Ian Smith "Last Call" [SACD Hybrid]
Stockfisch Records, 2019
Once upon a time there was a small recording studio in the German town of Northeim.
It used to invite singer-songwriters to produce recordings for the audiophile community, which is
known as Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD).
What sounds like a story out of Grimm's Fairytales has really become a musician's dream, already utilised
by such luminaries as English singer-songwriter Allan Taylor,
German fingerstyle guitarist Ralf Illenberger
or Irish trad group Beoga.
This time Scottish-born, Ireland-based singer-songwriter Ian Smith,
who recently toured with German singer-songwriter Peter Kerlin (see live report in this FolkWorld issue),
laid down some of his favourite tracks. Ian's musical curriculum vitae is linked with his adopted home in Co. Donegal.
He played with fiddler Stephen Campbell,
supported various Irish musicians on tour abroad,
and lately became a part of the Danceperados of Ireland stepdance show.
"Last Call" is not an Irish folk album but rather in the line of American singer-songwriters such as Eric Andersen, Crosby & Nash, or the Taylor Brothers. Ian sings with velvety intonation, rather like a triple-distilled Irish whiskey than a peaty Scottish single malt. He plays no mean guitar either, and he is supported by German musicians such as the multi-talented Jens Kommnick (guitar), Wolfgang Roggenkamp (hammond), Beo Brockhausen (saxophone), Manfred Leuchter (accordion), and, last but not least, American bluegrass musician Tim O'Brien (mandolin). This is just an assistance, Ian and his music are always in the centre: "Keadue Strand" spends plaudits for his dwelling place; "Pablo's Eyes" laments the fate of street children in Latin America. "Arabica Blues" is the drinking song he always wanted to write as a Scottish/Irish artist, but he only came up with a song about coffee.
We better get it right this time, he says in his ecological warning cry "Last Call;" but let me put it this way: with this recording he did everything right.
© Walkin' T:-)M
Dervish "The Great Irish Songbook"
Rounder Records, 2019
Traditional Sligo-based outfit Dervish have been on the road for 30 years
Starting out as an instrumental group, they soon added vocalist Cathy Jordan and put out a couple of fine albums,
culminating in the great live album, "Live in Palma."
Proceeding on high artistic level, Dervish published one fine studio album after
I haven't realized that their latest album had been released 6 years ago. To celebrate their 30th anniversary, Michael Holmes, Liam Kelly, Brian McDonagh, Shane Mitchell, Tom Morrow and Seamie O Dowd teamed up with a noteworthy contingent of guest singers, such as Imelda May from Ireland with a haunting "Molly Malone," as if the deceased fishmonger recurs from the grave, or Kate Rusby from Britain humming WB Yeats’ reconstructed old Anglo-Irish song which is known today as "Down By the Sally Gardens." The song selection doesn't stray away from the beaten path, but an excellent ensemble work lets colourful flowers grow. Let me pick some highlights: Irish actor Brendan Gleeson (who is also an apt fiddler) hurries along "The Rocky Road to Dublin;" American bluegrass band The Steeldrivers capture the unfortunate highwayman in the much-maligned "Whiskey In the Jar" by way of the popular Irish reel "Over The Hills to Maggie;" also from across the great western ocean, singer-songwriter Steve Earle roars for the lovely "Galway Shawl" whereas Rhiannon Giddens' "May Morning Dew" sends delightful shivers down the spine. Other songs include the medieval poem "Dónal Óg" translated by writer Frank O'Connor, Pete St John's transportation song "The Fields of Athenry" and Andy Irvine's heartsick ballad "The West Coast of Clare" from the 1970s.
"The Great Irish Songbook" is rather a project than an album, but definitely a godsend. You may forget about all those Celtic samplers poisoning the airwaves; you've got the same songs here, but this is the real thing!!
© Walkin' T:-)M
Brisk "To an Isle in the Water"
Appel Rekords, 2019
Belgium group Brisk has only arrived on the folk scene, though its line-up is no freshwater crew.
