GROOVES & CUTS – Danish National Symphony Orchestra’s Spaghetti Western Tribute
NOVEMBER 2021 – By John Apice
One of the most magnificent reproductions of composer Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western themes was performed by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sarah Hicks & Danish National Concert Choir. Their performance of the main theme from Sergio Leone’s “The Good, the Bad & the Ugly,” is impeccable. Recorded live & captured the atmosphere & mood perfectly, and dramatically.
The original score performed by Morricone & the commercial hit release by Hugo Montenegro back in the 60s though excellent, this performance brings the music into the 21st Century & shows just how classical this Morricone music is.
The two female solo vocalists (mezzo-soprano Tuva Semmingsen & 2nd soloist Christine Nonbo Andersen) are exceptional. The orchestra soloists all have their parts down solid. Nearly 89 million views & as far as I know, no CD release as yet, just the live concert clips on YouTube.
Not stopping with this, the orchestra also performed a medley. The melodies lifted from Sergio Leone’s second epic film “Once Upon a Time In the West.” It begins with haunting harmonica notes. The Danish Orchestra spills tension throughout the concert hall & then unveils the beauty of many of the Morricone melodies that made the film powerful. Just a few notes from any Morricone score & most people know what film it’s from.
This performance features Ms. Semmingsen (mezzo-soprano) again who effortlessly sings the lullaby superbly from the film. Look at her earrings – she has silver 6-shooters that hang from her earlobes. I guess she really got into it.
The Danish National Symphony Orchestra is a world-class orchestra. Their brilliance at reproducing such music with all the necessary sound effects & emotion is remarkable. They play with unbridled perfection throughout.
Nine Mile Station with Scarlet Rivera – “Santa Ana Winds”
Nine Mile Station with Scarlet Rivera has a new song “Santa Ana Winds,” (Southside Records) already available on streaming platforms. Written & produced by Will Hawkins & Fernando Perdomo.
The song features Hawkins (vocals), Scarlett (violin), Fernando (lead guitar/keys), Brendan Vasquez (bass), Nick Moran (drums) with Durga McBroom (backing vocals).
Drenched in tight instrumentation it captures an intense atmosphere with expertise. It builds & builds on the music like a bolero. Hawkins, as always, is a strong aggressive singer who keeps the tune attractive with his Tom Waits meets Jim Morrison performance.
The haunting element is the decoration provided by Ms. Rivera with its enticing gypsy flavor, a Tex-Mex tint, & a moody approach often displayed by bands like The Blasters, the Cruzados, Tito Larriva & Tarantula.
The video has B&W noir scenes including the classic Orson Welles “Touch of Evil” where Charlton Heston plays a Mexican prosecutor caught up in the mystery of his American wife’s disappearance & his dealing with a crooked, alcoholic, disheveled investigator (Welles). A well-done mix of eras.
Will Hawkins showcase gives it lift & if he’s the vast canvas of these performances, Rivera, as always, adds the color. https://www.ninemilestationmusic.com/
Eva Cassidy – Live at Blues Alley
For many who have never heard of the pristine voice of Eva Cassidy (who became more known after her tragic passing from cancer) discovering her few albums is worth the effort. Eva started as a highly polished female vocalist who sang lovely songs with a beautiful voice. But she challenged herself singing the blues & surprised many.
The release of the 25th Anniversary remastered CD (Drops Dec 3-Blix Street Records) is the last LP released during her lifetime. These songs never sounded better. Recorded in Washington, DC January 3, 1996, just a few short months (Nov) before her death at 33.
In a documentary about Eva, she was praised by the likes of Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac). She’s an American singer admired by the English the way many Americans admire their tragic English singer-songwriter, Nick Drake.
Cassidy, with her good acoustic guitar playing, was always superb, & though there may be some songs that didn’t suit her style as sharply some songs were stunning. Her live rendition for example of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Vocal control, tonality, phrasing – she had it. She had everything but luck. This voice was not able to interest any major label. Isn’t that amazing? Her catalog has since sold 11 million units worldwide. Not bad for an unknown artist. Posthumous fame at its most acute. Record executive decisions at their most out of touch.
From this live show, it was evident Ms. Cassidy could perform & entertain (“Cheek To Cheek”). It was evident as well that she did it far better than many renowned performers. She took songs from another era & updated them with energy & intonation that breathed new life into each.
With Cassidy were Lenny Williams (piano), Keith Grimes (guitar), Chris Biondo (bass), & Raice McLeod (drums). Her celebrity has risen so high since “discovered” by internet listeners & word of mouth her work has since been praised. (USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Jazztimes).
The 13-cut CD should motivate a listener to find her other CDs with songs like “What a Wonderful World,” Sting’s “Fields of Gold,” (Sting praised her cover) & her stunning “I Know You By Heart.” All jewels.
Color image of Eva courtesy of Shutterstock. The 57-minute CD: available at Amazon/Bandcamp &
Christa Couture – To Us
A little quirky in the tradition of Laurie Anderson, Jane Siberry mixed with Jewel & Paula Cole this award-winning songwriter & survivor, the resilient Christa Couture’s music is sung in a uniquely original voice compared to what’s out there today. I like her humor & polish on her single “To Us.” (Drops Nov 26-Coax). Maybe not at first, but it stays with you like a good peppermint.
