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Here are some highlights, scroll down for the full reviews :
Alba Griot Ensemble - "The Darkness Between the Leaves"
“a thoroughly impressive project, hopefully just a first installment.” Global a Gogo
“a slow-burning polyphonic guitar trance in conversationwith the n’goni like a Bambara-inflected Pentangle” Financial Times (4/5)
“tender twang and a seamless, international blend of styles. Stunning, softly spectacular” Pop Matters (8/10)
”an unusual combination of 1960s-style folk with the ambience of jazz and the gorgeous jangling counterpointof ngoni and kora” Sydney Morning Herald
“a charmingly fresh and bluesy set” The Guardian
"textured stringed-instrument magic, poetic songwriting and murmuring harmony vocals...soothing, meditative and exquisitely beautiful." Songlines (4/5)
"The strings are graceful, the vocals wistful and the final product is a thing of complex bliss" Radio Nigeria One
Rummage - "Somewhere Else"
"He manages to hop genres at will – raw rock, melodic pop, late night cabaret club ballads, chilled blues and country grooves – but still come out with a cohesive collection of songs which somehow not only feel at home on the same album but also uniquely and intrinsically his own." Dave Franklin, Dancing about Architecture
The Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra
“Swirling, volatile music, awash with synths and scorched to a turn by Mulholland’s guitar” The Wire
“A fluid sound whose energy is hardly contained in the album’s eight tracks.” Sound and Colour
“A joyous wig-out that is part Sun Ra, part Can” DJ Mag (7.5/10)
“The tracks are dominated by Allen’s fidgety, polyrhythmic Afrobeat rhythms, but the Haitian singers and the FX-laden soundscapes of Glasgow guitarist Mark Mulholland take things into other dimensions.” 8/10 Uncut“This album encapsulates a rare, continent-straddling, community spirit. A sure and certain tonic for all.” Daily Mirror
“As refreshing as dip in the ocean...a brilliant album” Clash Magazine “Infectious from the start, as experimental as their name suggests, with some very pleasing results.” Northern Sky
« Mesmerising, just amazing » Janice Forsyth, BBC Radio Scotland
« Fabulous ! I just love it ! Brilliant ! » Genevieve Tudor, BBC Radio Shropshire
« Sublime...un très grand disque » RifRaf, Belgium
« Artistically triumphant » The Telegraph, UK
« Un mariage réussi » Le Nouvelliste, Haiti
« A compelling listen » Lonesome Highway, UK
« Sheer quality and inventiveness » Famous Last Words, Norway
« Expressive, flamboyant and hugely evocative » Americana UK
« Captivating, concise and coherent » Chocolate Hat, UK
« Captivating and entrancing, melodically spiritual » Monolith Cocktail, UK
"Waiting for the Storm"
"A late night masterpiece to salve bruised souls, one of the best albums of 2012" R2
« A remarkable and bold collaboration...dreamily strong » The Telegraph
(album chosen as one of « five summer treats of British folk music » )
"The music will speak for itself – and yield hidden riches over countless return visits" The Irish Times
« Strange and beautiful ...one of those unique records that feel as if you’re being taken on a journey » 6 Days from Tomorrow
« Different, creative, challenging, intriguing, unique and very satisfying » Green Man Review
« Close harmonies and plucked guitars, overlapping gentle songs that soothe and weep » Q magazine
« The more I listen, the more ambitious the whole thing sounds.» No Depression
« There is no doubt about the quality of the music that these guys make » Iain Anderson, BBC Scotland
« The playing is uniformly good » Americana UK
« Timeless, intimate and immediate. A magical listen. » Misfit City
"The Cactus and the Dragon"
“Mulholland is a master of his craft” R2 (4 stars from 5)
"The Cactus and the Dragon, with its shades of dark green and brown and reeking of stale coffee from a roadside diner, is a seriously impressive piece of work.” Drowned in Sound (8 stars from 10)
“‘The Cactus and The Dragon’ doesn’t do much wrong and does plenty that’s right.” Never Enough Notes (8 stars from 10)
« Mark Mulholland is an interesting artist and one worth keeping an eye on. » Folk World Europe
“A ripe collection of tales from the road” Uncut
"Developed and incredibly unique" Mudkiss
"Easily a contender for non-American Americana album of the year." R2 (5 stars from 5)
"A real delight from start to finish" Rhythm & Booze (9 stars from 10)
"Exceptional musicianship and songwriting. Good time music that will bring a smile to your face." Electric Ghost
"Pure joy, pure and simple." Leicester Bangs
"The most authentic-sounding Americana you'll hear this side of the Appalachians." Fatea
"Their three part harmonies are as good as any I’ve heard for a very long time, the songwriting is excellent as is the playing on these varied songs" American Roots (4 stars from 5)
"A skilful album brimful of new and unexpected adventures" Maverick (4 stars from 5)
"I saw Two Dollar Bash. Praised be the Lord" Rootsville (concert review)
Rummage - "Somewhere Else"
Dave Franklin, Dancing about Architecture, March 2016 (Link to original review)
Mark Mulholland last cropped up within the scribblings of this dubious website in regards to his 2012 duet with dEUS ex-pat Craig Ward, the dreamy, baroque collection of drifting folk songs, Waiting For The Storm. Here we find him not only joined by long-term friends and collaborators Rusty Miller and James Finch Jr. from Jackpot but in an altogether jauntier mood.
In keeping with the ever shifting, always evolving nature of Marks work this album is hard to pigeon-hole, always a good start, as somehow he manages to hop genres at will – raw rock, melodic pop, late night cabaret club ballads, chilled blues and country grooves – but still come out with a cohesive collection of songs which somehow not only feel at home on the same album but also uniquely and intrinsically his own.
Scatter-gun approaches to music don’t always work, often they can suggest a lack of focus or identity within the musicians, here though they act to wonderfully showcase the eclectic nature and exploratory musical thought processes of Marks mind. It also begs the question as to what the hell his next album will have to offer."
BBC Radio Scotland, UK, March 2014
« Mesmerising, just amazing ! » Janice Forsyth,
Genevieve Tudor, BBC Radio Shropshire, UK, March 2014
« Fabulous ! I just love it ! Brilliant ! »
Julien Delmaire, écrivain, slameur et présentateur de l’émission « Tropismes », France Ô, February 2014
« L'album est tout simplement un bijou ! La voix de Frankétienne est d'une grande souplesse, elle est juste et puissante. Et la musique est vraiment extraordinaire, originale, inattendue.»
The Telegraph, UK, March 2014 (link to original review)
A round-up of impressive and original new albums from Peter Mulvey, Joe West, Birds of Chicago, David Berkeley and a unique collaboration between poet Frankétienne and Scotland's Mark Mulholland ...
Finally, a mention for Chaophonies de Port-au-Prince, a collaboration between poet Frankétienne and Scotland's Mark Mulholland.Frankétienne is a celebrated Haitian poet and painter and Chaophonies combines spoken word and music. The album is an acquired taste but an artistically triumphant blend of Frankétienne's captivating readings and occasional Créole songs, combined with rock, blues, Celtic and folk, played splendidly by Mulholland and other musicians, including Haitian percussionist Zikiki, Belgian double bassist Hannes d’Hoine and violinist Buni Lenski, French accordionist Olaf Hund and Scottish cellist Nicola Geddes. Martin Chilton
Le Nouvelliste, Haïti, 14 avril 2014 (link to original article)
Chaophonies ou monologue d'un Guédé
Ce samedi 12 avril, le public de Port-au-Prince a découvert à son tour ¨Chaophonies¨, le spectacle poético-musical de Frankétienne et de Mark Mulholland. Des complaintes, des propos salaces, des hommages… sur un mélange de rock, de folk, tel est l'essentiel de ce show inédit.
Quelqu'un qui arrive au milieu du spectacle pourrait croire à un long monologue d'un guédé. Quand Frankétienne ne parle pas de cadavres, c'est d'orgasme qu'il entretient dans un niveau de langage dont peu de gens ont le code.
Dans l'ensemble, Port-au-Prince, notre capital, est personifiée et fait l'objet de la part du poète de toutes les considérations. ¨Port-au-Prince, ville schizophonique, bavarde, infatigable¨. Les propos grivois ne manquent pas non plus: debouboune, deboundare…
Frankétienne rend hommage au tambourineur Azor, disparu il y a deux ou trois ans. Dans la forme, l'oeuvre ne s'éloigne pas de l'écriture "spirale" qui lui est propre.
La musique de fond, signée Mark Mulholand, est une fusion de rock, de folk,...rendue possible par une guitare sèche, une guitare électrique, un maracas,...
Pour ceux qui connaissent Frankétienne, Chaophonies n'est pas très étonant. Toutefois, on salue l'initiative qui est en soi un mariage réussi entre une poésie inaccessible et une musique universelle.
6 Feet from Tomorrow, UK, March 2014 (link to original article)
It’s all about the tannins, apparently. Those cheeky little biomolecules that bob about in red wine that combine with certain foodstuffs to make everything that much tastier, or so I’m led to believe. I don’t see why this shouldn’t be the case with music either – we are more emotionally susceptible when we’ve had a couple, we’re really good at darts when the optimum blood-alcohol level is achieved (although when exceeded, we revert once more. And it’s a very small margin), and different beverages combined with different stimuli provoke different moods. Or at least it does with me.
It may well be a synaesthesia thing, but I can say without any deviation of certainty that this is a Red Wine Album. I know this not because I’d started the wine before the record, but because about 30 seconds into said record, my tastebuds went somewhat, and very specifically, mad so I had to stop, fetch a glass or two, and start over.
As indications of being gripped by a song go, an eleven-minute tale related in a language I don’t understand yet remain rapt by the performance of Tambours Et Ombres Denses is a prime one. Then again, by the time the song arrives towards the back-end of the track list, the listener is already completely at home in a world almost certainly unlike the one they normally inhabit. This is the work of septuagenarian Haitian artist, poet, playwright and actor Frankétienne, and Scottish guitarist Mark Mulholland (himself a current resident of Port-au-Prince), coming together once more to combine their respective artforms. Frankétienne appeared on Mark’s Waiting For The Storm collaboration with Craig Ward in 2012 for one song, and this new album continues in that same vein. The music here is more closely tied in to the Haitian side of things than the previous “Nick Drake channelling Chigley” (which I can honestly describe with a straight face, because that’s exactly what happened), so what we have here instead is something more akin to Hemingway relating a succession of doomed-romance ghost stories in a dead-of-night post-colonial port bar. The heartbeat that precedes the accordion-led waltz of Mots Et Rêves is an apt one, as there’s a genuinely tense feeling of “what’s going to happen here?” about the atmosphere that Chaophonies exudes.
Such is the nature of the delivery of Frankétienne’s words, it’s hard not to get drawn into the worlds he creates even if you can’t understand what he’s saying – passing (to these ears) between French and Creole as and when the situation requires him to do so. Le Petit Train does this so well, his locomotive and percussive performance with the passion with which he puts his words out cross all language barriers. The most curious thing about this record however is that, just when you get used to the mad rhythms and physical manifestions of the music, it all changes tack. The primal Potoprens Chouk is followed by Loco, something that wouldn’t feel out of place on Pink Floyd’s Meddle and it all becomes a bit more pastoral, with Sa Ki Lan Kè Mwen sounding positively country hymnal from the perspective of both voice and music, with Bleu Fou sounding as if it would be right at home on Waiting For The Storm and the epic Tambours Et Ombres Denses having an extended and haunted Three Hours about its patiently-creepy passages.
Chaophonies is certainly one to fire up the imagination and, in my case, the tastebuds as the bottle of red I had with this has never tasted nicer. Even without such accompaniment, Chaophonies is a collection of words and music that welcomes rather than alienates, and is sure to be the subject of many a late-night play. Available to order now from Jezus Factory.
Valérie Marin La Meslée, (journaliste, Le Point, France) February 2014
« D'abord, parce que je réalise à quel point l'éditrice infiniment fidèle à l'oeuvre de Frankétienne, Jutta Hepke, de "Vents d'ailleurs" avait raison quand elle me parlait de l'importance de la voix de Frank pour porter son oeuvre au plus grand nombre, et du désir ardent qu'elle avait de faire lire sur CD ses livres par l'auteur lui-même.
Son public haïtien le sait bien. Je l'ai éprouvé en enregistrant Frank sur France Culture se lisant.
Ceux d'ailleurs qui, comme moi, ont eu la chance de le connaître, de le voir sur scène, de l'entendre, savent à quel point la poésie de Frankétienne est organique et que ce corps de mots est inextricablement lié à sa ville, à sa terre.
C'est exactement cela que "Chaophonies" prouve, en ouvrant encore davantage cette voix puissante, mais qui se fait presque timide et douce aussi, ici, sur les harmonies musicales venues d'ailleurs, métissant ce chant d'Haïti qui nous parle à tous sur un ton nouveau.
