Posts Tagged ‘jefferson hamer’

Top of the World: Anäis Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer – Child Ballads

Posted on February 24th, 2013 in Recent posts, Reviews by .

Words by Tim Cumming

Ancient English folklore as heard by American ears

There’s power in the cross-traffic of Americans interpreting British traditional music. And vice versa. Bob Dylan’s big early songs took a lot from the old ballads collected by Francis Child – and Mitchell and Hamer’s gorgeous setting of seven big Child ballads is superlative. Recorded live in a Nashville studio with a few friends – fiddler Brittany Haas from Crooked Still and accordionist Tim Lauer augment their close vocal harmonies and acoustic guitar work – it’s an album that removes all the tarnish from the magic mirror of these great songs. Their voices illuminate the songs and make them vivid and fresh, though their arrangements draw strongly on the wonderful recordings by Martin Carthy from Crown of Horn and others. These are songs of love, murder, politics, magic, witchcraft, sex and faery lore.

And while the likes of ‘Tam Lin’ and ‘Geordie’ may well be extremely familiar to lovers of traditional music, these versions give them a dramatic clarity; their exotic weirdness is captured in glorious aural colours. It’s fascinating to hear how close they cleave to the storytelling imperative of the ballads. Often, contemporary British artists tackle the same repertoire with a desire to innovate and surprise rather then tell. Here, the tight, emotive harmonies and spare settings bring these stories and characters to living, breathing life. ‘Sir Patrick Spens’ rises and falls with each line, while the opening ‘Willy of Winsbury’ is sung with unadorned directness.

TRACK TO TRY: Willie of Winsbury

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Celtic Connections Round 2

Posted on January 17th, 2013 in News, Recent posts by .

Following on from yesterday’s blog, here are some more Celtic Connections recommendations for the latter half of the festival.

The Angolan-Portuguese DJ Pedro Coquenão, aka Batida (pictured left, photo by Manuel Lino), released his debut album on the hip Soundway label (a Top of the World in #84) and he’ll be supporting French Gypsy-swingers Caravan Palace (January 24, O2 ABC).

The premiere of a sea-themed collaboration, Dán, by some top-notch Celtic and Breton musicians including band members from Kan and Guidewires and Gaelic singer Alyth McCormack (January 24, Old Fruitmarket).

Burns Night sees a specially-commissioned evening of music, courtesy of Scots Trad Music Award-winners Breabach and Kathleen MacInnes, together with Blazin’ Fiddles and Dougie MacLean (January 25, Concert Hall).

If anyone has mastered the art of cloning, it’ll come in very handy for the night of January 26 when there are no less than 13 artists who I’d go and see without any hesitation. They include: Sarah Jarosz, Baloji, Katy Carr, The Be Good Tanyas, The Halton Quartet, Mike McGoldrick’s band and Duncan Chisholm (whose latest release Affric was one of my favourite albums of 2012) (Various venues).

Last issue’s cover star Bassekou Kouyaté and his band Ngoni ba team up with fellow Malians Sidi Touré and Tamikrest for Sahara Soul (January 27, Concert Hall).

The Radio 2 Folk Awards will be broadcast live from Glasgow for the first time, hosted by Julie Fowlis and Mark Radcliffe, plus performances by some of the winners (January 30, Concert Hall).

Songlines faves Anda Union are bound to go down a treat in Glasgow. They’re on the same billing as the equally impressive Frigg who have a Top of the World review in the next issue, #90 (January 30, Old Fruitmarket).

The highly-acclaimed Scottish singer Karine Polwart and US stars Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer (also with a Top of the World in #90) (February 2, City Halls).

The final day sees singer-songwriter and guitarist Sorren Maclean from Mull take part in the New Voices initiative that showcases new talent (February 3, Mitchell Theatre).

On top of all that, there are workshops galore, an open stage and a late-night festival club – so many reasons why I wouldn’t want to be heading anywhere else this month. Now, how quickly can I get myself up to Glasgow…

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