Twigs & Twine – Long Story Short (2019) review



Twigs & Twine started as a good excuse for a group of friends to play music together, but it quickly grew into a fully-fledged folk-pop band with original material.‘ Never was the first sentence of a biography as spot-on as this first line written by Twigs & Twine. Somewhere further in the bio the band state: ‘For our music, we use a huge variety of instruments as well as different languages, but most importantly, lots of humor, even in songs that are really about death and tragedy.‘ Again so, so true. Twigs & Twine’s debut album is oozing with good vibes, humor, and positive energy which make it a joy to listen to. So let’s get acquainted with this fun bunch of young musicians.
Twigs & Twine’s story started when five friends:
-Eef – vocals, piano, and bodhrán
-Iris – vocals, cajon, djembe, bodhrán
-Lian- vocals, piano, autoharp, violin
-Luca – vocals, ukelele, lute guitar, mouth organ
-Marijke – vocals, low whistle, tin whistle
came together under the name twibv, short for ‘Tot We Iets Beters Vinden’ (‘till we find something better’), to play Irish folk together. Soon they started incorporating their own material in their music, with lyrics influenced by mythology, old manuscripts, poems, nature, and their own experiences. In 2015 their first EP, Snippets, came out. In 2017 they won a Dutch street music festival called ‘De Gouden pet’ (the golden cap) and they played the major Dutch festivals: The Midwinter Fair, Keltfest and Castlefest. In 2019 the band found their way into the studio to record their debut CD.

So here we have it, Long Story Short, the first album by Twigs & Twine and I have to say this is a charming CD. It contains13 fun songs that the band wrote and arranged themselves, carving out their own little niche in folk music I would call theater folk.
All members of Twigs & Twine have a healthy sense of humor and the best example of Twigs & Twines’ sense of humor comes straight away with the first song, Nehalennia. When I first heard it I thought it was an old text put to music, just as it is common in the Medieval/pagan folk scene to do, but I couldn’t be more wrong. The band wrote a song about the ultimate climax between two lovers, and then translated that into Latin! And the best thing about it? it is not a cheese gimmick; it’s really well written. The lyrics are truly poetic, and the music is also well-composed, making Nehalennia a lovely song.

The second song, The Trail, is another pleasant folk-pop song, this time dipped in a wee bit of country sauce, mainly through the vocals. It’s followed by Baídín Fheilimí, a well known Irish children’s tune sung quite often in schools. I love the interpretation of Twigs & Twine. Lian has a lovely voice that blends really well with the piano, low whistle, and autoharp but also with her fellow musician’s voices in this tender ballad.
It says a lot about the band that Lian went to her old Irish teacher to work on her ‘accent’ for this song. The songs and explanations in the extended booklet, (the band actually wrote a separate book for the liner notes called Long Story Longer, as they became too big to fit in the CD), may look witty and fun, but Twigs and Twine do take their music seriously.



‘t Witte Wiefje is a song in Dutch about a farmboy who got caught in a deadly dance with ‘een Witte Wief’ , a cross between a witch and a ghost found in the mist, mostly known in legends in the east of Holland. The whole arrangement of the song sounds so Dutch to me (in a good way though!). In Holland, we have a long tradition of cabaret. Cabaret is a type of comedy similar to stand up comedy, but in cabaret the comedian usually has a general storyline or a main theme flowing through his show, binding the jokes together. Quite often the comedian will also sing some songs that are more serious, more meant to make you think about what the comedian is trying to say with his jokes. Those songs used to be influenced by french chansons, but evolved and became a specific theatrical style of their own, and are usually either voice and piano, or the comedian singing with a small duo or trio of piano, guitar and double bass in the background. For a non-Dutch/Belgium/German reader, think of the song Edelweiss in The Sound Of Music. That comes pretty close to what I’m describing. Many of Twigs & Twine’s songs carry the same ‘klein Kunst’ DNA as songs made by well known Dutch artists like Acda En De Munnik or Claudia de Breij.

Messe Ocus Pangur Bán is the next song with a clear klein kunst DNA. The ukelele and cheerful flute make it a song that could easily be in the repertoire of Dutch comedian Brigitte Kaandorp. Just a fun little song to fully enjoy. I really love the bluesy mouth organ in it. And saying all that about a song that is actually a 9th-century poem by an Irish monk put to music. Talking about making a song your own!
The Nightingale is -again- an older text that got the Twigs & Twine makeover. It’s an adaptation of a poem from Brittany, the general melody makes me think a lot of the Dutch folk band AmmA, but with that clear Twigs & Twine sauce poured over it.

