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increase in deforestation and an increase in settled farming has left them marginalised and persecuted. The acephalous nature of their societies means that organising resis- tance and protest is difficult.


Ian’s short and moving introductory essay is just the last account that bemoans their plight and isolation. He writes, “Alco- holism and depression hang thick through the air…” In spite of this he has managed to offer twelve really notable recordings here that are full of interest.


All the songs are described as “written and performed by…” but none of them has a modern recital/presentation feel. They sound much more like ethnic field recordings; this in spite of the fact that the song titles suggest that they are full of socio-political and envi- ronmental concerns,


The songs are performed either unac- companied or sung to two types of one-string fiddle, mbira and even a battery-operated loop machine. There is also a couple singing to what sounds like an eleven-stringed lyre which Ian calls an Icyyembe though else- where this the name given to a thumb piano.


A recognised way of advocating the rights and worth of a despised minority group is to display their musical and artistic culture. Well, there is much that is worth- while here and Ian Brennan and Glitterbeat deserve much praise in bring forward the neglected music.


www.glitterbeat.com Vic Smith THE ISLAY SESSIONERS


Mac Ìle – The Music of Fraser Shaw The Fraser Shaw Trust FSTCD001


Fraser Shaw was a much-loved piper, whistle- player and composer from Glasgow, and was very active in the Glasgow folk session scene, where he met many of the musicians on this album. He moved to the Isle of Islay, where he organised regular music sessions and started the Islay Sessions folk festival. In 2011, Fraser was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and died in May 2015, at the age of 34.


In November 2015 Fraser’s musician friends performed a memorial concert of his music at the Islay Sessions festival, and again at 2016’s Glasgow Celtic Connections, laying the groundwork for this album. Proceeds from this CD will be used for the relief of those living with multiple sclerosis in Scotland.


The seventeen musicians on this album perform a programme of music (mostly Fras- er’s) on fiddles, guitars, bagpipes, whistles, flute, accordeon, mandolin, piano, double bass/electric bass and vocals. Back To Islay is a soaring, heart-lifting set of jigs on rhythmic guitars, and whirling pipes, flute and fiddles. £50 Cashback is a surging, skipping, syncopat- ed set that just hoovers along. The fabulous Pipe Set opens with a dark, powerful tune for double bagpipes and a low rhythmic guitar- chord pulse which then ‘lifts off’ thrillingly into the second tune, with duelling bagpipes and fiddle at breakneck pace, before lifting off again into a turbo-bagpipe tune driven by big keyboard chords. It sounds like Breabach or Battlefield Band at full tilt.


Air Chall (Lost) is a slow air composed by Fraser after becoming ill. Fraser recorded this tune on whistle, and his original recording is used here, accompanied by Innes Watson’s wistful strings arrangement. In Friendship’s Name is a traditional Scots ballad that cele- brates friendship. Here it is sung slowly and soulfully, like a hymn. The song says that: “time will see us aa mair blyther, Ere we rise tae gang awa”.


When someone dear to us dies, we gath- er and tell stories of their life and what they meant to us, and we sing the songs they


loved. Through this album of his music, per- formed by his friends, Fraser’s spirit lingers amongst us still. www.frasershawtrust.com


Paul Matheson


JUDY HENSKE The Elektra Albums Ace CDCHD1501


Best-known for her bonkers 1969 space cult- classic Farewell Aldebaran (released on Frank Zappa’s Straight label) Judy Henske first gained mass attention by belting out blues and ballads as a night club entertainer, and appearing (in the so-bad-its-mesmeric) movie Hootenanny Hoot.


Her cabaret act is redolently showcased across the first of the two albums (1963) on this CD, which features both simple guitar and double-bass arrangements of traditional folk fare alongside big-band orchestrations of songs like Ma Rainey’s Low Down Alligator. It also includes several of the well-honed and pithy introductions – “this next song is a folk song that dates back to the Appalachian mountains…” “this is a little children’s song that comes from the red light district of Chicago…” that kept ’em rolling in the aisles.


The follow-up, the Jac Holzman-produced High Flying Bird (1964) sees Henske backed by a small combo of sympathetic session A-listers like Earl Palmer (Little Richard, Frank Sinatra, Glen Campbell) and Streamline Ewing (Louis Armstrong, T-Bone Walker). Far more relaxed than its predecessor, Henske’s voice is given the time and space to really work its magic.


