Recently in Folk & Country Category

The Shadowsphere: Through the FieldCD, The Shadowsphere 2005

Track list: Through the Field - Dreadful Infant - The Guilt is with Him - Through the Field (2)

The Shadowsphere has left goth behind. That's not a bad decision. Their current style is something I'd probably label as neo-folk (kind of reminds me of some stuff by Swans) or something like - kind of baroque melodies, with dreamy synths and acoustic guitars. The vocals have improved a lot from their first demo; I'd still pay some attention to the vocals, mostly rhythm-wise: some lines sound a bit rushed, too many syllables. Anyway, it's a big step forward for Klove brothers. I like the atmosphere, even if their serious slow-tempo style isn't really my cup of tea. ***

Potentia Animi: Das erste GebetCD, Staupa Musica 2005

Track list: Del Amina - Domina - Nachtfrass - Bruder Titus - Gloria - Gaudete - Me Novarem - Herrscher - Bruder Huhn - Schattentanz - Ballde von den 3 Suendern - 3 hodiger Esel - Repeat - Domina 2

Latin vocals, church-like chanting, bag pipes - it's medieval times again. Potentia Animi clicks into the medieval bag pipe scene, but has quite a little metal influences (unlike, say, In Extremo). There's some personal touch involved, especially with the vocals, which are quite neat. The best tracks are layed on the beginning of the album - the first five tracks are the best. The rest is not quite the same, but worth listening to anyway. For the fans of the genre, this is a very good album. ****

Macabre Minstrels: Morbid Campfire SongsCD, Season of Mist 2003

Track list: Tom Dooley - The Geins - In the Mountains - The Cat Came Back - Found a Peanut

Macabre Minstrels is a side project of death metal band Macabre. The guys play classic Shel Silverstein melodies with acoustic guitars, enhancing the songs with new lyrics about death, serial killers and other macabre dealings. The result is a short but entertaining album. I like it, but I'm not sure who else will enjoy it. All Macabre fans won't, that's for sure. ***

Johnny Cash: American III - Solitary ManCD, American Recordings 2000

Track list: I Won't Back Down - Solitary Man - That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day) - One - Nobody - I See a Darkness - The Mercy Seat - Would You Lay With Me (In a Field of Stone) - Field of Diamonds - Before My Time - Country Trash - Mary of the Wild Moor - I'm Leavin' Now - Wayfaring Stranger

I'm going back with these American albums. Number three is just as good as number four. None of the songs really compares to "Hurt", but then again, few do. Cash's take on "The Mercy Seat" is first-class, though. The old man in black is doing a good work on this album, and I don't have to doubt a bit before giving this album four stars: ****

Cash, Johnny: Murder

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Johnny Cash: MurderCD, Sony Music 2000

Track list: Folsom Prison Blues - Delia's Gone - Mister Garfield - Orleans Parish Prison (live) - When It's Springtime in Alaska (It's Forty Below) - The Sound of Laughter - Cocaine Blues (live) - Hardin Wouldn't Run - The Long Black Veil - Austin Prison - Joe Bean - Going to Memphis - Don't Take Your Guns to Town - Highway Patrolman - Jacob Green - The Wall

I used to say I like everything except country'n'western. Well, here I am, listening to country and enjoying it. Times they are a-changing. Johnny Cash is the man, however, and this collection of songs focused on murder and death is rather interesting and works well with Nick Cave's Murder Ballads. There are few oddball songs, a healthy dose of humour and plenty of death. There's one song that's previously unreleased in the US, so it's probably not the best collection for Cash veterans. Newer devotees with a murderous bent (like me) will, however, enjoy this one. ****

Johnny Cash: American IV : the Man Comes AroundCD, American 2002

Track list: The Man Comes Around - Hurt - Give My Love to Rose - Bridge Over Troubled Water - I Hung My Head - The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face - Personal Jesus - In My Life - Sam Hall - Danny Boy - Desperado - I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry - The Streets of Laredo - Tear Stained Letter - We'll Meet Again

Being a fan of Nick Cave's work, who without a doubt owes something to the Man in Black, I'm actually surprised how long it took for me to realise the value of Johnny Cash. My first Cash album purchase was inspired by two of the cover songs on this album: I got "Personal Jesus" from Kazaa and saw the video of "Hurt" in TV. After "Personal Jesus" I was interested, after "Hurt" I was sold. I went and bought the album as soon as I could. What a tremendous interpretation! Other songs of the album are more or less successful - Cash's own "The Man Comes Around" being probably the next best thing after "Hurt". Johnny Cash may be old, but few singers compare to him. And I think it's his age that lends the credibility for songs like "Hurt" (in case you haven't noticed, I'm totally in love with that song). ****

Kuusumun profeetta: Jatkuvasti maailmaa pelastamaan kyllästynyt supersankariCD, Ektro 2002

Track list: Ei aurinko milloinkaan laske - Syyllinen Pedriko - Tähdenlennon aikaan - Puhuu vapahtaja rappuselta kiviseltä - Onnellisen valkoinen - Musta kaivo musta peili - Suunnaton seikkailu halki avaruuden - Kotipolulla - Häivähdys - Hengettären tanssi - Supersankari koko maailman

Kuusumun profeetta is one of the most positively eccentric bands I know. Their lead vocalist Mika Rättö knows how to perform and has a voice to be remembered. And the songs are great! My favourites are "Ei aurinko milloinkaan laske", "Puhuu vapahtaja rappuselta kiviseltä" and "Supersankari koko maailman", all of which are somewhat about the very Christ-like superhero mentioned in the album title. There's some very nice saxophone on this album, and soft female background vocals are also a nice addition. Very positive and warm album, from a completely different world if you compare it to Viikate... *****

Nick Drake: Five Leaves LeftCD, Island 2000 (1970)

Track list: Time Has Told Me - River Man - Three Hours - Way to Blue - Day Is Done - 'Cello Song - The Thoughts of Mary Jane - Man in a Shed - Fruit Tree - Saturday Sun

Five Leaves Left is an album full of beautiful, melancholic folk songs. The arrangements are elegant and where Nick Drake's acoustic guitar is complemented with other instruments, it's done with great effect. Just listen to the dramatic sadness of the strings in "Way to Blue", for example. While I find Drake's later offering, Bryter Layter, a bit better with it's richer sound, Five Leaves Left is a very strong album too. ****

Vesa-Matti Loiri: Loiri/Leino 1CD, Fazer Musiikki 1994 (1978)

Track list: Höyhensaaret - Elegia - Tulkaa kotiin - Ja vuodet ne käy - Laulajan laulu - Nocturne - Väinämöisen laulu - Hautalaulu - Kun muistelen - Lapin kesä

This album doesn't fall short on lyrics. They are provided by one of the most important Finnish poets of all time, Eino Leino. His most beloved poems have been made into songs, performed by popular Finnish actor Vesa-Matti Loiri. He does a wonderful job on this album, I think. Credit goes also to Tapio Wesslin and Perttu Hietanen for composing the music. When I read the poems, I always hear the music. Wonderful, wonderful album. *****

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