Alba Griot Ensemble – The Darkness Between the Leaves (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

age-coverThey say that in life – and in music – timing is everything, and within ‘The Darkness Between the Leaves’ comes the feeling that we’re leaving summer and entering into the changing season of autumn, which, as I write this, we are.

The album opens with the words “the nights are getting colder, the summer birds are gone, the days are getting shorter…” and this feeling of the passing of time runs throughout this wonderful album.

Alba Griot Ensemble (Alba being the Gaelic name for Scotland and Griot roughly meaning a storyteller, musician or poet) is a clever hybrid of Celtic folk and blues played with traditional instruments of the West African country of Mali and is difficult to categorise. Fans of World Music will no doubt have in their collection more difficult styles of music to pigeon hole but those who follow more commercial styles will struggle to pin it down.

This isn’t the heavy rhythmic music that Paul Simon or David Byrne used in the 80’s, these are finely layered pieces which take on both genres without sounding like either is unwelcome at the table. We have acoustic guitar and double bass from typical folk music sitting side by side with a stringed lute-like instrument called a Ngoni, African percussion and subtle vocals.

The ngoni has a reputation for being able to be played fast, it features heavily especially on the instrumental ‘Horonia’ and shows its speed on ‘Shadow Queen’, it sounds lovely here and bridges the gap between African and Celtic music and sounds at home when the band move into blues and jazz territory.

There is a variation in the music that is welcomed and shows the ability of the band to stretch its legs into other styles of music, this keeps the listener interested because each song delivers a new flavour. ‘Long Way Home’ is one of three songs I keep returning to, it’s possibly the most straight forward track on the album yet it has a percussion and rhythm that remains enjoyable and accessible, ‘Blurred Visions’ with a melody similar to ‘Stairway to Heaven’ flies by at 5mins long before we end the album with ‘North Wind’. A mighty nine minutes in length, it gives the band, in particular the rhythm section, the chance to jam and groove until the album comes to an end. This song closes the album like the sunset closes the day. Great stuff.

 

See also Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward

Advertisements

Medicine Tunes –  Tony Rose (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Medicine-TunesIt’s nice to know that in this age of meticulous studio production, where even the smallest amount of natural talent can go a long way with the right engineer and the right box of tricks, that some people are still making albums in much more honest ways. Tony Rose’s solo album is just such a musical beast with the main body of the tracks being laid down live in a single session. Best known as a member of globe-trotting folksters Two Dollar Bash, Tony finally decided that it was time to put his own album out and so a small bunch of musical cohorts were gathered, tracks were recorded and Medicine Tunes was born.

Unsurprisingly the musical paths that Tony explores on this debut outing are not too far removed from his main musical concerns and indeed many of the people who have walked with him down those roads, Mark Mulholland and Stéphane Doucerain from Two Dollar Bash/Impure Thoughts as well as long time collaborators Geir Voie and Sean Condron, appear here too.

What Tony Rose revels in is good, solid, unfussy roots tunes, songs that embrace the deft and dexterous side of the genre, mandolins and banjos lend a country lilt when needed, others such as Pieter’s Song come on like a good old British pub folk singalong. There is room for Tex-Mex campfire songs with the appropriately named South of The Border, Lost in The Valley blends in some Celtic melancholic poeticism and Song of The Angels is a lovely, emotive piece of sweeping balladry.

Tony has always kept busy, wandering around Europe and North America, playing gigs and releasing albums with a succession of renowned bands so I guess that is excusable that he has only just got around to releasing an album under his own name. I just hope that he finds time to do it again sooner rather than later.

Somewhere Else – Rummage (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

 

12647054_1569588026695461_8000357121830898787_nMark Mulholland last cropped up within the scribblings of this dubious website in regards to his 2012 duet with dEUS ex-pat Craig Ward, the dreamy, baroque collection of drifting folk songs, Waiting For The Storm. Here we find him not only joined by long-term friends and collaborators Rusty Miller and James Finch Jr. from Jackpot but in an altogether jauntier mood.

 

In keeping with the ever shifting, always evolving nature of Marks work this album is hard to pigeon-hole, always a good start, as somehow he manages to hop genres at will – raw rock, melodic pop, late night cabaret club ballads, chilled blues and country grooves – but still come out with a cohesive collection of songs which somehow not only feel at home on the same album but also uniquely and intrinsically his own.

 

Scatter-gun approaches to music don’t always work, often they can suggest a lack of focus or identity within the musicians, here though they act to wonderfully showcase the eclectic nature and exploratory musical thought processes of Marks mind. It also begs the question as to what the hell his next album will have to offer.

New Third Lanark – Craig Ward

I have to confess that as I dropped the CD into the player I thought, “anything could happen in the next half hour.” Then again I tend to think something similar with every Jezus Factory release I receive, they is not a label to be approached with preconceptions or already informed opinion. And if that is the case for the label, it is certainly the case for the artist in question, Craig Ward.  Everything about the presentation of the album, from song titles to album art to tag line “solo guitar improvisations” is enough to make you question what the hell you are getting involved in here. Add to that a back catalogue of work that runs from the dance infused dEUS, improvisational jazz rock with the wonderfully named A Clean Kitchen is a Happy Kitchen, more conventional if brooding and weather beaten folk alongside Mark Mulholland and even production credits (alongside Steve Albini) for The Frames. Life may be like a box for chocolates (thank you Forrest) but how palatable are they actually going to be. There’s only one way to find out.

 

Ignoring the intriguing track titles such as Blazes as in Dixons and Tropic of Bennett) which probably mean little outside Craig’s own world what you get is pretty much what it says on the tin. These guitar improvisations take the form of electric guitar meanderings run through an array of effects and technical gadgetry, the overall affect been warped and wandering, often invoking what music might sound like if guitars were able to take Ketamine.

 

Don’t look for any obvious hooks or conventional structures; this is the sound of decay and windswept beauty, dark, foreboding and non-corporeal. Sustained lines tumble down and fade away like mist or merge into the next bank of sound. It is spiteful, industrial, directionless and sinister.  For all that it is strangely wonderful as long as you don’t pre-judge it, examine it or look for reasons. Maybe some music just is and contented to be so.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