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The R.W. Hampton Interview

Essence of a Real American Cowboy

RW Hampton (2)

by Michael Lohr

Cowboy music has been making a strong resurgence in recent years and the man at the forefront of this movement is R.W. Hampton. His rich, baritone voice and exceptional songwriting skills have made him a living legend.

A real, American Cowboy through and through, R.W.’s lived this life. As an ex-cowpuncher on ranches from Texas to Wyoming, he certainly knows what he sings about. With thirteen albums to his credit, including his latest, “Austin to Boston,” he’s won almost every Western music industry award available including the Western Music Association’s Outstanding Male Vocalist award. Most recently, R.W. won a Western Heritage award for “Shortgrass,” the final song on “Austin To Boston.” “Shortgrass” was also named Outstanding Original Western Composition.

Now having been inducted into the Western Music Association’s Hall of Fame at the WMA’s annual Awards Show and Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this past November, R.W. has reached the pinnacle of his profession. In light of this great accomplishment, American Cowboy sat down with the man himself to discuss the ‘path taken’ thus far. Continue reading

The Tannahill Weavers Interview

The Bardic Kings of Scotland

The Tannahill Weavers

by Michael Lohr

When it comes to Celtic music and in particular, Scottish traditional music, the Tannahill Weavers are as celebrated as the Chieftains are in Irish traditional music. Founded in Paisley, Scotland in 1968, the Tannahill Weavers have been touring and recording for almost four decades now. They were one of the first bands to incorporate the predominately solo instrument, the Great Highland Bagpipe, as an integral component to their signature sound. A few years ago, I had the pleasure to see the Tannahill Weavers in concert and in doing so witnessed the power and emotion of the Great Highland Bagpipe first hand. During the performance of the instrumental “Inter-Celtic Set” from the record Epona, when the Great Highland Bagpipe kicks in, the sheer force from the wall of sound leaves you shivering and covered in ecstatic goosebumps. Continue reading

The Chatham County Line Interview

In Search of Southern Fried, Bourbon-soaked, Green Tomato Sandwiches

Chatham County Line (2)

by Michael Lohr

Hillbilly avant-garde could be a term used to describe Chatham County Line. Innovative could be another. Last year they won “Best Country Song” and “Best Bluegrass Band” at the Indy Music Awards and with good reason. Hailing from the burgeoning hotbed of eclectic music, Raleigh, North Carolina, Chatham County Line have forged a sound all their own. One-third bluegrass, one-third country, one-third rockabilly, they have tapped into that special misty mountain muse that first set Bill Monroe down the path to legend.

I had the pleasure to see Chatham County Line perform this past September in Bowling Green, Ohio at the Black Swamp Arts Festival. Their concert performance was breathtaking. The band’s interaction with the audience was something special. CCL make you feel like you’re a close, personal friend hanging out with the band as they have an impromptu jam on their back porch; fried green tomato sandwiches, a pitcher of sweet tea and mason jar of moonshine being freely passed around. Continue reading

Haunting Whispers from Ancient Times: The Jillian LaDage Interview

This image has been prepared on behalf of Artist/Photographer by Lightbox Digital Studio.

This image has been prepared on behalf of Artist/Photographer by Lightbox Digital Studio.

by Michael Lohr

There’s no getting around it, singer/composer Jillian LaDage (pronounced le-Day-ge) will remind you of Loreena McKennitt, and not just for her music. She is the founder of the Tarith Cote record label and is an experienced, touring musician with over twenty years of performance experience. Her debut album, The Ancestry, is a phenomenal album melding Celtic, Classical and Middle Eastern music into a sensational polyphonic experience. As of this publication, it was announced that Tarith Cote signed a European distribution deal with the French folk and world beat label, Prikosnovenie.

