Archive for June 2012
The weekend's just about here, and I thought we'd recommend a show on Friday, June 29 at Seattle venue, The Comet. Singer-songwriter Marius Ziska is on the start of his US tour after traveling over from the Faroe Islands. I've been getting interested in the culture of the Faroe Islands recently. First through researching Icelandic traditional music (Icelandic culture reaches down to these islands) and then while watching the new show Whale Wars: Viking Shores. These small islands are located North of Scotland, and are about halfway between Iceland and Denmark (they're part of the Danish Realm, along with Greenland). Faroese is spoken on the islands, one of two remaining Viking languages), and the Faroese people retain a lot of connection with old Nordic culture. Sounds like a fascinating place!
When I heard that a Faroese singer was coming to Seattle, I jumped at the chance to interview him and learn more about the Faroe Islands. Marius (Marius Ziska) is a former-rock singer from the Islands whose new music branches into Americana and country roots territory. He's an excellent songwriter and clearly has a grasp on how to write songs in English that sound as good as what I hear from American singer-songwriters.
Friday, June 29
The Comet, Seattle WA
w/Hooves and Beak, Sam Watts, and The Long Straws
Tickets $8, 21+
Hearth Music Interview with Marius Ziska
Where are you from on the Faroe Islands? Tell me about it! How big are the islands? How big is your home town? What's the natural environment of the islands like?
MARIUS: I am from a small village called Søldarfjørður. About 500 people live here. It's very quiet and i'm surrounded by mountains and a huge sea. It rains a lot here and some parts of the year can be a little tough because of the weather, but all in all its a good and beautiful place to live.
Your bio states that you started out in rock music, but your new music sounds very acoustic-rooted, almost like alt-country or Americana? Are you going through a change in your musical direction?
M: Well it's something that i don't feel is planned very well, I just do what feels right when it comes to music. I think growing up and playing rock music was a lot of fun, but i began writing more folk songs and could not stop. Iit's a whole new universe witch i really enjoy being a part of
How did you get into Americana way out there on the Faroe Islands? Was it hard to get ahold of albums from the US? How did you get started playing this music?
M: I guess I just got tired of playing rock music. I didn't think a lot about where the music came from, but started to discover that I had these songs that really needed to come out. I didn't have a job at the time and I just sat around the house and wrote songs all the time. I think I also started to look more into myself, and instead of being a cool teenager who plays rock, I found out that I had always loved these old folk/americana songs.
I used to hear it on the radio as a kid, and also if you look at the Faroe Islands it's a place full of mountains, and that maybe also inspired me to write these songs.
It was not hard to get ahold of records. As a little kid, I used to listen to my dad's records which would include Bob Dylan, John Lennon, CCR, ELO, Simon & Garfunkel, Jimi Hendrix, and so on.
So I think I have always had this music that I play now very close to my heart, and now was the time to let it out.
What's it like to have a US tour coming? Is this your first tour over in the US?Have you been here before? If so, what are some great memories of your last tour?
M: For me, it's great to get the opportunity to play in the USA. It really is a dream come true and a big step in the right direction. I have never been here before, and ever since I was a kid wanted to come here. I just hope this tour goes well so I can come back and play and build up a crowd. I'm am very exited to share all my music with all you guy.
Do you play a lot on the Faroe Islands? What's the music scene like out there?
Yes, I do play quite a bit. Even though there are not many venues to play, there are still really many great bands in the Faroe Islands and the quality is said to be high of faroese bands. The Faroese people are also said to be a singing nation, and almost everyone I know knows how to play an instrument or sing.
I'm very very curious to hear what you think of the new Whale Wars show about the Faroe Islands. I was really impressed by the sustainable whaling practices of the Faroese and thought they came off as very articulate about how the whale meat is part of their diet and part of their culture. What's your opinion on all this? At the moment, it's really brought the Faroe Islands into an international spotlight.
