Every week Ilona gives me an update of the music that she has added to the CeltCast radio stream, and every week I listen to what’s new, and which records I personally would love to put a spotlight on. It only took a few seconds of listening to the opening track Old Climbing Tree of
debut CD Hours Awake for me to decide that yes, this most definitely will be on the review list. What an A-MA-ZING voice. What a song. I simply love it!! That was the easy part, but then came the harder bit: writing a review.
And so the adventure started. First listening to the album a couple of times, having a look at the booklet for some more info, and last but not least going to Rachel’s website for the last details that I needed to write a nice introduction – or so I thought. Because if you really want to write something about Rachel Croft’s background you have to dig deep. I found no biography, no interview, no Wikipedia entry, nothing. It didn’t matter which angle I tried, I drew a blank. Until I desperately started searching for videos I could use on YouTube. That’s where I finally managed to puzzle a wee bit of her story together. With a big thank you to early fan Martin Waring, who recorded several of the earliest performances that Rachel did in her hometown of York.
As far as I have been able to find out, Rachel Croft is a young singer-songwriter from York. She started her career in her hometown doing open mic performances, gigs in local establishments, in the University of York – where she also studied- and busking on the streets of her hometown. It was in 2014 that Martin Waring, a local photographer, spotted Rachel performing in the streets of York, something he had hoped for after seeing her at an open mic performance. And he recorded her playing the song Songbird, a cover of American blues and jazz singer
Rachel Croft performing Songbird in York, 2014. Recorded by Martin Waring
In the following year he kept track of her and recorded some lovely street performances of her doing classic pop songs such as
Sting’sFields of Gold,
Taylor Swift’sDear John and a really powerful version of
Sam Smith’s Stay With Me. But she also sings a beautiful version of
folk anthem Song for Ireland and the Irish classic The Fields of Athenry. In a studio performance she did for the
Pear Tree Sessions
in 2015 she also recorded two folk classics: The Fields of Athenry again and also The Wild Mountain Thyme. Look them up, they are stunning performances.
In 2016 videos of Rachel’s singer-songwriter street performances kept popping up on YouTube, but also a video of
The Croft Mullen Band,
where she is performing theDuke Ellington
classic It Don’t Mean a Thing together with pianist
: a jazzy song she also nails!
In November 2017 Rachel’s very first single, Only Dreams (a song that luckily also found its way on Hours Awake) came out. She wrote it herself and recorded it with the help of Rachel Brown on cello, Emlyn Vaughan on double bass, bandmate Karl Mullen on piano and synth and
on electric guitar. The latter also responsible for recording, mixing and co-producing it. (Most of them also helped out recording Hours Awake, but I’m getting ahead of myself now.)
Only Dreams is a stunning, stunning song, that takes the best of her pop, singer-songwriter and jazz background. It is a beautiful guitar ballad. It reminds me of
Chris Isaac’sWicked Games, also a fragile yet powerful ballad.
When you only listen to the melody and instruments, Only Dreams is already beautiful, the subtle cello, piano and keys with over it this deep-cutting, soul-jerking, yet still fragile slide guitar notes. But the biggest selling point of Only Dreams is Rachel’s voice. Her vocals are stunning. Plain and simple! Her voice is deep, rich, oozing with soul, and she has perfect control over it. It is hard to describe her voice. Take the deep, rich sound of
Vaya Con Dios‘
Dani Klein, the soul voice of
the singer-songwriter qualities of the early
(at the time of her debut 19) and the rich seventies feel of 70’s stars like
Karen Carpenter or
Helen ‘I am Woman’ Reddy.
Then YouTube went quiet, so I had to go on Facebook. In December 2017 Rachel announced that she had started recording new material with Dan Webster for a full-length album. 95% made possible through crowdfunding, according to a grateful Rachel in the booklet of Hours Awake.
On January 8th, 2018, she performed on BBC Radio York in the Introduction Show hosted by Jericho Keys, and in November 2018 she toured The Netherlands for the first time – and if I’m not mistaken that could well have been her first tour outside of Britain.
In February of 2019, Hours Awake finally came out. This was followed by more and more performances in AND outside of Great Britain. One of them was another short tour in The Netherlands that also brought her to
on September the 22nd, where Ilona and Alex saw her perform falling in love with her music on the spot. A love they happily passed on to me, hence this review.
