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February 26, 2009

Pierre Laniau - Erik Satie: Pièces Pour Guitare

Erik Satie (1866-1925)
The man
For some people, Erik Satie is known as an eccentric who gave his works odd titles that seem almost derisive and ridicolous:

Chilled Pieces, Drivelling Preludes (for a Dog), Dried up Embryos ...

Many believe that this was not only a result of his bizarre wit but also a way of offending the music critics at the time. It was known that Satie didn't like music critics and that the feelings were mutual.

Those performing his works are well aware of his weird instructions to the performer.

The instructions are meant as a dialogue between the composer and the performer only:

To whoever. I forbid anyone to read the text aloud during the musical performance. Failure to obey to my instruction will provoke my just indignation against anyone so presumptuous. No exception to this rule will be granted.

From the short piano piece, titled Vexations (1893):
To play this motif 840 times in succession, it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities.

This instruction has been taken seriously by many prominent piano performers. Many performances have been made worldwide with great success. But perhaps he was only trying to fool the performer? After all, it isn't an instruction that the performer must play it 840 times. He just stated, "To play this motif 840 times..." Of course, we will never know what was his true intention as the piece wasn't published during his lifetime.

Satie was also a collector. Once someone asked him what he wished for birthday present. He replied - I saw this beautiful handkerchief the other day.... After his death they found in his wardrobe 84 identical handkerchieves, besides 12 identical velvet costumes and dozens of umbrellas.

Satie was considered as an outsider, a lone wolf with projects of his own. For example he founded his own church. As a result he valued his privacy very highly and never let anyone see his apartment in Arceuil, where he lived for the last 27 years of his life. He only had one known relationship in his life - an intense love affair in 1893 with the model, painter and former trapeze artiste Suzanne Valadon.

Satie lived as a true artist, for his music and his ideals. He had no respect for money and lived a poor life for many years. He was never afraid of expressing his true opinion. If he found someone to be a jerk he made this perfectly clear (and took the consequences).

His music
Even though Satie was a fascinating person in many ways, it is his music that is the major reason for his popularity. He was very creative and had a great influence on his colleagues Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Francis Poulenc. Because his music was ahead of his time and regarded as timeless, he also has great influence on many modern composers.

Satie was a forerunner to minimalism. He experimented with what he called furniture music, meant to be in the background rather than listened to. He composed music to be listened at different angles, similar pieces divided into several parts. Many of his compositions have influences from medieval music and from French composers.

His most famous works are the serene Gymnopédies (three similar piano pieces), the mystical Vexations (short piano piece repeated 840 times), the popular piano suite Trois Morceaux en forme de Poire (duet), the ballet Parade (with some very odd instruments) and the ballet Relâche (with film sequences included).

His music was rather unknown and underrated until the 1960s. His popularity has grown ever since.

Cefalophones (by Erik Satie)
2 flutes with keys (F sharp)
1 alto overcoat (C)
1 duckbill (E)
2 stroke clarinets (G flat)
1 siphon in C
3 keyboard trombones (D flat)
1 bass in leather (C)
Chromatic tub in H

Instruments belonging to the remarkable group cefalophones, with 30 octaves extent, completely unperformable. An amateur in Vienna tried in 1875 to handle the siphone in C; after having jared with a piercing drill, the instrument burst, broke the spine on the executor and scalped him completely. Since then no one has dared to concern oneself with the powerful assets that cefalophones contain and the state has forbidden all schools teaching the instruments.

The true musician (by Erik Satie)
He grows in wisdom...He is brilliant...He learns to do without
and is prepared to make great sacrifices...enormous sacrifices...
if I may say...His energy is tremendous...
In other words he is prepared for the struggle...and with honesty he shall fight it...

The performance of an Art demands complete self-denial...
...It was not meant as a joke what I just said...about sacrifices...
The Music makes heavy demands upon those who want to
devote themselves in it...This is what I have wanted you to call your attention to...

A true musician must subordinate himself his Art; ...he must place himself above human suffering; ...he must draw courage from within...and only from within.

What I am
Everyone will tell you I am not a musician. That is correct.
From the very beginning of my career I class myself a phonometrographer. My work is completely phonometrical. Take my Fils des Étoiles, or my Morceaux en forme de Poire, my En habit de Cheval or my Sarabandes - it is evident that musical ideas played no part whatsoever in their composition. Science is the dominating factor.
Besides, I enjoy measuring a sound much more than hearing it. With my phonometer in my hand, I work happily and with confidence.
What haven't I weighed or measured? I've done all Beethoven, all Verdi, etc. It's fascinating.
The first time I used a phonoscope, I examined a B flat of medium size. I can assure you that I have never seen anything so revolting. I called in my man to show it to him.
On my phono-scales a common or garden F sharp registered 93 kilos. It came out of a fat tenor whom I also weighed.
Do you know how to clean sounds? It's a filthy business. Stretching them out is cleaner; indexing them is a meticulous task and needs good eyesight. Here, we are in the realm of pyrophony.
To write my Pièces Froides, I used a caleidophone recorder. It took seven minutes. I called in my man to let him hear them.
I think I can say that phonology is superior to music. There's more variety in it. The financial return is greater, too. I owe my fortune to it.
At all events, with a motodynamophone, even a rather inexperienced phonometrologist can easily note down more sounds that the most skilled musician in the same time, using the same amount of effort. This is how I have been able to write so much.
And so the future lies with philophony.

I have always had it in mind to write a lyric play on the following specific subject:
At that time I was taken up with alchemy. One day I was having a rest, alone in my laboratory. Outside the sky was leaden, livid and sinister - really ghastly!
I was feeling sad without knowing why; almost afraid without knowing the cause. Into my head came the idea of amusing myself by counting on my fingers slowly from 1 to 260,000.
This I did: and very boring it was. I stood up, took hold of a magic nut and gently placed it in a casket of alpaca bone studded with seven diamonds.
Straightaway a stuffed bird took flight; a monkey's skeleton ran off; a sow's skin climbed along the wall. Then night descended, covering up objects, destroying shapes.
But someone is knocking on the far door, the one near the Median talismans, the talismans a Polynesian madman sold me.
What is it? Oh god! Do not forsake thy servant. He is indeed a sinner, but is repentant. Have mercy on him, I beseech Thee.
Now the door opens, opens, opens like an eye; a silent and shapeless being comes nearer, nearer, nearer. Not a drop of perspiration remains on my quaking skin; moreover I am very thirsty, very thirsty.
In the shadows a voice is heard:
- Sir, I think I have second sight.
I do not recognize this voice. It says:
- Sir, it is I, it is only I.
- Who? comes my terrified reply.
- I, your servant. I think I have a second sight. Did you not just place a magic nut gently in a casket of alpaca bone studded with seven diamonds?
Suffocated, I can only reply:
- Yes, my friend. How do you know?
He draws near me, a gliding shadow in the darkness of the night. I feel him trembling. He is probably afraid that I may take a shot at him.
With a sob, like a little child, he murmurs:
- I saw you through the keyhole.

Odd corners of my life
The origins of the Saties probably go back to ancient times. Oh yes... I can't confirm anything on this point - but neither can I unconfirm it.
However, I presume that the family was not part of the nobility (nor even the papacy); that its members were good and humble serfs, and that was once an honour and a pleasure (for the serf's overlord, of course). Oh yes...
I don't know what the Saties did in the Hundred Years War; nor have I any information on their attitude and the part they played in the Thirty Years War (one of our loveliest wars).
Let the memory of my ancient ancestors rest in peace. Oh yes...
Let us pass on. I shall come back to this subject later.

As for me, I was born in Honfleur (Calvados), in the Pont-l'Evêque district, on 17 May 1866... So that makes me a quinquagenarian, and I might as well be called that as anything else.
Honfleur is a small town watered by the poetic waves of the Seine and - in complicity - the tumultous ones of the Channel. Its inhabitants (honfleurais) are very polite and very agreeable. Oh yes...
I remained in that city until I was twelve (1878) and then moved to Paris.... My childhood and adolescence were undistinguished - nothing happened worth recording in serious writings. So I shall say nothing of them.
Let us pass on. I shall come back to this subject later.

I'm burning to give you my description here (enumeration of my physical particulars - the ones I can mention decently, that is):... Hair and eyebrowns dark auburn; eyes grey (probably clouded); hair covering forehead; nose long; mouth medium; chin wide; face oval. Height 1 metre 67 centimetres.
The description on this document dates from 1887, the time when I did military service in the 33rd Infantry Regiment at Arras (pas-de-Calais). It would not fit me today.
I'm sorry I can't give you my digital (finger) prints. Oh yes. I don't have them on me, and these special reproductions are not good to look at (they look like Vuillermoz and Laloy combined).
Let us pass on. I shall come back to this subject later.

Following a rather short adolescence, I became an ordinary young man, tolerable but no more. At that moment in my life I began to think and to write music. Oh yes.
Wretched idea!... very wretched idea!
It certainly was, for I lost no time in developing an unpleasant (original) originality, irrelevant, anti-French, unnatural, etc...
Then life became so impossible for me that I resolved to retire to my estates and pass the rest of my days in an ivory tower - or one of some other (metallic) metal.
That is why I acquired a taste for misanthropy; why I nurtured hypochondria; why I became the most (leaden-like) miserable of men. It distressed people to look at me - even through hall-marked gold eye-glasses. Oh yes.
And all this happened to me because of music. That art has done me more harm that good, really: it has made me quarrel with people of quality, most honourable, more-than-distinguished, terribly genteel people.
Let us pass on. I shall come back to this subject later.

