Featuring: Jamie Smith’s MABON, Brendan Mulholland, Slim, Scott Hoye and Jeremy King
Hello readers of the page. We are featuring two album reviews in this edition. I am also sharing a video for Peggy Gordon by Slim. He has been busy promoting his album Gallows Tree Tales which is a good album. We have one traditional album by Irish flutist Brendan Mulholland. This album satisfies your craving for traditional music which has not been present here lately since we have become very eclectic but I assure you once in a while this dude goes back to the roots.
We are starting this edition with the review of the stunning Windblown by Jamie Smith’s MABON. Iolo Whelan provided the album liner notes. I really love liner notes because they explain in detail what the music is all about. I don’t understand people who just listen to music without wanting to get their hands on the liner notes. It is just plain weird to listen without understanding what you are listening to. It is like eating something without knowing the ingredients.
What makes me like these albums? You will find out.
Album Review: Windblown
Band: Jamie Smith’s MABON
2.LADY OF THE WOODS
5.THE GORDANO RANTER
6.GARETH & AOIFE’S
7.YES WE SING NOW
8.THE JOY OF LOWENNA
9.CARU PUM MERCH
10.THE WHISKEY BURP REELS
This month marks the release of the most anticipated album from Jamie Smith’s Mabon. Windblown is composed of ten tracks with varying moods. The common denominator however is that each song is finely crafted. There are tracks that are veering on being candidates for top 40 tunes. One fine example is the carrier single Lady of the Woods. All the tracks are sung by Jamie Smith and backed by the band. His voice is a pleasant surprise. I know this man to play the accordion like a devil but hearing him sing stops you in your tracks.
Windblown can withstand the great divide: between pastoral beauty and urban sleekness. The band members are well informed about the UK pop/rock scene as well as the varying styles of Celtic music all over Europe. All tracks play like pieces of poetry blown from another world- messages of beauty and grace from the subconscious.
The overall mood varies. It’s like watching a subtle intersperse of motion between light and shadow playing intricate pastiche of sound, creating patterns and breaking like scattering leaves on nameless roads. This is where you pick up the pieces of things unsaid and could have been. A hopeful painting of our times where tradition wrestles with technology. Here the two embrace like pieces of the same puzzle. They don’t fight but complement one another. I think even those who don’t listen to Celtic music will be instant converts. The band is the testament that our musical culture doesn’t stay in the museum but constantly evolves, takes other forms yet still retains that sacred identity.
I think the most hunting song in the album is the Welsh vocal track called Canu Pum Merch which starts slowly then builds up into a rhythmic play of classical and ethnic styling. This is the song that will leave you wishing the band creates more of this style in their future albums.
The album closes with Whiskey Burp Reels that is mesmerizing. I am fascinated with the way the band combines trad reels with electronica. Oh yes you heard me!
Windblown is like a voice from a friend telling you: Hey we’re in business. Let’s go ahead and spread beautiful music to the world!
Liner notes by Iolo Whelan:
‘Windblown’ is the crisp new 10-track studio album from Jamie Smith’s MABON, where Wales’ finest purveyors of original, InterCeltic music celebrate the autumn equinox after which the band is named.
Following on from Mabon’s award-winning Live at the Grand Pavilion, ‘Windblown’ is a “coming of age” album from a young band of virtuoso musicians spearheaded by composer and accordion maestro Jamie Smith.
Already established as “a mighty instrumental force” (The Independent), the band also unveils songs for the first time, including the aptly named Yes We Sing Now and the haunting Welsh-language track Caru Pum Merch (Loving Five Girls). These songs take the band’s well-loved sound into new dimensions, but stay in the same ethos – reaching into contemporary soundscapes but still firmly rooted in their Celtic heritage.
From slick songs to joyful jigs, graceful mazurka to ecstatic muiñera, ‘Windblown’ is an emotional journey, an expression of joyful musicality: an autumn storm of youthful energy balanced by a mature restraint – taking Jamie Smith’s MABON on to a brand new page of their ever developing story.
“stunning” – R2
“stratospheric” – Financial Times.
“Both fur coat and knickers. Uplifting, energetic and cerebral in equal measure” fRoots
The theme for the album is derived from the band’s name: Mabon is the name of the autumn equinox in the old pagan calendar, thus ‘Windblown’, and the leafy, stormy, autumnal theme.
The album’s title also refers to a line from one of the songs: “windblown leaves whispering” advice to the song’s central character.
