Tag Archives: Balfolk

Daily Disc
BmB – Ge vindt wel een taal (2021)

A couple of months ago we received the brand new album of the balfolk band BmB called Ge vindt wel een taal (thy will find a language). Because the release date is today, we had to keep the music on this album to ourselves at first. That didn’t stop us listening though and from the moment we started listening, we fell in love with this beautiful, narrative, danceable, balfolk album! And that’s why we are going to play every song of this lovely album on CeltCast Radio. There are instrumental songs, songs sung in Dutch/Flemish, one in French and one in English (together with Niki van der Schuren).

BmB will be a new band for most of you so this is how they introduced themselves:
– ‘We are BmB, three guys who love folk. We bring songs to make you bounce and swoon, sway, laugh and cry.
This band is formed by Luc Plompen (vocals, guitar), Wouter Kuyper (bagpipes, flutes, chalumeau) and Niek van Uden-Luteijn (accordion). They met each other through the international (bal)folk scene. These guys are already famous in the folk scene in The Netherlands and Belgium, and that’s not without reason! So we are sure the rest of the folk world will follow soon!
You can find BmB on:
Their website: http://www.bmbfolk.nl
Facebook: BmBfolk
Spotify: BmB

Trolska Polska – EufoRI (2020) review



Being a CeltCast reviewer has made me discover a lot of beautiful records over the years and a selected few became even more than that, they became an addiction. They are CD’s I need to play on a regular basis, just as much as I need my daily cups of coffee! Albums like Matriarch by Shireen, Mythos by Waldkauz and Portal to Elfland by SeeD keep me energized and sane. They help me wander into my happy place, away from the madness of everyday life, the place where I can let everything go and just be me. I can tell you now that Eufori, the newest record of Trolska Polska, made it into that selected few. This album is pure genius. A troll-folk concept album that just works on every single level. From the artwork till the very last note. It’s funny, captivating and addictive. My personal album of the year 2020!
The fun starts right away with the opening song Tøbrud (spring thaw). The beginning is really gentle, tiny drops of sound are faded in, setting the mood. An enchanting flute melody appears, its sound takes you by the hand and leads you into a spring morning. This is going to be the first nice spring morning after a harsh, cold, Nordic winter. The low sun is casting friendly shadows over the frozen meadows. The gentle sound of dripping water is all around you. In front of you are two figures, dancing, waltzing and swirling. Easily evading every drop of melting snow that is falling down from the trees above. As if the old oaks are carefully pulling back their branches, making sure they do not disturb the graceful couple down on the grass…..

Oh, how easy it is to drift away in your own fantasy world when you listen to this album. It is all the small little details that Trolska Polska have hidden in their songs. They have done it so cleverly, so subtle. You can really hear the drops of water fall down when you listen to the music. You can hear the melting water rush down the brooks and creeks of the ancient woods. If you close your eyes you can hear the day start. You can feel the sun heralding the start of spring. The start of big things to come. It is all there, captured in music. In my eyes, Eufori is the folk version of Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the wolf. A bald statement to make, I know, but trust me, it is one hundred percent true. Where Moss was a charming balfolk album and Untold Tails a lovely mix between balfolk and troll-folk music, this album is a huge leap forward. Trolska Polska not only wrote beautiful music for Eufori, but they also created a whole world around it. A whole story they play out in eleven delightful songs. Eufori is the story about one of the most important days in the troll calendar: The big spring ball!

When you dive into the booklet you’ll find that every song represents a chapter of this story, beautifully illustrated by Kent Overby Stück. As the story and music were created alongside each other they enhance one another in a beautiful way. The music becomes so much stronger when you read the tales, and the tales get much funnier when you listen to the songs. I would totally ruin the fun of listening to Eufori for the first time if I tell all about the storylines here, so instead I’m just going to tease you a bit with some hints, just to whet your appetite. I am only going to mention the mischievous troll kids, and how they manage to get the steam blowing out of the conductor’s ears… and the smoke coming from his tail while they’re at it. I’m only briefly going to point out the ‘breathtaking’ appearance of Slattenlangpat and her infamous booby-woogie. And I’m going to let you wonder why ‘the wandering giant’ leaves the party with a castle window pressed into his right eye.
I can assure you, if it ever was worthwhile to buy an actual CD instead of just streaming the music, then this album is it. You really are going to miss out, if you only have the music files without the story.