As a person, I am neither good nor bad. I waver between the two, so to speak. So I have never really done harm to anyone - nor good, come to that.
All the same, I have plenty of enemies - loyal enemies, of course. Why? For the most part, it is because they don't know me - or only know me second-hand, in short, through hearsay (lies worse than death).
Man can never be perfect. I bear no grudge against them: they are the main victims of their ignorance and short-sightedness.... Poor folk!...
So I am sorry for them.
Let us pass on. I shall come back to this subject later.

- from

Pierre Laniau - Erik Satie: Pièces Pour Guitare
Label: ECM
Year: 1982

"I must confess, the idea of adapting Erik Satie's piano compositions for guitar initially did not appeal."
...he said, and then proceeded to make an album of absolutely brilliant interpretations. Not only has Laniau mastered the call-and-response between bass and treble that is so central to Satie's work, but he has immersed himself in it to the extent that he sometimes sounds like two players... this is also one of the most enduring qualities of Fahey's more psychomathematical works, and it comes across in an entirely different, but still psychomathematical way here.

He also nurtures a very essential Satiean quality: an emptiness/spaciousness, which is communicated perhaps more perfectly by the fragile nylon strings of the guitar than the vibrant string-clusters of the pianoforte.

And lastly, Laniau draws forth that rarest of qualities which can be found in Satie's pieces: a music simultaneously intellectual, playful, and soulful.

"Satie was reputed to have been enthralled by the performance of a Romanian folk ensemble who entertained the brimming crowds with their lugubrious, melancholic repertoire and singular instrumental technique. In light of this, especially, it is intriguing to hear the faint spectre of gypsy folk dance in Laniau's interpretations for guitar."

"It has been said that the word gnossienne refers to the antique Knossos and the crane dance that was performed outside the labyrinth where the Minotaur was held captive..."

Just as intriguing, is the suggestion that the title for these six pieces derives from the Greek "gnosis" - knowledge - with inherent leanings towards esoteric religious practice: his "first musical expression born out of Satie's collaboration with Péladan and his Rose et Croix sect."

1. Four Gnossiennes 1-Lent 3:34
2. Four Gnossiennes 2 - Avec etonnement 1:53
3. Four Gnossiennes 3 - Lent 3:00
4. Four Gnossiennes 4 - Lent (sans presser) 3:12
5. Musiques Intimes et Secrètes - Desespoir agreable 0:53
6. 06 Musiques Intimes et Secrètes 2 - Caresse 2:05
7. 07 Musiques Intimes et Secrètes 3 - Songe creux 1:43
8. Musiques Intimes et Secrètes 4 - Fâcheux example 1:09
9. Musiques Intimes et Secrètes 5 - Nostalgie 1:02
10. Je te Veux 4:46
11. Gymnopédie No. 1 3:06
12. Petite Musique de clown triste 2:18
13. La diva de l'empire 2:36
14. Premier prélude du nazaréen 5:20
15. Les pantins Dansent 2:06

this is not a pipe.
mp3 192kbps | w/ cover | 60mb

February 25, 2009

The Devil & Michael Cleveland

So get this:
The Devil goes down to Georgia, announces that he will eat all the children one by one unless a man can beat him in a fiddle contest. Now Georgia, as I'm sure you know, has had a plethora of able fiddlers over the years, and as you could guess there were quite a handful lining up to keep old Goathead at bay. But then our Clovenhoofed Cavalier informed the assembled fiddlers of an extra condition of his challenge. If they should lose, not only would he eat all the children, but he would also make the loser blind, fat, and crass; no woman would ever love them. And, almost as an afterthought, the genial Prince of Darkness declared that if any fool should face him and win, he would bestow upon the winner a 5-string fiddle and initiate that fiddlin' fool into the Ancient Mysterious Arcanum of Fierceome Fiddling, as revealed to Mr. Paganini, Hardänger, Diotti, Sándor Lakatos and Scotty Stoneman -- and, as an added benefit, the young initiate would even get to keep his soul. And, since it was to show off to women that all of the fiddlers had developed such hot chops in the first place… they all backed down.

Well, all except 1. There was a young boy present, about 12 years of age, stocky, pudgy, with a squint in his eye and a hitch in his step. Even though he was always teased and picked on by the other kids, he couldn't bear the thought of them getting swallowed by some big Pointy-Taled Pook. He even played a little fiddle; he'd been practicing for the school talent show. And, hearing of the Evil One's challenge, this little boy thought to himself, "Well, shucks. I dun have nuthin' to lose either way, an ah stand to profit a neat ol' 5-string outa thuh bargain."

So the contest was held, and since you haven't heard of any Georgian pedovorian travesties, you can guess who came out on top. The sad fact was, try as he might (and he mightily did) old Beelzebub didn't stand much of a chance. And to add a pinch of manure on the pile of defeat, when our Vociferous Villain prepared to initiate young Michael of Cleveland, the lad denied, having already inherited the soul of Scotty the Stone Man and old St. Nicolo. Our pious protector did, however, take the Demon up on his offer of a 5-string fiddle. Our Red-Horned Bogieman presented young Michael with the ancient Fiddle of Souls, strung with the strings of pity, of hope, of love, of joy, of death.

Not only was young Michael of Cleveland the only person in history to ever own this fiddle who did not have to give up his soul in exchange for it, but our unnasuming lad was also the only person humble enough to wield such a mighty instrument safely. Head held high aloft his pudgy neck-chin, he returned to his village, past the saved and ingrateful children, and entered into the school talent show. I need not tell you what a magnificent performance he delivered therein: the audience was transfixed and transported to realms eternal for the entire duration of "Mary Had a Little Lamb." But in the end, the school's prize went to little Priscilla for her recitation of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," which included synchronized courtseys and headbobs.

Though not prone to jealousy, our young hero was not stupid either. He could see a path splitting in front of him - a choice of futures - and so naturally he chose the one where he could be of best use, most appreciated and partake in the greatest qualities of life. So he walked out of the school, walked to a crossroads in the middle of the night, and called out to the Ghastly Goat-Man to come. And ever after, they have enjoyed one anothers' company, Luciferically inducing the more weakwilled of the human class to drink, dance, stand slackjawed and generally have a good time, outside the confines of Mary's Little Flock.

How's that for an off-the-cuff legend?

I just discovered this guy today, when my dad sent me an email about him. Here's what the Old Man said about Michael Cleveland:

He's late 20's, short, blind, pudgy, ugly with a cleft palate/hairlip, very nice guy, and a MONSTER on the fiddle. He's been a sideman for well-known BG singers until the last couple of years, but now he's the bandleader, he seems to enjoy it and he really leans into it, with a near-violence that hasn't been seen, as far as I know, since Scottie Stoneman. He plays a 5-string fiddle, and his first set, first tune he BROKE a string, with his bowing..................

Enjoy this Devilish auditory car accident:
Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper - Lee Highway Blues

I really like how the word "Flamekeeper" means both the carrier of a tradition and a vessel to contain something REALLY HOT. Well named, guys.

February 24, 2009

Georgia Sea Island Singers

This isn't actually a new post, since I uploaded these 2 albums back in may. But on account of the recent slew of religious vocal music, I thought I'd expand the previous posting. For lack of time, I won't spout any of my own pontifications; quotations to follow:

Over 250 years ago, plantation owners began importing slaves from West Africa to the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina. The slaves endured extreme hardship and injustice on the rice plantations where they were forced to labor. Isolated from the mainland on the humid, mosquito-ridden islands, however, the slaves were able to freely preserve their ethnic traditions. The blend of language and culture that survived and evolved is known as Gullah.

The history of the group goes all the way back to the early 1900s when Lydia Parrish, wife of Maxfield Parrish, began her own “folklife studies” on St. Simons Island, where she lived. She would pay men and women who lived on the island to share their songs and memories, which she documented. Around 1920, Parrish sponsored the formation of the Spiritual Singers of Georgia, who performed for guests at the Cloister Hotel. Bessie Jones, a young woman from Dawson, Georgia, who had moved to St. Simons Island with her husband, joined the choral group in 1933.

In 1942, Parrish published The Slave Songs of the Georgia Sea Islands, a collection that, although it was compiled by an amateur, nonetheless remains an invaluable source of history. The other significant documentation of the group came from famed folklorist Alan Lomax. He originally visited the island in 1935, accompanied by author and fellow folklorist, Zora Neale Hurston. They met Parrish and Jones and experienced the Spiritual singers. Lomax returned in 1959 and 1960 to conduct extensive recordings of this group.

Bessie Jones shared with Lomax her desire to take this heritage to the people, to “teach the chillun”, as she told him. The two worked together to solicit bookings and it was agreed the group would now be called the Georgia Sea Island Singers. The members at that time, song leader Jones, community leader Big John Davis, Peter Davis, Henry Morrison, Emma Ramsey and Mable Hillary, toured together for almost a decade.

Bessie Jones (1902 - 1984), gospel singer from the Georgia Sea Islands. She learned her songs from her grandfather, a former slave born in Africa. She was a founding member of the Georgia Sea Island Singers. Alan Lomax first encountered Bessie Jones on a southern trip in 1959. Jones made her way up to New York City two years later and asked Lomax to record both her music and biography.

Jones told an interviewer in Alachua, Florida in the early 1980's, that she was born in Lacrosse, Florida, (Alachua County), when that area was a tung oil production area. Jones also said she hadn't been to a doctor since 1925 and that she wore many copper bracelets which protected her from disease.

Alan Lomax Collection:
Southern Journey, V. 12: Georgia Sea Islands - Biblical Songs and Spirituals
Released 01/01/1998

In this reissue of the first published recordings of a rare body of African-American folk music, the fabled Georgia Sea Island singers perform in the African style of their forefathers who lived as independent fishermen and farmers on the offshore islands of the Georgia coast, little touched by European culture. The Southern Journey Series is a voyage of the road and the mind, pioneering the use of stereo recording in the field, Alan Lomax's Southern Journey is a 13-volume series of original recordings evoking the musical world of the rural South and an era before radio, movies and television. The Alan Lomax Collection gathers together the American, European and Caribbean field recordings , world music compilations, and ballad operas of writer, folklorist and ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax. Remastered to 20-bit digital from the original field recordings. Contains six previously unreleased recordings.

