Tag Archives: waters so deep

107. KARA’s New album “Some Other Shore” (2016). A pre-release review

(Pic: KARA)

(Pic: KARA)

Its always something of a dilemma for artists deciding which direction to take for their second album (especially if like Folk band Kara, the first album had received so much favourable appraisal). Do you go for what you know and deliver more of the same? Or branch out into pastures new and risk disappointing your fan-base? In Kara’s case (by their own admission, ‘a quirky quartet’) perhaps this dilemma was not so pronounced, as their music is so diverse and unique (and ‘quirky’ of course) that ‘more of the same’ would simultaneously amount to ‘pastures new’ anyway!

Bearing that in mind then, there could be no possibility whatsoever of predicting what new music the band could have come up with for this, their second collection: Some Other Shore. I made a brief mention and recommendation of Kara’s first album Waters So Deep during a review of Daria Kulesh‘s solo album Eternal Child last year (see my review #35). That first album by the band was an impressive opus that held my attention to a remarkable degree, as I’d heard nothing quite like it before – and I feel that I must emphatically say that again for this new offering too!

Kara currently consist of Daria Kulesh (Vocals/guitar/bodhran); Kate Rouse (Hammered Dulcimer); Ben Honey (Guitar); and new boy Phil Underwood (of The Creole Brothers, on Melodeon). In addition, the highly rated Lukas Drinkwater was drafted in for Double Bass; with James Delarre (Fiddle); and Jason Emberton (‘Additional instrumentation’) used as necessary. Jason was also the album’s producer – on which he has done a great job.

New this album certainly is; but having said that, it is still unmistakably Kara – for it retains that celebrated, quirky, Russian-English Folk fusion that makes it unique. The unusual combination of Hammered Dulcimer and Melodeon give a distinctive depth and flavour to the band’s sound – yet neither unduly dominate the overall sound of the songs. Add to that the beautiful vocals of Daria and the skillful guitar work of Ben, and a winning combination is manifest.

It is a twelve-track work of both original songs skillfully penned by the various band members; and of reworked traditional English and Russian Folk songs. They are songs of romance and escapism, as well as sometimes covering thought-provoking contemporary themes. As I expected, a wide variety of style; subject; and emotion is represented – and executed superbly. It is a wonderfully crafted album that has been well-thought out – and works so well. I was privileged to hear a few of these new songs at a Kara gig last October (see my review #78). They were great songs to hear live; and have been thoughtfully recorded in the studio too. My personal favourite tracks from the album are: the dark and demonic opening number ‘Tamara’s Wedding’; and the beautifully haunting – and slightly disturbing – ‘Goodbye and Forgive Me’.

At this current point in time, I have only heard the album as a download, so I cannot comment too much on the CD sleeve – although I have seen it, and it does look very good; with artwork by Daria and Ben. It seems to include all lyrics and an explanation of each song; which is something I love to see among the sleeve notes.

I think whether you are a Kara fan; a Folk aficionado; or a generally open-minded music lover, you will be very impressed indeed by Some Other Shore, as I was; so its a big thumbs up from The Quill! The album will be available from 1st June on the band’s album launch tour. PTMQ

Visit Kara’s website for tour dates etc.

For a review of Kara‘s gig at Haverfolk in October 2015; see my review #78.

For a review of Daria Kulesh‘s solo gig at Lost Horizons Folk Club in April 2015; see my review # 45.

For a review of Daria Kulesh‘s debut solo album Eternal Child, see my review #35.

For a brief mention of Kate Rouse‘s work on Ange Hardy‘s album Esteesee see my review #72.

Advertisements

78. KARA at HAVERFOLK in “The White Horse” PH, Chadwell Heath, Essex. Wednesday, 14th October, 2015. + A few words about the venue; the club; and their Open Floor.

Kara at HaverFolk (Photo: PTMQ)

Kara at HaverFolk (Photo: PTMQ)

Preamble:  I was very pleased to be invited to this gig by Kara‘s Russian singer, my friend Daria Kulesh, back in April when I saw one of her first solo performances, at Lost Horizons Folk Club in East London (See my review #45). I had previously reviewed her excellent debut album Eternal Child; during which I also recommended her band Kara’s seminal work, Waters So Deep (See my review #35). These are both wonderful, unique, and charmingly quirky albums. And a second helping from both Daria and Kara are eagerly awaited! But I hadn’t seen Daria perform with Kara, so I was keen to see her with the band.

