Lori Gordon

Bletherings From a Music Obsessed Mind

Best of Danny Kyle Open Stage 2013, week 1

Every year, I look forward to the Danny Kyle Open Stage competition that takes place during Celtic Connections in Glasgow. It’s a fantastic opportunity, not just for up & coming artists to gain wide exposure, but to hear some amazing musicians that I might otherwise miss. My music collection has grown substantially over the years, thanks to the Danny Kyles. Of course, I have to give a huge Thank You to the folks at Celtic Music Radio, who make it possible for me to listen to the Danny Kyle from 3,000+ miles away.

After last year’s stellar DK, I wasn’t sure that this year could match it. I needn’t have worried. The caliber of performances is even higher.  I listen to a lot of traditional and “new trad” music, so in order to catch my fancy, the music has to be top-notch. Of the 13 groups that I adored from this first week, 11 of them are trad.

Here are my favorites, listed more or less in chronological order:

Matt Tighe – A young fiddler from London who plays in an Irish style. A lot of talent in this lad. You can listen to his set here.

Halina Romaniszyn & Aidan Morrison – A trad duo from Orkney. Absolutely brilliant! You can hear their set here.

Neusa – A refreshing group of students from Glasgow. You can listen to their set here.

Gria – A brand new group, hailing mostly from the Islands, performing their first gig. I can’t wait to hear more! Their set is here.

Kat Healy – A lovely singer/songwriter from Edinburgh. I’ve already added her CD to my collection. Listen to her set here.

The Jellyman’s Daughter – Great name, great duo from Edinburgh. They remind me of  The Civil Wars. You can hear their set here.

The Mhairi Marwick Band – Amazing! One of my top favorites. I hope there’s an album in their future soon. You can listen to their set here.

Charlie Grey & Pablo Lafuente – A fiddle/guitar duo from Plockton. These lads have a bright future ahead of them. Listen to their set here.

Malcolm Bushby – Tasmanian fiddler who was also on the Danny Kyles last year. I loved him last year and love him just as much this year. His music is truly sublime. Give his set a listen here.

Askolenn – A stunning Breton band. If you’re not familiar with Breton music, listen without haste to their set here!

Shona Brown – Delightfully surprising flute player and singer from Motherwell. Fantastic integration of styles. Give her a listen here.

Cairngorm Ceilidh Trail – Unbelievably talented group from the Highlands. I’ll be surprised if they’re not one of the winners. You can hear their set here.

Mulk – A trio of lads who play a crazy and amazing fusion of styles. Their set was jaw-dropping. You can listen to it here.

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January 26, 2013 Posted by | Celtic, Country, Folk, Jazz, Singer-Songwriter, Traditional | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Danny Kyle Favorites, week 2

The final week of the Danny Kyle Open Stage (as well as Celtic Connections itself) has passed and there were a few more stunning gems performing their hearts out. I recommend checking them all out – I think they all have fantastic careers ahead of them!

Fiona Driver – fantastic fiddler from Orkney who is also a very prolific composer.

Enez Trio [Tristan Le Govic] – Centered around Tristan’s harp playing, they have a full, rich sound.

Seonaid Aitkin – Amazing fiddler who spends most of her time as a classical violinist.

Rachel Sermanni – Really delightful singer/songwriter who performed with a couple of friends.

Parsec – These lads have mad skills! All hail from the University of Limerick.

Kilairum – This group came to my attention early last year. Their music is a blend of trad & jazz.

Lurach – Great trad group that performs Gaelic song & music.

Kirsty and Katie Lawrence – Incredible trad musicians from the Isle of Man. I found their stage presence refreshing and funny.

All of their performances can be found over on Celtic Music Radio in their “Listen Again” section.

January 31, 2010 Posted by | Celtic, Folk, Jazz, Singer-Songwriter, Traditional | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gjermund Larsen Trio – “Ankomst”

Prior to stumbling across this album, I had only heard Gjermund’s work with the traditional Norwegian super-group Majorstuen. I was curious to hear the direction he ventured on his own. What I found was a sumptuously intoxicating album.

A few of the pieces on Ankomst are given a very traditional treatment, especially “Brudemarsj” and the album’s one song, “Sukkersøtt”. However, the majority of the tunes feature Gjermund’s divine fiddling interwoven with gentle jazz piano and bass.

I rarely describe albums in terms of sex appeal, but Ankomst definitely has it. There is a dreamy sensuality, almost a sultriness that runs through this album. The opening trio of tunes, “Arrivals,” “Midnattsdrøm,” and “Regntung Dag” invite you into the reverie, which is really only broken by the bonus track “Kitchenpolka,” a fast-paced, somewhat jarring conclusion to the album.