Maiden in the Mor Lay is probably my favorite song on Long story Short. A song Twigs & Twine found in the back of a book about Middle English. It features all of the beautiful voices of Twigs and Twine, Luca taking the lead in this one and all the others following suit, only accompanied by guitar and cajon, making the song almost a capella and very reminiscent of Omnia in this specific case. It is sung really beautifully. As is the next track: Song of the Exiled. A lovely ballad in the style of |Gwendolyn Snowdon with some beautiful harmonies: one of Twigs and Twine’s standout trademarks.
Which brings me to the only downside of Long Story Short. I wish that the band would have gotten a better sound on this album. For some reason the studio engineer and mixer decided to use a lot of reverb on the voices, making them sound very indirect. Sometimes there is so much reverb that it seems the microphone is standing in the middle of the room, with the singers standing some meters away from it. I have to be honest, I am not a fan of that sound. In my opinion, it takes away a lot of the beauty of the voices and the fragile yet beautiful piano, harp or guitar arrangements the band so carefully thought out which is such a shame. Songs like This Is Fun, the stunning instrumental Epiphany In D, Mirie It Is or indeed songs like Nehalennia and The Trail could have sounded so much better with a more direct mix.



All in all Twigs & Twine have made a lovely debut. Their Klein Kunst (theater) folk is positive, vibrant and full of energy and I really enjoyed listening to it. People who enjoy the music of AmmA, Omnia’s Poetry album, or the music of theatre acts like Claudia the Brey of Reinhard Mey will most likely enjoy Long Story Short too. I myself am already looking forward to the next album of this young band.

– Cliff

– Editor: Gwendolyn Snowdon
– bandportrait: Marlike Marks

CeltCast Classic – Back of the Moon – Luminosity (2005)



The last months we started a new series of reviews that we call the CeltCast Classics. In this series, we feature older albums that we feel deserve to be in the spotlight one more time either because of their importance, their influence on the scene, or just because they are stunningly beautiful. Now the collective CeltCast record collection will be quite enough to keep us going for a good while, but we felt it would be way more interesting if we would ask well-known people from the scene to nominate a CeltCast classic. The very first we asked to do so was no other then Vana‘s creative director and one of the masterminds behind Castlefest and Keltfest, Mark van der Stelt.
His answer came swiftly:” I’ve narrowed it down to 3 options, The Corrs, Back of the Moon or Loreena Mckennitt. It’s gonna be Luminosity by Back of the Moon, that’s the album I play the most. The first time I heard this CD I knew I wanted to invite this band on one of our podia. The music comes together perfectly. Delightful timing, and the voice of the singer is brilliant.
Sadly they split up. It would be really something if they would be willing to grace Keltfest for a one-time reunion concert!


Albumcover Gillian frame and back of the moon So the research began. Who were Back of the Moon? What did their music sound like? What are the band members up to nowadays? And most importantly, can we still get a hold of their music? Well, Back of the Moon are a Scottish band that formed in 2000, first under the name Gillian Frame & Back of the Moon. The founding band members were Gillian Frame (fiddle, vocals), Simon McKerrell (border pipes, uillean pipes, whistle, vocals) and Hamish Napier, (piano, vocals). In 2001 Findlay Napier (guitar, vocals) was asked to join the band and with that line-up, the band released their first album Gillian Frame & Back of the Moon on the Foot Stompin’Records label. In 2003 their second record Fortune’s Road came out. A lovely Scottish folk album, mixing Scottish instrumental folk songs with traditional sounding vocal songs. At that point, they shortened the band name to Back of the Moon.

album cover Back of the moon, fortune's road Fortune’s Road won the band their first accolades, winning Best Up and Coming Act at the Scots Trad Music awards back in 2003 and Best Celtic Group” at Festival Interceltique de Lorient.
After that Simon McKerrell left the band and was replaced by Ali Hutton (border pipes, whistle, Bodhrán) and in that formation Back of the Moon recorded Luminosity which was also released by Foot Stompin’Records in 2005 and is still available through them as digital album. (for information click here)
With Luminosity, Back of the Moon won the title of Best Folk Band with the Scots Trad Music awards. A well-deserved reward! Sadly, in November 2007 the curtain was drawn for the last time, as Back of the Moon played their very last gig at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC.
As far as I can see only Luminosity is still officially available with Foot Stompin’, but CD’s are still regularly available second hand through eBay and Amazon, and that is how we got our copy of this brilliant CD, ’cause I can already tell you this really is a gem. So let’s dive into it!

Wow, that opening stands. That’s the first thing I thought as I heard the powerful first piano chords of Lumsden’s Rant. This sounded more like a pop album, a bit like Keane actually, not like the Celtic folk I was expecting. Not for long though. Soon enough the pipes, violin and whistles join in the fun for a good old Gaelic dance tune, full of energy, full of cool variations in the melody. Still, it’s not in your typical folk style, the piano chords and pop arrangements under it give it some extra dynamics, as if Keane indeed started playing Scottish folk. Back of the Moon has me wide awake after this strong opener.

