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Articles and Press about Tempest

San Lorenzo Valley Post, Feature Article November 2023
Nevada Appeal, Feature Article August 2023
Dayton.com, Feature Article May 2023
Goldmine, CD Review April 2023
House of Prog, CD Review May 2022
DPRP.net, CD Review May 2022
DMME.net, CD Review April 2022
The Unionville Times, Concert Preview April 2022
Folking, CD Review March 2022
Music Street Journal, CD review, March 2022
South Bend Tribune, Feature Article, March 2022
Exclusive Magazine, CD Review March 2022
Music from the Other Side of the Room, CD Review March 2022
East Bay Express, Feature Article March 2022
Daily Press, Feature Article April 2019
Dayton Daily News, Concert Preview March 2019
Weer Magazine, Feature Article March 2019
Permafrost Today, Norwegian CD Review April 2018
Music Street Journal, CD Review April 2018
Progressor Magazine, CD Review March 2018
Metal Integral, French CD Review March 2018
Sea of Tranquility, CD Review March 2018
Celtic Folk Punk, CD Review February 2018
Syracuse Newtimes, Feature Article April 2017
House of Prog, CD Review October 2016
No Depression Magazine, CD Review July 2016
No Depression Magazine, Live Review May 2016
Cleveland.com, Feature Article April 2016
Chunky Glasses, Concert Review April 2016
Visalia Times Delta, Feature Article January 2016
Sacramento Bee, Feature Article June 2015
Folkowa Polish CD Review May 2015
San Francisco Weekly CD Review May 2015
Music Street Journal CD Review April 2015
Music From The Other Side Of The Room CD Review April 2015
VEER Magazine CD Review April 2015
Merlinprog Norwegian CD Review March 2015
World Music Central.org CD Review" March 2015
SunHerald.com CD Review" March 2015
Sea of Tranquility CD Review March 2015
Dangerdog Music Reviews CD Review March 2015
Made in Metal Spanish CD Review March 2015
Seigneurs Du Metal French CD Review March 2015
Sing Out Magazine, CD Review March 2015
Berkeley Times, Preview & CD Review February 2015
Gonzo Weekly, Feature Article & Review February 2015
Enjoy Magazine, Feature Article June 2014
Carson Now Concert Review May 2014
The Herald Palladium, Feature Article April 2014
Rochester City Paper, Preview April 2014
Off The Water, Feature Article April 2014
Dayton Daily News, Feature Article April 2014
The Chestertown Feature April 2012
The Herald-Palladium, Feature Article April 2012
Philadelphia Weekly "Philadelphia Folk Festival Review" August 2011
Ledger Dispatch Concert Review July 2011
The Cleveland Sound's Interview with Lief Sorbye April 2011
The Cleveland Sound's Review of "Another Dawn" March 2011
Palo Alto Daily News "Tempest Feauture" February 2011
Oakland Performing Arts Examiner "Caliban Review" February 2011
Driftwood Magazine's Review of "Another Dawn" October 2010
Marty McFly's Review of "Another Dawn" August 2010
San Luis Obispo Tribune's interview with Lief Sorbye August 2010
Reno News & Review, Preview Article June 2010
Music Street Journal's Interview with Lief Sorbye June 2010
Music Street Journal's Review of "Another Dawn" June 2010
Progression Magazine's Review of "Another Dawn" May 2010
Shepherd Express Milwaukee, Review of "Another Dawn" May 2010
All Music Guide's Review of "Another Dawn" by J. Poet May 2010
Prog Archives's Review of "Another Dawn" April 2010
Sea of Tranquility's Review of "Another Dawn" April 2010
Press & Sun-Bulletin Feature Article, NY April 2010
Metal Integral's Review of "Another Dawn" April 2010
Chicago Daily Herald Feature Article April 2010
Progression's Review of "Prime Cuts" Aug 2009
Davis Enterprise Article January 2009
Recordnet.com Article January 2009
Times-Standard Article January 2009
Encyclopedia.com's Review of "Birthday Bash" May 2008
Dirty Linen's Review of "Birthday Bash" May 2008
The Virginian-Pilot Article April 2008
South Bend Tribune Article April 2008
NovoMetro Article March 2008
Hanford Sentinel, Article, January 2008
Fresno Bee Article January 2008
Press & Sun-Bulletin Article, Binghampton, NY April 2007
Folk World's Review of "The Double-Cross" December 2006
Washington Post "Concert Preview" August 2006
Dirty Linen's Review of "The Double-Cross" August 2006
Montgomery Newspapers July 2006
RoughEdge.com's Review of "The Double-Cross" May 2006
Artist Direct's Review of "The Double-Cross" May 2006
guitarnoise.com's Review of "The Double-Cross" May 2006
ProgNaut's Review of "The Double-Cross" May 2006
Auburn Journal Karfluki Fest Preview May 2006
Auburn Sentinel Karfluki Fest Preview April 2006
Port Folio Weekly - Article by Jeff Maisey April 2006
Goldmine's Review of "The Double-Cross" March 2006
A & A Review Of ďThe Double-CrossĒ March 2006
Sea of Tranquility's Review of "The Double-Cross" March 2006
Celtic Beat Review of "The Double-Cross" March 2006
1340mag.com Review of "The Double-Cross" March 2006
Midwest Record Recap review of "The Double-Cross" February 2006
Music Street Journal's Review of "The Double-Cross" January 2006
Ytsejam.com Review of "The Double-Cross" January 2006
Port Folio Weekly - Article by Jeff Maisey April 2005
15th Anniversary Collection - Exposť review March 2005
15th Anniversary Collection - Dirty Linen review February 2005
15th Anniversary Collection - Music Street Journal review January 2005
15th Anniversary Collection - Relix review November 2004
15th Anniversary Collection - Green Man Review October 2004
Rambles - Interview by Dave Howell August 2004
Music Street Journal's Review of "Shapeshifter" June 2004
Dirty Linen Concert Review June / July 2004
The Virginian Pilot - Article by Jeff Maisey April 2004
Erie Times-News - Article by Dave Richards April 2004
Obvious Pop - Concert Review April 2004
The San Francisco Observer April 2004
Penny Dreadful - A Brazilian Interview with Lief February 2004
The Sacramento Bee - 15th Anniversary Show Preview January 2004
The Vacaville Reporter - 15th Anniversary Show Preview January 2004
The Davis Enterprise - 15th Anniversary Show Preview January 2004
Dirty Linen Magazine's Review of "Shapeshifter" October 2003
Amazon.com Review of Shapeshifter" September 2003
Goldmine Magazine's Review of "Shapeshifter" August 2003
Dave Sleger's Review of "Shapeshifter" July 2003
F5 Wichita's Review of "Shapeshifter" July 2003
Sea of Tranquility's Review of "Shapeshifter" July 2003
KUAR Radio's Review of "Shapeshifter" June 2003
All Music Guide's Review of "Shapeshifter" June 2003
Amazon.com Review of Shapeshifter" May 2003
OpenUpAndSay.com's Review of "Balance" April 2002
Ghostland.com Interview February 2002
Progfreaks.com Interview December 2001
Penny Dreadful Band of the Month Article November 2001
Celtic JigsNReels - Interview August 2001
Celtic Beat's Review of "Balance" July 2001
High Bias Live Concert Review June 30, 2001
Highway 1561 Revisited an article by Scott Cooper
MyCastroValley.com's Review of "Balance" June 2001
CHAOS REALM's Review of "Balance" June 2001
Music Street Journal, May 2001
All Music Guide's Review of "Balance"
ProgressiveWorld.net's Review of "Balance" April 2001
GC MAGAZINE Dallas, TX May 2001
About Classic Rock's Review of "Balance" April 2001
The Daily Vault Interview March 2001
MetalAges.com review December 2, 2000
Glass Eye June Review: Mickey Finn's (Toledo, OH) May 2, 2000
Yakima Herald-Republic  Friday,March 24, 2000
The Modesto Bee  January 7, 2000
Chicago Pioneer Press  April 1999
Enjoy  April 1999
WCMO Interview With Tempest
Dirty Linen  feature article  October/November 1998
An Scathan  January, 1998
Dayton Voice September 17-23, 1998
Progression Winter/Spring 1998
Relix  Vol. 26 Winter/Spring 1998

For Caliban articles and press, click here

For printable copies of these articles, click on the article title you wish to print

Goldmine, CD Review
By Lee Zimmerman
April 2023

Tempest is a storied Celtic rock band with a history that reaches back well over three decades. Their sound -- mostly British folk fare shared through contemporary execution -- harkens back to classic folk/rock outfits like Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, given that their archival origins are tempered with an electrified approach that's consistently driving and dynamic. Their latest album, Going Home, provides an astute example, boasting a riveting cover of Roger McGuinn's "Jolly Roger" (originally released on the ex Byrd's first solo album) and a mix of traditional tunes updated and enhanced by leader and Tempest constant Lief Sorbye. It's a stirring set of songs - rousing, robust and completely compelling. Granted, music like this is somewhat sparse these days, but Tempest continues to hold true to their template and make music that maintains a decided drive and dynamic. Consequently, Going Home - as the title implies - is the ideal introduction for the novice, as well as a stunning reminder for fans and followers why they were enticed and entranced to begin with.

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Dayton Daily News, Feature Article
By Don Thrasher
Contributing Writer

April 2014


Surviving and thriving as a roots rock outfit like San Francisco-based Tempest is never an easy prospect. It has become even more difficult over the past decade due to changes in the music industry mechanism and in the way listeners consume music. However, through all the unexpected changes, group founder Lief Sorbye has kept Tempest on point. His Celtic rock band continues to record and perform live, venturing out each spring for a Midwest tour, including its annual stop in Dayton. This show at Canal Public House on Friday, April 18 is extra special because it's part of Tempest's year-long 25th anniversary celebration. "I think 25 years is definitely something to celebrate," said Sorbye, a native of Oslo, Norway. "It's a bloody quarter of a millennium. The longevity of a rock band is two years if you're lucky so I'm happy to still be making music and to still be excited about it. We're still doing this and loving it. It's always new and exciting."

Sorbye is also pleased to share the Dayton stage with Lou Lala and the Elder Beer Men, which features longtime Tempest supporter Bill Flint. "Bill Flint from WYSO is one of the guys that became a really good friend real fast when we first started coming to Dayton back in 1989," Sorbye said. "We've been coming back to town every year since then and I found out a couple of years ago Bill had this band with his friends. They were getting together to drink beer and pick some tunes and write some songs but they never wanted to perform. I tried for a couple of years to get them to open for us." Flint and his bandmates finally acquiesced last year. "They all got on stage last year and it was a lot of fun so they all wanted to do it again," Sorbye said. "They'll be getting on stage and having a great time with a very eclectic concept. It's good to have friends doing that because it makes it a real party.

"This is a shaping up to be a fabulous year," Sorbye added. "We've got two or three tours coming up of the Midwest and the East Coast. We're playing some big festivals in the summer like the Philadelphia Folk Festival and the Dublin Irish Fest in Ohio. A lot of people are booking us this year because they realize we've been around for 25 years and we have longevity and that's nothing to sneeze at."

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The Herald-Palladium, Feature Article
By TOM CONWAY - H-P Correspondent
April 2012

Tempest tries something new
The Celtic rock band, playing Sunday at The Acorn, takes a slightly different direction on album

THREE OAKS - It has been a venerable tradition in folk music for songs to be passed down through generations, with each successive musician offering their own interpretation of the original song. Think of a song like "Stagger Lee," which was written at the beginning of the 20th century and has been recorded by everyone from Mississippi John Hurt and Lloyd Price - who had a hit single with it in 1959 - to Bob Dylan and Nick Cave.

In a sense, Celtic rock band Tempest, which performs Sunday at The Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, has followed this folk music tradition by recording the classic 1967 Grass Roots hit, "Let's Live for Today." The song even had a history before the Grass Roots turned it into a Top 10 hit.

"There was an Italian band that first did that song," Tempest founder, singer and mandolin player Lief Sorbye says by telephone from Oakland, Calif. "They stole it from a Motown song. That song has got quite a history."

Growing up in Oslo, Norway, Sorbye says that he was not that familiar with the song when he was approached about recording it by the head of Magna Carta Records, Tempest's label since 1996.

"That is our 'hit single,' even if we didn't make it a hit to begin with," Sorbye says. "That is the only time we had our record company assign us a song. We have always had free hands in the studio. They have let us do our own thing."

Not having any awareness or attachment to the song probably worked in Tempest's favor. They were able to start with a blank slate.

"I just sat down with it and came up with this little Celtic riff to add a little instrumental hook to make it our own and to give it that folk/Celtic thing," Sorbye says. "Then, we have the psychedelic thing going on, so it was very Celtodelic. I think that suits that song. People like it."

Tempest's modus operandi over their nearly 24-year musical career is - alongside their original compositions - to take traditional folk and Celtic songs, some centuries old, and give them a rock music treatment. "Let's Live for Today," available on their latest album, "Another Dawn," reverses that trend.

One constant for Tempest has been the comings and goings of band members. Fans of Tempest who have attended any of the band's annual appearances at The Acorn Theater over the past five years will see another new lineup with only Sorbye and drummer Adolf Lazo remaining.

"The last lineup we had lasted a good five years," Sorbye says. "Babies are born and wives are complaining. It is the same story. Juggling a music career as a touring musician with the domestic scene is hard for people. It works for awhile maybe, but not extensively for everybody. I'm always accommodating people when it comes to change in the lineup. As long as the people onstage are enjoying themselves, I'm happy."

Sorbye says that Tempest has always had an open-door policy, and says that there are positives and negatives to shaking up the lineup.

"We have enjoyed playing with so many talented musicians," he says. "Right now, there is a lot of new inspiration as a result of that. It's times of change and at the same time, as much as you miss people that you've played with for awhile, it's always inspiring to play with new people that bring new ideas to the table. I don't have to come up with all of the new ideas year in and year out. I get input from the outside, which is really healthy."

The new members of Tempest are Kathy Buys on fiddle, Greg Jones on guitar and Brian Fox on bass. Fox is also the editor-in-chief of Bass Player magazine, and Sorbye has wanted him in the band for some time, but the timing wasn't right.

"He had looked up Tempest five years ago, the last time we were looking for a bass player," Sorbye says. "At that point in time, he couldn't join the band because he had to clock in all the office hours for the magazine."

Rather than having any past regrets over past members leaving, Sorbye is living for today with the new version of Tempest.

"It's wonderful," he says. "I feel privileged that we can say we're busy. The music industry is not as flourishing as it was a decade or two ago. The economy has taken its toll, but luckily, Tempest, we have our own place in the world. We still go out touring. We see old friends. We can't complain. We're doing pretty well."

-- WHAT: Tempest with Hard Soul opening
-- WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday
-- WHERE: The Acorn Theater, 107 Generations Drive, Three Oaks
-- HOW MUCH: $15
-- CONTACT: 756-3879 or www.acorntheater.com

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Progression Magazine's Review of "Another Dawn"
By Raymond Benson
May 2010

Stalwart Celtic rock act Tempest returns with one of its best releases to date. To those unfamiliar with the band led by Lief Sorbye (vocals, electric mandolin, guitar), know that this is prog-ish folk-rock in the vein of Jethro Tullís Songs from the Wood albumófolk music, Irish reels, Norwegian traditional tunes, and rockóblended into a joyous, toe-tapping mix.

Michael Mullenís fiddling is excellent as always, but the standout on this album is new lead guitarist James Crocker, who also contributes a good deal of the composing. His ďDagdaís Harp,Ē which begins with a gorgeous acoustic guitar sequence and escalates to amazing electric fiddle/guitar showmanship, will become a Tempest classic. Also impressive is ďJomfru,Ē a traditional piece with Sorbye-fueled embellishments that begins as a "regular song" and ends with an exhilarating instrumental whirlwind.

Opening the album is a surprisingly winning cover of the Grass Rootsí ďLetís Live For Today,Ē which also is likely to become a Tempest standard.

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Progression's Review of "Prime Cuts"
By Raymond Benson
Aug 2009

The leading purveyor of progressive Celtic rock celebrates their 20th anniversary with this superb "best of" collection. Front man Lief Sorbye presents juicy offerings from all of the band's lineups on either the CD or the DVD. The DVD, entitled "Tempest Through the Ages," is a fascinating amalgamation of rare concert clips, television appearances, and rehearsal footage dating back to the beginning. Video/sound quality varies but thatĀfs to be expected with vintage material. Yes, Lief looked very young at one time.

Tempest's music conjures up memories of the Songs from the Wood-era Jethro Tull, and in fact Tempest pays tribute to Ian Anderson with a cover of "Locomotive Breath" (on both disks). Anyone who likes Irish folk-rock, jigs, virtuoso fiddle playing, and music that inspires one to get up and dance a reel will enjoy this band immensely. Prime Cuts is an excellent starter package for those unfamiliar with TempestĀfs catalog -- it's a splendid greatest hits anthology with all the right choices. The DVD is icing on the cake.

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Davis Enterprise, Article
By Landon Christensen
January 2009

Lively folk rock band celebrates two decades on the stage

Surviving 20 years in the music biz is cause to celebrate. The folk rock band Tempest has been at it since 1988, and isn't stopping any time soon. Tempest recently released 'Prime Cuts,' a career retrospective of the band's most requested songs and a two-hour DVD of live performances throughout the years.

The DVD provides a taste of the live Tempest experience, but nothing compares to the real thing. Catch the band in action - teamed up with the Celtic folk band Molly's Revenge - at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Veterans' Memorial Theater, 203 E. 14th St., Davis. Tickets, at $20, are available at DeColores Trading Company, 713 Second St., (530) 758-9417.

By fusing traditional Irish, Scottish and Norwegian folk with classic rock, Tempest is in a class all its own. The band consists of singer and mandolinist Lief Sorbye, drummer Adolfo Lazo, fiddler Michael Mullen, guitarist James Crocker and bassist Damien Gonzalez.

Sorbye, the band's founder, was born in Oslo, Norway. He began playing guitar at age 7 and occupied his teen years with various garage bands. He spent the 1970s 'busking' (playing music on the streets) in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, London, Geneva and Venice.

In '79, Sorbye moved to San Francisco and joined the Celtic folk band Golden Bough. After eight years, he left that group and formed Tempest with the idea of combining traditional folk with rock 'n' roll.

'Back then, it was innovative,' Sorbye said, during a recent phone chat.
He laughed. 'Now it's as common as bread and butter.'
At the time, though, folk purists weren't keen on this new style.
'It was like, 'You can't do that to folk music because it's pure,' ' Sorbye said. 'We're not in the business of presenting museum pieces; we're interested in playing what we love. The Internet finally killed the purists. Now people learn from each other: beg, borrow and steal from all cultures. It's all up for grabs.
'Rock audiences were easy to win over. Heavy metal fans were the easiest. They embraced us early on.'
Sorbye is particularly proud to have introduced people to traditional folk.
'We turned a lot of people onto it ... not because we were the greatest, but because we introduced them to it. They could relate to a backbeat and electric guitars.'
He laughed again.
'We won over a lot more people than we annoyed.'
Tempest plays original songs alongside traditional folk tunes. It all flows seamlessly, making it difficult to separate 'original' from 'traditional.'
'That's how we want it to be. A lot of bands that dabble in this style, their originals don't mix well with the traditional. We want to add to the traditional and keep it alive.'

Obviously, Sorbye has made it work.

'You Jacobites by Name' is a perfect example. It's an old song from the Jacobite rebellion in Scotland; Tempest kicks it up a notch and turns it into a hard-rocking anthem.
'That's one of our signature songs,' Sorbye said, 'and our arrangement works pretty well. I added a metal riff to it; people keep asking for it.'

Aside from being an innovator in folk rock, Sorbye also has created new instruments. He invented a double-necked mandolin, which besides being functional, looks really cool on stage.

'My acoustic instrument couldn't compete with the electric instruments,' he said. 'I was looking for solid body electric versions of my acoustic instruments. I have an electric mandola and mandolin. I thought, if I could put both on the same body, I could carry one instead. I could switch from one to the other when I perform bigger soundscape, and have more range to work with.
'I love having great instrument makers grab these ideas, and put them into the physical universe. I can express myself. The instruments are so specialized, they won't compete in the music store.'
He paused.
'Although I have gotten some commissions over the years.'

Sorbye warmed further to the subject.
'Now I make acoustic instruments that can compete with electric instruments. You have to have good pick-ups, with a warmer wood sound. I like the heavy guitar sound with sparkly mandolin; it adds depth.'

Unfortunately, Sorbye fears that the new generation doesn't know what good sound is.
'They have no idea. MP3s on computer speakers don't do it justice. I miss records: the touch, feel and smell, the concept of an album as opposed to downloading. Music has lost its value. People don't want to pay for it.'

On the flip side, though, Sorbye pointed out that 'live music is better than ever. People always want to see real people with instruments.'

To see an example of great live music, watch the 'Tempest through the Ages' DVD from 'Prime Cuts.' The DVD is an excellent assortment of performances for the novice and hard-core fans. You can see the band's progression, starting with live performances from the late 1980s, when the sound was influenced heavily by classic prog rock, through the '90s and to the present day.

'My sister in Norway got the DVD for Christmas,' Sorbye laughed, 'and her kids wondered about the hairstyles.
'It was fun to put that together. We wanted to do this for our fans, for our 20th anniversary. Instead of putting out some slick, polished DVD, we went through the old archives and picked some fun moments.
'We wanted to keep it light.'
The band watched it for the first time on a big screen at the Acorn Theater in Michigan.
'I was laughing really hard,' Sorbye admitted. 'We put in some embarrassing moments, to spice it up. It's how the band is: lifting your spirits and having fun. It shows the band's development: where we've been, what we sounded like and looked like.'

