Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rallion - "One For Sorrow"

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 gorgeous 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.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Catherine Fraser, Duncan Smith - "Rhymes & Reasons"

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 well-rounded 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 speed as it moves into the second strathspey and the reels. Catherine is equally expressive on two original slow airs: “The Kirrie Gem” and “Dancing with George.” The first tune showcases Natalie Haas’ exquisite playing and the latter was written for Catherine’s 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.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Yvonne Lyon - "Fearless"

Scottish singer-songwriter Yvonne Lyon left teaching to pursue a full-time career as a musician and that leap of faith has paid off on Fearless, her second full length recording. Yvonne delivers her brilliantly-crafted songs in a gorgeous voice full of intimacy and emotion. The effect is soothing, heartwarming and inviting. While most of the album is in the acoustic/folk vein, Yvonne proves she’s able to rock out with numbers like “Subscribe” and “Mariana”. An accomplished musician herself, she is joined by the likes of David Lyon, Chris Stout, Graeme Duffin and others to create the rich tapestry her songs are built upon.

On the surface, Yvonne’s lyrics are engaging and intimate, sweet and poignant. Yet there is a deeper story here. Though her music is rarely labeled “Christian”, Yvonne is no stranger to the Christian music scene and her Faith-centered lyrics are just as welcome in the church as on the secular stage. “Mariana” is a lovely dedication to a woman able to maintain her faith in the face of hardship and grief. In “Run To” there’s the realization that, even though we stumble and fall due to our own folly, God is still there. My personal favorites are the beautifully poignant “Come”, written for a loved one who has passed on, incorporating Matthew 11:28 as the chorus, and “Love”, a gorgeous song about the true definitions of love.

Fearless is an uplifting celebration of faith, love and peace and Yvonne’s heartfelt sincerity reaches deep into the listener.

To learn more about Yvonne, visit her official website or her MySpace page.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Kim Edgar - "butterflies and broken glass"

On butterflies and broken glass, Kim Edgar has moved into very different territory from her previous releases. Gone is the jazzy lounge sound, replaced by more contemporary pop/folk stylings. This is definitely a more mature album and readily establishes Kim as a force to be reckoned with on the Scottish singer/songwriter scene

butterflies also sees a shift in Kim’s songwriting style. Her lyrics are still well-crafted and moving, but they aren’t quite as intimate as earlier songs, as though the perspective is from a step back instead of right there in the grit with her. In general, her songwriting skills have become much tighter, due, I think, to her experiences in 2006’s Burnsong Songhouse project. There she worked side-by-side with the likes of Karine Polwart, Emma Pollock, King Creosote, MC Soom T and others. Three of the ten tracks were co-written with members of that group

The thing that has impressed me the most about butterflies is the music. Kim has composed some exceptional pieces that really form the fabric of each song. One feels the utter intensity of the situation in “Scissors, Paper, Stone,” a dramatic piece about domestic violence, as well as the lighter nostalgia that imbues “Red”. This album is full of depth and texture and excellently showcases her skills as a composer. Additionally, she is backed by a stellar cast of musicians, most of whom happen to be Karine Polwart’s band, including Karine herself. Their musical abilities and professionalism truly help set this recording apart.

Kim has a gorgeous, melodious voice and she displays a greater range than on her earlier works. My only wish here is that her voice carried a bit more of the emotion often heard in her live performances. However, this is a minor thing, as the quality throughout is outstanding. My favorite tracks are “Just Outside Your Door,” the aforementioned “Scissors, Paper, Stone,” and “House on the Hill,” co-written with Emma Pollock.

Overall, butterflies and broken glass is a brilliant recording and I’m keenly awaiting future projects.

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

Monday, May 18, 2009

Olov Johansson & Catriona McKay - Foogy

Olov Johansson and Catriona McKay have teamed up to create an album that is big, bold and bursting with amazing sound. Johansson’s nyckelharpa and McKay’s harp complement each other perfectly on this thirteen-track collection of primarily original compositions. Fresh, inventive arrangements give both artists the opportunity to show the full character of their instruments.

Though I was impressed with the wonderful melody lines, I was more impressed by the supporting roles each was able to play. It is here that the full range of the instruments can truly be appreciated, from soulful droning to bold, percussive rhythms. Whether playing lead or support, McKay and Johansson’s mastery never lets the listener forget that there are two instruments present.