With the exception of that last track, there really are no weak areas on Ankomst. While each track can definitely stand on its own, I’ve found it a much more fulfilling experience to listen to the album as a whole. This is an excellent album to get lost in at the end of the day.

Those attending the final weekend of Celtic Connections 2010 can see Gjermund perform with Majorstuen on 30 Jan. and 31 Jan. with his trio.

To visit Gjermund’s MySpace page, click here.

January 4, 2010 Posted by | Album Reviews, Folk, Jazz | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Donald Grant – “The Way Home”

Having traveled throughout the world, Donald Grant has taken all of those musical influences and blended them into a simmering fusion of world music on The Way Home. Around every corner is something different – flamenco, slow air, Mexican bolero, jazz – and through it all is Donald’s divine fiddling. Joining him on this adventure is a stellar cast of musicians, among them:  Catriona McKay, Seamus Egan, Karen Matheson, Donald Shaw, and James MacIntosh.

Aside from performance and production, Donald’s tune writing talents are incredibly diverse and mature. The majority of the pieces on The Way Home are self-penned. The most poignant is the Gaelic-language lullaby “Tha Thu Daonnan Nam Smuain (You are always in my thoughts),” co-written with his father and sung by Karen Matheson. It is breathtakingly gorgeous and Karen’s vocals carry it deep into the heart. This gorgeousness is also found on “Chrissie’s”, a touching slow air written for his aunt. It begins gently with harp and fiddle before swelling into a crescendo of full strings. It then finishes as gently as it began.

Donald’s talents aren’t confined to slow pieces. “Reel Valencia” features rapid-fire fiddling over a flamenco rhythm, while “NZ 2004” is a funky, jazz-infused tune that commemorates a trip to New Zealand with friends. One of my favorites is “Rollerblade Reels,” a rollicking set that includes 2 puirt a beul (mouth music) tunes.

The two non-original pieces are worth mentioning here. The first is the stunning Highland slow air “An Gille Bàn (The Fair Haired Lad)”, also known as “An T-Iarla Diurach (The Earl of Jura)”. Donald’s rendition is exquisitely haunting and, for me personally, the highlight of the album. It is an amazing showcase of his virtuosity. The second piece is the Mexican bolero “Noche de Ronda,” a sultry torch song made more so by the smoldering vocals of Sally Doherty.

An old Gaelic proverb says, “The man who roamed furthest from home heard the sweetest music when he returned home.”  Donald Grant’s The Way Home is, indeed, the sweetest music.

To visit Donald’s official website, click here.

To visit Donald’s MySpace page, click here.

November 17, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Folk, Jazz, Traditional | , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Retro Look

As I’ve been doing some preliminary pondering of my Top 10 Albums of 2009 (which will be published at the end of the year), I realized that there were also a number of albums I heard for the first time this year but that were released prior to 2009. Some are more recent releases and some are rather old. A few of those albums really blew me away, so I’ve decided to give them a shout-out. After all, it’s never too late to discover “new” music!

This list is not in a particular order.

Archie McAllister – A Fiddler’s Tapestry. Ok, this first one is a bit of a trick. This actually was released in 2009 but it’s a compilation of older material, therefore I thought it better suited here. I hadn’t really listened to the west coast fiddling style before this and I quite like it. His slow airs made my mouth drop open.

Check out the tracks “Ossian” and “Lachlan Dubh”.

Gjermund Larsen Trio – Ankomst. Norwegian fiddler with a slow, sultry jazz style. Absolutely delicious! And it’s definitely chill music. I can’t wait to hear what he does next.

Check out the tracks “Midnattsdrøm” and “Regntung Dag”.

Rallion – For No-One and Everyone. I still can’t get enough of this album! This is their debut release. Marieke McBean’s voice is to die for and the fiddle work takes my breath away!

It’s really hard to narrow it down to a couple, but check out the tracks “I Am Stretched On Your Grave” and “Fisherman’s Wife”.

Fiona Driver – Orkney Fire. Very talented young fiddler from Orkney who is also a prolific tune writer. Of the various styles I’ve heard, this reminds me the most of America’s Appalachian music, which has its roots deep in Scottish music. It’s a gorgeous album!

Check out the tracks “Fidgarth Fiddles” and “Graham In A Tent”.

Synnøve Rognlien – Undr. Synnøve has created an Avant-garde, lush aural tapestry of song and sound. Gregorian chant sits side by side with jazz & electronica and the result is intoxicating!

Check out the tracks “Det Røde” and “Serk”.

Le Vent du Nord – Dans les airs. Until giving them a listen, I hadn’t realized how similar Quebecois music was to Breton music, especially with the call & response songs. This is a fantastic album full of hot instrumentals and great songs. High energy!

