This is a wholly contemporary release. While material predates familiar Belgian musical influences like Jacques Brel, Django Reinhardt and Toots Thielmans, MANdolinMan’s approach certainly shares those legends’ “what the hell, let’s try this different thing and see what happens” approach. This is a Belgian quartet, after all, and Belgians have that attitude.
Belgium is, after all the nation that once tried to get cats to deliver mail. For a few months, in and around Liège, in 1879, mailmen attached waterproof message bags to peoples’ pet felines, expecting them to go home, much as carrier pigeons had been used for centuries. “Unless the criminal class of dogs undertakes to waylay and rob the mail-cats, the messages will be delivered with rapidity and safety,” The New York Times reported. The work ethic of cats made the service unreliable, and the experiment was called off after a few months, but the experiment did take place. In Belgium.
What the hell, let’s try this different thing and see what happens. What happens with “Unfolding the Roots” is an experiment that works. As with “Fertile Paradoxes,” another new ARC Music release by MANdolinMAN’s labelmates, Amine & Hamza, The Band Beyond Borders, this CD takes world music to a different level, giving listeners something at least as much FOR the world as FROM a specific spot on the globe.
This is musicians’ music, accessible to all and particularly rewarding to those seeking fusion and harmony, but most welcome to other players interested in seeing what will and can work. The listener is not pushed by the band’s delivery to categorize these 12 cuts as polkas, waltzes, mazurkas and contra dances, but to turn the volume up and invite friends over for a drink. They are the Flemish, mandolin instrumental equivalent of England’s famous folk rock act, Steeleye Span.
Multi-instrumentalist Matt Flinner was born March 14, 1969 in Pueblo, Colorado. He started out as a banjo prodigy who performed at bluegrass festivals before he entered his teens. Flinner later learned mandolin, won the banjo contest at Winfield, Kansas, in 1990, and received the mandolin award there the following year.
Flinner’s decision to focus on eight-stringed instruments, especially the mandolin, was fundamentaly a result of opportunity. He explains, “I was getting more work on the mandolin.” Sugarbeat, an eclectic quartet that also featured banjoist Tony Furtado, lead vocalist and guitarist Ben Demerath, and bassist Sally Truitt allowed him the opportunity to master the mandolin in a contemporary folk and bluegrass context.
Flinner is now generally considered one of the finest mandolin players on the American acoustic music scene. He tours regularly with the Matt Flinner Trio, as a member of the ‘new acoustic’ trio Phillips, Grier & Flinner, as a member of Darrell Scott’s band, and with guitarist Frank Vignola (David Grisman Quintet). Flinner also special guests on banjo with Leftover Salmon and in the fall of 2008 was a featured soloist with Trey Anastasio and Carlo Aonzo during Orchestra Nashville’s performance of “Concertino” (Don Hart). He also appeared on comedian Steve Martin’s recording The Crow and the Vignola Collectives’ March 2009 release, Gypsy Grass.
David Grisman was born March 23, 1945 in Hackensack, New Jersey. For more than 40 years, the mandolinist and has been busy creating ‘dawg’ music, a blend of many stylistic influences (including swing, bluegrass, Latin, jazz and gypsy) so unique he gave it its own name. In doing so, David has inspired a whole new genre of acoustic string instrumental music with style and virtuosity while creating a unique niche for himself in the world of contemporary music.
Grisman was already playing the piano, saxophone and mandolin by the time he was a teenager, taking up the latter at age 16. In 1963 Grisman made his first recordings as an artist (the Even Dozen Jug Band-Elektra) and producer (Red Allen, Frank Wakefield and the Kentuckians – Folkways). David’s interests spread to jazz in 1967, while playing in the folk-rock ensemble, Earth Opera.
A failed attempt at learning to play the alto saxophone turned him into a student of jazz musicianship and theory. In the meantime, his burgeoning career as a session musician gave him experience playing other types of music and opportunities to stretch the boundaries of the mandolin. Today, his extensive discography includes recordings with Bela Fleck , the Grateful Dead, Stephane Grappelli, Emmylou Harris, Chris Isaak, Dolly Parton, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt , Earl Scruggs, Dan Fogelberg, Maria Muldaur, and James Taylor.
Juan José Robles – “Tiempo de espera” (self-release, 2016)
Juan José Robles is a Spanish composer and multi-instrumentalist who specializes in Spanish string instruments. He hails from Alhama de Murcia, a town in southeastern Spain, in a region called Murcia. While other Spanish regions export a considerable amount of music, there’s relatively little production coming out of Murcia and specifically the Alhama area.