Au son de l'accordéon discret, puis de ces blues qui nous font entrer dans la ville dans Port-au-Prince, on entend vraiment la sensualité d'une poésie qui joue jusque sur celle des lettres (les "m"), mais aussi des couleurs, ce bleu qui triomphe de toutes parts. Les rythmes, ancrés sur une ville "couchée", se réveillent et "ça bouline, ça rappe, ça jazz" intensément. Sans jamais forcer.
L'harmonie se produit par la rencontre entre une musique qui joue des racines, des univers créoles, on passe par la Louisiane, on se retrouve en Afrique, et le détour par des sons qu'on croirait venus de Pink floyd ou de Led Zeppelin, nous fait faire un voyage étonnant et toujours favorable au texte.
Bien sur, il y a chaos dans le titre, mais il a aussi phonies qui fait songer à Polyphonies et ce sont toutes ces voix audacieusement mais justement unies, sans provocation, dans la finesse et pas la démonstration, qui se retrouvent dans cet album.
Les auditeurs les plus légers d'oreille en capteront l'atmosphère chaude et pénétrante, les plus attentifs en retireront tout le suc poétique, et c'est ainsi que ce disque peut vraiment amener les novices au "bleu du fou", et à tout ce que Frankétienne a d' « insaisissable, d'intangible », tout ce qui fait sa « fantaisie violente » au coeur de son décor.
Elle s'entend à merveille dans ce voyage né d'une belle rencontre.
Je lui souhaite bon vent ! »
Rootstime, Belgium, March 2014, (link to original review)
Bij alle oorlogsdreiging en nieuwe natuurrampen lijkt het wel alsof de aardbeving in Port-au-Prince reeds lang tot het verleden behoort. Nochtans heeft de hoofdstad zich nog lang niet hersteld van de aardbeving van 2010 waarbij meer dan 200.000 doden vielen. Nog steeds kampen de overlevenden met honger, dakloosheid en de dreiging van gewapende bendes, terwijl zij nog steeds rouwen om verloren geliefden. Toen de Schot Mark Mulholland, geboren in Glasgow, in 2010 in Haïti toekwam om er zich te engageren in jeugdmuziek en andere projecten van het cultuurcentrum van Port-au-Prince ontmoette hij er de Haïtiaanse schrijver/schilder en poëet Frankétienne, een beroemde figuur in het Caribische gebied omwille van zijn culturele activiteiten en literaire oeuvre. In Port-au-Prince leidde hij o.m. een schooltje, waarin hij dramakunst doceerde en zich toelegde op de mengvormen van Franse en Creoolse taal en cultuur. Veel was er niet nodig om twee muzikaal en artistiek aangelegde kunstenaars een vriendschapband te laten sluiten ondanks hun verschillende afkomst. Het leidde tot een gezamenlijk project en de poëtische muziekvoordracht ‘Chaophonies’, een eerste maal opgevoerd in Jacmel, te Haïti op 23 maart 2013. Omwille van het succes besloot men dit project daarna op cd te zetten.
Het betrof een selectie uit Frankétienne’s poëziewerk ‘Rapjazz. Journal d’un Paria’, waarbij gesproken woord en muziek worden gecombineerd met protest, woede en aanklacht, maar ook met liefde en mededogen omwille van de rampspoed die de stad Port-au-Prince, ‘Ville Schizophonique’, overkwam. Jarenlang leed het land onder de dictatuur van vader en zoon Duvalier en na de allesverwoestende aardbeving vier jaar geleden lijkt de hoofdstad met zijn tentenkampen en sloppenwijken nog steeds op een rampgebied. De veelzijdige artiest Frankétienne, geboren in 1936, maakt het allemaal aanschouwelijk met zijn ritmische of gefraseerde voordracht en zijn dramatische stem, waarbij hij zowel aan de Bretoense bard Glenmor herinnert als aan de indiaanse activist John Trudell. Over Frankétienne, de ‘Father of Haitian Letters’, - in 2009 nog kandidaat voor de Nobelprijs literatuur -, zegt men dat het een levenslange odyssee zou vergen om hem te kunnen doorgronden. In 1964 schreef hij zijn eerste gedichtenbundel ‘Au Fil du Temps’ en sindsdien bleef hij proza en gedichten schrijven naast zijn magisch schilderwerk en exposities.
Ook Mark Mulholland is een veelzijdige muzikant, die o.m. deel uitmaakte van het collectief ‘Oul’ Bogwarriors’ in Praag en van het Britse kwartet ‘Two Dollar Bash’. Hij levert de fantasierijke muziek bij de soms gekwelde voordracht van de dichter en maakt gebruik van gitaar en een rijk klankenpalet. Frankétienne heeft de tragedies immers aan den lijve ondervonden. Zijn moeder werd als veertienjarige verkracht en hij zag wat de dictatuur met de mensen deed. Maar in ‘Chaophonies’ bezingt en becommentarieert hij met ingehouden passie hoe de aardbeving zijn ‘Port-au-Prince’ verwoestte. Daarbij lijkt hij met taal, poëzie en metaforen zijn emoties uit te schilderen, afwisselend in het Frans of het Creools zoals in het mysterieuze ‘Potoprens Chouk’. Drum, tamboerijnen, gitaar en stadsgeluiden creëren de chaotische sfeer waarin nachtmerrie, droom en voodoo zich met zwoel Afrikaanse ritmes vermengen. Je ondergaat de voordracht van de dichter als het ware fysiek vanuit zijn krachtige soms wanhopige dictie. Hij reciteert, associeert, hanteert beeldtaal en laat de magie werken met de muzikale omlijsting als visionaire geleider. Zowel het hartstochtelijke ‘Terre Ouvrière D’Ombre’ als het epische ‘Tambours Et Ombres Denses’ klampen aan, maar vooral het fascinerende ‘Le Petit Train’ met treinimitaties en de interactie tussen woord en sound goochelt met beeld en suggestie. Woede, overlevingsdrift en hymne kleuren ‘Chaophonies’, een dramatische lezing over de ’goudou goudou’, zoals de Haïtianen de aardbeving noemen omwille van de noodlotsvoorspellende geluidsdreiging. Alleen het breekbare ‘Peyi A’ is een gezongen melodisch nummer en het laatste instrumentale ‘Rêves’ komt over als een troostgevende uitgeleide omwille van de lange weg die de overlevenden van Port-au-Prince nog hebben te gaan. Marcie
The Herald, UK, March 2014 (link to original article)
Haiti earthquake inspires poetry
A project featuring Haitian poet and artist Franketienne and Glaswegian guitarist, singer and songwriter Mark Mulholland has its Scottish premiere at Alliance Francaise in Glasgow on Friday. Chaophonies de Port-au-Prince promises a dramatic reading of Franketienne's poetic responses to the goudou goudou - the Haitian name for the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January 2010, accompanied by original music composed by the now Haiti-based Mulholland. As well as conveying the resulting chaos, Chaophonies presents a vision of Haiti's emergence from the disaster in words, images, sounds and more. Entrance is free but spaces are limited so booking is essential.
Lonesome Highway, UK, May 2014 (link to original article)
This is a project that has been supported by a variety of enterprises in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Mark Mulholland was born in Glasgow and has been travelling and playing music around Europe and North America for more than two decades. Now living in Port-au-Prince he joins with Haitian poet, dramatist, painter and actor, Frankétienne. Mark composed music for a selection of texts by Frankétienne, and the pair combine this spoken word and music gumbo into a compelling listen. The language is entirely foreign, but the power of the performance, the passion and persuasion of the delivery draws the listener deeper into a world of intrigue and imagination.
Several other musicians appear on the recording, including Haitian percussionist Zikiki, Belgian double bassist Hannes d’Hoine and violinist Buni Lenski, French accordionist Olaf Hund and Scottish cellist Nicola Geddes. There is a ghost-like quality to the arrangements and the freedom afforded the players allows for some fine passages of acoustic and percussive riffing, while keeping interest firmly focused on the delivery of the poet, Frankétienne. Well worth checking out
Famous Last Words, Norway, May 2014 (link to original article)
It’s not everyday that a Haitian poet, painter, novelist, playwright and actor decides to collaborate with an inspirational musician hailing from Scotland, but that’s exactly what Frankétienne and Mark Mulholland decided to do with the album ‘Chaophonies’. The duo’s combined efforts is an 11-track album of literary readings set to music consisting of (creole) folk, indie, blues and with a slight Celtic influence in places. Reading excerpts from his ‘Rapjazz, Journal d’un Paria’, Frankétienne creates a number of guises for the poetic tales of ‘Chaophonies’ that are delivered in an enthralling manner and accompanied by Mark Mulholland’s musical expertise. ‘Chaophonies’ reveals its class from the very start as ‘Mots et réves’ rises like steam from the cobbled streets of a remote village somewhere in the French wilderness during the peak of summer with an impassioned vocal and understated musical accompaniment largely comprising of accordion and acoustic guitar. The strings are wonderfully sombre during the atmospheric and almost western feel of ‘Ville Schizophonique’, which lends itself nicely to the old steam west portrayal of ‘Le petit train’ that sees Frankétienne powering this little number by nearly his lungs alone. Hopefully, the various tales throughout ‘Chaophonies’ are not consigned to a one-off deal, as clearly the Frankétienne – Mulholland partnership is one that has considerable mileage given the sheer quality and inventiveness of this combined effort.
Americana UK,Thursday, 08 May 2014 (link to original article)
French and Creole music and poetry writings compressed into mini-movie like dramas.
Dramatic, flamboyant and sometimes in your face the writings of veteran Haitian literary act Franketienne (poet, painter, actor, and novelist; he has 40 books to his name) is backed by Glasgow guitarist, singer-songwriter Mark Mulholland. An occasional song or two aid the mix of spoken word, often delivered in theatrical fashion. The spoken words and engaging performance of Franketienne and wonderful musical arrangements of Mulholland are well supported. Backed superbly by Haitian percussionist Zikki, Belgian double bassist Hannes d’Hoine and violinist Buni Lenski, French accordionist Olaf Hund and Scottish cellist Nicola Geddes.
Haitian Franketienne expressive readings of his poetry whisk the listener into another world with his French, Creole and more, such his tones. Through Paris’ side streets and coffee houses alongside those closer to home the elder statesmen serves up such fare as ”Terre Ouvriere D’Ombre“, rock drumming rolls of ”Potoprens Chouck“ and with beautiful guitar and banjo, sombre ode ”Sa Ki Lan Ke Mwen“.
Though to be filed under the section labelled World Music Franketienne, Mulholland and the crew lend enough colour and variation for casual interested parties to gain enjoyment. Instrumental ”Reves“ that closes the album with its dirge-like tempo leans towards the French quarter, maybe of New Orleans. Or some area in Haiti that is typical of the pulse of part of the album. The other of course is the expressive and flamboyant fuelled tracks that are hugely evocative, and on occasions cavalier like. Maurice Hope
Chocolate Hat, UK, May 2014 (link to original article)
Intriguing folk blues rock sung in French from singer Franketienne and Mark Mulholland, which takes its inspiration from Franketienne’s native Haiti
Although there is little evidence of this, this album was conceived in tribute to Haïti. The captivating French folk blues music of Franketienne echoes two centuries of the island's 'malheur'. Franketienne, however, sounds like he is singing about Paris, and the influence of 'la ville schizophonique' – Haïti's capital Port-au-Prince – is only there in the background. A devoted homage to his city by any means, Franketienne, however, strikes a universal chord. Mulholland being a Scotsman certainly helps, yet because of Franketienne's eloquence and ease with words you might be tricked into thinking he's French, or from Paris.
Mark Mulholland's orchestration owes much to the Penguin Café Orchestra, Leo Kottke and Ry Cooder, which provides a unique contrast to Franketienne’s frank Frenchness. "Dans mon ventre (...) dans mes tripes" shows that his gut feelings are right. Franketienne's longing for a "ville toute proche" indeed ends in a chaophony but refrains from cacophony, let alone chaos. 'Chaophonies' is a concise and coherent album of Haïti poetry and blues folk, as heard and rendered through Western ears.
Our Daily Bread, Monolith Cocktail, UK, May 2014 (link to original article)
Handicapped from the outset, those French lessons I always threatened to take up still just a distant aspiration, my understanding of the half-narrated half poetically lamented lyrics of the Haitian arts and literature polymath, Frankétienne, prove almost impossible to understand. The fact that it isn’t even strictly French but a close relative, the pidgin cross-pollinated creole, makes it no less unfathomable. All of which should make a review difficult. However, what maybe lost in translation isn’t lost in the delivery, which can be captivating and entrancing or resigned and plaintive.
A grand doyen of Haiti, Frankétienne has busily created a vast cannon of work over the last fifty years, his vocally shrewd protestations and spoken word travails filling countless volumes of poetry and novels. Equally talented with a brush in his hand, acting on both the stage and on film, and even teaching, Frankétienne is an innovative chap with linguistics too: during the heinous Duvalier dynastic rule of Haiti in the late 50s to mid 80s he would adopt a mixed language of both French and creole to evade detection and get away with denouncing their authoritarian reign. It is however his 1999 ‘tortured hymn to Port-au-Prince’, Rapjazz, Journel d’un Paria that is once again given a new lease of life, with the narrated and originally composed musical project Chaophonies.
