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Bulletin - November/ December 2009
Folk Music
The Hallelujah Chicken Run Band ->
Various Artists

 

 

NEW COMPACT DISCS



AFRICA-ZIMBABWE THE HALLELUJAH CHICKEN RUN BAND Alula 2002 Take One $10.98
18 tracks, 64 mins, highly recommended
Formed in the early 70's as the house band for a copper mine, the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band ended up being influential in the world of Afro-pop. Inventors of what became known as "Zimpop", these guys changed the face of Zimbabwe music, which before the Chicken Run Band, consisted of artists covering Western pop songs. The music was still pop, but performed with staccato guitars that mimicked aspects of the mbira, a traditional instrument. Also, the lyrics-sung in Shona, which was big deal given the political climate in Rhodesia at the time-were occasionally rebellious and political. But mainly this CD provides an early showcase for vocalist Thomas Mapfumo, who became a solo star and noted band leader in the late 70's and early 80's. If you like Paul Simon's world music experiments on "Graceland" and "Rhythm of the Saints," then you'll like this. (GMC)

 
CAJUN RAY LANDRY & FRIENDS Swallow 6212 Mes Racines Cadien Sont Creux (My Cajun Roots Are Deep) $15.98
14 tracks, 49 min., recommended
The title in English is "My Cajun Roots Are Deep," and in case you speak neither English nor French, the cover photo is of tree roots. Landry, clearly serious about his Cajun music, joins forces with the equally serious Dexter Ardoin (accordion), Al Berard (fiddle, bass, mandolin, slide/electric guitar), Sheryl Cormier (accordion), Terry Huval (steel guitar), Mason Menard (steel guitar), and many others. Landry's vocals here are merely serviceable, but Helen Bourdreaux 's voice (on La Valse D'ennuie , for example) sweetens the proceedings whenever it appears. Be ready for sturdy, authentic Cajun music played with great heart and skill. But the album does tend to be a bit waltz heavy, which gives a mid-tempo sameness to the whole that the individual songs are not guilty of. Still, pleasing nonetheless. (JC)

 
AFRICA-SOUTH AFRICA MIRIAM MAKEBA African Cream 59 The Legend $16.98
Miriam Makeba was one of the legends of African music; hailing from South Africa, she was one of the first artists to bring African music to international prominence with the help of Harry Belafonte, who discovered her. This compilation collects tracks from the 60's to the 90's-including three songs by Brazilian superstar Jorge Ben-that display her versatility and influence. The key song here is Pata Pata, which was a huge U.S. hit in 1967.

 
CHILE RAFAEL MANRIQUEZ AND FRIENDS Smithsonian Folkways 40549 Que Viva El Canto - Songs Of Chile $15.98
25 tracks, 74 min., highly recommended
Rafael Mariquez describes his purpose in making his album as wanting to represent "diverse compositional times and spaces of Chilean song," and indeed this far-reaching release seems to contain the entire history of Chilean folk music on one CD. Of course it doesn't quite do that, but it comes closer than anything else. Manriquez harkens back to the 1950s and 1960s folk singers of Chile for inspiration and filters through as many urban and rural folk forms as he can. He covers songs by Victor Jara, Violeta Parra, Eduardo Peralta, and others, as well as including several of his own compositions. The 42-page booklet contains a wealth of information and notes on individual songs in Spanish and English. Arresting. (JC)

 
IRISH FOLK DAN MILNER Smithsonian Folkways 40553 Irish Pirate Ballads & Other Songs Of The Sea $14.98
13 tracks, 59 min., recommended
Milner can be forgiven for capitalizing of the recent pirate craze as represented by the album title, since many of the songs are not strictly about pirates, per se. Most are about scoundrels of one sort or another, and the sea does feature prominently in these collected Irish songs. Milner, a fine singer and suited to the material, has done his homework researching these songs in various forms, sometime reaching back centuries, and the booklet notes are all the more interesting for it. Fans who frequent the celtic section of their local record store (whether made of bricks or electrons) might be pleased to know that Susan McKeown adds her vocals to The Ballad Of O Bruadair / Out On The Ocean, Granuile, and Get Up Jack, John Sit Down /Miss Thornton's. That last track also features vocals by the Johnson Girls. Milner performs a striking acapella version of The Flying Cloud, a song listeners may remember from a Ewan MacColl version. Nicely done all around. (JC)

