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sity of pan-Caribbean musical idioms. The ensemble’s eight members comprise cuatro, tres, guitar, bandola oriental, bass, a variety of percussion, and lovely vocal harmonies, covering a plenitude of traditional genres that the group has long dedicated itself to ferreting out, mastering, and disseminating (aguinaldo, bolero, calipso, danza oriental, danza zuliana, gaita de tambura, golpe guayanés, joropo llanero, joropo oriental, merengue caraqueño, polo oriental, sangueo, tango negro, vals, vals canción).

In this way Serenata Guayanesa perpetu- ates folk idioms from an earlier era, music originating in and transmitted via oral tradi- tion in communities that had to create their own forms of entertainment and popular social critique. Take El Norte Es Una Quimera (The North Is A Fantasy), skewering the pre- tensions of emigrants returning penniless from the prohibition-era USA: “Oh, New York. I’m not going there. There, there is no passion, there is no liquor, there is no love.” Native English speakers may also appreciate how Serenata Guayanesa reworks the kaiso sound from nearby Trinidad in songs such as Calipso De El Callao and Easter Morning. UK Distribution via Discovery Records Michael Stone


Not one band, but two, both from Portsmouth and here sharing a 22-minute CD with seven tracks between them. What would you call that? A split EP in CD format, I suppose.

First up are The Malingerers, who use their three tracks to canter through a wide range of acoustic, rootsy styles. Good Time Bottle is a fast, highly danceable garage blues, driven along by Craig Murphy’s swirling harmonica. Tim Palmer’s fiddle gives just the right maudlin flavour to the Irish folk of Forever The Boy From Fermoy, and a cover of Merle Travis’s jaunty country number So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed wraps up ‘Side one’ nicely.

Kev Murphy’s lived-in voice suits all this material well and his guitar’s always there in the mix somewhere. Most of the musical spotlight falls on Palmer and Murphy, though, who both acquit themselves well. There’s an appealingly good-natured vibe about the whole set, and my sense is that they’re a band who’ll be worth keeping an eye on. Catch ’em live in the right venue and I bet they’d be great.

The Destructors took a little longer to grow on me, but I learned to love them half way through my fifth listen. On the surface, they’re all punked-up electric guitars and angry, shrieked vocals, but a little further study reveals there’s certain sly humour at work there too. No coincidence, I fancy, that they chose The Birthday Party’s self-mocking Release The Bats as their own cover version.

Gentleman Jack is their best track for me, featuring both Tom Savage’s admirably thun- derous drums and a nifty little guitar solo from either Dave Colton or Steve Rolls. I had thought I was too old for this stuff, but maybe not.

If it’s extraordinary technical ability and an earnest application of craft you’re after, then I’m sure there are CDs aplenty in this issue which better suit your needs. What this little blighter has going for it is a sense of two bands have a quite unholy amount of fun – and sometimes that’s just the tonic required. Portsmouth, eh? Who knew?

Paul Slade

CIARAN ALGAR The Final Waltz Fellside FECD270

Although cutting his musical teeth in three- piece Tri, it’s really been only since teaming with guitarist Greg Russell that Ciaran’s attained hottest-property status, and the duo now has two BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, two CDs and a live DVD under its belt. So the prospect of Ciaran recording a solo album was not altogether inevitable; indeed, this would not have happened but for Fellside’s Paul Adams suggesting that he spend his gap year on something more productive than stacking shelves. An instrumental album would’ve been the most natural outcome, but Ciaran wanted also to feature his hitherto- only-privately-followed interest in song - writing. The result was the inclusion of three of his own songs within a programme of intelligently-realised instrumental tracks of varying degrees of ‘traditionality’.

