Martin Hayes Quartet: Let The Blue Room calm your fractured soul

Martin Hayes is arguably one of the greatest fiddlers to come out of Ireland in the past 100 years. His soulful, moody interpretation of well-known Irish traditional music is unlike anything else out there. It's slow moving, slow to build, and beautiful in a way all its own.

I've mentioned his primary band, The Gloaming, here in the past. But he's also got another group going on the side: The Martin Hayes Quartet. At first listen, their music sounds like more of the same (which is a wonderful thing!). But take the time to plumb its depths and the personality of the musicians playing, the voice of the instruments, and the choice of tunes will make you understand that, while it may seem like you're trekking familiar country, the ground beneath your feet is a very different territory than where you've walked before.

This video of the making of the quartet's first album, The Blue Room, is as beautiful as the band's music is calming. I've watched and listened to it many times since I first found it.

I hope you dig it as much as I do. Read the rest

Weekend Tunes: Oysterband--Here Comes the Flood

I was lucky enough to see Oysterband on this tour, back in 2009. With the shitstorm of lies, greed and hate that we've been enduring these past few years, Here Comes the Flood, from Oysterband's 2007 album Meet You There, has been on constant rotation in my home. Read the rest

Friday Tunes: The Imagined Village

The Imagine Village is what you'd call a super group.

Over the years, its lineup has included members of the United Kingdom folk music royalty such as Billy Bragg, Eliza & Martin Carthy, Simon Emmerson, The Trans Global Underground, Chris Wood and dhol drum master Johnny Kalsi. Each of the musicians comes to the collective with decades of musical excellence under their belts and an extensive catalog of tunes of their own. The re-imagination of English folk standards is the Imagined Village's game: they color well-worn chestnuts with musical traditions from around the former British Empire, occasionally updating the lyrics to reflect the current conditions and mood of the United Kingdom's citizens.

If it sounds like a familiar formula, it's because you've maybe seen it done before by the Afro Celtic Soundsystem. Both bands share guitar/cittern player Simon Emmerson as a driving force behind their music. This isn't appropriated music. It's multicultural music that draws together players from a myriad of traditions to honor the music of the past in a manner that's both exciting and new.

While "Cold, Hailey, Rainy Night" comes from a long tradition of "Night Visit" songs – music that features some dude whinging to a young lady that everything is terrible outside so she should let him in to warm up and uh, have sex. You'll hear it being kicked about the folk world, under various regional titles, around the world. This version, recorded in 1971 by by Steeleye Span, is likely one of the most recognized versions of it. Read the rest

Young girl serenades cattle with her concertina

This is really sweet. A young Irish girl, Grace Lehane of Cork, played "Britches full of Stitches" on her concertina by the side of a green pasture full of cattle. Watch in this video that her dad Denis uploaded in 2017 as the animals come running over to hear the "moosic." The beaming smile on Grace's face is precious!

(The Kid Should See This) Read the rest

Listen to valiha music, official instruments of Madagascar

A valiha is a special zither traditionally made in Madagascar from a local type of giant bamboo. It has a lovely sound, and there's a clear throughline from traditional songs played on a valiha to music of the Caribbean. Read the rest

The Marxophone, spooky carnival instrument

The Marxophone is a 1912 toy instrument that combines a zither with a keyboard linked to flexible hammers that repeatedly strike the strings. The resulting sound, over the years, has earned a strange place in folk music. It's often used to evoke a mysterious carnie atmosphere, but Katherine Rhoda shows here how beautiful it can be.

Named for its inventor, Henry Charles Marx, they were sold new until the 1950s and can be found on eBay for about $300. You've heard it in many popular songs, such as The Doors' cover of Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar) and Portishead's Sour Times.

Marx also created the Celestaphone, a similar instrument with a more refined sound.

Read the rest