Tumult, the first single to be released from Eufori

This brings me to the main subject of every review, the music. What can I say? I LOVE this album! From the very first note till the very last chord. This is instrumental folk music at its very, very best. The melodies are catchy and fun, the solo’s mesmerizing and the whole concept is so believable. Where on earlier albums I personally missed a bit of true troll feeling sometimes, Eufori just oozes troll-folk. Every note has something otherworldly, something mischievous about it. Where the melodies on Moss were lead by the higher notes of the flute and violin, Eufori has much more room for the lower string instruments: the cello, the double bass, the hurdy-gurdy, and the bagpipe. And that lower sound is so important to get the feeling of true trolls, gnomes, and other otherworldly creatures across. I can’t help but believe that I have wandered deep into the dark Scandinavian forest, carefully peeking in, watching the trolls have their fun, while I’m trying not to get caught. (You wouldn’t want to get a wedgie from old Slattenlangpat now, would you?)

Although the whole album is a highlight, I do have some personal favourites, and the song Slattenlangpat is one of them. It’s a schottisch with a really cool, jazzy, double-bass riff as the backbone of the song. That riff alone is enough to get a huge smile on my face, but the whole build-up is great too. The catchy string melody the song has, the funny vocals that get a whole new meaning when you read the story behind it, the bagpipe solo, the pop-like string parts making this an instant hit… Oh, I could go on and on about this song alone.
Vigtigpråsen is the second song I want to pick up on. Again a schottish, again with this really laid back feel to it, again built up so well. The solo’s, the catchy troll-whistle, the cool viola solo, it’s so different to the balfolk music I normally hear, so unique, and yet so cool.

Not all the songs are laidback though. Halvlang Hopsa proves that straight away. It is fast, lightning-fast, and sooo much fun. Especially if you read the story behind it. Definitely one of my favourites. Keen eyes will have spotted the first Scandinavian balfolk references in between the lines. And they would be right, although Eufori is clearly a concept album, the band did not forget about their balfolk roots. Better yet Scandinavian balfolk is stil a big part of their sound. Polkas, waltzes, a hopsa, a halling, a gangar, even a menuet, all the cool Scandinavian dances are all there. Sometimes furiously fast like in Halvlang Hopsa, sometimes jazzy and cool like in Slattenlangpat, and sometimes just really beautiful as in Måneskinsmenuet. Eufori is as much a dance album as it is a pleasure to listen to. For those not too familiar with the Scandinavian dances, no need to worry. Our in house balfolk team have spotted a few an dros, some scottish, and two gavotte de l’avens besides the familiar waltzes polkas and polskas i already mentioned. So plenty to dance to. Eufori truly ticks every box possible.



Eufori, the title track, and second single to be taken off the new album

There are two more songs I want to mention before I wrap this review up. These are my two absolute favourite songs on Eufori. Both with a wonderful build-up, lovely melodies, and stunning solos. First of which is Hylkerne. I love everything about that song. The deep mouth harp, almost like a didgeridoo, laying down an awesome beat together with the double bass. (Or should I call it a power chord, as the song has the feel of an acoustic hardrock power-ballad that wouldn’t look out of place on a Dio album.) That beat is sooo impressive. Do you know the intro of Ayreon’s song Loser? Well, this has the same impact. Those ‘power riffs’ in the intro of Hylkerne are amazing! Acoustic, but exploding in your ears anyway. Combine that with the awesome power of the percussion and you get a sound, as if a whole platoon of mammoths is marching in on their way to a place deep, deep in the Northern woods. A place where you and I don’t want to be seen. This song is something else. I don’t know if I should dance or bang my hair around, so I end up doing both! I cannot wait to see and especially FEEL this being played live. EPIC! Truly epic!!