Hours Awake, a wonderful album
It is not hard to fall in love with Rachel’s music, though. As I said, it already starts with the first notes of Old Climbing Tree.
A deep and powerful string intro makes this song come closest to the music we normally play at CeltCast. Together with the tribal drums, it could be the intro to a
song if it wasn’t for those warm soulful vocals of Rachel coming in, somewhere between Joss Stone, Dani Klein and
Old Climbing Tree is the most Celtic of the songs on Hours Awake: most of the songs hover somewhere between singer-songwriter material, American folk and the contemporary pop music made by artists like Adele – they are jazzy, deeply rooted in musical history, and yet sound modern, contemporary.
It is almost impossible to name one highlight. Hear Me, the 70’s style In Blue or Rainier Day, the jazzy Don’t Feel like Holding On with its lovely violin melody weaving through it, 6,000 miles, they are all equally beautiful singer-songwriter ballads.
If I had to choose my favourites I would pick Can’t Replace Your Perfect, a soulful gospel ballad that wouldn’t look out of place on a Joss Stone or a Croft Mullen band album (yes, Rachel and Karl Mullen still perform together), the powerful opener Old Climbing Tree and of course the wonderful first single Only Dreams. Rachel is on her very VERY best in that song, with a voice so rich and warm that it is capable of melting the chocolate ice cream in your refrigerator.
This young lady has a great career ahead of her. Trust me, in a few year’s time she will be huge, so go see her next time she is performing at Elfia, you won’t regret it. Not at all!
Editor: Iris de Wolf
sleeve art: D. Somme
picture: Rachel Croft
Video of Songbird posted with kind permission of Martin Waring
Priscilla Hernandez – The Underliving (2011) review
I usually don’t start a review talking about the artwork of it, but in the case of
second album, The Underliving it is the only obvious thing to do. The fantasy folk scene is known for the beautiful artwork with one being even more stunning than the other. You probably remember the beautiful booklet that covers Mythos, the second
album, or the equally impressive booklet accompanying Eden, that famous concept album
released in 2011, The double-sided picture book illustrating the Riven double CD by
is another example, not to mention the illustrated fairy tale that was added to
Pagan Folk Lore DVD. Well, I can tell you that the casing that Priscilla Hernandez designed for her The Underliving album can hold its own with all the aforementioned books.
Not only is it 3 centimetrers longer than a normal CD casing, it also filled with lovely fantasy drawings in Priscilla’s own slightly eerie, slightly gothic, slightly fairy tale style. Blended between them are photographs edited and coloured in the same blue-greyish hue as the drawings that fit the theme of The Underliving so well.
Priscilla Hernandez is not only a composer, multi-instrumentalist, singer AND poet, she is also an illustrator and writer. On her
she tells us that even before she started making music at a young age, she was already making drawings to illustrate her own stories.
One of those stories is an unpublished graphic comic called
Yidneth started as a horror/fantasy novel that Priscilla then illustrated to turn into a comic.
– “It consists of a 74 coloured page gothic-fantasy comic graphic novel I scripted when a child and that took shape as a graphic novel done through the ’80s until ’90s.’ Priscilla tells us on her webpage. On the fact that it was never published she says the following:
– “Yidneth is my trademark and the name of my company and record label but also name that I invented for my personal project, and not my artistic name (though after using it so long it’s almost like my alter-ego). When I was younger I was more focused in my works as an illustrator and then somehow music got more successful and carried away some of my projects that remained then on hold.”
Parts of that artwork did make it into her CD booklets though, and also songs like Ancient Shadows or Lament, found on Priscilla’s first album Ancient Shadows – the Ghost and the Fairy, are directly inspired by pages of that unpublished Yidneth story.
The Underliving is one of the worlds Priscilla created in her novel. To quote her again: -‘The Underliving is a world of reveries in the mist, lost veiled memories concealed in an alluring grey and white realm….
…Dormant in the corner of your eyes, always there but hidden from your sight, The underliving creatures sway over the living without our awareness. They observe us. They play with us. They inspire us…. … The album portrays the story of a chosen child that can perceive this “Otherworld” and longs to be part of it.’