Ms. Couture has maintained her quality through several releases & her material has its rewards. This single was recorded with the Henhouse Express Band (Steve Dawson – pedal steel guitar & producer, with Gary Craig & Jeremy Holmes who recorded their parts from their homes.
I found the material fascinating & attractive because the eclectic Christa is original. I did mention some artists she reminds me of but in essence, she’s shaped her own ideal effectively & with grace. She imitates no one. She’s proudly indigenous (mixed Cree & Scandinavian). I have to assume her next LP will be filled with some imaginative tunes.
Color image courtesy: Jen Squires.
Christa’s sparkling work is available @ Bandcamp + http://christacouture.com/about/
Ryan Shupe & the Rubberband – In Bethlehem
A 4-track Christmas EP recently announced by independent Utah-born bluegrass/country artist Ryan Shupe (also produced) & his critically acclaimed band will be available on Dec 3. Shupe has released 8 studio LPs in his 25-year career.
A 5th generation fiddler, Ryan also plays electric/acoustic guitars & mandolin. The Christmas outing includes “Angels We Have Heard On High,” “The Night That Christ Was Born,” “We Three Kings,” & Shupe’s original acapella “In Bethlehem,” live in Utah.
These retain the holiday spirit, but they’re performed within a country-bluegrass realm that reinvigorates the style. The playing is a steady stream of polished music without losing any holiday charm. Banjos ring out in a country Christmas tradition projected with an exceptional feeling. This could’ve sounded commercial, but Shupe keeps it competent & genuine.
“The Night That Christ Was Born,” is an upbeat catchy Shupe original arranged with superior singing & backup. The music is accessible with little decoration. First-class musicians. These 4 Christmas songs could easily be added to a classic holiday collection. Color photo credit: Bry Cox.
Nina June – Meet Me On the Edge of Our Ruin
Amsterdam-based Nina June has a voice that sustains the classic female era chanteuses that delivered wonderful songs with excellent tonality, phrasing & intonation. She’s keeping that tradition alive. What makes Ms. June’s song delivery attractive is the superior lyric & how she presents the words with the music through her silky vocals. The orchestration on the elegant ballad “The Great Reveal,” (co-written with Jon Bryant & Ben Cramer with supporting vocals by Bryant) is subdued. Surprisingly that’s what makes the arrangement strong. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgJXOM0-H5c
Released through Nettwerk Records (Nov 26) there are 10 eloquent songs about memories, things lost & explored in Nina’s superb airy soft intense vocal style. Much the same as Bird York (“In the Deep”) years ago who had success with the style. The CD is available @ https://ninajune.com/
Florin Street Band – My Favorite Time of Year
Each year I get into the spirit of the holidays by listening to this now-classic song in my mind & watching this Charles Dickens-era-inspired video. It’s nostalgic, heart-warming, & a brilliant Christmas song. The wonderful Florin Street Band provides the charm & I have reviewed this in the past & it was independently released back in 2010 & since amassed almost 17 million views. It was produced with so much professional care it’s stunning.
Posted as a reminder of how great the holiday season can be (in spirit at least). If you’re a little sentimental with old-fashioned melodies, enjoy watching an entire neighborhood of Victorian people sing in the pub & out in the snow – this is the program that will bring a smile. This is how the world should be.
Malcolm MacWatt – Settler
Released Nov. 26 (Singular Recordings/Need To Know Music) this 49-minute LP sounds more rooted in Appalachia & Nashville. Though performed by Scottish singer-songwriter Malcolm MacWatt who lays down 11 beautifully accessible tunes with help from both sides of the pond (renowned Americana artists Gretchen Peters, Laura Cantrell & Jaimee Harris as well as British folk icons Eliza Carthy, & Kris Drever). Multi-instrumentalist MacWatt plays everything except 1 track where Drever adds lead guitar. The tunes were produced by Brian Brinkerhoff & Malcolm with splashes of banjo, fiddle & strong melodies.
MacWatt has a bracing folk vocal with a good tone & storytelling character. A throwback to an earlier time when Sandy Denny sang with Fairport Convention & the more traditional tunes of Pentangle. “The Curse of Molly McPhee,” features Laura Cantrell & is a jewel. MacWatt’s vocal is not as dusky as the late John Martyn, but he does remind me of a cross between English singer-songwriter, the late Clifford T. Ward & Northern Ireland’s late David McWilliams.
“My Bonny Boys Have Gone,” is a beauty with Gretchen Peters paralleling Malcolm’s exquisite vocal. “The Miller’s Daughter,” with Eliza is lavish & well-performed. If you enjoy Americana music blended with British folklore these are ideal musical paintings. It bridges the two folk traditions clearly, with no embellishments. Songs resonate & sound like modern traditionalists. The production is stellar. Not a bad song in the bunch. Cut 11 is an oral explanation of each song & just for reference. Available @ Bandcamp + https://www.malcolmmacwatt.com/studio-albums
All CDs are available as noted or on the artists’ website.