Den Vandrende Kæmpe is the last song on Eufori, and the last song I’m going to mention. It is a song of amazing beauty. It is another power ballad. It is also the absolute best song on this truly stunning CD, I’m just overwhelmed by it all. Drawn into every single note! Into every single bar! It just goes on and on. Highlight after highlight! This is the moment all my editors dread, because I’m going to become lyrical, (which means I write waaaaay to much, and they have to edit that 😉 ). One by one everybody gets their moment to shine on this brilliant final song: First the percussion, strong and powerful! Followed by the cello, first improvised, then leading us in one last catchy melody. We have the double bass joining in, strong and deep, ‘singing’ its last mesmerizing duet with the cello, their duet echoing through the northern woods, flowing over the fast horizon. Beautiful! And then, THEN comes the true icing on the cake! The flute solos! As if Iain Mars of the Sidh joins in for one last moment of pure bliss. I have tears welling in my eyes as I am listening to this grande finale. This song moves me so deep in my core, so deep in my soul. This song is e-v-e-r-y-thing I adore about music! Truly Epic!

So there you have it, Eurori put in words. Quite a lot of words actually. This review became quite a story although I only scratched the surface of it all. There is so much more to tell, both about Trolska Polska, and about Eufori. So I inserted one more video below, where Martin Seeberg himself tells the story of the band and the album. And with that I want to end, hoping this will not be the final chapter in the Trolska Polska tale. No, I’m hoping for many more chapters to come. And I’m hoping the very first of those chapters will be a performance on Winter Castlefest, in the great hall, with the band playing the whole album in one go, and Mia Guldhammer (Virelai) narrating it, reading out all the stories of the booklet in between the songs, making it all come to life. Of course, there should be enough room for the balfolk dancers on either side of the podium, so they can become part of the performance too. Now THAT would be a magical moment to experience. A worthy way to celebrate this magical album. Let’s hope that dream comes true one day.

Cliff



Editor:
– Anna Schürmann
Balfolk editors:
– Berit van der Jagt
– Erik Leguijt
Cover art:
Kent Overby Stück
Pictures:
Emma Engstrom (2)
Cliff de Booy (1, 3)

The Daily Disc
Introducing Vaev

The Daily Disc today is Vaev by Vaev (2020)
The band members of this band from Denmark are well-known names in our scene: Poul Lendal and David Mondrup (Mallebrok). In four songs you will hear Mia Guldhammer (VIRELAI/Mallebrok) as well!
This album was a nice surprise in our mailbox, I have to say! Because of the electronic sounds, part of the songs are classified as “charged”, you will find those in our Spotify CeltCast Radio – Charged list! The other tracks we started to play on CeltCast Radio itself.
The songs are interpretations of traditional Danish folk tunes. If you love Trolska Polska, SKRÖMTA and Virelai songs AND you love a bit more power in acoustic music, then you definitely should listen to this party. The album contains a booklet with 14 funny pages. You will find lyrics and drawings in it. This album is very suitable for Balfolk dancing! My favourite song is: Lejerdrengen, Engelsholm.
Thank you Go Danish Folk Music for sending in this absolute gem!


