CD Review – The Transports

A review for of a new take on Peter Bellamy’s Ballad opera.

A review for of a new take on Peter Bellamy’s Ballad opera. Actually a live version of the toured production seen at Shrewsbury Folk Festival in 2017 (and there’s currently another short tour running). Well worth seeing/hearing.

VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Transports – A Tale Of Exile And Migration (Hudson Records HUD007LP/CD)

David Harley

DARIA KULESH – Long Lost Home (own label)

A review of the outstanding CD ‘Long Lost Home’ by Daria Kulesh.

[Review also published on the Sabrinaflu blog.]

In a recent review for of the excellent CD ‘Shakespeare Songs‘ by the Company of Players, I described the stunning performance by Daria Kulesh of her own song ‘Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk’ as ‘almost operatic in its intensity’. If you’re not a fan of opera don’t stop reading! While I’ve no doubt that Daria has the range and technical ability to sing anything she wants to, her own CD Long Lost Home (released early in 2017, but I’ve only recently caught up with it) isn’t one of those albums where a classically trained singer dabbles in a more popular idiom. Rather, this is a collection of (mostly her own) songs, deeply rooted in her own family history, sung with a grace, skill, and emotional intensity few singers can match. To quote a review of the same CD by Dai Jeffries:

…the word “operatic” keeps coming to mind but that isn’t right at all. It’s about power and heart and love and melancholy and about telling important stories in a very human way.

I’m pretty sure he’s a fan too…

That family history has roots in Ingushetia, in the Caucasus Mountains, and most of the songs here relate directly to the region. The arrangements here, while never so obtrusive or flashy as to distract the listener from the singer or the songs, are perfectly executed. It is, perhaps, a measure of how successful they are that the instrumentation – including such relatively unusual instruments as dahchan pandar, doul, nyckelharpa, hammered dulcimer and Scottish smallpipes, as well as a wide variety of more familiar instruments – always seem just perfectly appropriate rather than intrusively exotic.

Here’s the customary track-by-track listing.

  1. The lyrics for ‘Tamara’ come from Mikhail Lermontov (translated, abridged and adapted by Daria), and the music is Daria’s. The supernatural tale of a very dangerous lady “who by a demon was kissed“.
  2. ‘The Moon And The Pilot’ tells the story of Daria’s great grandmother, whose husband died while trying to deliver supplies to Leningrad in 1942. He was named a Hero of the Soviet Union, but his wife and children were caught up in Stalin’s deportation of the population of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1944, for alleged collaboration with the Nazis. A terrible injustice, but not without hope: “This is the story of one extraordinary woman’s strength and survival, and it is also the story of her people.” For a taste of Daria’s music, I heartily recommend the ‘official video’ linked at the end of this review.
  3. ‘Safely Wed’ is a little more upbeat, with bouzouki and accordion lending it a decidedly Mediterranean feel, though the story is drawn from Daria’s family history. And has a happy ending. J
  4. ‘Amanat’ is the story of Daria’s grandmother’s grandfather, the first Ingush ethnographer and collector of folklore. A sad story, but a beautiful tune.
  5. ‘The Hazel Tree’ is another story from the deportation, of Aishi Bazorkina and her longing to be buried in her homeland.
  6. The traditional lament ‘Distant Love/Gyanar Bezam’ is sung part in Ingush, part in English (translated from Ingush by Daria).
  7. ‘The Panther’ is the story of Laisat Baisarova, “an Ingush NKVD officer who refused to take part in the deportation and genocide of her people.” Despite a startling echo of the ancient ballad ‘The Two Magicians‘ – “Bide, lady, bide/No place you can hide” – this “skilled sniper” was never captured or subjugated.
  8. ‘Like A God’ tells the story of Alaudin Poshev, “a doctor and a gent/In times when gangsters ruled the roost“.
  9. ‘Heart’s Delight’ is a song of Daria’s inspired by the traditional ‘Song Of Mochkho’ and, in particular, the lovely thought “May your heart’s delight/Become your fate“.
  10. ‘Gone’ poses a question that seems all too apposite at a time when English isolationism and xenophobia so often dominates the news. “Will you be hostile or will you be kind” to the displaced and disposed of the world?
  11. ‘Only Begun’ is a bitter-sweet “song of saying goodbye.” And yet it illustrates how even those of us whose lives are less dramatic than the protagonists of Daria’s stories live on in the memories – and, sometimes, the songs – of those who come after.
  12. ‘Untangle My Bones’ echoes an Inuit legend, but is framed in an arrangement as fresh as next week’s papers. A great finish to a wonderful album.

This is a lovely and compelling album, and I hope to be listening to it for years to come.

David Harley

Artist’s website:

Video of ‘The Moon And The Pilot’.

CD Review – Company of Players

Another of my reviews for This time of a rather nice CD by Company of Players, an assemblage of young folkies from Said The Maiden, amongst others, who’ve put together a CD called Shakespeare Songs. Which isn’t quite what you might have expected: even if you hate Shakespeare, you may well like this. I do, anyway: very much!

THE COMPANY OF PLAYERS – Shakespeare Songs (own label)

David Harley

Review – Mike Brookfield

Review of a blues/rock CD by Mike Brookfield.

Another of my reviews for Blues/rock rather than folk, but I liked it anyway.

MIKE BROOKFIELD – Brookfield (Golden Rule Records GRCD003)

“Mike’s own web site describes the CD as “11 tracks of burnin’ blues rock“, which is not a bad description: he clearly knows one end of a Strat (or Les Paul!) from the other (and evidently is not a bad bass player, either).”

David Harley