Reviews

Latest free CDs available to review writers—this could be you! Contact Lisa Hubbell if interested.

  1. Hank Cramer, Caledonia.. A collection of 18 Scottish songs, traditional and contemporary. Info at http://www.hankcramer.com/
  2. Heidi Talbot, In Love and Light. Five years lead singer with Cherish the Ladies. Samples at http://compassrecords.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=4520
  3. Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill, Welcome Here Again.. Irish fiddle music. Samples at http://compassrecords.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=4484

CD REVIEWS

Julie Bidou, Timeless French Songs and Favorites
Available from Julie at 1320 Addison, Apt. C333. Berkeley, CA 94702, phone (510) 845-5183. Special price to SFFMCers: $10 including postage.

Many of the 35 songs on this CD were sung 20 to 25 years ago onto a small Sony portable recorder. Using modern methods of restoration, these tapes have been meticulously cleaned, cleared and transferred to CD by musician/engineer Mike Cogan of Berkeley Bay Records. The voice and instrumental accompaniments are therefore of top quality: you'd think it was all done yesterday with a roomful of the best contemporary equipment.

The excellent accompanying booklet gives information on Julie's French background as well as her search for French songs in the U.S., especially the three different sources of French music in Louisiana. Research has taken her to Louisiana, France, French Canada, and Grand Pre in Acadia, Nova Scotia. Songs in French are translated into English in the booklet.

There are 9 Louisiana French dialect (Gumbo) slave songs; 10 French songs; 10 “other favorites” and 6 children's songs sung to 2nd graders whom she taught in Oakland schools for 21 years. This CD is not just for those interested in French songs but for all who enjoy listening to fine songs lovingly sung

--Faith Petric

Various Artists, Songs of Witchcraft and Magic.
Compiled by the Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle, Cornwall, U.K.:
http://www.museumofwitchcraft.com/
CD info: http://www.wildgoose.co.uk/

This is a compilation of 15 traditional British songs and ballads from the realm of the ghostly and supernatural, with images and motifs ranging from brutal revenge and futuristic predictions to shape-shifting and haunting mysticism. Ten are Child ballads.

For an avowed lover of supernatural stories and ballads, this is hard to take off the CD player, but some personal favorites stand out: the group Alva’s rendering of “The Bells of Paradise,” with dual references to the birth of Jesus and the Holy Grail; the late Peter Bellamy’s fine performance of Al Stewart’s “Nostradamus,” on the 16th-century French mystic and visionary whose prophetic verses have engendered much debate in recent years; Frankie Armstrong’s version of “Young Orphy,” a British ballad retelling the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Martin Carthy’s powerful and evocative “Willie’s Lady,” with its detailed set of spells and counter-spells centered around a woman’s delayed pregnancy; and Bob Fox and Stu Luckley’s “Two Magicians,” with its tale of bizarre transformations and a “Duel Arcane” (magical combat) between a pursued maiden and a blatantly sexual smith.

From the wry humor of “The Bold Astrologer” to the classic encounter with the realm of Fairie in “Thomas the Rhymer”, from the aquatic magical tale of “The Selchie” to the dark sorcery employed in both “Alison Cross” and “The Laily Worm,” the dominant feature of these songs is magic and transformation, be it mortal or animal.

As if the songs are not enough, a 36-page booklet is included, giving the full lyrics as well as folkloric information on the underlying beliefs and traditions of these fine tales.

--Robert Rodriquez

Hans York, Young Amelia.
CD info and samples:
http://www.myspace.com/hansyork and http://www.hansyork.com

German-born, Seattle-based, award winning singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Hans York made his debut on the West Coast music scene as an extraordinary DADGAD guitar player.

Already a well-established musician and sessions performer in Germany, he was enticed to immigrate by the Bluestein Family of Fresno. His first all-English CD Inside Out won accolades as “breaking down the walls between world, pop, folk, jazz and acoustic music, by blending these styles with elegance and grace.”

Young Amelia, Hans York’s latest CD of 12 original compositions, is a celebration of life and love, loss and joy. Intimate and personal, it was recorded live in Seattle with some of the best young musicians in the business: Eva Scow, mandolin; Dusty Brough, guitar; Jon Hamar, bass; Myra Joy, cello; and Chris Stromquist, percussion and glockenspiel. Amelia includes 12 strong lyrical songs that you’ll keep in your iPod to listen to and sing along with when your spirit needs a lift or your heart needs healing. There’s not a weak song on the disc.

And the presentation? Beautiful original art work by Ann Gates Fiser on a tri-fold with all the lyrics on a pullout. It’s a keeper.

--Pat Wolk

Quite a few CDs have been awaiting review in Faith’s attic, from local songwriters’ debuts to classic re-releases from Smithsonian Folkways. I’ve typed up a list of CDs received to date, and hope to get that on the website for your perusal (and review offers) once I’ve checked it against past issues. Starting with this issue, I’ll include occasional reviews of new and old “gems from the attic.”

--Lisa Hubbell

Carla Sciaky, Spin the Weaver’s Song..
Green Linnet. Contact info:
http://www.myspace.com/carlasciaky

Here’s one of those older undiscovered gems from the attic, a long-time personal favorite. Carla Sciaky (“see-ah-kee”) is a weaver as well as a folk musician (primarily clear and well-trained soprano, and concertina). This 1992 album is based on many years of seeking out songs about weaving, purposely avoiding those of the Industrial Revolution. The 30 tracks span 8 languages and even more styles, solo or accompanied by musicians with a fine sense of harmony and rhythm.

Some examples of the delicious variety on this CD: “Click, Click, That’s How the Shears Go” melds lyrics and melody from two Australian songs, with harmonies from Pete Sutherland and Larry Gordon. For “Snosti e Dobra Botsna Sedela,” a Bulgarian song about a bride weaving gifts for her in-laws, Carla sings all harmonies, and plays tambura. “The Weaver and the Chambermaid” is an 18th-century version (predating “The Weaver and the Factory Maid”) with harmony singing from Cindy Mangsen. Carla plays the Irish tune “The Flax in Bloom” on solo concertina. “Spinn Spinn/La Filadora” intertwines a German version of “Whistle Daughter, Whistle” with a Catalonian melody; Carla switches back and forth from the German to an English translation, plays violin, and is accompanied by Pete Sutherland on guitar, Jeremiah McLane on accordion, and Tom MacKenzie on hammered dulcimer.

--Lisa Hubbell