Flutist Gunnar Van Hove and bodhran/mandolin player Wim Moons
are known from Moragh;
fiddler Naomi Vercauteren is a member of the Ghent Folk Violin Project
and has her own trio;
guitarist Jeroen Knapen plays with Dutch group
Brisk has already played all important Belgium festivals such as Dranouter and performed in Belgium TV shows. Here's
their debut album now with an artwork designed by Ward Dhoore (Snaarmaarwaar,
They concentrated on Celtic music, both traditional tunes and contemporary compositions from the likes of
Brian Finnegan, Hamish Napier, Niall Vallely and Sylvain Barou. Jeroen and Gunnar were writing some music,
and their is a liking for Breton music featuring here some plinns and a Soig Siberil tune.
Occasionally they break into song: Brisk set WB Yeats' "Shy One" to music and finish off with a delicate version
of the sea shanty "Leave Her Johnny." Altogether though, their conduct is intoxicating and bursting with energy.
Welcome Brisk! Let's make it farther than Liège and across the border!
© Walkin' T:-)M
Idrone Media, 2018
Irish group Sliotar, named after the unique Gaelic hurling ball, is the fraternity of three individuals who enjoy travelling.
Ray MacCormack has mastered the subtleties of uilleann piping and employs it to great effect.
Vocalist and DADGAD-guitarist JP Kallio presents himself as both a gentle man and a bold striker, just as the needs require.
Drummer Des Gorevan then may start jazzy and easy-going, but manages to blow everybody's socks off in the end.
Altogether it is Modern Celtic Folk.
Looking back at twenty years, quitting was never an option for the trio, though more than once they had an empty tank and five euros in the kitty.
Taking the rocky road from Dublin, Sliotar played big festivals and small pubs all across Europe leaving behind happy faces and an ever-growing fan-base.
Several recordings were released over the years, Sliotar's latest album features 11 tracks recorded at Uncle Tom's Cabin in Denmark in 2018. The selected tunes are catchy (often long-standing bedfellows such as "Nora Criona" or the "Hag with the Purse"), their delivery makes it impossible to hold your body still. JP Kallio wrote the trademark original songs, whereas Ray MacCormack delivers the traditional fare, a rather unfamiliar ballad from Limerick, "The Sweet Little Girl from Barnagh." This is the band version here; Ray used to deliver it a capella at concerts. He also sings the gloomy "Crow on The Cradle," which has been actually written by English songwriter Sydney Carter and made its rounds since the Ian Campbell Folk Group recorded it in 1963.
This "Voyage" is altogether a cheerful jaunt; the music pleases while the sleeve notes recount the band's story so far. It says eventually: ...the album comes to an end. But this is not the end of the Voyage. It is only the beginning... Yes, yes, yes!
© Walkin' T:-)M
Dan Walsh "Trio"
Rooksmere Records, 2019
English clawhammer five-string-banjo player Dan Walsh has just completed a huge tour promoting his solo album
"Verging on the Perpendicular,"
he is still on the road with the Urban Folk Quartet,
but in between he managed to form a new trio featuring his long-time collaborator Nic Zuppardi on mandolin and
Ciaran Algar on the fiddle.
With the sole exception of the final track, bluegrass guitarist Lester Flatt's "Sleep With One Eye Open,"
all tunes had been composed by Dan Walsh himself. It is located somewhere in the folk traditions of Britain, Ireland and North America.
He employs catchy melodies and funky rhythms with a massive attack on the banjo. Ciaran Algar and Nic Zuppardi have a hard time to follow.
In the end, everything falls into place; even the Dan Walsh Trio is greater than the sum of its parts.
Dan Walsh has also released "Tabs From The Vaults," a compilation of his compositions and arrangements taken from his three previous solo albums and the new trio album. Aiming at intermediate to advanced players, he included Celtic jigs & reels, bluegrass tunes, as well as exotica exhibiting influences from the Balkans to the Hindukush.
© Walkin' T:-)M
Liz Carroll & Jake Charron "Half Day Road"
Own label, 2019
Chicago born with an Irish background, fiddler Liz Carroll has become a household name in the sphere of traditional Irish
especially because of her compositional capabilities adding new tunes to the classic canon. There is almost no new recording featuring
one or the other Liz Carroll tune. Just have a look at the reviews of Dan Possumato or Aoibheann & Pamela Queally, recently.
Every now and then, she delivers the goods herself being a spirited performer on the four horsestrings. In 2010, she nearly
won a Grammy Award with guitarist John Doyle,
this time she teamed up with Canadian piano and guitar player Jake Charron. His name didn't have a familiar ring to me, but I learned
that he recorded a critically acclaimed album with Ontario fiddler Shane Cook
and is a member of JUNO Award winning group The East Pointers.