M: Well where should i start :) It is a tradition to hunt and eat whales in the Faroe Islands, and it is done in the most humane way. I personally have never killed a whale or been a part of that, but its something that I have known all my life. If somebody wants to save the whales, I don't want to stand in their way, but for the people who watch whale wars: keep in mind that it is extremely hyped. My opinion on whale wars is that it is extremely hyped and it's a very disrespectful media who doesn't have respect for people. Also keep in mind that it's feeding people with lies and they doing everything they can to make the Faroese people look bad. I'm gonna repeat myself and say, I don't wanna stand in the way of people who wanna save the whales, that is fine by me. What I think is wrong is that Paul Watson and his crew and Animal Planet are putting a lot of efforts into making people look bad. There should be a better way if you really wanted to save the whales.
Tell me about the new album. What's it gonna be like?
The new album is being mixed as we speak, and I'm really happy with the way it sounds. We really worked hard on it, and used a lot of interesting instruments, such as old analog synths like moog and juno 60, pedal steel, horns of different kinds... The goal was to make traditional music with an eclectic vibe.
Who are you touring with on tour? All Faroese musicians?
We are four guys from the Faroe Islands who have been playing music for most of our lives.
Marius Ziska vocals Guitar/Heðin Ziska guitar/Allan Tausen bass and guitar /Brandur Jacobsen Drums Vocals
MARIUS: Walk the Road (from the Masses EP)
06/28/2012 | comments (0)
Banjo master Bill Evans’ new album, In Good Company, brings together a staggering cast of names in bluegrass and American roots music. Names like Tim O’Brien, Laurie Lewis, The Infamous Stringdusters, Joy Kills Sorrow, Darol Anger, Stuart Duncan, Mike Marshall, David Grier, Tristan and Tashina Clarridge, Rob Ickes, and more. A powerhouse guest list like this is a testament to Bill Evans’ tenure in the high-octane world of professional bluegrass for the past 35 years, and also to his influence as a teacher and mentor. Former students Chris Pandolfi (Infamous Stringdusters) and Wes Corbett (Joy Kills Sorrow) bring their bands to bear on the album (other prominent students of Bill’s include Greg Lizst of Crooked Still, Jayme Stone, and Hot Buttered Rum’s Erik Yates), and Bill’s book, Banjo for Dummies, is still the number one banjo tutorial in the world. In addition to mentoring a younger generation, Bill also looked deep into the wisdom of an older generation, studying himself with old-school bluegrass greats like Sonny Osborne and J.D. Crowe. Today, Bill’s seen by many as an ambassador of the banjo, and yet on his new album it’s clear that he gets the most joy from playing with friends (and family–his daughter Corey joins him on the last track). Driven by a love of bluegrass music that crosses generations and genre divisions, Bill Evans’ new album is a love letter to a life in music, all tinged with the firelight of his passion to bring the bluegrass banjo to new audiences.
Bill didn’t set out to make an album with all these friends, but after some wild fun in Berkeley, CA, recording with Anger, Grier, Marshall, and the Clarridges, he started thinking about the kind of album he could make if he invited over everyone with whom he loved playing music. With that, the project went from a modest endeavor to a full-blown extravaganza. The album opens up with “The Distance Between Two Points,” a raging alt-grass instrumental co-written by Bill and his percussionist daughter Corey. Bill’s playing has all the sincerity and authority that you’d expect from his dedication to the instrument. It’s a showcase of his thoughtful, subtle approach to this once-maligned instrument. The second track, “Walk on the Water,” is an all-hands-on-deck collaboration with much-respected pickers The Infamous Stringdusters. Other highlights include Tim O’Brien’s lovely duet with Laurie Lewis on “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” the blazing bluegrass adventure of “Big Chief Sonny,” the beautiful singing and masterful brinksmanship of Joy Kills Sorrow in “On and On,” a Sarah Siskind song, and of course the creatively joyful arrangement of favorite Beatles songs that helps to close out the album. A lifelong fan of the Beatles, Bill’s arrangements here remind us of just how timeless the Fab Four’s original melodies were.