Review by Richie Unterberger:
Because of their isolation, the folk and gospel music of the African-American communities of the Georgia Sea Islands showed stronger ties to African forms, and sometimes had a lilt more associated with the Bahamas and Caribbean. Alan Lomax recorded the 18 biblical songs and spirituals on this recording in 1959 and 1960, and although much has sometimes been made of the distinct quality of Sea Islands music, much of this just sounds like good-quality old-time African-American gospel. When the backing is highly rhythmic and a fife is prominent, it does sound more idiosyncratic. Five of the tracks were previously unreleased, and one, the lengthy "It Just Suits Me," is a real highlight, with guitar accompaniment by Virginia musician Hobart Smith and lengthy back-and-forth passages between lead vocalists and a chorus.

1 Moses
2 Moses, Don't Get Lost
3 Turkle Dove
4 Adam in the Garden
5 Daniel
6 Daniel in the Lion's Den
7 Little David
8 Eli, You Can't Stand
9 John
10 Sign of Judgment
11 One of These Days
12 O Day
13 Rock in the Weary Land
14 It Just Suits Me
15 I'm Gonna Lay Down My Life For My Lord
16 Before this Time Another Year
17 O Death
18 Goodbye, Everybody

droop that wing. [link updated Oct 2010]
mp3 256kbps | w/ cover | 103mb


Alan Lomax Collection:
Southern Journey, V. 13: Earliest Times -- Georgia Sea Island Songs for Everyday Living
Released 01/01/1998

In this reissue of the first published recordings of a unique body of African-American folk music, the Georgia Sea Island Singers perform in the African style of their forefathers, who lived as independent fisherman and farmers on the offshore islands of the Georgia coast, little touched by European culture. The Southern Journey Series is a voyage of the road and the mind, pioneering the use of stereo recording in the field, Alan Lomax's Southern Journey is a 13-volume series of original recordings evoking the musical world of the rural South and an era before radio, movies and television. The Alan Lomax Collection gathers together the American, European and Caribbean field recordings, world music compilations, and ballad operas of writer, folklorist and ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax. Remastered to 20-bit digital from the original field recordings. Contains five previously unreleased recordings.

Review by Richie Unterberger:
Subtitled "Georgia Sea Islands Songs for Everyday Living," this is a collection of 21 performances recorded by Alan Lomax in 1959 and 1960. Often structured in a call-and-response fashion, and arranged a cappella or only with minimal percussion and instrumentation, these are considered as some of the American recordings which are closest to the African roots of African-American music. About a dozen performers are heard on the record, arranged into three different combinations of groups, with different soloists spotlighted all the time. Academic significance aside, it's reasonably strong and stirring music with a spiritual current, even though many of the songs are not religious in content; one, in fact, is an original (by Henry Morrison) about the stinginess of white plantation owners.

1 Live Humble
2 The Buzzard Lope
3 Ain't I Right?
4 Row the Boat, Child
5 You Got My Letter
6 Riley
7 See Aunt Dinah
8 Pay Me
9 Carrie Belle
10 Reg'lar, Reg'lar Rollin' Under
11 You Better Mind
12 Everybody Talking About Heaven
13 Read 'Em, John
14 Union
15 Hop Along, Let's Get Her
16 Raggy Levee
17 Hard Time in Ol' Virginia
18 Knee Bone
19 The Old Tar River
20 East Coast Line
21 Buzzard Lope

read em, john.
mp3 128kbps | w/ cover | 48mb

and don't miss the posts at Times Ain't Like they Used to Be and Tonal Bride.

Also, you can download a live track by the GSIS and other religious roots music from the Florida area on the album Shall We Gather at the River at the Florida State Arhive. (or contact them for a free cd!)

February 18, 2009

Bulgarian Voices [Angelite], Huun-Huur Tu & the Moscow Art Trio - Mountain Tale

This is a crazy cd. I don't thing I've ever heard anyone layer completely different songs (in different languages and styles, no less) on top of each other, and have it WORK. Really. This album is amazing. The harmonies, the tones, the sparseness of instrumentation, the impassioned shouts. Leave it to Slavs & Tuuvans! Definitely rewards repeated listening. I can't say anything that folks haven't already said, so read it for yourself, and moreover hear it for yourself.

´It is the strangeness that puts you in the ban, it is the strangeness of the voices, the sounds, the message. You don´t know the meaning of the words, but you listened and will be fascinated. ´ (Die Zeit 16.8.1996)

MISHA ALPERIN "There is something mystical about the number "3". That is probably why there are so many trios in the world of music. When I first produced the MOSCOW ART TRIO in 1990 I was thinking about 3 different roles in the ensemble as in theatre. Each member has his own world of expression but in the end everything comes together like a musical organism with spirit, body and mind. To make it even stronger I chose a concept with 3 musicians of 3 different backgrounds: classical, folk and jazz.

Almost the same idea of the magical number "3" applies with the Tuvan-Bulgarian-Russian project. Each culture has its own rich musical tradition: strong emotions and the spiritual beauty of the songs made me dream of combining them without any modernizations. Later in the development of the project I allowed myself to make more risky experiments by adding contemporary elements. I wrote some compositions, where you will not find traditional folk elements - they are written in the style of folk music of my subjective opinion - new Skomorohi.

Together with Sergey Starostin I wrote some scat - words without meaning - for this music, not in the jazz but in folk style. Then this became a Norwegian-Russian folk rap, an extra tune which we perform with a folk text and Nordic intonations sung by Bulgarians and Russians together. (Norwegian folk music was an additional strong inspiration for me when I wrote arrangements of compositions by the Norwegian Tetlef Kviftes.)

You will never find a border between day and night but we know the difference between both. In my experience this is the same with folk music: There are no borders between the different traditions and cultures but they exist in themselves and have their individual tones and colours."

In November of 1997 the project toured in America with at least 14 concerts. Nearly every concert was sold out. Even other artits felt appreciated to the project. In the concerts you found Ry Cooder, Micky Hartt, the whole Zappa family and Stevie Wonder.

The crossing of musical borders - both traditional and contemporary - is an essential aspect of this unique 28-musician experiment. Mikhail Alperin leads listeners on a journey of discovery through the similarities and differences of Russian, Bulgarian and Tuvan folklore, culminating in the fusion presented on this CD.

This is Misha Alperin's exploration of fusing Bulgarian folk/traditional music with Russian jazz improvisations & the Tuvan music of Huun-Huur-Tu. What otherwise *could* become a clash or cacophony of cultures, melds into a unity and harmony which is very enjoyable and natural. I have not heard the first CD, so have no basis of comparison. Angelite (The Bulgarian Voices, a female choir/chorus) starts out the first track, later a male Russian soloist sings a totally different song as a complementary counterpoint: beautiful, spiritual, transcendental!!! The qualities are enhanced by the combination of cultures. The second track, "Sunrise" is like a worship service: Angelite provides the harmonies, just like waves rushing up onto the shore, creating sculptures of sound. Track #3, "Early Morning with My Horse", starts out with the "clip - clop" of horse's hooves on a pavement, the sound for which the Tuvans are famous. It continues with their unique male vocals accompanied by ancient Mongolian instruments, combined with the harmonies of Angelite. Track #10 is the only disappointment. The liner notes explain the music is based on the composer's wife's experiences in Norway, hearing how the Norwegians called their cows. Well, it *could* be intriguing, if done with taste & creativity, since the Tuvans create masterful hoof beats with their instruments ... Instead, the outcome is ludicrous, adults "mooing", like kindergarten children! Please leave the cows in the pasture!! The composer is forgiven as it is *only* 1 track out of 10 which falls short of artistic merit. Obviously, he lost creative perspective (or had a deadline to meet). 90% of the CD is great! The ethereal voices of Angelite are without comparison! The Moscow Art Trio provides the modern instrumentation: piano, French horn, clarinet, and folk reeds. Huun-Huur-Tu provide the earthy rhythms, ancient instruments, and authentic vocalizations, such as "throat singing" from their Mongolian homeland ('Throat singing' has similarities to Buddhist chanting). If you are open to artistic exploration, try folk-jazz fusion, it is out-of-the-ordinairy and will lift your spirits.
- Erika Borsos

An Uncanny East-West Blend
Reviewed by SYD BAUMEL

"Music is the universal language," so the cliché goes. In Mountain Tale, East and West, folk and classical, come together to speak in tongues quite unlike any heard before.

You probably have heard the celebrated Bulgarian Voices (also known as Angelite): a glittering ladies choir that interprets their country's diverse Eastern and Western folk legacy with astonishingly bright and complex harmonies and rhythms. And you've probably heard the equally unforgettable Tuvan throat-singers (also known as Huun-Huur-Tu) of Mongolia, as masculine and guttural as the Voices are luminously feminine.

Who would have thought this yin-yang of celestial songbirds and enchanted frogs could blend so well? Mikhail Alperin, visionary leader of the classical/folk/jazz Moscow Art Trio, that's who.

The innovative Moscow Art Trio is the glue that holds together the record's fabulous 28-piece multicultural ensemble of singers and musicians (funky ethnic instruments, grand piano, flugelhorn. . .). Alperin has written or arranged all but one of the ten mostly traditional songs with "new music" sophistication, yet penetrating directness and purity. It's impossible to underestimate the contribution of the Trio's Sergey Starostin. On almost every track his bluesy, tenor wail—lyrics in Russian—bridges Bulgarian Heaven and Tuvan Earth with Slavic soul. You just have to hear this enchanted goulash to believe it.

