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Fergal Woods "Axe Victim" (Leitrim, Ireland)
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Singing From The Heart
Singing From The Heart
Offered by The Country Music Store
Price: 13.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heavenly Harmony !, 17 Jun 2010
This review is from: Singing From The Heart (Audio CD)
I downloaded this album last week and am hugely impressed with it, in fact I'd have to describe it as a classic ! This is a release of bluegrass gospel sung acapella which will transcend musical genres. The blend of voices is superb and all tracks have 4-part harmonies which are simply sublime. The blend is so good (with bass parts particularly impressive) that you don't even miss the lack of musical accompaniment.

Dailey and Vincent have been around for years in other peoples bands but have taken the bluegrass world by storm with their first couple of albums which featured excellent song selection with great playing and harmonies. Next release was an out-of-the-blue tribute to the Statler Brothers which was an imaginative and delightful recording and it added an extra vocal dimension with additional backing voices. "Singing From The Heart" carries this to an even higher level and deserves the widest possible audience.

Some of these songs have been recorded a number of times before (Farther Along, The Old Rugged Cross, Amazing Grace) but there is a clever mix of dynamics without departing too much from the tradition. There is rhythmic swing to "Don't You Want to go to Heaven" and "Moses Smote the Water" which gives a nice lift and break from the "straight" versions of surrounding songs, and "Amazing Grace" sees a key change after each verse. Sevenths are thrown in sparingly in some of the better known songs to keep things interesting and my only slight quibble is the sub-40 minute playing time (which just flies by), and the lack of a bigger reverb on a few of the tracks - where the last note "dies" too quickly for my liking.

I've got a number of the bluegrass gospel "classics" (Quicksilver, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Claire Lynch, Cox Family with Alison Krauss etc.) and in my opinion this goes straight to the top of the list. Record of the Year (so far)!


Revamp
Revamp
Price: 4.84

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A backward step !, 12 Jun 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Revamp (Audio CD)
I find this CD an anti-climax as it's a backwards step from the last 2 "After Forever" releases. Floor's singing is as powerful as ever, but this is not an inspiring set of songs. Revamp are a metal band with even less "Symphonic" leanings than her former band. I find this disappointing as Jansen has a great operatic voice (which provides the main highlights here) but this is used very sparingly and keyboard sounds (which don't impress at all) veer more to Gothic backing. While mentioning sounds I've got to say that drums are totally overpowering in the first couple of tracks and needlessly complicated patterns are used in a misguided attempt to make the sound heavier.

The disc clocks in at over 50 minutes and has 13 tracks.The album was recorded with 2 other songwriters who played most of the music - neither of these are in the current touring line-up nor is the session drummer. This may be a good thing as some of the songs are clumsy (poor guitar riffs and ill-chosen synth tones). I've also an issue with intros and endings - the former in almost all cases bear no resemblance to what follows, and most songs stop rather suddenly! It is, in the main, hard-driving music which will go down well in concert. Several of the tracks have contrasting quiet passages to give Floor's voice a much-needed break.

There are a number of strong songs. "Sweet Curse" is an excellent duet with Russell Allen (Symphony X). "Million" is a more basic rocker with the choir adding to Floor's soprano. "Disgraced" is my favourite track at the moment (more symphonic and nice key changes)."Fast Forward" is another heavy track with a headbanger's section in the middle, and "Trial of Monsters" starts with an Irish jig!

The album does improve with each listen but I feel that this recording was a case of trying to force things rather than letting songs come naturally. Hopefully the new band will develop their own (better) material. If you are a fan of Symphonic Metal you can probably give this a miss - it's heavier than After Forever or Lacuna Coil, faster than Tristania but lacking any mainstream commerciality. Next album will really define Miss Jansen's credentials as a rock diva. I'd rate this as 3.8 stars. Listen before you purchase !


Destination Life
Destination Life
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: 7.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Rhonda back near top form, 9 Jun 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Destination Life (Audio CD)
This is Vincent's best album since her "Ragin' Live" from 4 or 5 years back. The program is very well thought out with great variety - breakdowns, slow waltz, duet, instrumental, covers and 2 great gospel tracks (one of which is unaccompanied). Playing is superb with the departure of Kenny Ingram not even noticed and Vincent has never sounded better on the mandolin. Indeed this is her first recording to solely feature her band.

