Music-Folk Scene: Beth Hart, Loreena McKennit, Catherine-Anne McPhee

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This week, listening to 3 ladies: a brand new 2011 album by an American blues rock jazz artist, a Canadian Celt and a Gaelic Celt:

Beth Hart – ‘Don’t Explain’ (2011)
This is one of the most impressive albums of American blues-rock/jazz to come out of anywhere.  Beth Hart covers ten of the raunchiest, most intimate, blues-rock-jazz numbers ever to be recorded in the history of popular music by an artist.  It’s a brand new classic of covers by a quite unrivalled singer and top-flight blues rock guitarist, Joe Bonamassa.

This week, listening to 3 ladies: a brand new 2011 album by an American blues rock jazz artist, a Canadian Celt and a Gaelic Celt:

Beth Hart – ‘Don’t Explain’ (2011)
This is one of the most impressive albums of American blues-rock/jazz to come out of anywhere.  Beth Hart covers ten of the raunchiest, most intimate, blues-rock-jazz numbers ever to be recorded in the history of popular music by an artist.  It’s a brand new classic of covers by a quite unrivalled singer and top-flight blues rock guitarist, Joe Bonamassa.

The album blasts off with ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ – as with blues there is theme of religion here and there – human experience is hard times and hardships.  Jazz, a hot muggy night of jealousy, paranoia and fear simmer in ‘Your Heart Is as Black as Night’.  ‘Don’t Explain’ is a jazzy-bluesy Billie Holiday tribute that indeed does honour to Lady Day.  The album’s closing song ‘I’ll Take Care Of You’, is an intimate bluesy-jazzy-rocky that like every other track on the album grabs and doesn’t let go.  Not music for afternoon tea and cakes.

Track (original artisits in brackets) :
(1) Sinner’s Prayer (Ray Charles w/ B.B. King) (2) Chocolate Jesus (Tom Waits) (3) Your Heart Is As Black As Night (Melody Gardot) (4) For My Friend (Bill Withers) (5) Don’t Explain (Billie Holiday) (6) I’d Rather Go Blind (Etta James) (7) Something’s Got A Hold On Me (Etta James) (8) I’ll Take Care Of You (Gil Scott-Heron) (9) Well, Well (Delaney & Bonnie) (10) Ain’t No Way (Aretha Franklin) (11) I’ll Take Care Of You (Radio Edit)

Bonus: Beth Hart (LIVE) is something to see – a bit of a cross between Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison.  Here she does an earthy, raucous version of Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ (LIVE).

Whole Lotta Love (LIVE)

‘Sister Heroine’ (LIVE), a tribute to Beth’s late sister – her own composition

Loreena McKennit – ‘The Book of Secrets’ (1995)
Canadian songstress, singer, musician Loreena Isabel Irene McKennitt of Irish-Scottish descent, was born in Morden, Manitoba. 

Loreena McKennit’s music here is a layering of Celtic and Middle Eastern themes – ‘The Book of Secrets’ is a cultural odyssey, passengers voyage an air of mystery woven through the mysticism of the Celts, the exotic East and the lyrical genius of Western poets – the lady is a sorceress of the muse.  She is also a romantic in the Arthurian, Wuthering Heights, chivalrous middle ages sense of the word.

The album pulses with Eastern rhythms in ‘The Mummer’s Dance’, romantic English ballads contrast the East with the West and none more romantic than the magnificent poem by Alfred Noyes, ‘The Highwayman’ set to music by McKennit.  The English ballads have a peculiarly Celtic sensibility about them and the album ends with another English ballad, the gentle ‘Dante’s Prayer’.  The recent digital remastering of the album doth but enhance further the hearing of this troubadour for the audience.

Tracks: (1) Prologue (2) The Mummers’ Dance (3) Skellig (4) Marco Polo
(5) The Highwayman (Lyrics by Alfred Noyes, abridged by Loreena McKennit) (6) La Serenissima (7) Night Ride across the Caucasus (8) Dante’s Prayer

The Mummers’ Dance
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_49F2O7ACL4

Bonus: – ‘The Lady of Shalott’ (LIVE), from the 1989 album ‘The Visit’

– ‘The Star of the County Down’, from the album, ‘The Wind that shakes the Barley’


Catherine Anne McPhee – Cànan Nan Gaidheal (1987)
The album’s production is simple – its foundation the voice of Catherine-Anne McPhee.  Non-Gaelic speakers will feel and comprehend the emotional yearning in the voice, few singers in the world can convey the sentiment of a song the way this lassie from Barra can.   

Catherine-Ann was born on November 21st 1959 on the Island of Barra, Scottish Gaelic her mother tongue.  At the age of five she started singing at candle-lit ceilidhs in the little village of Eoligarry – electricity did not reach the island until she was six.  During the summer she sang for tourists.

Ian Green from Greentrax Records heard her exceptional voice and repertoire and the Gaelic language album ‘Cànan Nan Gaidheal’ (The Language of the Gael) was born.

The album offers: Mouth music such as ‘Puirt a Beul’; a “waulking song” (work songs for women finishing tweed cloth) ‘S Fliuch an Oidhche; and Gaelic ballad songs.  The extraordinarily heart rending renditions of ballad songs are the strength of the appeal of this work.  Among the 6 ballad songs present: ‘Canan Nan Gàidheal’ [The Language of the Gael] the album’s title song; a rich version of the Run Rig song, ‘Cearcall A’ Chuain’, the protest song against the British government Act that foebade the wearing of the kilt; Soiridh Leis A’ Bhreacan ùr.  The album ends with the gorgeous ‘An Ataireachd Ard’.  This music could have been recorded today, a hundred years ago, or a hundred years in the future and it will be loved a hundred years from now.

Samples of tracks can be heard here.
Tracks: (1) Hi Ri Ri O Ra Ill O (2) A Nighean Nan Geug Taladh (3) Puirt A-Beul (4) Soiridh Leis A’ Bhreacan Ur (5) Iomair Thusa, Coinnich Chridhe (6) Canan Nan Gaidheal (7) ‘S Fliuch An Oidhche (8) Oran An ‘Iolaire (9) Cearcall A’Chuain (10) Puirt-A-Beul (11) An Ataireachd Ard

Canan Nan Gaidheal