Review by Alex Henderson
A highly ambitious and chance-taking project, Mountain Tale unites the Bulgarian Voices (a 24-member vocal choir from Bulgaria) with the Moscow Art Trio and the Tuvan ensemble Huun-Huur-Tu. The songs, which include "Sad Harvest" and "Dancing Voices," are traditional, but what the participants do with them is quite experimental. Elements of Bulgarian folk are combined with Russian and Tuvan folk as well as European classical music; occasionally, traces of jazz and Scandinavian folk can also be heard. The vocal harmonies that the Bulgarian Voices provide are simply amazing; one shouldn't even think about doing this type of singing unless he/she has serious chops -- members of the Voices obviously do. Mountain Tale is highly recommended to those who are seeking something fresh and adventurous from world music.

The Bulgarian Voices [Angelite], Huun-Huur Tu & the Moscow Art Trio -
Mountain Tale

Year: 1999
Label: Zebra

1. Midnight Tale
2. Sunrise
3. Early Morning With My Horse
4. New Skomorohi
5. Sad Harvest
6. Mountain Fairy-Tale
7. Dancing Voices
8. Grand Finale
9. Epiog
10. 300 Pushki

birds & beasts
mp3 192kbps | w/ (small) cover | 70mb

update: for more Moscow Art Trio albums (several o.o.p.) check out Funky Sodom. more bulgarian links in the comments

February 16, 2009

Grand Papa Diabaté - Guitar Extra Dry

This isn't him - it's his brother, Sekou Diabate, from 1956

There's very little information (and no photos I could find) about (Grand) Papa Diabaté, at least on the interweb. Which is a shame, because he's basically the father of Guinean guitar music, which makes him essentially one of the grandfathers of the vast and mindblowing genre of Afropop. To put things in perspective, he's like Doc Watson, Andrés Segovia, or Django Reinhardt; he did things on the guitar that nobody had ever done before. And he taught his brother and many others how to transfer onto guitar the traditional, centuries-old melodies they had learned on kora.

The music -- o, how to describe it? It's like two or three voices are singing the most amazing thing and repeating it at different intervals, exploring every possible permutation and direction without losing the connection to each other or the source. Like Fahey in some ways, Phillip Glass in others, free-jazz and choral music in yet other ways. Polyrhythm is everywhere. Melody is everywhere. Chordal progression is virtually absent. The texture is rough and raw, much more so than the polished (though still awesome) electric guitar music you may have heard coming out of Africa in the past 30 years. It's not strictly solo, there's often guitar duos or singing or kora playing, but it's always acoustic and achieves that rare combination of virtuosity and relaxedness. The effect? Well, time ceases to exist pretty quick, let me tell you. You're caught halfway between dream and dance. I suppose in this sense, it could aproach trance (the state, not the music). Peculiarly, by engaging the senses and filling the brain with all these wonderful overlapping patterns, the mind vanishes of its own accord. Leave it to the Africans: brilliant!

I found this information in the liner notes of an album by his family's group African Virtuosos:

In the late 1950s, as most African nations were gaining their political independence, Papa Diabate (born in Faranah, Guinea, 1936) was developing a new single-note style of African guitar playing based on using a plectrum rather than the thumb and index finger technique used throughout Africa. Having learned his scales and other European musical techniques at the conservatory of music in Dakar, Papa set about merging those techniques with Guinean music to create an original guitar style that could cut through and help power the brass-based dance orchestras that were on the rise. He may indeed have been the first of his generation in Guinea to play the electric guitar. Certainly he was the most prominent. The list of electric guitarists who cite him as their inspiration and teacher includes the best that Guinea had to offer in the 1960s and 70s: Manfila Kante, who ended up in Mali co-leading Les Ambassadeurs with vocalist Salif Keita, Sekou “Bembeya” Diabate of Bembeya Jazz (no immediate relation, although they can trace their connection generations back to two brothers), and Papa’s younger brother Sekou “Docteur” Diabate, who was the soloist with Bala et ses Balladins, one of the top Guinean national orchestras.Although Papa Diabate trained the initial generation of Guinean electric guitarists, he himself rarely recorded commercially in his early years. Diabate was a strong individualist and ultimately did not get along with the Sekou Touré regime in Guinea, the one that installed the extensive network of regional and national orchestras that established Guinea as a leader in government-patronized modern dance music. What may be his first commercial recording, an extraordinary 17-minute acoustic guitar duet made when he was in his mid-30s with his younger brother Sekou “Docteur,” is included as the last track on this CD, and is a true gem. Initially issued on the LP “Discotheque 70”, featuring some of the best music the state Syliphone label had to offer in 1970, this was the first installment of an ensemble that ultimately came to be known as the “African Virtuoses” or “Les Frères Diabate”. After a few more isolated selections issued on the Syliphone “Discotheque 71” and “Discotheque 72” LPs, Papa Diabate’s recording career was quiet for over two decades. In the late 1990s he was coaxed out of retirement and recorded on the Popular African Music label again (this one).

The Diabate brothers are by birth jelis, hereditary professional musicians who trace their lineage back to the founding of the 13th century Mali empire, and are what the early French travelers to the region called griots. The Diabate brothers, however, were not practicing griots in the sense of playing for traditional events and engaging in the art of praise-singing. Their father Sidikiba Diabate (not to be confused with kora player Sidiki Diabate, father of Malian kora player Toumani Diabate) was a renowned musician who pioneered the use of the guitar in Guinea in the 1920s and set the model for them as guitarists. Sidikiba understood how traditional music worked and was entrusted by president Sekou Touré with forming the first national instrumental ensemble of Guinea at the dawn of independence. The Diabate brothers inherited this ancient tradition, normally played on the kora, balafon (xylophone), and koni (lute), but used the guitar as their vehicle of expression and Papa Diabate is largely credited with bringing this tradition into the modern brass orchestras that flourished after independence.

Papa plays lead backed by Sekou playing clear arpeggios or bass lines throughout. Papa does not display the kind of speed that marks younger brother Abdoulaye, but rather specializes in an intensely personal and very deliberate melodic sensibility.

Grand Papa Diabaté - Guitar Extra Dry
Year: 1999
Label: Popular African Music PAM AG 703

1 Mamaya, 14ème Partie - Diabaté - 10:14
2 Mami Wata - Traditional - 9:40
3 Nanfoulé - Traditional - 8:41
4 Mamaya, 15ème Partie - Diabaté, Diabaté - 4:50
5 Ni Bara T'I La - Traditional - 9:18
6 Domamo Ni Koromamo - Traditional - 8:08
7 Lamban - Traditional - 5:09
8 Domamo Ni Koromamo - Traditional - 5:40
9 Iyé Iyé - Traditional - 5:13

Papa Diabaté - Guitar, Vocals (bckgr), Musician
Sona Diabate - Vocals
Gunter Gretz - Liner Notes, Design, Photography
Djessou Mory Kante - Musician
Morikeba Kouyate - Musician
Kante Manfila - Musician

*out of print
extra dry.
*note, some people had trouble extracting this file. here is a new upload.
mp3 192kbps | w/ cover | 92mb

if you like this stuff and you want to hear more check out some of these blogs: Awesome Tapes from Africa, Freedom Blues, Coleção de Sons, Snap, Crackle & Pop, plus of course Babeblogue and Magic of Juju and probably others over there in my blogroll.

you can read the rest of the liner notes and purchase the African Virtuosos album for download here.

Mike Auldridge - Dobro / Blues and Bluegrass

Nowadays, there's lots of talk about dobro-master Jerry Douglas. And rightly so, he's an immensely talented instrumentalist who's one of the most in-demand musicians in the country, and plays with impeccable skill. But somehow, though he isn't as hot (chop-wise or popularity-wise), I find Mike Auldridge's playing more tasteful and satisfying. I shouldn't badmouth Flux, because his early work especially is amazing (I'll post some someday), and he can play so fast and clean that it makes you do an auditory double-take, but... if he plays slow it always ends up sounding sappy. Not so, for Mike, who's version of Summertime included here is probably my second-favorite of all time (after a musical-saw version that will be posted in due time). Anyway, enough of my words. Here's what other folks say about him:

Mike Auldridge is the country's best-known master of the dobro, a modified guitar much in demand in bluegrass and country music. In fact, the modest Auldridge helped to rescue the dobro from certain extinction--at the time he began to play the instrument in the 1950s it was not being manufactured anymore. Today Auldridge's dobro is an essential component of the Seldom Scene bluegrass band and is heard backing up such artists as Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Jonathon Edwards on their albums. Additionally, Auldridge has released a number of solo albums that have sold extremely well, at least by the standards set for bluegrass music.

The dobro is a twentieth-century invention of John Dopyera and his brothers (hence the name do-bro). It is essentially a guitar, usually made of laminated maple, with a raised bridge and a resonator cone placed in the traditional sounding hole. The musician plays the instrument by sliding a bar up and down the neck while picking the strings with the other hand, for a sound reminiscent of the pedal steel guitar but with a greater range of fluidity. The dobro was created to provide amplified guitar music to country bands before the era of sophisticated electronics. Its usefulness therefore took a dive in the 1940s and 1950s when technicians perfected the pedal steel guitar.

Auldridge is the rare younger musician who was exposed to dobro music as a youth. He was born in Washington, D.C., in 1938 and moved to the suburb of Kensington, Maryland, while he was still a child. He was not born into a musical family, but his uncle, Ellsworth Cousins, had played dobro with Jimmie Rodgers in the 1920s. Auldridge heard his uncle play at family gatherings, and gradually he too became a disciple of old-time country music.

