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review by Anne Infante
The Selkies are Andrea Baldwin and Karina Berry. Making Waves is their debut CD, an attractive mix of traditional, contemporary and Andrea's original songs with an underlying flavour of the ocean - as you'd expect. The songs mostly seem to have been chosen for their lovely melodies, enhanced by The Selkies intricate harmonies and the gentle, minimal use of instruments: Andrea on guitar and percussion and Karina on accordion.
Of the songs: Quare Bungle Rye, General Taylor and Yeller Girls are not usually 'womens' songs so the Selkies' treatment gives them a new feel.
Other traditional songs are My Johnny (the shoemaker who went to sea); As Thou Were a beautiful, 17th century Scottish air and John Hamilton the frivolous tale of a rogue who made a strange wager and won the money and the girl - just through singing!
Andrea is already a noted songwriter with her own CD on the market. Her contributions to Making Waves are the delightful Jeremy Kelly about the inevitable consequences of falling in love; Donal O'Donal a brisk catalogue of reasons why not to fall in love (the girl obviously does, though); My Mother Said based on the children's skipping rhyme, carried to the natural conclusion of what can happen when you do play with the gypsies in the wood; The Selkie, a lovely seal skin/soul skin ballad based on the haunting film The Secret of Roan Innish and Women Do a darkly honest look at how men and women handle conflict.
This delightful mix is nicely rounded off with Alistair Hewlett's empathetic Drinking Man's Wife; Dorothy Hewitt's sensitive love poem Cock Of The Morning (tune by Karina's dad Bill Berry); Spinning Wheel (John Francis Waller) and Barbara Fordham's tender Foolish Woman.
Making Waves was engineered by Mark Smith at Real Productions. The graphic design is by Mary Brettell, and Ian Redpath and Christine Jones supplied the photography. Making Waves is available from
Bob and Laurel Wilson are the Goodwills. Their latest CD
Loungeroom Legends comprises 16 highly enjoyable tracks
including nine of Bob's originals in his melodic style with
honest, no-nonsense, insightful lyrics, combined with wicked
tongue-in-cheek rhymes. He has a special gift of describing exactly
what's going on in our minds and constructing bright,
intelligent, real songs about real people and situations, which read
like prose but sing like very good songs indeed.
Loungeroom Legends was recorded live at the Goodwills' home with an audience of 40 (and a poodle, which contributes its own mite). It's a pleasure to have the live introductions in the Goodwills' inimitable manner. They obviously enjoy performing together and do so with style, humour, great pizzazz and tight harmonies, born of their long relationship together. Both share the vocals and Bob also plays guitar and Laurel the kazoobugle, a musical invention of her own. Backing vocals are by the Tapestry Vocal Ensemble, a Maleny community choir, of which Bob and Laurel are members and Silas Palmer plays excellent keyboards, fiddle and mandolin.
The attractive cover design and graphics are by Nicole Murray of Cloudstreet. The CD is sensitively engineered by Pix Vane Mason delivering an authentic live sound with minimal editing.
You expect excellence from The Goodwills and this CD has it. The songs are a well-chosen mix of styles and feelings; amusing, thought-provoking and always clever:
Calm Blue Ocean: a delightful metaphor for making a sea change and letting go of life's stresses for a less secure existence - if we can bring ourselves to take the plunge.
Crossroads of Love: Looking for Directions and the Meaning Of Love and generally getting in everyone's way while struggling with endless possibilities.
Impressions of New Zealand: A lovely, poignant song about Bob's mum - a strong, courageous woman determined to make a go of life in a strange country, and create a favourable impression, whatever the disappointments and set-backs.
Women of the West: The touching GE Evans poem (music by Sandy Whybird) about pioneer women bearing their troubles and desperate isolation with fortitude and grace. Tapestry provides spine-tingling backing vocals.
Little Deeds: Sometimes our indiscretions come back to haunt us. A brilliant exposition about the outcome of a forgotten night of passion. Bob swears it's just a story.
She's Apples: Nature knows how to produce wonderful fruit, in the right season, without our interference. Crisp, organic and clean.
Small Frog Song: The appalling consequences of mistaking a little green tree frog for a cane toad and forgetting your dog's 'cane toad-in-the-yard' bark and the dreadful guilt that a nature-lover suffers as a result. A very funny song with a very serious message. (The poodle stars in the second verse.)