The Venue:  was  the 400 year old White Horse PH, in High Road, Chadwell Heath, Essex. The club uses the pub’s ‘Stables Function Suite’ at the rear of the premises, which is accessible from the car park (which apparently is the only pub in Britain to have its own set of traffic lights!) The pub itself is done up quite nicely; but the Landlord maybe could look into a bit of redecoration in the function room. It serves its purpose well enough though. It is a long slender room decorated in a mock Tudor style. At one end is the performance area; and at the other there is a bar (but which was unmanned and necessitated a trek to the main pub for drinks).

Daria sings (Photo: PTMQ)

Daria sings (Photo: PTMQ)

HaverFolk  is a nice little Folk / acoustic club, run by Chairman Peter Walters, and assisted by John Foxen; and by Jill and Margaret. It is known as ‘The Feelgood Folk Club’; and I was certainly made to feel very welcome by everyone I met. The club meets weekly (on Wednesdays, 8 – 11PM) for an Open Session; and about once a month they have a special guest booked. They also get involved in Folk festivals etc.

Kara   means ‘Black’ in Turkish; and ‘Punishment’ in Russian; and the band describe themselves as playing ‘…spirited acoustic Folk with a Russian twist’. But despite Daria’s Russian origins, she has been living in the UK for some years, and the band are based in Hertfordshire. It is a four-piece unit consisting of Daria herself (Vocals, and Bodhrán); Kate Rouse (on Hammered Dulcimer); Gary Holbrook (on Accordion); and Ben Honey (acoustic guitar). From their initials, Daria cheekily refers to them as the KGB! With such an unusual group of instruments, Kara are able to produce some very unique music indeed.

Foxen performing ' ' (Photo: PTMQ)

Foxen performing ‘Stenka Razin’ (Photo: PTMQ)

The band arrived at about the same time as us; and Daria greeted us warmly; and introduced me to the others. Through their work on the Waters So Deep album, I was familiar with them – especially Kate, who also features on Ange Hardy‘s recent remarkable album Esteesee (See my review #72). It was nice to meet them in person though. Kate gave me a brief explanation and demonstration of her Dulcimer, which I found fascinating to hear and see played.

Open Floor There was no support act for Kara – there being enough talent among the club members themselves to fulfil that role; so it is usual (as it is in many Folk clubs) for there to be an ‘Open Floor’ spot where anyone can perform a song or two before the guest plays their set. So on this occasion, several of the regulars would perform one song each.

Yours truly doing Mike Batt's 'Soldier's Song' (Photo By Daria)

Yours truly doing Mike Batt’s ‘Soldier’s Song’ (Photo By Daria)

Of course, there were a variety of styles and talents present which made for an interesting warm-up. Master of Ceremonies John Foxen started proceedings by pulling a Balalaika out of its bag, which he said had been in his loft for years, and had been fetched down in honour of the evening’s special guest! He was joined by Mab, and they played a fun version of the Russian Folk song ‘Stenka Razin’ with the chorus somehow transliterated from ‘Volga Volga’ to ‘Vodka Vodka’!

The best of the other floor spots were, in my opinion; by Ray Spillman who gave us a very good cover of Ralph McTell’s ‘From Clare To Here’ on his lovely Faith acoustic; and by Dave Wilson who covered ‘Silver Raven’ by Gene Clark of The Byrds. But all of the other Floor Spots – from Jane, Tony, Johnny and Clive – were good too.

Volga Boatmen - Peter and John (Photo: PTMQ)

Volga Boatmen – Peter and John (Photo: PTMQ)

But just when we thought the warm ups were over, I was challenged by MoC John, to come up and do a number! Well I hadn’t planned to do so, but not wishing to seem churlish, by writing a review of others without performing myself, I willingly rose to the occasion! I borrowed Ray’s Faith acoustic; and the first Folky song that popped into my head was Mike Batt’s ‘Soldier’s Song’ – or at least, my rendition of it – replete with myriad mistakes! Thinking about it afterwards, I don’t think I’ve played in public for almost a year. I got some applause but I offer no critique!

Kara’s First Set  Then it was time for the headliners, Kara. After an interesting spoken introduction from Daria, during which she described the band’s eclectic music as ‘..a crazy cocktail’; they began with the beautiful ‘Rusalka’ – which is based on a Pushkin poem.  I love this song; and this performance was as perfect as the album version – and a perfect intro to Kara’s music, with the ‘KGB’ each demonstrating their respective skills right from the start, and Daria’s beautiful voice in fine form.

