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83 f


The introduction ends with these words, “The good news is that you can whip through this book without me breathing down your neck, and play them on whatever instrument you like, in whatever style, in whatever key, with whatever chords you fancy and just please yourself – which is exactly what I would do!” Have you got that? Right, just buy the book and off you go!


www.quarry-house.co.uk/ Vic Smith


The Baltic Psaltery And Playing Traditions In Latvia


Valdis Muktupavels Lauska ISBN 978-9984- 39-959-1


Valdis Muktupavels is the man when it comes to the kokle, the Latvian branch of the family of ‘Baltic psalteries’ (so-called to distinguish them from other forms of zither) that also includes the various forms of Finnish kantele, Estonian kannel and Lithuanian kankles. He’s been a key figure as player and researcher since the pre-independence times of the 1970s in the revival of the kokle – not the hefty ‘modernised’ and Sovietised versions but the traditional forms of Latgale in the east (with a ‘wing’ soundboard extension) and Kurzeme in the west (more like a Finnish small kantele).


And this is the book, giving historical background, descriptions, tunings and play- ing techniques for these two main traditional types, and tunes, both in notation and in Valdis’s playing on a CD tucked into the back of the ringbound book.


It’s concise and very clearly laid out, with plenty of photos and diagrams punctuating the parallel texts in Latvian and good English. Technique and notation laid out in books inevitably often appear more daunting than they really are, but Valdis does all he can to lessen that, and doesn’t set himself up as the ultimate authority but encourages the read- er’s own freedom of exploration. The decline in kokle playing almost to non-existence in the early to mid 20th century, with relatively little collecting done in the past from previ- ous generations of players, means that the known traditional repertoire is only a few dozen tunes, so revival involves an expansion of that repertoire, drawing on song tunes, fiddle tunes and new composition.


www.lauska.lv Andrew Cronshaw


The Mandolin Picker’s Guide To Bluegrass Improvisation


Jesper Rübner-Petersen Mel Bay Publications ISBN 978-0-78668-237-9


First point: I am, like, totally in awe of anyone who can put together a coherent bluegrass solo, so the sheer idea of this book is attrac- tive – and Rübner-Petersen’s approach is such that it will be useful to a wide range of play- ers, even those who don’t necessarily play bluegrass mandolin. He makes it clear at the outset that it’s not a guide to ‘playing like Monroe’ (or Grisman, or whoever), although he does touch on playing in keys like B and Bb that Bill Monroe favoured to match his high tenor voice. Instead, he starts with enough basic theory to set the standard, then moves on to picking techniques and from there to the pentatonic scale that is the groundwork for most bluegrass soloing and countermelody (bluegrass being, in essence, a highly developed and virtuosic way of play- ing a very simple form of music).


When it comes to improvising, we start


off slowly and simply, then gradually build up speed and repertoire through working off chord, double-stopping and shuffling, bringing in blues scales, minor keys, cross- picking and the like. All the exercises are based on fiddle and banjo tunes likely to be found in most players’ repertoires or in jam sessions where you can try out what you’ve learned in earnest. A nice touch is after the penultimate chapter, Hot Licks, where he returns to How To Simplify A Lick, a salutary reminder that more does not always mean better. Everything is backed up by music notation and TAB, and there is also a CD with nearly 300 MP3 clips of music to play along to and learn from. (To play the CD on anything other than a computer, you’ll have to download the clips and then load them onto an audio CD, which takes time but is worth it.)


All in all this is a very useful and well- thought-out guide, suitable for both begin- ners and more experienced players.


www.melbay.com Ian Kearey


Shelter From The Storm – Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Years Sid Griffin Jawbone ISBN 978-1-906002-27-5


Let’s face it, from a distance Dylan’s Rolling Thunder tour from autumn 1975 into the spring of 1976 looked messy. Whether speak- ing musically, speaking of whiteface make- up (slap and slapdash conjoined) or its fluid pool of musicians and friends, much con- tributed to its messy image. On one hand it represented the vitality of Dylan’s 1976 album Desire, expressed through the hymn- ing Isis, Sara and One More Cup Of Coffee. It also represented the tour souvenir of Hard Rain, Sam Shepard’s book The Rolling Thun- der Logbook and Renaldo & Clara, a with- drawn film so plied with received opinion that even people who never saw it still stag- ger drunkenly from its make-believe picture palace. Arguably, Rolling Thunder became the target of more half-baked, half-arsed, third-hand opinions than even Dylan’s so- called God-squad phase.