Think Outside the Square: How to succeed (or not) in the corporate world. Put on your lateral thinking cap and you'll go anywhere! Featuring Laurel's kazoobugle rendition of Bye-Bye Blackbird.
At the Dentist: Philosophical and perspicacious observations while in the dreaded chair. If anyone can lighten the experience of a visit to the dentist, Bob can!
Sit Right Down (and write myself a letter): I always loved this song (I don't mind showing my age). This rendition is in a smooth, swinging style with Silas Palmer's wonderful honky-tonk piano delightfully partnering Laurel's kazoobugle solo.
(Poor) Wayfaring Stranger: A popular traditional song in a smooth swinging style.
Un Canadien Errant (The Rambling Canadian): Laurel's lovely version in French of this poignant song of a French Canadian banished from his homeland in the 1830s by the British for insurrection. As he sits by the seashore, he begs the water to flow to Canada and remember him to his friends.
StealAway: Tapestry superbly renders this lovely old spiritual.
Courting the Net: Classic Goodwills! The perceptive, funny/sad story of a woman losing her lover to the enticements of the Net. Bob's wonderful humour is at its best here.
PoliticalScience: USA songwriter Randy Newman's whimsical suggestion on how to deal with the vexed question of that country's friends and foes. Definitely politically incorrect!
IrishBlessing: Tapestry has the final word on the CD with the familiar Irish blessing for good fortune on the road. Beautiful.
CDs can be ordered from the Goodwills at P.O. Box 264, Maleny
4552 or via the website:
Review by Lonnie MartinIt is always a pleasure to hear new music from this talented couple who have been almost "fixtures" on the Australian folk scene for longer than I will admit to remembering. Stylistically, Big Water - their sixteenth album - presents a departure from their earlier work with more folk rock type arrangements and heavier orchestration than I have come to expect from a Penny and Roger album. However, the carefully crafted lyrics, narrative impetus, and beautiful close harmonies that I love about their work are still strong features of the overall sound.
There are surprises on this album - including a Procul Harem cover of "The Angler" (G.Brooker) and a very Byrd's arrangement of "Turn! Turn! Turn!" (Ecclesiastes/P.Seeger). This 1970's folk rock sound carries over onto other tracks and in my opinion, gives a dated feel rather than a modern punch to some of the arrangements.
This is an enchanting CD filled with their trademark clean tight vocals, excellent musicianship and high production values.
Well worth the listen and guaranteed not to sit on the shelf gathering dust!
Big Water, by Penny Davies and Roger Ilott, is published by Restless Music and is available through good record shops, or mail order through www.restlessmusic.com.au
Complete Track list: Turn The World Around; Werris Creek; Rusty Dusty Days; Big Water; When The Cooper's Coming Down; The Humpback Whale; Listen To The Wind; The Angler; Pushing It Down; Back To The Sea Again, Johnny; The Hills And Rocks Of Home; The Once-Great Railway Family; The Magpies Said; Turn! Turn! Turn!
For more information:
P.O. Box 438, Stanthorpe, Qld., 4380, Australia.
Phone: Australia 07 4683 7184 International 61 7 4683 7184
Email: Website: www.restlessmusic.com.au
Review by Lonnie Martin & Juda Bacon
All aboard me hearties for the Pirate Brides have
finally hauled anchor and released their long awaited second recording - an
EP titled Cutlass Wedding. The current Pirate Brides are
adding to our treasure chests with 6 finely crafted songs recorded
live and engineered by Mark Smith in his excellent Real
Productions Studio. Earlier Pirates, Nicole Murray and Rachel
Lacey have both become blushing brides and walked the planxty
sometime ago. Both CDs have in common the trademark close harmony
vocals and instrumental excellence that have delighted our ears in
their live performances over the years.
(A disclaimer - we love this band and these people - so take note of the unashamed bias and unabashed glee at finally having a recording we can listen to whenever we want!!!)
For the uninitiated landlocked among you, the Pirates are Ryk Rostron, (guitar/vocals) Rose Broe, (accordion/vocals) John Holmberg (banjo/mandolin/vocals) and Michael Tully (upright bass/vocals). These four extraordinary musicians combine subtle arrangements of great songs and tight, beautifully blended vocals to produce a laid back old timey/good timey sound that never fails to gladden the heart of the storm tossed listener.