The two "new boys" - Ben Helson and Aaron McDaris - both add vocally as well as musically (Helson's playing more than matches Tony Rice's version on the "Eight of December", and McDaris is flawless on "Anywhere is home when you're with me" which is played at breakneck speed. The title track is on the same lines as "I've Forgotten You" and is a lovely number. It's challenged by the 2 gospel songs as the album's outstanding cut as they are both superb and Rhonda's voice has lost none of it's warmth, power or sweetness.

I've slight reservations about both the covers - "Stop the World" is a throwaway song which does threaten to turn Latin (as another reviewer suggested) and the Poco classic "Crazy Love" is not a patch on the original in my opinion (missing out on harmony in the verses), but I admire the way she's looking at out of the way material. Another slight gripe is the short playing time (well shy of 40 minutes) but Rhonda has stuck to her roots with this release, avoided the gloss and glitz (apart from her album covers!) of competitors like Alison Krauss and Alecia Nugent and keeps coming up with the goods. Not quite up to the level of her first few "comeback" discs but well worth your attention.


Uam
Uam
Price: 13.16

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More delightful music from Uist, 27 April 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Uam (Audio CD)
Julie Fowlis is rapidly emerging as Britain's finest folk singer. She possesses a lovely sweet clear voice, picks great songs and along with hubby, Eamon Doorly, shows great sensitivity and musicality in arranging these songs. This time round (her 3rd release) Fowlis relies mainly on her own backing band, with Doorly's rich bouzouki tone very prominent. Song selection is satisfyingly varied. Fowlis is one of the few female folk artists who consistently sources good up-tempo material. She again shines on tin whistle on a few tracks and instrumental passages are again extensive and beautifully played.

Fowlis sings exclusively in Scots Gaelic and where she does a bilingual number here she has wisely gone for the gorgeous vocals of fellow Scot - Eddi Reader on "Wind and Rain". If this song doesn't enchant you nothing will! Fowlis cleverly uses a number of female backing singers and the album benefits from having contrasting voices providing backing.

I still regard "Cuilidh" as a finer album as 2 of the tracks here don't work for me - "Thig am Bata", which is overly repetitive, and the penultimate " A Mhic Dhugaill" where I don't think the Scottish bagpipes are the best instrument to accompany Julie's vocal. But otherwise this is another magnificent recording and well worth the five stars!


Hillbilly Goddess
Hillbilly Goddess
Price: 14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rhonda Vincent Soundalike, 26 April 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Hillbilly Goddess (Audio CD)
I find it hard to get too excited about this release. Good songs, well-played (with especially fine mandolin work), super 3-part harmonies and well-sung but Nugent's song selection and singing style is simply too close to Rhonda Vincent for comfort.

There are some very strong songs here with fast breakdowns(Wrecking the Train, Hillbilly Goddess) and lovely ballads (The Last Greyhound) On the slower material in particular Alecia sounds like she'd perhaps be better suited to country music rather than bluegrass. The fact that she uses drums on most tracks suggests to me that she's keeping a foot in both camps.

This is a step up from her first two cds and you won't find anything wrong with this recording unless like me you've got some of Rhonda's CDs in which case this may well be surplus to requirements. That said there are very few bluegrass releases over the past couple of years which better this offering and apart from my slight misgivings I will be buying her next release. If you prefer a more "folk-orientated" blugrass go for the excellent Claire Lynch instead !
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 5, 2014 9:51 AM BST


San Patricio (Deluxe Edition)
San Patricio (Deluxe Edition)
Price: 17.99

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Mexican Buena Vista ?, 20 April 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I have extremely mixed views about this recording project. It is ultimately an anti-climax and I doubt if I would harbour these feelings if I had just bought the CD and not this "De Luxe" version.

For starters much of the music is delightful but I started to ask why so many happy songs about such a tragic series of events ? - Paddy Moloney tap dancing away on the DVD is incongruous with the hanging and branding of Irish freedom fighters. Many of the songs on this recording appear to have nothing to do with the San Patricios, and if they have I'd like to know why there are no translations of the Spanish songs which might provide an authentic insight into this period ?