Check out the tracks “La Piastre Des États” and “Les Larmes Aux Yeux”.

Fridarey – Across The Waters. Lise Sinclair, a member of this family group, has a stunning voice and is the reason I got this album (she also has her own solo recording out).

Check out the tracks “Day Dawn” and “Wild White Swan”.

Whirligig – Celtic Dawn. This is the oldest album in the list, released back in 1995, but I’m still just as amazed by it. It’s early music meets Celtic music, with jazz elements thrown in for good measure. The recorder & fiddle work of Fiona & Jenny Cuthill is sublime!

Check out the tracks “Aisleag Ur” and “Roslin Castle” (one of my favorite arrangements of this tune).

Yvonne Lyon – Fearless. This is Yvonne’s second album, which was released a few years ago, and it is an excellent showcase of her exquisite songwriting skills. There’s something about this album, even in the darker, more emotionally intense songs, that is uplifting.

Check out the tracks “Come” and “Love”.

Gordon Gunn – Shoreside. He’s a recent find for me, thanks to a suggestion from a friend, but I was wowed from the get-go. His fast sets are amazing but his slow airs are divine! They stopped me in my tracks.

Check out the tracks “Orkney” and “Hogties Reel/Wooden Whale”.


All of these albums can be found either at Music in Scotland, Amazon, or iTunes.

September 22, 2009 Posted by | Avant-Garde, Celtic, Jazz, Singer-Songwriter, Traditional | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Synnøve Rognlien – “Undr”

synnove rognlien

Undr is the debut release by Norwegian singer Synnøve Rognlien. I can read and write a little Norwegian but can only understand about 1 in 50 words when it’s spoken. Why, then, am I reviewing an album sung entirely in Norwegian? Because her music is amazing.  Her voice is an exquisite instrument that carries me over a beautiful, gentle, almost hypnotic landscape.

Her music is a rich blending of acoustic, folk-based music with electronica, along with elements of jazz and Gregorian chant thrown in for good measure. I find Undr joyously refreshing. The two most straight-forward, melodic songs are “Som Bare Du Bar” and “Du Som Våker”. Most of the other pieces rest more comfortably in the experimental vein. The most stunning song on this album is “Det Røde”. The arrangement is very stark, highlighting Synnøve’s emotion-laden voice. The album closes on a fantastic note with “Du”. My favorite pieces are “Det Røde”, “Serk”, and “Du Som Våker”, with “Du” not far behind.

This album is an incredible tapestry of sound that definitely warrants repeated listenings.

To learn more about Synnøve and hear her music, visit her MySpace page.

May 26, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Avant-Garde, Jazz | , , , , | Leave a comment

Alison Brown – “Stolen Moments”

Alison Brown

I recently picked up a couple of older recordings and have been enjoying them throughout the weekend. One of those is “Stolen Moments” by Alison Brown, which was released in 2005. The thing that fascinated me the most about this album is the variety of music styles, not just from track to track, but also within each track. The style seems to be dictated by whomever is playing the lead at any given moment. Fiddler Stuart Duncan provides a strong trad & bluegrass sound, whereas pianist John R. Burr provides a very distinct jazz sound. When in the lead, Alison Brown’s banjo weaves back and forth between bluegrass and jazz.

This album features 4 vocal tracks, each done by different vocalists. Three of those tracks, featuring the Indigo Girls on “Homeward Bound“, Beth Nielsen Chapman on “Angel” (the old Jimi Hendrix song), and Mary Chapin Carpenter on “Prayer Wheel“, are pleasant but just okay. Had Emmylou Harris done the vocals on “Angel“, I think it would have been a very different story. The stellar track here is “One Morning in May” featuring the vocals and fiddling of Andrea Zonn. Incidently, it’s the only track that doesn’t feature the banjo.

Of the instrumental tracks, there are 3 really stand-out tracks: the heavily bluegrass flavored “The Magnificent Seven“, which Brown co-wrote with guitarist John Doyle; “Carrowkeel“, which features the beautifully haunting whistle of Seamus Egan; and the fabulously-named “(I’m Naked and I’m) Going to Glasgow“, which begins with the jig “The Grey Goose” before spinning into 3 reels. This last tune gives the musicians the most room to stretch their legs and really showcase their talents.

Though I generally prefer more traditional bluegrass over the somewhat ridiculously named “jazzgrass”, on the whole, I enjoyed “Stolen Moments.”

To hear more of Alison’s music, check out her MySpace page.

May 21, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Bluegrass, Folk, Jazz, Traditional | , , , , | Leave a comment