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Bulletin - February 2009
Folk Music - American, British Isles, etc.
Battlefield Band ->
Nimrod Workman

 

 

NEW COMPACT DISCS

 
SCOTLAND BATTLEFIELD BAND Temple COMD 2085 Happy Daze $14.98
11 tracks (plus 4 bonus), 63 mins, very highly recommended
Another great album by this superb Scottish band available again. After 25 years Battlefield Band were still going strong on this 2001 album providing some of the finest Scottish music you can hear anywhere. Only singer/ keyboardist Alan Reid is left from the original band but he has some outstanding with him including John McCusker on fiddle, cittern & whistles, Mike Katz on pipes and whistles and new member Karin Polwart on guitar and vocals. The music is a beautiful blend of traditional and contemporary songs and tunes, all of it with a traditional flavor. Among the highlights are the duet between Alan and Karine on the powerful The Devil's Courtship which melds in a Breton tune An Droand a gorgeous vocal by Karine on one of my favorite songs The Banks Of Red Roses which has one of those irresistably beautiful tunes that belies the tragedy awaiting at the end. (FS)

 
AMERICAN FOLK PAUL CLAYTON Omni 120 Sings Home-Made Songs And Ballads/ Folk Singer $17.98
28 tracks, 79 min., highly recommended
Clayton was a fixture on the folk scene in the early sixties and counted Bob Dylan as one of his close friends. A university-educated folklorist, Clayton spent his early years collecting and recording whaling songs (many of which were recorded for Tradition and have recently become available). Folk music fans who may shy away from sea shanties and the like will nonetheless find these recordings a delight. Reissued here for the first time in 40-plus years are Clayton's two Monument LPs (originally released as M4001 in 1960 and SP18017 in 1965), generally regarded as his finest work and adds 4 non-LP sides from 45s. Somehow Clayton was able to write songs that sounded as if they were hundreds of years old, and almost everything here is from his pen. His Love For Love, on which he backs himself on dulcimer, deserves the kind of attention that would keep Paul Clayton's music in the public eye and ear, but alas he remains a neglected talent of the 1960s folk movement. His Who'll Buy You Ribbons When I'm Gone (which was influenced by the traditional song Scarlet Ribbons For Her Hair) was "borrowed" by Dylan who used the melody for his Don't Think Twice, It's Alright. Legal action was apparently not far behind. (Clayton of course sounds nothing like Dylan; if anything, he reminds one of Pete Seger.) Clayton's suicide in 1967 seems to have swept his work into a forgotten corner of musical history, but this reissue should help to change that. (JC)

 
AMERICAN FOLK JULIE FELIX RPM Retro 841 First, Second & Third $18.98
2 CDs, 41 tracks, 108mins, highly recommended
Julie Felix is American Folk singer who was discovered by-and recorded her first three albums for-British label Decca Records, who at that time hadn't recorded very many folk musicians. Felix has a clear, pure voice-much in the manner of Judy Collins- that is capable of steel and grit when needed, and, on the first album, she recorded material ranging from the de-regular Dylan (Masters of War, Don't Think Twice It's All Right) and Woody Guthrie (Pastures of Plenty, Ship in the Sky) covers to obscure English folk songs. She was taken as being a British folk singer and as a result she is identified with the Brit Folk scene, which she never really became a part of, despite her success in the U.K. Despite recording these albums in England, no one would ever have mistaken Felix for being anything but American, as these records definitely evoke sounds coming out of the U.S. at the same time. By the second album, folk rock is creeping into the arrangements (Someday Soon), but there's still enough true folk to keep the purists happy, and she shows off her Mexican roots on a spirited take on Guantanamera, while tackling Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton to winning effect. The third album is really a collection of out-takes from the first two LPs, but doesn't seem to suffer from the cobbled-together distinction; indeed, she does Donovan (To Try For the Sun) and Leadbelly (The Gallows Pole) proud and proves herself to be no slouch at songwriting (the self-referential The Maid of Constant Sorrow and I Travelled All Over This World). Julie Felix has a serious, yet playful, approach to folk singing that is appealing to people who don't usually listen to such music, and this collection is a perfect introduction to her many charms. (GMC)

 
SCOTLAND ENOCH KENT Borealis 190 One More Round $16.98
16 tracks, highly recommended
This is a real delight. Scottish singer Enoch Kent first started recording in the early 60s and made some wonderful recordings on his own and as a member of the Irish/ Scottish group The Exiles. In the late 60s he emigrated to Canada where he continued to perform but didn't return to recording until a few years ago and this is the first to reach the USA. After 45 years Enoch sounds very much like he did when he first recorded with a beautiful, rich, smoky and melodic voice - one that influenced other Scottish singers - most notably Dick Gaughan. After 40 years in Canada Enoch's thick Glasgow accent is still intact. He is joined by Kelly Hood on pipes and whistle and Pat Simmonds on accordion, guitar, bouzouki & fiddle. The songs are mostly traditional - some familiar, some obscure but all benefiting from Enoch's wonderful vocals including Jamie Raeburn/ Harlaw/ Bonnie Wee Country Lass/ The Butcher Boy/ The Banks Of Newfoundland and other. There are also a couple of originals by Enoch - whimsical tales about his youth. Wonderful stuff! (FS)

