Thursday, April 28, 2016

Spiro - Welcome Joy And Welcome Sorrow (2015 England) [320]

With their previous album, Kaleidophonica, Spiro proved that they are true English originals, with a style perhaps best described as experimental folk-influenced acoustic music. This Bristol four-piece play violin, mandolin, accordion, piano, guitar and cello, and create elaborate and carefully crafted instrumental pieces that mix sturdy, folk-influenced melodies with the repeated riffs of systems music, but with no improvisation or solos. This new set follows the same highly individual approach, though with even greater confidence and less reliance on traditional themes. The opening I Am the Blaze on Every Hill sets the mood; it starts slowly, rapidly speeds up and develops into a gently mesmeric, jaunty and atmospheric workout that constantly changes mood and pace. Elsewhere, they switch from the elegant Blyth High Light, one of several tracks that would make fine, atmospheric film music, to the urgent and driving The Vapourer. This is a subtle but exhilarating band.

1.    I Am The Blaze On Every Hill    4:23
2.    Blyth High Light    3:24
3.    Flying In The Hours Of Darkness    3:22
4.    Burning Bridge    4:56
5.    And All Through The Winter He Hid Himself Away    3:17
6.    One Train May Hide Another    2:47
7.    Will You Go Walk The Woods So Wild    3:46
8.    Orrery    3:14
9.    The Vapourer    4:42
10.    Marineville    3:49
11.    Thought Fox    2:25
12.    Folded In The Arms Of The Earth    4:23
13.    The Still Point Of The Turning World    1:59
14.    Welcome Joy And Welcome Sorrow    5:12

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hinn Islenski Thursaflokkur - Hinn Íslenzki Þursaflokkur (Iceland 1978)

Their name on their first eponymous album was Hinn Islenzki Thursaflokkur (translation: The Icelandic Flock of Trolls). When they released their second album Thursabit they had shortened their name to Thursaflokkurin (translation: The Flock of Trolls).

The Band consisted of:
Asgeir Oskarsson on drums and vocals,
Egill Olafsson,vocals and keyboards,
Tomas M. Tomasson on bass, keyboards and vocals,
Thordur Arnason on guitar and vocals
who are now to be found in Studmenn,
and also
Karl J. Sighvatsson, keyboards and vocals along with
Runar Vilbergsson, fagot.


They have done four albums, namely:
- Hinn Islenzki ?ursaflokkur (1978)
(or: Hinn Islenski Thursaflokkur)
-?ursabit (1979)
(or: Thursabit)
- A hljomleikum (1980)
(or: A hljomleikum)
-G?ti eins veri? (1982)
(or: Gaeti eins verid)

Critics review:
Their music is very unique and very good in its own right with odd meters and constant time changes, lots of dynamics, quirky rhythmic and melodic motifs, excellent musicianship, a healthy variety in their sound, even within the same song, and well performed, if sometimes odd, vocals. This album is mostly a collection of Icelandic folk songs, some of which are several hundred years old. Hinn Islenzki Thursaflokkur took these old melodies and stories and gave them their own unique twist. These songs appear to retain a strong connection to their folk roots, but rock and classical motifs are also added liberally to the mix. The result is deliciously progressive, but it seem s that prog rock was not necessarily what the band was aiming for. Not all the songs fit into the common conception of progressive rock, but by the same token, all of the music sounds quite original.

Probably the closest comparison this writer can make to a better known progressive rock band is to Gentle Giant or Von Zamla, the last revision of the original Samla Mamas Manna name. This is largely due to the presence of bassoon in both bands, but a general vibe of Nordic folk weirdness is also a common thread. Unlike Von Zamla, however, Hinn Islenzki Thursaflokkur s music is less experimental, more traditional and incorporates a vocalist. The instrumentation is guitar, a variety of keyboards, bass, drums, and sometimes bassoon, all played with plenty of enthusiam and intensity. All songs are sung in Icelandic, but lyrics are printed in the CD booklet in English and Icelandic, as are the stories behind the songs, providing an educational read while listening to the music. Piano, electric guitar, bass guitar drums round out the rest of the instrumentation. Hinn Islenzki Thrusaflokkur is far from all the well-worn paths of pop, rock, folk, so-called world music and even progressive rock you may have ever traveled. These remarkable albums are strongly recommended to anyone wanting to expand their musical horizons far beyond the norm.