Musical greetings, Ilona CeltCast

Imbue – Ut Solis Radium (2019) review



According to their website, we can find Imbue’s music somewhere on the edge of the old medieval times and the new Renaissance period. I can add they also stand somewhere between the Classical world and modern balfolk. In 2017 Imbue released their debut album In Quatuor Tempora, a collection of 12 [quote Imbue]: ‘old and nigh forgotten (folk)songs’, and now, September 2019, their new album Ut Solis Radium was released in the place where it all began. the Gasthuiskapel -guesthouse chapel- in Zaltbommel, the exact spot In Quator Tempora was recorded.
Luckily nothing changed in the Imbue world. The new album is again a beautiful collection of medieval and renaissance pieces, skillfully recorded by these 5 talented musicians.
Let’s introduce all the Imbue members to you. First off is Robin Lammertink on lead vocals. She is a classically trained mezzo-soprano who is not only interested in polyphony -singing with multiple people who each have their own independent melody, something she herself explains more about at the end of this review– but also in history, especially the history of Tudor England (1485 – 1603). During her current studies at the Conservatorium of Utrecht, she started composing and arranging herself, a skill she gladly uses in the music of Imbue.

Robin shares her love for old English times and creating music with Meidi Goh, who has a specific love for the music of Elizabethan England. The period in the Tudor times when Elisabeth 1st ruled (1558 – 1603) and Englands most famous son, Shakespeare, lived. Meidi is not classicly trained as such. She got a deep love the Viola da Gamba -the bass viol- and Renaissance music through her mother, who played in a recorder quartet. She started taking lessons with a Baroque violinist and then turned towards the tenor viol and singing. Her love for folk started when she joined the Dutch band AmmA, and she loved the freedom it gave her to improvise and create her own music, a freedom that accumulated in her first solo CD Heartstrings that came out earlier this year.

Remy Schreuder (picture left) is the third vocalist of the band and he is also a virtuoso on recorder and cornett – an early wind instrument. popular in Renaissance and Baroque times. Remy is classicly trained from a young age, and – just as Robin and Meidi- stepped away from the sheet music at a certain point to enroll in a musical training course, which taught him to play different styles of contemporary music: pop, jazz, blues, and even metal. It also taught him the skills of solo improvisation. At the moment he’s studying at the Historical Performance Department of the Conservatorium Utrech, all skills he puts to good use in Imbue.

Laurens Kah is Imbue’s Irish bouzouki player. He has had classical piano lessons from an early age and then took a detour through heavy metal. But the love for, as he describes it, “peaceful piano music”, which he kept through that time, brought him to folk music, where he now not only shares the stage with Imbue, but also with the folk band Pyrolysis as an accordionist.

Tim Elfring Imbue’s last band member we also know from Pyrolysis: He is of course percussionist and vocalist Tim Elfring. Tim is not classically trained, but equally talented and in his own right is just as important for Imbue’s sound as the other bandmembers. Medieval music sounds totally different from modern music, so Tim helps arrange the old sheet music into a more modern form. How he does that Robin explains herself at the end of this review.
From the introduction of the different band members, it’s already clear what you can expect from Imbue. Ut Solis Radium is filled with 12 beautiful medieval/Renaissance pieces with a good splash of balfolk to cheer it all up. And, I can already reveal, these songs are like honey to your ears.

It starts with the very first notes of Worldes Bliss, two beautiful female voices that instantly grab you. Did I say two female? I make that mistake e-v-e-r-y time I hear the beginning of this 12th century a capella English song. Because it is actually Robin and Remy singing here, so a female and male voice, but Remy has such an amazing range. He easily matches Robin’s voice, not only in height but also in the purity of tone and beauty. Really amazing. I think the official term for it is a countertenor. I know the unofficial term for it is a jawdropping “AMAZING!” To make things even more impressive in Hanacpachap Cussicuinin – a 17th century Peruvian hymn in Quechua – Remy takes on the bass ánd tenor voice. A simply insane range. But let’s not forget the third beautiful voice that Imbue has, Meidi Goh, also joins in. The first two songs are all about Imbue’s voices. A simple drum, flute, viola da gamba accompanies them, all done in such a controlled delicate way, yet with feeling and intent. When so much musical talent comes together in this way the result is just stunning. A compliment to Thomas Cochrane recording and mixing) and Ferry Verhoeve (mastering) from the Dutch E-sound studio, who together managed to capture every single note, but also every single moment of controlled silence perfectly.