 
AFRICA-MALI THE RAIL BAND Sterns 3043/44 Belle Epoque 3 - Dioba $16.98
The Rail Band, which was formed in 1970 and funded by Mali's Ministry of Information, was the country's top big band for many years, and they were (and still are) the house band at the Buffet de la Gare in Bamako. The group, an ever changing line up of musicians (some famous alumni include Salif Keita and Mory Kante), are known for tailoring traditional music (made with traditional instruments) for a modern pop audience. This collection is the third volume in a series of double CDs documenting the group's first 13 years, from 1970 to 1983.

 
ENGLISH FOLK MUSIC STEELEYE SPAN Park PRKCD 104 Live At A Distance $36.98
Two CDs/ One DVD - 20 tracks. 14 tracks, highly recommended
An absolute delight - a superb set of live performances recorded between 2002 and 2008 by this brilliant English folk rock band. Although the band had gone through a number of changes throughout the years the version of the band featured here were together for quite a long time featuring the magnificent Maddy Prior on vocals with Peter Knight on fiddle, Maddy's husband Rick Kemp on bass, Ken Nicol on guitars and Liam Genockey on drums. They revisit songs from throughout their more than three decade career ranging from The Blacksmith that was on their first album in 1970 to the lengthy five part original ballad Ned Ludd from their 2006 album "Bloody Men." The arrangements of the songs are frequently different from those on the original albums and after more than 30 years the group,s singing and playing still sound fresh. Other songs include Who's The Fool Now (a stunning acapella rendition)/ The Neck Belly Reel/ Gone To America/ Saucy Sailor/ Edward/ Bonny Black Hare/ The Song Will Remain, etc. The DVD filmed in 2006 features many of the same songs as on the CDs though there are several different most notably a truly spine chilling rendition of Betsy Bell And Mary Gray with Maddy's vocals accompanied only by Peter chilling fiddle playing which really brings home the tragic nature of the song. Please note that the DVD is in PAL format so may not play on all U.S. DVD players. (FS)

 
AFRICA-BENIN VARIOUS ARTISTS Analog Africa 065 Legends Of Benin $24.98
14 tracks, 80 mins, highly recommended
The latest compilation of obscure 70's African music from Analog Africa tackles four composers from the country of Benin: Antoine Dougbe, El Rego, Honore Avolonto, and Gnonnas Pedro. All of these tracks are funky and danceable in the extreme, but each man has his own approach to the funk. El Rego is often a James Brown wannabe, Dougbe's work is powered by guitar and percussion and punctuated by fierce brass, Pedro favors a more poppy approach refracted through Cuban jazz, while Avolonto favors supple grooves mixed with big band jazz. These tracks, recorded between 1969 and 1981, are super rare (according to AA) and each has its own distinctive sound. As always, the packaging is excellent with a 44 page booklet that tells a story worth hearing. (GMC)

 
AFRICA-MALI VARIOUS ARTISTS Gallo VDE 1244 Mali - Hunter's Songs $19.98
9 songs, 59 mins, recommended
This 2008 collection is part of an ethnic music series that was recorded over a ten year period in Malian villages and in the Ivory Coast town of Bouake. Carefully recorded and documented, the focus is on bands that perform the rituals of the hunter brotherhoods especially the Maninka parts of the repertoire, which features the simbi-a metal stringed hunters' harp. It is this music that inspires the Mandingo griots and, directly or indirectly, influences contemporary Malian pop music. These recordings were made between 1998 and 2008 and show us a different side of African music than that of Nigeria and Lagos (this music is more spare and centered on vocal chants), which is nonetheless fascinating. (GMC)