Complimented by the tentative, and for the most part gently emotive atmospheric backing of guitarist and singer/songwriter Mark Mulholland, a peregrination journey through the rambunctious, scary and sometimes archaic capitol of Haiti is made melodically spiritual and at times even funky. A long way from home, the Glaswegian Mulholland who at various times has bunked up with a host of colorful and hardliner bands in Prague, Berlin and Paris, journeyed west to Haiti in 2010 where he soon hooked up with Frankétienne; striking up a mutually beneficial partnership that has so far included two spoken word/music performances, one of which the ‘Délires d’un Prédateur déchu’was filmed and released as a documentary by the film-maker and fellow Haitian native, Arnold Antonin – who is also currently documenting the life and times of the poet, including extracts from this latest project, for a future DVD release –and a fleeting but lasting guest spot on a Mulholland and Craig Ward collaboration, the Waiting For The Storm LP. As with his guest appearance on the often remarked as a ‘bold’ move ‘Les Belles Promesses’ from that LP, Frankétienne’s distinctive polygenesis verses proved animating and full of sagacious vitriol.
Le Nouvelliste, Haiti, 13 June 2014 (link to original article)
Mercredi 10 juin 2014, à l'hôtel Royal Oasis, passé sept heures du soir, sous une pluie de lumières bleues, rouges, mauves, et jaunes , dans une grande salle habillée de chaises immaculées, patiente un public particulier et audacieux. Particulier parce que trop calme, audacieux parce que se risquant dans une proposition esthétique. A l’affiche, Frankétienne et Marc Mulholland. Chaophonies. Spectacle poétique et musicale.
Emmelie Prophète et Corinne Michaelli, respectivement directrice générale de la Bibliothèque nationale et de l’Institut Français d’Haïti, ont ouvert la soirée. Elles étaient d’une élégance qui troublait, une élégance rouge et noire. Rouge et noir, pas pour parler Stendhal. Mais parce que la dame de la Bibliothèque nationale avait porté une robe aussi rouge que tout le rouge de la vie et que la dame de l’Institut français avait voulu nuancer ce plein de rouge par un ensemble vestimentaire tellement noir, d’un noir d’ébène, dirait l’auteur de « Gouverneurs de la rosée ». Elles ont d'une voix commune- annoncé Frankétienne et Mulholland.
Une voix, une chanson d’antan tenant sa force autant du tonnerre que des tréfonds de la terre a émané du fond de la salle. Petit tressaillement. Un homme avance, lentement. Frankétienne. Sa longue barbe blanche lui donne les airs de tous les dieux que les hommes ont créés. Petit étonnement. Presque personne du public ne s’est retourné pour voir qui avançait. Comme s’il s’agissait d’une mise en scène répétée par les deux artistes et le public. Mulholland, déjà sur le plateau, exigeait de sa guitare en bandoulière un assortiment de sons pouvant envelopper le langage chanté de l’auteur de « Mûr à crever ». Ça part bien. L’aventure a institué son identité, sa marque.
Pourquoi est-on venu écouter Frankétienne ce soir-là ?
L’espace de langage que crée Frank déconcerte, il est d’une grande étrangeté, ne correspond ni au connu ni aux invitations esthétiques auxquelles nous sommes habitués. Le spiralisme. Est-ce donc ça aussi ? On peut rentrer dans les textes par n’importe quel bout. La logique sémiologique s’invente et s’étire dans notre façon de consommer ce qui se passe chez cet homme. Cet homme, ce créateur qui « mange ses silences », « marche dans la rue des pucelles » pour parler de sa ville, « Port-au-Prince en déconfiture, en panne de tout, en décadence. Port-au-Prince, cette ville bavarde, infatigable, débraillée, deboundarée. » « Pòtoprens ki anvi fanm gwo midi.»
Frankétienne a gardé ses yeux fermés pendant les ¾ du spectacle. Comme pour se laisser déchirer par sa parole. Mulholland a changé de guitare de temps en temps. On aurait dit que chacun des poèmes dit par Frank exigeait un accompagnement sonore unique.
Et la part de folie. Une folie créatrice venant essentiellement d’un curieux rapport avec les mots et la syntaxe. Chaophonies a dépassé toutes les bornes canoniques de la langue. Frankétienne a fait, a parlé Frankétienne. Il s’est proposé au monde par un principe risqué. Frankétienne magicriture. Frankétienne deblozay, Frankétienne brèt, Frankétienne brèt brèt, Frankétienne modulant son insomnie à sa façon. Frankétienne tenant un sexe bleu pour éjaculer bleu, oui, une éjaculation bleue. Frankétienne rappant timidement. Pour le plus grand confort du public. Frankétienne mégalomane, Frankétienne fou. Chaophonies.
Rif Raf, Belgium, June 2014 (link to original article)
Frankétienne & Mark Mulholland ‘Chaophonies’Jezus Factory Records/Pias
Gros mois pour les amis de la poésie : d’un côté Jean-Louis Aubert s’entiche, en achetant ses cigarettes, d’un recueil moyen du Goncourt 2010 (‘Configuration du Dernier Rivage’, 2013) tandis que de l’autre, un musicien écossais dont les groupes ont, hum, peu cartonné (Two Dollar Bash, Impure Thoughts, entre autres) décide de mettre en musique l’énorme texte de Frankétienne, ‘Rapjazz, Journal d’un Paria’(1999). Une même idée pour deux résultats diamétralement opposés. Jamais, ni les musiques d’Aubert, pourtant pas si mal foutues – il y a de beaux arrangements de cordes et de cuivres, la kora de l’immense Ballaké Sissoko – ni, surtout, sa voix ne parviennent à faire écho aux mots de Houellebecq. Il y a comme quelque chose de totalement dissonant, une espèce de mièvrerie moche. Et puis, Houellebecq n’ouvre pas la bouche alors que du côté d’Haïti, Frankétienne (dont le vrai nom – Jean-Pierre Basilic Dantor Franck Étienne d’Argent – est déjà à lui seul un recueil de poésie), qui a survécu à Papa Doc et ses tontons macoutes, la ramène aujourd’hui à quasi quatre-vingt balais (il est né en 1936) comme si sa vie en dépendait toujours. D’ailleurs, on pourrait presque se passer de la musique tant la puissance littéraire de l’œuvre se suffit à elle-même. Mais Mulholland n’est manifestement pas un manchot et a su l’exacerber encore, entre réminiscences créoles (‘Mots Et Rêves’), guitares étirées et alanguies, pleureuses, limite Pink Floydiennes (‘Terre Ouvrière d’Ombre’, l’immense ‘Loco’) et rythmiques plus tendues (‘Potoprens Chouk’). On pense parfois à Reggiani. On pense aussi à ‘L’Or Noir’où Nicolas Repac et Arthur H rendaient hommage à Aimé Césaire. Il n’est bien sûr question que d’une chose d’un bout à l’autre de ce très grand disque : tenter de décrire la beauté chaotique, paradoxale et interlope de Port-au- Prince. Combat perdu d’avance. Et donc sublime, forcément sublime
Web links :
Mondomix, France (video article)
Video Clip by Haitian video artist Maksaens Denis
Musiques du Monde, Radio France Internationale (RFI) (interview)
Centre Pétion Bolivar, Haïti (concert footage)
Rob Ellen, Scotland (video interview and report)
Video clip « Ville Schizophonique »
La Danse des Mots, Radio France Internationale
Waiting for the Storm
"6 Days from Tomorrow, December 2012 (link to original website)
(Number 21 in top 30 albums of 2012)
There is a bit of a theme running through the last few records on this list, although I promise that if it was intentional on my part, it was wholly subconscious. For sitting happily at the end of Waiting For The Storm is yet another childhood treat in the form of Chigley’s Biscuit Factory Beer-o-Clock signal The Six O’Clock Whistle, which leads me to hope that this record is the first part of a trilogy. That of course isn’t the only reason why I play this record constantly, the main reason being that this is an incredible baroque collection that fans of Nick Drake should be snapping up by the handful. Taking influences from all over the place and crafting them all into their own incredibly moving sound. At its heart though is a musical travelogue from these two Glaswegian guitarists who have bonded once more after growing up together and then spending their careers moving on their own separate roads, taking on different cultural influences along the way and then meeting up again to create their own musical definition of Home. It’s certainly Scottish in feel, but uniquely distilled into something rather special indeed thanks to the protagonists’ own travels and travails.
R2, November 12, 2012 (print only)
Glaswegian singer-songwriter, and Haiti résident Mark Mulholland teams up with former deus man Craig Ward for an album of gentle exquisite beauty. The acoustic interplay inevitably recalls John Renbourn, and the duo describes this record as « their own take on the British folk tradition », but at times its jazzy undertones recall some of the gréât Windham hill guitar samplers, and, in the délicate vocal harmonies, a grumpier Simon and Garfunkel.
Recorded in Berlin, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Port-au-Prince, the duo is supported in marvellously unintrusive fashion by Belgian double bass player Hannes d’Hoine, and there’s a guest appearance by the Haitian poet, painter, playwright and actor Frankétienne for a vocal on « Les Belles Promesses ».
Seven of the ten tracks are Mulholland originals, with highlights including opener « Something on the Breeze » and the insistent guitar motif of « Icy Shivers » - two sides of a hugely impressive coin. Equally soi s Ward’s « A Strange Place », which carries an atmospheric, twisted blues-guitar figure reminiscent of Ry Cooder at his best.
A late night masterpiece to salve bruised souls, Waiting for The Storm will have you returning time and again, one of the best albums of the year" John Atkin (5/5)
The Telegraph, August 21, 2012 (link to original website)
There is a remarkable and bold collaboration on an album by Scottish-born musicians Mark Mullholland and Craig Ward called Waiting For The Storm. The folk singers and guitarists are joined by 75-year-old Haiti poet and artist Frankétienne on the song Les Belles Promesses. Although not well known in the English-speaking world, artist and poet Frankétienne has star status in French and Creole-speaking countries and was rumoured to be on the short list for a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009. Of the more traditionally folk songs, Secret Places and Watching You Sleep are dreamily strong, and there a sweet instrumental called The Six O'Clock Whistle. Martin Chilton
The Irish Times, Friday, October 12, 2012 (link to original website)
Waiting for the Storm Jezus Factory Records ***
Scottish musicians channelling Bert Jansch and John Renbourn are thinner on the ground than they use to be, but Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward wax folk-lyrical with style on Waiting for the Storm. Mulholland, who now lives in Haiti, draws deep from the well of his adoptive homeland.
His invitation to Haitian poet Frankétienne to collaborate on the elegaic Les Belles Promesses lures his album onto another wistful, otherworldly plain. Elsewhere, Mulholland’s genteel vocals recall Sonny Condell in his Tír na nÓg days, with infinite guitar lines echoing the lyric long past nightfall.
At a time when songs must sell themselves on a handful of hearings, Waiting for the Storm wears its allegiances lightly, tipping its hat towards slide guitar blues on A Strange Place, with louche confidence the music will speak for itself – and yield hidden riches over countless return visits. Siobhan Long
Q, November 2012 (print only)
The careers of Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward have crossed points at various points since the ‘80s, but only now have the two Scotsmen teamed up for an album. This acoustic affair, reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel, is all close harmonies and plucked guitars, overlapping gentle songs that soothe and weep.
Green Man, November 11, 2012 (link to original website)
Waiting for the Storm reunites two boyhood friends whose musical paths have taken them on very different journeys. If the songs here seem like the natural, if chilled out, product of Mark Mulholland, a resident of scrunge-grass band Two Dollar Bash, Craig Wards appearance is less expected. More usually associated with experimentation and boundary pushing via bands such as dEUS, Kiss My Jazz and a whole host of Antwerp’s core alternative bands, maybe it is that curveball attitude that finds him here in the first place. Also in the mix is Hannes D’Hoine, one of the people behind This Immortal Coil’s Dark Age of Love, a wonderful tribute to This Mortal Coil, on double bass.
Obvious comparisons are to the likes of Drake, Jansch and Pentangle, dreamy baroque folk that is both timeless and otherworldly, a wonderfully subdued collection of songs built mainly on the interplay between two acoustic guitars, vocal harmonies and bass. And if it seems to come off on first hearing as a mood album, something to sit in the background in a fairly unobtrusive manner, the more you play it the more ambitious and atmospheric you will find it.
But it is not the actual technicalities that give this album it’s greatest qualities, it is the less tangible factors that shape it, the ones that are hardest to pin down and rightly so. The mystique and medievalism, the late night jazz chill and the ephemeral and delicate nature of the sounds, the shadows that lie in the corners of the songs and the dark paths they sometimes weave are all as important, if not more so, than the musical structures and outer clothing being offered up.
Case in point is Les Belles Promesses were the vocals are taken by Haitian writer Franketienne, delivered in presumably some Haitian dialect and by virtue of the language barrier to most listeners render the voice as an instrument that solos and riffs over lilting and hypnotic acoustic guitars but no less listenable for it’s lack of direct communication.