O Madame is a lovely cheerful 16th century song with Remy playing lovely ‘ornaments to the main melody’ on the recorder (a quote from a conversation I had with Robin Lammertink about the new CD that describes Remy’s style of playing perfectly and she added that it is sort of his specialty). With the next song, J’ai Vu Le Loup, we have another French song, a classic among medieval and folk bands. Always fun to hear and Imbue’s version is no exception.
For now, I’ll keep focussing on the cheerful songs, Bobbing Joe is another one that puts a huge smile on my face, its a traditional song with words put to it by Meidi Goh who also took the lead on it, together with the fourth beautiful voice Imbue can put forward, that of Tim Elfring. This is also the main difference between the first album In Quator Tempora and this one, Imbue makes more use of all their vocal talents, making the album more varied.
I have to say I love the cheerful, dancing feel of Bobbing Joe. It is so Meidi Goh. You can hear her sparkling joyful energy in every note she, Tim, Laurens and Remy play. I loved it on her solo album Heartstrings and I love it here too. It also is the strength of Imbue. That match of classical talent and folk talent together, giving them a unique sound within both the folk- and the classical world

On Stella Splendens Robin shines. How she has grown as a singer since In quatuor Tempora. Mind you what she did on the first album was already impressive, but a couple of years of conservatorium brought out the best of her obvious vocal talent. It’s on moments like this I am grateful my mom used to play classical music a lot so that I learned to appreciate this side of the musical spectrum too. I would have missed so much beautiful music if she hadn’t. Imbue’s wonderful interpretation of this 14th century Latin song would be one.



Hemels Dauwe is a fun song, again different (compliments on the varied song choice Imbue) and in Dutch. It comes from Het Antwerps liedboek (The Antwerp songbook) and has balfolk written all over it. Can medieval music be cool? Well, the answer comes with the stunning last song om Ut Solis Radium. A resounding yes!! As I listen to the beautiful high notes that Robin is hitting in Mirie It Is While Summer Ilast, I can only come to one conclusion. Imbue’s music isn’t building a bridge between two worlds, no it is bringing four worlds together, that of medieval music, the Renaissance, classical chamber music and balfolk. And in a fresh contemporary way at that.
A must-have for all who love historical classical balfolk music.

– Cliff

editor: Sara Weeda
Sleeve art: Robin Lammertink, Meidi Goh
photo’s: Cliff de Booy

PS: As promised Robin Lammertink took some time to explain a bit about the different ways of singing harmonies.
Robin (middle): ‘The most common vocal style is the monody. This is a solistic vocal melody accompanied by an instrument who plays chords. When you sing with more people you could all sing the same melody; which would be singing in unison. But you could also sing in vocal harmony, which is when all the voices sing in the same rhythm, but different notes from the chord. Or, when every voice has an independent melody, ingeniously intertwining to become one composition, we speak of polyphony.
A good example of singing in vocal harmony is ‘O Madame’ was the second vocals of Meidi are simultaneous with the lead vocals, but on a different pitch, creating a harmony. A polyphonic example from our album is ‘Bobbing Joe’, where Tim’s melody has a different rhythm from Meidi’s melody; he sings long notes, while Meidi sings shorter notes. Btw it’s not only polyphonic, but it’s also polytextual; singing two different texts at the same time. This was actually quite common in the Middle Ages. Speaking of which; ‘A Round of three Country Dances in One’ (which did not end up on our album, but is on our Youtube) is polyphony ánd polytextuality at it’s best! 😉

Another interesting thing about medieval music is that before the 13th century the barline was not invented yet. Meaning there was no ‘pulse’ the way we feel the beat in modern music. Nowadays most music is divided in a 4/4 measure, with four beats in one bar, or a 3/4 measure with 3 beats in one bar. The ‘one’ is usually more accentuated (or ‘heavy’). This is a feeling we as modern music consumers all recognize. The ‘one’ is also very important for dancers.
Before this division in equal chunks of 4 or 3, there would just be a musical sentence with a random amount of beats, simply following the text. So this is where Tim comes in. He is there to find the “one’ in those sentences and create a suggestion of logic. Like for example in Stella Splendens. The first and the fifth bar of the couplet have 5 beats, while the rest have the ‘normal’ 4 beats. This feels strange to our modern ears, so it’s is Tim’s job to camouflage it gently without losing the old charm.