The opening track “1st Class to Glasgow” is delightfully upbeat and gives a good taste of the overall feel of Foogy. Both artists excel on rapid-fire runs and there are plenty found throughout, especially on “Rain/Ekoln,” “In The Castle,” and “The Foogy Set.” Equally capable at the other end of the spectrum, McKay and Johansson deliver an achingly beautiful performance on “The Harper’s Dismissal.”

Foogy is exciting, contemporary and a definite breath of fresh air. I sincerely hope Johansson and McKay continue to collaborate on future projects.

This review is also published on

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lauren MacColl - Strewn With Ribbons

Scottish fiddler Lauren MacColl's sophomore release, Strewn With Ribbons, is an eleven-track collection of original compositions and traditional tunes from the Highland Collections. Lauren is soundly supported by band members Barry Reid on guitar and Mhairi Hall on piano, with guest appearances by Donald Shaw on accordion and harmonium, Su-a Lee on cello, and Chris Stout on viola.

The album opens with "Oigfhear A Chuil Duinn (Young Man of the Brown Hair)," which is the surprise track of the album. It begins with Lauren's characteristic crystalline playing, but as it moves into the driving "Poolachrie," the style becomes grittier and more impassioned, to fantastic effect.

Lauren delivers brilliantly energetic performances on the strathspeys, reels and jigs found here, especially on "The Prophet," "Happy Hours," and "Highland Wedding," but the true gems of this album are the slow airs. There are few Highland fiddlers who do them better. Not only is her playing exquisitely poignant, but the arrangements give Strewn With Ribbons a depth and maturity that are simply stunning.

The sonorous tones of Su-a Lee's cello on "'S Trom Trom A Tha Mi (Sad, Sad Am I)" provide a perfect counterpoint to the melancholy of Lauren's fiddle, while the achingly beautiful "Lament for Mr. Thomas Grant, of Glen Elgin" features a tender interplay between fiddle and viola. The album closes with the mournful "Hugh Allan," performed solely by Lauren. The stark emotion of the piece lingers long after the music ends.

Strewn With Ribbons is a gorgeous journey from start to finish. Do yourself a favor and get a copy.

This review is also published on

Beoga - The Incident

Irish group Beoga delivers a rollicking romp across genres on The Incident, their third album. Though the group refuses to detail the event that inspired the title track, this album is a lively and entertaining mix of jigs, reels, polkas and songs filtered through the quirky minds of the band.

Beoga sets the tone with "Lamped," a tune that swerves between pulsing and sedate before launching into a high-octane finish, complete with party sirens. Equally exciting is the Klezmer-flavored "The Flying Golf Club" set, which begins with "The Jewish Polka" and ends with a tune inspired by an amusement park mishap. Lest one thinks Beoga is all high energy, the band performs a lovely rendition of Ciaran O'Grady's "The Bellevue Waltz."

Niamh Dunne gives stellar vocal performances on the gospel number "Strange Things," done in a ragtime style, and the amusing "On The Way," which features the guest vocals of Joe Echo (Ciaran Gribbin) and a gentle Calypso beat.

The Incident is a delightful, feel-good album and confirms Beoga's place as a powerhouse in the Irish traditional scene.

This review is also published on

GiveWay - Lost In This Song

GiveWay's third album, Lost In This Song, is markedly different from their previous releases. Produced by Phil Cunningham, the quartet explores new territory with strong Nashville and funk sounds. Four of the five vocal tracks would be perfectly at home on Country stations throughout the U.S. Lead singer Kristy Johnson really hits her stride on the upbeat breakup song "This One's On You" and the traditional "The Water Is Wide." The latter features a simple musical arrangement that allows her voice to soar over the melody and provides a beautiful close to the album.

The instrumental tracks, most composed by Fiona Johnson, push the boundaries even further. After giving a nod to their roots on the gentle "Violets," the quartet launches into a fantastic fusion of traditional and contemporary sounds. Fiddle and accordion are backed by electric guitar riffs, driving drum beats and funky bass popping. One has the sense that the reins have been dropped and the band has been allowed to run free. The stellar tracks "Lofty's" and "Beginning Set" really showcase the quartet's musical skills and maturity. Lost In This Song is an invigorating journey that promises even greater adventures down the road.

This review is also published on

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Máirín Fahy - "Máirín"

Over the past few months, I've heard several Irish fiddle albums that made me feel as though I was at a recital; the playing was technically precise but there was really no joie de vivre in the music. So when I came across Máirín Fahy's album, I didn't have high hopes. However, the picture of her purple electric fiddle intrigued me enough to give it a listen. What I found was a thoroughly engaging recording full of passion and flair.