After 13 albums and thousands of shows, Sorbye still loves performing.

'The band is as enjoyable now as back in the beginning. We all still love it.'

While Tempest has had many line-up changes through the years, original members Lazo and Mullen remain.

'Three out of five for 20 years is pretty good,' Sorbye said. 'We're not tired of it; we're just scratching the surface. Everyone is bursting with ideas, and we have lots of new material coming up.'

Sorbye looks forward to returning to the Vets' in Davis.

'We're keeping our tradition of playing January shows at the Vets'. We've been doing this since the mid-'90s. The members of Molly's Revenge are friends; we'll do a song together in the finale.'

Tempest unites fans from a wide range of genres: Celtic, folk, classic rock, prog rock and metal. If you're not into the aforementioned genres, you're still guaranteed a great time.

And don't worry if you saw Tempest in early 2008.

'This show will be completely different,' Sorbye promised.

'One heck of a fun show!'

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Dirty Linen's Review of "Birthday Bash
May 2008

Lief Sorbye Birthday Bash [Magna Carta MA-9093-2 (2007)]

On March 23, 2007, Celtic rock warrior Lief Sorbye celebrated his 50th birthday at Berkeley's Ashkenaz. It was an evening of music with past and present members of his current bands, Tempest and Caliban, and his previous associates from Golden Bough in front of an enthusiastic and seemingly well-lubricated audience. The evening moves predictably from relatively polite acoustic pieces like "For Three of Us" and the unaccompanied vocal harmonies of "Country Life" to tuneful folk-rock tunes like "Handsome Molly" and ultimately to my-amp-goes-to-11 workouts like "Slippery Slide" and "Cat in the Corner." The last several tunes of the show feature the dueling axes of past and present Tempest lead guitarists Ronan Carroll and James Crocker. The end of the disc also features four acoustic tracks from a KPFA radio broadcast featuring Sorbye and Caliban/Tempest fiddler Michael Mullen.

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The Virginian-Pilot, Article
By Jeff Maisey
April 2008

Irish, Scottish and Norwegian folk Tempest tunes it up for beach faithful

Virginia Beach has long been a favorite port of call for Lief Sorbye, and this year it is a must-stop.

A tall pirate of a man with his long hair and cavalierlike goatee, Sorbye wields a double-necked electric mandolin and sings for Tempest, the San Francisco-area band that's touring America and Northern Europe for two reasons: to support "Prime Cuts," a best-of compilation, and to celebrate its 20th anniversary as a band.

"Starting in the mid-'90s we got a regular home in Virginia Beach at the White Horse Pub," Sorbye says. "It became a tradition for us that whenever we toured the East Coast we'd play an intimate show for our regular following, until it fell apart two years ago when the owner, Larry Mercieca, sold the venue and moved away."

Tempest, which mixes elements of traditional Irish, Scottish and Norwegian folk music with 1970s prog rock a la Jethro Tull, will perform a free concert Tuesday at Murphy's Irish Pub (2914 Pacific Ave., Virginia Beach, 9 p.m.).

Sorbye says he has received an outpouring of e-mails and calls from fans in Virginia Beach asking for Tempest's return.

"I always looked at Virginia Beach as a place I wanted to come back and play. The audiences there are really sympathetic and enthusiastic about folk music. It's important to us that we do play to the people of Virginia Beach."

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South Bend Tribune, Article
April 2008

Kicking up a Tempest in folk music
Tribune Correspondent

When the Celtic rock band Tempest formed in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1988, not many bands were combining traditional folk elements with rock íní roll.

ďI am not saying we were groundbreaking, per se,Ē Tempest founding member and lead singer/electric mandolinist Lief Sorbye says. ďI am just saying the niche was so small that you had to really educate people to bring awareness towards what you were doing.Ē

Twenty years later, the bandís fusion of folk, Irish reels, Scottish ballads and other world music elements with rock íní roll has proven popular enough to afford Tempest the opportunity to tour the world, from Sorbyeís homeland of Norway to ó on Sunday ó The Acorn Theater, for a yearlong celebration of the groupís anniversary.

ďThings have changed over the last 20 years,Ē he says. ďThere has been so much cultural exchange. The world has changed tremendously over that time, especially when it comes to understanding other cultures. Now, the whole idea of world music or anything ethnic fused with modern rock íní roll has been charted out and done a lot.Ē

Growing up, Sorbye made a living playing on street corners throughout Europe.

ďYou are playing pass-the-hat, playing for tips,Ē he says. ďIn the í70s, there was a real flourishing artist scene in the cities of Europe. It was very common that you could get a permit to go out to perform in public on the street corners and actually make a living at it. It was quite exciting. If you are a teenager, it beats going to school. It beats having a 9-to-5, I can tell you that. As a result of that, I never really got a straight job.Ē

Suffering from a case of wanderlust, Sorbye moved to America in 1978 ďto see what it looks like to support myself as a busker in the U.S.Ē

He found street performing in the States was very different from Europe and instead had to join an acoustic folk music band to make a living. That didnít last long because Sorbye says he ďgot tired of people knitting in the front rowĒ and he ďwanted to infuse some of the folk music experience with rock íní roll energy and turn up the volume and party hard.Ē

Sorbye says the folk music scene ďis a subculture existing within the culture. It never really gets beyond that little niche market, but if you fuse it with rock íní roll, you have the ability to take it other places. You can play everything from Celtic festivals, in our case, to the corn-dog crowd at the county fair. You can play the rock festivals, motorcycle events and the folk festivals.Ē

Tempest keeps ďone foot in rock íní roll, and one foot in folk music,Ē Sorbye says, because his roots are deep in the folk music tradition.

ďWhat attracts me to folk music has always been that folk music tells a story,Ē he says. ďI think a lot of mainstream pop music is shallow in that sense. There is not a lot to learn from a run-of-the-mill pop song, but a folk song might have a story that can survive a couple hundred of years because it reflects the human condition.Ē

Blending folk music with rock íní roll is the result of ďof overindulging myself in so much traditional folk music for the last 30 years, it comes out that way,Ē Sorbye says.

ďHad they had electric guitar, bass and drums 200 years ago, you know they would have used them,Ē he says. ďIt totally makes sense. We are playing folk-style music. We just happen to be an electric band. We happen to rock with the best of them.Ē

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Hanford Sentinel, Article
January 2008

Folk and rock enthusiasts alike should be able to find something they like in Celtic rock band Tempest, which will perform later this month in Hanford along with the Wicked Tinkers.

ďThereís enough electric guitars to keep the young rock and roll enthusiast happy and thereís enough fiddles and mandolins to keep the folk purist excited,Ē said Tempest founder and lead singer, Lief Sorbye.

The two Celtic rock bands will perform together for the fourth time at the Weekend Winter Wonderland of Celtic Music concert at 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 18, at the Hanford Fox Theatre.

Sorbye said Hanford will be the first stop on the bandís 20th anniversary tour.

ďWeíre kicking off our 20th anniversary in downtown, beautiful, cosmopolitan Hanford,Ē said Sorbye.

The Bay Area-based band has released 12 albums and played more than 2,000 gigs since getting together in 1988.

Sometimes described as a European folk band, Sorbye described his bandís sound as ďfolk rock injected with a big dose of rock and roll energy and intensity.Ē

And of course, being that it is ďCeltic rock,Ē their music has roots in traditional folk music from the Celtic nations (Ireland and Scotland).

The band members themselves hail from all over the globe. Sorbye, the founding member and lead singer/electric mandolinist, is originally from Oslo, Norway; fiddler Michael Mullen is a California native who grew up in Reedley; bassist Damien Gonzalez, another California native, was raised in the Bay Area. He also plays the drums and Australian didgeridoo and ďmay occasionally breathe fire,Ē according to the bandís biography. Guitarist James Crocker is a native of Devon, England; and drummer Adolfo Lazo hails from Havana, Cuba.

Tempest has regularly performed at prestigious festivals such as the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Denmarkís Skagen Festival and Britainís Cropredy Festival and the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Theyíve also performed at countless American Celtic festivals.

Still, Sorbye said whether theyíre playing for a large audience or a small theater like Hanford Fox, the goal is to make the audience feel like youíre performing just for them.

ďFor me, itís not the size of the venue or the size of the audience as it is the ability to communicate with the audience,Ē Sorbye said. ďWhether we play for 200,000 people at a big festival or play for a small room of people, we try to create an intimacy. We try to make it seem like weíre performing just for you while youíre there.Ē

At the Hanford Fox Theatre show, the Los Angeles-based band the Wicked Tinkers will open for Tempest.

The Wicked Tinkers perform at many Irish and Scottish festivals, Highland Games, and Renaissance Faires in the western United States.

Utilizing bagpipes, tribal drums, the Australian didgeridoo and the Bronze Age Irish horn, the band is known for their tribal Celtic style.

The Tinkers are: Bagpiper and frontman Aaron Shaw, Keith Jones on percussion, Warren Casey on percussion and Jay Atwood, on didgeridoo and Bronze Age Irish horn.

ďItís very drum oriented, very rhythmic oriented,Ē said Casey of the bandís sound. ďItís all about rhythmic grooves and soaring pipes.Ē

Tickets are $20. To purchase in advance, call the Hanford Fox Theatre at 584-7823 or e-mail info@foxhanford.com,

The reporter can be reached at 583-2427.

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Press & Sun-Bulletin Article, Binghampton, NY
Article by Chris Kocher
April 2007

Ahoy, matey! Tempestís coming to town

Growing up in Norway, Lief Sorbye was like a lot of kids: Sometimes he played ďcowboys and IndiansĒ with friends, and other times he pretended he was a pirate on the high seas.

Today, Sorbye lives in the land of cowboys and Indians (well, California anyway) and sings about pirates as leader of the folkrock band Tempest. Not bad as far as childhood dreams go.

Since 1988, Tempest has circumnavigated the globeís music, sailing a rock íní roll flagship and plundering the best of Celtic, Scandinavian and other traditional sounds to add to its booty.

The bandís 12th and latest CD, ďThe Double-Cross,Ē launches with a rollicking song about Captain William Kidd, an English sailor who reluctantly became a pirate and ended up getting hanged for it. While previous albums have featured tales about the notorious Captain Henry Morgan and Captain Jack Ward, Sorbye sees Kidd as different.

ďCaptain Kidd was an interesting one, because he was from that period where you could buy a buccaneering license from the government ó you could go out there and be a legal pirate,Ē Sorbye said last week from his San Francisco area home. ďBut by the time he got out there to do that, it got outlawed, so he found himself being an outlaw by default. He got double-crossed by the government and the British navy all at once.Ē

Thanks to a certain Johnny Depp movie series, Tempest is ready to dust off its back catalog of original and traditional swashbuckler tunes for pirate festivals and carnivals around the country this summer. (Yes, there really are such things.)

ďYou know how fads come and go? Now thereís a pirate fad,Ē Sorbye said. ďTempest has been recording pirate songs for years now, and itís funny that the fad is catching up with us.Ē

Of course, Tempest isnít all about pirates. ďThe Double-CrossĒ also features traditional songs ó souped up with rock arrangements ó about escaping the noose (ďHangmanĒ), trading material goods for music (ďPer SpelmannĒ) and the hazards of arranged marriages (ďEppy MorayĒ). Also included are several breathtaking instrumentals (what Celtic traditionalists call ďtunesĒ) that showcase the bandís skills at high speeds.

Tempest has seen plenty of lineup changes in its 19-year history, and this spring tour brings on two new band members: guitarist James Crocker, formerly with the British folk-rock band Equation, and bassist Damien Gonzalez, who also plays a mean didgeridoo. Theyíll be joined by Cuban-born drummer Adolfo Lazo, an original Tempest member; fan favorite Michael Mullen, the bandís original fiddler, and, of course, Sorbye, who sings lead vocals and plays electric mandolin (including a funky-looking double-necked one that he invented himself).

Sorbye said new band members always provide new inspiration: ďRight now, I think Iím more excited about the band than Iíve been in a long time, because itís really an all-around good vibe in the band. Everybodyís doing really well, everybodyís anxious to get out on the road. Weíve got lots of new material, lots of new energy, and we just enjoy ourselves. Nothing gets in the way of the music.Ē

After spending April on the road, Tempest returns to the Bay Area May 5 for its own Karfluki Fest. The revelry will feature not only musical acts that inspire band members ó such as Fairport Convention and Big Brother & the Holding Co. ó but also giants, jugglers, sword-swallowers and other sideshow acts, as well as a mariachi band for Cinco de Mayo. Sounds like a place where a band of pirates would fit right in.

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Dirty Linen's Review of "The Double-Cross"
Article by Bill Chaisson (Trumansburg, NY)
August 2006

Make no mistake about the fact that this is a rock album, driven along by drums and bass. But mandolin player Lief SÝrbye and fiddler Michael Mullen make absolutely sure that not only are SÝrbyeís Norwegian and Mullenís Celtic heritage well represented, but that you will also encounter Finnish and Latin American influences. The latter are, in part, imparted through the playing of the bandís Cuban drummer Adolfo Lazo.While I miss the blazing elegance of fiddler Sue Draheim, who appeared on Shapeshifter (2003), the return of Michael Mullen is a welcome alternative, and he is a composer to boot. (Both Mullen and Draheim still play alternately with SÝrbye as the duo Caliban.) Irish guitarist Ronan Carroll hews to a progressive rock style and avoids the leaden chop of metal. SÝrbye is an oddly traditional mandolin plucker; he employs little or no distortion or effects on his electric instrument and simply plays the heck out the double-necked contraption.

ďCaptain KiddĒ is the third in Tempestís ďpirate series,Ē which began with ďCaptain MorganĒ and continued with ďCaptain Ward.Ē ďKiddĒ rather uneasily recalls the baroque sound of ďclassic rockĒ radio perennials Kansas, but things get a bit more exciting after this opener. Mullenís ďSlippery SlideĒ is a muscular guitar workout that brings to mind late 70s Jethro Tull with a killer fiddle in the mix. ďBlack EddyĒ is a set of three SÝrbye originals and a traditional Finnish tune, ďSakijarven Polka.Ē

ďPer Spelmann,Ē the lone Scandinavian traditional song that SÝrbye includes, is a relatively low-energy number with lyrics in Norwegian that for most of us rather obscure the humor of the story. The album concludes with a set called ďWizardís WalkĒ that leads off with a bluesy take on ďTam LinĒ and segues into a kickiní version of Jay Ungarís tune ďWizardís WalkĒ that is going to leave its composer chuckling about those crazy rock íní roll kids.

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Auburn Sentinel Karfluki Fest Preview
Article by Don Chaddock
April 2006

Just have fun at foothillsí first Karfluki Fest

The word ďkarflukiĒ wonít be found in any dictionary, but according to Lief Sorbye, it means fun, energetic, quirky and unique.
With that in mind, he is organizing the first Karkfluki Fest to be held in Auburn on Saturday, May 6, from 1 to 10 p.m. at the Gold Country Fairground.
ďI want Karfluki Fest to be all over the map musically,Ē Sorbye said. ďItís not a Celtic festival. This is different.Ē
So different, in fact, that his Celtic rock band Tempest will be performing along with the popular 1960s group, Itís a Beautiful Day.
ďItís a Beautiful Day is this yearís showcase band,Ē Sorbye said. ďI used to listen to them when I was a kid. You know, like the song ĎWhite Bird.íĒ
The festival also boasts the musical talent of Shana Morrison, Wicked Tinkers and Slim Bawb & Gator Bait.
ďKarfluki Fest is basically a Tempest festival featuring guest bands that we like and think will work well with the rest of the event,Ē he said.
The festival will also feature side show acts such as jugglers, fire dancers and belly dancers, as well as a comedian.
ďThis is a family event with a lot of entertainment on the ground while thereís entertainment happening on stage,Ē he said. ďItíll have an old-fashioned circus atmosphere combined with a folk and rock concert.Ē Shana Morrison is the daughter of Van Morrison, but Sorbye said she doesnít promote that angle and instead is making her own mark on music.
ďSheís very strong,Ē he said. ďSheís going to showcase her singer/songwriter acoustic material as opposed to her band sound. Itíll be very interesting.Ē
He said he also wanted to highlight a local band. Slim Bawb & Gator Bait, playing ďswampgrassĒ music, fit the bill.
Sorbye came up with the word ďkarflukiĒ as a big instrumental piece his band uses to end their sets.
ďBasically, it means, Ďto have a good time,íĒ he said.
Sorbye is planning to make Karfluki Fest an annual Auburn event. His band performs regularly at Constable Jackís (also the main event sponsor) in Newcastle.
There will be childrenís activities along with food, wine and beer for the adults.
Tickets are $25 per person, available at Cherry Records in Auburn or at the gate, with children under 12 admitted free as long as they are accompanied by a guardian. The show will go on, rain or shine.
For more information, call Constable Jackís at 916-663-9385 or visit the website at www.karflukifest.com.

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Port Folio Weekly
Article by Jeff Maisey
April 2006

Take 5 with Tempest

Tempest, the international band of swashbuckling Celtic-rock pirates, has set sail on another national tour. When Captain Lief Sorbye and his crew of musical Buccaneers make merriment at the White Horse Pub on Tuesday, they'll have a treasure chest of new gems, including "Captain Kid," "Hangman" and "Wizard's Walk."

With The Double-Cross, did you setout to do a concept album?
Not necessarily. I think what happens to us is that we look at the body of work when we're halfway into it and usually, if you're lucky, a concept creeps up. On this one there was a little bit of a theme going on. It wasn't thought out beforehand; it just happened that there was a nautical theme; there were more pirates and hangmen. The songs pointed the way towards a loose concept.

Your first track is "Captain Kidd." What intrigued you about this character?
I think the whole idea with Tempest, even since day one, was we liked doing pirate songs because that was one of those romantic images I was fascinated by as a kid. I was always into the pirate image and it kinda followed the band.
We started out with a song about Captain Morgan I wrote years ago. Then we did another pirate, Captain Ward. And then we got a lot of people turning out at shows dressed as pirates. It's one of those curses that follow the band. There were actually some female pirates during the era that we might investigate in the future. People are coming to us with these ideas, too.
With "Captain Kid," we always like the image of the underdog. He's the guy that got screwed by the British government and ended up by default being a pirate. He went out as a privateer, which is sort of a legal pirate paid by the government, and the only crew he could get were pirates. He found himself in that situation where he got double-crossed by the Navy and the British government. It is a really different story than Captain Morgan.
These people have a colorful history and they made an impact on the culture. It's fun to tell their story in our songs because I think our type of music lends itself to that imagery.

Within the "Black Eddy" medley is a tune you wrote called "The Tater Polka."
That was one of the first dance tunes I wrote after I got into traditional music in the '70s. A Tater has nothing to do with potatoes; it is a word for the Norwegian traveling people. You have the gypsies coming out of Romania; on the British Isles you have the Tinkers. In Scandinavia you have the Taters. It's the same thing. They are nomadic people traveling around supporting themselves with little odd jobs, and used to be in caravans.

Let's talk about "Wizard's Walk." It is a medley of four songs, but it gets really interesting about 3:30 into the piece.
Yeah. I think so too. That was something that Michael (Mullins) worked on.
A lot of our fans come to our shows and want to be slapped in the face with something big. So we were looking to put together another big medley of tunes that we could use as a set closer and one that we could really sink our teeth into and build it, and have a lot of interesting interplay between the musicians; something that will keep you on top of your toes and wake you up. It was designed to be a big part of our live show.

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Goldmine's Review of "The Double-Cross"
Article by Conrad L. Stinnett
March 2006

The Double Cross
Magna Carta (MA-9083-2)

Tempest are an interesting, if hard to classify, group. Led by Norwegian Lief Sorbye, the band is composed of players who hail from all over the globe. They play a unique blend of traditional folk, Celtic and rock music that puts them in the same musical neighborhood as Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention.

Their latest effort, The Double Cross, finds the band in excellent form. The return of fiddler Michael Mullen and the addition of bassist Ariane Cap adds some powerful musical muscle to the lineup. Mullen is a versatile player who also contributes songs to the mix, while Capís aggressive style makes listeners sit up and take notice. In addition to standards such as ďHangman,Ē ďEppy MorayĒ and ďCabar Feidh,Ē the band throws in tasty original gems such as ďCaptain Kidd,Ē the rousing instrumental ďSlippery Slide,Ē the haunting ďVision QuestĒ and ďWhoever You Are.Ē Longtime producer Robert Berryís ďlive in the studioĒ approach showcases them at their best without sacrificing sonic clarity.

Folky at times and hard-driving at others (thanks to guitarist Ronan Carroll, Cap and drummer Adolfo Lazo), The Double Cross succeeds as a great example of 21st century folk-rock and one rousing listen. Tempest have shifted lineups a lot over their past few albums. Maybe this one will stay together for a while and produce more fine works like this one.

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A & A Review Of ďThe Double-CrossĒ
March 2006

Tempest The Double-Cross (Magna Carta)

Celtic prog is one of those sideways genres that probably ought not exist. And yet here's Tempest, and damn if the stuff doesn't work. There's the requisite technical wizardry, but by and large the band channels those impulses into the songs themselves. Over the top? You bet. And a lot of fun because of it, doncha know.

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Celtic Beat Review of The Double-Cross
March 2006

I will cut to the chase. This CD contains one of the greatest stateside interpretations of traditional tunes ever done. That Is "Cabar Feidh" performed here by both Tempest and The Wicked Tinkers. Hear the didge. In the annals of CeltRock history was made here. Sometimes Tempest, and The Wicked Tinkers here also, just ascend to another plane.