So that’s the story behind The Underliving and that’s also the reason why I hope modern song downloads and Spotify will never fully replace a CD. Especially in our scene the music (almost) always has a story, a reason why it is made. And the artwork made for those albums reflects that. They are not random pictures, but an intricate part of the whole theme a musician wants to express. With us buying complete albums we keep that alive. And by diving into the artwork we also come so much closer to the essence of the music we are hearing. We understand more why it is created, what it means to the one creating it, what the artist wanted to say to us. In my eyes, The Underliving‘s artwork conclusively proves that point.
OK, it’s time to climb off my soapbox and finally get that CD in my Discman. From the first notes of In The Mist you notice the beautiful cello melody played by
Biel Fiol and
Both part of Priscilla’s band at the time,
(rightside photo) giving the ambient/new age music a more earthy feel than I knew from Ancient Shadows. More classical. The beat under it is also different, less triphop, more pagan folk. As this delicate new age ballad develops into a full song it’s an orchestra I hear, not a keyboard generated sound. That may be the biggest difference between Ancient Shadows and The Underliving. Where on Ancient Shadows Priscilla ‘only’played piano and keyboards, on The Underliving she also plays harp, mountain-, baritone-, and hammered dulcimer, psaltery, Koshi chimes, kantele, jouhikko, double ocarina, glass harp, singing bowls, flute, Irish tin- and low whistle, bansuri, and chalumeau. It’s mesmerizing only reading the list. It makes the music much richer, much fuller, quite different from the keyboard sound of Ancient Shadows.
The rich earthy sound continues with the cello in the title song The Underliving. Strong strokes straight away pull you into the song and Priscilla’s opening vocals captivate you even more. With the power of the cello, I have to think of an ambient version of
straight away, but Priscilla has her own style of singing, dreamy, warm and soothing, but also sharp and eerie when needed.
When I hear the electric guitar creeping in towards the end, I’m even more convinced Priscilla is the ambient/new age sister of Amy Lee, or of a young
Sharon den Adel
or should I say all three are the adopted daughters of that most famous fantasy pop singer of all:
It’s all concealed in the mists of time I guess.
Talking of Kate: Feel the Thrill is the first song with the ambient pop feel that I know from Ancient Shadows. Where the previous song The Underliving is more a classical, acoustic version of a gothic rock song, Feel The Thrill takes me back to
Frozen. The keyboard sound underneath it takes me even further back, all the way to the ’80s and the synthpop sound of bands like Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. It’s also a really catchy song, and could have been an instant hit if it had been picked up by radio stations.
It sounds like a mellow, ambient version of
music actually. The same goes for Through The Long way. If you’re into ambient fantasy music, this album is definitely for you. Good beat, beautiful orchestral arrangements, a catchy melody, and Priscilla’s beautiful vocals, you don’t need much more than this.
The cool thing with Priscilla’s music is that she doesn’t believe in the boundaries of a style. She just wants to make beautiful dreamscape type music and will add whatever instrument or influence needed, as is clear from the list of instruments featured on this album. So at one moment, I hear a tune or a cello reminding me of
the next moment I’m thinking
Dark Crystal, the original movie soundtrack
and seconds after that I’m rushing to get
Bare EP out. For me that is the power of Priscilla’s music, it is pure and genuine, and as you probably have gathered by now, I find it extremely beautiful.
The dreamy, slightly eerie In My Mind’s Eye, the spooky piano ballad Off The Lane, the Native American/Cesair-like pagan folk song Northern Lights, the piano/string ballad Morning light or the stunning ballad At the Dream’s Door, the experimental pop-art of The Aftermath, they are all equally beautiful.
My personal, favourite part of the cd is not one song, but the sequence of The Wind Song and Ode To The silence following each other. Both strong pop-art songs they are just arranged masterfully together, combining the best bits of Jyoti Verhoeff, or an acoustic Within Temptation together.
Somehow I constantly come up with these gothic rock/female-fronted metal comparisons although I actually don’t want to. I know it would mislead you, reader, into thinking this is a rock CD, but it most definitely is not! Although it also isn’t a sugar-coated new age/ambient/fairy record. It just happens that Priscilla’s singing style, in its lyrics and the wat she performs them, how she plays with the melody lines, reminds me of singers like Amy Lee. A thing Priscilla herself also mentioned in a note she wrote to me while we were discussing the details around these reviews. Priscilla has her own unique style. Something that hovers somewhere between new age music, ambient dance, pagan folk, and gothic fantasy.