The most trad-sounding of these are

breezy, cheery jig-medley The Luck Penny, and driving session-style set Morrison’s: exact- ly what we might expect from Ciaran. But things are arguably even more exciting on the album’s opening track, the energetic Pop- corn Behaviour set which, while being played with all the skill and verve Ciaran can muster, gets an especially full-bodied arrangement with some unusual and imaginative touches of scoring. Here, as on the remainder of the album, Ciaran is fortunate to have the services of other musicians (Sam Kelly, Toby Shaer, Giles Deacon and Eden Longson) who between them play guitars, fiddle, whistle, flute and keyboard and drums in support of Ciaran’s own fiddle, banjo, guitars, mandolin and bouzouki – phew! Yet the good thing is that the arrangements, while fulsome, never feel overloaded.

So finally to the songs: Ciaran need not have any crisis of confidence over placing these in the public domain. The disc’s title song is a war-themed (but cleverly multi-lay- ered) epic written specially for this project, while Our Home Now chronicles a key realisa- tion about a relationship gone wrong and Locks is a tale woven around Paris’s Pont des Arts bridge. It’s a little strange that Ciaran only sings the last-mentioned of the songs himself; on the others (and on the fourth vocal track, a version of the Irish blessing Until We Meet Again) it’s Sam’s quivering vibrato taking the lead, with Kitty Macfar- lane giving occasional vocal support. Fittingly, though, it’s left to Ciaran’s magnificent soar- ing fiddle to provide the disc’s last word, on the majestic flight of fancy of the beautiful air The Wild Geese. David Kidman

LA SQUADRA In Sciô Ton Buda: Music Du Monde 4746521

Italy has a number of distinct folk polyphonic harmony traditions; generally featuring smallish groups of male singers. The most widely known would be the cantu a tenore from the central highlands of Sardinia and the various quartets and quintets singing reli- gious and secular songs in Sicily.

In the north there is trallallero. This seems to have its roots in rural Liguria but it became more structured when the rural workers started to come seeking jobs in the docks in Genova. During their breaks groups of workers would sing together. Initially this was fairly informal but gradually it became more codified and regular though always sung without any written scores.

Modern exponents are usually groups of eight to fourteen with four soloists with dif- ferent ranges of voices and a number of bassi

Ciaran Algar

rumbling their harmonies underneath the soloists. This produces a number of different effects. At times it can sound like human voic- es trying to emulate a brass band, at others a clear soloist will start with a couple of lines before being engulfed in swirling harmonies. Sometimes the singers are singing lyrics – Ital- ian spiced heavily with Genoese dialect – we are told, at other times a piece will start with some runs sung in nonsense syllables before the soloist soars above with lyrics. It is not a very old tradition, perhaps having its origin in the late 19th Century and reaching its zenith in the 1920s. Initially it was an inward-looking ‘blokes sitting round a table’; social rather than performance activity with watching others’ lips and body language to direct the timing. Gradually it has moved from a recreational activity to the concert stage, particularly in its home region.

Strange to the ears at first, this singing slowly reveals its qualities with repeated lis- tening. Having heard no other exponents to compare this with, I can only say that the eight singers of La Squadra make a profound impact with their tight, powerful singing. Vic Smith

NOTKER HOMBURGER Stubete Ufer Recordings UFR30102015-2

The Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris had this truly, truly remarkable exhibition of the works of the US cartoonist and artist Robert Crumb in 2012. It was not necessarily PC in any sense. One of Crumb’s music-related illustrations from 2002 entitled Hot Women – “Exotic & Spicy”– had “Women Singers From The Torrid Regions of the World taken from old 78 rpm records” slung beneath it. Aside from Crumb’s many, various and other torrid fan- tasies, music is a prime one. And for the second time, with Stubete, Crumb has provided the album artwork for a Notker Homburger get- together (which is what Stubete means, from Stube and ‘get a room’). For the historians, the previous one was Notty’s Jug Serenaders’ Wel- come To The Saint (2009) and I have no memo- ry of it appearing in the exhibition.

The opening track, the Swiss-German Klettgauer Schottisch from Hetzmann, Ban- holzer and Homberger with Thomi Erb could be, with twists, straight out of the John Kirk- patrick repertoire. Notty’s Jug Serenaders’ blow-off Little Red Hen taps into that outfit’s jug band roots beziehungsweise repertoire.

Photo: Elly Lucas

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