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 "C"
Ian Campbell & The Ian Campbell Folk Group - see artist profile
Lorna Campbell "Adam's Rib" (Cottage, 1976)
A concept album, composed by brother Ian Campbell, with twelve songs outlining the concerns of women... The entire record was re-recorded by Lorna a couple of years later, with different accompaniment.
Lorna Campbell "Adam's Rib" (Storyville, 2000)
Re-recorded versions, from 1977-78.
Canny Fettle "Trip To Harrowgate" (Tradition, 1977)
Capercaillie "Cascade" (Etive, 1984)
Capercaillie "Crosswinds" (Green Linnet, 1987)
Capercaillie "Sidewaulk" (Green Linnet, 1989)
Modernized Celtic music that follows in the path of early Clannad albums -- brisk instrumentals interspersed with glossier vocal numbers and a thumping electric bass or intrusive synthesizer here or there. Talented, it's true, but for the more traditionally-minded among us, this Scottish ensemble may be a hit-or-miss affair. They are more true to their roots on the instrumental numbers -- bad news for folk like me who prefer hearing songs. I'm also not terribly fond of vocalist Karen Matheson... I guess I just don't like the timbre of her voice, or perhaps I'm just used to hearing a Hebrides accent in a rougher, more rugged context. This early album is perhaps your best shot to size them up as a proper "trad" band.
Capercaillie "Delirium" (Green Linnet, 1991)
Egad, this is cheesy. I mean, sure, Karen Matheson has a pretty voice and all, but the oceanic synthesizers and babbling brook-y, Windham Hill-ish piano lines are just so goddawful sappy. Nothing on here for me, thank you very much.
Capercaillie "Get Out" (Survival/Green Linnet, 1992)
Capercaillie "The Blood Is Strong" (Survival, 1993)
Capercaillie "Secret People" (Survival/Green Linnet, 1993)
Capercaillie "Capercaillie" (Survival/Green Linnet, 1994)
Capercaillie "To The Moon" (Green Linnet, 1995)
Capercaillie "Beautiful Wasteland" (Rykodisc/Survival, 1998)
Omigod. I mean, I like the sound of the Celtic language as much as anyone else, but sitting through this synth-heavy goopfest is a bit much to ask of anyone! To be fair, if you like this sort of world music-y mix of New Age and electronica, this is a skillfully produced album, and Matheson's voice is well suited to the material (or has grown into it...) But, still... honestly!
Capercaillie "Nadurra" (Green Linnet, 2000)
This glossy crossover material is too slick for me, but I guess if Celtic-pop fusion is the sound you're after, this is about as good as it gets. That concession being made, however, I gotta say that the songs with English lyrics are just godawful -- it's a miracle that after "Hope Springs Eternal" came on I didn't just stop listening, flee in horror and never look back. The Gaelic material is a bit more forgiving, since it's easier to just space out and listen to the pretty tone of Matheson's voice, a bit like a bird chirping, though with less of a sense of history behind it. I dunno. This just ain't my cup of tea. The funky electric bass lines just seem wrong, and the gooey, facile progressions don't help much.
Capercaillie "Live In Concert" (Valley, 2002)
Capercaillie "Roses And Tears" (Compass, 2008)
Another strong Celtic crossover set by Scotland's fusion-y Capercaillie, with lead vocals from Karen Matheson and an lineup that includes Donald Shaw on accordion, Manus Lunny on bouzouki and Michael McGoldrick playing the pipes. The album opens up with the funky, resolutely pop "Him Bo," and then weaves back and forth between tradition and modernism. There's an anti-war anthem, courtesy of John Martyn, lots of mellow, electronic-tinged grooves, and a hefty dose of trad, woven deep into the mix. Personally, I love it when Matheson sings in Gaelic, although like many old-fashioned folkies, I prefer a more traditional acoustic sound. But Capercaillie fans know what to expect by now, and this album certainly will not disappoint listeners who are open to a bit of pop in with their Celtic music.