Shantalla – From The East Unto The West (2019) review



This winter my girlfriend knitted me a new sweater. Beforehand I feared it would be itchy and scratchy, but no, the minute I put it on it just felt comfy and warm, nothing pulled or tugged, it was as if I’d had this sweater for years and years. It just felt snug and safe. It instantly became my favourite comfy sweater.
Well that’s exactly how the new Shantalla album made me feel. Within the first 3 songs the music felt like that new sweater that Anna gave me. Nice, comfy and warm. And around The Cameronian Set, track 8 on the album, I wrote another small line in my notebook: ‘this music feels like coming home’.
It really does. It is this happy feeling that always goes with Irish folk, the variety of song choice, the quality of the music, the lovely ironic humour in the liner notes, everything fits on this album. So much so that after two listens I already wanted to start writing this introduction. So here it is. Shantalla’s ‘From The East Unto The West’. But first, let’s do a proper introduction of the band.
INTRODUCING SHANTALLA

Do I really need to introduce Shantalla? Ever since their first gig in 1997 and the release of their debut album Shantalla, way back in 1998, the Irishmen Kieran Fahy (fiddle, viola), Joe Hennon (guitar, vocals), Michael Horgan (uilleann pipes, flute, whistles) and Gerry Murray (accordion, whistles, bouzouki, piano) and Scottish Helen Flaherty (vocals, bodhrán, shakers) steadily made a name for themselves, growing out to be a force to be reckoned with, not only in the Irish folk scene, but also in the balfolk and the fantasy festival world. Their second album Seven Evenings, Seven Mornings followed in 2001, and again got a good reception in the folk world.
In 2005, the band took a temporary break, focussing on other projects. Among them The Helen Flaherty Band, Hot Spoons and Omnia. In 2009 the band reformed, adding bouzouki and guitar player Simon Donnelly -yes also Irish- to the line-up. In this formation work began on their 3rd album Turas, which was released in 2011. Again the reactions were really positive.

After a period of touring it became somewhat quiet around Shantalla, until the good news came out earlier this year that the band was back in the studio. The fruits of their labour, the 4th CD From the East Unto The West is going to be released in the coming weeks. The presale is running as I write these words. From The East Unto The west is recorded by Philip Masure over at Folk Studios and Pascale Snoeck at Elle Studios.
-Comment from Shantalla: “Now that you mentioned Pascale, she has been our live sound engineer for over 21 years, it would be nice to thank her for that!-
To finish of the credits, From The East Unto The West was mixed by Philip Masure and the artwork was done by Robin Dekker. Now the big question is: “Was From The East Unto The West worth the wait?” The answer: a resounding “yes!”

THE ALBUM: FROM THE EAST UNTO THE WEST

The first song, Captain Ward, sets the mood. Within seconds you know what to expect from this album. Good quality, Irish folk, traditional, but with a Shantalla twist, and cheerful, oh-so-cheerful. It’s the accordion flute and rhythm guitar that get the folk party going. After this typical folk intro Captain Ward eases into a mid-tempo ballad from the 17th century about a pirate captain capturing a ship sent by the king of England to catch him. Of course Captain Ward has to brag about it and he wrote a letter to the king of England stating that His Majesty might be the king on land, but he, Captain Ward, is the king at sea.
This traditional ballad flows easily into the second part of the song called Paddy Goes East written by Gerry Murray. And yes the sound of the lead melody, together with the slightly different rhythm, does make the second part of Captain Ward sound as if good old Paddy had taken his accordion and fiddle on a wee tour of Eastern Europe.