The descendent of Scots/Irish ancestry, she took to music at a very early age. In her formative years, she studied Celtic harp under the tutelage of renowned Celtic harpist Kim Robertson. She has since traveled and performed all over the world, including at St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland. I had the pleasure to sit down with her and discuss her musical vision, her career thus far, her debut album, Celtic culture both modern and ancient, and so much more. Continue reading

Listening for a Soul Echo: The Vas Interview

Vas (3)

by Michael Lohr

The musical collaboration between vocalist Azam Ali and percussionist Greg Ellis known as Vas, was a sheer brilliant musical blend of Olde and New World music traditions. Meditative and deeply resonating their music has stood the test of time. On hiatus since 2004, their musical legacy still reverberates across the musical spectrum. Below is an interview conducted with Greg and Azam, at the height of Vas’ popularity.

The musical group Vas has a goal to create a new definition of ‘world’ music. From their stunning debut recording “Sunyata” to the progressive and diverse “Feast of Silence” they have woven together a subtle sound tapestry of otherworldly spiritual verve and atmosphere that sets them apart from almost everyone else. Founded in Los Angeles in November 1995, they signed a record deal with Narada in 1997, and we have been mesmerized ever since. Continue reading

Irij by Meri Tadić: World Fiddle Music

Meri Tadic
Same Zgode …koje se ne mogu dogoditi!
www.irijmusic.com

Former Eluveitie fiddler, Meri Tadić, who was recently interviewed by yours truly in these pages, has released her first full length recording for her music project, Irij. “Same Zgode” is a beautiful mixture of Slavic/Pan-European Folk fiddle traditions and Croatian melodies. For those of you that are only familiar with Meri Tadic’s folk metal fiddling, prepare for a paradigm shift.

“Same Zgode…” has wonderfully expanded upon the glimmering promise of her 2009 Irij EP. In much the same way that Loreena McKennitt’s music is transformational, songs on “Same Zgode” such as “Irudica,” “Nevenko” and “Nights From Jadera” transport the listener to another place and time. “Discipline Of Fire” is emotive and powerful, while the epic “Shades Of A Kingship” feels like a song that should in a Game Of Thrones episode.

Lyrics are sung in both English and Croatian and a translation is available on the Irij website. Also, I cannot overlook the contributions of Meri Tadic’s former bandmate in Eluveitie, Anna Murphy, who performed on and produced/mixed the album.

For the discerning fiddle and world music lover looking for something different, I highly recommend this album.

~ Michael Lohr

Burhan Öçal and the Istanbul Oriental Ensemble – Caravanserai

Burhan Öçal - Caravanserai cover
Soundways/Network
http://www.burhanocal.com/

Turkish music specialist and multi-instrumentalist/composer Burhan Öçal is an expert on the Gypsy musical tradition of Thrace as well as that of the ancient Ottoman Empire. His CD, “Caravanserai”, recorded with the Istanbul Oriental Ensemble, takes the listener on an aural journey across time. Close your eyes and you’ll feel as if you are following a trade caravan across Asia Minor, heading for the Silk Road. Ah, one can just smell the hot camel’s breath, frankincense and burning desert sands. The music is utterly scrumptious faire. If you’ve read Michael Chabon’s wonderful historical novel, “Gentlemen of the Road”, then imagine this music as the soundtrack.

This recording encompasses the musical happenings that would have occurred along each oasis. Songs such as “Hali Dokuyan Kiz”, “Ates Basinda” and “Ya Kerim” convey this feeling. But not every melody is an ode to the lands of Suleyman and Saladin. The song “Askin Sarabi” gives more than a passing nod to traditional Bulgarian wedding music. While “Bozkirda Dugun” has elements of Yiddish klezmer for flavoring. “Caravanserai” is an excellent example of Gypsy (Roma) folk combined with makam and taqsim stylized Turkish classical music performed at its very best. There are many gripping and stirring performances on this CD. “Caravanserai” also has some of the best traditional kaval (traditional Turkish flute) playing that you will find anywhere. Of special note, this was vocalist and clarinetist Ferdi Nadaz’ last recorded work. He died shortly after completing this record. On “Ya Kerim” you bare witness to Nadaz’s lofty, foreboding vocals and haunting, obsidian-dark, spoken commentary. This song is an ode to the ephemeral state of the human condition, the good, the bad and the ugly.

I would also recommend Öçal’s “Sultan’s Secret Door”, as well as his solo disc of 17th century Turkish classical music, “Ottoman Garden” which received the Prix Choc award for musical excellence. If this style of music is of interest to you, do not hesitate to pick up a copy “Caravanserai”.
~ Michael Lohr

Frigg: A Scandinavian Fiddle Troupe

Frigg_Grannen_CD_cover

Frigg
Grannen
www.frigg.fi

Frigg is five Scandinavian fiddlers (four Finnish and one Norwegian) plus backing musicians, who are arguably the best traveling fiddle troupe in the world today. From the shores of North America to the ancient lands of India and Borneo they have performed literally everywhere.

With their album, “Grannen,” they have branched out beyond their Scandinavian roots to incorporate Celtic, Bluegrass and American Roots music into their sound. The album starts off with a bang as Frigg provide a lively interpretation of Swedish folk singer Ale Möller’s “Potatisvals.” “Rajrajraj” is a Hindu folk tale filtered through a modern Finnish musical lens. Those previously mentioned American Roots and Bluegrass elements come into play on the exquisite “Maple Cake Farm” where the interplay between the fiddle and mandolin is a thing of beauty.

On the track “Amurin Tiikeri” or “Siberian Tiger” the mandolin gives way to woodwinds and brass to create an upbeat whirlwind of danceable proportions. There’s no dour Scandinavians to be found here. Surprisingly, touches of jazz appear throughout “Grannen,” seasoning the album with splashes of vivid color.

“Grannen” is Frigg’s most diverse collection of tunes within their discography, and perhaps the most enjoyable.

~ Michael Lohr

Chelsea Wolfe: Pain is Beauty

 

Chelsea Wolfe ~ Pain Is Beauty CD cover

Pain Is Beauty
Chelsea Wolfe
Sargent House
Reviewed by Michael Lohr

Chelsea Wolfe has been making a name for herself these last few years as a raven feathers-clad chanteuse of scrumptiously, stark soundscapes. She is a musical cross-pollination of Joni Mitchell, PJ Harvey and Nick Drake with just a touch of Marilyn Manson. There’s something haunting about her songs, about her voice. Her music is dark, ambient folk rock music that is like an austere thorn to the heart of mediocrity.

She is an uncompromising artist, a dedicated follower of free will. Renowned for performing cover songs of far-afield artists such as Norwegian Black Metal bands Burzum and Gorgoroth, or hip hop legend Notorious B.I.G. and taking on seemingly offbeat projects as being an opening act for Drone Metal band Sunn O))) or Japanese avant-garde troupe, Boris. She even co-wrote the soundtrack to New York painter Richard Phillips 2011 art film with former adult actress turned innovative musician, Sasha Grey. Continue reading

The Russian Wilds by Howlin’ Rain

Howlin' Rain - The Russian Wilds CD cover

The Russian Wilds
Howlin’ Rain
American
Reviewed by Michael Lohr

This album has caused such a disparity of opinion among rock critics. Depending upon who you listen to, Howlin’ Rain is either the “second coming” or a bunch of retro hack Humble Pie/Cream wanna-be’s.

In all honesty, neither scenario is the case. The once side project of Comets On Fire singer/guitarist Ethan Miller, Howlin’ Rain have developed into a bona fide band.

“The Russian Wilds” is quixotic mix of blue-eyed soul, Southern rock, Prog, psychedelic and Rolling Stones/Faces-inspired blues rock. The album is the logical, positive step toward potential greatness. Whereas past recordings meandered about unfocused (a charge Blue Oyster Cult is all too familiar with), this Rick Rubin-produced slab resonates with purpose. It is not a game changer, but rather a bridge. Continue reading

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