I actually expected the band to carry on with that same full-on energy but no, they change down gears all the way with the second and third song; Glenlogie and Nine Stone Rig. Both are beautiful ballads that wouldn’t look out of place on any good singer-songwriter album.
Glenlogie is – according to the booklet – one of the few traditional Scottish ballads with a happy ending and it features the beautiful voice of Findlay Napier. You can compare it to Belgian singer-songwriter Milow. Findlay has the same pleasant, friendly tone that Milow has. Your mind instantly calms down when he starts singing. Mesmerising. And Back of the Moon had two such those voices! As you can hear on Nine Stone Rig, Gillian Frame is blessed with an equally mesmerising voice, a wee bit like Shantalla’s Helen Flaherty. It’s rare for a band to have two singers of this calibre and luckily Back of the Moon makes full use of them.
Both Glenlogie and Nine Stone Rig are lovely calming ballads, played ever so tenderly, weaving a blanket of soothing notes around the vocalists, making them sound even warmer and softer than they already are. The lovely trumpet ‘solo’ in Glenlogie or the flute improvisations in Nine Stone Rig are the icing on the cake. What a wonderful start to this album.



Back of the Moon performing The Brewer lady at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, 2007

The fourth song, Eggs In The Kitchen, is the second of the six instrumental folksongs you’ll find on Luminosity. This time it starts more traditional, a gentle violin melody opens this song, named after a remark grandpa Napier once made:’There are eggs in the kitchen!.’ Well, it must have been scrambled eggs, cause when the pipes come in the tempo accelerates fast and Eggs In The Kitchen becomes a tasty mix of Celtic folk meets upbeat pop music. I actually love the pop arrangements Back of the Moon added to their instrumental songs. It gives them something extra. A bit of extra punch.
It always sounds so easy, recording a Gaelic jig or reel, but it actually is really hard. First, you need a catchy tune, then the talent to keep the variations interesting and lastly the imagination to give it the arrangement that makes it stand out from all those other dance tunes out there. Back Of the Moon combined all those talents. This includes the cool stereo effects in Eggs In the Kitchen, the lovely melodies and variations in songs like Lumsden’s Rant, Eggs In he Kitchen or Goodfellas, or the lovely pop arrangements and trombone halfway through the latter song. Back of the moon has it all.
With Joey Beauty and Voodoo Chilli, the band even recorded two instrumental ballads! And good ones at that. Joey Beauty, for instance, is a beautiful love song, sung not by vocals, but by Gillian on fiddle and Hamish on flute.

Now that I’ve mentioned them, ballads are the speciality of Back of the Moon. I already mentioned Glenlogie and Nine Stone Rig, but there are way more gems like that on Luminosity. Gillian’s beautiful voice (and also Ali’s lovely whistle melodies) shine once more in The Final Trawl.
Brewer Lad is a positive upbeat folk song, sung by Findlay Napier, reminding me a lot of the German band Cara who we featured in our previous CeltCast Classics. I especially like how Findlay and Gillian’s voices blend together here. A match made in heaven.

I’ve saved the best for last though. A song that is also Mark van de Stelts favourite: Ship In A Bottle. It starts with a stunning violin and flute intro that made me totally tear up the first time I heard it. I still get goosebumps all over when this song starts. Findlay’s voice is absolutely beautiful in this touching ballad of what could have been but never was. One of the best ballads I’ve heard in a long while. Celtic singer-songwriter folk at its very, very best! I fully understand why Mark nominated Luminosity to be a CeltCast Classic. This song alone makes this album worth that title. You may need to search a bit to obtain it, but it will be so worth the effort. Luminosity is a wonderful pop-folk album. I can only hope that Mark manages to make his wish come true and that Back of the Moon will grace the stage one more time. I know that I’ll be standing right there, front row, taking it all in. Guaranteed



-Cliff
-editor: Diane Deroubaix

Special thanks to Mark van der Stelt and Diane Deroubaix for providing me with the music and inspiration.

Epilogue After the breakup of Back of the Moon, all bandmembers remained extremely active within the Scottish folk scene. Here is a small summary:
Simon McKerrell now has a PhD. To quote his biography: ‘Dr Simon McKerrell is a Reader in Music and Society at Newcastle University and has previously worked at the Universities of Sheffield, Glasgow and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He is interested in the social impact of music and the creative industries. His current research focuses on music in the creative economy in rural areas and takes an interdisciplinary and mixed methods approach to the relationship between culture and policy. He is the author of Focus: Scottish Traditional Music (Routledge), and the Co-Editor of both Music as Multimodal Discourse: Media, Power and Protest (Bloomsbury) and Understanding Scotland Musically: Folk, Tradition, Modernity (Routledge).” He is also still actively playing the pipes.
More info on that can be found on his website: https://simonmckerrell.com/

portrait Ali Hutton – Ali Hutton has been extremely busy since 2007 sharing his talent with numerous folk acts and bands, building up a discography that counts well over thirty records! Among them are Ross Ainslie, with whom he has the Ross and Ali project, which at the moment is BIG news in the UK and the band Old blind dogs. He is also a founding member of the Treacherous Orchestra, which, according to Findlay Napier, is a HUGE band in the British folk scene -and I’ll gladly take his word in it.
For all info: https://alihutton.com/