Something else also becomes very clear as you wander deeper into the music and artwork of The Underliving, this is a really, really personal CD.
Yidneth may not be Priscilla’s alter Ego, but it surely is an integrated part of her being. Yidneth is Priscilla’s gateway into the dream world she herself has created. It is also the gateway she needed to get to terms with her childhood’s sleep paralysis and nightmare experiences. It’s those lyrics that keep pushing me towards those gothic references. They are not sweet and sugarcoated, they are deep, fairytale-like but with those dark shadows that make movies like Underworld and The Dark Crystal so beautiful. It’s also the lyrics that make the music of bands like Evanescence, Within Temptation or Leave’s Eyes so powerful. Priscilla’s music lives there, right on the edge of acoustic gothic music and ambient dance. Unique and beautiful.
I’ve talked long enough, put this record in your CD player, put on your headphones and close your eyes. Start dreaming. See that small child waiting in the shadows? Don’t be afraid. Grab her hand and let her lead you into the beautiful world of The Underliving. The world of Yidneth.
Editor: Sara Weeda
Sleeve art: Priscilla Hernandez/Yidneth
Art & Photo’s: Priscilla Hernandez/Yidneth
CeltCast Classic Priscilla Hernández – Ancient Shadows (2006)
Where did this pearl hide all this time??? At Celtcast HQ we knew about the lovely music of
Trobar de Morte
; we danced many a time on the dark Pagan folk of
Cuélebre, who have a new album out called Dijara;
we were in awe by the beautiful pagan world folk that
was making, and we were blown away by the debut of
So we already knew there was amazing talent in Spain, but none of us knew about another Spanish artist who was recording beautiful – and I do mean beautiful – ethereal poetic triphop fairytale folk since her debut album Ancient Shadows, the ghost and the fairy, way back in 2006. It was
‘s Mich Rozek who eventually connected
and our station, and we are very very grateful that he did, because it would have been a shame if we didn’t give Priscilla Hernández the place the spotlight she so fully deserves.
Priscilla Hernandez was born on the Canary Islands but now lives in Navarre Spain. From a young age she was fascinated with illustrated fairy tales – especially the more eerie ghost tales and, as she calls them, ‘supernatural spectral romance stories’. Not to mention a love for the old
fantasy films like
or her favourite
the dark Crystal.
Fed by her personal experiences with sleep paralysis and nightmares she started to create her own stories, either in the form of music or art.
She first showed that art through drawings, part of an unpublished graphic novel – I’ll go into that more in the review of The Underliving – but later on also in music. As Priscilla says in her bio she started writing songs as a child but only got the courage to perform them herself in 2002. She recorded the I Steal The Leaves demo in that year, accompanying herself on the keyboard and to her surprise that demo got really positive reactions and reviews. At that point, the music started to take over.
In order to keep the spirit of her art untouched, she decided to stay independent and together with the love of her life Hector Corcin she started her own label
Yidneth, and then in 2006 Ancient Shadows – the ghost and the fairy – was born.
The opening sounds of Facing the Dream, the intro to Ancient Shadows, leaves no room for doubt regarding this album’s theme. It has an eerie fairy feeling oozing all over it. The shiver caused by dark shadows hidden in eerie lights, while shards of mist are broken by gusts of sudden wind, deep dark clouds are rushing overhead, and a Banshee suddenly screams through the midnight air. That’s the feeling you’ll have while hearing those first haunting notes.
The actual opening song Away is actually a surprise then. Where I was expecting
Trobar de Morte
Dead Can Dance
art-folk/pop, I got ethereal, almost ambient triphop music. New age meets dance in a very beautiful way.
The music is very keyboard-based and beautifully mellow, as you would expect from ambient music, with a cool triphop beat under it giving the song a lovely easy-going vibe. To put it in comparison, a lovely combination of Helisir meets Portishead. On the one hand unexpected, on the other so natural. Just imagine how 19th-century gothic ghosts, who make ambient dance music and perform it floating in eerie light blue light around the shadows of the ancient ruins would sound like. This is what the undead would be weaving around on in their silent, drifting slow motion dance around the ancient willow trees. This, dear reader, is something else.