If we were to put together a list of requests for the Pirates it would include everything on this recording. John's marvellous banjo and evocative group vocal on the nostalgic Key to life, (Vince Gill), crisp mandolin, smooth accordion and great group vocals on Long time gone, (Darrell Scott), Ryk's haunting vocals with moody accordion and bass take us to sea with the whaling ships on If I had wings, (Ryk Rostron). Red Clay Halo, (Gillian Welch), brings us joyous banjo and outstanding instrumental solos from all; then Last Coal Train, (Paul Wookey), excellent mandolin and accordion - again! How did those miners get on board?. And finally Past the Point of Rescue, (Mick Hanley) ends the EP with more fantastic vocal harmonies and another great arrangement. Sigh - what a good listen!
Cutlass Wedding is a bounty (albeit small), of well chosen and well written songs that the Pirates should be proud to own. Let's hope there are no mutinies for some time!! We are both looking forward to hearing further treasures when they next go buccaneering in uncharted waters.
As we said at the beginning of this review, this is definitely a CD to add to your treasure chest.
Voyage to the Pirates' website www.piratebrides.com and from there you will be able to listen to snippets of the songs. To obtain a copy of this CD contact Rose Broe and John Holmberg on Ph 07 3844 3558.
Review by Caroline Williams
Some of us were fortunate to catch a taste of Shawn Riley at a 2005 Folk Rag fundraising house concert at KTB's. Subsequently, witness I was to the initial his shy and intimate CD launch in May at the Irish Club .... Shawn is into playing music, singing, arts, a recent digital photography exhibition .... and cycling! T A L E N-T!!! To boot, this sensitive young lad gives amazingly grounded folkie hugs.
Shawn has self recorded and produced his CD, including an intricately detailed CD cover artwork, descriptions and lyrics booklet. The many instruments which Shawn played include recorders (tenor, alto and soprano), guitar, bass, synthesizer and, of course, vocals. Part 1 includes folk songs and traditional tunes, collected from sessions, tune books and the likes of Clannad, Planxty and The Fureys. Part 2 provides us with a sample of Shawn's own self penned tunes and lyrics
Diamantina Drover has been recorded with multi-tracked vocals. I especially appreciated the slow airs. Shawn's sense of fun and adventure is explored with his accelerated speed of a few. A dash and splash of Ger Fennelly's Irish voice introduces the mystical sounds of the air, The Lonesome Boatman
For the tunes, I would only play down the guitar and invite sharing around the essence of other folk instruments and performers. Having said this, with the talents of this lad and capabilities of learning new instruments, watch out, he may challenge himself to learn bagpipes!
Shawn can be seen busking at flea markets and in the Queen Street Mall, and playing at the Irish Club, O'Malley's and Dooleys. The good and bad news is that he is seriously saving to travel to Ireland in the near future. Will Brisbane have what it takes to attract him back home?
Review by Matthew Hirtes @ musicshopper.com, June 04/2006
A mechanical fitter by day, nighttime sees Jack Mancor
metamorphose into an antipodean version of Billy Bragg. Currently
he's traveling his native Australia with his wife and young
daughter, performing at, in his own words, folk festivals, pubs,
folk clubs and camp fires along the way. It's no great
surprise then to discover that Mancor's debut album Looking
for Something recalls the Bard of Barking's collaboration
with Wilco on [i]Mermaid Avenue which saw Bragg and Jeff
Tweedy join forces to write music to lyrics left by Woody
A Melbourne-born self-taught songwriter and folk musician Jack plays acoustic guitar, steel guitar, mandolin, harmonica, spoons and foot percussion. As well as resembling Bragg interpreting Guthrie, he sounds like what the Handsome Family´s Brett Sparks would do if he embarked on a solo project.
Along with his expert musicianship, what impresses is Jack´s lyrics; like Bragg, he´s an artist with a conscience. Witness the lines from Fisherman´s Boy: They got us boys from the Phillipines and we work the ships like slaves of the seven seas and from One Step Forward: If they were smart bombs they wouldn´t fall at all and if they did they´d turn into schools and hospitals.
Johnny Langford wrote the original songs and re-arranged Celtic songs into a contemporary format to mix present day activism with activism through the ages. Joined by other musicians in Maleny, in South-East Queensland, where a number of activist/musicians care to live and express their passion for the world through music. The original tracks on this album were born out of the spirit and actions of protest drawing their inspiration from experiences and actions of the author - Johnny Langford who is passionate about our precious environment and about our indigenous people and their recent turbulent history.
