael Rooney's composition The Rebel's March lends a show-band sparkle to proceedings, and this continues through the song Far Away In Australia as fluter Noelle Carroll unpurses her lips to recall Dolores Keane's rendition with De Danann. The band fairly flies through The Maids of Castlebar to reach the title track, polkas ending in one of my favourites. A couple of classic jigs, another march, and we come to a pair of delightful and rarely-heard reels: The Reel of Bogey and The Sligo Duke, Coleman and Killoran being the source of the first and Willie Clancy of the second. The Dartry Ceili Band puts a satisfying bounce into two well-known hornpipes before The Piper, a song which used to be Kevin Burke's party piece and is delivered rather better here by singer and lilter Cian Kearins. Pearl's Barndance is another highlight, rather quicker than I remember her playing it. Another set of classic jigs leads to the big finish: Tarbolton Lodge, The Longford Collector and The Sailor's Bonnet: a great Coleman selection. With excellent notes too, dance band CDs don't come much better than The Killavil Post.
Donald Grant "The Way Home"
Own Label; GRRCD001; 2009; 12 tracks; 51 min
This West Highland fiddler is well known in Scotland, and his solo debut includes many friends: Karen Matheson, Donald Shaw, Seamus Egan, Fionán de Barra, Catriona McKay, James MacIntosh and others. Almost all of The Way Home is Donald's own tunes, with just a few older Scottish melodies and a couple of songs. There are one or two tracks which didn't immediately appeal to me, but generally this is a very fine CD of powerful and varied fiddle music, well worth hearing.
The opening track is one of several jaunty jigs here. Red Skies is followed by Braeroy Road, both nice little numbers, and then a pair of Donald's reels which are slightly over-arranged for my taste but highly entertaining. The unusual rhythms of To the West and NZ 2004 recall compositions by Whelan and Lunny. Donald's father wrote the words to Tha Thu Daonnan Nam Smuain, a beautiful Gaelic song with a very traditional melody and an unusually optimistic message. An Gille Ban, played as a haunting air here, has more miserable lyrics which are not sung on this recording. The second vocal track is a Mexican song, unrequited love again, smokily sung by Sally Doherty.
Hope Valley is a clear highlight, a slow reel which easily straddles the gulf between dance music and airs. Rollerblade Reels starts with a cracking old highland tune, and slips into the atmospheric Battle of Malroy before a composition which owes much to Sharon Shannon. The final track is another delicious air, redolent of summer days. Donald Grant's music is very close to his local Lochaber tradition, yet clearly influenced by modern phenomena such as Moving Hearts, Capercaillie, Riverdance, and even Para Handy. At times it's hard to tell where snatches of melody have come from, but this young fiddler certainly knows how to string them together. Donald's new website at www.donaldgrantmusic.com may have some samples available by now.
Cellar Records; CRSFF0320; 2010; 12 tracks; 43 min
The Orkney boys are back with a third helping of fiddle and guitar, part traditional, part original, and four songs to leaven the mix. Netherbow seems more downbeat than their previous two outings - fiddler Douglas Montgomery and singer/guitarist Brian Cromarty are pretty much on their own for this recording, and the material is given a less fiery treatment. The late Jimmy Craigie's powerful strathspey provides the opener and the album title, played as a driving march. W R Aim's Compliments to Jimmy Craigie ends a pair of swaggering jigs, followed by a trio of Canadian reels which is probably the punchiest track here: growling fiddle and percussive guitar, lovely stuff. Reel for Karen pumps up the energy too, one of several tunes by Douglas.
Brian Cromarty has a fine voice, similar to Kris Drever, and sings a wide range of songs. The Bride's Lament is a traditional ballad, delivered in laid-back style. A Ring on Her Hand is a brooding tale from history, penned and turned by Brian. Yellow and Blue is another original, the most upbeat of the songs here. The Cock O' Byam is a nonsense poem to Brian's music, late Beatles perhaps? Brian also contributes a couple of fine tunes: I particularly liked his swinging slow reel A Tune for Lucy, and the fingerpicked Creelman is another highlight.