Jake Charron is the firm ground for Liz Carroll's frolics, where she displays her instrumental skills with both groove and sensibility.
Her compositions have cute traits, based on the given framework of swift jigs, reels and old-time-tunes as well as steady airs and planxties.
Let me just point you to the three reels written for Zoe Conway's "Go Mairir I Bhfad" album
("Heath and Bernie's / Half Day Road / Tune for Jim DeWan")
and her contribution for the group Childsplay's "As the Crow Flies",
the latter with additional parts here. Jake Charron himself subjoins a touching solo piano track; the CD also features Joanie Madden of
Cherish the Ladies fame on the tin whistle, as well as Chico Huff (bass) and John Anthony (percussion) who both toured and recorded with Irish-American trad group Solas.
© Walkin' T:-)M
Gerry O'Connor "Last Night's Joy"
Lughnasa Music, 2018
Gerry 'Fiddle' O’Connor from Dundalk in the eastern Irish County Louth started out in the late 1960s and early 1970s with
winning several solo and ensemble All Ireland titles. He subsequently performed with the seminal group Lá Lúgh and the late
Eithne Ní Uallacháin,
before venturing out on his own. Gerry's terrific solo album "Journeyman" came out in 2004;
14 years later he is awarded Ceannródaí, the Bardic Award by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann,
and he releases the follow-up album "Last Night's Joy." Once again, he showcases the distinctive music of
the South East Ulster area of Ireland known as Oriel. However, he also picked up tunes from
Cape Breton and the "Hardrevet Polska" composed by Swedish nyckelharpist Erik Sahlström.
Gerry's ornamented fiddle playing is heart-melting, but should also move any dancer's feet. Gerry has invited his friends: There is an empathic guitar backing throughout the album; his son Dónal provides some brooding piano as well. Ultimately, Gerry and Dónal on twin fiddles stand on equal footing on a couple of slip jigs; the "Stereo Connor" old-time polkas features his namesake Gerry 'Banjo' O'Connor and the reel set "O'Connor4" furthermore includes box player Máirtín O’Connor. Let me put it this way: it is a pure joy ... last night ... any night!
Last year, Gerry O'Connor has also transcribed the dance music of the Donnellan Collection and published it as "The Rose in the Gap." Luke Donnellan was a priest from Armagh town who collected many a tune in the early 1900s. The volume features 288 tunes, mainly reels, hornpipes and marches, plus a biography of Luke Donnellan and a cultural and historical background of the Oriel region.
© Walkin' T:-)M
Damien O'Reilly "Dúchas"
Raelach Records, 2019
"Dúchas," i.e. home in Irish, is the solo debut recording from accordion and melodeon player Damien O’Reilly from Corofin in the west Irish County Clare
with the backing of John Blake (guitar), Padraic O'Reilly (piano) and Caoimhín Ó Fearghail (bouzouki).
I have a vague recollection from twenty years ago - desperately looking for some traditional music in Corofin but only locating a solo entertainer
belting out "Living Next Door to Alice" and a trio with bass, guitar and drum computer playing the Worst of Rock'n Roll.
Eventually I came about a boy and girl casually playing concertina and fiddle in the Corofin Arms. Ah, those sweet memories.
Probably there's more behind the frontage, since fiddler Tony Linnane and accordionist Sharon Shannon are from the vicinity, I think.
Damien O'Reilly claims this area is his main inspiration: "For me, this album reflects and pays homage to the music that I have been immersed in throughout my musical life in Corofin and its environs, in the north Clare area. I hope the album portrays some of the lively and energetic qualities of the local music and musicians that have influenced me up to now." Damien Tosses the Feathers and Jigs it in Style. There are also barndances, flings and set dances (such as the popular "Galtee Hunt"), and a fine rendering of the slow air "An Ciarraíoch Mallaithe" (The Cursed Kerryman). Altogether, his execution on the keys is full of spirits and energy. There is a deep affection for the classic recordings of the 1970s shining through, but you can also hear early 20th century Irish music from the likes of John Kimmel and his contemporaries. Please check it out @ BandCamp!
