Trad & Folk
Artists and Albums
Hello! This page is part of an opinionated overview of Celtic and British folk music, with record reviews by me, Joe Sixpack... This is not meant to be taken as a "definitive" resource, but rather as a record of some of the music which has caught my interest. I am always looking for more good music to explore, so your comments and suggestions are welcome.
This is the first page covering the letter "T"
June Tabor - see artist profile
The Cherish The Ladies franchise continues to expand, as vocalist Heidi Talbot joins bandmates Joannie Madden and Liz Carroll and in recording as fine and soulful a solo album as you're ever likely to hear. Talbot mixes traditional songs with newer contemporary material which gives her work a sort of June Tabor-ish flavor. Most of the new songs were written by the album's producer, John Doyle (of the band Solas), who also provides nimble, supportive guitar accompaniment. Talbot really does have a lovely voice, with a bright, clear quality similar to Brit-Celt divas Bill Jones, Niamh Parsons and Kate Rusby, and even coasts into some contemplative, confessional material that may bring Norah Jones or Beth Orton to mind. This album is ideal for anyone looking for warm, well-crafted Celtic music that is richly based in the style's roots, yet embraces modern singer-songwriter folk without mucking things up. Nice album -- highly recommended.
Tannahill Weavers "Passage" (Green Linnet, 1984)
Tannahill Weavers "Land Of Light" (Green Linnet, 1986)
Tannahill Weavers "Dancing Feet" (Green Linnet, 1987)
A very professional performance, but also a bit monotonous, with lots of bagpiping, some vocals, and a slightly saccharine sweetness that creeps in about the margins. Mostly, I think it's the overly-controlled, just-so perfection of the presentation that left me cold; little seems left to chance and there's no sense that something unexpected might happen. It's workmanlike and pristine, but it lacks the hint of wildness that can sometimes make all the difference. Plus, you really have to like the bagpipes a lot to get into this album...
Tannahill Weavers "Cullen Bay" (Green Linnet, 1993)
Tannahill Weavers "Capernaum" (Green Linnet, 1994)
Tannahill Weavers "Leaving St. Kilda" (Green Linnet, 1996)
A mellow, well-produced set, evenly split between instrumentals and songs. Sometimes this is a bit too flowery or bouncy, but mostly it's nice enough, and traditional enough that there's really nothing to complain about. Sounds pretty sweet; bouzouki player Les Wilson's vocals remind me of Dougie MacLean's finer work... which is high praise, indeed! Worth checking out.
Plenty o' bagpipes and some fine vocal numbers lace through this, their thirteenth album... As ever, the Weavers don't seem to take many chances, but they sure sound nice. The vocal numbers tend to be mellower than the instrumentals -- the faster-paced reels may have a few listeners moving for the fast forward button, but many of the instrumental tracks are pretty mellow as well. It's nice, though not overly adventurous.
Another fine set by the Tannies, much in keeping with their other work. What can I say? It's pretty good. Nice mix of vocals and instrumental tunes to tap your toes to...
Tannahill Weavers "Best Of: 1979-1989" (Green Linnet, 1989)
Tannahill Weavers "The Tannahill Weaver's Collection: Choice Cuts 1987-1996" (Green Linnet, 1997)
Innovative young'uns from the Northen (or is it Southern?) border between England and Scotland. They merge indie-ish pop with fiddle-icious trad, to fairly nice effect. This album has its minor shortcomings, but it's mostly pretty engaging and I could certainly see why folks would be drawn to it. The band's multi-layered approach is fairly thoughtful and the songs build up and progress in a not-too-forced manner. Generally speaking, crossover-y material isn't really my bag, but if you're looking for artists who are expanding the trad style's horizons, I'd say Tarras are much more successful than most. Worth a spin!
An impressive set from this young Irish foursome. They only sing two songs, the rest of this is brisk, bright instrumental work, anchored by the Sean McElwain's banjo plunking and fiddler Oisin Mac Diarmada, both of whom have a notable bluegrassy streak to their work. Anyway, this is nice stuff -- I look forward to hearing more from them, and hopefully more vocals as well! Recommended.
Teada "Give Us A Penny And Let Us Be Gone" (Green Linnet, 2004)
Richard & Linda Thompson "Shoot Out The Lights" (Hannibal, 1982)
Linda Thompson "One Clear Moment" (1985)
Linda Thompson "Dreams Fly Away: A History Of Linda Thompson" (Hannibal, 1996)
Linda Thompson "Give Me A Sad Song" (Fled'gling, 2001)
A simply stunning album, easily on a par with Nic Jones' Penguin Eggs, June Tabor's Airs and Graces, the entire Nick Drake canon, and -- of course -- the best of Thompson's early work with her ex-husband Richard. This perfectly-crafted mix of singer-songwriter material and traditional folk comes after Thompson's 17-year bout with an extreme, career-crippling form of stage fright, which prevented her from singing for nearly two decades. Well, this record was definitely worth the wait. Features heavyweight guest appearances by folks the like of Eliza and Martin Carthy, Kathryn Tickell, Dave Pegg, Rufus Wainwright, a marvellously restrained Van Dyke Parks, a tasteful opening number with Richard Thompson himself, and the especially subtle, sympathetic backing of Thompson's son, Teddy Thompson. From the urgent opening notes of "Dear Mary" to the closing murmurs of "Dear Old Man Of Mine," this is a thoroughly captivating musical set -- I haven't been able to get it out of my CD carousel for several months! Highly recommended.
Richard Thompson -- Y'know, although I reluctantly recognize his tremendous importance and influence on the Brit-Folk scene, I actually have an abiding dislike of Richard Thompson's work, which I will doubtless explore at length at some later date. For now, suffice it to say that if you are a devoted fan of his music, you and I will probably not agree about him.
Topic Records -- Founded in 1939, Topic is perhaps the most important British folk label in all creation. I have only been able to review a sprinkling of their records; here is a complete discography of the label's bazillions of releases. (Note Ewan MacColl's first single, back in 1950 (!), amid all the early Stalinist tripe...)
A lovely Irish trad album from Altan's new fiddler, with top-flight musicianship, and a heady melodic momentum. The fleet-fingered Tourish favors both songs and instrumentals, and he is one of those welcome rare few who can slide through a set of jigs and reels and not simply make it sound like the same old stuff -- there's a lot of feeling and warmth here, and a softening of tone that takes out none of the music's liveliness or bite. Plenty of high-power guests on here as well, including Paul Brady, who plays keyboards or guitar on several tunes, and turns in a fine vocal perfromance on his own "Dreams Will Come." Phil Cunningham, Arty McGlynn and Maura O'Connell also pitch in, as well as bluegrassers Tim O'Brien, Alison Krauss and several of their buddies, who play on a doleful, bittersweet rendition of the old Carter Family standard, "Are You Tired Of Me, My Darling." From start to finish, this album is eminently listenable, delivering fine Celtic trad, music that never flags or falters, nor strays too far from its roots. Recommended!
Singer Judy Dyble has a semi-hallowed place in the history of the British folk revival, as the original "girl" singer for Fairport Convention, she was sort of the folk scene's version of Pete Best... Frankly, Fairport's acquisition of Sandy Denny was definitely a trade up... Dyble has her devoted fans, but I'm not really one of them... Anyway, after leaving Fairport in 1968, Dyble put out an ad in a music mag, looking for a band, and was answered by Ian McDonald, who went with her to meet Robert Fripp and some of his pals, a conclave that later became the uber-proggy King Crimson. Dyble was in an early lineup of that band, but soon found herself casting about for another another place to hang her hat. Trader Horne came next, a collaboration with Irish guitarist-songwriter Jackie McAuley, himself a veteran of Van Morrison's sizzling blues band, Them... And while perhaps Dyble was the hot property at the time, I think it's McAuley's work that best stands the test of time. Dyble herself sounded horrible and warbly, and the songs she wrote for this album (just two, including the title track) were leaden and pretentious... McAuley, on the other hand, wrote several charming ditties, and there is an impish, playfully magical touch on much of this album, which more than compensates for the occasional clunkers... There are some hippies'n'hobbits-y moments (including one song called "Three Rings For Elven Kings..." Yeesh!) and shout-outs to all the pacifists in the house, but these are actually charming details that make the disc more authentic and rooted in its time. This was the band's only album (with two songs from a subsequent single tacked on for good measure...) and it hardly made a dent on the English pop scene... Still, if you like folk-prog type stuff, this album is worth tracking down... It has a certain charm to it.
Although this soft-prog jamfest is hardly what you would call a "trad" or even a folk album, the title track is without question the world's most famous version of the great, venerable English drinking ballad. It's also one of singer Steve Winwood's finest vocal performances, a soulful and straightfaced read of a this bizarre, but usually quite playful, lyrical metaphor. These rockers may have been jumping on the folkie bandwagon, but they certainly scored a home run with this beautiful, eerie acoustic rendition of this old, old song. Recommended!
Trian "Trian" (Green Linnet, 1992)
A pretty sedate set, featuring fiddler Liz Carroll, accordionist Billy McComiskey and Daithi Sproule on guitar and vocals... Everything about this album is "just so": the musicianship is flawless, but it just lies there all pretty and perfect... At least I didn't find it very moving.
Galway native Sean Tyrrell has one of those lovely, low, evocative voices, much like Christy Moore or Stan Rogers, that brings an instant weight and heft to any song he plies himself towards. On traditional and traditional sounding material, he's marvellous, a lulling, authoritative presence, and even the milkier contemporary stuff sounds okay under his command. This is a first-rate collection that gathers fourteen of the best performances Tyrrell's made since he began recording solo work in 1996. Some of the songs are familiar from other singers, other tracks are new; they all sound nice. If you enjoy Celtic music's vocal tradition, this is a fine album -- very listenable and with a strong song selection. Celtic music veteran Davy Spillane plays tin whistle and uilleann pipes on a couples of tunes; otherwise Tyrrell brings his own crew with him, talented newcomers who match his rich, resonant style. Recommended!
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