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57 f

Quintessential fiddle tunes are represented by Henry C Gilliand & AC (Eck) Robertson’s Turkey In The Straw and Arkansaw Traveller and Capt MJ Bonner (the Texas Fiddler) with Dusty Miller/Ma Ferguson.

Da Costa Woltz’s Southern Broadcasters feature an imperious dance caller on their relentless fiddle and banjo-driven John Brown’s Dream and Richmond Cotillion and the Red Mountain Trio include some spoken word commentary over their 1928 steel gui- tar zinger, Dixie.

Among song titles like In Those Cruel

Slavery Days, The Poor Old Slave and The Faded Coat Of Blue, GB Grayson’s He Is Com- ing To Us Dead is something of an eye-catcher. Its refrain: “He’s coming home in a casket sir, he’s coming to us dead,” foreshadows Coun- try Joe & The Fish’s “be the first one on your block to have your boy come home in a box…” by 40 years, while on Lorena The Blue Ridge Mountain Singers harmonise like Kate & Anna McGarrigle over a chiming autoharp.

Remastered, compiled and sequenced to the highest standards, this is a fascinating and important release. Steve Hunt DÀIMH

The Hebridean Sessions Goat Island Music GIMCD004

This is the sixth album from the Scottish High- land traditional music ‘supergroup’. It marks another change in Dàimh’s line-up. The core of the band remains the rocket-fuelled High- land pipes and whistle of Angus MacKenzie, the gristy-resiny fiddle-playing of Gabe McVarish, and the driving guitar of Ross Mar- tin. Joining the group are Murdo Cameron on mandola and accordeon, and Ellen MacDon- ald on Gaelic vocals. Both of the new recruits add fresh dimensions to Dàimh’s musical palette. The accordeon adds a warmth to the song accompaniments and a Kepa Junkera- style bite to the uptempo instrumental sets such as Pattern Day Jigs. Young Ellen Mac- Donald has a soft, sweet tone to her voice (the love ballad Gur E Mo Ghille Dubh Dhonn is excellent) and she brings a striking change of vocal colour after the deep, muscular vocal delivery of Dàimh’s previous (male) vocalist.

So, what’s the album like? The Lochiel’s

Awa’ opening set commences with a brood- ing, purposeful bagpipe tune that shivers the hairs on the back of your neck before segue- ing into a smouldering reel then a tri- umphant jig. The Dunrobin closing set of reels has surging flute, syncopated rhythm guitar, accelerating fiddle, and full-throttle pipes combining to create thrilling chord sequences that grab you by the gut. These people know how to find the dark fire at the heart of Scottish Highland music!

The Cuir A Nall puirt a beul set has

Dàimh’s new vocalist Ellen Macdonald deliv- ering Gaelic mouth-music at a measured, expressive pace initially, then building up momentum and acceleration until (pow!) the bagpipes join in, achieving that ‘lift-off’ effect that Dàimh does so well. Paul Matheson

UNITED BIBLE STUDIES The Ale’s What Cures Ye MIE 030

Something like 200 different ‘students’ have passed through the ranks of this Anglo-Irish free-folk collective since their formation in 2001. Working in a geographically scattered, non-linear way, their recordings are charac- terised by cut-and-paste aesthetics, drones

Caci Vorba

and group improvisations. For this album, comprised almost entirely of traditional folk songs, they’ve eschewed the skronk and noise of their more outré recordings in favour of harp, bouzouki, tin whistle, harmonium, banjo and dulcimer.

Core members David Colohan (whose

2011 The Soup & The Shilling, by UBS side- project The Magickal Folk Of The Faraway Tree, can be seen as this album’s natural pre- decessor) and Michael Tanner (recently spot- ted wearing an EFDSS badge in the pages of The Wire) are joined by familiar-to-fRoots names Alison O’Donnell, Sharron Kraus, Aine O’Dwyer, Nicholas Palmer and Alison Cotton. United Bible Studies records generally involve the contribution of a genius loci or two, and much of this material was recorded in Mupe Bay Smugger’s Cave, Dorset, resulting in a record literally dripping with atmosphere – from the opening overture of Blacksands to the concluding unaccompanied singing of the Coppers’ Good Ale.

Colohan’s voice excels on the likes of

Farewell Nancy (sung as a duet with Sharron Kraus), Sullivan’s John, The Sweet Streams Of Nancy and Dalesman’s Litany (like Tim Hart, he has trouble with the pronounciation of Keighley, rendered here as ‘Ceilidh’). The Recruited Collier is preceded by a stately Bal- lydesmond Polka from O’Dwyer’s harp, also deployed to superb effect (along with Palmer’s piano) on Ten Thousand Miles. The sole non-traditional song is Waiting For Another Day, sourced from a 1976 album by Cambridge Jesus folk-rockers Water Into Wine Band, which fits perfectly and encour- ages further explorations.

With The Ale’s What Cures Ye, United Bible Studies have succeeded in making a compelling, expectation-confounding album of familiar British Isles traditional songs, played on acoustic instruments, that doesn’t sound like everybody else. The last bunch to pull that trick off was Stick In The Wheel (and no, they don’t sound remotely similar to each other). Always sonically adventurous and a thrilling live act, the nabobs of noise might have just made their quiet folk masterpiece.

Hear a track on this issue’s fRoots 57


Steve Hunt

ČAČI VORBA Šatrika Oriente RIENCD87


ci Vorba (pronounced ‘chachi vorba’, a Balkan Romani description of music as ‘true speech’) is a Polish band, but they play music from other traditions: Bul- garian, Romanian, Serbian, Macedonian, Russian and, sewing them together, a lot

of Roma influence, particularly in the multi- lingual singing of Maria Natanson. That, with her commanding fiddling, with yearning, whispery forced harmonics, and occasionally the drier sound of the Turkish spike-fiddle kabake kemane, are key features of the quin- tet’s sound. She’s joined by Piotr Majczyna’s mandola, guitar and bouzouki, plus accordeon, double bass and percussion, with a couple of multi-instrumental guest contri- butions from Bart PałygaGood band, as their WOMAD UK appearance in 2014 showed..

This is their third album, and again it’s accomplished stuff, strong material and play- ing. But Natanson’s wide Roma-style vibrato at the end of phrases this time seems more a compulsive stylistic element than musical, the new percussionist seems less integrated, and there seems to be a casting around, an assemblage of tracks rather than a journey. And though, as before, it’s produced by Natanson and Majczyna, there’s a colder dis- tantness to the sound and the general feel isn’t as full-blooded, warm, cohesive, or embracing as on its very fine 2011 predeces- sor, Secret Marriage. Our editor obviously likes it more – you can hear a track on this issue’s fRoots 57 compilation. Andrew Cronshaw

BELLA CIAO Bella Ciao Buda 4759288

The song Bella Ciao has been claimed and re - used all over the world as a focus of protest, a rallying call. It has such strong impact that everyone wants a part of it. Its origins are obscure though it started with early Italian Partisans. First in print in 1906, it gained wide

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