 
FRANCE MALICORNE Griffe 191272 Almanach $17.98
13 tracks, 49 mins, essential
Available again on a new label and at a lower price. The French band Malicorne was possibly the best traditionally oriented folk-rock band ever and this 1976 recording was their best. It consists of a series of 12 traditional songs, one for each month of the year, most of them with a magical theme. The singing led by Gabriel Yacoub and his powerful distinctive baritone is complemented by his wife Marie's fragile soprano and when the rest of the group join in on the vocal harmonies the effect is spine chilling. The instrumental work is spellbinding using acoustic and electric instruments and weaving them together in a complex interplay of sounds to create powerful and tremendously beautiful music. All this comes over with crystal clarity on this CD. On Les Tristes Noces when the electric bass comes in to join Gabriel and Marie's unaccompanied vocals the sound reverberated through my spine! This album is one of the greatest folk albums of the 70s and quite deservedly won "Grand Prix" from the Academie Du Disque Francais. The beautiful cover illustration by Laurent Lesserre prepares you for the treasures within and the 12 page booklet has notes on all the songs by Gabriel (in French) and all the lyrics. An all time classic! (FS)

 
SCOTLAND MALINKY Mad River 1012 The Unseen Hours $16.98
12 tracks, highly recommended
This is the third album by this superb Scottish group originally issued on Scotland's famed Greentrax label in 2005 and just issued in the USA. Malinky are a quintet who between them play flute, uilleann pipes, bouzouki, cittern, cello, mandolin, guitar, fiddle, jews harp and more. The group has two superb singers - Fiona Hunter and Steve Byrne and they perform a varied selection of mostly traditional songs and tunes along with a couple of more recent compositions - a few familar songs but mostly lesser known . Instrumental arrangements are wonderful - beautifully crafted and exciting but never flashy. Highlight for me of this outstanding selection is their version of Bonnie Banks Of Fordie - an infrequently recorded murder ballad ending in a suicide - singing and arrangements on this are spectacular. If you enjoy traditional music you really should check this out. (FS)

 
AMERICAN FOLK 'CILE TURNER Rivermont 3135 Makin' Glory $25.98
2 CDs, 49 tracks, 2 hours 38 min., recommended
Lucile Turner began performing African-American folk songs in the 1920s (and kept it up for 40 years or so) at a time when white women from the south (Virginia) simply did not do such things. For Turner, it was her life's work. And this album collects all of her commercially available (though long out-of-print) recordings (including her self-released Blue Jeans 78 rpm LP) on one CD and previously unreleased and rare performances on another. Turner does interpretations of black southern preachers' sermons (Prayer), as well as more traditional folk songs, which she often adapted and converted to suit her own taste. Often she would change or add lyrics, as she saw fit. And indeed she wrote some of her own material, including One Arm Tom and Crap Shootin' Sinner. Despite any misgivings folk purists may hold regarding Turner's willingness to adapt her source material, she was collecting and promoting African-American music to white audiences before just about any one else. And while she sings in black dialect, there's nothing Amos and Andy about it, not a bit of conscious exaggeration, just imitation. Her self-released recordings sold well in the local Lynchburg area, and when she signed with Colonial Records, her work saw wide release and she was backed at various times by the Bluenotes and the Jordanaires. A fascinating and little known chapter of American music history. (JC)

 
AMERICAN FOLK NIMROD WORKMAN Twos & Fews 379 I Want To Go Where Things Are Beautiful $14.98
27 tracks, 54 mins, very highly recommended
Incredible collection of traditional acapella singing recorded by Mike Seeger in 1982 featuring 87 year old former coal miner, union activist and singer from West Virginia. Don't let his age fool you - his singing is strong, emotional and moving. His repertoire is a mix of traditional American ballads, gospel songs, songs with origins in the British folk song tradition, mining songs and some oddities like the tongue twister Good Morning. Includes Gabriel's Trumpet/ Lord Daniel (a version of "Matty Groves")/ I Am Your Man, Thomas/ Ida Red/ Coal Black Mining Blues/ 42 Years/ Oh Death (yes, that Oh Death)/ Jack Straw Saddle/ My Horses Ain't Hungry/ Barbara Allen, etc. Beautiful and important music. (FS)

 

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