It took the cherry-picked Bootleg Series


selections on Bob Dylan Live 1975 to give a sonic measure of the greatness of the music that came out of the tour. And now Sid Griffin explains why it was worth paying attention to – even for non-Dylanologists. And how it all happened. Given the calibre of the harlequins and pierrots on the tour, the likes of Joan Baez, Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell (for- get Dylan), the likelihood of getting more than their usual blandishments would have been minimal. But Griffin does get to T-Bone Burnett, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Arlo Guthrie and Roger McGuinn. Furthermore, chunks of the book are ‘informed’, if that’s quite the word, by transcribing verbal exchanges in Renaldo & Clara. For example, Allen Ginsberg talking about his quitting nicotine adds colour but no more so than wondering about the lives of people whose patina of nicotine turned the ceilings of bars golden brown back when smoking was permitted.


To be frank, I am unsure how much extra


insight Shelter From The Storm, for all its nar- rative, allusions to Robert Graves and Wilkie Collins (strained literary padding) and analy- sis, added to my understanding of the revue. But Sid Griffin’s account about “something like a circus”, despite interludes of padding (see above), kept me reading and got me playing Bob Dylan Live 1975 again.


www.jawbonepress.com Ken Hunt MUMFOLK from page 41


… with the names of Joni Mitchell, Fair- port Convention, Bob Dylan and Neil Young prominent in the mix. They listened a lot, too, to Bonnie Prince Billy who – along with associated ‘anti-folk’ acts Jef- frey Lewis and Diane Cluck – had a big impact on them, as indeed he did in other supposedly peripheral areas of folk involv- ing Alasdair Roberts (who records on Billy’s Drag City label), Trembling Bells and the Unthanks (who recorded his A Minor Place on The Bairns).


Instead of haughtily turning up our noses and dismissing the Mumfolks as an irrelevant and irritating sideshow, maybe we should be questioning our own endemic attitudes and examining who else may be lurking in the ‘folk underground’ or indeed any other underground. The Mumfolks certainly don’t need our patron- age – I doubt any folk festival could afford them – but their willingness to embrace the folk tag is a telling sign of the times, indicative of a respected new status the folk community would do well to build on. Unless, of course, we want to return to the barren years of the 1970s and 1980s when anything folkesque was fair game for ridicule, engendering the bunker attitude that cocooned and all but suffocated it.


I recently had a conversation with Dick Gaughan who – with the possible excep- tion of Martin Carthy and Vin Garbutt – must have played more folk clubs than any other living artist, and spoke affectionately of the days when the folk scene was a gen- uine melting pot of blues, country, contem- porary song, comedy and anything else that happened along at the time. In this context the Mumfolk brigade have as much right as, say, BBC Folk Award winners Show Of Hands or Chris While & Julie Matthews, to be considered part of the family. Let’s not forget that 2008 Young Folk Award winner Megan Henwood car- ries a very evident Laura Marling influence.


As I write Julie Fowlis, Seth Lakeman and Fisherman’s Friends are gathering in Cornwall to record a new version of the Mumford & Sons song Winter Winds in a serious bid for this year’s Christmas No 1. It may turn out to be brilliant. It may turn out to be dreadful. Either way if – in clas- sic Rage Against The Machine fashion – it gives Simon Cowell another black eye, we should all celebrate and be ready to dodge the torrent of chancers branding themselves new/ nu/ neu folk and chasing away all remaining remnants of meaning from the word ‘folk’.


It’s the music that counts not vacuous name tags.


Laura Marling


Grit your teeth and embrace that day. F


Photo: Philip Ryalls


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