Wonderfully crazy also are the instrumentals of "Slippery Slide" composed years ago by Tempest fiddler Michael Mullen which resounds with a battle royal of fiddle, bass, and guitar, and drums. And the final cut here" Wizard's Walk" named after the Ungar tune, but where Bach's "Violin Concerto In D", Morrison's "Buffyflow And Spike", and traditional tune "Tam Lin" interweave and where Michael's fiddle shines at the end in a feverish "Jenny Dang the Weaver." Truly a "Wizard's Walk." Along with "Cabar Feidh" this is the hardest to beat tour de force of fury.

Vocal cuts I liked here were "Per Spelmann" with it's ardent singing by Lief Sorbye of an old Norwegian tale. And the inspirational "Whoever You Are" A light hearted rendition of a central ageless truth.

"Hangman" is also excellent and grim-pointing back to history. Indeed it is an excellent cut to be paired with "Captain Kidd" which is actually the title cut, referring to the "double- cross" which in that era turned privateers into pirates. Both of these are appropriately dark and angry, from a dark and angry era, sung excellently by Lief and with Tempest's innovative instrumentals.

Tempest. You'll always be surprised and delighted with what they come up with. -AK

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Midwest Record Recap review of "The Double-Cross"
February 2006

TEMPEST/Double Cross:

Leader Lief Sorbye has come a long way from his folkie days as he now leads a hard charging Celtic/world music rock crew that know how to kick out the jams in high, hard style. When you've got no restraints, you can do what you want, and on this outing they draw their inspiration from how the powers that be screwed Captain Kidd turning him into an outlaw. Not the kind of stuff that gets you an opening slot for Jessica Simpson, but it is the kind of stuff that keeps you working, flying under the radar and developing a large, loving cult that looks forward to your next release because you've got the chops to deliver the goods. Sorbye was never one to be easily pigeon holed, and he isn't going to start now, but he is going to make sure you have a grand time on the high seas.

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Ytsejam.com Review of The Double-Cross
Article by Tommy Hash
January 2006

I have always compared this band to what a heavier version of the folky side of Jethro Tull (ĎSongs from the Woodí) and Fairport Convention would be. But letís just say that Tempest has fit within their own mold of British, Celtic, and even Scandinavian folk, which is fused with progressive rock; even adding some jam band related factors into their music. All the while adding some crunch with an electric guitar and a strong percussive prowess and you have the Tempest sound.

Probably their most sophisticated piece of work yet, they almost move more into rock territories on this one, but yet, on the other side of the spectrum, their folk sound also is pushed to the envelope. Still the sound of the fiddles and mandolins race through the musical passages with their rock tinged chops with more straightforward folk-rock tracks such as ĎCaptain Kidd,í ĎWhoever you Are,í and ĎEppy Moray,í which feature the hierarchy for the songwriting basis. But of course you have the jam sessions meeting traditionalism with ĎSlippery Slide,í ĎPer Spelmann,í and ĎBlack Eddy,í adding a different type of improvisational approach to the music, where traditional melodies are the basis for expressive instrumentation and arrangements, maybe proving that technical music didnít begin with the progressive rock movement of the 70ís; but centuries before.

Produced by Robert Berry, itís easy to see where the sophisticated production came full circle in harnessing Tempestís sound on ĎThe Double Cross.í Nevertheless, the album exposes traditional folk/Celtic in an energetic matter that so few have been able to do before.

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Port Folio Weekly
Article by Jeff Maisey
April 2005

Irresistible Tempest

When Tempest was formed sixteen years ago by Lief Sorbye, a transplanted electric mandolin player and singer from Oslo, Norway, it was with a specific purpose: taking Celtic and Scandinavian traditional music and fuse it with rock 'n' roll. "I wanted rock 'n' roll musicians to sink their teeth into the traditional music forms," Sorbye said in a phone interview from his base in Oakland. "We've been evolving ever since and we're still exploring what we can do."

With 11 albums to its credit, including Shapeshifter (2003), Turn of the Wheel (1996) and Sunken Treasures (1993), Tempest is America's most prolific and road-tested Celtic rock band. Lately, the quintet -- Sorbye, Adolfo Lazo (drums), Michael Mullen (fiddle), Ronan Carroll (guitar) and Ariane Cap (bass) -- has been crisscrossing the United States in promotion of its 15th Anniversary box set, a three CD collection of live recordings, radio promotional performances and rare studio tracks that failed to make it on any proper release. Among the studio recordings is a brilliant rendition of Bob Dylan's "Masters of War." Because of Sorbye's passing resemblance to Ian Anderson and the band's mix of rock and folk, many people compare them to the Heavy Horses and Songs From the Wood era of Jethro Tull.

"I can certainly see it," says Sorbye. "Musicians in Tempest over the years have had a strong Jethro Tull influence and I think it might have put a mark on our music. I never made any conscious effort as the band leader of Tempest to have a Tull sound per say, but I think whoever you listen to and whoever you're influenced by will shine through in your music."

Tull comparisons aside, the music of Tempest is actually much more rooted in traditional music. As is done by other contemporary folk groups, including Scotland's Battlefield Band, Tempest gives traditional songs, such as the rousing "You Jacobites By Name" and "John Barleycorn," a new twist. They also compose fresh material in the sonic image of the past, and hopefully no one detects any difference.

When Tempest performs Tuesday, April 19 at the White Horse Pub in Pembroke Mall, it will be one of its most cozy gigs. Sorbye & company are a big draw at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and at numerous outdoor Scottish and Celtic festivals scattered around the country. The awareness of the genre has been growing steadily.

"Over the last decade there's been a real growing interest in world music," says Sorbye. "Because your British Isles and Celtic music is very accessible, if you expose it to a large audience a large audience would really enjoy it because it is an uplifting, high spirited style of music that lends itself well to be blended with contemporary music form. I think that is key to it being enjoyed by a wider audience. It's the same thing that happened to country and western music; you can take any kind of roots music and bring it out in a more contemporary form and it will put a mark on the contemporary music scene."

Tempest's greatest strength is its high energy, musically marveling live performance. As a true showman, Sorbye is masterful at engaging his audience and always leaves it wanting. There're plenty of tongue-in-cheek Spinal Tap poses and between song musings to get the audience laughing and clapping along. And just when it seems the kinetic energy connection between band and fan can get no more illuminating, Sorbye and band parade through the crowd while playing a high octane jig and reel.

"We're a band that likes to have fun; that's the number one thing. Our music sometimes can get intricate and very arrangement intensive, but we never forget it's fun. We take our music very seriously but we don't take ourselves too seriously. We show that in our stage show and I think the audience enjoys that. They can expect a very loose sense of humor and kick-ass music."

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15th Anniversary Collection - Exposť review
By Jim Chokey
March 2005

15th Anniversary Collection
Magna Carta MA-1503 (2004), 3-CD

In 1989, Norwegian expatriate Leif SÝrbye founded Tempest, the SF Bay Areaís best-known Celtic rock band. Fifteen years later, after ten albums, a dozen members, and over 2000 gigs, the band has released an outstanding 3-CD collection covering the bandís work from its birth through the present.

Disk 1 features studio recordings. For longtime Tempest fans, this holds the fewest surprises. Of its seventeen tracks, twelve appeared on earlier albums. (Thoughtfully, however, these all come from early recordings which are no longer available and all are excellent.) Of the five remaining tracks, two are alternate takes of songs from the bandís most recent albums. This leaves only three wholly new tunes: ďToss the FeathersĒ (a longtime staple of the bandís live sets), ďThree ShipsĒ (yes, the Christmas carol), and a recently-recorded (and extremely timely) cover of Bob Dylanís ďMasters of WarĒ. Of these, the recently-recorded ďMasters of WarĒ is the most impressive, showing a lively spirit and musical energy that had been lacking from some of the bandís more recent CDs.). Some fans might be surprised to see that the bandís cover of ďLocomotive BreathĒ (from the To Cry You a Song tribute CD) is left off although given the high caliber of the material that appears here, I canít really say which of the other tracks on this disk ought to have been cut to make room for it.

Disk 2 contains sixteen tracks taken from the bandís numerous radio performances. The selection emphasizes the second half of the bandís career (from 1997 through the present), although the recording of ďBaladiĒ (one of the bandís early experiments with middle-eastern influences) comes from 1992 and two other cuts were recorded in 1995. As on the studio disk, the songs showcase the bandís strongest material (both original and traditional) and there are few pleasant surprises thrown in to boot, including covers of classic folktunes ďAs I Roved OutĒ and ďJohn BarleycornĒ that have never found their way onto any prior Tempest albums. For the most part, the sound quality on these is top-notch Ďlive sessioní sound and the performance quality is excellent (Michael Mullenís fiddle solo on ďThe Three of UsĒ is a real standout). A few of the later tracks, however, are taken from radio broadcasts of concert/festival performances and come with attendant crowd noise and less impressive sound although theyíre still perfectly listenable. An interesting editing decision was to preface several tracks with bits of on-air dialogue between the band members and the DJs on whose radio shows they were appearing. While this does help establish the Ďradioí feel of the album, the patter is mostly just small talk and doesnít really convey anything interesting about the band or its members.

Disk 3 contains live concert material. Most of its fourteen tracks were recorded at a special 15th anniversary show in Davis, California from early 2004, at which several former members joined the current lineup on stage. This CD is thus quite broad-ranging in its coverage of musicians and material from 1989 to the present. Like the others two disks of the set, it tends to feature the bandís stronger material (without duplicating any songs from the other two), although Iím not sure their one-time cover of Spinal Tapís ďStonehengeĒ really merits being placed along side such great folk-rock performances as the other tunes. Still, thatís a minor criticism of an excellent CD collection that is a must-have for the bandís fans and which would serve as a terrific intro to the band for newcomers. - Jim Chokey

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15th Anniversary Collection - Dirty Linen review
By Genevieve Williams (Seattle, WA)
February / March 2005

15th Anniversary Collection
Magna Carta MA-1503 (2004), 3-CD

Tempest is the quintessential Celtic-folk-rock group. Over 15 years, through multiple lineup changes, a plethora of albums, and a multitude of odysseys across the U.S. and around the world, the band has remained consistent to the vision of founder Lief SÝrbye. One might think of it as the other direction heavy-metal might have gone, rather than wandering further and further into chainsaws and ghoulish theatrics. Thereís Led Zeppelin in Tempestís genetic makeup. There is also an honest respect for traditional Celtic music, though Tempest is more accessible in this regard, with rock and pop tropes as its access points.

All of this is old news to Tempestís devoted fans, who will probably get the most out of this collection of rarities, radio appearances, and live performances (the last including, by the way, a dead-on rendition of Spinal Tapís ďStonehengeĒ). Theyíre fun ó especially the radio broadcast of a concert in Eugene where the bandís encore was cancelled, to the audienceís consternation, for curfew reasons ó but for listeners unfamiliar with Tempestís blend of Celtic and other folk, rock, jazz, and just about anything else that fits, this probably isnít the best place to start. On the other hand, the recordings are worth hearing, and the live ones are a particular treat. Tempest has the grand sense of scale of a true prog-rock outfit, and in live performance, that grandeur comes out to play in a big way. This is three CDsí worth of snapshots from the bandís decade-and-a-half history and is emphatically worth hearing. For the best stuff, go straight to disc three.

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15th Anniversary Collection - Relix review
-Plundering The Vaults by Mick Skidmore
November 2004

15th Anniversary Collection
Magna Carta

Although this multi-national Celtic-rock band hasn't hit the big time, it is a perennial festival favorite. For the past decade and a half, Tempest has mixed folk and rock with power and conviction. It comes across as kind of Jethro Tull meets Fairport Convention with a slightly more international feel. The band is led by the talented Norwegian mandolinist Lief Sorbye. This three-disc box set is a fan's delight. It offers a disc of studio rarities and alternates, a disc of radio broadcasts and a dynamic, 14-track collection of concert favorites that captures the band at its best. Highlights are the jovial "Captain Morgan" and the harder-rocking "The House Carpenter." All in all a nice overview of a hard working and much underrated band.

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15th Anniversary Collection - Green Man Review
by Tim Hoke
October 2004

15th Anniversary Collection
(Magna Carta, 2004)

"It's time travel with Tempest!" says front man Lief Sorbye, to start off Disc 3 of this collection. He's joking, certainly, but there's some truth to his words. To celebrate fifteen years of Tempest's career, Sorbye and friends have released this triple CD collection. Fifteen years also makes for a lot of personnel changes (mandolinist Sorbye and drummer Adolfo Lazo are the only constants), and to the best of my knowledge, every Tempest line-up appears on this collection.

Tempest released their first recording in 1989, with a cassette titled Celtic Rock. For those unfamiliar with Tempest, that title is an accurate label for the group's sound, with the emphasis on "Rock." There are other influences, to be sure, among them Nordic, Middle Eastern, an occasional hint of country and the odd flavoring of ska, but Celtic Rock describes things nicely.

Each disc showcases the group's talents in different arenas. Disc 1 contains selected cuts from their numerous studio recordings, as well as previously unreleased tracks and some alternate recorded versions. Though the disc opens with the current Tempest playing a cover of Dylan's "Masters of War," it is weighted heavily toward earlier incarnations of the band. There are several gems here: the classic rock stylings of "Barrow Man", the drum-talk intro to "Cat In The Corner", and Sorbye's Tull-esque flute playing on "One Last Cold Kiss" are just a few.

Disc 2 holds various live radio appearances, interspersed with brief interviews and commentary. Again, many Tempest classics are present: "You Jacobites By Name," "Heather On The Moor," "Two Sisters." Despite that, this disc is probably the weakest of the three, having neither the polish of the studio tracks, nor the energy of concert recordings. The exceptions are a few live cuts that have been sneaked in. Disc 2 isn't bad, mind you, it just isn't as good as Discs 1 and 3.

Disc 3 has an assortment of live sets. This disc is arena rock, and the music here is the most energetic in the collection. Some groups can carry a live recording, others can't: without question, Tempest can. Extended soloing tends to be a hallmark of arena rock, and for examples of that here, one can listen to Ronan Carroll's guitar work on "Cruel Brother," or to "Bonden og Kraka," where each member of the band gets a chance to indulge a little. Tempest shows off their musical sense of humor, too -- in the middle of "The Ballydesmond Set", a medley of dance tunes, they suddenly break into a portion of "William Tell Overture," done vocally, à cappella, in madrigal harmonies. Then there's that cover of Spinal Tap's "Stonehenge," complete with narration. Disc 3 will make you want to catch this group live.

Tempest has also released a recording to mark ten years of existence, and now this one for fifteen. Both are outstanding. I'll keep my fingers crossed for something similar in five more years.

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Dirty Linen Concert Review
By Anil Prasad
June / July 2004

15th Anniversary Show Veterans Memorial Theatre Davis, CA January 24, 2004

It was as close to time travel as you could get during a concert. Tempest's 15th anniversary gig saw members spanning its entire history celebrating with a raucous, packed house at Veterans Memorial Theatre in Davis, CA. Nearly 400 fans traveled from around the country to witness America's leading Celtic folk-rockers resurrect nuggets from its back catalog played by the original line-ups that created them.

The first half of the evening began with the first line-up, featuring lead vocalist, electric mandolinist and founder Lief Sorbye; the group's first and only drummer Adolfo Lazo; guitarist Rob Wullenjohn; and bassist Ian Butler. They rocked through spirited versions of "Milligan's Fancy" and "Queen of Argyll" from the deleted and much sought-after 1989 debut cassette Celtic Rock. For more recent Tempest fans, the opportunity to see the band in a fiddle-free incarnation was a real ear-opener, with guitar and mandolin playing more upfront roles. They also got to enjoy Butler hamming it up in his inimitable Ace Ventura meets Wayne's World style. The quartet also revived some of its "New Celts on the Block" unison choreography routines thought lost to history, much to the delight of the audience.

Next, fiddler Michael Mullen hit the stage to help unearth "Raggle Taggle Gypsy" and "Heather on the Moor" from 1991's Bootleg and 1992's Serrated Edge, respectively. Mullen was the group's original fiddler and recently rejoined. The crowd rewarded the return of his high-energy presence with a generous helping of jumping and pumping. Mullen's fiddle successor Jon Berger then joined the band to perform three tracks from 1994's Surfing to Mecca, including the title cut, "Take You to the Well" and "Spring Carol." Though Berger went on to become a lawyer after departing Tempest in 1996, he was in impressive form, gliding through the tunes with ease and enthusiasm. Equally exciting was seeing Sorbye play the flute during "Surfing to Mecca" for the first time in five years.

Mullen then returned to engage in a rare Tempest performance as a six piece. He and Berger traded fiddle licks, and Berger also played accordion during renditions of "Captain Morgan" from Bootleg, as well as "Whiskey in the Jar" and "The Ballydesmond Set," both from Serrated Edge. A couple of ebullient Morris dancers added to the allure of the joyous "Ballydesmond," spawning several amusing audience attempts to mimic their moves.

The second set saw the premiere of Tempest's latest line-up featuring Sorbye, Lazo, Mullen, guitarist Ronan Carroll and new recruit bassist Ariane Cap. The well-rehearsed group charged out of the gate with a fiery tune medley featuring "Nine Points of Roguery," "For the Three of Us" and "Wind That Shakes the Barley." Next, they launched into "One for the Fiddler" from 1997's Gravel Walk, providing Mullen with a showcase to strut his stuff. Four pieces from 2003's Shapeshifter followed, including "Tamosher," "Catalina Island," "Cruel Brother" and the radical rearrangement of "Byker Hill." The material sounded richer than ever, infused with new four-part vocal harmonies. The set finished up with "The Karfluki Set," featuring a manic Mullen bounding offstage into the crowd while Sorbye leaped about and successfully got everyone off their feet.

A standing ovation and ear-splitting cheering greeted the band as they returned for the first encore. All eight musicians performed "Hal-an-Tow," "Green Grow The Rashes" from The Gravel Walk and "Jenny Nettles" from Celtic Rock. The eight-piece Tempest worked remarkably well, with Butler switching to baritone guitar and Berger performing on accordion. The entire band was having a great time, with old and new members dashing around the stage, gleefully interacting like kids in a playground.

The second encore came as a hilarious shock to everyone. The new line-up reemerged, decked out in black hoods and capes and launched into the spooky, unmistakable intro of Spinal Tap's "Stonehenge." Everything you know and love was there, from the descending mini-monument, to the medieval dancers, to Ronan Carroll doing his best Nigel Tufnel impression. It was a brilliant moment in an already excellent show. After huge applause from the stunned crowd, the other reunion members returned and all involved performed the buoyant instrumental "The Sleeping Highlander" from Surfing to Mecca.

Judging by the hundreds of beaming smiles after the show, the show was a grand success for the audience and musicians alike.

"It was a fantastic experience," said Sorbye after the gig. "Each musician put their heart and soul into it. Everyone came into it with a really good spirit. It was an impulsive and unpredictable show. We had people onstage who had never played together before and it really worked. The common thread is that the musicians don't take themselves too seriously, but they take the music seriously. It's a very playful group that is terrific at communicating with audiences in a natural and open way."

"Stonehenge" appeared to be a natural for the band too. An impromptu decision resulted in its inclusion.

"Doing 'Stonehenge' was the fans' idea," explained Sorbye. "We worked on it during rehearsals and it clicked. So, at the last second we got a smoke machine, the capes, and built the monument, which was still drying the night before. It was priceless to see the reactions of people standing in the front. They were going crazy. Some people had their mouths gaping open. They couldn't believe what they were seeing. That was a lot of fun."

After 15 years with Tempest, Sorbye remains fiercely enthusiastic about the group and its future prospects.

"Our 15th anniversary has made me realize that Tempest has just scratched the surface of what we can do," he said. "The musical policy of the group has never become stale. When you dabble in traditional music, there's an endless source of inspiration and source material. We've made a home in folk-rock and I'm just as excited about it today as I've ever been."

The gig was filmed and will be released this summer as a DVD with some special bonus material, including behind-the-scenes footage. Also, look for a three-CD boxed set featuring rare live, radio and studio cuts from Tempest in the same timeframe.

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The Virginian Pilot - Article by Jeff Maisey
By Jeff Maisey
APRIL 2004

Minstrel still finds lot to mine in the rich Folk-Rock movement

The lifestyle of a strolling minstrel , even as it relates to performing in progressive folk rock band Tempest, is well suited for singer/mandolinist Lief Sorbye, who's two passions in life are music and travel.

"I started traveling when I was 14-years old," said Sorbye by phone from Oakland, California. "I supported myself as a street performer to get around."

Sorbye was raised in Oslo, Norway, but he says his native Scandinavian homeland is a difficult place to make a living as a musician. There're few urban centers and getting around in the winter months is often treacherous. So as a teenager, Sorbye grabbed his acoustic instrument and embarked upon a mainland European adventure.

"It was the typical oral tradition of folk music," he said. "You meet other musicians, you swap songs, and you move on to the next town. That was my education. That's what I did instead of going to college."

Sorbye actually grew-up listening to rock 'n' roll. He was also a huge fan of Bob Dylan. In fact, it was Dylan's songs, which Sorbye says were often adaptations of traditional melodies with new lyrics, which piqued Sorbye's interest in traditional music.

"The roots music had more substance to me somehow," said Sorbye. "It painted very intense pictures on my young mind."

At the same time Sorbye learned about Celtic music from his contact with Irish immigrates who had settled in Oslo, he developed an interest in his native music. He took it all to heart.

