New Crop of Summer Sounds to Listen Irish Tune Fans
Wave CD 001
15 tracks Running time 64.48
"Craic’d is the maiden voyage for the Milwaukee band Atlantic Wave.
For a first effort, even amongst veteran musicians, it is, for the most
part, a joy to hear. It mixes in the strengths of the members with some
risk taking by some of Milwaukee’s best musicians
It begins with "Garrett Scary," a combination of bits, such as "Garrett
Barrys/ Paddy Raffertys/McFarleys/The Boys of Malin" that the group uses
to open their gigs, and is a good opening gambit that portends some great
playing. Ed Paloucek’s classical training is highlighted in "Dvorak In
Donegal," an homage to the composer’s use of folk tunes, in which the "New
World Symphony" is wed to a Donegal slip jig. Kaitlin Hahn’s strathspey,
"The Northwoods" starts off a series that includes "Iron Man," and references
to a long gone television show for one of its reels.
The Johnny Doherty tune, "Paddy’s Rambles," is delivered by Paloucek
on fiddles and Hahn on piano in what is a very good and pared back playing
of this slow air. Hahn’s Cape Breton visits are evident on "Tobique or
Not Tobique," played without the restraint she showed on her solo album,
and it is to good form, as they are lively and freewheeling.
Barry Houlehen’s vocals are the only problematic portion of this recording
for me. He veers too far from the strengths he shows during his live shows,
and some of the song selection may have required him to try too hard. That
said, his versions of "Jock Stewart" and "Sleepy Toon" are very good. And
his rhythm playing is essential to the sound of the band.
Although this recording is listed as being produced by the band, John
Karr’s ear and taste are evident as the guiding force on it. It is a work
of humor and some of the best playing I have come across this year.
— Brian Witt
Pleads the Fifth
Run Wild Records – RWR 005
15 Tracks – Running Time 55 minutes
Coyote Run is a pleasant surprise. It is rare to find Rudyard
Kipling’s "Oak and Ash and Thorn" on the same album as "The Battle Of New
Orleans," and have them played in different styles and make them seem like
they should have been together all the time. But this band likes to turn
things upside down, and spin the listener around. This is a mixture of
old familiars and new songs, and the faintly obscure.
David Doersch provided many of the new songs, including "Winter of My
Mind," inspired by MacBeth, with a slight Jamaican drumming backing; "Ulysses,"
inspired by Tennyson’s poem; and "Dragon of Cabo San Luca," inspired by
a trip to Baja. His "But for Blood," is a song that sounds like it is out
of the folk songbook. "Glory’s Call" is based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s
poem, and played in a highly spirited fashion. If nothing else, this CD
will make English majors happy.
In all, this is a well played album, done by a band who love to play
with the songs and the music.
— Brian Witt
Enter the Haggis
UFO Music 1006
10 Tracks - Running Time
The Canadian quintet has found a solid voice in this recording. The
songs range from the neo-traditional to folksy-blues. The tunes are funky,
with Craig Downie’s piping superb and completely integrated into the fabric
of the music. One piece that is outstanding is "Long Way Home," where Brian
Buchanan’s vocals bring up thoughts of the Eagles early work, somewhat
languid, with the mood enhanced by the subtle undertones of Downie’s piping.
The lyrics are masked with a playfulness that belies their serious tone.
"Marti’s Last Stand," is about a man who goes to war with a change of conscience,
but is played with a bouncing, bar-ballad beat. Writing credit goes to
Trevor Lewington and Brian Buchanan, for the most part. The songs are on
the jaded side, but the point of the lyrics is to say they have a point
to make, but it can still come across in ways not strident or whingy.
The band has crossed the chasm of "what are they trying to be" very
well. Are they a folk band with rock pretensions? Are they hard rockers
with traditional sensibilities? And they are what they are. One could play
this with thoughts of a good Hogmanay, or see an arena concert setting.
Soapbox Heroes is their fifth recording, and it is by far their best.
— Brian Witt
John Williams and Dean Magraw
Compass Records 4423
14 Tracks Running time 55 Minutes
The raven, the trickster of birds, is a cunning creature, full of fun
and surprises. The Raven, the album, is a cunning work, full of fun and
life, as well. John Williams and Dean Magraw bring the magic of their live
shows to this work, a blending of traditional, new and innovative work,
with many of the tunes composed by the duo. It takes the pair all over
their musical landscapes, from Magraw’s rock and jazz background, to John’s
The CD opens with Williams’ "Twins Dance Party/Sylvia’s and Mikey’s
Reels," a joyful set written for his twins, and Magraw’s "Road to Wexford"
a jazzy tune. "The Gypsy Princess’, transformed from a Kerry barndance
into a zydeco flavored waltz, is somewhat understated, but lively. More
traditional in its delivery is "The Southwest Wind" and Wheels of the World."
One piece I had been waiting to hear on a recording was "Perdition Piano
Duet," originally composed for the movie "Road to Perdition." This version
is sparse, melancholy, and full of foreboding. It is magnificent in its
presentation. "The Mason’s Men" is another contemplative William’s composition
that refers to the USS Mason, a black crewed naval vessel that docked in
Belfast in 1944, and whose occupants found fellowship in the city.
The life that Williams and Magraw bring to the stage is showcased in
three tunes that end the album, "Tana/Paddy/ Youenn," recorded live in
concert in the Twin Cities. Other pieces that also shows their seamless
playing is Magraw’s "Trippin’ In Eden," which starts off slowly and builds
to a frenzy, and "Le Nuit Savage/Alice’s Reel," which start out fast and
stay that way.
"The Raven" may have a few self-indulgent touches, but then again, Williams
and Magraw never really play it safe. Just well.
— Brian Witt