Traditional favourites and Montgomery compositions fill the gaps in style. Stoot's Jig is an intriguingly crafted tune, and the wedding march Danielle and Keith is very catchy. The whole album is more bonny than blithe: there's a dark edge to most tracks, and only rarely do Saltfishforty cut loose on this CD. The final track is in keeping with the overall mood of Netherbow, a wintry air with icy tones, Scandinavian harmonies and a hint of hidden menace, marking the shipwrecked Svecia. Darkly beautiful music: I'd recommend this CD for long nights and cold mornings. Maybe the next album will be sunnier.
Catriona McKay & Chris Stout "White Nights"
Own Label; MSM001CD; 2010; 9 tracks; 46 min
Like many other Shetlanders, this pair look to the North for their inspiration. On their second recording as a harp and fiddle duo, Catriona and Chris offer nine tracks of their own compositions with only one exception: the traditional Irish waltz Parting of Friends. The Nordic connections in Isflak, A Home Under Every Tree and the title track are clear: each of these comes with a story, whether about the remote Norwegian village of Å, the early 20th-century film of a vagrant boy, or the Arctic summer with its midnight sun. Another third of this album draws on Shetland's own stories: Da Trow's Jig is one of many credited with a touch of supernatural inspiration, dark and eerie like a night-time sea mist, while Roddy Sinclair is based on a flamboyant fictitious fiddler created by Ann Cleeves in her novel White Nights (no relation). The moving air Michaelswood commemorates young Shetland fiddler Michael Ferrie, a former Fiddlers' Bid colleague of Chris and Catriona, and provides a cathartic conclusion to this recording.
Catriona's compositions Missing You and Eira are both beautiful pieces. Eira, written for a Welsh harpist, has little in common with Nordic traditions, or indeed Scottish music, unless it be the grand dance tunes of Gow and Marshall. Missing You hints at southern climes - Spain, North Africa, the Balkans - with its modal intervals and frailed accompaniment, before blurring into a dreamy breeze of notes and cadences. Edges & High Water is a collaborative work, evoking the savagery of Shetland scenery, probably the most avant garde track on White Nights: extremely powerful, especially for a pure acoustic duo.
McKay and Stout's performances are a definite departure from the musical maelstrom of Fiddlers' Bid, a different character of Shetland music, and perhaps all the more enjoyable for that contrast. White Nights is refreshing, uplifting, inspiring and thoroughly captivating.
Billy Clifford "Echoes of Sliabh Luachra"
This is one for the archives. Billy Clifford was a childhood hero of mine: fluter with the Star of Munster Trio, playing alongside his parents John and Julia Clifford, or his uncle Denis Murphy. Billy Clifford's flute was a distinctive sound in Sliabh Luachra music, at a time when flute players were not so common. Several decades later, Billy is still keen to preserve the regional character of his music, and to present the Sliabh Luachra repertoire to an audience unfamiliar with the style of Munster's musical heartland. Billy plays wooden keyed flutes in the Boehm and Radcliffe systems, similar to orchestral flutes in appearance but with a very different tone, and he switches to the tin whistle for a few selections here. He is accompanied on several tracks by Máire Begley on piano.
Own Label; WMC001; 2010; 20 tracks; 63 min
Echoes of Sliabh Luachra crams more than two score tunes into just over an hour, mainly in sets of two. The majority are Sliabh Luachra classics, with some unusual versions. The Blue Ribbon Polkas, Tom Billy's Jig, The Ewe Reel, Denis Murphy's Jig, Dinnie Dennehy's Polka and John Clifford's Polka are among the melodies in this collection which encapsulate that Cork and Kerry sound. Billy also plays two beautiful slow airs here, The West Wind and The Dear Irish Boy, as well as some widely known reels and hornpipes. Billy Clifford has produced other recordings, and some of them are still available, but he never recorded a large body of music and we're fortunate indeed that he has found time to put down these twenty tracks.
Eoin Dillon "The Golden Mean"
KRCD202; 2010; 8 tracks; 32 min
Short on duration and short on information, The Golden Mean is nevertheless a fine recording of the wilder side of modern Irish piping. Kila's piper has pulled off his second solo CD in style. I complained that Eoin's debut recording The Third Twin gave us very little background about the man and his music: this one is no more forthcoming, but just as full of good tunes. The initial Boy Raycer reel is aptly named, travelling at speed and hitting you hard. Star of the Sea is a delightful waltz in Breton or Galician style. A jig and reel bring us to
Lament for Fr Pat Noise, a technically challenging slow air which Eoin fills with emotion. Babaganoush balances between folk and funk, The Pound Loney is a sumptuous slow reel, and the final track builds to a hypnotic driving dance rhythm.