"To me, traditional Norwegian music and the Celtic music have always been the same and very much related," said Sorbye, who would later mesh all of these styles of music into one stylistic concept, which today is Tempest.

Sorbye formed Tempest in 1998, almost a decade after he arrived on American shores. He says he came to the United States because he'd seen most of Europe, as a wandering musician, and was excited about the possibilities of traveling in such a vast country.

"A lot of curiosity and lust for adventure made me want to come to the States," he said. "Just the size of it, and the fact that so much great music had come out of the U.S. I was up to the challenge."

After seeing America, Sorbye eventually settled in San Francisco. With Tempest, Sorbye had formed his dream band, incorporating traditional Celtic and Norwegian music, as well as 70's-styled prog rock. This timeless cross-pollination of cultural styles often draws comparisons to Jethro Tull.

"A certain part of Jethro Tull's career was very steeped in traditional folk music, whether Ian Anderson will admit it or not." said Sorbye, "It was all about exploring and fusing different genres of music together.

When Tempest performs at the White Horse Pub in Virginia Beach on Tuesday, the quintet will be touring in support of its 15th anniversary. In addition to releasing ten studio albums, the group that is considered the driving force in the modern folk rock movement will be making available a 3-disc box set comprised of unheard studio songs, one-off radio promotion performances, and a set of live recordings that capture the essence of Tempest."

"It's not about polished recording," said Sorbye, "it's about the spirit."

And what a soaring spirit Tempest possesses when the lively act takes the stage.

The band, which also includes Ronan Carroll (guitarist from Ireland), Ariane Cap (bassist from Austria), Adolfo Lazo (drummer from Cuba), and Michael Mullen (fiddle player from the USA), is an international cast. Their live shows are a mix of humor (jokes and Spinal Tap-like posses), sophisticated arrangements of songs featuring remarkable musicianship, and audience participation.

Tempest has remained on the road for most of it fifteen years. They are favorites at the large outdoor summer Scottish and Celtic festivals, as well as Denmark's Skagen Festival and the prestigious Philadelphia Folk Festival. Between May and October, all of Tempest's performance will be at outdoor events.

But the cozy watering holes, like the White Horse Pub, are not to be overlooked by this one-time street smart troubadour.

"Those shows are just as important because you learn to appreciate the intimacy of a smaller venue," said Sorbye. "Obviously there's going to be more adrenalin when you walk in front of 20,000 people than when you walk in front of 200 people, but it can be just as rewarding. The magic of a live performance is the two-way communication."

As for Sorbye's adventure, he says it is a work in progress and being a member of Tempest isn't much different that roving world cities on his own with nothing but a mandolin in hand.

"It's still about getting in front of audiences, getting your music out to people, lifting their spirits, and having a positive effect by doing so," said Sorbye. "I'm in it for the journey."

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Erie Times-News - Article by Dave Richards
By Dave Richards
April 2004

The Mad-Accent Band
Celtic folk-rock band Tempest has an international lineup. It brings its 15th-anniversary tour to Forward Hall.

Before "Titanic," Riverdance, Frank McCourt, the Corrs, and others ushered in an Irish-culture boom, Tempest built a fervent following with its stirring, fiery brand of Celtic folk-rock.

The Irish fad has faded. But Tempest blazes onward, celebrating its 15th anniversary with a yearlong tour that includes a don't-miss stop at Forward Hall Concert Club on Tuesday. Fans of such bands as Jethro Tull, Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, and the Corrs will appreciate their dynamic, driving tunes.

"We don't get affected that much by fads," said Lief Sorbye, Tempest's longtime leader in a phone interview. "We've sort of been finding our own place in the world and having our own grass-roots following that's expanding. We keep working hard to bring our music in front of people. Whenever there's a fad, it helps. But fads come and go. Tempest has been around awhile."

Since 1988, to be precise, when Sorbye left Golden Bough, his successful, acoustic Celt band, to go electric. He aimed to fuse the power and energy of rock with Celtic tradition and his own Norwegian heritage.

"From day one, I always wanted to inject a different perspective into the traditional music format by using people who might be skilled in jazz or metal or the singer-songwriter genre or whatever," Sorbye said.

"Even if the musical policy is rooted in traditional folk music, we have our own take on it, and our sound incorporates a big spectrum. It's not just the rock energy, but all our individual members, who put their stamps on the arrangements. That's what makes it interesting and different than just a folk band that's plugging in."

Tempest's members hail from nearly every corner of the globe, which also spices their sound. Sorbye grew up in Oslo, though he's lived in the U.S. the past 20 years. Drummer Adolfo Lazo is from Cuba, and guitarist Ronan Carroll comes from Dublin. Bassist Ariane Cap hails from Innsbruck, Austria, while fiddler Michael Mullen, who recently returned to the band, is the only American, a native of Fresno, Calif.

"So it's truly an international lineup," Sorbye said. "We incorporate those backgrounds into our sound. When we travel across the country, it's the mad-accent band. It's quite something."

So is their exuberant stage show. Tempest inspires fans to dance, no matter what type of festival they play, and they play them all ó Celtic ones, rock events, jam-band gatherings, and progressive-rock affairs. Their swirling sound so appeals to prog-rockers that they record for Magna Carta. They got Keith Emerson to play keyboards on 1996's "Turn of the Wheel," and also covered "Locomotive Breath" for a Tull tribute album.

"The chemistry in the band is really good, and everyone's a top-notch performer. So it's very energetic, very entertaining, and sometimes a little goofy," said Sorbye, who's a sight himself, playing a double-necked mandolin. "We don't take ourselves seriously, but we take the music seriously. We do all sorts of quirky and goofy choreography. But we're not in clogging shoes."

"Shapeshifter," their 2003 release, showcases their robust blend of tradition and mad-eyed energy on contagious songs such as "Natural Law" and "Tamosher." In July, Tempest will issue a three-CD box set with rarities, live cuts, and other obscurities. It's a treat for fans who've been with them the entire journey.

"We're doing our 15th anniversary tour, and we've still got three of the original members," Sorbye said. "Which is a pretty good stat in rock and roll."

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Obvious Pop - Concert Review
By Tony Shore
April 2004

Celtic Rock?!

While I enjoy traditional Celtic music, I like the merger of traditional Celtic styles with progressive rock and fusion even more. That's where Tempest comes in. Their CD's are for the most part good, but their live show is even better.

I saw them for the first time last night in Chippewa Falls, WI. What could have been a small town gig disaster actually turned out to be a phenomenal performance and show. Mostly high school aged kids showed up, and I was wondering what they would think of this Celtic Rock act, complete with fiddle and mandolin. As it turns out, my fears were unfounded, the show was great and they captivated the young audience. There was even a large dancing mob of kids up in front of the stage, bouncing around wildly to the music for the entire show.

The songs were great, but the most impressive part of it was the performance. Each of the 5 band members are masters at their instruments. Besides being great, tight players, they really have a wild time on stage. They seem to be having so much fun it's infectious, and the audience has just as much fun right along with them.

You can tell it's a great show when everyone from the high school kids to the parents in the back swarm the merch' table after the show to buy the bands CD's.

There are two other factors that make Tempest an even more amazing and unique band. One is the simple fact that they are the nicest, friendliest band you'll ever meet. These are real, down to earth people who are enjoyable to talk to. The other thing, which is perhaps the most unbelievable fact of all, is that all 5 members are from different countries. Lief, the lead singer and electric mandolin player is from Norway, drummer Adolfo is from Cuba, the guitarist Ronan is from Ireland, bassist Ariane is from Austria and Michael the fiddle player is from California. Are there any other nationally known bands that have 5 or more members that are all from different countries?

Again, the band is amazing live, but the CD's are good too. You can listen to samples on their website at www.tempestmusic.com

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The San Francisco Observer
By Frank Zeccola
April 2004

Tempest: East Bay Band Hails Celtic Rock

OAKLAND -- Fifteen years into a musical career that has taken him all over the world, Lief Sorbye admits that he likes having an American band that is not from America. "The music is a melting pot, "the wild-eyed, ceaselessly grinning, Norwegian-born, Oakland resident confirms. Sorbye is describing the sound of Tempest, his local eccentric rock n' roll band that draws heavily on Celtic, Irish and other 200-year-old European traditions, and contains four other members who hail from Cuba, Austria, Ireland, and Fresno. "The music is really international music played with a rock n' roll energy, so it makes sense to have international people playing it."

Tempest's present lineup of Lief, who plays a double-necked mandolin, along with bassist Ariane Cap (Innsbruck, Austria), drummer Adolfo Lazo (Havana, Cuba), guitarist Ronan Carroll (Dublin, Ireland), and American fiddler Michael Mullen tweaks the traditional Northern European sound with heavy modern electric amplification and funky rock improvisation a la '70's jam bands like Jethro Tull and the Allman Brothers. Their instrumental sections will often last upwards of 30 minutes, all the while the band engaging the audience with quirky on-stage antics including humorous wacky choreographed dancing and runs through the crowd. And although the band relies heavily on its influences, the ultimate sound is truly original.

"We have a musical policy which is steeped in tradition," Sorbye explains, "but each player brings his own style. We have five members with five strong influences, and therefore we always come out with something that is unique."

And Lief's choice of instrument elevates the sound to a whole new level of uniqueness. He plays a double-necked mandolin that he invented and had custom made when he first formed Tempest and decided that one mandolin was just not enough. "It's an acquired taste for a musician, definitely a little eccentric," Lief notes. "It's an awkward instrument to play unless you're a little tweaked."

Hence Tempest. The band just finished a West Coast tour that included a 15th anniversary show in Davis with all five members from the original line-up dating back to 1989, and a rare San Francisco appearance at 12 Galaxies on St. Patrick's Day with the current line-up. The 12 Galaxies show treated a joyously enthusiastic, if a tad tipsy (hey, we were seeing an Irish band on St. Paddy's Day) audience to over two-and-a-half hours of feet-stomping original and traditional tunes from 10 albums and a spoof on Spinal Tap's "Stonehenge" as a fitting encore.

When you think about the Celtic-Irish genre of music, you don't imagine high-energy intensity that rivals the most cutting-edge party music, but somehow the magical hands of Tempest manage to lead you to the realms of frenzy. Songs like "One for the Fiddler" and "Old Man at the Mill," the titles of which evoke images of serene, rustic scenes from Irish farms, rocked the 12 Galaxies almost as hard as Spinal Tap during their peak performances.

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The Sacramento Bee -15th Anniversary Show Preview
By Chris Macias -- Bee Pop Music Writer
January 2004

Tempest through the years in Davis celebration

Tempest This time, the luck of the Irish wasn't smiling on Lief Sorbye. It was the spring of 2003, and Sorbye was touring the East Coast with his Celtic-rock band, Tempest. The group's van kept breaking down, making it seem like the trip just wasn't meant to be. There was Sorbye, stuck in New Jersey and waiting for yet another mechanic to get Tempest back to speed. Sorbye started thinking about the members who'd come and gone in Tempest, the countless tours and dancing crowds, and the 10 albums that have marked the group's career. Tempest's 15-year anniversary was nearing, and in a moment of lifting spirits, Sorbye figured, "Why not throw one heck of a party?"

Saturday, Tempest will celebrate its 15th anniversary with a special show at the Veterans Memorial Theater in Davis. To chronicle Tempest's myriad lineups, Sorbye has invited band members past and present to perform. For the finale, everyone will join forces on stage.

"For me, it's been a pet project," Sorbye said. "It's a very ambitious show, and a lot has gone into making this a big party. I want to give the fans the show they always wanted but never thought they'd ever get. We'll do the songs they didn't expect us to do again live, and we've got other surprises."

Tempest is certainly familiar to followers of Northern California's outdoor music festivals, such as Sacramento's Heritage Festival. Tempest also is a staple at Scottish games and Celtic festivals around the country.

The band has a particular affinity with the city of Davis. Tempest has played plenty of gigs at UC Davis' Whole Earth Festival, plus countless shows at the Palms Playhouse's former location in South Davis. The Veterans Memorial Theater in downtown Davis is another favorite venue for the band.

"We have a history with Davis, but more importantly, we have a history with this particular venue," Sorbye said. "I have a long relationship with the guys who are producing the show with me. I know the theater really well. We know every nook and cranny, so it's easy to do the production in there."

Although Tempest is based in the Bay Area, its members' hometowns are all over the map. Sorbye, who sings lead and plays the electric mandolin, is a native of Oslo, Norway. Drummer Adolfo Lazo hails from Havana, Cuba. Bassist Ariane Cap is from Innsbruck, Austria, and guitarist Ronan Carroll is originally from Dublin, Ireland. Fiddler Michael Mullen, from Fresno, is the only American-born band member.

Musically, Tempest taps into the sounds of Northern Europe, such as Scottish and Scandinavian music, but with an emphasis on all things Irish. Its repertoire is a mix of original tunes, which harken to Jethro Tull and Fairport Convention, and pumped-up versions of traditional Celtic songs. Overall, Sorbye's electric mandolin and an omnipresent electric guitar add edge to the folksy elements of Tempest's sound.

"I got into traditional music the first time I realized that I tapped my toe to a fiddle tune and not to a guitar solo," Sorbye said. "Celtic music and Northern European music has a lot of substance to me. It echoes the past and tells a story. I like timeless music, and that idea of combining folk music with rock 'n' roll, combining ethnic music with a backbeat.

"Fifteen years ago, there was a lot of debate, and purists were saying that we were breaking the rules," he said. "These days, it's old hat. There's a whole world-music movement that's about mixing styles. I love the way traditional music was played 200 years ago, but I'm not looking for museum pieces. Folk music should be alive."

Despite a few glitches, Tempest has enjoyed many highlights as well. Keith Emerson, the famed keyboardist from Emerson, Lake and Palmer, cameoed on 1996's "Turn of the Wheel." In 1989, Tempest performed at the Woodstock 25th anniversary concert. The band also has enjoyed a prolific recording output.

The group's next project is to compile a box set featuring radio spots, outtakes and acoustic material.

Meanwhile, Tempest will keep gigging. The upcoming summer season will be especially busy with outdoor festivals, and the band's overall goal is as always: To produce a joyful storm of dancing bodies.

"I think the strength of the band is that we appeal to more than one age group or market," Sorbye said. "If you're into folk music, or into rock music, it doesn't matter. We're into uniting people behind music. That's why we're out here."

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The Vacaville Reporter -15th Anniversary Show Preview
By Richard Bammer/Features Writer
January 2004

Celtic Rock Storm
Tempest, feting 15 years on the road, comes to Davis

Friday, January 23, 2004 - Can it get any better for Lief Sorbye, the founder of Celtic rock band Tempest?

"I've been in this silly business for a living all my life," the tall, shaggy-looking Oakland resident said by telephone late last week. "I've never had a day job. Somehow I've managed to combine my two passions in life - playing music and traveling. I've found a job that combined both and I feel privileged."

Making music and traveling - he will do both, again, Saturday. That's when he and his current four-member backing unit - plus some original members from the band's early days - hold forth at a 15th anniversary and reunion at the Veterans Memorial Theatre in Davis.

Sounding upbeat and optimistic, Sorbye, a fortysomething Norwegian, said the all-ages event promises to be "a great celebration of Tempest's past and present." The reunion, part of a wintertime California tour stretching from Blue Lake (near Arcata) to Angels Camp to San Francisco, will culminate in a grand jam session featuring old and new band members.

"My whole philosophy is to throw a big party for all the fans and give them a Tempest show they'll always remember," he explained in only slightly accented English.

Since Tempest - like its musical kin Boiled in Lead, The Moors and Wolfstone - ranks among the world's best of its kind, the band and its fans are connected by the Internet, not suprisingly.

"We've been monitoring the discussion and it's interesting," said Sorbye, a former member of the Celtic band Golden Bough. "We've been eyeing the discussion lists dedicated to the band. People are wondering what songs we'd always play and don't do live anymore. So we've combined all these notes to give the fans the show they've always wanted - plus a little bit extra they'd never expect."

No, he doesn't want to divulge just what the extras are. His brainchild, the reunion will be the story of Tempest, in words, music and song.

Since forming in 1988, Tempest has fused traditional Celtic acoustic sounds - Irish reels, Scottish ballads and Norwegian folk - with the driving energy of plugged-in guitars and drums.

"I have one foot in folk music and one foot in rock 'n' roll," said Sorbye, describing the band's sound. "The backbone is music from the British Isles. It's all Northern European. That's what I've always been into. After so many years of doing it, I think I've only scratched the surface. It never gets stale for me. It's always exciting."

In the past 15 years, the band has released 10 albums, the most recent being "Shapeshifter," a 10-tune disc on the Magna Carta label, distributed by the powerful WEA (Warner/Elektra/Atlantic) corporation. Among the songs are "Tamosher," "Carnival" and "Cruel Brother," all propelled by Tempest's current lineup: Besides Sorbye on lead vocals and doubled-necked mandolin and mandolas, the band is Adolfo Lazo, drums; Ronan Carroll, guitar and vocals; Michael Mullen (the group's only American, by the way), fiddle and vocals; and Ariane Cap, bass and vocals.

Released last year, "Shapeshifter" signifies a returns to roots, Sorbye said. It contains five original songs, mostly written by Sorbye, and five traditional tunes.

"There's Irish, Scottish, English and Norwegian and an American song," he noted. "It covers all the bases of the roots of the music, really. I have a soft spot for that record. It opened a lot of doors for us."

Those doors include club dates in the fall and winter, followed by festival and fair season in the summer, including the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Britains's Copredy Festival and the Winnipeg Folk Festival. More locally, Tempest headlines Vacaville's Celtic Nations Festival on June 26 and 27 in Andrews Park.

Sorbye started Tempest "with a blueprint in mind."

"I knew exactly what I wanted to do and how to go about it," he said with the confident air of man who, indeed, knew exactly what he wanted to do, when and how. "There was no lengthy experimentation with the music I wanted. I found the musicians and got on the road."

Like so many youths growing up in the late 1960s and 1970s, Sorbye fell under the spell of The Beatles. He felt rock 'n' roll in the marrow of his bones, but it was an Irish fiddle that did something the Fab Four from Liverpool and George Harrison's stinging guitar leads did not: set his foot tapping in time to upbeat music.

And the songs' lyrics also spoke volumes to him, too. Their themes tend to be "timeless," Sorbye said.

"They deal with the human condition," he said. "And it tells a story. It's all about the human condition and the human condition is about survival."

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Davis Enterprise -15th Anniversary Show Preview
By David M. Meyers/Enterprise music critic
January 2004

Tempest in a must-see spot.

It makes perfect sense that a group founded with the fresh idea of fusing musical traditions has created such a rich one of its own.

Tempest, a band that remains a one-of-a-kind blend of traditional Celtic music and hard-driving rock 'n' roll, will take the stage Saturday evening at the Veterans' Memorial Theater to celebrate its 15th anniversary.

"This will not be a predictable Tempest show at all," said Lief Sorbye, Tempest's founder, lead vocalist, mandolin and mandola player. "We've got lots of surprises, and we'll do stuff that people never expected us to do again."

The 8 p.m. show will mark the passing years by reuniting the band's various lineups at different times throughout the evening. Sorbye has poured through old memorabilia, and he even plans to raffle off a copy of the band's original demo tape.

"Our musical platform was established from the beginning," he recalled, when asked about the band's origins. "I was still in Europe in the late '70s, supporting myself as a street musician. I started getting into Norwegian music and had the idea to combine the traditional sound with rock 'n' roll-type music."

The idea sat quietly with Sorbye for years, as the native Norwegian made his way to San Francisco. Once settled, he began playing with the traditional acoustic Celtic group, Golden Bough.

"I played their style for eight years, but I've always had one foot in traditional music and one foot in rock 'n' roll."

In 1988, Sorbye knew the time had come to combine his two passions.

"I started Tempest with a clear vision of what I wanted to do," he continued. "We were going to combine the melodic, rhythmic sensation of traditional Celtic with the energy and power of a full rock band."

Sorbye recorded a demo with original bassist Ian Butler, enlisted guitarist Rob Wullenjohn, and - once a drummer was safely in tow - the band quickly lined up its first gig in Berkeley. The newly formed Fab Four, however, didn't quite make it to the show intact.

"We'd been practicing for our debut performance ... Ian, Rob and I, plus a drummer who none of us knew that well. On the day of the show, I woke up and found a note from the drummer on my mailbox, that he'd left in the middle of the night. It said he couldn't make the show!

"Now, this show had generated a lot of buzz. There was a lot of PR, some people were angry with me for leaving Golden Bough, some were curious, excited ... and there we were, without a drummer.

"Well, four years prior, my ex-wife had run away with this Cuban guy, who also happened to be a drummer. I figured he owed me one. So I called and asked if he wanted to do a gig that night, and he said, 'Yeah, I'm there.' So we practiced the day of the show, Ian and Rob met him for the first time on stage ... and Adolfo Lazo hasn't missed a beat ever since."

Given Sorbye's well-established connections, Tempest took off right away, both figuratively and literally.

"We started booking tours immediately," Sorbye said. "Three months out, and we were off touring the Pacific Northwest. Later that year, on our first time out on the East Coast, we happened to be playing somewhere in upstate New York. After the show, we were invited at the last minute to play at the 20th anniversary of Woodstock. We shared the stage with Richie Havens and Arlo Guthrie ... and people responded really well to our music.

"That was a magical moment, and it happened for the band right away."

In 1992, Tempest expanded to its current five-piece format, by adding Michael Mullen on the fiddle.

