various artists, |
Most folks these days seem to equate Celtic music with Irish music. This is unfortunate, as it ignores the rich traditions of music from the other Celtic lands. One of these oft-overlooked Celtic lands is Cornwall. Mammyk Ker is an excellent recording that presents music from some of the best Cornish musicians playing today. It contains 11 tracks with a wide variety of music, instrumentation and styles. Although most tracks are studio recordings, several were recorded live. Each group or artist chose the music on their track, so it may be assumed that each is represented by what they consider their best.
The album starts with Bagas Degol, a trio from Penzance. They use an uncommon collection of instruments: bagpipe, clarinet, soprano saxophone and percussion. Their set on this CD, "Pencarrow/Bodmin Riding" is a very nice opening for the album. It starts with the bagpipe and clarinet on a slow air that moves into a more upbeat tune. Bagas Degol is followed by Ros Keltek playing fiddles, flute and guitar. In a live recording, Ros Keltek gives an exciting performance of "Ewon An Mor."
These opening tracks are followed by offerings from Graham Ellaby (solo fiddle), Dalla (clarinet, guitar, accordion) and Jim Wearne (guitar and vocals). These tracks provide a wide contrast to each other, showing the diversity of Cornish music. Wearne's singing of "Maggie Mae" gives a very plain, traditional sound, while Dalla's "Trelva/Four-Hand Reel" strays into a jazz-like feel.
Anao Atao, arguably the most well-known of Cornish groups, contributed a live performance of the instrumental tune "Fyslek." This track features accordion, flute and clarinet. I felt this track was the best of the lot. It was recorded at the Montreal Celtic Festival and the energy of the live performance shines through bright and strong. Anao Atao is composed of four members of the Le Nan Davey family and the musicianship and music reflects a family's closeness. This is an exciting track and has a traditional feel.
Maela and Sterenn Le Nan Davey, members of Anao Atao, also comprise the group Aveladenn. Their playing of "Come To Good/Calenick" closes off the recording. These are beautiful tunes, the first slow and the second upbeat. These tunes provide a nice contrast and are very well played. This track features clarinet, piano, flute and drums.
Additional tracks are provided by An Strik, the Bolingey Troyl Band, Pyba and Mike O'Connor. These tracks are a wide range of styles, from An Strik's new-agey harp and synthesizer track to Pyba's more traditional track. Pyba starts with guitar and flute on the beautiful "Map Rus," then adds the Cornish bagpipe for "Byth Lowen" and "Kelynn." The Bolingey Troyl Band gives "Father Tim/Corwethen," which is an exciting live performance.
While the music was of the finest quality, I was rather disappointed in the liner notes. The notes were extensive, which I usually like, and there was a write-up for each group. However, each write-up was provided by the group themselves, so there's no objectivity in the notes. Instead, they come off as short marketing pieces. Since I'm unfamiliar with Cornish music, I had hoped that there would be some discussion of Cornish music -- things like characteristics of the music and what distinguishes Cornish music from other types of Celtic music. It should be recognized that this disappointment is a result of my own expectations, not of anything promised by the recording itself.