The 1st track, Aborigine, & track 14, (full version) portray Johnny & the band's feelings for the plight of the aborigine. Track 03 - Option Green is a song for our forests. Track 11 - The Mobile Phone Song reflects about radio telecommunications. Track 09 is a lament for the late Princess of Wales, who achieved the abolition of land mines in the Geneva Convention.
All of the traditional tracks have a cool mix in style of the contemporary
and the traditional.
For more info see:
Johnny Langford And The Undefeated
In an effort to capture their live
sound, The Sheepdogs decided to record a Sunday afternoon
session at the Apollonian Hotel and take the best of the recording
to produce a live CD.
Imaginatively titled Live at the Apollonian this CD shows the sheepdogs powering their way through a wide variety of genres.
The CD starts with a gentle instrumental treatment of the gospel tune Wayfaring Stranger, jumps to a lively rendition of June Apple, switches to a swinging version of It's a Sin to Tell a Lie, before proceeding through various western swing, honky tonk and blues songs and then closes with the classic St James Infirmary.
Colin Thorne provides the driving rhythm on acoustic guitar, Steve Treloar picks and swings on F-style mandolin and metal bodied resonator mandolin with Lee Wilson sliding in on lap style resonator guitar. Bob Lee from the Chardonnay Sippers generously played bass on the last 3 tracks.
Review by Rob Willis
Fresh interpretations of Italian songs drawn from the collections of The National Library of Australia.
Kate Andrews, Terry Clinton and Christina Mimmocchi who make up the Sydney based singing group Touchwood have only one Italian speaker in their midst, but that did not stop them recording a CD in Italian language. And it's a ripper.
I believe the project concept began at a Folk Alliance convention when Kate was listening to a session conducted by the then curator of Oral History and Folklore at The National Library, Mark Cranfield. Mark was talking about the vastness of the collections and how easy it is to access them. The group were already aware of some collected Italian material and in her rational way Kate decided as the group already had one Italian speaker the other two (including herself) could sing in the language.
As one of the Library's folklore collectors I have long been aware of the effect of 'cultural lag' retaining traditions in Australia (through isolation) whilst the same material has been 'lost' in the 'home country'. We collectors have thoroughly enjoyed going into various ethnic communities and recording their music and life stories.
Touchwood have taken the time to listen to many of these songs, make their own interpretations and arrangements of the music and record their exciting CD Between Two Doors. Tony Colla, Domenico, Valentino and Lucia De Bortoli, Joe and Antonia Canto, Alf Buffon and Elio Rigo are but a few who have contributed their songs.
The arrangements and harmonies that Touchwood perform are in my mind superb, giving the already vibrant songs a further lift. The group play a variety of instruments including guitar, ukulele, clarinet, vihuela and percussion and so complementing their vocal talents. The traditional songs' topics range from love to roosters and pipe smoking.
Touchwood took time to research the field recordings of Italian performers in situ at the National Library. Well done Touchwood, you have taken the initiative and recorded a very listenable and musically interesting CD. One does not have to speak Italian to enjoy this recording as the tunes and happiness of the songs speak for themselves.
Between Two Doors is available from Touchwood's website www.touchwoodweb.com
Chloe Hall, who won her first songwriting award
at age 14, is a fine new talent on a well-deserved fast track to success. White
Street is her first full length CD and I found it a great listening pleasure.
Eleven original tracks range from thoughtful introspection to bright, bouncy 'feel-good' songs. Chloe's talent as a wordsmith is obvious from the first track. Her songs are beautifully crafted, her vocals strong and assured and delivered with sophistication and sensitivity for the lyrics. Her tunes are stylish and melodic, dipping and soaring in a manner reminiscent of Joni Mitchell; her underlining, compelling piano tracks enhance this impression - she also plays guitar.
Chloe is joined by Anita Quayle (cello), Louise McCarthy (violin, viola and backing vocals), Greg Arnold (6 & 12-string guitars, bass, hammond) and James Richmond (percussion). Chloe and friends have produced a beautiful and complimentary blend of sound.
Chloe Hall writes lovely insightful songs, singing them from her heart with class. This is a CD worth your attention.
Chloe is undertaking a national tour this year with James Hazelden (cello) - check out performance venues on: www.chloehall.com.au
White Street is available from Shock Records Australia: www.shock.com.au
To consider a label like "Australia's hardest
working act" might be giving too much credit to some acts, but
for women in docs it's a label that fits like a glove. As the
girls release their sophomore album, "Red Wine and Postcards",
(beautifully produced by Darren Middleton, guitarist Powderfinger /
Drag) their achievement and continued dedication to their craft has
never been more marked.