portrait Hamish Napier– – Hamish Napier has been just as active as Ali Hutton, working as a tutor; a composer; a producer and co-arranger a solo artist and a live performer. He does that as part of the duo Nae Plans with fiddler Adam Sutherland; with Duncan Chrishom’s ‘gathering’; as well as the Jarlath Henderson band. He also works together with Ross Ainslie in his Sanctuary band.
Next to that, he has received many more accolades over the years. Among them, Best composer and Best tutor of the year with the Scots Trad music awards, AND has his own solo work out. The lovely albums The River (2016) and The Railroad (2018). Both cd’s I’m sure will find their way to my review table at some point in time.,/br> More info: https://www.hamishnapier.com/

portrait Gillian Frame -Gillian Frame, just as all other former Back of the Moon members, has been an active contributor to the Scottish folk scene, as a tutor but also a session musician with acts such as The Unusual Suspects, Breabach, Treacherous Orchestra, Rachel Sermanni, Deaf Shepherd, Mairearad Green and Anna and Duncan Lyall’s infinite reflections.
In February 2016 she released a solo album called Pendulum, a CD of which she herself says: ‘This is a collection of songs and tunes that have cemented themselves into my repertoire over the last 15 or so years. Favourites from both performing and teaching contexts and arranged here with the support of the wonderful Mike Vass, Anna Massie and Euan Burton. ‘
Together with her husband Findlay Napier she has also been active in the Findlay Napier Trio and a soon to be launched new project called The ledger
More info is found here: https://www.gillianframe.com/

– Last but not least is Findlay Napier, who has also been busy, releasing three solo albums, VIP: Very Interesting Persons in 2015; the mini CD very Interesting Extras in 2016 and Glasgow in October 2017.
Furthermore, he is touring with The Findlay Napier duo, trio, quartet or band, depending on the wishes of the venue. he is about to launch a new project with his wife Gillian Frame called The Ledger; he also became a tutor just like Gillian and Hamish and organises the Glasgow Songwriting Festival.
More info on Findlay Napier is to be found here: https://www.findlaynapier.com/

Ritual Duir – The Path Of Druids (2019) review



This is going to be a review that is very, very dear my heart. It all started in 2018 when Rose Avalon – who had already left Cuélebre at that moment- and Belenosa Alba – a flutist and horn player Rose met the previous year- gave me, among others, a 3 track demo with the request to give some honest feedback. On that demo were three acoustic tribal pagan folk songs with some amazing vocals from Rose. So my feedback was short and sweet. ‘Rose, I love this!’
Over the next one and a half years, Rose and Belenosa kept sending me updates that kept whetting my appetite. At this year’s summer Castlefest I finally got the full demo version of The Path Of Druids. And although still not in it’s final mix, the music blew me away. ‘This can’t get any better.’ I thought. But listening to the finished album I realize how wrong I was. It CAN, and it DID! And the best thing about it? I can FINALLY break the silence!!! Everybody!! Rose Avalon has a new pagan folk CD out! It’s called The Path Of Druids!! And it sounds A-MA-ZING!!!!!
Of course we know Rose Avalon as the lady who replaced Marta Gálves as the lead singer of the Spanish pagan folk band Cuélebre. A band she joined because she wanted to express her love for folk music and her passion for nature. But Rose has been making music her whole life. At the age of 18, she recorded her first pop-rock demo under the name Equivocada Humanidas. She studied drama and acting and did some cinematic work in Barcelona, having one of the lead roles in the movie Pactar con el gato for instance. She even wrote a vampire novel called Nocturne Para Violín – Nocturne For Violin that is still easily available as eBook. In the last seven years, she has been making progressive folk metal with her band Rose Avalon, recording a first album called Northern Strengths that came out in 2014. During those metal years, her desire to make pagan folk became bigger and bigger, so a wish came true when she was allowed to join Cuélebre as their second lead singer.
Rose Avalon and Belenosa Alba, Ritual Duir In September 2017 Rose left Cuelebre again to focus on her own music as a singer and bagpipe player and formed Ritual Duir, together with somebody who crossed her roads, who had an equally big interest in Celtic music, had the same passion for nature and who became a dear friend: Belenosa Alba on backing vocals, flute and horns.
Belenosa also dedicated her whole life to music, she started playing music when she was 6. In a chat she told me: ‘Learning music is really expensive, but luckily I could join a music school founded by people who were willing to do that for free so that the kids could experience other skills than only sports or dance.’ It was a project that inspired her so much she now does the same thing herself, running a music school that teaches the kids for free.
In the end she was able to study classical flute at the Conservatory of Music of Barcelona. But she always had a love for Celtic music. When she and Rose finally met, everything changed. Ritual Duir was born.
The band’s line up was completed when drummer/ percussionist Jose Mouro and guitarist David R joined Ritual Duir prior to the release of Path Of The Druids. Rose explains on her webpage that Ritual Duir was created in honour of the trees, the forest, the fauna, and the ancient druidic wisdom. The band does that with a powerful mix of tribal pagan folk music and touches of Rose’s metal background. A mix that makes them unique in the pagan folk scene. A mix that makes The Path Of Druids, one of the best, most powerful pagan folk albums I have ever heard.