© Walkin' T:-)M
Dan Possumato "The Last Pint"
Old Box Records, 2018
Possumato is an unlikely Irish name for sure. However, Dan was fittingly born on St. Patrick's Day, he watched the big parades in Pittsburgh,
listened to the céilí bands, and became interested in traditional Irish music. Way back in 1977, he purchased the classic album of
fiddler Seamus Creagh and box player Jackie Daly and subsequently his first box himself. Dan spent half an hour in the company of
multitalented musician-writer Terence Winch,
then went his own ways ever since. He often travelled to Ireland to learn at the source of the music, and he spent most of the 1980s and 90s in Germany. Now
he sent us his new CD from Brunswick, Maine (named after the royal house British King George I. descended from) to Braunschweig, Germany (in which vicinity I live).
Like his previous recordings,
Dan plays his one-row melodeon and D/G button accordion in a relaxed and flowing manner.
There is a lot of diversion, thanks to a stellar ensemble including fiddlers Kevin Burke and Seamus McGuire and banjo player Bruce Molyneaux.
The tune selection is mostly traditional, with some more recent additions to the canon such as
Charlie Lennon's reel "The Twelve Pins" or Liz Carroll's jig "The Diplodocus."
Seemingly, Dan is very fond of waltzes; he included Galway uilleann piper Gerard Fahy's "Dublin Airport"
and the Québécoise "Uncle Stewart's Waltz," and wrote himself a beautiful three-fourths for his wife Ellen.
Last but not least, he successfully pays "Hommage till en Spelman," a composition by Swedish fiddler and nyckelharpist Torbjörn Näsbom.
The "Last Pint" (i.e. the title of a hornpipe from French guitarist Pierre Bensusan) is as substantial and wholesome as a glass of Guinness beer. Hopefully it is not Dan's deoch an dorais, but he only takes a refreshing and recreational break. Check it out @ BandCamp!
© Walkin' T:-)M
Páraic Mac Donnchadha "Not Before Time..."
Own label, 2018
The full title of this recording reads: Not Before Time ... 39 Years in the Making (Thar Am).
Páraic Mac Donnchadha grew up in a musical home in Ahascragh in East Galway, Ireland. His mother being a
passionate dancer and his father a respected sean-nós singer, Páraic encountered many a traditional musician passing through.
His earliest memory is fingering at Willie Clancy's pipes, though he took up the tenor banjo himself.
He is playing the instrument for four decades now, mostly as a session player. So
he wasn't sure if the world needs another banjo album, but felt he had to
honour the great musical legends he's been privileged to play with
(to mention just the famous tunesmith Paddy Fahey who died in May 2019 at the age of 102).
Páraic exhibits the fluid and relaxed playing style that is so typical for East Galway (with some side trips to Donegal and Clare, where much of the music has been recorded). It is nice to see that this also works for an instrument which is frequently badmouthed and belittled. "Not Before Time..." is clearly a banjo album, though Páraic never tries to outdo his musical partners in crime, in this case Claire Egan on the fiddle, Graham Guierin on accordion, Cormac Begley on bass concertina, plus various accompanists on guitar and bouzouki.
The whole package is a beautiful 36-page hardcover booklet, wherein Páraic relates a lot of background information. He reveals that "Mick O'Connor's Reel," composed by said Mick O'Connor in the early 1970s, has been the first quintessential tune written for the tenor banjo. The "Reel of Rio" has nothing to do with the city beneath Sugar Loaf Mountain but must be prounounced Ryo, since the tune had been composed by the late Tipperary fiddler Seán Ryan. For good measure, Páraic pays respect to his father by revisiting one of his favourite songs; Seán 'Ac Dhonncha sang and recorded "Carriage na Siúire" on the very same spot (Pepper's Bar in Feakle) thirty years ago.
Martin Hayes reckons in the album sleeve notes: "Instrument-playing is not necessarily music: the understanding of the music from the perspective of feeling and expression by the musician is in my opinion the most important and indispensable element." Páraic Mac Donnchadha certainly has a wagonload of emotion and sentiment. Check it out and listen @ BandCamp!
© Walkin' T:-)M
Daoirí Farrell "A Lifetime of Happiness"
Own label, 2018
Daoirí Farrell is a folk singer and bouzouki player from Dublin who introduces himself as a
former electrician, who decided to become a professional musician after seeing Christy Moore on TV.