Thursaflokkurinn (The Band of Dunces) shared members with Spilverk Thjodana and Studmenn, but they were easily the most ambitious of those bands. Fronted by singer Egill Olafsson, Thursaflokkurinn attempted to create a 100% Icelandic music, sounding like nothing else in the process. They never quite achieved their goal-- fans of King Crimson and Jethro Tull would tell you that-- but they certainly came very close. This is the first album.

1.    Einsetumaður einu sinni    5:31
2.    Sólnes    5:05
3.    Stóðum tvö í túni    4:03
4.    Hættu að gráta Hringaná    2:45
5.    Nútíminn    5:01
6.    Búnaðarbálkur    4:20
7.    Vera mátt góður    0:53
8.    Grafskript    6:46

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Barka Vall - Skogsflot (Finland 2000) @192

Beautiful Swedish Styled folk rock with female vocals, heavy metal electric bass, organ, male harmonies, and some extra instruments. All tracks are more or less in the same balance between the music instruments. It goes into the direction of some of the metal folk bands, but remains always within the folk territory, while all the other musical elements like some jazz, medieval, ethnic with even now and then a few heavy metal guitar touches, only illustrating. Where some bands as Hedningarna have so many contrasts, making it difficult to me to listen to the CD's too often, such ideas might have lead in this band to a certain approach towards some harmony, which results makes this CD most pleasant to listen to.

1. Djävulsfält - 05:48
2. Skam över mig - 03:19
3. Kallbrand - 03:52
4. Få min gråt - 03:58
5. Själaskrik - 04:17
6. Dansa dig vild - 05:45
7. Blotargille - 05:19
8. Stilla wärk - 04:58
9. I vinets dimmor - 06:01
10. Herr Peders sjöresa - 06:26
11. Ingen till rors - 07:24
12. Hidden track - 05:12

Ella Grüssner - vocals, violin 
Isabella Sarling - vocals, percussion 
Torgny Stjärnfelt - guitar, vocals 
Niclas Stjärnfelt - percussion, vocals 
Örjan Sjöström - keyboards, vocals 
Hans-Erik Ramström - bass 
Tony Mattsson - drums

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Tsuumi Sound System - Growing Up [2009 Finland] @320

We're still Finnish and yes, the music's still Nordic, but that can mean a world of things. From the desolated wastelands of Lapland to the urban rush of Helsinki, the ethnic heritagef the Northling is an abundant source of inspiration in itself. Having that and working hard to get it out there, this group of folk is here to stay.
Call it modern folk or Finnish world music, Tsuumi Sound System draws their power from a huge mixture of influences. Eight young musicians with eight different musical backgrounds all put together and handled with care by producer Roger Tallroth for the second time; the band has done some serious growing up since their last album HOTAS.

1. Nortling (Esko Järvelä)
2. Skyfixer (Tommi Asplund, Olli Seikkula)
3. Grown-up Roger (Esko Järvelä)
4. Livets vår (Pilvi Talvitie)
5. Valse Cinque (Joakim Berghäll)
6. HUP (Hannu Kella)
7. As Soon As Possible (Pilvi Talvitie)
8. LaaLaa Land (Esko Järvelä)
9. Natten vid Hagelberg (Jussi Nikula)
10. Sicilian Panda (Hannu Kella)
11. Silent Mind (Esko Järvelä)
12. Rec. 32 (Esko Järvelä)
13. Unknown Tomorrow (Hannu Kella)

Tommi Asplund - fiddle
Esko Järvelä - fiddle, viola, harmonium
Hannu Kella - accordion
Joakim Berghäll - saxophones, percussion, cello
Pilvi Talvitie - piano, harmonium
Jani Kivelä - guitar, cittern
Tarmo Anttila - double bass
Jussi Nikula - drums, percussion

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Lirio - Hanterdroom (2012 Netherlands) @320

Balfolk is a kind of danceparty where West-European folkmusic is being played and people dance in couples. The Dutch folk trio Lirio started the organisation of these wonderful events about ten years ago in Utrecht (central of the Netherlands). It gave the group lots of succes. Their second album ‘Hanterdroom‘ is again danceable folk orientated cd.