As they say on the penultimate track, it’s a “strange place to which we have come” but strange isn’t a bad thing, it’s just different, creative, challenging, intriguing, unique and in this case very satisfying.
No Depression, August 23 2012 (link to original website)
Roving troubadours Mulholland and Ward started out as youthful friends in their native Glasgow but they’ve both wandered over many miles and through several musical adventures before getting together again to record this set of songs, their mature response to the British folk of the 60s and 70s that influenced them in their youth. It’s perhaps not surprising that the recordings for this album were made in Berlin, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Port-au-Prince, reflecting as it does the footloose life that these guys – Mark Mulholland in particular – lead.
The sound of this album is defined by the interplay of acoustic guitars from the main men, with Hannes d’Hoine’s marvellous double bass playing underpinning every track. There’s a jazz style to his playing, with a warm, sinuous expressiveness that adds depth and complexity to the relatively simple structures from which many of these tracks are built. I mentioned the twin acoustic guitars leading proceedings because that is the overall impression you’re left with, but I think that’s a mandolin picking out the main theme to The Six O’Clock Whistle (an instrumental), and that sounds like an electric guitar embellishing the hypnotic Strange Place. Other instruments are available, and are used. This latter track is Craig Ward’s song, and an amazing atmosphere is built around a repeated phrase (from Hannes d’Hoine, I presume) on the double bass. It’s the beautiful meshing of the three guys playing that is captivating as warm, liquid notes somehow convey comfort but also the dark hint of something threatening, almost simultaneously. In this way, the dark beauty of Nick Drake’s music springs to mind as a reference point.
Mark Mulholland contributes the bulk of the material and, if you’ve heard his work before, you’ll probably recognise his themes. His manifesto is right there in the opening song, Something on the Breeze: “I’m looking forward to looking back on the things I’ve left behind/From somewhere a little further down the line”. Living for the moment and ever restless for new experiences, his recent adventures have landed him in Port-au-Prince and the more febrile atmosphere in the tropical heat seems to haunt more than one of these songs. Paradoxically, this seems most apparent on Icy Shivers; “things that crawl and things that bite” he sings over a dark, slow-pulsing arrangement, “It’s a long, long time till the dawn”. I’ve found it difficult to enjoy Mark Mulholland’s singing in the past (he’s not the most tuneful, really) but on this album he’s found a way to make his singing fit the arrangements that works rather well. The lyrics come over as quiet musing, a response to the dark threads of the music. And that fits the vibe of the album. One song is a setting for a text by Franketienne, a Haitian writer, and I would guess the language is Haitian Creole – no translation offered though so you just have to go with the pleasing exoticism of the experience.
Mostly, though, it’s the music that really impresses, and the more I listen, the more ambitious the whole thing sounds. Each track has been built with such care and attention to detail that it takes greater familiarity to reveal all that’s there. You get taken to some dark places along the way on this album, which makes the understated joy of The Six O’Clock Whistle a rather special and memorable way of closing the whole thing. These three guys are just embarking on a long tour with this music, and I can imagine that it’s in the nature of the beast that they’ll find new things in it every night. John Davy
6 Days from Tomorrow – September 9, 2012 (link to original website)
This has come as a bit of a turn-up for the books, and no mistake. Again, I was just browsing around – can’t even cite boredom as an excuse at the moment either as I have a stack of good and great recent records & reissues to plough through – and this did one of those inexplicable “standing out without really having a reason to do so” things that end up being far more intriguing than something that leaps off the page with bells and whistles. I suppose it’s my nature to find more fun in being inquisitive about the enigmatic rather than be excited about the obvious, so with that in mind I happily forked out for this one. And, as is the way with these things, I find myself once more pleasantly surprised by what arrived.
There’s a strange pathway that can be carved through people’s record collections sometimes where some of the more obscure artifacts can be linked through most of their shelfbound neighbours through reasons both obvious and spurious: I know of Craig Ward from True Bypass, who I know from Sleepingdog, who I know from A Winged Victory For The Sullen (with a swift diversion via Nu Nog Even Niet), and even that Matroyshka stacking doesn’t really scratch the surface given the myriad other bands and styles he’s dabbled in over the years. I must admit to this being the first time that I had come across Mark Mulholland, but a quick read of his site proved to be an interesting read and maybe a suggestion of how this record came about and also how it sounds.
Both musicians are Scottish, but their wings have spread – Craig spent many a year in Belgium (during which time he spent nine years in the company of dEUS) before returning to Glasgow, Mark is currently based in Haiti. Friends since their teens, their paths crossed more than a couple of times during their travelling years, although these many geographical shenanigans would go some way to explaining why Waiting For The Storm has taken a while to come to fruition: mooted in 2007, recorded in 2010 and 2011, and now released in 2012.
This time spent is evident throughout the record, as it’s an incredibly intricate and patient work. It’s also very Scottish in nature but containing hints and flavours of other countries and cities, suggesting a pooling of reminiscence for the two protagonists. Opening with the delicate Something On The Breeze, there is an unmistakable far-Northern folk feel to the gentle guitar playing, while the vocal melody and harmonies bring to mind the New York of Lou Reed and Simon & Garfunkel. Elsewhere, vocal melodies in All The Doors Are Open and Secret Places strike me as being somewhat Belgian in mood, reminding me of serene versions of passages from Creature With The Atom Brain’s first full album. There’s even room for some late-night deep Southern Blues, A Strange Place evoking everything that its title suggests.
There is a third element to proceedings here, and one that evokes the strongest musical memory: the double bass of Hannes d’Honne has a definite spirit of Danny Thompson about his playing, the spooky Icy Shivers in particular having something of Three Hours surrounding and breathing through it, and in general adding a level of gravity and thoughtfulness to the songs and intricate acoustic guitar playing of Mark and Craig, with the instrumental Black Sail especially benefiting. And finally, Haitian polymath Frankétienne contributes Les Belles Promesses (an excerpt from his 1998 book Voix Marassa), the septuagenarian artist adding his voice to his words to help create a strange and beautiful Creole/Celtic drama.
All in all, this is one of those unique records that feel as if you’re being taken on a journey – a feeling made all the more magical by not expecting that to happen. By the time The Six O’Clock Whistle (and I really do hope that’s a deliberate Chigley reference!) has ended, there’s certainly a feeling of distance travelled that sits well with the listener. Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward have made something rather unique thanks to their separate journeys, linked by a desire to share their origins. I’m looking forward to more musical postcards from them in the future.
Available from the lovely people at Jezus Factory Records or the equally lovely folks at Cannery Row Records, and presumably from shops as well.
Misfit City, 9 October 2012 (link to original website)
“tin roofs, heat and restlessness”
Two guitars, two hushed voices, a looming double bass and a room that moves. That’s all that’s needed.
Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward go way back. In the 1980s, both were ungrizzled Scottish freshmen; teenaged guitarists coming up through roots music gigs in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Their paths have intersected many a time since then, while both clocked up the years and the experience – Mark with a brace of projects including the Berlin Americana band Two Dollar Bash, Craig most famously with dEUS (and spinoffs like The Love Substitutes), While this fuller collaboration was mooted in 2007, it wasn’t recorded until 2010 and 2011, and then went unreleased for a further year. In the meantime the intent hasn’t gone stale. If anything, it’s aged like a good whisky. This album might have been a while in coming, but it’s happily unstuck from the demands of time – just like any long friendship of the kind where a phone call and a kept date in a bar wipes away the years of separation.
Mark and Craig are upfront about their intentions. They’re reviving that strand of British “folk baroque” as played solo in the ’60s by Davy Graham and Bert Jansch, developed by John Renbourn and Danny Thompson in Pentangle, and performed in a shroud of mystique and withdrawal by Nick Drake. ‘Waiting For The Storm’ utterly recaptures that Witchseason glimmer – timeless, intimate and immediate, with the air listening in and the feeling that the songs are at the forefront of a push of story and message.
As guitarists and as singers, Craig and Mark are perfectly matched. Acoustic fingerpicking styles knit together in a generous skein of give-and-take, with each man providing varied electric textures as and where needed. Their quiet, rough-finished voices blur and separate in sighed harmonies, tinged with weariness, a little foreboding and some scarred-knuckle gentleness. Between them, Hannes d’Hoine plays double bass as if it were a straining mast, conjuring up deep thrums, solid gutsy plucking and ghostly bowed atmospherics. It’s very much a three-cornered exchange – almost telepathic in the players’ instinct to play just what is needed and no more.
As for the roots of the record, they drift – and no wonder. Though Mark and Craig are Scottish by origin, they’re wanderers by nature. The stoic discomfort blues of A Strange Place traces lightly over the angst of this lifestyle; the menacing weightlessness of its temporary, torn-up settlings. “Anyone entering this place they might say, / a strange place in which we belong…/ It’s a strange place we do run to, / a strange place to which we do run.” The slithering folk riffs and Simon & Garfunkel harmonies of Something On The Breeze raise up something more of home, via a Lowlands song of roaming and departure. (“Blowing through the open door that I have just walked through, / blowing me along to something new… / Looking forward to looking back on the things I’ve left behind, / somewhere a little further down the line.”)
Under even the dreamier-sounding songs, there’s a Scottish feel of hard lines: an undercurrent of poverty and menace dealt with stoically (“I see the cops on every corner, / people waiting ready to run. / Blue lights flashing out a warning – / someone’ll get hurt before the morning comes.”) Yet most of the underpinnings of the record come from one particular location: Mark’s current home of Port-au-Prince, in Haiti. Throughout ‘Waiting For The Storm’, Haiti breathes itself steamily into the mood and the music – mountains and stagnant creeks; tin roofs, heat and restlessness. There’s an occult foreboding here too, perhaps brought in by the business of living under the threat of capricious flooding, of drumming rain, or of violent passions swelling out of control. The answers flicker through the songs, half-seen, or viewed full in the face for an uneasy moment.
Some of it’s more relaxed; simply sketches and shadings of place and time. The winding sea currents of All The Doors Are Open (with Hannes’ grasping bass anchoring the surges of meter) invoke summer-struck stupor and an urge for motion. “All the doors are open, cars go past outside. / Won’t you take me with you, take me for a ride?… / I gulp down the icy water, drowning in the heat. / Hills lean over the hazy sea, wheels turning to the beat.” The instrumental Black Sail travels in a wave-roll and a dark minor key, telling a wordless story: moods shift weather-wise like bands of sunset and lowering clouds, the accelerations and slowings of the guitars tracked point-by-point by Hanne’s bowed bass.
With the title track, however, more threatening moods gather. “See the vinyl spinning its strange pattern in my head / and I can’t help thinking about something somebody said…” Like a brooding canvas, Waiting For The Storm uses the old expressionist motif of threatening weather to illustrate roils in the spirit, but leaves us hanging and expectant. “The sky is getting darker and the glass begins to fall. / The flicker of the candle’s throwing shadows on the wall… / Siren in the distance, the evening air is cool. / The bottle’s almost empty and the ashtray’s nearly full. / Waiting for a moment when it all begins to spin – / voices in the darkness, waiting for the storm to begin.”
Although the Haitian setting offers ravaged scenery and wild elements aplenty, Mark and Craig are ultimately too subtle just to use it as an exotic stage. In their lean words, they imply that most of the trouble a nomad might find in places like these might actually have been brought along in his own baggage. Secret Places, certainly, is caught up in its own space – one of obsessive passion, affirming “there’s no after, no before, /each time we pass through this door. / Nothing matters anymore – / each moment burns more fiercely than the last.”
Haiti gets to speak for itself as well. Amid arco bass rumbles and a stew of electric guitar atmospherics and acoustic webbing, Les Belles Promesses sees Mark, Craig and Hanne take a step back so that Haitian laureate Frankétienne can take centre stage. Working in smouldering wreathes of text from his own ‘Voix Marassa’, the old man recites and declaims in an impassioned, mesmeric French Creole like a voudoun Baudelaire, calling out razors and toadstones, sickness and fire, rocks and struck matches. “L’acidite de l’ombre… l’obsession des long voyage impermanences au bout du sexe, la passion du danger dans le sang, la fascination de riske… au-dessus du desastre.” Even at its height it remains honest, clear about the swings of raw fraught instinct.
So it is that the remaining two songs are left to their own devices. Icy Shivers comes from the armpit of a bad night – a circling lick; scribbling, edgy double bass harmonics; and moonlight-drop electric guitar, both ominous and omen-ous. “Things that crawl and things that bite / my thoughts as black as the sky tonight – / oh, it’s a long, long time until the dawn… / Dead of night the city sleeps – / waters still, a bargain deep.” Elsewhere, in Watching You Sleep, the devils are scratching away at a hard-won peace. Mark sings, as soft as anything, the pillow talk of a devoted lover – “you, your head lying on my shoulder, hear you breathing soft and clear. / I don’t care about tomorrow just as long as you are here,” – but hints at darker things abandoned in order to find and keep this haven. Even if they’re not stalking after him, there’s still a haunting. “I put the key in my pocket / and walked away from what came before. / A tune was running through my head / a song I can’t remember anymore. / I heard the sounds that go round the valley / hints of something far behind. / Something I wasn’t aware of losing / now I keep on trying to find.”