Taking its title from one of the great mysteries of the ancient world, this album certainly maintains that air of secrecy, and there's more than a touch of magic about it. Eoin is joined by fiddle and fretted strings on most tracks, with occasional double bass and cello. The recording quality is first rate, and Eoin certainly shows himself to be a world class piper here. Not one for the purists perhaps, and there are one or two wrinkles in the arrangements, but the piping is always bright and entertaining.
Sean O'Dwyer "Irish Trad Concertina from Beara"
One of those CDs which does exactly what it says on the tin, Sean O'Dwyer's debut recording is straight trad concertina from start to finish. Sean plays in a percussive style, with harmonies stretching across both hands, but without the flash staccato technique of some younger players. The Blackbird is a good example, a jaunty swaggering hornpipe with enough pace for the dancers. The West Cork roots of O'Dwyer's music are most obvious in the polkas Beara's American Wake, Up Newcastle and Ardgroom's Wild Night, or in the Beara Slide set. You can almost hear shoes battering the boards as couples lash into the Kerry Set. In complete contrast, Mr O'Connor is played almost as a Parisian waltz and the Irish spelling of Carolan all but disguises this harp piece. Sean's namesake O'Dwyer of the Glen is the only other slow track here: two versions of the air are very nicely handled.
Own Label; 2010; 18 tracks; 43 min
Three of Sean's own compositions grace this album. Triple Jump Backwards would do as well as a hornpipe or fling, there's plenty of notes to fill a slower version. The Dublin-Cork Train to Kilarney is as confusing as the journey it recounts, which is perhaps the intention. There's no denying that this album is rough hewn in places, but that's also part of its charm. Sean O'Dwyer's music is rich in the natural ore from which Irish music is smelted, and the jig for his departed son Lorcan O'Dwyer is a memorable tune showing the pure veins of silver in his West Cork concertina style. Other highlights of this recording include Nora's Fancy by Mrs Nora Hurley, a lovely pair of two-steps, and a fine version of The Croppies' March to finish. You can find this CD online at Amazon, and distributed to shops in Ireland and beyond.
Cathal Clohessy & Éamonn Costello "Bosca Ceoil and Fiddle"
Remarkable and routine simultaneously, this debut recording from two young bucks is a multi-layered mixture. Cathal plays West Limerick fiddle, while box-player Eamonn hails from Connemara, and the two meet musically somewhere in North Connacht. They are joined for a few tracks by Cavan man Rodney Lancashire on bouzouki and mandolin, but this CD is basically box and fiddle, separately and in combination. One of the remarkable things is that these lads take their time: The Strayaway Child opens at a nice steady pace, and The Minstrel's Fancy follows with a slightly flat rhythm but clearly at hornpipe speed. In fact, one or two selections here are a little too slow for my liking - or too metronomic in their observance of the slow tempo. I'm thinking of Sergeant Early's Dream and Brian O'Kane's. No complaints about the slow version of Miss Langford, though: this piece is beautifully interpreted. There's plenty of toe-tapping music here too, including the oddly cheerful jig The Drowning of Buckless and a great selection of reels starting with Farewell to Eyrecourt. Another remarkable aspect of this CD is the detailed notes and monochrome photos which give an air of maturity and consideration to the whole project.
Own Label; 2010; 14 tracks; 49 minutes
Contrary to my natural inclination, I was more taken with the fiddle solos than the box-playing on this album. Whether it's on his own Claw's Hornpipe or the well-known air Aisling Gheal, Cathal's fiddle holds the attention effortlessly. Not that there's nothing good coming out of the box: Eamonn contributes an intriguing little jig Loch Pholl an Gháinne and a graceful modern waltz, both his own. The routine aspect of this music is the easy familiarity of the tunes and style, the relaxed duetting as though this was just another local session, and the total immersion in each other's playing which is usually the preserve of much older musicians. When the fiddle and box come together here, they can meld completely into the most perfect of duets, where it's impossible to hear where one instrument ends and the other begins. The Tempest is a case in point, and the final meaty track of Breton and Italian melodies underlines their tight timing. With this degree of understanding, Clohessy and Costello are certainly a pair to watch for the future.
