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EVA SALINA & PETER STAN Sudbina Vogiton 616892553045

Vida Pavlovi was one of the greatest of all Ser- bian Roma singers, possessed of a voice to entwine you in visionary sadness. She passed away in 2005, after a life sadly replete with all the melancholia and discomfort of which she sang with such assurance, but also after selling hundreds of thousands of records. Listening to Vida’s own albums again, I’m struck by how tied her hands and ambitions were, within gaudy sleeve artwork, false bonhomie and inappropriate celebration. But her efferves- cent cries of entrapped and essential vitality created a startling realism at odds with her constricted milieu. Together with accordeon maestro Peter Stan, Eva Salina has placed Vida, in this tribute, into a quieter, more strenuously supple and breathable, safe space.

In a career devoted to revisiting similarly empowered Balkan Roma vocalists, the duo have come to specialise in superbly played flights of imaginative recreation and imagina- tion. I’m still taken with Eva Salina’s last album, a record devoted to the work of Šaban Bajramovi´c. Sudbina is a more absolute, intrin- sic, poetic understanding of a quieter icon’s place within Balkan song and society.

Salina has the fearless outsider’s ability to create an unshowy and selfless patina of intimate drama with Peter Stan’s unpre- dictable and characterful playing of multiple influences on his accordeon. She quietly impresses her dark, poised voice upon the landscape and legacy that inspired her, often imploring for space outside Stan’s claustro- phobic, beautifully suffocating inventiveness.

E Laute Bašalen Taj Roven refers to the Roma Holocaust, in explicit acknowledge- ment of this music’s tough reflection of suf- fering: “The violins, full of sadness, are crying for us.” It’s an emotional but mirthless twist- ed dance in line and out of time.

“Give me peace because you are devour- ing my heart,” Salina sings in E Dade´ci ˇCajori. But the whole album is both stoical and defi- antly elemental, a record of visceral feeling. Darkness dances with rural stir, sacred and perishable. John Pheby

LES POULES À COLIN Morose Les Poules à Colin LPC003

The four young women and one young man who are members of this Québécois band describe themselves as having grown up in the back stages of traditional music festivals and concerts in their part of Canada. You can hear this in their fiddle- and banjo-driven reels accompanied by that distinctive foot-tapping and in the excellent timing of their delightful harmony singing. Surnames like Marchand, Pitre and Savois-Levac will also be something of a giveaway to those who know this music.

You can also hear that they do not want to simply reproduce the music of their venerat- ed parents. Clearly they have been influenced by the mass of other readily available music and have integrated elements from bluegrass, Cajun, country, pop and jazz into the mix, but the dominant influence throughout is from their own traditions, especially from Quebec’s great traditional musicians in Lanaudière, an area famous for its living heritage.

Four tracks in the middle of the album exemplify the top quality of what is available here. Following an exciting instrumental, two female voices combine to give the superb delivery of a ballad La Volerie and this is given sophisticated but appropriate accom-

paniment. Then it’s another traditional song, a superb one of anguish in the loss of love, Belle Exodina, followed by a change of mood as more banjo, fiddle and podorythmie intro- duce the best of the excellent instrumentals on the album.

This is by some distance the most engag- ing album to reach these ears so far this year. Vic Smith DÀIMH

The Rough Bounds Goat Island Music GIMCD005

This is the seventh album from the Highland Scottish folk band who describe themselves as “champions of straight-in-the-eye High- land music”. The band started 20 years ago and is still based in West Lochaber and the Isle of Skye.

Dàimh have developed a very distinctive, exciting sound that captures the wild grandeur of traditional Highland and Gaelic music. On this album they have further enhanced the sonorous depth and musculari- ty of their instrumental sets by adding an additional fiddler (Alasdair White) to their already-powerful musical engine-room of Angus Mackenzie (highland pipes, border pipes, whistles), Gabe McVarish (fiddles), and Ross Martin (guitars). The band’s six-strong line-up is completed by Murdo Cameron (accordeon, mandola) and Ellen MacDonald (Gaelic vocal).

The four Gaelic songs on the album are refreshingly unusual and seldom heard, and young Ellen MacDonald’s vocal is lissom and limpid with a soft, sweet tone. She delivers the mouth-music sets ‘S Trusaidh Mi Na Coil- leagan and Bodach Innse Chro at a satisfying- ly purposeful, punchy pace with zesty accom- paniment by the band.

The instrumental sets on the album are a mix of traditional tunes and those composed by the band members. The up-tempo instru- mental sets are characterised by Dàimh’s sig- nature sound: rocket-fuelled pipes and whis- tles, chewy-gutsy fiddle-playing, and driving guitar and mandola. The 12th Of June is a cracking set of fiery jigs, led by surging bag- pipes and fiddles, percussively punctuated by syncopated rhythmic guitar, mandola and bodhràn. Mary’s Fancy is an utterly thrilling strathspey-and-reel-set driven by darkly dra- matic Highland pipes, gristy fiddles and growling guitar and mandola. Dàimh are absolute masters of the exhilarating ‘lift-off’ effect when switching from one tune into another, conjuring a smouldering musical fris-

Les Poules à Colin

son that causes the hairs on your neck to stand on end. There is a dark fire at the heart of Highland music, and nobody ignites it bet- ter than Dàimh. Paul Matheson FREDA PALMER

Leafield Lass Musical Traditions MTCD 375-6 (Double CD)

Here is another of those ‘the ones that nearly got away’ stories. Rod Stradling was seeking out recordings of Freda for this project and knew that Mike Yates had recorded a number of her songs and that there was a smaller number recorded by Steve Roud and by Gwilym Davies. As usual he wanted to access the Roud Index for information and numbers for the booklet notes. There he found refer- ences to four recordings made by Alison Mac- Morland mentioned in one of Alison’s books. An email conversation ensued in which it was established that Alison had recorded lots of songs and stories from this Oxfordshire singer, some at an earlier date than the oth- ers, and that she was in good voice at the time. These were to become the main source of the 135 minutes and 56 items that make up this double CD.

Freda was born in 1908 and from quite a young age she was working with her mother as a glover and a lot of songs came to her that way,

These CDs have a great deal to teach us – not just the songs themselves, but also, for instance, about the repertoire of a singer who would have started singing about a cen- tury ago. The earlier collectors would have been delighted to find the likes of Faithful Sailor Boy, Banks Of The Sweet Dundee, Up In The North but would probably have neglect- ed to note others – rural comic ditties, music hall songs. They might not have been so keen to encounter After The Ball Was Over.

Steve Roud and others are encouraging us to gave more importance to the ‘process’ that songs undergo when sung by our rural song performers rather than focusing on their ‘origin’. This brings singers like this one much more to the fore.

The 44-page booklet is of the high stan- dard that we have come to expect from Musi- cal Traditions and the collectors, other enthu- siasts and transcribed interviewswith Freda herself all contribute to building a picture of her life and her singing. Vic Smith

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