By the time he was in his teens, Auldridge could play guitar and banjo. His first love was still dobro, however, and he spent many hours trying to find one to buy. The artist told Pickin' magazine that in the early 1950s "it was impossible to find a Dobro. I used to go around to pawn shops and music stores asking if any of them had one." Eventually Auldridge made his own instrument, which he used until 1961, when the Dopyera brothers began manufacturing dobros again.

Auldridge's hero as a youth was Josh Graves, a dobro player who worked with Flatt & Scruggs during the 1950s. Through many painful years of trial-and-error practice, Auldridge taught himself to play the dobro, principally by slowing Flatt & Scruggs records down and imitating Graves's licks. Auldridge has estimated that he spent eight years perfecting his basic technique and many, many more years developing the unique bell-like tones associated with his work. Although he minored in music theory while a student at the University of Maryland, he taught himself dobro by ear and only rarely applied the college lessons to his craft.

Auldridge began playing bluegrass professionally as a teenager, but he simply could not envision himself performing for a living. Instead he took a day job as a commercial artist for the Washington Star newspaper and worked there for more than a decade. In the meantime he spent weekends playing dobro with Cliff Waldron and the New Shades of Grass, quitting that band when it began to impinge on his regular job. In 1971 he joined a small group of ex-professional and amateur bluegrass musicians in the Washington area for informal picking sessions. The group members decided to call themselves the Seldom Scene because, like Auldridge, they all had day jobs.

"It was going to be our weekly card game," Auldridge joked of his early days with the Seldom Scene. Instead the group--which also contains tenor John Duffey, banjo player Ben Eldridge, bassist Tom Gray, and guitarist Phil Rosenthal--became one of the most sought-after bluegrass acts in the country. In the early 1970s dobro was still a relative rarity in bluegrass bands; part of the Seldom Scene's success can certainly be traced to Auldridge, who wowed audiences with his virtuoso licks. Auldridge became so popular with bluegrass fans, and so revered for his playing, that his fellow Scene members called him "Larry the Legend." Before long most Seldom Scene albums featured an Auldridge solo.

Still Auldridge held on to his steady job with the Star, but finally fate intervened. The newspaper folded in 1976, and Auldridge found himself out of work. Free for the first time to devote himself entirely to music, the artist blossomed. He began to cut solo albums and made numerous trips to California and Nashville to work as a session musician for some of the top country entertainers. Among his new "customers" were Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, and the Country Gentlemen. Auldridge also continued his work with the Seldom Scene and prepared dobro lessons in a variety of formats for the many musicians who had become interested in the instrument.

"I always thought it would be nice but never dreamed it would be possible to make a living off of music," Auldridge told Pickin'. "In those [early] days it was a really limited audience compared to what it is now." Auldridge's career has indeed prospered in tandem with bluegrass music in general, but he is more than just another bluegrass musician. The dobro is a demanding instrument, and few if any pickers have mastered it like Auldridge has. The artist notes that he has been lucky to have chosen to learn dobro at a time when it was almost obsolete, but he has assured his fame by working hard every day to be the best dobro player alive.

"I get up in the morning, and half an hour after I'm out of bed, I'm playing," Auldridge told The Big Book of Bluegrass. "That's all I do. I probably play ten hours a day. I hope it doesn't go away some day. I worked for a long time at a day job, wishing I could play music and have the time for it. Now I'm like a guy who was poor all his life, and all of a sudden came into a lot of money. I've got this time, and I just can't learn enough about music. I can't develop my technique enough.... I'm always working on it. I love playing music."

Mike Auldridge is probably one of the most approachable musicians in the business. At bluegrass festivals he is often found surrounded by a cluster of would-be dobro players who are eager to glean information from a master. Auldridge's special brand of acoustic guitar--bluegrass with blends of country, jazz, and even big band--is likely to remain popular in years to come, especially since country music is moving back to its roots. Despite his success, however, the idea that he is the country's best dobro player does not sit well with Auldridge. He once told Pickin': "I just don't like to live up to anything. I just want to pick and have a good time."
- by Anne Janette Johnson

Year: 1972
Label: Takoma

Review by Eugene Chadbourne

Although not as cosmic as the solo guitar odysseys of John Fahey or Robbie Basho, the early-'70s recordings of this veteran dobro picker have an equal importance to the development of acoustic-stringed music in America. The skill with which Auldridge put together vehicles for his tremendously appealing soloing style, smoothly handling transitions between members of a large and star-studded cast of supporting characters, not only resulted in a boost in interest in the dobro, but the entire civilization of soloists on various instruments benefited from such obvious evidence of potential appeal, while the Washington, D.C., bluegrass scene never quite recovered from the legendary status of these recording sessions and the magical things that went on as the tapes rolled. This was the first of a pair of projects Auldridge created for Takoma; he cut the fine Blues & Bluegrass several years later, using many of the same musicians. In many ways these are like adjunct Seldom Scene recordings, as a few of that group's players show up. Things couldn't get off to a livelier start than the opening track, "Hillbilly Hula," a sheer delight in its combination of both Hawaiian and bluegrass genre trademarks. "Pickaway" is one of several bluegrass numbers that is out and out hardcore in the sense of sounding like the energy of that rock style is being referenced. The banjo picking on this track is wonderful. As the album proceeds the instrumentalists keep digging deeper and deeper, splashing musical imagery in a competition that suggests a group of crack photographers trying to outdo each other at a slide show. "Rolling Fog" comes in, atmosphere galore, right before the landing on "Dobro Island," most likely a place that fans of Auldridge would love to be stranded. The latter state is how some listeners might feel if forced to sit through the entire "House of the Rising Sun," the final selection and one of a only a few misfires in the program. Another dud is the saccharine "Greensleeves," played as if trying to entertain drunks at an Appalachian ski lodge, but of course this was the track that got all the NPR airplay.

Blues & Bluegrass
Year: 1974
Label: Takoma

Review by Eugene Chadbourne

Another winner from dobro master Mike Auldridge, this production must have seemed like a Hollywood blockbuster compared to the average Takoma release, many of them solo guitar efforts. Even on its own terms, this album suffered from the drawbacks of the masterpiece mentality and the carte blanche budget, at least on relative terms. Auldridge again juggles several different ensemble combinations, the challenge being to create an easily flowing and dramatically coherent set of pieces, as he had done so gracefully on the 1972 set simply entitled Dobro. But here, the director has earned a bigger trailer based on the huge success of this previous release. Although instrumentals are once again the main fare, there is more of a shot taken at doing vocal tracks, with several heavy-hitters from the '70s pop ballpark brought in to display their imagined ease with roots material. Eclecticism may keep the listener on the edge of their seat; early on, there is a cover of "Killing Me Softly," not at all bluegrass in delivery, that is every bit as interesting as the '90s version by the Fugees and indeed would make a fine combination for that record in a mash-up. "This Ain't Grass," sounding like an admonition to a crooked dope dealer, is an example of the slick and complex progressive bluegrass instrumentals that are the main course of these projects, allowing space for some brilliant picking as well as a sense that some kind of acoustic hillbilly cousin of electric jazz fusion is hiding in the closet. Many of these arrangements have stood up very well to the test of time, as generally does most music in which the players' minds are seriously engaged. It can be a jolt moving from such material to the Hollywood hokinesss of a Linda Ronstadt vocal or the too-easy silliness of the "Walk Don't Run" cover, but this is one of the problems Auldridge worked so hard to overcome when putting together such ambitious collections of material. Here he moves from spotlighting Mike Auldridge the dobro player to Auldridge the record producer and studio genius, so of course there's a bit of a letdown. He certainly makes a good case for himself choosing material, overlooking the odd dud and coming up with nifty instrumentals from the likes of dobro forefather Tut Taylor and unique country picker Roy Nichols and a fascinating country tune from fine songwriter Dick Curless.

Twofer reissue:
Mike Auldridge - Dobro / Blues and Bluegrass
Ace 1998 / Takoma 2000

Review by Rick Anderson

This welcome reissue brings together the first two solo albums by Seldom Scene dobro player Mike Auldridge, each of which was groundbreaking in a different way. While "progressive bluegrass" was already a fully established musical convention by 1972, when Dobro was originally issued, instrumental bluegrass arrangements of material like "Greensleeves" and "House of the Rising Sun" were a bit unusual even in the progressive context, and, to be honest, were not quite as successful as his brilliantly flashy rendition of Lester Flatt's "Pickaway" or the weepy country standard "Silver Threads." The second album presented on this reissue, Blues & Bluegrass, is a bit more consistently rewarding. Most of the tracks are Seldom Scene performances in all but name, with the occasional addition of such stellar guests as Vassar Clements, Ricky Skaggs, and David Bromberg. This album veers happily between barnburning bluegrass ("New Camptown Races," "8 More Miles to Louisville") and soulful blues numbers ("Summertime," "Struttin' the Blues"), with occasional detours into sappy pop ("Killing Me Softly") and, believe it or not, surf-bluegrass fusion ("Walk Don't Run"). All of it manages to be lots and lots of fun. Highly recommended.

1 Hillbilly Hula - Carmen - 0:50
2 Tennessee Stud - Driftwood - 3:23
3 It's Over - Traditional - 3:03
4 Pick Away - Flatt, Jordan - 2:24
5 Rollin' Fog - Craft - 2:47
6 Dobro Island - Graves, Roland - 3:06
7 Train - Auldridge - 3:37
8 Take Me - Jones, Payne - 2:44
9 Greensleeves - Traditional - 2:46
10 Silver Threads - Traditional - 3:49
11 Rock Bottom - Auldridge - 2:33
12 Jamboree - Graves, Williams - 2:50
13 House of the Rising Sun - Traditional - 4:09
14 New Camptown Races - Wakefield - 2:13
15 Mexican Rose - Hamlet, Nichols - 2:41
16 Killing Me Softly With His Song - Fox, Gimbel - 2:58
17 This Ain't Grass - Taylor - 2:40
18 8 More Miles to Louisville - Jones - 2:39
19 The Sum of Marcie's Blues - Feller - 3:53
20 Bottom Dollar - Finley, Shaver - 2:46
21 Struttin' the Blues - Auldridge - 2:10
22 Panhandle Country - Monroe - 2:18
23 Summertime - Gershwin, Gershwin, Heyward - 3:05
24 Walk, Don't Run - Smith - 2:59
25 Everybody Slides - Auldridge, Bromberg, George - 4:19

not my rip | mp3 ~200kbps vbr | w/ covers | 107mb
slip & slide.

