Posts Tagged ‘caroline herring’

The 50 Greatest World Music Albums of the Last Five Years (Part 3)

Posted on August 23rd, 2015 in Features, Recent posts by .

Editor Jo Frost and editor-in-chief Simon Broughton choose their favourite albums from 2012…


Duncan Chisholm


(Copperfish Records)

It’s a rather special album that manages to stop you in your tracks and make you just sit and listen, especially when it’s played in the noisy environs that is Songlines HQ. But that’s what the opening track ‘An Ribhinn Donn’ of Scottish fiddler Duncan Chisholm’s latest release managed to do. The final part of his Strathglass Trilogy, it certainly lives up to the two previous offerings (Farrar & Canaich). Chisholm’s violin is intensely deep and rich, evoking misty glens and the rolling Highlands. He’s probably best known for being in Julie Fowlis’ band and Wolfstone, but on evidence of this, Chisholm will go far as a solo player. JF 



Caroline Herring


(Signature Sounds)

The Southern American folk singer was part of 2011’s Cecil Sharp Project which is where I first came across her. Listening to Camilla is akin to having a sociohistorical lesson about the American South – songs such as ‘Black Mountain Lullaby’ about the tragic death of a child caused by mountaintop removal, or ‘White Dress,’ about an African-American civil rights activist who rode on the segregated buses during the 60s. The one thing missing from this beautifully illustrated album (by English artist Alice Pattullo) is notes explaining the tales behind these songs, but you can read these online. Alternatively go and see Herring perform live and prepare to be captivated by her compelling performance. JF 




Cinéma el mundo

(World Village)

Incredible to think this collective of musicians, based in the south-west of France, have been going for 30 years and yet their latest release – their tenth – sounds as fresh and intriguing as ever. Every Lo’Jo album offers up an enticing assortment of musical influences and styles and this is no exception. It starts off with the gruff spoken words of Robert Wyatt and continues with the familiar vocals of the El Mourid sisters and the ever-present, deeply enigmatic poetry and singing of Denis Péan. This release will delight die-hard fans and newcomers alike. JF 





Rising Tide


The music of Zimbabwe tends to get overshadowed by the powerhouse that is West Africa and so the arrival of this debut release was much anticipated. Mokoomba are a young band from Victoria Falls, who won a Southern African music contest back in 2008. The album is an impressively polished affair, thanks in part to Manou Gallo from Zap Mama who produced it, but also due to the joyful, energetic playing by the band. But the most striking feature is lead singer Mathias Muzaza whose voice has a potency and rawness that defies his outwardly shy demeanour. After their recent hit live dates in the UK, plus a much coveted spot on BBC’s Later… with Jools Holland, the band look set for a bright future. JF 






Seeing the panpipes, log drums and massive bamboo thong-ophone on stage at WOMAD and hearing the storm of sound was a thrilling endorsement of Songlines’ championing this group. We get few chances to hear music from the Solomon Islands, so it’s great to find a band like Narasirato devoted to their local traditions, but able to impress at festivals like WOMAD and Glastonbury and make a compelling album like this. With lead singer Aloysius Mauhana and his formidable array of musicians behind him, the music is sometimes haunting, sometimes punchy, full of an ethereal breathiness and an earthy energy that has a distinctive island feel. Aside from the exuberance, there’s also a strong message about safeguarding the culture and natural environment. SB 



Punch Brothers

Who’s Feeling Young Now?


String groups don’t get much more exciting or dynamic than this. Individually, they’re all virtuoso musicians with their own successful solo careers (Chris Thile on vocals and mandolin, Gabe Witcher on violin, Noam Pikelny on banjo, Chris Eldridge on guitar and Paul Kowert on double bass), but collectively they sure pack a punch. From the frenzied, rock-like opening of ‘Movement and Location’ to the joyous instrumental cover of ‘Flippen’ by the Swedish band Väsen and their take on Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’, the playing by these young bluegrass experimentalist hotshots is superb. They’re setting a new benchmark when it comes to their live shows which are consistently thrilling and intense. JF 



Malick Pathé Sow & Bao Sissoko



These days, when the predominant trend is to mix everything together into a sort of soup, or what Lucy Durán calls KWOMUBA! (Komposite World Music Band Afrika), it’s refreshing to hear two master musicians exploring their own rich musical culture. Both from Senegalese griot families, Malick Pathé Sow and Bao Sissoko, now resident in Belgium, have produced a sublime album of acoustic roots music. Sow is the vocalist and plays guitar and hoddu (lute), the Senegalese version of the ngoni, while Sissoko plays kora. The contrasting textures of the dark, leathery hoddu and light silvery kora weave a magical spell, along with female vocalist Talike Gelle. This is a gem of traditional West African musicianship. SB 




Staff Benda Bilili

Bouger Le Monde!

