THE TANNAHILL WEAVERS – Òrach (Compass Records 7417172)

ÒrachFew bands get to celebrate fifty years together – and some of those have taken a breather mid-career – so The Tannahill Weavers have joined a pretty exclusive club. Sub-titled The Golden Anniversary Album, their new record, Òrach, draws together music, friends and former colleagues. Joining the current line-up of Roy Gullane, Phil Smillie, John Martin and Lorne MacDougall are such luminaries as Dougie MacLean, Aaron Jones, Innes White and Davie Hunter.

The album opens with the title track, a classic march/strathspey/reel set. It initially sounds a little four-square to modern ears and I suspect that is by design, an imitation of the way things were done back in 1968. By the end of the reel the band have moved up a couple of gears but it’s early days yet so they settle back with Matt McGinn’s unusually romantic ‘Jenny A’ Things’ featuring the band’s first singer, John Cassidy. ‘Christchurch Cathedral’ comes from The Dubliners via Shooglenifty and sounds almost Playford-like until it slips into the jig variation.

 Òrach continues to mix songs and tunes more or less equally. There are two lyrics from the original weaver, Robert Tannahill, including ‘Jessie The Floo’er O’ Dunblane’ and the huge ballad, ‘The Battle Of Sheriffmuir’ adapted by Robert Burns from an earlier and longer poem – the battle ended in a sort of draw. Billy Connolly’s ‘Oh No!’ from The Humblebums’ final album (with Alison Brown on banjo) comes as a light-hearted surprise, in contrast to Daithi Rua’s ‘The Ghost Of Mick McDonnell’, a reflection on the Great War. The record closes with ‘Gordon Duncan Set’ commemorating his time with the band. Only one tune in the set, ‘Red Ken’s’ sometimes known as ‘Rory Gallagher’s’, was written by Duncan but the set was put together by him for his solo album, Just For Seumas.

I’m sorry if this is turning into a history lesson but there a so many fascinating stories surrounding a band that has survived five decades. More important is the variety of music they have played and present here. So sandwiched between two ghost stories, one old, one new, is ‘The Asturian Sessions’ that begins in Nova Scotia and ends in Asturias and features MacLean on didgeridoo! Òrach looks back with great affection but also looks forward as they absorb new music into their repertoire. It may be a case of grandfather’s axe but I reckon The Tannahill Weavers are good for another fifty years.

Dai Jeffries

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The Tannahill Weavers at the Just For Gordon concert:

Quiles & Cloud announce their debut album

Quiles & Cloud

When Maria Quiles (pronounced key-less) and Rory Cloud met in 2011, both were adrift. Maria had quit her job, given up her San Francisco apartment, and moved in with her uncle in order to pursue music full-time. Rory had left behind a stable schedule of gigs and music lessons in Southern California to seek a new music community elsewhere. He eventually wound up living out of his Toyota Corolla in San Francisco, where he first heard Maria at an open mic. “As a lead guitar player, I could immediately hear myself in her songs.” Rory remembers.

Several years of touring and spending nearly every day together allowed Quiles & Cloud to develop a unique sound—one that is characterized by soulful melodies, close harmonies, and interweaving guitar lines that owe as much to jazz and classical music as to folk and bluegrass. The addition of Oscar Westesson (upright bass) in 2013 pushed them even further as songwriters, resulting in darker, more complex, and more dissonant arrangements.

Their sound has struck a chord with audiences all over the country. Folk Alley has lauded the group’s “continued ability to combine subtle precision with stark grit and creative exploration.” Acoustic Guitar has called them “a compelling new voice on the Americana scene.” Quiles & Cloud have now played hundreds of shows, won the 2014 FreshGrass Duo Award, and caught the attention of Grammy Award-winning banjo player Alison Brown – who worked with the band for a day in the studio as part of their Fresh Grass Awards package and then went on to produce a full length album, Shake Me Now.

Shake Me Now is stripped-down, yet dense. There are musical and lyrical traces of the blues, bluegrass, folk, rock, soul, and classical music. Their songwriting stands out on the title track, ‘Shake Me Now’ as well as the upbeat and hopeful ‘One My Way Tonight’. In addition to their original songs, there are reinterpreted versions of the traditional blues number ‘Deep Ellum Blues’, the traditional folk tune ‘Worried Man Blues’, and Bob Dylan’s ‘You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere’. One gets the feeling of being on a widescreen road trip through America’s past and present, with multiple eras and traditions folding in upon each other. The result sounds familiar and roadworn, yet completely new—a quality that Quiles & Cloud share with some of American music’s greatest innovators.

Quiles & Cloud have already travelled far. As they see it, though, this is only the beginning of a lifelong journey – one of exploring connection, deepening their partnership, and examining the threads that tie us all together.

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‘Shake Me Now’:

New album from French Celtic band Doolin’

Doolin'

Doolin’ is France’s premiere Celtic band and their self-titled debut for Compass Records is one of the freshest and most exciting Celtic records in years. Natives of Toulouse, Doolin’ worked with legendary Irish guitarist John Doyle in the producer’s chair to achieve a sound uniquely their own—deeply rooted in traditional Celtic music but wonderfully flavored with French chanson, American roots music and even hip hop straight from the streets of Paris.

