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Stubete’s captures a regional and specifically personal outlook of what Bodensee music can, could or should be, whether that is the regional Lake Constance dance tune Staader Mazurka or Anita Pfeiffer & Notker Hom- burger’s Engish-language duet on John Prine’s In Spite of Ourselves (with Thomas Banholzer). Nothing not to love about this release. Everything to understand about why Crumb agreed again to do its artwork. Ken Hunt

EZZA Alkher LC-20256

Ezza, a three piece French rock outfit, breath a youthful energy into the desert rock/ Tuareg genre, without taking themselves too seriously. Something of the passion, simplicity and vigour of Alkher recaptures some of the spirit that made this music so exciting when it first entered the mainstream.

The opening title track sets the tone for the whole record with driving riffs, joyous chanting and a rough-and-ready production that lends the whole things a good degree of charm. Singer Omar Adam Goumar has a com- manding vocal style and on tracks like Ami- dinin Tahra Nak and Yina Yina it’s a style that brings a good deal of soul and polish to Ezza.

Throughout, the guitar riffs are precise

and use effects subtly while the rhythm sec- tion keeps a lively pace. While snobs might be put off by the sheer raucous earthiness of Ezza, it is difficult not to be pulled in by them. This is a record that really captures the spirit of the desert blues and I look forward to seeing this band live. Liam Thompson


Ballads Long And Short Golden Hind Music GHM-111 CD

John and Debra are transatlantic-crossing singers based in the States (Massachusetts), who have been teaming up in live perfor- mance as often as possible since 2009; they enjoyed their most recent UK tour back in 2011, although Debra hops across the pond more frequently in a solo capacity. Happily, John and Debra have finally found time to make a CD together, and this beautifully- recorded offering represents a good cross- section of their joint repertoire.

It effortlessly demonstrates their appeal: solid, characterful singing from both parties, complete with intuitive harmonising on the refrains and choruses, and expert instrumen- tal accompaniment from John on banjo and concertina. It’s all ideally conceived and ably executed, in renditions which have evidently been well-sung-in over the years, and the two singers clearly still enjoy singing these songs together, as the inlay photo proves! John rel- ishes retelling the tale of the Christmas Goose (The Cornstalk), for instance, and they sure raise the roof on the broadside Drive Dull Care Away (learnt from Joe Hickerson).

The latter is one of the relatively few a cappella tracks, which is surprising consider- ing the strength, quality and individuality of the singers’ voices; only two songs (The Bonny Hind and Jim Jones) are done solo, which is perhaps not the quotient you’d expect from an album-full of ballads. Which brings me to an important aspect of listener expectation here: don’t be misled by the album’s title, for usage of the word “ballad” is debatable at best, and not really strictly applicable to sever- al of the fourteen songs herein (eg the sea-

song Bold Riley, When Fortune Turns The Wheel, the aforementioned Drive Dull Care Away and the John Conolly/Bill Meek compo- sition The Broadside Man, to name but four – not to mention Chris Sugden’s gleefully Kip- peresque ditty Combing The Mane!). Does it matter? But, you do need to know that the ‘long’ (‘true ballads’ like Fair Annie – which incidentally features guest Bill Cooley on gui- tar) and ‘short’ (Gypsum Davy and Twa Cor- bies) are faithfully rendered and should not disappoint ballad aficionados.

While this stylish disc may not spring any surprises or rattle any cages, and despite the occasional suspicion of formula arrangement, it will doubtless please lovers of well-turned folk-festival/club performances of (at least some of) “the best of every sort” of ballad long or short. David Kidman

BEPPE GAMBETTA & TONY McMANUS Round Trip Borealis Records BCD238

Executive summary: hot flat-picking acoustic guitarist teams up with one of the best expo- nents of fingerstyle playing, to wonderful effect. You want more? Gambetta is a highly regarded, long standing Italian flat-picking guitarist who has clearly been around the block, and who brings a wide variety of musi- cal influences to the party. McManus enjoys – or perhaps suffers from – being described by John Renbourn as “…the best Celtic guitarist in the world”. Together, with the aid of financial support from the Canadian govern- ment no less, something magical happens. Take note, Mr Osborne.

You want high octane but tasteful flash, with the lead swapping seamlessly from pick to fingers and back? Look no further than Doherty’s. You want slow, dreamy and down- right gorgeous? Gordon Duncan’s Sleeping Tune (an old Ceolbeg favourite) is just per- fect. You want a jolly swing? Hearken to La Bergamasca. You want something interest- ing, ethereal and slightly odd? Ligurian Bells Melody with McManus playing a 36-string Pikasso guitar is right up your street.

And if that sounds like a weird hotch-

potch, it isn’t. It’s just (just!) two world-class guitarists at their peak, totally at ease with each other’s music, plying styles and company. They’re clearly having a ball playing and occa- sionally singing together while making some

Beppe Gambetta & Tony McManus

downright wonderful music that defies pigeon-holing, with an appeal far wider than just acoustic guitar nerds. You’ve probably realised by now that I like this album a lot. You will too. Bob Walton


Celtic Guitar Journeys Acoustic Music Records 319.1542.2

Here’s a super-mellow, mellifluous, acoustic guitar album from three internationally renowned fingerstyle guitarists: Scotland’s Ian Melrose, Dylan Fowler from Wales, and Soig Siberil, the legendary maestro from Brit- tany. After their successful debut concert at the Festival Inter-Celtique in Lorient and a two-week tour of Wales, they recorded this CD in Dylan Fowler’s studio in Abergavenny, aiming to capture the dynamics and spon- taneity of a live performance.

And what a box of delights it is, so full of

variety. It contains exciting guitar reinterpre- tations and arrangements of folk tunes, such as the syncopated, jazz-inflected arrange- ments of the Scottish traditional tunes The Shearin’s No For You and Lochaber No More. The traditional Breton material includes the graceful, elegant slow air Trugarez Kaat Men Dous and the infectiously joyous Breton dance tunes with their syncopated, skipping dance rhythms: Les Ridées Du Printemps, Black Mountain Gavotte and Ridée 6 Temps. The Welsh material includes Beth Yw’r Haf I Mi? and a high-velocity, full-tilt version of Nyth Y Gwcw.

More improvisational, folk-roots

inspired compositions reflect the influence (on all three guitarists) of contemporary European jazz as well as Celtic roots music. Sufi Tales is a contemporary jazz piece inspired by middle-eastern musical themes. The album closes with a hugely-enjoyable bluesy interpretation of Fleetwood Mac’s 1968 guitar-instrumental hit Albatross.

Throughout this recording, the playing of the three guitarists is beautifully, seamlessly intertwined, like a Celtic interlace brooch or the illuminated patterns in the Book Of Kells. This is a spacey, chill-out, relaxing album that will lead you deep into your own imagination. Paul Matheson

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