'The Elderley Brothers' - Dave, Ray and Johnnie (Photo: PTMQ)

‘The Elderley Brothers’ – Dave, Ray and Johnnie (Photo: PTMQ)

If we needed more proof of this, we received it with the remarkably named instrumental ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’; and for this, Daria took up her Bodhrán. ‘Seaview’, a chirpy song that I didn’t know, inspired by the Isle Of Wight was next. We were then invited ‘…to venture into uncharted territory – the mysterious domain of the Jazz Dulcimer’! This is a song about powerful City men: ‘The Dance Of Devilry’.

From their album the band then gave us the lovely ‘Mermaid’s Lullaby’, introduced by Kate. Sung in Russian by Daria; and with lovely reverb’ed guitar from Ben, subtle accordion from Gary, and again, the ethereal sound of Kate’s Dulcimer; it was altogether a spell-binding rendition. Another IoW inspired song written by Ben, the charming ‘Union Street’, was played next. And again, as perfect as the recorded version.

Another Russian-sung song ‘Vengerka’ with a very Slavic vibe about it was performed next. Quite a remarkable song, this. Finally the first set finished with the Appalachian version of ‘Scarborough Fair’, called ‘Lovers’ Tasks’, which named different herbs to the traditional English song; and incorporated a Kate composed piece, ‘Black Tea Waltz’. The band then retired for a well-earned break.

The 'Maid with a Dulcimer' - Kate Rouse (Photo: PTMQ)

‘A damsel with a Dulcimer’ – Kate Rouse (Photo: PTMQ)

‘The Elderly Brothers’ and more on a Russian theme:  When proceedings were ready to resume, we were introduced to the ad hoc three-piece guitar band, ‘The Elderley Brothers’ – Dave, Ray, and Johnnie. They gave a fun performance of ‘Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms’. Club Chairman Peter was then joined by John and his Balalaika for ‘The Song Of The Volga Boatmen’ – sung in Russian – but Daria was the only one present who could accurately judge the performance!

Kara’s Second Set  began with a ‘…depressing Russian song’ – ‘Life Is Sweet me Lads’ – for which Daria taught us a few Russian words so that we could sing along. It wasn’t actually that depressing – rather, it was a bit of fun singing along. Nice vocal harmonies from Kate on this one. From the album, the Ben Honey written ‘Hunter’s Moon’ followed. It is his idyllic view of the countryside. It is another song that I’m familiar with; and again it was a fine rendition. And this was followed by another Ben-penned song: ‘Carousel Waltz’. It was a new one on me, and I quite liked it.

The rather unusual ‘Stormteller’ was next. Its a lively number that I hadn’t previously heard. Then ‘Made Of Light’ was sung by Daria who was clearly moved whilst singing the poignant lyric. It is about the loss of a personal friend. Delving into the album once more, the band played ‘In Lille’ – about a young lady who is mistaken for a Lady Of The Night! Gary’s accordion was highly appropriate for this very Gallic sounding song. ‘The Wedding Guest’ was played next. It is based on a banned poem by Russian Romantic poet Lermontov. It is another that is very Slavic in feel. Finally from the album again, Daria’s song ‘In Lunenburg’ (which is in Canada) ‘…where you can actually make a living there from busking’. It is a song with a very lively ending which had the audience clapping along. It was a good finishing number – and a great show altogether.

Gary and Ben (Photo: PTMQ)

Gary and Ben (Photo: PTMQ)

Musicianship:  All the songs of Daria’s two-part set had indeed been ‘a crazy cocktail’. I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a wide variety of style and genres performed in one night! And all performed with such impressive musicianship. It was a thoroughly entertaining show from the band. It was a mix of their old and new material, with a few trad numbers too. There looks to be a lot of songs practiced and ready for the next album, that’s for sure.

Daria with bodhran (Photo: PTMQ)

Daria with bodhran (Photo: PTMQ)

Daria herself was impressive as usual, not only for her beautiful voice, but as a front-woman for the whole band; having a distinctive hair do, and wearing a striking red dress. She gave an interesting spoken explanation to each song – something that I always think is a necessity. And unlike her solo performances she was largely without personal instrumentation; which meant she was free to make expressive hand gestures whilst singing. She was animated throughout; and was obviously enjoying the night; and this adds to the visual effect of the performance. Her confidence seems to have improved no end too, compared to when I saw her before – although on that occasion she was solo, of course.

