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Alan Stivell - Chemins De Terre CD (album) cover


Alan Stivell


Prog Folk

4.10 | 39 ratings

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4 stars The bridge

Coming from a family that, at least on my mother's side, used original folk music as the way it was intended - as a means to communicate with each other beyond words through dancing and facial expression when you hear that particular melody that goes way back with your blood roots. As far back as I can remember, my family has always ended big get-togethers spanning from weddings to birthdays - with a traditional song where everybody stands together in a huge circle, in one big meat embrace, singing about the land and nature where we grew up. When I was smaller, I didn't understand the significance of it, even if I did sense a togetherness beyond the mundane, - but as the years roll by, I've begun to look around at these familiar faces, and especially my grandfather - and quite magically during these musical family injections, his normal rock steady face begins to quiver and journey out above the wheat fields and forests. He looses himself for a moment or so, but I'm sure he goes somewhere. That's when it struck me, even if I think that most of these people listen to god awful music - that we as humans all have something that moves rock - inspires hope in us and strengthens the brotherly love. I may not be that different after all, I just don't enjoy Hansi Hiterseer...

I get that same feel with Alan Stivell, and I can just imagine old Celtic families dancing around to a wee little ditty listening to some of the more traditional tracks on offer here. If you don't know Stivell, then imagine this musical prodigy from the 19th century suddenly stepping into a time-machine - ending up in the 70s with all these long haired musical pioneers - searching back and forth in time and history for something special, unique - something that touches the soul. Alan shows them what he can do with the Celtic harp, which he has been playing since the age of 9 - and by a strange touch of faith, a truly stunning meeting of new and old takes place. Stivell actually means source, and when you listen to this record - you quickly realise why. Dulcimers, banjo, fiddle, all kinds of acoustic guitars - that beautiful otherworldly harp as well as something I'd never ever dream of infusing in a rock setting, had I not heard Korn actually, which is the bagpipes. All of this creates original Celtic folk music - yet somehow that's not entirely what it's all about. Just like ELP were about bringing the classical world into the rock n' roll - you too have that same sense of fusion here. There's electric guitars and bubbly organs - shining through in the midst of things, emanating a certain psychedelic rock attitude, - as well as sprucing up the endemic folky atmospheres with a modern peep into the start of the 70s, where everything was a-go. It was indeed a time of magic - finding out what musics could be glued together to form some kind of new and enticing cohesive whole.

Alan Stivell's voice is something that deserves a paragraph for itself. Like a twitching baby bird in the morning sun - a frail piece of organic mater, his voice shakes and trembles without ever becoming whiny or depressive. This man pushes forth sentences like setting small paper ships to sea in a puddle. They fit so beautifully with the harp - hitting those same kinds of intimate heights - oozing heartfelt warmth.

There are moments on this album that make my skin crawl like a welcoming rush of young baby caterpillars climbing my torso. It's beauty like crystal, though never as sterile and clear - it is folk music with heart and soul - something dug straight out of the ground like a pound of potatoes - something familiar and old. The last track for example uses bag pipes in a way that stretches the imagination - and serves up something entirely different than all those burial scenes you get in Hollywood flicks - though a thousand times more gripping and essential - essential in a manner that makes you think you're from Ireland or Scotland and have fought with William Wallace, but in a modern war where you afterwards went out drinking beers and listened to blues whilst dancing, twirling and yelling profanities in the street. This music bridges time itself - brick by brick - all the way back to the original Celtic tradition - straight up to the electric guitar and all of the fire it brought with it.

Guldbamsen | 4/5 |


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