Latest free CDs available to review writers—this could be you! Contact the Club to get your very own copy, and see below for where to send the review when you’re done.
When we think of movements for social, economic, and political justice and change, and the music sprung from such movements, the places that come to mind might include Russia, Ireland, South Africa, and Latin America. A close look through English history shows us that even the redoubtable British have had more than their fair share of riots, revolutions, and rebellions.
Chumbawamba (a name made up of deliberate gibberish syllables) has been a part of the British music scene for over a quarter-century. They were once described as four-part harmony encountering five-part anger, defiance, and militancy. For this recording, first conceived in 1988 and then updated in 2003, they traded in their anarcho-punk persona, guitars, amps, and drum kits for an a cappella sound very similar to groups such as Swan Arcade, the Wilson Family and the Watersons.
These 13 songs were engendered over six centuries of turmoil and upheavals, from the “Cutty Wren,” associated with Wat Tyler's 1381 Peasants Revolt, to “Coal Not Dole,” perhaps the most moving and poignant cut, associated with the British Miner’s strike in 1984. This recording shows, again and again, that struggles for human decency and equality have often been met with brutal response and repression by the state, the clergy, the capitalist bosses, and rich land owners.
Personal favorites include the “Diggers Song,” invoking the 1649 movement by this radical group against the backdrop of the English Civil War of Royalist vs. Roundheads, the “Triumph of General Ludd,” connected with the Luddite uprising in Northern England in 1812, and “Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire,” a World War I anti-war song popular with British Troops in the trenches. More localized events include the “Idris Strike Song of 1911,” the “Collier's March” from around 1782, and “Smashing of the Van,” about freeing Irish rebels in the mid-1860's. Whether it's poachers facing imprisonment or possible executions in order to keep their families from starving (“The Bad Squire”), or factory workers mistreated by their employers (“Poverty Knocks”), the grim reality of the ongoing struggles for equality and justice were as vital and meaningful then as they are in today's global landscape.
Music, history, and social activism: quite a trifecta—and Chumbawamba succeeds on all three levels.
--Robert RodriquezThe Big Spree. ,
When I first heard of Breabach, I was prepared for something very different from what I got. Seeing that there were not one, but two (two!) highland pipers in the lineup, I girded my loins for a big noise. While this band can get rowdy when it wants to, there is a lot of delicacy, subtlety, and sheer artistry here. In addition to the two “noyz boyz,” the band includes a fiddler, a guitarist, and (on most of the cuts) a guest bassist. Both of the pipers play whistle, one of them flute. The double pipes are not used on all the tracks, and some have no pipes at all (imagine!).
The playing is solid and sweet throughout. They are very tight, while maintaining the individual qualities of each instrument and each player. Everyone is at the fore and blending into a unit at the same time. Some tracks are straight-ahead and simple, while others are loaded thick with rich harmonies and inventiveness. And when the two pipers do come in, humming away in highland harmony, well, you know that God is smiling somewhere.
--Ed SilbermanVery Early Anne ,
What a pleasure it is to receive CDs from Anne Price!
The first, Very Early Anne, is taken from concerts in which Anne performed in 1965 and 1966 at Hunter College, which she attended 1964 - 1968. Her lovely, clear, full soprano voice (reminiscent, as she is often told, of Joan Baez) warms and interprets well both the traditional and contemporary songs selected. On five of these, Anne is accompanied by our own Ray Frank on guitar, and with guitar and vocal in Tom Paxton’s “Bottle of Wine.” Traditional songs include “The Water Is Wide,” “Blow the Candles Out” and “Wayfaring Stranger” among others, while contemporary songs are by Tom Paxton, Bob Dylan, Pat Sky, Ewan MacColl, and Donovan Leitch. On “Colours,” Anne is backed by an entire bluegrass band. As her set ends, an MC announces a wait while the next perfomers arrive. We join with the audience member who calls out “Bring that girl back!” He does.
The second disc, “A Few More Miles to Go” again combines traditional and contemporary songs. Songwriters include Kate Wolf, Malvina Reynolds, Si Kahn, Peggy Seeger and half a dozen others. Instrumental accompaniments employ guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass, dulcimer, ukelele and kazoo. The four-decades-later voice, pitched in slightly lower keys, is again a joy to hear. Jean Ritchie’s tragic “Black Waters” is perhaps my favorite here; I’ve always had trouble singing it myself without crying. Only one song, “Slowing Down,” is by Anne, and the title for the recording comes from its lyrics.
Take both of these CDs to a quiet nook, lean back, close your eyes and revel in the deep pleasure of listening to fine songs presented by an outstanding singer with an extraordinarily lovely voice.