Kate was impressive too – mostly for her command of the dulcimer; but her vocal harmonies were good too. She was also interesting when she explained some songs as well. Ben’s acoustic guitar playing was obviously highly practiced and he was amusing when speaking of the fine songs that he’d written. Gary’s accordion playing was subtle and excellent. The instrument has the potential to dominate; but his playing enhanced the overall sound of the band to a high degree; making it unique.

Do Svidaniya!   The gig finished, it was time for congratulations and goodbyes. I had a little chat with the members of the band and some of the regulars; promising to return as soon as possible. This is quite likely. A very enjoyable evening indeed. If you ever get a chance to see Kara’s, or indeed, Daria’s solo gigs – I can recommend both. PTMQ

45. DARIA KULESH at the LOST HORIZONS FOLK AND ACOUSTIC CLUB, at the BIRKBECK TAVERN, East London. Friday, 17th April, 2015.

DARIA KULESH - (Photo: PTMQ)

DARIA KULESH at Lost Horizons Folk And Acoustic Club  (Photo: PTMQ)

My readers must please excuse me for being totally ignorant of the fact that there is a thriving folk club in Leyton, East London. It was only when my friend  Daria Kulesh invited me along to her gig at this venue that I became aware of it all. (My  review of Daria’s excellent album Eternal Child is on this blog #35). I had to rearrange a few things to get to the gig; but I particularly wanted to see her set; and to find out all about the club too. We arrived early enough for a nice chat with Daria and her husband. She told us that she planned to perform some new material that she has been writing for her next solo album – that is certainly something to look forward to. She is also, of course, a member of the Folk group Kara, whose album Waters So Deep I can also highly recommend.

The Lost Horizons Folk And Acoustic Club is an attractive looking venue, held on the third Friday of every month upstairs at the Birkbeck Tavern in Langthorne Road, Leyton. It has been run by partners Paul Knight and Trish  O’Hara since December 2010The club apparently developed from camp-fire singing, and putting the World to rights at festivals; and I must say it does have that political vibe about it. Of course, English, Irish and American Folk music have for centuries, often had a strong vein of political inspiration at their core; and I must say, this tradition is alive and well at Lost Horizons.  Paul and Trish  made us very welcome, and filled us in on what they are trying to achieve at the club.  The format of their evenings at the venue, is to show-case two special guests; along with two of their regular singer-songwriter house artists; followed by an Open Mic session.  They apparently have around half a dozen of these young regulars who take it in turns to perform. A promising selection of artists is therefore likely at every meeting.

Soon it was time for the show to begin. First up was a young singer-songwriter called Bob Munton. Playing a ukulele, he began with a Dylan cover: ‘Don’t Think Twice’. He then played some of his own work, based on his World observations. ‘Address Unknown’ (Palestinian themes); ‘Waterhole’ (a song full of ‘metaphors and clichés’); ‘Epiphany’ (about housing issues); and ‘Apathy’ (on political nonchalance). Bob gave a good explanatory preamble to each song; and I thought they were lyrically strong and interesting.

Next on the bill was another regular at the club: Will O’Donaghue. His songs seemed to be inspired by personal experiences and observations: ‘Chalice’; ‘Cold Wind In Your Hair’; ‘Broken Glass’ (a love song); ‘Goodbye’s The Only Thing To Say’; ‘Little Boxes’ (about his late mother); and ‘Heart Goes Black’. (Apologies to Will if I’ve got any of these titles wrong!) Will’s songs are simple but effective in construction, and confidently played. Again, lyrically strong and very personal. Also he has a good rapport with the audience to whom he was clearly well known.

Daria - The Eternal Child! (Photo: PTMQ)

Daria – created a ‘folk wonderland’ at Lost Horizons! (Photo: PTMQ)

After a ten minute break, Daria was on. She began by confidently singing the traditional Celtic song ‘She Moved Through The Fair’, unaccompanied. Right from the start, her beautiful voice and faultless rendition of the old folksong had everyone spell-bound. She continued with a song from her album Eternal Child, ‘Fake Wonderland’. Its a song about how ‘…money doesn’t buy happiness’. I know Daria wasn’t too happy about her performance of this song, but she needn’t have worried; I thought it was fine.