 
AFRICA-WEST AFRICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Honest Jon's 38 Marvellous Boy - Calypso From West Africa $18.98
18 tracks, 53 mins, highly recommended
This latest collection from the archivists at Honest Jon's follows the course of West African Calypso music, from Sierra Leone in the late 1940's through Ghana and Nigeria over the ensuing fifteen years or so. The roots of this music runs back to 18th century Britain and beyond, while this CD serves to illustrate that Calypso didn't originate in the Caribbean as has often been thought. Decca Records recorded the early West African Calypso artists, Ebenezer Calendar and Famous Scrubbs, who are featured here. Decca also organized the first Calypso recording session in Ghana with The Tempos (who, along with its spin-offs, The Black Beats, The Red Spots, and The Rhythm Aces, dominated the scene). Honest Jon's has presented a fine overview of the scene and has given us a further window into the unsung influence of West African music on the world; when one listens to Steven Amechi and His Empire Rhythm Skies it's easy to see where the likes of Harry Belafonte got their sound from in the first place. This CD is educational and enjoyable. (GMC)

 
ENGLISH FOLK MUSIC VARIOUS ARTISTS Island (UK) 531 834-1 Meet On The Ledge - An Island Records Folk-Rock Anthology $35.98
3 CD, 44 tracks, recommended When the English use the term "folk-rock" they aren't talking about the Byrds, the Mamas and the Papas, or the Turtles-which is what an American would bring to mind upon hearing those two words. No, to the British, folk-rock is the music of Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny, John Martyn, the Incredible String Band and others playing a blend of British folk music and rock and roll, which come to think of it, is very much what their American cousins also did in the mid-60's. This box set strives to give a decent overview of that era of British rock covering the period 1967 through 1977 (plus a version of Meet On The Ledge by Fairport from 1987) and drawn from recordings made for Chris Blackwell's Island label which was home to many of the pioneers of the genre. This set features the above named artists as well as Richard Thompson (with and without Linda), Nick Drake, Dr. Strangely Strange (Incredible String Band imitators), The Albion Band, Claire Hamill, and more. There are also a few artists included that are a bit questionable like Jethro Tull and Cat Stevens but Traffic's rendition of the traditional song John Barleycorn Must Die is an all time classic. Long time fans will have most of the best tracks here but if you're just starting out this makes a fine introduction with lots of fine music accompanied by an attractive 32 page booklet with notes by David Suff, nuemrous photos and full discographical information. (GMC/ FS)
ALBION BAND: Hanged I Shall Be/ AMAZING BLONDEL: Spring Season/ The Siege Of Yaddlethorpe/ BRONCO: Time Slips Away/ SANDY DENNY: Bushes And Briars/ I'm A Dreamer/ Late November/ NICK DRAKE: One Of These Things First/ Things Behind The Sun/ FAIRPORT CONVENTION: A Sailor's Life/ Dirty Linen/ Matty Groves/ Meet On The Ledge (12" single version)/ She Moves Through The Fair/ Sir Patrick Spens (Live At The LA Troubadour)/ FOTHERINGAY: Banks Of The Nile/ CLAIRE HAMILL: The Man Who Cannot See Tomorrow's Sunshine/ BRYN HAWORTH: Darlin' Cory/ MIKE HERON: Flowers Of The Forest/ ASHLEY HUTCHINGS: Upton Stick Dance/ Haste To The Wedding-The Triumph-Off She Goes/ THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND: Black Jack David/ Dear Old Battlefield/ RONNIE LANE & SLIM CHANCE: Stone/ JOHN MARTYN: Cocaine/ Eibhli Ghail Chiuin Ni Chearbhail/ May You Never (BBC-John Peel Show, 1977)/ Over The Hill/ Seven Black Roses/ Spencer The Rover/ JOHN & BEVERLEY MARTYN: The Ocean/ MORRIS ON BAND: The Nutting Girl/ CAT STEVENS: On The Road To Find Out/ DR. STRANGELY STRANGE: Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal/ THE SUTHERLAND BROTHERS: Sailing/ RICHARD THOMPSON: Calvary Cross (Live)/ Poor Ditching Boy/ RICHARD & LINDA THOMPSON: Dimming Of The Day-Dargai/ The Sun Never Shines On The Poor/ Withered And Died/ TRAFFIC: John Barleycorn (Must Die)/ Withering Tree/ JETHRO TULL: Living In The Past/ ROBIN WILLIAMSON: Dark Eyed Lady

