— You are a duo?
— Duo means two.
— Quintet means five.
— Well, you know, we were never good at maths...
o cut a long story short (which you can read here), in 2003 Scotsman Davy McGowan, the editor of Donovan fan magazine Get Thy Bearings and a bit of a picker on the guitar, was invited to Finland to play and record some music and to meet his new friends, bus driver Jore Heikkilä and teacher Tuomas Laitila, both amateur musicians as well.
Davy's first visit with the boys was a success, so when he visited again the following year he joined the tj band (which later in 2004 became the tjd band before its subsequent and final change to The Mescaline Smugglers). But since the very first sessions it was obvious that Davy and Jore felt a deep musical connection, so much so that they formed a duo called The Kvester Melkk Quintet which played and recorded music when Tuomas was not available and The Mescaline Smugglers was "resting". The "rule" so far has been that folky type music belongs to The Kvester Melkk Quintet and jugband, blues or rock belongs to The Mescaline Smugglers. Everyone has been happy with this arrangement and so far KMQ has made 11 albums.
At this point you may want to read a review by Colleen.
2004 was a very good year and a real start for The Kvester Melkk Quintet: three different albums were recorded that year, all during the same two week period in July. Of course much of the background work had been done the previous winter. And to be honest, much of the material in the first album called A Kaleidoscope Of Donovan was recorded in Davy's earlier visit in 2003. But those 10 songs weren't enough for a complete album, so the boys did four more in 2004 and got the total playing time over the 30 minute mark. The whole album consisted of Donovan covers.
Donovan was still haunting them on their second album called HMS Taavi. Donovan had made an album called HMS Donovan and the guys arrogantly stole the name for their own purposes. But not in vain; the music and lyrics had the same kind of atmosphere that can be found on HMS Donovan. And Taavi is a finnish form of David. This album showed the meaning of the word collaboration: Jore made melodies for 30 of the 32 Davy poems that made up the album (Davy's tunes are tracks #08 The Big Nosed Bear and #18 Never Talk To Strangers) At first Davy made lyrics for Jore's tunes but as these dried up due to the limited numbers of ready melodies, the guys decided to try it out the other way round. And it really worked out! This album also features Jore as a lead singer for the first time. It was Davy who made Jore sing. Jore had sang his demos to Davy, so that he would learn the melodies (neither of them can read music). Davy simply refused to sing some of the songs and told Jore he would have to sing them. And poor Jore couldn't let good songs go to waste, so he sacrified himself. Because Jore had to sing in English — and especially because of the song The Darquals which was full of English-like words made up by Davy, he insisted the lyrics should be somewhere to be available for anyone to read. Of course it was impossible to put all 32 poems to a CD inlay, so they put up the lyrics available on the website, and they can be found. 32 songs in one CD sounds a lot but in truth many songs are very short, usually hardly one minute long. That is simply because most of Davy's lovely poems were just 4 or 8 lines long. Sometimes Jore had to ask Davy to write some more lines for a song, and sometimes he simply put two different poems together.
Their third album, Weight Of Memory, presents folky material by other artists, from Ewan McColl's Dirty Old Town to Marc Bolan's Nijinsky Hind, but also some traditional songs and again three of their own compositions.
In 2006 Melkkers gathered again: they gave birth to the album Sauce For The Goose which turned out to be Davy's personal praise to celtic (or Irish/Scottish) music. If Jore had previously shown his ability to make tunes for child poems, his muse had now escaped and Davy was forced to show his composer skills by making 11 out of 13 of the tracks, and not only the music but the lyrics as well. And what tracks he did! Who can tell the difference between them and those two traditional songs that are also on the CD? All great sad and funny songs as celtic music should be.
Later that same year another album saw the light of day: Faroway. Again Davy had his fingerprints all over the album, by making most of the tracks by himself. Jore's muse showed some signs of returning and he sang his own three melodies. Not a bad album at all, and a fan called Kristi even made a review of it, which you can read here.