As other people’s violence stirs in the street, Mark’s narrator feels the pull of it and with a quiet, heartbreaking determination he asserts his love over rage. “I don’t want to go and get in a fight / I just want to stay with you tonight… / Don’t want to make nobody cry, / I just want to watch you where you lie.” The words are simple or even banal on the surface. The sentiments behind them, as sung, are subtly devastating. A reedy fuzz of electric guitar solo, one of the only ones on the record, seals the deal with hulking, sweating fingers.
There is an eventual respite from this darkness. Full of chuckling mandolins, The Six O’Clock Whistle is a jaunty folk instrumental with a hint of a reel (plus a nod and a wink to the childhood innocence of ‘Chigley‘). Sitting at the end of the record, it lifts the pressing atmosphere of the rest of the songs, drawing you away from the mesmeric night of memories, fancies, booze and shadows. Still, it’s the latter that remains with you: a baroque spell of sketchy lines, disquiet and stirred emotions, with some lines flapping free and others coiled too tight. A magical listen.
Mudkiss, September 2012 (link to original website)
Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward - Waiting for the storm
There seems to be a bit of a folk revival on at the minute. That British kind of folk that was massively popular in the late 60’s and early 70’s, Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention et all. Fleet Foxes and Midlake seem to have taken up the mantle and Mulholland and Ward seem to have followed suit.
Album opener, ‘Something on the breeze’, well written and nicely played, sets the tone for the rest of the album. Sparse, dreamlike, intricate musical arrangements, played with skill and lots of feel, so much so that the vocals sound layered to support the music, rather than the other way round. This isn’t particularly a criticism, just different. ‘All the doors are open’ follows suit and then the haunting instrumental ‘Black sail’. Most of the album has duel vocals, quite a difficult thing to achieve when the two voices are both male, and of a similar texture. But the two manage to pull it off quite well. The excellent ‘Secret place’, ‘Icy shivers’ and the unusual ‘Les belles promesses’, complete with French dialogue, and then, title track, ‘Waiting for the storm’. It’s not until track 9, ‘A strange place’, that we hear a solo voice, and although not the strongest, it is distinctive and so draws the listener in. Final track, ‘The six o’clock whistle’ a gorgeous, uplifting instrumental piece that dances, joyously out of the speakers, as if freed from the toils of a hard days graft. It may have been a conscious decision to put the two, more unusual tracks, at the end of the album but I can’t help feeling they could have been used to better effect elsewhere, to show more of the diversity that this duo possess. All in all, a good album that grows with each listen, and for those who like their folk dark and tense, this one is for you. Review by Les Glover
Beat Surrender, August 15 2012 2012 (link to original website)
Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward - Waiting for the Storm
Friends since their youth when both were playing in bands in and around Edinburgh and Glasgow during the tail end of the 1980′s Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward musical journeys have seen them brought together at various points including working together on Mulholland’s band Two Dollar Bash third album Lost River which Ward produced, Ward then toured with band in North America in 2007, during this time they planted the seeds of a an idea to record an album together, drawing inspiration from their shared love of influential British folks icons Pentangle and Nick Drake. Over a series of recording sessions in Berlin, Antwerp and Rotterdam Waiting for the Storm took shape, featuring ten orignal tracks, including a pair of instrumentals the album has been released by Berlin label Cannery Row Records and London-based Jezus Factory Records, Mulholland is currently residing in Haiti where is working on a number of projects that include a collaboration with Frankétienne a renowned poet, dramatist, painter and actor, who makes a guest appearance on the album on a spoken word piece.
Ward & Mullholland are playing a series of dates in the UK from the end-of-the-month and will be joined by Hannes d’Hoine who plays double bass on the album.
Fatea, September 2012 (link to original website)
Walt Whitman once wrote 'There was never any more inception than there is now'. Waiting for the storm is a collaboration of two artists, each bringing together their deepest values and purist confessions.
Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward have known each other since adolescent and since beginning personal careers in the music industry, have crosses paths at various points within the past few decades. Personally, this in itself is poetic and the basis for a long lasting friendship and potential partnership.
There is something beautiful about hearing a musician fret slide across the neck of a guitar. Second to appear on the delightful album; 'All the doors are open', offers beauty at its purist with peaceful riffs and the sense of complete contentment.
The introduction of 'Secret Places' has nothing more than a soothing and beautiful guitar instrumental piece while lyricism is taken back to basics with rhyming couplets, Mulholland takes lead with his rough and vigorous vocals.
Mulholland and Ward have put everything they have into this beautiful compilation, proving that albums like this should be given the recognition they deserve; it is very common for artists like this to slip between the cracks.
This fine album was mastered in city of Berlin, perfectly crafted, though still has the air of a old recording, as though recorded on a reel to reel, few songs have such depth that background influences are placed accordingly, whether a mistake or not; it makes the album astounding. Louise Draper
Americana UK, 4 September 2012 (link to original website)
On topic duo
Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward have a number of bands and many years of making music between them, and can trace their friendship back over twenty years. Both have a great affection for the late sixties folk sound of groups like Pentangle, and are admirers of that great wave of British folk guitarists - Graham, Renbourn, Jansch et al - and it this mutual interest that "Waiting for the Storm" celebrates.
With the addition of Hannes d'Hoine on double base they make a more than credible bid to fit right into that folk-jazz milieu: you could easily be fooled into thinking this was some long lost minor release from the heyday of Transatlantic or Island
The playing is uniformly good, and on several songs there are licks which mirror or reference well known songs by Pentangle or Davey Graham - on "All the Doors are Open" they even echo Crosby's "Guinevere". The playing style is very much a blend of the aforementioned guitarists, so it moves elegantly and is easy on the ear - particularly good are the two instrumentals "The Black Sail" and "The Six o'clock Whistle". There is some tentativeness round the vocals on some of the songs and though they aren't anything stunning there's nothing wrong with them, as is revealed when they bite the bullet and let their singing voices shine a little more such as on "Secret Places". It is the guitar playing that will linger in the mind though.
It's curious though - this slightly jazzy sound once would have been the cutting edge of folk, and now it appears as a solid set of mature songs. Is that such a bad thing for a mature set of musicians to produce? I don't think so, and it's refreshing to hear someone playing this style straight without shovelling on musical gewgaws for adornment.
6, Jonathan Aird
Lonesome Highway, August 13 2012 (link to original website)
Both Mulholland and Craig have long and varied careers which encompass playing with and in variety of musical projects. They got together over a mutual love for the music of Pentangle and Nick Drake and others of the English folk club scene.
The duo are joined here by double bassist Hannes d'Hoine to create a tapestry of guitars underscored by the sonorous, dexterous bass. They mix skilled instrumentals with subtle and gently-voiced songs written largely by Mulholland with a couple of contributions from Ward. This is the sort of music ideally suited to a live listening room or to a quiet sitting
room, where its ambience can fill the room and even allow reading or another quiet pastime whilst absorbing the playing skills of the participants.
The music made by the duo is subtle, and as such, is not going to make too many waves in the music world. Rather, it exists in its own space, one that will be of interest to those who appreciate music on a different level to that which requires hype or decibels to make its point. Whilst awaiting the storm you can enjoy that which comes before in the company of some fine players and their collective music.
Live at Troon (concert review), UK, September 2012
When guitarists Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward took the stage with double bass player Hannes d'Hoine you could have heard a pin drop. Their ultra mellow sound almost defies description. Best just to say this was musicianship of the highest order. If you haven't come across these guys before I urge you to seek them out immediately.
BBC Radio Scotland - August 2012
There is no doubt about the quality of the music that these guys make. Iain Anderson
Reviews of "The Cactus and the Dragon"
R2, UK, September 2012
As if he wasn't busy enough playing with Two Dollar Bash and working on youth music projects in Port au Prince, Mulholland has also found a window to release his second solo album, « The Cactus and the Dragon ». Dylanish of voice and a fleet-fingered acoustic picker, the peripatetic Mulholland recorded the Album in Berlin, Antwerp and San Francisco, but again it hangs together beautifully.
Whether it's the gently Latin-flavoured « Another Falling Star », the rollicking country of « Middle Lane Driver, the barroom piano jazz of « Footsteps On The Stairs » or the psychedelic power-pop of « Something New », Mulholland is a master of his craft. Micky Clark (4 stars from 5)
Folk World Europe - March 2012
Although there is a title cut finishing off this album, the title also gives a nice nod to the musical feeling established throughout the record. The cactus of the western plains is there, but there is also an exotic, worldly touch with the guitar sounds and deep in the mix accordions that gave me a bit of the Eastern feel of the dragon. The tempo directs things toward laconic folk rock. There is a nice mix of electric and acoustic guitar between the songs. The vocals are perhaps a bit too laid back at times, but they have a nice quality that keeps things a bit dreamier than the usual folk-rock album. The title cut closed this out in fine fashion with its Decembrists meet Spiritualized feeling. Mark Mulholland is an interesting artist and one worth keeping an eye on.
Drowned in Sound, UK - Feb 2012 - 8/10
I sat down to write this review of Mark Mulholland’s new album at around midday today; it is now 18:55. The problem I’m having with writing this preamble is that I’m about to start discussing a twenty-first century indie-folk singer, a description that will no doubt bring forth memories of the likes of Camera Obscura and Scottish contemporaries Belle & Sebastian: in other words, twee farts of nothing that should by rights have you running for the nearest rusty scalpel with which to remove your own ears. But then I’d quite like you to keep reading this, so please disperse said images from your mind and give this album a chance.
Mulholland’s second record The Cactus and the Dragon may have the same roots in American folk pop as his contemporaries, but that’s where the similarities end. This is going back to the darker side of folk; scratched and discordant vocals – some his, some guest – that echoes Waits and Dylan (albeit with perhaps slightly more polished edges), an acoustic guitar that sounds surprisingly ominous... songs that aren’t in the key of C! For an album recorded in Berlin by a Scottish troubadour who has spend as much time wandering Europe as Mulholland, The Cactus and the Dragon has a surprisingly pungent scent of Americana.
This may not have the same kind of wretched desperation of Rain Dogs or the doom and dread of I’m Your Man, but even at this album’s lightest moments there’s a definite sadness: ‘Haunted Feeling’ intertwines soft guitars and an accordion beautifully, but talks of “reaching out for things that are gone, and they won’t come back’, and at the other end of the scale the urgently psychedelic title track closes the album with a fraught confession that “’The bottles on the board stand like pawns in front of me”.
It’s clear from just one listen to the album that Mulholland has a range of influences and enjoys a huge number of styles; what’s impressive is his ability to draw on them and create a collection of music that is, whilst varied, undeniably his. His voice and style lay somewhere between Leonard Cohen and Mark Kozelek, although the lounge piano, drunken vocals, slide guitar and hi-hat-heavy jazz drums on highlight ‘Footsteps on the Stairs’ are perhaps closer to Wilco’s ‘Jesus Etc.’. There’s also a sense of the epic looking to burst through on a couple of tracks: ‘Floodgates’ and ‘World Spins Round’ with their searing guitar solos could easily have tipped over into self-indulgent Matt Bellamy-like wankery, but do well to rein themselves in at under four and three minutes respectively. The Cactus and the Dragon, with its shades of dark green and brown and reeking of stale coffee from a roadside diner, is a seriously impressive piece of work. Dan Lucas
Never Enough Notes, UK - Feb 2012 - 8/10
Mark Mulholland certainly gets around. The Glaswegian globetrotter seems to have roamed and played over much of the surface of the globe, currently making his home in Haiti. There’s a mainly country/folk flavour to the collection, exemplified by Middle Lane Driver, a wry slice of country and western with a dark twist at the end while the strings of ‘Sweet Taste’ and lounge jazz piano of ‘Footsteps On The Stairs’ show that Mulholland can be poignant or ironic, and straddle a genre or two in the process. Across the whole record lie his husky, deep Dylany vocals, with more of Nashville than his roots in his accent. He can never be accused of hanging around too long on one track or padding out the record with weaker material. There are some nice lead lines scattered throughout, as befits someone who plies his trade as an axeman for several bands.‘The Cactus and The Dragon’ doesn’t do much wrong and does plenty that’s right.
Leicester Bangs, UK - Feb 2012 - 7/10
The nasal, Dylanesque vocal twang adopted for the opening track, "Why D'You Treat Me This Way", gives way to something less novel on "Haunted Feeling", which has a wonderful accordion and acoustic guitar accompaniment. At first I thought them just too laconic, but they’ve grown on me, particularly the latter. "Floodgates" has a fine psychedelic-type sound, and "This Time Of Night" is an instrumental with inspired strings supporting the acoustic guitar - all very dashing and quite beautiful. "Something New" has a sparkling electric guitar. "Firelight Fantasy" is back to a more Dylan-esque delivery, with a touch of Donovan - good tune, good number, although way too short. Then, right at the end, the title track raises the psychedelic flag. Suddenly, there’s a ‘wow’ factor. It’s off the scale compared to the rest of the album, a titanic track that could sit alongside anything done by any psych band, past or present. Out of ten, “The Cactus And The Dragon” scores a respectable seven.