The mood then switches for the first time, in the intro of the second song. An accordion solo reminding me a bit of Wouter en de Draak and their more French approach to folk music. The tone even gets a bit dark, when the rhythm guitar and violin creep in, made even stronger by the sound of crows in the background. The stage is set for a dark slow song, so it should not have surprised me that Helen Flaherty starts to sing Twa Corbies, but I really didn’t recognise it from the intro.
The track notes accompanying this song are also really cool:
-“The Twa Corbies is a cynical Scottish parody of a 17th century English song The Three Ravens. In this dark version, the corbies (crows) say that the dead knight’s hawk and hound have forsaken him and are off chasing game, while his lover has already moved on to another knight.  Since no-one knows or cares where his body lies, the corbies talk in detail about the meal they will make of him, plucking out his eyes and using his hair for their nest. That’s recycling folks!” What was that about the Scots being cynical!?

The third album track, Ynis Avalach will take some doing from the balfolk dancers, I’m sure of it! It starts with a tricot, named as such in Brittany because it knits an andro and a hanterdro together. Then the music turns into a slip jig called Dever The Dancer, before it ends in two classic reels called Toss The Feathers #1 and Toss The Feathers # 2. Good luck dancing to that guys! The good news is that Ynis Avalach is a really nice medley of songs. The first part Ynis Avalach, is a song Shantalla know from Faun. You can see them perform it on Castlefest together with Fiona in the video below.
the album version again has that slight French Wouter en de Draak feel to it before the flute adds a lovely Irish flavour. That French feel is mostly there because of Joe Hennon’s subtle guitar work. I’ve been a fan of the way he plays for years. Actually from the moment I heard the live version of the Sidhenearlahi Set on Omnia’s Pagan Folk album. Yes he is mostly a rhythm guitarist, but he puts all kinds of nice twists and turns in his playing. Squeezing in all kinds of variations on the theme he plays and I just love that.

STRONG INSTRUMENTALISTS

But he’s not the only one shining in this song, so do all the instrumentalists. In the video Shantalla uploaded on their website to introduce From the East Unto The West, Joe mentions it himself, that thát is one of the strengths of the band, the many lead instruments they can use. And he has a point. let’s take this song for instance. So in keeping with folk tradition it starts with a nice guitar rhythm and then the violin slides in. I just love how Kieran Fahy constantly does that. So subtle. But anyway, with the flute joining in, you think that this is it. A flute/violin duet. But no. It’s flute with another flute doing the second ‘voice’ while the violin keeps sliding in and out for added flavour. Michael’s uilleann pipes follow in the flow with Simon’s guitar now picking up the melody as well, then the accordion joins in, making the sound even fuller and richer.
In the second part Dever The Dancer, the violin takes centre stage, joined by the flute for a lovely cheerful slip jig, but again a low whistle, guitar and accordion step in and create a strong rich sound. The uilleann pipes lead us into the last part of Ynis Avalach, followed by some lovely bodhrán /guitar rhythms, before the whole band joins in to finish it all. I love instrumental folk if it is done like this. Such a rich and strong sound, so much variety. This just has to put a smile on everyone’s face.


here is Shantalla performing Ynis Avalanch together with Fiona at Castlefest 2014

On to the next song! Lead vocalist Helen Flaherty’s voice fits perfectly in Shantalla’s sound. She has a warm, strong voice full with emotion that she uses to her full advantage in the first ballad of the album, A Band Of Gold. A lovey story about a romance that was not to be….
I have to say, Helen shines on this. She is such a beautiful singer. Powerful, in full control of her voice, she sings this ballad with so much emotion, you can feel every ounce of despair, regret and loneliness in it. Pure beauty.