"Mike is our token American," Sorbye joked. "He later left the band for awhile, but he's rejoining us as of this date ... for him, everything's coming full circle."

Mullen, a Fresno native, had been a long-time Tempest fan; with his addition, the band's fusion finally was complete.

Unlike other new bands, however, Tempest never has experienced the typical growing pains that mark the demise of so many fledgling groups.

"We did our first recording within three months of playing our first gig, and we've been fortunate enough to always have a label."

Backing by a label is no guarantee of success, but with someone outside the band to handle the production and distribution aspects of the business, Sorbye and his crew were free to focus on what mattered most: making music. After some success with smaller, now defunct labels, Tempest now records for WEA subsidiary Magna Carta.

And, as Sorbye noted, hooking up with Magna Carta was a match that was meant to be.

"We'd always used big budgets in the studio," he joked. "As we were recording, 'Across the Borders' in Portland, the label people pulled me in and told us they didn't have the capacity to fund us after this, and that we should look for another label."

Feeling dejected, Sorbye and his mates soon had no choice but to return home.

"I flew back to California that day and happened to go into a record store, where I saw one of our records in the 'used' record bin. Well, the next morning I got a call from a man named Mike Varney. He'd been in the same record store that day, bought that record, looked on the back and saw that our number was local, called it, and when I answered the phone said to me: 'I want to sign you.'

"We've been with Magna Carta ever since."

The band has recorded a total of 10 albums to date, and Sorbye plans to spend some time this year compiling a Tempest Boxed Set.

"The CDs under our belt have shown the band's progression and evolution over time. Each album has reflected a point in time of where the band was ... a lot of them are distinctly different, but we never run out of inspiration, because there's so much source material."

Sorbye has no trouble being pragmatic: "It's really cool to see how much good, bad, mediocre and great material we've done."

The current lineup features Sorbye, Lazo and Mullen, along with Dublin's Ronan Carroll on guitar and vocals, and a newly added Austrian, Ariane Cap, on bass and vocals.

Saturday's show will be hosted by Mike Gerrel. As a city of Davis employee for 24 years, Gerrel was responsible for managing the Vets', and also has served as a longtime friend of band.

"We met many years ago, when I was stage manager for the State Fair," Gerrel recalled. "They were playing five or six sets over as many days, and I was working their sound at the time. I remember them mentioning that they needed a place to stay. Well, I had an extra room, and they all wound up crashing on my floor.

"We've been friends ever since."

Given all the anticipation, Gerrel was asked to describe what to expect at a typical Tempest show.

"Loud," he said, without hesitation. "But it's great rocking, raucous Celtic music."

The band is proud to bring its anniversary show to Davis - and a portion of the proceeds have been earmarked to support the Navajo people of Big Mountain, Ariz. - and while Sorbye noted that our fair city has been one of the anchors for the band's fan base, the setting really prompted the decision.

"We've been using the Veterans' Memorial for 10 years, and we love the venue. People are coming from Washington, Ohio and Texas to see the show .... and people in the Bay Area don't seem to mind driving up an hour, hour and a half, to see us play this particular show.

"We've got great seating and a great dance floor here," Sorbye continued. "And I'm really looking forward to it.

"It's cause for celebration. The whole purpose of the band is to make people feel good, and give them a good experience they can walk away from.

"This is a way of saying 'thank you' to our loyal fans."

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Dirty Linen Magazine Review of Shapeshifter
Genevieve Williams (Seattle, WA)
October 2003

After 15 years, one might think that Celtic-prog-rockers Tempest would start to sound a little dated, particularly since its sound does hearken to a particular period in folk-rock history: the 1970s, to be exact. Itís often been said of Tempest that if it were around 30 years ago, it would be ranked next to Jethro Tull and King Crimson.

Be that as it may, the band still sounds remarkably fresh, although Shapeshifter does feature the latest of several lineup rotations; only bandleader Lief SÝrbye and drummer Adolfo Lazo remain of Tempestís original members. And describing this band as 1970s-style folk-rock reads as something of a dismissal when one considers what else is going on on this CD. It begins familiarly enough with a rearranged traditional Celtic song, but "Tamosher" pushes the fiddle of new member Sue Draheim out front right away; sheís a confident musician who fits in perfectly. This is followed by a fast-paced, upbeat instrumental that would sound more appropriate in an arena than a pub.

For the first time, Tempest adds an American folk song to its repertoire with "Old Man at the Mill." Although this, like other traditional songs Tempest records, is rearranged according to the bandís own aesthetic, it retains its unique Appalachian flair. Tempestís ability to adapt songs while retaining their unique characteristics is one of this bandís great strengths. While these adapted traditional songs tend to rock harder than the original material, "Natural Law" in particular could benefit from a bit of bite. For the most part, though, Tempestís musical instincts remain sound. On the closing number, "The Cruel Brother," the music reinforces and highlights the emotional turns detailed in the lyrics. Shapeshifter is the work of a band at the top of its game, all the more impressive in light of the turnover in the lineup.

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Amazon.com Review of Shapeshifter
Reviewer: happygolightly from San Jose, CA United States
September 2003

Tempest expertly infuses ballads and reels with rock, giving traditional folk music a new energy as well as contributing some original pieces that are equally timeless. I like this album even better than their last (titled "Balance"). Though each track is distinct and stands well on its own, they all complement one another and play almost seamlessly as a whole. Maybe I'm partial since I first heard Tempest live as the current ensemble of musicians, but I think newcomer violinist Sue Draheim's harmony vocals add a sweet texture the previous album did not have. Then again, there's just something about the female voice in general that gives authenticity to the emotional layer in folk ballads. At any rate, having seen some of Tempest's live performances, I can attest that all of its current members are highly talented and treat the craft of blending folk and rock with a professionalism that is entirely trustworthy. Listening to this album is like gathering around a home fire and being entertained by a captivating storyteller. Definitely worth hearing...again and again.
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Goldmine Magazine Review of Shapeshifter
Conrad L. Stinnett, Goldmine Magazine
August 2003

Shapeshifter is certainly an appropriate album title for Tempest, a band who can be somewhat challenging to classify. Their unique blend of high-energy folk-rock combines elements of Celtic folk and various branches of world music with the complexity and precision of progressive rock to create a sound that is sure to appeal to fans of The Chieftains, Fairport Convention, and Heavy Horses-era Jethro Tull. Tempest, as Shapeshifter aptly demonstrates, seems to be equally at home covering traditional tunes such as the Scottish ballad "Tamosher," the Appalachian standard "Old Man At The Mill" or original songs such as "Carnival" and the instrumental "Catalina Island," which features powerful interplay between the mandolin of leader Lief Sorbye and fretwork of electric guitarist Ronan Carroll. The mix of Sorbyeís and Carrollís instruments, the violin of Sue Draheim and the rhythm section of bassist Mark Skowronek and drummer Adolfo Lazo give the music of Tempest a lush, rich sound that is very capable of adapting itself to meet the needs of the diverse material. Draheim and Skowronekís tight background vocals bring a new element to the Tempest mix, while Sorbyeís tasty electric and acoustic mandolin work, a hallmark of every Tempest album, continues to shine as he lets loose on almost every track. Longtime producer Robert Berry (3, GTR) achieves a powerful, clear sound without sacrificing a live feel. Whether live in concert or in the CD player, Tempestís combination of folk songs and rock íní roll attitude is always a worthwhile listen, and Shapeshifter is no exception.
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Dave Sleger's Review of Shapeshifter
July 2003

After experiencing personnel stability during their early Magna Carta years, Tempest has since undergone numerous changes in which no lineup remained untouched for consecutive releases. In fact, each of their three studio albums since The Gravel Walk (1997) featured at least two new members. The surprising result is that Tempest has retained an amazingly consistent sound despite the upheaval. Shapeshifter welcomes to the fold guitarist Ronan Carroll, bassist Mark Skowronek and veteran fiddler Sue Draheim. And again this band produces at an incredibly high level. Much of the credit goes to frontman Leif Sorbye who is able to achieve his vision of Tempest with a changing cast of characters, but the replacements through the years have always been extremely gifted musicians too, perfectly suited for Sorbyeís ongoing project. And itís no small feat to routinely trade one guitarist and fiddler in for another when those two instruments are vital to Tempestís sound. Draheim is the most noteworthy addition as she is well schooled in the traditional and folk-rock idiom given her experience with Richard Thompson, John Renbourn and Albion Country Band. In addition to being the ideal instrumentalist for this band she provides delightful harmony vocals as well, which are a welcome contrast to Sorbyeís rich and omnipresent baritone. Carroll continues the long line of exceptional guitarists that have graced Tempests albums beginning with Rob Wullenjohn. Of particular interest on Shapeshifter is Tempestís diverse selection of traditional material from the Scottish "Tamosher" to the American "Old Man at the Mill" to the English "Byker Hill" to the Irish "Coalminersí" to the Norwegian "Fjellmannjenta." The real gem, however, is the closing track "The Cruel Brother", a ten-minute track that exemplifies and solidifies Tempestís designation as premier Celtic prog-rockers. Itís a three-part medley comprised of "The Tempest Reel" in which Draheimís harmonies sound uncannily like Maddy Prior, "Sueís Reel," a Draheim original and the Irish reel "Maid of Mount Kisco."
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F5 Wichita's Review of Shapeshifter
Jedd Beaudoin, F5 Wichita
July 2003

If Balance, Tempest's 2001 release, was a little overfurnished for some, then Shapeshifter, the latest release from this progressive folk/rock collective, is the perfect antidote. Whereas this stormy bunch (led by vocalist/mandolin player Lief Sorbye) sounded positively metallic in places on Balance (their reading of Phil Ochs' "The Iron Lady" had a little more in common with Ozzy than Ochs), here the band sounds more at ease, more in touch with the traditional elements of the material.

Much of that has to do as much with a shift in attitude as a shift in personnel. The addition of Sue Draheim (Jon Renbourn Group and Sorbye's other unit, Caliban) has added an extra, deeper and (again) more relaxed dimension to the Tempest sound. Her ultra-fluid fiddle lines and soft harmony vocals lend balance to Sorbye's rough-around-the-edges vocals and hard-rockin' mandolin lines. That said, it's clear that Tempest is Sorbye's band (he and drummer Adolfo Lazo are the only original members left) as he wrote (or co-wrote) all but one of the four originals presented on this ten-song release.

It's Sorbye's voice and mandolin that are the band's most distinctive features (at least before Draheim's entrance), to say nothing of his talent for picking traditional songs that have resonance with contemporary audiences, whether picking from Appalachian tradition ("Old Man At The Mill"), English coal-mining territory ("Byker Hill"), or from Norwegian fiddle music ("Numedalshalling" and "Kafjell," both inserted into "Fjellmannjenta," dedicated to a lady with vast appetites). Along the way the band finds time for a murder ballad ("Cruel Brother") and a meditation on a shape-shifting girl ("Carnival").

Shapeshifter isn't perfect ("Winter Night" is a well-intentioned seduction ballad that never really takes off) but whereas some working the Celtic/folk niche are too happy to serve up cold, twice-baked versions of the same old staples, Tempest is full of surprises, offering fresh flavors and variety, especially here.

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Sea of Tranquility's Review of Shapeshifter
Michael Popke - Sea of Tranquility
July 2003

On Tempestís tenth album, Shapeshifter, the ethnically diverse folk-rock band does, indeed, shift shapes. This is arguably the groupís most accessible collection of songs - a 10-track 50/50 split of charming original compositions and reworked traditional pieces that swell with Celtic warmth and character. The harmony vocals, courtesy of newcomer Sue Draheim (who also plays fiddle and viola) are more prominent than ever, and Norwegian singer Lief Sorbye expresses himself with a confidence thatís both authoritative and intimate. Rounding out Tempestís 2003 lineup is Cuban drummer and Sorbyeís fellow founding member Adolfo Lazo, plus American bassist Mark Skowronek and Irish guitarist Ronan Carroll.

While Jethro Tull comparisons are still valid mainly because of Sorbyeís singing style, Tempestís sound remains distinct because of the bandís tendency to rekindle with contemporary drama and flair traditional 19th century songs youíve probably never heard, such as the 10-minute murder ballad "The Cruel Brother" and the English coal mining rocker "Byker Hill." Likewise, Tempestís original songs are just as captivating. "Carnival" is an acoustic mythological love song Sorbye wrote with his wife about a man who falls in love with a carnival woman known as a "shapeshifter" - from which the album derives its title. The mandolin-propelled "Winter Night" is lush with aural imagery, while "Natural Law" could be the only pop song the band has ever recorded.

While previous Tempest albums tend to grow stale by recordís end, Shapeshifter holds the listenerís attention for the complete 47 minutes. If youíre new to the band, this is a perfect introduction. And if youíve been a fan for any or all of Tempestís 15 years, your faithfulness has now been justly rewarded.

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KUAR Radio Review of Shapeshifter
Len Holton, KUAR Radio Little Rock, AR
June 2003

Classic folk-rockers Tempest's latest lineup has produced their most satisfying work to date with Shapeshifter a finely honed assortment of traditional and contemporary songs and tunes each sitting comfortably and seemlessly beside the other and providing sufficient depth and breadth for both folk and rock elements to display their prowess. The rhythm section is gloriously water-tight, Sue Draheim's fiddle weaves exuberantly wild or exquisitely controlled and guitarist Ronan Carroll's acoustic and electric contributions variously show sensitivity or straight ahead rock'n'roll swagger. The vocal arrangements of the songs skillfully combine three voices to their optimum presentation and the song subjects range from the paranormal, in the wistful "Carnival", to the metaphysical "Natural Law" to love lost in "Winter Night." Played with fire and panache Shapeshifter is a splendid additon to the folk-rock canon.
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All Music Guide Review of Shapeshifter
Chris Nickson
June 2003

With this album, Tempest seem to have completely found themselves. Maybe it's the new lineup, maybe it's maturity. Whatever the season, it's very satisfying. They've worked their way out of the prog-rock cul de sac that had trapped them recently, and they've also outgrown the Steeleye Span fetish that was a hallmark of their earlier albums. The instrumental work sparkles throughout, and Lief Sørybe's vocals have more punch about them. To be fair, they shine brighter on traditional material like “Tamosher" and “Byker Hill" (a storming version) than their own work, which is treated a little too gently. Notably, they've expanded from the British tradition to take in old American songs here (“Old Man At The Mill"), which might offer a way forward for them — they certainly do it justice. Sue Draheim is a revelation on fiddle, bringing years of playing with her, adding texture and tone. With Shapeshifter, the band does indeed shift shape, breaking out from the Celtic ghetto, while rocking as hard as ever. At the same time, although successful on its own terms, it's impossible to think of this as anything but a transitional record as they head to wherever they're going next.
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Amazon.com Review of Shapeshifter
Reviewer: A music fan from San Jose, CA United States
May 2003

Tempest is a celtic-folk-rock band that reminds me of Fairport Convention in its heyday. This is their tenth CD, but the first with this line-up.

The CD has cohesiveness, despite several different styles of music. The band really plays as a true ensemble, with leads being shared by the 3 lead instruments (guitar, fiddle, mandolin). It seems like the band has made a conscious effort to get closer to their live sound than previous releases, and this is an excellent decision.

After listening several times I realized that I didn't notice the rhythm section. The reason being that the drums (Adolfo Lazo) and bass (Mark Skowronek) play exactly perfectly for each song. Both play interesting parts that never "stand out" because of inappropriateness or over playing. The rhythm section is superb (and I'm a guitarist, so I very seldom give praise to a rhythm section). Adolfo continues to be the heartbeat of the Tempest sound while never getting repetitive or boring.

Sue Draheim's fiddle has a very warm and rich sound (production by Robert Berry) that just highlights her beautiful playing. Sue really gets to the heart of the song with her playing and makes the melodies come alive, without overpowering the band. It sounds like Sue used an acoustic violin rather than her electric violin, this really adds to the harmonic resonance, and gives it a depth and warmth.

Ronan Carroll is the newest member of the band, and an excellent guitarist. Based on this recording, you would think he'd been in the band for years. His playing varies nicely from melodic and mellow to almost heavy metal sound. Like all members of Tempest, his playing fits the songs exactly as needed without overplaying.

Lief Sorbye, the lead vocalist and mandolin player, as always gives a strong and dynamic performance. Lief is one of the few singers who seems to live the song as he sings it.

There's an old Incredible String Band song that has the line "You know all the words and you've sung all the notes, but you've never quite learned the sung you've sung". This is NOT the case with Tempest; they seem to have learned the songs very well.

The harmony singing on this release is very different than prior Tempest releases due to the two high voices of Sue Draheim and Mark Skowronek. In all cases, the harmonies, really work well in supporting the songs. Of particular note are Tamosher and Cruel Brother. On Winter Night, Mark uses a different register, and it really is a nice counter point to Lief Sorbye's lead vocal.

The only weakness I see is in some of the song choices. Some songs work great live, but have a tendency to get stale on repeated listening on CD. The two that I think don't hold up are Old Man At The Mill and Byker Hill.

The traditional choices other that the two above are outstanding - Tamosher, Coalminers', Fjellmannjenta and Cruel Brother. The original material - Catalina Island, Natural Law, Carnival and Winter Night - is as strong as the above traditional tunes.

There are a few standout tracks. Coalminers' is one of the best instrumental pieces that Tempest has done. Strong melodies, excellent playing. Tamosher and Cruel Brother rank up there with the best of traditional material played by a rock band (think Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, etc.) Winter Night written by Mark is a very pleasant surprise, with a strong tune and good lyrics. The highlight of the original songs was for me - Natural Law, with strong tune and good lyrics, somehow this song just gets me every time.

The best track of all, and the only reason you need for buying this CD, is Cruel Brother. At 10 minutes and 5 seconds, it's too short (and very seldom do long tracks justify their length.) Cruel Brother flows from section to section without ever seeming forced. The fiddle moves it along in the beginning, and then the true Tempest ensemble sound takes over, and you don't notice if the melody is played by fiddle mandolin or guitar. Beautiful harmonies from Sue and Mark augment an impressive lead vocal from Lief.

Overall, the best CD from Tempest so far. Don't miss this one.

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December 2001

An interview with Tempest's Lief Sorbye

Celtic rock, progressive folk rock, call it what you will, but the fact of the matter is that Tempest is out there and playing it like there's no tomorrow. The California-based band, centered on fearless Norwegian leader Lief Sorbye, has been delivering its own blend of energetic rock music and folk leanings for well over a decade now, with its latest offering being Balance. And with a constantly changing lineup, a healthy amount of side projects, an impressive amount of yearly live gigs, and a mind-boggling rate of releases, Tempest may have very well earned its crown as the maximum exponent of progressive folk rock of the last decade. Of course, the story behind it all couldn't be without its surprises or tricky corners, so read on to learn what Sorbye's take on the last thirteen - scratch that - thirty years!

1 - Way back before Tempest, you dedicated yourself to busking (playing on the streets, impromptu gigs, etc. for money) around both Europe and the United States, but after some time of doing that you decided to settle down and acquire a more organized style of living from playing music. Why did you stop busking and join a stable band instead? Why this need for more organization?

Lief: Well, it all started in my teens really. When I first saw the Beatles on TV, I was like "Wow, that's a fucking good job." (laughs) I had bands in Norway back even to when I was nineteen, and the last band I had actually combined traditional Norwegian folk music with rock n' roll. So I had that experience, and was in many bands, and I played youth clubs or whatever. It was my urge to travel that left it all behind, and I figured I could support myself as a busker; mainly traveling around, playing on the streets and informal shows in cafes that happened to have a bar, picking up the odd gig as I was going along traveling. So the busking was a way for me to support myself, travel to the countries I was interested in seeing, meeting people, covering the right songs, and learning traditional music from the places I was staying. I set up my own school of life, it was what I did to get my education, and when I decided I wanted a more organized scenario it was basically because I figuredÖsee, my passion has always been two things: traveling and playing music. So I feel privileged that I can say that I have a job that combines both, you know? And back in the late seventies, after I'd been traveling around the United States and leaving Europe, I happened to join up with a band that offered me a permanent slot in California. And that's when I decided, "well, maybe it's time to settle in with a band," because we still had the opportunity to keep touring in Europe as well as in the United States. The reason was really because I got the right opportunity. I found what I was looking for at that point in time, which was a band that I'd be interested in traveling with and playing the music I wanted to do, but taking it to a level where I could also have a permanent home base. And it so happened that that home base became Northern California, and that's where I still am todayÖand this dates back to 1979, actually!

2 - You mentioned that you once had a band that combined folk music with rock before. Was that Evil Delight?

Lief: Yeah, that was the first one, and then it became a band called Gammal Rull, which was really based on traditional Norwegian music and was more of a folky band; more like Steeleye Span playing Norwegian Music.

And, out of curiosity, did any music from Evil Delight ever make it into Tempest?

Lief: I don't think soÖyou know what? This goes back to like the early and mid-seventies. And I'm trying to thinkÖyou knowÖsome of the musical ideas probably did! When I start thinking about it, I have no recordings of that band. I know there are some recordings that exist back in Europe, but I don't have anything. For some reason they did not become available to meÖI bet you I could trace some of the roots back to that! I bet you there was some music back there that actually did, in one way or the other, translate itself into Tempest some twenty-odd years later. I bet there would be something there! That would actually give me an incentive to trace down some of the early recordings. There are some radio sessions and various things existing back home. If I could just get hold of the right people I bet you I could find some of that stuff. It would definitely be interesting for me, and my own archiveÖ

3 - Back in the early days of Tempest, the band used to put on a really goofy live show. You had Mark Showalter as a bassist, and he used to do crazy "Celtic" dances and everything. And nowadays the band doesn't take itself too seriously either on the shows, it does a great job of entertaining the audience, but it's not as crazy as it was in the early days. Is it ever going to get as crazy as it was back then?

