Wednesday, January 08, 2014

best music 2013, part 2

Music at its best is a conversation, a connection between musicians and listeners and in some cases a wider world. Take a listen to conversations these musician offer.

This is part two of a three part series on best music of 2013 here at Music Road. Here is part one. Music Road: best music 2013, part 1

note: clicking on the text links and album cover images will take you to longer reviews of the recordings/and or places where you may hear bits of the music.

Ruth Moody, Canadian songwriter whose name you may know from her work with the award winning group The Wailin’ Jennys, is also a fine solo artist. She has the gift for weaving the spiritual into love songs and other experiences of day to day life in her lyrics, and the musicianship to invite you in. You may find all this, along with musical guests including Mike McGoldrick, Mark Knopfler , and Jerry Douglas on her album These Wilder Things.

Ron Block often puts questions of life illuminated by questions of faith front and center in his solo work too. In his case the ideas and the music are infused with bluegrass, which makes sense when you know that Block is a long time member of Alison Krauss + Union Station. Both as aspects of his interest come into his album Walking Song which includes a number of collaborations with new found songwriting partner Rebecca Reynolds.

You might know Heidi Talbot from her work with other musicians, as well: she was lead singer with Cherish the Ladies, and has been know to sing backup to Eddi Reader. Talbot is a fine solo artist as well. Her earlier albums have leant toward music draw for the deep reservoir of Celtic tradition (Talbot is Irish and lives in Scotland). On Angels Without Wings she walks farther into adding her own songwriting voice to the mix, and it proves as powerful and as gracious a one as is her singing voice. Notable cuts include When the Roses Come Again, I’m Not Sorry, and My Sister the Moon.

Childsplay is a gathering of musicians who come together in the Boston area, centered around musicians who play violins made by Bob Childs. The music they make on As the Crow Flies is by turns Celtic, Americana, and contemporary, some original compositions, some from those traditions. It’s not just violin and fiddle, either -- they bring along musical friends including flute player Shannon Heaton and guitarist Keith Murphy as well as Lissa Schneckenburger -- she is one of the fiddle players to be sure, and also lends her fine voice to tracks including Dear Companion and As the Crow Flies. Fiddle players you’ve met here along the music road include Hanneke Cassel and Katie McNally, and Nic Gareiss brings the percussion of his dancing feet as well.

The Paul McKenna Band are rising stars of Scotland’s music. Their album Elements, recently released in the United States, makes clear why this is so: creative tunes, thoughtful songs, a good blend of fast paced and slower tempo, and through it all the taste of Scotland lingers. Standout tracks include the instrumental set Flying Through Flanders , the fast paced song Mickey Dam, and the quiet reflection of the song Indiana.

Dervish know well how to balance music between high flying tunes and time for that quiet side side of things too. They are from the west of Ireland, and a number of the songs they have on The Thrush in the Storm are ones they draw from time as band in residence in Leitrim. The stories they tell in the liner notes are almost as interesting as the ones they tell in the songs and tunes. Listen out for The Rolling Wave set and Shanagolden, which has particularly fine singing from Cathy Jordan.

Therese Honey does not sing a line on her album Summer's End: her instrument is the harp. It’s a fine collection of original and traditional tunes in Celtic tradition, some lively, many inviting reflection. It is a recording you’d do well to let play through as the musician has sequenced the tunes for you.

John Reischman’s instrument is the mandolin, and while on Walk Along John he shows just about every color of it in folk, bluegrass, and Americana music, it’s the power of story, and of the journey he creates for the listener, that shines even more brightly than his skill on his instrument. It’s mainly original music with a few well chosen traditional tunes mixed in. From the Itzbin Reel to A Prairie Jewel though to Anisa’s Lullabye, Reischman will keep you engaged in his musical journey.

Joy Dunlop has a journey to bring you along on, as well -- in her case it is through her native Argyll in the west of Scotland. Whether Scottish Gaelic is your language or not, you’ll follow along with the humor, sorrow, joy, celebration, and other emotions Dunlop shares on Faileasan/Reflections, No worries if your Gaelic is not fluent -- or if you have any at all -- Dunlop tells the stories of the songs and a bit about how they came to her in the liner notes, in English. You’ll recognize the names of several of her musical friends -- all with connections to Argyll -- among them Donald Shaw, Karen Matheson, and Mary Ann Kennedy.

photographs are by Kerry Dexter, and are copyrighted. thank you for respecting this.

you may also wish to see
Ireland's music: two voices
Winter's grace

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