Ancient Shadows is another surprise. I never ever thought I would refer to a
song in a review I would write for CeltCast, but I’ll do it here and now. Ancient Shadows could have easily been on Madonna’ s Ray of Light album and might well have been just as big a hit as Frozen.
With But If You Go Priscilla goes from mellow ambient into a beautiful piano ballad. It’s in this song that you really appreciate the arrangements for the first time. You can just hear how much time Priscilla and her partner Hector Corcin have put in getting all the ‘ornaments’ right, all the decoration that makes every single note a pleasure to listen to. The wind effect, the strings added, the beat just right, the cello flowing under it giving the music depth, the choir perfectly timed to enhance Priscilla’s vocal performance. It’s all there, not too much, not too little, just enough to showcase Priscilla’s beautiful vocals.
And those vocals ARE beautiful. Priscilla has a warm, really pleasant voice that, if I want to describe it, sounds similar to
with touches of
‘s Beth Gibbons and
. Not that Priscilla makes gothic rock, not at all. The colour of her voice just edges to that of Amy Lee and she uses the same original ‘artsy’ singing lines as we know from artists like Amy. Actually, if Evanescence’s My Immortal would ever be covered by a triphop band like Portishead, or Priscilla herself, it would probably have the same sound as But If You Go or I Steal The Leaves.
Coming to that song, if any DJ of a popular radio station would have picked up on that song back in 2006 it would have been an instant and huge hit! Plain and simple. It has everything a good song should have: it’s catchy; has good lyrics; magical vocals and a unique yet familiar sound. It’s a unique mixture of ambient, triphop, poetry and art pop with touches of
– the Dark Room side of her album Riven – to spice it all up. (again names used to describe Priscilla’s sound, not bands that directly influenced her)
That Kate Bush/Jyoti Verhoeff feel is the strongest in Call Of The Nymph. You feel it in the vocals and the arrangement but especially in the lyrics and how they flow into the music. Priscilla is a poet as much as a storyteller with lyrics like:
“Where do you go?
Where do you run away?
It seems it was ages ago
I last saw the shining sky
How many souls I may devour
to become a dragonfly?
-The Call of the Nymph-
Priscilla Hernandez performing Call Of The Nymph, Live at teatre Xesc Forteza, Mallorca, Spain
Listening to those lyrics sung in her fairy voice, with the strings keys and recorder weaving as chords of mist under it, I find it pure magic.
Priscilla has her very own perspective in her musical stories which are quite often very personal. Themes like the first weeks of a new found love, the anxiety of losing the safe haven of a child’s world when you grow up, the personal experience of sleep paralysis disorder, or the loss of a dear friend are just as effortlessly turned into fairytale poetry as ‘real’ fantasy themes like haunted ruins, bitter weeping willows -better to be avoided-, or the soul of a drowned lady trapped in the body of a dragonfly nymph waiting to escape her faith in The Call of the Nymph.
Priscilla Hernandez performing Call Of The Nymph, Live at teatre Xesc Forteza, Mallorca, Spain
I really could go on and on about this album: the beautiful
like cello under the Helisir like vocals in the piano ballad Nothing, the
electric guitar taking center stage in Nightmare – the only song where an electric guitar is featured on Ancient Shadows, making this song a true prog-rock pearl- the eerie whispered double vocals in Haunted or the, indeed, haunting Amy Lee double vocals and arrangement in Lament, a true ghost fairytale masterpiece, or the lovely instrumental tribute to her dear canine friend Kira, it is all equally masterful done. And then I didn’t even mention the stunning artwork yet, all drawings made by her own hand.
But, as always, I need to end this review, as much as I would love to tell more and more about it. If you want some fast upbeat songs to dance on, this is not the album for you, but if you – just like me – want to be caught in a web of beautiful notes, drown in the sound haunted vocals or get lost in a labyrinth of ghostly fairytales then Ancient Shadows – The ghost and the fairy – HAS to be in your music collection.
Priscilla told me there are not that many physical copies left, so if you want one, you shouldn’t wait too long.
Of course a digital version will still be available on her webpage or her
Now if you don’t mind, I want to dream on a wee bit more.
