Short cuts - brief reviews of folk music recordings

Short cuts - brief reviews of folk music recordingsTOM and BARBARA BROWN, Prevailing Winds, (Wild Goose 306). Lovers of English folk songs will welcome this second recording from the forty-year West County veterans. Traditional songs like "Sir Francis Drake," "The Farmer and His Wife," and "The Bitter Withy," some in their distinctive Cornwall or Devon variants, are sung here in a straightforward energetic style. They accompany themselves on, concertina, guitar, and mandola; with some fine guesting on melodeon and fiddle.--MDR

BLACK IRISH BAND, Into the Arms of the Sea: Maritime Ballads, (Black Irish 12). The band's twelfth album is another collection of original compositions and traditional pieces celebrating maritime life and mourning lots of drowned sailors. The salty harmonies are, appropriately enough, watertight. "Spanish Ladies" and "Fiddlers Green" are the best pieces here, as lusty as they always should have been.--DG

ALBION MORRIS, Still Dancing after All These Years, (FOAD 30). The 30th anniversary collection of morris dance tunes from the Bleddington, Bampton, and Headington traditions, played and danced by the men of Albion Morris. Anyone old enough to remember Ashley Hutchings and Richard Thompson et al.'s recording The Albion Band will recognize the playful arrangements for concertina, electric guitar, electric bass and keyboards played by this second generation band. Great fun!--MD

HEN PARTY, The Heart Gallery, (WildGoose 311). Hen Party, an a cappella trio, devote their latest album to all manner of things amorous: young lovers, for the most part, but chocolate addiction and two-timers make appearances, too. They're great at both tragic love songs and randier fare, and the harmonies are tight and clear.--DG

DAVE SWARBRICK and FRIENDS, The Ceilidh Album, (Storyville 5703). Although famed for his high-energy fiddling amidst electrified instruments, few have ever rivaled Swarbrick when it comes to British country dance music. Originally released in 1978, the album spotlights Swarbrick setting dance tempos in collaboration with longtime partners Dave Pegg and Simon Nicol, among others. There's nothing fancy here, just nine tracks and twenty-seven crisp, danceable, hum-able, memorable tunes. And that's plenty.--R Weir

PATTERSON, JORDAN, DIPPER, Flat Earth, (WildGoose 309). Fifteen songs and tunes, most traditional or from the pens of the likes of Ewan MacColl, Flat Earth will introduce U.S. audiences to this multitalented English trio. Standout vocals by James Patterson, assisted by Ralph Jordan (guitar, cittern, mandolin) and John Dipper (fiddle, concertina). My favorites include the "Bedlam/Anna's Brudvals" medley; and "Rounding the Horn."--MD

JOHN McCUSKER, Goodnight Ginger, (Compass 4352). Battlefield Band's wunderkind proves that he can produce and write, as well as play, with the best of them. Graced by guests, from Phil Cunningham to Iain MacDonald to Andy Cutting, this is a great collection of tunes, played with grace and energy. High energy, wit, and McCusker's fiddle make this a great listen.--MD

VARIOUS, Celtic Colours, (Odyssey 1054). Although not recorded live, this album features artists who performed at the eponymous Cape Breton festival in 2002 including locals Jerry Holland, The Rankins, The Barra MacNeils, and Natalie MacMaster, plus imports Alison Brown, Liz Carroll, Joe Derrane, Frankie Gavin, and Carlos Nunez. Look out for Phil Cunningham's achingly beautiful "The Colours of Cape Breton," which alone is worth the sticker price.--R Weir

GOLDEN BOUGH, Songs of Scotland, (ARC Music 1773). Golden Bough's latest recording is--surprise!--a collection of songs from Scotland. Nothing cutting-edge here, but there are good stand-bys, particularly reels and Robert Burns poems. These guys are sensitive instrumentalists, and their smart arrangements provide the warmth lacking in their sweet but cold vocal harmonies.--DG

KARIE OBERG, Hard Times, (New Folk 3575). Katie Oberg's gorgeous voice, and some excellent instrumental work by John Wright, Steve Lehto, and others make these old favorites new and fresh again. Included are "Rambling Irishman," "Raglan Road," "The Blacksmith," and a smashing version of "Donald McGillivray."--MD

THINGUMAJIG, Ceilidh Party, (Hobgoblin 1001). British folk band Blackthorn vets Pete and Mannie McClelland join here with numerous players, dancers, and callers who were finalists in the BBC 2 Young Folk Awards contest. This album is devoted to dance, and contains instructions for jigs, hornpipes, waltzes, squares, reels, and polkas. Even if you're among the two-left-feet crowd, you'll enjoy the energy and superb musicianship of this album.--R Weir

