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57 f LANKUM Between The Earth and Sky Rough Trade

The artists formerly known as Lynched – they’ve changed the name out of sensitivity to its associations – are back steeped in controlled passion and bruised purity with a name borrowed from an infamous child murderer of ballad renown.

Pinpointing what makes them so special

isn’t easy – they are in many respects a retro band, with a strong lineage through the Irish music greats, Planxty et al, and they have clearly invested deeply in the history of the tradition and culture. And yet, without any of the usual artefacts of style, arrangement and studio trickery, they also sound profoundly modern and of the day; and while much has been made of their ‘attitude’ and early immersion in punk, they don’t tend to rant or rave or get in your face. There is, for example, an endearing tune here, The Townie Polkie, that meanders gently along without seem- ingly gaining pace or switching rhythms and feels like they might just be knocking some- thing out for the soundcheck… yet it quickly sucks you in and holds you there.

Given the acclaim, awards and publicity that greeted their breakthrough Cold Old Fire, we might have anticipated a big produc- tion, but none of it – they make a remarkable statement right at the outset, the unremit- ting drone of Ian Lynch’s pipes the only accompaniment as Radie Peat sings – with astonishing intensity – an old travellers’ song What Will We Do When We Have No Money? Heard only sparingly previously, concertina player Peat’s singing is a notable feature here, positively mesmerising on The Granite Gaze, while Ian Lynch’s own roughshod vocal style is the perfect catalyst for the provoca- tive emigration epic, Déanta In Éireann, sur- rounded by more drones and bleak fiddle. Luke Kelly would be proud of this one. With sterling work from Cormac MacDiarmada on fiddle, their closing salvo – a raw treatment of the Appalachian murder ballad Willow Garden (Rose Connolly) is another gem.

The anti-recruiting song Sergeant

William Bailey (which they performed at last year’s BBC Folk Awards) and the resistance anthem Peatbog Soldiers are more obviously stirring, but it’s the slow, measured way they tackle a relatively familiar piece like The Turk- ish Reveille that marks them out as such a vital and bravely singular ingredient of the modern scene. What they leave out is as potent as what they put in.

It usually is, but the impact of unadorned musical integrity shouldn’t be underestimated. Colin Irwin

LAUREN MACCOLL The Seer Fèis Rois Records FEISROIS005

Fèis Rois is a voluntary organisation in the Scottish Highlands that organises local tuition festivals to teach young people traditional Gaelic songs and music. Lauren MacColl learned traditional Highland fiddle from a young age at Fèis Rois. Later, she won BBC Radio 2’s Young Folk Award, and performed with top folk-groups like Rant, Salt House and the Rachel Newton Band. MacColl now tutors for Fèis Rois.

To celebrate its 30th anniversary Fèis Rois commissioned MacColl to compose a suite of music inspired by the life of the legendary 17th Century Gaelic prophet Coinneach Oid- hear. The Seer was premiered at Glasgow Celtic Connections 2017 and is performed by Lauren MacColl (fiddle), Rachel Newton


(vocals, harp, viola), Mairearad Green (accordeon, border pipes), Megan Henderson (fiddle, piano), Anna Massie (guitar, man- dolin), James Mackintosh (percussion).

MacColl’s composition is richly varied in style, pace, texture and tone. The vividly impressionistic opener Coinneach Odhar has bright splashes of harp and warm dashes of liquid accordeon leading into a darkly lyrical strathspey: its menacing rhythm, brooding strings and chromatic melody conjuring a Hungarian/Transylvanian quality. Lady Isabella/ An dà-shealladh (Second Sight) are tunes composed in the Highland tradition but whose sheer speed, sudden syncopations and fiddle/mandolin combination give this set a slightly klezmer feel. Loch Ussie is a stirring bagpipe set with fabulously syncopated rhythm and one of those dark, thrilling chord progressions that causes your spine to tingle. A Mermaid At Fearn is an exquisitely beauti- ful slow air that opens with a delicate, tender piano solo, then adds fiddle, viola and accordeon to sweetly draw every drop of emotion from this evocative tune.

There is also a striking song, Tàladh Choinnich Odhar (Coinneach Odhar’s Lulla- by), set in the mouth of the prophet’s mother, shortly after his birth. She sings to her super- naturally-gifted son that the second sight may not lead to an easy life. For Gaelic-speaking audiences, this song powerfully evokes tradi- tional Gaelic lullabies, particularly Tàladh Chriosda (Christ’s Lullaby) which is set in the mouth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She too must have feared the terrible price her son would pay for his extraordinary gifts. Paul Matheson VARIOUS ARTISTS

Even A Tree Can Shed Tears: Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973 Light in the Attic Records LITC 156

This album traces the beginnings of Japan’s angra (underground) folk scene. It was an incredible, creative, formative few years from the end of the 1960s, influenced by Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger, in contrast to the mainstream popularity of Peter, Paul & Mary, and Kingston Trio-derived ‘college folk’. For the coffee shops of Greenwich Village, read the kissas of Tokyo’s Shibuya Dogenzaka dis- trict, while down in Osaka, a similar, yet more overtly political movement was brewing.

Many of the artists that emerged during this period went on to achieve iconic status. Perhaps most notable of all was Haruomi

Hosono, who is featured on this album, both with his band Happy End, and solo. Ever the pioneer, less than a decade later Hosono was making world music mixtures and inventing technopop as one third of Yellow Magic Orchestra. Elsewhere is Kazuhiko Kato who would go on to found Sadistic Mika Band.

There’s an awful lot of cross-collaboration among the nineteen tracks, writing wonder- ful songs and beautifully producing for each other. Many recorded for the URC (Under- ground Record Club) label, such as the preco- cious talent Sachiko Kanenobu, often com- pared to Joni Mitchell, but whose story and sound more closely resembles Vashti Bunyan.

The booklet notes probably provide more information in English than ever before on this evocative, seminal music, and is the first fully licensed such release outside Japan. Paul Fisher

AMADOU & MARIAM La Confusion Because Music LC33186

They started out as a West African blues duo, moved into some sock-it-to-’em Afro soul, gave it a bit of Manu Chao enhanced global grooviness and now Amadou and Mariam have gone all disco-funky.

For the most part French producer Adrien Durand has kept it light and supple, matching the funk rhythms with an impres- sive instrumental ensemble (there’s some fine brass and keyboards work here), adding call- and-response vocals and insinuating melodies to top things off. Amadou and Mariam just do their thing. You know, singing their hearts out and in Amadou’s case, delivering some snaky bluesy guitar lines. But what they do seems to adapt well to any setting thrown at them and sounds right at home here.

I’m sure there’ll be those who are scan- dalised by the very notion of ‘Amadou and Mariam go disco’ but honestly, it’s the four- on-the-floor stuff that works best. Thumping catchy opener Bofou Safou (which was put out as a single prior to the album’s release) and the chugging blues-funk of Fari Mandila being particular favourites. At other times, odd bursts of rock guitar and overproduced noodling (the latter especially towards the album’s end) get in the way of the party. Mostly though, I’d urge folkies everywhere to overcome any funk-o-phobia they might har- bour and dive right on in. Jamie Renton

Photo: Sarah Flynn

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