Uncut, UK - Feb 2012 - 3/5
A ripe collection of restless tales-from-the-road, the default style on his second solo LP is classic American roots-rock, heard to best effect on the laconic « Why d'you treat me this way », an inspired homage to Dylan's « Things have changed ». But there are shredding psych guitars on « Floodgates » and the title track, jangle-pop on « Something New » and Jansch-like fingerpicking on « Another Falling Star » Nigel Williamson
Mudkiss, UK, Feb 2012
The Cactus and the Dragon is Glaswegian Mulholland’s second solo album, it is dark and brooding. His vocals echo a strong sense of nostalgic Americana, so strong that he could have been mistaken as American. There are many strong points to this album, for example ‘Haunted Feeling’ which is truly haunting, with accents of atmospheric accordion, and ‘This Time Of Night’, a gorgeous interlude containing beautiful violin. ‘Footsteps on the Stairs ‘is the stand out track though, it’s a jazzy number, it’s keys tingle your senses and vibrate extraordinarily in your ear drums. The Cactus and the Dragon is an interesting mixture of genres. Whatever influenced Mulholland was certainly something special, as his sound is developed and incredibly unique. - Lydia
Q, UK, Feb 2012 (3/5)
When not recording and touring with country-folkers Two Dollar Bash, Scot Mark Mulholland runs a tandem solo career. His second lone effort, « The Cactus and the Dragon » (Cannery Row), mostly follows a rockier singer-songwriter path, although both folk and country appear on (respectively) « Another Fallen Star » and « Middle Lane Driver », a satirical pop at middle aged commuters « listening to Sussudio » on their way home.
Reviews of "The Devil On The Stairs" (2008)
Rock'n'Reel, UK (4/5)
Troubadour is absolutely the right label for Mark Mulholland,
This expatriate Glaswegian, based in Berlin, takes time out from
his English language bookshop and his Cannery Row record label
to deliver a fine collection of bittersweet songs. An inventive,
melodic guitarist with a warm and expressive singing voice; flashes
of Jansch, Perrett, and Dylan; conjuring long languid afternoons
and melancholy drawn-out nights in distant cities.
He's surrounded himself with excellent players, whose virtue
is to support sparingly as required. There's the splendid Australian
percussionist Chris Hughes from Fatal Shore, the violin of Orla
Mulholland, the organ of Chris Russell, along with members of
Mark's two bands Impure Thoughts and Two Dollar Bash. And inside
the prevailing ambience there's a delightful variety of styles
which unfold gradually to reward the attentive listener.
We find blues in '4 In The Morning' and 'Night Train', a sleazy
jazz vibe to 'Hands Of The Clock', and rock guitar in 'Drowning',
and it's all good. But best is the folk-hued material: the scene-setting
'Slip Through My Hands' and 'On The Road That Brought Me Here',
'Another Face, Another Place' with its insistent echoes of Roy
Harper, and the gentle, lovely 'When It's Over'. Nick West
Maverick magazine, UK (4/5)
Under-rated, yet rightly revered in certain bar-rooms
More than a passing acquaintance of Dave Kusworth and fallen frere
Nikki Sudden on their itinerant trails through Europe’s
sour marshlands and dingy dens of iniquity, Mulholland spins similarly
hypnotic and forlorn tales of heartbreak and longing in the face
of ephemeral female fancies and self-inflicted failures lucidly
and loosely spun from the foul, frothy end of flagons of wine
and whisky but with a far folkier and blues-laden furrow.
Largely solo on acoustic with accompanying smatterings of harmonica,
woozy organ and fiddle, this is a plaintive collection of log
cabin laments and park-bench plainsong that belies the itinerant
minstreling that has apparently been Mulholland’s path.
Heavy-lidded and sallow-eyed with a voice fraught with experience
but weathered with the warmth of a certain wisdom, this is a great
late-night reflective collection, incandescently candlelit and
replete with swirling psych tinges of the early Roy Harper—though
any hallucinatory effects seem more from alcoholic delirium than
acid—or Robert Wyatt and desultory poetry of Townes Van
Zandt. Sure, there are undeniable shades of Dylan, but however
much so the inescapable spectral beauty unveiled on centrepieces
such as the title track, Hands Of A Clock and aching Don’t
Want To Hear You Laugh is akin to denying, for instance, Mike
Scott or Steve Earle’s power to affect an audience just
because they share an affinity to certain songwriters past. A
deluxe edition includes an extra disc LIVE AT THE TWELVE BAR,
a lone affair with a slew of different tracks to the album, helping
make this a truly special purchase as well as being a perfect
setting for his basement narrations of love’s nomadic roads.
« among the most inspiring musicians that I have ever had
the pleasure to perform with” Nikki Sudden
« …vielfältiger und versierter Liedermacher…….ausdrucksstarken
Songs und beeindruckende Stimme…..eigenständige und
zugleich abwechslungsreichen Musikstil » Ost-Thüringer
« Musik eines glücklichen Reisenden
Greiz – « Happy on my way »-Glücklich auf
meinem Weg- sang Mark Mulholland in seinem ersten Lied. Eine gewisse
Lebenszufriedenheit, die zu spüren und zugleich Biografie
ist. Denn der gebürtige Glasgower lebte unter anderem in
England, Frankreich, Irland und seit 1996 in Berlin. Viele Jahre
arbeitete er als Strassenmusiker und spielte in verschiedenen
Bands. Am Freitagabend musizierte er im Greizer Peanuts.
Sein erste Konzert in der Region, wie er erzählte. Auch deshalb
Grund genug, genauer hinzuhören. Ein Mischung aus Folk, Blues,
Country, Jazz und Rock hiess es in der Ankündigung. Und die
hielt, was sie versprach. Allen voran steht das solide, abwechlungsreich
und stimmungsvolle Gitarrenspiel Mulhollands. Gekonnt wechselt
er von rhythmischen Songs zu melodischen, spielt das eine Mal
kräftig, um im nächsten Titel nur ganz zart und sanft
die Saiten zu zupfen. Ebenso unterschiedlich ist das musikalische
Repertoirer, das der Liedermacher beherrscht.
Sicher, der überweigende Teil der Titel muss der Singer-/Songwriter-Abteilung
zugeschrieben werden. Aber gleichermassen klingen bluesige und
Keltische Weisen an. Und der jazzige Anteil beschränkt sich
nicht nur auf zwei, drei Akkorde, die den Anspruch aufrecht erhalten
sollen, sondern Mulholland greift tatsächlich Jazz-Titel
Die meisten der vorgestellten Songs hat er selbst geschrieben.
Sie zeugen von einem eigenständigen Stil und erzählen
Alltagsgeschichten vonLiebe, Leid und Sehnsucht. Doch auch einige
Coverversionen von Bob-Dylan- oder The-Byrds-Songs reihen sich
in sein Programm. Titel, die Mulholland nicht einfach kopiert.
Er schenkt ihnen eine neue, eigene Ausstrahlung. Nicht zuletzt
durch seine Stimme, die hier und da an den grossen BoB Dylan erinnert.
Fakt ist: Seine Stimme setzt er nicht minder vielfältig ein
wie sein Gitarrenspiel, einmal relativ hoch, klar und durchdringend,
dann wieder rauchig. Und auch sie verleiht den Titeln Ausdruck
und Emotionalität – wie naturlich ebenfalls auf seinen
CD-Produktionen zu hören ist. Vor zwei Jahren ist die letzte,
„On The Road That Brought Me Here“erschienen, die
neue kommt Ende März heraus, „Devil On The Stairs“
(Teufel auf den Stufen) lautet ihr Titel. Eine musicalische Bereichung
im CD-Ständer stellen die Tonträger auf jeden Fall dar,
wie auch das Konzert in angenehmer Erinnerung bleiben wird, wenngleich
es von den Peanuts-Gästen mehr Aufmerksamkeit verdient hätte.“
Karsten Schaarschmidt, Vogtlands Anzeiger
„…songs such as „drowning“ are well familiar
to anyone familiar with MM‘s frequent live shows, but this
version has a touch of the Black Crowes about it, and sounds great.“
Nikki Sudden, CD review in Bucketfull of Brains magazine
„locker, lässig, leicht…….frischen, unverkrämpten
Spielweise…“ Concert review Ost-Thüringer Zeitung
with two dollar bash:
R2, UK September 2012 (5/5)
Two Dollar Bash have been in existence for nigh on fifteen years but, with their three members spread across Europe and Haiti, it's taken them time to come up with their fourth album. And yet with Mark Mulholland, Joe Armstrong and Matt de Harp contributing their own songs fairly evenly, « New Adventures » is a surprisingly cohesive set.
Opening with Armstrong's fiddle-led instrumental « Skunk River Rag », Mulholland's title track sets the scene for the rest of the album, with its late-period Byrds 'cosmic cowboy' feel.
Recorded over various on-the-hoof sessions with a revolving door of guest musicians, including fiddle, organ and pedal-steel, the quality of songs is superb throughout, with Armstrong's « Same Old Lie » and the Wilco-ish ballad « Pioneertown » being particular standouts. Easily a contender for non-American Americana album of the year.
Rhythm and Booze, UK, April 2012 (9/10)
This week has been full of listening to wonderful new discoveries and reaquainting with a few old favourites, one such newbie (well to me anyway) is the wonderous stripped down sounds of Two Dollar Bash, a trio of singer-songwriters (two Scots and a Frenchman) combining to create delicious rootsy folk and stripped back country.
The band originally formed back in 2003, since then they’ve performed all over Europe and the US, taking in three successive years at the prestigious SXSW Festival in Texas along the way. The band have also found time to release three critically acclaimed albums before heading bak into the studios last summer to begin writing their fourth full length release, New Adventures. The band members took their time writing and recording their latest album, recording when time and location permitted (the three members are scattered across different continents),the band could have recorded their contributions separately but prefered to gather in one place when available, in a bid to make something more intimate.
And in truth the first word I’d use to describe this mostly acoustic affair would be intimate, followed by warm and perhaps spellbinding, you see Two Dollar Bash seem to have taken a 60′s era Laurel Canyon folk influence added a touch of straight up country, thrown in a few barroom dust kickers and come up with a uniquely organic, spirited and somewhat deliciously raw sounding roots album that lovers of say Guthrie, Cash, (Harvest era) Neil Young, CSN or Dylan will lap up in their droves.
The album opens a short snappy instrumental that features finger plucked banjo, acoustic guitars and sawing fiddle, setting the mood brilliantly for the rustic treats ahead. Two Dollar Bash follow up with the stripped back Americana of the Mark Mulholland helmed title track, complete with a lovely harmony enriched chorus and an instantly infectious melody that instantly compells your foot to tap whilst you gleefully hum along. Matt de Harp crops up next with the shit kicking straight up country of Blame It On Me, a track that could have been lifted straight out of Nashville with it’s combination of banjo, fiddle and world weary vocals.
From there on the aformentioned Mark Mulholland, Matt de Harp and fellow songwriter Joe Armstrong offer up a fine selection of prime time folk, stripped down country and rousing roots rockers from the gorgeous early morning sun-kissed San Francisco Morning to the twanging country rock of Same Old Lie via the Dylan goes country like duet (with Sister Chain) Floating Through and then there’s the driving Beatles-esque rock of Take It From You, showcasing a completely different side to the bands sound.
Whilst it would be easy to digest each and every morsel on here, it’s only right I leave something for the listener to discover for themselves, however I will say that no review of New Adventures would be complete with a mention of the traditional Irish drinking song influenced Rolling Down The Road, a rollicking folky tale of drinking and avoiding trouble or the brilliant heartfelt and poignant singer-songwriter fare of Foster’s Goodbye.
New Adventures is a real delight from start to finish as Two Dollsr Bash manage to combine all the essential elements of roots in one handy package.
Maverick (UK) 2012 (4/5) (link to original page)
It's not the first time that the Europeans and Caledonians have produced high quality Americana folk-country music, where you could close your eyes and hear Neil Young or CSNY; think Ed Vanderveen, think Cosmic Rough Riders. The difference with Two Dollar Bash is that you recognise the references but you get much more besides. NEW ADVENTURES is an exuberant 21st century showcase for three highly talented young musicians-two Scotsmen, Mark Mulholland and Joe Armstrong, and a Parisian, Matt De Harp. They started to play music together nearly twenty years ago, busking in the streets of Prague and have honed their skills and abilities ever since. Between them they play an impressive array of acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, mandola, harmonica, bass, mandolin, 12 string guitar and percussion-all of which feature to dazzling effect on this album.