None of the Chieftains apart from Moloney appear on the DVD and one is left with the impression that most of the recording was done Stateside (only half a dozen tracks actually recorded in Mexico)and a tape was sent back to Dublin for the rest of the group to play along with! Much of the music on the disc is not played by the Chieftains at all but by excellent Mexican groups.

The DVD was also a missed opportunity to give a proper historical analysis of the San Patricios, unfortunately neither Paddy Moloney (who quotes an incorrect date in the discussion) nor Ry Cooder seem to know much about it, and they end up in a bland back-slapping conversation about the power of music to unite.

Amazon incorrectly states that Carlos Nunez is a Mexican musician - he's Galician and there's no explanation given for the Galician link with the San Patricios either. This whole recording smacks of a clever spotting of a commercial opportunity (Moloney has a cheek in jamming along to Mexican tunes played by Mexican musicians and then claiming royalties with his "trad arranged by Moloney" credit !)

So - you'll have to look elsewhere for musical perspectives on this event (Tim O'Brien has an excellent song called John Riley, who led the San Patricios, on his "The Crossing " CD which is more emotional than any of the numbers here).If you want to hear excellent Mexican music with added Irish instrumental embellishment and a few token songs relating to this Irish Brigade then this will work very well for you, but ignore the DVD and stick to the CD only version! Linda Ronstadt has recorded some brilliant Mexican music back 20 or so years ago (when her voice was much stronger) and a CD called "Jardin Azul" is an excellent compilation if you'd like to delve further into this genre.

Musically I actually prefer "San Patricio" to the above mentioned Buena Vista Social Club as it is rhythmically more upbeat, but at least that album WAS recorded in Cuba and provided an excellent accompanying booklet.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 5, 2012 9:07 AM GMT


Renegade
Renegade
Price: 12.92

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Modern Traditional ?, 17 April 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Renegade (Audio CD)
It took me a while to get used to this CD. Repeated plays have however proved rewarding and despite my early reservations I now find this music hugely entertaining.

The mixture of hip hop beats unfortunately will put many fans of Irish trad off, and much of the brass input in these songs wouldn't be missed if they weren't there but Shannon and McGoldrick in particular are so well-respected that hopefully people will listen to "Renegade" (appropriate title) before deciding to buy or ignore.

My copy has a different track order than mentioned above and starts with "The Maid behind the Bar". It is a good taste of what to expect. Drum loops set a rhythm that the players respond to with fairly classic sounding dance tunes. A friend of mine who does Irish dancing remarked that the tempos were spot on, unforced and relaxed.

"Get a Hold of Me" showcases how wonderful Irish tunes can sound in different musical contexts - here a hip hop song. 2 big surprises and indeed bonuses were the debut songs by both Mike McGoldrick (The Curra Road) and Jim Murray (The First Time Ever) - both quality performances that suggest they should sing a lot more.

There are "conventional" trad instrumentals in "The Full Set" and "Gaffo's Ball" where the playing of Shannon, McGoldrick and Dezi Donnelly is brilliant. Donnelly is a little less obvious on the other tracks. Jim Murray contributes muted guitar as drum beats make his acoustic redundant on some pieces. His bass playing is fairly mundane but this music actually needs bass more than acoustic accompaniment. I've already mentioned that the brass interjections don't really add much to the tunes, but McGoldrick has used them extensively on his own solo releases and appears to be sticking to his guns !

This CD does need an open mind and it does require a few listens. It contains much fine music and I for one will definitely be giving it regular listens. It's well worth your scrutiny !


UNDERDOG, THE BOYS FROM DORAVILLE
UNDERDOG, THE BOYS FROM DORAVILLE
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 12.21

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another ARS / BGO winner !, 17 April 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've waited 30 years for the release of these albums on CD so a big thank you to BGO/GOTT Records who have now released almost all of the Atlanta Rhythm Section's recorded output from their classic line-up in the 70's. This is another fine release with crystal clear sound (Underdog sounds ever so slightly lower in volume) and excellent notes. Contrary to what Amazon say both albums are accommodated one one very generously filled disc (77 mins).