He made his first steps into the limelight at the Góilín singer's club, then started studying traditional arts,
graduating with a Master in Irish Music Performance from the University of Limerick.
In 2013 Daoirí won the All Ireland Singer Championship, followed by the Danny Kyle Award
with his group FourWinds
in 2015. Daoirí finally launched a solo career, performing at every corner both home and abroad.
He kicks off his third solo album "A Lifetime of Happiness" with the well-worn "Galway Shawl," that he
chose for a radio documentary celebrating Galway's victory in the 2017 All Ireland hurling finals. His
soft crooning, which is crystal-clear and flawless nevertheless, fits like a glove with the understated
and delicate backing of Pat Daly's fiddle and producer Dónal Lunny's guitar (who also plays a lot of harmonium on the album).
There are tragic stories and happy songs as well. The hunting song, "The Hills of Granemore," came from a childhood inspiration,
popular folk singer Al O'Donnell. The transportation song "The Connerys" and "The Ballad of Valentine O'Hara" had been learned from
seminal song collector Frank Harte. "There’s The Day" is a splendid drinking song taken from Cathal McConnell (Boys of the Lough)
and tied with Pat Goode's setting of Flann O'Brien's poem "A Pint of Plain" from his infamous novel "At Swim Two Birds;" Daoirí added a fine chorus.
Alan Bell's sentimental "Windmills" is simple and sublime as a folk song of long standing,
whereas Daoirí winds up with an intricate love song, "Via Extasia," from one of his musical heroes, the late Dublin singer-songwriter Liam Weldon.
By the way, Daoirí Farrell reportedly said: "I don’t call them CDs, I call them a lifetime of happiness." Agreed. Now tell it to the kids and smash all the bloody streaming devices...
© Walkin' T:-)M
Treasa Ní Mhiolláin "Lán Mara"
Cló Iar-Chonnacht, 2019
Treasa Ní Mhiolláin learned the singing trade at the local hearth on Inis Mór, the biggest of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland,
where and when swapping songs still was a daily activity.
Having quite a talent, she became the first Aran singer to perform regularly abroad. Thus she supported De Danann and Clannad in Germany in the mid 1970s,
immortalised on "The 3rd Irish Folk Festival in Concert" LP.
Three decades after releasing the cassette tape "An Clochar Bán" in 1989, she returns with the double-CD "Lán Mara" (Full Tide),
featuring 19 traditional sean-nós songs in Irish and English which had been recorded at Séipéal Eochla, the oldest church at Inis Mór.
At least half a dozen songs of her selection are only to be found on her native island and have never been released before.
There are local songs, e.g. about a drowning disaster way back in 1852 ("Aill na nGlasóg") or a plane crash in 1989 ("Bailéad an Phíolóta");
"An Craipí Bocht" is an Irish translation of the well-known 1798 rebel ballad "The Croppy Boy."
More popular fare include the love song "Tiocfaidh an Samhradh," ditties such as "Dónall Og" and "An Spaílpin Fánach,"
the keening song "Caoineadh na dTri Muire" and the macaronic "Siúil a Rún."
Among the English-language songs is the the Child ballad "Lord Gregory;"
there is indeed an Irish connection though not in the west, the mentioned town of Cappoquin is located in the south eastern Irish County Waterford.
Two-thirds of the album are unaccompanied, as is characteristic for sean-nós,
and Treasa holds her ground with a clear-cut enunciation and a lilting intonation.
© Walkin' T:-)M
Claire Hastings "Those Who Roam"
Luckenbboth Records, 2019
Claire Hastings is a folksinger/songwriter from Glasgow who became the BBC Radio Scotland's Young Traditional Musician of the Year in 2015.
She immediately followed with her debut album, "Between River And Railway,"
which spread her fame across the British Islands. No lazybones, Claire took a part
in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe show "A Man’s a Man" about the life of Robert Burns and joined
Glasgow based Scots folk band Top Floor Taivers.
All the while, she toured up and down the country without respite.
Thus, the songs of her second album, "Those Who Roam," have a kind of common theme, that is journeying and moving around.
You can realise that in song titles such as "Sailin's a Weary Life" or "Ten Thousand Miles".
"Jamie Raeburn" is a transportation song; "The Lothian Hairst" is a bothy ballad about the wandering farmhands in the 19th century.
"Seven Gypsies" is the Dumfries version of a well-known Child ballad, in which handsome travellers seduce a noble lady to go with them on the run.