Editor: Sara Weeda
sleeve art:Priscilla Hernandez/Yidneth
pictures & artwork: Priscilla Hernandez/Yidneth
Gillian Frame – Pendulum (2016)
A couple of weeks ago the former Scottish folk band
Back of the Moon
were featured in the CeltCast Classics series, with their beautiful album Luminosity. Lead vocalists in Back of the Moon were husband and wife
As a thank you, CeltCast received a Christmas gift package from them with 5 more CDs in it. three of them are solo albums recorded by Findlay Napier: VIP, Very Interesting Persons; (2015); the 2016 mini-CD VIP, Very Interesting Extras; and the 2017 album Glasgow. All of them beautiful albums that, sadly, don’t fit the CeltCast format.
But if you love extremely good singer-songwriter material, sung by a singer with a beautifully warm voice, with slight touches of Americana in it, those three albums are pure gems. Just listen to The Man Who sold New York or Rising Sun – both found on VIP, Very Interesting Persons – (right) or his homage to Glasgow or Cod Liver Oil and the Orange Juice -Both on Glasgow – and you will be sold. If we would play American folk on CeltCast these albums would be on the server within minutes.
Another album we would straight away add would be
The Story Song Scientists
album with the same name that came out in 2019. Another beautiful American singer-songwriter folk album. This time recorded by Findlay Napier and
Again, a beautiful album filled with golden sounds to drown into. Unnameable Radio, Shepherd, North Pond Phantom, Wild Wild Country, they are all just brilliant singer-songwriter songs with beautiful vocals. Boy do those two voices go nicely together.
The last CD in the package luckily IS a true Scottish folk cd and will, of course, be the subject of this review. Gillian Frame’s 2016 solo album Pendulum.
For those who missed the Luminosity review, fiddler and singer Gillian Frame was one of the founding members of the Scottish folk band Back of the Moon. After the band stopped she carried on with numerous Projects. She has been featured on more than a dozen albums and worked as a session musician with acts such as
The Unusual Suspects,
Anna, and Duncan Lyall’s Infinite Reflections.
If that wasn’t enough she still regularly performs with her husband Findlay Napier in his duo, trio or whatever form the bookers want them to perform, and if THAT wasn’t enough she is also a fond music teacher – just as most of the former Back of the Moon members are actually – helping to create a new generation of folk artists.
In 2015 work started on her latest solo album Pendulum, together with producer
who also plays
tenor guitar, mandolin, viola and provides vocals on Pendulum. Other musical friends joining Gillian on the album were
– guitar, banjo, mandolin, and vocals;
– double bass, vocals;
– vocals and
Phil Hagueon percussion.
And together they made a lovely album that fans of
and of course Back of the Moon will absolutely love.
The goodness starts straight away with Rothes Colliery, a homage to the coal workers working ‘deep down under the ground‘ to fuel the upcoming modern western wealth. In essence, it’s a simple song, Gillians warm voice that reminds me of Shantalla’s Helen Flaherty, a catchy guitar chord and a short violin solo, but in THAT lays the power of this song. It hits you, right where it should. A lovely start that proves the old proverb: less is more.
Gillian Frame and Mike Vass performing Rohtes Colliery on TRADtv Live Room.Lovely Molly is another warm Celtic song. I really fell in love with Gillian’s voice during the preparation for this review, She has a really soothing voice that tugs you in a blanket of warmth. Lovely Molly is a traditional song she was thaught during a ballad workshop by Anne Neilson and Gordeanna McCulloch. The arrangements on Pendulum do the song more than justice.
Listening to Pendulum one more time for the review, I could easily mention all the vocal songs as favourites. Just as her husband Findlay, Gillian has the capability to really tell a story, hitting you in the heart every time she does it. Let’s just go through a couple of the songs anyway. The Echo Mocks the Corncrake is another beautiful traditional wonderfully interpreted by Gillian, Mike Vass, Anna Massie, Euan Burton and Phil Hague. Very touchingly done, it has a lovely acoustic guitar orientated arrangement and again, in this simplicity lies its power. A beautiful song.
Silver Tassie is a duet Gillian sang with Adam Holmes. His deep rich voice works really nicely with Gillian’s in this song that – according to Gillian Frame – is a family favourite. Fine Flooers is Gillain Frame’s version of the classic ballad The Cruel Mother – with lovely backing vocals of Anna Massie. The Lass o Glenshee… , oh I’ll just stop there. They are all beautiful Celtic singer-songwriter folk songs that I could play time and time again. But there is even more to this CD then just Celtic singer-songwriter songs.