Jamie Smith: composer, accordion, lead vocals.
Oliver Wilson-Dickson: fiddle, backing vocals.
Adam Rhodes: bouzouki, backing vocals.
Matt Downer: bass, upright electric bass, double bass, backing vocals.
Iolo Whelan: drum kit, percussion, backing vocals.
THE GUEST MUSICIANS
Tomas Callister: fiddle, banjo.
Tom is an occasional ‘dep’ for Oli, and has made a great contribution to the album’s sound. Raised in the Isle of Man (yet another connection!: Adam, as well as Jamie’s and Iolo’s wives are all from the isle of man) and trained in Scotland, he features alongside Oli in places, and as the main fiddler in one track, ‘Huzzah!’.
As well as standing in for Oli in this band, Tom plays alongside Jamie and Adam in their acoustic Manx music trio, Barrule.
Calum Stewart: flute.
Scottish flautist, long-time Mabon friend and collaborator Calum appeared on the last two Mabon albums. He is now based in Brittany, but appears on several tracks of Windblown, and one set on the album features a composition of his too.
Will Lang: bodhrán
Another long-time collaborator, Will adds his trademark bohdrán sound to several tracks.
Dylan Fowler: acoustic guitar, lap steel.
Dylan engineered Windblown in his eco-studio in South Wales. His creative musical contribution in the control room inevitably spilled over into instrumental contributions too.
An instrumental album-opener, in classic ‘Mabon-style’! A set of three tunes – slip-jig, jig, 6/4 reel – that starts off very traditional and works its way into a full band groove.
LADY OF THE WOODS
A tribute to Jamie’s love of epic fantasy, this adventure song is a reminder that nobody is entirely immune to the temptations of the flesh, and that those who think they are can be the first to fall prey to infidelity.
This song includes backing vocals from the whole band – a great candidate for singing along in the kitchen!
Tunnag was a particulary crazy Manx cat of Jamie’s. Tunnag is Manx for ‘duck’, and the cat was so named because, as he had no tail, he looked as if he had a duck’s arse.
This is an elegy in several parts: ‘Mr Nibbles Cheats Death’ is the story of a field mouse which survived Tunnag’s attentions and was nursed back to health; ‘Farewell Tunnag’ is self-explanatory; and believe it or not, the name of the last tune, ‘Feed the Worm’ is totally coincidental, though curiously apt.
A self-explanatory title, Jamie sings about the end of summer: and so the autumnal theme pops up again!
THE GORDANO RANTER
This dramatic piece is dedicated to a lonely member of night staff at Gordano services on the M5, who launched into a long, unbridled rant about modern society and celebrity culture when Jamie and Oli were just getting a coffee on a late drive home from a gig.
GARETH & AOIFE’S
Written for Jamie’s good friends Gareth and Aoife Roberts and performed at their wedding in October 2011. Features special guest guitarist Dylan Fowler, who opens the track with a solo introduction.
YES WE SING NOW
The first song Jamie wrote for the band when we decided to introduce vocals to our sound in 2011. It’s a positive song about finding happiness through the forgotten art of contentment. Pursue goals and seek to improve your lot, but don’t forget to enjoy the ride!
THE JOY OF LOWENNA
The first of these two tunes is dedicated to Jamie’s daughter, born earlier this year. It’s a beautiful, sensitive tune played acoustically by Jamie, Oli and Adam.
The second tune, A Costa de Cricieth, was written in a north-Wales hotel room overlooking the sea, and is in the style of the Galician ‘muñera’.
CARU PUM MERCH
The band’s first Welsh-language song, with a melody by Jamie and lyrics by drummer iolo, whose mother-tongue is Welsh.
The material is in a very traditional style – a slow, haunting air with lyrics about love and death, written in iolo’s local dialect and reflecting his region’s rhyming style: but the treatment is very contemporary, with epic arrangement, rich production and a driving groove.
THE WHISKEY BURP REELS
Jamie Smith’s MABON is a concert band in nature, and flourishes best in front of an attentive, seated audience: but a lot of our fans love to dance too, so this one is for them – a feel-good, dancey track to round off the album.