"Máirín" is a collection of mostly upbeat traditional and original material that showcases Fahy's fiddling skills. "Midnight in Galway" and "The Celtic Prancer" are the most contemporary, featuring electric guitar riffs that, in the former, seem out of place, but definitely more at home in the latter. "Tip of the Iceberg", written by fellow Riverdance member Brendan Power, is a rousing Americana-styled tune, with Power's blues harmonica jamming alongside Fahy's fiddle. The highlights of this album are Fahy's rendition of "Flower of Magherally" and the beautiful air "Mission Bay", co-written with brother Gerald. The only disappointments are the other vocal tracks, "Every Circumstance" and "Irish Maid". Fahy has a very fine voice but these songs just didn't work for me.

Overall, this is a lively and fun album and is definitely worth checking out. You can find out more about Máirín Fahy at her website.

Alison Brown - "Stolen Moments"

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.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Kim Edgar - "Wee Dote"

Wee Dote is the second EP released by Kim Edgar, issued a couple of years before her full-length butterflies and broken glass album. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the musical journey she has taken over the years.

The lyrics on Wee Dote are dead brilliant. Whether autobiographical or not, there is a feeling of intimate honesty that draws the listener into each song. They tell stories of love and uncertainty and disappointment and longing. “Thaw,” the song that won her a spot in the Burnsong Songhouse project, is a beautiful love song, but the shining stars are the emotionally grittier songs “Shelf,” “Wee Dote,” and “Tucked In My Pocket”.

Musically, it’s quite different from her third recording. Whereas on butterflies the music is an integral part of each story, that is not the case on Wee Dote. Here, the music almost seems to be its own entity; sometimes it supports the vocals, but other times it clashes, threatening to overwhelm them. Kim also sings in an American accent, which, combined with the jazz stylings, give the tracks a glossiness that is not entirely comfortable. However, her voice still retains its crystalline beauty and the genius of the lyrics easily negates such distractions.

Overall, I’m quite impressed with Wee Dote. If you’re a fan of smart, gritty lyrics, definitely give this a listen.

Visit Kim on MySpace or her official website.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Alex Reidinger - "The Pleasures of Hope"

The Pleasures of Hope, by American multi-instrumentalist Alex Reidinger, is a collection of traditional Irish tunes that calls to mind gently rolling hills and pub sessions. Alex is quite proficient on the fiddle, harp and concertina, and this recording features her talents on all three instruments. Though there is some layering of her instruments together, for example fiddle & harp, on a track, each track still retains a primary instrument as the focal point

The album starts off with the concertina-driven Hanly's Tweed, a great foot-tapping set. The subsequent concertina tracks, as well as most of the fiddle tracks, are reminiscent of some Irish sessions I've been to; fun and enjoyable but nothing that really stands out. A couple of the fiddle tracks at the end of the recording, notably The Bird in the Bush and Cro' Na nGabhnar, have edge and spunk to them and bring the recording to a nice close. The surprise here is the harp tracks. They have a contemporary flair and these are definitely the stand-out tracks. My favorites, which are also my overall favorite tracks of the recording, are Crabs in the Skillet and Paddy Fahy's/Lad O'Beirne's.

Alex is still quite young and The Pleasures of Hope provides a taste of things to come. I think she is going to have a great career ahead of her.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Elisabeth Vatn - "Piper On The Roof"

Piper On The Roof is the recent release by Norway's Elisabeth Vatn, a bagpiper who specializes in the Swedish bagpipes. Even though I had listened to some of the tracks on her website prior to getting the album, Piper still caught me quite by surprise.

While some of the pieces may be based on traditional or classical works, they've been turned inside out and given a totally contemporary treatment. It's jazz, new age, blues, and electronica all rolled into an avant-garde package. This is an album that needs to be listened to more than once to hear all of the layers. There are a few pieces, such as Fanfare, Bagging, and Pipes of Peace, where Vatn's piping is the focal point. However, there are just as many other numbers (Springlek After Troskari Erik, Noor/Bjørka, and the 7-minute space odyssey Reed Poetics) where the pipes weave in and out and become part of the sonic fabric. Piper features three fully vocal tracks, the most startling of which is Danny Du (the well-known "Danny Boy" sung in Norwegian). Even though it's given the same modern treatment as the other pieces, it still seems out of place.