Lirio: Gerdien Smit – violin, Sander van der Schaaf – guitar en Wouter Kuyper – diatonic accordion, who wrote all the pieces. Waltz, mazurka, bourée which fit in the tradition: with exciting melody’s and a fresh (dance)structure. Folk music got this melancholic sense which you can feel on ‘Hanterdroom’: the music is joyful and melancholic at the same time, a lovely dual feeling. The harmonics and rhytmics are filled in an original way by the violin- (solo in ‘Mixoscottisch’) and guitar-accompinies (solo in ‘Scottish’), lard with melodic en solistic fragments. This brings surprising music. Really beautiful are the accordion ornaments on one note (‘Hanterdroom‘), found in the exciting Brittany music. ‘Hanterdroom’ (‘Hanterdream’) is Lirio’s second album and brings a new fresh folk impulse where ‘dream’ and ‘reallity’ fit wonderful together in danceable movement. Remarkable detail: in the cd-book you’ll find the score and the chords of the melody’s.

Gerdien Smit – violin
Sander van der Schaaf – guitar
Wouter Kuyper – diatonic accordion

1. Hanterdroom                            4:59
2. Wals in de wilgen                      3:59
3. Afke's mazurka                         5:24
4. Scottish à Bruno / Scottish Vreeswijk  3:55
5. NS-wals                                5:07
6. Coockabourrée                          4:06
7. Mixoscottish                           3:48
8. Driekwartbourrée                       3:08
9. En Flandre / Scottish à Paris          4:17
10. Vert de gris / Oudejaarsavondbourrée  3:06
11. Lentebourrée                          3:04
12. Wals en een beetje                    4:55
13. Mazurka voor een mus                  5:10

Friday, April 8, 2016

Cecilia - In Bad (2011 Belgium) @320

Originally a duo of flute/cornet and hurdy-gurdy/cittern, they were joined by diatonic accordion player Greet Wuyts, a move that’s filled out the sound and greatly opened up the possibilities. For a three-piece they often sound like a small orchestra, as on “Mistige Jig/Dorothea,” which bristles with energy, something true of all the pieces here. There’s real invention in the music, and when a violin pops up on “Onze Ogen,” it brings yet another dimension, taking it almost to a Paris café or cabaret. It’s nice, and offers a change, but they really don’t need it: their driving dance sound, which veers on the medieval because of the instruments, is fine without any adornment. They manage delicacy well, too, as “Pentreffest” proves, showing yet another facet of their abilities. The way they work together, making it seem utterly natural, marks them as one of the more outstanding new groups to come along. And this is merely their debut; the potential for the future is tremendous.

1. 'Badsuite': Mominette / ScLOTisch / In Bad
2. Cecilia
3. Abracadabra
4. Minikimonomazurka
5. Plumeau
6. Salade niçoise
7. Mistige Jig / Dorothea
8. Onze Ogen
9. Pentreffest / Winterblues
10. Voor Leen
11. Les filles des canards / Mieux que le vin / Merlot
12. Tournerol

Rue du Canal - 1er étage (2013 France / Ireland) @320

Formed in early 2013 Rue du Canal was created as a vehicle for performing the compositions of legendary French accordionist Serge Desaunay. Serge started off playing with La Chiffonnie a groundbreaking French folk group of the 70’s. After that he spent several years playing music with his brother Patrick. Après La Pluie (1979) and Le Beau Temps (1984), the two albums released by the brothers, are regarded today as milestones in French folkmusic. While mainly concentrating on Serges compositions, Rue du Canal also traverses the musical styles of musette and tango. Rue du Canal also includes Ray Barron on mandolin/mandola, Kieran Fahy on fiddle and Gaspard Vanardois on guitar/oud.Kieran originally from Tuam, County Galway has been living in Belgium since 1983. At present he tours regularly in France, Holland and Belgium with his band Shantalla. He has recorded on over 30 CD’s to date. Kieran also contributes some of his compositions to the mix. Ray has been playing music for over 35 years. He has toured all over Europe, USA, Australia and New Zealand. He is renowned for his dexterous and exciting mandolin playing. Ray has recorded four albums with his group Two Time Polka and continues to tour and play with the band on a regular basis. Gaspard has played with Serge in their Eastern European styled gypsy band Taraf Borzo.His guitar playing drives the whole combination along with its gypsy swing type accompaniment. Gaspard also plays the Arabic oud which brings an exotic taste of the East to the band.

