Sultans of String – Symphony! [TrackList follows] – Red River Entertainment [9/17/13] ****:
(Sultans of String: Chris McKhool – 6-string violin, vocals; Kevin Laliberté – guitars; Eddie Paton – guitar; Drew Birston – acoustic & elec. bass & scat; Rosendo Chendy León – percussion, palmas, drums, jaleo; Guests: Bassam Bishara – oud; James Hill – ukulele; Larry Larson – trumpet; Paddy Moloney – pennywhistle & Uilleann pipes; Dala – vocals; plus 55-piece orchestra led by Jamie Hopkins)
Pretty nice, the financial support that some musicians and other cultural artists can secure in Canada. This big CD production was supported by the Canada Council, FACTOR, and the Ontario Arts Council—an agency of the Government of Ontario. It is built around the Canadian instrumental quintet known as The Sultans of String—a play on words on the Dire Straits tune “Sultans of Swing.” The leader of the group is hot violinist and sometime vocalist Chris McKhool, and the group mixes elements of Spanish flamenco, Arabic folk, Celtic and Cuban music and gypsy jazz into the complex rhythms and melodies they present. They frequently tour with a full band, so bringing in the above guest musicians and the backing of the 55-piece orchestra is nothing that unusual for them. They are now on tour and performing live with a dozen symphony orchestras across Canada and the northern U.S. There are several YouTube videos by Sultans of String currently available.
The variety of the ten tracks here are almost overwhelming. It starts off with a Hungarian feeling on “Monti’s Revenge,” then goes to flamenco influences on “Palmas Sinfonia.” McKhool talks about the next tune “Josie,” in the above video. The oud is heard in “Road to Kfarmishi,” in which McKhool and his father returned to their roots in Lebanon, and the bagpipes and pennywhistle—played by one of the members of The Chieftains—are featured on the Nova Scotia-based “Sable Island.” The one vocal on the disc features McKhool and backup singers in ‘Will You Marry Me,” and the closing track is a lovely instrumental for only violin and guitar.
TrackList: Monti’s Revenge, Palmas Sinfonia, Jose, Emerald Swing, Sable Island, A Place to Call Home, Road to Kfarmishki, Luna, Will You Marry Me, Encouentros.