My favorite pieces on this album are Bagging, with it's Bolero-esque riffs, and the trance-inducing chanting of Noor/Bjørka, though I also enjoy the vocals on Visa Från Utanmyra-Dusse Oktii. Piper On The Roof is a rather seductive walk on the wild side and one I enjoy taking more and more often.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My Favorite Fiddlers

I've loved fiddle music for a long time and there are so many amazing fiddlers out there that I deeply admire. This is a list of my top favorites - the ones who inspire me the most. While they are all excellent "traditional" musicians, it is their original compositions that I am the most impressed and awed by. And, yes, the majority of this list is comprised of Scottish fiddlers :) To find out more about any of them or to hear some of their music, just click on their names.

Lauren MacColl - my favorite fiddler overall. Her playing is so incredibly beautiful and exquisite and I am truly in awe of her talent. Her music is quite magical in general, but few can match the emotion she puts into her slow airs. She plays with a skill far beyond her years.

Annbjørg Lien - absolutely amazing hardanger fiddler from Norway. I've admired her for a long time. I love that she's not afraid to take risks and explore new territory, yet even her most experimental pieces are rooted in tradition. Definitely my favorite Norwegian fiddler.

Sarah-Jane Summers - a wonderful Scottish fiddler who plays both the standard and the hardanger fiddles. Her music is so textural and lovely. There is something very exciting and addictive about her tunes.

Duncan Chisholm - amazing Highland fiddler. Like Lauren, his slow airs will leave you aching. His music, in general, is incredibly beautiful.

Katherine Liley - another delightful Scottish fiddler! I really like her playing style. She has a sort of "grunge" fiddle sound going on that gives her slow tunes a bit of rawness and the fast tunes a playful edge. I find her music fresh & fun.

Alasdair Fraser - the first Scottish fiddler I ever heard. He truly is a master of the fiddle and in a league of his own. I'm awed by the sounds he can coax from his fiddle. He has done a lot of good things for traditional music, especially here in the U.S.

Natalie MacMaster - she is the one who started it all for me. I saw her on a fluke 12+ years ago and it was the first time I'd seen/heard fiddle-driven trad music. I haven't looked back since. I've really enjoyed listening to her music evolve over the years. She works ceaselessly to promote the traditional music of Cape Breton.

Annlaug Børsheim - she is an incredibly talented hardanger fiddler from Norway, though she also has a fine voice! Her compositions are out of this world and have been performed by numerous other folks, including Sarah-Jane Summers. Ranks second only to Annbjørg on my list of favorite Norwegian fiddlers.

Hanneke Cassel - my favorite fiddler from this side of the pond. Her style ranges from edgy & fiery to tender & poignant. She has a very contemporary feel to her and she doesn't hesitate to incorporate new styles.

Sigrid Moldestad - another fantastically talented hardanger fiddler from Norway. Not only do I love her solo work, I also love her work with Spindel and Gamaltnymalt. A very fresh approach to traditional music.

Catriona MacDonald - I first heard Catriona as part of the String Sisters project. Fantastic Shetland fiddler who blends traditional and contemporary sounds. I enjoy her work with Blazin Fiddles just as much as her solo stuff.

Shona Mooney - a fiddler from the Scottish Borders. Though I've heard her works with Border Young Fiddles and The Shee, I think her solo stuff is incredible. It has a bit more experimental flavor than that of most of the other Scottish fiddlers.

Patsy Reid - most of her stuff is fairly traditional but her latest solo work is a blending of classical and traditional and it's phenomenal! It really showcases her talents as a composer. It's one of the most exciting recordings I've heard in a while.

Susanne Lundeng - a fiddler from the northern region of Norway. Her original compositions have an edginess, almost a wildness, to them that I haven't really heard amongst most other Norwegian fiddlers. She melds traditional music with contemporary styles beautifully.

Celtic Fiddle Festival - originally Kevin Burke, Christian LeMaitre, and Johnny Cunningham (later Andre Brunet after Johnny's passing). All of them are phenomenal fiddlers in their own right, but I love their work as a group even more than their individual stuff, which is saying a lot.

Fiddlers' Bid - there are 4 fiddlers in the group, most of whom also have solo careers. They hail from the Shetland Islands and, moreso than with other groups/artists, there is a strong Nordic influence evident in their music. I find their music a joy to listen to.

Jen Cloher and The Endless Sea

Australian singer-songwriter Jen Cloher and The Endless Sea can best be described as Folk Noir, with doses of indie rockabilly mixed in. Her lyrics are smart and introspective, delivered in subdued tones reminiscent of Cowboy Junkies' Margo Timmins. The effect is that each song feels as though it's a secret meant for your ears only.

