This month’s issue •
Come Write Me Down
A sampling of reviews from the current issue
RALPH McTELL & WIZZ JONES About Time Leola Music TPGCD37
Wizz Jones & Ralph McTell
Wizz Jones first brought Ralph McTell to Cornwall in 1966 when, according to Ralph, he “would have walked there for the opportunity.” Fifty years later the pair reunited in Cornwall to make the aptly-titled About Time
. Deliberately evocative of their summer busking days as “two Croydon boys who only ever wanted to be Woody Guthrie or Jack Kerouac,” this is an album that harks back to their shared roots.
Honey Babe Blues is one of several tracks that features the high-impact sound of two flat-picked guitars, Ralph’s harmonica and two voices – with Wizz taking the high part under Ralph’s lead – a combination worked to spellbinding effect on Guthrie’s Deportees (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos).
Both men are in fine voice throughout, with Ralph excelling on a You’re Gonna Quit Me Baby that knocks the Dylan version into a cocked-hat, and Wizz delivering an affectingly wistful I Never Did Sing You A Love Song.
Unlike the John & Wizz album, this isn’t purely a guitar album and Wizz’s banjo and Ralph’s harmonica and mandolin are exciting and welcome additions to Old Rattler’s Pup and Morning Blues. Like the Wizz & John album, it’s a record born out of lifelong friendship and mutual admiration.
• ralphmctell.co.uk | Buy from Amazon.co.uk
MOR KARBASI Ojos De Novia Alama Records 005
On her latest record, the much fêted Mor Karbasi delivers a traditional, but masterful testament to her diverse musical lineage.
From the richly orchestral and celebratory opening track Bismillah – one of several traditional Berber songs aired on Ojos De Novia – to the hauntingly melodic Ahuvati Ester, this is a record that never misses a beat. Korbasi’s sublime voice, combined with the instrumentation and arrangements of collaborator Joe Taylor, ensure that justice is done to the traditional musics being explored on Ojos De Novia which span Israel, Spain and Morocco.
And while there are nods to more contemporary arrangements, such as on the album’s more dance floor-friendly title track, the delivery is always well considered. It would have been very easy for Ojos De Novia to be a nondescript, Café del Mar-esque summer record. The deep appreciation for the musical forms at hand however, and the expert delivery, ensure that it is much more than that.
Hear a track on this issue’s fRoots 60 compilation, and read her interview this issue.
• www.morkarbasi.com | Buy from Amazon.co.uk
BITORI Legend Of Funaná Analog Africa AACD 081
Many of us, when we think of the music of the Cape Verde Islands think of the lovely female voices interpreting Morna with its influences from Portuguese fado. This album brings another genre to our attention; this album’s subtitle calls it “The Forbidden music of Cape Verde Islands”. The 40 minutes of this album shows us its vibrancy and vitality.
Victor Taveres, aka Bitori, introduced the two-row melodeon into Funaná in the 1950s, a form that was unpopular with the colonial authorities because of its association with the Cape Verde independence movement. Here he is pictured playing the Hohner pokerwork model so common in England. The style calls for a repeated pattern of notes in chordal sequences that allow the singer to soar and improvise over the top and alternate this with refrains. The singer in this case is a much younger man than Bitori. Chando Graciosa has a searing, cutting voice and he attacks the lyrics in a commanding way that brings life to the subjects which, we are told, deal with the hardships of rural life in their islands.
The pair of them travelled to Europe in 1997 seeking an audience for their music and it was in Holland that this album was originally recorded and given a limited release in that year.
The elderly Bitori travels to Europe this summer to reunite with Chando, Sadly, their tour does not come to the UK.
• www.properdistribution.com | Buy from Amazon.co.uk
GADARENE Volume Two: Live In 2016 Gadarene
Mission statement “ultra-modern, ancient tunes” provides the perfect tag line for Gadarene’s driving English fire. A busy, having-fun set of instrumentals rounded up, herded together from diverse manuscripts and 300 years by adding weight with dubstep, reggae and the odd electronic groove. In truth they probably never play the same piece the same way twice so this live set recorded with a predictably enthusiastic audience at The David Hall in South Petherton shows musicians sparking off each other in no small order. Opener An Italian Rant
is five minutes plus of sprightly flute glancing off a Euro-fiddle invasion, whilst drummer Si Paull gives some heft to the bottom end before the tune morphs into a bluebeat undercurrent: a gloriously raucous beginning. Things get better yet as Matt Norman’s mandolin plays chase round The King’s Head Hornpipe
(hear it on this issue’s fRoots 60
set) and a melodica – yes, a melodica – provides the counterpoint. They even manage to shimmy up onto a box to clog and step dance making an echoing thunder. At times the trill of Jon Dyer’s breathy flute veers off into a prog jazz spiral as he extemporises a reel, waiting to be brought back into the regular beat by the drums and booming bass of Laurel Swift.
A generous dose of playfulness is present throughout, proving that Live In 2016 is not just the work of talented musicians, it’s the product of a splendidly vibrant unit who take chances and pull more than rabbits out of the hat.
AND THE REST… The albums - good, adequate and plain bad - which didn't get the full-length treatment, contributed individually by a selection of our various reviewers cowering under the cloak of collective anonymity. For example…
Chaim Tannenbaum Chaim Tannenbaum (Storysound 161-017)
This long-awaited solo album from the veteran McGarrigles cohort is a joyous, beautifully-performed record that perfectly mixes folk, jazz, Lead Belly and John Betjeman. Produced by Dick Connette, with booklet notes by Loudon Wainwright III and Joe Boyd. storysoundrecords.com
Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids We Be All Africans (Strut STRUT144CD)
Afrobeat of the gritty and psychedelic variety, where the chunky rhythms are erratic but also somehow quite laid back. It’s coloured mostly by free flowing saxophones, synths, and cowbells. The tracks with lyrics are wishy-washy in their sentiment, but overall the album has a dark and brooding mood. www.strut-records.com
The Bully Wee Band Like The Snow (Slaughterhouse Productions SLP010CD)
Still capable of a decent live show, but on their first studio album in 30 years cracks are beginning to show: vocal and fiddle pitching is erratic, and there’s a ‘going through the motions’ feel. Only 35 minutes, but enough! www.bullyweeband.com
Guy Davis Kokomo Kidd (Dixiefrog DFGCD 8779)
A mixed offering, successful when Davis sticks close to the acoustic raggy blues that he plays so well but not so hot when he attempts Dylan, Donovan or his own She Just Wants To Be Loved (which sounds like he’s taking off Mark Knopfler). He’s on safer ground with straight blues like Little Red Rooster (with Charlie Musselwhite guesting on harmonica). www.bluesweb.com
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This month’s issue •
Come Write Me Down