Edel Fox "Chords & Beryls"
West Clare concertina, honed by Atlantic winds which simplify the choice between music and badminton, and refined by generations of virtuosi right back to the evolution of hexagonal end-plates: Edel Fox is one of today's finest exponents, and this debut solo CD follows up an excellent duet album with Ronan O'Flaherty a few years ago. The title is an odd one - without the H it might describe Edel's outfit, without the Y it could refer to the musical devices of polyphony and ornamentation which are certainly features of the West Clare style. Whatever the meaning, Edel's playing is tastefully decorated with chords and birls - but never overdressed.
Own Label; E&RCD002; 2010; 13 tracks, 49 min
Reels and jigs are the staple fare here, though Edel adds a couple of set dances and hornpipes as well as two slower tracks. The Honeymoon, Lough Mountain and Love at the Endings immediately impress with their lively musicality. and Scatter the Mud underlines the vivacious character of Edel's playing. This is happy music, full of life, with a twinkle in the fingers. There's no shortage of skill or spirit either: The Victory Reel is rattled off at pace, and her change into The Luachrachán's Jig shows Edel hitting the reheat with practiced ease.
Loftus Jones and The Joyous Waltz decrease the tempo but not the lift. Edel is still flying high as she pumps new life into the Carolan air - even Kevin Burke could learn a thing or two here. Jackie Daly joins her for the Quebec waltz, and on two boxes it has all the power of a steam organ. This is the only track where Edel shares the melody line, but she makes good use of accompaniment on strings and percussion from some of the best in the business. The concertina must still take the credit for one of the most uplifting albums I've heard in a long time - revitaliising Harvest Home and The Liverpool Hornpipe, rising to the challenge of King of the Pipers, and finally putting her foot to the floor for The Knotted Chord with an H. This recording is likely to be on my list of favourites for a while - I hope it reaches yours too.
Hanneke Cassel "For Reasons Unseen"
Own Label; HJC2009; 2009; 12 tracks; 53 min
This Boston-based fiddler has a handful of albums under her belt, and her tunes have been picked up by many musicians - Boston Urban Ceilidh, Waiting for the Dawn, Tennessee Quick Cash, all on previous recordings. As a live performer, Hanneke is probably best known as part of the Cathie Ryan band, although she plays in many other line-ups. For Reasons Unseen presents a dozen new tracks, mostly Cassel compositions, with Hanneke adding piano and vocals to her fiddling. There's guitar and cello through most of the album, provided by several well-known friends.
Hanneke plays in a cosmopolitan style, drawing on Irish and Scottish traditions as well as the rich pickings of American fiddling. Her music is sweet, precise, gentle and powerful by turns, ranging from the earthy traditional Dusky Meadow and her own fiery reel Leila's Birthday to the angelic waltz Brooklyn's Lullaby. She writes excellent tunes, and plays them superbly - examples here are Blackberry Festival Footrace, a potent pagan jig, and Cali's Wedding which sits somewhere between a march and a strathspey but is a beautiful composition either way.
Shane Hayes "Small Towns in Built-Up Areas"
Own Label; 2010; 12 tracks; 51 min
A young button box bombshell from County Clare, Shane Hayes has benefited from the tutelage of Martin Connolly and Conor McCarthy. Shane is accompanied by Aodan Coyne, Jack Talty, and brother Fiachra on fiddle for a solo CD which packs quite a punch. Small Towns in Built-Up Areas features the showpieces of many Irish music masters: Mairtin O'Connor's Connaughtman's Rambles, Sharon Shannon's Reel Beatrice, Matt Molloy's Jenny's Chickens, Eileen Ivers' Pachebel's Frolics, and more. These are big tunes, but Shane Hayes devours them with relish. He throws one of his own tunes into the mix too - Socks in the Frying Pan, a name shared with Shane's Ennis-based band, and a gutsy modern modal melody.