American singer-songwriter Dave Alvin takes the listener to the gold fields of California,
whereas Claire herself recalls "Noble Helen of Cluden." The latter song has been inspired
by Walter Scott's novel Heart of Midlothian and narrates the story of a woman who killed her own child
and made her sister walking 300 miles to London to procure a pardon. Another of Claire's original songs, the
"Fair Weather Beggar," smiles at an Edinburgh busker with a certain attitude towards the Scottish rainfall.
Claire divulges all these tales with a sweet intonation.
Jenn Butterworth (guitar) and Thomas Gibbs (piano) provide a delicate backing,
Laura Wilkie (fiddle) and Andrew Waite (accordion) add some soulful touches.
If you are not yet convinced by my account, please check out Claire Hastings @ BandCamp!
© Walkin' T:-)M
Teilhard Frost "As the Crow Flies"
Sepiaphone Records, 2019
Teilhard Frost is a multi-instrumentalist from Wolfe Island, Ontario, who has a deep interest in
traditional fiddle music of the Appalachian Mountains. He toured more than a decade with old-time outfit
Sheesham, Lotus and Son,
at present he teaches and manufactures early banjos (played by artists such as Rhiannon Giddens, Daniel Lapp and others).
His solo album, "As the Crow Flies," is a selection of said Appalachian music performed on fiddle, banjo, jaw harp and harmonica.
Many folk songs from the Atlantic seaside of Canada and the US have some ancestry in Britain and Ireland, howsoever vague and remote.
"Darling Cora" (or "Corey") is one of the most popular traditional songs.
Some ballads travelled back to the Old World, e.g. "Adieu to Bon Country" that English trio Faustus learnt from the Lomax's
collections and recorded themselves.
Teilhard labels "Glory in the Meeting House" as a hymn tune; there is a barndance of that name occasionally played at Irish sessions,
though I'm not sure if it's the same melody. And, yes, traditional American dance music (Old-Time) too has its origins somewhere
between John o' Groats and Land's End, then evolved into something quite distinct absorbing Scandinavian and continental European characteristics
and probably one and the other African trait. "The Dusty Miller" is a session favourite over here as well; the "Forked Deer" and other creatures
though are rarely sampled outside their American habitat.
Teilhard Frost is a cheerful soul and natural performer, playing vocal and dance music at ease, even if the modal settings
of these old tunes suggest something else entirely.
© Walkin' T:-)M
Birkin Tree with Aoife Ní Brhíain "Five Seasons"
I own a copy of Birkin Tree's 1996 "Continental Reel" album, but - shame on me - I have nearly forgotten everything about it. What's more,
the Italian Celtic folk group, named after a traditional Scots song, has been reviewed with their CD "3(three)" in 2003 by
All gone missing in the cerebral convolutions. Years later I became acquainted with Genovese group
I Liguriani and fell in love with their execution of traditional Northern Italian
Call it coincidence or good fortune, I have just seen I Liguriani in concert (see live report in the German FolkWorld issue),
and I learned that Liguriani's piper Fabio Rinaudo, flutist Michel Balatti and guitarist Claudio De Angeli are also part of the current Birkin Tree line-up.
Another stroke of fate had Liguriani's vocalist Fabio Biale fallen ill and Birkin Tree's lead singer Laura Torterolo supporting the lads on stage.
Two weeks later, the latest Birkin Tree album arrives on my doorstep. It is a special collaboration with Irish fiddler Aoife Ní Brhíain, who is the daughter of the noted piper Mick O'Brien. There is also a little bit support by the harp of Elena Spotti and the bodhran of Ivan Berto; the band's longtime vocalist Giorgio Prefetto provides some backing vocals. However, the band's chief singer now is Laura Torterolo who casts a spell with gorgeous versions of moving ballads such as "Donal Og" and "Lonely Waterloo." There is also a delicate version of the popular ditty, "Molly Malone."
The remainder of the album is made up of lively instrumental sets (plus a Breton hymn and an original slow waltz ), which persuade with their skill of performance. Fabio Rinaudo, who is the only remaining member from 1996, had studied the uilleann pipes with the likes of Liam O’Flynn; Michel Balatti replaced the Boehm flute with the wooden flute (funnily enough after attending a Birkin Tree concert) and became a fixture of the vivacious session scene of Ennis in the western Irish Co. Clare; and Claudio De Angeli studied finger picking and open tunings with the eminent guitarist Beppe Gambetta.