The musical magic starts right after the spoken intro, with a cool keyboard melody line that reminds me a lot of that used by bands of the new age/dance scene in the ’90’s like Sacred Spirit or Dance to Trance in their big hit American Natives. But Ritual Duir doesn’t put a big beat under it, nor do they flow into a mellow soundscape, no they use that same sound to create a dark mystique musical carpet, just as bands like Trobar de Morte do so well. Those Trobar the Morte like keyboard soundscapes run through every song on The Path Of Druids, giving the album an ancient, slightly dark feel.
This feel is even enhanced by the deep shamanic tribal drum that not only drives the first song –When The Human Arrives– on, but is found all over The Path Of Druids. Rose and Belenose managed to capture a strong ancient feel in really catchy songs that draw you in instantly. And then I didn’t even mention the biggest highlight of The Path Of Druids yet. The vocals! Rose Avalon is blessed with an amazingly versatile voice, powered by some huge lungs. She can do it all! powerful clean metal vocals, soft angry whispering, high classical soprano, soulful rock vocals, and jazzy singing lines, she throws it all in as if it is nothing.
It’s the combination of her strong vocal performance and the dark intense music that gives the lyrics of The Path Of Druids its power. And those lyrics are important. Rose, who wrote all the lyrics, has something to say. When The Human Arrives, for instance, is a clear statement about how she feels the human race is mistreating and polluting the earth.



The second song Samonios is dedicated to the Samhain ritual. In this song Ritual Duir takes us through the veil into the ancient world of the Celts, the age of Boudica, and again in a very powerful way. Ritual Duir doesn’t think in style boundaries. They give the music what it needs. We already met Rose’s powerful metal voice, and the band isn’t afraid to through in a strong electric guitar chord when the music needs it either. They play ever so cleverly with the contrast between clean acoustic guitar and recorder and the dramatic powerful sounds of the keyboards and rock guitar. It is if you are listening to a jam session between Cuélebre, Trobar de Morte and Wadruna who invited Josh Elliot of The Dolmen to add his guitar sound. Deep, dark and powerful! Just listen to that deep male choir under Rose her vocal solo escapade! So clever. So well arranged.

Wild Balance is a cheerful upbeat song. This is Rose is at her best as a singer. Her voice is so expressive, she uses her acting background so well. She can sound cheerful and loving -as she does here- angry and vicious, deeply sad -as she does astonishingly well in the song Tears For Ynys Mön– or seriously threatening. That alone makes this record so appealing to me. But it is not only that. It is also the wonderfully written and well-arranged songs on The Path Of Druids. Every song is a delight for the ears. a rock opera in itself. That is what this album actually is. A pagan-folk rock opera. In Wild Balance Rose’s loving friendly voice, together with the upbeat tribal drums; Belenosa’s recorder melody; the acoustic guitar and Rose’s bagpipe, invite us all to connect with mother nature in the ancient Celtic way. Again that Josh Elliot electric guitar riff at the end of the song gives the music an extra layer. A deeper dimension. And I’m loving it.

Not all songs are about nature, To Come Back Home addresses three strong topics at one go: The stupidity and destructiveness of war; female independence, and the hurt of someone who loses a loved one. Rose throws out some impressive ‘panting’ vocals as Eivør does in the song Trøllabundin. Again the message is packed in that stunning mix of pure pagan folk and female-fronted metal power. Electric rock guitar, recorder, bagpipe, keyboards, they all add up to create a really strong sound that it is truly mesmerizing me.

Now I could really go on and on about The Path of Druids, taking every single song and going into every detail of why I love it, but that would take away all the fun of discovering this wonderful album yourself. So I won’t mention the bagpipe on Your Memories Will Rest In The Trees that make it seem like Corvus Corvax just joined this pagan folk extravaganza. I won’t tell, how Rose’s acting skills really shine on Tears Of Ynys Mön. How she acts out the grief of a whole Celtic tribe whose lands have been burned to the ground by an enemy. Nor will I mention the lovely, almost theatrical ballad Stars, or the fun energetic folk party that is called The Magic Feast Of Lugnasad. But I do want to compliment producer Marcel Graell at the Nowhere studio in Barcelona who gave The Path Of Druids such an amazing sound. he managed to capture every note, every detail in the music, amplifying that beautiful contrast between acoustic and electronic instruments and making the most of the talents of all members of Ritual Duir.

