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.

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

Fiona Cuthill & Stevie Lawrence – “A Cruel Kindness”

Fiona Cuthill and Stevie Lawrence have been musical partners for a long time, working together in such bands as Whirligig, Canterach, and Rallion, among others.  A Cruel Kindness is their first album as a duo and is a mixture of old friends and new acquaintances. Those familiar with the duo’s work with Rallion will recognize a few of the tracks, which have appeared previously on Rallion’s albums. Here, however, they are given a fresh start with new arrangements and guest musicians.  The melancholy of “Waiting for Dawn” is lightened by Fraser Speirs’ harmonica and Brendan McCreanor helps turn “Back on Track” into an all-out jam.

The real gems of this album, though, are the new compositions. Fiona Cuthill is a truly gifted composer.  Even simply-arranged tunes have an underlying depth and complexity to them.  They have that indefinable thing that commands attention and, at times, takes one’s breath away.  Stevie Lawrence helps bring those tunes to life with his virtuosity, whether on guitar or bouzouki.  Their long partnership has allowed them to really explore the nuances in their music. Together, they create a magic that is greater than the sum of their parts.

The jigs and reels allow them to stretch their legs and hint at their love of rock music.  “Andy D’s Reel” from “The Seven Sisters” set is a rollicking, toe-tapping reel and though “One for Brendan” from “Unfinished Business” may have failed as a pipe tune, it’s a fantastic fiddle tune and features truly top notch fiddling.  However, it is the title track, “A Cruel Kindness,” that is worth the cost of the album alone.  Opening with the sublime harp of Rachel Hair, the throatiness of Cuthill’s fiddle takes the listener on an emotional journey into that well of sadness and hurt created by unintentional words and acts.

A Cruel Kindness is an outstanding debut that shines the spotlight on Cuthill and Lawrence’s abounding musical talent.

To visit Fiona & Stevie’s Facebook page, click here.

September 21, 2011 Posted by | Album Reviews, Folk, Traditional | , , , , , | 1 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

Annbjørg Lien & Bjørn Ole Rasch – “Come Home”

annbjorg bjorn

Come Home is a new duo project by Annbjørg Lien and long-time collaborator/producer Bjørn Ole Rasch. Featuring Lien on fiddle, hardanger fiddle and nyckelharpa and Rasch on harmonium, Come Home is a bold melding of traditional and contemporary, intimate and innovative.

The album opens with “Funk Trunk,” one of seven original tunes. It’s a fast-paced, edgy piece that sees fiddle and harmonium trading lead and percussive roles throughout and really sets the mood for the remainder of the album. The most innovative track comes midway through the album, in the form of “Woody’s Bounce,” which features a fantastic interplay between the nyckelharpa and harmonium.

Come Home includes two tunes that have appeared on other Lien recordings. The reworking of “January” is quite gorgeous and a welcome addition here. However, “The Old Car” doesn’t really offer anything new. The surprise track on the album is the title track “Come Home” (Kom Heim), which is sung by Annbjørg, with backing vocals by Bjørn Ole.

Fans of Lien’s more traditional fiddle work will not be disappointed. Her performances of the traditional “Jo the Giant” (Kjempe-Jo) and the two Hans W. Brimi pieces, “The Goblin’s Halling” (Tusshallingen) and “The Little Goblin” (Tusseliten), are truly exquisite and, for me, they are the standout tracks on the album.

Come Home manages to push into new territory while simultaneously staying close to home. It’s a joyous exploration of old and new and a journey well worth taking.

To visit Annbjørg’s official website, click here.

To visit Annbjørg’s MySpace page, click here.

October 14, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Folk, Traditional | , , , , , | 2 Comments

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