Drifting between generations, the brand-new album from banjo master Bill Evans is a finely-tuned revelation. It’s both explosively virtuosic and also quietly thoughtful, a seeming paradox that actually explains Bill Evans’ playing perfectly.
Check out the lovely official video for "The Distance Between Two Points"
Bill Evans: Big Chief Sonny (feat. Ned Luberecki, David Grier, Stuart Duncan, Rob Ickes, Matt Flinner, & Missy Raines)
Bill Evans: Follow the Drinking Gourd (feat. Tim O'Brien and Laurie Lewis)
PURCHASE THE ALBUM DIRECTLY FROM BILL EVANS' WEBSITE
...or from Amazon
06/26/2012 | comments (0)
Now that I'm writing more about African music, I hope to get better connected with record labels so I won't miss out on wonderful releases like this one. Sure, it was released in late 2010 and in blogger's terms that puts this somewhere around Hammurabi's Code in terms of timeliness, but my philosophy is that good music is timeless. This isn't some media-crafted pop music that'll sound dated in a month, this is music made out of love and hope and the desire to have their voices heard. So we're gonna blog about it, damn the consequences!!
Released by indie label Dead Oceans, Kigali y' Izahabu is the only available album from The Good Ones, a trio of street musicians from the war-ravaged nation of Rwanda. And while it's wonderful that people are moving back towards music-making after the violence in Rwanda, we love this music because it's humble, back-porch picking. The kind of music you'd find in Appalachia or in any community where you've come to rely on your neighbors for your lives and livelihood. The album was recorded by American record producer Ian Brennan during a documentary film-making trip to Rwanda where he searched all over looking for music to record. He discovered these three musicians almost by accident, but hearing their voices and their plaintive picking on very battered instruments proved a revelation. And as much as we're not onboard for the whole Americans-can-save-Africa thing (frankly, Americans could learn a lot from many African nations' and peoples' support of the arts), it's impossible not to be won over by this music. The trio sing so beautifully, in somewhat cracked and fractured voices, and the lightly arranged guitarwork provides a great understructure to the music. This is folk music in its purest form.
Lead songwriter Adrien Kazigira writes songs about love, primarily, and mentions that he was inspired by Bob Marley. And like Marley, his songs touch at something deeper. A hope that maybe love can solve some of our problems. His lyrics are simple and direct, but have powerful meaning. "Make some good and leave, because love is late but does not vanish. The things of this earth are nothing and they don't have to put you against the earth. They don't have to put people against each other..." he sings in "Iby' Iyisini Ubusa." Evidently, the songs are written in an "ancient local, Kinyarwanda street dialect of their nation's capital, Kigali," according to the record label. Harmony singer Jeanvier Havugimana weaves in behind Kazigira's voice, almost comforting the music with his gentle harmonies. Guitarist/bassist Stany Hitimana has such a beautifully flowing style on his instruments. As a trio, The Good Ones work wonderfully together, elevating the music beyond its humble origins.
Huge kudos to Dead Oceans for having the guts to release music like this. This album isn't glamorous and isn't meant for indie music heads or national tastemakers. It's just meant to show how much music can mean to us.
The Good Ones: Iby' Iyisini Ubusa
Here's a wonderful video of The Good Ones singing 'Sara' complete with nice footage of Rwanda
BUY THE GOOD ONES ON AMAZON:
06/15/2012 | comments (0)
We first heard The Honey Dewdrops a few years ago at the Folk Alliance conference, and we were immediately captivated by their beautiful harmonies and timeless songwriting. Now we're helping publicize their brand-new album, Silver Lining, and we couldn't be happier to be working with such fine musicians. Though they both trained originally as teachers, we're all lucky that husband and wife duo Laura Wortman and Kagey Parrish decided to dedicated themselves to acoustic roots music instead. With their home nestled in the foothills of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, the music of The Honey Dewdrops is subtly infused with the sounds and spirit of Appalachia. It's the kind of music rooted closely to home, but able to travel far and wide. We hope you'll enjoy this album as much as we have!