The Path Of Druids is one of the best pagan folk albums I have heard to date, better yet, I personally think it is one of the best albums to grace my CD player ever. The last time I was so taken by a record was the first time I heard Dies, Nox Et Omnia, Cesair’s debut masterpiece. And that is where I want to place The Path Of Druids too. Although I have to add a small side note to that. The power of The Path Of Druids comes from the deep tribal drums, the clever layers of low synthesizer chords contrasting with the clear acoustic melodies and the low electric guitar chords amplifying the powerful vocals. Most of the time I’ve listened to this album through my headphones and then you become part of the music, You hear it, you feel it, it incases you. Listen to this album on a sound system that lacks that bass sound, well, you’ll probably be wondering why I am so enthusiastic about The Path Of Druids. This record is just like the music of Heilung. You need a full-body experience to really make it work. Play this album as the band had in mind while making it, and you will find that is is a true tribal pagan folk masterpiece! A must-have for all who love the dark pagan folk of Cuélebre, the epic folk of Cesair and the powerful sound of symphonic metal legends as Ayreon or Leave’s eyes.
To answer Rose and Belenosa’s question when they send me the album: ‘Do I like it? Yes, I LOVE it!!!!!”

– Cliff

Editor: Sara Weeda
pictures: Ritual Duir

Ye Banished Privateers – First Night Back In Port (2017)



It is June the 30th, in the year of our Lord 1717. Under the black shroud of a storm-swept night, a dark ship creeps into an unknown harbor of a forgotten town, somewhere deeply hidden on a jagged coast. Her dark, battered sails are flapping in the stormy winds. Her black flags all down, mourning the loss of all those who were left behind; in the treacherous waves of Cape Horn; the deep seas of the Pacific and the distant shores of far-away Georgia.
As the ship, loaded with the bounty it seized in the last two years of her travels, finally moors for a well-deserved rest, her crew, pockets filled to the brim with gold and pearls, sneak off the gangboard into the dark alleys surrounding the old wharfs of this godforsaken place.
Silently we follow suit. Making sure we hide in the shadows of the old houses in this dark side of town. Nothing moves in the relentless rain. All sounds are muffled in the gusts of wind that shriek through the broken windows of abandoned buildings. A big rat slips into a gutter as we see the crew disappear in a black alley.
We wait until the gusts of rain die down for a brief moment. From the alley comes the soft sound of laughter and music. At the end of it, a bright light pours under an old crooked, wooden door. A black cat, jumping into the window opposite of it, pushes open some filthy rags that once were curtains. For a brief second, it reveals a huge figure, using a huge knife to tickle a poor sailor’s neck.
As we near the door, it suddenly cracks open, as the poor sailor is thrown into the cold night, his head is soon to follow, rolling down the alley till it stops in front of our feet.
Through the – now open – door we can see a busty lady singing on top of a dirty bar, holding a big bottle of rum. Around her are the locals, their mugs raised as they roar along with her song. Amongst them are the crew. Their eyes already red from the smoke of pipes, the many pints of beer and the sight of the ladies sitting there on their laps. The ladies’ eyes are firmly fixed on the filled purses of the men, whose cheeks they are now kissing.
As one of the sailors joins in with the song, the busty lady nonchalantly crashes the bottle on his bold head, sending him swirling for the floor. With a loud roar, the men grab him, head and feet. Within seconds he’s flying out the window, scaring the living daylights out of the black cat that is grooming herself just at that moment. The men return to their drinks, one or two of them counting the gold they suddenly have in their hands.
Welcome in the Schwarzer Kater. The only place Ye Banished Privateers can call home. As they celebrate their first night in port.

Ye Banished Privateers are a Swedish pirate crew that sails the concert halls and festivals with their catchy pirate folk music. The origins of the band go back to 2008 when Peter Mollwing (last picture below) and Björn Malmros (left) started asking other musicians to join their pirate folk idea. The idea clearly caught on because 23 (!) different musicians are listed as band members in the credits of First Night Back In Port, which is their 3rd CD. At a concert you can easily expect 12 to 15 band members to be there at any given time, putting up a show that is as much a visual spectacle as it is a concert. If they are in the neighborhood, this is a band of pirates you don’t want to miss.

The basis for Ye Banished Privateers’ pirate folk sound is a mix between shanty songs and traditional folk with an occasional gypsy flavor to top it all of. Ye Banished Privateers’ main weapons of choice are a fiddle, flute, accordion, and banjo, giving the music a real positive, feel-good vibe. All poured into some grand, musical like arrangements, bound to get a big smile on your face. But the strongest point of Y.B.P are the vocals. At least 5 crew members share the lead vocals, male and female, covering the whole range of 17th/18th-century sailor and buccaneer life. Quite often, the whole crew is enlisted to do the backing vocals. The big sound of this choir and the 23 piece band is what gives Y.B.P’s pirate folk its unique folk/musical feel.

As I said, lyrically Y.B.P tells the tale of the early 18th century sailors. It all starts with the story of poor Annabel buried in Georgia, a really strong ballad impressively sung by Magda Anderson. We hear stories of sailors making deals with the devil. Tales are told of sailors press-ganged in service. There is a homage to rum -not just any old rum, no Cooper’s rum!- and there is the sad love song of a man trying to keep his lady (!) onshore, all of them sung with the same power and authenticity.
And that is the real magic of Ye Banished Privateers. Their music doesn’t feel like a gimmick. You believe them. They ARE the crew of a ragged ship. The scum of the seven seas. The whole CD pours out sailor’s folk. If it’s ballads like Annabel, Skippy Aye Yo or A Mermaid’s Kiss, mid-tempo sing-alongs like Cooper’s Rum, All The Way To Galway, I Dream of You and A Night In The Schwarzer Kater, or up-tempo dance songs like First Night At Port, they are all well-composed , instant sing-a-long, feel-good songs. So get out your sailor’s hat, your eye patch and your bottle of rum. And welcome to the world of Ye Banished Privateers!



-Cliff

-Editor: Diane Deroubaix
-Pictures: Cliff de Booy

Hans Elzinga – Introspective (2019) Review



It’s always an exciting moment when a new CD arrives at CeltCast HQ and it goes into the CD player. What can we expect? is it good? Do we like it? Which songs can we play? All questions that are spinning through our minds as the first seconds of a new CD tick away. In the case of Hans Elzinga these questions were quickly answered. Yes, we did like it and soon enough the music team started sending each other messages, telling us about how much we liked this beautiful, calming CD.
But this album also posed a problem: Although it was recorded by a member of the Dutch folk band Parsley; although it was acoustic guitar music; although it was recorded by the amazing ‘sound witch’ (Hans’ words, not mine) Fieke van den Hurk at her Dearworld studio, one thing it wasn’t: folk music. A slight problem if your station’s format is based on acoustic ‘folk’ music. So we had a quick virtual team meeting and decided to bend the rules as far as we possibly could because this album deserves all the attention we can give it.
So here we go, we give you Introspective, an instrumental album by Dutch acoustic guitar – and flute player Hans Elzinga. We have already established that Introspective isn’t a folk album as such, so what is it then? Well, I would call it one of the best contemporary instrumental guitar and flute albums I’ve heard in a long time.
Hans is a D.I.Y artist and a very, very talented one for that matter. He composed all the songs, played all the guitar most of the flute and whistle. He often – during live performances at least – uses a loop pedal so he can accompany himself on rhythm guitar while he plays the guitar- or flute solos. He also made his own nylon string flamenco guitar, and he deliberately uses heavier strings for the 1st and 6th position on his steel-string guitar, so he can get the lower, more rich sound he is looking for. Combine a musician like this – somebody clearly seeking his own way in music- with Fieke van den Hurk and something really special starts to happen. As we all know Fieke will also go the extra- sometimes unconventional- mile to find that specific sound an instrument, a song or even a single note needs, so combine those two together and you get a silver disc filled with magic.
If you also add Rob Musters on soprano sax, Davide Lionette on percussion, Stan Stolk -former Flairck– on double bass ánd Parsley colleague Maaike van der Waal on Irish flute, then heaven opens for the true music lover.

With me talking so much about compositions and acoustic guitars it’s easy to think Introspective consists of classical guitar recitals. When you look at the song titles, De Klank Van Wierook, Sterrenlicht, Dryadendans, you are just as likely to think Introspective is a new age music album. Neither are true. All songs are true and proper pop songs, with a clear start and finish and a down to earth feel to it. A soulful feel as well. Sometimes the songs are clean ballads, sometimes bluesy grooves, sometimes jazzy improvisations and sometimes even acoustic prog-pop soundscapes. (I didn’t even know those existed, but Hans plays them.) He himself refers to 80’s acts like Genesis or Pat Metheny as possible references. With his slightly bluesy, soulful, clean way of playing, I would like to add the acoustic segments played by Mark Knopfler in his 80’s Dire Straits days and the solo work of Tommy Bolin: one of the former solo guitarists of Deep Purple that sadly passed away way too soon. (Just give Gypsy Soul a listen and you’ll know what I mean)

Many of Hans’ songs remind me of the acoustic guitar sections that were so common in the music of ’70s and ’80s- just think of Pink Floyd’s intro of Wish You Were Here, Dire Straits’ Telegraph Road or Once Upon A Time In The West, But where bands of those days then went into the rock part, or the voices came in, Hans keeps it acoustic, the voices replaced by either his lead guitar melody or the flute/whistle tunes he plays. And I’m loving every note of it.
Now I won’t go into every song individually, that would be silly – for one how many times can you say this is beautiful acoustic guitar music before it gets boring to read- So I’ll just pick out my favorites as I listen and comment on those.