VARIOUS, Celtic Compass, (Compass 4353). This sampler introduces the listener to the mighty Compass lineup. What's not to like about a collection featuring such favorites as Lunasa, John McCusker, Kate Rusby, Sharon Shannon, The Poozies, Paul Brady, and Cathal McConnell? Long-time fans will probably already have most of the albums from which these tracks are selected, but it would make a great gift for a novice.--R Weir

FRASER FIFIELD, Honest Water, (Tanar 001). A freeform approach to Celtic-style tunes, arranged for soprano and alto sax, small and border pipes, keyboard, various percussion, and electric guitar. Some very innovative arrangements; some great writing. Think Paul Winter meets Boys of The Lough. Smoothly produced, too.--MD

SALSA CELTICA, El Agua de la Vida, (G2 7010). Those hoping for a true cross-cultural musical exploration will be disappointed as the eleven-member band--made up of members from seven different cultures--is far more heavily inclined to salsa than to Celtic. Rather than integrated into a Latin swing, it appears as a gimmicky tack-on. That said, this is a polished, energetic, dance-groove album that's enormous fun.--R Weir

VARIOUS, The Rough Guide to Rai, (World Music Network 1100). This sampler shows how a particular traditional ethnic music can be transformed into modern pop. Most tracks use electronic keyboards, conventional drum kits, and other 21st century trappings. But what will stay in your memory are the rough, wailing voices of these young Algerian singers which no slick production can cover up. The booklet includes a good overview essay on rai.--KR

COCO MBASSI, Sepia, (Tinder 861102). Now Paris-based, this Cameroon native sings in her first language, Duala, on her debut release. Her vocal style is soft, yet capable of powerful and penetrating effect as she blends African musical traditions with elements of jazz, classical music and the blues. Her themes are focused on tales of everyday life, love, family and friendship, and steeped in Christianity. Lyric translations provide access to the songs and superb musicians provide the support for Coco Mbassi' s highly convincing stories.--RD

FOLK ROSE, In Concerto, (Folk Rose 9901); FOLK ROSE, Canti e Danze della Tradzione Musicale Italiana, (Folk Rose 9902). Italy's Folk Rose presents live renditions of tunes and ballads from Ireland, Galicia, and Britanny on In Concerto. The Irish items sound pretty conventional--nicely played and arranged but that's about it. Folk Rose got more involved with the Galician and Breton material. In the studio collection they focus on traditional Italian songs and dances. Again, nice arrangements and playing. Acoustic guitar and percussion supply the rhythmic pulse; lead melodies are traded off by accordion, mandolin, and/or violin. Carla Cristofanilli is an outstanding vocalist--passionate and melodic.--KR

JASON ROSENBLATT & SHTREIML, Harmonica Galitzianer: Klezmer Music for the Diatonic Harmonica, (Jason Rosenblatt 469). Although harmonica is not your usual klezmer lead instrument, Rosenblatt really does get that characteristic "crying" tone out of his instrument, keeping the authentic klezmer spirit intact. And Shtreiml provides excellent small combo backing. Accordionist Josh Dolgin trades hot melody leads with Rosenblatt while drummer Thierry Arsenault and bassist Ariel Harrod keep the beat swinging!--KR

PINIARTUT, Piniartut, (Tutl 51). Intended as a part of a DVD production, this pan-Nordic offering comes off as a soundtrack desperately in need of a film. A collection of traditional Finnish and Greenlandic songs mixed with traditionally inspired originals, the album strikes some interesting aural textures, but inevitably loses its compositional structure, drifting off into scattered sound effects.--BSnyder

YOUNG BIRD, Only the Strong Survive, (Canyon 6354). This live release from Oklahoma's Young Bird features ten vibrant pieces representing the diverse talent and energy of twelve Native musicians. A Southern style group, Young Bird's music is infectious to the listener. The drums are strong and ever present, the very heart of the group' s sound. A fine representation of pow-wow music at its best.--KK

Affiliation Link
Subcultures, pop music and politics: skinheads and "Nazi rock" in England and Germany
Kanye West: in just a few short years, he has emerged as one of music's premiere behind-the-scenes hitmakers.
MTNA: Music Teachers National Association
MTNA Bylaws - Music Teachers National Association
The Music Lesson, by Katharine Weber, New York, Crown Publishers, 1998; 178 pages, $21 hardcover