Gaspard Vanardois: Guitars, Oud
Kieran Fahy: Violin
Serge Desaunay: Diatonic Accordion
Ray Barron: Mandolin


1. Valse à Joseph 3:46    
2. Est ouest / soleil d'octobre 5:41    
3. El Choclo  3:21    
4. Rue du Canal 3:25    
5. Inion Ni Scannlain 4:11    
6. Pendu au plafond  3:14    
7. Let's Be Cheerful said the Rabbi / Bulgar  4:32    
8. Dimanche matin 4:26    
9. Valse à Nini 4:31

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Lirio - Lirio (2005 Netherlands) @320

Lirio is a Dutch folk band focussing on French and Dutch/Belgian traditional music. They perform a lot on bal-folk events in Holland and Belgium. This is their first full length cd, they have been part of the NAP cd, a cd they recorded together with some other Dutch folk groups. There is something strange going on with this debut cd. The recordings are three years old and the group has grown a lot since then. Besides that, the cd includes musicians that are no longer part of the band. The result is a nice acoustic folk cd that focuses on music that is perfect for the bal folk concerts. It are the violin and accordion that play the main part in Lirio’s music, besides these instruments some bagpipe, guitar and bass makes it complete. Iris Ficker is guest musician who takes care of all the vocal works in a nice way. That actually describes Lirio the best, it’s a nice group with a promising sound but on this cd it is still in development. The musical arrangements are a bit simple and could use some more originality and I think the band should develop a kind of unique Lirio sound before recording a new cd. Actually, this got much better the past years, that’s why it’s such a pity they decided to issue a cd with old recordings. Keep following this young and fresh Dutch band, they have the potential to be one of Holland’s prominent folk groups in near future.

1. Les environs de St Chartier (ofwel Aaah)  3:53
2. Blauwbaardwals                            4:29
3. Het regende seer                          4:25
4. Dubbele trekzakbourrée                    3:57
5. Andrito                                   3:02
6. Forumscottish                             3:42
7. Gutmuntpolka                              3:30
8. Rondo                                     4:04
9. De morgensterre                           3:58
10. Leliejig                                 3:06
11. Skascottish                              4:46
12. Piazolla                                 2:50
13. Marco's Cercle                           4:17

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Ken Perlman - Northern Banjo (Canada 2001) [320]

Ken Perlman's first album for the respected bluegrass and old-time music label Copper Creek finds him expanding both his own stylistic horizons and those of his new label. The repertoire here is not new to him -- Perlman has long championed the fiddle tunes of the northeastern U.S. and Canada's Maritime Provinces -- but the addition of electric bass, bouzouki, uillean pipes, and exotic percussion to the musical mix is new for Perlman, who has generally stuck to more austere and tradition-minded arrangements in his recorded work. The result is absolutely beautiful. Whereas most five-string banjo players use the instrument's shorter fifth string as a drone, Perlman tends to use it as just one more melody string, with the result that his playing can sometimes be lacking in rhythmic spring. But that approach does lend itself more to the jigs and hornpipes he loves to play, and even on the reels (and one bluegrass-y breakdown) his sweetly flowing lines and carefully crafted arrangements are a joy to hear. And when he lays down the banjo and picks up a guitar for a few finger-style settings of Irish and Scottish tunes, the sound is no less lovely. Highlights on this program include the heart-tugging guitar arrangement of "Niel Gow's Lament for His Second Wife," the intricately beautiful "Braes of Auchtertyre/Caber Feidh" set, and Perlman's own "Road to Mexico." Highly recommended.