Album Review: Jean’s Hill
Artist: Brendan Mulholland
1) Reels: The House of Hamill – Sean’s Reel
2) Hornpipe & Reel:The Tin Wedding – The Maids of Castlebar
3) Slow Air: An Chuilfhionn
4) Jigs: The King of the Pipers – Behind the Haystack – The Maid On the Green
5) Hornpipes: The Belfast Hornpipe – The Newry Hornpipe
6) Reel: Farewell to Ireland
7) Slow Reels: The Laurel Tree – The Sally Gardens
8) Jigs: Dermot Grogan’s – The Pullet That Wants A Cock – Erin Go Bragh
9) Hornpipes: Factory Smoke – The Acrobat – The Sunshine Hornpipe
10) Reels: The Pigeon On the Gate – The Thrush In the Storm
11) Slow Air: The Hills Above Drumquin
12) Reels: Sailing Into Walpole’s Marsh – Corney Is Coming – The Chattering Magpie
Released: 1st April 2012
Catalogue Number: THM001
Running Time: 46mins.
What makes the wooden flute interesting is its resonant and sonorous sound. In really good recordings you can even hear the air passing through the holes which makes it possess an almost human sound. I think what is great about traditional recordings is how a particular instrument is highlighted. In these recordings it’s the instruments that become stars. Although the player’s virtuosity is important, artists take the backseat and let tradition shine. In music there’s always room for everything. There’s room for expression and that is why we have singer/songwriters. But we also have musicians who take the other road which is building the attention towards a style that defines the musical culture. It is true that although we have Celtic artists who make fusion music, it is through these traditional recordings that the roots are defined and gives the whole community its Celtic identity. And I am not just saying this is about Irish music. This is about the music of the seven Celtic nations.
Jean’s Hill by Brendan Mulholland takes the elegance of the wooden flute and embellishes it with tunes which he learned from family and friends. If you pick a copy of the CD and browse through the liner notes you can see how he explains the history of each track. By the way I have to add that the album packaging is excellent. It has this coffee table quality. Yes the tracks are awesome but isn’t it nice that they find a CD case that describes how great this recording is?
Those who contributed their talents in this album are notable names in the trad scene.
Brendan Mulholland – Flutes
Stevie Dunne – Guitar & Bouzouki
Francis McElduff – Bodhran
Paul O’Donnell – Piano
If you are just learning your way around traditional Irish music then this is an amazing introduction because once again, the liner notes are very helpful. This album is also produced by Brendan Mulholland himself and I’d say he made a good choice having Brian Connolly Engineer the tracks. This man really captured the warmth of the music. The beauty of this album isn’t complete without the talent of Paul Conlon who added his visual style to this packaging.
There are three tracks that are original compositions while the rest are traditional. One of the tracks, the opening called Sean’s Reel is composed by the artist for his son Sean.Check the video I added above as reference. Jean’s Hill has played on my working table for days while I let the rays of the new day in. A zen way to start the day. Brendan Mulholland made an uplifting excursion into the mystery and beauty of traditional Irish music. A must have!
Video Debut: Slim | Peggy Gordon
At last what we have been waiting for is here. Peggy Gordon video was released in September 18. I waited for this to happen because this is one of my favorite tracks off the Gallows Tree Tales album. I know that I have friends who like this song totally. I mean it is not often to get a traditional inspired song to pull your beating heart out of your chest and have it smashed with the song’s riveting intensity. Slim’s voice has the power to inspire hurt, joy and redemption. The ballad starts with him singing gently and then the sweeping blanket of the choir takes you through landscapes of longing and release. A perfect song. One of the best I heard in ages. Check this awesome video!
Filmed by Bruno Vincent at Slim’s album launch for the ‘Gallows Tree Tales’ LP, at Proud Galleries, Camden Town, London, on Wednesday 8th August 2012. Band personnel: Slim – vocals & guitar, Benn Cordrey – bass, Seb Wesson – guitar, jh – piano, Emma Bowles – backing vocals, Sam Kimmins – percussion, The Singology Gospel Choir conducted and arranged by Reese Robinson.
Belated Happy Birthday to Scott Hoye
September 11 marks the birth of this wonderful singer/songwriter. Scott Hoye introduced me to the whole new world of harp music. There I met Rachel Hair and her Trio, Corrina Hewat and a whole lot more . These artists appeared in several editions of The Celtic Music Fan. I owe that all to Scott. I am still waiting for the physical release of his album which I am sure will be very interesting.
Jeremy on Czech Radio talking about music, comparing life in CZ and in UK, etc.
It is great to hear Jeremy King’s speaking voice. Although this is in Czech it is nice to hear him talk about music.
Czech band Poitín (Irish traditional music) at pub Balbínka in Prague