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Po Drum Mome/A Girl On The Road Riverboat TUGCD1112

Eugenia Georgieva has made her name as an a cappella singer, both with the Perunika Trio and Yantra, but for her solo debut the Bul- garian-born singer has surrounded herself with trusted friends and relatives to give proper instrumental accompaniment to songs from her homeland, some from her mother’s home village of Blazhievo. Kudos to Georgie- va and kaval player Stoimen Dobrev for the arrangements with their delightfully twisting instrumental lines that showcase both the songs and Georgieva’s beautifully pure voice – nowhere better than on Deno, Sreburno Vreteno, where she has the ideal chance to shine on the slow sections, and takes it.

There’s love, death and travel in the songs; the urgency of the road there in the insistent instrumental lines of the title track, which features all three members of Peruni- ka Trio. It’s beguiling, but on a slow song like Podzim Sum, Male, Legnala, it catches brilliant fire with Georgieva’s voice curling round the phrases of a young woman’s dying confession, capturing the sheer heart- break. It’s breathtaking, it stops time, but it’s simply one triumph among so many here. The virtuosity of everyone involved is sub- sumed into the songs themselves, showcas- ing the wonderful material and also Georgieva’s passion for it all. Hear a track on this issue’s fRoots 69 compilation. Chris Nickson


Never one to be constrained by expectation, convention or precedent, Alasdair Roberts pushes the boat out in another unexpected direction. He’s always impressively forged a highly individual, sometimes eccentric pas- sage, skirting the edges of the folk world but doing it with such an inherently natural sense of adventure, you think it’s not him but everyone else who is out of sync. It’s a non- sense he’s never even been nominated for a BBC folk award in his own right – his only visit to gongland was with the Furrow Collective.

This is probably too left field to get him back on the rostrum, which is a shame because it is spectacular. Groundbreaking even. If Doveman’s work with The Gloaming alerted us to the potential of linking modern piano with traditional music, then David McGuinness’s brilliant playing here confirms it.

Roberts does have a symbiotic instinct for drawing things together and making them work when they have no right to and the melding of pianist and Early Music scholar David McGuinness with experimental sonolo- gist and electronic voyager Amble Skuse has fascinating results. Not much common ground, you’d imagine, in that little blend of classical/Early Music with technology and understated soundscapes… but stick Alasdair in the middle with a bunch of Scottish ballads and it all makes perfect sense.

More than that, it opens the shutters to something entirely original. From the weird introductory sounds that ushers in the bold piano on The Dun Broon Bride to the 10- minute supernatural epic Clerk Colvin – Roberts singing with a new urgency – this feels like a landmark of sorts. In these mini- malist robes, full of nuance and atmospheric intrigue, great ballads like Rosie Anderson, Young Johnstone and The Fair Flower Of

Northumberland (which can be found on this issue’s fRoots 69 album) can scarcely have had such random, but starkly gripping settings before. Apart from a brief outburst of electric guitar on The Dun Broon Bride, Anderson’s role is solely as singer.

Shirley Collins has already declared this album a “masterpiece” and one should never argue with Shirley Collins. Colin Irwin


Mali’s Fatoumata Diawara has been the West African artist most likely to for some time now. Originally one of Oumou San- gare’s backing singers, she stepped into the solo spotlight with a debut album in 2011 and has been gaining attention and crossing over, with appearances on Africa Express and with a host of rock, jazz and soul big- hitters, ever since. Hardly surprising, given that she can sing, with a voice less all-out soulful but more flexible than her erstwhile employer. Her striking image probably does- n’t do any harm either.

But, while her voice is most definitely strong and she puts on a fine live show, I’ve remained something of an agnostic when it comes to Fatoumata. There always seemed something a little bit too calculated, a little bit too ‘African music for colour supplement readers’ about her schtick for my tastes. Up until now that is. Because on this new album, everything just seems to click into place.

So, what’s gone right? Well, the songs are strong and varied. Nterini is a fine, funky opener, Takamba a thing of rolling, rootsy, bluesy beauty and Dibi Bo a dangerously ear- wormy slice of Afro-pop. Diawara and French co-producer Matthieu Chedid have cooked up a bright, pared-down sound with mostly West African musicians, including Malian kora man Sidiki Diabaté, plus Chidid on guitar and organ and cellist Vincent Segal on a couple of tracks. But it’s Diawara’s voice that really wins it for me. Singing mostly in Bambara, she sounds husky, passionate, still very flexible, but most of all comfortable, assured and in control. Jamie Renton Fatoumata Diawara

BIRD IN THE BELLY The Crowning GFM Records GFM0006

Bird In The Belly are a Brighton-based collec- tive made up of solo artist Jinnwoo, folk duo Hickory Signals (Laura Ward and Adam Ronchetti) visual artist Epha Roe, and instru- mentalist and producer Tom Pryor. Their debut album explores “Britain’s Forgotten Stories” by unearthing previously unrecorded (or rarely so) texts from sources including the Bodleian Library’s Broadside Ballads Collec- tion, The Penguin Book Of Ballads and The Oxford Book Of Ballads and a selection of antique book sale acquisitions with enticing titles like Highways And Byways In Sussex (1904), Hawthorn And Lavender (1901) and (my favourite) Hymns For Infant Minds (1822).

The words are paired with hypnotically original compositions, painted from a sonic palette of acoustic guitars, piano, autoharp, violin and flute in a style which, at times, recalls contemporaries Tunng, The Memory Band and Stick In The Wheel – the latter par- ticularly so via the circular guitar riff and handclaps of opening ear worm Give Me Back My Heart Again.

Jinnwoo (aka Ben Webb) possesses a remarkably distinctive voice which he deploys to shape vocal tones and textures far removed from the mannerisms of folk orthodoxy, while Laura Ward’s more conventional delivery proves outstanding on songs like The Irish Emi- grant. The strength of their collective vocal harmonies is showcased on The Lilies – the most obvious contender to realise their stated ambition to: “reintroduce these songs and sto- ries into the contemporary folk canon”.

Alongside this album, the group has been working on a soon-released documentary film about the contemporary folk scene, with June Tabor, Frankie Armstrong, Stick in the Wheel and Lisa Knapp among the interviewees. Steve Hunt

MALPHINO Visit Malphino Lex B07BF1Z3L1

CUMBIA CHICHARRA Hijo De Tigre Discos La Chicharra 124121

Given that it’s such a straightforward sound, the jerky cumbia rhythm of Latin America comes in many shapes and sizes. There’s the rootsy accordeon-based stuff found in its original homeland of Colombia. There’s brassy big band cumbia, bleepy electro cumbia and the twangy chicha style from Peru. Here are two releases, one from the UK, the other from France, that demonstrate the breadth of the cumbia sound.

Malphino are a London-based band with members from various places. Their name is a compound of the cultural backgrounds of two of them (Malaysian and Filipino). It’s also the name of the imaginary exotic island they’ve dreamed up to which their music pro- vides the soundtrack, each piece on here relating to a different landmark. A pretend musical map, if you like.

This may sound like a daft conceit on

paper, but the album works surprisingly well in playfully conjuring up an exotic isle. Cumbia is the base, but this deceptively sim- ple recording has echoes of vintage film soundtracks and rhythms from the Far East, as well as South America. There’s hissing percus- sion, accordeon, twangy guitar and retro electronic keyboards. An album that’s some- how greater than the sum of its already intriguing parts.

Photo: © Judith Burrows

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