Archive for January 2017

Fade to Blue

January 30, 2017

Fade to Blue is the name of a duo based in Taiwan and is also the title of their album. The project puts together two performers of musical traditions from different parts of the world and the album they have released is a live recording containing 14 tracks recorded on tour during 2015.

The members are pipa player Chung Yufeng who is from Taipei, and guitarist, singer and songwriter David Chen who was born in Ohio but has lived in Taiwan for many years since moving there to explore his familial roots. Their music mixes American folk and blues with traditional Chinese music but that’s only part of the story as they also touch on influences from other places as well as playing original songs and compositions.


Those attending the Music Showcase at the Trans Asia Music Meeting in Okinawa earlier this month were able to see a live show by Fade to Blue who were one of two overseas acts invited to take part. They were very well received by the audience and the pair impressed everyone. These recordings are divided fairly equally between songs and instrumentals played on Chung’s pipa (a Chinese four-stringed instrument that gave rise to the related Japanese biwa) and Chen’s resonator and 12-string acoustic guitars.


Among the songs are versions of Son House’s ‘Preachin’ Blues’ and Skip James’s ‘Devil Got My Woman’ while of special interest to listeners here will be Chen’s original ‘Okinawa Mama’. The instrumental pieces range from the traditional bluegrass and old-time ‘Blackberry Blossom’ to the Middle Eastern inspired ‘Siwa’ by Chung. The album ends with their title track ‘theme song’ inspired by Hawaiian slack key music.

This is a very enjoyable musical journey and the album is also very neatly packaged with explanatory notes on each track by David Chen and lyrics are included of all the songs in both English and Chinese. The result is not at all an academic exercise but instead exudes fun, adventure and great musicianship.

Fade to Blue is released by Trees Music & Art.


Laybricks: Take a Rest

January 26, 2017

Take a Rest is the debut EP from South Korean band Laybricks who are based in Seoul. In fact, the ‘band’ comprises just two members, singer/guitarist Kwangmin Seo and drummer Hyejin Yu. Their music draws more on contemporary British sounds than on their Korean roots and they claim to be inspired by alternative rock.

Since their formation in 2015 they have already played numerous live shows both in their home country and abroad. They were invited to the V-Rox Festival in Vladivostock last year and have also toured widely in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the UK playing several dates in front of massive festival crowds as well as small audiences at intimate venues.


Most recently they came to Okinawa where they were invited by the ‘Music from Okinawa’ organisers to perform at the music showcase at the Trans Asia Music Meeting last week. The day before their show singer Kwangmin Seo gave a presentation at the meeting in which he spoke of their positive do-it-yourself attitude in going out and playing live and in arranging everything themselves for their tour of the UK.


On the five tracks here, recorded in Seoul, Laybricks show off their versatility with a fine selection of original songs full of colourful, bright shiny melodies and catchy choruses. Even better was the live experience in Okinawa where they scored a big hit with the audience. In an adrenaline-fuelled set Kwangmin Seo’s vocals and guitar were matched all the way by the powerful drumming of Hyejin Yu who excelled with her immense energy and skill.

Rayna Gellert: Workin’s Too Hard

January 24, 2017

Workin’s Too Hard is the follow-up to American singer and fiddler Rayna Gellert’s album Old Light: Songs from my Childhood and Other Gone Worlds, an extraordinary album of traditional and original songs that set the benchmark very high indeed. It was reviewed here on its release in 2013 as was her subsequent EP which was more grounded in her background as fiddler with old-time string band Uncle Earl and her roots in Appalachian mountain music.

The songs on this new album (two traditional and five originals) stand up very well beside the high quality of that debut solo album. It was obviously worth the wait as soon as we hear the warm and melancholy sound of Gellert’s voice. This is never better than on the magnificent ‘River Town’ a sad story of resignation that harks back to mainstream country music but is written and delivered with real poignancy rather than sentimentality.


‘Grey Bird’ is another standout song and so is the lovely simple and subtle ‘Perry’ which unusually for Gellert includes piano backing. The two traditional songs are ‘Oh Lovin’ Babe’, also recorded fairly recently by Anna & Elizabeth on their second album, and an almost rockabilly version of ‘I’m Bound for the Promised Land’ which closes the album.

Although the North Carolina-based Gellert is renowned as an expert fiddler and also as a teacher of the instrument, the fiddle appears only a couple of times on these songs which are more based around guitars and a small sympathetic band of musicians helping to create just the right sound textures to show off the songs in their best light.

Rayna Gellert

Rayna Gellert

The one obvious note of slight dismay is that the running time is under half an hour, making it, in fact, shorter than the previous EP. But in these times, when releases come in all shapes, sizes and formats, it would be a bit churlish to complain too much, especially when what we do have is so superbly sung, written and played. Workin’s Too Hard is pure joy from start to finish even if it doesn’t match the length of that wonderful Old Light album. Let’s hope there is more on the way soon.

Workin’s Too Hard is released by StorySound Records. Rayna Gellert is currently on a tour of the UK and details of the dates are on her website.

Trans Asia Music Meeting

January 23, 2017

The Trans Asia Music Meeting 2017 was a very successful event which enabled an open exchange of music and ideas. It took place over last weekend in Naha at three venues and featured lots of music showcases as well as fascinating talks and chances for people to network. The conference brought together speakers from China, Taiwan, Malaysia, India, South Korea, Mongolia, Russia and the UK.

Here is just a small selection of photos from the ‘Music from Okinawa’ organisers.

Keynote speaker Kazufumi Miyazawa

Keynote speaker Kazufumi Miyazawa

Miyako Island singer Hirara

Miyako Island singer Hirara

Presentation by Kwangmin Seo from South Korea whose band Laybricks also performed a great set

Presentation by Kwangmin Seo from South Korea whose band Laybricks also performed a great set

Sakishima Meeting

Sakishima Meeting

The conference on Sunday afternoon

The conference on Sunday afternoon

Musicians and music people get together

Musicians and music people get together


Trans Asia Music Meeting 2017

January 13, 2017

The Trans Asia Music Meeting is being held again in Okinawa and takes place this year on the weekend of 21st/22nd January. Organised by ‘Music from Okinawa’, the focus of the conference is on introducing Okinawan music overseas and on ways to build an Asian music network.


The keynote speech on the 21st will be given by Kazufumi Miyazawa, former leader of The Boom whose hit song ‘Shimauta’ has become a classic in Okinawa. There will also be live music on the 21st from Hirara and Sakishima Meeting. The music showcase on the 22nd features thirteen different performances and includes music from South Korea and Taiwan as well as Okinawa.

Full details are on the Music from Okinawa website: