Various Artists, Seka ("Sister") Vol 3 (Twah records, 2003)

This is a songwriters benefit album for the SEKA Recreation House for Women and Children. It was produced and presented by the German magazine Blue Rhythm. On it all of the performers have donated tracks for free, and some of the profits from the sale of this album go to support SEKA House. The organisation provides support for traumatised women and children living in the war zones of former Yugoslavia on the Adriatic island of Brac (Croatia); here women and children of all ethnic and religious groups can meet in an atmosphere of respect. As I was born just before the end of WWII, and having a lot of relatives living in the London's East End and Liverpool, your scribe is 'young' enough to have witnessed at first hand the trauma that war brings to the ordinary people of this world, so I can identify the way these people feel.

So what about the music? Well its good -- very good, a mixture of pop cum folk rock cum country, from 19 different performers, each one adding a track that has a different appeal. For me this is the charm of the album. It serves as a good introduction to many of the performers I had never heard of before. And it might well make you seek out some of the performer's albums.

This album has really got something for everyone. If you are a fan of the music put out by Fairport Convention, The Pogues, Oysterband, Richard Thompson, etc -- none of which are on this album -- you will be sure to like this one. I have to say I was very impressed by the selection of artists and the tracks chosen from each of them, the album kept me entertained from start to finish. Several of the bands like Equation, The Popes, and The Men They Couldn't Hang will be well known to folk festival goers in the U.K, but some of the others are not so widely known. Although the album cover only boasts 11 of them there are in fact 19 singer songwriters or bands on this album, and to be fair each one puts out a fine performance that I couldn't fault.

The main performers are Shawn Sahm, Maria Solhiem, Kevin Salem, Caitlin Cary, Lonesome Bob, Two Dollar Pistols, The Men They Couldn't Hang, and Naked Raven donating an exclusive 'live' version of song 'Anything'. Exclusive versions on some of the tracks are also given by Amy Rigby with the song 'Don't Ever Change', Michael Weston King on 'I Fall Behind', Equestion's song 'Full Speed', and Tom Freund's song 'Rebecca'. Also rare versions of their tracks are offered by Andy White with the song 'Let Me Be Free', and The Popes song 'Are You Lookin At Me'.

After playing the album a few times a couple of the artists stuck out in my mind as favourites, the most notable being Lonesome Bob singing 'In The Time I have Left'. The Caitlin Cary song 'Shallow Heart, Shallow Water', Mick Thomas and the Sure Thing with 'The Lonely Goth', Two Dollar Pistol with 'In My Mind', and Danny Barnes & Thee Old Codgers with 'Everything Fades' all found me hitting the repeat button. Even the last track from The Brooklyn Cowboys, 'I was Wrong' -- the drumming and lead guitar put me in mind of the Rolling Stones.

Probably the best single thing about all of the tracks on this album, is that they are all originals from the writers and each one gives a superb performance. No way is this album classic folk music -- but it's pretty good and well worth having. In the song notes you will find full details of each track and in most cases the album from which it was taken. There are also Web site addresses, should you wish to track the artists down.

[Peter Massey]

Full details of the album can be found here