Consequently, whereas I Liguriani's music has Celtic soul in it, Birkin Tree adds some Mediterranean spice to the Irish rhythms and repertoire.
© Walkin' T:-)M
Barahúnda "Onde Vai o Mar"
Own Label, 2018
In Madrid, around the late 1990’s I started hearing about a local folk band named Barahúnda, whose female leader was the singer and keyboard player Helena De Alfonso. I still keep one of their samplers back from those days, when they performed traditional songs from central Spain, from the Sephardic (Spanish-Jewish) repertoires, and a couple of Galician—Portuguese Cantigas. Besides Helena the other Barahúnda band members in that record where Miguel Ángel Casado (bouzouki, if I am not wrong), Manuel Carro (Galician bagpipes, flutes), José Luis Escribano (percussions). It was also mentioned the co-operation from another musician José Luis Lara . If my memory is right, they finally managed to publish a CD, but after that I stopped getting news from them.
It was around 2107 that I learned that Barahúnda still existed, but mostly as the duo Helena De Alfonso and José Lara Gruñeiro, and that they had moved to live in Galicia (NW-Spain). In 2018 Barahunda has published their new CD ‘Onde Vai o Mar’ (‘Where the Sea Goes’), an album with twelve songs most of them with lyrics in Galician language and written by Helena & José Luis. There is also one traditional Irish song (‘Once I had a Sweetheart’), and one written by the Galician musician (Fran Pérez Narf). Barahúnda’s music mostly gravitates around the powerful voice of Helena de Alfonso, and the skilled instrumental support from José Lara Gruñeiro (guitar), and Txema Mawenya (percussions). These are twelve songs full of poetry and emotion, and not so much any kind of traditional Galician folk repertoire. It is true that there are two ‘cantigas de amigo’, medieval tunes written in Galician—Portuguese language in the thirteen century. These are ‘Eu bela’ and ‘Nom me patirám’. In this second one they also incorporate the sound of a Galician zanfona (hurdy-gurdy) played by José Luis do Pico. There is also the traditional song ‘Xa ven o vento do mare’ (‘Here comes the wind from the sea’), and the trad Irish air ‘Once I had a sweetheart’, this one with the collaboration of the fiddler José Climent. The last tune is ‘Achégate a mim Maruxa’ , composed by the Portuguese singer—songwriter Jose Afonso in 1979, with traditional Galician lyrics. ‘Onde vai o mar’ is a truly beautiful work, with thrilling and melancholic songs such as ‘A mina liberdade’, ‘Febreiro’, or ‘A verdade’, where Barahúnda deepens in their classical style based on the lyrical talent from Helena, and where they develop a different and calmed identity for the Galician folk, maybe a bit more in the style of precursor bands such as Fuxan os Ventos, or even more Doa. Nevertheless, Barahúnda also masters some fast beats with vibrant percussion in songs such as ‘Refuxiadas’ or ‘Cantiga do neon da tenda’.