It's a brave and neat touch to open an album with an instrumental but that's exactly what Two Dollar Bash do here. "Skunk River Rag" is a lively banjo and fiddle driven piece that would make a fine companion to the classic film soundtrack number from the forty-year-old film DELIVERANCE, the unforgettable "Duelling Banjos." Each band member shares in the songwriting credits. Mulholland penned six of the album's tracks and Armstrong and De Harp contribute four each. They also take turns as lead vocalist throughout the course of NEW ADVENTURES. The title track is one of those songs that grow in stature with repeated listening. Its Byrds-like 12-string cadences and harmony laden chorus could make it a strong choice as a single off the album. Another Mulholland track that really resonates is "San Francisco Morning" with its Dylan-esque JOHN WESLEY HARDING simplicity. The lyrical use of city vignettes has real charm with lines such as 'Austin in the sunshine. There's parties everywhere. Just dive into the music and come back up for air.' A string quartet motif adds to the beauty and timelessness of this song.
There's a quirkiness and sense of introspection to some of De Harp's songs that is reminiscent of the work that the late Ronnie Lane did with his post-Faces band, Slim Chance. Added to this is a certain jauntiness a la Lindisfarne. "Blame It On Me" would sit nicely beside the 1975 single "Don't Try 'N' Change My Mind" while the delightful banjo and harmonica driven "Time With You" is a song of which Alan Hull would have been proud. Original songs yes, but with a mighty fine ancestry!
My favourite track on the album, however, is Armstrong's "Pioneertown." It begins with a fine electric guitar riff that reappears throughout the song. The lyrics are wistful and elegiac and the heartfelt vocals and soaring melody are clearly inspired by the best rock balladry of Gram Parsons. The final two songs on this excellent album contrast strongly with each other. "Take It From You" has all the hallmarks of two hoary old English 1960s bands with the opening garage-style, guttural, rhythm-guitar-stuttering phrases from The Troggs' "I Can't Control Myself" spinning forward into a pop lyric that Ray Davies might have penned for The Kinks' 1966 masterpiece FACE TO FACE. The album closes with the gently reflective "When We Wrote Letters." This final track begins with a sensitive guitar picked phrase as Mulholland produces a nostalgic lyric of how life and love used to be, in the vein of Paul Simon's "The Dangling Conversation." The delicate thoughtful piece completes this set of adventures with quiet and confident assurance. NEW ADVENTURES has clear threads that lead back to other songs, other musicians, other times; yet it is a modern album that ties and loops bygone talents into a tapestry for today. Two Dollar Bash have woven together a skilful album brimful of new and unexpected adventures. Simon Beards
Electric Ghost, UK, April 2012
Their extensive repertoire spans a range of styles including country, blues, folk, bluegrass, rock'n'roll and swing.
The result is a sprightly album with exceptional musicianship and songwriting. Good time music that will bring a smile to your face. Lee Edwards.
Leicester Bangs, UK, Mar 2012
Hey hey, my my! Having just released his solo album 'The Cactus And The Dragon' (reviewed for Leicester Bangs recently by yours truly), here’s Mark Mulholland again, together with Matt De Harp and Joe Armstrong, who make up Two Dollar Bash. There’s a strong cast of ten in the wings as well, who all contribute something to what I can only describe as glorious, ramshackle (in an off-the-cuff way) Americana. The album could have been made yesterday, as the title track and "Take It From You" demonstrate, with such a freshness about them, all bright and shining; or half a century ago (a century ago even!), as "Floating Through" (my favourite as I write this) and "Blame It On Me" reveal their heritage. The tracks tumble out of the speakers, paying no heed to building up a sound, as if the band just turned up, tuned in, and decided to play whatever came to mind from their own personal repertoire... or so it seems. Yes, all of these tracks are written by them, all are original, individually penned by one of the band, and shared in the making.
There’s nothing on here that’s overly derivative ("San Francisco Morning" reminds me of The Schramms, mainly the string arrangement and the vocal, and somewhere else I caught a glimmer of John Prine, but that’s it). There’s nothing on here that is second rate. These fourteen songs are pure, heartfelt beauties, of a matchless, quirky variety, with quality assured, with that ever so slightly shambolic edge that enhances the authenticity of the music. Pure joy, pure and simple.
Fatea, UK, Mar 2012
How's this for cosmopolitan? Two Dollar Bash [presumably a variation of Dylan's Million Dollar Bash ?] are four former buskers [three from Glasgow and one from Paris] who got together in Prague and are now based in Berlin! What's more they play the most authentic-sounding Americana you'll hear this side of the Appalachians.
Their sound is a combination of folk, country and rock and sounds like the Gram Parsons version of the Byrds circa Sweetheart of the Rodeo with Nashville Skyline period Dylan thrown in for good measure. If you like banjo, mandolin, guitar and harmonica with harmony vocals on top, you'll love this.
The album opens with an instrumental "Skunk River Rag" ,which ,as its title suggests sounds like the soundtrack to a western movie . The first song, title track "New Adventures " sounds to me as though it could be an outtake from "Notorious Byrd Brothers " with its chiming guitars and deep harmonies. Excellent stuff!
Next up is the bluegrassy "Blame It On Me ", complete with banjo and fiddle which put me in mind of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. "San Francisco Morning " is an atmospheric acoustic guitar and strings ballad which is just lovely. TDB then launch into "Same Old Lie", a country rock song that wouldn't sound out of place on a Gram Parsons album.
There is a change of style on "Rolling Down the Road", which has a Celtic folk feel to it ,which refelects its subject matter [drinking in Belfast].It also features some fine mandolin . Similarly, "Keep Holding On" has a folky feel with some great harmonica, which reminds me of early Lindisfarne.
Apparently, Two Dollar Bash evolved in Prague in the early 1990's from an acoustic band with the delightful name of The Oul' Bogwarriors. In the years that they have been touring together ever since , they have clearly developed their songwriting, playing and singing skills to a very high standard. If you like authentic-sounding American roots music, give this a listen, I'm sure you won't be disappointed.
American Roots, UK, Mar 2012 (4 stars from 5)
If ever an album evoked the early days of country rock, for me at least, its this one. Ever since the first play, bands such as the Byrds, Burittos, Poco and the lesser known but equally talented Goose Creek Symphony among many others have come to mind. What makes this album even more of a pleasurable listen is the fact that there are only fleeting glimpses of these bands that ‘invented’ the genre. There is no copyist element at work, with this being, within the constraints of that loose genre a highly original recording that pays homage to the past but is very much an album for this century. You could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps one member of this talented trio hails from the Appalachains and the other two from maybe Los Angeles or perhaps San Francisco, but you would be very wrong. Mark Mulholland and Joe Armstrong are both Scots whilst Matt De Harp is a Frenchman!
Their three part harmonies are as good as any I’ve heard for a very long time, the songwriting is excellent as is the playing on these varied songs, with an instrumentation and lead vocalist that seems to change on every track. The songs are all highly melodic band originals with Mulholland contributing six, Armstrong four and De Harp also four. As regards the music, all three handle vocals, with Mulholland also playing acoustic guitar, banjo, electric guitar and mandola, De Harp plays acoustic guitar, mandolin and harmonica and Armstrong handles acoustic guitar, bass, electric guitar, banjo, 12 string guitar and percussion. There are snatches of 1960s ‘garage rock’ blended with a little psychedelia from that same decade, even at times having a distinct folksiness just to keep things even more interesting, in fact it would be easy to believe that Two Dollar Bash are a late 1960s or early 1970s west coast band that have cracked time travel but updated the sound on arrival in the 21st century! Not only have they mastered the various aspects of the various styles from that period but they also bring some originality as a bonus.
Some may still say that it is on the edge of being derivative (what music isn’t in some way?) but they have a natural feel for what they play and some of the instrumentation is quite inventive, with that added bonus of some very good original songs. There is a distinct lack of drums on most of the songs and pedal steel is only used on one track, almost qualifying them as a ‘string band,’ but one that plays and sings in a countryish rock style, thus adding more credibility to my ‘originality’ claims! Not everything works perfectly but credit them for trying different elements. On a couple of songs the lead vocals didn’t seem quite right and on another couple the vocals seemed a little deep in the mix, but there is always a saving grace such as the instrumentation having a different feel or the tremendous harmonies easing out every little nit pick.
The songs themselves cover various aspects of life relating to the downtrodden including lost love, even including geography lessons with the excellent San Francisco Morning namechecking San Francisco, Austin, New York and Paris whilst another, the mandolin driven Rolling Down the Road is set in pubs in and around Belfast, yet still fitting easily under the ‘country rock’ banner. The scene is set for something just a little different with album opener, the unusual and melodic instrumental Skunk River Rag with amongst other things some lovely banjo sounds, which is then followed by the albums title track New Adventures, nice mellow sounding country rock with excellent vocals and gorgeous harmonies and jangling guitars making it slightly reminiscent of the Byrds. A slight criticism of this song is that the lead vocals seemed a little far back in the mix and the instrumentation a little ‘busy’ but still a good song. My first impression of Blame it on me, was that it had a similar feel to a band such as ‘Goose Creek Symphony’ and several other early country rock bands with its excellent acoustic instrumentation that includes fiddle and banjo and slightly edgy vocals almost making it defineable as ‘Appalachian country rock!’ Same Old Lie struck me as being a real throwback to the days of Gram Parsons, with its classic country rock sound and vocals similar to Parsons, straining but full of emotion and commitment.
It would be easy to describe every one of the fourteen songs in such glowing terms, but hopefully the point has been made about this excellent album. Probably labeling this album as ‘country rock’ is a little deceptive. Certainly that generic term is where its foundations lie but there is so much more to the music of this tremendously talented trio that I now understand, is in the process of becoming a foursome!
Rootsville, Belgium, Oct 2009
"La grande force du band réside dans le fait que chaque élément écrit ses propres chansons et peut chanter en lead singer, les autres faisant les choeurs ou les harmonies.
Le set y gagne en variété et en intensité. L' interaction entre les quatre protagonistes est phénoménale , sans oublier de mentionner leur magistrale maîtrise technique ...
I saw Two Dollar Bash , praised be the Lord!" Michel Preumont (concert review)
Jazzwise, UK, Sept 09
„Constant touring and a swag of confidence-building rave reviews have fine-tuned the foursome's already formidable songwriting skills and enhanced their earthy, richly textured sound. Recorded in a farmhouse in the Czech Republic, this excellent third album has all TDB hallmarks – literate songs, versatile musicianship and good honest music, delivered with the sheer joy of playing. Think acoustic guitars, lap steels, harmonicas and banjos. Alternating lead vocals and straight-up harmonies. Think a European version of The Band, or a modern day Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.“ Jane Cornwell (review of „Lost River“)
Maverick, UK, Feb 2009
"...the group’s organic, authentic sound provides plenty of moments to savour, taking in folk, country, blues and acoustic rock ... this has the potential to impress any fan of uncontrived, richly-textured roots music."
MazzMusikaS, Belgium; Jan 2009
“...one of the best European acoustic folk/country bands. The four musicians...are not only outstanding instrumentalists and singers, but also very talented songwriters.”
Brand New Country, BBC Radio Scotland, June 2008
"I really enjoyed this album, and I think you will too... it's a really great sound" Bryan Burnett, introducing "Lost River"
No Fences, Germany, February 2008
"Echte Musik mit Herz und Seele von echten Musikern mit Herz und Seele" Christine Helmeke
Green Man Review, USA, December 2007
"This is heartfelt and very true Americana, and I bet they do a good live show." Gary Whitehouse
Songlines December 2007
The blue, blue grass of Scotland and Berlin
This is good ol' time American music. There is blues, folk, country
and chugging R'n'B in here. The auras of Canned Heat, Woody Guthrie,
Neil Young and Springsteen waft on the breeze. And ... there is
an echo of the Rolling Stones down-home bluesy vibe in here. ..Two
Dollar Bash consists of three Glaswegians and a Parisian (who
does, tantalisingly, sing a great, uptempo blues number - "Roulez,
Roulez" - in French, midway through the album) based in Berlin...
This is classic, big skies and bar rooms American music, and
that is no bad thing. There are evocative songs here with harmonies,
mandolin, banjo, guitar and particularly good harmonica playing
from Matt de Harp.
Jazzwise September 2007
"What with their downhome laments, impressive three and
four part harmonies and exemplary banjo pickin', Two Dollar Bash
could be lifted straight out of the Appalachians. Turns out they're
a – wait for it-Berlin-based acoustic/folk/country band,
originally from Scotland and France, having evolved out of Prague
collective The Oul' Bogwarriors. No yee-hahs, then (well, except
for a few near yodels on the toe-tapping, harp-heavy „Old
Mail Train“), just great original songs, fine musicianship
and a wealth of influences ranging from North American folk blues
and country with Celtic and European styles. Ex-buskers all, the
four wield their different combinations of guitar, drums, mandolin,
banjo and the rest to beguiling effect. Stand-outs include the
see-y'all later track „Taking a Taxi“, the poignant
ballad „Rosalyn“, the chugging „Ticket to Vilnius“.