Again from Eternal Child, she gave us her ‘Butterflies’, which she wrote as a charity song. Then, exchanging her guitar for a bodhrán, she did ‘Begone!’ – a true story about a witch trial, written from the point of view of the bigoted mob. Next was a fine cover of ‘The Hanging Tree’ from the film Hunger Games which she  sang accompanying  herself with a Shruti Box.

Back with a guitar, she then played the gentle ‘Right Here’ from Eternal Child. This is a lovely song – one of two derived from an earlier work that she said ‘is too personal’ to perform in its original state. It has simple chords but is beautifully arpeggiated and was beautifully sung. A new one entitled ‘Bide, Lady, Bide’ which is influenced by the Dostoevski novel The Idiot was next. We were told that this may be the only time that we’d hear it in its ‘raw state’, as it should be performed by her band Kara. Her final song was ‘The Moon And The Pilot’. This is a very personal song influenced by the plight of her Caucasian ancestors at the hands of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Throughout her set, Daria gave illuminating preambles to every song. I am always in favour of this as it adds to the listening experience. At all times both her spoken and singing voice was clear and satisfying. In fact every aspect of the whole set was very enjoyable, and I’m glad I was able to get to the gig. I’d recommend seeing Daria if you get a chance; and I’m looking forward to seeing her with Kara later this year at Haverfolk in Essex.

Due to having a lot on our plates the next day, we were unfortunately unable to stay for the final guest act of the night: folk group Apple Of My Eye (a shame, because I’d have liked to have seen them too); nor for the Open Mic session afterwards, of course; and unfortunately had to leave soon after Daria’s set ended.  But I know about the club now, and I know when its on; so I’m sure we’ll be warmly welcomed back next time.

My thanks to Paul and Trish and everyone at Lost Horizons; and to Daria, of course, for her wonderful set. PTMQ.

35. DARIA KULESH “ETERNAL CHILD” (Folkstock Records, 2014)

DARIA KULESH: 'Eternal Child' (Photo PTMQ)

DARIA KULESH: ‘Eternal Child’ (Photo PTMQ)

Recently I was unexpectedly contacted by singer-songwriter DARIA KULESH (a friend of ANGE HARDY – see my review on this blog #32), who sent me a link to the FOLKSTOCK RECORDS website which contains songs from her new album Eternal Child; and she wondered if I’d be interested in writing a review. After a quick listen, I certainly was.

The album is a collection of ten songs, all penned by Daria herself; and all based on her life experiences. They are therefore very personal in content – and unique in concept.  Each is lyrically very strong and interesting too. This is all the more remarkable considering that Daria’s first language is Russian; yet her English vocabulary is excellent, and this is manifest in the well penned song lyrics. My personal favourite among this collection, is the haunting ‘Letting Go’; yet all of them are excellent.

She sings them beautifully, too;  her voice, a joy to hear. Her vocal style reminds me – to some extent – of several folk singer-songwriters of the 60s. Although I’m not an expert on this genre, I do hear a little of Baez; Collins; Felix; and Sonja Kristina in there. She has also been compared to Peggy Seeger and Kate Rusby by other writers.  Yet at all times she has her own style that is unique and remarkable; and this is due to her eclectic influences – tangible in both her vocals and her song-writing.

Various musicians have been recruited as necessary by Daria for the project. These are BEN WALKER (Multi-instrumentalist); LAUREN DEAKIN-DAVIES (Guitar & Keys); LUKE JACKSON (Vocals & Guitar); KATE ROUSE (Hammered Dulcimer); and KAITY RAE (Cello). And I must say, they have all done a fine job for her too.

The cover is of the card gate-fold album type – which I prefer. One side contains a leaflet, safely tucked away, with printed lyrics and credits etc.  From this leaflet we learn that each song is personally dedicated to someone in Daria’s life – a lovely touch.  I highly recommend this album if you have a penchant for unique folk songs; thoughtful lyrics; and beautiful female vocal.

Daria is also a member of the folk group KARA; which she described to me as ‘…a quirky band with Russian influences’. She sent me a copy of their debut album Waters So Deep, which is also remarkably good. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to do a full review on this; but I do however recommend it highly as well. If you like Daria’s solo album, then you’ll like this too.

Here is a link to the Folkstock website:

http://folkstockrecords.bandcamp.com/album/eternal-child-daria-kulesh

Here is a link to Daria’s website:   http://www.daria-kulesh.co.uk/

PTMQ