Friday, August 14, 2015

Review of Canconier's The Black Dragon

I got this CD when I saw them present this program live in Houston.  They have combined 15th century music from the time of Vlad the Impaler with folk music from Vlad's general region.  We get to hear Tim Rayborn say and sing the German poem by Michel Beheim about Vlad's deeds.  Tim has an excellent driving, resonant, commanding storytelling voice.   
Annette Bauer is the recorder player on this CD.  She was away playing with Cirque du Soleil when I saw them live.  Tom Zajac filled in for her - it takes an amazing musician to fill the shoes of another pristine player.  Annette plays recorder the way you expect a world class figure skater to skate into a gold medal.  Her grace and agility, flexibility and musicality are simply magnificent.  Every judge raises their 10!
Shira Kammen plays vielle and harp on this CD.  Vielle is the great-great...grandmother of the modern violin.  Imagine rubbing two rubber bands together perpendicularly and expecting great music.  The strings are gut and the bow is bent opposite a modern bow.  Shira brings this instrument to life.  There is an earthy quality to the sound.  Her solos and supportive playing add richness and color and grounding. 
Tim plays several stringed instruments sometimes as an accompanying player and sometimes as a stellar soloist.  He is also the percussionist.  The attention to audible detail on this CD is most evident where the percussion is concerned.  Often times mixes drown out or dampen percussion.  Tim's delicate and driving percussion is on fine display.  Every intricate detail can be heard without drawing you away from the overall texture. 
The above musicians sing some on a few of the tracks, but Phoebe Jevtovic is the lead vocalist for 7 of the 17 tracks.  The thing that I love about medieval ensembles of this combination (both as a singer and audience member) is the use of the voice as an instrument.  While the voice is an obvious focal point for those songs, the other instruments weave and connect around the singer.  Phoebe's voice fits into this mode quite well.  She has a tone that is strong, real, polished, but not pompous.  All four members of the ensemble take their turns at solos and highlights.  You hear her as equal in weight.
There is quite a variety on this CD.  Laments to dances.  The instrumentation varies and includes instruments I haven't even mentioned.  These musicians bring music to life. They bring a collection of tunes and songs together to give you a auditory sense of the time.  There is beauty, life, and contemplation in what they have created. 

If you are vaguely interested in Medieval music, go now, buy it.  These are some of the best musicians on the scene right now; you absolutely can not go wrong.  The CD is on iTunes, CDBaby, and you can order it at 

Friday, August 07, 2015

Review of Lisa Schneider's Milkwood Thistle Promenade

When I choose to review a CD, I ask the artist to describe the CD in one sentence.  I do this because I may truly enjoy the CD but might not know exactly what genre box it goes in and that is often a very helpful detail in telling you about it.  When I asked Lisa Schneider to describe her CD, it was for that precise reason.  I soon found out, I was not crazy, there is NO GENRE BOX for her work!  It is certainly instrumental and fiddle driven, although, she sings one of her own songs on the CD, which is a lovely twist to the otherwise instrumental CD.  Listening to the CD is like listening to the hearts of several cultures coming together.  I couldn't quite place my finger on which culture.  I have listened to this CD a ridiculously high number of times.  Each time, I enjoy the twists and repetitions of the tunes.  Just when I thought I could sing along, the tune would twist in a way that only a fiddle can weave.   Lisa describes the CD as a "compilation of original and traditional ethnic-style folk music with hints of Classical, Klezmer, Scandanavian, and Breton elements."  If you know any or all of those elements, you will hear every single one, blended together.  Some tracks are heavier on one than another, but the overall blended effect is hypnotic and enjoyable.  The variety from one track to another keeps your ears on their toes, and yet the spirit that drives the whole CD brings it together. 
One of my favorite things about true artists is their ability to use all the crayons in the box.  Lisa does that, not only by using a variety of styles, but she also brings in other instruments played by friends and herself.  Others on the banjo, accordian, hurdy gurdy and guitars add depth to her tunes.  She pulls a few other colors out of her own crayon box.  She sings, she plays spoons, and her toy piano playing skills are on display for a track.  Toy piano is not some cheap trick to fill up space.  It's unique, interesting and a bit haunting. 
Lisa has this warm rich deep feminine voice that is fully capable of telling a story.  She doesn't over sing or try to soak up all of the light.  Her choice in vocal phrasing and mixing make her voice and the instruments work together exactly the way I think folk music should.  Her subject matter, voice, and writing style mimic folk styles so well that I had to check to see if it was hers or traditional (it's hers).

If you enjoy folk fiddle, go now and get this CD.  It is in my regular rotation and should be in yours.  If you're in Austin, visit Waterloo or Things Celtic.  If not, visit

Thursday, August 06, 2015


I launched a Kickstarter campaign on August 3 at 2:03PM.  I asked for a modest amount of $1600 just to cover the costs of printing my new CD, "Why Should I?"  By 1:15PM on August 4, my friends and supporters had pledged the entire amount.  I was, I am still stunned by the quickness and fierceness of their generosity.  With 20 days left to go, I chose a "stretch goal" amount of $5000.  This amount covers all of the CD production costs as well as my proposed publicity plan which focuses on Celtic & Folk festivals, house concerts and concert venues nationwide in 2016.  We are on day 4, and we are well on our way to success.  Because a stretch goal is unofficial, I am adding all sales of the tshirt and all wholesale orders to what shows on the Kickstarter.  As of now, we are at $2723.  If we make it to $5000, there may well be some very silly thank you videos released...  officially, everyone who has supported will receive a holiday card of Stoli and me plus a download of a holiday song plus one of the $5 add-on prizes of their choice.

Thank you, everyone, for your support!