 
AMERICAN FOLK VARIOUS ARTISTS Righteous Babe 065 Singing Through The Hard Times - Tribute To Utah Philli $15.98
2 CDs, 39 tracks, 2 hours, 15 min., highly recommended
When Bruce Duncan "Utah" Phillips died in 2008, he left behind an impressive history of aligning himself (in song and in deed) with labor unions and all forms of progressive social, economic, and political protest. He also left behind a world of folk singers ready to show their debt to him by offering a cover of one of his songs for this tribute album. The compilers (this is issued on Ani DiFranco's label) report that they could have filled a dozen CDs, if money were no object, which it always is. Many of the most names in folk music contributed tracks as well as many lesser-known performers. Most of the songs were written by Phillips, but some, such as the traditional Hallelujah! I'm A Bum (performed by Mick Lane), are merely associated with Phillips. Tom Paxton offers a moving version of I Remember Loving You, Emmylou Harris & Mary Black perform Green Rolling Hills Of West Virginia, Pete Seeger cuts his own Or Else! (One Of These Days) for which Phillips is surely applauding, wherever he is. Other contributers include Jean Ritchie, Gordon Bok, Si Kahn, Finest Kind, Ani DiFranco, Rosalie Sorrels, Mark Ross, Sparky And Rhonda Rucker, Caroline Paton, Cathy Fink, Kat Logan, Elizabeth LaPrelle, Bruce Brackney, Jay Peterson, Emma's Revolution, and many others. A fine collection of folk music in and of itself, and a fitting tribute to a legendary figure. (JC)

 
AFRICA-GHANA VARIOUS ARTISTS Soundway 03 Ghana Soundz: Afro-Beat, Funk And Fusion In 70's Ghana $16.98
14 tracks, 77 mins, highly recommended
This sophomore set picks up where Vol. 1 (Soundway 01) left off: more smokin' hot ultra rare and previously unreleased tracks of Afro-Beat, Funk and fusion from Ghana in the 1970s. Many of the same artists that were on the first volume are back, such as Oscar Sulley, Ebo Taylor, the Ogyatanna Show Band, and K. Frimpong, but there are also some worthy newcomers like Joe Mensah, the African Brothers (who prove once again just how pervasive James Brown's influence was during the 60's and 70's), and Bob Pinado & His Sound Casters (whose mind-bending Me, You, One (Means I Love You) needs to heard to be believed). These tracks, released between 1970 and 1978, show more western funk influence than the tracks on the first disc: indeed James Brown and Funkadelic loom large as sonic blueprints. Which is no bad thing, because these musicians are perfect examples of artists who use their influences are jumping off points rather than merely creating carbon copies. Bottom line, if you dug Vol. 1, then you need to own Vol. 2. (GMC)

 
AFRICA-ALGERIA VARIOUS ARTISTS Sublime Frequencies 045 1970s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground $16.98
This is a collection of "Rai" music, created in Wahran, Algeria, which is a form of modern music that is derived from Bedouin music and has roots in Egyptian classical, Flamenco, and Parisian cabaret. The genre reached its full flowering during the 1970's, and it is this time frame that is the main focus of this CD. With influences of Rock, Reggae, and Bollywood soundtracks making their way into the music, artists like Bellemou & Benfissa, Groupe El Azhar, and Boutaiba Sghir (all represented here) setting the standard for this music.

 

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