Warts ‘N All is the second CD by the Flying Toads to come my way. I reviewed the older CD In Stitches a couple of years ago, and it was reviewed by the late Pete Fyfe for this site (and we both liked it a lot). And I can clear up one point he raised: the name Flying Toads is a spoonerism of ‘The Flowing Tide’, an Irish tune featured in the set of hornpipes that makes up the second track on this CD. (The other two tunes being ‘Cooley’s’ and ‘The Wonder’)
The main focus here is on Celtic music, much (but by no means all of it) Irish, and most of the twelve tracks are sets of tunes displaying the band’s ability to bring an impressive range of instrumental skills to bear, taking full advantage of the expanded opportunities the recording studio offers for swapping instruments and counter-melodies within a set.
The band consists of:
Val Marciandi – vocals, concertinas, tenor banjo
Brian Hirst – cittern, fiddle, vocals
Keith Whiddon – tenor banjo, bouzoukis, vocals
Erik Faithfull – Uilleann pipes, flute, whistles, vocals
Roger Philby contributes bodhrán to several tracks, as do Nancy Ketchen and Michael Probert on one track each. The main vocals are once again provided by Val, whose strong, rich singing voice is a perfect match for the versatility of the instrumental work within the band.
Since the performances here are consistently excellent, here’s a track-by-track summary rather than a blow-by-blow (or pluck-by-pluck) analysis:
A set of jigs: ‘Stan Chapman’s’, ‘The Black Rogue’, and ‘Australian Waters’.
A set of hornpipes (as listed above).
‘Bonny Portmore’, a song from 1796 by Ulster harper Daniel Black that has inspired numerous subsequent variations, one of which was the basis for Burns’ ‘My Heart’s In The Highlands’.
A set of slides (a slide is somewhat similar to a jig, but in 12/8): ‘The Miller’s Maggot’, ‘This is my love, do you like her?’, and ‘Micho Russell’s’.
The next track is a set of reels: ‘The Templeglantine’, and ‘Jenny Picking Cockles’, ‘Lillies in the Field’.
Three jigs follow: ‘Palm Sunday’, ‘The Donegal Lass’, and ‘The Handsome Young Maidens’
‘Wild Rovin” is a Scottish version of a rather well-known song. It takes a certain amount of courage to sing ‘The Wild Rover’ anywhere these days, let alone record it, but this version certainly deserves a listen. For a start, it doesn’t use the overfamiliar “and it’s no, nay, never [thump thump thump thump]” tune, but a rather charming minor melody. The song goes straight into ‘A Bruxa’ (‘The Witch’) – a Galician tune by Antón Seoane – and ‘Medraina’, a “lively dance known as a muñeira … learned from Asturian band Xéliba“.
The next set consists of three Scottish reels (though the first seems to be related to the Irish ‘Blackberry Blossom’): ‘Roddy McDonald’s Fancy’, ‘Islay Rant’, and ‘Barney’s Balmoral’.
This set consists of slip jigs and reels: ‘The Cock And The Hen’, ‘The Humours Of Whiskey’, ‘Tommy Peoples”, and ‘The Lady On The Island’
Track 10 links the polka ‘Ger The Rigger’ with the song ‘Peata Beag Do Mháthar’.
Next comes a set of jigs: ‘Mrs Galvin’s’, ‘Paddy O’Rafferty’, and ‘Pay The Reckoning’.
And finally, another longstanding folk-club favourite, ‘The Parting Glass’, sung with an accompaniment a little more rhythmic than I altogether like for this song, but it does set up Sandy Mather’s reel ‘The Repeal Of The Poll Tax’ nicely.
If you’re familiar with the band’s previous CD or have heard them in concert you’ll expect adept instrumental and vocal work delivered with charm and energy, and that’s exactly what you get. My only slight disappointment is that there are no modern songs this time round. (The earlier album included songs by Archie Fisher and Woodie Guthrie.) Hopefully that side of Val’s vocal talents will continue to be featured in her duo work with Keith as Bouzatina, now that they’re based in Shropshire.
The passing of Pete Fyfe is a huge loss and a great blow to folk music in general. Pete Fyfe was a huge supporter, writer and reviewer of folk music at the grass roots level.
Pete was old pen pal friends with most of the cream of the folk music elite and hugely supportive and complimentary to all the musicians and artists in between. Pete always said it how it was, short, informative and to the point.
This news is especially hard for me personally as Pete was a good mate and a key part of the folking team (joining us a few years after we launched the site in 2000).
Phil Beer and Jez Lowe will bear testament to Pete’s body of fine review work, a lot of which is still contained within the folking.com archive on the site.
Pete was also a fine musician, performer and artist. Pete played Cropredy in the early days and was a member of the bands Eavesdropper and Collaboration as well as being the other half of the duo ‘Band of Two’ with Gary Blakeley.
The video below is a lovely memory of the day we celebrated Pete’s life where fellow musicians, friends and family came together to say goodbye to the man and his smile.
Pete Fyfe will be very much missed by all of us at folking.com.