Lief: I don't think so. Part of it is that when Tempest first started, the music was a lot simpler and more basic, and as the band's been getting better and new blood's been coming in with a higher level of musicianship, it's got to the point where we're so arrangement-intensive that a lot of the music is really too intricate to be too goofy. If there's so much music to be played right, and you're going to play the music right, it's hard to be too goofyÖthat's because it's difficult to combine both! (laughs) But our shows are always gonna have a lot of energy and a lot of surprises as far as what comes out of the stage; and it really depends on the players at the time. For a while we had a fiddle player, called Michael Mullen. He would do a lot of acrobatics on stage, but of course the music suffered a little bit, because if you play electric violin and you run around and off stage, the intonation is going to suffer a little bit, because it's really hard to be an acrobat and play the instrument correctly. Especially with something like the fiddle, where it's not a fixed pitch instrument, so that it goes out of tone pretty easily.

At this point in time, the current people in the band are still putting on a really wild show, but I don't think it's as loose as it used to be. I think the early Tempest with Mark Showalter, etc., wasn't just goofy, but it was very very loose, and I would say kind of sloppy. Now it takes more of an effort to put in to play right, and our music is so sharp it keeps you on your toes. It's because there's been a concentration; it's not a jam band as such. There are a lot of notes to be played right, and they have to come in the right order, and if you're busy standing on top of your head you might miss that!

4 - I was reading an interview in which you mentioned that during the recording of the Surfing to Mecca album there was a lot of experimentation and branching out, but also that the band lost a bit of focus in the process. When does one realize this kind of thing? Does one realize it while one's actually recording the album, or does one release it and a couple of weeks later realize "GeezÖmaybe we should have done a couple of things differently?"

Lief: I usually realize it after we've been touring under the record a little bit. I think what happened with that particular era, like '94, is that it was a time when we were evolving into sort of a world music band, as opposed to Celtic European kind of stuff, because we were trying toÖpeople were writing in Middle Eastern modes, and we were experimenting with other instruments, and had sounds that were too crazy coming out, which wasn't necessarily part of our musical policy or our musical platform. And it was all in good fun, and I think the band still does it today, to a certain extent.

I think it lost focus because stylistically, that record, and the tour behind that record, was really pointing in so many different directions that it became too much of a variety show. It was a point when everybody wanted to write, but everybody wrote something that was completely different stylistically. So we would have one guy, the bass player at the time, who would write sort of goofy country and western-sounding songs; the fiddle player would be into English Morris dance music; and the guitar player would write stuff that would come maybe from a Middle Eastern player; and I would have been in the middle of it with the Celtic and Norwegian stuff trying to hold down the fort. But it seems like it has music that is schizophrenic, because the experimentation maybe went a little bit too far, so that it divided up the styles too much.

But having said that, I think it's always been healthy that the band has always been experimenting and always continues to do soÖwithin our musical policy there are enough avenues to explore without losing focus. At that point in time I think it was a lineup that had such a diverse musical interest, and everybody wanted that represented, so it kind of lost it because of this. I think I realized it when it was going on, but I was open to it. I think after a year of doing it I wasn't as open to it anymore, because I thought that it had backfired a little bit, people were going like "What kind of music are you guys really playing?"
That was at the time when we signed with Magna Carta, in like '95, and they said the same thing: "Look, you gotta focus back in on Celtic and rock and bring back your focus, because the Surfing to Mecca album wouldn't be music we would be interested in releasing," and I said "Look, I totally agree with you." So I think that's the point when I really acknowledged it; that it was too diverse. At the time we recorded it, I knew it as well, but I was into it and open to it, and wanted to see where it would take usÖ

Tempest has been together for thirteen years and we've recorded nine records, which means we didn't start to record until a couple of years into the band's history. It means that we release an album a year almost, so if you look at a recordÖthe records are really just a recording of what we were doing at that point in time. I think it's a healthy thing; I think that's something that I miss in a lot of bands today. They take too long between records, and with major labels today, two years between releases is normal. If you look back, in the sixties and seventies, you had bands releasing a couple of records a year. And in some ways that's healthier, because it shows the progression of the music and it's more of an honest picture of what the musicians are up to at any given point in time. And you can trace the progression of the band in a whole different way; you can see the evolution. That's what I do with Tempest, I can still see the evolution, and I personally feel that the band has always gotten better, and the recordings will show that. And we will of course continue to evolve, but I think the focus is more intact these days.

5 - You just mentioned Magna Carta and the evolution of Tempest. Tempest is basically more than anything a live band, and what came across as interesting was the way The Gravel Walk was recorded, especially after Turn of the Wheel where there was considerable production, a guest appearance from Keith Emerson, and basically other elements that made it more of a studio album. The Gravel Walk was more of a live thing. Did it feel more comfortable to record that way?

Lief: At the time it did, because we had just finished our spring tour that year - we're talking probably '96 or '97. Turn of the Wheel took longer, and it was a lot more studio production with a lot more instruments from Robert, and now I really like that album because it's different, but I like the charm of it a lot. It was more open to experimentation and the arrangements came together in the studio, as opposed to The Gravel Walk, on which what we ended up doing was arranging the stuff, taking it on the road, playing it in front of an audience, gigging it really tight, and going right off the road, into the studio, and recording it all in two weeks with a minimum amount of overdubs. And even if it was a studio record, a lot of the tracks were recorded live on this album; in other words, the whole band would play live and then we would take it from there and maybe change a little bit and do a few overdubs, but it was more based on "Let's do what we did on stage, but do it in the studio." So it was a lot of fun, and it was a lot easier to make, and it was in a way more of a fun deal than Turn of Wheel was.
Today, when I listen back to it - I don't really listen to Tempest records at all; I just happen to hear it on the radio, or someone will play it in a club, or something - When I listen back to it, I like Turn of the Wheel, because it was a fun time, and the time we spent recording it I enjoyed. I think that in many ways The Gravel Walk is a more honest record in the sense that "Hey, this is the real deal." There were no studio musicians and there were live arrangements, not studio arrangementsÖbut having said that, we took a lot of ideas from the arrangements of Turn of the Wheel and transposed that into material we did for The Gravel Walk. But I like both those records; I like both ways of working. I've done records that were purely studio things and it's been good, and I've done recordsÖmost records have been done based on what we do live. If I gotta choose, I like the live approach better, because it's closer to home, and with the fact that we're a live band, I think recording stuff that we do on stage feels better in the long run and sounds more natural. There's a certain chemistry you get when you're musicians playing together, instead of overdubbing on top of each other. (laughs)
I like both, but I just think I prefer the more honest approach. What we normally do, and what I like to do, and what makes the most sense always is to record, I mean, we will write or arrange the stuff first, and then play it live as a test and see if the audience likes it, and the song will have an evolution on stage: it will get tighter, we will fix up the arrangement if we want toÖit has a certain early life span where it goes through changes in front of an audience. And when it gets to the point where it feels good and it feels right, and if the musicians are playing it in a way that feels good, then that's the time to record a piece of music, 'cause that's when it really sounds best. So ideally, that's how we like to do it; we like to say "Ten new songs, put them into our repertoire with existing favorites, take it on the road, play it in front of an audience, come back, and then record it." And Balance had a lot of that going on, but it also had a few things that we arranged in the studio as well. We kind of mixed the approaches of Turn of the Wheel and The Gravel WalkÖ

6 - Now, regarding yourself as a musician in general as opposed to a part of TempestÖall the while that Tempest has been in existence, you've also had an acoustic folk thing going on at all times, which included Tipsyhouse, your solo album Across the Borders, and then CalibanÖ

Lief: Yeah, and also prior to that I did a traditional Norwegian folk record as well, and went out as a solo artist playing Norwegian folk music. I've done that as wellÖI've done a number of things, yeah.

Öand why didn't you just try to go back with Golden Bough (Sorbye's acoustic folk band before Tempest) and try to record something with that band again?

Lief: I have done that a couple of times. I left Golden Bough at the end of 1987, and since then we've done reunion concerts - when we did the 20th anniversary I went out there and did a whole string of dates with them, and I've been guesting on the albums. Also, some of the early Golden Bough albums that I was on - I think I was on about eight of them - have been reissued with bonus tracks, so we've gone in and recorded some extra tracks and stuff, so it actually has happened. Not a lot, but that has happened, yeah. It's been done. (laughs)

7 - Regarding the style of music that Tempest plays, perhaps a good label for your music would be progressive folk rockÖ

Lief: I think so, because I think thatÖit's unfortunate, but the nature of the music business, especially in America, is very corporate, and in order to sell a product you have to label it so that people will have an easy time buying it. It's not as bad in Europe and in Britain as it is in the US though. And you always struggle to find the right labels, and it would be a healthier world, I think, if you didn't have to label everything. But if you have to do that, I feel that that's as good of a label as anything, because I feel that what Tempest does with folk music is extremely progressive. And taking the fact that we have rock n' roll as our platform in the band, we ARE a progressive rock band; but we are a progressive folk rock band. And you're absolutely right, that's the truth, we're not a progressive band in the sense of classic rock bands like Genesis or ELP, but what we do is progressive in the true sense of the word, as opposed to the pigeonhole of the seventies stuff. 'Cause a lot of people think of progressive rock as your typical seventies evolution of bands, but I think progressive in the true sense of the word is that you got to pound a new way and a new direction with what you're doing, and make it grow. And in that sense, Tempest is a very progressive band, but not in that classic rock sense.

Öone of the advantages that I thought possible about that label is mainly the folk part. After checking out some of the festivals that Tempest has participated in, there were some with enormous crowds; audiences that would hardly be found in, say, progressive rock festivals. This folk appeal has been rather good for Tempest in the marketing sense, hasn't it?

Lief: I think so, becauseÖmy thing is, I started Tempest with the idea of playing the music that was close to my heart. It's never been a compromise between playing the kind of music that gets the biggest crowds and playing the music that we love. It's always been music first and marketing second. But I do believe, after what I have seen in these thirteen years with Tempest, is that our style of music is becoming more and more accepted, and the folk music community has opened up those doors. And yeah, some of our biggest shows have been in bigger folk festivals, Celtic festivals, and also rock festivalsÖwe're the kind of band that will do anything from a Harley Davidson biker festival where we would play with Little Feat and Los Lobos or whatever, to playing a folk festival with The Band, Arlo Guthrie, Judy Collins, etc. And I think that the folk music audience is accepting us, which is because we have such strong traditional roots. If we didn't have the roots we wouldn't be accepted by that crowd, but the fact that we have the folk roots...it's a good audience. We always have one foot in the rock audience and one foot in the folk audience, and we will play the same music to both audiences. And ideally, I think we should just have one big audience; there shouldn't be such barriers between crowds. And I feel that the main strength of the band is that we appeal to more than one audience and more than one age group. Sometimes we'll have three generations of one family coming to our show, and that's a good thing. It gets people together and it unites people. If they go away and their spirits are lifted, I feel I've done a good jobÖ

8 - Now, something regarding folk music in general. During recent years, there has been a stream of world music albums coming out that are supposed to actually be Celtic music or folk music, but which really are more like new age with hints of Celtic tradition in them; music that's intended as background music really. And when one regards the origins of folk music, it was music that was really lively and in constant evolution, not something that people just played as background music. What do you think about this, when there are bands like Tempest bringing new elements into folk music, and on the other side people who aren't purists but are just using folk as background music?

Lief: That kind of music is very boring to me, you know? I think the height of new age is gone now. There was this time - it started in the late eighties and happened for most of the nineties, but especially the early nineties - it was a lot of music that I call "soundtrack for your life." It was very dull; it was very much packed and ready music that you don't get involved in; music that is just behind you. And I think that kind of music can have a soothing effect, but it makes you very passive. It doesn't make your ricky tickle boom boom, it doesn't make your blood boil. And it gets very washed out, watered out. I don't particularly enjoy it myself; I think it's the kind of music that works well in a bookstore for atmosphere, and there's a place for that. There's certainly good and bad music in every genre, but I don't think when it comes to traditional and folk-oriented music that "new agey" world music is necessarily representing folk music, because folk music is always aliveÖfolk music paints a picture of the world it's in. And a lot of new age is really just fantasy, which is kind of dull, and I think that music that's dull has its place in the world, but it doesn't excite me. I get that same reaction with disco. I don't like disco much but I can see that people need disco to dance maybe, so maybe they need new age music to sell books. (laughs) I look at it more as a sort of consumer product than actually something with a real heart in itÖ

9 - Looking at the lineup on Balance and at the entire history of Tempest, drummer Adolfo Lazo has been there since, well, not exactly since the beginning, because he wasn't exactly a founding drummer if I'm correctÖ

Lief: Well, he was the first drummer on stage with us. He's done every show ever with us. Now we've done probably about at least 1500 or 1600 gigs with TempestÖmaybe even more. And he's only missed one show ever, and that's when he had an accident and he shot a nailgun through his hand. He was in the emergency room and we had to do the show without a drummer, but except for that, Adolfo's been there since day one. Yeah, he's been there since the first show and that's what counts, so it's been him and I since day one.

Öyou guys must have built up quite a relationship after all that time.

Lief: Yeah, we've been very loyal to each other throughout the past thirteen yearsÖ

10 - Another thing regarding Balance is that it pushed some more borders, like you already mentioned. There was the folk stuff, and there was that Phil Ochs cover, but there was also for example "Dance of the Sand Witches" from Todd Evans, which reflects his heavy metal side. I'm guessing that Tempest is a result from everyone who's in the band at the moment you recordÖ

Lief: Exactly. That's the idea, because Tempest has always been a band that's open to the input from the musicians that are currently in the band, and also because of the fact that we always had an open rotating door of musicians. The lineup of Tempest has always changed over the years, and if I look up a lot of the bands that I listen to that are still around, they do the same thing. I think it's one way to keep a band going, because you're always going to be bigger than the sum of your members. You create your own place in the world. You have a certain style that you keep evolving, and because of that it's healthy to have people coming and going if it's right. And it makes it easier for people; people can come to the band and, for example, if John Land [Ed.note: one of the band's previous bassists] wants to stay for two yearsÖ"Look, I know you're looking for a bass player, I would like to play with you for two years, will that work? Because after two years I'm gonna move and get married" or whateverÖso we say "Ok, that's fine, you don't have to commit your life to being in the band, but you need to be in the band when it's right for you to be in the band."
I've always liked playing with different musicians over the years. Sometimes it's hard to find the right people, and that's the only thing that I don't like about it, but I like new faces because they bring new inspiration. And Todd wrote two pieces for Balance, and they both show his metal influence. We made it work as a band, and a lot of people like it; they're very popular tunes and they work really well live; we're open to that. And that shows that we're still experimenting, but maybe not as intensely as we did on the Surfing to Mecca period.

11 - You've just had a change of fiddle players. Sue Draheim came in during August, September, or around that time. What do you think she will bring into the band?

Lief: She joined in June actually! Sue is the third fiddle player in the band, and she's by far the most experienced player in our style of music, because she came from a folk rock background in the height of the era. She played with the first incarnation of the Albion Band in Britain, she toured for years with the John Renborn Group, and she has recorded with people like John Martyn and Richard ThompsonÖshe has a lot of experience in the music. And she has the traditional style down more than anybody who's ever been in the bandÖactually, she's the fourth fiddle player, now that I think of it!

I think what she would bring into itÖwhat she is currently bringing into it is a lot of expertise in the traditional aspect of music, and it's very important that we don't lose that, because it's always going to be a balance between folk and rock, and if one takes over you lose the other; and it's always important for me that we have that balance. That's why we named this record Balance, we were always struggling to have the right balance between the two, and on Balance we show everything from the real folkier acoustic traditional side to a much heavier rock side. So it goes further out to extremes, but keeping the balance!

12 - One of the characteristics of folk music is that people can still listen to songs that were made two hundred years ago, even if the name of the person that created them has been lost. Do you expect people to be taking from and changing Tempest arrangements and songs two hundred years from now?

Lief: I hope so, 'cause there's no future without the past and there's noÖpast without the future! (laughs) If we can put a mark on the future, I think that'll be great. If one of my songs is considered a folk song two hundred years from now, I would be very happy about it.
Wherever I am at that point in time, I'll have a smile on my face.

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JigsNReels - Interview
August 2001

JnR: What brought you to Celtic music?

Leif: I've been interested in traditional folk music as long as I can remember. Specifically the Celtic stuff, I grew up in Norway with traditional Norwegian music, and both geographically and musically very close to Scotland and Ireland. There were a lot of Irish musicians settling in Oslo in the 70's. So we formed little sessions and formed a cross between Irish and Norwegian music. Because the people interested in playing tunes were either Irish or Norwegian. We had a little folk club going on in Oslo in the 70's, and I learned a lot from that. And I lived in Ireland for a while in the late 70's. So I have always been influenced by both the Celtic and Scandinavian stuff. Its all been the same to me in a way. And with Tempest, we do quite a bit of Scandinavian material in with the Celtic. And so its all sort of Northern European stuff. We're not what I would call an Irish music band, we're a rock band that plays traditional tunes. But very much of the music is traditional based.
A lot of Celtic Rock bands with their original material aren't grounded in the tradition. And I feel that you can write a new melody to a traditional lyric, or take a traditional lyric and write a new melody, or we can write a new song with traditional roots or we can update what we think is a good traditional song. And the purpose of that is that here is a good song that needs to be played, needs to be heard. And being the fact that it has survived for hundreds of years it must be good material to begin with. and if we can give our own spin on it than that is our way of keeping the tradition alive without feeling that we've bastardized it in any way.
I feel that traditional music is there to be used/expressed. I love traditional music played acoustically by good players. But I also like taking your own spin on it and making it yours and if there's an audience for it, we'll provide it.

JnR: Is there any relation to traditional Scandinavian music and traditional Celtic music?

Leif: I've found more direct relation to Scottish stuff more so than Irish. There are actually traditional Scottish songs and Scandinavian songs that have the same lyrics just in different languages. And there are songs about the same things and the interaction across the North Sea. I could go on about some valid theories that the Irish harp came to Ireland with the Vikings. It originated in Siberia, down into Scandinavia than across the water with the first Viking raids and ended up being the Brian Boru harp we know of now.
So I know there's a lot of cultural interaction and that happened in the music as well as ballads were carried back and forth across the sea. I don't know if the Irish harp theory can be backed up properly, but they do know that there was no Irish harp before the Vikings. And when I was in art school, I did a study on the Norwegian folk harp, and it was the Irish harp, but instead of the lap harp, because they never figured out to put it flat on their lap, so they put it flat on the table, and it came to Ireland where they figured out to put it on their lap.
So there is a lot of interaction and a lot in the music. The fiddle tradition as well, similar tunes. Then you go to the Shetland Islands where you actually have a cross of Scotland/Norwegian music but its Shetland music. Its all a part of the same thing really. It changes color as it travels a bit. We could play a melody of tunes and have both an Irish tune with a Scandinavian tune and if they are obscure enough no one will say what an odd combination that is. It's all folk music, and its music that's meant to be played.

JnR: With Celtic rock, is it simply taking a traditional tune like "Jacobites" and playing it with modern electric instruments, or is it more complex than that?