I have to say that there's probably more power than passion in Shane Hayes' music. His technique is prodigious, and he pumps out the tunes with enviable energy and rhythm, but he rarely takes his foot off the gas long enough to admire the scenery. Shane also shows unusual consistency, playing many tunes the same way every time. Despite this, there's plenty to enjoy here: a lovely grimy polka called Darren's for convenience, several fine jigs and reels including The Coming of Spring and The Man of the House, a pair of flash hornpipes with just enough bounce, and the challenging but rewarding Egyptian Reel. There's even a song, sung by Shane I assume: the notes are vague on this point... I have no idea what the album title means, but it sounds a bit Irish to me.
Nathan Rogers "The Gauntlet"
Folk singers these days often have a hard time living up to the greatness of their forebears; they always have in mind the great singers and players who inspired them to take up their music. How can one continue the tradition without changing its timelessness or leaving it too far behind? It must be considerably more difficult when one of the greats was your own father. However, Nathan Rogers, son of Canadian folk giant Stan Rogers, is fearless in the face of this challenge and does his father honor while singing his own brand of music.
Label: Borealis Records; BCD196; 2009
His second album opens with the title track, featuring a turbulent bass line and percussively strummed guitar. The second track, “The Jewel of Paris”, goes back to Rogers’ roots in folk songs, with an expressive cello adding its urgent voice, and a remarkably smoother, less forceful vocal effort by Rogers. When the vocal harmony enters the mix after a few verses it is very welcome and rounds the song off nicely. “Fingerprints” is a change back to a much different sound with a busy bass-line, back-beat electric guitar and conversational vocals. The procession of styles continues with an upbeat bluegrass number, “Better Than Me”, on which I thought Rogers’ voice was its most natural. The next highlight is Rogers’ eerie Tuvan throat singing on an original track, “Naamche Bazzar”, which gives the album an Eastern twist and is not to be missed.
”The Gauntlet” ends with the son’s rendition of his father’s song “The Puddler’s Tale”; a worthy conclusion for an artist unafraid to trace his forebear’s footsteps while creating his own.
Various Artists "Ceolta Éireann Music of Ireland"
Label: Gael Linn; CEFCD001; 2009
This commemorative LP looks back to the age of vinyl and recalls the beginnings of broadcasted Irish music, when little known traditional Irish singers were brought into broad recognition over the airwaves. Gael Linn, Ireland’s oldest recording company, issued its first LP in 1958, traditionally with instrumental pieces on one side and vocal arrangements on the other. This reissue begins with eight songs sung by Tomás Ó Súilleabháin with piano arrangement and accompaniment by Seán Ó Riada. The final eight tracks are orchestral arrangements of Irish airs.
The often ethereal and delicate piano complements Ó Súilleabháin’s voice wonderfully and the strains of the Irish language are a form of music themselves. The orchestral arrangements can’t help but characterize their melodies more impersonally, although with great feeling and wonderful musicianship. The album takes a nostalgic look at early developments in traditional Irish music and will delight lovers of Irish folklore.
Cara "Long Distance Love"
Cara’s new album could be the first effort of a young band intoxicated with Celtic-inspired folk music–except for the exceptional level of polish and musical breadth the band displays. This could be because of two new members, Cork piper Ryan Murphy and Scottish fiddler Jeana Leslie, or it could be just because the band has retained great joy in music since their formation in 2003. In fact, it could be both. In any case, Cara’s music is full of the purity and taste that their fans will already know and new listeners are discovering daily. Containing an hour of music ranging through tunes and songs from various continents and styles, Cara’s sound remains unique and fresh. “Dochno” mixes a jazz approach with a Celtic-style melody; original and traditional songs feature band anchor Gudrun Walther’s and newcomer Leslie’s heartfelt voices; guitarist Jürgen Treyz arranges artfully and provides amazing dobro playing; Rolf Wagels’ bodhrán pulse lifts tunes perceptibly, and Ryan Murphy’s flute and pipes pierce airily. This is a great album, I hope many more like it are in the works.
Label: Artes Records; ARCD3044; 2010
© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 11/2010
All material published in FolkWorld is © The Author via FolkWorld. Storage for private use is allowed and welcome. Reviews and extracts of up to 200 words may be freely quoted and reproduced, if source and author are acknowledged. For any other reproduction please ask the Editors for permission. Although any external links from FolkWorld are chosen with greatest care, FolkWorld and its editors do not take any responsibility for the content of the linked external websites.
FolkWorld - Home of European Music
Layout & Idea of FolkWorld © The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld