Ar Seizh Avel
(On Seven Winds)
(Green Linnet, 1985)
What to call this? Is it Celtic? Breton? French? Balkan? The good news is, this disc is all of these things, and more. This, the second offering from Kornog on Green Linnet, is a feast for the ears, supplying musical excursions across the breadth of Europe, delighting those folks who admire dance numbers in arcane time signatures, and offering as diverse a sampling of flavors as you're likely to find on one disc. All this, and a bombarde!!!
Ar Seizh Avel opens with a set of gavottes from western Brittany. Though the gavotte is normally a dance, the presentation here is not strictly dance oriented, lacking a firm rhythmic beat. The second tune, "Sir Aldingar," is a wonderfully rendered fusion of two variants of the Child Ballad #59, as the Aldingar story is folded into that of Sir Hugh le Blond, with the usual compression rendering this tune somewhat less epic for all of that, but the song actually profits from the compression, as the narrative advances smartly and Jamie McMenemy's vocal steers the condensed miracle play to its expected conclusion. There follow two airs and three ronds (rounds) from that part of Brittany which brushes against Galicia. The airs mark the introduction of the bombarde (a favorite instrument of mine), and the ronds show a deft turn (and return) on the flute. Jean-Michel Veillon is the wizard responsible for both pieces of magic.
Then to Scotland for "Helen of Kirkconnel," a sad tale of love misled, murder and pining. In other words, a classic Scottish ballad, rendered with tender care. Next up is my personal favorite -- "Trip to Flagstaff" showcases the guitar skills of Soig Siberil and features a wonderful bit of figuring on both guitar and the fiddle of Christian Lemaitre. Again to Scotland we travel for a few verses of an old Industrial Age standard, "The Shuttle Rins," and the disc closes with three dances. The first of these, the "Dans Plinn" is a dance which is in chain form, the second is a suite of gavotten from the mountainous regions of Brittany, and the final number on the disc is "Varbishka Ratchenitza," a wicked Bulgarian dance number in the odd time signature of 7/16, which calls for careful stepping.
This disc was issued 15 years ago, and although the members of Kornog went their separate ways a few years later, this record of wonderful dances and ballads stands to commemorate the great music they once made together.
[ by Gilbert Head ]