1.    The Poppy Leaf/Stack of Barley/The East Newk of Bear River    3:58
2.    Rock Valley Jig/Light&Airy/The Munster Lass    3:14
3.    The Banks Hornpipe/The Democratic Rage/Miss Johnson of Pittworth    4:15
4.    Robert Cormak,Aberdeen/Compliments to Buddy MacMaster/Fisher's Hornpipe    3:52
5.    Kenmure's Awa'/Wilfred's Fiddle/Jackson's Jig    3:11
6.    Road to Mexico    3:51
7.    Guitar Solo: Neil Gow's Lament for His Second Wife    3:17
8.    Lord MacDonald's Reel/The Princess Reel/The Honeymoon    3:21
9.    The Brae's of Auchterty/Caber Feidh    3:32
10.    Guitar Solo: Lament for James Moray, Abercarney/Dunie Mains/The Chaisson Reel    4:20
11.    Shandon Bells/The Orange and Blue/Chorus Jig    3:16
12.    Stella's Trip to Kamloops/The Iron Man/Angus Campbell/Dillon Brown/Big John MacNeil    5:52
13.    Guitar Solo: The Sweetness of Mary/Mason's Apron    3:31
14.    Georgina Campbell/Little Jack's Reel/Levantine's Barrel    3:14

Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton - Declaration (Australia 2015) [320]

Kate and Ruth, two of Australia’s most respected folk musicians, have been performing as a duo since 1998 – and yet they’re something of a best-kept secret. They now emerge from an eight-year family-raising sabbatical following their last CD (Summer’s Lonesome Tale), with this excellent new offering. Still intact are the duo’s trademark spinetingling vocal harmonies and a level of consummate musicianship that delivers a subtle and intricately woven accompaniment with minimal resources, where every stroke, note and nuance counts. Additionally, Kate and Ruth continue to favour material that’s often challeng ing in its subject matter. Also like its predecessor, Declaration closes with a Dylan cover – this time the tradition-inflected Lay Down Your Weary Tune, which receives a matchless, fluid contemporary interpretation here.

Repertoire-wise, Declaration is a more rounded collection than its predecessor, with just six of its eleven cuts being traditional in origin. The remainder comprise three covers (the aforementioned Dylan, plus Martha Scanlan’s Little Bird Of Heaven and Martyn Wyndham-Read’s setting of Australian lyrical poet John Shaw Neilson, a contemporary of Henry Lawson), plus two notable original compositions which showcase Ruth and Kate’s increased songwriting prowess. Kate’s contribution, The Freeze, inspired by an EAnnie Proulx short story, is a tender description
of intense but unmanageable love, whereas Ruth’s Hearts Of Sorrow is a lament cum-call-to-arms for our times.

Declaration is also a leap forward from Kate and Ruth’s previous albums in terms of its greater clarity of focus, matched by the extraordinary degree of light and shade brought out by Luke Plumb’s (Shooglenifty) magnificent production, which conveys the duo’s special qualities with remarkably little intervention (some bouzouki/mandolin and only very occasional studio effects).

Ruth and Kate’s uniquely fresh interpretations of traditional song remain a cornerstone, and they retain their ability to communicate a complex viewpoint which can make the listener jettison preconceptions. Katy Cruel and the Lomax-collected Father Adieu are especially vitally managed, as is the perennial allegory Queen Of Hearts, whose ominous inevitability is well caught in Ruth & Kate’s measured reading (hear it on this issue’s fRoots 55 compilation).

Throughout the disc, the duo’s acutely observed realisations and arrangements are a model of precision and intimate, intricate simplicity. Declaration is a real gem.

David Kidman

1. The Declaration 04:02
2. Katy Cruel 03:56
3. Queen Of Hearts 07:00
4. Waly Waly 05:34
5. Bleezin' Blind Drunk 04:26
6. Father Adieu 05:06
7. The Freeze 05:22
8. Little Bird of Heaven 03:06
9. Hearts Of Sorrow 03:52
10. Dean Younk A Gernow (Young Man From Cornwall) 05:28
11. Lay Down Your Weary Tune 04:36
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