(Crammed Discs)

The first disc by Kinshasa’s Staff Benda Bilili was a spectacular success, but was it partly down to their story – a band of largely disabled street musicians gaining worldwide recognition? The triumph over adversity back-story can hopefully be discounted for their second album and we can really listen to and enjoy the music. The splendid opener ‘Osali Mabe’ is danceable Congolese music at its best with fluid guitar playing and fabulous Congolese drumming from Montana – a new member of the band. The fact that it was recorded in the old Kinshasa Renapec studio gives it a warm bloom and endorses the amazing work that producer Vincent Kenis has done both for this band and Congolese music over the years. SB 



The Other Europeans


(Ethnomusic Records)

The Other Europeans bring together Jewish and Gypsy music and get their name from the fact that both groups have been marginalised – or worse – by the nations of Europe. But they also explore the way klezmer and Roma lautari musicians worked together in Bessarabia (now Moldova) before WWII. The project is led by American pianist and accordionist Alan Bern and includes Christian Dawid (clarinet), Matt Darriau (winds), Martin Bunea (violin), Petar Ralchev (accordion), Kalman Balogh (cimbalom) and Guy Schalom (drums). This live album features largely unknown repertoire, unlike so many klezmer discs which recycle the same tunes (read Bern’s fascinating notes online: Every time I listen to this, I’m impressed by the music and the exceptional instrumental playing. SB 



Various Artists

Songs For Desert Refugees

(Glitterhouse Records)

It’s been a tragic year for Mali – the coup in March, the MNLA annexation of Azawad in the north and the takeover by Islamists. Sharia law has been imposed, music banned and over 500,000 people have fled to refugee camps. This CD is in support of those desert refugees. But this is a lot more than a fund-raising compilation, it’s a brilliant collection of largely Touareg desert blues. It opens with an unreleased track by the Touareg rockers Tinariwen, made for their 2007 album Aman Iman. With its powerful oscillating bass, jangling guitars and soulful vocals, I have no idea why it went unreleased. But then there’s lots more by artists known and unknown, including Tamikrest, Terakaft, Tartit and guitarist Bombino. A superb collection to assist those suffering in the region and remind us of what’s at stake. SB

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Songlines Best Albums 2012 Announced

Posted on October 31st, 2012 in News, Recent posts by .

In the forthcoming issue of Songlines, January/February 2013 (#89), editor Jo Frost and editor-in-chief Simon Broughton deliver their verdict on the ten best new releases of the year in their pick of 2012:

Find out what made these albums the Songlines Pick of 2012 in issue #89, on sale December 7.

 Duncan Chisholm Affric (on Copperfish Records, reviewed in #89)

 Caroline Herring Camilla (on Signature Sounds, reviewed in #87)

 Lo’Jo Cinéma el Mundo (on World Village, reviewed in #87)

 Mokoomba Rising Tide (on IglooMondo reviewed in #86)

 Narasirato Warato’o (on Smash, reviewed in #84)

 Malick Pathé Sow & Bao Sissoko Aduna (on Muziek Publique, reviewed in #89)

 Punch Brothers Who’s Feeling Young Now? (on Nonesuch, reviewed in #83)

 The Other Europeans Splendor (on Ethnomusic, reviewed in #82)

 Staff Benda Bilili Bouger le Monde! (on Crammed, reviewed in #87)

 Various Artists Songs for Desert Refugees (on Glitterhouse Records, reviewed in #87)



 Hear a selection of tracks from the albums below:

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Top of the World Review: Caroline Herring – Camilla

Posted on September 24th, 2012 in Recent posts, Reviews by .

Words by Tim Cumming

This herring ain’t red

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.


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Caroline Herring – Cecil Sharp House, London, August 29 2012

Posted on September 5th, 2012 in Recent posts, Reviews by .

Photo of Caroline Herring by Thomas Fahey

The autumn programme at London’s home of folk, Cecil Sharp House, got off to a fine start with a wonderful performance by southern American singer-songwriter and guitarist Caroline Herring, accompanied by Scottish fiddler and singer, Patsy Reid.

Herring is a relatively recent discovery for me, having come across her for the first time in last year’s Cecil Sharp Project – a song initiative commissioned by the Shrewsbury Folk Festival and the English Folk Song and Dance Society. The inspiration for the project was the English folk collector’s trip to the Appalachian mountains, and Herring, the sole American on the project, wrote one of its most poignant songs, ‘Black Mountain Lullaby’ – about Jeremy Davidson, a three-year-old boy, killed by a boulder dislodged during the illegal process of mountaintop removal.

“It’s not the first time I’ve written about tragedy,” she confesses to the audience as she finishes this heart-wrenching song. There’s a bitter-sweetness to all of Herring’s songs; stories from the Deep South about individuals who come to life in the simple yet insightful lyrics. Several of the characters from her new album, Camilla, are beautifully illustrated on the cover artwork by the artist Alice Pattullo, who is sat in the audience and introduced by Herring.

An engaging performer, Herring is warm and expansive in her introductions to the songs, many of which deal with the American civil rights movement, “a guiding force of my life,” she says. She jokes after one particularly long preamble that “the lecture is over.” But that’s very much part of Herring’s charm – her songwriting and storytelling are never just straightforward, but thought-provoking, often painful tales of injustice but ultimately of hope too.

The concert isn’t without mishaps – a crucial screw from Herring’s guitar pings off after the first couple of songs, forcing an early interval. But an old banjo is found, dismantled and its parts used to mend the afflicted guitar. Herring remains calm and collected and after a quick reshuffling of the set list, she and Reid sing a gorgeous a capella song, ‘Traveling Shoes.’

Herring finishes with two of her more optimistic songs: ‘Flee as a Bird,’ a Methodist hymn written in 1840 and ‘Joy Never Ends (Auld Lang Syne),’ which uses Robert Burns’ words on friendship, rounding up a highly enjoyable and enlightening evening.


Camilla is a Top of the World review in the current issue (October 2012, #87) and you can hear the track ‘Black Mountain Lullaby’ on the covermount CD.

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