Capercaillie "Dusk 'Til Dawn: The Best Of Capercaillie" (Valley, 2000)
Capercaillie "Grace And Pride -- The Anthology: 2004-1984" (Valley, 2004)
Capercaillie "Heritage Songs" (2007)
Tony Capstick & Hedgehog Pie "His Round" (Rubber Records) (LP)
Tony Capstick/Dick Gaughan/Dave Burland "Songs Of Ewan MacColl" (Rubber/Black Crow, 1978)
(Produced by Geoff Heslop)
Songwriter, folklorist and troubadour Ewan Maccoll is often thought of as a paragon of the "British" folk movement; here, his place in the Scottish pantheon is reclaimed as a Scottish icon in a trio of gorgeous ballads by Dick Gaughan, including "Jamie Foyers," "Schoolday's End," and "Thirty Foot Trailer," as well as trading verses with Burland and Capstick on "Shoals Of Herring," which closes the album. It's a fine, heartfelt homage, with a very low-key, homespun feel. 'Twould be nice if a tune or two could find their way onto some of Gaughan's retrospective albums sometime soon, but if you can track the original album down, you'll be happy with that as well.
Liz Carroll & Tommy Maguire "Kiss Me Kate" (Shanachie, 1978)
Liz Carroll "A Friend Indeed" (Shanachie, 1979)
Liz Carroll "Liz Carroll" (Green Linnet, 1988)
Liz Carroll "Lost In The Loop" (Green Linnet, 2000)
A beautiful, lively set of fiddle-based instrumentals. Carroll is truly a soulful and inspired performer, equally able to dazzle with her technical prowess and to capture your imagination with a wistful, mist-covered aire. Seamus Egan, John Doyle and Winifred Horon (all from the band Solas) join in with warm, sympathetic backup; Egan also produced the album, giving it a smooth but not sugary feel. Nice stuff... highly recommended!
Liz Carroll "Lake Effect" (Green Linnet, 2002)
Another lovely, all-instrumental album by this outstanding Chicago-based Irish-American fiddler. This is one of those precious few albums that gets past my disinclination towards Celtic instrumentals -- leaning heavily towards the lighter, more lyrical melodic side, Carroll here concentrates on dreamy airs, waiting until the album's end to get into the more typical, bouncy jigs and reels. Fine by me; after the warmth and ease of the album's first half, I was totally sated, happy to hear something softer and easier on the ears than the usual manic breakdowns that fill the Irish soundscape. Gets a little bongo-y and ornate on a few tunes, but mostly this is pretty down to earth. Worth checking out.
Liz Carroll & John Doyle "In Play" (Compass, 2005)
A fantabulous two-person Celtic trad jam session featuring Chicago-based fiddler Liz Carroll (of Cherish The Ladies) and guitarist John Doyle (late of the band Solas). Carroll generally takes the lead, but Doyle's subtle, constantly shifting accompaniment is a tour-de-force in and of itself, contrasting the old-country sawing with a deft, pop-and-jazz inflected acoustic commentary. These are two top-flight Irish-American trad virtuosi, each performing at their absolute peak. I'm not generally that into all-instrumental trad albums, but this one's a doozy. Definitely worth checking out!
Liz Carroll & John Doyle "Double Play" (Compass, 2009)
(Produced by Liz Carroll & John Doyle)
Another stunning set of duets from these Irish-American folk-trad superstars. The uptempo opening medley, "The Chandelier/Anne Lacey's," will blow your mind: the nimble, restlessly inventive guitar picking and fiddling are astonishing in their speed and innovation, as well as the fervent, musicianly joy which radiates out for listeners to hear. Carroll and Doyle aren't mere technicians, they are collaborators and celebrants, riding a wave of excitement and newness that few artists get the chance to achieve. This record is easily one of the best Celtic-trad releases of the decade, and sets the bar for any artists that follow in its wake. Most of the tracks are instrumentals, although Doyle sings several songs, which is also a delight. Sorry if I seem to be gushing, but -- wow! -- this record really pays off when you give it close attention. Give it a spin.
Eliza Carthy - see artist profile
Martin Carthy - see artist profile
John Carty "Last Night's Fun" (Shanachie, 1996)
John Carty "Yeh, That's All It Is" (Shanachie, 2001)
John Carty "At It Again" (Shanachie, 2003)
A delightful all-instrumental set featuring the fiddling of London-born, Irish-bred John Carty, who has the sprightly, crisp style of North Connaught down to a science. His fiddle will capture your imagination, with minimal accompaniment by bouzouki, piano and guitar, each mixed low so that it's the fiddle that really stands out. Lovely stuff.