“Tiempo de espera” is Roble’s first solo album and features a mix of original contemporary folk music pieces composed by Juan José Robles and traditional tunes re-arranged by Robles. His main inspiration is the folk music of his region, although he also incorporates elements from flamenco and other traditions.
For guitar and string players interested in less common Spanish string instruments, “Tiempo de espera” will be a great opportunity to “discover” some of them. On “Tiempo de espera”, Robles uses the familiar mandolin and Spanish guitar, but he also uses the less frequent bandurria, a 12-string lute that’s normally used to accompany other instruments although Robles uses it as a solo instrument. Another instrument used by Robles is the guitarro, a small guitar that is normally used to accompany Murcian cuadrillas (traditional folk groups). Robles also elevates this instrument to soloist status. And then there’s also the octavilla, another small guitar with 12 strings that has a great potential as a solo instrument.
Juan José Robles enriches his instrumentals and songs with instruments from other regions and traditions, such as the pandero cuadrado (square frame drum from western Spain), flamenco palmas (handclap percussion), flamenco guitar, flamenco cajón, zanfona (hurdy gurdy), kalimba and electric bass.
The álbum lineup includes Juan José Robles on mandolin, Spanish guitar, laúd (Spanish lute), octavilla, bandurria and guitarro; Óscar Esteban on panderetas (tambourines); Pablo Orenes on acoustic and electric bass; Constantino López on acoustic guitar and mandola; Jero Galián on Spanish guitar; Pepe Ludeña on fiddle; José Antonio Aarnoutse on flamenco guitar; Dani Valera on palmas; Carlos Beceiro on zanfona; Roberto Cubero on mandolin; Carmen María Martínez Salazar and Jaime Lafuente vocals.
Juan José Robles has played with a wide range of traditional groups, contemporary folk music bands and singer-songwriters, including Malvariche, Mujeres con Raíz, Villa de Alhama, Orquesta Camerata Aguilar, Manuel Luna’s cuadrilla Maquilera, La banda del Pepo, and la Ronda de Motilleja.
“Tiempo de espera” was worth the wait. It’s a beautifully-crafted album rooted in Murcian tradition by the talented Juan José Robles.
The 2016 edition of the Iberoamerican Music Expo (EXIB) opened May 4th in Evora, Portugal. Evora is a beautiful walled city, a UNESCO world heritage site that includes numerous monuments spanning centuries. Evora is located in the Alentejo region of Portugal. It’s part of Portugal’s heartland and is defined by its rural nature. For the EXIB opening, organizers treated the audience to a mix of southern Portuguese traditional and contemporary folk music.
The concert at the Teatro Garcia de Resende started with the Grupo Coral e Etnográfico Cantares de Évora, marching through the center aisle towards the stage. This group of talented male and female singers, perform dressed in various costumes reflecting various social strata and professions from the mid-20th century, including traditional farmer, cowboy, and shepherd attire.
They perform traditional cante alentejano, an a cappella style that celebrates rural life. Grupo Coral e Etnográfico Cantares de Évora perform “old style”, without any modern arrangements to the traditional music poems.
A series of short videos were screened, in between performances, highlighting Evora, farm life, the enthralling sheep bell makers and other aspects of the local culture.
One of the great artists from the region, accordionist and vocalist Celina Da Piedade appeared next, accompanying herself on accordion. She was later joined by Há Lobos sem ser na Serra musicians, who accompanied Celina on guitar, drums and vocals.
Celina is a conservatory-trained musician and specializes in music from the Alentejo region. In addition to her talent as a passionate singer, she is also a virtuoso accordionist, playing beautiful melodies inspired by the Alentejo region. She participates and leads numerous workshops and has performed abroad. She leads weekly gatherings of Cante Alentejano in Casa do Alentejo, Lisbon. Celina has participated in over 50 recordings as well as soundtracks for film, theater and dance. She is currently part of the celebrated collective TaisQuais that includes some of the biggest names in Portuguese music: Vitorino, Tim, Sebastião, Serafim, Jorge Palma, Paulo Ribeiro and João Gil. They released a critically acclaimed album titled “Os fabulosos Tais Quais”.
Há Lobos sem ser na Serra played next. They represent a new generation of cante alentejano musicians. Their sound is rooted in tradition although the arrangements take the music into exciting new directions. While the band plays, a graphic artists paints desings on a video screen.
Há Lobos sem ser na Serra use the 8-shaped guitar called viola campaniça. It’s a rare guitar from Alentejo with a peculiar mouth that nearly disappeared in the 1960s. It has unusual tunings and the band extracts unexpected sounds and some jazz elements. Band members include António Bexiga on viola campaniça; Bernardo ‘Buba’ Espinho on vocals and drum; and David Pereira on viola campaniça and vocals.
