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The Weather Station Paradise Of Bachelors PoB-035

Oft-described as a folk performer, Toronto songwriter Tamara Lindeman’s stated inten- tion for her fourth album was to make “a rock’n’roll record”. While tracks like Thirty do indeed rock (irresistibly so), in truth The Weather Station defies any such easy genre categorisation and is all the better for it. Lin- deman’s trust in her own artistic instincts is validated from opener Free, which juxtaposes garage band guitar with plaintive piano and strings to compelling effect, without divert- ing the listener’s attention from the content.

A record seemingly created as much out of need as desire, there’s a real urgency to Lindeman’s narratives – her lyrics tumbling forth at a dizzying pace as she recounts her personal hopes and struggles in poetry of conversational and unflinching candour. Try these lines on for size: “I wasn’t close to my family…”; “I express myself privately…”; “I was filled with so much shame”. Yet this is a work of self-assertion rather than of self-pity or of self-indulgence. Lindeman produced the album and arranged the strings too. Her voice soars effortlessly into the upper regis- ter, whilst her guitar playing is sinuous and expressive. Drummer Don Kerr and bass player/ guitarist Ben Whiteley complete the core trio, with support from a cast of musicians includ- ing the redoubtable Nathan Salsburg.

An intriguing and captivating record,

The Weather Station marks the maturation of a singular talent. Steve Hunt

TOM RUSSELL Folk Hotel Proper Records PRPCD143

What we have here is another good, solid album of immaculately-crafted songs from one of America’s greatest troubadour poets.

The record’s tone of gruff nostalgia is set straight away by opening track Up In The Old Hotel, which hymns New York’s Chelsea hotel in its bohemian heyday of the 1950s and 1960s. As in so many of this record’s songs, Russell has dead writers he wants to salute – in this case Dylan Thomas and The New York- er’s Joseph Mitchell – and a wistful memory of better times to convey.

Thomas pops up again in a mournfully tender song called The Sparrow of Swansea. Leaving El Paso gives us Russell’s farewell to a much-loved hometown, while both Harlan Clancy and I’ll Never Leave These Old Horses celebrate the old-fashioned, hard-working decency of a generation that’s now almost gone. The latter is a tribute to Ian Tyson.

Musically, the focus is always on Russell’s voice, his slow-picked acoustic guitar and the tale itself. There are plenty of other musicians on the album – including Eliza Gilkyson and Joe Ely – but their contributions are always carefully restrained, limiting themselves to a little careful colouring at the song’s edge. The Tex-Mex flavour dominating some earlier Russell albums is less in evidence here, show- ing through on only two or three of the thir- teen tracks.

Best of all are two of the album’s sprightlier numbers, both driven along by Max De Bernardi’s fine guitar work. Rise Again, Handsome Johnny describes JFK’s assassination and wishes he could return to us today. It’s a perfect bookend song for Steve Earle’s Christmas In Washington.

Scars on His Ankles – one of two bonus tracks you’ll miss if you choose to stream or download the album – is even better. It relates the journalist Grover Lewis’s drunken


AULI & TAUTUMEITAS Lai Masina Rotajas! Lauska LAUSKACD072

The Latvian folk revival seems to have turned a corner. There were musicians, primarily kokle player and academic Valdis Muktu- pavels, who even during Soviet times before 1990 made a difficult, wary path away from the approved costumed folkloric ensembles. In the ’90s a revival gradually emerged, fea- turing Valdis and Ensemble Rasa, then Ilgi, featuring Valdis’s brother Maris, which has made a slew of albums, toured in America and elsewhere and showcased at Womex. There was also folk-rock band Jauns Meness, whose leader (and radio presenter) Ainars Mielavs made great strides with his Upe label, on which the work of Ilgi, Ugis Praulins and others was presented with excellent, atmo- spherically creative production and distinc- tive, elegant packaging.

In the last few years the Lauska label has emerged as a prime source of developing Lat- vian roots music, and its series of Sviests com- pilation CDs has illustrated the roots music scene’s evolution.

