Posts Tagged ‘album review’
Words by Tim Cumming
Caroline Herring was part of the Cecil Sharp Project, re-examining the Edwardian collector’s catalogue of songs gathered from Britain and the southern American states in the early part of the 20th century. Thus she forged some strong Anglo-US relations, chiefly with the wondrous-voiced Jackie Oates. The latter plays fiddle, harmonium and provides backing vocals on tracks including the lovely ‘Black Mountain Lullaby’, with Kathryn Roberts and Leonard Podolak on banjo, reprising a heartrending tune from the Cecil Sharp Project.
Herring has a powerful, keening voice, a southern American lilt allied to a folk song-teller’s clarity and sense of drama. Her core four-piece Nashville band is superlative, with Steven Sheehan on acoustic guitar, Fats Kaplin unfurling swathes of steel guitar, fiddle and banjo, and a rhythm section of upright bass (Bryn Davies) and Bryan Owings, on ‘drums and chains’. Other guests include Mary Chapin Carpenter and British guitarist Sean Lakeman.
These are all original songs, laced with powerful imagery and dramatic juxtapositions. On the bluesy, propulsive ‘Fireflies’ the repeated lines, ‘see that burning building, that’s tradition burning down’ leap into the ears, and there’s a sense of history being mixed with a down-home magic realism. The performances have an compression of urgency and belief laced with folkloric scenes and images, perhaps drawn from Herring’s studies in the anthropology of the American South and her remoulding of its old- and new-world song traditions. There are great, rousing singalong choruses – the title-track or the rolling ‘Maiden Voyage’.
Full of imagination, historical matter and emotion, there’s not a duff song here, and with beautifully lyrical performances throughout, Camilla looks to be an original folk classic.
Words by Howard Male
From the opening notes of Vieux Farka Touré’s spare acoustic guitar riff, backed by fellow Souleymane Kane’s gently tapped calabash drum, there’s something very pure of spirit about this album. Then there comes a gentle torrent of piano notes from Israel’s Idan Raichel, like waves lapping up onto a beach. The final ingredient in the collective is bassist Yossi Fine who, like all good bassists, adds ballast and swing with workman-like efficiency. And thus the scene is pretty much set for the rest of this acoustic but nevertheless often energetically muscular album.
Raichel is a big star in his homeland, but his playing is wholly devoid of flashiness or self-indulgence. Likewise, Farka Touré does his deceased father proud by reining in the rock histrionics and playing some of his most controlled and bluesy guitar to date. Standout tracks include ‘Alkataou’ with its Middle Eastern vibe and sense of profound drama, and the uptempo Mali-meets-the-Mississippi blues track ‘Touré’ which features some fierce, mercurial harmonica playing from French virtuoso Frédéric Yonnet.
Although the album grew out of jam sessions played purely for the pleasure of playing, the end result is architecturally robust and infused with strong emotive melodies. These melodies are always the focus because each of these master musicians has realised that the importance is the end product they are conjuring together rather than the needs of their egos; a rare thing indeed amongst jamming musicians. This is a delightful, soulful debut album that exudes optimism.
Top of the World Review: Thonghuad Faited – Diew Sor Isan: The North East Thai Violin of Thonghuad Faited
Words by John Clewley
Most compilations of north-eastern Thai music focus on the region’s most popular instrument, the khaen, a free-reed bamboo mouth organ, and sometimes the phin, a three-stringed lute. Both are key elements in ensembles playing molam music. Absent from many of them, however, is the stand-up fiddle known as the sor, which would have remained at the back of the band were it not for the virtuosity of one man: veteran sor master Thonghuad Faited. He is by no means the only sor player around but he is the one who first gained recognition as a soloist.
EM Records of Japan has released an outstanding compilation of Faited’s best work from the golden era of the 1970s, when he made some seminal vinyl 7-inch singles for Theppabutr Satirodchompu’s Theppanom label. Compiled by Maft Sai, Chris Menist and Koki Emura, the 15 tracks on the compilation cover a variety of mainly instrumental styles, from the lyrical opening solo ‘Diew Sor’ to frenetic duels with the khaen (‘Diew Sor – Diew Khaen’) and catchy dance styles like ‘Zeang Klong Kao’. Most of the tracks were recorded with the famous Petch Burapa band, which provides an infectious molam groove throughout; and the singer of the band, Supaap Daoduangden, features on one of the two vocal tracks, ‘Lam Plearn Isan Samakkee’, giving an idea of what a terrific show audiences would have enjoyed back in the golden days. As Chris Menist points out in the liner notes, Faited wouldn’t sound out of place in a bluegrass or Celtic band. His playing is first-class throughout.
Words by Alastair Johnston
Zani Diabaté’s first name may not be as instantly recognisable as his last (many of the Diabaté clan are griots) but his music is immediately engaging as it sets up rhythmic patterns and then modulates in trance-like loops. His sparkling incandescent guitar shows him to be the equal of his Western counterparts, as much as other renowned Malian guitarists such as Lobi Traoré, Mama Sissoko, Sekou Diabaté of Bembeya Jazz, or Djelimady Tounkara of the Rail Band. But Zani Diabaté didn’t become one of Mali’s top flight guitarists overnight. As a member of the National Ballet du Mali in the 1960s Zani trained on the kora (harp-lute) and balafon (xylophone), and also in dance and percussion. But it was as a guitarist that he emerged in the 80s at the helm of the Super Djata Band, fronted by vocalist Flané Sangaré. After 20 years of performing electrified versions of traditional Bamana music, the band had an international release on the Mango label.
Super Djata flickered briefly on the world stage, but Zani continued to record in Bamako and integrate his traditions into modern music, putting rhythmic flourishes into his work that astounded listeners at his live performances. For Tientalaw he surrounded himself with young talent to pass the torch to his son and the sons of his former colleagues. Sadly, as he was putting the finishing touches on this album in Paris, Zani died, aged 63. His band, Les Héritiers (The Inheritors), sets the pace with a traditional line-up plus trap drums and a pulsing bass. Varied vocals and occasional horns give a counterpoint to the balafon and guitar. Zani doesn’t hog the spotlight but lets the other instruments, such as ngoni (lute) and percussion, create a mood, before he jumps in, leaving us transported.