It would be odd to have a solo album of a folk vocalist and fiddler, without any instrumental folk songs on there too wouldn’t it? So, of course, there are. The Grinder/The Red Crow/The Sisters for instance, a lovely instrumental duet between Fiddle and guitar; Or I could mention the lovely fiddle ballad starting Hug air a Bhonaid Mhoir/Cha Tig an Latha. As with the vocal songs, it is not about the speed or a big show-off of skills. No, it is all about telling the story of the song through the fiddle.
Gillian Frame and Mika Vass performing Hug Air A Bhonaid Mhoir and Cha Tig an Latha on TRADtv, 2016
Both the Grinder medley and Hug air a Bhonaid Mhoir/Cha Tig an Latha, Gillian says, are Puirt á beuls. I had to look it up on the internet and found the term on Wikipedia. It tells me puit á beuls are: ‘A traditional form of song native to Scotland, Ireland, and Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Usually, the genre involves a single performer singing lighthearted, often bawdy lyrics, although these are sometimes replaced with meaningless vocables. In puirt à beul, the rhythm and sound of the song often have more importance than the depth or even sense of the lyrics. Puirt à beul in this way resembles other song forms like scat singing.’
Reading this explanation it makes perfect sense that the melodies are arranged in a way that the fiddle takes over the role of the voice. Instrumental Puirt á beuls so to say.
The instrumental songs: Jubilee Jig/Mom’s Jig/McKenna’s and the touching Pendulum/Grace’s end this lovely album that I thoroughly enjoyed from the very first note till the very last.
Editor: Gwendolyn Snowdon
Pictures: Gillian Frame
video’s: with kind permission of TRADtv
Vilsevind – Dag O Natt (2019) Review
At CeltCast we don’t often get post from South America. And if that envelope then also includes a Swedish folk CD, you can imagine the music team got a lot more than just interested. We were actually intrigued. The CD we got is called Dag O Natt, and the duo who sent it to us has the typical Argentine name of
A quick look at their Facebook page tells us a bit more:
-‘Vilsevind -Swedish for “wandering wind- is a Swedish-Argentine duo made up of spouses Sergio and Johanna Ribnikov Gunnarsson. As sound travels farther on water, their musical style can be described as North Sea music, a crossover between Nordic Folk and Celtic Music. Their main source of inspiration is Nordic history and folk life, superstitions and folklore and nature, especially that of the island of Öland, Johanna’s birthplace.’
And so I ended up with a North Sea folk album all the way from South America on my review desk. And I can already reveal, I am not complaining.
So Vilsevind is Swedish-born Johanna Ribnikov Gunnarsson on vocals and concertina, and Argentine-born Sergio Ribnikov Gunnarsson on vocals, Irish bouzouki, guitar, mandolin, hurdy gurdy, jaw harp and offerdalspipa (A Swedish flute based on a flute from the museum of the Offerdal Heritage Centre. It was bequeathed to the Heritage Centre in the 1960s by a man from Fiskviken, a village in the borough of Krokom.) Already an impressive list of instruments.
But the couple didn’t record Dag O Natt as a pure duo, not at all, it was a huge project with as much as twelve guest musicians involved, playing percussion, guitars, a Galician bagpipe, a Cretan Lyra, Strings and Irish whistles.
Vilsevind themselves already said that they play North Sea music, and from the first notes of Ingång: Dag you can hear this is more than just Swedish folk. This first song actually sounds more like film music with added sound effects. It sounds like a small vessel on the North Sea is washed ashore by the tides of time. In it are two musicians who wake up to tell their tale. I love the cello setting the tone in this song.
Ingång: Dag is followed by the upbeat song Fuego. Fuego is cool mix of folk influences. Think of a mix of the cabaresque sound of
Twigs and Twine,
the Swedish folk of
and a touch of medieval bagpipe.
The third song, Ödeblues, reminds me even more of Twigs & Twine. Not only in the way the music is arranged -a cabaresque, upbeat ballad that ends up as an acoustic power-ballad- but also in the vocals. Johanna has a pleasant voice that reminds me very much of Lian’s, one of Twigs & Twine’s female vocalists. Sergio has a nice warm voice that complements Johanna’s voice perfectly. As a singing duo their voices work very well together. During Ödeblues the different percussion and Irish bouzouki players join in. Where in Dag you could still say you are listening to a duo, during Fuego and especially Ödeblues it is clear that Vilsevind went for a full band sound. All in all Ingång: Dag, Fuego, and Ödeblues are a very pleasant start to this CD, that up to now is indeed more general Celtic sounding than pure Swedish.