Shantalla are masters in contrast. After the intense loneliness of A Band Of Gold they could not have produced a greater contrast than by putting Magic Happens after it. The tin whistle intro cuts right through the intensity left by A Band Of Gold. Lovely, just lovely. The first part is a jig, again written by Gerry Murray. This jig is in the good old folk tradition, using just guitar and tin whistle, (ok, doubled tin whistle to make the sound richer.) The fiddle and accordion then take over and play us a composition of Joe Liddy, The Three Wishes. As the set finishes with Charlie Lennon’s Morning Sunday, with the uilleann pipes and accordion taking the lead, my notebook says; ‘an upbeat version of Cara‘ . And I’m almost surprised the band kept the instrumentation so ‘simple’, but that is one of the strengths of this band, knowing what to add or not add, and when to do that.

ADDING ANOTHER MUSICAL STYLE

From this instrumental balfolk song we move on to The War Of The Crofters and a totally different musical genre. This song is originally written by the Scottish singer-songwriter Brian McNeill. It is because of that diversity in not only songs, but also genres that I really enjoy From The East Unto The West. The album combines old traditionals, instrumental balfolk tunes and some singer-songwriter pieces. All three types of songs have their own style and feel. And it is the combination of those styles, tied together by Shantalla’s craftmanship that make From The East Unto The West such a joy to listen to. I also have to mention Helen again. On this song you clearly hear her Scottish tongue. Now if a Scottish person talks, I always feel they are already singing. It is in the way they pronounce the words. There is just so much melody in the Scottish accent. To hear that melody back while singing, it is just a joy for the ears.

next up is Farewell To Charlemagne, the second song that has you stop in your tracks. It is a touching low whistle solo composed and played by Michael Horgan.. A touching, personal song about…. no, I shall not tell thee, in this case you have to look yourself into the track notes so the band themselves can tell you what it is about.

Track eight, The Cameronian Highlander is a well-known barn dance as specified in the track notes and it is indeed a mid-tempo dance tune played on accordion and flute. With a wee bit of imagination you can hear the clogs stamp on the wooden barn floor. But then the tempo speeds up considerably and the barn dance whirls into three reels, The Killavil Reel, The Bag of Spuds and The Carracastle Lass. All lovely uptempo folk tunes to cheer your heart and lift your feet. Irish folk music isn’t the most complicated style in the world, but played by gifted musicians, the instruments themselves start dancing, as if the notes themselves swirled around each other in variation after variation. Luckily Shantalla has such gifted musicians. So The Cameronian Highlander, again, is a joy to listen too.

THANK HEAVENS THEY INVENTED THE REPEAT BUTTON

Jamie Raeburn then shows the other side of folk music. Quite often they tell touching stories full of longing for a love once lost, grieving about a home now lost or telling about the hardship of life. Jamie Raeburn and the next song, Midlothian Mining Song, are no exception. And, as I already said Helen has the perfect voice to tell you those stories. You feel them when she sings. The delicate touch of Simon’s guitar compliments her voice perfectly. Just listen to this beautiful combination in Jamie Raeburn. The icing on the cake then comes from the touches of fiddle and viola and the subtle low whistle solo in Jamie Raeburn, or the lovely accordion, viola and flute melodies on Midlothian Mining Song.

Talking about lovely rhythm guitar, the first part of the last song on this album, Breaking Wind, has plenty of those. But it’s the touches of fiddle that make this song into something truly stunning. Almost classical in style, the fiddle sound gently slides into the music. It’s our last goosebump moment before Shantalla goes full out in this balfolk grand finale. A worthy end to this must have album, that finishes way too fast. Thank heavens they invented the repeat button. You’ll need it, you’ll need it a lot!

Cliff

Editor: The ever so lovely Diane Deroubaix
Sleeve design: Robin Dekker
Studio Pictures: Shantalla
Live pictures: Kees Stravers






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