New Reviews: June 7, 2004

Reviews by Paula E. Kirman

Jeszcze Raz
2 Univers

2 Univers (French for "2 Universes") is an appropriate title for a band that walks between musical languages and cultures. The Montreal-based Jeszcze Raz was the winner of a 2003 Juno Award for World Music Album of the Year for their previous release Balagane. 2 Univers is a look at both the past and present. It features 20 songs, several of which are the best recordings off the band's debut album Pamietam, while the rest are songs composed for the Quebec film La pension des étranges. Containing a mix of songs in Polish and French, as well as several instrumentals, the sound is classic Jescze Raz: upbeat, energetic, with a Klezmer flair. Charismatic front-man Paul Kunigis delivers a warm vocal quality and excellent piano work. Afficianados of klezmer will also appreciate the clarinet work on 2 Univers. Something old, something new, and something for everybody.

Sham Rock
The Album
Square Biz Records

It is difficult to believe that this is Sham Rock's debut album -- it sounds so polished and professional that at first I thought this was a "Best Of" collection of some kind. Actually, Sham Rock is a UK-based band that fuses traditional Irish songs with pop and dance. Even traditional songs like "Danny Boy" and "Whiskey in the Jar" have been adapted, re-mixed, and re-arranged. The band's producer and writer Philip Larsen won a 2004 Grammy for Best Dance Recording for his mix of "Come Into My World," and the band has sold a huge number of singles of the lead track "Tell Me Ma" in the UK and Ireland. While fans of traditional Irish music might be a little bit taken aback by these arrangements, Sham Rock breathes new life into timeless classics.

Rick Fielding
Acoustic Workshop
Borealis Records

Acoustic Workshop is pure folk -- acoustic guitars and mandolins are the main musical drive on Fielding's last recording before he succumbed to cancer earlier this year. A radio personality in Toronto and songwriter with a sense of humor, Fielding's passion for folk is unmistakeable. A formidable string player, Fielding is a lyricist with a whimsical bent (just take a listen to his parady of traditional sea chantys, "Off to School No More"). Acoustic Workshop will stand as a last testament to a true acoustic warrior.

Miriam Makeba
Heads Up International

What can be said about Miriam Makeba? Her career spans 50 years of performing songs with social and political importance, delivered by her unique and powerful voice. Reflections is a look back at some of her most notable musical achievements, including her major hit "Pata Pata." Born in South Africa, she was a staunch crusader against Apartheid, so much so that she left for America and later on toured with Paul Simon on his Graceland tour. Wonderful at singing in other languages, the album features soem tracks in French and English (the incredible "African Convention" which was written by one-time husband Hugh Masekela). Reflections is a retrospective of one of World Music's most important artists.

Paula E. Kirman is the Editor and Webmaster of Inside World Music.