& check out Seldom Scene stuff at Uncle Gil's

official website
, probably designed in the 90s

by the way, if anyone has a copy of this magazine, i would love to see it. especially the stuff on Basho and Dagar

February 14, 2009

Happy Lupercalia!

Lupercalia - The True Origin of Valentine's Day

The true origin of St. Valentine's day appears to be the Lupercalia. The Lupercalia was a Roman festival celebrated on the 15th Day of February. In the Roman calendar February was later in the year and so the Lupercalia was a spring festival.

Before the times of the great city of Rome the Lupercalia was a very joyous occasion. The foreheads of two youths were smeared with the blood of a sacrificed dog and goat. They then made their way around the perimeter of the city of Rome followed by priests lightly tapping women on the way with strips of the goats skin. This act was to protect them against infertility.

Lupercalia is uniquely Roman, but even the Romans of the first century were at a loss to explain exactly which deity or deities were being exalted. It harkens back to the days when Rome was nothing more than a few shepherds living on a hill known as Palantine and was surrounded by wilderness teeming with wolves.

Lupercus, protector of flocks against wolves, is a likely candidate; the word lupus is Latin for wolf, or perhaps Faunus, the god of agriculture and shepherds. Others suggest it was Rumina, the goddess whose temple stood near the fig tree under which the she-wolf suckled Romulus and Remus. There is no question about Lupercalia's importance. Records indicate that Mark Antony was master of the Luperci College of Priests. He chose the Lupercalia festival of the year 44BC as the proper time to offer the crown to Julius Caesar.

According to legend, the story of Romulus and Remus begins with their grandfather Numitor, king of the ancient Italian city of Alba Longa. He was ousted by his brother Amulius. Numitor's daughter, Rhea Silvia, was made a Vestal Virgin by Amulius and forbidden to marry since her children would be rightful heir to the throne. Mars, the god of war, fell in love with her and she gave birth to twin sons.

Fearing that the boys would grow up and seek revenge, Amulius had them placed in a basket and thrown into the freezing flooded waters of the River Tiber. When the waters receded, the basket came ashore on Palantine Hill. They were found by a she-wolf who, instead of killing them, nurtured and nourished them with her milk. A woodpecker, also sacred to Mars, brought them food as well.

The twins were later found by Faustulus, the king's shepherd. He and his wife adopted and named them Romulus and Remus. They grew up to be bold, strong young men, and eventually led a band of shepherds in an uprising against Amulius, killing him and rightfully restoring the kingdom to their grandfather.

Deciding to found a town of their own, Romulus and Remus chose the sacred place where the she-wolf had nursed them. Romulus began to build walls on Palatine Hill, but Remus laughed because they were so low. Remus mockingly jumped over them, and in a fit of rage, Romulus killed his brother. Romulus continued the building of the new city, naming it Roma after himself.

February occurred later on the ancient Roman calendar than it does today so Lupercalia was held in the spring and regarded as a festival of purification and fertility. Each year on February 15, the Luperci priests gathered on Palantine Hill at the cave of Lupercal. Vestal virgins brought sacred cakes made from the first ears of last year's grain harvest to the fig tree. Two naked young men, assisted by the Vestals, sacrificed a dog and a goat at the site. The blood was smeared on the foreheads of the young men and then wiped away with wool dipped in milk.

The youths then donned loincloths made from the skin of the goat and led groups of priests around the pomarium, the sacred boundary of the ancient city, and around the base of the hills of Rome. The occasion was happy and festive. As they ran about the city, the young men lightly struck women along the way with strips of the goat hide. It is from these implements of purification, or februa, that the month of February gets its name. This act supposedly provided purification from curses, bad luck, and infertility.

Long after Palentine HIll became the seat of the powerful city, state and empire of Rome, the Lupercalia festival lived on. Roman armies took the Lupercalia customs with them as they invaded France and Britain. One of these was a lottery where the names of available maidens were placed in a box and drawn out by the young men. Each man accepted the girl whose name he drew as his love - for the duration of the festival, or sometimes longer.

As Rome became the dominant civilisation of the era, the Lupercalia continued as an important part of the calendar. The seeds of the modern St. Valentine's Day were sewn by Roman soldiers who took the Lupercalia customs with them to countries they conquered and occupied. One such custom was the pairing of men with women whose names they selected from a bowl. The pairing continued for the length of the festival and sometimes beyond.

As Christianity began to slowly and systematically dismantle the pagan pantheons, it frequently replaced the festivals of the pagan gods with more ecumenical celebrations. It was easier to convert the local population if they could continue to celebrate on the same days... they would just be instructed to celebrate different people and ideologies. As Christianity gradually advanced through Europe the church replaced pagan festivals with festivals more suited to the new faith. They kept the days of the festivals the same to ease the introduction of the new religion but they changed the name and the reason for the festival. The Lupercalia's pairing of men and women went against the teachings of Christianity. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius ended the festival of Lupercalia and replaced it with St. Valentines Day, declaring St. Valentine the patron saint of lovers. The pairing of couples was replaced with the pairing with a saint. The name of a saint would be drawn from a bowl and the person who chose it would then learn about and try to emulate that saint for the following year.

Lupercalia, with its lover lottery, had no place in the new Christian order. In the year 496 AD, Pope Gelasius did away with the festival of Lupercalia, citing that it was pagan and immoral. He chose Valentine as the patron saint of lovers, who would be honored at the new festival on the fourteenth of every February. The church decided to come up with its own lottery and so the feast of St. Valentine featured a lottery of Saints. One would pull the name of a saint out of a box, and for the following year, study and attempt to emulate that saint.

Confusion surrounds St Valentine's exact identity. At least three Saint Valentines are mentioned in the early martyrologies under the date of February 14th. One is described as a priest in Rome, another as a Bishop of Interamna, now Terni in Italy, and the other lived and died in Africa.

The Bishop of Interamna is most widely accepted as the basis of the modern saint. He was an early Christian martyr who lived in northern Italy in the third century and was put to death on February 14th around 270 AD by the orders of Emperor Claudius II for disobeying the ban on Christianity. However, most scholars believe Valentine of Terni and the priest Valentine of Rome were the same person.

Claudius' Rome was an extremely dangerous place to be Christian. Valentine not only chose to be a priest, but was believed to have been a leader of the Christian underground movement. Many priests were caught, one by one and imprisoned and martyred. Valentine supposedly continued to preach the word after he was imprisoned, witnessing to the prisoners and guards.

One story tells that he was able to cure a guard’s daughter of blindness. When word got back to Claudius, he was furious and ordered Valentine’s brutal execution – beaten by clubs until dead, and then beheaded. While he was waiting for the soldiers to come and drag him away, Valentine composed a note to the girl telling her that he loved her. He signed it simply, "From Your Valentine." The execution was carried out on February 14th.

Another legend touts of a well loved priest called Valentine living under the rule of Emperor Claudius II. Rome was constantly engaged in war. Year after year, Claudius drafted male citizens into battle to defend and expand the Roman Empire. Many Romans were unwilling to go. Married men did not want to leave their families. Younger men did not wish to leave their sweethearts. Claudius ordered a moratorium on all marriages and that all engagements must be broken off immediately.

Valentine disagreed with his emperor. When a young couple came to the temple seeking to be married, Valentine secretly obliged them. Others came and were quietly married. Valentine became the friend of lovers in every district of Rome. But such secrets could not be kept for long. Valentine was dragged from the temple. Many pleaded with Claudius for Valentine's release but to no avail, and in a dungeon, Valentine languished and died. His devoted friends are said to have buried him in the church of St. Praxedes on the 14th of February.

The Feast of St. Valentine and the saint lottery lasted for a couple hundred years, but the church just couldn't rid the people's memory of Lupercalia. In time, the church gave up on Valentine all together. Protestant churches don't recognize saints at all, and very few Catholic churches choose to celebrate or observe the life of St. Valentine on a 'Valentine's Sunday'. The lottery finally returned to coupling eligible singles in the 15th century. The church attempted to revive the saint lottery once again in the 16th century, but it never caught on.

During the medieval days of chivalry, the single's lottery was very popular. The names of English maidens and bachelors were put into a box and drawn out in pairs. The couple exchanged gifts and the girl became the man's valentine for a year. He wore her name on his sleeve and it was his bounded duty to attend and protect her. The ancient custom of drawing names on the 14th of February was considered a good omen for love.

Arguably, you could say the very first valentine cards were the slips of paper bearing names of maidens the early Romans first drew. Or perhaps the note Valentine passed from his death cell. The first modern valentine cards are attributed to the young French Duke of Orleans. He was captured in battle and held prisoner in the Tower of London for many years. He was most prolific during his stay and wrote countless love poems to his wife. About sixty of them remain. They are among the royal papers in the British Museum.

By the 17th century, handmade cards had become quite elaborate. Pre-fabricated ones were only for those with means. In 1797, a British publisher issued The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, which contained suggested sentimental verses for the young lover suffering from writer's block. Printers began producing a limited number of cards with verses and sketches, called “mechanical valentines,” and a reduction in postal rates in the next century ushered in the practice of mailing valentines.