Taken together, the albums provide fresh insight into ‘the great folk scare’. Henske’s good-time-gal persona might appear a million miles from Dylan’s concurrent junior hobo schtick, but their shared repertoire (Duncan And Brady, Love Henry) demonstrates the all- pervading nature of the scene that spawned them, while a devotion to the songs of Bessie Smith (Empty Bed Blues, Good Old Wagon) and Billie Holiday (God Bless The Child, Until The Real Thing Comes Along) places her squarely in Dave Van Ronk and Karen Dalton territory. While never possessed of either the former’s guitar god status or the latter’s bro- ken hipster cool, she mined the same blues- folk-jazz vein with a personality and vocal ability that retain their power to captivate.


The accompanying booklet notes are as good as you might expect from former ZigZag editor Kris Needs, See fR402 for Mark Humphrey’s excellent Judy Henske feature.


acerecords.co.uk/the-elektra-albums


Steve Hunt Judy Henske


JOE BROUGHTON’S CONSERVATOIRE FOLK ENSEMBLE Painted SAE Records SAECD16


It’s true, they all have faces daubed with car- nival patterns, curls and swirls above their eyebrows and round their ears I just put it down to eccentricity but at least it gives them a distinctive image and a title/purpose for the album. “This is our folk music,” they defi- antly state on the inner sleeve – and that’s not just blowing hard. From a mass of bright souls from countries across the globe, you’d expect a spectrum of inspiration and that’s exactly what you get.


Painted isn’t a sit-still kind of record, it’s mostly for moving and shaking. Joe Broughton’s paradox here was to capture the sheer joie de vivre of a Conservatoire gig in a studio setting, not any easy task, but he and Andie Thompson at the controls have achieved it splendidly. From the opening salvo of strings and brass, Banish Misfortune adds muscular guitars and heavy rhythms. Painted is a keen folk rock exercise which marries the familiar and exotic, clearly dis- playing their individuality. The Butterfly is effortlessly blended into shamisen tune Kodo. There are also inclinations to Mediter- ranean and Russian material, especially the boisterous finale. However the real gems are in the finer detail, heard in the songs (listen, don’t dance). Rain & Snow, a heartfelt lament about marital inequality, is set to a mournful melody until an acid-drenched guitar solo adds howls of anguish – great understated vocal too from Rosemary Wilkes. Topping it all, though, William Taylor is a classical/folk/ jazz melange swathed in keyboards, frail strings and hushed brass with Julie Claire’s voice joyously languid, flowing in and out like liquid chocolate, the whole thing riffed through the veil of a Broughton-penned reel. Gorgeous is the word which springs to mind.


Due deference to Professor Broughton,


he’s curated a collection that proves there is far more to the Conservatoire Folk Ensemble than mass orchestral jigging, There’s subtlety, poignancy, variety and more than a soupçon of talent. You’ll like this, like it lots I know you will. Face painting it seems has some- thing after all.


www.bcu.ac.uk/conservatoire Simon Jones


BACKWEST The Long Walk BackWest Music BWMCD001


Debut album from Galway ‘supergroup’ fea- turing Maureen Browne (fiddles), Brendan Browne (button accordeon), Peter Vickers (bodhrán, percussion) and County Tyrone’s PJ McDonald (vocal, guitars). They perform tra- ditional Irish reels, jigs, polkas, marches, hornpipes, with virtuoso pace, excitement and razor-sharp precision. There’s some truly breathtaking fiddle and accordeon playing here. And a couple of cracking songs too. The slow air Amhrán Na Leabhair segues thrilling- ly into a vibrant, purposeful arrangement of the Northern Irish ballad Flowers Of Sweet Strabane, sung with absorbing conviction by PJ McDonald.


BackWest’s state-of-the-art performance of Irish traditional music and song would be enough for most bands and most albums. But these guys ice the cake and blow the lid off with an exquisite set of poignant, skip- rhythm Breton dance tunes and a surging rendition of the famous Anxo Pintos Galician tune Cancro Cru, beautifully spliced together with Julia Delaney’s Reel.


www.backwestmusic.com Paul Matheson


Photo: Lars Sayer


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