Winner of the Australian Songwriters Association National Award for BEST LYRICS 2007 “all Alone” is the first Australian reslease of Carl Cleves, songwriter and guitarist with the Hottentots. “All Alone” is an album of story songs populated by refugees, addicts, a child beggar, a drunk driver, the smell of money, the tears of broken hearts, the rage of obsession and the joys of solitude and travel.
CD REVIEW – by Peter Dawson.
Although well known as one half of the eclectic duo The Hottentots for more than sixteen years, Carl Cleves has just released his fi rst solo effort since coming to Australia in the late 1980s from his native Belgium, and after extensive travels throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Orient, the Pacific Region and South America.
Cleves has mastered many and diverse styles of ethnic music, while bending them to suit his own stories and manner of playing. His various accompanying musicians add spice to this already rich brew, with finely emotive viola from Cleis Pearse, a country touch from Leigh Ivin on pedal steel, plus the tasteful Steve Russell on piano. Sparse guitar accompaniment and Carl Cleves’ melancholy voice is all you hear on the title track “All Alone”, sweetly uncomplicated yet aching with feeling.
Masterly Middle-Eastern oud intro from Yuval Askar leads into the poignant drama of the award-winning “The Rose of Kordofan”, where the story tells of young love in Sudan and the disaster which causes the lovers to become refugees, their flight, a death of one and the other’s final incarceration in a detention camp.
A reggae-flavoured, uptempo “You and I” is Carl’s love song to his wife and Hottentot partner Parissa Bouas, and she joyously joins in on backing vocal, with the wind instruments and whistling adding a Celtic fl air. “Eclipse of the Sun” takes the simple path again with Carl and Parissa weaving harmonic garlands around each other over his easy guitar picking. Track nine “Poison Love” is Carl venting his spleen at an ex-lover, with jazzy flugelhorn lines from John Hoffman bouncing off drummer Rik Cole and bass player Kamal Engels’ tight rolling rhythm.
Cleves’ Belgian accent is strong in his vocal delivery throughout eleven compositions, but that emphasises the human pathos in songs, his tales of longing, of solitude and of grief; and after all he has often been himself a stranger in a strange land!
About the artist: World-class songs and an ability to tell a poetic, emotional story have won Carl Cleves (from the Hottentots) countless awards including MusicOz and ASA Best Folk 06 and ASA Best Folk 07. From his colourful nomadic past comes a unique guitar style. CD REVIEW – by Richard Jasiutowicz-Diaspora World Beat Half of the Australian based duo The Hottentots, Carl Cleves is a veritable world traveller. One part of him is here, the other everywhere. After four CDs with the Hottentots his debut 2007 release, “All Alone” bears this out in a myriad of subtle ways. One can talk about the multicultural infl uences, the pensive quality of the title track which owes a debt to Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso, the homage to Sudanese oud player Abdel Gadir Salim “The Rose Of Kordofan” or the Caribbean, African and Brazilian rhythms that fl ow to the dictates of some of the songs, as these are natural things that come from Carl’s travels. I suppose you could call this release acoustic folk with touches of blues, country and jazz, but that doesn’t really describe it either. Carl never ever tries to sound like anybody else. He has managed to absorb these other infl uences while retaining his own muse. As a result, he is an uncompromising artist with a personal vision that is both whimsical and wise and yet he’s not averse to injecting a bit of hokey fun into the proceedings. His melodies are memorable and moving. The supporting cast, including the remaining Hottentot Parissa Bouas on vocals, provides subtle and occasionally exuberant colourings on oud, viola, violin, electric guitar, saxes, trumpet, bass and percussion. It would be remiss to omit mention of Carl’s acoustic guitar playing that provides eloquent commentary in all 11 songs. It is utterly captivating and pregnant with unexpected nuance. In fact Carl is the only acoustic guitarist in Australia whose work I can detect after two notes…his sound is that singular, yet he never grandstands. To me that speaks volumes. The songs themselves seem to be observations from some unwritten autobiography and are sung with the complete lack of pretense that is the singer’s trademark. “All Alone” was awarded Best Lyrics 2007 by the Australian Songwriters Association, which I hope gives some impetus to this excellent album. I know that Carl doesn’t really like to consider himself as a world music artist, but the real litmus test is to blot out the meaning of the lyrics in one’s mind as if they were in a foreign language and listen to the textures, rhythms and melodies. Well….”All Alone” passes with flying colours.