For eight years, Roz Pappalardo and Chanel Lucas have worked their way up through the music industry ranks from playing in their bedrooms in Far North Queensland (Innisfail, Roz and Townsville, Chanel), then moving to the big smoke of Brisbane and capturing the hearts of a dedicated national fan base. But they didn't stop there. The girls grabbed their passports and headed overseas to win over audiences throughout North America, Europe and Asia.
women in docs have accrued an impressive array of career benchmarks. They've played major festivals and music industry events throughout the world. They enjoy ongoing airplay throughout Australia. They have sold over 20,000 CDs independently. Recent releases have spent time in the Top 20 of the Australian Independent Records Charts. And they regularly play to packed houses, touching the lives of people from a broad cross-section of ages and cultural backgrounds.
women in docs recently won the hearts of music industry professionals across the board at the 2006 Folk Alliance conference (Austin,Texas) and Canadian Music Week (Toronto). They will be returning overseas later in the year to capitalise on this success and oversee their first US release.
It's hard not to love women in docs. If they haven't already caught you in their web of fans, their new album, "red wine and postcards", will trap you with Roz and Chanel's delightfully effortless, yet powerful command over songwriting, with a dash of their ever present sense of energy and exuberance.
Contact: Web: www.womenindocs.com
0408 730 551 (roz) / 0414 538 448 (chanel)
Maree Robertson Tasty Music Australia
This CD is one that's been a long time in the making. Rebecca made her first EP in 2000, and has been steadily gaining a dedicated following since she first made a splash in the Australian folk scene by winning the Declan Affley Youth Encouragement Award at the National Folk Festival in 1999 when she was just 18. She had been singing, playing guitar & writing songs publicly for two years before that. So part of what's most remarkable about this young woman is how long she's been active in the folk scene, working fulltime as a music-maker.
There are 10 originals on this album, and each one of them stands as a tribute to her ever-increasing finesse as a songwriter. Rebecca is still so young - and yet she has developed her craft with care and acuity. She is committed to such a high level of honest introspection, it's sometimes hard to believe she's just barely out of her teens! Her lyrics are delightfully understated, and remind me of the best of James Keelaghan's dextrous word-patternings.
So the first thing I would say is: if you are interested to see the future direction and potential of our youngest folk singer-songwriters, Rebecca's CD is a great example.
The production of this recording is also a pleasure to observe. Rebecca holds true to her authentically Australian accent, and has clearly chosen, bravely, to please herself in her arrangements. With the generous, spirited help of Gary Ward and Mark "Sparky" Partridge, Rebecca has presented us with versions of her original repertoire in very different permutations than her live audiences will be used to hearing. Most of this is due to her new-found plaything..... "the band". The good news is, anyone going to the National this year will get to see Rebecca perform with this most lovely band (with Gary Ward on bass, and Jay Bishoff on guitar).
There are two covers on this album - February by Dar Williams, and By Way of Sorrow by Julie Miller. The most honest thing I can say about these versions is: I knew, and loved, the originals of both these songs before I heard Rebecca sing them. Now, her versions are my favourites.
I only have one criticism of this album. Some of it feels a bit rushed in tempo - but I suspect that's because in live performance, Rebecca is so grounded and solid, and maybe having the full band treatment has given her a little heady momentum. Which only means that you lucky folks who'll get to see her at the National will already get to hear the band versions before you take your CD home.....
review by Malcolm Fielding
The first CD release from eclectic band Le Minibus, from Newcastle, NSW. Music from the Balkans and Greece, the occasional klezmer tune, an American fiddle tune, and several French songs, are all stirred into the pot of this musical melange. The band's recipe, from the CD liner:
"Take a bunch of musos of suspicious origins, make them listen to their grandparents' vinyl collection, add a trailer-load of instruments, (or anything that makes noise), stir well, do not add spices (too much already), and put a good dance floor under audience's feet - and what do you get - TAH DAH (trumpet call) - Le Minibus!!"
