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The Fairest Flower Of Womankind Lindsay Straw LS02

Lindsay Straw grew up in Montana and stud- ied music at Berklee College of Music in Boston. There she became passionate about British, Irish and American traditional ballads, and founded a folk band (The Ivy Leaf). This is Straw’s second album, courtesy of a successful Kickstarter campaign and a generous grant from the legendary Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts. On this album, Straw’s fine voice is accompanied by members of The Ivy Leaf, Daniel Accardi (fiddle, accordeon), Armand Aromin (fiddle), Benedict Gagliardi (concertina, harmonica), plus Owen Marshall (guitar, harmonium) and Straw’s own sensi- tive accompaniment on guitar and bouzouki.

The songs on the CD have been carefully chosen by Straw from the British folksong tra- dition because they tell tales of feminine tri- umph and ingenuity and have fascinated Straw for a long time, precisely because “the lady winning in the end” is not common in traditional ballads, where the woman’s part is so often that of the abandoned lover, the betrayed wife or the murdered heroine. However, the songs on this CD take a female perspective and they celebrate women taking control of their destinies in a profoundly unequal, and sometimes brutal, male-domi- nated world.

All of the traditional material here is thoughtfully arranged and skilfully sung and performed. Straw sings in a clear, soft, mid- register vocal with crystal diction and subtle modulation that pays attention to the story- telling. She has a perfect ballad-singer’s voice.

To pick just a few highlights: Fair Annie is a beautiful Scottish song with a simple, beguil- ing guitar accompaniment, and Straw sings it with an occasional quiet catch in her voice that subtly augments the song’s emotional intensity. Geordie is an uplifting Scottish bal- lad with up-tempo accompaniment on acous- tic guitar. Sweet Lovely Joan and Young Beichan have atmospheric, mediæval-sound- ing tunes with something of an Eastern feel, as very old, modal British folk melodies often do. The Crafty Maid’s Policy is an amusing song that celebrates female quick-wittedness and is followed by a cracking, joyous strath- spey and reel on fiddle and concertina. Paul Matheson

MONOSWEZI A Je Riverboat TUGCD1103

Inexcusably, this vanished down a wormhole in the fRoots universe when it came out at the tail end of July. Yours truly only just fortu- itously uncovered his own, unplayed, copy in a neglected corner of his desk where it had languished unseen beneath some accumulat- ed detritus – possibly the curse of slimline (if attractive) packaging, but my knuckles have been rapped. Ouch. And then I noticed to my considerable shock that it got only a passing And The Rest from somebody else last issue. Well, what’s the point of being the Editor if you can’t pull rank and remedy such things?

Monoswezi first came to our attention with their second album, 2013’s The Village, cemented the attraction with 2015’s Monoswezi Yanga and continue the two-year cycle with this one, their most accomplished and adventurous so far. Struggling with com- parisons to do their now very recognisable sound justice, you could say that they do with their south-east African and Nordic compo- nents what Lo’Jo do with French and north- west Africa: make something which has bed- ded into a unique and natural whole and in no way resembles any sort of forced fusion.

Monoswezi In fact their sound palette has widened

further. Still centred around Zimbabwean singer Hope Masike’s vocals and mbira, Nor- wegian bandleader Hallvard Godal adds qawwali harmonium and clarinet whilst for- saking saxophone this time round. Malian Sidiki Camara adds ngoni as well as beefing up the already strong percussion section, and Kim Johannesen brings in banjo (played more in the North African style than American, and making a natural partnership with the mbira and ngoni). Mozambique’s Calu Tsemane (vocals and percussion), drummer Erik Nylan- der and essential bassist Putte Johander are all present and central from before, the latter pair adding the usual subtle jazz sensibility to a perfectly anchored rhtyhm section.

If you’re in any doubt, just home in on the second track, A Djaha, where the banjo, mbira and bass joust with burbling talking drum, pinned down by finger-snapping kit, while Hope and Calu’s vocals float just right over that harmonium. Then the title track where moody bass clarinet echoes the vocal lines over an infectious riff, before Hope goes off on a half-spoken thing over perfect multi- layered percussion. After which it gets all moody and beautifully atmospheric on Dzi- mani. Yes, one of those albums where you go “this one’s my favourite track”, followed by “oh no, maybe it’s one”. “Oh, but…”

There’s something magical going on here. When a band still can keep evolving on their fourth album, that’s class. Ian Anderson


A full-on punk band melds with all the pipes and bombards of one of Brittany’s large municipal bands. Does this sound like a recipe for disaster? Well, there a number of reasons why it is not.

The punk musicians know what they should be up to with their short, fast-paced anthemic songs, hard-edged melodies and shouty singing and stripped-down instrumen- tation, but the ear soon detects that they are au fait with the structure of Breton dance music and its call and response structures which allows the two forms to complement one another. All the tracks are linked to the

dance form that they will fit. Nor are they new to this; the band has been around since 2006 and this is their fourth album. Their gig list shows that their high-energy approach is bringing them lots of work at Fest Noz throughout Brittany and in Paris.

It is true that by the by the end, ears are longing for a bit of light and shade from the relentless of it all, but it cannot be denied that this is all good noisy fun and that all the participants sound as though they are thor- oughly enjoying themselves. Vic Smith

CORY SEZNEC Backroad Carnival Captain Pouch CPR-005

The second solo album by the prolific Franco- American collaborator Cory Seznec was recorded with a core group of Paris-based musicians in Noisy-le-Roi, using a 24-track machine and vintage amplifiers.

Opening with Picayune Baliverne – a short instrumental, theatrical overture in five/four time, the album opens up to a daz- zling panorama of American, European and African roots music styles, from the wailing harmonica of Sell You My Soul, through the rolling banjo on Hawk On A Haystack to the Congolese guitar of Tattered Flag and the fin- ger-picked guitar and calabash of Zanzibar (Ebb & Flow).

Impossible to pigeonhole, Seznec’s music incorporates blues, gospel, bluegrass and swampy southern rock (Pigeon Man recalls Tony Joe White), yet is always coherent and distinctive.

Recently returned to France following three and a half years residing in Ethiopia, several songs recount his African experiences – running the gamut of emotions from the harrowing recollection of encountering a man who tried to sell his sisters (Sell You My Soul), to the smile-inducing, French language rumba, Colette Bar & Restaurant.

Much more than a casual appropriator of cultural tropes, Seznec is an artist whose work locates the commonality in diverse musical cultures and whose guitar playing connects the past and present. Anyone on an errant’s quest to find the rightful heir to the Ry Cooper slide-guitar globetrotter mantle should start here. Steve Hunt

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