Well, what do you know an album of which I can’t understand a word lyrically…or, more importantly need to. OK, so if this was being reviewed by say the BBC’s Culture Show the presenters would turn the album into some superior art form but from a layman’s point of view who knows nothing of the Norwegian language (although I must concede to having spent a month performing at The Scotsman Pub, Oslo…and survived…just!) I must confess to having been totally seduced by this awesome duo. On her previous album ‘November’ Annlaug (hardanger fiddle, guitar & vocal) mesmerised the listener with her enchanting vocals as if drawing you in like an anti-Siren…not to your death but towards Heaven. Now in company with Rannveig on button accordion and guest Esbjorn Hazelius on cittern and fiddle the ‘folk’ music quality of the recording is even more consolidated, so much so that you can almost taste a stark Shetland landscape with its salty sea-spray cleansing you as if in an audio caress. I can’t emphasise how beautifully sumptuous this album is and, if like me you want to get away from everything life has to throw at you, you couldn’t find a better release from those pressures. Ten out of ten!
The art of successfully bringing ‘folk’ music to a wider audience has been surmounted before by the likes of Steeleye, Fairport and The Corrs and with the duo Lumiere it looks as if we have another artist batting for ‘our’ side. Whether we in the folk world deserve it or not remains to be seen as sometimes it would appear a thankless task pleasing the die-hard ‘traditionalists’. Personally speaking, to scorn anything ‘commercial’ would, in my opinion be churlish as both Eilis Kennedy and Pauline Scanlon have fine voices and, when joined by the more brittle vocals of guest Sinead O’Connor on Sandy Denny’s timeless “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” this really would be an unfairly negative response. Adding a touch of gloss to this musical undercoat producer John Reynolds has assembled an exemplary band of musicians including ex-Lunasa guitarist Donogh Hennessy, Clare Kenny (bass), Caroline Dale (cellos), Kevin Armstrong (guitars), Eamonn De Barra (piano/keyboards), Julian Wilson (Hammond organ), Catriona MacKay (Harp) and Reynolds himself on drums. Although the album is unashamedly commercial it will undoubtedly appeal more to say a Radio 2 audience than Radio 1 listener but there’s nothing wrong with that so long as you’re also happy to be tagged “easy listening”. Reflecting the duo’s passion for traditional songs such as “The Wind That Shakes The Barley”, “The Streets Of Derry” and a nicely understated “Ye Jacobites” it will sit nicely among those ethereal sounds of Clannad you have in your collection.
It’s great to see the mighty Highland pipes take centre stage once again and for those of us that were brought up on bands like Alba, The Tannahill Weavers and Battlefield Band will know just how powerful a tool it is featured in the context of ‘folk’ music. When it is taken out of this natural comfort zone and placed in the more, shall we say ‘commercial’ arena then it becomes a different beast altogether coming into its own when competing with the Heavy Metal riffs of guitarist Gajus Stappen and Lukas Rausch’s pounding drums. If you hadn’t guessed it already, Celtica Pipes Rock are not a band for the feint-hearted but for ‘entertainment’ value they seriously know how to rock. On their debut release they show their true colours with tracks including “Smoke On The Water”, “Rocking All Over The World” and “We Will Rock You” whilst their latest recording is a loosely theme based project taking in voyages and the sea. I’m not really sure about the introduction (a bit too ‘hammy’, like a reject from a Rankins album perhaps) or “Drunken Sailor” but hats off to them for cheekily including the track “Celtica Goes To Hollywood” and I’ll leave you to ponder that one…although having thought about it the term Schlock-Rock does come to mind. With a respectful nod to the tradition including “Crossing The Minch” and “Paddy’s Leather Breeches” musically speaking I can’t fault any of the performances from the other band members Gwendolen Rowe and Duncan Knight (Highland pipes), Harald Weinkum (bass) and Josy Svajda on keyboards and spot on production from Stappen. OK, so maybe not for die-hard traditionalists but great if you’re looking for an interesting after-dinner conversation piece and, of course…coming from me…both albums get a resounding thumbs-up!
I just knew from the moment the little silver disk(s) arrived on my doormat that here indeed was ‘folk’ celebrity worth celebrating. The glorious noise and band that are Brass Monkey should be heralded as heroes by anyone that feels an affinity with all things ‘British’ and I mean that with the best of intentions. With many years having passed under the bridge is it any surprise that this recording must be one of the ‘must have’ purchases of any true ‘folk’ music enthusiast. I still remember when I first saw the band perform at The Half Moon in Putney as a three-piece (is it really 30 years ago?) and the show-stopping Howard Evans trumpet playing that, from that moment on I was to gauge all trumpeters by. Sadly Howard’s no longer with us but with Paul Archibald and Shane Brennan taking over the reins along with Martin Brinsford (harmonica/percussion/sax), Roger Williams (trombone/euphonium) and founder members John Kirkpatrick (accordion/concertina/vocals) and Martin Carthy (guitar/mandolin/vocals) this is indeed kick-ass music for the acoustic scene. The ‘live’ performance is a true testament to just how superb these musicians are and if you haven’t seen them before fear not because there’s a full blown DVD included as well. This of course isn’t just any old hand-held video but a full blown production with close-ups and a filmic quality that would bring a grin to any self-respecting BBC 4 viewer. Being a Park Music production John Dagnell and all his crew should be justifiably proud in producing what (for me anyway) is one of the finest representations of British ‘folk’ music anywhere. Happy ‘capering’ everyone.