This made it possible to exchange cards anonymously and suddenly, racy, sexually suggestive verses started appearing in great numbers, causing quite a stir among prudish Victorians. The number of obscene valentines caused several countries to ban the practice of exchanging cards. Late in the nineteenth century, the post office in Chicago rejected some twenty-five thousand cards on the grounds that they were not fit to be carried through the U.S. mail.

The first American publisher of valentines was printer and artist Esther Howland. Her elaborate lace cards of the 1870’s cost from five to ten dollars, some as much as thirty-five dollars. Since then, the valentine card business has flourished. With the exception of Christmas, Americans exchange more cards on Valentine’s Day than at any other time of year.

Chocolate entered the Valentine's Day ritual relatively late. The Conquistadors brought chocolate to Spain in 1528 and while they knew how to make cocoa from the beans, it wasn't until 1847 that Fry & Sons discovered a way to make chocolate edible. Twenty years later, the Cadbury Brothers discovered how to make chocolate even smoother and sweeter. By 1868, the Cadburys were turning out the first boxed chocolate. They were elaborate boxes made of velvet and mirrors and retained their value as trinket-boxes after the chocolate was gone. Richard Cadbury created the first heart-shaped Valentine's Day box of candy sometime around 1870.

- from

February 13, 2009

For all you splendid singles...

Absolutely Clear

Don't surrender your loneliness
So quickly.
Let it cut more deep.

Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can.

Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice
So tender,

My need of God

--Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Out of everything I've done, everything I've lost,
everything I've gotten unexpectedly,
I can give you a little in leaves, in sour iron...
here I am with the thing that loses stars,
like a vegetable, alone.

-- Pablo Neruda, translated by Robert Bly

I am too alone in the world, and not alone enough to make every moment holy.
I am too tiny in this world, and not tiny enough just to lie before you like a thing,
shrewd and secretive.
I want my own will, and I want simply to be with my will,
as it goes toward action,
and in the silent, sometimes hardly moving times
when something is coming near,
I want to be with those who know secret things
or else alone.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Robert Bly

Sometimes I go about pitying myself,
and all the time
I am being carried on great winds across the sky.
-- a Chippewa wild woman

Beneath my chest there is a room
with two chairs and a fewtherbed.
On the table, a solitary candle burns
and the curtains are drawn open to the garden and its moon.

Your place is set, my love
with sweet wine, soup and spoon.
But no grace was spoken
over my ravaged plate.

The candle flickers and the curtains are pulled in.
It is late and my bed beckons.
As I turn from your chair I ask the night
who I will lay with 'till morning.

The wind comes in with a birdsong
But not the one I waited for--
It's the bird who sings at night
In a garden beneath my chest.

- Oct.5, 2008

We sense there is some sort of spirit that loves birds and the animals and the ants--
Perhaps the same one who gave a radiance to you in your mother's womb.
Is it logical you would be walking around entirely orphaned now?
The truth is you turned away yourself,
and decided to go into the dark alone.



I hope you all check my blogroll from time to time. I'm always updating it as I discover new cool places. I've now divided it into two: on top there's the blogs that I regularly visit (Partners in Piracy), and the links are automatically sorted by most-recently-updated. Our favorite blind-cat-screaming-banjo-man is back with a number of beautifully crafted vengeances, for instance.

Below that there's other assorted good blogs that I come upon from time to time; but just because they're not as much like this one as the upper echelon, they've got some amazing gems hidden within. Like this Robbie Basho post, or this young guitar soli (or this one). Or this crazy free folk, or kentucky mountain throat-singing-yodeling, or more oud music than you could shake a stick at. Or the most hair-raising collection of Native American music, or poetry from prison, or a crap-ton of bluegrass at 128kbps (yes, the crap-ton is a standard unit of measurement), or another fine Rev. Gary Davis album.

Oh, and I also re-upload files and replace the links, without making mention of it. So if there was something you wanted to download but found it dead, check back once in a while. Speaking of which, if anyone downloaded disks 2 and 4 of the Great Clarence White Bootleg Tapes, would you be a sweetheart and upload them, since shareonall has been long-dead. Thanks!

February 12, 2009

Micho Russell: Ireland's Whistling Ambassador

Our theme of religious vocal music will continue (much to the chagrin of some of you, no doubt), but for an interlude, here's something different:

Micho Russell was born in 1915 in Doolin, Co. Clare. The area is rugged and windswept and looks straight across to the Aran Islands. Both his parents were native Irish speakers but spoke English to their children. The people of the area grew their own potatoes, kept a few animals and cut turf for winter warmth.

Practically every house had a cheap German concertina played usually by the woman of the house. The people gathered in designated houses for a ‘cuaird’ or ‘soiree’ - a night of storytelling, singing and dancing. The youngsters would be listening and gradually become absorbed in the culture. As they got older they were allowed to join and eventually provided the music. Micho heard a tin whistle being played, thought it sounded lovely and got his first Clarke at age 11 from his father. Patrick Flanagan, a concertina player in the neighbourhood, showed Micho the scale and he took it from there. Later he got a wooden flute and in time played for those house dances in the company of his brother Pakie (concertina) and Gus (flute). Up until the 1960’s Micho with his brothers worked the land and played music for pastime and enjoyment. Gradually the house dances waned and music moved into pubs like O’ Connors and McGanns.

Tony McMahon persuaded Micho to do a ‘spot’ in Slattery’s, Capel Street, Dublin in the mid 60’s - Pakie and Gus were just not interested in leaving the homestead. The uniqueness and simplicity of the man and his music astounded his audience and more and more engagements followed. Apart from his music, his listeners were enthralled by his folklore, intros to his pieces and singing of local songs. He did radio and TV broadcasts and became Ireland’s ambassador as he was invited all over Europe and USA. When he was back in Clare, Doolin became a major tourist attraction and a mecca for musicians all the year round. Sadly, he was killed in a motoring accident on the 19th of February 1994.

mustrad has this to say:
This is a delightful compilation though the relatively poignant immediacy of its release after Micho's death in 1994 may have been lost. Perhaps, conversely, the CD offers a glimpse of the essential long-term appeal of Micho's music.

At any rate, it consists of twenty-two tracks, recorded by Edward Haber and Bill Ochs at various locations during the years 1990-1993 and is sensitively spliced together: my one quibble on this score might be that the sprinkling of applause now and then, though it indicates the kind of venue, is not, somehow, convincing. The recordings are otherwise absolutely clean; and yet that presence ' call it audience ' does indicate that this music is social whether as dance-music or as listening-music and Micho's own comments throughout reveal something of how he communicated, in asides, in personal reminiscence, in mini-histories and in observations on fellow-musicians. There is a whole cultural hinterland evoked, its locally-based nature nonetheless indicative of precisely how building blocks went to the making of wider traditions - which are, of course, still evolving in this way. The local aspect and the convolutions of dissemination are attested by some half a dozen such tracks, one (track twenty-one) a rare tune, a single jig which Micho knew as Christmas Day in the Morning and got from his mother and at least two, with local versions of the reels The Mason's Apron (track two) and The Ladies' Pantalettes (track nine), both got from a concertina-playing neighbour, Patrick Flanagan, and the latter by Patrick again from another concertina-player, Johnny Kilmartin, and named for Johnny's mother as Johnny Sally's Reel.

Characteristic of the style of playing here are the frequent use of an 'up' note at the ends of measures; a mixture of tonguing ' Josie MacDermott's playing is another clear example - and legato; the employment of spaces between notes; and, paramount, rhythmical impulse (Lucy Farr always evinces 'timing' as the mark of a good musician). Most of this is apparent in the opening track, a reel that Micho called The Rising Sun, got from a John Berth, 'a traveling (sic) carpenter and tin whistle player from Kilfenora', born in 1849 and the oldest musician from whom Micho learned … which connection, at once, perfectly illustrates that local but potentially wider-spreading transmission (you can hear this also on a record put out in Ireland in 1982 by, as far as I can gather, Skin Music which, at the least, adds to the sum of Micho's recorded output). Again, the full range of style can be heard to effect in, say, track ten, another reel, The Milliner's Daughter.

Such playing, evidently simple in conception but full of subtleties, was, apparently, based on concertina-playing (which seemed clear enough in the Free-Reed/Topic issue of the Russell family in 1975) and, in one sense, is halting as compared to, say, that of Mary Bergin where the impulse appears to be fluid and onward-moving (listen to Mary on, say, her Gael-Linn record of 1979); or, more recently, say, to Lawrence Nugent (Shanachie, 1996). Thus, variants tend to be introduced by way of a different attack on notes rather than simply a change in actual phrasing: the articulation achieved through tonguing encapsulates this (as in track three, Winnie Hayes' Jig). In some tunes there is a definite concentration on a 'pippitty' effect … the sort of thing that the late Andy Conroy was noted for in his tightest of tight piping ' Willie Clancy opined that the best kind of chanter for Andy would have been one without any holes at all! The contrast between a legato run and a more choppy effect can be heard in the set dance, The Retreat (track four), where Micho follows with a surge to the top note of the octave. That kind of deliberate surge is clearly evident in The Milliner's Daughter in the B part of the tune. It is a distinct, personal idea. Micho also sways through notes (track six, for instance, The Four Posts of the Bed ' a single jig) which must, perforce, in conventional musical terms, imply the presence of sharps and flats (tracks six or seventeen, for example). He constantly uses a rolled as opposed to staccato triplet (interestingly, again, a device that Lucy Farr uses), often found on the first note of any three in jigs or single jigs. The reel Boil the Breakfast Early (track seventeen) has a suggestion of how breathing itself helps to shape a tune, the sort of thing that a melodion or concertina player might do with the operation of the bellows.