This is a band, that as they imply, love to play live to an audience that's up for a dance, and in this they excel, producing good time dance music with swing and drive. Well known standards such as Bei mir bist du schön or Jesse James are mixed with the occasional original tune. There are three Greek tunes and a couple of Macedonian ones in the selection here, and for me the French songs featuring Bobby Pâquet are among the album's strongest arrangements. Dianne Lenham's clarinet and sax work adds extra zest to the balkan and klezmer tunes in particular, and Sonya Manzalini's percussion underpins these very danceable beats. Recommended, for both listening and dancing.
Le Minibus are: John Papanis (vocals, guitar, slide, banjo, bouzouki); Dianne Lenham (clarinet, saxophone, recorder); Su Morley (vocals, fiddle, piano accordion); Sonya Manzalini (drums, percussion, zaghareet; Bobby Pâquet (vocals, guitar); David Morley (double bass, backing vocals).
Review by Jan Forbes for indie-cds.com 2005
This is lively passionate gypsy music to dance away your troubles by; played on abrasive fiddle and wheezy piano accordion. Bohemian Nights is reminiscent of Hungarian goulash, red wine, French bread, Gitanes cigarettes and sensuous painted ladies from the thirties. It is recorded mostly live; thirty-one full-blooded numbers of familiar old Bohemian songs and animated dance tunes, sung and played by two masters of the trade, Ernie Gruner and Phil Carroll, who as a duo call themselves Bohemian Nights. It goes on for seventy minutes. What a find for a theme party!
Imagine the smoke haze of a workers' café in Paris between the wars; cares forgotten as men with slicked back hair whirl shady ladies around a dimly lit dance floor to tangos and waltzes. The frenzy of swivelling hips and slinky shoulders, the highs and lows of passion; the wild and exotic; a little yearning, a little joy, a little laughter; the theatrical and sensual; the dark and melancholy; the nostalgia of familiar old tunes that include well-known standards such as Dark Eyes, Padam Padam, Funiculi Funicula, Jealousy, Istanbul and Moscow Nights; tunes that might once have been recorded on seventy-eights or for old black and white movies.
While most other titles are foreign to me the names don't matter because all the tunes sound familiar and are in the same gypsy style. Still, they represent a wide ranging repertoire from many different cultures: French, Italian, Russian, Hungarian, Turkish, Greek, Argentinean and Jewish, as befits the eclectic gypsies, or Bohemians. Highlights include: several atmospheric medleys representing different cultural styles; in particular the Russian medley that starts with Katyusha and as the momentum picks up blends into Moscow Nights; and Yuksek, Yuksek, a haunting instrumental featuring the Duduk, a traditional Armenian flute played by Phil Carroll.
Doug Kelly has been around the Australian music scene for years in a variety of bands. I first heard him playing with Tansey's Fancy years ago, and he's played with Sirocco and several other well known bands. His latest project is a back to the roots duo with NSW folk singer Mandy Breeze, who has a wonderful voice, and Doug's instrumental arrangements complement this well. Doug Kelly and Mandy Breeze have put together a very listenable CD of traditional folk songs, which manages that subtle trick of revisiting tried and trusted material and getting a result that sounds fresh and brings with it the individual artists approach.
From the artists' website - "SIMPLE FOLK was inspired by reading about the tremendous struggles of the past from the viewpoint of the ordinary person.
So much of history is written from the point of view of the aristocracy, the landed and powerful gentry, or the church. So very little recounts the experiences of the small, the powerless and the humble. When we finally did access authentic documentation relating to the many, the history was mostly collective - things like expected lifespan (woefully low!) parish taxation records and general diet. As the facts started to fall into some semblance of order the overwhelming feeling we had was to admire these people, for if life seems difficult at times for us, those difficulties are dwarfed by the burdens our ancestors bore. Doug and myself (Mandy) would discuss these issues long into the night, trying to imagine ourselves in their position, and tap into the emotions they might have felt. We found ourselves trawling through our favourite folk ballads, trying to 'marry' them to different times and different people groups. All of these songs are traditional, written by an unknown person (we call him Mr. Trad Anon) with the exception of track 4. Fogtown is a modern song written by an American woman, Michelle Shocked. We included this one song because its lyrics depict the modern urban struggle, sort of linking the past with the present. We completed the CD with a traditional Australian sea shanty, more recently used as a children's lullaby - Little Fishy. This beautiful song seemed so fitting as a closing number, and its haunting reprise of "Go home and don't cry" seemed so very right and in context."