Leif: It could be that simple. In that particular example, there's more to it. I am the one who arranged it, its gone through various arrangement ideas in the rock band format. I think its snippets of other musical ideas and made it our own. So the current arrangement is a uniquely Tempest take on it.
Which then again others would hear and take our version and put their own parts to it. That's a part of the living tradition. You can do that with folk music. You can add and subtract a little bit. That one, when we do the straight traditional thing, it usually gets very subjective in our treatment of it. I'm a folk musician, but when you get rock musicians take on it, which I think is part of the fun of exploring. And it's a lot healthier for rock musicians to play traditional tunes than Top 40. "

Full interview and featured artist page available at www.CelticJigsNReels.com

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Celtic Beat
by Art Ketchen
July 2001

Tempest is a courageous band and they donít even know it. In an age of politically correct wimps of one stripe or another they will be faulted for one thing (Rock instrumentals), or another (being macho), or another (possibly pagan). But true to real artists they donít give a damn and keep on playing their music as they see fit.
Balance is a supreme example of this. Balance opens up with "Captain Ward," a straight ahead swashbuckler of a song-rocking aggressively.Tempest is no band to hear if you are in a mood to hear historical collections(and thatís fine if you want to hear them). With a repertoire that owes an obvious debt to Steeleye Span and the Child Ballads (and carries that legacy to a kind of musical mannerism), this is a place to hear the familiar in an unfamiliar way, not always, but if you listen...
Case in point: "Two Sisters." The rendition of this standard set a new standard, with great percussion by Adolfo Lazo, and mandolins by Leif Sorbye. And a great harmonica, also by Leif Sorbye-a brand new thing for this song. With an unusual instrumental end. Tempest mines the time honored material, coming up with something different and great.
Some of the best cuts here, like "Old Man Flint" (with the second part "Trip toYuba City" particularly good) are Twenty First Century Tempest adding to musical tradition. They should never be forgotten for what they do in this particular realm of Celtic music. - A.K.
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Highway 1561 Revisited
by Scott Cooper

Few would credit Bob Dylan with pioneering Celtic rock. However, by performing with electric guitars at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, Dylan opened the flood gates through which new forms of traditional folk music could be expressed.
Lief Sorbye, founder, singer and double-necked mandolin player from Tempest, is an indirect product of that historic day.
"I grew up with rock being the folk music," Sorbye says from his adopted home of Oakland. "Then one day as a kid, I figured out that I was always tapping feet to fiddle tunes but I never tapped my feet to a guitar solo."
Named after Shakepeare's play, Tempest is now one of the most inventive and colorful Celtic rock bands in the world. By draping traditional Celtic themes in rock 'n' roll, Tempest delivers a sound big enough to please both rock audiences and traditionalists, and especially those who like the fusion of the two.
"There will be a lot of situations where we would take a traditional melody and write new lyrics to it, or we'll take traditional lyrics and write a new melody to it," Sorbye says. "A lot of our songs, you can't tell whether they're traditional or original, because it's got elements of both."
While traditionalists can find solace in the meandering fiddle romps and bouncy rhythms, fans of rock 'n' roll, particularly progressive rock, can also sink their teeth into Tempest, who has often been compared to Jethro Tull.
"There's enough time changes and key changes to satisfy those people," Sorbye says of the prog-rock crowd. "If they always look for intricate arrangements, we tend to play some fairly large pieces of music."
"There's enough rock energy to satisfy the rock audience and there's enough traditional folk music to satisfy the folkies," he adds. "We try to keep a good balance of original and traditional material."
Not coincidently, "Balance" is the title of Tempest's new CD, their ninth overall and fourth for Magna Carta records, home to unabashed prog-rockers like Kansas and Steve Morse.
"I love to listen to old field recordings, but I also realize it doesn't have a great entertainment value in the year 2001," Sorbye says. "I can respect preserving the very strict traditional form. At the same time I'm always eager to take the next step. It's hard to have a purist viewpoint in this day and age."
Not so long ago, however, those purists existed, critical of Tempest for messing with a formula that has survived for ages.
"I don't get that negative thing about bastardizing traditional music they way we used to. In the beginning, nobody else seemed to be doing what we were doing and it was a new thing. We got slammed a lot," Sorbye admits.
Influenced as a child by Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention and the Incredible String Band, Sorbye founded Tempest in 1988, immediately after leaving the traditional Celtic band Golden Bough. Tempest has gone through a few line-ups but none as robust and talented as the current one. Virtuoso fiddle player Jim Hurley has played with zydeco diva Queen Ida, rock legend Ritchie Blackmore, swinging oddball Dan Hicks and new age/world music band Ancient Future. His jaw-dropping fiddle runs are matched by hot-shot guitarist Todd Evans, a graduate of the esteemed Berklee School of Music. The group is rounded out by bassist William Maxwell and Cuban drummer Adolfo Lazo.
"I wanted folk music to be played in a rock band with predominantly rock musicians' viewpoints, as opposed to folk musicians plugging in, which is what really I am," Sorbye says.
He may be a folkie, but Lief Sorbye is not actually Celtic; he was born and raised in Norway. "Scottish and Norwegian music are so close, both geographically and musically," he explains. "In Norway, there's a strong fiddle tradition in folk music. I did record a solo album of just traditional Norwegian folk back in the '80s, but it goes so well hand-in-hand with the Celtic stuff. We've got medleys of tunes that combine the two cultures really easily."
Similarly, with such ease is precisely how Tempest balances the traditional and the modern audiences.
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Ray Dorsey
June 2001

I have to say, at the outset, that I am not a lover of a lot of things on the Magna Carta label. There seems to be a myriad bands that fit the "prog-lite" category, such as Tiles, Magellan, etc., not exactly my cup of tea. At the same time, one member of their stable, TEMPEST, is a band I really like a lot. You know well of my affinity for Celtic rock, and these guys have been a damn strong generator of that for a long time. Way back to private releases like "Serrated Edge," (my first experience with the band, bought on a whim at a Wiccan craft store in Rehoboth, Delaware!) they've combined the unique blend of Leif Sorbye's Norwegian heritage with Celtic traditional songs and a fairly heavy rock base to produce one kicking album after another. "Balance" is the latest effort from the West Coast band, and while there are no huge surprises, the quality here seems even higher than ususal for TEMPEST. This ranges from the fresh-sounding covers of trad numbers to killer originals like "Wicked Spring" and "Between Us." When it comes to the Celtic rock sweepstakes, I still place 7N in the winner's circle, but you can't go wrong with any TEMPEST release, "Balance" especially!

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All Music Guide
Gary Hill

Although 1999's 10th Anniversary Compilation included new recordings of the group's older material, this disc is the first album of truly "new" songs by this band since 1997's Gravel Walk. Showcasing a new lineup and 12 new tracks, this one continues in the tradition of the group.
Tempest is a Celtic rock band that leans quite heavily on the Celtic end of things.
They treat their folk roots with a high reverence, and it shows both in the performances and the wonderful explanations of songs in the liner notes.
That said, they still are a rock band, leaning to a bluesy sort of prog blend in that part of their style.
The comparisons to Jethro Tull are obvious, but really Tempest is a lot more firmly rooted in the old world traditions than Tull.
Although there are no real revelations or surprises here, there are some absolutely wondrous moments, and this one is sure to please the longtime fans of the band, and hopefully bring in some new one.
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Ethan Nahtť
Dallas, TX
May 2001

Tempest: Electric Storm Rising

When most people think of Celtic music, thoughts of bagpipes and flutes played by men wearing kilts is typically the first thing that comes to mind. When someone hears the term Celtic Rock, a wave of confusion washes over their face. Is it a bagpipe connected to an amplifier or Leprechauns jamming on guitars? Most people arenít sure what to think or imagine when they first hear about a band like Tempest. Once they see the five-piece, they have a better idea of what Celtic Rock is all about... a combination of electric instruments and traditional folk music, telling stories of ancient Ireland, Norway and Scotland. They even include some North American flavor to their storytelling in the song "Buffalo Jump," about the Cree nation, one of their original pieces.
We caught up with them at Fair Park during the annual Texas Irish Music Festival, where they performed four sets over a two day period. The first day made spectators feel like they possibly were in Ireland as the band performed under a white tent while the thunderstorms rolled through, blackening the skies and turning the ground into a muddy mess. The second day was windy and full of sunshine, but the muck was still thick as people crowded into the covered tent and sloshed through the wet earth to find a seat and enjoy the musical revelry. The current band features Norwegian founder and leader of the group, Lief Sorbye, who handles the vocals and the acoustic and double neck electric mandolins and mandolas; Adolfo Lazo, the bandís Cuban drummer; William Maxwell, who plays both fretted and one of the most beautiful fretless basses Iíve ever seen; Todd Evans on guitars and backing vocals; Jim "Hurricane" Hurley on electric fiddle and backing vocals.
"I founded the band about twelve years ago," says Sorbye. "We didnít start playing Texas until about a year ago. This is our fourth time in Texas in a year. It looks like we have an audience here," he states quite happily. "You should get yourself down to The Emerald Mist (in Richarson) on Friday, June 29th and weíll be in Houston at the Celtic Midsummer Festival on July 1st. Weíll probably play in Austin on the 30th of June."
Tempest would like to play more of the festivals, but according to Sorbye, their seems to be a prejudice among purists. "The problem with a lot of the Renaissance Festivals is that weíre not a Ďperiodí band. Weíre too modern. We plug in our instruments and a lot of the people at the festivals like to keep it on a pure acoustic-period type level. Jim is our Renaissance man. He came to us (Tempest) from Blackmoreís Night."
Blackmoreís Night is another amazing Celtic Rock style band featuring legendary guitarist Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple, Rainbow) and the beautiful and extremely talented Candice Night on vocals. Their first release, Shadow of the Moon [Edel Records] also featured Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) on flute.
"It was a fun band," says Hurley. "They do Renaissance music and they have the same problem that Lief was talking about. Theyíre a little too electric and plugged in for the Renaissance Faires. I think they [the Faires] are going to be a little more open to the electric music because there are so many good bands like Tempest and Blackmoreís Night."
Unlike most country and folk musicians, the fiddle that Hurley plays isnít amplified by a pickup attached to a traditional fiddle. Itís an actual electric instrument that is gaining popularity over the past decade by rock bands such as Kansas and A Perfect Circle.
"Itís a Zeta. They make them in Oakland, California, where weíre from. We can almost throw a rock and hit the factory. They make great electric violins and everyone seems to use them. They work perfect for me and they can get very loud, which is perfect for Tempest."
Evans, who cranks out the lead guitars and the crunching power chords for the bandís music, uses an old Kramer guitar. Kramer had a great rock guitar sound, but finally went out of business a few years ago. Itís rare to find someone still using them onstage.
"The tone is really good," states Evans. "I found it used for about $300. Itís real light weight and you can hardly feel it when youíre wearing it. The neck is real fast so you can play some of those metal shredding licks that I like to throw into Tempest. Itís a great guitar all around. I play a lot of power chords. My background is really more Ď80s style heavy metal. Judas Priest. Iron Maiden. The thing I really like about playing in Tempest is the band can calm down and play some cleaner style stuff and some more sweet stuff. We donít always have to rock our asses off, but thatís what I like to do best. Itís great! I get to play some real heavy stuff and it involves some pretty technical guitar playing straight fromthe Ď80s. I got that Kramer guitar and thatís what it is, the ability to do some mellow stuff and some real hard-core rockers."
Sorbye plays one of the most unusual instruments. Everyone has probably seen a double-neck electric guitar, made famous by performers such as Jimmy Page or Ace Frehley. Itís not everyday that you see a double-neck mandolin. Especially one that has thelook and feel of an electric guitar."Itís my own design," says Sorbye. "When I first started the band, I used acoustic instruments exclusively with pick ups. I would go between the mandola and the mandolin between every song almost. I figured ĎWouldnít it be nice if I could have both necks on one instrument and go between the necks in one song?í That was the idea behind it. Since then Iíve been designing the concept with electric mandolins with more than one neck on them. My acoustics are made in Britain by Andy Manson. My electrics are made by John Knutson. He doesnít make them anymore because he figured that heís making two instruments and getting paid for one. It didnít make sense. He made a couple of copies of it and he still makes them for me. He went on to create the Messenger stand-up electric bass and thatís all heís doing now. I took ideas from different places and made cardboard cut outs at first. Weíve been working on them for the last ten years and I think weíve come up with something good. One guy came up to me today and said ĎYouíre playing Batmanís Guitar!í You know what the problem? I designed them out of laziness, but now itís catching up to me. IĎve got a bunch of these double necks and I have to tune a minimum of 32 strings before I go on."
Some may wonder where the idea to put together a Celtic Rock band may have come from. The style has grown recently, but in the late Ď80s/early Ď90s, it was practically unheard of.
Sorbye recalls, "I grew up with rockíníroll and played in rockíníroll bands. Then I became a folk music purist. I was in an acoustic band when I first moved to the states in the late Ď70s to the late Ď80s called Golden Bough. After 10 years of that, I got the itch to combine the acoustic experience and the traditional folk music with the energy of rockíníroll basically. So I set out to find rock musicians interested in exploring traditional music instead of just traditional musicians just plugging in. A lot of times they donít even know where to plug in," he jokes. "Itís all sort of Pan-European music. Our music is either written, based on traditional music, or itís contemporary arrangements of traditional European folk music with an emphasis on Scottish and Irish, but also lots of Scandinavian influences and some American influences. Itís easier now to sell it as Celtic Rock because people know what rock is and what Celtic is. At least most people do. You combine them and it gives them an idea of what youíre doing. I think that works. Thatís the thing with the U.S., youíve got to have a label on everything you do in order to be able to market it. I think back when the band forst started, we spent a lot of time justifying what we were doing. These days the barriers are broken down. Itís just good music. You either like the music or you donít. Youíre allowed to play whatís close to your heart whether you break the rules or not. We love pure traditional music too, but itís better played by the people who really know how to do it. Weíve got a lot of expertise in a little bit more modern rock stuff, itís cool to combine them both. Itís just for good fun anyway. The more we play this stuff and the more we explore it, the more I think we find our own place in the music and we have something to say with what weíre doing, which is uniquely our style I think."
Hurley just recently joined Tempest, while Evans has been with Sorbye for two years now.
"I was lucky enough to come in at the beginning of the album process,"explains Hurley. "Iím on the new album and Iíve been gigging with Tempest a little over a month."
"Balance is the name of the new album. Itís our ninth album," says Sorbye. "Itís our fourth one on Magna Carta (a progressive rock label out of New York). The new one comes out on April 24th." "You can check out www.tempestmusic.com," says Evans. "You can direct order all the Magna Carta CDs directly from the band."
Balance is very distinct in itís look amongst the other rock albums in the CD bin. The Celtic cross divided up by two other Celtic pieces of art, reminiscent of the Yin-Yang from the Asian culture. The album features "Captain Ward," the tale of a famous Scottish pirate, "Villemann," a mythical medieval ballad, sung in Norwegian, about a hero battling a water spirit that has captured a fair maiden and a Irish traditional tale called "Two Sisters." there are also plenty of jigs and Irish reels and other original songs that find the bandís style so intertwined with the traditional songs that itís difficult to tell which songs are modern and which songs go back 500 years.
Balance is a great term to sum up Tempestís style of playing and their fans.
"We cater to two audiences," explains Sorbye. "The folk music audience and the rock music audience. A lot of times, both audiences at the same time. We can go play these niche market Celtic events as well as a straight out music event. Thereís a lot of places to play.Thatís one reason I moved to the U.S. You never run out of gigs here. Itís a big ass country," he laughs.

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Glass Eye: June Review
PO Box 2507, Toledo, OH 43606
TEMPEST Mickey Finnís (Toledo, OH)
2 May 2000

Celtic rock stalwarts Tempest played their first-ever Toledo gig at Mickey Finnís, and if you missed it, you missed one of the very finest shows to grace this too-often culturally bankrupt metropolis we call T-Town.  Performing fan favorites like ďYou Jacobites By Name,Ē and ďBuffalo Jump,Ē plus some Celtic standards in addition to some new preview songs from their soon-to-be-recorded next release, the band demonstrated a remarkable energy and rapport with the enthusiastic crowd. The band broke their show into two sets, the first very calculated to win over the audience, and it worked: frontman Lief Sorbye, strumming his double-necked electric mandolin, and violinist Michael Mullen marched off the stage and into the crowd, encouraging its members to dance and be merry.  After an intermission, they came back for a second set that showed off their progressive side, concentrating on extended jams and solos.  Everyone stood out and shone brightly, particularly ex-Cherry Poppiní Daddies bassist Darren Cassidy, who just joined the band in February of 2000.  Possessing a distinct Tony Franklin-like bass-playing style, Cassidy brings a whole new virtuosity to the already stellar musicianship of this unique band.  While the band is grounded in Celtic and folk rock, they never hesitated to rockÖ HARD.   Sorbye commandeered the small stage, often taking Steve Harris-style poses, pointing the double-necked mandolin at crowd members.  Guitarist Todd Evans and drummer Adolfo Lazo exhibited ferocious chops that could earn them spots in any prog-metal band, and Iíd be hard-pressed to find anyone play the violin with as much piss & vinegar as Michael Mullen. Having heard a few of Tempestís studio albums, and now having seen them live, their studio work just hasnít been able to capture the true style and sound of this band.  Someone get them on a tour with Tull, and I mean NOW.  These guys rule.  - Mark Tinta

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Celitc Group's Rock Is Distinctive
Friday,March 24, 2000

A breath of fresh air is blowing into town on the winds of March - the Celtic rock group Tempest is performing the March Folklife concert.

Blending music from Scandinavia, Ireland, England and Scotland with hard-hitting American rock `n' roll, Tempest creates a one-of-a-kind sound that woos grannies and fills mosh pits.

Unlike many other groups, the five-man band fills a niche because it doesn't limit itself to using just one genre of music, said Lief Sorbye, the band's Norwegian lead singer.

"The main strength of the band is that whether you're into traditional folk music or rock `n'roll, we have something for you," Sorbye said in a phone interview from Oakland, Calif., the town the band calls home. "Whether you're 12 years old or 82, you're going to be tapping your foot. We do a mix of upbeat dance music; we also do some of the ballads."

Tempest, now in its 11th year of performing, has undergone a few personnel changes (the most recent: the addition of bass player Darren Cassidy, formerly of the swing band The Cherry Poppin' Daddies) but has remained true to its vision of making original tunes.

The diverse crew also includes Cuban drummer Adolfo Lazo, energetic fiddler Michael Mullen and a guitarist with experience in heavy rock, Todd Evans. In addition to vocals, Sorbye also plays a double-necked mandolin.

Sorbye said that while the band labels its music folk-rock, "world music" might be a more appropriate description.

"(Music genres) are a very interesting and very American phenomenon," Sorbye said. "In order to be able to sell records and sell yourself to the public, you need to have a label. (Celtic rock) is a very narrow description and doesn't incorporate all that we do, but it gives them an idea. We play traditional music in a contemporary setting - that's hard to define and fit into a label."

Tonight's concert features some of Tempest's new sounds, as well as some past favorites. And, like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, you never know what you'll get at any one of Tempest's shows.

"We do folk concerts to large clubs," Sorbye said. "We played a Celtic festival recently and we were the band with a mosh pit. The traditional folkies didn't seem to mind. It's a communication between the audience and the performer on stage."

"I hope (tonight's audience) will walk away with an experience they can take with them into their daily routines. I hope we can lift their spirits."

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Tempest Set To Storm State
The Modesto Bee
Friday, January 7, 2000

 Lief Sorbye counts himself lucky to be able to earn a living doing what he loves.

"Music is painting on a large canvas," says Sorbye, who is leader, vocalist and plays the double-necked mandolin for Celtic rock group Tempest. "The emotions people feel are very individual. I want people walking away from our concerts feeling rejuvenated... so their spirits have been lifted."

That's what happened at the Philadelphia Folk Festival last summer.

"We had one of those close-to-perfect moments," Sorbye says. "Linda Rondstat was there and we were the closing act on Friday night. The crowd was just into it with us."

Fortunately for Tempest fans on the West Coast, that perfect moment was captured for posterity and is the group's latest CD release. It might be the first recording that does justice to Tempest's energy and musicianship.

"Flowers of Red Hill," "You Jacobites by Name," and "Green Grow the Rashes" would be a fitting finale to any music festival. The thousands on hand in Philadelphia were treated to a striking blend of Celtic and rock, a marriage made perfect by Tempest.

Modesto audiences can compare Tempest with the Donal Lunny and Coolfin performance that brought the house to its feet at the State Theatre earlier this year.

The Jan. 15 concert at the State will reunite Sorbye with Golden Bough, a group he helped start 20 years ago.

Called "Celtic Folk Meets Celtic Rock," the concert will feature the traditional Celtic folk songs Golden Bough has made famous and the driving rhythms of Tempest. The two groups will even join forces for a few numbers.

"I try to make sure the folk tradition survives," Sorbye says. "I do that by updating it to make it more accessible to the younger audience. I combine it with rock to make it contemporary."

He believes his formula is working. Tempest is "picking up younger listeners from those who might think world and folk music is kind of geeky."

Sorbye sees a yearning for home and tradition behind the revival of world folk music. "I see people trying to search out their own roots through music. The appeal is a little bigger than just folk music."

Sorbye's own roots reach back to the Fairport Convention and The Incredible String Band. He counts seeing the String Band's reunion concert this year as one of the thrills of a lifetime, along with playing with the Byrds' Roger McGuinn when he performed a Byrds anthology.

But it was two other rock icons who set Sorbye's feet to the beat of a musician's life.

"The first time I saw the Beatles, I knew that was what I wanted to do," recalls Sorbye. "But it wasn't until I heard Bob Dylan, with his simple chord changes, that I knew I could be a musician."

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Chicago Pioneer Press
Thursday, April 15, 1999
Storm Warning: Durty Nellie's prepares for Tempest to roar through
by Martin A. Bartels
Diversions editor - Northwest Group

For Lief Sorbye, leader of the Celtic rock band Tempest, the fusion of different kinds of music has always come naturally.

For fans of he group, however, that fusion comes as an addictive kind of surprise.

Tempest will perform Saturday night at Durty Nellie' in Palatine.

At least part of Tempest's unique sound comes from the widely varied make-up of the band,ranging from Sorbye's Scandinavian background to Cuban drummer Adolfo Lazo, from fiddle virtuoso Michael Mullen to New Mexican guitarist Dave Parnall. Bass is provided by American John Land.

"What has happened is that the musical policy hasn't changed, but we are always going to be colored by who's in the band," Sorbye said. "It's a group effort as far as writing goes, but we've also experimented through the decade we've been working

The band celebrated their ten years together with a new album, "10th Anniversary," released in October. While band members themselves have changed through the years, the common goal has been maintained by Sorbye.

"We labeled ourselves as Celtic rock 10 years ago, when nobody knew what we were talking about," Sorbye said. "Now people are more comfortable with it."

Tempest's long history and tireless touring schedule has created a substantial fan base - one that has made the band's seven earlier releases more and more difficult to find. While the latest recording recaps many of the "best of" songs,
Sorbye said, the songs were first selected by the fans, and then rearranged and re-recorded to capture the band's maturity and intensity.

"We've always taken one step on the ladder at a time," he said. "But recently, over the past couple of years, the popularity of the music has just been snowballing. It's threatening to become a fad, and the thing about fads is that they don't  always stick around. But then you look at country music here, and how it has evolved into what it is now.

"Celtic rock is upbeat, infectious music that appeals to all age groups."

The music on "10th Anniversary" is at once a confounding and brilliant blend of traditions and energy. From the first track, "You Jacobites By Name," the music starts out sizzling and continues to roll, with frenzied fiddle, guitar and bass licks backing up appealing vocals and lyrics.