Nor is Micho afraid of starkness. The jig I Saw a Hawk in Dundalk where Micho's introduction indicates unfettered pleasure in nonsense as a genesis, offers examples of the isolation of notes to great effect. I have a tape that I made myself in 1974 in Miltown where Micho's version of The Boy in the Gap, in two parts there as opposed to the three here (Paddy Taylor's third part included) began on the top D with a quaver run, DEDC, followed by a crochet A before a more familiar pattern emerged but where the isolated note at the beginning of the B part once more helped the tune resume a distinctive poise. (Incidentally, Micho's Free Reed record of 1976 has both playings of the tune, the familiar one and the one with a different musical progress as noted above and which came from a neighbour, John Darcy - another concertina player - and from the lilting of Micho's mother; and it would be worth getting hold of a copy of this both for its extension of Micho's recorded repertoire and for the notes which, I believe, came from Comhaltas' magazine, Treoir, and help to supplement those here. Micho himself contributed information on how he got hold of songs and tunes).

Continuing in respect to kind and quality, less specifically but with as much invitation, in track nine, two polkas known as The Steamroller and MacTeige's Polka have, as a point of comparison, much of the jaunty feel of the tunes played by John Kennedy on his recent CD, The Girls Along the Road (Veteran 1999). The second of the two polkas on track thirteen, Gan ainm (without a name), has, even more, the stamp of a march as played by Kennedy. The march measure was certainly a popular one, as Lucy Farr attests ' is it a generational thing, perhaps?

Above all there is that wonderful pace which is, in fact, varied a little in different tracks ' which stands to reason when different occasions are involved but has something to do, as well, with how the tune appears to be conceived on this or that occasion. If dancing is brought to mind it might be at a fractionally slower pace ' perhaps in track eight, Johnny Sally's Reel - than one gets used to and it would have been interesting to hear if Micho thought that, in his younger days, the slower pace might have been more of a norm. Certainly, in contrast, Sylvie Fox, in Miltown, in his pomp as a dancer and, as it were, a near-enough neighbour and contemporary, would urge a greater pace from musicians (but that may just have been the divil in him). If a faster pace is adopted, in reels especially, then some of the subtlety of approach as described above may well be lost to the listener whilst the dancer might not be so bothered. Spelling it out in this way, of course, is hardly handy but might provoke a bit of thought.

On the other hand, oddly (again), The Boys of Bluehill is played with the same rhythm as the reel Cloichini Beaga na Farraige (tracks sixteen and fifteen) -- which, of course, throws to the wind any notions that an observer might have of the boundaries and conventions of traditions as we have them (when will we learn?)

All told, the twenty-two tracks have a fair spread of tune-type, and they include eleven reels, two double jigs, three single jigs ' the distinction is not absolute: perhaps surprisingly, since single jigs imply one major step per bar ' a set dance, a hornpipe (The Boys of Bluehill, as noted above, common enough but it's worth listening to Micho's distinctive phrasing such as the 'dah-de' instead of a 'dah' at the end of the first four-bar strain in each playing of the first part of the tune) four polkas -- one a 'slow' one where its usage is indicated as a substitute for a hornpipe in the last movement of a set in much the same way that Lucy Farr has a 'round polka' for the same last movement (see Heart and Home, 1992) -- which isn't the same thing as playing 'slow' reels (should you care to follow a continuing debate); and then some songs, one specifically for children: pretty eclectic, I'd say.

For the Russell family album already mentioned Micho, apparently, sang his songs there simply for the asking (one, The Poor Little Fisherman, according to the sleeve notes, came to him via a neighbour, Thomas Canole, but goodness only knows how Thomas got hold of it except that it can be found in numbers of English broadside printings: I don't know of an English singer who had it in repertoire) and here, too, the songs are relatively light. Indeed, here we have the same When Mursheen Went to Bunnan that appeared on the earlier album. Apart from anything else, the songs exhibit a great vitality and a very individual treatment … Micho wouldn't, I reckon, be thought to have a 'grand' voice but it abounds with character and he exploits his words - he milks them - wonderfully sympathetically both for the integrity of the songs themselves and for the delectation of listeners. Of particular note is his easy way of slipping in and out of Irish, supported by remarks he makes himself about the place and fortune of the language in Clare (and elsewhere). The same ease generally keeps him on the up-side of social performance: the songs take precedence over any facile accumulation ' perhaps bestowal is a better word - of hero-worship.

The Flip Flop Song (track seven) rides a fine line here with the tremendous burst of the word 'bloom' in one line and a suspicion of manipulation of text in favour of outrageous humour: snatches, almost, of speech (in the way that Fred Jordan can use them) and a strong sense of the virtual physicality of the occasion of singing. The best ' the most successful - illustration is, I think, in track four, a curious tour-de-force involving the two-for-one A Song on the Galway and Cliffs of Moher Races. Here, as Bill Ochs notes, 'The verses in English describe the famous Galway races. The verses in Irish refer to preparation for horse racing on the Cliffs of Moher, circa 1837. The refrain in Irish is an old "health" or toast that is appended to a number of songs.' Here, then, the course of tradition is mapped; in the singing there is obvious delight (Micho is heard laughing at one point) ' perhaps another juncture where the presence of others is felt but not quite experienced. I mention all this as a way of recommending Bill Ochs' notes: a very model of information and comment with Micho most properly as the focus and Bill himself very much the modest mediator. I'd add just a tad to one story offered here as got from Mick Moloney, the man at the heart of it, concerning a visit that Micho made to Mick in London. You must buy the CD for the full works but the telephone call mentioned, back to Doolin in order to get hold of a London address for Micho to visit, was remarkable because nobody (it seems) knew that Micho was in London and nobody in Doolin believed Mick when he said that he had Micho with him. Nothing would do to convince the good people at Doolin Post Office until Micho was persuaded to play the whistle down the telephone. Well: that's how I heard it many years ago.
I'd say that this is typical of the stories surrounding Micho ' the 1976 trip to the Smithsonian Institute gave rise to many more ' but the point is that Bill Ochs never makes the mistake of offering Micho up on a plate as some naïve country boy even though he was, certainly, the stuff of legends. I'm not too sure, though, in this respect, about the title of the CD. Generally, though the affection, admiration (perhaps, occasionally, an unconscious patronising) and the fun that Micho sparked in people are recalled this is never overdone and he comes across here as a vastly intelligent, civilised and knowledgeable man (why wouldn't he be?) with a gift for music and, quite clearly, a gift for communication. Over a number of years his warm and open-hearted embrace of all comers was palpable and touching and the CD is an almost unerring tribute.

In only one part does the halo slip, perhaps, and that forgiveably. Micho, presumably in deference to his hosts and audience, begins the final track with Amazing Grace. It isn't the choice but the rather peculiar treatment that lacks authority: but it would be mean-spirited to dwell on that.

Oh, and I'd draw attention to Micho's feet which beat most bodrhans. Lucy Farr told me the story of how another whistle-player, Michael Dwyer, a very neat-looking man who played neatly, used dance with his (neat) feet as he played. It stayed in her memory.

I'm quite sure that this CD will stay in the memory: a joy forever.
- Roly Brown - 14.12.99

Micho Russell - Ireland's Whistling Ambassador

Year: 1995
Label: Pennywhistler's Press

from the Pennywhistler's Press:
Micho Russell (1915-1994) was an Irish national treasure. A farmer who became a performer during the folk music revival of the 1960s, Micho was as at home on stage as he was in front of his own turf fire. His vast repertoire of beautiful old tunes, personal warmth and utterly unique approach to playing the tin whistle won him a loyal and enthusiastic following wherever he went. These remarkable recordings capture the magic of Micho's music and take the listener on a journey to the very roots of Irish music.

"Easily the best of Micho's recordings" — The Rough Guide to Irish Music

"One of the essential traditional albums of the year...a masterclass in the true values enshrined in traditional music...[the tracks] are consistently warmed by an intimacy that takes them off the stage and into the cottages, parlors and back-bar snugs where they belong." — Hot Press

"Consummately played traditional music. Moving and exhilirating." — Mojo

"In a tradition which produces many originals, Micho Russell was inimitable...These 22 tracks of whistle playing, singing and speech introductions stand as a radiant, vital memorial to one of the most joyful musicians in the Irish pantheon." — Irish Times

"[No other recording was] as successful at conveying [Micho's] personality and music...Ireland's Whistling Ambassador is the last testament from one of the giants of Irish music in this century." — Irish Voice

1. The Rising Sun, reel 2:05
2. The Mason’s Apron, Gan Ainm, reels 2:57
3. Winnie Hayes’s Jig 1:48
4. A Song on the Galway and Cliffs of Moher Races 2:59
5. The Retreat, set dance 1:55
6. The Four Posts of the Bed, single jig 1:43
7. The Flip-Flop Song 3:15
8. Johnny Sally’s Reel 1:39
9. The Steamroller MacTeigue’s Polka 1:38
10. The Milliner’s Daughter, reel 2:11
11. When Mursheen Went To Bunnan, song 2:23
12. Come Into The Town My Fair Lady, single jig 1:41
13. The Road To Galway, Gan Ainm, polkas 2:45
14. Napoleon Crossing The Rhine, song air 2:14
15. Cloichíní Beaga na Farraige, reel 1:02
16. The Boys of Bluehill, hornpipe 1:22
17. Boil the Breakfast Early, reel 2:25
18. I Saw a Hawk in Dundalk, double jig 1:50
19. Seán sa Cheo, The Boy in the Gap, reels 2:14
20. Tá Dhá Ghabhairí­n Bhuí­ Agam, children’s song 2:40
21. Christmas Day in the Morning, single jig 2:11
22. Amazing Grace, St. Anne’s Reel, Sporting Nellie, hymn and reels 3:55

you get 3 options this time:
mp3 >192kbps vbr | w/ cover | 75mb

if you look closely, you'll notice that the album cover is actually a painting.