Intelligent lyrics tell of loss and longing, love and friendship,
and always, of packing bags and moving on. The world is a musician's
oyster, after all." Jane Cornwell
Sächsische Zeitung, November 2007
Americanischer Sound mit Europaischer Seele - die Band Two Dollar
Bash spielt genau das morgen Abend ab 21 Uhr in der „Alten
Bäckerei“ am Grosshennersdorfer Sportplatz. Die vier
Musiker von Two Dollar Bash stammen ursprunglich aus Schottland
und Frankreich und vereinen in Ihren Songs Einflüsse aus
dem nordamerikanische Folk, Blues und Country, aber auch Keltischer
und europäischer Stilrichtungen. Unplugged und bis zu vier
Stimmen fasst Two Dollar Bash der intuitiven und expressiven Spielfreude
freien Lauf. Ihr Handwerk haben die Bandmidglieder bei längeren
Aufenthalt in Dublin, Prag und Grenoble in verschiedenen Folk-,
Punk-, Rock- und Swingbands erlernt. Die Erfolge der Band können
sich sehen lassen. Im September 2005 gewann Two Dollar Bash den
„Rising Legend Award“ des 30. Old Time Country &
Traditional Music Festival in Missouri Valley (USA). 2006 wurden
sie als eine von vier Bands weltweit für ein Showcase zur
“International Country Night” auf der Popkomm in Berlin
ausgewählt. 2007 begann mit Auftritten in Irland, Belgien
und Deutschland, gefolgt von einer ausgedehnten Tour durch die
USA und Kanada auf den renommierten Musikfestivals South by Southwest
in Austin (Texas) und der Canadian Music Week in Toronto.
Rootstime magazine, Belgium, September 2007
De heren van Two Dollar Bash spelen al sinds 15 jaar samen in
verschillende combinaties. Heden ten dage verblijft de bende in
Berlijn terwijl er toch geen enkele Duitser te bekennen valt in
de groep. Hun landen van oorsprong zijn Schotland (3 leden uit
Glasgow) en Frankrijk (één bandlid uit Parijs).
Dit notoire gezelschap bestaat uit Tony Rose (gitaar, zang), Matt
de Harp (mandoline, harp, gitaar, zang), Mark Mulholland (banjo,
mandola, gitaar, zang) en Joe Armstrong (gitaar, bas, zang). Zoals
je ziet: allemaal gitaristen en zangers en zo treden ze ook meestal
op (zie foto), mooi naast elkaar zittend met elk een gitaar (of
banjo) en een microfoon. Hun repertoire omvat een hele resem muziekstijlen
zoals country, blues, folk, bluegrass, swing en rock’n’roll.
In september 2005 wonnen ze de “Rising Legend”-award
op het Country and Traditional Music Festival in Missoury Valley,
Iowa. Vorig jaar deelden ze de affiche nog met namen als Patti
Smith, Snow Patrol en Antony and the Johnsons op een groot popfestival
in Engeland. De heren zijn uitstekende muzikanten die beïnvloed
werden door de Noordamerikaanse folk, blues en countrymuziek maar
die toch een eigenheid meegeven aan de originele nummers die ze
op hun twee albums “Two Dollar Bash” en “On
The Road” voor de toehoorders etaleren. Op het debuutalbum
“Two Dollar Bash” van vorig jaar zit de cowboysound
vervat in “Old Mail Train” en “The Devil And
The Angel” en de ballads “Taking A Taxi”, “One
Day I’ll Be Gone”, “Rosalyn” en “Ticket
To Vilnus” vertellen over reizen, over de liefde en over
vriendschap. Twee coversongs op dit album : “White Freight
Liner Blues” van Townes Van Zandt en “Mountain Song”
van Louisiana-singer-songwriter Jimmy Bozeman. Ook de nieuwe CD
“On The Road” gaat op de ingeslagen weg voort. 13
songs waarvan 11 eigenhandig geschreven zijn en “Whisky”
van Russ Miller gecoverd wordt. “I Am A Pilgrim” is
een traditional in dit countrygenre die voortreffelijk gebracht
wordt in een Springsteeniaanse Nebraskaversie door Two Dollar
Bash. Mijn favoriete songs op dit album zijn “Put Your Hand
In Mine” en “Wayward One”, beiden geschreven
door Mark Mulholland en de New Orleans-cajunversie van “Roulez-Roulez”
met mondharmonica en wasbord, geschreven door Matt de Harp, die
ook verantwoordelijkheid heeft voor het mooie “So Blue”
en het al even mooie “Time To Go” (met heerlijke banjoriffs).
Two Dollar Bash is een gezellige bende die rustig en ongestoord
verder bouwt aan een muzikale carrière die spoedig wel
eens zou kunnen worden verder gezet in Amerika, het thuisland
voor dit muziekgenre.
www.dorfdisco.de November 2007
Es gibt sie noch, diejenigen, deren Welt schon morgens schlecht
und unverändert gegen einen ist, gleich was man dagegen unternimmt.
Diese, im amerikanischen als "Country" bekannte Sichtweise
der Dinge ist auch die von Two Dollar Bash. Kein Lied in dem nicht
von irgendeinem Trübsal oder Unglück die Rede ist, kein
Zustand, der nicht von heilloser Leere und deren unvermeintlichen
Abrutschen in Alkoholismus zeugt. Und wenn man schon unter einem
Wolken verhangenen Himmel auf die Sonne wartet, dann tut man dies
als gestandener Mann, dem nicht viel anhaben kann, keine unglückliche
Liebe und auch kein tragisches Schicksal. Denn anhänglich
sein, oder gar jemanden auf die Nerven fallen, das ist das Letzte
was der dieser Haltung innewohnenden Ehrenkodex vorschreibt. Und
so leben und spielen Two Dollar Bash abseits jeder Beachtung durch
die Medien ihren Country und Folk vor ein paar Berliner Gleichgesinnten
in den gleichen dunkelgrauen Stoffmänteln und klobigen Schuhen,
deren Welt längst vom Fortschritt aufgefressen wurde. Was
bleibt ist diese traurig schöne Mundharmonika, das durchgehende
schwirren der Westerngitarre, das ab-und-zu anziehende Banjo und
das nur selten, und wenn dann zart zu vernehmende Schlagzeug neben
den ehrlichen, vom vielen Zigaretten, Bier und Whisky geschmirgelten
Stimmen von Tony Rose, Mark Mulholland, Matt de Harp und Joe Armstrong.
Gott hab sie selig will man sagen, wäre diese schon zweite
CD in einem Jahr nicht so herausragend gut, dass sie damit bis
nach Nord Amerika touren, auf das South by Southwest Festival
eingeladen werden, während ihnen in Berlin gerade mal ein
Gig vor 10 Freunden im English Bookstore Friedrichshain bleibt.
Twangfest, Nürnberg, festival announcement July 2007
"Was für ein Gedicht! „Two Dollar Bash“
sind eine schottisch/französische Band aus Berlin und spielen
Old-Time Country mit akustischen Instrumenten. Stellt euch einfach
vor, „Dillard & Clark“ machen eine Session mit
den „Byrds“ zu Zeiten von „The Sweetheart of
the Rodeo“ mit Gram Parsons. Dann rührt und schüttelt
es zusammen, und heraus kommen die unglaublich fantastischen „Two
Dollar Bash“. Was für ein toller Flow! Sie sind es!"
Properganda Magazine, UK
Introducing album "Two Dollar Bash"
Fresh from their riotous and rapturously received appearances
at this year's South By South West festival (Austin) and Canadian
Music Week (Toronto), this three parts Scottish to one part French
quartet are ready and raring to continue their plan to take the
roots/Americana world by storm.
Their blend of folk, country and blues combined gorgeous three
and four part harmonies has won them critical acclaim as well
as several prestigious awards. The band's constant touring has
honed their craft and the songs featured on this album are ample
proof that their time in the transit van has been justifiably
spent. The giggin doesn't show any sign of letting up just yet
and the band will be in the UK for some summer festivals, including
the Wychwood festival.
There are many highlights but cuts like the Johnny Cash imbued
'The Devil And The Angel', opener 'Waiting For The Sunshine',
'Old Mail Train' and the oft covered, Townes Van Zandt penned
'White Freight Liner Blues' burn brightest.
About album “On the Road“
"Kommen drei Schotten und ein Franzose nach Berlin –
was machen sie? Träumen von Amerika, natürlich! Jedenfalls
was die Mischung betrifft, die nun auch auf ihrem Zweitling wieder
zu hören ist: Country, Cajun, Folk. Dazu schon von der Herangehensweise
ein ordentlicher Schuss Rock ’n’ Roll, wenn auch strikt
unplugged. Das aber ganz volle Kraft voraus!"
Lolo Wood, music journalist
About album "Two Dollar Bash", May 2007
"The sounds of downbeat country-influenced Americana are
now such a part of the average musically-savvy listener’s
vocabulary that it’s easy to forget how refreshing it was
10 years ago to hear bands admitting to being influenced by Hank
Williams, Woody Guthrie and even Gram Parsons. And it’s
too easy to bypass another band with banjo, mandolin and harmonica
in their ingredients when they’re now such common currency
by every bandwagon-jumper taking a stab at “authenticity”.
But Two Dollar Bash have a licence to give out a button-badge
reading “We’ve Been Doing This Since Before It Was
Trendy” with every copy of their eponymous album.
Organically sprouted from an early 90s Prague-based acoustic
band with the wonderfully evocative moniker The Oul Bogwarriors,
Two Dollar Bash are three Scots and a Frenchman who intuitively
pick up on the nuances of American country, folk and rock that
can trace a direct lineage back to the folk music of their own
countries. They have a natural instinct for simple, haunting melodies,
with narratives revolving around road trips, ailing relationships
and the eternal internal battle of good and evil. The Devil and
the Angel is a beguilingly old-fashioned up-beat lament about
one man’s fight to be good in the face of temptation in
the shape of whisky and women that would not be out of place on
an early Johnny Cash record.
Although they have earned those button-badges by immersing themselves
in the music and imagery of rural America, their own urban roots
and the individual members’ foray into wistful indie and
dirty rock’n’roll occasionally cheekily pop their
heads over the parapet. Mark Mulholland’s inventory of “a
packet of biscuits, an old tin of beans, a sackful of memories
and a handful of dreams” sounds more like the contents of
Belle & Sebastian’s tour bus than the cargo of a wagon-train,
while the exuberance put into their take on Townes van Zandt’s
White Freight Liner Blues reveals a band who could just as seamlessly
knock out a Stones or Stooges tune with the same aplomb.
Mulholland’s fragile, Dylan-tinged vocals sit comfortably
next to Tony Rose’s deeper, more authoritative tones, but
both pin down the emotional intensity that this kind of music
thrives on. Just because it’s been done before doesn’t
mean it shouldn’t be done again, and again, if you really
B y Lolo Wood
Review from Canadian Music Week (8th of March 2007)
"Next up at Rancho Relaxo came Two Dollar Bash. Comprised
of three guys from Glasgow and one from Paris who are all currently
living in Berlin, it was a bit intriguing that their sound is
self-described as folky americana. With harmonicas, guitars, and
mandolins at hand, their songs were of an ever-changing style.
First they had a classic country western sound, and then they
morphed to old time rock and roll sung in French, before settling
on a sound that seemed strangely like that of Holly McNarland.
Despite the spontanaety, or perhaps because of it, this entertaining
set invoked images of eating in a rusty spoon diner while on a
road trip to nowhere".
"Scrunge Grass rules and Bush gets lambasted!
I Am A Pilgrim’ is a traditional song that’s given
a Springsteen like ‘Nebraska’ feel, who in turn must
have given it his own spin. The opener ‘Sacrifice’
shows off Matt de Harp’s skills on the harmonica. He’s
aptly named. The title track and ‘Whiskey’ have interchangeable
guitar breaks and are pretty much the same. ‘Abstinence
Blues’ displays some fine picking whilst encouraging people
to do other things and not consume alcohol. A good idea for us
all this time of year.
However the stand out track is ‘So Blue’ which unfortunately
includes the f word, so alas I can’t
play it on my radio programme. ‘Long Time Coming’
is also another stand out, with some mighty fine banjo picking
coupled with insightful lyrics. ‘Roulez Roulez’ as
you’d expect, brings the Cajun feel to the album and is
up there with the better ones. Two of the three best songs have
been written by de Harp".
Date review added: Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Reviewer: Phil Edwards
« This group… is pretty folky in their approach to
music, but it’s the same kind of original folk creativity
that Bob Dylan had when he started.(…)Some really strong
acoustic guitar. Lots of energy in their work, and some very poignant
words in their lyrics. Come see us two dollar bash, we have a
stage with your name on it. » Bob Everhart, in « Tradition
», newspaper of the National Traditional Country Music Association,
with Impure Thoughts:
“What music is really meant to be about”
Noel Maurice, Pirate Radio Berlin
« Impure Thoughts have the gift for the kind of gorgeous
harmonies that will have you crowing along after just one listen
… they rock »
XL Music Magazine, Dublin
« These guys fucking rock »
J.Mascis, Dinosaur Junior
« Mark Mulholland plays stinging lead guitar in a syncopated
and staggered rhythm that has no comparison in contemporary rock’n’roll