The Honey Dewdrops: Silver Lining
Sometimes you gotta get away to get it right. Husband and wife duo The Honey Dewdrops did just that in order to record their newest album, Silver Lining. They set up shop on an old farm in Catawba, Virginia, atop a hill that looks east to Roanoke, and invited their best friends over to help tune guitars, craft songs, cook savory meals, keep the creativity flowing, make hot tea, and uncork the wine. The result is a remarkably homey recording that sounds so much larger than the two people at the center of the music. Beautiful harmonies flow together effortlessly, as quick as a second thought, and the acoustic instruments drift along the backroads of the music, between hills clouded with wood smoke. It’s music made in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, beholden not to ancient traditions, but to the spirit of the hills, to the handmade, community music that came before.
Laura Wortman and Kagey Parrish, the husband-wife duo that make up The Honey Dewdrops, represent, viscerally, what most folk musicians aspire towards: they are deeply rooted in their community yet accessible to listeners everywhere. Their sound is transcendent; they write all their own songs and yet no one could ever peg them as just another singer-songwriter couple, not when they’ve embedded a sparse Appalachian clarity on every track. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the many Appalachian old-timey groups around today, but what The Honey Dewdrops have is both timeless and entirely memorable. Like the Appalachian Trail that runs through their backyard, The Honey Dewdrops are one step removed from pure wilderness, and yet they capture a clarity that grabs listeners hard and strong. They are, without doubt, one of the sweetest honey-rich sounds you’ll hear this year.
06/13/2012 | comments (0)
In honor of yet another rainy day in this Seattle "summer," here's a review of two great new albums from the rainy ol' Emerald Isle of Ireland. One post from Devon @ Hearth Music and a guest post from our good friend Dr. Squeeze. Unfortunately, these albums are a bit hard to find in the US. It's a common problem with Irish trad these days, probably brought on by the dearth of media outlets writing about Irish music and the death of American record stores. Best advice to get new Irish trad releases in the US? Start your own blog. It's not that hard; look at us! If we can do it, you can too!
Kevin Crawford: Carrying the Tune
2012. BallyO Records.
This album has exactly what you'd expect from Kevin Crawford: rare and carefully sourced tunes, impeccable playing on the Irish wooden flute and tin whistles, tasteful accompaniment, and a modern edge to an old sound. Crawford's best known as the Irish fluter in all-star ensemble Lunasa, and though a few tracks here have the kind of angular modern arrangements that made Lunasa one of the best and most in-demand Irish trad bands on the planet, most tracks are subtle, tasteful performances of purely traditional music. Carrying the Tune is an all-flute/whistle album, which can get a bit tiring, but Crawford's one of the few who can pull off an album like this and make every track sound refreshing and different. It helps too that he's got John Doyle on guitar. Doyle's got quite the Midas touch in Irish trad today; everything he touches comes out golden. Together Crawford and Doyle are a formidable duo, and if you're a big fat Irish trad nerd like me, I know you're waiting very impatiently for the album from the new super-group The Teetotallers, which features Crawford and Doyle together with Irish fiddle genius Martin Hayes. But until that drops (and until you start your own blog to get a promo copy), we'll have to content ourselves with this album. Actually, rumor has it that this album was intended to be a Teetotallers album, but schedule conflicts kept Hayes from joining Doyle and Crawford. Anyways, we'll take what we can get, and this is certainly more than we expected! The liner notes here track the source of each tune, and the tunes range the gamut of Irish tune families (including two nice waltzes!), so there's a ton of great material here for the budding Irish musician. And throughout there's such a genuine love for the music that it's hard not to fall in love too. In short, this is the kind of masterful album one would expect from Kevin Crawford. --Devon Leger
Kevin Crawford: Queen of May/Tom Dowd's Favourite/Naughton's
You can buy the album via PayPal (in Euros) at Kevin Crawford's Website
Séamus Begly & Oisín Mac Diarmada: Le Chéile (Together)
2012. Musical Ireland.
I just got my hands on the recent CD that features the fiddle/accordion team of Séamus Begley and Oisín Mac Diarmada. I recently wrote a review of another recording with Oisín Mac Diarmanda playing with the Innisfree Ceili Band. This time he teams up with the great Kerry accordion player Séamus Begley and they take us on a wild ride of breakneck reels, jigs, hornpipes, and polkas. As an added bonus, Séamus delights us with a few wonderful songs in his masterful Séan-nos style (un-ornamented songs in Gaelic).