In 2007 it happened again: the 6th album, Reizegger Blues was released in April of that year. Maybe Jore's muse forgave him after all and moved back: most of the album's 19 tracks are by Heikkilä/McGowan. And some irish/scottish traditional can be found, too — and for the first time in Melkker's recording history they use a guest star: Tarja Niittumäki sings one song, The Child. Please read reviews from Kristi, Greg and Michelle.
As we could guess, the story kept going: 7th album, Lafferty's Place crawled out from Jore's basement at autumn of 2007. Looks like the boys founded their style at last: this album, too, has a few celtic trad songs, a few instrumentals, some tracks by Davy and the rest by them both. This time their guest singer is Tuomas Laitila who sings one song called Past, Present And Future, and plays flat bass on Parting Glass. Tuomas didn't get credits for these on the art covers, so here it goes. Just like Tom Grierson, who recorded and mixed the name track. Sorry, boys!
Year 2008 was almost over before anything happened in publishing sector. As in their first album, Donovan appeared here again turning out to be a connecting element: Another Day With Donovan, from August 2008, collects the tracks that Davy and Jore has released on some issues of Cover Stories (Donovan covering music made by fans) under their own names or as a band. So some of these tracks were recorded (long) before any of the tracks on their first, A Kaleidoscope Of Donovan, from 2003/2004. This is very different release than usual, so it can be seen as "semi official" or just "a collection that 'another' record company has published".
But not for long after that things suddenly normalized. During Davy's second 2008 visit in October, they could finish their 9th album called The Secret Door. And the boys were back on trail where they have been used to find: some celtic, some cover versions, many by Davy and some by Jore. Now there is also a kind of suprise: after over 120 songs with Jore's music and Davy's lyrics we have now first (and probably last) time a track with music by Davy and (English) lyrics by Jore, called Understood! Another big change is that they managed to have a pro musician, Ilona Ala-Leppilampi with her violin to guesting this album.
Next album called Rigmarole was made ready during Davy's next visit in April 2009. This time the word is CELTIC. The band was lucky to have again Ilona Ala-Leppilampi and AP Sarjanto pickin' his tenor banjo and mandolin. Band's american friend and fan Greg Hodgkins made the amazing cover art painting. Thanks, Greg!
Here you can see some of the sketches he made for the front cover.
April 2010, Parola, Finland. Davy and Jore are gathered to finish their latest production, a 4 CD box as a new band called The Baltic Moonshine Band —and of course the latest album by The Mescaline Smugglers with Tuomas— when they suddenly get an idea: what about Kvester Melkk? No KMQ album this year? So they realise that there are some folky stuff made for The Baltic Moonshine Band, leftovers from last year, one session from April 2009 with A.P. Sarjanto with three tracks, some unused tracks from the dark corners of Jore's studio PC... suddenly they had 18 tracks together and no reason at all why these could not form the next Melkkers album. Not bad from the album that shouldn't even exist.
Our guests this time are Tuomas Laitila (bass on Sally, Free And Easy, The Partisan, Waxies' Dargle, Rocky Road To Dublin and piano on Greg's Icecream Machine), A.P. Sarjanto (mandolin on The Partisan, mandolin and tenor banjo on Waxies' Dargle and tenor banjo on Rocky Road To Dublin), and Ilona Ala-Leppilampi plays her heartbreaking violin on Resurrecion Suite. Greg's Icecream Machine is Jore's humble hommage to Greg Hodgkins, our maybe most loyal reviewer.
On these albums both Jore & Davy play:
- · acoustic guitars
- · mandolin
- · bozouki
- · tin whistles
- · tablas
- · drums
- · shaker
- · vocals
- · harmony vocals
- · keyboards
Jore plays also:
- · banjo
- · tenor banjo
- · mandolin-banjo
- · flat bass
- · fretless acoustic bass
- · PC
- · accordion
- · balalaika
Davy plays also:
- · jewish harp
- · bongos
- · bodhran
- · blues harp
- · drum machine