Listening to the cd in it's entirety I was surprised to find such a contrast in styles (not having listened to my vinyl copies in years). Underdog is quite low-key and a definite departure from the bands normal brand of Southern rock. Guitars are toned down and Dean Daughtry's keyboards carry most of the tracks. That said, the songs are extremely musical with 3 numbers "Do it or Die", "Indigo Passion" and the exquisite "Spooky" all making it onto the definitive Polydor "Best of" release.

"Born Ready" and "It's only Music" are the nearest things to rockers here and feature nice leads from Barry Bailey and tasty slide from JR Cobb. "I Hate the Blues" segues into Let's go get Stoned" which to my ears is one of the weakest things they've ever done. "While Time is Left" is much better with time changes, unison runs and a keyboard section that sound like a Bach harpsichord piece! The closer is Hammond almost solo, singing a theme that he used quite a lot - loneliness on the road.

The following year saw a welcome return to the more upbeat "Boys from Doraville" (1980) This release was similar in style to the "Red Tape" album with it's happy go lucky feel. Both gutarists more than make up for their slightly muted contributions on "Underdog" so upfront guitars drive almost all the songs, with trademark catchy choruses, great harmonies and Ronnie Hammond's superb vocals."Try my Love" and "Next Year's Rock n Roll" are great boogie numbers, both the opening "Cocaine Charlie" and closing "Strictly R'n'R" are Skynyrd-like and "I ain't much","Putting my Faith in Love" "Rough at the Edges" are melodic rockers that still sound fresh today.

The two departures from the up-tempo numbers are the gentle country rock flavoured "Silver Eagle" with tasty pedal steel, and a song of unrequited love "Pedestal" with a nice chord sequence and a lovely understated vocal from Hammond. This album has gone up a notch or two in my estimation, and I shall be returning to it regularly !

So anything less than 5 stars is out of the question. You've got 2 albums for the price of one and you've got very contrasting moods on both. 90% of the songs are of extremely high quality and it's all excellently packaged. This release just begs one request to the good folks at BGO - Please release the "Are You Ready" live double by the band, which has yet to see the light of day on CD.


Pompeii
Pompeii
by Robert Harris
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining historical fiction, 14 April 2010
This review is from: Pompeii (Paperback)
Harris picks a very clever storyline to tie in a mystery with the cataclsymic events of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. The book is highly readable and brilliantly paced so almost from the first line we are on a rollercoaster countdown to the eruption and the unfolding of plots.

Characters are eminently believable and detail of the period is accurate and interesting but never dry. Harris wisely uses historical detail to set scenes rather than draw attention to how much he knows (unlike other authors).The story basically concerns a water engineer trying to sort out a problem concerning the failure of an aqueduct - while also investigating the disappearance of his predecessor, and the link with a corrupt property developer (yep, they had them back then too !) with a little romance thrown in.

Tension is built nicely. The account of the eruption itself is really heart-stopping and overall I must admit to really enjoying Pompeii (perhaps helped by the fact that I read it while visiting the Bay of Naples). Not an out and out classic but is most unlikely to disappoint !


Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through a Country's Hidden Past
Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through a Country's Hidden Past
by Giles Tremlett
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.51

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wide-ranging survey of a fascinating country, 14 April 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a highly readable account of journalist Giles Tremlett's view of what makes Spain tick. It's based on his own experiences, conversations and reflections as an Englishman who has lived and worked there for a number of years.

Many different topics are broached with substantial first-hand evidence from the authors own travels and meetings, and much of the opening half of the book concerns 20th century politics. The remainder - much like John Hooper's superior "The New Spaniards" - deals with issues like the "different" cultural autonomias of Galicia, the Basque Country and Catalonia, tourism, corruption, Flamenco and so on. Some of Tremlett's style seems also to be "borrowed" from another Englishman abroad - Jason Webster - and if you've read "Duende" or "Guerra" you'll recognise very similar passages.

This publication does not set itself up as an academic history but does provide a stimulating overview, and in my opinion, works extremely well as an introduction to perhaps the most colorful country in Europe. Well worth delving into but at the same time it is unlikely to go down as the definitive account of the events and aspects of character that have created the modern day Spain.


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