© Pío Fernández
Las Hermanas Caronni "Santa Plástica"
Les Grands Fleuves, 2019
This duo is introduced as “The sensuality of Argentinian music with a breath of jazz and classic”. From the Buenos Aires Opera to the European scenes where they have performed with their cello and clarinets, Las Hermanas Caronni gradually freed themselves from the academics of their classical training to throw themselves into the musical maelstrom of today. Throughout their albums, they have each time incorporated new influences that enrich their repertoire and an encounter with Erik Truffaz was enough to convince the trumpet player to join them, the twin sisters taking a step closer to the jazz with which they have always wanted to flirt. Between the beauty of Gianna Caronni’s bass clarinet and Laura Caronni’s cello chameleon, the compositions of the duo, often inspired by classical or contemporary pieces, take them to new territories, even if the soul of the milonga still rode between the notes. An eclecticism that does not deny their origins but that confesses an immense musical appetite. On their new album, they invited jazz trumpet player Erik Truffaz and the captivating voice of Piers Faccini. The first song ‘Santa Plástica’ is a fast beat with lyrics that refer to the modern flora that keeps colonizing rivers and oceans at unstoppable pace. In fact, the CD booklet contains some really nice photos of hundreds of transparent blue-green flowers, which of course are the bottom parts of of plastic bottles. ‘Coplita para mi Mamá’ is a short tune based on traditional songs from north-west Argentine, and is dedicated to their mother. For several songs the musical inspiration is declared as coming from classical composers such as Maurice Ravel (‘Santa Plástica’), Claude Debussy (‘Breathe’), J.S.Bach (‘One way’), Marin Marais (‘El Cielo’), Bela Bartok (‘Buena de Más’) or Mozart (‘L’Estey’). For others they mention more contemporary authors such as Nino Rota (‘Nino Rota’) or Astor Piazzolla (‘Tole’). And there is even one tune inspired by traditional Basque dances (‘Partir’). ‘El Cielo’ is a beautiful piece where the pulsating cello, the voice and the baroque flute are performed in a manner that an even reminds a song from the Andean folklore. Meanwhile in ‘L’Estey’ the fusion happens between Mozart’s ‘Concerto for Clarinet & Orchestra’ and the Brazilian traditions. ‘Santa Plástica’ is a really beautiful album, keeping a very unique amalgam of classical, folkloric and jazz music, and where the cello, clarinet, trumpet, percussions, voices, … demonstrate the talent and creativity of the Caronni sisters and all their collaborating artists.
© Pío Fernández
Coetus "De Banda a Banda"
Satelite K, 2018
We remember Coetus as a percussion band from Catalonia, that became popular all over Spain for their joint performances with the artist Eliseo Parra. One of the key identity signs in their music (Coetus & Eliseo’s) comes from a very specific location in central-west Spain, from the village of Peñaparda in the province of Salamanca. This consists of a squared frame drum (pandero cuadrado), with one skin membrane on each side, which is placed vertically on the musicians lap, and it is beaten on its right side with a stick (porra), while the left hand holds the instrument and its fingers hit synchronically the left side drumhead. Since the late 1990s, Eliseo Parra incorporated this pandero in his performances and records, and he even started teaching the traditional beats and playing techniques among the folk music fans all over Spain. The fact is that ‘De Banda a Banda’ incorporates four traditional songs from this specific region in Salamanca, while the other ten belong to the folklore of other Spanish places such as: (Atlantic coast); Galicia, Cantabria, Galicia, León, Asturias, and (Mediterranean coast) Valencia, Alicante, and Andalusia. It is probably this geographical duality what underlies in the CD’s title: ‘De banda a banda’, ‘From fringe to fringe’. All the songs in the album are performed according to their traditional patterns, melodies and lyrics, but they also incorporate a diversity of exotic elements, for example in the Galician ‘Alalá de Muxía’ and ‘Verdiales de otra luna y otro sol’ (from Málaga, Andalusia), where Xavi Lozano plays his own versions of the Indian bansuri flute (one of them built on a metallic fence) . There are also quite significant jazz contributions in many songs, from the saxes played by Martí Serra and Xavi Lozano, or the electric guitar of Mario Mas, and the bass from Guillem Aguilar. But all along the CD there is a clear preponderance from a huge diversity of percussion instruments of all kinds: frame drums, tambourines, bass drum, tabal, cajón, bells, glass bottles, frying pans, mortar & pestle, bones, hoe,… The masters on the performance of this arsenal are musicians such as: Aleix Tobias, Antonio Sánchez, Acari Bertran, Alberto Carreño, Angleo Manhenzane, Anna Tobias, Bernat Torras, Fran Lucas, Mariona del Carmen, Martí Hosta,… Globally speaking, and keeping in mind that Coetus is primarily a percussion band (and that is something that the listener will realize since the first tune), ‘De Banda a Banda’ is a beautiful album, very much in the style of the artist Eliseo Parra, who sings in ‘Espejo, sol y luna, con tu luz yo me alumbraba’. The other voices in the record are from: Ana Rossi, Carles Deniá, Rusó Sala, Ángela Furquet, Clara Fiol, Anna Ferrer, and many others. Some enchanting tunes to remember are the abovementioned ‘Alalá de Muxía’, ‘La india Juliana’ a guajira from Andalusia, ‘Ádonde vas a dar agua’ traditional in central-north Spain, or the Sefardic song ‘Tres hermanicas’ with the voices of Rusó Sala and Ana Rossi.
© Pío Fernández