Yours musically with marimbas is the second solo album from Melbourne musician John Francis, performing as HWYL (which can be a solo act or band with a variety of members). This double album released in late 2005 is a very contemporary set of pieces, some purely instrumental, and some songs, with one studio album plus the bonus of a live performance CD. The mood of the pieces on CD one varies from fairly mellow and laid back groove based numbers, Hiraeth (I will wait for you) for example, to the Afro-beat style Over the river which sounds very Zimbabwean in feel. In fact there is no mbira on the album, but you imagine you hear it in this cut.
The vocal tracks, several co-written by Francis & one of the two female vocal leads used on the CD, the singer Emily White, are strong. White features on What the doctor ordered which has a very dancy rock/funk beat.
Quest starts off with a new age feel then reminds me in the vocal section of Massive Attack in their more laid back mood, which is partly down to style and partly the voice of Shakira Searle. The song Children have a voice has the potential to become something of an anthem given the right exposure.
HWYL, as an ensemble, draws on the talents of a number of players, and there are guest spots by several fine musicians on this CD, adding colour to multitrack work by Francis himself who contributes a large variety of instrumental performances. Francis plays a variety of percussion as well as the core marimbas which are the feature of the CD, and he adds a variety of keyboard types. Other players include Emilie Ash, Russell Bratton, Rob Law, Nathan Farelly, Geraint Seren, Holly Forster, Kate Gordon.
CD two in the set is different in that it is all a duo performance of Francis on marimba with percussionist Geraint Seren. This will please the percussion purist, is and works in it's own terms, though stylistically doesn't have the variety of the studio CD.
The CD release is in association with the Starlight Children's Foundation.
Indie-CDs.com - the independent music specialist Main site: Web page for retail and wholesale CD sales, webradio, reviews, info, links Indie-CDs is also on Amazon.co.uk at www.amazon.co.uk/shops/indie-cds
Mail address 85 Oakford's Road, Wattle Grove, Tasmania, 7109, Australia ph. 03 6295 0735 fax. 03 6295 0835 mobile 0418 147134
Review by Jan Forbes for indie-cds.com 2005
Here is a man and his guitar with his soul laid bare. Steve Vella has a husky voice that gets the high notes; low key, laid back singing accompanied by rhythmic melodic tunes. Steve's songs are about the simple truths of a humble and honest man and they tug at the heartstrings every time I hear them.
Steve is a talented singer-songwriter and guitarist who's been doing the pub circuit in Victoria and NSW. He brought out this, his first CD, at the request of friends and supporters. The sound recording is as crisp and clear as crystal. The ballads are of travel and the sea, of setting off and getting free, of being at one with him self and with life; of overcoming and breaking through. Steve is a poet like Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan, and yet he's of this time and this place; with a style, message and images of his own creation. The harmonious backing vocals and solid melodic bass are by Liz Frenchman, best known for her work with Jigzag, acclaimed on the international circuit and performers at most major Australian folk festivals. In track 2, Bless This Day, Steve sings "I'd put down my guitar/If the choice was one of two/No song could ever be worth/Losing you"; and from the way he's caressing it the listener is left in no doubt how much this man loves his guitar; the effect, deeply moving.
In track 9, , Steve in seeking to inspire someone to fly higher sings, "The wounds will heal again you'll laugh/And see the mirror turn to glass"; a powerful image of transformation. When I first heard this CD I felt myself resisting it. I didn't realise how much Steve was pulling at my heartstrings and that I wasn't sure I wanted to go along for the ride, to let myself be carried along by the powerful feelings that awakened when I allowed myself to open up to the man and his music and allowed myself to be touched and moved by his songs.
review by Jan Forbes for indie-cds.com 2005
Review by Jan Forbes for indie-cds.com 2005.
The songs on this CD are sung in Ladino, the language of a Jewish people without a homeland, who were expelled from Spain in 1492 and fled to the Ottoman Empire . The result is a compilation with an Eastern flavour originating from countries like Bulgaria, the Balkans, Greece, Turkey and the Middle East . Some of Melbourne 's finest folk musicians play songs about fate and longing, heaven and earth, the sun and the moon; it's the sort of music that gets into your blood and warms your soul..