It is a fresh and vibrant voice - even considering the staying power of the band - whether you look at their music as Celtic folk, folk rock, or just plain old-fashioned good music.

"My true folk music was really growing up with rock `n' roll, and then I got into the folk revival in the early "70s," Sorbye said. "I played in rock bands as a teen and became interested in folk later. For a while I was busking (playing in the streets) to support myself, and then joined a traditional Celtic folk band - this was a true acoustic experience. Then I formed Tempest.

"Basically for me, it has always been a natural thing for me to fuse traditional folk with rock `n' roll forms. Folk music lends itself to that, and I just hear it in the music. If they had electric guitars 200 years ago, I think they would have played their jigs and reels with them."

While Sorbye said the band's fan base is substantial and quite enthusiastic - he admitted that the real work ahead lies in expanding that base, often without the help of radio stations.

"The main source of exposure for us has just been getting out there and trying to perform for people," Sorbye said. "The real appeal of this music is in the live performance, rather than the recorded format.

"The minute you get people exposed to this, they're hooked."

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Friday, April 9, 1999
Celtic band bridges old music with rock energy
By Karen Feege
The Express-Times

The California Celtic rock band Tempest, with its eclectic combination of music that bridges 200-year-old traditional music with a driving rock force, is blowing into town.

The band, no stranger to the area, will play Godfrey Daniels in Bethlehem for two shows tonight.

"The music is old traditional music and we keep the energy going with rock arrangements," says band founder Lief Sorbye,who described the band's sound as "one foot in folk and one foot in rock. It's a combination of two worlds."

"The source material may be over two hundred years old- all of our music is based and steeped in tradition," Sorbye says. We want to keep that feel."

The last time that Tempest played at the Southside Bethlehem coffeehouse was in 1996, but they were also in Bethlehem for a lively performance at the 1997 Celtic Classic. The band has been performing and recording their unique brand of traditional music with rock intensity since 1988, with over one thousand performances and seven CD's to their credit.

While the band is "steeped" the traditional music - playing Irish, Scottish and Scandinavian music and ballads, Irish jigs and reels and folk music - the Norwegian-born Sorbye says the band's members make it much more than a traditional Celtic band. Sorbye is the vocalist, mandolin and mandola player for the band. The rhythm section, comprised of Adolfo Lazo on drums and John Land on bass, is rock oriented, Sorbye says, while he and fiddle player, Michael Mullen are "folkies". The guitar players, Dave Parnall and Todd Evans have backgrounds in both folk and rock. Joining Tempest on this tour is guitarist Todd Evans.

"He knows how to play all the notes," quips Sorbye about Evans. "We keep both elements of rock and folk music present in the band."

Early in his musical career in the 1970's, Sorbye was a devotee of rock music. But he maintained an undaunting interest in his own Scandinavian music and it's potential to be played within a rock setting.

In the late 1970's, Sorbye spent time in Ireland and played acoustic music. He arrived in the United States in 1978 and settled in the San Francisco Bay area for good in 1979, where he met up with two musicians, forming the band Golden Bough. The trio performed a mellow style of Celtic music with some success, he says. Still, the burning desire to form a rock band featuring traditional music haunted Sorbye. In 1988, after the band members of the Golden Bough displayed little interest in his idea on merging the two musical genres, Sorbye formed Tempest. He went on a shopping spree for musicians which he thought might have an interest in the musical style with the prerequisite being that they had to be rock musicians.

"When you only get folk musicians to plug in, you don't necessarily get the energy I was looking for," Sorbye says. "I was after an energy in traditional music that I was hungry for and didn't see anyone else projecting it."

Early influences for Sorbye and his music included the Beatles, Bob Dylan and "The Incredible String Band," which was a  psychedelic band out of Scotland. "They displayed the mixing of different ethnic instruments to create different sound sculptures."

The name "Tempest" incorporates three distinct meanings for Sorbye. The first meaning is a "Tempest Reel" song style; the second meaning is that the word connotes a Shakespearean old world, British Isles feel; and the third meaning is that of a personal nature for Sorbye, reminding him of performing in front of a rock band as an acoustic musician - "which was a bit of a tempest."

For the Godfrey's show tonight, Tempest will begin with an acoustic set, gradually adding more instruments as the show progresses.

"It's all part of the challenge to play both large and small venues," Sorbye says."We're able to sweat on people in the front row and see the crowd in large settings."

Sorbye describes the stage show as a "mock rock show" with a bit of a Spinal Tap routine. "We dance around and make fools of ourselves. We take our music seriously but we don't take ourselves seriously. We have a lot of fun. Each show is different - it's the whole experience."

While the band has performed both nationally and internationally over the past ten years, Sorbye says that the band's music inspires the same response in audiences throughout the world - with a few exceptions.

The overseas audiences "intellectualize and analyze more so than national audiences, and California audiences are energetic."

The band's latest CD, "The 10th Anniversary Compilation" is a recording of audience favorite tunes.

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Tempest: Music from a melting pot
An Scathan, Ashland, PA, Jan. 1998
Thomas Larkin

The scene is the main tent at the annual Celtic Fest in Bethehem, PA, and the standing room only audience is caught up in the sounds emanating from the stage. The band responsible for these sounds is Tempest, and the atmosphere is electric. Traditional Celtic rhythms are being interpreted with a rock beat by a truly unique assemblage of musicians: a lead singer from Norway, a drummer from Cuba, a guitarist with roots in San Francisco psychaedlic rock, a Celtic violinist whose energy almost equals that of Eileen Ivers and a seasoned American rock bassist.

The vocals and instrumentals alike were energetic and exhilarating. Caught up in the excitement and energy generated by the performance, the crowd danced; clapped and often broke out in cheers. Lief Sorbye and his band were dervishes, often themselves as excited as the audience.

"The key to the whole thing, " said Sorbye, "is the communication between the audience and the band. And that is what is exciting to us. It's fun to make records, but the real magic is in front of the audience because you can exchange that electricity. That's what makes it special; that's what makes each performance different from the other."

Sorbye was born in Oslo, Norway, and founded Tempest in 1988 after honing his skills with the acoustic band Golden Bough.  His goal has been to meld traditional folk with the music of the 70's, which he loved, and Celtic rhythms, which are both ancient and ethereal. What has emerged from this mix is a remarkable sound.

Listening to this music, one can understand the diversity of the Celts because the music combines the many cultures touched by the Celts in their millenia of travel. There is an eclectic mix of different types of Celtic rhythms, not just Scottish and Irish, but the Gallician, even a flavor of Afro-Celt, and eastern/central European, with a touch of the Viking thrown in for good measure.

Commenting on this mix of diverse rhythms, Sorbye said, "When you trace the roots far back, you find out there's a lot in common, and in these days, with the level of communication so high, people borrow and steal from everybody so there is a new music emerging out of all this.

"We try to write in a traditional style, more or less, so that the mix between original and traditional is kind of an even blend. Hopefully, some of our new songs will become traditional songs a couple of centuries down the line. Much of the traditional stuff is two hundred years old, and it's good material. That's why its survived. We hope that with bands like us playing it, it will continue to survive, that people will continue to keep using these songs."

Playing and recording together since 1988, Tempest has recorded five albums, among them are "Turn of the Wheel" and their latest, "The Gravel Walk", both of which will get the old adrenaline going and would be a most welcome addition to any collection of Celtic music. The band plays almost 300 shows a year, a heavy schedule to be sure, but the members seem to thrive on the youthful energy generated by the hectic pace.

Asked what his hope for the future is, Sorbye said, "We just want to keep growing and reaching more people with our music. I feel privileged to be able to do what I am doing. It's a great way to make a living.

"We want to try to continue creating a little bit of a spirit that is uplifting. With world conditions being what they are, people need things to give them uplifting experiences, and we would like to be able to give them that without people going into drugs and the like. To bring out the positive energy in people is a big part of our purpose."

The members of the band along with Sorbye enhance that spirit after the performance by mingling with the audience, greeting as many of their fans on a personal level as possible. This personal touch is certainly not lost on the legion of fans who patiently wait to meet each band member in turn. On shaking hands with Sorbye, they are rewarded with a joyous gleam in his eye that confirms his heartfelt, "It's great to meet you. Thanks for coming."

Tempest will begin its 1998 "Tenth Anniversary Tour" in California the third week in January and will continue into the fall throughout the United States. However, the band will tour the United Kingdom and Europe for the first time in July and August. Be sure to watch for Tempest during the upcoming festival season this year and make it a point to experience and electrifying performance.

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Tempest: Old world sounds with new day style
Dayton Voice September 17-23, 1998

"We're doing a pretty hectic tour schedule right now because it's our 10th anniversary as a band," Lief Sorbye, leader of celtic rock quintet, Tempest, says from his home in Oakland, Calif. "We are enjoying it. Touring has been our main source for getting the music out to the people. We're selling records and getting some airplay, but the main way we promote the band is through the grassroots method and taking it on the road."

 "We've been coming through Dayton for the last eight years," he continues. "I don't think we've missed a year. We've had good shows at Canal Street and always look forward to going back."

 Such is the case this Saturday, Sept. 19, when Tempest - Sorbye (lead vocals and acoustic and electric mandolins and mandolas), Adolfoo Lazo (drums), Michael Mullen (electric and acoustic violins and vocals), John Land (bass, vocals), and Dave Parnall (guitar) - returns to Mick Montgomery's music venue on East First Street.

Since forming in 1988, the group has logged more than 1,000 live performances and released seven LP's including Surfing to Mecca, Turn of the Wheel, and Serratededge. Along the way Sorbye and his cohorts pioneered a style of music unlike anything else on the musical map.

 Tempest puts a progressive rock twist on traditional folk-based music to create something that transcends mere marketing terms. Because of the group's diversified make-up, it would be tough for them to stick to any one style of music. Sorbye, who was born in Oslo, Norway, plays the double-necked Mandolin and brings with him a love for Celtic music, old world Norwegian songs, Irish jigs and Scottish ballads. Drummer Lazo, who hails from Cuba, adds an unexpected, but highly energizing, polyrhythmic punch to the Tempest sound. Season the mix with an American rock bassist, a virtuoso fiddler and a guitarist with a background of classical and flamenco styles and you come up with something quite unique.

"The backbone of our music is in traditional, old European folk-based songs with rock 'n' roll energy and arrangements," Sorbye says. "What we've done for marketing purposes is stick with the term Celtic rock. Now it has grown into a genre, but when we started out, nobody else was doing it. People were confused when you said, 'Celtic rock'. Now, mixing Celtic music with rock 'n' roll is something more common. It gives us more competition, but it opens up a lot of tours and gets more attention from the press."

 Tempest recently completed a new release that takes a look back at their earlier years. As Sorbye explains, "we rearranged and re-recorded a lot of songs we used to do in the old days. We surveyed our audience and recorded a group of songs that we haven't played in a while."

The results, The 10th Anniversary Compilation, won't be available to the general public until the new year, but folks who catch the band at Canal Street will get the opportunity to pick up the new LP early.

"The CD won't be in the stores until January," Sorbye says, "but we'll have some with us that will be available at the show."
"Our last CD, The Gravel Walk, only came out last year, so it's not that old," he continues. "We've had a new release each year since we started recording. These days groups record an album every three years or so, but if you're inspired and have the material, heck, you should make a record each year for the fans."

From their relentless tour schedule, energetic live show, prolific CD output and dedication to fans, it is safe to say that the members of Tempest will be mixing European folk and rock 'n' roll for some time to come. Here's to 10 more years of creating old world sounds with a new day style.
-Don Thrasher

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Tempest, the non-stop touring machine
Progressive folk-rockers find a home with Magna Carta
by Don Dilorio
Progression, Winter/Spring 1998

Although California-based Tempest is fast acquiring fans from the progressive fold, this band is not readily categorized with your garden-variety art-rockers.

Where many of today's progressive favorites conjure spacey, mind-bending excursions of splashy sonic splendor, Tempest travels a decidedly earthy route that favors rustic acoustic modes  mixed with biting electric guitar.

Where other progressive acts mine symphonic grandeur and elegant classicisms, Tempest cultivates the less grandiose influences of early folk music to inform their writing process. (Reference the acoustic side of Jethro Tull, or the works of folk rockers Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span for a notion of Tempest's heritage.)

At the same time, though, it's easy to understand the appeal Tempest has to prog fans. Many of the requisite elements are intact: sophisticated arrangements and unexpected meter shifts, cross-genre ďpollinationĒ and virtuosic musicianship. All is reinforced by the band's signing two years ago to the progressive-oriented Magna Carta label.

The band also can be credited for possessing qualities in short supply among the prog-rock fraternity - mainly, a formidable endurance for touring and a warm, inviting sense of humor. Both attributes have made Tempest a concert favorite, with a reputation strong enough to vault them into a guest slot at last year's Fairport Convention-hosted Cropredy Festival in England. There, they easily made converts of the 30,000 in attendance.

1998 marks the 10th anniversary of Tempest, and by all accounts it will be as busy a year as ever for this unique Celtic/progressive rock band. Their latest album, The Gravel Walk, is their sixth full-length release and second for Magna Carta, following Turn of the Wheel (1996). The latter featured a contribution from keyboard maestro Keith Emerson on the opening number, ďThe Barrow Man,Ē and production by prog-rock veteran Robert Berry.

Led by mandolin player/singer/flautist Lief Sorbye, the band has weathered several lineup changes over the years but manages to grow stronger   Musically with each personnel shift. Along with Sorbye, other stalwarts are drummer Adolfo Lazo (who's been with Tempest from its inception) and fiddle demon Michael Mullen, who joined in `92. New members are bassist John Land, who joined in September, and guitarist David Parnell, who adds a touch of sophistication in both writing ability and performance - he studied for two years under a Spanish flamenco master.

If flamenco seems at odds with a Celtic rock band, think again: Tempest probably will find a way to work it into their repertoire. With a sound rooted in indigenous Scottish, Irish and Norwegian folk traditions, Tempest has been known to effectively assimilate a wide array of influences.

"Essentially, Tempest is a world-music band." Sorbye explained in his well-tamed Norwegian accent. "Even if we focus on Celtic and sometimes Scandinavian material, we pick up a variety of other ethnic influences. We have a Cuban drummer, and we've sort of been playing our own form of world music ever since day one.Ē

Indeed, Tempest relishes an adventurous approach, as evidenced by songs such as ďGreen Grow the Rashes" from the new album, a track which incorporates - of all things - reggae.

"If there is a certain groove that works with a certain tune to create a certain excitement or tension or feel, then we use it.`Green Grow the Rashes' definitely has a reggae groove to it," Sorbye said. ďI remember arranging that song and it didn't have a  reggae groove until.. .You see, the way we work, we usually don't record something unless we tried it out in front of an audience.We always communicate directly with our audience so our audience has an influence on our recorded material that way.

"We could take a new song out, play it a few times, see what kind of response it gets, rearrange it, try different things, and then when it settles in, that's the time we record it. In the case of `Green Grow the Rashes,' that's what we did. We played it a few times live and it wasn't until we got the reggae groove going that it really got a response and felt right.

"On Turn of the Wheel, with the song `Cat in the Corner,' you can trace a reggae groove as well. If you go back to some of the earlier albums, the reggae groove has snuck in there a number of times over the years. Itís subtle, because we're a white boy band. We're not a rasta band, and It's not going to sound genuine. But hey, it's part of [showing] there's more than one influence in this band shining through."

Sorbye began his music career playing with high school rock bands in his native Norway. Influenced initially by groups like Jethro Tull and Genesis, he eventually soured on rock music's commercial trend in the late `70s.

"I was influenced, even as a kid, by American folk singers like Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs and that kind of thing," he said. "As rock`n' roll became more corporate, I lost interest in it. It turned me off. I couldn't handle punk, so I just started playing acoustic music."

Playing acoustic instruments proved more practical, because Sorbye spent the latter half of the decade traveling Europe as a street musician, or so-called "busker." He came to the United States in 1979 seeking a new audience, and hooked up with the acoustic folk band Golden Bough, with whom he recorded six albums during the `80s.

But eventually, Sorbye heard the call of rock music beckoning once again. When Golden Bough rejected his idea of adding electric instrumentation, he set about forming his own group. In October of 1988, Tempest was born.

"Basically, I started off playing in rock bands, then became a diehard folkie. It came full circle after about nine years or so when I formed Tempest to combine the two elements," Sorbye said. He noted it was this distinct combination of rock with other
forms that always intrigued him.

"What got me into traditional music was the folk-rock movement,Ē he said. "It started pretty much the same time in the States - maybe a few years later, when bands like the Byrds started doing Dylan songs and folk-rock became its own genre. Then, on the British Isles, you have bands like Fairport Convention dabbling in English folk music and playing in a rock band setting. I got exposed to fiddle tunes by listening to bands like The Incredible String Band and Fairport Convention and whatever, and from there I got involved in traditional music."

Sorbye relishes the idea of bringing obscure folk music to virgin ears, as well as reworking classics into modern numbers.

"We're playing traditional music or electric folk, but to a rock `n' roll audience. A lot of times you'll see people in the audience who are hearing traditional music or Celtic music for the first time. They later get involved in the purer forms of the music from listening to us, which is the reason I did it to begin with.

"These days, I think the energy in traditional music is totally relevant to a rock `n' roll band; to me, it goes hand in hand. It also brings the music to a larger audience. You can create a bigger effect because you're mixing the traditional  and modern instrumentation, and you're utilizing contemporary sounds. It gives us a bigger marketplace and we get a chance to play both for a folk audience and a rock audience."

Sorbye can most often be seen sporting a doubleneck electric mandolin/mandola onstage when he's not playing flute or harmonica. Along with Mullen's hyper fiddle lines, the duo provides an interesting foil to the drums/bass/guitar rock bombast of their bandmates. The combination yields a genre-busting sound that has pleased widely divergent audiences across the country.

"We have such a large variety of audiences and age groups," Sorbye said. "A real strength of the band is the fact that we can appeal to everyone from a punk who really likes the energy to a granny who enjoys the traditional flavor.

"At one show, we might have a bunch of [Grateful] Deadheads showing up because they like the groove of our music. In another place, it might be more of a middle-aged conservative crowd. And in yet another place, it will be a bunch of rowdy kids who want to stagedive. It's such a large spectrum that I think whether young or old, whether they're into rock or folk, they can find something to enjoy at a show like ours."

Despite the many influences, progressive rock might be the only genre under which Tempest is comfortably classified. For all the traditional ethnicities inherent to their music, there is no mistaking the intricate progressive flair of a tune such as "Plains of Kildare," or the Baroque-flavored "Trip Across the Mountain." Also, the band's penchant for reviving old tunes and injecting a contemporary feel with modern instrumentation and varied arrangements is an approach that most definitely renders a "progressive" evaluation.

"If it's a museum piece and you keep it very pure, then it's a lot easier to keep it intact. But when it's part of a living culture, things sneak in all the nine and out of it comes new ideas and new music," Sorbye said. "Folk music is there to be played whether it's electric or acoustic, and it's there to absorb what is going on right now.

"With the high level of communication we have now, with the Internet and everything else, people learn, borrow and steal [cultural and artistic ideas] all the time. That's the way it should be when [the music] is part of the culture. Because of that, you can hear traces of different things. There's a lot of crossover, historically.

"I love that form of music, because it's got substance and survival potential. Obviously, a song like `Green Grow the Rashes,' which really is 200 years old, is got to be a good song. Otherwise, it wouldn't have survived. I think a new treatment, whether itís a reggae groove or whatever, is just giving it another chance to go through another evolution and survive. People will sing that song into the next century because people play it. Itís like being part of a living tradition that is constantly changing, like being part of a work in progress."

In addition to Tempest, Sorbye and Mullen have just released an acoustic record under the name of Caliban (as in the savage from Shakespeare's The Tempest, for all you literature majors). The disc is out on Magna Carta. Sorbye figures Caliban will give him yet another avenue of expression, though Tempest remains his baby and his priority.

Playing some 150 to 200 shows a year, Tempest appears to have a bright future sustained by an enthusiastic fan base and the band's genuine love of what they do, he said.

"It's a fun style of music to play. It's very challenging and very arrangement intensive,'" he said. "You don't get stuck in one groove or one sound. There's always another step musically or professionally to be taken.

"There's a lot of activity. There's always a new album to be recorded, always another tour to go on, always another musical avenue to be explored. You add all that up and find a lot of movement there and a lot of potential for growing.

"I think when you dabble in traditional music, you get into situations where there's a lot of uncharted territory, a lot of possibilities. When you deal with rock `n' roll there's endless possibilities, because you can take rock `n' roll and add anything you want to it and make it your own. That's what is great about rock`n' roll. And what's great about traditional folk music is that there's a wealth of material that hasn't even been discovered. There's so much to be done, you never run out of good material or good ideas or new ideas.

"So, because of that I feel it will take a lot to make a band like this stagnate. As long as we're 100 percent into what we're doing it's a heck of a fun band to be in."

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Relix - music for the mind
Vol. 26 No.2

Tempest celebrates its tenth anniversary with the aptly titled 10th Anniversary Compilation (Magns Carta). Rather than issue a retrospective of previously released recordings, bandleader Lief Sorbye has taken the current lineup (which features two recent additions) of the band and re-recorded a dozen cuts from the band's career, but there is a distinctly more rock approach to this Celtic-based music. Old favorites such as "You Jacobites By Name," "Montara Bay" (with a great Spanish guitar intro) and the superb "The House Carpenter" are all given revved up, inspired treatments. If you've never heard Tempest before, this is a great place to start, and for fans, this is an absolute must.
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