One of Portugal’s most cherished singer-songwriters, João Afonso, performed accompanied by various guitars. João Afonso plays contemporary folk music and pop inspired by various Portuguese traditions. We have a João Afonso artist profile that you can read for additional information.
Two string masters participated in the event, accompanying João Afonso, playing solos and mesmerizing interplay. Luis Peixoto is a multi-instrumentalist who plays various string instruments and also mixes folk music with electronics. For this occasion he used the tiny cavaquinho, which is one of the ancestors of the ukulele.
Juan José Robles, from southeastern Spain, was one of the two international guests. He’s also multi-instrumentalist specialized in string instruments and the folk music from the Murcia region. He used the mandolina (mandolin), octavilla (a guitar from La Mancha) and a guitarro valenciano.
Carlos Malta’s flute sounds entered the theater down the center aisle. The Brazilian wind instrument master brought the sounds of South America and joined the rest of the musicians for several beautiful songs that were very familiar to the Portuguese members of the audience, who sang along.
The EXIB 2016 opening concert was a superb introduction to the music of Alentejo.
American mandolinist Chris Thile will replace author and storyteller Garrison Keillor as the new host of A Prairie Home Companion. Starting October 15, 2016, Thile will host a new 30-week season with 13 new, live broadcasts, produced shows and repeats on public radio stations throughout the United States.
The only live music and variety show currently aired in the United States, A Prairie Home Companion is a popular Saturday night radio presentation. The show includes musical performances and comedy.
A Prairie Home Companion will continue to be broadcast live on Saturday nights from the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota, as well as from theaters across the United States. Each of the new live shows will contain a mix of well-known and up-and-coming musicians, humor with sketch comedy and spoken word, plus an original “Song of the Week” composed by Thile.
Multi-instrumentalist, chef and singer-songwriter Frank Solivan dedicates his solo album Family, Friends & Heroes to his family. The album features a wonderful mix of original songs, covers and traditional pieces arranged by Solivan.
Throughout Family, Friends & Heroes, Solivan showcases his talent as a vocalist as well as a skilled instrumentalist on the mandolin, fiddle and guitar. Although Family, Friends & Heroes is rooted in bluegrass, Solivan incorporates jazz improvisation, American folk, Celtic music, blues and rock influences.
In the liner notes, Frank Solivan explains that he had planned to record a full album with his mother, Lorene Solivan. She passed away in 2014 so the project will never become a reality. However, Solivan was fortunate to record Lorene Solivan on one song, an exquisitely moving version of the popular traditional song “Wayfaring Stranger.”
Frank Solivan includes other members of his gifted family on Family, Friends & Heroes, such as his father Frank Solivan Sr. and cousins Megan McCormick (vocals, guitar), Teresa Michel (vocals), John Cruz (low harmony vocals) and Ernie Cruz, Jr. (high harmony vocals).
The impressive list of special guests featured in the recording include members of Dirty Kitchen (banjo master Mike Munford and guitarist Chris Luquette) together with Sam Bush (mandolin), John Cowan (Vocals), Jerry Douglas (dobro), Rob Ickes (dobro), Del McCoury (vocals), Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), Danny Booth (bass), Leon Alexander (percussion), Mike Bub (bass), and Jim Hurst (guitar).
Family, Friends & Heroes features exceptionally expressive vocals by a extraordinary cast of singers as well as dazzling acoustic interplay by some of the finest contemporary bluegrass musicians.
Album Release Tour
March 11 — Me & Thee Coffeehouse – Marblehead, MA
March 12 — Caffe Lena – Saratoga Springs, NY
March 13 — Riverfolk Concerts – Honesdale, PA
March 19 — The Hamilton: CD Release Celebration (with Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley & others) – Washington D.C.
March 26 — Anodyne Coffee Roasting – Milwaukee, WI
March 31 — Isis Music Hall – Asheville, NC
April 1 — The Station Inn – Nashville, TN
April 23 — Birthplace of Country Music Museum – Bristol, VA
May 1 — Black Rock Arts Center – Germantown, MD
May 20 — Nelson Odeon – Cazenovia, NY
May 21 — Nelson Odeon – Cazenovia, NY
Mandolinist Sierra Hull has a new album titled Weighted Mind (Rounder Records). Weighted Mind includes folk-pop, bluegrass, and new acoustic music. The instrumentation is comprised largely of mandolin, bass, and vocals.
Béla Fleck produced the album and also appears on two tracks. Weighted Mind also includes special harmony vocal guests Alison Krauss, Abigail Washburn and Rhiannon Giddens.