VARIOUS ARTISTS – Transatlantic Sessions 4 (Whirlie Records DVD03)

You can tell from the photo on the sleeve of “Transatlantic Sessions 4” that this DVD is going to be something special. It depicts Aly Bain and Jerry Douglas broadly grinning at each other as if they were the cats that had got the cream and who could blame them? In the illustrious company of amongst others; Karan Casey, Rosanne Cash, Phil Cunningham, Julie Fowlis, Donal Lunny, Mike McGoldrick, Donald Shaw, Emily Smith and James Taylor it’s enough to make any real ‘folk’ enthusiast salivate at the very thought of what lies in the little black box. As a musician myself, there’s a feeling of jealousy but then again, who wouldn’t want to be part of such an astonishing gathering. To coin the vernacular, “…they must have been freezing their nuts off!” wouldn’t I suspect be too far from the truth but the musicians collective warmth for each other would be enough to power a small sun. Onto the content itself and really it’s a case of where to begin? The title credits encapsulate everything by bringing a sense of wonder with stunning views of chilly rivers and a beautiful Scottish vista all within 28 seconds (and yes, I did set my stop-watch to time it) utilising Douglas trademark dobro, gently brushed snare drum, Uilleann pipes and fiddle. This in itself is enough to draw the listener/viewer in and get your feet tapping with the expectant thought of what is about to emerge phoenix like (this is the 4th series) from this box of treasures. The glue that holds everything together is of course the chemistry between the musicians and the main protagonists in this respect are fiddler Ali Bain and the astonishing accompaniment from Jerry “We are not worthy” Douglas. The camaraderie of everyone involved is a welcoming sight/sound and the collaborative juices flow without any sense of awkwardness just a mutual respect for each other and the obvious delight of working in such exalted company. The songs and tunes are painstakingly crafted and so too are the contributions of all the technical staff. In particular I’d like to point out the professional integrity of all involved (something you don’t see too often in the ‘folk world’) in providing such a banquet of audio and visual delights directed by Mike Alexander and produced by Douglas Eadie. Particular mention in despatches must go to the splendid eye for photography of Mark Littlewood, Derek Ritchie’s lighting and Allan Young’s superb mastery of capturing the sound so well. I’d also like to extend a round of applause to George Brown for making this four-hour extravaganza available via the Whirlie Records catalogue. If you can’t tell from this short review how blown away I am with this double disc DVD then do yourselves a favour, rifle through your bank account (I know how difficult that is in the present climate) and treat yourself to some tangible ‘magic’.

PETE FYFE

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KARAN CASEY & JOHN DOYLE – Exiles Return (Compass Records 7 4529 2)

The beaming smile of a reviewer as he casts his eye over certain members of ‘folk’ royalty appearing in his ‘in’ tray is always reason enough to celebrate a new CD release. Therefore, one can assume this is the case with Karan Casey & John Doyle. As the duo, both ex-members of the American/Celtic super-group Solas, I suppose it isn’t surprising that expectations should be high. From the opening strains of Doyle’s palm dampened funky rhythm guitar chops to the towering vocals of Casey joined by Michael McGoldrick’s trademark flute you can feel the creative juices positively flowing from every pore. Unlike many singers who just read the written word, Karan takes the experience of what appears on paper and is able to convey the message contained in the song with a genuine passion. In return, as if joined by the hip Doyle instinctively knows what Casey is thinking and this is proved time and again in arrangements that seamlessly unleash their treasures for the delight of a discerning public. It is also obvious that both artists have a profound respect for their choice of material including “The False Lady”, “The Little Drummer Girl” and “Out Of The Window” (a variant of “She Moved Through The Fair”) adding a more contemporary groove that will appeal to more modern tastes. In providing sparse but well placed production values, Dirk Powell establishes an authoritative, well refined album that will not only find favour with the ‘folk’ scene but also to anyone who enjoys their music as an ‘art’ form. Finally my one reservation (and it is a minor one) please can graphic designers note that a little thought should be taken with the booklet which for us fifty something’s when it comes to reading a miniscule font size should be in bold black text on a white background. Anything is preferable than having to squint at indecipherable wording. Apart from that this recording gets a resounding 10 out of 10.

PETE FYFE

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