New Releases Episode 2
Henry Girls Shout Sister Shout Beste! Unterhaltung Out Now
A musical tribute to the Boswell Sisters performed live by the Henry Girls. And recorded in a circus tent on Malin Green, Donegal during Earagail Arts Festival last year.
Well, I’ve enjoyed the music of the Boswell Sisters since I was a small boy, and I’ve loved the Henry Girls since I first heard them, and even more since I’ve heard them play live. So I’m delighted that this tribute to three sisters by another three sisters (plus a 7 piece backing band) is all I could want it to be.
The Henry Girls have captured the ethos of the music, not preserving, but revitalising the songs, and the decision to capture them live is, I think, the right one. The balance of skill and effervescence is a champagne cocktail from start to finish as they more than do justice to St Louis Blues, There’ll Be Some Changes Made, 42nd Street and the rest.
The Music Goes Round and Round, and it comes out here. And I’m awfully glad it does.
Trad. Attack! Make Your Move Made in Baltics Out Now
Estonia’s Trad. Attack! are well named, to say the least. The trio’s new (I think fourth) album is entitled Make Your Move, and yes, it does come across as a defiant challenge.
This is their best offering yet, presenting traditional music in – as they say – an in-your-face, no begging, no pleading, manner. A band to be reckoned with, they take the songs and do with them what they will. This may not be the way the music was presented in days gone by, but this is the way they’re doing it now, so wake up and give them a listen because you really need to hear this.
Between them they play guitar, Estonian bagpipes, jew’s harp, trombone and a wide variety of percussion, and all three provide vocals too. It may be a fairly radical departure in the treatment of the songs, but there’s a great deal of thought and subtlety in the arrangements, and the quality of the musicianship is impressive.
Their bid for world domination, or at least their ambition to play in every country in the world, may have been temporarily stalled by the global pandemic with 159 to go, but I wouldn’t bet against them achieving it. I look forward to seeing them when they visit Scotland.
Norma MacDonald Old Future Noyes Records Out Now
Halifax, Nova Scotia singer/songwriter Norma MacDonald had originally intended her fifth album to be called Death By Nostalgia, and it certainly has a feel to it that could have come from the west coast USA country-folk scene in the 1970s.
She has a voice that would have fit right in with that scene, and she has the ability to write songs that suit her voice to perfection. Two of the strongest bookend the album – Temperamental Year and Some Days, while Your Wedding Day sees her crying at the wedding of an ex that she had dumped.
The production is well suited and extremely sympathetic to the songs too, unsurprising as she co-produced with Dale Murray, who also adds his considerable talents on a variety of instruments to enhance the album. Old Future can only enhance MacDonald’s ever-growing reputation.
Borrowed Books Shorting Out and Longing Let There Be Numbers Out Now
Well, here’s an album I’ve been desperate to hear since I first knew it was on the way. I lost the chance to have Cam Fraser guest in the studio thanks to the current pandemic, just chalk one more win up to the virus, I guess. But hopefully we can have that chat once things open up again.
Anyway, the album: it’s as seriously impressive a collection of songs as you would expect from guys with pedigrees like this. Cam Fraser fronted almost mythical grunge band The Cateran, touring with the likes of The Lemonheads, Nirvana and acted as backing band for Grant Hart, post Husker Du. Ray Neal was guitarist with influential 90s band Miracle Legion, who reformed for a while a few years ago to great acclaim (even appearing on the Andrew Marr Show).
There’s a depth to the songwriting that leaves several of the tracks fighting for prominence in your memory after you’ve played the album, and I suspect I’m not the only one who’ll be giving it back to back plays, to find it leaves a stronger impression each time you do that.
A fine production job in an Edinburgh (where they are now based) studio by Graeme Young completes the package.
Essential listening, what more do I need to say?