Jen has 2 recordings to date, with a third due for release in April. The first recording, Permanent Marker (2005), is a 4-song EP of sparse, dark songs. Two of those songs made it onto her full-length recording Dead Wood Falls (2006). This album features her Endless Sea band more prominently and they add a wonderful depth to the arrangements. Though there is a certain melancholy that flows through the album, it never becomes depressing. My favorite tracks are "Rain" and "Peaks and Valleys". Since that time, the Endless Sea has expanded, most of the members also making up Laura Jean's band. The new album, Hidden Hands, promises a broader, bigger sound and sees the group moving from 'singer backed by a band' to being a band as a whole. There is so much musical talent & creativity in the group that I'm really looking forward to their future projects.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Laura Jean - "Eden Land"

Revisiting Australia, my current obsession is "Eden Land", the second full length release by Laura Jean. The artist herself is also a new discovery for me. I came across her recently when I was exploring Jen Cloher's music, as Laura Jean & her band currently form Jen's "Endless Sea" band.

"Eden Land" set out to be a concept album and it definitely achieved that. The 9 tracks flow into each other beautifully, carrying the listener on a musical river from start to finish. While the tracks can stand on their own, they lose a bit of their potency & magic when not heard in context. I have to confess that the first time I listened to the album, I felt a bit like I was in an opium den (or at least how I imagined I would feel in such a place). Not that it was a bad thing. The music induced this sort of dreamy, floating, hypnotic sensation and I felt like I was waking from a dream when the music ended.

The opening track "Magic Unnamed/Eden Land" sets the mood for the rest of the album. The instrumentation is subtle, the backing vocals are ethereal - almost haunting, and Laura Jean's voice is deliciously soft and gentle. Even on later tracks, when the instrumentation becomes more pronounced, there are never any jarring sounds, nothing to break the spell. The lyrics throughout are very personal, as though she has opened a door into herself and allowed the listeners to follow her on this journey of self-discovery. My favorite tracks are the opening track and "Eve", though I really enjoyed the entire album

Crooked Fiddle Band = Crazy Fun

The Crooked Fiddle Band is an Australian band that has totally set me on fire! They play gypsy punk and it is crazy fun!! Their frenetic music is fueled by virtuosic fiddler Jess Randall, though she is very ably accompanied by Gordon Wallace (guitar, bouzouki, mandolin), Mark Stevens (double bass, charango), and Joe Gould (drum kit, junk, and traditional percussion). Their music combines elements of Middle Eastern, Celtic, Latin, and swing into fiery & occasionally sultry gypsy melodies.

They have two 6-track EP's out: The first is called, quite simply, EP (2006) and the second is Rise (2008). EP features one very passionate slow piece ('The Drowned Sun') and the rest of the pieces are at varying speeds of manic. "Fire Swing" and "The Butcher of Bessarabia" are my favorite pieces from EP. Rise showcases a greater range of music. It features 2 delightfully slower tracks ("Rain in the Morning" and "Angelique"), a totally wacky vocal track ("Run Leroy Run") and a 9 minute experimental extravaganza ("Rise of the Sapiens"). Whether fast or slow, their musical prowess is fantastic.

Their page offers 2 free downloads - a track from each EP. Definitely give them a listen.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Synnøve Rognlien - "Undr"

"Undr" is the debut release by Norwegian singer Synnøve Rognlien. I quite recently came across Synnøve on Annbjørg Lien's page and decided to check her out. 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. You can hear 4 of the 11 tracks in their entirety on her MySpace page.

New Find - Rebekah Findlay

A new artist find for me is Rebekah Findlay, a young singer/songwriter from North Yorkshire. In addition to performing solo, she is also a member of the duo One Stone and the folk/"old-timey" group Blind Summat!

I stumbled across Rebekah quite by chance but I'm glad I did. Her original pieces are well-crafted & lovely (her song "Duty Bound" won the Klondike Song of the Year 2008) and the arrangements of the traditional songs are fantastic (she's a multi-instrumentalist), but it is her voice that has completely captivated me. It's very down-to-earth and intimate and capable of carrying a great deal of emotion. It's the sort of voice that makes you lean in and listen closely; a story-teller's voice. I really love listening to her sing.

She is currently working on a full-length solo album and is finalizing an EP with One Stone. Until those are released, you can get a taste of her music here, on MySpace or, better yet, go catch one of her gigs. I'm really looking forward to watching her career grow.