This latest one shows a leap forward, with a wide range of confident, innovative and distinctively Latvian approaches to tradi- tional music from a much increased circle of bands and musicians from across the country. Notables among the 21 tracks include highly skilled kokle player Laima Jansone (another Womex showcaser), here in duet with the voice and harmonium of Peteris Draguns; the dark atmospherics of Rava; the Gaudeamus male choir backed by Ugis Praulins, Maris Muktupavels et al; a cherishing lullaby in space from Leilali & Rihards Libietis; Valdis Muktu- pavels and his wife Ruta duetting with throat- singing and kokle; cartoonish bounce from Jauno Janu Orkestris; intimate vocal, liquid electric guitar and banjo from Oskars Jansons; buzzing jew’s-harp, ethno-rap, ethno-reggae…

Auli is a Latvian band of six bagpipers, three drummers and a mandolinist, whose earlier albums I’ve reviewed in fRoots. As the booklet notes say, “they soon developed their own melodies and style… not following the well-beaten path of the various mediæval bagpipe and drum groups known all over Europe”. This time, in Lai Masina Rotajas!, they’ve come together in a very effective col- laboration with the septet Tautumeitas that has the first track of the Sviests compilation – six female singers, also playing violins, accordeon and drums, and Stanislavs Judins, whose double bass makes a strong underpin- ning melodic statement under the polyphonic voices and all those drums and drones, weld- ing the whole thing together. In their part- traditional, part new-made material the two groups complement one another, each filling in the possibilities and tonal gaps of the other, making a powerful new band, perhaps a strong Latvian contender for worldwide festi- vals if they can handle a group that large. Andrew Cronshaw

Tom Russell

encounter with Lightnin’ Hopkins in 1960s Texas. Russell’s throaty spoken-word narra- tion, backed by a solo bluesy guitar, lets you smell the sweat on Hopkins’ skin and the “head tearing-up” bourbon tainting his breath. Great stuff.

Tom Russell is touring the UK till Decem- ber 2. Details here:

Paul Slade

AIDA & BABAK Manushan Accords Croisés AC168

Forget all the cliches. This husband-and-wife team from Teheran have clearly listened widely and well. Aida is a fine singer and vio- linist from an Azeri background. Her intrigu- ing vocals wander in and out of tradition and seem to include influences from the Balkans and the Caucasus. Her husband Babak is an acoustic guitarist. They were first united by a love of flamenco, but moved on.

The French group on this recording adds percussion, bass and, significantly, bass clar- inet and the resulting album is an original and seamless interweaving of a variety of styles, influences and musical references. Very assured, well conceived and well produced, the music flows and bends sinuously; you might also say the music permeates. Those influences are not only Persian – although there are both classical and folk references here – but also Azeri, Turkish and Bandari tunes mixed with flamenco, jazz manouche and bossa nova.

The title is a complex reference to a mountain, an area, ancient Persian history, Gypsies and the philosophy that they say cre- ated the ‘first universal music’. And many of the tunes are similarly hard to pin down. Shisho Bardar (Take Six) is a delight, opening with bass clarinet and guitar before it segues into the Brubeck tune (Take Five) with a touch of Gypsy jazz. In the second part of Raz there’s a jazz scat between Aida and Habib the percus- sionist; and when Aida takes a solo vocal improvisation she combines traditional Persian modes and techniques with Western styles including jazz. Folk influences are more audi- ble on some tracks than others; but Naro, a simple Turkish song that drifts into bossa, is typical.

An unexpected gem. It grows with every

listen. www. Phil Wilson


Why Did We Stop Growing? Glitterbeat GBCD049

Baka, Batwa, Aka, Efé. Mbuti… the short- statured minority ethnic groups of central Africa are given various names. Previously, recordings of their music have been made in Cameroon, Gabon and in the various Congo countries. Ian Brennan, the producer and engineer of these recordings contacted the people recorded here further east in Rwanda. Originally a hunter-gatherer people, the

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