Sephardic Fusion introduces a blend of cultures: Spanish, Turkish, Greek and Hebrew. The sound is tantalisingly familiar and yet I'd never quite heard any of these versions before. Deep guttural lead vocals are by Sarah Mandie who has a special interest in Jewish music. Sarah chose most of the work herself. Some of the instruments are presumably traditional for Sephardic Jews although clearly poetic licence is also at play. The musical talent brought in by Sarah includes some of Melbourne's finest improvisers: Harry Williamson (guitar, piano, dulcimer) who arranged most of the music and is noted for his collaborations with Anthony Phillips from Genesis and Sting; Ernie Gruner (violin, viola, mandolin); Kate Neal (recorder, backing vocals); Martin Mackerras (clarinet, backing vocals); Tunji Beier (two drums of Persian origin, the zarb and tavil).
Track 2, Durme, Durme, is a lullaby where voice harmonises with recorder lamenting the fate of the people of Zion : 'My wings have been clipped and my voice has been silenced'. Track 7, La Sirena, has a medieval sounding rhythm where the drums in the background are like rumbling thunder, as Sarah sings: 'Yet into the sea I will throw myself if the sirens call me.' The last track, called Morenica Sos goes 'Your blood is so sweet it enters my soul'- the sweet resonant music of the hammer dulcimer, or cimbalom, from the Balkans, ending the CD on a high point .Ernie Website
Review by Ewan Mackenzie
Part Celtic folk, part Nashville, a dram of Gram, a pint of Lindisfarne. Alan has waited 24 years to make his second album. Like Jacaranda is his blossoming. Focussed in content and cohesive in production, this CD is the album Alan had to make.
Backing vocalists Ryk, Helen and Mark drip class into the grooves and the musicians work with love, care and panache. Producer Mark Lea has brilliantly captured the intimacy of Alan's voice, so that the tales the songs tell are coherent and moving. Alan has written all the songs on the CD, and they are drawn from a lifetime of experience.
Standouts are Gypsy Wind, Lady in the Window, Elenore and, my favourite, Like Shakespeare Said - but there's lots more. A finely crafted album.
Review by Ewan Mackenzie
Jamie the perfectionist brings us his nearness to perfection - none of us attain it - and bloody close it is too. From the opening Little Girl with Mower to the closer Let the Mermaids Play with Me, a Mississippi John Hurt tune featuring the only recorded Jamie vocal, this album is a celebration of acoustic roots guitar. Doc Watson, Norman Blake and Clarence White are watching on, and for those guitarists out there it's intimidatingly good! Leah Cotterell sings a tale of friendship lost in What a Friend I Had in You, another reason this CD belongs in all our collections.
Review by Ewan Mackenzie
The thing about someone who does comedy in public, and does it well, is that a serious album like this is unexpected and seemingly out of character. So it is with our man Marko, he of the funny faces and the politically satirical bent.
He's made a BEAUTIFUL well played, well recorded CD of SERIOUS music - and it's excellent. It will captivate classical music fans and entrance folkies, and those of us to whom three chords is more than enough!
The suite Songs Without Words evokes moods and memories galore. Simon
Monsour's production is clean and simple, and brings out the
warmth of acoustic instruments to perfection. Intricate, intriguing,
intimate. Marko where can we get this?
Contact: or call 07 3217 2328
Review by John Holmberg
A banjo CD...Now before you indignantly turn the page, hear me out. Frenchman, Jean-Marc Andres plays masterful, melodic-finger-style, 5-string banjo. His Belle Époque Ensemble (Violin, piano, accordion, cello, bass and mandolin) gives a swinging setting for Andres melodic flights. The tunes cover many syncopated genres from ragtime to Gypsy jazz, with a bit of western swing, melodic 3-finger bluegrass, period waltzes and polka along the way. All are composed and arranged by Jean-Marc, a fine tunesmith.
Jean-Marc has lived in New York, Florida and the Caribbean, as well as France, so the eclectic mix comes naturally (and musically informed). There are some swinging romps you will want to try to play along with (like 1924) if you have any inclinations toward string-swing. There is some very tasty swing fiddle throughout the CD and teasing bits of accordion and mandolin.
These are good players who sound like they are having a good time in the studio. There is a definite "period feel" to many of the tunes, but with a contemporary vitality and accessibility. I did get a bit antsy during the second half of the CD. I would have liked a bit more playing by the other fine musicians in the Ensemble...I mean, you can never have too much banjo, but...:-)
I have not checked local availability of the CD but you can Google Jean-Marc Andres with good links to web CD sellers. So get a copy, light up a Galloise, sit back with your feet up on the red-velvet Ottoman, pour yourself a cognac and enjoy.