Flat White/Elfshot is an instrumental song that starts as an instrumental Swedish folk ballad with Flat White, with a high pitched string- and tin whistle melody in it, that gives it an ever so slight Japanese/Chinese feel (to my ears at least.) I don’t think it is deliberate, but once I heard it I couldn’t get the comparison out of your mind anymore. What IS intended, is that the song is a lovely Celtic instrumental ballad that suddenly jumps to an Irish up-tempo dance song. And jump is the right word here. It really jumps from a ballad into a cheerful upbeat dance song, including an extremely cool jaw harp rhythm, bound to put a huge smile on your face (As will the story behind this song. Read it, you will laugh your a** off) A lovely musical surprise and this will not be the last surprising twist on Dag O Natt.
Thorsten Fiskare is a nice ballad based on a work by the Ölandic poet and playwright
Erik Johan Stagnelius.
Most of the songs, written by Sergio, Johanna or both of them together are in Swedish. The only two exceptions are Oración and Kalabalik which are sung in Spanish, the latter by Sergio. As far as I can tell from Google Translate (which had a looooot of trouble trying to translate the Swedish poetic lyrics into proper Dutch) all the songs are island folk poems, telling about universal themes as love, longing, loss, myth, and… wait for it… Coffee! For those who master Spanish, they can read all about the background of the songs on Vilsevind’s webpage. For those non-Spanish speaking readers, try translating the synopsis in Google Translate, that works much better. (Or you can use the link the band provided.
Coming back to Thorsten Fiskare, it is definitely one of my favourite songs on Dag O Natt. A lovely ballad to start with, The voices of Johanna and Sergio blend beautifully with the Irish bouzouki, and it would not be a Vilsevind song if the music didn’t change halfway through. In this case, you get the feeling
entered the studio to join in for a bit. Totally fitting for the story Vilsevind are telling in Thorsten Fiskare. Majsol is the loveliest of the ballads on Dag O Natt. A beautiful duet between Irish bouzouki and voice. There are moments at the start where I mistake Sergio’s bouzouki for a harp. Just stunning. The violin and concertina gliding into the sound at the end or the staccato string section after that are just the icing on an already beautiful cake. I have to compliment
Manuel Villar Lifac
on his string arrangements throughout the album, and also
Marcelo Ismael Rodriguez
who recorded, mixed and mastered Dag o Natt to an outstanding quality. I love all the bits and pieces added to the music to make it interesting. Well done!
By now we are nearing the end of the album. Virvelsinn is the song the duo wrote to give the name Vilsevind and everything it stands for its own voice. And indeed it represents the band perfectly. Virvelsinn is a celebration of poetic, European folk music. It feels like Johanna has taken the memories of her musical heritage and, together with the love of her life, and the new friends she gained, she plays it in a new land, both to cherish those memories and to give the music as a gift to the people in a new land she clearly loves too.
Kalabalik is one of the two songs in Spanish and the only one with Sergio on lead vocals, but don’t expect it to sound Argentinian at all. It’s a wonderful blend of Irish folk and Swedish traditional music in the Spanish tongue, admittedly with a bit of accordion that takes me to the lovely Celtic folk made in Brittany, as
Wouter & de Draak
would play it. And in that way Vilsevind keeps mixing the best bits of the western European folk music together. And Vilsevind has yet more tricks up their sleeve, how about an Indian sitar blended into Swedish folk for instance? In Vilsevinds musical world, not a problem. Another example is the lovely folk-pop flute melody in Tusentals Färdas, a song that could easily have been on
latest solo album too.
And that sums up Vilsevinds music. Its positive happy music, made with a big wink and a huge smile. Dag o Natt is indeed what Sergio and Johanna claim it is on their website: “A celebration of Swedish and Celtic folk music combined.” A celebration that I hope to hear a lot more of in the future. The world can use more musical smiles like this. A lot more, actually!
Editor: Sara Weeda,
Sleeve art: Sandra Núnez Castro,