Lori Gordon

Bletherings From a Music Obsessed Mind

Liv Runesdatter – “Syng Hjerte”

liv runesdatter

Syng Hjerte, by Liv Runesdatter, is the culmination of several years of studying obscure songs from a small pietistic laymen’s movement that formed in the eastern region of Norway during the mid-1800’s.  Liv’s voice throughout this recording is breathtakingly gorgeous and hymn-like.  The music, however, is more avant-garde, even bordering on atonal at times. The instruments used are Hardanger fiddle, accordion, sax, double bass, melodica and baglama, but rarely more than one or two instruments at a time or per song. Most of the arrangements are sparse, which serve to punctuate the instrumentation even more.

Syng Hjerte opens with the delicate “Nu Hviler Mark og Enge,” which layers Liv’s voice over subtle pizzicato of the fiddle. From there, it ventures into more worldly and adventurous territory. “Hos Gud Er Idel Glede” calls to mind the music of the Rom, with it’s dark fiddling and tones, while “Skal Vi Ustridig Hist,” featuring the melodica, is extremely experimental. The album closes with the meditatively sublime a cappella piece “Nu Solen Går Ned.” The standout tracks are the title track “Syng Hjerte, Syng en Aftensyng,” featuring the exquisite fiddling of Tuva Bolstad, and “So, Ro Snubberusken Min,” where Liv is backed solely by the baglama.

Syng Hjerte is both reverently soothing and exotically jarring, but well worth a listen.

To hear several tracks from this recording and learn more about this project, visit Liv’s MySpace page.

August 17, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Avant-Garde, Traditional | , , , , | Leave a comment

Eilean Mòr – “35 Degrees South”

eilean mor

To describe this Australian band in simple terms, you could say they are a Scots Trad fusion band, but there is nothing simple about their music or their debut recording. At the forefront is singer/songwriter Ruth Lee Martin, who sings in Gaelic and English. There are many talented Gaelic singers out there and  I think Ruth is one of the best outside of Scotland & Ireland. Joining Ruth are guitarist Bill Grose and double-bass player Bill Williams, along with newcomers Ed Rodrigues on percussion and Catherine Fraser, who is considered one of Australia’s finest Scottish fiddlers.

The majority of 35 Degrees South is traditional material, which includes rare Gaelic songs written by Scottish immigrants sent to Australia during the Highland Clearances.  Pieces like “Fac’ Thu Na Feidh” and “B’eoghainn” are suberbly executed. The instrumentalists have the chance to “stretch their legs” on two sets of invigorating tunes that make it impossible to sit still.  Added to the mix are three original songs penned by Ruth, delivered in a silky, jazz-tinged voice. The thing that sets this recording apart is that Eilean Mòr is not afraid to infuse the traditional music with jazz, blues, and other contemporary styles. “Can Ye Sew Cushions”  is a fantastic example of that marriage and is definitely the stand out track on this album.

To learn more about Eilean Mòr, visit their official website or their MySpace page.

August 17, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Celtic, Traditional | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rallion – “One For Sorrow”

rallion

Rallion’s sophomore release, One For Sorrow, is a dazzling display of musicality by the Scotland-based traditional folk quartet.  The members of Rallion are prolific performers and the skills honed on stages around the world shine on this recording. Featuring a mix of traditional songs and mostly original tunes, One For Sorrow has a deliciously exciting feel.

Marieke McBean’s rich alto marries perfectly with the material, whether conveying the dark humor of “The Astrologer,” the poignancy of “Lassie Lie Near Me,” or the good cheer of the Dutch drinking song “Wat Zullen We Drinken” (What Will We Drink). The instrumentation accompanying each song is truly splendid, creating an aural luxuriance that reaches the listener on all levels.

The crème de la crème of One For Sorrow, however, are the tunes, the majority composed by the group’s tunesmiths: Stevie Lawrence, Fiona Cuthill and Andrew Lyons. Not only are the compositions exquisite, their execution is phenomenal. All of the members of Rallion are multi-instrumentalists, lending an incredible depth and texture to each piece. The highlights are “Askival,” an energetic set of tunes by Andrew, “Fez,” an exotically flavored set by Fiona and Stevie, and, my personal favorite, “Waiting For Dawn,” a gorgeously evocative slow tune by Fiona.

One For Sorrow is a brilliant album that will leave you hungering for more.

To learn more about Rallion, visit their official website or their MySpace page.

August 16, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Celtic, Folk, Traditional | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Catherine Fraser, Duncan Smith – “Rhymes & Reasons”

catherine fraser

Frequently hailed as one of Australia’s finest Scottish fiddlers, Catherine Fraser shows why she’s earned that title on Rhymes & Reasons, her fourth album with pianist Duncan Smith. There is a certain exuberance, a joie de vivre coursing through each note and phrase that lifts this album into the extraordinary. Produced by Laura Risk and featuring guests Hanneke Cassel on fiddle, Tony McManus on guitar, Natalie Haas on cello and Eric Breton on percussion, Rhymes & Reasons is a spellbinding collection of traditional and contemporary slow airs, jigs, reels and strathspeys.

Though all of the tunes are worthy of mention, there are several exceptional tracks. “Rothiemurchus Rant/Calum Breugach/Donald McLeod’s Reel/Donald Don of Bohunting” features the rant played as a gorgeous slow air, then increases in tempo until the bow is flying over the strings with lightning speed by the end of the set. Catherine is equally expressive on two original slow airs: “The Kirrie Gem,”  which showcases the lyrical intertwining of Natalie Haas’ exquisite playing with Catherine’s, and “Dancing with George,”  a sweet, gentle tune written for her horse, King George IV.

“O Let Me In this Ae Night” is a delightful arrangement of two versions of the same tune; first as a slow air and then as a reel. The album closes with “Raoghull agus Cairistine,” an old Scots Gaelic tune given a very contemporary treatment, replete with bass synth, hand percussion and wisps of ethereal vocals. It’s a spectacular ending to a fantastic recording.

Rhymes & Reasons is definitely one of my top ten album choices for 2009.

To learn more about Catherine and her music, visit her official website or her MySpace page.

August 10, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Celtic, Traditional | , , , , , , | Leave a comment