The band traveled to Nashville, Tennessee to record the album and worked in the legacy studio now owned by Compass Records where the Outlaw Movement in country music took root in the late 1960s. The resulting experience infused Doolin’ with an infectious energy. The musical essence of the band is captured on the fiery ‘The Road to Gleanntan’, the gorgeous reflective character of ‘Le Dernier Kouign Amann’, the beautifully rendered Jacques Brel classic ‘Amsterdam’, with its evocative strains of accordion and French lyric, and culminates with the bold integration of rap and John Doyle’s percussive guitar style on Sinéad O’Connor’s ‘Famine’. Collaborations with special guests Jerry Douglas (Dobro), John Doyle (guitar, bouzouki), Alison Brown (banjo), and Kenny Malone (percussion) brought stellar results on stand out tracks that include a reworking of the Steve Earle classic ‘Galway Girl’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘Ballad of Hollis Brown’.

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‘Ballad Of Hollis Brown’ live:

Award-Winning Songsmith Susan Greenbaum Announces This Life

Susan Greenbaum committed the first sin of musicians: She quit her day job. After working as a corporate executive in Fortune 500 companies, she traded her power suits for performing and songwriting. Since then, the Harvard graduate is poised for success, having won several national songwriting awards, including the Smithsonian Songwriters Award, The Philadelphia Songwriters Project and released four albums independently. Now, Greenbaum is releasing This Life, her most insightful and engaging songs to date, distributed by Compass Records Group this January 31st.

Not only were the songwriting trophies a boost to Greenbaum’s career change, she won a national competition to be the opening act for Jewel and enjoyed overwhelming success on the tour, welcoming thousands of new fans. Prior to This Life, her most recent album of all-original songs, Hey, Hey, Hey! was lauded by Billboard for having songs with “hooks that drill into your brain; smart, organic production; and lyrical substance to make the music an interactive experience.”

Her success has not come without sacrifice, as the tragedy of personal loss lends itself to the depth to Greenbaum’s songwriting. The album-opening “This Life” is a reflective letter to her brother who passed away from brain cancer; she wrote the song a week before her wedding. “I was thinking about how he wasn’t going to be at my wedding but maybe he was, maybe he is somewhere safe and healthy and not in pain and able to at least look down on all of us. That’s the whole idea of the song­—a conversation with him.” Greenbaum instills a glimpse of hope and recovery in her music, even in songs inspired by tragedy.

The album is far from somber and includes high-energy singles such as “Big,” a lively recipe for fame and fortune. “It’s very me, it’s funny and cynical and it’s unafraid to really look at things and be blunt and honest and there’s positivity in it and there’s reflection in… It’s like, ‘Chop chop! Let’s get to it, let’s get famous!’” The album includes lighthearted love songs like “Penny on the Sidewalk” and even a novelty bonus track lamenting the consequences of the indecision of squirrels.

Recorded in Nashville at Compass Sound Studios and produced by Garry West and Alison BrownThis Life includes such esteemed musicians as multi-instrumentalist Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Todd Phillips on upright bass, and the banjo of Alison Brown on the tracks “Virginia, the Home of My Heart” and “The Squirrel Song.” Says Greenbaum of the recording process, “Garry and Alison are very right-brained as well as very left-brained, and I am too, so we worked very well together. I had no idea what was going to happen, but it was one of the smartest risks I’ve ever taken!”

Greenbaum draws big, enthusiastic audiences who delight in her lively, diverse and powerful performances. Greenbaum has toured as a solo artist, playing such storied venues as The Bitter End in NYC, The Birchmere, Bethlehem Musikfest, Floyd Fest and Rams Head Tavern. In addition to touring with Jewel, she performed an acoustic set with Dave Matthews Band violinist Boyd Tinsley; sharing bills with Jill Sobule; and opening for Kenny Loggins, Patty Griffin, Dar Williams, Janis Ian, Jim Messina, Todd Snider, Tuck and Patti, Iris DeMent, Lucy Kaplansky, Lloyd Cole and Catie Curtis. Susan also endorses W.L Gore’s Elixir Strings.

Unafraid, brazen and under five feet tall, the dynamic Greenbaum shares an empowering message: “If you have something you know you love to do and you want to do it, you can do it! Follow your dreams!”

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JOHN DOYLE – Shadow And Light (Compass Records 4562)

John Doyle may, at first hearing appear an earnest, thought provoking artist but at least he cannot be accused of being dull. By that I mean he understands that with extensive knowledge of your subject matter you have in your hands the tools to inspire and in return will hopefully have the same effect on anyone you are imparting this information to. If that is his intention he has certainly found a disciple. Evocative is a term that readily comes to mind as his rounded tenor vocals coupled with a song-writing talent featured on ten of the eleven tracks sees him become a Celtic ambassador of traditional style writing in much the same way Jez Lowe invokes nostalgic thoughts of the North-East of England. If you’re reading into this that I thoroughly enjoyed this album then I’ve done my job. Whether it be the rallying cry of “Clear The Way” based on the tale of a regiment during the American Civil War or the cheese inspired (you’ll have to read the sleeve notes) closing song “Selkie” Doyle is an artist at the top of his tree allowing himself the opportunity to branch out (sorry about that) by including of a roster of first-class musicians such as Alison Brown (banjo), Michael McGoldrick (uillean pipes/flute) and John Williams (accordion). Of course many who already know his superb digital dexterity can attest to his stunning guitar accompaniment but here his tune writing particularly on the wistful “Tribute To Donal Ward/The Currachman” comes majestically to life and could easily find itself soaked sponge-like into numerous traditional ‘sessions’.

PETE FYFE

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For further information check out the Compass Records website at www.compassrecords.com