On Monday 30 July the guest of Folk Holidays in Náměšť nad Oslavou will be the English singer-songwriter John Smith. The organisers speak of him as a “hidden treasure of exquisite folk singing” and emphasise his album from last year Headlong with its personal confessions to his wife Joanne. We spoke with Smith, who his guitar idol and model John Renbourn called “the future of folk”, by telephone.
To record an album of famous jazz standards translated into Czech and yet not only to not come up short, but even to come across naturally and as much as possible even originally, is extremely demanding. Darek Neumann, “a kind of Brno character” (as stated in the booklet of the album) has managed it. The fact that it successfully balanced on the very borders of sentiment and pure blues, is much down to the lyrics of Ester Kočičková.
The mandolin player Martin Krajíček plays in various genres of groups. He has his own acoustic trio, is a member of the Jitka Šuranská Trio, plays in the “Mexican” group Mariachi Espuelas and in Cimbal Classica, plays klezmer and also teaches the mandolin. Since last year he has also been the organiser of the Mandolin Festival in Boskovice. This year it will take place from 8 to 10 June.
The group D.N.A. Brno, winners of the final of Porta in 2011, after a gap of four years have brought out a new album. Alongside a new surname for the bass guitarist (but it is still the same Barbora who years ago cofounded the then children’s and girls’ group) there was an important change in the line-up. Ondra Bojanovský (son of Aleš Bojanovský of FT Prima) has become a new member, playing rhythmic instruments. This has made it possible for the former percussionist Lenka Ručková to move over to the piano. Otherwise they remain as they were: D.N.A. is a group of young people, mostly classically trained, who like folk as well as classical. On the musical side they play it masterfully – there can be no objections to their skill, which is made evident in individual songs. The actual repertoire already on the last album has grown up from the childhood years and the innovation is of course, in this respect, a bit more mature. The band has not surprised us with any a sudden shift. But the result is a bit more mature and confident. And what has also been added are serious but at the same time credible themes.
Brno songwriter Michal “cosmonaut” Šimíček has long been seen as a man who knows how to write poetic, often multi-layered lyrics and link them with interesting music. Even the first album of his band Nevermore & Kosmonaut was for me was like a conceptual project. Although the songs lacked direct continuity in small details, lyrics and music, it was as if they were related to each other. In terms of novelty however Bleděmodré město (Pale Blue City) takes the band much further. This time it is a thematically sandwiched whole, dedicated to the city of Brno, worked out down to the last detail. “This conceptual album is our response to the current trend, where it has become a habit to do a single with a video and listen to the songs piecemeal, without order,” explains Šimíček in the album booklet, and this booklet is an integral part of this project and “story”.
Pavel Koudelka, former drummer with the bands Dunaj, Z kopce, Krutnava and Mňága a Žďorp, recently became a member of two new groups. One of them is the drumming duo Zesilovači with Pavel Fajt and the second is Kucharski. In this group he works with musicians known from the Třebíč group FruFru – the vocalist Václav Bartoš, guitarist Vladimír Dudek and bass guitarist Adam Kotrba – and with the keyboard player Víťa Košíček. Kucharski will be giving their first concert on Thursday 17 May in Brno at the Stará Pekárna.
After a gap of three years Rózinky (which could be translated as Raisins) from the South Moravian village of Kozojídky have recorded their second album. The girls attend elementary art school together and their teacher Kateřina Mičková, who put the group together, still writes songs for them. The girls also perform together on radio and television shows and have played at various festivals from Folk Holidays in Náměšť nad Oslavou to TrutnOff. The question of whether the group will still be viable once its members grow up and mature (and probably have other musical interests and tastes) still hangs in the air. A little doubt already hangs over the disc Cvrkot (which could be translated as Chirp), but not as a threat but rather as a reason for the greater diversity on the album.
It never ceases to amaze me when I see the volume of ideas from Martin Kyšperský and his band Květy. Only in 2017, all this happened: Martin received the Anděl prize for his solo album Vlakem (“By train”). With Květy, they played the role of a communist era organisation band brilliantly, singing his “normalisation” period hits in the series Svět pod hlavou (“World under your head”) (which received a well-earned Český lev award a year later). In their new line-up with Ondřej Kyas, Květy released the brilliant album Komik do půl osmé (“A comedian till half past seven”) (it’s sad that it didn’t get an Anděl, but I think the culprit for that is the reducing of genre prizes and a “bit” of chaos in the new category of Alternative). The book Průvodce po albech a historii kapely Květy (The guide to the albums and history of the band Květy) was released and with it also the album Spí vánoční pták (“The Christmas bird sleeps”). In the meantime, Květy started the YM project, in which all three members will present songs in individual unexpected genres. It was begun by once again by Martin Kyšperský with a programme of country songs – the public premiere took place with the guest artist Petr Uvira in a live broadcast of Radio Proglas in December 2017. For 2018, the electronic songs of Aleš Pilgr and hopefully also the folktronica of Ondřej Kyas are in preparation.
“I knew who I wanted to work with and that guided me when I was trying to set up a group with a pleasant sound,” said the French accordionist Vincent Peirani in 2015, shortly after the release of his key album Living Being. At that time he had already completed several interesting acoustic projects including an album with the saxophonist Emil Parisien and he has continued in this style. In 2016 he brought out an enjoyable CD of duets with the pianist Michael Wollny and not long ago he worked with the pianist Stefano Bollani and the Berlin Philharmonic on the album Mediterraneo, inspired by classical music. The Living Being project is however of a completely different character, embodying the accordionist’s conception of electric music on the borders between jazz, rock and other genres. And it was with this programme that Peirani and his group came to Brno’s Husa na provázku (Goose on a String) theatre.
“The history of the band Gazdina roba goes back to the 1990’s, when most of the current members would meet up in the local Brno bands. […] Gazdina roba functioned for years as a studio project. The turning point happened ten years after its creation with the release of their first regular album under the fitting title Deset let jsme se neviděli (We Haven’t Seen Each Other for Ten Years) in 2004 […] In 2017, the band released their second album První poslední (From Beginning to End)”. That is the basic information found on their website www.gazdinaroba.cz. These are bare facts, which doesn’t really tell us that Gazdina roba (which could be translated as Farmer’s Wench), an almost secret band in the Brno scene, is in its genre of rock song-writing one of the best to be found. Their musical energy brilliantly ties together with their poetic texts.