My first favorite is opening song De Klank Van Wierook – the sound of essence- Just as essence this song fills your whole room with gentle, beautiful (first time) guitar chords but, as I said before, in a pleasant ‘grounded’ way. It’s a song, not a floating spacy soundscape. I love how this song just seems to slow down time and make you feel all relax in your mind. The soothing low whistle part just adds to that feel perfectly. The best cure against stress I used in a loooong time.

Lu Core Meu is partly inspired by a painting from Johfra called “Het vertrek van de tempelschatten, and partly by a south Italian folk song: Lu Rusciu Te Le Mare. The beginning of the song has this slight Mediterranean, slightly Spanish feel to it. That feel ends when Hans starts looping the second guitar theme he plays and starts playing bamboo flute over it. The loop has a hypnotizing effect, used just as effectively as a certain Mike Oldfield did many decades ago in songs like Incantations part 2. The mesmerizing bamboo flute gives this song a lovely pagan folk feel.

If I wasn’t calm by now, the sound of waves, used as an intro for the song Golven -waves- will do the trick quite nicely. But not only the sound effect does. Hans’ beautiful (second time) guitar melody again has that calming tranquil effect. Listening to Golven I also find it unbelievable how much ‘sound’ Fieke manages to pull out of a single guitar. It is as if every string has its own little microphone. Astonishing work.

The title song Introspective, as almost all the songs on this album, starts with a ‘simple’ but beautifully (third time) calming guitar melody. In all his compositions Hans takes his time to develop these melodies further and further, and Introspective with its length of 9:12 minutes is no exception. And the best bit: every note is there for a reason, it has a place and a meaning. therefore the music flows through your mind as a total bliss of calm notes. Then, in this song Introspective, the pace picks up, the energy level rises and percussionist Davide Lionetti joins in while Hans’ whistle playing turns this calm peaceful bit of guitar music into a weird acid jazz acoustic rock thing. It is as if I’m back to the days when I heard my first Flairck album. Peter Weekers, then Flute player of this groundbreaking Dutch formation, could literally talk with his flute, something I also know from Acid jazz rockers Sweet Smoke; SeeD‘s lovely flute player Koen van Egmond and, now also from Hans Elzinga. Easily one of my favourite bits on this impressive album.



Talking about Flairck, one of the many former Flairck members Stan Stolk plays double bass on Sterrenlicht – starlight- he is, after Percussionist Davide Lionetti, the second guest musician to appear on Introspective, in this song together with Rob Musters on soprano sax.
Sterrenlicht was written while Hans was playing on the Taribush Kuna festival in the art installation of Bart Ensing and Lidwina Charpentier. A fairylike experience he says, never to forget.
So you might think this could finally turn new age-ish. Not Hans, we go jazz, easy jazz, think Gare Du Nord without the beats. Lovely calming again, but always grounded, it always serves the song. This is the music you want to hear in a small amphitheatre. With some easy lights and everybody sinking in real comfy in a huge pile of pillows instead of hard theatre chairs. (That would be a magical experience, a concert played by Hans like that.)

Drempel – threshold- has a soulful acoustic Mark Knopfler feel to it and would also fit perfectly in that pillow themed concert. The seventh song, Dryadendans – dryads dance-, is another song that has all the ingredients for a pagan folk- or new age song in its title and in the explanation about its origin in the booklet. But again no. The song flows from a typical Hans Elzinga solo acoustic guitar opening into lovely acoustic prog-pop, then into some prog rock meets Dire Straits as Hans brings that low 6th string into full use. I didn’t know acoustic prog rock existed, but Hans is playing it right here, right now. What a lovely section around that 4-minute mark.
And things are about to get even better. (better if you have the same taste for music as I have that is.) Hans brings in Stan Stolk and Rob Musters one more time for another song based upon a Johfra painting: Middernachtmystie -Midnight Mystery-. This song has Flairck written al over it. Strong guitar chords, a lovely free jazz improvisation part by saxophonist Rob, Hans his intriguing style of talking whistle cutting through the music. This is really the highlight of the CD for me, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was done in one recording session, it sure feels like it. It has this feel of musicians starting a song, flowing with it, not knowing when it will end, not caring about that anyway and a sound genius capturing it all. To be a fly on the wall at that moment. I really wish I was.
Just as Flairck does, Hans brings down the intensity of the song halfway through again for a lovely bit of calming flute and beautiful (fifth time, is it getting boring already?) Spanish style guitar. But not for long. Rob’s Soprano sax starts ripping that calm moment to pieces again, quick to be followed by Hans’ spoken whistle improvisations. In one word, A-MA-ZING.

Well, that -only point out a few of my favorite bits- idea turned out nicely. NOT! With the ninth song Onder De Oude Eik – under the old oak tree- we are at the end of Introspective and I mentioned them all! It says a lot about this album actually. Introspective is a highlight that lasts 54:09 minutes. Timeless acoustic guitar music at its very very best.



Video Café Acoustique shared with kind permission of Omroep Heemskerk.

– Cliff

Editor: Sara Weeda
Sleeve art: Nienke Cleveringa






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