Wednesday 16 August 2017


CD Review

Long Way From Home

Couple Adam and Coralie Usmani set about bringing a merging of cultures for their second full album. They have traversed the globe from New Zealand to Scotland where, fronting a collective, they are delving into the sounds of Scottish traditions while wrapping them up in their Auckland heritage.

Madam Tsunami
They have employed the help of some notable Scottish musicians, not least of which is Ross Ainslie, who brings his talent on the pipes and whistle which would give any offering an authentic Celtic flavour.

Adam and Coralie have a very relaxed and easy style which translates into their harmonies as they sing and play together.

Almost as if they want pay homage to their adopted home the gentle opening with Mama gives you the first feel for Coralie’s fiddle playing and Adam’s subtle guitar and piano backing. The soothing instrumental does conjure images of mists slowly covering the highlands.

The following track, Hold Me Close, introduces Adam’s strong, slightly gravelly voice which is tempered by the gentle sound of his wife’s tones. The song has a definite tempo, strengthened by Adrien Latge on drums, but is not overpowering.

Adam’s tone is softened for the title track which seems to blend even better with Coralie’s harmonies than the previous track. The tune is simple and almost playful and given a definite lift by the fiddle’s voice.

Man on the Run has a cadence which matches the title with a jaunty pace pushed along by Adam’s strumming and chased by Coralie’s fiddle. The couple have a knack of giving their music strength and yet keeping it really laid back so although this is a toe tapping song it’s not a foot stomper.
Adam Usmani

What follows is a brooding song with Adam bringing a melancholic tone to his singing on Blackfriars. The little vocal inserts he puts into some of the songs bring memories of much simpler times on the folk scene. Not quite going back to the hey nonny, nonny days but there is something reassuringly traditional about their style at times and the track does have a gypsy style accent to it.

Even though the title is French, there is something therapeutically laid back and siesta like about Carnaval De Nantes. It’s a gentle but remarkably evocative tune and although it does fill out and pick up slightly you are never willing it on to build any higher than it does.

The grittier tone of singing is back for Cinderella as the words express love for the title character. The song has a mixture of styles from the lounge sound of the piano to the European style mandolin notes from Innes Cardno.

Coralie’s ethereal fiddle playing introduces Fray and once again you get to enjoy the harmonising they do so well with their voices. There is a brooding sound to Adam’s lyrics which is lightened by his partner’s tones who also takes out the tune with a gentle insert on her strings.

Plot on the Moon is a slightly off the wall political song which does have tones of Steve Knightley from Show of Hands and Luke Jackson. The Brexit song asks the pertinent question ‘Britannia what have you done?

There is almost a reggae beat to Shotdown but once again the couple have put their subtle cover on it which, for this album at least, seems to be their trademark. It seems they are firmly lodged in the camp of ‘less is more’.

Waiting for the Day is a slightly laboured song which sounds even more like Jackson than the previously mentioned track. It’s the only track on the album which is not easy on the ear and seems to stretch Adam to the limit of his vocal range.

The new album
The album finishes on Living Memory with probably the most subtle pipes you are ever likely to hear. Anyone who things they can only be harsh or rasping should listen to Ainslie on this track. Adam’s voice has a touch of the Van Morrison’s about it and it does, at times, come across that he is trying too hard to inject emotion into his singing.

If there is one thing missing from this album it’s Coralie’s turn to take the lead on the vocals. You get a hint at the gentleness of her voice through the harmonies and backing she provides but it would be interesting to hear her at full tilt.

Madam Tsunami do subtlety to the nth degree, but commendably enough they never lose any strength or clarity on what is an extremely enjoyable album.

Long Way Home is available now from the band’s website and


CD Review

Raighes Vol2

The follow-up to the first volume by Roberto Diana is a seriously class album where the musician can show off his easy, yet complex style of playing which, when it comes to the guitar, is reminiscent of the great Martin Simpson.

Roberto Diana
Picture by Giulia Cartasegna
This is especially so with opener Limbara’s Eye, the gentle and precise picking of the strings is mesmerising from the off and evokes the tunes of another great acoustic guitarist and composer John Williams.

The track is far too short and just as you have relaxed into the subtle tones it has gone.

Just so you don’t get too comfy Diana shocks you upright with his reverberating electric guitar intro to Screaming to the Moon. There is a touch of Hendrix about the methodology but it’s a little less edgy.

He comes back on the acoustic for Empty Rooms which is another thoughtful and genteel tune. The economical use of the chords along with the mixture of soft and harsh strumming give this track real character akin to a musical conversation.

Diana picks up the pace for Walking in London where he constructs a musical map of the bustling capital, even throwing in sitar-like tones on the vichitra veena.

With his strings Diana paints a picture as complex as the streets, buildings and lives he meets during his stay of one of the world’s most famous cities.

His opening to the Other Side of the Mountain does bring to mind the style of Ry Cooder but has the flow and mixture of something more akin to a Fleetwood Mac offering.

The tune is more fractured than previous ones so it never really allows you to settle into it as he uses his music to relate his setting off on his personal adventure through life.

Dreaming on a Plane is exactly what happened according to Diana, he translated this song to his guitar after imagining a duel between a saxophone and banjo. If you listened carefully you can hear the banjo’s voice occasionally chipping in.
The unusual vichitra veena

Nuraghes is very much a link to Diana’s Sardinian roots, which is the meaning behind the album’s title, and you get the feel of both the exotic and the ethnic as he brings the strands of sounds together for this piece.

One again you can’t but help but think of fellow guitar maestro Simpson with the intro to Last Goodbye but it soon sounds like Cooder is back in the house with the haunting slide guitar coloured by the wonderfully lingering sound of Jimmy Ragazzoni on harmonica.

There are incredibly subtle touches too, such as the almost imperceptible sound of Isha on tanpura.

Her Sunshine Smile starts off gently with the notes falling like individual raindrops at the beginning of a storm. The tune is inspired by a love story and it has an emotion where you can see where Diana is coming from.

He really gets a chance to show his skill on the guitar strings with Looking For. It is a thoughtful and musing piece where his style is not unlike Ewan McLennan the Scottish guitarist whose method is strongly influenced by classical guitar.

It seems Diana created a flash mob scenario when he came up with Airport Dance. The story he tells is that after running out of things to pass the time while waiting for a flight he took out his guitar and starting playing.

A French girl was inspired to dance to the tune and the action spread to the rest of the airport, stopping only when he was due to board his flight.

You can almost visualise the motion building as the tune progresses and see the need for movement slowly filtering through crowd from the single girl caught up in his music.
Diana's latest album

Diana’s versatility and creativeness is undeniable and this album covers a wide spectrum of sounds, styles and genres, so much so that you can never say you don’t get your money’s worth from him.

Raighes Vol 2 is a pretty complex piece of musical work but for all that it’s very easy to listen to and even easier to get caught up in the visions the musician creates using sound like a painter’s pallete.

While keeping firmly to his roots at the same time Diana takes you on a musical journey but in such a way that it comes with open doors so not only can you follow the path he has written but you can also find your own way through.

Raighes Vol 2 is available now from the artist’s website.