Karan Casey "Songlines" (Shanachie, 1997)
A soft-edged, mostly traddish solo album by one of the featured performers in the much-vaunted American-Irish band, Solas. Co-produced by bandmate Seamus Egan, this disc is pretty easy on the ears, but best when it sticks to more traditional elements. Casey has a pretty voice, with classic lovely Irish tones, but somehow this album seemed a little too perfect and coy to really capture my imagination. Devoted Solas fans seem to love this album; I was a little nonplussed.
Karan Casey "The Winds Begin To Sing" (Shanachie, 1999)
A very lovely album, wherein sparse arrangements softly frame Casey's gorgeous vocals. It's a mellow album, but it generally falls short of sounding syrupy. A couple of tracks are iffy -- transposing Billie Holiday's lynching ballad into a Celtic context is questionable, and I could live without the poppish arrangements on "Buile Mo Chroi," but other than that, this album is a real delight. Rich, beautiful, and very much in touch with traditional roots. Recommended!
Karan Casey & Friends "Seal Maiden: A Celtic Musical" (MFLP, 2000)
A children's record featuring music and spoken word from Karan Casey, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh, Laura Brown and Iarla O Lionaird.
Karan Casey "Distant Shore" (Shanachie, 2003)
Another fine solo album by this crystal-voiced singer, formerly of the Celtic trad band, Solas... Here, Casey pursues a more modern, folky singer-songwriter strain on many of these tunes, but also finds time for some lovely traditional material, and a little bit of elves-in-the-woods action as well. Her fans will not be disappointed, and those new to the fold should be intrigued. Definitely worth checking out!
Karan Casey "Chasing The Sun" (Shanachie, 2005)
Karan Casey "Ships In The Forest" (Compass, 2008)
(Produced by Donald Shaw)
Opening with the elegant, elegaic "Love Is Pleasing," this album gives way to a slower, somewhat sombre pace, placing Irish singer Karan Casey in the stately, serious company of folk-scene grand dames such as June Tabor or Dolores Keane... Casey isn't quite as dour or severe as Tabor, but she certainly is gathering gravitas and moving beyond the standard folkie fare. Casey gives a nod to like-minded American auteurs with a lovely cover of Joni Mitchell's "The Fiddle And The Drum," which features some of her finest vocals, set to sparse but sweet bagpipe accompaniment. She picks up the tempo a little, five songs in on "Town Of Athlone," one of the only songs on here to be driven by guitar, rather than piano, but by and large this set has slower songs with atypical arrangements. The ghosts of the past are never far from the surface in Ireland, and some interesting issues are raised by her inclusion of the traditional ballad, "Dunlavin Green," about a 1798 massacre that is key to the culture of rebellion: what is to be done with all this political baggage, two hundred years later, now that the "Troubles" are thought to be done, following the Belfast Agreement of 1998? The songs still arise, and so do the feelings behind them -- is it acknowledging history, or tending to old grievances? Either way, the music is lovely, as is Casey's voice, one of the sweetest and most purely "Irish" female voices around. Fans will definitely want to pick this one up, although it is a bit on the doleful side.
Karan Casey & John Doyle "Exiles Return" (Compass, 2010)
(Produced by Dirk Powell)
An outstanding collaboration between singer-guitarist John Doyle and vocalist Karan Casey, two of the founding members of the Celtic-trad supergroup Solas, who reunite here for a gloriously rich, stripped-down acoustic set. Casey takes the lead on most of the songs, with Doyle singing lead on three tracks (while harmonizing on several others, and providing typically strong, sympathetic accompaniment throughout...) The repertoire is a fab collection of traditional and traditionally-oriented songs, delivered with the soulfulness and depth of understanding we've come to expect from both these artists. Old-timey scholoar Dirk Powell and flautist Michael McGoldrick add subtle support on a tune or two. Beautiful stuff: you can't go wrong with any of these artists.
Celtic/Brit Folk Albums - More Letter "C"
Main Celtic/Brit Index
Main World Music Index