It's just the two of them playing on the recording, except for an occasional singing duet with Séamus and his daughter Méabh Ní Bheaglaoich. Séamus comes from an illustrious musical family with a brother who also plays accordion (Brendan Begley). This recording is the result of two years touring with Oisín's troupe of "Irish Christmas in America." The influences, references and tune names on the CD read like a who's who of great Irish musicians: Denis Murphy, Julia Clifford, Ed Reavey, Andy McGann, Michael Coleman for the fiddlers and Finbarr Dwyer, Joe Burke, Johnny O’Leary, and Denis Doody for the box players.
The recording starts of with a set of rollicking slides: "The Scartaglen and Trasna Na dTonnta. This is followed by two reels: Richard Dwyer's and The Hunter's House and then a great song by Séamus: "An tSeanbhean Bhocht" with delightful backup vocals by his daughter. The rest of the CD keeps up the pace and quality with more songs, reels, jigs, hornpipes and polkas. Throughout the recording, we feel the excitement and joy these two great musicians have playing together. It feels at times like two great thoroughbreds on a race to the finish, running neck an neck all the way.
I highly recommend this CD. --Dr. Squeeze
[Editor's Note: We've just heard that Séamus Begley has officially joined Oisin's awesome Irish trad band, Téada. Congrats all around, we love seeing two generations come together for good tunes and great parties!]
Séamus Begley & Oisín Mac Diarmada: An tSeanbhean Bhocht
Séamus Begley & Oisín Mac Diarmada: The Boys Of Tandragee/The Eavesdropper/Finbarr Dwyer’s
06/12/2012 | comments (0)
We've been waiting for this to drop for a little while, and we're so excited to share it with you now! Hearth Music got a great interview with rising honky-tonk star J.P. Harris of J.P. Harris & The Tough Choices. He's led a hard-knock life, to say the least, and when he sings about hard work and crazy parties, this guy has lived it all. He's a wonderful storyteller, and at times sounds like a young Kerouac describing his train hopping and cross country adventures. In the interview he talks about his DIY punk roots, his years spent herding sheep with the Navajo, his train hopping techniques, hobo signs, and the dirtiest jobs he's ever done. Check it out:
Published by Tiny Mix Tapes
On what country music means:
"You start to realize when singing a song about life in the country or singing a song about your truck breaking down or your woman leaving you or whatever: These things, they become a lot more tangible when you realize that you’ve been right in the same hard scrabble shoes for a long time. When I get up on a stage and I sing a song about truck-driving, I’ve been the guy on the nasty ice-covered road in a big, three-ton dump truck trying to tug a broken piece of equipment out of a muddy ditch. I feel like it’s given me a much more visceral taste for why people even wrote this music in the first place, why this music is so identifiable to so many people around the country."
On hobo signs:
"There’s a symbol that got widely spread. It’s 2 circles overlapping each other. It means: Never give up. Which means: This is a rough town, you’re gonna have a hard time getting out of here on the trains, but just get to the next town."
On Navajo spirituality:
"In normal white America, black America, or whoever, basically non-indigenous people in this country, you can pick up and change and do whatever you want with your religion, like you change your underwear if you want. You can be a Zen Buddhist this day and then the next day you can decide to be a Universalist. Five years down the road, you can get married and consider converting to Judaism and you split up with your wife and get married to someone else and become Catholic. There isn’t a personal, cultural identity in that deep of a way in any religions in the world that I see, other than in indigenous ones. So, I saw that this is something that these people lived and breathed and it was their full existence from the beginning of their lives to the end of their lives. There was no option or idea of even changing the options about what they believed in. I think that was the heaviest thing I saw. "